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Dumas averaged 90.538mph on the 156-turn course in the ID R Pikes Peak, which produces around 671bhp from two electric motors. The machine had been built for the project in just seven months.
“We exceeded even our own high expectations,” said Dumas. “Since this week’s tests, we have known that it was possible to break the all-time record. For it to come off, everything had to come together perfectly – from the technology to the driver. And the weather had to play ball too.
“That everything ran so smoothly is an incredible feeling, and the new record on Pikes Peak is the icing on the cake.
“The I.D. R Pikes Peak is the most impressive car I have ever driven in competition. The electric drivetrain means that many things are different and I learned a lot during the project.”
Breaking the record is a major milestone for a full electric motorsport programme, representing the first time an EV has proven quick than a combustion engines machine on a major event.
Volkswagen Motorsport boss Sven Smeets said the record proved the capability of electric car technology.
“This project was a demonstration of what the ID family will be, and what R will be in an electric future,” he said. “We can bring some of this to electric road cars.”
The event does suit battery-powered electric cars because, unlike international combustion engines, they don’t lost power at altitude. The finish line of Pikes Peak is 14,115ft above sea level.
Bentley breaks production SUV record
A Bentley Bentayga W12 has set a new benchmark time for a production SUV on Pikes Peak, with Rhys Millen completing the course in 10min 49.902secs.
That obliterates the previous record for a standard SUV of 12min 35.610secs, set by Paul Dallenbach in a Range Rover Sport in 2014. That time was set on a standalone event sanctioned by Pikes Peak organisers, PPIHC, rather than as part of the annual event.
Faggioli sets stunning time to finish second, storm hampers later crews
Italian event rookie Simone Faggioli finished second on the event in his Norma M20, setting a stunning time of 8min 37.230secs. That time is the second fastest set by a combustion engined-car on the event, despite Faggioli never having driven the full course until his one timed run.
Peter Cunningham was third quickest and won the Pikes Peak Open class in a 2018 Acura TLX GT with a time of 9min 27.352secs. That eclipsed Cunningham's 2017 class record, set in a similar TLX GT, by more than six seconds.
Fabien Bouduban, Faggioli's team-mate, was fourth overall, completing the hill in 9min 28.254secs. Paul Dallenbach was fifth and won the Open Wheel class in his PVA Dallenbach Special, with a time of 9min 37.135secs.
Weather was a major factor on the event. Low cloud enveloped parts of the mountain just before Dumas began his run shortly after 1000hrs and had to battle fog and damp in the middle section of his run. But he fared better than later runners, when a storm rolled in, with hail and snow falling at the summit. That caused the event to be stopped, with the later runners only able to drive a shortened section of the course as a result.
Our Mirai has many miles but few fuelling opportunities ahead
The hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Mirai is the future (according to its name in Japanese, at least), but how does it fare on British roads today? We drove one from John O’Groats to Land’s End, via the UK’s tiny network of hydrogen stations, to find out
In theory, it could be transferred to mainland Scotland, except that the seabed cable required to achieve this would apparently cost around ?250 million. So instead, some of this surplus electricity is used to split water into its constituent parts, the hydrogen element stored in pressurised gas canisters and ferried to Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney. Once there, the hydrogen is used to produce... electricity.
What has this got to do with driving a fuel cell Toyota Mirai from John O’Groats to Land’s End? A lot more than you might think, and in ways that may eventually affect not only the way that your car is propelled, but also how your house is heated too.
The way to look at a fuel cell electric car, explains Jon Hunt, Toyota GB’s alternative fuels manager, is to see it as one component within a cycle of future energy generation and usage. Fuelling a car – and your house, heating and hi-fi – is going to get a lot more complex than an energy company piping volts to your junction box. Instead, it’s going to become a world of give and take, of energy generated by a mix of intermittent renewables and less desirable, but reliable, fossil fuels.
But enough, for now, of the potential energy cycles of tomorrow. Right now, our task is to drive the 230-odd miles from John O’Groats to Aberdeen. Not usually a problem with a conventional car, of course, or even a pure electric car if you plan some recharging stops, but in a fuel cell car, the challenge lies in the fact that there are presently only nine hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK.
There will be 16 by the end of the year, but that’s of little help to us now, which is why we are specifically heading for Aberdeen, where there is a brand-new hydrogen fuel station. The Mirai will travel a hell of a lot further than the often mythical 100 miles of small electric cars – its not-quite-full hydrogen tanks contain enough to carry us 198 miles, according to the trip computer. Which is a pity, because the first leg is 230 miles.
So it looks like we’ll be heading south slowly, though not unknowingly, with the Mirai’s trip computer providing real-time updates of our hydrogen consumption and range.
This is automotive on-board data with a difference, the units of measurement being kilograms of hydrogen used per hundred kilometres rather than mpg. The Mirai’s twin tanks (there are two of these carbonfibre, glassfibre-encased cylinders solely for packaging reasons) hold 5kg at a pressure of 10,000psi, or 700 bar. A supply of 5kg doesn’t sound much, and alarmingly less when the screen read-out tells us that we’re getting through it at the rate of 2.5kg per 100km. But Hunt tells us that the high initial reading is partly because of the difficulty of measuring the consumption of a fuel that tends to careen in multiple directions rather than consistently flow like petrol.
Just a few ginger miles into our trip, consumption halves to 1.2kg/km. But to have a chance of eking out our hydrogen reserves to 230 miles, I’ll have to score a running average of 0.9kg or less, warns Hunt. So we’ll be holding up traffic shortly.
There’s little of it about at first, though. We amble along at 50mph or so, enjoying the Mirai’s boldly individual dashboard. There’s much staring at the consumption read-out, of course, but also the swooping edges and hard corners of the infotainment display and the centre console. It’s not an especially beautiful piece of sculpture, this dashboard, but it’s interestingly busy, rather like the Mirai’s oxygen-gulping, air-cleaving body, which is now occasionally being impeded by traffic. More often, though, it’s the other way around: the desire to go slowly and conserve our hydrogen supplies (now that sounds like a phrase of the future) is still strong despite a consumption rate that has fallen to the desired 0.9kg per 100km.
Soon will come hills, however, in the undulating and picturesque form of the Cairngorms. Why climb when we could travel more flatly closer to the coast? Because it should be quieter, and because theM1, when it comes, will be a long and dull contrast. To improve our economising, snapper Luc Lacey joins the back-up Land Cruiser with all his kit to reduce the Mirai’s load, and I run with the air conditioner off, which is more of a sacrifice than it might sound on this sunny day in spring-like Scotland. The Cairngorms promise an entertaining challenge – the aim being to avoid heightening the Mirai’s hydrogen appetite despite an assortment of ascents.
With ascents come descents, of course, offering the chance for some fuel saving, and potentially of the exciting kind. Exciting economising? Absolutely, because the aim is to gain as much downhill momentum as you dare and conserve it, ideally with the minimum of braking. Given that there’s an on-board, fuel cell-supplementing, nickel- metal hydride battery pack in regular need of a charge, avoiding the brakes mightseem a surprise because you’d expect to use them to provide regeneration opportunities. However, there’s no scope for regeneration with the Mirai, explains Hunt, because there’s only one motor, andit therefore can’t double as a generator. The brakes are to be avoided, then, within safe reason. Still, when you’re gaining speed down a Cairngorm and trying not to lose it, that can get quite thrilling.
The roads are empty enough to uncover a slightly unexpected and deeply pleasing quality of the Mirai, which is that it will comfortably navigate corners at quite a pace and minimal drama, despite its relatively simple MacPherson strut, torsion beam axle suspension, and a fair bit of heft. One major reason is that it is low-lying heft – its fuel cell, battery and motor packaging providing a low centre of gravity. Another is decent chassis balance. This is no sports saloon, but the Mirai is certainly fleet of low-rolling-resistance foot, besides providing encouragingly precise steering.
All of which makes this section of the trip pretty enjoyable. And to the surprise of several of us, pretty productive on the economy front too, the Mirai’s hunger dropping to 0.6kg per 100 km. Our 80-mile range is now three miles greater than the remaining distance to Aberdeen, and when we get there, that difference has grown to 38 miles. Hunt reckons there’s a reserve beyond that too.
None of which diminishes the relief of seeing Aberdeen’s shiny new hydrogen refuelling station, this city boldly pushing ahead with the hydrogen fuel cell cause. Like Orkney, Aberdeen has an excessof wind power, as well as a highly skilled workforce available from the now-declining North Sea oil industry. Aberdeen now has the busiest hydrogen fuel station in Europe and, indeed, we are part of the unlikely sight of a queue of refuelling Mirais. It’s impressive to realise that in Aberdeen and Orkney, the hydrogen fuel cell economy is already here.
That there’s still a long way to go is underlined at our next stop in Sunderland on day two, where we replenish the Mirai from a hydrogen-dispensing truck provided by Fuel Cell Systems. The reason that the refuelling takes place at a factory in Tyne and Wear, rather than at a handy truck stop en route, is
If you’re driving from John O’Groats to Land’s End the direct way, you don’t go to easterly Aberdeen, even if that’s further south. It’s no more helpful to head to east-coast Sunderland, nor Rotherham or Beaconsfield, even if all are closer to the equator and therefore to Land’s End. But this roundabout route, as you’ll have guessed, was dictated by the availability of hydrogen fuelling stations.
Surf ’N’ turf hydrogen project:
On Eday, an island in Orkney, there’s so much wind power that they often have to stall the wind turbines, because there’s nowhere for the electricity to go. Which is how the idea of using it to electrolyse water to yield hydrogen came about.
That hydrogen is pumped into steel canisters and shipped to Kirkwall, the Orkney capital, where it’s turned back into electricity by a room full of fuel cells.
The power is used by ferries docked and reloading at Kirkwall Pier, while the heat generated is used by local buildings.
Aberdeen hydrogen station:
The once oil-rich Aberdeen has developed a hydrogen strategy in conjunction with many funders and partners including the EU, energy companies, the Scottish Government, the local council, transport operators and car makers.
It’s because this same plant that turns out one Mirai every 70 minutes — buried inside Toyota’s giant Motomachi works that started making Crown family saloons in 1959 — was previously the crucible of a run of 500 Lexus LFA supercars, using a similar recipe of exotic materials and practising the same principles of hand manufacture.
Toyota started making the Mirai in 2014 and has so far sold around 3000 copies in the US, 1500 in Japan and 200 in Europe. Production is slowly ramping up while opinions continue to vary globally over whether hydrogen fuel cell propulsion can ever be important enough to be viable.
There’s considerable scepticism on our side of the world that contrasts heavily with the view in Japan and Korea that such cars represent an essential step towards the zero- emissions ‘hydrogen society’ seen by many, including Asian governments, as an ultimate objective.
For now, Mirai manufacture is almost entirely by hand. A tight-knit body of workers uses muscle to push the chassis on trolleys along a tiny production line, adding fascia, powertrain and suspension sub- assemblies hand-made off-line by others. Even operations like the bonding-in of the windscreen, robotised almost everywhere else, are done by hand.
Not that the operation lacks modernity: bodies are painted by the same process used for bigger-volume Motomachi models. Hand-picked technicians wield computer-linked power tools. Work requires constant verification and signing off (though on paper, in actual handwriting). Toyota aims to build the next Mirai on its new, highly flexible TGNA architecture, already configured for a fuel cell version.
For now, the current Mirai’s unique architecture and slow build rate suffice. But Toyota remains adamant that hydrogen cars are heading for practicality and prominence. And having confounded hybrid sceptics by so far putting 10 million Prius family cars on the road, it has earned the right to be confident.
From a point of near-bankruptcy in 2012, the PSA Group has turned around its fortunes...
Vauxhall’s recovery plan is certainly ambitious, but its new owner has shown before that it can work
Opel and Vauxhall have not posted a full-year profit this century, losing about ?15 billion in the past 17 years. That represents a catastrophic failure by any measure, but it also highlights just how ambitious the recovery plan set out by new owner the PSA Group is.
The strategy, called ‘Pace’, calls for (among other things) a 2% operating profit margin by 2020 and 6% by 2026. The latter figure is about the level the PSA Group is at today.
With the first anniversary of PSA’s takeover coming up in August, and that ambitious profit target marked as a line in the sand, the expectation is that the cost-cutting seen so far will continue, and that Opel and Vauxhall will get back on the front foot in terms of defining their goals and shaping up to launch new cars. But, as PSA CEO Carlos Tavares warns, more sales won’t mean fewer cuts: “Size does not define efficiency. And we will pull every lever we can to be efficient.”
Some aspects of the cost-cutting have been well documented, such as the 650 job losses at the Ellesmere Port plant. Insiders talk in awe at the speed of the decision-making processes compared with the days of GM ownership. “When Tavares sees a logical plan, he asks one of two questions,” said a source. “‘When can we do it?’ or ‘Why haven’t we done it?’ The hard decisions are getting made.”
So, too, have seemingly simple ones. One of the first jobs of PSA’s new management was to try to rationalise the product offerings. “Insignia buyers had 27 steering wheel options,” said Opel-Vauxhall CEO Michael Lohscheller, “but around 90% were opting for one of two designs. Yet we were buying in, storing, stock managing the others. It was so complex, so inefficient.”
Lohscheller doesn’t tell that story to criticise GM, but rather to highlight why he believes the 2% profit goal by 2020 is achievable. The savings to date are in part why the company was acknowledging, if not celebrating, that it had cut running costs by a remarkable 17% by the end of 2017, five months into the new regime. Even so, the champagne stayed on ice: accounts filed last month revealed that, during that period, Vauxhall and Opel still cost its parent company ?160 million in losses.
Hence the need to get on the front foot with new product launches too – because that gives dealers access to the latest, very best products and, as Max Warburton, senior analyst at Bernstein Research, highlighted, because it sets the firm on the path to achieving its stated goal of stripping around ?620 of cost from each car it makes. This, for instance, is why the new Corsa was delayed while it is engineered to sit on PSA’s small car platform and why the next Astra will share its underpinnings with the Peugeot 308.
“PSA’s own turnaround has been rather unconventional,” said Warburton, recalling the firm’s own near-bankruptcy in 2012. Years of multi-billion-pound losses had finally reached crisis point, ending with the Peugeot family selling around half of its shareholding in the firm to stay afloat.
“Car industry history is full of comeback stories but they normally involve deep restructuring at a time of economic crisis, a radical improvement in product range and substantial volume growth. PSA under Tavares hasn’t really seen any of these things.
“Instead, it’s been a series of small things that collectively add up to a big improvement in performance: some job cuts and early retirements; a big focus on standardisation and purchasing cost reductions; slashing all non-essential spending; sorting out some chronically loss-making emerging markets. Then an intense focus on pricing – being very calculated on reining in discounts and pushing up prices if feasible. Tavares has shown it’s possible even on weak brands and products.”
PSA may be an anomaly, but its strategy is working. In 2017, the firm made ?3.5bn: its most financially successful year to date. As the graph on page 16 shows, Peugeot’s operating profit margin is the envy of most mass-market manufacturers. To paraphrase Warburton, that’s not a bad situation for a firm that arguably makes one market- leading car (the 5008), one good car (the 3008) and a host of decent, if not inspiring, ones.
“PSA provides the template for Opel,” adds Warburton.
“Cynics argue that the brands are too weak to save and, after a decade of cost cutting by GM, there’s not much to do. That’s too pessimistic. There are always things that good management can find and improve. Cut and paste the PSA strategy across to Opel and you might just find it works. It won’t be straightforward, it’s theoretically possible.”
Under Tavares’s leadership, the goals for Opel and Vauxhall could not be more explicit, nor the blueprint for success so clearly written before them. “We have faced a near-death experience,” says Tavares. “That means we can be more Darwinian, thinking with agility to survive. The choices we must make to thrive are very clear.”
A model of efficiency:
There are many measures of a company’s success, and some view operating profit margins as a rather blunt and simplistic measure.
“Profit margins give a broad approximation of what return a business is making and how healthy it is,” says Max Warburton, senior analyst at Bernstein Research. “Investors are often surprised that Peugeotis making higher margins than VW, given the VW brand has better mix, pricing and volumes. But it’s not complicated – the PSA Group has vastly better labour efficiency.
It makes many more cars per employee than VW, its plants build each car in fewer hours and it doesn’t make stuff like axles, seats and interior plastics in-house the way VW does.
“It’s incredibly tough to make money building mass-market cars but if you’re not making at least 4-5% operating margins, then you’re unlikely to have the underlying cash flow to invest in new-generation products and technology.”
Volvo's reborn estate has a svelte image and upmarket aspirations. How does the V60 stack up against the likes of Mercedes and BMW?
If you fancy a challenge, try understating the transformation Volvo has undergone since it was offloaded by Ford eight years ago.Under chief designer Thomas Ingenlath, the brand has since unleashed a series of beautiful, powerfully styled concept cars and then followed them up with recognisably related production models.Its engineers have developed an economically viable, effective powertrain strategy whereby four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines are adapted to a broad range of mission briefs with the use of supercharging, turbocharging and, increasingly, plug-in hybrid technology.There are 48V mild hybrids to come in 2019 as Europe adapts to a post-Dieselgate market and plans are currently being put in place to meet ambitious expectations for demand in autonomous technologies and the purchasing of cars through a subscription service.Now, under the auspices of Chinese multinational Geely, Volvo is a savvy organisation earning record profits and routinely challenging for best in class. It’s a different world from the one in which the marque was quietly admired by those of a certain persuasion for the manner in which a dog-eared 240 GL would dispatch a quarter of a million miles without histrionics.So where does the V60, introduced as an uncharacteristically svelte Volvo estate in 2010 and now in its second generation, fit in?You might be surprised to learn that profit is not necessarily its primary objective. The market for premium estate cars is, after all, a shrinking one (we’ll let you guess where those in need of family transport are now choosing to put their money), but as a premium brand looking to cement its new-found aspirational charm, it’s one in which it is imperative for Volvo to be regarded among the best.That means matching, and perhaps exceeding, the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 in terms of practicality, desirability and performance. While that’s no mean feat, we suspect many of those lining up the purchase of a mid-sized premium estate would welcome an excuse to go somewhere other than those German marques.The question is whether this new V60 will allow them to do so without regret.
This is Autocar’s proposal for an Insignia-sized car
Vauxhall needs a new concept car and Autocar is helping to design it. We start the project by taking the design brief
The idea that Autocar should participate in the creation of a brand-new Vauxhall concept car right from the ground up began late last year as PSA chief Carlos Tavares was inking the deal he’d announced a few months earlier to buy Vauxhall and Opel, the former GM brands in Europe.
From the outset, it was clear that to have any chance of future success Vauxhall-Opel will need to change enormously, not just in the predictable ‘lean and mean’ ways but also by presenting a reimagined, thoroughly modernised design philosophy leading to even more desirable, saleable products. No pressure...
