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And then there were three: the McLaren 720S, Aston Martin DB11 and Porsche 911 GT3 are our top three driver's cars of 2017
The Aston Martin DB11 V8, McLaren 720S and Porsche 911 GT3 are assured of podium finishes. But on which steps?
The sense of solace was palpable at the end of the first day of our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car test. As darkness descended on the pit lane, the majority of the serious driving and judging was over, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief at our good fortune in the gathering crepuscular calm.
The conditions had been bad all day, and appalling in parts. Every driver had discovered, if they didn’t already know, how treacherous and unforgiving a circuit Castle Combe might be in the wet if you don’t respect its bumps, cambers and shaded slippery expanses. And yet somehow our day had been incident free, ending with exactly as many undamaged cars – and prides – as it had started with. And nobody could claim they hadn’t learned – and often learned very quickly – what separates the very best driver’s cars we’d gathered from the rest.
So what difference did the rain make? For a while, we wondered, as four judges dissected and decoded their impressions of the best and worst performances they’d witnessed. The slippery conditions were certainly a levelling influence, making a secure, predictable front-driver such as the Golf GTI Performance feel like a fine refuge from the eye-widening, poweron snap oversteer you might have encountered immediately beforehand in anything from the GT R to the M4 CS.
A dependable, judiciously tuned traction and stability control system certainly did more for a car this year than it might have ever before in a Britain’s Best Driver’s Car contest. But in the end, the same qualities that make a car impress at the limit of grip in the dry – communicative controls, good close body control, a dexterous well-tuned ride, a powerful and linear powertrain, and a finely balanced chassis that mixes stability with adjustability in just the right proportions – also distinguish one when the heavens are well and truly open.
We had decided well in advance that only the top three cars in the test would go forward to be covered in greater detail here. And yet it also became clear that, for everyone present, three cars had really stood out from the rest of the pit-lane crowd – while one or two others had passionate but more lonely advocates. I, for one, was sorry to find out that the Civic Type R hadn’t upset the odds and forced its way into our final round, because the tactility and honesty of its driving experience seemed to me to shine so brightly. Prior thought the Giulia Quadrifoglio deserved a podium finish, not least because of this 500bhp rear-drive car’s endearing approachability. Prosser, meanwhile, argued that the Seven 420R Donington Edition should have made the cut on account of it being so communicative, trustworthy and drivable in testing conditions. All were worthy shouts.
But two judges out of four scored the podium exactly as it is represented in the final combined order that you’ll discover later – and therefore constructed it, in no particular order, out of the DB11 V8, the 720S and the 911 GT3.
If you knew nothing about the particular circumstances of our test and were asked to pick from the grid full of metal on the opening pages the three cars likely to rise to the top on subjective driver appeal, you’d have stood a decent chance of guessing that trio, I reckon. But now ask yourself if you’d still have bet on a 710bhp mid-engined supercar, or a circuit-special 911 on Cup tyres, at five minutes to nine on a rainy Tuesday morning, with nothing but grey cloud in every direction and the on-track puddles already settling in for the day? My money, for what it’s worth, would have stayed dry.
The DB11 V8 might have been worth a last-minute punt, granted – but even here, you’d have got decent odds. In 28 of our annual Britain’s Best Driver’s Car meetings, Aston Martin has yet to score an overall win. The DB11 V12 didn’t even make it into last year’s list of contenders for the prize when we chose instead to admit Gaydon’s rather more ‘expressive’ Vantage GT8 – complete with a V8 engine that must have been audible from Anglesey’s Trac Mon all the way across the Irish Sea in Dublin.
But the DB11 V8 is quite a different car from its bigger-engined brother, as we’ve already written on a couple of occasions. Thanks no doubt to more relaxed suspension rates than much of the rest of this year’s BBDC field came armed with (as well as a substantial engine up front, where its mass may be a positive influence on handling stability, and an overarching dynamic character suited to a modern sporting GT), the Aston took to the doused circuit better than almost anything else. It found grip where others didn’t. Through the patches of standing water and over the shinier, more foreboding-looking stretches of tarmac, it stayed assured and true to its course where others slipped and skidded.
Throw in Castle Combe’s more savage bumps on top of the bad weather and you’ve got a challenge with which many chassis in the running simply couldn’t cope, without deflecting off line or leaning heavily on their electronic control systems; but not the DB11. Supple riding, stable up to impressive speeds and ever predictable thereafter, the Aston attracted praise from all corners for the imperviousness of its composure. Frankel called it “perfectly set up for a relentlessly grim track, with the ideal wheelbase, the heft, the tyres and the linear steering response”. Prosser called it “friendly and fluid, without feeling like a barge” and Prior noted that it was “one of few cars which I’m prepared to mess around with in just about any corner because it’s so faithful and dependable”. When plenty of cars felt a touch frightening, the DB11 felt like fun.
But while the DB11 coped as well as anybody hoped it might with the worst that a November day in Wiltshire could throw at it, the 720S was busily confounding expectations in a way that was almost as effective. Like the Aston, the McLaren took to Combe on factory-fit performance road tyres that actually dealt with the rain very well indeed. But only a mid-engined chassis of rare brilliance could have made driving this 700-horsepower machine so easy, in conditions you might have thought almost certain to render such a car practically uncontrollable at much more than pootling speeds.
The worst of the weather certainly neutered the 720S’s bid for total dominance of this contest, at least for a while, inasmuch as it made it impossible to use all of the car’s titanic performance – and therefore for the McLaren to set about blowing its competition into the weeds for sheer mind-melting excitement. But it was remarkable how much of the car’s potency could be used – and how finely that exchange between tarmac and contact patch could be managed through a carbon tub and rear subframe that felt stiff enough to transmit longitudinal forces in supreme precision.
Although the McLaren was very closely and effectively supervised by one of the better traction control systems in the pit lane, the thing was the 720S really wasn’t scary – even with everything turned off. It was balanced and agile, but not nervous feeling; adjustable, but as secure as ever it needed to be. And also unerringly accurate and consistent in its responses to another half inch of accelerator, another quarter pound of brake pedal pressure or a 10deg steering correction. Frankel was “gobsmacked” by the car’s benign drivability, praising its “immense turn-in” and “first-class” steering and brakes. Others had similarly gushing praise.
But how, do you suppose, did a rear-engined Porsche on Cup tyres fend off the challenge of the rest of the field and secure a spot in our top three? It was one of three cars in the running shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber – and a few laps in either of the others (the GT R and M4 CS) wouldn’t have given you great hope for it. But where the Mercedes-AMG and BMW felt as if on tiptoes out on the track, the GT3 had the directional stability to begin working and warming its tyres – and what a difference that made.
Moreover, the Porsche had what so many GT-series 911s have had for the past two decades: the communicative gifts to make clear exactly where the margins of its grip and traction lay, and the confidenceinspiring controllability to let you explore those margins as much, or as little, as you chose.
I climbed into the 911 after what felt like quite a long and occasionally torrid morning driving what I expected to be great-handling cars in conditions regrettably unsuited to many of them. When I did, I already knew the track was slippery and, but for the good work of some very clever ESP engineers, I would probably have fallen off it more than once.
But within three laps in the GT3, Castle Combe was coming at me completely afresh. The fast bends, chicanes and braking areas that had seemed uniformly treacherous now had texture: grippy lines and paths to avoid, hollows and cambers left and right, and bumps and quirks that nothing, save the McLaren and the Caterham, had really even begun to make me aware of. The 911 GT3 is like a 500-horsepower prism to all of these things, capable of classifying them all and filtering them just a little bit through its vivid, singularly feelsome steering rack; through its suspension, capable of reading the topography of any stretch of road with intimate closeness; and of injecting drama, vigour, poise and speed into everything it does.
Prior decided that “everything else might as well just go home” because the Porsche “steers superbly, its engine is fabulous, it’s massively tied down and it always lets you know what’s going on”. Prosser called the GT3’s engine “outrageous” and its drivetrain “out of this world”. That, in short, is how a Cup-shod 911 defied the odds and scythed its way towards the sharp end of one of the most testing, rain-soaked Britain’s Best Driver’s Car fights we’ve had in years.
But then – wouldn’t you know it? – on what remained of our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car shootout, Castle Combe began to dry out. Just before it was too late to count, the circuit quickened. There was decent scope for lap times where we feared there would be none; a chance, albeit fleeting, to approach the limits of what these cars were capable of, and to build what we learned into the fullest verdict possible on our champion driver’s car of 2017. All of a sudden, the shackles were off. Where the Aston had excelled in the wet, in the dry it suddenly began to feel more like a big, heavy GT car – albeit a very good one. Meanwhile, a fascinating duel for outright laptime supremacy developed between a McLaren of staggering thrust and composure and a Porsche, with a sublime 9000rpm redline, that simply wouldn’t throw in the towel. Click the link below to see how that duel played out – and to read our final affirmation for Britain’s Best Driver’s Car of 2017.
Check back across the weekend as the second and third instalments of this year's Britain's Best Driver's Car hit the internet:
Starting with 11 of this year's best driver's cars, we've whittled it down to just one. The winner is...
Just five marks, then, out of a possible 200, separated first place from second, with two judges placing the McLaren first and two of us placing the Porsche first. Handily – given I’m the judge writing this bit – I’m one of the ones who placed it first.
In my eyes, there’s still nothing that can quite touch the 911, and this 911 in particular, for sheer entertainment on both road and circuit. That a 720S is faster isn’t in doubt. That it steers magically, rides brilliantly and is ergonomically set up ideally for fast road and circuit driving is beyond question.
But that the Porsche is better than it as a driver’s car by all useful yardsticks is also, to my eyes, ears, hands and feet, obvious. While the 720S is busy trying to be the supercar with hypercar pace that you can use on a bumpy circuit and road, the 911 is unencumbered by trying to (a) create and (b) deploy the 217bhp that separates them, and I suspect that helps make it better.
For a start, short of two cylinders and two turbos, the engine stays where it has always been. In the totally wrong, but absolutely right, place, in the rear, where it allows superb visibility, compact packaging and minimal weight. Don’t underestimate these qualities in a road car. The roads around the mid-south are tight and twisting and have cambers and gradients gifted to them by ancient hedgerows, but they’re true to the kinds of roads you’ll find anywhere in the UK and throughout much of the rest of the world. To drive them at middling speeds, speeds at which bystanders might note you’re having a nice time but don’t think you’re being an idiot, is a joy in the 911.
You could go faster but you don’t need to: that’s not where the magic, necessarily, lies. At any speeds, at all speeds, the 911’s ride is composed, the steering deliciously communicative and yet free from unwanted feedback, and the engine, transmission and brakes entirely intuitive. You want a given response? You input the necessary command, and the 911 obliges. I’ve written it before but I’ll write it again: no other car presents the depth of its engineering to you, as a driver, and asks you to feel it, and experience it.
And on a circuit? It’s a 911 GT car. It is pure. It is linear. It is all kinds of ‘183 points out of 200’ wonderful.
Our Castle Combe lap times were recorded over two days in changeable conditions, with the GT R and i30 N saddled with the most slippery track. The difference wasn’t massive: a few greasy apices and braking areas versus almost bone-dry tarmac. Nevertheless, it was present, so we’ve attempted to compensate in a ‘corrected’ times column that reflects how the cars might have compared in like-for-like conditions.
Subjectively, the McLaren felt by far the quickest car on test and likely would have gone on to lap even quicker if our test schedule had allowed the time. But the big surprise was courtesy of the brilliance of the 911 GT3, which set a time within half a second of the 720S despite being at a 217bhp disadvantage. The Porsche was also the only car to appear among the top three recorded speeds at all of our speed traps.
The off-camber Old Paddock Bend was a great test of confidence level – and that the Civic was quickest of all through the apex speaks volumes about the grip its chassis generates.
But what was remarkable about Combe then – as, we hope, now – is that despite it being one of the fastest race circuits in the country, its age-old bends, lumps and bumps actually make it a real challenge for a road car. So, too, are the country lanes that criss-cross this part of Wiltshire. If a road car can impress at sensible speeds on difficult terrain like this, it can impress you everywhere.
So as autumn neared winter last month, we were back, with bleak November showers giving way to occasional sunshine and some of the harshest conditions in which to run a contest like this. Because, actually, it matters: these are the kinds of driving conditions we encounter all the time and we want cars that are entertaining in all of them, not simply when we’re spearing towards magical sunlit uplands on driving holidays that, frankly, most of us will hardly have the time to take.
As ever, we have chosen the year’s best cars, plus, almost, last year’s winner. Except that it isn’t, quite. Representing the Porsche 911 R from 2016 is the latest 911 GT3 – because it is new and it would be ridiculous to have two 911s here. You’ll meet the other runners and riders as we go, but from the off, please know this: they are a superb collection of the best that motordom has had to offer in the past 12 months, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a single one of them. Now, onwards.
The Giant Shootout: It's All To Play For
I'm going to say it now, and invite all comers to shoot me down: we’ve never had a tougher competition to discover Britain’s Best Driver’s Car (BBDC). Which is not to say that the competition has never been tougher, for that would imply we were unable to make up our minds without hours of agonising and extemporisation. We’re better than that. Here, we have clear winners and equally well-defined losers. This was not one of the closest competitions in years, but it was the toughest.
Why? Three factors: Britain, November and Castle Combe. Britain, to be fair, has been common to all but one of the 29 BBDC events. We did once use a track in the south of France, but after we’d realised we’d had to fill the fuel tank of a Mitsubishi Evo VI 18 times to get it there and back, oddly enough those who count beans round these parts suddenly thought how much nicer it would be as a domestic event. But November? Well, we’ve never done that before; but as cars get ever better, so we must ask ever harder questions of them, and there are few more searching than those posed by leaf-strewn British back roads with temperatures locked in single figures.
Castle Combe poses a similarly searching question. This is a homecoming for us, because it was the site of that original 1989 BBDC event, a day that went splendidly. Well, until we wrote off a Ferrari. And that was a warm summer’s day. Today, the cars have slippery, slimy conditions and at least double the average horsepower to deploy. All of Combe’s legendary bumps remain as treacherous as ever yet come with not one inch of additional run-off. In conditions like this with cars like these, there are places where you’ll be in the wall before you have time to think ‘opposite lock’.
The choice was as catholic as ever. Cars with two, three, four and five doors, and with front, rear and four-wheel drive. Hatchbacks, saloons, supercars, coup?s, sports cars and even one estate, with normal aspiration and forced induction, four, six and eight cylinders, all splashed through the puddles to assemble in the Combe paddock, the drivers’ grins scarcely concealing the nerves beneath. Check out tech specs of the 11 finalists here.
As soon as the light at the end of the pit lane went green, a small queue of somewhat sheepish drivers appeared by the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance. Feel free to read everything into the fact that, for us all, this was the de facto training car, the one we all wanted to drive first, to get our eyes in before progressing to more serious stuff. It did not disappoint. “Amazing stability and security in very wet conditions” was the first impression of contributing writer Dan Prosser, who loved its balance, brakes and how well signalled was the approaching limit of adhesion. Road test editor Matt Saunders went further: “For much of the deluged first day, this would have been the only car I’d have chosen to drive fast on track.” It felt equally accommodating on the road, a car so easy yet effective in all conditions that it immediately made you wonder why you might spend so much more on some of the others that offered less bandwidth for their drivers.
The answer came when it dried out: for all its undoubted competence, the Golf still felt slightly antiseptic, the friend who’ll open your mind, but conceal its heart. The view of editor-at-large Matt Prior that “I wouldn’t mind if it were a touch more engaging, and more adjustable, too” spoke for us all. That said, a place in the final rankings alongside the Mercedes-AMG GT R despite a price gap of more than ?110,000 will be a source of rather greater pride to one enormous German car company than the other.
One question in search of a rather urgent answer was whether Hyundai could out-Golf the Golf with the i30 N. The idea of beating a hot hatch over 40 years in the development at the first time of asking seemed faintly preposterous, but the Korean newbie came closer than many would have credited at the start. I was very impressed by the way it combined an up-and-at-’em approach with that baseline security all hot hatches should have. I thought it cool that Hyundai had gone headlong at the Golf without so much as dipping a toe in the water first, too. Others were less sure.
Saunders didn’t like the “slightly leaden steering and shortage of traction” while Prosser found it “much edgier than the Golf” in challenging conditions. But there’s a flip side to this and Prior found it, proclaiming it to be a “more entertaining car than the Golf”. For me, it just needed a little more time in the oven, for it’s let down only in the detailing, such as its poor pedal placement, an overly high driving position, limited brake feel and occasional but distinct torque steer. On the road, these issues were less of a factor and we liked its positive gearshift and surprisingly decent ride, but the fluency you find in the Golf is not there in the i30 N yet. Yet if this is a first attempt and if Hyundai can maintain this rate of progress, the second should be something else.
Which, in a way, is what Honda has provided with the Civic Type R. Of course, Honda has been putting the Type R badge on Civics for 20 years and over five distinct generations, but this is only the second since the firm abandoned high-revving normally aspirated engines in favour of turbocharging. But whereas we have our reservations about its predecessor, the current car arrived at Combe as our favourite hot hatch of the current crop. And once on track, it didn’t hesitate before making mincemeat of not only the other hatches but also many of the more expensive and specialist cars.
In the wet, it was startlingly rapid, showing speeds into Avon Rise we’d think twice about repeating in the supercars, and had its Continental tyres not taken extreme exception to the wet painted grid markings on what passes for a pit straight at Combe, it would have been quicker still. We all loved the mechanical feel of its gearbox and the way it delivered more power with less fuss than the Hyundai.
It also provided an object lesson in multi-link rear suspension design. Compared with its torsion-beam equipped predecessor, the way this Civic combined an acrobatic ability to change direction yet would take full braking at over 120mph in the wet while cornering quite hard is firm evidence of just how capable it now is. On the road, it even rode pretty well, too. And as Saunders points out, in conditions far more taxing than those experienced last year, this ?30,000 hatchback finishes one point further up the table than did its sister, the NSX supercar, in 2016.
Another car seeking an improved performance was the BMW M4 CS. Last year, its tricked-up sister, the M4 GTS, came plumb last, its mixed abilities on track entirely undone by a catastrophic performance on the road. And for a while, it seemed the CS would fare even worse. When the track was wet, most drivers did two laps and were happy to park it not in a wall. “Close to undrivable” was the not easily scared Prosser’s opinion of the car in fully wet conditions. Yes, it was compromised by its no-nonsense Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, but others here on the same rubber were not nearly so affected. Prior liked it for its strong engine, slick gearshift and steering even though “you can’t drive it ‘quickly’ quickly, because the back steps out in fourth in a straight line at about 80mph on part-throttle”, but even he conceded its limitations here.
