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In the News ...

BMW makes Apple CarPlay a subscription service
Posted on Tuesday July 23, 2019

Hugo Griffiths 2019-07-23 08:50

Industry first sees BMW charge £85 a year for Apple CarPlay - though a lifetime subscription can be had for £295

BMW 3 Series - Apple CarPlay

BMW has become the first carmaker to make Apple CarPlay a subscription service, with owners wanting to synchronise their iPhone with their car’s infotainment system having to pay £85 a year in order to do so.

The move applies to all new BMWs with the latest 7.0 operating system, first seen on the BMW X5 launched in 2018.

What is Apple CarPlay?

All new BMWs with 7.0 now come with a year’s free CarPlay subscription, but after the first 12 months owners will have to decide whether to allow the subscription to lapse, or pay to continue to access it. If they choose the latter option the firm offers a month’s trial for £1, or owners can pay £85 for a full year, £255 for three years, or £295 for lifetime access to the service.

While the difference between the three-year and lifetime packages may appear negligible, with four-year PCP deals increasingly the norm with new-car buyers, subsequent owners of used BMWs may find themselves having to pay for Apple CarPlay, with BMW receiving multiple CarPlay subscription payments for the same car.

The firm says the new structure applies to around 65 per cent of its current model line-up, though “others will follow in the near future based on model life cycles.”

It claims that this subscription-based model “allows us to keep the initial cost price of the vehicle down since not everyone will use CarPlay, but at the same time for those that do, they have a flexible offer structure after the initial year’s subscription has expired.”

CarPlay is designed to offer a near-handsfree experience for drivers, with the car’s infotainment screen mirroring many aspects of an iPhone’s functionality - bringing apps such as Spotify and Google Maps into the car’s built-in screen, and making them accessible via voice commands.

While BMW’s pricing decision clearly makes shrewd business sense to the manufacturer, owners of an £18,600 Kia Ceed for example get CarPlay (as well as Android Auto, which unavailable in BMWs) included in the price of their car, with no subscription needed whatsoever. Carmakers have to develop CarPlay software integration themselves, but Auto Express understands Apple does not charge licencing fees for the product.

Would you pay for Apple CarPlay? Let us know in the comments section below...

New Audi SQ7 TDI launched
Posted on Monday July 22, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-07-22 17:40

Audi has launched an updated range-topping version of the SQ7, with a 429bhp turbocharged V8 diesel engine

Audi has launched a new performance version of its largest SUV, called the SQ7 TDI. Due to launch in the UK this Autumn, the German brand’s latest sporty off-roader comes with a mild-hybrid diesel powertrain, a range of chassis upgrades and a host of styling and technology revisions. Prices for the new model will start from around £76,400.

The Audi SQ7 TDI is powered by the same biturbo V8 diesel engine as the new Audi SQ8, producing 429bhp and 900Nm of torque. Like the German brand’s performance coupe-SUV, the SQ7’s engine is also fitted with a 48-volt electric compressor, which assists the two turbochargers when they’re off-boost.

Fastest SUVs in the world

The compressor is fed by the same 48V lithium-ion battery pack which underpins the SQ7’s mild-hybrid system. Comprising a belt-driven alternator starter and an energy recuperation system, it can power the performance SUV at speeds up to 14mph and recover up to 8kW of energy under deceleration.


Audi says the SQ7 can dispatch the 0–62mph sprint in 4.8 seconds and reach an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. It should also be reasonably efficient, with the German firm claiming economy figures of 37mpg and emissions ratings of around 200g/km of CO2.

The engine feeds its power through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a sport differential to all four wheels. Through fast corners, the differential actively distributes the engine’s power between the rear wheels, which Audi says helps to reduce understeer.

Chassis upgrades over the standard Audi Q7 include uprated brake discs, larger calipers and sport air suspension. Larger diameter carbon ceramic brakes are available as an optional extra, as is Audi’s active electromechanical roll stabilisation system and all-wheel steering.


Audi claims its all-wheel steering system makes the SQ7 easier to manoeuvre. At low speeds, the rear wheels turn up to five degrees in the opposite direction to the front, which reduces the car’s turning circle. At higher speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction, which Audi says improves stability.

From the outside, the new SQ7 receives Audi’s usual S-line treatment, with 20-inch alloy wheels, more aggressive front and rear bumpers, larger side-skirts, aluminium-look mirror caps and the brand’s trademark chromed quad exhaust tips.

Best SUVs to buy 2019

Inside, the new SQ7 features a pair of leather and Alcantara trimmed sports seats, stainless steel pedals, aluminium trim, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and an 8.3-inch infotainment system with support for Amazon Alexa, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Carbon fibre interior trim inlays are available as an optional extra, as is a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system, four-zone automatic air conditioning and a customisable ambient lighting package. Elsewhere, the SQ7 is optionally available with Matrix LED headlights and a soft-close power assist function for its doors.

Now read our review of the standard Audi Q7. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

Jaguar XJ13 prototype reborn as Ecurie Ecosse LM69
Posted on Monday July 22, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-07-22 16:05

Jaguar’s forgotten endurance racer has been reimagined as a road-legal sports car by the Scottish tuning company, Ecurie Ecosse

Ecurie Ecosse LM69 - front above

The 1966 Jaguar XJ13 prototype racer has been reimagined as a road-legal sports car by the Scottish tuning company, Ecurie Ecosse. Originally designed to take on Ford, Ferrari and Porsche in the 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours race, the XJ13 project was shelved following a lack of funding as other Jaguar projects took priority.

The Ecurie Ecosse LM69 is an “ideal” of what the Jaguar XJ13 could have been, had it raced at Le Mans. It’s built from a combination of aluminium and composite materials and its construction adheres to the principles and regulations of the Jaguar XJ13’s era. As such, it only features design details and technology that entered motorsport no later than 1969.

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It’s powered by a quad-cam, naturally aspirated 5.3-litre V12 engine, fed by a traditional mechanical fuel injection system and distributors. The engine will be built to the same specification as the original XJ13’s 5.3-litre V12, which provided the racer with 502bhp, 517Nm of torque and a top speed of 177mph.

At the buyer’s request, the 5.3-litre V12 can also be fitted with programmable fuel injection and electronic ignition, for better performance a reliability. In addition, buyers will have the option of specifying a tuned version of the same V12 engine with capacity increased to 7.3-litres.

The LM69’s styling remains faithful to the original Jaguar XJ13’s, albeit with the addition of a curved glass engine cover, a fixed roof and a large rear wing. The Ecurie Ecosse version also features wider wheels and tyres than the original Jaguar racer, as well as a pair of aggressive dive planes for better handling.

The Ecurie Ecosse LM69 will make its debut this September at the Concourse of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace in London. Available to order now at an estimated price of £750,000, production of the LM69 will be limited to just 25 units - a reference to the 1969 FIA homologation regulations.

What are your thoughts on the Ecurie Ecosse LM69? Let us know in the comments section below… 

£2m Government artificial intelligence project to scan local roads for safety issues
Posted on Monday July 22, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-07-22 15:15

£2m of funding announced for artificial intelligence to scan 96,000 miles of road for poor road markings and other issues

Road markings

The Government will use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse around 96,000 miles of local roads in the UK and identify where road markings and other factors need to be improved in the interests of safety.

The £2 million Department for Transport (DfT) project will see the public body work with the Local Condition Roads Innovation Group and machine learning company Gaist in using AI to analyse some 146 million HD images of roads around the UK in order to work out where investment is needed.

