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In the News ...

New McLaren 720S Spider set for December 8 reveal
Posted on Wednesday November 21, 2018

Luke Wilkinson 2018-11-21 14:50

A tactically-shadowed teaser image heralds the arrival of the new McLaren convertible supercar, the 720S Spider.

McLaren 720S Spider Teaser Image

Following the announcement of its new Speedtail model, McLaren today teased this image, which looks suspiciously like a convertible version of the company’s 720S supercar.

The rather obvious shut line between the car’s roof and windscreen surround suggests that McLaren’s next update for it’s Ferrari 488 GTB rival will be a folding-hardtop option, opening the carbon-clad 720S cockpit to the elements.

Details on the 720S Spider are still uncertain, as McLaren will not be officially revealing the new model until the beginning of next month. We’ve been told to prepare for our first look at the new machine on December 8 at 8.10pm, an unusually specific time that you might want to note on your calendar.

Much like the 570S and 570S Spider, we expect the 720S Spider to bear very similar performance figures to its hard-top equivalent. That means 710bhp and, a 0-60mph time of 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 212mph are on the agenda.

We also expect the McLaren 720S Spider will be more expensive than the standard car with a price gap of around £20,000 taking the total to around the £230,000 mark.

Do you think the new McLaren 720S Spider will be as good as the 570S Spider? Let us know in the comments below...

MINI reveals US special editions for LA Motor Show
Posted on Wednesday November 21, 2018

Luke Wilkinson 2018-11-21 13:30

MINI has announced a variety of special edition models at LA, while also confirming production of the new MINI John Cooper Works GP

MINI John Cooper Works Knights Edition - front 3/4

MINI will bring four new special editions to the LA Motor Show, based on the Hatch, Countryman and Clubman models. Each will be fitted with a handful of unique accessories, but are only available in the US for the time being.

Available exclusively in Midnight Black, the MINI John Cooper Works Knights Edition will be available with painted mirror caps, side and bonnet decals and the John Cooper Works Exhaust Flap System. It will make its debut at the LA Auto Show, and is due to hit US dealerships in early 2019.

Best hatchbacks to buy

The MINI John Cooper Works International Orange Edition follows a similar brief. Available in US dealerships now the special edition is painted bright orange and fitted with carbon fibre mirror caps, side decals, a valved exhaust and 18-inch wheels.

A new version of the MINI Countryman Cooper S will also be showcased. Called the Countryman Yin Yang Edition, it will be available from next month in the US and follows an amusing black and white colour theme.

Finally, the MINI Clubman Cooper S Starlight Edition will feature on the firm’s stand, sporting 17-inch alloy wheels, painted mirrors, a MINI Luggage trolley and the MINI Click and Drive System; a universal mount for either your smartphone or MINI’s own sat-nav.

MINI has also confirmed that the John Cooper Works GP Concept from the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show will be put into production by 2020.

What are your thoughts on MINI’s latest special editions? Let us know in the comments below…

 

 

'Luxury cars can be tempting, but only when the price is right'
Posted on Wednesday November 21, 2018

Steve Fowler 2018-11-21 13:00

Many manufacturers have ideas above their station but there is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned values, says Steve Fowler

OPINION-Audi A1

Let’s be honest, we all like a little bit of luxury in our lives, don’t we? That’s nowhere more apparent than in the car world, where premium brands are seen as aspirational, not only for buyers, but also for rival mainstream brands. In my view, too many of them have ideas above their station; there’s nothing wrong with a brand that offers good old-fashioned value.

That’s why I find Vauxhall boss Stephen Norman’s assertion that the British company makes “modest cars for the modest person” so refreshing. But of the many clever things the car industry has done in recent years, two of the smartest have been the premium makers who’ve given us smaller, cheaper models, and the finance gurus who thought up PCPs to make them more affordable for us to acquire.

Best luxury cars to buy

This week we’ve driven the latest Audi A1, a car that, for some years now, has offered luxury for less. The car itself is another example of the Volkswagen Group’s brilliance at platform and parts sharing – making it easier, cheaper and more lucrative for Audi to build a great small car. But it’s also the knowledge that car buyers just can’t get enough of ticking the options boxes – options that come with rather tasty profit margins.

Let’s credit MINI with kicking off the premium small car fad, but it seems people can’t get enough kit on any car. That’s why Ford’s top spec went from Titanium to Titanium X and now there are even grander Ford Vignale models. Admittedly, we scoffed at them when they were first announced, but buyers are loving them. And we have to admit that the Focus Vignale we’ve driven is the most appealing model yet. 

Which brings me to the humble PCP – probably the smartest sales tactic ever. With the focus on monthly payments, not the overall price, it makes spending more on luxury options seem spookily affordable. Oh, and it guarantees buyers return to their dealer every few years. Genius!

If you enjoyed reading Steve's column this week then click here to read his prevous one...

Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport Package adds steel roll cage
Posted on Wednesday November 21, 2018

Alex Ingram 2018-11-21 11:30

Make your Porsche 911 GT2 RS ready for FIA competition use with the new Clubsport Package, which arrives as a no-cost option

Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport

The Porsche 911 GT2 RS is arguably the most track-focused model in the brand's line-up, and now there’s a Clubsport Package to make it even better suited to those who are serious about venturing out on a circuit.

The new Clubsport Package adds a couple of accessories which boosts safety on a track day, while preparing the GT2 RS for any FIA-homologated competition use. The main addition is the steel rear roll cage. This is screwed into the body behind the front seats with extra reinforcements to the body shell.

Best track day cars available

Also included and ready to install is a fire extinguisher and aluminium mounting bracket, plus a six-point seat belt for the driver. The parts can’t be combined with the optional electrically-adjustable sports seats, but work with both the regular sports and full bucket seat designs.

For those who might wish to compete in their GT2 RS, the Clubsport Package comes with preparation for a battery master switch which, like the mountings for the front section of the roll cage, can be bought separately. Both parts feature full FIA approval.