And yet on the road, in far trickier conditions than those that completely unstitched the GTS, the CS became a completely reformed character. My notes spoke of “a greater disparity between road and track performance of any car I can remember” and even Prosser conceded the chassis “felt very good on the road”. In short, when not near the limit, the car was a delight and, in other circumstances, it might have fared rather better. But in a competition where on-limit behaviour is such a decisive factor, it did well to finish higher than did its sibling last year.
The relative achievements of the two Mercedes-AMGs put us very much in mind of our 2015 contest at Snetterton, where a C63 estate wiped the floor and then did the dishes with the GT S coup?. And history appeared to be repeating itself with the GT R: a car we’d found fast and fluent on the smooth, warm and dry track chosen for its official launch turned into an aggressive, twitchy monster at Combe. Indeed, the GT R steered so violently off centre on some preruined Michelin Super Sports tyres we thought there might be something wrong with it, so Mercedes came and bolted on a brand-new set of Cup 2s, which dramatically improved matters but did not entirely solve them. So equipped, “it feels a bit like a racing car. I don’t suppose it’s ideal, but it’s quite a good laugh. You just drive slower on the way in and hang on to it a bit on the way out,” said Prior.
In the meantime, Castle Combe reverberated perpetually to the sound of the more powerful 4.0-litre V8 in the E63 S estate, which seemed only to come in for long enough to load a new driver and head out again. So although Saunders found the GT R “probably the biggest disappointment of the test”, Prior considered the E63 “a monstrous piece of kit in the damp, really, stupendously fast, and because there’s some body lean, it puts enough weight on its tyres to go very, very quickly, stably and securely, with a mammoth noise to go with it”. Of course, the drier it got, the more its weight, relative softness and air springs counted against it. Some didn’t like how difficult it was to engage rear-drive drift mode, although others pointed out it was quite cool even to have the facility in the first place. Overall, though, we found the estate car punching a little above its considerable weight, while the GT R left us feeling again that an AMG coup? had been set up to work in far too small an operating window, altogether too far removed from the wilds of Castle Combe in November.
By contrast, the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV did an excellent job of bending itself to whatever task lay before it: road or track, wet, damp or dry, and with very few exceptions, all of us except Prior really liked it. And he positively loved it: “I know it’s one of my favourite road cars, but on a circuit in the wet, it’s approachable in a way most 500bhp, rear-drive cars on Corsa tyres are not. Oh, my, what a lovely thing.” Prosser found it retained on track “the pliancy and composure” that had so impressed him on the road and even I, a QV sceptic, conceded that in the wet, it wiped the floor with the M4 and GT R.
But what Alfa was ever perfect? Saunders didn’t care for its superswift steering or adaptive damping and we all struggled with the feel (or lack thereof) of its brake-by-wire system. That said, if you’d suggested to all the judges before the event what chance the Alfa had of scoring a tie for fourth place overall with a Caterham, we’d have all started smirking – except, of course, for Prior, who’d already be wondering why it was not in the top three.
Ah, yes, the Caterham. Tricky cars these. Not tricky to drive, you might be surprised to hear, given the weather and the 420R’s semislick Avon ZZR tyres. Just tricky to treat the same way as everything else. Complaining about its lack of civility on the road is like entering a racehorse into the local dressage competition and wondering why you ended up on your arse. Around Combe, it was mesmerising. Even in the worst weather, the reason you came in was not because it ran out of grip, but because you ran out of vision. Of course, it slid – almost everywhere, in fact – but it did so in such a predictable way and in such a confined space. In most of the other cars, you felt the need to collect it through fear of running out of room, but in the Caterham, you just kept your boot in, rode it out on the steering and hammered up the straight beyond.
Prosser was absolutely right to describe it as “one of the most drivable cars here in the worst conditions” and Saunders opined “you felt as if you could easily arc around longer third-gear bends with a quarter turn of opposite lock and never end up pointing the wrong way”. Once more, it was left to Prior to strike a blow for the iconoclasts, which he did with usual conciseness and precision: “A car for very specific conditions. This isn’t them.”
Which leaves an Aston Martin DB11 V8 facing down the mighty McLaren 720S and Porsche 911 GT3 for overall honours. I’m going to limit my comments on the three of them because you have Saunders’ analysis to come, but I think I’m not giving the game away to observe that given the DB11’s weight, grand touring brief and the lowest wheel rate of any Aston Martin ever sold, just getting to sit at the same table as thoroughbred sports/supercars such as these is a victory in its own right. But that’s the thing with this contest, possibly more so this year than in any other: the raw material provides only the ingredients; it’s how they come together – the recipe and who cooks it – that really counts. And ex-Lotus chassis chief Matt Becker, who signed off the DB11, is a regular Jamie Oliver.
For all their speed and grip, what the top three did best was provide confidence – the single greatest determinant of driving pleasure in conditions like these. Without that confidence at Combe and on the roads around it, the 493bhp sitting in the boot of that Porsche would seem less of a marvel and more of a menace. So you can imagine how all 710bhp of the McLaren would have felt had some exceptional talents not given over a great deal of time and thought to how the car should behave, not just on the sun-soaked billiard tables for which the GT R and M4 appear to have been set up, but when the going gets really tough.
And tough it really got. But in the end, the podium places were secured by a sufficient margin that none of the remainder should feel robbed. Quite who stands in which position I shall leave to Saunders to reveal.
Check back across the weekend as the second and third instalments of this year's Britain's Best Driver's Car hit the internet.
Gian Paolo Dallara standing with a Formula 3 car in build
Acclaimed engineer Gian Paolo Dallara always wanted to create his own car, and now the company he founded in 1972 has finally done it
The recent unveiling of the Dallara Stradale was a proud moment for Gian Paolo Dallara, the 81-year-old engineer whose eponymous motorsport engineering company employs 600 people worldwide and builds more racing chassis than any other.
The Stradale, the company’s first road car, had been a long time coming and, during an hour-long interview, he tells me that it was his earlier career that provided the inspiration for it. Dallara’s CV gleams with highlights. He was recruited after studying aeronautical engineering at university by Enzo Ferrari and set up Maranello’s first ever wind tunnel. But he wanted to go racing so he defected to Maserati under the promise of working in motorsport, but his plan was stymied when the company axed its works programme.
So Dallara went to Lamborghini to become technical director and was one of the key engineers of the Miura, the first mid-engined supercar and the one that created the archetype still being followed today. He had done all that, and founded his own company, before he was 40.
Yet it turns out his personal engineering hero wasn’t Enzo Ferrari or Ferruccio Lamborghini or any of the Italian stars who worked under them, but Colin Chapman. One of the highlights of our conversation in his factory office is when he produces a black and white snapshot of him showing Jim Clark and Chapman the then new Miura at the 1966 Italian GP. “Chapman asked to come and see it, so I showed him around,” Dallara says. “He liked it. I believe he wanted to do something similar.”
Dallara cites Chapman’s Lotus Seven, rather than any of the exotic products of his former employers, as the most influential sports car, so it’s little surprise that he chose to go the same way with the Stradale. “Producing a road car will never be our major activity,” Dallara says.
“We realise that we will never be in competition with the big GT manufacturers. They are in another world. Visit Ferrari and you realise that if you tried to be Ferrari, you would fail immediately… I always wanted to make a car that was light, that was simple – so you can smell the flowers and feel the air passing.” Work on what became the Stradale project first began 19 years ago but was paused several times. “There was always something more important to do,” Dallara says.
“Then three or four years ago, I realised that it was now or never. I was close to being 80 so it could not wait a lot longer.” The project was quick to gather momentum and the finished Stradale was presented at a special event on Dallara’s 81st birthday. Yet the Stradale isn’t just the realisation of a long-held dream to see his name on a road car, but also a demonstration of the engineering expertise the company offers.
The firm is already thinking of other possibilities in terms of future projects. “We are in a world that is changing so fast,” Dallara says. “We are tempted by the experience of this car to play the game of the mobility of the future. That is probably the biggest advantage it will bring us.”
Even in his ninth decade, Dallara is evidently excited by the prospect of future technology. “I will not be the player,” he says, “but I believe the company will be, because it is in such a strong position. The majority of people in the company are young and very smart. There is ambition.” Although he is not planning to stop working, Dallara has recently bought his own Miura for the first time. “I could never afford one when I worked for Lamborghini,” he says. It’s being rebuilt by Lamborghini’s own Polo Storico factory restoration unit and he hopes to have it soon. With the Stradale, it will offer two fascinating book ends on one of the longest and most distinguished careers in automotive engineering.
The Vauxhall Viva Rocks will sit at the top of the city car range
Vauxhall's city car gets an urban SUV makeover in a bid to court younger buyers. Is that enough to turn it into a Suzuki Ignis beater?
The Viva Rocks, a new range-topping variant of Vauxhall’s Viva city car. Not Viva on the rocks, you understand, because this is a car, rather than a fancy cocktail. It's a small car with some 'rugged' SUV styling, hence the Rocks name (also featured on the slightly bigger Adam Rocks).Mind you, you probably wouldn’t want to drive the Viva Rocks over any particularly big rocks. While it does sport SUV features such as a new high-riding stance, chunky dark bumpers and side skirts and silver roof rails, the Viva Rocks is envisaged as a city-based crossover. It is a city car, after all. By adding in features such as a slightly revamped front end, 15-inch bi-colour alloy wheels, an exclusive interior fabric option and a few more bits of chrome, Vauxhall is hoping the Viva Rocks will appeal to a slightly younger demographic than the regular Viva.Despite the revamped look, when you get to the mechanicals very little has changed from the non-Rocking Viva. Because it’s an urban SUV the rideheight has been raised, albeit by a grand total of 18mm. Which, as noted, wouldn't offer greatly increased capability when it comes to driving over rocks, but does give it a modicum of upright, hide-riding crossover feel that buyers currently love.But that's about the only difference. The sole engine is the 1.0-litre, 74bhp three-cylinder used in the rest of the Viva range, with a top speed of 106mph and 70lb ft of torque, reaching 0-60mph in 13.1 seconds. It retains the suspension from the normal Viva, with MacPherson struts up front and a rear torsion beam.
Race-influenced model will showcase tech grown from Toyota’s Le Mans racing programme
Toyota Gazoo will reveal a new car called the GR Super Sport Concept to showcase its advanced racing technology at the Tokyo Auto Salon next month.
The car, previewed in a single image that shows a racer-like silhouette, is expected to be a supercar featuring a hybrid powertrain, like the team’s World Endurance Championship TS050 Hybrid.
That car mates a 2.4-litre V6 petrol engine with electric power to drive all four wheels with a combined 987bhp. The lengthy rear section of the concept suggests it could borrow this drivetrain, mounting the engine just behind the passengers. It also looks like the aerodynamic design will take influence from the LMP1 racer.
Although only a concept, the GR Super Sport continues to signal the hunger for Toyota’s performance arm to produce more high performance cars for the road. The newly launched division will introduce its hotly anticipated Supra next year. It will become a halo car, following the recently revealed Yaris GRMN, which kick-started the brand in Britain.
Toyota Gazoo is also bringing an 86 GR (based on the GT86) and Vitz GRMN, which is a limited-run Japan-only hot hatch, to Tokyo. The division will show cars that have competed in the World Rally Championship, World Endurance Championship and also national rallies and races – emphasising its competition roots.
The Bloodhound SSC - the British 1000mph Eurofighter-jet-powered land speed record challenger
Bloodhound was driven to over 200mph this year, will next be driven to 500mph in 2018; 1000mph attempt is due in 2020
The Bloodhound SSC - the British 1000mph Eurofighter-jet-powered land speed record challenger - will move on to its second stage of testing in autumn 2018, where it will target 500mph at the Hakseen Pan track in South Africa.
Following the 200mph test on Newquay’s 1.7-mile runway, the Bloodhound team plans to ship the vehicle to a specially prepared track for the first of two high-speed campaigns in 2018. The team intends to use the 11-mile track at Hakskeen Pan in north-western South Africa, where the car will be driven to 500mph. This is seen as one of the riskiest speeds for the car, as between 400mph and 500mph where the car's progress is no longer dictated by its contact with the ground, but its aerodynamics, making the car at its least stable.
The test will be the first time that the car's aluminium wheels will be used - 35-inch units with V-shaped keels which will dig into the mud at low speeds, but rise up and plane along the surface at 500mph. 50 test tracks will be marked out at the location - each being used only once due to the car breaking the mud surface on each run. Normal wheels cannot be used, as tyres will disintegrate at these speeds due to the centrifugal force generated at these speeds. The aluminium wheels can spin at up to 10,200rpm - 1700 times per second.
Data from the test will be collected by more than 500 sensors across the car, and will be shared with schools around the world for student analysis. To prepare the lakebed for the Bloodhound's run, 16,000 tons of rock had to be removed by the local community, from the 22 million square-metre site - the largest land clearance ever undertaken for a motorsport event.
If this second 500mph test is successful, backers hope to top 800mph in 2019 at Hakskeen Pan, beating Green’s previous mark (set 20 years earlier, on 15 October 1997, in Thrust SSC) of 763.065mph. To do this, the car's jet-rocket will need to produce 13 tons of thrust - four more than was needed in the 200mph run.
Then, in 2020, the Bloodhound crew will add extra rocket motors for an attempt to set a 1000mph land speed record - the project’s ultimate objective. Green told Autocar that the thrust for this run will reach 20 tonnes, which is equal to the power all nine RAF Red Arrows Hawk aircraft produce when combined or 180 Formula 1 cars.
Bloodhound completes 200mph first test at Newquay Airport
Britain’s 1000mph world land speed record challenger, successfully reached more than 200mph at Newquay Airport as the initial part of its first phase of testing.
The test, which can be watched as a replay in the video below, saw the world’s fastest man of the past 20 years, Wing Commander Andy Green, at the wheel for the first time.
Stream provided by Bloodhound SSC
Green and his team ran the jet and rocket-powered car up to and beyond 200mph, using its EJ200 Eurofighter engine on the Cornish airport's main runway and pushing it to maximum reheat - or afterburner - phase. The two runs, each of which saw the car accelerate from zero to 200mph in just under 1300 metres, have been used to evaluate the car’s steering, brakes, suspension and data systems, while also measuring the efficiency of the air intake that feeds the EJ200 jet engine, sourced from a Eurofighter Typhoon.
Bloodhound's engineers may make some technical changes to the car before the final run. One option is to switch the car's Jaguar-sourced 5.0-litre V8 engine 'fuel pump', which pumps a tonne of fuel per 18 seconds, for an electric drivetrain. Using electric power was the original plan when the Bloodhound project was opened nine years ago, but battery technology was said not to be advanced enough to meet the car's needs.
Now, with Geely – owner of Volvo and that brand's Polestar electric car division – on board as title sponsor, it would seem the chances of securing an electric drivetrain powerful and durable enough for the high-speed runs are much greater. The electronic components of the recently revealed 592bhp Polestar 1 could serve as an effective technical starting point - although no insiders have suggested that such a plan would take place at this stage.
For the first tests, the car was equipped with carbon disc brakes and wheels with Dunlop rubber tyres from an English Electric Lightning fighter aircraft. For the higher-speed runs - during which the wheels will turn at up to 10,200rpm, or 170 times per second - it will have solid aluminium wheels, because rubber tyres would not hold together. At that speed, said chief engineer Mark Chapman, a 1kg bag of sugar would weigh 50 tonnes. When Bloodhound’s full power is deployed, the car is designed to go from 0-60mph in less than a second, reaching 1000mph in 55sec.
The 200mph run showed the Bloodhound crew that their jet engine can be pushed to maximum reheat earlier than expected. Chapman explained earlier this year that "jet engine intakes are designed to work best at speed, and there’s a threshold at which they can accept full throttle". The team now know that they can go for full throttle from a lower speed, and the result saw the car hit 200mph in just 8sec – a second quicker than previously thought possible.
Bloodhound's ultimate goal: 1000mph
For Bloodhound to achieve its ultimate goal, marketing director Ewen Honeyman - a man with vast marketing experience including a stint in Formula 1 - told Autocar that around ?30 million of additional funding would be needed, which is roughly equal to the spend total so far. The project is about to announce four new sponsors: Cooper Tires, engineering company Renishaw, the Belstaff clothing company and IT firm Oracle.
Project director Richard Noble, himself a former land speed record holder, called the Newquay runway trials “the biggest milestone in the history of the project so far” because they've provided the team with their first opportunity to rehearse the procedures that will be used for Bloodhound's serious record runs.
Noble said the Bloodhound team also see the runway trials as a way of thanking the schools, students, families and companies that have supported their project, which stalled for almost a year due to a shortage of finance until Geely - which also owns the London Taxi Company, Lotus and Proton - agreed to become Bloodhound’s 'lead partner' and finance the 1000mph project to its conclusion. .
The acquisition would make Geely the third-biggest Daimler shareholder, overtaking the Renault- Nissan- Mitsubishi Alliance, which owns 3.1%. Currently, 70.7% of Daimler is owned by institutional investors, while 19.4% is owned by private investors. Kuwait holds a 6.8% stake.
Daimler previously rejected an offer by Geely to buy a stake at a reduced rate, but told the Chinese company that it could buy shares in the open market, according to Reuters.
The move is part of an aggressive expansion by Geely, which shot to prominence in Europe after acquiring Volvo in 2010 from Ford and went on to buy The London Taxi Company in 2012. It established the Lynk&Co brand in 2016 and acquired a majority stake in Lotus and almost half of Proton parent company DRB-Hicom this year.
Since then, PSA and Vauxhall/Opel has announced a turnaround plan that includes launching all cars on PSA platforms and setting the goal of keeping all current plants – including Ellesmere Port and Luton in the UK – open, although potentially on altered terms.
Harvey said today: “I'm very excited in terms of what's going on. There's a lot of transition, a lot of change. But if you look at some of the fundamentals now, we're moving very swiftly.
“One thing that isn't necessarily a positive, but happened on a voluntary basis, is that we took some cost out of the plant at Ellesmere Port and some people put their hand up to help us get to where we need to.
"That's nothing to do with output or performance, but segment shifts in the market throughout Europe. When you've got one product on a line, if you get shifts in market you have to align your resources.”
Harvey continued: “I've been a Vauxhall employee for 28 years and it feels a bit different to have a new owner. But we have to get on the front foot and we have to get the business turned around, and we have to get ourselves in a competitive position. Vauxhall has a great heritage.”
He also acknowledged that next year will be a challenge for the car industry in terms of sales, with uncertainty this year likely continue.
Talking about 2018, Harvey said: “We think Q1 may be down on this year, and Q2-4 will be flat.”
