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In the News ...

‘The new Ford Puma is here, but surely there were better names available’
Posted on Wednesday June 26, 2019

Steve Fowler 2019-06-26 14:55

Editor-in-chief Steve Fowler bemoans Ford's lack of imagination in dusting off the Puma name for its new small SUV

Opinion - Ford Puma badge

The Ford Puma is one of my favourite cars ever. Of course, I’m referring to the small coupé that was launched back in 1997 and will reserve judgement on the new one that’s just been revealed by Ford.

The old Puma was a car that made every single journey an event. Thanks to its 1.7-litre engine – co-developed with Yamaha – cute looks and playful chassis it was just pure fun. It ticked a few sensible boxes, too.

New Ford Puma SUV makes official debut

I took one down to Spa in Belgium for a weekend, I took one to the shops more often, and, of course, a colleague even had his picture taken with the car and its feline namesake. It’s a car full of memories (and I’ve still got one of the solid metal gear knobs; don’t ask why or how!) that’s a mainstay in our used car heroes lists.

Now the Puma is back and it will be on sale in 2020. But it’s not a Puma as we remember it… As you can see, it’s not a Puma at all. It’s morphed into an SUV.

In terms of what Ford needs right now, it hits the spot perfectly. It’ll compete in the popular and lucrative small SUV sector against a host of new arrivals like the Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Skoda Kamiq and Nissan Juke, plus big sellers like the Citroen C3 Aircross, VW T-Cross and SEAT Arona. In short, it’s got its work cut out.

But I won’t be alone in feeling slightly sad that Ford couldn’t come up with a better idea than dusting off the Puma name for a small SUV. Why not go the whole hog and christen the next-generation Ford Kuga the Capri?

Sure, Ford’s design and marketing teams have managed to come up with some tenuous links to the old car, but it’s not a Puma. And yes, I know how difficult it is to come up with a name that you can use globally yet doesn’t mean something rude somewhere, but surely there were better options? So can the new SUV evoke memories of the original? Perhaps. Let’s hope the rest of the team who developed the new Puma have more creativity and originality than Ford’s naming committee.

Click here for our list of the best cheap sports cars...

Lorry speed limit increases improve road safety
Posted on Wednesday June 26, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-06-26 12:33

New higher speed limits for lorries have caused the number of speeding HGVs to drop by 70 per cent, improving road safety

lorry ban

New speed limit increases for lorries have improved road safety by contributing to a 70 per cent decrease in the number of speeding HGVs, according to a Government report.

In 2015, the speed limit for HGVs weighing more than 7.5 tonnes increased from 40mph to 50mph on single carriageway roads and from 50mph to 60mph in dual carriageway roads in England and Wales.

What it's like being an HGV driver

Now, a Department for Transport (DfT) report says this has contributed to a “statistically significant” improvement to road safety on the roads it analysed in its study, with the number of speeding lorries having fallen by around 70 per cent.

The average speed of lorries on single carriageway roads has risen by 1.5mph to 45.6mph, while average dual carriageway speeds for lorries have gone up 0.4mph to 52.4mph. The DfT says an increase of just 1mph in average lorry speeds would have freed up 650,000 hours of lorry drivers’ time and saved haulage businesses more than £10 million a year.

Roads minister Michael Ellis commented: “I am pleased to see the improvement in safety while helping to unlock the UK’s potential – encouraging growth and enhancing productivity - increasing the speed limit for lorries has helped companies save time and money, enabling them to reinvest this in their business and buying newer and greener vehicles.

“This move has also potentially improved road safety as it appears to have reduced the risks some drivers take when overtaking slow-moving vehicles.”

A final report is to be published on the full effects of the speed limit increases in due course, focusing particularly on the road safety aspect of the policy.

Do you agree that HGVs should be allowed to travel faster? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...

 

New Volvo XC90 Armoured arrives for £450k
Posted on Wednesday June 26, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-06-26 09:10

The new 4.49-tonne Volvo XC90 Armoured will be joined by light-armoured versions of the XC60 and XC90 in 2020

Volvo XC90 Armoured - front

Volvo has unveiled new, armoured versions of its XC60 and XC90 SUVs, designed to offer a high level of protection and safety without compromising on comfort.

The first is a heavy armoured version of the XC90, based on the Inscription version of the T6 AWD model and called the XC90 Armoured. It’s equipped with 10mm-thick high-strength steel armour, while the glass in the windows can be up to 50mm-thick.

Best SUVs on sale right now

All of this armour adds about 1,400kg in weight, bringing the total mass of the XC90 Armoured up to 4.49 tonnes when five occupants are seated inside. To cope with the increased weight, new brakes and suspension have had to be fitted to the car.

The XC90 Armoured – which is designed to be as indistinguishable from a standard XC90 as possible in terms of looks – has a number of other special features, including a fire suppression system in the engine bay, and an escape hatch that allows occupants to climb out of the cabin via a hidden hatch and exit through the boot.

Additionally, Volvo has created light armoured variants of XC90 T6 AWD Inscription and XC60 T6 AWD Inscription. These offer a lower level of protection than the heavy armoured XC90, but only see their respective weights increase by around 250kg, meaning there is less of an impact on the fundamental properties of the cars.

The XC90 Armoured is on sale now, with prices starting at around £450,000 and first deliveries due at the end of 2019. It’s expected this model will be purchased by security services tasked with transporting high-profile individuals. 

The light armoured XC60 and XC90, meanwhile, are intended for those who require a higher level of protection due to a geographical risk or a heightened personal threat. These two cars are still in development and are set to go on sale in the first half of 2020, with prices starting at around £35,000 more than the standard price of each model.

It’s worth noting that all three of these armoured cars are initially only set to be built in a left-hand drive format, as Volvo is still deciding whether to put right-hand drive versions into production. 

Stephan Green, Marketing Director at Volvo Cars Special Vehicles, said: “We are proud to be able to offer these armoured cars. 

“With our armoured cars, we can provide vehicles with a high level of personal security for individuals who require heightened protection.”

Click here to read all about Skoda's bulletproof Superb...

New Jaguar XE facelift 2019 review
Posted on Tuesday June 25, 2019

Jaguar XE - front
26 Jun, 2019 9:15am Alex Ingram

Refreshed Jaguar XE compact exec gets new tech and better-than-ever dynamics

This is the refreshed Jaguar XE. There was much to like about the brand’s first compact exec since the X-Type, but as the model nears its fourth birthday it’s been overhauled in several crucial areas. This is our first chance to try the car in the UK.

With these 2019 updates, Jaguar focused primarily on one thing that matters most in an image-conscious class: in-car tech. All of the old touchscreens have been binned and replaced with the latest Touch Pro Duo set-up.

• Best executive cars on the market

The result looks prettier and feels more hi-tech than any BMW or Audi at this price. Lifted from the I-Pace, Touch Pro Duo consists of three displays. There’s a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, a central 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a smaller touchscreen below it for climate and seat functions.

The XE also gets a digital rear-view mirror. This gives a clearer view than looking through the rear privacy glass and a wider field of vision, reducing blind spots. The rest of the cabin hasn’t changed much, but the quality of materials has improved. The new steering wheel looks gorgeous and is great to hold, while the rising rotary gear selector has been ditched for a ‘pistol grip’ lever.

Still, none of the qualities that made the XE so capable on the road has been fiddled with. The suspension can still round off the nastiest of bumps with brilliant composure (even on this test car’s £900 optional 19-inch alloy wheels) yet deliver sharp handling. The Jaguar doesn’t quite corner with the BMW 3 Series’ ability, but it counters with much nicer steering weight and response.

We sampled the four-cylinder Ingenium diesel, and while its 178bhp and 430Nm of torque are on par with the BMW 320d’s motor, the Jaguar is much slower in the real world. The BMW is more refined, too. As with other XE engines, the diesel is mated to an eight-speed ZF box. This is smooth, easy to live with and can be overridden with a lovely set of metal gearshift paddles.

Our car came equipped with all-wheel drive, but this doesn’t really offer any benefit with a modestly powerful diesel engine. We’d save the £1,860 (and more, thanks to better fuel economy) and get a quicker rear-driven model instead.

In addition to the various improvements throughout the car, the XE is now a little cheaper to buy. Comparing a PCP quote on this R Dynamic SE with the equivalent Audi A4 S line quattro with a 187bhp diesel and auto box, on equivalent terms and deposits, the Jaguar costs only about £5 per month more across a three-year period.

