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In the News ...

Audi A6 Avant vs Mercedes E-Class Estate
Posted on Tuesday December 11, 2018

2018-12-11 15:20

Is the new Audi A6 Avant master of all it surveys in the executive estate market? We find out as it the Mercedes E-Class Estate

Audi A6 Avant vs Mercedes E-Class Estate - header

As premium SUVs have become ever more popular, the upmarket estate has been forced to change its game and step up what’s on offer.

The Germans have led the way here, and if you’re a buyer who doesn’t want an SUV but still needs plenty of practicality, decent performance, advanced tech and cosseting comfort, there’s a wide choice of premium wagons on sale.

The latest to join the established group is the Audi A6 Avant. We have already tested the saloon version of the new executive car and it proved its worth, with enhancements over its predecessor elevating the car to the sharp end of its class. But the question is, can the estate do the same?

Audi A6 vs Volvo S90 vs BMW 5 Series

Tech, style, quality, space and refinement are all on the menu, so it should be a close-fought battle with its rival here. However, space is an important commodity in any load-carrier, and the Mercedes E-Class Estate the Audi is up against in this test has plenty of that.

A large number of factors will decide the outcome here, but could this be the crucial area where victory is won? Read on to find out which executive estate will drive off with the prize in its large and luxurious load bay. 

Audi A6 Avant

Model: Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI S line
Price:  £44,100
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, 201bhp 
0-60mph: 7.6 seconds
Test economy: 47.0mpg/10.3mpl 
CO2:  124g/km
Annual road tax: £450

This fifth-generation Audi A6 is now available in Avant guise and follows the saloon. That car made an impression, so can this even more practical model build on its sibling’s performance? We’re testing the A6 Avant 40 TDI S line model to find out. Prices start from £44,100 for this spec. 

Design & engineering

As with Audi’s typically evolutionary approach to its cars’ styling, the engineering underneath is an advancement of what went before – although there are some key changes.

Chief among these is the new 40 TDI engine, a 201bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel that drives the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. It gets 12V mild-hybrid tech to help improve efficiency; Mercedes doesn’t offer mild-hybrid tech on its diesel E-Class Estate, although you can buy a plug-in hybrid. Audi will follow suit with the newer A6 in time.

The Avant sits on the brand’s MLB evo platform, which uses a multi-link suspension set-up at the front and rear. There are three suspension packages to choose from. You get steel springs and fixed-rate dampers as standard, with a firmer, sportier tune and a 10mm lower ride height in S line trim.

Our test car was fitted with Audi’s £1,150 adaptive dampers, while the £2,050 air suspension set-up sits above this. This top package isn’t a necessity, because the regular adaptive dampers work well.

The A6’s interior is a big step on. The twin-screen tech from the A8 flagship has made its way down the range, so there’s an 8.6-inch HD touchscreen for the climate settings, while an 8.8-inch HD touchscreen for the rest of the multimedia functions sits above this. Our car featured the £1,495 Technology Pack, which upgraded this to a 10.1-inch display, adding a 12.3-inch hi-res digital dash panel in place of the standard clocks. It’s a worthwhile upgrade.

Execution and build quality are of the standard we’ve come to expect from Audi. The materials feel more expensive and solid than in the Mercedes, and there’s a good level of kit. You get those two screens with nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 19-inch alloys along with other S line styling bits, half-leather, half-Alcantara heated sports seats, matrix LED lights, all-round parking sensors with a reversing camera, cruise control and strong safety tech. 

Driving

The 40 TDI is a strong engine and, unlike its predecessor, fairly refined here – more refined than the Mercedes’ diesel. The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is responsive and smooth, while the Audi’s ride on adaptive dampers is the trick that steals the show.

Even on our car’s upgraded 20-inch alloys the damping is smooth and controlled, so unlike older S line Audis on big wheels that used to crash and bump, this Avant feels plush and composed. It’s more comfortable than the E-Class on the motorway and thumps less over bumps, while it’s also more compliant at low speed.

However, you don’t lose body control because although the Audi feels weighty and the steering fairly lifeless, the suspension does a good job of controlling the forces at work so there’s a good level of grip. It’s not the most agile car, but neither is the Mercedes. If anything, the Audi feels a little pointier.

There’s performance to match. It equalled the Mercedes from 0-60mph, taking 7.6 seconds, but despite having fewer ratios in its gearbox it was broadly on par with the E-Class in gear, no doubt helped by a 105kg kerbweight advantage. 

Practicality

Big estate cars like these need to offer cavernous carrying capacity, and this is where the Audi falls down. With the rear seats up there’s only 565 litres of luggage space, compared with 640 litres in the Mercedes. While this is enough for most situations, if you’re going away on holiday or trying to load awkwardly shaped items like mountain bikes, the E-Class will be easier.

• Best estate cars on the market

Otherwise the interior is roomy, with plenty of space in the rear. The bench seat is low so headroom isn’t an issue, and legroom is on par with the Mercedes’. Although both models are comfortable in this respect, the E-Class’s less absorbent ride degrades this slightly.

Ownership

Audi finished just ahead of Mercedes in our Driver Power 2018 satisfaction survey, ranking in 18th compared with a result of 20th for its German rival.

Much of the tech is plucked from elsewhere in the range, so although the A6 is a new car, its components are proven. That includes the safety equipment, too.

You get autonomous braking, lane-departure warning, matrix LED lights and eight airbags; that’s one more than the Mercedes. Blind spot warning is extra as part of the £1,375 City Assist Pack, and this also brings cross traffic alert. The £1,950 Tour Pack features lane keep assist, adaptive cruise with semi-autonomous driving and traffic sign recognition. With the standard safety kit, the A6 in all forms gets a full-five star Euro NCAP rating. 

Running costs

The 124g/km CO2 Audi is pricier than the Mercedes (135g/km) and sits three Benefit-in-Kind groups lower. If you’re a higher-rate taxpayer you’ll pay £5,085 per year in company car tax, or £329 less than for the E-Class.

Its efficiency was matched on paper because the A6 returned 47.0mpg, compared with 46.5mpg in the E-Class Estate. This means you’ll spend £1,576 and £1,593 per year on fuel respectively, which is obviously only a marginal difference. 

Testers’ notes: “Levers in the boot of the A6 Avant mean you can fold the rear seats remotely. The Mercedes benefits from these, too, as well as a button inside on the wheelarch to improve practicality.” 

Mercedes E-Class Estate

Model: Mercedes E 220 d Estate AMG Line
Price:  £42,870
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, 191bhp 
0-60mph: 7.6 seconds
Test economy: 46.5mpg/10.2mpl 
CO2:  135g/km
Annual road tax: £450

The Mercedes E-Class Estate is a practical, premium package, and has price on its side compared with the Audi here. But is it a more attractive proposition? This E 220 d in AMG Line trim will reveal all. Prices start from £42,870.

Design & engineering

The E-Class is based on Mercedes’ MRA Modular Rear Architecture so conforms to a similar recipe to the Audi in that it uses a scalable platform as its base. There’s double-wishbone suspension at the front and a multi-link at the rear.

Mercedes’ Agility Control steel-sprung suspension with adaptive dampers is standard, with modes to choose from to either soften off or firm up the settings depending on the driving conditions, just like the Audi on its optional set-up. Air suspension is available as part of the £3,295 Comfort package.

Under the bonnet the brand’s 191bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine trails the Audi’s unit on power, but matches it for torque, with 400Nm. It’s linked to a nine-speed conventional automatic, compared with the A6’s dual-clutch, that drives the rear wheels (although our pictures show a 4MATIC four-wheel-drive model).

Mechanically the two models have some similarities, but there’s a different feel inside. The Mercedes’ interior quality trails here. While it’s still nicely trimmed, the materials don’t feel as plush.

The technology is strong. You get a 12.3-inch digital dash as standard, while the second 12.3-inch display that shows the nav and radio functions on our test car is part of the £2,395 Premium pack. This also adds an upgraded COMAND online navigation system, CarPlay and Android Auto.

Of course, like the Audi, you can add even more options to improve the spec and tech inside. Keyless operation is part of the £4,395 Premium Plus pack, which also brings a Burmester stereo and panoramic roof. Keyless operation and a Bang & Olufsen stereo are part of the A6’s £1,895 Comfort and Sound Pack.

Driving

While the 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit was new for this generation of the E-Class and improved on refinement compared with the older 2.1-litre Mercedes diesel, it still isn’t as hushed as the Audi’s motor.

However, there’s still more than enough performance for this kind of car. The E-Class accelerated from 0-60mph in 7.6 seconds, matching the Audi, but was slightly slower through the gears, taking 7.3 seconds compared with 7.0 seconds for the A6. Yet with more ratios it was quicker than the Audi in gear. The box isn’t as quick to change, even when taking manual control using the paddles, but importantly it is smooth, so you don’t make disjointed progress, and this helps comfort.

Best executive cars available

The E-Class needs it because the suspension isn’t as forgiving as the A6’s. However, this is relative; apart from crashing over the worst bumps, the Mercedes feels fluid and floats nicely over undulating roads.

The steering isn’t as sharp as the Audi’s, either, but this suits the heavier Mercedes’ attitude, so the car feels together and well matched when it comes to how its key components interact with each other.

Practicality

This is where the E-Class plays its trump card, because with 640 litres of boot space when the seats are up and 1,820 litres with them folded down (the Audi has 1,680 litres in this latter configuration) it easily eclipses the A6 Avant. Big estate cars like these have to offer space, and the Mercedes delivers.

But its practicality extends beyond this, because there’s lots of room in the rear even though it has a bigger boot. In the front there’s a similar level of room despite the Mercedes’ higher dashboard design and higher-mounted screens. With trays and plenty of other cubbies, storage is similar, although the bin between the seat in the E-Class is larger than the A6’s.

Ownership

Mercedes trailed Audi in the makers’ chart of Driver Power 2018, but the brand’s dealers finished in 13th spot compared with a lowly 22nd for the Audi network.

Safety will be an important factor in a family estate such as this, and the E-Class gets more tech as standard, with autonomous emergency braking, a reversing camera and parking sensors, LED lights, blind spot assist and traffic sign recognition if you opt for the COMAND nav system.

Of course, you can upgrade this tech further still with the £595 Lane Tracking package, which adds active lane keep assist. It’s cheaper than in the Audi.

The E-Class matches the A6’s semi-autonomous driving systems with its £1,695 Driving Assistance Plus package. This adds a system that will help you swerve to avoid an obstacle, adaptive cruise with steering assist to keep you in your lane and even a function that will change lanes for you if you tap the indicator. It’s a smoother and more advanced package than the Audi’s.

Running costs

If you’re a private buyer then depreciation will be a big factor in running costs, but there’s very little to separate these cars, according to our experts.

