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Toyota GR Yaris
New high-performance Yaris variant will draw on Toyota's World Rally Championship experience

Toyota will unveil its GR Yaris hot hatchback next month, with the firm promising the new machine will incorporate technology developed from the firm's World Rally Championship experience.

The new model will be shown for the first time at the Tokyo Auto Salon on January 10-12, and will be the second model in the firm's Gazoo Racing-branded GR sports car line, after the GR Supra. The GR Yaris was due to be unveiled at Rally Australia earlier this month, but the unveil was shelved with the event's cancellation due to devastating wildfires. 

Toyota has yet to release any technical information about the GR Yaris, but says it "incorporates all the technologies, knowledge, and experience learned" from the team's title-winning WRC campaign with the Yaris WRC. 

The model is currently undergoing testing sporting a camouflage livery that features the code 'GR-4', which likely indicates that the car will follow the WRC version in featuring four-wheel-drive.


A video released by Toyota has shown the GR Yaris underoing testing being driven by the firm's CEO Akio Toyoda, who is also the brand's Master Driver operating under the pseudonym 'Morizo'. The prototype car will also feature at the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival in Japan on December 15.

The machine will effectively succeed the previous generation’s limited-run Yaris GRMN as the range-topping version of the small hatch. While likely to be offered in greater numbers than the GRMN, it is possible that the new car will serve as a ‘homologation special’, forming the basis for the next-generation Yaris WRC.

Feature: tracing the 2019 Rally GB route in a Yaris GRMN

The new preview shows that its styling is familiar from the existing Yaris, but with the addition of far wider rear wheel arches and an aggressive bodykit to fit the car’s likely high performance brief. In a further nod to the car’s intent, it sports the camouflage livery used by most recent hot Toyota models of recent years, including the recently revived Supra.

At the launch of the revamped Yaris recently, Toyota’s executive vice-president, Matt Harrison, told Autocar that a performance version of the model would likely be launched to strengthen the link between Toyota’s road cars and its Gazoo Racing motorsport arm.

Toyota has applied various levels of branding under the Gazoo Racing theme in order to develop a model structure for its high-performance models. These include the hardcore limited-run GRMN versions that are positioned above models that carry the GR badge, which represents an ‘authentic sports model’. The firm also offers a GR Sport trim level that offers a more aggressive look while retaining an unchanged mechanical package.

Toyota secured the 2018 World Rally Championship manufacturers’ title with the Yaris WRC, with Ott Tanak claiming this year’s driver’s title.


New Toyota Yaris revealed for 2020 with ground-up redesign

Hot Toyota Yaris on the cards to strengthen motorsport links

Opinion: what the heck is a Gazoo anyway?

Feature: tracing the 2019 Rally GB route in a Yaris GRMN

News, 11 Dec 2019 08:20:30 +0000
Autocar meets... Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen already has five F1 seasons behind him
Max Verstappen was only 17 when he debuted in Formula 1. Now he’s ready to win a world championship. We sit down with the Dutchman

It’s a hectic time for Max Verstappen, the brightest emerging superstar in Formula 1. He has just completed his first century of grands prix – almost unbelievably, given that he only recently turned 22 – and when we meet is preparing to fly out to Brazil, where he will deliver an unexpected and impressive pole-to-victory performance. All this while assisting the experts working away at the ultra-modern, super-slick Red Bull Racing factory in Milton Keynes on plans for the 2020 season, when the de facto Honda works squad will look to take its first championship since the end of the V8 era back in 2013.

Speaking to Autocar to announce a sponsorship deal with CarNext, a Europe-wide digital marketplace for used cars (there’s no better marketing tool for any Dutch company right now than the country’s first-ever F1 race winner), could understandably be seen by Verstappen as a distraction. But he strolls in right on time and immediately starts laughing and joking. As seriously as he takes motorsport (he quickly confesses that he’s never bought a car online, instead mostly placing orders for additions to his simulator set-up at home), Verstappen is very amicable away from the track and more than happy to answer questions with a wry smile or a wisecrack – and is open and honest (maybe) in sharing his opinions his ambitions.

Have you achieved what you wanted to this year?

“I want to win championships, of course, so in that respect, probably no. But you also have to look at the circumstances, and I think it has been a good, exciting season. Especially at the beginning, when we had a really good run, with consistent results – top fives for a long time, some nice victories, some nice podiums. So I’m definitely happy. Every year so far, I can say to myself that I improved and became better. I always want to set the bar high, so I always want to improve; even a victory can be done in a better way. A lot of people would celebrate a victory, like it cannot be better than this, but I always try to find things that I can do better. My dad has been a big part of that; he would say: ‘Yeah, we won, but we could have won better, there were a few mistakes.’ He’s always been quite hard on me, and now because of that, I do it myself. Back in the day, I would disagree with it, but I now I think that it’s a big help.”

Where do you draw the line between respect for other drivers and achieving results?

“Sometimes you have to be aggressive, sometimes not. You have to adapt to the situation, so over time you make mistakes; everybody makes mistakes, otherwise it’s better to put a robot in the car. It’s good to make mistakes as well, because you learn from it. And in racing especially, when you’re on the limit, on the edge, it’s easy to make a mistake.”

Are you honest when you speak to the media?

“I’m probably too honest and too straightforward. I’m not a robot outside the car, and I’m happy about that; it’s just the way I was brought up. Sometimes it can work against you, but I see the positives of it.”

How deep is your rivalry with Charles Leclerc?

“It’s no different to anyone else. I’ve known him longer than other people, and I’ve raced him for a longer time. He’s a great driver, a big talent, and for him it’s a big opportunity to be in Ferrari, and I expect to fight him still for a very long time, because we are still very young. It’s good for the sport as well to have the young guys coming up and hopefully taking over, because it’s getting a bit boring seeing Lewis win; we have to try and change that with all the young guys!”

Do you get the sense of being at the end of an era? That you and Charles Leclerc are at the right point in history, and that Lewis Hamilton’s reign could end quite soon?

“I mean, Lewis is getting older; he’s [approaching] 35 now, so [his reign] will stop at one point. But it’s just going to depend on the team, to be honest. It’s not going to depend on Lewis. Because if Mercedes keeps building really dominant cars, then for sure he’s going to win. So we have to just make sure as a team that we can beat them. In Formula 1, you’re very dependent on your car.”

There are rumours that you could replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes, and that Sebastian Vettel could rejoin Red Bull in the future. Would you like to drive with Sebastian, or are you tempted by Mercedes?

“I’m really happy where I am at the moment, and I really want to win with Red Bull. They brought me into Formula 1, so there was this kind of loyalty to them. I think we’re over that phase, but still I’m really happy where I am. I really enjoy working with them; it’s a great group of people. I feel at home, which is also really important for a driver, that you feel appreciated. Everybody is really motivated so, for me, I don’t want to change.”

What are your opinions on the new rules that have been announced for 2021?

“Probably the cars will be quite a lot slower – four or five seconds [per lap]. For me, it’s probably a bit too slow, because at the moment I think the cars are great to drive. But if it will help overtaking and excitement in general, for us it’s a lot better, because some races are just not great; you’re just following. Also, the looks [of the cars] I don’t really care about, as long as we have good racing.”

And it’s an opportunity for Red Bull to leapfrog Mercedes and Ferrari?

“First we’ll try to do that with these regulations for the final year [in 2020], and of course then you set your sights to the new rules. Hopefully things will change.”

What’s your opinion on the future possibility of having 25 races per season?

“Too busy. I love racing, but it’s just too much. I think it’s much better to focus on the best races out there, to have 20 really good races rather than 25, with perhaps 18 really good ones and seven that are not so popular.”

How about your home grand prix at Zandvoort, which returns to the calendar next year for the first time since 1985? Do you think it will be too cramped for F1?

“I think there will be a lot of orange! It will be a very busy weekend, but in a way it’s great. Some Dutch people have never really had a chance to go to Formula 1, so when it’s that close by, it’s a great opportunity. And Formula 1 has been away for a really long time in the Netherlands, so hopefully it’ll also help others to come along, so that in maybe 10 or 15 years’ time there’s another Dutch driver, when I’m getting old, so that I can retire and somebody else can take over.”

What do you think about the absence of Hockenheim from the calendar next year now that the German GP has been dropped?

“I do miss it. I think it would have been really nice to have a race in Germany; there’s so much history there as well, and so many car brands. I have good memories from racing there as a junior as well. It’s a really big loss for Formula 1.”

Last year, you said that Lewis is nothing special…

“No, I didn’t say it like that. He is special. For sure.”

…Okay, but how do you see in general Lewis, Charles and Sebastian Vettel?

“All three are great drivers, but in a different way. Everybody has their own style, and I didn’t say that Lewis is nothing special. He’s definitely one of the best drivers ever in Formula 1. But, like I said before, you are very dependent on your car, so for example if Fernando [Alonso] was in that car, he also would have won championships. Sometimes, you’re lucky in a way, because you join a team and then suddenly they become so dominant, and you win your championships. But sometimes, like unfortunately with Fernando, you go to teams at the wrong time and you don’t win, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t a good driver. With Fernando, I feel he is one of the best also.”

Have you made peace with Lewis [they collided at Turn 1 in Mexico]?

“Well, I never really had problems. We talked on the grid [at the following US Grand Prix]. I respect Lewis, of course, but we’re hard racers, and sometimes it can be a bit tough. But yeah, we talked and it’s all good.”

Do you have a lot of confidence for 2020?

“We are very confident, but of course we have to work hard, and we know that we have to improve. That’s why you see me here in the factory; I have my simulator day, but I was also going over a lot of things to bring new ideas to the team.”

And what do you expect next year from Red Bull’s engine partner, Honda?

“More power! The reliability has been really good this year, we’ve never retired because of a problem from their side. So for them, I think this season has been a breakthrough. Of course we had some victories already; they were really happy with that, I think it was a big boost for the whole company, and they’re very motivated. I think we’re on the right path, and when you see the engine power compared to Mercedes and Renault, we’re very close to Mercedes now, so that’s of course very promising for next year.”

Your career has progressed so quickly…

“Yes, looking back at my debut with Toro Rosso, it’s almost as if I don’t really remember those first test days, you know? It has all been really quick, but luckily in a positive way; I’m still 22 and in my fifth year in Formula 1, on 100 races, so I can’t complain. But of course you get used to the situation, and now I just want more, to do more races, but also I want to win, and I want to win championships. Honestly, I don’t really think about [the past] any more. But when you look back on it, there are nice memories. I’m almost an old-timer at 22!”

What’s the best advice you ever received from your father [ex-F1 driver Jos Verstappen]?

“He gave me a lot of tips – good and bad! Always stay with two feet on the ground, be yourself. Yeah, that is the most important: be yourself, don’t change. Obviously you get older and naturally do change a little bit, but always remember who your real friends are. That was good advice. Be careful, too. But we love racing, you know, and racing can still be a lot safer than driving through the city.”

Casualties of Red Bull

Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Mark Webber… they all soared on Red Bull’s Formula 1 wings. But the roster of those who plummeted after racing for the energy drinks brand is longer. Remember these names?

Christian Klien: The Austrian drove for Jaguar before Red Bull bought and renamed the team. Scored 11 points in two seasons (2005-06) before losing his seat.

Vitantonio Liuzzi: Highly rated Formula 3000 champion who raced for both Red Bull in 2005 and sister Toro Rosso team in 2006-07, but shone more for Force India in 2010.

Scott Speed: A rare American in F1, but he failed to live up to his great name in 2006 and ’07 at Toro Rosso. Replaced mid-season by some chap called Vettel.

Sebastien Bourdais: Four-time Indycar champion who deserves to be better remembered in F1 terms. The trouble was he found himself teamed with that man Vettel at Toro Rosso.

Jaime Alguersuari: Replaced Bourdais mid-2009 to become F1’s youngest GP starter (until Max Verstappen came along). Lasted three seasons at Toro Rosso, then left motor racing to become a DJ…

Sebastien Buemi: Team-mate to Alguersuari and another to fall through the cracks. Has since turned his significant talents to Le Mans success with Toyota and Formula E in which he won the title in 2015-16.

Jean-Eric Vergne: Like Buemi, deserved better from F1. After Toro Rosso, he’s reinvented himself in sports car racing and is Formula E’s current double champion with DS Techeetah.


Has Max Verstappen grown too big for his boots?

New power generation: The young drivers making their mark on motorsport

Why Leclerc must be prioritised at Ferrari

News, 11 Dec 2019 06:01:22 +0000
Morgan ditches traditional ladder chassis for next-gen frame Morgan tour
The Morgan team inspecting a Plus 6, which was the first model to use the CX chassis
British maker will build cars on a light CX-generation chassis, after using time-honoured ladder ones for 83 years

Morgan will next year end production of its models built on a simple steel ladder-frame chassis, a system it introduced 83 years ago with its first four-wheeled model, called the 4/4.

In recognition of modern customers’ need for greater road ability, even in traditional sports cars, the company plans to replace the outgoing models – the 4/4, Plus 4 and Roadster – with “a range of models” that will utilise versions of the light and rigid CX-generation chassis it introduced with the Plus Six early this year.

“We recognise a need for a more resolved core product that meets both our customers’ needs and future legislative requirements,” said Morgan CEO Steve Morris. “The advanced engineering of the new platform is a vital underpinning for the next generation of Morgan sports cars.”

The chassis decision is part of a suite of changes and improvements that follow the purchase of the Malvern Link sports car company by Investindustrial, an Italian private equity firm that is also a major shareholder in Aston Martin.

Developments include the opening in a few weeks of a modern and extremely spacious engineering and development centre (dubbed M-DEC, for Morgan Design and Engineering Centre) on a new site close to its Pickersleigh Road base.

“We need space to work on new projects,” said chief designer Jon Wells. “It has to be away from the suppliers and visitors who visit us nearly every day,” added Morris. “So we’ve made it close, but separate.”

Work is also about to begin on a major refurbishment of the Pickersleigh Road visitors’ centre, which annually greets 30,000 people, each of whom pays £24 for an expertly guided two-hour tour. Tours will stop between now and March, but the new, improved centre will be back in action by spring next year.

For now, Morgan is extremely secretive about the exact specification of its forthcoming new models, though it is believed most will maintain Morgan’s classic look. More details are likely to be available next March at the Geneva motor show, which the company traditionally attends.

Next year’s offerings are understood to include a model priced below the Plus Six’s £77,995, powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged engine – whose supplier is still secret – and mated to a manual gearbox. Company insiders confirm that the new car will be launched next year, though they won’t yet specify date, name or price range.

The performance and all-round capability of the Plus Six has proved so good that Morgan bosses regard it as a spiritual successor for the potent Plus 8 of former times, rather than the V6 Roadster.

Morgan says it won’t immediately abandon its traditional ladder chassis, however. Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the Plus 4, currently the company’s biggest seller, and designers are already laying plans for a small-run special edition.

“We’ll take the opportunity to mark the significance of the outgoing traditional steel chassis and its contribution to the marque,” said Morris. “It has been an integral part of the Morgan story and we look forward to celebrating its significance during the year.”


Morgan Plus Six is marque's first all-new model in 19 year

Morgan plots range expansion after major investment

Morgan boss on how investment will boost company

News, 11 Dec 2019 00:01:24 +0000
Limited-run Jaguar XE Reims Edition revealed Jaguar XE Reims Edition Special edition of Jaguar's smallest saloon will be limited to 200 units

The limited-run Jaguar XE Reims Edition is the first in a series of so-called ‘Jaguar Factory Specials’ which will each feature bespoke details.

The XE Reims Edition is named in celebration of the Jaguar D-Type’s maiden victory in 1954 at the 12-hours of Reims and uses the maker’s French Racing Blue paint, previously only used on extreme models such as the limited XKR-S and XFR-S.

Offered exclusively with the P250 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engine in R-Dynamic S guise, the XE Reims Edition will feature, alongside the blue paint, a black roof, black mirror caps, black sill inserts and 19in gloss black alloys.

Other standard features include privacy glass, badge deletion, heated seats and Cold Climate pack that includes heated windscreen, heated steering wheel, and headlight washers.

The 200-unit limited edition follows the launch of the updated standard XE in February. The refresh included a tweaked design, better-equipped interior and a package of driver-oriented instruments, controls and technology originally brought to market by Jaguar’s I-Pace.

The Jaguar XE Reims Edition is priced at £38,295, £3740 more than the XE’s starting price.

Jaguar will be hoping the XE Reims Edition bolsters sales across the board for its smallest saloon, which has been struggling in recent years. In 2016, 24,461 units were sold in Europe, while in 2018, only 10,877 units were sold. By comparison, there were 106.991 BMW 3 Series sold in Europe last year.

The Jaguar D-Type’s maiden victory in 1954 at the 12-hours of Reims was piloted by Ken Wharton and Peter Whitehead completing over 2,000km at an average speed of 105mph. 


Updated Jaguar I-Pace gets range and battery capacity boost

Two new compact Jaguar SUVs on the cards, tipped to use BMW platform

2020 Jaguar F-Type revealed with revised looks, no V6 engine

News, 11 Dec 2019 00:01:24 +0000
Best lease deals of the week: Fast saloons Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio - fast saloons Want a sharp, swift drive? Check out these rapid saloons

Leasing can be an affordable, practical route into having your own private car, but it's not always easy to tell the good deals from the duds. 

The experts at our sister magazine What Car? work hard to find you the best pay-monthly schemes, taking into account mileage allowance, montly outlay, contract length and initial deposit. We'll be bringing you the best deals they find from a different segment each week.

This week, it's fast saloons: 

1. Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.9 V6 Quadrifoglio

£4373 deposit, £729 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year​

Not as vocal as a Merc-AMG or as sharp through turns as a BMW M4, but this is the one we’d take – while turning a blind eye to its cheap-feeling interior.

More Alfa Romeo lease deals

2. Mercedes-AMG E63 Premium

£7919 deposit, £1320 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year​

More power than you could possibly need, but then it wouldn’t sound so heroic and nor would it go so fast (where permitted). It’s a big saloon but you’ll be surprised by its agility. Its quality is less surprising.

More Mercedes lease deals

3. Mercedes-AMG C63 S

£6252 deposit, £1042 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year

Here that AMG engine note is the soundtrack to an easy-to-drive super-saloon with sublime steering and a perfectly balanced chassis. Likes going sideways, too, as visitors to Mercedes Brooklands will know.

More Mercedes lease deals

4. BMW M5

£5071 deposit, £845 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year

What it lacks in aural drama the M5 makes up for with astonishing all-weather traction, incredible straight-line performance and impeccable build quality. And for all its power, it’s as easy to drive as a regular 5 Series.

More BMW lease deals

5. Audi RS3 TFSI Quattro 

£3484 deposit, £581 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year 

Audi’s charismatic five-pot, grippy four-wheel drive and peerless build quality combine to create a sports saloon of real distinction. It’s not the most fun you can have on four wheels but it’s not far off it.

More Audi lease deals

6. Audi S4 TDI Quattro

£3066 deposit, £511 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year

The S4’s hearty diesel is a perfect fit, while four-wheel drive keeps everything pointing the right way. The gearbox could be sharper, but cabin quality is all you’d expect. Just go easy on the options.

More Audi lease deals

For more great personal & business lease deals visit What Car? leasing


Top 10 best super saloons 2019

A picture history of fast Audi estates

Are we now in the age of the hyper-saloon?

News, 11 Dec 2019 00:00:01 +0000
Autocar magazine 11 December Christmas double issue - on sale now Autocar magazine 11 December - on sale now In this week’s bumper double issue: Audi Sport goes electric, Mercedes-Benz GLE driven, Christmas cars of the year road trip and much more

An exclusive story leads this week’s news section: Audi Sport is set to finally embrace electrification, with its first ever electric model, the E-tron GT RS, expected to debut next year.

With roots in the E-tron GT concept unveiled at last year’s LA motor show, the sister car to the Porsche Taycan could be joined by as many as three electrified RS models in the future. Find out which ones in the bumper double issue, on sale from today.


Audi isn’t the only brand plotting a new performance model: McLaren F1 designer Gordon Murray is preparing a production version of his revolutionary T50 hypercar concept. Featuring a pathbreaking giant fan to improve downforce, the T50 promises to revolutionise the hypercar landscape, and looking mightily attractive while doing it when it arrives in 2021. We’ve got the technical details.

Morgan has chosen innovation over tradition, swapping its traditional ladder-frame chassis for an all-new platform after 83 years, and BMW has reaffirmed its commitment to a controversial recent style shift. We also broke the news that billionaire Lawrence Stroll is eying a major stake in Aston Martin.


Two high-riding Mercedes-Benz SUVs are the stars of this week’s first drives section. The GLE 350de Coupe was a late entrant to an increasingly competitive class, but an eye-catching design and strong electric-only range mean that it has plenty to make rivals think about. Those wanting power will want to read our first impressions of the AMG GLE 53 Coupé.

We also drive the diesel version of the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf, which benefits from new technology and a welter of TDI torque, then get sporty with Audi’s RS Q3 Sportback, finding a lithe-handling crossover that more than justifies its RS credentials.


It’s an extra thick festive issue this week, which means doing things a little differently for the traditional Christmas road test. This year’s unusual test subject? The world’s fastest tractor. The JCB Fastrac is big, yellow and does 150mph.

But that’s just the starter of a bumper feast of features. We got the party started with… the road tester’s Christmas party. Our festive testers are reunited with their favourite cars of the year, before arguing who brought the best one over a decadent table of grub. Then, James Ruppert goes in search of the perfect Yuletide used car - anything goes as long as it’s good value and has a sizeable engine.

While our resident Bangernomics guru is scouting out the market, Colin Goodwin has been granted a day of leave. Editor Mark Tisshaw gives Goodwin 24 hours to go wherever and drive whatever he wants: join Colin in a Chevrolet Camaro for his grand day out.

Not to be outdone by Goodwin’s travels, Richard Webber plots an odyssey of his own. Charged with building an alternative Christmas hamper, our man tours his 5 Series from Edinburgh to London in search of the perfect spread.

Elsewhere, Rachel Burgess and Ben Summerell-Youde team up to design Santa a car-themed sleigh, while Jesse Crosse also samples a different style of driving - he’s profiling the cult of Tamiya, legendary makers of remote-controlled cars.

Also in this issue: we drive a tank, make glasswork with Volvo, round up our snappers’ favourite photos from 2019 and a whole lot more.


Steve Cropley rounds up another year spent on the automotive frontline, counting through his stars of 2019. Aston CEO Andy Palmer, entrepreneur Mate Rimac and fellow hack Andrew Frankel all make an appearance, not to mention his loyal readers. Elsewhere, Matt Prior tips his hat to the latest Fast & Furious film, but can’t resist a moan about the durability (or lack of) of modern tyres.


