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The internet retailing giant's big order with Rivian could be hugely significant for the development of electric vehicles
Internet retailing giant Amazon has had a profound – and lasting – impact on society. It has changed shopping habits and upset entire industries, in turn having a direct impact on the health of high streets. The positives and negatives of what’s been called ‘the Amazon effect’ are the subject of hundreds of books (seriously, there are loads of them available to buy on, erm, Amazon).
The first notable point is that the order has been placed not with an automotive giant but with Rivian, an American start-up developing its own ‘skateboard’ chassis as the basis for a range of rugged go-anywhere electric vehicles (EVs). Rivian is fast separating itself from a pack of fledging EV companies with its well-formed ideas and an ability to attract an impressive amount of investment from the likes of Ford and Amazon.
Of course, it makes sense for Amazon to place an order with a firm it has a large financial stake in, so this is really a logical extension of its earlier investment. But it’s still significant that Amazon has chosen to invest in a promising small firm rather than go for the security of a supply deal with a proven manufacturer, because it potentially gives it more control over its future supply of delivery vehicles.
Interestingly, the rendering of the delivery van released by Amazon (which has similar frontal styling to the Honda E) shows it branded with the firm’s Prime service. While specifics haven't been confirmed, it's likely the vans will be produced to Amazon’s specifications as a pure customer deal, and working with a small firm such as Rivian likely gives Amazon more control over that process. In doing so, it cements Rivian as a major player.
That also shows the possibilities created by electric ’skateboard’ chassis, which feature the batteries under the floors and motors at either end, making them far easier to place bespoke bodies on. The merits of that approach have already been shown by the likes of Volkswagen with its MEB platform, which is set to underpin everything from the ID 3 hatchback to the ID Buzz van. What the Amazon deal shows is how that could lead to a revival of coachbuild-style machines, giving firms the option to use bespoke, own-brand bodywork. In a similar fashion, Volkswagen is offering the MEB platform to other firms to use.
The other significance of the deal is that it demonstrates how it could be commercial applications that really help drive the mass take-up of electric vehicles – especially in the US, where looser emissions regulations and the availability of affordable petrol means consumer take-up is likely to be far lower.
Amazon announced the deal as part of a pledge to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2040. While that’s clearly a worthy goal, there are clearly financial benefits as well: running a fleet of electric vans will clearly be far cheaper for the firm in terms of fuel costs and allow it to avoid emissions penalties being introduced in several major cities.
It really fits with Amazon’s distribution model: products can be shipped using traditional trucks from its massive warehouses to distribution centres on the edge of cities and then delivered to customers using the electric vans. And, as an added bonus, having fleets of electric vans recharging at those distribution centres overnight could allow Amazon to further benefit from vehicle-to-grid charging schemes.
That’s why plenty of firms, including Vauxhall, Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Volkswagen, are investing in electric vans. And with EV pricing largely based on the economies of scale of production and battery sourcing, increased take-up and sales of those commercial vehicles should drive down pricing of electric cars.
With the first Amazon-Rivian delivery vans not due to launch until 2021 (and likely in the US), this is all some way off - and it's worth noting that Amazon’s experiments with delivery drones haven’t exactly changed the world. Still, it’s a big deal that both reflects the car industry’s shift towards electrification and how non-car firms can help drive that shift.
Will Amazon’s move have a lasting impact on the car industry? We’ll find out in a few years - when there will may well be books about it available to buy on Amazon.
RS version of latest Cayman GT4 seems to be in development; firm's head of sports cars has revealed his desire for one
Porsche is again testing what appears to be a hardcore 'RS' version of the latest 718 Cayman GT4, as a test mule has been seen going flat-out on the N?rburgring Nordschleife.
As we previously saw, the testing prototypes sport notable bodywork additions. At the front, there are versions of the Naca bonnet air ducts similar to those on the 911 GT2 RS, while the rear quarter windows have been replaced by slatted cooling vents.
The most significant alteration is at the back, where a spoiler is mounted considerably higher on bespoke mounts. It's not clear if the distinctive mounts will make production in that form, but they're most likely used to test multiple wing shapes and types.
The man in charge of the 718 and 911, Frank-Steffen Walliser, told Autocar at the recent Frankfurt motor show that he would “definitely” like to see a faster and even more focused RS version of the new 718 Cayman GT4 but that the decision hinges on prioritising development resources within Porsche.
“Everybody’s asking for the RS,” Walliser told Autocar. “Can I imagine a GT4 RS? Sure I can. That’s not to say we will make a decision on it yet, as it is a challenge. Would I like such a car? Yes, definitely! Would I like more horses? Yes. But we need to put the resources where the market is; it would be a lot more expensive than the normal one.”
Porsche has never made a GT4 RS, previously suggesting such a model would be too close in price and performance to 911 GT models. But the new 4.0-litre flat six found in the latest GT4 forms part of an all-new engine family, and it's expected that Porsche will spin off further variants of that unit to justify the investment.
It's understood that the brand is looking to reintroduce the flat six to more mainstream Cayman and Boxster variants as part of a facelift. Although Walliser would only confirm that Porsche has “started the thinking process” on this, he acknowledged that the US market has been less welcoming of the current four-cylinder models than hoped. “American customers aren’t asking for four cylinders, they're asking for four litres,” he said.
Walliser also discussed the idea of electric 718 models ( first reported by Autocar in April). He claimed that if the official go-ahead was given, he “wouldn't like to change the character of the car, and the price point; we need to have an entry level car as 718 buyers often step up to a 911".
He continued: “Priority number one is to keep the character of the car - not making a big car, not making it heavy, but this is very tricky. And it’s a relatively small-volume car, so we maybe can't do a separate platform."
Porsche definitely won’t be joining the glut of newly launched electric hypercars with its own take on the formula, however - for the time being, at least.
Pouring water on the claims made by manufacturers such as Rimac and Lotus, Walliser said: “We've seen a lot of studies of electric hypercars. For me, the proof is when it’s on the street with a licence plate. Does an EV hypercar work? It’s like saying to me that a drag racer is a suitable sports car. For sure it’s perfect from 0-100, but to make it usable and do several laps of the N?rburgring wouldn't work with the technology at its current state”.
Walliser did welcome the idea of using hybrid technology to extend the life of Porsche’s widely celebrated naturally aspirated GT engines. “A hybrid for sure with a normally aspirated engine works well together," he said. "The low-rev electric motor torque and high-revving normally aspirated engines fit perfectly. It could help to keep a normally aspirated engine to survive, and we're very motivated to do so”.
Updated plug-in hybrid saloon isn't the last word in driver engagement, but it is an impressively refined and comfortable
Here’s a somewhat interesting historical fact: the Passat is Volkswagen’s oldest continuously running nameplate. If I were put on the spot and told to guess which of Wolfsburg’s many model lines laid claim to that particular honour, I’d have thought it were the Golf - but there you go. Turns out the Passat outdates that most ubiquitous of hatchbacks by a single year (give or take), having entered production in 1973 - only slightly ahead of the car that would go on to define what is now being referred to as Volkswagen’s 'second era'.Anyway, since then, the Passat has achieved considerable sales success (not least in Europe) across its eight generations, with some 30 million examples built to date. Now, the latest model has been subjected to a mid-life update - the result being the so-called Passat Mk8.5.And of all the variants available, it’s the Passat GTE that’s arguably been nipped and tucked to the greatest extent. In fact, these tweaks, along with shifting consumer habits that have placed lower emissions and greater efficiency much further into the limelight, have led Volkswagen to predict the plug-in hybrid model will now account for 25% of all Passat sales. Previously, that figure was just 10%.So, what’s new? Well, as with all new Passat variants, the GTE benefits from Volkswagen’s latest raft of active safety systems as standard, while the new MIB 3 infotainment software makes its debut.Changes specific to the GTE include a larger (13kWh) battery, which increases the WLTP-certified zero-emissions range by some 38% to 33-36miles, depending on bodystyle, yet the list price has dropped by an average of ?2300. So, not a bad innings all round. There's also a newly configured hybrid driving mode that works in conjunction with the sat-nav to conserve electric energy so that it can be deployed as you approach your urban destination.Those modifications aside, it’s business as usual. You still get a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol four-pot engine that, along with an electric motor, drives the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Suspension, meanwhile, is still by way of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. Adaptive damping is available as an optional extra.
Expectations are high for Ford’s latest family-sized hot hatch. Can it live up to them?
The recent European market fortunes of the Ford Motor Company can be read in the generational development story of one of its great emblems of success: the evergreen Focus ST. This hot hatchback, now entering its fourth model generation, has been through a surprising amount of overhaul and change since the very first appeared in 2002; more, certainly, than most of its direct rivals.Emerging as its maker got used to the success of its epoch-defining Focus Mk1, the first-generation ST170 sprang to our attention in 2002. It had a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, a pretty modest 170bhp and the aura of a car that was almost more upper-trim level than proper performance driving machine.By the time the second generation came along in 2005, CEO Jacques Nasser’s Premium Automotive Group (comprising Ford-owned upmarket brands such as Aston Martin, Jaguar and Volvo) was at its height. That helps explain the car’s switch to an offbeat turbocharged five-cylinder Volvo engine, which delivered a sizeable power boost, up to 225bhp.When generation number three was launched in 2012, globalist Alan Mulally was in the big chair; PAG was no more; the One Ford philosophy meant the Focus had the weight of the whole world on its shoulders; and the ST was back to four cylinders and 2.0 litres again – this time with a turbo and enough grunt to break through the 250bhp barrier.And now, with the same mood of corporate consolidation in evidence at Ford as exists at most volume brands and the end in sight for the firm’s Bridgend engine plant, the fourth-generation ST switches again – this time to an American-sourced, European-tuned 2.3-litre four-pot.And yet there is much more to this car than an engine block in common with a Ford Mustang. As part of Ford’s will to restore the Focus’s reputation for unequalled dynamism and driver appeal among family hatchbacks, this car has been given a host of electronic and mechanical features that it has never had before – every one of which you’re about to read in the usual detail.The Focus ST range at a glanceThe Focus ST is available as either a five-door hatch or a more practical estate. Two choices of engines are on offer, too: the headline 273bhp petrol and a 188bhp diesel.Although it goes without saying that purists will likely be drawn to the five-door petrol hatch, the diesel estate will also appeal to those after a performance vehicle with a more utilitarian twist. Standard equipment at this price point is strong and includes everything from sat-nav to a heated steering wheel and excellent Recaro sports seats.Price ?31,995 Power 273bhp Torque 310lb ft 0-60mph 6.1sec 30-70mph in fourth 7.1sec Fuel economy 32.0mpg CO2 emissions 179g/km 70-0mph 45.1m
MPs and manufacturers believe car sharing will cut CO2 and its popularity is rising
If car ownership levels stay as they are now, the UK isn’t going to fulfil its climate change promises. That was the conclusion reached by MPs from the Science and Technology Committee last week.
