Autocar RSS FeedWelcome to nirvana for car enthusiasts. You have just entered the online home of the world's oldest car magazine, and the only place on the internet where you can find Autocar's unique mix of up-to-the-minute news, red hot car reviews, conclusive road test verdicts, and a lot more besides. en-gbAutocar is part of Haymarket Cars and Aftermarket(c) Haymarket Media Group 2014Thu, 17 Oct 2019 01:25:00 +0100Thu, 17 Oct 2019 01:27:59 +0100Opinion: can Volvo succeed where governments have failed? Volvo now offers an electrified version of its entire range
Volvo now offers an electrified version of its entire range
The Swedish firm believes that it can take a lead on tackling climate change through bold actions

Shortly before Volvo revealed the XC40 Recharge, its first full electric vehicle, it showed a series of vox pop interviews with young people talking about climate change – in stark terms.

They referred to the “climate crisis”, about the damage being done to the environment by the automotive industry. That the actions of car firms have significantly damaged the earth. That car firms care more about profits than the planet.

And when Volvo boss Hakan Samuelsson took the stage at the event, he didn’t shy from the criticism levelled at the industry, calling climate change and CO2 emissions “a real threat to our future”. And he was honest about the gravity of the situation.

“Despite decades of political climate summits and very bold emission targets, CO2 levels are still increasing,” added Samuelsson. “Something else is needed to turn this tide – and we believe the answer must be action from the business community.”

Volvo’s solution is a series of bold targets to electrify its range – with a goal for half of its sales to be full electric cars by 2025 – and to dramatically reduce its carbon emissions. Ultimately, Volvo’s goal is to be carbon neutral by 2040 – in doing so becoming a purely electric car brand.

By those actions Samuelsson believes that Volvo can lead and succeed where governments and the international community have failed. The first step was reflected in the video: to hear the criticism of the car industry, and react to it by showing the industry can be part of the solution.

“Economic growth, new technology and competition is not necessarily bad - it should not be seen as part of the problem, but as part of the solution for a really sustainable future,” added Samuelsson. 

“We also believe that travel and the ability for people to move should not be seen as a negative: it should be seen as a positive. It increases people’s quality of life. We should be careful about restricting freedom to move – but we should make it sustainable.”

Samuelsson likened Volvo’s push towards sustainability to its similar decision in the past to take a lead on safety, saying that “we made safety a part of our company, and we should do the same with sustainability.”

For Samuelsson that means pursuing sustainability “not as something add-on, because it’s good or expected from us, but because we think it’s really good for our business. It’s about concrete actions more than symbolic pledges.” 

Volvo isn’t the only car firm investing heavily in electrified vehicles, or taking steps to reduce carbon emissions throughout both its manufacturing process and supply chain. And it’s relatively small size makes it easier for Volvo to take actions than some firm. 

Still, Volvo’s targets are bolder than most, especially given it doesn’t actually have a full EV on sale at the moment. The XC40 Recharge isn’t due to go on sale in the UK until late 2020, and in initial form is set to cost around £50,000. And yet, just five years after that, Volvo wants half of the cars it sells to be fully electric. 

Bold? Undoubtedly. To meet those targets Volvo will have to undergo the “fundamental change” that Samuelsson has promised. But by doing so, Volvo hopes to show a young generation that think the car industry is part of the problem that it can also help drive the solution.

Read more

Volvo reveals XC40 Recharge as first full electric vehicle

Volvo launches Recharge electrified brand as part of bold climate targets

Volvo to offer free electricity to plug-in hybrid buyers


Opinion, 17 Oct 2019 01:27:59 +0100
Opinion: The future of the V8 is once again under threat Mercedes C63 blue New C63 V8-hybrid switch may be part of a larger transition as manufacturers struggle to limit CO2

I’d be exaggerating if I said I had to pull myself off the floor after first learning about Mercedes-AMG’s plan, but it certainly came as a shock.

We’ve always known the race to meet the 2021 95g/km fleet average CO2 regulations would bring about widespread downsizing, but so far, much of the performance market has been unaffected by this.

The bombastic V8 in today’s C63 is an integral part of the model’s character and gives it a USP above six-cylinder rivals from BMW and Audi. Recreating that character will be extremely difficult with a four-cylinder hybrid powertrain, but AMG’s engineers have as much technical know-how and financial might as anyone to make a success of it.

Again, it raises big questions about the future of the V8 in Europe. Traditionally, the popularity of AMG’s larger models in places such as the US and Middle East have offset the desire for greater efficiency here, but with parent firm Daimler potentially facing massive fines if it can’t bring down its CO2 output substantially, drastic action is needed. No doubt other car makers will be facing the same decisions. 

Thankfully, our understanding is AMG's V8 still has (we hope) a good few years of life left in its for the larger, pricier AMGs - but Daimler won't want people to be buying them in huge numbers.

This decision is rumoured to have cast divisions between Mercedes-Benz and AMG bosses, with one insider claiming AMG boss Tobias Moers walked out of the meeting where the die was cast. There's undoubtedly a desire for change, but also passion within AMG to keep doing things the way it does best. 

But there's a wider, societal debate here, too. Are we passing the point where huge cars with thumping great V8s and 15mpg capability are considered 'cool' by the general populous? Enthusiasts need to remember they are in the minority, and, with ever growing environmental pressure, such cars are surely becoming less desirable and realistic now. That discussion has been had several times in the last decade or so, but this really does feel like the tipping point now.


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Opinion, 17 Oct 2019 00:01:23 +0100
Next AMG C63 to ditch V8 for hybrid four-pot Mercedes C63 white But the new, four-wheel drive Mercedes-AMG C63 is expected to retain 500bhp-plus when it goes on sale in 2021

Mercedes-AMG will send a clear message that it is adapting to modern demands with the upcoming third-generation C63 by forgoing its long-standing V8 power in favour of an advanced four-cylinder hybrid drivetrain that develops more than 500bhp.

The new C63 will be the first in a number of new AMG models earmarked to receive an electrified version of Mercedes’ new turbocharged 2.0-litre M139 engine when it goes on sale in early 2022.

The four-wheel-drive rival to the Audi RS4 and BMW M3 is already undergoing intensive development at AMG’s Affalterbach engineering headquarters.

The potent four-cylinder engine kicks out a maximum of 416bhp and 369lb ft of torque in non-electrified form in the new A45 and its related siblings. The unit has already been engineered for longitudinal mounting as well as mild-hybrid electric boosting. It’s destined to be used in not only the next C63 but also, in a less heavily tuned form, in a follow-up to today’s turbocharged 3.0-litre V6-powered C43.

The new C63 will be offered in saloon, coupé and convertible bodystyles, with the next C43 likely to be sold in those three guises as well as an estate version.

Other AMG models set to run the new electrified driveline include successor models to today’s GLC 43 and GLC 63 SUVs, the GLC 43 Coupé and the GLC 63 Coupé.

Autocar has been told the M139 engine will adopt a 48V integrated starter motor similar to that already used by the turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder M256 unit, which powers the CLS 53 4Matic+ and other recent new AMG models.

In the CLS 53 4Matic+, the gearbox-mounted starter motor provides an additional 22bhp and 184lb ft of electric boosting. In the next C63, however, it is set to be tuned to provide significantly more power in combination with a similar torque loading.

Mercedes C63 blue

The new EQ Boost hybrid drivetrain is also planned to run in combination with Mercedes’ nine-speed torque-converter MCT Speedshift gearbox.

Nothing is official at this early stage, but Affalterbach insiders with knowledge of AMG’s new model plans suggest the new four-cylinder hybrid drivetrain will match the existing second-generation C63 4Matic’s V8 engine in outright power at a maximum 503bhp. This is despite a 50% reduction in swept capacity and cylinder count. With the benefit of electric boosting, it has also been conceived to deliver up to 553lb ft of torque – a 37lb ft increase on today’s C63 S 4Matic.

Details remain scarce, although the new driveline is thought to adopt a lithium ion battery of higher capacity than the 0.9kWh unit used by the CLS 53 4Matic+. It is also expected to use a more advanced energy recuperation system that harvests kinetic energy at each wheel.

One of the most significant advantages in the adoption of the new electrified driveline is a reduction in weight over the front axle of the new C63 4Matic.

At 160.5kg, the M139 four-cylinder unit weighs 48.5kg less than the M177 V8 engine used by today’s C63 4Matic. Even with the addition of the hybrid architecture, including a disc-shaped electric motor and power electronics, the overall weight of the new powerplant is claimed to undercut that of today’s unit.

Additionally, the new powerplant’s weight is concentrated lower, which aids efforts to bring about a lower centre of gravity for the new model, theoretically improving its agility and body control. Further development plans for the next C63 4Matic include a new four-wheel drive system to provide a fully variable apportioning of power front to rear. This will allow AMG to engineer the new model with rear-wheel-drive properties in certain driving modes, much as with the larger E63 sibling. AMG CEO Tobias Moers told Autocar earlier this year that all next-generation AMG models will adopt this system, moving away from pure reardriven models due to customer demand for all-wheel drive.

The decision to provide the C63 4Matic with four-cylinder power was apparently driven by Mercedes-Benz as part of rapidly escalating efforts to reduce fleet CO2 emissions while harnessing the engineering lessons pursued during the development of the Mercedes-AMG One hypercar.


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News, 17 Oct 2019 00:01:23 +0100
Racing lines: Remembering Jim Clark Clark Lotus front With his flashing smile, dapper dress sense and reliably unreliable Lotus, the Scotsman was an icon that transcended motorsport

The Jim Clark Motorsport Museum has just welcomed through its doors its 10,000th visitor, which isn’t bad going given they only opened in July. But should we be surprised at the numbers? Not really. Fifty-one years after his death, Scotland’s double world champion remains an unblemished sporting icon around whom a cult of affection will always thrive.

Clark was gone long before I was born, but like all great figures, he transcends his lifetime. So vivid is his legend, so familiar are the images – dark blue helmet with white peak, that wide-open smile, winning grands prix in a cardigan! – that I sometimes forget I didn’t know him. How come? What is it about this shy, understated sheep farmer from the Scottish borders that triggers such feeling?

His shining talent in a golden era can never be understated. During the 1960s, Clark emerged as the standout from a generation of drivers that included John Surtees, Dan Gurney, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and more. And most of the time it wasn’t even close. If his Lotus didn’t let him down – which it did, and often – he nearly always won. Then consider his crowning glory: not a single race nor world title, but a whole season. No racing driver will ever have a year like Jimmy’s 1965. Near untouchable in Formula 1, he was champion by August, by which time he’d also conquered the Indianapolis 500, while racing (and winning) in Formula 2, saloons and sports cars. Oh, then at season’s end, he headed down under and won the popular Tasman single-seater series.

What a time it was – but still, what a time it could have been. Consider motor racing’s greatest lost rivalry, cut short by Stirling Moss’s career-ending shunt at Goodwood in 1962, just as Jimmy and Lotus were on the rise. Consider too a parallel world without Jimmy’s senseless death at Hockenheim in ’68: Clark vs Stewart vs Jochen Rindt – and Jimmy in a Lotus 72!

But look beyond the monumental feats and ‘what might have beens’, and you’ll find the true reasons why Jimmy’s aura still burns bright. He remains vital to us because of the man he was, and how he conducted himself in the glare of a spotlight that mostly made him uncomfortable. He was no saint, but in an increasingly complex and cynical world, Clark represents a sporting purity that today is almost extinct. This is why the new museum in Duns promises to be a welcome beacon for thousands more visitors to the Scottish Borders, for decades to come.

It’s strange how you can find yourself missing someone you never knew.


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Opinion, 17 Oct 2019 00:01:23 +0100
Volvo to offer free electricity to plug-in hybrid buyers Volvo XC40 plug-in hybrid
Volvo XC40 plug-in hybrid
Customers will be offered cash incentive to use Swedish firm's PHEV models as efficiently as possible

Volvo will offer buyers of its plug-in hybrid models a year’s worth of free electricity to promote them to use their cars as efficiently as possible.

The deal will apply to all of the firm’s PHEV models - which will now carry the new Recharge badge for electrified machines - sold from today onwards in most markets, including the UK.

The cars will record the total level of charge put into it over the course of a year, with Volvo then giving the customer a rebate based on the average price of electricity. 

Björn Annwall, Volvo’s commercial boss, said the scheme was designed to showcase that plug-in hybrids can be a sustainable stepping stone or alternative to full electric cars, and to fight the belief that many are bought for tax incentives and rarely plugged in to charge.

“Plug-in hybrids can be very efficient if they are used in the right way,” said Annwall. “But if you just buy them for tax reasons and leave the cables in the boot it’s just a waste.

“We wanted to make consumers more aware of the benefits, and this was something we could do to help all plug-in hybrid buyers. We think incentives can help, because they can put a spotlight on efficient energy usage.

“The first year with a new car is when you set your habits with it, so if we put incentives then it will really make people think about how they use their cars, and show how they can change.”

While Volvo's plug-in hybrid models have previously carried Twin Engine branding, that will be phased out in favour of the new Recharge label, which will also be used for full-electric cars such as the new XC40 Recharge.

Volvo has introduced an electrified version of every model in its range, and is aiming for plug-in hybrid cars to account for 20% of its sales next year. This is a key part of a major push towards electrification and reducing its average carbon emissions. The firm is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Read more

Volvo launches Recharge brand for electrified cars

Volvo XC40 Recharge launched as firm's first full electric car

Volvo electrifies entire range with new XC40 plug-in hybrid

News, 16 Oct 2019 21:08:33 +0100
Volvo reveals XC40 Recharge as first full electric model 2020 Volvo XC40 Recharge - front New EV version of popular SUV produces 402bhp from twin motor set-up, with more than 248 miles of range

Volvo has unveiled the XC40 Recharge as its first full battery electric model, with the SUV featuring a 402bhp twin motor set-up and a claimed range of more than 248 miles.

The new EV will join the petrol engined and plug-in hybrid variants of the small SUV when it goes on sale in the UK late next year, with pricing expected to be close to £50,000. 

The XC40 Recharge will be the first of five fully electric models the firm will launch in the next five years, with Volvo aiming for EVs to account for half of its global sales by 2025, the rest featuring a hybrid powertrain. Those five electric cars, along with the Swedish firm’s plug-in hybrid models, will carry the new Recharge branding.

The firm has also outlined plans to reduce its lifecycle carbon footprint per vehicle by 40 per cent by 2025, as part of a long-term goal to become climate neutal by 2040.

Volvo launches Recharge electrified brand, sets bold carbon emission targets

The four-wheel-drive XC40 Recharge features two 201bhp electric motors, one mounted on each axle, that combine to offer 402bhp and 487lb ft of torque. That enables it to achieve 0-62mph in 4.9 secs, with a limited top speed of 112mph.

Power is drawn from a 78kWh underfloor battery, with Volvo citing a WLTP-certified range of more than 248 miles. Charging is available through an 11kW AC charger or a 150kW DC fast-charger, which the firm says can deliver an 80% charge in 40 minutes.

The vehicle largely retains the exterior and interior styling of the conventional XC40, albeit with the addition of a new sealed fascia in place of the traditional radiator grille for the combustion engine. The model also gets Recharge branding and other minor design tweaks, while the charging port is located on the rear pillar of the car in the same place as a traditional petrol cap.

Built on the same Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform as the regular XC40, the Recharge version retains largely the same dimensions with a length of 4425mm and a width of 2034mm. Because of the underfloor batteries, the XC40 Recharge has a slightly reduced ground clearance of 175mm, compared to 211mm on the regular model.

The XC40 Recharge offers 413 litres of luggage capacity, a reduction of 460 litres for the regular model although, due to the space saved by the lack of a combustion engine, it gains a 31-litre ‘frunk’ storage area underneath the bonnet. The machine weighs a minimum of 2150kg, compared to 1497kg for the combustion-engined version.

The XC40 Recharge is also the first Volvo to feature a new infotainment system powered by the Google Android operating system. That system features Volvo On Call, the firm’s digital platform.

The likely initial price of the XC40 Recharge is similar to that of the closely related Polestar 2, the first electric model from Volvo’s spin-off performance brand. That model, which features the same electric powertrain - and identical power, torque output and range - costs £49,900 in its initial Launch Edition. Planned base models are likely to cost around £34,500.

To accompany the launch of the XC40 Recharge, Volvo is also revamping its sales process. From early next year, customers visiting its website will be asked first if they want an electrified car, and a range of financial incentives designed to encourage efficient electric driving will also be offered.

With Volvo aiming for plug-in hybrids to account for a fifth of its total sales next year, the firm is planning to triple production capacity for its electrified models, including the XC40 Recharge. It will also offer a new Designer’s Choice selection for Recharge models, which it says will feature “radically reduced delivery times”.

Read more

Volvo launches Recharge electrified brand, sets bold carbon emission targets

New Polestar 2 to cost from £49,900

Volvo reveals plug-in hybrid version of XC40

News, 16 Oct 2019 17:46:25 +0100
New Nissan Rogue hints at styling of next X-Trail Rogue front Spy shots reveal Juke-inspired changes to upcoming Rogue, which are likely to be adopted by new X-Trail

The new Nissan Rogue, spotted testing ahead of its 2021 US launch, hints at the design of the fourth-generation X-Trail.

These images of the Rogue also suggest a heavy styling influence from Nissan’s recently revealed Juke, as the manufacturer seeks to implement a familiar look across its model range.

The new Rogue appears bulkier than its predecessor. The grille is more prominent, while large wheel arches and a more muscular rear also signal links with the Juke.

However, the main changes are at the car’s front, where Nissan, following the Juke, has split the old Rogue’s single headlights and moved to a squarer design, which is similar to the front of a Range Rover.

Inside, the new Rogue has more technology than the outgoing model. The instruments are digital for the first time. Other additions include an updated infotainment system, large touchscreen display with sat nav features and a black and chrome, set-in-place gearstick. These details are also expected to carry over into the X-Trail.