When not hunting for big-engined performance thrills for his Christmas special, James Ruppert has been turning his gaze to hybrids, which are gaining in popularity on the used market. Saloons woo his attention in particular, with the S-Class and 5 Series the pick of the bunch. In our nearly-new guide, it’s the turn of the stylish and spacious Renault Captur. Okay, so it’s no driver’s car, but the French SUV makes a strong good as new buy. Meanwhile, we sniff out a 993-generation Porsche 911 in our used guide. A serviceable 933 is a grand prize, but be sure to do your homework before buying.

Where to buy

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

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

News, 11 Dec 2019 00:00:00 +0000
Porsche Taycan 4S 2020 review A Taycan for the very well off rather than the unfeasibly wealthy, yet which in almost all normal usage is as good as a Turbo, if not better If you’re interested in buying a Porsche Taycan, it is the one you should look at first. And then ask yourself a very serious question: what is the extra £32,000 or £55,000 required to upgrade this Taycan 4S to a Turbo or Turbo S actually buying you? If the answer is a slug more power you may never use, a load of equipment you might never spec and a boot badge for which you give not two hoots, do yourself a favour and spare yourself the money. I would suggest that for most prospects, or at least those who can stomach the opprobrium of friends and colleagues when they see – oh the shame of it – that it’s not the top model, this Taycan 4S is for now the Taycan au choix. The one you should buy. And the only non-neg option should be the performance plus battery at £4613, which is also not standard on the Turbo. That buys you a 93.4kWh battery compared to a 79.2kWh unit, which not only provides additional range, but faster charging and better performance. So it’s a win, win, win.And even this (for now) entry-level Taycan will still hit 62mph in four seconds flat, and because electric cars deliver their torque instantly, even that can be quite an uncomfortably rapid experience. It will do rest to 100mph in 8.5sec, for goodness sake, and I’m old enough to remember when that was a perfectly passable 0-60mph time.Put it this way: in all remotely normal use, this poverty-spec Taycan will still accelerate you from any speed you’re at to any speed you could want at any rate you might choose.Like the Turbo and Turbo S, it comes with an electric motor at either end of the car and four-wheel drive as a result. Unlike all other EVs, it shares their 800V electric infrastructure. It even sits on triple-chamber air springs at each corner and has Porsche’s PASM adaptive dampers as standard.Such similarities might lead you to suspect that a Taycan 4S powertrain is, in reality, that of a Turbo or even a Turbo S with only a line of pesky software holding it back: crack the code and a 740bhp Taycan 4S can be yours. Sadly not: The 4S has a smaller rear motor than either of the Turbo twins, and before you start thinking you could still turn a Turbo into a Turbo S, think again: the Turbo has the same 300-amp front inverter as the 4S, while the Turbo S has a 600-amp inverter. So now you know.First Drive, 10 Dec 2019 23:01:23 +00002020 Audi RS5 gains refreshed design and new tech 2020 Audi RS5
'Implied' air intakes hark back to the legendary Audi Quattro
BMW M4 rival is final RS model to be facelifted with overhauled infotainment and more aggressive styling

Audi has updated the RS5 Sportback and coupé with tweaked styling and an overhauled infotainment system, just six months after the current model first arrived in UK dealerships.

The BMW M4 rival follows in the footsteps of its RS4 and RS7 siblings in gaining a revised front end, which features reshaped air intakes and an enlarged grille for a more aggressive look. Audi says that the three implied air vents above the grille - similar to the current A1 supermini - are inspired by the 1984 Audi UR Quattro.

As with other recently refreshed RS models from Audi, the RS5’s wheel arches have been extended by 40mm, while optional darkened headlight bezels further differentiate the performance model from the standard A5. The rear end has been subtly updated, as well, featuring a reshaped diffuser which can be specified in a range of contrasting colours. 

As well as the styling changes, the RS5 also gains two new colour options for 2020 - Turbo Blue and Tango Red - with three new sets of 20in wheels available in black or bronze. 

The two-door coupé variant now features a carbonfibre roof panel which, Audi says, brings the model’s kerb weight down by roughly 4kg. 

Inside, the outgoing RS5’s rotary infotainment controller has been replaced by a free-standing 10.1in touchscreen, equipped with Audi’s new MMI acoustic response technology and tilted towards the driver for ease of use. An optional ‘navigation plus’ package brings an additional RS-specific monitor which displays live temperature, acceleration and tyre pressure data. 

The RS5’s 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 is unchanged, and still sends 444bhp and 443lb ft to all four wheels. Audi claims a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of up to 174mph for both bodystyles. 

UK pricing for the new RS5 will be announced in the new year, but a starting price in Germany of €83,500 suggests we’re likely to see a slight increase over the model’s current £68,985 price tag. 

Read more

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News, 10 Dec 2019 15:23:02 +0000
Opinion: The T50 is special; it needs special owners, too T50 render
How Gordan Murray's T50 could look, according to Autocar
McLaren F1-inspired hypercar offers a radically different experience from mainstream rivals. Owners must understand its unique charms

Gordon Murray’s T50 is one of those special supercars that will need owners who take the trouble to understand it.

It’s quite different from most rivals in performance and price: you’ll search in vain for a touchscreen and the same goes for 'driver aids'. This is an unashamedly analogue car and, according to its creator, all the better for that. Which is why he’s keen to get to know his owners as individuals: they’ll be buying an experience quite different from that offered by the bigger, more complex breed of modern hypercars.

The dividend cited by Murray, who masterminded the McLaren F1, is efficiency in all its forms: great packaging efficiency, superior aerodynamics and lightness. When you build a car that undercuts the featherweight McLaren F1 by 120kg, you get towering performance for the available power, plus great agility and great braking – all of it on sensibly sized tyres. And all of it in a package that offers great visibility and that fits easily on the road.

What you don’t get is power everything. Or next-generation infotainment. Or godawful synthesised engine noises piped through a hi-fi so powerful it could shout your house down. Neither do you get exaggerated air-collecting ducts and scoops all over the body. The T50 just doesn’t need them.

Instead, you get purity in a traditional shape. You get logic and functionality. You get efficiency at the top of the scale. The T50, for all its stupendous performance, might strike some people as just too sensible. Even so, Murray is rightly confident that many more than the 125 well-heeled owners he seeks will know authenticity when they see it.


McLaren F1 successor T50 set for 2020 debut

Under the skin: How Gordon Murray's T50 V12 will peak at 12,000rpm

Gordon Murray to launch McLaren F1 successor in 2022

Exclusive: Gordon Murray tells Autocar about his 2022 hypercar

Opinion, 10 Dec 2019 15:01:25 +0000
Gordon Murray's McLaren F1 successor set for 2020 debut Gordon Murray Design T.50 rear official render
Official image shows the T50's prominent rear-mounted fan
Named T50, the radical £2.3m three-seat ‘fan car’ with a 12,400rpm V12 will be launched next May

Gordon Murray plans to unveil a production-spec version of his revolutionary T50 ground-effect ‘fan car’ in May.

The £2.3 million ‘analogue’ hypercar, to be built at Murray’s new Dunsfold factory, will move immediately after launch into a prototype build and development phase, before production build-up begins during 2021.

The first of the planned 125 cars – 100 road cars and 25 purely for the track – will reach its new owner at the beginning of 2022 and production will continue for a year.

Under a deal just announced, the T50’s all-important aerodynamics package is being developed with the assistance of the Silverstone-based Racing Point Formula 1 team, formerly Force India. Access to the team’s moving-floor wind tunnel, plus the expertise of its F1-trained technicians, will allow Murray to use large-scale models to refine the T50’s revolutionary active aero package.

A three-seater with a central driving position, the car combines the unique qualities of Murray’s two most iconic creations in a stellar 50-year, 50-car career: the seminal, ultra-light McLaren F1 three-seat supercar of 1992 and the Brabham BT46B grand prix ‘fan car’ of 1978, whose extraordinary levels of downforce briefly stood F1 on its head and took one race win before the team withdrew it in the face of opposition from rivals.

The new T50’s most striking feature is a 400mm rear-mounted electric fan, designed to extract air rapidly from beneath the car, radically increasing downforce and grip. The aero set-up can be configured in six different modes, two of them automatic, the rest driver selectable. They vary from the super-slippery Streamline mode to the High Downforce setting, for use when exceptional stability and traction are needed.

The first details of the T50 emerged last summer, when it became clear that it would use much of the packaging and technology of the F1, simply because, in Murray’s view, there isn’t a better way of doing it. The car has an all-new carbonfibre tub and is powered by a bespoke mid-mounted normally aspirated 4.0-litre V12, built by Cosworth, producing around 650bhp.

The engine revs to 12,100rpm, with a 12,400rpm hard limit, which will make it the highest-revving road car engine yet built. Experimental versions are running at full speed on the dynamometer and said to be producing exhaust notes whose quality very much matches the high output.

At the front of the engine, a 48V integrated starter/ generator connects directly with the crankshaft. It acts as a starter motor, then converts to a generator to produce the power needed to spin the lightweight fan at speeds of up to 8000rpm.

The V12 is mounted very low in the T50’s all-carbonfibre tub, driving the rear wheels through a six-speed H-pattern manual gearbox built by Xtrac. Murray says most buyers are “relieved” by the presence of a proper stick shift, but he directs those who prefer paddles to the 25 late-build track cars, which will probably use them.

In another nod to traditional driving, the T50 avoids hybrid technology: Murray says it would increase kerb weight far beyond the current figure of just 980kg, with many knock-on disadvantages. He wants the T50 to be seen as the spiritual successor to the F1 in its lightness, compactness and space efficiency, with those properties all enhanced by the use of modern materials and techniques.

The T50 is just 30mm wider and 60mm longer than the F1, having about the same road footprint as a Volkswagen Golf. “No one else makes supercars our way,” said Murray. “I’m happy about that.”

The car needs very little obvious upper-body aerodynamic addenda, allowing for a purer front-end shape. Although the frontal styling has yet to be revealed, Murray says its relationship to the F1 will be clear.

Downforce is generated either by an active tail spoiler or via a large venturi beneath the body, a system of slots and ducts with the 400mm fan at its rearmost extremity. The feed of underbody airflow can be varied by the opening or closing of slots ahead of it.

The T50’s two automatic aero modes are Auto (which optimises use of the fan, the rear spoiler and the underbody diffusers) and Brake (which opens the spoilers and runs the fan at high speed, sucking the car onto the road and increasing both stability and rolling resistance).

The driver-select aero modes are High Downforce and Streamline, which cuts drag by about 10% by closing underbody vents and speeding the fan to create a ‘virtual longtail’. There’s also a Vmax mode, a kind of ‘push to pass’ setting that adds 30bhp for up to three minutes. Near the top speed, the ram effect of a roof-mounted induction air scoop (a Murray favourite) boosts power to about 700bhp. The final aero mode is Test, which allows an owner to demonstrate the functioning of the aero system when the car is stationary.

Most T50s are already sold, although there are still “a few” opportunities for buyers. Murray said he is pleasantly surprised at the comparative youth of the latest crop of buyers: 40% are under 45 and three are buying their first-ever supercar. “People tell us the McLaren F1 was their poster car when they were growing up,” said Murray. “Now that they’ve built successful businesses, T50 has become their F1. We’re very happy with that.”

Why the fan makes so much sense

Aerodynamic downforce is a great thing to have when you need it, explains Gordon Murray, and that’s principally between 60mph and 100mph, the point at which your car benefits most from greatly enhanced cornering adhesion. It would be nice to have downforce that works lower down, too, but passive aero gadgetry doesn’t provide it.

When going faster, you could often do with less aero effect. “Aerodynamic load rises as the square of speed,” Murray says, “and so does drag. Which means many cars with serious performance use up their suspension travel at high speed, which is about the last thing you need. You can reduce it with expensive, bulky variable-rate complexity, but who wants that?”

All of which, in a nutshell, makes the case for the T50’s brand of variable, fan-based downforce. It can be strong at 30mph. (Murray says the T50 sucks hard enough at full-fan speed to stick itself to the ceiling.) But the system is tunable and delivers exactly as you want it to. You can use it to help stop your car from seriously high speeds. And you can adjust it for decent stability yet good ride quality while cruising autobahns at 150mph. In short, it looks like one of those things, once explained, that every serious future fast car will need.


Exclusive: Gordon Murray tells Autocar about his 2022 hypercar

Gordon Murray receives CBE for 'services to motoring'

New McLaren 620R revealed as limited-run, road-legal GT4 racer

News, 10 Dec 2019 15:01:25 +0000
Mercedes-Benz GLS 400d 2019 review Mercedes-Benz GLS 400d 2019 UK first drive review - hero front S-Class of SUVs packs a wonderfully refined and powerful diesel powertrain, but ride foibles undermine its appeal somewhat This big beast is the third-generation version of the Mercedes-Benz GLS, née GL. Mercedes likes to think of it as the S-Class of its SUV range, and in terms of the sheer size of the thing, it would seem Stuttgart hasn’t skimped on the brief. At 5.21 metres, it may not be quite as long as, well, a real S-Class, but it’s easily the largest SUV to wear the three-pointed star, full-on G-Class (a comparatively tiny 4.6m) included.Earlier this year, we drove the new GLS for the first time in Utah, where its fairly ginormous footprint was, understandably, not much of a problem. Now, though, the flagship SUV has touched down in the UK, and its chances of blending in to its surroundings have been significantly reduced. Still, with the Range Rover, Audi Q7 and (to a lesser extent) BMW X7 now a fairly common sight on our cramped roads, the GLS won’t exactly be alone in its endeavours. This particular GLS is the 400d, which, in the grand scheme of obnoxiously large SUVs, at least uses a reasonably sensible engine. It’s a 2.9-litre six-cylinder diesel, paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission to deliver its 326bhp and 516lb ft to the road via all four wheels. Slightly less sensible options will arrive next year in the form of a six-cylinder petrol and an AMG GLS 63. No doubt the latter will cost roughly the same to run as a stately home.Unlike the GLS 580 we drove in the States, UK versions of the GLS miss out on Mercedes’ trick E-Active body control system, opting instead for standard adaptive air suspension. Prices start at £75,040 for the AMG Line Premium model and move up £91,540 for the AMG Line Premium Plus Executive.First Drive, 10 Dec 2019 13:01:22 +0000Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster 2020 UK review Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster 2019 UK first drive review - hero front Combining AMG’s more focused dynamic set-up with the lesser capable of two bodystyles makes for compromises Onwards, friends, leaving no niche unturned, just as much in the super-sports car category as Mercedes is doing in the small family car segment. This is the Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster in ‘R’ form and it takes the GT’s total number of derivatives to 16, across the two-door sports car’s coupé and roadster derivatives.The R Roadster is one of the weirder ones in the line-up because if you imagine a Porsche 911 GT3 RS Convertible, that’s kind of where we are. The R Roadster has the second-most-focused GT chassis set-up (behind only the GT R Pro) and is meant to be a Nürburgring monster, but here comes with a soft-top body, which, you’ll know, usually means some dynamic compromises.The aerodynamic, mechanical and dynamic specifications of the R Coupé and Roadster, then, are similar. There’s a big fixed wing (which looks a bit odd on the roadster), a 577bhp/516lb ft tune for the 4.0-litre V8, adjustable dampers, active rear steer and a wider track than on the GT C, the next model down in the range. The R’s roof and body strengthening are the same as other GT roadsters, meaning a three-layer fabric hood and a kerb weight some 80kg heavier than the R coupé’s, leaving it at 1710kg. That is the first reason why this is a curious derivative: if you want the best driver’s variant of a car, adding 80kg to it is not usually how you’d go about it.Reason two is that in removing the fixed roof, there’s always some compromise in body stiffness. Unless, say, you have a carbonfibre tub like McLaren does, and which this Mercedes doesn’t.First Drive, 10 Dec 2019 11:17:23 +0000Promoted | The CUPRA Ateca: in one lap We asked a pro driver to describe what it’s like to drive CUPRA’s performance SUV. The twist: he had just one lap of Anglesey to tell us. Cue the action…

The CUPRA Ateca has re-defined the style, comfort and pace you can expect from a performance SUV. We’ve already found out what it’s like to drive the CUPRA on one of Britain’s most scenic and demanding roads. We’ve also got the verdict of our Autocar and What Car? readers.

But what is the story of the technology that underpins the CUPRA Ateca’s stunning acceleration and grip? We gave former rally driver Andrew Coley the keys to the CUPRA Ateca and an empty Anglesey circuit on which to show us. But, with a lot to say, and just one hot lap in which to say it, he knew he’d have to talk fast…

To learn more about the CUPRA Ateca, head to

Fast off the line

It all starts with stunning acceleration off the line. The CUPRA Ateca’s advanced 2.0-litre TSI turbo petrol engine delivers 300PS and 400Nm of powerful torque. Working with a dedicated launch control mode, it helps the CUPRA Ateca reach 62mph from a standstill in just 4.9 seconds – even in the atrocious wet weather of Anglesey. 

It’s challenging conditions like these where the CUPRA Ateca’s advanced 4Drive (all-wheel-drive) delivers real confidence – analysing the road in real-time and diverting power to the wheels that need it most, even as the CUPRA’s LED headlights carve our path through the Welsh gloom.

Add in a seven-speed DSG gearbox that has been engineered for faster, smoother and sportier precision shifts on the way to a top speed of 152mph, and it’s only a few seconds before we’re approaching the first turn – the tight Banking Hairpin.

Sharp into corners

Large Brembo brakes provide powerfully precise and accurate stopping power into this challenging turn, while the independent front suspension with MacPherson struts and the multi-link rear suspension offer crisp levels of grip for a more confident turn-in.

Through the bend, adaptive Dynamic Chassis Control delivers enhanced stability and response as the CUPRA Ateca’s weight shifts from front to rear, with 4Drive enhancing the grip under acceleration out towards Church Corner.

A brief lift through Church, and we’re onto the School Straight with just a few seconds to admire the view and appreciate the sporty rumble echoing from the CUPRA’s quad exhaust before another big brake into the Rocket Hairpins.

Responsive handling

The double-switchback of Rocket provides another challenging test for the CUPRA Ateca’s brakes, suspension and handling – a hard stop into a tight left, followed by an immediate switch to a fast right.

But, with the drive mode switched to the performance-focused CUPRA mode – Comfort, Sport, Snow, Off-Road and a customisable Individual mode are also available – we’ve got the confidence of a sharper throttle response and more responsive handling. And that raucous exhaust note to keep a smile on our face.

Through the twists of Peel and Corkscrew, and we’re onto the Tom Pryce Straight. There’s finally time to enjoy the cossetting surroundings of the CUPRA Ateca’s stylish interior. 

Stylish and comfortable

There’s that large panoramic sunroof that brings extra light into the cabin – even on an overcast day like today – and the copper-stitched Alcantara sports seats that offer firm support in the bends and cossetting comfort on the straights. Gloss black and carbon fibre effect surfacing completes the premium feel. 

In front of you, a large crisp customisable high-res digital dashboard and the advanced 9.3-inch central touchscreen for the media system work together to let you blend 3D navigation with music and apps from compatible Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphones. 

Alternatively, you can pick more performance-focused dials, such as a prominent rev counter or a G-force meter – perfect for measuring the braking and cornering forces through the sharp hairpin that takes you back down the run to Bus Stop.

Just a few more seconds to appreciate that stunningly precise and powerful braking, the confident grip through the final turn, and the burst of acceleration onto the final turn – all accompanied by the burble of the quad exhaust – before our lap is done, and the story of the CUPRA Ateca is told.

To learn more about the CUPRA Ateca, head to

News, 10 Dec 2019 11:15:49 +0000
Volvo V90 and S90 range to be updated with mild-hybrid tech Volvo V90 facelift spyshots front Swedish brand's flagship saloon and estate will join XC90 with a raft of revisions, including more electrified variants

Volvo is planning a mid-life refresh of its S90 and V90 large saloon and estate ranges, and winter testing shots show the models with minimal disguise.

We can see that external changes will be subtle, given the development team hasn’t really bothered to disguise these prototypes. If you look closely you can see tape obscuring the lower grille and bumper details, suggesting small cosmetic tweaks, but otherwise it appears that the S90 and V90’s design won’t be altered greatly. 

There will be more significant revisions under the skin, however. Chief among which will be the adoption of 48V mild-hybrid technology, already found in the refreshed XC90 and XC60, across most of the line-up. 

The system combines a 48V battery with an integrated starter/generator and energy recovery system, capturing kinetic energy during braking or coasting and using it to boost overall efficiency. It’s expected that, instead of the ‘T’ and ‘D’ badges to signify petrol and diesel variants, both fuel types will be badged ‘B’, with B4, B5 and B6 variants found in the XC60. 

Further changes are likely to be incremental, with equipment upgrades across the line-up and small revisions to the car’s infotainment software. The T8 plug-in hybrid is expected to carry on unaltered, but Volvo could introduce a more sportily tuned ‘Polestar Engineered’ model to top out the range. 

Given the timeline of the facelifted XC90, first launched in 2015, expect the three-year-old S90 and V90 to be updated in the middle of 2020 and go on sale towards the end of the year.


Volvo XC90 B5 R-Design 2019 review

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Slideshow: the greatest cars from Volvo

News, 10 Dec 2019 07:01:24 +0000
Opinion: F1's young guns have Hamilton in their crosshairs
Verstappen and Leclerc: the biggest threats to Hamilton
Which of the generation Z talents will make Hamilton generation ex?

As Lewis Hamilton moves inexorably towards Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles and 91 grand prix victories, where is the next-gen challenge coming from? Is Ferrari the biggest threat to Hamilton and Mercedes? Or is it Red Bull-Honda?

In Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, both teams have outstanding young talents. You’d have to favour Verstappen simply because of the intra-team situation. There’s no doubting where Red Bull’s effort will go, no disrespect to Alex Albon.

Verstappen, at 22, is blindingly quick. Five years into his Formula 1 career, it’s now three-and-a-half seasons since he won his first GP. He’s ready. And on the evidence of the season’s final grands prix, so too is Honda.

At Ferrari, there’s a problem. Leclerc is quicker than Sebastian Vettel. But there’s not much in it. Going to the final round, Leclerc had seven pole positions to Vettel’s two, but his average qualifying pace advantage was just 0.07sec. At Mercedes, Hamilton has qualified 0.18sec quicker than Valtteri Bottas over the season. At Red Bull, Verstappen had 0.57sec in hand over the demoted Pierre Gasly and 0.4sec advantage since Albon arrived.

F1 history is littered with examples of two number ones in the same team winning most battles but losing the war. In 1973, Ronnie Peterson and Emerson Fittipaldi won seven races for Lotus, shared four to three, but let in Tyrrell’s Jackie Stewart to win the championship with five.

