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In the News ...

BMW launches hot M50i versions of X5 and X7 SUVs
Posted on Thursday May 23, 2019

Steve Walker 2019-05-23 17:50

X5 M50i and X7 M50i M Performance models revealed by BMW

BMW X7 M50i

BMW has announced a new M Performance M50i powertrain based on its 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine that will power performance versions of its X5 and X7 SUVs. The X5 and X7 M50i models will top their respective ranges (alongside the M50d diesel in the X5's case) until the full-blown M Division products, the X5 M and X7 M models arrive sometime in 2020. Prices for the M50i SUVs have yet to be announced. 

The M50i models use an updated version of the 4.4-litre BMW unit found in the existing X5 and X7 xDrive50i models. The revisions made by BMW yield a power boost to the tune of 67bhp that takes the total output to 523bhp and torque is also increased by 100Nm for a prodigious maximum output of 750Nm.

Best SUVs on sale now

The 8-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox has also been modified in the M50i models with, new mapping designed to make the most of the extra performance on offer. A launch control system appears, and the xDrive 4x4 setup gains an M Sport differential that can send up to 100 per cent of the available drive to the rear of the car.

Suspension updates are included, with firmer springs and dampers on each model. The X5 M50i gets adaptive dampers but the X7 uses its standard variable air suspension - an option on the X5. Both get standard 20-inch wheels with larger wheel sizes on the options list.

The result of the performance modifications are claimed 0-62mph times of 4.1s for the X5 M50i and 4.5s for the X7 M50i, with both models capable of hitting an electronic muzzle of 155mph flat out. To help with stopping duties, the braking system uses upgraded callipers and new two piece steel discs.

To underline the extra potency that’s been added under the skin, both the X5 and X7 M50i get sporty styling enhancements with more aggressive bumpers and pronounced sills. Inside, M division logos are sprinkled around the cabin and support sports seats replace the standard items.

What do you think of the BMW X5 and X7 M50i options? Let us know in the comments...

2020 Jaguar F-Type facelift spied: Major overhaul planned for Jag’s 911
Posted on Thursday May 23, 2019

James Brodie 2019-05-23 15:29

Jaguar's flagship F-Type performance car is in for a rethink that could be more than just skin deep

Jaguar F-Type facelift spy shot front quarter

It’s been just over a year since Jaguar last furnished the F-Type sports car with a facelift, but a far bolder mid-life update is in the pipeline according to these brand new spy shots.

Caught on test in the UK, Jaguar’s Porsche 911 rival looks set for a big refresh in 2020, which will see the car’s overall design moved on significantly for the first time since launch in 2013. However, new technology, both in the cabin and under the bonnet, will also differentiate old from new.

Best sports cars on sale 2019

The car spied here is still masked fairly heavily, but it’s possible to spot new bodywork hinting at a redesign. The bonnet, for instance, now runs further down the car’s front wings, and appears to cut through the placement of the current car’s headlights. It would appear that a brand new set of lights - horizontally longer and flanking the grille - will appear, making the F-Type’s nose seem lower to the ground.

Around the back it’s harder to pick out any changes. Going by the angular rear diffuser and the presence of dual twin exhausts, this would appear to be an updated version of the 5.0-litre V8 F-Type R.

The cabin is likely to be in for an overhaul, replacing the current car’s dated infotainment system. The new setup could take inspiration from the recently re-jigged XE saloon.

Engine technology could be subject to a big change – Jaguar Land Rover itself has already essentially confirmed this. The group has committed to launching an electrified version of every new car arriving from 2020 onwards, and with restrictions on fleet CO2 becoming more and more demanding on premium carmakers, the F-Type is a model ripe for cleaner technology.

What isn’t clear is if a facelift counts as a ‘new’ car per se. If it does, it confirms that the refreshed F-Type will gain some form of electrified powertrain. Given JLR’s current push towards 48-volt mild-hybrid technology, that would be the most suitable solution given the demands of the F-Type’s tight packaging.

JLR has already developed a suitable engine in the form of the new 3.0-litre turbo mild-hybrid straight six now equipped in the Range Rover.

Now read how Jaguar celebrated 70 years of Jaguar sports cars by taking the F-Type rallying.

New Ford Focus ST 2019 ride review
Posted on Thursday May 23, 2019

Ford Focus ST - front
23 May, 2019 10:15am Sean Carson

We get the lowdown on the tech behind Ford’s new Focus ST hot hatch and get to sample it – but only from the passenger seat for now

Given the illustrious history of fast Fords, the brand has a big challenge on its hand with the new Focus ST

Since the last-generation Focus ST launched in 2012 the class has moved on dramatically, with these fast family machines, such as the Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai i30 N, offering an incredible level of technology for the money.

Full details on the new Ford Focus ST

Ford hasn’t approached this challenge lightly, though, and has thrown everything at the new hot Focus. And now we’ve been given an overview from the man behind its development, Ford Performance Europe director, Leo Roeks. 

There’s tech such as an electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD), adaptive dampers, sticky dual-compound tyres, anti-lag for the turbo engine, launch control and rev matching functions. But despite this, the human element was at the forefront of the car’s development, according to Roeks. 

“We always want to perfect the driver’s interface with the machine. That’s why we focused on four main pillars, like we did with the Fiesta ST.”

These are: vehicle dynamics, performance and – importantly – feel, the seating, and the sound.

• Best hot hatchbacks on sale

The Focus ST now uses a 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo, compared with the old car’s 2.0-litre unit. It’s an evolution of the motor from the Focus RS, tuned to produce 276bhp and 420Nm of torque – that’s an increase of 12 and 17 per cent on the previous ST respectively. It’s the most potent Focus ST yet and will hit 62mph in 5.7 seconds. The old car did it in 6.5 seconds, while Ford claims this ST is now as fast as a Focus RS over a quarter mile.

Ford also says response is improved thanks to the anti-lag system, which leaves the throttle open when you lift off to allow the boost to build quicker when you get back on it.

Compared with its predecessor, the new ST hatch features Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD), which monitors and adjusts the suspension dampers every two milliseconds; they’re 20 and 13 per cent stiffer at the front and rear respectively. The ST is also 10mm lower than a standard Focus. 

There’s an estate available too, but this model doesn’t feature the CCD tech and instead gets unique geometry. All models get Ford’s eLSD with torque vectoring to boost traction and agility. The diff’s parameters change with the drive modes, along with the steering, engine, stability control and the electronic sound enhancement – something else Ford has learnt from the Fiesta ST. 

There are four modes to choose from: Slippery, Normal, Sport and Track – although to get the last one you have to spec the Performance Pack, which adds launch control, rev matching, a shift light and different pre-sets for the damping depending on mode.

As for the seating, the Recaro sports seats are great. Supportive, comfortable and they clamp you in place.

When it comes to sound, electronic enhancement isn’t always a good thing, but the ST doesn’t over do it. The system enhances the tailpipe’s frequencies and amplifies this through the speakers. Pops and bangs in Sport and Track ramp up the character.

Focus ST first ride  

We got our first opportunity to sample that character from the passenger seat of the new Focus ST – around Ford’s challenging proving ground in Belgium. 

Even from the ‘wrong’ side of the car you feel the modern Ford Performance approach – the 15 per cent quicker steering than a standard Focus and the grip from the new Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres mean the nose tucks into corners, while even the neutral balance of the chassis is palpable, helped by the diff. Traction seemed good, too. 

The chassis is firm, and firmer still in Sport and Track, but the damping is plush and controlled, so even on our test car’s optional 19-inch alloys it only occasionally felt crashy. The set-up keeps the Focus flat and fairly level, three-wheeling through tight corners and hanging on tenaciously through longer, faster bends.

The engine seems like it delivers strong flexibility, too. The twin-scroll turbo means boost builds fairly early around 2,000rpm, and by 3,000rpm it’s blowing hard. It tails offer higher up, but there’s strong punch. 

So the ST certainly has potential. We’ll see whether it lives up to this when we drive it in July – and whether it justifies the £31,995 list price for the petrol manual.

What do you think of the new Focus ST? Tell us below...

  • Model: Ford Focus ST
  • Price: £31,995
  • Engine: 2.3-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph/top speed: 5.7s/155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 35.8mpg/179g/km
  • On sale : Now

New Audi S7 Sportback 2019 review
Posted on Wednesday May 22, 2019

New Audi S7 Sportback - front
23 May, 2019 9:00am Richard Ingram

Is the new diesel powered Audi S7 Sportback an improvement over its petrol-powered predecessor? We drive it to find out...

