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Only one Bond DB5 really counts, and it’s not the one I’ve driven...
With Aston Martin announcing the production of ?3.3 million replicas, Andrew Frankel reflects on driving the real deal
I’ve driven a genuine James Bond Aston Martin DB5, the one in Skyfall that wasn’t a 3D printed model riddled with machine gun bullets. And a lovely thing it was too.
Back in 2013 we insured it for ?3 million, which was something like ?500,000 for the DB5 element, the rest for the fact that its seat had been occupied by the backside of the world’s least secret agent.
And that ?3 million, with a few extras and bit of tax is roughly what customers will pay for each one of 25 new Silver Birch DB5s, officially sanctioned by Eon Productions, the company that owns the rights to allthings Bond. They’ll have an unspecified number of working gadgets but will no more be licensed for road use than their owners are licensed to kill. The question is, what’s the point?
The answer seems clear. I don’t know what cut Eon takes – it will be substantial – but even after that the profit for Aston Martin will clearly be considerable, all of which can be ploughed into improving the cars driven by more normal customers. Which can only be a good thing.
The way I see it, if Aston Martin has clients who want such cars as ornaments to show to their friends, or even reckon they can be modified in such a way as to allow individuals to register them, good luck to them.
Do they devalue Bond, Aston Martin or the DB5? Not at all, at least not to me. Would I have one if I could afford it? Not for a moment.
Because to me only one Bond DB5 really counts, and it’s not the one I’ve driven. It’s the effects car from Goldfinger, the one with all the gadgets, which was stolen from a hangar at Boca Raton airport in 1997 and not been seen since.
Ford joins ranks of UK car makers in warning no-deal Brexit would be damaging to operations, following significant drop in earnings
Ford has warned that a ?760 million decline in European revenues last year, much of it attributed to the weaker pound pushing down the value of earnings in the UK, could lead the company to take “whatever action is needed” to remain profitable.
The Independent reports that Ford warned of the potentially drastic action amid rising fears of a no-deal Brexit, with ever more UK-based car makers fearing for their businesses with the threat of increased costs.
Other manufacturers that have issued similar warnings include Jaguar Land Rover, parts supplier Unipart and BMW, which have all suggested that a no-deal Brexit could have severe consequences on their UK operations.
In 2017, Ford’s earnings dropped by ?760m in Europe, and the brand said ?460 million of this was down to the falling value of the pound since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. Ford has three facilities in the UK; transmissions are made in Halewood, Merseyside petrol engines are put together in Bridgend, Wales, and diesel engines are constructed in Dagenham, Essex.
“If I’m forced to go out because we don’t have the right deal, then we have to close plants here in the UK and it will be very, very sad. This is hypothetical, and I hope it’s an option we never have to go for,” said JLR boss Ralf Speth earlier this year.
The latest on-demand service is Audi’s, and it has launched in Manchester. It will be extended to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Birmingham and London by year’s end
Audi has launched Audi On Demand, a mobility service that allows short-term loaning of its cars, in the UK.
The service has begun in Manchester, before being extended to Edinburgh and Glasgow later this month. London, Newcastle and Birmingham will all join the scheme by the end of the year.
The scheme starts at ?70 per day and tops out at ?190 per day. This price includes delivery and collection, unlimited mileage, roadside assistance and fully comprehensive insurance. Each rental can last as little as one hour or as much as 28 days.
Most of Audi’s range is available on the service, with the A1, A3, A4, A5, Q3 and Q5 ranges, including the S3 and S5. The A6, A7, A8, Q2, Q7 and all RS models are currently unavailable.
To begin with, the rates apply to customers within 30 minutes of Oldham Audi, although the brand is looking to eventually expand the scheme across the country.
The scheme is already offered in the US, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Germany.
The Swift Sport’s boot has two buttons on. As you’d expect, one opens the boot. The purpose of the other was a mystery to us for some time. (Yes, we could have looked in the manual, but where’s the fun in that?) Until, almost by accident, I discovered it locks the car. Genius: grab stuff from the boot, shut it and lock the car, with no need to dig out the keys from your pocket.
Now, where did we park the car? If only there were an easy way to spot it. Oh, wait… - 20th June 2018
There are plenty of things to talk about regarding our Suzuki Swift Sport. How it drives, how it rides, what the engine’s like – that sort of thing. You know, the stuff that actually matters when considering the experience of driving one of the new kids on the hot hatch block.
And yet all pretty much everyone who has seen our Swift Sport wants to talk to me about is something that is entirely superficial: the colour.
Now, a car’s paint job shouldn’t really matter, yet it is what everyone asks about. So, by popular demand, let’s start there. In the brochure, it’s described as Champion Yellow. In the real world, it has been variously described to me as ‘bright’, ‘vivid’, ‘distinctive’, ‘lurid’ and, erm, ‘wow’.
Someone who works elsewhere in the media empire that publishes Autocar and who followed me into our ultra-glamorous multistorey car park the other day said she was relieved to find out I hadn’t paid out my own cash for it, because she would have worried for anyone who had chosen that shade of yellow.
Before I collected our Swift Sport, Champion Yellow wouldn’t have been my choice, were I buying one. I’m not a showy or flashy person by nature and I’d probably have plumped for one of the five other somewhat less ‘vibrant’ options. But the thing is… the yellow has grown on me. Quite a lot.
For a start, I’m spending a lot less time wandering around car parks trying to find it. This was illustrated recently when, after a flight delay, I trudged into one of Heathrow’s big parking lots at just gone midnight, tiredness causing me to forget exactly where I’d parked. I soon found it.
It’s also harder for drivers of cars that cut me up at junctions to do that ‘oh, sorry, didn’t see you’ wave as they sweep across my brow. Yes, you saw me. I know you did.
In my short time with the Swift Sport so far, I’ve revelled in its relative simplicity. Many modern hot hatches can be rewarding and engaging to drive but, as with some modern smartphones and the like, they can be quite tedious to set up. Having to wade through various drive mode options and fiddle with settings before you can really enjoy driving a hot hatch can detract from the experience.
The Swift Sport, though, doesn’t have any drive modes. It’s not that sort of hot hatch. Instead, it’s straight to the point: zippy to drive, sharp to respond. That was made clear by my first experience of the car – a road trip from Dublin to Twickenham, you may recall – but the real benefit of that has shown itself now I’m using the Swift Sport largely for my daily urban commute.
It isn’t so concerned with being ‘hot’ that it’s overly stiff and uncomfortable on such roads. It’s not as pliant in soaking up bumps as a regular Swift, but it doesn’t feel that daily usage has been compromised to make it perform on flowing roads. In that sense, it’s just like the Champion Yellow paint job: it might not be a colour you’d choose for your everyday motor, but it doesn’t take long to adjust to it. Besides, I’ll leave the last word to my five-year-old nephew.
When I showed him the Swift Sport for the first time, his eyes lit up, and he pronounced it “super-cool”. That’s good enough for me.
TORQUE ABOUT IT The turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine gives the Swift Sport plenty of pep when you need it, without ever being brutal.
SLOW SAT-NAV START-UP It takes an age to lock in its location when you first turn the car on, which is at odds with a car that’s otherwise so quick to get started in.
Welcoming the Swift Sport to the fleet - 30 May 2018
Turns out that patience isn’t always a virtue. Or, to subvert another clich?, sometimes good things come to those who don’t wait. And proof of that, currently parked outside Autocar Towers, is small, fun and very, very yellow.
The catch: we’d have to pick it up from an event they were running - in Dublin. So we’d have to fly to Dublin, collect the Swift Sport, catch a ferry to Holyhead and then drive the 300 or so miles back to Autocar’s Twickenham base.
Catch? That’s not a catch. More like a kid being told they can have their Christmas present early and then given the chance to play with it for hours. After all, what better way to learn about a new car than with an extended road trip spanning urban driving, motorway mileage and, via a short but brilliant detour, some of the finest driving roads in Wales?
Success creates expectation – and so our hopes for this new Swift Sport have duly been raised. In addition, Suzuki hasn’t simply updated its hot hatch with a new look and minor tweaks: there are some substantive changes under the bonnet.
Suzuki has replaced the peppy 134bhp 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine from the old Swift Sport with a 138bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged motor. That means the car has more torque – 170lb ft compared with 110lb ft – but, according to our first drive recently, perhaps a bit less character.
That first review did highlight some cause for concern, as reflected by its three-star score. While our testers still judged the Swift Sport “a fine little driver’s car”, there were furrowed brows over the price: it’s been hiked to ?17,999 (albeit discounted to ?16,499 until the end of June 2018). Now that’s expectation raising – it’s four grand more than a Volkswagen Up GTI, for starters.
Still, like any kid unwrapping a shiny new toy, I wasn’t really thinking about the price when I collected the keys at Dublin Airport. All I wanted to do was try it out. With not enough time before the ferry to find some fun Irish roads, I settled for a trip to Phoenix Park, largely so I could drive a bit of the classic street circuit (albeit very slowly).
That seemed a great idea, until it was time to head to the ferry terminal. The two were only split by six or so miles – except it was six miles right through the centre of Dublin, in ridiculously heavy traffic. That wasn’t good for my nerves but was a useful test of the Swift Sport’s abilities in stop-start urban driving.
Having made it to the ferry terminal in the nick of time, the jaunt across the Irish Sea was a chance to relieve the stress of city driving and mentally prepare to exploit our new Swift in full Sport guise on my planned route from Anglesey to an overnight halt in Shrewsbury.
The trip proved that although the Swift Sport might have grown up and become a little more serious, it’s still capable of entertaining with a responsive, reactive and just plain fun drive. As first impressions go, it was hugely positive and it’s whetted my appetite for more time with the Swift Sport on some of the UK’s finer flowing A and B-roads.
It’s worth noting that it didn’t disgrace itself the following day, when the final part of the journey took in the motorways of Britain, when I set off from Shrewsbury to Twickenham with a mild detour via Bristol (it made sense at the time).
I arrived back at Autocar HQ after a long weekend of getting to know the Swift Sport keen to spend more time in it. One first impression: it remains good, simple fun, yet is also a hot hatch that should settle in nicely as a daily driver. Of course, it’s always fun being allowed to open your presents early.
Still, that’s for the months ahead. Right now, I’m after an excuse for another Swift Sport road trip.
Past Swift Sports have, in my opinion, offered as much pep and performance as you need to drive spiritedly but safely on Britain’s roads. The balance between everyday usability and sports tuning has always seemed spot on and the early signs are this latest version gets it right too.
Price new ?17,999 Price as tested: ?17,999 Options: none Engine 4 cyls, 1373cc, turbocharged petrol Power 138bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 170lb ft at 2500-3500rpm Top speed 130mph 0-62mph 8.1sec Claimed fuel economy 50.4mpg Test fuel economy 41.9mpg CO2 125g/km Faults None Expenses None
The two parties have drafted a non-binding agreement under which PIF would make a $1 billion (?783m) investment and assume majority ownership.
The initial investment would be of $500m (?391m), with subsequent funding coming as Lucid achieves production milestones.
In 2016, the company stated its ambition to begin production of its first model, the Air, this year at a new, $700m facility in Casa Grande, Arizona. However, it has since pushed that goal back to 2020 while it raises the necessary funds.
The Saudi Arabian fund is said to have reserves of around $250bn and has been investing heavily in order to diversify the country's portfolio away from oil. For example, it has sunk $45bn into a multinational technology group, including Apple and Qualcomm, that will focus on artificial intelligence and robotics.
However, Reuters' sources cautioned that the deal with Lucid isn't certain to proceed. The PIF has also reportedly been in talks to increase its 5% share in Tesla, as alluded to by CEO Elon Musk's controversial statement that "funding is secured" to take his company private at $420 per share.
It would cost $72bn to return Tesla to private ownership, Reuters claimed.
Lucid was formed in 2007 under the name Atieva by Bernard Tse, a former board member and vice president of Tesla, and engineer Sam Weng. Its chief technology officer is Peter Rawlinson, a former head engineer at Jaguar, Lotus and Tesla.
Tse left in 2015 as a result of friction with Chinese state-owned BAIC, which had a 25% stake. This was sold to an anonymous investor in 2016.
Britain's road policing chief claims in new report that the '10% rule' gives the impression that it is "okay to speed"
The policy of giving leeway to speeders in 'buffer zones' is under an official review and could be scrapped, according to a report by the road policing head of the National Police Chief Council.
The current stance, which allows the police to not prosecute those who are only a few miles an hour over when enforcing the speed limit, was previously criticised by the NPCC's lead on road policing Anthony Bangham.
The review, seen by the Mail on Sunday, claims that a change in message is needed "to ensure greater consistency of approach when dealing with those who exceed the speed limit". Currently a '10% plus 2mph rule' exists, meaning that those travelling less than 35mph in a 30 zone, or less than 79mph on the motorway, will not face any action.
Speaking in January at the Police Federation road policing conference, Bangham said that "the law is set at the limit for a reason".
“They should not come whingeing to us about getting caught. If booked at 35, 34 or 33 in a 30mph zone, that cannot be unfair because they are breaking the law,” he said, according to The Guardian.
Bangham suggested that the move would improve road safety.
“On average, 5 people are killed on our roads every day. Our role is to help make our roads safer, and we will seek compliance with the law to help prevent the tragedies that happen too often,” he said.
The NPCC alleged that transport minister Jesse Norman agrees that reform to road policing is needed, although didn’t clarify if the minister agreed with Bangham’s proposed policy change. A Department for Transport spokesman told The Guardian that speed limit enforcement is a police matter.
Bangham’s proposal has drawn harsh criticism from various groups, including the AA and MPs.
IAM Roadsmart’s head of policy, Neil Greig, said: “Drivers want more enforcement, particularly of drink and drug driving, careless driving and mobile phone use, and to see more traffic police out there doing it.
"The limit is the limit but a lack of consistency on speeding has allowed urban myths about thresholds and revenue-raising to take hold in the minds of far too many drivers.
"Simply adjusting the electronic setting on a few cameras is unlikely to eradicate road deaths caused by human error, fatigue or impairment caused by drink, drugs or distraction.
"IAM Roadsmart also supports speed awareness courses, because the evidence to date suggests that most people who take them are less likely to reoffend.”
Latest development in Dyson’s automotive project is the trademarking of the phrase ‘Digital Motor’ for use in association with cars
Dyson’s road car project has taken a step closer to production following the appliance company's trademarking of the ‘Digital Motor’ terminology for automotive use.
Previously used only on its household products, the Digital Motor moniker describes a brushless permanent-magnet synchronous motor - the same type found in many electric vehicles currently on the market.
The trademark, filed recently and for the European market, applies to both cars and non-road-going machines, although the use of the trademark in an automotive context is a first for the company. It's first car is due next year and the brand also wants to grow its EV programme workforce by 300 people in a bid to ramp up the pace of development before the vehicle reaches the market.
The British brand, a leader in vacuum cleaners and hand dryers, already has 400 employees focused on the project, but is now "looking to fill an additional 300 automotive vacancies" as it moves into a new location at Hullavington Airfield, a 750-acre campus that will be Dyson’s second research and development site in Britain.
The EV project has been working to produce three EV models for more than three years now. Its first car will be a low-volume model produced in fewer than 10,000 units. Company founder Sir James Dyson said this model will carry a premium price tag but will not be a sports car(scroll down for more details on this model).
Dyson will use its low volume first model development and production period to establish relationships with suppliers, so that when it focuses on future models, which will include mass produced cars, it will already be an established manufacturer.
It plans to produce two mass produced EV models after its low-volume debutant. If all goes well, the brand then intends to continue developing electric cars into the future.
Dyson is working to produce its cars with solid-state battery technology. This advanced battery chemistry, which uses higher energy density cells that are quicker to charge and store more energy than current liquid cells, is predicted to make it to market in time for the brand's second car, possibly at the start of the next decade.
Dyson's solid state development appeared to take a hit when its battery expert, Ann Marie Sastry, left the company in late 2017. Dyson told Autocar that it doesn't "get into specifics on personnel matters" when questioned on the matter.
The brand is also invested in artificial intelligence technology along with a long list of other cutting-edge digital technologies, including robotics and machine learning. Although not officially linked to its car programme, it suggests the brand will be well placed to integrate autonomous technology that can 'learn' as it goes into its earliest vehicles.
Dyson's first EV
The first car's development is being funded by a ?2 billion investment from Dyson and the project has received support from the British Government.
Dyson is keeping specific details such as performance and range secret, but the first model won't be a mass-market car such as the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf; instead, it will be aimed at a more tech-oriented market. Dyson's existing household goods tend to be more expensive than the competition, suggesting that the car's market position will be firmly in the premium segment, similar to that of Tesla.
There's no definitive word yet on where the car will be built, but Sir James revealed to Reuters last year: "Wherever we make the battery, we’ll make the car; that’s logical. So we want to be near our suppliers; we want to be in a place that welcomes us and is friendly to us, and where it is logistically most sensible. And we see a very large market for this car in the Far East.”
Dyson has a large market presence in the Far East, so Chinese production isn't an unrealistic prediction, although the car is being developed in the UK.
In the announcement of Dyson's electric car plan, Sir James took swipes at the governments' push for diesels and the Dieselgate emissions scandal. "Governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants," he said. "Major auto manufacturers have circumvented and duped clean air regulations. As a result, developed and developing cities are full of smog-belching cars, lorries and buses. It is a problem that others are ignoring."
He revealed that a major aim is to reduce air pollution from cars "at the source", saying: "I committed the company to develop new battery technologies. I believed that electrically powered vehicles would solve the vehicle pollution problem. Dyson carried on innovating. At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product.
"We’ve started building an exceptional team that combines top Dyson engineers with talented individuals from the automotive industry. The team is already over 400 strong and we are recruiting aggressively. I’m committed to investing ?2bn on this endeavour."
Dyson's car will be Dyson-badged, unlike Google's Waymo project and Apple's autonomous car efforts, which are focusing on components for other cars. Dyson is not planning to seek help from other manufacturers to bring the car to production.
One-off California edition gets bright blue paint and custom champagne flute holders inside
Rimac has revealed a one-off C_Two customer car ahead of its debut at Pebble Beach later this week.