The best news for track-going Porsche owners is that the Clubsport Package is a no-cost option. It can also be paired with a variation of the performance-boosting Weissach Package (which saves 30kg courtesy of forged magnesium wheels and a carbon fibre bonnet and roof) but swaps that pack’s non-FIA approved titanium cage for the steel item.

The engine remains unchanged; the 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat six still produces 694bhp and 750Nm of torque, enough for a 2.8-second 0-62mph time and a 211mph top speed.

Click here for our list of the fastest ever times around the Nurburgring...

Automatic caravan and trailer hitch concept revealed
Posted on Wednesday November 21, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-11-21 11:10

Concept trailer hitch automatically links caravan or trailer to car at the touch of a button

A new tow-bar concept could potentially revolutionise the way caravans and trailers are attached to cars, updating a system that has remained largely unchanged for over 80 years.

The Automatic Trailer Connection system uses sensors and cameras to detect when a car is two metres away from a caravan or trailer. At that point, the driver need only press an “auto attach” icon on their infotainment display, and the car will reverse to the trailer and hitch itself up. No cables require attaching – these are connected inside the bumper – and the concept can be operated without the driver having to get out of their vehicle.

Best towing cars to buy

The concept, from Swedish technology company Semcom, does require some modification of the tow car. Instead of a conventional bar, a socket in the rear bumper receives the trailer hitch, which itself is different from the traditional setup, which dates back to 1932.

Sofie Askenbom from Semcom said the concept “is based on the smart systems that cars are already equipped with nowadays”, adding: “Given the vast amount of money that’s been spent on product development in the automotive industry over the past 80 years, it’s strange that nobody has done anything about towbars when so many people find it to be a complicated solution.”

Askenbom admitted the Automatic Trailer Connection system was “mainly devised to demonstrate what new perspectives can bring”, but said she hoped “car and trailer manufacturers may be interested in taking it further in future”.

There are an estimated 920,000 caravans in the UK, according to the National Caravan Council, while Ifor Williams, Britain’s best-known trailer manufacturer, has sold over half a million trailers since 1958.

Do you think this concept will make hitching trailers and caravans easier? Let us know in the comments below...

MoT failure rate for emissions doubles since introduction of new test
Posted on Tuesday November 20, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-11-20 17:55

Tougher MoT test sees almost 750,000 cars fail for substandard emissions; failure rate for diesel vans shoots up by 448 per cent

Emissions testing pipe

Tough new MoT rules – introduced in May this year – have resulted in more than twice as many cars and over four times as many vans failing tests for emissions faults.

The MoT test saw one of its biggest-ever updates on May 20, when Minor, Major and Dangerous fault categories were introduced, and tougher emission checks were brought in.

Best MoT exempt cars

Diesel cars fitted with a particulate filter (DPF) that emit visible smoke of any colour, for example, now automatically fail their MoT, while petrol cars that emit dense blue or clearly visible black smoke for more than five seconds when idling also fail.

Some cars would seem to be struggling to meet these new requirements, with data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) showing almost 750,000 cars failed their MoT for emissions between 20 May and 19 November 2018 – up from around 350,000 in the same period last year.

But vans have apparently been more severely impacted by the new test criteria than cars – a shocking 448 per cent more diesel vans failed their emission checks over the same period, up from 3,585 in 2017 to 19,648 in 2018.

MoT test checklist: top tips to help your car pass

Despite these increases, the overall failure rate across all defect categories has largely remained stable, with 34.7 per cent of petrol cars and 33.2 per cent of diesels failing the test since May 2018. Over the same period in 2017, those rates were 35.7 and 33.8 respectively.

Commenting on the figures, the DVSA’s chief executive, Gareth Llewellyn, said the organisation was “committed to making a real difference to those in society whose lives and health are blighted by poor air quality.” Llewellyn added that since the new test criteria were introduced in May, “nearly 750,000 vehicles have been taken off the road or fixed.”

Has your car recently failed its MoT? Let us know below...

‘This is not a car show:’ Volvo plans an empty stand at the LA Motor Show
Posted on Tuesday November 20, 2018

Luke Wilkinson 2018-11-21 09:00

A change in manufacturer responsibilities and consumer expectations leads Volvo to hold an open discussion on the future of automobility

Volvo stand at LA 2018

Volvo is planning a bold move for this year’s LA Motor Show; it's showing up completely empty-handed.

Instead of adhering to the ‘concept car covered with a shiny cloth’ trope, Volvo has decided to use the LA Motor Show as a platform for a discussion about the ‘concept of a car’ and the future of automobility.

• LA Motor Show 2018: preview

The company’s stand won’t feature a revolving monument to leather, luxury and horsepower, but instead a series of interactive demonstrations on connectivity services and autonomous driving.

The centrepiece of the stand will be a simple statement, sculpted from wood, reading ‘this is not a car.’ 

Mårten Levenstam, of Volvo’s product strategy department, somewhat unusually stated: "we will not win the ‘car of the show’ award this year, but we are comfortable with that. Because this is not a car show." 

Volvo’s unorthodox show stand will be used to showcase its ideas for upcoming models. For example, the demonstrations will outline the company’s plans to make half of its range electric and a third of it autonomous by the middle of the next decade. 

The company also plans to demonstrate its in car-delivery system (a service which allows parcels to be delivered directly to compatible cars), its car-sharing service and the car subscription service, Care by Volvo.

Speaking about Volvo's LA plans Håkan Samuelsson, chief executive of Volvo cars, pointed to a change in responsibilities for car manufacturers. He outlined the company’s new purpose, stating: "rather than just building and selling cars, we will really provide our customers with the freedom to move in a personal, sustainable and safe way." 

Volvo hopes to achieve these goals through partnerships with longstanding technology companies such as Amazon, Google and Nvidia and start-up companies such as Luminar and Zenuity.