If you don’t need the space and practicality offered by the latest Audi S6 then fear not, Audi has your back. With the same V6 mild-hybrid diesel, this S7 does everything its sibling does, with an added dose of Sportback style.

Boasting an identical 344bhp and 700Nm, the Audi S7 is no faster than the S6. Despite is sleeker body and coupe looks, it isn’t any sharper, either. In fact, the two cars feel very similar to drive.

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That’s no bad thing, of course. Like the estate, the S7 Sportback delivers a huge slug of torque from 2,500rpm – forging past slow-moving traffic with ease. It’s quiet, too, with the slippery shape – and our car’s double-glazed side windows – keeping wind noise to a minimum. 

Like the S6, our test model also featured Audi’s optional four-wheel steering. It offers a pleasing degree of agility, with natural feedback through the wheel. Grip from the quattro all-wheel-drive system is strong in all conditions, too.

You might reasonably expect the sleeker S7 to offer advantages when it comes to running costs, but that swooping roofline can only do so much in a car weighing over two tonnes. The result is a single gramme per kilometre of CO2 – not even enough to lower the S7’s Benefit in Kind rating.

S7 buyers are more likely to lament the death of the old car’s petrol V8, but that’s no reason to advocate the crummy sound imposer, which pumps artificial engine noise through the car’s speakers. Luckily, it can be switched off via the digital drive mode menus; even the throaty diesel grunt is preferable to the synthesised roar. 

The S7’s cabin is lifted almost unchanged from the standard car, just as it is in the S6. It’s luxurious and filled to bursting with the latest tech – including the stunning twin-screen infotainment system. The kit list is identical to the S6’s in fact, with all cars coming fitted with four-zone climate control, privacy glass and lashings of premium trim.

Which model you choose will depend largely on whether you need the S6’s space and practicality, then. But given how similar they feel to drive, it’s hard to recommend the pricier, more compromised S7. Audi reckons it’ll cost around £8k more than an S6 saloon – a big price to pay for a lower roofline.

3.5
Unlike the practical Audi S6, the S7 is a car most people will buy with their heart rather than their head. As such, fitting this flagship with a powerful TDI diesel engine feels a little contradictory. The fact it isn’t any more fun to drive than the S6, and is likely to be considerably more expensive, makes it a harder car to recommend.
  • Model: Audi S7 Sportback TDI quattro
  • Price: £68,000 (est)
  • Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel
  • Power/torque: 344bhp/700Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 35.8mpg/ 170g/km
  • On sale: June

New Fiat Tipo Sport joins updated model range
Posted on Wednesday May 22, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-05-22 16:00

Ageing Fiat Tipo hatchback gets a sporty makeover with an updated body kit, new alloys and a revised paint scheme

Fiat’s cheap and cheerful Tipo line-up has been tweaked and now features a new Sport trim level, which adds a range of racy exterior styling features and a fresh paint scheme to the highly-specced S-Design model. It’s on sale now, and prices for the newcomer start from £19,255.

On the outside you’ll find a fresh set of 18-inch alloy wheels, a larger rear wing on top of the hatch lid, a deeper front splitter, more aggressive side skirts, black mirror caps, a redesigned rear bumper and a new diffuser. The Tipo Sport is also available with a new two-tone paint finish for the first time, which pairs Fiat’s ‘Passion Red’ tint with a contrasting black roof.

Inside, the Tipo Sport gets black leather and fabric upholstery, rear privacy glass, and a seven-inch infotainment screen with voice recognition and support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Buyers can also spec Fiat’s Safety Plus Pack as a £250 optional extra, which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and a speed limiter.

• Best hatchbacks to buy

Two engine choices are offered, both using the same 1.4-litre petrol block. The lower-powered, naturally-aspirated variant produces 93bhp and 127Nm of torque, while the more potent turbocharged model has 118bhp and 215Nm of torque. Both models come mated to a six-speed manual transmission as standard.

Fiat has also given the rest of the Tipo range a lift with the new S-Design and Mirror trim levels, priced from £16,905 and £16,155 respectively. The S-Design features the same technology and engines as the Sport, without its new body kit. The Tipo Mirror replaces the second-to base model Tipo Easy Plus, and comes with a choice of petrol and diesel powertrains.

As ever, the Tipo is available in two bodystyles. A more practical estate variant remains on sale, and commands a £1,000 premium over its hatchback equivalent regardless of the trim level.

Now read our review of the standard Fiat Tipo. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

New Audi S6 Avant 2019 review
Posted on Wednesday May 22, 2019

Audi S6 Avant - front
22 May, 2019 11:00pm Richard Ingram

It's out with petrol and in with diesel as the new Audi S6 Avant boasts a 344bhp electrically assisted six-cylinder TDI unit

Audi's evergreen S models are a varied bunch. Bookended by the athletic S3 and muscular V8-powered SQ7 TDI, the firm’s sporty S cars come in all shapes and sizes.

Yet despite the industry turning its back on diesel, Audi thinks the fuel still play a part in, of all places, the performance car market. As such, its latest S6 and S7 models have ditched their high-revving petrol engines in favour of an electrically assisted six-cylinder TDI.

Best fast family cars 

It’s a compelling proposition, and one that will surely still appeal to plenty of European buyers. The stats make for interesting reading: 344bhp, 700Nm of torque, quattro all-wheel drive and a 600-mile real world range. In S6 Avant guise, you also benefit from the standard car’s generous 565-litre boot.

The S6 TDI uses a lightly modified version of the brand’s familiar V6 diesel engine, mated to a 48-volt mild-hybrid system and electric compressor. It’s a very similar set-up to the one used in the SQ7, albeit with two fewer cylinders and lower maximum power output. 

While it might lack the old model’s V8 soundtrack, Audi has installed a sound generator to assure you and your passengers that this isn’t one of the firm’s humdrum S line models. It feels wholly un-natural however – we quickly switched it off using the car’s complex drive mode menus.

By effectively eliminating turbo lag, the S6 picks up instantly; plant your right foot and the Avant surges forward, building speed like Usain Bolt on a 200m World Record run. It never thumps you in the back like the old petrol engine did, but there’s no arguing that the way this car accelerates (0-62mph takes 5.1 seconds) could leave many a modern hot hatch for dead.

But the set-up is only as good as the gearbox that feeds it, meaning it can feel a little lethargic at times. Pulling away from rolling junctions or slow corners in third can catch the car out – in manual mode it won’t kick down either, leaving you frantically scrabbling for the left paddle, desperately searching for a lower gear.

It’s a shame, really, because our car’s four-wheel steering set-up makes the S6 incredibly agile – much more so than S cars of old. It’s an intuitive, progressive and natural-feeling system, as it should be, and allows the car to take a much tighter line than you might expect for an estate measuring almost five metres long. 

Yet this car is arguably better suited to faster flowing roads and German autobahns. Here, the S6 excels; few cars are quite as capable at effortlessly swallowing three-figure distances in such impeccable refinement.

Our test model featured the optional double-glazed front side windows, though in our experience that could be considered a little excessive. Our long-term A6 Avant 40 TDI was a supremely quiet cruiser, and we expect the S6 to be no different.

Of course, the cabin comes trimmed some of the finest materials. Up front there’s a set of supportive, electrically operated heated seats wrapped in Valcona leather upholstery – and quality doesn’t suffer for those in the back, either. The standard kit list is worthy of the Avant’s estimated £62,000 list price, boasting everything from four-zone climate control and keyless go, to Audi’s dual-screen MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system. 

The 20-inch wheels give it presence, sure, but remove the badges and you’d be hard-pressed to pull this car apart from its standard S line or Black Edition siblings. Some might lament the S6’s delicate design, but to others its stealth styling will only add to its under-the-radar appeal.

4
The Audi S6 Avant may lack some of the old car’s aural appeal, but it’s a much more rounded car as a result. It’s sharper to drive and almost as fast, yet will return far superior fuel economy and a truck-busting 600-mile range. It’s particularly tempting in Avant guise, too.
  • Model: Audi S6 TDI quattro Avant
  • Price: £62,000 (est)
  • Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel MHEV
  • Power/torque: 344bhp/700Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 35.3mpg/171g/km
  • On sale: June

New James Bond inspired Aston Martin DBS Superleggera revealed
Posted on Wednesday May 22, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-05-22 14:10

New limited-run, Aston Martin DBS Superleggera commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera On Her Majesty’s Secret Service - front

To mark the 50th anniversary of the sixth James Bond movie, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” Aston Martin has launched a limited edition DBS Superleggera. Inspired by the 1969 Aston Martin DBS featured in the Bond classic, the new car will be limited to just 50 units when it goes on sale at the end of 2019, with each costing £300,007.

