Car News

  • Insight: Waymo - Google's self-driving division Saturday 21st April 2018
    Waymo
    Waymo-equipped Jag I-Pace
    The head of Google’s self-driving division, Waymo, tells us why car enthusiasts shouldn’t be scared of the future

    The boss of the most powerful self-driving car technology company in the world has a Porsche 911 GT3 on order. And a Caterham in his garage. And two more Porsche 911s nestling alongside that: a 997-series C2 S and a 964-series Targa.

    Easy natured and always the evangelist, John Krafcik – CEO of Waymo, part of Google – breaks into a ready smile as he can see my brain computing that one. “We are not the enemy. Yes, you can have self-driving cars and enthusiasts’ cars,” he says, grinning. “What we’re doing at Waymo does not mean the end of driving.

    If you just want to get somewhere, we hope you’ll use one of our cars. Hail it on the app, get driven there autonomously, hop out.

    Jaguar deal could encourage Waymo to start autonomous car tests in Britain

    “But people will always want to own cars – and if you’re buying something, we want it to be special.

    I can see how we might disrupt the utilitarian market, because we can likely cover those needs in a cost-effective way, but the beauty for car enthusiasts is that every car that gets sold will have to be more interesting. It’ll have a purpose.”

    Krafcik, 56, and Waymo were thrust further into the spotlight last month when it was announced that the firm had committed to buy up to 20,000 Jaguar I-Paces, which it will offer to the public to use autonomously from 2020. To look at him, you’d think he’d spent his life in Silicon Valley – there’s the floppy hair, stubbly chin and jeans, for starters – but in fact he spent decades in the car industry, working his way through the ranks (see separate story, right) before answering the call from Google’s founders to head up Waymo in 2016.

    Ask him if the firm ever had plans – as long rumoured – to make cars as well as develop self-driving technology and he’s coy, saying only that “I’m not aware of it”. But when Waymo was launched at the tail end of 2016, those rumours were, for now at least, put firmly to bed.

    “We built our own test car, called Firefly, but that was really because we could take advantage of the so-called ‘golf cart regulations’ that were in place to test our technology,” he says. “Up to 35mph, it could run in neighbourhoods without the need for a steering wheel, and it was our way of logging test miles. But building full cars is best left to the experts. They have their specialisms, we have ours.”  

    Those test miles are now Waymo’s answer to any concerns about the safety of the public testing of self- driving cars. Given a chance, Krafcik will repeat like a mantra the dual facts that the firm has covered five million autonomous test miles on public roads in the US and more than five billion miles in computer simulation. He’ll also state that Waymo’s proprietary lidar and radar systems, developed since 2008, are the best in the world, so much so that the firm plans to become the first to start public trials of autonomous cars without any ‘fail-safe’ humans behind a wheel over a 100-square- mile area of Arizona this year.

    “When we set the company up, we asked ourselves what our role should be, and the answer was to develop the world’s best driver,” he says. “The technology we have today can drive anything from a giant truck to a Prius. If it moves, we can find a way to drive it.” Given that studies suggest autonomous driving technology will be a £5 trillion a year business by the middle of this century, you’d think it was pretty easy to understand Google’s interests in getting involved. Krafcik counter that with a steeliness that suggests there may be a truth to his words: “You might think money was the primary motivation, but it can’t be. The goal is zero fatalities. That’s it. If there’s payback for that social benefit, then great.”

    On the subject of safety, Krafcik feels that the car industry had become complacent. “The word ‘accident’ was actually created to almost explain away what were, in reality, tragedies,” he says. “Everyone knew the facts, but there had become a level of acceptance that people would die because of cars. But 140 deaths an hour – that’s too much.

    “So we embrace the drive for zero fatalities. We want safety and mobility for all. Neither’s easy: the former is more of a goal, while the latter is a big challenge. Just in the US, there are 30 million people today who don’t have access to transport.”

    Waymo, of course, is one of many firms vying for supremacy in the field, including Jaguar Land Rover, which will continue to develop its own systems, but there’s no doubt that the benefit of Google’s brains trust, reputation and war chest has given it a head start. Self-driving may not be a nirvana for many car enthusiasts, but there’s no doubting that in Krafcik its future is being driven forward by one.

    How Krafcik got where he is today:

    His formative years - “My boss [at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc] was a Yoda-like figure: very wise, but he talked in riddles. Early in my career, I was sent to a GM factory. It was impressive, but I did notice some cars being repaired off the line and some people sleeping in cardboard boxes on site. I got back, presented my report, said how impressed I was and so on – and then got sent to a Toyota plant in Japan. It was extraordinarily efficient. My boss had made his point: I recognised the standards to strive for.”

    Why he gave it all up to be an engineer - “I wanted to design cars, so I asked Ford if I could. They offered me the chance to run some plants. I said no, persisted and eventually got a role as a product design engineer. It was the best job I ever had. I learned the product development processes and a respect for how car makers engineer in so much quality and reliability.”

    Why he left Ford - “At that time, it was the greatest collection of clever people who couldn’t work out how to get on. I couldn’t aspire to the next level of management there as I didn’t like how those people treated other people.”

    The route to Waymo - “I joined Hyundai and had a blast. Then at the height of the recession, I was asked to run Hyundai USA. We had some great years and then I joined True Car, a website selling cars. And then the phone rang. It was Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. I took the call!”

    Read more 

    Tesla Model S review 

    Tesla Model X review 

    Jaguar deal could encourage Waymo to start autonomous car tests in Britain

  • A drive in the 666bhp Lister Thunder Saturday 21st April 2018
    Jaguar F-Type R-based Lister Thunder
    A revived Lister will be producing a run of 99 Thunder
    A riotous exhaust and a brutish bodykit mean the new, Jaguar F-Type R-based Lister Thunder is anything but subtle. We drive it

    We’ve not made it 50 yards when photographer Luc suggests that this is the most feral-sounding thing the sensible side of a Ferrari 812 Superfast.

    He is probably correct too. Lacey isn’t a man prone to hyperbole, which is funny in itself because the car we’re driving trades committedly in the stuff: it’s an inky menace with acid-green highlights, enormous wheels satiating their arches with barely a toothpick’s width to spare and bodywork draped to the asphalt like a studded-leather ballgown. It sounds like a Nascar escapee, for pity’s sake.

    Welcome, then, to the Lister Thunder. While this development car is recognisably F-Type, any vestigial elegance of Jaguar’s coupé is buried beneath a truly gothic disposition. At heart it’s an F-Type R, only with new supercharger pulleys, an upgraded intercooler, improved induction and a tickled ECU that boosts the 542bhp 5.0-litre V8 to 666bhp.

    A 0-60mph time of 3.2sec and a top speed of 208mph put its performance in the realm of supercars. Four-wheel drive and an eight-speed torque-converter gearbox from ZF are carried over from the donor car, while a new exhaust supplied by Quicksilver not only saves 10kg but also delivers the chased-by-a-Spitfire soundtrack through carbonfibre-wrapped tips of a riotous bore. Even the crackles on the overrun don’t relent until you’ve picked up the throttle once again, meaning unrelenting noise of a murderous timbre is omnipresent.

    What the name Lister means to you will almost certainly depend on your age. For a millennial such as your correspondent, it’s the Storm: a 7.0-litre wedge that raced in various GT series in the late 1990s and was homologated with four £450,000 road cars. For Lister CEO Lawrence Whittaker (slightly older), it’s most likely the Le Mans, which was a modified Jaguar XJS whose pulverising 600bhp was exceeded only by the blunt visual trauma of its bodykit.

    For Whittaker’s father, Andrew, with whom Lawrence bought the rights to the Lister name for a six-figure sum in 2013, it’s the legendary Knobbly sports car. And, in fact, the Thunder we’re driving today might never have existed were it not for a Knobbly of questionable provenance and a stash of forgotten parts in Cambridge.

    It was the disappointment of learning that their ‘1958’ Knobbly used a chassis dating from the 1980s and a body from the 2000s that led the Whittakers to George Lister Engineering in Cambridge. The place is genesis for Lister’s original racers and it was here the pair discovered forgotten blueprints and parts and even an original chassis jig.

    Naturally, at this point the mission brief shifted from restoring a solitary Knobbly to purchasing Lister in its entirety and building a run of 10 recreation cars. Wealth acquired from another business – Warrantywise – proved handy in this regard, and with FIA certification for historic racing, even at £250,000 apiece the box-fresh Knobblys promptly sold out.

    Fast-forward just five years and the company is preparing for June deliveries of the car before you here, which represents Lister’s return to the road. Some car it is too. And yet, if the prospect of driving a 666bhpF-Type on damp roads flanked by dry stone walls patiently waiting to tear into that bodywork sounds intimidating, the reality is different.

    The Thunder is spectacularly quick in a straight line, but the supercharged delivery is so superbly linear that you’re never taken unawares by the distance-compressing hops in a way you might be in some similarlyformidable turbocharged rivals.

    Moreover, and as you’d hope to find in an aspiring GT car, the Thunder allows to you establish a rhythm through and between corners. With seemingly bottomless reserves of torque, you’re also permitted to set the tempo as you please. 

    There’s traction too, and in circumstances like these we’re grateful for the driveshafts in the front axle. Without them you’d need to be exceedingly confident in your abilities to use even two-thirds of what this powertrain can deliver.  As it is – and absurdly so, given the numbers involved – you’re encouraged to chase the throttle right from the moment that green- lipsticked nose is turned in and the body settled on its outside springs. A hot-rod? Not exactly, which just goes to show how deceptive appearances can be. If a valve big enough to tame that exhaust note could be found, the Thunder is comfortable enough to make a formidable tourer.

    Certainly the interior is pleasing enough in an old-school manner. The black leather is from Bridge of Weir and broken up by green stitching almost everywhere you look. Jaguar logos on the air vents and steering wheel give the game away, and the digital displays are yet to be reskinned on-brand, but taken as a whole it feels adequately bespoke.

    Acting as a metaphor for the entire car, the faintly aged feel of the architecture and switchgear is countered by a cosseting, focused ambience brought about by a low-slung driving position and a high scuttle. If nothing else, the place is rich in character.

    Push on and it’s apparent this chassis still needs some fine-tuning before the keys are in customers’ hands.Those 21in wheels give the Thunder the stance of something that drove straight off the pages of Ian Callum’s sketchbook but they mean tyre occasionally meets arch-liner with a ‘pzizz’ that cuts through the exhaust blare.

    Despite using KW springs stiffer than those found on an F-Type R (the adaptive dampers remain factory specification), the suspension is still a little slow to mop up road surface corrugations, particularly when loaded up. On these Lancashire roads, it can precipitate a faint skittishness that’s as welcome as cold hotpot, although it never threatens to incurably disrupt the balance of the underlying Jaguar chassis.

    Indeed, one of the Lister’s strengths is that its sheer drivability belies the ludicrousness of the noise and firepower at hand. Snagging that carbonfibre splitter in town is going to be your greatest concern.

    The price is £141,155, which puts the Thunder squarely in the crosshairs of Aston’s V8-engined DB11, while the additional £14,850 for which Lister asks to fit a carbonfibre bonnet brings the new Bentley Continental GT into play.

    Anyone considering buying a Lister would be mad not to sample alternatives of this calibre before putting pen to paper, and yet we’d understand the person for whom the Thunder’s rarity and sheer eccentricity ultimately win out. There is work to be done here, not least with the finer chassis tuning, but encouraging first impressions suggest one of Britain’s best-loved marques is properly back, and with a deafening bang.

    The next chapter: 

    There are all sorts of risks involved in acquiring such a storied marque as Lister, and Lawrence Whittaker – as a young man in the context of his position – must have been relieved when orders totalling £3.1 million rolled in only 24 hours after announcing the Thunder. He and father Andrew had already orchestrated a successful run of continuation examples of the Knobbly, but this was proof there was also a hearty appetite for road cars. Those road-going Listers will be built at a new facility in Milton Keynes. Up to six cars can be worked on concurrently, with a three-month lead-time for the conversion.

    Whittaker’s medium-term ambition is to develop his company into a tuning outfit with intimate links to Jaguar. He cites Alpina’s relationship with BMW as an appealing model that would afford Lister early access to future cars and economise the modification process both in terms of expenditure and time.

    As it stands, a Thunder begins life as a complete F-Type R, with Lister having no use for many of the parts it strips from the donor car. Jaguar – and particularly design director Ian Callum – has given short shrift to third-party tuners in the past, although the company has already been in touch to offer help with sourcing cars for modification. Where this will eventually lead is anybody’s guess, but it’s an encouraging start.

    Once the run of 99 Thunder models is completed, attention will turn to the recently announced F-Pace SVR, for which Lister has already made plans. As much as 670bhp is on the cards, with a larger production run of 250 cars reflecting current market tastes. Don’t be surprised to see a Lister-ised take on the Range Rover Sport, either.

    The grand plan is to sell enough modified Jaguar Land Rover cars to build a bespoke Lister and revive the ‘Storm’ moniker. It would be an expensive project – a figure of £50m passes Whittaker’s lips – taking the form of a hypercar to rival the likes of Pagani and Koenigsegg.

    Annual production would be in single digits, with the asking price running to six. Before all that, however, there are the remaining Thunder build slots to fill.

    Read more 

    Jaguar F-Type R review 

    Jaguar F-Type SVR review 

    Jaguar F-Pace review 

  • The power of Scotland: remembering Jim Clark Saturday 21st April 2018
     Jim Clark
    Clark was Formula 1 world champion in 1963 and in 1965
    Jim Clark was arguably the top driver during a golden era for Formula 1. To mark 50 years since his passing, we takes a Lotus Evora to Scotland to trace the formative years of the world’s fastest farmer

    There’s an archetypal personality in the Scottish Borders, the verdant wedge of rolling lowland abutting England’s northernmost reaches.

    Innocent of motorways and barely skirted by rail, the region preserves an identity shaped not only by agriculture but also centuries of cross-border conflict. It’s an archetype that’s modest but steely, cautious of strangers and reluctant with an audience but boisterous among friends. I grew up surrounded by it. You’ll find it from Burnmouth to Buccleuch. Nothing unusual, then, about James Clark, Jnr, the young farmer from Chirnside. Except that he was the greatest racing driver in the world.

    Clark was Formula 1 world champion in 1963 and in 1965, when he paused from winning six consecutive grands prix to triumph at Indianapolis. He narrowly missed three more F1 titles, was twice runner-up at the Brickyard and claimed the 1964 British Saloon Car Championship.

    On 7 April 1968, Clark was killed when his Formula 2 Lotus-Cosworth crashed in the woods at Hockenheim. In the subsequent issue of Autocar, the accident’s cause eluded editor Peter Garnier, as it eludes today. Garnier’s eulogy concluded: “Though most of us will see him in memory, garlanded and waving after some great victory, it is perhaps the thought of his less glamorous, simpler background in his native land that endeared him to us all so much.”

    That is why we’re making a pilgrimage to see the places, meet the people and drive the cars that helped shape a champion, when motorsport for Clark was still a local, amateur affair. We’re armed with a Lotus Evora GT410 Sport, the latest machine from the marque that carried Clark to his greatest triumphs, liveried in dark green with yellow calipers in tribute.

    We’ll be guided by my father’s 1965 copy of Clark’s autobiography, At the Wheel – the book that inspired Webber the Elder growing up in Hawick as it did a teenage Steve Cropley kicking up dust in the Australian Outback. Such was the global appeal of this local hero; the man the French christened ‘Superjim’ and the Italians ‘Clarkissimo’.

    Our first call is not Chirnside but Kilmany, the Fife village where Clark was born in 1936 and spent his first six years. There we visit the commemorative statue by local sculptor David Annand. Set on a peaceful lane next to the babbling Motray Water, it shows the distinctive 5ft 7in frame in racing overalls, mid purposeful stride. It’s a beautiful piece and, I’m told, an uncanny likeness.

    A chance meeting with Rob and Susan Whiteford, current owners of the farm at Wester Kilmany, lets us draw the Evora in front of Clark’s sturdy but homely birthplace. (Long before Indy, his first victory milk was taken behind the upper right-hand window, if you’re interested.) Rob’s father acquired the tenancy from the Clarks when they moved south in 1942.

    The Evora’s ‘GT’ prefix points towards a racing-inspired spec, including lightness-adding carbonfibre panels, Eibach springs, Bilstein dampers, four-piston AP calipers and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, not to mention the charge-cooled Edelbrock supercharger that helps mine 410bhp from the mid-mounted, Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre V6. But as an ensuing dual-carriageway sprint shows, it can tour too. The ride is slightly animated but far from uncomfortable and the steering settled, while impressive tractability lets us engage sixth and leave it there. Even the dual-mode exhaust becomes unexpectedly civil.

    Which is just as well because an art exam is happening as we simmer between the ochre-walled buildings at Clark’s alma mater, Loretto in Musselburgh. The 191-year-old school has added wings, girls and day pupils since Clark’s time as a boarder between 1949 and 1952, but its courtyard – and the red-blazered, tieless throng milling through it – has changed little. On one side sits the chapel, which houses a plaque marking Clark’s achievements in racing. Ayrton Senna paid homage in 1991.

    “I couldn’t see what use Latin would be for a farmer,” wrote Clark. He frequented the library for other reasons: “I read the three books on motor racing in the school library from cover to cover several times, and remember those special mornings when it was time to collect my weekly motoring magazines.” Today, books about Clark inspire the students.

    A coast-hugging cruise down the A1 leads into the Borders and Chirnside, where there’s a memorial to Clark designed by Ian Scott- Watson, the friend who started Clark in racing and managed him through the early years. We’ll meet him tomorrow. For now, we’ve a short drive to the family farm that Clark left school at 16 to manage.

    Similarly traditional to Wester Kilmany, the house at Edington Mains is larger, and the acreage only a little diminished from when Clark tended crops and livestock here. Current owners Dave and Tanya Runciman relay that a young Clark would jump from his first-floor bedroom onto his father’s truck before tearing off in whatever vehicle he could lay hands on. The first of these illicit forays was in an Austin 7, when he was aged just nine.

    It was from here that Clark and pals pedalled six miles to the disused military airfield at Winfield – briefly a motor-racing Mecca for 50,000 spectators, now just gravel and tall grass – to peek through the hedges at the Ecurie Ecosse team in testing. The spectacle stayed with him.

    Aside from late, fiscally motivated stints in Paris and Bermuda (income tax hit 91.25% in 1967), this remained Clark’s home and it’s where he wrote the book I’m carrying. The house became filled with trophies, although it remained simply furnished, the occasional rogue sofa spring known to keep visitors alert. Such antithesis to the glamour and danger of professional racing weighed heavy on Clark: “There is a constant tug between the sport and attractions of returning to life on the farm, not to mention allaying the constant and understandable anxiety of my parents.”

    We break towards Hawick. On the quiet, narrow, helter-skelter back roads, the Evora comes alive. Sport mode sharpens the throttle and opens the exhaust valve wide, smothering the supercharger’s hum with a full, racy yowl, the engine doing tremendous work between 3750rpm and the 7000rpm redline. The aluminium gearknob shifts neatly, crisp throttle response abets heel-and-toe and the brakes give that delightful, sandpapery racing feel under duress.

    The Evora never feels like grounding out or springing skyward, its suspension and aero relentlessly forcing the lightweight alloy wheels and Cup 2s into the grit-seasoned surface. It’s near freezing, but only the standing water and tractor- dragged mud give cause for pause. Otherwise, both ends are tacked down, the Evora’s nose obedient to the swift and transparent hydraulic steering.

    On this road, a young Clark came face to face with Ecurie Ecosse’s three dark blue Jaguar C-Types, line astern and squirming into a hairpin: “I remember thinking what a shower of madmen they were. But at the same time, I felt a twinge of envy.” We strafe on past Kelso, where years later a typically flat-capped, betweeded Clark attended the ram sale five days after winning the 1963 title.

    Although Clark had earlier runs in rallies, gymkhanas and autocrosses, the opening entry in Scott-Watson’s detailed record of his friend’s achievements is a sprint meeting at Stobs Camp, near Hawick, on 3 June 1956. The 0.8-mile hillside circuit surrounds half of what was once a military training facility turned POW camp. Up to 5000 Germans were detained here in WW1. D-Day preparations took place during WW2. The family of owners Nicky and Sandra Ewart returned it to farming in 1960.

    The now gravelly perimeter road that once traced the barbed wire was still neat tarmac when Clark arrived to compete in the Sunbeam Mk3 passed down by his father. That the almost identical Sunbeam-Talbot 90that Kevan Younger of Coldstream Classic Cars has brought along is now hired for weddings tells you how unsuitable it seems for motorsport – yet a Mk3 won the Monte Carlo Rally the year before, and Clark raced his successfully.

    It almost didn’t happen, though, as Graham Gauld noted in his 1968 biography, Portrait of a Great Driver. Following practice, the stewards “felt sure that if he ran in the event he would have the world’s biggest accident”. Perhaps the narrow, twisty track, cursed with mad cambers and edged by trees and ditches, explains why Clark was the only finisher in class – and therefore the winner. Gauld reported: “His driving was at times heart-stopping, the car clearing the ground completely on the downhill stretch.” Having edged around the crumbling circuit in a 4x4, slithered the Evora up the soundest stretch and then tried Younger’s car – which he barely dares take above 40mph on the road – I can confirm that prospect is frightening.

    With Younger is Bob Smith, who serviced the Sunbeam for Clark (until he wrote it off, that is). The young farmer’s speed was locally infamous by then. Smith tells of Clark giving his terrified shepherd a lift backfrom a livestock sale. “How many sheep did you count?” asked Clark as they pulled into Edington Mains. “Sheep?” said the shepherd. “I could barely count the fields!”

    On to Charterhall, another wartime airfield turned circuit. Clark watched his first race here, in 1952, back when this remote, two-mile track – now desolate save for the resurfaced main straight – attracted international stars. Racers that day included 1950 world champion Giuseppe Farina in the Thin Wall Ferrari, Prince Bira and Stirling Moss.

    The names were glamorous, but the facilities were not: a double- decker for the timekeepers and long- drops for loos. Still, thousands came, and Clark himself soon become a draw. In autumn 1959, he raced Scott-Watson’s Elite here, fresh from 10th place at Le Mans – a remarkable result for a group of holidaymaking farmers who’d collected only a partially prepared car from Lotus mere days before.

    This was the gung-ho Border Reivers team that indoctrinated Clark into serious racing, including third at Le Mans in 1960 in an Aston Martin DBR1. Two years earlier, the team’s Jaguar D-Type had thrown Clark in at the deep end during testing at Charterhall, providing one of the many pushes he needed en route to greatness: “I thought they were daft asking me to drive it. All I did was take it up and down the straight, and it scared me to death.”

    The team was named for the area’s plunderous, mounted gangs of the Middle Ages, and marked by the badge you see on the delicious blue Elite that joins us on that very straight. It belongs to Doug Niven, cousin of Clark and a successful racer himself. Its fizzy little fire-pump-derived Coventry Climax 1.2-litre straight four makes just 72bhp but moves the GRP-bodied Elite along smartly, its exhaust rasping away. There’s a tiny shifter for the ZF four-speed, yet an enormous steering wheel. The suspension is soft, but nimbleness comes from a mere half-tonne kerb weight. Petite, unconventionally engineered and lightweight, it’s pure Colin Chapman.

    We stop by the Jim Clark Museum in Duns, a compact but rich collection of trophies and mementos, from Charterhall’s tiny silver cups to the cache of trophies and trinkets from Indianapolis. The Jim Clark Trust works to maintain Clark’s legacy and recently raised funds to expand the museum to house cars as well as artefacts as of next spring. The trust marked Clark’s passing with a range of local events on 7 and 8 April.

    Then we visit Scott-Watson, who warmly and generously shares stories of ‘Jimmy’ and ‘Mossy’, Chapman and more. He invested huge amounts of faith, encouragement and, indeed, personal funds to get Clark racing. 

    Before leaving the Borders, we call on Eric Bryce, a local lensman who photographed his friend Clark over a decade. By the fire, we pore over countless images, from his first photograph of the Sunbeam at Charterhall to post-win celebrations at the 1967 British Grand Prix, Clark garlanded as Garnier described.

    “That was the final picture I took of Jimmy,” says Bryce, thoughtfully. “It was the last negative on the roll of film.”

    Our final leg leads west of Edinburgh to the only one of our three Clark venues still hosting competition. Created in 1932, Bo’ness Hill Climb was Scotland’s first purpose-built track and nowadays hosts the Bo’ness Revival – a classic car show combined with historic motorsport each September. At 0.35 miles, the course is shorter than before but retains its charming feel, climbing among thick woodland and then snaking through a pretty courtyard. It’s a delightful place to enjoy old cars.

    Clark competed in three Border Reivers cars here in 1959, including the highly successful white Porsche 356A 1600S he’d recently bought from Scott-Watson for both racing and daily driving. We’re lucky to be joined by Simon Whittley and his 356, identical in all but colour. From within that bulbous yet graceful form, its perky, responsive, rear-mounted four-pot boxer warbles beautifully. Its steering is keen, its gearshift long but silky, and the brakes work too. I can see how the 356 helped Clark earn his stripes.

    Within a year, Clark was racing for Lotus in F1. A 1961 entry at Charterhall was his final race in Scotland, and for the Border Reivers. But in his introduction for At the Wheel, Clark’s next patron, Chapman, recognised the “trait of Scottish character” that helped Clark become a champion, calling it “a certain dourness and a very strong determination to succeed”. Chapman went on: “There are other racing drivers who have to generally attract attention to themselves to make up for lack of ability; but Jimmy has not had to do any of that, and if he left racing tomorrow, he would leave it with an example which others would find hard to follow.”

    I think that’s just as true 50 years after the fact.

