Car News

  • The high-tech world of radio-controlled car racing Saturday 24th February 2018
    Remote control cars
    The lovingly polished 50mph, 1:12 racers take to the carpet
    Radio-controlled cars are more than just toys: they’re complicated bits of kit that offer racers a valuable grounding in engineering

    The venue for the second leg of the six-round, radio-controlled 1:12 scale LMP12 British Championship season is the gym hall at Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy, near Newcastle.

    Hospitality is a broken vending machine and Bernie Ecclestone is a slightly younger chap called Peter Winton with less hair but all of it his own.

    I can’t laugh, though, because many of the road cars I’ve just parked my old nail among on arrival are serious pieces of kit, including a 65-reg BMW X5 M50d, a 17-reg Golf R and a 67-reg Mercedes-AMG C63. Unlike me, these guys aren’t here on a tight budget.

    What they are here for is to race. That much is clear in the ‘garage’ (the Academy’s games hall), where around 70 blokes (there are only one or two female racers) of all ages, but most of them in their thirties, occupy rows of tables piled high with voltmeters, soldering guns, electric screwdrivers, pliers, rolls of insulation tape, brightly coloured plastic car bodies and half-finished cans of Fanta.

    One chap is lovingly wiping his car’s plastic body with a bright yellow duster. Another is testing his car’s electrical connections with fierce concentration. In the corner, a group of grown men are expertly turning small tyres on three miniature lathes, grinding down the rubber to reduce its thickness so the small electric racing cars slide more easily.

    Lewis Hamilton cut his teeth in radio-controlled car racing after his father, Anthony, gave him one when he was six years old. Hamilton came second in the BRCA national championship the following year.

    Surprisingly, the multi-millionaire Formula 1 champion has better things to do today than cheer on his erstwhile rivals. No matter, there’s ample compensation in no less a figure than 14-time European and five-time World LMP champion, Dave Spashett. He’s been racing for 36 years – almost since the LMP class, one of the oldest RC racing classes in existence, started in 1976, in fact. He cuts a modest figure.

    “There’s no secret to winning,” Spashett says as he makes last-minute adjustments to the upturned racer in the palm of his hand. “It’s about making the most of the car you have and constantly adapting your style to the way it behaves on the track.”

    This level of remote control might sound far-fetched but the cars Spashett and his fellow RC enthusiasts are racing today are the most advanced electric models on the planet. Features include regenerative braking, a programmable EV motor whose frequency and timing can be varied across the rev range, heat sinks on the speed controller (effectively the ECU) and the motor to keep race temperatures down to 70deg C, and multi-adjustable suspension. They’re powered by lithium ion polymer batteries, such as you find in mobile phones and laptops. Just one is powerful enough to start a radio-controlled car.

    Many of the top EV engineers in the automotive industry served their apprenticeship designing advanced powertrains for RC racers. It’s been a brain drain for the sport, with one famous California-based supplier losing so many of its engineers to Tesla that it had to shut up shop.

    One racer here today whose day job must surely benefit from his passion for the sport is Mark Stiles. The multiple BRCA race winner is a mechanical design engineer at the Renault Sport F1 team, although by the time you read this he’ll have swapped overalls for Mercedes F1, home of his former race rival, the aforementioned Lewis Hamilton.

    “We’re about the same age and from the same area,” says Stiles. “I raced him a few times and even beat him on one occasion, but you could see his focus and he always held his nerve no matter what.”

    Stiles’ passion for the sport began at school when he joined the radio- controlled car club. That fuelled an interest in automotive engineering that eventually led him to Oxford Brookes University, a degree in mechanical engineering and, since 2009, a career in F1.

    “Just like Formula 1, LMP12 is a very precise and technical class,” he says. “You’ve all the complexity of the powertrain but also of the suspension system.

    “The rear is a live axle with roll and bump adjustment, and a ball diff that allows you to adjust the level of thrust load for different levels of grip. The front is an independent sliding kingpin system with full adjustability of wheel angles.”

    And just like F1, tyre selection and preparation are crucial. It’s quite warm today, which will help soften the tyres. Before each race, competitors can be seen applying an approved chemical to the rubber to accelerate the process.

    However, unlike F1, no one circuit is ever the same, meaning those who raced at Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy last year can’t claim an advantage this season.

    That said, the surface itself (a non- bobbling needle-punch material) is fairly standard, leading Stiles to say about the next race in Tamworth: “I went there last year, so I know the carpet really well...”

    Anyway, it’s time I had a go, but first my car must pass scrutineering. Maximum permitted battery voltage is 4.209V, maximum weight is 730g and ride height must be no lower than 3mm. I’m good to go.

    The track is around two metres wide and has 11 corners. The quickest racers are lapping in around 11 seconds, so one corner every second. I join my five fellow ‘drivers’ on a couple of stacked benches affording a bird’s-eye view of the track. I grasp the controller in both hands: left toggle, power; right toggle, direction.

    The race director counts down and we’re off, me into the barrier but the rest of the pack clear into the distance. I reckon by the time a helpful steward has air-lifted my stricken racing car back into position, I’ve been lapped by the others at least once. This goes on until humiliation forces my retirement.

    It’s tricky, this RC racing thing. Keeping your thumbs on the toggles at all times and knowing your left from right (not easy since you have to constantly reorientate depending on whether the car is heading from or towards you) are key. But I can see its appeal and as the club tells me (and as Stiles proves), for a youngster keen on cars and engineering there’s the seed of a successful career here.

    There are 10,000 active racers and 220 clubs in the UK alone. While venues like the Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy continue to hum to the sound of 50mph remote- controlled racers, the future of Britain’s automotive industry is in safe hands.

    John Evans

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  • Skoda Karoq: a race against time from John O’Groats to Land’s End Saturday 24th February 2018
    Skoda Karoq
    We set off at the exact moment the sun set at John O’Groats on 1 February: 4:34pm
    Leaving John O’Groats at sunset and reaching Land’s End before sunrise seemed simple, but we hadn’t reckoned on roadworks, snow and gales

    There is no better demonstration of the British love for an eccentric challenge than the well-trodden route between Land’s End and John O’Groats.

    The journey between what are almost the two farthest-flung points of the British mainland serves to illustrate both the nation’s long, skinny shape – 837 miles in a country where it’s impossible to be more than 70 miles from the sea – and also our collective love of a bizarre quest.

    The first recorded walking of the whole distance took place in 1871 and, since then, it has been done on everything from bikes to skateboards to lawnmowers to at least one traverse by JCB. In an outright win for toughness, the route has even been swum, adventurer Sean Conway spending 135 days covering the 900 mile route around the coast in 2013.

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    Driving is definitely the easy way, but although there have been some blisteringly quick private runs, the inability to close roads or evade prosecution means there are no official records in excess of the official speed limits.

    Our mission is subtly different and grander in ambition: to race the sun rather than the clock. The aim is to show that the journey can still be a proper adventure without getting arrested, and even in a vehicle as unlikely as the new Skoda Karoq. A mid-sized diesel-powered crossover might not seem like the most obvious choice for a rapid end-to-end run, but this is a journey where comfort and fuel range are far more important than outright pace. It’s also the perfect opportunity to introduce what’s likely to become one of Skoda’s biggest sellers to the UK.

    The plan is to leave John O’Groats as the sun sets and reach Land’s End before first light the next day, a north-to-south run giving us fractionally more night. Attempting it in mid- December would have been too easy, but choosing the night of 1-2 February gives an almost perfectly balanced challenge, with 14 hours and 44 minutes of night for a journey that, Google reckons, will take 14 hours and 56 minutes with no traffic delays.

    AN INAUSPICIOUS BEGINNING:

    Time isn’t the only challenge. The weather is determined to have a say, too. Snow is falling as I drive the Karoq north to meet snapper Stan Papior at Inverness airport, and by the time we reach the Seaview Hotel at John O’Groats, the TV forecasters are standing next to maps covered in huge arrows and warning of an approaching Arctic front. The wind is already topping the gale scale, blowing hard enough to make it hard to stand upright.

    Things have changed since I was last here, in 2007. Back then, I did the same trip in my long-term test car at the time, a Citroën C6, to demonstrate its journey-shrinking abilities, and John O’Groats’ ‘end of the world’ vibe felt as much post-apocalyptic as geographic, the village’s eponymous hotel shuttered and seemingly at risk of collapse.

    Now it’s restored and surrounded by luxury chalets, the cafés and gift shops doing a respectable trade even on a bleak Thursday. The increasing popularity of the North Coast 500 has brought many more travellers during the summer – and a fair crop of supercars, to judge from the pictures in some of the businesses. There’s even a Starbucks franchise, where we kill a couple of hours waiting for the sun to set and watching the wind whip the North Sea.

    Sunset is an anti-climax, with no discernible difference in the gloomy greyness as 4:34pm rolls around and – somewhere far behind the clouds – the sun dips below the horizon. The sat-nav reckons there are 839 miles ahead of us and the Karoq’s trip computer claims a 500-mile fuel range. As we set off, it starts to rain almost horizontally.

    The drive to Inverness is more of a trundle than a sprint, the A9 following the rugged shape and swoopy contours of the coastline for the first hour or so. It’s spectacular, and twilight offers some good views of cliffs and moorland, but it’s definitely not fast. Skoda has wisely chosen to fit our Karoq with Bridgestone Turanza winter tyres, which are quick to indicate their lack of enthusiasm for higher speedson the twistier sections.

    It’s cold and slippery out there and a nearly new Ford Transit, embedded in a fence, serves as a salutary lesson about the treacherous conditions.

    After twilight, the arrival of darkness reduces distractions, with the most noticeable being the sight of oil rigs far out to sea, brilliantly illuminated and with flare stacks blazing orange. Things are picking up in the North Sea to judge from the number of them, both at work and towering over the small town of Invergordon, where they come for repair and refurbishment.

    Although the Karoq isn’t mad on corners, it’s pretty good at straights, and capable of the sort of rapid but sensible pace necessary to keep on schedule in conditions like these. The long journey north to our official starting point has already proved it to be a fine long-legged cruiser, and although the 147bhp version of the familiar 2.0-litre TDI diesel doesn’t deliver scintillating thrust, it does have the doughty low-down torque that makes for relaxed progress. The manual gearbox is good, too, with a pleasingly precise shift action. The Volkswagen Group’s ability to stir its MQB porridge pot into different flavours continues to impress, the Skoda’s dynamic demeanour feeling bigger and more grown-up than its mechanically near-identical VW T-Roc and Seat Ateca cousins.

    Travelling by night was meant to cut down on traffic but we encounter a five-minute queue for roadworks hat have reduced the bridge over the Cromarty Firth to a single lane.

    Progress stays slow and sticky until e pass Inverness, just a couple of minutes adrift of our bogey time, but ith the rain turning to snow.

    At first, the flurries of flakes barely other the Karoq’s wipers and the oad stays reassuringly black. But as the A9 begins its steady climb owards Slochd summit, the fall gets eavier and starts to stick. Even withthe Karoq’s four-wheel drive and winter tyres, the occasional stretches of passing lane are soon too white for prudent use and it’s not long before e’re grinding up the grade in a long line of cars and lorries, following distant gritting truck and with he speedo needle pointing at just 5mph. The sat-nav’s ETA starts to lip backwards, soon beyond the :19am at which first light is due to rrive in the far west of Cornwall.

    Not that Highlanders let a little eather stop them. The snow stops falling before we reach Aviemore, and although there’s a decent amount n the ground, the well-gritted road is soon clear again. My instinct iso try to claw back some of the lost ime, but it needs to be fought hard:the entire length of the A9 is now policed by average-speed cameras, past Perth and all the way to the M9. For the next couple of hours, speed management means little more than knocking the cruise control up and down to take account of the different limits. This, I reckon, is the future.

    Joining the motorway network just south of Dunblane feels like liberation with the promise that it will carry us the 450 miles to Exeter. But the Google Maps navigation, which is running as back-up, now causes alarm, reckoning we’ll reach Land’s End one hour later than the time predicted by the Karoq’s own system. Zooming out reveals no obvious red patches: does it know something we don’t?

    Crossing the English border just six hours after setting off means we’re ahead of schedule again, and with enough margin to switch to a two-stop strategy. The original plan had been to stop once, but a splash and dash at Southwaite also offers the prospect of a stretch and a fresh coffee. The services deliver on the walk and visit to the gents, but not the much needed Americano, with the Costa franchise closed for stocktaking. Energy drinks will have to do.

    Midnight arrives just before Preston does and the radio news reports that we’ve officially entered Groundhog Day. It certainly feels that way, the motorway schlep sharing much of the déjà vu of the Bill Murray comedy. Place names change and the mileage on signs counts downwards but, for the most part, the M6 might as well be the repeating background in an old-fashioned cartoon. Another problem with choosing February is soon evident: the numerous sets of roadworks that have sprung up as, I presume, budgets are spent before the end of the financial year. There are five temporary worksites between Preston and Birmingham, most of which reduce the motorway to a single lane, plus a grindingly long stretch of camera-enforced 50mph zone.

    Brum brings some modest excitement, and confirmation of Google’s omnipotence in spotting a snarl-up: the first bit of the M5 is closed, as is the obvious diversion along the M6, two facts the normally shouty motorway matrix signs remain silent about until we’re practically in the queue. We turn to Waze navigation, which reroutes us on an anthropologically interesting tour of West Bromwich, where many people are still heading home. By the time we rejoin the M5 a couple of junctions down, all available navigation systems now agree we’ll reach Land’s End well before 7am.

    As traffic levels drop and smart motorway gives way to old-fashioned dumb motorway, so cruising speeds rise. There’s a fair amount of road roar in the Karoq’s cabin at higher velocities, although it’s nothing the audio system can’t make itself heard over. When we get bored of podcasts, discussion turns to speculation on what would be the fastest way to complete the journey we’re on, with closed roads and a free choice of car. I reckon a Bentley Continental GT could do the one-way trip in less than seven hours with enough refuelling tankers and a brave driver.

    We make our second fuel stop at Taunton and - mercifully - find that the Costa is open and serving, even at 2:30am. By the time we turn onto the A30 at Exeter, there’s a sense of entering the home stretch, and as the road gets steeper and twistier, the Karoq even gets to experience some steering input again. We’ve entered the truck zone, with many more lorries than cars lumbering west. For the most part, they keep outof our way. The Skoda’s seats deserve particular praise as the clock ticks past 12 hours. There are aches but vastly fewer than there would be sitting in most other cars.

    The last stretch is like the first: frustratingly slow. Dual carriageway runs out at Camborne and the final leg from Penzance to Sennen is positively twisty. We arrive at Land’s End to a complete absence of cheering crowds and with more than an hour to spare – long enough for a snooze in the corner of the car park before the sky starts to lighten. Like John O’ Groats, it feels like a place that’s accidentally famous for no especially good reason, with spectacular sea views but shuttered retailers dedicated to lightening tourist pockets. Everything is closed, not just until later in the morning but rather until spring arrives. The sun’s light has covered 24,000 miles in the time it has taken us to do 900, but it feels like a victory.

    WAITING FOR THE SUN:

    We set off at the exact moment the sun set at John O’Groats on 1 February: 4:34pm, with first light due to hit Land’s End at 7:19am the following day. Despite the roadworks, we made it with an hour to spare.

    THERE AND BACK IN A DAY:

    Although I wouldn’t claim to be a LEJOG veteran, this is the fourth time I’ve made the trip, but the first run north to south. The Citroën C6 journey in 2007 was run to a far gentler pace over three days. But my first outing, in 1997, was much more frantic. My friend John Dalton wanted to see if it was possible to compress the trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats and then back again into the space of one calendar day using his trusty MG Maestro. I rode along as company, ballast and witness.

    We left Land’s End at the stroke of midnight and made such good time on our journey north that we reached John O’Groats by late morning, the rapidity of our progress helped by the absence of speed cameras and the Maestro’s anonymity. The return journey was more fraught. Heavy traffic around Birmingham seemed to blow our chances but Dalton’s rally- honed skills were sufficient to get us back to Land’s End at 11:47pm on the same day. The Maestro, which had already covered well over 100,000 miles, didn’t miss a beat.

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  • Audi RS4 Avant Friday 23rd February 2018
    Audi RS4 Avant Rapid, sure-footed, practical, comfortable, classy: can the new RS4 Avant really be all these things? Rabidly quick estate cars seem to stoke the imagination of us enthusiasts in a manner few other vehicle types can. There’s something wonderfully improbable about genuine usability combined with performance that, out in the real world, would often do for more purpose-built machinery. Not many of us actually buy quick estate cars, of course, and in that sense, they’re a bit like supercars. This is truer of the RS4 Avant than most. In fact, in the realm of online publishing, it’s not unusual for Audi’s mid-sized hammer-wagon to garner a similar level of attention to that you’d expect of, say, a new McLaren. Audi’s formula has history on its side too. It began with the RS2 of 1994 – developed with Porsche, fantastically quick and, for its time, fabulous to drive – and led to the curvaceous form of the V6-engined B5-generation RS4 of the millennium. Quattro GmbH – now known as Audi Sport – then gave us the B7 version, which graduated to naturally aspirated V8 power and boasted a chassis of such finesse that you’d think it would be wasted on an estate car – except it wasn’t.The most recent RS4 was also the most conservative in its styling and a little way from regurgitating the dynamic prowess of its forebear but was still a well-conceived machine. All of which nicely sets the scene for this new one.Aggressive, isn’t it? By the numbers, the B9-generation RS4 is also a mighty thing. Fuel economy is improved by a fifth and CO2 emissions have fallen by a quarter. Shaving 80kg from the kerb weight (the first time a new RS4 has trimmed down) has also helped to take more than half a second from the 0-60mph time, and the twin-turbo V6 delivers almost half as much torque again as the engine it replaces.With 275-section tyres at each corner, this new car puts down a vast amount of rubber and yet rolling refinement will need to have improved. Being an RS4, its aesthetics are also tasked with generating a buzz befitting of a £60,000 car and yet mustn’t attract the wrong kind of attention. So can it possibly fulfil all of these tasks and still reward the person behind the wheel when the moment arises?
  • Q&A: Seat boss Luca De Meo on the future of Cupra Friday 23rd February 2018
    Luca de Meo
    Luca de Meo heads Seat and its new Cupra brand
    Seat's SEO explains why the firm has turned Cupra into a standalone brand

    Since taking the top job at Seat in November 2015, Luca de Meo has seen the Volkswagen Group brand's sales grow, thanks to the popularity of the Ateca and Arona SUVs and the latest generation Ibiza.

    But now de Meo has taken one of his boldest moves yet, turning Seat's Cupra performance badge into a full standalone marque. Starting with the 296bhp Cupra Ateca, the new brand will launch seven Cupra models in the next three years. Speaking at the launch event for Cupra, de Meo explained the reasons for the move, and his plans for the brand.

    Why launch Cupra as a standalone brand?

    “The first reason is that we’ve seen from experience and data that Cupra models do very well in some markets. In Germany, for example, Cupra models make up 10-15% of the [Seat] market share, so we can push for differing sensibilities for such products.

    “Also, Seat has put a focus on growing and gaining credibility, but in some markets there is still some rejection of the Seat brand from people who are, let's say, image sensitive. This we can fix, but we need time. Cupra is starting from scratch with something new. We start from a green field, and maybe with that we can attract customers that in other cases might not buy a Seat. Selling those kind of cars for us is much more profitable. This allows us to increase the conquest of the brand.”

    296bhp Cupra Ateca revealed as first car from Seat performance brand

    Will there be standalone Cupra models?

    “Our decision is to work on variants [of Seat models], but I don’t want to unveil too much of our future product plan, because we are not in a hurry to tell you the full story, and it will take years to get to the level we want. The main stream of our thinking is to use the base we have with Seat models and develop them, and make every generation each time more extreme, sophisticated and different.

    “When we are able to have that kind of platform there may be some projects that would be unfeasible on the Seat brand that might find a justification from a financial point of view because we have achieved a certain price point. Our ambition is to do something that authentically expresses our vision of what Cupra should be. We have a few things in the drawer, but for the time being our decision is to work on variants.”

    Opinion: Why Cupra split from Seat

    Will Cupra be separate from Seat?

    "My assumption is that this thing will stay in the world of Seat. It’s kind of an elite team that works on expressing the best of what we can, but the whole thing will be part of our organization. If this team is able to get to the next level that will have an influence on all of Seat. It’s a cultural effect.”

    Cupra could get electric powertrain tech before Seat

    What is the positioning of Cupra in the market?

    “We see the pricing for Cupra models falling between volume and premium. We still want to be a value for money proposition. There is no car like the Ateca Cupra in the market at the moment.”

    How does this move change what Cupra is?

    "Today, Cupra is a badge for car enthusiasts, and we've sold over 60,000 units in 40 countries in the past 20 years. But the decision to launch Cupra as a standalone brand is not just a business decision or an engineering move: this is a delcaration of love for motoring, in a society that has become unfriendly to the sector."

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  • UK's first 150kW EV rapid chargers to be installed this year Friday 23rd February 2018
    Charger UK
    Chargers have become a hot topic in Britain as plug-in sales rise
    Pod Point CEO says new chargers arrive on the “cusp of an EV revolution”; current rapid chargers are rated 50kW and Tesla Superchargers 120kW

    Installation of the UK’s first 150kW electric vehicle rapid chargers will begin in this half of 2018, the CEO of Pod Point has told Autocar.

    The brand’s new chargers will have the highest EV plug power in Britain. Erik Fairbairn, who founded the London-based charger company in 2009, said this will allow them to provide significantly faster charge times than the UK’s current network of 50kW plugs.

    This will enable the latest EV models, such as the Jaguar I-Pace, Audi E-tron and Volkswagen ID, to achieve their headline charge times.

    “We’re bringing this to market as the UK is on the cusp of an electric revolution,” said Fairbairn. “We’re about to see a lot more EVs go on sale, so bringing the 150kW charger out now is a logical next step for us.”

    The plug-in car segment soared by 34.8% last year, representing 4.7% of the new car market with 119,000 examples registered.

    The I-Pace, which is due on roads in July, is claimed to be capable of charging its 90kWh lithium ion battery pack to 80% in just 45min. With the UK's current 50kW rapid chargers, it would need around 90min.