The C_Two California gets bright blue paint on the outside, plus holders for two six-litre bottles of champagne and two champagne flutes inside.
Mechanically, it’s unchanged over the regular C_Two. The blue is a new paint colour for Rimac, however, and a new set of wheels also features.
The C_Two accelerates from 0-60mph in 1.85sec and from 0-100mph in 4.3sec. Its 120kWh battery allows a range of 404 miles on the NEDC cycle, while power output is claimed to be 1888bhp and torque 1696lb ft. A 258mph top speed is also claimed.
Each car costs around ?1.5 million, although Rimac sales boss Kreso Coric revealed to Autocar that buyers add an average of ?450,000 of options to their car. The California buyer's champagne additions will have been part of this.
The group’s aim is to speak with Volkswagen UK boss Paul Willis. Greenpeace and several doctors have set up a makeshift clinic to highlight concerns about the effect of diesel emissions, particularly nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Greenpeace has targeted Volkswagen in the wake of the Dieselgate emissions scandal, pinpointing it as the biggest seller of diesel-engined cars in the UK.
It also cites Volkswagen’s refusal to give up on diesel despite greater backlash across Europe as another reason for its criticism.
A Volkswagen spokesman said: "Paul Willis offered Greenpeace 18 months ago the opportunity to visit Wolfsburg in order to find out more about our future strategy. The letter has not been answered."
Rosie Rogers, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace, said: "Today's protest has taken a few months to plan. We are still waiting to hear if Paul Willis will come down to meet us today. We’re targeting Volkswagen because it is the biggest producer of diesel cars and puts 1 in 5 diesel cars on UK roads.
"If Volkswagen quit diesel, it would have a big impact on the air our kids breathe. And it would wave an enormous red flag to the entire industry that it’s time to stop diesel car production in its tracks. On top of this, Volkswagen owes angry consumers a real debt because of Dieselgate."
When asked if Greenpeace is planning any protests at non-automotive pollution sources, Rogers said: "There aren’t any plans for this at the moment, as air pollution that is harming people’s health in towns and cities is predominantly caused by diesel vehicles.
"Today, we’re hoping to get some face time with Paul Willis and speak to Volkswagen employees about the harm Volkswagen’s diesel plans will cause. But ultimately, we want Volkswagen to commit to end production of diesel cars and set a trajectory for 100% electric vehicles."
Volkswagen issued the following statement: "Volkswagen is aware of a protest at its Blakelands premises this morning. The safety of our employees is our principal concern and so the matter is now being handled by the police.
"The Volkswagen Group has launched the most comprehensive electrification initiative in the automotive industry with Roadmap E. This will bring an additional 80 new electric vehicles to the Volkswagen Group model range by 2025. Roadmap E brings a ˆ20 billion investment to electric vehicle technology with the goal of 25% of Volkswagen Group vehicle production comprising electrified vehicles by 2025 and 50% by 2030."
VW has agreed to meet with Greenpeace to discuss diesels following the protest.
Latest clip shows the car side-on; another clip shows design head Gorden Wagener drawing outline of Pebble Beach concept
Mercedes-Benz has released a video showing its Electric Silver Arrow concept car from the side, following another glimpse of design boss Gorden Wagener sketching out the concept ahead of its Pebble Beach debut.
Set to have the covers pulled off at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance later this month, the clip, (above) pans across the side view of the car, revealing its profile while hiding finer details, although a previous clip (below) shows Wagener using a pencil to draw the outline of the car. It reveals a shape that's a radical departure from the car maker's road-going models, with a long bonnet, a sleek cockpit 'bubble' and a sloped-off rear end.
Mercedes has previously showed the bold lines and exaggerated proportions of the electric concept with the unveiling of a sculpture of the spectacularly styled single-seater.
Developed under the internal working name Aesthetics Progressive Luxury, the concept was inspired by the German car maker’s dramatic streamlined cars from the 1930s, including the W25 Avus and the aeroplane-engined T80 and W125, the latter of which was driven by Rudolf Caracciola to a record-breaking flying mile average speed of 268.7mph on the A5 autobahn between Frankfurt and Darmstadt in 1938.
The latest in a series of highly flamboyant concepts conceived under the guidance of Wagener, the car will be a one-off figurehead for Mercedes’ new EQ sub-brand, with an electric powertrain that provides performance comparable to that of the earlier W125, according to company officials.
Autocar understands that the Electric Silver Arrow is set to showcase a new performance-based powertrain with more power and greater battery capacity than the earlier four-wheel-drive SLS E-Cell. That car's four electric motors produced a combined 740bhp and the lithium ion battery had a capacity of 60kWh.
Officials at Mercedes' R&D centre on the outskirts of Stuttgart suggest the new powertrain provides hints at how AMG is planning to ramp up the performance of the upcoming range of EQ-badged electric cars, headed by the EQ C SUV, which is due to make its world debut at the Paris motor show in September.
Stylistically, the concept draws on the wind-cheating shape of Mercedes’ celebrated streamliners with a long, sweeping bonnet, prominent wheel arches and a cabin set well back within the wheelbase. However, the look has been updated with elements from the company’s contemporary F1 cars, as alluded to within the previous sculpture by a fin mounted along the centre line at the rear as a measure to aid stability.
The combination of fuller forms at the front of the new concept and the more futuristic treatment of the rear of the sculpture is meant to convey the underlying trend of digital transformation, according to Wagener.
“Digital transformation, in particular, presents new challenges for us designers. We are translating intelligent technology into an emotional overall experience,” he says.
This so-called digital transformation is also set to be previewed in the interior, which is rumoured to include functions from Mercedes’ new touchscreen-based MBUX user interface system, as recently introduced on the fourth-generation A-Class.
The Project Gold car, which is still under wraps, is being slowly revealed through a series of previews showing the process of creating it, with the theme of the project being a black and gold colour scheme.
The car’s shape in sketches and unpainted body were shown in the first preview, followed by its wheels. 993 Turbo hollow-spoke Twist wheels are shown being painted and details etched into the paintwork.
The seats, also finished in black with gold highlights, bear the 911’s recognisable Turbo script, giving more clues as to the car’s identity.
Porsche has built the 993 Turbo's 444bhp biturbo engine from scratch, rather than taking an existing engine from a donor car. Work was undertaken by Porsche's Classics division, with the finished car having taken around 18 months to complete.
The car will be a one-off. Porsche hasn’t confirmed whether it will produce more restomods in the same vein but says "a vehicle like this has never existed before".
?40,000 - The Supra’s list price in 1993, equivalent to ?77,000 today
The Mk4 Toyota Supra is not only reliable, but has plenty of scope to pump up the power to 1000bhp if so inclined
Last month, a prototype of the Toyota Supra Mk5 wowed the crowds at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a curtain-raiser to the main event when the production-ready model goes on sale in about 12 months.
The ensuing hullabaloo is sure to fan the flames of desire currently engulfing its predecessor, the Supra Mk4. Remarkably, this model ceased production 16 years ago, in 2002. But as far as we Brits are concerned, it died out in 1996, following three years of less-than-stellar sales. Only around 500 Mk4s found homes.
It wasn’t for want of trying.
The Mk4’s 3.0-litre straight six engine was fed by two sequential turbochargers for improved flexibility and response. These UK Supras produced 326bhp and 325b ft, around 40bhp and 7lb ft more than Japanese-market cars, thanks to their larger and stronger turbos. Don’t let that put you off buying a grey-import, Japan-spec car, though, because its smaller and lighter turbos spool up faster, so the car feels no slower.
A choice of six-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearboxes, rear-wheel drive and a host of standard features – most notably, larger, 17in alloy wheels, beefier brakes, an additional gearbox oil cooler and an active rear spoiler – completed the UK picture. Now all those first buyers had to do was enjoy their Porsche-baiting Supras, which they did in their, er, hundreds.
Still, for the next six years, Toyota continued to punch out Mk4s for the rest of the world in increasingly varied forms. There were naturally aspirated ones with a choice of five-speed manual and four-speed auto ’boxes, so-called Aerotop models with a removable roof (not to be confused with the optional Aerokit bodykit), and a bewildering range of trim variants, plus lots of options.
Incidentally, so you don’t confuse your genuine UK Supra from what is often referred to as a JDM (Japanese domestic market) car, the UK one has bonnet vents and headlight wash/ wipe, as well as those bigger brakes. UK cars also have leather trim, traction control, power windows and anti-lock brakes. Saying that, so do most JDMs, although their traction control system isn’t quite so good.
A major event during the Supra’s last years was the introduction, in 1998, of variable valve timing and injection (VVT-i) and, at the same time, the non-turbo SZ-R gained the turbo car’s six-speed manual ’box.
Today, the Supra Mk4, UK or JDM, appears to be in the cross hairs of every moneyed 40-year-old who ever lusted after one when it first came out. Most sought-after are rare UK turbo manuals. In fact, all good turbo manuals are becoming seriously expensive, and that’s before you consider spending a further ?50,000 or so taking them to showroom condition and 1000bhp, as some enthusiasts are now doing courtesy of specialists such as SRD Tuning.
As next year’s new Supra hoves into view, now is the time to buy a Mk4 before prices vanish over the horizon.
How to get one in your garage:
An expert’s view, Tristian Longden, Founder Torque GT - “Demand for the Supra Mk4 easily outstrips supply so prices are getting higher with each passing month. Buyers tend to be in their 40s — people for whom the Supra was a poster car. It’s a nostalgia thing and now they’ve got the money, they want one. The engine is bombproof. A good Supra feels like it’ll go on forever. UK cars were rare to begin with and pricesfor the few that remain are strong. The cheapest Supras are naturally aspirated autos but even their prices are rising. The turbo auto is roughly 30% cheaper than the manual. It’s underrated but I reckon the auto suits the Supra, which is more grand tourer than sports car. It’s a tough ’box, too.”
ENGINE - Smoke on start-up and when blipping the throttle after idling is probably valve stem seals. Continuous smoking is likely to be failing piston rings. As for the turbos, listen for the second blower kicking in at around 4000rpm. Boost should be smooth and turbos should whistle rather than whine. Check for a timing belt change every 50k miles and oil changes every 6km miles.
GEARBOX - Check the clutch operation, and if it needs changing, have the flywheel done, too. It can fail, causing a severe judder and rattling as you let out the clutch and pull away.
TRANSMISSION - The six-speed ’box is toughest of all. The five-speeder can suffer synchro wear. On the four-speed auto, first to second will probably clonk. The diff is strong but can clonk into first from reverse (not serious). A whining noise under load is not good.
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES - Major components are tough but bushes and dampers wear out. Beware aftermarket track-day dampers that tighten the handling but ruin the ride. Brake hard from 60mph checking for any instability and then, again, lightly, checking for worn discs. Post-1994 cars with uprated brake pistons eat pads and discs. Beware oversized aftermarket wheels, which stress wheel bearings and suspension. Expect tyre wear on the inner shoulders.
INTERIOR - Check all comfort features, including windows and air-con. Ensure the ABS light illuminates briefly on start-up.
Also worth knowing: If you can’t stretch to a twin-turbo model, you could always consider adding a single turbo to a naturally aspirated Supra. The five-speed gearbox is easily strong enough but you’ll need to uprate the clutch. The automatic is weaker but will still take up to 400bhp. Specialists such as SRD Tuning can help.
How much to spend:
?4500-?5500 - Cheapest runners, all naturally aspirated imports with high mileages, a bit scruffy and far from original.
?7000-?8995 - Tidier naturally aspirated cars start here with decent service histories and reasonable mileages.
?9000-?12,495 - Mostly naturally aspirated autos in sound order. Still very few turbos and no turbo manuals.
?15,500 AND ABOVE - Take your pick of turbo manuals in good condition, with prices going all the way to ?22,000 for the very best.
One we found:
TOYOTA SUPRA SZ AUTO, 1994/L, 64K MILES, ?7000 - Okay, it’s not a turbo manual but then it’s not turbo manual money. It has a solid history (14 services since 2006), and recent new seals and gaskets, coil-overs and brakes, plus a long MOT.
Three more cars in addition to the 25 will be created, with one being kept by Aston, one to go to Eon Productions (the firm behind the Bond film franchise) and another being auctioned for charity.
The gadgetry is being developed by Bond special effects supervisor Chris Corbould in collaboration with Aston’s Q bespoke department, having been officially sanctioned by Eon. They’ll be produced at Aston’s Newport Pagnell plant — the facility where the original DB5 was built.
The cars will be built to a specification true to that of the film car, including features such as revolving numberplates. Modifications over the original Bond DB5 are said to boost reliability and quality compared with the film props used on the original car.
Delivery of the 25 cars starts at the end of 2019, with each going for ?2.75 million plus tax, putting the UK price of the car at ?3.3 million.
Aston boss Andy Palmer said: "To own an Aston Martin has long been an aspiration for James Bond fans, but to own a Silver Birch DB5, complete with gadgets and built to the highest standards in the very same factory as the original James Bond cars? Well, that is surely the ultimate collectors’ fantasy. The skilled craftspeople at Aston Martin Works and the expert special effects team from the James Bond films are about to make this fantasy real for 25 very lucky customers.”
Aston produced a DB10 in 2014 specifically for use in the Bond film Spectre. The car was never released to the public, with the road car line skipping from the DB9 to the DB11. The DB10's look was based on a design study for the new Vantage, and elements of it informed the final version of that car.
Hallmark was marketing director for the 2003 launch of the Bentley Continental GT before taking bigger industry jobs at GM and JLR
New Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark is a luxury car specialist with a clear vision. We meet him
A few minutes’ future talk with Adrian Hallmark, Bentley’s dynamic new boss, is all it takes to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the word ‘traditional’ – at least, as applied to venerable luxury car manufacturers from Crewe – is heading for a radical overhaul.
By the time Bentley reaches its centenary in a year’s time, it will have launched its first electrified car, a V6 Bentayga hybrid, and that’s just the beginning of a revolution that by 2025, and possibly before, willput an electrified version of every Bentley model on the road, along with a plethora of extra-luxury, extra- performance versions designed to expand the range’s appeal, much as sibling company Porsche has done.
Beyond all that, battery-powered Bentleys are definitely on the distant horizon, an unthinkable idea until recent research showed that current Bentley owners are open to the idea, although not in the short term.
I meet Hallmark, 55, in his comfortable but not especially opulent office in Crewe’s headquarters building, much changed by the company’s many bosses over the years. He is a gregarious and fast-talking character who has spent more than 20 years studying global premium and luxury car markets in detail and can spout dazzling statistics to back any argument. Hallmark used to run Porsche in the UK before moving on through several jobs on a rising trajectory to become Jaguar Land Rover’s director of global strategy.
However, his secret weapon in this latest job is a previous stint as Bentley’s director of sales and marketing, just as the modern era of Volkswagen Group ownership was beginning and the old-school Bentley models were giving way to the seminal 2003 Continental GT, which he helped to position and configure.
The Continental GT, an unqualified success now reaching the market in its third iteration, has demonstrated over 15 years how Audi and VW components can make a much better but still authentic Bentley and has led to the creation of a range of modern models, topped impressively by the highly successful Bentayga SUV.
He doesn’t say it out loud, but it’s fairly evident that Hallmark suspects Bentley hasn’t participated particularly well in the Chinese-led expansion of luxury car sales since the end of the 2008-2009 recession. He is clearly impatient to do something about it, which means kicking on beyond the 11,000-cars-a- year volume the company currently achieves, which is near enough to its pre-recession record. It’s pretty clear he reckons a volume beyond 15,000 would be more like it.
In Bentley’s special arena of the car market, Hallmark explains, a luxury car is something very specific. It’s overwhelmingly likely to come from one of what he terms ‘The Big Five’: “ Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and us”. The whole sector’s combined global volume currently runs at fewer than 70,000 cars and covers models mostly starting around ?150,000. By comparison, marques like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar and Porsche (which Hallmark labels “premium”) are currently pushing into the ?100,000 barrier, where the Continental GT made its debut at ?110,000 back in 2003.
Bentley’s future depends squarely on a much fe?ted buyer breed known as ‘high net worth individuals’. According to Credit Suisse research, which Hallmark effortlessly recites, the global number of these people has “nearly quadrupled” since 2000 to around 18 million and there are now 2500 billionaires against a paltry 574 back in 2000. Hallmark summarises his own challenge thus: “If there are now 18 million people out there with floating investments of more than a million dollars – not counting the value of their homes or private property – why are only 60,000 to 70,000 of them in luxury cars?”
Yet better times are coming, Hallmark believes. The Big Five’s consensus is that the car luxury market will expand by around 50% between now and 2025, driven by an expanding buyer body, and Bentley will take its share. In the meantime, the company will get busy manipulating the three main levers that affect its business: making sure the global distribution is as good as it can be; fully activating the model segments it is already in and finding new segments for the future. On the third category, there are plenty of rumours (but no specifics) about a sub-Bentayga SUV for which the Volkswagen Group could provide handy underpinnings.
Hallmark believes Bentley already has a “beautiful” global distribution of sales, selling slightly less than 20% of its cars in each of the US, continental European, Chinese and UK markets, and doing a bit over 20% in theres to the world. On activating existing model segments, the strategy “for the next five or six years” will be to launch hybrids and V8s in every sector, and dream up Porsche-style versions of models (as it did with the previous Continental GT Speed) along the way.
There will indeed be Bentley models with new nameplates in the future, Hallmark confirms, but he declines to lay out for now where the opportunities lie. “I won’t talk about our decisions on future models,” he says, “but I’ll tell you what we won’t be building, and that’s sports cars.
“The sports car sector – like our own – is highly volatile in a recession. It can drop 50% or 60%. Only this time, the sports car sector forgot to recover. And if you look at their history, and the average age of their buyers, you’ll see the age goes up by one every year. It means the cars are being bought by the same old enthusiasts. When owners are in arts or sports, either their contract says they’re not allowed to drive because of the risk, or publications like The Sun publish pictures of them driving, which they don’t enjoy. That doesn’t help sales, either.
“In China, it’s the opposite. There are plenty of 30 to 40-year- old millionaires, but they tend not to play tennis, football or sing. And they drive SUVs or limousines, so the sports car sector has not benefited from the Chinese expansion.