What are your thoughts on Volvo’s empty LA Motor Show stand? Let us know in the comments below…

New Aston Martin DBS Superleggera 2018 review
Posted on Tuesday November 20, 2018

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera - front
21 Nov, 2018 7:30am Alex Ingram

We give our verdict as the flagship Aston Martin DBS Superleggera hits British roads for the first time

However you look at it, 900Nm is a lot of torque. There are a number of reasons why driving an Aston Martin DBS Superleggera feels like an event, but it’s that shove that dominates the experience.

The DBS sits above the DB11 V12 as the most extreme car to use Aston’s latest aluminium-bonded platform. But there are a range of tweaks designed to make the DBS faster, sharper and more exciting.

• Best supercars on sale right now

From some angles, the DB11 can look a little contrived – its C-pillars appear a bit fussy, for example – but the DBS is prettier. Combined with the new full-width rear light bar and huge grille, it’s more aggressive and more handsome than its older relation.

Colour and trim aside, from behind the wheel the DBS looks much the same as the DB11. You sit very low, and there’s plenty of adjustment in the driving position. It feels special, but there are a couple of details that let the side down: while the Mercedes-derived plastic column stalks feel sturdy enough at C-Class money, you’d hope for something more luxurious at this price.

The same goes for the infotainment set-up. Essentially, it shares its hardware with the old E-Class, only with Aston’s graphics. The menus are clunky, and the touchpad feels awkward to use. A Ferrari GTC4 Lusso is more practical, too, because the back seats in the Aston are almost useless.

But these are only mild complaints. The draw of the Superleggera only presents itself once you prod the starter button. Think of it as a DB11-plus; every area of the driving experience has been amplified or improved to brilliant effect.

The engine may have only benefited from minor tweaks over the DB11 – the turbos gain a little extra boost, there’s a louder exhaust, and a remap to match the upgrades – but the changes increase output from 600bhp and 700Nm to a staggering 715bhp and 900Nm. That torque figure is not a tiny peak, either, but a vast plateau spreading from 1,800rpm to 5,000rpm.

That’s easily enough torque to overcome the huge Pirelli P Zero tyres. Unless you’re on a perfectly smooth bit of road without any camber, anything approaching full throttle will cause the Superleggera to squirm as the traction control fights to keep order. The gearing is shorter on the DB11 to improve acceleration, but with so much torque it seems unnecessary in the DBS.

At higher speeds, there is little like it in a straight line. The huge mid-range shove means that at any speed the DBS leaps forward with violent acceleration. It’s a different sensation to what you’ll find in the Ferrari; it’s no slower against the clock, but you’ll need to use its full rev range to make the most of it. And while the DBS doesn’t quite have the glorious tone of the GTC’s V12, it’s still not a noise you’ll soon tire of.

The Aston manages to counter with a driving experience that feels more relaxing. Both cars are comfortable, but the DBS’s steering doesn’t require quite as much focus in order to make smooth progress.

The suspension may be firmer than on the DB11, but there’s enough pliancy to remain comfortable. Switch into the most relaxing of the three driving modes and it smothers the road below in true GT fashion.

4.5
The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera shares everything that made the DB11 special, amplifying almost every aspect for the better. The V12 engine might not have the excitement of a Ferrari GTC4 Lusso, but otherwise it’s phenomenal. You could argue that the more spacious, equally comfortable Ferrari is the better grand tourer, but the DBS is a wonderful machine nonetheless.
  • Model: Aston Martin DBS Superleggera
  • Price: £225,000
  • Engine: 5.2-litre V12 turbo
  • Power/torque: 715bhp/900Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 3.4 seconds
  • Top speed: 211mph
  • Economy/CO2: 22.9mpg/285g/km
  • On sale: Now

Exclusive: car thefts reach six-year high
Posted on Tuesday November 20, 2018

Hugo Griffiths 2018-11-21 00:01

Auto Express investigation reveals sharp spike in car thefts last year; experts blame criminal sophistication and police cuts

Crime

More cars were stolen last year than at any point since 2011, with experts blaming falling police numbers and criminals circumventing vehicles’ security systems for the six-year high.

Exclusive figures uncovered by Auto Express show 43,308 cars were reported stolen to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in 2017. That’s the highest number since 2011, and almost 9,000 more than in 2016. Previous research indicated rates of theft were on the rise, but relied on national crime surveys, or comprised data that included all types of vehicle.

How to avoid keyless theft

Rising car crime has been linked to potential vulnerabilities in some security systems and falling police officer numbers, which are down by more than 20,000 since 2010.

RAC Insurance spokesman Simon Williams called our findings “a real cause for concern”, adding that while “manufacturers will stop at nothing to keep their vehicles secure”, it seemed “criminal groups are continuing to find ways around them”.

Year Cars reported stolen
2017 43,308
2016 34,584
2015 30,721
2014 32,538
2013 33,870
2012 38,716
2011 48,999
Source: DVLA/Auto Express

Sales of steering wheel locks doubled in 2017 as drivers supplemented their cars’ built-in security. Some owners of cars with keyless entry, meanwhile, have purchased Faraday pouches, which prevent wireless signals from keys being potentially picked up and ‘cloned’ by crooks.

Williams also said police cuts could be impacting rates of car theft. “We are concerned that the declining number of police officers could be resulting in less investigation of motor crime like this, something that could be solved by forces having greater resources,” he explained.

• Car security: how the industry is staying one step ahead of the criminals

The National Police Chiefs’ Council conceded that “in recent years vehicle theft has started to increase across the country”, but a spokesman said the rate “remains significantly lower than [in] previous years, with fewer offences recorded compared to levels during the nineties. This is against a backdrop of a significant increase in the number of vehicles on the road”.

DVLA data for 2018 shows 32,827 cars were stolen up to 26 October, indicating figures for the year are set to total at least 40,000. While last year’s figures show a significant spike in car thefts, they’re
still some way off the level of crime that blighted the UK in 1993, when an estimated 540,000 vehicles were stolen.

