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In the News ...

New 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R Black Series spied
Posted on Friday September 20, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-09-20 16:54

An even more potent version of the Mercedes-AMG GT R has been caught on camera, complete with aggressive body kit and large rear wing

Mercedes AMG GT R Black Series - front 3/4 tracking spy

Mercedes looks set to launch a Black Series version of its AMG GT R. Drawing inspiration from the AMG GT GT3 racer, the new car will follow on from the 2013 SLS Black Series as a faster, lighter, track-focussed version of the standard car. We expect that the new car will be revealed at the end of the year before going on sale in limited numbers in 2020.

Styling revisions over the standard Mercedes-AMG GT R include an aggressive front splitter, canards, a vented bonnet, deeper side skirts, a reworked diffuser, a quad-tipped titanium exhaust system and an enormous, manually adjustable rear wing. The production car will also receive a set of wider alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.

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From what we can glean from these spy shots, the GT R Black Series will feature a set of larger diameter vented and drilled disc brakes, with six-piston calipers for the front axle and four-piston calipers for the rear. We expect that the suspension system will also be lowered by a few millimetres, with stiffer springs and slightly more camber for the front wheels.

It’ll be powered by a re-tuned version of the GT R Pro’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine which, like the SLS Black Series’ engine, should feature forged internals, new camshafts and a new engine management system. We also expect that the GT R Black Series will feature a fresh pair of turbochargers and new intake system.

The SLS Black Series’ naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 engine had a power output of 622bhp, so it’s reasonable to assume that the GT R Black Series will produce more than 650bhp – a considerable increase over the AMG GT R Pro’s 573bhp. Torque is unlikely to increase over the GT R Pro’s figure of 700Nm.

The AMG GT R Black Series’ interior is likely to be largely similar to the AMG GT R Pro’s, with a pair of heavily bolstered, carbon-fibre-backed bucket seats and a sports steering wheel. As with the GT R Pro, Mercedes-AMG’s track package will likely be offered as an optional extra, adding a full roll-cage, a safety harness and a fire extinguisher.

As is traditional with Mercedes Black Series models, this highly-tuned GT R is likely to mark the end of the coupe’s lifespan. We expect it to remain in production until 2022 before being replaced by a new, potentially all-electric, flagship performance coupe.

What do you make of the Mercedes-AMG GT R Black Series? Let us know in the comments section below…  

Citroen SpaceTourer receives new drivetrain option
Posted on Friday September 20, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-09-20 13:09

The Citroen SpaceTourer’s least powerful 2.0-litre diesel engine can now be specced with an eight-speed automatic gearbox

Citroen SpaceTourer - front

Citroen has launched a new drivetrain option on the SpaceTourer MPV. The van’s least powerful 118bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine can now be had with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Prices start at £36,620 for the entry-level model, with first deliveries expected in October. 

Citroen claims the new engine and gearbox combination brings a significant improvement to the SpaceTourer’s towing capacity. With the new drivetrain, the SpaceTourer’s braked towing weight increases to 2.3 tonnes – a half-tonne improvement over the manual-equipped 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel base-model.

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The new powertrain is only available in standard wheelbase form and is offered with two of the SpaceTourer’s existing four trim levels. Consumer-focussed Feel models come as standard with automatic headlights, front fog lamps, rear privacy glass, cruise control, automatic dual-zone air-conditioning and a seven-inch infotainment system.

Citroen also offers the SpaceTourer in its corporate-focussed Business specification. It’s designed to act as an economical shuttle vehicle and features a hard-wearing TPO plastic floor, seating for up to nine and air-conditioning. Prices start from £36,250.

Optional extras for both models include Xenon headlights (£600), a panoramic glass roof (£500), a detachable tow bar (£300) and headlight washer jets (£100). Citroen’s GripControl customisable traction control system is also available with a set of 17-inch alloy wheels for £1,160.

Now read our in-depth review of the Citroen SpaceTourer MPV. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below… 

 

'Why shouldn't Land Rover be allowed to cash in on the Defender?'
Posted on Friday September 20, 2019

Mike Rutherford 2019-09-22 12:00

Few cars in history have earned the right to be called legendary and the Defender is rightly one of them, says Mike Rutherford

OPINION Defender

While some motor manufacturers shoot themselves in both feet by playing down or killing off their most iconic products, Land Rover is sensibly celebrating and cashing in on its enviable heritage. And why not? If you’ve got it, flaunt it, exploit it; then sell it to willing customers.

The Defender is to Land Rover what the Beetle and Golf are to Volkswagen. It’s taken decades to establish, build and have legendary status slapped on that deliciously historic and valuable badge. And the Indian-owned, England-based firm isn’t allowing anyone to forget it. Even if this type of heavy-duty vehicle isn’t your cup of tea, it’s hard to ignore the fact that there’s an all-new Defender – which, I promise you, has to be seen in the metal. 

'Does JLR really need the Defender in its line-up?'

Somehow it doesn’t photograph well. You’ve got to get close to this brutally handsome beast to appreciate what it does for would-be buyers. When I was introduced to it before Frankfurt I was cautiously optimistic rather than excited. On the eve of the exhibition, as its understandably proud design chief, Gerry McGovern, and his team walked me around, through, underneath and over the damn thing, my optimism for the new Defender started to border on an uncontrollable personal desire to own one.

By the time I was shown the smaller, far better-proportioned 90 version in what’s officially described as commercial spec, complete with 18-inch steel wheels, I was hooked, reaching for the price list and telling myself that this is a vehicle I must buy to accompany my three-decade-old Landie.

True, an all-new Defender 110 could cost £80,000 or more. But the sub-£40,000 entry- level 90 territory is where I suspect much, if not most, of the buying action will be after the launch dust settles, reality kicks in, and dream specifications make way for more realistic trim levels that real-world folk can actually afford. All I want or need is a one or two-seat, local vicar-spec Defender, with a rubberised floor and a grey primer paint job. 

But whether you opt for a top or bottom-of-the-range version, do grab the accessories catalogue and order the roof-mounted tent for those days and nights parked on remote beaches, cliff tops or at outdoor music events. Don’t be surprised if Land Rover aligns with Glastonbury Festival in 2020 to facilitate the ultimate ‘drive and glamp’ experience. 

And, as a potential Defender buyer struggling to justify the considerable cost of such a vehicle, keep reminding yourself that you must see it as exactly that: an investment. Some lightweight 4X4s don’t last much beyond their manufacturer warranties. But as with previous-generation Defenders, the all-new version is rough, tough, durable – and designed and built in such a thoughtful way that it could, and really should, last decades. 

Think about it: invest in a timeless, factory-fresh, circa-40k Defender as a second car today, gently run it in over the next 20 low-mileage years, and even if it’s worth zilch at the end of that period (it won’t be), it’ll have cost you only a maximum of two grand annually in depreciation. That’s less than I spend each year at my favourite coffee shop. 

Do you agree with Mike's views on the new Defender? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...

Largest EV order ever: Amazon buys 100,000 electric vans from Rivian for $5bn
Posted on Friday September 20, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-09-20 11:35

Amazon has ordered 100,000 fully electric delivery vans from US startup company Rivian at a cost of $5 billion

Rivian Van

Amazon has placed the largest electric vehicle order ever, with the firm announcing it will take delivery of 100,000 fully electric delivery vans from US automotive startup firm Rivian in a $5 billion deal.

The purchase is part of Amazon’s new climate change plan, which company CEO Jeff Bezos announced on Thursday 19 September at an event at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

Best electric cars to buy

The scheme will see the online retail giant using 80 per cent renewable energy by 2024, rising to 100 per cent by 2030, by which time all 100,000 of the Rivian vans will have been deployed. In the build-up to this, the vans will start delivering packages to customers in 2021 and 10,000 of them will be on the road by 2022. In addition, Amazon will help its suppliers to decarbonise their fleets and businesses.

The news follows a similar move by Amazon in February when it led a $700 million investment round in Rivian. The startup also benefited from a $500 million investment from Ford in April as part of a deal that will see the two automotive firms collaborate on a new electric vehicle.

Rivian has already announced two models of its own – an SUV called the R1S and a pick-up truck called the R1T, the platform for both of which will likely be used for the new electric van. The firm is also planning a rally car-inspired design for its next model.

“We’re done being in the middle of the herd on this issue—we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference,” Bezos said. “If a company with as much physical infrastructure as Amazon—which delivers more than 10 billion items a year—can meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early, then any company can.”

What do you make of this record-breaking EV order? Let us know in the comments below...

Kia XCeed review
Posted on Friday September 20, 2019

For 
Good to drive
Lots of standard kit
Fantastic warranty
Our Rating 
4
Against 
Some engines are noisy
Disappointing dual-clutch auto gearbox
Niro is cheaper to run
Kia XCeed - cornering
2019

The jacked-up Kia XCeed adds some extra practicality to the growing Ceed range

As a stylish, slightly more practical alternative to the Kia Ceed hatchback, the Kia XCeed fills a niche in the South Korean manufacturer’s range. It’s about the same size its Niro stablemate but more akin to rivals like the Toyota C-HR in its combination of design flair and driver focus. 

Standard equipment is generous, there’s more space inside than you’ll find in the Ceed hatch and the XCeed is both more comfortable and more fun to drive than its conventional hatchback sibling. However, the XCeed’s place in Kia’s range means there’s plenty of competition from within – a Kia Sportage is a better choice if you want a full-blown SUV and the Kia Niro will be cheaper to run.

