Autocar RSS FeedWelcome to nirvana for car enthusiasts. You have just entered the online home of the world's oldest car magazine, and the only place on the internet where you can find Autocar's unique mix of up-to-the-minute news, red hot car reviews, conclusive road test verdicts, and a lot more besides. en-gbAutocar is part of Haymarket Cars and Aftermarket(c) Haymarket Media Group 2014Tue, 15 Oct 2019 00:01:00 +0100Tue, 15 Oct 2019 00:01:23 +0100Autocar confidential: Twingo's electric ambitions, VW's name game and more Renault Twingo Our reporters empty their notebooks to round up a week in gossip from across the automotive industry

In this week's round-up of automotive gossip, we chat EVs with Renault's planning boss, VW's naming ambitions for its first electric car, Citroen's idea of "unconventional" design and more.

Renault's EV plans go back further than you think

The Renault Twingo was due to be electric from its 2014 launch, it has been revealed. Product planning boss Ali Kassai said: “We originally planned to launch an electric Twingo at the beginning and then we saw that there were no [charging] stations, so we slowed down. And then we had Zoe and we had ambitious plans for that.” An electric Twingo will finally arrive next year.

Numbers are the name of the game at VW

Volkswagen never considered names for its ID models, instead choosing to use numbers. VW sales chief Jürgen Stackmann said: “We wanted to have a brand identity. All cars are ID. The connection is: electric equals ID.” He added that the number three – assigned to the first ID model – gives VW space to go both up and down in the line-up.

Shape of things to come at Citroen

Citroen has said it is committed to traditional car styles in the future but will approach these in an “unconventional way”. Outgoing planning boss Xavier Peugeot said that, with key SUV models in place, attention will switch to other body shapes. “There are not only SUVs in the world,” said Peugeot. “We have to give an answer [to meet demand for other types of car] and we will. But we will not consider silhouettes in a classical way. Citroën’s DNA is rooted in a bold capacity to shake the rules and move the standards.”

Nurburgring beckons for Battista

Pininfarina could go for the Nio EP9’s electric production car records on the Nürburgring Nordschleife and Goodwood hillclimb with its 1900bhp Battista hypercar. But boss Michael Perschke said: “Is that a necessity for our buyers? Probably not. Pininfarina has never been about racing but well-designed luxurious cars.”


New Renault Zoe: UK prices and specs announced

Volkswagen ID 3: vital EV revealed with up to 341-mile range

Pininfarina Battista: 1900bhp EV hits the road in new images

News, 15 Oct 2019 00:01:23 +0100
Citroen boss: comfort and creativity remain core values Linda Jackson with C5 Aircross
Linda Jackson: "Cars in Europe often have so much technology that people don’t use half of it"
As brand turns 100, focus shifts to streamlined dealer model and retaining radical design language

While many have been celebrating Citroën’s past, CEO Linda Jackson’s head is firmly rooted in the future. Her firm is now five years into a strategy of reinvigoration, repositioning and consolidation – this plan is not only about model renewal but customer service and the buying experience. 

Highlights from the first two phases have included the renewal of the C3 supermini, currently a European bestseller, and the launch of the C3 and C5 Aircrosses that now give Citroën a solid foothold in the SUV arena. The third phase will see the launch next year of a new C-segment hatchback, and a big saloon part-signalled by the CXperience concept, which Jackson says “is our inspiration”. 

The product plan, she says, “is based on two key elements. One is to have a design that stands out a little bit, so it’s immediately recognisable as a Citroën, and the other is comfort. Comfort with a very modern approach, not just about suspension, not just seat technology, but also connectivity, simpler dashboards, not so much clutter, air quality, storage space, modularity.” 

On the customer side, there’s now scope to rent Citroëns from your dealer, a My Citroën app to track your car and book it a service, and Maison Citroën, which introduces “much warmer, more convivial areas” to the showroom. There has been fresh marketing impetus too. 

“Last year that strategy delivered 1.1 million sales worldwide and in Europe, which is the first region where we’ve implemented all of those things, it gave us an increase in sales since 2013 of 28%,” says Jackson. “That means we’re approaching the objective of getting a 5% market share in Europe. We’re well on track.” Better still, “this is a very profitable growth”. 

“What we need to do now is take that recipe and install it across all the regions of the world,” Jackson adds, “and also go into new markets like India.” India will be a target not only for growth, but from 2021 the origin of “a new range of cost-efficient products which will be specifically created for international markets”. The project is called C-Cubed because it consists of “three words: cool, comfortable and clever, the last of these being about clever and fresh ways of reducing cost and showroom prices. The project is “also about clever design, and thinking about what goes into the vehicle”, she says. “Cars in Europe often have so much technology that people don’t use half of it. It’s working out what’s important for the customer.” 

That includes electrified cars, too. “Every model that we launch from next year will have a petrol and diesel and either a full-electric or plug-in hybrid until 2025 when 100% of our vehicles will become electrified,” Jackson says. 

These models should strengthen Citroën’s hand in the UK, where the brand’s share is not as high as it has been. Jackson says that “the past couple of years have been very competitive. You can always have market share by buying it. That’s not our philosophy. We’ve moved the PSA Group from a near-death situation in 2013 to an extremely profitable business now. And that is about choosing where you compete. You have to build a sound business, and we have to accept that we do that slowly.” 

Slowly, but if the 19_19 and Ami One concepts are indicators, at times rather excitingly.

Read more

Marque de Triomphe: how Citroen is keeping cool​

Why Citroen CEO Linda Jackson won Autocar's Great British Women Award​

Citroen developing 'unconventional' saloon models​

News, 15 Oct 2019 00:01:23 +0100
Small Seat EV to spawn Cupra model Cupra supermini EV render 2019 Low-price Seat supermini EV is expected in 2022 and a hot Cupra version will join it

Seat is planning to introduce a smaller EV than the El Born as part of its electrification rollout – and a Cupra model could be on the cards, too.

Talking to Autocar at the Frankfurt motor show, Seat president and Cupra board member Luca de Meo said: “We have to find a solution for a smaller car than the El Born (top right). We have to look at a [electric] solution in the B-segment because a big part of the market is not covered.”

The Spanish brand will be “working with the [Volkswagen] Group” in developing an electric supermini, which will likely form the basis of VW’s planned sub-£18,000 ID model.

It has been previously reported that Seat will lead the development of an entry-level electric car within the VW Group. Seat’s design boss, Alejandro Mesonero, also acknowledged it is “strongly collaborating with Volkswagen and taking responsibility over a small segment [electric] car”, claiming development is “very, very intense”.

Achieving such a price will be helped by using the economies of scale made possible by the MEB platform, which, de Meo confirmed, will “give us an opportunity to redesign the thing” away from the look of the combustion-engined Ibiza. The platform is also used under Cupra’s first bespoke electric SUV, the Tavascan, of which de Meo said he has “already seen” the production version.

“You need to wait until battery costs are reasonable so that you can bring the car at a reasonable price,” de Meo said. “To bring a B-segment car at €30,000 [£26,730]… no thank you very much.”

The new electric supermini is confirmed as not being part of Seat’s plan for six electric and plug-in hybrid models by 2021, so it is expected that the Peugeot e-208 rival will arrive by 2022. The delay is because the VW Group is prioritising the roll-out of higher-margin electric cars while also allowing for wholesale battery costs to fall in the intervening period.

De Meo claims that a bespoke approach to EV platforms will create a less compromised car with better efficiency, extra space and a more distinctive style than the PSA route of designing a joint petrol/diesel/electric platform.

Although de Meo wouldn’t officially confirm it, a Cupra variant of the small EV is also believed to be in the pipeline. Linking to the discussion of that model, de Meo said: “Our next hot hatch could come without smoke from the exhaust.”

Seat already offers a small EV, the Mii Electric, but it sits in the smaller, city car segment and isn’t a particularly profitable venture, de Meo acknowledged: “Because of the price positioning and because of the battery, those cars are only done for CO2 regulation.”

Plug pulled on Cupra Ibiza

The Cupra Ibiza is officially “dead”. First shown as a concept in 2018, the Ford Fiesta ST rival was tipped for production within a year, but Seat president Luca de Meo has finally confirmed rumours that the decision has been reversed.

He said: “We couldn’t find the technical base to do a really serious contender. More importantly, for the volumes that we see in that segment, we didn’t find the business case – not at all, because this hot hatch market is very specific to a couple of countries.”

Although that contrasts with the idea of a Cupra version of Seat’s EV supermini, the relative ease of uprating the power of a battery electric powertrain combined with being able to design the car with a Cupra version in mind from the outset would, in theory, allow the financial case to stack up better.


New Cupra Leon ST hot estate seen ahead of 2020 launch

New 2020 Cupra Leon to be part of seven-strong line-up

Cupra Tavascan: emotive EV concept shown at Frankfurt

News, 15 Oct 2019 00:01:23 +0100
Lexus RX F-Sport 2019 review Lexus RS F-Sport 2019 front three quarters Impressive comfort, improved dynamics and upgraded interior makes the RX as close to rivals as it's ever been The proverbial underdog of the large luxury SUV segment in Europe. Last year, Lexus RX sales were just a quarter of those of two key rivals, the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90. But it’s an entirely different story in the US where the RX is top of the segment, selling more than double its nearest competitor, the Mercedes GLE. All in all, then, the RX is important for Lexus, making up a fifth of global sales. The model has long been the pioneer for hybrid technology in the large SUV market, having sold one with a hybrid powertrain since 2005. That, alongside quirky styling, allowed the RX to make its mark. Now, four years into the fourth-generation RX, it’s time for Lexus to up its game, not least because most its rivals now offer an electrified variant.What’s new? The normal, subtle styling changes including redesigned front and rear bumpers, a rearranged tailpipe layout intended to give it a sportier image plus a grille upgrade to bring it inline with the new UX and ES.Lexus has revised the suspension set-up in a bid to improve handling, upping use of high-strength adhesives throughout the chassis and installing stiffer anti-roll bars to improve body rigidity, plus there’s a host of technology updates including the ability to use Android and Apple Carplay.It also employs Bladescan adaptive high-beam system, a world-first says Lexus, which uses a rapidly rotating blade-shaped mirror to direct light from the LED headlamps. An alternative to the LED matrix lights seen on the Q7, it is said to “provides finer and deeper automatic forward illumination”, to easier spot pedestrians and avoid dazzling drivers.First Drive, 14 Oct 2019 21:23:42 +0100How Volkswagen conquered China's toughest road - with onboard video Volkswagen ID R sets record at Big Gate Road
Pikes Peak also has bumps but, compared to the Big Gate Road, it’s a flat autobahn
Watch the blistering electric racer set another record on one of the world’s most spectacular mountain roads, and find out how it was possible

Volkswagen has released new onboard footage of its ID R electric racer setting a record time on China's Big Gate Road. 

Filmed from the cockpit, the video shows driver Romain Dumas taking the record-breaking EV through the mountain road's 99 turns, and emphasises how quickly it accelerates out of each. Watch it below, then read what it was like to watch the run take place. 

How it happened

The Volkswagen ID R was always going to set a new hill record on Tianmen Mountain’s Big Gate Road. Of course it was. For one thing, it was the first official timed run up the 6.776-mile ribbon of concrete, which features 99 tortuous turns as it winds 3609 feet up the spectacular mountain known as the Gateway to Heaven in China’s Hunan province, at an average gradient of 10.14%. 

The road was built in 2006 to reach the amazing Heaven’s Gate natural arch and other sights atop the mountain. A mammoth project, it snakes and winds up the steep, rocky peak, carved by ingenuity and sheer force of will at angles a road has no place being built. It’s normally only used by a fleet of tourist buses – but even the most committed driver of a Golden Dragon XML6700 would struggle to match Romain Dumas in VW’s 671bhp electric record breaker. A few cars have previously tackled the road in anger. Land Rover brought a 567bhp Range Rover Sport to the mountain, with Jaguar’s Formula E reserve driver Ho-Pin Tung summiting the hill in 9min 51sec. But that time was unofficial, and set on a slightly longer course. 

Volkswagen ID R establishes record on Chinese hillclimb

So what does Dumas’ new official time of 7min 38.585sec, at an average speed of 53.07mph, actually prove? The ID R’s previous record-breaking runs – an outright hill record on Pikes Peak; an electric Nürburgring Nordschleife lap record and an outright Goodwood Hillclimb course record – were set on famous, historic motorsport venues, allowing for direct comparison with a huge variety of proven machinery. People know what it means to lap the Nordschleife in 6min 05.336sec. 

But you shouldn’t dismiss VW’s Tianmen Mountain trip as nothing more than a publicity stunt. For one thing, any manufacturer-run motorsport programme is, at heart, a publicity stunt. While the ID R does offer some learning about performance EVs, it has relatively little in common with the newly revealed ID 3. It is intended as the ‘sporty figurehead’ of the ID family: in that ambassadorial role, VW absolutely had to find a showcase for it in China, both the firm’s biggest market and the world’s largest EV market. VW sold 3.11 million cars in China last year, and will launch local-market ID models next year. By 2023, VW is planning to offer 10 ID models in China – and the country will be a key part of its plans to sell one million electric cars worldwide annually by 2025. 

But where in China could VW go? The country isn’t exactly flush with grand, challenging and historic motorsport venues in the style of Pikes Peak (which held its first hillclimb in 1916) or the Nordschleife (which opened in 1927). The Shanghai International Circuit, built in 2004, might be firmly established on the Formula 1 calendar, but it’s not exactly inspiring. 

Without a historic venue to capitalise on, VW created its own. And instead of breaking a record, the aim was to set a standard for others – and then invite them to come and beat it. Tianmen Mountain was chosen because, as well as having a tough, twisting and scenic hillclimb-style road, it is one of China’s most famous tourist locations. Situated just outside the city of Zhangjiajie around 930 miles south-west of Beijing, the mountain draws masses of visitors all year round. VW agreed on a start and finish point with local officials to ensure future attempts use a standard course. 

While there might not have been an official time to beat, VW wanted to ensure the ID R completed the course as close to its potential as possible. Yet to even know what time was possible on such an unusual venue proved complicated. 

“All engineers like new challenges, and this was a big challenge,” says François-Xavier Demaison, VW Motorsport’s technical boss. “It’s difficult because the road is like something you’d find on the Monte Carlo Rally. To come here with a car that’s like a sports prototype, you have to be a bit crazy – but engineers are crazy.” 

VW Motorsport team members visited the mountain late last year, making several runs up the course to video it and capture data using a track logger. At a few corners, they also unfurled a tape measure to check the width of the road and ensure the ID R could actually get round it. The tightest corner – Turn 88 in the perilously twisty section the team named the Layer Cake – has a total radius of around six metres. The team didn’t have to adjust the steering lock – although, after the first practice run, they did increase the level of power steering in the car to make life slightly easier for Dumas. 

The team used the data information gathered from the site visit – and, in truth, plenty of guesswork – to settle on a base set-up. That included the big front and rear wings the ID R used at the high altitudes of Pikes Peak, rather than the far smaller wing (with drag reduction system) that was used for the Nürburgring and Goodwood. That choice was made due to the sheer volume of slow bends, although Demaison notes that the speeds were so slow the wings produced little downforce, and the ID R largely had to rely on mechanical grip. 

The biggest problem was the road’s surface, comprised largely of concrete slabs joined together. Weathered by the elements and water regularly seeping from the mountain’s limestone rocks, and worn by the near-constant stream of buses traversing it, the surface offered Dumas precious little grip. The road has also been constantly patched, including on the seams where the concrete blocks join. “It really is like a rally,” says Dumas. “It’s a completely crazy road. But it’s very dirty and we were getting air over some of the bumps. Pikes Peak also has bumps but, compared to this, that’s a flat autobahn.” 

Given the surface, the team’s focus during the practice runs was on raising the ridge height of the car so it didn’t bottom out, and softening the suspension in order to give Dumas more feel. 

Another key focus was on the car’s braking: something Dumas did a lot of with 99 turns in under seven miles. The ID R was fitted with the same battery capacity it had at Pikes Peak and the Nürburgring, large enough to cover around 13 miles without worry. With the Tianmen road half that length, there wasn’t much need to recapture energy under braking, but the team did so to improve the braking feel. 

“At Pikes Peak, Romain could roll the car into corners a lot more, because they were faster and more open, but the sharp braking here needed a different approach,” explains Sven Smeets, VW’s motorsport boss. “In the beginning we put lots of regen on, and the car was actually braking too sharply, so we had to find the best balance.” 

With the mountain still open to tourists, VW was very limited on practice time: after a shakedown on Saturday, Dumas completed two runs on Sunday, with a best time of around 8min 30sec. 

Dumas had two sighting attempts before his record run – broadcast live on local TV – and with the track drier (the dense mountain foliage traps in water that tends to seep onto the road even when there hasn’t been rain) and his set-up tweaked, Dumas improved his time to 8min 06sec. “We’d improved a lot, and I thought then we could go below eight minutes,” says Dumas. That prompted him to take more risks, pushing even closer to the unforgiving sheer cliffs and concrete blocks lining the road. When he crossed the line with rear wheels slightly in the air, it was clear he was carrying more speed than before. How much more speed? That was revealed by the two officials from the local Chinese Athletics Association-backed notary office, who verified the time of 7min 38.585sec (recorded using a QX1000, timing equipment fans). “I definitely didn’t expect to go as fast as we did,” says Dumas. “Mind you, I’d like one or two more days here to see what we could really do.” 

What the team did do – and the real goal of coming here – was to gain publicity. As Dumas sprayed champagne and celebrated with the ID R parked at the foot of Tianmen Mountain’s 999 calf-busting steps, a horde of local journalists and curious tourists watched on. The ID offensive has truly begun in China. 

But more than that, Smeets says the team learned even more about the ID R’s potential. “It’s been different,” he says. “It’s an impressive road, and it’s been a real challenge to try and conquer it in a prototype. We’ve learned an awful lot about the car, and about how we can improve it in the future.” 

After a third major project in under four months, what that future is has yet to be decided. But Smeets says the firm has “plenty of ideas” – and the China spectacle has shown they no longer rely on established motorsport challenges. “This has opened up what we can do,” says Smeets.

Read more

Volkswagen to launch high-performance ID 3 R by 2024​

VW ID R takes all-time Goodwood hillclimb record - with video​

Volkswagen ID 4: 2020 electric SUV on display​

News, 14 Oct 2019 17:21:23 +0100
Mini Cooper S 5-door 2019 long-term review Mini 5-door Cooper S 2019 long-term review - hero front Can the addition two extra doors retain the sense of fun the Mini is best known for? We found out over five months

Why we ran it: To discover if the spirit of the iconic 3dr Mini lives on in the 5dr hatch, while also providing a dose of practicality

Month 5Month 4Month 3 - Month 2Month 1 - Prices and specs

Life with a Mini 5-door hatch: Month 5

Is it hard to let it go or are we glad to see the elongated back of our five-door Cooper? - 9th October 2019

When Alec Issigonis designed the first Mini in 1959, his task was to create a car with lots of space inside and minimum dimensions out, four seats, good driving characteristics, superior fuel economy and a very affordable price.

Do those attributes still ring true in our long-term Mini Cooper S 5dr? Gladly, yes, with a few caveats… I loved this car for its size, its bum-on-floor driving position and the way it drove: steering, cornering grip, punch, flexibility, engine response and engine note.

The engine is especially enjoyable: it’s sporty and flexible but also smooth – even more notable because it’s a fairly large-capacity engine (2.0 litres) in a small package. Gearchanges are foolproof, well defined and satisfying, particularly when moving through the gears rapidly, and it feels far more fitting to this car than an auto option.

Both of these elements tie nicely into the impressive balance between ride and handling. That balance is tipped towards handling – as it should be in a Cooper S with sport suspension – but it took a while to come around to the slightly unforgiving suspension on the multiple speed bumps on my route home.

In the end, it convinced me that it allows enough suppleness to kill major bumps while still controlling the body brilliantly when you most want it to – when you’re out in the wilds of the British countryside, enjoying its flair around corners.

It might not have such pretty dimensions as the much-loved 3dr (more on that later) but it still continues to offer Mini agility, turning easily, steering accurately and gripping really well. There’s very little roll so it feels stable and safe, and because of its agility and small dimensions, there always seems to be plenty of room for you on the road – a great feeling.

It also rides very flat for a small car. It sits on standard 17in wheels and I can’t see a case for choosing the optional 18s, which cost more, are that much easier to kerb and might well hurt the secondary ride. The John Cooper Works seats work well for bum and side support when you start chucking the car about a bit, and they also have pleasant firmness and good lumbar support for longer trips. On a long stint from London to Crewe, there was no desperate need to stop and stretch, as is so often the case. One long-distance grumble: motorway noise.

Other likes? There’s a feeling of tautness and robustness about the car’s general construction, something Minis have always had. The trim isn’t as luxurious as I’d like for £28k-plus, but it feels well mounted in the car and as if it’ll live a very long life.

Now onto the styling, and particularly side on. There’s no doubt that there’s a place for a 5dr Mini (other than the Countryman), given that it makes up 45% of UK demand for the hatchback overall. That decreases slightly globally: in Mini’s Oxford plant, 3dr Minis make up 50% of numbers, followed by the Clubman at 30%, then the 5dr at 20%.

Yet I can’t imagine there’s anyone who prefers the 5dr’s styling to its traditional sibling. I get it: the design requirements to make the rear seats usable while still maintaining the Mini as we know it must have been onerous. Still, I wonder if it could have been done better. That said, its looks have genuinely grown on me, particularly in certain colours such as orange (Solaris) or Emerald Grey.

Are those extra doors worth it, then? Debatable, in my mind. Editor-in-chief Steve Cropley, who spent much time in this car, tells how he was “forced to eat humble pie” when his 6ft 2in son was able to sit easily in the Mini’s rear behind a person of decent height.

My tales aren’t quite so positive. My four-year-old niece climbed into the back and quickly announced “This car is very small”, while touching the roof. A 6ft 2in friend visited with her two children, aged 12 and nine, and I felt a little sheepish squashing them all in the back. It was a short journey so absolutely fine, but it didn’t feel like one that would have been comfortable beyond a few miles.

The design of the dashboard and central console aren’t to my fancy, either. The central dinnerplate infotainment screen is a bit naff, although at least it’s quirky. It likely falls into a similar category of ‘Marmite’ as the Union flag taillights. The storage in the front is also poor and awkward to use.

It’s not all bad, though: the BMW rotary dial to control infotainment is the best in the business for intuitive use. Ultimately, it’d be great to see a simpler treatment for the overall front cabin design, one where Mini maintains its quirks but with a creation demonstrating more design wit.

And finally, there’s the price. When I consider the brand appeal and the excellent engineering, it doesn’t seem crazy-expensive. But, then again, a standard VW Golf GTI (now off sale until the next generation arrives) was a similar price and promised driving enjoyment and far better practicality. The full-blown Mini JCW (3dr only) also starts from just over £26k, which begs the question.

In summary, then: it’s a tad pricey and not as practical as you’d hope for a 5dr. But it’s also satisfyingly compact, has great brand appeal and is a hoot to drive.

Second Opinion

Back in 2000, I was one of the sceptics who didn’t think BMW’s ‘new Mini’ concept would work. Of course, it has, and brilliantly, and this terrific Cooper S we’ve been running is one of the very best to date. It’s sporty, fast and agile, yet comfortable over long distances. Giving it back is a bad business.

Steve Cropley

Back to the top

Love it:

infotainment controller BMW’s rotary dial is just so intuitive to use. I’d choose it over most other alternatives.

fun factor It’s a brilliantly fun thing to drive, especially around country roads.

simplicity No fancy driving assistance systems or boot-opening button, plus there’s a proper handbrake.

Loathe it:

oddment storage Front storage is utterly useless for almost anything apart from keys or hair bands.

Not a bright idea Rainbow-coloured light encircling the screen. Thankfully, it can be turned off.

Final mileage: 8871

Back to the top

Life with a Mini 5-door hatch: Month 4

ICE to see you again - 11th September 2019

In the wake of a short preview drive in an early Mini Electric, it has been interesting to spend time in our Cooper S. Their similarities outweigh the differences, in how they both offer handling verve and accelerative pep. But while the EV’s quiet cruising impressed, there’s much to be said for the pleasing audio of our car’s 2.0-litre engine.

Mileage: 7481

Back to the top

Okay to borrow the Mini? You can have it back in 1000 miles… - 17th July 2019

It’s unusual for those in the road testing racket to drive just one car for 10 straight days, but that’s the 1000-mile partnership that recently developed between me and our long-term Mini Cooper S Sport five-door – for two reasons.

First, I enjoyed the car so much on first acquaintance that I wanted more. Second, its normal custodian, Rachel Burgess, was out of the country so I was presented with a golden opportunity to swipe it from the car park.

Early obsessions often lead to disappointment, but not this time. My liking for the Mini’s defining characteristics (compactness, agility, sportiness, great seats, low driving position) soon gave way to an appreciation of its finer points, particularly the torque and throttle response of the 189bhp 2.0-litre engine, the quick steering and the ultra-firm ride, all of which seemed ideal for this car’s purpose.

Our S Sport has Mini’s £600 optional adaptive suspension, which even in Normal, on standard 17in Pirellis, is probably taut enough to deter many a comfort-oriented potential owner. But to me, this is a naturally sporty car, flat riding and compliant enough but with very good body control. Even in its Sport mode, the ride is just about tolerable on the road, although it does get pretty surface sensitive, and makes you think about taking it to an autosolo or punting it up a hillclimb.

The S Sport’s 17in Pirellis seem so right for the job (road noise, although variable, is generally okay) that I’d agonise about going for the optional 18s that many owners would specify. My concern is that bigger hoops might hurt the ride comfort and amplify the road noise. As it stands, our car is already much more agile than most cars it meets while generating road noise that’s well enough contained to allow 200-mile hops to be relaxed and easy. What a shame to sacrifice such things for looks and slightly sharper steering.

So much have I enjoyed this Mini that I’ve spent repeated sessions on the configurator, deciding my ideal spec. Despite protests from convenience-minded readers, I continue to dislike the five-door body’s looks and the way its centre pillar impedes easy access for drivers of a fuller figure. I feel further licensed to dislike it having recently learned that the extra doors add 150mm to the overall length and 55kg to the kerb weight. But then I never need to carry young children in the back as some owners do, for which they say it’s ideal. And selling plenty of five-doors (45% of volume) adds to the Oxford plant’s viability, a boon at times like these.

Were I buying a Mini for myself, I’d find it hard to resist the top-end John Cooper Works’ 228bhp iteration of the 2.0-litre turbo engine that powers our S Sport (which already has JCW seats and suspension). But I suspect laBurge has made the right choice: the S engine has a near-perfect mix of power and docility, and all you really get for your extra £2000 is a 0.6sec-quicker 0-62mph time (6.9sec against 6.3sec) – hardly a wise investment.

Mini trips will henceforth be rarer for me now that this excellent little car’s custodian has returned and must be looking forward to effortlessly sprinting about in her Mini. But such is my newly formed relationship with this car that I’ll keep trying to nab it whenever she’s looking the other way.

Steve Cropley

Love it:

Handling Its combo of stability, grip, great steering and a ride quality that’s taut yet avoids (much) crashing makes it really something to love.

Loathe it:

5dr styling If I were a car designer, I’d definitely start again with this one. Side on, it reminds me of a section of railway carriage.

Mileage: 6000

Back to the top

Life with a Mini 5-door hatch: Month 3

Light up my life - 26th June 2019

A feature of the interior is the centre console’s circular screen complete with illuminated LED ring. It lights up in various colours depending on engine speed, drive mode and ambient light – while the tachometer goes from orange to red as its nears the redline. I find it distracting, while some colleagues think it’s a welcome addition. For those on my side of the fence, there is an off switch…

Mileage: 4573

Back to the top

A new, temporary custodian takes the opportunity to make up for lost time - 12th June 2019

It’s been a dream ticket for me, having the chance to do 1000 miles in our five-door Mini Cooper S while its usual custodian, Rachel Burgess, is busy looking after our new Bentley Continental GT.

For no particular reason, I’ve never spent much time in BMW Minis, but when the opportunity has come up, I’ve usually liked what I’ve found. In particular, I love the way Mini’s latter-day custodians have continued to make the cars so enduringly special.

The way you sit in a Mini – down there among the wheels with your bum practically on the floor as you look past the weirdly fat and upright screen pillars – is special in its own right. The little car’s combination of squatness, a wheel at each corner, quick and friendly steering and grippy tyres makes you want to Hopkirk-flick this ultra-stable little roller skate into every traffic-free bend, almost from the off.

But I guess that’s the case for most Minis. Rachel’s is special in two ways. It’s a five-door and it’s a Cooper S Sport (thus coming with meaty 189bhp four-pot engine and sportiest John Cooper Works suspension). The five-door part I get, without warming to it. A current rule of car selling in the UK seems to be that three-door models are hard to shift, which is why Mini’s engineers bothered to lever a pair of rear doors into a previously good-looking little brick-shaped body.

The five-door works – 45% of buyers choose it – but I hope you’ll excuse me if I say I hate it. Looks to me like a section of a railway carriage. And when you adjust the front bucket seat for my kind of comfort, there’s only leg room for a three-year-old behind you anyway. But people choose them for good reason so time to shut up.

The Cooper S’s 2.0-litre four is a big engine for a small car and it really tells in the abundant torque. This car will pull smoothly and strongly in high gears from well under 2000rpm. There’s a nice rasp from the exhaust, which gives it a persona. Use the engine hard and the S goes really well. Not quite Ford Fiesta ST territory, but close. Drift along and you’ll hardly hear a thing. It’s easy to forget to pull the long-legged sixth, especially since the gearbox action is decent rather than great.

Other issues? That dinner-plate central display has always struck me as a bit forced, but it works well enough if you take the trouble to understand its nuances – helped by a BMW iDrive panel low down on the console. But I can’t help wondering what kind of fascia BMW’s designers might have created had they not been required to recognise rather slavishly the round central speedo of Sir Alec Issigonis’s original Mini. Still, the existing treatment works well. It’s distinctive and, as I kept being told during my tenure, it’s also ‘youthful’.

The big win for me in this Cooper S is the distinctly sporty character of the JCW suspension, which comes as part of the Sport pack. Set up this way, the Mini is very firmly damped and admirably resists roll when you succumb to the irresistible urge of chucking it into enticing bends, yet it rides flat and classily absorbs bumps you might have expected to create an uncomfortable impact.

Were I specifying a Mini of my own (something I now reckon I’d enjoy), there are plenty of influences I’d take from this car. The dark blue colour, the Sport pack – with that excellent suspension – and the Cooper S engine would all be high on my list. Chief hope now is that la Burge won’t want her great little car back too soon.

Love it:

Strong heart Mini’s BMW-made 2.0-litre turbo four is impressive for power but best of all for its ultra-wide torque spread.

Loathe it:

Too many doors Five-door model is a marketing expedient, but there’s no point in pretending that it can rival the cheeky three-door for looks. 

Mileage: 4277

Back to the top

Life with a Mini 5-door hatch: Month 2

A better combination to see on your drive? - 22nd May 2019

Seeing the similarly toned Mini Cooper S and Jaguar I-Pace on my parents’ drive recently had me wondering: is this the two-car dream garage of the future? As electric range and infrastructure increases, a battery-powered SUV like the I-Pace could be the main family car, while the Mini is a fun, nippy, semi-practical hot hatch offering pure driving pleasure. An ideal combo.

Mileage: 3200

Back to the top

To a country manor in our S-Class would’ve been too obvious - 8th May 2019

When you go for the optional stiffer suspension – as we did for our Mini Cooper S long-termer – there’s always a pay-off.

Living on a narrow London street with multiple speed bumps means I experience that pay-off every day. Of course, as with most things, it becomes less galling over time, plus you become an expert at how best to approach/avoid the bumps at all costs. One thing’s certain – go a fraction over 20mph on any of these (even if it’s a 30mph zone) and you’ll noisily hit the bump stops.

That’s the downside of choosing the Sport trim, one of three options, and the one that comes with black alloys, rear spoiler, aero kit and optional no-cost sports suspension. But for every downside in life, there’s an upside. In this case, it’s a supremely capable car on the roads where it matters most for a hot hatch owner – the windy, quiet, rural ones. More of that later.

But first, motorway runs. I did a long drive up to deepest, darkest Cheshire recently, on which I mused how I was still on the M40 and not even yet at Birmingham, let alone Stoke. I thought I might get fidgety in a smallish car – especially with bucket seats, which I often find too claustrophobic for relaxed driving – but joyfully, I did not. Nor did I find myself desperately needing to get out of the car and relieve myself of that well-known driver’s woe, numb bum.

While on a slow stretch of the M6, an over-the-air update warned me there was a broken-down vehicle in the left lane. And there was. It’s the first time an OTA update has been genuinely useful to me – making me aware of something ahead, rather than leaving me to wonder what the hold-up is.

And, of course, the car has the power to accelerate quickly on motorways, hitting 0-62mph in 6.9sec. The only major criticism at motorway speeds is road noise, which grates after a while but I suspect is a trait that Mini owners are willing to forgive.

Second, the fun stuff. Once off the M6, there was plenty of chance to test the joie de vivre of the Cooper S. I’ve long been a fan of hot hatches, where the power and dynamics seem so well-judged to rural roads, as opposed to supercars, which can rarely be enjoyed in all their glory.