In 1986, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet shared nine wins, five to four, for Williams-Honda, but when Mansell’s tyre blew in that memorable Adelaide finale, Alain Prost retained his world title for McLaren, with four. A bit more recently, a warring Vettel and Mark Webber at Red Bull would have conceded the 2010 championship to Fernando Alonso but for a Ferrari strategy cock-up in the final round.

Hamilton and Mercedes very rarely drop the ball. If Ferrari is going to compete, it probably needs to prioritise Leclerc. But how does Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto explain that to a 53-race-winning four-time world champion?

At ‘Next Gen 2’ level, some have waxed lyrical about the 2019 rookies (Albon, Lando Norris, George Russell and Antonio Giovinazzi) being the best crop ever.

That’s stretching things a bit. The more geriatric among you will be yelling: hang on, what about Jim Clark and John Surtees in 1960? The slightly sprightlier will be pointing out that Michael Schumacher and Mika Häkkinen, who arrived in 1991, can boast nine championships between them. And even that record was knocked over this year by the class of 2007, Hamilton and Vettel, now with 10.

But there’s no denying the quality of the season’s debutants. Russell is the hardest to judge because his Williams has been woefully uncompetitive. It badly lacks downforce, so for Russell to miss out on Q2 by five-hundredths at twisty Hungary of all places, and lap quicker than both Racing Points and a Renault, was a standout effort.

He has white-washed Robert Kubica in qualifying by the biggest margin between team-mates across the grid. I struggle writing that because Kubica’s F1 comeback, eight years after his awful rallying accident, was truly gutsy. The late Niki Lauda, who saw Russell’s testing performances in the Mercedes, had him down as a future world champion.

Although an average qualifying deficit of just over half a second to Russell might not look great, we may end up looking back on it as far better than appreciated. After all, Senna/Prost was billed as one of sport’s greatest rivalries, yet Prost’s average qualifying deficit over two seasons at McLaren was bigger, at 0.67sec…

At Red Bull, Albon raised eyebrows, not least Verstappen’s, when he went to Suzuka for the first time and equalled Verstappen’s qualifying time down to the last thousandth. You can’t do things like that without real talent.

Over at McLaren, Norris’s early-season form was so impressive that McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown snapped him up for a three-year contract extension in early July.

Carlos Sainz, a man who pushed Verstappen when they were Toro Rosso teammates, has been an average of just 0.03sec quicker than Norris in qualifying – the tightest margin across the whole grid. The pair have forged the closest thing you’ll get to a friendship in an F1 paddock.


Racing lines: why car makers still can't resist motorsport

Opinion: Why hillclimbing is the underrated hero of motorsport

New power generation: The young drivers making their mark on motorsport

Opinion, 10 Dec 2019 06:01:24 +0000
James Ruppert: Creativity is king for eye-catching used car ads
This kind of shot is far more enticing than on a driveway
Advertisers need to channel their inner Mad Men if they want their handiwork to stand out in the classifieds

Selling a car, as you frequently tell me, is a complete and utter faff. Not only do you have to cope with the great unwashed coming round to your gaff, kicking the tyres and probably slagging the car off, but they don’t want to pay your asking price, either.

Oddly enough, I was talking about all this the other day and what’s missing from most adverts is presentation. A car, even a nominally interesting one, needs to have a twist. Plus it needs to be properly presented and realistically priced. So let’s see if there are any particular private ads out there that catch our interest.

I only have to rewind to the previous week where I spotted an otherwise unremarkable 2006 Ford Fiesta ST at £2500: the presentation was uniformly excellent. First, the seller had taken loads of pictures, to a decent quality, and it was expertly posed to the extent that it could have been an Autocar feature star. The icing on the ST cake was refurbished alloy wheels. Your eye was drawn to that detail. Feeding the Fiesta inner geek was an extensive description that included ‘Mountune exhaust upgrade’. Excellent.

The Range Rover Evoque, meanwhile, is a vehicle that is bought for style rather than purpose. Yet 99% of the adverts I looked at had them parked in their natural habitat, the suburban executive home estate drive. I looked twice at a 110,000-mile 2013 2.2 SD4 Pure Tech, though. That was partly because it was on grass and some point stone. Yes, it had strayed off Tarmac. The background was trees. Lovely. The ad also mentioned alloys, 22in ones. They had been kerbed, but there was a ton of detail, which I liked. No doubt about the damage at all, plus some bodywork nicks were highlighted. Maximum points for accuracy. The actual description was a bit sparse but, hey, pictures tell you more than boring old words.

Convertibles should never be tucked up in a garage or on a drive. That’s why the seller of a 2011 80,000-mile Mini Cooper SD Convertible had not only cleaned it thoroughly but also made a trip into the countryside to take uncluttered, decent-quality pictures in the wild. What’s more, the description was both comprehensive and enthusiastic. The seller channelled their inner road tester, actually describing it as a fun drive and I quote: “The Mini has been a dream car for the past couple of years and makes me smile every time I drive it.” That’s how you do it, folks.

How not to do a car advert is absolutely everywhere. Simply avoid doing what everyone else is doing on that Faceache Marketplace thing or Flea Bay site. Good luck.

What we almost bought this week

Peugeot 406 2.0 HDI SE Estate: One owner, full service history and a recent cambelt change – what’s not to like about this 120,000-mile, 2003-reg 406 wagon, described as being in good condition? Agreed, a same-age Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra have bigger business ends but the 406’s lower loading height and wide-opening tailgate let you make better use of what space there is.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

Land Rover Series 3: The Lorry is back with a fresh MOT and some new parts. Up front, there are new hubs, so at least it won’t keep dripping on the drive. It has been a bad year for the Lorry dripping on the drive and brake fluid was just as bad as the petrol. Being a British Leyland product from the early 1980s, oil leaks are a given.

The Lorry is back to work because I’ve gutted a bathroom and getting rid of the evidence at the local tip has been a doddle. Another year of work, rest and not much play lies ahead.

Reader's ride

Audi A2: Steve is back after showing us his Audi A4. “I’ve been after this A2 for about a year and the owner eventually agreed to sell. I’ve always fancied an A2 because of the heritage and the space inside and the fact that Audi lost money on each one. My A2 was not much money but has a few bits broken, which means searching eBay etc. All part of the fun. And £30 tax is surprising. Also, some parts from Audi are cheaper than online.

“The car is a 2004 TDI 90 with 115,000 miles. I bought it from someone who has owned it for the past five years. There are a few issues, such as a broken rear light, a bonnet that needs respraying, various broken trim pieces, a chipped windscreen and cracked oil filler pipe. All will be fixed.”

Readers' questions

Question: I’m in the market for a new VW Golf 1.5 petrol. Should I wait for the all-new model or buy a current Mk7 now? Molly Clarke, Tonbridge

Answer: I suspect that if you’re buying new, you want the latest model or else why bother? So the Mk8 it must be. It has pretty much the same engine, chassis and dimensions as the Mk7 but more technology and an updated look. However, if you suspected that there’s money to be saved by buying a Mk7 over a Mk8, you’d be right. We’ll assume you’re financing it on a PCP, in which case VW is offering a £1500 deposit contribution and finance at 3.8%, plus discounts of around £2700. Push hard and you’ll get a Match Edition with Winter pack, heated seats, LED headlights and dual-zone air-con for the same price as a Match. JE

Question: What’s the safest thing to do if you break down on a smart motorway? Rob Parkin, via email

Answer: Highways England (HE) says that if you aren’t in a refuge area, you should get out of your car and wait behind the safety barrier, if there is one, and well clear of the car. But it also says that if there is no barrier, you should stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt on and dial 999. HE says it monitors motorways constantly and would close the lane and direct help to you. But an HE report admitted it takes on average 17min for the agency to identify a broken-down vehicle in a live lane. You better buckle up securely. JE


What has Ford ever done for us?

Ford Ranger Raptor to be trialled by UK police forces

Exclusive: the future of Ford, according to its bosses

News, 10 Dec 2019 06:01:24 +0000
Range Rover Velar gains R-Dynamic Black Limited Edition Range Rover Velar Black Edition Land Rover will release 500 Black Edition cars, which have dark gloss and interior enhancements

Land Rover has launched an R-Dynamic Black Limited Edition of its Range Rover Velar SUV, introducing an extensive black finish and interior add-ons to the standard car.

The limited-edition variant, of which only 500 will be produced, is based on Land Rover’s D180 R-Dynamic SE Velar.

As well as the black look, the model is also available in metallic grey. Other exterior features include tinted windows and a panoramic glass roof.

The Black Limited Edition rolls on 21in gloss black alloy wheels. Adaptive Dynamics suspension, optional for the entry-level Velar, comes as standard on the dark-set car.

Inside, the interior is decked out in ebony-coloured leather, complemented by an ebony headlining and a heated steering wheel.

The new Velar retains the 2.0-litre diesel powertrain of the D180 R-Dynamic SE. It produces 177bhp, which is delivered through an automatic gearbox to all four wheels. The benchmark sprint of 0-62mph is achieved in 8.4sec and the top speed is 125mph.

Jaguar Land Rover UK managing director Rawdon Glover said: “The Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic Black builds on Velar’s sophisticated design package, enhancing it for a customer who is looking for an element of differentiation. We look forward to delivering the first limited editions in early 2020.”

Pricing for the Velar R-Dynamic Black Limited Edition, which can be ordered now, starts at £56,995 or £499 per month over a 48-month contract.


New £25k Land Rover to be followed by luxo-Defender

Range Rover EV to be most road-biased Land Rover yet

Opinion: Land Rover's new models were inevitable

News, 10 Dec 2019 00:01:23 +0000
Autocar confidential: Volvo's XC40 prophecy, Audi's favourite E-tron and more 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 plug-ins with Nissan and hear from Audi's design boss on E-trons, Mercedes commits to Renault and friends and more. 

PHEV Juke nuked

Despite the second-gen Renault Captur offering a plug-in hybrid, the same can’t be said for the new Nissan Juke, which is built on the same platform thanks to the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Nissan bosses refused to confirm a plug-in hybrid variant, questioning whether Juke customers would be willing to pay for the technology. The car is engineered to accept electrification, so a parallel hybrid system could be brought in from Japan.

Lichte picks Sportback; snubs E-tron

Audi design boss Marc Lichte would pick the E-tron Sportback over the E-tron. He said: “I have a big respect for BMW for coming up with the idea to combine a coupé with an SUV but, honestly, I don’t like it. We thought ‘how can we do this in a very attractive way?’ and you will see the E-tron Sportback [is the result]. I love it. We took the bottom part of the E-tron, cut the roofline and add the A7 roof. Very simple.”

In demand (probably): Volvo's XC40 Recharge

Henrik Green, Volvo's technical chief, “would not be surprised” if demand for the new XC40 Recharge EV exceeds the firm’s battery supply capacity “even though we have sourced more than we could dream about three years ago”. Green said Volvo has a production plan to meet its target of 50% of sales being EVs by 2025.

Mercedes dumps Twingo but won't go

Mercedes remains committed to its alliance with Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi. Its decision to sell a stake in Smart to Geely has signalled an eventual end of the joint venture to develop Smart cars and the Renault Twingo. But CEO Ola Källenius said: “The plan remains to co-operate wherever we see win-win situations for both sides.”


Nissan reveals electric IMk city car concept

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

Nissan Ariya concept previews crossover EV

News, 10 Dec 2019 00:01:23 +0000
Under the skin: Why mix and match is a good idea for electric powertrains
Integrated plug-and-play electric drivetrains should help make EVs more affordable.
Balancing affordability with profits is a major challenge facing EVs, but integrated plug-in electric powertrains can save everyone money

Turn a profit on electric cars yet still offer them at a price more people can afford: that’s one of the major challenges facing the car industry. As things stand, it’s difficult to make inroads into the cost of the battery, but in most other areas, such as the architecture and powertrain, there are savings to be made by integrating components into modular units that can be used in different applications. Volkswagen’s modular electric drive matrix (MEB) describes not just the body and chassis architecture but the entire platform, including the drivetrain.

The forthcoming ID 3, the first of Volkswagen’s new EV range to go on sale, will be powered by an integrated drive module called APP310. APP describes the way it’s installed across the rear axle and 310 refers to its torque of 310Nm (229lb ft). In the ID 3, it will develop 201bhp and is a complete plug-and-play bolt-in powertrain.

Traditional, combustion-engine powertrains consist of an engine, gearbox and final drive with differential. On front-wheel-drive cars, the final drive unit is usually integral with the gearbox, but in a rear-wheel-drive car, it’s located in the rear axle.

Although the components can be mixed and matched to an extent (same engine, different gearboxes and final drives) to suit the model derivative, they’re not integrated in the same way as an electric drive unit can be. The petrol or diesel engine is normally made by the car manufacturer, while the gearbox may come from a supplier like ZF, Getrag or Aisin AW. The APP310 will be manufactured at Kassel for European and North American markets and Tianjin for China and Volkswagen plans to make up to half a million units a year.

The AC motor/generator (electric machine) is a synchronous permanent magnet brushless machine consisting of a rotor (which rotates to produce the drive) embedded with permanent powerful magnets and a stator (static) that surrounds it. Labelled ‘hairpin technology’ by Volkswagen, the stator is made of copper wire windings laid in a laminated frame, which generates a rotating magnetic field. The opposite poles of the rotor and stator are attracted to one another and the rotor spins in sync with the rotating field rather than lagging behind it like an asynchronous machine. The preformed flat copper coils produce greater torque density than conventional coils wound using copper wire. Both the rotor and stator are produced in-house at Volkswagen’s component plant at Salzgitter.

The rotor drives the integral single-speed reduction gearbox, which is all that’s needed for high-torque, lower-speed motors like this one. Smaller high-speed motors generally require a multi-speed gearbox. The other major component of an electric drive – the inverter, which converts DC current from the battery to AC for the electric machine and vice versa – is also integrated with the unit and sits on top of the motor.

Apart from the relative simplicity of assembling the integrated drive unit into the car, it’s small and light, too. The combined weight of only 90kg is likely to be substantially less than if the electric machine, inverter and transmission were all built as separate units.

One car's rubbish...

Renault has developed a new textile product made from old seatbelts, scraps of textiles and recycled plastic bottle tops. The ‘carded yarn’ will be used to cover eight square metres of the Renault Zoe interior and is claimed to reduce the carbon footprint by 60% compared with conventional materials.


Under the skin: The hidden technology of brakes

Under the skin: How Tesla is making cars think like humans

Under the skin: Why you can always count on ABS

News, 10 Dec 2019 00:01:23 +0000
New Mercedes-Benz GLA previewed in new shots ahead of reveal this week 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA New spyshots and an official sketch reveal updated design for second-gen GLA

The new Mercedes-Benz GLA will be officially revealed on 11 December, with new spyshots and a design sketch giving us an early glimpse of the BMW X2 rival. 

Although still featuring some front and rear disguise, we can see that the GLA crossover's shape takes plenty of inspiraton from the A-Class hatchback on which it is based, while the headlights are slimmed down variants of those found on the new GLB SUV

The car sits lower to the ground than its predecessor, but Mercedes has previously confirmed that the GLA's roofline is more than 10 centimetres higher off the ground, allowing for enhanced headroom and a more upright seating position in line with larger SUV models. Leg room is said to have been improved as well, despite the model being 1.5cm shorter overall than the outgoing car. 

Earlier this year, our spy photographers captured the interior of the compact crossover for the first time. The image shows that the dashboard is also set to be very similar to that of the A-Class and Mercedes' other new compact models, featuring rounded air vents and the twin touchscreens of the MBUX system.

The new GLA will join Mercedes' MFA platform-based range alongside the A-Class hatchback, A-Class saloonCLA four-door coupé, CLA Shooting Brake estate and B-Class MPV.

It also now sits below the GLB, the largest car on that platform and a new, fully fledged rival to the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. That leaves the GLA to compete with smaller compact crossovers such as the Audi Q2 and Ford Focus Active and is why it likely has a lower, more car-like profile.

Minimal technical details of the GLA have been released, but we know it will be closely linked to the A-Class in terms of interior design and technology, engines and gearboxes. That means it will adopt Mercedes' latest touchpad and voice-controlled MBUX infotainment system, alongside more advanced safety features and increased material quality.

The engine range will kick off with a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol unit developed in conjunction with the Renault-Nissan Alliance. This will likely be available in two states of tune, while a 2.0-litre engine will top out the range for the time being. A 1.5-litre diesel will also be offered. 

Later on in the GLA’s lifespan, we will see a return of the AMG-tuned GLA 45, putting out anything up to 416bhp through a performance-focused four-wheel-drive system. Before that arrives, there will be a 302bhp 35 variant, as is now available in the A-Class

The GLA will be produced alongside the A-Class at Mercedes' factory in Rastatt, Germany. The A-Class will also serve as the basis of the EQA, an electric hatchback that's scheduled to arrive next year. 

Read more

First ride: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA prototype​

New Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 and GLA 45 prototypes spotted

Mercedes EQA: first prototypes seen showing GLA bodywork​

News, 9 Dec 2019 15:50:00 +0000
DS 7 Crossback 2019 long-term review DS 7 Crossback 2019 long-term review - hello front The Citroen spin-off brand’s first bespoke model is out to convince us it’s a premium offering. Did it manage to impress over five months?

Why we ran it: To see if Citroën’s luxury offshoot has finally built a car with the right mix of integrity and premium feel to take on the German, British and Swedish elite

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

Life with a DS 7 Crossback: Month 5

DS has its eyes on the wealthy uplands of the premium-loving buyer. Has this SUV been the vehicle to take DS there? - 4th December 2019

Ever found yourself staunchly defending one of your offspring while knowing full well they’ve done something wrong? That’s what running the DS 7 Crossback for a few months has felt like.

With the odd exception, everyone who borrowed the big DS for a short period always came back with something to complain about, rather than a glowing report. Whether this is more indicative of the inherent need to critique (or just plain cynicism) of my colleagues or something fundamentally wrong with the car is up for debate, but it certainly wasn’t universally loved.

Although I initially shared many of my peers’ criticisms of the car, I found the foibles softened through familiarity. Part of that could be because of the generally more positive reactions of friends and family, particularly when they’d climbed aboard and experienced the car’s best asset – its interior ambience.

With a 110-mile town and motorway round-trip commute to contend with each day, its ability to relax you was always welcome. The soft, watch-strap leather seats were superbly comfortable and endlessly adjustable, with little touches such as electrically reclining rear seats and multi-mode massaging on our Prestige model aiding this.

More subjectively, everything looked and felt significantly more premium and, for that matter, special than something like a Nissan Qashqai, which it should, given the price. The DS is not a cheap car, but whenever I asked anyone how much they thought it was, most said something in the region of £50k. Passenger space was excellent, too.

There was loads of room for all sizes in the front. I also found that three adults could get comfortable enough for a couple of hours in the back before needing a break – and the same can’t be said of a Jaguar E-Pace. The boot also proved easily capable of swallowing luggage for a week away and, in one instance, me, when I slept across the folded back seats after a music festival.

The flip side of DS’s design-led approach is that the ergonomics are less than perfect, which was my colleagues’ main complaint. After 8000 miles at the wheel, I adapted to such things as the odd placement of the window switches in the centre console, the hidden-away cruise control stalk, the fussy layout of the digital dials and the need to press and hold the lane keep assist button on every drive to turn the system off and avoid infuriating steering interventions. But I never warmed to the infotainment, a clear and large screen spoiled by often laggy menus, irritatingly fiddly touch-sensitive function buttons and the DAB signal, which dropped out when switching back to it from another source.

Another common whinge was the shortage of refinement and grunt from the diesel engine. Again, this was something I became accustomed to: the sedate pace combined with the gruff, pronounced engine note at higher revs, made worse by the lack of wind and road noise, encouraged a more relaxed gait. But a couple of days in the more powerful 2.0-litre model reminded me how much I missed having plenty of torque in reserve and how not needing to work the engine as hard to get up to speed worked wonders for the noise issue. It wasn’t even notably less efficient, so that’s definitely the one to go for.

If it sounds like I’m being negative… well, I am a bit. Niggles like these detracted from a car that, in all other respects, did a stellar job of providing a soothing and relaxing commuting experience. The ride, too crashy on our first petrol Performance Line model with 20in wheels, seemed notably more settled on the 19in-equipped diesel, its supple nature welcome after a stressful day.

The driving experience in general was clearly engineered with comfort at the forefront, although we were a little disappointed to find Citroën’s cheaper C5 Aircross to be more isolating. Still, the 7 has nice steering and better body control than its lesser sibling, so while you won’t relish every corner, it proved at least competent enough that nobody felt seasick whenever the pace was upped.

Despite mixed impressions over our time with the 7, I developed a fondness for its overall charm. Maybe it’s just that you don’t see many around, but it turned a lot more heads than a BMW X3 would have and the swivelling headlights made a cool impression at night.

But there’s still a job to do on the image front: I lost count of how many times I had to ‘explain’ DS to people, and when the response was “so it’s a posh Citroën?” I found it hard to disagree. DS needs to ramp up its dealer presence, marketing efforts and product rollout, which, we’re assured, is the brand’s plan.

A new flagship saloon is coming next year, for starters, and that should be sufficient to make a brand identity impact if not a substantial boost in sales. We wish the brand all the best.

Second Opinion

I feel like the DS 7 confuses premium with complicated. I’ve sat in Lamborghinis that made more sense than the 7’s design-centric cabin layout. The bigger issue is that even once you get your head around the relocated window controls or diamond-centric touchscreen, it’s still too easy to spot the PSA Group switchgear and low-res reversing camera lurking underneath. There’s work to be done before DS can target the more affluent customer base it wants.

Tom Morgan

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Love it:

Cabin ambience This could be the PSA Group’s plushest model yet and the detailing makes it a feel-good environment.

Dealer experience DS knows service a cut above that of Citroën is crucial and it’s on the right track from what we saw.

space The DS 7 is priced to compete with Audi’s Q3 but it’s a good deal bigger, which paid dividends on holiday.

Loathe it:

Ergonomics Those not accustomed to the car found the infotainment and button placement an irksome affair.

1.5-litre diesel Avoid it. Its so-so performance and refinement mean it has no place in a supposedly premium car.

Final mileage: 8087

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Life with a DS 7 Crossback: Month 4

Are the premium ambitions of DS apparent at its dealers and the service they offer? - 6th November 2019

Establishing a premium car brand from scratch isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but spinning one off from your existing mass-market business can be just as tough.

That’s the problem DS faced when it first split from the mothership. It’s all very well spending big to create a range of distinct models shod of their Citroën identity, but if those same cars have to be sold out of a Citroën dealership, it rather undermines the new brand’s credibility.

So when the service warning light in my DS 7 came on prematurely, it gave me the perfect opportunity to find out whether the aftersales experience delivered the goods.