The terms and conditions listed on the page where customers can place an order for a Model 3 state that build slots are "non-transferable", suggesting the practice is not officially allowed. However, it seems unlikely that the brand will be able to keep track of such a large volume of deals.
Tesla has already told its employees, who are offered a discount on new purchases, that they cannot sell their car on for profit. In an email addressed to its employees, Tesla said: “Because employees are receiving special priority, all Model 3 cars prioritised to employees must be registered to you or your family member and may not be resold for more than the original price.”
The Model 3 broke records when it went on sale in March 2016, but more recently parts supply issues have created what company CEO Elon Musk described as “production hell”. The brand has been working to clear the order backlog, and the launch of the Tesla Semi truck and new Roadster helped to move the spotlight away from it.
New sports car weighs in at 1080kg and its power-to-weight eclipses that of the Cayman; launch editions almost sold out
Alpine will open seven centres in the UK starting from the second quarter of 2018, with sites confirmed for major locations including London, Manchester and Glasgow.
Although some of these Alpine Centres will leverage dealers already involved with the brand's parent, Renault, each site will have Alpine-exclusive representatives. The UK's first customer cars will arrive alongside the opening of these sites, which also include Orpington, Solihull, St Albans and Winchester.
The UK is labelled as a key market for Alpine and last month chief engineer David Twohig revealed that development of right-hand drive A110 models was underway, with an image of a right-hand drive model's dashboard posted to social media. Production of right-hand drive cars is due to start in early 2018.
Pricing of a highly-specced launch edition, which is due first, in Europe starts at ˆ58,500. At that price, it undercuts an equivalent Cayman by around 15%.
The car has been engineered to have a better power-to-weight ratio than its most accomplished rival, the Porsche Cayman, as its reborn creator bids seeks to wow buyers by making one of the most agile sports cars in the world.
Inspiration for that philosophy comes from Alpine’s heritage, with the Renault offshoot having cemented its reputation in the 1960s and 70s through giant-killing performances in racing and rallying, most notably with victories in world rallying and at Le Mans.
However, while the new A110 revives the name of the car that Alpine is most famous for historically, its head of engineering David Twohig, told Autocar earlier this year: “It’s inspired by our history, especially with that emphasis on light steering and a car that turns around you, but above all it’s a thoroughly modern sports car.”
The A110 - which revives the name of Alpine’s most iconic car - is powered by a turbocharged 249bhp 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine producing 236lb ft of torque, linked to a wet clutch seven-speed paddle shift transmission and transversely mounted and located mid to rear in the rear-drive car. It weighs 1080kg at the kerb, the compact A110 has a power-to-weight ratio of 231bhp/tonne. The 718 Cayman has 296bhp and weighs 1335kg (a power-to weight ratio of 222bhp/tonne), while the 718 Cayman S has 345bhp and weighs 1460kg (236bhp/tonne).
To hit the 1080kg target kerb weight the Alpine development team created a bespoke aluminium chassis after studying the potential for a combined steel and carbon fibre structure. “We did the maths with aluminium and got the answers we wanted,” Twohig said. “The key decisions lay in the structure’s mass, weight and torsional stiffness, and the next consideration was achieving top-notch fit and finish; carbon fibre or steel structures don’t allow the same quality.”
The A110 is unusually compact, at 4.18m long, 1.80m wide and 1.25m height. Weight distribution is 44:56 front to rear, aided significantly by the decision to locate the fuel tank in the front of the car However, it has space for two 190cm tall adults and limited luggage space in the cabin and boot. However, the car’s compact size does bring compromises - there is no glovebox, for example.
Other weight-saving initiatives include Sabelt-developed seats, which have a fixed back but which slide fore and aft. They weigh 13.1kg each, around half that of the seat in a Megane RS. Twohig says Alpine has achieved this without compromising comfort. The windscreen cleaning system also channels water through the wiper blades, making it significantly more efficient than a traditional system, in turn allowing for a washer bottle less than half the size normally used. The Brembo developed electronic parking brake is also a world first instillation, using the main brake set rather than an additional one, saving 5kg.
Although Alpine has withheld some performance figures ahead of sale, it has confirmed the A110 will cover 0-62mph in 4.5sec, eclipsing both the 718 Cayman’s 5.1sec and 718 Cayman S’s 4.6sec. However, Twohig says his team - including many Renaultsport staff - were told to focus was on agility over pace, and to that end specified double wishbone suspension at the front and back of the car, developed its own gear ratios for the semi- automatic Getrag gearbox, specified deliberately small tyres and developed a e-diff for different driving modes and an aerodynamic diffuser to create downforce without compromising the rear-end styling. The system steering is power-assisted.
“The all-aluminium forged suspension was a no-compromise decision to get agility and suppleness; we wanted the best,” he said. “The decision to develop our own gear sets was harder - or at least more expensive - but we knew it was the only way to get the car we wanted. Throughout this project we concentrated on doing it right, so that meant custom pinion sets, a wet clutch, a latest seven-speed gearbox, launch control and three proper driving modes - Normal, Sport and Track - that have a distinct character across the engine and pedal maps and the active exhaust, and the option to go beyond Track and switch ESC completely off.
“The electronic solutions meant we didn’t need a limited slip diff. It would have added weight and complexity, where the reality is that an e-diff set-up can handle these power levels perfectly well. I’ve tested it and I can promise you that you can get some pretty big angles in Track mode without it feeling like it is about to bite you. This is a car that flatters.”
The Michelin Pilot Sports are 18in in diameter on the launch car with 235 rear section tyres and 205s on the front, but 17s (225 rear section and 195 front) will be standard on other cars. “We could have gone bigger to make it look good, but the tyres look just fine and their performance matches the weight, power and torque we have. We didn’t want loads of mechanical grip, we wanted a car that is mobile and which slides relatively easily under the right circumstances.”
The rear underbody diffuser was developed after the A110s designers resisted pressure to put a rear spoiler on the car. “The rear lines are beautiful, so we looked at solutions,” said Twohig. “We could have done a pop-up spoiler, but that meant adding complexity, weight and cost. So we worked on an aerodynamic solution along the car’s floor, with the eight strakes channeling the air to cut lift. We think it’s the only car on sale that will do 250kph without needing a spoiler.”
Alpine boss Michael van Der Sande says the intention is to have a "homogeneous price across Europe" and that the 1955 launch edition cars are "practically sold out".
The A110 is available in blue, black or white and will be sold around 60 Reanultsport dealers or sports car specialists in Europe, with 20 in France and seven in the UK.
Do 187bhp and 4Motion all-wheel drive make the current top-spec T-Roc exciting to drive?
Volkswagen has ambitions of becoming one of the world’s largest producers of SUVs, so it is trying to leave no stone unturned by developing a model to fill every category in the segment. We recently met the T-Roc 1.0 TSI that provides an answer to the more mainstream end of the class. Today, it’s the significantly more potent T-Roc 2.0 TSI that gets our attention.This most powerful T-Roc falls into the small but increasingly significant hot crossovers sub-segment, where cooking variants of the Mini Countryman and Mercedes-Benz GLA live. As such, its firepower is provided by Volkswagen’s ubiquitous turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in 187bhp and 236lb ft form.Our test car mates the unit to a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox and drives all four wheels via 4Motion technology, giving this T-Roc the quickest off-the-line performance statistics of its brethren. The 0-62mph dash takes 7.2sec and its top speed is rated at 134mph – that's enough to beat the cheaper Countryman Cooper S All4 but falls short of the more directly comparable GLA 250 4Matic.Inside, our SE L-spec car - which is the top trim available until R-Line arrives in May 2018 – gets Volkswagen’s Active Information Display technology (the company's take on Audi’s Virtual Cockpit) in place of dials as standard, giving it an edge over rivals, as well as an 8.0in touchscreen on the centre console.
Nissan plugs the gap in its Micra range with a naturally aspirated 1.0-litre petrol engine, but is it good enough to unseat the Ford Fiesta, Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo equivalents?
Not often does a car maker give the lowliest model in a line-up its own international launch, but such an honour was recently bestowed on the Nissan Micra.The engine in question is a new 70bhp 1.0-litre petrol. It joins the existing 0.9-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines, both touting 89bhp, but bucks the trend of an entire industry and forgoes turbocharging in order to cut costs.It is an important development for the Micra. With the supermini segment so fiercely competitive, every penny counts. By opting for the naturally aspirated engine instead of its turbocharged petrol sibling, you’ll save just under a thousand pounds – a decent portion of the overall price at this level.Offering a cheaper engine also addresses a fundamental problem Nissan has had with the Micra; until now, the range was undercut by both the Ford Fiesta and – our class leader – Seat Ibiza. Starting at just ?11,995, this new model now undercuts those rivals in their most anaemic forms and it’s also the cheapest car to insure in its class, claims Nissan.
Aston Martin's engineers were quick to take advantage of Britain's recent snowy weather to test their upcoming supercar in cold climates. The new V12 model, due to go on sale in September, is being developed to edge away from its forebear's traditional luxury rivals such as the Bentley Continental GT and towards sharper performance models like Ferrari's 789bhp 812.
Company boss Andy Palmer recently stated his intentions for this harder Vanquish to Autocar alongside confirmation that a convertible version, the Vanquish Volante, will follow.
Both versions of the next-generation grand tourer will adopt the turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 engine used by the DB11 but are set to produce considerably more than the 600bhp offered by that car. The current Vanquish S uses a 6.0-litre V12 unit with 595bhp.
Palmer told Autocar that development of the car, seen testing in the above pictures, is almost complete. He described the new Vanquish as “bloody good”.
He added: “The majority of product investment [for Vanquish] is finished. What’s left is preparation of manufacturing the car rather than preparation of the car itself.
“We are making more prototypes to make sure we’ve got production ready to go.”
Aston Martin engineers have been using a DB11 mule to test the next Vanquish's underpinnings for several months but, since the start of October, tests have taken place at the N?rburgring with a car wearing new bodywork. This includes a lip spoiler, suggesting the final car's bodywork will generate significantly more downforce than the DB11.
Due to its harder focus, the Vanquish's underpinnings will be the most aggressive, as illustrated by the spotted development cars, which clearly sit lower and corner with less body roll than the DB11.
Palmer has previously emphasised the progress made with the new structure, telling Autocar that the cars it is spawning will help the brand shed "perceptions of old technology, old platforms and the question of whether we can survive as an independent manufacturer".
As part of its product offensive, Aston Martin will also launch the DBX SUV in 2019, to be built at Aston Martin’s new factory in St Athan, Wales. In addition, there will be two Lagonda models; likely a saloon in 2020, followed by an SUV in 2022.
Scroll through the gallery to see the savings on offer this week
We've picked five of the best deals on this week’s new car market. All are valid until 21 December 2017
Buying a new car is always better when you know you're getting a bargain, but scouring the internet for the best deals can be time-consuming and scrappage schemes aren't for everyone.
So Autocar has done the hard work for you and compiled a list of the biggest savings on the new car market.
We've found combined savings of ?32,125 on the five models featured below, so take a look and click on the links to read our full road test verdict on each one or visit our sister site What Car? for further deals. All offers are valid until 21 December 2017.
Mercedes' top drop-top model is known for being an ultra-luxurious way to get the wind in your hair but, with engines featuring no fewer than six cylinders, it is a remarkably effortless performance machine too.
Prices for the SL can seem a little out of reach for most. Thankfully, there's help at hand, as we've spotted a SL 400 AMG Line with a barely believable ?15.6k lopped off its price on What Car?.
Prior is searching for an immersive gaming experience
Our man wants 911 GT3 steering feel and Phantom pedal feedback from his experience on the virtual race track
Given you’re reading one of the more obscure pages in a specialist motoring magazine, I think it’s fair to assume that you have a certain idea of what you’re looking for when it comes to buying a car.
That you’ll understand, more than most, the pitfalls and benefits of choosing one model over another.
But imagine you don’t. Imagine, for a moment, that you need to buy something you’ll use fairly often, perhaps for an hour or more a day, but about which you’re not armed with any expertise whatsoever. You could, quite by chance and with absolutely no intent, buy the wrong thing.
It’s a situation I’ve found myself in twice in the past couple of weeks. Once, because my dentist has recommended I buy a water flosser (don’t ask); the other, because I’m looking to buy a steering wheel and a set of pedals to use with PlayStation driving games.
One of these things I will use once or perhaps twice a day, and its performance will have a marked impact on my oral health. If I choose wrongly, every six months or so my dental hygienist will attack me with tools I would prefer she didn’t and, nice though she is, I really don’t look forward to seeing her. It could prolong the time I spend with my own gnashers, and delay the point where I have to eat soup more often than I care to.
The other thing I will use once in a blue moon, and the worst that will happen if I get it wrong is that it’ll cost me a tenth of a second in a braking manoeuvre against a mate I’m racing over the internet.
You can obviously tell, then, which one I bought after 45 minutes of internet browsing and review reading, and which one I’m still agonising over more than a month after having the idea in the first place.
Yes, the flosser has arrived. And it is extraordinary, by the way. So powerful that if you want your driveway pressure-washed or a sheet of steel cut through, just let me know and I’ll pop round with it.
I think it was easier to buy because, emotionally, I don’t care. All it needs to do is its job well. I don’t actually give a monkey’s what it looks like, or how loud its pump is (extremely, if you turn it up to 11, incidentally), all I’m worried about is that it generates enough pressure, holds enough water, has buttons in the right places and that the bit you put in your mouth isn’t made from sharks’ teeth. It’s not an emotional purchase.
The wheel, though? Well, that’s something else. That involves driving and it involves feel and I’m crippled by an irrational fear that I might buy the wrong thing. That there’ll be something out there blessed with steering feel of a Porsche 911 GT3 and brake pedal feel of a Rolls-Royce Phantom but that I’ll inadvertently choose something with all the response of a Tata Safari instead. Genuinely, I’d be crestfallen.
There seem to be three major brands, so I asked some learned colleagues and friends and, helpfully, they managed to recommended each one pretty much equally.
I will read more, and watch more, and eventually I’ll buy the right one and be very happy with it. But I have concluded, reluctantly, that if you don’t know very much about something, that perhaps it is better to not care at all.
For now, the new Vantage will stick with a V8 engine only
A more powerful V12 Vantage is 'technically possible' says Aston Martin boss, but there's no decision on whether it will make production
A V12 version of the Aston Martin Vantage is technically possible, but no decision has yet been made to put it into production, according to CEO Andy Palmer.
Speaking at the launch of the new Vantage, Palmer highlighted that it had been developed with a new, sportier character in mind as part of Aston’s push to give each of its models different characters, adding that the V8’s weight benefits contributed to that. “The V12 is a question we’ll consider, but there has been no decision yet,” said Palmer.
“Technically, it is very possible. The engine bay has been designed to replicate that of the DB11, so the pick-up points and so on are all there. The V12 would fit without the need for extensive modifications.
“But we have to consider the character of the new Vantage. This is our rebel, a really sporty car that stands out for its handling. The V12 has many great attributes, but the extra weight would bring some differences in character that we’d need to consider.”
Palmer has already confirmed that a manual V8 version of the Vantage will be developed, as well as a roadster, with both set to be launched over the next 18 months to two years.
I’d been looking for an opportunity to find out what sort of aftersales care we could expect from HWM – not only our nearest Alfa dealership but also the world’s oldest Aston Martin dealer and a former racing car constructor – and the need to fit new tyres gave us a good excuse to visit its service centre in Hersham, Surrey.
Given HWM’s history, I suspected it would be an interesting experience, and I wasn’t disappointed. While the work was being carried out on the Giulia, I got to have a good look around the workshop, where a number of lovely customer cars are kept in storage and which is also home to a 1950s HWM Formula 2 racer that’s still owned by the company.
If you’re an Alfa owner, the chances are you’ll enjoy the opportunity to loiter there while your car is being worked on, if you want to.
A post shared by Neil Winn (@neilwinn) on Oct 26, 2017 at 5:07am PDT
The fact that the Giulia’s tyres needed replacing after just 4000 miles in our hands – all on the road – might seem like a shocking rate of wear, but bear in mind that the QV wears sticky, high-performance Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres, developed specifically for the car, so you can’t expect them to last as long as more everyday ones. Nor would you want anything less on a car of this calibre – in warm conditions, at least.
The other mitigating factor is that the tyres weren’t brand new when we took delivery of the car, which already had 7000 miles on the clock at that point. The tyres had already been replaced at least once, earlier in the year, so it would appear that the set we’ve just taken off had actually covered between 6000 and 7000 miles.
That’s still a pretty severe wear rate, but I suspect most QV owners will be able to better that in normal road use. Curiously, the front tyres were looking more shot than the rears, with severely scuffed shoulders, suggesting that there’s a price to pay for having such quick steering and phenomenal front-end bite.
The bill from HWM came to ?1276, but a bit of online research revealed that it could be reduced by more than ?100 by going to a tyre dealer such as Black Circles. Although the job took a little longer than expected to complete (the new tyres were reluctant to seal properly on the rims) and the faulty sensor couldn’t be sorted on the day, the experience was entirely a positive one for me. I’d be more than happy with the standard of service if I’d bought the car from HWM in the first place.
The Corsa tyres may be the business when they’re hot and sticky, but they’re less happy in colder, wetter conditions. To be fair, there’s still plenty of grip, but the electronics have to work overtime to rein in the rear wheels’ eagerness to spin up, and the car feels stiff-legged when the tyres can’t get enough heat in them. The rear end tends to react more to bumps with a sideways kick, too.
Since the Giulia is about to take part in our annual Britain’s Best Driver’s Car extravaganza and will therefore be crying out for yet another set of tyres immediately afterwards, that might be the ideal time to try it on winter rubber, hopefully making it feel more comfortable as the temperature gauge heads into single figures.
Alfa Romeo’s dealership service – heaven or hell? – 27 September 2017
An email from a reader on the subject of Alfa Romeo dealers prompted me to pay one a visit recently – not because there was anything wrong with our Giulia QV, I hasten to add, but simply out of curiosity.
Our reader said he wouldn’t consider owning an Alfa, largely on the grounds that, come servicing time, he wouldn’t want to be directed to a “Portakabin at the rear of a Fiat dealership”.
Dealer performance plays a big part in how satisfied most people feel about owning any brand’s cars, of course, and I’m well aware that Alfa dealers have a poor reputation, but I have a hard time believing they’re all that bad. Our nearest Alfa dealership is HWM in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey – a well-known racing car constructor in the 1950s and also the world’s longest-established Aston Martin dealer – and it’s far from shabby.
Its service centre is a few miles away in Hersham; yes, it’s located in the corner of an industrial estate (common practice for bigger dealerships of any brand), but it doesn’t look much like a Portakabin.