Mini harps on about the ‘go-kart feel’ of its models, but it has a point. What’s so charming about the Cooper S is how solid and direct it feels turning enthusiastically into a corner. There’s never any doubt that the Mini can handle it, and come out the other side just as chipper. It’s this sweet spot that is really the reason to buy a Cooper S Sport.

My final destination was Peckforton Castle (pictured). No doubt its owner is used to arriving in something more regal than my Mini, but I bet they don’t have half as much fun along the way.

Love it:

Having a blast ’Twas a happy Sunday afternoon chucking this around empty rural roads.

Loathe it:

Noise annoys Motorway road noise irritates on longer journeys. Radio volume up…

Mileage: 3084

Back to the top

Life with a Mini 5-door hatch: Month 1

It’s not what you think it is - 17th April 2018

People that aren’t car fans but who have car knowledge are often confused by the Mini five-door. When I say I’m driving the five-door Cooper S, they reply: “Oh, the Countryman?” Many aren’t aware the five-door hatch is a thing, instead thinking the Countryman is Mini’s five-door car. Some more marketing on this model wouldn’t go amiss.

Mileage: 2450

Back to the top

We took the Oxford factory tour, and came away with a new addition to our fleet - 10th April 2018

When Mini introduced its 5dr hatch in 2013, it had wised up to a growing trend: the general demise of three-door hatches in favour of five doors.

The Mini, of course, is a special case given the iconic status of the 3dr hatch, and so the two run happily alongside each other in the line-up. Currently, the UK mix is 55/45 in favour of the 3dr.

Both of these models have the added novelty of being made in the UK. Given that more than 85% of cars sold in Britain are imported, running one that’s made, more or less, down the road gave us the perfect opportunity to do the unusual and pick up our finished car, a Mini 5dr Hatch Cooper S Sport, from the factory in which it was built.

Your average Mini buyer wouldn’t be so lucky: there’s no special treatment for Mini owners at the brand’s Cowley plant in Oxford, but anyone can do a tour for £19 a pop – and, indeed, they do. Last year, 25,000 visitors took the factory tour.

Our Mini is a 5dr Cooper S in Starlight Blue with black contrast. It took between 26 to 28 hours to build, typical of every Mini at the plant, which is the equivalent size of 94 football pitches. Around 1000 cars are made here every day.

On all parts of the production line, 5dr siblings to our car sit alongside the three-door hatch and Clubman, in any order. They are mostly 3dr Minis, which make up 50% of the numbers at Cowley, followed by the Clubman at 30%, then the 5dr at 20%. From later this year, the electric Mini will be built here, too.

In the early stages of our tour, we pass the stage where cars are stamped with a vehicle identification number. One is done every 60 seconds. I discover that the VIN of our long-termer was stamped at 3.22pm on 9 November 2018. (Yes, we took a long time to pick up the car.)

Further down the line, we watch a host of robots in action fitting sections of the body. Production manager Alex McKenzie tells me there are 19 cameras aimed at each door, measuring accuracy to a tolerance equal to half the width of a human hair.

He adds that the chrome headlights and bar are the hardest parts to achieve a high quality fit. “It is mainly things that are distinctive to the Mini that are difficult. We’ve got really tight tolerances for such an iconic car,” McKenzie says. “The Clubman is the hardest of the three models built here because it has more panels. But they are difficult cars to build generally when you consider what a small package they are.”

Almost two-thirds of finished cars depart on two daily trains that run through the site, while the rest go by transporter. Ours is the exception. We take some photographs of the car in the heart of the site, which dates back to 1913, before getting on our way.

We’ve run a Clubman in the past couple of years, but this is our first long-term test of the 5dr model. We want to gauge the practicality of the 5dr hatch, which is 16cm longer than its 3dr counterpart and with 30% more luggage space. Would we buy this or an Audi A1 Sportback?

Our test car is the facelifted model, launched early last year. The best way to tell the difference from the previous car are the rear lights, which now feature a Union Flag design.

Of course, we’ve gone for the most fun model, the range-topping Cooper S, which accounts for one-fifth of 5dr hatch sales in the UK. The Cooper S uses a 189bhp 2.0-litre fourcylinder engine that delivers 207lb ft of torque and achieves 0-62mph in 6.9sec – 1.4sec faster than the mid-range Cooper.

Late last year, Mini overhauled its trim structure to make it more straightforward for buyers. There are now three levels: Classic, Sport and Exclusive. We’ve opted for Sport, which adds a series of John Cooper Works features, including a bodykit, sports suspension and bucket seats.

There are three equipment packs available on all Minis, covering driving assistance systems, comfort and navigation. We have the Navigation Plus Pack (£2000) and Comfort Pack (£900). Navigation Plus includes sat-nav, Bluetooth, realtime traffic information and a host of connectivity services such as overthe-air updates. The Comfort Pack features rear parking sensors, front heated seats, an armrest and more.

After those packs, we’ve gone for the adaptive suspension (£600), black interior trim (£160), head-up display (£500) and Starlight Blue exterior paint (£525). That all adds up to a not-insubstantial price of £28,050.

Going from my most recent long-termer, a Volvo XC40, to a Mini 5dr Cooper S was a stark contrast. The XC40’s purpose is to be comfortable and practical, whereas the Cooper S hankers after a dose of that, plus a little extra. It’s early days, but already the Mini’s sporty handling has put a smile on my face. But will it stay there?

Second Opinion

A practical Mini? Three words that, written down, don’t make much sense, but which the evidence suggests is possible, because five doors and compact packaging mean this really is a car a young family could realistically live with. I only wish that the multitude of buttons and dials weren’t such an assault on the senses, as they make it feel cluttered, even if it isn’t.

Jim Holder

Back to the top

Mini 5-door Cooper S Sport prices & specifications

Prices: List price new £23,365 List price now £23,875 Price as tested £28,050 Dealer value now £16,940 Private value now £15,625 Trade value now £14,545 (part exchange)

Options:Adaptive suspension £600, black interior trim £160, head-up display £500, Starlight Blue exterior paint £525, Navigation Plus pack £2000, Comfort pack £900

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 42.8mpg (WLTP) Fuel tank 44 litres Test average 37.8mpg Test best 39.2mpg Test worst 32.5mpg Real-world range 366 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 6.9sec Top speed 146mph Engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, turbocharged, petrol Max power 189bhp at 4700rpm Max torque 207lb ft at 1250rpm Transmission 6-spd manual Boot capacity 378 litres Wheels 17in, alloy Tyres 205/45 R17 Kerb weight 1330kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £331.68 CO2 165g/km (WLTP) Service costs None Other costs None Fuel costs £1276.60 Running costs inc fuel £1276.60 Cost per mile 15 pence Depreciation £9350 Cost per mile inc dep’n £1.00 Faults None

Back to the top

Long-Term Review, 14 Oct 2019 15:49:42 +0100
New Porsche Taycan 4S unveiled with £83,000 price New Porsche Taycan 4S revealed Porsche reveals lesser trim grades for its first electric car, with up to 563bhp and 287 miles of range thanks to option packs

Porsche has made its new Taycan EV much more attainable with the addition of a new 4S trim underneath the existing Turbo and Turbo S

The new model is available to order now from £83,367 (excluding the £3500 government grant) and is expected to arrive for UK deliveries in January alongside the Turbo and Turbo S. 

While it doesn’t get the 751bhp of the £138,000 Taycan Turbo S, the 4S still puts out 523bhp during overboost in standard form. It also gets a 79.2kWh battery for a WLTP certified range of 252 miles. 

However, Porsche also offers a Performance Battery Plus option pack, which raises peak power to 563bhp and increases the battery output to 93.4kWh. While the 0-62mph time is unchanged from the standard 4S at 4.0sec, the range is boosted to 287 miles – the highest figure in the current Taycan line-up. The Performance Battery Plus also gets a faster peak charging rate, at 270kW to the base car’s 225kW.

Much of the 4S’s technical make-up is the same as pricier Taycans, with two electric motors across both axles for four-wheel drive and a two-speed transmission for acceleration. However, the rear motor is 80mm shorter than it is in the Turbo and Turbo S, while it also receives smaller brakes, down to 360mm and six pistons on the front and 358mm and four pistons at the rear.

Exterior styling changes include smaller 19in wheels, red painted calipers and a revised bodykit including a different front apron, side sills and rear diffuser. Dynamic LED lights remain standard fitment. Part-leather is standard, but Porsche also offers a leather-free cabin with recycled materials. 

As with other Taycans, it comes with three years of access to Ionity’s rapid chargers and the Porsche Charging Service. Customers also receive a driving experience at the brand’s Silverstone Experience Centre. 

Read more

New Porsche Taycan: prices, specs and all the details

2020 Porsche Taycan video review

New Porsche Macan EV to get Taycan platform and tech







News, 14 Oct 2019 11:25:40 +0100
Used car buying guide: Mercedes-Benz SL320 Mercedes-Benz R129 SL
SLs are solid and well finished but rust is becoming an issue
R129-gen cruiser is a no-brainer if you’re after a prestigious and solidly built used convertible, but there are pitfalls to be avoided

Sand L: two letters that tell the world you’ve made it. There have been seven generations of the Mercedes-Benz convertible, each more or less as impressive as the other, but it’s the R129 generation under the spotlight here. The model was in production for a full 12 years from 1989 to 2001, and for drivers of a certain age, it sticks in the memory. 

Why? Bruno Sacco’s styling for a start, and then there were the engines, the advanced technology and the sheer driving experience that together propelled this legendary car into the modern age. 

It was a strong seller, with the result that, today, there are a fair number on the market at prices ranging from £3000 for a high-mileage 1997 P-reg SL320 to as much as £40,000 for a 1995 N-reg SL500 with 10,000 miles on the clock. In between is a riot of 280s, 320s and 500s at all ages and mileages, and in all conditions. There’s little rhyme or reason to the pricing so if you’re tempted to buy one, you should look at and try as many as you can. 

Increasingly, sellers describe the model as a ‘classic’, and one with a low mileage, no faults and in top condition may very well increase in value. However, experts we spoke to warn that rust is now rearing its head – the kind of rust you can’t see without lifting carpets. 

It was launched in 1989 with an automatic gearbox, gas-filled dampers, a removable hard top, a pop-up rollover bar and kit taken from the S-Class. It’s a heavy thing but the model’s new engines ensured it had sufficient muscle. Depending on the model year, they were a choice of 2.8, 3.0 and 3.2-litre straight sixes producing between 193bhp and 231bhp, the latter in 24-valve, twin-cam form. Then there was a 326bhp 5.0-litre V8 and a mighty 394bhp 6.0-litre V12 (we found a 1999/T-reg SL600 with 74,000 miles and full service history for £21,950). There was also an AMG version with a 6.0-litre engine but this time a lighter V8, producing 381bhp. 

Of them all, our pick is the dependable 231bhp SL320, a facelifted model from 1996. That said, one to watch is the SL600. The V12 is whisper quiet, although access to it for even minor repairs (the throttle bodies can be troublesome and it can suffer internal corrosion) is difficult and, as such, very expensive. 

Major milestones in the SL’s life were the move away from the two-tone paint scheme, plus restyled bumpers and the adoption of brake assist in 1996. Then in 1999 the instrument cluster gained chrome rings and the steering wheel a big Mercedes star in its centre. One good option to look out for is folding mirrors, so you can squeeze your SL into the garage more easily. 

The SL signed off with the SL500 Silver Arrow special edition complete with autographed Stirling Moss portrait. Only 100 were produced. We found a 2001-reg example with 21,000 miles for £43,995. Now that’s one SL that really says you’ve made it.

An owner’s view 

Gordon Bishop: “I bought my 320 in 2000. It was a few months old with about 1500 miles and had been a dealer demonstrator. It’s since racked up almost 120,000 miles and has never failed me. SLs like to be driven; they hate standing around. Despite the mileage, it’s in beautiful condition. The paint is tough and the alloys haven’t corroded like they can on lesser cars. It’s everything I could want in a car: attractive, comfortable, well equipped and built like a tank. It’s always serviced on the button, mostly specialists using Mercedes-trained technicians. I’ve still got the hard top. Luckily, I have the space to store it.” 

Buyer beware 

■ Engine: Experts call it a ‘biodegradable’ wiring loom for the way it disintegrates over time. Misfires are often traced to it. A replacement loom costs from £150 but labour is much more. Water ingress is usually the cause. Leaky head gaskets on early six-cylinder cars and throttle body wiring issues on V8s are also a problem. A rattle at tickover could be the catalytic converter breaking up. 

■ Transmission: Gearboxes are generally reliable, the four-speed more than the later five, which can suffer oil contamination. Regular filter changes prevent it, so check they’ve happened. 

■ Suspension and brakes: The SL is a heavy car so expect front lower ball joints, top mounts, bushes and springs to show some strain. Check for overworked discs and pads. 

■ Electrics: Check the battery is holding its charge. If it’s failing, it can trigger warning lights. Old alarms are known to be a power drain. 

■ Body: Specialists are seeing more rusty SLs these days, problem areas being the boot floor and leading edge of the front wings. Check that the powered hood works, because if left unused for some time, the electronic module packs up. On that point, be wary of a car with its hard-top fitted.

Interior: Aside from checking the leather is in good condition and that the powered seats do their thing, make sure all the electrical features work. On the test drive, be sure the air-con chills the cabin and that the heater warms it up.

Also worth knowing 

How do you remove and store the SL’s 40kg hard top? sells a hoist that allows you to remove the roof from the car on your own. Some owners rig up a pulley system and suspend it from their garage rafters. Alternatively, the SL Shop can supply a heavy-duty storage stand. 

How much to spend 

£3500-£6999: Mixed bag of 280s, 300s, 320s and 500s, pre- and post-1996 facelift with high mileages. 

£7000-£10,999: Conditions improving from this point with mileages closer to 80,000, but you’re still in perilous territory. 

£11,000-£14,999: Mileages edging towards 30,000 and some nice 280s and 320s in good condition, with full service history. 

£15,000-£19,999: You should find very nice late-plate 320s for around £19,000. 

£20,000-£25,000: The best late-plate 320s, and expect to find the best 500s with panoramic sunroof at around £25,000.

One we found 

Mercedes SL320, 1997/P, 93,000 miles, £5995: A nice facelifted SL320 with full history (a mix of main dealer and specialists; check the invoices for details of work done) and with hard and soft tops. And no rust, claims the seller. 

Read more

The marvellous Mercedes-Benz SL turns 65

Next-gen Mercedes-Benz SL: chassis testing mule spotted​

In pictures: the evolution of the iconic Mercedes-Benz SL​

News, 14 Oct 2019 06:01:23 +0100
New Audi E-tron Sportback seen ahead of debut next month Audi e-tron Sportback spyshot front LA motor show unveiling for Audi's second electric SUV, prototypes are caught testing with no disguise

Audi will will start diversifying its electric car lineup with a second E-tron SUV, the Sportback, set to make its public debut at November's Los Angeles motor show. 

The more style-focused sibing to the regular E-tron quattro SUV has been undergoing hot weather testing with barely any disguise, allowing us our best look at the car's coupe-influenced design. 

The with sportier styling is designed help it challenge the likes of Jaguar's I-Pace. As well as the more steeply raked rear windowline, it features a lowered stance and a bespoke rear-end profile.

The car sports a more traditional front grille design than the Sportback concept that made its debut at 2017's Shanghai motor show. It does, however, retain digital rear-view cameras in place of traditional door mirrors as first seen on its E-tron sibling. 

The E-tron Sportback appears to use the same kind of rear LED brake light bar first introduced on the A8 limousine and which is quickly becoming a staple of premium Audi models.

The concept mixes the lines of a liftback with the stance of a four-seat SUV to create what the brand describes as “a new class of car” that will attract buyers who might have previously considered an A7 Sportback but want a more commanding view of the road. The E-tron Sportback concept sits on 23in alloy wheels.

Opinion: electric cars like the Audi E-tron are leading a design revolution

The production version of the E-tron quattro produces 402bhp and 487lb ft in Boost mode, where it achieves 0-60mph in 5.5sec. The E-tron Sportback is likely to have similar performance.

It will also be capable of the same 150kW charging rate as its sibling, which is already among the best rate of any EV on sale. Expect a range similar to the 248 miles offered by the E-tron, perhaps aided sightly by better aerodynamic performance. 

Several variants will evetually be produced with differing power outputs from the motors. Given the E-tron's £71,000 launch price, the SUV-coupé could start at around £75,000.


What are the advantages of using the three-motor arrangement?

“This powertrain is very dynamic. During full acceleration, the car sends more power to the rear wheels. In Sport mode, there’s more power at the rear axle all the time. You also have five modes of throttle response – from efficiency to performance – that you can adjust, much like the Drive Select system in our regular cars. Even when the car is in [front-wheel-drive] efficiency mode, all three motors still recuperate energy.”

How have you ensured that the car’s electric powertrain can deliver fun?

“In two ways. Firstly, you have very fast acceleration, because more power is going to the rear axle where you have more traction [due to the weight transfer under acceleration]. Secondly, you have torque vectoring at the rear axle. It helps the car [to become more agile] on tight, curvy roads. This car will drift; I’ve done it!”

The car’s four-wheel drive system is reactive. When will we see a proactive one?

“It’s one of the topics of the next generation we’re already talking about – and we’re not far from the next generation.”

Will we see an hot version?

“It’s something we all want to do, and it is possible to get RS performance from this powertrain. It would need a top speed like an RS model; we could use gears for that.”


New Audi E-tron: Launch Edition of brand's first EV revealed

Audi E-tron Quattro review

E-tron one of twelve electric Audis to launch by 2025

News, 14 Oct 2019 06:01:23 +0100
Under the skin: Why you can always count on ABS ABS: snow-covered road simulation
ABS is one of the most brilliant technologies of all and gives cadence braking to everyone without them even knowing
Pioneered by Mercedes, Antiblockiersystem technology makes your car behave like a human when the going gets slippy

ABS is one of those exquisite inventions that automates cadence braking, a technique previously reserved for skilled humans, and makes the result available to everybody. 

Short for Antiblockiersystem, the initialism also conveniently stands for the English translation, anti-lock braking system. Introduced by Mercedes and Bosch in 1978, it’s now a standard fitment on every car. ABS not only saves lives but also, in less serious situations, a lot of tears, fights, gnashing of teeth, ‘if only’ soul-searching and money. 

Cadence braking is a technique used to generate the maximum possible braking force available from a tyre contact patch on a slippery surface in a given time and distance. Just as important, it allows you to maintain steering control at the same time. When a wheel is locked up on a wet road, for instance, the contact patch is generating less grip than the instant before it locked. Worse still, locked front wheels cannot steer a car. On a dead-flat skidpan, a car with all four wheels locked will drift along on the same trajectory, even if the driver twirls the steering wheel from lock to lock. 

To cadence brake properly (only in a car with no ABS), the driver stamps as hard and fast on the brake pedal as possible, cleanly releasing it completely each time to make sure the wheels rotate for a split second before being locked again. This does two things. It takes the contact patches to the point of maximum grip (just before the wheel locks) as frequently as possible. The effect is to provide the maximum amount of braking effort over the distance travelled. Second, each time the wheels rotate briefly, the tyre will roll in the direction it’s pointing, steering the car. 

ABS does a similar thing, better, and in the case of the latest Bosch ninth-generation system, 40 times a second. An ABS system consists of a unit containing electrically operated hydraulic plunger valves, an accumulator (a reservoir to store hydraulic fluid under pressure) and a pump. When the ignition is switched on, the pump pressurises the reservoir and, at the instant a wheel is going to lock, the valve controlling that brake will partially open to block further pressure to that brake, regardless of how hard the driver is pressing the pedal. If the wheel continues to lock, the plunger of the valve moves further, bleeding fluid into the accumulator. Once the lock-up has been prevented, pressure stored in the accumulator is used to reinstate pressure at the brake caliper and the process starts again and for as often as necessary. 

What the driver feels and hears is a high-speed juddering vibration from the brake pedal and clicking noise that feels weird, but it’s essential to keep braking as hard as possible. ABS is a wondrous technology, not just because it’s complex, but because it’s robust enough to be trusted, always. Its ability to control individual wheel braking has also enabled other major safety systems such as DSC/ESP and brake-based lane-keeping systems.

Putting drivers straight

Lane-keeping support, as opposed to ‘assist’, actively steers the car firmly but gently back into lane. Cameras detect the lane marking and, on cars with electric steering, the system can take partial control of it to steer. Alternatively, Bosch ABS 9 allows brakes to be gently applied on one side to steer the car in that direction.

Read more

Sorting the real automotive pioneers from their copycats

Opinion: We should all go and get sideways on a skid pan

Are semi-autonomous systems making cars safer?​

News, 14 Oct 2019 00:01:24 +0100
Seat could rebrand as Cupra in upmarket push Cupra Tavascan concept - front Seat may take its sub-brand’s name under plans by owner VW to target more premium end of the market

Seat is considering a major rebranding plan that would reposition the Spanish car maker further upmarket in the search for greater sales and profits. It is part of a broader strategy by parent company Volkswagen.

The plan was hinted at by Volkswagen chairman Herbert Diess on the sidelines of last month’s Frankfurt motor show. The move could lead to Seat taking the name of its newly established Cupra sub-brand ahead of the development of a new line-up of models and a concerted push into new global markets, including North America, by the middle of the next decade.

The possible rebranding of Seat forms part of a wider plan for further differentiation between each of Volkswagen’s key volume car brands. Nothing is official yet, although Diess indicated Skoda is set to adopt a more budget-oriented role and Seat may be taken further upmarket in a future-proofing move for both brands.

Diess told Autocar the Spanish firm’s best chance of long-term survival is to be positioned above Volkswagen as a more emotional premium brand, in the vein of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Alfa Romeo. At the centre of concern for Seat is its high operating costs in relation to the current pricing level of key models like the Ibiza, Leon and Ateca. Diess hinted the cost basis of those cars is almost the same as their VW counterparts despite the price difference.

Although Diess praised the efforts of Seat boss Luca de Meo in boosting sales to more than 500,000 in 2018, he pointed to disappointing performances in key European markets such as Italy and France as just one reason to rethink Seat’s future direction.

Chairman of both Seat and Cupra, de Meo has already gone on the record about the issue of the Seat brand. Speaking at the launch of the Cupra division early last year, he said: “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 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 who in other cases might not buy a Seat. Selling those kinds of cars for us is much more profitable. This allows us to increase the conquest of the brand.”

Next year, Cupra will move from its small base shared with the firm’s motorsport division to a new 2400-square metre HQ, having already increased its staffing levels by 50%. Cupra has sold more than 18,000 cars this year, an improvement of nearly 80% on 2018, despite having only two models – the Ateca and Leon – on sale so far.

Will this car be Cupra's first EV?

The Tavascan is a realistic preview of Cupra’s first EV, according to design boss Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos. “I made a deal with Luca [de Meo, chairman] that this car would be very close to a production version,” Mesonero-Romanos said, although he admitted that the project has yet to get the official green light.

Mentioning the Tesla Model 3 as a potential rival, Mesonero-Romanos claimed that brand’s interiors are “too simple, too cold” and that “if everybody adopted the same cabin design, we would have one characterless interior”. He said future Cupra cabins will have “a lot of nice shapes that humanise the vehicle… Simple doesn’t have to be crude.”


New 2020 Cupra Leon to be part of seven-strong line-up

Cupra Tavascan: emotive EV concept shown at Frankfurt

Cupra Leon ditches Seat badge and goes hybrid for 2020

News, 14 Oct 2019 00:01:24 +0100
Uniti One electric car will start from £15,100 Uniti 1 official colour palette British-built affordable electric city car set to land in UK and Sweden by mid-2020

Fledgling Swedish electric car company Uniti has opened an online customisation portal for the Uniti One affordable electric car.

The British-engineered compact EV will arrive in Sweden and the UK first in mid-2020, with a choice of battery capacities and prices starting from £15,100 including government grant. 

Entry-grade 12kWh models will be capable of 93 miles between charges, while the optional 24kWh battery pack iextends that range to 186 miles. The larger battery can be charged from 20% to 80% in seventeen minutes on a 50kW CCS charger, while the 12kWh model takes just nine.

A 67bhp electric motor drives the rear wheels only, reaching 31mph in a claimed 4.1 seconds and 62mph in 9.9. Top speed is 75mph, with separate City and Boost drive modes to alternate between efficiency and sharpened response. 

The three-seat EV, which weighs as little as 600kg, has a central driving position and room for two rear passengers. The steering wheel is flanked by two touchscreens, which are powered by Google's Android Automotive software, and control the majority of the car's functions. Drive, Neutral and Reverse gears are selected with individual buttons mounted on the dashboard. There is no key: the car is locked and started using a secure smartphone app.

An electrochromic sunroof, which can be adjusted from transparent to fully opaque, comes as standard, and automatically darkens when parked to keep the cabin cool. Other equipment includes rear LED lighting and LED daytime running lights, with full LED headlights an option.

The One has 155 litres of luggage space, which can be extended to 760 litres when the rear seats are folded flat.

The car can be ordered in a choice of Scandium, Graphite and Titanium colours. Customers placing their order before December 2019 will earn membership to Uniti's 'Founders Club', which includes free softwre upgrades for the life of the car.

Uniti is based in Sweden, but has a development, engineering and production hub in Norfolk.

"The UK’s approach to vehicle production, with its focus on light-weighting and innovation in advanced materials, is an ideal model for electric car production globally,” Uniti CEO Lewis Horne said.

Uniti has ambitions to become a “major player” in the British EV market over the next few years and plans to establish a London office that will ensure the necessary capital is raised to meet its tight time goals.

The announcement came at a tough time for the British car industry, with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit leading other manufacturers to look farther afield for their production facilities. Jaguar already builds the I-Pace electric SUV in Austria, and Nissan weighing up the possibility of moving production of the new Juke abroad.

Uniti has worked with several companies, including energy supplier E.ON, which is offering its customers five years' worth of free energy to charge a Uniti at home.

The brand claims that the One will produce 75% less CO2 over its lifetime - from manufacturing to disposal - than a conventional vehicle. Horne described the car’s structure as “scalable”, with two, four and five-seat variants planned for production.

Uniti aims to supply each market from within that market, using automated production centres and digital twinning technology supplied by Siemens. This would allow assembly line schematics to be shared anywhere in the world, to set up plants with enough capacity to fulfil the production demand of a particular market. The entire production line would be automated, with staff mainly focused on quality control at the end of the process. The proposed system would provide a more environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional manufacturing process, which relies heavily on transportation networks to distribute cars from a single central production facility.

While originally conceived as a quadricycle, the One is now classed as an M1 passenger car, and must pass safety tests. The company is working with Millbrook proving ground on virtual crash testing, in an effort to further reduce environmental impact. Currently there are several tests that can’t be simulated, and legislation would need to be changed before they could replace traditional crash tests.

Following the UK’s example, future proposed sites include Mexico, Australia, the US, India, Dubai and Georgia. Each will be operated on a franchise model. "The automotive world has always used franchise models, in the form of dealerships," Sally Provoltsky, Uniti's vehicle development director, explained. "Uniti is an unbranded box, and we know all markets are different, so we can adapt to them instead of forcing everyone to conform."

The autonomous-capable car has been made with lightness as a priority. Horne explained that the One's design is centred on maximising battery performance.

The company began taking €149 deposits last year, with 3000 orders placed ahead of the car's official debut. The first customers will be offered the chance to take part in a beta testing scheme, in which they run the car and provide feedback to finalise its development.

The One is focused on the second family car market and is designed for the daily commute. Its small dimensions make it suited to city driving, while having more interior space than today’s city cars. The second Uniti model, already in the early planning stages, is proposed as a 2+2 car, with a high number of parts interchangeable with the One.

Uniti’s home market of Sweden and surrounding Nordic countries have been among the world’s quickest to adopt electric cars. Norway was the first to pledge a ban on petrol and diesel cars with the intention of having only electric vehicles on sale from 2025.

Read more

Renault Twizy review

Hyundai-Kia pushing for autonomous technology

Private hire firm plots self-driving cars in London by 2021

News, 14 Oct 2019 00:01:24 +0100
BTCC 2019: BMW’s Turkington crowned champion in thrilling finale Colin Turkington celebrates victory in the 2019 BTCC title fight Brake failure on penultimate lap of season denies Honda's Dan Cammish a maiden title

BMW 3 Series driver Colin Turkington secured the 2019 British Touring Car Championship crown in dramatic fashion at Brands Hatch, as the title fortunes between him and his rivals see-sawed throughout the three-race meeting.

Although Turkington went into Sunday’s events as clear favourite, having secured pole position for race one and holding a substantial championship points lead, his hopes were hit by an inspired victory for Honda Civic Type R racing Dan Cammish in race one, followed by a non-score in race two when he was punted into a spin by Cammish’s team-mate Matt Neal.

All that drama left Turkington 25th on the grid for the final event of the season and trailing Cammish - who was leading the championship for the first time this year and eight points clear in the title standings, with Turkington’s West Surrey Racing BMW team-mate Andrew Jordan 13 points off the title leader.

Even has Turkington scythed through the field it looked likely he would be frustrated in his bid for a fourth championship title, as Cammish held his cool in the pack. As the race neared its conclusion both Jordan and Turkington were ahead of Cammish, but not by far enough to deny him the title.

Then, on lap 13, the title fortunes swung dramatically as Cammish suffered brake failure and was pitched off the track, backwards into the tyre wall. That left Turkington to reel off the remaining laps and sneak the title by two points, sparking huge celebrations at BMW, in stark contrast to the heartbreak at Honda.

Meanwhile, the race was won commandingly by series stalwart Jason Plato (Vauxhall Astra). It was his 97th win in the championship.

Race two had earlier been won by Ash Sutton (Subaru Levorg), while Cammish had ignited his title hopes with a brilliant drive on slicks in the wet to go from 12th on the grid to win race one. That, combined with an assured drive to third in race two after Turkington’s misfortunes, had looked to be enough to earn him his first title in the series until disaster struck just two laps from the end of the final race of the season. It marked his first non-finish in 2019.

Read more

Inside a BTCC team: why Honda UK's works squad also makes ultra-fast lawn mowers

Behind the scenes with the BTCC's TV crew

News, 13 Oct 2019 21:19:09 +0100
Marque de Triomphe: Citroen centenary road trip Driving a Citroen C5 Aircross to Paris
Parisian cobbles are rarely a bumpy affair in a Citroën
We drive a Citroën C5 Aircross to Paris to celebrate the eternally young 100-year-old brand’s centenary

Leaping years ahead, sometimes even decades, is what Citroën is most famous for. It has made cars that levitated. Cars whose headlights peered around corners. Cars with suspension resembling frogs’ legs, their wheels able to cross terrain usually the habitat of tractors. Citroën has made cars inspiring learned philosophical prose, cars transporting cinematic love stories, cars to traverse remote parts of the planet and cars whose ingenious inner plumbing helped save a French president from assassination. 

Citroën is still innovating today, if not at the rate that it did during its first 50 years of life, and it may be about to innovate more boldly again, if its latest Ami One urban car and centenary-celebrating 19_19 concepts are genuine in their ambition. But that’s in the future. Right now, we’re driving Citroën’s new C5 Aircross to Paris, birthplace of the company and location for various centenary celebrations, among them a 100-car display of Citroëns on the site of the original factory at Quai de Javel. The C5 Aircross doesn’t present the extreme styling of some of these cars and trucks, but its make-up certainly mirrors the emphasis on practicality and comfort that has distinguished some of the marque’s most famous models, from the 1934 Traction Avant to the 2CV and today’s C4 Cactus

The C5’s novelties include Citroën’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension, an ingenious rethink of the traditional bump-stop that allows the car to ride on softer springs and dampers without listing like a holed ship. The suspension is intended to complement comfort seats whose 15mm of extra foam topper aims to further soothe, a feature that’s standard on the C5’s top two Flair and Flair+ trims. Our car is the latter version, pulled by a 180bhp 2.0-litre diesel via an eight-speed automatic. 

The practical end of the equation is provided by an almost totally flat floor – rare, despite the domination of propshaft-free front-wheel drive these days – and a back bench whose centre seat is as big as those flanking it, another rarity. They’re hardly the reinvention of the motorcar, these features, but they’re evidence of Citroën’s rekindled quest to design exceptionally comfortable cars that are down-to-earth useful. 

The C5’s more softly absorbent ride is evident within metres of leaving Autocar’s road testing HQ in Feltham, where there are plenty of small-to-medium-scale bumps on the urban back roads to the M25. The Citroën sponges them up, often with a serenity redolent of the days when almost every French car rode with the supple elasticity of a bounding frog (no pejorative intended). But interruptions to this pillowy comfort occur, sometimes abruptly, if the C5 strikes a bigger, more invasive bump, the car being jostled in ordinary, unsophisticated style. Citroën’s old hydropneumatic suspension would cope better, but a chassis insider met later at the celebrations reveals that there are more Hydraulic Cushion developments on the way to tackle this issue. 

It would nevertheless be great to see more engineering solutions worthy of the man whose name appears on these cars. The restlessly inventive Andre Citroën was not only the driver of up-to-the-minute engineering, but also an energetic marketer of his company and his cars, the boldness of many of his ideas worthy of today’s tech companies. Take finding your way. 

Today, we have sat-nav, Google Maps, Waze, signposts and a (fairly) logical road numbering system. But when the car was young and most journeys short, navigating a route beyond familiar territory was at best frustrating, at worst hazardous. In 1921, Citroën began a collaboration with France’s Automobile Club that saw a network of Double Chevron-branded signposts – France’s first – deployed across the country. That way, his brand couldn’t fail to be noticed by motorists and just about every other road user. Today, those Double Chevron road signs are long gone, their directing and publicising jobs done. 