    Q&A - Ian Scott -Watson:

    We chat with the man who set Jim Clark on the path to world domination.

    What made Clark different from modern Formula 1 champions?

    “Firstly, the ever-present risk of death: Sid Watkins’ successful measures to minimise danger did not exist in Jim’s day. He used to be pretty upset when his competitors were killed and by the number of race widows, although he seemed to switch that fear off in the cockpit. Also, Jim never really appeared to worry about the lack of money he was earning compared with today’s drivers. He raced for the love of the sport.

    Finally, he was essentially a gentleman, and behaving in the way some more recent drivers have would just never occur to him. He would have worried about the risk of causing fatal accidents.”

    Are there similarities between Clark and other drivers?

    “While I am sure Jim would have considered Jenson Button a worthy competitor, I doubt whether he would have felt the same about Mansell, Senna, Schumacher, Vettel and Hamilton. He always seemed to like Bruce McLaren and Dan Gurney, who shared his parameters.”

    He had talked about retiring young. Do you think he would have raced much longer?

    “I think he would most probably have been champion in 1968, and possibly beyond, but could well have retired then. I think he would have deemed it a good idea to retire at the top. Although he loved living on the farm, I think he would have wanted some other challenge first. He enjoyed flying and I believe he and Colin [Chapman] had been considering developing composite planes.”

    What made Clark a great driver?

    “Jim had an extraordinary natural talent, quite remarkable vision and incredibly rapid reactions. He was a brilliant shot and had played hockey and cricket for Borders teams. His ability to overcome problems with the car he was driving was legendary. To start, I had great trouble in getting him to believe in his own ability. Chatting at Goodwood after his first stint in the 1959 Tourist Trophy, he asked: ‘Why is everyone going so slowly?’ I replied: ‘It’s not that. It is that you are so quick!’ I noticed a change in him then. I think that was the first occasion when he really began to believe that perhaps he actually was that much quicker than his peers.”

    Why does Scotland produce so many race aces? 

    Alongside the likes of Flockhart, Ireland, Stewart, McRae, Cleland, Coulthard and Franchitti, Jim Clark is one of a plenitude of world- class drivers to emerge from Scotland. So why does the country punch above its weight when it comes to producing racers? We quiz two of them to find out.

    ALLAN MCNISH

    Hailing from Dumfries, McNish competed in 17 F1 races and had a successful career in endurance racing, topping the podium at Le Mans three times, including twice for Audi, for which he is now Formula E team principal.

    “I don’t believe it is just driving talent, good luck or the roads, but also inspiration, determination and support. It takes a lot of commitment just to reach an event, never mind compete, so when you get the chance, you give it your all. Sitting in the back of a van for seven hours after a kart race is a much happier ‘debrief’ if you have won a trophy, so you do everything to achieve that.

    “We also support each other: Jim supported Jackie, Jackie supported, guided and pushed me, David Coulthard and Dario Franchitti,andwetryto do the same for the next generation, be it a word in the ear of someone that matters or supporting programmes such as Scottish Motor Sports. We are proud of our heritage, but also know the future does not happen by luck.”

    GORDON SHEDDEN

    Born in Edinburgh, Shedden followed in Clark’s footsteps by winning the national touring car title, taking top BTCC honours three times. He’s now an Audi Sport driver in the new World Touring Car Cup.

    “Living in Scotland certainly has plenty of challenges. The location inevitably means that anyone who wants to succeed in motorsport either has to move down south or be prepared to cover plenty of motorway miles. Either way, it takes dedication, commitment and sheer doggedness when the cardsarestackedagainst you. Growing up in Scotland also means you can see four seasons in a day, so racing and learning in nasty conditions is part of life. It makes the nice days a breeze in comparison.”

    Read more 

    Lotus Evora review 

    Lotus Exige review 

    Lotus 430 review 

  • Video: Audi R8 vs Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid drag race Friday 20th April 2018
    It's a drag race showdown between Audi's supercar and the hybrid version of Porsche's grand tourer

    What's quicker: a bona fide supercar in the shape of an Audi R8 or a 4-seater large grand tourer such as the Porsche Panamera?

    The E-Hybrid, producing nearly 700bhp, is the fastest Panamera that Porsche have made to date but it's more than 700kg heavier than the R8. So which will win in a drag race? Well, let’s find out…

  • Win tickets to the Classic & Sports Car Show Friday 20th April 2018
    Classic & Sports Car Show Here's your chance to claim one of 10 pairs of tickets to the celebration of historic racing cars, classic machinery and vintage aircraft

    Autocar has teamed up with our sister brand, Classic & Sports Car, to give away 10 pairs of tickets to their brand new event on 23-24 June at Bicester Heritage.

    The Classic & Sports Car Show in association with the Flywheel Festival, will combine track action from world-class historic racing cars and motorcycles with an array of vintage aircraft and classic military vehicles, with incredible live demonstrations both on the ground and in the air above the atmospheric Bicester Heritage site.

    For your chance to win a pair of tickets, and for full terms and conditions, please click this link.

    If you’re not lucky enough to win, you can save 15% on advance tickets. Simply click here to book tickets, and use the discount code ‘ACCSCS’. Good luck and we hope to see you there!

    For more information on the Classic & Sports Car Show in association with Flywheel, click here.

    Click here for your chance to win free tickets to the Classic & Sports Car Show

  • Porsche engine boss arrested on suspicion of diesel emission manipulation Friday 20th April 2018
    Following a raid on offices and homes of Porsche's high ranking officials, its powertrain development boss Jörg Kerner has been taken into custody

    Porsche powertrain development boss Jörg Kerner has been taken into custody following a raid on offices and homes belonging to high ranking officials from the German car maker by lawyers and staff of the Stuttgart public prosecutor’s office and the German police this week.

    According to information from the Stuttgart public prosecutor’s office, the 48-year-old German engineer was arrested on Thursday [19 April 2018] on suspicion of fraud related to the dieselgate emission manipulation scandal.

    Earlier in the week, German media reports suggested Porsche research and development boss, Michael Steiner, was also among the officials being investigated for possible involvement and/or knowledge of matters relating to the manipulation of diesel emission figures via secret software programs.

    In an official statement issued on Friday on the accusations being levelled at Porsche and its employees relating to the fitment of so-called defeat devices in various diesel models, including the Macan and Cayenne, Porsche chairman, Oliver Blume said: "Porsche does not develop or produce any diesel engines or diesel software. The prosecution has accused Porsche of being aware that impermissible control equipment was installed. We reject this accusation."

    Read more 

    Porsche 911 GT3 review 

    How Volkswagen plans to clean up after Dieselgate

    Volkswagen engineer sentenced to prison for Dieselgate involvement

  • Nissan cutting hundreds of jobs at Sunderland plant Friday 20th April 2018
    Nissan Sunderland
    Nissan is set to cut hundreds of jobs at its Sunderland plant
    Slump in demand for diesel engine behind job cuts at UK's biggest car factory

    Nissan is set to cut hundreds of jobs at its Sunderland factory due to declining demand for diesel-engined cars, according to reports.

    It is unclear exactly how many jobs will be lost due to the layoff, which was reported by the Financial Times. Around 6700 people are currently employed at the Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK) plant, which produces the Qashqai, Juke, Leaf and X-Trail, along with the Infiniti Q30 and QX30.

    The rapid decline in demand for diesel – in the UK, sales of diesel cars fell by 37% in March – is understood to be behind the move. Around a quarter of the cars produced at Sunderland are diesel-engined.  

    A spokesman for NMUK said the job cuts are linked to the facility “transitioning to a new range of powertrains”. He added: “As we make the operational changes to support this, we will be managing a short-term reduction in powertrain supply and plant volumes at NMUK in line with our 2018 business plan.”

    The new Leaf is being built at Sunderland, one of three worldwide Nissan plants producing the second-generation electric vehicle.

    While Nissan has previously said the failure to agree a deal over Britain's departure from the European Union could lead to the Sunderland factory's closure, the spokesman said the move was "not related to Brexit" and added that volumes are expected to increase at the plant when the new Juke, Qashqai and X-Trail are launched in the coming years.

    Jaguar Land Rover recently cut 1000 contracted agency workers at its Solihull plant due to the fall in diesel sales.

    Read more

    Slump in diesel demand continues to hit UK car market

    Jaguar Land Rover confirms 1000 contract jobs to go due to diesel slump

    Nissan confirms new Leaf EV to be made in Sunderland

     

  • Jaguar axes range-topping XE S and XF S models Friday 20th April 2018
    Jaguar XE
    The XE's six-cylinder variant has been axed
    Car maker has ditched S variant saloons due to poor sales and changes in emission regulations

    Jaguar has axed its warm XE and XF variants, the XE S and XF S, which use the car maker’s supercharged six-cylinder engine.

    The brand blamed the move on poor sales and changes in emission regulations.

    While there is no word from Jaguar yet, it's highly likely that the V6 unit will also be dropped from other models, including the XJ and F-Pace. The V6 F-Type is likely to remain, though, since its low-volume numbers could potentially be exempt from the emission changes. 

    The S variants of the XE and XF have been indirectly replaced with the XE 300 and XF 300, which use the 296bhp four-cylinder turbo unit found on the entry-level F-Type

    Jaguar XE 300 Sport arrives with 296bhp and all-wheel drive

    A Jaguar spokesman said: “We have introduced the 296bhp 2.0L Ingenium, our most powerful four-cylinder engine yet, at a better price point [than the S models] which we are directing customers to, [so that they are] still getting a Jaguar driving experience but more efficiently.”

    He added that S sales accounted for less than 2% of XE and XF sales in the UK. The spokesman added: “Coupled with impending emissions regulation changes, it makes sense to remove these variants from sale in the UK.”

    The models are the latest victims of the new WLTP emission tests required on all new cars in Europe from 1 September. Many car makers are having to tweak engines to meet the requirements. 

    Given the minuscule sales of the XE S and XF S, it would not be worth the R&D investment to make the V6 compliant. 

    New WLTP emissions test could force heavy discounts on unsold cars

    While the XE S and XF S are no longer available to order, there is some stock remaining in retailers. The models also remain on sale in North America, where hot saloons are popular. The US is not subject to the new emission regulations.

    Read more

    Jaguar XE S review 

    New WLTP emissions test could force heavy discounts on unsold cars

    Jaguar XE 300 Sport arrives 

  • Audi E-tron to charge faster than Tesla Supercharger network Friday 20th April 2018
    Audi E-tron
    The E-tron was shown to the press…
    Audi has revealed more technical details of its electric E-tron SUV

    Audi has revealed the production version of its E-tron electric SUV will be powered by a two-motor powertrain, 95kWh lithium-ion battery and capable of 150kWh DC fast-charging. The latter is claimed as a world first and is more rapid than the Tesla Supercharger network.

    Releasing more technical details ahead of its launch in August, the E-tron was shown to the press at a Siemens heavy-duty electrical engineering test centre in Berlin, where the car was subjected to a symbolic 500kV test to ‘spark’ the car into life.

    The exact output of each E-tron motor, however, remains a closely guarded secret, but it's expected to be a maximum of 160bhp with overboost equivalent to around 120kW — to give a total peak output of around 320bhp or 240kW.

    That also suggests the E-tron will be badged ‘55’ under Audi’s new naming system that has been introduced to put combustion-engined, hybrid and battery-powered electric vehicles on an even footing in the hierarchy.

    “We have decided to keep the E-tron name and use it like quattro,” a source told Autocar. “The first of our sporty models was simply named the Audi Quattro. Our first all-electric car will simply be badged Audi E-tron.”

    While powerful, the production E-tron’s output is less than the 496bhp quoted for the two concepts shown so far because those featured a three-motor powertrain with a single front motor and twin rear motors.

    However, the choice of a twin-motor layout at launch paves the way for Audi to introduce a performance E-tron powered by three motors a couple of years later.

    Details of the E-tron’s production lithium-ion battery pack have also been revealed for the first time.

    Mounted in the floor, between the front and rear axles, to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible and maximise crash protection, the battery pack will use pouch-type cells packaged into 36 shoebox-sized models.

    Each module contains 12 pouches, supplied either by LG Chem or Samsung, and each rated at 60Ah that's higher than those used by both Nissan and Tesla.

    The bulk of the modules are in a flat main casing, but some are housed in a supplementary ‘saddle’ casing above the main battery and under the rear seat.

    The battery is not light, though, contributing at least 700kg to the E-tron’s kerb weight.

    A key part of the battery is a water-based ‘lattice’ cooling system, bonded to the underside of the modules to maximise heat transfer and shedding heat through a conventional, front-mounted radiator. A second heat pump system with a plate heat exchanger — in effect an air-con system — can boost cooling or heating to keep the battery at its optimum operating range of 25-35deg C in extreme climates.

    Charging at home or mainstream-roadside will be via an AC source and is rated at 11kW, although a 22kW charger will be on the options list.

    The 150kW DC fast-charger said to be capable of filling the battery to 80% capacity in 30 minutes will be standard and takes advantage of the IONITY rapid-charge network being set up by a consortium of Europe’s car makers.

    Previous stories

    Production of Audi's first stand-alone electric model, the E-tron SUV, will begin later this year using what the company claims is a carbon-neutral production process.

    Following the announcement that £1000 deposits are being taken for its first bespoke electric vehicle, Audi said that its Brussels factory, where the E-tron will be built, has been certified CO2-neutral. The facility uses renewable energy and offsets its carbon to enable what Audi claims is a waste-free process.

    This will substantially boost the E-tron's well-to-wheel sustainability, giving the car — which is due on roads in early 2019 — an edge, environmentally speaking, over its electric rivals and setting a new bar for premium manufacturers.

    Audi won’t yet discuss production or sales numbers for the E-tron, but says it has test-marketed the SUV in two European countries and reports potential demand for the model to be in the “double-digit thousands”.

    Audi adopted the highly unusual tactic of unleashing four E-tron prototypes to prowl the streets of Geneva in March to fight back against the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace.

    “The E-tron will be a game-changer for Audi,” said marketing boss Bram Schot. “It’s our first electric model and it's going to be a volume model.”

    The production E-tron will be revealed at the Brussels motor show on 30 August as the first of three battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that Audi will launch by 2021.

    By 2025, the company promises to have 20 electrified models on sale, with half of those being BEVs.

    The E-tron will have a range of models with battery packs and motor power outputs of different capacities.

    Audi has also raised the possibility of Audi Sport-tuned versions of the E-tron. “The question is when,” said Schot. “The electric powertrain gives really good performance, so the driving experience gives such a good feeling.”

    E-tron models could also be sold on a monthly subscription that would allow buyers to switch between Audi models to suit particular driving demands. “We're actively looking at every option,” said Schot.

    Technical details

    Audi has been using a 250-strong E-tron development fleet over the past year to rapidly build mileage and finalise the set-up of the BEV.

    The car's design looks to have been toned down compared with the 2015 E-tron quattro concept (see gallery) that previewed it, with a slightly less butch front end and less raked rear windows. But the concept's light designs, which include a strip to connect the tail-lights, appear to have been retained.

    The E-tron is predicted to have a range of at least 500km (311 miles) and is built on a development of the electrified platform that Porsche is using for its Mission E electric saloon

    The E-tron quattro concept — powered by three electric motors, with two driving the rear wheels and the other powering the front ones — had maximum combined outputs of 496bhp and 590lb ft, a 0-62mph time of 4.5sec and a restricted top speed of 131mph.

    A second electric SUV model, meanwhile, was previewed by the E-tron Sportback concept shown at the 2017 Shanghai motor show. This featured a more swept-back design and will make it to market one year after the regular E-tron.

    Audi has previously said the E-tron will “cost about the same as a well-specced Audi A6”, suggesting it will have an entry-level price of at least £60,000. The I-Pace is priced from £58,995.

    On-sale date

    Audi sales and marketing boss Dietmar Voggenreiter said that Audi has chosen to launch the E-tron in 2018 because battery technology is now mature enough to be able to offer a range of more than 500km (311 miles). This figure is “crucial”, he said, because consumers won’t accept less. Charging infrastructure is also now growing rapidly — another key reason for choosing a 2018 launch date.

    “A 400-500km range must be possible and we must have a fast charging infrastructure,” said Voggenreiter. “Both things are coming in 2018. The battery energy density is there and there's already a lot of charging infrastructure in Europe, the US and Asia.” 

    Voggenreiter said Audi was involved through the Volkswagen Group with rival firms such as BMW, Daimler and Ford in ensuring there’s a fast-charging network for longer-range electric vehicles to use.

    “It’s not our job to invest in charging points,” he said. “We're pushing and organising this, though, and working with our partners on it.” 

    Voggenreiter referred to the ‘chicken and egg’ situation of limited charging infrastructure to date; there has been no need for third parties to install chargers because there are not enough cars to use them, and vice versa. “No cars, no infrastructure, but in the next two years there will be lots of investments,” he added.

    E-tron name

    Audi has opted not to launch its electric cars under a sub-brand, in the way BMW has with its i models and Mercedes-Benz with the EQ range. Instead, it's using E-tron, which has been a suffix on Audi's hybrid cars, as a model name in its own right.

    Voggenreiter said the e-tron name will be used on a range of follow-up electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, where it will appear mostly as a suffix, as is the case with the existing A3 e-tron. It’s likely that Audi’s next-generation models will all get electric versions, while an A8 e-tron is most likely to be the first candidate.

    An SUV body is important for the E-tron, because it's the most on-trend bodystyle, said Voggenreiter. “A lot of customers have been asking when we’ll bring this car to market,” he said. “There's certainly demand in the premium segment; it’s the right product. It’s a real SUV, with Audi design language.” 

    Voggenreiter suggested that Audi's future range of e-tron models will have slightly different styling from the Marc Lichte-designed new look that's currently being rolled out across the rest of the brand's line-up. 

    “The e-trons are close to the designs of Lichte but in different packages,” he said. “There isn’t an engine in the front.” 

    The size of the E-tron suggests it’s a Q6 in all but name, but Voggenreiter hinted that the Q6 is a separate project. He cited speculation that the Q6 should be a “four-door SUV-coupé” based on the Q5, in a similar style to the forthcoming Q8 being spun off the Q7.

    Voggenreiter said the E-tron isn’t the Q6 because it’s “not a four-door SUV-coupé, but a sporty SUV”.

    Julian Rendell, Sam Sheehan and Mark Tisshaw

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  • Car makers subject to new EU regulatory laws after Volkswagen scandal Friday 20th April 2018
    European Union flag The European Commission is set to be granted new powers that will allow it to avoid or punish a repeat of Dieselgate

    A new law created to avoid a repeat of Volkswagen Group’s diesel emissions scandal has been approved by the European Union (EU).

    This gives its independent regulatory arm, the European Commission, more authority over the approval of car models across Europe.

    It can now fine manufacturers up to €30,000 (£26,240 at today’s exchange rate) for each faulty vehicle and order recalls for models, reports Automotive News Europe.

    New WLTP emissions test could force heavy discounts on unsold cars

    The reform also means vehicle manufacturers must disclose software procedures, as the Commission seeks to tackle cheating technology such as that used by Volkswagen.

    The legislation was passed this week by the European Parliament and makes the Commission more akin to the US's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    The move is one of the severest reactions to Dieselgate since the scandal broke in 2015. 

    President Trump threatens to impose tariffs on cars imported from the EU

    The other major change in Europe since that time is the move to more realistic emissions testing, culminating in the introduction of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) to replace the NEDC test.

    Although WLTP is a laboratory-based procedure, it more closely resembles how a car is driven in the real world compared to its predecessor. A real-world driving test, Real Driving Emissions (RDE) complements the WLTP and is carried out on a variety of roads.

    "This reform really improves the flawed system for testing cars," the Brussels-based European Consumer Organisation said in a statement to Automotive News Europe. "The beefed-up role of the EU acts as a deterrent against national regulators giving preferential treatment to their own car makers."

    The new rules, originally proposed in January 2016 by the European Commission, are set to be finally approved on 22 May. There are unlikely to be objections, seeing as most European governments have already pledged their support.

    Read more 

    President Trump threatens to impose tariffs on cars imported from the EU

    New WLTP emissions test could force heavy discounts on unsold cars

    Porsche board member investigated over diesel emissions claims

  • Mercedes-Maybach concept SUV images leak ahead of Beijing reveal Friday 20th April 2018
    Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury
    Images of the Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury have leaked ahead of the Beijing motor show
    The electric Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept is aimed at the high-end Chinese market

    Images and details of the new Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury SUV concept have leaked ahead of its reveal at the Beijing motor show next week.

    Photographs of the car first surfaced on CarNewsChina.com, after a web page for the model seems to have been briefly published ahead of time by accident on the official Mercedes-Benz website and can still be seen in cached form.

    The car, which Mercedes's premium arm describes as an "SUV saloon", is intended to appeal to affluent Chinese buyers who are vital to the success of super-luxury car sales worldwide. It follows similar models from rivals, such as the Bentley Bentayga and upcoming Rolls-Royce Cullinan.

    The leaked information confirms the Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury is designed as an electric car, with four synchronous motors that can offer all-wheel drive and a total power output of 738bhp. It will have a limited top speed of 155mph. The engines are powered by an 80 kWh underfloot battery, which gives an NEDC range of around 310 miles. 

    The details confirm that the concept features the bold chrome-plated grille first seen on the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 coupé concept from 2016.

    Interior images also showcase aspects designed for comfort and luxury, including a large centre console that houses a heated tray containing a tea set. The interior also takes cues from the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, including the large, adjustable seats. 

    Mercedes-Maybach GLS due later this year

    The concept is only a design study and is not set for production.

    Mercedes has previously previewed the concept with a video (below) of a luxurious, futuristic interior and released a sketch of its dashboard.

    While the concept has been created for the Chinese market, it is likely that design elements will make their way into Western Maybach models.

    Currently, the only model on sale by Mercedes-Maybach worldwide is the S-Class. However, a GLS – unrelated to the Beijing show concept – is expected at the Los Angeles motor show in November.  The car is tipped to be priced at around £120,000 when sales begin in 2019.

    The Mercedes-Maybach GLS will share the same basic aluminium-and-steel bodyshell and advanced four-wheel drive underpinnings as the regular GLS. However, its upmarket positioning will be justified by a series of subtle exterior design tweaks and a significantly more luxurious interior.

    A high-level Mercedes official previously told Autocar: “We have been quietly surprised by the sales success of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, which is proving extremely popular in many key markets. The plan now is to extend the exclusivity surrounding the Maybach name into the upper end of the SUV segment. We’re confident that this new model will leave little to be desired in terms of luxury.”

    Mercedes is also showing a production version of its A-Class saloon at the Beijing motor show, following the concept’s appearance at 2017’s Shanghai motor show. While this model is set for China, a similar one will arrive in Europe at a later date. 

    Read more

    Mercedes-Benz S-Class review 

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  • Opinion: should we be allowed to park on pavements? Friday 20th April 2018
    Countrywide ban on pavement parking is being considered
    With a blanket ban for pavement parking looking possible, we discuss whether it would be necessary

    Hark: the sound of change is afoot.

    What has been standard in That London for many, many years might soon be coming to the provinces, introducing a new method of thinking to our towns and villages. No, not ‘being allowed into nightclubs wearing trainers’ or ‘the chance to eat out after 9.30pm’, but something rather more mundane. Something, I might say, rather more ominous.

    I give you Rule 244 of the Highway Code. You remember that one. It’s a classic. “You must not park partially or wholly on the pavement in London,” it reads, “and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it.”

    It’s the “should not do so elsewhere” part of things that could be changing. “Should not” means that it isn’t technically illegal to stick two wheels on a pavement, so you can, though if you’re causing an obstruction, you can get a parking ticket for it. So use your nous.

    This is fairly standard, sensible-sounding stuff, right?

    Perhaps not. The Department for Transport is considering whether to roll out a ‘must not’ pavement parking rule for the entire country, except on roads where local authorities issue a specific exemption.

    Apparently, many local councils have been pushing for a blanket ban.

    Why? Well, the problem is that, as the Code goes on to explain, “parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams and pushchairs”. Of course it can.

    But what parking on the pavement can also mean – and half an hour picking out random villages on Google Street View will give you tens, hundreds, thousands of examples – is that on narrow roads that have pavement or verge width to spare, or near the ends of culs-de-sac where nobody walks, or in areas where car quantities outnumber spaces, it makes life a bit easier for everybody. It can allow traffic to get past more easily, means people don’t have to annoy their neighbours by parking in front of their houses: all while, actually, not blocking paths or inconveniencing anybody in any way.

    A law change would remove that ability; remove that discretion: “Sorry, your wheels are on the pavement. You’re ticketed, mate” – whether it’s a nuisance to others, or actually useful to others. Why would you want to make that change?

    Along with the blanket ban, local authorities would introduce £50-£70 fines for the offence.

    So this is where I – like the AA, who told The Times “we would be concerned if there were a blanket ban” – am worried. Already local councils can ticket drivers who obstruct pavements. Obviously some people park like the entitled, arrogant arses they are. There are places where blocked pavements are a nuisance, where a poorly parked car makes things miserable, even dangerous. These people should be ticketed.

    And they already can be ticketed.

    Making it an automatic offence means nobody can use their judgment to try to do themselves and others a favour. And, I don’t know, just adds to the world’s apparently increasing trend of assuming everyone is stupid so that the default position is becoming ‘you can’t do that unless we say you can’, instead of ‘you can do what you want, unless there’s a good reason you shouldn’t’. It’s a trend I’m getting pretty tired of.

    Read more 

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  • Opinion: a plethora of new models is just what Land Rover needs Friday 20th April 2018
    Land Rover is bridging plenty of gaps with its new SV Coupe plus plans for a Defender pick-up and baby SUVs

    Land Rover’s clever three-pronged model plan achieves a series of important and urgent objectives for the company, each one vital now that the marque’s core model structure is established.