Even electric cars aren’t seen as a panacea to the problem, mainly because factories would pump out too much CO2 to replace cars at the rate we currently buy them. The committee’s recommendations were pretty scary for any car owner. “In the long term, widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation,” its report said.
However, not all motoring came under attack. Car-share schemes emerged from the report as the one long-term option that keeps a lid on CO2 output, mainly because they’re compatible with electric technology but also because, according to research from the BMW and Daimler Share Now service, a single shared car can replace about eight private cars.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told the committee that “a clear shift from traditional vehicle ownership to usership has emerged in recent years”, pointing out that car makers are already exploring car-share programmes.
Car-share schemes (or car clubs) are increasing in popularity in the UK. The number of cars in such schemes has gone from 3188 in 2015 to 5385 this year and membership has climbed from under 200,000 to just over 350,000, according to research from CoMoUK.
Of those cars, a whopping 60% are based in London, where the big players such as Avis Group’s Zipcar, Enterprise Car Club and BMW’s DriveNow operate. It makes sense. It’s more expensive and more hassle to own a car in a big city, where there are plenty of other transport options. Zipcar said it has 270,000 members in London, making it the USowned brand’s biggest market. Rates start at 29p per minute but various plans are available.
Manufacturers are also dipping a toe in the water. The two longest-standing operations – DriveNow from BMW and Car2Go from Daimler – are in the process of combining to create ShareNow. Volkswagen launched WeShare in June with an electric-only car fleet, starting in Berlin with 1500 e-Golfs. The PSA Group also offers car sharing under its Free2Move mobility brand, although in the UK it offers cars via business contract hire only.
The business of car sharing is hard work, though. BMW and Daimler are pooling resources partly because their global car-share operations weren’t consistently profitable.
The business is far more complicated than just selling cars because local conditions are so varied and the obstacles not immediately apparent. Despite coming to London in 2014, DriveNow even now operates in only nine of London’s 33 boroughs, mainly because it has to negotiate parking with each one. Daimler’s Car2Go quit London in 2014 and hasn’t returned. More recently, Zipcar left Brussels, citing the high rates of car ownership there.
It’s also hard to imagine these schemes replacing car ownership outside of urban areas, where population density is so much less. But car makers are persisting. In the three years from the start of 2016 to the end of 2018, $48 billion (?39bn) worth of investments in the shared mobility sector, including ride-hailing firms such as Uber, have been tracked by analytics firm GlobalData.
“Consumers are becoming ever more comfortable with the concept of having access to a shared product without the financial burden of private ownership,” Mike Vousden, automotive analyst at GlobalData, said.
The pain now is worth the prize (much) later – that of autonomous ride hailing. Daimler’s and BMW’s company will combine ride hailing, car sharing, parking and EV charging in preparation for the day that self-driving technology will, they hope, pour billions into their coffers as we remotely whistle up autonomous cars.
Even before that, there are benefits outside of the rental income. More and more ride-hailing firms are operating electric cars and that’s great for dragging down company CO2 levels and reducing the chance of having to pay a fine under the EU’s 2020 CO2 emissions rules.
“I see the manufacturers’ car-sharing fleets as a highly calculated strategic move in helping them over the 2020/21 CO2 finish line. They have in effect created their own fleet sales channel,” said Berlin-based automotive analyst Matthias Schmidt. “Just turn the taps on when required.” He cites WeShare, which, VW has said, will also feature the new ID 3 when it arrives next year, as well as 200 Moia electric ride-hailing vans, which will be registered as cars.
To hope that the bulk of private car ownership could be replaced by shared cars outside of Britain’s cities is a pipe dream, but for urban dwellers, it’s fast becoming a useful addition to a widening range of transport options.
Catch the last of this year's warm weather in a nimble and attractive third-gen Mazda MX-5
We should be talking about soft-tops in winter when, so the theory goes, their prices are lower, but who wants to wait until it’s too cold to put the roof down?
Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport Tech, ?8870: In any case, the third-generation Mazda MX-5 that we found – a 2013/63-reg 2.0 Sport Tech with 62,000 miles – already looks well priced at ?8870. Being a 2013 car, it has the later-style nose plus improved throttle response and brake feel. Meanwhile, the Tech part in the name means it has a TomTom sat-nav with touchscreen.
We like the Mk3, and the later the better. Like all generations, it’s reasonably tough, and in comparison with the Mk1 and Mk2, it actually seems to be less prone to rust. Only ‘seems’, mind you: most early Mk3s have a spot of rust at the base of the front quarter window frame, where the black coating appears to be thin.
It’s a reminder that for all its qualities, the model is not without problems, although most are down to poor maintenance. So we’ll check our chosen car’s oil quality and level and listen for a rumbly crankshaft. Just like the current Mk4’s gearbox, the Mk3’s feels notchy when cold, so we’ll go for an extended drive to warm the oil through, when the shift action should ease up. A gentle whine from the rear could be a wheel bearing or, worse, the rear differential.
The Mazda’s pointy handling can surprise some people, so we’ll make sure panel gaps are regular, there’s no fresh or poorly applied paint and things like wing bolts are original. Finally, we’ll inspect the tyres for uneven wear and for bald inner shoulders, signs that it could be due a geometry check.
Morris Marina 1.8 TC, ?4450: As GTI is today, so TC (twin carburettor) was in days of yore. It means this 1974 Marina saloon puts out 95bhp – more than enough for its woeful chassis. Although it’s exempt from the test, our find has 12 months’ MOT and looks in decent nick.
Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Spec B, ?3750: Sporty Legacys have always played second fiddle to hot Imprezas but should not be ignored. Which is why we bring you this, the 3.0 R with its 241bhp flat six and four-wheel drive. Our find is a 2009-reg with 109,000 miles and full service history.
Nissan Murano 3.5 Auto, ?2290: Nissan’s smoothly styled SUV still looks appealing. Early versions, such as this one – a 2005-reg with 108,000 miles – were powered by a detuned version of the 350Z’s 3.5 V6, teamed with a CVT gearbox. It’s thirsty but comfortable and well equipped. Audi Q7 6.0 V12 TDI quattro.
Audi Q7 6.0 V12 TDI quattro, ?27,995: In this age of downsizing, let’s hear it for the Q7 6.0, whose V12 musters 493bhp and 737lb ft for 0-62mph in 5.5sec. New, it cost ?100k. Our find, a 2011-reg with 80,000 miles, is a quarter of that, leaving you change for its next set of carbon-ceramic brakes.
Bentley Continental GT 6.0: Few used cars look such value for money as an early Continental GT W12. Take this one, which passed through auction recently. It’s a 2005-reg with 69,000 miles and full service history – most of it Bentley – that went for ?16,650. The last service included a new spoiler motor and four tyre pressure sensors, so no expense spared.
However, you don’t need to risk all at auction to bag a bargain Conti. Around ?17,500 will get you into a tasty private-sale car – such as the 2004-reg one we found with 78,000 miles and full Bentley service history – and you can drive it before you buy it.
Porche Boxster (981): If the interest in the last air-cooled 911s is anything to go by, interest in the last flat six Boxsters before the arrival of the flat four 718 may one day be almost as strong. Certainly, values of the 981-generation Boxster, as it is known, are holding up.
Our tip for future glory is the 311bhp S variant with the manual gearbox. The more common Tiptronic is good but experience shows manuals become more sought after. We found just such a car – a one-owner, 2012/62-reg with 74,000 miles and full Porsche history – for ?25,500.
Clash of the classifieds
Brief: Find me a good family hatchback for ?8000, please.
Mark Pearson: I notice John has asked for a good family hatchback, but as my family are far from good, I thought I’d whip up something naughty instead. Take this immaculate 2009 Civic Type R with just 50,000 miles for ?8k. Yes, I know it’s only got three doors, but it also has a 197bhp VTEC and sees off 0-60mph in just 6sec, so they’ll just have to climb into the rear through the front doors, won’t they?
Max Adams: I, on the other hand, don’t have a family, but I think I’ve gone for the far more grounded choice. The Leon is the best buy at this price level because you get tonnes of equipment – sat-nav, LED headlights, cruise control and more – for a bargain price. My car is also much newer – 2016 – and will be inexpensive to run. I’d hate to think what the insurance would be on yours.
MP: Think of their little faces as you introduce them to their first roundabout in the Civic Type R. It’s a thrill they’ll never get over.
MA: Unlike the cripplingly firm ride that’ll induce car sickness during every journey. No, mine’s the better compromise because the Leon is still a belter in the bends, but the standard comfort suspension is supple enough to deal with the worst road imperfections.
MP: What? I don’t actually think anyone’s ever heard of your car, to be honest, whereas my family will bask in the unending joy of all that Type R motoring.
Verdict: Unending joy? Knowing my family, that’ll be the Leon.
That’ll be sold in small numbers, granted, but there will probably be more of them than there are of any other car that might have a crack at a production car speed record.
Assuming, of course, other manufacturers find somewhere they think they can hit 305mph-plus.
A section of closed Nevada highway was the choice for Koenigsegg in 2017 and is likely to be the location of any future runs. We could have gone there too, says Bugatti, claiming that the extra altitude and occasional slope would have let the Chiron reach 319mph.
Instead it chose Ehra-Lessien, the Volkswagen group test track, because it’s safer. It swept the surface before every run, put medical teams at either end of the straight, and knows the surface so well that test driver Andy Wallace only ran the Chiron in one direction, the same way the track is usually operated. Running against the grain of the used asphalt might have overheated the tyres, and it is tyres more than anything else that dictate how safely you can run at these speeds. Michelin X-rayed the Chiron’s to make sure no radial bands were touching each other, which would generate heat.
That means that while the run was overseen by Germany’s TUV organisation, a true world record would require the car to average over two directions. But these technicalities are sometimes, officially, slightly cloudy – cars go without a speed limiter here, a rev limiter there. The short of it is that Bugatti makes a car that’ll do 300mph. That’s the important bit.
Bugatti says that, at this point, it will walk away from what is, ultimately, an increasingly pointless endeavour. While Bugatti might make Ehra-Lessien available to some Chiron customers to run up to the 261mph limiter, the 300 barrier is a speed that, as a customer, you will not achieve.
Not everybody will take that as a sign to call it a day, though. While we once thought that the McLaren F1’s speed of 240.1mph – incidentally also set by Wallace, and at Ehra-Lessien – would never be beaten, I’m not going to suggest the same thing this time.
Now that Michelin has made road car tyres that can handle these speeds, and there are companies out there with risk assessments more liberal than Bugatti’s, they’ll go to Nevada and take brave pills and post a higher speed across two directions and say it’s more official. Which in a way it will be. But it will be no more relevant, and still they won’t be remembered as the first to break 300mph.
Far from chuffed
As I write I’ve just returned from 10 days without a car. I must say, if you want to travel from not quite where you are, to not quite where you want to be, not quite when you want to, and you’d like to spend quite a while and a fair amount of money doing it, trains are ever so good.
“There was a certain closeness of design between the Reventon and the Aventador. This is exactly what I don’t want to have. There will not be this language in the new Aventador,” Lamborghini design boss Mitja Borkert told Autocar on the sidelines of the Frankfurt show.