20 Sep, 2019
4

Kia has a good reputation for producing well-made cars with quality interiors and – as of recently – styling exteriors. The XCeed is a car that will sell almost entirely on the latter, with its coupe-like lines and jacked-up suspension feeling particularly on-trend. It’s a car that looks more expensive than it is, ready to take on the likes of the Mercedes GLA in the style stakes.

The XCeed shares its underpinnings with the Ceed hatch but its body is almost completely new – only the standard car’s front doors are carried over to the crossover. It’s about the same size at the aforementioned Mercedes GLA and Toyota C-HR.

Inside, Ceed owners will be in familiar territory – but that’s no bad thing. The dashboard is clearly laid out, features good quality plastics and is firmly screwed together. An infotainment screen sits high on the dash, measuring 8.0 or 10.25-inches depending on trim; a conventional rev-counter and speedometer flank a central information screen that can display trip information, sat-nav directions and other useful readouts.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Kia’s tried-and-tested infotainment system features here and is still one of the best around; intuitive to use and packed with plenty of desirable features. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity come as standard, displayed on the 8.0-inch screen on entry-level 2 models or on the 10.25-inch screen if you go for a 3 or First Edition. Features like wireless phone charging and a reversing camera are also added as you climb up the trim levels. 

A six-speaker audio system is standard, as is Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition and music streaming support. Top-tier First Edition cars get a punchier eight-speaker JBL sound system. Unlike some rivals, Kia keeps its options lists sparse but packs each trim level with as much kit as possible – this keeps the buying process simple to understand. Want more equipment? Choose a higher trim. 

4

The XCeed is closely related to the Kia Ceed hatchback; it’s based on the same platform and uses the same engines. To achieve its rugged look, the XCeed sits higher than its hatchback relative thanks to a 20mm boost in ride height and larger-sidewalled tyres that add another 17mm. Kia has fitted softer springs along with hydraulic bump stops, both of which help to provide a smoother, more pliant ride than that on the standard Ceed. The XCeed settles down nicely on flowing roads and motorways, making short work of longer distances.

This softer edge means the XCeed is actually better to drive than the Ceed hatch. It’s more comfortable and relaxing to drive, with fewer lumps and bumps transmitted into the cabin. There’s a little more body roll in corners versus the standard car, but this means the XCeed is a little easier to read when driving quickly. The unchanged electric power steering system remains accurate and well-weighted. 

Minus points are awarded for the XCeed’s gearboxes. The same six-speed manual and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic as found in the Ceed feature here, but neither is particularly impressive.

Our preferred option is the manual, but it feels clunky and can’t match the Mazda CX-30’s excellent shift. The dual-clutch gearbox, meanwhile, is lazy in its operation; it’s worth saving £1,000 or so and sticking with the manual unless you really need an automatic.

Despite its SUV-inspired looks, the XCeed is available exclusively with front-wheel drive.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed 

The 1.4-litre petrol is expected to be the biggest seller and it’s this version that we’ve spent the most time with. The engine provides adequate performance but doesn’t feel fantastic under larger throttle inputs, sounding strained in its upper registers. 0-60mph (Kia doesn’t quote 0-62mph times) takes 9.1 seconds with the manual gearbox or 9.2 with the automatic; top speed is 124mph.  

Go for the 1.0-litre petrol and performance doesn’t dip much; 0-60mph takes 10.9 seconds and top speed is 115mph. Improvements in fuel economy and CO2 emissions are also marginal. 

The diesel options offer good performance along with improvements in efficiency. In 116bhp form the 1.6-litre unit manages the 0-60mph sprint in 11 seconds, while turning the wick up to 134bhp results in a 10.2-second time. Top speed is 118mph in the lower-powered car and 122mph in the higher.

4.5

Kia’s reputation for reliability and safety means you can choose any of its models with confidence. The XCeed is packed with active safety kit, with lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, hill-start assist, traffic-sign recognition and cruise control all fitted as standard. Top-spec First Edition models get the full complement of systems, including active stop/go cruise control (on automatic cars) and blind-spot collision warning. 

Euro NCAP is yet to test the XCeed but the closely related Ceed hatch scored a full five stars when fitted with its optional safety pack. We expect the XCeed will manage the same score.

Warranty

Kia offers an industry-leading warranty on all of its cars that features seven years and 100,000 miles of coverage. Only sister company Hyundai’s unlimited-mileage five-year warranty comes close.

Servicing

Kia recommends that petrol XCeed models are serviced every 12 months or 10,000 miles, whichever comes first. Diesels can cover 20,000 miles before needing a service, but the same 12-month limit applies. 

Kia offers a range of pre-payment plans for servicing, marketed under the Kia Care brand – these can be paid monthly and are transferable between owners. The company also offers fixed-price MoT tests.

4

The XCeed is spacious enough for a car in this class, offering marginal improvements over the Ceed hatch on which it’s based. The XCeed is 85mm longer than the Ceed and so passenger and boot space has increased slightly – but Ceed owners won’t notice a massive difference. Elsewhere, the familiar platform means that the driving position is good, while all-round visibility is acceptable despite the sleek roofline. 

The cabin is fairly practical with good-sized door bins, a mobile phone cubby ahead of the gear lever and two cupholders in the centre console. A larger cubby is located under the centre armrest. Other nods to increased practicality include luggage hooks in the boot, a roof-mounted sunglasses holder and – in top-spec First Edition cars – 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats.

Size

The XCeed measures in at 1,495mm tall, 1,575mm wide (or 1,826mm including mirrors) and 4,395mm long. It’s about the same size as the Mercedes GLA and exactly the same length as the Mazda CX-30, though its Japanese rival is wider at 1,795mm minus mirrors.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Despite its SUV-alike looks, the difference in passenger space front and rear between the XCeed and Ceed is marginal to the point of being imperceivable. Space is still respectable though, with plenty of space for four adults to sit in comfort, or five at a slight squeeze. Comfort in all seats is good, with plenty of support and adjustability, especially in higher-spec models. ISOfix points feature on the outer rears, while these are also heated in top-spec First Edition cars.

Boot

The XCeed’s increase in length over the Ceed hatch is evidenced most inside by the increase in load volume – an increase of 31 litres brings the boot to 426 litres. Fold down the rear seats (60:40 as standard, 40:20:40 on the First Edition) and this increases to a total of 1,378 litres. For comparison, the Mazda CX-30 has 430 litres with the seats up and 1,406 litres with them folded – although these figures include underfloor storage.

Towing

XCeed models fitted with a 1.0-litre petrol or either of the 1.6-litre diesels can tow a braked trailer weighing up to 1,200kg, while the 1.4-litre models manage 1,000kg. Kia offers various wiring options for trailers, but a tow bar is conspicuous by its absence from the accessories list.

3.5

The XCeed’s range of conventional petrol and diesel engines is about par for the small crossover course; none exceed expectations on the fuel consumption or emissions fronts. 

High-mileage buyers and company car users looking for the best in fuel consumption and BiK rates will be best served – perhaps counterintuitively – by the more powerful diesel engine: 53.3mpg and 138g/km of CO2 trump the 114bhp version’s 52.3mpg and 141g/km. The former is cheaper to buy outright, however, so it’s worth weighing up if you’ll benefit from the marginal efficiency gains. 

The petrol models offer decent economy too; an average of 44.1 to 45.6mpg is possible from the 1.0-litre unit depending on wheel size, while the 1.4-litre returns 40.4 to 42.8mpg depending on wheel and gearbox options. CO2 emissions range from 140g/km for the entry-level petrol on its smallest wheels to 159g/km in the automatic 1.4-litre car.

Insurance groups

Insurance information for the Kia XCeed is not currently available but we expect it won’t stray too far from its hatchback relative in this regard. The standard Kia Ceed occupies insurance groups 9 to 14, depending on trim and engines.   

Depreciation

Our experts expect that the Kia XCeed will hold on to around 39 to 42 per cent of its value after three years and 36,000 miles come trade-in time. For context, the Audi Q2 retains around 44 to 52 per cent over the same period while the slightly pricer – but cheaper to run – Kia Niro will retain around 39 to 49 per cent.

New range-topping Mercedes Vito Sport van launched
Posted on Thursday September 19, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-09-19 16:30

New Mercedes Vito Sport panel van is on sale now, with prices starting from £37,475

Mercedes Vito Sport

Mercedes has launched the new, range-topping Vito Sport to sit at the top of the Vito van range. The German brand’s flagship van features a range of exterior styling enhancements and a host of additional interior equipment. Prices start from £37,475 (excluding VAT) for the Vito Sport Crew Van, climbing to £40,570 (excluding VAT) for the eight-seat Vito Sport Tourer.

The Mercedes Vito Sport is available as either a commercial vehicle or an eight-seat people carrier. Both models come with a lowered suspension system, new side skirts, black roof rails, LED headlamps and a set of bonnet and side sill graphics. Commercial models feature 17-inch alloy wheels, while the eight-seat Vito Tourer is offered with 19-inch alloy wheels.

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Inside, buyers get faux-leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather steering wheel, velour floor mats, chrome interior trim, air-conditioning, an electrical auxiliary heating system, a new storage compartment for the centre console and a seven-inch infotainment system with DAB radio and satellite navigation.