    Everything you wanted to know about electric cars

    Fairbairn said Pod Point’s new 150kW chargers won’t risk overloading the UK’s electricity infrastructure, despite concerns that more powerful plugs could cause power shortages in some areas.

    Tesla's Superchargers are capable of dispensing 145kW, but current Tesla models can only accept up to 120kW.

    “The reality, in my view, is that a lot of the grid problems have been overstated,” Fairbairn said. “I admit there is a challenge, but much of it can be overcome with smart charging.”

    Fairbairn said that places with multiple 150kW chargers would be able to manage the flow of power to each car in order to “charge each one before the owner returns” without overloading the local network.

    “We installed 67 chargers this week in one place of work's car park,” he explained. “Of course, it couldn’t power all 67 flat out at once, but we can sequence and control the charge of them so they’re all charged intelligently.”

    Britain needs smart EV chargers to prevent overloading the grid

    While such technology may seem complicated, Fairbairn said that the latest systems aren’t much harder to roll out than previous ones. “To make a 150kW charger is not mind-blowingly more difficult than to make a 50kW one," he said, "because you’re effectively just putting more things in parallel”.

    As such, Fairbairn expects Pod Point’s first 150kW chargers to be installed in the UK “in about three months”. From this time, the company will also allow 50kW chargers to be installed with 150kW transformers in order to futureproof them, thus avoiding high infrastructure upgrade costs in the future.

    Fairbairn thinks 350kW chargers, like the ones currently being rolled out in Germany, Norway and Austria, could be added to Britain’s network in small numbers in as little as 18 months.

    Chargemaster, another British charger company, is also working on 150kW chargers. A spokesman said that they’re in the “development pipeline”, so could be installed in Britain in 2019.

    The Government is contributing to the expansion of the UK's charger network as well, having established an On-street Residential Charging Scheme that can be used to pay for 75% of charger installation costs. Just five UK councils have dipped into the pot of available money so far, however. The Chargepoint spokesman pointed out that councils may be unable to provide even 25% of money towards new chargers due to the Government’s ongoing austerity measures.

    National Grid, which controls the UK's electricity network, recently pitched a network of 50 EV charging stations with a capacity of up to 350kW across England and Wales, as well as a similar network in Scotland.

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  • Video: Ferrari GTC4 Lusso T review - living with Ferrari's everyday supercar Friday 23rd February 2018
    Video: Ferrari GTC4 Lusso T review - living with Ferrari's everyday supercar Ferrari's most practical car has four-seats, a breadvan-style body and a reasonable boot. How usable does that make it?

    Can you really call a £200,000 V8 like the Ferrari GTC4 Lusso T an everyday, entry-level car? Whatever, we're going to do it anyway: the GTC4 Lusso is Ferrari's most usable car, after all.

    It has four-seats, breadvan-style bodywork with a reasonable boot beneath it - it even has split-fold rear seats.

    The original variant had four-wheel drive and a V12 engine, but Ferrari has since introduced this turbocharged 3.9-litre V8 model at the 'bottom' of the range. It's rear-drive only, but still has in excess of 600bhp and a price you can take to well in excess of a quarter of a million pounds with some deftly judged options.

    Just how usable is this car, then? Sure, it'll look dramatic and go very fast (0-62mph in 3.5sec) in the right conditions, but what if you choose crummy roads in crummy conditions in the middle of a crummy English winter? It says GT in the name: can it GT in real life?

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  • BMW to produce Mini electric car in China for domestic market Friday 23rd February 2018
    BMW to produce Mini EV in China for local market A new joint venture with Great Wall Motor will oversee production of the Mini brand’s first EV for Chinese market; Oxford plant to meet rest of demand

    BMW has announced that a new Chinese joint venture with Great Wall Motor will oversee the production of Mini’s first electric model, which is due in 2019, for the Chinese market.

    Manufacturing of the EV will run alongside Mini’s production efforts in Oxford, where the EV will also be made.

    Production at BMW's existing joint venture in China, BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA), already caters for BMW demand in the domestic market. 

    BMW sold 560,000 cars in China last year, while 35,000 Minis found homes across the same timespan. BMW Germany built 1.15million cars in 2017.

    So far, the plans for the new joint venture are only at the stage of a letter of intent, but BMW has alluded to more electric Mini models on the way, which would also be made by Great Wall.

    The Mini Electric was demonstrated by a concept revealed last year, and first prototypes have since been spotted testing ahead of a 2019 launch. The production model will be toned down from the concept, with the highly stylised bodywork and yellow flashes on the exterior likely being diluted. 

    BMW already has three facilities in China under BBA - two production plants and a battery factory in Shenyang. Alongside the Mini EV production announcement, these are getting a boost in investment.

    During the early stages of the Brexit process, BMW executives issued warnings about the future of Mini’s Oxford plant, which currently deals with demand for Minis in more than 110 markets.

    A Mini spokesman told Autocar: "This announcement does not put into question Mini's commitment to our UK facilities, as demonstrated by our recent investment decisions, which include building the first electric Mini at Oxford."

    The spokesman couldn't elaborate on the brand's plans following the first EV, however.

     

    Read more

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  • Renault shared mobility concept seen ahead of Geneva show Friday 23rd February 2018
    Renault shared mobility concept due at Geneva motor show
    Image credit: Cochespias
    New autonomous pod was spotted in Barcelona; it’s expected to come as part of a ride-hailing service

    Renault will reveal a new shared mobility concept at the Geneva motor show, and pictures of it taken on the streets of Barcelona show how it will look.

    Images posted onto the Cochespias web forum show that the car will come in the form of an autonomous pod. It appears lower than concepts produced by rivals, such as the boxy Volkswagen Sedric, and features a large glass section in the middle.

    Renault said the vehicle illustrates “its vision for shared urban mobility”. The brand said that it's “passionate about making life easier for customers”, suggesting the model has been developed to become part of a ride-hailing system or public transport network.

    Details of the powertrain have not yet been disclosed, but the pod was seen being controlled by a remote control, suggesting it's an autonomous electric vehicle. The images show what looks to be an open-plan interior with no steering wheel.

    Renault’s research into autonomous technology was demonstrated with its Symbioz concept (which Autocar has sampled) last year. The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is investing £8.9 billion in electric and autonomous cars as part of plans to bring 40 autonomous-capable cars and robo-vehicles to market by 2022.

    Alongside its new pod concept, Renault will show an updated Zoe in Geneva. The electric hatchback has received a new R110 motor that ups its power to 107bhp, a 16bhp boost over the current R90, yet has no impact on the car's 250-mile NEDC range.

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  • McLaren Senna: exclusive new pictures of 789bhp hypercar testing Friday 23rd February 2018
    McLaren Senna: exclusive new pictures of 789bhp hypercar testing
    McLaren has been caught testing its Senna on the open road
    £750,000 Ultimate Series model weighs 1198kg dry and will produce 660bhp per tonne

    New exclusive pictures of the McLaren Senna show the 789bhp track-focused hypercar on the move in closer detail than before.

    The model, which made a surprise dynamic debut during the launch of the new McLaren Composite Technology Centre in Sheffield earlier this month, arrives five years on from McLaren's rule-breaking P1 hypercar and is being tested on the open road before its final settings are signed off.

    The Senna is the second member of McLaren's range-topping Ultimate Series, an “ultimate road-legal track car”, and gets the name of the grand prix team’s greatest champion, Ayrton Senna.

    Full technical rundown of McLaren's 789bhp Senna

    Revealed at an exclusive launch in London in January, the £750,000 McLaren Senna is the first model from Woking to have styling described by its creators as “brutal” and “unforgiving”.

    The car’s unique looks result largely from the extreme active aerodynamics that sprout from its basic teardrop shape: a huge rear wing and front splitter (both with active elements) plus straight flanks, exotically shaped wheel arches, air-gulping scoops and inlets, and more subtle air dams and strakes.

    McLaren's Andy Palmer on the new Senna hypercar

    According to Ultimate Series vehicle line boss Andy Palmer, the Senna’s engineering and design team spent two years adapting McLaren’s now familiar recipe of carbonfibre chassis and panels, compact, mid-mounted twin-turbo V8, race-bred interconnected suspension and electrohydraulic power steering to create the most extreme McLaren since the company’s modern era began in 2010.

    Opinion: Is McLaren readying the Senna for Le Mans?

    The result is a car with the unprecedentedly low dry weight of 1198kg (undercutting the already light 720S by 220kg). Throw in a 9% power hike for the 4.0-litre engine and the Senna has an eyewatering power-to-weight ratio of 660bhp per tonne. It is not surprising that the factory claims it’ll turn in the quickest lap times of any production McLaren yet.

    McLaren has just confirmed the car's straight-line performance figures - you can get a full rundown of them here - but the key ones are this: 0-62mph in 2.8sec and a top speed of 211mph.

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    Palmer is at pains to point out that, despite the spectacular performance, the Senna is not a direct P1 successor.

    Unlike other McLarens, which claim a breadth of capability, the Senna focuses squarely on lap times, offering “the purest connection yet between driver and car of any road-legal McLaren”. Besides, whereas the P1 was a hybrid (as half of McLaren’s production cars will be by 2022), the Senna is a solely fossil-fuelled car whose lack of electrification is one reason for its amazingly low weight.

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    Day-to-day practicality also goes onto the back burner in the Senna. A 720S has decent luggage space and cabin storage, for instance, but this track-day special has deliberately very little. A new roll-over structure behind the driver leaves room, according to Palmer, for only “two helmets, two driving suits and possibly a packet of sandwiches”.

    The use of the Senna name is underpinned by the continuing presence at Woking of Bruno Senna, Ayrton’s nephew and a former Formula 1 racer in his own right, as a McLaren Automotive driver and ambassador.

    “This is the first project that really connects with Ayrton’s racing spirit and performance,” said Senna. “The McLaren Senna honours my uncle because it is so utterly dedicated to allowing its drivers to be the best they can possibly be.”

    The Senna’s core component is a developed version of the 720S’s carbonfibre chassis, now called Monocage III and claimed to be the strongest chassis yet used in a McLaren road car. It still has an aluminium front subframe to carry the car’s front suspension and deformable crash structure, but the rear bulkhead is now formed mostly in carbon fibre, a measure that saves an impressive 18kg.

    There is weight saving all over the car as a result of fanatical attention to detail, including reductions in weighty equipment of a kind the keenest drivers don’t need and improvements in technology – such as a patented new-spec carbon fibre recipe that cuts the weight of the Senna’s front wing from 2.2kg to just 650g, with no significant loss of durability.

    The engine sits in the new, lowered position of the 720S, but a redesign of its plenum chamber allows a lowering of the rear deck by another 18mm and saves more weight.

    There are no switches on the Senna’s doors, which are similar in size to a 720S’s but have only half-sized lowering glass panes (which both reduce complication and allude usefully to the McLaren F1). In their lightest form, the doors weigh just 8.8kg, less than half those of a 720S.

    Active aerodynamic addenda dominate the Senna and McLaren engineers claim “groundbreaking” downforce and stability for their carefully coordinated package. There’s a very prominent pylonmounted rear wing that adjusts around 20deg, according to driving mode, providing high-speed downforce, braking drag and a “DRS mode” for when the car is going fast in a straight line.

    Smaller but extremely efficient blades in the front air scoops, just above the front splitter, move automatically to balance aero downforce, front to rear, including when the car is cornering.

    On the rear deck, prominent Gurney flaps ahead of a line of louvres create a low-pressure area that draws hot air from the radiators and engine bay. An exotic looking four-outlet ‘slash-cut’ exhaust is carefully positioned on the car’s sloping rear deck, below the rear wing but above the diffuser to cause minimum interference.

    The Senna also has ultralight seats and many ancillary controls are now grouped in a roof console between the occupants. The interior, painstakingly simplified and shorn of excessive weight, is unashamedly designed entirely to suit the driver (who can be fitted precisely to a new car at the factory). For a while, McLaren even considered leaving out the passenger’s seat as a weight-saving measure but decided many owners would prefer to drive on the track with a passenger.

    The suspension is a developed version of the P1’s all-independent, doublewishbone layout, with specially tuned dampers that are hydraulically interconnected (both front-to-rear and side-to-side), plus another hydraulic system that functions as an anti-roll bar. The entire set-up is governed by an electronic gizmo called RaceActive Chassis Control II (RCC II) that incorporates an automatic stiffness control called K-damper. The whole lot will adapt automatically to road conditions but can also be configured manually (along with engine and gearbox behaviour) from an Active Dynamics Panel on the centre console that offers Comfort, Sport and Track modes. A Race mode can be selected via the overhead panel.

    This hardest-edged road McLaren yet will make its public debut at the Geneva motor show in March and enter production next summer. The first cars from the hand-built batch of 500 will reach their owners before the end of 2018. If you don’t have a confirmed order, says McLaren, you’re already too late. The last car in the production run was auctioned at an event for customers, where the car was revealed in the metal. It sold for £2m with the money raised donated to the Senna Foundation. This last car will reach its owner within a year.

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  • Suzuki Ignis suspension upgraded to enhance ride quality Friday 23rd February 2018
    Suzuki Ignis suspension changes added to enhance ride quality
    Suzuki has tweaked its Ignis with new suspension components
    Dinky SUV-styled hatchback is said to be smoother over bumps when fully loaded thanks to new components

    Suzuki has upgraded the suspension of its Ignis in a bid to improve ride quality, following feedback from Autocar's review and long-term tests.

    Autocar has been running an Ignis on its fleet since June 2017, in which time our tests have found the car to be under-damped in certain scenarios. Autocar's road testers have claimed the suspension, which uses MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear, “quickly runs out of travel” when there are passengers in the back seats.

    Suzuki has now responded to these comments by fitting the car with new front and rear shock absorbers and different bump stops. It claims these changes make the car's ride more compliant, particularly over uneven surfaces.

    The upgrades have been applied to series-production Allgrip four-wheel drive models since the end of 2017 and are available as a retrofit for owners of older models.

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    The updates have had no impact on the Ignis's entry-level price of £11,499. The car comes with a choice of just one engine, a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre four-cylinder with 89bhp, although a mild hybrid version (badged SHVS) is available.

    The Ignis is one of Suzuki’s best-sellers in Europe; 41,166 units were shifted last year, representing a significant 17% of Suzuki’s total volume in the region.

    The car was launched in the final quarter of 2016 and is a rival to baby SUVs such as the Fiat Panda 4x4 and Renault Captur.

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  • Toyota Aygo update brings more power and improved refinement Friday 23rd February 2018
    Updated Hyundai i10 rival will be on show at Geneva and arrive in Britain this summer
    Toyota has updated its Aygo city car for 2018
    Updated Hyundai i10-rivalling city car will be on show at Geneva motor show and go on sale in Britain this summer

    Toyota will launch an upgraded Aygo city car that offers more power and improved refinement at the Geneva motor show next month.

    Due on UK roads this summer, the Hyundai i10 rival, which has been on sale since 2014, now produces 71bhp and 69lb ft from its 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine – a 2bhp gain and an unchanged torque output.

    The small boost enables a 0-62mph time of 13.8sec and a top speed of 100mph, improvements of 0.4sec and 1mph respectively.

    There are also improvements to fuel economy, raising the Aygo’s 68.9mpg combined figure to 72.4mpg. Toyota says there are has also been a reduction to the car’s 95g/km CO2 output, although it is yet to finalise the exact figure.

    A new fuel injector system, higher compression ratio and lower friction engine components are labelled as the key features enabling the improvements. The Aygo also now has a cooled gas recirculation system to improve efficiency and a more effective balancer shaft to reduce vibration.

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    Alongside the powertrain improvements, Toyota’s engineers have tweaked the Aygo’s suspension and steering settings to sharpen its responses. Although exact details are currently unconfirmed, it suggests the steering rack may be slightly faster.

    In addition, the 2018 car has thicker soundproofing that Toyota says enables a marked reduction in noise, vibration and harshness at all engine speeds.

    Minor changes have also been made to the Aygo's styling, with the distinctive X-shaped nose now colour-coded with the rest of the body. There are new LED lights, too.

    Buyers get a choice of more colours and wheel designs, while inside there's a higher-definition instrument cluster screen and new interior trim options. UK specifications for these will be confirmed closer to the car’s on-sale date, which will likely be in June.

    The Aygo is one of Toyota’s best-selling cars in Europe, with 85,000 examples having found homes in the past four years. It represents 6.6% of the A-segment market, which also features the likes of the Volkswagen Up and Peugeot 108.

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  • 2019 Porsche 911 992 previewed ahead of 2018 reveal Friday 23rd February 2018
    2019 Porsche 911 992 previewed ahead of 2018 reveal Next 911 will be first available with hybrid powertrain, but Turbo models will retain combustion engines; will be “the best 911 of all time” says model director August Achleitner

    The 2019 Porsche 911, codenamed 992, has been shown in disguise by the company ahead of a reveal later this year. 

    As expected, the 992-generation 911 will be an evolution over the current model in terms of styling, although under-the-skin updates will be more thorough as the car enters its eighth generation. 

    911 model director August Achleitner didn’t say exactly which autonomous features the car would have, but hinted that it would be more advanced than before, adding that the driver will always be the focus of the model: “a 911 will always have a steering wheel,” adding that “the 911 will be one of the last cars to drive autonomously.”

    Lane keep assist, the system which inputs small movements in the steering wheel to keep the car in the middle of the lane, is expected to make it into the new car - it’s currently not available on the 911. The driver will be able to switch off the assistance systems too, says Achleitner: “Those are convenient and useful things. But the customer has to make the choice to use them and, above all, be able to switch them off when they’re not desired.”

    The car will not be a full-electric model, said  Achleitner, although the approach of a full-EV 911 is ever closer: “Two years ago I’d have said no way. Today I wouldn’t categorically rule it out.”

    Just days before the official preview, the car's new rear design was shown long before it is officially revealed thanks to a leaked image. 

    A single image of the new model's back end was posted to Instagram but has since been removed. The image captures the new rear light bar, raised rear engine cover and vertical vent slats. Porsche UK made no comment when Autocar asked about the image's authenticity, but the similarity in design and shape to spotted development cars suggests it is indeed genuine. 

    When it arrives, the next-generation 911 range will be led by a 630bhp Turbo S. As shown by our spy pictures, the entire line-up will receive a more muscular look that takes influence from the iconic design of Speedster models from yesteryear.

    The Turbo and Turbo S models will remain the most aggressive, with wide rear arches and a fixed rear wing signalling their potent performance (more on that later).

    Much of their added muscle comes from the next-gen 911's haunched back, which resembles that of 2011's 997 Speedster (itself a model influenced by the original 356 Speedster from 1954).

    The raised rear is likely to be a design feature rather than a technical requirement to fit a hybrid powertrain. Although the 992-generation 911 will be the first to be offered with hybrid technology, Autocar understands that this change will have no noticeable impact on the car's exterior design. 

    Engines and power outputs

    The future 911 range, including the GT3, will exclusively use turbocharged six-cylinder engines, marking the end of naturally aspirated units for the line-up.

    The GT3 will deliver more than 500bhp, while the standard models are set to get an extra 10-15bhp over today’s Carrera and Carrera S. The current Carrera and Carrera S deliver 364bhp and 414bhp respectively, so the 992-generation 911 will produce 375-429bhp.

    The hybrid 911 model will be introduced in 2020. It will run the flat-six with an electric motor, providing limited all-electric and performance-boosting functions.

    The electrified powertrain has provided engineers with a packaging challenge, but product line director Erhard Mössle, now retired, previously told Autocar that "CO2 regulations in 2020" have spurred on the hybrid model's development.

    The range-topping Turbo S will be powered by a ramped-up version of the current car's 3.8-litre flat-six to become a genuine threat to the Ferrari 488 GTB. Porsche engineers have decided against including hybrid technology on the variant in a bid to save weight.

    The future flagship model will borrow engine hardware from the GT2 RS to ensure that its output jumps by 50bhp to 630bhp compared with today's Turbo S - edging it to within 30bhp of the 488 GTB.

    The regular Turbo model that sits beneath the Turbo S is predicted to have 592bhp, which is 61bhp more than today's 991 version. Both the Turbo and Turbo S will be capable of more than 200mph.

    Performance will, therefore, be scintillating. The current Turbo S's 0-62mph time of 2.9sec is expected to be beaten, while the new Turbo will duck beneath the three-second mark for the first time. Of the Porsche cars in production after the 992's launch, only the electric Mission E will be quicker off the line - although it won't join the family until 2020.

    Evolved chassis

    The 992 911, which is the eighth generation of the sports car, will be built around an evolved MMB structure with a wider footprint than the current 991-gen range. The photographed test car above (spotted last year) wore wheel arch extensions - evidence of a wider track that will give the 992 improved high-speed stability and better space for rear passengers. The car's length will remain unchanged.

    Modular design will enable the structure's use for next-generation versions of the Boxster and Cayman, while it could also influence the design and engineering of future Audi R8 and Lamborghini Huracán models. The updated structure will make more extensive use of high-strength steel and aluminium in order to cut weight.

    Visible on the photographed cars is a full-width retractable rear wing. This will come as part of several active aerodynamic parts tasked with enhancing stability with downforce when additional grip is required. An active front spoiler is also a possibility, although this hasn't been seen on test cars so far.

    Interior and dashboard

    The latest Cayenne and Panamera offer the biggest clues as to what the 992 911's dashboard design will be like. Spotted development cars have featured a central rev counter that's flanked by two digital screens, located in a cluster that curves around the centre console touchscreen.

    The technology mimics the wraparound design of Volkswagen Group stablemate Audi's Virtual Cockpit but keeps a more traditional layout, with revs remaining the main focus.

    Like its forebears, the 992 911 will also be produced in Targa form, although this isn't expected to arrive until later.

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  • Do we really want more smart motorways? Friday 23rd February 2018
    Hoarding
    Do you most value your space or the odds and ends that fill it?
    This week, Matt Prior discusses the phenomenon of hoarding and the usefulness of smart motorways

    Does it spark joy? That is, apparently, the question, according to one of these self-help schemes/books/videos/courses, and is the fundamental proposition behind a way of decluttering your life, and making yourself happier, so somebody told me the other day.