The Audi is expected to retain 47.3 per cent of its value, so will shed £23,223 over three years and 36,000 miles. The Mercedes will hold on to 47.4 per cent of its value, and because it’s cheaper will also lose less over the same period, at £22,558.

However, the Audi will be cheaper to insure for our sample driver, with an annual premium of £573 against £653 for the Mercedes. Both attract the VED surcharge so road tax will cost £450 per year. While servicing costs for the Audi are yet to be confirmed, Mercedes’ three-year deal comes to £33 per month. 

Testers’ notes: “Rear seats in the E-Class fold completely flat with no lip, and width across the rear wheelarches is good, so you’ll be able to load big items that might not fit in the A6 Avant’s load bay.” 

Verdict 

First place: Mercedes E-Class Estate

The E-Class Estate is a classy wagon that’s supremely practical. It might be a little more expensive to run, but it’s cheaper to buy outright and on PCP finance, plus the significant boot space advantage means it fulfils its brief better than the Audi. It’s marginally less comfortable and not quite as hi-tech here, but this small shortfall is more than made up for in other areas. 

Second place: Audi A6 Avant

While the A6 Avant is the better, more comfortable car to drive, there’s little to split these two in terms of performance or running costs. The slight advantage the Avant has on the latter is eroded by its load space deficit to the Mercedes. A large premium estate needs to offer versatility, and while the Audi lives up to its upmarket image, it’s simply not as practical.

Other options in this category...

BMW 5 Series Estate

BMW 5 Series Touring - front

Model: BMW 520d Touring M Sport
Price: £43,025
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 187bhp

The BMW 5 Series Touring is the most agile car in its class. It’s also very comfortable and offers plenty of tech. However, the boot isn’t as big as the Mercedes’. Even in 520d specification, it’s the choice for keen drivers here. 

Volvo V90

Volvo V90 - front

Model: Volvo V90 D4 R-Design
Price: £41,260
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 187bhp 

By combining strong practicality with a decidedly different feel from its German rivals, the V90 does what every Volvo estate should do. The interior is nicely trimmed, while it’s relatively comfortable, too, and mixes this with great technology.

Figures

Mercedes E 220 d Estate AMG Line Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI S line
On the road price/total as tested £42,870/£42,870 £44,100/£53,245
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £20,312/47.4% £20,877/47.3%
Depreciation £22,558 £23,223
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £2,707/£5,414 £2,543/£5,085
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,593/£2,655 £1,576/£2,627
Ins. group/quote/VED 31/£653/£450 TBC/£573/£450
Servicing costs £33 per month (3yrs) TBC
Length/wheelbase 4,933/2,939mm 4,939/2,924mm
Height/width 1,475/1,852mm 1,467/1,886mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,950cc 4cyl in-line/1,968cc
Peak power/revs  191/3,800 bhp/rpm 201/3,750 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  400/1,600 Nm/rpm 400/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission  9-spd auto/fwd 7-spd DCT/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 66 litres/run-flat 63 litres/£190
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 640/1,820 litres 565/1,680 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,815/630/2,100kg 1,710/620/2,000kg
Turning circle 11.6 metres 12.1 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 20th/13th 18th/22nd
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 95/90/77/62/5 93/85/81/76/5
0-60/30-70mph 7.6/7.3 secs 7.6/7.0 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 3.1/4.3 secs 2.9/4.4 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th/9th 6.0/7.5/10.2s/N/A/N/A 6.5/14.0 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  146mph/1,500rpm 149mph/1,400rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  43.0/33.3/10.6m 48.3/31.2/8.2m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 69/44/60/69dB 45/70/60/69dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range 46.5/10.2/675 miles 47.0/10.3/651 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  48.7/64.2/57.7mpg 54.3/64.2/60.1mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  10.7/14.1/12.7mpl 11.9/14.1/13.2mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 163/135g/km/32% 161/124g/km/29%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Seven/yes/yes/yes Eight/yes/yes/yes
Auto box/lane keep/blind spot/AEB Yes/£595/yes/yes Y/£1,950*/£1,375*/y
Clim ctrl/cruise/leather/heated seats Yes/yes/Artico/yes Yes/yes/half/yes
Metallic/LEDs/keyless/power tailgate £685/y/£4,395*/y £685/y/£1,895*/y
Nav/digi dash/DAB/connected servs Yes/yes/yes/£2,395* Y/£1,495*/y/y
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto £2,395*/£2,395*/£2,395* £1,495*/yes/yes

New 2019 Toyota GR Supra Super GT Concept teased
Posted on Tuesday December 11, 2018

Luke Wilkinson 2018-12-11 13:08

Toyota-Gazoo Racing has confirmed a motorsports version of its new Supra will make an appearance at Tokyo Auto Salon 2019

Toyota Supra Super GT teaser

Toyota has released a teaser image intended to whet the appetite for a new Supra based concept car, which will be revealed at the Tokyo Auto Salon in January.

Called the Supra Super GT Concept, the shady teaser image suggests that it’ll be a fresh racing variant of the Supra, with what looks like a Toyota-Gazoo Racing livery, a lairy bodykit with functional aero and a huge Super GT wing.

Toyota Supra prototype review

As such, we expect the new Supra Super GT Concept will be similar in execution to the Toyota GR Supra Racing Concept, which made its debut at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. However, as the name suggests, it’ll be designed with Japanese Super GT racing class rules in mind.

We expect other similarities to carry over from the 2018 GR Racing Concept, including composite front and rear bumpers, bonnet, diffuser, splitter and wing, as well as plexiglass windows to save weight. The GR’s BBS alloys, Brembo Brakes and reduced ride height will also likely feature on the new Super GT.

The event’s theme circles around Toyota’s highlights and challenges in motorsport. As such, the Supra Super GT Concept will appear on the company’s stand alongside its Yaris WRC car, its Le Mans-winning World Endurance TS050 car, and a historic 1988 MA70 Supra, which raced in the Group A class of the Japanese Touring Car Championship.

Now read our review of the Toyota Supra's sister car, the BMW Z4. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

New Ford Focus Estate 2019 review
Posted on Tuesday December 11, 2018

Ford Focus Estate - front
11 Dec, 2018 10:00am Richard Ingram

The new Ford Focus Estate is more spacious than ever before, but is it now a class leader?

One criticism of the old Ford Focus Estate was that it simply wasn’t big enough. The boot, compromised by the standard car’s dimensions, simply couldn’t compete in such a capacious class.

Keen to rectify its most obvious failing, Ford has stretched its C-segment family car in every direction to make it much more practical than before. In fact, the 608-litre boot is now just two litres shy of the class-leading Skoda Octavia Estate.

• Best estate cars on sale

Fold the rear seats and you’ll uncover a whopping 1,653-litre load bay. It’s not as big or usable as the 1,740-litre space in the Skoda, but it trumps most other cars in this segement (including the Volkswagen Golf wagon) as well as Ford’s Kuga SUV, too.

Space in the back of the new Focus Estate is generous enough. While it can’t beat the Skoda in this regard, it’s bigger and more accomodating than the VW. Our ST-Line test car had a black headlining, however, which made it feel more cramped than the lighter fabric in Titanium cars.

Fortunately, going for the sportier ST-Line trim doesn’t significantly damage ride quality, which remains well damped even on our car’s 17-inch wheels. Matched to the new 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine, this new Focus Estate is an excellent motorway car.

We’d still recommend one of the small capacity petrol engines to lower-mileage motorists, but that diesel engine will undoubtaedly appeal to high-mileage business users. Ford claims a WLTP-rated 76.3mpg and super-low 97g/km CO2 emissions. That puts it in the 24 per cent Benefit in Kind (BiK) tax bracket, while a comparable Skoda sits one band higher.

Those numbers do come at the expense of performance, however. While on paper it looks punchy enough (0-62mph takes 10.3 seconds), you have to work the EcoBlue’s six-speed gearbox to get the best out of it. The long gearing means you’ll find yourself sitting in second or third around town, with sixth reservered almost exclusively for higher-speed motorway driving.

And yet the Focus Estate is just as fun to drive as the hatch on which it is based. The steering is sharp and the chassis feels just as agile in spite of the added length.

4
The latest Ford Focus Estate improves immeasurably on its cramped and fundamentally flawed predecessor. It’s big enough to compete with the very largest cars in its class, while matching them for low running costs and driver fun. If outright carrying capacity is your main priority, then a Skoda Octavia Estate is still the car to beat, however.
  • Model: Ford Focus ST-Line Estate 1.5 TDCi EcoBlue
  • Price: £23,950
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl diesel
  • Power/torque: 118bhp/300Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
  • Top speed : 120mph
  • Economy/CO2: 76.3mpg/97g/km
  • On sale: Now

New Volvo XC40 T4 2019 review
Posted on Tuesday December 11, 2018

Volvo XC40 T4 - front
11 Dec, 2018 9:30am Alex Ingram

The Volvo XC40 T4 sits between the entry-level T3 and the pricey T5, but is it the pick of the petrol-engined options?

Buyers are spoiled for choice in the compact premium SUV sector, and the Volvo XC40 is our favourite of a very talented bunch. More stylish than an Audi Q3 and more relaxing to drive than a BMW X1, it’s proof that Volvo offers something unique in this class. 

We loved the diesels, but in entry-level T3 spec it simply failed to excite. The T5’s availability in only the highest trim levels made it just too expensive, too. So does this T4 model – as the middle child in the three-strong petrol range – make the most sense?

• Best crossovers and small SUVs

This engine variant is offered in every XC40 trim: Momentum, R-Design and Inscription, as well as their respective ‘Pro’ model lines. Prices start from £32,770 in Momentum spec, climbing to £38,820 in Inscription Pro guise.

All models come with cruise control, LED headlights, heated door mirrors, a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display, and a nine-inch touchscreen sat-nav. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a £300 option on all models, which seems a little mean at this price point.

Under the bonnet there’s the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit found throughout the Volvo line-up. Here it produces 187bhp and 300Nm, pitching it squarely against the BMW X1 sDrive20i. Unlike the BMW, which is offered with a choice of front or four-wheel drive, the XC40 T4 is four-wheel drive only.

In the move, it’s a vast improvement over the smaller T3 petrol. While it doesn’t quite have a pleasing rasp of the X1’s engine – it can sound a little strained when revved hard – it’s nicely hushed at a cruise. In terms of straight-line speed, there’s little to split the two; the Swede’s 0-62mph time (8.5 seconds) is more than competitive enough.

Both aspects are helped by the eight-speed automatic gearbox: shifts are slick and, in contrast to Audi’s jerky dual-clutch box, remains obedient during low-speed manoeuvring. The only oddity is the manual override’s sideways shifts - the counterintuitive layout takes some getting used to.