Have you ever had your car stolen? Tell us about your experience below...

New Mercedes GLE 2018 review
Posted on Tuesday November 20, 2018

Mercedes GLE - front
21 Nov, 2018 7:30am
Jonathan Burn

Premium Mercedes GLE SUV gets more tech and a seven-seat option, but is it a winner?

If you’re in the market for a new SUV, no maker offers more choice than Mercedes. The German brand has an eight-strong SUV line-up and next year that will increase to nine. But the latest model to arrive on the scene is the all-new GLE.

The firm’s BMW X5 rival, previously known as the ML, is one of Mercedes’ veteran SUVs. It’s been around since 1997; this latest fourth-generation model is the largest and most technologically advanced yet.

• Best 4x4s and SUVs on sale

It’s been redesigned inside and out and is now available with the option of seven seats, making it a stronger competitor to the likes of the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7, as well as the X5.

In the UK, there’s a choice of only two engines for now: a 2.0-litre diesel, badged GLE 300 d, and a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol called GLE 450. The latter uses Mercedes’ new 48-volt EQ Boost mild-hybrid technology to deliver better economy and improved engine response at lower revs. An even more efficient diesel plug-in hybrid will be added to the range next year, along with a pair of six-cylinder diesels.

The seven-seat package is standard on the six-cylinder models, but a £1,995 extra on the GLE 300 d we’re driving here. Is it worth having? Well, if you intend on mainly putting small children back there then yes, but head and kneeroom will be in short supply for adults. Yet in fairness to the GLE, none of its rivals – aside perhaps from the Land Rover Discovery – performs any better when it comes to space in the third row.

Where you will be more comfortable is on the middle bench; Mercedes has extended the wheelbase of the latest GLE to almost three metres, so there’s plenty of space for three adults in the back. And if you fold down the second and third row of seats you’ll free up 2,055 litres of storage; that’s 100 litres more than you get in a Q7 and almost 200 more than in an XC90. Dropping just the third row still reveals a very generous 825 litres of load space.

As you’d expect, the 242bhp 2.0-litre diesel will be the most popular engine option in the UK; it has a useful 41bhp more than the outgoing model and a hefty 500Nm of torque. If you’re looking for any sort of engagement, however, you’re going to be disappointed. The GLE has been to designed to work as a luxurious, refined and comfortable SUV – and here it excels.

A lot of that comes down to the cabin, which is bathed in swathes of Nappa leather, brushed aluminium and wood trim. It’s a supremely luxurious place to pass the miles and wouldn’t look out of place in a car wearing a six-figure price tag.

On the move the 2.0-litre motor is a little gruff, but once up to speed it begins to fade into the background, helped by the slick nine-speed automatic transmission, which slurs the gears effortlessly.

Our test car was fitted with Airmatic air suspension, but in the UK the 300 d will only be offered with standard steel springs. Still, as we’ve come to expect from Mercedes’ top end models, the ride is plush and consistently smooth even on standard 20-inch wheels. We’ll have to wait and see how the standard steel springs fare when the GLE arrives in the UK in the spring.

One piece of tech designed to improve the GLE’s off-road prowess and on-road comfort is a new E-Active Body Control system, but it’s only compatible with six-cylinder models. Its party trick is being able to bounce the car on soft surfaces, such as sand or snow, to help it regain traction and send you on your way. But the bone-dry roads of Texas didn’t allow a demonstration.

The system also adds a new Curve driving mode to the GLE’s Dynamic Select roster. Select it and it attempts to improve cornering and refinement by leaning the car into bends to keep it flat and level. It’s made possible be the system doing away with anti-roll bars so each wheel can move independently from the other – so ride height, damper stiffness and spring rate can be adjusted at each corner.

It has three levels of severity, one to three, and you can certainly sense it working, but it feels very unnatural in something so big and heavy, removing any concept of how much grip you have. It works better on the motorway where it remains flat and stable through long, high-speed bends. Having said that Mercedes UK is also undecided over whether to offer the system in its cars, because it’s likely to be an eye-watering £7,000 option.

4
The GLE is Mercedes’ most popular SUV, and that looks set to continue. Being available with seven seats will open it up to more buyers, while the great quality, comfort and standard kit will ensure its position near the top of its class. We just need to try one in the right spec.
  • Model: Mercedes GLE 300 d AMG Line
  • Price: £55,685
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel
  • Power/torque: 242bhp/500Nm
  • Transmission: Nine-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 7.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 140mph
  • Economy/CO2: 46.3mpg/162g/km
  • On sale: Now

Alfa Romeo Stelvio test-drives offered by Amazon
Posted on Tuesday November 20, 2018

Jonathan Burn 2018-11-20 12:20

Alfa Romeo and Amazon partner-up to deliver door-to-door test-drives for the new Stelvio.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Amazon

Alfa Romeo has teamed-up with Amazon to offer 45-minute test-drives of the new Stelvio, at the driver’s convenience.

The scheme is available on selected weekend from late November until the middle of December for customers in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. Amazon requires you to have access to a postcode within one of these four locations in order to be eligible. 

How to buy a car online

If you’re lucky enough to fit the bill, simply provide a time and date which suits you, and Amazon will deliver a brand new Alfa Romeo Stelvio, fitted complete with a salesman, to an address of your choosing.

Bookings start in London from the 24th of November on a first-come-first-serve basis, and can be made via their website, https://www.amazon.co.uk/adlp/alfaromeo. The last bookings are available for Edinburgh and London on the 16th of December.

Amazon has previously launched a similar scheme with Volvo and their Prime delivery service back in the summer, which offered customers a 45-minute drive around their local area in a Volvo V40.