    And as daffodils are coming out, and it’s very nearly spring, it feels to me like time to start thinking about a declutter. So you get the idea of this fad: pick up an old cushion, give it a squeeze and a cuddle, decide if it brings you joy and, if not, chuck it out.

    I tried it. Got things out of cupboards and rooms, went right through the house, asked myself if they truly brought me joy and binned them if they didn’t.

    Anyway, the cat and my motorcycle and I have never been happier. Or hungrier. Please send help.

    But there was one nugget of semi-truth, I thought, in what I read about it: storage – even clever storage solutions – are, in essence, just organised hoarding, which is no good to anyone. Among readers of this publication, I might well not be alone in having a garage, shed or workshop, with one or two things in it that, perhaps, could have been thrown out a while ago but are kept ‘just in case’ they might be handy.

    Every now and again, I will let some things go, but not others which I deem might be more useful. And do you know what: just the other day I remembered an old kart frame that would have been perfect for making a frame for a PlayStation gaming seat. Had I not scrapped it four years ago.

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    So it is spring, and I am going to declutter. My advice would be thus: hoard entirely, or not at all.

    I recently wrote about how refuge areas in ‘smart motorways’ are to become more prevalent, only not just yet. The M4 as it runs between London and Reading is to be upgraded to smart motorway status soon – with cleverer overhead gantries and hard shoulder-running from time to time, but there’s no chance to put emergency breakdown areas closer than a mile-and-a-half apart without massively delaying the build. On future roads, though, this will be reduced to a mile. Good. I’d rather it was less than that. The thing about emergencies is that you don’t know when you’re going to have one.

    On the face of it, hard shoulder-running should make loads of sense. Vehicles are more reliable than ever, so why waste this space giving them something they don’t need to stop in? Dual carriageways don’t have hard shoulders, after all.

    But dual carriageways don’t tend to be as busy as motorways, and quite often they’re edged by a white line, a bit of asphalt, a bit of gravel and then some grass, making it possible to squeeze a broken down vehicleat least partly out of harm’s way. A smart motorway, edged to the left as they often are by hard Armco, doesn’t give you that chance.

    Many drivers think smart motorways feel perilous in the same way that claustrophobia can feel perilous. There is no obvious way out, no passage to safety – and that uncertainty, the lack of a plan, is not conducive to the kind of relaxed driving that we ought to be enjoying.

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  • 2019 Bentley Continental GT C to be brand’s sportiest drop-top Friday 23rd February 2018
    2019 Bentley Continental GT C to be brand’s sportiest drop-top
    Bentley will launch its sportiest convertible model next year when the Continental GT C arrives
    Porsche-developed underpinnings and new engines will make the next GT C a sharper offering

    Bentley will launch its sportiest convertible model next year when the Continental GT C arrives with the same Porsche-developed underpinnings as its hard-top alternative.

    Caught testing in the sub-zero conditions of Scandinavia, the soft-top model will use the same MSD (modular standard drivetrain) underpinnings as its sibling but swap a metal roof for folding fabric.

    The new structure, which has proved to be more agile and responsive than the old car’s Volkswagen Phaeton base in our first drive, is shared with the Panamera but has been developed to accommodate the Bentley models from the start.

    Its local stiffness is considerably higher than the old car’s base and that should bode well for the GT C, which will lose some rigidity without a roof but likely retain much of the coupé’s composure thanks to the new Continental’s clever suspension technology.

    Like the GT, the GT C will use air springs and active anti-roll bars that are powered by the car’s 48V architecture to drastically reduce body roll. The system can effectively counter lean in corners while also enhancing stability.

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    Power for the drop-top will come from a choice of two engines. The GT is currently only on sale in W12 guise, using a newly developed 626bhp turbocharged 6.0-litre engine that’s taken from the Bentayga but fine-tuned for two-door coupé use. This unit is likely to be offered at launch with the GT C too.

    But a second powertrain, a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, will be added to the GT range in the coming months, meaning it’ll be available before the GT C is revealed. That suggests the luxury convertible could arrive with both units from the off.

    Bentley’s drivetrain features a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox and power is sent to all four wheels, although there’s a rear bias in the new Continental. This trait has made the coupé more playful than its predecessors so expect the convertible to become Bentely’s sportiest yet.

    This, of course, only applies if we discount the original Blower Bentleys of the 1920s from the comparison. Those most focused machines were created to race at Le Mans, but they had no tops at all – not even folding ones – so were proper open-top machines, rather than convertibles.

    As for the arrival of Bentley’s next drop-top, a company spokesman told Autocar that “the focus for 2018 was on launching the Continental GT”, suggesting the GT C will arrive at the start of next year.

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  • New Cupra models could get electric powertrain tech before Seat cars Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Cupra sketch
    Cupra bosses showed this sketch which hints a potential future standalone model
    Seat's new sub-brand will act as a technological figurehead, with standalone and electrified models possible

    The new Cupra brand is set to serve as a technological figurehead for Seat and could be used to introduce hybrid and electrified tech into the manufacturer's range

    The only Cupra model confirmed so far is a petrol-engined Ateca, alongside a new Seat Leon Cupra R ST estate – which will maintain Seat branding along for model consistency, but will feature new Cupra copper colouring. The Cupra range will rapidly expand to feature seven models by 2020. Cupra versions of the Ibiza and Arona are likely in 2019, and the firm showed a concept sketch at its launch event that previews a possible Cupra-only model in the future.

    The expanded model range, which will include three new cars in 2020, will include alternate powertrains, with an early focus on plug-in hybrids. Seat boss Luca de Meo has hinted that the higher price of Cupra models would enable them to feature such variants, along with other cutting-edge technology, ahead of Seat-branded machines.

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    “We're in a phase where we will have to integrate a lot of technologies into the product because they are available, from engine technology to connectivity, driver assistance systems, everything,” he said. 

    “When you do it on a car supposed to be sold at, say, £11,000, it’s something, but do it on a car two to three times the price you have some space to integrate that technology. We will use Cupra as a gate to bring technology that will cascade to the rest of the Seat range.”

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    Seat’s R&D boss Matthias Rabe added: “In the future, we'll look at alternative powertrains in the Cupra division. There will be more electrification in Cupra, and we’re thinking about battery electric vehicles. We’re also looking at the digital world, both inside the car and how it connects outside it.

    “We will continue with the internal combustion engine, but we have ideas of how to get more power as well. We’re looking at the idea of electrification in a sporty way, not in a limited way like with a PHEV today.”

    Rabe said that hybrid and plug-in hybrid power will come first, stating that it'll be introduced to Cupra in the near, rather than distant, future.

    The Cupra plan according to R&D boss Matthias Rabe

    De Meo said the high cost of designing and building new cars is why Cupra's initial focus will be on producing variants of existing machines. However Seat’s marketing chief, Wayne Griffiths, said Cupra versions of future models could launch ahead of Seat versions. He also revealed that a hybrid Cupra was more likely to feature in the future line-up than a diesel version, although he refused to rule the latter out.  

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    Griffiths said: “I’m a big fan of diesel, and if you look at what Audi did with the S models, there is potential for [performance] diesel with Euro 6 and Euro 7. I wouldn’t bet on it at the moment for Cupra; I’d rather try and look at plug-in hybrids.”

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  • Is the new Cupra brand going to be a Renault Sport or Vignale? Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Cupra Ibiza concept
    The Cupra Ibiza concept could preview a future hot hatch from the brand
    Seat's new performance arm could go one of two ways; we consider its chances

    Seat has always struggled for identity within the Volkswagen family. For years it played the role of a cut-price Audi, an ill-fitting role that threatened its future after the global financial crash. From a peak of 435,000 sales in 2000, volumes fell to just 261,000 in 2012.

    R&D boss Matthias Rabe is the man responsible for much of the renaissance since then, leading a product renaissance that has seen Seat making cars with a much more compelling identity of their own, and covering a much broader part of the market. Last year the company came close to 400,000 sales again; this year it should beat its earlier record. Rabe has proved he knows the brand and he’s good at creating a product that attracts new buyers.

    Cupra Ateca revealed

    Which is why the decision to create the new Cupra division is a bit of a head-scratcher. Things might be picking up, but how does the wider Seat brand benefit from splitting off its most interesting models, the ones that presumably reflect halo on the rest of the range, into what is effectively a separate brand? The name change and insistence of selling the same basic models from separately branded showrooms means it is easy to see this as being closer to the creation of a Vignale than a Renault Sport.

    Yet there is logic present. Seat’s sales are increasing, but like Skoda its customers are being attracted by what marketing types call a compelling value proposition. Seats aren’t cheap and nasty, but they have to offer quality at a very competitive price, not least because of the internal challenge within the group. Having to sell a Leon with more kit than the equivalent VW Golf, or at a lower price, remains a limiting factor on how far the brand can stretch.

    Cupra Ibiza concept previews future Fiesta ST rival

    Cupra could be a way around that. As Rabe admits, buyers will still be looking to maximise their bang per buck – “it would be wrong to make the Cupra Leon or Cupra Ateca €1000 more expensive just because of the brand, that would not work” – but the faster end of the car market has proved that buyers will indeed pay a premium for more performance, or more capability. Cupra gives the opportunity to create limited run models and even bolt-on performance parts with the support of a dealer network; to build a fanbase that will keep coming back. If a Cupra model can spank the equivalent VW around a track will people mind if it’s more expensive? And as the first performance SUV spun from VW’s vast MQB architecture, the Cupra Ateca has plenty of clear blue water to go and play in.

    The unanswered question is what effect the loss of its most exciting variants will have on the wider Seat brand; will there be enough excitement left?

    More content:

    Bentley Bentayga review

    Porsche 911 GT3 RS revealed

  • Ferrari GTC4 Lusso T 2018 review Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Rear-drive V8 version of the former 4WD FF V12 is a quick, long-legged GT that offers things others don’t It probably doesn’t sound flattering to suggest that Ferrari’s latest four-seater, the GTC4 Lusso T, is made up of a convenient collection of pre-existing components and assemblies, given that, like every modern Ferrari, it delivers exalted performance and impressive looks. Yet it’s true: every element of this car was built in the first place for a different purpose than this one, and it seems legitimate to speculate on how the buyer – who is being asked to pay a price starting at more than £200,000 and extending beyond £250,000 if you choose the options fitted to our test car – feels about that. Most big-name supercars have a very singular provenance.In this case, the large (4.92m-long) four-seat body started life in the four-wheel-drive FF, a car created to persuade the faithful to take a Ferrari away on skiing weekends rather than the family SUV. The FF’s mighty, normally aspirated V12 is replaced in the Lusso T by a twin-turbo V8, mainly because that’s what Ferrari mostly makes now, to get the CO2 numbers down. Even the use of the Lusso name, borrowed from a couple of distinguished historic Ferrari models, looks more a matter of expediency than sentiment. Ferrari under CEO Sergio Marchionne is a more commercial enterprise than ever, and maybe this is some of the evidence.
  • Cupra Ibiza concept previews future Ford Fiesta ST rival Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Cupra Ibiza concept previews future Ford Fiesta ST rival Hot hatch concept is revealed to gauge reaction of potential customers before decision on production is made

    Cupra, the new performance arm of Seat, has unveiled a concept Ibiza model that could preview a 200bhp hot hatch rival to the new Ford Fiesta ST.

    Cupra could get electric powertrain tech before Seat

    On show at the Cupra brand's launch event, the Ibiza has been developed to gauge reaction before a decision on production is made.

    Although not confirmed, Autocar understands Seat executives are eager for the car to make it to market because of the ‘halo effect' it can have on the rest of the Ibiza line-up. R&D boss Matthias Rabe said this strategy will be used in the Cupra brand's first few years, in which it "will have derivatives" of Seat models. A pure Cupra model is possible later, however.

    Cupra Ateca revealed

    Since it'll remain very closely related to the Seat Ibiza, the Cupra Ibiza is expected to continue the trend of its Seat-badged predecessors and be twinned with the Volkswagen Polo GTI. As such, it’ll get that car’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, which produces 197bhp and 236lb ft of torque.

    A Cupra version of the Arona crossover was also shown - albeit via promotional video only - at the Ateca's launch. The Arona variant is also a concept but appears likely to make production following comments from Rabe, who said Cupra was part of Seat’s “biggest product offensive”.

    Cupra's sales and marketing boss Wayne Griffiths said that splitting from Seat was important for brand value. "In terms of positioning, it adds more to go with a separate brand," he said. "If we kept it in the Seat world, there would always be compromises. We want to take it out of the Seat world to the race track. Most firms that have sporting brands take them out of heritage, like Abarth. But we want to look to the future."

    Read more

    Cupra could get electric powertrain tech before Seat

    The Cupra plan according to R&D boss Matthias Rabe

    Why Cupra split from Seat

  • The Cupra plan according to R&D boss Matthias Rabe Thursday 22nd February 2018
    The Cupra plan according to R&D boss Matthias Rabe
    Our man Duff (left) with Cupra R&D boss Matthias Rabe
    Here’s what’s in store for Seat’s newly launched hot division

    The Cupra brand is officially here now that its first model, the Ateca, has been revealed.

    We catch up with the company’s research and development boss, Matthias Rabe, to find out what’s next for Seat's new performance division.

    What does a Cupra brand do that Seat Cupra models can’t?

    “We want to say the best from Seat comes from Cupra, a brand belonging to Seat and connected to Seat but more determined, more focused.”

    Cupra sub-brand could get latest powertrain tech before Seat

    Will we see Seat models launched as Cupras in future, with mainstream versions following?

    “Yes, probably. We are in the middle of our biggest product offensive, with many more models coming by 2020. Why not start some of those in a special Cupra style?”

    Opinion: Why Cupra split from Seat

    Will there be Cupra versions of most Seat models?

    “Not most. For the beginning, we will concentrate on Ateca and Leon. We see potential for the smaller cars but we have to look at financial feasibility… If there is room, then I would like to do it, but the smallest would be the Ibiza. Below it, offering something doesn’t make sense.

    New Cupra Ateca revealed

    Will prices increase compared with Seat Cupra models?

    “We will do everything we can to keep the competitive position. The new brand gives us more freedom to make special versions or to offer equipment we can charge more for, but it would be wrong to make the Cupra Leon or Cupra Ateca €1000 more expensive just because of the brand. That would not work.”

    More content:

    Porsche axes all diesels from current line-up

    Formula 1 2018: the cars in pictures

  • Opinion: Why Cupra split from Seat Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Opinion: Why Cupra has split from Seat
    This new hot Ateca is the first car from Cupra
    Seat’s new division will charge more for its focused models; we ask if this plan work

    Seat has bounced back in recent years.

    From a trough of 261,000 sales in 2012, the brand nearly broke 400,000 last year and there’s plenty more product in the pipeline. So is that an odd time to be, effectively, hiving off the brand’s halo models into a new division?

    Ateca Cupra revealed as first car from Seat performance brand

    Cupra sub-brand could get latest powertrain tech before Seat

    The logic behind creating a separate division for its Cupra range is that, split from Seat’s value proposition, Cupra models will be able to stretch further and find buyers willing to pay more for higher performance or more capability.

    If a Cupra Leon R can spank a VW Golf R around a circuit, will it matter that it’s more expensive? Let’s hope Cupra turns out to be a Renault Sport rather than a Vignale.

    More content:

    Cupra Ibiza: new images of Seat sub-brand hot hatch leak

    Seat Arona review

  • 296bhp Cupra Ateca revealed as first car from Seat performance brand Thursday 22nd February 2018
    296bhp Cupra Ateca revealed as first car from Seat performance brand
    Seat’s new stand-alone performance brand, Cupra, has revealed its 296bhp all-wheel-drive version of the Ateca
    Cupra starts its new role as a separate division with reworked SUV; hot Ibiza and Arona models set to follow

    Seat’s new stand-alone performance brand, Cupra, has revealed its 296bhp all-wheel-drive version of the Ateca – the first model to be launched since Seat confirmed its hot sub-brand’s new role last month.

    The car is part of a broader offensive to offer Cupra versions of some Seat models as well as, eventually, Cupra-only cars. Seat is trying to copy the example of in-house performance divisions like Renault Sport. It will launch seven models by 2020 as part of aggressive growth plans.

    Cupra could get electrified powertrain tech before Seat

    While the initial models will be reworked versions of current Seat machines, with Cupra Ibiza and Arona models likely in 2019, the firm hinted that it could introduce standalone Cupra models in the future, as part of plans to use the brand as a technological figurehead.

    Q&A: Seat boss Luca de Meo on Cupra's future

    The brand's sales and marketing boss Wayne Griffiths said that splitting from Seat was important for brand value. "In terms of positioning it adds more to go with a separate brand," he said. "If we kept it in the Seat world there would always be compromises. We want to take it out of the Seat world to the race track. Most firms that have sporting brands take them out of heritage, like Abarth. But we want to look to the future

    Opinion: Why Cupra split from Seat

    Cupra models will be based on Seats – for the foreseeable future, at least – but with significantly higher performance, more customisation options and a separate sales channel. Only about one-fifth of Seat’s dealer network will be awarded Cupra sub-franchises and models are set to be sold by specialists from Cupra-only areas.

    The Cupra plan according to R&D boss Matthias Rabe

    Autocar first reported on the plans last year, when a draft of the new logo was shown in trademark filings. Seat boss Luca de Meo later admitted that Cupra would “add another dimension” to Seat’s appeal.

    “Cupra emerged not just as a business discussion," he said. "This is a declaration of love for motoring, in a society becoming a bit unfriendly to the sector.”

    The Cupra Ateca, on sale in the autumn, is powered by a 296bhp version of the Volkswagen Group’s EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged engine although the torque peak of 295lb ft is higher than that produced by the similar engine in the Leon Cupra 300. Drive passes through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox – there are no plans for a manual version – with torque diverted rearwards when required by a part-time Haldex all-wheel drive system. Cupra claims a 5.4sec 0-62mph time and a 150mph top speed.

    Cupra Ibiza concept revealed

    Although its components are almost all familiar from other members of the VW Group’s vast MQB-platform family, the Cupra Ateca is said to have been tuned to offer a substantially different driving experience from its Seat sibling.

    The suspension height has changed only fractionally, with the Cupra sitting 20mm lower than the regular car, but spring rates have been substantially revised and suspension settings are far firmer. Adaptive dampers will be standard, allowing for a far more aggressive set-up when using the ‘Cupra’ setting, which has been added to the Ateca’s switchable driving modes.

    Cupra sub-brand could get latest powertrain tech before Seat

    The Cupra has also ditched the electronic sound symposer that normally augments engine noise in rortier MQB models. Standard brake discs will be 17in, but 18in Brembo units will be offered as an option.

    Although badges have been changed from the Seat ‘S’ to Cupra’s new triangular logo, the exterior design builds on that of the regular Ateca rather than transforming it. Bumpers are bulkier and there is a small wing at the top of the tailgate.

    The Cupra gets 19in diamond-cut alloy wheels as standard plus the option of several unique colours. There will also be external and internal carbonfibre trim packages. The interior uses lots of Alcantara and incorporates plenty of copper details – Cupra’s new corporate colour, a move away from the brasher orange with which the name was formerly associated. Other Cupra models will follow hard on the heels of this Ateca, with design concepts for Cupra versions of the Ibiza and Arona shown alongside it at the official launch. The company line is that these are to gauge reaction rather than indicate production intent and Seat’s R&D boss, Matthias Rabe, has indicated that the Leon will be the next production version.

    Rabe also confirmed that Cupra’s birth as a brand will make it easier to produce limited-run models and higher performance variants in the manner of the Leon Cupra R. No new diesel Cupras are expected, but there will be Cupras that use forthcoming mild-hybrid powertrains.

    Rabe said it’s possible there will ultimately be a Cupra-only halo model, but there are no immediate plans for one. “In the first years, you will have derivatives,” he said. “If you are talking about a very special car only for Cupra, I could imagine a sports car or a spider or something like that but, to be honest, we don’t have that on the plan. It could be an aspiration for the longer term.” Seat sold fewer than 10,000 Cupra models last year and the aim is for the stand-alone Cupra brand to double those volumes within five years – a modest ambition given what will soon be a multi-model line-up.

    At the Cupra launch event, a new Seat Leon Cupra R ST estate was shown (below). The all-wheel-drive machine is powered by a 2.0-litre 296bhp RSI engine, and sits alongside the existing Seat Leon Cupra R. For consistency, both models will retain Seat branding, although from now on they will feature a copper Seat logo and other special trim.

    Cupra to make motorsport debut with TCR

    Cupra has confirmed the Cupra TCR will be the first motorsport machine under its new brand remit. Heavily based on the 2017 Seat Leon TCR from last season, it will run in the new FIA World Touring Car Cup as well as in national-level TCR series.

    Read more 

    Q&A: Seat boss Luca de Meo on Cupra's future

    Cupra could get electrified powertrain tech before Seat

    Seat Leon review

    Seat Tarraco leaked images show new seven-seater design

  • 399bhp Land Rover Defender V8 sold out Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Land Rover Defender V8
    The 90in wheelbase model will hit 60mph from rest in just 5.6sec
    Brand's 70th birthday produced a limited-edition, re-engineered version of the off-road icon using a 5.0-litre V8

    Land Rover's re-engineered Defenders V8 model has officially sold out just one month after it was announced.

    The model was launched to celebrate the brand's 70th birthday and uses 5.0-litre V8 engine to make it the most powerful and fastest yet made.

    The 90in wheelbase model, which can hit 60mph from rest in 5.6sec, is going to be produced in just 150 examples.

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

    The Defender Works V8 produces 399bhp and 380lb ft, dwarfing the output of the discontinued standard Defender, which made just 120bhp and 266lb ft.

    Land Rover said the new car pays homage to early high-powered engines such as the Series III Stage V8 and the 50th Anniversary Edition. The Defender Works V8 is the first official V8 Defender to be launched since 1998.

    Crossing the Atlantic in a Land Rover Defender (sort of)

    The re-engineered Defenders use an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission with sport mode, along with uprated brakes, a handling kit consisting of springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, and exclusive 18in alloys with 265/65 tyres.