The T4’s driving experience is as we’ve come to expect from Volvo in recent years. Avoid the 19-inch wheels on our test car and the ride sits towards the smoother end of its class. The handling is secure, too, but can’t offer the sharpness or agility of the sportiest rivals – and while the steering is light and precise, there’s very little feel. It therefore feels like a car at its best when driven at a more relaxed pace.

Begin to tot up the running costs and the T4 starts to make less sense, however. A claimed 40.4mpg falls 6.7mpg short of the X1, while CO2 emissions of 163g/km don’t stack up against the BMW’s 136g/km. In other words, a driver covering 10,000 miles per year will pay almost £200 less to fuel an X1. Company car drivers in the lower 20 per cent bracket will have to pay over £400 more for the Volvo, too.

Regardless of trim, the cabin is a wonderful place to sit. It’s heavily inspired by the larger XC60 and XC90; the gorgeous portrait oriented touchscreen flanked by a pair of tall air vents. The colour options make it look a little more funky, though – the option of bright orange carpets (better judged than they sound) not only set it apart from other Volvos, but offer a much more lively alternative to the more subdued German alternatives in the segment.

4
The Volvo XC40 remains one of our favourite compact premium SUVs, and this T4 version is the sweet spot in the petrol range. However, despite the decent performance, the comparatively thirsty engine makes it a tough sell alongside talented petrol rivals. The D3 diesel engine is still our top pick.
  • Model: Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription Pro
  • Price: £36,120
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • Power/torque: 187bhp/300Nm
  • 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 130mph
  • Economy/CO2: 40.4mpg/163g/km
  • On sale: Now

New 2020 Automobili Pininfarina Battista to make Geneva debut
Posted on Monday December 10, 2018

Luke Wilkinson 2018-12-10 23:01

Automobili Pininfarina reveals that its new hypercar will take the name of its founder - Battista “Pinin” Farina

Automobili Pininfarina PF0 - header

Pininfarina has confirmed that its new electric hypercar will take the name of the company’s founder, Battista Farina. Due to be revealed in March 2019 at the Geneva Motor Show, the Automobili Pininfarina Battista will be the most powerful car ever produced developing 1,900bhp and 2,300Nm of torque.

Supposedly, the Battista will cover the 0-62mph sprint in less than two seconds and will have a top speed of 250mph. Pininfarina also claims the Battista will be capable of 310 miles between charges. However, official figures are yet to be confirmed.

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The Battista will launch in 2020 with no more than 150 examples being produced, with the USA, Europe and Middle East set to get 50 examples each. Prices are expected to be between £1.5 million and £2 million.

When making the announcement on the new Battista’s nameplate, the company’s Chairman, Paolo Pininfarina, grandson to Battista Farina, said: “This is genuinely a dream come true. My grandfather always had the vision that one day there would be a stand-alone range of Pininfarina-branded cars. For me, we simply had to call it Battista.”

The famous Italian coachbuilder and design house, which is now owned by Indian firm Mahindra & Mahindra, announced that it would start producing its own vehicles as Automobili Pininfarina, a new division created to stand alongside the existing consultancy business.

The vehicle’s design will be carried out under the direction of Automobili Pininfarina’s newly appointed design director Luca Borgogno, who has moved across from the consultancy division. The sketches released by the firm are said to be Borgogno’s early vision for the car.

Mahindra was one of the original teams for the all-electric single seater series, Formula E, entering in the inaugural 2014-15 season and has said that the lessons learned from its participation will be applied to the cars it makes.

The company has named former Volkswagen Group executive Michael Perschke as its first chief executive officer, who said: “I am honoured to lead Automobili Pininfarina and our ambition is to make it a respected and desirable brand recognised by connoisseurs who value design heritage, substance, and sustainable high performance EV technology”.

Do you think the new Automobili Pininfarina Battista will be a success? Let us know below...

 

New Porsche Macan S priced from £48,750
Posted on Monday December 10, 2018

2018-12-10 23:01

New Porsche Macan S SUV arrives with a more powerful engine and tuned chassis

Porsche Macan S - front

Porsche has launched a new version of the Macan S. It's available to order now, with prices starting at £48,750.

Powered by a newly-developed turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine, the Macan S produces 349bhp and 480Nm of torque - 14bhp and 20Nm more than the model it replaces. When equipped with the optional Sport Chrono package, the new Macan S will accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds, and will top out at 156mph.

New Porsche Macan 2019 review

Porsche says that the extra performance is thanks to a revised turbocharger layout. The German manufacturer has chosen to mount a twin-scroll turbo between the cylinder banks of the Macan’s V6 engine. As a result, the exhaust gases have less distance to travel, which Porsche says increases responsiveness and power.

The Macan S also receives a host of chassis upgrades including lightened spring forks, staggered tyre widths, new brakes, updated anti-roll bars, new height-adjustable air suspension and Porsche’s active damper control system. Torque-vectoring differentials are available as an optional extra.

As standard, the Macan S comes with a LED headlights, a 10.9-inch infotainment system and a WiFi hotspot.

Optional extras include a sports steering wheel (borrowed from the 911), traffic jam assist, a heated front windscreen and an ioniser and particulate filter which will supposedly improve the quality of the air inside the cabin.

What are your thoughts on the new Porsche Macan S? Let us know in the comments section below…

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy: new electric racer driven
Posted on Monday December 10, 2018

Stephen Errity 2018-12-10 13:15

We get behind the wheel of the new Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy electric racing car ahead of the 2018-2019 series start this weekend

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy - header

The Jaguar I-Pace is going racing. Starting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 15 December, the I-Pace eTrophy one-make series will see up to 20 race-prepared examples of the electric SUV battling for honours on city street tracks around the world, supporting the fifth season of the FIA Formula E electric championship.

The eTrophy is being billed as the first ever electric one-make series, as well as the first one-make series of any kind to take place on a global scale, with subsequent rounds happening in Mexico City, Hong Kong, Rome, Paris, Monaco, Berlin and New York in 2019.

2019 Formula E season preview

Ahead of the season starting, we sampled the new racer on Silverstone’s compact Stowe Circuit, just after the drivers entered for the season took part in a familiarisation test at the venue.

From the outside, a huge rear wing, rear diffuser and front splitter, lower ride height and prominent cooling strakes on the front wheelarches set the racing I-Pace apart from its roadgoing brethren.

And once you’re strapped in, the feel is very much of an old-school touring car or rally car, with some familiar remnants of the road car’s dashboard controls left here and there, but the vast majority of production-car accoutrements stripped out to save weight. Having hit the start button, a ‘ready to drive’ message on the digital dashboard lets you know the car has activated, in place of the raucous engine roar that signals a combustion-powered racer has started up.

Before heading out of the garage, there are a few safety protocols to run through. A fuel fire is no longer a risk, of course, but an electric shock very much is. A series of small status lights dotted around the car lets mechanics know it’s safe to work on when they’re green, while there’s an electrical cut-off switch on the dashboard to press in the event of an accident, so the car can be safely approached by marshals.

Once procedures are run through, it’s time to hit the ‘D’ button, press the accelerator and glide silently down the pitlane. Initially, the absence of combustion-engine noise in this context is even more disconcerting than it is on the road. But you soon realise this lets you focus on braking points, turn-in and acceleration more easily than in any other racing car.

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And the eTrophy is far from deathly silent; tackle a kerb aggressively or go off-line on to some ‘marbles’ and a cacophonous racket echoes around the near-empty interior. And when you hit the brakes, there’s a piercing whine from the regenerative system, which is extremely good at scrubbing off speed.

Riding on brand-new (and cold) Michelin Pilot Super Sport road tyres, the I-Pace initially squirms around a bit, but grip becomes surer as the tyres warm up. It’s still a car that rewards restraint and patience, though; the natural tendency is to understeer and, just like driving an indoor kart, it’s all about being smooth, preserving momentum and not overdoing your braking, throttle or steering inputs.

The electric-car ‘party piece’ of rapid acceleration from a standstill only really manifests itself when you’re pulling out of the pits; once up to speed, loss of momentum is punished and you can’t just drop it down a gear and floor the throttle to recover.

It’ll be interesting to see which drivers adapt quickest to this style of driving, while still defending their position and avoiding the unforgiving concrete barriers that line Formula E’s street circuits. A fascinating spectacle seems guaranteed when the season begins on 15 December.

Bryan Sellers: the racing driver’s view

Along with Brit Katherine Legge, 36-year-old American driver Bryan Sellers will compete for US team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the I-Pace eTrophy. Describing what it’s like to drive the car, the experienced sportscar racer said: “We’re used to the noise, aggression and vibration of an internal-combustion engine, so it’s almost like sensory deprivation!

“You have to re-learn what the car’s telling you and how it feels. As this is based on a production car, you need to have a lot more finesse than with a pure racer; you have to be better with the timing of your footwork, the transition between the pedals.

“It’s about figuring out how to brake late but not over-brake, how to release the brake and time the car rotating before making the throttle application.

“The differentials in other cars I race are very tuneable, so that transition from brake to accelerator isn’t as important. What you find with an electric motor is that as soon as you get on the throttle, it induces some sort of imbalance in the car; you have to adapt to that and figure out the timing of it all.”

Specs

Model: I-Pace eTrophy
Performance:  0-62mph in 4.5 seconds; max speed 121mph
Powertrain:  395bhp electric motor; 90kWh battery
Brakes:  AP Racing with Bosch Motorsport ABS
Wheels & tyres: 22-inch forged alloys with 265/35/22 Michelin Pilot Super Sport road tyres
Suspension:  Modified knuckles and springs, increased spring rates at the front and rear

Do you think the new Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy series will be a success? Let us know your thoughts below...

New Audi A4 Avant spied testing
Posted on Monday December 10, 2018

Luke Wilkinson 2018-12-10 11:05

The latest Audi A4 Avant has been spotted during winter testing, ahead of its 2019 release

Audi A4 Avant spies - front

The latest version of the new Audi A4 Avant has been caught on camera during its winter testing regime. Due for release in 2019, it will likely follow Audi’s revised A4 saloon into the showrooms.

BMW and Mercedes have both recently released new versions of their 3 Series and C-Class models. To keep pace with its competitors, Audi’s revisions to the A4 are extensive with the company spending £500 million on development.

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Audi’s design refresh will bring the new A4 into line with the rest of the company’s range. This mule sports Audi’s new “face,” as seen on the latest A6 and A8, with a slightly smaller front grille and new headlights. An updated rear bumper with squared-off exhaust outlets, new tail-lights and a fresh rear spoiler also feature.

It’s difficult to be certain at this stage, due to this mule’s heavy camouflage, but we even expect larger panels such as the roof, wings and bonnet to be replaced, too.