Vauxhall-Opel bosses decided early on that showing a traffic-stopping concept car would be the most public and easiest-to-understand way of doing this. However, even for a company with a distinguished recent history of eye-catching concepts, this one would have to be pretty damn good. To begin, a thorough re-examination of the marques’ core values was conducted, and along the way, the idea of Autocar’s involvement was born.
There were to be three meetings and three magazine articles. The first is this, involving discussions with design boss Mark Adams and marketing director Peter Hope at Vauxhall’s Luton HQ, with our Coventry University-trained car designer Ben Summerell-Youde contributing his own ideas. That’s what you see here. Next, we’ll meet in Adams’ studio in Ru?sselsheim, Germany, to view clay models of the car’s interior and exterior, talk trim materials and take part in a ‘naming workshop’. The third story will chronicle the launch, whose venue, date and details are still being decided...
Hope has spent plenty of years at Vauxhall, steering its marketing campaigns. Yet he regards his teams’ past four or five months’ work on fleshing out the brand’s values – which started the minute Tavares spoke so persuasively of “releasing the power of the Vauxhall brand in the UK” – as the most searching and productive he can remember.
“We were a luxury car maker in the early days,” he explains, “but we’ve been a democratising brand for as long as anyone can remember, and that’s our continuing aim.
“One thing we’re reminded of is just how cyclical the car business is. Back at the end of the 1980s, as BL’s reign was ending, we were vying with Renault for 16% of the UK market – pretty different from today for both of us. We were making great cars and doing very well. That’s our first lesson: we’re at our best when we’re confident and there’s a modernity, a sense of stretch, about the products. We want to re-create that.”
Britishness has been much discussed, says Hope, and is seen as a very important Vauxhall asset (“we only sell on this island, so we can build a great sense of proximity to the customer”) but there was also much discussion about exactly how you portray it.
“Britishness is Danny Boyle and James Dyson,” he explains. “It’s the Tate Modern. It’s the Queen jumping out of a helicopter to open London’s Olympic Games. What it isn’t is thatched cottages and red postboxes and Hugh Grant being a little bit apologetic. It’s bold and progressive, the sort of Britishness British people want...”
Adams’ positioning talk is similar, but different. Whereas Hope’s concern is improving Vauxhall’s status and sales inside the UK, Adams’ task is to shape a vehicle that will “sharpen” both Vauxhall’s and Opel’s brand values – for a new owner in an environment that’s transforming itself. It’s an assignment he calls “a once-in-a- career project for all of us”.
Adams starts by noting the many similarities between the best points of contemporary British and German design. It’s in his interest, you might say, given that this concept must be as much Opel as Vauxhall. But his evidence is strong: it’s almost eerie how the love of elegant simplicity of Braun designer Dieter Rams parallels that of Apple’s British designer Jonathan Ive. The German love of evolution, purity and precision (Porsche 911) sits very neatly with the British values of Harry Beck (designer of the 1932 London tube map), of James Dyson (“whoever thought a vacuum cleaner could be iconic?”) and of Colin Chapman (“simplify, then add lightness”). Adams’ case is convenient to the project but no less compelling for that.
One impression: for all the new-dawn and “sharpening” talk surrounding this new concept, you can’t help being impressed by the faithfulness to these principles of two recent Vauxhall-Opel offerings, the Geneva 2016 two-seat Opel GT concept and the Frankfurt 2013 Opel Monza Concept four-seater, both of which seem already to point in directions that Adams now wants to explore further. Next stop for our little party is Vauxhall’s Heritage Centre, a 75-car collection run by two full-time Vauxhall technicians behind the main Luton admin building. “To understand what you want to take forward,” explains Adams as we troop across the car park, “you’ve got to understand what you did previously that was good. We’ve had periods of greatness, but there were times when what we did was forgettable...”
We centre on two products, both concept sports cars, even though I’m getting the strong feeling that Adams reckons the new project should be some kind of big saloon...
The tiny, beautiful 1966 XVR sports car concept would make anyone’s timeless list. It would look beautiful if unveiled today, what with its petite shape, arrow nose, tailored wheel arches containing beautiful wheels that reach the body’s very extremities, its radical long-bonnet, short-boot proportions and its beautiful surfacing.
Then our eye falls on the ultra- low, more angular SRV concept from 1970, a four-seater despite the small size, powered by a transverse powertrain mounted behind its four easily accessed seats. “These two teach us about future-proofing,” says Adams. “They look as great as ever.” Other Vauxhall models standing around make a supporting point about timeless appeal: a Droop Snoot Firenza HP from 1973 (whose promising career was killed by the fuel crisis) and the sleek 1989 Calibra that never got the credit it deserved.
Back in the Luton boardroom, Adams runs through the (remarkably few) guidelines his designers are using on the new concept. Our man Ben takes close note: that’s his design you can see on the right. My view:if they make it like that, they won’t go too far wrong. There’s much progress still to be made, of course, but it’s fascinating to be in at the ground floor on a project deliberately designed to show something of tomorrow’s Vauxhalls, and to see at first hand how determined the company’s professional car creators are to succeed.
How the new concept should look, according to Autocar (and Adams):
I found all the Vauxhall-Opel background fascinating. I hadn’t realised contemporary German and British design styles had such synergies, or that Vauxhall had so many deeply impressive cars in its back catalogue.
But it was the final session on the high-level principles guiding the concept’s designers in Ru?sselsheim that really got the creative juices going.
Saying that, there were surprisingly few rules. Design boss Mark Adams is keen to keep using the ‘signature lights’ of recent Vauxhall-Opel cars. The latest Astra and Insignia particularly show how narrow they can be yet how prominent, and how well they can incorporate unique daylight running identities. Adams also wants to maintain a precise bonnet centre line, a feature Vauxhalls have carried for 60 years that he believes implies manufacturing precision.
He showed me a simple frontal graphic template that makes a good guide: in effect, a pair of crossed lines that places the round badge at the centre, with the bonnet centre line as the upper vertical and the headlights at the lateral extremities. He said it would help, and it has.
Oh, and he’s seeking an all-new Vauxhall-Opel grille design on the basis that the outgoing shape isn’t so different from what other marques offer, and a new design would be an unmistakable signal that thIngs are changing quickly in the PSA-owned world of Vauxhall and Opel. “We need our own territory” was how Adams put it to me.
So, as you can see, I’ve drawn a D-segment saloon as the brief requires. It’s as ‘bold and pure’ as I can make it, and I’m tempted to give it a ‘V’ name, like in the old days, but haven’t thought of a decent one yet. Viceroy?
Too stiff and old school. Verona? Hardly British. Vindaloo? Very British but hardly appropriate. If you have a better suggestion, send it to me and I’ll start a collection.
23mpg - Is about all you can expect. Plus road tax is ?315
The Ford Focus ST Mk2 is an appealing, affordable and tunable hot hatch, although it’s not without its issues, as we discover
Not only is the Ford Focus ST Mk2 of 2005 to 2011 one of the great hot hatches but also, thanks to high numbers of used ones, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a good one that fits your budget.
Fill your boots with any number of ST-2s or 3s. The basic ST-1 is rarer and not worth bothering with, unless condition and price swing it. The ST-1 has cloth-covered Recaros; the ST-2 has Xenon headlights with washers, a heated windscreen, ESP and two more speakers; the ST-3 has leather Recaros front and rear and those rear seats are a two-seat bench, while the ST-1 and ST-2 have a three-seat affair.
As the Focus Mk2’s end drew near, post-2010 ST-3s gained DAB, dual- zone climate and privacy glass. On older STs, when mileage and condition exert a greater pull, there’s little difference in the prices of ST-2s and 3s. That said, a fourth version, the ST-500, might just command a small premium on the grounds of spec and relative rarity.
This ST-3- based run-out was launched in 2007 ahead of the 2008 facelift and offered only in Panther Black, with red leather Recaros, extra detailing, special badging and a heat-reflecting windscreen. One dealer wants ?5490 for his 2008 car with 124,000 miles and a full Ford history (19 stamps). The facelift brought a restyled nose with new headlights and wings while the tail got a new bumper and diffuser.
The dashboard was dressed in fake carbonfibre, the ignition went keyless with a power button and the ST-1 finally got ESP. Those are the features to expect but under the bonnet is where the fun lies. Yes, that really is a five-cylinder, 2.5-litre turbocharged Volvo engine you’re looking at. Forget stately forays to Acorn Antiques, though; in the Focus ST it produces 222bhp and 236lb ft. A sound symposer directs its delicious burblings to the cabin.
Expect to find plenty of remapped examples. Those fitted with the Mountune Performance Pack are worth digging out, with power rising to 252bhp and torque to 295lb ft.
A Stage 2 tune to around 300bhp shouldn’t require strengthened internals but expect evidence of such work beyond this. When looking at an early ST, and especially a tuned one, check the oil filler for oil andwater sludge and the clutch for slipping. Pre-facelift and modified cars are known for splitting their cylinder liners and cooking the clutch; the 2008 facelift resolved many of these problems.
Given the number of used Mk2 STs on the market, you can afford to be picky – not just over condition but specification and options too. Among the latter, those worth seeking out include privacy glass, parking sensors and an electric sunroof. Prices of three- and five-door STs are broadly the same. Colour- wise, the plainer shades emphasise the car’s nicely understated looks. Whichever hue you choose, a full book of service stamps and premium tyres are essential, and beware the Cat C and D write-offs out there.
How to get one in your garage:
An expert’s view, Steve Bennett, ST-FOCUS.COM: “To my mind, the Focus ST Mk2 is the greatest hot hatch ever. I love the idea that one day a Ford exec said: ‘I know, let’s chuck this big old five-cylinder motor in a Focus.’ I’ve been selling them for more than eight years and I’ve sold hundreds. It has its niggles – split liners, weak clutch, whistling oil filler – but they’re rare. On the whole, it’s reliable. Prices for the best late cars have stabilised. You’ll easily pay over ?11,000. Partly it’s because the current car isn’t as good and partly because late, low-mile Mk2 STs are getting rarer. Buy one while you can.”
ENGINE: On pre-2008 STs or modified cars, check for oil-filler mayonnaise, misfiring or white smoke indicating split cylinder liners. A whistle at idle when cold is air being drawn through the oil filler due to a split diaphragm in the oil filter housing. If the boost gauge needle won’t pass beyond a quarter, check the solenoid boost valve (a healthy turbo reads to half- way; a mapped car to three-quarters). On early cars, check the health of the alternator–flickering lights or a battery warning are giveaways.
TRANSMISSION: Check clutch operation on early cars – it’s a weak unit. Replace with the stronger RS clutch upgrade – it’s not that expensive but you’ll also need the dual-mass flywheel, slave cylinder and thrust bearing. Check driveshaft boots aren’t split.
SUSPENSION: Listen for knocking caused by worn front anti-roll bar droplinks and leaking wishbone bushes. Check for inner tyre shoulder wear and excessive torque steer. Also non-premium tyres suggest penny-pinching elsewhere.
BODY: Check the boot for dampness (rain can get in via the seam near the tailgate hinges) and screen wash bottle for leaks. Check sideskirts are secure and look for corrosion where rear arches meet the bumper and on boot bump stops where the paint flakes. Check for crash repairs (orange-peel paint finish, overspray, new wing bolts etc).
INTERIOR: Check seat bases for cracking.
Also worth knowing...
Some modified STs will have had their liners shimmed – what’s called a ‘block- mod’. It’s only done to a sound engine. Expect to pay around ?800 for the job (it involves removing the head to push shims between the cylinder liners), a new timing belt and a new water pump. Try motorsport-developments.co.uk.
Cars imported to the US could be slapped with raised import tariffs
President suggests overseas car makers could be charged as much as 20% import tax; European premium brands could be hit
US President Donald Trump has renewed his threat to European car manufacturers importing cars into America, threatening 20% import tax on cars entering the US from the EU.
Based on the Tariffs and Trade Barriers long placed on the U.S. and it great companies and workers by the European Union, if these Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing a 20% Tariff on all of their cars coming into the U.S. Build them here!
Trump also previously revealed to French President Emmanuel Macron that he wishes to raise levies on imported cars to 25% and obliterate European luxury car sales in the US.
Wirtschaftswoche reports that the comments, made to Macron and reported to the media via several EU and US diplomats, could spark a trade war between the US and the EU, with Germany’s car industry being a heavy source of income to the union.
He has previously expressed his distain at German luxury brands, particularly Mercedes-Benz, and its prominence in New York’s Fifth Avenue. It’s reported that Trump said the tax would be upheld until Fifth Avenue was devoid of Mercedes models.
In the US, Trump has launched an investigation into whether vehicle and automotive parts imports are hindering the sector’s ability to compete globally. Under the US’s Trade Expansion Act of 1962, such a scenario could allow Trump to raise import tariffs to protect national interests.
This was the process undertaken last month when Trump raised tariffs for steel and aluminium imports. Tariffs for those materials now stand at 25% in a move to protect local producers.
Although a large portion of the US’s most popular car models, including those from foreign brands (such as the upcoming BMW X7), are already manufactured within its borders, many are imported from other countries. Most imports come from Asia, but several European brands, including Land Rover, don’t have US factories.
In fact, the US is the largest export market for cars built in the EU. Last year, ?171 billion worth of cars were exported from the EU, with the US accounting for 25% of them. Of those cars, just over half were exported by German car makers.
Leaders in China and South Korea have already said they will monitor the situation closely and react accordingly to protect the interests of brands in their countries.
Although China is the world’s largest new car market, with 23.9 million vehicles sold there last year, the US remains a core focus for most global brands. In 2017, 17.2m vehicles were sold in the US, compared with 15.6m in the EU and European Free Trade Association countries.
A Mercedes spokesman has been approached for comment.
Felipe Munoz, global analyst at JATO Dynamics, said: “While German-made cars accounted for 4% of Q1-18 US sales, American-made cars made only 1.3% of German registrations in the first quarter. Most of the units imported from Germany are premium cars, which tells a lot about the position of American car industry in the premium market. Germans are the world’s leaders in the premium market as they hit before American and Japanese cars, and have been evolving fast, with large ranges of products.” “Any attempt to increase taxes on German cars would have a larger effect on BMW and Mercedes, and a lower effect on Volkswagen, as most of the sales of the premium brands correspond to imported models (63% for Mercedes and 64% for BMW). It would also hurt the operations of Porsche, which imports all of its cars from Germany. If the trade conditions get tough for German imported cars, this would have a bigger effect on sedans and sport cars, which are the largest part of their imports. As these segments don’t grow anymore, both BMW and Mercedes could consider axing some of the models or increase local production of SUVs.”
Is AMG's rapid GLC 63 SUV the answer to your prayers, or to a question nobody’s asking?
Given the nature of the website you’re reading, it’s probable that you already have an opinion on the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S 4Matic+. And, well, it might not be entirely favourable.This near-?80,000 car is nevertheless something of a poster child within the corporate headquarters of Daimler AG in Stuttgart, where all the product planning, the marketing and the accounting happens, and, bluntly, where the bottom line is the primary concern.It’s also where they’ll be giving themselves a big pat on the back, because demand for SUVs such as the GLC has been nothing short of phenomenal. In fact, it has played a decisive role in Mercedes-Benz last year shoring up its position as the world’s biggest luxury manufacturer. Compatriot brand BMW previously held that title for a decade, so it’s a momentous achievement.There is also the small matter that next year’s pure-electric EQ C SUV – a product for which the term ‘game changer’ could well prove to be something of an undersell – will share this SUV’s production underpinnings. For a model that has never particularly tickled enthusiasts, the GLC is building a significant legacy.The line-leading GLC63 S 4Matic+ is (or at least should be) more obviously concerned with the matter of driving. As the performance-oriented coup? derivative of a medium-sized premium SUV, its taxonomy is idiosyncratic.And yet despite the niche-player status, it could be argued that this car is also everything that currently makes Mercedes such an aspirational brand condensed into one package: a glorious-sounding AMG engine of eight cylinders, a raised driving position and an urbane design whose heavy-set but strangely gentle curvature is calculated in its mass-market appeal.Of course, were you to throw all your favourite ingredients into a salad bowl, the resulting concoction would probably be repulsive. But it might just be the best thing to ever hit your taste buds. So which is it for this multifaceted AMG?
There's nothing like driving in the summer sun with the roof down - but which 10 convertibles make our top picks?
We might not have the ideal climate for them, but in Britain we love our convertibles. And when those sunny days do finally arrive, there’s never a bad time to drop the top and enjoy some wind in your hair.
Our idea of soft-top perfection isn’t all about raw performance and speed, either. The following 10 cars are our picks of the best convertibles and cabriolets for open-air cruising.
Yes, it may not sound quite as spine-tinglingly good as it used to, but as a driver’s machine it’s tough to beat. Communicative steering, a supremely balanced chassis and plenty of grunt all combine to make this the stand out car in its class. Its mid-engined layout means there’s a usable amount of storage space at the nose, too, which is handy.
From a modest 1.8-litre 178bhp petrol, all the way up to the bahnstorming 395bhp RS model, Audi’s TT Roadster can be as powerful or as sensible as your budget will allow. It’s not as engaging or as sharp as the Porsche - its steering can feel remote at times, and some variants are front-wheel drive - but it’s still a capable steer and it looks the part, too.
You can even have it with a diesel engine if you want to combine open-top motoring with more reasonable fuel bills. A word of caution, though: by opting for the roadster over the coupe you’ll do away with the small - but still useful - rear seats, which is worth bearing in mind.
Next to the Porsche and the Audi, the E-Class Cabriolet is definitely more of a cruising machine than something to pilot down your favourite stretch of British B-road. And when it comes to cruising, the E-Class excels. Air suspension (standard on AMG-Line cars) provides a supple and comfortable ride, and the quality of materials in the cabin is truly excellent.
While we’re yet to drive the latest Mini Convertible in the UK, the previous model impressed us through its ability to provide a genuine open-top driving thrills without compromising ride and handling, or its on-road manners.
For the most part, it holds its own against its hard-top rangemate as far as dynamism is concerned, which is no mean feat in the convertible supermini class. That it exudes charm and feels decently sprightly in Cooper S guise are further feathers in the Mini’s cap. It is a touch pricey, mind, especially once you start delving into the options list.
While convertible version of BMW’s 4-Series does lose out on some of the coupe’s sleek visual appeal, it remains a commendable driving machine. As is common in this class, a range of petrol and diesel four-cylinder power plants represent the bulk of this model’s engine line-up, but it’s the 3.0-litre 322bhp six-cylinder you find in the 440i that’s the peachiest offering.
Not only does it provide the drop-top 4-Series with commendable pace and accessible torque, it sounds great too. That it also comes with proper rear seats is an added bonus, while many buyers will also be attracted to the increased sense of security that comes with a folding metal roof.
This handsome, refined convertible isn’t the sort of car that’s going to keep a Porsche 718 Boxster buyer up at night, fretting that he might have picked the wrong drop-top. Where that car champions engagement and dynamism, the A5 Cabriolet is a much more laid back option that places long-legged waftability over any outright driver focus. But that’s okay, as people buy different convertibles for different reasons.