    Eight colours are offered, with contrasting black roof, wheel arches and grille, and machined aluminium door handles, fuel filler cap and bonnet lettering will feature.

    The interior has a leather dashboard, door panels, headlining and Recaro sports seats and use the Land Rover Classic heritage arm’s infotainment system.

    JLR Classic to restore recently discovered 1948 Land Rover launch car

    Both 90 and 110 wheelbase Defender Works V8 are to be made, with prices starting from £150,000. Land Rover said other high-performance upgrades inspired by the Defender Works V8 will be offered this year, including power upgrades for the TDCi diesel engine and fast-road suspension and braking kits.

    Jaguar Land Rover Classic director Tim Hannig said: “The idea of a V8 Defender was discussed in 2014, when we were still building the Defender. We knew demand was there for a powerful and fast Defender.”

    The Defender Works V8 begins a year of 70th anniversary celebrations for the model, culminating later this year with the unveiling of an all-new Defender.

    Jaguar Land Rover recorded its biggest annual sales volume yet last year, with 621,109 vehicles sold, a 7% increase on 2016. Jaguar’s sales increased 20% to 178,601, while Land Rover sales grew by 2% to 442,508.

    Read more:

    Land Rover Defender review 

    Mercedes-Benz G-Class review 

    Celebrating the Land Rover Defender

    Living with a Land Rover Defender

  • 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS: new official video of 513bhp supercar Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Porsche 911 GT3 RS
    NACA ducts in the bonnet are new and aid brake cooling
    Latest version of Porsche’s icon gets a raft of chassis tweaks with GT2 RS influences

    Porsche Motorsport unveiled the second generation of 911 GT3 RS to be based on the extant 991 platform this week - and now it's released a video to illustrate the car's performance and sound.

    The car, likely to be the last 991-based model to be launched before a new 911 (codenamed 992) arrives in September, is filmed at Germany's Lausitz racing circuit to emphasise its track focus.

    Available to order now at a price of £141,346, with first UK deliveries in June, the new 911 GT3 RS receives an additional 20bhp from a lightly modified version of Porsche’s race-bred 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine, increasing its power to 513bhp at 8250rpm.

    Riding in the new 911 GT3 RS with Walter Rohrl

    This is the highest power figure yet for a naturally aspirated 911 and serves to distance the new 911 GT3 RS from the standard 911 GT3, which was equipped with the same 493bhp engine as the first-generation 911 GT3 RS when it was updated last year.

    The internals of the new engine remain unchanged, the additional power coming instead from new intake and exhaust systems, coupled with changes to Porsche’s DME (Digital Motor Electronics) engine management.

    Porsche motorsport guru Andreas Preuninger confirmed to Autocar that the engine actually develops more power than is claimed and could have been homologated at 523bhp, but they decided to err on the side of caution. In racing trim, if allowed to run without air restrictors, the engine could make more than 600bhp.

    Like the previous 911 GT3 RS, the engine is mated to a seven-speed PDK double-clutch transmission and there is no option of a manual gearbox. The increase in power is claimed to shave 0.1sec from the outgoing 911 GT3 RS’s 0-62mph time, lowering it to 3.2sec, while adding 1mph to its top speed at 194mph.

    Modifications to the car’s chassis were informed by the knowledge gleaned from the GT2 RS, launched last year. The new GT3 RS has the same spring rates front and rear as its turbocharged stablemate. At the front, those spring rates amount to double that seen on either the current 911 GT3 or previous GT3 RS, and the rear spring rate has increased by 40%. Like the 911 GT2 RS, rose joints are used throughout the front and rear suspension and the rear-wheel steering system has been extensively reprogrammed.

    All GT3 RSs are fitted with carbonfibre front wings and bonnet (with new NACA ducts to aid brake cooling) and a magnesium roof. Cars with the optional Weissach Pack come with carbonfibre roofs and the option of magnesium wheels. Buyers who specify the full pack will save 29kg.

    Visually, the new Porsche road racer is differentiated from its predecessor by a series of subtle aerodynamic and styling upgrades. They include new LED indicator lamps set within a re-profiled front bumper. The bumper also features new vertical air flow guides within the outer ducts to more efficiently channel air to the front-mounted radiators and brakes. At the rear, there are more heavily structured rear lights, a new bumper with larger air extraction ducts and modified supports for the rear wing, which itself features newly shaped end plates.

    The interior has carbonfibre-backed racing seats, lightweight door panels with storage nets and nylon opening loops. Other weight-slashing measures include a reduction in sound absorption material and a lightweight engine lid.

    These modifications to the 911 GT3 RS should add up to an approximate 10sec improvement in Nürburgring lap time.

    The reason the new GT3 RS is being rolled out after the GT2 RS rather than before it (which would seem more logical and follow the template set by the previous GT2 RS in 2010) is that Porsche was not prepared to wait until this spring to wrest the Nürburgring production car lap record back from in-house rival Lamborghini, so launched its most extreme model first. 

    Read more 

    Porsche 911 GT3 RS review 

    Porsche 911 GT3 review 

    Porsche 911 Turbo review 

  • Kia Sorento CRDi GT-Line S 2018 review Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Kia's seven-seat SUV has had a mid-life facelift and is loaded with kit. Is that enough for this range-topping version to match premium rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport? Kia’s new top-spec Sorento costs in excess of £42,000, some £42,610 to be exact. The previous range-topper before this recent facelift, the KX-4, did, too. Passed me by that, I must admit; the new Stinger has not been the first £40,000 Kia. It’s quite a story that the vast upturn in quality of Kia’s cars over the past decade and a bit has now reached the point where people will part with more than 40 grand for one. And people really do; almost a quarter of the roughly 3300 Sorentos or so sold each year have been the top-spec model, with dealers reporting customers even chopping in the likes of Audi Q5s, BMW X5s and even Mercedes-Benz E-Classes to get one.And now the Sorento has had a minor nip and tuck, just shy of three years into its life, Kia being known for its short five-year product cycles. The KX-4 trim is no more, replaced with a new GT-Line S trim, with a GT-Line trim offered lower down the range. It’s more of the same really - think loads of kit, and then a bit more on top for only a few quid more - but made sportier-looking, Kia being all about GTs and the like now, as the ‘sporty’ side of the Hyundai-Kia group. You can only get one engine no matter what Sorento trim you go for, a 2.2-litre diesel with 197bhp and 325 lb ft. It’s the same engine as before, but it’s hooked up to a new eight-speed automatic gearbox, driving all through wheels in a chassis that’s unchanged.
  • 2019 Mercedes GLB: first video of 'road-biased' G-Class sibling Thursday 22nd February 2018
    2019 Mercedes GLB to be 'road-biased' G-Class sibling
    This is the upcoming GLB, the new small SUV that will be based on the A-Class
    New compact SUV will mix old-school styling cues with contemporary design touches when it goes on sale in 2019

    Mercedes-Benz will use its 2019 GLB to bridge the gap between its rugged G-Class and more road-biased SUVs, so its design will mix old-school styling cues with contemporary features.

    New video footage of a GLB development car, which was caught on camera during winter testing in Scandinavia, shows the GLA sibling will get a boxy exterior shape with an upright stance. This is a deliberate tactic used by Mercedes to make its SUV stand out against softer-looking rivals, including the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.

    Recent trademark filings suggest that 200, 220 and 250-badged variants of the GLB will be available, with engines shared with smaller Mercedes offerings such as the A-Class and CLA

    The GLB’s engine line-up will feature an updated range of Mercedes and Renault/Nissan-sourced four-cylinder petrol and diesel units spanning 160bhp in the entry-level model to more than 300bhp in the AMG-badged flagship. Also planned is a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid variant with a modest pure-electric range.

    The AMG model will likely mirror the A-Class and come in AMG 45 form, with a warm mild hybrid-powered AMG 35 variant to match that of the upcoming A-Class.

    Development of the long-mooted GLB has been accelerated in order to bring the car to market in 2019.

    The move is part of Mercedes’ plan to retain sales momentum in the lucrative premium compact car class.

    The GLB will be part of a future eight-strong family of compact models announced by Mercedes chairman Dieter Zetsche at the Detroit motor show in January. The new high-riding model will slot into the line-up above the existing GLA and below the GLC. Its likely starting price will be around £32,000 when it goes on sale in 2019.

    The GLB is one of three additions to the existing Mercedes compact car line-up of five. It joins a new four-door A-Class saloon, which will be previewed as a concept car at the Shanghai motor show in April, along with an as-yet-unknown model, although one possibility is a dedicated coupé in the mould of the Audi TT. The new line-up will kick off in the coming months with the launch of the fourth-generation A-Class.

    The new GLB SUV is known under the internal codename X247 and is said to draw heavily on the well-received Ener-G-Force concept seen at the 2015 Los Angeles show.

    It combines styling cues inspired by the tough military vehicle design of the 38-year-old G-Class with more contemporary flourishes from the 2014 G-Code concept, although latest shots of the development model suggest a lower, boxy appearance like that of the GLK, the GLC predecessor that never made it to the UK. 

    Buyers will be able to choose between a series of optional styling packages, including a rugged-looking off-road appearance, with extra cladding and increased ride height, according to insiders privy to the final design.

    Chosen by Mercedes board members over an alternative long-wheelbase B-Class, the standard GLB earmarked for sale in the UK is set to be around 4600mm in length, making it 180mm longer than the recently facelifted GLA.

    The GLB is based on a version of Mercedes’ MFA platform that will be reworked to offer greater production flexibility and lower weight than today’s structure. It will be offered with a choice of two wheelbases, with either a five-seat or seven-seat layout, in a move mirroring that of the Q3, X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan.

    Details remain scarce with production more than a year away, but sources suggest the long-wheelbase variant, which extends to almost 4800mm, may be sold only in selected markets, such as China and the US.

    Inside, the new GLB is expected to share its dashboard and appointments, including a new Comand 6.0 touchscreen infotainment system, with other new compact Mercedes models, including the fourth-gen A-Class, third-gen B-Class, second-gen CLA and CLA Shooting Brake, and the new A-Class saloon.

    More content:

    All-new Mercedes-Benz G-Class revealed

  • Seat Tarraco leaked images show new seven-seater design Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Seat Tarraco images leaked ahead of Geneva reveal
    This is the first of two images leaked onto the internet of the new Tarraco
    Seat's soon-to-arrive Skoda Kodiaq alternative is named after UNESCO World Heritage Site

    The Seat Tarraco has been leaked onto the internet just two days after its name was confirmed by the Spanish brand.

    The third SUV from Seat following the Ateca and Arona will be launched at the end of this year as a rival to the Nissan X-Trail. It'll be a sibling to the Skoda Kodiaq.

    Two pictures of the car have been posted onto MQB-Coding, showing its front three-quarter and rear. Although unconfirmed by Seat, the pictured car appears to match one previewed by Seat earlier in the week.

    The car's front-end design is largely familiar to the brand's SUV family, but it does feature a light bar that's new to Seat at the rear.

    The Tarraco will be a seven-seat SUV to sit above its Seat siblings in the range. Its name was chosen by the public via an online poll, which featured more than 146,000 votes and whittled down a total of 10,130 names, all taken from Spanish geography.

    After Seat selected four finalists, Tarraco was voted for by 35.52% of voters. Tarraco is the ancient name of the Catalan city of Tarragona, and was the oldest Roman settlement on the Iberian Peninsula. The archaeological ensemble that remains, including a aqueduct, forum and a theatre, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

    Seat’s names from Spain

    Ronda: Produced from 1982 to 1986, this was the first Seat named after a town in Spain. Ronda is located in a mountainous area of the Málaga region.

    Málaga: This saloon, built from 1985 to 1992, took the name of Spain's sixth-largest city.

    Marbella: This was a rebadged Fiat Panda, named after a city on the Costa del Sol.

    Ibiza: The long-running supermini shares its name with the party-friendly Balearic island.

    Córdoba: A bigger version of the Ibiza, named after the historic city in Andalusia.

    Toledo: Small family car has the same name as a historic town that's a Unesco World Heritage Site.

    Leon: Seat’s family car is named after a large city in the North-West of Spain.

    Alhambra: This large MPV gets its name from a large palace in Granada.

    Altea: The name of Seat’s discontinued small MPV was taken from a town on the Costa Blanca.

    Ateca: The hugely popular SUV was named after a small town with a population of less than 2000 people in the province of Zaragoza.

    Arona: A small port town on the island of Tenerife gives its name to Seat’s new small SUV.

    Arosa: The small city car Seat produced from 1997 until 2004 referenced Vilagarcía de Arousa in the Galicia province. Seat returned to the city car market in 2012 with the Mii, which of course isn’t named after anywhere in Spain.

    Rear more

    Seat to launch first electric car in 2019

    Volkswagen ID Vizzion previews electric luxury saloon​

  • Cupra Ateca: 300bhp SUV leaks onto internet Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Cupra Ateca: 300bhp SUV leaks onto internet
    This is one of two images that have leaked onto the internet
    Pepped-up Ateca is due on roads this year from new Seat performance division

    Images of the Cupra Ateca have been leaked onto the internet before it is revealed at the Geneva motor show next month.

    The 300bhp SUV will be the first model from recently launched Seat sub brand Cupra, which becomes has become its own division, and so wears the Cupra badge in place of the regular Ateca's Seat logos. It is expected to be followed by a Cupra Ibiza, which was also recently leaked.

    Although not confirmed as genuine by Seat, the two images, which were leaked by MQB-Coding and show the car's front three-quarters and rear, match sightings of a development car that was spotted at the Nürburgring throughout 2017.

    The pepped-up Ateca, first spotted in prototype form by Autocar at a Seat facility last year, has Cupra wheels, large brakes, quad-exit exhausts and more aggressive bodywork. The car is expected to be powered by the 2.0-litre petrol engine used in the 286bhp Leon Cupra.

    It is not clear if this engine will be tweaked to deliver different performance characteristics. In the four-wheel-drive Volkswagen Golf R, for instance, the same engine makes 296bhp. A 0-62mph time of 6.5sec is expected for the Ateca Cupra. A glimpse of the car's rev counter suggests that it'll have an 8000rpm redline.

    The standard Ateca, launched last year, has recently been joined by the smaller Arona. A larger Tarraco SUV is the latest to join the ranks.

    Hot VW T-Roc could rival Seat Ateca Cupra

    The regular Ateca is already one of the firm’s best-selling models. With a mooted price of around £35,000, though, a Cupra version would become Seat’s most expensive model.

    “The fast SUV market is evolving quickly at the premium end, but in the mainstream, there is no real credible contender,” said an insider. “That opens the opportunity for Seat to take leadership and to really differentiate itself from the opposition in the crowded SUV market. An Ateca Cupra could have a very significant halo effect for the rest of the brand.”

    More content:

    Peugeot 508 revealed

    Throwback Thursday: driving the 1987 F1 title-winning Williams FW11B

  • Honda Civic Type R long-term review Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Honda Civic Type R It’s a warm welcome to this steaming hot hatch. But is it too fiery for Britain’s roads?

    Why we're running it: To determine whether the most ferocious front-wheel-drive hot hatch on sale today is usable on a daily basis

    Month 1 - Specs

    Life with a Honda Civic Type R: Month 1

    The 316bhp hatch doesn’t hide its roots as a practical family car - 14th February 2018

    Performance car it may be, but the Civic Type R has to provide an element of practicality if it is to live up to the ‘daily driver’ brief demanded of it by a photographer.

    If I’m heading to a shoot I need space, and plenty of it, for my kit. I have to say that so far I’m impressed by what I’ve found in the Civic. There’s a surprising amount of room under that bespoilered rear hatch and it’s certainly generous by the standards of this class. Officially, the Civic has 420 litres of boot space, increasing to 786 litres if you fold down all of the 60/40 split rear seat and pile your possessions as high as the bottom of the window line.

    One idea that I like very much is the retractable luggage cover, which puts me in mind of either a roller blind or a Bacofoil dispenser. I find conventional solid parcel shelves rather ungainly, not least because I’m often forced to remove them to free up additional space and have to find somewhere safe to stow them. That’s fine if you’re blessed with your own garage in which to put such a cumbersome item, but considerably less fine if you’re 20 minutes down the M1 before you remember you’ve left the flipping thing at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground.

    So retractable luggage covers are the way forward, and what sets the Civic’s apart from many others is that it deploys from the side, so it doesn’t act as a barrier across the width of the car when you need more space. It’s one of those ideas that I can scarcely believe isn’t implemented more often.

    On a different note, in my previous report I mentioned the squealing brakes that were drawing unwanted attention to our Civic Type R during slow-speed, around-town driving.

    If the Type R online forums are any guide, it’s a fairly common issue with this latest Civic. Our car has since been back to Honda’s press garage, where the technicians skimmed the Brembo discs. That has alleviated the issue for the time being, but I’ve been warned that it is likely to return.

    Indeed, the owner’s manual (believe it or not, we’ve bothered to read it) states that “to satisfy the performance under a wide range of driving conditions, a high- performance braking system is equipped on your vehicle. You may hear the brake squeal under certain conditions, such as vehicle speed, deceleration, humidity and so on. This is not a malfunction.”

    So the noise is an unfortunate by-product of the car’s performance intent, then, although in my opinion that doesn’t satisfactorily explain why the Civic Type R makes it when many other performance cars do not.

    Mileage: 2189

    Welcoming the Type R to our fleet 31st January 2018

    It’s less than two years since the previous-gen Civic Type R left our long-term fleet.

    That’s precious little time in the grand scheme of a manufacturer’s model development plans, but Honda had good reason to quickly usher its latest banzai-hatch to market.

    Not only was it conceived as a way to mark the 25th anniversary of the Type R sub-brand, which fell in 2017, but it was also produced in parallel with the cooking Civic. This made it easier for Honda’s go-faster wizards to instil the foundations of hot-hatch nuttiness from the outset, whereas this Type R’s forebear was developed long after the base model.

    As much as this is a new car, though, the fundamental technical set-up isn’t too far removed from the FK2-generation Civic Type R that preceded it, insomuch as the power is produced by a 2.0-litre turbocharged VTEC petrol engine, which is mounted transversely and mated to a six-speed manual gearbox that drives the front axle only, using a limited- slip differential to meter the power. The engine produces slightly more power than the old car’s, at 316bhp compared with 306bhp, but torque remains the same at 295lb ft.

    Beneath the surface, though, there are more significant changes aimed at refining the handling. The car is based on a new platform that enables it to be lower, wider and stiffer than its forebear, and there’s a revised suspension set-up – most notably at the rear, where the torsion beam has been replaced by a multi-link configuration – and a new adaptive damping system.

    The move to a new platform has had an effect on the interior too, because the fuel tank has been moved from its position beneath the driver’s seat to a location aft of the rear seats, enabling the driver to be seated lower, more in keeping with what you’d expect from a hot hatch.

    Another change that’s been made possible by the new underpinnings is a move to 20in wheels and 245-section tyres; our previous car ran on 19in wheels and 235/35 tyres. As much as those bigger, widerhoops should convey some dynamic advantages, I’m a little concerned at the effect they might have on the ride. As Autocar’s snapper-in-chief, I rack up a lot of miles per week and it’s fairly important to drive a car that’s as forgiving to cruise in as much as it is engaging when I want it to be.

    And here’s where one of the most significant changes between the old and new Civic Type Rs should come into play. In this new one, you get three selectable drive modes, whereas the old one simply hadtwo choices: standard or ‘R’. The latter, engaged via a red button on the dashboard, turned all of the old car’s mechanical settings up to 11. ‘R’ mode, however, often felt too harsh and uncomfortable for the majority of British highways and byways.

    Honda clearly listened to feedback from the enthusiasts who buy its performance cars – and perhaps even took a long, hard look at what its hot-hatch rivals have been doing – because this new Civic Type R has an additional ‘Comfort’ mode. It can dial down the directness of the steering feel, damping, stability assist, traction control and throttle response. At the same time, the default (or ‘Sport’, as Honda names it) and full-bore ‘R’ settings – now accessed via a rocker switch near the gearlever – have been made more extreme.

    What we expect to discover over the course of the coming months is a hot hatch with a broader spread of configurability. But can it really be capable of lapping at a supercar- bothering pace yet comfortable enough to cover vast swathes of motorway without me needing to keep my osteopath’s phone number on speed dial? What’s also similar to the last Civic Type R we ran is the specification because, like our 2016 version, this new car is in ‘GT’ trim. For an additional £2000, you get a raft of comfort and safety features of the kind you might find useful on longer trips: blind-spot warning, parking sensors, front foglights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and dual-zone climate control.

    That extra kit comes with a weight penalty that means the GT-spec Civic Type R takes one-tenth of a second longer to sprint from 0-62mph. Based on our early impressions, we’re unlikely to quibble over 5.8sec rather than 5.7sec, though – so far, it has felt mightily quick to us.

    Beyond opting for the bells-and- whistles GT trim, the only cost option we’ve added is pearlescent black paint. They do say black is the new white when it comes UK motorists’ favourite car colour – although, this being a photographer’s weapon, I’m fastidious about appearances and expect to spend quite a bit of time and effort keeping the bodywork clean.

    It’s certainly an eye-catching car, but so far our Type R has also been turning heads for the wrong reasons. In the slow crawl of rush-hour traffic, there’s been a rather loud squeal from the Brembo brakes that draws glares from passing pedestrians. Could it be just a new-car issue, indicative of a deeper problem or something we’ll have to accept due to the Type R’s performance intent?

    We’ll keep an eye (or, rather, an ear) on it, although we intend to waste as little time as possible plodding through traffic jams and more of it exploiting this hot hatch on some of the nation’s best driving roads.

    Second opinion 

    I ran the previous Civic Type R on our fleet. On a specific road on a specific day when I was in a specific mood, I revelled in its raucous lack of manners, but it was a challenge to live with day to day, so I’m encouraged by talk of this one having a wider spread of ability. MB

    Specs: Price new £32,995; Price as tested £33,520; Options Pearlescent paint £525; Economy 24.9mpg; Faults None; Expenses None

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  • Throwback Thursday: driving the 1987 F1 title-winning Williams FW11B Thursday 22nd February 2018
    On 7 December 1987, ex-Formula 1 driver John Watson took Nelson Piquet's title-winning FW11B for a blast round Suzuka
    The ugly hybrid cars of 2018 have put us in need of some nostalgia; how about a 1000bhp, turbocharged V6 with a manual gearbox?