The new A4 Avant’s cabin is due a big revamp. Like the saloon, the Avant will receive a new pair of infotainment screens, with a choice of either an 8.8- or 10.1-inch central unit accompanying a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster in the range-topping models.

Audi’s engineers are also planning revisions to the new A4’s suspension and running gear aimed to improve refinement and handling. A Audi is aiming to sell electrified variants of all its models by 2025 it’s expected that mild-hybrid versions of the new A4 Avant to feature in the line-up.

What are you thoughts on the latest Audi A4 Avant? Let us know in the comments section below…

 

New Porsche Macan 2019 review
Posted on Monday December 10, 2018

Porsche Macan - front
11 Dec, 2018 8:30am Steve Sutcliffe

Diesel’s out and petrol’s in for the new entry-level Porsche Macan SUV, but how does it compare?

In one sense the range of upgrades applied to the 2019-model year Porsche Macan are very much of the “blink and you’ll miss it” formula.

Yes, the styling has been tickled around the hind quarters to bring the overall look more in line with that of the 911 and Panamera. And yes, the interior design has been tweaked to include a slightly more expansive infotainment system.

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Fundamentally, though, Porsche’s highly successful Range Rover Evoque rival remains much as it was when it was introduced to wide acclaim in 2014 – since when it has sold in numbers that even Porsche has been pleasantly surprised by. Except for one key detail: the diesel version is now no longer available.

Instead, Porsche now offers a 2.0-litre petrol model in its place, and this tells you all you need to know about where the diesel market is heading these days. For the record, Porsche now offers precisely zero cars powered by the engine designed by Rudolf Diesel in 1893. 

As such, the cheapest and most frugal Macan is now propelled by a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine – essentially the same motor that appears in everything from a VW Golf GTI to an Audi TT to a SEAT Ateca. This is not a brand new concept for the Macan, because the engine was previously available via special order in the UK. It’s just that not many punters went for it when there was a far torquier turbodiesel on offer. 

Now, though, this is where the Macan entry point sits in the UK, and while the petrol engine might lack a bit of low-down grunt compared with the diesel, there is much to like about it as well. Not least of which is its lack of weight it carries beside the diesel; the “Macan” – as the 2.0 model is simply titled – weighs a fraction less than 1,800kg, which is impressive when you consider how much room it offers and how much kit comes as standard.

What’s perhaps less impressive is the power output of the engine, at least on paper. Porsche claims a mere 242bhp at 5000rpm, which is well down on what this same motor produces in many other VW Group installations. Surely when installed in a Porsche SUV, rather than a SEAT, VW’s ubiquitous 2.0-litre petrol turbo should produce the most power of all?

Perhaps not, because instead the engine has been tuned to produce as much torque as possible, and at as few revs as possible – it manages 370Nm at 1,600rpm – while at the same time burning as little fuel as possible. It returns almost 35mpg and emits just 185g/km of CO2. As a range of attributes, these make the entry-level Macan look decently competitive on paper. 

On the road it is better than ever to drive, with uprated suspension and some minor revisions to the steering and drivetrain to make it sweeter from behind the wheel. It’s also not particularly slow either, despite the shortage of cubic capacity. It’ll crach 0-62mph in 6.7sec, or 6.5sec if you spec the optional Sports Chrono package. Either way, the fact that there are only four cylinders and 2.0 litres beneath the bonnet doesn’t seem to have blunted the real-world performance.

Get the engine spinning at anything above 2,000rpm and the response is surprisingly strong, even if the exhaust note isn’t especially memorable. There is little or no turbo lag, and the way the engine combines with the superb seven-speed PDK gearbox ensures that there’s always just enough thrust on tap, without there ever being too much.

Inside the 2019 Macan it is very much business as usual, albeit with a couple of minor tweaks to the infotainment system. So there’s a good but not class-leading amount of space in the rear seats and boot, excellent build quality throughout, a surprisingly decent amount of kit and tech as standard. You also get the same excellent driving position that defined the car on its launch four years ago.

Overall, then, even the most modest of upgrades is enough to ensure that the Macan is still the best mid-sized premium SUV that money can buy.

4.5
Subtle styling upgrades make the 2019 Porsche Macan better than ever to look at, while the new 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine replaces the diesel as the entry-level version without compromising overall performance. Not a radical range of upgrades, true, but enough to keep the Macan at the top of its class. At £46,344, this is a lot of car for the money.
  • Model: Porsche Macan
  • Price: £46,344
  • Engine: 2.0-litre, 4cyl, turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 242bhp/370Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
  • Top speed: 141mph
  • Economy/CO2: 34.9mpg/185g/km
  • On sale: Now

Ban plug-in hybrids from EV charging bays, say experts
Posted on Saturday December 08, 2018

Tristan Shale-Hester 2018-12-10 00:01

Report argues plug-in hybrids take too long to recharge and block all-electric cars with rapid charging capabilities from using bays

Kia Soul EV - electric car charging point

Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) should be banned from using electric vehicle (EV) charging bays, freeing them up for use by ‘pure’ EVs, according to a new report.

Most PHEVs on sale today are limited in the charge rate they can accept to around 3.7kW, yet the fastest rapid chargers deliver at least 50kW, a rate accepted by most pure EVs. That means it generally takes around five minutes for an EV to receive 15 miles worth of charge, while a PHEV would take an hour to receive the same range.

EV charging infrastructure expert Harold Dermott argues that – until PHEVs “have both a greater electric-only range and can accept electricity at faster rate” – they should be banned from using charging bays at motorway services areas.

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Writing in a report for the RAC Foundation entitled Development of the UK Public Chargepoint Network, Dermott expresses concern that if PHEVs continue to block EVs from using rapid charging bays, the charge points will “never be available for their essential purpose of charging BEVs [battery electric vehicles]” and the income of network operators will “collapse”.

The study also notes there has been an improvement in the reliability of public charge points – with a reduction in out of service units from 14.8 per cent to 8.3 per cent – but says this is still too high a proportion. 

In addition, two types of recharging behaviour are identified in Dermott’s report – journey charging, where the primary purpose of being at the charge point is to “fill up with electricity” – and destination charging, where recharging is secondary to other activities, such as shopping, visiting a leisure centre or parking at a railway station. 

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The report calls for charge point locations – especially larger hubs – to offer the same services and facilities one would expect at a typical fuel station, such as protection from the weather, food and drink, toilets and lighting.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding warned that if cars can only be recharged at a limited rate, then installing “ever-faster and more powerful” charge points will “waste money”, adding that it’s “key” for cars and chargers to be compatible.

Gooding emphasised the “fundamental” need for all parties involved in the industry to communicate with each other, as “policy, technology and the market are almost falling over themselves”.

Do you think plug-in hybrid vehicles should be banned from EV charging bays? Let us know below...

Mazda CX-3 vs Hyundai Kona vs Peugeot 2008
Posted on Friday December 07, 2018

2018-12-08 11:00

Refreshed Mazda CX-3 takes on new diesel-engined small SUV rivals from Hyundai and Peugeot

mazda cx-3 vs hyundai kona vs peugeot 2008 header

A glut of new supermini-SUVs has been launched this year, with brands fighting hard for attention in this still-growing new car segment. The onslaught might have slowed slightly in recent months, but now one of the top models in this class, the Mazda CX-3, has been revamped for 2019.

These updates for the Mazda coincided with the launch of new diesel engines in the Hyundai Kona and Peugeot 2008, and all three cars are now up to date with new emissions and economy testing regulations, even if petrol power might still prove more popular in this segment.

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Many of our previous tests in this class have featured these bigger-selling small petrol engines, because such motors are better suited to compact cars and the way most buyers run them day to day.

However, not everyone uses their car in the same way, and many drivers are still looking to buy a small SUV with the ability to cover more miles with greater efficiency. In that case, the gains in fuel economy and motorway manners you get from a diesel motor could be right for you.

But which of this trio of diesel-powered supermini-based crossovers represents the best option? That’s exactly what we’ll find out in this test as we rate the cars on efficiency, practicality, comfort and technology.

Mazda CX-3

Model:  Mazda CX-3 1.8 SkyActiv-D Sport Nav+
Price:  £22,895
Engine:  1.8-litre 4cyl diesel
Power:  113bhp 
0-60mph:  10.4 seconds
Test economy:  51.2mpg/11.3mpl 
CO2:  114g/km
Annual road tax:  Annual road tax: £140

Unlike Mazda’s petrol-engined range, which shuns turbo power, the CX-3 diesels are much more conventional. Here we’re trying the new 113bhp 1.8-litre turbodiesel, which costs from £22,895 in Sport Nav+ trim with a manual gearbox – the only spec and transmission available with this engine.

The Mazda’s 1.8-litre turbodiesel unit has a maximum of 113bhp and 270Nm of torque, matching the Kona for power and only trailing it by 10Nm of torque. Both are more powerful than the 101bhp Peugeot, but all three were closely matched in our acceleration tests, thanks to differences in weight and gear ratios.

The Mazda’s box is by far the best of the trio and the nicest to use because it has a light but mechanical-feeling shift. It also has closer ratios that helped it stay ahead of both rivals in our performance tests.

The CX-3 was fastest from 0-60mph, taking 10.4 seconds, which was nearly a second ahead of the Peugeot’s 11.3-second time and half a second faster than the Kona’s 10.9 seconds.

But all three models were impressively punchy in third gear between 30 and 50mph, with the Mazda, Peugeot and Hyundai posting times of 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3 seconds respectively. In fourth the Mazda’s shorter gearing meant it was faster than both rivals, however, covering 30-50mph in 5.5 seconds. The 2008 and Kona took 6.1 and 6.4 seconds respectively.

Our test trio has plenty of punch from low down in the rev range, so there’s no need to rev the cars hard to make good progress. But the Mazda is best for refinement; that new soundproofing has worked a treat and it’s the quietest car inside on the move.

The CX-3’s well-weighted steering inspires confidence when cornering, and there’s lots of grip as well. What’s really impressive is that it’s by far the best driver’s car of the group and resists body roll well, although at the same time it’s the most comfortable choice, too.

It soaks up potholes more smoothly than both competitors, and rides more fluidly over small bumps in the road surface than the Hyundai. The Mazda’s comfort is also helped by the excellent driving position, which in particular contrasts here to the 2008’s awkward seating.

Testers' notes: “It’s a shame diesel Sport Nav+ models don’t get the option of extra safety tech, including adaptive headlights, blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert. You’ll need to go for a petrol for this extra kit.”