New additions for this new limited edition model include a set of unique diamond-turned alloy wheels, a carbon fibre splitter, a carbon fibre aero blade and a new six-slat metal grille, which apes the grille fitted to Bond’s DBS. The limited run DBS Superleggera is also finished in “Painted Olive Green,” to match the 1969 classic from the film.

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera review

The interior of Aston Martin’s commemorative DBS Superleggera is trimmed in black leather and grey Alcantara, again to match that of the 1969 model. It also comes with a range of red trim highlights such as red piping, stitching and embroidered limited edition badges.

The powertrain is unchanged, so you’ll find a 5.2-litre V12 producing 715bhp and 900Nm of torque under the bonnet. Power is fed to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, providing a 0–62mph time of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 211mph. 

As an optional extra all 50 owners of the special edition model will have the option to spec a drinks case. The case fits into the boot and comes with a red felt lining, four champagne flutes and space for two bottles of champagne.

What are your thoughts on the Aston Martin’s James Bond-inspired DBS Superleggera? Let us know in the comments section below…

Councils should be able to issue fines for traffic offences, say MPs
Posted on Wednesday May 22, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-05-22 13:56

Transport Committee says police are too stretched to enforce moving traffic offences, so councils should be allowed to do so instead

Box junction

Councils should be given the power to issue motorists with fines for traffic offences as police are too thinly stretched to do so, MPs have said.

A new report from the Transport Committee says that budget cuts, as well as priority changes, mean police forces no longer have the resources to effectively enforce moving traffic violations, such as stopping in yellow box junctions, driving the wrong way down a one-way street or failing to give way to oncoming traffic.

DfT “seriously considering” instant fines for drivers who leave engines idling

Therefore, the committee has said local authorities should have the power to issue penalty charges for these offences, without needing to rely on the police in any way.

Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 allows councils to apply for powers to tackle parking, bus lane contraventions and moving traffic violations rather than police. While the parking and bus lane provisions have been taken up widely by councils, those for moving traffic violations have not in most of the country outside London.

The Transport Committee has now recommended that these provisions be implemented as soon as possible, something it says its predecessors have called for twice before. Doing so, it says, will create a revenue stream for local authorities to invest in measures for tackling congestion. In addition, the committee also advises that such revenue could be spent on improving bus services, as there is no ring-fenced funding for bus priority measures at present.

• Councils plan to charge drivers up to £1,000 a year to park at work

Transport for London (TfL) has enforced yellow box junction rules for more than 15 years, with motorists facing fines of up to £130 for blocking them.

The RAC has issued advice in the past, saying: “If you drive in the capital, be particularly careful around box junctions. TfL and London’s councils manage the road networks but have come under fire from some motorists who claim they’re using box junctions as cash cows.”

Do you like the idea of local councils policing traffic offences in their areas? Let us know in the comments...

New Skoda Superb Scout joins facelifted line-up
Posted on Wednesday May 22, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-05-23 17:30

The rugged, off-road-inspired Skoda Superb Scout has arrived as part of the Czech brand's refreshed flagship range

Skoda Superb Scout - front

Skoda has revealed off-road-inspired Superb Scout. It sits at the top of the newly-facelifted Superb range and will be available exclusively as an all-wheel-drive estate when it reaches the UK market at the end of 2019. 

This is the first time Skoda has offered its flagship model in rugged Scout trim. Like the old Octavia Scout, features include a suite of hard-wearing exterior body mouldings, a lifted suspension set-up, 18-inch alloy wheels, underbody protection and a revised interior. Buyers also have the option to spec an exclusive Metallic Tangerine Orange paint finish. 

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Only two engines are available, with the choice of Skoda’s most powerful petrol or diesel engine. Buyers can choose from either a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel unit with 188bhp and 400Nm of torque, or a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 268bhp and 350Nm of torque. Both engines are mated to a seven-speed DSG and an all-wheel-drive system and both can tow loads of up to 2,200kg.

The Superb Scout’s Drive Mode Select system also gets a rethink over the standard car’s with a new Off-Road driving mode, which optimises the four-wheel-drive system for use on loose terrain. The Volkswagen Group’s Dynamic Chassis Control system is also available as an optional extra, adding adaptive dampers.

Interior revisions over the standard Superb include standard-fitment heated front seats, a wood-effect dashboard trim, and unique upholstery. Optional extras include Alcantara and leather trimmed seats, an automatic electrically-opening tailgate, a retractable tow-bar and Skoda’s Sleep Package, which provides a set of larger headrests and a blanket.

What are your thoughts on the new Skoda Superb Scout? Let us know in the comments section below…

Plug-in hybrid Audi Q5 55 TFSI e Quattro: specs, prices and release date
Posted on Wednesday May 22, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-05-22 10:40

Audi has announced more details of its plug-in hybrid Q5 SUV. It’s got 362bhp and an all-electric range of 26 miles

Audi has revealed more information on the plug-in hybrid variant of its Q5 SUV that was originally launched at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. Called the Audi Q5 55 TFSI e, it will act as a rival to the BMW X3 xDrive30e PHEV when it reaches the UK market in June, with prices starting from around £55,000.

The Audi Q5 55 TFSI e is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor, which produce a combined power output of 362bhp and 500Nm of torque. Drive is sent through a seven-speed automatic gearbox to all four wheels, allowing a 0–62mph sprint of 5.3 seconds and a top speed of 148mpg.

There’s a 14.1kWh battery pack on board, which Audi claims will provide the Q5 55 TFSI e with an all-electric range of 26 miles. Emissions are a claimed 49g/km of CO2, while fuel economy stands at 113mpg according to the WLTP test cycle. The German firm also states that the Q5 PHEV can reach a top speed of 84mph on electric power alone.

• Best SUVs to buy

To achieve these figures, Audi has reconfigured its Quattro all-wheel-drive system, changing it from a permanent to an adaptive setup. A bank of sensors monitor both the road surface and the driver’s behaviour and, depending on the conditions, can disconnect drive to the rear axle to benefit efficiency.

Like the rest of Audi’s hybrid range, the new Q5 plug-in hybrid comes with a range of drive modes which offer either increased efficiency or maximum performance. “Hybrid” mode works in tandem with the sat-nav system, optimally distributing the available battery charge across a route and reserving electric-only drive for urban areas and stop/start traffic.

The electric motor deals with all light braking, recovering a maximum of 80kW of electrical energy, which can recharge the Q5 55 TFSI e’s battery pack on the move. When plugged into a conventional household 220V socket, it can be completely recharged in around six hours.

Standard kit for the Audi Q5 PHEV includes 20-inch alloy wheels, a full S Line body kit, LED headlights, three-zone automatic climate control, a digital instrument cluster, an 8.3-inch infotainment system and a pair of electrically adjustable, heated sports seats with massage function. The rear seats also offer both longitudinal and rake adjustment.

Now read our review of the standard Audi Q5. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below… 

‘Independence is admirable, but it’s holding JLR back’
Posted on Wednesday May 22, 2019

John McIlroy 2019-05-22 08:30

Deputy editor John McIlroy thinks Jaguar Land Rover could benefit from a change of owner

Opinion - Ralf Speth

Senior car industry figures were in London last week for the annual two-day Financial Times Future of the Car Summit. It’s a chance for leading CEOs to get their company message across – or, in the case of Jaguar Land Rover boss Dr Ralf Speth, an opportunity to deny rumours that his company could soon be bought by French giant PSA, which already owns Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Opel/Vauxhall.

But when it came to the crunch question on whether he was aware that talks had taken place between PSA and JLR’s current owner Tata, Speth’s response was limp at best. “There are rumours,” he acknowledged, “but I cannot really confirm any of these discussions.”

Jaguar Land Rover posts £3.6 billion annual loss

There is an increasing belief that JLR might well benefit from a switch of owner. Acquisition by PSA would lead to a brutal period of cost-cutting, for sure, but it could deliver profits for Jaguar and Land Rover just as quickly as the rapid turnaround delivered at Opel and Vauxhall during the past 18 months.