    Many people see the 1980s as a golden era of Formula 1. Those people are correct.

    Holding a special place in many fans' hearts are the turbocharged 'monsters', and the Williams-Honda FW11 is a fine example of them. This handsome British chassis took the constructors' championship in 1986 and, in 'B' spec, both titles in 1987, following nine victories in a season of sparring between a Nigel Mansell at the peak of his powers and the mercurial reigning world champion, Nelson Piquet.

    F1 2018: new cars picture special

    Indeed, when grand prix race winner John Watson drove the FW11B for Autocar at Japan's classic Suzuka circuit on 7 December 1987, he did so with the objective of "reaching some sort of conclusion about what it takes to create a winning car" – one he described as having been "head and shoulders above the rest of the field".

    Much of the FW11B's prowess was down to Honda's excellent RA167-E engine. This 1.5-litre V6 had two turbochargers and a redline of above 12,000rpm, allowing it to peak at circa 1000bhp (this was for qualifying; it was downtuned to 800bhp for race distances). 

    In a car weighing a mere 540kg, this afforded a 0-60mph time of 2.6sec and a 0-160mph time of 10sec; all in a car with a six-speed manual gearbox and rack-and-pinion steering. Brave stuff.

    Fortunately, Northern Irishman Watson was an experienced racer, who had made his Formula 1 debut in 1973, came close to winning the title for McLaren (he was third in the 1982 drivers' championship) and contested his final race in 1985.

    He began: "I had half expected it would be a case of light the blue touch paper and stand back. Once the engine had been warmed up and I had dealt with the very heavy, abrupt-acting clutch, the world championship-winning Formula 1 car had purred onto the track without a sign of reticence. It was almost docile. But now, back in the pits, the Honda engineer was turning up to the boost – from a getting-to-know-you 3bar to a grand prix-winning 4bar. A small jump, you may think, but in a car now capable of 200mph, a change guaranteed to cause fireworks. Or so I thought..."

    Before he proceeded around the circuit, Watson had a caveat, in that he was "unable to make himself completely comfortable in the seemingly miniscule cockpit". "With the sort of cornering, accelerating and braking forces a present-day F1 car is capable of generating," he said, "it is vitally important for the driver to feel at one to get the most out of it.

    "That is really only possible with a tailor-made seat and all the essential controls set up exactly to suit his frame. In this case, my knees were too high up behind the instrument panel and the gear lever in the first-second plane was hitting my thigh. Being tall compared with today's grand prix drivers, I was also sitting an inch or two too high".

    He also pointed out that he did not know the track, car or engine, and that there were no tyre blankets available on the cold December day. But, to quote Watson, "that's enough of the standard racing driver's excuses...".

    Inside the carbonfibre-monocoque-based FW11B, there was a quickly detachable steering wheel and pedals positioned "very closely together, due to the narrowness of the footbox", allowing the driver to "depress the clutch at the same time as rolling your foot onto the throttle pedal for downchanges".

    The layout was simple. As Watson described it: "On the spokes of the tiny, 10in steering wheel are two button switches, which control car-to-pits radio and the electric pump for the drinks bottle. Directly in front of you, there's a digital boost guage and rev counter, which activates at 7000rpm.

    "Below those two readouts, again displayed in LED form, are oil temperature, water temperature and air intake temperature. On a seperate panel on the left-hand side, there's a fire button, which isn't easily accessible, the tail-light switch an the main ignition switch. There's no fuel pump switch. Behind that is the knob controlling the brake balance, which, judging by its inconvenient position, isn't something that is adjusted often.

    "On the panel to the right is the turbocharger boost switch. The amount of boost is dictated by fuel consumption and varies from circuit to circuit. It's rather pleasing, though, to know that if you need an extra spurt of power, all you've got to do is reach down with your right hand and click the switch up a notch."

    Watson continued: "The short gear lever is not the slickest I've ever used. Specifically, in the first-second gear plane, the lever has to work against a fairly strong spring forcing it towards the driver, while the second-to-third change goes from a heavily sprung gate into an almost unsprung one. It's not a naturally comfortable gearchange."

    Of the car's V6, however, he had no complaints: "Honda has made terrific strides with the engine. When it re-entered F1 [with the Spirit team in 1983], the engine was based on motorcycle thinking, which called for a large bore, short stroke and the ability to rev high, the thinking being that power was the key to success.

    "As the team has learned, however, power is not the sole key to success. There's no point having 1000bhp if it's only available in a 1000rpm rev band. The Honda engine in the back of the 1984 Williams FW09 was very powerful but rather like a switch – either on or off – making the car very difficult to drive. By the middle of 1985, Honda engineers had produced an engine that was far more driveable.

    "It was shown during the 1987 season that Honda had a better grasp of engine technology than anybody else. The cars were able to run more quickly in race trim for less fuel than their rivals – an impressive achievement.

    "There are many aspects of it that differ in philosophy from other competition turbo engines. During my exploratory lap, I was amazed at its remarkable tractability. There didn't seem to be one area in the power curve where a flat spot was detectable. In fact, it's only when you get above 7000rpm and the boost pressure beings to build – and at that point, it starts to build very quickly – that you actually become aware of how much power you've got under your right foot."

    After a few more laps, Watson remarked: "Once over my initial surprise at the engine's power delivery, I was able to settle down and assess a little more of what was happening around me. 

    "I had already decided that I didn't particularly like the dinky steering wheel, which felt very much like what you'd get on a go-kart. The steering itself is light but with quite sharp kickback if you happen to touch a kerb. The physical effort in steering the FW11B is actually quite low and would therefore make it less stressful to drive than some other Formula 1 cars I've experienced.

    "The braking system, which employs cast iron rather than carbonfibre discs, nevertheless provided really reassuring performance It was undoubtedly aided by that barn door of a rear wing, for as soon as you lift off the throttle, it feels as though someone has stuck out a giant hand and stopped the car. While such a set-up may be fine for providing a little extra margin for those unfamiliar with the car, it's creating far too much drag for a racing situation.

    "The throttle pedal is surprisingly short in its movement, and initially I was worried about not being able to modulate it precisely enough when full power was coming in. Once again, my worries were ill-founded.

    "Ride quality is not too bad, and therefore the obvious question is asked; no, the test car was not set up to the latest belly-banging ride height that produces a shower of sparks from the titanium skid pads. Such an arrangement worsens ride quality, but it also increases the amount of chassis downforce – as opposed to wing downforce – that is available.

    "In terms of feel, the FW11B is quite forgiving and therefore relatively easy to drive. Like with any racing car, though, getting the best out of it on the limit is difficult, even though it appears to retain its poise and controllability in such circumstances.

    "One of the biggest problems is in slow-speed corners, for although power delivery is very smooth, at around 8500-9000rpm, when it really starts to chime in, it's very easy to break traction by being too enthusiastic with the throttle. The technique is just to get through the corner and then, as quickly as you can, pick up third and fourth gears while keeping wheelspin to a minimum.

    "There's no doubt that the potential of the chassis is very high, but you have to work for it. You don't just step into the car and it automatically happens for you; it comes through familiarisation."

    To answer his opening mission statement, of why the FW11B was so successful, Watson concluded with this: "Like all winning cars, it's not good for any specific reason; its success is due to the total package.

    "Clearly, there has been a tremendous amount of work done by both Williams and Honda to make the chassis and engine marriage a successful one. But something of a myth has developed around the engine because of the results Williams has had with it. I feel that the team's success is, in very large part, due to the engine, but what Williams has done is make use of it in such a way that the harmonising of the two aspects, engine and chassis, has produced an unbeatable combination. There is no doubt that the Honda engine is outstanding, but it needs to be part of an equally outstanding package if it's to shine."

    Read more

    F1 2018: new cars picture special

    F1: what to expect from the pinnacle of motorsport in 2018

    Flashback, August 2017: reflecting on Mansell's title win, 25 years on

    Watching Formula 1 with Murray Walker

  • Used car buying guide: Alfa Romeo Spider Thursday 22nd February 2018
    Alfa Romeo Spider
    Front-drive Spider is fun to drive when you’re in the mood
    This one won’t bite: it’s a friendly, head-turning Alfa Romeo in agile Twin Spark or mellifluous V6 guises. Reliability is decent, and prices start at £1000

    The nation’s classifieds may be gripped by classic car fever, a condition that drives prices of even the worst old tat through the roof, but there are one or two models about which the claim ‘future classic’ doesn’t seem too far-fetched. The Alfa Romeo Spider of 1995-2006 is one.

    There are only around 1000 examples of the 916-series Spider remaining, most of them 2.0 Twin Sparks of 1999 to 2005 vintage. (The 3.0 and 3.2 24-valve V6 cars are rare birds.) Prices range from £1000 to £5000 but around £3500 is enough for a decent car. There’s a coupé version, too, called the GTV. It’s less numerous but you’ve a better chance of finding a V6 example.

    See Alfa Romeo Spider for sale on PistonHeads

    Both versions were styled by Pininfarina and both have aged exceptionally well. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but most observers reckon the Spider has the edge over the GTV. Crucially, both have galvanised bodies with extensive use of plastic, especially at the front. Corrosion is rare and any that you do see is likely to be the result of poor accident repairs.

    They were launched in 1995 and based on a modified Fiat Tipo chassis with MacPherson-strut front suspension. Fear not: a multi-link suspension set-up at the rear, super- quick steering and a stiffened body mean they’re huge fun to drive.

    The Spider, the focus of this guide, is powered by a 150bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder Twin Spark engine, so called because it has two spark plugs per pot. Remember that when you’re budgeting for the 60,000-mile service. Power goes to the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. There is no auto option.

    In 2001, it was joined by a 220bhp 24-valve 3.0-litre V6, this time with a six-speed gearbox. This was subsequently replaced in 2004 by a 240bhp 3.2. The latter is one of the best engines Alfa has made: smooth, torquey and blessed with a spine-tingling exhaust note at full tilt.

    It’s also free of the tensioner issues that bothered the Twin Spark and forced Alfa to slash that engine’s belt change interval from 72,000 to 36,000 miles. That said, the TS is a strong, responsive and smooth engine. Do your checks and you should have nothing to fear.

    The Spider was facelifted in 1998 (new centre console, small tweaks to the TS engine), but these cars are now very rare, most scrapped due to low values and high maintenance costs. Another facelift in 2003 was bolder (a new nose and that 3.2 V6). Production ended the following year.

    Trim levels were standard, Turismo, Lusso and Lusso Final Edition. Most surviving cars appear to have the all-important leather trim. A silver Spider with contrasting red leather looks sensational. You may see some right-hand-drive Japanese imports on your travels. They’re pricey but generally in better condition than UK cars. Find a good Spider Twin Spark, beat the seller down by muttering something about the tensioner and bag a future classic.

    How to get one in your garage: 

    An expert’s view: JAMIE PORTER, ALFA WORKSHOP - “The Spider is a great sports car: pointy and agile in Twin Spark form, beautiful-sounding and effortless in V6. The V6 is heavier and not as responsive as the TS, but is my favourite. A shame they’re so rare. A late-plate 3.2 is a real collector’s item. Saying that, I see all 916-series values going through the roof. Early cars are getting rusty around the rear arches and jacking points, and some parts are hard to source. Spare hood release motors, for example, are non-existent, so make sure the hood works.”

    Buyer beware...

    ENGINE - Check the oil level because it likes a drink. Oil pumps are prone to failure. Timingbeltshouldbechangedevery 36,000 miles on the 2.0 TS, every 60,000 on the V6. A rattle could be the cam variator. Low power may be the mass airflow sensor. Check condition of V6’s oil cooler pipes. Hunting at tickover is a failed idle control motor.

    TRANSMISSION - Clutch and gearbox are reliable but a high biting point means the clutch is givingup. Check smooth changes; a notchy fifth could be a loose nut.

    SUSPENSION - Check for excessive wear on the inner edges of the front tyres, possibly caused by worn front lower wishbones. Rear suspension can be troublesome, one problem being on the 2.0 TS where steel inserts in the bushes rub against the aluminium subframe. In rare cases, the subframe may need replacing.

    HOOD - Check it works, and is free of tears and leaks. The power hood is computer- controlled and any issues should be indicated by a light next to the control switch. Check hydraulic rams for leaks.

    BODY - Rust shouldn’t be an issue on later cars but any you find could be a poor repair.

    INTERIOR - On start-up, check ABS, airbag and engine management lights go out. An inactive air-con system may need a new radiator (expensive). Annoying squeaks may be the locating pins for the hood. A dab of grease should cure it.

    Also worth knowing:

    Alfa provides original and refurbished parts for older cars, which can help keep running costs down. The Classic Line scheme is for Alfas over five years old and provides filters, belts, brake pads and so on. Meanwhile, the Refurbished Parts scheme supplies cheaper remanufactured parts.

    How much to spend:

    £1200-£1995 - Later (2002 and on) 2.0 TS cars in need of attention rising to £1995 for a 116k-mile 02-reg with recent new parts.

    £2000-£2995 - Sub-100k-mile early cars in fair condition, rising to a nice 02-reg TS with 60k miles for £2995.

    £3000-£3995 - Plenty of choice including an 02 TS with 60k miles for £3500, an 05 2.0 JTS with 80k for £3695 and a mint 02 TS with 80k and full history for £3995.

    £4000-PLUS - A Japanese right-hand-drive 01-reg 2.0 TS import with 42k miles for £4750, and a nice 04 TS with 75k miles and full service history for £4995.

    One we found:

    ALFA SPIDER 2.0 TS, 2002/ 51-REG, 60K MILES, £2995 This has its two keys, partial service history and ‘warranted’ low mileage, but not so low that you’d worry about cold, short-journey issues. Leather interior has polished up well and the bolsters appear to be free of cracking. Still has ‘Spider’-embossed mats too. 

    John Evans 

    Read more 

    Alfa Romeo Giulia review 

    Alfa Romeo Stelvio review 

    Alfa Romeo Giulietta review 

  • 2018 Peugeot 508 revealed ahead of Geneva motor show Thursday 22nd February 2018
    2018 Peugeot 508
    Front-end styling is more aggressive than the outgoing 508
    222bhp flagship sits a top a more petrol-friendly range, as Peugeot battles SUVs with a fastback saloon

    Peugeot has switched the 508 from saloon to a fastback bodystyle for its second generation, as the segment battles growing SUV sales.

    The new 508 gets a new 5-door body style, as well as styling derived from the Instinct shooting brake concept, revealed at last year’s Geneva motor show.

    A rear light bar with LED lights is taken straight from the Instinct concept, and front-end styling draws from the car’s more aggressive look than the outgoing 508.

    The 508, formerly a staid-looking four-door saloon, is now a now a much more stylish bustle-backed five-door with frameless doors and “sharp and sculpted” lines. It is around 6cm lower than most rivals in its class, and looks low and sleek even though it is about 8cm shorter overall.

    The range is topped by a 222bhp Puretech petrol-engined variant, although six petrol and diesel engines are available from launch, with the entry-level car getting a 1.5-litre 128bhp BlueHDi unit - the only 508 available with a manual gearbox. 2.0-litre 158bhp and 178bhp BlueHDi diesels also feature, as does a 2.0-litre 178bhp Puretech petrol.

    The 508 is expected to get a plug-in hybrid variant post-launch, with the powertrain taken straight from the 5008 plug-in, due later this year.

    Other tech highlights include a raft of driver assistance systems, as well as an infra-red camera integrated into the car’s pedestrian detection system to aid in detecting pedestrians at night. Inside, the 508 gets Peugeot’s second-generation i-Cockpit system, with a 10in central touchscreen and 12.3in TFT display replacing conventional dials behind  the steering wheel.

    Where the previous 508 sales were almost exclusively diesel, Peugeot expects a higher petrol bias for the new car around a 68/32 split in favour of diesel is expected by the brand.

    The 508’s renewal is something of a surprise move by Peugeot - the saloon market continues to dwindle due to the market moving to SUVs, while sales of the 508 have never topped the 140,0000 sold in France in 2010. Sales have fallen steadily since then, with 82,000 sold in the car’s home market last year.

    With a renewed focus on design and a fresh body style, the 508 marks the beginning of a reaffirmation of PSA’s support of larger saloons, with sister brand Citroën working on a ‘luxurious’ saloon for launch in 2019 or 2020.

    The car’s platform remains the same - the PSA EMP2 platform which underpins many of the company’s models, including the 3008 and 5008 SUVs, Vauxhall Grandland X, DS 7 Crossback and Citroën Picasso MPVs.

    The fastback rear is also a departure from its conventional saloon predecessor, and increases boot capacity from 473 litres to 485.

    UK specs are long from being confirmed, but a price increase of around £800 across the board will keep the 508’s pricing competitive with rivals, although some trims will increase by less or more than this. Orders will open later this year, with first deliveries tipped to take place before 2019.

    Read more 

    Peugeot 5008 review 

    Peugeot 3008 review

    Peugeot 308 GTi review

  • Lister Storm successor is coming, hints British company's chief Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Lister Storm II Lawrence Whittaker, boss of the revived Lister Motor Company, has revealed a sketch of the British manufacturer's planned McLaren rival, the Storm II

    Lister Motor Company chief Lawrence Whittaker has made public the sports car company’s plan to revive the iconic Storm model name on its planned hypercar.

    The Cambridge-based company has restarted car production in recent years with a track-only recreation of its most revered car, the Lister Jaguar 'Knobbly' D-Type, followed by the Thunder, a 208mph road-going sports car based on the Jaguar F-Type.   

    Since the revival of the Lister Motor Company in 2014, Whittaker has made no secret of his ambition to build a hypercar that could take on the likes of Pagani, McLaren and Koenigsegg.

    Now it appears those plans are moving forward. Strong early interest in the Knobbly recreation and the new Thunder have bolstered Lister’s ambitions for the future, and on Wednesday evening the company CEO posted a sketch of a sleek two-door sports car on social media with the accompanying words: “A glimpse into the future of Lister... the Storm II”.

    Autocar has previously reported on Whittaker’s eagerness to develop an all-new Lister model. The firm has sought investors to buy into the development of the car, which could be powered by a Jaguar-derived supercharged 7.8-litre V12 engine developing around 1000bhp.

    The Storm II would target a 0-60mph time below three seconds and a top speed of more than 250mph. Both road-going and racing variants of the new model will be made, but production will likely be very limited, perhaps to as few as six cars annually, and it could carry a £2m price tag.

    The original Storm was developed in the mid-1990s by a previous incarnation of the Lister company. It used powered by a 7.0-litre V12 Jaguar engine and for many years was regarded as the fastest four-seat grand tourer on sale. Race versions competed in endurance racing between 1995 and 2005.

  • Ford chief Raj Nair ousted after reports of 'inappropriate behaviour' Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Raj Nair
    Raj Nair has been ousted from his role at Ford North America
    Raj Nair has been removed from his post as president of Ford North America with immediate effect following an internal investigation

    Raj Nair, president of Ford North America, has been ousted from his position following a company investigation into “reports of inappropriate behaviour”.

    Nair, who has been president of Ford North America since 1 June 2017, has been with the organisation since 1987, in the past holding several key roles such as head of global product development and chief technical officer. 

    The internal investigation found that the 53-year-old had exhibited “certain behaviour… inconsistent with the company’s code of conduct” and he has been removed from his post with immediate effect.

    Steve Cropley meets Ford's Raj Nair - interview from 2013

    Ford president and chief executive Jim Hackett said: “We made this decision after a thorough review and careful consideration. Ford is deeply committed to providing and nurturing a safe and respectful culture and we expect our leaders to fully uphold these values.”

    Nair said: “I sincerely regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviours consistent with the principles that the Company and I have always espoused. I continue to have the utmost faith in the people of Ford Motor Company and wish them continued success in the future.”

    Nair started out as a body and assembly operations launch engineer and held various positions on more than 11 vehicle programs in 13 assembly plants. During the 1990s he was heavily involved in the launch of the 1996 Fiesta, and then became responsible for all Ford of Europe launches including the Focus, Transit and Mondeo.

    More recently, Nair was instrumental in the development of the current Ford GT and the manufacturer's return to endurance racing competition. Earlier this month Nair was presented with his own 2018 GT road car. 

    Ford said it will make an announcement concerning Nair’s replacement in the near future.

    Read more

    Analysis: Ford's master plan to rebuild its business (from June 2017)

    Steve Cropley meets Ford's Raj Nair - interview from 2013

  • Bentley Bentayga V8 2018 review Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Bentley Bentayga V8 The hugely capable high-end SUV is now available with a V8 engine. Does a smaller engine makes it an even more compelling luxury offering? Following the launch of W12 petrol and V8 diesel engines, this is the third and perhaps most convincing powerplant to feature in Bentley’s monumentally capable Bentayga SUV.It’s a 4.0-litre, 90-degree V8 with its two twin-scroll turbochargers sitting within the vee of the cylinders. You’ll find it also in the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and it’s destined to serve in the second-generation Continental GT, which arrives imminently.  And so to the numbers. Peak power is 542bhp, some 68bhp down on the 6.0-litre W12 and delivered 1000rpm later into the rev-range, at 6000rpm. Torque, meanwhile, is 568lb ft, which is a serious hit by anyone’s standards except, maybe, owners of the W12, who enjoy almost 100lb ft more.This Bentley is predictably outgunned by its bigger brother, then, though it recovers some ground in the admittedly less exciting world of fuel efficiency claims. With the help of stop-start and cylinder deactivation technology that turns V8 into V4 when you’re stroking the throttle ever so gently, it manages a combined 24.8mpg to the W12’s 21.6mpg. The diesel puts both to shame, with 35.8mpg.  There’s the weight advantage too, of course. Except that’s not actually true in this case. The W12 boasts a design of such architectural economy that it’s only 25kg or so heavier than the V8, despite its extra four cylinders. As such, this junior Bentayga enjoys only a slight advantage on the scales, tipping them at 2388kg.It means the V8 hits 60mph almost half a second after the W12, taking 4.4sec, and will bludgeon its way to 180mph – 12mph shy of you know what. But let’s not lose perspective here, because both sets of figures denote quite obscene pace for what are, first and foremost, high-rise exponents of ultimate luxury.Crewe has also taken the opportunity to introduce some new options to the Bentayga. You can now get the car with carbon-ceramic brakes, for example, which at 440mm on the front axle are vast – 20mm greater than those found on a Bugatti Chiron, and the vastest of any production car, says Bentley. You can also have the calipers painted red, which isn’t allowed on the W12.Spotting the difference between the two models on the road would be difficult were it not for the fact that most V8 Bentaygas will feature gloss black exterior trim instead of chrome – more sporty that way, they say. There’s also a new two-tone alloy wheel design in the size most W12 owners have opted for – the maximum 22in – and redesigned exhaust tips, which make two appear like four.
  • Why Porsche's diesel decision was well-timed Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Porsche is axing diesel from its current lineup. Hilton Holloway explains why that was a shrewd move, and why it may not be permanent

    Porsche’s decision to end production of the remaining diesel-powered models in its range was well-timed.