Andre Citroën might be amazed at the reach of the company now, even if it is far from the biggest car brand on the planet. It was an early player in new, not-quite-capitalist late 20th-century China, the world’s biggest car market and one of Citroën’s most crucial despite recent turbulence, it’s big in Europe, big in parts of Africa and intent on becoming bigger still, especially beyond its home continent. 

On the rather less adventurous venue of a wide, lightly trafficked autoroute, the C5 feels stable, relaxed and impressively quiet, the calm spoiled only by occasional wind noise and, if you work it hard, a diesel that airs too much of its rattling grumble. The relative novelty of sitting high in a Citroën (the C3 Aircross SUV is pretty new too, and few remember the Mitsubishi Outlander-based C-Crosser) adds an aura of light indomitability to the C5 mix as we do battle in the tollbooth grand prix. This is a race won with wits as much as grunt, although the 180 BlueHDI has plenty of that – 395lb ft, a 2000rpm torque peak and an eight-gear choice enable it to depart the card payment machine surprisingly smartly. So the flatlands of northwestern France roll by fast. 

Diversions to explore old villages and lanes that would once have been a rural stage for the whirring thresh of farmers’ 2CVs reveal steering feel vastly better than the smaller C3 Aircross provides, simply because there’s a measure of accumulating resistance as you swivel the wheel. Citroën’s smaller SUV provides so little of this that you wonder whether it’s steer-by-wire. Resistance doesn’t mean that you’re being telegraphed topographical intelligence – little of this emerges even when the C5 is pushed hard around a deserted French rural roundabout, traction control dormant – but the steering wheel definitely feels mechanically connected to the wheels just ahead of it. 

Understeer is the barely surprising product of such brisk circling, and it gradually turns to a front-end slide at speeds lower than one might expect. Lift-off and grip is soon restored, and without sending the Citroën’s tail into an arc. Bends are not so common in this flattish part of northern France – the roads are long narrow but open enough to allow moderately high speeds past fields and the odd farm building, usually decaying. Of course, most SUVs aren’t driven so briskly off motorways, but you’re left in no doubt that though this Citroën is competent enough dynamically, the comfort side of the ledger is where its main assets reside. Space is another of these, and there is plenty of it to be found in the front, middle and rear sections of the cabin. It doesn’t shout its advantages, this car, but it certainly has them. 

Some visual shouting was Andre Citroën’s mission when he colonised what is now France’s most famous architectural real estate – the Eiffel Tower. From 1925 to 1934, the C-I-T-R-O-E-N characters adorned the artfully tapering flanks of this steel-lattice symbol of progress, their neon illuminations visible from kilometres away. Citroën wasn’t merely thinking about the near, either. His imagination was entranced by the exotic exploratory potential of the motor car and the possibility of desert crossings. These were eventually achieved with the extraordinary Kégresse half-tracks, a mission that produced a feature film.


Why so much multi-pronged effort? Because Citroën was late. Its first cars emerged in 1919. By then, Renaults had been produced for 20 years and Peugeot 30, while Germany’s Benz had built the world’s first car in 1886. Acutely aware that he was a Jean-come-lately, Citroën needed to offer something different, relevant and better, and tell people about it. So even the very first Citroën, the Type A, advanced the art of motorcar manufacture not so much with the car itself but the manner in which it was made, Citroën having learned mass-production techniques from Henry Ford himself. 

It would not be long before the cars themselves carried much of the advance: the 1934 Traction Avant was an early adopter of front-wheel drive, fully independent suspension and a steel monocoque construction, its modernity yielding a 23-year production life despite it having the turning circle of a small moon. That didn’t discourage Parisian taxi drivers, nor did its heavy steering, droves of Tractions once plying the capital’s elegant streets. In this habitat, the C5 is vastly more wieldy; like any modern, its high-rise seats provide a good view of Parisian boulevards besides bolstering your confidence in the urban cut and thrust. Not that you’re likely to have to dodge bullets, as Charles de Gaulle’s driver did during an assassination attempt on the French president in 1962. 

His official DS19 took 140 bullets and lost two tyres to punctures, but De Gaulle’s driver performed a high-speed getaway enabled by a hydropneumatic suspension system able to take plenty of cobbled punishment. In calmer circumstances, the DS was a car that could levitate; its high-precision, high-pressure hydraulics allowed it to ride on fluid at heights to suit assorted topographies (and to ease jacking), the same pump powering the steering, the brakes and even the dash-mounted gearlever. The hydraulic hissings and clicks of the spectacularly aerodynamic 1955 DS sped the motorcar deeper into the future than virtually any car before or since. 

The 1955 DS was merely one of a trio of brilliant Citroëns to emerge over a little more than two decades – the Traction Avant was joined a mere 14 years later (it would have been sooner but for World War II) by the robustly ingenious, low-cost 2CV. In later years, these models have been both a blessing and a curse for the marque, their design brilliance dazzling enough to trigger disappointment at the many prosaic Citroëns that have followed. Several of these saved the company by turning profits undreamed of during the ’60s and ’70s, many more have kept it that way. Yet the DS was hardly the last of the Double Chevron’s brilliance – the GS, SM, CX, Visa, BX, Xantia, C4 and C6 were all boldly individual. 

The C5 Aircross is not a Citroën that uncovers fresh engineering vistas, but its room, comfort and convenience are qualities shared with lots predecessors, blending them with subtle accomplishment. Its styling won’t get you stabbing the camera app of your smartphone, but it’s a handsome, early step along what promises to be a more exciting road for Citroën, signposted by the excitingly imaginative Ami One and 19_19.

‘This is not a student project’: how Pierre Leclercq is reinventing Citroen 

When you see the Citroën 19_19 and Ami One concepts, especially together, it’s quite easy to conclude that they’re boldly different enough to be semi-irrelevant. But Pierre Leclercq, Citroën’s head of design, says of the 19_19: “There’s nothing too crazy about it. We’re trying to be professional. This is not a student project.” As partial proof of this, he points out that tyre maker Goodyear “spent a lot of money on the concept”. Citroën’s designers were concerned that with its huge wheels, “it might not work well, so we got Goodyear to explore the wheel and tyre, which they spent several months working on”. There would be little point in that if this rather exciting big-wheel concept was purely decorative. 

Leclercq says: “Concept cars are there to inspire us, the company and the industry. Our concept car designers also work on the production cars, and we always go back to them when we’re developing new cars. The Ami One is visionary in the short-term future, the 19_19 is for 2030, so we had more freedom.” 

The pair are a fine celebration of Citroën’s 100 years, bookending its model range and pregnant with interesting ideas. But the inevitable question: will we see this exciting, fresh thinking in Citroën’s showrooms? 

Leclercq joined Citroën from Kia last year and certainly sounds bullish: “Reinvention is what we’ll do – not just adding a bit of water to the soup. We’ll push. We’re always talking about revolution. I like to work for a company making a revolution with every generation. Citroën has always brought something different. We’ve got to have a story, and it’s got to be very coherent. 

“The next five years is not just an evolution – we want to do more than this. We’re facing the biggest change in the car industry, and with all that change comes new technology. Some people are worried and prefer to retire. I’m excited. By 2030, we’ll look totally different to today. We’ll have more freedom to change proportions. Citroëns will have better proportions in the future, and more differentiation from other brands. It’s very positive.” 

That differentiation will come from “the contrast between the flowing lines of our cars, a reflection of their aeronautics, and different interiors, which will be super-simple. This contrast will be the future of Citroën.” 

Leclercq’s enthusiasm is further fuelled by the rising importance of design. “Around 15, 20 years ago, design was a luxury,” he says, not only in cars but in the wider world. Luxury Italian furniture maker Boffi is about design but so is Ikea, he says by way of example. In car design 50 years ago, Leclercq adds, “all the engineering was done in-house, and the design was done outside. Now the engineering is done with suppliers, and the design is in-house.” And in Citroën’s house, it sounds very exciting.

Read more

First drive: Citroen Ami One concept​

First drive: Citroen 19_19 concept review​

100 years of Citroën - a picture history

News, 13 Oct 2019 06:01:22 +0100
We build a lithium-ion car battery We built a Lithium-ion battery - hero EV battery production is the new frontier of the automotive industry, but how are they made? We open our chemistry set to find out

Opportunities like this one don’t come around very often. Here, Autocar has the chance to build its own lithium ion electric car battery cell from scratch, to see the inner workings of a device that usually stays closed because its contents are flammable and to hear an expert ‘how it works’ explanation from the UK’s foremost professor of EV batteries.

There are only a couple of places in the UK where batteries are built from raw materials and one of them is the prototype manufacturing plant at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), a department of the illustrious University of Warwick. Our mentor for the day is Professor David Greenwood, a brilliant communicator of the intricate flows of electrons and lithium ions inside these anonymous-looking grey packages. So free your mind of the notion of crankshafts, valves and bearings and introduce to it instead the anodes, cathodes, separators and LiPF6 electrolytes of our electrically driven future.

Our task is to make a small 3.5V A7-sized pouch cell – about the size of a credit card at 50mm by 70mm – using machinery on WMG’s prototype production line. In a production car, like the Nissan Leaf or Jaguar I-Pace, dozens of these pouches are built up into modules before the modules are wired together to make the battery.

The internal parts and the principles of design and build are the same as for bigger pouch cells, like those fitted to the Leaf, but also the prismatic designs and cylinders used by Tesla. Tesla’s 18650 cells may be a very different shape but they contain the same basic componentry, just rolled up inside a tube.

There are four main processes – make the anode, make the cathode, pack them into a pouch and fill with the liquid electrolyte that contains the vital lithium – but in total there are 11 manufacturing steps. Our session will take a couple of hours, but in a volume production plant, like Tesla’s Gigafactory, 20 cells a second roll off the production lines. Time to don the protective green rubber gloves, white lab coat and go mix chemicals.

Making the Autocar battery


The electrochemically active ingredient in the anode is graphite – it’s the component that actually stores lithium ions. It comes as a fine powder, each particle of which is just 10 microns across – one fifth of a human hair. Here, the graphite is mixed in a water-based solvent with carbon black and a latex-based binder to make a slurry.

The carbon makes the graphite electrically conductive and the binder is an adhesive so it will stick to a copper backing plate in the next stage. A very similar process is used to make the cathode, but the very fine nickel particles can only be handled while wearing pressurised breathing masks, so aren’t appropriate for our visit.


This key step is carried out with equipment designed for the food industry to mix bread and chocolate. Production-quality anode material is mixed in volumes of hundreds of litres. It needs hours of mixing to ensure the powders, solvent and binder are uniformly distributed in the slurry.


The slurry is attached to an electrical conductor to allow the lithium ions to flow in/out of the graphite, so it is spread thinly over a copper sheet, about half the thickness of a sheet of paper. Copper is used for the anode and aluminium for the cathode because the conditions in the cell would otherwise mean the cathode dissolving and the cell being destroyed.

In a production factory, the coating and drying machine that makes the anode can be up to 90 metres long. The material passes through it in just a minute to optimise the drying process that is critical to how efficiently the anode stores charge.


This maximises the charge storage capacity of the graphite in the anode by gently crushing the coating to increase its density. The process originated as a finishing technique for textiles.


Lithium will react if exposed to moisture in the air and degrade the performance of the cell, so the final production processes are carried out in a dry room where relative humidity is just 0.5% – one tenth of the Atacama desert. Workers in here have to take frequent rehydration breaks.


The ribbon of copper and its graphite coating are cut to the A7 shape to make individual layers. To achieve performance of 3.5V and 6Ah, our cell needs 15 layers – seven anodes and eight cathodes. Each cut is made by a precise die-cutter to ensure each sheet locates precisely between the separator/ insulator and has no rough edges – otherwise the cell could short-circuit and possibly catch fire.


Each of the anode layers has to be interleaved with a separator and the cathode sheets. It’s a fiddly process that’s handled automatically by a Z-fold stacking machine. Our cell will end up with about one metre of separator between the 15 layers.


Ultrasonic welding joins the layers of the anode together into a robust tab – the connection point through which electricity flows in/out of the cell.


The anode layers are housed inside an air-tight pouch made from aluminised polymer – a more robust version of the material used to package food such as coffee beans. In the cell, it has to remain air tight for 15 years; for coffee, it’s just six months. The edges of the pouch are heat sealed but left oversized to allow room for a later process.


Just 2ml of liquid electrolyte containing lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6) is pumped into the cell and the pouch sealed in an ultra-dry vacuum to keep moisture away from the reactive and flammable lithium. With all the other parts needed to make the cell function, only 4% of our A7 cell’s approximate 200g weight is actually lithium.


This is the Frankenstein moment, when the pouch becomes a functioning cell. A special rig repeatedly charges and discharges the cell while its behaviour is monitored for quality control.

Initial reactions between the electrolyte and the anode create the solid electrolyte interface (SEI) – a protective layer – and in the process give off gas, which is why the pouch was left oversized earlier on. It will be purged and trimmed later. Amazingly, the cell takes days to form: typically the small cell in a Tesla might take three to four days, but some larger pouch cells can take an astonishing 28 days. Our smaller A7 cell will probably be one to two days in the making.

How does a lithium Ion cell work?

Inside the cell are four main components – anode, cathode, separator and the lithium electrolyte – and each one has a specific job to do. In its normal, uncharged state, the lithium atoms (supplied by the liquid electrolyte) are stored on the cathode. During charging, the voltage applied to the cell pushes the lithium atoms off the cathode for collection at the anode, at which point the atoms split up by losing an electron and the atom temporarily becomes a lithium ion.

The cunning bit is the separator. This porous polymer membrane between the anode and cathode only allows lithium ions to flow to the anode. As a result, electrons have to flow in the opposite direction, out of the cell and through the charger, ending up at the anode where they reform with the ions to recreate lithium atoms. When all the lithium atoms have collected on the anode, the cell is fully charged. The separator then prevents a backflow of the lithium atoms.

This content could not have happened without the financial support of the Niche Vehicle Network, Advanced Propulsion Centre and Innovate UK. However, Autocar retained full editorial control. 


Under the skin: Why solid-state batteries are a big positive

Williams reveals lighter yet longer-range EV battery module

Behind the scenes of Britain's battery revolution

News, 13 Oct 2019 06:01:22 +0100
Inside Alvis: reviving a long-lost British car maker Alvis factory in Kenilworth
"About 4800 Alvis cars remain on the road"
The iconic marque has not left the building: in fact, it has just started making cars again

'Decarbonise the engine and report. Check power steering and front wheel alignment. Straighten up front bumper. To be completed by Thursday May 13th, please.’ 

So wrote Group Captain Douglas Bader, the celebrated RAF fighter ace, in a letter to the works service manager that he left on the seat of his Alvis ahead of its annual checkup. It’s contained in a bundle of correspondence relating to Bader’s many Alvis cars (each featured a Spitfire mascot), just one of thousands of copies of customer correspondence that Alvis has received since being founded in 1919 and still keeps and refers to, in addition to the vehicle records for each of the 22,000 cars it has produced and 17,000 technical drawings relating to every major component it has ever designed and manufactured. 

“My chief interest when acquiring the company was these documents,” says Alan Stote, the energetic 71-year-old boss of Alvis who bought the company from its retiring owner in 1994. “I’m very interested in 20th century industrial history.”

Fortunately for Alvis, Stote is interested in not only the company’s past but also its future. To that end, the former Goodyear tyre apprentice, who went on to make a fortune in remould tyres before selling his company in 1988, has launched a series of six Alvis continuation models based on two different chassis – three pre-war cars, each powered by an Alvis 4.3 straight six, and three post-war cars with 3.0-litre Alvis engines under their bonnets. 

Prices start at £250,000. So far, four cars have been built (each takes two years) at the company’s Kenilworth base and orders for five more have been received from Alvis’s distributor in Japan. Depending on the variant, production of each continuation model is limited to five or 25 cars. 

Engines in the pre-war 4.3-litre models are newly manufactured copies of the original motor, based on Alvis’s detailed technical drawings, albeit with some modern updates including fuel injection, electronic ignition, battery management and an ECU. The blocks and heads are cast in West Bromwich and the cranks and rods in Hinckley by Arrow Precision. 

Remarkably, the 3.0-litre post-war continuation models are powered by engines that Alvis manufactured in the 1960s and have been sitting in stock ever since. They’re minutely checked prior to fitment. New ones can be made if necessary. 

Alvis was founded by engineer and businessman Thomas G John in Coventry in 1919. Six years later, it became the first car maker to design and race a front-wheel-drive car. Three years after that, its front-drive cars claimed first and second places at Le Mans. In 1933, it designed the first all-synchromesh gearbox and later that year produced the first British car with independent front suspension. The war caused Alvis to shift its focus to the production of military vehicles and aero engines for the RAF, but after hostilities ended, car production resumed. 

Eventually, in 1967, Alvis stopped building cars. The following year, it relocated to Kenilworth, from where it concentrated on making parts for Alvis cars under the Red Triangle brand and restoring and servicing vehicles for customers. 

Over 50 years later, under the ownership of Stote, the company is still restoring cars and making and distributing parts around the globe for the 4800 Alvis models that remain on the road. Around 200 pass through its workshop each year. On the day I visit, Stote greets me in the company’s large showroom, filled with Alvis models of all ages. Stote’s enthusiasm for Alvis is infectious. He soon has me cooing over a 4.3-litre Bertelli Sports Coupé. I’m more familiar with the later, more restrained Park Ward-bodied TF21 cars, and there are a few in the showroom, but the pre-war 4.3s are stunning. However, all but the earliest Alvis models on display share a graceful, perfectly proportioned, low-slung look. Unfortunately, none is available to drive, so I’ll have to imagine how they feel. 

From the showroom, we walk the few hundred yards or so to the main workshop, a large three-storey building where the company’s 22-strong team of parts experts and craftsmen and women toil. It’s a fascinating place, with old Alvis heirlooms, including those original engines and even the original parts bins from 1929, rubbing shoulders with state-of-the-art production and vehicle testing machinery. 

Old and new skills rub shoulders, too. For example, in one area, Daz, an expert in aluminium work, is shaping the body panel of a continuation model using an English wheel. Every so often, he places it against a full-sized wood buck of the car to determine the accuracy of the curvature he’s forming. Watching him is Alistair Pugh of A2P2 Specialists Reverse Engineering, a specialist supplier, who uses a laser to digitise the original Alvis bodies to the last millimetre in order to generate the data necessary to produce the buck Daz is referencing. 

Stote now leads the way to another building containing around 20 Alvis cars in various stages of decay that he’s collected over the past 40 years and intends to restore. Elsewhere, another building is home to 40 Alvis models owned by customers and awaiting servicing. A 70-point service, Krypton tune, fresh MOT and a valuation costs £595. 

As I leave, he thrusts a copy of The Autocar’s 1938 road test of the Alvis 4.3-litre Sports Tourer into my hands and indicates its conclusion: ‘There are cars, good cars and super cars. When a machine can be put into the last of these three categories, considerable praise is due to the makers. This model is the latest 4.3 Litre Alvis Sports Tourer.’ 

“See: it’s the first supercar!” exclaims Stote. “Autocar says so!” With an imagination like that, Alvis is in good hands. 

Read more

Alvis marks centenary with extended continuation line-up​

The best cars from the classic rebuild industry​

Britain’s best dead car companies – but which do you remember?

News, 12 Oct 2019 06:01:23 +0100
On a charge: Driving the Jaguar I-Pace from London to Frankfurt Driving the Jaguar I-Pace to the Frankfurt motor show
I-Pace is stylish, and outshines its rivals, but can it cross the continent?
How practical is it to drive across Europe in Jaguar's EV pioneer? We saddle up for the long-haul

The maths is simple. Frankfurt and its biennial motor show lie 501 miles from Autocar Towers in Twickenham, according to Google Maps. This Jaguar I-Pace, Autocar’s long-term test car, has an official range of 298 miles. So you can work out for yourself how many re-charge stops might be needed – in theory – to get to Frankfurt. But we’re more interested in how such a road trip for one of the new breed of long-range electric cars like the I-Pace will pan out in practice. 

What makes the journey a feasible proposition this year is the growing number of fast-charging stations that promise to reload the I-Pace’s 90kWh battery in under an hour. We are going to use exclusively the fast-charger network run by Ionity, newly established by car makers as their version of Tesla’s Supercharger network and intended to facilitate exactly what Autocar is attempting: a cross-Continent journey by battery-electric vehicle (BEV). 

Planning the journey is a challenge in itself. Ionity’s chargers are placed around 85 to 100 miles apart and, given that the I-Pace’s real-world range appears to be 200 miles, it’s a tricky balance to decide how far to push the stops. 

In the planning stage, I opt for a conservative strategy of nine fast-charge stops in total for a round trip of around 1000 miles. But during the journey itself, I’m left wishing we could drop a couple of stops to speed up progress. 

More experience of driving the I-Pace in the UK would have given me the confidence to push the stops, but there are a few unknowns about range, plus an unmovable deadline to attend a press conference in Frankfurt set by news editor Lawrence Allan, so a stranding is out of the question. 

We also don’t know how the Ionity fast-charge hardware and I-Pace on-board electronics will work together. Will the battery be able to take a 100% charge in a sensible time? 

Good news at the first Ionity charge-up on the M20 services at Maidstone. All goes well with the charger technology, which works smoothly after the New Motion RFID card unlocks the pump and electrons flow at a rate of just under 1kWh per minute. I pump in 36kWh in 48 minutes and then head towards Belgium with a 187-mile range, enough for a 60-mile buffer, and a confident feeling about the drive to Shell Wetteren. The sole glitch is locating the chargers inside the service area because there are no signs. This emerges as an ongoing challenge: none of the five charging areas I use has signs. It doesn’t matter at some because they can be seen easily, but at others, it’s a matter of driving around hoping to find them. 

Exiting the Chunnel, I feel a sense of relief that the Continental part of the journey can start in earnest and the I-Pace settles into the traffic at around 70-80mph, giving us a chance to absorb how brilliant a cruiser it is. The seats are really comfortable, the ride is supple yet planted and progress is super-quiet, with only the gentle rush of air over the body and a little tyre noise audible. It definitely feels like a luxury car. 

I arrive at Shell Wetteren with 50 miles of range and 25% battery, more confirmation that 200 miles is the real-world range to plan around. 

After six hours on the go, I decide on a longer stop than is maybe ideal for rapid progress. So with a relaxed 55-minute charge, the I-Pace gets 57kWh of charge and a 93% battery: 190 miles of range. 

At this point – 4pm on Sunday with another fast-charge in the schedule – I wish that my overnight stop in Liège, 92 miles away, had ‘destination charging’ for a slow overnight top-up. Instead, I must stop on the outskirts of Liège to take sufficient range for the 106-mile drive on Monday morning to my first charge-up in Germany. 

My mood sinks as I arrive at Ionity’s Bierset site near Liège airport. Located at a truck stop, the shop/toilet block is shut, the chargers are located on the truck side of the parking area and it feels unfriendly and desolate. The smell of the drains is also overpowering. 

I’m grateful the technology once more works smoothly, but putting myself in the mindset of the owner of an £80k cutting-edge BEV, I think I’d avoid this site in future. Unfortunately, I’m committed to using it on my return journey. 

Well rested overnight, I’m on the road by 7am on Monday, day two, with that immovable deadline of the press conference at 1.30pm. 

The I-Pace and Ionity charging network are now real business tools. Driving conditions are much more serious, too, with the autobahn packed with cars and trucks single-mindedly heading to their destinations. 

Heavy rush-hour traffic around Cologne puts me behind schedule and not for the first time do I curse the I-Pace’s slow-witted sat-nav as I struggle to locate Ionity’s Bad Honnef charging station, approached via a loop of local roads and tricky junctions, well away from the A9 autobahn south of Bonn. 

Again, the charger works a treat and the I-Pace drinks up the charge. This is a long stop as I take on 44kWh because my Frankfurt hotel has no destination charging so my return to the UK has to start with charge already picked up in Bad Honnef. 

The discrepancy between charging rates at different locations also comes into focus: Wetteren was a 55-minute charge for 57kWh; Bad Honnef is 51 minutes for 44kWh. 

We arrive at Frankfurt, and with work at the show out of the way, the next task is a photo shoot with Autocar snapper Olgun Kordal. This reduces the car’s range to 57 miles, with 44 miles to the first Ionity fast-charger on the return leg to the UK. 

I probably shouldn’t be concerned and should trust in the technology, but I can’t shake the range anxiety. Economy driving mode is selected alongside 80km/h (50mph) on the cruise control to preserve range. This works and I roll into Bingen services in euphoric mood – with 25 miles still in the battery! 

I’m learning lessons about cross-continent BEV driving. It may well be better to roll at a slower pace and save time otherwise taken up by charging. I just need an in-car app to do the maths for me. 

The drive across Germany now takes on a sweet rhythm. I’m on a northwesterly route home through the Eifel mountains, traffic is light and the speeds are good. On one derestricted and gently downhill section, there’s even a chance to max the I-Pace at an indicated 129mph, 4mph above the official top speed. 

Obviously, charge depletes at a faster rate, but there’s no ill effect on the three-stop strategy as I arrive in Ghent for a final overnight stop. 

A pleasant surprise comes in the shape of an unused 7kW charger in the hotel car park, so I grab a chance to ‘destination charge’, urged on by the hotelier, who is an electric car enthusiast, and top up the range to a full 200 miles for the run back to London, where I arrive at lunchtime on Thursday. 

In many ways, this trip was so very remarkable. Just two years ago, it would have been impractical. Yet the speed at which Ionity has set up its network now makes it a reality and the charging hardware worked 100% reliably for me. 

The cost was low, too. At €8 per charge, total energy costs were £64 for 1064 miles. A 50mpg diesel car would have cost twice that. Time is a concern, though. Seven hours were taken up by charging, but smarter planning might reduce that. 

Better signage would enhance ease of use and fewer truck stop locations would improve the experience. There’s also work to be done on intervals between chargers and I reckon at least two fewer stops would have been possible given a wider choice of locations. A long-haul trip like this would also be much more relaxing with guaranteed destination charging because that would have eliminated another two stops. 

But the biggest improvement in the future will be integrating in-car sat-nav with on-board range data and charger location finding to make planning the trip and responding on route to battery charge levels much easier. 

Right now, cross-Continental motoring is here and doable with the Ionity network. For Autocar readers who haven’t attempted such a trip, it’s a new challenge that’s worth accepting.


Ionity is a joint venture between the BMW Group, Daimler, Ford, the Volkswagen Group and latest member Hyundai-Kia. Formed in October 2017, it is about one-third of the way towards its target of opening 400 fast-charging locations, capable of up to 350kW output, across Europe by next year. Fifty locations are planned for the UK, with fast-charging sites in Maidstone and Gretna Green now operational.

Today, each session costs €8 on the Continent and £8 in the UK – you can pay directly via your smartphone throughout Europe – but pence-per-kWh charging is coming, probably in the next six months.

Read more

Jaguar I-Pace 2019 long-term review

Electric SUV megatest: Mercedes EQC vs luxury rival​s

800 miles in a week in an electric car: 12 things I learned

News, 12 Oct 2019 06:01:23 +0100
Hardcore McLaren 620R confirmed, first spy shots emerge 2020 McLaren 620R spy shots
McLaren 620R prototype - pictures taken by Stefan Baldauf
McLaren will produce a road-legal version of a GT4 racing car, set to be offered to customers by invitation only

McLaren has confirmed to Autocar that it will be building a road-going version of its 570S GT4 racing model, dubbed 620R.

Spotted testing for the first time, the 620R features a design linked to that of last year’s ultra-exclusive 570S MSO X, with an aerodynamic package clearly adapted from that of McLaren’s racing programme. 

Alongside a prominent rear spoiler and front splitter arrangement, there's a roof-mounted air scoop and new intakes cut out from the bonnet. Further changes include an exhaust feeding out through the bumper in place of the top-exit items of the 600LT, a detail that features in the Woking brand’s GT4 cars. 

A specific wheel design, most likely made from a super-light material such as magnesium, can also be seen. Although this prototype doesn’t appear to sit any lower to the ground, we can speculate that the 620R will feature a bespoke suspension tune compared with the 600LT and 570S.  Whether that will be the race-bred coilover setup remains to be seen. 

Running the registration plate reveals that this 620R is powered by the same twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8 as the 600LT, but judging by the car’s name, expect that to be boosted to 620hp (612bhp) – more than the regulation-restricted racing models. 

The interior is yet to be seen, but expect faithful race-spec details such as bucket seats, six-point harnesses and the removal of non-essential hardware and features. 

McLaren is yet to reveal any details of the car, but when questioned, a spokesperson confirmed its existence and said: “This IS a car that will be offered to select customers by invitation only.” 

It will be built in strictly limited numbers, although probably not as exclusively as the 10 570S MSO X cars built for US customers, and is expected to cost significantly more than the 600LT. More details should follow some time next year. 

Read more:

McLaren 570S MSO X revealed with GT4 racer influence

McLaren 600LT Spider review

Autocar's exclusive McLaren F1 road test: 25 years on

News, 11 Oct 2019 19:17:52 +0100
Top 10 best hot hatches 2019 Honda Civic Type R
Honda Civic Type R
These are our favourite hot hatches currently on sale. But who will claim the top spot?

When it comes to the balance of performance, cost and daily usability, no other type of performance car does it better than the not-so-humble, full-sized hot hatchback.

The idea of taking a regular family hatchback and turning it into a performance car is now time-honoured and has become hugely popular with buyers, especially in the UK. 

Volkswagen assumed ownership of the concept with the Mk1 Golf GTI of 1976, although students of the segment will tell you that the hot hatchback niche was founded earlier by either Simca or Autobianchi. Whoever went there first, most manufacturers now have one of these fundamentally enjoyable cars in their line-up.

From mega-power German luxo-hatches to newcomers from Hyundai, the segment has never offered so much choice. Creating some semblance of order, here are our top 10 picks.

1. Honda Civic Type R

The best hot front-driver of the moment isn’t such a financial stretch when you consider the price of some of the other cars in this list. The Honda Civic Type R is a seriously involving effort from Honda. It gives you grip when you need it, handling adjustability when you go looking for it, plenty of control feedback, a spectacular turbocharged engine and outstanding practicality, too.

That combination yields sensational driver appeal that invites you to exploit everything this car has to offer as often as you can get away with.

A less aggressive-looking track-biased car with a greater focus on cabin quality than hardcore dynamism might have been a bigger seller, but it wouldn’t have been half as compelling to drive. Nor would it be the most exciting hot hatch that can currently be bought.

Save money with new Civic deals from What Car?

2. Ford Focus ST

The Blue Oval has had some memorably brilliant, chart-topping hot hatchbacks over the last couple of decades – and one of them still rules our ‘pocket rocket’ hot supermini rankings, let’s not forget. The current Focus ST narrowly misses out on that status, but not because it isn’t a really incisive and involving driver’s car, or because it’s lacking in power, pace or mechanical specification.

Although STs are typically slightly subordinate hot hatchbacks, Ford hasn’t held back with the makeup of this one. It’s the first Focus ST with adaptive dampers and the first with an electronically controlled limited slip differential for its driven front axle, the latter being something that remains fairly rare on cars of this price point and which certainly adds to its handling appeal.

The Focus ST has direct, agile handling, purposeful-feeling firm body control and abundant vocal and motive performance-car character. It’s the kind of hot hatch built to make even the more mundane road miles enjoyable, and it succeeds at that – although it lacks the outright grip and the playful handling adjustability of other fast Focuses of recent memory. 

Perhaps that’s the right balance for an ST model: more the effusive everyday road performance car than the really purposeful, big-hitting track machine – but either way, it’s not quite enough to make this car our ultimate hot hatchback of the moment.


Save money with new Focus deals from What Car?

2. BMW M135i xDrive

You might think it odd that a 50 per cent drop in engine cylinders and a switch away from rear-wheel drive should have made the performance version of the new BMW 1-Series, the M135i xDrive, a better hot hatchback – but in many cases, that’s precisely the case.

By better, we clearly don’t mean more powerful or, at its very best, more exciting. The old M140i’s powertrain and chassis certainly both had their moments, but the new M135i xDrive is a more composed performance car that’s easier to drive, faster along a slippery, testing stretch of B-road, and communicates its adhesive limits and involves its driver just as clearly.

With the VW Golf R now out of production, the Mercedes-AMG A35 a shade less sophisticated and compelling in its ride and handling, and both the A35’s more powerful -45-branded counterpart and the Audi RS3 Sportback much more expensive, this is the four-wheel drive hot hatch we’d pick at the moment for extra-secure, all-weather, any-road, year-round driver entertainment. It is certainly no backward step from BMW.

Save money with new 1 Series deals from What Car?

4. Volkswagen Golf GTI & GTI TCR

The most iconic hot hatch of them all is not as powerful or hardcore as some – far from it – but it remains singularly desirable, really convincing on the road and great to own and drive daily.

Breadth of ability, near-flawless dynamic polish and all-round versatility are its greatest dynamic strengths. However, even in its GTI Performance guise, this ultra-composed Golf has no answer for the agility or incisiveness of a Megane RS or a Focus ST. It’s perfect for everyday, real-world use each day of the week, however, and it’s also well capable of blowing off the cobwebs come Sunday morning.