A PSA deal – or, for that matter, a switch to ownership by a major Chinese manufacturer – would also open Jaguar and Land Rover to a wider pool of technologies than either brand presently gets from Tata. The sort
of engineering nous that could have delivered plug-in electrification to the new Discovery Sport now, at launch, instead of in six or nine months’ time.

If anything, though, Speth’s attitude to partnerships with other brands was what drew the deepest gasps at the FT Summit. “You can talk about economies of scale and that’s correct,” he said, “but on the other hand, there’s the freedom we have to develop and do our own strategy in a fast way, a structured way. This gives us a lot of power.”

His dedication to independence is admirable, in a way. But with car makers facing huge bills for developing EV technology, it’s hard to find anyone in the industry who thinks that JLR’s relative isolation makes any sense at all.

Do you think Jaguar Land Rover could benefit from a change of owner? Let us know below...

New 2019 Renault Megane R.S. Trophy-R sets Nurburgring lap record
Posted on Tuesday May 21, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-05-21 15:56

The Renault Megane R.S Trophy-R has set the record for fastest front-wheel drive car at the Nurburgring, with a time of 7:40.100 minutes

Renault Megane R.S Trophy-R

The new Renault Megane R.S. Trophy-R, revealed in official images for the first time, has claimed the Nurburgring lap record for front-wheel-drive production cars, with a time of 7:40.100 minutes. Renault’s effort is more than three seconds quicker than the previous lap record holder, the Honda Civic Type R.

It’s powered by the same turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine as the Megane R.S Trophy, producing 296bhp and 400Nm of torque. To clinch the Nurburgring record, Renault’s engineers have thrown 130kg of weight out of the Megane’s interior, chassis and bodywork, as well as fit it with redesigned aerodynamics.

Best hot hatchbacks to buy

Other updates over the standard Megane R.S. include a freer-flowing Akrapovic exhaust system, Brembo brakes, new adjustable Ohlins suspension, lighter alloy wheels, grippier Bridgestone tyres and a pair of carbon-backed Sabelt bucket seats. Like the previous hot Megane Trophy-R, the rear seats have also been removed in the interest of weight reduction.

The interior has been treated to a new Alcantara-trimmed sports steering wheel, a pair of racing harnesses and a harness bar. As more images of the new Megane R.S. are revealed, we expect to also find a luggage net, a set of aluminium pedals and a vastly-reduced amount of sound deadening.

Renault’s new range-topping Megane R.S. will reach the UK market by the end of 2019. It will be limited to a few hundred units, with prices set to start from around £48,000.

Now read our review of the standard Renaultsport Megane 300 R.S. Trophy. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

 

Best sports cars 2019
Posted on Tuesday May 21, 2019

James Howe 2019-05-21 15:30

From the McLaren 570S to Mazda MX-5, these are the 10 sports cars that we think are the best on sale

Hot hatches and performance SUVs are hot property, but traditional sports cars still have their place in the market. While they incorporate a range of vehicles of varying sizes, layouts and power, the bottom line is that sports cars are all created with driving fun near the top of their priority list.

There’s a sports car for just about every budget. For £20k-£30k the Mazda MX-5 and Toyota GT86 are ready to thrill with their traditional low-powered, rear-drive recipe. A little more will secure a sports coupe such as the Audi TTS. Mid-rangers such as the Porsche 718 Boxster and the Alpine A110 occupy a sports car sweet spot, with plenty of power and fun to give a drive that easily matches that of much more expensive supercars.

Best hot hatchbacks on sale

The higher end of the spectrum includes cars that are devastatingly fast and hugely exciting to drive – just like a full-fat supercar – but our favourites also blend in some genuine practicality and day-to-day ability. The Porsche 911, Nissan GT-R and McLaren 570S are all great examples. And despite the current renewed focus on environmental issues, V8 sports cars are still alive and well, at least for now; the Mercedes-AMG C 63 and Ford Mustang are two of the best, and are included in our list.

We hope there’s a sports car here in just about every flavour; keen drivers vary in their tastes and the market has stratified to please everyone. Each of our choices is great in its own right, so picking a winner was a challenge for our road test team. Their favourite does well to stand clear of the rest.

Click the links below for more information on each of our top 10 sports cars…

Top 10 best sports cars 

  1. 1. Mazda MX-5
  2. 2. Porsche 911
  3. 3. Alpine A110
  4. 4. Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman
  5. 5. McLaren 570S
  6. 6. Mercedes-AMG C 63
  7. 7. Toyota GT86
  8. 8. Nissan GT-R
  9. 9. Audi TTS
  10. 10. Ford Mustang

1. Mazda MX-5

Prices: £19,495-£26,095
Engines: 1.5, 2.0 petrol
Trims: SE+, SE-L Nav+, Sport Nav+, GT Sport Nav+
Economy: 40.9-44.8mpg
CO2: 138-156g/km
0-62mph: 6.5-8.3 seconds 

The Mazda MX-5 is one of the very best enthusiast’s cars on sale, regardless of price. There aren’t very many small, fun, rear-wheel-drive sports cars available on the modern market; most of the MX-5’s rivals are front-drive hot hatchbacks.

The Mazda might not be as practical an everyday proposition, but involvement behind the wheel is simply in another league. Powered by a choice of a fizzy 1.5 or 2.0-litre petrol engines, it’s less about outright performance and focused more on sharp handling and enjoyment.

One of the very best manual gearboxes available provides a welcome dose of engagement, while light, direct steering (now adjustable for reach) gives feedback by the bucketload. Speaking of buckets, the MX-5’s seats are supportive rather than incredibly figure-hugging, and the cabin is very snug. Tall occupants may struggle to get comfortable.

The fabric roof can be easily opened and closed from the driver’s seat despite its lack of electronic assistance – perfect for making the most of Britain’s sporadic sunshine at a moment’s notice.

Click here for our in-depth Mazda MX-5 review

2. Porsche 911

Prices: £93,110-£108,063
Engine: 3.0-litre petrol
Trims: Carrera S, Carrera 4S
Economy: 25-28.5mpg
CO2: 205-207g/km
0-62mph: 3.6-3.9 seconds

Porsche’s latest 911 is the most complete yet; it’s fast, sophisticated and entirely usable in everyday life. The current crop of Carrera S and 4S models is just as fast as the Carrera GTS from the previous generation and not far off the Turbo from a decade ago, such is the pace of the 911’s continued evolution.

Coupé and Cabriolet versions of the Carrera S and Carrera 4S make up the entirety of the 992-generation 911 range for now, but the obligatory GTS, GT3 and Turbo models will arrive in due course.

Our pick of the latest range is the standard, two-wheel-drive Carrera S coupé. With 444bhp on tap, it covers 0-62mph in only 3.6 seconds; the car’s trademark flat-six remains characterful, despite its brace of turbochargers, while the standard PDK dual-clutch gearbox delivers lightning-fast shifts.

The 911’s breadth of ability is what impresses most. It’s simultaneously an engaging sports car, a long-legged tourer and a comfortable companion around town if required, all regardless of road conditions.

Click here for our in-depth Porsche 911 review

3. Alpine A110

Price: £46,905
Engine: 1.8 petrol
Trims: Pure, Légende
Economy: 44.1mpg
CO2: 144g/km
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds

Drawing from a rich history of rear-engined sports and racing cars, the latest Alpine A110 is styled to look and feel much like the French brand’s iconic sixties offering of the same name. It’s as modern as they come, though; a mid-mounted turbocharged four-cylinder, dual-clutch gearbox and perfectly judged chassis all sit beneath the A110’s pretty, retro-styled bodywork. Rivals are more practical, but the Alpine stands as the best choice for keen drivers who want to stand out.

The A110 makes 249bhp from its 1.8-litre Renault engine. That might not sound like much in this company, but it’s more than enough when the car itself weighs in at a mere 1,098kg. The Alpine is just over 300kg lighter than an Audi TTS – and it’s this low weight that defines the driving experience.

Unlike its German rivals, the A110 offers a pared-back, purer drive. It flows down the road with a delicacy that can only be found in such a light car, while perfect balance, sweet steering and just a hint of roll through the suspension help inspire confidence. The Alpine is refreshingly compact, too, and thanks to a great view forwards, it’s very easy to place and not at all intimidating to drive.