    At the end of this week Germany’s top court will decide whether it is legal for pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles to be banned by city councils. Both Stuttgart (Porsche’s home city) and Leipzig want to stop older diesel vehicles entering the city limits. If the court gives the policy the green light, the repercussions could be huge.

    Last summer, Porsche bosses said that they would consider killing diesel altogether at the end of next year. Bringing the decision forward is not just because of the impact of the court case, it’s also likely to be a consequence of the new round of economy and pollution testing regimes (known as RDE and WLTP) which arrive this autumn.

    Older-generation diesel engines could struggle to meet the new tests. Much better to shelve diesel until a new-generation of super-clean diesels arrive within the VW Group and Porsche can consider afresh re-launching diesel models.

    But Porsche’s diesel decision might also have been influenced by the fact the Tesla Model S outsold the Mercedes S-Class in Western Europe last year. Certainly, that was helped by big Tesla sales in Norway, but it’s been some time since analysts declared that ‘premium’ values were now indivisible from ‘greenness’. In plain English, the sort of customers who buy the most expensive premium cars expect a vehicle to be genuinely environmentally friendly.

    As Porsche has hinted, you can’t rule out a future diesel Porsche. After all, the next-gen big diesel engines could have mild-hybrid assistance to help further reduce pollution.

    But engineering sources have also told Autocar, that future diesels are also likely to have their rampant performance reigned in because hard acceleration is a direct cause of high NOx emissions. And who could imagine a gently-accelerating diesel Porsche?

    Read more

    Porsche axes all diesel variants from line-up

    Porsche Cayenne diesel sales banned in Germany due to suspect emissions software

    Porsche boss confirms decision on cutting diesel models is imminent

    The death of diesel? Not if commonsense can prevail

  • Rolls-Royce Cullinan to get pop-out seats in lower tailgate Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Rolls-Royce Cullinan tests with production bodywork
    This is our best look yet at the Rolls-Royce Cullinan
    The all-wheel-drive rival to Bentley Bentayga, due to arrive this year, is Rolls-Royce's first SUV

    The reveal process of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan has begun, as the manufacturer has unveiled the car's pop-out, tailgate-mounted seats and table. 

    It's the latest in a slew of recent developments surrounding the Cullinan. Rolls-Royce confirmed the car's name earlier this month, while recent spy shots showed the Cullinan with the least disguise we've seen yet, revealing much of the Phantom-like look of the car.

    Each of the pop-out seats, which are rear-facing and intended for use while the car is not in motion, bears the Rolls-Royce logo, and they both fold back into a compartment in the boot floor. 

    The Phantom's influence is clear to see, with a near-identical fascia at the front and D-shaped tail-lights at the rear. The boxy design shows that the Cullinan takes after the Phantom rather than the smoother-looking Ghost. Spy shots show that the rear doors are rear-hinged, as seen on the Ghost and the Phantom.

    The rival to the Bentley Bentayga was called 'Project Cullinan' during its development. The name is inspired by the Cullinan Diamond, a 3106-carat jewel extracted from a South African mine in 1905. It was split into nine stones, with the two largest used in the British imperial crown and the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross.

    Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös said the Cullinan name had been “hiding in plain sight”, adding: “It is the most fitting name for our extraordinary new product.”

    The Cullinan, which Rolls-Royce refers to as a "high-sided vehicle" rather than an SUV, is likely to use a developed version of the Phantom’s 6.8-litre V12 engine. A plug-in hybrid powertrain could also be offered at a later stage, using technology from parent company BMW. Rolls-Royce has dismissed a diesel option due to the comparative lack of refinement offered by such units.

    The all-wheel-drive car will use the same aluminium spaceframe platform, named the Architecture of Luxury, as the Phantom.

    Review: Rolls-Royce Phantom

    Rolls-Royce has conducted an extensive testing and development programme on the Cullinan and the car was spotted at the Nürburgring last year.

    Read more

    Rolls-Royce Phantom - bidding farewell to a luxury legend

    All Rolls-Royce reviews on Autocar

  • Italdesign Zerouno convertible to be displayed at Geneva motor show Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Italdesign Zerouno convertible to be displayed at Geneva motor show Legendary Italian design house produced its own-brand model for the first time to rival the Audi R8; a follow-up roadster will be revealed in Geneva

    The Italdesign Zerouno will gain a convertible variant to cater to demand, after the design house sold all five examples of the coupé it produced. The model has been revealed ahead of its Geneva reveal, although the company remains tight-lipped on details, including the open-roof model's name.

    All five slots for the Italdesign Zerouno were sold to customers - but the brand has now shown a murky image of a drop-top version, suggesting that it has bowed to demand from customers to produce more examples of the supercar.

    The car makes up part of Italdesign's 50th anniversary celebrations, and will be on display at the Geneva motor show next month. 

    Following the public debut of its first car - the Zerouno coupé - at the Geneva motor show, the brand brought chassis number 002 (finished in red) to the Pebble Beach show in California last year. Italdesign also showed a Zerouno at the Salon Privé event, which took place at Blenheim Palace in the summer.

    The V10 supercar is capable of over 200mph and has been launched by the famous Turin-based design house, which was founded by Giorgetto Giugiaro in the late 1960s and now part of Volkswagen Group. It marks the first of several planned low-volume models produced by the new Italdesign Automobili Speciali.

    Although not officially revealed, the entry-level price for a Zerouno is said to be more than £1.3 million - but it is tipped to cost close to £2m after owners add their chosen extras. These include a wide variety of trim, equipment and performance personalisation options.

    The five customer cars were aimed at “collectors and visionary enthusiasts”. The brand said it still has several buyers after a car, so was previously exploring the "possibility to build a roadster version",  having already opened "dialogue with customers worldwide to truly materialise their wishes into it".

    Speaking to Autocar last year, Filippo Perini, Italdesign’s supercar project chief and head of innovation design, said of the first model: “For the first time, we can offer collectors the chance to order a true made-to-measure car."

    Perini added that, every year from 2017 on, the company will develop a new car bearing its own badge, “always in a very exclusive number of examples”.

    The new supercar uses a 5.2-litre V10 petrol engine shared with the top-end versions of the Audi R8. It also adopts Audi’s quattro permanent four-wheel-drive system. Top speed is estimated at 205mph and the 0-62mph acceleration time will be just 3.2sec.

    The company’s engineers promise “racing car performance with type approval”, so the car can be used on normal roads.

    Sophisticated aerodynamics and lightweight construction are major themes in Italdesign’s first supercar. The body features a prominent front splitter, louvres over the wheel arches to relieve air pressure, side-mounted fins and a racing-style rear spoiler that works in conjunction with a large underbody diffuser to tune the car’s high-speed aerodynamics.

    The body panels are made entirely of carbonfibre and the car is expected to have a kerb weight that will undercut Volkswagen Group’s other V10-engined supercar models, the R8 and the Lamborghini Huracan, which weigh 1595kg and 1575kg respectively.

    The overall impression of the styling is of a modernised Lancia Stratos, although Italdesign’s supercar is more than a metre longer than that model. The Zerouno is similar in footprint to the Lamborghini Aventador, at 4.87m in overall length.

    The relationship with Lamborghini is far from coincidental, given that it was Audi-owned Lamborghini that completed a purchase of Italdesign in 2015, after buying a 90% interest from the Giugiaro family five years earlier.

    The Zerouno's engineers revealed little about the provenance of their new car’s underpinnings, confirming only that it uses “a modular chassis in carbonfibre and aluminium”.

    There’s no suggestion that anyone but Italdesign created this car. Company insiders say it is the work of a 60-strong band of designers, engineers, technicians and composite experts, brought together under Perini.

    “This project is the result of almost 50 years’ expertise in design, engineering and construction of fully functional automobiles,” said Perini. “We are absolutely delighted to make our debut in this market.”

    Salon Privé co-founder David Bagley said of the car's UK reveal: “It’s an honour to be chosen as the location to host Italdesign’s UK debut. Following the Zerouno’s official launch at the Geneva motor show, where we also saw the new painted Pirelli P Zero tyres, I’m delighted to welcome Italdesign and its sublime supercar to Salon Privé this year."

    From city cars to hypercars: Italdesign's history

    Italdesign has designed many successful supercars in its 50 years. Think BMW M1, Lotus Esprit and Maserati MC12, for starters. However, its most spectacular achievements have been its seminal everyman cars, first among them the original Volkswagen Golf, the flat-screened Fiat Panda and the iconic Alfa Romeo Alfasud.

    This is probably because Giugiaro — the company’s co-founder and star designer for 40 years — had already designed plenty of sports and supercars by the time he decided, with Aldo Mantovani, to open his own studio.

    The Alfa Romeo GTV, De Tomaso Mangusta, Ferrari 250 GT Bertone and Maserati's Quattroporte, Merak and Bora were among the dozens of cars he created.

    By the time Italdesign was up and running, Giugiaro was working on concepts such as the Lancia Megagamma (which pioneered MPVs even before the Renault Espace), at least a dozen production Fiats and half a dozen Alfa Romeos, plus myriad Daewoos, Hyundais, Seats and Ssangyongs.

    He and Mantovani believed that if an affordable car had to have a skin, it might as well have a good-looking one.

    Italdesign was sold to Volkswagen Group in 2010, mostly because Giugiaro, 72 at the time, wanted to retire. He finally left the company in 2015. But his haven of creativity at Moncalieri, just outside Turin, lives on.

  • Alpina D5 S 2018 review Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Alpina D5 S
    The Alpina D5 S is the German firm's latest performance version of a BMW
    The latest executive express from the masters of fast diesels is a fabulous machine, but is the current it's swimming against simply too strong? Diesel isn’t particularly sexy right now, but if anyone can instil it with an element of desirability, it’s Alpina.And it really is all-round desirability that we’re talking about here, rather than excitement, because if the best known of all the BMW tuners (although it’s so much more than that) trades in any one attribute when it comes to crafting super-saloons, it’s extraordinary breadth, owing to the conciliation of apparent contradictions. So it is with this new D5 Sportdiesel, whose customary Alpina-logoed chin skirt and ducktail spoiler immediately present a persona at odds with the opulence of the interior.There are other traces of duality. The seats are aggressively bolstered but prodigiously soft; a quartet of exhaust tips are a bit heavy metal for a sequentially turbocharged 3.0-litre diesel engine that never relinquishes its manners; and the leather-concealed Switch-Tronic gearshift buttons on the far side of the steering wheel suggest to you that this is a chassis only too happy to be pedaled, just not with a vigour that might elicit sweaty-palmed lunges for paddles the size of shoehorns.Alpina has also tweaked the car's suspension geometry for greater negative camber on the front axle and fitted stiffer, shorter springs, yet the adaptive dampers include a Comfort Plus mode that's softer than that of the G30 BMW 5 Series donor car.Consider also that the D5 S will nail 0-62mph in less than 5.0sec and yet still nudges 45mpg on the motorway, with little to impinge on the relaxation of you and your passengers beyond, perhaps, a touch too much tyre roar. Those 20in multi-spoke alloys are classic, mind.
  • 2018 Geneva motor show preview Wednesday 21st February 2018
    2018 Geneva motor show preview The biggest motor show of the year is almost here. Latest additions - LVCHI Auto Venere, VW Vizzion concept, Ssangyong e-SIV, Renault Zoe R110

    The Geneva motor show is the largest event on the motoring calendar by a long way.

    This year will be no different as the world’s car industry and media prepare to descend upon Switzerland from 8-18 March to see the latest supercars and mass-market models. 

    More and more cars are confirmed for Geneva every week, so here’s what we know is coming so far:

    Geneva motor show 2018 - the cars

    Audi A6

    With a new BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class on the scene, the Audi A6 is the oldest of the ‘big three’ executive saloons. The brand has already confirmed that the new A6 will make its debut at Geneva, and it’s likely to follow in the Prologue-like look of the A8.

    Audi E-tron

    It’s a race between Jaguar and Audi to see who can get their electric SUV on sale first, but they’ll both be revealed in production form at the Geneva show. We’ve already seen both in concept form and neither is due to stray far from their concept’s flavour. 

    Bentley Bentayga PHEV and Bentayga V8

    Bentley has already revealed the Bentayga V8 away from a motor show, but its first in-the-metal appearance will be at Geneva. It will sit alongside the brand's first electrified model, a plug-in hybrid version of the Bentayga that uses the same 3.0-litre hybrid powertrain as the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid

    BMW M8 concept

    BMW's 600bhp flagship doesn't arrive until 2019, but BMW will show a concept precursor to the Aston Martin DB11 and Mercedes-AMG S63 rival at Geneva this year. With various leaks of the 8 Series, we know what it'll be based upon, but the M-honed version will add a layer of performance on top of the luxury coupé.

    BMW X4

    The first-generation X4 has only been around since 2014, but the overhaul of the X3 means that the closely related X4 will be dragged into its next generation as well. First deliveries for UK customers are planned for August. A hot M40i variant of the X3 is coming as well.

    Citroën Berlingo Multispace

    The first (alphabetically) of three PSA group van-like MPVs heading this way, and due for a reveal at Geneva. The new Berlingo Multispace gets both regular and long-wheelbase variants, and luggage capacity of up to 4000 litres with the seats folded flat. 

    David Brown Automotive high performance GT

    David Brown's at it again - following the Aston Martin DB4-inspired Speedback GT and the Mini Remastered, the Silverstone-based low-volume car maker is producing a high-performance model, but has as yet only revealed the badge. 

    Ferrari 488 Pista

    711bhp, 0-62mph in 2.8sec, and a top speed of 211mph make the Pista Ferrari's most powerful V8-engined car yet. Aerodynamic and powertrain tech comes straight from the brand's GTE and 488 Challenge race cars.

    Ford Edge

    Ford has only just revealed the facelifted Edge to the American market at the Detroit motor show, but the European version is coming, with a reveal set for the Geneva motor show. We'll only get diesels in Europe, and unlike the US,  who get a V6-powered Edge ST, ST-Line is the sportiest version we'll get of the large SUV. 

    Ford Ka+ facelift, Ka+ Active

    Ford's littlest model has been given a facelift for 2018, and a rufty-tufty SUV makeover as part of it. The facelifted Ka+ and Ka+ Active will go on sale later in 2018, alongside a Fiesta Active and a Focus Active, as Ford SUV-ifies its lineup for the industry's latest craze.

    Honda CR-V

    Honda's new Nissan Qashqai rival will head to Geneva, with styling mirroring that of the rest of the range. There's a new hybrid version on its way, too - Honda's first since dropping the Insight name from the UK market. 

    Honda Urban EV, Sports EV

    Honda's duo of retro-styled EVs are heading for Geneva, with the Urban EV planned for production next year and the Sports EV coming the year after. 

    Hyundai Kona Electric

    Not content with an entry into one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry with the Nissan Juke-rivalling KonaHyundai is bringing an electric variant to market as well. A range of around 240 miles is mooted - be afraid, Nissan Leaf.

    Hyundai Santa Fe

    The Hyundai Santa Fe is to enter its fourth generation, which will be revealed at the Geneva motor show. It's updated with a new look akin to the Kona above, as well as the brand's latest emergency braking technology - for reverse manoeuvres.

    Italdesign Zerouno convertible

    Italdesign celebrates 50 years this year, and is celebrating in style with a Zerouno convertible. So far, only a revealing preview shot has been revealed, but it's almost certain to have the same V10 engine and similar performance statistics to the coupé. It'll also likely share the coupé's seven-figure price tag. 

    Kia Ceed

    Kia's all-new Focus rival will be revealed in five-door hatchback and estate forms at Geneva, with shooting brake and SUV variants due to arrive later. We've already had a drive in a prototype, which you can read about here.

    Jaguar I-Pace

    If 2017 was the year of the SUV, 2018 is the year of the electric SUV. Jaguar will show the production version of the I-Pace at Geneva; it’s set to be the first direct rival to the Tesla Model X in the UK, but it won’t be on the market alone for long, with the Audi E-tron arriving imminently afterwards.

    Lexus UX

    We’ve been waiting for the production version of Lexus’ first small SUV since the brand revealed its UX concept at the Paris motor show two years ago. It looks like Lexus will finally show its Jaguar E-Pace rival at this year’s Geneva show as the luxury small SUV segment explodes.

    LVCHI Auto Venere

    A new Chinese electric vehicle company called LVCHI has teamed up with Italian design house I.DE.A to produce a new model called the Venere, which it said is ready for production. We've had a go at lightening an image of the car below.

    MAT Stratos

    It's been nearly eight years since the Stratos was first revealed in 2010, but it's finally going into production - a 25-unit production run, with each car costing £487,000, plus the donor car, which is a Ferrari F430.

    McLaren Senna

    We’ve already seen the Senna – it was revealed at an event for customers at the brand’s Composite Technology Centre in Sheffield – but the Geneva motor show will be the car’s first public display. It has 660bhp, weighs 1198kg and is claimed to be the quickest-lapping production McLaren yet.

    Mercedes-Benz C-Class facelift

    The UK's best-selling saloon has been revealed in facelifted form ahead of a Geneva debut. It's now got more hybrids in the range, including diesel-electric powertrains, as well as the subtlest of styling refreshes. 

    Mercedes-Maybach S-Class

    Mercedes' ultimate S-Class has been given its mid-life refresh following the rest of the luxury limo's range. It now gets a two-tone paint job, more distinct front-end styling and new wheels - all of which take inspiration from the recent Maybach 6 concept. 

    Mercedes-AMG G63

    The cooking G-Class was revealed at Detroit motor show, so it follows that the brand will bring its mad, 577bhp AMG G63 to Geneva. Outside, little changes over the outgoing G63, but the brick-like quick G-Wagen's acceleration to 62mph from a standstill has been chopped to 4.5sec. 

    Mercedes-AMG GT four-door

    Mercedes-AMG’s answer to the Porsche Panamera is almost upon us, a year after the GT concept was revealed. We’ll be seeing the production car at this year’s Geneva show with a 604bhp V8 under its bonnet. An 805bhp petrol-electric hybrid powertrain will come later.

    Mercedes-Benz A-Class

    Mercedes has achieved a lot with the A-Class - it’s in the top ten best-sellers in the UK and is the best-selling premium hatchback. The model is now entering its fourth generation and will adopt Mercedes' new family face, first shown on the third-generation CLS

    Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

    Mitsubishi is updating the Outlander PHEV for the 2019 model year, with updates to its plug-in hybrid powertrain, interior and exterior. 

    Mitsubishi e-Evolution concept

    Mitsubishi teased us with the Evo name on its e-Evolution concept, as it gradually turns all of its historic sports cars into SUVs. The e-Evolution is getting a second outing at the Geneva motor show this year, after its debut in Tokyo.

    Morgan Aero GT

    The Aero 8 is being discontinued, and the Aero GT, a motorsport-inspired version of the retro-styled sports car, will make up the final eight units in its production run. The aerodynamic bodywork additions are described by the company as ‘drastic’. 

    Morgan Plus 8 50th Anniversary

    The 4.8-litre BMW V8 engine dies with the Plus 8 50th Anniversary edition, which also serves as a run-out special to the Plus 8. Morgan is keeping tight-lipped on whether the Plus 8 will be replaced and any details on the 50th Anniversary edition. Expect it to cost well in excess of the regular Plus 8’s £85,461 starting price, though. 

    Pal-V Liberty

    The self-proclaimed 'world's first commercial flying car' will make an appearance at Geneva, as the brand continues its publicity assault on the automotive industry. The £425,000 flying vehicle will be delivered to first customers at the end of the year.

    Peugeot 508

    Peugeot's replacement for the slow-selling 508 is due in Geneva, with dramatic new styling, which we've already caught a glimpse of in our spy shots and a leaked image. The brand is keeping tight-lipped on the finer details, but with a tide of SUVs beating the saloon market into submission, radical change is expected to keep the 508 going for another generation. 

    Peugeot Rifter

    The second of the three PSA van-cum-MPV siblings, the Peugeot Rifter packs the same mix of practicality and utility as the Berlingo Multispace and Vauxhall Combo Life.

    Polestar 1

    Polestar's first model, the Polestar 1, will be on show at the Geneva motor show as the car begins its publicity tour of the world. 

    Porsche 911 GT3 RS

    Remember the Ferrari 488 Pista further up? Consider this its arch-nemesis - revealed on the same day, due at the same Geneva motor show, with performance statistics that are as closely matched as you can get. Heavens.

    Range Rover SV coupé

    Remember the Range Stormer concept of 2004? Probably not, but it was basically a three-door Range Rover Sport that never made it out of the concept stage. It’s back, though, having been confirmed by the brand with an interior preview shot, as an SVO project with a quarter-million-pound price tag.

    Renault Zoe R110

    No, it's not the hot Zoe e-Sport we've been waiting for all this time, but it's as close as we're going to get until Renault makes a decision. Still, 107bhp and the same 250-mile NEDC range doesn't sound bad to us...

    Rimac ‘Concept Two’

    Rimac’s second model, following the electric Concept One, will be even more luxurious, faster and more exclusive. It won’t be called Concept Two. It has been described by the brand as "a true game-changer".