The Vito Sport also comes with a comprehensive range of safety equipment, including cruise control, a reversing camera, active parking assist, headlight assist and an anti-theft protection package with double locking door mechanisms. Other standard features include heat-insulating glass and a pair of electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors.

Mercedes’s Vito Sport is powered by a turbocharged 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, offered in two states of tune. The entry-level 116 variant produces 161bhp, while the more potent 119 model has 187bhp. Both engines come with a seven-speed automatic transmission as standard.

What do you make of the new Mercedes Vito Sport? Let us know in the comments section below… 

Volkswagen Golf gains three plush run-out editions
Posted on Thursday September 19, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-09-19 16:20

VW has launched Match Edition, GT Edition and R-Line Edition versions of the current Golf, ahead of the Mk8 model’s arrival next year

Volkswagen Golf - front

In preparation for the launch of the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf, the German brand issued the Mk7 variant with three run-out trim levels, called Match Edition, GT Edition and R-Line Edition. They replace the hatchback’s existing Match, GT and R-Line specifications, and add a range of extra equipment. Prices start from £22,135.

All three trim levels cost £400 more than the models they replace, but add £1,910 worth of optional extras. The three new trim levels receive two-zone climate control, LED headlights and Volkswagen’s “Winter Pack,” which features heated front seats, headlight washer jets and heated windscreen washer jets.

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The mid-range Volkswagen Golf GT Edition, when fitted with the brand’s 132bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, is priced from £25,260. Prices climb to £29,435 for the Golf GT Edition Estate, when it’s equipped with the brand’s 148bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder TDI diesel unit.


Volkswagen Golf - rear

Volkswagen’s range-topping Golf R-Line Edition hatchback is priced from £27,030. Like the firm’s outgoing R-Line model, it’s fitted with a 148bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder EVO TSI petrol engine. The R-Line Edition range tops out at £29,230 for the 148bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel.

The Golf SV MPV is also part of the trim level update. Prices start from £25,030 for the least powerful Match Edition variant, climbing to £30,230 for the most potent GT Edition model.

Do you think the updated Volkswagen Golf range represents better value? Let us know in the comments section below…

Audi A4 vs Jaguar XE vs BMW 3 Series
Posted on Thursday September 19, 2019

2019-09-21 11:00

Can the newly refreshed Audi A4 beat the BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE to saloon segment glory?

Audi A4 vs Jaguar XE vs BMW 3 Series

The car business is cyclical by its very nature, and these periods of renewal mean updated or all-new models tend to come at once. In 2019 it’s no different.

The latest is the revised Audi A4. This is a facelift rather than an all-new model, but the range offers fresh mild-hybrid engine tech, tweaked styling and upgraded infotainment. These are three points that any junior executive saloon has to deliver, alongside ride comfort, refinement, handling ability, effortless performance and plenty of practicality, mixed with a good level of equipment.

• Best executive cars to buy

Like Audi, Jaguar has revised its model. Both cars arrived around the same point, so the half-update in the model cycle means the XE has been redesigned, too, gaining new interior tech and a slicker cabin.

At the start of the year BMW’s new 3 Series hit the UK market and went straight to the top of this class, beating the previous XE in the process. But with renewed vitality from both its rivals, our 2019 compact exec saloon car champ won’t have everything its own way.

Audi A4

 

Model: Audi A4 40 TDI quattro S line
Price: £41,120
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, 187bhp 
0-60mph: 6.8 seconds
Test economy: 55.5mpg/12.2mpl 
CO2: 139g/km  
Annual road tax: £465

Given the pace of development in this class, the Audi A4 was in need of an update, so has the facelift helped its chances? We find out.

Design & engineering

At £41,120, the Audi is the most expensive model of this trio; it’s £1,295 more expensive than the BMW and £1,645 dearer than the Jaguar. However, check out the finance deals (right) to see if it can gain back some ground.

The A4’s exterior updates mainly focus on design. All models now have LED lights, which is a bonus, while these have also been refreshed, along with the front bumper and grille. There are more creases and lines down the side of the car, while the rear has been tweaked with new tail-lights too. 

We’ll leave it up to you to decide if you like the new look. We’re more interested in the engineering that’s underneath the MLB Evo chassis’s new clothing. The chassis itself is the same, with multi-link suspension at both ends. This 40 TDI produces the same 187bhp and 400Nm of torque as before, but unlike with other motors in the line-up, there’s no 12-volt mild-hybrid tech or electric compressor here.

The seven-speed S tronic transmission still sends power to all four wheels as part of the quattro system, something that Audi made famous in the  world of rallying. However, there’s been some significant change inside, with a new infotainment system. The previous MMI wheel has been replaced with a touchscreen, which is mounted in the same location as the old display, but with sharper graphics.

Audi has updated the digital dashboard, too, and it’s standard on S line, along with navigation, good phone tech, parking sensors and a reversing camera, climate and cruise control, heated seats and a powered tailgate. Full leather is a £995 option. Cabin quality is excellent, as we’ve come to expect from the brand, but we’d have liked a more extensive redesign of the interior.

Driving

The 40 TDI unit is strong. Thanks to the dual-clutch box’s launch control and swift upshifts, the 6.8-second 0-60mph time is impressive and was in touch with the BMW – a good result given that the Audi weighs 45kg more than its fellow German competitor.

Our test figures show its in-gear pull was decent, too. With just seven ratios in its box the Audi doesn’t have as much choice over which gear to pick. While its 50-70mph time in top gear (seventh) was glacially slow at 31.1 seconds, due to the turbo being off boost, once the TDI unit is in its stride, its performance is good. But the gearbox isn’t as smooth when pulling away from a standstill as its rivals’ conventional autos.

The ride isn’t as smooth, either. At higher speed, you notice the standard 19-inch wheels because the A4 fidgets and feels firm, and not as forgiving as the Jaguar in particular. It has an edge to the way it moves over bumps on A-roads and motorways that the XE doesn’t.

The BMW divides its two competitors for comfort, getting closer to the Jag. Conversely, though, the Audi’s low-speed ride around town feels forgiving, smoothly traversing bumps, grids and potholes. It just struggles to deal with the extra energy at higher speeds.This firm edge does mean the Audi has good body control. 

However, the steering is lighter, and while it’s direct and allows you to easily command the fairly high level of grip available, you get simply nothing in the way of feedback through it. Arguably, these cars needn’t focus highly in this area, but then the A4’s less-refined ride does mean there’s not a trade-off in other areas.

Practicality

At 460 litres, the Audi saloon’s boot is pretty practical, although it’s shy of the BMW’s by 20 litres. However, in S line trim you get a powered tailgate as standard, which does boost practicality when you’ve got your hands full. 

Despite having a shorter wheelbase than the XE, the A4 is much roomier in both the front and rear cabin. The back seats offer noticeably more legroom and the roof doesn’t feel as imposing, while in the front the driver and passenger aren’t as cramped. This makes it feel less sporty, but with good storage – including an extra lidded bin where the MMI wheel used to sit – it’s a practical place.

Ownership

It always seems that Auto Express readers feel premium brands don’t offer the service or ownership experience they expect, because you voted Audi the 16th best brand out of 30 in our Driver Power 2019 survey. BMW trailed in 25th place, while Jaguar came ninth.

The A4’s prospects improve thanks to its safety equipment, though. It inherits its predecessor’s full five-star Euro NCAP rating because there are no structural changes, while a kit upgrade brings autonomous emergency braking with collision warning and pedestrian detection, plus six airbags.

Blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist are part of the £1,250 Driver Assistance Pack – Tour, which also adds semi-autonomous adaptive cruise.

Running costs

The Audi is the most expensive car and emits the most CO2, at 139g/km, so it’ll be the priciest car to run for business users, at £5,675 for higher-rate earners. This compares with £5,445 for the 138g/km Jaguar, which is also in the 35 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax bracket.

The BMW emits quite a bit less CO2 than its rivals, at 121g/km. This puts it in the 32 per cent BiK class, which means company car drivers who pay top-rate tax will only have to contribute £5,064 per year.

Testers’ notes

“The Audi’s price has another impact. It’s the only car that breaks the £40,000 barrier, so it’ll cost £465 to tax from years two to six; its rivals only cost £145 a year in VED, so it’s worth bearing this in mind, too.”

Jaguar XE

 

Model: Jaguar XE D180 AWD R-Dynamic SE
Price: £39,475
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, 178bhp 
0-60mph: 8.4 seconds
Test economy: 48.5mpg/10.7mpl 
CO2: 138g/km  
Annual road tax: £145

The XE is a former winner of our Best Compact Executive Saloon award, but has dropped down the rankings since newer rivals have arrived. As with the A4, a facelift should make the British car more competitive, so we’re testing the £39,475 XE D180 AWD R-Dynamic SE to match the Audi.

Design & engineering

Jaguar’s approach to the updates to the XE is similar to Audi’s with the new A4 in that the British brand has retained the areas where its car was already good, and boosted the ones where it was lacking.

That means the interior has had a thorough update, with more tech injected for a modern feel. That includes a 12.3-inch digital dashboard and Jag’s Touch Pro Duo infotainment system.

Best new cars for 2019

Quality has also taken a big leap forward; the cabin materials feel better than before and the caris also better built. There are still some ergonomic flaws, but there are improvements, too, such as the steering wheel, which is more pleasing to hold.

The 2.0-litre 178bhp turbodiesel Ingenium engine remains, driving the same eight-speed auto gearbox – which is now operated by a lever rather than a rotary wheel – and four-wheel-drive system as before.