Asked whether the Si?n will influence the styling of any model coming out during the 2020s, the designer answered: “That’s a clear no.”
The Si?n consequently has to stand on its own on a short branch of the ever-growing Lamborghini family tree. When Borkert and his team started the project, they drew inspiration from a wide variety of sources ranging from high-performance motorcycles to the various cars that competed in endurance racing events during the 1960s and the 1970s.
Borkert also revealed some of Lamborghini’s recent limited-edition cars shaped the Si?n’s design by pushing his team of stylists in a completely different direction.
“After Veneno, after all these cars, I wanted to have integrated aerodynamics. I didn’t want another wing car with a spoiler sticking out. I wanted to have something where aerodynamic efficiency and design meet in something completely new,” he explained. The carbonfibre winglets above the rear lights are the exception to the rule. The rest of the car is an exercise in concealed aerodynamism.
Lamborghini plans to make only 63 examples of the petrol-electric Si?n. Each one found a home well before the model made its public debut in Frankfurt because potential customers were shown the car behind closed doors, a common practice on this echelon of the automotive industry.
Keeping production relatively low will allow the company to integrate new technologies into the manufacturing process; the air vents are notably 3D-printed. Buyers will also be invited to work directly with Borkert to customise nearly every visual aspect of their car, including the colour of the body, wheels and upholstery.
“We wanted to create a masterpiece,” he told us, adding he envisioned the Si?n as a blank slate for customers. “Each and every car will look completely different; this is my promise.”
The internet retailer invested $440 million (?350 million) to lead a $700 million (?544 million) investment round in Rivian earlier this year, and has now furthered those links with the massive order, which it says is the largest ever made in an electric delivery vehicle.
Amazon says that the first Rivan-built vans will go into service in 2021, with the plan to have 10,000 on the road by 2022 and all 100,000 in operation by 2030.
The order was announced by Amazon as it unveiled the Climate Pledge, calling on signatories to reach net zero carbon by 2040, 10 years ahead of the targets set by the Paris Accord. Amazon said that the investment and vehicle order in Rivian would “accelerate the production of electric vehicles critical to reducing emissions from transportation".
While no details of the technical specifications of the van, preview images released by Amazon showed it badged with the firm’s Prime delivery service, and ‘powered by Rivian’ on the side sill. That suggests they could be made on Rivian’s bespoke EV platform to a body design specified by Amazon.
The retailer has long been looking for ways to reduce costs and improve the efficiency of its delivery operation, particularly in terms of ‘last mile’ deliveries to customers in cities. Switching to electric vans would both cut fuel costs and ensure Amazon vehicles were not affected by low emissions zones increasingly being established in cities.
There is no indication where the vans will be deployed, although they are likely to focus on major cities in the USA.
The order is a huge boost to Rivian as it gears up to start production at a plant in Illinois, in a facility previously used by Mitsubishi. The plant has a capacity to produce 350,000 units per year, with Rivian’s initial goal to sell 50,000-60,000 of its premium electric off-roaders per year by 2025.
With an increasing focus on car pollution in cities, and the costs of fuelling large van fleets, an increasing number of car firms are developing electric vans. Nissan has the e-NV200, Vauxhall is developing an electric Vivaro, and Mercedes-Benz is working on a new version of its e-Vito. Volkswagen is also planning a cargo version of its ID Buzz concept.
This replaces the LMP1 protoypes that have raced in the WEC since the early 1990s. Manufacturers are allowed to enter racing versions of concepts and exisiting hypercars, provided that at least 20 roadgoing models are created over a two-year period. The cars can be petrol-only or hybrid powered, but total power output is set at 750hp, with no more than 270hp coming from the optional electrical system. With a mandatory car weight of 1100kg, 3min 30sec laps of Circuit de la Sarthe are expected.
Company founder Jim Glickenhaus said: "A car made in America hasn't won first overall at Le Mans since the Ford MkIV in 1967. We think it's time an American team wins again".
Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus showed initial images of the SCG007 last July. The new images show an altered, cleaner design that appears to take influence from Italian endurance racers of the 1960s.
The SCG007 uses a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine. Its origin hasn't been confirmed, but the red-and-white livery and 'telephone dial' wheel design in the new images have sparked rumours that the unit may be a bored-out, upgraded version of the 'F154' unit used by the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus revealed in March that it has been working on a hybrid system for WEC cars, but it's unclear whether the SCG007 features this.
The company will run works cars as well as offering examples to customer teams, for a price of around $1 million (currently around ?800,000). It also plans to build between 20 and 30 roadgoing examples. It previously stated in 2018 that these would feature an 800hp engine and a 200hp hybrid system and be priced at $2m (?1.6m).
The WEC version of the SCG007 is scheduled to begin testing next July.
Film maker turned financier Glickenhaus announced his eponymous brand in 2013, with the SCG003 (SCG001 beeing his own road-converted Lola Can-Am car and SCG002 his Ferrari Enzo-based Pininfarina P4/5 one-off). The SCG003 has competed in various endurance events since 2015; production of roadgoing versions began two years later in New York after Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus was approved by the US government as a low-volume manufacturer.
Production of the SCG004 – a hypercar powered by the a 690hp twin-turbo V6 from Nissan – in race and road-legal forms, is due to begin at a new plant in Connecticut later this year. The SCG006, meanwhile, is a Ferrari 250-style sports car that's due to arrive next year. Also planned is the Boot, a two-door soft-top off-roader that can be specced for the Baja rally or the road and uses a Chevrolet V8.
2015 RX-Vision concept could be readied for production
Recently acquired patent shows off lightweight chassis design, with a front-mid engine layout likely
A chassis design patent filed last week by Mazda suggests the company is developing a successor to the rotary engine-powered RX-8 sports car.
As reported by Japan’s Motor Magazine, the ‘Vehicle Shock Absorption Structure’ appears to show a spaceframe-style structure unlike that currently featured on Mazda’s range of hatchbacks, saloons and SUVs.
The report also highlights the presence of a double-wishbone front suspension setup, used primarily by sports cars, with a prominent crossmember suggesting a front-mid engine layout.
Lightness appears to be a priority as well, with carbonfibre-reinforced plastic and aluminium featuring prominently throughout.
A source at Mazda told Motor Magazine that the RX-9 will sit atop a newly developed bespoke platform, not intended for use elsewhere in the company’s line-up.
Earlier this year, Mazda acquired a patent for a new type of turbocharger designed with rotary power in mind, enhancing intake efficiency, improving performance and keeping soot and water out of the combustion chamber.
“When it is decided as a brand that we need a sports car, that’s when we will produce the car,” he said. “As you know, we already have the MX-5. If we need a more premium sports car, then we need to have a serious think about it.”
Best-selling Volkswagen receives new Match Edition, GT Edition and R-Line Edition, adding ?1900-worth of standard kit
Volkswagen is seeing out the current Golf ahead of the Mk8 model's unveiling by replacing three current trim levels – Match, GT, R-Line – with variants providing ?1900-worth of additional kit.
Taking the names Match Edition, GT Edition and R-Line Edition, the new offerings benefit from dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and the Winter Pack, which includes heated front seats, heated headlight washers, heated windscreen washer jets and a low washer fluid warning light.
Despite the additional standard equipment, the new trim levels cost just ?400 more than their predecessors, with customers ordering the outgoing trim levels after 16 September being automatically upgraded to the new Edition variants.
Match Edition starts from ?22,135 with a turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine and six-speed manual gearbox, rising to ?26,585 with a 2.0-litre diesel engine and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
GT Edition is priced from ?25,260 with a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a six-speed manual gearbox, with the most expensive 2.0-litre diesel automatic costing ?28,235.
Finally, R-Line Edition kicks off at ?27,030 with a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine and climbs to ?29,230 in 2.0-litre diesel automatic form.
Estate versions of the Match Edition and GT Edition are also available.
New Mercedes-Benz GLB will spawn an electric variant in 2021; first production-previewing prototypes have now emerged
Mercedes-Benz will launch an electric version of its new GLB compact SUV in 2021, named the EQB, and more production-like prototypes have now been seen testing.
Previously only seen underneath hacked test mules, the EQB is shown in the new images with altered and disguised front and rear end and similar aerodynamically-optimised wheels as the larger EQC.
In a move similar to that undertaken with the GLC and its electrically powered sibling, the GLB will provide the basis for the zero-emission EQB model. It will feature uniquely styled front and rear ends, dedicated wheel designs and other detailed design changes that are said to lower its drag coefficient below 0.30Cd.
The EQB is set for UK sales in two years' time and has been conceived to run a further-developed version of the driveline destined for the upcoming EQA hatchback. It will use two electric motors, with one powering the front wheels and the other driving the rear wheels. Little is known about the new model, but insiders say it will have a battery of at least 60kWh in capacity and manage a claimed range of around 310 miles.
The GLB is the eighth model to be based around Mercedes' MFA II platform, and it shares its wheelbase with the China-only long-wheelbase A-Class Saloon. At 2789mm, its wheelbase is 60mm longer than those of the other new A-Class models, while a relatively long rear overhang ensures the GLB provides more luggage space than the original GLA. It's not clear yet whether the EQB will retain the GLB's seven-seat option.
Alongside the EQB, Mercedes also plans to introduce a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid system in the GLC for a claimed electric-only range of 62 miles. It will use a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a gearbox-mounted electric motor to power the front wheels, along with a second motor mounted within a ZF-produced rear axle assembly to power the rear wheels. Energy for the motors is provided by a lithium ion battery packaged within the floor.
Becoming a charge-master makes EV ownership easier - 4 September 2019
I seem to have cracked the early charging glitches (operator error) but I’m battling to get anywhere near the promised 258-mile range. Using Economy and with smart ventilation working (it only cools or heats occupied seats), I can do 225- 230. But I’m learning that it hardly matters. You always want to stop by the time you’ve done 150 miles.
Life with a Jaguar I-Pace: Month 1
Welcoming the I-Pace to the fleet - 28th August 2019
If you ever needed proof that how a car looks is crucial to its market acceptance and ultimate success, you’d have been well and truly persuaded during our first week’s ownership of a Jaguar I-Pace 400 HSE. You might reckon the car’s pioneering all-electric propulsion system would be the major source of comment given that this is the first battery-powered Jaguar in history.
But it wasn’t. Not at all. The comment – and there was plenty of it – usually went like this… Observer: “That the new electric Jag?” Autocar: “Sure is…” Observer: “Wow, doesn’t it look great? That colour’s fantastic. Is it orange? And the wheels – are they 22-inch? They look brilliant. Must be the best-looking Jaguar ever. What’s it cost?”
No mention there of the I-Pace’s 90kWh battery pack, or its awesome capacity for 4.5sec, smooth and silent sprints from standstill to 60mph (delivered with zero wheelspin because all wheels are driven). No mention of a predicted range that seems to vary between 220 and 260 miles. And only secondary attention to the price – which starts at ?71,495 for a standard 400 HSE after the ?3500 government incentive, but totals ?79,740 in our case because of the mighty raft of options carried.