Government invests £348m in local road improvements

A particular focus is being placed on poor quality road markings, which can make it difficult for road users to see whether they can park on the side of the road, overtake or know how wide a lane is. The DfT acknowledges that this represents a safety risk and believes a map of where new markings are needed will rectify the problem.

The money will also be used to finance a survey of pavement and footway conditions in order to identify where additional funding is needed. Meanwhile, sections of the National Cycle Network – a 16,000-miles network of signposted cycle routes and paths – will also be assessed to make sure they’re still in good condition.

Highways England cancels or delays one in three major road schemes

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Road markings play a vital role in keeping everyone who is using the road safe, so making sure they’re up to standard is imperative.

“This funding will allow for advanced AI learning technology to assess the condition of the markings to improve the safety of our roads for all users.”

Paula Claytonsmith, managing director of Gaist, added: “We are using over 146 million HD road images from our national databank and cutting-edge AI technology to assess over 96,000 miles of classified roads as part of this project.

“This is the largest exercise in assessing road marking readiness ever undertaken in England. Gaist are proud to have the AI capability that puts an SME UK business at the forefront of technological advances.”

The £2 million project is in addition to a further £348 million pledged by the DfT last week to improve local roads.

Would you like to see investment in better road markings on local roads near you or are there better ways to spend the cash? Let us know below...

Frankfurt Motor Show 2019: preview
Posted on Monday July 22, 2019

2019-07-22 10:00

The 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show is fast approaching, with BMW, Cupra, Hyundai, Land Rover, Porsche and VW all planning big reveals

2017 Frankfurt Motor Show - flags

The 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show opens to the world’s press on Thursday 12th September. It’s one of the biggest events in the motoring calendar, having attracted as many as 850,000 visitors in previous years and is often the show of choice for some of Europe’s biggest car brands. Make no mistake, some huge debuts take place here.  

The Frankfurt Motor Show is organised by the German Association of the Automotive Industry and, naturally, it’s an important event for domestic manufacturers. Usually, the enormous floors of the Messe Exhibition Centre are packed with concept cars and forthcoming production models from the likes of Porsche, BMW, Audi and Mercedes.

2019 Geneva Motor Show: round-up

As ever, this year’s event is could be a big one for some of the big German brands. Electric cars are set to star at Frankfurt this September too, with Porsche, Honda and Volkswagen all gearing up to showcase brand new battery electric models. Land Rover looks all set to take the sheets off a reinvented icon, too.

With a few weeks until showtime we’re beginning to get a sense of what cars could be this year’s show stars. It’s a modest round-up for now but we’ll be updating this page over the coming weeks as preparations for the show ramp up and more debuts emerge. As ever, we’ll have a team on the show floor on press day bringing you the breaking news as it happens.

Frankfurt Motor Show 2019: manufacturers A to Z

BMW

BMW X6 - front

BMW X6

BMW’s third-generation X6 coupe-SUV has already been revealed, but it will make its public debut at Frankfurt. Based on the same underpinnings as the new X5, it features a range of petrol and diesel engines, with the most potent 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 524bhp and 750Nm of torque. 

Cupra

Cupra teaser frankfurt concept

Cupra concept

Cupra, SEAT’s spin-off performance brand, recently released a shadowy teaser hinting at a Frankfurt bound concept. Technical details remain sparse, but the concept could feature an all-electric powertrain, potentially borrowing technology from the MEB-based SEAT el-Born concept hatchback. 

Honda

Honda e Prototype - front

Honda e

A production ready version of Honda’s cute, retro-styled all-electric city car will be unveiled at Frankfurt. It features a water-cooled 35.5kWh battery pack, a WLTP-verified range of 125 miles and a perfect 50:50 weight distribution. Unlike most compact EVs, the Honda e’s motor is mounted on the rear axle and sends its power to the rear wheels. 

Hyundai

Hyundai i10 teaser

Hyundai i10 facelift 

Hyundai will launch an updated version of the i10 city car in September, which promises to be the most technology-laden car of its class. Styling and powertrain revisions will be limited, but the i10’s infotainment system is expected to take a huge leap forward, potentially using the same eight-inch system found in the larger i30 hatchback

Land Rover

Land Rover Defender - spyshot 6

Land Rover Defender

Land Rover looks set to finally pull the camouflage off its new Defender at Frankfurt. The British brand’s new off-roader has spent the last six months undergoing a gruelling development programme, covering more than 750,000 miles across 11 countries. Spy shots and leaks reveal that while the new model will keep the Defender’s boxy profile it will swell in size considerably, while we expect a much more road-focussed dimension to the new workhorse.  

Porsche

Porsche Taycan - front

Porsche Taycan

We’ve already seen a completely undisguised version of Porsche’s new, rakish all-electric saloon on the road, undergoing testing. The spotier Tesla Model S rival will sprint from 0–62mph in under 3.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 155mph, thanks to its pair of electric motors (derived from Porsche’s Le Mans-winning 919 LMP1 racer), producing more than 600bhp.  

Volkswagen

Volkswagen ID.3 - front action

Volkswagen ID.3

Volkswagen’s much-anticipated all-electric ID.3 hatch will make its fist full, uncamouflaged appearance, boasting a 201bhp motor and range of up to 260 miles. It’s been a while coming - the original ID concept made its debut at the Paris Motor Show back in 2016. VW has been relentlessly marketing the car already and as such, all we’re likely to learn at Frankfurt is what the car’s interior looks like. The first production variants of the all-electric Golf alternative are available to pre-order in the UK now, with deliveries to commence in summer 2020.

Are you looking forward to the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show? Let us know in the comments! Click on to page 2 for everything you need to know about visiting the show... 

What is the Frankfurt Motor Show?

Among many things, the Frankfurt Motor Show is an opportunity. An opportunity to indulge yourself in large quantities of currywurst, apple wine, and the most important new metal of the moment. Operating on an alternating two-year cycle with the Paris Motor Show, the IAA Frankfurt show is one of the biggest dates on the automotive calendar.

Naturally, patriotism is fuelled to extreme levels with marques such as Mercedes, Audi and BMW pulling out all the stops to ensure an unforgettable display. Last time around, just under a million people visited the show, and with all the cars shown on page one of this guide, don’t be surprised if 2019 is just as popular.

Dates

The 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show will open to the press on the 10 September 2019, so be sure to bookmark this page and tune into our social media feeds on the 10th so you don’t miss any of the action. There’s a second press day on Tuesday 11th and then the global automotive media pack up their laptops and vacate the show.

Two trade days kick off on the 12th and two days later (14 September 2019) the 230,000 square metre exhibition centre opens to the public, for them to drool over the impressive collection of cars. Once more, if you didn’t manage to catch all the action in one day, the show runs until the 22 September, so there is a full week for you to enjoy the automotive nectar.

Opening hours

The opening times for the public days are 9am to 7pm, leaving plenty of time to enjoy everything on show. 

Location

The event is held at the Trade fair grounds, Ludwig-Erhard-Anlage 1, D-60327 Frankfurt/Main, Germany.  

Tickets

For members of the public who are either a child under the age of seven, persons with a disability ID (including one accompanying adult), and persons in wheelchairs (also including an accompanying person), entrance is completely free.