It’s not quite as focused as a comparable BMW 4 Series in the handling department, but being an Audi it comes with plenty of tech and a top notch interior.
Following the demise of the CLK, this is the first Mercedes cabriolet to wear a C-Class badge on its tail. Quite a handsome-looking thing, isn’t it? That it’s also one of the most luxuriously-appointed and materially rich convertibles in its immediate class only further adds to its appeal.
Power is provided by everything from a humble four-cylinder diesel in the likes of the C220d, all the way up to the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 you’ll find in the AMG-badged C 63 S. We’ve tested both, and while they are certainly entirely different beasts, both were looked on favourably. The diesel for it combination of comfort and class, the V8 for its raw power and character. A new model is right around the corner, too.
The A3 Cabriolet has come a long way since it was introduced back in 2008. Where that original model was based on the contemporary A3’s hatchback shape, today it’s the saloon variant that has had its roof chopped off and it’s a change that’s worked wonders for the car’s kerbside appeal.
Here’s a compact drop-top that looks great, packs commendable performance and composed - if not particularly engaging - handling. A facelift in 2016 helped keep the A3 competitive, introducing new a headlight and taillight design, Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit and a new 2.0-litre TFSI engine to the range of existing petrol and diesel power plant.
Despite its compact, two-seat layout, the SLC isn’t quite the driver’s car its proportions might lead you to believe it is. Does that make it any less desirable as a two-seat cruiser, though? Not particularly.
The Beetle Cabriolet is arguably the most Marmite, love-it-or-hate-it convertible in this list. The rag-top Volkswagen’s funky looks will no doubt attract as many buyers as they discourage, but then again, subjective appeal is an intricate part of convertible ownership isn’t it?
The Beetle isn’t particularly stellar when it comes to the ride and handling departments, but chances are anyone who actually buys one likely won’t be too concerned with such things. This is a car that’s more focussed on being a charming fashion statement than a B-road barnstormer, and depending on the importance you put on such things, you’ll either want one or you won’t.
Toyota aims to sell 50 Centurys per month in Japan, although official pricing has not yet been revealed
Low-volume model sits atop Toyota’s line-up in Japan, with just 50 units to be sold per month
Toyota has revealed its new Century limousine, the redesigned luxury saloon that claims the title of Japan’s most popular chauffeur-driven luxury car.
Under the bonnet is a 5.0-litre V8 engine with supplementary electric motor to form a hybrid system producing 425bhp in total. This system replaces a V12 that featured in the previous Century and achieves 38.4mpg on the Japanese test cycle. Performance figures have not been released.
Toyota aims to sell 50 per month in Japan, although official pricing has not yet been revealed. Given the fact that the Century is hand-built, it’s expected to carry a hefty premium over the brand’s other mass-produced models, and a price well into six figures is certain. The car’s badge alone, a phoenix, takes six weeks to engrave.
The new car gets more modern safety technologies, including Toyota’s Safety Sense pack, which consists of a pre-collision system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic lights and road sign recognition.
Soundproofing sits high on the agenda when constructing the Century, while a system to limit engine noise and vibration is also fitted. The rear pillar of the car has been made more upright to give onlookers a greater sense of significance of the rear passengers, says Toyota.
The Century was first introduced in 1967 and was named in celebration of Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda’s 100th birthday. The new car is the first full refresh the model has had in 21 years, although it still uses traditional techniques in its design and construction.
Compared with the outgoing model, the new Century's wheelbase increases by 65mm to 3090mm to provide more rear and, to aid entry and exit, the car sits lower to the floor by 15mm. At 5335mm long, it’s 110mm longer than the extended-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and is 1930mm wide and 1505mm tall.
Once in the back, the left-hand passenger in the new Century has an electric extending leg rest, massage seat and an 11.3in entertainment system with 20 speakers and a 7.0in touchpad control module.
New variant will come with more power and less weight than the 570S on which it is based and will be revealed on 28 June
The upcoming McLaren 600LT, a hardcore version of the 570S that forms part of the firm's entry-level Sports Series, has been caught on camera for the first time six days before its reveal.
The sighting shows that the model, which will be revealed on 28 June, will follow suit of the 675LT and recieve a 'long tail' (hence the name) to enhance aerodynamics. This change harks back to the McLaren F1 GTR 'long tail' that was produced for endurance racing in 1997.
Along with a modified body, the 600LT will use a more potent version of the 570S's 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 producing 592bhp (600PS) and breathing through a lighter and less restrictive exhaust system.
The tailpipes for this exhaust will come through the car's engine cover, as seen on the test car and previewed up close in an earlier official image (see gallery).
When revealing its official pictures, McLaren confirmed that it has reduced the 600LT's kerb weight — the standard 570S weighs 1440kg — but it has yet to reveal a figure. The 675LT shed 100kg from the 650S it is based on, suggesting the 600LT could tip the scales at less than 1350kg.
The harcore Sport Series model, which was scooped by Autocar in March, will make its public debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, when it will be driven up the famous hill climb.
Production of customer cars will be “limited to the few”, suggesting the 600LT will be made in similar numbers to the 675LT Super Series model, of which just 500 were made.
Because it belongs to the Sports Series, the new car is unlikely to receive quite the same extent of obsessive attention as the 675LT, which added more than ?65,000 to the price of the ?195,250 650S on which it is based and included 110 component changes or deletions just to save weight.
But we could still see a car with a price that's up from the 570S's ?149,000 at something nearer ?200,000, before customers start splurging on lightweight carbonfibre options. Expect lighter wheels, reduced sound deadening, the titanium exhaust that's already available through McLaren’s MSO department, thinner glass and perhaps a Perspex rear screen.
The 600LT is also said to be slightly more road-oriented in focus than the track-honed 675LT and therefore a usable everyday machine that should nevertheless acquit itself with honour on the circuit. The 675LT offered three times the downforce of the 650S and McLaren will no doubt be looking for substantial gains on the 600LT, too.
Don’t expect huge changes to acceleration or top speed figures, because the 570S is already traction limited and whatever additional power the car receives is likely to be largely offset by the drag created by that additional downforce. The real performance gain is likely to be best measured in a lap time.
The 600LT is likely to follow in the footsteps of the 675LT by offering limited-edition models of both coup? and spider variants.
Katrin Adt replaces Annette Winkler as the new CEO of Smart
Daimler small car brand's new boss Karen Adt starts on 1 October, former boss Annette Winkler will continue at Daimler as board member for Mercedes South Africa
Daimler has announced former sales executive Katrin Adt as the the new CEO of Smart, replacing Annette Winkler, who steps down at the end of September.
Adt joined Daimler in 1999, and worked in various sales positions until 2013, when she branched out into human resources.
It's understood that the move aims to reverse Smart's falling sales, which have fallen sharply across Europe since a peak in 2016. Adt was formerly responsible for managing Smart's sales worldwide, and previously held the post as boss of Daimler's luxembourg sales.
Britta Seeger, Mercedes' sales boss, said: “Katrin Adt has years of international experience. With her experience in various management positions in sales and marketing and the companywide management culture initiative Leadership 2020, she will steer Smart into a successful future.”
Adt's successor Winkler was appointed to lead the Daimler brand in 2010 and is praised for ushering in Smart’s electric era, with both the Fortwo and Forfour getting Electric Drive-badged variants during her tenure. She joined Daimler in 1995 as head of PR and communications for Mercedes-Benz. Smart, post-Winkler, will become a "fully electric urban mobility brand".
Dieter Zetsche, head of Daimler, said: “As a true entrepreneurial personality, she has led Smart to new successes and systematically transformed it into an electric mobility brand. Under Annette Winkler’s leadership, the smart plant in Hambach has continually improved its competitiveness and is extremely well positioned for the future.”
Winkler said: “One of the key responsibilities of every executive is to pass on leading positions to the next generation at the right time. And that time has now come — with the clear focus of smart as a fully electric urban mobility brand and with the decision to develop the Hambach facility into a plant for fully electric vehicles within the Mercedes-Benz production network.”
Smart's global sales under Winkler have increased steadily, from just below 100,000 in 2010, to 135,868 last year, after a 2016 peak of 143,719, according to JATO figures. The brand has had some difficulty maintaining sales, however; last year's figure almost matches that of 2008, when the brand had only one model in its lineup, rather than the two cars offered today. The Fortwo has fallen across this timeframe, from 115,900 sales in 2009, to 95,000 in 2017.
Things have not been plain sailing elsewhere; in the US, Smart became an electric-only brand as petrol sales were heavily outnumbered by their plug-in counterparts. Around 7100 alternatively-fuelled Smarts were sold last year - only modest growth over around 6100 in 2014. 74% of Smart's sales were in Europe last year,
Winkler will continue to work for Daimler as a board member for Mercedes-Benz South Africa from September 2019.
The trio of PHEVs, plus the one GLE PHEV that departs along with the rest of the range, will be replaced in the coming months by models utilising Mercedes' most advanced electrified powertrains, described by the company as “third-generation” technology and marketed under the EQ banner.
The new EQ system, first announced in the spring, comes exclusively with Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic gearbox, which is packaged together in same unit with the clutch and electric motor.
The electric drive from this tightly packed unit has been uprated so it now contributes 121bhp and 325lb ft of torque alongside each model’s respective combustion engine. Mercedes said the top speed in electric mode for its third-generation system is now 87mph, up from 81mph for the second-gen system.
Pure-electric range is also up to as much as 31 miles for each model — a gain of around 10 miles on the previous generation.
A Mercedes spokesman confirmed to Autocar that the first car to benefit from the new tech will be the S-Class. Already on sale in other markets, the updated luxury model will arrive in Britain in the autumn with a new S560e variant that uses a six-cylinder petrol engine with the electric drive unit, replacing the outgoing S500e.
Soon after that, two E-Class PHEVs, one with a four-cylinder diesel engine and one with a four-cylinder petrol unit, will be announced. The first customer cars are due on road before the end of this year.
In spring 2019, a C-Class PHEV with the same four-cylinder diesel as the E-Class PHEV will arrive. It will be shortly followed by an all-new plug-in A-Class that will be a new rival to the Audi A3 e-tron.
Demand for hybrid Mercedes models has grown substantially in recent years. The firm’s top-selling PHEV in Britain is the electrified C-Class. Last year, PHEVs accounted for 9.2% of C-Class saloon sales and 14.2% C-Class estate sales.
One-off hardcore Miura has been restored by Lamborghini’s Polo Storico classics division. Its owner will continue to use it on track
Lamborghini has restored the sole Miura SVR, with the finished car being showcased at a special event at Japan's Nakayama circuit.
The Miura SVR was converted between 1974 and 1976. It was inspired by the Miura Jota, which was developed in collaboration with Lamborghini's test driver, Bob Wallace.
The restoration took 19 months to complete - a month longer than it took Lamborghini to originally convert the car to SVR status.
The SVR was originally sold in Italy in 1968 as a Miura S, passed around multiple owners and was then sold to Heinz Straber, who commissioned the conversion.
The car first arrived in Japan in 1976 with new owner Hiromitsu Ito. It quickly became famous, inspiring both the Circuit Wolf comic book and a 1:18 scale model by toy maker Kyosho.
Paolo Gabrielli, head of Lamborghini aftersales and Polo Storico, explained that the SVR had to be restored using records from the original conversion because the original production documents weren't relevant to the car.
“The car arrived in Sant’Agata in pieces – although the parts were all there – and with considerable modifications,” Gabrielli said.
The customer behind the restoration requested only four-point harnesses, more supportive seats and a removable rollbar as modifications to the car’s original specification. This is because they will continue to use the car on track during exhibitions.
It's still not as refined as other SUVs, but in terms of sheer value the second-generation Duster is very much in a class of its own
In a world where cars are becoming increasingly more advanced and complicated, there has always been something rather refreshing about the Dacia Duster.Here is an SUV that, in an incredibly simplistic sense, offers you everything you need in a car - namely an engine, four wheels and a steering wheel - and absolutely nothing that you don’t. The entry-level version of the original Duster didn’t even come with air conditioning or a radio, which is certainly saying something in this day and age.Welcome, then, to the new second-generation Duster that, in base-model specification, still doesn’t include a radio or air conditioning. However, this almost puritanical approach towards excess in the context of car manufacturing means that the Duster - indeed, the entire Dacia range - is still incredibly affordable. “Shockingly affordable”, even, if you take a look at the Renault-owned brand’s marketing material.That suitably named Access model will set you back a miserly ?9995, which is an increase of ?500 over its predecessor. Aside from the new styling - which lends the car a wider, more muscular stance, despite it being almost identical in size to its forerunner - you now get electric power steering and LED daytime running lights as standard. Phwoar.Our more luxuriously equipped Comfort test car, which sits above Access and Essential and below the flagship Prestige in the rejigged line-up, comes with a few more creature comforts. With a 113bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels (there’s also a four-wheel-drive version available, as well as a front-driven diesel), it’ll cost you ?13,195.For that sum, you get a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, Bluetooth and DAB radio, rear parking camera and sensors, electric windows all round and electrically adjustable wing mirrors. New 16in alloys, meanwhile, are suspended by MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. Talk about living the life of Riley.
This SUV-inspired makeover for Ford’s city-friendly small car will find its fans, but the Ka+ Active doesn’t set any new benchmarks for the class
This is the latest evidence that not even the smallest cars are immune from the creeping influence of SUVs.Ford’s not-quite-a-crossover is a slightly taller, slightly tougher version of the Ka+ five-door supermini — one that the company is hoping will help it top the record-breaking 200,000 SUVs Ford sold in Europe last year.It follows the same basic formula as the similarly rugged Fiesta Active and will form a triumvirate with the Focus Active when it arrives early next year.Quite how active you’ll actually get while behind the wheel is up for debate; while you get SUV-friendly features such as a boosted ride height, chunkier bumpers and wheel arches, as well as standard roof rails for sporty types to lug their gear around with, this is still very much a supermini best suited to town and city driving.So that may make the car more suited to the perils of off-street parking than any kind of off-road adventure, but the 15in alloy wheels, chrome accents on the grille and foglights, exclusive interior fabric and slightly tweaked front end go a long way to helping the Active variant stand out from the standard car.Ride height has been raised by 23mm, giving the Ka+ Active that upright, crossover feel that’s so in demand right now, while a larger anti-roll bar works with the electronic stability control to reduce the chances of rollover while those rails are fully loaded. It sits on 185/60 tyres, slightly skinnier than the 195/55s found on the standard car, for a marginally softer ride.Otherwise, the mechanicals are mostly unchanged. The sole petrol engine is the 81bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit also found on the rest of the Ka+ range, with 85lb ft of torque, a top speed of 105mph and hitting 0-60mph in 13.5sec. A 1.5-litre diesel also joins the line-up — a first for the Ka+ — but Ford isn’t expecting it to be a big seller. There’s still no Ecoboost variant, either, in order to keep some space between the Ka+ and the Fiesta.The Ka+ Active has the same MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension as a regular Ka+, as well as a five-speed manual gearbox raided from the new Fiesta’s parts bin.
The announcement comes with the VW Group’s ?75 million investment in Californian battery technology company QuantumScape, following six years of collaboration with the firm.
Solid-state battery technology, Volkswagen claims, would more than double the capacity compared with the brand’s current lithium ion batteries, boosting the range of the e-Golf from its current 186 miles (NEDC) to 466 miles.
Volkswagen claims to have already successfully tested solid-state battery technology produced with QuantumScape at a scale comparable to that of an electric car, and claims to be the first to do so.
QuantumScape CEO Jagdeep Singh said: “Volkswagen is the world’s largest automotive manufacturer and leads the industry in its commitment to electrification of its fleet. We think the higher range, faster charge times and inherent safety of QuantumScape’s solid-state technology will be a key enabler for the next generation of electrified powertrains.”
The VW Group’s head of research, Axel Heinrich, said: “The solid-state battery will mark a turning point for e-mobility. By increasing our stake in QuantumScape and forming the joint venture we strengthen and deepen our strategic cooperation with an innovative partner and secure access to the promising QuantumScape battery technology for Volkswagen.”
BMW Group, Dyson, Fisker, Porsche and Toyota also have plans to produce solid-state batteries, because the upcoming technology is claimed to have the potential to revolutionise EVs through its faster charging, greater capacity and greater energy density than the current lithium ion batteries.
Third-generation SUV gets new technology and road-biased styling as VW targets affluent buyers in Europe and China
Volkswagen is now taking orders for the new Touareg, with prices for the flagship SUV starting at ?51,595 and first deliveries due in the summer.
While that price leaves it ?3425 cheaper than the Mercedes-Benz GLE, it makes the new car ?6165 more expensive than its predecessor — a reflection on VW's efforts to push its top model further upmarket.
The brand justifies the price hike by stating that the new Touareg represents the “biggest leap forward” in the history of the SUV.
The third-generation model, which was unveiled in Beijing during the spring, has been redesigned with new technology, road-focused styling and a revamped interior that is dominated by VW’s new Innovision Cockpit.
This Touareg is the first to have such a clear focus on the Chinese market because, aside from being the largest new car market in the world, it's seen rapid growth in SUV demand in recent times. SUVs accounted for 8% of the Chinese market in 2007, but by 2017 this had skyrocketed to 45%.
?VW boss Herbert Diess said: “The new Touareg sets a new benchmark at the top of the automotive world and shows what VW can do in terms of design and technology. It is a reflection of our brand.”
Three trim levels are offered at launch and the UK starting price applies to the entry-level SEL. Prices for the plusher R-line variant, which comes with sportier bodywork details, start from ?55,095, while R-line Tech sits atop of the launch range with more standard kit (more on that below) and a starting price of ?58,195.
At launch, just one engine is offered: a 3.0 TDI V6 producing 282bhp. It produces 443lb ft of torque from 2250rpm, enabling the SUV to sprint from 0-62mph in 6.1sec, while top speed is 146mph. The Touareg range will gain a second 3.0 V6 diesel engine with 228bhp and 369lb ft in the autumn, as well as a 3.0 V6 petrol with 335bhp and 332lb ft.
The Chinese line-up includes a 362bhp plug-in hybrid that will arrive in late 2019. That variant is likely to go on sale in Europe, although no date has been set. A 415bhp, 664lb ft 4.0 V8 diesel will be offered in some markets, likely including the UK, although no date has been set for its arrival either.
All of the engine options are powered through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with standard all-wheel drive featuring a centre differential lock, with five standard and four optional drive modes.
To aid the driving dynamic, the Touareg features electromechanical active roll compensation, which adjusts the anti-roll bars to smooth the ride when cornering. It also has air suspension to boost ride and all-wheel steering to aid handling.
Oliver Mu?ller, the Touareg’s vehicle development boss, told Autocar: “We wanted to combine a sporty drive with comfort. The focus in on on-road handling, but it was important to make sure it was still good off road. It’s part of the DNA of the car. The look is more on-road now, but it’s still an off-roader at heart.”