Everything is secondary, in those early minutes, to the car’s sleek, unique outline, to how well it wears its ?700 Photon Red paint (which in decent sunlight is a tasteful Nearly Orange) and how well it rolls on its 22in five-split-spoke wheels.
If you value the joy of driving extra-refined cars, as I do, you’ll find there’s nothing in your memory bank quite like those first few miles in the I-Pace, as it demonstrates its near-silence and total smoothness. There’s a faraway whine as you accelerate, but the car’s ability to gain speed without noise or vibration simply doesn’t compute. It even shades other electric cars. After a few journeys, this consolidates into a kind of gliding gait that is simply intoxicating. Ridiculous to introduce noise into this, even if you could. And hard to imagine that, just a couple of years ago, many of us feared that electric cars would never have the ability to exhilarate a driver.
Of course, the wheels are in touch with the road in a conventional way. This car has a flat but sporty ride. But great trouble has clearly been taken to control road noise (in a way other electric cars do not) and the wind noise is also low. The ride is conventional in a sense but, as you ride, you soon tune into the fact that this machine has a long wheelbase with smaller than usual overhangs, that the major mass is beneath the floor, that there simply isn’t a great big metal lump suspended on rubber over the front wheels and that because of all this, the self-levelling air suspension units have a comparatively easy time keeping things on an even keel.
This and the I-Pace’s sophisticated torque-vectoring system – the ability to send different amounts of torque to different wheels as the car manoeuvres – means the car stays in line at road speeds whatever you do, gripping hard and responding near-instantly to practically any input.
On the subjects of charging and range, we’re still acquiring knowledge. The maker claims a 258-mile WLTP combined (read ‘realistic’) range, but we’ve had trouble reaching that without preconditioning – a heating process you can put the car through while it’s still charging. But plug the car in overnight at this part of the year and without preconditioning you’ll be offered 210-215 miles, a figure the I-Pace will faithfully fulfil if you cruise at 70mph on motorways and remember to let downslopes regenerate your battery.
In our experience, it takes good management and careful driving to get anywhere near an honest 258 miles. But the Economy setting, the softest of three driving modes, works much better than most by adding eight to 10 miles to the total range while maintaining decent accelerator response and cruising capability.
At charging time, we’ve so far had a bit of trouble. The car has never refused outright to take charge, but we’ve had unsuccessful attempts after which we’ve simply had to start again. Other users report the same.
The way to make it work seems to be to ensure your I-Pace is in Park, power off, with the (automatic) handbrake on and with the tailgate securely closed. You need to plug your cable first into the power source, and then into the car (the handbook makes that point very firmly). Usually there’ll be a loud click and the dashboard will show an amber ‘CHARGING’ message, whereupon you can be confident of locking the car and walking away with the battery capacity growing. The 7kW charger in my own garage is enough to keep a car like this healthy, provided it has an evening to recover from a long trip.
Key impressions so far? This is a superb car, especially this latest example that improves in quality detail on the early models Jaguar rushed into service. The driving position – around which former Jaguar designer Ian Callum said the car has been designed – is wonderful. Full marks for the seats, too, and the amazing performance.
On range and connectivity, we’re happy without being ecstatic. Hookup uncertainties do play on your mind and, having got used to the 300-mile ranges of much cheaper Hyundais and Kias, the 220-250 mile range of this car is just okay. Recent chats with manufacturers bidding to launch electric cars make it pretty clear 300 miles is the figure that makes people feel safe.
We’ll get used to all this. We will learn the I-Pace’s charging quirks and soon see that 220 miles is plenty. There is a learning curve, and we’re on it. But in itself, from stem to stern, the electric Jaguar is brilliant. Living with it looks set to be a delight.
I didn’t instantly warm to the I-Pace. The big centre console seemed contrary to the space-creating possibilities of an EV layout; the twin touchscreen controls a bit confused. Then I drove it. The I-Pace has a real sense of quiet, opulent luxury. It feels special. Like a Jaguar should.
Specs: Price New ?71,495 (after gov't grant) Price as tested ?79,740 Options Photon Red paint ?700, monogram trim finisher ?250, suedecloth headlining ?900, suedecloth steering wheel ?600, 22in five-spoke alloy wheels ?500, electronic air suspension ?1100, panoramic roof ?960, activity key ?300, heated/cooled performance front seats plus heated rear seats ?1400, head-up display ?900, privacy glass ?375, exterior black pack ?260
Test Data: Motor Two asynchronous electric motors Battery 90kWh Power 394bhp Torque 513lb ft Kerb weight 2133kg Top speed 124mph 0-62mph 4.8sec Range 292 miles (WLTP) CO2 0g/km Faults None Expenses None
Roughly 0.55 tonnes of CO2 is emitted for each car produced
Amid the push towards clean EVs, car makers target emission-free manufacturing
The automotive industry is fully committed to the development of zero-emission cars, but pressure is growing to achieve CO2-neutrality across the entire production and supply process, including production facilities, their networks of suppliers, and the trains, trucks, ships and planes that move components and vehicles.
The industry already acknowledges the issue, with many car makers quoting the quantity of CO2 generated per car during its manufacture. The average figure for the BMW Group, which includes Mini and Rolls-Royce, currently stands at 0.40 tonnes per unit – down by an impressive 39% over the past five years – although the plan is to reduce CO2 output per unit to zero. For Nissan the figure is 0.49 tonnes per unit, for Toyota it is 0.39 tonnes and for Volkswagen a rather less encouraging 0.72 tonnes.
Dr Jury Witschnig, the BMW Group’s head of product sustainability, says having reduced its own production CO2 footprint, the intention now is to “help our suppliers”. Most of the BMW Group’s suppliers have already signed up to such a programme, and Witschnig adds that along with the environmental and social benefits of CO2 reduction comes the further incentive of cost reductions.
Achieving CO2-neutral production is slightly easier with new-build plants. BMW’s latest, opened earlier this year in Mexico, is “unique among car plants for having solar panels built in from the start”, according to Witschnig. The panels contribute towards the factory’s 100% CO2-free energy supply goal that is set to be achieved by next year, and experience from this plant is now being rolled out across the company’s brownfield sites. Volvo, meanwhile, already has one CO2-neutral production plant and plans to achieve the same across its entire network by 2025.
BMW’s CO2-reduction activities are part of a broader environmental initiative. The current one, triggered in 2012, requires water, energy and solvent use and waste material production to drop by 45% next year compared with 2006, while 79% of the group’s energy supply now comes from renewable sources.
Mercedes, meanwhile, aims to make all its plants CO2-neutral by 2022, with the goal that the cars themselves become CO2-neutral by 2039. It is focusing on eco-training for its workforce, saying that will make a significant contribution.
Nissan’s Sustainability 2022 plan indicates that it’s not always easy to hit such targets, in the Japanese maker’s case an 80% reduction in CO2 from corporate activities by 2050 over 2000. The 2.6 million tonnes of CO2 the corporation emitted last year is actually an increase on the 2.4m produced in 2005, but it should be noted that BMW’s energy use also rose last year. The reason, says Witschnig, was the unusually hot summer. Nissan has nevertheless achieved a 33.7% CO2 reduction per vehicle produced since 2005.
Nissan’s alliance partner Renault plans a CO2-per-car full-life-cycle reduction of 25% from 2010 to 2022. The French firm’s flagship eco-factory is in Morocco, where its Dacia plant draws on renewable energy supplied by an innovative biomass heating plant fuelled by olive pits and wood, the ash by-product from which is then used for agriculture.
Such innovations will undoubtedly continue, but the industry faces a new challenge: to reduce the sizeable CO2 footprint produced by the batteries used to power supposedly emission-free EVs.
For this reason, car makers increasingly talk of well-to-wheel CO2 footprints. By way of example, a VW e-Golf needs to be driven 77,000 miles before its CO2 footprint is lower than that of a diesel Golf, while BMW says a 42kWh i3’s advantage versus a BMW 118d “is 15% over the whole cycle of sourcing materials, supply chains, production (including the battery), usage period and recycling when charged with EU-average electricity”. The firm adds that the figure is “almost 50% less” if the i3 is charged with green electricity during its usage period. Despite the dramatic improvement when using renewables, the need to reduce the CO2 impact of battery manufacture remains a pressing issue.
When the impact of component production, transportation logistics and all of the associated activities required to make, distribute and sell a car are taken into account, there remains plenty of scope for reducing the 0.7 to 0.4 tonnes of CO2 emitted during a vehicle’s production.
It’s the kind of car that looks right in almost all settings
The smart money here goes on a three-year-old example, as post-facelift models are still strong money
These days, if you want a family-sized SUV with five or seven seats, four-wheel drive, an economical diesel engine and a tidy driving experience, you’re spoiled for choice. However, only one model brings something of the great outdoors to the table and that’s the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
It was launched in 2015 as a replacement for the popular Freelander 2, as well as a kind of cheaper and more practical alternative to the hugely successful Range Rover Evoque, launched in 2011. Today, 2015-reg examples of the Sport and Evoque start at around ?13,000 for cars with 100,000-plus miles. At this money, they have the old-school 187bhp 2.2 SD4 diesel engine but the Sport has seven seats rather than the Evoque’s five and is four-wheel drive, whereas the Evoque is likely to be two.
Unfortunately for the model’s early adopters, shortly after the Sport was launched, the 2.2-litre diesel engine was replaced by the new and improved EU6-compliant 2.0-litre Ingenium motor, available in 148bhp and 178bhp outputs. The 148bhp version was offered with a choice of two (badged eD4 as before) or four-wheel drive and a manual gearbox as standard, whereas the 178bhp 2.0 is four-wheel drive and available with an optional nine-speed automatic gearbox. This transmission is by far the most popular across the Sport model range. So equipped, the 178bhp 2.0 TD auto is our pick. Later on, a 238bhp version joined the line-up.
On the matter of two-wheel drive, few eD4s were sold, which tells you all you need to know about this drivetrain’s suitability. However, it still looks the business, costs less to run and is cheaper to buy so may suit you, depending on circumstances.
A petrol engine didn’t arrive until 2017. Also from the Ingenium family, the 2.0 Si4 petrol unit comes in 238bhp and 286bhp outputs. Both are rare but entertaining and, if you don’t do the mileage necessary to justify a diesel, worth considering.
For many people, the Sport’s seven seats will be a big draw. They were standard on early models but, with the arrival of the Ingenium engine, became an option, albeit a popular one. Note, though, that Land Rover calls the arrangement 5+2, a hint not to expect much in the way of third-row space.
The Sport was updated in 2017, when it received the car maker’s new InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with 10.2in touchscreen. Earlier this year, the model was given a much more comprehensive update and, by rights, should be called Discovery Sport 2 as it sits on a new platform inherited from the second-generation Evoque.
But these 2017-on cars cost sky-high money and the real value is to be found at three years old with the balance of the optional five-year service plan – something like a mid-power, mid-spec 2016/16-reg 2.0 TD4 180 auto 4WD SE Tech seven-seater with 70,000 miles for ?19,000.