DS is still firmly in the middle of its establishment stage. It has just 36 UK dealers, split between 32 DS Salons, which are effectively spaces tacked on to the side of Citroën and/or Peugeot dealers, and four DS Stores, which are more independent facilities in their own right. The plan is to gradually convert many of the existing Salons into fully fledged Stores as the brand’s product line-up grows.

Although I have a more local DS Salon in Swindon, Wiltshire, I elected to take my car to the nearest DS Store, in Crawley, West Sussex, where I was greeted by their polite service manager, Tim. The site is a fraction of the size of a typical Audi or Mercedes dealer (with the DS 3 now thankfully retired, the firm sells only two models, remember) but it’s certainly more upmarket in appearance than the classic all-white charm-free Citroën dealer next door.

Efforts to boost the premium-ness include leather swatches hanging from the wall and surrounded by tools for upholstering, and there’s a glass jewellery case full of expensive trinkets, watches and the like.

The service experience is less superficial: not only will a valet collect the car for servicing and deliver back clean as a whistle, but for a fee they’ll also deliver the car on a branded track to wherever you need it. There’s DS Club Privilege, too, an owners-only club that provides access to bespoke events across the UK, such as fashion shows, cookery classes and even truffle hunting, if that’s your thing. Aspirational offers include discounts for posh hotels and private yacht charter companies.

If this all seems unnecessary to you, don’t worry: this DS Store gets the basics right, too. Tim sat me down and gave me a full and frank explanation of everything they were going to do to my car: as well as a software update to make the service light less keen to glow, they’d check the calibration of the parking sensors, regas the air-con and update the sat-nav software. This was all free, of course, as was a comprehensive health check.

Happily, while this was going on, I wasn’t lumbered with a high-mileage 3 as a replacement car: DS does only like-for-like courtesy cars, so I had an opportunity to try a 2.0-litre diesel 7 Crossback for the first time. Put simply, that’s the one to have if the petrols are too thirsty, as I’ve always suspected. Not only does the extra 49bhp and 73lb ft make it feel a good dose more effortless to get up to speed than in my 1.5-litre diesel, but it’s also more refined as a result. The gearbox changes up more readily to keep revs lower and it generally feels less strained. Despite this, the fuel economy penalty is negligible.

Make no mistake: this was no transformative dealer experience. We’d expect nothing less from other, more upmarket brands. But it was a grade beyond what Citroën offers and that goes some way to help the 7 Crossback ditch the somewhat unfair stigma of being a Citroën C5 Aircross in posh clothing.

Love it:

Dealer’s courtesy car The polished DS service experience includes a like-for-like courtesy car, except the 2.0-litre diesel I was given was actually better. It was faster yet more refined, too.

Loathe it:

Inappropriate 1.5 diesel A few days in the dealer’s car served to remind me how our 1.5 diesel feels out of place in a premium product and is only 2-3mpg more efficient than the 2.0.

Mileage: 7625

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Life with a DS 7 Crossback: Month 3

Not hard to get comfortable inside - 16th October 2019

The DS 7 really does have cabin comfort nailed. Not only is it more spacious than most rivals, but the seats themselves are excellent: stylish to look at, nice to the touch, supportive and very plushly padded – no Germanic hardness here. On another note, as a fan of felines, I’m very fond of its ‘cats paw’ massaging function, too.

Mileage: 6840

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Meeting the family - 2nd October 2019

I recently had a chance to get the DS 7 alongside its DS 3 Crossback sibling. Although ‘my’ SUV seems the better resolved product, I wish it had some of the smaller car’s distinctive design touches. Separately, turns out the DS 7 does have a variable boot floor, meaning I could’ve had a better night’s sleep in it after the Reading Festival...

Mileage: 6120

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Upmarket SUV goes up against a cheaper but related Citroën - 18th September 2019

Premium sells these days, as we know. You can thank the proliferation of tempting monthly lease deals getting models such as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class into the UK’s top 10. The German ‘big three’ are dominating the sector and, as such, it’s not easy to set up shop with a new nameplate.

Our DS 7 is the first ‘proper’ DS – that is, the first that isn’t simply a rebadged Citroën, with a bespoke look inside and out. But, as is typical these days, its underpinnings are more humble than appearances suggest. It uses the same platform and mechanicals as mainstream siblings from the PSA Group, including its closest relation, the Citroën C5 Aircross.

I wanted to find out if the sharing of oily bits is really noticeable any more, or if the 7 feels just too similar to its cheaper stablemates. As luck would have it, Alistair Clements has been running a C5 Aircross for our sibling title What Car? at the same time as I’ve been running the 7. Swapping for a few days gave us both a chance to compare these two back to back to see if the DS merits its £8000 price jump.

Both of these family SUVs are distinctive to look at, but it’s the 7 that steals a second glance from more passers-by on account of its eye-catching lighting graphics. Is it pretty, or groundbreaking? Not quite, but it creates sufficient intrigue that I’ve had a few strangers come up to me to ask what it is. It’s not a situation Alistair has had in the Citroën: it’s attractive enough, but in a derivative rather than standout way. Interior differences are more profound.

Although the C5 Aircross isn’t lacking in terms of outright build quality next to the 7, it instantly feels less plush. The DS still gives off a sense of occasion after thousands of miles behind the wheel. It’s a new level of material richness and cabin design for the PSA Group and the thickly padded leather seats are supremely comfortable. The 7 is ever so slightly roomier, too.

There’s not much between them in terms of tech. Both have the same driver assistance systems and, although the 7’s infotainment screen is a lot larger and clearer, the actual software isn’t any cleverer. The Citroën scores a point with slightly better usability. Details such as having to hold the button of the 7’s annoying lane keep assist function down for a few seconds every time you get back in (and you usually forget until it first activates on the move) is irksome.

Interestingly, the Citroën claws back a victory on the road. Both are softly sprung, but the Aircross’s progressive hydraulic damping means it cushions you from rough roads and potholes more convincingly. By comparison, the DS has quicker steering and a bit less body roll, but it’s still a long way from being any fun to drive. Comfort is the name of the game for both and it’s the cheaper French effort that wins out.

The DS would triumph in the refinement stakes were it not for our car’s diesel engine, which sounds raucous and feels strained next to the Aircross’s 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol. In fact, the engine remains my biggest bugbear with the 7, being short of both the performance and refinement we’d like to see in a near-£40,000 car.

Overall? It’s personal preference more than a convincing win but, for me, the Citroën’s honesty, value and smoother ride appeal more than the DS’s glitz and glamour.

Love it:

Perceived quality You’ll struggle to find an SUV cabin that looks or feels more special for the cash. It’s a new level of material quality for the PSA Group.

Loathe it:

Small details Ergonomic details irritate, such as the effort needed to turn off lane keep assist and the lack of a toggle switch for instrument brightness.

Mileage: 5520

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Boot proves more spacious than you think - 11th September 2019

Mostly, the DS 7 pounds the M3. But recently, its line of duty was extended when poor planning meant I spent the night huddled in the boot after a day at Reading Festival. It was not fun: there’s enough room for a sixfooter to lay flat but, when folded, the plush reclining rear bench leaves a chunky step in the boot floor. My side still hurts…

Mileage: 5080

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Life with a DS 7 Crossback: Month 2

Unexpected service warning is a cause for concern - 21 August 2019

Passing 4000 miles in the DS 7 has brought about a warning saying it’s due a service – which is odd given the official service intervals specify four times that mileage. The car is insistent that we have another seven months before the full year is up since it left the factory, but still the warning is there. Whether this is deliberate or indeed a fault, we’ll be popping into a dealer.

Mileage: 4042 

Life with a DS 7 Crossback: Month 1

Welcoming the DS 7 Crossback to the fleet - 10th July 2019

It’s generally accepted that the French have the small car game down to a T. Renault, Peugeot and Citroën have all enjoyed great success with their respective mass-market superminis over the past few decades. But at the other end of the market, it has been a very different story: the statement that ‘nobody buys big French cars’ is a well-worn motoring adage for a reason.

Citroën’s last attempt was the curvaceous C6, which sold as many in seven years of its existence as the brand had hoped to sell in one. But things have changed in the past few years. The PSA Group took the plunge in launching a separate luxury brand, DS, and after a few years of flogging lightly tweaked Citroëns, DS has its first bespoke model, the 7 Crossback, on sale for over a year now. In that time, DS has already sold more of these than Citroën ever did C6s.

So have the French, for the first time in decades, built a large, posh car that the public actually wants? We’re going to be running DS’s flagship SUV for a few months to see if it can really get under our skin and deliver the quality and engineering substance that’s in such abundance at this end of the market.

Initial impressions are good, but not outstanding. DS’s designers have plenty of heritage to tap into but no immediate styling legacy, so they could start with a clean sheet. But, of course, attempts to make large cars of the Gallic variety look otherworldly haven’t really pulled in the punters. The 7 Crossback reflects that. The shape is largely a derivative of most other premium mid-sized SUVs, which is perhaps disappointing, but the detailing at least is unique and eye-catching.

The exterior lighting has drawn the most comments from friends and family so far. Every model gets cool, layered 3D-effect rear lights and our Prestige spec also has intricately detailed LED front lights, featuring three light modules that rotate through 180deg as part of a light display when you unlock the car. It’s more of a gimmick than anything else, but it’s details such as this that help elevate the 7 Crossback above and beyond its platform-sharing Peugeot and Citroën siblings.

The interior is more successful at looking and feeling a cut above, to my eyes. It’s here where DS has really tried to portray the avant-garde, high-class image it is chasing. And it has done so pretty well. The design is elegant and attractive and the main touch points on the dashboard, centre console and doors all feel pretty plush, with much of it covered in rich-feeling leather.

Granted, poke around the lower half of the cabin and you’ll find some scratchy plastics, although there are still a number of ergonomic flaws that I’ll detail in further reports. There are a few neat touches you won’t find in a mainstream SUV, though, such as a BRM clock that swivels out of the dash on start-up and interior lighting that can be activated with a wave of the finger. Small details, yes, but details that haven’t lost their appeal after several weeks of using this car for my daily grind between Newbury and Twickenham.

One feature that I’ve yet to put to much use is the space on offer. This is the ace up the 7’s sleeve because it’s priced to compete with cars such as the Volvo XC40 and Jaguar E-Pace but is considerably roomier than most. I’ve not heard a peep from longer-legged passengers in the back yet but that, along with the boot space, will be put to a sterner test later this summer as the holiday season beckons.

It perhaps speaks volumes that I’ve got to this point in the report without even mentioning the way the 7 Crossback drives. I should also qualify here that DS sent us a 222bhp petrol-powered model to test initially before it was switched for the 128bhp diesel we have here. Whereas the petrol unit has decent punch in reserve, this base diesel has so far felt (and sounded) strained when trying to get up to speed briskly or attempting an overtake. The fine but unremarkable 45mpg figure so far reflects how hard this unit has to work to shift such a large, tall car.

Thankfully, the rest of the experience behind the wheel encourages a relaxed pace, anyway. It has clearly been tuned with comfort in mind. The plushly padded seats are the first hint of that. Soft suspension means a fair amount of pitch and wallow, but that translates to a largely supple ride, even if, like many SUVs, it’s too busy and unsettled at lower speeds. It’s nothing like as bad as the petrol-powered car, though, which ran 20in wheels and thumped and crashed far too much for my liking.

With 2000 miles added already so far, we’re starting to uncover why you should – and shouldn’t – consider this alongside the established premium competition. More on that in the next report.

Second Opinion

The idea of Citroën’s divine Déesse being reinvented as a French version of Lexus sits slightly uncomfortably with me, so I approached the 7 with some scepticism. And, though it’s still early days, I remain unconvinced. The DS feels like what it is: a mid-range Citroën wrapped in chrome and lined with leather. It just feels a bit flimsy in a class with premium Germans that’d seemingly survive a nuclear holocaust.

Alastair Clements

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DS 7 Crossback BlueHDI 130 Prestige Automatic specification

Prices: List price new £36,875 List price now £38,620 Price as tested £37,470 Dealer value now £26,700 Private value now £23,734 Trade value now £22,450 (part exchange)

Options: Metallic paint £595

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 49.3mpg Fuel tank 62 litres Test average 47.5mpg Test best 51.3mpg Test worst 43.4mpg Real-world range 648 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 10.7sec Top speed 123mph Engine 4-cyls, 1499cc, turbocharged, diesel Max power 128bhp Max torque 221lb ft Transmission 8-spd automatic Boot capacity 555 litres Wheels 19in, alloy Tyres 235/50 R19 Kerb weight 1428kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £351 CO2 106g/km Service costs none Other costs Adblue £22 Fuel costs £975.80 Running costs inc fuel £975.80 Cost per mile 8 pence Depreciation £10,175 Cost per mile inc dep’n £1.39 Faults Premature service light

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Long-Term Review, 9 Dec 2019 15:17:45 +0000
Report: soaring SUV sales causing car emissions to rise UK Energy Research Centre calls for 'immediate action' to slow growth in high-riding vehicles

A government-funded energy research body has called for “immediate action” to halt rising sales of SUVs and other large vehicles because of their negative impact on vehicle carbon emissions.

According to the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), which is comprised of researchers base in several UK institutions and funded by UK Research and Innovation, the rapid growth in SUV sales in the past decade has led to a rise in total CO2 emissions from the global car fleet, despite the growth in battery-electric vehicles.

SUVs accounted for 21.2% of total vehicles sold in the UK last year, up from 6.6% in 2009 and 13.5% in 2015. In total, 1.8 million SUVs have been sold in the past four years – which the UKERC suggested was likely down to car financing schemes and the freeze in fuel duty.

The UKERC says that SUVs produce around a quarter more CO2 than a medium-size car due to their extra size and weight. It calculated that, assuming vehicles stay on the road for a decade, the 1.8 million SUVs sold in the past four years will produce around 8.2 million tonnes of CO2.

While sales of full electric vehicles are rising, they are outsold 37 to 1 by SUVs. The UKERC also noted that the bulk of plug-in hybrid models sold in recent years have been SUVs, which it says means that “even the relatively small number of electric vehicles that have been sold in the UK are consuming more energy than they need to”.

Professor Jillian Anable, the UKERC’s co-director, said that “the rapid uptake of unnecessarily large and energy consuming vehicles just in the past few years makes a mockery of UK policy efforts towards the ‘Road to Zero’”.

She added: “The decarbonisation of the passenger car market can no longer rely on a distant target to stop the sales of conventional engines. We must start to phase out the most polluting vehicles immediately.

“It is time to enact a strong set of regulations to transform the entire car market towards ultra-low carbon rather than focusing solely on the uptake of electric vehicles.”

The UKERC’s finding are contained in its annual Review of Energy Policy report, in which it makes 10 recommendations on how the UK can achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In order to reach that target, the UKERC says that sales of combustion-engined vehicles – including hybrids – should be brought forward until 2030.


Government advisors call for 2030 petrol and diesel ban

UK government plans green number plates for EVs

Focus on EVs could harm environment, say industry leaders

Analysis: how car production will become carbon neutral

News, 9 Dec 2019 14:57:52 +0000
Radical Rapture 2019 UK review Radical Rapture 2020 UK first drive review - hero front Latest road-legal Radical isn’t as usable or as well-mannered as some lightweights, but still ought to be spectacular in its track-day element On a chilly country road without a number, a rider of a pinto-patterned horse waves by the driver of a Day-Glo-coloured track car with a politeness undue to someone with vastly less business to be where he is than she. It’s five degrees above freezing, it’s December, and we’re a few miles to the south of Silverstone: neither the time nor the place you’d pick to introduce yourself to a brand-new road-legal track car. But when have minor hurdles like that ever stopped us?The Rapture is the latest road-legal track-day special from Peterborough-based racing car builder Radical. A successor for the old SR3 SL, it is ostensibly an SR3 spaceframe prototype that’s been adapted to pass road safety homologation rules not just in Europe but elsewhere in the world also. While it may be road-legal, however, it’s still primarily track-intended; the sort of car designed to be drivable to and from a circuit but not used on many other occasions – and whose existence in Radical’s showroom range allows the firm to sell cars to customers without motorsport licences in countries where you’re simply not allowed to buy a track car without one.Around the Rapture’s FIA safety cell and all of the lightweight tubing of its chassis, then, sits plastic composite bodywork. At the front and rear are double wishbone axles with fully adjustable suspension. Further still towards the car’s extremities are expansive, angry-looking aerodynamic surfaces, with the car’s front splitter in particular having been reprofiled for greater downforce under heavy dive.Doing the driving, meanwhile, is a longways-mounted 2.3-litre Ford Ecoboost four-pot turbo engine retuned by Radical to produce 360bhp and 320lb ft of torque, which feeds the rear wheels via a six-speed sequential paddle-shift gearbox and a Quaife limited-slip diff. This is Radical’s £90k ‘junior’ road-legal option, then – but still one with nearly 500bhp per tonne.First Drive, 9 Dec 2019 13:58:35 +0000Lynk&Co 05: China-only BMW X4 rival revealed Lynk & Co 05
Lynk&Co 05
Geely's ambitious, Europe-bound Chinese brand showcases its fifth model

Chinese brand Lynk&Co, which is owned by Volvo's parent company, Geely, has unveiled its fourth model, the 05 coupé-SUV.

The BMW X4 rival joins the 01 SUV, 02 crossover and 03 saloon in the line-up. A fifth model, a family hatchback called the 04, is yet to be revealed. 

While only limited technical details of the 05 are known, it's based on the Volvo-developed CMA platform, like its siblings, and takes many of its styling cues from the similar-size 01. The 05 is 4592mm long, with a wheelbase of 2734mm.

When the 05 goes on sales in China, it will have an electrified 2.0-litre engine sending 251bhp and 258lb ft to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Inside, the dashboard is dominated by a 12.7in touchscreen.

Lynk&Co, which is focused on younger customers with a subscription-focused business model, has ambitions to expand into Europe, particularly with the Volvo XC40-size 02. However, the 05 has been developed purely for the Chinese market.


Lynk&Co 02: European-focused crossover revealed

Lynk&Co reveals 493bhp concept car based on TCR racer

First drive: Lynk&Co 02

News, 9 Dec 2019 11:46:08 +0000
Updated Jaguar I-Pace gets range and battery capacity boost Flagship EV receives host of free upgrades learned from race technology

Jaguar has upgraded its electric I-Pace, introducing free software updates which promise to improve battery performance and increase range by up to 12 miles from a full charge.

The updates, which are a result of the knowledge gained from the I-Pace eTrophy race series, also include changes to the all-wheel drive system, altering the torque distribution between front and rear motors to deliver better efficiency in Eco mode. There are tweaks to the thermal management system, too, in which the active radiator vanes are closed more often to enhance aerodynamics.

Alongside improvements gleaned from the eTrophy series, Jaguar has also analysed data from 500 million miles of real-world journeys. Changes made after interpreting these findings include improved regenerative braking and more accurate range calculations to be more reflective of an individual’s driving style.

While Jaguar claims an increase of up to 12 miles of range in the update, this does not change the official certified WLTP range of 292 miles. Jaguar said the “marginal gains developed from eTrophy analysis will give customers access to an improvement of up to eight per cent dependent on usage – equating to a potential extra 12 miles of real-world range”.

When asked why the WLTP figure was not improved, a spokesman told Autocar: “The focus of this campaign is improved real-world range for our customers. The additional resources that would be needed purely for recertification are much better invested in ongoing product developments – for race and road.”

Jaguar is inviting I-Pace owners to take their cars to retailers to receive the free update, which will also enable enhanced over-the-air functionality. The firm said that more electronic modules will be able to receive remote updates, but added that it was “unable to specify which additional modules at this time”.

Stephen Boulter, I-Pace vehicle engineering manager, commented: “The Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy has generated a huge amount of data for us to analyse and those marginal gains, derived from competition on the track, are now being applied to customers’ cars to further enhance their driving experience.

“The new software updates optimise the powertrain control systems to improve efficiency and allow I-Pace drivers to travel even further on a single charge without any hardware changes – it really is a case of the vehicle getting better with age.”


Jaguar I-Pace review

On a charge: Driving the Jaguar I-Pace from London to Frankfurt

From ink to I-Pace: How Jaguar designs an electric car

News, 9 Dec 2019 09:01:23 +0000
New McLaren 620R revealed as limited-run, road-legal GT4 racer McLaren 620R front track McLaren's new model is road-ready version of 570S GT4 with more power, less weight and race-spec aero

McLaren has announced a race-spec but road-ready variant for its Sports Series line-up, called the 620R, set to go into limited production early next year. 

Described as “a road-legal version of a race car”, the 620R shares much of its chassis and aerodynamic hardware with the 570S GT4 racer. McLaren claims it “retains the DNA of a fully homologated track car yet is free from the restrictions that race regulations apply”. 

The latter point has allowed the Woking brand to make the 620R the fastest Sports Series model yet. Whereas the GT4 car sees power cut from the 562bhp of the 570S to about 420bhp, the 620R makes, as its name suggests, 620PS, or 612bhp. Torque is rated at 457lb ft. 

Combined with a kerb weight down by about 30kg over the 570S, that allows for a 0-62mph time of 2.9sec, a 0-124mph time of 8.1sec and a top speed of 200mph.

Of course, the racing pedigree goes beyond raw straight-line pace. The 620R gets the GT4 car’s two-way manually adjustable coilover system, which features 32 clicks of adjustment for rebound and compression rates. The dampers themselves are 6kg lighter than the standard units. These combine with stiffer springs and anti-roll bars and solid stainless steel top mounts for, McLaren claims, greatly improved control and feedback. 

The 620R has been engineered to run on slick tyres without any adjustment, meaning owners can rock up to their favourite circuit and swap out the road-legal rubber with minimal effort. It’s delivered from the factory with Pirelli Trofeo R semi-slick tyres, with an optional full slick set specially developed for McLaren. Braking is taken care of by a carbon ceramic set-up. 

Aero is a significant part of the 620R’s appeal over the standard Sports Series models. It gets the same adjustable carbonfibre wing as the GT4 (with a third brake light to make it road-legal) which can be set to more significant angles of attack allowing for up to 185kg of downforce. The new car also features a redesigned front bumper, splitter and bonnet that all improve airflow, along with dive planes on the front wings. 

A pared-back cabin sees items such as the carpet, glovebox, air-con, navigation and audio system junked to help keep the weight down, but all can be installed at no extra cost. The touchscreen is retained and features a track telemetry system ( with an optional three-camera set-up), while lightweight carbonfibre racing seats get six-point harnesses as standard. Door pull straps, along with carbonfibre shift paddles, steering wheel spokes and centre console, enhance the race-spec feel. 