4.5
With handsome looks, a smart cabin and some brilliant in-car tech, the updated Jaguar XE is arguably the most desirable car in its class. It’s certainly still one of the best to drive; the latest BMW 3 Series just edges it on agility, and the German car has a bigger advantage when it comes to engines, too, but as an overall package there’s little in it.
  • Model: Jaguar XE R Dynamic SE D180 AWD
  • Price: £39,475
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
  • Power/torque: 178bhp/430Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
  • Top speed: 132mph
  • Economy/CO2: 41.6mpg/138g/km
  • On sale: Now

New 2020 Ford Puma: small SUV makes official debut
Posted on Tuesday June 25, 2019

James Batchelor 2019-06-26 14:40

The new Ford Puma will sit between the EcoSport and Kuga in the brand’s SUV range, with prices expected to start just below £20,000

Ford Puma - studio front

The Ford Puma badge hasn’t been seen on a car for 17 years, but the company has just brought back the name from the dead – not on a coupé but on an SUV.

The new Puma is designed to plug the gap in Ford’s line-up between the EcoSport and the forthcoming new Kuga. It’ll rival the fast-approaching new versions of the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008.

Best small SUVs and crossovers on sale

The original Puma was a svelte coupé based on the Fiesta, and for the badge’s 2020s reboot, Ford has again pinched the best-selling supermini’s platform. But this time the firm has added a five-door SUV body that’s 46mm longer, 54mm higher, 71mm wider and has a 95mm longer wheelbase than the Fiesta.

At the front is Ford’s distinctive grille, but from here onwards it stands apart from the firm’s other SUVs. The headlights, high up on the bonnet, could be seen as a reference to the original Puma, and on ST-Line models the daytime running lights are a nod to a more modern Ford coupé: the GT supercar. 

The interior is typical of a modern Ford. It’s essentially the Fiesta’s dashboard, with its simple design, SYNC3 infotainment system and decent materials. But there are some bespoke features, like a digital display for the dials and, on some models, massaging front seats. In fact, both front and rear seats have zippable covers allowing owners to not only mix and match patterns and colours, but also wash them should they need to.

The boot is the big surprise of the whole Puma package, however. With a capacity of 456 litres, it’s right up there with the largest in the class – but that’s only half of the story. There’s also a hands-free tailgate, while the parcel shelf is a piece of material so that it moulds around tall items in the boot.

In addition, the load bay floor can be raised to give a flat cargo area or lowered to prioritise space, plus it can be folded against the back seats. Do this and you will create a large space that can swallow a couple of small suitcases or even take a golf bag standing upright.

When it arrives in early 2020, the Puma will initially be offered in Zetec, Titanium and ST-Line trims and be powered solely by Ford’s 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine, paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.

There will be three different versions of the engine, starting with a 123bhp unit. This motor will also be offered as a mild-hybrid, with a belt-driven starter/generator and a 48-volt battery. The system harvests energy lost during braking, and stores it in the battery for use under acceleration.

Topping off the range at launch will be a 153bhp version of the mild-hybrid, while a 94bhp petrol, a diesel and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto box will all arrive later in the year. Plus, to cash in on a growing trend for performance SUVs, a hot Puma using the Fiesta ST’s powertrain is mooted, too.

Ford won’t set prices until the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, but expect them to kick off at just under £20,000. 

New Ford Puma: rivals

Citroen C3 Aircross

Citroen C3 Aircross

Well-established Citroen C3 Aircross scores highly for practicality, with sliding second-row seats.

Peugeot 2008

Peugeot 2008 - front

New platform for second-generation Peugeot 2008 allows brand to make pure-electric edition.

SEAT Arona

Arona - front tracking

Proven MQB tech underpins SEAT’s baby Arona SUV, which has a long list of standard kit.

Skoda Kamiq

Skoda Kamiq

Forthcoming Skoda Kamiq SUV from Czech brand should rival new Kuga for boot capacity.

Volkswagen T-Cross

Volkswagen T-Cross - front tracking

Funky small Volskwagen T-Cross SUV has won many plaudits for combination of cabin space and style.

Are you pleased to see the return of the famour Ford Puma nameplate? Let us know your thoughts below...

Lightyear unveils long-range solar-electric car
Posted on Tuesday June 25, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-06-25 15:34

Lightyear, a Dutch mobility company, will put the world’s long-range first solar powered electric car into production from 2021

Lightyear One - front static

Lightyear, a Dutch electromobility company, has unveiled the world’s first long-range solar-powered electric production car, called the Lightyear One. The firm says it will start building the vehicle in 2021, in a limited run of 500 units, and that the car will have a WLTP-verified range of 725km (around 450 miles).

The Lightyear One is built from a range of lightweight materials and features a low drag coefficient of around 0.20cd, to offer the maximum possible range. The bonnet and roof are fitted with five square metres of integrated solar cells, strong enough to walk on, and Lightyear claims this panel can generate 50–70km of extra range per day during the summer.

Best electric cars to buy in 2019

As with a conventional electric car, the One can be charged using a household socket or a fast charger. However, thanks to the car’s solar panels and low drag coefficient, charge times should be reduced, while the number of miles-per-kWh should increase. Lightyear claims its new EV can recover up to 400km (around 250 miles) of range per night from a 230V socket.

Lightyear estimates that the One will be able to generate around 700kWh of its own energy per year, which it claims will allow a trip from Amsterdam to Innsbruck (a distance of 1,120 miles) with only two recharging stops on the way.

The Lightyear One is driven by four in-wheel electric motors fed by a compact, low-mounted battery. The firm claims this set-up offers more interior space and better efficiency over “one-motor-per-axle” systems, by limiting the drivetrain’s encroachment into the cabin space and reducing the amount of energy lost in transit between the motors and the wheels.

Lex Hoefsloot, CEO of Lightyear, is planning to expand his company with a range of electric cars. He said: “Since new technology has a high unit cost, we have to start in an exclusive market; Lightyear One is the first long-range solar car. The next models we plan to develop will have a significantly lower purchase price.

“Combined with the low operating costs of the vehicle, we aim to provide premium mobility for a low price per kilometer. A third, final step will be to provide truly sustainable cars that are more affordable to use than the cost of gas [petrol] you need to drive a combustion car. This will prove to be our most important tipping point in the near future, and it will pave the way for a car fleet that is one hundred percent sustainable.”

The Lightyear One’s design is still being finalised, with several more revisions planned for the car’s solar panels and bodywork. The Dutch firm claims these final revisions focus on process optimisation and improving the car’s drag coefficient, in a bid to maximise its energy efficiency.

The first 100 Lightyear Ones have already been reserved, although the Dutch firm is still taking orders for the remaining 400 cars. Prospective buyers can secure an example now for a reservation fee of €119,000 (around £106,000).

What are your thoughts on the new Lightyear One? Let us know in the comments section below… 

 

New Peugeot e-Legend: tech secrets revealed
Posted on Tuesday June 25, 2019

Jonathan Burn 2019-06-26 00:01

Peugeot opens the door on tech secrets of the e-Legend EV, which starred at last year’s Paris Motor Show

Peugeot e-Legend- front action

Concept cars are often an effective way for manufacturers to demonstrate their design and technological know-how. That glimpse into the future is often short-lived, but one concept car that appeared at the 2018 Paris Motor Show and has continued to attract interest is the Peugeot e-Legend.

“We thought the reaction would be positive, but it was surprising to see such an interest in the car,” Philippe-Emmanuel Jean, Peugeot’s brand planning manager, told Auto Express, as we were invited to take an in-depth look at the concept in Paris.

New Peugeot 2008 SUV moves upmarket

Such was the interest in the e-Legend that an online petition was started to try and persuade Peugeot bosses to put the car into production. So far it has attracted almost 60,000 signatures, and even the firm’s CEO has admitted that, if it reaches 500,000, the company will have to consider building it.

For now the hand-built, carbon fibre e-Legend remains a one-off, created to demonstrate the French firm’s commitment to EVs and autonomous technology. But as well as looking into the future, Peugeot has also looked at its history and used the 504 Coupé as an inspiration for the design.

“It’s important to work on something compact and realistic – what Peugeot will be in the future,” Jean added. “It won’t go into production, but elements of the design and technology will appear in the future.”

The powertrain of the e-Legend is one aspect that does have real-world potential; beneath the floor of the car sits a 100kWh battery, twice the size of that in the new e-208 supermini, and good for 370 miles on a single charge. This powers electric motors on each axle that make a combined 456bhp, and Peugeot claims that 0-62mph takes less than four seconds.

The e-Legend is a fully working concept, as you can see in our pictures, but it’s a priceless one-off, so it’s restricted to fairly limited use. However, getting behind the wheel did allow us to soak up the intricate cabin architecture and design details.