Hyundai Kona

Model:  Hyundai Kona 1.6 CRDi 115 Premium   SE
Price:  £23,600
Engine:  1.6-litre 4cyl diesel
Power:  113bhp 
0-60mph:  10.9 seconds
Test economy:  47.3mpg/10.4mpl 
CO2:  112g/km
Annual road tax:  Annual road tax: £140

The Hyundai’s 1.6-litre diesel engine matches the Mazda’s 113bhp output, despite its smaller capacity. In Premium SE trim as tested here, this car costs £23,600, which makes it the most expensive model of our trio in terms of list price.

Drivers’ emotions are unlikely to be stirred behind the wheel of the Hyundai, because it’s neither fun to drive nor particularly comfortable. It’s adequate in both areas, though. The steering is well weighted and it resists roll in corners, but there’s little-to-no steering feel and its test competitors offer more grip.

Its ride is also on the disappointing side, because while it deals with motorways and most faster roads well enough, tarmac with lots of smaller imperfections causes the Kona to jitter. It’s not so much as to be seriously disruptive, but it’s less comfortable overall than both rivals here, especially because the Hyundai thumps into larger potholes.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the Kona’s driving experience is its light and precise gearshift action, but next to the Mazda’s tighter-feeling changes, it’s not even the best car here for that.

The diesel engine is punchy and more refined than the smaller 1.5-litre engine in the 2008, and it outgunned the Peugeot in our acceleration tests as well, although that’s to be expected given it has an extra 12bhp and 30Nm of torque. Also, the Hyundai produces its maximum torque figure lower down in the rev range than its rivals, at just 1,500rpm, so you can shift up early for a more relaxed drive.

It wasn’t as quick as the CX-3 from 0-60mph in our tests, because the Mazda had better off-the-line traction and shorter gearing, but its 10.9-second time beat the Peugeot’s 11.3 seconds. In sixth gear the Kona eclipsed both opponents, though, taking 10.9 seconds to go from 50-70mph. The Mazda and Peugeot clocked 11.2 seconds and 13.7 seconds respectively in the same test, although as a result of its shorter top gear, the Kona sits at 2,100rpm at 70mph, which is 100rpm higher than its rivals.

Testers' notes: “If you want to have a two-tone roof on your Kona, you’ll have to pay an extra £420 to get it, but if you choose that option then the £420 optional sunroof isn’t available.”

Peugeot 2008

Model:  Peugeot 2008 1.5 BlueHDi GT Line 100
Price:  £22,584
Engine:  1.5-litre 4cyl diesel
Power:  101bhp 
0-60mph:  11.3 seconds
Test economy:  53.1mpg/11.7mpl 
CO2:  98g/km
Annual road tax:  Annual road tax: £140

This 1.5-litre diesel 2008 is the cheapest car of the three here, at £22,584 in GT Line trim (although the car in our pictures is an Allure Premium). It also has the least power; there is a 118bhp version of this engine, but it’s auto only.

The small steering wheel and quick steering (partly due to the size of the wheel) mean the Peugeot turns in sharply, but it’s not as natural and enjoyable as the CX-3’s steering set-up. Body roll is relatively well contained, so despite being fairly tall the 2008 can carry enough speed through corners, yet it still can’t match the Mazda for handling.

It’s more comfortable than the Kona and roughly equal with the CX-3 for ride quality, although it is slightly compromised by that poor driving position. You sit too high up, and since you can’t move the steering wheel up to match, those with long legs will find they’re often hitting the steering column.

The new 1.5-litre engine has plenty of punch, and doesn’t feel as down on power as you’d expect next to these two rivals, which both boast an extra 12bhp.

Thanks to gearing and weight differences the Peugeot was only 0.4 seconds slower from 0-60mph than the more powerful Kona, taking 11.3 seconds, and was actually faster than the Hyundai from 30-50mph in third gear, at 4.2 seconds. The Mazda was quicker than both rivals in those tests, however.

Ultimate performance isn’t likely to be too important for a potential buyer of one of these frugal models, although it’s good to know the Peugeot isn’t lacking here. Still, the 2008’s diesel is much noisier than the motors in both competitors, particularly at idle. It sounds rattly and unpleasant when revved, too, but on the move, it’s tyre roar rather than engine noise that intrudes most.

At least the Peugeot works well on the motorway, where the efficient diesel is at its best for economy and matches its rivals for refinement and comfort.

Testers’ notes: “Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality is standard on all models – even the lowly Active trim level. Bluetooth is included, too, so smartphone users are fully catered for with the 2008.”

Verdict

First place: Peugeot 2008

The 2008 is more spacious than the CX-3 and just as economical, but crucially it’s cheaper to buy and to finance on a PCP. Another advantage it has over the Mazda is more rear-seat legroom, although it’s not by a huge margin. It’s not quite as well equipped as its rivals, but its stronger affordability gives scope to add more options. Go for a lower trim level and the 2008 is even better value.

Second place: Mazda CX-3

While the CX-3 loses out for practicality, if maximum luggage space isn’t an issue, the Mazda might be the better choice as a diesel at this price. It’s significantly more fun to drive, more comfortable and has more standard kit than the 2008. It also features a better interior (albeit more cramped), is more refined at speed and should be just as cheap to run.

Third place: Hyundai Kona

It might just trail its rivals, but the diesel Kona is still worth a second look. Its excellent infotainment system and long list of equipment mean it’s a winner for technology fans, and the diesel engine is quiet and punchy. It’s a shame about the slightly unsettled ride and dull interior design, and the high price in Premium SE trim; a lower-spec version is a better buy.

Rivals

Citroen C3 Aircross

Price: £20,420
Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 100bhp

Closely related to the 2008, the C3 Aircross features the same turbodiesel engine. It’s significantly cheaper to buy if you go for Flair trim, though, and the Citroen is also the most comfortable car in its class and has lots of kit.

SEAT Arona

Price: £23,205
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 113bhp

The SEAT Arona is another strong contender in the supermini-SUV sector and features a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel, matching the CX-3 and Kona. It’s spacious inside, has a big boot and is good to drive, so it’s another strong choice in this crowded class.

Peugeot 2008 1.5 Blue HDi 100 GT Line Mazda CX-3 1.8 SkyActiv-D Sport Nav+ Hyundai Kona 1.6 CRDi 115 Premium SE
On the road price/total as tested £22,584/£22,584 £22,895/£23,685 £23,600/£24,400
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £7,972/35.3% £10,600/46.3% £8,638/36.6%
Depreciation £14,612 £12,295 £14,962
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £1,074/£2,149 £1,222/£2,447 £1,260/£2,521
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,347/£2,245 £1,397/£2,328 £1,512/£2,520
Insurance group/quote/VED 19/£507/£140 15/£483/£140 14/£522/£140
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service £13pm (3 years) £499 (3 years) £169/£229/£169
Length/wheelbase 4,159/2,538mm 4,275/2,570mm 4,165/2,600mm
Height/width 1,556/1,739mm 1,535/1,765mm 1,565/1,800mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,499cc 4cyl in-line/1,759cc 4cyl in-line/1,598cc
Peak power/revs 101/3,500 bhp/rpm 113/4,000 bhp/rpm 113/4,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 250/1,750 Nm/rpm 270/1,600 Nm/rpm 280/1,500 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual/fwd 6-speed manual/fwd 6-speed manual/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 45 litres/space saver 48 litres/repair kit 50 litres/space saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 422/1,400 litres 287/1,260 litres 334/1,116 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,205/495/1,260kg 1,295/460/1,200kg 1,318/532/1,250kg
Turning circle 10.4 metres 11.4 metres 10.6 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 5yrs (unlimited)/1yr
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 17th/17th 9th/24th 15th/12th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 88/77/72/70/5 (2013) 85/79/84/64/4 (2015) 87/85/62/60/5 (2017)
0-60/30-70mph 11.3/11.8 secs 10.4/9.9 secs 10.9/10.8 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.2/6.1 secs 4.1/5.5 secs 4.3/6.4 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th 8.9/13.7 secs 8.1/11.2 secs 8.5/10.9 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 113mph/2,000rpm 114mph/2,000rpm 114mph/2,100rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 59.9/41.0/11.6m 57.0/36.0/10.1m 49.9/33.0/8.9m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 70/49/69/72dB 68/45/63/72dB 68/45/64/72dB
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range 53.1/11.7/526 miles 51.2/11.3/541 miles 47.3/10.4/520 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 67.3/83.1/70.6mpg 58.9/68.9/64.2mpg 57.6/72.4/67.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 14.8/18.3/15.5mpl 13.0/15.2/14.1mpl 12.7/15.9/14.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 143/98g/km/24% 148/114g/km/27% 160/112g/km/27%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Six/yes/yes/yes Six/yes/yes/yes Six/yes/yes/yes
Auto box/lane-keep/blind spot/AEB No/no/no/£250 No/yes/N/A/yes No/yes/yes/£235
Climate ctrl/cruise/leather/heat seats Yes/yes/£500*/£150 Yes/yes/leatherette/y Yes/yes/yes/yes
Met paint/LEDs/keyless/pwr tailgate £545/no/no/no £670/yes/yes/no £565/no/yes/no
Nav/dig dash/DAB/connected services Yes/no/yes/yes Yes/no/yes/yes Yes/no/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto No/yes/yes No/£350/£350 Yes/yes/yes

New Renault Kadjar 2019 review
Posted on Friday December 07, 2018

renault kadjar tracking front
7 Dec, 2018 12:30pm Alex Ingram

We've driven the updated Renault Kadjar to see if its updates make it worth choosing over the competition

This is the refreshed-for-2019 Renault Kadjar SUV. The C-segment crossover has been treated to a variety of tweaks to keep it fresh - vitally important, considering it sits in arguably the busiest and most competitive new car class. So are the changes enough to make it worth choosing over a SEAT Ateca, Ford Kuga or Nissan Qashqai?

As before, the Kadjar is mechanically similar to the Qashqai, and the latest updates include the same overhauled engine lineup which was recently introduced to its Nissan cousin.

Best small SUVs and crossovers on sale

The diesel range kicks off with an updated version of the existing 1.5 dCi; there’s now an Adblue filter to reduce emissions, more soundproofing around the block and a nominal power and torque increase. The old 1.6 has been redeveloped into a 1.7-litre unit which, with 148bhp on tap, is significantly more muscular than before. It's also the only Kadjar offered with four-wheel drive and a locking differential.

But in a sign of how the market has changed within the last year or two, it's the petrol engines that are expected to account for almost 70 per cent of Kadjar sales in the UK. A new 1.3 litre turbocharged unit, co-developed with Daimler, is available in two outputs. There's a 158bhp unit at the top of the range, and a 138bhp version driven here.

Along with the new engines, the Kadjar is treated to a styling revamp. The front grille is wider and gets new chrome inserts, and the number plate is moved upwards to emphasise the 4x4-inspired splitter. Around the back, there's a new bumper with integrated LED reversing lights; and the brighter lighting tech is also applied to the tail lights and indicators.