    The luxurious new 4x4 coupé, the £250,000 SV Coupe, strengthens Range Rover at the pinnacle of the luxury SUV range, where others such as Bentley have begun to eat its lunch. The plan for a Defender pick-up deals neatly with the ‘when will they show the icon?’ question while also finding all-important sales in a sector that Land Rover has missed in the past.

    Baby SUVs to spearhead new Land Rover offensive

    The plan for new compact SUVs – possibly with a Defender first – has so much potential that we’ll bet it holds top priority at Gaydon. No progressive company enjoys watching a sector grow at 28% a year without having any credible runners in the race.

    Best of all, these models all promise to steer Land Rover back into traditional areas recently neglected in pursuit of success in the drive-to-school market. Extreme luxury is very much a traditional Range Rover value, while the Defender pick-up gives Land Rover a decent chance to stress ruggedness and extreme capability. Meanwhile, the new compact models at last promise an entry threshold previously set too high for many. This is important progress.

    Land Rover Defender pick-up to rival Mercedes X-Class

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    Land Rover Defender review 

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  • Land Rover Defender pick-up to rival Mercedes X-Class Friday 20th April 2018
    Defender pick-up is expected to be single-cab only
    Following the Defender's reveal later this year, a family of models is expected, including a pick-up variant

    Land Rover will launch a pick-up truck by 2020 as part of an extended family of Defender vehicles, which has long been rumoured in order to warrant Land Rover’s future commitment to its most famous model.

    The standard Defender will have its grand unveiling this year as part of the marque’s 70th anniversary celebrations, but more variants are already in the pipeline.

    A Defender pick-up will not only appeal to the huge market for utilitarian vehicles in the US but also in Europe, where pick-up sales are growing. Mercedes’ recent arrival with the X-Class (a sibling to the Nissan Navara), demonstrates car makers’ belief of the worthiness of an offering in this segment.

    Opinion: a plethora of new models is just what Land Rover needs 

    The Defender pick-up will also appeal in developing parts of the world, including South America and Africa. Although old Defenders are still used in these places, models such as the Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux pick-up are broadly perceived as more reliable and durable options, so Land Rover will need to prove the new Defender’s worth against these rivals.

    New Land Rover Defender edges closer to production as cold weather testing commences

    Given the markets where the vehicle is likely to be most popular – those that are not geared up for electric or hybrid powertrains – the engine line-up will focus on petrol and diesel 2.0-litre units from JLR’s Ingenium range.

    The pick-up will be based around the longer-wheelbase Defender. It is most likely to be offered as a single-cab variant, offering a similar payload to a Navara, because it would be easier to adapt the Defender’s platform to a single-cab format than a double-cab.

    Baby SUVs to spearhead new Land Rover offensive

    To cater for all its markets, the pick-up will be offered in a range of specifications, from a very spartan version to something far more luxurious to rival the likes of the X-Class.

    More premium versions could be made in the firm’s new Slovakia plant, where the main Defender models are expected to be built. More rudimentary versions could be made further afield. A rumoured new factory in Mexico is one potential build location for models that are destined for the Americas.

    Land Rover Defender V8 driven

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    Land Rover Defender review 

    Has Land Rover made the right decision with the new Defender?

    Range Rover Sport SVR review 

  • Baby SUVs to spearhead new Land Rover offensive Friday 20th April 2018
    New ‘Freelander’ could be smaller than the Mk1
    The first of Land Rover's compact SUV models could arrive in 2021, which would revive the spirit of the original Freelander

    Land Rover is readying a raft of new models over the next four years that will take it into new sectors and will culminate in the launch of a model that revives the spirit of the original Freelander.

    The diverse new cars, which also include a £250,000 Range Rover coupé, a Defender pick-up truck and a more car-like Range Rover, will cash in on the booming growth of premium 4x4s, with the aim of elevating Land Rover sales and profits to new heights.

    Most crucial to the growth targets are new entry-level models. Inspiring these plans is the success of the original Freelander, which invented the idea of a soft-roader when it was launched in 1997 and became a best-seller in Europe.

    Opinion: a plethora of new models is just what Land Rover needs 

    Land Rover is keen to do this again, this time with models that are even smaller than the Freelander Mk1.

    The first of these small models, which will be around 4.2 metres in length, could arrive in 2021, although debate is ongoing about which of Land Rover’s three model strands – leisure (as typified by the Discovery Sport), luxury (Range Rover) or utility (the next Defender) – it will join. The company is considering adding a baby SUV for each of these ranges in the long term.

    Autocar understands that a smaller vehicle to sit below the Discovery Sport in the ‘leisure’ range has the greatest appeal within Land Rover, particularly as it would fill an obvious gap in the company’s line-up andwould compete in a segment where it has plenty of history with the Freelander. When the Discovery Sport replaced the Freelander in 2014, the model grew in size and went more upmarket, leaving space in the range for an affordable offering beneath it.

    At the time, Land Rover officials told Autocar that the Freelander name had not necessarily been permanently retired. The badge could be ripe for a return on the new small SUV, although Land Rover is wary of adding yet another model name to its range at a time when only the Range Rover strand of its line-up has been firmly established globally, through fears that it could confuse potential buyers.

    Worldwide sales of compact SUVs hit 4.92 million in 2016, up 28% from the previous year, according to market analyst Jato. It is one of the fastest-growing segments of the car market, and one in which it is important for Land Rover to have a presence, not only to grow overall sales but also to introduce younger, less affluent buyers to the brand in the hope that they can be retained and buy more expensive models as their families and salaries grow.

    Land Rover Defender pick-up to rival Mercedes X-Class

    Audi pursues a similar strategy with its ‘Q’ range, starting with the Q2, and the latter will be a notable rival for the baby Land Rover. Other rivals will be the Jeep Renegade and the Mini Countryman. The Q2 is now Audi’s biggest-selling SUV in Europe, having overtaken the Q5, proving how worthwhile a presence in this sector would be for Land Rover.

    Autocar originally reported plans for Land Rover’s baby SUVs in December 2014, when prototypes were under review in internal product meetings. The plans are progressing again, having been shelved and revived at least twice in the past due to concerns over the profit margins of small cars. These concerns haven’t gone away for Land Rover, but it is buoyed by the continued growth of the segment, and the success of the Q2 in particular, although the small SUV has yet to receive final sign-off from the company’s top brass.

    Another potential model in the range could be a small Range Rover, which Land Rover would expect to either match or outstrip the sales success of the Evoque. Currently, the latter accounts for about one in four Land Rover models sold. The manufacturer has traditionally used Range Rover to spearhead its move into new market segments, and will do so again in 2019 with a more car-like electric crossover model that will be twinned with the next Jaguar XJ.

    Counting against a baby Range Rover being the first small Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) product to market, however, is concern that the car’s price and positioning could lead to it eating into Evoque sales, and thus it’s considered the least likely to make production initially.

    A compact Defender is said to be the favourite among some company bosses to make production first. That’s because Land Rover has long talked about building a family of Defenders – although the first Defender models will be spun off an entirely different platform to the one proposed for use under the small Land Rovers and Range Rovers.

    Whether Land Rover ends up with one, two or three small models in its line-ups, each will likely be based on a smaller platform, understood to be codenamed ‘D10’.

    This is a slightly shortened, re-engineered and cheaper version of the D8 architecture on which the Discovery Sport, Range Rover Evoque and Jaguar E-Pace are built.

    Given the entry-level positioning of the new models, it is crucial for Land Rover to adapt an existing platform, rather than build a costly bespoke architecture, in order to keep costs down and justify the business case.

    If the Defender version of the new small SUV was given the go-ahead, it would mean that the car’s range would use two platforms: a toughened-up version of the D7u – also used under the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery – for the initial Defender range due to be revealed later this year and the D10 underpinnings for the smaller car.

    The Land Rovers will most likely be made at the firm’s new plant in Slovakia, which will also start building the Discovery later this year. The JLR plants in the UK are close to full capacity and the company will want to keep production in Europe, given that this is where most of its baby SUVs would be sold. Slovakia has significantly lower labour rates than the UK, helping to keep costs down. Having smaller, lighter and more efficient cars in the model range will also contribute to a significant reduction in Land Rover’s overall fleet CO2 emissions, something that is fundamental to meet strict future environmental targets.

    The company will need to address demand for electrified powertrains in smaller model segments by the time the baby Land Rovers reach the market. However, the D8 architecture cannot easily accommodate electrified powertrains, so the D10 platform will need to be re-engineered to achieve this, adding unwanted costs.

    Addressing this remains one of the other key factors in determining how quickly Land Rover can bring any of its new compact models to market. 

    Read more 

    Land Rover Defender review 

    Land Rover Discovery review 

    Range Rover Sport SVR review

  • Jaguar E-Pace Friday 20th April 2018
    Jaguar E-Pace 2018 review hero front Can Jaguar’s compact SUV bring flair and dynamic polish to a fast-growing class? For an idea of the scale of ambition embodied in the new Jaguar E-Pace, consider that 80% of those who choose to buy one over, say, an Audi Q3 or BMW X1 will be new to Jaguar showrooms. ‘Conquest customers’, as they’re dispassionately known within the industry.That’s a mighty statistic even for a car expected to supplant the F-Pace as the brand’s bestselling model, although it is one bolstered by the fact that quite a few will be built specifically for the Chinese market in a state-of-the-art plant in Changshu.To grease manufacturing wheels and meet anticipated demand in Europe, every other E-Pace will be assembled in Austria by Magna Steyr, the firm that has built the G-Class for Mercedes since 1979 and is currently configuring its lines for Jaguar’s new electric I-Pace.If all goes to plan, the E-Pace will be something of a breakthrough car for Jaguar, and one, it is hoped, that will push annual global sales past the quarter-million mark. Predictably, we’re talking about a compact SUV here, one that slots into the range beneath the F-Pace, although mechanically it has more in common with a Land Rover Discovery Sport.Entry-level models will be front-driven, but the majority – our test car included – will benefit from an on-demand clutch-based four-wheel-drive system capable of channelling drive to both axles. And to capture that rear-driven Jaguar feel, the most powerful variants also get a GKN Driveline ‘twinster’ torque-vectoring rear differential related to the one you’ll find on the current Ford Focus RS. It only distributes up to half of available engine torque between the rear wheels, mind, rather than the 70% you get in the Ford.Of some concern to its maker will be that the E-Pace arrives almost concurrently with our class leader of the moment, the Volvo XC40, which is competent, desirable and likeable in equally formidable measures.With parallel values, this downsized Jaguar SUV is in some respects a British-designed and engineered XC40, so does it have what it takes to mount a convincing challenge?
  • Audi TT RS Coupé long-term review Friday 20th April 2018
    Audi TT RS Coupé The Audi TT RS has the looks, a vociferous engine and the supercar-baiting performance, but is it too uncompromising to use as a daily driver?

    Why we're running it: To see if the most hardcore TT is preferable to the cooking versions and a genuine alternative to a BMW M2

    Month 1 Month 2 - Month 3 - Month 4 - Month 5Specs

    Life with an Audi TT RS: Month 5

    It's bigger than you think - 4th April 2018

    I wasn’t planning on buying a bike. I went to the shop for something else. I thought the TT’s modest load space would save me: no way would I get a bike in there without dismantling it. Well, blow me if it didn’t go straight in, front wheel ’n’ all. Of course, the passenger seat is fully forward and tilted, but that’s just a sign of how much I secretly wanted it to fit.

    Mileage: 5818

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    Life with an Audi TT RS: Month 4

    Virtual cockpit clarity - 21st March 2018

    Many thanks to everyone who got back to me regarding the right-hand screen of the TT’s virtual cockpit. For the record, you click right when in ‘Car’ mode, which accesses a sub-menu with ‘Additional Display’ in the left-hand screen. Problem is, I’m not given the choice to scroll through the media/radio options without exiting the sat-nav map.

    Mileage: 5423

    A look at the TT's past - 7th March 2018

    A chap emailed me about the TT RS recently, and mentioned in passing that the model might potentially be more of a spiritual successor to the Ur-Quattro than anyone had given it credit for. Certainly this wouldn’t be difficult – as the amount of people connecting the dots between Audi’s homologated 1980s icon and its twee latter-day coupé is likely very small – but as our man owns examples of both cars (and was referring mostly to the five-pot and digital dash), his two cents are rather well earned.

    For me, the TT, no matter what engine has been shoehorned into its britches, falls well short of the chin-jutting attitude exhibited by a car that I still associate with Walter Röhrl and Stig Blomqvist. Nevertheless, I’ll concede that the RS’s position has undergone a tectonic shift since we took delivery. This has less to do with the car itself, though, and is more about the status of Neckarsulm’s other contenders. In previous years, the TT (and the mechanically similar RS3) were overshadowed not only by larger models but also by the attention- seeking V8 engines that powered them. And while the last-generation RS4 and RS5 (and outgoing RS6) were an acquired taste in some respects, no one questioned their integrity as driving machines; they were uncompromising, stringently fastandevocativeinawaythatwas acutely Audi’s own.

    What has followed recently has not necessarily been for the worst – there’s a fine argument which says that the new 2.9-litre V6-engined iterations are better all-round daily drivers than they’ve ever been – but you’d have to be supremely generous not to notice that some of the serrated edge has been judiciously planed away.

    The mournful absence of a naturally aspirated V8 soundtrack is even more telling; the turbocharged unit co-developed with Porsche can claim several advantages over its atmospheric predecessor, but intrigue and emotiveness at 8000rpm is not among them. And with the old bombastic RS6 in the final throes of production, the changing of the guard for softer, subtler replacements casts rather a different light on the MQB cars –to the extent that if you asked me which current RS model was likely to provide you with an experience of quattro one might call characteristic, there’s every chance I’d now say the TT.

    Well, all right, I’d probably say the RS3 because it has a proper boot, genuine back seats and is better-looking, but you see where I’m heading. The TT, to its coupé-ish credit, is usefully lighter and lower than its hatchback sibling (and very marginally quicker too) and, with the optional adaptive dampers fitted – as you must – I’m not so sure that it doesn’t ride with slightly greater aplomb as well. Either way, I’m referring to the other end of the scale, where the RS will do utterly savage and severe things with the superciliousness of a neurosurgeon. Equally, it will do them while bathing you in the remarkable sound of a tightly wound inline five engine being ceremoniously unwound at the end of every turn.

    Factor in the impeccable interior and seemingly indestructible build quality, and you’ve got the Neckarsulm way in a nutshell – one that costs about £35k less than the retiring RS6 Performance. All of this was rather brought home to roost by a colleague (and self- confessed Audi obsessive) who returned from a weekend in the TT’s company with a bemused look on his face. “What do you think,” I enquired. “It’s exactly as I expected,” he replied. “Brilliant.”

    Mileage: 3979

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    Life with an Audi TT RS: Month 3

    Where you should - and shouldn't - save money – 14 February 2018

    Speccing a modern car is baffling, and the TT RS is no different. I reckon there’s a chunk that could be saved from our car’s £61,080 astested price. Keeping the standard wheels knocks off £1300, while ditching electric seats and forgoing the OLED rear lights saves another £1600. But the sports exhaust, at £1000, is money very well spent.

    Mileage: 3116

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    Life with an Audi TT RS: Month 2

    The squeaky anchor rumours are true – 31 January 2018

    You might have heard that the TT RS’s brakes squeal. The observation was made recently in a high-profile corner of the internet, although I am inclined to agree. It doesn’t happen all the time and, if you are playing Sister Morphine loud enough, you won’t hear it anyway. But it is there occasionally, distant and irksome. And that’s unarguably too often.

    Mileage: 2054

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    Life with an Audi TT RS: Month 1

    Fussing with the TT’s Virtual Cockpit display – 17 January 2018

    Christmas ought to have been the ideal opportunity to get to know the TT RS a little better, but in recollection it feels like I spent most of the time fussing with settings and screens and other peripheral nonsense.

    Some of this fumbling was inevitable, of course: like any other expensive German car, the RS is only slightly less adjustable than a Tempur mattress.

    Long gone are the days when getting the seat and steering wheel in the right place was the bulk of the job. I spend about a million times longer simply concerning myself with whether I want the seat to default to either the first or second of its three heat settings. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    In the TT, Audi’s devotion to its Virtual Cockpit system is total. The decision to sacrifice the additional pop-up screen on the centre stack (as you’d find in the current RS3) is mostly about accommodating the swoopy dashboard and its trademark vents.

    And as good as the instrument cluster-based 12.3in display is, it does take some getting used to – especially if you’ve become accustomed to fiddling with the infotainment system by means of the dial that lives beneath your left elbow.

    I suspect the omnipresence of such controllers is the reason why Ingolstadt has retained one because it is almost redundant on the TT, the steering wheel-mounted buttons offering all the functionality you really need.

    The upshot is that you very rarely find your eyeballs moving further south than the middle of the steering wheel, which is plainly to the benefit of your general road awareness.

    It does, however, mean that (if you’re me) you rather obsess about what’s on the screen in front of you. Audi will let you choose between two basic displays: one that relegates the rev counter and speedometer in favour of the infotainment system and one that puts an oversized rev counter front and centre and sidelines any other media to the left-hand portion of the screen. The latter seems the more natural choice for the RS, but selecting it means putting up with two dials that incessantly chart the engine’s power and torque output as a roving percentage.

    As ever, this is the kind of readout that makes interesting viewing for about a nanosecond, and thereafter serves only as a distraction. And unlike the left side, which allows you to scroll through the available options, the right is as immutable as a Teletext page.

    The only solution is to have a destination constantly running on the sat-nav, which replaces both meters with on-screen directions – but when the destination is mostly my folks’ house on Christmas Day, this is far too tedious.

    So instead I’ve spent the last few weeks staring at a real-time graph of what my right foot is doing.

    On top of all this, there’s the inevitable tinkering with the car’s drive modes to be indulged.

    In the main, the preset Comfort setting is going to be shouldering most of the everyday burden – partly because the five-pot is fiery no matter what, but mostly because the RS is easily taut enough to make its more aggressive suspensions setting all but redundant on UK roads.

    The same reasoning rather takes the edge off the all-guns-blazing Dynamic mode, leading to an ongoing fuss over which bits best fit Individual for when you’re in the mood.

    Right now, I’ve opted for Auto for the engine and gearbox (taking for granted that the powertrain recognises what sliding the latter into paddle-shifting manual means), kept the suspension in Comfort and gone with Dynamic for the steering, quattro system and sound.

    As far as the steering is concerned, this was unexpected; Neckarsulm tending to over-egg the resistance when asked to try harder.

    Not here, though: the mode only being slightly stickier than Comfort and therefore a marginally superior foil for the more stringent diff setting. Or at least that’s what I think at the moment.

    Mileage: 1658

    Welcoming the TT RS Coupé to our fleet – 03 January 2018

    Many moons ago, Steve Sutcliffe – our one-time editor-at-large – ran a TT RS.

    It was the second-generation model, already equipped with the 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine but based on the older, weightier, stuffier PQ35 platform.

    It was fast, of course, and very well made and easy on the eye. Yet it was acutely unrewarding to drive – or so we all thought (and said so in the contemporary road test).

    Steve, though, despite being endowed with the kind of God-given talent that had no earthly need for quattro’s help, loved it – and repeatedly said so in print.

    This was all mildly embarrassing at the time, and although it changed no one’s mind about the car in question, it did always leaving me wondering what the quickest TT was actually like to live with over an extended period.

    Now, half a decade later, I’m about to find out.

    Naturally, the RS in question is a generation removed from Sutters’ car; based on the MQB platform and endowed now with a preposterous output that qualifies it as a supercar-worrier.

    Nevertheless, my early encounters with the model – on the international launch, in fact – have followed a familiar pattern: my respect for and appreciation of its extraordinary straight-line gusto are slowly superseded by indifference for what it does when not heading very quickly for the horizon’s vanishing point.

    Consequently, the most pressing question was not whether I’d like the car in six months, but whether I’d be sick of it within six minutes.

    I needn’t have worried. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s Ingolstadt’s gift for shrouding you in a haze of expensively wrought contentment.

    I didn’t spec our car – we let Audi UK’s experts do that for us – but I can’t imagine needing anything more from the cabin: the heated ‘Super Sport’ seats are clad in leather and are excellent and there isn’t a surface or switch in the RS that doesn’t groan with perceived quality.

    The kit list is decent without being precisely generous, the standout feature being the standard inclusion of both MMI Navigation Plus and Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system, which means there’s no centre console screen to become distracted by at all.

    Our benefactors have thrown in the smartphone interface (£250) and the wireless charger (£325), worthy additions but slightly wasted on someone who doesn’t like Apple CarPlay and (as a lowly iPhone SE user) can’t charge his device remotely.

    Given the choice, I would likely have opted for the Comfort and Sound Package (£1295), which delivers the rear-view camera, the Bang & Olufsen sound system and keyless entry.

    But it would be churlish to claim dismay at the RS’s interior: it’s a perfectly wonderful place to spend half the year.

    The exterior is admirable, too, although it would likely have been more so in a slightly more sympathetic colour, the Catalunya red metallic (£550) being slightly too scarlet for the TT’s diminutive body.

    Naturally, Audi has selected the largest possible alloy wheels: 20in seven-spoke rotor design in matt titanium-look diamond-cut finish, to be exact. I’d have been no slower in shedding the stock (and suspiciously uninspiring) 19in rims, but only the bravest soul would regard the lack of tyre profile on the (£1695) replacement and not ponder the subsequent effect on ride quality.

    I suspect this concern ranks higher for me with each passing year.

    Once, the prospect of an unyielding and pimply chassis was about as consequential as the saturated fat content of my breakfast cereal. But times change. I don’t eat cereal at all any more (it contains too much sugar) and I don’t like to have my spine compressed by anything other than a qualified medical professional.

    Consequently, the solitary spec-based question I asked of Audi before taking delivery of the car was: “Does it have Magnetic Ride?”. This is the £995 tick that buys you adaptive dampers and, more important, access to a Comfort setting on the Drive Select system. This is desirable on any Audi, and all but essential on RS models, which are typically set up to jostle the wiring from a pacemaker.

    Happily, this was also deemed the first thing on Audi UK’s list – along with the RS sport exhaust system (£1000) and matrix LED lights front (£945) and back (£800). It is the dampers, though, that have ensured my first week or so with the TT has been thoroughly agreeable.

    Sure, it has been almost exclusively motorway miles thus far – but not testing your sanity between home and work is the bedrock upon which all long-term test cars stand or fall. And although those wheels make it fantastically noisy on the concrete section of M25 in Surrey, the ride is on the acceptably firm side of pliant.

    Throw in the patently ferocious mid-range shove of a five-cylinder engine that makes overtaking an emphatic affair even allowing for the faint out-of-box tightness that comes from having covered less than 300 miles, and it’s fair to say that – thus far – it’s rather hard to fault the RS in any meaningful terms. That will come later. Surely.

    Second opinion

    The TT has the dual role of showing that RS models can be keen driver’s cars rather than hot rods, and that the TT itself is not simply a case of style over substance.

    A tough ask, one short blasts have yet to convince me of, but nothing a long-term test can’t answer once and for all.

    Mark Tisshaw

    Audi TT RS Coupé 2.5 TFSI quattro specification

    Specs: Price New £52,450; Price as tested £61,080; Options 20in ‘7-spoke rotor’ alloy wheels in matt titanium-look diamond-cut finish (£1695), front RS logo red brake calipers (£325), RS Red Design Pack (£895), Matrix LED headlights and dynamic front and rear indicators (£945), Audi Smartphone Interface (£250), RS sport exhaust system (£1000), RS sport suspension with Audi Magnetic Ride (£995), Electrically adjustable front seats (£800), Matrix OLED tail-lights (£800), Audi Phone Box with wireless charging (£325), Catalunya red metallic paint (£550)

    Test Data: Engine 5cyls, 2480cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 394bhp at 5850-7000rpm; Torque 354lb ft at 1700-5850rpm; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 3.7sec; Claimed fuel economy 33.6mpg; Test fuel economy 26.4mpg; CO2 192g/km; Faults None; Expenses None

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  • Lamborghini Urus 2018 review Thursday 19th April 2018
    Lamborghini Urus review 2018 hero front The supercar maker's new 4x4 is massively capable wherever it goes, while being extremely conspicuous and costly while it does it I suppose, when the matter in hand is as delicate as this, every kilogram matters, so Lamborghini isn’t going to round the 2197kg that its new Urus SUV weighs to the nearest ten kilos. So 2197kg it is. Yay, it’s sub-2.2 tonnes! And that’s the first of an array of frighteningly large numbers that relate to the new Lamborghini 4x4: others of note are 641bhp, 626lb ft and £164,950 (or thereabouts; dealer charges vary, and you’ll pay £180k or more once you’ve got some options on it anyway). All of which gets you what, exactly? A super sports luxury SUV. Lamborghini says it basically invented this kind of car, and if you squint a bit I suppose, in the rather brutalist V12-engined form of the LM002, it might almost perhaps have a bit of a point; although I’m not sure it thought so at the time, and it only made 328 of them before packing the idea in.But that was then and this is now and now means it doesn’t get a V12 and won’t be built by hand by the couple of hundred. The new Urus sits on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB Evo architecture, which underpins the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga, and it’s intended to perhaps double Lamborghini’s output to 7000 cars a year. To that extent, it is a marketing-driven car, not an engineering-driven one. It’s a car that they acknowledge they can only sell because they make actual genuine sports cars. Without the badge, the history, the reputation, the 12.4 million Instagram followers, the Urus wouldn’t sell. Which is an admission, of sorts, isn’t it? That this isn’t quite a Lamborghini, after all? Not so, they say. Lamborghini DNA is written through it, they reckon. After all, it has, er, an architecture from a VW; yes, but it’s lighter through better mixed-metal use and with funky C-pillars and frameless doors. It has Lamborghini’s first turbocharged engine and it’s one you’ll find in an Audi; but, ah, here it has 641bhp. It has four-wheel drive, a tall ride height; perhaps, but no other group product marries that to a Torsen centre differential with 60% (and up to 85%) rear bias and a torque-vectoring rear differential, you see. Right. In short, the things that separate a Lamborghini from another brand’s car within the VW Group today, then, are rather more subtle than the fact that only one of them has a V12 engine in the middle of it. Would a V12 engine fit here? Don’t be silly, an SUV requires turbochargers because only they can make the requisite torque. Could you put turbos on the V12? Look, please stop asking questions and go away and drive it. So I do.
  • Polestar 1 hybrid coupe completes first test programme Thursday 19th April 2018
    Polestar 1 test
    The first Polestar 1 prototype has completed a shakedown test in the Arctic Circle
    Company boss says development programme proves electrified machine is true 'driver's car'

    The first Polestar 1 hybrid coupé prototype has completed its maiden dynamic shakedown test in the Arctic Circle.