The doors are touch-sensitive and open automatically by placing your finger on the B-pillar. Inside, a sea of blue velour trim and myriad digital displays welcome you. One of the first things you notice is the amount of space. Because the e-Legend is electric, there’s no mechanical intrusion into the cabin, and the front footwells stretch out into the space usually reserved for the engine.

The central touchpad that sprouts out between the front seats is the gateway to all of the car’s functionality, including Level 4 autonomous tech. Selecting the latter sees the theatrics of the entire dash rise up and the steering wheel retract into it, as if it were never there. The pedals also recede into the floor to create even more foot space.

A huge 49-inch display sits in the footwell where driver and passenger can watch a movie, check social media or even play arcade games. But if your passenger wants to do something else, there are digital screens in place of traditional sun visors.

Verdict

Few concept cars have created a reaction like the e-Legend. It’s almost certain that we’ll see more of its technology put into production before any of its design. But if enough people sign the petition Peugeot’s hand could be forced...

Would you like to see the Peugeot e-Legend make production? Let us know below...

BMW accelerates its electrification strategy
Posted on Tuesday June 25, 2019

Alex Ingram 2019-06-25 12:55

A fleet of hybrid and electric BMWs will now be on the market by 2023

BMW i4 - exclusive image Avarvarii

BMW has announced that it intends to bring forward its electrification plans. The previous strategy, which would involve the release of 12 plug-in vehicles by 2025, will see those hybrid and fully electric vehicles now hit the market by 2023.

The move to bring the fleet of models forward two years is made possible, according to BMW, by its flexible vehicle architecture. This means that in such models, only the bulkhead is fixed; behind and ahead of that, varying structures are able to accommodate combustion engines, battery packs, or a combination of the two.

Best electric cars on sale

Of those 12 vehicles, over half will be fully electric. Among those will be a replacement for the BMW i3, the MINI electric, and further down the line, the BMW i4, and the iNEXT.

Plug-in hybrid models will be either introduced as new models or revisions of existing cars, too. Updated versions of both the BMW 5 Series and 2 Series Active Tourer plug-in models, due to be revealed later in the summer, will gain increased electric-only ranges, while further down the line, plug-in variants of the BMW X1 and the 3 Series Touring.

Speaking in Munich, Harald Krüger, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, said: “We are moving up a gear in the transformation towards sustainable mobility, thereby making our company fit for the future: Over the past two years, we have consistently taken numerous decisions that we are now bringing to the roads. By 2021, we will have doubled our sales of electrified vehicles compared with 2019.”

Are you looking forward to seeing more electric BMW's? Let us know in the comments below...

New Audi Q7 facelift adds mild-hybrid powertrain
Posted on Tuesday June 25, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-06-26 07:45

The Audi Q7 has been updated for 2019 with styling and chassis revisions, while new mild-hybrid petrol and diesel units have been added

Audi Q7 - front

Audi has revised the Q7 SUV for 2019, by introducing a host of styling tweaks, a range of new mild-hybrid powertrains and a honed chassis set-up.

The design updates for the seven-seater include a reworked grille, fresh front and rear bumpers, new side sills and chrome trim for the tailgate, plus a pair of revised exhaust tips. The Audi Q7 also now comes with two-tone paint as standard, which highlights the front splitter, side skirts, wheelarches and rear diffuser in anthracite.

• Best SUVs on sale right now

LED headlights are included as standard, with either Matrix LEDs or HD Matrix LEDs and Audi Laser Light offered as additional cost options. The latter system combines an automatically controlled high beam with a small laser module in each unit; Audi claims it doubles the range of the Q7’s full beam.

All Q7s in the UK will seat seven and feature air suspension as standard. Audi has also expanded the SUV’s options list to include a new active roll-stabilisation system. It brings a pair of active anti-roll bars, controlled by a 48-volt electric motor, that automatically adjust to reflect driving style and road conditions.

Three mild-hybrid 3.0-litre V6 powertrains are available for the new Q7, with buyers given the choice of two diesels and one petrol. The entry-level 45 TDI diesel produces 228bhp and 500Nm of torque – enough for a claimed 0-62mph time of 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 142mph.

Mid-range 50 TDI models produce 282bhp and 600Nm of torque, delivering a 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds and a top speed of 150mph. Meanwhile, the 55 TFSI petrol model comes with 335bhp and 500Nm of torque, which provides a sub-6.0-second 0-62mph sprint and a 155mph electronically limited top speed.

• New Audi SQ8 launched with 429bhp

All three engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system. Generally, the Q7 has a front-to-rear torque split of 40:60, as governed by a self-locking centre differential. However, when required, the Q7 can direct up to 60 per cent of the engine’s power to the axle with the most traction.

For enthusiastic drivers who are hunting for more muscle, Audi also offers a performance-focused SQ7 version, powered by a 429bhp 4.0-litre V8 turbodiesel with 900Nm of torque. It boasts a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph.

In a few months’ time, the Q7 range will also be bolstered by an eco-focused plug-in hybrid 55 TFSI e version. However, Audi has yet to confirm any of this model’s specs.

The updated Q7 SUV will go on sale in the UK from September. There’s no word yet on pricing, but we would expect only a modest increase over the cost of the outgoing model, with a starting point of around £55,000.

What do you think of the updated Audi Q7? Let us know your thoughts below...

New Ohme device could halve cost of charging an electric car at home
Posted on Tuesday June 25, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-06-25 11:30

Ohme launches new app-controlled home charging device that automatically uses the cheapest electricity available

Ohme charger

A new home charging device has been launched that could save electric car drivers up to £400 per year. The device from Ohme Technologies Ltd is an intelligent EV home charger that automatically uses the cheapest electricity available. Once the driver plus it in, they are able to control it via a smartphone app equipped with voice recognition.

The charger itself calculates how much power is needed for the driver’s next journey and charges the car accordingly, drawing the most power at off-peak times when electricity is cheaper.

• UK has more electric car charging sites than fuel stations

When the charger is used alongside a time-of-use tariff – from Octopus Energy for example, with whom Ohme has made a deal – the cost of running an electric car is around 2p per mile, while the average for most petrol and diesel cars is approximately 10p per mile.

Ohme says that helping drivers charge their EVs at off-peak times not only saves them money, but relieves some pressure from the National Grid when demand is at its peak.

The app gives drivers other options for when their car should charge as well. For example, those who are environmentally minded can choose to only charge when more renewable energy is being used to generate electricity than carbon-based energy. Another option is a feature that reduces the amount of time the battery is at full charge, thus extending its overall life.

• UK’s first 350kW EV charging station opens in Kent

The charging unit supports a variety of socket types and costs £399 when bought directly from Ohme or £199 when purchased through Octopus Energy. Shipments to customers who pre-ordered their units have already begun; after the backlog has cleared, standard orders will be delivered within seven to 10 working days after being placed.

David Watson, CEO of Ohme, said: “Electric vehicle drivers have been crying out for an easy to use, cost-effective smart charging solution and Ohme is just that. Not only will we help accelerate the mass adoption of EVs by revolutionising the domestic charging landscape, we will take a lot of the capacity strain and financial stress off the electricity network operators.”

What are the best electric cars on sale right now? Click here for our top 10...

Audi e-tron vs Jaguar I-Pace
Posted on Tuesday June 25, 2019

2019-06-25 11:25

We see if the new all-electric Audi e-tron can gain the upper hand on our reigning Car of the Year, the Jaguar I-Pace

Audi e-tron vs Jaguar I-Pace - header

You might have expected premium brands like Audi to have led the charge with electric-vehicle development, but the German firm has taken a surprisingly long time to launch an all-electric product.

Now Audi has turned the taps on, though, and it’s here with its first full EV: the e-tron. This SUV costs just over £70,000 even after the £3,500 Government grant has been deducted – but then, you do get a considerable amount of technology for that premium price tag.

Best electric cars on sale

Even though upmarket electric SUVs are still few and far between, that price point and the Audi’s 95kWh battery put it in a small but select group that our reigning Car of the Year, the Jaguar I-Pace, currently sits at the top of.

This is in every sense the benchmark the e-tron has to match up to. There are many elements to consider when it comes to living with an electric car – from range and usability to performance, tech and practicality – and given factors such as the engineering technology that underpins it and the space on offer, it’s going to be a close-run contest.

Audi e-tron

The e-tron is Audi’s first full EV. That badge has been used on plug-in cars before, but the tag now represents the brand’s electric models. At £72,270, this is the cheaper of the two variants available (there’s a higher-spec Launch Edition in the line-up, too), but it still gets plenty of kit. Let’s see how it fares.