Jaguar claims 75 per cent of the XE’s body is made from aluminium and the chassis uses the same lightweight metal extensively – but the model is still the heaviest of the three cars, at 1,610kg. 

That weight is controlled by double wishbones at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear. You can opt for Jag’s Adaptive Dynamics system for £800, which brings adaptive dampers for extra comfort, another area of focus for Jaguar to improve with this facelift.

R-Dynamic SE trim features satellite navigation, LED lights with high-beam assist, 18-inch alloys, keyless operation, leather seats, a rear camera and parking sensors, plus for the first time, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. It’s well equipped.

Driving

The XE was always brilliant to drive and this updated car is no different. Yet the biggest change is the extra comfort it serves up, because in the default setting the Jaguar is the best-riding model of these three.

It takes bumps with soothing fluidity, rounding off the edges of harsher imperfections in a way the 3 Series can’t. It doesn’t have the BMW’s body control, though, even in the sportier setting, and the XE tends to throw its weight around a little more, feeling less tied down than its German rival. But it’s still a nicely balanced set-up that makes long motorway journeys – for which these cars will often be used – relaxing.

The steering is lighter than before but still good, with even more precision thanks to what feels like a reduction in friction in the steering system; basically, it’s easier to turn, slightly lighter and feels more precise. It hasn’t lost any of its engagement, even if there isn’t much feedback, because the chassis still feels sweet, if not quite on the BMW’s level.

However, the engine isn’t a match for either of its rivals’. Our performance figures show the Jaguar was quite a bit slower, accelerating from 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds, which was 1.6 and 1.8 seconds slower than the A4 and 320d respectively. This is partly because the gearbox is more sluggish than both rivals’; it doesn’t engage as quickly off the line or shift up quite as swiftly. But then it is smooth, which helps keep progress relaxing.

It also took 8.4 seconds for the XE to go from 30-70mph through the gears, which was 1.6 seconds slower than the Audi and 2.2 seconds behind the BMW’s time.

The Jaguar is refined enough, but is no smoother or quieter than the 3 Series. Still, at least the British saloon is quiet on the motorway.

Practicality

The 410-litre boot is quite a chunk smaller than both its rivals’; it takes 50 litres less than the Audi’s and trails the BMW’s by 70 litres. Despite the XE’s similar footprint to the A4 and 320d, it’s also more cramped in the rear of the cabin. It feels the smallest in the back when it comes to both head and legroom, while the front of the interior is also tighter.

It does feel cossetting, but despite improved storage – such as the wireless charging tray on our test car – the XE still doesn’t feel as versatile inside as the BMW in particular.

Ownership

Jaguar’s ninth-place finish in the makers’ chart of our Driver Power 2019 survey meant it was the best performer of these three brands, ahead of Audi and BMW.

The safety kit is even better, though, because the five-star rated XE gets autonomous braking, lane- keep assist, auto high beam, traffic-sign recognition and cross-traffic alert. You can also add blind-spot monitoring for £450, plus Jag’s clever ClearSight digital rear-view mirror for another £450.

Running costs

The Jaguar’s fuel economy on test was 48.5mpg, which means an annual fuel bill of £1,485. It trailed the results of its competitors. The BMW managed 54.3mpg, which equates to an annual fuel bill of £1,326. However, it’s worth remembering that this figure is for a rear-drive model; we still wouldn’t expect much, if any, difference for an xDrive model, though. 

It was the A4 that was the efficiency champ in this test, however, because it managed to edge out its rivals and returned 55.5mpg, which means a fuel bill of £1,297 per annum. 

Testers’ notes

“R-Dynamic spec is available on all XEs. The trim level determines the kit, while R-Dynamic adds a sportier look, with a bigger bodykit and wheels. The car’s lights and bumpers have been subtly restyled.”

BMW 3 Series

Model: BMW 320d xDrive M Sport 
Price: £39,825
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, 187bhp 
0-60mph: 6.6 seconds
Test economy: 54.3mpg/11.9mpl 
CO2: 121g/km
Annual road tax: £145

The 3 Series is our reigning compact exec champ, and in 320d xDrive M Sport form is a very tough rival for the two newcomers to face. It costs £39,825, but how competitive is it against its updated rivals?

Design & engineering

When this 3 Series hit the UK at the start of the year, one of the big advances was the car’s all-new chassis. This is based on BMW’s CLAR architecture, with packaging improvements over its predecessor that were immediately apparent when we tested it.

It’s still a case of evolution for the engineering hard points, though. The body is slightly bigger and the car therefore a little roomier, while the engine developments focus on a twin-turbo version of BMW’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel unit.

There’s one small compressor for better response, and a bigger turbo for power higher up the rev range. The 320d produces 187bhp and 400Nm of torque, with an eight-speed automatic gearbox driving all four wheels in xDrive trim to match its rivals.

This four-wheel-drive system is intelligent, though, so it only sends a good chunk of power to the front when it senses a loss of traction at the rear wheels. Otherwise it’s a rear-biased set-up, as in the Jaguar, whereas the Audi is more lead by its front.

One point that’s worth mentioning is the 3 Series’ standard suspension. An adaptive set-up costs £2,200 as part of the M Sport Plus pack, but the 320d comes with what BMW calls ‘lift-dependent dampers’. When the car is at its lightest the damping forces are reduced compared with when the 3 Series is full of occupants and luggage. When it’s heavier, the damping is tautened up for more control. 

M Sport trim is equivalent to Audi’s S line and Jaguar’s R-Dynamic SE, so there’s a similarly subtly enhanced sporty bodykit, while the list of standard equipment matches up as well. That means you get BMW’s latest Live Cockpit Professional infotainment system, heated leather seats, parking sensors and a reversing camera, plus items such as a digital dash and phone connectivity.

The cabin quality splits its rivals. It’s mostly good, but there are a few areas of nasty plastic.

Driving 

The way the 320d drives is evolutionary, which is no bad thing. Its steering isn’t very communicative, but it’s direct and a lovely weight, so with the level of grip the chassis generates, you can have genuine fun behind the wheel. The damper technology gives great body control, keeping the BMW composed through quick corners and direction changes.

There’s balance, too, even in xDrive form. Our figures are for the rear-drive model, but even then performance is on par with its four-wheel-drive rivals. Adding xDrive should help, but don’t expect much improvement over our 6.6-second 0-60mph time. Traction is already great, and while xDrive might improve this slightly, the extra weight will offset it. It won’t affect in-gear figures, where the 320d was easily a match for the A4 and XE.  

Engine refinement is good, and the diesel only gets rattlier at higher revs. Even then, it’s quieter than the A4 and XE’s. It’s helped by the gearbox, which is quicker and smoother to shift than the Jag’s similar eight-speed unit, while changes are less pronounced than with the Audi’s dual-clutch transmission as well. 

While the BMW is comfortable, the ride isn’t totally composed. The damper tech works, but the 3 Series feels just a little choppy on bad roads. It’s better if it’s carrying a little more weight, though, when it settles down and smooths out. In contrast, the Audi never feels as composed, and while the Jag rides sweetly, the balance is skewed a little more towards handling.

Practicality 

The BMW’s cabin was enlarged for this version, and there’s noticeably more room inside. It feels just a little more spacious than the A4 and quite a bit roomier than the XE. Both these cars are facelifts, so they’re stuck with the hard points of the architecture, which limits space.

There’s less between them on boot capacity, though. The BMW offers 480 litres, which is more than enough room and slightly more than the 460-litre Audi, while the Jag is lacking, at 410 litres.

The simple and intuitive infotainment boosts usability, while storage is good, too. Cup-holders in front of the gearlever, a tray with a wireless charging plate in front of that, and a big central bin between the front seats mean there’s plenty of storage space.

Ownership

BMW performed the worst of this trio in our Driver Power 2019 poll, finishing  25th in the makers’ chart, which isn’t great for a premium brand that prides itself on this image.

Safety is better, though, because the 320d features autonomous braking with collision warning, lane- departure alert, LED lights, parking sensors and a reversing camera as standard in M Sport trim. 

Our car also included the £1,250 Driving Assistant Professional package, which adds adaptive cruise, cross-traffic warning, lane-keep assist with side collision prevention and a semi-autonomous drive function that will keep you in your lane.

Running costs

The BMW’s appeal is backed up by its stronger residual values. Our experts predict that the 320d xDrive M Sport will hold on to 45.4 per cent/£18,077 of its list price, so depreciation stands at £21,748. 

This compares with estimated residual values of 41.6 per cent/£16,402 and 38.6 per cent/£16,794 for the XE and A4. These will, therefore, depreciate by £23,073 and £26,771 respectively.

Testers’ notes

“The 320d features active aero technology. Slats in the large grille close to reduce drag and improve the BMW’s efficiency. The saloon’s slippery shape means wind noise is kept low, too.”

Verdict 

First place: BMW 3 Series 

Yet another win goes to the 3 Series. It doesn’t ride with quite as much forgiveness as the XE, but in all other respects it’s better dynamically; it handles and steers well, has more grip and the engine is punchier, while the gearbox is the best. It’s also the most practical, the infotainment is strongest, and there’s hardly anything between this trio for running costs. A few minor quality issues aside, the BMW is a great car.  