If Volkswagen made the Golf GTI a bit more visually assertive and a little more interesting at its limits, then it could give the car the additional joie de vivre it needs to be upwardly mobile in this list. The mk.VII run-out TCR model was as attempt to do that, but despite its stick cup tyres and running gear makeover, it failed to elevate the car’s potential to excite to quite the levels that the GTI Clubsport S once hit.

As it is, though, few GTI devotees would change this singularly successful, long-lived, cannily positioned performance icon – and plenty of rival car brands would very happily clone it in replacement of their own alternatives.

Save money with new Golf deals from What Car?


5. Renault Sport Mégane RS 280 & 300 Trophy

The fourth-generation Mégane RS isn’t a hot hatch for pretenders; with Cup chassis specced, this is a hard-riding, sharp-edged B-road weapon that demands some serious commitment, and not a few wider compromises, if you’re to get the best out of it.

Four-wheel steering virtually shortens its wheelbase through tighter bends and makes for super-incisive handling, while hydraulic bumpstops ensure the suspension can take any punishment you’re prepared to dish out. Meanwhile the car’s 1.8-litre four-pot provides plentiful performance - though not as much outright pace or high-range flexibility as a Civic Type R .

Ergonomics aren’t great, neither’s the cabin in general – and neither is the shift quality of the manual 'box (though it’s preferable to the clumsy paddleshift auto). 

But on the right road, in the right conditions – or better still, on track - there’s a lot to like here. And if you’re confident enough to plough your own furrow, ignore the wider market’s preference for the firmer cup version of the car, and order a sport-spec car instead (with its softer suspension much better-suited to everyday use and fast road driving), you’ll get a Megane RS that knows moderation as well as thrill, and is that bit easier to live with.

Save money with new Mégane deals from What Car?

6. Mini Clubman JCW

Built on exactly the same model platform as the BMW M135i and using the same engine, gearbox and four-wheel drive system, the Mini Clubman John Cooper Works is a bit of a landmark performance car for its maker. No hot Mini has offered more than three-hundred horsepower before – and few have matched the real-world pace, real-road handling smarts and daily usability of this one.

Like most Minis, the Clubman JCW rides low and close to the road, offering an appealing sporting driving position and a natural dynamic advantage over many of its peers. It’s also more directionally responsive and level in its cornering manners than the hot hatch norm, and firm-riding – without feeling quite as famously ‘go-kart-like’ as some fast Minis have traded on being over the years.

With enough room for adults in the back seats and a usable, full-size boot too, the Clubman offers comparable practicality with full-sized hatchbacks – but it retains much of the dynamic flavour required to make it handle with the appealing immediacy to make it seem authentic to the brand on its bonnet. In range-topping JCW form, it’s one of the more convincing and complete performance cars that Mini has yet built.

Save money with new Clubman deals from What Car?

7. Hyundai i30 N

Ascendant Korean car-maker Hyundai clearly wasn’t interesting in half-measures with its first N-branded performance model, the i30 N. This was the car it hired former BMW M Division engineering supremo Albert Biermann to help make, and then poured huge R&D resources behind.

And, although there are one or two caveats to admit, it didn’t go to all that trouble in vain. The i30 N has surprising hardcore temperament and a real sense of performance purpose, neither of which you expect from a car-maker with so little previous experience in the segment. There’s a really old-school flavour to the weight in its controls, and about the gravelly boost in its power delivery and the increasing firmness in its damping.

If anything, Hyundai went too far with the hardcore tuning of this car – as the i30 N’s firmest and most aggressive suspension, steering and drivetrain modes are too uncompromising, and make it a hard car to read. But at its best – in modest trim level, and set up for pragmatic ease-of-operation rather than out-and-out grip level – it’s an involving, balanced, genuinely appealing driver’s car.

Save money with new i30 deals from What Car?

8Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic+

We’re currently between model generations of the walloping Mercedes-AMG A45 mega hatch – but that doesn’t mean there’s no fast A-Class in Mercedes showrooms. The A35 4Matic+ is Affalterbach’s slightly cheaper and more accessible lure for anyone looking for pace, everyday usability, driver appeal and premium brand cache from their hot hatchback.

Using a detuned version of the A45’s turbocharged 2.0-litre motor that produces just over 300-horsepower, and channelling its power to the road via a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox and both axles, the A35 doesn’t drive like a subordinate performance derivative. It’s seriously fast, surprisingly firm-riding and quite aggressive-feeling for a car intended to be used every day. And yet it also has plenty of on-road handling precision and poise, and a chassis and drivetrain that always combine to find excellent grip and traction, even in slippery conditions.

Add to that the established technoglare appeal of the A-Class’ gadget-laden cabin and Mercedes’ brand allure and you’ve got a package that’s sure to find plenty of showroom success – even if it wouldn’t quite be the car we’d recommend for the ultimate in hot hatchback thrills or for any-weather, any-occasion usability.

Save money with new A-Class deals from What Car?

9. Audi RS3 Sportback

Audi Sport’s superheated A3, the RS3 Sportback, is now back from its emissions-related hiatus at the moment, with an updated WLTP-emissions compliant version now offering buyers fully four-hundred metric horsepower for just under £50,000.

What that money gets you is a simply incredible 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine and dual-clutch gearbox. It’s a combination that allowed the pre-facelifted 395bhp RS3 saloon to hit 60mph in just 3.9sec during Autocar testing in 2018, and dispatch 100mph in less than 10 seconds. That’s double-take stuff in this class and puts the model well into proper sports car territory on acceleration.

If there’s a caveat, it’s a familiar one – the quattro four-wheel-drive system still doesn't contribute much to handling appeal. That said, cross-country pace is utterly mighty and handling is ever-secure. Fitting the optional adaptive dampers is a must if you want a daily-use ride.

Save money with new RS3 deals from What Car?

10. Seat Leon Cupra

Seat’s Cupra-branded hot Leon range has been through plenty of change of the last couple of years, having climaxed with the limited-series, now-defunct Cupra R.

Now you can choose between a front-wheel drive chassis and 286bhp of power in the shorter five-door hatchback version, or four-wheel drive and 296bhp of the stuff in the more practical ‘ST’ estate. Neither version is any slouch, though – and unlike the VW Golf R to which it’s otherwise quite closely related, the front-driven version of the Seat uses an electronically locking front diff.

The Leon’s handling is crisp, agile and fairly grippy, though not quite as communicative, balanced or adhesive as some in the class. The engine’s a strong suit for the car, revving hard right to the redline and sounding hard-edged.

Added to all that is a pretty convincing bang-for-buck argument for this car, with the five-door version available from just under £30,000, and smart, sharp-edged styling that isn’t too chavvy. It makes for plenty to like – though perhaps not quite the incisive driver reward needed to bother our top order.


Save money with new Leon deals from What Car?

News, 11 Oct 2019 16:15:35 +0100
Renault board removes Thierry Bollore as CEO Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy badge Financial director Clotilde Delbos set to act as interim CEO following surprise management shake-up

Renault's board of directors has voted to remove CEO Thierry Bollore as head of the company with immediate effect.

Financial director Clotilde Delbos has been installed as interim CEO, with Olivier Murguet and José-Vicente de los Mozos taking positions as deputy managing directors to assist Delbos in the role. The firm has already begun the process of appointing a permanent replacement.

Renault officially announced the move in a press release on Friday, confirming the Board of Directors "decided to end the mandate of Mr Thierry Bolloré as Chief Executive Officer of Renault SA and President of Renault s.a.s with immediate effect."

The surprise announcement came after rumours of a management shake-up appeared in French newspapers earlier this week, and is understood to be an effort by the brand to further distance itself further from former boss Carlos Ghosn. 

According to the Financial Times, Bolloré was considered by alliance partner Nissan to be a 'disruptive force' and didn't do enough with regards to Ghosn's arrest over financial misconduct allegations last year. He served as Ghosn's second in command until being made CEO in January.

Prior to an official announcement, Bolloré had described the move as "a coup" and "shocking power grab" in an interview with French business title Les Echos. “The brutality and the totally unexpected nature of what is happening are staggering. Operationally, I do not see where the fault is.”

It is understood the French government, which holds a 15% in the company, has pushed for Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard to sever connections to the Ghosn era and ease tensions with Nissan, which could potentially lead to renewed talks with rival carmaker FCA over a possible merger.

Today's announcement follows a similar shake-up at Nissan, where the firms head of its Chinese division was recently made new CEO


New Renault Zoe: UK prices and specs announced

Renault updates big-selling Captur with new platform and interior

Renault details two new EVs due in 2020

News, 11 Oct 2019 11:44:50 +0100
Porsche and Boeing to develop flying car concept Porsche and Boeing flying car
Porsche and Boeing have released this image of a flying car
Two firms will explore the viability of urban air travel and produce a prototype

Porsche and Boeing are developing an electric flying car concept as part of a new partnership exploring the “premium urban air mobility market”, the two brands have announced. 

Engineers from both companies will work on the project to implement and test a prototype, but no timeframe has been given for the endeavour. 

Porsche has recently entered the electric vehicle market with its Taycan sports saloon and wants to diversify further beyond its traditional market. 

Sales and marketing boss Detlev von Platen, commenting on the memorandum of understanding between Porsche and Boeing, said: “Porsche is looking to enhance its scope as a sports car manufacturer by becoming a leading brand for premium mobility. In the longer term, this could mean moving into the third dimension of travel."

He continued: “We are combining the strengths of two leading global companies to address a potential key market segment of the future.”

Alongside the flying car concept, known as a fully electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, the two firms will create a team to explore urban air travel, including the market potential for premium vehicles and possible use cases.

A 2018 study by Porsche Consulting forecast that the urban air mobility market will gain traction after 2025. The research also indicated that urban air transport will allow passengers to move more quickly and efficiently than using current conventional transport, at a lower cost and with greater flexibility.

There has been a number of flying car projects announced in recent years, as the industry seeks to address growing populations in cities around the world. Despite hype around projects such as Uber’s flying car, Pal-V Liberty and Terrafugia TF-X, none is yet in service, no doubt hampered by legislation. 

Read more

Porsche Taycan review

Pal-V Liberty: exploring a flying car

Gallery: the weird, wild story of the flying car

News, 11 Oct 2019 11:32:42 +0100
Toyota Land Cruiser Utility 3dr long-term review Toyota Land Cruiser Utility 3dr 2018 long-term review - hero front Will a basic – and we do mean basic – Land Cruiser cut it as a daily family workhorse? We found out over a year behind the wheel

Why we ran it: To see if a utility vehicle can also be an endearing everyday vehicle

Month 12Month 9Month 7Month 6 - Month 5Month 4Month 3 - Month 2 - Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 12

You really get under a car’s skin after a 38,000-mile year. So what’s the verdict? - 25th September 2019

I know there’s a new Land Rover Defender, and very nice it is too (or isn’t, depending on your outlook), but spare a thought for the forgotten 4x4, won’t you?

The Toyota Land Cruiser 3dr does what a new Defender 90 will do – perhaps more, perhaps less – and, while it’s at it, costs a lot less money and looks a lot more like Wile E Coyote’s head. Yet nobody seems to care about it like they do the Defender. I do. I’ve been running a Land Cruiser since this time last year.

This grey one, in very base Utility specification, at £33,995 plus only metallic paint, arrived from Toyota with just over 150 miles on the clock and has just returned to its maker (sob, sniff, etc) 38,000 miles later. All but 2000 of those have been added by me. I’ve driven more miles in this Land Cruiser than I have in probably any other car, ever; maybe excepting my own Land Rover Defender, which I’ve owned for seven years.

One of the reasons is simple: I’ve had a lot of places to go. But the other reason is that the Land Cruiser has slipped into my life so completely painlessly that, even for a car with big intentions and capabilities when it comes to off-roading, it’s actually a very straightforward family/ commuter car.

Let’s cover the everyday stuff first, then. The Toyota has five seats, good head and leg room in all, and the rear seat backs can be reclined. You can fit a good amount of luggage behind them in position – 380 litres – but they split and tumble forward to leave a decent cargo area, albeit with a high load height because of the offroad credentials and with a rear door that opens sideways, not upwards, because the rear door can be a spare wheel carrier. The rear window hinges up separately.

Road refinement and comfort – not something you’d always associate with a rufty-tufty separate-chassis 4x4 – is good. A colleague described the way the Land Cruiser rides on a motorway as lolling like the bottom jaw of a chewing cow. Slight exaggeration, but I know what he means: the Land Cruiser is a car of slow, steady movements, a soft ride and big cornering lean.

It is not a car you drive quickly on back roads, then, although with leggy gearing in the six-speed manual gearbox and good high-speed stability, plus low road noise levels and comfortable seats, I’ve found it a great long-distance cruiser.

At a cruise, you can return an mpg figure in the high 30s if you drive very slowly but a typical overall return is about 33mpg, giving the Land Cruiser a range of easily 550 miles (more if you’re brave).

It comes without a raft of entertainment, telecoms, comfort equipment or driver aids – just cruise control, manual air conditioning and Bluetooth, really, but that’s enough for me. It doesn’t bong incessantly and I don’t have to turn anything off when I climb into it.

It’s also brilliant off road. Obviously. We’ve done 4x4 videos with it where it has performed superbly and recently our sibling magazine What Car? conducted an off-road ‘megatest’ that the Land Cruiser won. It gets that separate chassis, great departure and breakover angles, low-range transfer box and locking centre differential and the 2.8-litre diesel has bags of torque – 310lb ft from 1400rpm. M’colleagues found a Mercedes G-Class and Jeep Wrangler, which have a greater number of locking differentials, crossed some terrain more easily, but they’re both rather more expensive than the Toyota.

The car, as you’d hope and expect, has been faultless, although its straightforward nature extends even to servicing, which it wants every 10,000 miles rather than having a variable schedule.

Toyota offers fixed-price servicing – £250 every 10,000 miles, £395 every 20,000, in the Land Cruiser’s case. The only issue with this is that, for diesels, the price includes £12 for AdBlue exhaust treatment, regardless of whether or not your car needs topping up. Given the Land Cruiser seems to want 10 litres every 5000 miles and the containers hold 10 litres, you can plan so it needs it. The advantage is that it doesn’t matter which dealer you visit because you know how much the service will cost. At least, that’s the idea.

I visited Inchcape Toyota Oxford, but although the work they carried out was fine, I can’t recommend you do the same. Partly because it shouldn’t have been beholden on me to inform the service manager AdBlue was included in the price when he said he’d “always” charged extra for it. But mostly because, once told, he was disinclined to find out how many customers he’d overcharged to reimburse them. I doubt there’ll be many, but that’s hardly the point. Inchcape say that if affected customers contact them, they’ll refund them.

The car, at least, was harder to fault. Over nearly 40,000 miles, it showed no visible sign of wear and no consumables expired. It was on the same brakes and everything else it arrived with, with a good 5mm of tread left on the tyres. I’d have probably replaced the fronts, and the windscreen wiper blades, before the winter had it stuck around. But it hasn’t, which is a shame.

There are more glamorous alternatives to the Land Cruiser, but if you want a truly rugged, versatile 4x4 that is as straightforward and dependable as turning on a tap, you know where to turn.

Second Opinion

When I saw Matt was running a three-door Utility-spec ’Cruiser, I thought he’d gone mad. However, its comfortable motorway ride and satisfying manual ’box won me over. I still think white bodywork and ‘UN’ stickers on the doors would have complemented the steelies to a tee, though.

Alan Taylor Jones

Back to the top

Love it:

Flapped Jack A flap over the USB/jack sockets for the audio stops them filling with crud in very dusty environments.

Touch and go Buttons for the big centre console cubbies have one lump or two, so you can feel for the one you want.

Manoeuvrability The 4.56m-long Land Cruiser 3dr’s turning circle is brilliantly tight, at just 10.4m.

Loathe it:

Folding seats back up You have to clamber right into the car to reach the release mechanism to fold the seats back up.

Where to put it? Nowhere obvious for the ‘keyless key’. There’s a small cubby by the gearlever but it rattles a bit in there.

Final mileage: 38,082

Back to the top

Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 9

Back in Land Cruiser’s home environment - 17th July 2019

The Land Cruiser has just done sterling work as a support car for an upcoming Ariel Nomad versus Triumph Scrambler video. On a recce around some Welsh forest tracks, it wasn’t unlike those other two in that it felt more composed the faster you drove it, which was a pleasant surprise. I’ve left it suitably filthy for now, too.

Mileage: 30,632

Back to the top

Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 7

Not hard to squeeze miles out of a tank - 19th June 2019

With the Land Cruiser averaging around 31mpg overall, I did a test to see how frugal it is in motorway driving. It surprised me. Doing a steady 70mph (about 2300rpm), it returned pretty much the same as the average. Lowering cruising speed to below 2000rpm and shifting up early with glacial acceleration is the key to high 30s mpg.

Mileage: 28,450

Back to the top

Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 6

Here’s a handy way to solve a problem we don’t need solving - 29th May 2019

Usually we try to use every feature in a long-termer, but there’s an instruction sticker on the door of the Toyota Land Cruiser that I think will go unneeded.

The Land Cruiser, like all modern diesels, gets a diesel particulate filter for its 2.8-litre, four-cylinder engine. These trap exhaust soot, until such time as it gets burnt off when the exhaust is hot, a cycle the car usually enters of its own accord on the open road so you don’t know it’s happening.

In some kinds of driving, though – if, say, you spend a lot of time at slow speeds, idling or doing short hops, as a utility car might – the DPF never gets the chance to enter, or complete, what they call a ‘regeneration’ cycle. In which case, ultimately, the filter gets clogged and a warning light will come on. Don’t ignore it.

Some cars want you to visit a dealer for a manual regeneration if it happens, but – as the sticker suggests – if you have a Land Cruiser, Toyota apparently trusts you enough to do one yourself and thinks you won’t mind the trouble.

So you park the car and push a button on the dash while the engine’s idling. These parked regeneration cycles work by injecting diesel into the cylinder after combustion, so they go into the exhaust and burn in there, making the exhaust hot enough to turn the soot in the filter into ash.

I wouldn’t recommend standing too near the back while it does it, mind. Not that I’ve seen it in action; Toyota recommends you do 40mph for 10 minutes or more if you want the regen to happen quietly on the road, and I can barely find a day when I don’t have to do one or the other. That means the Land Cruiser is now up to 26,700 miles, just 3300 away from another service.

Now, a couple of readers think I was too soft on the dealer, Inchcape Oxford, after the last service, when 10 litres of AdBlue appeared on the invoice despite me having told them I’d filled the tank the night before. I queried it and they handed over 10 litres to take away with me instead. But it seems 10 litres of AdBlue is included in the price of a service (so it was ‘not taken off’, rather than ‘added to’, the bill), which is how Toyota offers its fixed-price servicing: you can’t do that without accounting for all fluids.

Anyway, I noted it in print, but somebody writes to say I should’ve been crosser. I’m not quite so exercised about it. Toyota says it used to charge a specific amount for AdBlue, but that meant the service price varied, which annoyed customers, most of whom need more than 10 litres anyway. So it just charges for 10 litres, at £12, with most customers winning, some losing, and it keeps the paperwork simple. If you’ve just filled it yourself, which hardly anybody does but I need to, you can always query it, and they’ll give you a container to take away so you don’t lose out.

Love it:

Crud-proof There’s a little flap covering the USB/3.5mm jack sockets for the audio, so they don’t fill with crud if driving in dusty environments.

Loathe it:

Not clamber proof Seats fold forwards easily, and stay there – but you have to clamber right in to reach the release mechanism to fold them back.

Mileage: 26,700

Back to the top

That’s one way to describe the ride - 1st May 2019

After a colleague spends a few days in the Land Cruiser, he tells me: “You know that slow, circular motion the bottom jaw of a cow makes while it’s chewing. The Land Cruiser’s motorway ride reminds me of that.” Unusual, I think. Bit harsh, maybe. But better than the bottom jaw of a squirrel chewing on granola, which is how most cars ride.

Mileage: 23,450

Back to the top


Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 5

Another service, another opportunity to sample free coffee - 17th April 2019

Six months after arriving, then, the Land Cruiser was due its second service, a 20,000-miler.

That’s a main service, rather than the 10,000-mile interval, so as well as engine oil being changed, as at 10k, the gearbox oil and differential oils are changed, as is brake fluid, the fuel filter and cabin air filter, and the key fob battery is replaced. The list of other checks is longer, too.

Toyota runs a fixed-price servicing programme, so it doesn’t matter which main dealer you visit. The Land Cruiser is the biggest car Toyota makes so, along with a Dyna (a forward-cab compact truck) and the Hilux pick-up, it’s the most expensive to service, at £395 – although a GT86 is close, at £365.

They offer a couple of extras: a fuel additive said to clean the injectors, and an antibacterial thing for the cabin filters said to reduce interior smells. They add £30 between them, and I thought I’d test them, to see if either make any difference. I keep a keen fuel log so I’ll know if the former has any effect, while the whiff of my son’s ice hockey gear, especially if I forget to remove it from the boot for a day or three, is the sternest test any antibacterial filter is likely to get.

The nearest dealer to home is Inchcape Oxford, and they’ve always been reliable (I got the GT86 I used to run serviced there, too). There’s a comfortable waiting area and the coffee machine is good.

Inchcape had availability about a week after I called and were happiest to take the car when they opened at 7am. The service itself should take around two and a half hours, but dealers of many brands are still ploughing through Takata airbag recalls, too, well after one was issued to replace potentially explosive canisters, because supplies of replacements have been so limited.

They couldn’t guarantee when the car would be ready and suggested I might be better going off and returning after lunch, but I was happy to wait. I have decent laptop battery life, always plenty to write and a mate to meet for a late-morning tea and bun, so I took a chance and hung around locally.

The car was ready by 12 and the invoicing clear. Probably a bit too clear. Included in the service cost are all of the fluids, whether you have them or not. I’d topped the AdBlue up the previous night, because I need to keep track of exactly how much I put into the car, and told them that when I dropped off the car off, but ‘AdBlue: 10 litres’ still appeared on the invoice (£12). So I queried it and, given you couldn’t have squeezed any more than about 200ml into it, they handed me 10 litres to take away.

The courtesy wash and vacuum was on the half-arsed side, too, although I’ll admit I’m not so fussed about that. The weather wasn’t brilliant so it was dirty again by the time I got home anyway.

Other than that, nothing major to report. The interior still smells the same to me, although perhaps there are fewer airborne bugs. Fuel consumption seems the same at around 31mpg. And I guess it’s about 10 weeks until I head back for another service.

Love it:

BRAILLE-LIKE BUTTONS Buttons for the big centre console cubbies have one lump or two, so you can feel easily for the right one to open a top shelf or the deep bin.

Loathe it:

KEYLESS CLATTER The gearlever is fouled if you put tall things in the cubby behind it, so I put the key in it, where it rattles. I thought ignition keys were fine.

Mileage: 22,015

Back to the top

Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 4

Turns out that gang of 4x4 numberplate thieves may not actually exist, after all - 20th March 2019

Ever wondered why you see serious off-roaders with their front numberplates relocated to the roof rack? Well, now I know. And for this enlightenment, my gratitude to Mitch McCabe, Autocar videographer and a man who, very kindly, agreed to wade the Toyota Land Cruiser Utility very gently along the edge of a shallow pool while I took a couple of panning photographs.

On the return leg, he thought the pictures would look a bit more splendid if he took a run-up. He was right. So as well as getting a more dramatic picture, I’ve had a front numberplate to reaffix, which means something else to write about – an always-welcome bonus for a long-term test car keeper.

Two things to sort, then. The water pressure proved too much for the numberplate fixings – diddy plastic screws (white, black and yellow, available from all good motor factors) that sacrifice themselves sharpish in times of crisis.

But also it pulled a lug, into which the plate holder screws self-tap, out of the bumper. The plate holder and its screw were intact, ditto the lug. So I unscrewed it, placed a large washer behind the new small hole in the bumper, and screwed it all back together with the washer plugging the small gap. And you’d never know.

It has reminded me, though, of the need to unscrew the numberplate before we start any off-road exercises. It shouldn’t have taken that long for the penny to drop, to be honest – I’ve sunk my hands into enough freezing, muddy puddles over the years trying to retrieve numberplates. But lesson finally learned.

Otherwise, life with the Land Cruiser is as stress-free as always. The miles rack up and it gives me no niggles in daily life, except I have to be incredibly diligent when pressing the clutch pedal to the floor to get the engine to start. If the pedal’s a millimetre away from the carpet, the push-button starter just won’t have it.

The 20,000-mile service will have taken place by the time you read this. It’s a full one rather than the 10,000 interim, and I’m told it’ll take two-and-a-half hours once they get into it. I haven’t had to do much mechanical work other than clean it since the last service, although while the Land Cruiser didn’t drink any oil before its first service, it has wanted a litre of 5W30 over the past 10,000 miles.

Recently, I was starting to become nervy about when the AdBlue warning light would come on again. I checked the fuel log we keep, which suggested it was about time the car would request a top-up. And ping, right on cue, a day later, there the orange light was. You get about 1500 miles’ notice, just in case you’re in the middle of touring Namibia and the local garage doesn’t stock AdBlue. Anyway, I’ll fill it myself before the service, so that it won’t need any when it gets there.

At 4.5 metres long, the 3dr Land Cruiser is a short vehicle for a big 4x4 with a longitudinal engine and a long front overhang, but I’ve eased some 2.4-metre long battens into it recently, by passing them into the front passenger space. Some wider, 1.5-metre yew planks squeezed between the front seats, so I haven’t needed to leave the rear hatch open, though that’s always an option. Or you could fit a roof rack.

Ideally, I suppose, one with space for a numberplate.

Love it:

Quick getaways In cold mornings, the heater/ demister are extremely quick to get the windows clear.

Loathe it:

Awkward fill-ups AdBlue cap is usually very stiff, and its location under the bonnet means it’s a faff to hold a big container in the right place.

Mileage: 19,357

Back to the top

Seats stick with you - sometimes literally - 27th February 2019

The upholstery is, unusually, almost velour-like. But I like it. The seats are particularly comfortable and I don’t mind that they’re not heated, so maybe the cloth regulates temperature well. It’s also, mind, more effective than a lint roller at pulling pet hair from your clothes. If I ever took the cat for a drive, he’d end up Velcroed to the interior.

Mileage: 17,630

Back to the top

Comfort levels are as high as the mileage being logged - 6th February 2019

This is getting daft. Since mid-September, I’ve driven more than 16,000 miles in the 3dr Utility Toyota Land Cruiser, which will amount to around 40,000 miles over a year unless I start insisting other people spend time with it.

Which, selfishly, I’m not that keen to do, because – Toyota inevitability alert – it’s as painless to run as a Casio wristwatch. More painless than the miles (perhaps the same amount again) that I spend in most other cars.

Having quickly covered more than an average driver’s annual mileage, though, here’s what to expect if you run a Land Cruiser for a year: a 10,000-mile service (£270) and a litre of AdBlue every 550 miles or so. (The Land Rover Discovery I ran previously – bigger, more powerful and heavier as it was – wanted an oil change at 9000 miles and a litre of AdBlue every 300-350 miles.)

Fuel consumption started at near 31mpg and is staying there, though you can get 40mpg on the motorway if you’re very careful. And I’ve repaired a nail in a tyre (£18), but you probably won’t have to. And, despite an absence of city braking, blind spot assist and parking sensors, I haven’t driven it into anyone or anything. I know. Remarkable.

I suppose there’s a point on the scale of infotainment/driver assist options where each of us is happiest. The Toyota’s pretty close to where I’d choose things. I like that it has cruise control, would prefer automatic climate to manual air-conditioning and wouldn’t mind DAB radio. I’d also take an option to cancel the auto headlights, to prevent them zinging on and off every few seconds in winter shadows. I suppose I could just switch them on and leave it.

Beyond that, popping my phone in a cradle and setting up the navigation and a podcast before I set off are seeing me through contentedly, to the extent that I don’t want a car’s entertainment system to try to replicate it, because very few do. Phone mirroring on a bigger screen would be the ideal solution, I guess.

Sixth gear that has the engine spinning at 2000rpm at motorway speeds and an inherently stable demeanour make the Land Cruiser, despite a short wheelbase, as easy as most executive cars to roll along with. Which, with an office 70 miles from home in one direction and a son at school 70 miles from home in precisely the other, is handy.

I had hoped to take two colleagues to France in it in a few weeks. There is quite a lot of rear leg room and the rear seatback angle adjusts, so you get surprisingly few complaints from back there. But on account of the Land Cruiser’s three-door bodystyle, I’ve been asked to take the Cropley S-Class instead, so I’ll let you know how much more comfortable that is.

What an S-Class certainly won’t do, mind, and what I absolutely need to do more of, though, is getting the Land Cruiser filthy. So far I’ve only put it through two off-road excursions. Must try harder.

Love it:

Pushes the buttons Took me ages to spot the lock/ unlock buttons on the bootlid, which are occasionally handy when the key’s in my pocket.

Loathe it:

Put a cap on it The AdBlue cap becomes incredibly stiff to undo. And, as often, is situated under the bonnet in an awkward place to pour into.

Mileage: 16,032

Back to the top

Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 3

Deflation, not elation - 30th January 2019

There’s something wrong with the Land Cruiser! Relax, relax, turn off the alarms in Toyota City. It’s just a screw in the tyre. The Land Cruiser told me. It has (battery-powered) pressure sensors inside its tyres so knows each one’s exact pressure. I’d still like a spare wheel really, but this time it was fixable, for £18, so of minimal inconvenience.

Mileage: 15,050

Back to the top

First service interval rolls around quickly (for this tester) - 9th January 2018

The Land Cruiser hit its 10,000-mile service interval barely three months after its arrival, so I booked it into Inchcape Toyota in Oxford. Toyota has fixed-price services, so it doesn’t matter where you go. Inspections showed nothing needed doing (obvs), it got new oil and a filter and nine litres of AdBlue while I did some work and drank coffee. Two hours later I paid £270.

Mileage: 11,190

Back to the top

Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 2

We’re learning to take the rough with the smooth - 28 November 2018

I have been off-road. Properly, I mean, not just pootling down a wee green lane in Surrey for a few pictures, or crawling around a rough horse yard, which was the previous limit of where I’d asked the Toyota Land Cruiser to boldly go.

Now, though, I’ve spent a day in a disused quarry, working the Land Cruiser’s axle articulation and trying, and by and large failing, to get it stuck. This is the problem with the Land Cruiser: you ask it to do something that would seem extreme to most SUVs, and it just mooches along like it’s on a trip to the shops – because, in some countries, that’s what a trip to the shops looks like.

Anyway, the resulting story, which featured the new Suzuki Jimny alongside the Toyota, was on these pages and on YouTube a couple of weeks ago, so the result is known: the Land Cruiser will go further offroad than a Jimny (which probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise), although there are areas where, down to sheer manoeuvrability, life is easier in the tiny, scampering Suzuki. But with a tight turning circle and short wheelbase, in this three-door form I wonder if the Ford Focus-length Land Cruiser isn’t the next most agile ‘proper’ off-roader currently on sale.

Of course, when you’re a real 4x4 of small exterior proportions, much of which appears to be frontal overhang, there are payoffs. One is a side profile shared with a roller skate, the other is dealing with a relatively small, 380-litre boot when the rear seats are in place.

Flipping them forwards and raising that to 720 litres doesn’t take long, but the load cover – which doesn’t have much space to cross between seats and tailgate – appears to be fitted across the widest part of the interior, so getting it in and out of the car takes real dexterity and is something, if you regularly take big bags, you have to do a lot. There’s also no easy other place to store it in the cabin, so were it not for my occasional need to hide what’s in the boot for security’s sake, I’d just take it out and leave it in the garage.

The rear seat backs, though, can be set to various positions: upright to maximise boot space, or more reclined than is usual in a car – handy for nippers who want to doze off on long journeys.

They are still the kind of trips I’m giving the Land Cruiser most of the time: regular everyday motorway drives, on which it’s very comfortable, with leggy gearing and a relaxed gait and low noise levels, which makes settling into a 70mph cruise extremely easy but does leave people like me open to accusations of needlessly driving a big 4x4. Thing is, like a lot of people, sometimes I need its more extreme abilities, and presumably it’s better, as well as considerably cheaper, to only own a single all-purpose car than two specific-purpose ones.

The Land Cruiser is proving so all-purpose that between sporadic bouts of articulating its axles, within three months of having it, I’ve covered more than 9000 miles and already need to book it in for a minor service. More on which next time.

Love it:

Four wheels… Still love the steel wheels, although the Bridgestone Duelers don’t look as tough as they seem to be.

Loathe it:

But no fifth… I like the split tailgate but am not using it much – and it prevents a spare wheel going on the back.

Mileage: 9743

Back to the top

Headlight headaches - 7th November 2018

You can’t switch the Land Cruiser’s automatic headlights out of auto mode, save for leaving them on, and they’re hypersensitive. On autumn roads with long shadows, the lights repeatedly flick between on and off, a few seconds apart, and I wonder if it irritates whoever I’m following. The amazing thing about eyes is they know when it’s getting dark.

Mileage: 7132

Back to the top

Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 1

A 4x4 full of happy surprises over distance. Just watch out for pranksters in the back - 31st October 2018

When the Toyota Land Cruiser arrived at Autocar Towers it had barely 60 miles on its odometer, but now, eight weeks later, it has 6152. I’ve been away for at least three weeks and when I’m around it’s not the only car I drive. Maybe that’s why I’m tired.

The Land Cruiser is a short, rugged, body-on-frame bruiser with a live rear axle and low-range transfer gearbox. So naturally the vast majority of those miles have been on the motorway.