Design & engineering

The e-tron is based on a heavily adapted version of the MLB architecture, with the 95kWh battery mounted in the floor. This is partly why the car sits up high and partly why it’s so heavy, at 2,490kg. Weight is the enemy of efficiency, so this seems slightly at odds with the e-tron’s ethos.

The car uses two electric motors, one on each axle, for a total of 402bhp and a different take on Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive. Like pretty much every electric car, there’s a single-speed automatic gearbox.

Air suspension is also standard, unlike on the Jag. It’s linked to the car’s drive mode select set-up, offering Offroad, Allroad, Comfort, Auto, Efficiency and Dynamic.

This is integrated in the lower of the two touchscreens. It’s an 8.6-inch unit that mostly controls the climate settings. The upper 10.1-inch screen is used for the infotainment, while there’s a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit, too. It’s nice tech, but not very different from that found in more conventional Audis, with positives and negatives to this.

You get lots of kit even in this base spec, although that’s a relative term. This entry-level e-tron does without the car’s trademark virtual door mirrors, but it has nav, phone integration and lots of safety equipment. There are also 20-inch alloys, climate and adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera, heated leather seats, LED lights, DAB, wireless charging and keyless operation. It’s all integrated into a cabin that’s executed with the usual quality we’ve come to expect from an Audi. Materials and build quality are good.

Driving

EVs are characterised by their relaxing driving experience. An instant and fat swell of torque means many are smooth and serene, and sharp, responsive performance is another common trait. While the Audi is definitely relaxed, acceleration isn’t anywhere near as impressive as in the I-Pace.

It’s partly due to the weight. The Audi is very heavy, and this dulls the punch when you hit the throttle. It’s far from slow, but it could be more rapid.

It took 5.4 seconds to sprint from 0-60mph compared with 4.4 seconds for the Jag, but EVs are as much about easily exploitable acceleration at any speeds. At least the e-tron has enough urgency here; it took 1.7 seconds to go between 30 and 50mph, although this was still slower than the I-Pace.

It’s not as quick, then, and also not as comfortable. Despite the e-tron’s standard air suspension, on these £950 21-inch wheels the Audi’s alloys rebound aggressively over harsh bumps. It’s more settled on the motorway, where the car’s weight means the damping feels smoother at higher speeds. But then its near-2.5-tonne bulk means it’s not very agile.

The steering has even less life than in most other Audis and you sense the weight trying to tear the e-tron off your chosen line. Special mention should go to the torque-vectoring system, though; this shuffles power to help it turn better. You can feel it working unobtrusively to improve the car’s handling. 

Practicality

Thanks to where the e-tron’s battery is located in the chassis, there’s a useful 660 litres of boot space. The Audi’s footprint is also larger than the Jaguar’s, which translates to more room in the cabin as well.

The practicalities of living with an EV are as much about charging, and with up to 150kW charging capacity available, e-tron charge times are respectable. Using a 3.6kW domestic feed a full charge will take 26 hours and 45 minutes. Very few EV owners will do without a home wallbox, though; an 11kW supply like this will top up the battery in a much more respectable eight hours and 45 minutes, so you’ll be able to go from empty to full overnight.

Rapid charging at 50kW – currently the most common option in the UK – takes 70 minutes for an 80 per cent boost, while charging at the e-tron’s maximum 150kW rate (there are only a handful of chargers that support this in this country at the moment) gives an 80 per cent top-up in 30 minutes.

Ownership

With fewer moving parts than a normal car you’d expect electric vehicle servicing to be more affordable. Not with the e-tron, though, because a two-year package costs £799. Jaguar is planning a new service plan range for this summer, but prices aren’t out yet.

Audi came 16th in our Driver Power 2019 satisfaction survey to Jaguar’s ninth, but the e-tron’s safety is strong and it gets a full five-star crash test rating, thanks to standard autonomous braking and lane-departure warning. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are part of a £625 pack. 

Running costs

Electric cars are all about efficiency, but the Audi’s effort is a little disappointing. We saw 2.3 miles per kWh, which means its 95kWh battery should give a maximum range of 219 miles. At £13 for a full charge based on an electricity price of 13.8p per kWh, it works out at just 6p per mile.

The Jag was more efficient, returning an average of 2.5 miles per kWh. Although the 90kWh battery is smaller, its more efficient powertrain will give a total real-world range based on this figure of 225 miles. Using the same electricity cost, this works out at around 5.5p per mile. 

Testers’ notes: “The e-tron can cope with 350kW charging, so its usable life should be well into the future as infrastructure improves. The battery gets an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty, too.”

Jaguar I-Pace

Not only is the I-Pace our favourite premium EV, it’s also our reigning Car of the Year, so the e-tron is going up against one of the best cars on sale, not just the best in the class. At £74,995 in top-spec HSE trim, it’s a little pricier than the e-tron, but is the Jag actually better value and therefore a better car? 

Design & engineering

The I-Pace was Jaguar’s first EV and sits on the brand’s D7e platform for electric cars. The layout is similar to the e-tron’s, with the battery sandwiched in the floor and supplying two electric motors – one on the front axle and one on the rear – to give 395bhp and 696Nm of torque.

That first figure is down on the Audi’s output, but the I-Pace is lighter, at 2,208kg. That’s still quite a sum, but their big battery packs mean that all EVs in this class are heavy, so a saving of 282kg is actually quite significant.

The Jag’s battery offers slightly less usable energy than the e-tron’s, at 90kWh, but again, the British EV’s lower weight means Jaguar claims a higher WLTP driving range on a full charge, at 258 miles.

Unlike the e-tron, which accepts up to 150kW DC rapid charging, the I-Pace is currently only set up to take 100kW charging. This might be more of a problem for the future when the charging infrastructure advances to support this.

Hooked up to a 100kW supply, the I-Pace takes 42 minutes for an 80 per cent boost, while on a 50kW hook-up this increases to 71 minutes – the same time as the e-tron. If you’ll be charging overnight with a wallbox, a full charge should take 13 hours 30 minutes, while a standard three-pin connection will take 27 hours from empty to full. This is likely only to be for emergency use for EV owners.

The I-Pace’s cabin is nicely executed, with high-quality materials and plenty of standard features in HSE trim. It doesn’t feel as futuristic as the e-tron perhaps, but all the elements to carve this out as Jag’s standalone EV are there, including three digital displays for the infotainment. The driving position is great, while nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, too, along with heated and cooled leather seats, matrix LED lights, climate control, loads of safety kit, 20-inch alloys and adaptive cruise. You have to pay £1,100 for air suspension, though.

Driving

The moment you start moving you can tell the I-Pace is a better EV than the e-tron. Its performance is stronger, with a bigger hit of torque that hurls the lighter Jag at a rate that leaves the Audi trailing. This showed in our performance tests, where the Brit was one full second faster from 0-60mph, taking 4.4 seconds; it was also swifter from 30 to 70mph and accelerating at mid speeds. 50-70mph took 2.2 seconds in the I-Pace, which was 0.4 seconds quicker than the Audi.

The heavy e-tron shows how hard Jaguar has worked to make the I-Pace an agile SUV. It steers so much better than the Audi, with more grip, more precision and a better sense of connection, thanks to the steering’s extra extra weight and solidity.

Torque vectoring is just as good as in the e-tron and the I-Pace turns sharply for a big SUV. In fact, the body control is excellent and the damping compliant enough that the Jag absorbs bumps in bends without being deflected off line. It handles superbly for a car of this type, yet it’s a comfortable and refined cruiser.

It’s simply a better EV than the e-tron, and the regenerative braking is partly at the root of that.

It’s a more natural, better-conceived approach that lets you adjust the regenerative braking with two modes. The most aggressive setting allows for one-pedal driving because the throttle sensitivity is well calibrated. The e-tron has a standard coasting level that you adjust using the steering paddles, with two more aggressive settings available. The Audi doesn’t ‘remember’ your choice, but will slow you more aggressively as you coast up to the car in front. 

Practicality

The I-Pace’s boot is just four litres down on the Audi’s, which is in effect nothing. A powered tailgate is standard.

The Jag is smaller, so not quite as roomy, but this is relative because the e-tron feels its size. There’s still lots of space inside the Jaguar – its lower roof means taller adults might have to hunker down in the seat, while there’s a little less legroom than in the e-tron, but it’s far from pokey, and comfort on long journeys is good, also helped by the superior ride.

The beauty of an EV’s architecture is that it can do away with features ICE cars require like transmission tunnels. This frees up storage space, and there’s plenty in the Jag even if a few areas are a little awkward to get to. The Audi has good oddments space too.