The proof of the pudding, though, is obviously in the standard of aftersales care that owners can expect – something we have yet to put to the test, although I’m now looking for an excuse to do so.
Do Alfa dealers deserve the reputation they’ve acquired, or is it outdated?
The only excuse I can think of right now for getting our car looked at by a dealer is that the alarm is still a little on the sensitive side, despite what I said in a previous report about it having been sorted.
In fact, it’s fine except for one thing: it’s prone to being set off – usually several times in a row – when I warm up my motorbike nearby. Between the car alarm and the booming sound of a big V-twin bike exhaust, I hate to think what my neighbours must be saying about me sometimes…
Otherwise, the Giulia is behaving exactly as it should do and continues to provide a great deal of driving pleasure every single day, no matter how long or short the trip may be. I have every confidence that it will remain that way too.
I admit that I had a moment of doubt about reliability when, as previously reported, the Giulia went into limp-home mode on the M3 motorway (a fault traced to the turbos’ overboost valves). But now, with the Giulia feeling as robust and trustworthy as anything I’ve ever run,
I’d have no qualms about taking it on a long-haul trip across the Continent. No doubt I’m going to regret saying that…
The urgency with which it responds to a prod of the accelerator – akin to a dam bursting – suggests the QV’s 191mph top speed isn’t just a hypothetical figure. Slower-moving cars can be dispatched in an instant, but then you glance down at the big digital speedometer between the dials (the conventional one isn’t easy to read) and have to rein yourself in pronto – and that’s harder to do.
It gets to the red zone so swiftly that it makes the rev band seem frustratingly narrow at times, even though it isn’t. The solution, of course, is to flick the gear selector back to auto mode if you want to accelerate from a low to a high speed, in which case the surge is smooth and unrelenting.
The fault with the engine going into limp-home mode was traced to the turbo overboost valves, which were replaced under warranty on both banks of the V6.
The alarm’s ultrasonic sensors were also replaced and the sensitivity was turned down, seemingly bringing an end to the continual ‘break-in attempt detected’ messages.
On the first weekend after we got it back, the QV ferried me comfortably from London out to Oxfordshire while I entertained the notion of buying a new motorbike, its adaptive dampers dealing really well with the bumpy country roads, then down to West Sussex via some of my favourite B-roads (calm down, calm down) to a country pub for Sunday lunch. I couldn’t think of many cars in which I’d rather be doing either trip.
He and his fianc?e also praised the optional Sparco front seats for their exceptional blend of sportiness and comfort.
There are a couple of small areas of criticism, though. On the sat-nav, there’s no ‘north up’ option for the map orientation, so the map spins wildly to stay pointing in the direction of travel. That’s okay if you’re being guided by the reasonably effective and easy-to-use sat-nav, but it can be distracting and disorienting if you’re not.
Meanwhile, the letterbox-shaped infotainment screen can be tricky to see properly if you’re wearing polarised sunglasses, because parts of it are covered by dark, bruise-like blotches, unlike anything I’ve seen before.
The alarm sometimes goes off for no apparent reason and gives ‘break-in attempt detected’ warning messages after the car has been sitting outside overnight (six times in a month).
The brakes aren’t easy to modulate at low speeds, making the simple act of coming to a smooth stop surprisingly challenging. And the engine went into limp-home mode in the 50mph average speed zone on the M3 motorway one Sunday, which led me to switching it off and waiting on the hard shoulder for a few minutes.
Obviously, I don’t ever want to be stuck on the side of the road, so we’re getting the QV checked over just to be on the safe side, but these issues haven’t fundamentally changed my view of the Giulia. In short, I’m completely smitten with it.
This car is still sensational. Honestly, the drive I've had back from Wales. I can count on one hand cars on sale that would do it better. pic.twitter.com/HhHRjrVx0M
Crucially, it’s also engaging and fun, at any speed. The way it arrows into corners and its poise and adjustability are quite breathtaking, especially when you remember that it’s a four-door saloon, not a supercar. Honestly, I savour the prospect of driving anywhere in the QV – even to work on a Monday morning.
With a few road trips in the pipeline, I’ll get a chance to form a better opinion of the optional Sparco front seats. I was a little worried about how comfortable they’d be, but so far they’ve been fine, although I do have to wriggle around a bit to get settled, and there isn’t a lot of space for air to flow around my posterior.
They aren’t as adjustable as the standard ones, though, and can’t be heated, so I’m yet to be convinced. They do look great, though.
So it seems fair to give the iconic Italian brand the benefit of the doubt for now, acknowledge that it has done a convincing job of creating the Giulia – even if it did take a long time to perfect – and get on with finding out what the car is like to live with. To that end, we’ve got a lovely red Giulia Quadrifoglio to run for at least the next six months.
Our Quadrifoglio – henceforth known as the QV, which is apparently an acceptable abbreviation and less of a mouthful – has come to us with 7000 miles on the clock already.
In the metal, the QV is stunning, even by Alfa’s usual high standards of design. Aggressive and sensuous at the same time, it makes other compact sports saloons look quite ordinary. That curvaceous body is adorned with air vents and fillets of go-faster carbonfibre trim, as well as heavily flared sills and a purposeful rear diffuser.
And the triangular four-leaf clover badges – signifying motorsport success and later the brand’s performance models – look at home on the wings and immediately make the car seem special.
It makes the car look as exotic as a Ferrari, especially when matched with dark-finished, five-hole 19in alloys (a ?350 upgrade) that appear to be a modern interpretation of Alfa’s classic ‘teledial’ alloys. The standard Y-spoke wheels, in the same size and with the same choice of light or dark finish, look great too, so you can’t really make a bad decision.
Underneath, the Giulia features a bespoke rear-wheel drive platform with multi-link rear suspension, a torque-vectoring rear diff and adaptive dampers, all of which instantly distinguish it from previous Alfas. The electrically assisted steering is razor-sharp, at just over two turns lock to lock.
This, i've decided, is optimal spec for your new Alfa Cloverleaf. Vulcano Black, dark alloys, black calipers, tints. Murdered out mafiosi pic.twitter.com/EzY80UVWi9
The fact that we don’t get a manual gearbox option for the QV in the UK doesn’t bother me for a second; the standard eight-speed ZF automatic would be my first choice anyway, and it works a treat, especially when operated by the long, tactile aluminium paddle shifters that are fixed to the steering column.
Inside, there’s a choice of five variations on the same theme, with black leather and Alcantara upholstery in each case and carbonfibre trim; what changes is the colour of the lower dash, door panels and stitching. We’ve got all-black trim with green and white stitching that echoes the Quadrifoglio badges on the wings.
The standard front seats have been swapped for carbonfibre-shelled Sparco sports seats (?2950), while a leather and Alcantara steering wheel with carbonfibre insert (?225) has replaced the regular leather-covered one. Our car is also equipped with carbon-ceramic brakes (?5500) to allow us to fully exploit the QV’s huge performance, as well as a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system (?950), dark-tinted rear windows (?275) and a Convenience Pack consisting of keyless entry, exterior door handle lights and extra cabin storage (?425). That lot elevates the QV’s ?61,300 list price to a hefty ?73,805.
I may well change my tune if the QV turns out to be in any way unreliable or bits start falling off, but right now I’m just excited that, at last, there’s an interesting and desirable alternative to the usual German suspects, with the character, looks, performance and dynamic talents to make you think twice about wanting an M3 or C63.
This Alfa shows every sign of being something special and therefore worth the risk. One thing’s for sure: our time with the QV won’t be boring.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio specification
Specs:Price New ?61,300; Price as tested ?73,805; Options Carbon ceramic brakes (?5500), Sparco carbon shell sports seats (?2950), Competizione Red tri-coat paint (?1750), Harman Kardon sound theatre (?950), Convenience Pack – includes keyless entry, exterior door handle lights, extra cabin storage (?475), dark five-hole alloy wheels (?350), dark tinted rear windows (?275), leather/Alcantara steering wheel (?225), smoking kit (?80)
Test Data: Engine 2891cc, V6, turbocharged petrol; Power 503bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 442lb ft at 2500rpm; Top speed 191mph; 0-62mph 3.9sec; Claimed fuel economy 34.4mpg; Test fuel economy 20.2mpg; CO2 189g/km; Faults Limp home mode (fixed under warranty), sensitive alarm, faulty tyre pressure monitoring sensor; Expenses Four new Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres including fitting (?1276)
Development of upcoming US EV is being led by former Lotus and Tesla engineer
The Lucid Air, an all-electric saloon due in 2019, will mix sports car handling with the comfort of a luxury saloon, its marketing manager has claimed.
David Salguero told Autocar that development of the Air, a car that is claimed to have a 400-mile range, is being led by former Lotus, Jaguar and Tesla engineering boss Peter Rawlinson, who is Lucid’s chief technical officer.
Salguero said Rawlinson’s experience will ensure the Arizona-based company’s first model delivers as a driver’s car that is able to take on offerings from established marques such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
Using a twin-motor four-wheel-drive powertrain with up to 1000bhp in its most potent form, the Air will be considerably more powerful than its conventional rivals. Its creators believe the low-set placement of its batteries will also help the car steer at least as effectively as those rivals.
“The Air has been designed with enough flexibility to be future-proof,” Salguero told Autocar during an exclusive interview. “It’s the kind of car that lovers of driving will like to drive. Rawlinson is the best man for the job – he knows how to make a beautiful-handling car.”
Lucid isn’t aiming the Air directly at the Tesla Model S but rather a wider window of luxury performance saloons, including models such as the BMW 750Li. Salguero said this long-wheelbase BMW – which is 150mm longer than a regular 7 Series – was actually the Air’s benchmark for cabin space but that the car’s overall dimensions would be smaller.
“By miniaturising the EV powertrain, we can make [the Air] small on the outside but big on the inside,” he said. “It will have a large, comfortable, spacious interior, comparable [in size] to the S-Class long-wheelbase, while being about the same size as an E-Class.”
The Air reached 235mph during testing in July and is claimed to be capable of accelerating from 0-60mph in 2.5sec in top-spec form. An entry-level model that uses one motor will also be produced, offering 250bhp and a 240-mile range, enabling prices for the Air to start from $52,500 (about ?39,653).
“Performance is just one piece of what the car is about,” added Salguero. “Speed and acceleration are byproducts of the [top-spec] car’s 400-mile range.”
Salguero explained that Lucid’s experience in batteries – including working with McLaren and on the next-generation Formula E battery packs that’ll enable cars to run for twice as long – is furthering the brand’s technology and knowledge.
Lucid has also teamed up with Samsung SDI to speed up development of the batteries, as well as former Tesla partner Mobileye, a specialist in autonomous vehicle technology, to give the Air autonomous capability from the first day of production. The hardware will use a sensor made up of cameras, radar and lidar sensors.
In a company statement earlier this year, Lucid said: “These technologies will enable a full Advanced Driver Assistance System suite at launch and then enable a logical and safe transition to autonomous driving functionality through over-the-air software updates."
Salguero said that, as things stand today, the car is 95% complete, with investors “absolutely taking us seriously” as the Air reaches its final stages of development. Lucid’s Arizona factory, which is currently being built, is scheduled to start producing Airs for customers from 2019, when 10,000 models will be made. Eventually, Lucid intends to up production to 60,000 units annually. The factory will be capable, should demand reach it, to produce up to 130,000 units per year.
Lucid intends to bring the Air to Europe, including the UK, but Salguero said “no announcements have been made” as to when that’ll be. Long term, the company intends to produce more luxury models, but Salguero said Lucid “wants to make sure the brand is established and well understood before we do anything else”.
Available with a DSG paddleshift automatic and VW's latest digital instruments and infotainment technology, is the new Polo GTI better than the Fiesta ST? We find out
Volkswagen has been making 'GTI'-badged hot hatchbacks for more than four decades, and yet has often struggled when diversifying its sub-brand beyond the Golf range.
The new Polo GTI might be the car to change that. Powered by a detuned Golf GTI engine producing 197bhp and providing sub-7.0sec 0-62mph acceleration, the new hot Polo is all set to bring a classy and usable, yet newly serious performance option into the market dominated by the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST and Mini Cooper S.
Unlike previous Polo GTIs, this one has been planned from the earliest stages of the creation of VW's latest supermini platform and engineered without compromise. It'll be available with a choice of DSG paddleshift automatic and manual gearboxes and with VW's latest digital instruments and infotainment technology too. Matt Saunders found out if it's finally a junior GTI worthy of the badge.
This is the Renault Symbioz test car, a working version of the concept the firm showed at this year's Frankfurt motor show
After seeing the concept for the first time at this year's Frankfurt motor show, we find out what it's like from behind the wheel
One moment I’m in the driver’s seat of the Renault Symbioz demo car prototype, watching the system deal with the vagaries of cars around me as I cruise down a French highway in the bright sunshine. Only the sound of driving rain suggests something isn’t right.
Moments later, the sky darkens, the cars fade until only trailing red brake light remains, and I’m driving in the heart of a futuristic city. Then, suddenly, I’m airborne, flying with the birds through the clouds, looking down on a vast forest beneath me.
No, I haven’t taken leave of my senses – or a copious amount of drugs. Instead, I’ve been sampling a virtual reality experience installed in Renault’s electric, connected and autonomous Symbioz prototype car to show how people might spend their time in a self-driving car in the future.
While the VR experience is the most outlandish design concept on the Symbioz, the car certainly points to how Renault envisages the near-future of electric and autonomous cars.
Under Renault’s recently announced ‘Drive the Future’ six-year plan, by 2022 the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance will offer eight full electric vehicles, 12 electrified models and 15 cars featuring autonomous systems between level two and level four.
What is the Renault Symbioz demo car?
The Symbioz demo car is markedly different from the Symbioz concept that was shown at the Frankfurt motor show earlier this year, although the two machines, along with the model house they can ‘connect’ to, were developed in parallel.
The Symbioz concept was designed to show what an electric, connected and autonomous Renault machine might look like in the year 2030. By contrast, the demo car is designed to showcase near-future technology that Renault will offer on other models by 2023.
Project manager Mathieu Lips explained: “The purpose of the demo car is not to gather autonomous data but to bring two worlds together. For a prototype car, you take a normal car, add loads of sensors, stuff lots of kit in the boot and go testing. At the same time, you go to motor shows and see visions of what autonomous cars will look like. We wanted to bring those together and merge the ideas of designers with a car capable of autonomous running.”
The concepts on the Symbioz demo car have already been tested in a number of prototypes: a Renault Talisman nicknamed ‘Road Runner’, an autonomous-equipped Espace called ‘Ghost Rider’ and another Talisman fitted with sensors to match the dimensions of the Symbioz called ‘Mad Max’.
There are no plans to release a production version of the Symbioz.
Renault Symbioz demo car: powertrain and specs
The Symbioz prototype is powered by two electric motors located on the rear axle, each driving one wheel. The motors combine to produce a maximum power of 670bhp at 487lb ft of torque, or a continuous output of 482bhp at 406lb ft.
That enables the car to achieve 0-62mph in around six seconds. Renault has not released the top speed of the car. The Symbioz uses a version of Renault’s 4Control all-wheel steering system.
There is double wishbone front suspension, with a multi-link system at the rear, and steel active shock absorbers all round to adapt the ride for motion and torque.
The car features three drive modes: Classic, Dynamic and AD (autonomous driving), each with associated lighting and fragrances to establish the difference.
The demo car is fitted with a 72kWh battery pack, located under the floor. The architecture has been designed to accommodate batteries with a capacity of up to 100kWh. During the test runs, the Symbioz was powered at a charging point that could supply up to 150kW, allowing an 80% charge in less than 30 minutes.
The outside of the Symbioz was styled according to Renault’s current design philosophy, with a sleek look that also boosts reduced aero – helped by using cameras for both the wing mirrors and rear-view mirror.
Renault has conceived the Symbioz prototype as a D-segment-sized vehicle: it is 4092mm long, 1092mm wide and 1044mm tall, with a wheelbase of 3.07 metres. The car weighs around 2200kg.
Inside the Renault Symbioz
The rear placement of the electric motors and the underfloor battery also helped to increase the interior space available in the four-seater, which Renault designed to match that of an E-segment machine.
To create extra space, Renault moved the heating system off the dashboard to the front windscreen of the car and also moved the speakers. Instead of placing them in the door and dash, Renault worked with specialist firm Devialet to install four speakers – in the front dash, rear console and the two B-pillars.
Renault also took out all the safety functions from the door, instead installing the required side impact protection in seat arms. The sense of spaciousness inside the car is enhanced by wood panelling in the back and a large panoramic moonroof.
A key question Renault wanted to explore with the Symbioz is, once freed of the need to drive, what people would do with their time in a car. The Symbioz’s dashboard is dominated by three 12.0in HD OLED screens produced by LG. The screens are arranged in an L shape, with the two in the centre part of the console touchscreens, with a smartphone-style interface also designed by LG. The interface can also be accessed via a 'mirror' app on a smartphone, enabling people to access it without needing to reach the dashboard when in autonomous mode.
What’s the Symbioz like to drive?
Our short test in the car didn’t offer much time or ability to truly grasp the dynamic capability of the Symbioz, but it was enough to showcase that it certainly doesn’t feel like a one-off prototype to drive. There’s a little delay in initial pick-up and you can certainly feel the weight of the vehicle, but the steering is light and responsive at low speed. All-round visibility is good, thanks to the large front windscreen and large side windows.
In normal mode, the car is responsive and rides smoothly on both tight French country lanes and the highway. Switch to Dynamic mode, engaged by pressing the Renault logo in the centre of the steering wheel, and – as well as the dashboard changing to a more dramatic styling – the steering wheel is moved a little closer, the steering stiffens up and the car is able to use more of the power from the motor. As you’d expect from an electric car, the instant torque available in this mode, combined with the extra power available, gives it a good kick of acceleration and allows you to get up to speed quickly on a highway.
What’s the Symbioz like in autonomous mode?
To engage the autonomous mode, you need to wait until the OLED display tells you it’s available and then firmly press two buttons mounted on the steering wheel. At that point, the car takes control, and the seat moves away from the dashboard into a 'zero gravity' position. It can also tilt up to 15 degrees inwards, so you can talk to a passenger more esily.
The Symbioz offers level four autonomous driving, whereby the car can guide itself with minimal supervision, allowing you to pay attention to other tasks – although, for safety reasons, a Renault engineer with special controls was sat in the passenger seat, ready to reclaim control.