    The 592bhp machine from Volvo's performance arm completed around two weeks of testing, with a focus on its drivetrain, batteries and torque vectoring system. Polestar conducted the tests in the Arctic Circle to place the hybrid system under pressure in temperatures that reached -28deg. 

    Polestar boss Thomas Ingenlath said the torque vectoring system enhanced the 1's cornering responsiveness and accuracy, adding: "This is a driver's car."

    The car, which will be on display at the Beijing motor show, is available to order now for a deposit of €2500, equating to around £2221. It will initially be sold in 18 countries, including Britain. Most of the markets fall in north, west and southern Europe but China, the US and Canada are also included.

    Polestar chose to increase the availability of the model at launch from 12 countries to 18 due to high popularity.

    The car made its European debut at the Geneva motor show in February and is going on a brand-building world tour before its public launch in the middle of next year. Once productions begins, only 500 examples of the 1 are due to be sold each year.

    Before the opening of order books, Polestar said that more than 6000 potential customers had expressed an interest in the car, which will cost around £116,000.

    According to Ingenlath, who also remains Volvo’s design director, Polestar will become Volvo’s “technological spearhead” that, after the 1 hits the market, will make only all-electric performance cars. The company is preparing for an early 2020 launch of the all-electric Polestar 2 crossover saloon, which bears a very close relationship to Ingenlath’s Concept 40.2 that has already been seen at motor shows. A full-sized Polestar 3 SUV will arrive after that.

    The 1 coupé has an all-carbonfibre body based on a shortened S90 platform. It will produce 592bhp from a front-mounted 2.0-litre turbo engine, plus twin electric motors on the rear axle, and is very much a halo car. In Geneva, the 1 was shown to a group of more than 100 potential customers who were then invited to confirm their interest by submitting a deposit. The car will make more European appearances — possibly including a public driving debut at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed — before heading to the US and then China, where a special manufacturing facility capable of handling carbonfibre structures is already under construction close to Volvo’s existing plant at Chengdu.

    The 2 (imagined by Autocar below), an all-steel hatchback saloon that shares Volvo’s smaller CMA platform, will go into production late next year. It will be made in both left and right-hand drive. Ingenlath won’t say where the car will be built but is keen to point out its suitability as a rival to Tesla’s Model 3. Polestar is understood to still be deciding on details of its powertrain design, although two electric motors (one front, one rear) are suggested. The car should cost “from €40,000” and have a practical driving range of about 200 miles.

    The 3 (imagined by Autocar above), a radically styled, low-roof SUV that will use the next generation of Volvo’s SPA big-car platform and have a mixed aluminium and steel body construction, is understood to be heading for a 2022 launch and is likely to be made at the Chengdu factory. When all three models are selling as anticipated, Polestar volume could reach 80,000-90,000 cars annually (with the 1 accounting for 500 and the 2 for around 50,000). Ingenlath says further models are being considered in areas that wouldn’t be mainstream enough to suit Volvo.

    As well as developing its rule-breaking new models, Polestar is working on a bespoke marketing set-up aimed at increasing convenience for owners and moving beyond the traditionally adversarial customer-dealer relationship. Cars will be paid for by a monthly 'subscription' that includes insurance, servicing and possibly customer hire days (in case they need a van or fancy a sports car for a few days, for instance). Cars will be picked up from customers’ homes or workplaces and delivered back after servicing.

    Polestar commercial director Jon Goodman expects to choose about 80 Polestar 'spaces' around the world to sell its cars, with an expected eight in the UK.

    Read more

    Polestar to take on Tesla with Model 3 rival and SUV by 2019

    Will Polestar's subscription system work?

  • BMWs will be intelligent, but full autonomy is a long way off, says board member Thursday 19th April 2018
    BMW i4
    Autocar's vision for the upcoming BMW i4
    Although the German brand has plans to make its cars more intelligent in the future, it still believes we're still a way off full autonomy

    BMW has revealed more of its plans to make its cars more intelligent, but full autonomy is still some way off, according to board member Peter Schwarzenbauer.

    Speaking at the company’s FIZ Research and Development centre near Munich, Schwarzenbauer said that while BMW’s upcoming models - which will be connected to a vast cloud network of real-time safety and driving information - will be capable of Level 3 autonomy (where the car can take over in certain circumstances, such as in slow-moving motorway traffic, but the driver has to be ready to regain control), he believes that "society might not yet be ready" for self-driving vehicles.

    "Will society accept this? I don’t believe society is ready to hand over responsibility for its life to a machine. We will go step by step. Level 3 will probably be acceptable, but anything further than that will take a lot of time" said Schwarzenbauer, who is responsible for the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands.

    In the near future, however, BMW is betting that highly detailed live driving information that will appeal to today’s more 'hands-on' drivers.

    A significant amount of real-time data is generated by the cameras and sensors fitted to BMW's connected cars, allowing the compilation of detailed information on local weather conditions, hazard information - such as ice on the road - and live traffic information.

    There are currently around 250 million ‘requests’ per day generated by the 700,000 cloud-connected BMW cars already on the roads.

    This information is collated and anonymised by BMW’s own ‘back-end’ server and then sent back down from the cloud to other connected BMWs.

    Even more live information is added by similarly connected Mercedes and Audi vehicles, all of which feed into the open-platform HERE mapping system, which is owned by the German big three.

    It's this currently unrivalled live information, along with super-accurate lidar mapping (which is updated in real-time), that could give the trio a significant lead in fully autonomous driving, whenever that is judged ready for the market.

    In any case, BMW engineers say it's connected cars that will be significantly safer, thanks to the level of driver information about the route ahead.  This is already provided by more than 2 million vehicles – a figure that will increase exponentially.

    BMW engineers are also working with specialist camera maker Mobileye on an artificial intelligence programme that allows the windscreen-mounted camera and associated software to identify approaching vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists in milliseconds, as well as anticipating the likely trajectory of the vehicles travelling in front.

    Read more 

    BMW 3 Series review 

    BMW 5 Series review 

    BMW 6 Series review 

  • Brabham BT62: 5.4-litre V8 to power track-focused hypercar Thursday 19th April 2018
    Brabham BT62
    Brabham Automotive's teaser image for the BT62
    Teaser image of £1m hypercar shows huge rear wing, with BT62 featuring power-to-weight ratio of 720bhp per tonne

    The forthcoming Brabham Automotive BT62 track-focused hypercar will cost £1 million and be powered by a 5.4-litre V8 engine, with a power-to-weight ratio of 720bhp per tonne.

    The new company, led by former Formula 1 racer and Le Mans winner David Brabham (and son of three-time world champion Sir Jack) will reveal the BT62 at a yet-to-be-announced London venue next month. It has now released a teaser image of what it calls a "low-slung, race-inspired car" showing thin LED rear lights that illuminate a large carbonfibre rear wing.

    Brabham says the BT62, a track-focused hypercar, will have a dry weight of 972kg and be able to produce more than 1200kg of downforce. For comparison, the McLaren Senna GTR produces around 1000kg of downforce.

    Despite the fact that the BT62 has not been shown in public yet, Brabham is already taking orders for the machine, with first deliveries expected later this year. Owners will be given membership of a track-focused driver development programme. After the car is launched on 2 May following a "rigorous and extensive engineering programme", the public will be able to view it at a ticket-only event during 4-5 May that will also include a display of Brabham racing cars and memorabilia.

    Footage (below) released last month features a car at full throttle blasting along a pit straight, offering some insight into what the BT62 will be like.

    A screen grab of the moment the car passes the camera (above) appears to show a Le Mans-prototype-like silhouette, while the V8 engine revs hard like a racing car motor, with a tone not too dissimilar to that of the eight-cylinder unit used in Formula 2.

    Despite its clear extremeness, Autocar understands that the BT62 will be road legal. It's described by its maker as a car "that has been built to set blistering lap times", suggesting it could be as focused as the McLaren Senna.

    "Unquestionably fast but about far more than outright speed, the Brabham BT62 is resolutely focused on uncompromising performance, handling and driver involvement," the company said. "Born from a unique and historic racing pedigree, Brabham Automotive’s first car has been designed and engineered to demand more from the driver and reward the limited few who will rise to its challenge."

    The BT62 name resumes a discontinued lineage of racing cars produced by the original Brabham brand. Brabham has been synonymous with motor racing since its founder, Sir Jack Brabham, first took to the F1 grid in 1955.

    David Brabham said: “The Brabham philosophy has always seen drivers extract every ounce of available performance from their cars and themselves. That same spirit lives strong within Brabham Automotive today and its first project, the BT62, honours the legacy of the cars that have previously carried the iconic Brabham name."

    He launched the company in February, two years after the name was first registered at Companies House. He has long expressed a desire to return his family name to motorsport; last year, he told Autocar that he wanted “to see the name back on track”, suggesting the launch of the company could lead to a motorsport programme in the future.

    As revealed by Autocar last year, a racing re-entry that follows the launch of a car brand would mirror the strategy employed by McLaren Automotive.

    Formula 1 2018: everything you need to know

    A Brabham spokesman declined to comment on the return to racing, stating that the company has been “continually approached on various projects” and that it “will reveal more about the [automotive] project and its intentions shortly”.

    Previous speculations linked the new Brabham brand to the Force India F1 team, which, it was believed, could be taken over amid an ongoing legal case involving its owner, business tycoon Vijay Mallya. However, Force India is competing in this year's season, quelling any possibility of a takeover in the current year.

    More content:

    Sergio Marchionne: diesel may never recover

    Abarth 124 GT 2018 review

  • Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak electric protoype to be launched on Sunday Thursday 19th April 2018
    Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak
    The Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak will be unveiled on April 22
    German firm's first electric motorsport machine is designed to break record on daunting Colorado hill climb

    The Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak, a four-wheel-drive, electric-powered prototype that will be used on the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in June, will be unveiled in France on Sunday April 22.

    The machine, which has only been shown in computer generated images so far, has been developed by VW's motorsport arm to showcase the performance capabilities of modern-day electric drive systems. It will act as a high-tech spearhead for a range of new electric-powered ID road cars that are due to begin production at VW’s Zwickau factory in Germany from the end of 2019.

    The machine will be shown at an event on Sunday, before an on-track testing programme for its record attempt on the 156-turn, 12.42-mile mountain begins the following day.

    A series of computer-generated images released by VW show that the pure-electric coupé takes on the appearance of a modern-day Le Mans prototype, with an aerodynamic package that includes a sizeable front splitter, centre fin extending over the rear bodywork - that appears to help support the car’s huge rear wing - and a multi-channel diffuser element.  

    The release of the images follows initial confirmation by VW in October last year that it had began development of a new car for Pikes Peak.  

    “We want to be at the forefront of electro mobility with the ID family," said VW R&D boss Frank Welsch. “Competing in the most famous hill climb in the world with the ID R Pikes Peak not only has symbolic meaning but is also a valuable test for the general development of electric cars.”

    Welsch, who is also responsible for the development of the upcoming range of ID electric road models, says the ID R Pikes Peak is equipped with “innovative drive and battery technology”.

    Although VW is keeping quiet about technical details of the ID R Pikes Peak’s driveline, the car is expected to use two electric motors – one for each axle in a four-wheel drive set-up, mirroring the design being developed for production versions of the company’s ID Crozz, ID Buzz and ID Vizzion concept cars.

    Electricity used to drive the motors is planned to come from a large lithium-ion battery that insiders suggest will use contemporary cell technology similar to that planned for VW’s pure-electric road cars.

    VW suggests the ID R Pikes Peak represents the “first step in an intensification of the co-operation between Volkswagen R and Volkswagen Motorsport” in a move that could see future electric-powered ID models receive sporting R treatment.  

    The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, also known as the Race to the Clouds, is a 12.42-mile route near Colorado Springs in the US. The starting point is situated at an altitude of 2800 metres above sea level, with the finishing point at 4300 metres.

    The current electric car prototype class record of 8min 57.118sec is held by Rhys Millen in a Toyota-sponsored prototype in 2016.

    Le Mans 24 Hours race winner Romain Dumas, who took overall Pikes Peak victories in 2014, '16 and '17 in a Norma M20D, will drive the ID R Pikes Peak.

    VW last entered Pikes Peak in 1987 with a dual-engine Golf producing 652bhp. 

    Read more 

    Volkswagen ID Buzz concept review

    Volkswagen ID hatchback: first prototypes to be built next month

    Volkswagen to put Microbus-inspired ID Buzz electric car into production

  • LPG car fuel: could the diesel crisis give it an opportunity for a comeback? Thursday 19th April 2018
    LPG car fuel: could the diesel crisis be an opportunity for a comeback?
    Autocar ran an LPG-powered Dacia Sandero Stepway for six months
    The time may have finally come for liquefied petroleum gas to tackle the mainstream

    Whatever happened to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)?

    In the post-Dieselgate era, when many cities are pondering banning diesel-engined vehicles and air quality is becoming a top-line political issue, surely a low-CO2 fuel that is inexpensive and extremely low in tailpipe pollution should be enjoying a revival?

    Yet that’s not proving to be the case for a fuel that, despite many advantages, has long been an oddball choice and failed to gain traction in the UK. With this in mind, Autocar recently ran a ‘bi-fuel’, left-hand-drive Dacia Sandero Stepway equipped with a factory-fitted LPG system to see if it was feasible to live with here.

    LPG specialists say the UK market has never recovered from a government’s U-turn in the early 2000s, which, after initially supporting a push towards the adoption of LPG as a mainstream fuel, effectively pulled the rug from under it. However, the most recent UK government budget in November last year announced the removal of the fuel duty escalator for LPG-fuelled cars, one positive sign for the fuel.

    Across Europe today, LPG is still a minority fuel. It’s most popular in Poland, followed by Italy, where some 5% of the country’s cars and trucks are powered by LPG, which equates to around 2.2 million vehicles in all.

    Air quality concerns have encouraged regional governments to incentivise the use of cars converted to run on LPG in Italy and Spain, which has had a notable growth in the adoption of the fuel.

    According to Holly Jago of Autogas, a joint-venture LPG supply company owned by Shell and Calor, around 120,000 vehicles are converted to run on LPG in the UK, and about 4000 are converted each year, but that amounts to just 0.2% of road fuel use.

    As Jago points out, the new emphasis on air quality should make LPG relevant again. She cites “independent tests” of a LTC TX4 London cab converted to use LPG in which tailpipe pollution was slashed, with particulates down by 99% and NOx down by 88%.

    The UK is way behind the global curve for moving urban mass transit to cheap and effective LPG and away from diesel. Hong Kong converted its 20,000-strong taxi fleet to LPG more than 15 years ago. And the new Toyota Japan Taxi, which uses the company’s hybrid drivetrain, is fuelled by LPG rather than petrol.

    So, is LPG due for a revival?

    In the UK, it’s not looking good. At the moment, there are no factory-converted LPG cars on sale in this country. Worldwide, says Jago, around 15 car makers offer around 100 different bi-fuel models, with LPG tanks in addition to the petrol tank.

    In the EU, there’s a reasonable choice, including a wide range of Dacia and Opel models, as well as unexpected offers such as the Subaru range and the Alfa Romeo Mito. These bi-fuel cars are more expensive than the standard models, and even with (as of April 2018) LPG prices at 73p per litre (compared with petrol at £1.19), it will still take around 10,000 miles of driving to break even on the purchase price.

    A Dacia spokesman said: “Dacia offers an LPG powertrain in some continental Europe markets. In line with all other manufacturers in the UK, this option is not available here due to the lack of significant LPG infrastructure and current customer demand.”

    Jago said Autogas was frustrated because car makers are reluctant to build factory-fit right-hand-drive bi-fuel cars without much more in the way of government guarantees that a UK LPG market will be properly encouraged. However, the UK’s PCP-dominated new car market is a massively tough nut to crack for something as off-beat and unfriendly to short-term ownership as LPG.

    Nevertheless, a new opening for LPG in the UK is looking ever more hopeful in the commercial sector. Calor says it thinks range-extended (REx) hybrids are looking like a good bet for taxis and commercial delivery vehicles, which need to be as low pollution as possible.

    Indeed, the new LEVC TX black cab is a REx, and it will soon spawn a delivery van. The London Routemaster bus also has a REx transmission, as does Ford’s prototype plug-in Transit van.

    Dutch truck maker Emoss, which produces full-electric delivery vehicles and REx semi-trucks, has developed a new REx model that, it says, is the world’s first “range- extended electric LPG truck”.

    It uses a 2.0-litre steady-state engine running on LPG and driving a generator that drives an electric drive motor. ‘Military-grade’ lithium ion batteries are hung at each side of the chassis frame, offering 40 miles of electric-only range.

    The claimed emissions figures for the Emoss design are remarkable. A standard-issue truck running on LPG emits “48 tonnes of CO2 per annum”, but Calor claims the REx prototype reduces that to just 8.6 tonnes of CO2, a remarkable 82% drop.

    Using Bio LPG, that drops to 94% less CO2 than the standard LPG truck. NOx pollution is claimed to be 94% under the current EU6 limits and particulate emissions are “virtually eliminated”.

    Load-carrying vehicles will find it almost impossible to move to battery power, due to the sheer cost of the very large battery packs needed, the reduction in load capacity caused by heavy batteries and the difficulty of charging very large packs quickly. Most important, the REx solution is likely to be far cheaper.

    LPG’s extremely clean-burning nature may yet have its day with the race to clean up commercial vehicles. In the longer run, it may even spark a revival of LPG-driven REx passenger cars if CO2 outputs are as low as 40g/km and the EV revolution fails to take hold. 

    Read more

    Dacia Sandero Stepway LPG review 

    Ford Fiesta review 

  • Lamborghini Aventador SV J due this year with power boost and more extreme aero Thursday 19th April 2018
    Lamborghini Aventador SV J Italian car maker is developing a new version of its hardcore V12 supercar; new pictures show how it’ll look

    Lamborghini will launch a faster and more extreme Aventador called the SV J this year – and new spy pictures show how the hardcore V12 supercar will look.

    The all-wheel-drive model is part of the latest Aventador S range and so is predicted to offer similar boosts in performance compared with its predecessor, the limited-to-600-cars SV.

    Evidence for this added potency comes with the number of new aerodynamic pieces added to the exterior. Up front, there’s a significantly larger front splitter that rivals that fitted to the McLaren Senna, while at the back a new rear wing is held in place by two curved arms and a centre arm.

    The car also sports new a dual-pipe exhaust system that blows engine waste gases out through the middle of the back end, rather than in the centre of the diffuser like the SV. This new technique, also used by the Huracán Performante, enhances the diffuser’s effectiveness by removing exhaust gases from an aerodynamically sensitive area.

    Lamborghini has refrained from commenting on the pictures of the Aventador SV J development car, but Autocar understands that it will arrive later this year with a more powerful version of the Aventador S’s atmospheric 6.5-litre 12-cylinder engine.

    Top 10 best supercars 2018

    The Aventador S, which arrived in the second half of 2017, produces 730bhp, 40bhp more than the previous version. Applying the same jump to the SV J suggests it could have an output of around 780bhp – that would make it one of the market’s most potent supercars. To put that figure into perspective, that’s 90bhp more the wild Porsche 911 GT2 RS has.

    Backing the prospects of this extreme performance is the use of the letter J, which stands for Jota. Jota, the Spanish word for the letter J, has been applied to some of Lamborghini’s most hardcore models, including race-homologated versions of the Miura and Diablo. Although the Aventador will not compete in motor racing – Lamborghini’s competition efforts are focused on the lighter Huracán – it emphasises the car’s abilities.

    Jota models have a history of being produced in extremely low numbers. No more than 28 Diablo Jotas exist, while the Miura Jota and a more recent Aventador J were produced just once each. This suggests Aventador SV J build numbers might be kept below the 600 units of the SV. If that’s the case, the SV J’s pricing would likely jump substantially from the original SV’s £321,743 starting figure.

    Read more

    Hyundai i30 N long-term review

    Suzuki drops diesel from UK line-up

  • Skoda Kodiaq long-term review Thursday 19th April 2018
    Skoda Kodiaq High-spec seven-seater Kodiaq begins its family life with a lot to prove — for Skoda and SUVs

    Why we're running it: Rational brand makes its most rational car to date: a seven-seat family SUV. Can it score what’s surely an open goal? 

    Month 1 - Month 2 - Month 3 - Month 4 - Month 5 - Month 6 - Month 7 - Month 8Specs

    An SUV that does the hard yards without hogging the limelight - 4th April 2018

    To Belgium and Ypres for a history lesson with my 10-year-old, in an effort to mark 100 years since the end of World War I and learn some lessons on perspective.

    What car to take? A father-and-son weekend in a sports car would have been perfect if the goal had been to make myself look better and earn some bragging rights, but the decision to take the Kodiaq ticked every box for practicality, comfort, economy and peace of mind, as regards to driving on unfamiliar country lanes and parking in unknown car parks overnight.

    The journey itself was simple; so simple, in fact, that it makes me wonder why we don’t do it more often. When you can book a ferry or the Chunnel for £30 and drive just a few hours the other side to end up in somewhere as interesting as Ypres, it seems madness not to. Yes, there’s waiting in passport queues and a bit of hassle, but there are no traffic jams on the M40, no rotten motorway food and – generally – an ease about life that doesn’t entirely correlate with my experiences back in the UK.

    Covering 180 miles or so took about four hours all in, at an extremely leisurely pace, so I could have got to deepest Wales or Sheffield in around the same time – but without a plate of frites and mayonnaise at the end of it.

    Of note, but predictable, was the ease that the Kodiaq brought to the journey. Comfortable, refined, spacious, economical – all the rational reasons for choosing the car in the first place. Our weekend bags barely dented the boot space and the cubbies held more than enough Haribo to keep the both of us happy.

    Even the most broken of roads (of which there seemed to be many) didn’t unduly unsettle the car, and it unflinchingly took on the country lanes to some of the more remote locations around Passchendaele and Poperinge without ever feeling too large. And when we left such emotive sites as the Tyne Cot cemetery, the cabin was quiet and open enough to allow for thoughtful conversation.

    Tellingly, given some people choose to criticise it, the infotainment touchscreen was put to the test to change the sat-nav to Europe and automatically dip the beams for driving on the right. I managed both, first time and without reference to the gargantuan instruction manual, because the language and menus are entirely logical.

    I’m not a huge fan of touchscreens, as often they require more concentration than dials and buttons, but this one is as good as I’ve found, giving me enough confidence to set destinations while focusing on driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. The Kodiaq was the perfect companion, then, doing everything that could be asked of it without forcing itself (or intruding) on the occasion.

    I don’t suppose it will ever be a car to set pulses racing, or to turn heads and drop mouths into a gawp, but nor do I think buyers will expect it to. Autocar readers would likely want a second car in the garage to appease their enthusiast leanings, but I’d bet that they’d take the Skoda nine times out of ten.

    In fact, I dare say that if I asked my son which car we were in, he’d struggle to remember – but given the trip’s nature, there’s probably no higher accolade I could give it.

    Love it:

    CABIN CONVENIENCE The imperious seating position opens the world up, by letting you see over things.

    Loathe it:

    BATTERY ISSUES Our recent battery problem has prompted letters from readers similarly affected; reliability should be a Skoda watchword.

    Mileage: 9474

    Back to the top

    Life with a Skoda Kodiaq: Month 7

    Back from a check-up - 7th March 2018

    The Kodiaq is back from its check- up, with nothing more than a new battery required to sort the problem of it occasionally not starting. Most striking when climbing back behind the wheel was how happy it made me to be back in it: the high-up driving position and roomy, practical interior instantly put me in a forgiving mood for this indiscretion.

    Mileage: 7989

    Life with a Skoda Kodiaq: Month 6

    Battery anxiety isn’t the preserve of electric vehicles, it seems - 21 February 2018

    “Wurgh, wurgh, wurgh... “ wurgh, wurgh... brmmm”. On reflection, I can remember a few times that I wondered if the Kodiaq’s engine would fire but, despite these occasional longer-than-expected churns, it did always spring into life.

    And then, one day, it didn’t. At the time, I was sitting atop a windswept multi-storey car park, stranded but fortunately not far from home. My assumption was that I’d done something stupid, such as leaving a light on or using the heated seats a bit too much. Cross with myself, I took a bus home and returned with some jump leads the next day.

    By chance, the Kodiaq’s smaller, newer sibling, the Karoq, was in for the day, so it only seemed fair to press it into action to help out. Thankfully, the battery terminals are easy to access on both cars, and it was the work of a moment to fire the Kodiaq back into life. I left it running for 20 minutes, then switched it off and went back to work.