Three exterior colour schemes are offered - orange with white racing stripes, white or black, the latter two with orange stripes. A number of racing decals are optional, along with configurable detail colour and trim options and the full range of MSO personalisation. The car pictured features a decal livery inspired by the Senna GTR

A total of 350 examples will be produced for customers, with each car getting a numbered plaque on the dash. Priced from £250,000 including taxes, European and North American buyers get a day of tuition at a race circuit included. Deliveries commence from February. 

Read more:

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McLaren 570S 2019 review

News, 9 Dec 2019 09:00:41 +0000
Used car buying guide: BMW M6 BMW M6
The hood of a healthy M6 convertible takes just 22sec to fold
Picking up a snappy 500bhp M car for just £9000 may seem like an easy win, but buy a dud and the cost of repairs can be crippling

They start at around the same prices (less than £10,000) and they share the same naturally aspirated 500bhp V10 and pin-sharp chassis. But although the E60-generation M5 of 2005 is the one folk lust after, its sibling, the E63-gen M6 coupé, is actually slightly quicker. Big deal if you need the saloon’s four doors, of course, but if you don’t and you hanker after a big, powerful coupé with decent practicality and an exotic engine, the M6 could be just the car for you.

But be warned: buying a dud will leave your finances in tatters. Running one is expensive – and doesn’t the trade know it. When we mentioned ‘M6 buying guide’, the specialists we spoke to dashed for cover shouting ‘unreliable SMG automated manual!’ and ‘warranty too expensive!’. It may explain why, with dealers running scared of the cars and offering low money for them, half the M6 coupés and convertibles on one popular classified website are private-sale motors. They range in price from £10,000 to £20,000, which is top money for the model. It’s likely these private sellers will bite your hand off if you offer considerably less and sweeten your bid with cash.

Because the fact is that you’ll need a war chest with an M6 to cover incidentals such as an oil service, brakes and premium tyres, plus likely repair or preventative work, including a new clutch and flywheel, throttle actuators and big end bearings. Regarding that last item, that’s only something to be wary of on higher-mileage cars but a new clutch and flywheel could be required from just 30,000 miles.

Have we put you off BMW’s big coupé? We don’t mean to because its foibles aside, it’s a sublime motor that, when push comes to shove, feels just that little bit sharper and more planted than the M5. To some extent, that’s because it’s 50kg lighter, due in part to a carbonfibre roof that also helps make the car’s centre of gravity 60mm lower. It has a slightly wider rear track, too.

Launch control permits even more rapid starts but cooks the clutch and strains the rear differential. At least private-sale cars give you the opportunity to meet the owner and gauge their level of hooliganism.

Features include electronic damper control (EDC), which offers three ride settings. The model was facelifted in 2007, when it gained smarter lighting and a mildly reworked cabin. The M6 coupé outnumbers the cabriolet by two to one. The drop-top’s hood is a complex, high-quality affair, but although the body is stiffened where it matters, ultimately the model lacks the coupé’s poise and bite.

Whichever bodystyle you’re tempted by, aim to buy the best-serviced and best-equipped one you can afford; one that stands out from the crowd. That way, you’ll make the most of the emerging interest in naturally aspirated motors such as the M6’s stupendous V10.

How to get one in your garage

An expert's view

Jack Day, Sutherland M Power Cars: “We buy and sell all types of M car but I can’t remember when we last had an M6 in the showroom. It’s the unreliable SMG gearbox that bothers people. It’s not like today’s twin-clutch transmissions. It’s a peculiar thing, and when it goes wrong, it can be expensive. Putting a warranty on the model is another big expense. And I’d be wary of the convertible for the extra complication it brings. On the positive side, the M6 is quicker than the M5 saloon, and although it’s not as practical, it looks fantastic. There’s a growing demand for powerful, naturally aspirated engines, too.”

Buyer beware...

■ Engine: Listen for valvetrain noise and grumbles from below, hopefully signalled by the engine warning light before terminal crank failure occurs. Check the service history for on-the-button oil changes, which conrod bearings, in particular, require. Inspect the throttle bodies and actuators. Expect a healthy engine to consume a litre of oil every 1000 miles.

■ Transmission: Even a sensibly used clutch lasts only 50,000 miles. (Check for the red cog warning light on the dashboard.) Expect the gearbox to be clunky around town but to free up with speed. A good one should pick up smoothly from rest and reverse without drama, although juddering may be a (relatively inexpensive) clutch release bearing and guide bush on its way out. Updated SMG3 ’boxes from 2006 onwards are more reliable than earlier ones. Whining and clunks from the rear diff are a no-no. Check it for oil leaks, too.

■ Suspension, steering and brakes: Juddering through the steering wheel may be worn control arms. Replacement dampers for the electronic damper control system are expensive (about £600 each). Check for worn pads and lipped discs. Beware aftermarket alloy wheels, which may be oversized and rubbing the arches. Check tyres are premium brands.

■ Body and interior: Check for water in the headlights and also in the cabin, which it enters via blocked roof drains. Problems with the hard drive can cause the iController to freeze on the BMW opening page.

Also worth knowing

Don’t downplay the significance of any warning lights. The MOT comes down hard on those, including the engine warning light and any deemed to be safety related, including brakes, tyre pressure sensors, airbags and stability control. Repairs could bankrupt you.

How much to spend

£9000-£12,499: Mainly early, private-sale cars around 100,000 miles optimistically priced but some with good histories and valuable recent work, including a 2005 car with 87,000 miles, full service history and new clutch and flywheel for £10,750.

£12,500-£13,999: Mainly lower-mileage 2006-07 cars with good service histories but, again, mainly private-sale examples.

£14,000-£18,999: Tidier cars with faultless service histories and around 50,000 miles.

£19,000-£21,000: Some exceptional, late-plate coupés and convertibles but also some merely good cars at strong prices.

One we found

BMW M6, 2007/57-reg, 51,000 miles, £16,495: This private-sale car (so scope for a price reduction) is the facelift model and has full BMW service history and an official BMW extended warranty. Nothing about it having had a new clutch and flywheel, which is reassuring, but get that price down.


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News, 9 Dec 2019 06:01:24 +0000
Rolling start: Brits take flight in Formula E, rising star Rory Butcher and more
Alexander Sims (27) took pole position for both races
Begin your week with the news in brief, as our reporters lift the bonnet on all-things motorsport

In this week's round-up of motorsport news and gossip, Bird and Sims take early wins in Formula E, VW commits to a fully-electric future, Jenson Button is unstitched by technical faults in Baja and Nascar champion Jimmie Johnson signals his retirement.  

We also name the week's rising star, and highlight some of the greatest machinery ever to enter a motor race.

Bird and Sims fly in Formula E

British racers Sam Bird (Envision Virgin-Audi) and Alexander Sims (BMW Andretti) took victories in the opening two rounds of the Formula E season in Saudi Arabia. Sims now leads the points. Series newcomers Porsche and Mercedes showed decent form, with three-time Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer and ex-McLaren Formula 1 racer Stoffel Vandoorne finishing second and third for the respective marques in the opening race.

VW’s electric vow

Volkswagen’s motorsport division will only pursue fully electric projects in the future. The firm will continue with its 671bhp ID R prototype, which has set records at Pikes Peak, the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Nürburgring, and will also develop production-based electric motorsport concepts based on its MEB platform.

Button’s Baja breakdown

Former F1 champ Jenson Button found himself stuck in the Mexican wilderness for 17 hours after hitting trouble on his first attempt at the Baja 1000 off-road race. Button was competing in a trophy truck, but was sidelined after a differential breaking. “A life experience but not the one I expected,” said Button.

Zandvoort’s banking

Zandvoort will host the Dutch GP for the first time since 1985 next year, with the circuit undergoing an extensive revamp to house the modern F1 circus. That will include banking the final corner, with track officials now revealing it will be angled at 32deg – making it roughly twice as steep as the corners of Indianapolis.

Stock car star to retire

Multiple Nascar champion Jimmie Johnson will retire at the end of the 2020 season. The Chevrolet driver has taken 83 race wins in the stock car series, and tied Richard Petty for the most titles won.

Super GT beats DTM

Japan’s Super GTs got the better of Germany’s DTM as the two codes met at Fuji for a ‘Dream Race’ double-header. The long-discussed collaboration combined a grid made up of regular entries from both series. New Zealander Nick Cassidy won the first race in his Lexus LC500, while Indian and former Jordan F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan won the second in his Honda NSX-GT.

Rising star

Rory Butcher: The 32-year-old and son of Knockhill circuit owner Derek Butcher enjoyed a breakthrough season in the British Touring Car Championship in 2019. The Scot, who drove a Honda Civic Type R for AmD Tuning, took his first three wins at this level on his way to fifth in the overall standings. He also pipped Josh Cook to the Independents’ title – by just two points – and added the Jack Sears Trophy for most improved driver. More focused on the overall title than Indie pre-eminence this year, his ambition will now be to emulate his brotherin-law, three-time BTCC champion Gordon Shedden.

Great racing cars

Ferrari 312T 1975-1980: More a series of cars than a single model, Mauro Forghieri’s beautiful flat 12-powered Formula 1 cars returned Ferrari to a position of dominance not seen since the 1950s. The T was for ‘transversale’, as in transverse gearbox, which allowed for short-wheelbase packaging perfection. Niki Lauda won two world titles in 1975 and ’77 (and only lost out in ’76 because of his famous accident), then Jody Scheckter added another in the T4 in ’79. Already outdated by the ground-effects revolution, the T5 ended the series with a whimper in ’80 – but by then the 312T legend was already carved in stone.


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News, 9 Dec 2019 00:01:23 +0000
New £25k Land Rover to be followed by luxo-Defender Baby Land Rover render
The new entry-level Land Rover, as imagined by Autocar
Defender-inspired baby due in 2021, two years before £100k-plus Defender Sport EV

Land Rover is preparing to extend its model line-up in two bold directions over the next five years. The first will bring back the long-discussed entry-level Land Rover into the company’s cycle plan and the second is a new, more sporting, luxury version of the new Defender.

With an expected target price of around £25,000, the new entry-level five-door model will be cheaper in real terms than any previous Land Rover model. Believed to be codenamed L860, it is expected to arrive in 2021.

Meanwhile, the luxurious, fourth model in the Defender line-up is said to be a full four years away from being unveiled. It is expected to make its debut as a pure-electric model with sharper and leaner styling as well as a highly luxurious interior and a price well into six figures.

The £25,000 Land Rover’s styling is said to draw heavily on the new Defender as well as referencing the original iconic Land Rover. But it won’t be as square-edged and mechanical as the controversial 2011 DC100 concepts.

The interior is also expected to reference the lean and functional look used in the new Defender, although given the price difference, a reduction in equipment and space is likely.

It’s not yet known how the L860 will be branded. A junior Defender badge is unlikely because that new family is pitched at a more upmarket price point and a Discovery family badge could draw sales from the Discovery Sport.

That means it may get its own branding, possibly something as simple as the Land Rover 80, which would reference the wheelbase of the original Series 1 machines as well as sitting neatly below the badging of the new Defender.

It’s thought that the L860 is the third time in the past few years that Land Rover has attempted to secure a business case for a model that could tempt away buyers of mainstream compact SUVs, such as the Jeep Compass, Mini Countryman and Volkswagen Tiguan, while also competing with premium models like the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40.

Another solid business reason for the entry-level Land Rover is that the market for mid-sized SUVs across Europe is healthy and growing, with a current annual market of over 500,000 units. However, some reports suggest the car will also be sold in markets outside of Europe. The US and China are starting to embrace smaller SUV-style models, for instance.

The company’s need for such a car has also been hastened by incoming EU CO2 regulations and the requirement for the firm to hit an average of 130g/km of CO2 by 2021, ahead of another big cut in 2025.

Jaguar Land Rover is also mindful that it has a higher 2021 average CO2 target than most other car makers because it sells fewer than 300,000 vehicles across the EU. Such a target is still difficult to achieve, given the significant mix of large, heavy cars in the brand’s line-up.

The main hurdle for Land Rover in bringing the L860 to the showroom will be reducing development and construction costs by as much as possible in order to hit the ambitious showroom target price.

Today’s Discovery Sport is priced from £31,000 as, in real terms, was the Freelander 2 when it was released in 2006. With a mooted £25,000 entry price for the new car, it means Land Rover must engineer in significant cost savings.

The biggest part of the price calculation will be the type of platform underpinning the L860. It’s expected to use a new platform that Land Rover calls the D10 and parent firm Tata dubs the Omega-Arc (for Optimal Modular Efficient Global Advanced Architecture).

Omega-Arc underpins the new Tata Harrier, which was launched at the start of 2019. This is a cost-reduced but modernised version of Land Rover’s D8 steel platform used by the original Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport.

Reports from India say the engineering of the Omega-Arc benefited from input from Tata Steel, which helped reduce costs without affecting vehicle safety. The architecture will also accommodate a small battery pack, allowing the use of plug-in hybrid drivetrains.

The previous attempt to bring the L860 to market was also said to use this platform and the model would have been built alongside the Tata Harrier in India, although in a much more sophisticated form.

However, in January 2017, the Indian business press reported that the project had been cancelled by Land Rover in the wake of the Brexit vote and fears of a greater trade protectionism by then-new US president Donald Trump.

But reports from India say the Omega architecture was designed to be used by both Tata and Land Rover. For example, while it has one set of rear suspension mounting points, the Harrier is able to employ a basic beam axle whereas the new Land Rover will use a proper multi-link rear axle for both front and all-wheel-drive versions.

The L860 will also get a Land Rover-specific front suspension system and the front subframe will be significantly more refined than in the Harrier, which retails from around £18,000 in India.

The upshot is that the production L860 will have a substantially new platform, and plug-in capability and, in pursuit of maximum fuel economy, it’s expected to be launched with the upcoming 1.5-litre three-cylinder Ingenium engines in both turbocharged and mild-hybrid forms and most likely as front-wheel drive.

More powerful four-cylinder engines and all-wheel drive are entirely possible for the L860, but Land Rover will want to be careful not to undermine sales of the Discovery Sport.

A plug-in three-cylinder version is an option because of its potential to deliver low CO2 figures under the WLTP testing regime, something that would help offset the high CO2 figures of the larger Range Rover and Defender models.

With costs at the forefront of the project, it’s thought that the L860 will be built at Land Rover’s new plant in Slovakia, which benefits from much lower employee costs than in the UK and is located close to east European component suppliers. If all goes to plan, mules of the new vehicle should appear in early 2020 before the model is unveiled in the third quarter of 2021.

Meanwhile, the planned range-topping Defender Sport is in the early stages of its development, according to insiders. It’s expected to be the first pure-electric Defender family spin-off and is based on the new MLA architecture.

It will be a much more luxurious interpretation of the new model, with the kind of fixtures and fittings to rival the new Aston Martin DBX and the entry-level versions of the Bentley Bentayga, as well as being pure electric.

The aim is not only to help further reduce Land Rover’s fleet CO2 in time for even tougher 2025 regulations but also to produce a much more authentic and distinctive eco-friendly vehicle for the most upmarket car buyers.

One bonus is that it’s thought, thanks to the ultra-fine controllability of electric motors, the Defender Sport will still be as exceptionally capable off road as Land Rover’s current crop of models. However, it’ll be significantly more road-focused than the standard Defender.


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News, 9 Dec 2019 00:01:23 +0000
Opinion: Land Rover's new models were inevitable Land Rover red
Baby Land Rover will look ‘smoother’ than the DC100 concepts
CO2 limits and demand for affordable SUVs make baby Land Rover a no-brainer, while the EV Defender Sport has flagship potential

Land Rover had no choice but to build a smaller, lighter and more economical entry-level model. It’s not just the EU’s fearsome CO2 regulations that the company has to consider. It also cannot ignore the size of the European market for more affordable medium-sized SUVs.

BMW is currently making hay in Europe with the X1, which undercuts the Discovery by £4000 or so and achieved around 111,000 sales last year. By contrast, the Discovery Sport managed around 45,000 sales in Europe.

But it’s the upmarket mainstream models such as the Volkswagen Tiguan that are absolutely flying. It’s hard to believe this VW model netted global sales of over 860,000 units in 2018, ahead of the Polo and the Golf. And around 275,000 of those were in Europe alone.

Land Rover is hardly going to compete with the Tiguan in sales terms, but if it can offer a base model at a comparable starting price, the potential is significant, especially as the company usually has a head start with styling and brand cachet.

News that the company is planning a pure-electric version of the new Defender can’t really be a surprise, either, because the mantra that ‘premiumness is indivisible from greenness’ has been ringing in the industry’s ears for years. It’s one of the reasons the new Jaguar XJ will kick off as a battery-electric car.

Indeed, late last week, Daimler boss Ola Källenius confirmed that Mercedes will build a pure-electric version of the G-Glass, providing further evidence that the way to preserve the existence of super-premium luxury vehicles in the medium-term future is to add lots of batteries. Not only can the battery costs be better absorbed in the high pricing, but the cars also become much harder to criticise on an environmental level.

The electric Defender Sport could yet be Land Rover’s flagship model: 1948 sentiment with 2025 technology.


Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern on the Defender and future projects

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Why Jaguar Land Rover is back in profit

Opinion, 9 Dec 2019 00:01:23 +0000
Rules of engagement: The new regulations which will shake up F1 Formula 1 - rules of engagement
Overtaking is a big focus of F1's rules revamp
For 2021, F1 chiefs have ripped up the rulebook and overhauled the current regs. We round up the changes and analyse their likely effects

Since Liberty Media officially took control of Formula 1 from Bernie Ecclestone in January 2017, the mantra has always been ‘judge us not on what you see now but on what happens in 2021 and beyond’. That date was significant for the simple reason that the current Concorde Agreement – the covenant by which F1 is run – expires at the end of 2020, after which all bets were off in terms of the regulations, governance and finances of the sport.

In the interim, there was only a limited opportunity for the new management to have a major influence on the direction F1 was taking. It was still in the slipstream of the Ecclestone era.

There have been endless discussions during the past couple of seasons about what that new direction should be. Crucially, the lack of a Concorde Agreement and hence governance for 2021 meant that, in theory, Liberty and the FIA could do anything they wanted and the teams would have little say. It was a unique opportunity to move the goalposts without the inevitable blocking of change by parties keen to protect their own interests.

With no F1 governance in place, the deadline for announcing 2021 changes originally defaulted to 31 March 2019. However, that proved far too early to pin down details as the debate continued.

All parties thus agreed to a postponement until 31 October, and after a series of meetings through the season, it was on that date that FIA president Jean Todt, F1 CEO Chase Carey and sporting boss Ross Brawn presented the draft regulations to the world, after they had been ratified by the World Motor Sport Council.

Or rather, they presented three sets of regulations, because the familiar technical and sporting documents have now been joined for the first time by a set of financial regulations. They form a key part of F1’s attempts to ensure that the sport is sustainable over the long term and to level the playing field.

Technical regs: it's all about overtaking

No set of technical regulations in F1 history has been the subject of as much research, development and testing as that agreed for 2021.

One of the first things Brawn did on his appointment was to headhunt a team of former F1 engineers, under the leadership of ex-Benetton and Renault F1 technical director Pat Symonds, and task them with drawing up a set of regulations.

In effect poachers turned gamekeepers, they have worked closely with FIA single-seater technical boss and former Ferrari man Nikolas Tombazis. Brawn insisted his in-house team start with a clean sheet of paper with a clear goal of improving the racing – with a priority of making it easier for cars to follow each other, F1’s perennial problem. Extensive wind tunnel and CFD (computational fluid dynamics) work, with some support from the teams, helped to provide answers.

For the last major F1 rule change, in 2017, the focus was on making the cars faster and more spectacular, and improving overtaking was not part of the brief (see box, overleaf). An attempt had been made to address that with simpler front wings for 2019, but it hasn’t really paid off.

“We need cars that can race each other because the cars we have now are terrible in that respect,” said Brawn when announcing the 2021 package. “We get constant reminders of the difficulties the drivers have in competing with another car when the performance difference is not huge.

“What has changed in the last few years is the new commercial rights holder, Liberty, recognising the need to do this and providing the resources and funds for F1 and the FIA to work together to find solutions for the challenges F1 faces. We’re providing cars which, we think, are more attractive and can race each other.”

The wind-tunnel model and the images released by F1 show a more modern-looking and spectacular car, set off by 18in wheels.

“We’ve sought to simplify the final shapes of the cars and to desensitise some areas, in this way leading to lower performance differential,” said Tombazis. “We hope that these aerodynamic regulations will mean the difference between the fastest and the slowest car will be smaller than currently.

“It is fundamentally a ground-effect car. It’s got a long diffuser starting from the front of the sidepod, going underneath and finishing at the very back. That is fundamental for the flow structures that we’ve sought to achieve around it.

“Some areas of the car, not a huge number, are going to be prescribed, because there’s such sensitivity to control the wheel wakes that we feel if we didn’t actually restrict the shapes, we’d end up with teams finding ways to overcome the key objectives.”

Over the summer, team technical bosses made it clear that they were frustrated by the apparently restrictive aero rules, suggesting that the cars will all look the same. “We might as well all go and buy Dallaras,” rued Red Bull’s design guru, Adrian Newey.

Tombazis remains confident that designers will still have some freedom. “We expect there to be numerous areas where the cars can and will look different to each other,” he said. “The nose, the front wing, the engine intake, the sidepod inlet, the sidepod shape itself, the rear wing. There are quite a lot of areas where we see still notable performance and visual differentiation.”

The 2021 technical rules address costs, with a move to some standard or common parts, such as the fuel system. There are fewer than was originally envisaged. Teams resisted being obliged to use components supplied by third-party tender winners in key areas such as gearbox internals and brakes.

The hybrid power unit is largely unchanged, other than a higher minimum weight and some material restrictions to address costs, while a move towards synthetic fuels sees a doubling to 20% content in 2021.

One big downside is that the overall minimum car weight has risen from 743kg to 768kg, taking into account the 18in wheels and an allowance for standard parts.

Sporting regs: tidy up the rulebook

The sporting regulations feature fewer tweaks than the technical ones and there’s no sign of innovations such as Saturday qualifying races, which Liberty had been pushing for.

Instead, it has been more about tidying up details. Former Tyrrell and Renault team manager Steve Nielsen – another Brawn hire – has led the reappraisal of a document that had been the responsibility of the late Charlie Whiting for over two decades. With the maximum number of races now set at 25, efforts have been made to shorten ‘weekends’. Scrutineering has now moved to Friday and curfew regulations have been tightened.

To stop the proliferation of newly minted parts arriving over a weekend, a reference specification is set on Friday. Teams can test development parts on Friday but they can’t race them and the car has to be in that reference spec from Saturday morning. There are also revised restrictions on wind tunnel and CFD usage and, for the first time, limits on engine dyno running.