The autonomous section of our route was done on a 50km portion of French highway operated by SANEF, with the Symbioz using data from five antenna that have been installed on the roads by that company to analyse data flow. TomTom HD mapping information in the car’s computer is then used to validate that data, while the Symbioz itself uses an array of sensors and cameras to track vehicles around it in order to change lane.
While the system had an initial reluctance to switch to autonomous mode on our drive, once it was engaged it was remarkably smooth – and you quickly become trusting of its ability to read the road and other drivers, even in heavy rain.
A large, LG-developed head-up display features augmented-reality-style overlays that showcase the Symbioz’s intended path, as well as the movement and direction of other cars. That display is designed to reassure nervous users of the car’s ability to monitor and react to all situations, and also adds a computer game-feel to proceeding.
Out route included a highway toll booth, showcasing how the car uses data fed to it to react. It takes information from SANEF about which toll booths are open for tagged cars in order to select an appropriate lane on approach, and then slows down to an appropriate speed before travelling through it at 20km/h – automatically processing the payment as it goes.
Experiencing a virtual world in a real car
Of course, watching a car drive through a toll booth is quite mundane – and that’s why, to showcase how one might pass the time, Renault tasked Ubisoft with developing a VR experience.
Put on the VR headset with autonomous mode engaged and you first see a virtual representation of the inside of a Symbioz. Cleverly, the programme takes real-time data from the car to match the motion of the vehicle – and highlight cars around you.
As noted, though, what starts as a virtual representation of reality ends with you floating over a vast forest, with only some subtle green dots left to place the road and maintain your horizon.
Once that programme ends, it’s something of a shock to return the headset and to the middle of a French highway on a rain-lashed day – which perhaps showcases why, in the future, people might choose to spend long journeys passing time in a virtual world while their car does the hard work in the real one.
The future of the Symbioz
The Symbioz demo car is strictly a one-off, based on a bespoke platform that wasn’t created with the intent for production. But both the electric technology, connected systems and autonomous features within it – although almost certainly not the VR headset – will be available on Renault models within the next five years or so.
It’s certainly one of the most coherent and confident autonomous systems we’ve experienced yet – and, thanks to that VR headset, one of the most surreal…
Both the coup? and convertible come in S560 AMG Line from the off. The entry-level (although still very highly specced) model replaces the outgoing S500 and gets Mercedes' twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine in 462bhp form and 516lb ft of torque. AMG's take on the model, the S63, uses a version of the same 4.0-litre V8 but with power raised to 603bhp and 663lb ft of torque. Prices for this model, which will rival the upcoming BMW M8, start at ?127,515 for the coup? and ?140,610 for the convertible.
The top model on sale is the AMG S65, which is powered by a 621bhp and 738lb ft twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 engine and can hit 62mph in 4.1sec. It costs from ?189,615 for the regular car, while those opting for the drop-top version will have to pay ?197,510.
First deliveries for the cars will begin in early 2018. Read on for more details.
Revealed at the Frankfurt motor show earlier this year, the upmarket two-door cars adopt a number of subtle styling changes and new OLED tail-lights. Each tail-light incorporates 66 individual OLEDs, providing a distinctive new light graphic. There is also an updated infotainment system and a revised range of interior trims.
Included in the styling makeover are lightly altered bumpers with added chrome highlights, as well as revised sills and chrome-plated tailpipes that mimic those used by the earlier S65 Coup? and Cabriolet.
The performance-oriented models also receive the latest AMG grille treatment, with vertical louvres replacing the former blade design, as well as a front bumper with larger air ducts for more efficient cooling of the engine bay and front brakes.
Inside, there are three new trim lines, as well as the choice of three new upholstery lines. The S-Class Coup? and Cabriolet’s 12.3in digital instrument cluster has been upgraded with revised graphics and the choice of three new themes: Classic, Sport and Progressive. The Comand infotainment system also gets a software upgrade, allowing it to support 3D topographical map displays and Car-to-X messages, among other functions.
Mercedes has also provided its range-topping coup? and cabriolet models with revised driver assistance systems in the form of Active Distance Control Distronic cruise control and Active Steering Assist functions already brought to the S-Class Saloon.
Updated engine line-up
The starting point for the line-up in markets outside of the UK (where the 560 sits at the base) is the S450 4Matic Coup?. It retains the same turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine as its predecessor, the S400, with 362bhp and 368lb ft.
The 4.0-litre V8 in the S560 features a cylinder shut-off function for added fuel savings in city driving, providing the car with a claimed 0-62mph time of 4.6sec and limited 155mph top speed. It has a combined consumption of 34.0mpg and CO2 emissions of 183g/km.
The AMG V8 channels its drive through a nine-speed version of AMG’s speedshift automatic gearbox and a revised four-wheel-drive system featuring fully variable apportioning of drive to each axle, endowing the new S63 Coup? with a claimed 0-62mph time of 3.5sec and limited 155mph top speed. It has a combined fuel consumption of 30.3mpg and an official CO2 rating of 211g/km.
The range-topping S65 has a combined fuel consumption of 23.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 279g/km.
All models receive Mercedes’ nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox, save for the S65, which retains the older seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic. The S560 Cabriolet, as well as the S65 Coup? and Cabriolet, are sold exclusively with rear-wheel drive. The remaining models all feature 4Matic four-wheel drive.
Coup? and cabriolet models have accounted for around 15% of total S-Class sales in the UK so far this year.
Inspired by the 1954 Turbina concept, the Lampo gets new livery and extra carbonfibre bodywork
Pagani has produced a one-off Huayra called the Lampo that takes inspiration from a 1954 concept called the Fiat Turbina.
The Turbina, a 295bhp turbine-powered sports car, had a drag coefficient of just 0.14Cd and wore a bespoke red and white livery.
Pagani has applied its own take on this livery to the Huayra Lampo, which gets its name from the Italian word for lightning, with clear red paint applied to carbonfibre panels. There are Italian flags at the back – a nod to the Fiat – while, inside, brown leather keeps the theme going.
The car, which has been created for Milan-based car customisation company Garage Italia Customs, has also gained additional carbonfibre body parts, borrowed from the 740bhp Huayra BC. It gets wider front air intake openings, which enhance maximum air flow to the engine by 5.35%.
No changes have been made to the powetrain, so the Lampo retains a 6.0-litre V12 engine that is good for 754bhp in the regular car.
“Working with Garage Italia Customs on this car has been a pleasure," said Pagani bossHoracio Pagani. "A beautiful and very interesting exercise which allowed us to move away from the shoreline, to dare and to discover always more."
Pagani’s customisation service, which is based in San Cesario sul Panaro in Modena, is part of the brand’s growing list of owner services. The company has recently launched a restoration service that can bring customer-owned Pagani models back to showroom standard.
The brand only pulled curtains on the Huayra's predecessor, the Zonda, in August, when an HP Barchetta was produced as the very last one. The news came as a surprise because Pagani had declared that the Zonda had reached the end of production when the Huayra was launched in 2012.
Smash hit’s successor will arrive in 2019 with improved comfort, more connectivity and JLR's latest engines, including a petrol-electric hybrid
Land Rover is just one year away from revealing its second-generation Evoque, which has now been spotted testing on British roads with production-spec bodywork.
To ensure its success, the company will tinker little with the current car’s formula and maintain the distinctive coupe?-style shape that helped define a segment. It will also add Velar-like features to enhance the car's premium image - as shown by the most recently spotted development car.
The next-generation car has a lot to live up to. The current Evoque helped transform the company into the much larger and more successful one it is today. Sales have never dropped below 100,000 units annually, even six years after it was launched.
Jaguar Land Rover has a stated target of having an electrified version of each of its new models launched after 2020, but the Evoque will arrive just before that and consequently there will be no electrified version from launch.
However, it’s understood the Evoque is under consideration to be the first JLR model to get a new mild-hybrid drivetrain currently in development, which has been captured in prototype form. This combines a new three-cylinder 1.5-litre Ingenium engine with a small electric motor, backed up by a 48V electrical architecture to power ancillaries including air-con and the water pump. Equipping the Evoque with this powertrain will require extensive changes to the car’s underpinnings, and as such it will not be ready for launch until the early part of the next decade at the earliest.
The mild-hybrid set-up was previewed as part of the Evoque E technology project in 2015, and will be the hybrid drivetrain used across JLR’s natively front-wheel-drive models, currently the Evoque, Discovery Sport and E-Pace. Other front-wheel- drive models are understood to be under consideration as part of JLR’s plans to achieve one million sales per year, from a best of 583,313 units in 2016.
Prototype versions of the Evoque Mk2 (imagined in production form by Autocar below) are a regular sight around the company’s Gaydon engineering base, and it is understood Land Rover is preparing a reveal of the car in October next year at the Paris motor show, ahead of UK sales in early 2019.
The current Evoque, codenamed L538, has become firmly established since its launch, and design boss Gerry McGovern believes there is no need for the concept to be reinvented, saying it should not “lose key ingredients” and would be designed with the intention of making it “more relevant”. McGovern said that even years after its launch, the Evoque Mk1 – the design of which can be traced as far back as the Land Rover LRX concept car from 2008 – remained a “very distinctive vehicle” that is “known for what it is: falling roof, rising beltline”.
For the next-generation model, McGovern said the task was to “take [the current car’s] integrity and make [it] more relevant”. Land Rover, he added, was looking at “how to make the vehicle more modern, precise, more comfortable, more luxurious, those things – not just pure aesthetics”.
Much of the Velar’s interior technology, including its dual touchscreens in the centre console and wide digital instrument binnacle, will also be introduced on the Evoque, as part of plan to boost the model’s connectivity options.
The evolution of the design will extend to the car’s underpinnings. The next-generation Evoque, codenamed L551, will be built on an overhauled version of the current car’s D8 architecture, which is Jaguar Land Rover’s only natively front-wheel-drive architecture for transverse-engined models. Other developments of D8 are used on the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Jaguar E-Pace.
Refinements to the D8 underpinnings will focus on improving the ride comfort of the Evoque, and the comfort levels for passengers. The firm has always resisted creating a pure performance version of the Evoque – the model is considered every bit the ‘mini Range Rover’ in terms of luxury and refinement, both areas Land Rover will be looking to improve further with the second-generation car.
There will be no significant increase in size. The model will closely match the footprint of today’s car, which is 4390mm long and 1900mm wide. The wheelbase of 2660mm has been modestly increased to match the E-Pace’s 2681mm. In addition, the track widths have been increased and a redesigned trailing arm suspension set-up will be used at the rear. All of these changes are aimed at improving cabin space for rear passengers.
Land Rover’s suite of new four-cylinder, turbocharged Ingenium petrol and diesel engines, built at its Wolverhampton engine manufacturing plant, will carry over to the new Evoque, each engine a 2.0-litre unit ranging in power output from 148bhp to 237bhp for the diesels, and from 237bhp to 296bhp for the petrols. There will be further improvements to the fuel economy and CO2 emissions of the engines in their application in the second- generation Evoque, aided by the increases in refinement being engineering into the car’s architecture right from the start of development.
Front-wheel drive will be offered on entry-level versions of the new crossover, with all-wheel drive standard higher up the range. The latter is set to take the bulk of sales; most Evoques will sell for about ?40,000, well above the expected starting price of around ?33,000.
Each engine will be mated to JLR’s ZF-sourced nine- speed automatic gearbox, and Land Rover’s latest off-road technology will be offered to ensure the Evoque is no less capable than any other Land Rover model off road, a ‘credibility’ message the company continually pushes.
There are no confirmed plans to launch a pure electric Evoque due to the limitations of the D8 architecture. The first electric Land Rover model will instead be the ‘Road Rover’ model, as exclusively revealed by Autocar recently. The name ‘Road Rover’ is a working title for the model, however, and when it makes production the car will wear the Range Rover badge.
The next-generation Evoque range is understood to be limited to a single five-door bodystyle. The original Evoque actually launched as a three-door ‘coupe?’ version in 2011, followed a few months later by the five-door version, which has always been the best seller. Indeed, some sources put the five-door’s dominance as high as 95% of total production.
The Evoque line-up was extended further last year with the launch of the Evoque Cabriolet, which has been another success for Land Rover. The current version of the drop-top, which is priced from ?45,250, will continue in production for some time after the launch of the next- generation Evoque, but a replacement is understood to be planned for the early part of the next decade.
New flagship saloon from Lexus provides a luxury interior to rival the best but comes up short due to its hybrid powertrain
Had you in 1989 asked the senior Lexus executive in the UK to predict annual sales of its flagship LS model five generations and 18 years later, he’d have come up with a number larger than 100.But that’s how many of these new LS500h Ewan Shepherd, the man who does that job today, reckons he’ll shift in 2018. To be fair, sales only start on 2 January and there will be an inevitable ramp up, but he says no more than 150 units will be coming this way even in a full year. In the same time, Mercedes-Benz will shift 2500 S-Classes.The LS has always struggled here, the best volumes hitting around 400 in 2007 just before the crash. The injuries have been self-inflicted in part – refusing to offer a diesel engine denied it the vast bulk of prospects – but it has also fallen victim to a nation of badge snobs that we are.This all-new LS does not seek to change its tune because it’s far more successful in less traditionalist markets, but it has been re-recorded and mixed with a decidedly more upbeat groove. Lower, wider and longer, the styling is far more adventurous – borderline funky, in fact - and comes with uncommon presence and an almost fanatical devotion to detail. That ‘spindle’ front grille has 5000 surfaces and took one stylist 14 weeks of solid work to design, after which I’m guessing he or she had to go and lie in darkened room for almost as long again.
Volkswagen's has high aspirations for its new crossover be the best in class and then some. We've driven the 1.0 TSI T-Roc out in the UK to see if it's as good as Wolfsburg says
Volkswagen is so confident in its new T-Roc that it doesn’t just expect to challenge for class honours; it reckons the crossover could be one of Britain’s best-selling vehicles.The Volkswagen T-Roc 1.0 TSI SE you see here is predicted to be in heaviest demand, and for good reason; this is a brand with an enviable reach and dealer network, so flogging a mid-spec crossover - the nation’s best-selling type of car - should be easy.However, the T-Roc will still have its work cut out. It faces a very strong list of rivals, including cars from its own stable, the Skoda Karoq and Seat Ateca, which, on paper at least, look like better propositions, because although they share the Volkswagen Group’s MQB underpinnings and a whole host of parts, the Czech and Spanish models are slightly larger and cheaper to buy.To set the T-Roc apart, Volkswagen has given it a more premium, funky design while also engineering it to have a youthful character. Chassis development boss Karsten Schebsdat, the man who signed off the playful settings of the Golf GTI Clubsport and encouraged a more adjustable Polo GTI, believes higher-end versions of the T-Roc are the “most agile” in their class.For today’s test, we want to find out if that statement stands true for the UK’s predicted volume-seller, which is fitted with a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder that produces a modest 113bhp and 148lb ft. Will crossover buyers be tempted by the T-Roc's trendy image, or will they be unable to ignore the value for money offered elsewhere?
Sleek GT to be Volvo-owned firm’s flagship; Polestar sales online by subscription only; valued at about ?116,000
The Polestar 1 will be built in up to 500 units per year when production starts in mid-2019, with the number limited due to the complex construction process required to create its carbonfibre bodywork.
The first model to be launched by Polestar since it became a standalone brand from Volvo will first be offered US, China, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands - markets the company said have the highest demand for its product.
No time scale has been set for when cars will arrive in Britain, but a Polestar spokesman told Autocar that the brand has had "a considerable amount of hand raisers in the UK who we’d like to support. We are working on this now and will communicate with those people as soon as possible to let them know how we can support them".
The Polestar 1 is a 592bhp four-seat hybrid GT coupe? that will, the brand says, act as a halo model for its future range of electric performance cars, which will be sold via subscription only. Hakan Samuelson, Volvo CEO describes Polestar as "a new brand that relates to a major strategy of the Volvo Group. We want to be leaders in electric cars, and Polestar will play an important role in this strategy".
The 1 is labeled by company boss Thomas Ingenlath as “an electric car with support from an internal-combustion engine”. It will be the only hybrid to carry the brand’s new badge. All future Polestars, beginning with a Tesla Model 3 rival and a larger SUV-style machine, will be full battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
The 1 will be powered by two electric motors that drive the rear wheels, producing a combined 215bhp with the support of an integrated starter/generator. The car will have a range of around 93 miles in pure-electric, rear-wheel-drive mode. That system will be twinned with a Volvo Drive-E 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which sends around 377bhp to the front wheels. When combined in Power model, the hybrid system can produce 737lb ft of torque.
The styling of the 1 draws heavily on the Volvo Concept Coupe?, unveiled in 2012, which was the first to be penned by Ingenlath in his previous role as Volvo design chief. Although the front end retains Volvo’s grille styling, the Swedish firm’s badge has been removed, with the Polestar logo subtly placed on the front of the bonnet.
"Polestar will not have a front grille, it will have the grid," explained Ingenlath.
The grid at front is designed to house sensors. The coupe? also features distinctive, thin light strips both front and rear.
Although future Polestar models will be full BEVs, Ingenlath said the decision to make the 1 a “performance electric hybrid” was to “bridge today’s technology with the future, offering the perfect drivetrain for a grand touring coupe?”.
Although it won't carry a Volvo badge, the 1 is still underpinned by the Swedish firm’s technology and Polestar will serve as a "technology spearhead" for its parent company. Samuelson said "making an electric car is not just about putting an electric motor into a car. To make it electric, you need to make it exciting, and Polestar will share this with the group".
The 1 is based on Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture, although the firm says around 50% of the structure is new. The 1 is 4.5 metres long, making it nearly 0.5m shorter than the S90, with the wheelbase reduced by 320mm and the rear shortened by 200mm. Major body parts are made from carbonfibre, helping to cut weight by 230kg, increase torsional rigidity by 45% and lower the centre of gravity compared with the S90.
Ingenlath said the new coupe? is designed to showcase the brand’s “progressive performance” concept, which aims to balance the fast-accelerating attributes of an electric motor with strong handling and steering feel. The weight distribution has been set at 48/52 front to rear.
The car is the first to be fitted with Ohlins’ new Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension. With this system, each shock absorber is fitted with an electronic valve that constantly monitors and adapts to driver inputs and the road surface. It is the first Ohlins system that can be adjusted by a driver from within the car.
The coupe? uses Akebono-produced six-piston brake calipers with 400mm discs. It also features torque vectoring, using the double electric rear axle’s planetary gears to split the power from the electric rear motors when in corners.
"When Hakan ask me about car as a Polestar I was not convinced. It felt wrong," said Ingenlath. "But a couple of weeks later I went to a test for an early prototype in Sweden, and it was clear it was not an S90 coup?, it was a GT, a sports car. It was not fit to be a Volvo any more. It was something new, something exciting".