What are your thoughts on Alfa Romeo’s approach to door-to-door test-drives? Let us know in the comments below…

New Mercedes X-Class Storm Edition arrives for Black Friday
Posted on Tuesday November 20, 2018

Luke Wilkinson 2018-11-20 12:20

A limited number of Mercedes X-Class Storm Edition pick-ups have been released, adding extra standard kit

Mercedes X-Class Storm Edition - front

Mercedes has released a new trim-package for its X-Class pick-up. As a modified version of the Power trim level, the Mercedes X-Class Storm Edition includes a tonneau cover, bed liner, lightning graphics for the tailgate, chrome side-bars, velour floor mats and mud flaps for the front and rear.

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The base model’s 19-inch alloys, infotainment system, LED headlights and 360-degree camera have also been carried over to the Storm edition.

Mercedes X-Class Storm Edition - rear

To sweeten the deal, Mercedes is offering X-Class Storm Edition buyers a two-hour off-road driving experience in one of three regional UK locations until the end of December this year. 

Due to hit dealerships in time for Black Friday, a limited number of Storm Edition models will be available to business users from £449 per month (plus an advance rental cost of £2,694) on a 36-month Contract Hire agreement.

The agreement excludes maintenance and is restricted to 10,000 miles per annum. The offer is available until the 31 December.

Have a look at our the best Black Friday car deals on our Black Friday 2018 page...

Surge in vehicle theft sees insurers pay out record amounts
Posted on Tuesday November 20, 2018

Tristan Shale-Hester 2018-11-20 11:55

Insurers pay out £271m to settle theft claims so far this year, as experts cite keyless theft for spike in incidents

Car insurance companies have seen a 32 per cent spike in the amount paid out following theft claims this year compared to 2017, with policyholders receiving a total of £271 million to settle such claims.

As well as higher payouts, the number of settled theft claims has risen 11 per cent to 41,000, with insurers citing the rise of keyless theft as being partly responsible for the increases.

Total payouts from insurers have also increased. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says motorists and accident victims have received £6.4 billion – equivalent to £23 million every day – so far this year. The ABI says this is four per cent higher than in the same period last year, and the highest level on record since the organisation starting collecting data in 2013.

How to avoid keyless theft

Repair bills are also increasing, according to the ABI. The industry body said companies have paid out £3 billion in repair bills in 2018 – up five per cent compared to 2017. The average repair bill currently stands at £2,137, with the ABI blaming sophisticated vehicle technology – such as sensors in bumpers and windscreens – for the rise in costs.

Huw Evans, director general of the ABI, said: “Despite rising claim costs, all drivers will appreciate the fact that the average price paid for motor insurance has been falling this year.”

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He put this down to “the continued competitive market” and added “some insurers may be reacting to the progress of the Civil Liability Bill that is proceeding through Parliament”, which he said will “bring much-needed reforms to the personal injury compensation system”.

According to the Government, the purpose of the Civil Liability Bill is to “reduce insurance costs for ordinary motorists by tackling the continuing high number and cost of whiplash claims”. It will also reform how the personal injury discount rate is set.

Have you been a victim of keyless car theft? Tell us about your experience below...

New Audi A1 2018 review
Posted on Tuesday November 20, 2018

Audi A1 - front
20 Nov, 2018 11:00pm James Batchelor

We drive the bigger and posher new Audi A1 supermini as it targets MINI

The Audi A1 has always been one of the real stars of the ‘posh supermini’ breed, alongside the MINI and a step above the likes of the DS 3 and Ford’s Fiesta Vignale.

Since 2011, in fact, the firm has shifted 800,000 examples of the car, introducing plenty of new customers to the brand; and now there’s an all-new version that aims to demolish its British rival once and for all.

• Best superminis on sale

‘All new’ only really means all new for Audi, of course. The old A1 used VW Polo oily bits and, sure enough, the second generation gets that car’s latest platform.

Designers claim the new model is “inspired by motorsport” and it pinches little design cues from the legendary eighties Ur-Quattro and Sport Quattro, such as the short overhangs, blistered wheelarches, a strong and angular C-pillar and the slots at the front edge of the bonnet.

What really matters, though, is that the A1 is lower, longer and wider than the car it replaces. It’s a five-door only now, too. The new model’s cabin is a world away from the desperately dated old one. As with the new A6 and A8, there are strong horizontal surfaces that make the interior seem wider and more spacious than it really is, with a motorsport-inspired dashboard that’s angled towards the driver.

There’s just one large infotainment screen placed at eye level (8.8-inch as standard, or 10.1-inch with the Technology Pack), not the dual-screen set-up on the larger cars. Moreover, there are physical climate control buttons, which makes life easier, and Audi has thrown in some creativity, too. There are myriad ways to colour-code the trim around the air vents, gearlever and door handles, and inject some fun with snazzy interior fabrics.

Of course, all of this is optional, and if you decide to keep things less flamboyant with standard black-on-black, this only serves to highlight cheap plastics. Scratchy surfaces cover all of the doors, with only a thin slab of plush plastic on the top of the dash.

At least the levels of standard kit are generous. The entry-level SE gets LED front and rear lights with sweeping indicators, 15-inch alloys, and safety kit including pedestrian and cyclist recognition, a speed limiter and lane departure warning.

Our Sport test car added larger wheels and sports seats, while S line trim features sportier bodywork and firmer suspension. On top of this there are three extra models; S line Style Edition gets bronze trim on the wheels and Audi logos, while S line Contrast Edition comes in metallic yellow with black trim on the wheels and Audi badges.

Adjustable dampers and red brake calipers are also thrown in on the S line Competition, but this is reserved for the most powerful engine. Speaking of motors, at launch there’s only the 30 TFSI available with manual or auto boxes; 30 TFSI is the new, confusing language for the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol with 114bhp.

Coming in February are a 94bhp 1.0 turbo (25 TFSI) and a 1.5-litre turbo petrol with cylinder deactivation (35 TFSI). In March we’ll be getting the automatic 1.5 turbo and, for now at least, the sportiest A1, the 197bhp 2.0-litre, badged 40 TFSI. Then, towards the end of 2019, the automatic version of the 94bhp 1.0-litre turbo will appear; there are no diesels, but a hot S1 is expected.