Financial regs: a new challenge to police

For decades, there have been attempts to rein in the spending of the top teams. Nothing has ever really worked, but by putting the financial element into the FIA rules – and ensuring there are tough penalties – there is finally a brake on expenditure.

A cost cap has been set at $175 million (£135m) for a 21-race season, with $1m to be added for every race above that. There’s a lengthy list of exclusions, including salaries for drivers and top management, as well as marketing expenditure. Even so, it will still impact the top three teams – Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull – and force them to be more efficient.

“Financial regulations are the dramatic change in F1,” said Brawn. “We’ve tried for these in the past and we’ve not been successful. I think the crucial thing about the financial regulations now is that they are part of the FIA regulations.

“So the sanctions for breaching financial regulations will be sporting penalties of some sort, depending on the severity of the breach – whereas before, we had the resource restriction, which was a gentlemen’s agreement between teams. Well, there are not many gentlemen in the paddock, I’m afraid, and that was a failure. But this has teeth. If you fraudulently breach the financial regulations, you will be losing your championship. So it has serious consequences.”

Criticism of restrictions on spending has always focused on policing. Can you really keep track of everything a big team is doing, especially one with manufacturer links and thus the possibility to quietly farm out a little R&D project to the mother company? It remains a concern for the critics, but some very clever people have been involved in creating the rules, including former Honda, Brawn GP and Mercedes financial chief Nigel Kerr.

“We’ve got a very strong team of financial experts within the FIA and within F1,” said Brawn. “And we’ve sought outside support on this. Deloitte are one of the experts on sports finances: they’ve been very involved with the football world and you can see the positive effect that’s starting to have.

“They’ve been pretty well thought out but they will need development, like any regulation. I fully expect that we are going to have challenges in the future to implement this, but it’s absolutely essential for the good of F1 that we have a control on the finances and how much is spent in F1.”

What do the teams think?

As noted, there was some pushback on technical changes, with the big players attempting to derail the new aero regs and maintain the status quo. There were some concessions, but the basic package remains.

“There is a still much to work on,” said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto. “So I would avoid to say that it is locked down. I think this is still at a starting point where altogether now we need to collaborate, improve furthermore what is certainly a good set of regulations, but still much to develop and improve.”

The elephant in the room is that the financial restrictions do not come into force until 2021 – so spending will be unfettered in 2020, when the teams are developing their first cars for the new rules.

The existing wind tunnel/CFD limits will rein in the three big players to some degree, but there are plenty of areas where money still talks, and they are likely to hit the ground running in 2021.

“There is an argument to say that those teams with more resource will benefit from that as they go into 2021,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. “But inevitably, when there is a big regulation change, somebody gets it right and others undershoot. And you want to make sure that you are on top of the curve, rather than behind it.”

What went wrong last time

F1’s last major rule change, for 2017, saw a move to high downforce, with a general aim of making the cars faster and more spectacular, and thus more challenging to drive.

Overtaking was not part of the brief and, somewhere along the way, that was overlooked by the technical directors who were involved in shaping the changes.

Despite the protests of then Mercedes tech chief Paddy Lowe – inevitably dismissed as an attempt to maintain the status quo and thus the Mercedes team’s advantage – the rules were passed. And, sure enough, following a rival proved harder than ever with the new breed of wider, high-downforce cars.

“These cars from 2016 to 2017 had a huge increase in downforce and it is worth thinking back on that experience because it was done for reasons I don’t understand,” said Ross Brawn, who returned to F1 after the decision was made. “It’s an example of an unthought-through programme. So the cars are very quick now, but they’re not raceable.”

Adam Cooper


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News, 8 Dec 2019 06:01:23 +0000
Toy story: The wonderful world of model cars Collectors Old Toy Shop
Corgi, Dinky, Matchbox - they're all here at the Collectors Old Toy Shop
Fuelled by nostalgia, model cars can fetch serious money. We revisit our childhoods at the Collectors Old Toy Shop

Simon gets it. Greg gets it. I get it, but I’m not sure Max, the photographer, gets it. Too young, I reckon. I’m talking about that feeling of nostalgia triggered by the sight of old die-cast model cars by Corgi, Dinky and Matchbox.

I’m surrounded by them here in the Collectors Old Toy Shop in Halifax, owned by Simon Haley, 54. He’s joined by Greg Brooke, 62, a customer and collector who has been coming to the shop for 27 years.

“I had one of those and one of those – and one of those!” I, a 59-year-old, can’t help exclaiming as I peer at the shelves and glass cabinets filled with row upon row of the exquisite diecast cars, many of the most valuable ones still in their boxes.

Every visitor of a certain age says it, apparently. Some turn up just to ogle the models and be transported back to a time when their idea of fun was pushing their own along the carpet. And then overnight they outgrew their Minis, Zephyr Zodiacs and fire engines, and up to the loft or, more likely, to the jumble sale the little cars went, never to be played with again.

Haley stocks a few hundred of these battered old relics from childhood. Priced from £1 each, they spill out of baskets at the back of the shop, where they’re popular not only with young visitors but also with collectors harvesting spare parts.

At the other end of the shop’s price spectrum is Haley’s Corgi No.267 Batmobile. It appears to be in mint condition and together with its original box is priced at £500. However, there are Batmobiles and there are Batmobiles… Haley’s is the so-called Black First Issue of 1966. His price is competitive considering that Collect-a-Toy, which publishes a price guide for popular collectors’ models, suggests that one in A+ condition with its box is worth £538.

The guide also lists six other Batmobiles, the most expensive being what it describes as ‘Red Wheels in early box’ of 1973 with a guide price of £948, and the cheapest the Batmobile Black of 1974 at £245.

Incidentally, the first Batmobile wasn’t actually the Black First Issue but the Satin Black First Issue. It was quickly withdrawn because Corgi thought its finish too dull and changed it for a gloss one. Haley says a good one, if you can find it, is worth £1000.

Collect-a-Toy’s price guide also provides a neat little graphic showing how each Batmobile’s price has moved in recent years. Taking that Black First Issue as an example, the guide price for one in A+ condition started from a low of around £450 in 2008 before rising to £1000 in 2013 and falling to its present value of £538 in 2019.

In between Haley’s cheapest motors and his most expensive is an example of that icon of childhood, the Corgi No.261 James Bond Aston Martin DB5. Launched in 1965 to coincide with the release of Goldfinger, the third Bond film, and fitted with machine guns, a bulletproof shield and, most exciting of all, a pop-up roof that allowed the ejector seat to fire its occupant skywards, the model was a smash hit with children. Today, boxed examples in good condition are highly prized.

Haley wants £250 for his almost mint example complete with box, instruction leaflet, two figures and, crucially, the unused 007 transfer. This compares favourably with a guide price of £502. The model has never scaled the heights of the Batmobile, peaking at around £575, but this may be due to its massive sales success, which means good examples are always coming to market. “The 1960s was the golden age of model cars,” says Haley. “The real cars they were based on were more exciting, film and TV tie-ups boosted their appeal and people had more money to spend.”

Competition was intense between Matchbox, Dinky and Corgi. Today, each brand has its followers but I’m attracted to the Corgi models by their superior finish and detailing. Collector Brooke agrees.

“It’s my favourite brand,” he says. “The cars are better proportioned and their colours are brighter. They were the first to have windows, too. In fact, Corgi’s slogan was ‘The ones with windows!’”

Brooke has more than 1000 cars in his collection, but says that while many have increased in value, collecting them has never been about making money. “It’s all about nostalgia – my memories of childhood and my own cars,” he says. “The first model I bought was a Matchbox No.5 red bus. It cost 10 pence in a flea market. My most prized is a Dinky Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith of 1959.”

Where do all these collectable models, many still with their boxes, come from and, more important, what sort of child would keep their cars this way?

“I buy my stock from people who visit the shop, from markets and from auctions,” says Haley. “Private sellers who occasionally offer me their old cars boxed and in unplayed condition are often retired professionals who were careful with their things from day one.” Occasionally, he says, a load of unsold stock covered in dust is discovered. It could be anywhere in the world. Haley has his eye on Iran as a future source of top-quality models. The problem is that when big finds come to market, they upset prices, which is why Haley is loath to talk about model cars as investments.

“Just collect what you like and not with an eye on future values,” he says. “Cars still with their boxes command the highest prices, although the car itself must be in top condition.”

Something else that can affect prices is collectors’ advancing years. Richard Beale, valuer at Warwick & Warwick, an auction house that holds regular sales of model cars, says that the prices of cars that pre-date the 1950s are softening because the number of collectors who remember that period is declining. “On the other hand,” he says, “the market for 1960s cars and later is still buoyant.”

I like the look of Haley’s DB5, released when I was five and one of which I had before it got too damaged to be played with any longer. Haley shows me how its roof sits properly.

“Most have damaged roofs caused when the child pushed it down to relocate the ejector seat,” he says. “To avoid damaging the mechanism, they should have pushed the seat down first, then pressed down the roof. A collector will look for this.”

Maybe so but I’m more interested in seeing how far it fires the baddie in the passenger seat. Not very, it turns out, and worse, right in the path of the speeding Aston. I don’t remember that happening in the film.

Top five shop finds

Simon Haley: Corgi Batmobile (£500); Corgi James Bond DB5 (£250); Corgi Jaguar E-Type (£100); Dinky Ford Mustang Fastback 2+2 (£70); Pilen VW Scirocco Mk1 (£38)

Greg Brooke: Corgi Batmobile (£500); Corgi James Bond DB5 (£250); Corgi Monte Carlo Rover 2000, 1966 (£150); Corgi Monte Carlo Mini, 1966 (£120); Corgi Chevrolet Camaro, 1969 (£50)

John Evans: Corgi James Bond DB5 (£250); Corgi Ecurie Ecosse Transporter, 1962 (£180); Dinky Fordson tractor, 1934 (£85); Corgi Lamborghini Miura with ‘diamond’ headlights (£6); Corgi Cooper Maserati (£4)


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Volkswagen Golf 2020 video review Volkswagen Golf 2020 video thumbnail We drive the 8th-generation Golf to find out if it can remain the family hatchback king

Volkswagen says the new Mk8 Golf is the most sophisticated Golf there’s ever been. And given it features an almost entirely digital cockpit, uses never-before-seen hybrid engines and boasts a raft of driver-assistance system, who are we to disagree?

But it’s also the end of an era. Volkswagen now sees its future in the pure-electric ID 3, meaning that although the new Golf will be the brand’s sales powerhouse for several years to come, as a concept it exists on borrowed time (not to sound overly dramatic). Still, we’d expect this one to once again compete for class honours against not only its usual rivals from Audi, Ford and Renault but now also BMW, whose new front-wheel-drive 1-Series has impressed.

When the Mk8 Golf arrives early next year, will it still be the family hatchback to have? We drove a pre-production model in Portugal to learn more.


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Video, 7 Dec 2019 18:18:34 +0000
Auto-mobiles: Can you buy a car for the price of a smartphone? Mobile phone call
Why wrap your hands around a new phone, when you could have them around the steering wheel of a new car?
It's either the latest handset or an entertaining car and a burner phone. We root out fun motors for less than an iPhone 11 Pro

Steve Jobs is taunting me from the grave. I’ve thrown a lot of money his way over the years, starting with his Apple Mac computer through to a G4 Powerbook, MacBook Air and several iPads. And then there is, of course, his range of field telephones. I’ve had a few iPhones, starting with the first one. As with all Apple products, it’s a battle to get years of use out of them before they write themselves off by being out of date. My G4 Powerbook works perfectly well but can’t run the modern OS and therefore can’t support programs.

My iPhone 5 I’ve had for a long time but I fear it is near the end. Apple would no doubt like me to buy its new iPhone 11 Pro. It has three cameras, apparently, and lots and lots of pixels. And the battery might last beyond tea time. It costs £1049 but I can trade in my old phone and get a discount. Except I can’t because the iPhone 5 is so old tech that they won’t give me a penny for it.

Where am I going with this? Car companies have for years used the cost of a mobile phone as a sort of economic analogy to leasing cars. ‘You can have a new i10 for barely the price of your mobile phone.’ Renault used the same argument for leasing a Zoe’s battery.

This has got me thinking. What if I got the cheapest phone I could and then spent the money that I’ve saved on buying an iPhone 11 Pro on a car. I mean, I’ve always wanted to be a professional racing driver or fighter pilot but I’m not particularly interested in becoming a professional telephone caller.

Well, there you go, Mr Jobs: Argos has just sold me an Alba sim-free mobile for £12.95. It is, I believe, what is known as a burner. It makes telephone calls and can send texts. I don’t think it’ll allow me to become the next David Bailey or let me know how little my Aston Martin shares are worth.

So with my new phone up and running, let’s go shopping with the £1036.05 that I have left. I know exactly where to start and what I’m looking for. Within seconds, we are on eBay and have tapped in ‘Fiat’. Guessed it? A 32,000-mile Seicento Sporting in yellow has grabbed the attention of 20 watchers but I can buy it now for £875. For even less money, although there’s no ‘buy it now’ price and the auction has five days to run, there’s a Sporting Michael Schumacher edition. I’d forgotten that there was such a thing but this red one looks nice at £820.

The Fiat Panda 100HP is a much better car and, sure enough, there’s one for £1000. It’s on a 58 plate and looks quite tidy in the photographs. Minis are excellent value: a photographer friend bought a convertible for £400 a few years ago and it’s still running. He has to keep his typhoid injections up to date because it’s a bit skanky inside but it runs well.

There are loads of Cooper hatches within budget but I’ve always like the eccentric Clubman with its half-sized door of death that’s not on the pavement side in the UK. There are loads to choose from £1000 down and the bidding doesn’t look frantic.

Perhaps I’m being too sensible and should take a punt on this 2005 Cadillac CTS. The infotainment system has bust and it needs an ABS pump for its MOT but there’s a ‘buy it now’ price of £900. One other nutter has bid £495, which is below the reserve. Wonder how much the ABS pump costs?

This is better but still in the slightly risky luxo-barge segment. A Rover 75 V6 manual on Autotrader for £950. MOT until next June as well. My pal Richard Bremner would be terribly impressed: he’s already got one. Ooh, even better, a Rover 800 coupé for £750 with a V6 and automatic gearbox. That’ll be a peaceful ride.

Any one of these old nails that we’ve found will give guaranteed amusement and provide much more of a talking point than a new mobile phone. They might even last longer, too.

Other appliances we could make savings on

Perhaps we get sucked into owning too many devices. We’ve got a Dualit toaster, for example. It looks beautifully retro and I’m sure guests are impressed by our good taste but it cost £150. Our kettle is a designer item, too, and cost nearly 100 quid. It can only boil water.

A TV is a good way to blow a lot of money. I don’t like them as pieces of furniture so we’ve got a small telly. It is a smart one but I don’t think it’s OLED and it cost less than the toaster. I know people who have huge-screen TVs with surround sound that cost more than a second-hand MX-5.

Where would your smart money go? Let us know by emailing [email protected]


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News, 7 Dec 2019 06:01:22 +0000
Bentley S2 meets Mulsanne: Driving Crewe's first and last V8 engines Bentley V8 feature
Old and new V8s sing in unison on a wintry UK road
The oldest engine in production, Bentley's Mulsanne's 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8 turns 60 this year. We drive the first ever Bentley it graced and what may be the last one to celebrate

At some as-yet-unannounced time in the not too distant future, a period of time best measured in months rather than years, Bentley will announce that the Mulsanne is finally being put out to pasture. By then it will have been around for 10 years and what Bentley plans to do for a flagship model next is not something to which I am privy.

And I’ll miss the Mulsanne. When it came out, I wasn’t so sure about it. To me it looked slightly odd, an uncertain step after the majesty of all those Arnages and Turbo Rs. As the first top-of-the-range Bentley titan to be paid for entirely by Volkswagen money, I guess I was expecting something a little more bold.

Yet I know no other car that has settled so well in its own skin over the years. To these eyes, it has aged astonishingly well and if it does indeed turn out to be the last Bentley to top the price list powered by an internal combustion engine, its future status will be assured.

But, while we’re on the subject of engines, there’s something else I’ll miss even more when it goes: that massive lump of British bent eight aluminium under its gently sloping bonnet.

It is the longest-lived engine in the world today, so far as engines still put into cars by their manufacturers are concerned. GM continues to make its small block and Ford its Windsor motor, both of which are older still, but only in ‘crate’ form for those wishing to replace wornout examples, built hot rods and so on. They are not used in new cars.

The story of Bentley’s (or, more properly, Rolls-Royce’s) V8 actually starts in the early 1950s when it was recognised that the straight six in use at the time and which itself dated back to the early 1920s had reached the end of the road. What was required was a new motor that offered more power, more torque, more refinement and more reliability. More of everything indeed apart from this: they didn’t want any more weight. Tricky, that.

A V12 was considered but dismissed on the grounds of complexity and weight, so the V8 configuration was chosen. Which I guess is why to this day so many people think it was a copy of an American engine, or a straight buy-in, like the Buick-sourced V8 used by Rover for decades. But it wasn’t, it was a pure Rolls design from the outset that hit its performance and refinement marks by displacing first 6.25 litres and then 6.75 litres, but did indeed weigh no more than the old 4.9-litre straight six by being cast not from iron but aluminium.

Its survival over the years is all the more remarkable for the fact that its owners actually tried to kill it. Just as in the late 1970s Porsche intended the 928 to replace the already ageing 911, so Vickers – which owned Rolls-Royce in the 1990s – decided its new Arnage and Seraph saloons would be powered by modern BMW engines. But when VW bought Bentley in 1998, its first public act was to recommission the by now much missed old V8 and, at considerable expense, completely re-engineer the front end of the Arnage to take it.

In time it would completely redesign the V8 too, mainly to allow it to meet emissions legislation, but also to improve its power and reliability. It’s been a few years since a single component on a modern twin-turbo 6.75-litre V8 was interchangeable with one from a 1959 6.25-litre motor, but no one would ever claim one was not a direct development of the other.

Today, it is more than just a fabulous engine. It is unique. I know of no other motor that generates its power this way. These days it produces 530bhp, which is at least 250% more than it did 60 years ago, but the truth is that now Bentley has ditched diesel, the Mulsanne is the least powerful of all eight and 12-cylinder Bentleys on sale. But when it comes to torque, it bows to no one. It has 811lb ft of the stuff at 1750rpm, and the only reason it doesn’t have more even than that is that it would melt its ZF gearbox if it did.

But such is the way it delivers that torque, at times it makes you wonder whether it needs a gearbox at all. Such is the age of this engine, its valves (just two per cylinder) are operated via long pushrods from a single camshaft buried deep in the vee, so the motor couldn’t rev even if Bentley wanted it to, which it absolutely does not. Peak power comes at, wait for it, 4200rpm, but the real joy of this engine is that it will still make you giggle at its magnificence if you never use more than 2400rpm. No one does effortless like this.

And it makes an occasion out of every journey. Actually, you don’t even have to go anywhere: just sit in it, fire it up, give it a blip and you will be instantly aware you are in the presence of rather venerable greatness.

Nor could there be a more appropriate car in which to fit it. The character of the Mulsanne and that of its motor are as indivisible as that of the 911 and its flat six. You climb up into that hand-stitched cabin, wonder briefly just how large a herd of cattle went into its creation, settle back into the best chair in the business – made in-house by Bentley – and when you think of the way you’d like that car to deliver its performance, that is what it does.

Other cars such as V12 Mercedes-AMGs do tip of the toe response too, but they roar when extended. The old Bentley motor never roars, not least because it never allows itself to be extended. It thunders. Its manners are more akin to a pre-war steam locomotive than a current production car. You find yourself locking the car in gears because you don’t want your progress to be interrupted by anything so inelegant as a downshift. You let the torque talk.

This engine and car combination is such a hard act to follow because by objective judgment neither is particularly good these days, so you can’t just make it objectively better because of the enormous risk of simultaneously making it subjectively worse. And there’s no doubt which measure counts for more here. And I have no idea when or even if the Mulsanne will be replaced. My guess is that it will because Bentley won’t want to relinquish the territory to Rolls-Royce and, lest we forget, Lagonda. But I expect there will be a hiatus of a number of years and when the new car comes it will be a pure-electric vehicle.

So this is not just the end for the Mulsanne and its amazing old engine, it is in some sense the end of an era for Bentley too. Still 60 years – almost half the time that cars have been in existence – is not a bad innings. And I, for one, am glad I was around to see it.

How does the original Bentley V8 compare?

Read books about the history of Rolls-Royce and Bentley and you might escape with the idea that the new V8 wasn’t such a big deal. The product didn’t change much other than what was required to accommodate the new engine: the S1 just became the S2, its 4.9-litre, six-cylinder motor replaced by a 6.25-litre V8.

No one talked about power or torque, either, for the publicly stated reason that that wouldn’t have been very gallant. Perhaps more likely and in private it was because the company didn’t feel like owning up to the fact that, with only around 200bhp, its brand-new engine had no more power than did those fitted to the last true Bentleys almost 30 years earlier.

I wasn’t bothered by that. I just wanted to know if two engines built 60 years apart could feel related in any meaningful way. And the rather lovely truth is that they do, at least up to a point.

Of course, I expected the S2 scarcely to be able to get out of its own way, but in fact it felt quite sprightly, despite its engine’s age, smaller capacity and absence of turbochargers. By 1959 standards, it would have moved right along. It still has that delicious laziness, and while the thunder is more of a rumble, it feels as appropriate to its 60-year-old surroundings as does the Mulsanne’s motor today. It actually feels a lot younger than the car it’s in, largely because it is. While the engine may have been brand new in 1959, the S2’s design philosophy dates back almost to the war and, frankly, it shows. It would be the mid-1960s before Rolls-Royce and Bentley embraced the modern era with the monocoque Shadow and T-series. The S2 remains an interesting curio, but the engine is better than the car to which it is fitted. In the Mulsanne, they are perfectly matched. Both will be missed.

Great eights: the many lives of the Bentley V8

Mulsanne Turbo 1982: It is no exaggeration to say this engine saved Bentley. Strapping a turbo to the Mulsanne (raising power by 50%) turned Bentley from a moribund marque of rebadged Rolls-Royces into a brand that would turn the tables on its Rolls-Royce stablemate. Before the Mulsanne Turbo, Bentleys accounted for 5% of Rolls-Royce production. Within a year, that figure was 30%. In 10 years, Bentleys outsold Rolls-Royces by two to one.

Continental R 1991: The first Bentley not to have an equivalent Rolls-Royce since the 1950s. Based on the strong-selling Turbo R saloon, the Continental R evoked the memory of the superb R-type Continental coupé of 1951. With flowing coupé lines, but retaining genuine four-seat accommodation, the Turbo R was a Bentley of opulence, character and individuality. It showed a confidence returning to the name that could not have been dreamed of 10 years earlier.