A maximum of 500 of the 1 will be produced per year, the company said. They will be left-hand-drive only due, it is believed, to the small production scale. All the cars, along with the brand’s future models, will be made at a bespoke Polestar production centre currently being built in Chengdu, China. Volvo is owned by Chinese firm Geely and a joint venture has been established between Volvo and two investment companies owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding to support future Polestar development.
The 1 will be sold online via a subscription scheme, with Polestar Spaces established for those who prefer to shop in person. Subscriptions will be on a two or three-year basis. If the car were to be valued for purchase, it's said to cost about ?116,000. Polestar is now taking orders following the car’s launch in Shanghai, China.
Ingenlath said Polestar is aiming high so will also launch two more models, the Polestar 2 and 3. He explained "We don't want to shy away, hide in a comfy niche of low volume, we want to go all-in where it's happening. We have also decided to build an electric car that will join the competition around the Tesla Model 3, we will bring an exciting approach. We design cars for people who love cars as much as we do".
Volvo has invested ?570 million into the new performance division.
Subscription-only deal for all Polestars:
Polestar will sell the 1 and future models via a subscription service – and it will forgo a traditional dealer network in favour of online sales.
Cars will be offered on an all-inclusive subscription basis, with a two or three-year fixed term, set monthly payments and no deposit. The fee, which has yet to be disclosed, will include pick-up, delivery and servicing at selected Volvo dealers.
The fee also includes a number of car rental days, allowing 1 owners the use of larger Volvos. Through an app, Polestar will offer a range of concierge services, including extended hire of larger cars and items such as roof boxes and the ability to book valet cleaning.
Once the subscription term is completed, Polestar takes the car back, with vehicles then refurbished and sold second-hand.
Polestar cars will also feature ‘Phone-as-Key’ technology, which will allow app users to operate their car without a key or give a ‘virtual’ key to other users when needed.
Polestar isn’t entirely moving away from traditional showrooms and will open a small number of Polestar Spaces in various locations, but none will be connected to current Volvo showrooms. The first Polestar Spaces are due to open in early 2019. Given the popularity of performance cars in the British market, it is likely that at least one site will be in the UK.
So why is that? As discussed right back at the start of this long-term test, LPG-powered cars, which produce fewer harmful emissions, could be used to help tackle the UK’s air-quality problems while we wait for the more widespread availability of affordable electric, zero-emissions cars and a charging network to make their use viable for more motorists.
A report landed on my desk with stats on LPG across Europe. On the other side of the English Channel and North Sea, you’ll find more than 45,000 LPG stations before you hit the edge of Spain, the Balkans or Turkey, depending on your direction of travel. In the UK, there are only 1250.
Those 45,000 pumps can provide fuel to a whole host of mainstream cars – not just cheap and cheerful ones like the Dacia Sandero we’re testing – that leave their respective production plants equipped with an LPG tank alongside their conventional petrol one, meaning no need for an aftermarket conversion.
Two main reasons are typically given for it not being offered: first, the LPG-powered cars are not produced in right-hand drive; and second, that LPG is no longer protected from the fuel duty escalator, meaning it is exposed to the same rises in taxation as petrol and diesel.
It points out that the escalator has yet to be enacted and that LPG duty is much lower anyway, at 15.8% of the cost of a litre to the 58.9% of petrol and diesel.
Even if the tax went up, it would remain a much cheaper fuel at the pump than either of its more traditional alternatives.
As for the point about left-hand-drive, Autogas uses the Ford Transit Connect van as an example of an LPG-powered model that is already in production in right-hand drive.It is built in Spain and exported to Hong Kong, where motorists drive on the left, like we do here in the UK.
So, Ford, why not divert some over here to gauge the reaction? From our experience, buyers are missing out unfairly on perfectly decent vehicles.
Sophisticated it isn’t, but the mix of rudimentary speakers and a hollow plastic dash combine to produce a huge, unprocessed ghetto-blaster sound quality that brings back happy memories of cheap, 1990s-era hatchbacks.
It’s all part of the parsimonious appeal of having a cheap, LPG-powered runaround.
Counting the miles as well as the pennies – 11 October 2017?
“What’s most remarkable about the Dacia is how unremarkable it is,” she came back saying. “I was constantly trying to find ways in which it was different to drive from a non-LPG one but never managed it. I expected it to feel heavier (due to the extra fuel tank) and slower (extra weight) but it just felt the same.”
Nic Cackett, former Autocar road tester and now editor of our sister title PistonHeads ( check it out at pistonheads.com), went one further and broke the seal on the hallowed tank of petrol, not used since the Sandero LPG arrived.
“I rather liked the seamless transition to the Stepway’s conventional reserve. It made the potential range seem colossal,” said Nic, “but the eventual requirement for consecutive goes at separate pumps does rather reinsert the strife.”
Back on the subject of pumps, I mentioned last time about a bad experience with one of the newer kinds of pump at a Shell I found on the A316 near Autocar’s office.
The nozzle struggled to fit onto the car and then the got adaptor stuck on when refuelling was eventually done. I blamed myself.
Well, Rachel had the same problem with the same pump. “It didn’t work,” she said. “My partner and I both persisted for 20min before giving up and heading to another garage.”
Rachel had another observation that tallies with my own: the indicator of how much gas is left in the tank gives about as straight an answer as a politician on Question Time.
“I put in only ?10 of fuel to a tank that was almost empty, yet when I got back behind the wheel, it said the LPG tank was full,” she said. “My guess is that the LPG indicator is not an awfully fair measure of how much LPG remains in the tank.”
She’s right on that, but the office consensus on the available range from a tank of LPG is around 200-250 miles, depending on how brave you’re feeling when the red light on the little tank indicator comes on.
“For all the practical limitations presented by our Stepway – the intransigent pumps, the south-paw steering wheel, the airport-car-park-confounding numberplate – it’s worth reiterating what a happy and contented car the underlying model really is,” he said.
“I drove it back from Luton one night – after midnight, after a flight and after very little sleep – and although the steering may be as slow as oak-tree growth, the Dacia’s pulpy, affable ride and squidgy seats make it almost impossible to complain about.”
Counting the miles as well as the pennies – 06 September 2017
My first credit card bill since I took ownership of the LPG-powered Sandero Stepway has landed, and it makes for happy reading.
Which is good news, given that I signed off my first report on the car last month by noting this was the long-term test of the calculator and credit card as much as the car itself, to assess the viability of LPG as a fuel to help improve the UK’s air quality problem and save motorists a few quid in the process.
We’ve had two brims of the 40-litre tank so far: a 28.17-litre fill that took me 213 miles, and a 30.76-litre replenishment that got me 234 miles.
The economy in an LPG car is always worse, due to the fuel having a lower calorific value, but given that petrol has averaged around ?1.15 per litre over the same period, the fuel cost of ?54.35 to travel the same distance in a petrol Sandero leaves you an extra ?20 out of pocket.
When those fills have been needed, it has been fairly easy to find LPG fuel pumps so far, one always having a welcome habit of creeping up on a roundabout just in time for the tank to run completely dry (if that’s the right term). I’ve encountered the pumps at only Shell filling stations so far, although it’s worth noting that Shell isn’t the only fuel company with LPG pumps.
While at Shell, though, I have come across two types of LPG pump. One I explained about in the first report (a simple push-on, twist and lock type), but a newer push-on-and-clamp-over device has also now emerged. It is supposed to be easier to use. Well, I faffed around with it long enough for the assistant in the filling station’s shop to have to come out and show me how it is done…
Maybe my struggle was because, being a model intended to be sold to Dutch buyers, our Sandero Stepway’s fuel tank needs an adaptor screwed over the inlet so it can be filled up using UK-spec LPG pumps.
My pump fail was complete when this adaptor subsequently got stuck. A pair of pliers and brute force was needed to remove it back at the office.
Still, I’ll put all these down to lessons learned and teething trouble, because the bottom line so far is this: the LPG-powered Sandero is proving much cheaper to run than its petrol equivalent and the network of LPG pumps has not yet left us short and caused us to switch to the back-up petrol tank.
That’s the price of a litre of Autogas, the brand name for the most common form of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) you’ll find in the UK. That makes it about half the price of a litre of petrol or diesel or, in other words, rather appealing financially.
Despite a push at the turn of the century, however, LPG has not taken off in the UK. Unlike on the continent, no cars with a factory-fitted LPG tank are sold here, meaning a conversion is the only way to go if you want to drive on the cheapest fuel available on UK forecourts.
You’ll notice our car has Dutch numberplates and the steering wheel on the wrong side. Because manufacturers do not sell LPG-powered cars directly to new-car buyers in the UK, we decided against a conversion and popped over the Channel where they do sell them.
Are UK car buyers missing out? That’s one of the things we’ll be finding out.
So why a Sandero? Well, it’s the epitome of cheap motoring. The cheapest fuel on sale in the UK, in the cheapest car.
Or in the words of Dacia’s Dutch website, run through Google Translate: “What is even smarter than a Dacia? A Dacia LPG!”
The tank is round and unobtrusive, robbing no obvious usable boot capacity, and is a world away from the mental image of aftermarket LPG conversions that leave the car’s boot filled with gas cylinders.
The obvious difference is when you look behind the fuel filler cap. Next to the conventional petrol one is a smaller cap for the LPG. In the UK you need to screw a supplied adaptor into the LPG filling neck each time you refill because pumps vary according to territory.
To refill, you slot the pump over the adaptor, turn 90 degrees to lock it, pull the handle on the pump and latch it on, and then press the button on the dispenser to start filling. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds and dispenses fuel at the speed of the slower petrol pumps you might find on an older forecourt.
Just watch out for the pump making you jump with a big release of pressure when you unlatch the handle afterwards.
There’s only one difference inside between an LPG-powered Sandero compared to a regular one: a little low-tech dial next to the gearlever. The dial indicates how much fuel is left in the LPG tank and tells you whether you’re running on petrol or LPG, with the option to switch between the two.
We have a full tank of petrol on board for emergencies but don’t plan to use it during the car’s six months here or this would all be a bit pointless, wouldn’t it?
Setting all that aside, an LPG-powered Sandero Stepway will cost ˆ15,380 (?13,490) in the Netherlands compared with ˆ15,980 (?14,017) for a conventional petrol one.
In the UK, a Sandero Stepway is much cheaper to begin with (?8995-?10,995 for this engine, depending on the trim) before you consider the different taxation system. But when cars equipped with factory-fitted LPG tanks were sold in the UK at the turn of the century, they cost about ?1000-?1200 more than their petrol-powered equivalents. Let’s imagine that it would cost from ?10,000 here.
This will be the long-term test of the calculator and credit card as much as the car. How many LPG fuel stations are there? How does the economy compare with a petrol car? Is it really cheaper? How often do you have to fill up? How many people could benefit from switching to LPG?
I’ll be channelling my inner Carol Vorderman to find out.
Dacia Sandero Stepway LPG specification
Specs:Price New ?13,490; Price as tested ?13,490; Options None
Test Data: Engine 898cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 89bhp; Torque 103lb ft; Top speed 104mph; 0-62mph 11.1sec; Claimed fuel economy 55.4mpg; Test fuel economy 35.1mpg; CO2 115g/km; Faults Stuck adaptor (fixed); Expenses None
All-new Defender will be the most high-tech Land Rover yet, have exceptional off-road ability and be sold as a premium 4x4
Land Rover will use its 70th anniversary celebrations in 2018 to finally reveal its plans for a reborn Defender, which will go on sale in 2019.
It is now almost two years since the Defender went out of production – 67 years after the original Land Rover Series I it’s derived from entered it – and there has been a wall of silence around the company’s plans to launch a replacement.
However, Autocar can now reveal that the new Defender, codenamed L663, will finally be shown towards the end of 2018 as the centrepiece of Land Rover’s 70th anniversary celebrations – and the model revealed will be the final production car, not a concept.
Land Rover is now wary of revealing concept cars for fear of the design being plagiarised, so it has decided against giving an early flavour of the Defender.
The company did start to show the family of DC100 concepts in 2011, which at the time were said to preview a more low-cost new Defender then coming in 2015. But such was the reaction against the DC100 becoming the new Defender that the firm returned to the drawing board.
However, a greater reason for the delay has been the difficulty in building a viable business plan for the model. Sales of the old Defender never rose above 20,000 units per annum in later years and as many as 100,000 annual sales are needed to make it viable this time round.
To that end, initial launch plans for the reborn Defender centre on two different wheelbases and two distinct bodystyles. The famous 90in and 110in wheelbase that gave the old Defender 90 and Defender 110 their names will also inspire the naming strategy of the new model, which will be built on a version of one of Jaguar Land Rover’s aluminium architectures.
Those wheelbases will house both hard-top and soft- top bodystyle options for the new car, which are currently being experimented with in Land Rover’s design studio. An eventual series of Defender models will potentially include a pick-up and a line-up of different versions and trims ranging from the more civilised everyday use to the most hardcore, as well as more premium and performance varieties, with one eye onthe continued success of the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen.
Indeed, Land Rover has long stated that the Defender will be not just a car but one of the three pillars of its entire business. The other two are the Range Rover and the Discovery range of models.
The new Defender will be based on a common Jaguar Land Rover architecture, a toughened-up version of the D7u underpinnings used on the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery models. This will enable the kinds of economies of scale in production that the old model never achieved, as well as allowing for a range of petrol and diesel engines from JLR’s Ingenium line-up to be offered.
It also means the model can be sold in the US and Canada, which the old Defender couldn’t because it failed to meet crash safety regulations.
Although the DC100 concept offered no clues about the final design of the new Defender, the recent Discovery SVX at the Frankfurt motor show does – not so much in specific design features but in terms of the execution. Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern described the execution of the Discovery SVX’s design as “premium durability”. By this, he meant the fact that its toughness needn’t be displayed with traditionally overt off-road features such as snorkels and large rows of spotlights.
The phrase ‘premium durability’ has also inspired the creation of the new Defender, which will be pitched as a premium product and priced as such. The car’s final design is understood to have a much more understated and refined look than previous artists’ impressions have suggested.
“We have to stop thinking about function in a durable way,” McGovern told Autocar at the Frankfurt show. “When you’re buying into the brand, you’re buying a premium product.”
That decision will mark a clear design shift for the new Defender away from the original and, as such, it will not be a retro-styled reinterpretation of the classic model in the way that other post-war icons such as the Mini, Fiat 500 and Volkswagen Beetle have been reinvented.
Although the design will contain no more than a few nods to the original, the new car’s capability will be beyond reproach. Indeed, the new Defender is set to be the most high-tech Land Rover yet. It will have a full and updated suite of off-road technology based on the Terrain Response II system that surpasses the tech offered on the new Discovery model introduced this year.
Land Rover is aiming for the new Defender to be designed and engineered to have the kind of ground clearance and approach, departure and break-over angles that will give it class-leading off-road performance and agility.
The crucial commercial balance Land Rover is working on is ensuring the car appeals to both hardcore off-road enthusiasts, who will use it as intended, and a broader, more general audience, who will put it to more typical everyday use. The whole premise of the brand is based on the credibility of its off-road message – a role the original Defender fulfilled many times over on a marketing level, even as sales dwindled. Whereas models like the Evoque and Velar, however capable they are, may not need the approval of the purists in Land Rover’s eyes, the Defender definitely does.
The firm also has a close eye on the plans of billionaire industrialist Jim Ratcliffe to launch his own rough and tough off-roader born out of the demise of the original Defender. Despite the vast wealth, size and experience of JLR, the company is still looking to gazump Ratcliffe, beat him to market and be seen as the company launching the genuine successor to the Defender.
One question hanging over the new Defender is where it will be produced. It is unlikely to be built in Britain because the two JLR factories that make aluminium-bodied cars, at Solihull and Castle Bromwich, are close to capacity.
That leaves the firm’s new plant in Slovakia (where the Discovery, to which the new Defender will be closely related, will be built) as the favourite. However, outsourcing its manufacture is another option, with Magna in Austria set to build an as yet unconfirmed second JLR model in addition to the Jaguar E-Pace.
Mercedes will launch an updated version of its G-Class (formerly G-Wagen) in January 2018 at the Detroit motor show. Visually, it stays true to the 1979 original, but a lighter structure and the latest engines will bring it right up to date.
It was given a facelift earlier this year, with new infotainment and a sharper- looking exterior design. Beneath the spruced-up body remains a frame chassis, linking the latest car to its forebears, which stretch back 66 years.
THE EVOLUTION OF AN ICON:
The Land Rover Series I was born in 1948 with the task of keeping Rover afloat during difficult post-war years.
Built within the confines of a material-rationed Britain, the first-generation car used a Jeep-inspired chassis and a four-cylinder engine sourced from the Rover P3 saloon.
The Series I evolved into the Series II, which itself then spawned the Series IIA, but it was the Series III, launched in 1971, that really stood the test of time. The Mk3 car’s design changed to the form most of us will recognise today and the engine range grew to feature four motors: a four- cylinder petrol, two diesels and a range-topping V8, borrowed from the Rover P6.
By now, the Defender’s place as a classless workhorse-cum-fashionable SUV was secure, so much so that everyone from countryside farmers to the Queen could be seen in one. Little surprise, then, thatthe final major update that was applied in 1991 represented one of minor evolution.
The Defender 90 and 110 (signifying its wheelbase in inches) got a new interior and more modern TD5 turbocharged diesel engine, but the original Series I formula of simple robustness remained right until the final car (number 2,016,933) rolled off the production line in 2016.
The new Defender in its natural terrain – off road
Land Rover is taking a big gamble in resurrecting the Defender, but it looks like it's been given the right tools for the job
Is Land Rover really reluctant to show a concept car because it fears it’ll be plagiarised by a bloke in a pub who decided to create his own car company? I do hope not. Pity, if so. Where’s the confidence?
But I’m glad to know that it’s coming, and coming soon, and I think the platform is probably the right one. Recently, Rolls-Royce boss Torsten M?ller-?tv?s said that “a Phantom is a Phantom is a Phantom”. Land Rover is custodian of a similar product, and a Defender (is a Defender is a Defender) ought to be more capable off road than any other production car in the world, and I think only the full-fat Land Rover platform can provide that. Especially given, presumably, it’ll need to be rated to tow 3.5 tonnes.
That car, though, is by its very nature expensive, which alters what the Defender will be compared with the last one. There might well be a pick-up but a monocoque is inherently less versatile, when it comes to offering different bodystyles, than a vehicle with a separate chassis from which a number of bodies can be hung.