For the rest of the public, the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show ticket prices are as follows:

Ticket

Dates Available

Online Price

On the Door Price

Weekend - single day

14, 15, 21, 22 September

Approx. £13

Approx. £15

Weekday - single day

16, 17, 18, 19, 20 September

Approx. £11

Approx. £13

Student - single day

14-22 September

Approx. £7

Approx. £7

Reduced* - single day

14-22 September

Only available on the day

Approx. £7

Weekend/weekday - single afternoon

14-22 September

Approx. £7.50

Approx. £9

Reduced* - afternoon

14-22 September

Only available on the day

Approx. £4

*reduced tickets available for apprentices and trainees, and participants in Federal Voluntary Services with according verification.

Show map

Click the image below for a full map of the Frankfurt show halls...


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Are you looking forward to the Frankfurt Motor Show? Let us know in the comments section below…

Cupra teases all-electric coupe-SUV concept
Posted on Monday July 22, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-07-22 09:15

SEAT’s Cupra performance brand has released a teaser for its new concept SUV, due for reveal at the Frankfurt Motor Show

Cupra teaser frankfurt concept

Cupra, SEAT’s performance spin-off brand has released a teaser image for its latest all-electric coupe-SUV concept. The prototype model previews the Spanish firm’s future design language, as well as its plans for electrification. It will be unveiled in full at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

Cupra claims its latest concept combines “the presence of an SUV” with “the sleekness of a sports coupe.” Its shares many of its design features with the forthcoming Cupra Fomentor coupe-SUV, such as its sharply tapering roofline and full-width rear light bar. 

Cupra Formentor performance SUV coming in 2020

The concept also features illuminated badges on both the front and rear bumpers. The front badge sits low on the car’s front valance, while the rear badge is incorporated into the prototype’s rear light.

The concept’s styling has been penned with efficiency and aerodynamics in mind. Cupra claims the vents across the SUV’s nose have been designed to provide the maximum possible driving range and, thanks to its lack of exhaust pipes, the concept’s rear diffuser supplies functional downforce.

This concept SUV is the only Cupra model to use a 100 percent electric drivetrain. The Spanish company is yet to confirm any details about the prototype’s platform or drivetrain, but we expect it will be based on a modified version of the Volkswagen Group’s all-electric MEB platform, which also underpins the SEAT el-Born concept.

What are your thoughts on Cupra’s new concept coupe-SUV? Let us know in the comments section below…

 

New 2020 Bentley Flying Spur First Edition revealed
Posted on Friday July 19, 2019

Daniel Allen 2019-07-19 19:30

Bentley’s new luxury saloon will be limited to 12 months of production, starting towards the end of 2019.

New 2020 Bentley Flying Spur First Edition revealed

Bentley will introduce the new Flying Spur back with a limited run, high spec First Edition model, due on sale for the new model’s first 12 months on the market. 

The First Edition’s 6.0-litre W12 engine is unchanged from the standard Flying Spur, capable of launching the 2.4-tonne limo from 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds and onto a top speed of 207mph. This engine is mated to an eight-speed ZF dual-clutch gearbox, along with Bentley’s Active All-Wheel-Drive System and All-Wheel steering.

The First Edition receives a number of exterior styling tweaks. The Flying Spur gets newly designed, 22-inch wheels by Mulliner - Bentley’s customisation division. First Edition badging is applied inside and out, along with a redesigned electronic Flying B mascot. 

Inside, the badge-work continues with a choice of First Edition winged emblems embroidered into the headrests. On entering the car, the customer will be greeted by Union Jack treadplates with First Edition written through the centre. A new panoramic sunroof and Alcantara blinds are both electronically controlled.

There will be an additional Touring Specification, including lane assist, night vision, head-up display and adaptive cruise control.

The limited-edition four-door Grand Tourer will firstly be auctioned to support the Elton John AIDS Foundation in the South of France on July 24th. To support the foundation, Bentley is inviting the highest bidder to create their bespoke car with Bentley’s exclusive Co-Creation Luxury Service, usually offered to just a small selection of its clients.

While prices haven’t been officially announced, the new Flying Spur is expected to be in excess of £200,000 and differentiate a great deal depending on selected optional extras.

Read about the best luxury cars on sale here...

 

 

 

New 2020 BMW 5 Series facelift spotted testing
Posted on Friday July 19, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-07-19 15:50

Our spy photographers have caught the refreshed BMW 5 Series saloon on camera ahead of its launch next year

BMW 5 Series facelift - spyshot 2

These are our first spy shots of the facelifted BMW 5 Series saloon, which is due to reach the UK market in 2020. Revisions look set to include an updated engine range, mildly refreshed styling and some additional infotainment and driver assistance technology.

BMW will revise the 530e iPerformance’s plug-in hybrid powertrain for 2020, as hinted by this mule’s “hybrid test vehicle” branding. The updated variant could feature a larger capacity battery pack, and BMW could be targeting an increase on the current model’s all-electric range of 31 miles on a single charge. The 5 Series’s conventional engine range will also likely receive a range of efficiency revisions.

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BMW also looks set to add a new M550i variant to the UK 5 Series range; a model previously only available for the German, Russian and American markets. The new variant feature a 455bhp twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel-drive.

It will act as a go-between for BMW’s standard-issue 5 Series and the performance-focused M5, offering a 0–62mph time of four seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. BMW is yet to confirm pricing information, but the North American 5 Series market indicates a starting price of around £64,000.

As evidenced by this lightly disguised mule, exterior styling changes will be minimal, being limited to reworked headlights, an updated grille and new front and rear bumpers. Inside, BMW’s latest 12.3-inch iDrive infotainment system will feature, (as found in the new X5 and X6), while a range of trim and upholstery updates will keep the 5 Series competitive with the Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6.

What are your thoughts on the facelifted BMW 5 Series? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below… 

Government invests £348m in local road improvements
Posted on Friday July 19, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-07-20 00:01

The Department for Transport is investing in two funds – worth £198m and £150m respectively – which councils can bid to access

The Government is investing a total of £348 million in two projects to provide funding for the improvement of local roads over the next four years.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has pledged £198 million towards a Challenge Fund, with councils able to bid for funding during the remainder of 2019 and 2020.

How to claim for pothole damage to your car

The purpose of the Challenge Fund is to provide financial support for council projects that will improve the quality of local roads and surrounding infrastructure, benefitting local economies and making driving safer.

The DfT has cited bridges and viaducts as two examples of such projects, but has also said that major pothole repairs would be another suitable use of the money.

The remaining £150 million will go into a second project called the Pinch Point Fund. Funding will be available during the 2021/22 and 2022/23 financial years and will be given to councils looking to ease congestion on their busiest roads.

Previous schemes of this type have seen A roads linked up to open up land for housing and commercial development, new roads built to allow buses to bypass single carriageway routes and the creation of links between major roads and new housing developments.

The Pinch Point Fund isn’t without its potential flaws, though. Earlier this year, it was revealed that a £317 million national pinch point scheme conducted by Highways England between 2012/13 and 2014/15 only managed to relieve congestion at off-peak times, while simultaneously making traffic worse during rush hour. The result was an overall negative economic impact rather than a positive one.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “Local roads are the backbone of the transport network for drivers up and down the country, but we know that some aren’t up to the standard they need to be.

“Whether it’s congestion or quality, we need to empower local authorities to invest in these roads and make journeys safer and stress-free. That’s exactly what this funding will do – over four years we’re providing more than a third of a billion pounds to make sure local authorities have the cash they need to make this a reality.”

Are there any road improvement projects in your area that could use some of this investment? Let us know in the comments...