“Some manufacturers have tried to change this, but so far the market hasn’t responded.”
We’re already running out of interview time. A quick tour of the new Continental GT assembly line beckons (Hallmark, very knowledgeable about the build process, is in his element on the tour, pointing out manufacturing complexities barely visible to the naked eye). But before we go, I want to hear about Bentley owners and their view of electrification: is it a case of pull or a push?
“If you’d asked five years ago, I’d have said people don’t want hybrids. They’re margin killers for manufacturers and a partial solution most people don’t appreciate, apart from some tax benefits. Today, it’s different. Some brands – I don’t want to keep mentioning Porsche, but the Panamera is an example – have been able to position their hybrids as the best version of a model to own. Fun and efficient at the same time. They’ve cracked the code. We need to do it, too.”
The robots that do the donkey work:
“The controversial robots,” Adrian Hallmark points out on our tour of the factory. Bentley is rightly proud of the hand-built craftsmanship in all of its cars, so bringing in robots to do work previously done by human hand was indeed a controversial one last year.
The three robots take care of the initial 70% or so of the sanding of parts of the interior that the dexterity of the human hand makes it tricky to sand, before they return to human hand for finishing. Rather than replace the work of a Bentley employee, they’ve enhanced it. Hallmark says they’ve helped reduce fatigue and allowed production to be ramped up and the craftspeople to save their skills for the parts of the interior the customer really notices.
FUNDING NEW TECHNOLOGY
“We don’t need to be pioneers in the Apple or Google sense. We’ve funded our own growth so far, but sometimes you need money before you earn it. We’ve got to compete with other parts of the group. Our case can’t just be about the emotion of Bentley, though we do play on that. But you need a great business case.”
“We’re slightly hindered by WLTP testing requirements and the time it takes to get things done. When the requirements of RDE and WLTP were moved together, it made things slower than they might have been.”
THE LATEST GT’S ‘DERIVATIVE’ STYLING
“The last-generation car wasn’t enough of an evolution and I wondered if this one should have gone further, too. So I sought the clinic results: phenomenal. Then I drove one in London: great reaction. People know it’s familiar but see it’s different. Above all, they think it’s beautiful.”
A BATTERY BENTLEY
“Thirty-seven per cent of our owners have considered a BEV [battery electric vehicle]. They’re open to them and understand cities will want them. But they want more, not just an ecological car but great suspension, performance, connectivity, craftsmanship. They want to gain, not lose anything.”
SCARCITY OF ELECTRIC CHARGING POINTS
“It’s one of my least concerns. Porsche, VW, BMW and Mercedes are partners in a network for transient travel across Europe called Ionity, which in 18 months will have six chargers each on sites no more than 120km [75 miles] apart, able to charge a Porsche Mission E in 20-30min.”
World Rallycross Championship bosses postpone EV switch until 2021 season
The FIA World Rallycross Championship is to postpone the introduction of electric cars until 2021. The decision has been taken to allow optimal time for all manufacturers investigating the possibility of competing to develop their plans.
Manufacturers will now have until 29th March 2019 to confirm their commitment to the electric format, which was exclusively reported by Autocar as far back as 2016.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship will continue to be run for the current internal combustion engine (ICE) Supercars in 2019 and 2020. Beyond 2020, these ICE Supercars will remain an important part of the rallycross weekends, as the World Championship becomes an electric series.
“We are on the verge of an exciting new era for motorsport. Electric cars are increasingly important to all areas of mobility, and rallycross is the perfect platform to demonstrate the incredible performance capabilities of electric cars in a fun, competitive and cost effective environment,” said Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President, Motorsports at series organiser IMG.
“A huge amount has been accomplished in a relatively short time since the first formal meeting in June 2017. A completely new type of rallycross car has been conceived and defined, and so it is worth waiting a little longer to secure the best possible field of competitors. We believe that fans new and old will love what will be a thrilling addition to their favourite events.”
The switch to electric cars was rubber-stamped by the FIA’s World Motor Sports Council earlier this year, with a technical template for the cars that will compete in the new-look championship approved.
The four-wheel-drive cars will be based on a carbon fibre monocoque chassis supplied by Oreca and will use batteries from Williams Advanced Engineering. Each car will be powered by two 250kW motors which manufacturers will develop, combining to produce 670bhp. Manufacturers will homologate their own bodies for the cars which are designed to accept scaled versions of B or C segment production vehicles.
Independent teams can also enter the championship, either with cars supplied by manufacturers or using their own drivetrains and bodies developed from an FIA approved base design.
There will be opportunities at a number of 2020 World RX events for manufacturers and independent teams to showcase their electric vehicles. Several manufacturers are reported to have expressed interest in a proposed move to electric cars, including Volkswagen, Audi and Peugeot, all of which are represented on the current WRX grid.
Millar works fast but methodically under the judge’s scrutiny
Windscreen replacement specialists gather for the ultimate showdown, where one will be crowned world champion
“My trainers told me they were going to break and rebuild me,” says Dave Lyth. “I lost three stone. It takes over your life.”
The former UK and European champion, and world number three, turns his gaze back to Ryan Millar, his colleague, working quickly and expertly under the watchful eyes of two clipboard-wielding judges, within a precisely marked-out space he cannot leave and we cannot enter.
“I’m feeling good,” Ryan had told me an hour before he went into the ‘ring’, here at the giant Frankfurt Messe exhibition complex. “Me and Billy Johnston, my trainer, have been practising ever since I won the UK title last October.”
Welcome to the world windscreen repair championships or, as the organisers call it, the Best of Belron. Best of Autoglass would have been clearer except that Autoglass is just one of a number of vehicle glass repair companies operating under different names in over 30 countries (for example, Safelite in the US, O’Brien in Australia and Carglass elsewhere in Europe and Russia), all of them owned by UK-based Belron International Ltd.
Every two years, the group’s technicians who have won their country’s national championship converge at a major international location to compete for the Best of Belron world title. This year, the football World Cup might have been taking place in Russia but its windscreen repair equivalent was happening right here in Frankfurt.
In fact, not only windscreens but also rear and side glass, and recalibration of the cameras at the heart of the advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) disturbed by the removal and replacement of the windscreen. Each technician is scrutinised by a team of two judges keen to see they’re following the Belron way, a system contestants ignore at their peril.
“I’m looking for adherence to the process,” says head judge Darren Hunter. “For example, there are 40 steps to windscreen replacement alone. Also, I want to see first-class interaction with the judges who play the role of the customer.”
The technicians compete in rows of marked-off spaces, each containing a workstation and a gleaming Audi A4. I arrive on the competition’s second day when they must remove, replace and recalibrate the car’s windscreen in 90min. Points are deducted for running over time as well as deviating from the Belron way. It’s high-pressure stuff, with each competitor observed not only by the judges but also by their fellow Belron countrymen and women. Each time a windscreen is removed and replaced, they cheer loudly.
As much as it encourages their competitor, it also panics rivals, hopefully forcing them to fluff the process and drop points. At least, that appears to be the intention...
“They won’t bother Ryan,” says Johnston. “He’s a retained firefighter and as cool as a cucumber. He’ll be too busy concentrating.”
That much is obvious as, clock ticking, Ryan Millar deftly prepares his A4’s new windscreen and wipes clean the suckers that will grip the glass as he lifts it from the worktable.
An experienced tech watching Millar alongside me recalls how in the old days, you could climb into the passenger seat, put your feet on the windscreen and push it out. Not any more. Instead, Ryan assembles a complex web of pulleys wound with Belron’s special Ezi-Wire fibreline that cuts through the windscreen bonding like cheesewire.
With the old screen removed, he prepares the channel for the new glass. Taking it to the car and manoeuvring it into place is a delicate operation. Earlier, I’d visited glass supplier Pilkington’s stand in the adjacent exhibition hall and saw just how thin a modern windscreen is. It was from a current-model BMW 5 Series. The outer layer of glass was 1.8mm thick but the inner layer was just 1.4mm. On the previous model, both layers would have been 1.8mm and the windscreen itself 15% heavier.
Windscreen and scuttle both in place, Millar is ready to recalibrate the ADAS camera mounted in the A4’s rear-view mirror assembly. Because the car’s battery is likely to have been drained slightly by the doors being left open, he hooks up a separate power source. If he didn’t, there’d be a risk the Audi’s battery would run into management mode, closing down the ADAS system.
Millar now checks the A4’s tyre pressures and pushes down on each corner of the car to check it’s sitting level and at the right height. Some manufacturers insist their car has a full tank of fuel as part of establishing the vehicle’s correct height for recalibration. With the car sitting just right, he stands a large target board (each car maker has its own design) in front of the A4 and recalibrates the ADAS camera to factory settings. And then, but for general tidying up, he’s done.
“I’m tired but proud to have represented my country and my colleagues,” Millar tells me. “I don’t do nerves. I just went in and did my best.”
Steve Marelli, his colleague who won the world title in 2012, says winning is a big deal. “I’ve worked in over 10 Belron territories since my victory. I’ve done TV ads, roadshow demos... It was a huge career boost and now I’m an operations manager.”
I’ve got to catch a plane so I miss the awards ceremony. My phone pings a message as I land at Heathrow: ‘Ryan got a runner-up position. A great result!’
Absolutely, but judging by the determined look in his eyes earlier in the day, I bet he’s just a little bit disappointed at losing out to Rick Beasley of Safelite America. He has no need to be. If my car has picked up a chipped windscreen in the short stay car park, I know who to call.
It’s getting more sophisticated:
Taxiarchis Konstantopoulos, managing director of Autoglass, says that although there was an increase this summer in cracked windscreens caused by air-con systems chilling hot glass weakened by a pre-existing stonechip, there has been a slight decline in call-outs in recent years.
“Motorists’ average speeds have fallen due to speed cameras,” he says. “Also, more people are leaving their cars at home and cycling to work or taking the train.”
He says his business is becoming more sophisticated. First, there was the company’s launch, in 2015, of its ADAS recalibration service (“insurers took a lot of persuading”) and it is currently developing artificial intelligence (AI).
“We’ll use AI to interpret customers’ photographs of their cars’ body damage and chipped screens and generate a quotation. It’ll make the customer journey slick and simple.”
It’s a level of status at odds with the reality that success for this car largely hinges on its suitability to motorway drudgery. It’s your silver-plated porridge spoon, if you like.
This particular Arteon’s specification differs from the norm, mind. A diet of diesel has long been the preference for big-mileage executive saloons, but our fresh-faced long-term test car is propelled by the backstop of the engine lineup: the turbocharged 1.5-litre TSI Evo petrol engine. In a Golf, it’s a compelling proposition and one we’re particularly fond of, with a levity that makes spinning it out a satisfying endeavour but enough torque to ensure you’re never asked to work particularly hard for swift progress.
In the Golf, it can also deactivate two of its four cylinders under light throttle loads between 1400rpm and 4000rpm for improved fuel efficiency, and the same is true for the Arteon. Whether its outputs of 148bhp and 184lb ft are as suited to a four-door fastback some 350kg heavier than the hatch is something we’ll discover in due course.
Combined fuel economy is quoted at 48.7mpg (the most efficient model in the range, a similarly powerful 2.0-litre diesel, is quoted at 65.7mpg) with CO2 emissions of 131g/km. With a 66-litre fuel tank, that’s good enough for a range of more than 700 miles.
Meanwhile, the claimed 0-62mph is 8.9sec, which although far from shameful doesn’t quite cash the cheque written by the assertive front-end design.
The spec we’ve gone for is the entry-level Elegance, which is one of only two available in the UK, the other being R-Line. We’ll be swapping one for t’other in a few months’ time, but for now our Arteon cuts a more restrained figure, and does without gloss black air intakes, aggressive bumpers and 19in wheels. The paint is a metallic shade called Chilli Red and costs ?595.
You can buy an Arteon variously with a manual transmission and with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, but ours channels power to the front axle alone, and through a seven-speed dual-clutch ’box that can either be left alone or controlled through a pair of stubby steering-wheel-mounted paddles. 4Motion models come with active DCC dampers and a 15mm drop in ride height as standard, although our car uses a passive set-up.
Inside, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, with the stark, clean, expansive architecture left slightly hanging by a range of materials and finishes – notably gloss black and aluminium – that don’t do an awful lot to excite. There’s also a strong whiff of Passat in there, which isn’t surprising given that’s the model with which the Arteon shares its basic construction.
The nappa leather seats, meanwhile, are VW’s ergoComfort models with electric adjustment for the backs and lumbar support but manual levers for height and reach. You’d get exactly the same shape in an R-Line Arteon.
We’ve been sparing with optional extras in an attempt to hone the Arteon’s appeal as a value proposition relative to its lavish overtones. It means that along with the paint, the only other boxes we’ve ticked are those for the ?900 keyless entry with the electric tailgate, which can be opened by swiping your foot beneath the rear bumper, and a ?315 rear-view camera. You might have expected VW to throw in a rear-view camera for ‘free’, given this is its flagship saloon, but no.
One tempting option we didn’t elect for is VW’s ?985 Discover Navigation Pro infotainment system, and there’s a good reason why we’ve settled for the standard 8.0in display. Fact is, superb as the 9.2in glass touchscreen of the Pro might look, it does without any physical buttons or switches, so there are no scrolling dials for quick, sightless adjustments to volume and navigation zoom. We’re also far from convinced with VW’s efforts to implement gesture control, which are still hampered by inconsistent response.
As it is, the total outlay was ?34,555, which places the car, well, where among the alternatives, exactly? You could buy a base-spec Audi A5 Sportback SE for few grand less, but we reckon you’d need to spend at least ?38,500 to spec it to a similar level as our Arteon. For one thing, the VW is equipped as standard not only with a 12.3in digital instrument binnacle but also a range of safety-oriented technologies such as predictive cruise control, lane-assist, pedestrian monitoring and emergency braking at city speeds.
Of course, there’s an indefinable element to luxury that has little or nothing to do with value for money. What we’ll endeavour to discover during the next few months is whether this car has it or if those who crave the sophisticated aura of a ‘four-door coup?’ and view Arteon ownership as an inexpensive way in should steer clear.
I wasn’t a big fan of that wing-shaped front grille on our R-Line road test car, but something about its look on this Elegance-spec long-term test car appeals more to me. And I love the way the chrome bars run over the headlights.
Volkswagen Arteon 1.5 TSI EVO Elegance specification
Specs: Price New ?32,745 Price as tested: ?34,555 Options: Metallic paint ?595, keyless entry and hands-free tailgate operation ?900, rear-view camera ?315
Test Data: Engine1498cc, 4-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol Power 147bhp at 5000rpm Torque184lb ft at 1500rpm Top speed 138mph 0-62mph8.7sec Claimed fuel economy 54.3mpg Test fuel economy43.1 CO2119g/km FaultsNoneExpensesNone
It’s built for sand but is small and nimble so ideal in town
A beach buggy makes the world a happier place, and you don't need sand to enjoy one - just the chassis from a VW Beetle and the desire to tinker around
People who buy Lamborghini Aventadors and then drive them backwards and forwards outside Harrods are seeking attention.
Fine, but they’ve got it wrong. If you want to rack up a serious eyeball count, you need a beach buggy. Furthermore, if people are saying nice things about your choice of motor, you can’t hear them in an Aventador.
You can in a beach buggy: I know because a lot of people have been complimenting me on my choice of wheels. And shirt.
Back in 1970, the Sprinkle family moved to the UK from the US and sent their two sons to the school I was at. Along with the boys, Mr and Mrs Sprinkle brought with them their daughter Susanne, who made a major impression on me, and their beach buggy.
I still have a vague memory of Susanne, but a very accurate mental picture of the buggy. Metalflake purple, big chrome roll-over bar, huge tyres and a loud exhaust. We all had Hot Wheels beach buggies but one in full size, in our school car park among Morris Minors and Ford Anglias, was unbelievable.
Beach buggies were big in California but we hadn’t seen one in Woking. That would change within a year or so as these minimalist machines caught on in Britain. I don’t know what make of beach buggy the Sprinkles owned but it’s very similar to the one I’m driving now. This red metalflake marvel is owned by James May, who has had it restored after it was on the Grand Tour programme.
My working world these days is full of infotainment, smartphone mirroring and lots of technology to do with electric cars that I don’t fully understand. It’s going to give me a great deal of pleasure to describe to you the technical spec of May’s buggy. Proper old-school stuff.
The glassfibre body is a Prowler, which is essentially a copy of a GP body, which, as all beach buggies have been, is a copy of the original Meyers Manx. The body is ultra simple, with no doors or openings, and literally bolts to a Volkswagen Beetle chassis. Unless you’re building a long-wheelbase buggy, which doesn’t look quite right, you have to cut and shut the floorpan.
This buggy was built using a brand-new body by a company in Birmingham called Kingfisher Kustoms, which is run by lifetime buggy enthusiast Dave Fisher. Built to stand abuse from motoring TV stars, it uses an independent rear suspension from a 1302 ‘Super Beetle’, CV joints from a Type 2 van (they’re stronger and allow more travel) and rear hubs from a VW Type 181 ‘Thing’. At the front, there are disc brakes from a standard Beetle but with four-to-five stud adaptors. The tyres are suitably podgy 215/60 R15s at the front and 275/50 R15s rear.
The engine is bored out to 1776cc, has big-valve twin-port heads, each of which wears a Weber 40 IDF carb, and breathes out through Supertapp mufflers. The cam is an Engle 110, the pistons by Mahle and the crankshaft standard VW. To top it off, the whole lot has been lightened and balanced. It hasn’t been on the dyno but the output is guessed to be about 100bhp.
The car hasn’t been on the scales, either, but I’d guess at no more than 650kg. It feels very light when you push it around and it feels light to drive. Now, I’m not claiming Lotus- Elise-like handling for the buggy but it feels fabulously light on its feet, with light and direct steering, a ride that’s good by modern standards and acceleration that is probably lousy against a watch but feels very sprightly through the trousers. The motor is torquey, with great throttle response once it’s warmed up.
But where’s the beach? I haven’t looked into it but I suspect that finding an expanse of sand on which the car could live up to its name is very difficult unless you live in Scotland or near Pendine Sands in Wales.