The exterior design of the new Touareg moves further away from the off-road styling of the original, with a bold front grille designed particularly to appeal to the Chinese market. While built on the same VW Group MLB platform as the new Porsche Cayenne, the only exterior part the two now share is the front windscreen. Exterior designer Frank Bruse told Autocar: “The key difference is that we were allowed to do our own door panels; before, we had to share with the Cayenne. That gave us more freedom.”
At 4878mm, the Touareg is 77mm longer than before. It is also 44mm wider (1984mm) but 7mm shorter (1702mm). With the rear seats up, the boot has a capacity of 810 litres, 113 litres more than the previous model. The aluminium and steel body helps to make the car 106kg lighter than before.
The dashboard is built around VW’s new Innovision Cockpit, which merges a 15.0in infotainment touchscreen with a 12.0in digital instrument cluster. The customisable infotainment screen also controls features such as smartphone integration, air conditioning and seat massage functions, while analogue controls remain for the volume and other frequently used switches.
A range of driver assistance features come as standard, including traffic jam assist, lane assist, autonomous emergency braking, a night vision camera and a driver fatigue warning.
Standard equipment includes all-round LED lighting, multicoloured interior LED lighting and a 1270mm-long sliding panoramic roof.
The Touareg is designed with a range of customisation options based on three optional trim levels: the wood-dominated Atmosphere; Elegance, based on metal colours; and the stand-alone, sporty R-line. All three will feature spoilers and side sills, with R-line also gaining wheel arch extensions.
The Touareg will be able to tow trailers of up to 3.5 tonnes.
Welcoming the Swift Sport to the fleet - 30 May 2018
Turns out that patience isn’t always a virtue. Or, to subvert another clich?, sometimes good things come to those who don’t wait. And proof of that, currently parked outside Autocar Towers, is small, fun and very, very yellow.
The catch: we’d have to pick it up from an event they were running - in Dublin. So we’d have to fly to Dublin, collect the Swift Sport, catch a ferry to Holyhead and then drive the 300 or so miles back to Autocar’s Twickenham base.
Catch? That’s not a catch. More like a kid being told they can have their Christmas present early and then given the chance to play with it for hours. After all, what better way to learn about a new car than with an extended road trip spanning urban driving, motorway mileage and, via a short but brilliant detour, some of the finest driving roads in Wales?
Success creates expectation – and so our hopes for this new Swift Sport have duly been raised. In addition, Suzuki hasn’t simply updated its hot hatch with a new look and minor tweaks: there are some substantive changes under the bonnet.
Suzuki has replaced the peppy 134bhp 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine from the old Swift Sport with a 138bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged motor. That means the car has more torque – 170lb ft compared with 110lb ft – but, according to our first drive recently, perhaps a bit less character.
That first review did highlight some cause for concern, as reflected by its three-star score. While our testers still judged the Swift Sport “a fine little driver’s car”, there were furrowed brows over the price: it’s been hiked to ?17,999 (albeit discounted to ?16,499 until the end of June 2018). Now that’s expectation raising – it’s four grand more than a Volkswagen Up GTI, for starters.
Still, like any kid unwrapping a shiny new toy, I wasn’t really thinking about the price when I collected the keys at Dublin Airport. All I wanted to do was try it out. With not enough time before the ferry to find some fun Irish roads, I settled for a trip to Phoenix Park, largely so I could drive a bit of the classic street circuit (albeit very slowly).
That seemed a great idea, until it was time to head to the ferry terminal. The two were only split by six or so miles – except it was six miles right through the centre of Dublin, in ridiculously heavy traffic. That wasn’t good for my nerves but was a useful test of the Swift Sport’s abilities in stop-start urban driving.
Having made it to the ferry terminal in the nick of time, the jaunt across the Irish Sea was a chance to relieve the stress of city driving and mentally prepare to exploit our new Swift in full Sport guise on my planned route from Anglesey to an overnight halt in Shrewsbury.
The trip proved that although the Swift Sport might have grown up and become a little more serious, it’s still capable of entertaining with a responsive, reactive and just plain fun drive. As first impressions go, it was hugely positive and it’s whetted my appetite for more time with the Swift Sport on some of the UK’s finer flowing A and B-roads.
It’s worth noting that it didn’t disgrace itself the following day, when the final part of the journey took in the motorways of Britain, when I set off from Shrewsbury to Twickenham with a mild detour via Bristol (it made sense at the time).
I arrived back at Autocar HQ after a long weekend of getting to know the Swift Sport keen to spend more time in it. One first impression: it remains good, simple fun, yet is also a hot hatch that should settle in nicely as a daily driver. Of course, it’s always fun being allowed to open your presents early.
Still, that’s for the months ahead. Right now, I’m after an excuse for another Swift Sport road trip.
Past Swift Sports have, in my opinion, offered as much pep and performance as you need to drive spiritedly but safely on Britain’s roads. The balance between everyday usability and sports tuning has always seemed spot on and the early signs are this latest version gets it right too.
Price new ?17,999 Price as tested: ?17,999 Options: none Engine 4 cyls, 1373cc, turbocharged petrol Power 138bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 170lb ft at 2500-3500rpm Top speed 130mph 0-62mph 8.1sec Claimed fuel economy 50.4mpg Test fuel economy 41.9mpg CO2 125g/km Faults None Expenses None
Welcome to Autocar's run-down of all the new cars heading this way in 2018
Autocar's new cars list gives you all the information on 2018's new arrivals, rounding up all the new models going on sale in the UK
We're not even halfway through yet 2018 has already proved to be another exciting year for cars. We're welcomed new entrants into every major segment, and that ever-growing flock of SUVs continues to surge.
Here is your one-stop shop for keeping up-to-date with what's coming when in the car industry.
Only 15 will come to the UK - but what a 15. 217bhp, ultra-sharp gearchanges, stiffer suspension, a tweaked chassis and a shouty Akrapovi? exhaust means it'll be as special to hear as it wil be to drive.
More safety kit and a GT trim level for Kia's Ford Mondeo rival. Exterior revisions are all but unnoticeably subtle.
Lexus RC F 10th Anniversary
Lexus celebrates ten years of F-badged performance models with a special edition of its BMW M4-rivalling RC F. A matte grey paint finish, gloss black exterior details and blue interior upholstery mark it out from the standard RC F.
Porsche 919 Hybrid could go after 956’s Nu?rburgring record
With no minimum weight limits, no balance of power and no fuel saving to contend with, a new record attempt would be as pure as motorsport gets
Another bleedin’ attempt to set a record lap time at the Nu?rburgring. Here we go again. Yawnarama. Except that this one might actually be a bit special.
The other month, Porsche took its 919 Hybrid LMP1 endurance racing car and removed from it lots of the bits that made it comply with the regulations it used to compete under.
So instead of its 2.0-litre turbocharged V4 engine making around 500bhp, derestricted it now makes over 700bhp. And the electric motors that are attached to it add nearly another 450bhp, up 10%. The weight is down by 40kg to under 850kg. Downforce is up by half.
Last week, it was testing at the Nordschleife, creating speculation about how fast it might go. “Timo Bernhard (two-time Le Mans winner, driving) loves that track... perhaps he comes again,” said Porsche, not- terribly-cryptically, to suggest that a flat-out timed run is still to come.
The current lap record is 6min 11.3sec, set by Stefan Bellof in a Porsche 956 in 1983; still regarded, quite rightly, as an extraordinary lap.
Already, though, today’s cars are approaching that time. The circuit is faster now than it was then, no question, but in qualifying for this year’s Nu?rburgring 24 Hours, which uses the Nordschleife and modern GP tracks combined, it took a Porsche 911 GT3 R race car around 6min 30sec to complete the northern loop.
At Spa, the 919 Hybrid Evo was 27% faster than a 911 GT3 R. With a similar delta on the Nu?rburgring, then, the 919 would complete a lap in 4min 45sec. For 12.9 miles. Even if the time is shy of five minutes by a dozen seconds, that would be an average speed of 150mph.
Hence why I care about this particular lap time. Yes, it’s only a time trial and there’s no overtaking and there’s no strategy and, you might argue, ultimately, no point, but it is just so spectacularly fast that you have to take notice.
Besides, the purity is part of the appeal: nobody is trying to preserve their tyres or find a way around some regulatory loophole, or being held back by a balance of performance, or finding themselves ballasting their car up to a minimum weight limit. It is motorsport at its most perfect – a bunch of engineers, taking a car, and wondering: “How fast can it go?” Which is wonderful.
The only thing better were if it wasn’t based on an existing racing car. How fast could you make it go then? And what it if were not just Porsche doing this? Recently, the technology shift has been predominantly from road to racing cars. This could swing it back again.
What if there was an open, unlimited formula time trial, and anyone was invited? No entry fee, no season beginning and end, no politicking and petty regulations – just engineers making the world’s fastest cars, however they want, and putting a stopwatch on them, for all the reasons car makers started racing in the first place. For the learning, for the marketing but, above all, for the love, because going ever faster is what we are inexorably drawn to do.
Here at Autocar we know a thing or two about game changers, because once a year at the Autocar Awards ceremony we nominate half a dozen cars that have managed in some way to bring higher standards to their class or defy conventions.
We know, too, that once every so often a car comes along that caps that completely and simply rips up the rulebook, and back in 1990 the original Honda NSX was one of those – it was a supercar game changer.
Before the NSX, supercars were difficult buggers to get along with, having recalcitrant gearboxes, awkward driving positions and intractable powertrains. If you could see out of one you were lucky, and you were blessed if you could complete a journey without AA assistance.
By contrast, the aluminium NSX was easy to drive and easy to see out of, and both its marvellous high-revving V6 VTEC engine and its sweet gearbox (automatic even, if you prefer) were super-responsive.
It was supremely reliable, too, but also thrillingly quick; it handled beautifully and, for the discerning, it was rammed full of exquisite engineering details. This was a grown-up and graceful supercar, and such was its brilliance it made every other manufacturer up their game. Once upon a time you could buy a used NSX for small change, but now you’ll need over ?50,000 for a good one. The reasonable mileage and full service history example we found in our classifieds is nudging ?60k. However, what you’d get is a delightful and thoroughly usable supercar, a sound investment and a chunk of history that you could use every day and derive enormous pleasure while doing so.
Bristol Fighter ?199,950: It might not always look like it, but they knew a thing or two at Bristol. The Fighter had a low centre of gravity, perfect weight distribution and a very low-drag body, plus it was luxurious, comfortable and incredibly fast. They’re extremely rare, too, so you could think of this car as a V10-engined investment.
Morgan 3 Wheeler ?42,000: This fully restored three-wheeled Moggie isn’t the latest incarnation but the original low-slung F-Series in which it was possible to sit and touch the ground with your fingertips. With a history dating back to 1935, this one’sasure-fire,open-topV-twin winner. Just add goggles and a handlebar moustache.
Volkswagen Scirocco ?6995: Once the Golf stopped being so tall and boxy, the Scirocco’s days seemed to be numbered, but there’s still decent value to be found in a used one. Here we have a good, clean example of the sparkling 197bhp 2.0-litre petrol version, up for a tempting ?6995. It’s fast, fun and, on these 18in alloys, rather handsome.
Chrysler Crossfire ?2500: A stiff car, the Crossfire, and as a result it could corner in excess of 1g. However, if you don’t fancy the prospect of owning an American car, consider that, under the skin, most of it is a Mercedes-Benz SLK and it was made by Karmann in Germany. Anyway, ?2500 for a Crossfire in good nick is a bit of a steal.
Fiat X1/9: Imagine a low, strong and pleasingly agile mid-engined targa-topped two-seater, designed by Marcello Gandini and equipped with a lively and eminently tunable engine created by the great Aurelio Lampredi, that gripped like a limpet and could be bought in its day for the price of a family hatchback, and you can imagine the delight with which the world greeted the Fiat X1/9.
Alas, its day was a long time ago now and most are no more, but this late-1989 car with an extensive history and a current MOT made ?2730 at a recent auction. That strikes us as a very good deal indeed.
The new A-Class might be causing a stir, but this third-generation model never quite captured our hearts. In a class of highly proficient competitors, its firm ride and poor handling let it down, as did its noisy diesels and scratchy interior quality. However, it still looks smart, the engines are at least efficient and the new model means you can pick up a delivery mileage version of this old one and save over ?6k, which isn’t to be sniffed at.
Clash of the classifieds:
Brief: Gentlemen, I’m after something Italian. It should bubble with brio and make me tremendously excited. You each have ?50k to fulfil my wishes.
What you need is an Alfa SZ. The angular styling caused such a stir at launch that people called it ‘Il Mostro’. The SZ grips the road like a ferocious beast – Alfa claimed it could pull 1g in corners. Then there’s the noise of that glorious V6, the lightweight composite bodywork, the rear transaxle... I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.
Iso Lele ?49,995
Allow me to present the Iso Lele, a GT rival to the Lamborghini Espada with 325bhp and an epic soundtrack. Yet where an Espada costs around ?150k now, a Lele will set you back a third of that. Inside, the lavish cabin is swathed in quilted leather, chrome and wood, while outside it oozes 1970s cool. A super- rare Italian GT with supercar pace for a super-reasonable price? If that’s not interesting, I don’t know what is.
Man, that Lele is cool and as 1970s as an episode of The Persuaders. But I’m not sure I can resist the cluster of slashes that is the Alfa SZ.
Sant’Agata vows to resist downgrading or turbocharging its sports car powertrains
Lamborghini is determined to stick with naturally aspirated engines for its super-sports models despite many of its rivals switching to turbocharging to enhance performance and reduce emissions.
The company’s technical director, Maurizio Reggiani, also said that he is intent on resisting any pressure to reduce the number of cylinders in its next generation of supercars.
“Every car has a mission, and based on that mission you have to choose the right engine,” Reggiani said. “For the [Urus SUV] the decision was turbo, but we will continue to choose natural aspiration for the super-sports cars. In the future, we will need to take account of fuel consumption and emissions. I am convinced the naturally aspirated engine coupled with a hybrid system can be the right answer.”
The Huraca?n replacement, due in 2022, is likely to become a plug-in hybrid, but Reggiani hinted that the Aventador arriving before then will also switch to part-electric power.
He said: “We need to reinvent this icon without [losing] the characteristics of the current car: carbonfibre, the V12 naturally aspirated engine and other components. Looking forward, if it is a hybrid then in what ways can we compensate for its weight?”
Reggiani admits that he sees battery density, and the need to accommodate a significant number of cells, as being nearly as much of a problem as weight for sports cars. Lamborghini is working on a project with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston to develop carbonfibre bodywork that can act as a storage battery as well as superconductors.
Last year, the Italian car maker revealed the electric Terzo Millennio concept, created with MIT, which showcased next-generation energy storage systems and innovative materials.
Reggiani also said that an electrical drivetrain may help to civilise a version of the current Aventador’s sometimes aggressive single-clutch transmission: “You could use the electric motor to ensure that you don’t have torque interruption.”
As well as his commitment to a naturally aspirated V12 for the Aventador replacement, Reggiani is planning for the next Huraca?n to stick with a non-turbo 10-cylinder engine. “The reaction you have to a 10-cylinder engine you cannot have from any other kind. This is what our customers love,” he said. “Why do I need to do something different? If I trust in the naturally aspirated engine, why downgrade my powertrain to a V8 or V6? I am Lamborghini, I am the top of the pinnacle of super-sports cars. I want to stay where I am.”
Sunday June 24: When eight minutes can feel like a very long time
It went past in a flash and a whoosh, a fully charged four-wheeled missile going faster than your brain could comprehend. So fast, in fact, that it took a few seconds for the spectators lining the fence just past the start of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb start line to react.
Eventually, they did. One yelled ‘yee haw.’ Another swore. Loudly.
And then the wait began.
One problem with Pikes Peak is that the very things that make the event so special also make it a logistical challenge. The start line is 9390ft up a mountain; the finish way up at 14,115ft. There aren’t many permanent facilities in place at such altitudes, phone signal is patchy at best, and the atmosphere and weather can play havoc with signals.
And so, once Romain Dumas and the Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak had disappeared from view, it was hard to chart their progress up the 156-turns and 12.42 miles of the course. A livestream video was patchy at best, the radio commentary chipped in where they could, but they could hardly cover the full mountain.
Having run back to the paddock, you gleaned fragments of information here and there: Dumas was doing 136mph when he went through the flying start, and there was occasional word that his pace up the mountain did, indeed, threaten Sebastien Loeb’s outright record from 2013. But all you could do was wait.
It was all the Volkswagen Motorsport team could do as well. They crowded around the same television screens in the pits as other teams and fans, watching the same timing screen and the same patchy livestream, waiting with the same eager anticipation.
Then, suddenly, there was news. Several thousand feet above the pits, Dumas flashed across the finish line, and his time pinged up on a timing screen.
As the radio commentators reacted with a mixture of shock and awe, so did the team. So did everyone watching. Volkswagen had come to break Pikes Peak’s electric record. They did that - and smashed the overall mark to boot.
The celebrations began. The champagne flowed. Celebratory T-shirts, complete with blank spaces to write the finish time in on, were handed out.
After the celebrations began to subside, Volkswagen Motorsport boss Sven Smeets was asked about the wait, about what it felt like to have invested so much time into a project, and yet have no idea how it was going.
“This was a little bit like two people are fighting for the World Rally Championship going into the last stage and then suddenly you have no splits anymore,” he said. “It’s that feeling.
“It was a very, very long eight minutes – and eight minutes is actually nothing.”
Regardless of how long those eight minutes – well, seven minutes 57.148 seconds – felt, their impact will be felt far longer. An electric car now holds the outright record on the world’s toughest, most famous hill climb.
Ask anyone from Volkswagen, and they'll tell you the only goal is the electric mark, which currently stands at 8min 57.118secs. But talk to those who know the event well, and you'll get a slightly different answer.
“Never in my life did I think I would see that,” remarked Jason Campbell, a former Pikes Peak competitor who now works as a tour guide in the Penrose Heritage Museum, on Loeb's 2013 time in the Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak.
“But you know, that record might fall this year.”
The Penrose, located next door to The Broadmoor hotel (founded by Spencer Penrose, who built the original Pikes Peak toll road to attract tourist to his resort), is packed with cars and artefacts that trace the history of the hill climb.
Cars on display included Monster Tajima’s 789bhp twin engine Suzuki Cultus (above), which took victory in 1993, Al Unser’s 1964-winning Conze and a 1973 Chevrolet Camaro stock car (below).
The exhibits provided a clear example of how one hill climb unites such diversity of machines, from open wheel cars, stock cars, to bespoke prototypes and bikes. Few other events truly span the full breadth of motorsport like Pikes Peak does.
There was time to visit the Penrose on Saturday because there’s no competitive action, the drivers and crews given some brief respite ahead of race day after three days of qualifying and practice.
With no competitive cars going up the hill there was also the chance for a trip to Pikes Peak’s summit, 14,115ft up, where the event will finish. The views were predictably spectacular, oxygen in predictably short supply and, perhaps predictably, the donuts sold in the Summit House didn’t quite live up to their ‘world famous’ billing.