    But a few hours later, the battery was flat again. I repeated the jump- start process, drove for a bit and then all was well. For the next week, I left the leads in the passenger footwell but without any cause for concern, pondering what stupidity had led me to drain the battery. And then, one evening, I parked up by the roadside for a few minutes, the stop element of the stop-start kicked in, but the start bit refused to occur.

    Of course, my smugness at carrying the jump leads lasted just as long as it took me to realise that I needed a willing volunteer to help me out. If you’ve ever tried asking if you can pop under someone’s bonnet on a wild winter’s night in London, you’ll understand why I was now considering this recurring issue something in need of a proper fix.

    So, as I write this, I have no Kodiaq. I am slightly terrified that a report will come back from the garage saying I’ve done something stupid, like leaving an interior light on, but the fact that the issue has now happened four or five times suggests there’s something of more substance to be unearthed. It is a great shame because it is likely a minor issue, but undoubtedly one that threatens to take a little shine off the Kodiaq’s halo.

    That aside, the Kodiaq has been proving to be the perfect family companion. Spacious, comfortable and practical, it is among the very best do-anything large SUVs at this price point, and has more than a few touches that could teach premium rivals a thing or two, from the easy access to the rearmost seats to the usability of the infotainment system – helped, no doubt, by the vast investment in such tech that a huge conglomerate like the VW Group can put in.

    How irritating is this electrical issue when taken in that context? It feels unfair to come down too hard; time was, a flat battery was just a hazard of motoring life. But now we’ve come to expect bulletproof reliability from our cars, especially when new. And while I may have been caught out five miles from home, imagine the trouble if I’d been carting six kids around in the middle of the country. For now, until I find out the source of the problem, I’ll keep my opprobrium reined in.

    Mileage: 7674

    Life with a Skoda Kodiaq: Month 5

    Who needs a Rolls-Royce? - 7th February 2018

    You can’t recommend a car because it has a brolly hidden in the door, but... I love the fact the Kodiaq has a brolly hidden in the door.

    This is partly because I’m the sort of person who strolls halfway up the road in a T-shirt before realising it’s sub-zero and snowing, and partly because it sums up that Skoda goal of doing simple things to make life better. 

    Mileage: 6021 

    Life with a Skoda Kodiaq: Month 4

    Growing fonder of the Kodiaq in its absence – 24 January 2018​

    A spot of vandalism left the front of the Kodiaq battered and bruised.

    While the car was fixed, I sampled a raft of alternatives, some with premium badges, but nothing quite matched the Kodiaq’s blend of space, practicality and ease of use.

    I’ve a growing suspicion that it is the best under-the-radar do-anything car on the market.

    Mileage: 5671

    Defending the Kodiaq’s diesel honour – 03 January 2018​

    Gah! Hang a bell round my neck and burn me at the stake, for I live in the city and I drive a large, diesel-supping SUV.

    I’d get less grief for wearing a T-shirt proclaiming loyalty to one side or the other of the Brexit debate, if only because just over 50 percent, or not quite 50 percent, of voters feel affinity for one side or the other of that particular argument.

    On the topic of diesel, there’s increasingly little sympathy.

    I’ll be honest: I feel guilty. Just six months ago, ordering a diesel engine seemed a perfectly logical thing to do. Indeed, we were encouraged to do it, by lower fuel prices and company car tax incentives.

    For a child of the 1970s who went to school in the 1980s and 1990s, that made perfect sense. The spectre of CO2-induced acid rain stripping the life out of forests was up there with erasing the ozone layer by using deodorant and trying to balance the possibilities of nuclear war as the Eastern Bloc collapsed.

    Now I’m not so sure. Normally, I’d trust the scientists, but there seems to have been something of a flip-flop of opinion, although most arguments seem to boil down to CO2 – where diesel offers an average advantage of around 20 percent compared with a petrol engine – being bad for the planet and NOx (and particulates) – where newer petrol engines are significantly advantageous – being bad for human health.

    I’d like to think the government listens to the scientists and reacts to the best, latest opinion, but these days I’m not so sure.

    Certainly, sections of the wider press have leapt on the anti-diesel bandwagon with some ferocity, and it seems ever more apparent that a government with a slim majority is susceptible to being influenced by both public opinion and the possibility of PR gains from changing policies set by their opposition at some point previously.

    The manufacturers? I get the angst of having invested millions, perhaps cumulatively billions, in cleaner diesel technology to meet legislatively driven standards, only to stand in the face of opinion – some reasoned, some rabid – decrying your efforts.

    Some of it I can even work out for myself – you don’t need a PhD to google the fact that a EU6 diesel should emit no more NOx than an EU4 petrol. But I say ‘should’ because the industry record of taking official emissions tests isn’t exactly without blemish…

    So here’s my conclusion: for now, I reckon owning a modern diesel is fine, but appropriate only if you do long distances out of towns regularly.

    In my case, with a town commute, I’d probably be smarter owning a petrol, hybrid or electric car for daily driving, and using the diesel for long trips.

    Or, if I had only one car, likely buying a petrol, because my annual mileage barely tips 15,000. What’s clear in my mind, though, is that owning a diesel and using it appropriately should not be demonised.

    I’ve driven the Kodiaq in 1.4-litre and 2.0-litre petrol forms. Both are good engines, albeit the 1.4 so long as you don’t intend to travel fully laden frequently.

    But I dare say neither would approach the near 45mpg I’m currently enjoying, and I’d hazard I could get another 10 percent from it if I spent more time travelling sensibly on the motorway. Nor, obviously, do they provide my diesel’s torque.

    The answer, then, to my mind at least, sits somewhere in between the two extremes. Much like the idea of buying an on-road biased SUV in the first place.

    Mileage: 5403

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    Life with a Skoda Kodiaq: Month 3

    The differing looks of the Kodiaq​ – 29 November 2017

    I’m a big fan of the Kodiaq’s crisp lines, but the onset of winter has put a layer of grime on the white paintwork.

    Over the summer, when the car was clean, it was the long shoulder line that really stood out. Now it’s covered in mud, the lower sculpting above the sill, rear-wheel arch shape and rising contour from the bumper on the flanks give the Kodiaq a very different character.

    Mileage: 5124

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    Life with a Skoda Kodiaq: Month 2

    Kodiaq prefers to sip than guzzle – 08 November 2017

    Colleague Jimi Beckwith recently borrowed the Kodiaq to move house from London to Southampton.

    Being a conscientious fellow, he filled the laden Skoda with as much diesel as he thought he’d need and, job done, returned the car.

    Turns out I owe him at least a tenner, as the 48.5mpg average he achieved was well in excess of what he was expecting.

    Mileage: 4326

    Proving the Kodiaq’s versatility – 18 October 2017

    Leaving the hospital with a newborn marks a pivotal moment in life, I reckon.

    Off you drive, happy, content, a touch nervous but sure that you will, like every generation before, find a way through what lies ahead.

    And then, as sure as night follows day, there’s a gurgle, a cry or full-blown yell that snaps you out of your reverie, locks your eyes onto the rear-view mirror and lets the reality of what’s unfolding come crashing in.

    I’ve experienced it twice, lucky fellow that I am, and yet, when I look in the mirror now, almost 10 years after the first, there always seems to be three, four or even five sets of eyes staring back. Friends, family, cricket team, Cubs, Brownies – you name it, they need a lift.

    Hurrah, then, for the option of buying your Kodiaq in either five-seat or seven-seat form. While I doubt there’s any hesitation over which way to go if you have kids, it’s also worth knowing that higher-trim cars like ours get the seven seats as standard.

    Making use of those seats is a pretty simple affair. There’s a lever on the seats to pull to haul them up or down again (or a more convenient lever in the boot, if you pay more), headrests that need extending or tucking away and, well, that’s it.

    If you need more leg room for the rear row, then the middle row slides fore and aft to make more space and, even with seven bums on seats, there’s room for a couple of suitcases or a week’s worth of shopping bags, so long as you’re prepared to stack them on top of each other (remember to put the eggs on top… or is it the bottom?).

    The rearmost seats are best reserved for pre-teens over anything longer than a brief trip, although it’s worth noting that they don’t have Isofix fittings for child seats.

    While it’s true that the impressive Kia Sorento is probably more commodious in the back than anything else packing seating for seven, the Kodiaq is right up there among the best for space and ease of access.

    It’s certainly more than good enough to meet our needs – and that in itself is a point worth bearing in mind if, like me, you can sometimes get caught up in a spreadsheet battle trying to work out which car is better. Enough is enough, and more than enough is more than you need. So far, the Kodiaq has proven just fine.

    With the rearmost seats lowered, there’s also enough room for a spare friend and a couple of (small) bikes or whatever other gadget or game they want to bring.

    It’s a big boot – again, a little down on the Sorento in terms of stats, but, actually, its equal in reality thanks to its nicely squared-off shape.

    With the stepped floor fitted – standard on our SE L trim and above – the boot space is also nicely flat, with the stowed seats flush to the surface. There’s also a handy sliding tonneau cover (which itself resides under the false floor of the boot when not in use) to hide what lies within, although – public service announcement warning – I’m a great believer in leaving anything of no value uncovered, so the would-be burglar can move on without smashing a window.

    Finally, if like me you are prone to prioritising a quick kip over idle chat while cheering from the sidelines after dropping the kids off, then it’s worth knowing that the middle-row seatbacks can be angled back for added comfort.

    In fact, just about the only convenience setback I can level at the Kodiaq is that the middle seats split 60/40 when lowered, rather than the 40/20/40 of some rivals.

    For some, that could be a major issue but, for us, it has never been anything more than a minor inconvenience.

    And there you have it – a whole update dedicated to the rear seat and boot packaging of a Skoda SUV. Time was I wrote about an Aston Martin Vantage and Lotus Evora. The sacrifices you make for kids, hey?

    Mileage: 2456

    Back to the top

    Life with a Skoda Kodiaq: Month 1

    Holiday bliss with the Skoda Kodiaq – 27 September 2017

    Holiday season has provided a great opportunity to get to know the Kodiaq’s qualities quickly.

    Five hundred miles in a week teach you a lot about a car, from the obvious – it’s spacious enough to hold four people and their luggage with ease – to the pleasing, from the mid-40mpg economy to the refined motorway cruising ability. Downsides are nothing beyond niggles.

    Mileage: 1823

    Welcoming the Kodiaq to our fleet – 30 August 2017

    Sport utility vehicle. SUV. Both sporty, yet full of utility. The best of both worlds. Or perhaps master of none, or so I suspected, but then I drove the Porsche Macan and the Jaguar F-Pace and I wavered.

    And then, duh-der, perhaps after watching one too many TV ads featuring unfeasibly lithe kite surfers doing their stuff before hopping in their high-riding car, I started to believe the hype.

    It turned out I’d been looking for the wrong thing: sport doesn’t have to relate to the car’s dynamics, but rather the lifestyle a big boot and a bit of ride height can unlock, or just hint at.

    It’s why what I’d call estate cars became the marketing team’s sports tourer, and why BMW decided to call its high-riding range of X cars ‘sports activity vehicles’.

    Stick ‘sport’ in the name and buyers will follow. They might not be as lithe or as keen on dramatic sports as the ads might portray, but they are willing to part with money for a slice of the reflected glories and associated assumptions from envious onlookers, all the while enjoying the benefits of a raised ride height, which has little to do with sport and a lot to do with the imperious feeling of sitting higher than a lot of other traffic.

    Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself loading a paddleboard into the back of the Skoda Kodiaq that will serve as my family’s transport for the next year.

    Here we were, kids in the back, all excited and heading down the road in our sport utility vehicle, making minor use of its utility, to indulge in some sport.

    Could we have done the same in pretty much any other car? Undoubtedly, yes.

    Did it feel somehow sportier to be loading our kit into a big SUV before stepping up into our seats, driving along and then parking alongside other sporty types to do our thing? Illogically… yes.

    And there’s the point: cars don’t need to be logical if they are desirable. While there are hefty slabs of both sides of the equation in an SUV, the fundamental point remains.

    Live with one and you will find it making you feel better about life for reasons you may not have considered possible. I’ve no doubt the central, but probably often unacknowledged, justifications for buying one are the selfish and possibly braggish benefits of raised ride height, but there is a part of this psyche that pervades beyond simply sitting a few centimetres higher than everyone else.

    The Kodiaq is an intriguing car in which to test this hypothesis, too, because it comes with little of the baggage carried by the class. There’s no Chelsea tractor connotations through history or badge snobbery, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who can find a reason to look at a Skoda without a significant percentage of goodwill kicking in at what is automatically regarded as a shrewd buy.

    It helps, too, that our car’s Moon White paint and 19in wheels strike a fine balance of crisp good looks without straying into ostentation, and that the styling is sensible rather than wilfully challenging.

    It is desirable for many more reasons, too, being supremely practical in this seven-seat form and laden with standard equipment. It hits mostly the right high notes for interior quality.

    Highlights include the 9.2in touchscreen and sat-nav, selectable driving modes, heated front seats, Alcantara upholstery and a list of bits that I suspect I’ll come to wonder how I lived without them – be it the de rigueur umbrella in the front door, which is useless until the day it saves you, or the electrically operated boot that just makes life simpler.

    The 2.0-litre diesel, linked to a DSG transmission, is also bang on for this type of car – if completely bang off (if such a thing is possible) where the public mood sits regarding fuel choice.

    Yes, at more than £30,000, it is not the bargain you might once have expected from Skoda. Doubters might point out that you could buy a Land Rover Discovery Sport for less, but you would be comparing an entry-level model from a premium brand with a top-spec one from Skoda. Perhaps a comparison is due during the next year.

    Even so, I will not, of course, be off paddleboarding very often. My balance isn’t good enough, for starters, and I don’t like the taste of river water. Mostly, I will be expecting people to infer my sportiness by my choice of car, while I judge the utility that such a vehicle can offer by filling it with my children, their friends and a host of (sometimes sport-related) paraphernalia.

    Here, there’s both the Skoda and the whole, booming SUV genre to assess – both from my point of view and, I suspect, those of other road users.

    Second opinion

    The Kodiaq is too big for my daily needs, but it sets a precedent for the smaller Skoda SUVs that will follow.

    Positives: a good, roomy interior and direct steering.

    Negatives: a harder ride than I’d expected and that sense of heaviness which, to be fair, you get in most seven-seaters.

    Rachel Burgess 

    Skoda Kodiaq SE L 7-seat 2.0 TDI 150 2WD DSG specification

    Specs: Price New £30,615; Price as tested £31,615; Options Children’s Pack - includes manual roller blinds, door panel bin, electric child locks (£175), metallic paint (£555), rear seat backrest release (£90), spacesaver (£100), textile floor mat set (£80)

    Test Data: Engine 1968cc, turbocharged diesel; Power 148bhp 3500-4000rpm; Torque 251lb ft 1750-3000rpm; Top speed 123mph; 0-62mph 10.0sec; Claimed fuel economy 56.5mpg; Test fuel economy 39.7mpg; CO2 131g/km; Faults None; Expenses None

    Back to the top

  • Jaguar XE 300 Sport arrives with 296bhp and all-wheel drive Thursday 19th April 2018
    Jaguar XE 300 Sport arrives with 296bhp and all-wheel drive
    The XE 300 Sport is powered by Jaguar's 296bhp 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engine...
    Special edition version of Jaguar’s rival to the BMW 3 Series also gets unique design features

    Jaguar has introduced a new, 296bhp all-wheel-drive model, the 300 Sport, to its updated XE range.

    The special-edition model is powered by the most potent version of Jaguar’s four-cylinder petrol engine, the 2.0-litre Ingenium, producing 295lb ft of torque.

    With drive sent to all four wheels, this enables a 0-60mph time of 5.4sec, making the car just 0.5sec slower to the mark than the V6-powered and rear-wheel-drive XE S.

    The 300 Sport has bespoke design feature including dark satin trim for the door mirrors, spoiler and grille surround. The car sits on model-exclusive 19in or 20in wheels painted in the same colour.

    Four body colours are offered: Yulong White, Indus Silver, Santorini Black and Caldera Red.

    Inside, the XE 300 Sport has contrasting yellow stitching on the steering wheel, seats and door internals. There are also 300 Sport-branded kickplates, while the car’s floor mats and headrests are embossed with the name.

    As standard, the 300 Sport gets Jaguar’s Touch Pro infotainment system with a 10.0in touchscreen.

    Like the rest of petrol XE range, it features a new particulate filter that can capture ultra-fine particles and oxidise them into CO2.

    The 300 Sport is available to order now, priced from £45,160, making it £3960 more expensive than the next highest-ranking XE with the 296bhp engine, the R-Sport AWD.

    Jaguar has also introduced the 300 Sport trim to its XF and XF Sportbrake models. Those cars can also be specified with the brand’s 296bhp 3.0-litre TDV6 diesel engine, but they’re not available in Caldera Red.

    To mark the launch of the new cars, Jaguar pitted an XE 300 Sport against Hungarian Winter Olympic gold medallist Shaolin Sándor Liu in an ice race. Driven by Jaguar’s car stability development boss, Sean Haughey, the car beat speed skater Liu on the ice by more than a minute.

    Jaguar's chief engineer, Mike Cross, said: “Ice is one of the most demanding surfaces for any vehicle to contend with, and this race demonstrated the XE’s all-surface capability and unrivalled handling in adverse conditions.”

    More content:

    2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class review

    Skoda Kamiq: first pictures

  • Used car buying guide: Volkswagen Scirocco Thursday 19th April 2018
    Volkswagen Scirocco
    Check you can live with any squeaks and rattles inside
    ​VW’s Scirocco Mk3 is a sportier Golf in cooler-looking clothes and priced from £3500. We run through the all-turbo line-up and reveals what to look out for

    Now here’s a tough choice: a VW Golf 2.0 GTI Mk5, the version Andrew Frankel described in Autocar as having “more than 80% of the ability of the best front-drive hatch in the world [the current Mk7] for less than 20% of the money”, or its sister car, the Scirocco Mk3?

    Difficult? If you like driving, probably not: it’s the Golf. Prices start at around £2500 for early 2005 cars and don’t stop until £12,000 for a low-mileage, 08-reg Edition 30.

    However, if you like a little more flair, courtesy of a longer, lower and wider coupé body (yes, the rear cabin is a squeeze), a broader range of engines and, well, something less ‘historic’, the Scirocco Mk3 it must be. Based on the Golf Mk5, it landed in 2008 and was killed off only at the end of last year.

    Initially, power was provided by a 194bhp 2.0 TSI petrol engine but that was soon joined by a 156bhp 1.4 TSI petrol and a pair of 2.0-litre TDI diesels doling out 136bhp and 166bhp. All were available with manual or DSG dual-clutch automatic gearboxes.

    The DSG is a quick-changing ’box good for keeping the engines, all of them turbocharged, spinning in their sweet spot when occasion demands. However, the mechatronic control unit can play up. Gearbox experts reckon VW had sorted the problem by 2012. Feel for a juddery take-off, although even a healthy DSG can feel hesitant from launch. As for suspension, dynamic chassis control (DCC), offering Comfort, Normal and Sport modes, was an option. In 2009, power for the 2.0 TSI rose to 204bhp but the big news was the arrival of the Scirocco R.

    It used a different four-cylinder turbo petrol engine from the standard 2.0-litre with an uprated turbo and intercooler to give 261bhp and 258lb ft. The car was still only front- wheel-drive, although an electronic differential boosted traction. At the other extreme, a 118bhp version of the 1.4 petrol arrived shortly after.

    At the same time, the model gained the Golf Mk6’s smarter dials and steering wheel. In 2011, it got that car’s integrated climate control system. The 2014 facelift brought new lights, a smarter front bumper, and uprated petrol and diesel engines. Finally, in 2016, a GTS version was launched with an uprated 214bhp 2.0 TSI motor.

    From the off, there were two trims, standard and GT, joined later by top-spec R and intermediate R-line. Price-wise, there are three main Scirocco price points today: around £7500, £10,500 and £13,500, this last one dominated by former PCP cars with low mileages and solid histories.

    There are lots of diesels around, but if you’re tempted, haggle hard because their values are falling fast. A better plan is to seek out a 2.0 GT or R. You can pay up to £30,000 for final Black Edition cars but bear in mind they’re a 10-year-old design under all that run-out kit – and an early 13-reg Golf GTI Mk7 starts at half the money.

    John Evans

    How to get one in your garage: 

    An expert’s view: Phill Jarrett, sciroccocentral.co.uk - “I’m on my second Scirocco, a 2.0 R. It has a TFSI engine where all the other petrols are TSIs. However, the engine cover still says TSI. I love the Scirocco’s styling: it’s unusual and really stands out. Of course, it has its issues. The TSI can suffer broken timing chains (the TFSI has a belt), so get it changed at the scheduled interval. The coil packs can fail, causing misfiring, but it’s a relatively inexpensive fix. The 156bhp 1.4 can drop a piston. That’s a bit more expensive and occasionally terminal.”

    Buyer beware:

    ENGINE - On the 2.0 TSI, check for positive crankcase ventilation by removing the dipstick while the engine is running. If the engine stutters, it’s okay, but if it runs smoothly, it has failed. Engine not making full boost? Check the dump valve diaphragm isn’t split. The 1.4 TFSI can suffer misfiring issues that can wreck the engine.

    TRANSMISSION - On manual versions, check second gear engages smoothly and the clutch is quiet. Tales of poor reliability plague VW’s DSG auto ’box. Most specialists reckon post-2012 cars are okay but, even so, feel for a lurch on take-off and walk away if it goes to limp-home mode. Ensure the oil and filter were changed at 40,000 miles.

    STEERING AND SUSPENSION - Check the rear suspension for oil leaks and, where it’s fitted, that the dynamic suspension functions in all three modes. Inspect tyres for uneven wear, suggesting impact damage. The steering can be noisy at low speeds.

    BODYWORK - As the Category N write-offs at the cheaper end of the market testify, the Scirocco is a sports car that can fall into inexperienced hands, so check for fresh paint and uneven panel gaps. Rear three-quarter visibility is poor so look for rear bumper damage. Check early cars for rusty hatch strut mounts. Check for misty headlights and tail-lights, and torn rubber door seals where they freeze to windows.

    INTERIOR - Hard-wearing but squeaks and rattles caused by the firm suspension aren’t unknown. Check the Bluetooth system.

    Also worth knowing...

    Bought a used Scirocco that has done less than 100,000 miles but worried it might go pop? Take out a 12-month warranty from VW. For a 2009-reg 2.0 TSI with 74k miles, a £250 excess and an annual limit of 15,000 miles, all-component cover is £548.

    How much to spend:

    £3500-£6995 - Early examples of all engines at this age. Lots of petrols around 100k miles plus a sprinkling of diesels around 120k.

    £7000-£9995 - Stacks of cars, many up to 2012-reg. Petrols and diesels around 75k-100k miles. Huge choice of lower-mileage 2011-reg cars around £9000.

    £10,000-£12,995 - Take your pick of low-mileage 2012-2014 cars.

    £13,000-£15,995 - Ex-PCP cars registered in 2014-2016, fully loaded and with low mileages and full histories. Haggle hard.

    £16,000 AND ABOVE - Lots of late-plate cars, rising to £30k.

    One we found:

    VW SCIROCCO 2.0 TSI GT, 2008/58, 78K MILES, £6995 This dealer-sale car has full VW service history and a three-month warranty. Check the timing belt, tensioner and water pump were changed in 2012. The interval is four years/80k miles. Climate control, unmarked 18in alloys, leather steering wheel – it’s all here.

    Read more

    Volkswagen Scirocco review 

    Volkswagen Golf review 

    Volkswagen Polo review

  • Analysis: Ford Focus RS engine problem Thursday 19th April 2018
    Ford Focus RS engine problem
    Several Ford Focus RS owners have suffered engine issues
    An apparent head gasket sealing issue has many owners worried, and a sluggish official response to the issue from the Blue Oval is leaving some frustrated

    The Ford Focus RS Mk3 is one of the most exciting driver’s cars of recent times – it received a full five-star rating in these pages when we road tested it back in 2016.

    But two years after the four-wheel-drive mega-hatch arrived offering sports car performance for just £32,765, a number of owners are reporting reliability issues.

    A plume of white smoke on start-up is the telltale sign that something is amiss under the Focus RS’s bonnet, as are reports that low-mileage cars have needed new engines and that a parts supply issue is keeping some cars off the road for weeks. Online owners’ forums are rife with suggestions that about 15,000 cars around the world could be affected, yet no official recall has been issued by Ford.

    So what exactly is going on with the Focus RS? With no official explanation of the issue from Ford, owners and independent specialists have had to come up with their own diagnosis. It seems to relate to the unique 2.3-litre Ecoboost four-cylinder engine used in the RS. Although the unit is built alongside the Mustang’s four-pot motor at Ford’s Valencia engine plant in Spain, the 345bhp RS powerplant uses an aluminium head and block and features bespoke coolant passages.

    The differing designs require unique head gaskets; fitting the wrong one can block certain passages, preventing the coolant from doing its job. This is what many experts now believe has happened to cause issues for some RS owners.

    “Fitting the wrong gasket prevents the coolant from circulating properly, leading to overheating that can cause distortion of the head,” explained one specialist Ford garage, which asked to remain anonymous. “This prevents the gasket from sealing properly and can allow coolant to leak into cylinders two and three.”

    Two things result from the burning of this fluid: rapid coolant consumption and, more noticeably, white smoke from the exhaust during cold running. But as the engine heats up, the head and block can seal again temporarily.

    “Once the car is up to temperature, there are no issues at all,” said Focus RS owner Mark Briggs. “I had my car on the rolling road before and during the issue, and the [bhp and lb ft] lines were identical. The car ran fine when hot.” Briggs, who has documented his Focus RS ownership online via his YouTube channel (MarkCup70), experienced the problem with his car after 8000 miles. He counts himself lucky because Ford put a new engine in his car, rather than just replacing the gasket, as he was among the first to report the issue.