The X-Trail is likely to keep both petrol and diesel powertrains, as well as offering a hybrid variant, as Nissan moves towards its target of selling one million electrified vehicles a year by 2022 in line with tough new CO2 regulations. A hybrid Rogue is already available in the USA.

Nissan would not comment on its plans for the next-generation X-Trail, due in 2021.

The large SUV was originally meant to be built in Nissan’s Sunderland plant, but earlier this year, Nissan cancelled its plans citing the diesel sales downturn and Brexit uncertainty as two key factors. Production of the second-generation Juke, however, has remained at the plant, and got underway earlier this month.


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News, 16 Oct 2019 17:43:21 +0100
Land Rover Discovery Sport D180 AWD SE 2019 UK review Land Rover Discovery Sport 2019 UK first drive review - hero front Well-mannered, spacious, practical, well-finished and now slightly more economical, but D180's high weight dulls performance and economy Not long ago, this version of the latest Discovery Sport would have been decisively the biggest seller of the range. We all know why it will sell more slowly these days, but the fact remains that a fat 317lb ft slug of torque served early is just what an off-roader, a family seven-seater and a tow car need to best deliver on their mission. The Discovery Sport is all of these things, of course, besides being a civilised long distance machine that, when equipped with this 178bhp 2.0 turbodiesel engine, is capable of fuel economy that shouldn’t alarm. This despite the fact that it weighs 1953kg, a fair old hunk of heft for a vehicle that is a direct descendant of the Freelander. That heft is a slightly greater burden than the previous Discovery Sport carried, in part because this new one comes as a mild hybrid with 48-volt electrics, as well as a nine-speed automatic gearbox and, many existing Disco Sport owners will perhaps ruefully note, an enlarged fuel tank. There’s a lot more that’s new than this brief list and the tweaked bumpers and lighting suggest, too. The Disco Sport has undergone the unusual automotive equivalent of having a heart, lung and liver transplant – it now rides on an entirely new platform. You can probably list the cars that have undergone a mid-life platform transplant on the stalks of one steering column, but the Disco Sport has undergone one in order that it shares the innards of the latest Evoque, allowing the aforementioned 48-volt hybridisation to be offered.First Drive, 16 Oct 2019 15:12:31 +0100Jaguar I-Pace 2019 long-term review Jaguar I-Pace 2019 long-term test review - hero front Will an extended time at the wheel and newer EV rivals dilute the appeal of Jaguar's first electric car? We have four months to find out...

Why we’re running it: To discover how deploying the premium EV’s mighty acceleration dovetails with preserving its electric range

Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Jaguar I-Pace: Month 2

Cables tidied - 25th September 2019

Emplekosyrmaphobia, or the fear of tangled wires, is not something you’ll worry about in the I-Pace. The Jag has stealthily hidden USB ports built into its expansive centre console for keeping your phone (and its cable) out of sight. Less useful is their inability to work with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay – for them you have to relegate your handset to the storage box under the armrests.

Mileage: 4469

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Becoming a charge-master makes EV ownership easier - 4 September 2019

I seem to have cracked the early charging glitches (operator error) but I’m battling to get anywhere near the promised 258-mile range. Using Economy and with smart ventilation working (it only cools or heats occupied seats), I can do 225- 230. But I’m learning that it hardly matters. You always want to stop by the time you’ve done 150 miles.

Mileage: 2004

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Life with a Jaguar I-Pace: Month 1

Welcoming the I-Pace to the fleet - 28th August 2019

If you ever needed proof that how a car looks is crucial to its market acceptance and ultimate success, you’d have been well and truly persuaded during our first week’s ownership of a Jaguar I-Pace 400 HSE. You might reckon the car’s pioneering all-electric propulsion system would be the major source of comment given that this is the first battery-powered Jaguar in history.

But it wasn’t. Not at all. The comment – and there was plenty of it – usually went like this… Observer: “That the new electric Jag?” Autocar: “Sure is…” Observer: “Wow, doesn’t it look great? That colour’s fantastic. Is it orange? And the wheels – are they 22-inch? They look brilliant. Must be the best-looking Jaguar ever. What’s it cost?”

No mention there of the I-Pace’s 90kWh battery pack, or its awesome capacity for 4.5sec, smooth and silent sprints from standstill to 60mph (delivered with zero wheelspin because all wheels are driven). No mention of a predicted range that seems to vary between 220 and 260 miles. And only secondary attention to the price – which starts at £71,495 for a standard 400 HSE after the £3500 government incentive, but totals £79,740 in our case because of the mighty raft of options carried.

Everything is secondary, in those early minutes, to the car’s sleek, unique outline, to how well it wears its £700 Photon Red paint (which in decent sunlight is a tasteful Nearly Orange) and how well it rolls on its 22in five-split-spoke wheels.

If you value the joy of driving extra-refined cars, as I do, you’ll find there’s nothing in your memory bank quite like those first few miles in the I-Pace, as it demonstrates its near-silence and total smoothness. There’s a faraway whine as you accelerate, but the car’s ability to gain speed without noise or vibration simply doesn’t compute. It even shades other electric cars. After a few journeys, this consolidates into a kind of gliding gait that is simply intoxicating. Ridiculous to introduce noise into this, even if you could. And hard to imagine that, just a couple of years ago, many of us feared that electric cars would never have the ability to exhilarate a driver.

Of course, the wheels are in touch with the road in a conventional way. This car has a flat but sporty ride. But great trouble has clearly been taken to control road noise (in a way other electric cars do not) and the wind noise is also low. The ride is conventional in a sense but, as you ride, you soon tune into the fact that this machine has a long wheelbase with smaller than usual overhangs, that the major mass is beneath the floor, that there simply isn’t a great big metal lump suspended on rubber over the front wheels and that because of all this, the self-levelling air suspension units have a comparatively easy time keeping things on an even keel.

This and the I-Pace’s sophisticated torque-vectoring system – the ability to send different amounts of torque to different wheels as the car manoeuvres – means the car stays in line at road speeds whatever you do, gripping hard and responding near-instantly to practically any input.

On the subjects of charging and range, we’re still acquiring knowledge. The maker claims a 258-mile WLTP combined (read ‘realistic’) range, but we’ve had trouble reaching that without preconditioning – a heating process you can put the car through while it’s still charging. But plug the car in overnight at this part of the year and without preconditioning you’ll be offered 210-215 miles, a figure the I-Pace will faithfully fulfil if you cruise at 70mph on motorways and remember to let downslopes regenerate your battery.

In our experience, it takes good management and careful driving to get anywhere near an honest 258 miles. But the Economy setting, the softest of three driving modes, works much better than most by adding eight to 10 miles to the total range while maintaining decent accelerator response and cruising capability.

At charging time, we’ve so far had a bit of trouble. The car has never refused outright to take charge, but we’ve had unsuccessful attempts after which we’ve simply had to start again. Other users report the same.

The way to make it work seems to be to ensure your I-Pace is in Park, power off, with the (automatic) handbrake on and with the tailgate securely closed. You need to plug your cable first into the power source, and then into the car (the handbook makes that point very firmly). Usually there’ll be a loud click and the dashboard will show an amber ‘CHARGING’ message, whereupon you can be confident of locking the car and walking away with the battery capacity growing. The 7kW charger in my own garage is enough to keep a car like this healthy, provided it has an evening to recover from a long trip.

Key impressions so far? This is a superb car, especially this latest example that improves in quality detail on the early models Jaguar rushed into service. The driving position – around which former Jaguar designer Ian Callum said the car has been designed – is wonderful. Full marks for the seats, too, and the amazing performance.

On range and connectivity, we’re happy without being ecstatic. Hookup uncertainties do play on your mind and, having got used to the 300-mile ranges of much cheaper Hyundais and Kias, the 220-250 mile range of this car is just okay. Recent chats with manufacturers bidding to launch electric cars make it pretty clear 300 miles is the figure that makes people feel safe.

We’ll get used to all this. We will learn the I-Pace’s charging quirks and soon see that 220 miles is plenty. There is a learning curve, and we’re on it. But in itself, from stem to stern, the electric Jaguar is brilliant. Living with it looks set to be a delight.

Second Opinion

I didn’t instantly warm to the I-Pace. The big centre console seemed contrary to the space-creating possibilities of an EV layout; the twin touchscreen controls a bit confused. Then I drove it. The I-Pace has a real sense of quiet, opulent luxury. It feels special. Like a Jaguar should.

James Attwood

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Jaguar I-Pace EV400 AWD specification

Specs: Price New £71,495 (after gov't grant) Price as tested £79,740 Options Photon Red paint £700, monogram trim finisher £250, suedecloth headlining £900, suedecloth steering wheel £600, 22in five-spoke alloy wheels £500, electronic air suspension £1100, panoramic roof £960, activity key £300, heated/cooled performance front seats plus heated rear seats £1400, head-up display £900, privacy glass £375, exterior black pack £260

Test Data: Motor Two asynchronous electric motors Battery 90kWh Power 394bhp Torque 513lb ft Kerb weight 2133kg Top speed 124mph 0-62mph 4.8sec Range 292 miles (WLTP) CO2 0g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Long-Term Review, 16 Oct 2019 15:02:14 +0100
UK lawyers claim VW Dieselgate 'fix' is second defeat device Volkswagen logo 2019 Pre-trial hearing for UK-based class action lawsuit against VW sees Slater and Gordon lawyers claim diesel emissions fix was another 'defeat device' in itself

Lawyers for the 85,000 motorists bringing a class action in the UK against VW for its role in Dieselgate have questioned whether the technical fix introduced in 2016 can be classified as a second defeat device, in a pre-trial hearing last week.

Dieselgate damages: civil case against Volkswagen starts in spring

Slater and Gordon, who are leading a consortium of lawyers against VW, represented by Freshfields, raised the point as the Dieselgate trial heads towards an important two-week hearing at the High Court in December, four years after the class action was first raised. 

That trial will be critical to deciding in UK law whether VW fitted a defeat device to the EA189 diesel engine, which powers 1.2m affected VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda models – the first stage of a legal process that could ultimately finish with VW paying out tens of millions of pounds in compensation to owners in 2022.

“We have asked VW lots of questions to clarify exactly what the technical fix is doing,” says Gareth Pope, head of group litigation at Slater and Gordon. For its part, VW’s lawyers say the technical fix was completed to standards set by Germany’s automotive technical agency, the KBA, equivalent to the UK’s VCA, and re-engineered the EA189 diesel to the emissions standards it should have had under EU5 regulations.

Slater and Gordon is questioning why the technical fix is operating over an ambient temperature range or ‘thermal window’ of 15 deg C to 33 deg C, and below 1000m altitude, suggesting that re-engineered EA189 engines will emit higher levels of pollutants in real-world use outside these conditions.

“This information has long been in the public domain and has received media coverage since at least April 2016,” VW told Autocar in a statement. Autocar also understands that VW rejects any suggestion that a ‘thermal window’ can be classified as a defeat device.

And given that the EA189 has been re-engineered to the EU5 standard that allows a ‘thermal window’, it seems unlikely that the fix is a second defeat device.

However, this detail is significant because it forms part of Slater and Gordon’s case, which must cross three hurdles of proof to be successful, the first being to prove in UK law ‘deceit’ - that VW deceived buyers by selling cars with defeat devices.

VW recently settled a class action out of court in Australia affecting around 100,000 cars with damages valued at between Aus$89m (£46.6m) and Aus$130m (£68.2m), equivalent to about $Aus1000 (£524) per owner. Although the Australian court case has no legal bearing in the UK, it suggests VW will find it difficult to win the defeat device legal action in December, but also that damages ultimately will be limited.

Read more

Dieselgate damages: civil case against Volkswagen starts in spring​

VW faces Germany's largest-ever legal claim for Dieselgate​

May 2019: Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal bill runs to €30bn

News, 16 Oct 2019 14:48:55 +0100
Tata rules out sale of Jaguar Land Rover, but looks for partners Chairman of Indian giant says it won’t sell JLR but will “always look for partnerships”, while sales begin to recover

Tata has gone on the record to rule out rumours it would put Jaguar Land Rover up for sale, but has admitted it will consider partnerships to reduce costs.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of the Tata Sons Ltd, the holding company for the Indian giant that has Tata Motors under its wing, said “we’re not going to sell”. 

Despite admitting that the company will "always look for partnerships", Chandrasekaran said the firm has no desire to to a deal where "we just sell a stake and have no say".

He acknowledged that the maker is going through "difficult times", and listed problems to be resolved including  "getting the right portfolio, which [models] we need to invest in for electric vehicles, and how do we cut cost". 

Chandrasekaran also admitted that JLR’s Chinese sales “collapsed” earlier this year, with drops in sales that outstripped a general market slowdown, but said the market is starting to recover with significant growth for both brands over three consecutive months. “Auto is a core business for us. From revenue terms, auto is our largest company”. 

Despite this, Tata Motors has suffered substantial losses thanks to a slump in India’s car market, China’s economic slowdown, and Brexit uncertainty. JLR will close its UK factories for a week after 31st October, the proposed date for Britain to leave the European Union.

Tata has owned Jaguar Land Rover since 2008, purchasing the firm from Ford. With the first generation XF launched in that year, sales began to boom, particularly in regions such as China and Russia where it previously struggle to make an impact. 

However, JLR suffered as diesel sales slumped in the last two years, having invested heavily in development of oil-burning engines. The troubles snowballed, leading chief executive Ralf Speth to announce a £3.6bn annual loss for 2018/19. A wide-reaching cost-cutting programme was launched soon after. 

The latest sales figures paint a more positive outlook however. 128,953 cars were sold between June and September, a slight decrease on last year but a recovery on the first half of 2019. Sales in China are also up a substantial 24.3 per cent. The new Range Rover Evoque is attributed with much of the success.

Read more:

Jaguar Land Rover's survival bid: five new cars in two years

Jaguar Land Rover to halt production after Brexit

2020 Jaguar XJ: electric-only saloon teased at Frankfurt

News, 16 Oct 2019 12:53:23 +0100
Volvo launches Recharge brand for electrified cars Swedish firm will disclose average lifecycle carbon footprint of new models as part of bold plan to reduce emissions

Volvo will introduce a new Recharge brand for all of its full electric and plug-in hybrid cars, and has vowed to show buyers the average lifecycle carbon footprint of each new model as part of a bold set of plans to reduce its carbon emissions.

The new Recharge line will be introduced with the Swedish firm’s first battery electric vehicle, the XC40 Recharge, which will be unveiled later today (Wednesday). That will also be the first model for which Volvo will disclose the average lifecycle carbon footprint – effectively the CO2 emissions the car will produce during its life with both manufacturing and usage taken into account.

The Recharge label will be used on all new electrified models the firm releases from now on. Volvo says that it will use the brand to push sales of electrified cars, and that it will offer incentives to encourage plug-in hybrid drivers to use the full electric Pure mode as much as possible.

Volvo has already revealed plans for half of the cars it sells by 2025 to be fully electric, and has now launched a wider climate plan with the aim to reduce the lifecycle carbon footprint per car by 40% from 2018 figures by the same date. The firm has also set a target of becoming an entirely climate-neutral company by 2040.

Volvo has already pledged that every new car its introduces will feature an electrified powertrain. But it says that meeting its climate target will involve both pursuing “all-out electrification” of its vehicle line-up, and reducing carbon emissions from its manufacturing network, wider operations and supply chain. The firm is also aiming to increase both recycling and the reuse of materials.

To achieve a 40% reduction of its per car CO2 footprint by 2025, Volvo has set goals for that date of reducing CO2 emissions from its global supply chain by 25%, reducing its own carbon emissions by 25% and using 25% recycled plastics in new cars.

Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson said that the firm was “transforming our company through concrete actions, not symbolic pledges.”

He added: “We will address what we can control, which is both out operations and the tailpipe emissions of our cars. And we will address what we can influence, by calling on our suppliers and the energy sector to join us in aiming for a climate neutral future.”

Volvo recently announced plans to merge its combustion engine programme with parent firm Geely, and then spin it off into a separate company. It says that will allow it to focus fully on electrified powertrains.

Read more

Electric Volvo XC40 shown in new sketches

Volvo electrifies entire line-up with XC40 plug-in hybrid

All Volvo models to be electrified from 2019 onwards

News, 16 Oct 2019 12:00:00 +0100
Top 10 best superminis 2019 Seat Ibiza The best superminis have evolved from small yet practical cars to ones with real dynamic prowess, filled with the kind of luxuries found on larger cars. So which would we buy?

The supermini segment is packed with options for buyers of new cars, but it's no longer sufficient for a car in this class to simply be small, frugal and well priced.

To make our top 10 list, a supermini needs to be so much more than a car that's capable of carrying a couple of adults, a couple of kids and a decent amount of luggage. It must be desirable, well equipped, decently spacious and pleasant to use and to spend time in and have a dynamic make-up that mixes drivability and ease of use with agility, comfort, verve and refinement.

Increasingly, superminis offer a level of quality, equipment, performance and usability that bears comparison with that of bigger five-door hatchbacks; and the best ones combine all that with the agility only a small, light car can offer. 

So which supermini tops our list?

1. Seat Ibiza

Storming to the top of our supermini top 10 is the fifth-generation Seat Ibiza. The Spanish company went to great lengths to replace the decent fourth-generation Ibiza with a handsome hatchback that's backed by real substance. It was the first of the Volkswagen Group's latest breed of MQB-based small hatchbacks - and, to date, it remains the best.

Mimicking the bigger Seat Leon in many ways, the Ibiza is roomy, well equipped and much better finished than before. Combine that with its first-class on-road handling and refinement manners, its value-for-money position, its impressive equipment features and its youthful styling, and it all adds up to a class-leading proposition for us. 