Where, to my surprise, the Land Cruiser is actually really pleasant. Yes, it’s high, at 1838mm tall, and at 4565mm quite short (about halfway between a Ford Focus hatch and estate length). But it’s still very stable, immune to crosswinds and its tyres cut through puddles securely. It rides quietly and relatively smoothly – albeit there’s some head-toss owing to the height and unsophisticated, heavy rear end.

It also has other characteristics you wouldn’t associate with making for relaxed long-distance cruising: manual air-conditioning, a manual gearbox, and an absence of DAB digital radio. But I seem to find the right temperature easily and the manual is smooth, if long of throw.

And there’s a USB socket nestled behind a small panel – presumably sensibly placed to keep dust and grime out if you drive in that kind of environment rather than spending half of your week on the M40. Which means I’ve also discovered podcasts. I’m so down with the kids.

Worse, though, is that this 3dr Land Cruiser doesn’t get a spare wheel as standard. In fact, you can’t spec a 3dr with a full-size or even space saver at all, despite one being available in other countries, as an option, mounted to the tailgate.

I know the LC has big, knobbly, tyres, less prone to puncturing than a saloon’s, but there’s no excuse for not having a spare on a rufty-tufty 4x4. Even one that is great at cruising.

I can’t remember the last time I drove a car that offered such a variance in fuel consumption, at least not in normal driving. Usually, the Land Cruiser is returning around 31mpg, but it’s possible to take that to the mid-20s if you’re driving badly, while the other day I drove like my Dad and managed 45mpg on the way home, thanks to using hardly any throttle and a spot of light slipstreaming on the motorway.

Aside from that, the Land Cruiser has established itself as a very useful tool. I drove it to North Wales for our annual Britain’s Best Driver’s Car feature. It was nabbed by our video production team because it’s good for car-to-car filming and holding a considerable amount of kit.

The short 380-litre boot rises to 720 litres when you fold the 60/40 back seats down, a two-stage tumble process. The backs fold first, then you roll the whole thing forward, where they move towards the fronts and lock in place, leaving storage space in the rear footwell.

Rear seat space is surprisingly generous. Rear passengers can fold the front passenger seat out of the way by kicking a lever on it, which helps them reach the door. (Or if somebody’s sitting in said front passenger seat, kicking the lever drops the seat back at great speed, which my lad thinks is hilarious. Front seat passengers do not agree.)

At 5800 miles, the AdBlue warning light came on, saying I had to top up the additive tank within 1500 miles. I was about to stop anyway, so I bought 10 litres of AdBlue, of which it took about 9.5 litres, via a filler beneath the bonnet. Next time I’ll know to ignore the light for a bit in the hope that a whole 10 litres will fit, to save me having a container with half a litre of liquid sloshing in the boot. Either a more reluctant warning light or a marginally bigger tank would be dandy.

Love it:

REAR VIEW FOR PARKING Door mirrors are huge, so placing the sides of the car in parking spaces is a doddle.

Loathe it:

LEVER ERGONOMICS The fuel filler lever is right next to the bonnet release. I haven’t pulled the wrong one yet, but give it time.

Mileage: 6152

Back to the top

Tailgate is practical - just like the rest of it - 10th October 2018

The Land Cruiser has a side-hinged tailgate on account of some versions carrying a spare wheel on the door – those variants don’t get an opening back window like this one. The main tailgate, though, has a gas strut which can be twisted to lock it in the fully open position, to prevent the door slamming closed in the wind or on a slope.

Mileage: 3200

Back to the top

Welcoming the Land Cruiser to the fleet - 26th September 2018

Here is, I think it’s fair to say, a specification you don’t see every day. Unless you work for the United Nations, presumably. And even then, it’s probably a five-door.

I have small hunch, though, that this, the three-door Toyota Land Cruiser of the latest generation, will become a slightly more familiar sight on British roads than previously, owing to the demise of the Land Rover Defender.

I feel a bit bad comparing the two because, on even the quickest acquaintance, the Land Cruiser shows itself to be vastly superior to a Defender in terms of ride comfort, engine quietness, interior plushness, audio sound, fit and finish, control weight comfort, heating and ventilation, wind noise, turning circle, fuel consumption… well, look, just everything, basically. But I wonder if it’s a car of similar ethos.

Put it this way: when you drive a supercar, small boys and childish men like me stop and point at it. When you drive a Land Cruiser Utility, the people whose heads turn to follow it are usually driving a tractor or a pick-up.

Its basic integrity and functionality, then, is the reason that the UN buys more Land Cruisers than the UK. So when it came to running one, we decided we’d like to run one that was absolutely as basic as possible.

Of all the Land Cruiser variants, there are two types that do well in the UK. The all-singing, all-dancing Invincible seven-seat five-door range-topper is usually the most popular (£52,855). At the other end of the scale is the Utility. We wanted as basic a car as we could bear, and we got pretty close. The only option on our three-door Utility is one of the few options available: metallic paint.

There are six other available options. They’re all different types of tow bar and wiring.

So what do you get? A 2.8-litre, four-cylinder diesel making a steady 175bhp and 310lb ft of torque from just 1400rpm. It drives all four wheels through a lazy but smooth six-speed manual gearbox, which would be good enough for 0-62mph in 12.8sec and go on to 108mph if I were inclined to try either. Which I haven’t been so far.

Of more importance is that it’s only 4.4m long, about the same as a Ford Focus, albeit a more substantial 1885mm wide, and has a fine 10.4m turning diameter. Less useful in daily driving but handy for the kind of thing we’ll ask the Land Cruiser to do are that it can tow three tonnes and has a low-range gearbox, a set of respectable approach, breakover and departure angles (31deg, 22deg and 26deg respectively) and a 700mm wade depth.

You can get a commercial van version of the Land Cruiser but ours has windows and rear seats and that will be essential for me because, as well as being a tool, it’ll be a daily family drive. Handy, too, then, will be an 87-litre fuel tank and the fact that, driven steadily, it seems easily capable of more than 30mpg. I’ll see what it can best do on a long, sedate cruise soon, during which the leggy gearing will let it spin over at barely beyond tickover. Just often recently, I’ve been in a hurry. Soz.

What’s it like? Lovely. The ride quality is really smooth, control weights easy and responsive, and it heats up or cools down quickly inside. It’s a very stable cruiser, too, despite the height and the shortness. I’ve been disinclined to try too much hard cornering, yet, but directly after writing this, I do have to take it off road. Goody.

Sure, it’s basic, by modern standards. There are no parking sensors, but it’s not that long and visibility is great. There’s no sat-nav, but I have a phone with a better system than any OEM one anyway. There’s no DAB radio, but there are aux and USB sockets and my phone has 4G. Problems all solved.

The only other quirk is that the rear tailgate swings open sideways, not from above. That means you can’t shelter under it while getting out of your wellies but also means you’ll see tailgates with a spare wheel tied to them.

It has a separate, top-hinging glass hatch, though, which has been the subject of the Land Cruiser’s only foible so far, and far from its own fault. My neighbour’s lawnmower pinged a stone up and straight through the Land Cruiser’s rear window on the car’s very first day outside my house. My local dealer, who looked after a Toyota GT86 well when I ran one of those, was able to source and would have replaced it within a week for £700 (although, in the end, the pictures you see here and in a twin test you’ll find on PistonHeads were needed in such a hurry that Toyota kindly did it at emergency notice).

It’s an unusual-looking car, the short Land Cruiser, in side profile particularly: big front overhang, cab well back in the short chassis. Like Wile E Coyote’s head in profile, one wag has suggested. And that’s just fine by me. It’s a function not form vehicle. One whose functions I’m particularly excited to discover over the coming months.

Second Opinion

I love it, all scratchy plastic and softly, softly drive. It’s amusing at the national limit, too, because it’s so impervious to bumps and moves around so much that it feels ‘alive’ in a way that most modern SUVs don’t. It transfers the same attitude to off-road, where it feels like it could go anywhere, all day, for about 120 years.

Nic Cackett

Back to the top

Toyota Land Cruiser Utility 3dr specification

Prices: List price new £33,955 List price now £34,745 Price as tested £34,655 Dealer value now £24,000 Private value now £22,500 Trade value now £21,500 (part exchange)

Options: metallic paint £700

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 31.7mpg Fuel tank 87 litres Test average 32.1mpg Test best 36.4mpg Test worst 28.1mpg Real-world range 614 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 12.1sec Top speed 109mph Engine 4 cyls, 2755cc, turbocharged diesel Max power 175bhp at 3400rpm Max torque 310lb ft at 1400rpm Transmission 6-sped manual Boot capacity 380 litres Wheels 17in, steel Tyres Bridgestone Dueller H/T Kerb weight 1975kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £450 PCM CO2 199g/km Service costs £895 (2x £250, 1x £395) Other costs AdBlue (40 litres) £40 Fuel costs £6885 Running costs inc fuel £7820 Cost per mile 20.9 pence Depreciation £12,155 Cost per mile inc dep’n 53 pence Faults none

Back to the top

First Drive, 11 Oct 2019 11:00:26 +0100
Toyota LQ concept is self-driving electric hatchback 2019 Toyota LQ concept - Tokyo motor show Tokyo-bound mobility solution features air-conditioned seats, striking modern styling and artificially intelligent assistant

Toyota has unveiled an AI-equipped self-driving hatchback as the centrepiece of its stand at the Tokyo motor show, taking place later this month. 

The LQ concept is a development of 2017’s Concept-i. It is capable of Level Four autonomous driving, meaning it can handle most driving situations with no input from the human driver, and features the latest version of Toyota’s artificial intelligence system named Yui.

Yui has been developed in partnership with Toyota’s Research Institute, and is said to learn from the driver to “deliver a personalised mobility experience”.

The concept’s name, LQ, expresses the company’s plan that the technology will ‘cue’ further development in the field of automotive artificial intelligence. 

Toyota says its AI technology development programme is “based on an understanding that mobility goes beyond physical transportation to include the human need to be moved and engaged emotionally”, suggesting that self-driving vehicles should include functions to keep their passengers occupied. 

The concept’s styling is futuristic, featuring a covered rear wheel, floor-to-ceiling glass and slim, diagonal headlights, while the lower front bumper styling bears a strong resemblance Toyota’s Prius and Mirai production vehicles. 

Inside, in what Toyota calls a “world first in seating technology”, an air-conditioned seating system measures the driver’s levels of alertness and relaxation, and reacts accordingly with varying levels of air flow.  Additional features of the LQ’s autonomous software include an automated valet parking function and an augmented reality head-up display. 

The LQ’s development leader, Daisuke Ido, said: “In the past, our love for cars was built on their ability to take us to distant places and enable our adventures. Advanced technology gives us the power to match customer lifestyles with new opportunities for excitement and engagement.

“With the LQ, we are proud to propose a vehicle that can deliver a personalised experience, meet each driver’s unique mobility needs and build an even stronger bond between car and driver.” 

The LQ will be joined at the Tokyo motor show by Toyota’s next-generation Mirai concept, and followed a month later by the unveiling of the new RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid

Read more 

Toyota unveils new Mirai Concept fuel cell vehicle​

Toyota RAV4 Plug-in hybrid set for LA show debut​

Lexus previews EV hatchback ahead of Tokyo unveiling​

News, 11 Oct 2019 10:26:10 +0100
Opinion: Why Dyson failed Dyson car lead Dyson's first car was due to be on our roads in less than 18 months, so what went wrong?

Yesterday, Dyson dropped the bombshell news it is canning its car project because it isn't financially viable.

Yes, there had been long-term doubters, unimpressed by Dyson’s financial commitment to the project and disbelieving that James Dyson and his team of 500 or so engineers could realise something that tens of thousands of brains at established car makers couldn’t, even while spending budgets 10 times the size of his.

But this was James Dyson, a man who has amassed a personal fortune of billions through being smarter than most, and by taking engineering prowess and marketing genius and wrapping it up into products that change industries.

Now, we know the reality, albeit with one crucial missing detail: why? What led Dyson to conclude - around a year from the first car going into production and 18 months from the car going on sale - that the project was no longer financially viable?

Here are three theories put forward by experts Autocar has spoken to since the announcement.

1. The battery tech wasn’t delivering the anticipated results 

It was never going to be enough for Dyson to produce a car-like electric car - 300-mile range, conventional design and so on. That moment has passed, with only Tesla breaking through in the Western world and the Chinese makers that are going to win now long established. So whatever Dyson did, it needed to change the game.

James Dyson isn’t a man to give big clues, but his interviews hinted at a battery technology breakthrough, likely focused on solid-state batteries, which hold the promise of dramatically increasing range and lowering charge times all at dramatically lower prices.

Had he bet the farm on making such a breakthrough happen, only to find it harder than expected? Other car companies say that they have had such batteries on test beds for years, but cannot find a way to make productionising them reliably financially viable. Perhaps Dyson hit the same problems.

2. The competition caught up

Maybe, just maybe, Dyson was on to something that could put it ahead of the game - but just as likely is the fact that the mega-budget car makers have closed the gap in the years since he announced his project.

Such is the pace at which the car industry is changing that it’s hard to keep an eye on context, but in the past few years, the Volkswagen Group has committed close to £50 billion to EV research and Toyota has intimated that it has done the same. Other car makers, especially premium German-branded ones, are not far behind. This makes Dyson’s £2bn commitment look a bit paltry.

Could it be - particularly given the high-level advisory board and senior engineers recruited - that Dyson learnt that his breakthrough technology was about to be matched or even superseded by what’s in the pipeline elsewhere? And that the run rate elsewhere would leave his technology with an incredibly short shelf life that meant it would never recoup its investment, let alone generate enough income to keep the required R&D run rate? Maybe someone learnt that Toyota’s pledge to release solid-state technology early into the next decade was about to bear fruit?

Given that whatever he created needed to not just match but beat the opposition to be given any hope of success, there was always a risk that his moment would pass while preparing for it.

3. Dyson could design the car to a budget, but not build the supply chain

The timing of the canning of the project is intriguing, because Dyson was in the late stages of ramping up for production, with teams employed and premises being prepared. To have got this far only to perform a volte-face suggests James Dyson is either a huge risk taker or that something of substance changed.

Given James Dyson’s warm words for the car that has been designed while announcing the project's death yesterday, there is a suggestion that it is the more mundane realities of productionising the prototypes that has led to here. Certainly, the timeline of the project suggests that the intersection between development and production should have been crystallising now.

Could it be that the supply chain into Singapore, a location chosen for its proximity to the booming tariff-free Chinese market for electric cars, was not as seamless as anticipated? Don’t forget, many a car company has failed for failing to pin these details down, and that for start-ups, the challenge is intensified by the fact that they don't have decades of continuous improvement within their DNA. As Tesla has found to its cost, the car industry knows what it's doing when it comes to mass production to near faultless levels.

This is arduous, complex and expensive stuff - far more so, you’d hazard, than for any vacuum cleaner or hand dryer - and while it could have been predicted long ago, it’s also the sort of detail that can be overlooked, even by a company with the manufacturing depth of Dyson, and especially one with such a heavy design focus.

Maybe we will never learn the truth, but it must be hoped that James Dyson - at times one of the most outspoken business leaders on subjects that he chooses to put his focus on - is open about the challenges that have set him back, not just because they would provide a fascinating insight into what went wrong - and perhaps give us a proper look at this intriguing car's design - but also into why this fascinating industry can be so much more complex and challenging than people sometimes realise.

Read more

Volkswagen ID 3: vital EV revealed with up to 341-mile range​

Amazon orders 100,000 electric vans from start-up Rivian​

Chinese start-up Human Horizons unveils radical electric SUV concept​

Opinion, 11 Oct 2019 09:29:41 +0100
Audi A1 Audi A1 S Line 2019 road test review - hero front The original A1 showed that even superminis can be luxurious. Now there’s another one, with its sights set on the Mini As a result of its own strategic choices, Audi isn’t a car maker we instinctively associate with modern compact hatchbacks – superminis, as they are so often dubbed. Perhaps it ought to be, though, because if it hadn’t been for the original Audi 50 of 1974, there might never have been a Volkswagen Polo at all (the first-gen Polo was just a badge-engineered Audi).What Ingolstadt learned from the short-lived 50 was that it would take bigger, more imposing, more advanced and more luxurious cars to forge Audi’s modern reputation – cars like the original Quattro, the famous 100 saloons of the 1980s and the A8 of the following decade. It wouldn’t be until 1999, then, that the firm would return to the idea of a compact hatchback by making the innovative-yet-expensive A2; and not until later still, in 2010, that the brand with the four rings would launch a supermini with a fighting chance of profitability.That 2010 launch was the original Audi A1: a car that collected on its grandfather’s debt by borrowing the contemporary VW Polo’s model platform and did what it could, somewhat late in the day, to get a slice of the premium supermini market being plundered by rival BMW’s Mini brand, and by the likes of what is now DS Automobiles.Having made an unspectacular but worthwhile contribution to the volume ambitions of its creator, the first-generation A1 was replaced last year by the second-generation car – which has only just been made available to us with one of the more tempting engine options that might make it an interesting road test subject.Built as it is on the VW Group’s latest supermini platform, however, and not in Germany but at Seat’s headquarters in Martorell, Spain, this new A1 isn’t quite the straightforward like-for-like model replacement that its exterior styling might lead you to expect it to be.The Audi A1 line-up at a glanceAudi offers the A1 in a choice of six trim levels: SE, Sport, S Line, S Line Competition, S Line Contrast Edition and S Line Style Edition. While S Line Contrast and Style Editions introduce differing cosmetic tweaks only, cars in the S Line Competition specification also come with the range-topping 197bhp petrol engine. A top-spec Vorsprung model is due to join the A1 range at a later date, but Audi has yet to confirm when.Price £25,690 Power 148bhp Torque 184lb ft 0-60mph 7.9sec 30-70mph in fourth 11.5sec Fuel economy 38.0mpg CO2 emissions 120g/km 70-0mph 45.7m Car review, 11 Oct 2019 08:01:24 +0100Toyota RAV4 Plug-in hybrid set for LA show debut New version of fifth-generation SUV will offer expanded battery size, range and power

Toyota will showcase a plug-in hybrid version of its RAV4 SUV at next month’s Los Angeles motor show.

The fifth-generation of the Japanese machine was launched late last year, built on Toyota’s latest TNGA platform. It went on sale in the UK with the sole powertrain option a hybrid unit featuring a 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor that produces 215bhp in front-wheel-drive and 219bhp on all-wheel-drive models.

Toyota says the new RAV4 Plug-In will offer greater battery capacity, range and power than the conventional hybrid, although it has yet to give specific technical information.

The new RAV4 Plug-In will go on sale in the UK early next year. There is no word on pricing, although it is likely that the plug-in hybrid option will cost more than the current model, which starts from £29,635 in front-drive form.

Read more

Toyota unveils new Mirai Concept fuel cell vehicle

Toyota RAV4: fifth-generation SUV reviewed

Toyota RAV4: prices confirmed for new SUV

News, 11 Oct 2019 07:18:31 +0100
Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 11 October Fiat X1/9
X1/9's flamboyant bodywork is among the most admired (and crumbly) of all time
Attractive Bertone styling, engaging handling and rarity on a par with hens teeth - it's the much-maligned Fiat X1/9

I recall the day in 1989 when, as a young Fiat salesman, I was commanded to push the new Croma and Tipo to the corners of the showroom in order to make space for the unregistered X1/9 Gran Finale that had arrived. It was exquisite but attracted no interest and one day disappeared, no questions asked. 

Today, Fiat’s two-seat, mid-engined, rear-drive sports car, on sale from 1972 to 1989, is considered a classic. It’s rare, though – rust-free ones rarer still. 

But happily, you don’t have to pay fortunes to own a good one. One such as the 1989 G-reg example with 52,000 miles that we found priced at £4990. It’s a Gran Finale (in essence, an SE with a dealer-fitted rear spoiler and badge), finished in metallic red and powered by the later 1.5-litre engine introduced in 1978. 

The private seller says it has a new battery, clutch, set of tyres, gear linkage, water pump and timing belt. He claims it has no rust but admits it has been welded in the past, undersealed and repainted. Encouragingly, it has a new MOT with no advisories. 

On the strength of that thumbs up, we’ll not worry too much about the structural and safety aspects of the car (they’re still worth checking, though) and instead concentrate on known rust spots including wings, doors and wheel arches. The engine bay is cramped and many repairs can only be done with the engine out, so we’ll check for oil leaks and odd noises, too. Finally, we’ll be sure that what few electrical features there are all work. Concerning X1/9s, ‘Fix it again Tuesday’ could easily run into Thursday, too. 

Land Rover Lightweight Safari, £8000: This was a military vehicle based on the 88in Land Rover chassis and designed to be carried by air into hot spots (it’s why its flat body panels can be removed). This example, which has free-wheeling hubs and an overdrive, uses a Ford Transit diesel engine. 

Citroën C2 1.6 VTS, £1495: The VTS (2004-09) made up for the disappointment we felt about its VTR sibling with more power (125bhp versus 110bhp), a close-ratio gearbox and a quicker steering rack that can surprise anyone unfamiliar with it. This 2007 find has 85,000 miles. 

Triumph Spitfire 1500, £3980: There are always a few Spitfires in small ads but few as nice as this one for the money – a 1978 1500 with just 60,000 miles and, unbelievably, full service history. It comes with a new battery and alternator and the heated seats from an MX-5.

TVR Griffith 500, £15,000: This Griffith has done just 33,000 miles and is unrestored and unmolested. Check everything from the chassis outriggers to the condition of the windscreen base (it can rot and let in water), and poke any underseal with a screwdriver – hard. 

Auction watch 

BMW E34 M5: Unfortunately for the E34 of 1988-95, it was the followup to the original M5 – the much-loved E28 of 1984-88. Perhaps that’s why prices are reasonably low, since it can’t be the fault of the car, which is terrific. The first ones were powered by a 3.5-litre straight six producing 311bhp, but in 1991 the model gained a 3.8 and 335bhp. Then, in 1994, the five-speed Getrag manual ’box became a six-speed. An example of this 335bhp six-speed version passed though auction recently. The 1994-registered car had 106,000 miles, refurbished suspension and new Pilot 4s. It fetched £14,840. 

Future classic

2018/67 Honda Civic Type R GT, £25,000 (14,000 miles): Predicting a Type R will be a future classic is hardly sticking your neck out, but this particular version looks more certain than some given its huge performance and agility. Its extreme looks are polarising but that’s half the appeal. There are two versions, GT and non-GT; the former costing £2000 more. The extra cash brings an upgraded stereo and a sat-nav (neither that impressive) but, more usefully, parking sensors and dual-zone climate control. It also has blindspot and cross traffic assist, both of which will help keep it clear of trouble.

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: Gentlemen, find me a coupé for £10,000 that’s a daily driver but can also do track days.

Nissan 350Z 3.5 GT, £9995

BMW M3 E46, £9995

Mark Pearson: John’s after a daily driver that can be used for track-day fun too, and nothing answers the call like this sexy black 2005 M3 I’ve found. It’s punching a 343bhp, super-smooth inline six and will dismiss the 0-60mph sprint in 5.2sec. Its handling is unbeatable and its mechanicals unburstable. Comes with 19in CSL wheels too. What you got? A Datsun? 

Max Adams: Wow! Such a low blow there. Look, I like an M3 as much as the next petrolhead, but it’s getting to the point where you wouldn’t want to risk ruining one on a track. I’d much rather have this highly tunable 2008 Nissan 350Z with its brawny V6 and near identical stock performance figures. 

MP: By near identical, you mean slower? I think most know the Beemer is the superior handler here, and far nicer to sit in and better balanced. Don’t get me wrong, I like your Cherry, but it’s no M3. 

MA: Did you not see my bit about it being highly tunable? 

MP: What, spend more money? You’d have the most expensive Sunny out there… 

MA: I C1 (geddit?) isn’t averse to highlighting some of Nissan’s best-selling models. Speaking of which, there are loads of 350Zs out there, so parts will be far cheaper compared with your M3. 

MP: All I know is I look forward to drifting round bend after bend, singing joyfully, while you’re in Halfords looking up your parts prices. 

Verdict: The Nissan is value, but the M3 is the business.

Read more

Nissan 350Z – the car that helped save Nissan​

BMW M face-off: M3 CSL vs. M2 Competition​

Honda Civic Type R review

News, 11 Oct 2019 06:01:23 +0100
New Porsche Macan EV to get Taycan platform and tech Porsche Macan EV render as imagined by Autocar New electric Porsche SUV will arrive in 2021 with potentially 700bhp in Turbo S guise, and distinct bodystyle from standard car

Porsche’s SUV boss has confirmed more details of the next-generation, all-electric Macan, first revealed by Autocar in October 2018.

The new model will feature an entirely different bodystyle from the existing Macan to reflect its status as a reinvented model for the brand.

Speaking to Autocar at the recent Frankfurt motor show, Porsche’s director of SUVs, Julian Baumann, confirmed that the existing, internal combustion-engined Macan will remain on sale alongside the new Macan during a transitional phase. The offering will broadly mirror that offered by the Taycan/Panamera duo.

The electric Macan will arrive in 2021 and initially be a high-performance model in the mould of the Taycan, carrying the same Turbo badging to identify it as the top-of-the-range version. The current Macan will be offered alongside it partly because “some customers are not ready for EVs,” said Baumann. “So there will be two different cars.”

Substantially different, in fact: the electric Macan will be based on an evolved version of the platform used for the new Taycan.

It will be based on the Volkswagen Group’s new Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture, developed from the Taycan’s J1 platform to allow the physical flexibility required when low-slung GTs and high-riding SUVs share the same hardware.

Additionally, Porsche deputy chairman Lutz Meschke told Autocar that the platform, currently reserved for Audi and Porsche models only, saves 30% of costs from developing its own architecture.

Despite the models’ differing roles, Baumann said: “There are no real differences in the challenges of developing the Taycan and Macan. The current Macan is not so aerodynamic and we’re working hard on this. It’s the Taycan team working on it. With the Taycan, we haven’t given anything up to get the aerodynamic performance and I’m confident it will be the same for the Macan. The 600kg battery isn’t beneficial to dynamics, but the low centre of gravity is an advantage.”

Being a purpose-built all-electric model, there’s no need to package a conventional powertrain up front, allowing for a lower nose, Baumann added.

“The design of the electric Macan is the next step, but it will be immediately recognisable,” he said, despite it having “no common body structure” with today’s Macan.

Although the existing Macan received a facelift in autumn 2018, four years after it was launched, the model is now likely to live for longer than originally planned as Porsche hedges its propulsion bets.

Meschke suggested the overlap for internally combusted and full-electric Macans will be “a couple of years”. The take-up of electric cars is growing but at different rates in different countries, not least because the infrastructure is only patchily appearing and isn’t always reliable.

“It’s difficult to say when the transformation will end. It’s different by region,” said Baumann. However, Meschke predicts that “30-40%” of Porsches sold will be all-electric in five years’ time.

Baumann added that the new Macan will “maintain the DNA of the previous model. It’s our biggest seller. We’ll keep the spirit. It’s the sportiest model in the segment.”

Despite the performance potential of the PPE architecture, which delivers sub-3.0sec 0-62mph with the Taycan, the Macan EV will not be a coupé SUV. Baumann said: “We need to keep the everyday usability. It’s usually the main vehicle in the household.”

The electric version will provide four-wheel drive, using a motor to drive each axle. The most powerful version will potentially be able to offer around 700bhp and 750lb ft. The electric Macan will be offered with a variety of power outputs beneath this level, but the two most powerful versions will be badged Turbo and Turbo S, as with the Taycan.

Besides offering excellent on-road handling, the high degree of precision provided by electronic control of the motors and the wheels should enable the Macan EV to be very effective off road.

Meschke, meanwhile, predicts that Porsche may make the current lithium ion batteries 20-25% more efficient but “the next big step is solidstate” batteries, which for the same output as today’s could be half the weight. However, these are “five to seven years from industrialisation”.


2022 Porsche Boxster and Cayman to get hybrid and EV options 

New Porsche Taycan 'set to rewrite performance EV benchmarks' 

New 2019 Porsche Macan Turbo touches down in Frankfurt

News, 11 Oct 2019 00:01:23 +0100
Matt Prior: It doesn't take a monkey to appreciate NASCAR (but it helps) A flying visit to a team garage made it clear to our tester that America's favourite motor sport has plenty to like

I’d like to pretend I’m an expert, but the truth is most of what I know about Nascar, America’s stock car series, I learned from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. I know it’s not exactly a documentary. But get a heavy chassis, slap on some bodywork and a big motor and away you go. Right?

Obviously, no. But not even as close as I thought. This week I stopped by Stewart-Haas Racing, a Nascar team that runs six drivers, which doesn’t sound like many, but this is America and the numbers are vast.

Different track lengths and banking mean there are different kinds of chassis. Each driver will have 16 cars or more to their name. While a driver is racing one car, a truck is headed to them to deliver another for the next race and take the current one away. After each race, a car is torn to its constituent parts before being rebuilt; Stewart-Haas builds 225 cars a year.

The factory, then, measures 18,000 square metres and employs 375 people. Forget Ricky Bobby, it’s more like The Matrix: “There are endless fields where humans are no longer born, we are grown.” And yet Stewart-Haas says it’s one of the smaller Nascar outfits.

And crude? By some standards, these live-axled, small-braked, four-on-the-floor V8 racers sponsored by Smithfield ‘Racin’ For Bacon’ Foods might seem it. But they’re so tightly regulated that aero is everything.

Nascar’s bodywork tolerance is 1.27mm: each body is laser-scanned – if a part would benefit from being squeezed one way or another, the team takes it. It is no wonder it’s one of the closest, fairest and least predictable race series on earth.

We’re walking out, fairly blown away, when two drivers fresh from the on-site gym spot my touring group. “Now one of yoos looks like a racing driver,” says Clint. Although not to me, obviously. “Where do you race?”

“Ah, I do a lot on the Nordschleife,” says my German colleague. Blank faces. “The what now? What did he say? The where?” “The Nordschleife. Nürburgring? It’s a famous track in Germany?” Laughter and shrugs all around. Ricky would be proud.

Monkey business

Also pictured on this page is the 1952 Hudson Hornet raced by two-time Nascar champion Tim Flock. In those days, Hudson and Flock were more inventive in their marketing than a lot of rivals. Hudson was allowed to use hot-up parts on its race cars, as long as it offered them for sale to the public too, so it did and made decent money for a while. And in 1953, Flock thought he would draw more attention to himself if he had a co-driver. Of a fashion.

He picked as his passenger a rhesus monkey, who sat alongside him for his victory at Hickory Motor Speedway, making ‘Jocko Flocko’ the only monkey to finish a Nascar race in first position. Probably any position. Anyway, the venture didn’t last that long. A few weeks later, mid-race, Flocko (perhaps Jocko; how should one address a monkey?) opened an access panel designed to let the driver assess the tyres, and was hit by an incoming pebble – about which he was, understandably, quite cross.

Tim had to pit to get Flocko out, which meant he only finished third, and the pair never raced together again.


The museums of NASCAR country - a must-see for race car fans

Toyota Supra NASCAR unveiled ahead of 2019 Xfinity Series race debut

Route 66 – in an NSX

Opinion, 11 Oct 2019 00:01:23 +0100
Toyota unveils new Mirai Concept fuel cell vehicle Toyota Mirai
Toyota Mirai
Bold model, set to be displayed at Tokyo show, previews second-generation hydrogen-powered vehicle

Toyota has revealed a dramatic new Mirai Concept, which previews the second-generation version of its hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, ahead of this year’s Tokyo motor show.

The new hydrogen-powered machine is described as “a final-stage development model of the second-generation Mirai” and Toyota promises a major step forward in fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) technology. It claims the new model offers a 30% increase in driving range over the current model, which has a range of just over 300 miles, along with improved driving performance.

The new Mirai Concept is built on Toyota’s latest TNGA platform and features dramatic new styling, including a revamped front with a bold grille and a sweeping, coupé-esque rear. Toyota claims increased body rigidity and a lower centre of gravity than the original Mirai.

The concept measures 4935mm long and 1885mm wide, with a wheelbase of 2920mm. It sits on 20in wheels and retains the four-door saloon layout of the original Mirai, which was launched in 2014.

The interior has also been reworked. It features a 12.3in central touchscreen and a digital instrument display, with many of the controls moved to the centre of the dashboard. Notably, the Mirai now has five seats instead of the original’s four, which, Toyota says, has been enabled by a reworking of the hydrogen fuel cell configuration.

Aside from the claimed increase in range, Toyota has not given specific details of development work done on the fuel cell powertrain. But it says the system, including the fuel cell stack, has been entirely redesigned and offers increased hydrogen storage. It also claims the work on the system ensures a smoother, linear response, along with improved handling.

Read more

Autocar road test: Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle

Tokyo motor show 2019: latest news and updates

Lexus previews EV hatch ahead of Tokyo show

News, 10 Oct 2019 21:52:37 +0100
Bentley Flying Spur gains Blackline variant blackline flying spur back view Sports saloon receives black exterior details, intended to give the car a “sportier persona”

Bentley has added a Blackline variant to its third-generation Flying Spur, which is intended to “create an even more powerful road presence” and “sportier persona” than the standard model, according to the car maker.

The specification replaces much of the exterior’s chrome details with a black gloss. As well as the company’s trademark Flying B mascot, the black trim incorporates the car’s radiator vanes, front grille, window trims, lower door and rear bumper blades. Light rings, door handles, wing vents and exhausts also receive the treatment. 21-inch alloy wheels are standard.