    “I think it was because Ford hadn’t officially decided on a fix at that stage, so it was quicker to just replace my engine at that time,” he told Autocar. Ford has since confirmed a field service action for the RS, offering owners of cars built between August 2015 (when RS assembly started at Ford’s Saarlouis factory in Germany) and July 2017 “a free inspection and repair, regardless of warranty or mileage status, for concerns of white exhaust smoke and/ or coolant consumption stemming from an issue with cylinder head gaskets”.

    Many owners, commenting on specialist online forums, claim they have yet to receive a letter offering this service. Hilary Cotton is one such owner and he also has a rather different concern: his low-mileage Focus RS has shown no issues whatsoever.

    “I know my car has the wrong gasket, but it runs absolutely fine,” he said. “I’ve only put just over 400 miles on it in a year, so my concern is whether my car will develop the issue before the end of the service action period.”

    Cotton was told by Ford that the cut-off point for the work is 31 January 2023. If he maintains his current rate of progress, his car will only be at about 2400 miles by then. As someone who openly admits to not driving his car as hard as other enthusiasts, this leaves him worried that he won’t put the engine through the heat soak stress required to distort the block, but the problem might arise in years to come.

    “I’ve written to Ford to ask for something in writing to confirm that they’ll do the work even without [signs of] an issue,” he said. “My dealer said it will, but I’m disappointed that I’ve not yet received a response from Ford.”

    Another owner, Shaun Lovesey, said that when his Focus RS was taken in with an issue, it was off the road for 11 weeks due to a parts supply issue. He’s not alone: several other owners claiming similar delays have contacted Autocar, some suggesting Ford issued its service action before ensuring there was a sufficient supply of parts for the dealer network to carry out the work.

    “The dealers are not holding stock of the gasket kit, meaning that some cars that fail the pressure test have been sent away and owners are told to come back when stock arrives,” said Briggs. “I absolutely adore the Focus RS and I don’t hate Ford for the problem, but that just shows it hasn’t handled the issue at all well.”

    Ford told Autocar that its dealers are receiving more bookings than its “current parts supply and workshop capacity”, but it said that it is “seeking to increase” this.

    “The majority of RS owners are advocates of the RS brand, and rightly want their vehicles inspected as soon as possible,” Ford said. “The dealer network is committed to conduct these inspections in the shortest possible time frame.”

    What to do if you own one: 

    How do I know if my Ford Focus RS is affected?

    Visit Ford’s technical website (etis.ford.com) and enter the car’s registration to see if it is eligible for service action.

    How does Ford test my engine?

    The cooling system is pressurised to 20psi for five hours. If more than 4psi is lost, the head is deemed to be distorted and eligible for change. If it does not, only the head gasket is changed.

    How long does the work take?

    Ford estimates that the test and head gasket change takes 9.2 hours. Fitting a new head will take 10.3 hours.

    Read more

    Ford Focus RS review 

    Ford Fiesta ST review 

    Ford GT review

  • Hyundai i30 N Fastback: new pictures of 2019 model at 'Ring Thursday 19th April 2018
    Hyundai i30 N Fastback: new pictures of 2019 model at 'Ring Sleek version of the Korean manufacturer's 271bhp hot hatch will use the same powertrain and other key components

    Hyundai is developing a fastback version of its i30N hot hatch. The model is expected to go on sale at the start of next year.

    Spotted at the Nürburgring during high-speed testing, the sleek five-door i30N Fastback can be seen rolling on the same 19in wheels and sporting the same twin-exit exhaust system as its sibling.

    This is because the fastback will use the same mechanicals and powertrain as the current i30N hot hatch. That means it will offer two power outputs from its turbocharged 2.0-litre engine: 247bhp for the standard variant and 271bhp for the version equipped with the optional N Performance Pack.

    Both variants will be front-wheel drive and are expected to come with a six-speed manual gearbox, like the existing hatchback model. Despite the change in body shape, the fastback’s performance will likely be near identical to the hatchback’s, meaning 0-62mph time of about 6.1sec for the 271bhp version.

    Hyundai N division boss Albert Biermann, who joined the firm from BMW’s M division, oversees chassis development for all of Hyundai’s models, but is known to have most influence over its hottest cars. Biermann encourages a more playful setup on his models, so this will no doubt remain a target for the i30N Fastback.

    Biermann told Autocar last year that the i30N models would be effective track machines. He said “There are too many cars out there with tyres and brakes that go [off] too fast [on circuit]”, but that Hyundai “really wanted to make a car that can be consistent”.

    Biermann confirmed that his team used extensive testing stints at the Nürburgring, which included competing in last year's 24-hour race there, to boost the durability of the i30N platform. He said that such methods directly helped to improve the car’s clutch and shift operation, as well as brake cooling.

    The i30N Fastback will also use Hyundai’s electronically controlled damping, which constantly adjusts each damper independently to maximise performance in the sportiest modes, or be more forgiving in softer modes. These modes also adjust the car’s electronic limited slip differential (E-LSD).

    The i30N Fastback’s unique selling point will centre directly on its sleek design. Market trends suggest that it will sell in lower volumes than the regular hatchback, although it is also likely to have a higher price which will affect this.

    The regular i30 Fastback, which comes with 1.0-litre or 1.4-litre petrol engines, starts at £20,305 in SE Nav form, which is £500 more than the equivalent i30 hatch. A similar jump is therefore likely with the i30N Fastback, meaning it could start from about £25,500.

    More content:

    Hyundai Kona review

    Ford Fiesta ST-Line X review

  • New WLTP emissions test could force heavy discounts on unsold cars Wednesday 18th April 2018
    Car park
    Brands with large stocks of cars may be forced to sell them at heavily discounted prices
    Manufacturers not wanting to be left with large stocks of pre-WLTP cars could be forced to cut prices

    The hard-edged introduction of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) this September could force car makers to offer heavy discounts on cars that don’t meet its standards.

    As things stand in Britain, brands left with large stockpiles of unsold pre-WLTP cars won’t be able to sell any to customers, potentially forcing them to scrap them before they reach showrooms.

    Other European countries have offered a grace period after the 1 September for manufacturers to sell pre-WLTP cars off, but the UK Government is yet to announce such plans.

    WLTP test: when it's in force and how it could affect your car

    It’s common practice for car makers to build more cars than they’ve sold, meaning they may be forced to pre-register large numbers of them or sell unsold vehicles in the run-up to the deadline at heavily discounted prices, so as to reduce the number of unsold cars.

    WhatCar?, Autocar’s sister title, said that buyers of vehicles built in far-off countries with long delivery times could also suffer delivery delays as brands require them to wait for a WLTP-approved car to arrive after 1 September, rather than race to get their pre-WLTP model here before.

    The Audi SQ5 could be an example of such a move, because Audi recently suspended sales of the hot SUV, leaving only existing stock available. A spokesman told Autocar that the move was related to a full build slot, but Autocar understands it’s linked to the WLTP’s introduction.

    WLTP will replace the outgoing New European Driving Cycle test, which is lab-based. The WLTP test uses real-world testing to provide more accurate emissions figures. It is generally considered to be stricter – estimates state it’ll make each model’s CO2 figure rise by an average of 15g/km – and it's therefore forcing many manufacturers to make engineering changes to their cars.

    BMW revealed that the M4 was to be temporarily taken off sale later this year so a particulate filter can be added to its exhaust system. Its four-door sibling, the F80 M3, will be axed because, as a spokesman explained, it’s not financially viable to make such a modification to a car so late in its production life cycle.

    More content:

    Find heavily discounted new cars on WhatCar?'s new car deals section

    Ford Focus RS Red Edition review 2018

  • Skoda Kamiq: first pictures of brand's new China-only SUV Wednesday 18th April 2018
    Skoda Kamiq: first pictures of brand's new China-focused SUV With ambitions to double sales in China by 2020, a small, budget SUV will be an important addition for the Czech brand

    Skoda has previewed its upcoming Kamiq, a new SUV that's solely for China and due at the Beijing motor show this month.

    The model, due ahead of a second new SUV, the Kodiaq GT coupé, will make a four-strong SUV line-up for the Czech car maker in China, adding to the existing Kodiaq and Karoq, as Skoda strives to double its sales to 600,000 in that country by 2020. Skoda boss Bernhard Maier said the two new models showed it was “very serious about doubling business in China”.

    Skoda readies 19-model product drive in next two years

    Maier reiterated that he wants to bring the Kodiaq GT to Europe in the future, but production capacity means it is not yet possible. “I would love to [introduce it in Europe],” he said.

    The new small SUV, codenamed Model Q but rumoured to be called the Kamiq, will sit below the Karoq and is described as a 'crossover'. It will rival Chinese models such as the Hyundai ix25, Citroen C3-XR and Nissan Kicks.

    Maier said the introduction of the Kamiq was in reaction to China’s monumental SUV growth. “I think we’ve had the most dynamic development of SUV growth in China - several hundred percent over two years," he added. "Therefore, we’re reinforcing our SUV campaign there.”

    The Kamiq will be built on the localised PQ platform, on which the Chinese Rapid is also built. 

    Sales and marketing boss Alain Favey said the car would be priced below the Karoq, allowing it to compete with the many Chinese SUV rivals on the market.

    “Pricing it below the Karoq means we can get it to a price range for China that we would not have been able to reach in Europe,” he said.

    The Kamiq will not be offered with an electrified powertrain, confirmed Maier, no doubt also to keep pricing low for the budget end of the Chinese market. 

    Last year, Skoda sold 325,000 cars in China, achieving a huge lead over its second-biggest market, Germany, which sold 173,300 units in the same period. 

    Read more 

    Skoda Kodiaq review 

    Skoda Karoq review

    Skoda Octavia vRS review

  • Porsche board member investigated over diesel emissions claims Wednesday 18th April 2018
    Porsche board member investigated over diesel emissions claims
    Porsche axed the Macan diesel model this year but said it was due to demand, not the emissions scandal
    Stuttgart car maker’s premises were searched by German prosecuters

    A Porsche board member is being investigated over potential involvement in the diesel emissions scandal of its parent company, the Volkswagen Group.

    About 160 investigation officials have searched 10 buildings located in the German states of Bavaria and Baden-Wüerttemberg in the hunt for evidence linking the board member to emissions test manipulation.

    The board member is one of three unnamed suspects involved, including an individual from a high management position and a former Porsche employee.

    Porsche confirmed the investigation but did not comment on who was involved. It said in an official statement: "We confirm that investigators today inspected and secured documents at the offices of Porsche AG in Stuttgart and Audi AG in Ingolstadt.

    “Audi AG and Porsche AG are co-operating fully with the investigating authorities. Please appreciate that we can’t comment on further details due to the ongoing investigation."

    Although no further details about the search have been released, it is believed to be part of the wider investigation into Porsche’s involvement in Dieselgate. The brand’s link has so far centred on its use of Audi diesel engines.

    Audi’s 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, which has been used in more than 125,000 cars including the Porsche Cayenne, was found to feature emissions cheat software earlier this year. Audi's Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm premises were searched only last week.

    No link has been made to the recent VW Group management shuffle, which replaced former CEO Matthias Müller with Herbert Diess. VW Group chairman Dieter Pötsch said the move sought to  “safeguard” the company and its long-term strategy.

    Porsche recently axed the last current diesel models from its line-up, but said the decision was due to demand and had no relation to the ongoing emissions scandal. The company said it will soon introduce a diesel version of the latest Cayenne.

  • Ford Focus RS Race Red Edition 2018 UK review Wednesday 18th April 2018
    Ford Focus RS Race Red Edition front Ford drafts in some tasty extras for this limited-run Focus RS swansong edition It’s not so easy saying goodbye to a performance hatchback as special and inspirational as the Focus RS, especially since Ford's previous practice was to wait several years before replacing the icon.But the matter has become urgent now that a newer Focus range has been revealed.Ford has chosen to launch two special editions to bid farewell to its quickest hatchback – a car whose performance, if not its price, has positioned it just short of true supercar level.The limited-to-300, £36,295 Race Red edition announced late last year comes in only one colour, rolls on standard black wheels and gets a standard Quaife mechanical limited-slip differential between its front wheels.An even rarer Heritage Edition in Tief Orange, of which there will only ever be 50 sold in the UK, has since surfaced – with an exalted £39,895 price. That's £3600 over a Race Red car and around £7000 more than the standard one.The hike is justified by the car’s bespoke colour and a standard Mountune M375 tuning kit that uses electronic and breathing tweaks to hike the 2.3-litre engine’s turbo power by 25bhp to 370bhp and add 30lb ft of torque. The Quaife diff is in here, too.
  • 2019 Volkswagen Golf Mk8: first pictures of mule show new cabin tech Wednesday 18th April 2018
    2019 Volkswagen Golf Mk8: first pictures show new cabin tech Best-selling hatch will be overhauled with autonomous tech and hybrid powertrains for its eighth generation

    A mule for the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf has been spotted testing in public beneath the cut-and-shut body of a current-generation car, with new cabin infotainment and different centre console buttons.

    The sighting, which also presented our spy snapper with an opportunity to photograph the car's four-cylinder engine, comes three months after VW board member for procurement Ralf Brandstätter said that the next Golf was at an advanced stage of development.

    In fact, development has been under way for more than two years now, with key aspects of the Golf already described by high-level VW sources as having committed project status.

    Despite the upheaval brought to its operations by the diesel emissions scandal and subsequent legal complications in key markets, VW has held firm to the original launch schedule for the car. That means volume-selling versions of the new Golf are planned to reach UK showrooms in the final quarter of 2019.

    Although the first sighting provides us with no clues as to how the car will look, an earlier sketch (below) released by VW suggests the car will retain the wedge shape of its most recent forebears. Our new test mule sighting adds to this by indicating that the cabin will take an evolutionary step forward, with a larger digital instrument cluster and new centre console part of the available upgrades (more of which below).

    VW has laid the foundation for cylinder shutdown and engine-off coasting functions in the turbocharged 1.5 TSI Bluemotion petrol version of the updated current Golf through the adoption of a twin 12V electrical system. Now Autocar can confirm that VW is set to take the fuel-saving technology one step further.

    The company is planning a more contemporary 48V system that will enable the Mk8 Golf to be more comprehensively networked for more intuitive operation and greater fuel savings, particularly with petrol versions. The adoption of this electrical system indicates that VW is placing greater emphasis on petrol units than in past generations, with functions such as cylinder shutdown and engine-off coasting set to become standard on many models.  

    Connected tech takes precedence

    Autonomous driving will be a key feature of VW's best-seller in its eighth generation, as the brand will shoehorn even more advanced autonomous technology into the new model, as well as ensuring that it is the most connected car in the company's history, ahead of the all-electric ID hatchback that's also due in late 2019. 

    Head of VW's compact series, Karlheinz Hell, revealed: "The next Golf will take Volkswagen into the era of fully connected vehicles with extended autonomous driving functions. It will have more software on board than ever before. It will always be online and its digital cockpit and assistance systems will be the benchmark in terms of connectivity and safety."

    The current Golf benefits from VW's semi-autonomous Traffic Jam Assist system, which controls the steering, acceleration and braking of the car under 37mph, so it's certain that the Mk8 model will take a leap in advancement over this. Elsewhere, the Audi A8 is the first car in the wider VW Group to achieve Level 3 autonomy where permitted. 

    Petrols, diesels and hybrids

    With VW’s ID electric line-up on the way, the eighth-generation Golf will have a range of petrol, diesel and hybrid powertrains. 

    The new or upgraded powertrains will be offered in combination with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, depending on their configuration. Alongside front-wheel drive, VW also plans to offer optional four-wheel drive (which it calls 4Motion) in selected models, like it has done in the previous four generations of its perennial best seller.  

    On the petrol side, the entry-level car will forgo the existing turbocharged 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine of today’s model for the lighter turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit already launched in the latest Golf.

    The existing turbocharged 1.5 TSI engine, which made its debut as a replacement for the 1.4 TSI in the facelift, is set to be upgraded with a particulate filter. The move aims to provide lower exhaust emissions to help achieve the European Union’s prescribed 95g/km fleet average CO2 levels by 2020.

    With the new cylinder shutdown and coasting functions, the updated Mk7 Golf 1.5 TSI Bluemotion petrol has claimed average CO2 of 104g/km.

    New 1.5-litre diesel on the way

    Diesels will include a yet-to-be-revealed 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit as a replacement for today’s 1.6 TDI. There will also be an updated version of today’s 2.0 TDI in at least three power outputs.

    Both diesels will be coupled with a newly developed SCR (selective catalytic reduction) system that is claimed to contribute to a 10% reduction in CO2 levels compared with today’s diesels.

    Secrecy surrounds VW’s hybrid plans, although supplier sources close to its engineering operations suggest the turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine used in today’s Golf GTE could be supplanted by a cheaper, naturally aspirated version of VW’s 1.5-litre petrol unit in a move aimed at reducing production costs.

    The GTI goes hybrid

    The next-generation VW Golf GTI is set to adopt a mild hybrid powertrain that promises to boost performance and refinement while reducing fuel consumption and emissions compared with the recently facelifted current model.

    The adoption of the 48V electrical system and integrated starter motor on the new hot hatchback is part of the powertrain overhaul across the Mk8 Golf line-up. The changes are also set to make the upcoming model the most powerful series-production Golf GTI yet.

    Although the new Golf GTI is still almost two years away from introduction, sources close to VW research and development boss Frank Welsch have revealed that the initial performance targets point to a power output similar to the 261bhp of the limited-edition Golf GTI Clubsport.

    Scheduled to go on sale in the UK in 2020, the Mk8 Golf GTI will retain an internal combustion engine: VW’s familiar turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol unit.

    However, the introduction of the 48V electric system will allow the four-cylinder engine to receive comprehensive modifications. It’s likely that the exhaust gas turbocharger of today’s model will make way for an electrically operated compressor that offers improved low-end response and a broader plateau of torque for added flexibility.

    Crucial VW ID concept - click here for more

    Additionally, the integrated starter motor will allow VW to provide the front-wheel-drive Golf GTI with a so-called boost function, in which an electric motor mounted in the front section of its standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox supplements the combustion engine in Performance mode.  

    Update of Mk7 platform

    The basis for the next Golf is an updated version of the versatile MQB platform used by today’s model. VW insiders suggest it will use a greater percentage of lightweight metal than the existing structure for a 50kg reduction in weight.

    Planned modifications to the construction process are also said to provide more streamlined production and reduced build times as part of a strategy aimed at improving the economy of scale and profitability of VW’s best-selling model.

    Although there are still some time to go before the new Golf’s introduction, VW says it has already locked in the car’s design, which has been developed under the guidance of the company’s latest design boss, Michael Mauer, who was responsible for the styling of the current Porsche line-up.

    Those privy to the latest clay model mock-ups say the new Golf advances the classic hatchback look of its predecessors, with familiar proportions, reinterpreted details and simple surfacing to make it instantly recognisable as a Golf.

    Key styling features described to Autocar include a thin horizontal grille bookmarked by smaller angular headlights than those in use today, with a distinctive LED daytime running light graphic.

    The new car is also said to have more pronounced wheel arches and a heavily defined side swage line, in combination with typically wide C-pillars and a relatively upright tailgate.

    Three-door stays but no cabrio

    VW plans three bodystyles: three-door hatchback, five-door hatchback and estate. There are no plans to develop a successor to today’s cabriolet model.

    With a moderate increase in track widths at the front and rear, along with a slightly longer wheelbase and reduced rear overhang, the new Golf is said to offer greater interior space than the current car. As with the exterior, the cabin has been designed to be familiar to existing Golf owners.

    The standard specification is set to include analogue instruments and controls but, as with the recent facelift of the current model, there will be options of high-definition Active Info Display digital instruments and a central touchscreen infotainment monitor.

    Also planned are new gesture and conversational speech control functions, in combination with connectivity and networking features currently being pursued by VW’s digital boss, Johann Jungwirth.  

    Other systems will include autonomous driving functions that are also a feature of the recent facelift.

    Read more

    Volkswagen Golf long-term test review

    Volkswagen Golf GTI: which generation beats them all?

     

  • Toyota Prius Plug-in long-term review Wednesday 18th April 2018
    Toyota Prius PHEV Does running a plug-in hybrid really make sense as a 500-mile-a-week driver? Six months with a Toyota Prius Plug-in should give a conclusive answer

    Why we're running it: Is it a logical next step towards full electrification or an expensive distraction? Few cars intrigue more than the Toyota Prius PHEV 

    Month 1 - Month 2 - Month 3 - Month 4 - Month 5 - Month 6 - Month 7Specs

    Life with a Toyota Prius Plug-in: Month 7

    The challenge: to drive all weekend on electric power alone. And then it snowed - 4th April 2018

    Charging the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid’s electric motor involves plugging it in. Fairly obviously. The clue is in the title, after all. Trouble is, I haven’t got a Prius plug-in charging point outside my house.

    So when I borrowed it from custodian Steve Cropley (who is fiercely protective of his 90-plus average mpg) for a weekend of low-mileage and cost-effective motoring, I had three options. I could rely on the petrol engine, try to find a charging point somewhere near my house – or try not to exceed the Prius’s 30 miles or so of pure electric running.

    My challenge, then: to spend a weekend in the Prius without using the petrol motor at all. Still, that should have been no problem given that I live mere miles away from Autocar Towers and the fact that I was borrowing the Prius largely to get myself to the start line of the Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon, a few miles further down the road, at the sort of downright antisocial hour half marathons often start at on Sundays.

    My theory was simple: the fully charged battery would be stacked with enough lovely electricity to get me home on Friday night, take in a trip to Sainsbury’s on Saturday (I know how to live), get me to the half-marathon on Sunday and enable me to return to our office charging point on Monday morning without having had to trouble the combustion engine.

    My Friday drive home was a relaxed, electric-only cruise, allowing me to revel in how the Prius’s calm, quiet demeanour makes London’s rush-hour traffic far more palatable – even if, anecdotally, other cars seem to be a bit more aggressive towards me. I think they thought I was a private hire cab…

    Of course, come Saturday morning, what I hadn’t accounted for was the Mini-Beast from the East, a weekend-long mid-March blast of cold and snow. The Prius wasn't the only long-termer affected by the elements this week, but it was the only one with an electric motor.

    Electrified vehicles, as you doubtless know, aren’t big fans of the cold, especially on start-up. That meant the petrol engine was called into action to start up the Prius early on Sunday morning, which seemed somewhat unjust after I’d spent 10 minutes clearing it of snow. (The irony of shovelling snow off the roof-mounted solar panels wasn’t lost on me.)

    Mind you, had I been fitted with a warming combustion engine, I’d gladly have fired it up for the half-marathon: turns out 13.1 miles seems a lot further when it’s freezing. Once warmed up, the engine slipped back into city electric mode, allowing me to complete the bulk of the journey to Hampton Court without messing up Croppers’ average fuel economy.

    My luck improved further when I arrived in time to nab one of the final spots in Hampton Court train station car park – between a Tesla and a Morris 1000. Study in contrasts, and all that. But by the time I’d got home later, I’d noticed that the Prius’s promised electric range was falling faster than the actual mileage I was doing.

    That continued on Monday morning. After another petrol-engine-assisted startup, I left my street with a claimed six miles of range in which to do my 3.1-mile journey. And yet, with less than half a mile to go to the office, the electric juice ran out and the petrol engine kicked in. Gutted.

    I employed all my best eco-driving techniques to use as little fuel as possible to help maintain the Prius’s fuel economy, and I don’t think I did too badly. But it did make me think. The fuel gauge and stated ranges on just about every combustion-engined car I’ve driven tend to be massively pessimistic, telling you you’ll run out of fuel long before you do. With electric cars, it seems to be the other way round.

    Could it be that electrified cars are hopeless optimists, while combustion-engined ones are dour pessimists?

    James Attwood

    Love it:

    CONFIDENT STEERING It might not be all that dynamic but, even in slippery conditions, the PHEV is reassuringly responsive.

    Loathe it:

    TINY BOOT You expect the boot of a hybrid to lose a bit of room due to the extra powertrain elements. Even so…

    Mileage: 10,082

    Back to the top

    Life with a Toyota Prius Plug-in: Month 6

    Returning after a brief interlude - 21st March 2018

    Back in the plug-in Prius after a few days away, I notice again how well it rides. The steering’s great too – meatier than average and just right for its combination of wheel size, gearing and rim effort. Maybe I’m becoming institutionalised after 9900 miles, but I reckon the handling would appeal to any driver with a reasonably open mind.

    Mileage: 9877

     

    Putting the PHEV outside its comfort zone - 7th March 2018

    “Would you like,” suggested Steve Cropley one day, “to trade your Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate for my Toyota Prius Plug-in for several days? Oh, and if you can maintain the Prius’s average fuel consumption up around the current 92mpg mark, that’d be great.”

    No pressure, then. The Prius has rewarded Steve with some exceptional indicated fuel economy claims, but many of his weekday trips have been short hops across the city, which play to the strengths of this hybrid’s powertrain. He’s able to cruise along at slow-ish speeds on the battery-powered electric motor, only occasionally calling upon the petrol engine.

    Muggins here, on the other hand, would be putting the Prius through a 43-mile slog along the M3 twice a day and, as an added complication, I don’t have a EV recharging box bolted to the side of my house, which reduced my options when it came to keeping the drive battery topped up.

    We have a charging point at Autocar Towers but, faced with 86 miles daily, there was a risk that I’d quickly deplete the battery pack’s claimed 39-mile driving range (which in real-world driving is considerably less) and have to rely more heavily on the petrol engine. That felt inefficient, and I risked incurring Steve’s wrath by eating into his average fuel economy.