Need to know
Where fitted and before you buy, give the car’s InControl Touch Pro infotainment system a workout. You’re checking for bugs. If you find any, the good news is that Land Rover released a fix in March 2018 called 17c or 3.5 that should nail ’em.
Owners of diesel-powered Discovery Sports have reported fuel-oil dilution problems relating to regeneration of the diesel particulate filter. The message is, if considering a Discovery Sport, be sure your driving routine satisfies the operating criteria described in the handbook.
Land Rover offers a five-year service plan on new cars so check if the vehicle you’re interested in was sold with this cover since its benefits are transferable to subsequent owners.
Discovery Sport 2.0 TD 180 SE Tech Auto AWD: Mid-power version offers strong performance with good economy and refinement. SE Tech brings items such as sat-nav, auto lights and a powered tailgate.
Discovery Sport 2.0 Si4 240 SE Tech Auto: If your mileage is low and you fear DPF hassles, bag a petrol Disco Sport. They’re rare (we found a 2018-reg with 14,000 miles for ?29,995) but fun to drive.
Top spec pick
HSE Dynamic Luxury: To HSE Luxury’s Park Assist technology, cooled front seats and heated rear seats, Dynamic adds Narvik Black exterior details, a bodykit, 20in gloss black alloy wheels and special colours.
The new Mercedes-AMG GT is scheduled to reach UK showrooms in early 2022
Future Porsche 911 rival will push more than 650bhp and 700lb ft to all four wheels in top-end guise
Mercedes-AMG is well into the development of a second-generation GT, which is due on sale in 2021 with a hybrid powertrain that will offer increased power and torque.
The next iteration of AMG’s supercar will adopt a revised twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine with new mild-hybrid assistance, as well as a transaxle re-engineered to accommodate a fully variable four-wheel-drive system in selected models. That move is set to endow it with significantly greater performance potential than its predecessor.
Insiders at Mercedes-AMG’s headquarters in Affalterbach, Germany, suggest a series of driveline innovations will push the power output of future upper-end GT models beyond 650bhp. The innovations will include an electric boosting capability as part of a range of new mild-hybrid EQ Boost functions.
As well as increasing the power output, the addition of electric boosting via a starter/ alternator and new 48V electric architecture will bring a notable increase in torque to the GT’s upgraded V8 engine. The successor model to today’s GT R is set to generate up to 700lb ft.
As a point of reference, the most powerful current iteration of AMG’s V8, codenamed M178, resides in the GT63 S 4Matic 4-Door Coup?, where it kicks out 630bhp and 664lb ft with an initial range of EQ Boost functions. In today’s form, the GT R makes 577bhp and 516lb ft.
The new GT will once again be produced in both coup? and roadster bodystyles. It’s scheduled to reach UK showrooms in early 2022. Key rivals for the new model include the Porsche 911, which is also set to adopt hybrid functions when the facelifted version of today’s 992-generation model is launched, and the Aston Martin Vantage.
But whereas Porsche is looking to go down the full plug-in hybrid route, including all-electric capability for limited distances, this has been ruled out for future Mercedes-AMG GT models because of packaging concerns.
One source told Autocar: “With a 75-litre fuel tank behind the cabin, we’re already at the limit on packaging. For worthwhile distances on electric, you need a battery with at least 12kWh of capacity. As well as commanding space, it also adds quite significantly to the weight.”
Key to the future of the GT is a decision by Mercedes-Benz to twin it with the successor to the SL. Both models share vital elements of their platform, driveline and interior in a move that, AMG insiders told Autocar, has helped to streamline and lower the cost of their development despite the adoption of new technology.
Among that new tech is a four-wheel-drive system that can rapidly balance drive between the front and rear axles as well as a torque vectoring function to vary the amount of power sent to each individual rear wheel.
Together with a newly developed transaxle, the added traction of the new four-wheel-drive system should rectify one of the existing, rear-drive-only GT’s weaknesses – namely its standing-start acceleration in comparison with the supercar competition. But, like today’s E63, it will feature a Drift function, which sends power exclusively to the rear wheels.
Although the GT is set to retain its existing two-seat layout, the new SL will adopt a roomier 2+2 interior – a move, Autocar has been told, that’s aimed at ensuring the models appeal to different customers.
The basis for the second-generation GT is a revised aluminium spaceframe that is claimed to weigh less than the 233kg structure used by the existing model. The weight saving has been achieved in part by the adoption of more cast aluminium components within load-bearing areas.
Mercedes-AMG is also said to have met its aim of increased rigidity, most notably in the front end of the new spaceframe, which uses a newly designed transverse member with what is described as “improved torsional properties”.
The new GT is expected to feature a more contemporary exterior, described as being “a bigger step away from the current GT as it was from the earlier SLS”. The more modern approach is also said to be reflected inside, with new Formula 1-inspired digital graphics among the early design proposals.
Dr Olvey saved Alex Zanardi’s life when he lost both legs in 2001
New documentary is a revealing foray into the dark world of motorsport medical professionals
“I didn’t know then how little I knew,” says Dr Steve Olvey when reflecting on his early years in racing. It’s all too easy to slide on the rose-tinted specs when reflecting on ‘the good old days’, but when you were Indycar’s dedicated doctor for three decades and lived with the brutal consequences of US oval racing, your vision’s hue tends to be a little darker.
Rapid Response is a new feature-length documentary based on his memoir of a life spent in the medical frontline of US single-seater racing – and it’s gruesome. The subject matter – how a sport faced up and dealt with a driver mortality rate comparable to soldiers in war – doesn’t really account for what might be considered good taste, and the film’s archive footage drawn from six decades leaves nothing to the imagination.
But the approach is not ‘sensationalist’. Instead, the film soberly presents the cold reality of racing at 200mph-plus on ovals bordered by concrete walls, in cars that offered little to protect the human within, through the eyes of those who dealt with the horror when things went wrong. To do that, the film makers had to show just how cruel the sport could be. It’s honest – perhaps too much for some.
For UK audiences, Dr Olvey is best described as Indycar’s version of Formula 1 legend Professor Sid Watkins: a lifelong fan who dedicated his medical expertise to change racing for the better. And like ‘Prof’, the contribution he and others such as orthopaedic surgeon Dr Terry Trammell made to their sport cannot be over-estimated. They achieved and changed more than any driver, team owner or race promoter.
Dr Olvey’s story precedes Prof’s involvement in F1, then runs directly in parallel from the 1970s. Both battled the old attitude that motor racing was simply dangerous, that death was an accepted price – and that safety was a dirty word. Both also faced opposition from circuit owners and race promoters to accept proper, common standards of medical care at every race track. Their research into injuries even directly influenced the design of the carbonfibre wonders that are today’s single-seaters.
Rapid Response reminds us just how far we’ve come since a young boy witnessed the 1955 Indy 500 in which his hero, the great Bill Vukovich, perished. But as he’d readily admit, Dr Olvey’s work hasn’t made motorsport safe – only safer. The loss of Formula 2 racer Anthoine Hubert at Spa in August is a stark reminder that this is one battle that can never be truly won.
Volkswagen revitalises the eight-generation Passat range, starting with the beefed-up but smart-looking Alltrack estate
The eighth-generation Volkswagen Passat has been refreshed, four years after it was launched in 2015. And this particular version – the slightly higher-riding all-wheel-drive estate known as the Alltrack – first appeared with the Passat iteration that arrived before that, in 2010.The Alltrack provides a useful mix of load-carrying and mild-off-road capability in a format popularized by Volvo’s Cross Country models and the Allroad estates of sister brand Audi.The Passat refresh is relatively modest. Items now standard include particulate filters for all engines, LED lights front and rear and Travel Assist, which enables the car to drive at up to 130mph in part-automated mode. The adaptive cruise control now reads and acts on speed limit signs, and while this can be over-ridden with a switch or the accelerator pedal, it will return to the speed it sees on the next sign, limiting the usefulness of this essential tool for anyone who doesn’t cruise on the motorway at exactly 70mph.More positively, the infotainment system can now screen Apple CarPlay or Android Auto without a cable, and potential Passat buyers must now navigate a modest orchard’s worth of eight model derivatives rather than the previous forest.Among the culled line-up is the Alltrack sampled here, its identifiers including the black plastic wheel arch extensions of an off-roader, more ruggedly sculpted bumpers, new 18in alloy rims, the option of a bucolic bottle green paint finish, assorted decor highlights in stainless steel, aluminium and chrome and Volkswagen's 'Discover' 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system.More fundamentally, its 4Motion system provides an off-roading mode and the 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel that's your sole engine choice comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
BMW will renew its Mercedes B-Class rival after revealing new two-door and four-door 2 Series coup? models
The next-generation BMW2 Series Active Tourer has been photographed in thinly disguised prototype form ahead of its expected unveiling next year.
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class rival, spied on the back of trailer outside a BMW facility in Germany, can be seen sporting an evolutionary look more closely aligned with the new 1 Series, upon which it's based. It also appears to have shorter overhangs than the current model, suggesting BMW has worked to improve interior space and packaging.
Expect the range of engines to include a base 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol and 2.0-litre four-cylinder tubo petrol, available in a number of different power outputs. A full range of diesels ranging from 118bhp to 188bhp will also feature. The expectation is that a plug-in hybrid variant will again be offered, given the necessity of such cars to reduce fleet average CO2 emissions, but nothing has yet been confirmed.
Don't expect to see an M-tuned variant any time soon, because it would be far from the firm's core market. However, a 302bhp 35i version would be technically possible, given the 2 Series Active Tourer's close relationship to the 1 Series.
The Active Tourer will join the newly revamped 2 Series line-up after the unveiling of the new four-door Gran Coup? late this year and the traditional two-door coup? early next year. BMW sources have suggested to Autocar that the seven-seat 2 Series Gran Tourer won't return, however, due to a lack of buyer interest in larger MPVs.
Building a credible Land Rover rival with zero experience won't be easy, but Ineos has the ingredients to make it work
When Sir Jim Ratcliffe first discussed his own line of simpler-than-the- Defender 4x4s in earnest, the idea that a company with no experience of building cars from a standing start – and doing it economically – seemed difficult to swallow.
If it looked like that, it doesn’t now. Ineos Automotive has assembled a management team of convincing experts who have plausible answers to all the key questions except one (we’ll come to it). And they’re talking about the kind of vehicle that many people find desirable, in an arena abandoned by Land Rover in its unquenchable zeal to build premium vehicles.
In the words of a friend of mine, a farmer who never drives anything but his Defender: “I need something that will carry a ram, a dog, a chainsaw and several bales of straw, go up steep hills in snow, never ground out, tow 3.5 tonnes, push aside brambles and be power-washable inside. I want a really good tool, the kind you treasure but that won’t break when you drop it. If they do that, and it doesn’t get nice-ified, I want one…”
That lingering question? Ineos has said ominously little about the styling and who’s doing it. It cites the new Jeep Gladiator as a rival, appearing not to notice how carefully and cleverly that pick-up has been styled.