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2. Volkswagen Polo

Still the sensible supermini of choice, the latest VW Polo is usable, refined, easy-going, mature and very solidly built. 

Compared with the previous-generation car, this new Polo is a huge departure, mixing a tad more technology with improved dynamic capabilities. The Polo's ascent up our top 10 list shows how close it is to being the ideal supermini: and that's pretty painfully close. It's a little unimaginative in appearance at, though, as well as reserved to drive and expensive, as is the VW way.

In many other respects, the Polo's an outstanding car. But it's much more likely to appeal to your rational side than your emotional one.

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3. Ford Fiesta

The latest Fiesta had the difficult task of bettering its class-leading predecessor, which might have been the best-handling supermini of the past 25 years.

This new version is much more than just a reskin of the old one and in some respects – namely its supple ride, sparkling on-road handling dynamism and driver appeal - it remains best in class.

However, the Fiesta's new crop of opponents have moved the supermini game on in ways that this Ford can't quite cover. Interior quality lets the Fiesta down compared with the very best superminis, and equipment sophistication and practicality are not quite in the same league as the classy Ibiza, either.

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4. Renault Clio

Not only is the new Clio still a charming-looking supermini, but it also has an impressive amount of substance behind its chic aesthetic. Cabin design and quality have been boosted considerably (to near class-leading levels) and it rides challenging stretches of Tarmac with an air of civility that’s conspicuous by its absence in some of its more stiffly sprung rivals. 

That said, its more relaxed gait doesn’t cause it to forgo handling verve. It might not have the most communicative steering rack and it rolls a bit more than we might otherwise like, but there’s a fantastic sense of inherent balance in its chassis. It’s impressively adjustable, too. We’ve high hopes indeed for any Clio RS that might follow.

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5. Mini One/Cooper

A modern rework of a classic name, and now in facelifted third-generation form, the 'new Mini' continues to build momentum and to enjoy enduring sales success. It remains quite expensive to buy and you will need to tick a fair few option boxes to get all the equipment that many of its rivals include as standard - but the Mini continues to deliver retro style, singular charm and desirability, premium equipment features and driver appeal like few cars in this class.

The car's small by supermini standards, with packaging that isn't brilliant, and space is tight in the boot and rear seats. But its selection of nippy three-pot engines and a well-constructed, premium-feeling and quirky interior make it a great place to spend time, while its direct, terrier-like handling should seal the deal for keener drivers.

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6. Mazda 2

The Mazda 2 has matured over the years to become a grown-up supermini that is very well made. It may not be quite as vivacious to drive as some of the cars above it in this list, but it remains a car that an interested driver should naturally gravitate towards for its clean-revving atmospheric engines and nicely clipped, involving handling.

Those naturally aspirated engines do need to be worked hard but its perky handling will reward drivers who are willing to invest time and effort to search higher up the rev range.

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7. Peugeot 208

As an exercise in supermini design, the new Peugeot 208 might just be the high point of 2019. This is easily one of the best-looking superminis in its class - both inside and out. 

It backs this up with perfectly amenable on-road manners, too. Although it handles in a largely sure-footed and predictable fashion, it’s possible to coax a degree of playfulness from its chassis, should you go looking for it. It might not be quite as alert or fleet-footed as our class favourites, but it’s far from dull. Refinement also impresses, as does performance from its three-cylinder motor. For the first time, there’s an all-electric version, too.

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8. Audi A1

The second-generation Audi A1 sits staunchly at the premium end of the supermini class and has a price to match. There’s plenty to like about the way the new A1 looks - particularly in some of the sportier trim levels available. Far from being cutesy, it’s one of the more athletically assertive contenders in a predominantly chic class.

It handles well and it’s evident that its chassis is biased towards a more enthusiastic style of driving. It’s not quite as alert as a Mini, Fiesta, or Ibiza, but there’s some verve on display here. At the same time, on sports suspension, it can lack finesse, and its steering is a bit too light and tight-lipped to warrant praise.

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9. Nissan Micra

The fifth-generation Micra is a huge departure from the one that went before. For this iteration, Nissan brought Mirca manufacturing back to mainland Europe. 

Built on the same production line as the Renault Clio, it discards the old version's dowdy looks and the 50 shades of scratchy grey plastic associated with its cabin. In their place is an edgy hatchback that's really distinctive, well built and enjoyable to drive, with sharp steering and an impressive tech offering. The Micra is also available in a host of vibrant colours and personalisation options. 

The rear seats are small and the turbocharged 0.9-litre triple is a little unrefined compared with its rivals, but it is nevertheless easy to live with.

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10. Skoda Fabia

Another solid effort from the Volkswagen Group, but unlike the Seat Ibiza, the current-generation Skoda Fabia plays it far more safely. In design terms, the Fabia is short on visual flair. Interior space is strong but not best in class, and the car is comfortable and pleasant to drive but not remotely engaging. 

Being a Skoda, the Fabia certainly seems well built and is decently equipped, with an attractively styled interior - albeit one that's feeling dated now compared with the plusher Ibiza. The Fabia remains a strong contender but will be all the stronger when it joins its VW Group siblings on the latest MQB model platform.

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News, 16 Oct 2019 11:19:32 +0100
Top 10 best family hatchbacks 2019 Top 10 best family hatchbacks 2019 Stylish, well-equipped and with an engine to suit every requirement, the family hatchback segment remains one of the market's most important. But which make our top 10?

The traditional family hatchback segment might not be the market's fastest-growing, but it remains one of the most important and hotly contested. WIthin it, class stalwarts are reinventing themselves all the time, while brand-new entrants come along with regularity, each intended to break through and take the market by the scruff of the neck.

Very few make much of a dent in the established power of the blue-chip contenders. The traditional family hatchback as we once knew it no longer really exists. Once humble day-to-day hauler of people and their luggage, these cars have been transformed into often quite striking five-door aspiration machines that offer something for everyone, whether you're looking for a frugal diesel, a peppy small turbocharged petrol engine, bargain transport or something with an upmarket flavour or a sporty lilt.

Below are our top 10 family hatchbacks currently on sale.

1. Ford Focus

Ford’s new Focus has claimed back its old spot at the top of the Autocar family hatchback pile with its outstanding handling and superbly pliant, well-resolved ride. Having arguably been in slight decline since the death of the Focus mkI, the best-handling family hatchback in history is undoubtedly back to its very best on driver appeal.

There’s plenty of space inside, while a completely new platform and exterior have given the Ford a new lease of life. Its cabin still doesn’t quite offer the same levels of fit-and-finish as a Volkswagen Golf or Seat Leon, though.

This fourth-generation model is available with both petrol and diesel engines, while base models make use of a torsion beam rear suspension configuration and passive dampers instead of the multi-link arrangement, partnered optionally with adaptive dampers, of more powerful models. Even the lower-end and less sporty configurations of the car stand clear of their rivals for handling dynamism, however.

For now, the 2.3-litre ST represents the sportiest offering in the line-up, although an RS model is a bankable probability for later in the car's life.

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2. Volkswagen Golf

Still the family hatchback benchmark that most of the class aspires to beat and still among the biggest-selling cars in Europe, the Volkswagen Golf remains a very classy option. Supremely well-rounded to drive and, although not the cheapest, it does enough to justify its high price tag.

The Golf is available in various bodystyles, including as a practical estate and small MPV, and in numerous guises such as the ever-present GTI, the all-wheel-drive hot hatch – the R, and even in electric form. That it is the car for the people may be a little questionable on the basis of its quietly premium pricing.

Just don't doubt for a moment that, between its right-sized cabin and exterior, its pervasive understated material quality and its distinguishing dynamic polish, it's well worth the money. 

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3. Seat Leon

Barcelona’s sister relation to the formidable Volkswagen Golf is a very worthy and creditable addition to the hatchback ranks, matching its German sibling on many fronts, and even beating it on one or two.

The Seat Leon looks superb with its angular and edgy styling, and it performs strongly and handles keenly too. There is a range of bodystyles and engines on offer, like the Golf, including the vivacious Cupra 300 and R; and even if you can only run to a lower-order FR trim and mid-range engine, it’ll give you more driver appeal than most cars of its kind.

Ultimately, the Leon misses out on a loftier recommendation here because the interior feels cheaper and dowdier than the Golf's, but that does mean a lower price point.

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4. Mazda 3

The fourth-generation Mazda 3 could well be the best looking family hatch currently on sale. And, joy of joys, it retains all the qualities that made its predecessor such an appealing contender in this highly competitive class: strong value for money; spry handling; and an atmospheric petrol engine.

Inside, it’s more competitive with premium offerings in the hatchback class thanks to higher levels of perceived quality than ever before. It has Ford Focus-rivalling levels of driver appeal, too, courtesy of its quick, direct steering; a precise and slick-feeling manual box; and fine body control. The car’s 2.0-litre petrol motor doesn’t quite provide enough punch to see it topple the best in class, but a forthcoming compression-ignition petrol engine could well change that.

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5. Kia Ceed

It’s third time lucky for the South Korean manufacturer, as this third-generation Ceed is the first of its kind to break into our top five. 

The handling and steering have found a greater level of sophistication than ever before, while its cabin offers plenty of room for four adults but still lacks some of the classy material appeal of more upmarket contenders. Its diesel engines are smooth and refined and offer impressive economy. 

The Ceed is still some way off the position of class leader, but is nonetheless a worthy competitor in an incredibly competitive segment. Meanwhile, the Proceed compact shooting brake has design appeal, and no small amount of driver appeal, to augment Kia’s family hatchback range.

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6. Honda Civic

Over the course of 10 models, the Honda Civic has gone through a multitude of changes from the mundane to the divisive. This new-generation car is the biggest there has ever been, and is equally as striking as its predecessors to look at, albeit in a more conventional way. Dynamically, the car is better executed than before.

Honda’s new petrol engines are impressive, even if the triple isn’t quite able to match the 1.0-litre unit from Ford for high-revving driver engagement. The latest-generation Civic Type R hot hatchback version, meanwhile, is superb.

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7. Audi A3 Sportback

The best premium-badged family hatchback available on the market, which mixes the best from the Volkswagen Group, including a host of peppy TSI and frugal TDI engines and low cost of ownership, with the precision build and design appeal that Audi has to offer.

The A3 Sportback is like every other car to roll out of Ingolstadt, which is to say supremely well-constructed and suave inside, efficient, precise, refined and fast on the road, but a bit soulless to drive at times and not as involving as its rivals.

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8. Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Mercedes’ latest take on the compact family hatchback is a more conventional car than A-Class regulars may be used to, but in the ways that will count to most owners, it’s certainly none the worse for the trade.

Having grown significantly since the last-generation verion, the A-Class is now among the bigger hatchbacks in the segment. A ritzy-looking, technology-rich interior is the car’s main selling point; it can be had, in more expensive trims, with a pair of widescreen instrument and infotainment displays and Merc’s latest MBUX voice recognition software, which works consistently well.

Interior packaging isn’t flawless, with oddly protruding interior doorhandles robbing knee space in both rows – but even so, there’s decent space on offer. 

The driving experience, meanwhile, is generally slick, quiet and can be fairly punchy, depending on which engine you choose. Mercedes’ more powerful options are worth the extra spend; likewise the independent rear suspension of its more expensive derivatives, which make the A-Class a dynamic match for most cars in the class.

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9. Vauxhall Astra

A mid-life refresh has introduced more to this latest Vauxhall Astra than a subtly revised exterior. There’s a choice new line up of freshly developed petrol and diesel three-cylinder motors, while tweaks have also been made to the Astra’s suspension in a bid to smooth out a previously questionable ride.

The good news is that these changes are largely successful. The new 143bhp 1.2-litre petrol motor is a particularly sweet performer, while the Astra now rides in a far more fluid manner. It handles well too - perhaps not in as exciting a fashion as the likes of the Ford Focus, but it’s not far off. It’s interior is still on the dull side of things, but is at least impressively spacious.

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10. Mini Countryman

The car that shows Mini is coming of age with a grown-up version of its crossover. This second-generation Countryman is an interesting family car that majors on refinement, comfort and practicality by Mini standards.

It is fairly pricey compared with its closest rivals, and it isn’t quite as classy as you would expect from a Mini. However, it's the closest Oxford has come to nailing the compromise between sweet, well-balanced handling and sophistication. 

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News, 16 Oct 2019 10:55:30 +0100
Top 10 best family SUVs 2019 Audi Q5 Numerous premium brands claim they make the best family SUV but we can now put that argument to rest with our definitive top 10 list

Dominated by premium offerings, this chart is populated by some of the best family cars on the road – vehicles that can cope with the school run as well as tackling wintery conditions, mildly rugged terrain, trips to the tip, towing duties and long-distance motorway cruising.

It's a hotly contested and strategically important segment where style, safety and space rank at the top of the agenda for buyers and, often, room for seven occupants is required. That importance is underestimated by manufacturers at their peril, given that the segment is slowly obliterating the MPV market. And, despite a lack of variety in the styling and approach taken by many, it's a fairly diverse segment that has attracted many brands into the fold of SUV making.

1. Audi Q5

It's hard to pick faults with such a classy and consummate all-rounder as the Audi Q5, although slightly anodyne handling is what will prevent the car from really appealing to keener drivers. This shortcoming should be nowhere near serious enough to prevent the Q5 from emulating the sales success of its predecessor, though, which became the bestseller in its segment in nearly every country in which it was offered.

Although a pricey option with a long options list, the Q5 is quiet, practical and desirable, with outstanding driving refinement and material finish. Keeping in step with the times, there’s now plug-in hybrid versions available as well. The 55 TFSIe is a particularly smooth operator, with its electric motor and 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-pot combining to produce a compelling 362bhp and 369lb ft. Keep its battery topped up, and you’ll be able to make the most of its potential 26-mile range - and see your fuel bills drop in the process.

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2. BMW X3

What's this: a decent-handling mid-range SUV? Before BMW set about making SUVs, the idea would have been borderline laughable - but the BMW X3 has handling appeal down, and then some.

The X3 has powertrains with top-drawer driver appeal, even if it is slightly unrefined when being pushed. But in all other areas, the X3 is a winner, and a close-run second to the Audi Q5. Standard equipment is a touch under-provided on some trim levels, but the car's perceived quality is above that of almost all others and its on-road manners are hard to fault, even on run-flat tyres.

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3. Jaguar F-Pace

Jaguar's first SUV is a doozy, with remarkable handling, plenty of cabin space and looks that rocketed it to the top of Jag's range as its best-selling model until it was overtaken by the smaller E-Pace.

There are one or two details that detract a little from the overall driving experience: among them some undistinguished four-cylinder diesel engines, a hesitant automatic gearbox and a slightly jittery, noisy ride in certain specifications. There's room for improvement, too, in the car's steering. But for a first-generation Jaguar SUV, the F-Pace is a fine-handling car and a very creditable achievement, and that nestles it impressively into third place, above even its Land Rover Discovery Sport cousin.

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4. Land Rover Discovery Sport

The Discovery Sport might be the entry-level Land Rover in the showroom range, but it isn't short on trademark Land Rover capability, comfort or charm.

Face-lifted for 2019, the Discovery Sport now sits on the same PTA platform as the Range Rover Evoque but hasn’t lost out on any of the characteristics we liked about the original. It’s still higher-riding than many of its opponents, affords better visibility and 4x4 capability than many, and feels more like a traditional SUV to drive than some while still handling in an impressively tidy fashion. It has a practical interior - a huge selling point in this segment - that has now been given a much needed lift in premium appeal. 

Its petrol and diesel engines are now supplemented by 48V mild-hybrid architecture in a bid to improve fuel economy and a plug-in hybrid version is in-bound, too. Those engines might still want slightly for refinement and outright performance, but if you want a family SUV with more offroad ruggedness than the class average, the Discovery Sport delivers that with very few associated compromises.

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5. Skoda Kodiaq

The Kodiaq is our top family SUV not to come from a premium manufacturer and it undercuts even the cheapest of the plusher offerings on this list by more than £9000.

So what are you sacrificing? A chunk of premium-feel materials for a start, although everything feels well screwed together. The top four SUVs in this list all have better-balanced handling and ride quality than the Kodiaq, but not all of them offer a third row of seats.

Aside from the slightly over-firm and remote way in which the Kodiaq drives, though, there's little room for improvement. An oily-bits facelift could easily rectify its main problems.

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6. Mercedes-Benz GLC

The second half of our top 10 is where the handling element sorts the class leaders from the also-rans.

The Mercedes GLC, with its well-appointed and luxurious-feeling interior, deserves its place in the top 10, but its numb steering means it's far from the first choice for keen drivers. It's more car-like to drive than many of the full-blown SUVs on this list, but it also rides less serenely than a Mercedes-Benz should on standard steel coil suspension, making it harder to recommend in base spec. On optional air suspension, thuough, it's among the most laid-back, effectively comfort-oriented cars in the class - and well worth considering.

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7. Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Alfa Romeo took the platform and engines that made the Giulia, added some ride height and four-wheel drive technology and created a fine-handling SUV in the shape of the Stelvio.

Remarkable handling and typical Alfa Romeo film-star looks come as standard, with a strong if gruff diesel engine to boot. Unfortunately, Alfa's focus on decent handling has resulted in a slightly restless ride on poorer UK roads, and some of the cabin materials feel plain and cheap - just as they do on the Giulia. It's priced super-competitively, though, undercutting key rivals considerably. One for the keener driver, without question.

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8. Volvo XC60

Being the safest car yet tested by Euro NCAP is quite an accolade, and on top of this, the XC60 has plenty of design appeal and a very pleasant interior.

It's not the last word in driver appeal, performance or diesel engine refinement and the car's hesitant automatic gearbox is a particular low point. But as a safe, comfortable, easy-to-use family SUV, it's likely to attract an equally impressive number of buyers as its predecessor, which was the best-selling SUV in Europe in its pomp despite being priced to compete at the more expensive end of the market.