The 30 TFSI is far from fast; 0-62mph takes 9.5 seconds, which isn’t too bad, but it feels a lot slower than that. Thanks to new WLTP regulations and the need to maximise fuel economy, the gearing has been lengthened so much you can hit 70mph in second gear.

The gearbox is typically off-the-shelf VW, too; it feels notchy low down and slightly smoother at the top, but all the controls, including the steering, are nicely weighted. Body control is good, so it’s fun to hurl the A1 into bends, and cruising refinement is great, with almost no engine noise. The ride is excellent on 17-inch wheels, too.

We also tried a 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder and it’s an impressively smooth engine. With an extra 34bhp and 50Nm of torque, it’s noticeably more eager as well.

Less impressive is the 197bhp 2.0 litre; it feels lethargic under acceleration and uses Audi’s older six-speed automatic transmission, which is too slow at swapping ratios. The firmer suspension is too easily unsettled and frequently uncomfortable, and you also get naff fake engine noise pumped through to the cabin.

The A1 is certainly at its best lower down the range, then, but while it’s a good-looking offering with lots of equipment and a smart, albeit slightly plasticky, interior, you can’t help but feel a MINI 5-door is more fun to drive and a more enjoyable car to spend time in. You also get 75 per cent of the nice bits of the A1 in the mechanically-identical VW Polo which, in SE L form, is more than £1,400 cheaper.

4
The new Audi A1 has been taken back to the drawing board, and the result is a car that’s more spacious and more fun to drive, especially if you ignore the sportiest version. Trouble is, a MINI is still more involving to drive and the Volkswagen Polo is significantly cheaper.
  • Model: Audi A1 Sportback 30 TFSI Sport
  • Price: £20,010
  • Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 114bhp/200Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
  • Top speed : 126mph
  • Economy/CO2: 57.6mpg/111g/km
  • On sale: Now

Hyundai Kona Electric vs Nissan Leaf
Posted on Tuesday November 20, 2018

2018-11-20 10:40

What’s the best affordable small electric car on sale? We test the new Hyundai Kona Electric against the Nissan Leaf to find out…

Hyundai Kona Electric vs Nissan Leaf - front

For years the Nissan Leaf had the affordable electric car market to itself, sewing up the sector with a balance of range, practicality, performance and affordability that made electric cars viable for many, if not the masses. But now there’s a new challenger.

Hyundai has launched its Kona Electric, and with a choice of battery sizes available packaged in an SUV body, it’s an appealing choice that matches the second-generation Leaf for price, range and performance.

Best electric cars on sale

EVs are here to stay, but has Hyundai nailed it with the Kona Electric? Or have Nissan’s years of experience with its all-electric hatch paid dividends and put it ahead of the competition? We find out.

Head-to-head

Model: Hyundai Kona Electric 39kWh Premium Nissan Leaf 40kWh N-Connecta
Price:  £27,370 £27,890
Motor/battery:  1x electric motor/39kWh li-ion 1x electric motor/40kWh li-ion
Power/torque:  134bhp/395Nm 148bhp/320Nm
Transmission:  Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive  Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive 
0-60mph: 8.6 seconds 7.8 seconds
Top speed: 96mph 90mph
Energy consumption:  4.5 miles/kWh 3.6 miles/kWh
CO2/tax:  0g/km/£0 0g/km/£0
Options:  Metallic paint (£565) None

Hyundai Kona Electric

For: Range, infotainment, slightly cheaper than the Leaf but just as well equipped as standard.
Against: Boot not as big as the Nissan’s, ride can sometimes be a little lumpy. 

Hyundai’s compact Kona SUV was designed with an all-electric variant in mind, so buyers don’t have to make too many compromises with the packaging when compared with a petrol or diesel model.

The electric motor is mounted up front in place of a conventional engine and gearbox, and drives the front wheels through a single-speed automatic transmission. This means there are no gears; you simply select ‘D’ and drive, which makes it a smooth experience, just like in the Leaf.

It’s a fairly standard set-up for an EV. The 134bhp motor is down on power next to the Nissan, while the 39kWh battery that supplies it with energy is also slightly smaller, but EV performance is as much about torque, so with 395Nm on tap it’s more than quick enough and would show a 1.0 turbo petrol Kona a clean pair of heels from 0-30mph. It took 3.2 seconds for that test despite some wheelspin off the line, and while performance tailed off towards 60mph (0-60mph took 8.6 seconds), there’s still enough urgency at motorway speeds for overtakes or to keep up with traffic.

The ride isn’t the greatest, but it’s not the worst, either. The damping feels as smooth as in the Leaf, which occasionally crashes over typically cracked and cambered A and B-roads. It’s better as you up the speed as well, because the car’s mass and the extra energy being fired at the suspension actually mean it smooths out and floats a little more.

In truth, neither model is that enjoyable to drive, but the Kona has just enough agility and steering response so that it darts keenly into corners as long as you’re conservative with your speed.

Combined with the relative compliance from the chassis, it’s comfortable and composed enough; just don’t expect much involvement.

But that’s not necessarily what an EV is about, and not one in this class. Running costs, practicality and kit are arguably more important.

On that front, the Premium-trim Kona (the highest-spec model available with the 39kWh battery) gets lots of equipment. Adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, keyless operation, great smartphone tech – including wireless charging – and an eight-inch infotainment unit are all included.

Refinement is strong, too. There’s no engine noise, so it’s relaxing at low speed, but this creates a problem when you’re driving more quickly because there’s no background sound to drown out wind and tyre roar. Still, the Kona does a good job of isolating you from this – it’s on par with the Leaf here.

Testers’ notes:

  • • Infotainment: Screen is better placed than in the Nissan, plus it’s bigger and has a higher resolution. It’s a much more responsive interface to use.
  • • Seating position: SUV-like ride height gives good visibility, while driving position is more comfortable.
  • • Trim: Quality isn’t great, with naff-looking silver plastics, but Leaf features hard materials, too.