If I were a betting man, I’d say Sir Jim is having a bit of a go himself. And he might be good at it; who knows? Sir William Lyons was, but he wouldn’t have been able to do what Jaguar’s designers do today. Anyhow, it all makes the already-fascinating reveal moment that much more exciting. Roll on 2020!
Ineos Automotive also reveals BMW power sources for new Defender-inspired model that's due to be shown next year
Ineos Automotive, founded by British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe to create an “uncompromising 4x4” in the mould of the original Land RoverDefender, has confirmed that its new vehicle family will carry the name Grenadier and be built in an all-new plant in Bridgend, South Wales.
The ?600 million project will utilise body and chassis parts sourced from – and painted in – a second new Ineos car plant currently being commissioned in Estarreja, Portugal, close to many established automotive suppliers.
The Grenadier name, which was chosen from an online poll of 6000 fans and followers, invokes the Knightsbridge pub where Ratcliffe, a lifelong Land Rover fan, first hatched his plan to build his own no-frills 4x4. The project has been live since early 2017. The company will unveil the completed vehicle next year, although it won’t detail the launch plans yet.
Ineos expects its two new plants to each create around 500 new jobs once production hits full speed. Ratcliffe says the company had “lots of good options across the world” for locating the plants but chose Wales for the final assembly “as a significant expression of confidence in British manufacturing”. Ineos will eventually build 25,000 cars per year once it completes a production ramp-up from the beginning of production in 2021 and says it could do even more than that if business exceeds expectations.
Ineos says it can’t yet specify an entry price for the Grenadier, but commercial director Mark Tennant confided that the costs of current safety equipment and compliance testing are unlikely to allow Ineos to match outgoing Defender prices that started in the low-?20,000s bracket. However, he admitted to keeping a close eye on the four-seat pick-up truck market (Ineos will launch such a model), where prices for well-equipped versions currently start below ?30,000. Four-seat pick-ups currently account for 60,000 sales in the UK and 200,000 across Europe.
More details of the Grenadier are fast emerging. All models will use diesel or petrol versions of BMW’s latest-spec 3.0-litre straight six engine, driving through an automatic gearbox – probably an eight-speed ZF unit. There won’t be a manual option. The suspension will be non-independent by coil-sprung live axles front and rear, a system especially designed by Ineos on the grounds of extreme durability.
The use of such simple suspension with a tough ladder chassis and a separate body will allow a much larger-than-usual number of bodystyles to be offered, although Ineos says it won’t necessarily produce them all. CEO Dirk Heilmann is taking what he calls an open-source approach: he wants to encourage aftermarket suppliers to propose their own special equipment for the Grenadier.
Design and engineering is progressing well, said Tennant. The marketing plan is to “get close to the customer”, he explained. “We won’t be selling cars in London’s Westfield shopping centre the way Tesla does, but we might find ourselves selling our vehicles in a field.” As in other arms of the Ineos business, the firm intends to use the abilities of partners already established in the field.
Much of the Grenadier's engineering work is being carried out by Stuttgart-based consultancy MBTech, a former subsidiary of Daimler, with off-road testing in Austria. The emphasis is very much on off-road capability, says Tennant, although the Grenadier will have thoroughly acceptable on-road performance.
Ineos is revealing little of Grenadier’s styling or design process, beyond the fact that it is analogue, depends a lot on clay modelling and will “make a virtue out of boxiness”. The project has just passed its exterior design freeze, but the interior is still being created, with the emphasis very much on simplicity and minimalism.
Ineos’s experience so far leads Tennant to believe the Grenadier 4x4 models may well be the first of a family of Ineos Automotive products. “There are plenty more interesting niches,” he says. “Who knows what we’ll do next?”
Concept car is set to show a new plug-in hybrid drivetrain that Mitsubishi will use on a small SUV
Mitsubishi will reveal a new compact plug-in hybrid SUV concept at next month’s Tokyo motor show.
The as-yet-unnamed car, partially shown in an image and confirmed in limited information released today, is intended to preview Mitsubishi’s next-generation plug-in hybrid four-wheel-drive technology for models smaller than the Outlander.
The hybrid technology will be smaller and lighter than Mitsubishi’s current plug-in hybrid system, which it pioneered first on the Outlander PHEV. It will be four-wheel drive and is claimed to offer both improved efficiency in urban environments as well as greater control off road.
Mitsubishi has not released any technical details of the new hybrid system, which will join the larger one it already has in its range on the Outlander. That current plug-in hybrid tech mixes a 2.4-litre petrol engine with a 13.8kWh battery and twin electric motors.
The concept car’s downsized plug-in hybrid technology could therefore be intended for the Eclipse Cross, either in this generation or the next. Mitsubishi sources confirmed to Autocar earlier this year that the Eclipse Cross would be offered with plug-in hybrid technology in the future.
Italian firm developed supercar specifically for racing; it's eligible to compete in most FIA-sanctioned events in Europe
Little-known Italian car maker ATS Automobili has unveiled a model called the RR Turbo, developed in-house specifically for racing.
ATS stood out as one of the first companies to release a street-legal mid-engined car, the Scaglione-designed 2500 GT of 1963, but it looked elsewhere for inspiration when it started designing the RR Turbo.
The coup? has the typical proportions of a modern mid-engined supercar, but ATS went to great lengths to make the RR Turbo as light and as quick as possible.
Lightweight materials such as aluminium and carbonfibre help keep the dry weight down to 780kg, a figure that makes the even the Alpine A110 (1098kg) look big-boned. That number is even more impressive when you consider that the list of standard features includes a built-in roll cage, an integrated fire extinguisher and suspension that's fully adjustable via a touchscreen mounted on the dashboard.
The RR Turbo's engine is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit sourced from Honda and modified by ATS to deliver 592bhp and 390lb ft of torque. It spins the rear wheels through a six-speed paddle-shifted sequential gearbox and a limited-slip differential. Full performance specifications remain under wraps, but the power-to-weight ratio hints at jaw-dropping acceleration times. Carbon-ceramic brakes are available.
ATS developed the RR Turbo for buyers who want to go racing. It says the car is eligible to race in a majority of the FIA-sanctioned events held in Europe, including GT Cup championships and hillclimbs.
It's on sale now, priced from ˆ110,000 (currently ?97,525). There's no word yet on whether the coup? will spawn a roadgoing model, although it will inevitably need to gain some weight if it's to be eligible to wear numberplates.
Plug-in hybrid has been spotted undisguised ahead of eighth-generation Golf's unveiling in October
The next-generation Volkswagen Golf GTE will offer two power outputs when it arrives on roads next year, intended to cater to both those wanting a standard plug-in hybrid and those in the market for a performance-focused PHEV.
Volkswagen board member for research and development Frank Welsch told Autocar that the GTE will be sold with either 201bhp or 241bhp. He said: “Today’s GTI is 241bhp, so the GTE should also have 241bhp, so the GTE is really a GTE. But there are some people who just want to stay with a similar plug-in hybrid to today, so that's why we’re offering the 201bhp, too. It comes without the GTE trim and just [appears] as a normal Golf.” There will be no new electric e-Golf, because Volkswagen will focus on its standalone ID 3 model instead.
The new Golf GTE has been spotted testing undisguised near the N?rburgring ahead of the eight-generation Golf’s reveal next month. The spy shots also show Volkwagen’s new logo, revealed at Frankfurt motor show last week.
The standard car has already been seen with virtually no disguise before. But now a prototype has been spotted with a charging port built within its front wing, suggesting it is the flagship PHEV model.
The latest version of the long-running hatchback was originally due to be unveiled alongside the ID 3 at the Frankfurt motor show, but Volkswagen bosses decided to focus that event on its new electric offering. The Mk8 Golf has now been confirmed for an October launch. It will go on sale in the UK early next year.
Volkswagen design chief Klaus Bischoff said the Golf will feature “elegant proportions”. The German firm says the eighth-generation Golf had been designed for “the era of electrified drives, a digitalised and connected interior world, assisted driving and online-based functions and services.”
Volkswagen previously released a design sketch of the Mk8 model that showed a distinct evolution of its interior look and technology. It revealed that the Golf will adopt a large, dual-screen instrument and infotainment display panel stretched across the driver's eyeline. The rest of the interior has a more minimalist look as a result.
The car is also expected to have an interior that’s almost completely devoid of conventional switches, at least on the higher-end models. Volkswagen design boss Klaus Bischoff has been quoted as saying that the Mk8’s interior is a “total” digital environment, with the steering wheel the only conventional component. Touchscreens will replace the traditional instrument binnacle and the climate controls. Even the headlight switch could be replaced by a touchpad.Volkswagen's management have also begun offering some details about the latest version of the Golf, the most important machine in the firm's range.
Speaking at the Geneva motor show back in March, marketing boss J?rgen Stackmann said the new Golf maintained the heritage of previous versions, but with the benefits of new technology.
"The new Golf will be everything people loved for years, but now made digital," he said. "People want a Golf – it's iconic – but now there's a huge leap forward in the digitisation inside it. It's still a Golf, but now digital. It's kept what people have loved and moved it to the next phase."
The Mk8 Golf will have levels of fuel-saving technology, connectivity, autonomous driving capability and refinement that are intended to render the mainstream competition second best.
Its exterior styling will be an evolutionary design that again emphasises a wide, flowing C-pillar. There is expected to be a little more sharp-edged definition to the bodywork, following the template of the latest Polo. The GTI version will feature large corner air vents in its lower bumper, as previewed by the GTI TCR concept earlier this year.
Volkswagen will use the Mk8 Golf to introduce a powerful 48V mild-hybrid powertrain and a new range of micro-hybrids. There will also be versions powered by compressed natural gas.
The model’s range will be simplified, with the three-door and estate bodystyles the most likely candidates for the axe. With consumers increasingly turning to SUVs and crossovers, and with makers of large mainstream cars under significant cost and profit pressures, insiders say the Golf Mk8 will attempt to lure buyers who are downsizing from larger cars and premium models such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, offering more cabin and luggage space than is normal in this segment, outstanding refinement and exceptional fuel economy.
The new Golf will have a noticeably wider track and even more room in the already spacious cabin, as well as a marginally longer wheelbase and a bigger boot than its hatchback rivals.
Update of Mk7 platform
The basis for the next Golf is an updated version of the versatile MQB platform used by today’s model. VW insiders suggest it will use a greater percentage of lightweight metal than the existing structure for a 50kg reduction in weight.
Planned modifications to the construction process are also said to provide more streamlined production and reduced build times as part of a strategy aimed at improving the economy of scale and profitability of VW’s best-selling model.
Although there is still some time to go before the new Golf’s introduction, VW says it has already locked in the car’s design, which has been developed under the guidance of the company’s latest design boss, Michael Mauer, who was responsible for the styling of the current Porsche line-up.
Those privy to the latest clay model mock-ups say the new Golf advances the classic hatchback look of its predecessors, with familiar proportions, reinterpreted details and simple surfacing to make it instantly recognisable as a Golf.