Churning up sand is not environmentally friendly. It’s the same problem that owners of Ariel’s Nomad must have: where to use it. Actually, the Nomad is rather like a modern beach buggy. Simple, minimalist, light and fun. Removed from modern, highly complex supercars that have performance that’s unaccessible on the road.
Lack of sand isn’t a problem. A beach buggy is fun anywhere, even in central London. Small, squat, nimble and easy to literally hop in and out of, it’s the perfect urban transport. Especially if it’s sunny.
Three famous buggy drivers:
Steve McQueen might be more famous for driving a Mustang in Bullitt, but don’t forget The Thomas Crown Affair, in which McQueen thrashed around the dunes in a beach buggy with Faye Dunaway in the passenger seat.
The father of the beach buggy is Bruce Meyers, a surfer, engineer and artist who used his experience in building GRP boats to create the first Meyers Manx buggy in 1964. He’s still going strong, aged 92.
Elvis Presley drove a Meyers Manx in his 1968 Live A Little, Love A Little film. Toy company AMT built a model of the car; just one of dozens of buggy models produced in the 1960s and 1970s.
Small SUV has its retro rugged styling tweaked and gains a more emissions-friendly engine range
The Jeep Renegade has been given a light facelift, with subtle changes to its exterior styling and new technology inside, and with a fleet of new engines confirmed. A ?945 price hike takes its entry-level price up to ?19,200.
Jeep has previously confirmed to Autocar that there will eventually be a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, 48V mild hybrid version of every car in its line-up. This will include the upgraded Renegade when it goes on sale in the UK in September. The American brand also has plans to give each of its models a plug-in hybrid variant by the end of the decade, as well as a smaller, sub-Renegade SUV after this.
A 1.0-litre, 120bhp petrol, as well as a 150bhp and 180bhp 1.3-litre petrol will also feature, bringing greater performance and efficiency than the current iteration's 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrols. The range-topping Renegade, the 2.0-litre, 168bhp Trailhawk, costs ?30,805.
Exterior revisions include revised LED daytime running lights - the X motif from the rear lights is continued into the headlights now - and other such light tweaks, while the car’s rugged, retro-Jeep styling remains.
Inside, a larger 8.5in infotainment screen takes the place of the current 6.5in unit, absorbing the buttons and controls previously surrounding it, although a smaller 5in unit is fitted to lower-spec models. The new unit is still housed in the shaped surround so takes up no more space than the complete previous unit.
The Renegade is Jeep's most successful model in Europe, being closely related to the Fiat 500X and occupying the same market segment as the huge-selling Nissan Juke. The new Jeep Compass, a Nissan Qashqai rival, is also pivotal to the brand's success.
A Jeep spokesman confirmed that the updated Renegade would arrive in September 2018 after its reveal.
Jeep had a poor 2017 in the UK; its market share shrunk to 0.25%, a 55% decrease over 2016, with sales dropping from 14,090 to 6380 cars. The Renegade made up 4540 of these - more than 70% of Jeep's total UK sales for the year.
That's twice the drop recorded by parent brand Fiat and far out of proportion with the overall market contraction across the year.
Jeep CEO Mike Manley previously said to Autocar: “With the Renegade growing in Europe, we are where we want to be. We have yet to complete the European rollout of the Compass, which is in Europe’s biggest segment. In 2018, I’m looking for significant growth on 2017.”
Just 40 examples of track-focused, Chiron-based hypercar will be made by firm's new coachbuilding division; it'll be revealed on 24 August
Bugatti has shown its Chiron-based Divo hypercar under a sheet ahead of its launch on 24 August, revealing the car's shape and some of its proportions before its styling is revealed next week.
Few details of the Divo have been revealed so far, but the latest glimpse of the car under a silk sheet suggests that the car will have a large stability fin at the back, as well as a dominant wing extending past the back of its diffuser. It's also possible to see that the car's window line is completely distinct to that of the Chiron, with a rising shoulder underneath it, extending down from the back of the glass to the very front of the car. The wheel arches pull tension in the fabric, suggesting they're sharply extended from the main body.
A previous shot of the ?4.42million machine's rear lights can be seen in a video released on social media, which also shows the outline of a large wing. Head of exterior design, Frank Heyl, also revealed that the Divo will move forward from Bugatti's current design: "We’ve kept and further developed our Bugatti design DNA features, but on top of that have also taken the opportunity to exercise our freedom and create a completely new form language.”
In a clip recently released by the brand, Divo project manager Pierre Rommelfanger confirmed that the car will be lightweight, downforce-focused and will generate more G-force than the Chiron, but is intended for use on the road, rather than being a concept car, show car or track-only special. The brand has confirmed that the car is intended for road use, as well as track use.
Another shot showing embroidered branding for the car reveals none of the performance-boosting revisions over the Chiron, but the hashtag ‘Built for corners’ suggests a set-up more suited to track driving than outright speed. Bugatti also lauds the car's "enormous downforce and G-forces".
The name comes from French racer Albert Divo, who won the 1928 and 1929 Targa Florio for Bugatti.
Bugatti hasn't revealed the car yet, but confirms that Divo will be the first project undertaken by its newly resurrected coachbuilding division. "New, strong design language" suggests its look will be notably distinct from that of the regular Chiron.
The Divo is expected to follow the Sport in getting no alterations to Bugatti's 1479bhp quad-turbo 8.0-litre W16, but lightweighting measures, downforce-boosting bodywork, upgraded suspension and other corner-friendly mechanical tweaks are confirmed.
It’s likely that the Divo will complete the brand's line-up for the foreseeable future, given that it will be the third variant launched in two years. Bugatti will charge ?4.42 million for each of the 40 Divos that will be made - a heavy premium over the other two models.
“Happiness is not around the corner. It is the corner. The Divo is made for corners. With the Divo, we want to thrill people throughout the world. With this project, the Bugatti team has an opportunity to interpret the brand DNA in terms of agile, nimble handling in a significantly more performance-oriented way," said Bugatti boss Stephan Winkelmann.
Kia's Golf rival is growing up, as its petrol variant looks to topple European stalwarts from their long-held high perches
This is the new, apostrophe-free Kia Ceed, with a petrol engine.Kia’s gunning for the Volkswagen Golf with the new Ceed, and it shows. Just take a look at the interior, where there's not a hard plastic in sight – at least where you regularly touch, anyway. Getting into the finer details, the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol version is aiming squarely at the Golf’s 1.5-litre TSI Evo variant, as well as downsized versions of other mass-market family hatchbacks. Kia’s aspirations of a more premium position mean the Golf is in the crosshairs, though. In ?25,750 First Edition trim, it’s no bargain alternative, but it comes laden with tech and numerous option boxes ticked as standard. You’d be hard pushed to point it out from a regular Ceed, with no badging or shouty features signifying its First Edition status. It’s the petrol motor under the bonnet that matters most, however, because this is the first time we’ve driven the 1.4 in the UK.
Aggressively priced supermini steps up interior game, but lacks performance of major rivals
Examine the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' sales figures for July compared with last year and you’ll discover MG’s rate of growth has been spectacular.No less than 167%, in fact, at a time when most marques are experiencing a slight sales slump — not least value-proposition opposition Dacia.MG, it seems, is flying, but that Bentley recorded 103% growth gives some indication of the underlying reasons for such a statistical surge. The truth is that it’s taken four long years for the Chinese-manufactured MG 3 to amass 10,000 sales in an out-and-out volume segment, and so the only way truly is up. Ford, for reference, sells the British public around 5000 examples of the Fiesta every month.But if the 3 is some way off the pace in sales, the lightly revised version tested here also remains some way off the price. Even in top-spec Exclusive trim, it comes in at only ?12,795; and if that’s not thrifty enough, consider that in entry-level Explore guise this car costs a mere ?9495 — almost a match for the basic Volkswagen Up, which is a full segment below the 3.You’ll need mid-ranking Excite trim if you’re to enjoy 16in diamond-cut alloy wheels instead of 14in steelies, reverse parking sensors and a sharp new 8.0in touchscreen (without navigation, but with Apple CarPlay and a DAB radio), and only Exclusive comes with part-leather sports seats.The infotainment display is sleekly integrated into the dashboard (although it still sits awkwardly below your eye line) and, in fact, the entire interior is more credible than you might expect both in terms of materials and fit. Along with exterior design tweaks, chief among them the adoption of a larger, chromed-rimmed grille, the 3 cuts an attractive figure.
Welcome to Autocar's run-down of all the new cars heading this way in 2018
Autocar's new cars list gives you all the information on 2018's new arrivals, rounding up all the new models going on sale in the UK
We're a little over halfway through yet 2018 has already proved to be another exciting year for cars. We're welcomed new entrants into every major segment, and that ever-growing flock of SUVs continues to surge.
Here is your one-stop shop for keeping up-to-date with what's coming when in the car industry.
Alpina sticks two fingers up to the ever-forecast death of diesel with a 323bhp, 516bhp six-cylinder diesel SUV. Europeans get two more chargers, 55 more horses and 52lb ft more than the Brits, though.
Alpina has overhauled the BMW X3, making a performance car out of the 3.0-litre diesel-straight-six-engined SUV
Alpina has revealed that the 328bhp, 516lb ft performance version of the X3 called the XD3, will cost from ?57,900 - ?5445 more than the xDrive M40d.
Revealed at the Geneva motor show earlier this year, the XD3 has 2bhp more than M-performance's diesel-engined X3 M40d, and a torque advantage of 14lb ft over BMW’s fastest diesel X3 means the XD3’s acceleration from 0-62mph takes 4.7sec compared with the M40i’s 4.9sec. The M40d’s top speed is limited to 155mph, where the XD3 can reach 158mph.
Powering the XD3 is a twin-turbo version of BMW’s 2993cc six-cylinder diesel engine, with maximum power available from 4000-4600rpm. Power is transmitted to all four wheels through a tweaked version of BMW’s xDrive system, with a ZF eight-speed Alpine Switch-Tronic automatic gearbox handling shifts, and buttons on the steering wheel allowing the driver to perform gear changes.
European-spec XD3s get quad-turbos which hike the power to 383bhp and torque to 568lb ft, trimming the 0-62mph to 4.6sec and upping the top speed to 165mph. This format is only available on left-hand drive cars, however.
The previous XD3 was 2mph slower than the current car, and 0.2sec slower to 62mph, although fuel economy has taken a dip for this generation - 31.4mpg versus the old car’s 42.8mpg. Alpina says that the new, more rigorous WLTP test cycle is to blame for this. CO2 emissions have risen from 174g/km to 238g/km. Alpina claims that the two cars can return similar fuel economies, despite the different figures.
On the outside, the car is distinguished by Alpina’s typical suite of styling upgrades, including chrome-tipped quad exhausts, Alpina badging at the front and rear and multi-spoke alloys that are 20in as standard, with 22in wheels optional.
Pricing rises slightly over the last car's ?56,450 to around ?57,900, although the brand says that the new car is higher spec than before. First deliveries are scheduled for January 2019 for UK customers. The last XD3 got a run of 150 units, with 14 making it onto UK roads. This time around, 12 will be brought to the UK per year. The previous-generation XD3 sold out for the year by April in the UK.
Hyundai set to launch an updated version of its Toyota Prius rival next year, with styling tweaks and range improvements expected
Hyundai is expected to launch an updated version of its Ioniq late next year, with changes to the exterior design and technology upgrades.
The Toyota Prius rival has been on sale since 2016, so a mid-life refresh is on the cards for 2019. Already, spy photographers have caught a heavily disguised prototype undergoing hot weather testing in the US.
Given the level of camouflage employed here, it's likely that there will be noticeable changes to Ioniq's front and rear-end designs in order to keep it fresh in the face of a glut of new hybrid and electric offerings on the way. Expect similar treatment for the interior, with improvements to materials and additional technology on offer.
It's also reasonable to suggest that Hyundai will make use of developments in electric powertrain and battery technology since the car's launch, improving the electric-only ranges of the plug-in hybrid and electric variants. The regular hybrid version should also remain, meaning the Ioniq continues to be the only car to be offered with hybrid, PHEV and EV drivetrains.
When we'll see the facelifted Ioniq is yet to be revealed, but an unveiling in the second half of 2019 fits in with the timeline. We'll see more information, plus more revealing spy shots, nearer the time.
Most notably, the car gets five-hole Quadrifoglio wheels, previously exclusive to the 503bhp V6-engined rival to the BMW M3, as well as carbonfibre exterior trim and red brake calipers.
Optionally, the entire Quadrifoglio paint palette is available on the Veloce Ti, while a ?1650 carbon pack adds a Quadrifoglio lip spoiler, side skirts and a carbonfibre gear selector.
Inside, the Veloce Ti gets the Quadrifoglio variant’s leather and Alcantara sports seats with eight-way electric adjustment, carbonfibre interior trim and leather dashboard covering and a black headlining.
No performance upgrades have been applied to the Veloce Ti, although the entire Giulia range, as well as the Stelvio line-up, have been given AdBlue addition for the 2.2-litre diesels to comply with Euro 6D standards, boosting power by just under 10bhp, taking the 148bhp and 178bhp units to 158bhp and 187bhp.
Production, which takes place in Toyota’s Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, will cease in the coming weeks as the last orders are fulfilled. After this, the only Avensis models left will be dealer stock. The Burnaston factory has been subject to ?240 million in investment last year to upgrade it for production of cars using the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform.
The Avensis makes way for the Camry hybrid, with the Camry name returning to the UK after a 14-year hiatus. Sales of the Avensis have been slow, given the decline of D-segment saloons as buyers opt for SUVs. Toyota sold 3473 examples of the Avensis in 2017, compared with 3921 RAV4s.
News of the Avensis’s demise follows Toyota's confirmation that the Verso MPV has been taken off sale. The two models were the last to be offered with diesel engines in the UK apart from the Land Cruiser, which is considered by the company as a more specialist product.
Toyota predicts that Avensis and Verso customers will now opt for the new Camry hybrid, the C-HR (particularly for Verso buyers) or the upcoming Auris, which arrives later this year on the much-lauded TNGA architecture.
Never mind Alonso & Co in a Toyota: our M5 came away from Le Mans as a winner - 4th July 2018
The M5 has been back to BMW, at the request of the people there. Just want to give it a onceover, they said, and update some software.
Usually, we prefer to go to dealers for the full ownership experience but, well, they asked. And it’s their car, after all. Kindly, they repaired a windscreen stonechip, and replaced the two wheel centres we think had been nicked, and gave the rest of the car a once-over.
Wouldn’t usually, lads, but y’know: it’s a 600bhp super-saloon so we thought we’d just make sure things were fine. Which they were, and the next day the M5 was taken straight down to Le Mans, in the hands of my PistonHeads colleagues. (I can’t believe they actually put a sticker on it, but there you go. It’s a thing. It has come off cleanly enough.)
What’s good about it, though, is that it’s useful to get another set of hands and feet into the car, to give a second opinion. Knowing Le Mans, I know what the trip will have been like: supercars and sports cars everywhere, but although our PH correspondent asks “is the M5 too subtle?”, it apparently still garnered quite a lot of attention on the PH campsite, despite a Ford GT being parked next to it.
Quite rightly. I reckon that if you’ve got a Ford GT (or equivalent), you’re probably in the market for something like an M5 as a daily driver too. Which is a job it performs well.
“Brakes are fantastic”, although it’s “hard to measure out the throttle properly when pulling away”, which are both accurate. It has developed, though, a “screech under braking from the front right at slow speeds in stop-start traffic”, which I’d just begun to notice too.
There’s plenty of pad all round on the ?7495 carbon-ceramic brakes, which are usually slightly less refined than iron rotors, but not this much. There’s nothing obvious, so I’ll stick the front corner on a stand and take a wheel off, to check the inside of the disc to see if a stone or bit of grit is stuck in there.
The good thing about second opinions, though, is that they don’t always agree with the first ones. PH is less impressed by the interior than I am; not that keen on the trim around the door handle or that the forward centre console lid is sometimes rattly, which I hadn’t noticed. I’ve had a play and think I’ve worked out why. It’s possible to unseat the lid from its runners very easily, but you can either push it back on or, if you close the lid, it re-seats it anyway.
Where we do agree is that it sounds “a little tame from the inside” (true), and it’s annoying that the electrics and stereo don’t turn off when you turn the ignition off (also true, even after you open the door and shut it behind you. Apparently, the latest X2 remedies this). And we all like the way it drives.
I have a bit of a beef with how wide the M5 feels, both parking it and down narrow lanes, but in France “you can still place it nicely on narrow roads”. It’s also “very comfortable for the whole journey” and “road noise is minimal even on the worst bits of the M25” but that there’s “noticeable tramlining on UK roads after being on the smooth roads of France”.
These last bits are the interesting ones. The UK has particularly poorly surfaced roads, which is why a lot of car companies come to sign off vehicle dynamics here, but how a car behaves still tells you a lot about where it was developed, and who it’s meant for.
The humble car key doesn't get more useful, or complex, than this - 13th June 2018
The M5’s key can do all kinds of things from inside your house that it would be just as sensible to do from an app on your phone. Such is the array that, inevitably, it needs charging, but so little do I use the extras that I don’t tend to realise until it has been as flat as a bean for who knows how long. It still locks and unlocks and starts the car, though.
A 900-mile return trip to the M3 CS launch and N24 race? Be rude not to take the M5 - 30th May 2018
Among the blinding greenery of the Rhineland, there’s an isolated ribbon of Tarmac that flows between the sleepy spa town of Bad Neuenahr and the altogether less somnolent village of N?rburg.
It’s well surfaced for the most part and the setting is completely bucolic. Ideal, say, for an E300 cab: stick the dampers in Comfort, Bob Seger on the radio. Not a worry in the world.
The funny thing is that above a certain level of commitment, this same stretch becomes an utterly brutal examination of a car’s dynamic repertoire. There are second-, third- and even fourth-gear corners of capricious profile and camber changes where you wouldn’t expect.
One sequence isn’t unlike the infamous Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, for pity’s sake, and there’s a bend whose exit is not only blind but also concurrent with an unfavourable surface change and a vicious compression on the nearside. You’re spat out of it at the top of third gear.