But what else can Land Rover do? Create a bespoke platform, with separate ladder frame, to which two dozen bodystyles can fit? Not a chance. So yet another car hung from the versatile, but already pretty busy, and undeniably heavy, big Land Rover platform. Other than premium, then, and great off road, I’m still not sure what the next Defender will be. Still, I suppose Land Rover does. And its rivals don’t.
With this in mind, road-building will be tweaked to best accommodate connected and autonomous cars ahead of their arrival, with collaborations between the Government, manufacturers, developers and other parties planned to give driverless cars the best start on UK roads possible.
These collaborations will culminate in more convenient information processing, such as determining how best to deliver data for traffic management and integration with smart roads to reduce traffic.
A potential outcome of this is a Japan-style timetable, with journey times offered, backed up with live traffic data for accurate predictions.
Further to this connected, live data, potholes are being targeted as an area of potential improvement as a result of driverless cars, with these vehicles detecting potholes and reporting them to Highways England so repairs can be scheduled. Drones are also planned for traffic and incident surveillance, reporting back data required for the best possible response time.
The report also outlines plans for electric charging, which aim to provide a charger within 20 miles of every road user on 95% of the so-called strategic road network. This will take place before the end of 2019, with funds already ringfenced for this purpose.
Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: “We are delivering a record ?15 billion of government investment to give people safe, efficient and reliable journeys, and provide businesses with the links they need to prosper and grow.”
The Mondeo ST-Line marries sporty styling with that car's signature dynamism to make a rather appealing package designed for private buyers
When the Ford Mondeo Mk1 first appeared in 1993, its agile handling and responsive steering turned what was expected to be a run-of-the-mill fleet car into a driver’s delight. It’s grown a bit since then – by around 400mm in length and to more than 250kg – but it’s also grown into a more refined proposition.The Mondeo ST-Line and more expensive ST-Line X introduced in 2017 were part of Ford’s strategy to split ranges above the entry level into sports and luxury trim levels (Titanium and Vignale). Thus, both versions of ST-Line are sporting trims akin to Audi’s S line rather than a return to true sports ‘ST’ versions of the Mondeo. For the 2018 model year, ST-Line X has been renamed ST-Line Edition. ST-Line is not aimed at fleets but fair and square at the retail buyer.The Mondeo ST-Line comes with sports suspension that is slightly stiffer and 10mm lower than standard. Outside, there’s a full body styling kit and 18in Rock Metallic alloy wheels. Inside, there are front cloth sports seats with red contrast stitching, alloy pedals, accented red stitching on the steering wheel, centre console and door trims, and dark headliner.ST-Line Edition gets Titanium equipment such as traffic sign recognition, lane keeping aid and 10-way electrically adjustable driver's seat (passenger seat remains manual), and adds further enhancements including rear privacy glass, ST-Line branding, coloured stitching and sports trim items. It, too, gets the sport suspension but 19in Rock Metallic alloy wheels. Seats are trimmed in partial leather that is black with red stitching.Powertrains are either 148bhp or 178bhp 2.0 Duratorq TDCi diesel, with either six-speed manual transmission or PowerShift dual-clutch automatic on the more powerful engine. There’s also an all-wheel-drive option tested here, in conjunction with the 178bhp diesel and auto 'box.
Samson claims its Switchblade is the world's first flying sports car...
American company Samson claims that its 1.6-litre V4-engined Switchblade will be the world’s first flying sports car; it's priced from around ?90,000
Samson Motors, a company based in Oregon, US, has announced that the Switchblade, which it claims is the world’s first flying sports car, is ready for launch in spring 2018.
The three-wheel Switchblade is more akin to conventional light aircraft than the ever-growing number of flying cars pitched in recent months, eschewing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) due to a lack of infrastructure (landing and take-off points) and VTOL flying cars’ relative lack of range and speed.
With a cruising altitude of 13,000 feet and a 200mph top speed in the air, the two-seater features extendable wings and a retractable tail that fold out - either manually or electronically, if this currently-in-development option is specified - and extend for flight. The Switchblade's top ground speed is in excess of 100mph.
In ground mode, the car is 5.1 metres long, or the same length as the standard-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It’s around 330mm narrower, though, at just 1.8m wide. In flight mode, the Switchblade's length increases to 6.2m with the tail extended, while the wings fold out for a wingspan of 8.2m. The car’s takeoff weight is 794kg, or around a third more than the Ariel Atom.
Takeoff and landing distances are 335m and 488m respectively, and although the car’s 26ft wingspan doesn’t allow road-based takeoffs, Samson claims that the car will be able to be flown from regular airports. At around 80mph, the car takes off naturally if the wings are extended, says Samson.
The Switchblade is powered by an engine of Samson’s own creation: a 190bhp liquid-cooled 1.6-litre V4, which returns fuel economy of around 48mpg on the ground, running on 91 Octane fuel. In the air, it's around 9g/hr, giving a range of around 450 miles from the 113-litre fuel tank.
Transmission for driving is a five-speed unit.
A full driving licence is required to operate the car on the roads and a private pilot’s licence is required to fly it. US law dictates that 51% of the vehicle must be built by the owner, given its experimental/homebuilt classification. With Samson’s professional assistance, this can be completed in three weeks at a Samson Build Assist Centre.
Standard kit on the Switchblade includes a premium sound system with MP3 compatibility, a reversing camera, a digital instrument display and leather seats.
Safety kit includes a parachute for the whole vehicle, disc brakes front and rear, rollover protection and crumple zones front and rear. There’s enough space for golf clubs in the storage area, although Samson only specifies up to around 23kg for luggage.
Prices for the Switchblade are targeted to start at around ?90,000, although an extra ?15,000 will be applied if owners opt for the Samson Build Assistance.
Three further variants of the machine are available: Snowbird, for colder climates; Trek, a more rugged version with heavier-duty landing gear and extra mounts for additional cargo; and Aurora, which combines the Trek and Snowbird packs.
As electrified cars’ hunger for batteries increases, Toyota and Panasonic are considering a joint venture to produce prismatic batteries
Toyota and Panasonic have agreed to study the feasibility of setting up a prismatic battery business to explore its suitability as a mass-market alternative technology in the automotive industry.
The collaboration will also further develop next-generation solid-state batteries, as that technology picks up pace in several areas of the industry due to a potential higher capacity that would be suited to longer-range electric vehicles.
Toyota and Panasonic have worked together since 1953 and Panasonic’s traditional batteries are already widely used across the automotive industry in EVs, including in various hybrid models produced by Toyota.
The agreement means the two companies will analyse prismatic battery use across the automotive world, looking to lower their price and raising their performance and safety.
Another crucial aspect of the venture is considering how to make supply stable amid growing fears of shortages and concerns around the ethics of collecting the required elements to make the batteries. For this reason, the partnership aims to aid the proliferation of EVs globally, rather than simply Toyota or Lexus hybrids and EVs.
“Panasonic is a leading company in the area of automotive batteries. I think it was fate for us to come together to work for this collaboration. We would like to offer opportunities to work together with other companies with the collaboration for the realisation of automotive prismatic batteries,” said Toyota boss Akio Toyoda.
The Punto gained special attention from the body's secretary general, Michiel van Ratingen, who said: “The fact that older cars cannot compete illustrates the pace at which the vehicle industry is innovating safety and the willingness and ability of competitive manufacturers to meet the highest standards. Those who do not keep their cars up to the latest standards get left behind, as these results clearly show.”
The third-generation Punto was launched in 2005, making the car a twelve-year-old model. It wasn't replaced following the 2008 economic downturn upon Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne’s decision.
Continuing, van Ratingen said: “This is perhaps the strongest example of a manufacturer continuing to sell a product that is well past its best-before date at the expense of the unsuspecting car buyer. We would urge consumers to choose cars with the most up-to-date five-star ratings, many examples of which we have seen in 2017.”
Thatcham Research, the UK’s organisation responsible for Euro NCAP tests, explained that while the Punto’s result is the most shocking, the number of three-star results spell out a wider problem.
“Some great strides have been made in car safety this year; 72% of the cars tested achieved a five-star Euro NCAP rating, compared with 56% in 2016. But December’s test results have shown that some car makers are choosing not to fit potentially life-saving safety technology as standard, despite an overall trend to the contrary in 2017,” said Matthew Avery, Thatcham’s research director.
A Fiat spokesman said: “Safety is of the utmost importance to the FCA group. When Punto was launched 12 years ago, it was the first 5* EURO NCAP car in its class. The importance of safety to the FCA group is demonstrated by the number of new models achieving 5*, for example Alfa Romeo Giulia, Alfa Romeo Stelvio and the Jeep Compass.”
Dacia released the following statement about the safety of the new Duster: “The All-New Duster achieved a three-star safety rating – Dacia’s target. The All-New Duster includes a host of safety equipment that has been upgraded since the previous model. Aiming for four or five stars would have meant equipping Duster with a range of recent driving aids and technology and that would have made the car more expensive and more complex to drive. That is not consistent with the vehicle’s positioning.”
Vauxhall clarified, explaining that upon launch, the Viva was a four-star car, but since then the car's lane departure warning was made an optional extra, instead of standard, decreasing the car's rating in the process. The system now costs ?165 as an extra.
Autocar is awaiting responses from manufacturers whose cars were rewarded three stars regarding these new NCAP ratings.
Hot crossover is likely to use the S3 hot hatch’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine; flaunts quad exhausts and black exterior trim
Audi Sport's engineers are working on an SQ2 performance crossover that is due for launch next year as an alternative to the Volkswagen T-Roc R.
The SQ2 will follow the form of the rest of Audi’s S range with more power and sportier design features than the standard model it's based on. Recent spy pictures suggest that the changes will include quad exhausts, more prominent bumpers, a black front grille and extra black trim.
The hot version of the Q2 is expected to feature the same turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine as the S3 hot hatch. In that car, it produces 306bhp, but insiders expect the crossover’s peak output to hover around the 295bhp mark.
The T-Roc R will be a key rival when it lands next year, although the two cars, which come from the same stable, will be given different characters to ensure they appeal to different buyers. The SQ2 will likely continue to be marketed as a 'trendy' offering, while recent comments from Volkswagen chassis boss Karsten Schebsdat suggest the T-Roc R will be more playful to drive.
Price hikes attached to models like the S3 suggest the SQ2 could be priced from about ?35,000, making it close to ?15,000 more expensive than the cheapest Q2 variants.
Sales for SUVs have continued to surge in recent months, with the segment bucking the trend of a shrinking market and representing a third of all registrations across the region. Performance variants have also seen growth, suggesting the SQ2 will land in a buoyant market.
Insiders think an even faster Q2 will join later on into the model’s production lifetime, likely badged as an RSQ2 and utilising power from the same turbocharged five-cylinder engine as the RS3. In that car, as much as 362bhp is on offer, giving some idea of how potent the RSQ2 could be.
Keeping with the tradition of featuring something other than cars for our Christmas road test, we take a class A1 steam locomotive for a full Autocar, erm, railway test.
Also in this issue
There are, you may be happy to hear, also cars featured in our First Drives section. The first is the Alpine A110, a car that could very well be the strongest alternative to the Porsche Cayman in its history. Alfa Romeo's Stelvio promises performance car handling on a raised platform; we put the theory to the test in the range-topping Quadrifoglio variant.
Is an Aston Martin DB11 the perfect car to carry a Christmas tree? We know this is a question many of you have been itching to know the answer to. Rest assured, our drive from Scotland to London has an answer.
We also watch Formula 1 with a legend of the sport, Murray Walker, before talking to some of Lewis Hamilton's fiercest former rivals to find out what it's like to beat him on track.
For any aspiring car photographers, there's also a handy guide on how to take a perfect picture. Our snappers use the opportunity to nominate their favourite shots from 2017.
Looking back on the past 12 months, we decide which of the dozens of cars to have passed through Autocar's fleet car park stand out as our favourites. Prizes include the Look At Me, Dammit award and the Hashtag Spoiler Alert award. Seriously.
Beware Christmas classifieds browsers: ?30,000 can land you with an Aston Martin Vantage. And that's not for a category whatever – that's for an example with full Aston Martin service history and 50,000 miles on the clock. We explain why now (or after a few glasses of sherry) is the time to buy a used Vantage.
Initially, huge levels of interest in new Range Rover Velar didn't lead to booming sales
Introducing price flexibility has led to a surge in Velar sales in the UK, reveals firm's global sales operations director
Land Rover and its UK dealers were “probably a bit complacent” about sales of the new Range Rover Velar as a result of the massive interest in the car following its reveal, Andy Goss, the company's global sales operations director, has admitted.
Stressing that sales were now on track for the BMW X6 and Porsche Macan rival, Goss said that Land Rover was initially surprised by the relatively low ratio of test drives to orders. Launch editions of the Velar costs as much as ?85,450, although entry-level versions of the car are available from ?44,380.
“We had a couple of things to learn if I’m honest - some adjustments to make,” said Goss. “The moment the car was revealed, the enquiry lines were red hot and we were smashing our targets like never before, and I think that led us to believe that the car would sell itself.
“But, of course, life isn’t that easy. We needed to reassess the right approach. Our dealers had taken the levels of interest and set in stone that they wouldn’t need to discount the car to sell it, for instance. Perhaps they saw a surfeit of milk and honey and felt they didn’t have to try as hard as perhaps they might otherwise.
“The adjustments we had to make were small: a tweak in the interest rates on finance and opening up the space for dealers to negotiate a bit, to give customers what they rightly want and expect - a good-value deal.
"Once we’d done that the orders came in quickly, and last month the Velar comfortably outsold the Macan.”
So far, around 20% of Velar sales have been to Range Rover Evoque customers trading up, with the vast majority being to customers new to the Land Rover brand. “There are very few Range Rover Sport customers trading down,” said Goss.
Jaguar's 2.0-litre diesel XE will be one of many cars affected by the taxation change
The additional taxation penalising new diesel cars does nothing to address the issue of lowering pollution or CO2 output, says Andy Goss
The extra tax on buyers of new diesel cars imposed in the recent Budget is “counterintuitive”, according to JaguarLand Rover sales boss Andy Goss.
From 1 April 2018, taxation for any new diesel car will increase by a tax band for the first year, unless that vehicle can meet new real-world testing standards, called RDE Step 2. However, these standards will not be introduced until 2020, meaning no new diesel model can yet be eligible for this exemption.
The diesel tax supplement for company cars is also rising from 3% to 4%.
Goss said: “We were surprised by the Budget. What is the rationale? It’s difficult to fathom what led to that [decision].
“If it had been a question of getting older diesel cars off the road, that would have been understandable. But to go for new diesels in the way they have is a real surprise.”
He also warned on the effect it would have on emissions: “It’s not good. CO2 will go the other way”, he cautioned, outlining that CO2 emissions will rise as people are pushed towards buying petrol cars which, on average, have higher CO2 emissions.
Goss’s comments echo that of the UK's Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) boss Mike Hawes. In reaction to the Budget last month, Hawes said: “This budget will also do nothing to remove the oldest, most polluting vehicles from our roads in the coming years.”
The SMMT has also raised concerns about rising CO2 emissions, which will make it increasingly difficult for the UK to meet strict emissions targets.
New SUV marks biggest transformation in G-Class's history; it'll arrive at the Detroit motor show next month
Mercedes-Benz has revealed the interior of its new G-Class off-roader, which has undergone the most significant reinvention of its four-decade lifespan to provide greater comfort, technology and usable space for occupants while not abandoning its utilitarian origins.
Full details of the new G-Class - which has been four years in development at Mercedes’ standalone G facility in Graz, Austria, and is codenamed ‘W464’ – will be fully unveiled at the Detroit motor show in mid-January, but the familiar boxy shape of the current vehicle will be retained.
However, the German manufacturer has afforded an early look at the five-seater’s interior, where some of the most significant revisions have been made. As well as incorporating much of the technology and underlying electronic architecture from the latest E-Class, Mercedes has retained many of the G-Class’s iconic design features. The overhauled G-Class will be wider than the current model, and an increased wheelbase and improved packaging of major components have liberated a considerable amount of additional space inside.
Rear passenger space – an area that was criticised in the current G-Class – is said to have increased by 150mm, with approximately 40mm of that being freed up by a longer wheelbase. The driver and front passenger benefit from an additional 38mm compared with the existing model. Shoulder and elbow room are up by 38mm and 68mm respectively in the front and by 27mm and 56mm respectively for rear occupants.
Although the new G-Class retains its predecessor’s upright windscreen and square-jawed proportions, the seating position is slightly more car-like in the new model. “In the outgoing car, it is more like you sit on the car, but now you sit in it,” said Oliver Metzger, G-Class design engineering chief.
Very few parts have been carried over from the outgoing G-Class. Among those that do remain are the nozzle of the headlight washer, the cover for the spare wheel – still mounted on the side-hinged rear door – and the door handles.
The influence of Mercedes’ saloons can be seen on the dashboard and centre console, most notably on the multi-function steering wheel, which features touch-sensitive controls for the infotainment system, an electric handbrake and the gear selector stalk mounted on the steering column, as opposed to the more traditional gearshift in the centre console.
It brings the G-Class in line with other Mercedes models equipped with automatic transmissions and opens up space on the centre console for the touchpad and rotary infotainment controller, as well as additional stowage areas. An analogue instrument panel comes as standard, but a ‘virtual’ display is available as an option.
Design themes from the car’s exterior are mirrored inside, said Metzger: “The shape of the air vent is the same as the round headlight sitting in the front grille and the shape of the audio speaker is very similar to the indicator on the front bumper.”
The rear seats can be tilted to nine different angles, meaning they can be left upright to optimise stowage space in the boot or reclined for greater rear occupant comfort over long journeys. The rear bench also folds flat to increase the size of the luggage compartment. The current G-Class’s luggage capacity of 699 litres with the rear bench up is likely to be surpassed, although Mercedes is keeping the exact figure under wraps until the official reveal next month.
Although the new G-Class will retain its forebears’ off-road ability – it has undergone extensive testing on the Sch?ckl, the gruelling mountain close to the Graz factory – it will also be more luxurious and offer greater potential for personalisation through optional equipment packages and an AMG Line trim level.
Following its Detroit unveiling, the new G-Class is expected to go on sale in Britain next summer at a price slightly above today’s entry level of ?92,070. The 4x4 enjoyed its most successful year yet in 2016, when almost 20,000 were sold globally.
Design engineering chief Oliver Metzger on the new Mercedes-Benz G-Class interior
How difficult was it to combine iconic design features within a modern interior?
“It was a tough challenge, but also a fun one. There were not too many trade-offs, where we had to leave out one thing to get the other in. Keeping the iconic features from the current G-Class was the top priority, hence things like the positioning of the three differential lock buttons [on the dashboard]. Older generations of the G-Class had the buttons exactly in this position. And then also the passenger grab handle on the dashboard has been redesigned – it is not only a design feature, it is really necessary when you are off-roading.”