Click here for our in-depth Alpine A110 review 

4. Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman

Prices: £44,790-£63,134
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Trims: 718 Cayman, 718 Boxster; S, T, GTS
Economy: 28.5-33.2mpg
CO2: 180-210g/km
0-62mph: 4.1-5.3 seconds 

The Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman are the German manufacturer’s entry-level convertible and hard-topped sports cars respectively, with each offering a similar blend of performance and handling that has seen them remain among our favourite sports machines for years.

Unlike its 911 big brother, the 718 makes do with a four-cylinder engine that’s something of a weak point in an otherwise excellent package. The standard car gets 296bhp, but S models receive a boost to 345bhp. Both versions of this engine are effective rather than emotive; you’ll have to look elsewhere for an exciting engine note.

The six-speed manual and seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearboxes are great to use, and you’ll forget all about the lack of a good noise once you come to a set of corners. Beautiful steering, huge grip and a brilliantly damped ride all combine to make the 718 one of the very best sports cars from a driver’s perspective. It’s more expensive than some rivals, but you won’t regret paying for Porsche’s sports car expertise. Residuals should be strong, too.

Click here for our in-depth Porsche 718 Boxster review 

5. McLaren 570S

Prices: £143,250-£164,750
Engine: 3.8-litre petrol
Trims: 570S, 570S Spider
Economy: 26.6mpg
CO2: 249g/km
0-62mph: 3.4 seconds

The most popular McLaren model is a direct rival to the Porsche 911, Audi R8 and Mercedes-AMG GT. As such, the 570S offers supercar performance with a nod towards everyday usability – if you’ve got around £150,000 to spend on a runaround.

A turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 producing 562bhp means performance is impressive, with 0-62mph dispatched in only 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 204mph. It’s connected to a great seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and while it doesn’t sound fantastic, the engine is devastatingly effective.

The 570S does without the sophisticated chassis-control system of its 720S big brother, but it’s not held back by its conventional adaptive dampers and anti-roll bars. Pin-sharp steering, huge reserves of grip and beautiful suspension action make it one of the very best sports cars available.

Click here for our in-depth McLaren 570S review

6. Mercedes-AMG C 63

Prices: £66,809-£74,458
Engine: 4.0-litre petrol
Trims: C 63, C 63 S; saloon, estate, coupé, cabriolet
Economy: 27.1-28.5mpg
CO2: 227-236g/km
0-62mph: 3.9-4.2 seconds

In common with so many AMG products, the C 63 offers up a muscular take on a popular formula. It has no shortage of competition, but its character is what sets it apart. A twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 pushes out 469bhp in standard guise or 503bhp in the C 63 S, with 650 and 700Nm of torque respectively – more than enough to provide brutish straight-line performance. Both cars get a slick nine-speed automatic gearbox.

There’s poise to go with that muscle, too. AMG has transformed the standard C-Class into a sports saloon (plus estate, coupé and cabriolet) that proves more composed than an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and just as much fun as a BMW M3 or M4. Unlike the C 43, there’s no four-wheel drive; a revised nine-stage traction-control system and a clever electronically controlled limited-slip diff help get power to the road, while a range of driving modes allows the car to be set up for the conditions at hand.

Elsewhere, the usual Mercedes kit and build quality are present, with a focus on luxury tech. The C 63 is expensive but represents a lot of car for the money: if you can afford the associated running costs, few come close to matching its range of ability.

Click here for our in-depth Mercedes-AMG C 63 review

7. Toyota GT86

Prices: £27,325-£29,020
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Trims: GT86, Pro, Club Series Blue Edition
Economy: 32.8-33.2mpg
CO2: 183-196g/km
0-62mph: 7.6-8.2 seconds

As with the Mazda MX-5, the Toyota GT86 is a car built solely with driving fun in mind. Outright performance takes a back seat, with just 197bhp from its flat-four – an engine that needs to be revved to deliver its best and even then serves up a 0-62mph time of only 7.6 seconds. A great driving position and a lovely manual gearshift both count in the Toyota’s favour, however.

Rivals such as the Nissan 370Z and Audi TT are faster, but the GT86 is far more poised and engaging on a winding B-road. Responsive steering is matched by communicative brake and throttle pedals; all three combine to let the driver know exactly what’s happening. The car’s chassis is really nicely balanced, too, while the suspension deals well with broken British tarmac. The GT86 is a sports car that inspires confidence and allows its driver to have a lot of fun, all at relatively sensible speeds.

Toyota originally introduced the GT86 back in 2012 (alongside the closely related Subaru BRZ), and even though it has been facelifted since then, the car does show its age inside. While its ergonomics are good, the use of cheap plastics and a below-par infotainment system mean it’s not as nice a place to sit as an Audi TT – but we’d wager that you would stop caring as soon as you get to your favourite country road.

Click here for our in-depth Toyota GT86 review

8. Nissan GT-R

Prices: £82,060-£152,060
Engines: 3.8-litre petrol (562, 591bhp)
Trims: Pure, Recaro, Prestige, Track Edition Engineered by Nismo
Economy: 12.5-23.7mpg
CO2: 300-307g/km
0-62mph: 2.8 seconds

Famous for its supercar-baiting performance, the GT-R is a unique proposition in the sports car market. It’s engineered to use its 1,754kg heft to its advantage; off-the-line acceleration is remarkable, as is outright speed. Powered by a hand-built 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 developing 562bhp, and with an array of driver-assist systems, it’s perhaps the most effortlessly quick sports car on sale. Light, fast steering and a dialled-in chassis give great agility; wider tyres and quick-witted 4WD come together to provide huge reserves of grip.

Previous GT-R iterations were criticised for their lack of refinement, but the latest car focuses more on comfort. Smoother low-speed shifts, improved sound deadening and a more luxurious cabin help take the edge off without diluting the GT-R’s character. It’s more usable everyday – but can still do 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds.

Click here for our in-depth Nissan GT-R review

9. Audi TTS

Prices: £44,610-£48,560
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Trims: TTS, TTS Roadster, Black Edition
Economy: 34-35.3mpg
CO2: 161-166g/km
0-62mph: 4.5-4.8 seconds

The latest iteration of the TT is the best yet from a driver’s point of view, and the TTS – with its familiar 302bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine – offers the best combination of performance and fun in the range.

Quattro 4WD and a dual-clutch gearbox mean the performance is easily extracted; traction is excellent and the turbo surge addictive. The TTS doesn’t offer the last word in feedback or adjustability, but it feels solid, fast and planted. If you’re less concerned about driving dynamics and prefer a sports car that impresses with its sheer effectiveness, it’s a great choice.

Click here for our in-depth Audi TT review

10. Ford Mustang

Prices: £37,685-£48,210
Engines: 2.3-litre petrol, 5.0-litre petrol
Trims: 2.3 EcoBoost, 5.0 V8 GT, Bullitt; Fastback, Convertible
Economy: 25.7-31mpg
CO2: 199-270g/km
0-62mph: 4.3-6.0 seconds 

In terms of value, the Ford is miles ahead of its rivals here. The Mustang GT has the same output as Porsche’s latest 911 Carrera S – 444bhp – but starts at just over £50,000 less.

Your £42,000 gets a BMW M4 competitor powered by a 5.0-litre V8; 0-62mph takes 4.3 seconds and top speed is limited to 155mph. It’s not as refined, polished, well built or composed as its more costly rivals, yet little can detract from its wealth of character. Enthusiasts will certainly never tire of the noise from its quad tailpipes.

While muscle cars aren’t known for being at home on a twisty road, the latest Mustang copes admirably. It’s not the last word in delicacy, but its recently revised chassis is more controlled than ever – especially with adaptive dampers. The heavy yet accurate steering is good, while the six-speed manual box is much better in use than the slightly lethargic 10-speed auto. Bonus points go to the Mustang for being the only car on this list with a ‘Drag’ mode.

Click here for our in-depth Ford Mustang review

Best sports cars: buying advice

It’s common sense, but it pays to have a very good idea of your needs before setting foot in a showroom or beginning your online hunt. Most sports cars will compromise on practicality, and limited load space and room for two may not quite match your lifestyle. Similarly, larger performance machines will be more expensive to run, so there’s a balance to be found if you plan to use your sports car as your sole transport.

At the cheaper end of the market, it makes sense to decide whether or not you want a convertible. Modern soft-tops are far more sophisticated than ever before – with the roof up or down – but at high speeds one with a cheaper fabric top will be less refined than the equivalent coupé. Again, a compromise may be required if you want the option of wind-in-the-hair motoring.