Nissan Leaf

For: Strong practicality, keen straight-line performance, one-pedal driving.
Against: Infotainment trails the best in the class, not as much range as Kona Electric. 

Nissan has had a head start on rival brands when it comes to affordable electric cars. The first-generation Leaf was launched in 2010 and has become the world’s best-selling EV, while this second generation that was introduced earlier this year has built on the success of the original.

It uses an updated version of the Mk1’s chassis, accommodating a battery that’s the same physical size but more energy dense, rated at 40kWh, which edges it ahead of the Hyundai.

However, the Leaf’s claimed range of 168 miles (WLTP) is 26 miles down on the Kona’s, plus the car is 11kg heavier. Weight hits range and performance in an EV, but we still saw between 130 and 140 miles from a charge in the real world, which is impressive and makes the Nissan a very usable proposition.

Dip into the performance and this figure will decrease, but there’s a level of easily accessible pace that will embarrass even some sportier hatchbacks.

That’s due to the electric motor’s 148bhp output, which is more than the Kona’s, although the Nissan has less torque, at 320Nm. The 0-30mph city sprint showed the Leaf was strong; it took 2.9 seconds, and like the Hyundai the thrust tailed off towards 60mph. The 0-60mph sprint took 7.8 seconds. Still, the car eclipsed the Kona in both tests.

One of the Leaf’s best points is the e-Pedal system. Engage this and it increases the level of regenerative braking, which has a two-fold benefit. Firstly, it means you can drive the car by just modulating the accelerator, because there’s enough regeneration to bring it to a halt. Secondly, it tops up the battery with more energy, giving you something for nothing in a way.

However, the Kona does the same and actually offers more fine-tuned levels of regeneration (five to the Leaf’s two), so it’s just as easy to get to grips with and recoup energy when slowing down.

The Nissan is similarly relaxing to the Hyundai on the move thanks to the lack of engine noise. As with its rival, there’s not much steering feel, but the brief here is similar, so the refinement, real-world range and eager low-down pace are more important.

It doesn’t ride as nicely as the Hyundai. There’s less control to the damping, so it responds more violently to bumps, but mostly it’s smooth enough in town so you feel settled, if not totally cossetted.

At least N-Connecta trim has enough kit to keep you entertained. You get heated front and rear seats, a seven-inch touchscreen with nav and smartphone tech to match the Hyundai, plus lots of EV-specific telematics capability and safety tech, a 360-degree camera, LED lights, climate and cruise control. 

Testers’ notes:

  • • Tech: Leaf’s set-up isn’t as advanced as the Kona’s. Screen is positioned lower in the dash and doesn’t look as slick. For an advanced car, it feels a generation behind.
  • • Layout: Ergonomics are awkward, and the relationship between high seat and low wheel isn’t great.
  • • Charging: Charging flap is operated by button in cabin or on key fob. Cables offer enough reach.  

Verdict 

First place: Hyundai Kona Electric

The Kona Electric is the more convincing EV. It narrowly loses out to the Leaf for boot space, but the interior is nicer, there’s more tech and it offers more space, while the impressive claimed range is carried through to the real world. There’s enough ability that turning to an EV is now a viable proposition.

Second place: Nissan Leaf

While the Leaf is an accomplished EV, it just loses out to the Kona due to its more limited range. Performance and practicality are good, and it has competitive recharge rates. But the on-board tech and ride comfort leave a little to be desired. These three main negatives see it finish second.

One-off McLaren 720S Stealth Theme by MSO revealed
Posted on Monday November 19, 2018

Luke Wilkinson 2018-11-19 15:50

Just one McLaren 720S Stealth Theme model has been produced, featuring styling cues from the 1995 LeMans-winning McLaren F1 GTR

McLaren has revealed a new one-off  ‘Stealth Theme’ for the 710bhp 720S, with this new bespoke version of the supercar commissioned by McLaren’s London showroom.   

Produced by McLaren’s Special Operations division, the MSO 720S Stealth Theme features darkened paintwork with red accents, lashings of carbon fibre and a new set of lightweight alloy wheels.

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The base coat, dubbed ‘Defined Sarthe Grey’, is inspired by the 1995 McLaren F1 GTR, which was famed for its performance at the Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe.

The Stealth Theme also features hand-painted coachlines around the car's nose, tail and wheels. Finished in ‘Vermillion Red’ and applied by hand, McLaren claims that the process of applying the red detailing takes up to 200 hours.

Satin-finish carbon fibre is used extensively on the 720S Stealth pack, with the air intakes, door mirrors, engine cover and rear aero bridges all being treated to a spot of weight reduction.

Inside, the MSO 720S Stealth Theme is finished in carbon fibre and Alcantara. The door cards, fascia and seats are trimmed with red leather too.

With just one MSO 720S Stealth Theme produced, the car is an example of what McLaren customers can do through the brand’s MSO Bespoke service. 

Click here for our in-depth review of the new McLaren 720S...

New Lamborghini Urus ST-X hits the track
Posted on Monday November 19, 2018

Luke Wilkinson 2018-11-19 13:35

Lamborghini announces plans for a racing version of its first ever SUV: the Urus ST-X

Lamborghini Urus ST-X - front action

This is the Lamborghini Urus ST-X, a version of the brand’s first SUV that has been developed exclusively for racing. It will make its debut during the Lamborghini Squadra Corse Super Trofeo World Final late this month.

Later on in 2019 it will also feature in Lamborghini’s new, but yet to be named, racing series that will mix track and off-road racing held at FIA licensed venues.

Bespoke new Lamborghini SC18 hyper revealed

Each Urus ST-X is powered by a 640bhp twin-turbo V8 developing 850Nm of torque, which sends its power to all four wheels. It rides on single-nut 21-inch alloys wrapped in Pirelli tyres.