Continental T 1996: Turning the Continental R into the T required not just raising engine power until it was the most powerful Bentley there had been, but also stiffening the suspension and, crucially, carving a chunk out of the wheelbase. The result was an uncompromising Bentley sports car with a cockpit like a WW1 biplane, an implausible turn of speed and simply terrible ride quality. Did we care? We did not: we were too busy having fun even to notice.

Arnage Red Label 1999: The colour of the Bentley label once denoted the model you were buying. And when it wanted to tell the world the 6.75-litre turbo V8 was not dead, but had just been temporarily missing in action, Bentley employed the same method. So the Red Label denoted an Arnage with the homegrown engine, the Green Label one still fitted with BMW’s Cosworth-modified twin-turbo V8. Customers voted with their feet, ensuring another 20 years of production for the old engine.

State Limousine 2002: On the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne, Bentley presented Her Majesty with a new State Limousine. It may have seemed like a rather lovely present but was actually the PR coup of the decade, stealing the business of transporting the Monarch to state occasions from right under Rolls-Royce’s nose.

Brooklands 2006: Not to be confused with the Brooklands saloon of 1992, this was the Brooklands coupé and, to my way of thinking, the closest the firm has come in recent years to capturing the spirit of the Bentley boys. Fast, sleek and surprisingly easy to drift, it was a car to be driven by cads, bounders and gentlemen jewel thieves. Or at least that’s always how I looked at it. A shame, then, that the company never got around to building a coupé version of the current Mulsanne.


Updated 2020 Bentley Bentayga to feature revamped design

Bentley plots £1.5m ultra-exclusive open-top sports tourer

Bentley Bentayga gets four-seat and seven-seat options

News, 7 Dec 2019 06:01:22 +0000
Mercedes-Benz SLC Final Edition: prices revealed for run-out special Mercedes-Benz SLC final edition official press - hero front Based on AMG Line trim, the end-of-the-line model celebrates 23 years of the innovative two-seat roadster

Mercedes-Benz has revealed prices for its SLC Final Edition, the run-out special of the roadster before production ends early next year. 

The celebratory SLC Final Edition is offered with the choice of three petrol engines in the UK: a 181bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the SLC 200 and a 242bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the SLC 300, plus the flagship 387bhp AMG SLC43.

Prices start from £37,120, £40,916 and £49,855 respectively. Deliveries will begin in the Spring.

The last ever SLC is launched 23 years after the two-seat roadster first made its public premiere, badged as the SLK, ushering in a new folding hard-top roof structure that was subsequently emulated by many other car makers.


Without plans for a successor model, Mercedes-Benz is marking the end of production for the SLC by offering a special optional yellow paint finish alongside the standard black and grey options. This replicates one of the colours used to launch the original SLK.

The Final Edition is based on the existing AMG Line model but gains uniquely styled bumpers, 18in five-spoke alloy wheels and a lavishly equipped interior with, among other previously optional features, Airscarf neck heaters as standard. A Harmon Kardon sound sustem is only offered in the SLC43. 

The C-Class-based roadster was produced in three model generations over its 23-year life span. The original R170-designated model was launched at the 1996 Paris motor show. It was succeeded by the R171, launched at the Geneva motor show in 2004, and then today's R172 went on sale in 2011. It was known as the SLK until its 2016 facelift.

Combined global sales of the SLK and SLC total more than 710,000, according to Mercedes-Benz.

Read more

Used car buying guide: Mercedes-Benz SLK​

Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 review​

Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic EQ Boost 2019 prototype review​

News, 6 Dec 2019 15:15:07 +0000
Aston Martin opens 'pivotal' St Athan factory Aston Martin St Athan
Aston Martin St Athan
New Welsh factory will build the British firm's vital DBX luxury SUV

Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer says the new DBX production plant in St Athan, Wales, which was officially opened today (Friday), will be “hugely important” to the firm’s future growth.

The facility, which occupies three converted ‘super-hangers’ that were formerly part of the Ministry of Defence St Athan site, will be the sole global production site for the firm’s vital new luxury SUV. The plant was opened by Palmer and Mark Drakeford AM, the Welsh First Minister.

When full production begins in the second quarter of 2020, around 600 people will be employed at the factory, rising to 750 when peak production is reached.

Palmer said the opening of the plant was “a pivotal day for Aston Martin and a vote of confidence in the UK.” He added: “The opening of St Athan is a hugely important milestone in the company’s growth plan and integral to our ambitions as a global luxury brand with a presence in all major sectors of the market.”

First Minister Drakeford said: “Locating this world class and globally recognised brand in St Athan is a huge vote of confidence in the Welsh workforce. It is an example of the Welsh Government’s support and can-do attitude, driving economic growth and creating jobs.”

Aston Martin bought the former MOD site in 2016, the year that it also began training the first employees on the DB11 production line at its existing Gaydon plant. The first buildings, including the reception, restaurant and offices, were constructed in 2017, with work to convert the hangers starting last year.

The opening of the site came the day after Autocar revealed that billionaire Lawrence Stroll is considering a bid to buy a major stake in the company.


Billionaire poised to launch bid for major Aston Martin stake

Aston Martin's St Athan plant to boost manufacturing efficiency

Aston Martin DBX: full details of luxury SUV

News, 6 Dec 2019 13:01:24 +0000
Hennessey to tune new C8 Corvette to 1200bhp next year Hennessey C8 Corvette Long-standing Corvette tuner turns its attention to the new mid-engined model, with a range of mechanical and cosmetic upgrades

Long-standing Texas-based tuning firm Hennessey Performance Engineering has revealed it plans to eke up to 1200bhp out of the new C8 Chevrolet Corvette.

The benchmark figure is said to be achievable via tweaks to the car’s standard mid-mounted LT2 V8 engine, with upgraded internals including forged aluminium pistons, a higher compression ratio and forged steel rods. Mated to this will be a specially designed twin turbocharger setup. 

Further modifications necessary to achieve the figure safely and reliably include an upgraded factory dual-clutch transmission, while options include a full Brembo brake upgrade and adjustable Penske suspension. No price is quoted for the new package. 

Hennessey’s upgrades come with a warranty for increased peace of mind, but for those with less ambitious plans the firm will offer a cheaper supercharger system upgrade for 700bhp, and a stainless steel exhaust upgrade. The standard, entry-level C8 Corvette puts out 495bhp. 

There are visual modifications available, too, including a ‘CarbonAero’ carbon fibre body upgrade pack (as pictured). 


New 1600bhp, 300mph-plus Hennessey Venom F5 revealed

Hennessey: ‘Being the fastest in the world really matters’

Hennessey Venom GT sets new 265.6mph top speed record

News, 6 Dec 2019 12:18:31 +0000
Citroen Berlingo long-term review Citroen Berlingo 2019 long-term review - hero front Returning MPV trendsetter has six months to prove van-style people carriers still have a place on our roads alongside SUVs

Why we’re running it: To see if the funky van-based MPV can recapture the simplicity, practicality and flexibility of the original

Month 4 - Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Citroen Berlingo: Month 4

Safe stowage - 13th November 2019

Stowing a ladder can be precarious, in case it creeps into the cockpit and threatens to decapitate you at the hint of a left turn. No worries in the Berlingo, which can swallow one safely and securely. It meant I could take one eye off the rear-view mirror and get better acquainted with Apple CarPlay – a major step up over Citroën’s basic infotainment.

Mileage: 14,105

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Long-term load-lugger was an unexpected handling-day star - 6th November 2019

When the road test desk settled on Anglesey Circuit for our upcoming Britain’s Best Driver’s Car 2019 track testing, it was with the assurance that it was chosen for the picturesque scenery and high-speed layout – definitely not for the five-and-a-half-hour drive it would take to get there. Fair enough if you’ve got the keys to one of the McLarens, Porsches or Lamborghinis that would be taking to the circuit, but an altogether less exciting prospect when your key fob carries a Citroën logo.

Admittedly, where a 911 might struggle to fit a fifth of the gear I’d need for a week shooting in Wales’ notoriously changeable weather, the Berlingo had room to spare. It’s also no stranger to the UK motorway network, having quickly clocked up the miles as my primary transport to various events and photoshoot locations up and down the country.

It’s these kinds of journey that have highlighted just how insistent the driver assistance systems can be, to almost distracting levels. Take lane keep assist: it’s not so much about lane positioning, which is largely on point, but more that it is easily fooled by painted-over road markings, or even ruts and grooves in the Tarmac. You can be perfectly placed in the centre of your lane, only to have it warn you of a non-existent line.

I understand the need for systems like this, but false positives and regular interruptions when they aren’t needed are enough to make you want to turn them all off, which kind of defeats the point.

Other parts of Citroën’s safety pack are more consistently useful, like the blindspot monitors that make up for less than perfect rear visibility when you’re riding five-up. This is also the box you need to tick at the dealership to add adaptive cruise control, in my opinion an essential addition if you do as many motorway miles as I do. It’s not overly sensitive to traffic joining your lane, and is easy enough to toggle on and off once you learn the control layout. The system gets a separate stalk beneath the indicator that can feel a little confusing at first if you’re used to steering wheel-mounted buttons.

I’d be lying if I said there was a queue to have a turn when I rolled up at Anglesey, but the Berlingo’s relaxed suspension meant it was a far better tracking car than any of the models there.

It truly proved its worth at the close of play, swallowing the entire crew for a post-event trip to the curry house. Drivers who had spent the day cocooned inside restrictive bucket seats loved the space in the back, where the presence of any kind of rear seat at all was something of a novelty, and the sedate ride was a world away from track-focused springs of the test cars.

Even with its orange trim panels, the Berlingo is never going to turn heads like a bright-green McLaren – but it does have a certain kind of charm. However out of place it might have seemed next to the hot metal (and carbonfibre) we’d gathered for the handling day, I was glad to have its unassuming looks and comfortable ride for the 300 miles home to London.

Love it:

Eats motorway miles Largely comfy ride, auto ’box and adaptive cruise take out a lot of stress from long-distance driving.

Loathe it:

Over-eager assistance When it works, driver assists are great, but it doesn’t take a lot to trick the system into unwanted action.

Mileage: 13,836

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Life with a Citroen Berlingo: Month 3

The best kind of back end - 23rd October 2019

It might make rear access a bit tricky in a supermarket car park, but the Berlingo’s massive tailgate does give you somewhere to shelter during a torrential rain storm. With nowhere for water to pool before you tug it open, there’s no danger of your gear being soaked like there can be with a hatchback and the flip-up parcel shelf leaves space to sit and change your shoes once the downpour ends.

Mileage: 12,853

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Passenger benefits from physical controls - 2nd October 2019

I’ve discovered another benefit to the Berlingo’s physical climate controls. Not only are they easier to find by touch than a touchscreen when you’re concentrating on the road ahead, but fussy passengers can change the temperature without also obscuring your navigation directions. In the C3 Aircross I drove last year, you had to leave the sat-nav just to add a few degrees.

Mileage: 11,281

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Life with a Citroen Berlingo: Month 2

Which car to take on a Scottish camping trip? No need to Mull it over - 11th September 2019

Essentials for a camping trip to the Inner Hebrides at the height of summer? At least two gallons of midge repellent, on top of the three tents and bags of outdoorsy gear needed to keep four adults protected from the elements.

Usually packing the car for a week-long road trip like this can be a bit of a nightmare, as your Tetris skills are put to the test. And even then, your passengers often have to share their leg room with carrier bags packed with vegan sausage rolls or flasks filled with kombucha tea – or at least they do on my trips.

The Berlingo posed no such problems, thanks to a huge rear tailgate and more handy compartments dotted around the cabin than we had camping kit to put in them. I’d thought the handy lower slot for the removable parcel shelf to sit would be perfect for avoiding items at the bottom of the boot being buried under a pile of Gore-Tex, but the shelf didn’t enjoy the weight of our load – it’s better served hiding whatever you have stashed underneath it than as an extra place to stuff things.

I’ve done plenty of long-haul trips like this in ‘normal’ cars. If you’re sat in the back of one of those and taller than six foot, you’ll know how incredibly uncomfortable it can be – your knees end up raised closer to your ears than your feet, so all your weight sits on your pelvis instead of being distributed to your thighs. While you can’t adjust the Berlingo’s rear bench for leg room, there’s no real need to – there’s ample space back there for three sets of adult-sized heads and legs, without any complaining after 500 miles from London to Scotland.

The only issue we encountered was shutting those rear doors once you’re buckled up. While they’re incredibly practical for loading, they are quite hefty, and rather stiff to close while sat inside. It can be a bit of a stretch for smaller arms to reach the handle, too.

The real hero was the Modutop optional overhead storage bin, which is perfect for storing the essentials within easy reach while freeing up space in the cabin. On our long run up north it meant not having to pull over to rescue lunch from the boot, saving precious time when we had a ferry to catch.

Once we’d made it off the mainland, Citroën’s built-in navigation stopped getting around the Hebrides from becoming a chore. It lets you toggle certain points of interest – say camping grounds, tourist attractions, fuel stations and, usefully, ferry terminals. Being able to spot an opportunity to fill up wasn’t to be sniffed at, either, given how few and far between petrol stations were.

The Berlingo isn’t the most serene of motorway cruisers, with an upright front end and huge, van-style mirrors that don’t exactly carve the air smoothly. But while wind noise is unavoidable, it’s not like you have to crank the stereo to drown it out, or raise your voice just to have a conversation. It rides impressively well over bumps and broken Tarmac, too, given its sheer size and weight.

I’d worried an endurance drive like this would put me off long-distance journeys, but it’s done the opposite. Even after more than 1000 miles travelled and showers limited to any waterfalls we could find, everyone felt reasonably fresh by the end of the week.

Believe every TV ad you see and you’d think a 4x4 is the best way to fulfil any kind of outdoor pursuit. For me, the Berlingo feels like a more practical option. I rarely need to drive off road – the car just needs to get you to the National Trust car park and then the adventure starts on foot. Until the weather turns and proves otherwise, I’ll happily take the Citroën’s extra cabin space over an extra diff or higher ground clearance.

Love it:

Unending storage The hardest part isn’t finding a space to store your bits – it’s remembering which of the copious oddment bins you put them in.

Loathe it:

Towering tailgate You need to leave a huge amount of room at the rear when parking to have any hope of being able to open the rear hatch.

Mileage: 9986

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One feature shared with a supercar - 4th September 2019

The McLaren staff were amused it had them, but the Berlingo’s paddle shifters work pretty well on country roads. They’re better than leaving it in auto, which can be a little jerky when trying to second guess how much acceleration you’re after. Useful when there isn’t very much to begin with: you’d need five Berlingos to match one McLaren F1 for horsepower.

Mileage: 8747

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Life with a Citroen Berlingo: Month 1

Colour pack makes a real impact - 7th August 2019

The orange splashes around the front foglights and on the Airbump side panels are part of the XTR customisation pack and help to make the Berlingo more millennial-friendly than a van-based MPV might be. Even parked next to the new Toyota Supra, it’s rather easy on the eyes - and a lot more exciting than the Vauxhall Combo Life with which it shares a platform.

Mileage: 6490

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Our new arrival is big on space, and bigger still on oddball charm - 24th July 2019

Remember when SUVs weren’t the go-to choice for family transport? I do. England fans were wiping away tears after a heartbreaking Euro ’96 exit (on penalties, naturally), Dolly the Sheep proved cloning wasn’t just the domain of Jurassic Park and Citroën had just unleashed the original Berlingo on an unsuspecting public.

The genesis of the van-based MPV kicked off something of a revolution, and pretty soon every manufacturer had one of its own. It’s only recently, with the surging demand for SUVs, that they have fallen out of favour – but there’s no denying they remain one of the most practical types of car on our roads. And looking at the numbers, losing a few style points hasn’t been enough to put off customers.

Before this current-generation model arrived late last year, the Berlingo Multispace was Citroën’s second-best-seller worldwide behind the C3, and was the brand’s most popular model in 27 countries. If anything, the style-focused overhaul could broaden its appeal even further. Stick some surfboards on the roof rails and you might even call it fun – or at least that’s what the smiling models in Citroën’s brochure seem to be suggesting.

The next six months should give us time to find out if it is just as charming to drive as it is to look at – and whether it’s more than simply a van with windows.

I’m hoping the fact it shares its EMP2 platform not only with the Peugeot Rifter and Vauxhall Combo Life but also a selection of PSA SUVs including the Vauxhall Grandland X, Peugeot 5008 and DS 7 Crossback means it will stay closer to car-like sensibilities and less like a panel van with extra seats.

It’s for that reason we opted for the most potent diesel powertrain, a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 129bhp, and eight-speed automatic gearbox when speccing our Berlingo. It will be no stranger to regular long-distance driving, the extra grunt should make sure it has the torque to cope with heavy loads and the slushbox should take some of the strain out of my commute – even with the leisurely 11 seconds it takes to reach 62mph.

The all-new third-generation car can be had in extended-wheelbase XL form for the first time, but we’ve gone for the standard M model. It has five seats to the XL’s seven, and is 35cm shorter – but seeing as we’ll rarely need to park an extra two bums in the back, the M’s boot space should prove ample. It had better be, seeing as this Berlingo will be earning its keep transporting me between photography jobs.

So far, the sliding rear doors have proven infallible for loading my gear in crowded car parks – but then they had to be, seeing how the massive tailgate needs such a large amount of space to open. I’m already regretting not taking the option of an independently opening rear windscreen, even if it would have meant fielding constant requests from the video team to use it as a camera car.

But as much as it will be used for lugging equipment around to various shoots, this won’t be a series of reports detailing just how much room for flight cases there is in the rear. So let’s get that out of the way early, shall we?

To call the Berlingo spacious inside would be doing it a disservice – this is a cavernous car before you even get to the boot or think about laying the second-row seats down, with no fewer than 28 different storage bins and cubbies to stuff various bits and pieces throughout the cabin. Citroën says that equals 186 litres but, as you can never have enough places to put things, we’ve also optioned the Modutop roof-mounted storage box that can be accessed from the boot or back seats. At £750, it’s the most luxurious extra fitted to our test car, with the added benefit of ambient lighting giving the whole roof an ‘aircraft cabin’ kind of vibe.

Other luxuries include a wireless charging plate for my smartphone, the driver assist pack, which adds adaptive cruise control, and fetching Soft Sand metallic paint, bringing the total cost of our car to £26,545.

For your money, you get an interior that’s more inviting and comfort-minded than other van-style MPVs, and while it does without the extra seat padding found in Citroën’s more premium models, I’ve so far found the upright driving position comfortable enough. I’m a fan of the colourful upholstery, too – the mix of orange, grey and green is a lot more fun than the basic black trim normally found in cars like this.

The 8.0in infotainment system has so far proven quite comprehensive, if not the fastest to respond to pokes and prods, but it does at least play nicely with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Physical air conditioning controls get a thumbs up from me, too. Having to tap through the menus to change the temperature in the C3 Aircross we ran last year quickly got old.

First impressions are that the Berlingo will be perfectly suitable as a daily driver, even for those journeys when you really don’t need all the extra space it provides. As for the ones that do? I have plenty planned over the summer, to see if it really is the ‘leisure activity vehicle’ Citroën claims it to be.

Luc Lacey

Second Opinion

I imagine that, dimensions aside, the Berlingo will quickly feel a lot more car-like than its PSA stable-mates. Having driven a lesser-equipped and much more utilitarian Vauxhall Combo Life recently, the Citroën has a far more relaxed and airy interior, thanks to a more jaunty dashboard layout and that giant sunroof letting light stream into the cabin. There’s a lot to be said for injecting a bit of personality into a category that’s mainly focused on practicality.

Tom Morgan

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Citroen Berlingo M Flair BlueHDI 130 specification

Specs: Price New £24,950 Price as tested £26,545 Options Metallic paint £545, Drive assist pack £200, Modutop roof £750, Smartphone charging plate £100

Test Data: Engine 4-cyls, 1499cc, turbocharged diesel Power 129bhp at 3750rpm Torque 221lb ft at 1750rpm Kerb weight 1430kg Top speed 114mph 0-62mph 11.0sec Fuel economy 65.7mpg CO2 114g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Long-Term Review, 6 Dec 2019 11:58:30 +0000
BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport 2020 UK review BMW X5 xDrive 45e 2019 UK first drive review - hero front A six-cylinder petrol engine and a bigger battery work wonders for BMW's plug-in hybrid SUV The new BMW X5 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) has gained two extra cylinders yet somehow become more economical (officially) and more BIK tax-efficient at the same time.This feat has been achieved primarily thanks to a significant increase in battery capacity: it’s now 24kWh, up from just 9.2kWh in the previous-generation X5 xDrive40e.That’s a key upgrade mostly for the difference it makes to electric-only range and associated tax qualification. As of April 2020, PHEV company cars will be classified not only on their WLTP-rated CO2 emissions but also how far they can be driven on electrictity alone. So, while most rivals have significantly smaller batteries that enable them to do no more than 20 miles or so under electric power, the X5 will be rated to go as far as 54 miles without necessarily exciting its reciprocating pistons.The difference that could make to monthly running costs, even between running one of these instead of what you might take for a pretty competitive rival, could be significant. While owners of PHEVs rated for 40 miles of electric range or more will be due to pay just 8% of the car’s value per year as benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax, those who own alternatives good for less than 30 miles will have to pay 14%, and plenty will have to pay more still. That means the X5 could save a 40% taxpayer more than £200 per month over its rivals, and compared with a diesel, possibly twice as much.This new X5 is one of several revised PHEV models introduced by BMW throughout 2019, all of which have what it calls its fourth-generation hybrid battery technology. Like the 530e, 330e and forthcoming X3 30e, it uses a longways-mounted engine and an electric motor mounted between that and the eight-speed automatic gearbox, where you might expect to find a torque converter.Unlike the fleet-friendly petrol-electric 3 Series and 5 Series models, though, the X5 adopts the 282bhp turbocharged six-cylinder 3.0-litre motor that also powers the 745e. Given that this is good for 111bhp, total powertrain outputs are 389bhp and 442lb ft, leaving the X5 close to the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine for potency, albeit not so close to the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid.First Drive, 6 Dec 2019 11:29:58 +0000New 2021 Audi Q2: crossover to get design revamp Audi's smallest SUV has been seen testing in disguise, suggesting a mid-cycle overhaul is on the cards

Audi is set to bring its smallest SUV, the Q2, into line with its fresher-faced siblings with a mid-life overhaul, and prototypes have been seen testing for the first time. 

Though the light camouflage of the model appears to reveal design changes will be subtle, we can see revised bumpers front and rear and an updated headlight design, with LEDs likely to be made standard. Expect a freshened colour pallete and new alloy wheel designs, too.