    It didn’t quite end up like that. I found I could let the hybrid system juggle the power sources on the motorway, then press the ‘EV City’ button to deploy electric-only mode as I reached the urban stretch near the end of my journey. That way, the car returned an indicated 70mpg-plus for the trip.

    I would actually have liked to have used electric power at the start of my journey for the three miles to the motorway but, with ambient temperatures hovering around freezing, I needed to use the heater to clear the windscreen and warm the car, and that demand on the car’s energy supply seemed to be enough for the petrol engine to need to get involved.

    Toyota claims the Prius Plug-in is good for motorway speeds on electric power alone, but that kind of behaviour causes the remaining battery range to plummet and makes little sense.

    Even in hybrid mode, the car feels a little bit strained at times when you need to squeeze the throttle just that little bit harder to, say, maintain speed on an uphill section. The car reacts with a noisy flare of revs and the bar charts on the dashboard detailing your energy usage shoot to the top of their ranges, admonishing your rashness.

    On the other hand, I found that journeys on undulating motorways such as the M3 offered ample opportunities for the regenerative braking system to send energy back to the battery, so much so that my fears of lugging around a fully depleted battery were unfounded.

    The most relieving news of all was that the impressive average fuel economy Steve has worked so hard to cultivate remained (almost) intact.

    Mileage: 9541

    Life with a Toyota Prius Plug-in: Month 5

    Is it good looking? – 21 February 2018

    I keep getting into debates about whether the Prius Plug-in is good- looking or not. To me, it’s great because it’s so modern: low and wedgy so the frontal area’s small, nicely detailed at the front with compact headlights, well packaged (barring the shallow boot) and clearly shaped by the wind. Makes others look like tin boxes.

    Mileage: 9259

    Life with a Toyota Prius Plug-in: Month 4

    Cold battery range – 31 January 2018

    The recent wintry weather seems to have cut four or five miles from our Toyota Prius plug-in’s stated battery-only driving range (from 33 miles to 29) and anything other than the gentlest driving seems to reduce it more easily than in warmer conditions. Overall fuel mileage is now about 93mpg — still brilliant, but not quite as good as it was.

    Mileage: 8775

     

    The impressive range of our Prius PHEV – 17 January 2017

    It’s been freezing lately. For months we’ve been wondering how our plug-in Prius would cope with the traditional winter enemies of electric cars: a lower range when fully charged and a tendency for on-board power to be diverted to stuff like heating, headlights and keeping screens alive. Now we’ve had the opportunity to find out.

    The Prius does, expectedly, lose charge when it’s cold, but not disastrously.

    Compared with the best fair-weather driving range available from a fully charged battery (about 33-34 miles), we’re now being offered 28 instead.

    On motorways, while cruising at 65-70mph and keeping decently warm, you get a real-world 20-22 miles, but in town you’ll get all of the promised miles if you’re careful. In other words, the car will still do an average out-and-back commute on battery power alone.

    One of the curiosities of the on-board fuel computer is that when you’re driving on electric power only, it always shows its maximum 199mpg.

    That figure starts to fall once the car begins to use its petrol engine but takes a few miles to go below 199. You’ll have driven 45-50 miles by the time your journey average falls to 100mpg, a Prius party-trick that unfailingly impresses passengers and gives you, the fuel buyer, a nice warm feeling.

    Inevitably, our car’s whole life fuel mileage has fallen a bit over 7600 miles. It’s now running at 93.6mpg, still spectacular, but below the 96-ish we were achieving in warmer weather. The computer’s carefully recorded proportion of electric running (41 percent) has hardly changed, and you never seem to spend more than £35 filling the tank.

    If it’s frugal fuel usage and low tailpipe emissions you want, this car is a very good real-world solution, provided you can regularly charge the car at home and/or at work.

    Apart from the deeply impressive frugality, another surprising attraction of the Prius PHEV is how much many people enjoy driving it. Nearly everyone who gets behind the wheel for a second time makes some remark about the feelings of quietness and calm that go with driving it, and the simplicity of its operation. There are no gears to change, and in one simple action you can increase the default rate of deceleration (and thereby increase energy regeneration) and drive with very little use of the brakes.

    If you do need the brakes you’ll find them powerful but sometimes variable in strength, depending how much the friction side of stopping is being assisted by electric regeneration. But they’re nowhere near as unpredictable as hybrid systems used to be. I’ve also come to appreciate the Prius’s uncorrupted, perfectly weighted, nicely geared steering.

    The responses of the plug-in Prius will never thrill you, but don’t get the idea that this means its controls are woolly and imprecise. The reverse is true, actually, and the point is perfectly made by the way the car steps off from a standstill.

    An increasing number of conventional cars, especially those with automatic gearboxes and big engines, have a built-in hesitation on departure forced on them by clean-air requirements. The Prius (and others like it) do exactly what you ask, which is one reason why they feel so precise and swift in town.

    Mileage: 7623

    Back to the top

    Life with a Toyota Prius Plug-in: Month 3

    The Prius’s seasonal range changes – 06 December 2017​

    Having come to depend on the car’s battery-only capability for my city commute, I’ve begun noticing how battery range changes with temperature.

    On 18-20deg C days, the full-charge cruising range of the Prius PHEV was about 30 miles.

    Now winter has bitten, it’s 26-27 miles, enough to knock the overall average back to 95.1mpg. Still impressive, I’d say.

    Mileage: 6859

    Back to the top

    Life with a Toyota Prius Plug-in: Month 2

    The perks of driving a plug-in hybrid – 15 November 2017

    One of the best things about running a car that needs charging points is that said sockets tend to be in prime parking spots, such as in the big bosses’ car park where we work.

    No security man dares protest when the Toyota glides in every morning, but if it were a petrol BMW, they’d kick it out, sharpish.

    Running petrol consumption still at 96mpg.

    Mileage: 5480

    Driving the Prius without economy in mind – 25 October 2017​

    There are only two things I honestly dislike about our Toyota Prius plug-in, and both are located on the carbonfibre tailgate. They’re the badges that prominently read PRIUS PHV (on the left) and PLUG-IN HYBRID (on the right).

    I guess they’re there because Toyota is determined to stress its increasingly famous environmental credentials.

    Trouble is, other drivers take these things the wrong way. There’s a growing body who know exactly how the plug-in hybrid functions, and associate it – and the person behind the wheel – with an economy-chasing driving style that casts the driver as someone who will impede the progress of the driver behind, perhaps for fun.

    This is wrong. The Prius plug-in can lay down a perfectly reasonable 0-60mph acceleration time of 10.3sec, enhanced by the instant response from standstill of its electric motor, and the ability of its continuously variable transmission to provide the perfect gear ratio for every occasion.

    It’s true that you’re inclined at times to adopt an unhurried driving style – because the main purpose of this car is low fuel consumption and ultra-low emissions output – but I resent the presumption that this is a slower car.

    It’s not slow, either in a straight line or around corners. The handling may not be sporty, but the car has a very low centre of gravity, its weight distribution is much closer to 50:50 than any conventional front-drive hatchback, it has quick, uncorrupted steering and a small wheel, and given its modest tyre size it grips very well in bends, which it negotiates neutrally.

    I’ve surprised plenty of ordinary repmobile drivers in roundabouts with both the step-off and the grip, which makes it galling to be cast as a member of the Anti-Destination League. If I could magic those badges away, I’d do it.

    Ironically, I’m discovering that the Prius PHEV is an economy car, whatever driving style you adopt. At first, I always drove for economy, fearing that if I didn’t, I’d discover fuel-drinking foibles I didn’t want to know about.

    My policy is to recharge the car whenever I have a decent opportunity (these exist both at home and at work) and the result, at 4984 miles driven, is an average consumption of 101.6mpg – plus (as someone is bound to point out) the electric power I’ve used. A handy read-out tells me that, despite the fact that I’ve done lots of motorway driving, the car has spent 42 percent of its time in electric drive.

    More important is my experience when the car’s operating beyond its electric range, which I’ve discovered is a dependable 33 miles in town, 25 miles on the motorway.

    Cruising with the rest of the motorway traffic (with only an occasional tickle from the battery reserves to aid resumption of cruising speed after an obstacle), you can get 65mpg – courtesy of design and technical features such as the small frontal area and the fuel-saving Atkinson cycle engine – without trying. With effort, you can push it to the high 70s.

    Such things may not provide the rush of conventional high performance, but they can definitely afford you a lot of satisfaction. If this is the future there’s nothing to fear, and plenty ahead to enjoy.

    Mileage: 4984

    Back to the top

    Life with a Toyota Prius Plug-in: Month 1

    Getting in a tangle with Prius PHEV’s cables – 04 October 2017

    For a car that is so logically thought out in nearly every other way, the Prius’s cable storage arrangements are annoyingly hard to use.

    The compartment provided is too small, which means you simply resort to coiling the cables and chucking them in the boot as neatly as you can, compromising the shallow space even more than it already is.

    Mileage: 3105

    Welcoming the Prius Plug-in to our fleet – 06 September 2017​

    Funny how friends, usually those who don’t care much about cars, get straight to the heart of car matters.

    “This thing’s all about fuel economy, isn’t it?” said someone who’s never bought a decent car in his life, on first clapping eyes on my Toyota Prius PHEV.

    I’d not have put it so baldly. To me, the plug-in Prius is a bundle of intriguing new technology. It is built on Toyota’s bold, better-packaged TGNA architecture, has its electric-only top speed lifted from 53mph to 84mph, boasts a remarkably low aero coefficient of 0.25 and packs 50 percent more battery power, which it can replenish nearly twice as fast.

    Its 97bhp Atkinson-cycle 1.8-litre four-pot petrol engine reaches 40 percent efficiency (30-35 percent is usual) and there’s even a ventilation gizmo that knows when there’s only one occupant and avoids wasting energy cooling the rest of the cabin.

    Yet the plain truth is that when my friend spoke, I’d been boasting for five minutes solid about how the new Prius’s trip computer was showing 100mpg for 1200 miles, even though half the driving had been on longish motorway journeys. Economy is indeed the Toyota PHEV’s purpose and party trick.

    I’m not sure what we wrote about this car a year ago is quite what we’d write now.

    In recent months, diesels have started looking less enticing whereas plug-in hybrids (if you interpret the government’s plans correctly) have been green-lighted until 2050. It’s an important signal. These are cars we’d better get used to.

    Our new Prius PHEV Business Edition relates closely in looks and function to a standard non-plug Prius.

    It has the same reasonably spacious four-seat cabin trimmed in shiny, black, durability-conscious materials; same centrally located instrument pack full of fascinating functions and efficiency info; and much the same styling (apart from 11cm of extra body length to accommodate the battery under the boot floor) and a swoopily styled carbonfibre tailgate that helps reclaim some of the battery’s weight.

    There’s quite a story around that new battery. At 8.8kWh, it has twice the capacity of the previous unit, increasing electric-only range from 15 to more than 30 miles. Despite that, it charges nearly twice as quickly, yet it’s only 50 percent heavier (at 120kg) and 66 percent bulkier than its predecessor. The bad news is that the boot is now 16cm shallower than a standard Prius’s, so carrying holiday luggage is now this family car’s most serious challenge.

    At £33,195, our Prius Business Edition Plus costs £7200 more than a similar-spec non-PHEV Prius.

    However, for that difference, you get a roof-mounted solar panel (which contributes two to three miles’ city driving a day in full sun, or more than 400 miles in a year) plus the 30-mile all-electric capability. There’s an extra filler flap at the driver’s side for the charging cable, plus all the gadgetry you need for a full charge from a Type 2 plug in two hours.

    When you start driving, the first things you notice are silence, smoothness, easy step-off and the fact that this is no performance car. You can choose from four powertrain modes (HV hybrid, EV only, EV City and Battery Charge) that govern how the car’s two electric motors and petrol engine work together.

    With everything going as hard as systems will allow, you get 120bhp to work with. The performance figures are modest (101mph flat out, 11.1sec 0-62mph) but are kept respectable by a well-contained kerb weight of 1550kg, and the innate low-end response of the electric motors allows you a quicker step-off in roundabouts than the bald power figure leads you to expect.

    What I’ve learned from 1200 miles’ use is that how individual drivers cope with the Prius PHEV depends very much on the use the car is put to.

    Station-and-school users may rarely need anything but electric power. But if, like me, you do 500-plus miles a week, about 100 miles of it at slow speeds in the city, charging the car as often as possible, your bottom-line petrol economy will hit the high 90s and sometimes reach three figures. You’ll discover that 70-80mph is the viable cruising speed and that, with reasonable care, you can get an impressive 65-75mpg even without electric assistance. So yes, it’s all about economy.

    However, the chassis ability is a surprise. The all-independent suspension (struts in front, double wishbones behind) has relaxed spring rates and the car rolls on 15in wheels with squishy sidewalls so the low-speed ride is absorbent. There’s a bit of a tendency to bounce at middle-range speeds, but the car is quiet and comfortable over suburban bumps.

    Which makes the steering and grip a major surprise. The car corners neatly, grips well, doesn’t roll much and has quick, uncorrupted steering.

    It’s never going threaten the GTIs, but it grows increasingly enjoyable and accurate to drive as you explore what it can do. The underbits may be exotic but the Prius PHEV is fitting my average-busy business life very well.

    Second opinion

    For many, the Prius’s Achilles heel may be the asking price, but if the maths do work (and for some they will), then the car itself is supreme: economical, refined, spacious and more. It is yet another example of why there is no reason to fear the onset of electrification

    Jim Holder

    Toyota Prius Plug-in Business Edition Plus specification

    Specs: Price New £33,195; Price as tested £33,990; Options Pearlescent paint (£795)

    Test Data: Engine 1798cc, petrol, plus dual-motor hybrid assist; Power 120bhp; Torque 105lb ft; Top speed 101mph; 0-62mph 11.1sec; Claimed fuel economy 283mpg; Test fuel economy 96mpg; CO2 22g/km; Faults None; Expenses None

    Back to the top

  • Lexus ES revealed ahead of Beijing show debut Wednesday 18th April 2018
    Lexus ES
    The new Lexus ES
    New saloon is due on sale in Britain at the end of this year, replacing the GS as Lexus's BMW 5 Series rival

    The new Lexus ES has been revealed ahead of the car's debut at the Beijing motor show.

    Autocar understands that the ES will come to the UK as the replacement for the GS, which is to be discontinued this month.

    The ES has been around since the Lexus brand's inception in 1989, but the seventh-generation model will be the first sold here. The car is 4.8 metres long, the same as the GS, and will serve as a rival to the BMW 5 Series.

    The single image posted online today follows the confirmation of the new model earlier this month, when Lexus released a preview image of the car's nose and large front grille.

    The ES's angular body panels and sharp lighting features mimic styling applied to the larger LS.

    More details on the car are expected at Beijing show next week. The image was only accompanied by the words: "Engaging design, athletic performance, and renowned refinement transform Lexus’s most popular saloon."

    Built on the underpinnings of parent company Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA), the model will be offered with a range of hybrid powertrains, possibly taken from the GS. That car features hybrid systems containing four and six-cylinder petrol engines.

    The new ES is expected to arrive on roads at the end of 2018. It will be tasked with drastically improving on the sales performance of the GS, which has been a leftfield choice against its predominantly German rivals.

    Just 428 examples were sold in Britain last year, meaning the model achieved just 10% of the success of Lexus’s best-selling model here, the NX SUV.

    Read more

    Remembering John Miles: grand prix racer turned Autocar staffer

    2018 Ford Focus revealed

  • Autocar magazine 18 April – out now Wednesday 18th April 2018
    Autocar magazine 18 April – out now This week: new BMW M2 Competition; Mercedes-Benz A-Class review; Alfa Romeo Stelvio vs Porsche Macan

    In this week's issue we welcome the new BMW M2 Competition, which arrives with more power and focus than its predecessor - a car that is still regarded as one of the finest sports cars on the road.

    There's also our first verdict on the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class as it arrives with loads more kit and sharper looks. Plus, we spill the beans on Ford's hybrid Focus plans.

    Are car makers ready to face the upcoming WLTP tests? Autocar speaks to bosses of some of the biggest brands to get their takes.

    And is Rimac really destined to be the world's premiere electric hypercar maker? The Croatian firm's head of sales explains why it's future is bright.

    Also in this issue

    We drive Ford's rorty run-out Focus RS special, the Red Edition, and also take the BMW M5 - the firm's all-wheel-drive AMG E63 rival - for a full Autocar road test.

    It's a head-to-head battle for the Porsche Macan and Alfa Stelvio to see which is the most engaging sports SUV.

    Then we slip into Ferrari's new 488 Pista to see how its new track-focused supercar squares up.

    As the Beijing motor show approaches, we examine the Chinese car market with a list of its car makers from A to Z.

    Our cars

    The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate departs the fleet so we provide a final verdict.

    Our Hyundai i30 N is let loose in N mode, providing us with plenty of smiles (but annoying the neighbours in the morning).

    Plus, the Audi TT RS has turned into the village bicycle - which has provided its custodian with a wide range of opinions to consider.

    Deals

    The first Vauxhall Astra VXR has become a real bargain, so we provide you with a helping hand to find a smart used buy.

    Plus there are buying tips on used Alfa Romeos, which often rank as some of the best-value and best-looking used buys on the market.

    Where to buy

    Never miss an issue – subscribe to Autocar magazine today.

    Autocar magazine is available through all good newsagents. You can also buy one-off copies of Autocar magazine from Newsstand, delivered to your door the morning after.

    Digital copies can be downloaded from Zinio and the Apple iTunes store.

  • Aston Martin confirms DBS Superleggera name for Vanquish replacement Wednesday 18th April 2018
    Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
    Aston's DBS Superleggera has been seen testing
    Return of iconic nameplate hints at high performance of upcoming ‘super-GT’

    Aston Martin has confirmed a change in the nomenclature of its most expensive series-production models – and it’ll mean a critical change in layout and nature for a car that has been Gaydon’s top dog for longer than any other this century.

    The replacement for Aston's flagship front-engined V12 ‘super-GT’, the Vanquish, will be called the DBS Superleggera. It will be the first model to use the DBS nameplate since Aston’s DB9-based successor to the first-generation Vanquish that came out in 2007. The use of 'Superleggera', a nod to the original DBS of 1967 and meaning 'super-light' in Italian, hints at the car’s more extreme focus.

    Aston chief creative officer Marek Reichman said: “When you hear the name DBS Superleggera, you know what it is. It’s the definitive Aston Martin super-GT. It’s an icon, a statement – and this one will be no different. We’ve pushed the boundaries of performance and design to give this car a distinct character and ensure it’s worthy of the heritage and weight that this name carries."

    It is understood that the DBS Superleggera will use Aston’s Cologne-built 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine with more than 700bhp. The car will be unveiled at the end of June.

    Meanwhile, in an unusual model identity shift, the Vanquish nameplate will be saved for Aston’s forthcoming mid-engined supercar that's due to go up against the Ferrari 488 GTB and McLaren 720S when it enters production in 2021 (and imagined by Autocar in the gallery above).

    Top 10 best supercars 2018

    Details on the new mid-engined model remain scarce for now, although it is thought that design is already at an advanced stage. The car will be built on an all-new model platform, powered by an engine not shared with any other series-production Aston models, and its engineering is being led by chief technical officer Max Szwaj, who was recruited from rival Ferrari in December 2016.

    Company sources suggest that the new Vanquish will be priced above the replacement of its namesake, the DBS Superleggera; and as Gaydon’s new top-of-the-range series-production offering, it will offer a sort of continuity for Aston customers, dealers and brand enthusiasts. There is no doubt that it’ll be pitched as a very different proposition to any Vanquish before it, as Aston attempts to attract customers less interested in grand touring sports cars like its traditional base and more interested in uncompromised performance, handling poise and driver thrills.

    “There’s a feeling internally that we’ve got a lot of equity built up in the Vanquish nameplate,” a company insider told Autocar. The source added that “we’ve almost run out of new places to go with our long-standing naming convention”, referring perhaps to the 'V' names Aston has used on short-lived, ultra-low-volume models in recent years (ie. Vulcan, Valkyrie).

    More content:

    Aston Martin DBS Superleggera: 700bhp Vanquish replacement due this June

    Honda Civic Type R long-term review

  • Aston Martin's 700bhp DBS Superleggera due in June Wednesday 18th April 2018
    Aston Martin Vanquish to become hardcore V12 supercar
    This is the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
    Hot on the heels of the V8 Vantage, Vanquish successor will feature in Aston's model blitz as harder, faster V12 model

    Aston Martin is developing an ultra-high-performance GT model to succeed the current Vanquish that will return the iconic DBS Superleggera nameplate to production.

    Caught testing in public and at the Nürburgring, the car's new name hints at a big jump in performance compared with Aston's present front-engined super-GT.

    Aston Martin confirms DBS Superleggera name for Vanquish replacement

    Due for reveal in June before arriving in showrooms later this year, the DBS Superleggera will move away from the luxury-focused Vanquish and its present rivals, such as the Bentley Continental GT, to compete against proper performance models such as the 789bhp Ferrari 812 Superfast.

    Company boss Andy Palmer stated his intentions for this harder Vanquish successor to Autocar last year, alongside confirmation that a convertible version – a successor to the Vanquish Volante – will follow.

    More recently, Aston chief creative officer Marek Reichman emphasised the DBS Superleggera's potential, stating that the brand has "pushed the boundaries of performance and design to give this car a distinct character and ensure it’s worthy of the heritage and weight that this name carries".

    With this in mind, the upcoming super-grand tourer will adopt the turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 engine used by the DB11 but is set to produce considerably more than the 600bhp offered by that car. The current Vanquish S uses a 6.0-litre V12 unit with 595bhp, suggesting the DBS Superleggera could offer in excess of 700bhp.

    Early mules for the DBS Superleggera, described as “bloody good” by Palmer, were based on a DB11 because the car's structure is an adjusted version of that car's (as well as the new V8 Vantage's). Palmer has previously emphasised the adaptability of the new structure, telling Autocar that each car that it is spawning is helping Aston shed "perceptions of old technology, old platforms and the question of whether we can survive as an independent manufacturer".

    Although it'll share some parts with its siblings, the DBS Superleggera's harder focus has been clear from even the earliest stages of development. Mules were fitted with larger aerodynamic pieces, hinting at the higher downforce that will be produced by the finished model.

    Now that test cars wearing their own bodywork have been spotted, it's clear that the DBS Superleggera will also differ from its siblings with larger headlights and a more muscular rear section. The car appears to corner with less body roll, pointing to a firmer chassis set-up.

    The DBS Superleggera is part of a major product offensive for Aston. The British marque will also launch the DBX SUV in 2019, to be built at Aston’s new factory in St Athan, Wales. In addition, there will be two Lagonda models. The first will be a saloon, previewed by the recent Lagonda Vision Concept, in 2021 and it will be followed by an SUV to rival the Bentley Bentayga in 2022.

    Aston plans to launch a mid-engined rival to the Ferrari 488 GTB and McLaren 720S in 2021. The car, which will inherit the Vanquish name, has been signed off for production and will use an all-new powertrain.

    The new cars will sit beneath the brand's halo model, the Valkyrie hypercar.

    Additional reporting by Sam Sheehan

    Related stories 

    Aston Martin Vanquish review

    Ferrari 812 Superfast review

    Aston Martin Vantage review 

  • Mercedes-Benz A-Class A180d AMG Line 2018 review Tuesday 17th April 2018
    Mercedes-Benz A-Class A180D cornering front New version of entry-level Mercedes puts limo-like technology, refinement and comfort in a small, desirable package Although the C-Class remains Mercedes-Benz’s biggest-selling car, you could argue that it’s actually the A-Class and its derivatives on the lowest rung of the Mercedes ownership ladder that are now the most important products for the world’s largest premium car maker.All this means the success of each new generation is simply essential – and nowhere more so than in the UK, the world’s biggest market for the A-Class.So forgive Mercedes for not varying the formula much for this fourth-generation A-Class. The last one played a key role in Mercedes overtaking BMW and Audi to become the most popular brand of its kind in the world.How? By lowering the average age of the A-Class buyer by more than a decade and ensuring that 60% of its sales were to people who’d never bought a Mercedes before. Sell one car to one young person and you might then sell them 10 more in their lifetime under your cosy corporate umbrella.The new A-Class is bigger in every important direction including a 30mm longer wheelbase, but it's 20kg lighter – commendable given the enhanced content it must carry.At launch, there will be only an A180d diesel, along with A200 and A250 petrol models, all with seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions. An A180 petrol will be on sale before the end of the year, as will a manual six-speed gearbox, while A200d and A220d diesels will come on stream in early 2019. If your ideal model is not available at launch, you might be well served not to compromise but to wait until it is.
  • Why BMW decided to raise the bar with its M2 Competition Tuesday 17th April 2018
    BMW M2 Competition
    BMW M2 Competition
    The BMW M2 has never lacked in driver appeal, so we ask why the M division felt the need to upgrade it?

    You know how a BMW M Competition works. They launch the car, we love it but there’s a slight disconnect between how focused we think an M car should be and what BMW thinks it should be. The Competition version duly arrives later and bridges that gap.

    New BMW M2 Competition faces Cayman GTS with M4 straight-six

    The M2 never felt like it was that far away from being all it could be though. But that hasn’t prevented BMW from making a host of changes to it anyway. The power increase isn’t such a biggie – it had plenty before and retains it now – but the chassis changes will be interesting.

    It wasn’t like the M2 lacked engagement before. That customers want that kind of hardcore reward from a small car like the M2 is presumably why this Competition version can replace, rather than run alongside, the regular version; every customer just wants even more of what makes it so compelling in the first place. There’s something quite reassuring about that. 