To further cope with the demands of off-road racing, the Urus ST-X has been on a crash diet, loosing 25 per cent of its kerb-weight. It’s also been fitted with an FIA-approved roll-cage and fire safety system.

The Urus ST-X sports a lairy Mantis Green livery, a vented carbon fibre bonnet and side-exit exhausts to mark its difference from the production model.

Lamborghini also plans to offer the Urus ST-X as an experience to customer drivers with an “arrive and drive” policy. Event days will be held on FIA licensed circuits across Europe and the Middle East from 2020.

What do you think of the Lamborghini Urus ST-X Concept? Let us know in the comments below…

Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn to be ousted following 'serious misconduct'
Posted on Monday November 19, 2018

James Brodie 2018-11-19 11:50

Internal investigation finds Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance boss understated salary on Tokyo Stock Exchange

Carlos Ghosn

Nissan and Renault boss Carlos Ghosn is under investigation in Japan for financial misconduct, and is likely to be removed as chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance imminently.

A statement produced by Nissan reveals that a whistleblower report led to the Japanese brand beginning an internal investigation regarding misconduct by Ghosn and representative director Greg Kelly.

Nissan to replace Renault in Formula E from 2018/19 season

Nissan says its investigation unearthed both Ghosn and Kelly “reporting compensation amounts in the Tokyo Stock Exchange securities report that were less than the actual amount.” The misconduct has been recorded “over many years”.

Nissan also says that in regards to Ghosn, “numerous other significant acts of misconduct have been uncovered,” including misuse of company assets.

The statement also reads: “Nissan has been providing information to the Japanese Public Prosecutors Office and has been fully cooperating with their investigation. We will continue to do so.

“Nissan deeply apologizes for causing great concern to our shareholders and stakeholders. We will continue our work to identify our governance and compliance issues, and to take appropriate measures.”

Those appropriate measures will more than likely include the removal of Ghosn from the head of the company and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa has already proposed to the Nissan board of directors the removal of both Ghosn and Greg Kelly from their respective positions.

Ghosn was recruited by Renault in 1996 and became chief operating officer at Nissan in 1999, after Renault purchased a 36.8 per cent stake in the Japanese brand.

91% of UK drivers say they're “careful and competent”
Posted on Monday November 19, 2018

Tristan Shale-Hester 2018-11-19 12:47

Some 91 per cent of motorists claim to be “careful and competent” drivers, but over half have broken 20mph and 30mph speed limits

New research has revealed 91 per cent of motorists say they are “careful and competent” drivers, yet 52 per cent say they have broken 20mph speed limits and 57 per cent said they had sped in 30mph zones. A further 58 per cent told researchers they had rushed through a traffic light as it turned from amber to red.

Recent figures from the Department for Transport suggests speeding rates may be even higher than that, though, with 86 per cent of observed cars speeding in 20mph zones.

But while the majority of motorists admitted to breaking speed limits and cutting it fine at lights, opinions related to drink driving are more in-step with legislation. Some 94 per cent of those who described themselves as “careful and competent” drivers said they had never broken the drink-drive limit. Meanwhile, 84 per cent haven’t used a handheld mobile phone while driving, though four per cent admitted they did this more than once a day.

The research comes from a survey commissioned by Cycling UK and carried out by YouGov, which also found the vast majority of respondents calling for tougher penalties for motorists who injure others.

New UK speeding fines: law changes explained

In cases where drivers are convicted of causing serious injury, 77 per cent of respondents say they should face an automatic minimum ban, while 83 per cent said there should be an automatic ban for killing someone.

At present, driving bans are supposed to be automatically applied for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving. However, Ministry of Justice figures show 61 motorists convicted of causing serious injury by dangerous driving escaped a direct ban last year, while 28 found guilty of causing death by careless driving were also not directly disqualified.

Some 83 per cent of all respondents said drivers who cause a serious injury should be automatically retested, while 86 per cent called for the same in the case of a fatality. Currently, only drivers convicted of causing death by dangerous driving are retested by default.

Cycling UK’s head of campaigns Duncan Dollimore described laws around careless and dangerous driving as a “mess”. He said: “It’s clear the public believe that drivers who have presented the most danger to others should be removed from our roads, but they’re less clear about what amounts to risky behaviour.”

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at road safety charity Brake, condemned “flaws” in the current road law framework and called for a “review of road traffic offences and penalties” in order to “regain the public’s trust and to ensure that just and fair outcomes are consistently delivered”.

Should there be tougher sentences for driving offences? Let us know in the comments below...

Bespoke new Lamborghini SC18 hypercar uncovered
Posted on Monday November 19, 2018

James Brodie 2018-11-19 11:05

One-off 759bhp Lamborghini SC18 is the first car developed by Lambo’s Squadra Corse racing outfit

Lamborghini SC18 - front

Lamborghini’s racing arm Squadra Corse has developed a new one-off hypercar, which it says is the first of many bespoke models it plans to produce for the Italian supercar marque. 

Called the Lamborghini SC18, it’s based on the new Aventador SVJ, using the same part carbon-fibre chassis and a 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12, developing 759bhp and 720Nm of torque.

Lamborghini Aventador SVJ review

Power is sent to a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system via a seven-speed gearbox, so we expect performance figures similar to those of the Aventador SVJ’s 2.8 second 0-62mph and 210mph plus top speed.

 

However, the all carbon-fibre body is radically different than the Aventador SVJ. The headlights are a nod to the original car, but not much else, with an assortment of aggressive aerodynamic tweaks intended to increase downforce. We can spy a new front splitter, huge new side air intakes, and a rear end inspired by the limited edition Centenario.

The centre-lock wheels are 20-inches at the front and 21-inches at the rear, shod with specially developed Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres.

The car is road legal, but Squadra Corse says that the SC18 has been developed primarily for track use. No price for the one-off model has been revealed either, but it’ll more than likely be a multi-million pound item.

What do you think of the one-off Lamborghini SC18? Let us know your thoughts below...

 

 

 


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