The Blackline variant only changes exterior elements of the Flying Spur. The interior is still fully customisable as with all Bentley products.

Performance-wise, the Flying Spur Blackline has an identical powertrain to the standard model. It uses a 626bhp 6.0 litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine, which reaches a top speed of 207mph. 0-60mph is achieved in 3.7secs.

Up to a third of Flying Spur orders are expected to be specified in Blackline trim, according to a spokesman, following the success of the Continental GT Blackline. A third of its buyers opt for the Blackline trim.

The Blackline trim adds £3,550 to the £185,000 starting price of a Flying Spur. The upcoming V8 and V6 plug-in hybrid versions of the Flying Spur will also be offered with black detailing.

Bentley is keen to make its mark on the luxury sports saloon segment ahead of the new Rolls-Royce Ghost’s arrival next year.


Bentley unveils one-off Continental GT art car 

Bentley Continental GT W12 2019 long-term review

Behind the scenes at the world's busiest Bentley service centre

News, 10 Oct 2019 18:51:05 +0100
Opinion: Why Dyson has dodged a bullet Autocar meets James Dyson
James Dyson was confident his company's EV would be like nothing else on the road
Dyson's electric car plans are no more, but the now-axed project wasn't a waste of time

The suddenness with which Dyson has scrapped its electric car project will be as much of a jolt to the car industry as when the firm launched the project in the first place.

Company founder James Dyson had bold plans and a firm belief his company was developing ground-breaking technology that would set his car aside from the growing ranks of EV rivals. Given that, it’s genuinely startling that he has shuttered the project so quickly.

Dyson axes electric car project

But the decision also shows James Dyson’s business acumen. In his email to staff, he is adamant about the potential of the technology his company has developed for the car – particularly in terms of batteries – but it was the business case that just didn’t stack up. He simply couldn’t find a way to make the project financially viable.

In a way, it’s odd that realisation seemed to be a surprise to Dyson: just look at the challenges and travails of numerous EV start-ups. The obvious comparison is with Tesla, an EV firm founded by a well-funded car industry outsider with bold plans to utilise new techniques and technology to take on the car industry giants. Tesla has now proven itself a credible contender in the industry, but it is still struggling to turn sales, reputation and its huge brand strength into profits.

Dyson would have faced similar challenges. The firm might have a proven reputation for producing vacuum cleaners and home products, but the sheer complexity of an electric car is on a different scale. 

Then consider the race among car firms to develop their own electric cars, moving into the market with manufacturing expertise and abilities to achieve economies of scale even a well-funded start-up like Dyson would struggle to match. Volkswagen, for example, is talking about producing 150,000 of its electric ID models next year. It leaves a firm like Dyson with little margin for error.

Arguably, those challenges haven’t really changed since Dyson launched the car project, raising questions as to why it didn’t react to them earlier. But credit Dyson with accepting failure now, before it began the huge capital investment of tooling up its factory in Singapore. 

It’s similar to how Apple started work on its own car project, before quickly canning it.

Besides, even if the Dyson car might not happen, it feels too early to call this project a failure just yet. Dyson notes the car project was developed as part of a £2.5 billion investment in technology and that the firm has make vast steps in areas such as solid-state battery tech. It will continue investing in those projects, with the plan to find uses for them elsewhere in its business – and potentially through licensing them out. 

So if Dyson truly is working on technology as ground-breaking as it believes, then it could yet be deployed within the car industry. If so, the short-lived tale of the Dyson car might yet be remembered for more than just the surprise of its arrival – and sudden departure.

Read more

Volkswagen ID 3: vital EV revealed with up to 341-mile range​

Amazon orders 100,000 electric vans from start-up Rivian​

Chinese start-up Human Horizons unveils radical electric SUV concept​

Opinion, 10 Oct 2019 17:43:22 +0100
Mini John Cooper Works v Abarth 595 video review: hot hatches tested Mini JCW vs Abarth 595 Two junior hot hatches go head-to-head, but only one can come out on top as our favourite pocket rocket

Today it's a hot hatchback challenge, between a Mini John Cooper Works 3dr hatch - let's call it the Mini JCW - and the Abarth 595 Competizione.

These are two lairy, good fun, wildly characterful hot hatches. They might not be the ultimate in keenness - you'd look to something like the Ford Fiesta ST if you wanted the greatest all rounder in the class - but they both offer something unique and entertaining.

The Mini JCW has a big 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with plenty of power and its sophisticated chassis ought to make it very capable. The Abarth 595 is a more curious hatch - a city car with aggressive looks and the aggression turned up to 11.

We like them both. But which will our expert road testers, Mauro Calo and Matt Prior, think is the best? Join us on the roads of Wales in the height of, er, summer, as we find out.


Britain's best affordable driver's car 2019

Mini reveals facelifted John Cooper Works hatchback and convertible

Top 10 best pocket rockets 2019

Video, 10 Oct 2019 17:18:03 +0100
Dyson axes electric car project Dyson electric car patent images - patent diagram British firm says ground-breaking car plans are "not commercially viable" but vows to continue developing technology surrounding it

Dyson has scrapped plans to build what it called a "ground-breaking" electric vehicle, because it doesn’t feel that the project can be commercially viable.

The British firm had established a new Dyson Automotive division that was developing the car, a large crossover-style premium EV saloon, ahead of a planned launch in 2021. Billionaire inventor James Dyson had vowed that new technology and design methods would make it stand apart from every other electric vehicle.

The firm had committed £2.5 billion into technology including the car project. The design and development of the machine was being undertaken by a staff of just over 500 workers at a facility in Hullavington. It is understood the firm already had a working version of the car at the facility.

But in an email to staff, Dyson confirmed that the automotive project was being closed. He said the team “has developed a fantastic car; they have been ingenious in their approach while remaining faithful to our philosophies. However, though we have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply can no longer see a way to make it commercially viable.”

It is understood that Dyson’s board considered the troubles of EV start-ups such as Tesla and Nio to make money from selling cars, and the speed with which mainstream car firms were moving into the electric car market, as reasons for the decision.

The firm had been planning to produce the car at a new factory in Singapore, and was shortly due to start on the hugely capital-intensive project of developing and tooling up that site. Dyson added that the firm did go through “a serious process to find a buyer for the project which has, unfortunately, been unsuccessful so far.”

Although the car project has been stopped, the firm says it remains committed to the £2.5bn technology investment, which will be spent on further developing the IP and technology that was set to underpin the car. That includes continued investment in robotics, manufacturing techniques and, in particular, solid-state battery technology. It is understood that Dyson is open to licensing some of the technology it develops to other firms. 

Dyson said the technology it is developing will “offer us significant opportunities which we must grab with both hands.”

He added: “Our battery will benefit Dyson in a profound way and take us in exciting new directions. In summary, our investment appetite is undiminished and we will continue to deepen our roots in both the UK and Singapore.”

The firm hopes that as many staff working on the car project as possible will be given roles elsewhere within Dyson, working on the firm's existing home products. 

Dyson said: “This is not a product failure, or a failure of the team, for whom this news will be hard to hear and digest. Their achievements have been immense – given the enormity and complexity of the project.” 

He added: “Since day one, we have taken risks and dared to challenge the status quo with new products and technologies. Such an approach drives progress, but has never been an easy journey. The route to success is never linear.

“This is not the first project which has changed direction and it will not be the last. I remain as excited about the future of Dyson as I have always been. Our ambitions have never been higher, our ability to invest has never been greater, and the team has never been stronger.”


Read more

Dyson electric car: new patents show mould-breaking design

Dyson electric car: ex-Infiniti boss to head up EV operations

James Dyson: why we’re building an electric car

News, 10 Oct 2019 16:31:23 +0100
Nissan Juke production begins at Sunderland plant Japanese firm invests £100m in site for new crossover, while ending night shifts as part of production schedule moves

Production of the new second-generation Nissan Juke has begun at the car maker’s Sunderland plant, following what the firm says is £100 million worth of investment in the site.

The original version of the compact crossover has been built at the plant since it first went into production 10 years ago. Nissan has committed to continuing Juke production there despite switching build of the next-generation X-Trail to Japan – although the firm has warned the plant's future could be in doubt depending on the outcome of Brexit.

Nissan’s European boss, Gianluca de Ficchy, said that the Juke “represents a further £100m investment in our Sunderland plant and is designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK for European customers”.

Nissan highlighted the fact that around 70% of the Juke models built in Sunderland will be for European Union markets, and that two-thirds of its suppliers are based in the EU – underlining the potential threat of delays or extra costs caused by a no-deal Brexit.

To prepare for the new Juke, Nissan says staff underwent more than 5000 hours of training. Nissan has also installed more than 27 new die sets in the plant’s press shop and four additional spray booths in the paint shop.

Nissan has also shuffled the production schedule at its plant, moving extra manufacturing staff to Line Two, which produces the Juke, by ending the night shift on its other line. 

That means both production lines will operate on a two-shift pattern. Nissan says headcount at the site will be unaffected, although some staff will lose their shift allowance.

Read more

First drive: New Nissan Juke reviewed

Nissan to review future of Sunderland plant in case of no-deal Brexit

Nissan scraps plans to build next X-Trail in Sunderland

News, 10 Oct 2019 16:20:25 +0100
BMW i3S 2019 long-term review BMW i3S 2019 long-term review - hero front Will a larger battery make the more potent version of BMW's electric hatchback fun to drive outside of commuter hours? We have six months to find out

Why we’re running it: To see whether this trailblazing small EV has evolved enough to still be considered the best in its class

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

Life with a BMW i3S: Month 5

Coasting’s easier than you think - 18th September 2019

Given how aggressive the i3’s regenerative braking can be, no option to disable or reduce it, and the precision needed to control it using the throttle and your foot alone, one way to maintain speed while also maximising available range is to shift into neutral and coast where possible. The shifter (above) is sited largely out of your eyeline while driving so I was initially worried about knocking it into reverse by mistake, but sensibly the car won’t let you do that while travelling at speed.

Mileage: 5893

Back to the top

a hidden, and pleasant, surprise - 4th September 2019

The centre console has two USB ports but one is a USB-C and I don’t have the right cable for it. That makes charging two phones at once a pain, so hats off to reader Ian Bushell for flagging up the hidden 12V socket under the dashboard. It’s perfectly placed for a 12V USB adaptor, so I can mount a phone without cables everywhere while a passenger has sole use of the centre console.

Mileage: 5136

Back to the top

Life with a BMW i3S: Month 4

A change in commute has transformed the fun factor for BMW’s sprightly EV - 21 August 2019

I like to think that any car can be fun when driven on the right road – so shifting the already entertaining BMW i3s from the stop-start city traffic of south-east London to the quieter country roads of Surrey following a house move has really brought out the EV’s playful side. 

Instead of gridlocked roads that rarely allowed for anything above 25mph and where the only amusement was always being first off the line at traffic lights, my morning commute now offers the choice of free-flowing motorway, or quiet country roads with honest-to-goodness corners. 

The BMW might be tall, but it’s proving brilliantly chuckable, with rear-driven character you won’t find in any other small EV – at least until the Honda E arrives early next year. It’s a shame the stability controls (which can’t be fully disabled) step in sooner than you might expect, as the low centre of gravity gives plenty of confidence in the bends and there’s enough power to draw out the beginnings of oversteer before the electronics get involved. Sport mode makes the steering a little heavier but, seeing how darty the car can feel in the standard Comfort setting, I prefer the extra weight of Sport. 

It’s also rapid all the way up to the national speed limit, unlike some less expensive rivals that begin to feel out of their depth once you venture beyond 40mph. Finding even the smallest gaps in motorway traffic? Not a problem. 

Thankfully my new driving routes are well surfaced, as a jittery and overly firm ride is easily the i3s’s worst trait. The standard car coped far better with bumps and potholes, although a brief ride in one did help highlight the improved stability added by the wider rear track on the i3s. 

Journeys have been shorter, but speeds have also been higher, and Sport mode seems to apply less brake regeneration than the other modes. All of which has made an impact on range, but not enough to change my charging habits, with a top-up at the office usually enough to get me through the weekend without needing to visit a public charger. Those waiting to hear about longer journeys will need to hold on a few more weeks, but they are in the works. 

The BMW was never going to be my first choice when it came to moving day, but it did prove more capable than I gave it credit for – and all because of those backwards-opening rear doors I sneered at recently. Fold the rear seats down and there’s 1100 litres of space behind the driver, but the boot floor is completely flat because of the battery pack underneath. No amount of Tetris-style rotating was going to let the rear hatch swallow an entire dining room table, but the pillarless doors left just enough room to get everything in at once. 

I’ve also been reliably informed the i3s shares something in common with McLaren supercars costing many times the price: dodgy DAB radio reception. It seems it takes little more than a multi-storey car park, short tunnel or gusty south-westerly breeze to silence the signal. 

Okay, maybe that last one is stretching things a bit, but it really doesn’t take much for reception to take a dive down to crackly FM. It’s because of the carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) construction, apparently – it might be tough and light, but doesn’t make for a great radio aerial.


Serious stance Wider arches give the i3s real presence that feels lacking from the standard car.


Rocky ride Lowered ride height and 20in alloys make for bumpy progress over anything other than perfectly smooth Tarmac.

Mileage: 4909

Life with a BMW i3S: Month 3

Plug socket location could be better - 31st July 2019

The i3’s charging point is where you’d normally find the filler cap in a combustion car. This isn’t always convenient – especially for on-road rapid chargers, where you either need to mount a kerb or three-point turn to allow the cable to reach. I’ve had fewer issues with EVs where the charging point is located on the nose, but think the Audi E-tron’s double-sided approach is best.

Mileage: 4312

Back to the top

Can you open this for me? - 10 July 2019

I call the act of helping someone get out of the i3’s rear seats in a busy car park the ‘supermarket shuffle’. You either get uncomfortably close to one another or lean over the front door to open the rear one. With no way to escape the rear without help from the driver, it’s the i3’s least practical aspect – but still easier than climbing over the front seats in a 3dr.

Mileage: 2894

Back to the top

Life with a BMW i3S: Month 2

A USB-powered workaround - 19th June 2019

While iPhone owners will appreciate support for Apple CarPlay, BMW’s refusal to play nicely with Android Auto has made queueing up podcasts a bit frustrating once my phone is sealed in the armrest that doubles as a wireless charger. So I loaded a USB stick with music to control it more easily through the iDrive interface. Good to see the BMW isn’t so picky about rival-branded flash drives. 

Mileage: 2119

Back to the top

There are two ways to drive the i3 – and both have their benefits - 5th June 2019

Barely a month in and the i3S is cultivating something of a split personality in me, at least when it comes to my driving style.

For my commute, the drive mode is firmly in Sport and the air conditioning on. I’ll even precondition the cabin if the weather looks a bit iffy. With only 17 miles to cover and a charging point waiting for me at the office, there’s no need to conserve power or take it easy off the line at traffic lights. And my word, it feels nippy when you do open the taps, in a way a similarly powerful petrol hot hatch can’t hope to equal.

Learning exactly where the regenerative braking will bring the car to a stop in queues of traffic took a little bit of trial and error, as BMW has calibrated it to be much stronger than in some rival EVs. I was either pulling up short or needed to apply the brakes myself for the first few days, but now I’m almost exclusively using one pedal inside the M25.

For the few longer journeys I’ve managed so far, I’ve noticed my right foot becoming a lot lighter, with adaptive cruise engaged and the drive mode knocked back to Comfort or even Eco Pro to maximise mileage – but I draw the line at switching off the climate controls. (Frostbite and heat exhaustion aren’t on my bucket list, funnily enough.)

I partly put this down to how the i3 displays its remaining charge, with four large chunks of battery gradually slipping away with each passing mile. Once one chunk has disappeared, that’s a quarter of your total range gone, regardless of what the estimated range might be. I think it’s a psychological effect that the Kia e-Niro, with its 18 smaller pips showing how much juice you have left, deals with better.

My frugal driving was also influenced by my destinations having only a handful of public charging points, and (in one case) no opportunity to hook up a three-pin plug in case of emergencies. When visiting family on the south coast, the nearest public rapid charger was a town over, and when I got there, it turned out to be broken, despite ZapMap reporting otherwise. The Tesla Model X owner that I beat to the functioning 7kW charger was aghast, and the maximum 30-minute stay meant a scant 20 miles of range gained. Luckily, there were two more 7kW chargers a mile down the road that allowed a longer stay.

On a later trip to Canterbury, I had the option of overnight three-pin charging and my friend’s smart meter indicated £4-£5 spent on a top-up from around 40%. Well worth the round of drinks I bought in return. I’ve been told a good strategy is to sign up for all the major charging networks, so I don’t need to be as picky when it comes to charging, and to aim for rapid chargers along my route rather than seeking them out at my destinations.

There’s little doubt that the sheer number of companies on offer is confusing for the EV newcomer, as are the different payment plans: I initially subscribed to Polar Plus but have a feeling I’ll be adding several more RFID cards to my wallet and apps to my smartphone homescreen in the near future.

Love it:

INSTANT ACCELERATION No hunting for gears, and no waiting for revs to build. The i3’s off-the-line shove is immediate, and really quite rapid.

Loathe it:

NO LOVE FOR ANDROID I listen to a lot of podcasts, but with no Android Auto, there’s no way to queue up a new one while on the move. Annoying.

Mileage: 1873

Back to the top

Life with a BMW i3 S: Month 1

Other owners put our range to shame - 23rd May 2019

Using the BMW Connected smartphone app’s driver statistics, I’m doing my best to beat the community averages for efficient driving, energy recuperation and power consumption – but some are easier than others. The high score for furthest distance on a single charge will take some doing – bravo to the owner who managed 228 miles.

Mileage: 1104

Back to the top

Electric commuter car has six months to prove its worth beyond just city driving​ - 15th May 2019

The i3 was the original defining electric car. It was BMW’s vision of the future, one that beat Tesla to the mainstream market by two years and aimed to prove that EVs could be different from the established three-box norm.

Five years have passed since it first appeared and, in that time, cheaper rivals have come along. But BMW hasn’t stood still. Today’s i3 exists in pure-electric form only, improved with greater range and a sportier, more engaging i3s version. The arrival of a new 42kWh-capacity battery (120Ah) makes this the ideal time to revisit and see if it’s still the best compact EV out there.

I was deemed its obvious custodian. My commute to and from Autocar’s Twickenham office usually packs me onto six different trains like a sardine for up to two hours each way – a privilege for which I pay £10.50 per day. Travelling by car is slightly faster, even with traffic, but falls foul of the London congestion charge (£12 per day). Even before adding the cost of petrol or diesel, I’d be out of pocket, and the newly introduced Ultra Low Emission Zone ruled out running an old econobox on the cheap.

Over the next six months I plan to spend with BMW’s electric hatchback, I stand to save £1240 on public transport, or as much as £3500 on fuel and toll charges. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? There is, of course, the small proviso that I live in a fourth-floor flat. I’m not planning to buy an extra-long extension cord so will be largely relying on public charging points.

The office has a 7.2kW charger, so I’ll be fine during the week. For those longer journeys – and there will be many – I’ll be completely reliant on destination charging, or the odd three-pin overnighter when visiting relatives out in the sticks.

BMW says the i3’s new longer-range 42kWh battery is good for 177 miles under WLTP, but the next six months will likely prove as much a test of Britain’s electric car infrastructure as of this quirky electric hatchback.

It will also be a test of my restraint, as the 181bhp and a 6.9sec 0-60mph sprint of our more potent i3s is rapid enough to bother some hot hatchbacks. I’m fully expecting the instant torque to be more tempting at the traffic lights, though, where only other EVs have a hope of keeping pace to 30mph.

Our car arrives in two-tone Melbourne Red and Frozen Grey metallic paint on 20in black alloy wheels and BMW’s Suite ‘interior world’ – which means brown leather upholstery and dark oak wood trim to you and me. It’s a combination I wasn’t sure of at first, but it has quickly grown on me. The cabin feels more expansive than it really is thanks to the lack of transmission tunnel and minimal dashboard, and the darker materials don’t make you feel at all confined.

It’s a fully loaded example, with £6135 of options ticked, including the essential (£790 Driving Assistant Plus, £360 reversing camera), useful (£395 wireless smartphone charging, £330 keyless entry) and nice but frivolous (£125 blue seatbelts). The £235 Apple CarPlay preparation will largely go unused, as I have an Android phone. Unfortunately for me, BMW and Google don’t yet see eye to eye, so it’ll either be a dashboard mount or the built-in iDrive infotainment for navigation and media. Thankfully, there is an Android version of BMW Connected, the smartphone companion app that will grade my driving on a five-star scale, let me send navigation directions remotely and pre-heat the cabin for any cold morning commutes – at least those when I’m not desperately trying to conserve battery.

Factor in the government electric car grant and you’re looking at a £40,305 outlay, making this very much a premium choice among city-friendly EVs. BMW says 60% of customers think it’s worth the extra over the vanilla i3. It has six months to convince me of the same.

In the 1000 miles I’ve spent with the i3s so far, the inability to charge at home has yet to make this venture a literal non-starter. Even with a lead foot, I can usually make it from the office and back with only around a quarter of the battery drained. Fully charged, the impossible-to-miss remaining battery indicator on the dashboard informs me it has 155 miles in reserve, jumping to over 190 if used in Eco Pro+ mode.

This reduces top speed to 56mph and throttle response to something altogether more restrained while disengaging the climate controls and switching off the heated seats. I’m hoping that will be something of a last resort for all but the longest of journeys. I’ll be interested to learn how quickly the battery can be sapped at a 70mph motorway cruise.

I haven’t felt the need to curse the giant alloy wheels or sportier suspension yet, although the i3s does certainly ride rather firmly for a car most at home in the city. I’m looking forward to driving on more engaging roads, when I know I have a charging point waiting for me at the end, to see if it delivers on the promise of engaging handling.

I’ll also be after any tips on hypermiling and squeezing out every drop of range from a charge, so if you have any, please get in touch. I’m probably going to need them.

Second Opinion

To my mind, the i3 has always been a brilliant flag bearer for electric mobility, but flawed in several important design aspects and in some of its minor details. The question this test should answer is whether it’s a flawed genius, or just frustratingly short of the very best. 

Jim Holder

Back to the top

BMW i3 S specification

Specs: Price New £34,170 (including government grant) Price as tested £40,305 (including government grant) Options Melbourne Red paint £550, i3s Plus package £1100, Suite interior £2000, keyless entry £330, reversing camera £360, blue seatbelts £125, eDrive exterior sound £80, front and rear parking sensors £170, Driving Assistant Plus £790, Apple CarPlay preparation £235, enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging £395

Test Data: Engine electric motor Power 181bhp Torque 199lb ft Kerb weight 1265kg Top speed 99mph 0-62mph 6.9sec Range 177 miles (WLTP) CO2 0g/km Faults None Expenses None

Back to the top

Long-Term Review, 10 Oct 2019 12:48:06 +0100
MG HS 1.5 T-GDI Exclusive 2019 UK review MG HS 2019 UK first drive review - hero front New compact SUV goes big on luxury feel and metal for the money but covers its budget roots out on the road with mixed success The HS is Chinese import specialist MG Motor’s second crack at success in the compact SUV market. The first one, the GS, was the kind of car that, had it been school homework rather than a Nissan Qashqai rival, might have been described as “unrepresentative of the company’s best efforts” by a disappointed teacher. Even compared with the MG 3 and 6 that came before, it was bad. And, as if to confirm that MG Motor well understood as much itself, the GS wasn’t even given a passing mention at the press introduction of its direct replacement.With an all-new model platform beneath it and a widely re-engineered 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet, the HS is intended to be a significant leap beyond the standards of its noisy, cumbersome-handling antecedent. Without really standing out from the current SUV crowd, it’s also a much more visually appealing design than the GS was and it has a surprisingly swish and quite materially ambitious interior – onto which we’ll come later.Priced to pick up the bulk of its customers from the full-sized crossover hatchback segment, away from cars like the aforementioned Nissan, the Seat Ateca and the Kia Sportage, the HS is actually proportioned more like compact SUVs such as the Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan and Honda CR-V.It trades pretty squarely on the same ‘metal for the money’ ethos as the Hyundai Santa Fe once did, then, albeit one step further down on the SUV size chart. And it’s not unlike the big Hyundai to drive in some ways, being fairly softly sprung and feeling its size on the road, although stopping short of letting that bulk become a problem in most everyday scenarios.List prices on the car – which for several reasons make you wonder if you haven’t inadvertently time-travelled back to the turn of the century – are set to begin at a whisker under £18,000, rising to just under £25,000 for a fully laden car with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Depending on which of those aforementioned competitors you compare it with, that might represent as much as a £6000 saving on a like-for-like rival corrected for equipment.There was no mention of monthly finance prices at the press launch, with which we might have made more meaningful comparisons with direct rivals – and, with residual values on the car unlikely to be great, they might well be slightly less favourable than those attractive sticker tags initially suggest.Even so, the HS ought to have plenty of bargain-bucket value, without looking – or, in some ways, performing – like a car that necessarily belongs in one.First Drive, 10 Oct 2019 10:07:03 +0100MPs want national debate on road charging schemes Transport Select Committee to look at pay-per-mile road usage to cut emissions and replace declining Fuel Duty revenue

Members of Parliament have pledged to start “a national debate” about the introduction of pay-per-mile road charging and other road pricing schemes.

The cross-party House of Commons Transport Select Committee will launch an official investigation into road pricing early next year and says that it wants “drivers and non-drivers” to start discussing the matter ahead of this.

MPs haven't looking into the prospect of a national road pricing scheme for more than a decade, but the Committee now wants to consider the prospect again. This is because, it says, there's a need to decarbonise the transport network, tackle congestion and “encourage modal shift to alternative forms of transport” where appropriate. 

It also notes that the £40 billion annual income from Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) is likely to decline sharply – or end entirely – if government goals to make road transport carbon-free within two decades come to fruition.

The Committee said the investigation will consider the positive and negative aspects of road pricing, including economic, environmental and social impacts. It will study existing schemes at local and national levels in the UK and overseas. It notes that the concept of road pricing isn't limited to tolls but could include congestion charges, an HGV levy, workplace parking charges and the introduction of clean air zones.

Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Committee and shadow transport secretary, said: “It’s been almost ten years since the last real discussion of national road pricing. In that time, we have become much more aware of the dangers of air pollution and congestion. Parliament declared a climate emergency in May, and local councils have begun to do the same. This requires a serious response, including rethinking how we manage our road network.

“We cannot ignore the looming fiscal black hole. We need to ask how we will pay for roads in the future, and in answering that question, we have an opportunity for a much wider debate about our use of road space, cutting carbon emissions, tackling congestion, modal shift and how we prioritise active travel.”

Greenwood insisted that the prospect of pay-per-mile road charging isn't “about pricing drivers off the road,” adding: “It’s about making sure that as many people as possible have a say in future plans so that we can manage the changes to come. The Transport Committee wants to kick-start this conversation.”

Read more

EVs could put UK Fuel Duty system on the rocks

Conservative government pledges £25bn in road improvements

UK road traffic at an all-time high

News, 10 Oct 2019 10:05:08 +0100
Lexus previews EV hatchback ahead of Tokyo unveiling 2019 Lexus concept - to be revealed at Tokyo motor show Luxury brand's first electric car will be unveiled in concept form later this month; takes inspiration from 2015 concept

Lexus has released a preview image of a forward-thinking small EV that it's set to reveal in concept form at the 2019 Tokyo motor show

The as-yet-unnamed concept takes the form of a tall, boxy and city-friendly hatchback that wears a more futuristic design than any model in the brand’s current line-up. Inspiration is expected to be taken from the LF-SA concept of 2015 (pictured below), albeit updated with more production intent. 

The new image gives little away in terms of overall design but hints at flared front vents and a slim, futuristic headlight design. Lexus claims the semi-autonomous compact EV is aimed at "customers who are equally passionate about driving and luxury experiences".

“We feel that our future could resemble this design,” Lexus vice president Koji Sato recently told Autocar. 

Next-level infotainment technology displayed on a pair of screens positioned on either side of the steering wheel will characterise the interior. 

Although technical details and the production date for the first Lexus EV remain under wraps, Sato acknowledged the need to create a product that’s competitive and compelling. The Japanese firm is pouring a significant amount of money into the development of the powertrain technology it needs in order to honour its pledge of offering an electrified variant of every car it sells by 2025. 

Engineers are designing a platform to underpin electric cars. It will likely be shared with Toyota, Lexus’s parent company. The two brands jointly plan to launch 10 electric models by 2025. Lexus is also placing a big research focus on in-wheel electric motors, although Sato conceded it will take years to make the technology a reality. 

“We expect four wheels operating independently will offer greater agility, stability and excitement,” he said. “We will continue to pursue this exciting opportunity.” 

Meanwhile, Lexus design boss Koichi Suga is defining the design of a production Lexus EV. Final design hasn’t yet been signed off by Toyota president Akio Toyoda, but he told Autocar the spindle grille won’t disappear completely. 

“Cooling still needs to happen,” said Suga. “The spindle grille is also a representation of personality, and it’s the face of the car, so it’s really a necessary part of the brand identity. But because it’s an EV, [customers] are also going to expect something that’s futuristic, something more non-traditional.” The Tokyo-bound concept will hint at the direction he wants to take. 

Lexus also plans other alternatives to the petrol engine, including plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells. Sato hailed the company’s expertise in hybrid technology as a major advantage. 

“The hybrid technology is our core. Our expertise in electrical control technology and battery technology can be used for other types of alternative powertrains, even fuel cells,” he said. 

However, the widespread availability of a fuel-cell-powered Lexus is strongly linked to the growth of the infrastructure. 

Sato stressed Lexus can’t solve that problem alone, but he emphasised his team is “never giving up on this technology”. Sato also claimed Lexus needs an entry-level car to lure buyers moving up from non-luxury brands into showrooms. The CT – ditched in the US but still on sale in Europe – is well overdue a replacement, but the brand is said to be weighing up sales of the new UX crossover to see when or if a new version is needed. However, Autocar understands it’s pencilled in for 2021 behind the scenes. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Sato emphasised Lexus is not currently planning a follow-up to the limited-edition, V10-powered LFA, released in 2010. 

“I love it but we need your help. We need strong requests for a new LFA from the media. This can help us proceed,” Sato said.

Read more

Toyota to ramp up EV plans with six global models​

Under the skin: why hybrid makers love a biscuit tin

Lexus UX 250h 2019 UK review​

News, 10 Oct 2019 09:34:24 +0100
Silverstone start-up Lunaz to electrify British classic cars Lunaz Rolls-Royce Phantom
Rolls-Royce Phantom eight-seater is getting a 120kWh battery pack
Midlands-based company will sympathetically restore and fully electrify iconic luxury and sports cars

Lunaz, a new classic car electrification company, has chosen Silverstone as its global headquarters as it prepares to bring its first models to market. 

The start-up, led by ex-Renault F1 technical director Jon Hilton, claims it will make “the most beautiful and celebrated cars in history ready for the future”, with a focus on fully electrifying mid-century British luxury and sports cars. 

Currently under development are electric versions of the 1961 Rolls-Royce Phantom V, the 1956 Rolls-Royce Cloud and the 1953 Jaguar XK120. At the time of its launch, the latter was the fastest production car in the world. 

Each car will be sympathetically restored before electrification, with Lunaz offering a range of one-off paint schemes and interior packages designed by bespoke automotive styling specialists.

The Phantom V, a large eight-seater, is equipped with a 120kWh battery pack, while the lighter Jaguar has an 80kWh unit. All models feature EV-specific functions, such as fast-charging capabilities and regenerative braking, with modern additions such as traction control and cruise control enhancing their usability.

The XK120, powered by a twin-motor setup producing 375bhp and 516lb ft, is said to be undergoing its final stages of testing before it's launched as Lunaz’s first model. Lunaz has confirmed that the entire powertrain is built and assembled in-house but refused to give any more details. 

The process of electrifying each vehicle begins with a comprehensive analysis of its shape, weight and intended driving dynamics. The original powertrain and its associated hardware are then removed before the car is 3D-scanned so that Lunaz engineers can use scale models for reference.

The vehicle is then subject to a thorough restoration process that involves taking the paint back to bare metal and rectifying any imperfections by hand. Upon completion, the interior is modernised with the addition of sat-nav, wi-fi and a contemporary infotainment system.

Existing vehicle hardware, including the fuel filler cap, dials and vents, is retained and reconfigured to suit the electric powertrain, but braking, suspension and steering components are uprated to cope with the added power. 

Company founder David Lorenz said: “I wanted a car like a 1953 Jaguar to be my daily driver. Lunaz takes a history we all love and gives it a bright future. We are innovating to create cars that are usable, dynamic and stand as the ultimate drivers’ classics.”

Prices for a Lunaz-converted electrified classic start from £350,000, with order books opening in November. Build slots can be secured only through direct connection with the manufacturer. 

Read more

Jaguar XK’s exalted place in Jaguar history​

Electrified Aston Martin DB6: driving a future-proof classic​

Volkswagen creates electric conversion kit for Beetle​

News, 10 Oct 2019 09:00:00 +0100
New Volkswagen Golf design shown in official sketches Volkswagen Golf Mk8 sketch
Volkswagen Golf Mk8 sketch
Eighth iteration of popular hatchback will be unveiled later this month, with an overhauled interior design promised

Volkswagen has previewed the exterior and interior styling of the new eighth-generation Golf with a pair of official sketches ahead of the car’s unveiling later this month.