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9. Seat Tarraco

The Tarraco is Seat's first attempt at a full-sized SUV and it’s a pretty good looking one, too. Being a Volkswagen Group product, it comes as little surprise that this Spanish SUV shares practically everything with the Skoda Kodiaq although, unlike its sibling, the Tarraco comes equipped with seven seats as standard across the range.

It feels a touch more incisive and agile than other SUVs of its size, but this sharper handling does seem to come at the expense of rolling refinement and outright comfort. In a car such as this, it’s arguably comfort and refinement that should be of greater focus. Still, the interior is well finished, and the petrol and diesel motors are impressively refined. It's priced fairly competitively, too.

Save money with new Tarraco deals from What Car?

10. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

If you're a family SUV driver looking for an easy way to cut your company car tax bills, you'll probably have heard about this car in the office canteen. If you haven't, get wise: because compared with a diesel family SUV, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV might save you as much as £4000 a year on benefit-in-kind tax alone, and another £1500 on fuel, depending on your usage. That's probably why it's the UK's best-selling plug-in hybrid car to date.

The model had its biggest facelift since its launch in 2018, getting a new 2.4-litre petrol engine, refined styling and tweaked ride and handling. Performance is strong enough and handling dynamism is passable, although the car is never better than when cruising along in comfortable, economical mode. The electric-only range is about 25 miles.

Save money with new Outlander deals from What Car?

What Car? New car buyer marketplace

News, 16 Oct 2019 10:47:23 +0100
Hot Yaris is on the cards as Toyota aims to forge racing links Toyota Yaris render European sales boss hints a performance version of the Yaris is forthcoming, linking in with the company's Gazoo Racing motorsport arm

Toyota is highly likely to produce a performance version of the new Yaris, according to Toyota Europe’s executive vice-president Matt Harrison.

The decision is part of a greater desire within Toyota to connect the brand’s Gazoo Racing motorsport activities to its road car range to help customers better understand the link.

Harrison said: “This is the strategy of Gazoo Racing – not just the sports cars, like Supra, but to look at performance derivatives as well.”

Although he stopped short of officially confirming a hot Yaris GR, Harrison said: “We have some ideas about more aspiration opportunities for the car, but you’ll hear more in a couple of months.

“That’s more related to our desire to link Yaris to our success in motorsport.” “On selected vehicles we will look at a GR derivative, which is differentiated on these [performance] grounds – whether that’s displacement or whatever.”

Harrison refused to confirm whether or not a performance Yaris derivative would be a hybrid, adding: “Because of the strength of our hybrids in the sales mix [meeting fleet average CO2 regulations], it allows us the flexibility and scope to have lower volume performance derivatives like Supra.”

This suggests the brand is weighing up a traditional combustion engine option for a Yaris GR. The mention of displacement suggests the firm may upsize from the current flagship 1.5-litre unit. The limited-run  GRMN version of the outgoing Yaris sported a 1.8-litre supercharged petrol engine puting out 209bhp. 

Autocar understands the firm is also looking to do the same with the latest Corolla, with bosses saying a rival to the Ford Focus ST is "inevitable". With Harrison claiming we will see something pointing to a performance Yaris derivative in the coming months, it's likely that the smaller car is the bigger priority for now.


Toyota unveils Copen GR Sport as hot compact convertible 

New 2020 Toyota Yaris revealed with ground-up redesign

Toyota and Lexus to launch three EVs by 2021

News, 16 Oct 2019 10:39:44 +0100
Hybrid-only Honda Jazz previewed ahead of Tokyo reveal Honda Jazz preview image
Preview image of the fourth-generation Jazz
Next-generation of Honda's popular city car will only feature a petrol-electric powertrain

Honda has released a preview image of its next-generation Jazz, ahead of its reveal next week at Tokyo Motor Show.

The Japanese car maker said the new Jazz will “raise the bar in terms of comfort and driver enjoyment”. 

Honda has previously confirmed that the model will be launched in Europe with hybrid technology as its sole powertrain. Autocar first reported the move in March, and in September this year, Honda affirmed that its bestselling model in the UK would only be offered with petrol-electric hybrid engines.

It will use the same dual-motor hybrid system already seen in the brand's CR-V hybrid when it launches next year. Honda said the powertrain “provides an exceptional blend of strong and effortless driving performance and impressive fuel economy”.

The Jazz will be the first in the brand 's line-up to only offer a hybrid powertrain, with other models soon to follow suit. Honda announced earlier this year that all of its combustion-engined models in Europe will be offered with hybrid powertrains by 2025.

Honda said at the time: "Ahead of its 2025 electrification goal, Honda will expand the application of its i-MMD dual-motor hybrid system, with the introduction into smaller segment cars an important first step."

Currently, the only model it offers as a hybrid is the CR-V, which indirectly replaced a diesel variant of the compact SUV. Petrol variants are also sold. Honda UK has seen great success with the CR-V Hybrid, which accounts for 55% of the model’s sales.

Following the launch of the hybrid Jazz in 2020, the next electrified model will be the Civic in 2021.

The CR-V Hybrid pairs two electric motors with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and a CVT transmission. However, given its smaller dimensions, the Jazz supermini will use either a 1.0-litre of 1.5-litre petrol engine and have less power.

Honda UK sales boss Phil Webb said the maker will launch a campaign to help educate on the hybrid Jazz given the older age of many of its loyal customers. He predicts a dip in sales when it first arrives on roads next summer, but anticipates it will bounce back to between 18,000 and 20,000 units annually in the UK.

The new Jazz must remain familiar enough to appeal to those loyal owners, while also bringing in new people to Honda’s entry-level model.

Today’s preview image and the spy shots previously published of the Jazz testing show a minor evolution for the fourth-generation Jazz. The space-maximising upright profile and tall glasshouse remains, but with more curved lines and redesigned lights, bumpers and bonnet.

Read more

All the news from Tokyo motor show

Honda to launch hybrid Jazz in 2020

New Honda e: full details on 2020 electric car

News, 16 Oct 2019 08:42:25 +0100
From the archive: A royal Rolls-Royce In 1950, we detailed the new Phantom IV, which had been designed for Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh

Two-and-a-half years after their wedding, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, took delivery of the very first Rolls-Royce Phantom IV.

Autocar reported details of the car on 7 July 1950, saying that while Rolls-Royce had longstanding relationships with high society, this was "the first time that a completely new model has been evolved specially for members of the British Royal House".

The all-new chassis, codenamed 4AF2, had been delivered to the chosen coachbuilder, HJ Mulliner, the previous July. Rolls-Royce had apparently planned this to be a one-off, it having been ordered at the personal request of the Duke, but a total of eighteen would go on to be built through to 1958, all going to heads of state, including Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain and King Faisal II of Iraq, apart from one that underpinned a truck used at the Crewe factory.

"The lines and proportions of the car are so well balanced," we said, "that its great size is not immediately apparent, but with a wheelbase of 12ft 1in, an overall length of almost 19ft and a height of over 6ft, it dwarfs most other cars on the road". That is indeed huge even by modern standards - even today's extended-wheelbase Phantom VIII is only around 8in longer, and you must remember that your average Morris Minor in 1950 stretched just 12ft 4in.

"The rear compartment provides drawing room comfort for two people and has two comfortable occasional seats which fold away into the division when not required," we continued. Ease of entry was aided by coach doors opening 3ft 2in wide and a very shallow roof panel.

"The interior is rendered very light by the generous glass areas, supplemented by a transparent panel in the roof, which can be obscured by a motor-driven blind. At night, the interior can be brightly illuminated by a concealed strip light, besides which there are foor roof lamps in the normal pattern.

"The general style of finish, in keeping with the desires of the owners, is very simple, with grey cloth upholstery, a grey curled mohair rug and figured walnut cappings and panel work on the division with banded edges.

"In front, there are two very larger and comfortable armchairs upholstered in green leather. The driving seat is separately adjustable and a sufficient sliding range has been provided to enable the car to be driven comfortably by a tall driver such as the Duke of Edinburgh himself. Each of the front seats is provided with two armrests which fold away into the backrest when not required.

"Heating and ventilation arrangements are very thorough. Two air intakes, one on each side of the radiator, supply fresh air to ducts which feed front and rear compartments, and there are three heaters, drawing warm water from the engine cylinder head. The rear quaterlights incorporate swivelling ventilation panes with a large arc of movement."

Of course, the new Phantom also featured all the latest electronic gadgetry of the time: "Control buttons for the heating system, division, electric window winders and ashtrays are located in the outer two armrests in the rear compartment.

"The centre armrest has built into it the controls for the radio set and also includes a glovebox. The radio itself is concealed in the luggage compartment and operates two loudspeakers, one in the cabinet work and the division and another in the driving comparment, which is provided with a separate volume control." God forbid Her Royal Highness miss the BBC Light Programme, after all. Naturally, cigarette lighters and hand mirrors were also provided.

On the mechanical side, we described how the underpinnings were the latest in a line "stretching back to the immortal Silver Ghost [of 1906-26] and reaffirming the position of the Rolls-Royce firm as makers of a car which is not only the finest in the world mechanically, but also one which for size, power and performance can justly be regarded as the most magnificient in the world."

Isn't it wonderful to read prose so unabashedly confident of something British? That sentence written today would generally be considered laughable, to the great detriment of the little that remains of national spirit and pride.

Anyhow, I digress; back seven interluding decades now to the wonderfully analogue mechanical doings of the day. "A range of four, six and eight-cylinder engines with common valve, piston and connecting rod assemblies was designed to the order of the Ministry of Supply some time ago," we said, "and major components from this range were used in evolving an eight-cylinder car engine which has run for some time in an experimental Bentley chassis. This same engine has provided the basis for the power unit used in the new Rolls-Royce chassis.

"Like those of the other Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars now in production, it has overhead inlet valves and side exhaust valves and uses a cylinder head of aluminium alloy RR50 with inserted valve seats. The crankshaft is of chrome molybdenum steel and runs in nine main bearings. The crank pins are nitrided and the bearings have thin shells of copper-lead-indium. The crankcase is in cast iron and at the top of each cylinder is a short hard line of chrome-iron in the area where cylinder wear is normally concentrated. Pistons are in RR53 aluminium alloy and are tin-plated, with one compression ring, one L-section scraper and a slotted oil control ring.

"There is a helical gear oil pump in the crankcase with feed intake and a bypass filter on the outside of the cylinder block. The external pressure relief valve controls the high-pressure feed to main and big-end bearings, camshaft bearings and skew gear drive to oil pump and distributor, with a low-pressure feed to valve gear and timing gears.

"The cooling system incorporates radiator shutters controlled by a thermostat in the header tank and there is an auxiliary thermostat in the cylinder head which ensures rapid warming up from cold and provides the earliest possible supply of warm water to the interior heating system."

The chassis itself generally followed the 1946-58 Silver Wraith, with suspension of coil springs and wishbones, plus an anti-roll bar, at the front and a rigid axle with half-eliptic springs at the rear. Each end also featured double-acting hydraulic dampers. The steering, meanwhile, was by cam and roller, with a fore-and-aft drag link leading to a bell crank that operated the divided track rod.

"Transmission is through a conventional four-speed gearbox with right-hand control," we continued, "and there is the usual Rolls-Royce friction servo motor on the gearbox to operate the brakes, those at the front being hydraulically controlled and those at the rear through a mechanical linkage."

We concluded our thoughts on the new Phantom VI - finished in dark green with chromium-plated fittings and mouldings - in style: "No further comment is necessary, because it represents the finest work which skill and conscientious craftsmanship can produce."

It's immensely pleasing to discover that this particular car is still alive and well today. Having delivered the newly coronated Queen to her first royal engagement in 1952, last summer it brought her granddaughter-in-law, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, to Windsor Castle to be married to Prince Harry.

Read more

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News, 16 Oct 2019 07:36:12 +0100
New 2020 Toyota Yaris revealed with ground-up redesign Toyota Yaris 2019 official studio - front Design overhaul combines with all-new platform, interior and powertrains - including a three-cylinder hybrid - as Toyota invests big in supermini game

Toyota’s top-selling European model, the Yaris, is moving to a new generation next year – and the first official images and details have been revealed.

The fourth-generation Vauxhall Corsa rival is set to go on sale in the UK in the middle of 2020 with customer deliveries commencing in September. It has been redesigned from the ground up, with a new platform and a three-cylinder hybrid powertrain designed specifically for the new car.

As with previous Yaris generations, the new supermini has been designed in Europe with European customers in mind and it will continue to be built in the Valenciennes plant in France. However, for the first time, the Yaris name will now be used globally on small cars tailored for each region, much as Toyota has done with the latest Corolla.

The design itself is said to be more “condensed and agile” than its predecessor, with the aim of banishing the MPV-like proportions of that car. Enabled by the new GA-B platform, there’s a significant 40mm reduction in roof height without, Toyota claims, a significant loss in head room. It is also 50mm wider, with a 60mm wider track, while the wheelbase has increased by 50mm to boost passenger space. Despite this, the new car has actually reduced in length by 5mm. It means the Yaris is the only supermini that is less than four metres long, aiding in-town manoeuvrability. A claimed best-in-class turning circle fits with this, too.

The new interior wasn’t shown to us at the car’s reveal, but an image was released afterwards. Toyota claims the cabin follows its principle of ‘hands on the wheel, eyes on the road’, with a minimalist dashboard and infotainment screen mounted within the driver’s eyeline, alongside ‘binocular-style’ instruments. The driving position has been improved, with a hip point 3.6cm lower than the old car and greater seat and wheel adjustment for a less upright seating point.

UK specs are unconfirmed but we know the Yaris will get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, with an 8in touchscreen as standard and a larger display potentially offered on top models. It’s the first car in its class to feature a centrally mounted airbag system between the driver and passenger, while a comprehensive suite of driver aids is standard.

The European Yaris will be available with three petrol engines, all with three cylinders. A base 1.0-litre will be offered with a five-speed manual gearbox, while a 1.5 will come with a six-speed manual or CVT automatic option. The UK will take the two 1.5s initially, with the 1.0-litre likely at a later date. The hybrid, set to account for more than 80% of sales, uses the 1.5-litre unit mated to a 79bhp, 103lb ft electric motor and an air-cooled lithium ion battery. That battery is 27% lighter than the nickel metal hydride pack it replaces, yet is capable of delivering more power at a faster rate than the old item.

Together with a new transaxle and more efficient motor, Toyota claims the powertrain is 15% more powerful than before yet produces around 20% less CO2. Power, torque and efficiency figures have yet to be released, however. What has been confirmed is that the Yaris hybrid can switch to electric-only mode at speeds of up to 80mph – far higher than previously. The engine itself runs on the Atkinson cycle for greater efficiency, has variable valve timing, has a thermal efficiency figure of 40% and runs at a diesel-like 14:1 compression ratio.

Toyota says the new GA-B platform, related to that of the Corolla and C-HR, offers best-in-class structural rigidity at 40% more than the Mk3 Yaris, thanks to the use of high-tensile steel. Despite this, and the hybrid tech developments, engineers told Autocar that the new Yaris will be around 20kg lighter than the old car, spec for spec. The platform’s lower centre of gravity, combined with the wider track and a stiffer rear torsion beam with softer spring rates, are said to improve both ride quality and handling composure.

Q&A: Stefan Ramaekers, senior technical trainer, Toyota

Q. How have you managed to avoid the ‘elastic band effect’ of CVT-equipped hybrids with the new unit?

A. “First, there is more power from the engine side but also more torque, accessible more quickly from the electric side. It suppresses engine revolutions and makes more use of EV power. The way it drives is much more fun, more dynamically engaging.”

Q. Is it easier to keep the car in electric-only mode?

“You will find the throttle pedal is less sensitive in terms of waking the engine; it is easier to keep in electric drive, yes. There’s a theoretical pure EV range of up to four miles, but that’s not how it works. We estimate that in normal urban driving, the engine will be off for 80% of the time, charging itself through regeneration.”

Q. If sales of the hybrid are so strong, why bother with traditional petrol engines?

A. “The hybrid is the focus, but some people still want the lower prices of petrol engines. Nevertheless, the target of 80% hybrid sales? We can beat that, I think. We’ve sold 500,000 Yaris hybrids in eight years already.”


Toyota and Suzuki confirm details of new 'Alliance'​

Toyota unveils new Mazda 2-based Yaris hatchback for US​

Tracing the 2019 Wales Rally GB route in a Toyota Yaris GRMN​

News, 16 Oct 2019 07:01:23 +0100
Autocar magazine 16 October - on sale now Autocar magazine 16th October 2019 - on sale now This week: Bentley Flying Spur driven, AMG C63 to ditch V8, premium hot hatch shootout, and more

Exclusive news out of Stuttgart this week, as we reveal that Mercedes is set to replace the long-standing V8 engine in its next-generation AMG C63 super saloon with a four-cylinder mild hybrid.

The first of several AMG models that will be electrified as the manufacturer looks to reel in CO2 emissions ahead of tough new requirements, it will shed weight while retaining the power needed to rival the Audi RS4 and the BMW M3. We’ve got all the details.


We get a first look at Toyota’s radically redesigned Yaris this week, which is set to make the upcoming supermini more ‘condensed and agile’ when it arrives in 2020, and take an early peek at the second-generation Mirai concept, which aims to make hydrogen power a lot more visually appealing. BMW also debuts the new 2 Series Gran Coupé, a compact, front-driven four-door that aims to take the fight to Mercedes’ CLA.

Elsewhere in the issue, Rolls Royce could find its position at the peak of the luxury car market under threat from a little-known Chinese company, and as Dyson axes plans for its much-touted EV, we analyse why the project was canned.



Our first taste of Bentley’s new Flying Spur came at a fittingly luxurious setting: the famous Hotel de Paris in Monaco. Sussing out the model in a tightly regulated car park as well as the open road, we found a truly versatile Grand Tourer which pairs the acceleration of a McLaren with the comfort of a Rolls.