Second place: Jaguar XE

Updates here have enhanced comfort and quality, but not compromised how well the XE drives. The infotainment on offer is improved, too, and the Jag now feels more mature and hi-tech. The engine is a weak point compared with its rivals’ units, but the XE handles well, has just enough performance and feels like a good step up in quality. The infotainment still holds it back compared with the BMW, though.

Third place: Audi A4 

While the new A4 is an improvement and the quality is superb, it doesn’t quite reach the heights set by the BMW and the Jaguar. That’s mainly because it’s not as comfortable, and while the infotainment is an improvement in some ways (but a backward step in others), it’s still not as good as the BMW’s. This is also a pricier car, yet it’ll lose more cash. The new A4 is a good car, then, but not a great one. 

Also consider…

Mercedes C-Class

Model: Mercedes C 220 d 4MATIC AMG Line
Price: £41,165
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 191bhp 

The C-Class update last year added more tech to go with the already smart cabin. The 2.0-litre diesel is noisy, but performance is good - and so is practicality, thanks to the roomy cabin and 455-litre boot. There are some great lease deals, too.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

 

Model: Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.2 JTDM-2 Speciale
Price: £37,795
Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl, 187bhp

The slim Giulia range means just Speciale trim is available with Alfa’s more powerful diesel unit that matches these cars. There’s no four-wheel-drive option, hence the cheaper price, but you don’t need it. The joy here is the Giulia’s handling.

Figures

BMW 320d xDrive M Sport Sport-Auto Jaguar XE D180 AWD R-Dynamic SE Audi A4 40 TDI quattro S line
On the road price/total as tested £39,825/£39,825 £39,475/£47,560 £41,120/£43,565
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £18,077/45.4% £16,402/41.6% £16,794/38.6%
Depreciation £21,748 £23,073 £26,771
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £2,532/£5,064 £2,722/£5,445 £2,837/£5,675
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,326/£2,210 £1,485/£2,475 £1,297/£2,162
Insurance group/quote/road tax cost 31/£610/£145 28/£557/£145 30/£589/£465
Servicing costs £25pm (3 years) TBC £180/£345/£180
Length/wheelbase 4,709/2,851mm 4,678/2,835mm 4,762/2,820mm
Height/width 1,445/1,827mm 1,416/1,967mm 1,431/1,847mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,995cc 4cyl in-line/1,999cc 4cyl in-line/1,968cc
Peak power/revs  187/4,000 bhp/rpm 178/4,000 bhp/rpm 187/3,800 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  400/1,750 Nm/rpm 430/1,730 Nm/rpm 400/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission  8-speed auto/4wd 8-speed auto/4wd 7-speed auto/4wd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 59 litres/run-flats 56 litres/repair kit 58 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 480 litres 410 litres 460 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,540/600/1,600kg 1,610/640/1,800kg 1,585/575/2,000kg
Turning circle 12.0 metres 11.2 metres 11.6 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 25th/25th 9th/12th 16th/20th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars N/A 92/82/81/82/5 (2015) 89/87/75/75/5 (2015)
0-60/30-70mph 6.6/6.2 secs 8.4/8.4 secs 6.8/6.8 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 2.7/3.0 secs 3.1/3.6 secs 2.7/3.6 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th 4.3/5.9/7.4/13.4 secs 5.1/6.5/8.4/15.2 secs 5.4/10.1/31.1 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  145mph/1,600rpm 132mph/1,600rpm 146mph/1,500rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  44.5/32.2/9.6m 46.4/34.3/9.1m 46.7/34.2/8.5m
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range 54.3/11.9/705 miles 48.5/10.7/597 miles 55.5/12.2/708 miles
WLTP combined mpg 48.7-51.4mpg 41.6-46.4mpg 45.6mpg
WLTP combined mpl 10.7-11.3mpl 9.2-10.2mpl 10.0 mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 139/121g/km/32% 156/138g/km/35% 136/139g/km/35%
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/cam Eight/yes/yes/yes Six/yes/yes/yes Six/yes/yes/yes
Auto box/lane-keep/blind spot/AEB  Yes/yes/£1,250*/yes Yes/yes/£450/yes Y/£1,250*/£1,250*/y
Clim./cruise ctrl/leather/heated seats Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/£170 Yes/yes/£995/yes
Met paint/LEDs/keyless/pwr tailgate £670/y/£990*/£990* £600/yes/yes/£400 £675/y/£1,395*/y
Nav/digi dash/DAB/connected apps Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto £350/yes/no £150/yes/yes No/yes/yes

Vision Mercedes Simplex concept is a retro go-kart of the future
Posted on Thursday September 19, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-09-19 13:00

Mercedes has unwrapped its latest design exercise – a two-seat, open wheel concept, which blends yesteryear styling with modern technology

Mercedes Simplex Concept - front

This is the Vision Mercedes Simplex concept. It’s a retro-styled, two-seat design exercise which pays homage to the German brand’s defining veteran vehicle; the 1901 Mercedes 35 PS racer. Its yesteryear styling is peppered with modern technology, which Mercedes says marks the shift towards its latest new design era.

Like the 1901 Mercedes 35 PS, the Vision Simplex features a flat profile, open wheel arches and a low-mounted, lightweight powertrain. The front wheels support a stylised version of the original car’s large mud-guards, while the concept’s rose gold radiator surround harks back to the bronze honeycomb unit fitted to the historic racer.

Best concept cars of all time

Unlike the original vehicle, which was a body-on-frame construction, the Vision Simplex is built around a monocoque which utilises modern materials such as carbon fibre. The veteran car’s bonnet clasps have also been retained, while the grille beared a bronzed version of Mercedes archaic badge.

The cabin features the same retro-inspired design language, with an upright driving position and a fixed bench seat trimmed in Chesterfield quilting. However, the 35 PS’s analogue instruments have been replaced with a “dynamic digital” gauge which Mercedes claims displays the “right information at the right time,” with data such as speed, navigation instructions and vehicle information only appearing when required.

Mercedes claims that the 35 PS was the world’s first “modern car,” which set the template for all future internal combustion-engined vehicles. Most cars at the turn of the 20th century were repurposed stagecoaches, with high centres of gravity and slab-sided styling.

In its day, the 35 PS was a revelation. It featured low-slung, sleek styling, a bespoke chassis and a lightweight 5.9-litre four-cylinder engine with an output of 36bhp. The racing version, with its stripped-back panelling, could reach a top speed of 56mph.

What do you make of the Vision Mercedes Simplex concept? Let us know in the comments section below… 

33 new drivers a day have their licences revoked
Posted on Thursday September 19, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-09-19 13:23

Nearly 12,000 motorists with under two years of experience had their licences revoked under the New Drivers Act in 2018

Police pulling over Ford Ka

New data shows that around 33 new drivers lost their licences under the New Drivers Act every day in 2018.

Last year, 11,953 drivers with less than two years of experience had their licences revoked under the act – equivalent to 33 a day – according to DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) data obtained by road safety charity Brake via a Freedom of Information request.

New drivers could be banned at night

Of the 11,953 who lost their licences, 62 per cent were aged between 17 and 24. Although this age group only makes up seven per cent of drivers in the UK, they account for nearly a fifth of those killed or seriously injured on the country’s roads.

Under the New Drivers Act, motorists who get six penalty points within two years of passing their practical driving test automatically have their licenses revoked. In order to get back behind the wheel, they are required to re-apply for a provisional driving licence and go through the process of taking their theory and practical tests again.

Brake argues that the figures show more needs to be done to ensure young drivers are safe on the roads and is making the case for the introduction of a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system with a 12-month minimum learner period, followed by a two-year novice period with restrictions such as a late-night driving curfew. It follows news from July that the Government is considering introducing a GDL scheme as part of its Road Safety Action Plan.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at Brake, commented: “It’s shocking that so many new drivers are racking up enough penalty points to have their licences revoked so soon after passing their test, in particular those in the 17 to 24 age bracket.

“It clearly demonstrates that we need to make our licensing system more robust so that when a driver passes their test, they have all the necessary tools and knowledge to drive safely on all roads and in all conditions. Fortunately, there is a proven solution which can deliver this – Graduated Driver Licensing.

“The Government’s announcement that they will explore the issue of GDL further is welcome. Swift and decisive action must, however, be taken to introduce GDL across the UK, as a priority to ensure new drivers have the skills and experience they need and to end the tragedy of young people dying on our roads.”

Would you be in favour of a Graduated Driver Licensing system for the UK? Have your say in the comments...

New Volkswagen Passat 2019 review
Posted on Thursday September 19, 2019

Volkswagen Passat - front
19 Sep, 2019 12:45pm James Brodie

Have updates made the popular Volkswagen Passat better than ever? We hit the road to find out...

A small nip and tuck to the evergreen Passat isn’t really the biggest Volkswagen news of 2019, but it’s one that holds significance to British business buyers. This is a popular company car and motorway mile-muncher, and almost four out of every five Passats leaving UK Volkswagen forecourts are accounted for by fleet sales, not private customers. 

That’s why there’s a heavily updated plug-in hybrid model with tiny company car tax, but it’s also a reason why the Passat retains a wide diesel line-up, ensuring a lot of choice for long-distance drivers. There’s an all-new 2.0-litre diesel with 148bhp and clever cylinder deactivation technology, while there’s also a hot 237bhp bi-turbo model. Somewhere in the middle resides this, the 187bhp 2.0-litre TDI.