The exterior changes are finished off with the introduction of a few new alloy wheel designs and three new colours: Oural Green, Highland Grey and, on the top two trim levels, Iron Blue.

Inside, Renault has made a series of small detail improvements. They don’t transform what is still a slightly bland cabin, but the changes are all positive. The redesigned seats, for example, are more supportive than before (particularly at the sides), there's a new sliding centre armrest, while illuminated window switchgear from the Megane looks more expensive. The centre console cup holders are an improvement on before, but still comically shallow.

The new climate controls are great, too: three big dials each have built-in screens to show temperature and blower direction. They're dead easy to use and look much better than before.

The touchscreen, now installed flush to the dash, looks much tidier and is more responsive to the touch. It’s just a shame that it’s still hampered by the same slow loading times, clunky menus and messy graphics. At least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the range now.

Little has changed from a chassis point of view, so it's the new engines which make the difference to the way the car drives. The news is pretty much universally positive: the 138bhp unit is much stronger than the outgoing 1.2 throughout the rev range. While it’s not the smoothest unit when revved hard, it settles down into a hushed cruise.

If anything, this version of the engine performs so well that it’s questionable whether or not the more potent option is really necessary. The 158bhp version is claimed to be 0.5 seconds quicker to 0-62mph, but the difference is barely noticeable even when the pair are driven back-to-back.

Both are available with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearboxes. The manual is pleasant enough, and although the auto is easier to use around town, it can be slow to kick down when you want to accelerate or overtake.

Elsewhere, the Kadjar driving experience is as before: on the 19-inch wheel model we sampled, the ride is slightly firmer than in the Qashqai yet smoother than a SEAT Ateca. Turn into a corner and body control is reasonable, and the steering is precise enough, if offering little feel. Not fun, but perfectly adequate for a practical family car.

And that's where the Renault fares well. It's 472 lite boot is larger than the Nissan, and it's got plenty of space inside for five. Back seat passengers are now treated to central air vents and a pair of USB sockets.

The range starts from £20,995, in Play trim - one of four available. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control and that 7-inch touchscreen with smartphone integration. The pick of the range looks to be the Iconic, which, for £1,500 more, adds 19-inch alloys, satellite navigation, a reversing camera, and lane departure warning.

And at that price, it compares very favourably with its closest rival. Compare the Kadjar Iconic with the roughly equivalent Nissan Qashqai N-Connecta with identical 138bhp engines, and the Renault is £2,500 cheaper. Renault is yet to release finance deals, but even though the Nissan’s offers are very competitive at the moment, that’s a big difference if you bear in mind that the pair are much the same to drive and the Renault has more space inside.

4
The Renault Kadjar has always deserved serious consideration among the usual crop of family crossovers, and the latest updates raise its game further. The new engines mark the biggest improvement, and deliver strong performance with the promise of great fuel economy. Some rivals are better to drive, and some feel more special inside, but as a practical, comfortable all-rounder, the Kadjar is hard to fault.
  • Model: Renault Kadjar GT Line TCe 140
  • Price: £25,095
  • Engine: 1.3-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 138bhp/240Nm
  • 0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
  • Economy/CO2: 47.9mpg/134g/km
  • On sale: January 2019

“LA 2018 was the auto show that shocked – for good and bad reasons”
Posted on Friday December 07, 2018

Mike Rutherford 2018-12-09 13:00

Some established names were obsessed with being cool in LA, turning their backs on conventional cars. Big mistake, says Mike Rutherford

Opinion - Genesis LA Motor Show

Los Angeles 2018 was the auto show that shocked – for good and bad reasons. Inside and outside the exhibition venue in downtown LA, the unexpected happened... and kept on happening.

Let’s start with the shockingly bad. The decision by General Motors – the US’s troubled, old-school vehicle maker – to announce 14,000 job losses plus at least five plant closures during the week of the show was appallingly timed.

On the one side, the LA show was proudly trying to do its bit to showcase America, Americans and the American auto business. On the other, GM was ripping much of the heart, soul and hope out of the country, its people and its industry.

Caught in the middle were blameless victims – those 14,000 tearful and fearful, cruelly dumped employees who’ve just had to tell their families that Christmas and pretty much everything else is cancelled. “Unallocated” is the haunting word being used to describe these unfortunate souls, their gone-forever positions, plus the now-redundant factories that were, until a few days ago, their second homes.

Meanwhile, recent and eeringly hollow broadcasts from President Trump declaring that American motor industry jobs are “all coming back” to America and Americans can, and should, be categorised as fake news. But his threat to cut “all” subsidies to GM are for real – as are the chances that The General will flirt with bankruptcy again, because its brand and products are simply too weak globally.

Ironically, the still-young Korean car industry that was, in effect, largely owned by GM not so long ago was rampant in LA, unveiling all-new and intriguing little cars like the Kia Soul, while picking up major awards for the Genesis G70, which is basically better than an equivalent BMW... because it was engineered by former BMW folk. Simple.

Not so straightforward is whether the important, next-generation Mazda 3 looks as good as the version it’s about to replace. On stage in LA I feared it didn’t, but it must be seen on the road before its presence and beauty (or maybe not) can be properly assessed.

Porsche 911 - LA Motor Show -  front

The star of the LA show was the new Porsche 911. A shame, then, that the company chose to reveal it in such a small room that security guards were forced to close the doors in the faces of many who’d rocked up to witness the historic occasion.

Conversely, Volvo’s car-free LA stand attracted hardly anyone. Which was no surprise. A vehicle manufacturer with a stand at a motor show that contains no vehicles makes about as much sense as a restaurant without food.

In LA, some established auto industry firms were obsessed with being cool, promoting untried/untested tech, turning their backs on conventional cars and drivers. Big mistake.

Customers buying, leasing, owning and driving petrol and diesel personal mobility machines are here to stay – for decades yet. These are the very consumers who’ve allowed most mainstream makers – GM included – to make billions in annual profits. Such loyal, high-spending motorists deserve more recognition, thanks, respect and reassurance.

What was your highlight of the 2018 Los Angeles Motor Show? Let us know in the comments section below...

New Skoda Superb 1.5 TSI 2019 review
Posted on Friday December 07, 2018

Skoda Superb 1.5 TSI - front
7 Dec, 2018 9:00am Richard Ingram

The Skoda Superb is now available with the VW Group's new 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine, but is it a better bet than the excellent diesel?

Skoda, just like the rest of its Volkswagen Group sister brands, is in the middle of rolling out a new, more efficient 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine across the range. 

Replacing the old 1.4 TSI, we’ve already tried it in the Audi A3, VW Golf and SEAT Arona, among others. But how does it fit in the Skoda Superb; should you consider one over the more frugal diesel? We’ve tried it in the UK to find out.

Best family cars to buy

With 148bhp and 250Nm of torque, the numbers are identical to those of its predecessor. It feels relaxed rather than frantic; put your foot down and while it builds speed quick enough, it never feels particularly fast. This sense of calm is only emphasised by our car’s (£1,400) DSG automatic gearbox, which seems to change up sooner than you might imagine – presumably to save fuel.

It still drives well, however. Just like the old 1.4, it’s a predictable performer. Rather than being especially sporty the Superb trades on its grown-up manners and safe handling. Body control is good, and while the steering doesn’t offer much feel, it’s accurate enough and always points the car where you want it to go. 

But racey handling isn’t what this car is about. The Superb is a family car that needs to be spacious, comfortable, quiet and refined – and in this regard it’s an excellent choice. The new 1.5-litre engine is barely audible around town; remaining hushed even at motorway speeds.

And while the new car may appear less economical on paper, the tougher WLTP test procedures should see it return more miles per gallon in everyday driving. Skoda claims 52.3mpg and 123g/km in DSG-equipped SE L Executive trim. 

This spec comes loaded with kit, but the middling SE Technology model represents better value for money. Both cars get leather trim, sat-nav and alloy wheels, yet the cheaper model costs a whopping £3,195 less. SE L cars like ours add xenon headlamps, keyless entry and a bigger 9.2-inch infotainment system, however. 

While the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport’s unbeatable value for money lent it our Family Car of the Year gong at the 2018 Auto Express New Car Awards, the Superb came a close second. For practicality, it can’t be beaten; the cavernous boot and roomy back seats remain, with plenty of ‘Simply Clever’ touches – like the hidden umbrellas mounted in the rear doors.

4
The Skoda Superb remains one of our favourite family cars. It can’t be beaten for space, and the kit list is strong, too. This new 1.5-litre engine is a relaxed performer and suits the car’s character; if you cover relatively few miles it could make more sense than the excellent diesel. We’d still opt for the better value SE Technology model over this flashy SE L, however.
  • Model: Skoda Superb SE L Executive 1.5 TSI 150PS DSG
  • Price: £28,275
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl turbo
  • Power/torque: 148bhp/250Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed auto, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 134mph
  • Economy/CO2: 52.3mpg/123g/km
  • On sale: Now

Drivers travelled a record number of miles in the UK in 2017
Posted on Thursday December 06, 2018

Tristan Shale-Hester 2018-12-06 14:50

Government figures show Brits travelled 327 billion miles last year, while car greenhouse gas emissions fell despite rising traffic levels

Traffic

Motor vehicles in Great Britain travelled a record distance of 327 billion miles in 2017 – 1.3 per cent more than in 2016.

Of the 327 billion miles travelled, 254 billion were covered by passenger cars (up one per cent more on 2016), 51 billion by vans (up three per cent), 17 billion by lorries (up one per cent), three billion by motorcycles (no change) and two billion by buses (down three per cent).

Data from the Department for Transport (DfT) also shows the volume of greenhouse gases emitted by cars has decreased by three per cent since 1990, despite car traffic having risen 22 per cent over the same period of time. The DfT says this can be “partially attributed to cars becoming more fuel efficient”.

Diesel MoT failures quadruple under new emissions test rules

Van traffic has grown faster than any other type of vehicle since 2006, while lorry traffic increased between 2016 and 2017 but is still below the record levels seen in the mid-2000s.

Motorways – which account for approximately one per cent of Great Britain’s road network – saw 21 per cent of the traffic, while urban A roads (three per cent of the network) saw 15 per cent, rural A roads (nine per cent of network) saw 30 per cent, urban minor roads (35 per cent of network) saw 20 per cent and rural minor roads (53 per cent of network) saw 14 per cent.

The DfT’s figures also show 86 per cent of cars, 84 per cent of vans and 75 per cent of rigid HGVs break the speed limit in 20mph zones. Meanwhile 52 per cent of cars break the limit on 30mph roads and 48 per cent do so on motorways.

Official: almost all drivers break 20mph limits

Commenting on the data, AA president Edmund King said cars are the most popular form of transport because they are “flexible, cost-effective, personal and safe”.