For outright zip, ultimately it failed to match a car some 400kg lighter and with a significantly lower centre of gravity, and nor was it quite so confidence inspiring when the Armco loomed. But it was arguably the greater feat of engineering purely for its astounding body control and the fact that it was actually enjoyable to punt along a road that could have been bespoke-laid for a Lotus Exige.
As you may have surmised, our long-termer was the steed between home and a gruelling race weekend during which BMW launched its latest M-badged road car, and therein lies the true appeal of this M5. Some back-road fun sandwiched by substantial highway blasts resulted in around 900 miles and an overall fuel economy of 21.4 mpg, for a total expenditure of roughly ?260.
No, this 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 was never going to set records for frugality but, if the car impresses on more tortuous routes, it’ll blow your mind on a derestricted autobahn. How fast? An indicated (and restricted) 164mph, at which point your estimated time of arrival goes into free fall with that engine still pulling damnably hard.
Perhaps of greater significance is that proceedings remain serene enough that you’d barely have to raise your voice to be heard by those in the back. More prosaically, the M5 simply makes things easy on this kind of trip.
You can angle the headlights for Continental duties at the touch of a button and the head-up display converts your speed and speed-limit icons into km/h. It is comfortable, it is spacious, the Harman Kardon sound system is very good and you don’t worry about leaving the thing in a strange corner of an unfamiliar town after a mammoth day in the saddle.
Every time I’m lucky enough to drive this car, three things occur to me. The seats are set too high, the body control is simply a touch close for everyday driving, even for a super-saloon, and, God, how I wish they’d made a bit more of the wheel arches.
But while it takes me a little time to get onto the M5’s wavelength, once there I’m pretty much smitten.
CRUISE MISSILE No surprise that a 600bhp saloon with massage seats can seemingly condense international travel, but it’s a lovely sensation all the same.
TOURING RANGE ‘Loathe’ is strong, but if the 70-litre fuel tank was just a little bigger, you’d easily manage 450 miles between cruising fill-ups.
The steering column, seat back (lower and upper), under-thigh support, head restraint, plus the usual seat options – forward, back, up, down – all adjust electrically. There’s so much adjustment that I have resorted to using the memory function. Then there’s heating, cooling and massage too. I’ll bet the seat weighs more than I do.
I can’t remember a car that has been busier on its arrival on the Autocar long-term test fleet than the new BMW M5. With decent reason, I suppose; it’s a new M5. They are rare and we want to see, as quickly as possible, just how good they are.
What I can tell you is that I can’t think of another car that, when it comes to trying to be both engaging and sporty, and yet also luxurious and comfy, is so complete in its dynamic make-up.
Inside, it’s everything a 5 Series is as well. It’ll seat five in great comfort, there's a 530-litre boot behind them, with a can of foam beneath the boot floor in case you get a puncture because the M5 doesn’t have run-flat tyres.
Which is one reason why, I suspect, the M5 has such a bewildering array of dynamic capabilities and why the Alpina B5 (spoiler alert) doesn’t ride night and day better — something that's usually one of Alpina’s great traits.
You can slacken the M5’s suspension, plus its other attributes — powertrain, gearbox, steering weight — to a bewildering degree, too. On the centre console by the gearlever — on which there are three modes for upshift timing — you can select which damper modes, engine response, transmission response and steering weight you want.
Or you can select from pre-programmed variants. Or you can pick your own set-up and programme that into two discrete red levers on the steering wheel. That’s what I’ve done.
There are lots of other things to get used to and get your head around, too, in part thanks to a raft of options that include one of my other favourite steering wheel buttons: a heated wheel rim. I do like a heated steering wheel. And, the other day, somebody left a pea under 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds and I could still feel it at night!
Anyway, that’s part of the Comfort pack, which our road test reckoned was a good idea to spec, unlike the Premium pack. I agree; the M5 has a carbonfibre roof to reduce weight and make it lower, so I’d steer clear of too many options — such as the Premium pack’s soft-close doors — that add the kilos back on again.
Carbon-ceramic brakes also made the list, at ?7495, and an M Sports exhaust, at ?1100. The brake package is probably what provides a slightly oversensitive pedal at times — we’ll see if that improves with miles — and the ’zorst adds a welcome edge to the turbocharged motor, which otherwise resorts to relatively convincing speaker augmentation for some of its excitement.
Aural excitement, anyway. It relies on deploying 592bhp in great unhurried strides to deliver the visceral excitement. The engine is terrific. Less overtly V8ish than an AMG it may be, but there’s no arguing with the amount of oomph it provides or how it delivers it through the eight-speed automatic 'box.
It’s even capable, if you’re careful, of 28mpg, although 23mpg is more likely and 7.5mpg is possible on a track. I suppose owners don’t take M5s there that often, although they should, because it’s a great way to find out that BMW’s new super-saloon is unsurpassed in its dynamic abilities.
I’m looking forward to exploring those more as we find many, many more jobs for the M5 to do.
I love this car. I struggled at first to see why a 5 Series needed to be so hardcore but, after 400 miles, I just couldn’t get enough of its near-supercar steering and body control, plus its intoxicating acceleration, given the practical package and effortless delivery. Brilliant!
Specs: Price new ?87,940 Price as tested ?101,900; Options Premium package (including soft-close doors, massage seats, ceramic finish for controls) ?1995, Comfort package (including steering wheel heating, seat heating all round) ?1195, M Sports exhaust ?1100, carbonfibre engine cover ?1025, carbon-ceramic brakes ?7495, M seatbelts ?260, carbonfibre/aluminium-look trim ?495, Apple CarPlay ?235, online entertainment ?160
Test Data: Engine V8, 4395cc, twin turbocharged petrol; Power 591bhp at 5600-6700rpm; Torque 553lb ft at 1800-5600rpm; Top speed 155mph (limited); 0-62mph 3.4sec; Claimed fuel economy 26.9mpg; Test fuel economy 23.3mpg; CO2 241g/km; Faults None; Expenses None
A few days after the BTCC event, the sale of the circuit was confirmed. A statement from Rockingham said that all events scheduled for 2018 would run as planned but referenced “changes in business operations” at the venue.
According to the Companies House website, an investment company registered in St Helier, Jersey has bought Rockingham, and the Northamptonshire Telegraph has reported it will become a car storage centre. Whether it can continue to be used for track activities, or whether there are other long-term plans for it, is unknown. It was offered for sale as a ‘development opportunity’ and a huge housing development is being built nearby.
That the first purpose-built banked oval built in the UK since Brooklands in 1907 could be shuttered as a venue after just 17 years is almost as hard to comprehend as the circuit existing in the first place.
Built on a disused British Steel quarry site in Corby, Rockingham was conceived as an American-style high-speed oval test track, with a bold plan to attract the US-based CART Champ Car World Series for Indy-style machines. It took ten years of planning before the ?70 million venue was built in 23 months.
It opened in 2001, with the first CART race held there on 22 September 2001. It was a troubled start: water seeping through the track surface delayed running, and the 500km race was eventually shortened to 300km due to time constraints.
The race itself was largely processional, with the 1.5-mile oval's tight, low-banked turns not conducive to side-by-side racing, although it was enlivened by Gil de Ferran overtaking future McLaren Automotive test driver Kenny Br?ck at the final turn to snatch the win (pictured below). The CART World Series returned in 2002, with Brit Dario Franchitti taking victory.
The crowds for both events were decent, but CART was beginning a decline after a long war with the rival IndyCar Series (which had the marquee Indianapolis 500), and selling American single-seater racing to a UK audience proved more difficult than imagined. In 2003, the CART event shifted its UK race to Brands Hatch.
Rockingham tried to grow oval racing with its own stock car series (originally called ASCAR, before bizarrely being rebranded Days of Thunder after the Tom Cruise film), which it ran alongside a series of high-profile concerts. Remember when rapper 50 Cent came to Rockingham?
When that stock car series folded after 2007, only a club-level pick-up truck series raced on the oval. Rockingham’s 1.94-mile infield road course continued to host championships, and after a one-off event there in 2003, the BTCC has visited regularly since 2007.
But despite producing some good racing, the circuit doesn’t hold as much appeal for drivers or spectators as other venues. It doesn't, for example, have the history of Silverstone (located just 40 miles away), the flowing challenge of Oulton Park or the elevation changes of Brands Hatch.
That’s perhaps because it lacks in atmosphere: it’s as flat, featureless and glamorous as you’d expect an old British Steel quarry located next to an industrial estate in Corby to be.
To host a crowd of 55,000-plus, the venue has five big grandstands, although two of them haven’t been open since the last CART race. They probably contain seats that have never been sat in. Due to safety concerns related to subsidence, only the main grandstand has been in use this year. Therefore, even with a decent crowd, as at the BTCC last weekend, the venue can look and feel empty.
As a long-time fan of American Indy racing, I attended both CART races at Rockingham. Having seen the circuit’s first major event, by a quirk of fate it seems my BTCC trip last weekend means I could also have unwittingly attended one of its last.
I can recall sitting in the Turn One grandstand back in 2001, taking in the view of the track and finding it surreal that someone had actually built a US-style oval circuit in Britain. It’s even more surreal to think that Rockingham's days as a racing circuit could be over after just 17 years.
That car will be offered in ?76,270 840d diesel and ?100,045 M850i petrol form, and the Gran Coupe is predicted to follow suit. A new video shows a V8-powered M850i prototype being tested by BMW engineers at the N?rburgring Nordschleife:
The production M8, meanwhile, is tipped to top 600bhp from a more highly tuned version of the same engine and will be available in all three 8 Series bodystyles.
The Gran Coup? is due to enter production in 2019. It appears largely similar to its two-door siblings, but with a raised rear roofline to provide more head room in the rear seats.
Following the unveiling of the 8 Series coup?, the convertible and Gran Coup? were all but revealed in patent images showing their distinct designs. The pictures, which surfaced on Bimmerpost, confirmed the car's look would follow its two-door siblings closely at the front and rear.
Pictured previously during a testing stint at the N?rburgring, the design differences of the M8 coup? and convertible are visible. Aside from their differing tops, the variants also get their own bootlids to create different silhouettes.
Building on the base of the new 8 Series range, which will appear on public roads in November, the M8 models will use BMW's twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine. We know this because the racing M8 that competed in the Daytona 24 Hours earlier this year was equipped with this powerplant.
Without motorsport restrictors to worry about, the finished road car is expected to produce 600bhp, placing it above the latest 592bhp M5 and giving it more firepower than the Mercedes-AMG S63 Coup?, which has 577bhp.
M division president Frank van Meel revealed that development of the M8 was started at the same time as the regular 8 Series and that their programmes ran in parallel. He said the M8 builds "on the genes of the 8 Series and augments its DNA with added track ability and generous extra portions of dynamic sharpness, precision and agility".
Van Meel added: "It all flows into a driving experience that bears the familiar BMW M hallmarks and satisfies our customers’ most exacting requirements.”
He said that BMW's engineers set out "to ensure that the standard car wasn’t too sporty for its customers" because the M division "wanted the M8 to feel like a proper step up".
"Also, because not all 8 Series customers want an M car," van Meel continued.
“We certainly want to make a statement with this car. It will sit at the very top of our model range and, for now, we have no confirmed plans for any series production model above it, so we understand it must have a specification suiting its position in our hierarchy.”
The M8 will carry a heavy premium over the standard 8 Series' ?76,270 starting price, so a starting price surpassing that of even the i8 sports car is certain; the rial S63 Coup? kicks off at around ?131,000.
Global project manager for the 8 Series, Sarah Lessmann, previously told Autocar: "There is a big gap [between the S-Class Coupe? and the 911] and we decided the 8 Series shouldn’t quite be in the middle of those: it takes the best out of everything and defines its own gap. Performance-wise, we're close to the 911, but we also offer elegant and luxurious materials to match the best of the S-Class.” The Porsche 911 Turbo starts at ?128,692.
BMW also used the M8 GTE, the racing version of the car, to compete as part of a factory effort in this year's Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race. It was the brand's first factory entry there in six years.
The new version of the big 4x4 is now Volkswagen’s flagship model. Is the Touareg up to the task, and can it challenge its luxury rivals?
You might have noticed that the Volkswagen Phaeton – one-time vessel of a mighty 6.0-litre W12 engine shared with Bentley – is no longer on sale.Its culling from the range in 2016 more likely passed you by entirely, such was the glacial rate at which people bought them and the model’s resulting rarity.Either way, it’s a development that promotes the subject of this week’s road test to nothing less than flagship status for one of the world’s largest car makers. We’re talking about the third-generation Touareg, which Volkswagen describes as a new high-water mark for the brand in terms of design and technology.Concerning the tech, it’s difficult to disagree, because you might say that this SUV borrows a chassis from Porsche, elements of its driveline from Lamborghini, suspension componentry from Bentley, semiautonomous driving features from Audi and, as an option, a new Innovision Cockpit infotainment system, with displays measuring no less than 12in and a Tesla-esque 15in.And yet perhaps the most interesting element of this new Touareg, which arrives 16 years after the original, is that it has been styled for China, not Europe. Perhaps that’s understandable, given SUVs now account for almost half of sales in the largest market for new cars globally.It’s why the Touareg comes bedecked with status-enhancing chrome (although European buyers will have the option of black) and why it’s even larger than its predecessor, in length surpassing the ‘five-metre barrier’ to which designers on this side of the world so diligently adhere.As if to cement the fact that this is now what we used to call a soft-roader first and foremost, the Touareg isn’t available with a low-range gearbox for the first time. Fewer than 5% ordered it last time out and Volkswagen has got the message.Superficially, it would seem there’s plenty going for this car, but does it have the luxury to compete with an Audi Q7, the dynamism to tempt BMW X5 owners or the style to bear comparison with Volvo’s XC90? Let’s find out.
Would a rose still smell as sweet by any other name? This glamorous beauty may have the badge of a humble Fiat, but it has the heart and soul of a proper Ferrari.
You see, when the Bertone-designed Fiat Dino was launched in 1967, it had, underneath its elegant bonnet, a Ferrari engine, a wonderful all-alloy, quad-cam 2.0-litre 65deg V6, good for 158bhp and 8000rpm and fed by triple Weber carburettors. Vittorio Jano had designed the car initially for racing, but when later the company wanted to use it in Formula 2, it had to overcome homologation regulations that required at least 500 production units.
Ferrari hooked up with Fiat and the engines ended up – suitably modified for production by the peerless Aurelio Lampredi – in this Dino, before going on to appear a year later in Ferrari’s own 206/246 Dinos and, eventually, in upgraded form, in the Lancia Stratos.
The engine may be a sonorous pleasure and the steering and handling a delicate delight, but the Dino was ahead of its time in many other areas, too. It had a five-speed gearbox, for one, and disc brakes all round. Above all, it had brio, and although there was a Pininfarina-designed two-seat Spider version, launched a few months before the coupe?, most acknowledged this four-seater as the better-handling and more solid car.
This example, plucked from the PistonHeads classifieds, is up for a smidgeon under ?50,000 and has dropped in price since February when we featured it on this pages. A few years ago, you could have had it for a lot less, but prices have been climbing steadily for years as word of how sweet they are has spread.
You want a bit of lairy with a dollop of speed but your budget’s a bit tight? Pay below ?10,000 for this old-style Ford Focus RS, which carries its 125,000 miles well and would make someone a nice 215bhp runaround. Five gears and three doors only, though. Ah, those were the days, my friend.
Boot it; flick it; catch it: the 106 GTi was a tiny and lightweight hoot, beautifully balanced in its chassis and blessed with a 120bhp DOHC 16-valve 1.6-litre engine up front. It’s rare now, and still overlooked in favour of the larger 205 and 306 GTis, but this one’s a bit of a steal.
A Legend by name but, alas, not quite by reputation. That's a pity, because under its so-so exterior styling is a lot of high-tech goodness, including a typically lovely Honda 3.5-litre V6 and a remarkably clever four-wheel-drive system. Today, it makes for an intelligent and reliable used buy.
You won’t need a lot of wedge to buy this wedge. When it comes to pure hairy-chested and slightly brutish fun, TVR is without peer. A 3.5-litre V8, unassisted steering and a glass-reinforced plastic body and, as a bonus, 0-60mph in 6.9sec. All this and the wind in your hair, too.
Jaguar XJS - Jaguar fanciers will kick themselves for having missed out on this XJS, sold at auction recently for just ?2544. This one dates from 1992, so it’s one of the later cars in the XJS’s long and rather chequered history. Although not the stately V12, its 245bhp 4.0-litre inline six offers turbine smoothness and graceful delivery.
Of course, buying an old Jag requires a leap of faith and a great deal of money, but this car comes with a substantial back catalogue of MOTs (plus a current one) and a warranted mileage of 160,000, and it has been in the same hands since 2002.
GET IT WHILE YOU CAN:
Renault Me?gane RS - Price new ?28,995, price now ?16,995 - The new Renault Sport Me?gane is a very fancy piece of work indeed, with a 276bhp engine and four-wheel steering to make it more agile than ever in the corners. However, those with less dosh to burn might like to consider a 2017 version of the old model, itself no mean performer. What you’ll get is arguably a better-looking three-door car (the new one is a five-door hatch only) with pretty similar performance for around ?12,000 less.
CLASH OF THE CLASSIFIEDS:
Brief: Gentlemen, the warmer weather has prompted me to desire a fun convertible car. Maximum spend ?10,000, please.
This tidy Honda has covered only 46,000 miles and comes with plenty of history and a clean MOT. In other words, it’ll cope with a B-road thrash, no sweat. So sit back and imagine yourself with the hood down, revelling in its 9000rpm redline and outstanding rear-wheel-drive chassis. It’s a much more agreeable convertible than Alex’s front-wheel-drive Lotus, I think you’ll find... MAX ADAMS
Front-wheel-drive it may be, but my Lotus has one of the finest front-drive chassis around – unlike that pre-facelift S2000, which was, shall we say, somewhat wayward. By contrast, you can press on as much as you like in this pretty little Elan Turbo, safe in the knowledge that it’ll remain responsive and exciting without ever trying to fling you into a hedge. And at just ?7k with plenty of potential to appreciate, it’s considerably better value, too. A clear winner. ALEX ROBBINS
Verdict: Loving the Lotus, but if it comes to a choice between turbocharged front-wheel-driver and rear-wheel-drive VTEC, I’m heading the Honda’s way. MARK PEARSON
Is the 1325bhp Milan Red hypercar just a Photoshop fantasy?