Highways England cancels or delays one in three major road schemes
Posted on Friday July 19, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-07-19 14:50

Highways England was meant to start 112 major road schemes between 2015 and 2020, but 39 have been cancelled, paused or delayed

Highways England has cancelled or delayed around 35 per cent of major road schemes originally scheduled to start by 2020 at the latest.

The Government-owned body, which is responsible for maintaining major roads in England, was due to start 112 improvement projects across the country between 2015 and 2020, as part of a £15bn five-year road investment strategy announced in 2014.

£317m traffic reduction scheme makes some journeys longer

The organisation’s 2019/20 delivery plan, however, has revealed that 10 of these have been cancelled, paused or are under review. A further 29 have been delayed until the next five-year investment period, which means that it’s possible work won’t commence until as late as 2025.

One of the major schemes that has been cancelled is the improvement of the A27 Chichester Bypass in West Sussex, which was halted when local councils withdrew their support for Highway’s England’s proposed plans for the project.

Other schemes that have been cancelled, paused or placed under review include improvements to the M53 junctions five to 11 and junction 10a of the A14 in the Midlands.

Motorway red X signs now enforced by cameras

Meanwhile, plans for works on the A27 Arundel Bypass, the M6 junctions 21a-26 and the A38 Derby junctions have, among others, been delayed until the next five-year period, scheduled from April 2020 to March 2025.

A spokesperson for Highways England said: “In total, we are progressing over 90 per cent of schemes proposed in the original road investment programme in 2015. It was always presumed that there would be change to the first road investment programme, particularly with the large number of schemes that were at the very early stages of design.

“As they are designed and progressed, we do further analysis, listen to stakeholders and examine environmental issues in more detail. In a small minority of cases we have concluded that schemes do not represent value for money or are unacceptable to stakeholders.

“In these cases, it is right that the schemes should not go ahead. While improving our roads, we do as much as we can to minimise disruption and the effect of the road network on the environment.”

Do you think more needs to be done to improve Britain's roads? Let us know below...

New Mazda MX-5 Cup and Design styling packs released
Posted on Friday July 19, 2019

Daniel Allen 2019-07-19 13:10

The Mazda MX-5 - world’s best-selling two-seater roadster - can now be fitted with new design packages costing up to £4,675

Mazda UK has released two new personalisation packages for its MX-5 models following the release of the new, 30th Anniversary Edition MX-5. Prices begin at £1,995 for the entry-level Cup Pack and increase to £4,675 for the top of the range Design Pack.

The cheaper of the two comes with a suspension lowering kit from Eibach, a stainless-steel exhaust system from Bastuck and 17-inch BBS wheels. However, if customers want the new rim size, they’ll need to own the model with the 2.0-litre, 181bhp engine.

Best sports cars on sale

At the peak of the price range, costing around a fifth of an entry-level MX-5, is the Design Pack. It includes all the styling upgrades of the Cup Pack, with the addition of a body kit created to compliment the new BBS wheels.

Inside the cabin, changes are made to the trim materials as Alcantara is added to the gear lever, handbrake, dashboard and door panels.

The new options are available for any current-generation Mk4 MX-5 and are fitted by an authorised Mazda dealer. Items included in the personalisation packages can be specified to the individual, and further options are available through the company.

The Japanese manufacturer has sold in excess of one million MX-5s worldwide, 134,000 of which have been sold to British buyers since its UK launch in 1990.

What are the best convertibles on sale? Click here for our list of the top 10...

Used Lexus RX review
Posted on Friday July 19, 2019

2019-07-21 13:00

A full used buyer’s guide on the Lexus RX covering the RX Mk3 (2008-2015)

Used Lexus RX - front

Toyota was the first maker to put a petrol-electric hybrid car into UK showrooms, when the original Prius arrived in 1997. Since then the company has sold some 13 million hybrids, dominating the market globally, so it was inevitable that Toyota’s luxury division would also champion petrol-electric cars.

The first Lexus RX wasn’t available in hybrid form, and although the second-generation car came only in petrol-electric RX400h guise at launch, a non-hybrid RX350 arrived later.

However, the third-generation RX that was launched in 2009 came only as a hybrid, powered by a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and a 174bhp electric motor. It didn’t sell in huge numbers but, with used examples now priced from £10,000, should you take the plunge?

Models covered

  • • Lexus RX Mk3 (2008-2015) - This practical and hi-tech hybrid SUV could be a fine buy – if you can find one.

Lexus RX Mk3

History

The third-generation RX arrived in RX450h form only, taking over from the RX400h in July 2009. Every version came with a CVT automatic transmission and five doors.

At first, the trim levels were SE, SE-I, SE-L and SE-L Premium but in January 2011 SE-I Lifestyle arrived, with roof rails, underbody protection, a boot liner and a rear bumper protector. A facelift in May 2012 brought a more dramatic look, extra kit and the F Sport trim level, with firmer suspension settings.

In November 2013, Advance trim added LED headlights, a sporty look, 19-inch alloys and an opening sunroof or fixed panoramic roof. From August 2014, it also had a Mark Levinson stereo and a DVD player.

Lexus RX Mk3 reviews

Lexus RX in-depth review
Lexus RX 450h F Sport review
Lexus RX 450h SE-L review

Which one should I buy?

A very narrow range makes your decision easy: just pick the trim that suits you best.

All RXs have leather seats (electrically adjustable and heated in the front), dual-zone climate control, cruise control, 18-inch alloys, Bluetooth, 10 airbags, HID headlights, a rear parking monitor and auto wipers.

SE-I models add an electrically operated tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, upgraded audio, interior wood trim and 19-inch alloys. The SE-L gets heated and ventilated front seats, LED headlamps, keyless go and a 15-speaker audio system with DAB. Top SE-L Premium has a Pre-Crash Safety system, adaptive cruise control, sunroof and a head-up display.

Self-levelling air suspension was available as an option and it’s worth having because it produces a better ride, improves refinement and is height-adjustable.

Alternatives to the Lexus RX Mk3

There are many five-seat SUVs out there, but not many hybrids. Although the RX had very few rivals while it was on sale, one of the most enticing is the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, sold from 2010-2014. There aren’t many around and prices start at £24,000.

Even rarer is VW’s mechanically similar Touareg Hybrid – we found just one model on sale – but conventional petrol and diesel SUVs of this era, such as the BMW X5 and Audi Q7, are much more readily available.

Also worth having a look at is the Jeep Grand Cherokee, along with the Range Rover Sport. The latter has a far better cabin than the Lexus, and it’s much nicer to drive, but its reliability record isn’t as good. 

What to look for 

Transmission

Every RX450h has a continuously variable transmission, which you’ll love or hate, depending on your driving style.

Stereo

The Mark Levinson premium sound system offers excellent audio quality, but the DAB radio doesn’t always work as well as you would hope. 

Four-wheel drive

As you might only expect, the RX isn’t particularly good off-road, but it does tow well; up to 2,000kg can be attached to the back. 

Comfort

The RX’s ride is firm at the best of times. On 19-inch wheels you’ll probably find it uncomfortable, especially for long journeys. 

Interior

Although the cabin is swathed in premium materials, the dash design isn’t have the most appealing. Despite being crammed with technology, it is generally very user-friendly, and the cabin is spacious, with room for five adults and no shortage of cubby holes. The rear seat also slides back and forth and has a 40/20/40 split, while the boot can stow 446-1,760 litres (seats up/down).