Driven here in less popular saloon format (sales between estate and saloon Passats are split around 2:1), the design remains fairly restrained in a class becoming ever more obsessed with sporty looks, though a racier-looking R-Line trim exists and ought to be popular. Tweaked bumpers front and rear, a slightly retouched grille, new paint and alloy wheel choices, new tail-lights and new Passat lettering are all you’ll find on the outside, but these subtle differences add up, and it’s clear to see that this is a refreshed car.

 

Changes on the inside major on trying to make the Passat feel more modern. There’s some new trim and finish, plus a new steering wheel, the analogue clock mounted on the dashboard has been removed, the infotainment has been updated with a sharp and slick eight-inch screen standard across all models, and an 12.3-inch digital instrument panel is now available across a wide slice of the range, though only through a costly option pack.

The additions are minor but regardless, the Passat still feels like a modern and meticulously bolted together car once you climb aboard. It climbs no further up the ladder from a quality perspective and it’s still not quite a match for an Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class, Jaguar XE or BMW 3 Series for luxury. But placed within the context of its true rivals, it feels on the money; perhaps only a nicely specced Mazda 6 can be considered plusher inside for the cash. 

Space in the cabin can be considered good up front and par for the course in the rear, given that the large transmission tunnel cuts into the middle seat. However, those after the looks of the saloon won’t be too disheartened with the boot, given its healthy 586-litre size.

Much like the Golf, the Passat remains a car that’s easy to drive above all else. There’s plenty of adjustability in the seat and steering wheel, so getting comfortable is a doddle. The controls are nicely weighted, the steering itself is positive enough despite the absence of feedback, and the performance of the 187bhp 2.0-litre TDI unit goes without question. It’s capable of 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and few buyers will find they need more than this; indeed, many may prefer to save money with the 148bhp TDI option. 

Summoning the 400Nm torque while on the move doesn’t happen quite as quickly as you’d like, though. The DSG transmission, while a smooth shifter, feels a little languid in its responsiveness, and it could be quicker to respond to kickdown. Telltale diesel clatter and road noise are there but they’re not overly intrusive, and wind noise is impressively quelled, making this an easy-going option for motorway monotony. A 66-litre fuel tank, paired with claimed mixed economy of 49.7mpg, means that in theory at least, the Passat is capable of 720 miles between fills. In real-world terms, expect around 600 miles between trips to the pumps.

However, one less relaxing oddity about our test car was the ride quality. The Passat has never been a family saloon with a harsh edge, and even with plenty of rubber surrounding the standard 17-inch wheels on our SEL grade car, there was something amiss with the way the Passat handled the mixed road surfaces we drove it on. There was no crashiness, but it was keen to pick up vibrations, transmitted through the seat and up through the steering wheel, suggesting some damper work could be done. 

What looks likely to pull buyers towards the Passat is the technology and new driver assistance features introduced on this Mk8 facelift. The big news is the addition of VW’s ‘Travel Assist’ semi-autonomous driver aid, which is standard kit across the line-up. It works with an updated adaptive cruise control system and lane assist to assist braking, acceleration and steering on motorway style roads, right up to speeds of 130mph. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto arrive too, while elsewhere, SEL cars feature pinpoint-sharp navigation, voice control, a three-year subscription to VW We Connect remote services and add luxuries such as leather upholstery and heated front seats.

Running costs will dictate a huge amount of Passat purchases though, not the trinkets, and while even this 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel won’t cost a lot to run the taxman won’t take it easy on company car buyers. 31 per cent BIK is steep, while the plug-in hybrid GTE saloon - which carries a £4,000 premium on list price - takes on a 16 per cent rate. It has more kit, more power and better economy, and depending on how much tax you pay in the first place, you could have it for the same outlay if the sums work in your favour. 

3.5
The Volkswagen Passat will appeal to company car buyers keen on driver assistance technology and premium appeal, and it remains spacious, practical and easy to drive. However, you should do the maths to work out if diesel or plug-in petrol power is your best bet financially, because the two propulsion technologies have really hit a crossover point on buying costs and taxation bills. Some may find spending more initially on the plug-in GTE model works out cheaper in the long run.
  • Model: Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI 190 PS SEL DSG
  • Price: £32,270
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel
  • Power/torque: 187bhp/400Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
  • 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 147mph
  • Economy/CO2: 49.7mpg/117g/km
  • On sale: Now

New Audi Q5 55 TFSI e 2019 review
Posted on Thursday September 19, 2019

Audi Q5 55 TFSI e - front
19 Sep, 2019 10:15am Vicky Parrott

The new plug-in hybrid Audi Q5 55 TFSI e is expensive, but it offers the perfect blend of pace, practicality, comfort and efficiency

What could be better than a plug-in hybrid Audi Q5? All that roominess, the executive-plush interior, neat dynamics and enviable brand swagger, complete with an official 26 miles of electric running and a 2.0-litre petrol engine to keep you going after that. It could well be the plug-in hybrid that a lot of buyers have been waiting for.  

There are two plug-in Q5 TFSI e models on offer, both complete with a 14.1kWh battery and 141bhp electric motor. The familiar 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine features in both, alongside Audi’s venerable quattro active four-wheel drive and seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox.

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Combined with the electric motor, this brings power up to 295bhp for the entry-level 50 TFSI e, or 362bhp for the 55 TFSI e that we’re testing here. The idea being, of course, is that you can do the school run or shorter commutes virtually fuel-free and then have the freedom of a petrol car at the weekend.

And in practice, it really is close to the best of all worlds. In pure-EV mode, it’s silent, suave and just generally makes you feel full of smug. You can do motorway speeds in electric mode with ease, and of course the uninterrupted stream of power is ideal for slicking around the city.   

We managed to get some 20 miles of electric running during our motorway-heavy test drive, so 25 miles should be possible in good weather around tow. With low battery charge and in Hybrid mode, the turbocharged petrol engine still returns close to 40mpg in unhurried use. 

Just don’t forget that, as with any plug-in hybrid, you have to charge the Q5 regularly to get the efficiency on offer. That’s easy enough to do – a normal three-pin domestic socket will deliver a full charge in around six hours, while a 7kW home wallbox will do it in two – and the necessary cables are supplied as standard.

For longer journeys, Hybrid mode is your best bet. Stick a destination in the car’s nav and it automatically switches between electric and petrol running as it deems best in order to gain the most efficiency. Clever stuff, since it even prioritises electric running for slower roads and petrol for main artery routes.  

Not only that, but it switches cleanly between the two powertrains without any sudden change in throttle response or lurch in progress to distract you from Radio 4 or your latte-to-go. Plus, the petrol engine itself is super-quiet, and barely any more intrusive on a steady throttle than the electric motor.

It’s also very comfortable. The Q5 trim range has had a shake-up with the addition of the plug-in hybrid, but if you want air suspension then you have to go for one of the Vorsprung trims that have it included – it’s not an option on the others. Mind you, our S Line Competition 55 TFSI e rode with impressive composure, feeling taut yet pliant – an impressive balance for a heavy, high-riding SUV. We’d say the adaptive air set-up really is unnecessary.  

The TFSI e doesn’t encourage you to drive as vigorously as an SQ5 does, but it’s tidy and balanced in corners, and the straight-line performance in the 55 TFSI e isn’t far off that of the SQ5 models, either. Not bad for a car that also gets free entry into London (until October 2021, at least) and cheap company car tax.

You even get ample passenger space in the back and a good sized boot; at 450 litres it’s 95 litres smaller than the standard Q5’s and there’s no option of a space-saver tyre. But it’s still easily good enough for a chunky buggy or big dog. The biggest annoyance is the bulky cable case that hooks onto a lashing eye and hangs around, taking up space in the boot. 

Cable storage is one thing, but it’s more likely to be the price that makes you question the Q5 plug-in hybrid. The cheapest 50 TFSI model starts at just under £50,000, while the 55 TFSI e comes in at almost £55,000 – some £6,000 more than an equivalent diesel or petrol Q5. 

And while it does get LED headlights, heated and electrically adjustable seats, Audi’s impressive nav system, Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charging and more, you’re still likely to want to add metallic paint and a panoramic sunroof, as well as the Comfort and Sound pack for keyless entry and the Tour pack to get adaptive cruise control. Before you know it you’ve got a £60k car. A Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine isn’t going to be as efficient as the Q5 when it’s got the petrol engine going, but spec-for-spec it’s certainly cheaper to buy.

4
The Audi Q5 55 TFSI e manages to be virtually everything to all people. Fast, practical, quiet, efficient, comfortable, cheap to run, and just as sumptuous as you expect. It’s not cheap to buy, but otherwise this Q5 is hard to fault if you want a plug-in family car without the range anxiety of pure electric.
  • Model: Audi Q5 55 TFSI e S Line Competition review
  • Price: £54,900
  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged 4cyl petrol plus electric motor
  • Power/torque: 362bhp/500Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
  • Top speed: 148mph
  • Economy/CO2: 108.6mpg/49g/km
  • Electric range: 26 miles
  • On sale: Now

New MINI Clubman Cooper 2019 review
Posted on Thursday September 19, 2019

MINI Clubman - front
19 Sep, 2019 9:30am James Batchelor

The MINI Clubman has been refreshed with subtle exterior tweaks and a revised engine line-up, but it remains an oddball choice

The MINI Clubman has always suffered from an identity crisis. The original, with its single rear door that opened on the driver’s side, was quaint but odd. This second-generation car is part hatch, part estate and four years on from launch, it’s had a refresh. 