Still, what really stood out on was the course: the route might now be entirely paved, but it certainly isn’t smooth. Particularly near the top, where the road was built on sand laid over the bedrock, it continues to shift and move as it wears and erodes in the weather. New bumps grow, new dips form.
In practice, Dumas had already discovered several extra bumps this year on the penultimate corner, and had to adjust his line to adapt. And it’s the ever-changing conditions that explain why, instead of a scenic tour or a museum visit, Dumas planned to spend his Saturday studying data and “watching lots of in-car video.” He added: “After three days of practice I’ve improved myself. But I want to see more film to keep learning, corner by corner.”
Dumas will be as prepared as he can be by Sunday morning, but not everything will be in his control. And the biggest obstacle standing between Dumas and a new hill record – whether electric or outright – could be the weather.
“There are no guarantees,” added Campbell. “The weather could change. It can be sunny at the bottom of the mountain, and go from rain to sleet to hail to snow at the top. The weather changes so fast too. Fog can roll in really quickly, and then you can’t see the turns.”
On which note, storms are due to roll into the Pikes Peak region early on Sunday afternoon. As top qualifier, Dumas should be up the mountain before they do, but other competitors might not be so lucky – and that forecast could change.
The preparation is done. All that’s left is to take on the mountain.
Saturday June 23 AM: how passion for Pikes Peak unites competitors
Pikes Peak is infectious. And addictive. The second-oldest motorsport event in America (behind the Indianapolis 500), the mythology of the ‘Race to the Clouds’ and the challenge of conquering the 12.42-mile course’s 156 turns and steep elevation attracts competitors from around the world – and keeps them coming back.
They certainly don’t come for the glamour: while firms such as Volkswagen and Peugeot periodically turn up to set records and make headlines, Pikes Peak really belongs to the clubmen and enthusiasts. Their backgrounds and CVs are as varied as the machinery they drive, but they’re united by a common challenge and passion: conquering America’s Mountain.
Italian Simone Faggioli is a frontrunner in European and Italian hill climbs, and said that competing on Pikes Peak has been a decades-long dream. Faggioli’s team is running a pair of Norma prototypes for him and team-mate Fabien Bouduban, and have been in the fight for (distant) best-of-the-rest honours behind Romain Dumas.
“We’ll never catch VW for sure,” he admitted. “But the victory is being here, and our goal is simply to make it to the top.”
That might not sound a lofty goal, but remember Faggioli is an event rookie: he’s driven the three sections of the course in practice, but the first time he’ll attempt the full 12.42-miles in one go will be during his single run in Sunday’s event.
Another Pikes Peak rookie is former World Rally Championship regular Manfred Stohl. In recent years Stohl has been developing an electric rally and rallycross cars, but at Pikes Peak he’s driving a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle diesel. A company he has worked with, Boxeer, owns the car and invited him.
“I was a bit skeptical but when I asked what car it was and they said a ’72 Beetle I agreed. How many times do you get to do Pikes Peak?”
Paul Dallenbach is definitely not a Pikes Peak rookie: he’s won outright six times in the past, and this will be his 25th start in the event. The 51-year-old is returning after a year’s absence to run his Open Wheel class PVA Dallenbach Special in a somewhat different hill climb: the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Dallenbach has returned because he loves the mountain, but also to reclaim the Open Wheel record, after Clint Vahsholtz set a new record of 9min 35.747secs last year. Dallanbach’s proven machine stands out for a rear wing that’s big even by Pikes Peak standards. But he admits it’s never been near a wind tunnel, and said: “we test it by tying ribbons to it and driving down the highway, and seeing which way they blow.”
Another Pikes Peak regular is Colorado resident David Hackl, driving a 1983 Audi A1 quattro. When new, the car used to be the 47-year-old’s daily driver, but it’s now been transformed into a fair approximation of a Group B quattro – and he says driving such a car on the event where it scored some famous success remains thrilling.
“It’s actually emotional at many levels,” he said. “We’re trying to keep the Group B torch lit.”
Hackl added that he kept returning not just for the challenge of the mountain, but for the friendships he’s made with fellow competitors. His verdict on the event is one shared by many others: “It’s addictive.”
Friday June 22: stunning spectating at the Devil's Playground
Noise is always a talking point when it comes to electric cars, and it’s definitely the first thing you notice about the Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak. Not how quiet it is, mind you – but the fact that it sounds like a police car.
Confused? Me too, initially. But a lack of sleep and oxygen several miles above sea level wasn’t making me go mad – the ID R really does have a siren fitted. It’s a safety requirement by Pikes Peak International Hill Climb officials that EVs are fitted with a device that produces a certain level of noise, to warn animals and spectators. Hence the siren.
Back to that lack of sleep for a moment. You have to be committed to spectate on Pikes Peak. There’s only one road up the mountain, and officials obviously aren’t keen for spectators to use it when the competition cars are.
That means spectators have to get up the mountain before the runs start, and the qualifying and practice days those runs start soon after sunrise, in order the toll road can be open to the public for the bulk of the day.
Still, I’m not after sympathy: the 0300hrs alarm call was absolutely worth it - even if just to see the sun rise across the stunningly beautiful Colorado landscape from the Devil’s Playground, 12,700ft above sea level and three miles from the end of the course. Watching the cars in action was even better.
For practice the Pikes Peak course is split into three, with different classes of cars and bikes getting a session on each. For final practice, the fastest cars were tackling the final section, starting from the Devil’s Playground car park.
As Romain Dumas guided the ID R Pikes Peak to the line, the contrast of this amazingly purposeful sports prototype emitting a wailing siren was quite surreal. And that amplified when the ID R set off.
The instant torque from the machine’s mighty EV motors was astonishing to see, the car shooting forward with at an incredible rate. The whirr of the electric motors as the car accelerated was somewhere between a Formula E machine on steroids and a rocket.
And when Dumas reached the first turn after the line, clearly quicker than any other competitor, there was no lift; no hesitation. The car was rooted to the pavement as it disappeared from view quicker than your brain could comprehend. It was hard to know what was more surreal: the lack of engine noise for a car so fast, or that ever-present wailing siren. If nothing else, the ID R Pikes Peak has a future as an astonishingly fast EV police car.
The ID R wasn’t the only machine worth tearing yourself away from the stunning views to watch. The handful of machines practicing on this section of the course also included Italian Simone Faggioli’s Norma prototype, Paul Dallenbach’s mightily bewinged PVA Dallenbach Special, Briton Robin Shute’s self-run Wolf TSC Honda and Australian Tony Quinn’s unlimited class Ford Focus (a machine so unlimited it looks unlike any Focus you’ve seen before).
It was surreal watching these largely small teams of friends and family working across from the slick VW operation. Despite the contrast, everyone seemed to embrace the new arrivals. “It’s an awesome machine, and seeing it in person is amazing,” said Dallenbach, a former overall winner competing in his 25th Pikes Peak. “It adds to the event, too. It brings attention and that benefits everyone.”
Chances are nobody will get close to Dumas in Sunday’s event. But that’s not the point: much like Volkswagen are chasing a record more than the event win, Pikes Peak is more about conquering the mountain as beating your rivals.
Dallenbach added: “There’s great camaraderie here. Everyone helps everyone, and the atmosphere is great. It’s an amazing event, just wonderful – and that’s why people keep coming back.”
Thursday 21 June: why Romain Dumas has no regrets he never reached F1
Romain Dumas never made it to Formula 1. He doesn’t really care. He doesn’t have the time.
The contrast between a round-the-clock endurance race and a 10-minute blast up a hill is typical of Dumas’s career, which has included winning Le Mans outright in Audi and Porsche (below) LMP1 prototypes, the 2016 World Endurance Championship title, two American Le Mans Series crowns and multiple wins in the N?rburgring 24 Hours.
And when he’s not racing sports cars, he’s won Pikes Peak outright three times, contested the Dakar Rally for Peugeot and, in his spare time, goes rallying.
He’s pretty much done it all. Almost.
“If you ask me what was missing in my career, it’s F1 and IndyCar,” says Dumas. “I did an IndyCar test once, which was exciting — but I did think: ‘This is quite dangerous.'”
Dumas showed enough potential and form in the junior single-seater categories to earn a test with the Renault F1 team in 2002, but that was as close as he came. Still, he harbours no regrets. “F1 is possibly the only category where it’s not just about the cars, but about what is going on around the track,” he says. “It’s possibly not made for me.
“If I’d done F1, I don’t know I would have been successful, and I would never have done Le Mans and Dakar and Pikes Peak. I’m more happy about what I’ve done than what I haven’t.”
The next step comes this weekend, when he returns to Pikes Peak, this time as a works VW driver. He’s certainly the favourite for victory; unsurprisingly, nobody else has come close to his pace in practice so far this year. He was 11.049sec quicker than Norma driver Simone Faggiolli in qualifying — which took place on a 5.15-mile section of the course.
But for Dumas and VW, winning the event is a mere by-product of the real goal: setting a new hill record for an electric car. If Dumas succeeds, it will be another highlight of a CV that is all the better because it doesn’t include F1.
Hyundai's performance arm, N, is introducing its design to the regular i30 in order to compete with the Ford Focus ST-Line
Hyundai is readying an i30 N-Line warm hatch for launch this summer. The model will usher in a new trim level that'll rival Ford’s ST-Line and Vauxhall’s recently relaunched GSi.
As the first model to get a proper N performance variant, the i30 will also be the first Hyundai to be offered with this sporty N-Line trim. It will be part of the manufacturer's plans to expand its go-faster N division.
Recent images of an i30 N-Line prototype spied testing indicate that it will have 18in wheels, more aggressive bumpers than standard i30s and red accents, all of which are influenced by the design of the i30 N.
Some of the i30 N’s interior features will also be carried over, although its figure-hugging sports seats don’t appear to be fitted to the test car, suggesting N-Line seats will be more closely related to the regular ones.
Hyundai will give the i30 N-Line a mildly uprated chassis tune. It will fit between the set-up of the regular model and the more focused i30 N. Expect slightly lowered suspension with tweaked damper rates to help improve handling, plus the fitment of Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, which are less performance-oriented than the Pirelli P Zeros offered on the i30 N.
Like the red-blooded i30 N, the N-Line’s chassis and geometry set-ups have been honed at the N?rburgring. Hyundai's head of testing and high-performance development, Albert Biermann, oversees this track work and has pledged to produce engaging cars, suggesting the i30 N-Line be more playful than the hatchback class average.
Like Ford, Hyundai is expected to eventually offer its new performance-inspired trim in conjunction with a wide range of engines. Currently, the standard i30 is offered with 1.0 and 1.4-litre petrol engines, as well as a 1.6-litre diesel.
Hyundai is eager to tap into the warm hatch segment inhabited by the ST-Line and GSi cars because of rapid growth in demand for such models. The i30’s main rival, the Ford Focus, sells in ST-Line form more than any other. The best-selling Focus derivative in Britain is the 123bhp 1.0-litre Ecoboost ST-Line with a manual gearbox.
Ford’s top-selling Focus costs from ?21,285, so expect the i30 N-Line to be priced to compete with that.
The first examples are due in Hyundai showrooms later this year, following an introduction later in the summer.
Leo Varadkar pledges to cut emissions in order to make his country “healthy and great again”
The Irish prime minister has pledged to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars within the country from 2030, in a move that he said will help to make the Republic of Ireland “healthy and great again”.
Leo Varadkar said during a speech at Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin that banning car tailpipe emissions, as well as the use of peat and coal in power stations, would help to make Ireland “a leader in climate action”.
Varadkar said the harsh action would come as part of plans to make Ireland sustainable. He said such a move would require “profound changes in how we live our lives" that "will only be possible with the support of communities and individuals”.
“Air pollution isn't an isolated problem, it’s a national health crisis,” mayor of London Sadiq Khan said. “Our country’s filthy air is shortening lives, damaging lungs and severely impacting on the NHS.”
Gove recently introduced a new clean air strategy that outlined plans to reduce particulate emissions from vehicle brakes and tyres. However, the strategy refrained from tightening plans introduced in 2017 that included the 2040 petrol and diesel car ban.
Volvo's new S60 range is topped by a Polestar Engineered model
Thomas Ingenlath has said that a future range of tuned Volvos will serve a different purpose to Polestar cars
Polestar boss Thomas Ingenlath says that the brand’s future range of performance-tuned Volvo cars, starting with the new S60, won’t dilute Polestar's identity.
Established as a racing team, Volvo bought Polestar to be an in-house tuner of hot variants, but last year spun it off as a separate brand to focus on electric cars. Polestar will start with the hybrid 1 (pictured below), with subsequent vehicles all full EVs.
However, Polestar will continue to produce Polestar Engineered versions of select Volvo models, although these will now exclusively feature electrified powertrains.
The S60 Polestar Engineered uses the same T8 hybrid engine as that featured elsewhere in the range, tuned to give 409bhp and 494lb ft of torque. The biggest change is the car’s suspension tuning, in particular the use of Ohlins dampers, designed to offer a more engaging drive.
Asked at the launch of the S60 if the Polestar Engineered line could dilute the identity of the Polestar stand-alone brand, Ingenlath admitted: “The danger is there.”
However, he added: “From what we do content wise, it’s not something that contradicts. Moving from the previous S60 Polestar Engineered to the new S60 Polestar Engineered matches what we do with the Polestar brand: it’s a commitment to electrification and a premium performance attribute.
“In the future, the core business and our main business is the Polestar brand, and what we produce to give to the customers with Polestar cars is a base on what we’ll give to Volvo as a spice with Polestar Engineered.”
Cars equipped with continuously adaptive damping can respond to holes in the road
Ford is introducing pothole-detecting technology that can smooth out a car’s ride over broken roads to its range via the fourth-generation Focus.
The system comes with Ford’s continuously controlled damping, which is a ?650 option, and uses 12 high-resolution sensors that can ‘see’ potholes before the car drives over them.
Once a pothole is identified, the dampers are automatically adjusted to their hardest setting, so the wheels that run over the hole don't fall so deep into it. This, Ford said, reduces the impact as the wheel bounces back out of the hole, improving the ride and reducing the chances of damage.
The system is said to be most effective at the rear of the car, because there’s a greater amount of time for the damper to tense before a wheel is confronted with the pothole.
First introduced in the US last year, the tech will be available in Britain when the first new Focus (above) models arrive in showrooms in the summer, and will then be available on all Ford models above the Focus. The tech will be standard in all models equipped with continuously controlled damping.
“Our engineers are always searching for the roughest roads to really test our suspension to the limit, but more and more we're noticing that the rough roads are finding us,” said Guy Mathot, vehicle dynamics supervisor for the new Focus. “Potholes are a problem that isn’t going away any time soon but, with our advanced suspension technology for the all-new Focus, we've been able to reduce their impact.”
The UK’s pothole problem peaked after the ‘Beast from the East’ storm passed over the British Isles during the winter. The UK Government announced a ?100 million fund to repair potholes in March, but experts claim that this is well short of the investment required to properly fix the county's roads.
Aston Martin's most recent new model is the Vantage
New permanent facility at the Northants venue will be the company's second circuit site, alongside its N?rburgring Performance Centre
Aston Martin has secured the rights to use Silverstone’s Stowe Circuit for high-speed testing and chassis development of its future models.
The British marque will have a permanent presence at the 1.08-mile track, which has eight corners and is located within the Grand Prix circuit’s infield on the opposite side of Silverstone’s Hangar Straight to Porsche’s Experience Centre.
Aston Martin’s vehicle attribute engineering boss, Matt Becker, said: “Every true performance car company needs a reference circuit and I can think of none more suitable than Silverstone. It is the perfect location to develop the next generation of Aston Martins.”
Autocar understands that Aston Martin could also use the circuit for customer events. Stowe will provide Aston Martin with its second permanent circuit location after the N?rburgring Performance Centre. The company's development teams also regularly use the MIRA Proving Ground in Warwickshire.
Silverstone boss Stuart Pringle said that automotive development centres like this "have always been a part of Silverstone's diversification plans". He said that Silverstone, which is the home of the British Grand Prix, and Aston Martin "have such a rich British motorsport heritage".
"I look forward to working closely with the team at Aston Martin to build on our relationship and ensure the partnership helps deliver on key business objectives for both parties."
The addition of Stowe Circuit comes at a time Aston Martin is enhancing the performance of its entire range. Its next car, the DBS Superleggera, will illustrate the shift with a V12 powerplant producing an anticipated 700bhp. Aston Martin is also due to launch a new, mid-engined supercar that’ll adopt the Vanquish name in 2021.
The Gaydon-based company has grown its global footprint to include 10 locations with the addition of a new London office, which will be used for meetings and events. A new factory in St Athan, Wales is also set to open fully next year, helping to drive employment numbers across all of its sites up to around 5000 people by 2022.
“The company is now investing for growth across the Aston Martin and Lagonda brands,” said company boss Andy Palmer. “We are currently one of the largest automotive recruiters in the UK, investing approximately 10% of the total automotive investments in the UK, creating exciting new opportunities across engineering, design, manufacturing and commercial operations.”
Last year, Aston Martin’s sales reached a nine-year high, something Palmer said was evidence that the brand’s financial turnaround was complete. Profit totalled ?87 million in 2017 - ?250 million more than the ?163 million loss the brand achieved in 2016. The launches of the new Vantage, V8 DB11 and upcoming DBS Superleggera are expected to maintain the progress.
Shogun Sport name returns to the UK, attached to a seven-seat 4x4 that, Mitsubishi hopes, deftly combines practicality, comfort and toughness
The Mitsubishi Shogun Sport is the Japanese manufacturer’s new flagship SUV, sitting atop a growing family of ruggedly styled, high-riding models.This car, also known as the Pajero Sport in some markets, is designed to combine practicality — in terms of seating for up to seven people — with the ability to tow sizeable loads and the toughness to cope with excursions off the beaten track.At 4785mm long, 1815mm wide and 1805mm high, the Shogun Sport is smaller in every key dimension than the long-wheelbase version of the full-fat Shogun, but the current version of the latter is being put out to pasture after many years on sale and Mitsubishi hopes its dealers will deftly guide existing and would-be Shogun owners towards this new vehicle.It marks the revival of the Shogun Sport model name last used here back in 2007 and is billed as an altogether more refined and luxurious 4x4 than the Shogun. For all the talk of sophistication, though, the Shogun Sport shares the fundamentals of its construction with Mitsubishi’s L200 pick-up. Not that such comparatively simple body-on-frame underpinnings are necessarily a bad thing, because it should at least bestow upon the vehicle a high degree of strength and durability.Mitsubishi L200 pick-up first drive review Such hardy traits are very important to hardcore owners of Mitsubishi SUVs; the company estimates that, from the 18,500 examples of the previous Shogun Sport sold in the UK between 2000 and 2007, an impressive 12,000 are still in active service. Mitsubishi is confident that it can sell 3000-3500 Shogun Sports per year in the UK in what is a growing large SUV market. However, perhaps more so than some rivals’ models, Shogun Sport customers will be quite singular of purpose; it is estimated that about 90% of Shogun Sports will be specified with a tow bar. The car has a claimed braked trailer towing capacity of 3.1 tonnes, narrowly eclipsing the claimed hauling muscle of a key rival, the Toyota Land Cruiser.Just two trim levels are being offered, both with the same technical package: a 2.4-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder that produces 179bhp and 317lb ft, mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Don’t expect to find an electrified powertrain here any time soon; Mitsubishi chiefs are adamant that, for now, only diesel can offer the power and torque needed to tow, go off road and/or carry seven. The Shogun Sport 3 costs from ?37,775 and comes with 18in alloy wheels, leather seats all round, LED lights, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera, privacy glass, automatic lights and windscreen wipers and a touchscreen infotainment system with a DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The top-spec 4, which starts at ?39,775 and is expected to be chosen by three-quarters of Shogun Sport buyers, adds — among other items — heated front seats, an uprated audio system and adaptive cruise control.