Best fast family cars

Once you’ve decided on your requirements and budget, the next step should always be a test drive. Make sure you take the car to a proper twisty road and get a feel for its responses. Pay attention to the steering, gearshift, pedalbox, suspension and its performance through the gears; it’s likely you’ll be buying a sports car to have fun, so make sure you feel able to enjoy yourself. Check too that you fit behind the steering wheel; many sports cars can feel a little cramped inside if you’re more than six feet tall.

The sports car market is filled with prestigious badges. Picking one of these is a good idea if you can afford it, because their residual values will be relatively high. That’s a good thing if you’re buying on a PCP deal, too; high residuals usually equal relatively low monthly payments. Just don’t get too carried away with expensive options.

Read more of our best car recommendations... 

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Hollywood’s greatest sci-fi movie cars star in LA exhibition
Posted on Tuesday May 21, 2019

Jake Weaver 2019-05-21 14:04

Science fiction movie cars are taking centre stage at a new exhibition at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Petersen Automotive Museum  - exhibition floor

Iconic science fiction and fantasy movie cars are featuring in a brand new exhibition at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles with over 40 vehicles from cult classic films and video games on display.

Some of the key vehicles on display include the 2018 Lexus LC 500 F Sport from Black Panther, the DMC DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future, the 2008 Audi R8 from Iron Man and Bumblebee, the Volkswagen Beetle from the Transformers series as well as several different Batmobiles.

• Concept cars: the greatest concept car designs of all time

It’s not just modified production cars that appear in the exhibition as concept cars have also taken many a starring role over the years. The concepts from Peugeot, Audi and Lexus that featured respectively in dystopian future films Blade Runner 2049, Ghost in the Shell, and I, Robot are also in the exhibition.

Alongside the many sci-fi movie cars, there will be hundreds of props, costumes and artwork on display too as well as a virtual reality experience. The VR experience allows guests to see the Warthog from “Halo” and the DeLorean from “Back to the Future” time machine in a new ‘immersive way’.

The Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles Of Science Fiction And Fantasy exhibition is the largest museum collection of sci-fi vehicles in the world and will run through until March 2020.

What is your all-time favourite sci-fi movie car? Let us know in the comments below...

 

UK’s largest car-park operator made £2.44m from drivers with wrong change
Posted on Tuesday May 21, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-05-21 11:00

NCP goes to court to argue that it shouldn’t have to pay VAT on near-£700,000 annual earnings from drivers not having the right change

airport parking

The UK’s largest private car park operator, NCP, made millions of pounds over three-and-a-half years from drivers who did not have the correct change and were forced to overpay for parking.

HMRC took £488,669 in VAT from NCP for overpayments made by customers between June 2009 and December 2012. With the VAT rate increasing from 17.5 to 20 per cent over the period in question, drivers without the correct change therefore paid NCP at least £2.44 million.

Number of private parking tickets issued up by over a million in 12 months

NCP argued because the overpayments were not for specific services (which are liable for VAT), it should not have to pay the £488,669; but the High Court disagreed, with the judges ruling that the total sum paid by customers – including any overpayment – were fees paid for parking services.

Edmund King, president of the AA, commented: “The best way out of this VAT quandary would be to give motorists’ change and not overcharge them in the first place.”

He added: “Drivers who have wanted to give left-over parking time to another motorist but been prevented by measures to stop tickets being transferred, such as the recording of number plates, will have a wry smile on their face when they hear this court ruling.”

Inquiry into parking on pavements opens

RAC spokesperson Pete Williams described being forced to overpay for parking as “a source of huge frustration for drivers”, adding that anyone who had been “fleeced” in this way would view NCP’s appeal with “utter contempt”.

He suggested that NCP should donate any revenue from overpayments to a good cause, such as a road safety charity, and always offer drivers at least two forms of payment – one of which being card – at all of its machines.

In 2016, NCP made an operating profit of £10.274 million and saw a turnover of £202.703 million.

In a statement, NCP said it appealed against the court’s decision in order to ensure there was a “level playing field” between itself as a private car park operator and local authorities.

“NCP has over 500 car parks,” it said. “Every car park, with the exception of one, offers an alternative method of payment, which allows customers to pay the exact amount required for parking. Where machines do not give change, NCP’s signage clearly informs customers that this is the case and that there are alternative payment methods available.”

Do you think parking machines should give change? Let us know below...

New Land Rover Discovery Sport joins electrified party
Posted on Tuesday May 21, 2019

Alex Ingram 2019-05-21 20:00

The facelifted Land Rover Discovery Sport gets mild-hybrid and plug-in versions

Land Rover Discovery Sport - front

Five years after the launch of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, the firm’s biggest-selling model has been updated. This is no mild, mid-life facelift, however; the exterior design might look similar to the outgoing car’s, but this revamped version is heavily reworked under the skin, with an overhauled platform, new interior tech, and a range of mild-hybrid and plug-in drivetrains.

Like the new Range Rover Evoque, it sits on Land Rover’s fresh Premium Transverse Architecture – a thorough redevelopment of its predecessor’s platform. This allows for a structure that’s 13 per cent stiffer than in the previous car and means 21-inch wheels can be fitted for the first time on top-spec models.

• Best SUVs to buy right now

Dimensions are near-identical to the old Disco Sport’s. The 2,741mm wheelbase and 2,069mm width are the same, while it’s 2mm shorter in length and 3mm taller than before. Yet better packaging means that, according to Land Rover, despite offering more space inside, it’s still possible to accommodate a larger fuel tank and hybrid drivetrains, too.

Part of that hybrid line-up will include a plug-in set-up that pairs an electric motor with a three-cylinder petrol engine. That’s due at the end of this year, so from launch the hybrid systems will consist of the 48-volt units we’ve already seen in the new Evoque.

Fitted to all but the entry 148bhp front-wheel-drive diesel, they use energy recouped during braking to reduce load on the engine under acceleration, while letting the engine cut out from deceleration below 11mph and give near-instantaneous restarts as needed.

The combustion portion of those hybrids is made up of three diesel and two petrol motors, all of which are 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘Ingenium’ engines. The range starts with the 148bhp diesel, which claims 47.8mpg on the WLTP test, and peaks with the 250bhp petrol unit which can cover 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds, according to Land Rover. Gearbox choices include a six-speed manual and an updated nine-speed auto.

The latest Discovery Sport will be packed with tech, much of which made its debut in the new Evoque. At the flick of a switch, the conventional rear-view mirror turns into a digital display relaying images from a rear-facing camera mounted on the roof, giving a wide-angle, unobstructed view behind. Likewise, the ClearSight ground-view tech was first seen on the Evoque. This lets the driver ‘look through’ the bonnet and see the position of the wheels relative to off-road obstacles or, more likely, city-centre kerbs.

ClearSight is displayed on Land Rover’s latest Touch Pro infotainment system, which sits within a redesigned cabin. While the chunky look remains familiar, it’s brought up to date with a 10.25-inch touchscreen that sits flush within the dash, a mix of physical and touch-sensitive climate controls, and a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display.

The inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto benefits those using smartphones, as do 4G WiFi connectivity and wireless charging. A reversing camera comes as standard, along with extra safety tech like lane-keep assist and autonomous emergency braking.

The new Discovery Sport is available to order now, with prices starting from £31,575.

Do you like the look of the facelifted Land Rover Discovery Sport? Let us know in the comments section below...

New Vauxhall Corsa prototype review
Posted on Tuesday May 21, 2019

Vauxhall Corsa prototype - front
22 May, 2019 (All day) Sean Carson

We hit the road in a prototype version of the new Vauxhall Corsa ahead of its official arrival next year

The launch of a new Corsa is about as big as it gets for Vauxhall. Britain loves superminis and the Corsa is a perennial fixture on the best-sellers list, even though the current model can trace its roots all the way back to 2006. 

This means it’s way past time for an all-new Corsa, something that was kick-started around two years ago when Peugeot-Citroen orchestrated a buyout of Vauxhall and its European sister Opel from parent company General Motors.

• Best superminis on sale

This sixth-generation of the famous nameplate (although we knew the original as the Nova, it was called the Corsa in Europe) is based on Peugeot-Citroen’s CMP Common Modular Platform, sometimes also referred to as EMP1. This has made many new technologies and components available to the British brand, with headline stats such as a massive 108kg weight saving – around 10 per cent – compared with its predecessor depending on spec.