Prices


Running costs

RXs need attention every 12 months or 10,000 miles. Services alternate between minor and major, at £235 and £435 respectively, once an RX is over five years old.

The engine is chain-driven, so there is no cambelt to replace, but the hybrid battery pack won’t last forever. If it fails, a new one costs £2,192 plus fitting, and the standard warranty (including battery) is just five years.

However, official dealers will do a £59 health check on the battery pack in an RX and this includes a year’s warranty. Any Lexus is eligible for this up to its 15th birthday, regardless of where it was bought, its service history or how many miles it has covered.

Recalls

Despite the RX’s complexity and the fact that the earliest cars are now a decade old, the model has been the subject of just one recall so far. That was issued in November 2016 and it affected 691 RXs and Priuses built between November 2015 and June 2016.

In some cases, the passenger airbag had been incorrectly manufactured, which meant that it could fail to deploy correctly in the event of an accident. Affected cars were fitted with a replacement airbag.

Driver Power owner satisfaction

For the last three years the Lexus RX has been the highest-rated SUV in our Driver Power new car survey; the Mk3 also achieved an impressive seventh place in the 2018 used car survey. It notched up top 10 results in every category except safety and economy, in which it came 11th and a disappointing 75th respectively. The latter may reflect the Lexus’s thirst on the motorway.

‘Vauxhall and Peugeot need to cut their electric car prices to compete with MINI’
Posted on Friday July 19, 2019

Mike Rutherford 2019-07-20 12:00

Mike Rutherford thinks affordability is fast becoming one of the most important words in the modern car-buying vocabulary

Opinion - MINI Electric

It’s happened, and not before time. The A word – affordability – has risen to the top of the car-buying agenda where it belongs... and must stay.

JLR started an honest conversation on this topic on 5 July. That’s when the Indian-owned, British-based firm correctly acknowledged that its I-Pace may be a brilliant, clever, game-changing product but, when retail prices for it are in £60k-£80k territory (after government subsidies), the fact is that the reigning World Car of the Year is way beyond the reach of the majority of new-car buyers.

Best electric cars on sale right now

With such pure-electric vehicles very much in mind, the company has now declared that “affordability is king”. Halleflippinlujah! Just like connectivity, safety and tailpipe emissions, affordability is one of the most important words in the modern car-buying vocabulary – and rightly so.

Then, last week, BMW announced that the MINI Electric will cost just £24,400, post-subsidy. This makes it around 50 per cent more expensive than the bog-standard petrol-powered MINI One. That sounds like a lot, but it’s a comparatively small premium to pay for a new-tech pure-electric car versus an equivalent old-school pure-petrol car. The VW e-up!, for example, costs approximately 140 per cent more (ouch!) to purchase than the basic petrol version. That’s insane. VW knows this. As do its potential customers who – surprise, surprise – aren’t biting. Why would they?

With BMW (plus Renault, it could be argued) now setting the pure-electric vehicle pricing agenda, VW has no choice but to rapidly make its EVs more affordable. The same goes for others – possibly Jaguar and certainly Vauxhall, whose imminent Corsa-e suddenly looks relatively expensive at £26,430 after subsidy. Not only will the borderline-premium MINI cost less to buy than the Corsa-e, but its impressive future residuals also mean it’ll hold its value far better. If the Vauxhall titch and its eagerly awaited Peugeot e-208 sister car aren’t closer to £20,000 than the mid-£20k mark originally envisaged, they’ll be left behind by the MINI Electric in the showrooms.

• New MINI Electric review

Not that affordability, or lack thereof, is solely a problem in the EV market. Plenty of petrol or diesel models seem inexplicably overpriced, too. There are many humble, 1.0-litre, three-door Ford Fiestas at 20 grand or more. Sure, it’s a great little supermini-cum-urban car. But that doesn’t earn it the right to sit in a similar price league to larger, five-door family cars with much longer warranties – the mainland Europe-made Kia (Keeping It Affordable) Ceed, for example.

And how come the modest, bottom-of-the-range, British-built Nissan Qashqai now starts at a tad under £20k? That’s too much, over-ambitious, and borderline unaffordable for a car of this class. Besides, the last thing Britain’s second-largest car manufacturer needs right now is to price the Qashqai out of the market, in the same way that Honda (with CR-V) and Infiniti (Q50) did. I know, I know, that’s harsh. But it’s so, so true.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below...

Number of speed bumps in UK increases to 42,000
Posted on Thursday July 18, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-07-18 17:00

The UK now has 42,000 individual speed bumps on a total of 14,000 different roads, with London Boroughs having the most

Speed bump

The number of speed bumps in the UK has increased by five per cent in the last three years, according to new data.

There are now more than 42,000 individual speed bumps in the UK, covering some 2,000 miles of road on 14,000 roads around the country. Furthermore, there are 12,000 other traffic calming measures, such as speed tables, ramps and width restrictions.

A fifth of drivers say speed bumps have damaged their cars

The figures came from an investigation by Citroen, which sent Freedom of Information requests to more than 400 councils in the UK.

London Boroughs tend to have the highest number of speed bumps per mile of any local authorities. Newham Council, which is responsible for 125.28 miles of road, said 100 per cent of its roads have speed bumps on them.

Southwark Council was in second, but still quite a long way behind. The local authority is responsible for 210 miles of road, of which 71 per cent – approximately 148.24 miles – have speed bumps. Meanwhile, Hackney has speed bumps on 69 per cent of its 150 miles of road. 

Local authority (London only)

Miles of roads with bumps

Total miles responsible for

Percentage of roads

1. London Borough of Newham

125.28

125.28

100%

2. London Borough of Southwark

148.24

210

71%

3. London Borough of Hackney

104

150

69%

4. London Borough of Lewisham

159

244

65%

5. London Borough of Camden

86.7

159

55%

6. London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham

54.3

180.7

30%

7. City of Westminster

28

200

14%

8. London Borough of Hounslow

36.6

268.4

14%

9. Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

7

117

6%

10. London Borough of Bexley

8.76

560

2%

Outside of London, Norwich City Council had the most speed bumps per mile – they're on 17 per cent of its 247.66 miles of road. Portsmouth City Council was third, with potholes on 13 per cent of its 284.6 miles of road, while 12 per cent of Bury Metropolitan Borough Council's roads have speed bumps.

Council

Miles of roads with bumps

Total miles responsible for

Percentage of roads

1. Norwich City Council

43.06

247.66

17%

2. Portsmouth City Council

36.35

284.6

13%

3. Bury Metropolitan Borough Council

46

400

12%

4. South Gloucestershire District Council

91.5

914

10%

5. Sheffield City Council

116.3

1217.2

10%

6. Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

57

700

8%

7. Wirral Metropolitan Borough

60

737

8%

8. Redcar and Cleveland

34.93

449.8

8%

9. Wokingham Council

31.3

456.7

7%

10. East Sussex County Council

107.8

1994.6

5%

Speed bumps were first introduced in the UK in 1983 under The Highways (Road Humps) Regulations and are designed to slow drivers down in built-up areas.

Under the Highways (Road Humps) Regulations 1999, councils have devolved power from central Government to install humps and associated calming measures on roads with speeds of up to 30mph in the interests of road safety.

Souad Wrixen, marketing director at Citroen UK, commented: “Speed bumps and other traffic calming measures have their place on UK roads helping to improve road safety and reduce fatalities.”

Are there better ways of controlling traffic that installing speed bumps? Have your say in the comments..