The latest version of the long-running hatchback is due to be unveiled at the German firm’s Wolfsburg headquarters on 24 October, before going on sale in the UK early next year. While the car has been spied testing with varying levels of camouflage, the sketches give the first glimpse at how the car will appear in finished form.

Autocar scoop: new Volkswagen Golf to feature class-leading technology

The exterior sketch showcases that the new Golf will retain the classic design, albeit with a revamped headlight design that includes a thin light strip running across the front of the car. There's also a revamped front bumper and grille. Volkswagen promises that the design will be “more dynamic than ever before.”

The interior sketch suggests a bigger change, suggesting that many of the physical controls will be incorporated into the centrally mounted touchscreen, which is positioned to flow on from the digital instrument display.

It also suggests the interior air vents will be incorporated into a thin strip across the dashboard that will feature a light strip along it. Volkswagen describes the interior style as a “new digital cockpit”, adding that the new car will be a “trendsetter in terms of its digitalised and connectivity-oriented interior world, its assisted driving features and its online-based functions and services.”

Volkswagen also said that the new Golf will feature a revamped range of efficient engines and new suspension technology to boost its handling.

Autocar has previously revealed how Volkswagen intends for the new Golf to revolutionise the family hatchback market with a range of 48-volt mild hybrid powertrains and previously unseen technology.

The car will also launch with two plug-in hybrid powertrains, including a performance-focused GTE version. 

Volkswagen board member for research and development Frank Welsch previously told Autocar that the GTE will be sold with either 201bhp or 241bhp. He said: “Today’s GTI is 241bhp, so the GTE should also have 241bhp, so the GTE is really a GTE. But there are some people who just want to stay with a similar plug-in hybrid to today, so that's why we’re offering the 201bhp, too. It comes without the GTE trim and just [appears] as a normal Golf.”

There will be no new electric e-Golf, because Volkswagen will focus on its standalone ID 3 model instead.

The new Golf GTE has already been spotted testing undisguised near the Nürburgring. The spy shots also show Volkwagen’s new logo, revealed at Frankfurt motor show in September.

The standard car has already been seen with virtually no disguise before. But now a prototype has been spotted with a charging port built within its front wing, suggesting it is the flagship PHEV model.

The latest version of the long-running hatchback was originally due to be unveiled alongside the ID 3 at Frankfurt, but Volkswagen bosses decided to focus that event on its new electric offering. The Mk8 Golf has now been confirmed for an October launch. It will go on sale in the UK early next year.

Volkswagen design chief Klaus Bischoff said the Golf will feature “elegant proportions”. The German firm says the eighth-generation Golf had been designed for “the era of electrified drives, a digitalised and connected interior world, assisted driving and online-based functions and services.”

Volkswagen chiefs promise new technology

Volkswagen's management have also begun offering some details about the latest version of the Golf, the most important machine in the firm's range.

Speaking at the Geneva motor show back in March, marketing boss Jürgen Stackmann said the new Golf maintained the heritage of previous versions, but with the benefits of new technology.

"The new Golf will be everything people loved for years, but now made digital," he said. "People want a Golf – it's iconic – but now there's a huge leap forward in the digitisation inside it. It's still a Golf, but now digital. It's kept what people have loved and moved it to the next phase."

The Mk8 Golf will have levels of fuel-saving technology, connectivity, autonomous driving capability and refinement that are intended to render the mainstream competition second best.

Its exterior styling will be an evolutionary design that again emphasises a wide, flowing C-pillar. There is expected to be a little more sharp-edged definition to the bodywork, following the template of the latest Polo. The GTI version will feature large corner air vents in its lower bumper, as previewed by the GTI TCR concept earlier this year.

The model’s range will be simplified, with the three-door and estate bodystyles the most likely candidates for the axe. With consumers increasingly turning to SUVs and crossovers, and with makers of large mainstream cars under significant cost and profit pressures, insiders say the Golf Mk8 will attempt to lure buyers who are downsizing from larger cars and premium models such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, offering more cabin and luggage space than is normal in this segment, outstanding refinement and exceptional fuel economy.

The new Golf will have a noticeably wider track and even more room in the already spacious cabin, as well as a marginally longer wheelbase and a bigger boot than its hatchback rivals.

Update of Mk7 platform

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

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

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

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

Key styling features described to Autocar include a thin horizontal grille bookmarked by smaller angular headlights than those in use today, with a distinctive LED daytime running light graphic. The new car is also said to have more pronounced wheel arches and a heavily defined side swage line, in combination with typically wide C-pillars and a relatively upright tailgate.

Petrol and diesel engines

The new Golf Mk8 will get a range of 12V mild-hybrid engines for the entry-level and mid-range variants. The 1.5-litre TSI ACT petrol unit will be carried over from today’s Golf Mk7 but this will be joined by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol motor and an all-new 1.5-litre diesel, which is also likely to be sold as a 12V mild hybrid. Autocar understands that the assistance of the mild-hybrid system’s starter/ generator lessens the load on the engine and reduces the spikes of NOx emissions from the diesel’s exhaust.

One of the more intriguing rumours is that the 1.0-litre petrol engines might not be turbocharged at all, but could instead rely solely on direct assistance from a belt-driven starter/generator motor (SGM). The thinking is that the SGM will provide enough extra power and torque for the base engines, allowing the turbocharger, intercooler and associated piping and control systems to be dropped.

The Golf Mk8’s diesel line-up will include the new 2.0 TDI (codenamed EA288 Evo) engine. VW says the base version of this unit has been significantly re-engineered to reduce exhaust pollution. There is a more efficient and responsive turbocharger and the engine is lighter, loses less heat and has reduced internal friction.

More important, the engine’s particulate filter and catalyst have been resized for improved performance, particularly over time. VW claimed the engine offers an average of 9% more torque and power together with an average 10g/km decrease in CO2 emissions. The firm said the new diesel unit will come in versions ranging from 135bhp to 201bhp and will be seen in Audi models before being installed in the Golf Mk8 next year.

Crucial ID concept - click here for more

VW has already released details of the Golf’s 1.5-litre TGI Evo natural gas engine, production of which starts this year. Based on the 1.5-litre TSI engine, the TGI unit uses the same Miller cycle valve timing and a variable geometry turbocharger. It develops 129bhp and 148lb ft from 1400rpm when installed in the Golf Mk7. VW claims that this engine emits about 93g/km of CO2 on the NEDC cycle when it is hooked up to the standard- issue dual-clutch gearbox. Natural gas engines are also lower in NOx and particulate emissions than diesel and cars can be refilled from the gas mains network via small wall-mounted compressors. However, the lack of a natural gas infrastructure in the UK means this variant is unlikely to reach these shores.

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

Two kinds of mild hybrid

The big surprise for the Golf Mk8 drivetrains is that VW says it will be investing in both 12V and 48V mild-hybrid systems after the company re-engineered the Golf family MQB electrical architecture (one of the more expensive component systems in a car) to accommodate a 48V system. Until now, 48V mild hybrids have only been used in premium VW Group cars such as the Bentley Bentayga and Audi SQ7.

Frank Welsch, VW’s technical development boss, has already revealed the firm’s new ‘affordable’ 48V system, which uses a belt-integrated starter/ generator/alternator to assist the engine by providing extra power and torque directly to the engine’s crankshaft.

The key to adopting 48V in a mass-market car was VW and its suppliers developing a less expensive and more compact set-up, which uses a small DC-to-DC converter and small lithium ion battery.

Welsch said the 48V set-up allows much greater amounts of energy to be recuperated than with 12V systems, which means significantly improved fuel economy. These new mild-hybrid engines can also start and stop extremely quickly, which will allow the Golf Mk8 to switch in and out of coasting mode when driving, making further fuel savings.

Connected tech takes precedence

VW sources have already promised that the next Golf will be ‘always connected’. Using the same eSIM card that has already appeared in the new Touareg, the Golf Mk8 will be permanently connected to the internet. This will allow the car to tap into 3D satellite mapping, hybrid radio (where the audio system finds the strongest signal for a station, whether analogue or digital) and the option of live information such as the latest pricing at nearby fuel stations.

The permanent connectivity opens the way for these future models to ‘read’ the topography of the road from 3D mapping, for example, and switch to coasting when heading downhill, or approaching a junction.

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

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

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

Golf to set VW design agenda

While the new Golf will be an evolutionary take on the outgoing car, it will feature new design elements that design chief Klaus Bischoff described being “more fluid, more sporty with a very unique face”.

It’s part of a new VW strategy to differentiate its standard model range from the new ID family of electric cars, said Bischoff: “[ID is] a new world of proportions and totally new bodystyles which are more emotional. As we go through the ceiling design- wise on ID cars, we need to echo that with ICE cars, so these will have more sporty proportions [and] a more progressive, clean design.”

Bischoff said future cars will remain faithful to VW’s traditional design cues: “We are looking to our origins so no ‘me too’ products. They will all remain as very individual VWs.

“If you look at front- of-car designs, nearly everybody is copying Audi. VW will go down its own road to stay true to the brand, and not look over the fence to others.” 

Volkswagen reaps MQB’s rewards

Volkswagen’s MQB architecture underpins its best-selling model, the Golf, of which 968,284 were sold in 2017.

The modular toolkit is used for most of the firm’s most successful models. In total, five MQB models currently account for 3.8 million global sales.

The firm’s second-bestseller last year was the Jetta/Sagitar (the latter is a Chinese-market compact saloon), with 883,346 units sold. The seventh-generation Jetta, which went on sale this year, is now based on MQB, as are the firm’s two next best-sellers: the Tiguan SUV (769,870 sold), in both short- and long-wheelbase forms, and the Polo

The Lavida, a Jetta-sized MQB saloon sold only in China, is the firm’s sixth best-selling model, with 507,000 made in 2017. That leaves the Passat/Magotan family, which is sold in Europe, the US and China. Current European versions of this model are built on MQB, with the US and Chinese versions switching to the architecture in 2019, adding another 660,000 or so MQB cars to the sales total.

Those figures are simply for Volkswagen itself: the MQB toolkit is also used widely across the group’s other brands.

Read more 

Autocar scoop: new Volkswagen Golf to feature class-leading technology

Volkswagen reveals new logo

VW ID 3: crucial EV offers up to 341-mile range

Volkswagen Golf R power drops to 296bhp amid WLTP change


News, 10 Oct 2019 07:01:23 +0100
Nearly-new buying guide: Vauxhall Astra Vauxhall Astra 2015-2018 nearly new buying guide - hero front It looks just like the recently revised model, but the now-superseded Astra is better value

Prices start at £5000 for a high-mileage 2016- reg 1.6 CDTi, so a used Vauxhall Astra is a tempting proposition. It won’t look or feel as classy as a Volkswagen Golf but then you’ll pay £2500 more for the pleasure of owning that particular people’s car. The Ford Focus is closer in appearance and feel to the Astra but even that will set you back around £1000 more.

Of course, as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for, and in the Astra’s case, what you get is a reputation for unreliability. According to the latest survey by our sibling magazine, What Car?, the Astra diesel is the least reliable family car you can buy.

The petrol version fares better, but better still are the Focus and the Golf. Not a good start for Vauxhall’s family hatchback, then, except there’s so much to like about it that it seems a shame to condemn it on the strength of a survey. For one thing, it was developed on UK roads, earning it a big tick on any thinking driver’s score card. It’s light, and light on its feet. It’s also roomy and practical and its engines – a range of petrol and diesel units – are, by and large, economical, refined and fun to punt.

The range of trims is a little baffling but, regardless, even basic Design is well equipped (7.0in colour touchscreen with Vauxhall’s IntelliLink phone connectivity, a digital radio, air-con and 16in alloy wheels). Our pick is SRi, the next up, but if you fancy more luxury, there’s Elite (leather-covered and powered sports seats, automatic lights and wipers, and lashings of chrome).

The model was launched in 2015 and has just been facelifted. Actually, that’s underselling the changes since the latest Astra now features new Euro 6d- and RDE2-compliant engines plus improved suspension. What hasn’t changed is the model’s styling, which must say something about the rightness of the original, if not Vauxhall’s bank balance.

But more tax efficient and better to drive though it is, why spend £18,885 on the cheapest facelifted Astra, the 1.2 110 SE, when for £15,000 you could have a pre-facelift model in a high spec and with a strong engine? Something like a 2019/19-reg Astra 1.4T 150 Griffin. Specwise, this run-out special sits between Tech Line Nav and SRi and new, it cost around £19,950. Features include dual-zone climate control, 18in alloy wheels and a sat-nav. The 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine is a good performer and economical as well.

For even better economy, target the 1.6 CDTi diesel in 109bhp and 134bhp forms or, one of our favourites, the 104bhp 1.0T petrol. It’s among the best three-pots out there – all snarly and punchy but, thanks to its balancer shafts, smooth, too. For more power, try the 124bhp 1.4T.

You’re still thinking about the Astra diesel’s poor reliability, right? Then go for that more reliable but still economical 104bhp 1.0T petrol and think what fun you’ll have.


The Astra’s 1.6 CDTi ‘Whisper’ diesel motor is quieter than the engine it replaced but not as whisper quiet as Vauxhall claims. Still, it does have acoustic covers to muffle noise and vibration, as well as the lowest internal friction in its class. These facts, at least, should shock your dinner party guests into silence.

Although smaller and lower than the model it replaced, and with a shorter wheelbase, the Astra under the spotlight here is roomier. For example, rear-seat passengers enjoy 35mm of extra leg room.

Don’t buy a used Astra on the strength of its remote OnStar concierge service. The facility is being terminated in December 2020, and since January 2019, no new Astras have been fitted with the system.


ULTIMATE - For once, a trim name that’s close to the truth. Heated and powered leather seats, climate control, LED matrix headlights, 18in alloys and multiple driver assist features — they’re all here.


Vauxhall Astra 1.0T 105 SRi - This little three-cylinder turbo petrol strikes just the right balance between fun and low running costs, and SRi trim brings a good sat-nav and a larger, 8.0in touchscreen.


Vauxhall Astra 1.6T 200 SRi - Understated looks meet a fire breather of an engine. The 1.6T can rattle off 0-62mph in just 6.6sec. Meanwhile, it handles and rides with aplomb. A Q-car to savour.


2016 Astra 1.6 CDTi Tech Line, 113,000 miles, £4990

2017 Astra 1.0T 105 Design, 14,000 miles, £7650

2018 Astra 1.4T 150 SRi, 4000 miles, £12,995

2019 Astra 1.4T 150 Elite Nav, 11,000 miles, £13,850


Vauxhall Astra (2015-2018) review

Used car buying guide: Vauxhall Astra VXR​

New Vauxhall Astra: UK prices and specifications revealed

News, 10 Oct 2019 06:01:24 +0100
BMW design boss defends radical styling direction 2019 BMW Concept 4 Series Coupe - front
Adrian van Hooydonk: "As a company, you have to keep moving"
Adrian van Hooydonk reaffirms commitment to expressive design, as embodied by recent 4 Series Coupe concept

BMW’s design boss has again defended the brand’s controversial new styling direction, continued in earnest by the recently revealed Concept 4 Series Coupé.

After it was unwrapped at the Frankfurt motor show, Adrian van Hooydonk was asked about the polarising views of BMW’s recent design debuts.

He told Autocar: “I’m not a psychologist but I know BMW is a brand that not only has customers, it has fans. They know our entire design history and have strong opinions on that. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, it means we have really connected with these people on an emotional level. Okay, I know that there might be some discussion with fans because they’ve grown to love what you’ve just done and you’re changing it already.

“As a company, you have to keep moving,” he continued. “The minute you start standing still, you become an easy target. The market is very competitive now, more than ever. But the hardest thing to do is make changes while you are successful. If you are no longer successful, people will immediately start saying you need to make changes, but then you are in panic mode.”

Describing the 4 Series specifically, van Hooydonk said: “It is a sporty coupé, and by definition it has to have a very expressive design, and you see that all around the car, not just the front. But there are not that many lines or elements – it’s not a complex design.

“We want to do this for all our cars: we want to have fewer elements, then each element you use plays a bigger role.”

Van Hooydonk did acknowledge, however, that it was the recent facelift of the 7 Series flagship that was the most visually distinctive – and there’s a good reason for that.

“It was part of the brief,” he said. “People liked the car, but they said by and large it looks quite similar to the previous one, so why should they buy the new one? Now everyone has noticed and production has ramped up considerably.”

Read more

BMW M8 Gran Coupé revealed as Porsche Panamera rival 

BMW M8 Coupé 2019 review

New BMW i4: fresh shots reveal electric saloon's design  

News, 10 Oct 2019 00:01:24 +0100
Racing Lines: the trouble with Renault in F1 Renault in F1 The French factory team is struggling this season - but why, and when will things turn around?

What is happening to Renault in Formula 1?

Nearly five years into its return as a full-blown factory team, the French giant was supposed to be a world title contender by now. Instead, it languishes fifth in the constructors’ standings, one place lower than this time last year and far behind McLaren, a Renault customer which pays to use its hybrid engine – but not for much longer. At the Russian Grand Prix, the rejuvenated Woking team announced it will abandon Renault power in favour of Mercedes in 2021, leaving the works cars as lone representatives.

It’s all a long way from the glory days of powering Red Bull to four consecutive titles between 2010-13, never mind the twin crowns of Fernando Alonso in 2005-06. Renault has a rich history in F1 since the late 1970s, but that timeline is not continuous and includes periods as an engine supplier only. Such was the case with Red Bull, a partnership that was tense even at its height.

Renault never enjoyed the credit it deserved for those titles and also missed out on a cut of F1’s vast revenues. Lacking the clout of Mercedes and Ferrari, in 2015 it bought back the Enstone-based team it had previously sold and committed to becoming a true F1 force once again.

Progress was inevitably limited as Renault invested in a factory that had become outdated and a workforce that had lost some of its best talent. The surprise big-money signing of Daniel Ricciardo for 2019 signalled a step up in intent, but paying the seven-time grand prix winner north of £20 million a season has an impact on a team that spends in the region of 30- 40% less on F1 than its silver and red rivals, according to team principal Cyril Abiteboul. Nothing adds up.

Meanwhile, Mercedes protégé Esteban Ocon has been signed to replace the unremarkable Nico Hülkenberg for next year to further strengthen the attack. Then again, how good is Ocon? If he really is a future champion, why didn’t his manager Toto Wolff sign him to replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes? In the wake of Lewis Hamilton in 2007, and Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc today, it cannot be Ocon’s age.

Renault’s best hopes rest with the much-vaunted (and late) new F1 regulations, due for introduction in 2021. In F1’s own version of Brexit, details should be clear by the end of October. Whatever their shape, Renault must avoid a repeat of its hybrid-era failures. Car executive boards have only so much patience for serial underachievement in motorsport.


How to fix Formula 1, according to Autocar​

Formula 1 vs Le Mans: why GP racing is still the pinnacle

Daniel Ricciardo: one-on-one with F1 star ahead of British GP​

Opinion, 10 Oct 2019 00:01:24 +0100
New 2021 Dacia Sandero spotted for the first time Low-cost supermini is preparing to move into a new generation, and the first spy shots have now emerged

Dacia's original value champion, the Sandero, is preparing to move into its next generation, and the first testing shots of the new model have now emerged.

The small hatchback has been on sale with relatively minor changes since 2012, yet it enjoyed its best year of sales across Europe in 2018. The Renault-owned brand has been in no hurry to renew it, but it’s expected that the new model will be unveiled late next year ahead of sales commencing in 2021.

Although it's wearing heavy disguise and in prototype form, we can see that the new car doesn’t revolutionise the Sandero formula. However, we can see that the shape has moved on a bit, with a clamshell bonnet, a curvier front end, a wider stance and detail upgrades, including modern door handles to replace the current top-hinged items. A pronounced rising beltline can also be seen in the side profile.

What will underpin the next Sandero has yet to be confirmed. The current model sits on an ageing Renault-Nissan Alliance platform that has been around since 2002 – as does the current Duster, which was launched last year. Renault plans to have 80% of its Group models on its new modular 'CMF' platform - premiered by the new Clio - by 2022.

Whether Dacia can adapt a cheaper-to-build version of this platform for the Sandero remains to be seen, but it’s unlikely that the old underpinnings can be extended once more. Either way, given the increasingly tight margins of sub-£10,000 cars, it’s probable that the new Sandero won’t be as affordable as its predecessor.

Expect it to retain a utilitarian approach, however, with entry-level variants featuring few creature comforts but higher-end models adopting some of the new tech seen on the Duster. The question mark over the platform makes any speculation on engines difficult, however.

Read more:

Dacia Duster is Europe's best-selling SUV

Dacia Sandero road trip: 1500 miles from Tangier to Twickenham

Dacia Sandero review 

News, 9 Oct 2019 17:26:26 +0100
Bentley Continental GT W12 2019 long-term review Bentley Continental GT 2019 long-term review - hero front It’ll devour countries for breakfast but how does it fare in regular, everyday life? We found out over four months

Why we ran it: To see if the third-generation Continental GT rules the roost as the ultimate grand tourer

Month 4Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Prices and Specs

Life with a Bentley Continental GT: Month 4

Four months have, like the 5000 miles driven, flown by. So what did we learn? - 18th September 2019

Let’s admit it: running a Continental long-term test car isn’t a bad gig, is it? When editor Tisshaw asked me earlier this year if I wanted to run a Conti, I replied saying yes within milliseconds.

There’s one elephant in the room: I don’t have the money or lifestyle associated with owning a car such as our £208,765 Continental GT W12. That means it has been parallel parked, nervously, on a typically narrow London residential street and while, for many, a Continental is a daily driver – perhaps the cheapest car in an owner’s garage – our long-termer has very much been treated as a jewel in the crown.

This is the downside of living with a Continental – the desire to avoid public car parks, airports, unknown parking situations, tight lanes – but you can’t help wonder if one had enough money to properly own this, would such concerns even exist? I can’t answer that, but in three months with the car, we’ve racked up 5000 miles and had ample time to grasp the finer points of ownership.

There’s been no journey I haven’t enjoyed in it, although naturally, given its grand tourer title, it’s most thrilling on long stretches where one can extort the 626bhp available from the W12, and the glorious, rare-these-days sound that comes with it.

An early drive from London to North Yorkshire not only proved that the W12 never runs out of torque but also showed the true meaning of wafting. The smoothness interlaced with exceptional ride comfort felt, at times, as if I was almost floating.

Ride comfort – crucial for a GT – never failed, and on a lengthy French road trip, not once was I uncomfortable or fidgety. The Bentley has become the benchmark for comfort in all cars I drive. After much playing with Bentley’s four driving modes – Sport was too hard for me and Comfort meant not-quite-right wheel control – I concluded that the ‘Bentley’ mode was perfect, and presumably why it was created.

It wasn’t until I’d racked up a few hundred miles in the car that I came to notice one of the Conti’s subtler technologies – the intelligent coasting system, which predicts a gear and engine control based on the road ahead or speed limits, for example. For me, this is a perfect example of clever, understated technology that helps improve drivability and efficiency.

The looks of this third-generation Conti are what sells the car – and I found the styling grew and grew on me – but it’s inside that makes this car really special and, keeping in mind we had £50,000 worth of extras, you’d hope that was the case.

The £4700 rotating display remains a highlight, simply for being cool, although I rarely took it off the screen. It’s a bit of a gimmick but one that impressed every single person I showed it to. Other keepers were the £8095 Mulliner Driving Specification, which 80% of Conti buyers opt for and includes seat quilting, ‘diamond-in-diamond’ embroidery and Bentley emblems, plus our good-looking 21in alloy wheels.

The City Specification (£3960) is arguably worth it just for the top-view camera if you’re parking anywhere other than wide, open drives and the top-level Naim sound system (chosen by 40% of buyers) was deeply satisfying. We also had the Touring Specification (£6195), which includes adaptive cruise control, lane assist, Bentley Safeguard Plus and Night Vision.

It’s easy to stick to traditionalist views when driving a W12 Bentley: a car is for pure driving enjoyment, and that’s it. But, honestly, in a grand tourer, semi-autonomous driving functions are the perfect complement on long motorway journeys, when the car can keep itself in lane and steer as necessary. Of course, it’s not yet legal to take your hands off the steering wheel, but experiencing the Continental’s capabilities is a reassuring vision of the future when autonomous driving could be welcome after a long day in the office.

What’s bad about the car? Not much. Ed-in-chief Cropley spent a fair bit of time in the Conti and thoroughly enjoyed it but commented that the “engine transmission can occasionally be jerky at low speeds and revs” and reckoned its 23-25mpg “is not so special” these days.

There was also unanimous criticism of the switchgear. Given how much of it there is, the design is neat, but with so many controls in the central console, it’s perplexing that there are also so many menus within menus on the touchscreen. After three months with the car, I still hadn’t found a way to select my favourite radio stations (as opposed to going through the entire radio list) via the steering wheel controls.

The only other criticism is the price. It’s hard to know what quality, feel and experience warrants a £208,765 car. For a humble motoring journalist, it’s steep despite its brilliance, but for those who can own a Continental GT, there’s every chance that this is the price they’re willing to pay for something very special indeed.

Second Opinion

There’s loads to like about the Continental GT: the sense of occasion, comfort levels and the solid way it feels put together are all luxuries. So, too, is its 500-mile range on a tank – important because having time is, after all, a luxury. The GT is a special way to both travel and arrive

Matt Prior

Back to the top

Love it:

Rotating display The Bond-esque coolness factor of the rotating display did not get old.

Clever headlights Matrix LEDs, masking blinding light from individual cars: driving on full beam will never be the same again.

Long-haul cruising The smooth, long legs of the W12 engine coupled with a blissful ride simply shrunk distances.

Loathe it:

Profusion of controls There must be a way to rationalise the switchgear and the infotainment system.

Unwanted attention The fear that you’ll arrive at the car to find a key line on the paintwork…

Final mileage: 5337

Back to the top

Life with a Bentley Continental GT: Month 3

We sample Bentley’s customer car-speccing experience - 28th August 2019

It’s perhaps no surprise to learn that if you have the dosh to buy a Bentley, you can expect a personalised experience when speccing your car. This has long been the case, but Bentley is bringing it to the digital age with its Bentley Network app.

We’re already in our Continental GT, so we did a hypothetical exercise to spec my next Bentley in the way that so many loyal Bentley owners do.

First up is the questionnaire. Having shown interest in a new car, I receive a link in my Bentley app inbox. It asks questions aimed at someone with a far more grandiose lifestyle than me, but I do my best: favourite watch (Cartier), fashion (Chanel), lifestyle brands, hotel (Sugar Beach St Lucia), cars (always hard but I picked a Merc Pagoda, Audi Quattro, BMW ‘E31’ 8 Series and Porsche 365), all of which paint a picture of what my preferences might be.

Five days later, via the app, I receive two moodboards in PDF form from senior interior designer Jonathan Punter, who introduces himself and explains the themes. There are two options: Dark Sapphire Exterior/Imperial Blue and Linen Interior (pictured) and Dove Grey Exterior/Damson Interior. They’re both up my street – understated but with interesting details. The first is my favourite.

Punter says it’s “a sophisticated interpretation of the contrasting elements of beach and ocean inspired by the rich deep blues and contrasting light sands of the tropics”. Contrasting elements, he says, such as the exterior brightware and interior contrast stitch details, are “often seen in classic products such as Cartier watches combining rich navy, chrome and high-contrast detailing within the watch face”.

The moodboards are meant as a starting point: Bentley head of interior design Brett Boydell says he’s never finalised the spec of a car exactly the same as the moodboard.

“You get two kinds of customers,” he explains. “‘I know exactly what I want’ versus ‘you tell me’. I encourage people to go for something you can only do in a Bentley. A totally black interior is a waste in a Bentley. The default interior colour is beluga or linen. But a duo-tone can really bring the interior to life.”

I stop the design process there, mindful I’ve already taken up plenty of time. But the next step would be firming up my car’s specification with an assigned designer. Ideally, says Boydell, this step would be face-to-face: “If the customer is at Jack Barclay (in London) it is feasible, but if they are on the other side of the planet, we look at other ways – for example, FaceTime or Zoom.”

The service is also offered by other means, such as text or email. At this end of the market, the customer gets what the customer wants.

Can Bentley’s designers really afford the time for this customer interaction? “It’s something we’ve committed to,” says Boydell. “It has to be a designer – that’s what makes it an authentic experience.”

Love it:

Impressive economy No one buys a W12 Bentley for good economy, but 26.9mpg is welcome nonetheless.

Loathe it:

Errant driver assist A driver ahead braked harshly and the Conti’s auto braking did the same. I found its collision warning was set to ‘late’. I changed it.

Mileage: 10,007

Back to the top

Can our luxurious grand tourer live up to its name on a road trip around France? - 14th August 2019

The continent in a Continental. It had to be done. The original plan was to re-enact the route of Le Train Bleu, a train which ran between Calais and the French Riviera and against which one of the Bentley Boys, Woolf Barnato, famously raced in the 1920s. Time and funds did not quite permit such an excursion, however, so instead I concocted my own road trip of Bentley-based highlights.

It started, as most do, at the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone.

In the same way that the Bentley Boys would doubtless be in awe at the engineering feat that is a modern-day Bentley, I wonder what would surprise them more: this car or a tunnel under the sea to France? Much concern was had over getting into the overheight carriage rather than a standard one, given the width of the Continental and its easily scuffed alloys. So I queued defiantly for the ‘overheight’ carriage despite not having booked such a ticket (ignorance rather than arrogance), and when every other non-overheight car got shooed towards the normal carriages, the stern-faced woman pointed me the right way and I let out a sigh of relief.

The first leg of our trip was the final section (albeit in reverse) of the route taken by Le Train Bleu. Today’s train from Calais to Paris would take around half the time of our W12-powered route. But I’d confidently say – despite the French rail network’s superiority over ours – that the Continental would be everyone’s favourite, given the choice.

My partner and I mile-munched our way along the motorway – not a test of dynamism but certainly a test of effortless grand touring. Not once were we restless or uncomfortable. The most exciting part of that leg came at a péage near Paris where we were greeted by the mayhem of the Gilets Jaunes. One common thread in the Continental is feeling conspicuous, and nowhere was this more true than here. We smiled as the protesters swarmed the car, in the hope that such a blatant display of wealth wouldn’t aggrieve them.

All was fine, and then through no fault of our own – an important note for any Gendarmerie reading this – one of the protesters blocked us from paying for the toll, took our ticket and we were away free, having saved a good €20.

Our first hotel stop was in the stunning town of Fontainebleau. A requirement for every hotel I booked was free car parking, but what I didn’t know was that this hotel had an underground car park with an acutely narrow entry and exit. We escaped unscathed but with plenty of hand directions from my co-driver and some enthusiastic horns from delightful French drivers behind us.

The next run was towards the heart of the Loire valley, on a mixture of country roads and motorways. Plenty of flat, open lanes with great visibility gave the perfect chance to gently test the impressive dynamism of which I’d been assured the GT is capable, despite its heft – 2250kg – and my anxiety at keeping a £210,000 car pristine.

I kept things relatively tame but can absolutely see the GT’s potential. And despite many tweaks to the driving modes (Sport, Comfort, Custom), I can confirm that ‘Bentley’ mode is the best. Cruising effortlessly through forest-filled country roads with the odd rond-point, I noticed the GT’s intelligent coasting system kick in a few times. Cleverly, the engine and gearbox ECUs are linked to the sat-nav, meaning the car selects a gear and engine control based on the road ahead, speed limits and so on.

For the next couple of days we ambled from chateau to chateau with only one grumble: amid a heat wave, I returned to the car and was greeted with the message ‘stop-start engine fault, function unavailable’, which then seemed to rectify itself almost immediately. Talking of the heatwave, the GT deserves a gold star for the rapid efficacy of its air-con, making the cabin a welcome retreat on many occasions during our trip.

Onwards to the motorsport haven of Le Mans. First stop was to see my nine-year-old godson, who spent a full 30 minutes looking at every line of the GT. A post-dinner treat was a brief demonstration of the GT’s straight-line acceleration, which, suffice to say, left him thrilled. The next day we headed to the Mulsanne straight, part of the famous Le Mans 24-hour track.

In case you don’t know the connection, 96 years ago, at this very place, WO Bentley refused to watch one of his customers take part because his cars weren’t designed to race. The car set a lap record and would have won had it not been for a hole in the fuel tank. With Bentley’s support, the marque won the next year, 1924, and again from 1927-30.

Ours was a brief visit, and one sadly done at a sedate speed, but the thought of 1920s Bentleys tearing down this strip was enough to thrill this modern-day Continental driver. After another chateau stay (yes, it’s a tough life), our final sojourn was Le Touquet and the Westminster hotel, an art deco residence favoured by the Bentley Boys, who escaped to the seaside town from London for weekends of revelry and gambling.

It was here that Jack Barclay (of the Mayfair Bentley retailer) accrued such a large gambling debt that his mother had to bail him out before banning him from racing and telling him to focus on his car sales business. I can’t say we did Le Touquet in the fashion of the Bentley Boys, but it was a charming place nonetheless and satisfyingly close to Calais.

The overheight carriage gamble didn’t go quite as smoothly on the way home, by the way, although my pidgin French got us the desired result after some friendly debate. Some 1800 miles later, I’d happily do the trip – and more – all over again. If you can ignore the conspicuity and tight manoeuvring, I can’t imagine a car more deserving of its grand tourer title.