Then, it’s the turn of the new Nissan Juke, which updates the brand’s popular compact crossover for a more competitive market, and we see how the Porsche Macan Turbo handles a bend. MG tries to rebrand itself in the crossover market with its new HS.

Dallara’s Stradale steps up to the starting line in this week’s road test, as the Italian chassis expert’s debut creation tackles the famous Autocar exam. It’s a project that’s taken eight long decades to bring to fruition, but does its performance on our test justify the wait?

Dallara Stradale


The high-end hot hatchback arena is a competitive one, and all the big guns have skin in the game. We pit the new BMW M135i, Mercedes-AMG A35 and Mini JCW against each other to figure out which one of these three top-bracket zipsters reigns supreme.

Next, Richard Lane puts on his racing suit as he takes Bowler’s Defender Challenger out for a lap in the British Cross Country Championship. It’s a rough and muddy course that tests the company’s brash, flash racer to its limits.

Finally, we wistfully take a look at the ‘unavailables’. No, this isn’t a dating show for picky singles, it’s 20 desirable cars that cannot be purchased on British soil. There’s an eclectic mix of metal here, from the genuinely attractive to ones with a more ironic appeal. One thing they’ve got in common, however? They’re all unavailable on our shores.



Steve Cropley speculates on the millenium-old question of the best car in the world, prompted by his dash about Monaco in the new Flying Spur, and is buoyed to see Volkswagen marking their Anglo-German heritage - while in a rare useful survey, Mercedes is revealed as the most-Googled car in the UK. Elsewhere, Matt Prior experiments with the BMW M3 CSL’s controversial SMG gearbox and makes the case that it’s with a manual that the CSL is at its best.



High priest of Bangernomics James Ruppert points those looking for a mile-chomping barge in the direction of diesels, which, despite shrinking appeal, are still the best weapons for a long motorway drive. In our nearly-new guide, we shine a spotlight on the Peugeot 308 - though it has stiff competition in the VW Golf and Ford Focus, the French hatch is a respectable alternative. Finally, if you’re after something with a little more grunt, take a look at a Jaguar XK. We go big cat stalking in our used car buying guide.

Jaguar XJ

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, 16 Oct 2019 07:01:23 +0100
Bentley Flying Spur 2019 review Bentley Flying Spur 2019 first drive review - hero front Crewe’s third generation Spur is new from the ground up, but tech from Porsche Panamera and recent GT gives it the look of a winner Most people would assume that Bentley’s intention in basing the global launch of its all-new, third generation Flying Spur saloon in and around Monaco’s famous Hotel de Paris was to provide a suitable backdrop for a model the company suggests (without quite claiming) is the best car in the world.However, having attended the event and driven the car, I can report that this exotic location had a second very different purpose: it demonstrated how important it is that any modern 5.3-metre luxury saloon that wants to be taken seriously as a day-to-driver (as Bentley insists the Flying Spur should be) that it must come with active, electronically controlled four-wheel steering as standard. That matter was proven in my first 20 yards of driving...As with everything in Monaco, the area outside the Hotel de Paris is regulated with military precision. A forest of knee-high, chain-linked posts keeps drivers of sub-Bentleys away and the Casino Square itself is a confusion of manicured greenery criss-crossed by awkwardly kinked narrow roads to carry you to the wider world. Even in a Golf you need to take care.Had our new Flying Spur not had rear wheels that (below 60mph) turn progressively in the opposite direction to the fronts as the driver applies lock — thus dramatically sharpening the car’s low-speed turning circle — our departure from Casino Square would have had to include some unedifying back-and-fill manoeuvres, the last thing you want when trying to cut a dash. Instead, the new Bentley negotiated the available road space with imperious precision and we glided up the hill towards wider roads — where I learned that over 60mph the rear wheels turn at microscopic angles in the same direction as the fronts, stabilising the car in abrupt lane-changing manoeuvres.As it happens, this four-wheel steering is the perfect flag-carrier for an overall ability Bentley wants to stress about the new Flying Spur: its duality of purpose. It is a luxury car for the owner either to drive or be driven in. Its smart 4x4 system means it’ll cope in tough as well as perfect driving conditions. Its quality means it is robust though there aren’t many on the road. And best of all, it mixes super-luxury with high performance.Trouble is, practically everyone in the expensive car game makes claims about delivering performance with luxury. There’s a danger of Bentley’s claims being lost in a melee of high-sounding verbiage — until you spend time in the new Flying Spur and establish beyond doubt that this mighty, all-British saloon can accelerate like a Macca and ride like a Rolls.Its revised 5950cc W12 — now delivering an amazingly efficient 626bhp courtesy of with different high- and low-speed induction systems and a low-load cylinder cut-off system‚ propels the car to a 207mph and delivers stupendous 0-60mph acceleration of 3.7 seconds. These figures shoot holes in the performance of the previous model, whose top speed was a miserable 193mph. Still talking duality, the new Flying Spur’s four-mode, three-chamber air suspension (with 48-volt active roll-control) even allows it to do well on a track. Duality of purpose? Plurality might be a better.Bentley claims the only meaningful thing this new Flying Spur shares with its predecessor is the name, and its much experienced project leader Peter Guest reckons its design, development and manufacture have thoroughly utilised the Crewe company’s full capabilities. It’s not enough these days to say this is an aluminium car: its monocoque sub-structure contains aluminium, steel and composites while the exterior panels are in superformed aluminium. The whole thing weighs 2437kg, respectable for a 6.0-litre W12 limo.First Drive, 16 Oct 2019 00:01:24 +0100Best lease deals of the week: Coupe SUVs BMW X4 - hero front These high-riders trade substance for style in some areas, but are hardly compromised where it counts

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 coupé SUVs: 

1. Audi Q8 50TDI Quattro S Line Auto 

£4262 deposit, £710 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year ​

Audi’s answer to the BMW X6 is shorter and less roomy than a Q7 but that’s the price of coupé-SUV ownership. You buy a Q8 for its looks and presence, and on those measures you won’t find it wanting. 

More Audi lease deals

2. BMW X2 sDrive20i M Sport Auto 

£1721 deposit, £282 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year

Thanks to its price, the X2 brings the coupé-SUV experience within reach of those seeking something different from the oh-so-sensible X1. It looks good, has a classy interior and handles well for a largish car.

More BMW lease deals

3. BMW X4 xDrive20d M Sport Auto 

£2382 deposit, £397 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year

The X4 slots between the X2 and X6 and, like the X6 in particular, trades practicality for style and presence but without being quite so overwhelming. It’s fun to drive and the 2.0-litre diesel engine is a peach. 

More BMW lease deals

4. BMW X6 xDrive 30d Sport Auto 

£3887 deposit, £648 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year ​

The car that inspired the current crop of coupé-SUVs continues to impress with its sheer presence. An X5 is more practical, but the X6 is still reasonably spacious despite its sloping roofline. Not for the shy and retiring.

More BMW lease deals

5. Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4Matic AMG Line Auto Coupe  

£2959 deposit, £493 per month, 24 months, 10,000 miles per year

The GLC Coupé has a swoopier back end than the regular GLC. Its boot is smaller but it’s lower and longer, and stylish AMG add-ons come as standard.

More Mercedes-Benz lease deals

6. Range Rover Velar 2.0 P250 Auto

£2862 deposit, £477 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year

This stylish five-door plugs the price gap separating the cheapest Evoque from the cheapest R-R Sport. It’s talented and versatile thanks to a classy cabin, impressive engines and its off-road ability.

More Land Rover lease deals

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

Read more

New BMW X6 arrives with revamped styling and engines

Audi Q8 receives 335bhp petrol V6​

First ride: 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4Matic Coupé


News, 16 Oct 2019 00:01:22 +0100
Opinion: Can the 2 Series Gran Coupe lure 3 Series buyers? BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe studio static - front It may be smaller than the G20-generation 3, but a front-driven platform could made the difference

The latest BMW 3 Series, as with many cars, is notably bigger than previous versions – which has attracted much comment in our letters pages. There are many who think the latest 3, brilliant as it is, is simply too big.

Well, if you dream of a smaller BMW saloon, could the 2 Series Gran Coupe be the answer? The four-door is slightly bigger than an E46-era 3 Series, and marginally smaller than an E90. Almost by accident, it fills the gap the 3 has – quite literally – grown out of.

Of course, size isn’t everything, and before BMW fans seeking a 2019 version of the E46 get carried away, they might care to consider that, like the closely related 1 Series, the 2 Series Gran Coupe sends its power to the front axle. That might well put off those who believe a ‘true’ BMW is driven from the rear.

From our early assessments, the switch to front drive hasn’t hurt the handling or dynamics of the 1 Series – but that model never had the same driver’s car reputation as the 3. But if the front-drive 2 Series Gran Coupe can deliver a BMW-esque drive, it could become the saloon of choice for those who find the 3 has simply outgrown them.


BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe squares up to Mercedes CLA

BMW design boss defends radical styling direction

BMW M8 Gran Coupe revealed as Porsche Panamera rival

Opinion, 15 Oct 2019 23:01:23 +0100
New BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe squares up to Mercedes CLA BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé studio reveal - front First small four-door coupé from BMW is set to challenge Mercedes in the UK next March from £25k

BMW has crowned its expanded compact car line-up with the new 2 Series Gran Coupé, its first small four-door coupé – and it promises the machine has been developed with a focus on driving dynamics.

Available to order now priced from £25,815, with UK deliveries in March, the new Mercedes-Benz CLA rival expands the 2 Series line-up alongside the existing Coupé, Convertible and Active Tourer – although it is built on a different platform from those models. While the Coupé will continue as rear-wheel drive, the new Gran Coupé is front-wheel drive and uses the same FAAR architecture as the recently launched – and closely related – 1 Series.

The Gran Coupé model designation started with the 4 Series and 6 Series in 2012 and has recently expanded with an 8 Series version. The 2 Series Gran Coupé product manager, Gernot Stuhl, said BMW “felt there was room for a smaller Gran Coupé model that would sit below the 3 Series in terms of size”.

Although Stuhl said the “emotional concept” is aimed at a younger, design-focused audience, he insisted “the key focus is on driving dynamics”. He added: “We wanted to stress the design and sportiness with this car but, unless it offers strong driving performance, it’s not a real BMW.”

There will initially be three variants of the 2 Series Gran Coupé in the UK. The entry-level 218i features a 138bhp, 162lb ft 1.5-litre petrol unit and the 220d is powered by a 188bhp, 295lb ft 2.0 diesel. The 218i gets a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearbox but other models have an eight-speed auto.

The range-topping M235i xDrive (pictured here) gains all-wheel drive along with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder twinturbo petrol engine producing 302bhp and 332lb ft. BMW claims a 0-62mph time of 4.9sec with a limited top speed of 155mph.

The 2 Series Gran Coupé has the same mechanical underpinnings as the 1 Series, with the M235i featuring a Torsen limited-slip differential, BMW’s ARB traction control system, M Sport brakes and extra bracing for stiffness. The new four-door coupé is 4526mm long and 1800mm wide, making it 94mm longer and 26mm wider than the 2 Series Coupé, although the 2670mm wheelbase is 20mm shorter. It is 183mm shorter and 27mm narrower than the current 3 Series.

The 2 Series Gran Coupé gets its own version of BMW’s kidney grille, which is wider than the one on the 1 Series and designed to reflect those used on other Gran Coupé models. It features horizontal slats on lower-end models and a mesh grille on the M235i. The range-topping model also has enlarged air inlet surrounds, along with bespoke rectangular exhausts at the back.

LED lights are standard front and rear and are designed to slightly wrap around the corner edges of the car. The side of the bodywork features two ‘character lines’ to add a sculpting effect. Wheels range in size from 16in to 19in, although 17in will be the smallest size offered in the UK.

At the rear, BMW’s designers have used horizontal lines and positioned the numberplate low down to make the vehicle appear wider and lower. The wide tailgate opening is both to add character and to increase access to the 430-litre boot, which features a two-step design with a lower storage section to boost practicality, along with a 40/20/40 folding rear bench.

Inside, BMW claims the 2 Series Gran Coupé offers an extra 33mm of knee room compared with the 2 Series Coupé, along with increased head room.

Up front, the cabin is similar to that of the latest 1 Series, with a digital instrument display and the option of a 10.25in touchscreen, and a 9.2in head-up display. The touchscreen is tilted slightly towards the driver and differing materials are used on the dashboard to ‘split’ the driver and passenger areas.


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News, 15 Oct 2019 23:01:23 +0100
Porsche Macan Turbo 2019 review Porsche Macan Turbo 2019 first drive review - hero front Fast flagship version of the Macan has finally arrived, but does the extra performance justify its higher asking price? This is the long-awaited, top-of-the-range Turbo version of the Macan. Yes all Macans have turbo engines, but like the new electrically-powered Taycan, the big ‘T’ turbo badge now denotes a level of performance rather than any under bonnet shenanigans.Now, Porsche has been forced to drip-feed the flow of its new Macan models, the combination of the SUV’s popularity in showrooms and the rigours of WLTP sign-off stretching even Stuttgart’s near inexhaustible resources. As a result it’s only now, nearly 12 months after the facelifted Macan made its debut, that we’re finally seeing this Turbo flagship. So has the fastest and traditionally sportiest of the firm’s sports utility vehicles been worth the wait?Well Porsche has certainly gone a little further with the update of the Turbo than other versions. There’s a new engine for instance, the old 3.6-litre V6 being ditched in favour of a downsized yet more powerful 2.9-litre. Featuring a pair of ‘hot vee’ turbos (the sort that, for quicker response, nestle on top of the engine between the banks of cylinders) it delivers 434bhp, which is an increase of 40bhp, and a thumping 406lb ft of torque at just 1,800rpm. Exhaust manifolds integrated into the heads promise to reduce weight and boost efficiency, while new dynamic engine mounts aim to restrict the units movement during extreme cornering, boosting both agility and steering accuracy and speed.The remaining mechanical modifications are more modest and run to a rear track that’s 3mm wider than a standard Macan’s, plus subtly recalibrated anti-roll bar settings and new, lighter aluminium spring forks that locate the springs and dampers to the front hubs. Of course our test car was fitted with the full gamut of suspension upgrades, including the height adjustable air suspension with its revised dampers and the Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) active rear differential. Finally, all Turbo models get the neat tungsten carbide coated cast iron brake discs that are a sort of halfway house between standard stoppers and the eye-wateringly expensive carbon ceramics. In all our car weighed in at in excess of £100,000. Yikes!Visually the Turbo gets the latest car’s subtle sheet metal changes, yet it also receives a bespoke nose treatment that delivers a 12mm shorter overhang, helping giving the car a subtly stockier stance. The final go-faster addition is small double-decker spoiler at the top of the tailgate.First Drive, 15 Oct 2019 23:01:23 +0100BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe leaked ahead of tonight's reveal BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe leak Four-door Mercedes CLA rival posted on social media just hours before its planned unveiling

BMW's new 2 Series Gran Coupé is due to be revealed later tonight, but official images have been leaked online to spoil the show. 

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé has now been revealed in full. Click here to read the story

Posted by a South African vlogger Caleb J. Schroëter, the new shots show the four-door Mercedes-Benz CLA rival's exterior styling in full, with a distinct visual difference compared to the larger 3 Series and new 1 Series

While the front-end is recognisable from the 2 Series' hatchback sibling, the rear-end shape appears to be inspired by the firm's latest coupe SUV, the BMW X4, with similar tail-lights and tailgate shape.

The need to accommodate two conventional front-hinged rear doors and sufficient rear seat leg room is said to be behind the decision to give the new car a wheelbase that's halfway between the 2690mm span of the 2 Series Coupé and the 2810mm of the 3 Series saloon.

Inside, the 2 Series Gran Coupé will sport a new interior layout that's also set to be adopted by the successors to today’s 2 Series Coupé and 2 Series Convertible, which are due in 2020.

The turbocharged three-cylinder and four-cylinder engines of the 2 Series Gran Coupé will mirror those of the existing line-up.

On the petrol side of the range, expect a 134bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine in the 218i, 181bhp and 242bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder units in the 220i and 225i, with a more potent version in the M235i. Among the diesels will be 148bhp, 187bhp and 221bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines in the 218d, 220d and 225d respectively.

Like its two-door siblings, the 2 Series Gran Coupé will offer a choice of a standard six-speed manual or optional eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, with xDrive four-wheel drive available as an option. However, the latter will be offered in combination with only a limited range of engines.

The highlight of the new line-up, though, will be the M2 Gran Coupé.

This model will use the same 365bhp turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine as its highly lauded two-door sibling. It will be offered with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

Although it's still early days, that engine – designated S55B30 - is expected to provide the M2 Gran Coupé with similar performance to the M2, which has an official 0-62mph time of 4.4sec in manual form and an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.

The 2 Series Gran Coupé will be produced alongside the 2 Series Coupé and 2 Series Convertible at BMW's plant in Leipzig, Germany.

A plug-in hybrid model is also mooted. This is expected to use BMW’s turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor mounted within the forward section of a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox.

With a lithium ion battery pack positioned beneath the floor of the boot, the hybrid set-up is intended to provide the 225e with an electric-only driving range of up to 31 miles.