Jaguar F-Pace SVR review
Posted on Thursday July 18, 2019

For 
Fantastic engine
Hot-rod character
Comfortable despite sporty edge
Our Rating 
4
Against 
Poor fuel economy
Weak infotainment
Slightly dated next to rivals
Jaguar F-Pace SVR - front
2019

The Jaguar F-Pace SVR came late to the performance SUV party but was certainly worth the wait

We’re big fans of the Jaguar F-Pace SVR – it’s a high-performance SUV with an intoxicating hot-rod character. Rivals like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and BMW X3 M Competition are sharper to drive, but the SVR manages to offer a sporty edge without compromising on the comfort that Jaguar customers prefer. 

It’s not the fastest car in its class nor the best to drive, but we think buyers will fall for the Jag’s combination of a raucous engine, comfortable ride, easy-to-drive nature and aggressive styling. Those looking for the last word in sports-car-like performance from an SUV will be better served by the Alfa but the Jag offers a bit more luxury and refinement.

18 Jul, 2019
3.8

Sitting at the top of the F-Pace range, the SVR gets a unique look and fully loaded interior to set it apart. Externally, the sportily designed F-Pace gets a steroid injection that includes 22-inch alloys, an SVR bodykit, quad exhaust pipes, functional bonnet vents and adaptive LED headlights. Inside there’s a luxurious combination of lozenge-quilted leather upholstery, sports seats, a sporty automatic gearlever and aluminium gearshift paddles.

The interior gets a lift over other F-Pace models but feels a little dated next to that of the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 and newer BMW X3 M Competition. It’s still a comfortable and hushed place to sit, though – at least until the sports exhaust roars into life under hard throttle.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

There’s lots of on-board tech in the SVR thanks to its range-topping status – ambient interior lighting, dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled front seats and a Meridian hi-fi system are all included.

Jaguar’s 10-inch Touch Pro infotainment system is included but is a weak point as in other models in the range. Jaguar has added Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity – a glaring omission originally – but the system still can’t match those found in rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. We prefer it to the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s infotainment, however.

4

The F-Pace has been turned into a great all-round real-world performance machine by JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations department. It lacks the sharper edge of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and can’t quite match the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 for outright muscle, but the Jaguar F-Pace SVR offers a compelling middle-ground between sportiness and luxury.

Regardless of which of the SVR’s driving modes is selected, the ride remains pliant and supple – it feels more comfortable in a wider range of conditions than some of its more focused rivals.

Handling is good too; the SVR feels markedly sharper than the standard car. There’s still a bit of body roll and the F-Pace feels a little bigger than the obvious alternatives when hustled down a B-road as a result, but it’s still easy to drive quickly.

• The fastest performance SUVs to buy now

With 542bhp and 680Nm of torque, the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 takes centre stage. It fires the F-Pace out of corners with addictive explosiveness while the slick-acting gearbox makes short work of changes. The car sounds great too – a thunderous roar accompanied by distinct supercharger whine when you squeeze the throttle hard.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

There’s more than enough performance on offer from the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 to move the rather heavy F-Pace down the road at an alarming rate – 0-62mph takes just 4.3 seconds, and top speed is a more-than-adequate 176mph. Some rivals are faster – the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 gets to 62mph three tenths quicker, while the BMW X3 M Competition manages a 4.1-second sprint and boasts a 177mph top speed. These are small differences in the real world, though: the F-Pace is still a hugely fast and entertaining SUV.

3.5

The Jaguar F-Pace finished in 40th place out of 100 cars featured in our Driver Power 2019 customer satisfaction survey. Those surveyed were all owners of the standard car but still rated ride and handling highly. Reliability could be an issue, however, with over 30 per cent of owners reporting experiencing a fault with their cars – a third these faults were down to electrics.

The standard F-Pace scored the maximum of five stars in Euro NCAP’s crash test in 2017. Like all F-Pace models, the SVR comes with autonomous emergency braking and emergency brake assist as standard; other safety kit includes a 360-degree parking camera, traffic sign recognition with adaptive speed limiter and a driver condition monitor.

Warranty

As with all Jaguars, the F-Pace SVR is covered by a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio gets five years of coverage but is limited to 75,000 miles.

Servicing

A number of fixed-price servicing plans are available for the Jaguar F-Pace SVR, but be prepared to pay for the privilege. Drive the SVR to its potential and you’ll happily munch through the (large) tyres and brakes at an alarming rate.

4

The Jaguar F-Pace is larger than some of the cars it goes up against – it’s a little longer than an Audi Q5 but has almost as much interior space as some rivals from the class above. There’s lots of room to get comfortable in the front and rear, while luggage space is impressive.

Size

The F-Pace SVR measures in at 2,070mm wide, 4,737mm long and 1,670mm high. It’s a little lower and wider than the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, but a useful 370mm longer.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

There’s ample head and legroom in both rows for adults and children alike; the F-Pace remains a very practical family SUV in terms of interior space. It’s best to avoid the optional fixed or sliding panoramic roof options if you need to maximise headroom for taller occupants, however. ISOfix points are supplied in the outer two rear seats.
There’s much more space in the back of the Jaguar than you’ll find in its Alfa Romeo rival, but the BMW and Mercedes run it close.

Boot

Boot space is the F-Pace SVR’s trump card – its 650 litres means there’s just as much space as you’ll find in the larger BMW X5, while 40/20/40 split rear seats can be folded to increase space to 1,740 litres. It’s the performance SUV to choose at this price point if space is a primary concern.

Towing

The F-Pace SVR can tow a braked trailer of up to 2,400kg or an unbraked trailer weighing up to 750kg.

3

While most potential customers of a performance SUV won’t care about running costs, it’s important to note that the Jaguar F-Pace SVR is one of the thirstier options on the market. Official fuel economy sits at 22.6mpg on average – relatively poor for this segment. By contrast, the BMW X3 M Competition returns 24.2mpg on the combined cycle and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio manages 24.5mpg.

CO2 emissions are high too: 272g/km in the Jaguar versus 222g/km in the Alfa Romeo and 239g/km in the BMW. Only the similarly V8-powered Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 produces more CO2, with 278g/km. First-year road tax will be equally hefty in all these cars – the maximum charge available – while the £145 payments thereafter will be topped up in years two to six by the extra £320-per-year surcharge for £40,000-plus cars.

Insurance groups

Insurance will be pricey: the Jaguar F-Pace SVR sits in insurance group 48 out of 50. The GLC 63 sits just below in groups 46 and 47, while the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is in group 50.

Depreciation

Our experts are yet to assess the F-Pace SVR’s potential for depreciation, but the standard car is expected to hold onto around 48 to 49 per cent of its value after 36,000 miles and three years come trade-in time. The SVR model should achieve a similar result.

New 2020 Mazda 2 due for launch this winter
Posted on Thursday July 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-07-18 14:45

An updated version of the Mazda 2 supermini will reach the UK later this year, with fresh styling and revised mechanicals

New Mazda 2 2020

Mazda has announced a revised version of its Mazda 2 supermini. The updated model is already on sale in Japan, where it features a range of mechanical revisions, a handful of styling tweaks and a sprinkling of fresh technology. Most of these updates will be transferred to the UK variant when it goes on sale later this year.

Styling revisions include fresh 16-inch alloy wheels, reworked headlights, tweaked front and rear bumpers, thinner fog lamps and a new grille. Interior updates will stretch to a pair of redesigned front seats and enhanced sound deadening, which Mazda claims will improve interior comfort.