This is it and on the surface at least, not much has changed. MINI has chosen to lightly freshen up the looks so the Clubman’s slightly confused personality remains. New lights and a larger grille brighten up the front and there are new, squarer door mirrors, but it’s at the rear where you’ll spot a facelifted Clubman from the old one. 

The rear lights are now full-LEDs and adopt the Union Jack design, first seen on the MINI three- and five-door. With their wider and slimmer shape they are arguably less contrived than the Hatch’s design, but they remain a divisive feature. They’re also a feature you’re stuck with, as MINI isn’t offering a more generic halogen offering for people who don’t want to fly the flag. That wouldn’t be premium enough, says MINI.

Elsewhere it’s your typical mid-life refresh, so there are three new colours – including this Indian Summer Red metallic – new wheel designs and, as this is a MINI, there are now more ways to personalise it. So there are more contrasting roof colours and you can order Union Jack-style wheels and headrests, if you wish. More optional extras, including various technology packs and Matrix LED headlamps, are added to the list as well. But, unsurprisingly, they all come at a hefty price.     

The changes are equally minor on the inside. There are seven new leather upholsteries in various colours, which will grab your eye, but that’s pretty much it. The standard of fit and finish remains extremely high, but the Clubman is still outclassed by the now really rather old Audi A3. The design, however, has a bigger wow factor than the Mercedes A-Class, despite the MINI having been around for longer. There are still loads of cubbies to store things, room in the back is fine for two adults, but not three, and the boot remains large for a hatch but small for an estate car.

As standard the entry-level Clubman Classic still get a 6-5-inch infotainment screen with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay, real time traffic updates, online search and connected services, automatic lights and wipers, LED mood lighting and MINI logo puddle lamps, but is now £700 dearer than before. Meanwhile, Sport carries with it a John Cooper Works bodykit, larger alloys and bucket seats and Exclusive tops the range once again with its leather and chrome features.

Despite all the tweaks to the way the Clubman looks, under the bonnet MINI has slimmed things down. There’s now only one diesel – the 148bhp 2.0-litre Cooper D – and three petrols: a 189bhp 2.0-litre for the Cooper S, a 302bhp 2.0-litre John Cooper Works (70bhp more than the old JCW) and a 134bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder for the Cooper. The One and One D have gone as has the Cooper S All4, with four-wheel drive reserved solely for the JCW.

The Cooper has long been our pick and the bestseller of the range, due to its appealing blend of performance and finesse. It’s also the model that does the best job of differentiating itself from the MINI five-door Hatch, so it’s the engine we’re focusing on here. The mid-life refresh has left the Clubman’s oily bits untouched so it goes, stops and rides like before.

The 1.5-litre three-cylinder is a little gem; it’s punchy across the entire rev range, and yet has similar refinement to that of the 2.0-litre in the Cooper S – it’s never thrashy or boomy, even when you extend it towards the red line. Our car was matched up to a seven-speed double-clutch Steptronic gearbox (a six-speed manual is standard and £1,600 cheaper), which is smooth but never really gives a sporty feel when changing ratios and is more set up for relaxed driving. The same goes for the ride – the Cooper has a pleasing suppleness around town, which happily doesn’t translate to wallowy body control on a country road.

While the Clubman has always tried to be slightly more comfortable than the Hatch, it still has a chassis that’s typically MINI. For a posh hatchback-cum-estate car, it’s surprisingly responsive and feels more agile than an A-Class or even a BMW 1 Series. It’s just a shame then that the steering, while direct, never weights up like it does in other MINI models and feels just a bit too light.              

3.5
The second-generation version of the Clubman is now four years old so it’s time for a refresh. On the outside the changes are pretty subtle with the biggest difference being a pair of patriotic rear lights. MINI has slimmed down the engine choices too, but the Cooper remains the pick of the range. While the refresh has smartened things up, the Clubman is still an oddball choice compared to other more conventional premium hatchbacks and it won’t appeal to everyone.
  • Model: MINI Clubman Cooper Exclusive
  • Price: £24,100
  • Engine: 1.5-litre, 3cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 134bhp/220Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 127mph
  • Economy/CO2: 41.5mpg/154g/km
  • On sale: Now

Glickenhaus Le Mans hypercar unveiled
Posted on Wednesday September 18, 2019

Alastair Crooks 2019-09-18 17:00

American supercar company Glickenhaus reveals its entrant to the revised WEC hypercar class for Le Mans.

This is the new hypercar from Glickenhaus, designed to race in the upcoming WEC Hypercar class at Le Mans. Pictures suggest the new machine could be named SCG 007 and Glickenhaus has confirmed that it will feature a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine. 

• Fastest Nurburgring lap times 2019: quickest cars and lap records

Glickenhaus is best known for commissioning the one-off Ferrari P4/5 supercar which was designed by Pininfarina. The American firm also has history of racing with the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG 003 (named after the company’s founder), contesting of the 24 Hours of Nurburgring between 2015 to 2017. 


This new car will be aimed squarely at a new-look WEC Hypercar class, which will replace the current LMP1 class after 2020 to attract more manufacturers. Currently, only Toyota compete in LMP1 with various ‘privateer’ teams. Along with Glickenhaus, Aston Martin has also confirmed it’s intention of entering the new Le Mans hypercar class with a car based on the Valkyrie

Similarly to the SCG 003, a limited number of road-going versions of the new Glickenhaus car will be made available to customers - in order to abide by WEC homologation rules.

What are your thoughts on Glickenhaus’ latest car? Let us know in the comments below...

£27k Bugatti Baby II toy car launched: a racing icon, only smaller
Posted on Wednesday September 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-09-18 17:00

Bugatti has partnered with The Little Car Company to produce a scaled down, battery-powered replica of the Bugatti Type 35

Bugatti baby Type 35 - front

As part of its 110th anniversary celebration, Bugatti has built a scaled down, all-electric replica of the Bugatti Type 35, called the Baby II. It’s 75 percent the size of the original racer, and is designed for both children and adults to drive. Production is limited to just 500 units (all of which have been sold), with prices starting from €30,000 (£27,000).

The Bugatti Baby II’s body and chassis are near-perfect scale replicas of the Type 35’s. The model’s production started with a full digital scan of the 1924 Bugatti Type 35 Lyon Grand Prix racer, to which the designers added mounts for the modern all-electric drivetrain and lithium-ion battery pack.

• Best electric cars to buy 2019

Its eight-spoke alloy wheels are faithful reproductions of the wheels on the original car, but are wrapped in modern Michelin rubber, rather than outmoded cross-ply tyres. The original car’s lightweight hollow front axle has also been replicated to scale, along with its suspension and steering systems.

The Baby II’s cockpit features a classic, four-spoke, wood-rimmed steering wheel, a turned aluminium dashboard and custom Bugatti gauges. The original car’s tachometer, oil pressure and fuel level gauges have been replaced by a speedometer, a battery level indicator and a power gauge (as found on the Veyron).

All cars feature a working horn, a rear view mirror, a handbrake, headlights and a remote control which can disable the car from a distance of 50 metres. On the car’s nose sits a replica of Bugatti’s famous “Macaron” badge, hewn from 50 grammes of solid silver.

The Bugatti Baby II is available in three specifications. The base-model comes with a composite body, the mid-range Baby II Vitesse features a carbon fibre body and the range-topping Baby II Pur Sang has a hand-crafted aluminium body. Just like with the Bugatti Chiron hypercar, the two more expensive trim levels also come with a “Speed Key.”

The Bugatti Baby II is powered by an electric motor, fed by either a 1.4kWh or optional 2.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack. As standard, the drivetrain is fitted with a regenerative braking system and a limited-slip differential.

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The powertrain comes with three selectable power modes. In “child mode,” the motor delivers 1.3bhp and a top speed of around 12mph. “Adult mode” increases the electric motor’s output to 5.3bhp, providing a top speed to 30mph. Enabling the Baby II’s “Speed Key” pushes power to 13.4bhp and disengages the car’s speed limiter.

What do you make of Bugatti’s scaled-down Type 35? Let us know in the comments section below…

Mitsubishi teases new plug-in hybrid SUV concept
Posted on Wednesday September 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-09-18 16:30

Mitsubishi will launch a new plug-in hybrid SUV concept at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show in October

Mitsubishi tokyo 2019 plug-in hybrid SUV teaser

Mitsubishi will launch a new plug-in hybrid compact SUV concept at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show. The Japanese brand is yet to release any information about the concept’s styling and powertrain but, like the Engelberg Tourer concept from the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, it seems to be little more than a design exercise.

Judging by Mitsubishi’s shadowy teaser image, its new compact SUV concept will feature a bold separated twin-pod cabin design. Up front, we expect to find LED headlights and a flamboyant interpretation of Mitsubishi’s “dynamic shield” radiator grille and bumper design, similar to that seen on the Engelberg Tourer.

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Mitsubishi says the concept will be powered by a “downsized, lower-weight plug-in hybrid EV powertrain” and an electric four-wheel-drive system. As such, we don’t expect it will feature the same 2.4-litre four-cylinder PHEV system as the Outlander, opting instead for a powertrain based around the 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine from the Eclipse Cross.

Like the Outlander, Mitsubishi’s new concept SUV will feature an electric four-wheel-drive system. There won’t be a physical connection between the front and rear axles with the front wheels likely to be powered by the combustion engine, while the rear wheels will be driven by an electric motor.