He added: “It is lamentable that for all the pontificating about the sins of driving, the alternatives continue to fail to evolve.”

King went on to say the AA is “greatly concerned” about greenhouses gases from cars and said “more incentives are needed to encourage both businesses and private drivers to switch to the cleanest possible vehicles as quickly as possible”.

Finally, he claimed the Government’s cuts to the Plug-in Car Grant sent out the “wrong signal” and “could increase the pollutants produced by transport as drivers keep hold of their vehicles for longer as the demonisation of diesel continues”.

How much time do you spend on the road? Let us know below...

Volkswagen to reduce model count and increase vehicle costs
Posted on Thursday December 06, 2018

Luke Wilkinson 2018-12-06 12:20

Volkswagen has announced that savings of 3 billion euros will be made by the end of 2020, while vehicle prices will rise

Volkswagen Golf - Front Motion

Volkswagen will slim down its model portfolio, streamline the number of variants offered and increase vehicle costs in a bid to improve profitability, the company has confirmed. 

VW sold almost 84,000 Golfs in Germany in 2018 with more than 58,000 models in different configurations. A small minority of Golfs were identical. Over the next five years, VW intends to optimise vehicle manufacture by removing poor-selling engine and trim variants. 

Next year, VW will axe 25 per cent of its engine and gearbox variants in Europe, concentrating on the high-demand variants, to simplify production. For example, cars with automatic transmissions and four-wheel-drive systems sell poorly across the VW range.

This is part of VW’s “pact for the future,” which aims to reduce costs by three billion euros by the year 2020.

VW’s Chief operating officer Ralf Brandstatter said that internal combustion cars within Volkswagen’s range are likely to increase in cost to help fund Volkswagen’s movement towards e-mobility and cover off the rising cost of diesel technology. 

There has been a strong customer shift away from diesel engines following the Dieselgate scandal; as a result VW will be limiting the number of diesel engines in its range. Other low-demand equipment packages and optional extras will either be assimilated into other packages or discontinued. 

The Dieselgate scandal affected sales and shook the trust of VW’s customers; Volkswagen hopes its electrification strategy will hopefully aid this issue, recovering sales and trust, adding that “the worst is over.”

Volkswagen also aims to implement more CO2 reduction measures in the production of its vehicles, with aims of meeting the new European standard of 95g/km of CO2. A representative from VW said that “Volkswagen is fully committed to the Paris climate agreement.”

The company is planning to offer carbon-neutral electricity for most European markets, allowing customers to charge their vehicles without impacting the environment. 

VW models on the way for the next five years

The first all-electric Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT vehicles produced on the MEB platform will arrive in 2019. Volkswagen aims to increase its electric fleet from two models to over 20 by 2025.

Three electric vehicles, the new e-Golf, e-Lavida and e-Bora, will be introduced to the Chinese market by the middle of next year, while the e-Polo will follow. It’s unlikely these vehicles will be offered in Europe.

VW’s SUV segment will also expand over the coming years; eventually one in every two Volkswagens sold will be an SUV the firm predicts. 

The T-Roc Cabrio will debut in the European market in the second half of 2019, along with new Golf and the first of the new all-electric I.D. family, which will be available to order early next year.

Volkswagen states it intends to “democratise e-mobility” with the I.D. hatchback aiming to make “e-mobility accessible and affordable for everyone,” in the same manner as it did with the original VW Beetle. 

The new I.D. will have an all-electric range of up to 341 miles on the WLTP cycle, and will be priced similarly to the new Golf diesel.

Like all new Volkswagen cars, model complexity will be restricted in the I.D. range with fewer trim levels, colours and equipment packages offered to customers. Volkswagen is aiming for customers to be able to configure their cars within 10 minutes.

As early as 2025, Volkswagen aims to be the first manufacturer to sell more than one million all-electric vehicles.

Click here to read all about Volkswagen aiming to produce its last generation of combustion engines in 2026...

Britain's best electric driving roads (sponsored)
Posted on Wednesday December 05, 2018

2018-12-07 11:04

The Volkswagen e-Golf is ready for adventure. Here the purity of its electric power comes together on the UK’s best driving roads

What makes a great driving road? The sinewy rise and fall of asphalt isn’t enough by itself. A good driving road will take you between places, between worlds, and offer an escape from the grind of the everyday. The scenery should make you want to slow down rather than speed up, and a good companion in the shape of your car should match your mood, too. Happily the Volkswagen e-Golf adds the serenity and calmness of electric power to the core brilliance of the Golf family, making it a perfect partner.

The effortless performance and near-silent running means you’ll be free to enjoy the scenery more than ever before.

• Take our survey for your chance to win one of three £50 Amazon vouchers

B4425 Cirencester to Burford

The A417 is as functional as dual carriageways get, despite the rolling Cotswold countryside it pierces, so it’s a delight to discover that just a few turns from the main drag deposit you at the beginning of a best-kept secret. The B4425 begins innocently enough on the fringes of Cirencester and arrows north-west out of Gloucestershire, luring you into thinking it is just another country road.

You soon start to notice it rises, falls and sweeps like a gentle rollercoaster, providing good sight lines to oncoming traffic but also across the scenery with pockets of trees, shades of green fields lined with hedgerows and quaint cottages that can only inspire envy. It offers turns that challenge the thrill-seeker, perfect for the e-Golf’s responsive steering, but it gets on with taking you somewhere, picking up the delightful village of Barnsley before moving you on to the wonder that is Bibury.

This is such a perfect definition of an English country village that it has appeared in a computer game, and Bibury manages to pull off the trick of appealing to coachloads of tourists regardless of the season while also remaining seemingly unspoilt, its National Trust status no doubt helping somewhat. The period buildings including the gorgeous Swan Hotel are postcard perfection as the River Coln squeezes beneath a bridge too small to accommodate modern traffic. The e-Golf fits in here perfectly, its silent powertrain allowing you to ghost past tourists at walking pace – so much so that you can hear the river making its way south west if you roll your window down.

Escape the clutches of souvenirs and tea rooms, and you are rewarded with a change of tack once again as the B4425 spears onwards, aiming at the Oxford-bound A40 towards another village of iconic Englishness: Burford. As it nears its conclusion, the road becomes ever-more direct with long, rolling straights that the e-Golf whisks along smoothly and silently, climbing the hills with ease and feeling at home in the tranquility of the countryside. It’s good enough to warrant a stop for tea before a return journey.

B4226 Broadwell to Buckshaft, Forest of Dean

Out here in the depths of the Forest of Dean, it only takes a little imagination to believe you have jumped back in time to pre-civilisation where nature has free rein. Only the thin ribbon of asphalt winding out of sight ahead of you dents the illusion, but as we leave the small hamlet of Broadwell, and the e-Golf briskly reaches the national speed limit, the forest retains its air of the wild.

More than 40 square miles of woodland make up the Forest of Dean and a turn in any direction could lead you down another brilliant driving road, but the B4226 is the ideal mystery tour; such is the density of the forest that you can never tell exactly where it is heading. Occasional breaks in the line of trees afford you snapshots of the distance, rows of birch and fir standing tall in the background giving away elevation changes, allowing a brief moment of equilibrium before you are returned to the density.

Passing through the junction marking the village of Cannop, the scenery begins to level out. Cannop Ponds offers a chance to stretch your legs and enjoy the beauty of its nature reserve, just one of many signposted country parks and sites of natural or historical interest. Without warning, the B4225 begins to rise, twisting and climbing as you approach Speech House, originally a hunting lodge built for Charles II in the late 1600s before becoming the administrative building for the area. Today it is a hotel, making a perfect stopping point before pressing on.

Beyond Speech House the forest becomes thinner, allowing you to see deeper within and begin to appreciate not only its sheer size but also the diversity of the sights it offers. The e-Golf is the perfect companion for a road like this, a shot of instant torque to breeze past slow-moving farm machinery and a steady, frugal and near-silent cruise with a tranquility matching the surroundings. Past the arboretum, Speech House Road brings you gently into the outskirts of Buckshaft, but even having covered several miles with ease you feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface; there is so much more to discover.

A675 Bolton to Blackburn

Any sat-nav worth the solder in its circuit board would push you along the M61 before turning east along the M65 to get you from Bolton to Blackburn. But a more pleasing way to make the same journey allows you to savour the pleasures as Greater Manchester becomes Lancashire.

Although the more modern A666 will get the job done more quickly, the A675 – the old Bolton to Preston road – takes you across the West Pennine Moors. They cannot claim the stature or possibly the status afforded to the main Pennine ranges, but they are all the more delightful for that. As you leave Bolton from the north, the left fork signposted Belmont suggests nothing more lies beyond it than a lesser route out of the town. You travel a good half a mile, a gentle inclination all the way, before the houses start to thin out and you catch the first glimpse of the view across the moors. You can see the base of the valley, the road clinging higher up one side of it, with the towns of Bromley Cross and Eagley nestling within like model villages, but the A675 demands a further climb before you crest the rise and cross into the Blackburn border and the village of Belmont.

In the e-Golf it feels entirely natural to make the most of the free return on the other side of the hills, a gentle squeeze on the brake pedal or a sideways nudge of the gearlever engaging a feed of engine braking. It doesn’t create enough drag to even slow the car, yet the digital display shows the energy returning and the range increasing as a result. Just as the climb begins again the twin delights of the Springs and Dingle reservoirs hove into view before the A675 bowls into Belmont.

It’s not until you leave Belmont and draw alongside the vast reservoir that shares its name that the A675 really delivers its stunning conclusion. The road skirts around its extremities before slicing over its west corner, but it is the glorious sweeping panorama of the moorland that makes you want to cruise and not sprint. The road flows with the land as sweetly as the water, rarely breaking into anything approaching a tight curve. It reaches a natural conclusion at the junction with the M65 after seemingly endless straights and an infinite downhill before returning you to reality with a bump – but the pain of the conclusion is more than outweighed by the sweetness of the journey.

Holmes Chapel to Alderley Edge

Like all the best driving roads, the B5359/A535 combo keeps its powder dry. As it leaves Alderley Edge it no doubt features on school run and shopping trip routes, but just a couple of gentle turns outside of the village instantly transport you into the swathes of stunning countryside that Cheshire contains, punctuated only by the desirable hamlets.

If anything the B-road plays second fiddle to the A-road in this duo. Not that the former disappoints in any way; it is the classic example of the breed, picking its way between the peaks and linking the towns while blending one topographical feature into another with a sleight of hand. Tightly lined by trees, it only offers the occasional snatched glance of what lies beyond before passing underneath the main railway line to Crewe, then changing status at Chelford.