Best superminis on sale now

Mazda has also reworked its supermini’s platform, with fresh dampers and a revised version of its G-Vectoring Control chassis management software. The Japanese firm claims these updates will make the Mazda 2’s handling more stable at high speeds, while maintaining a comfortable ride.

Like the old model, the updated Mazda 2 will be available in the UK with a choice of three petrol engines. The Japanese firm’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder SkyActiv-G unit will be offered with either 74bhp, 89bhp or 113bhp, and all three engines can be had with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Technology-wise, the new Mazda 2 will be offered with adaptive LED headlights, lane-keeping assist and an updated infotainment system with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A new radar-guided cruise control system will also feature, including a stop and go function for automatic models.

Now read our review of the outgoing Mazda 2. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below… 

Skoda Karoq and Kodiaq SUVs facelifted for 2020
Posted on Thursday July 18, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-07-18 13:38

Skoda will revise its Karoq and Kodiaq for next year with a handful of styling, drivetrain and technology updates

Skoda will rework its Karoq and Kodiaq SUVs for 2020, adding a range of technology, styling and driveline updates. The revised models will go on sale in the UK later this year, with prices starting from around £22,000 for the Karoq and £30,000 for the Kodiaq.

Both models will be offered with a revised version of Skoda’s Side Assist advanced blind spot monitoring system, which increases both SUVs detection range from 20 metres to 70 metres. The warning signals have also been made more noticeable to the driver, being relocated from the mirror glass to the insides of the wing mirrors.

Best SUVs on sale now

Skoda’s optional adaptive chassis is also now available on front-wheel-drive versions of the Karoq and Kodiaq. The electronically adjustable suspension system automatically calibrates both SUVs’ damping to the current road conditions or the preferred driving style. Drivers can also manually choose from three driving modes.

The Karoq will be offered with Skoda’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, producing 187bhp and 400Nm of torque. The unit already features in the larger Kodiaq SUV, and will be mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and an all-wheel-drive system as standard.

Both SUVs will feature “Skoda” lettering on their tailgates in place of the brand’s emblem, while the Kodiaq will be offered with a fresh set of 20-inch alloy wheels. The Karoq can be specced with new temperature-regulating leather upholstery, while an individual tyre pressure monitoring system is available as an option for all cars fitted with 18-inch alloys or larger.

What do you think of Skoda's facelifted SUVs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

New Porsche 718 Spyder 2019 review
Posted on Thursday July 18, 2019

19 Jul, 2019 10:30am Steve Sutcliffe

Does the new Porsche 718 Spyder deliver thrills like its Cayman GT4 sibling?

The only real difference between the new Porsche 718 Spyder and the latest Cayman GT4 this time round is the aerodynamic packaging. On aesthetic grounds Porsche decided not to fit the Spyder with a big rear wing (correct decision) and has instead gone for a smaller wing that retracts back into the rear bodywork, plus the Spyder’s front splitter is nowhere near as pronounced as the GT4’s. So while the Spyder generates no lift it also generates no downforce. Unlike the GT4.

Other than this, however, the two cars are pretty much identical mechanically. Same awesome 4.0-litre atmospheric flat-six engine, same superb six-speed manual gearbox, same weight (1495kg), same power and torque outputs (414bhp and 420Nm), even the same claimed acceleration figures (0-62mph in 4.4sec, 0-100mph in 9.0sec) although the Spyder’s top speed is a highly insignificant 2mph down on the GT4’s at 186mph.

• The best performance cars to buy now

Except, of course, the Spyder looks somewhat different to the GT4, both inside and out, and is surely a whole lot more exotic as a consequence. True, the part electric but mostly manual canvas roof remains a bit of a caper to raise or lower, but the twin buttresses on the rear deck add an air of sophistication to the styling that the more track-focused GT4 lacks. And the ability to drop the Spyder’s hood and listen to its new flat six that much more intimately is not to be underestimated, either.

Unlike the GT4, the Spyder gets Porsche’s PASM system as standard, plus the normally optional Sports Chrono Pack as well. The Spyder also looks and feels a fair bit more plush inside, with more colour to the trim variations and a pair of “Spyder” embossed seats. Both cars come on the same bespoke-for-Porsche Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, another sign of how much more focused the Spyder is this time round.

On the road the Sypder is not a sledge-hammer kind of car, despite the fact that it is a seriously quick one. Instead it’s unusually multi-layered in its appeal. Even at 40mph there is feel through the steering, seats and brakes that is simply missing from most other sports cars, even the very good ones. There is a delicacy of touch to all its control that can be appreciated and enjoyed at any speed, not just at Mach 2.

But when the moment comes and the right road appears in the windscreen, and you deploy the throttle accordingly, the Spyder delivers a level of involvement and aural excitement – and pure speed – that really does take your breath away. It’s torquier than before, too, so although the gearing is long in the first three ratios, the engine can handle it.

Truth is, it’s hard to think of any other sports car this side of six figures that gets anywhere near the Spyder for all round appeal. This is a serious driver’s car that also happens to be very good value, very high in quality and knee-tremblingly easy on the eye. Other than the fiddly roof there really is no downside we can think of.

5
As sensational to drive as it is to look at or listen to, the new Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder is a seriously good sports car. It’s ability makes it fine value at £73,405 and is surely a future classic in the making as a result.
  • Model: Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder
  • Price: £73,405
  • Engine: 4.0-litre 6cyl, petrol
  • Power/torque: 414bhp/420Nm
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • 0-62mph/Top speed: 4.4s/186mph
  • Economy/CO2: 25.7mpg/249g/km
  • On sale: Now

"Lotus Evija marks a turning point for the brand under Geely"
Posted on Wednesday July 17, 2019

John McIlroy 2019-07-17 16:35

What does the Evija mean for Lotus? John McIlroy thinks it's important but mainly as a sign of things to come...

 Opinion: Lotus Evija

There have been plenty of times over the past two decades when it’s been hard not to feel sorry for Lotus enthusiasts. Starved of cash, but still a hotbed of engineering talent, the Norfolk firm has struggled on with the same, badly ageing basic models, delivering pure driving thrills.

Many of you will remember Lotus’s most recent false dawn: the fabled Paris Motor Show of 2010, when hordes of celebs unveiled six future concepts from the company. Not one of them ever made production.

Lotus Evija: read the full story

This week’s first all-new Lotus for 11 years might not be exactly the sort of model to get hordes of brand purists excited, either – for the Evija is not an affordable, Porsche-rivalling roadster but rather a 1,972bhp pure-electric hypercar which costs £250,000 just to reserve. You’ll need £2million to buy one.

And yet there’s one word behind the Evija that makes us optimistic (at last) that it could really mark a new dawn for Lotus: Geely. The Chinese industrial giant has been stretching its global influence extensively over the past few years, and it has a pretty good record of investing in the right areas and delivering a return.

Witness, for example, its patient approach to Volvo, where it backed the cash for designs and platform technology – work that is now reaping huge rewards as the Swedish brand delivers record sales. Equally, the new electrified taxis gliding around London (and other major cities) are testament to how Geely can spot engineering synergies and use them to wider benefit.

Everything Geely has done so far at Lotus – and in a relatively short space of time – makes sense to us. So while the die-hards may have to wait a little while yet for this classic British brand to really emerge from the doldrums, we feel more hopeful than ever that it is really going to happen. Evija is just a calling card, no more than that.