Ownership

the top-spec HSE model comes with a long list of safety features. Autonomous braking, adaptive cruise, cross-traffic alert, blind-spot and lane-keep assist, plus a 360-degree camera, are included, and all of this helped the I-Pace earn a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.

Running costs

Thanks to zero CO2 emissions, these EVs attract low company car tax bills, despite their fairly high price tags. Both sit in the lowest 16 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax band, but the slightly cheaper Audi will cost less, at £4,572 a year at for higher-rate taxpayers. This compares with £4,796 for the Jag; there’s not much in it.

If you’re a cash buyer the Jag will be a better bet, because an extremely high predicted residual value of 70.2 per cent will see the I-Pace retain £52,646 after three years/36,000 miles. The Audi is expected to hold onto 69 per cent, and be worth £49,866.

Testers’ notes: “The I-Pace’s talent comes from how it makes sophisticated technology so easy, smooth and fun to operate. The e-tron just feels a little clunky in the way it drives by comparison.”

Verdict

First place: Jaguar I-Pace

The e-tron highlights just how right Jag got it with the I-Pace a year on from the British car’s launch. Its performance and handling prove EVs can be genuinely fun to drive, while it’s as comfortable and luxurious as you’d want from a premium SUV. It gives a little away to the e-tron for practicality and a lot for infotainment, but it’s a better EV that makes more of its electric underpinnings.

Second place: Audi e-tron

New Audi isn’t as innovative as the I-Pace. You can’t fault the level of kit or practicality, while the infotainment and charging potential are solid. But its more limited range, lethargic performance and less impressive handling adversely affect the strong impression these elements deliver, where the Jaguar is more rounded. Both cars will be cost-effective to run, though.

Is it worth waiting for this model?

Mercedes EQC 400 AMG Line

Mercedes EQC - front

Due: Now
Price: £67,635
Engine: 2x e-motor, 403bhp

The EQC is Merc’s e-tron rival. With an 80kWh battery and two electric motors giving 403bhp, it has a similar formula, and claims a 259 miles of range. It’s cheaper in AMG Line trim. 

Figures

Jaguar I-Pace EV400 AWD HSE Audi e-tron 55 quattro
On the road price/total as tested £74,995/£85,234 £72,270/£87,890
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £52,646/70.2% £49,866/69.0%
Depreciation £22,349 £22,404
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £2,398/£4,796 £2,286/£4,572
Annual electricity cost £660 £720
Insurance group/quote/VED 50/TBC/£0 50/TBC/£0
Servicing costs N/A £799 (2yrs)
Length/wheelbase 4,682/2,990mm 4,901/2,928mm
Height/width 1,565/2,011mm 1,629/1,935mm
Engine Dual-electric motor Dual-electric motor
Peak power/revs  395/N/A bhp/rpm 402/N/A bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  696/N/A Nm/rpm 664/N/A Nm/rpm
Transmission  Single-spd auto/4wd Single-spd auto/4wd
Battery capacity/spare wheel 90kWh/Repair kit 95 kWh/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 656/1,453 litres 660/1,725 litres
Kerbweight/payload 2,208/462kg 2,490/640kg
Turning circle 12.4 metres 12.2 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 9th/16th* 16th/22nd*
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 91/81/73/81/5 91/85/71/76/5
0-60/30-70mph 4.4/3.7 secs 5.4/4.3 secs
30-50mph/50-70mph 1.5/2.2 secs 1.7/2.6 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  124mph/N/A 124mph/N/A
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  46.8/34.6/8.8m 53.1/38.1/10.9m
Auto Express economy (miles/kWh) 2.5 2.3
Actual predicted range (miles) 225 219
Claimed range (WLTP combined) 258 miles 241 miles
Charging capability 3.6/11/50/100kW 3.6/11/50/150kW 
Charging times (hours, minutes)  27h/13h30m/71m/42m 26h 45m/9h/70m/30m
Claimed CO2/tax bracket 0g/km/16% 0g/km/16%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Six/yes/yes/yes Seven/yes/yes/yes
Auto box/lane-keep/blind spot/AEB Yes/yes/yes/yes Y/£1,950^/£625/y
Clim ctrl/cruise/leather/heated seats Yes/adaptive/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes
Met paint/LED lights/keyless/pwr tail £700/matrix/yes/yes £750/yes/yes/yes
Nav/digital dash/DAB/connected serv Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto No/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes

Lotus Evija name rumoured for new electric hypercar
Posted on Monday June 24, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-06-24 16:18

Lotus Evija nameplate could be worn by either the Type 130 hypercar or the brand’s forthcoming sports car

Lotus Type 130 - front (watermarked)

Lotus’ upcoming hypercar could be called the Lotus Evija, after the British sports car manufacturer filed to trademark the name. Currently known as the Type 130, the electric hypercar will be revealed in the coming weeks.

The firm has applied to registered the Evija name under a variety of different trademark classes, ranging from toys to vehicle development. This suggests the British firm is more than just ring-fencing the name for possible future use. However, Lotus declined to comment.

Lotus Type 130 hypercar

The Type 130 will be officially revealed on 16 July at a special event in London. The proximity of the launch is another indicator that Evija is, in fact, the name Lotus has decided on for the vehicle.

The all-electric Type 130 will be Lotus’s first all-new model in over a decade and marks the firm’s rebirth under its new owner, the Chinese auto giant Geely. Other than its limited production run of just 130 units, little has been confirmed about the new model.

Much like Aston Martin’s “V-badged” cars (such as the Vantage, Vanquish and Virage), Lotus’s Evija nameplate follows the brand’s long lineage of “E-badged” range of vehicles. Since 1956, and the birth of the Lotus Eleven racer, the British manufacturer has issued its cars with ten names starting with the letter “E,” including Elite, Elan, Esprit, Evora and Exige.

What do you make of Lotus’s latest nameplate? Let us know in the comments section below…

World’s fastest tractor hits 103mph with Guy Martin at the wheel
Posted on Monday June 24, 2019

Jake Weaver 2019-06-24 14:00

A JCB Fastrac driven by Guy Martin has set a new world speed record for tractors, hitting over 103mph

JCB Fastrac / Guy Martin

JCB and Guy Martin have broken the current world record for the fastest recorded speed in a tractor. The attempt took place at Elvington Airfield near York where the JCB Fastrac tractor managed to hit 103.6mph, beating the previous record by nearly 20mph.

The record-breaking Fastrac used a modified version of the 7.2-litre, 6-cylinder DieselMax engine found in the regular tractor, which produces 1,000 horsepower and over 2,500Nm of torque. Despite the immense power, the Fastrac still had to go on a strict diet and had aerodynamic help from Williams Advanced Engineering.

• World’s fastest production cars

The previous tractor speed record was held by BBC’s Top Gear, where The Stig piloted a custom built ‘Track-tor’ to an average speed of 87.27mph back in March 2018.

Driver Guy Martin said: “It had been a great day with the JCB at Elvington, proper job with some right proper engineers. She felt rock steady on the runway, job’s a peach.”

JCB engineers had been working in secret on the project for several months with the aim of making the record-breaking run to coincide with the 28th anniversary of the first ever production Fastrac rolling off the JCB production line.

Despite this world record, it is not the first time that JCB have entered the Guinness Book of Records. Back in 2006, the company set the land speed record for a diesel-engined vehicle with an average speed of 350.092mph.

The full story of the Fastrac’s world record attempt will be shown in a Channel 4 documentary later this year.

If you enjoyed this then why not take a look at some other car world records here…

Should I buy a nearly new car?
Posted on Monday June 24, 2019

Dean Gibson 2019-06-24 10:30

If you're not fussed about ordering a brand-new car to your exact needs, then bag a big bargain and buy a nearly new car instead

Suzuki dealership

The simple answer to the question 'should I buy a nearly new car?' is yes, if you can afford it. But of course it's a lot more complicated than that. Dealers across the UK offer nearly new cars on their forecourts, and choosing one can give a good deal to buyers that need a car, but aren't bothered about picking their own exact specification.

You can save hundreds - even thousands - of pounds on the list price of a new car if you buy this way, and it also opens up more choices for buyers with a fixed budget. Here we guide you through the nearly new car basics.

What is a nearly new car? 

Technically a nearly new car is a second hand car, but only because it's been registered by a manufacturer or dealer before being sold on. So if you do buy a nearly new car, you won't be the first registered keeper, but you will be the first person to put in any serious time behind the wheel of it. And if you're planning to keep it for a long time, then the whole issue of who was the first owner is rather irrelevant anyway.