Key styling features described to Autocar include a thin horizontal grille bookmarked by smaller angular headlights than those in use today, with a distinctive LED daytime running light graphic. The new car is also said to have more pronounced wheel arches and a heavily defined side swage line, in combination with typically wide C-pillars and a relatively upright tailgate.
Petrol and diesel engines
The new Golf Mk8 will get a range of 12V mild-hybrid engines for the entry-level and mid-range variants. The 1.5-litre TSI ACT petrol unit will be carried over from today’s Golf Mk7 but this will be joined by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol motor and an all-new 1.5-litre diesel, which is also likely to be sold as a 12V mild hybrid. Autocar understands that the assistance of the mild-hybrid system’s starter/ generator lessens the load on the engine and reduces the spikes of NOx emissions from the diesel’s exhaust.
One of the more intriguing rumours is that the 1.0-litre petrol engines might not be turbocharged at all, but could instead rely solely on direct assistance from a belt-driven starter/generator motor (SGM). The thinking is that the SGM will provide enough extra power and torque for the base engines, allowing the turbocharger, intercooler and associated piping and control systems to be dropped.
The Golf Mk8’s diesel line-up will include the new 2.0 TDI (codenamed EA288 Evo) engine. VW says the base version of this unit has been significantly re-engineered to reduce exhaust pollution. There is a more efficient and responsive turbocharger and the engine is lighter, loses less heat and has reduced internal friction.
More important, the engine’s particulate filter and catalyst have been resized for improved performance, particularly over time. VW claimed the engine offers an average of 9% more torque and power together with an average 10g/km decrease in CO2 emissions. The firm said the new diesel unit will come in versions ranging from 135bhp to 201bhp and will be seen in Audi models before being installed in the Golf Mk8 next year.
VW has already released details of the Golf’s 1.5-litre TGI Evo natural gas engine, production of which starts this year. Based on the 1.5-litre TSI engine, the TGI unit uses the same Miller cycle valve timing and a variable geometry turbocharger. It develops 129bhp and 148lb ft from 1400rpm when installed in the Golf Mk7. VW claims that this engine emits about 93g/km of CO2 on the NEDC cycle when it is hooked up to the standard- issue dual-clutch gearbox. Natural gas engines are also lower in NOx and particulate emissions than diesel and cars can be refilled from the gas mains network via small wall-mounted compressors. However, the lack of a natural gas infrastructure in the UK means this variant is unlikely to reach these shores.
The new or upgraded powertrains will be offered in combination with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, depending on their configuration. Alongside front-wheel drive, VW also plans to offer optional four-wheel drive (which it calls 4Motion) in selected models, like it has done in the previous four generations of its perennial best seller.
Two kinds of mild hybrid
The big surprise for the Golf Mk8 drivetrains is that VW says it will be investing in both 12V and 48V mild-hybrid systems after the company re-engineered the Golf family MQB electrical architecture (one of the more expensive component systems in a car) to accommodate a 48V system. Until now, 48V mild hybrids have only been used in premium VW Group cars such as the Bentley Bentayga and Audi SQ7.
Frank Welsch, VW’s technical development boss, has already revealed the firm’s new ‘affordable’ 48V system, which uses a belt-integrated starter/ generator/alternator to assist the engine by providing extra power and torque directly to the engine’s crankshaft.
The key to adopting 48V in a mass-market car was VW and its suppliers developing a less expensive and more compact set-up, which uses a small DC-to-DC converter and small lithium ion battery.
Welsch said the 48V set-up allows much greater amounts of energy to be recuperated than with 12V systems, which means significantly improved fuel economy. These new mild-hybrid engines can also start and stop extremely quickly, which will allow the Golf Mk8 to switch in and out of coasting mode when driving, making further fuel savings.
Connected tech takes precedence
VW sources have already promised that the next Golf will be ‘always connected’. Using the same eSIM card that has already appeared in the new Touareg, the Golf Mk8 will be permanently connected to the internet. This will allow the car to tap into 3D satellite mapping, hybrid radio (where the audio system finds the strongest signal for a station, whether analogue or digital) and the option of live information such as the latest pricing at nearby fuel stations.
The permanent connectivity opens the way for these future models to ‘read’ the topography of the road from 3D mapping, for example, and switch to coasting when heading downhill, or approaching a junction.
Autonomous driving will be a key feature of VW's best-seller in its eighth generation, as the brand will shoehorn even more advanced autonomous technology into the new model, as well as ensuring that it is the most connected car in the company's history, ahead of the all-electric ID hatchback that's also due in late 2019.
Head of VW's compact series, Karlheinz Hell, revealed: "The next Golf will take Volkswagen into the era of fully connected vehicles with extended autonomous driving functions. It will have more software on board than ever before. It will always be online and its digital cockpit and assistance systems will be the benchmark in terms of connectivity and safety."
The current Golf benefits from VW's semi-autonomous Traffic Jam Assist system, which controls the steering, acceleration and braking of the car under 37mph, so it's certain that the Mk8 model will take a leap in advancement over this. Elsewhere, the Audi A8 is the first car in the wider VW Group to achieve level three autonomy where permitted.
Golf to set VW design agenda
While the new Golf will be an evolutionary take on the outgoing car, it will feature new design elements that design chief Klaus Bischoff described being “more fluid, more sporty with a very unique face”.
It’s part of a new VW strategy to differentiate its standard model range from the new ID family of electric cars, said Bischoff: “[ID is] a new world of proportions and totally new bodystyles which are more emotional. As we go through the ceiling design- wise on ID cars, we need to echo that with ICE cars, so these will have more sporty proportions [and] a more progressive, clean design.”
Bischoff said future cars will remain faithful to VW’s traditional design cues: “We are looking to our origins so no ‘me too’ products. They will all remain as very individual VWs.
“If you look at front- of-car designs, nearly everybody is copying Audi. VW will go down its own road to stay true to the brand, and not look over the fence to others.”
Volkswagen reaps MQB’s rewards
Volkswagen’s MQB architecture underpins its best-selling model, the Golf, of which 968,284 were sold in 2017.
The modular toolkit is used for most of the firm’s most successful models. In total, five MQB models currently account for 3.8 million global sales.
The firm’s second-bestseller last year was the Jetta/Sagitar (the latter is a Chinese-market compact saloon), with 883,346 units sold. The seventh-generation Jetta, which went on sale this year, is now based on MQB, as are the firm’s two next best-sellers: the Tiguan SUV (769,870 sold), in both short- and long-wheelbase forms, and the Polo.
The Lavida, a Jetta-sized MQB saloon sold only in China, is the firm’s sixth best-selling model, with 507,000 made in 2017. That leaves the Passat/Magotan family, which is sold in Europe, the US and China. Current European versions of this model are built on MQB, with the US and Chinese versions switching to the architecture in 2019, adding another 660,000 or so MQB cars to the sales total.
Those figures are simply for Volkswagen itself: the MQB toolkit is also used widely across the group’s other brands.
Never mind this ‘three-car garage’ at Caffeine & Machine, let’s stretch the E-tron’s legs - 4 September 2019
The E-tron’s range hasn’t been much of a concern for me so far because 220-odd miles is actually plenty for my needs, although it could always be better. More of an issue is the time it takes to recharge the 95kWh battery pack, especially at home.
Given that hooking it up to my 3kW wallbox for 12 hours adds only about 50% to the battery capacity and just over 100 miles of range, I wasn’t sure how well the car would cope with doing back-to-back long trips. Could I get it recharged quickly enough to give me a decent range for the next day’s journey? To find out, I spent the best part of an entire week doing a series of day trips around the south of England, mostly to go cycling, covering almost exactly 1000 miles in the E-tron in the process.
Although some of those trips could have been completed on a single charge, I erred on the side of caution and built in a few top-ups at public rapid chargers, because I wanted to avoid returning home with a heavily depleted battery and not being able to get back to 100% by the next morning. My plan backfired to a certain extent, because on two consecutive days, I forgot to reset the charging target to 100% (you can specify when recharging stops via the infotainment system) and had only 80% one day and 50% the next. However, that didn’t deter me. I simply had to stop earlier than planned for another top-up.
But as I said, it still takes time to replenish a battery as large as the E-tron’s. Top-ups from about 35% to 80% took 45-50 minutes via Ecotricity 50kW rapid chargers, as you get at most motorway services, and slightly longer at a GeniePoint site at a suburban service station. I got into the habit of taking a book with me to help while away the time. The cost in each case was about ?11 or ?12.
However, it was a different story when I tried one of the new Ionity 350kW chargers at Maidstone services in Kent. With the E-tron recharging at its maximum rate of 150kW, the speed at which the gauge climbed was glorious to behold. That day I got from 20% to 80% in just 22 minutes – three times faster than most other chargers.
It was also the cheapest of the ones I tried, because Ionity currently charges a flat rate of ?8 no matter how much energy you take. The only problem right now is that there are very few such high-power chargers in the UK, but they’re coming, thankfully.
All the while, the E-tron reaffirmed itself as a wonderfully comfortable and refined cruising companion, feeling relaxed and wafty at all times and assured on the motorway. I’d had some doubts about the front seats, which seemed rather flat and thinly padded at first, but they’ve proved perfectly comfortable for a few hours at a time. My bike fits easily into the boot with the rear seatbacks down, too.
In the end, I didn’t find it difficult to cover such distances in the E-tron – although the fact that I wasn’t in any hurry no doubt helped. There are sometimes quite a few variables to deal with – charging points already in use or not working, crucial phone apps misbehaving and so on – and the amount of faffing around can be tedious at times, but I’d undertake a trip of any length in the E-tron with confidence, in the UK, at least.
Twin touchscreens Although the central screens can be distracting to use on the move, they’re actually very crisp, responsive and easy to navigate.
Lane-keeping assistance You have to continually remember to turn off this driver aid on country roads, because it’s highly intrusive. It’s of limited use on the motorway, too.
Can’t go commando at the campsite - 21 August 2019
Under the E-tron’s bonnet sits a ‘commando’ industrial plug that’s interchangeable with the three-pin domestic plug, but I can’t think of any circumstances in which I’d ever use it. The plug looks like the same one you’d use to run power to a caravan at a campsite, but I tried hooking up to one such outlet and it turned out to be the wrong size.
Life with an Audi E-tron: Month 2
Rain reveals a lack of finesse in one particular area - 31st July 2019
Given how gloriously quiet the E-tron is, a fair bit of noise from the windscreen wipers is a surprise. There’s a strip of plastic trim that runs up each side of the windscreen, and the wiper on the driver’s side smacks against it at the top of each sweep. Perhaps the wiper simply needs adjusting, but the rhythmic clack it makes is rather jarring.
Here comes the ride, ravishing in white… and emissions free, too - 17th July 2019
The Audi E-tron’s limo-like qualities (and its brilliant white paint) made it an obvious choice for wedding car duties when a colleague’s daughter got married at Kew Gardens in south-west London recently – especially as a traditional horse and carriage wouldn’t have mixed very well with the required journey up the M3 motorway.