How do you think the future for Lotus looks? Let us know in the comments...

New MG ZS EV 2019 review
Posted on Wednesday July 17, 2019

MG ZS EV front
17 Jul, 2019 3:15pm John McIlroy

Can MG's ZS EV match the established players in the compact electric SUV class?

The MG ZS has garnered a reputation for being one of the more practical small SUVs on the market - a vehicle that sits between the likes of the Nissan Juke and Qashqai on size, while competing hard on price. Now, though, the range is being bolstered by the ZS EV - a pure-electric version that has the potential to radically shift MG’s brand perception with British buyers.

In fact, if the stories about pent-up demand for small EVs are indeed true, the ZS EV surely has the potential to become MG’s best-selling vehicle in the UK. That’s because the British division has access to decent supply of the vehicle, which is made in China, where MG and sister firm Roewe shifted 140,000 EVs in 2018 alone, and a recently opened battery factory can supply up to 300,000 vehicles per year. When the likes of the Hyundai Kona Electric and even the Kia e-Niro are stifled by long waiting lists, there’s a clear opportunity for MG to steal more than a few customers.

Best electric cars to buy now

The ZS EV can’t compete with those Korean models on range but then, it’s undercutting them both on price anyway (and then some - more of that later). The battery capacity is 44.5kWh - enough, under the tougher WLTP test regime, for an official range of 163 miles - some way short of the e-Niro’s 282 miles, but pretty much on a par with the likes of the current 40kWh Nissan Leaf (168 miles). The WLTP city range, incidentally, is 231 miles - a sign of how much more sympathetic urban driving is to battery life. 

That battery powers a single electric motor, producing 141bhp and 353Nm of torque - enough to take the ZS from 0-62mph in a relatively sprightly 8.5 seconds. The top speed is just 87mph - but then, that should still be enough to keep pace with (legal) motorway traffic. 

The ZS EV is compatible with 50kW rapid charging, allowing four fifths of the battery capacity to be replenished in 40 minutes. The charging port - a CCS/Type 2 affair - is located behind the MG badge on the front grille.

MG views the electric powertrain as a ‘regular’ powertrain choice towards the higher end of the range, so it’s limited to either Excite or Exclusive trim levels. The entry-level ZS Excite EV gets 17in diamond-cut alloys, keyless entry and operation, air-con, cruise control, LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, and an eight-inch infotainment system with navigation, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Stepping up to the ZS Exclusive EV brings a price premium of £2,000 but adds natty roof rails, a panoramic opening glass roof, electric heated and folding door mirrors, leather-effect upholstery, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, an extra couple of speakers on the sound system and a rear parking camera.

It’s a practical thing, the ZS; the EV powertrain doesn’t rob the car of any of its boot capacity, so there are 448 litres on offer with the rear seats in place, and 1,375 litres with them folded down. Those figures are roughly a match for the Kia e-Niro’s, and north of what you’ll find in a 40kWh Leaf. The boot is a decent shape, with a dual-height floor that allows you to prioritise either a flat load bay or overall capacity.

The electric ZS gets new safety equipment that’s new to the MG brand; even Excite EV editions feature Lane Departure Warning, front collision warning, adaptive cruise control with auto stop/go and speed limit assist, and traffic jam assist with braking, accelerating and steering within the lane. Exclusive editions add blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert to help you when you’re reversing out of a parking space.

The cabin is perhaps where the ZS’s budget roots are exposed most clearly - not with any horrendous faults, but just minor niggles. The steering wheel adjust for rake only, not reach; the plastics lining the door are rock-hard and shiny. And that infotainment screen, while crisp enough, is mounted in a curious fashion, behind a secondary glass panel that breeds reflections. You sit a little high, too, so while the battery pack is neatly integrated into the MG’s floor, this does feel like an SUV that you sit on, rather than in.

None of these is a deal-breaker, though; it’s still easy to get comfortable, everything works logically enough, and any rear-seat passengers will be happy that you’re in a ZS instead of, say, a Zoe or even the forthcoming Corsa-e. In this respect, the ZS’s class-straddling size works in its favour. 

On the road, the ZS EV does a very good job of being unremarkable - which is a compliment in itself. The rotary gear selector between the front seats is a doddle to use, and it’s equally easy to flick between the different driving modes to prioritise performance or efficiency. Acceleration is sufficient around town, with the electric motor’s instant torque helping the ZS EV to feel more than fast enough away from traffic lights.

MG’s test route was based entirely in central London, though, so we’ll have to wait to see how the motor behaves when it’s on a motorway and much closer to that fairly modest top speed.

A toggle switch near the base of the centre console allows you to choose the level of brake energy recuperation when you lift off the throttle - from none at all (coasting, in effect) to three different stages of aggression. MG claims the system offers “near one-pedal driving” in its most extreme mode, but it still feels like it could be quicker to start harnessing energy when the throttle pedal is disengaged. You get used to it, though, and while it won’t bring you to a halt at traffic lights, we could certainly see how you’d learn to anticipate to the point where you only need a final nudge of the left-hand pedal to stop.

Dynamically, the ZS is pretty average - but again, that’s enough to put it on a footing with many more expensive EVs. The electric motor whine is well suppressed, and while the steering is light and devoid of feel, it’s no more difficult to place the front wheels than it is in a Leaf. 

The suspension set-up is geared up for comfort, and it delivers that by isolating you from most bumps and potholes, although the trade-off is body control that felt a little patchy on scarred side streets, with more pitch and roll than we’d like. We’d be interested to see whether this shortage of composure was exacerbated on a faster, twisty B-road.

If the drive sounds relatively ordinary, the price proposition is anything but. The regular price of the ZS EV in Excite trim will be £28,495 - but you can trim the £3,500 Government plug-in car grant from this figure, for starters. Then for the first 1,000 UK orders, MG is matching the Treasury’s contribution, taking the price down to £21,495. This deal also includes a free home charging unit installation.

Those headline figures - even the regular ones that will apply once the first 1,000 cars have gone - look competitive when the likes of the Vauxhall Corsa-e and Peugeot e-208 will offer less space (though more range) for around the same cash. And the ZS looks set to trounce the PSA pair on finance; MG is offering a four-year deal on an Excite EV with a deposit of £1,750 and monthly payments of £279.

By contrast, Vauxhall’s electric supermini £270 per month over the same time period - but only after an initial deposit of £5,549. And while Renault’s Zoe is cheaper on list price, it is smaller, not really any better finished and also lumbered with ongoing battery lease costs.

It’s worth remembering, too, that the ZS will come with MG’s transferrable seven-year warranty. And the recently announced company car tax switch could make the ZS EV a particularly appealing (and cost-effective) choice for anyone currently driving a diesel family SUV.

4
The MG ZS EV isn’t about to set new benchmarks on dynamics. But as an overall proposition, with that aggressive pricing, the practicality and low running costs factored in, it is by far the best effort yet from the ‘reborn’ MG brand. And one that deserves to find its place as a real alternative to the likes of the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf - particularly amongst electric car customers, second-car families and company car choosers, who tend to be more focused on ease of use and battery ranges than they are the badge on the nose.
  • Model: MG ZS EV
  • Price: £21,495 (£24,995 after first 1,000 UK cars)
  • Engine: Single electric motor, 44.5kWh battery
  • Power/torque: 141bhp/353Nm
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph/Top speed: 8.5s/87mph
  • Range: 163 miles
  • On sale: Now

 


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