That comes courtesy of three-cylinder engines that are around 15kg lighter than the four-cylinder units in the outgoing car, a 2.4kg lighter aluminium bonnet, 10kg from the front and rear seats combined and a massive 40kg reduction in the body, which is also 15 per cent stiffer. The lightest version tips the scales at just 980kg. 

Weight saving has a massive affect on performance, handling and comfort, and efficiency, so it’s no surprise the Corsa has improved on all fronts. In fact, all powertrain combinations in the new Corsa are more efficient than the most eco-focused model of the outgoing car.

From launch the most popular powertrain is likely to be the 99bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol with a six-speed manual, although we also tried the brand’s new eight-speed automatic with a 128bhp version of the same engine that hasn’t yet been confirmed for the UK. A 99bhp 1.5-litre diesel manual will also feature.

The petrol turbo engine is refined, smooth and delivers its grunt in a torquey dollop at low to mid revs, thrumming along with a relaxed gait that’s only punctuated by shifts with the manual box. Some Peugeot-Citroen sourced transmissions aren’t the sweetest, but this six-speed unit’s change never proved an issue. It’s not involving, but it’s not obstructive either. 

We also tried the eight-speed automatic and found it easy-going. It’s not the quickest to shift but it’s smooth and should suit most buyers after this type of tech just fine.

Both will share the same chassis and set-up, and while there were different tweaks to the roughly 80 per cent complete test cars we tried in order to settle on the final calibration, the overriding sense was of a mostly compliant car with light, quick steering that felt refined and fairly comfortable.

Both cars exhibited the same slightly lumpy trait to the low-speed ride in town, but the damping smoothed out as the speed increased. Here the Corsa floats over the surface better with a smoother, more languid reaction to all but the very worst bumps and ripples.

That light steering gives the Vauxhall a sense of agility, partly thanks to a new calibration and remounting of the power steering motor on the rack rather than the column.

The platform can back this up thanks to its improved damping, 28mm longer wheelbase (despite a similar overall length) and 48mm lower roofline without really compromising headroom. Combined, these lower the centre of gravity noticeably, so the Corsa rolls a lot less than its predecessor.

Although the chassis is now lighter it’s been optimised with strengthening in strategic areas to make it more responsive, while reducing the overhangs with that longer wheelbase also means it’s now more practical. 

There’s 24 litres more boot space than before, at 309 litres in total, while the void is 78mm wider across the wheel arches. The Corsa will be five-door-only so access to the rear is easy, and there’s acceptable legroom back there – but then the majority of the current crop of superminis are also spacious.

The clever thinking continues with aero cladding underneath to improve refinement further and an active aero shutter at the front to reduce drag and boost efficiency. There’ll be two different spoilers too, a bigger one on sportier models and a smaller lip on normal grades to retain high-speed stability, according to the engineering team.

All of these innovations will of course benefit the all-electric Corsa-e that’ll compliment the combustion-engined cars, as the CMP platform has been engineered to accommodate a full battery-electric model, with a 50kWh battery for an official range of 211 miles. With 134bhp it should have decent performance too.

The Vauxhall Corsa was drastically in need of an overhaul and the early signs of this new sixth-generation car shows the partnership with Peugeot-Citroen is starting to bear fruit. But the Corsa doesn’t feel ground breaking, rather that it’s been thoroughly reimagined to the point that it’ll now at least be competitive with the best in the class. Even though competition the supermini sector is incredibly tight, that’s a win in itself.
  • Price: TBC
  • Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 99bhp/205Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 9.5 seconds (est.)
  • On sale: Early 2020

New Porsche Cayenne Coupe 2019 review
Posted on Monday May 20, 2019

Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe - front
20 May, 2019 11:00pm Richard Ingram

What does the new Porsche Cayenne Coupe offer over the standard car? We try it out in Turbo guise to find out

The original Porsche Cayenne set a high handling benchmark in the luxury SUV class when it launched almost two decades ago. It has solidified its place at the front of the pack ever since, with the latest version retaining its dynamic honours when it debuted towards the end of 2017.

But while rivals like Mercedes and BMW have reaped the rewards of diversification, it has taken Porsche a little longer to come round to the idea of expanding its SUV range. Better late than never, the German maker stunned crowds at this year’s Shanghai Motor Show with the aptly named Cayenne Coupe.

Best fast family cars

The badge is self-explanatory, and plays on a theme BMW has owned since the first-generation X6 went on sale back in 2008. From nose to B-pillar the sleekly styled Porsche is pure Cayenne – albeit with a slightly flatter windscreen. But from the driver’s door back, it takes on an altogether more aggressive stance.

Much like the Audi Q8 with which it shares a platform, the Cayenne Coupe’s roofline tails off much sooner (it’s 20mm lower) than on the standard car. Sticking closely to the coupe-SUV rulebook, the rear window is steeply raked, fusing at the base with an adaptive tailgate-mounted spoiler. The standard car’s numberplate has been moved to the bumper for an “optically lower” aesthetic; in its place sits Porsche’s distinctive ‘Turbo’ lettering emblazoned on the bootlid.

Bosses describe the car as a “real Porsche sports car”, and there will be three models available at launch. In addition to the flagship (for now) Cayenne Turbo, Porsche will also offer an entry-level 335bhp V6 Cayenne Coupe, and a 434bhp Cayenne S. Prices start from £62,129, and rise to £104,729 for the Turbo tested here. That’s a premium of around £5,500 depending on trim.

As you’d expect, that swooping roofline has a positive effect on performance. This Cayenne Turbo Coupe is an SUV that’ll sprint from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds (two-tenths fast than the normal Cayenne Turbo) and hit a 911-baiting 177mph. Does it feel faster the standard car? No – though that’s perhaps more of a compliment of the conventional Cayenne rather than a dig at this Coupe variant; few 2.3-tonne tanks bend the mind with such complex efficiency.

Unlike a Lamborghini Urus the engine doesn’t dominate the driving experience. It’s always there; ready to launch the Cayenne towards the horizon at a moment’s notice. But the V8 isn’t as relentlessly boisterous as it is in its Italian stablemate. Instead, it just burbles away in the background; the wave of torque never further away than a simple flick of the right foot.

• Best SUVs on sale right now

The fact the engine doesn’t overwhelm the driver’s involvement is partly due to how capable the Coupe is from a dynamic perspective. The wider rear track and permanent all-wheel-drive system – mated to our car’s clever rear-wheel steer set-up – make the Turbo feel more agile than many models half its size. The difference between the ordinary Cayenne and this new Coupe is difficult to detect, but credit where credit’s due, this is a sports utility vehicle well worthy of the Porsche badge.

Our car had the optional (£7,482) Lightweight Sports Pack, which switches the car’s standard panoramic glass roof for a full carbon fibre item – saving a substantial 21kg and lowering the Cayenne’s centre of gravity. Among other things, it adds a sports exhaust, 22-inch GT Design wheels and some extra carbon trim. It also removes some of the standard car’s sound insulation, with a notable affect on refinement. If you want a quiet SUV – something the Cayenne Coupe is perfectly capable of being – we’d avoid these options.

Regardless, turn-in is razor sharp, and on the tighter roads of our test route the Coupe displayed an astounding ability to swivel almost on its own axis. Body roll is near enough nil, and the steering nicely responsive. It’s weighty without feeling artificial, and has no trouble pointing the car where you want it to go.

In our experience, the Cayenne Coupe’s biggest issue is its tendency to fidget around town. This is likely caused, at least in part by those big rims, which force the Cayenne to follow ruts in the tarmac that are almost invisible to the naked eye. Things improve the faster you go, but given our mostly smooth Austrian route, the low-speed ride is only likely to worsen on rutted UK roads.

Inside, you’d be hard pushed to tell the Coupe apart from its conformist Cayenne counterpart. Every version gets the same 12-inch infotainment system, largely touch sensitive dashboard and 911-style analogue rev counter. As in its sports car sibling, the central tacho is flanked by four digital readouts, customisable to the driver’s taste.

Look in the rear view mirror and the differences become clearer, however. The conventional three-seat rear bench has been completely reconfigured to offer two individual chairs; that emphasises the Cayenne Coupe’s sporting intention, but inevitably affects practicality. Despite being positioned 30mm lower, there’s an obvious compromise when it comes to headroom – though it’s certainly no worse than in an X6 or Mercedes GLE Coupe.