What do you make of Mitusbishi’s new compact SUV concept? Let us know in the comments section below…

 

Fast music makes motorists drive badly, study shows
Posted on Wednesday September 18, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-09-18 12:30

Music with a high number of beats-per-minute has a negative effect on a motorist’s driving ability, research has revealed

motorway

Listening to fast music behind the wheel can make motorists drive badly, a new study has suggested.

Researchers at the South China University of Technology conducted an experiment which showed that music with a high tempo – over 120bpm (beats-per-minute) – has a tendency to cause erratic driving.

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Participants in the study were placed in a driving simulator where they drove down a six-lane motorway in 20-minute sessions with one genre of music or no music at all being played.

The drivers changed lanes an average of 70 times in a 20-minute period, but this increased to 140 times when fast rock music was playing. In addition, this music genre caused participants to travel at an average of 5mph above the speed limit.

American Idiot by Green Day – an early-2000s rock track with tempo of 189bpm – proved to be the most dangerous song to listen to, followed by Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus, Mr Brightside by The Killers, Don’t Let Me Down by The Chainsmokers, and Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.

At the other end of the scale, Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin was the least dangerous track to listen to while driving – possibly, the researchers say, because this classic rock masterpiece has a tempo of just 63bpm. The rest of the top five safest songs to play in the car were Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, God’s Plan by Drake, Africa by Toto and Location by Khalid.

The study follows a similar experiment by Auto Express that found jarring heavy metal bands such as Slipknot had a detrimental impact on driving performance, while music by rap maestro Kendrick Lamar had barely any effect at all.

Qiang Zeng, a lead researcher at the South China University of Technology, suggested his study’s findings could steer “training and management measures, especially for transport operators, and could mitigate the risk of driver distraction”.

Does music change your driving style? Let us know in the comments below...

“If the future’s tough for cars, it’s tougher for car shows”
Posted on Wednesday September 18, 2019

Steve Fowler 2019-09-18 11:50

With the popularity of motor shows waning, editor-in-chief Steve Fowler thinks it would be a great shame if they disappeared altogether

Opinion - motor shows

For those of us who love cars, the motor show has been an important part of our lives over the years. And for those of us lucky enough to report on the business we love, they’re even more important.

For us, it’s not just about gazing longingly at the latest models. This industry is about people, and motor shows give us the opportunity to get time with many of the great and the good running the car companies – all in one place.

Frankfurt Motor Show 2019: round-up

The bi-annual Frankfurt Motor Show remains one of the largest on the planet – even if only in terms of footprint. It’s the best part of a mile to walk from BMW’s hall to the Daimler pavilion and worth every step for the stories that unfold on the many stands.

But motor shows are not what they were, and that was clear in Frankfurt. Downsizing has long been an industry buzzword, and it’s now being applied to motor shows. The no-shows in Frankfurt meant halls previously full of new cars were walked past, while stands that once occupied whole halls were a fraction of the size.

One former industry luminary Karl-Thomas Neumann, who used to run Opel, went as far as to call it “a huge fail”. He went on to say, “It’s just a sad shadow of what it used to be,” before predicting there would not be a Frankfurt motor show in 2021.

Vauxhall boss Stephen Norman told me that he devised a formula for parent company PSA to use to decide whether the return on investment meant it was worth attending. So Vauxhall and Opel were present; sister brands Peugeot, Citroen and DS weren’t. Makes sense.

The important thing in the business is to make sure the head rules the heart, and if it were me, I’d be doing exactly what Stephen Norman does. But motor shows are like your favourite high street stores: if you don’t use them, they won’t always be there. We’ve already seen that in the UK, and it would be a great shame if motor shows disappeared from the world altogether.

Would you be sad to see the death of the motor show? Let us know your thoughts below...

New Volvo XC60 D4 2019 review
Posted on Wednesday September 18, 2019

Volvo XC60 D4 - front
18 Sep, 2019 10:45am John McIlroy

It's slightly old school, but the new Volvo XC60 D4 fulfils its brief as a company car tax-friendly workhorse

Remember the days when the go-to fuel type for a family SUV was diesel? They’ve been and gone, we’re told - not least by Volvo, which says it won’t launch any new purely combustion-engined cars at all after this year. Yet here is the new Volvo XC60 D4, a slightly old-school, company car tax-friendly offering that the company is sneaking into its schedule just before it goes all electrified. 

Of course, this car doesn’t really deserve to be called old-fashioned, because the diesel engine under its bonnet is the company’s latest offering, equipped with the sort of Euro 6 technology that means it’s emitting less harmful NOx than many petrol cars. It’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbocharged motor, with 188bhp and 400Nm of torque. 

Here’s the trick, though: this diesel XC60 is front-wheel drive. Cutting out the additional transmission gubbins helps to keep fuel efficiency at a more than respectable level, compared with Volvo’s range of more potent and four-wheel-drive mild hybrids. Indeed, by emitting just 129g/km of CO2, this is by some way the most efficient XC60 without a plug.

And since it is, in Momentum form, the entry point (from £38,715) in the revised XC60 range, it’s clear that Volvo still believes there’s a market for fleet operators and company car choosers who are still focused on Benefit-in-kind tax rates. Significantly, it’s two or three bands lower than four-wheel-drive diesel rivals like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5

The good news is that those who remain faithful to regular diesel power shouldn’t feel short-changed by the XC60 D4. It’s an honest workhorse, with a 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds but more importantly, typical diesel shove in the mid-range. This allows the smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox (a manual isn’t even an option) to keep you below 2,500rpm; unless you stand on the throttle, in fact, you’ll achieve strong enough acceleration for most everyday situations. 

Where the powertrain can’t quite match the sister petrol motor, or the T8 plug-in hybrid, is in general engine smoothness. It’s never what you would call harsh, but there is a metallic twang to the note coming from under the bonnet as you get up to speed. It quietens down (but doesn’t disappear) once you’re cruising.

More than many of its stablemates, this car showcases Volvo’s focus on comfort instead of on-the-edge driving dynamics - so it won’t like to chase an X3 down a country lane. The steering is numb and lifeless, too. You’ll need to put the (noticeable) body roll down as a price worth paying for a generally compliant ride that stays composed over all but the worst surfaces. 

The rest of the XC60 package is as appealing as ever. The cabin is standard Volvo fare, with a portrait-layout infotainment system that has its quirks but remains better than the class average. The choice of materials isn’t flawless but it’s generally a pleasant place to spend time - helped, of course, by Volvo’s excellent front seats, which remain among the best in the business. 

The overall practicality isn’t quite a match for either the Q5 or the X3, mind you; the XC60 gives up the best part of 100 litres in everyday boot capacity, and about double that figure once the rear seats are folded down.

4
Pure-diesel, company car-focused models like the XC60 D4 are looking increasingly niche these days, but Volvo’s option looks a clever one. It could save choosers money over rivals from BMW and Audi, while still bringing strong enough performance, an appealing cabin and comfortable cruising ability. In many respects this feels like a car that time is passing by – but that shouldn’t mean that it won’t find customers in the here and now.
  • Model: Volvo XC60 D4 Momentum Pro
  • Price: £41,165
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
  • Power/torque: 188bhp/400Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
  • Top speed: 127mph
  • Economy/CO2: 42.2-47.9mpg/129g/km
  • On sale: Now

Facelifted Hyundai i30 caught on camera
Posted on Wednesday September 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-09-18 09:00

The Korean brand’s Volkswagen Golf rival will get a mid-life refresh, with updated styling, a tweaked engine range and fresh technology

Hyundai i30 spy - front

Following hot on the heels of the recently revamped Hyundai i10 is an updated version of the Hyundai i30. Like the city car, Hyundai’s revised hatchback will feature a cosmetic overhaul, a tweaked engine range and a substantial technology update to keep it competitive with the soon-to-be-released Mk8 Volkswagen Golf.

The cladding on this development mule suggests the new i30 will get updated front and rear bumpers, new headlights, a tweaked tailgate and a pair of redesigned tail lamps. Fresh styling lines will likely be penned into the i30’s doors, while buyers will have their choice of a new range of alloy wheel designs.

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Inside, we expect the updated i30 will also come with the Korean brand’s improved 10.25-inch infotainment system, which is currently being rolled out across the Hyundai line-up. A new digital instrument binnacle will also be offered for the first time, lifted from the hydrogen-electric Hyundai NEXO.

The i30’s current engine range will likely be transferred across the facelift, albeit with a handful of performance and efficiency tweaks. As such, buyers will be offered either a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol, a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol or 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel.

Hyundai could also offer a PHEV powertrain for the first time in the new i30, borrowing the technology destined for use in the upcoming facelifted Tucson. The drivetrain will be based around a 1.6-litre four-cylinder GDi petrol engine, which shares the same engine block and mounting points as the unit found in the Korean firm’s dedicated PHEV model, the IONIQ.

Like the upcoming Tucson, the new i30 will use a re-tuned version of the IONIQ’s 139bhp PHEV powertrain, which features a 44.5kW and an 8.9kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Power will be fed to the front wheels via a six-speed dual clutch transmission.

A revised version of the Hyundai i30 N hot hatchback will inevitably follow, as hinted by the production cycle-ending, limited edition i30 N Project C. Expect an equally lairy body kit, a tweaked version of the current cars turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, a reworked suspension system and slightly better brakes.

What do you make of the facelifted Hyundai i30? Let us know in the comments section below…

 


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