    Read more 

    BMW M2 review 

    BMW M4 review 

    BMW M5 review 

  • New BMW M2 Competition faces Cayman GTS with M4 straight-six Tuesday 17th April 2018
    BMW M2 Competition
    New M2 has a more aggressive-looking design than before
    M’s refreshed entry-level coupé squares up to the Porsche Cayman GTS with a new M4-sourced 404bhp engine and a retuned chassis that’s set up to be more driftable

    BMW’s M division has ramped up the performance potential of the M2 with the introduction of a heavily upgraded version of the rear-wheel-drive coupé.

    The 2018 model, which is called the M2 Competition, replaces the standard M2. It packs a new 404bhp version of the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine that powers the M3 and M4. This enables a sharper 0-62mph time of 4.2sec in combination with an optional seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

    The top speed is governed at 155mph. The new M2 has been conceived to enhance the standing of the two-year-old performance coupé against rivals such as the Porsche Cayman GTS and Audi TT RS. As a result, the M2 Competition not only receives an injection of extra performance but also adopts a number of subtle chassis changes.

    BMW M division’s head of development, Dirk Häcker, said the chassis revisions provide the new M2 with “significantly improved response and more progressive on-the-limit characteristics” than its predecessor. “We have altered the steering mapping, changed the spring and damper tuning and recalibrated the DSC [Dynamic Stability Control] system as well,” said Häcker. “It is still the benchmark in its class in terms of response and reactions, but it now slides with greater progressiveness and enthusiasm.”

    Opinion: Why BMW decided to raise the bar with its M2 Competition

    Power for the new M2 comes from a detuned version of BMW M’s S55 engine, as used by the M3 and M4. In the M2 Competition, the twin-turbo 3.0-litre unit delivers 404bhp between 5250rpm and 7000rpm and 405lb ft from 2350rpm to 5200rpm. This represents increases of 40bhp and 62lb ft over the original M2’s turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder N55 engine, but it’s 21bhp less than in the M3 and M4, albeit with the same torque. It also means the M2 Competition has 44bhp and 95lb ft more than the turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder Cayman GTS.

    The M2 Competition’s kerb weight is 55kg heavier than the old M2’s at 1550kg in six-speed manual guise, largely due to the engine. Despite the added bulk, its power-to-weight ratio has risen by 17bhp per tonne over its predecessor to 261bhp per tonne. Drive is channelled through the same standard six-speed manual and optional seven-speed dual-clutch gearboxes as today’s M2.

    They retain the same ratios as before and operate in combination with an electronic limited-slip Active M Differential, which provides a locking effect to the rear wheels of between 0% and 100% depending on the prevailing traction, yaw rate and steering angle, among other factors.

    In anticipation of strict new CO2 emission guidelines, BMW M has given the engine a particulate filter. It is a development, Häcker said, that will also be adopted during running changes planned for the four-year-old M4 later this year (as scooped by Autocar in February).

    As a result, the new M2 emits 225g/km of CO2 and averages 28.5mpg in manual guise and 209g/km and 30.7mpg with the dual-clutch gearbox fitted.

    The particulate filter forms part of a new dual exhaust system that replaces the single routing on the outgoing M2.

    It features two electronically controlled muffler flaps actuated via an M dynamic performance control function to enhance its sound.

    BMW’s performance claims for the M2 Competition point to a 0-62mph time of 4.4sec for the standard manual version and 4.2sec for the dual-clutch model. Both achieve a top speed governed at 155mph, but this can be raised to 174mph with an optional Driver’s Package.

    By comparison, the older M2 has a claimed 0-62mph time of 4.5sec for the manual and 4.3sec for the dual-clutch version. The Cayman GTS covers 0-62mph in 4.6sec in six-speed manual form and 4.3sec with its optional seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

    To accommodate the new engine, BMW has re-engineered the M2’s front end, providing it with an extra radiator as well as a new boomerang-shaped carbonfibre-reinforced plastic strut brace. The changes are claimed to offer significantly greater stiffness and added steering precision.

    Taking advantage of the added stiffness, BMW M has altered the steering mapping. “The focus is on additional on-centre response,” said Häcker. “We’ve improved it a lot.”

    Further changes include an optional brake package. This replaces the standard 380mm front and 370mm rear discs and four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers with 400mm front and 380mm rear discs allied to six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers.

    The differential has also been upgraded with new software that, Häcker said, has allowed vital changes to the DSC system via a new MDM (M Dynamic Mode) activated in the Sport+ driving mode. “It now intervenes later, allowing greater oversteer and more controlled drifts. However, the DSC can still be relied upon in critical situations,” he said.

    The M2 Competition adopts a number of styling changes that give it a more aggressive appearance and address the new engine’s need for improved cooling efficiency.

    Up front, there is a more heavily structured bumper with larger cooling ducts, a redesigned kidney grille and more advanced headlights, which have an adaptive LED function as standard.

    Other visual changes include new M-style exterior mirror housings similar to those on the M3 and M4 as well as lightly reworked tail-lights, an altered rear bumper and, as standard in the UK, new 19in forged alloy wheels shod with 245/35-profile (front) and 265/35 (rear) Michelin Pilot Sport tyres.

    Inside, the M2 Competition is differentiated from the outgoing model by a number of subtle changes. Included as standard on UK models are new M Sport front seats, reconfigured M instruments, M seatbelts in various colours, the M Drive manager function from the M3 and M4, Park Distance Control and a red start/stop button.

    The M2 Competition costs £49,285 in manual form and £51,930 in dual-clutch guise, compared with the £46,740 starting price of the outgoing M2. First deliveries in the UK will begin in August. 

    Read more 

    BMW M2 review 

    BMW M4 review 

    BMW M5 review 

  • How hard is it to name a car firm anyway? Tuesday 17th April 2018
    Byton concept SUV
    Byton revealed its concept SUV today
    Byton's bosses reveal how they came up with the brand name – and why

    Starting a new car company is hard. Simply designing a vehicle from scratch is an incredibly difficult process. Making that car is even harder. And manufacturing it on a large scale adds several notches to the degree of difficulty (just ask Tesla).

    Compared with making the hardware, coming up with a name might not seem all that difficult. But it is. Especially when you consider that several major firms have been around for more than 100 years, giving the likes of BMW and Ford tremendous inbuilt brand equity. So any newcomer needs a name that carries a significant message, a statement of intent.

    There are plenty of new brands cropping up at the moment, from the likes of Geely’s Lynk&Co to Volkswagen’s mobility brand Moia, and even Seat’s decision to spin off Cupra into a fully fledged sub-brand. But they’re not the only ones.

    Byton electric SUV concept revealed

    Future Mobility Corporation was formed by a group of veteran industry executives, led by ex-BMW i boss Carsten Breitfeld, in 2016, with the intent of creating a user-focused electric, connected, autonomous range of vehicles. At that point, they had plenty of ideas and concepts but, crucially, no brand name.

    They eventually settled on Byton. The task of finding that name was led by marketing chief Henrik Wenders, who said it was a fun – if intimidating – challenge. “Sometimes you feel like you open the window and look through it, and there’s nothing,” he said. “You’re so afraid, you close the window and don’t want to open it again.”

    So how did the search for Byton happen? “We started with certain clusters or words,” said Wenders. “The concepts of electrification and digitalisation were key for us, so we looked at that.

    “In the age of digital, we talk about bits and bytes. That was the first link. Then you have to leave the storytelling area and it becomes a phonetic discussion: whether you like it or dislike it, how does it feel.

    “B is a very strong letter; words that start with B are prominent and powerful. And the ‘on’ ending gives it a premium feel; think of Aston Martin or Wellington.”

    The name Byton was suggested by one of the teams within the company; Wenders proudly pointed out that it wasn’t chosen by a branding agency. He added: “In the beginning, it was a nightmare and the search seemed to go on forever. When I had an email with 'Byton' in, it just clicked and I went: ‘That’s it.’ I heard thousands of names, but that was it.

    “And then I called the lawyer.”

    Byton to reveal electric saloon concept as CES Asia in June

    Lawyer? That’s because, in the 21st century, legal and multicultural considerations are just as important as branding ones.

    Wenders explained: “The biggest challenge is the trademarking: there are more than 33 million and it’s not just the trademarks but the similarities, visual and phonetic. You have to look at how you pronounce it in various languages. For example, BMW is only three letters, but they’re pronounced in many different ways in different countries. Byton sounds very similar in Chinese to how you say it in English or German.”

    So there you go: that's how Byton became Byton. Does it work? That’s personal opinion, probably. It certainly ensures the digital aspects of the brand are at the forefront - as they are in the concept car’s huge touchscreen dashboard display and tablet built into the steering wheel.

    What do you reckon, then? Does Byton work? Or have you got a better name for a car firm?

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  • China to remove ownership limits on foreign car companies by 2022 Tuesday 17th April 2018
    China to remove ownership limits on foreign car companies by 2022
    China's car market is the largest in the world
    The world’s biggest new car market looks set to slash import costs; UK industry could be one of the biggest beneficiaries

    The Chinese government will remove ownership limits on foreign car companies by 2022, opening the world's largest car market to more global investment and providing brands with their best opportunity yet to crack the country.

    Currently, non-Chinese companies can only build cars in China via joint ventures, such as FAW-Volkswagen and Chery Jaguar Land Rover. But new plans outlined by Chinese president Xi Jinping will remove the requirement for them to partner with a Chinese firm and own no more than 50% of the venture.

    Such a change is expected to especially benefit companies interested in investing in China's electric car technology sector, which is considered to be among the most advanced in the world. China's strict emissions limits have encouraged rapid growth in this area. Dozens of technology start-ups have been established in recent years to create zero-emissions models.

    Xi's new plans also include lowering tariffs on imported vehicles – they currently stand at an unusually high 25%.

    British manufacturers could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new rules. UK-built car exports to China surged by 19.7% last year, but a tariff reduction could result in that figure being quickly dwarfed.

    Such a change could drastically boost the number of sales of imported vehicles in China. The impact this could have would be substantial, not least because the Chinese market is vast. Last year, 23,900,000 cars were sold in China, which comfortably beat the 15,630,000 sold in European Union and European Free Trade Association countries.

    How Chinese car makers can succeed in Europe

    The boss of the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, Mike Hawes, highlighted the opportunity this presents for Britain, which recently tightened relations with China following prime minister Theresa May's visit to the country.

    “It's encouraging to hear that China is considering reducing import tariffs on cars, because this will certainly encourage demand for Britain's ever-growing range of premium, luxury and sports vehicles," Hawes said.

    “China is a crucial bilateral trading partner in terms of materials and components, and with automotive companies in both countries investing heavily in each other's countries, a strengthened UK-China trading relationship that respects free and fair trade can only deliver greater dividends.”

    Growing Chinese demand for British vehicles could be key in helping to offset dwindling demand here. The UK new car market is set in a trend of decline, with sales falling by 15.7% last month. However, UK-built car exports have remained stronger; foreign demand reach record levels in January.

    Xi's plans have been cautiously welcomed by Ford vice-president Jim Farley. Asked at the launch of the new Focus about the potential impact of a trade war between the US and China, he said: "Obviously the trade relationship between the US and China is critical, especially for Ford. We’re optimistic that the two governments will work through any difficulties. 

    "We’re intrigued by the news that there may be a reduction in the tariffs in China, but it's still early days."

    China's intention to change tariffs has been revealed at a time when Xi is engaged in an ongoing and very public war of words with US president Donald Trump. Trump recently stated that China’s 25% tariff was an example of “stupid trade”. He said via Twitter that "China will take down its trade barriers because it is the right thing to do" and that "taxes will become reciprocal and a deal will be made on intellectual property".

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  • Suzuki Swift Sport 2018 review Tuesday 17th April 2018
    Suzuki Swift Sport 2018 review hero front The Swift Sport loses weight and gains a turbocharger - but is Suzuki's rapid supermini still fun to drive? Pleasant surprises of an affordable nature are not a common occurrence in this industry, but the Suzuki Swift Sport of 2006 was such a thing. So too was its replacement six years later, and now we have this: a third iteration that seeks to prolong the car’s reputation as a bit of a drivers’ gem.The basic recipe has, alas, changed a little. The old car’s sharply responsive atmospheric 1.6-litre engine is replaced with a marginally more powerful 1.4-litre that already serves in the high-riding Vitara and S-Cross. Its headline figure of 138bhp is almost incidental in this case, because forced induction has resulted in 170lb ft of torque from 2500rpm. That’s almost half as much again as the previous Swift Sport and has the potential to markedly alter the previous car’s snappy personality.This new car is, however, lighter than the one it replaces. Built alongside the Ignis and quirky Xbee crossover at the marque’s Sagara plant in Japan, the saving amounts to 70kg – a substantial deficit brought about largely by redesigning certain suspension components, not least the torsion-beam rear axle, and a more bulbous but stiffer new body, which is significantly lighter than before.It drops the Swift Sport into sub-tonne territory and gives it a 0-62mph time of 8.2sec, which looks favourable next to a combined fuel economy of 50.4mpg. Top speed, meanwhile, is 130mph.In design terms this car is still recognisably Swift but rather more hulking at the kerbside. The dimensions are largely unchanged – it’s fractionally shorter and lower than a Toyota Yaris GRMN, but wider – yet the chassis sits 50mm closer to the tarmac than before, with carbon-effect bumpers and skirts exaggerating the drop. In comparison to non-Sport Swifts, it’s also 40mm wider.In profile, it’s a little more svelte than before, and Suzuki claims new intake strakes along with engine and floor undercovers help reduce wind resistance by a tenth. You do, however, still get a pair of cannon-esque exhaust tips and 17in wheels wrapped in 195-section rubber. Overall it’s not the prettiest thing, though you’d never mistake it for anything other than the most potent model in the range.Standard specification is good, with DAB radio and satellite navigation. There are also LED headlights and tail lights, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera, keyless entry and a 4.2in display within the main instrument binnacle that can show boost pressure along with horsepower and torque.
  • Byton to reveal electric saloon concept at CES Asia in June Tuesday 17th April 2018
    Byton concept SUV
    Saloon will follow all-electric SUV (pictured) that'll go on sale in China late next year
    Following the reveal of its electric SUV concept, the Chinese-based start-up will show its second concept car during the summer

    Chinese-based start-up firm Byton will unveil a concept version of its second vehicle, an electric saloon, in June.

    The machine, which will be built on the same platform as its SUV that has already been seen in Concept form, will be revealed at CES Asia in Shanghai. It is the second of three EVs that will form the firm’s early line-up, with a seven-seat MPV set to follow.

    2019 Byton electric SUV concept revealed at Milan Design Week 

    While the SUV is due to go on sale in China in late 2019, with US and European sales following in 2020, the saloon is set to be launched in 2021, with an initial focus on the Chinese market again likely. That suggests the saloon will likely reach the European market in 2022.

    The saloon is likely to follow the design of the Concept SUV (pictured below) closely, with a focus on interior comfort and connectivity. Like the SUV, the interior will also be dominated by a large touchscreen, and a digital tablet built into the steering wheel.

    Benoit Jacob, Byton’s design chief who previously worked at BMW’s i division, said that using the same platform architecture for all three models allowed the new firm to launch them relatively quickly without straining its production process.

    “We worked on the family from the beginning, and designed it so we can avoid re-engineering things every single time from an architecture and platform point of view,” said Jacob. “That means we can have a price point that is really attractive.”

    That suggests the saloon will have a price point that is similar to the SUV, which the firm is planning to sell for around £32,000.

    Byton plans to build all its vehicles at its new plant in Nanjing, China, which is also due to be officially opened in June. That facility will have a capacity to produce around 300,000 cars a year. Byton could also open a localised plant in the United States, depending on what trade restrictions are in place at the time.

    Read more

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    Insight: why demand from China is spurring growth of electric car sales 

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  • 2019 Byton electric SUV concept revealed at Milan Design Week Tuesday 17th April 2018
    Byton Concept
    The all-electric car is due to go on sale in China late next year
    New Chinese brand's first model is a 469bhp electric SUV with a claimed range of 323 miles

    Byton has unveiled a near production-ready version of its first model, a high-tech, premium electric SUV, at its European launch as part of Milan Design Week.

    The Concept shown at the event in Milan was described as being “85% there” by company boss Carsten Breitfeld. Minor modifications are likely needed to meet legal requirements, although Breitfeld described the touchscreen-dominated interior as being “series production ready”.

    The first prototype version of the SUV was completed at Byton’s factory in Nanjing, China last week. A small batch is being built now for crash tests, with the first development prototypes due to be completed around the middle of the year.

    The Byton Concept shown in Italy builds on the version that was revealed at CES earlier this year. The firm says the focus of the machine is on allowing drivers to ‘enhance’ the time they spend in the car, rather than on-road performance.

    The all-electric car is due to go on sale in China late next year, before arriving in Europe and the USA in 2020 as the firm's first model. It will feature a range of up to 323 miles, and be available in two powertrain configurations, including a twin-motor four-wheel-drive system with 469bhp. Prices are expected to start from around £32,000.

    A saloon, which will be previewed in a concept this June, and MPV are due to follow and use the same platform.

    The new China-based company, has development offices in the USA and Germany, and its senior management team includes several experienced car industry executives.

    The firm is headed by Carsten Breitfeld, who joined from BMW’s i division along with designer Benoit Jacob. The firm has also recently made other high profile appointments, including new head of vehicle engineering David Twohig, who has moved across from Alpine. The firm’s marketing chief, Henrik Wenders, has also joined Byton from BMW’s i division.

    While the addition of Twohig, whose new A110 has won much praise for its handling dynamics, suggests the importance of ensuring driving performance, Byton says the main focus of the brand will be on ‘the coming era of truly shared, smart mobility and autonomous driving.’

    The SUV will feature a high level of driver assistance systems, along with features such as biometric recognition and a large infotainment display that works in conjunction with a ‘Byton Life’ cloud-sharing platform.

    As with other new start-ups, such as the Geely-owned Lynk&Co, Byton will forego traditional dealerships in favour of a focus on online and a series of ‘brand stores’ that will be set up with partners.

    Byton showcased the concept for its brand stores at the event in Milan, and says they will offer ‘added benefits’ to traditional dealerships by allowing customers to ‘immerse themselves in a range of topics where Byton is at home’, including digital products and services. The first brand store will open in Shanghai at the end of this year.

    Byton's SUV will come with driverless car technology provided by industry expert Aurora. Aurora is headed by Google's former autonomous driving boss, Chris Urmson, and several pioneers of the autonomous car industry. Its technology enables Level 4 autonomy, meaning it will be able to drive itself without any human input.

    Why Volkswagen, Hyundai and Byton are teaming up with a self-driving start-up firm

    Byton said its SUV will feature driver assistance systems based around Aurora's suite of hardware, including cameras, ultrasonic sensors, radar and laser scanners. It has been designed so that components can be upgraded as technology develops. The vehicle architecture is designed for 5G mobile data connection, with speeds of up to 10GB per second.

    CES 2018: concepts cars and automotive news from the Consumer Electronics Show

    The Byton will be available in two powertrain configurations, with either a single 268bhp electric motor driving the rear axle that produces 295lb ft of torque, or a four-wheel-drive version with motors driving each axle. The two motors in the four-wheel-drive version combine for 469bhp and 524lb ft of torque. 

    Power will be stored in modular lithium-ion batteries that form part of the vehicle chassis. While Byton hasn’t revealed the capacity of the batteries, it says the car will have a range of 248 miles, increasing to 323 miles with an upgraded battery pack.

    Insight: why demand from China is spurring growth of electric car sales 

    The Concept is 4850mm long, 1940mm wide and 1650mm high, and runs on 22in wheels. At the front of the car, slim LED headlights top what Byton refers to as a ‘smart surface’. 

    In place of door handles, the Concept features facial recognition cameras that check biometric data and will only unlock the door to authorised users. 

    The interior is dominated by a 1250mm by 250mm ‘Shared Experience Display’ that fills the dashboard. It is comprised of three panels, which can be customised. It is also used to show images from three rear-facing cameras: two take the place of the wing mirrors, with a third mounted in the car’s rear. The brightness and background colour of the display adjusts automatically to suit lighting conditions.

    The Shard Experience Display features gesture and voice control and can be operated by a smartphone app. There are two displays for passengers in the rear, with the same control methods.

    The main driver information, including navigation systems, is displayed in a touch-controlled 8in Driver Tablet integrated into the steering wheel. The edges of the display feature buttons for the drive selectors, indicators and infotainment volume.

    Each seat features a facial recognition camera that will identify the user and allow personalised settings to be transferred to any seat. The front seats can swivel by 12 degrees. 

    Read more

    CES 2018: concepts cars and automotive news from the Consumer Electronics Show

    Insight: why demand from China is spurring growth of electric car sales 

    Changan is coming: another Chinese firm aiming for European success

  • 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500: new pictures of 700bhp muscle car Tuesday 17th April 2018
    2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
    This, the Shelby GT500, will be the most powerful Ford Mustang to go into production
    The Shelby GT500 will be the most powerful road-legal production Ford yet; and will be joined by a new hybrid version

    Ford is out testing development versions of the Mustang Shelby GT500 before it is revealed next year with a supercharged 5.2-litre V8 engine outputting around 700bhp.

    The model, which was previewed in a video (bottom) at the Detroit motor show in January, is being co-engineered by Shelby. The iconic tuning firm's famous Cobra logo and racing stripes will adorn the model.

    The super-performance muscle car will revive a model Ford stopped selling in 2015. It will be the most powerful street-legal Mustang offered yet, with more than twice the horsepower of the first-ever V8 performance model of 1967, which is featured in the preview video.

    The GT500 uses a further developed and 'charged version of the Mustang GT350's 5.2-litre engine. Although Ford has remained tight-lipped on the car's specifications, rumours suggest the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox from the Ford GT supercar could be used to channel power to the GT500's rear wheels.

    Ford is expected to build a limited run of GT500s, and to put the build in the hands of a specialist company, but the company won’t specify the size of the batch.

    Sales are due to begin in 2019, but, like the GT350, the GT500 is unlikely to be sold in the UK. However, the GT500 looks a strong candidate to appear on US racetracks, like so many of its Shelby predecessors. 

    Ford has announced the Shelby GT500 will be one of a number of new versions of the Mustang – which will include a hybrid version, part of a major electrification strategy of the firm's North American line-up. Ford says the hybrid system in the Mustang Hybrid will be tuned to 'deliver V8-like performance with more low-end torque'.

    Ford will also launch a new GT California Special edition, which features a limited-edition design package. The California Special, likely to be for the US market only, takes its name from an early personalised version of the original Mustang created by a dealer. That model will be one of the first Mustangs to feature a rev-matching system to smooth out gear changes.

    A video released by Ford at the Detroit show revealed the Mustang Shelby GT500 with wide longitudinal body stripes, and with two lights set centrally into the grille.

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  • Hyundai i30 N 2018 UK review Tuesday 17th April 2018
    Hyundai i30 N 2018 UK review hero front Even without its optional Performance Package, the base-spec Hyundai i30 N is still an entertaining and engaging hot hatchback This is the base-spec, common-or-garden version of the Hyundai’s i30 N, the Korean manufacturer's inaugural hot hatchback. That’s not to say there’s anything really common-or-garden about it though, only that it doesn’t have the optional Performance Package fitted to the car we road tested late last year.This means it’s 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine develops 247bhp as opposed to 271bhp, it doesn’t benefit from an electronic limited-slip differential, and that it forgoes the variable exhaust valve system. It’s also fitted with smaller 18in alloys shod in 225/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, as opposed to the 19in wheels and Pirelli P Zero rubber you get with the Performance Package. Whereas that more seriously equipped car costs from £28,010, though, this version is £3000 cheaper.Past these differences, the hot Hyundai is largely the same. You still get three-way adaptive suspension - comprised of MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear - a reinforced clutch, launch control, a six-speed manual gearbox with a rev-matching function and a full suite of in-car infotainment systems that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, satellite navigation and DAB radio. Considering the £25,010 asking price, it’s still quite a compelling little package.
  • Hybrid already more popular than diesel in Britain, report says Tuesday 17th April 2018
    Toyota Prius
    Hybrid models such as the Toyota Prius are already a familiar sight on roads
    A new National Franchised Dealer Association survey shows impact of diesel’s recent downfall

    British motorists are more likely to opt for hybrid than diesel when they buy their next car, according to the results of a survey compiled by the National Franchised Dealer Association (NFDA).

    Of the 1000 respondents in the study, of which 490 were male and 510 were female, just 12% said they were considering buying a diesel car for their next vehicle purchase. Not only is this a tiny proportion for a fuel type that once accounted for nearly half of all new car sales, it's also a marked decrease on the 23% of respondants opting for diesel in an Autocar survey compiled just one year ago.

    This means that, according to the NFDA's survey, diesel ranks behind hybrid power, which was the choice for 13% of respondents.

    Although relatively small in scale, the study illustrates the extent of consumers' loss of confidence in diesel. Sales for black-pump vehicles have tumbled in recent months and now account for 33.5% of the market, down from a 44% share last year.

    The results of the survey suggest that the chances of sales recovering any time soon are low. The UK Government’s recent diesel tax hike will no doubt present another barrier to diesel's recovery.

    National Grid plans 350kW EV charge network

    Petrol ranks top in the NFDA study, with 41% of respondents saying they’d choose a car of this fuel type for their next vehicle purchase. However, the second most popular answer is ‘don’t know’, backing suggestion that the UK’s recent new car sales downturn has been in part triggered by a general fall in consumer confidence.

    The survey shows that most consumers are still some way off opting for a plug-in electrified car as their next purchase. Plug-in hybrid was chosen by just 2% of participants.

    Pure electric was the top choice for only 1%. In fact, 59% of respondents ranked purchase cost as a main reason for not opting for a pure electric vehicle, while battery range and access to charging infrastructure were highlighted as a concern for 53% and 52% of participants respectively.

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