Love it:

Ace air conditioning Possibly the most speedy, efficient air-con I’ve come across. Perfect for 40deg C-plus in France.

Loathe it:

Restricted view My favoured seating position means there’s an annoying blind spot around the right door mirror.

Mileage: 9683

Back to the top

Life with a Continental GT: Month 2

Our Conti heads to the workshop for a quick once-over - 7th August 2019

With a road trip in the works, it seemed the ideal time to experience Bentley’s aftersales service. We were lucky enough to have had the Continental GT thoroughly serviced before it arrived at Autocar, so the sensible choice was a simple health check, just to ensure everything was as it should be.

I turned up at Jack Barclay Aftersales in Wandsworth, London, on a Friday morning, and already I’d behaved contrary to the typical Bentley owner. On arriving, David Fellowes, group aftersales director of HR Owen, Jack Barclay’s umbrella firm, explained that 95% of cars serviced at the site are picked up and delivered back to the owner. As a Continental GT ‘owner’, I’m most likely to book in work myself, but if I owned a Mulsanne or Flying Spur, it would be my staff instead. I don’t have any staff, unless I can describe my boyfriend as such...?

You might have read our feature on the outfit recently but suffice to say, this place operates in parts of society that most of us can hardly imagine. There’s a Porsche 959 in the corner being stored for a loyal client, plus two Rolls-Royces which were shipped in containers from the Middle East for servicing here, such is the prestige of the place. It’s hard to know what secures this level of demand (aside from excellent customer service, which Fellowes assures me the firm delivers), but it does hold the Royal Warrant, which must go some way to impressing legions of dignitaries and the rest.

After my car is washed (hoorah!), it’s parked on one of the centre’s 23 ramps and the technician, Rory Pankhurst, works through a long checklist, with the car in three positions: on the floor, and then at two different elevated heights. The inspection includes a full systems check of around 40 control modules via a diagnostics machine, a fluid level check and a nose under the bonnet, plus a careful look inside and out to seek any imperfection. Higher up on the ramp, Pankhurst looks at suspension, brakes, tyres, wheels, cooling system, gearbox and more. He says it’s a careful process to ensure he doesn’t mess up the air suspension’s tolerances.

Pankhurst has worked here for six years, starting on a three-year apprenticeship. He went to Mercedes-Benz for a year which, he says, “allowed him to appreciate the pedigree of Bentley”, before returning. He’s a novice compared to most of the 14 technicians at Jack Barclay Bentley Aftersales, given that the average length of service here is 27 years (the longest-serving member of the team is a 46-year veteran).

The health check takes around 40 minutes. How much? It’s happily a free service, although any suggested work comes at a price, of course. Once the health check is completed, I receive an email update detailing any recommended work and through which I can press a button to give the go-ahead to anything I want done.

Our Conti was all fine, except for a query on its tyres. Now, I’m not saying that Squires Prior and Calo, who borrowed the car for a video, had anything to do with the slightly worn tread but… To replace all four came to the princely sum of £1786.96. I didn’t press the ‘accept’ button.

Jack Barclay has recently introduced a service plan, which is novel at this end of the market. The first two services of a Continental GT (or Bentayga) would cost £1595, which saves around £600, I’m told.

Love it:

Experience to savour The joy of running a Bentley hasn’t worn off. Climbing in to the luxurious cabin, firing up the W12, gliding down the road… delightful.

Loathe it:

Shine whine Catch the sun at the wrong time and the reflections in the Piano Black dash veneer can be unnervingly distracting.

Mileage: 9670

Back to the top

Matrix LEDs in the spotlight - 17th July 2019

I tried the headlights’ auto-dimming function for the first time recently and was impressed by the clever matrix LED technology. The lights remained on high beam but tracked oncoming cars and masked out that bit of blinding light until the car had passed. It worked flawlessly, even with more than one car coming at me. The tech ensured excellent visibility on the (very dark) road.

Mileage: 8407

Back to the top

Bentley Drivers Club event in Yorkshire stretches our car’s long, London-based legs - 3rd July 2019

"The Arnage is comfortable, quiet and has the prestige of being a Bentley,” says David Spencer, proud owner of a 2005 Arnage and organiser of the East Midlands branch of the Bentley Drivers Club.

I’ve driven to North Yorkshire on a Friday in our Continental GT long-term test car to meet a few club members at the start of their weekend of local driving tours, to discuss their experiences of owning a Bentley. It’s my first long drive since the Continental’s arrival on the Autocar fleet, and it’s a glorious one. The further I get away from London, the more the roads – and the car – open up and its credentials as a grand tourer are quickly proven. Each time I have the chance to accelerate rapidly, I’m thrilled by the linear progress and the ride comfort. It feels as wafty as I’ve yet experienced in a car, although perhaps that’s a reasonable expectation when your car costs £210,000...

Spencer’s take on his Bentley is a recurring theme among these owners. Although today Bentley endeavours to have far more focus on performance and dynamics in its line-up, and particularly in the Continental, comfort is still crucial.

As you might expect of Bentley owners, most people I speak to have an impressive fleet of cars. Spencer enjoys a Jaguar XJ Sovereign as his daily driver, has a Jaguar E-Type and names his favourite a Triumph Stag.

He has been a Bentley owner since 2006 but didn’t acquire the Arnage until 2017. Why did he buy it? “I like the brand. I’m a driver rather than someone who owns a Rolls, where you sit in the back. With a Bentley, you don’t look like a snob, whereas if you drive a Rolls… I like driving it all the time in Lincolnshire, where I live. It’s got 42,000 miles on it and I’m going to keep it for the long haul.”

The joy of an owners club is the breadth of Bentleys present. Alongside the Arnage is a Mk VI Mulliner from 1948. Paul Flower tells me he’s only the third owner after the car spent many years in a garage. “We took out the engine and rebuilt it. Everything is original. It took 18 months,” he says.

Flower owns four Bentleys in total, including an R-Type. But the Mk VI Mulliner is the one he uses the most. “I bought it to enjoy it. A car like this is a lot more reliable than other vintage cars. We did 1200 miles in Scotland. They just drive and drive as WO Bentley intended,” he says.

And then there’s Pat Connock, who has a 1949 Mk VI Special, which she has owned since 1980, having been brought up in a family that had a 1925 4.25-litre. When I ask how long she has been a member of the owners club, she swiftly responds: “Bentley Drivers Club. We drive. We don’t own.” I stand corrected.

“I’ve driven thousands and thousands of miles in it. I have a Volvo for Sainsbury’s but I feel at one with this car,” she says.

“My favourite trip was in the Outer Hebrides. You’re at one with the landscape with the hood down.” There’s little more satisfying than being around people who truly love driving their cars. And there’s plenty of interest in our Continental, too, with people enthused by mod cons such as the Bentley logo projector and rotating display.

Next morning, I head home at dawn from a sleepy Yorkshire village. It’s the perfect time, place and roads for dream motoring in the Continental. So much so that, when I arrive home, I look at house prices in the area. I can commute from Yorkshire, right?

Love it:

Effortless progress Waft. Waft. Waaaaaft. Get the idea?

Loathe it:

attention grabber It’s understated in grey but still feels conspicuous.

Mileage: 6601

Back to the top

Life with a Continental GT: Month 1

Direct competitor makes its presence felt - 12th June 2019

Our Bentley met its most direct rival: another hand-finished British grand tourer with 12 cylinders and more than 600bhp. The Continental GT and the Aston Martin DB11 AMR also cost not dissimilar money. The Bentley feels more luxurious, more refined, although it’s heavier and less agile. The verdict? Watch the video on our website to find out.

Mileage: 6338

Back to the top

Welcoming the Continental GT to the fleet - 5th June 2019

When Bentley revealed its third-generation Continental GT in late 2017, it promised “a paradigm shift in driving performance”. In layman’s terms: the Crewe-based maker wanted to get the attention of those buyers typically devoted to a certain Stuttgart marque not named Mercedes

The aim, beyond captivating Porsche buyers, was to appeal to both loyal and new customers and be “even more agile without compromising luxury”, helped by a new chassis, suspension, W12 engine and dual-clutch eight-speed gearbox. Given that the Continental remains Bentley’s second biggest seller – outranked only by the successful Bentayga SUV (just) – it’s not a formula to mess with. Bentley is set to sell 12,000 cars in 2019, an increase of 2000 over last year, and 5000 of those will be Continentals, of which 500 will be in the UK.

And for all of Bentley’s desire to attract younger, more sports car-orientated owners, let’s be honest: a large proportion of these cars will be bought by those already familiar with the Continental formula. There’s no official Continental customer profile but, anecdotally, UK buyers tend to be in their 50s and male.

Bentley’s intentions for the latest Conti have succeeded – to an extent – according to our road test. We gave it 4.5 stars and said it retained all the “lavishness, top-level luxury and first-order touring refinement” of its predecessor while halving the gap between that second-gen car and the best handling cars in the super-GT niche. The Aston Martin DB11 V12 nudged just ahead in our rankings.

As well as the introduction of the impressive DB11 since the previous-gen Conti, the (much pricier) Rolls-Royce Wraith and Ferrari 812 Superfast have arrived. The new McLaren GT will also enter the mix. We’ve racked up some miles on the Continent in a Continental, when Andrew Frankel completed a mammoth 24-hour drive through 15 countries. In his sign-off, he noted: “I sat in that Bentley for an entire day and emerged without the smallest ache, and there can be no better measure of a car called Continental.” All of which bodes well for our next adventure in Bentley’s grand tourer…

I’m running a W12 Continental for three months to see what it’s like to live with day to day. I can’t pretend I have the house or garage of a typical Continental buyer – given that those I’ve met have upwards of three cars – but I will be doing some serious mile-munching and seeing if what appears an incredibly luxurious interior translates to usability, ease and comfort day in and day out. This is a chance for the Continental to prove its standing as the ultimate grand tourer in the comfort stakes, with an extra dose of dynamic driveability thrown in.

Now, the mind-blowing numbers. The 6.0-litre W12 engine produces 626bhp at 6000rpm and delivers 664lb ft of torque between 1350rpm and 4500rpm. Our acceleration tests achieved a 0-60mph time of 3.5sec and 0-100mph in 8.1sec. If you care, claimed combined economy is 20.3mpg. On the upside, it has a generous 90-litre tank so you’ll get upwards of 400 miles on a fill unless you’re a total hooligan (which, I’d like to think, Bentley drivers aren’t).

The Continental is priced from £159,100, but our car comes to a costly sum of £208,765 taking into account £49,665 of options. We have a handful of so-called ‘specifications’. Touring (£6195) gives you features such as lane assist, adaptive cruise control and heads-up display; City (£3960) includes a top-view camera, reverse traffic warning and handsfree boot opening; and Mood Lighting (£1490) does what it says on the tin.

Our most pricey extra is the Mulliner Driving Specification, at £8095. That doesn’t put off buyers: 80% of Continental GTs have this option and you can see why. It gives the interior an extra dose of the luxury you want in a Bentley. It includes quilted seats, embroidered Bentley emblems, sports pedals and diamond embroidery. Mulliner spec has 22in wheels as standard but you can go for 21s, as we have, for better ride comfort.

By far my favourite interior gimmick is Bentley’s rotating display in the central dashboard, in which you can alternate between a 12.3in screen or three traditional circular dials. When the engine is turned off, a third face sits flush to the rest of the dash design. It’s a £4700 option and two-thirds of buyers go for it. The other particularly expensive option on our car is the ‘Naim for Bentley’ audio system, at £6500. Apparently, 40% of buyers opt for this set-up. All in all, we have 19 options. The bargain? A £250 air ioniser.

The first thing that strikes you about the Continental is its sheer presence inside and out. While it still looks like a Continental, its more mature, sleek lines are a sizeable upgrade to my eyes. Inside, it’s opulence epitomised. But will those formidable first impressions last? Let’s find out.

Second Opinion

I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t loved being in a Bentley. But I also meet very few people who aspire to it. Part of the problem, I believe, is that few fully know what Bentley stands for. It’s arguably not as posh as a Rolls, nor as sporty as an Aston and thereby not as defined as either.

Jim Holder

Back to the top

Bentley Continental GT W12 prices and specification

Prices: List price new £159,100 List price now £159,900 Price as tested £208,765 Dealer value now £148,750 Private value now £136,720 Trade value now £118,750 (part exchange)

Options: Extended paint range £4500, Mulliner Driving Specification £8095, Touring Specification £6195, Front Seat Comfort Specification £3945, heated windscreen £480, heated steering wheel £750, deep pile overcast £350, Naim for Bentley audio system £6500, rotating display £4700, digital TV and radio tuner £965, inductive phone charger £280, parking heater with remote activation £1840, welcome home lighting £450, contrast stitching £1720, Côtes de Genève finish to centre console £1395, air ioniser £250, liquid amber over black veneer £1800, City Specification £3960, Mood Lighting Specification £1490

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 20.8mpg Fuel tank 90 litres Test average 25.1mpg Test best 27.6mpg Test worst 16.7mpg Real-world range 497 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 3.7sec Top speed 207mph Engine 12 cyls, 5950cc, turbocharged petrol Max power 626bhp at 6000rpm Max torque 664lb ft at 1350-4500rpm Transmission 8-spd dual-clutch automatic Boot capacity 358 litres Wheels 21in, alloy Tyres 265/40 ZR21 (f), 305/35 ZR21 (r) Kerb weight 2244kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £3600 CO2 308g/km Service costs None Other costs None Fuel costs £1251.69 Running costs inc fuel £1251.69 Cost per mile 24 pence Depreciation £60,015 Cost per mile inc dep’n £12.04 Faults None

Back to the top

Long-Term Review, 9 Oct 2019 16:33:39 +0100
From the archive: Should doctors swap horse for car? In the 1890s, medical men were pondering whether motoring would be more suitable for their work than horse and cart

As cars emerged in the 1890s, among the keenest adopters – aside from the rich and the landed – were doctors. 

Before the advent of the NHS, it was common that you would call your doctor and they would come to visit you at home, by means of horse and cart.

This method of transport felt completely natural, of course, having an unbroken chain of use back to anicent times. As such, many were tentative, if not outright dismissive, when a patently superior but unfamiliar and perhaps even frightening alternative emerged.

In fact, so obvious was the appropriateness of the car for men of medicine that many manufacturers produced bespoke doctor's cars. Two that frequently advertised these in Autocar at the turn of the century were Decauville and the International Motor Company.

International was a London-based seller of various French and British models, and its 'doctor's car' – of untold origin but, the advert said, "the best and the most suited to their [doctors'] requirements". 

One doctor wrote of this car: "I have run it about 5000 miles in all weathers and over all kinds of roads. I have used it daily in my work and have never had a stop or breakdown but once. I have done as much as ninety miles in a day and have just returned from a trip of 170 miles to the south coast and back, which we managed without a hitch of any sort.

"It has answered every expectation and has done the work of more than two horses, easily and reliably, and I am more than satisfied with the car."

As for the Decauville, one Dr Ivor Davies said: "I have no hesitation in recommending the car (three speeds) to any gentleman. I think it especially useful to medical men who have many daily visits to pay, as the motor can be stopped quickly and entirely, and restarted with such ease. I find my motor has easily done the work of a brougham and two or three horses. I find in my practice that the car is economical, speedy and as ready to hand as a bicycle."

Debate over the merits of a car went back and forth in the readers' pages, with a good example in favour coming from a Dr C Harris Langford MB of Crouch End, London, and published on 7 October 1899:

"It is idle to pretend that everything is perfectly straightforward when one starts moting (to use a word which bids fair to become general) [Not sure about that, doc]. There is much to learn both in the construction of the machine and its use; but when understood we have a vehicle which is under perfect control, will travel any rate we wish to go, easily stopped, and easily started.

"But the learning is not so very difficult at all. Certainly I found the earlier rides cause a rather severe mental strain, but I doubt whether this would have been less if I had been driving a horse.

"As a first step I consider it essential to thoroughly understand the machine. If this is done it is possible to find out the cause if anything goes wrong, and put it right at once. Things will go wrong at first, as with all new undertakings, but most of the troubles are slight if put right at once. I will not say that my car has never gone wrong, but it has always been conquered in the end, and on every occasion I have ridden it home victoriously, and never had to push it.

"I state at once that my car is Decauville 3.5hp; carries two comfortably; and three if necessary."

Dr Harris Langford then sought to advise his fellow practitioners with some useful consumer advice: "A doctor who contemplates starting a motor car naturally compares it with a horse and carriage or trap, and does so in the following ways. 1. Will it do my work as well or better? 2. Is the initial expense greater? 3. Is the cost of maintenance greater? 4. Are there other advantages or drawbacks?

"To take each point seperately:

"1. Will it work? A motor car will go faster and farther than any horse. Will take any hill in reason. It is always ready for use. Is equally practicable in town and country. You can drive it yourself, and it may be left unguarded if necessary.

"2. Initial expense. It is possible to buy a car or motor tricycle of almost any price, and the same applies to a horse-drawn vehicle. Some medical men are only content with a closed carriage, others use an open one in all weathers. Without doubt the latter, in the long run, enjoy more robust health and have more alert minds. The former class cannot at present be easily provded for by automobilism, unless they can be persuaded to change their habits and adopt the fresh air treatment, which, if up to date, they prescribe for their patients."The difficulty is to compare my car with any carriage. In the work it will do it will compare favourably with one drawn by two good horses; but a man may not have more work than one horse can do."

Our man's estimates showed that the horse, carriage and harness would cost between £135 and £165, whereas his car had cost £165.

"3. Maintenance. This is more easily settled, the only point being whether you drive it yourself or have a man to do it." 

For the horse-drawn option, he found forage would cost 12s (shillings) a week, a coachman 21-25s and stable rent at least 15s, giving a minimum total of £2 8s. In contrast, the car required only petrol, costing 5s per week. If a man were desired, meanwhile, his wages would be no more expensive than if he had been employed to hold a whip, and if the doctor were to rent a garage for the car, rather than building a shed at home, that would be about 3s 6d (pence), pushing the total up but still to just 38s 6d.

"I have heard much made about the cost of repairs," continued Dr Harris Langford, "but surely they cannot be greater than the cost of shoeing, vets' bills and stable sundries. The latter could cost £4 to £5 a year alone. Then a horse may die, whereas the car is hardly likely to be damaged to the extent of £40. Pneumatic tyres may wear out, but they last at least as long, and probably longer, than rubber tyres, and nearly all medical men have rubber tyres nowadays.

"4. Advantages. The great advantage to my mind is that when you have finished your work you are not afraid to use the car for pleasure, whereas with a horse you would feel obliged to give him rest. If, for instance, there were a slack day, a delightful picnic could be enjoyed in the country. Again, during the short medical holiday, what a splendid tour one could have, learning, at the same [time], something of one's native land.

"Driving the car is not done without muscular exertion and afford a pleasant amount of exercise, in addition to which we get a good change from ordinary occupations.

"4. Drawbacks. Smell. A writer in the British Medical Journal stated that the smell of the car was not likely to get the doctor into good odour with the country gentry. But my car only smells very slightly, unless lubricating oil has travelled on to the cylinders or silencer, which can be easily obviated. Noise. Some cars make very little noise. Mine is at times noisy, but only when the cogs require lubricating. At the worst I get no noise from the exhaust, which is the most annoying to horses, and is due to a bad or loose silencer.

"In conclusion, I may advise that if you are deficient in patience or nerve, if you hate publicity and jeers of little boys, if you cannot stand a breath of fresh air, do not start a motor. But if you wish for healthy change and exercise, like using your fingers and brain, care for mild excitement and wish to do your work well and quickly, then mote."

He might just have been right, you know…

News, 9 Oct 2019 13:05:25 +0100
Mercedes-Maybach GLS drops camo ahead of reveal Mercedes-Maybach SUV set for 2019 launch Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan rival will be revealed in November; LA motor show public debut expected

Mercedes-Benz will expand its flagship Maybach division with an ultra-luxury version of the new GLS SUV, and it has now been seen with virtually no disguise.  

Conceived as an upmarket rival to the Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic, as well as pricier rivals such as the Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan, the new model will be revealed in November. Although unconfirmed, the signs are pointing to a public debut at the Los Angeles motor show

Sources at the Frankfurt motor show told Autocar that the the Mercedes-Maybach GLS will launch at a price of around £150,000. It has been developed to offer performance, accommodation and features commensurate with the existing Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, according to senior officials. They cite China, North America and Russia among the new model’s key target markets.

As the new spy shots show, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS will receive its own unique styling elements, many of which will be drawn directly from the Mercedes-Maybach 6 coupé concept revealed at Pebble Beach in 2016 as a preview to the future of the Maybach sub-brand.

Despite retaining the same aluminium, high-strength steel and composite body panels as future standard GLS models, the new upmarket SUV is expected to sport a different grille and unique headlight and tail-light graphics, as well as added chrome and individual wheel designs in a move aimed at providing it with a more premium appearance in line with the current Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.

Secrecy surrounds the layout of the new GLS, although there are suggestions it could also have an extended wheelbase in an attempt to provide it with the sort of rear leg room offered by the luxury SUV competition. The current 5130mm-long GLS has a 3080mm wheelbase – some 40mm shorter than that used by the 5199mm-long Range Rover SVAutobiography LWB but 80mm longer than that of the 5140mm-long Bentayga.

Inside, the second of the new generation of Maybach models is planned to gain a luxuriously equipped interior with appointments and materials beyond those of Mercedes' existing Designo line. Among the more unique touches will be Maybach-themed digital instrument infotainment system graphics, says an insider closely involved in the new model’s development.

Although the standard GLS is planned to offer seating for up to seven on three rows of seats, the new Maybach model is set to offer two rows of seats with dedicated seating for four, or, as an option, five.  

Among the engines likely to be offered by the future range-topping GLS model is Mercedes' twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol mated to a standard nine-speed automatic gearbox, with both 4Matic four-wheel drive and Air Body Control air suspension due to be standard. Insiders also hint at plans for a twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 flagship, although this has yet to be officially acknowledged. Also under development for the new GLS are petrol-electric and diesel-electric hybrid drivetrains.

Mercedes' plan to extend the Maybach line-up to include a GLS-based model comes after strong sales of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, which relaunched Maybach as a premium sub-brand in 2014.

News, 9 Oct 2019 13:00:03 +0100
Top 10 best lightweights 2019 Top 10 lightweights and track day toys 2019 There's little on four wheels as fun as a track-day special – but which lightweight comes out best in our top 10?

It is within this class of the ultra-niche sports car market that you can find power-to-weight ratios to match a modern hypercar – but made available at a fraction of the price.

Considering the world-class handling delicacy, precision, tactile involvement and explosive performance they provide, these cars might better have been surmised in a class simply titled ‘dream machines’ – and yet dreaming isn’t always necessary as the buy-in can be more affordable than you’d expect. 

These are the lightweights; sub-one-tonne, back-to-basics drivers’ cars of an old-school analogue appeal you’ll find almost nowhere else – and done nowhere better than right here in the UK.


1. Ariel Atom 4

Though you might not recognise it at first, Somerset-based Ariel thoroughly revised the now-nearly-twenty-year-old Atom for 2018 – although it waited until 2019 to lend us a car for the full Autocar road test. As far as waits for Atoms go, however, that’s nothing to complain about, with the order book for this car now extending to almost three years.

This tubular-framed rocketship has benefited from ground-up changes to the suspension hardware and geometry, chassis dimensions, wheels, engine and interior. The car’s powertrain comes from Honda, just as it did before – although it’s no longer supercharged but turbocharged, being the same 316bhp four-cylinder engine found in the Civic Type R. In fact, only the brake and clutch pedals, and the fuel cap, are carried over from the old Atom 3.5.

The results are extraordinary. Ariel claims 0-60mph in 2.8sec – and full of fuel and with two passengers onboard, our two-way 3.2sec clocking gives plenty of credibility to the idea that, on an absolutely perfect run, you might just reproduce that. Whether you do or no, frankly, you’re in true blue supercar territory for outright speed here; the new Atom is only 0.1sec slower from 30- to 70mph in 4th gear than an Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, and its 6.9sec 0-100mph clocking is almost a full second quicker than that of the mighty Nissan GT-R.

But it’s the attention to detail that hooks you into the Atom driving experience. The positioning, weight and response characteristics of the control are just so, and the Atom somehow filters out the distracting elements of the road beneath you and only sends you pure, immediate messages. It’s wonderful and unsurpassed for involvement and reward. Just don’t forget your helmet.

2. Caterham Seven 310R

There would very likely be no market for lightweight sports car at all if not for the car whose bloodline flows into the indefatigable Caterham Seven. The original Lotus Seven might even have been Colin Chapman’s greatest gift to the motoring world, and when Caterham Cars bought the rights to Chapman’s little lightweight special from him in 1973, it founded a business that has been indulging and nurturing true diehard driving enthusiasts ever since.

The 310R hits a sweet spot in Caterham’s current range of Sevens – one brought about by fitting high-performance camshafts and revised electronic mapping to the 1.6-litre Ford engine in the 270. The resulting 152bhp is all you really need in a car that weighs 540kg, and fabulously communicative steering allows the driver to work this tiny but wonderfully direct and immersive chassis.

There are more expensive, quicker versions of the Seven and, equally, you could buy one of the current (and superb) crop of hot hatches for the money Caterham asks for the 310R. But when it comes to balancing thrills, involvement and affordability, there is arguably nothing that can match it.

3. Ariel Nomad

How does a car with barely a trace of luxury or refinement in its DNA gain a five-star road-test rating? The answer, of course, is by purveying greater enjoyment than arguably anything else on four wheels, and by bringing something so fresh and different to its particular market that you simply can’t ignore it – which is precisely what the Nomad, Ariel’s dune-buggy-like second model line, achieved when it was introduced in 2014.

On road, track or – best of all – loose ground, the Nomad is sensational not only in its technical prowess but the manner in which it doles out its stonking performance. There’s also incredible ride quality here to match amazing long-travel body control, and what little there is of the Nomad is beautifully constructed. 

For the money – and perhaps much, much more – there’s nothing to touch it if your priority is pure driving pleasure delivered slightly differently.


Ariel Nomad top 10 lightweights

4. BAC Mono

Really, who needs a passenger? Especially when you can have a car like the stunning BAC Mono, which feels like it’s been driven straight off a formula racing grid and offers a driving position that brings new meaning to the word ‘pure’, in a package that’s somehow entirely road-legal.

The BAC boasts a similar architecture to the Elemental further down this list, with double-wishbone suspension, a mid-mounted 2.5-litre Ford engine and a six-speed sequential gearbox driving the rear wheels, but the car’s single-seater origins up the wattage of the driving experience.

The economy of movement required to cover ground at astonishing pace truly is spellbinding, although the Mono is better still on the track, when its ultra-precise suspension can operate without hindrance from road imperfections. It’s as intense an experience as they come – although it comes at a considerable price – and it’s quite stunningly wrought with plenty of carbonfibre.


5. Morgan 3 Wheeler

"It is impossible not to smile when you get behind the wheel." So said our road test verdict of the 3 Wheeler, which doesn’t care much for outright performance but instead entices with beautifully linear steering, a terrifically characterful V-twin engine that makes a leisurely 82bhp and a healthy 103lb ft, and handling that’s just lovely. And who couldn’t fall for the car’s unique, quirky and oh-so-British aesthetic?

Caveats? Well, dirt and spray can get into the boot, the tonneau isn’t standard and you won’t thank the enormous turning circle if ever you’re in a tight spot. Is the 3 Wheeler worth the hassle? Don’t even question it; you’ll love every moment at the wheel – and, fairly uniquely in this case, the slower ones every bit as much as the quicker.

Morgan 3 Wheeler top 10 lightweights

6. Dallara Stradale

If it is authenticity you crave, then names don’t come more ‘motorsport’ than that of Italian outfit Dallara. The firm’s chassis expertise can be found in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E as well as a host of other high-profile series, and it’s that expertise that has been distilled into road-going form with the pretty Stradale.

What we’re dealing with is a screenless barchetta with a 395bhp Ford (yes, again) 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine driving the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. Dry weight? 855kg. Maximum downforce? 810kg, with the huge rear wing in place. 

To drive, this is a ferociously serious machine and one with superlative unassisted steering and a chassis that’s arrow-true – and one that can put you in a downforce-defined mode of full-immersion fever on track that few other cars can equal. The brakes could be better and the engine more stirring for the money, but the Stradale is brilliant nonetheless.


7. Elemental RP1

Start with a carbonfibre tub. From it hang double-wishbone suspension with in-board spring-and-damper units at the front axle. Mount a Ford Ecoboost engine behind the passenger cell and have it drive the rear wheels through a six-speed Hewland gearbox. What you now have is the British-built Elemental RP1: a 580kg road-racer with 320bhp and 200kg of downforce at only 100mph.

Performance and feedback are here in abundance, but the RP1 also manages to just about justify its considerable price tag with the quality of its fit and finish and the palpable care and expertise of the chassis set-up.

Elemental RP1 top 10 lightweights

8. Lotus 3-Eleven

Let’s talk about the 3-Eleven ‘430’. It’s the ultimate road-going version of this track-day special from Lotus, with 430bhp from a 7000rpm 3.5-litre supercharged Toyota V6 and a rear wing mounted 50mm higher than on the ‘standard’ car. 

In the name of purity, there are no doors (well, not that open, at any rate), Michelin’s sticky, semi-slick Cup 2 tyres at each corner, no stability control and a manual gearbox. It’s a case of supreme pace and purpose meet trademark Hethel precision, with a surprising dose of playfulness thrown in.

In a sentence? "There will be times when you curse it, but there will also be times when you won’t want to be driving any other road car than a Lotus 3-Eleven 430."

9. Westfield Sport 250

Black Country outfit Westfield might have successfully diversified into autonomous mobility pods, but the core offering since 1982 has been lightweight sports cars you can build yourself. And the hook? Supercar bang-for-your-buck that even Caterham can’t touch.

That’s the case with the new Sport 250, which uses a 2.0-litre Ford Ecoboost engine tuned to 247bhp – in a car weighing just 670kg. In fact, this is a proper humdinger of an engine that goes a long way to making up for a slight imprecision in the chassis (though the set-up is eminently tuneable) and a slight shortage of all-round dynamic finesse. Get it set up right, however – or rather, tune the handling to your liking – and the car could be damn near as good to drive as anything else here.

It’s not for the faint of heart, the Sport 250, but it gets your heart pounding for the right reasons – most of the time.


Westfield Sport 250 top 10 lightweights

10. Zenos E10

Another Ford Ecoboost engine? That’s right, but with so much power in a light, compact and affordable package, that’s no surprise.

Founded by exiles from both Lotus and Caterham, Zenos Sports Cars was set up in 2012 and launched the E10 in 2015, to a warm reception from the press. Business began encouragingly, although the company changed hands in 2017 after entering administration following a string of cancelled export orders, and is now owned by a consortium associated with AC Cars.

The Zenos E10 can be had for just £27,000, which is peanuts for a car of such singular focus and execution – and the more potent and focussed E10S and E10R offer more of both. Materials quality isn't quite a match for some of the cars on this list, but there’s a real maturity to the dynamics of the Zenos and, as for the real-world pace, it wants for very little indeed. The car is lacking a little in dynamic charm compared to some of its rivals, but massively rewarding to get stuck into on the right road.


Zenos E10 top 10 lightweights

News, 9 Oct 2019 11:46:19 +0100
Ricardo unveils military-spec Ford Ranger pick-up Ricardo Ford Ranger military vehicle - front British engineering firm gives rugged pick-up underbody protection and a heavy-duty roll cage

British engineering firm Ricardo has unveiled a military-spec version of the Ford Ranger pick-up, developed in collaboration with specialist vehicle manufacturer Polaris.  

Ricardo, which specialises in developing engines and transmissions but has also developed the Land Rover Wolf and Foxhound armoured personnel carriers, has equipped the Ranger with a range of features aimed at improving safety, fuel economy and durability. 

The most obvious visual difference over the standard model is the addition of an optional external roll cage, which, as with the firm’s military Land Rover, incorporates a circular cut-out at the rear for the mounting of firearms. 

Underneath, the Ranger gains an armoured ballistic underfloor, rock sliders and improved waterproofing, while armoured glass and strengthened front and rear bumpers further improve safety in the event of an impact or explosion. 

Modifications inside include the addition of four-point harnesses for all the seats, while upgrades have been made to the truck’s 24V electrical system to better cope with the demands of military use.

The model is powered by Ford's twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel engine, paired with a 10-speed automatic gearbox that's said to enhance fuel economy. Optional suspension, brake system and tyre upgrades are offered as a means of raising ride height and towing capacity. 

Ricardo’s special vehicles director, Paul Tarry, said: “The adaptation of existing and well-proven automotive platforms for defence roles provides an opportunity to deliver a robust, fit-for-purpose and highly cost-effective package that is easy to maintain, benefiting as it does from an established international supply chain of parts and service.

“However, it is also crucial in such adaptations to engineer a solution that meets the exacting requirements of the intended applications; even the most robust of commercially available vehicles is unlikely to meet this threshold without careful, role-specific adaptation of the type that Ricardo is ideally placed to provide.”

Although the firm claims its new Ranger-based model demonstrates that it is well suited for military applications, it has not yet been confirmed that it will enter service. 

Read more

McLaren renews engine supplier contract with Ricardo​

Bollinger reveals electric off-roader and pick-up truck​

Supacat HMT400 'Jackal' drive​n

News, 9 Oct 2019 11:20:08 +0100