Read more

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé has now been revealed in full. Click here to read the story

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News, 15 Oct 2019 16:55:21 +0100
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 2019 review Corvette Stingray C8 2019 first drive review - hero front First mid-engined Corvette feels like a huge step forward from its predecessors, but the critical question is whether its bargain price will translate to non-American sales The new, eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette delivers many impressive statistics. But none is more remarkable than the one with the dollar sign in front of it.Persuade an American dealer to sell the base car at its official MSRP list price - unlikely for several months at least - and it will cost just $59,995 (£47,230). This for a mid-engined 483bhp sports car with performance that gets it close to supercar territory. Bargain is an overused term, but it's hard to think of any better way to describe the C8.Of course, there is no chance that any Corvette would ever officially reach the UK with the direct sterling equivalent of that price tag. Context is everything here, and in the US that means the entry-level C8 is cheaper than the $60,250 (£47,410) base Porsche 718 Boxster.Even selecting the plushest-available 3LT trim package for $71,495 (£56,260) and adding both the $5000 (£3930) Z51 performance pack (including a sports exhaust, a limited-slip differential, bigger brakes, upgraded aero and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres in place of standard all-seasons) and adaptive dampers for $1895 (£1490) still brings in a fully laden Vette for less than the $81,950 (£64,430) Porsche charges for an unoptioned Cayman GTS in the US.While supercar makers can afford to throw exotic materials at structures, the C8 has been built around a far lower-cost aluminium structure. There are two carbonfibre parts to add strength in critical areas, one being a panel underneath the central "backbone", the other the rear bumper beam. Chevrolet claims the C8's structure is 19% stiffer than that of the C7.It is bigger, too. Indeed big, full stop: the 2723mm wheelbase in 248mm longer than that of the Cayman and the overall length of 4630mm makes it longer than almost any other mid-engined two-seater and 134mm longer than the front-engined C7. The advantage of that is the relatively spacious cabin and the added practicality of the rear luggage compartment. The C8 has also lost the transverse rear leaf spring of other recent Vettes, now having coil springs at each corner.Chevrolet has been talking about a mid-engined Corvette for several decades; the original plan was for the previous-generation C7 to make the switch until GM's bankruptcy in 2009 saw the project cancelled. While much about the C8 is new beyond the novelty of reversing the order of passengers and powerplant, much is familiar as well. Design riffs hard on the same themes, with a very similar sharky front end to that of the outgoing car and familiar rear lights. Exterior bodywork is still made from glassfibre, and the core of the mechanical package is the time-honoured 'small block' pushrod V8, this driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox.First Drive, 15 Oct 2019 16:28:31 +0100New Volkswagen Golf seen undisguised inside and out Eighth iteration of popular hatchback will be unveiled later this month, but first shot of interior is leaked online prior

Volkswagen's eight-generation Golf is now just a couple of weeks away from being revealed, but again undisguised images have been leaked online - this time showing the cabin, too. 

An unattributed post on a Slovakian VW fan site shows what looks like an early production model in low-spec form, judging by the size of the wheels. 

Of more interest is the interior, as this is the first time we've seen it beyond a sketch previously released by the firm. The shot shows the Golf will adopt a full-width combined digital instrument and infotainment display mounted across the driver's eyeline. 

As expected, buttons will be kept to an absolute minimum, with VW even banishing the physical headlamp switch in favour of a touch sensitive panel. It's not clear if this is a base model car, but given the exterior we can predict that this infotainment setup will feature in most Golf variants. 

The latest version of the long-running hatchback is due to be unveiled at the German firm’s Wolfsburg headquarters on 24 October, before going on sale in the UK early next year. While the car has been spied testing with varying levels of camouflage, the sketches give the first glimpse at how the car will appear in finished form.

Autocar scoop: new Volkswagen Golf to feature class-leading technology

The exterior sketch showcases that the new Golf will retain the classic design, albeit with a revamped headlight design that includes a thin light strip running across the front of the car. There's also a revamped front bumper and grille. Volkswagen promises that the design will be “more dynamic than ever before.”

Volkswagen also said that the new Golf will feature a revamped range of efficient engines and new suspension technology to boost its handling.

Autocar has previously revealed how Volkswagen intends for the new Golf to revolutionise the family hatchback market with a range of 48-volt mild hybrid powertrains and previously unseen technology.

The car will also launch with two plug-in hybrid powertrains, including a performance-focused GTE version. 

Volkswagen board member for research and development Frank Welsch previously told Autocar that the GTE will be sold with either 201bhp or 241bhp. He said: “Today’s GTI is 241bhp, so the GTE should also have 241bhp, so the GTE is really a GTE. But there are some people who just want to stay with a similar plug-in hybrid to today, so that's why we’re offering the 201bhp, too. It comes without the GTE trim and just [appears] as a normal Golf.”

There will be no new electric e-Golf, because Volkswagen will focus on its standalone ID 3 model instead.

The new Golf GTE has already been spotted testing undisguised near the Nürburgring. The spy shots also show Volkwagen’s new logo, revealed at Frankfurt motor show in September.

The standard car has already been seen with virtually no disguise before, too. But now a prototype has been spotted with a charging port built within its front wing, suggesting it is the flagship PHEV model.

The latest version of the long-running hatchback was originally due to be unveiled alongside the ID 3 at Frankfurt, but Volkswagen bosses decided to focus that event on its new electric offering. The Mk8 Golf has now been confirmed for an October launch. It will go on sale in the UK early next year.

Volkswagen design chief Klaus Bischoff said the Golf will feature “elegant proportions”. The German firm says the eighth-generation Golf had been designed for “the era of electrified drives, a digitalised and connected interior world, assisted driving and online-based functions and services.”

Volkswagen chiefs promise new technology

Volkswagen's management have also begun offering some details about the latest version of the Golf, the most important machine in the firm's range.

Speaking at the Geneva motor show back in March, marketing boss Jürgen Stackmann said the new Golf maintained the heritage of previous versions, but with the benefits of new technology.

"The new Golf will be everything people loved for years, but now made digital," he said. "People want a Golf – it's iconic – but now there's a huge leap forward in the digitisation inside it. It's still a Golf, but now digital. It's kept what people have loved and moved it to the next phase."

The Mk8 Golf will have levels of fuel-saving technology, connectivity, autonomous driving capability and refinement that are intended to render the mainstream competition second best.

Its exterior styling will be an evolutionary design that again emphasises a wide, flowing C-pillar. There is expected to be a little more sharp-edged definition to the bodywork, following the template of the latest Polo. The GTI version will feature large corner air vents in its lower bumper, as previewed by the GTI TCR concept earlier this year.

The model’s range will be simplified, with the three-door and estate bodystyles the most likely candidates for the axe. With consumers increasingly turning to SUVs and crossovers, and with makers of large mainstream cars under significant cost and profit pressures, insiders say the Golf Mk8 will attempt to lure buyers who are downsizing from larger cars and premium models such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, offering more cabin and luggage space than is normal in this segment, outstanding refinement and exceptional fuel economy.

The new Golf will have a noticeably wider track and even more room in the already spacious cabin, as well as a marginally longer wheelbase and a bigger boot than its hatchback rivals.

Update of Mk7 platform

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

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

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

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

Key styling features described to Autocar include a thin horizontal grille bookmarked by smaller angular headlights than those in use today, with a distinctive LED daytime running light graphic. The new car is also said to have more pronounced wheel arches and a heavily defined side swage line, in combination with typically wide C-pillars and a relatively upright tailgate.

Petrol and diesel engines

The new Golf Mk8 will get a range of 12V mild-hybrid engines for the entry-level and mid-range variants. The 1.5-litre TSI ACT petrol unit will be carried over from today’s Golf Mk7 but this will be joined by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol motor and an all-new 1.5-litre diesel, which is also likely to be sold as a 12V mild hybrid. Autocar understands that the assistance of the mild-hybrid system’s starter/ generator lessens the load on the engine and reduces the spikes of NOx emissions from the diesel’s exhaust.

One of the more intriguing rumours is that the 1.0-litre petrol engines might not be turbocharged at all, but could instead rely solely on direct assistance from a belt-driven starter/generator motor (SGM). The thinking is that the SGM will provide enough extra power and torque for the base engines, allowing the turbocharger, intercooler and associated piping and control systems to be dropped.

The Golf Mk8’s diesel line-up will include the new 2.0 TDI (codenamed EA288 Evo) engine. VW says the base version of this unit has been significantly re-engineered to reduce exhaust pollution. There is a more efficient and responsive turbocharger and the engine is lighter, loses less heat and has reduced internal friction.

More important, the engine’s particulate filter and catalyst have been resized for improved performance, particularly over time. VW claimed the engine offers an average of 9% more torque and power together with an average 10g/km decrease in CO2 emissions. The firm said the new diesel unit will come in versions ranging from 135bhp to 201bhp and will be seen in Audi models before being installed in the Golf Mk8 next year.

Crucial ID concept - click here for more

VW has already released details of the Golf’s 1.5-litre TGI Evo natural gas engine, production of which starts this year. Based on the 1.5-litre TSI engine, the TGI unit uses the same Miller cycle valve timing and a variable geometry turbocharger. It develops 129bhp and 148lb ft from 1400rpm when installed in the Golf Mk7. VW claims that this engine emits about 93g/km of CO2 on the NEDC cycle when it is hooked up to the standard- issue dual-clutch gearbox. Natural gas engines are also lower in NOx and particulate emissions than diesel and cars can be refilled from the gas mains network via small wall-mounted compressors. However, the lack of a natural gas infrastructure in the UK means this variant is unlikely to reach these shores.

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

Two kinds of mild hybrid

The big surprise for the Golf Mk8 drivetrains is that VW says it will be investing in both 12V and 48V mild-hybrid systems after the company re-engineered the Golf family MQB electrical architecture (one of the more expensive component systems in a car) to accommodate a 48V system. Until now, 48V mild hybrids have only been used in premium VW Group cars such as the Bentley Bentayga and Audi SQ7.

Frank Welsch, VW’s technical development boss, has already revealed the firm’s new ‘affordable’ 48V system, which uses a belt-integrated starter/ generator/alternator to assist the engine by providing extra power and torque directly to the engine’s crankshaft.

The key to adopting 48V in a mass-market car was VW and its suppliers developing a less expensive and more compact set-up, which uses a small DC-to-DC converter and small lithium ion battery.

Welsch said the 48V set-up allows much greater amounts of energy to be recuperated than with 12V systems, which means significantly improved fuel economy. These new mild-hybrid engines can also start and stop extremely quickly, which will allow the Golf Mk8 to switch in and out of coasting mode when driving, making further fuel savings.

Connected tech takes precedence

VW sources have already promised that the next Golf will be ‘always connected’. Using the same eSIM card that has already appeared in the new Touareg, the Golf Mk8 will be permanently connected to the internet. This will allow the car to tap into 3D satellite mapping, hybrid radio (where the audio system finds the strongest signal for a station, whether analogue or digital) and the option of live information such as the latest pricing at nearby fuel stations.

The permanent connectivity opens the way for these future models to ‘read’ the topography of the road from 3D mapping, for example, and switch to coasting when heading downhill, or approaching a junction.

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

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

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

Golf to set VW design agenda

While the new Golf will be an evolutionary take on the outgoing car, it will feature new design elements that design chief Klaus Bischoff described being “more fluid, more sporty with a very unique face”.

It’s part of a new VW strategy to differentiate its standard model range from the new ID family of electric cars, said Bischoff: “[ID is] a new world of proportions and totally new bodystyles which are more emotional. As we go through the ceiling design- wise on ID cars, we need to echo that with ICE cars, so these will have more sporty proportions [and] a more progressive, clean design.”

Bischoff said future cars will remain faithful to VW’s traditional design cues: “We are looking to our origins so no ‘me too’ products. They will all remain as very individual VWs.

“If you look at front- of-car designs, nearly everybody is copying Audi. VW will go down its own road to stay true to the brand, and not look over the fence to others.” 

Volkswagen reaps MQB’s rewards

Volkswagen’s MQB architecture underpins its best-selling model, the Golf, of which 968,284 were sold in 2017.

The modular toolkit is used for most of the firm’s most successful models. In total, five MQB models currently account for 3.8 million global sales.

The firm’s second-bestseller last year was the Jetta/Sagitar (the latter is a Chinese-market compact saloon), with 883,346 units sold. The seventh-generation Jetta, which went on sale this year, is now based on MQB, as are the firm’s two next best-sellers: the Tiguan SUV (769,870 sold), in both short- and long-wheelbase forms, and the Polo

The Lavida, a Jetta-sized MQB saloon sold only in China, is the firm’s sixth best-selling model, with 507,000 made in 2017. That leaves the Passat/Magotan family, which is sold in Europe, the US and China. Current European versions of this model are built on MQB, with the US and Chinese versions switching to the architecture in 2019, adding another 660,000 or so MQB cars to the sales total.

Those figures are simply for Volkswagen itself: the MQB toolkit is also used widely across the group’s other brands.

Read more 

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News, 15 Oct 2019 16:25:23 +0100
2019 Tokyo motor show preview - one week to go Tokyo motor show 2019 - preview
The Tokyo motor show customarily promises an exciting balance of innovation and creativity
Get the lowdown on what's coming to one of the motoring calendar's most keenly anticipated events

Every edition of the biennial Tokyo motor show explores a different facet of Japan's unique automotive industry.

Some put an unabashed focus on performance while others place technology front and centre. What never changes is that the event is dominated by Japanese carmakers, you won't hear much from European, American and other Asian brands, and the companies that display cars in Japan's capital are on a bold quest to show their wild side. This is their chance to shine on their home turf.

The 2019 Tokyo motor show opening its doors on October 24 will, somewhat unsurprisingly, highlight electrification. Most of the production and concept cars scheduled to break cover during the event will incorporate some degree of electrification, whether it's mild hybrid technology or a battery-powered drivetrain.

Here are the cars we expect to see in the Big Sight convention centre, though keep in mind carmakers often announce new models days, hours and minutes before the start of the show.


2020 Jazz

The next-generation Honda Jazz (known as the Fit in some markets) will exclusively be available with petrol-electric hybrid powertrains. Honda previously explained it developed a more compact version of the twin-motor i-MMD hybrid technology that equips the CR-V to use in smaller cars. While additional details remain few and far between, spy shots show a front end that falls in line with Honda's current design language and familiar proportions.

Jazz sales will begin in early 2020. Although it has historically lagged behind its rivals, it's a hugely important model because it's Honda's best-seller in the UK.

2020 Honda Jazz to be offered as hybrid-only in Europe


Electric car concept

The concept Lexus will introduce in Tokyo will take it into the electric car segment for the first time. It's a small, city-friendly model with a tall roof that clears up a generous amount of cabin space. Screens positioned on either side of the steering wheel display the infotainment system and the model relies on innovative in-wheel electric motors for power. While it will be presented as a simple design study, Lexus strongly hinted at least some parts of it will reach production in the coming years.

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

First Lexus EV will be urban-focused hatchback


2020 production EV

Mazda's Wankel rotary engine will make a long-awaited comeback in Tokyo but don't look for a follow-up to the RX-8 on the show floor. It will perform range-extending duties in the company's first series-produced electric car. We haven't seen it yet, the test mules are all disguised as CX-30s, but we know it will arrive as a standalone model rather than as a battery-powered variant of an existing nameplate. It will be an SUV with a 35.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack that zaps a 140bhp motor into motion. 

Mazda confirms Tokyo show debut for first electric car


MI-Tech Concept

Mitsubishi's Tokyo-bound concept will primarily serve as a preview of its next plug-in hybrid drivetrain, which swaps the traditional combustion engine for a gas turbine generator. The company pointed out it made the powertrain smaller and lighter than the one currently found in the Outlander in order to electrify more compact models like the Eclipse Cross. A selection of preview images show the technology will be showcased in a futuristic-looking SUV with externally-mounted speakers and carbonfibre inserts. Expect the powertrain, not the concept, to reach showrooms in the coming years.

Mitsubishi's Tokyo show star is roofless SUV with four electric motors


IMk concept

As with most Japanese kei cars, Nissan's new IMk concept is tall, boxy and geared towards urban mobility, but, in a break from convention, sits atop an all-new EV platform and showcases the firm's plans for the future of small cars. The concept builds upon Nissan's Intelligent Mobility programme with a lounge-style interior and lack of physical controls, and early suggestions are that it could be sold globally. 

Nissan reveals electric IMk city car concept


2020 Levorg

The next generation of Subaru's Levorg estate will arrive with a more streamlined design and an array of electronic driving aids. The company's teaser video noted we're "in an era where autonomous driving technology is widely spreading" so it's reasonable to assume the scope of its EyeSight suite of driver assistance features will be expanded. At the other end of the spectrum, Subaru will send off the 20-year old EJ20 flat-four engine with a commemorative WRX STI limited to 555 examples.



Suzuki's big themes for Tokyo are mobility and personality, as embodied by its retro-styled show star - the Waku. An ultra compact plug-in hybrid, the Waku features a number of design elements that can be swapped out according to personal preference, and is intended for families to "share fun and excitement". 


The Hanare, taking its name from the Japanese for a small dwelling attached to a house, is Suzuki's take on the autonomous shuttle. As with the Waku, it blends futuristic technology with 1960s-style design elements, and is said to be fully customisable according to intended use. 

Suzuki shows retro-styled concepts set for Tokyo show


Copen GR Sport

Packing a diminuitive 660cc three-cylinder engine and tipping the scales at well under 900kg, the Copen GR Sport is Toyota's take on the sporty kei car. It's based on the standard Copen from subsidiary company Daihatsu, and features a raft of chassis and styling upgrades aimed at enhancing driver appeal. There's no word on performance details as yet, but we do know it's not destined for European dealerships. 

Toyota unveils Copen GR Sport as hot compact convertible


Alongside the Mirai and a possible new GT86 will be something looking substantially further into the future. The LQ is effectively a facelift of the 2017 Concept-i, an all-electric, self-driving hatchback, with cosmetic changes inside and out. More significantly, though, the technology is upgraded to reflect advancements since its first appearance, with Level 4 autonomy and a realistic new personal assistant designed to create a bond between owner and machine.

Toyota LQ concept is self-driving electric hatchback

Mirai Concept

Toyota's slow-selling hydrogen fuel cell car has been totally redesigned for 2020, with the Mirai Concept heading to Tokyo sporting a long, low saloon bodystyle. It's tipped to be close to production, is longer even than the current Camry, and features an interior that moves things on considerably from the old car.