Boot space measures an admirable 600 litres, which is 145 litres down on the standard Cayenne. However, while that may not sound much, in reality, that sloping roof will limit the SUV’s outright versatility. If you want a proficient load lugger, this may not be the right car for you.

4
Which Porsche Cayenne you go for will depend largely on your sense of style, as the Coupe is almost indistinguishable from the standard car on the road. It’s a little less practical, and a little more expensive, but for the type of buyer this car is likely to attract, that won’t matter one iota. It remains one of the sharpest SUVs on sale, and now comes in a package some customers will find impossible to resist.
  • Model: Porsche Cayenne Coupe 4.0 V8 Turbo
  • Price: £104,729
  • Engine: 4.0-litre V8 turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 542bhp/770Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 3.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 177mph
  • Economy/CO2: 25.0mpg/258g/km
  • On sale: Now

New Mercedes X-Class Element Edition trim launched
Posted on Monday May 20, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-05-20 15:00

The new limited Mercedes X-Class Element Edition pick-up features more standard equipment and a unique livery

Mercedes has launched a new, limited edition variant of its X-Class pick-up truck. Called the Mercedes X-Class Element Edition, it adds a range of optional extras and a handful of unique styling features to the range topping X-Class Progressive. The new model is available for business lease in the UK now from £459 per month on a 36-month contract, with a £2,754 deposit. 

Upgrades over the X-Class Progressive start with Mercedes’s Comfort Pack. The option package adds electrically adjustable driver and passenger seats, Artico leather upholstery, automatic climate control and a complex filtering system for the ventilation system, which Mercedes claims prevents dust, soot and odours from entering the cabin.

Long term test review: Mercedes X 250 d

The X-Class Element Edition also comes as standard with the Style Pack - optional on regular X-Class models. It adds a set of 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, LED tail lights, privacy glass, updated running boards and anodised roof rails. Buyers also get a special edition livery, a load bed liner and a choice of three metallic paint colours.

It’s powered by turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, producing 188bhp and 450Nm of torque. Performance is fed through a seven-speed automatic to a selectable four-wheel-drive system and, like the standard X 250d, it retains its 11.8 second 0–62mph time and maximum braked towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes.

Much like its consumer-focused stablemates, safety equipment for the commercial-minded X-Class Element Edition is comprehensive, stretching to active braking assist, lane-keeping assist, hill-start assist, a vast array of airbags, a stop-start function and a reversing camera. Buyers can also spec Mercedes’s Trailer Stability Assist as an optional extra.

Read our in-depth review of the Mercedes X-Class right here...

Used BMW 2 series review
Posted on Monday May 20, 2019

Used BMW 2 Series - front
20 May, 2019 12:15pm

A full used buyer’s guide on the BMW 2 Series covering the 2 Series Mk1 (2014-date)

BMW has built compact sporting family cars since the sixties, most notably the 02 Series sold between 1966 and 1977. By 1975 the 3 Series had been introduced and as subsequent generations grew, the firm reached the point where it needed a smaller model at the bottom of the range.

That was the 1 Series, and it went on sale in hatchback form in 2004, with the Coupé and Convertible following in 2008.

For the second generation, BMW split off the Coupé and Convertible as a separate range – the 2 Series we cover here. But we’re not including the specialist M2 from 2016.

Models covered

  • • BMW 2 Series Mk1 (2014-date) - Baby Beemer is stylish and fun to drive, with plenty of variety on offer. 

BMW 2 Series Mk1

History

The 2 Series Coupé reached UK showrooms in March 2014. Buyers were able to choose between 182bhp 220i, 242bhp 228i and 321bhp M235i petrol models, while diesel fans had 141bhp 218d, 181bhp 220d and 215bhp 225d editions to tempt them.

From November 2014, the 220d got a more efficient engine, and three months later the 2 Series Convertible went on sale in 220i, 228i, M235i and 220d forms.

By April 2015 there were fresh 2 Series Coupé derivatives; a 218i (with a 1,499cc three-cylinder engine) and a four-wheel-drive (xDrive) 220d joined the range.

A facelifted 2 Series went on sale in October 2017 with a reprofiled nose, a new dashboard and LED headlights, as well as new colours and fresh interior finishes.

BMW 2 Series reviews

BMW 2 Series in-depth review
BMW 220d SE review
BMW 220d M Sport xDrive review
BMW 2 Series Convertible in-depth review
BMW 220d M Sport Convertible review

Which one should I buy?

There aren’t any bad choices – all the engines are strong and frugal – but we’d go for an auto rather than a manual because the transmission is so good. Buy a 220d xDrive and you’ll have to have an auto.

Entry-level SE is arguably the best trim because it focuses on comfort rather than sportiness. However, it still has 17-inch alloys, climate control, DAB radio, a 6.5-inch colour display, heated door mirrors, rear parking sensors and automatic headlights.

The Sport still has only 17-inch wheels but adds switchable driver modes, sportier trim inside and out, and ambient cabin lighting. M Sport spec gets 18-inch wheels, black headlining on the Coupé, a bodykit, sport suspension and xenon headlights. 

Alternatives to the BMW 2 Series

The 2 Series has very few direct rivals. In Convertible form there is the Audi A3, as well as VW’s Golf, Beetle and Eos.

While the A3 is a credible rival, the Beetle and Eos are aimed at different markets, and the Golf sits in between. Whereas the BMW has a 2+2 configuration, all of the other convertibles on the market are either bigger cars or merely two-seaters in the first place.

As a Coupé, the 2 Series also has few rivals. The closest are the Mercedes CLA and Audi A3 saloon, whereas the Audi TT, Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ are hatchbacks, as is the Porsche Cayman. This is more costly but worth stretching to, because it’s sublime to drive. The VW Scirocco is a practical hatch that’s good value, very usable and agile, if not quite as sharp as the BMW.

What to look for

Stereo

It’s worth trying to find a car with the optional Harman Kardon hi-fi fitted; it sounds much better than the standard system.

Run-flat tyres

The 2 Series is fitted with run-flat tyres as standard, which means there’s no spare wheel. But the ride isn’t too badly affected.

Brakes

Squeaky brakes can affect some high-performance models and brake dust can accumulate quickly. Listen out and inspect used cars for this.

Fuel additive

Since March 2018, all diesel-engined 2 Series have used AdBlue and, at the same time, all petrol engines got a particulate filter.

Interior

Despite being an entry-level model, the 2 Series still has a premium feel in terms of the design and materials used. It has just two rear seats, but there’s more space than you might think; only tall people are likely to find there’s insufficient head or legroom. Boot space is very good, at 390 litres, and although the seatbacks are fixed, a flip-down panel between the two seats is an optional extra.

Prices

You can buy a nearly new BMW 2 Series for between £11,799 and £39,875 on our sister site BuyaCar.

Running costs

All 2 Series have variable servicing, with attention usually needed every 18,000 miles or two years. BMW lists minor, intermediate and full check-ups for the 1.5-litre petrol at £182, £252 and £486, while a three-year/36,000-mile service package costs £299.

The brake fluid should be renewed every two years (£70), but the long-life coolant should never need to be replaced and there are no timing belts to change.

Recalls

There have been 10 recalls, and all cars built up to June 2018 are likely to have been affected by at least one.

Potential issues centred on the driver’s seatbelt, fuel starvation leading to stalling, the rear axle working loose, the power steering and airbags. Later recalls related to possible front suspension failure, ECU software glitches and problems with the EGR valve. 

Driver Power owner satisfaction

The 2 Series was placed 50th in the 2018 Driver Power new car survey, which is okay, but it was below the Audi A3 and BMW 3 Series. Its only top-20 scores were for infotainment, the engine and transmission; surprisingly the ride and handling weren’t highly rated, while build quality and reliability were even worse. Running costs got a thumbs up, but everything else was mid-table.

Whether your focus is on performance or economy there’s a 2 Series for you, from the frugal 218d to the supercar-baiting M235i and M240i. Whichever variation on the theme you buy, you’ll get a car that’s good to drive, beautifully built and sharply styled. While no 2 Series is an ideal family car in terms of practicality, both the Coupé and Convertible editions are a lot more usable than you might think, because BMW didn’t try to turn the 2 Series into a five-seater. If you really need some extra space, the 4 Series Coupé and Convertible might be better suited. But if you’re after a compact, sporty car that puts the emphasis on style and driving pleasure, the 2 Series is likely to tick all of those boxes and more.

 


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