Many manufacturers now have performance divisions and packs; the Special Tuning department started upgrading to sport spec 50 years ago
It's increasingly common for manufacturers to have performance divisions — think Audi Sport, Cupra or Hyundai N — making performance models and 'competition packs'.
One of their forerunners was the Special Tuning department of British Motor Corporation (BMC) and then British Leyland, although this sold racing-influenced upgrades rather than its own series-production models.
BMC had a successful racing outfit in the Competitions department, but it wasn't welcoming towards owners of its road cars trying to replicate its exploits through modification. In 1963, however, it saw the potential in commercialising such adventures and set up Special Tuning at its Abingdon facility. Early cars for which official upgrades were available included the Mini Cooper, Austin-Healey Sprite and MG A.
The department proved popular with enthusiasts, so it was retained after BMC merged into British Leyland in 1968 and after the Competitions department was shut in 1970. Its offerings ranged from bolt-on kits tor modest improvements to the preparation of works-standard rally and racing cars for private owners.
In December 1970, Autocar travelled to Abingdon to sample five of its latest modified products: a Morris 1800, a Maxi 1500, a Mini 1275GT, a Mini Clubman and an MG Midget.
Although Special Tuning had produced some "very hairy" 1800s, beyond even rally standard, the car we tried was mildly tuned, with a twin-carburettor application and a new exhaust system, boosting it by 5bhp. This cost ?43 (about ?660 today).
The conversion proved not to be overly noticeable, although Autocar's testers did find the car to be "more lively" and concluded that the conversion was "a worthwhile investment for anyone who finds the Morris at all sluggish, for it is cheap, easy to fit and costs little in terms of fuel consumption and flexibility".
The Maxi also had a twin-carb and new exhaust job, but with better results: a 12% increase in power across the rev range. This cut its 0-80mph time by 12 seconds and gave "a small but consistent gain in flexibility in the gears". Essentially, it brought the 1500 up to the standard of the 1800 with less spectacular results but also for less cash.
Special Tuning had well over 200 parts in its catalogue for the Mini. The 1275GT we tested had "a good many of the choicer ones". Its engine had been extensively worked on, gaining two extra cylinder head studs, as standard on the Cooper S's engine, and that unit's valve gear. In addition, there was a polished cylinder head and oversized pistons, twin carburettors, lightweight tappets, lightweight flywheel and competition clutch, and a close-ratio gear cluster and improved final drive.
On the suspension side, competition-rated Hydrolastic units had been fitted at the front, with progressive-rate bump stops at both ends.
"The moment the engine started, it was obvious that this was something very different," we said. "Response was crisp and instant in true competition style, yet the car could be pulled away from rest without a great deal of trouble. Thanks to the mild cam, there was no suggestion of a sudden wild surge in engine output, although the unit was clearly happier above about 2000rpm.
"Clear of built-up areas, the car certainly gave the impression of electrifying performance, as different from the standard 1275GT as one could imagine.
"Roadholding on the fat Dunlop tyres was very good indeed and handling felt very much like that of the Cooper S with, if possible, a sharper response. It was possible to induce rather too much understeer for comfort if lots of power was used, but generally the car felt very safe."
However, we pointed out, "the ride was extremely harsh and, over poor surfaces, the tendency was to progress from bump to bump in a series of leaps".
When Special Tuning say that gears are lose-ratio, they really mean it. For example, first gear has a ratio of 2.54, contrasting the standard 3.30.
"The very high bottom gear gives a good idea of why gentle persuasion was needed at very low speeds. Higher up the scale, however, the closeness of the ratios really enabled the driver to find exactly the right gear for the needs of the moment, with little risk of over-revving when changing down."
And so we concluded: "In many ways, this was a quite remarkable little car. It was noisy and not all that comfortable, but its performance was extremely good and it was quite easy to drive. And the beauty of Special Tuning is that you can pick and choose, opting, for instance, for a softer ride and higher final drive gearing if you wish."
The Clubman was also extensively worked on, with a full-race head and camshaft to give 90bhp. It was "a sheer delight to drive".
We said: "There was considerable difficulty in making a good start without losing revs. Then again, the low final drive meant that the first two up-changes came in rapid succession, slowing the 0-60 mph time to a mere 11.9sec. And through the gears, it became obvious that top-end performance was impressive.
"The other thing which greatly impressed us about this Clubman was the handling. It was not supposed to boast very much in the way of suspension modifications — the same as the 1275GT but without the Hydrolastic units. Nevertheless, it seemed to understeer a great deal less than the bigger-engined car.
"On first acquaintance, it felt positively twitchy and very tail-happy, but in time this feeling gave way to confidence that the car was simply doing everything that was asked of it, very quickly indeed. Clearly, this sort of conversion, at a cost of over ?300 (?4602) for the engine parts alone, appeals only to the sort of man who is interested in serious competition, but it was still tractable enough to be driven on the road by a driver of sufficient skill."
As for the Midget, we said: "Whether the A-series engine is athwartships in a Mini or conventionally mounted in a Midget, it is equally amenable to the attention of Special Tuning.
"Our test Midget had some ?200 [?3068] worth of engine tuning, although the rest of the car had been left pretty well alone, with standard transmission and suspension. Uprated front brake pads were the only change to match the increased output of the modified engine.
"On the open road the performance was nothing short of exhilarating, although again the noise level was high enough to become wearing after an hour or so of really hard driving.
"With standard gearing and a driveline slightly prone to snatch, it proved impossible to obtain figures in third and top gears from really low speeds.
"Clean results could only be taken from 20mph in third gear, and from 40mph in top, but even then, the figures show the modified car to lag well behind the standard one for another 10mph, after which everything starts to happen with a vengeance.
"Even the basic Midget is a power-handling car; the extra stability and cornering power with the throttle open is very obvious. In the Special Tuning Midget, it is more obvious still; the chosen line can be altered to a considerable extent simply by shifting the right foot a little.
"On the limit, there is considerable understeer, and it is quite possible (as the heading picture shows) to keep the inside front wheel clear of the ground through a long corner. The test car proved very convincingly that the Midget takes well even to extreme tuning of this kind. This conversion greatly enhanced the sporting character of the car without any serious snags arising: even the fuel consumption stayed within very reasonable bounds."
Special Tuning was rebranded as Leyland ST in 1974 and stepped up its motorsport efforts, taking the Triumph TR7 rallying. In 1981, it moved out of Abingdon and became BL Motorsport. Focus then shifted to racing the Rover SD1 and rallying the MG Metro 6R4, but things didn't always go swimmingly and the department finally closed its doors in 1984.
The Camry, which has remained on sale in other markets and ranks as the world’s best-selling saloon, will come exclusively with a hybrid powertrain that is based on a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and electric motor.
This system, already offered in the hybrid version of the RAV4, will be self-charging, meaning no pure-electric running will be possible. It makes the Camry a rival to the likes of the Mondeo Hybrid and Volkswagen Passat GTE.
The latest Camry, on sale globally since 2017, is underpinned by the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, which is also used by the Prius, C-HR and Auris, as well as the RAV4. Toyota said the Camry would be tuned for Europe, suggesting cars sold here will offer sharper handling.
Toyota will announce UK specifications in the run-up to the car’s market launch, expected to be in early 2019. Due to its larger size, it’s likely that the Camry will cost more than the departing Avensis. A starting price of ?25,000 is possible.
The brand is gradually pulling the British-built Avensis from UK sale due to sluggish demand. UK Avensis sales fell to just 3473 units last year, 1660 fewer than in 2016. However, the larger and more premium Camry is predicted to be more popular with fleet buyers, suggesting it could dwarf those numbers.
The Camry was offered in Britain from 1983 until 2004, when it was removed due to falling sales. However, the model has remained a strong seller in other countries including the US. It has sold in more than 700,000 units globally.
A run-in engine means Fuel economy improvements - 30th May 2018
The Fiesta has gone through quite a transformation in its first 1100 miles. To begin with, the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine felt rather tight, while also returning measly economy that barely surpassed 30mpg during my urban commute. But, gradually, that figure has crept up by 10mpg and the 138bhp triple up front has started to feel more eager to rev.
Welcoming the Fiesta ST-Line to the fleet - 16 May 2018
‘Something-Line’ models. You know the breed; they’re the sheep in wolf’s clothing, the converse of a Q-car. They wear the muscle of their most athletic cousins, but behind the spoiler and big wheels are the heart and lungs of the family accountant.
Say hello to our new Ford Fiesta ST-Line, which flexes biceps with metallic alloy wheels (ours are the optional 18in ones), beefier bumpers and an ST front grille, but beneath its bonnet lives a little 1.0-litre Ecoboost triple. Surely, the buying public will turn their back on such a poorly endowed fraudster?
Well, actually, no, they won’t. Turns out ST-Line is fast becoming the new Zetec. It is already the most popular trim for the Focus and now it’s climbing up the Fiesta’s popularity ladder.
ST-Line arrived in November, several months after Zetec and Titanium variants, yet it accounted for 23% of sales in 2017. Titanium was just 2% better than that. Although Zetec, the long-standing trim champion, represented 45% of demand, Ford thinks there’s a strong chance that’ll change this year.
So I should make the most of these early weeks, during which our red car is garnering appreciation from pedestrians as they wonder whether they’re seeing the new Fiesta ST months before it’s due to appear. Hopefully, these bystanders won’t feel like their glance is wasted on an ST-Line, because our car does at least come with the most potent version of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost on offer.
We could have opted for the 99bhp entry model or the 123bhp midfielder, but we’ve gone for the 138bhp version because it straddles a middle ground between the standard line-up of Fiesta derivatives and the full-blown ST. In 138bhp form, the Fiesta ST-Line’s starting price is ?17,945 — just ?1050 less than the opening figure for its upcoming hot hatch sibling.
Once you’ve added a few options — and our car is adorned with ?1550 worth of extra kit — you’ve exceeded the price of a full-bore ST. Tempting, but purchase price is only one part of the equation. If you take running costs into account, Ford’s turbocharged three-pot 1.0 engine should be much easier on my pocket.
Even in this peppiest form, the 1.0 triple is claimed to offer 62.8mpg (combined) and puff out 102g/km of CO2. So trips to the fuel station should be far less frequent than they would be in the ST, which also uses a three-cylinder but of 1.5-litre capacity and a 197bhp output. Our car should be notably cheaper to insure, too.
Ford has nailed the warm hatch formula with the Fiesta ST-Line. That front end hooks up so sweetly that it’s brilliant fun to really work the triple up front pic.twitter.com/1Q9Tjg9Ovp
Ford has upgraded the ST-Line’s chassis so it more deservedly sits between the standard line-up and the top variant than most ‘something-Line’ models. The underlying structure is 14% stiffer than the old car’s, thanks to the use of more bracing in key areas, but the ST-Line adds to this with suspension tuned to offer sportier handling than the standard car, achieved primarily through higher damper rates.
This sounds promising for a B-road jaunt, but there’s a chance that it could make the car tiresome on my urban commute across London. There’s no system to adjust the damping rates, either. In fact, there’s nothing to adjust the way the car is set up at all, unless you count the Eco button that, as far as I can tell, seems only to slacken the throttle’s responses.
But I like that there’s only the one character for this car. That trait suggests it could be like an old-school warm hatch. Not that it’s old-school inside.
Our Fiesta ST-Line has the optional B&O Play sound system, which includes 10 speakers and adds an 8.0in touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. That kit costs ?350.
The buttons and knobs on the dashboard feel of good quality, while the soft, squidgy plastic on the dashtop feels so nice that I’ve already developed an annoying habit of prodding it while stopped in traffic. If you rejoice at the sight of unpopped bubble wrap, you’ll understand the satisfaction.
Aside from the hard, scratchy plastic for the interior door pull handles, every surface you lay your hands, feet or bottom on feels premium. Take the steering wheel, which comes with soft perforated leather, or the gearknob, which is spherical with a chrome-finished top. The cloth-covered sports seats are very comfortable and supportive, too.
All in all, this is a car with plenty of potential. Our first drives in the Fiesta ST-Line suggest this could be quite the entry-level driver’s car so, rest assured, I’ll be venturing out of the Big Smoke and heading to the country to see how hard it is to cock an inside wheel in a car with a few miles on the clock. You can take a three-pot on a track day, too, right?
I loved the ST-Line version of the previous Fiesta. While the engine is much the same, the handling is somehow even sweeter and more accurate now, and the difference between the cars’ interiors is like that between a Travelodge and a Hilton.
Specs: Price new ?17,945; Price as tested: ?19,495; Options: ST-Line 18in wheels ?600, rear privacy glass ?250, rear parking distance sensors ?200, B&O Play premium sound system with 8.0in touchscreen ?350, Shadow Black roof and mirrors ?150
Test data: Engine 3 cyls in line, 998cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 123bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 125lb ft at 1400rpm; Top speed 121mph; 0-62mph 9.9sec; Claimed fuel economy 62.8mpg; Test fuel economy 35.4mpg; CO2 98g/km; Faults None; Expenses None
It is 30 years since Andrew Frankel became an automotive journalist. He looks back on a career in which he's dodged bullets in more ways than one
Thirty years ago this month Jaguar won Le Mans for the first time since the 1950s, and the very next day one of the spectators, now somewhat hungover, reported for his first day working for Autocar magazine and, indeed, as a motoring journalist.
Three decades later and to no-one’s greater astonishment than mine, I’m still here, albeit in the guise of senior contributing writer, rather than assistant deputy envelope licker under manager, or whatever it was back then.
It is no exaggeration to say Autocar saved me. I left school without sufficient qualifications to get me to a university, after which I got fired from more jobs in just four years than most people have jobs in their lifetimes. Bond dealer, commodity broker, trainee lawyer, ice cream salesman (yes, really) – you name it, I lost it.
For a while it looked like Autocar would go the same way. Both my immediate boss on the road test desk and the big scary editor soon realised I’d not been so much as economical with the truth in my application as flagrantly dishonest. But I was desperate. I could drive but only a bit, but could not write. At all.
You can tell how precarious was my position at Autocar by looking at the so-called ‘flannel panel’ list of editorial staff in magazines published after I joined in mid-June 1988. I have copies from late August in which my name still fails to appear because, as said editor helpfully explained, "I’d only have to take it out again".
But most of us have one person back to whom the start of whatever small success we may have enjoyed can be traced and mine is Mel Nichols. Many of you will remember Mel as one of Car magazine’s greatest editors and it was his contributions to Car in the 1970s that helped spark my love of cars.
But by 1988 he was the Editorial Director of Haymarket Publishing – Autocar’s owners then and now – and instead of just telling me my writing was rubbish like everyone else, he ventured to explain why it was rubbish and what might be done to make it less rubbish. One of the finest writers this industry has known, he saw a small shoot of something peering out of the cesspit of my prose and for reasons known only to him, chose to nurture it.
Then two of his fellow Australians pitched in. First was Peter Robinson, who became Autocar’s European Editor late in 1988 and was and remains the greatest journalist ever to shine his talents upon the car industry, and then came Steve Cropley, who was the other significant inspiration in my childhood when he succeeded Nichols at the helm of Car.
Once, when I was about 13, I was in London burger bar with my father when a red Ferrari 308GTB pulled up outside. From its interior Cropley emerged and walked into the restaurant. I wouldn’t have been more starstruck if it had been the entire cast of Charlie’s Angels, and no more likely to follow my father’s advice to go and introduce myself. When I first told him this story I can remember Steve looking about as aghast as a large Australian can look, and I smile at the thought he’ll be doing it all over again, right about now.
Robbo taught me how to be the best journalist I could be, while Cropley was my staunchest supporter throughout my time on the staff. Every time some other mag came sniffing, Cropley would take it upon himself to explain to those who wore suits why I needed to be persuaded to stay. And thanks to him, stay I did, leaving only when it became clear they weren’t about to hand the editor’s chair to someone entirely unqualified for the job.
But I left with a deal that Autocar would hold my hand by providing me with some work as I tried to establish myself as a freelance journalist. And 22 years later, it seems it still is.
I have many memories of the last 30 years but rather too many that can’t be published while I still require a living from this business. But I can tell you James May got sacked because he chose to take the rap alone for a stunt involving many conspirators, none more guilty than me; and one of my early freelance editing jobs was to massacre Chris Harris’s fledgling road tests. Remarkably, both remain friends to this day.
I’ve had only one proper accident (so far at least, which I think is reasonable in more than a million test miles), when I destroyed the UK’s first Lancia Integrale Evolution one icy January day in 1992, cracked some ribs and earned some concussion while discovering I wasn’t Juha Kankunnen after all. At the time the only amusing aspect of the episode was that when the story came full circle back to me it held that I’d parked the car on its roof in a field. In fact it came to rest right side up, on the road, its roof literally the only panel of the entire car to remain unmolested.
Short of crashing, the other experience I’d choose not to repeat from my years on the staff was driving 2326 miles in 24 hours on (European) public roads in a 1.6-litre, 90bhp Ford Mondeo crewed only by me and Steve Sutcliffe. Looking at those stats nearly a quarter of a century later it seems almost unimaginable, and my chief memory is the sense of relief at the end knowing I’d never have to do anything quite so stupid ever again.
Autocar also facilitated the realisation of a childhood dream, namely to get my name into the Guinness Book of Records. My first ever freelance job came in around 1990 when the good book rang Autocar looking for someone to update its motoring pages. I just happened to pick up the telephone, and for the princely sum of ?50 per year became its motoring editor.
But there were no records that looked remotely within grasp and for some strange purist reason, I didn’t want to set a new record. I wanted to break an existing one. So I hatched a plan and told no-one about it.
I got permission for a new record – the fastest lap of a UK circuit – to be set. At the time it was probably Keke Rosberg’s 160mph qualifying lap at Silverstone for the 1985 British Grand Prix. But all the road testers had gone faster than that in normal street machines around the Millbrook bowl. It felt like cheating but it was definitely a lap. So I offered my boss, Howard Lees, the chance to the set the record, which he duly did at 171mph in a Ferrari Testarossa in 1991.