This week, Prior explains why he finds it hard to believe bold claims of super car makers
I’ve had emails from one or two of you agreeing that the ideal sports car I described in the 25 July issue — a two-seat coupe? as compact as a Toyota GT86, and not much more powerful, but with a front-mounted 3.0-litre V12 engine — sounds like something you’d also like to drive.
Disappointingly, however, no offers for me to become the CEO of a company creating this ?200,000 (before options) masterpiece have been forthcoming. Which is a pity. I’d have taken COO. Head of engineering. Head of dynamics, design, catering… whatever, really.
Such is — genuinely — the respect I have for anybody who tries to build a new sports car. It’s a more noble career than writing about them, certainly. But, nevertheless, with a heart that I fear is heavy rather than full of beans, I need to tell you more about the Milan Red, the Austrian 1325bhp hypercar that intends to show the world what Austrian companies are capable of.
Some of them are pretty good at Photoshop, clearly. But beyond that, Austrian companies have given us Red Bull and Swarovski, Spar and KTM. This is a country I’m confident already knows about highly profitable syrupy drinks, glass and convenience minimarkets. Plus motorcycles and niche sports cars.
The Milan Red is an example of the latter. Milan says that it’ll weigh 1300kg, will get from zero to 62mph in 2.47sec and go on to 249mph. Milan will sell 99 of them at around ?1.8 million each. If it is or does all of these things, I will walk 10 metres barefoot across Lego.
It is possible to get 1325bhp from the quad-turbocharged 6.2-litre V8 engine Milan proposes to use. People in the US do it for giggles, mostly with off-the-shelf parts. But given this 6.2-litre V8 presumably won’t come from Austria, I don’t know how that’s of particular benefit to the country’s reputation.
The rest of the statistics are harder to digest. Some cars can have this much power and weigh just 1300kg, but they would be dragsters. A Bugatti Chiron makes this kind of power, and such are its cooling demands that it weighs two tonnes.
The Red is said to have a tub and suspension made from carbonfibre, which would help, no doubt, but also active aerodynamics and four turbochargers. The McLaren Senna’s dry weight is 1198kg. Adding two turbos, 2.2 litres and the cooling required for an additional 500bhp sounds like more than 102kg to me.
No rear-drive road car, meanwhile, goes from zero to 62mph in 2.47sec. And why 2.47sec, precisely? Not ‘under 2.5’ or ‘about 2.5’? Somebody has gone away with a spreadsheet and done some calculations, and they are wrong. It’s possible to achieve 250mph with that kind of power; bagsy not being the one trying it.
But the thing about all this is the money. Bugatti will spend well over ?1bn engineering and producing the Chiron; it’s a rolling laboratory for new production, aerodynamic, materials and cooling technology and even then the VW Group, with all of its engineering (if not moral) integrity, took some serious convincing that it’d be worthwhile. The Veyron had cost it lots of money.
I’d love to be wrong. I’d love the Red to become more than what looks like a model with no interior. And for these noble, brave spirits to win. The Lego awaits.
Jaguar Land Rover’s sales are being hit by the diesel desertion
We delve into the stories that are causing eyebrow-raising car stats for the UK in 2018
One statistic jumped out of the UK automotive manufacturing figures for June. The number of cars built in the country for sale here, rather than for export, fell by 47%. Have we really fallen out of love with UK-built cars that much?
The answer is tied up in a rollercoaster half year for car sales in this country.
“I’ve been in the industry 26-27 years and I can’t recall a year with so much distortion,” said Daksh Gupta, chief executive of the Marshall Motor Group, which has 99 dealers in the UK. On the surface, UK car sales are holding up pretty well considering the disruptive forces of Brexit, a weak pound and the flight from diesel. The numbers for January-June this year were down 6.3% to 1.3 million, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
But behind the relative calm of the sales figures is turmoil. Diesel sales are tanking. In the first six months, the UK public bought nearly 200,000 fewer new diesel cars than in the same period last year, giving new diesel cars a market share of just 33%.
Some car makers are suffering more than others and the key ones have British manufacturing plants. Jaguar Land Rover’s first-half UK sales were down 9%, for which it largely blames the diesel decline; 85% of its UK sales are diesel.
Nissan’s sales were down 30%, with demand for the Qashqai SUV — the car with the highest manufacturing volume in the UK — falling 25%. Nothing mysterious about that; the Qashqai is getting too old to really compete in a red-hot segment, as is the Juke (also built in Sunderland) and the Range Rover Evoque.
The number of cars approaching the end of their model cycle is a big reason for the June manufacturing decline. “They’re facing tougher competition and the impact is big enough to offset the gains posted by newer UK-built cars such as the Range Rover Velar and Land Rover Discovery,” said Felipe Munoz, global analyst for market researcher JATO Dynamics.
The fall in diesel sales is affecting all premium brands. “Every year I’ve been in the industry, the premium brands are always up. This is the first year they’ve underperformed,” said Gupta. While sales to private customers fell 4.9% overall in the first half, premium sales dropped 7.9%.
Prior to the Brexit vote, one analyst coined the phrase 'treasure island' to describe the richness of the UK to car manufacturers. A strong pound and buoyant economy meant the UK was targeted by car makers; Ford said in July that “most” of the $1.2 billion (?992 million) profit made in Europe in 2016 came from the UK.
The pound fell after the vote, so buyers’ money didn’t stretch quite as far at the dealers. “Now they’re not buying another top-of-the-range model. They’re buying middle of the range, coming down a model or migrating across brands,” Gupta said. Ford has said this “weaker channel mix”, along with the limp pound, will drag it to a loss across the whole of Europe in 2018.
The UK market hasn’t had the big crash in sales that has been predicted — something Gupta attributed to the number of cars bought on finance packages.
“If PCP wasn’t here in the UK, you’d see a much bigger decline in the marketplace,” he said. “Consumers are now used to renting their cars. It’s in their [household] budget.”
The final factor is the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) economy and emissions tests. Firms have until 31 August to sell off any cars measured under the old NEDC test, so car makers are reducing stocks of cars as they switch over. Nissan, for example, said output at Sunderland was down 7.3% in June as they “transition to a new range of engines” to meet the new regulations. Look out for deals this month as all brands scramble to sell off old stock.
Industry insiders expect the car market to remain in upheaval for a while yet. Asked when the UK market might return to normality, Gupta said: “It won’t be this year or the next. Probably not until 2020.”
Although details are scarce, Palmer confirmed that the template set by the DB11 would be used across all of Aston Martin’s core models.
“I’m on record as saying that there will be an AMR version of every car, so you can take that as read, and the Volante is a given. In fact, testing has already begun,” said Palmer.
Although he declined to go into specifics, Palmer emphasised the DBS Superleggera’s superior torque to the Ferrari 812 Superfast, suggesting this could be enhanced further on the AMR – but without compromising headline power.
“The standard DBS Superleggera is designed to be a car that anyone can drive without feeling intimidated, but the punch it packs from that torque is what sets it apart. It is a sensational characteristic that every driver can enjoy,” said Palmer.
“But the engine can be turned up more and it will be on the AMR. As for how much and how, you will have to wait and see.”
Palmer also called the Volante a “no-brainer”, adding that as Aston’s customer base grew and awareness of its new model range increased, there was growing demand for a wider variety of vehicles.
“In 2016, we had the V12 DB11. It had 50% of the V12 market, which sounds great but isn’t a very wide base on which to sell from,” said Palmer. “As we rolled out the V8, the Volante and the AMR, we were able to stretch that vehicle’s appeal – to the point that the V12 has now moved from where it was originally pitched, so we have space between all the vehicles and room for a more diverse portfolio across the board.
“The DBS Superleggera Volante makes a lot of sense. It’s fast and purposeful, but it's a car designed to be driven rather than be edgy and intimidating.”
The Emerg-E was the brand’s last foray into performance car concepts, and it was revealed way back in 2012, so this car is expected to be something of a departure from the earlier concept.
No details have been revealed about the car, other than it was designed by executive design director Karim Habib, who moved to Infiniti last year after a six-year tenure at BMW.
The concept is a stripped-back, single-seat speedster, with the area where a passenger seat should be covered by a sculpted panel of bodywork beneath a large V-shaped vent. The placement of these vents behind the driver suggests the car's engine sits behind - a first for any Infiniti.
A four-point harness in the driver’s seat suggests that the car will be race-inspired, track-friendly and more hardcore than the brand’s current line-up of plush, road-focused cars.
There’s no word on whether the car will make production or not, but given its remoteness from the cars the brand currently produces, as well as Infiniti’s description of the car as a "physical representation of Infiniti’s electrified performance future", it’s not expected to preview any upcoming sports car from the brand.
Automobilwoche reports that the KBA, Germany's motor vehicle regulator, has already revoked the registrations of several Audi and VW cars without the fix in Hamburg and Munich following repeated warnings to the drivers, because the cars were still emitting more NOx than was originally declared.
The fix is mandatory in Germany because the authorities declared it a safety recall, whereas in the UK it was labelled a 'service action’. The KBA told Automobilwoche: "The recall is compulsory. Cars that are not fixed can eventually be taken out of service. Subject to the release date of the updates, the car owner has had about a year and a half. Plenty of time to take part in the recall."
The deregistrations are therefore not completely unexpected. Similar deregistrations are unlikely to happen in the UK because the fix was not declared a safety issue here.
As of June, 95% of the total 2.46 million affected German cars had had the fix applied. Of the remaining cars, 0.6% are being referred to their local authorities after several warnings, and this can eventually lead to registrations being revoked.
Owners across Europe are sceptical of the fix after claims that the software update can cause cars to become less fuel efficient and lead to faults that trigger 'limp home' mode.
An Autocar investigation carried out on a 1.6-litre diesel VW Touran found that, despite NOx emissions reducing by almost half after the fix, the car returned poorer fuel economy and emitted 6.5% more CO2.
VW continues to claim that the fix has no adverse effect on cars’ reliability, emissions or fuel economy, backed up by verification from the KBA.
Deregistrations will commence depending on when the owners were issued with the recall notice; this means that some owners’ cars could be deregistered next month.
According to a VW spokesman, the fix is not expected to reach a 100% rate, due to some affected cars having been written off or being untraceable by the government, but the rate is climbing.
With no mainstream car manufacturers, Austria’s top-seller can’t be from a domestic manufacturer. 6686 buyers have flocked to the Volkswagen Golf so far this year, while the next two are also VW group big-hitters; the Polo, at 5500, and the Skoda Octavia at 4750.
The same can be said for Belgium, but clearly being wedged between France and Germany has its effects: the Volkswagen Golf is the most popular car this year, followed by the Renault Clio and Hyundai Tucson. 8404, 7145 and 5915 have found owners respectively so far this year.
No two guesses which carmaker rules supreme here - the Skoda Octavia has sold 14,502 units and the second-best-seller was the Fabia, which has sold 11,141, in fact, half of the country’s top ten best-sellers are Skodas. The Rapid takes third, with 8212 sold.
Peugeot’s only top spot in Europe this year is in Denmark, where 5713 208s found homes so far, while the next best-seller is the Nissan Qashqai, of which 4834 were sold. Trailing in third place was the Volkswagen Golf; 3313 have found homes this year.
Estonia has a proclivity for larger cars, it would seem, as the Skoda Octavia takes pole position having sold 589 cars, while 529 and 443 units put theToyota RAV4 and Toyota Avensis in second and third place respectively.
Skoda claims another victory in Finland with the Octavia – 3063 were sold there this year so far. Second place was taken by the Nissan Qashqai, although only slightly less – 2745 – were sold across the year. The Toyota Yaris took third place with 2361 sales.
Little surprise here; France’s top car across this year is the Renault Clio, and a whopping 70,009 take it right to the top. The Peugeot 208 takes second place, with 56,242 units being sold, while the other French supermini, the Citro?n C3, was overtaken last year from third by the Peugeot 3008, with 46,727 sold.
Volkswagen takes back its 1, 2, 3 in Germany, but there's change at third place - the Golf has sold 95,118 cars in the country. It sells so well that the second-place Passat sold less than half this number; 38,047, while the Ford Focus and Tiguan now fight the Volkswagen Polo for third. The Polo wins though, with 36,662, overtaking both.
The Toyota Yaris takes the top spot in Greece again, with 3357 cars sold, compared to the second-place Fiat Panda’s 2494 units sold. Third goes to the Peugeot 208; 2460 have Greek homes across 2018 so far.
Hungarian buyers are hungry (sorry) for the Suzuki Vitara, quite probably because it's made there - the model sold 7211 units there so far this year. Meanwhile, the Skoda Octavia sold 3421 down in second place, and the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross has sold 2664.
Hyundai had well and truly taken hold in Ireland; the Tucson was the best-selling car across the Irish sea in 2016 and 2017, but has this year been usurped by the Nissan Qashqai, which sold 3045 units this year so far to the Hyundai's 2919. The Volkswagen Golf completes the top three, with 2704 sales.
Nationalism wins, once again, with a Fiat 1, 2, 3 – the Fiat Panda is the best-selling car so far this year, with 66,567 finding homes. The Fiat 500X, having shifted 30,689, while the 500 was a close third on 28,932. It has been a 60/40 split between Fiat Chrysler group cars and other manufacturers in the past, with the Renault Clio, Ford Fiesta, and Volkswagens Polo and Golf in the top ten, too.
Another win for the Golf – it claims a small victory this year, with 466 sold overall. The Nissan Qashqai - last year's best-seller - came in second, having sold 374 units, while the third-place Toyota Aurissold 285.
Fiat’s second pole position came in Lithuania, where the 500 has found 1771 homes, while the Fiat 500X overtook the Skoda Octavia last year to become second best-seller, on 906. The Octavia sunk to fourth, with the Fiat Tipo claiming third, at 833.
Surprise! The Volkswagen Golf was the best-selling car in Norway last year, but it's been overtaken by the Nissan Leaf, with 5791 sold. The Golf (bolstered by e-Golf sales) slipped into second place, at 4765. The BMW i3 slipped from second to third place, at 2785.
Skoda took another top two in Poland, with the Octavia andFabia taking first and second place with the narrowest of margins separating the two; the Octavia taking 10,612 and Fabia taking 10,191 sales in the country. The Opel Astra took third, on 8209.
Dacia took its home market by storm last year, and continues to do so. The Logan and Duster make up 2018's top two, with the former finding homes in 9136 garages, and the latter parked in 3911. TheSanderotook third place with 2236, and the Skoda Octavia slipped off the top three at fourth in the Romanian market.
The SkodaFabia took pole position in Slovakia, while its big brother, the Octavia, wasn’t far behind. The Fabia was bought by 2870 Slovakians, and the Octavia was bought by 2616. The Rapid, in third place, sold 1808.
The Volkswagen Golf climbed to second in the Slovenian market in 2017, but drops; with 1672 sales evaporating its lead over the now second-place Polo, which sold 1771. First place goes to the Renault Clio, though, with 2242 sales. The Clio is built in Slovenia in facelifted form, which helps it maintain its lead there.
What’s Spanish for ‘quelle surprise’? The SeatLeon and Ibiza take gold and silver in Spain, with 21,045 and 19,300 finding a place in the sun so far this year, and the Ibiza's German cousin, the Volkswagen Polo, takes third place with 16,810. Surprisingly, though, the rest of the top ten is a healthy mix.
There was uproar in 2016 when the Volkswagen Golf took the lead in Sweden’s car market from Volvo, but three Volvos combined took second: the S80, V70 and XC70. Volvo was back on top in 2017, and today, the S90 and V90 are in pole position on 17,846, followed by the S60 and V60, with 11,067 sales, while the XC60 takes third on 10,085. The Golf is pushed down into fourth place.
The Fiesta is perched atop the lofty list of the UK’s top-sellers, with 56,415 sold this year. 39,930Volkswagen Golf and 30,757 Nissan Qashqai sales cement second and third places for the best-seller regulars. You can find the rest of the best-seller list here.
“Carlos brings with him the perfect blend of youth and experience,” said McLaren boss Zak Brown. “Although he’s just 23, he’ll be starting his fifth season in the sport and will bring with him a huge amount of racing experience.”
Sainz, the son of double world rally champion Carlos Sainz Sr, made his F1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2015 and drove for the Italian squad until switching to Renault late last season.
Sainz’s McLaren deal clears the way for current Toro Rosso racer Pierre Gasly to be promoted to the main Red Bull team to partner Max Verstappen next year.
It's still unknown who will partner Sainz at McLaren in 2019. The team’s release didn’t mention current driver Stoffel Vandoorne, simply saying that it would “communicate its full driver line-up for the 2019 season in due course”.
Vandoorne is in his second season at the team but has generally trailed Alonso for pace. Drivers tipped to be in contention for the seat include 18-year-old Briton Lando Norris, who is McLaren’s reserve driver and a title contender in Formula 2 this season.
Is the Type R as great as they say? A doubter tests the theory - 4th July 2018
I’ve been in a minority about the Honda Civic Type R, in that I don’t swoon over it quite as much as everybody else seems to. I just think it’s very good. My colleagues seem to think it’s the hot hatch’s second coming, the Peugeot 306 GTi-6 reincarnate or something. Me, I think I’d rather have a Hyundai.
Still, it has two days and about 600 miles to change my mind: driving the A66, which is definitely not Britain’s version of Route 66, what with it being shorter but with more castles.
It’s the kind of drive that the Civic is much better at than the previous generation car. The old Civic was thrown together near the end of that model’s life cycle, the sports hatch Honda never really intended to make because it thought the bottom had fallen out of the market. As a result, it pitched it as a one-dimensional, N?rburgring-lap-time special.
This time around, the Civic is more rounded. It’s still a bit noisy on the motorway but the ride is decent and there’s a comfortable, low-slung driving position. (The body-in-white’s floor is largely flat, which helps.) On average, the car is returning 33.4mpg but you’ll see a few more mpg than that on a steady motorway run. With a 46-litre tank, you’re looking at a range of about 350 miles, which is respectable. But although the digital fuel gauge has a lot of increments, it still crept up on me.