How do you go about redesigning a handle?
“It was not a case of copy and paste from the old G-Class. First of all, we had to bring a little bit more to the dashboard than on the old car because of new passenger safety requirements. There was a lot of engineering going on to ensure we could actually keep the handle because it is so iconic for our G-Class. Also behind the dashboard everything is new, so we had to put all the fitment points in different places.”
How much of an advantage were the larger interior dimensions?
“We changed the whole ergonomic layout of the car. The old car was limited in terms of how far you could push the front seat backwards. I think almost everybody will find a seating position in which they are comfortable and which is also good for long-distance drives. With the old car, it was almost impossible to access the rear seats. It was very important for us to have enough space in the new G-Class’s body-in-white to have easy entry and egress.”
Direct Line is first insurer to offer reduction as part of research into autonomous technology
Direct Line is offering Tesla drivers who use Autopilot on their car a 5% discount on insurance premiums in a bid to increase the function's usage for research.
The British insurer told Reuters that it wanted more people to use the technology so that it could gather valuable data, which will be used to better understand how autonomous technology will impact safety on the road and therefore the price of premiums.
“At present, the driver is firmly in charge [when using Autopilot], so it’s just like insuring other cars, but it does offer Direct Line a great opportunity to learn and prepare for the future,” Dan Freedman, the insurer's head of motor development, told Reuters. “We aim to offer competitive premiums and we’ve welcomed a good number of Tesla drivers in the UK”.
Autopilot technology can take control of the car’s acceleration, braking and steering, but current laws require the driver to remain in command. Cars can also be summoned from parking spaces to their drivers. Research has shown that Tesla drivers who regularly use the Autopilot system are around 40% less likely to have an accident.
Tesla equips all of its cars with driverless technology hardware to enable autonomous functions. This hardware is capable of offering full autonomy, but software is yet to reach levels to enable it. Over-the-air software updates will be used to move each car towards the maximum autonomy level as technology progresses.
Britain is pushing to become a world leader in autonomous car technology, with the recent Autumn Budget including plans to invest in companies specialising in the area. Draft legislation is being written up to allow autonomous cars to drive on Britain’s roads from 2021, so insurers are eager to establish how the technology will affect the number of incidents their customers have.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and vehicle safety expert Thatcham Research have been pushing for insurers to be allowed access to car data systems after an accident to determine whether the car was in autonomous mode at the time. They argue that the information will be vital to reveal whether the car or the driver was at fault.
BMW’s new small SUV gets its first official outing at the Detroit motor show, despite being revealed ahead of the Los Angeles motor show. The SUV, targeted at young people, is penned to go on sale in the UK in spring.
Infiniti will continue its efforts to bring an electric vehicle to market with an electric concept precursor to the production car tipped for reveal at Detroit. It’ll be an all-new model rather than a variant of an existing car.
Lexus has shown a glimpse of its Detroit-bound concept and described it as a "luxury flagship". The image gives little away, except a light-bar tail-light cluster, a split spoiler and coup?-like roofline. It could preview an SUV-coup? akin to the BMW X6.
AMG’s first hybrids will be the 53 range, made up initially of the CLS 53 and the E53 Coup? and Cabriolet models. Each gets 429bhp from a 3.0-litre straight-six engine coupled to a 50kW electric motor.
Mercedes is bringing its venerable off-roader in its newest form to Detroit as the first outing since its renewal. We have a pretty good idea of what it’ll look like already, because it’s not set to change much from the old one.
Almost 58,000 cars with the 3.0-litre diesel engine are affected
Volkswagen is recalling Touareg SUVs fitted with its 3.0-litre diesel engine following the discovery of an emissions cheat device.
More than two years after Volkswagen admitted to developing software to elude emissions test limits, the company is recalling 57,600 affected cars to adjust their engine management software.
Autocar is awaiting confirmation from Volkswagen as to how many UK cars are affected.
Germany’s transport authority, KBA, said that tests show the Touareg ran differently when tested in NEDC laboratory conditions than when it was tested on the road, suggesting the car has a system in place to improve its result in tests.
Cars featuring the optional selective catalytic reduction systems, which are added to lower emissions, were also shown to use reduced levels of AdBlue when not in test conditions. This would help the cars produce lower levels of nitrogen oxide in test conditions.
This comes in the face of evidence, some of it collected by Autocar, that showed post-fix cars can suffer from worsened fuel economy and increased CO2 output. A report by the Volkswagen Diesel Customer Forum said that owners of models with the 2.0-litre diesel fix had also experienced breakdowns and mechanical issues.
Our sister title's annual competition has opened again with 12 presents up for grabs
The last day of our sister site PistonHeads' 12 Days of Christmas giveaway spectacular is here, many winners have been chosen, and the final day brings with it an incredible prize from our friends over at Revo.
They’ve kindly offered ?500 off of a remap for your pride and joy! And what’s better than a Christmas gift of more power?! I certainly can’t think of one… Check out their website here to have a look at their other products and see if your car is eligible for some remap magic.
Here’s a little about Revo:
“Revo was born from adrenaline-fuelled success in championship winning race teams. Inspired by the track and developed for the road, it’s the how and why we do what we do that makes us unique. Our ethos is simple; create products that truly perform and excite. By extensively testing throughout the design process we achieve unrivalled quality and performance that Only Revo can offer. Our drive is to deliver the thrill you expect, and the performance Only The Driven demand. We don’t create products we wouldn’t honestly choose ourselves.”
Revo offer performance products for VW, Audi, SEAT, Skoda and Ford vehicles.”
Get entering your details here to win this fantastic prize.
Keep an eye on your emails, I’ll be contacting the winners over the next couple of days!
Day 1 - 3x ?100 vouchers from Push Merchandise for use in Shot Dead In The Head’s store.
Day 2 - 10x Subscriptions to any Haymarket title.
Day 3 - Full day driving tuition with Reg Local worth ?250!
Day 4 - Ultimate Hellshine Detailing Kit from Autobrite Direct worth ?400.
Day 5 - Dashcam and digital radio adaptor from Nextbase worth nearly ?400.
Day 6 - Full day CDX Circuit Driver voucher from Bookatrack worth ?545.
Day 7 - Voucher from Forge Motorsport worth ?500.
Day 8 - Machine Polishing kit from Dodo Juice worth ?164.
Day 9 - Detail, photoshoot & subscription from PRO Detailer Magazine in conjunction with the Professional Valeters & Detailers Trade Association worth up to ?800.
Day 10 - Morgan Plus 4 hire for the weekend worth ?550.
Day 11 - Head unit and speakers from Pioneer worth over ?500.
The Audi RS4 Avant covers ground like few, if any, other estate cars, but it doesn’t involve you all that much in the process
The Audi RS4 Avant operates in a rare old sphere of fast compact executive estates that involves only it and the Mercedes-AMG C63 Estate. There’s no BMW M3 estate and, as yet, no sign of an Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio with a square back, either. So if you want a fast, smallish dog carrier for ?60k or so, here you are.Now in its fourth generation, the RS4 also leaves the C63 as the only V8-powered car in this class. Like the RS5, the new RS4’s engine has been downsized to a 444bhp 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6, rather than having the previous generation’s charismatic naturally aspirated V8.This drives through an eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, to all four wheels, in a body given a bit more chunkiness and cooling and 30mm-wider wheel arches.The quattro four-wheel drive system puts 60% of power to the rear wheels under normal driving, but can put as much as 70% to the rear, or, 85% to the front. This is the kind of system intended to make the RS4 more agile. To that end, there’s a ‘sport differential’, an electronically controlled rear differential that can apportion as much power as it likes to either side, as standard.There are other suspension options, too: hydraulically linked dampers, a bit like those in a McLaren, to reduce roll and pitch. There's also dynamic steering, which adjusts the steering ratio depending on speed, and ceramic brakes. All were fitted to our test car. Other options include a carbon pack at ?10k (clue’s in the name). Wheels are 19in or 20in (guess what we got) with 275/30 R20 tyres.This generation of RS4 is (up to) 80kg lighter than the old one (deep breath: the body by 15kg, engine by 31kg, front and rear axles 6kg each, steering system 3.5kg, sport differential 1kg, quattro driveline 12.5kg, ceramic brakes 8kg and, if you spec them, milled wheels 8kg), but is still a 1715kg car; about the same as the C63.The two are also within a centimetre of length, with the RS4 at 4781mm long. This is one of those ultra-competitive classes where all of the key numbers are gnat’s widths apart, including a boot of 505 litres (to the C63’s 490).
Audi Sport, which was rebranded from Quattro last year, will see “from 2020 onwards, the start of the introduction of battery electric vehicles”, said Winkelmann: “This will start by the end of 2020, with the first car of Audi Sport, and then there will be more coming in the third decade of this millennium.
“We are also looking into cars which are, let’s say, in a growing segment or a body segment which is growing. These are the Qs. We will get more of them and we think that this is going to help us because every car we are building, and every car we are investing in, should have global visibility, so not just in Europe but in Asia and the Americas.”
Such models wouldn’t replace Audi Sport’s traditional line-up, though, Winkelmann added: “In 2018, 19, 20, we will have a lot of turbo engines with new models. We are not forgetting our icons, so we will continue to build them. Even if we keep in mind that electrification is important for us, legislators permitting, our turbo engines will stay because we are very proud of these.”
The Ferrari 488 GTO will be the most hardcore V8 supercar to leave the gates of Maranello when it is launched next year
Harder version of 488 GTB is under development with an anticipated 700bhp, making it a natural rival to Stuttgart's fiercest 911 model
The Ferrari 488 GTB is being comprehensively re-engineered into a hardcore, track-focused variant that will go toe to toe with the Porsche 911 GT2 RS next year.
The car, a hotter version of the 488, will essentially be a replacement to the discontinued 458 Speciale, which is widely regarded as the best driver-focused Ferrari to date.
Ferrari is rumoured to be reserving the GTO name for the car, but the final moniker has yet to be officially revealed. GTO has only been applied to three Ferraris before – the first two of which, the 250 GTO and 288 GTO, were racing machines. The latest, the 599 GTO, was a road-legal version of the track-only 599XX, leading many to claim it wasn't worthy of its racing title.
For this reason, the harder but still road-legal 488 could adopt a new tag that continues the trend set by its spiritual forebears, the 360 Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia and 458 Speciale.
The 488's mid-mounted twin-turbocharged 3.9-litre V8 engine will be boosted with increased turbo pressure and internal modifications to produce an anticipated 700bhp, with torque also increasing substantially on the standard car’s 561lb ft.
Ferrari will remove non-essential parts from the interior and sound deadening from its engine bay, as well as fitting lightweight parts such as thinner glass for the windscreen and side windows, lighter ceramic brakes and forged wheels – as with the 458 Speciale.
This should bring the car's kerb weight down to less than 1400kg, enabling scintillating on-track performance that’ll include a 0-62mph sprint time of little more than 2.7sec and a 0-124mph dash of about 7.5sec.
The 488 variant will also get new software for its Side Slip Angle Control and bodywork that works the air more aggressively, generating extra downforce to help increase apex speeds and improve high-speed stability. The standard 488 produces 325kg of downforce at 155mph, but the 911 GT2 RS produces up to 340kg. Ferrari's aerodynamicists will be keen to rival that figure.
Spotted test cars reveal little about the exterior design changes. Ferrari's road car team has access to its Formula 1 wind tunnel, meaning the car's new parts will be crafted with the latest technology. Expect large intakes for the more potent powertrain, a bigger front lip and more prominent rear diffuser.
Ferrari has refrained from commenting on the model, but recent sightings of a car in light covers suggest development has moved to an advanced stage. This ties in with the schedule for a car that our sources expect will go on sale in 2018.
Prices will increase significantly over the 488 GTB. An entry-level figure of more than ?215,000 is possible.
Van Roij’s model features a stretched roofline to give it more of an estate-style rear end and potentially a bigger boot. The car’s tailgate is slanted and extra chrome trim has been added to the sides of the body.
No modifications have been announced for the powertrain, so the Model S's standard all-electric system will remain.
“The conversion merges seamlessly with the Tesla base vehicle, while clearly communicating through form, design language and materials that this is a tailor-made Shooting Brake,” said van Roij. “And of course, we added a completely new sculpted rear end, keeping the shoulders of the car alive, thus ensuring a bold stance.”
Twenty examples of the model are due to be produced for a yet-to-be-disclosed starting price.
Price wise, the CLS range so far tops out with the 400d at ?60,410, but the most powerful unit at launch is the 3.0-litre petrol engine in the 450 4Matic, with a 48V electric system and EQ Boost integrated starter motor providing mild hybrid properties. It has a claimed 0-62mph time of 4.8sec and limited 155mph top speed. It delivers a nominal 362bhp and 369lb ft, with an additional 22bhp and 184lb ft available for short periods when the integrated starter motor is triggered.
The range uses petrol and diesel in-line six-cylinder engines. All are turbocharged and mated to Mercedes’ in-house nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox and with 4Matic four-wheel-drive system as standard. The 350d and 400d share the new 2.9-litre diesel engine in two states of tune.
For the 350d, 400d and 450, Mercedes claims respective fuel economy figures of 48.7mpg, 47.9mpg and 36.2mpg, with CO2 emissions of 156g/km, 156g/km and 184g/km respectively. The CLS is only available in AMG Line trim – this means 19in alloys, a parking pack with reversing camera, ambient lighting and Mercedes' Agility Control adaptive dampers all come as standard.
Shortly after launch, Mercedes plans to introduce the 350. It runs a new turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine also featuring electronic boosting qualities. Also planned is the 300d, which employs Mercedes’ widely used turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine tuned to deliver 242bhp.
A new CLS 53 is planned to join the mechanically identical E53 coup? and E53 cabriolet models in a three-strong line-up of new AMG models to be unveiled at next year’s Detroit motor show, all featuring a newly developed in-line six-cylinder engine with mild hybrid properties.
The new petrol engine will usher in electric boosting via an integrated starter motor for added performance potential and is Mercedes’ answer to the likes of the upcoming second-generation Audi S7 and recently introduced BMW M550i.
Details remain scarce, although insiders suggest the engine and integrated starter motor will deliver a combined 450bhp. In the facelifted S500, the new engine provides a nominal 429bhp, with an additional 22bhp delivered by the integrated starter motor for a total of 440bhp.
With Mercedes planning to replace the existing CLS 63 with an upcoming twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 production version of the five-door AMG GT Concept, the CLS 53 is set to become the top model in the new CLS line-up.
With more than 350,000 sales to date, the CLS has proven popular since its introduction in 2005. But with prospective customers gravitating more towards Mercedes’ ever-growing line-up of SUV models, worldwide sales have slowed significantly in recent times.
As such, the new model, which goes under the internal codename C257, will only be produced in saloon form. The CLS Shooting Brake, which has failed to live up to early sales expectations following its introduction in 2012, will not be replaced.
As with its predecessors, the CLS relies heavily on the E-Class, from which it borrows its platform, drivelines, chassis, electric architecture and more. It offers three suspension set-ups.
Predictably, Mercedes promises improvements in performance, handling, comfort and safety. At the same time, it says the swoopy saloon also ushers in a new exterior design lineage to be adopted by other Mercedes models in the not-too-distant future.
Mercedes has confirmed to Autocar that the CLS has grown in dimensions compared with the outgoing second-generation model, which has been on sale since 2010. It's grown in length to 4988mm (up from 4937mm for the previous car), in width to 1890mm (from 1881mm) and height to 1428mm (from 1418mm).
The new saloon is also said to feature a wheelbase that's 61mm longer at 2935mm, allowing for larger rear door apertures and easier access to back seats.
The interior of the new CLS is no longer as uniquely styled nor quite as eye-catching as that in previous incarnations of the saloon, which boasted their own bespoke facia. To provide economies of scale with other Mercedes models, it receives a lightly reworked version of the latest E-Class’s dashboard, complete with a so-called Widescreen Cockpit with twin 12.3in displays for the instruments and infotainment system, and a multi-function steering wheel from the facelifted S-Class.
The CLS also gets a centre rear seat as standard, giving the car five-seat capability for the first time. The rear-seat backrests fold in a 40/20/40 configuration to extend the length of the boot, which boasts the same volume as the second-generation model at a nominal 520 litres.
As with the E-Class, the new CLS has five standard driving assistant functions, including lane keeping assist and speed limit assist.
Buyers can also opt for a Driving Assistance Package that adds a further eight systems that provide semi-autonomous properties, including hands-off steering for up to 30 seconds, automatic adjustment of speed before bends or junctions and an automatic lane change function.
First deliveries of the new CLS are expected to commence for UK buyers in August.
The fifth-generation executive saloon, which will go on sale next April, will be capable of 'level 3' autonomous driving where permitted. Level 3, according to the six-level scale of self-driving capability established by automotive engineering organisation SAE International, means 'conditional automation'.
In this state, the car is able to control most aspect of driving and monitoring the road, but the driver must be ready to intervene when necessary. The Audi A8 was the first production car to feature such technology when it was launched earlier this year.
The new A6 – codenamed 'C8' at Audi and due to be revealed to the public at the Geneva motor show in March 2018 – will closely follow the new design language ushered in by the new A7 and A8. On the inside, the A6 will get the same dashboard and interior fixtures as the A7.
Photographs of the car undergoing testing show production-ready head and tail-lights featuring similarly intricate designs to the A7. They flank an angular grille and more aggressive family face. The exterior details follow the design trend used on all cars since the Q7 launched Audi’s new styling direction back in 2015.
The new A6 will share its underpinnings with the A7, meaning it will undergo a slight increase in size compared with the outgoing model. A choice of front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive drivetrains will be offered and the latest Quattro system, as fitted to the A4 and A8, will feature.
Power will come from four-cylinder 2.0-litre, 3.0-litre V6 and 4.0-litre V8 engines, with two plug-in hybrid variants planned. These will have electric motors to supplement either a four-cylinder and V6 petrol engine, although these derivatives are expected to be more popular in the US and China than Europe. Plans for a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain have been scrapped.
The sporty S6 won't be launched until 2019, but when it does its engine will be downsized from the 4.0-litre V8 seen in the current car to a 2.9-litre V6, as used in the RS4 Avant and RS5, as well as the Porsche Panamera S. In the S6 it's likely to produce in excess of 450bhp; more than the 444bhp of the RS4 Avant.
An RS6 won't arrive until 2020, with the BMW M5 rival said to be morphing into a hugely powerful plug-in hybrid sharing the same powertrain as the 671bhp Porsche Panamera S E Hybrid.