It's not clear yet how extensive the interior updates will be. Audi has moved its high-end models over to a new interior layout focused around a dual-screen infotainment and climate system, but recently facelifted models such as the A4 continue with the dashtop-mounted screen. The Q2 is likely to retain that, but with a wider screen, the latest graphics and software features plus an updated Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display. 

Audi will almost certainly bring in some 48V mild-hybrid engine options to the Q2, aimed at improving efficiency. As with other models from the Ingolstadt brand, expect this to be only available on more powerful versions. The SQ2 should return, too, while a plug-in hybrid variant could also be introduced at a later date.

Expect the updated Q2 to be revealed in the latter half of 2020 and go on sale towards the end of the year or in early 2021. 

Read more: 

Audi RS Q3 2019 review

Audi cuts 9500 jobs in Germany to fund EV investment

Audi RS6 Avant 2019 review


News, 6 Dec 2019 07:01:23 +0000
Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 6 December Ferrari F355 If you're searching for a classic prancing horse at a (relatively) knock-down price, the Ferrari F355 Berlinetta F1 could be for you

Ferrari F355 Berlinetta F1, £71,750: It has been a tough year for certain classic exotics, including some Ferraris such as the F355 of 1995- 99. At one recent auction, three of the five F355s offered for sale failed to find buyers. The two that did were a 1997 Spider manual with 25,000 miles that made £72,000 and a 1996 Berlinetta manual with 16,000 miles and some sought-after options that fetched £92,000.

It’s hard to say why the remaining three failed to sell but the pair that did had been refurbished and were finished in bright colours. Both were also manuals and had low mileage.

So what future for this 1999-reg Berlinetta F1 that we found for £71,750? Being finished in Rosso Red with contrasting cream leather interior, it’s off to a great start. The mileage (30,000) is good, too. The private seller claims it has been maintained regardless of cost, recent work including a cambelt change by a Ferrari specialist. The service history book is full, he says, with all invoices available for viewing.

It’s all looking good so far, the only cloud on the horizon being its F1 automated manual gearbox. This version is rare but that’s because new it cost £6000 more than the manual.

Inspection-wise, we’d check there’s no oily smoke on start-up and the exhaust manifold, coolant hoses and radiators are sound. The gearbox pump can fail, as can suspension springs and handbrake cables, so we’d also peer at those. Corrosion can be an issue in the engine bay and the base of the buttresses.

Finally, after that hot summer, we’d check the dashboard covering isn’t tacky. When it comes to F355s, you can’t afford to take any chances.

Ford Mondeo 2.0 SCTi 240 Titanium X Sport Auto Estate, £6845: With 237bhp for 0-62mph in 7.5sec, the 2.0 SCTi 240 was the hottest Mk3 Mondeo. Add class-leading poise and a 1728-litre load capacity and this 2011 estate with 79,000 miles and full service history is hard to ignore.

Toyota Hilux 2.5 280 EX 4dr, £3949: With Defender prices through the roof, old 4x4 pick-ups such as the Hilux look appealing. This 2004 double-cab has done 135,000 miles but, given it’s rust-free, they can’t have been that hard. It’s just had new brakes fitted and the air-con works.

Nissan Patrol GR 3.0 Di S, £3750: Set against other heavy-duty Japanese 4x4s such as the Mitsubishi Shogun, Isuzu Trooper and Toyota Land Cruiser, the Patrol never really cut it: too crude and ugly. But heck was it tough and capable. This 2003 one with 126k miles brings it all back.

Mazda MX-6, £3995: Good though it was, Mazda’s 2.5-litre V6-powered coupé of 1992-98 never made itself heard above flashier rivals such as the Vauxhall Calibra, Ford Probe and Fiat Coupé. Occasionally, a survivor pops up such as this 1997 car with 66,000 miles.

Auction watch

Toyota MR2: Toyota’s mid-engined two-seater was like a bolt from the blue when it first arrived in 1984. Buyers fell for its mix of compact sporty looks, light weight (it was still very strong, though), kart-like handling and revvy 127bhp 1.6-litre motor with fuel injection and variable intakes. A short-throw five-speed manual gearbox was fitted as standard. Also standard was the way ‘Toyota’ was reflected on the rear window. Very cool.

Production of the Mk1 ended in 1989 but a very tidy one registered as late as 1990 made £3640 at auction recently. Elsewhere, one dealer is advertising a “near-perfect” 1988 automatic with 49,000 miles for £6985.

Future classic

Lotus Evora S, £34,990: Lotus’s mid-engined 2+2 was criticised for being a touch pricey at launch. Interior quality got the wagging finger, too. However, a blast down a favourite road is usually enough to dispel these concerns. The Toyota-sourced 3.6-litre V6 performs well, the car handles precisely and the ride quality is second to none. The supercharged S version (it produces 345bhp for 0-62mph in 4.6sec) with Sport pack and Sport gearbox launched in 2010 is our pick for future classic potential. We found a 2012-reg with 31,000 miles for £34,990.

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: Find me a car for £6000 to take me and my skiing mates to the Alps.

Audi S4 Avant, £5000

Porsche Cayenne V6 S, £5995

Max Adams: Skiing, I believe, is all about that delicate balance of speed and control, which is why the Audi S4 Avant is the perfect choice. Big V8 power allied to the excellent traction of quattro four-wheel drive, a roof rack for those blades and a big boot for luggage. What have you gone for?

Mark Pearson: Max, can you believe £6k buys you this wonderful Porsche? My God, John’s friends will love this car. Its opulent interior is leather-lined and there’s that commanding view, the better to enjoy the stunning scenery. There’s plenty of room for skis and luggage, too, and more than enough performance to eat up the miles between Calais and Chamonix. My Cayenne’s immaculate in black and has a low mileage.

MA: No mention of full service history – vital on a highly complex VW… oh, sorry, Porsche. What’s more, your base-spec V6 can barely crack 0-62mph in 10sec. Mine will leave yours standing at the Chunnel terminal because the S4 does it in 5.8sec.

MP: In mine, they will arrive relaxed and ready for a cooling glass of après ski. In yours, they will arrive – if they do arrive at all in that old crate – with a headache and a broken spine.

MA: Heartache, more like, since they’ll be separated from that glorious-sounding V8.

Verdict: For my 'porsch' friends, only a Porsche will do.


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News, 6 Dec 2019 06:01:23 +0000
Analysis: Who will charge our electric vehicles? Rapid charging hub
There are more than 16,000 public charging points in the UK, but most Welsh counties have fewer than 10 per 100,000 people
Our report looks at who will expand UK’s EV charging network

Growth in the UK’s public electric car charger network will come from dedicated charger companies, utilities and the government, rather than car makers, an Autocar investigation has concluded.

Apart from the Ionity rapid-charging network, which is funded by a consortium of nine car makers, very few if any of the 60-plus car brands operating in the UK are funding charging infrastructure to speed up the adoption of electric cars. “We consider it is up to private network operators and the government,” said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

At the recent launch of the Peugeot e-208, Carlos Tavares, boss of the PSA Group that owns Peugeot, made it clear that PSA does not see charging networks as a core business, even though uptake of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) like the e-208 might be held back by buyers’ concern over public charging networks.

A recent survey by Autocar sibling title What Car? linked buyers’ caution to buying BEVs to sparse charging networks, alongside range anxiety and a shortage of affordable models.

A PSA Group UK spokesman confirmed that Tavares’ view is also policy for its UK subsidiary, Vauxhall, whose Corsa-e will be launched in April 2020.

The same goes for PSA’s UK sales operations for Peugeot, Citroën and DS, also with new EVs due in 2020 and ’21. “This is a business decision because there are companies already in the infrastructure area better placed to supply that service,” said the spokesman.

UK car market leader Ford is taking a different approach as a founding partner in Ionity, which this year opened its first 350kW fast-charge sites in the UK as part of a Europe-wide plan to mirror the Tesla Supercharger network.

Ionity’s other partners are Volkswagen, Hyundai and Kia, plus premium market leaders Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini and Porsche. Progress isn’t happening overnight, but Ionity now has three sites operating in the UK, with a fourth being built.

Electric car pioneer Renault has steered clear of investing in public charging, although, like all car makers with a BEV in its range, it has a preferred supplier of 7kW home chargers and exploits the commercial potential of RFID cards, which process the payments of Zoe drivers using public chargers.

Nissan, also a BEV pioneer, took a significant step in 2012 as a co-funder of the Ecotricity 50kW fast-charging network, now up to 300 charging points. But that marked the limit of its public charging investment and now Ecotricity is struggling to deliver a reliable service.

Of course, Ionity can’t do all the heavy lifting itself and its planned UK network of 40 fast-charging sites, equivalent to about 160 individual 350kW chargers, will make only a small dent in the future requirement for a widespread UK fast-charger network.

In fact, Ben Lane, co-founder of the online Zap Map service, which helps drivers locate the UK’s 26,000 public chargers, believes it’s too late for car makers to enter that market.

Lane said: “There are already so many well-established charger businesses operating in the UK, and we are now seeing oil companies moving in as they see their petrol and diesel business dying away, that it’s hard to see a role for OEMs [car makers] in charging.”

Estimates vary as to how much the public charging network needs to expand, but ambitious government targets for “50% to 75%” of UK new cars sales to be BEVs or plug-in hybrids by 2030 suggest a significant expansion. Last week, the government released a ‘league table’ of the number of electric car chargers by local authority and London is dominating. The government is urging local authorities elsewhere to take advantage of a £5 million grant to install chargers. More than 100 local authorities have fewer than 10 public charging devices per 100,000 people.

There are around 3000 fast chargers – defined as 100kW upwards – in the UK already. This type of charger can top up a 90kW battery in 45 minutes. How many are needed in the next decade is a moot point because so many unknowns make accurate forecasts tricky.

Although one recent study suggested a tenfold increase to 30,000, BP Chargemaster believes the right size might be in the “low tens of thousands”.

Companies like BP Chargemaster, Pod Point, Genie Point, Shell and Instavolt are almost certainly the future for UK public rapid charging, occasionally drawing on government help where the business case is weak. But it’s unlikely car makers will feature. They’ll be too busy creating the next generation of BEVs.


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News, 6 Dec 2019 06:01:23 +0000
Opinion: Brabham is back and may be heading for Le Mans Jose Carlos Pace
1975 Brazilian GP: Pace's Brabham won from sixth on the grid
Revived after a period of dormancy, the British marque could tussle with an equally regenerated Peugeot at Le Mans 2022

Although often referenced as ‘Interlagos’, the Brazilian GP’s official name is the Autódromo José Carlos Pace – in tribute to a local driver who scored his only grand prix victory there in 1975. Pace might have achieved a great deal more in F1 but for fate’s intervention: he died in a light aeroplane accident in March 1977.

Pace spent the most fruitful phase of his F1 career with Brabham, whose designer Gordon Murray considered the Brazilian a potential future champion (and admits he altered his honeymoon itinerary in 1970 so that he could go and watch Pace competing in Formula 3 at Thruxton).

A major force in grand prix racing from the 1960s through to the mid-1980s, Brabham faded swiftly after former owner Bernie Ecclestone sold up and Murray moved on (initially to McLaren). Damon Hill was the last driver to start a grand prix for Brabham, finishing 11th – four laps in arrears – at the Hungaroring in 1992.

The marque lay dormant for many years, until David Brabham – youngest of company founder Sir Jack’s sons – won a lengthy legal battle to establish his family’s right to use its own name in an automotive context. The first fruit of that endeavour, the BT62 hypercar, was introduced last year and made its competitive debut in the low-key surroundings of a Brands Hatch winter clubbie on 9 November.

Running with little more than half its claimed 750bhp, the car was accepted into the ‘invitation’ class of the Britcar Dunlop Endurance Championship, shared by David – 1989 British F3 champion and, later, briefly a grand prix driver – and Will Powell. The pair qualified comfortably on pole position and won the first of the weekend’s two races, but electrical problems condemned them to a retirement in the second.

It was a small but important step on what has been a long journey. The target destination? The Le Mans 24 Hours in 2022.

Return of the native

If the revived marque fulfils its Le Mans ambition, it will come up against Peugeot – for which David Brabham won the 24-hour classic in 2009. The French firm tackled the event for another couple of years beyond that success, but withdrew from endurance racing on the eve of the 2012 campaign just as the new World Endurance Championship was kicking off, citing the need to divert resources elsewhere as it tried to reverse declining road car sales.

It always maintained that it would consider a Le Mans comeback if it could be justified financially and technically – and that moment has arrived with the new hypercar formula from the 2020-21 season. Peugeot hopes to be ready by 2022.

Aston Martin and Toyota had already announced plans to compete and Lamborghini is said to be evaluating the idea. After a couple of seasons in which Toyota has been racing largely against itself in north-western France, the horizon appears ripe with competitive zest.


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Opinion, 6 Dec 2019 00:01:23 +0000
Matt Prior: The connectivity trend is a car with no wheels Faraday Future FF 91 E interior
If you're watching the screens, who's doing the driving?
Faraday Future is the latest firm to push the car as a digital playground, but we've got all the tech we need on our phones

Do you feel like you need a ‘third internet living space’? You’ll have one at home and at work already – unless you’re in education or retired, you lucky devil – and soon you’ll be offered a similar space in your car, according to Faraday Future, the electric vehicle start-up.

I say start-up, Faraday Future has been around since 2014, but this week we saw the interior of its FF91, said to go on sale next year. It’s the FF91’s insides that are set to become this ‘third space’, Faraday Future thinks. “The smart TV was introduced first in 2013 and changed the way we accessed digital content at home,” it says. “Faraday Future’s mission is to change the concept of digital life when we’re in our vehicles.”

To that end, the car gets 11 screens inside, of various sizes. The 10 smaller screens include digital instruments and rear-view ‘mirrors’; the biggest is a 27in HD TV built into the roof.

The seats recline to put occupants into the kind of position NASA reckons one naturally goes into during weightlessness, so is meant to be ultra-relaxing. Put me down for a fascinating examination of the smaller surface area inside my eyelids, in that case, but whether I’m snoozing or watching/browsing, there’s one thing I definitely can’t be doing, and that’s driving.

Which means one of two things. Either I’m a passenger, in which case the 27in HD screen needs to be invisible to the person who’s doing the driving. Or nobody is driving, in which case the car is driving itself. Which won’t happen next year. Or the year after. Or, depending on the kind of roads involved and the kind of weather and other road users, for who knows how long.

The FF91 isn’t alone in wanting to give its occupants ever more connectivity. Start-ups and established car makers are all at this idea of bringing ever increasing communication to their vehicles. More convenience. Making the car more like your home or office.

About which there are two things to remember. First, there aren’t so many separate digital spaces any more; because thanks to smartphones, tablets or hybrids of these, our entire world is a digital space. Whether we’re in a car, shop, pub, train, home, office, bath or out walking, if we want to be connected, we can be. Apart from that bit on the M40 where the DAB radio signal drops out.

Second, if you’re driving, you can’t do anything other than drive plus talk and listen, which is something car audio or phones have let us do for decades. Ever increasing connectedness is the mobility-provider’s theme. But when you’ve got your digital life in the palm of your hand already, it’s hard to see that you need anything more than a stand to put it on.

More SUVs to be furious about, if that’s your thing. Aston Martin’s DBX has been shown in production form and the Mercedes GLS has appeared in new Maybach trim that may be challenging to some European eyes, though will apparently go down well in China.

I struggle to get excited about big SUVs. Like sports cars, they have abilities everyday cars don’t, most of which are useful, unlike sports cars, and yet I like those useless things. And I’d have thought a higher proportion of DBXs will pull horseboxes than Lamborghini Aventadors will actually see 200mph. No denying they do look like conspicuous consumption, though, which is not very 2019. And fashion is, by definition, fickle.


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Opinion, 6 Dec 2019 00:01:23 +0000
Xpeng G3 2020 review Xpeng G3 2019 first drive review - hero front Odd looks may put people off but the G3 packs a punch in both range and specification, with near-Tesla levels of autonomous driving capability Over the last five years, new electric car startups have sprung up pretty much every month in China. However, only three – Xpeng, Nio, and Weltmeister - have actually sold more than 10,000 cars.Recently Xpeng secured $400 million of extra funding, including money from mobile phone company Xiaomi, with the aim of making an even bigger name for itself in its home market.This G3 is currently the company's only model on sale, with the new P7 set to join it in the first half of 2020.First Drive, 6 Dec 2019 00:01:23 +0000Billionaire poised to launch bid for major Aston Martin stake Aston Martin badges Autocar understands Lawrence Stroll, father of F1 racer Lance, is heading consortium looking to take a major shareholding in British sports car firm

Billionaire Lawrence Stroll is preparing a bid to buy a major stake in Aston Martin, Autocar can reveal following a joint investigation with

Stroll, father of Formula 1 driver Lance and owner of the Racing Point F1 team, is estimated to be worth in excess of £2 billion, having made his money investing and building up brands including Pierre Cardin, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Asprey and Garrard.

He is also famed for his car collection, which is most notable for including what many regard as the most valuable collection of classic Ferraris in the world.

Both his business interests and car collection are reported to have given him the contacts to head a consortium looking to take control of Aston Martin, in the belief they can take advantage of its current low stock value and lower than expected sales prior to building the brand’s equity up again in future years, most notably by taking advantage of anticipated sales for the recently launched Aston Martin DBX SUV

Both the Racing Point F1 team and Aston Martin currently have bases at Silverstone, although Aston's headquarters are in Gaydon, Warwickshire.

Lawrence Stroll declined to comment on the report when contacted by

Contacted by Autocar, Aston Martin also made no comment. As a listed company it is bound by strict regulations when it comes to official announcements regarding the stock market, and would be forced to confirm if a formal takeover bid had been launched. However, its stock price did rise by almost 20% in a day off the back of Autocar and's story.

Aston’s share price is currently hovering at around £5, up from a low of just above £4 but well down on its high of around £17. The majority of shares are currently held by the Kuwait-based Adeem/Primewagon group, while the Strategic European Investment Group, part of the Italian private equity group Investindustrial, currently holds around a one-third holding in the company. Mercedes parent Daimler also owns 4% of the firm - as well as supplying engines to the Racing Point F1 team owned by Stroll.

The firm has come under intense scrutiny since floating in 2018, with a valuation of around £5bn, and earlier this year had to issue a profit warning after substantially downgrading its sales forecasts in the face of slowing global demand for its products. In the first six months of 2019 it reported losses of nearly £80m.

Additional reporting by Dieter Rencken



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News, 5 Dec 2019 21:15:00 +0000
Mazda CX-30 2020 UK review Mazda CX-30 2019 UK first drive review - hero front Sweet handling and a plush interior help the stylish new Mazda CX-30 stand out as it touches down in the UK This new Mazda CX-30 could just be the best-looking compact SUV/crossover on sale today - depending on who you talk to, of course.That it’s a looker doesn’t come as much of a surprise given that it’s based on the striking new 3 hatchback, and that Mazda has really had form on style since the introduction of its Kodo design philosophy. Its looks are important, too, because Mazda reckons the CX-30 is set to take on the likes of the ever-expanding, style-led, upmarket set of compact crossovers: the Audi Q2s and Lexus UXs of this world. On this evidence, the CX-30 is off to a flying start - particularly in Soul Red.It arrives in the UK with a starting price of £22,895, a choice of two petrol engines and either a front-driven or all-wheel-drive set-up. The 118bhp SkyActiv-G represents the range entry-point, while the more powerful 178bhp SkyActiv-X sits above it. Both feature Mazda’s 24-volt mild-hybrid architecture.But while the 120bhp version is the cheaper of the two, it’s the slightly pricier (roughly £1500 model-to-model) Skyactiv-X that’s expected to take the lion’s share of UK sales - some 70%, to be precise.First Drive, 5 Dec 2019 17:39:30 +0000Report: Most British drivers could feasibly swap to an electric car 2019 Peugeot e-208 review - hero front
Peugeot's own e-208 can muster 217 miles from a full charge
Survey finds that using an EV over the Christmas period would have no adverse impact on majority of drivers

Most UK drivers could make the switch to an electric car with no impact on their motoring lifestyle, according to the results of a new survey carried out by Peugeot.

Research found that British drivers will travel an average of 79 miles over the Christmas period (often one of the longest drives of the year) - a distance well within the capabilities of the majority of mainstream electric vehicles.

Peugeot said that more than a third of respondents said they would be “comfortable doing all of their Christmas travels between 23 December and 2 January” in an electric vehicle, despite the fact that EVs currently make up just 1.4% of the UK car market. 

The results also show that two thirds of drivers will make at least one stop during their Christmas journeys, during which an EV’s battery could be considerably topped up by a motorway rapid charge point - with which most new electric vehicles are compatible. 

Aside from the feasibility of ownership, Peugeot said that swapping into an electric vehicle would save the average motorist from emitting nearly 1.6 tonnes of CO2 over Christmas. 

The manufacturer has just launched its e-208 electric supermini in the UK; it offers a claimed range of 217 miles and is available to order from £25,050. 

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News, 5 Dec 2019 13:01:22 +0000
Mercedes-AMG A35 Saloon 2019 review Rapid saloons are AMG's stock-in-trade, but does this hatchback-derived rocket feel authentic enough? It’s not complicated: this is the new, three-box version of the Mercedes-AMG A35 hot hatch.Yet compared to its hatchback counterpart, the A35 Saloon is a more exciting product. For a long time (before the pumped-up utility vehicles, hatchbacks and, of course, clean-sheet supercars), AMG was high-performance saloons. It’s why back-catalogue legends such as the W124 300E ‘Hammer’ today go for six figures at auction. And actually, the very best models developed in Affalterbach today are still all saloons with V8 engines.Starting at £36,565, the A35 is a much less expensive route into AMG saloon ownership than any Hammer was or ever will be; it's considerably more affordable than the modern-day C63. Admittedly, the A35 doesn't get a big V8 or even a bespoke AMG engine, but if you want a compact saloon that ticks at least one of those boxes, there’s the new £52,000 CLA 45 S. The 415bhp 'M139' motor it uses has the highest specific output of any four-cylinder production engine ever made.    Instead, the powertrain in the A35 Saloon is carried over wholesale from the A35 hatchback. That means you get 302bhp from a fettled version of the mass-production 'M260' 2.0-litre turbo engine found in the A250 – not exotic but very much on the money here. Power and torque are put through Mercedes’ own seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox to all four wheels, with an open differential at the front and an electronically multidisc clutch housed within the rear transaxle. Naturally, the saloon is longer than the hatchback, although only by 130mm. It follows that weight is also up, but at 1570kg, the difference is just 15kg. In fact, the most significant difference beyond the sleeker design is that, at 420 litres, boot space is usefully increased.First Drive, 5 Dec 2019 12:58:27 +0000