Top tip, though: use the sat-nav on your phone rather than the one in the car. Also, the Civic limits some of the functions on its ropey infotainment system if the car is in motion, even if there’s a passenger alongside you; and it knows there is, because it beeps at them until they’ve done their seatbelt up. So that’s quite annoying.
Roads like motorways and the A66, which is predominantly dual carriageway or straight single carriageway, though, are still not strictly its forte. Halfway across the north Pennines, we make a small detour off the A66 just in search of some extra prettiness. ‘Look what you could find’ – that sort of thing. And, okay, maybe, at last, I’m starting to get it.
The Civic steers really well; hefty, accurate and with very little disruption or kickback given it’s equipped with a mechanical limited-slip differential and 306bhp. Its body control is exceptionally tight, too, despite the fact that the ride is relatively pliant the rest of the time.
Maybe that’s the biggest trick. I don’t have a problem with a Hyundai i30 N’s ride but I know people who do. And although a Volkswagen Golf GTI is more comfortable, it’s not as tied down as the Civic. Perhaps, then, the Type R is the one that does both things. You don’t have to be going stupidly fast to enjoy it, either, but it’s worth noting that if you are enjoying it, you probably end up going pretty fast, simply because of how capable it is.
Making the infotainment a bit more individual - 6th June 2018
Our Civic’s infotainment features some customisable options. You can upload an image to use as wallpaper, so I’ve used one of Matt Neal’s BTCC car following his recent win at Thruxton. You can also choose from various icons to represent your car on the sat-nav screen. I’ve chosen an aeroplane, which sadly doesn’t enable me to fly over traffic.
Easy to forget the looks when you're behind the wheel - 23rd May 2018
When you’re inside the Civic Type R, it’s easy to forget how dramatic it looks from the outside. On photo shoots, I often swap cars, and it’s only when I’ve been following the Type R in something else that I realise how polarising the design is. Not everyone is a fan, but I love it. Just a shame I don’t get to see it more from behind the wheel…
Now the engine’s run in, there’s no holding the hot hatch back - 9th May 2018
Our Honda Civic Type R has passed the 5000-mile mark. That’s the kind of distance in a car’s life where minor faults start to become full-on irritations, but not in this case.
In fact, the Type R is actually improving with age.
The engine has benefited from being properly run in, for one thing. When we first jumped into the Type R, the 2.0-litre turbocharged VTEC engine felt a bit tight, as such highly tuned units often are at first. But in recent months it’s begun to loosen up, making the 306bhp engine more responsive.
That’s good for the car’s performance and it’s also been good for my wallet. Honda claims a 36.7mpg fuel efficiency for the Type R, but in our early days with the car we were lucky to average in the 28s.
Of course, the Type R is never going to be a particularly frugal car to run. It’s a performance hot hatch, after all. I was reminded of that when idly flicking through the owner’s manual, a document so thick it puts some novels to shame. I found an instruction telling you to check the car’s oil every time you stop for petrol. That might have been true of cars of yesteryear but it seems somewhat excessive in 2018.
Still, the next time I was filling up I gave the oil a check and topped it up. I was quite surprised I needed half a litre of oil, which was more than I’d expected after 5000 miles, and could add up over time.
Having to fiddle around checking my oil more frequently is a small price to pay for the sheer joy of driving the Type R, though: it’s so rewarding in that respect. That was hammered home to me when I was given the task of snapping Andrew Frankel’s recent tour of the sites of some of Sir Stirling Moss’s finest moments, a 370-mile trek that spanned from Aintree to Goodwood.
Frankel was in a ?108,780 Maserati GranTurismo MC, powered by a 4.8-litre V8 engine, while I got to follow him round in my ?33,520 Type R. It shouldn’t have been much of a fight, if you went by the list price. And yet, in challenging conditions on twisting country roads, I had absolutely no problem keeping up with him.
Frankel, who is no slouch of a driver, just couldn’t get away – and I wasn’t even pushing. The Type R just has incredible traction and speed, and the handling is predictable and consistently rewarding, with a hint of benign lift-off oversteer.
It made what could have been a long slog of a trip hugely entertaining. I’m sure I saw Frankel give a few envious glimpses in the rear-view mirror of the GranTurismo too.
In fact, the only real area in which I reckon it lost out to the Maserati – a car nearly four times as expensive, remember – was noise: the Type R’s turbocharged unit will never sound as good as a mighty Italian V8.
The winter weather caused damage to Britain’s roads and to the Civic Type R’s windscreen, which picked up several small chips from stones thrown up by cars ahead of me. A specialist windscreen firm quoted me more than ?100, so I tried the chip repair service run by my local Halfords. It was quick, cost ?25 and fixed the chips really well.
Road-going racer meets the real thing - 11th April 2018
A photo shoot at the HQ of Team Dynamics, which prepares the Civic Type Rs that race in the BTCC, offered a useful opportunity to compare our road-going car with its competition sibling. The race version is optimised for the track and to meet the rules but our car’s exterior design has as much performance intent as you’d want or need on the road.
Honda's attention to interoir detail - 28th March 2018
The Civic Type R has a useful two-tier storage area in the centre console, just ahead of the gearstick. In our higher-spec GT model, the upper cubby doubles as a wireless charging mat if your smartphone is equipped with compatible technology. If it isn’t, you might need to plug it into the USB port, in the lower cubby. A cable pass-through means no messy wires trailing around.
Cleaning off the winter grime is both an education and a chore - 21st March 2018
The exterior design of the Civic Type R might not be universally admired as a paragon of exquisite styling, but it marries function and form to good effect, with the wings, vanes and ducts all contributing to an enhanced airflow compared with the body of the standard Civic.
The shape of the front bumper, for example, creates an ‘air curtain’ that directs turbulence away from the front wheels. The dramatic-looking slats behind those wheels let air escape from the arches, thus reducing pressure. The front splitter and side skirts create downforce on the front axle, which is a contributory factor in this Type R being able to effectively manage its prodigious power through the front wheels alone.
That’s the theory, anyway, but I was recently able to conduct my own (unscientific) aerodynamic testing during the milder days that followed the Beast from the East, when the snow thawed on the roads and a film of briny grime was splashed up over the Honda’s bodywork.
When we adopted this car back in January, we speculated that the pearlescent black paint, a ?575 option, might show the dirt quite easily, and so it proved. Usefully, though, the swirls of dirt enabled me to trace the flow of air. To my eyes, it seemed that there was still quite a lot of turbulent air flowing around the body of the Civic, but the quality of my aerodynamic analysis could be one of the reasons why I shoot cars for a living rather than design them.
In any case, I don’t spend a lot of time pondering aerodynamic minutiae when I’m driving the Type R – there’s too much fun to be had. I’ve noticed that the driving mode selector seems to default to Sport when you first fire up the 2.0-litre turbocharged VTEC engine. That’s logical, given it sits between Comfort and full-bore +R modes, but I’ve become familiar with other cars in which Sport is the name of the maximum-attack mode, not the middle-of-the-road choice.
I’m fine with it, though, because although Sport firms up the active dampers, adds weight to the power steering and sharpens the throttle’s responses, it offers the best compromise of acceptable ride quality without dulling that heady performance. For me, Comfort mode injects a degree of lightness into the steering that feels unpleasantly artificial. Perhaps that might make the car easier to drive over very long distances, where you might not want as much involvement, but it just feels like the car has been neutered.
Having the driving mode selector as a rocker switch near the gearlever, where it is just the flick of a finger away, is preferable to the set-up on the previous-generation (FK2) Civic Type R. To deploy +R mode in that car, you had to prod a button that was partially hidden behind the steering wheel and windscreen wiper stalk.
It’s yet another small way in which this version has made a step forward.
Innovative gear knob solutions - 28th February 2018
The Civic’s beautifully machined aluminium alloy gear knob is an impressive thing to both admire and use. I have just one minor quibble with it, though: it is uncomfortably cold to the touch when you first get into the car on a freezing winter’s day. Two solutions I’ve thought of: invest in some driving gloves or borrow a knitted hat from an Innocent smoothie bottle.
The 316bhp hatch doesn’t hide its roots as a practical family car - 14th February 2018
Performance car it may be, but the Civic Type R has to provide an element of practicality if it is to live up to the ‘daily driver’ brief demanded of it by a photographer.
If I’m heading to a shoot I need space, and plenty of it, for my kit. I have to say that so far I’m impressed by what I’ve found in the Civic. There’s a surprising amount of room under that bespoilered rear hatch and it’s certainly generous by the standards of this class. Officially, the Civic has 420 litres of boot space, increasing to 786 litres if you fold down all of the 60/40 split rear seat and pile your possessions as high as the bottom of the window line.
One idea that I like very much is the retractable luggage cover, which puts me in mind of either a roller blind or a Bacofoil dispenser. I find conventional solid parcel shelves rather ungainly, not least because I’m often forced to remove them to free up additional space and have to find somewhere safe to stow them. That’s fine if you’re blessed with your own garage in which to put such a cumbersome item, but considerably less fine if you’re 20 minutes down the M1 before you remember you’ve left the flipping thing at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground.
So retractable luggage covers are the way forward, and what sets the Civic’s apart from many others is that it deploys from the side, so it doesn’t act as a barrier across the width of the car when you need more space. It’s one of those ideas that I can scarcely believe isn’t implemented more often.
On a different note, in my previous report I mentioned the squealing brakes that were drawing unwanted attention to our Civic Type R during slow-speed, around-town driving.
If the Type R online forums are any guide, it’s a fairly common issue with this latest Civic. Our car has since been back to Honda’s press garage, where the technicians skimmed the Brembo discs. That has alleviated the issue for the time being, but I’ve been warned that it is likely to return.
Indeed, the owner’s manual (believe it or not, we’ve bothered to read it) states that “to satisfy the performance under a wide range of driving conditions, a high- performance braking system is equipped on your vehicle. You may hear the brake squeal under certain conditions, such as vehicle speed, deceleration, humidity and so on. This is not a malfunction.”
So the noise is an unfortunate by-product of the car’s performance intent, then, although in my opinion that doesn’t satisfactorily explain why the Civic Type R makes it when many other performance cars do not.
That’s precious little time in the grand scheme of a manufacturer’s model development plans, but Honda had good reason to quickly usher its latest banzai-hatch to market.
Not only was it conceived as a way to mark the 25th anniversary of the Type R sub-brand, which fell in 2017, but it was also produced in parallel with the cooking Civic. This made it easier for Honda’s go-faster wizards to instil the foundations of hot-hatch nuttiness from the outset, whereas this Type R’s forebear was developed long after the base model.
As much as this is a new car, though, the fundamental technical set-up isn’t too far removed from t he FK2-generation Civic Type R that preceded it, insomuch as the power is produced by a 2.0-litre turbocharged VTEC petrol engine, which is mounted transversely and mated to a six-speed manual gearbox that drives the front axle only, using a limited- slip differential to meter the power. The engine produces slightly more power than the old car’s, at 316bhp compared with 306bhp, but torque remains the same at 295lb ft.
Beneath the surface, though, there are more significant changes aimed at refining the handling. The car is based on a new platform that enables it to be lower, wider and stiffer than its forebear, and there’s a revised suspension set-up – most notably at the rear, where the torsion beam has been replaced by a multi-link configuration – and a new adaptive damping system.
The move to a new platform has had an effect on the interior too, because the fuel tank has been moved from its position beneath the driver’s seat to a location aft of the rear seats, enabling the driver to be seated lower, more in keeping with what you’d expect from a hot hatch.
Another change that’s been made possible by the new underpinnings is a move to 20in wheels and 245-section tyres; our previous car ran on 19in wheels and 235/35 tyres. As much as those bigger, widerhoops should convey some dynamic advantages, I’m a little concerned at the effect they might have on the ride. As Autocar’s snapper-in-chief, I rack up a lot of miles per week and it’s fairly important to drive a car that’s as forgiving to cruise in as much as it is engaging when I want it to be.
And here’s where one of the most significant changes between the old and new Civic Type Rs should come into play. In this new one, you get three selectable drive modes, whereas the old one simply hadtwo choices: standard or ‘R’. The latter, engaged via a red button on the dashboard, turned all of the old car’s mechanical settings up to 11. ‘R’ mode, however, often felt too harsh and uncomfortable for the majority of British highways and byways.
Honda clearly listened to feedback from the enthusiasts who buy its performance cars – and perhaps even took a long, hard look at what its hot-hatch rivals have been doing – because this new Civic Type R has an additional ‘Comfort’ mode. It can dial down the directness of the steering feel, damping, stability assist, traction control and throttle response. At the same time, the default (or ‘Sport’, as Honda names it) and full-bore ‘R’ settings – now accessed via a rocker switch near the gearlever – have been made more extreme.
What we expect to discover over the course of the coming months is a hot hatch with a broader spread of configurability. But can it really be capable of lapping at a supercar-bothering pace, yet comfortable enough to cover vast swathes of motorway without me needing to keep my osteopath’s phone number on speed dial? What’s also similar to the last Civic Type R we ran is the specification because, like our 2016 version, this new car is in ‘GT’ trim. For an additional ?2000, you get a raft of comfort and safety features of the kind you might find useful on longer trips: blind-spot warning, parking sensors, front foglights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and dual-zone climate control.
That extra kit comes with a weight penalty that means the GT-spec Civic Type R takes one-tenth of a second longer to sprint from 0-62mph. Based on our early impressions, we’re unlikely to quibble over 5.8sec rather than 5.7sec, though – so far, it has felt mightily quick to us.
Beyond opting for the bells-and- whistles GT trim, the only cost option we’ve added is pearlescent black paint. They do say black is the new white when it comes UK motorists’ favourite car colour – although, this being a photographer’s weapon, I’m fastidious about appearances and expect to spend quite a bit of time and effort keeping the bodywork clean.
It’s certainly an eye-catching car, but so far our Type R has also been turning heads for the wrong reasons. In the slow crawl of rush-hour traffic, there’s been a rather loud squeal from the Brembo brakes that draws glares from passing pedestrians. Could it be just a new-car issue, indicative of a deeper problem or something we’ll have to accept due to the Type R’s performance intent?
We’ll keep an eye (or, rather, an ear) on it, although we intend to waste as little time as possible plodding through traffic jams and more of it exploiting this hot hatch on some of the nation’s best driving roads.
I ran the previous Civic Type R on our fleet. On a specific road on a specific day when I was in a specific mood, I revelled in its raucous lack of manners, but it was a challenge to live with day to day, so I’m encouraged by talk of this one having a wider spread of ability.
Honda Civic Type R specification
Specs: Price New ?32,995; Price as tested: ?33,520; Options: pearlescent paint ?525
Test Data: Engine 4 cyls, 1996cc, turbo, petrol Power 316bhp at 6500rpm Torque 295lb ft from 2500-4500rpm Top speed 169mph 0-62mph 5.7sec Claimed fuel economy 36.7mpgTest fuel economy 24.9mpg CO2 176g/km Faults None; Expenses None
Toyota sold just 821 examples of the Verso during the year so far, while the RAV4, for example, found homes on 3921 driveways in the same period, with 88% of them being hybrid models.
Hybrids sell in greater numbers than internal combustion-only cars, according to Toyota. The Verso was only offered with a 1.6-litre diesel, a 1.6-litre petrol or a 1.8-litre petrol. The Prius+ sold even fewer units across the first half of the year, at 484, but will remain the brand's only MPV offering.
Only dealer stock remains in the UK, with the last Versos predicted to be sold by the end of the year.
Sales of the Turkish-built MPV have plunged 46% on 2017 and Toyota confirmed that the significant shift from MPVs to C-segment SUVs was the reason behind the decision to pull the plug on the Verso, as Toyota reviewed its European product lineup. Production stopped in October 2017, but sales continued online until far more recently.
Lightened drop top will swap turbo-four power for high-revving unit of its sibling
Development of the most driver-focused version of the Porsche718 Boxster is now at an advanced stage, suggesting that the car is due for reveal later this year, before arriving on roads in winter.
The upcoming sports car has been caught on camera wearing almost no camouflage, showing that engineers are finalising the settings of the model, which will use a naturally aspirated, flat six engine in place of the regular Boxster's four-cylinder alternatives. Development cars have been spotted with the roof up and down, showing the bespoke roof and rear deck.
The next Boxster Spyder, which will be heavily related to the 718 Cayman GT4, will use a 911 GT3-sourced 4.0-litre engine in place of the current hottest engine in the 718 range, the turbocharged 2.5-litre flat four, in order to stay more closely aligned with its predecessors — which have all been hailed by enthusiasts as excellent driver's cars.
Output for the 4.0-litre unit is rated at 493bhp at 8250rpm in the 911 GT3, but the Boxster Spyder’s power may be slightly down on this to leave breathing space for its more expensive and larger sibling.
The previous Boxster Spyder used a 3.8-litre flat six taken from the 911 Carrera of the time and was good for 370bhp. The recently launched Boxster GTS and related Cayman GTS use highly strung four-pot engines with 361bhp, so the new Spyder will need to produce more power to cement itself as the top Boxster. An output of around 425bhp seems likely.
To signify its driver focus, the car will be offered with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but those after maximum on-track performance will be able to select the option of a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission.
The Boxster Spyder will also go on a hefty diet, ditching cabin insulation and even a radio and air conditioning. The Boxster’s electric folding soft top will also go, with a manually removable ‘tent top’ in its place. These weight savings will combine with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber to make the car the sharpest-handling production Boxster yet produced.
Much of the design treatment applied the Boxster Spyder will mirror those featured on the Boxster GTS. The Cayman GT4 will likely get the same adjustments, along with a more prominent rear wing to signify its even harder status.
American start-up restyles its Defender-esque heavy duty SUV ahead of launch to boost efficiency
Bollinger's B1 electric SUV has been given a facelift before the car is even on sale, to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of the Land Rover Defender-like EV.
The American start-up electric SUV manufacturer says its B1 SUV, which it claims to be the most extreme and durable battery-powered off-roader, has been tweaked to allow airflow through the top of the bonnet from the front of the car, and setting the headlights in a grille.