I then broke the standard in its quicker, more stable 512TR replacement the following year at 174mph. Job done. It is possible therefore that I also hold the record for being the only person ever to write their own record into the Guinness Book of Records.
I went faster in 1994 – 211mph while running figures for the only full road test of the McLaren F1 – and have been quicker still in a Bugatti Veyron Supersport (an unverified 217mph), but being part of the crew that landed the F1 test was probably my proudest moment from my years as road test editor, and among the most bittersweet of memories too, coming as it did the day after Ayrton Senna was killed at Imola.
After I left probably the most bizarre incident came in Sicily on the launch of the Ferrari California in 2009. I was doing those oversteer shots for the camera of Stan Papior (the only bloke to have started at Autocar before me and to still be there) when I noticed a man and a small boy standing at one of turnaround points. I thought he’d come to admire my skills. I was soon disabused of this notion when next time round the boy had gone and been replaced by a shotgun by his side.
Why I continued I’ll never know – I expect I thought he was out shooting rabbits – but I was still relieved to notice a few minutes later that he’d gone. Relieved that is, until a shot rang out somewhere over my head. My most vivid memory is trying to turn the convertible Ferrari around while ducking as much of my 6ft 4in frame below the window line as I could. I drove back and informed Stan that it was probably time to change location.
As for how the cars have changed, there’s an entire other story in that so I’ll mention now only that in the back in 1988 we’d tested just one car, a Lamborghini Countach, that had cracked the five-second barrier for the 0-60mph sprint. Today there are Volkswagen Golfs and Ford Focuses that can obliterate that time.
But it is the people I’ve worked with over the years who’ll live on in the memory long after those of the cars have faded. It’s not possible to maintain the same connection when you work alone in a shed in Wales as when on the staff, but through a long succession of editors and a large number of testers, I’ve never felt less than part of the Autocar crew, none more so than today when find myself writing more for the title than at any time since I went freelance.
If I had a religious bone in my body, I would call myself blessed. For the truth is that while I’ve lived in a number of different places over the last 30 years, Autocar has always been my home. I hope it will remain so for a little while yet.
Due to be revealed at the Paris motor show in October, Renault’s new hottest model will use a ramped-up version of the M?gane RS's turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine to produce 296bhp and 295lb ft of torque.
Those gains, which are 20bhp and 7lb ft over the standard M?gane RS, should push the Trophy's 0-62mph time below 5.8sec. This would make it quicker off the mark than its more potent rivals, the Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S, which are the current and former N?rburgring front-wheel-drive lap champions.
A N?rburgring lap record attempt could take place before or soon after the car’s expected debut in October.
Ratti previously said that while outright performance ranks second to driver enjoyment in the new M?gane RS, “an RS Trophy car is already looking very interesting”.
“As long as we can make the car faster and still comply with the regulations, we will try to break some records,” he said.
Renault Sport’s impact on the standard hot M?gane’s design was fairly restrained compared to rivals, such as the lairy-looking Civic. It’s possible that the Trophy’s body could be injected with more muscle to illustrate its higher state of tune, although the only obvious modification that has been spotted on a test car is a new vent in the bonnet.
However, if the car is to challenge for a N?rburgring record, some aerodynamic enhancements are likely to be made. The Civic Type R produces up to 30kg of downforce thanks to its large rear wing, so for the M?gane RS to challenge its 7min 43.8sec lap time, we can expect Renault Sport to enhance the effectiveness of the front spoiler and rear diffuser at the very least.
The M?gane RS’s performance evolution won’t end with the Trophy – a new Trophy-R version is also due. That model will ditch the rear seats and gain bucket seats in the front. There could also be less sound deadening, Alcantara wrap for the steering wheel and an exterior decal kit to match.
Range-topping SUV is short on the styling and performance pizzazz needed to make it a Range Rover Sport-toppling style icon, although it’s an accomplished luxury car
The Audi Q8 is Ingolstadt’s answer to the BMW X6 SUV-cum-coup? – the BMW having turned 10 years old this year. Yup: like it or loathe it, the original German ‘sports activity coup?’ is still here. Back in 2008, there was much doubt in car hackery circles about how many buyers would be ready to pay a premium for a slightly less practical X5, made only very debatably better-looking and more interesting to drive – if at all. The answer, we predicted, couldn’t possibly be very many; amusingly enough, it turned out to be quite a lot.And so, as BMW homes in on half a million global X6 sales in the car’s first decade, what chance of similar success should we give the new Audi Q8? The Audi has marginally more distinguishing features than the X6 had compared with the conventional SUV on which it was based. And yet, after our first taste of it, I can’t say that it strikes me as much more or less than a Q7 made a bit better-looking, a bit less practical and a bit more interesting to drive. Less the bold new-groove Audi passenger car flagship model for 21st century tastes, then, and rather more another ‘Russian doll’ Q-car for the pile, dare I suggest.The Q8 is the sixth Volkswagen Group luxury SUV in three years built on the MLB-Evo platform. Like the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg, it’ll be built in Bratislava, Slovakia, and it shares the same wheelbase and overall cabin width as the Q7. Outwardly, the car bears more than a passing resemblance to the Lamborghini Urus, and not by chance. Audi’s Q8 project actually started before Lamborghini committed to making the Urus but, because Lamborghini wasn’t held up by the need to negotiate space on that busy Bratislava production line, Sant’Agata managed to beat Ingolstadt into production with its rakish SUV.The Q8 will go on sale in the UK this summer but, until next year at least, will be on offer with only one engine: Audi’s 282bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel, badged ’50 TDI’. Although it’s integrated with a 48-volt electrical architecture, an extra-large lithium ion battery and an extra-powerful engine starter-generator alternator (the combination of which now constitutes ‘mild hybrid’ powertrain status in Audi's technical lexicon), that’s clearly not the kind of engine that's likely to tempt performance SUV buyers out of their higher-end Cayennes, Range Rover Sports and X5s or X6s.However, next year a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol ’55 TFSI’ version, with 335bhp, will definitely join the range. And after that, who knows? Well, you do, if you saw the spy shots of the RS Q8 prototype that appeared on our news pages a few weeks ago.All UK-bound Q8s will get height-adjustable, sports-tuned adaptive air suspension and proper centre diff-based, torque-vectoring quattro four-wheel drive, to which you can add four-wheel steering if you so desire. When asked why they left off the 48-volt active anti-roll bars that have featured so prominently on SUVs related to the Q8 (not least the SQ7), Audi’s product managers claimed that, because of the Q8’s lower roofline and wider tracks, active roll control was deemed to be unnecessary. When the RS version finally appears, I suspect it might be deemed rather more necessary – but we’ll see.
Marque will add electric versions of existing range, rather than new EV-only models; next-generation XC90 will gain an EV
Volvo design chief Thomas Ingenlath has confirmed that the brand’s first fully electric car will be a version of the XC40, with the next-generation XC90 also gaining an EV variant.
Speaking at the reveal of the new S60 sports saloon, Ingenlath said that it would come after the firm’s electric sub-brand Polestar launches its second car, the 2 that's due in 2019, and would be followed by an electric version of the XC90, which is due to go into production at Volvo's new factory in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2021.
Ingenlath said the company would only produce electric versions of current cars, rather than building entirely new electric-only machines, such as Volkswagen is doing with its ID line-up.
“It’s not a secret any more that the first full electric Volvo is on its way with the XC40 coming," said Ingenlath. "It will arrive very soon after the Polestar 2. That is the first to come that’s not exotic. We’ll start with XC40 and then on it will come step after step into our model range. The next car will be the next-generation XC90.
"That will be the masterplan of how electrification will come to the Volvo product range. We will not establish products beside our hybrids, we will introduce electrification as a powertrain variant within the existing portfolio.
“You could say that is different to a lot of the mass-production brands. But I have a hard time to understand how their plan will work in the long run. Electrification is the future of the automotive industry, so how do you handle that as soon as you come to the majority of electric cars? How do you handle it in your portfolio? I think it’s much more natural to say it’s a powertrain variant that over time will take up the majority of the sold vehicles."
Both all-electric Volvos are due with lithium ion battery power, like their sibling from sister brand Polestar. The XC40 EV will join the XC40 plug-in hybrid in the range to give that car two electrified variants.
While Volvo will focus on electric versions of its current line-up, Ingenlath said that the Polestar sub-brand - which he also heads - could be used to develop bolder EV-only cars.
"We definitely don’t want to bring something that we’ve so successfully just launched like an XC40 to an end just because combustion engines will disappear," he said. "To look at new formats, new bodystyles and non-traditional elements, we founded Polestar to take care of that end of the scope. We developed that strategy: full electrification of the Volvo range, making it a natural part of the offer, and at the same time developing new, unconventional elements in the Polestar brand."
The Swedish car maker, which is owned by Chinese giant Geely, has pledged to launch an electrified version of every model in its line-up from 2019. Every Volvo will eventually be offered with a mild hybrid, hybrid or battery-electric powertrain option, and the firm won't launch any diesel variants of forthcoming models.
The new S60, revealed today, illustrates the philosophy, as it comes with two plug-in hybrid variants, the T8 Twin Engine, which produces a combined 385bhp, and a Polestar Engineered performance version of the same model. The latter has been developed by Volvo’s new performance sub-brand and has a combined power output of 409bhp.
Karin Olofsdotter highlighted the new factory, Volvo’s first US plant, as the latest step in the strong links between Sweden and the US. The plant will be the sole global production site of the new S60, which will be exported for sale in Europe and China.
But she admitted that US president Donald Trump’s threat to introduce tariffs - and a possible response from the EU and other countries - was a concern.
“Europe and the US are the best of friends in the world and should really be working together to solve the world’s problems,” said Olofsdotter. “We should be forming bonds that make us stronger, not pushing us apart.”
The president said in a tweet earlier this year that he could "simply apply a tax on [European] cars which freely pour into the US", in a move he said would counter a current "big trade imbalance".
America is the largest export market for cars built in the EU. Statistics show that ?171 billion worth of cars were exported from the EU last year, with the US the destination for 25% of them. Of those cars, just more than half were exported by German car makers.
It's not yet been revealed how many examples of the RC F 10th Anniversary will be produced.
Lexus’s UK market share fell to 0.5% last year, with 12,670 cars sold across the country compared with almost 14,000 last year. New model introductions, such as the UX and RX L, are expected to boost this, given the dominance of the growing SUV segments. The brand isn’t expected to launch F-badged versions of its growing range of SUVs in the near future, however.
Newly revealed S60 will be offered in the UK next year with a choice of four petrol engines, two of which will be electrified
The new Volvo S60, a sports saloon designed to rival the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, has been unveiled in Charleston, South Carolina – and company bosses have promised the machine will be a “true driver’s car".
The new machine was unveiled in the new US factory that will be its sole global production site. It is built on Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), and shares much of its technology with the recently launched V60 estate.
Henrik Green, Volvo’s research and development boss, said: “The active chassis and driving modes deliver excellent control and an engaged platform that makes this a driver’s car.”
Due to go on sale early next year, the S60 will be offered in the UK with a choice of four petrol engines including two plug-in hybrids, part of Volvo’s pledge to offer electrified versions of all new models from 2019 onwards. No diesel engines will be offered.
The plug-in hybrid engines include Volvo’s supercharged 2.0-litre T8 Twin Engine, which produces a combined 385bhp, with the 299bhp petrol engine driving the front wheels and the 65kW electric unit powering the rear axle. That model offers 472lb ft and can achieve 0-62mph in 4.9secs on its way to a top speed of 155mph.
The T8 Twin Motor will also be offered with a ‘Polestar Engineered’ performance upgrade, developed by Volvo’s new performance sub-brand. That upgrade includes revamped wheels, brakes, suspension and a tweaked engine ECU which boosts combined power to 409bhp.
The Polestar Engineered S60 produces 494lb ft, and is 0.2secs faster to 62mph than the regular version. The maximum speed is unchanged.
The entry level S60 engine is the 246bhp four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged T5, offered with front-wheel drive, a 0-62mph time of 6.5secs and a claimed WLTP fuel economy ranging from 7.2-8.1l/km.
The other option for UK buyers is the T6 supercharged all-wheel-drive unit with 306bhp.
That unit will also be offered with a plug-in hybrid option. Every engine option is driven through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The S60 is 4761mm long, 2040mm wide (including mirrors) and 1431mm high, with a wheelbase of 2872mm. It will weigh from 1680kg, and has up to 442 litres of storage. The car sports double wishbone front suspension, with an integral axle at the rear.
As well as the SPA platform and exterior styling, the S60 shares the V60’s safety and Sensus Connect infotainment systems. These include optional Pilot Assist system, and City Safety autonomous braking capability.
UK pricing has yet to be confirmed, although sources suggest it is likely to be similar to the V60 estate, which starts from ?31,810, putting it roughly on par with the equivalent A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class models.
The S60 will be available through Volvo’s new Care by Volvo subscription service, allowing people paying a set monthly fee for access to cars without owning one.
The S60 will be built at Volvo’s new Charleston factory, which was officially inaugurated today. The ?772-million-pound facility, which has been under construction since 2015, will employ around 1500 people initially. That will expand to 4000 when it reached full capacity of 150,000 cars annually.
As well as the S60 the next generation XC90, due in 2021, will be built at the plant, which covers 1600 acres on a 2.3-million-square-foot site.
Sports car's 2.0-litre engine gets a boost from 158bhp to 181bhp; torque also increases slightly and exhaust note has been tweaked
Mazda has revealed that the updated MX-5, which is due on sale in August, will get a 15% hike in power, taking its more powerful 2.0-litre Skyactiv engine to 181bhp from the current 158bhp.
Improved combustion, a higher redline of 7500rpm (up from 6800rpm) and tweaked accelerator response all contribute to the revised MX-5’s new performance. The exhaust note has been fettled, too.
Torque increases by around 4lb ft to 151lb ft, although Mazda hasn’t revealed any new performance figures for the revised car. Top speed will rise from the current 133mph, while acceleration will be clipped closer to 7.0sec from 7.3sec.
For the first time, the MX-5 will also get automatic emergency braking for both forward and reverse gears, a reversing camera, a driver attention monitor and traffic sign recognition.
A brown roof will also be available, while the wheels will be finished in darker paint.
The changes will apply to both the standard MX-5 and MX-5 RF.
Go on, it won’t take long – there practically isn’t one.
To save you leafing through the document, here’s the key bit: “This division will allow any race vehicle invited by PPIHC [the race organisers], and capable of challenging for the overall win, to take part.”
The only condition is that cars meet the event’s safety standards; after that, anything goes. It is a class without rules, with entrants limited only by their imagination, creativity and budget. “It’s a dream project for engineers,” says Fran?ois-Xavier ‘FX’ Demaison, VW Motorsport’s technical chief. “It’s fun. You don’t have chances like this many times in your life.”
There’s another reason why, rather than joining the firms flocking to Formula E, VW has developed the 671bhp ID R Pikes Peak battery electric vehicle specifically for a one-off hill climb in Colorado.
For that reason, you need to head to the barren summit of Pikes Peak, 14,115ft above sea level, where the tortuously twisting 12.42-mile climb ends. Up there, the average high in daytime temperature in June is 3.6deg C and the air is so thin that trees can’t grow.
That thin air is also bad news for combustion-engined cars; starved of oxygen, they produce nearly half the power they do at sea level. Heck, even at the start line of the climb, 9390ft above sea level, combustion engines will only produce around 70% of the power they usually do.
By contrast, battery-powered cars have no such problems. Their motors can run at full power right to the top. And that makes Pikes Peak one of the few motorsport events in the world where electric cars don't just compete on a level playing field with traditional machines — they actually have an advantage.
“At the start of 2017, we looked at what motorsport projects we could do with a full electric car and we quickly came to Pikes Peak,” says VW Motorsport boss Sven Smeets. “It’s the perfect event because it has an electric record and a lot of challenges. We can show that an electric car can be emotional.”
That electric record, incidentally, is 8min 57.118sec, set by Rhys Millen in a Drive e0 PP100 in 2016.
Why the ID R looks is a prototype, not a rally car
First run in 1916, Pikes Peak was dominated for years by rally drivers and rally-based machines. But that changed when the course was fully paved in 2012 and it’s no surprise that the ID R looks more like a Le Mans prototype than an off-roader — albeit one with a bigger wing and more extreme aero.
“The electric record was set by a prototype, so you have to go in that direction if you want to beat the record,” says Smeets. “Aero is still very important going up the hill. You can’t just rake a road car and add a 500kW battery.”
As a result, you won’t find many parts from VW’s previous works motorsport effort, the Polo WRC. “I think the wheel nuts are the same, but that’s it,” notes Demaison.
The ID R’s monocoque is based on the Norma prototype that Romain Dumas, who will drive the car at Pikes Peak, has used to win the event outright in three of the past four years. Doing so allowed VW to shortcut some of the early learning when it came to the chassis.
“Norma has huge experience of Pikes Peak and hill-climbing, so it was the best choice for the first year, because we have no reference there,” says Demaison.
VW also used the Norma design for the basic aerodynamics, which were then developed with the help of engineers from sister firm Porsche, using its recent Le Mans experience. The car sits on ZF Sachs double wishbone suspension, with passive dampers.
The lack of oxygen at high altitude makes the aerodynamics less efficient, hence why Pikes Peak machines generally sport massive wings. The rear wing of this ID R, for example, is 2.4 metres wide — this isn’t without its problems. “It doesn’t fit in the transporter,” laughs Demaison. “We have to remove it and put it in sideways.”
The ID R’s battery technology
While impressive, the aero isn’t the really interesting bit of this car. “The aero is known science,” says Demaison. “The challenge is the electric powertrain and battery package — and the most difficult bit is to keep it light.”
The EV powertrain is all VW and is something of a test bed to develop the technology for the forthcoming range of ID road cars.
As with some versions of those cars being developed, the ID R has an electric motor driving each axle to give permanent four-wheel drive, with batteries located under the floor to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible.
The two motors combine to offer 671bhp with 470lb ft of torque. With the ID R weighing less than 1100kg, VW claims the machine can do 0-62mph in 2.25sec, with a top speed of 149mph.
While those stats are impressive, the headline figures are dwarfed by the power levels of some previous EV machines to run on the hill; Millen’s record holder, for example, had peak power of 1596bhp.
But VW bosses reckon power output isn’t everything. “It’s a compromise between weight and power,” says Smeets. “We may have gone a bit different from others.”
VW is still finalising the exact number of batteries that will be fitted to the car, with the need to balance the energy they carry with keeping the weight as low as possible.
“The batteries in the ID R are more advanced [than the ID road car batteries] because the demands on them are higher, but we’re working closely with engineers from Braunschweig [VW’s EV battery plant] on their development,” Smeets explains.
“The role of weight and performance is very different for the ID R than an electric road car. We don’t need enough power to do 300 miles, just 12.42. But the compromise is similar in balancing weight and power.
"Using the ID R, we can also learn about how to optimise the positions of the batteries and related components.”