    Seat Cupra Ateca

    It’s been a while since we first spied the Cupra Ateca, but Seat's first fast SUV will finally arrive at the Geneva motor show as the first prong of Cupra as a fully-fledged sub-brand – something that's also expected to be announced at Geneva. 

    Skoda Fabia facelift

    Skoda's facelifting the Fabia after four years on sale, with a design overhaul promised. It's got a new look, new tech from larger models, and not a single diesel engine in the lineup.

    Skoda Vision X

    A 2019 small SUV is previewed in the lurid green-coloured Vision X concept, which also features a hybrid powertrain ahead of the brand's imminent adoption of hybrids. It's likely to remain largely unchanged for production, akin to other recent Skoda concepts.

    Ssangyong e-SIV concept

    Ssangyong's getting Sserious about its upcoming Nissan Qashqai rival, which is due in 2019. The latest concept, a development of the SIV-2 shown at last year's Geneva show, has an electric powertrain and the brand's latest autonomous tech. 

    Subaru Viziv Tourer concept

    Subaru is continuing its Viziv concept campaign in Geneva, with the Viziv Tourer concept - essentially an estate version of the Viziv Performance concept that's thought to preview the next-generation WRX.

    Techrules Ren RS

    Techrules' diesel turbine range-extended EV hypercar is already getting a pared-back track version, and it's heading to Geneva for its unveiling. All 1287bhp of it. 

    Toyota Aygo

    Toyota will launch its 2018 Aygo in Geneva with more power - well, a dinky 2bhp boost - and more significantly, a 3.5mpg improvement to economy. It also gets a colour coded X on its nose and new trim options.

    Toyota's race car concept

    It's as-yet-unnamed, but with a not-so-subtle reference to the return of a legendary sports car accompanying the single murky image, there's no two guesses as to what Toyota is hinting at with its upcoming concept. The Supra has been in development for over a year, so this concept is likely to be more than a slight clue as to what to expect.

    Vauxhall Combo Tour

    The third of three PSA van-MPVs. 

    Volkswagen ID Vizzion concept

    Volkswagen's latest ID concept - the Vizzion - is unlike all the others. It's a saloon, for a start, indicating that it's the long-awaited electric replacement for the Phaeton, but it also has no driver controls. Just four seats, and passenger entertainment. 

    Volvo V60

    One year after the XC60 was revealed, its estate sibling, the V60, will be revealed. It's the first glimpse we'll get at Volvo's new 60 series of cars, which will be completed by the S60 saloon, following the V60 a few months from its reveal. Both will go on sale in the UK in early 2019. 

    Zenvo's new hypercar

    Zenvo has announced that it will take a new hypercar to Geneva - but that's it. It's yet to tell us how powerful, what it'll be powered by, or where it sits in relation to its other cars. The amount of exposed carbon fibre suggests it'll be the most hardcore model the brand has made yet, though...

  • Volvo V60 estate unveiled ahead of Geneva motor show Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Volvo V60 estate unveiled ahead of Geneva motor show
    Volvo is launching its new V60 estate at next month’s Geneva show
    Roomier load-lugger goes up against Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series Touring

    Volvo is launching a roomier, higher-technology and more upmarket replacement for the V60 estate at next month’s Geneva motor show.

    Due on roads in September, the new load-lugger shares its SPA (Scalable Product Platform) with Volvo’s current crop of new cars and SUVs, and will be a highly competitive model in a class currently dominated by the Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series Touring.

    At 4761mm long, the new V60 is 117mm longer than its XC60 platform twin. It sits on a 2872mm wheelbase that's 98mm longer than the XC60's.

    These roomy dimensions make the V60 the biggest car in its class. Volvo has increased both passenger and luggage space considerably from the outgoing V60, an eight-year-old design loosely based on a Ford platform that's more than a decade old.

    Luggage volume now stands at 529 litres to the glass line with the rear seats up, 841 litres to the glass line with seats down and 1364 to the roof with seats down. The first figure puts the V60 ahead of the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class in this regard - all key rivals with the car's new £31,810 price point.

    Boot volume has been prioritised to satisfy demand from family customers who want plenty of room for parental paraphernalia and lifestyle equipment.

    Capacity is said to be class-leading, meaning it is expected to be bigger than the Audi A4 Avant’s 500/1505 litres (with seats up and down).

    This priority for boot volume marks a significant design change from the V90, which ceded maximum loading space to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class in favour of limousine levels of rear knee room.

    Owners of the existing V60 – itself a dramatic design when it launched in 2010 – will instantly recognise the higher-quality exterior and interior design that follows the principles established with the V90 and XC60.

    With time to develop details such as the crisp shoulder and the bigger proportions, the new V60 may well be the best-resolved yet of all Thomas Ingenlath’s attractive creations.

    The roofline, for example, inclines with a sportier taper towards the rear hatch, whereas the V90 takes a more parallel line to completion.

    More deeply sculpted body sides add drama to a shape that’s otherwise unmistakably modern Volvo.

    Inside, the fascia, instrument panel and centre-console touchscreen are pure XC60 and a vast improvement on the outgoing model.

    Volvo XC40 gets three-cylinder powertrain; hybrid and EV versions to come

    At launch, Volvo will unveil a range of five engines – two diesels, one petrol and two plug-in hybrids.

    Four are confirmed for the UK. These include the D3 and D4 diesels, with expected power outputs of 148bhp and 187bhp respectively at launch. A 242bhp T5 petrol will follow later this year, with a 335bhp T6 Twin Engine plug-in - a first for Volvo in the UK - later and T4 petrol arriving in around 12 months. The fifth engine, a T8 Twin Engine plug-in with 385bhp – 17bhp less than in the XC60 – will not come to the UK.

    Volvo says it has “no current plans” to introduce an entry-level 118bhp D2 diesel, although experience suggests such a model might come in two to three years' time.

    The car rides on supension featuring computer controlled damping.

    Polestar 1 to go on 'brand building' world tour before 2019 launch

    The same arsenal of driver assistance systems offered on other Volvo models will be available on the new V60, including City Safe with Autobrake, Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving at up to 81mph, two collision warning systems and cross-traffic alert.

    Reflecting the significant step up in engineering product quality and equipment levels, prices for the new car have risen considerably over the outgoing V60's £24,145 starting price. Volvo sold around 3000 V60s in the UK last year - 4.3% of the market - although it's expected that Volvo is aiming for a larger slice of sales with the new model.

    Buyers will now require £31,810 for a new V60, but that does at least leave the car competitive against the German competition, and Volvo insists that the V60 will offer more equipment for the money. Expect the price to rise above £50k for the bells-and-whistles T6 plug-in, and deliveries for first cars to come in September

    More content:

    First electric Volvo hatchback due in 2019

    Lotus owner Geely plans SUV and cars to rival Ferrari

  • Peugeot Rifter revealed as Citroen Berlingo Multispace sibling Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Peugeot Rifter revealed as Citroen Berlingo Multispace sibling
    The Peugeot Rifter has been revealed as part of the three-prong PSA group assault on the van-based MPV market
    Rifter name replaces Partner Tepee, it’s one of three van-based MPVs from PSA group. The Vauxhall Combo Life completes the trio

    The Peugeot Rifter has been revealed as Peugeot’s offering in the three-prong PSA group assault on the van-based MPV market.

    The Rifter is mechanically identical to the Citroen Berlingo Multispace and Vauxhall Combo Life, being based on the previous-generation cars, with the EMP2 platform front end allowing for greater driver assistance technologies, such as Advanced Grip Control (PSA’s traction control system), automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.

    Like the Berlingo Multispace, the Rifter will be available in five or seven-seat variants when sales begin in summer, although the larger car won’t arrive on driveways until 2019. 

    Peugeot claims storage capacity of 775 litres up to the window line, which rises to 4000 litres up to the ceiling for the long-wheelbase version, with the seats folded flat. Identical to the Berlingo, the short Rifter is around 4400mm long, and the long-wheelbase version is 4750mm in length. 

    While the Citroën Berlingo has been refreshed with a new SUV-like look, the Rifter and Combo Life remain more MPV-like in their front ends.

    Engines are shared across the three cars, meaning 1.2-litre Puretech petrols in 109bhp and 128bhp flavours, and four 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesels, ranging in power from 74bhp to 128bhp. Both 128bhp engines are available with eight-speed automatic gearboxes. 

    It’s a new entry into the market for Vauxhall, but Peugeot and Citroën have seen great success here; 2987 sales across 2017 puts the Rifter’s predecessor, the Partner Tepee, atop the sales charts for the segment, while Citroën’s 2644 sales place it third. The model is Citroën’s second-best-selling model worldwide. 

    A small price increase is expected over the Partner Tepee’s £16,795 starting price, while the longer variant is expected to command nearer to £20,000 when sales begin. 

    Read more

    New Citroen Berlingo Multispace gets SUV influence, extended variant

    PSA Group purchase of Opel and Vauxhall completed with new financial company

    Top 10 best seven-seat MPVs 2018

  • New Cars 2018: What's coming soon? Wednesday 21st February 2018
    New cars 2018
    Welcome to Autocar's run-down of all the new cars heading this way in 2018
    Autocar's new cars list gives you all the information on 2018's new arrivals, rounding up all the new models going on sale in the UK

    Thought 2017 was a busy year for cars? There's a whole raft of exciting new models coming throughout 2018, with entrants into every major segment, and an ever-growing flock of SUVs ready to hit the market.

    Here is your one-stop shop for keeping up-to-date with what's coming when in the car industry. 

    February 2018

    March 2018

    April 2018

    May 2018

    Summer 2018

    Autumn 2018

    Winter 2018

    New Cars Coming in 2018:

    February

    Aston Martin Zagato Speedster

    Retro-inspired Zagato creation will only get 28 units, and a price tag of just under £1million apiece. 

    Audi RS4 Avant

    Still 444bhp, but a 125bhp torque boost makes all the difference in everyday driving. 

    Audi A7

    Tech and refinement upgrades inside, and a radical new look outside which is something of a departure for Audi.

    BMW i3 facelift

    Facelifted i3 has a range of between 146 and 158 miles as tested. There's a hot version too...

    BMW i3S

    ...which gets sportier looks, a 10mm lowering and 181bhp. 

    DS 7 Crossback

    The first premium French SUV will fight the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. Hybrid coming the following year.

    Ford Fiesta ST

    Ford's handling hero returns, this time with a three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine matching the output of the previous ST200 range-topper.

    Jeep Compass

    Yes, another Nissan Qashqai rival. Jeep's effort aims to appease those with a greater desire to venture off-road. 

    Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster

    Drop-top supercar now packs 730bhp with a top speed of 217mph. 3.0sec dead to 62mph. 

    Lexus CT facelift

    Ageing BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class rival gets a refresh. Will be replaced by the UX small SUV. 

    Lexus NX update

    Ride improvements and styling tweaks for Lexus' best-seller. Another rival to the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

    Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

    A car at least partly charged with Mitsubishi's turnaround. Head-turning looks and pricing in line with rivals. 

    Subaru Impreza

    High safety ratings and four-wheel drive for Subaru's latest Ford Focus rival. Four-cylinder boxer remains. 

    Volkswagen Up GTI

    Volkswagen's pocket rocket harks back to the Lupo GTI and Mk1 Golf GTI. It's the final car in the GTI range. 

    March

    Audi S7

    Warm four-door coupé version of the A7.

    Bentley Continental GT

    Third-generation Conti gets a sharper drive and even more luxury.

    BMW M5

    Newly four-wheel drive, and with 592bhp on tap. It's now the quickest-accelerating BMW made yet. 

    BMW X2

    Funky small SUV aims for younger buyers with style and C-pillar badges.

    Ford Ecosport facelift

    Ford aims to improve a chink in its armour with the model year 2018 Ecosport. Improved interior and new face mark it out from the previous cars. 

    Ford Mustang facelift

    Comprehensively updated Mustang gets a boost in efficiency, and a cut in power for the four-cylinder model. Performance remains the same nonetheless.

    Honda Civic diesel

    Honda bucks the trend introducing a diesel in uncertain climes for oil-burners. Should prove one of the most frugal of the lot. 

    Honda Jazz facelift

    Gets meaner styling and a 1.5-litre engine, which goes in the warm new Jazz Sport.

    Lamborghini Urus

    641bhp super-SUV takes just 3.6sec to reach 62mph, is the first of a new breed of mud-plugger.

    Lister Thunder

    208mph, 666bhp F-Type based sports car revealed in January has already accrued considerable number of orders.

    Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupé/Cabriolet

    Now a 4.0-litre V8 in place of a 5.5-litre, but with more power, and the same impeccable refinement.

    MG 3 facelift

    Supermini gets updated exterior, and an overhauled interior. 

    Subaru XV

    Safety-conscious small-seller is built on an all-new Subaru platform.

    Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport/Sport Tourer GSi

    Range-topping Insignia VXR replacement will sell in relatively small numbers, but has pace on its side.

    Volvo XC40

    Volvo's Range Rover Evoque rival will be available to buy, or by subscription service. Already one of the best premium small SUVs on the market.

    April

    Audi A6

    Prologue-inspired A6 will face ever stiffer competition from the executive car segment. 

    Citroën C4 Cactus

    Gets Citroën's much-lauded Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension, but loses the characteristic Airbumps of the original.

    Ferrari Portofino

    Folding hard-top convertible is powered by a 3.9-litre, 592bhp, V8 engine that the Italian firm says can accelerate it from 0-62mph in 3.5sec.

    Ferrari FXX-K Evo

    More aero-honed FXX-K now produces 830kg total downforce at the car’s top speed.

    Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

    697bhp and 645lb ft of torque at 4800rpm meets large SUV for all-American performance car.

    Mitsubishi Shogun Sport

    Huge mud-plugging SUV will be the only direct rival to the Toyota Land Cruiser. 

    Morgan Aero GT

    8-unit run-out special to the Aero 8 will be revealed in Geneva.

    Morgan Plus 8 50th Anniversary Edition

    50-units complete the production run of the Plus 8, as the brand moves away from the 4.8-litre BMW V8 engine. Another to be revealed at Geneva. 

    Porsche Cayenne

    Porsche's saviour SUV enters its third generation. Porsche says it's more like the 911 than ever.

    Renault Mégane RS

    276bhp appears to put Renault's world-beating hot hatch behind competitors, but rear-wheel steer should make up for it where it matters most. 

    Volkswagen Touareg

    Still the daddy of Volkswagen's SUV range in markets where the Atlas is still something you look at in geography lessons. It'll get four-wheel drive as standard and greater efficiency. 

    May

    Alpine A110

    Renault is gunning for the Porsche Cayenne with the Alpine A110. It's mid-engined, lightweight and promises handling verve by the bucketload.

    Aston Martin DB11 Volante

    Drop-top DB11 will be V8 only, to make it as keen-handling as possible. 

    Audi Q8

    Very large, dramatically-styled SUV will sit atop the Audi SUV range, based on the Q7. SQ8 version to follow. 

    BMW 2 Series Active Tourer facelift

    BMW's first ever MPV reaches midway through its first generation, in a segment all but wiped out by the SUV segment.

    BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer facelift

    Slghtly larger Ultimate Driving MPV in receipt of a nip and tuck, following the rest of the 2 Series' tweaks. 

    BMW M3 CS

    3.9-sec-to-62mph M3 is BMW's fastest fast small saloon yet; only 1200 will be built.

    Mercedes-Benz A-Class

    The replacement for UK's best-selling premium hatchback will be revealed at the Geneva motor show. S-Class tech will trickle down, too.

    MG 6

    Mazda 6-like MG 6 has already been revealed in China with a ZS-like look and hugely improved interior. 

    Suzuki Swift Sport

    Feathery 970kg kerb weight and 138bhp combine to keep the Swift Sport a cult-hit handling star.

    Volkswagen Polo GTI

    All of a sudden, the Polo GTI becomes a Ford Fiesta ST rival. More mini Golf than ever, and that's not a bad thing at all. 

    Summer 2018

    Aston Martin Vantage

    New baby Aston gets AMG 4.0-litre V8 power to the tune of 503bhp. One of a number of cars aimed at transforming Aston into a big-hitting luxury brand. 

    Audi Q3

    Audi's X1 rival gets the new family face grafted on the front, more tech on the inside and an increase in size to differentiate it from the Q2

    Audi A6 Avant

    Estates are a dying segment elsewhere in the market, but the A6 Avant - along with its rivals - will continue to outsell their saloon counterparts.

    Bentley Bentayga PHEV

    3.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid will be Bentley's first electrified model. Same powertrain will be shared with a Continental GT variant. 

    BMW X4

    X3-based SUV-coupé shifts after just four years, with the advent of the new X3. 

    BMW i8 facelift

    Updated hybrid supercar now gets 369bhp thanks to an upgraded electric engine. Get it while you can - there's no guarantee of a replacement. 

    BMW i8 Roadster

    Facelifted i8 also brings a drop-top version. It's only 60kg heavier than the coupé, and ditches the rear two seats. 

    BMW M2 Competition

    More hardcore M2 looks set to get the twin-turbo six-cylinder from the M3 and M4. Picks up where the legendary M3 CSL left off.

    Dacia Duster

    More grown up budget SUV gets an overhauled interior and updated exterior.

    Ford Focus

    Stalwart hatchback will be launched mid-year, with ST variants to follow. 

    Ford Mustang Bullitt

    Bullitt's 50th anniversary has spawned the Mustang Bullitt - Ford's third attempt at a Bullitt-themed special edition, with 475bhp and throwback styling to Steve McQueen's famous hero car.

    Honda CR-V

    Newly turbocharged, and larger in every direction, Honda's largest SUV hopes to rack up more sales, akin to the successful US version. 

    Jaguar XE SV Project 8

    Deliveries for the newly-crowned four-door 'Ring king begin in July 2018.

    Jaguar I-Pace

    It's a Geneva reveal for Jaguar's EV challenger, which will be with customers by the summer. 

    Jaguar F-Pace SVR

    SVR's next will be the F-Pace, which gets a 5.0-litre V8 engine and potentially, 567bhp on tap.

    Maserati Levante GTS

    It's been a while since Maserati produced anything new and hardcore, but the Levante is set to be the next, with a 523bhp Ferrari V8 under the bonnet. 

    Mercedes-AMG E53 Coupé/Cabriolet

    There's 429bhp on tap from Mercedes-AMG's first performance hybrids. They're also joined by an AMG CLS 53.

    Mercedes-Benz C-Class facelift

    S-Class tech trickles down into Mercedes' best-selling model, and the UK's best-selling saloon car, the C-Class. 

    Mercedes-Benz CLS

    Newly revealed third-generation CLS does without the shooting brake this time around, but maintains the style of the original. 

    Mercedes-Benz G-Class facelift

    The G-Wagen is getting an update, with a G63 kicking off the newly spruced up tough-mudding SUV. Aerodynamics, we already know, will not be a priority. 

    Mercedes-Maybach S-Class

    Mercedes' flagship S-Class has been facelifted, and so, in turn, the Maybach variant will be too. 

    Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG 004S

    Glickenhaus' Le Mans car for the road packs 650bhp from its 5.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8. The few that will make it to the UK will arrive from July. 

    Subaru Outback facelift

    Interior tweaks will make the cabin of the facelifted Outback a much more interesting place to be. Minor exterior tweaks will keep the status quo. 

    Toyota Yaris GRMN

    Toyota's first hot hatch in years arrives in very limited numbers in summer 2018. 209bhp from its 1.8-litre engine and 0-62mph in 6.3sec, since you asked. 

    Autumn 2018

    Aston Martin Vanquish

    Next-generation Vanquish will answer to the Ferrari 812 Superfast. Considerably more than 600bhp is mooted.

    Audi E-Tron

    In a thoroughly modern Clash of the Titans, Audi will take on Jaguar in the electric market, with the E-Tron going up against Jag's I-Pace.

    BMW X3 M

    The M brand is spreading, and it's now heading for small SUV territory, as the hot SUV market gears up for battle. The X3 M will have around 425bhp, and at least five rivals by the end of 2018. 

    Citroën Berlingo Multispace

    Citroën's third-generation van-based MPV - its second-best seller worldwide - gets a new SUV-like look, new front-end underpinnings and a host of driver assistance systems.

    Dallara Stradale

    Motorsport outfit is to produce its first ever road car - it'll cost around £163,000 for UK customers when the first examples arrive in October.

    Isuzu D-Max facelift

    Isuzu's workhorse will be refreshed for 2018, with styling, interior and technology tweaks. As the class heats up, Isuzu may have a fight on its hands.

    Kia Ceed

    The Ceed is germinating into a whole family of models including a shooting brake and SUV. The hatchback remains at the core of the range, though.

    Mazda 6 facelift

    Handsome saloon is updated with tweaked styling, handling and ride, while the interior has been given more upmarket tech.

    Mercedes-AMG GT four-door saloon

    600bhp launch version will eventually sit below a super-hybrid with 805bhp. We smell a 'Ring record attempt. 

    Porsche Macan facelift

    SUV handling hero reaches its mid-life stage, and there are new turbo V6 engines on the way, as well as a tweaked interior. 

    BMW X5

    Up to 600bhp in M-badged form, but entirely more conventional down the rest of the range. Gets a more X7-like look - could be divisive.

    Hyundai i30 Fastback N

    Hyundai's fast fastback is coming, with all the talents of the hatchback and a little more practicality. 

    Kia Niro EV

    Soft launch for Kia's second EV, with the Niro EV going on sale as a powertrain option, rather than an all new model. 

    Land Rover Discovery SVX

    Mud-plugging SVX promises go-anywhere ability with a 517bhp V8 engine thrown in for good measure.

    Range Rover Velar SVR

    Sister car to the Jaguar F-Pace gets a performance-focused SVR variant. 542bhp and 502lb ft of torque, in case you're wondering. 

    Mercedes-Benz A-Class saloon

    A-Class saloon will fight the Audi RS3 saloon and ever-rumoured BMW 1 Series saloon, if the latter ever comes to Europe. AMG versions to follow.

    Seat Cupra Ateca

    The Cupra Ateca has been swirling around for a while now, but the performance SUV is coming, and just in time for things to get cold again. Likely to be the first Cupra spin-off-brand car.