Specific details regarding the powertrain are yet to be revealed, but we know Toyota promises improved performance and driving dynamics alongside a range increase of 30% compared to the outgoing car. We'll learn more about it at the show. 

Toyota Mirai concept heading to 2019 Tokyo motor show 

2020 GT86

The coupé segment is not a lucrative part of the industry to be in but Toyota managed to put together a business case for a second-generation GT86. Unverified reports claim the model will make its debut as a close-to-production concept during the Tokyo show and we wouldn't be surprised to also see Subaru's next BRZ basking under the bright lights. Both will reach showrooms by the end of 2020.

The coupés won't look exactly alike this time around, they'll each have a different personality, but they'll again be identical under the sheet metal. Power will allegedly come from a normally-aspirated variant of the turbocharged, 2.4-litre flat-four engine used in the XL-sized Ascent SUV manufactured and sold in America. 

Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ sports cars confirmed for next generation

Read more

2017 Tokyo motor show - full report ​

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

Mazda 2 hatch upgraded with mild-hybrid tec​h

News, 15 Oct 2019 14:33:23 +0100
New 2021 Hyundai Tucson seen with exterior overhaul New Hyundai Tucson spied Spyshots of Hyundai's next-gen Tucson reveal SUV model gets design rethink, with inspiration taken from Nexo fuel cell car

Hyundai will move its popular Tucson SUV to a new generation in 2021, and new spy images give us a good look at its exterior design.

Although covered with the usual prototype camouflage, we can now see the Nissan Qashqai rival's design in greater detail, revealing it shares little with today's model. 

With a totally new profile and lines, the new model will be one of the first new Hyundais with extensive input from chief designer Luc Donckerwolke, who replaced Peter Schreyer in 2018. We can see he hasn't wasted time putting his stamp on the model, choosing to start afresh rather than gradually transfer to his design approach. Previous shots have shown Tucson prototypes sporting a similar grille design to that of the Nexo. 

Details of the new Tucson beyond its exterior styling remain under wraps. We're expecting a more extensive embracing of electrification for the new SUV, with a greater choice of mild hybrids alongside a potential plug-in variant. Hyundai is tipped to release a hot 'N' variant of the Tucson before 2021, but it's not clear whether this will be a run-out of the existing generation or one of the launch models for the new car.

The Tucson has been on sale in its current form, with minor updates, since 2015. Hyundai's mainstream product lifecycle is five to six years, so we could see a concept version of the new car next year before it goes on sale some time in 2021. 

Read more: 

Hyundai's hydrogen boss predicts sales growth in future

Hyundai 45 concept shows EV design direction

Hyundai i10 N-Line warm city car makes its debut


News, 15 Oct 2019 13:46:04 +0100
MG ZS 2019 long-term review MG ZS 2019 long-term review - hero front What distinguishes a modern MG besides the famous badge it wears? We're finding out over six months

Why we’re running it: To see if reborn MG’s poster child is as easy to live with as the established names in the class

Month 4Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with an MG ZS: Month 4

Heavy feet need not apply - 18th September 2019

I’m struggling to adapt to this new MG’s manual ’box. The clutch’s bite point is as elusive as a dollop of butter dropped into a pan of hot mashed potatoes and the shortfall of torque from the naturally aspirated engine means I’m having to rev the engine out to avoid stalling at the lights. The stop/start system doesn’t seem that intuitive, either. 

Mileage: 3956

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Our MG has been involved in a drive-by shooting – of an F40 - 4 September 2019

I’m feeling quite settled in our ‘new’ MG now and finding lots to like about what I guess many would consider represents being downgraded into a version with less performance and a manual gearbox. How little ‘many’ know. 

Giving up our old 1.0-litre turbocharged ZS has meant getting rid of its hyperactive automatic ’box, which I was glad to do. It also means getting used to a new normally aspirated 1.5-litre engine, though, one with noticeably less accessible torque than the old 1.0-litre turbo had, as well as a manual gearbox that isn’t the most inspiring to use and obliges you to either pay attention or frequently find yourself stuck in the wrong gear on the road, praying for a downward gradient. The 1.5-litre engine leaves plenty to be desired on drivability and outright poke but, even so, it bugs me less than that erratic auto used to. 

Meanwhile, I’m finding myself much more enamoured of the MG’s design now that I can look at it in a brighter colour. The ZS is miles more appealing in Dynamic Red than it was in Cosmic Silver (is verbal window dressing like that really necessary on cars like this?) and it has been applied with a reasonably consistent finish across the car’s metal and plastic body panels, which is something you don’t always find on bargain-buy cars. I’ll admit to preferring funkier colours on car designs that are fairly plain and uninspired because it tricks you into thinking they are more appealing than perhaps they really are. For now, consider me tricked. 

Driving the ZS every day continues to be made much more comfortable with the addition of the backrest cushion I bought for the last car, but that apart, I find the controls pretty comfortable to use and the car continues to impress me on wider practicality levels. There aren’t many other £15k cars I could use as photographic tracking platforms. That’s a sum that barely buys an entry-level supermini from a mainstream European brand these days. That thought occurred to me the other day, while I was shooting a Ferrari F40 for an upcoming story, a car I’ve always wanted to photograph. In a way, the humble MG made it possible. Lordy, I’m welling up. 

While I’m on, I can also update you a bit on the car’s off-road credentials after it took me to a job in a muddy quarry to shoot something with proper knobbly tyres and locking diffs. Honestly, it’d be fair to say there aren’t any, although the good news, I guess, is that it didn’t get stuck. 

Even so, it quickly became obvious that even attempting to cross much rough stuff in this front-driven MG is a bad idea. The car seemed to protest for a few days afterwards, even after I’d hosed out the wheel arches and checked for any scrapes and scuffs. It rode a bit lumpily and felt looser in its handling than normal. Or maybe that was just my guilty conscience. 

Love it:

New paintwork The brighter colour makes the ZS look so much better – and more upmarket – than it did in silver. I’m not saying people stop and stare but I feel a bit richer when I look at it.

Loathe it:

Nannying noises All the audible alert ‘bonging’. Yes, I know I’ve turned the headlights off: it’s the middle of the day. And I’m aware I’ve opened the door before switching off the engine…

Mileage: 13,100

Don’t look back in anger - 21 August 2019

Some friends came to visit and were surprised (read: livid) to find that ‘my’ £17.5k MG came with a parking camera, when their £30k-plus BMW 3 Series did not. Sometimes it’s difficult not to be smug. Anyway, the camera allows me to squeeze into tight spaces with pinpoint accuracy around my north London home. It’d be tricky to go without now. 

Mileage: 11,257

Life with an MG ZS: Month 3

Air con could do better - 24th July 2019

Warm weather has meant I’ve been using the MG’s air-con a lot more. Even at its coldest setting and on full blast, it struggles to keep the cabin cool. I think it might have something to do with the power supply being cut or reduced at times, but I’m not entirely sure. I’ve heard similar complaints from a reader, so it seems to be an issue affecting other MGs too.

Mileage: 10,600

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Anecdotal evidence suggests the brand still has pulling power - 26 June 2019

Who’d have thought an understated compact crossover would be so good at attracting the attention of strangers? 

I’ve written before, if only in passing, about the MG’s uncanny ability to draw people in on the petrol station forecourt. But it happens frequently enough that I can now guess exactly how the conversation will go. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had to deliver some variation of the following responses: “Yes, it is an MG”; “No, it’s made in China now, actually”; “It’s definitely not like the old MG sports cars”; and “Yes, it is surprisingly cheap!”. Strangers are pleasingly predictable in that sense. 

Of course, there are those who don’t take too kindly to the MG, and I’ve found myself having to defend it on more than one occasion. Just the other week there was a security guard who was particularly mean about it… 

But anyway, for every person who doesn’t take too kindly to the ZS, there are a dozen more willing to show genuinely positive interest in it. Surely that’s something MG’s UK marketing bods will be pleased to hear; it means they’re doing the right things. A glance at MG’s overall sales figures surely confirms as much: in May, the firm sold just north of 1200 vehicles – up nearly 50% from the same month last year. That figure also means that, for the month of May, MG commanded a greater share of the new car market than Alfa Romeo, DS, Lexus, Subaru and Ssangyong could each manage. At 0.66%, MG still has some way to go to topple the likes of Ford, but progress is progress. 

And to be honest, if you take your petrolhead hat off and don your rational thinking cap instead, you can find a fair few reasons to praise the little MG. The cabin, for one, is not only home to all the various toys and features you’d realistically want from a car of this type, it’s a much more hospitable place to spend time than the plastic-heavy interior of the Dacia Duster (although video man Mitch McCabe might disagree with me here). There’s loads of space, too, and the novelty of being able to fit my bulky photography kit in the boot without first praying to the gods of Tetris to ensure everything squeezes in still hasn’t worn off. 

I continue to be impressed by the MG’s infotainment suite, and its 36.3mpg economy isn’t terrible either. The styling is also starting to grow on me. I used to think it was a bit plain, but that opinion is slowly changing the more time I spend with the ZS. That said, if I could spec this car all over again, I think I’d go for one of the brighter shades of blue or red. Silver looks pretty smart, but it doesn’t really help the car stand out. I like to stand out. At the same time, my inner car designer would like to see a ZS where the wheels had been moved slightly closer towards their extremities. Perhaps I’ll have a play about on Photoshop over the weekend. 

Olgun Kordal

Love it: 

Ride comfort The MG’s ride is very easy-going on the motorway. Makes those long journeys that much more bearable.

Loathe it:

The perils of wide feet: The pedals seem to be spaced too close together. More than once I’ve gone to brake and inadvertently clipped the throttle.

Mileage: 7951

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Life with an MG ZS: Month 2

No surprises from the engine, but no disappointment either - 29th May 2019

With only 110bhp and 118lb ft on tap, the ZS won’t be blitzing any hot hatches away from the lights – it’s just not cut out for that sort of behaviour, and I’m not a child. But despite the humble output of its 1.0-litre engine, it’s never felt deficient in real-world performance. It’s noisy under throttle, sure, but at speed it’s just fine.

Mileage: 8550

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Comfort comes first, if not from the factory - 15th May 2019

I’ve bought a cushion. The MG’s lack of adjustable lumbar support had been making longer journeys a strain so I splashed out on a memory foam back support and it makes a real difference. In other news, the rubber plugs on the bottom of the parcel shelf strings have broken off. A niggle only – but made all the more niggly by being not quite niggly enough to merit a trip to the dealer.

Mileage: 5650

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It’s winning over its photographer driver – and not just for its boot - 1st May 2019

Before becoming custodian of this MG, I’d been the (temporary) keeper of the keys for the Autocar Ford Fiesta ST for a few weeks. Britain’s best affordable driver’s car was suitably impressive and reflected well on its maker. Even the diesel-powered Ford Focus I’d run before the ST could entertain on a decent stretch of road. So the question I’ve come back to more than once now I’m running the MG SUV is: can it offer anything close to the driving pleasure of Ford’s finest?

And you know what? Even though the ZS might not be particularly exciting to point down the sort of roads you use on the way to the more remote Autocar photo shoots, I’ll admit I’m warming to it. It’s not a head-over-heels type affair by any means, but it’s difficult not to respect what the MG can do given the fact that, even in top-spec Exclusive guise, it costs a reasonable £17,495.

Get a bit of a trot on and there’s nothing cheap about the way it conducts itself. Vertical movements over crests are tidily controlled and shorter, sharper compressions don’t leave me fretting about whether I might have inadvertently shortened my spine. In its primary ride, there’s really not much that offends – handy given the amount of time I spend slogging up and down motorways.

And although it absolutely isn’t a Fiesta ST, the ZS can corner with a surprising amount of enthusiasm. Again, body roll is mitigated tidily and there’s more than enough frontend grip on offer. There are three different settings to alter the steering weight, too: Urban, which makes it almost unnaturally light but is handy for parking; Normal, which is, um, normal; and the heavier Sport setting.

It took me a bit of time to figure out how to cycle between the different modes, because there’s no physical button to do so anywhere in the cabin. Instead, there’s a submenu within the infotainment software, which you access via the 8.0in touchscreen. Finding it is a bit too convoluted for my liking and it can be fiddly on the go, even though the screen itself is impressively clear and easy to read.

In any case, I’m now at the point where I just leave it in Sport mode. This is mostly down to the fact that I find the heftier weight a bit more confidence-inspiring, but also because the faff of having to go through the touchscreen is a bit of a deterrent.

I’m less impressed by the MG’s fuel economy, although this is largely because I got so used to getting about 500 miles of range per tank in the Focus. The MG is currently averaging 36.5mpg, which admittedly isn’t terrible, but my trips to the petrol station are more frequent: I’m currently doing about 350 miles between fills.

That said, the interest people show towards the ZS on the forecourt has come as quite a nice surprise. It might not be the sports car that people tend to remember MG for, but Joe Public clearly still has some love for the marque. And that can only be a good thing.

Love it:

Capacious boot I still haven’t tired of the sheer amount of boot space on offer. Packing and unpacking photography kit is a breeze.

Loathe it:

No fan of the fan The air-con fan can be a bit asthmatic. At times, it quite vocally sounds out of breath – irritating when I’m listening to the radio.

Mileage: 5435

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Life with an MG ZS: Month 1

Straightforward systems are a real plus point - 10th April 2019

MG’s 8in infotainment wins big points for ease of use. The graphics are sharp, Apple CarPlay means I can play music straight from my phone, while access to Google Maps and Waze is handy for getting to shoots in those more remote parts of Britain. A programmable shortcut button on the steering wheel is a neat touch, too.

Mileage: 4107

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Welcoming the ZS to the fleet - 20th March 2019

To say the MG brand has led a challenging existence for the past few decades would be to put things rather mildly.

It’s a company that’s changed drastically: gone are the two-seater sports cars that, for many, were synonymous with the brand; gone too are its UK manufacturing sites. In fact, were it not for Chinese intervention following the collapse of MG Rover in 2005, the MG marque itself might have fallen off the face of the earth entirely.

Surely, rebuilding a brand following the sort of decimation experienced by MG over the years would be a task so gargantuan that Hercules himself might pause for thought. That’s where our latest fleet addition comes in.

Well, not this car specifically, but the new MG ZS model range as a whole. Billed as a low-cost, practical compact SUV to rival the likes of the Nissan Juke, it’s already proven to be something of a miracle worker for MG since it went on sale at the end of 2017.

In 2018, the firm managed to grow its UK sales by 104% to 9049 units. Of course, a large percentage increase of a small number still amounts to a small number, but the top brass will no doubt be pleased by the trend. I’d hazard a guess they would take a good deal of pleasure from the fact it was their new compact SUV that catalysed this growth, too: the ZS accounted for 5300 of those 9049 sales.

Anyway, it’s this renaissance-in-a-teacup of sorts that’s piqued our interest in the MG ZS. We’re curious to discover how convincing this new poster child for the once-great marque really is as an alternative to the established names in the segment.

The ZS we’ve elected to run is the top-flight Exclusive model. There are two engine choices at this level: the first a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol that develops 105bhp and 104lb ft; the other a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-pot capable of 110bhp and 118lb ft. Admittedly, the 1.5 is cheaper (£15,495 versus £17,495 at the Exclusive trim level), but it was the fact the three-pot is mated to a dual-clutch automatic as opposed to the 1.5’s five-speed manual that ultimately swayed the decision.

It’s a car I’m going to be covering a lot of ground in over the next few months, and the idea of a torquier turbocharged engine with an auto gearbox sounded far easier to get along with than the naturally aspirated manual. Hopefully the logic will be proved correct over the coming months.

As for standard equipment, there’s rather a lot of it. In the cabin there’s leather-style upholstery, satellite navigation, air conditioning, an 8in colour touchscreen, cruise control, and audio controls on the steering wheel. There’s also Bluetooth and USB connectivity, DAB radio and Apple CarPlay. Exclusive models get smarter 17in Diamond Cut alloy wheels, while parking sensors and a rear-view camera will no doubt come in handy on the busy residential streets near my north London home.

Despite its reasonably compact proportions, the ZS has so far proved to be a usefully practical runabout. A recent trip to the airport with a group of friends made for an excellent acid test. It can be a squeeze getting five adults into a car at the best of times, but the ZS was more than up to the task: my three back-seat passengers didn’t complain about any lack of head or leg room. Result.

I was equally impressed by just how much luggage we were able to load into the ZS’s boot. With the rear seats in place, there’s 448 litres of storage space on offer – a figure that can be expanded to 1375 litres by folding the second row down. With a car-load of passengers, this obviously wasn’t possible – but the ZS still managed to swallow the three large suitcases we’d brought along with ease.

After running a Ford Fiesta ST for a time, knowing I’ll be able to load all of my photography kit in the MG’s boot without having to worry about how I’m going to make it all fit is going to be a huge relief.

While the 1.0-litre motor doesn’t have reserves of power and torque, the ZS hasn’t yet felt as though it’s struggled in terms of performance. The dual-clutch transmission can be a bit hesitant on kickdown, so overtaking requires a bit of extra forethought, but there’s enough poke here to execute such manoeuvres in a manner that won’t lead to any snickers from underwhelmed passengers.

It rides well on the motorway, too, but I have observed a tendency for it to crash more than I’d like over pockmarked patches of road. More of a concern is the driving position.

The seats have a tendency to leave my lower back feeling a touch stiff; and as the steering column doesn’t adjust for reach, my knees are constantly bent over the pedals. As I’m fairly certain I won’t be experiencing a massive growth spurt over the next few months, I’m hoping this is something I’ll just be able to get used to. We’ll see.

On the whole, though, it’s been a (mostly) positive first acquaintance with our new MG ZS. I’m looking forward to getting to know this car better, and to finding out what its strengths and quirks are. I’m sure there’ll be plenty to discover; after all, we snappers aren’t an idle bunch.