Pre-registered cars: buying guide

You won't be the first registered keeper on the V5C registration document, but to all intents you're getting a brand-new car, which is why nearly new cars are so attractive. 

The only major difference between nearly new and brand-new is that you won't be able to pick your specification, as this will have been dictated by somebody else. However, if you're looking to buy a nearly new car within a franchised dealer network, and you're willing to compromise to bag a bargain, then you will have the choice of a manufacturer's stock across the whole country, so there is likely to be a model available somewhere to closely match your desired specification. 

Pre-registered and ex-demonstrator cars 

The majority of nearly new cars are pre-registered, and will be labelled as 'delivery miles' in adverts. That's because these cars will have spent most of their young lives being moved around the country on a transporter. That means a mileage that's in the tens, as the only time they will have moved under their own power will be when they're rolled on and off trucks.

Renault dealership

One word of advice we'd give, though, is to not go by the registration plate to determine how old a car is. If the model you are looking at is in the middle of a facelift, it will be worth checking the car's vehicle identification number (VIN) to confirm its date of manufacture. If it has a big discount on its price, it might be because it's a pre-update model, so might lack the latest kit that you might be expecting.

Another type of nearly new car is the ex-demonstrator, or ex-demo, car. This will be a specific model that dealers keep on the books for potential buyers to test drive before buying. These models will usually be a well equipped pre-registered car taken out of the sales stock, although of course they will have been driven by many people and have gained a higher mileage as a result, although it'll still be well below 10,000 miles.

Best new car deals

However, the dealer workshop is likely to keep a demonstrator in decent shape to help show the car in question in a good light. The main benefit of an ex-demo car is that it'll be nearly new and likely to feature plenty of options to show off to potential new car customers. But the higher mileage on the odometer means it'll be even better value than a pre-registered car of the same spec. We'd advise to take some extra time to inspect an ex-demonstrator for damage, and factor any marks into the price you're negotiating. 

Nearly new cars are often pre-registered by a manufacturer or dealer to help boost sales numbers, and that means they will be in a spec that maximises their value and heightens their appeal when they are sold on. That means you will be looking at cars in popular colours and specifications, so if you have a specific need for a yellow SUV with red leather interior and 22-inch wheels, for example, then you'll probably be out of luck.

Neutral paint options such as silver, blue, black or white will be the order of the day, while kit such as parking sensors, sat-nav and heated seats are likely to be added to boost a car's appeal. If certain models can be made more attractive with the addition of option packs that bundle desirable kit together, then these are likely to be included, too. 

What does approved used mean? 

Nearly new cars are usually sold through a manufacturer's approved used sales scheme. This means that the used cars for sale have to meet a set of criteria to qualify for the scheme, but this often means that the cars themselves have a certifiable history and will come with at least 12 months of warranty cover and roadside assistance.

Buying a used car: complete guide

There are other incentives to help persuade buyers to buy nearly new. If a car is less than six-months old, then the approved used scheme will sometimes honour the full new-car warranty by starting the cover from the point of sale to you. And for cars that are older than that, some schemes offer MoT protection, so that when the car gets to its third birthday, the manufacturer will cover the cost of any repairs that may be needed in the unlikely event that the car fails its MoT. This will cover mechanical failures, but not consumables such as tyres or even windscreens - your best bet is to read the small print of any such offer.

Nearly new car warranty

One positive about buying a nearly new car is that it should have most of its new vehicle warranty left intact. New cars get at least three years of warranty cover, and if the nearly new car you're looking at is less than six-months old, then some manufacturers even offer to reset the warranty cover from the moment of purchase, giving you added peace of mind.

Long-term test review Mazda MX-5 - Lesley showroom

Most approved used schemes offer their own warranty cover, too. This will be for at least 12 months, while some will extend the warranty every 12 months if you continue to get your car serviced at a franchise dealer.

Nearly new car finance 

Because a nearly new car is as close as you can get to a brand-new car, many manufacturers offer the same kind of finance offers on them. That includes PCP finance, which also allows you to swap into a newer used car at the end of the finance deal.

The main benefit of taking out finance on an approved used car is that the monthly repayments will be less than they are for a brand-new car. That's because the nearly new one has already shed some of its value, and the monthly price you pay is dictated in part by the car's value at the end of the finance agreement.

Car finance explained

As with new car finance, you will usually need to come up with some sort of deposit, there will be monthly repayments that you will need to be able to afford, and at the end of the deal there will either be a lump sum to pay, a new finance deal on another approved used car, or you can simply hand the vehicle back. As with new car finance, be aware that there will be terms and conditions to adhere to, including mileage limits and penalties for any damage to the vehicle. 

And just like new car finance, manufacturers offer incentives to get you behind the wheel, whether it's a deposit contribution, free services or even MoT guarantees.

Should you buy a nearly new car? 

With benefits such as the above available when buying a nearly new car, you're getting more than just a discount on a car's recommended retail price. You can buy with confidence, knowing that you've got some security to go with your purchase, and you'll be getting a nearly new car in the process.

Nobody needs to know that you aren't the first registered keeper - that only needs to come up when you come to sell on. And if you plan to hang on to your nearly new car until it's a genuine second-hand car, then that will matter even less.

Do you have experience of buying nearly new cars? What bargains can be had? Tell us your stories below...

New Abarth 595 Esseesse 2019 review
Posted on Friday June 21, 2019

Abarth 595 Esseesse - front
21 Jun, 2019 4:30pm James Brodie

The new Abarth 595 Esseesse is the brand's latest version of the popular hot hatch, but is it the best yet?

We’ll forgive you for not knowing just how many hot versions of the Fiat 500 have come to fruition since the arrival of the Abarth 500 in 2008, but here’s another one to add to the list: the new Abarth 595 Esseesse, which arrives essentially as a fully specced up version of the 595 Competizione with one or two bespoke ingredients.

The Esseesse returns to the fold as a part of Abarth’s 70th anniversary celebrations - you can’t really miss the badges pointing that out. The basic recipe is unchanged though, meaning a familiar and feisty 178bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine sits up front, sending its power to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox.

Best hot hatchbacks on sale

The Esseesse specifically gains a mechanical limited slip differential, a new dual exit exhaust system from specialists Akrapovic, high-performance Brembo front brakes, eye-catching, bright white multispoke 17-inch alloy wheels and a pair of huge carbon-fibre backed bucket seats from Sabelt. Elsewhere, it’s sprung by Koni Frequency Selective Damping suspension front and rear and is wrapped up in the latest 595 bodykit, while the boot still sizes up at a tiny 185 litres.

Climb aboard the 595 Esseesse and the first thing you’ll notice are those new leather trimmed Sabelt bucket seats. In the confines of the Abarth’s tiny cabin they are simply enormous, only just fitting widthways. But they’re all part of the show, they look and feel the part and blend nicely with the carbon fibre dashboard, the carbon/Alcantara trimmed steering wheel and the huge, easy to read instrumentation. As a range topping member of the 595 line-up the Esseesse is fitted with Fiat’s seven-inch touchscreen infotainment unit as standard, and while not the best in the business it works nicely, but the plastics elsewhere in the cabin still hint at the car’s humble and cheap beginnings. 

Few of those willing to part with over £25,000 for a fast 500 will care though, and that’s really not what this car is about. Fun is the Abarth 595 Esseesse’s brief, and it takes an uncompromising approach to fulfilling this. 

As snug and cosseting as those Sabelt seats are, the driving position remains a mixed bag. The wheel is lovely to grip but lacks reach adjustment, and the seats don’t do height adjustment either. You sit fairly high, almost standing on top of the pedals. The gear lever is positioned nice and closely to the wheel, and is topped with a straightforward and refreshing metal ball.

Get on the move and immediately you’ll unearth an unflinching firmness to the Koni suspension at sane speeds. The 595 remains a rock hard little car, with a level of stiffness you simply won’t come near in any of its more composed, less expensive rivals. It’s not overly crashy, but on less than perfect tarmac in town it jiggles endlessly. 

Frankly, this is a car that only makes true sense in one scenario: a twisty, flowing, empty road. Find one to throw the 595 Esseesse down and soon the sum of its parts begin to make much more sense. 178bhp and 250Nm is by no means a big amount in a hot small car these days, but the small scale of the 595 and its relative lack of weight means it makes the most of that figure.

Importantly, the engine delivering those numbers is still so utterly rich in character. It’s an old-school, boosty turbo four-pot that delivers its power in the middle of the rev-band and in somewhat unsophisticated clumps. You have to manage the revs to keep it in the sweet spot, and the five-speed gearbox is far from the finest you’ll find in a hot hatch, but it rewards with a raucous soundtrack. It’s hard to believe something so small and cute in appearance can snarl and bark quite like the 595 Esseesse does, and it only encourages you to prod the right pedal more and more.