While altitude won’t sap the ID R’s power, it does make cooling a challenge, especially with all those batteries. “The higher you get, the hotter everything gets,” says Smeets. “That’s been a big challenge to conquer.”
The need to add extra cooling would hinder the performance of the aero, so this is why VW might choose to limit the ID R’s power in a bid to balance performance all the way up the hill.
The ID R will be fitted with a kinetic energy recovery device to charge the batteries under braking, with the team estimating 20% of the power it uses on the run will be generated that way.
Demaison adds: “It’s a compromise because regeneration increases the temperature of the battery, and that costs you performance. The batteries don’t like to be too hot or too cold. 30-70deg C is where we want to operate them.”
Even simply charging the batteries will be a challenge for VW. The start line of the climb is at mile eight of the Pikes Peak toll road, 9390ft above sea level up a mountain; you won’t find an EV fast charger there. So the firm will use two Formula E-style chargers, powered by a generator fuelled by glycerol (a non-toxic sugar alcohol), with a total output of 90kW.
That low output — which can charge the ID R batteries to full in around 20 minutes — is to limit heat build-up, which is a challenge when the temperature at the start point can soar at this time of year.
Notably, the glycerol generator doesn’t just charge the ID R, but it does power all the electric devices in the pit area — including the coffee machine (a particularly important tool, given that the team will need to arrive around 2:30am most days to prepare for the early morning runs).
Can the ID R break the electric record?
Demaison reckons the ID R will have done around 1000km of testing ahead of this weekend’s event, from a series of tests at a race circuit and hill climbs in France to practice runs on Pikes Peak itself. In practice and qualifying for the event this week, the course will be used in sections; the only time that competitors will run the full 12.42 miles will be in their single timed run on Sunday.
That adds to the challenge, especially given Pikes Peak’s unpredictable weather. And that’s why, even though Dumas claimed he was “120% confident” VW could break the EV record, there are no guarantees.
And even if it can, there’s one more question. Millen’s EV mark is one thing, but what about the outright record? That stands at 8min 13.878sec, set in 2013 by S?bastien Loeb in the Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak — a machine that in effect featured the running gear of Peugeot’s Le Mans sports car crammed into a rally car shell.
“The target is the electric record," says Smeets. “I know my guys like to look forward, but we have not set [the outright record] as a milestone for this year. But miracles always happen, so…”
The 40-year-old Frenchman has taken outright victory in the famous hill climb event in three of the last four years. We find out how he does it
Volkswagen driver Romain Dumas has become a Pikes Peak specialist. The 40-year-old Frenchman has taken outright victory on the event in three of the last four years and built up an extensive knowledge of the 12.42-mile course.
The 156-turn hill climb is one of the toughest tests in motorsport, starting at 9390ft above sea level at mile seven of the Colorado mountain’s toll road and climbing 4720ft to the finish line at 14,115ft – an average gradient of 7.2%.
Another challenge: competitors only get a single run up the whole course at the event – the practice and qualifying sessions take place on shorter sections.
“I always compare this track a little to the N?rburgring Nordschleife. But at the Nordschleife, you can drive at 100%, even if it’s dangerous. At Pikes Peak you can't: if you go off, you can fall for hundreds of metres.
“The first section has a lot of corners, so you arrive with hot tyres from the heaters and bam, you have grip. You can push at 95%, especially on a qualifying run.
“The second section has a lot of straights and slow hairpins. It’s narrow but not too difficult: it’s more about the car, with lots of 35-45mph hairpins. It’s nothing special for the driver. But you can use the tyres and traction very quickly. You need to save your brakes and tyres for the top section; you can decide your race in the middle part if you push too hard and destroy your tyres.
“The last section is the biggest challenge; it’s the fastest part with lots of fast corners. A lot of them are taken blindly at 125-130mph, and there are no trees or anything to use as markers.
“It’s the hardest sector, and it’s the one you get to practice on the least. Last year, there was snow and fog at the top, so we didn’t get to practice on that section.
“The top section is always more complicated, because you have less oxygen. That won’t reduce the power in an electric car, but ensuring that we have enough power in the battery will be difficult. The difference in temperature [from the bottom of the course to the top] can be crazy, and the altitude has a huge impact on tyre temperature.”
An image previously leaked onto a Swedish car site showed the car's rear, with similar design to the divisive S90 saloon.
Volvo has begun the reveal process for the S60 with several preview images revealing details of the car's design. A more revealing shot was released of the hot S60 T8 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered - a performance-oriented version of the BMW 3 Series rival, tweaked by now spun-off performance brand, Polestar.
That car, pictured below, will produce more than 409bhp and 494lb ft of torque from its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and plug-in hybrid system thanks to Polestar's tweaks, while braking, suspension and other modifications have been applied by Polestar.
Volvo's BMW 3 Series rival will be built at a new factory in South Carolina, brand boss H?kan Samuelsson revealed.
A shot from Volvo previewed the S60's front end, which remains unchanged from the recently revealed V60 estate. This is the first glimpse we've had at the compact executive saloon, however, ahead of its on-sale date after the V60, but before the end of the year.
The plant, a new facility in South Carolina, will begin construction of the S60 in late 2018, although the plant itself has been under development since January 2016. All S60s will be built at the plant, which has a maximum capacity of 100,000 cars per year. The next XC90 will also be built there.
Unlike the V60, the S60 will not appear at the Geneva motor show, but will be shown at a later date. Volvo remains tight-lipped on exactly when, but it's likely to be revealed in a few months' time, given the heavy camouflage in the pictured development car. It'll be built on the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) as Volvo's other larger cars, as well as the V60.
The V60, the 'Versatile' estate version of the S60 was leaked ahead of its official Geneva motor show launch, showing the car's side-on and rear-end styling. The front styling of the S60 and V60 will likely be identical. The leaked V60 images first appeared on Bosnian site AutoMotoSvijet.
Specs will mirror that of the XC60, with Momentum spec at the entry level and R-Design Pro at the top. Inscription will be in the middle. Petrol engines will match those of the V60, with a 242bhp T5 sitting above three-cylinder units likely to be shared with the XC40, while the range will be topped by a 335bhp T6 Twin Engine plug-in, and a T4 petrol and mild hybrids later in the car's life cycle. No diesels will be offered; the first car to implement Volvo's no-diesel future.
Diesels made up 63% of Volvo sales between January and April this year - relatively high considering the public's shunning of the black pump, but considerably down on the 85% slice across the same period in 2015.
Safety kit will match that of the XC60, meaning that when it hits the market in early 2019, it’s likely to be the safest car in the class. The XC60 was declared the safest car ever tested by Euro NCAP last year, achieving a 95% overall score. It is equipped with safety systems that are more advanced than Euro NCAP currently tests on cars.
Prices are expected to start from ?30,000 for the S60 - ?6000 less than the XC60 in entry-level 2.0 D4 Momentum spec. This is an increase of more than ?5000 over the previous car, but Volvo's move upmarket and the previous S60's long production run account for the jump. By comparison, the XC90 is more than ?13,000 more expensive than the entry-level V90.
With Volvo introducing subscription plans, named Care by Volvo for its models, starting with the XC40, it's likely that this will also be rolled out across the rest of the range, including the V60.
Proving the slow-down in the saloon segment, as well as demonstrating how sales usually slow the older the car gets, Volvo S60 sales have declined over the last three years - having shrunk by around a quarter since 2015 to 1262 sales in 2017 in the UK. This is less than half the sales of the V60, which shifted 2956 across last year, although less than a tenth of sales of the XC60 - Volvo sold 16,302 examples of the mid-sized SUV last year.
It’s thought that Porsche made the investment with the aim of using Rimac’s electric powertrain technology in its future models, while it will help Rimac grow by supplying its powertrain and technological components to other companies.
“We feel that Rimac’s ideas and approaches are extremely promising, which is why we hope to enter into close collaboration with the company in the form of a development partnership,” said Porsche board member Lutz Meschke. “By developing the purely electric two-seaters super sports cars, like the Concept One or C Two, as well as core vehicle systems, Rimac has impressively demonstrated its credentials in the field of electromobility.”
Porsche’s announcement focused on Rimac’s expertise in high-voltage battery tech and EV powertrains that it stands to gain from the deal.
Rimac CEO Mate Rimac said: “This partnership now is an important step for Rimac on our way to become a component and system supplier of choice for the industry in electrification, connectivity and the exciting field of advanced driver assistance systems.”
The Taycan arrives in 2020 and will be available in several variants, based on a shared architecture named J1. It’ll be Porsche’s first EV in its 70-year history, although the brand will increase its zero-emissions offerings over time, culminating in its core model, the 911, going electric.
Mini, Vauxhall, BMW, Skoda, Seat and others are all preparing to launch electric-only cars in the coming two years, either as derivatives of existing models or stand-alone vehicles in their own right.
A 900-mile return trip to the M3 CS launch and N24 race? Be rude not to take the M5 - 30th May 2018
Among the blinding greenery of the Rhineland, there’s an isolated ribbon of Tarmac that flows between the sleepy spa town of Bad Neuenahr and the altogether less somnolent village of N?rburg.
It’s well surfaced for the most part and the setting is completely bucolic. Ideal, say, for an E300 cab: stick the dampers in Comfort, Bob Seger on the radio. Not a worry in the world.
The funny thing is that above a certain level of commitment, this same stretch becomes an utterly brutal examination of a car’s dynamic repertoire. There are second-, third- and even fourth-gear corners of capricious profile and camber changes where you wouldn’t expect.
One sequence isn’t unlike the infamous Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, for pity’s sake, and there’s a bend whose exit is not only blind but also concurrent with an unfavourable surface change and a vicious compression on the nearside. You’re spat out of it at the top of third gear.
For outright zip, ultimately it failed to match a car some 400kg lighter and with a significantly lower centre of gravity, and nor was it quite so confidence inspiring when the Armco loomed. But it was arguably the greater feat of engineering purely for its astounding body control and the fact that it was actually enjoyable to punt along a road that could have been bespoke-laid for a Lotus Exige.
As you may have surmised, our long-termer was the steed between home and a gruelling race weekend during which BMW launched its latest M-badged road car, and therein lies the true appeal of this M5. Some back-road fun sandwiched by substantial highway blasts resulted in around 900 miles and an overall fuel economy of 21.4 mpg, for a total expenditure of roughly ?260.
No, this 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 was never going to set records for frugality but, if the car impresses on more tortuous routes, it’ll blow your mind on a derestricted autobahn. How fast? An indicated (and restricted) 164mph, at which point your estimated time of arrival goes into free fall with that engine still pulling damnably hard.
Perhaps of greater significance is that proceedings remain serene enough that you’d barely have to raise your voice to be heard by those in the back. More prosaically, the M5 simply makes things easy on this kind of trip.
You can angle the headlights for Continental duties at the touch of a button and the head-up display converts your speed and speed-limit icons into km/h. It is comfortable, it is spacious, the Harman Kardon sound system is very good and you don’t worry about leaving the thing in a strange corner of an unfamiliar town after a mammoth day in the saddle.
Every time I’m lucky enough to drive this car, three things occur to me. The seats are set too high, the body control is simply a touch close for everyday driving, even for a super-saloon, and, God, how I wish they’d made a bit more of the wheel arches.
But while it takes me a little time to get onto the M5’s wavelength, once there I’m pretty much smitten.
CRUISE MISSILE No surprise that a 600bhp saloon with massage seats can seemingly condense international travel, but it’s a lovely sensation all the same.
TOURING RANGE ‘Loathe’ is strong, but if the 70-litre fuel tank was just a little bigger, you’d easily manage 450 miles between cruising fill-ups.
The steering column, seat back (lower and upper), under-thigh support, head restraint, plus the usual seat options – forward, back, up, down – all adjust electrically. There’s so much adjustment that I have resorted to using the memory function. Then there’s heating, cooling and massage too. I’ll bet the seat weighs more than I do.
I can’t remember a car that has been busier on its arrival on the Autocar long-term test fleet than the new BMW M5. With decent reason, I suppose; it’s a new M5. They are rare and we want to see, as quickly as possible, just how good they are.
What I can tell you is that I can’t think of another car that, when it comes to trying to be both engaging and sporty, and yet also luxurious and comfy, is so complete in its dynamic make-up.
Inside, it’s everything a 5 Series is as well. It’ll seat five in great comfort, there's a 530-litre boot behind them, with a can of foam beneath the boot floor in case you get a puncture because the M5 doesn’t have run-flat tyres.
Which is one reason why, I suspect, the M5 has such a bewildering array of dynamic capabilities and why the Alpina B5 (spoiler alert) doesn’t ride night and day better — something that's usually one of Alpina’s great traits.
You can slacken the M5’s suspension, plus its other attributes — powertrain, gearbox, steering weight — to a bewildering degree, too. On the centre console by the gearlever — on which there are three modes for upshift timing — you can select which damper modes, engine response, transmission response and steering weight you want.
Or you can select from pre-programmed variants. Or you can pick your own set-up and programme that into two discrete red levers on the steering wheel. That’s what I’ve done.
There are lots of other things to get used to and get your head around, too, in part thanks to a raft of options that include one of my other favourite steering wheel buttons: a heated wheel rim. I do like a heated steering wheel. And, the other day, somebody left a pea under 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds and I could still feel it at night!
Anyway, that’s part of the Comfort pack, which our road test reckoned was a good idea to spec, unlike the Premium pack. I agree; the M5 has a carbonfibre roof to reduce weight and make it lower, so I’d steer clear of too many options — such as the Premium pack’s soft-close doors — that add the kilos back on again.
Carbon-ceramic brakes also made the list, at ?7495, and an M Sports exhaust, at ?1100. The brake package is probably what provides a slightly oversensitive pedal at times — we’ll see if that improves with miles — and the ’zorst adds a welcome edge to the turbocharged motor, which otherwise resorts to relatively convincing speaker augmentation for some of its excitement.
Aural excitement, anyway. It relies on deploying 592bhp in great unhurried strides to deliver the visceral excitement. The engine is terrific. Less overtly V8ish than an AMG it may be, but there’s no arguing with the amount of oomph it provides or how it delivers it through the eight-speed automatic 'box.
It’s even capable, if you’re careful, of 28mpg, although 23mpg is more likely and 7.5mpg is possible on a track. I suppose owners don’t take M5s there that often, although they should, because it’s a great way to find out that BMW’s new super-saloon is unsurpassed in its dynamic abilities.
I’m looking forward to exploring those more as we find many, many more jobs for the M5 to do.
I love this car. I struggled at first to see why a 5 Series needed to be so hardcore but, after 400 miles, I just couldn’t get enough of its near-supercar steering and body control, plus its intoxicating acceleration, given the practical package and effortless delivery. Brilliant!
Specs: Price new ?87,940 Price as tested ?101,900; Options Premium package (including soft-close doors, massage seats, ceramic finish for controls) ?1995, Comfort package (including steering wheel heating, seat heating all round) ?1195, M Sports exhaust ?1100, carbonfibre engine cover ?1025, carbon-ceramic brakes ?7495, M seatbelts ?260, carbonfibre/aluminium-look trim ?495, Apple CarPlay ?235, online entertainment ?160
Test Data: Engine V8, 4395cc, twin turbocharged petrol; Power 591bhp at 5600-6700rpm; Torque 553lb ft at 1800-5600rpm; Top speed 155mph (limited); 0-62mph 3.4sec; Claimed fuel economy 26.9mpg; Test fuel economy 23.3mpg; CO2 241g/km; Faults None; Expenses None
Upcoming S60 will be built at 1600-acre facility in Charleston, South Carolina
Volvo has officially opened its first factory in the US ahead of the launch of the new S60 sports saloon, which will be unveiled at the new plant in Charleston, South Carolina later today (Wednesday).
The ?772 million, 2.3 million square foot facility will be the sole manufacturing site of the S60, which will go into production in the autumn. The plant will also be used to build the next-generation XC90, due in 2021.
The S60 (previewed in the below image) is built on the Scaleable Product Architecture (SPA) that Volvo shared with other Geely brands and is based on the already released V60 estate.
The factory is built on 1600 acres and will employ 1500 people by at the end of the year, eventually increasing to a total of 4000. The site has capacity to produce up to 150,000 cars annually.
Volvo also has factories in Sweden and Belgium, three factories and an engine plant in China and assembly plants in India and Malaysia. The firm believes its first US facility will help its bold expansion plans.
“The saloon segment and the SPA platform’s proven ability to boost profitability offer significant growth opportunities for Volvo Cars in the US and globally,” said company boss H?kan Samuelsson.
Hyundai currently sells a hydrogen car called the ix35 Fuel Cell
Lead partners Hyundai and Audi believe patent-sharing deal will help speed development, lower costs and grow infrastructure
Hyundai- Kia and the Volkswagen Group - led by its Audi brand - will co-operate on the development of hydrogen fuel vehicles in a deal that they believe will fast-track the technology’s development and dramatically bring down costs, making hydrogen-powered electric cars a viable alternative to battery-electric cars in the near future.
As part of the deal Audi, which has acted as the VW Group’s centre of excellence into hydrogen research for more than 20 years, has committed to bringing its first hydrogen-powered car to market “at the beginning of the next decade”.
No details have been released beyond the fact it will be an SUV and that it will be sold as a “small series production” vehicle; it is not clear if this means it will be a bespoke model or a version of an existing vehicle modified to run on hydrogen, but insiders say that the latter is more likely because of the costs involved.
Peter Mertens, Audi member of the board for technical development said: “For the breakthrough of sustainable technology, co-operation is the smart way to achieve attractive cost structures.”
Hyundai and Kia’s head of FCEV research, Dr Sae-Hoon Kim, said: “The key motivators are to hasten development and reduce costs. The more capability we have the more scale we will get and the more authorities will be willing to invest in and encourage the technology.
“The progress we have made in terms of making hydrogen fuel cell cars that are durable enough to be sold is incredible - just a few years ago I did not think it would happen in my lifetime, but already we are there. Now we must focus on cost and scale, and partnerships like this have the potential to address both of those things.
The deal initially allows for the cross-licensing of patents and access to parts deemed non-competitive, but both sides have confirmed that the deal could extend further in time, possibly including the co-development and manufacturing of vehicles.
Hyundai has taken leadership in bringing hydrogen-powered cars to market, first launching the ix35 Fuel Cell in 2013 and now the Nexo. However, take up has been hindered by the high purchase price of the cars (likely to be in excess of ?50,000 for the Nexo, a car that is around the same size as the Hyundai Tucson, which starts from just under ?20,000).
Audi has only produced test concept cars powered by hydrogen, including the A2H2 test vehicle in 2005, the Q5 HFC in 2008 and the Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro in 2014. The Audi H-tron quattro was then shown in 2016. Despite not launching any of these vehicles into production, Audi says it is now working on its sixth-generation of fuel cell technology.
Other manufacturers are also working on hydrogen technology collaboratively, including Toyota and BMW, Honda and GM and Mercedes and Ford.