It’s hard to believe the 535 is worthy of its A-road tag as it leaves Chelford; the confines are so tight, it’s as if it was dropped into a thicket of trees from a great height. Gradually it opens out into near-arrow straights, the view clearing in tandem with it as the trees thin out past the vast expanse of Farmwood Pool, flashes of blue beyond the swathes of green.

The flowing nature of the road encourages a steady rather than brisk pace, something that suits the e-Golf perfectly. It becomes a pleasure to keep moving with minimal energy usage, skimming the accelerator to maintain speed before sending it back with a well-judged lift or touch of the brakes. It feels like you’re beating the system, getting spent energy back to propel you onwards while everyone else sticks rigidly to 19th Century technology.

As if to reinforce the point, the A535 takes you past the jaw-dropping spectacle of Jodrell Bank. The third-largest steerable radio telescope in the world, it towers 50 metres above its surroundings but at the same sits comfortably within them, constantly looking above the Earth to better understand universal phenomena. The A535 continues beyond Jodrell to its natural conclusion at Holmes Chapel, but this incredible feat of engineering is worth a lengthy pause.

As a feat of engineering, it deserves celebration and recognition; serving as a timely reminder of how technological progress can have a positive influence on the planet. The e-Golf is the last vehicle to leave the car park before the visitor’s park closes for the night, and it seems entirely appropriate that it does so silently, powered by energy delivered by the brightest star in our galaxy.

For more information on the Volkswagen e-Golf, visit volkswagen.co.uk

New Audi RS Q3 caught on camera
Posted on Wednesday December 05, 2018

Luke Wilkinson 2018-12-05 17:20

The Audi Sport edition of the new Q3 SUV has been spotted winter testing

audi rs q3 spy shots front quarter

The new Audi RS Q3 has been spied undergoing testing ahead of its likely reveal at the next year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

This prototype’s aggressive bumpers, enlarged air intakes, flared wheel arches, huge brakes and twin exhausts all follow Audi Sport’s design brief, providing a reasonable indication of how the finished car will look.

The fastest SUVs in the world

It’s expected that the new RS Q3 will be powered by the same 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine as the outgoing model. Power output is expected to increase over the last model, potentially exceeding 400bhp and 500Nm of torque. Power will likely be transmitted through an eight-speed gearbox to Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system.

The new RS Q3 will sit above the recently spied Audi SQ3, which is set to hit showrooms ahead of the range-topper in the middle of 2019, producing upwards of 300bhp.

The UK is set for a barrage of Audi performance cars next year, with the new R8, RS Q8 and RS6 arriving on its shores next year. The RS Q3 to follow in late 2019, after a debut at the Frankfurt motor show.

What are your thoughts on the new Audi RS Q3? Let us know in the comments section below…

New Kia Proceed GT 2019 review
Posted on Wednesday December 05, 2018

kia proceed gt prototype tracking front
5 Dec, 2018 4:30pm James Batchelor

We've driven the new Kia ProCeed GT to see if it can bring shooting brake style to the masses

Kia has gone punctuation mad. First, it dropped the apostrophe for its Ceed hatchback and now for its sportier sister model, it’s not only dropped the rogue piece of punctuation but also the even more irritating underscore. The pro_cee’d becomes simply ProCeed and the Korean firm has performed a complete control-alt-delete on the car, as out goes the three-door body shape and in comes a swoopy five-door hatch design.

The ProCeed’s interesting mix of estate car and coupe body styles is an answer to the trend of people rejecting three-door hatchbacks. Here Kia is following Mercedes’ lead by offering a sleek CLA Shooting Brake in tandem with its more conventional A-Class, knowing that Shooting Brake customers are prepared to spend more cash on a more stylish model.

2018 Kia Ceed review

In our eyes it looks pretty good, with a clear nod to the CLA, although at the rear there’s a hint of Porsche Panamera if you squint hard. There are even a few interesting design details, such as the Porsche-like four ‘ice cube’ LED daytime running lights and metal-effect shark’s blade on the rear quarter glass carried over from the dramatic 2017 Proceed Concept. It’s just a shame then that the concept car’s large wheels haven’t transitioned over, because our car’s 18-inch alloys look a little lost within the body – but that’s the only real gripe.

When it arrives in January the ProCeed is expected to come in three flavours of GT-Line, GT-Line S and GT – and our exclusive first drive was in a pre-production version of the range-topping model. Aggressive front and rear bumpers with dual exhausts, a black honeycomb grille with red inserts, red brake calipers and flashes of red along the sills give the GT a really sporting look, but even the entry-level GT-Line should get 17-inch alloys, those ice cube day-running lights, a rear spoiler and privacy glass. Prices should kick off from just under £24,000 rising to just over £28,000, making it pretty good value. 

There are three engines – a 138bhp 1.4-litre turbo petrol with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, a 1.6-litre diesel with 134bhp and both transmissions, and a 1.6-litre turbo with 201bhp. The most potent unit is likely to be limited to GT and will probably only come with an auto in the UK.

Kia’s upmarket desires are clear on the inside because the ProCeed, just like the Ceed hatch, is well put together, with swathes of plush plastics, while the GT adds red stitching and bolstered sports seats. But while kneeroom is good, headroom in the back is pretty tight – if you’re over six feet tall you’re really going to struggle – and the visibility out of the back isn’t great, either. That said, the boot is well shaped and offers useful underfloor storage, luggage rails and seats that nearly fold down completely flat.

The ProCeed sits 5mm lower than the Ceed hatch and estate, and features independent suspension all round, while the GT gets stiffer springs and softer anti-roll bars. It works, because there’s a nice mix of warm hatch and comfortable grand-tourer in the way the ProCeed GT tackles corners and bumps; there’s little body roll, loads of grip and the ride is firm but cushioned enough and never crashy.

The steering is particularly good in its response but just falls short of delivering enough feel, while the engine feels stronger and punchier than its 201bhp and 265Nm suggest. But the 1.6 turbo is let down by the automatic box; it might be a seven-speed dual-clutch, but the upshifts aren’t crisp enough for a sporting model and downshifts are too slow. This is mated to a throttle modulation that’s a bit tardy to pick up, too.

Kia has fitted a drive mode selector with just ‘normal’ and ‘sport’ modes – prod the button for the latter and the steering weights up and the throttle is a bit sharper (but not much) – but the big bonus here is extra engine noise. The GT gets a fruiter exhaust than other ProCeeds and even in ‘normal’ mode it’s nicely loud. ‘Sport’ opens up the exhaust flaps and pumps more noise into the cabin through a sound actuator; it’s good without being too tacky.

How the ProCeed drives on the road sums up the car, really. It’s a stylish, nicely made and slightly quirky car that handles and goes well but is slightly held back by its gearbox and throttle response. It’s a nice balance between a warm hatch and a GT wrapped up in one of Kia’s sexiest bodies.                      

4
Is it a coupe? Is it an estate? No, it’s a shooting brake. The new Kia ProCeed is an interestingly styled range-topper for the ultra-conventional Ceed range. It’s good looking, well made, pretty practical and has its fair share of desirability. The warm GT model shouldn’t be viewed as anything other than being a warm grand tourer, because it’s no cut-price Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 - but that’s no bad thing
  • Model: Kia ProCeed GT
  • Price: £28,500
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 201bhp/265Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto, front-wheel-drive
  • 0-62mph/top speed: 7.2 seconds/140mph
  • Economy/CO2: 45.6mpg/142g/km
  • On sale: January

New Audi e-tron 55 quattro review
Posted on Wednesday December 05, 2018

Audi e-tron - front
6 Dec, 2018 9:30am Stefan Voswinkel

We've been behind the wheel of the brand’s first pure-electric production model, the 402bhp, 249-mile range Audi e-tron

The e-tron is Audi’s first all-electric production car. Arriving in the UK a full two years after Tesla’s Model X and several months behind Jaguar’s game-changing I-Pace, it will soon spawn a range of full EVs – including a production version of the e-tron GT concept. 

Our first drive takes place in the Middle East, seemingly an odd choice of location given the region’s plentiful oil reserves and rock-bottom fuel prices. In fact it’s rather appropriate, with places such as Abu Dhabi investing heavily in solar energy. Soon, electricity will be as cheap as petrol here.

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On paper, the e-tron looks competitive. It claims more than 400km (249 miles) from a charge; even in the desert with the air-con on full blast, it still manages 220 miles. Connected to a fast charger, the e-tron will go from zero to 80 per cent in 30 minutes. 

Audi has also promised customers access to more than 70,000 charge stations across Europe. The tech is known as e-roaming, and drivers will need only a single contract and a single card. Unfortunately, e-roaming hasn’t been confirmed for UK buyers yet.

Even our early test car puts the Model X in the shade when it comes to interior fit and finish. True, the Tesla’s huge screen is fascinating, but quality could be better. In photos the Audi doesn’t seem quite modern enough, but here in Abu Dhabi – among all the AMGs, Rolls-Royces and Ferraris – it looks seriously futuristic. It uses the dual-screen set-up seen in the A6, A7 and A8, with the same haptic feedback and a near-identical menu layout. Of course, connectivity is top notch, offering Audi’s own intuitive system alongside Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

It is up there with other EVs (and ahead of many) on dynamics, even if it’s slightly slower than a Tesla. The drive system, with an electric motor on the front axle and another on the rear, produces 402bhp and automatically controls power distribution in a fraction of a second. But even in Dynamic mode, it lacks the Model X’s explosive acceleration.

However, the Audi really scores with its superb balance. Also, the aerodynamics and sound insulation have been fine-tuned to eliminate nearly all wind and road noise; we can’t think of any other car that’s as smooth or quiet as the e-tron. 

A glance at the speedo shows how good this is. The cabin is so incredibly hushed, and imposes such an unprecedented feeling of calm, that you don’t notice your speed creeping up on the motorway. It’s comfortable, too, and although the e-tron is based on a heavily modified Q5 platform, it’s far more spacious than that car.

Elsewhere, the e-tron is the first production model to come with the option of cameras instead of conventional door mirrors. These improve the car’s aerodynamics, and relay images on high-resolution seven-inch OLED displays in the door panels. The rest of the e-tron is everything you’d expect from Audi: a high-class finish combined with digital instruments. It features extras synonymous with this type of luxury car, too, including an ioniser and a fragrancing system.

4.5
Audi's first electric car is a hit. The e-tron is quieter, more comfortable and better to drive than Tesla’s Model X. Its 249-mile electric range may not change the game, but it excels as a high-quality family SUV.
  • Model: Audi e-tron 55 quattro
  • Price: £71,490
  • Engine: Two electric motors
  • Power/torque: 402bhp/664Nm
  • Transmission: Single-speed auto, 4WD
  • 0-62mph/Top speed: 5.7s/124mph
  • Range: 249 miles
  • On sale: Now

 

 


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