The new active exhaust from Akrapovic doesn’t really pop and crackle on the overrun, but it unearths a powerful note on throttle and on full boost. It convinces you to keep your foot on the throttle for as long as possible, so thankfully, those Brembos up front provide the little Abarth with more than adequate stopping power. You can step hard on the middle pedal at a moment’s notice and squirm things to a halt quickly.

Throw some corners at it and you’ll discover that the 595 Essesse’s steering, while nicely accurate, is a little uninspiring. It’s too light with the car in its normal baseline setting. Toggle the Sports switch and bring the exhaust into play (we recommend you do), and some artificial heft arrives. At least this is a highly readable car. Grip levels aren’t astonishing, but it’s very easy to read when the front axle will unstick from the tarmac and wash out wide, and given the scant weight it’s easy to row back a little and tuck the nose back in on line. That’s said, you’d struggle to detect the limited slip differential up front at work.

Still, if you’re simply in the market for a small, fun, fast car the Ford Fiesta ST is better in almost every parameter and cheaper, and objectively it’ll be a better purchase and better to live with day to day. For the money you’ll spend on the 595 Esseesse, you could probably have our favourite hot supermini with every conceivable option fitted. The Esseesee is an emotional, not rational purchase and it exudes a distinctive, undeniable charm that will only get under the skin of the few, not the many.

3
A hot hatch that trades heavily on its uniqueness, it's hard to recommend the Abarth 595 Esseesse to buyers wanting the most bang for their buck or a fast small car that'll be easy to live with. It's impossible to dispute its lack of character though, and on the right road it's riotous, fun and frustrating in equal measure, being a car you either ‘get’ or can't wait to get away from.
  • Model: Abarth 595 Esseesse
  • Price: £25,295
  • Engine: 1.4 litre 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Transmission: Five speed manual, front wheel drive
  • Power/torque: 178bhp/250Nm
  • 0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
  • Top speed: 140mph
  • Economy/CO2: 38.7mpg/155g/km
  • On sale: Now

Hardcore Ford GT teaser hints at more focused version of Ford's hypercar
Posted on Friday June 21, 2019

James Brodie 2019-06-21 15:55

A bewinged and faster roadgoing Ford GT is set for Goodwood Festival of Speed debut early next month

Ford GT hardcore teaser

Ford will arrive at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on 4 July with news of a new version of the 647bhp, V6-powered GT hypercar, which has been teased in typical shadowy fashion.

Officially, the brand has not communicated anything beyond confirmation of the “special” announcement, which will take place on the Ford stand on Goodwood’s opening Thursday.

The fastest Nurburgring lap times

The image above all but confirms that it will be either a hardcore, more track focussed variant of the GT, or a new version of the GTE racer competing in the World Endurance Championship (WEC).

The most obvious change is the adoption of a massive new rear wing, spanning the full track of the car and featuring enormous side planes. Elsewhere, we can spot a new air inlet placed on the roof too, aping the GTE spec racer.

However, the teaser image reveals a set of production-spec headlights lifted directly from the road going version of the GT and not the racer. As such, the car that will be revealed at Goodwood will almost certainly be roadworthy, but with track intent.

It could even be a new homologation special. The FIA has just announced new top-division ‘Hypercar’ rules for the WEC from the 2020/21 season onwards, requiring just a production run of 20 roadworthy models for cars to qualify. Aston Martin has already confirmed that the V12 powered Valkyrie will compete in the class, while Toyota is preparing a version of its upcoming GR Super Sport hypercar for the competition too.

Check out our round-up of the best hypercars in the world...

 

Citroen Berlingo XL Flair: long-term test review
Posted on Friday June 21, 2019

Citroen Berlingo XL Flair long termer - header
23 Jun, 2019 1:00pm Hugo Griffiths

First report: we find inner peace with our Citroen Berlingo XL Flair people carrier

Mileage: 514
Economy: 41.2mpg

“It's a van.” “No, it’s a car.” Arguments with six-year-old children rarely go well, but as soon as my eldest son climbed into our Citroen Berlingo, he had nothing but enthusiasm for the new MPV on our fleet.

I had a similar experience on my first encounter with the car, being immediately struck by its sheer size, exaggerated by the close confines of Auto Express’ underground car park. There’s no disguising the model’s slab-sidedness, either, partly because I’ve got the seven-seater XL version which, as well as having an extra two seats, is 35cm longer than its ‘M’-sized counterpart.

Best 7-seater cars to buy

But any reservations about the Berlingo’s size or class disappeared as soon as I started it up and moved off, because there can be few cars on sale today that are easier or more relaxing to drive than the Citroen.

The first thing that helps this laid-back vibe is the visibility from the driver’s seat, aided by the upright seating position, the vast windows and the SUV-esque ride height. Then there’s the steering, which is so light that manoeuvring in and out of parking spaces and car parks is a doddle, not least because our Berlingo is fitted with the £800 City Park pack. In addition to a self-parking system, this brings all-round parking sensors, plus top-down and conventional reversing cameras. There’s almost nothing around the car I can’t see.

But there’s more, because another option I’m lucky enough to have is Citroen’s EAT8 automatic gearbox. This conventional torque-converter suits the Berlingo’s chilled-out nature perfectly, slurring its shifts in a wonderfully smooth fashion that makes for effortless progress.

Ride is another area in which the model excels. The blend of modest 16-inch alloy wheels, high-profile tyres and soft suspension means that the speed bumps and potholes on our roads in the capital city intrude far less than they do in most cars.

All of these elements combine to make the Berlingo genuinely pleasurable to drive around my patch of south London. Sure, the top-of-the-range BlueHDi 130 diesel engine can be a little gruff when pushed, a 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds isn’t going to set the world on fire, and that comfort-geared suspension means you’ll experience a fair degree of body roll if you go round a corner too quickly. But that’s all the more reason to take things easy when you’re behind the wheel and enjoy the space and comfort.

Speaking of space, practicality is the Berlingo’s raison d’être, and I have a feeling that I’m yet to discover all the cubbyholes. Our XL variant misses out on the M’s optional Modutop roof-storage solution, but we’re hardly wanting for space.

There’s a massive, cabin-width overhead compartment above the front seats, a lidded cubby on the right side of the dash, a drawer under the driver’s seat and a wireless charging bay (a reasonable £100 option), plus a little shelf behind the infotainment screen.

And that’s before you get to the vast boot, made even bigger if you remove the third row of seats. Yes, some friends are already buttering us up to help them out with a garden clearance, and yes, Passion Red paint does make it slightly resemble a Royal Mail van, but I do like some of the other colours available, such as the dark blue shade.

Other issues? Well, including the fitted optional extras, this is a close-to £30,000 Berlingo. That’s a lot of money for a car of this kind and, while you can have a seven-seater XL for a little over £21,000, if you want the automatic transmission you’ll need a budget of over £24,400 – partly because an auto is only offered with the top-spec diesel engine.

If we’re being really picky, the rear-view mirror is far too small to make the most of the excellent visibility provided by the huge back window, and the fact the fuel filler cap is opened with the key reminds us of the car’s commercial roots.

None of this detracts from the honest appeal of the Berlingo, though. It’s not a car for big egos, nor is it one for people with inferiority complexes. But if you put aside your prejudices about how ‘cool’ a car needs to look, the Citroen makes a strong case as the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of modern driving, and a car in which you can truly find inner peace among all the cubbyholes.

Oh, and my eldest son and I have settled on calling our Citroen Berlingo a people carrier, which we decided was both fair and accurate.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

4
Inner peace is difficult to find on today’s hectic roads, but the Citroen Berlingo instantly brings about a sense of calm, relaxation and equilibrium. You’ll need to leave your ego at the sliding doors to truly appreciate it, but taken on its own merits, the Berlingo is faultlessly easy and enjoyable to drive, and the perfect tonic to the frenetic London life it’s quickly settling into.
  • Model: Citroen Berlingo XL Flair BlueHDi 130
  • On fleet since: May 2019
  • Price new: £26,650
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 128nhp
  • CO2/tax: 118g/km/£145
  • Options: Metallic paint (£545), smartphone charging plate (£100), Drive Assist pack (£200), City Park pack (£800), Grip Control (£650)
  • Insurance*: Group: 14E, Quote: £441
  • Mileage/mpg: 514/41.2mpg
  • Any problems?: None so far

New Mercedes GLS 2019 review
Posted on Friday June 21, 2019

Mercedes GLS 400 d - front
24 Jun, 2019 8:30am Alex Ingram

The new Mercedes GLS claims to offer the ultimate luxury SUV experience. We find out if it does

This is the all-new GLS, a car that Mercedes has dubbed “the S-Class of SUVs”. The luxury limousine is considered to be the best in the business, so the brand’s latest model has a lot to live up to.