Olgun Kordal

Second Opinion

While the MG ZS is a rather handsome-looking thing, I can’t help but detect traces of other cars in its overall design. Its front, for instance, bears more than a passing resemblance to the previous-generation Mazda CX-5. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind. 

Simon Davis

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MG ZS Exclusive 1.0T automatic specification

Specs: Price New £17,495 Price as tested £17,495 Options none

Test Data: Engine 3-cylinder, 999cc turbocharged petrol Power 109bhp at 5200rpm Torque 118lb ft at 1800-4700rpm Kerb weight 1239kg Top speed 112mph 0-62mph 12.4sec Fuel economy 45.4mpg CO2 145g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Long-Term Review, 15 Oct 2019 12:08:41 +0100
Toyota unveils Copen GR Sport as hot compact convertible Toyota Copen GR Sport - front Daihatsu’s lightweight Copen is given the Gazoo Racing treatment with chassis upgrades and styling tweaks

Toyota has revealed a hot GR Sport version of subsidiary company Daihatsu’s Copen convertible.

The compact two-seater, built to Japan’s ‘kei car’ specifications, receives a number of styling and chassis upgrades to create an entry point into Toyota’s growing range of performance models

Toyota’s modifications are primarily handling-focused, with the addition of a front brace and reshaped centre brace enhancing body rigidity. Suspension modifications, including a retuned spring rate and bespoke shock absorbers, are claimed to achieve a balance between smoothness and grip. 

The Copen’s electric power steering system has been tuned for enhanced dynamics, and is claimed to improve turn-in response and make it easier to use the car’s full performance in all environments. 

Design tweaks include the addition of a more aggressively styled front bumper, a grille design inspired by other Toyota GR models and new sports-style BBS forged aluminium wheels. 

Inside, the Daihatu’s seats are replaced with performance-oriented Recaro items, while the speedometer and rev counter are redesigned to reinforce the car’s sporting ambitions. There are eight colour options for the exterior, but the Copen GR Sports’ interior can only be specified in black. 

The Copen’s 660cc turbocharged three-cylinder engine is retained, sending power to the front wheels through a five-speed manual or seven-speed CVT gearbox. 

The model is currently unavailable outside Japan, with domestic prices starting from 2,380,000 yen, equivalent to roughly £17,330. 

Read more

The history of the kei car

More Toyota sports cars and hot GR versions in pipeline​

Toyota Gazoo Racing tests Super Sport hypercar ahead of Le Mans debut​

News, 15 Oct 2019 10:23:59 +0100
Mazda gives more details on its first EV Mazda EV debut announcement image Japanese manufacturer's first zero-emissions model is likely to be an SUV with up to 150 miles of range

The interior of Mazda’s first electric vehicle, to be revealed at Tokyo motor show next week, has been designed to “evoke a sense of openness” through empty spaces, said the maker.

Mazda said the concept uses empty spaces around the centre console to create a closeness between the driver and passenger seats. It added that interior materials were chosen for comfort and “eco-friendliness”, both of which are intended to make the cabin comfortable.

The latest information from Mazda follows confirmation last month that it would launch its first electric car on 23 October. 

The model, previewed by the e-TPV prototype, is expected to adopt an SUV bodystyle, which can more easily accommodate an underfloor battery pack.

It will use a similar set-up to the prototype, which has a 35.5kWh battery and a single electric motor delivering 138bhp and 195lb ft of torque to the the front wheels via a single-speed transmission.

The EV is likely to have a range between 120 and 150 miles, similar to the new Mini Electric but significantly less than more obvious rivals, such as the 279-mile Hyundai Kona Electric. It will be able to accept 6.6kW domestic charging and 50kW public rapid charging. 

Mazda will also introduce a modern version of its famed rotary engine in a range-extender variant of the EV. Two years ago, Mazda boss Mitsuo Hitomi confirmed that, rather than being used in its purest form, a rotary engine will be used as an EV range-extender. He said: “The rotary engine isn’t particularly efficient to use as a range-extender, but when we turn on a rotary, it's much, much quieter compared to other manufacturers’ range-extenders”.

The Japanese firm’s range hasn’t featured a rotary-engined road car since the RX-8 went out of production in 2012, but it did produce a rotary range-extender Mazda 2 prototype – which Autocar drove – back in 2013. It has remained interested in reintroducing the technology to production since. The Mazda RX-Vision Concept, which was shown at the Tokyo motor show in 2015, used such a powertrain.

Mazda has eschewed hybrid and electric models in recent years, instead choosing to focus on improving the efficiency of its petrol engines. This year, it introduced spark plug-controlled compression ignition to the latest Mazda 3, with the promise that it will “combine the economy and torque of a diesel engine with the performance and lower emissions of a petrol unit."

Read more

Mazda 3 review

Mazda developing RX-9 sports car, new patent suggest

Hyundai Kona Electric review

News, 15 Oct 2019 09:26:29 +0100
Toyota and Lexus to launch three EVs by 2021 Toyota's future electric line-up
Toyota recently previewed its future electric line-up
Japanese brands remains cautious on pure electric but have confirmed three models will arrive in next two years

Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus will offer three electric models within the next two years, the company has confirmed.

While no more details were given on the models, a futuristic, electric Lexus concept, to be revealed next week at the Tokyo motor show, will demonstrate the technology behind the upcoming EVs ahead of production.

Toyota pioneered hybrids, first launching the powertrain in the 1997 Prius, but has been slow to adopt plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. It does, however, sell a plug-in variant of the Prius

Talking at the launch of the revised RX, deputy chief engineer Naohisa Hatta said: “If you look at a hybrid, it’s [made up of] a battery, engine, motor and PCU. If you increase the battery part, then it becomes a PHEV. If you take ICE out, it becomes pure EV. 

“We already have the technology. We’re waiting for the right time. It has to make business sense. It has to make profit. If you look at the facts of what’s happening in the market now; for example, PHEV technology is reflected in the price [of cars]. If we are going to have an EV in the line-up it has to be affordable to normal users.”

Debating the comparison between Toyota and Lexus’s hybrid system and PHEVs, a spokesman said: “Today, the most efficicent route is the hybrid drivetrain in real-world situtations.” It cited third-party data which shows that PHEVs are often run on petrol alone, giving an example of an RX achieving 43mpg versus a PHEV rival achieving 32mpg.

While Toyota and Lexus remain reserved on the introduction of EVs and PHEVs, confirmation that the brands will introduce three zero-emissions models by 2021 reflects the need to meet increasingly stringent emissions targets globally.

Read more

Lexus previews EV hatchback ahead of Tokyo unveiling​

Lexus RX F-Sport 2019 review​

Toyota LQ concept is self-driving electric hatchback​

News, 15 Oct 2019 09:23:13 +0100
FCA to crack down on car finance commission Cars on busy road Commission schemes at some retailers and brokers found to have incentivised selling at higher interest rates

The sale of car finance is set to undergo a crackdown after the UK's financial regulator revealed that it had uncovered unfair practices among some retailers and brokers in the way they make commission on sales.

In a report issued today, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) revealed that some sellers earned staged commission according to the interest rate at which they sold a car, with greater bonuses on offer for charging customers more.

"We have seen evidence that customers are losing out due to the way in which some lenders are rewarding those who sell motor finance," said Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA.

"By banning this type of commission, we believe we will see increased competition in the market which will ultimately save customers money."

The FCA is now proposing to enforce a fixed commission fee, rather than tethering it to the interest rate at which it is sold. It says the move could save drivers around £165m a year.

In addition, the FCA is looking to ensure that all loan commission - including from outside of the car industry - is more transparently described to customers, in order to give buyers more information.

The FCA will consult on the proposed new rules until 15 January 2020 before implementing them at some point during the year.

Read more

Insight: is the rise in PCP car deals cause for concern?​

UK new car sales: what is each region buying?​

Dealerships still key to an evolving industry, says Seat boss​

News, 15 Oct 2019 07:50:53 +0100
James Ruppert: Traversing the minefield that is second-hand Discoveries Land Rover Discovery 4
For £8500 you can get yourself a 2010 Disco 4 3.0 SD V6 HSE
The Disco 3 will sap your funds, but the 4 cuts the mustard as an alternative Defender

It is always great to catch up with you, dear reader, as you share some great stories and experiences that are nothing short of inspirational. Take Nicholas, who I was chatting to in the early part of the year. He had a tired old Subaru Impreza with a very considerable mileage, and you can read about it some more on the opposite page.

Nicholas needed family transportation, so you might think he would go for the obvious SUV. For a while he was talking to me about Cayennes. It seems that I am now the go-to idiot for advice on just how to acquire and cope with a cheap highrise Porker.

Anyway, he did the utterly unthinkable and bought an old Land Rover Discovery. You can certainly make a case for the Disco 1, certainly not a 2, and maybe a Discovery 4 would not be so bad. Indeed, he even sent me a picture of it mid-dump run. He’s happy with his Disco 4, and given that the new Defender is rather brick-like, it looks like a smart move. So instead of paying £45,000-plus for a new 110, it’s possible to get a Discovery 4 for rather less.

I was rather excited to find a Commercial version at £5995. That would buy you a 2010, albeit with a staggering 250,000 miles. I came across quite a few six-figure-mileage Discos. Clearly, then, they must be around for the long haul. It had the 2.7TD engine and there was none of the VAT that commercials can attract, but I’ve got a commercial Land Rover I will never sell, so let’s keep searching.

Land Rover Discovery 4

With around £8500 to spend you will get a 3.0 SD V6 in GS or HSE trim from 2010 and with 100,000 miles. I even saw a 2012 with a fancy snorkel at £8999 and 22 service stamps. If you look around you’ll find cars with comprehensive service records that are very reassuring. Also the more you look at a Disco 4, the more you think that it’s really a Defender with knobs on.

Not sure I’m brave enough to consider the brick-like Disco 3, though. Prices also start at just below £3000 for a 2005 2.7 TD SE. And being a Discovery you can get seven seats, which often prove to be surprisingly useful. I rather liked a 2005 with 140,000 miles and the fact that the seller had spent £5000 in the past few years so you don’t have to. That’s the problem with these: in later years they become money pits, so best to let someone else do all that expensive mining for you.

I have an ongoing respect for the Freelander as another alternative Defender, but we can do those again some time soon. Meanwhile, Nicholas could not be happier in his Discovery 4.

What we almost bought this week

Fiat Sedici 1.9 Multijet Eleganza: A 4x4 hatch with underpinnings by Suzuki for £990? What’s not to like? It’s done 106k miles but has a full history and, says the ad, ‘starts, runs and drives superb’ (why do dealers hate adverbs?). We say it rides okay and handles and steers tidily. Its ABS doesn’t work below 4mph, so avoid slippery descents.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

BMW 320, mileage - 83,664: After the AA interlude the Baby Shark went back to the garage for a few days. I had pointed out a slight leak from the fuel filler pipe, and that seems to be part of the issue of fuel not being properly sucked down to the engine. Which brings us to the Solex carb: there are a couple of screws missing and no one knows what they do, and the official book doesn’t explain much.

BMW 320 official book

We adjusted the idle to around 950rpm and it doesn’t start first time, but at least it does start.

Reader's ride

Subaru Impreza: Here is the most heartbreaking story you’ll ever read about a Subaru Impreza. “I didn’t quite get to move on from the Scooby,” says Nicholas. “It sat as an MOT failure outside my house for months. Every time I got in it, I couldn’t face parting with what had been my trusty, indestructible quarter-of-a-million-miler. Six months and some time at my local independent later, she’s back.

Was it worth it? Ouch, probably not. The work to rebuild it was not quite double the cost of the quoted £1440 for an OEM spare wheel, tyre and winch for the ‘new’ Discovery after it was stolen in broad daylight from a station car park outside my office.”

Readers' questions

Question: My Golf 1.4 TSI has been unreliable, so I’m replacing it. I tried a Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI but I’m worried about reliability. I like the Mazda CX-3 2.0. I like manuals, too, but autos are a pleasure. Which should I buy? Dimitris Kourtelaridis, Cyprus

Skoda Karoq

Answer: The CX-3 would certainly be reliable but it’s the smallest here. A Karoq should be reliable and the torquey 1.5 TSI works well with the DSG dual-clutch ’box. We can’t explain your Golf’s reliability issues, but if you otherwise love it, why not try a 1.5 TSI Evo 130 DSG? As the former owner of a totally reliable Mk7 Golf 1.4 TSI, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. John Evans

Question: Inspired by August’s strong sales of new EVs, I’m thinking I should take the plunge and buy one. However, it will have to be used. What’s their reliability like? Sarah Parker, Maidstone

Answer: Earlier this year, our sister magazine What Car? surveyed owners of EVs on the question of reliability. Most reliable, they reported, was the Nissan Leaf, followed by the Hyundai Ioniq, BMW i3 and Renault Zoe. The least reliable electric car was the Tesla Model S. We have our fingers crossed that the new Model 3 – the UK’s third-biggest-selling new car in August – can do better than that. John Evans


Saloon showdown: 2019 Tesla Model 3 vs new BMW 3 Series

The epic story of the Land Rover Defender

New Defender makes UK debut at Goodwood Revival

News, 15 Oct 2019 06:01:23 +0100
Autocar confidential: Twingo's electric ambitions, VW's name game and more Renault Twingo Our reporters empty their notebooks to round up a week in gossip from across the automotive industry

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

Renault's EV plans go back further than you think

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

Numbers are the name of the game at VW

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

Shape of things to come at Citroen

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

Nurburgring beckons for Battista

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


New Renault Zoe: UK prices and specs announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

Marque de Triomphe: how Citroen is keeping cool​

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

Citroen developing 'unconventional' saloon models​

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plug pulled on Cupra Ibiza

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

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

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


New Cupra Leon ST hot estate seen ahead of 2020 launch

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

Cupra Tavascan: emotive EV concept shown at Frankfurt

News, 15 Oct 2019 00:01:23 +0100
Lexus RX 450h F Sport 2019 review Lexus RX F Sport 2019 front three quarters Impressive comfort, improved dynamics and upgraded interior make the RX as close to rivals as it's ever been The proverbial underdog of the large luxury SUV segment in Europe. Last year, Lexus RX sales were just a quarter of those of two key rivals, the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90. But it’s an entirely different story in the US where the RX is top of the segment, selling more than double the amount of its nearest competitor, the Mercedes GLE. All in all, then, the RX is important for Lexus, making up a fifth of global sales. The model has long been the pioneer for hybrid technology in the large SUV market, having been sold with a hybrid powertrain since 2005. That, alongside quirky styling, allowed the RX to make its mark. Now, four years into the fourth-generation RX, it’s time for Lexus to up its game, not least because most of its rivals now offer an electrified variant.What’s new? The normal, subtle styling changes including redesigned front and rear bumpers, a rearranged tailpipe layout intended to give it a sportier image plus a grille upgrade to bring it in line with the new UX and ES.Lexus has revised the suspension set-up in a bid to improve handling, upping use of high-strength adhesives throughout the chassis and installing stiffer anti-roll bars to improve body rigidity, plus there’s a host of technology updates including the ability to use Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.It also employs the Bladescan adaptive high-beam system – a world first, says Lexus – which uses a rapidly rotating blade-shaped mirror to direct light from the LED headlights. An alternative to the LED matrix lights seen on the Q7, it is said to “provide finer and deeper automatic forward illumination”, to easier spot pedestrians and avoid dazzling drivers.First Drive, 14 Oct 2019 21:23:42 +0100How Volkswagen conquered China's toughest road - with onboard video Volkswagen ID R sets record at Big Gate Road
Pikes Peak also has bumps but, compared to the Big Gate Road, it’s a flat autobahn
Watch the blistering electric racer set another record on one of the world’s most spectacular mountain roads, and find out how it was possible

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

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

How it happened

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

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

Volkswagen ID R establishes record on Chinese hillclimb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

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

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

Volkswagen ID 4: 2020 electric SUV on display​

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

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

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

Life with a Mini 5-door hatch: Month 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Opinion

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

Steve Cropley

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Love it:

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

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

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

Loathe it:

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

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

Final mileage: 8871

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Life with a Mini 5-door hatch: Month 4

ICE to see you again - 11th September 2019

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

Mileage: 7481

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Cropley

Love it:

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

Loathe it:

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

Mileage: 6000

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Life with a Mini 5-door hatch: Month 3

Light up my life - 26th June 2019

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

Mileage: 4573

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love it:

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

Loathe it:

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

Mileage: 4277

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Life with a Mini 5-door hatch: Month 2

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

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

Mileage: 3200

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love it:

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

Loathe it:

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

Mileage: 3084

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Life with a Mini 5-door hatch: Month 1

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

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

Mileage: 2450

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Opinion

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

Jim Holder

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Mini 5-door Cooper S Sport prices & specifications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An owner’s view 

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

Buyer beware 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also worth knowing 

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

How much to spend 

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

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

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

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

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

One we found 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Will we see an hot version?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putting drivers straight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chairman of both Seat and Cupra, de Meo has already gone on the record about the issue of the Seat brand. Speaking at the launch of the Cupra division early last year, he said: “Seat has put a focus on growing and gaining credibility, but in some markets there is still some rejection of the Seat brand from people who are image sensitive.

“This we can fix, but we need time. Cupra is starting from scratch with something new. We start from a green field, and maybe with that we can attract customers who in other cases might not buy a Seat. Selling those kinds of cars for us is much more profitable. This allows us to increase the conquest of the brand.”

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

Will this car be Cupra's first EV?

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

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


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Cupra Tavascan: emotive EV concept shown at Frankfurt

Cupra Leon ditches Seat badge and goes hybrid for 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

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First drive: Citroen 19_19 concept review​

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News, 13 Oct 2019 06:01:22 +0100