    Winter 2018

    BMW 8 Series

    BMW's new flagship with a not-so-new name. This version will actually get the supercar-baiting M8, though. Six and eight-cylinder petrols and diesels for the rest of the range, and a V12 coming later.

    Jeep Wrangler

    Jeep's old-school SUV is getting thoroughly modern with a hybrid variant and new tech. 

    Audi RS5 Sportback

    Same 444bhp engine and 125lb ft hike, but five doors.

    Audi A1

    Audi's aiming squarely for Mini with the A1, which moves to MQB for greater refinement, handling and quietness. 

    Audi SQ8

    Hot hybrid version of Audi's future flagship SUV. 

    Citroën C5 Aircross

    Citroën's Nissan Qashqai rival arrives at the end of the year, with the brand's Progressive Hydraulic Cushions suspension. Another with a hybrid version to follow.

    Honda CR-V hybrid

    Honda's back on the hybrid hype after cutting the Insight some years ago with a petrol-electric CR-V. 

    Hyundai Nexo

    Hyundai's second FCEV will be another SUV, but will be a stand-alone model rather than a Tucson variant this time. It's been previewed in concepts, but will likely be toned down for production. 

    Hyundai Kona-E

    An EV version of the Kona will follow the standard versions in 2018, as Hyundai ramps up its charge into alternative fuels. 

    Hyundai Santa Fe

    Fourth-generation large SUV puts a focus on technology, with a host of standard driver assistance, safety and convenience systems.

    Infiniti QX50

    The first car with a variable compression ratio engine, Infiniti promises all the talents of petrol with all the efficiency of diesel. Eureka. 

    Range Rover coupé

    Super-luxury, SVO-built two-door coupé will hit UK shores by the end of 2018, as an eventual follow-up to the Range Stormer concept of 2004. 

    Mercedes-AMG GT facelift

    A power hike is certain, although it'll likely not match the E63 S's 603bhp. Exterior tweaks will be ever so subtle. 

    Mercedes-Benz GLE

    Mercedes' mid-sized SUV will arrive in time for Christmas. The 4.0-litre AMG 63 won't. 

    Morgan EV3

    Morgan's three-wheeled, first full-electric series production car gets a range of 120 miles, and will be available to customers from late 2018.

    Renault Alaskan

    The Renault Alaskan has already been pushed back once, but Renault's first pick-up is penned in for a 2018 launch. 

    Rolls-Royce Cullinan

    Another brand's 'first' SUV, although you can bet your Phantom that this'll be more expensive than any of those. 

    Seat Tarraco

    Seat's seven-seater has been coming for a while now, and it'll even has a name now. Expect similar packaging to the Skoda Kodiaq and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.

    Skoda Fabia facelift

    Skoda's supermini gets a new look, new tech, new interior and - gasp - no diesels. 

    Skoda Kodiaq vRS

    Another entrant into the fast SUV market, this time it's Skoda throwing its name into the mix. A diesel engine with lots of torque is reported to be under the bonnet. 

    Subaru Forester facelift

    Rock-solid SUV gets the same treatment as the Outback, with interior tweaks taking precedent over minor exterior changes. 

    Vauxhall Corsa GSi

    Vauxhall's supermini gets the warm treatment in answer to the Ford Fiesta ST-Line. VXR isn't dead, insists Vauxhall, but there are no further models planned just yet.

    Volkswagen Passat facelift

    Venerable Volkswagen estate and saloon will be facelifted at the end of 2018. Expect the usual raft of efficiency, interior and exterior revisions. 

    Volkswagen T-Cross

    Volkswagen's SUV offensive continues with the Polo-sized T-Cross. Nissan Juke and Renault Captur are in the T-Crosshairs.

    Volvo XC40 Twin Engine

    Volvo's plug-in hybrid small SUV is coming from the fourth quarter onwards, with the brand's 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine mated to a supplementary electric motor. An EV arrives in 2019.

    What cars are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments section below

  • 2018 Peugeot 508: full styling leaks ahead of Geneva debut Wednesday 21st February 2018
    2018 Peugeot 508 leaks ahead of Geneva motor show debut
    This is our best look yet at the Peugeot 508
    Peugeot's new saloon gets a concept-inspired look and a Geneva show reveal; it's been outed early on social media, though

    Peugeot’s new 508 flagship saloon will get front and rear styling inspired by the Instinct concept of last year. The new car's design has been shown in a suite of new pictures that have leaked ahead of its official reveal at next month's Geneva motor show.

    The new Peugeot 508 has now been officially launched. Click here to read our story

    Full front, rear and interior styling of the new saloon is shown in the leaked images, as well as highlights of the tech available in the French brand's upcoming flagship. Design cues from the Instinct concept are also present on the front, including the stylistic daytime running lights extending down from the headlight clusters. The leaked images were first shown on a Croatian Youtube channel

    The images also show that the model, which has been spotted testing on multiple occasions and is due to go on sale in the UK this November, will retain its saloon body style, with a short boot lid with incorporated lip spoiler completing a swooping line from the top of the car’s roof. The original leak showing the car's rear was posted on Peugeot fan site Peugeot Héritage, the pictures show that the car will feature a stylistic rear light bar like the one on Peugeot's striking 2017 concept.

    The car will gain Peugeot’s i-Cockpit system, with a digital dashboard replacing traditional dials and a large central touchscreen infotainment system taking precedent on a de-cluttered dashboard. One shot also reveals camera-based obstacle detection technology, which is likely to be linked to the car's automatic emergency braking system. 

    The new Peugeot 508 has now been officially launched. Click here to read our story

    Engines are expected to be shared with larger Peugeot models, so the brand’s BlueHDi engine is due in 1.6 and 2.0-litre iterations, as is a 1.6-litre THP petrol engine, with 165bhp. The leak confirms that an automatic gearbox, likely PSA's 6-speed EAT6 unit, will be available. It's not yet known if a manual version will be offered. The 508 GT branding on the car's registration plate confirms that the images show a range-topping warmed-up model. 

    A Peugeot 5008 plug-in hybrid is due at the end of the year, so it’s likely that the 508 will use the same powertrain for a range-topping electrified model. The current 508 starts at £25,340; a small rise in price is likely for the new saloon. 

    The new Peugeot 508 has now been officially launched. Click here to read our story

    A Citroën saloon, returning in 2019 after the C5 was axed in 2016, will likely share underpinnings with the 508. 

    Read more

    The new Peugeot 508 has now been officially launched. Click here to read our story

    New flagship Citroen saloon confirmed for production

    Restyled Peugeot 508 due in 2018

    Next Peugeot 508 to get fastback rear and second-gen i-Cockpit

    First drive: Peugeot Instinct concept review

  • Facelifted Ford Edge shown ahead of Geneva motor show debut Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Facelifted Ford Edge shown ahead of Geneva motor show debut
    The facelifted Ford Edge will arrive in the UK in 2019
    Ford has revealed the updated Edge – its largest SUV sold in Europe – in European specification. It gets a new 2.0-litre bi-turbo engine with 235bhp

    The European-spec car has just been revealed ahead of its premiere at the next month's Geneva motor show. Its new look was revealed on the US model that was unveiled earlier this year at the Detroit motor show. The facelifted Ford Edge will arrive in the UK in 2019. 

    Ford’s biggest SUV sold in Europe will get a new look inspired by the smaller Ecosport, with a more aggressive headlight design, with LED lights as standard and a new ovular grille at the front, as well as the disappearance of the characteristic light bar at the rear. A more conventional gloss-black extension of the glass is in its place, with larger separate rear light clusters.

    The European car gets a 2.0-litre Ecoblue bi-turbo diesel engine at the top of the range, with 235bhp. Unlike the US, Europe won't get the 335bhp, 380lb ft 2.7-litre V6-powered Edge ST. The European Edge will have exclusively diesel engines, with the sportiest spec being ST-Line, which gets an exclusive suspension set-up and paddle shifters, in addition to black exterior trim, chrome exhaust tips and 20in alloys. 

    The Ecoblue engine has two turbos - one large and one small - that work together for greater low-end torque, while at higher revs the larger, lower-pressure turbo works alone for greater power. It's also available in 187bhp four-wheel drive and 148bhp front-wheel drive forms, while a new eight-speed automatic gearbox has been added to the Edge that can detect gradients and corners for more efficient and effective gear selection. Four trims feature on the new car - entry-level Trend, mid-range Titanium, Vignale and ST-Line

    More technology has been added to the Volkswagen Touareg rival, including Ford’s new Evasive Steering Assist, which mitigates crashes by helping the car steer around obstacles. Adaptive cruise control with lane centring and post-collision braking are now available in the range - the first time these have been offered in Europe. 

    Automatic gearbox-equipped cars also get a rotary gearshifter in place of the current car’s lever, as part of a wider redesign of the centre console. Wireless smartphone charging and an 8.0in touchscreen with Sync 3 infotainment system have also been added. A digital dashboard is new to the model and can be adapted to the driver's preferences. 

    SUVs are increasingly important among Ford's range - 2017 marked the brand's most successful year for the Ecosport, Kuga and Edge. The brand sold 230,000 SUVs last year in total, with 16,000 of them being the Edge. 

    Read more 

    Ford Edge review 

    Ford Focus review 

    Ford Fiesta review 

  • Autocar magazine 21 February – out now Wednesday 21st February 2018
    This week: the next Ford Focus RS, Tesla Model S estate driven, a hardcore new Ferrari, two rallying legends battle it out

    This week's big news - we've got the inside line on the Ford Focus RS - it's going hybrid, with 400bhp and 425lb ft. Read the full story in this week's magazine.

    That's not all, though, there's also the latest on the Ferrari 488 Pista, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, the Kia Ceed and the proper way to find out how green your car really is. 

    We've got some heavy-hitters tested this week, too - The Ferrari Portofino, Aston Martin DB11 Volante, Citroën C4 Cactus, Range Rover Velar P300 and a full road test of the BMW i3s

    Also in this issue

    There's a mix of big road-going and rallying names this week; first up is our fond farewell to the Subaru WRX STi

    Then, we put the WRX STi's predecessor up against its most fearsome rival, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI. We also take a dip into history and explore Vauxhall's reintroduction of the GSi badge.

    Not enough? Too petrol-fuelled? We've taken a closer look at, and a drive in, the Tesla Model S shooting brake, the creation of a Norfolk-based coachbuilder and the idea of a businessman, who blames his dog.

    Our cars

    We've taken delivery of a top-of-the-range Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer as the latest addition to our long-term fleet, while elsewhere, the Dacia Sandero Stepway LPG leaves us. Battery issues afflict our Skoda Kodiaq long-termer. 

    Deals

    James Ruppert explains why it's important to share reliability stories, good and bad, while our used buying guide tells you how to bag a £30k Porsche Panamera

    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.

  • Ferrari 488 Pista revealed with 711bhp V8 derived from racing Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Ferrari 488 Pista
    The model uses the most powerful V8 in Ferrari’s history
    The best supercar in the world just got lighter, punchier and even more focused; it's the most powerful V8 Ferrari yet produced

    The new Ferrari 488 Pista dispatches the benchmark 0-62mph as quickly as the Italian brand’s halo model, the LaFerrari.

    The 488 Pista – a more powerful, lighter variant of the 488 GTB, just as the 458 Speciale was to the 458 – covers 0-62mph in 2.85sec, while the official quoted figure for the LaFerrari is “under 3.0sec”.

    Opinion: Has Ferrari really made the best better?

    The model uses the most powerful V8 in Ferrari’s history and is described as an “extreme evolution” of the turbo unit that won International Engine of the Year in both 2016 and 2017.

    The 3.9-litre twin-turbo engine produces 711bhp at 8000rpm and 568lb ft of torque at 3000rpm. Top speed is up to 211mph. Performance figures from its key rival, the range-topping Porsche 911 GT2 RS, are near-identical, achieving 0-62mph in 2.8sec and a top speed of 211mph.

    Ferrari claims the 488 Pista is “a significant step forward” from the previous special series in terms of sporty dynamics and the level of technology carried over from racing. The name – meaning ‘track’ in English – is a nod to the brand’s motorsport heritage.

    The engine, vehicle dynamics, weight saving and aerodynamics are all derived from the 488 GTE and 488 Challenge race cars. Ferrari said the result is a car that offers track-like performance on the road and on circuits.

    The dry weight is 90kg less than a standard 488 GTB’s, at 1280kg. In addition, an extra 49bhp in engine power has ensured this is Ferrari’s most powerful V8 yet.

    The weight decrease comes from features used on the 488 Challenge. These include Inconel exhaust manifolds and lightweight crankshaft and flywheel, plus titanium con rods and carbonfibre intake plenums.

    The 488 Challenge also supplies turbos with integrated rev sensors, while the air intake line has been moved from the flanks to the rear spoiler to help achieve better airflow.

    Torque is higher than the 488 GTB’s at all engine speeds, and the quality and intensity of the engine sound, Ferrari says, are higher than the 488 GTB in all gears and at all revs.

    Overall, there is a 20% improvement in downforce, according to Ferrari. The Pista has an F1-inspired S-duct and redesigned front and rear diffusers from the 488 GTE.

    The Pista also introduces the Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer, which is a world first. It uses Ferrari software to adjust the brake pressure at the calipers, benefiting handling in corners.

    How to buy your first Ferrari

    Ferrari has also updated its Slideslip Angle Control system, first seen on the 458 Speciale, which offers advanced stability control akin to a drift mode. The car uses Ferrari’s magnetorheological suspension set-up.The Pista will be available with 20in carbonfibre wheel rims, a first for Ferrari. Other carbonfibre parts include the engine cover, bumpers and rear spoiler.

    Order books for the 488 Pista will open after the car’s official debut at the Geneva show in March. It is expected to cost from £215,000.

    The arrival of the 488 Pista, which has been rumoured for many weeks, follows in the footsteps of models such as the 458 Speciale, 430 Scuderia and 360 Stradale, all considered the halo variants for their respective models. None was a limited-production model but was typically in production for only two or three years. 

    History of the GTO: 

    Although the Ferrari 250 GTO was the first to receive the GTO moniker, it was the 288 GTO – known simply as the GTO – which began an era of creating more powerful, lighter versions of existing Ferrari road cars, an ethos that has continued to this day with the 488 Pista.

    The Ferrari GTO was built to race but, due to poor participation in the race series, the car never did and all 272 cars built were only ever used on road. Enzo Ferrari gifted the last-built GTO to Formula 1 driverNiki Lauda.

    The model used a 395bhp V8 with two turbos and achieved 0-62mph in 4.9sec.

    Read more:

    Ferrari 458 Speciale review 

    Ferrari 458 review 

    Ferrari F12 review 

  • Is the Ferrari 488 Pista the best supercar yet? Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Ferrari 488 Pista
    Ferrari claims the 488 Pista is “a significant step forward”
    We discuss whether race mods and a more flattering 'drift mode' can make our favourite supercar unbeatable

    So here we are again. The Ferrari 360 CS came along four years into the lifespan of the 360 Modena. 

    For the 430 Scuderia, we were made to wait for three years after the F430’s arrival. For the 458 Speciale, the cadence between all-new model and stripped-out track hero was back to four years. And now we’re back to three again.

    2018 Ferrari 488 Pista revealed

    Some things feel familiar here, others less so. As weight savings go, 90kg isn’t to be sniffed at – but it’s precisely what Maranello saved, last time around, for the 458 Speciale. It leaves the 488 Pista with a slightly heavier dry weight than McLaren’s 675LT had but the car’s 711bhp ought to make up for it.

    This is the biggest power hike any special-series Ferrari V8 has had – and 49bhp might be just the start of it. How exciting does an Inconel exhaust system, a lightweight crankshaft and flywheel, titanium con rods and carbonfibre intake plenums sound, after all? Expect even sharper throttle response and a higher redline, then. They certainly know how to get your attention, don’t they?

    How to buy your first Ferrari

    It’s interesting, also, that Maranello is claiming to have made its Sideslip Angle Control ‘drift mode’ even cleverer. That can’t have been easy. The 488 GTB and the 458 Speciale set a damned high bar for flattering limit handling, and it’s hard to fathom exactly how much more god-like a mid-engined supercar could actually make its driver feel. I suppose we’ll find out. 

    Read more

    Ferrari 458 Speciale review 

    Ferrari 458 review 

    Ferrari F12 review 

  • First ride: Porsche 911 GT3 RS 2018 on ice Wednesday 21st February 2018
    Porsche 911 GT3 RS
    We were on a track cut into the ice at the Porsche Winter Driving Experience centre...
    We sample the final 991-era 911 with WRC legend Walter Rohrl

    Passenger rides are a mixed blessing. Yes, you get to travel in a new car but can you really tell what it’s like without the steering wheel in your hand?

    For decades, motoring journalists have fretted over what one can justifiably say after a few miles in the wrong seat.

    This time, I’m not even going to try. Because not only was the 911 GT3 RS in which I travelled being driven by rally legend Walter Röhrl but we were also on a track cut into the ice at the Porsche Winter Driving Experience centre, some 120 miles the chilly side of the Arctic Circle. I can’t tell you how fast it felt because even on studded tyres it would spin its wheels at any speed and I can tell you nothing about the way it rides because, well, we were on ice.

    2018 Porsche 911 GT3 RS revealed

    What I can tell you is that Röhrl made it feel sublime, which I know will come as no great surprise to anyone.

    But even at the age of 70, the combination of inch-perfect precision and raw, pedal-through-the-firewall aggression appears as intact as when he won his WRC titles in 1980 and 1982.

    As for the car, well, Röhrl has spent so much time in 911 GT2 RSs of late, he describes everything else – this GT3 RS included – as ‘kindergarten cars’ but, from the viewpoint of a slightly bemused passenger, it seems to suit his style. What I remember most is the noise: the sharpest, cleanest, most savage sound I’ve ever heard a road-going 911 make, and I include the GT2 RS in that.

    I can’t tell you how the power feeds in because Röhrl kept the motor between 6000rpm and 9000rpm the whole time, but Porsche’s Andreas Preuninger says the extra power starts to manifest itself from about 4500rpm compared to the standard 911 GT3.

    Then there’s the handling. There appeared to be no angle from which it could not be recovered, no slide that some strange confection of hand and foot work could not correct. How much of that was the car, and how much Walter? That, I am afraid, will have to wait until we drive it for ourselves later in the year. 

    Read more 

    Porsche 911 GT3 RS review 

    Porsche 911 GT3 review 

    Porsche 911 Turbo review 

  • Cupra Ibiza: images of new Seat sub-brand hot hatch leak Tuesday 20th February 2018
    Seat Cupra Ibiza leaks onto social media
    This is our first look at the Seat Cupra Ibiza
    Leaked pictures of performance Ibiza confirm that Cupra models will shed Seat branding

    The first images of the Cupra Ibiza, the new hot hatchbank from new Seat sub-brand Cupra, have leaked online.

    Seat is turning its Cupra performance model range into a full standalone sub-brand. The firm is known to have been developing a Cupra Ateca SUV, but the leaked images showcase a hot version of Seat's class-leading small car.

    The images, which come from the Cupra Sport fan Instagram page, show the hot hatch bearing the new brand’s logo, in a bronze colour previewed on the Leon Cupra R - the last Cupra car from Seat. The photos show of the performance version of the Seat Ibiza show that Cupra models won't feature any Seat branding.

    Large alloy wheels and an aggressive body kit, with carbonfibre aerodynamic additions, mark the car out aesthetically from the standard Ibiza, while the carbon theme continues to the interior, with an airbag cover finished in faux carbonfibre, and a large portion of the dashboard finished to match. 

    An automatic shifter confirms that the car will get a DSG gearbox, with a manual gearbox also likely available. No engine details are known, but it’s expected that the hot Ibiza will get the same 197bhp, 236lb ft 2.0-litre turbocharged engine as the Polo GTI. Previous Ibiza Cupras were in turn exclusively DSG- and manual-equipped.

    Former hot Ibizas have been harder-edged than Polo GTI equivalents, with stiffer suspension but the same power and torque as their Volkswagen counterparts. 

    The Cupra branded version of the Seat Ateca is thought to be making its first appearance at the Geneva motor show next month. The timing of this particular leak hints that the Ibiza will appear alongside it, or shortly afterwards. 

    Seat confirmed Cupra’s new position as a stand-alone unit in January, revealing an aggressive-looking logo and plans to produce multiple models under the Cupra name, rather than being Seat-branded. 

    Read more

    Cupra confirmed as stand-alone performance sub-brand of Seat

    Seat Leon Cupra R: UK allocation of 306bhp hot hatch sells out

    Seat Ibiza Cupra 2009-2017 review

    2018 Geneva motor show preview

    Seat Ateca Cupra – 300bhp SUV caught testing at the Nürburgring

  • LVCHI Auto Venere due at Geneva with 992bhp electric powertrain Tuesday 20th February 2018
    LVCHI Auto Venere due at Geneva with 992bhp electric powertrain
    This is the first of two official preview images…
    Four motors power this four-seat saloon to 62mph in under 3sec

    Chinese car maker LCVHI will reveal an all-electric four-seater called the Venere at next month’s Geneva motor show.

    The model, which comes from the Shanghai electric car brand and has been previewed in two images, arrives with four electric motors – two on each axle – fed by a 100kWh lithium ion battery pack. The car features a two-speed gearbox on each axle.

    The powertrain produces 992bhp and is claimed to be capable of accelerating the Venere to 62mph in under 3sec. Top speed is said to be over 155mph.

    Measuring 5118mm, the car is 119mm longer than a Range Rover. It is said to have a drag coefficient of just 0.28Cd, helping it achieve a claimed NEDC range of 311 miles.

    Designed by the Institute of Development in Automotive Engineering in Italy, the car uses a chassis made from carbonfibre, helping the car achieve its 2100kg kerb weight despite the mass of hardware on board.

    It features two aluminium chassis supports that attach to the front and rear powerplants.

    2018 Geneva motor show preview

    LVCHI said that the car’s cabin features a touchscreen in the tunnel between the driver and passenger in place of a conventional rotary control.

    The car on show in Geneva will be a production-ready example, although LVCHI has yet to confirm where the model will be offered and for how much.

    LVCHI was established two years ago in Shanghai. It employs 400 people, with 75% of its workforce focused on research and development towards electric vehicles.

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