Of course, Mercedes has form when it comes to large luxury SUVs, with its GL and later GLS predecessors, and in many ways this version achieves jacked-up executive-class travel better than any of its ancestors.

Best luxury cars on sale

While the previous GLS architecture could be traced back to the 2005 M-Class, the latest model shares a platform with the new GLE. It therefore starts with a lighter, more rigid structure – one that can accommodate the brand’s latest driver-assistance systems and infotainment. It’s grown in size, too; at 5,213mm overall, it’s 83mm longer than the old GLS and 62mm more than the BMW X7.

The dash in the new car is lifted virtually wholesale from the smaller GLE. But while that means it uses the same brilliant twin 12.3-inch MBUX infotainment set-up, we’d hoped for something rather more special.

Arguably, though, the back seats matter more in a car such as this, and here the GLS really hits the spot. There are six or seven-seat layouts to choose from; the former offers two captain’s chairs in the second row, the other a three-person bench. The latter can be enhanced with the optional Rear Comfort Package Plus, in which the centre seat folds down into a large armrest with a removable tablet for controlling the comfort and entertainment functions. It’s also possible to add a pair of 11.6-inch touchscreens to the front seat-backs, so passengers can watch movies and browse the web.

Where the GLS really excels is in the third row. Mercedes claims anyone up to six feet four inches will fit here, so the GLS is easily the roomiest seven-seat SUV you can buy. Seven-up, it offers a 470-litre boot – 144 litres more than the X7. In five-seat mode, space grows to 890 litres, and with all rear seats dropped (at the flick of a switch) there’s a van-like 2,400 litres.

One of the GLS’s real tricks is its advanced E-Active Body Control suspension set-up. Various modes alter the car’s suspension to suit specific conditions. Off-Road mode allows the driver to adjust the ride height of each wheel independently, but it’s the two cameras that scan the road ahead to preload the suspension in order to smooth out bumps that are more impressive.

On the move, this transforms the ride comfort remarkably over and above the standard set-up, which can occasionally thump into large dips and rock from side to side over undulations. The system won’t be offered on UK launch models, but it will make its way here eventually. It’s worth the wait.

It helps through corners as well, to an extent. Not only can the air springs maintain a level setting, but in Curve mode the car can actively lean into the corners. It works well on motorways and fast A-roads, but on twisty sections the system isn’t always able to keep up. In any mode the GLS is composed and stable, rather than thrilling, to drive.

From launch, the UK range has only one engine option: a 325bhp 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder diesel in the 400 d. This motor delivers its 700Nm slug of torque low down in the rev range, so it’s perfectly suited to hauling the GLS. It’s also remarkably quiet.

Any downsides? Well, the GLS doesn’t have the four-wheel-steering option that is available on its X7 rival, so manoeuvrability at low speeds isn’t all that great. Prices for the GLS start from £73,995 in AMG Line Premium trim, which comes as standard with 22-inch alloy wheels, a 360-degree camera and a panoramic sunroof. The AMG Line Premium Plus costs £5,250 more, adding augmented-reality navigation, massaging climate front seats, plus heated front and rear armrests.

4
The Mercedes GLS takes a huge leap over its predecessor. It has superb comfort and refinement, while offering more space than nearly anything else for the money. We think E-Active Body Control will be worth the wait: the ride quality is sublime. We can nitpick that the dash looks too much like the cheaper GLE’s and that the car might be a bit big for urban UK roads, but otherwise the GLS is a hit.
  • Model: Mercedes GLS 400 d AMG Line Premium Plus Executive
  • Price: £87,495
  • Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl turbodiesel
  • Power/torque: 325bhp/700Nm
  • Transmission: Nine-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 6.3 seconds
  • Top speed: 148mph
  • Economy/CO2: 32.8mpg/ 208g/km
  • On sale: Now

‘Euisun Chung looks set to be the most powerful car person of the next decade’
Posted on Friday June 21, 2019

Mike Rutherford 2019-06-22 16:00

Mike Rutherford thinks vice-chairman Euisun Chung holds the key to Hyundai and Kia's future

OPINION Mike Rutherford

You have to feel a bit sorry for poor ol’ Euisun Chung at the minute. OK, OK, he’s not that poor (personal wealth around $3billion) and he’s comparatively young (in his forties). But he’s a bit like Prince Charles in that, although he’s chugging along quite comfortably, he can’t yet inherit the top job, full responsibility, plus mega-salary package until his much-loved elderly parent abdicates or dies. You see, Euisun's dad is Mong-Koo Chung, who’s the closest thing that South Korea’s got to a king. 

The 81-year old is the hard-as-nails chairman and CEO of Hyundai-Kia-Genesis and has even more billions than his boy, who’s merely the group’s chief vice-chairman. This is despite the fact that the heir apparent has, in effect, just taken over the day-to-day running of the colossal organisation, while his old man spends more (but not all) days at home. 

Best hatchbacks to buy

Yet even before Euisun is crowned and allowed to sit formally on the Hyundai-Kia-Genesis throne, he’s making waves, doing a great job by bravely taking the group into areas it hasn’t previously occupied. Only last month he plonked almost $100million (for starters) into the coffers of Croatian hypercar manufacturer Rimac, because he correctly concludes it usually takes decades to turn a car brand from zero to hero. Although he believes he’s just about done that with Hyundai and Kia (less so with Genesis), it’s wiser to simply buy into an existing hypercar brand. 

Chung Jr knows better than anyone that he must soon possess a premium 4x4/SUV line-up(s). This explains his alleged interest in buying financially troubled JLR, which his rapidly expanding clan could easily afford to adopt and nurture.

More certain, though, is that Euisun will not enter into a mega-merger with a giant corporation such as Ford or Mercedes, who his dad and other family members had unsatisfactory dealings with in the past. The days of Hyundai-Kia needing help from supposedly superior US and German-based mainstream car makers are gone. 

But he’s willing to and is actively recruiting the world’s top car designers from Europe and elsewhere. (Soon to ‘retire’ Ian Callum CBE of Jaguar, please note) And, in recent days, Chung Jr has done an extraordinary deal with an Israeli company, which paves the way for ambulance services and other health professionals to receive the condition of drivers and passengers just seconds after they’ve been involved in accidents on the road.

Away from cars but still within his remit, Euisun Chung has set up a secret building for extreme blue-sky thinking from his in-house creatives. Rumour has it he fancies moving further into the communications industry to challenge arch-rival Samsung, and last week he vowed to have a high-speed hydrogen train up and running by 2020. Honest. 

If Chung Jr is doing all this genuinely game-changing stuff before he’s crowned king of the Hyundai-Kia-Genesis castle, imagine how ridiculously free-thinking and productive he’ll be when he is permitted to sit on the throne and wear that crown. The most significant and powerful car bloke of the next decade or two? Probably.

If you enjoyed this opinion piece then make sure to head to our opinions page to read more views from the Auto Express team...

New 2021 Mercedes EQB SUV to boost brand's electric line-up
Posted on Friday June 21, 2019

Alex Ingram 2019-06-21 16:05

The all-new Mercedes EQB electric crossover will share its platform and boxy looks with the GLB when it officially launches in 2021

Mercedes GLB - full front

Mercedes has confirmed that it will produce an all-electric version of it GLB compact SUV. The new model, named EQB, will go on sale in 2021.

Official images have yet to be revealed, but the EQB will sport the same boxy body shape of its combustion-powered relative, albeit with detail changes specific to Mercedes’ EQ electric car model lines. Mercedes hasn’t yet confirmed if the EQB will offer the same seven-seat configuration as the GLB.

New Mercedes EQC review 

The new EQB will ride on the same platform as the GLB: the MFA2 underpinnings are also used by the latest A-Class, B-Class and CLA. While powertrain details are still to be confirmed, we expect the EQB to offer a range somewhere in the region of 300 miles in order to compete with electric crossover rivals like the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric.

The EQB forms part of Mercedes’ electrification strategy, which will see 10 new model launches by 2022. The new car will sit below the EQC: the first EV to be released under Mercedes’ ‘EQ’ model range.

Mercedes executives had previously confirmed to Auto Express that among the 10 new models there will be ‘several sedans’, while we expect a small commercial vehicle and various SUVs to complete the rest of the line-up.

Click here for all the latest on the new Mercedes GLB SUV...

 


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