The SUV, which is due to launch in mid-2019, formerly generated over 400kg of lift at the front, and almost 350kg of downforce at the rear. To equalise these, the front grille and bonnet vent concept has been implemented, slightly tweaking the look of the car's front end.
Bollinger Motors, based in Hobart in upstate New York, is in the final stages of developing its new B1 SUV. The all-wheel-drive machine features front- and rear-motors that combine to produce 355bhp and 472lb ft of torque. The power will be controlled by front and rear electronic locking differentials, and twin two-speed range gearboxes to control the torque.
It will be offered with a 60kWh battery, giving a 120-mile range, with the firm intending to offer a 100kWh battery with a 200-mile range.
Bollinger engineer John Hutchinson said: “There’s no other electric SUV like this. Electric drivetrains are great for off-road use, because they offer plenty of torque at low RPM. The B1 is designed for fun off-roading, or for use as a farm vehicle. Those vehicles don’t travel great distances, so range is less of an issue.”
The machine features a stripped-out interior with a boxy exterior design that resembles a Land Rover Defender. It features aluminium chassis and bodywork, designed to make it easy to manufacture, practical for off-road use and simple to replace panels. A steel roll cage has been added for safety.
The B1 is designed for use in extreme off-road conditions, and as such has 15.5 inches of ground clearance and 10-inch wheel travel. It is 3810mm long and 1943mm wide, with a wheelbase of 2667mm. With the rear seats removed it has a 2690-litre capacity.
The design takes advantage of the lack of engine up front to feature a distinctive ‘pass-through’ area in the front storage compartment, allowing long loads to fit inside the vehicle.
The B1 was the idea of industrial designer Robert Bollinger, who founded the company that now employs ten people in 2014. The firm claims to have received 10,000 expressions of interest since the project was first announced, and is currently evaluating manufacturing partners in the US.
While the B1 is focused on the American market, the firm is aiming to start exporting models in 2020, principally to the Middle East.
Further official images are posted online of BMW's drop-top sports car, co-developed with Toyota and sharing its platform with the upcoming Supra
After a selection of leaked shots of the new BMW Z4 were leaked online via Instagram at the weekend, more official images have been posted ahead of the car's Pebble Beach reveal.
The new shots, from an unknown source, have quickly spread all over the web, showing the Audi TT rival's exterior and interior design. They show that the production roadster takes close inspiration from the original concept, with an exterior featuring a raft of technology inspired by BMW's latest models.
The car in the images is badged M40i, which is expected to be the range-topping Z4 model. A shot of the engine bay confirms it will use a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit shared with the M240i, expected to produce about 350bhp.
In June, a series of patent images revealed the car's styling, showing the car's swept-back headlights, flat rear lights and wide kidney grilles, akin to the 2017 Z4 concept. However, these new pictures seem to be the first sighting of the final production model.
BMW has previously confirmed the Z4 will be revealed at Pebble Beach in August before its specifications are announced at the Paris motor show in September..
Powering the new Z4 will be a choice of BMW's latest turbocharged petrol engines. Alongside the turbocharged 3.0-litre engine of the M40i, pictured in the leaked images, there will also be a Z4 30i which will use a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that produces about 248bhp.
Both engines will come with standard rear-wheel drive and a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox.
A full-fat M version of the Z4 is not on the cards.
Codenamed PF-Zero, the model is the first production car solely branded as Pininfarina from the renowned Italian design house. A maximum of 150 examples will be produced and sold globally after it launches in 2020. It'll act as a halo product, being the first of several all-electric models in Automobili Pininfarina's product plan.
The confirmation of a Pebble Beach debut was released alongside sketches of the PF-Zero's interior, showing a minimalist and driver-focused layout for the two-seater. Further details have yet to be revealed, but the production car will be priced to compete with the hypercar elite, including the Bugatti Chiron.
Anand Mahindra, group chairman of Mahindra, which owns Pininfarina, previously said that the hypercar will draw “upon the pedigree and design vocabulary of the Pininfarina aesthetic heritage" to "develop a rare collector’s item that only a handful of connoisseurs will ever own".
He said that the PF-Zero will "be an innovative and pioneering product powered by high technology" and combine "power, beauty and high-end EV technology".
Details are still thin on the ground, but an Autocar scoop earlier this year revealed that it will use modular underpinnings co-developed by Croatian electric supercar maker Rimac and the Mahindra Racing Formula E team. Autocar understands that the PF-Zero will have an output to rival the 1479bhp offered by the Chiron.
Rimac’s recently revealed C_Two produces 1887bhp from four electric motors, illustrating the level of performance potential for the top Pininfarina model.
Referred to as Project Montana previously, Automobili Pininfarina will follow its top model (which could take influence from the H2 Speed, pictured below) with three SUVs that are all set to arrive within five years. The biggest, codenamed PF-One, will be a high-performance answer to the Lamborghini Urus. The other two will be rivals to the Porsche Cayenne and Porsche Macan respectively. All will use their own version of the same modular underpinnings.
The fastest SUV will offer around 940bhp from a battery pack of about 140kWh, enabling a 0-62mph time of less than three seconds. Its smaller SUV siblings are likely to use lower-output versions of the same powertrain but their performance will still be at the sharp end of their segments.
A source said that the Pininfarina car brand will be given an initial investment of $100 million (about ?71.6m) from Mahindra to fund the creation of its model range.
Automobili Pininfarina's CEO, Michael Perschke, has more than 25 years of industry experience. He is joined at the helm by chief operating officer Per Svantesson, who has previously worked at Volvo.
“Establishing Automobili Pininfarina as a leading sustainable luxury brand is our strategic vision and will be a dream come true," said Perschke. "It will combine 88 years of iconic design heritage with leading-edge electric vehicle competence of the Mahindra group and Mahindra Formula E racing. It’s a powerful combination."
Mahindra intends to invest a total of about ?358m into Automobili Pininfarina over five years. The new brand will work independently of its parent’s EV division, Mahindra Electric, with operations based in Europe.
Pininfarina's new car brand comes after chairman Paolo Pininfarina said at the Geneva motor show that he hoped the dream of his grandfather, company founder Battista Farina, to build cars would “come true in the not-distant future”.
An insider told Autocar: “Pininfarina has always made very special cars, but usually for other people. When we have sold cars ourselves, like the Pininfarina Sergio [of which six were built in 2015 and sold for a reputed $3m each], we have always done very well. It is not difficult to see what the next step should be. The cars will be exclusive and very beautiful.”
We chat with Automobili Pininfarina CEO Michael Perschke about his plans to turn the renowned Italian design house into a full-blown car maker
If you haven't heard of Pininfarina, then chances are you're not a car enthusiast. The Italian design house has been responsible some of the greatest-looking cars ever produced, including myriad Ferraris, Lancias and Alfa Romeos from the 1930s onwards.
Things are changing in a big way for Pininfarina, however. Investment from a new owner, Indian manufacturing giant Mahindra Group, and the new 'Automobili Pininfarina' division will result in Pininfarina-branded production cars built in-house for the first time. The first is the PF-Zero, set to be revealed in concept form next week.
Investment to achieve this ambition extends beyond a simple cash injection. Pininfarina has brought in big names to run the company such as Per Svantesson, formerly of Volvo, and CEO Michael Perschke, who has held senior positions at Audi and Volkwagen over the last 25 years.
Autocar sat down with Perschke to discuss his vision for the fledgling car maker.
You’re clearly investing big and hiring some prominent industry figures. What is your ambition for the company?
"The strategic intention for Anand Mahindra investing in Pininfarina, and also the brand licence agreement, was always to leverage this really historic design name into an OEM in itself. This was planned way back in 2013.
"Mahindra’s ambition was always this: ‘look, we have a great name but we are not making full use of it'. We have a very successful and reputed B2B [business to business] model which is design and engineering services for the car industry. But now, we want to turn that into a super-luxury, ultra high-class individual household name.
"We want to get into the league of the supercars and the hypercars - and the brand does have that kind of pull based on 88 years of legendary heritage in design. We have a lean and mean but very attractive team. But now we need to develop a robust product range".
What makes you think you can bring a viable electric hypercar to market when more established names are still struggling?
"We’re trying to leapfrog rivals with a clean sheet of paper, where bigger OEMs are struggling because they have a corporate culture and challenges to overcome. We don’t have any legacy, we don’t have any scandals, we don’t have any fixed investments which tie us into internal combustion engines for the next 20 years - we have a blank sheet of paper.
"We’re starting from scratch, but with a brand image that isn’t an unknown. Yes, we’re putting big names into the game, but it takes a winning team to build a winning brand".
When can it become profitable?
"Our ambition is definitely not to copy a certain electric car start-up in California, which hasn’t been making money for 14 years. The most expensive exercise is getting a brand established, and we’re already halfway there. And we don’t want to have any big assets; we want to be light on investments in brick and mortar, we want to be lighter on investments in technology, as we will do technology partnerships.
"Our first product [the hypercar] will be here in 2020, the second product will come in 2021 and the third product will be 2022. Our objective is that when the second product is in the second to third year of its lifecycle and we gain traction with sizeable volume, we will still be in the league of super-luxury brands, but we will have a volume of around 10,000 [units] for sure.
"But we will keep our investments light, so we will quickly get to a tipping point where our revenue offsets our investment."
How do you intend to build your brand in other markets?
"Look, Pininfarina has designed 64 Ferraris in its lifetime. So globally, many Ferrari owners, some Maserati owners, even down to Peugeot owners, will understand what Pininfarina is. Look at McLaren, or even Bugatti: they weren’t known in China, but they have made it into the super-sports market there after a few years.
"We are targeting brand activity where the rich and the super-rich start mingling not by nations but by income level. If we can make it into the global league of the high net worth individual, then the message will travel.
"We believe that the first 50 to 100 customers we have are not customers but brand evangelists and brand ambassadors, and their networking and social posts will help us leap and bound across the globe. That’s something that Elon Musk has managed with Tesla."
Will Pininfarina continue to operate solely in Italy as you expand?
"We will always remain an Italian car company with an Italian flavour - the look, the feel, the smells, the surfaces - that’s the holy grail. The Italian-ness is absolutely prominent. We will make sure that we have the best technology that money can buy.
"The first batch of cars will be manufactured in Italy, and beyond that we are a global company so we will make decisions based on our success."
Have you taken inspiration from previous Pininfarina designs?
"A bit of both. You will see inspiration from the Cistalia 202 - a car on display at the Museum of Modern Art. You will also see inspiration from cars such as the Ferrari 512TB, we will have ingredients from many of our past designs in the new car. The surfaces and the proportions will reflect what Pininfarina has been doing for the last 88 years. There is a purity about this new car.
"We are selling to customers that might only currently have the option to buy a hypercar with an internal combustion engine. We can retain our classical, timeless design heritage, but packaged over the latest EV technology."
Will your entire range be fully electric?
"Automobile Pininfarina stands for sustainable energy. Our first couple of cars will be electric, then we will look at exploring further technology such as fuel cells when the time is right. All our cars will be non-ICE cars, that I can say."
Is it correct to call your next model after the PF Zero an SUV?
"I find the title of SUV too mainstream, but definitely we talk about more of a lifestyle bodystyle than a sports car. I cannot confirm anything for sure, but we will challenge a few paradigms of what people think an SUV can be with an ultra-luxury model."
Will this be a more attainable car than the PF Zero?
"It will be in the six figures. Our ambition has to be in the ‘champions league’, the ultra-luxury league. But we can bring the same paradigm shift at a price point which is around the Bentayga, the Rolls- Royce Cullinan and even the Aston Lagonda.
"These people [our customers] buy planes, helicopters and expensive properties - they always look for something very exclusive, very differentiated and very distinct."
Are you considering partnerships with other manufacturers?
"We will have collaborations and partnerships with high tech, very agile, young tech startups and EV companies that have a high level of flexibility. We will look at specific component partnerships, for example with battery cells.
"We are not a mainstream brand, we are not about volume, we will always have a very exclusive customer experience and user interface. We have a pull for many companies looking to use the PF Zero as a concept to show off their own abilities."
Other than upcoming in-house rivals such as the 306bhp Volkswagen T-Roc R and 296bhp Ateca Cupra, which are both far less powerful, the RS Q3 faces competition only from the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45. That car is nearing the end of its life cycle and will not be replaced until months after the regular GLA is revealed in 2019.
Sources revealed to Autocar that the new Q3 will be built in Gyor, Hungary, so the RS Q3 will follow suit. The five-cylinder engine is also assembled at the plant, so is almost certain to be used for the upcoming hot variant.
It’s not yet known if an SQ3 will join the range as a warm version, although no such model was made last time around; the SQ2 is the closest model in the range and is due in the coming months.
The RS Q3 will join a growing number of 3-badged cars as Audi prepares to replace the axed three-door A3 with a five-door liftback coup?, which is also expected to get S3 and RS3 variants. This model will take the Sportback name, with the five-door hatch badged A3.
There’s no word yet on whether an even hotter RS Q3 Performance will top the range as per the current generation. If that were to be the case, power could come close to the 395bhp of the RS3, given the 28bhp increase in power the current-generation RS Q3 Performance has over the standard RS Q3.
The standard Q3 arrives on roads in November, but the RS Q3 will not be offered until a few months after this. A reveal is anticipated to take place early in 2019, so a Geneva motor show debut, like for the previous car, is possible, but not confirmed. Prices are certain to rise from the ?44,785 of the current RS Q3 and ?47,850 of the RS Q3 Performance.
The second-generation Debonair arrived in 1986 as Japan's economy ballooned
Mitsubishi's new flagship arrived as Japan's economy peaked. How comparable was it to luxobarges sold in Britain?
The Mitsubishi Debonair V could not have arrived at a more opportune time.
It was mid-1986 and the luxury saloon's home country had entered what became known as the 'bubble condition'.
Japan had experienced decades of incredible growth, known as the 'economic miracle', transforming from a war-ravaged place into the world's second-largest economy.
Then, in 1985, an accord was signed with the Western superpowers that reversed the dollar's huge appreciation against the yen. This was done in order to pull the US out of a recession and return its industries — primary among them automotive — to global competitiveness.
Although this goal was achieved to a degree, the strengthened yen also contributed to incredible overexuberance in the Japanese economy. The country's stock index tripled in value, while corporate wealth ballooned. So there were plenty of wealthy executives around who would rather like a V6-powered luxobarge — especially one with a boot specifically shaped to be able to carry golf bags.
The old Debonair — a brilliant name for such a model, by the way, given that the dictionary defines it as "(of a man) confident, stylish and charming" — had been on sale since 1964 and was looking horribly outdated.
Its replacement was something else altogether, with trendier styling, a much more spacious interior — thanks to the switch to front-wheel drive — and Mitsubishi's first V6 engine. Sales increased by nearly 3000% over the previous model, with a respectable 6230 units shifted in 1987.
Five variants were available, along with two engines: a 2.0-litre V6 producing 103bhp and a 3.0-litre V6, known as the Cyclone, making a more alluring 148bhp.
A year after launch, in 1987, Mitsubishi UK imported an example of the car and, on 8 July, Autocar took a test drive.
"Maximum power is produced at 5000rpm," we began, "but perhaps the most impressive feature is the point at which peak torque is developed: 170lb ft at a lowly 2500rpm.
"In comparison, the Honda 2.5-litre V6 found in the Rover 825i and Honda Legend develops its peak torque at 5000rpm.
"All Debonair V models have the front wheels driven via a four-speed automatic gearbox with electronic lock-up control; there's no manual gearbox option. The car is designed and marketed as a luxury sedan very much in the Cadillac mould and as such is not deemed to require such a gearchange.
"This results in reduced performance, but as it is available only in Japan, which has a well-enforced maximum speed limit of 65mph, performance is not a top priority. Response and tractability are far more important.
"Holding the Debonair on the brake and building up the power with the right foot is standard launch technique with automatics, but this produces a slight squeak from the front tyres when the brake is released. That way, the Debonair reaches 30mph in 3.8sec, with 60mph coming up in 11.0sec, after one gearchange at 34mph.
"Maximum kickdown speeds are 29mph, 64mph and 87mph. These increments show the engine is tractable and responsive, with the important 50-70mph span taking 6.6sec in second gear."
We praised the Cyclone for "being smooth and showing no evidence of the top-end harshness found with some other Japanese V6 engines". This unit went on to be sold here under the bonnets of the Mitsubishi Sigma, Galant, 3000GT and L200 pick-up truck.
"However," we continued, "the Debonair is no lightweight, at 1393kg [an evaluation that seems remarkable when the Mercedes-Benz S-Class weighs two tonnes], and bearing this in mind it performs reasonably, but it's at the expense of economy. During its 621 miles with us, it returned an overall figure of 17.4mpg."
There was a big disappointment from the perspective of a British driver, though: the "soggy, boulevard nature of the ride". "This may be the norm for Japanese executives," we commented, "but if the car were to be launched here, the suspension would have to be changed considerably."
The interior could probably go untouched, though. "As befits an executive class car, the [range-topping] Royale is lavishly appointed," we wrote. "The interior is spacious for both front and rear passengers, and the driver is provided with sensible and easy-to-read analogue instrumentation.
"Most of the controls are electrically operated, including the sophisticated air conditioning system with a built-in air purifier that operates automatically when the cigar lighter is activated. The controls for this system are duplicated in the rear centre armrest.
"All the seats are electrically adjustable, including those in the rear.
"The radio/cassette player also has its major controls duplicated on the steering wheel boss for ease of operations, and these can be replaced by hands-off control for the in-car phone."
The Debonair V continued to be a modest success sold only in its home market, until it was replaced in 1992. This coincided with the bursting of the economic bubble that led to what became known as the 'lost decade' in Japan — although these things are relative, since it remains the world's third-largest economy today, according to the International Monetary Fund.
An interesting footnote to the Debonair V story is the 'sporting' variant: the 3000 Royal AMG. Yes, that AMG — one of the very few times the German tuning company cheated on Mercedes before being subsumed by it in 1993. This JDM oddity had a brilliantly of-its-era bodykit and AMG alloy wheels, but no mechanical modifications to speak of. This was complemented in 1990 by the super-rare 150 AMG, which had its wheelbase extended by 150mm.