Come the big day, the bride couldn’t have been happier with her conveyance. The E-tron’s spacious interior coped easily with the sugar plum fairy dress, while the elevated seating position meant the bride made a serene, dignified entrance.
Just as impressively, the E-tron’s excellent refinement ensured the bride’s sister and father could effortlessly maintain a steady stream of reassuring chit-chat and therefore banish any lingering thoughts of a last-minute detour to the airport.
Like all electric vehicles, the E-tron has a regenerative braking system that uses the electric motors and brakes to harvest energy under deceleration and put it back into the battery pack, helping to eke out the range. The level of regen can be adjusted either automatically or manually via paddles behind the steering wheel, ranging from coasting with minimal drag through to strong enough to slow the car significantly when you lift off the accelerator. This can be a boon at times, especially around town, but in the E-tron’s case, it could be stronger.
In some EVs, such as the Nissan Leaf, the regen is so vigorous that you hardly ever have to touch the brake pedal. Audi suggests this is possible in the E-tron too, but I’m finding that even in its highest setting, the regen isn’t strong enough to bring the car to a halt without braking in the traditional manner. This, I assume, is to make the car behave in a way that drivers are used to from their previous non-electric cars, but you lose the benefit of full one-pedal driving in heavy traffic. I’m also finding it tricky to bring the E-tron to a halt without a lurch and creak if the ‘hold assist’ function is activated.
The indicated range has settled at around 220 miles with each full recharge, and it’s proving fairly trustworthy, with discrepancies of only about 10 miles either way between that figure and the distance the car can actually cover on a charge. And unlike in some smaller EVs, it doesn’t go into freefall at motorway speeds; the descent remains fairly linear. That’s been plenty for my needs so far, but sterner tests of its range – and more pertinently, its recharging times – are still to come.
On occasion, I’ve deliberately run the battery pack down to virtually empty, just to see how the car would respond. With 30 miles of indicated range remaining, a yellow battery symbol glows permanently in the digital instrument panel, accompanied by offers to find a convenient charging point. With just 10 miles’ range left, the battery symbol starts alternating with a little yellow tortoise symbol – a cute touch – and the car begins to cap power.
I got as low as two miles to go before I lost my nerve, at which point the power had been reduced to 25%, although the car still felt surprisingly perky, at town speeds at least.
Following the fault we encountered early on with the emergency call function, the adaptive cruise control – part of the ?1950 Tour Pack option – has now made itself permanently unavailable for use. It was working well at first; in fact, its ability to adjust the car’s speed correctly, not just on congested motorways but also through speed limit changes and on dual-carriageway roundabouts and motorway slip roads, was quite mesmerising. I’ve cleaned the radar unit in the front bumper and other sensors, because often it’s just grime that causes a temporary outage, but the cruise control is still refusing to work. I’m still waiting to hear how that might be rectified.
Zero emissions It’s good for my environmental conscience to know that, although I’m driving a massive luxury SUV, it emits precisely nothing.
Home charging A full recharge takes a tedious 28 hours to full via my weedy 3kW wall box. I foresee a need for stops at motorway rapid chargers…
An unexpected error message so soon - 26th June 2019
A week or so after the E-tron arrived, a warning message popped up saying there was a fault with the emergency call system, which sends for help if you have an accident. The car spent a couple of days in an Audi workshop while the fault was resolved (via a software update) free of charge. Online forums suggest other Audi models have had similar glitches.
Luxurious EV has less range than rivals. Will that matter in daily use? We intend to see - 19th June 2019
The puzzled looks on the faces of passers-by are already a common sight. What they can see is yet another big Audi SUV. But what they can hear is… virtually nothing.
The usual clamour of an internal combustion engine – often diesel – is conspicuous by its absence as this imposing SUV glides past, and people notice, around town at least. As Audi’s first fully electric vehicle, the E-tron is at once reassuringly familiar and quite different from any previous model by the German brand.
At 4.9m long, it’s closer in size to the Q7 than the Q5 and in fact shares some of its underpinnings with the Q7, including standard adaptive air suspension, although it’s lower and sleeker than both and is a five-seater only.
Two electric motors – one on each axle to give four-wheel drive – produce solid peaks of 402bhp and 490lb ft of torque, giving the E-tron forceful, Bentley-like performance (0-62mph in 5.7sec), despite the fact that the car weighs two and a half tonnes. The motors receive energy from a 95kWh battery pack that yields an official WLTP range of 241 miles. Considering the size of the battery pack, that’s a little underwhelming in comparison with the EQC’s 259 miles, the I-Pace’s 292 miles and the recently updated Model X Long Range’s 315 miles.
Autocar sibling magazine What Car? has already put the E-tron through its Real Range test and discovered that it can cover 196 miles between charges in real-world driving. That’s not bad, and I’m confident that I can improve on that figure by 20 or 30 miles. But it still means the E-tron is unlikely to go as far on a charge as any of its rivals, or indeed the smaller and much cheaper Kia e-Niro.
Recharging the battery pack isn’t a quick job, either, despite the fact that the E-tron can handle a charging rate of up to 150kW – one of the fastest of the current EVs on the market. A 0-80% recharge using a 50kW rapid charger – now readily available at most motorway services – will take about 90 minutes, and a 7kW home wallbox will do the job in 14 hours.
Best-case scenario is a 30-minute wait if I use one of the latest high-power public chargers, although they’re still few and far between in the UK, while the other extreme is more than 30 hours for a full top-up if I plug in at home, via a three-pin plug or the weedy 3kW wallbox (all I was allowed) that I had installed in my garage last year. Those times will come down, of course, if I plug the car in for a top-up well before the battery pack is fully depleted.
The E-tron is the only EV I’ve come across so far to have two charging ports: Type 2 seven-pin sockets on both sides and a European-standard CCS port for DC rapid charging on the driver’s side. That should make things easier at awkwardly located or busy charging stations. And the way the flaps motor down at the touch of a button and close automatically when you remove the charging cable is, I must admit, very swish, emphasising the quality of this car.
My E-tron isn’t the fully loaded Launch Edition, but even the regular one is classy and luxurious inside, with a configurable digital instrument panel and a pair of sharp, responsive, central touchscreens for the infotainment and secondary functions such as the climate control.
Although the interior is very high-tech, it’s remarkably close to what you’d find in any other recent high-end Audi, so there’s nothing too intimidating about it. Having said that, I haven’t seen a gear selector like the E-tron’s before. It’s a smooth, flat slab of metal that you operate with your fingertips and thumb.
Surprisingly, you have to add the ?1950 Tour Pack (which we’ve done) to get extra driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, traffic sign recognition and other collision avoidance systems. Our car has conventional door mirrors rather than the optional camera-based alternatives (sadly) and differs slightly from UK spec in that it has, as individual options, an advanced key for high-security keyless entry (normally part of the ?1895 Comfort and Sound Pack) and super-clear Audi Beam LED puddle lights (otherwise available on the Launch Edition only).
Despite the question mark over its efficiency, the E-tron is such an interesting and significant car that I consider myself lucky to be running one. I can already say with confidence that it’s one of the smoothest, quietest and plushest-riding cars I’ve driven, aided by the optional double-glazed side windows we’ve got on our car.
And If I’m going to run a luxury SUV, I’m glad it’s an electric one that doesn’t put out any CO2 or pollutants and will save me a fortune in fuel bills. The fact that the E-tron seemingly won’t go as far on a charge as its rivals might not matter when all of its other qualities are taken into account. This isn’t just any electric car, after all. It’s an electric Audi.
After a succession of EVs that have been deliberately different and all too keen to shout about being battery powered, the E-tron is refreshingly normal. It’s a luxury car first and an electric one second, fitting right in with the rest of Audi’s range – but, given the price, it’ll be interesting to see if this subtlety is so endearing at the end the test.
Specs: Price New ?68,020 (after ?3500 government grant) Price as tested ?74,725 OptionsTour Pack ?1950, advanced key ?850, four-zone deluxe automatic climate control ?825, Glacier White metallic paint ?750, acoustic side window glazing ?525, rear side airbags and illuminated seatbelt buckles ?475, privacy glass ?475, aluminium roof rails ?425, Audi Music Interface rear ?175, Audi Beam ?150, Storage and Luggage Pack ?125
Test Data: Engine Two asynchronous electric motors Power 402bhp (in Boost mode) Torque 490lb ft (in Boost mode) Kerb weight 2490kg Top speed 124mph 0-62mph 5.7sec Range 241 miles (WLTP) CO2 0g/km Faults None Expenses None
Firms will focus on vehicle-to-grid charging systems - which could allow owners to make money by plugging in their car
Nissan and energy giant EDF Group have reached a deal to work together to develop smart charging technology for electric vehicles – including systems that could allow Leaf and e-NV200 van owners to earn discounts on their electricity bills.
The two firms already co-operate on a number of EV systems, but have expanded their collaboration with a focus on smart charging systems in the UK, France, Belgium and Italy. In particular, the agreement will focus on ‘vehicle to grid’ (V2G) systems, which allow the energy stored in a car battery that is plugged into a home charger to be ‘sold’ back to a supplier when needed.
Nissan will focus on developing technology that will work with the electric Leaf and e-NV200, with EDF leading the development of V2G charging systems and services.
The technology is likely to be particularly relevant to businesses, which could have large fleets of electric vehicles plugged in outside work hours without being used. Such a fleet could offer a significant amount of energy storage capacity, which a supplier such as EDF could pay to use in order to balance supply elsewhere.
Francisco Carranza, the boss of Nissan Energy in Europe, said the deal was “another sign that our vision of an electric ecosystem is becoming a reality.” He added that a V2G solution would be “a logical next step” for Nissan EV owners to manage their energy supply and open “new revenue opportunities.”
But he has joined the exodus of senior automotive talent to China, where he is now chief technical officer for bold EV start-up Human Horizons.
The firm revealed its first car, the HiPhi 1, last month. A six-seat coup?-ish SUV with high levels of autonomy, it’s due on sale in China by 2021. But why did Stanton, 59, leave JLR’s high-performance arm to gamble on a Chinese start-up?
“SVO was meant to be the pinnacle and to begin with it felt that way,” he said. “I don’t want to speak ill of JLR because I still have a passion for them and the product, but the frustrations grew and grew. It should have been a great swansong but it didn’t turn out that way…
“I could have gone on another three or four years and retired, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to change direction and do something different.”
Moving to China has been financially rewarding, but Stanton said he had offers from several manufacturers, two of which would have kept him in the UK. But he said: “I didn’t want to go and work for another big OEM. I didn’t want that management style and that baggage. I was looking for more freedom.”
After meeting with Human Horizon co-founders Kevin Chen and Ding Lei, both of whom have worked with western brands in China, Stanton decided it was a match.
He relocated to Shanghai last year and now leads a team of 400 engineers. “We could never have moved so quickly in any traditional OEM,” he said.
Stanton said his contacts in the automotive supply base have been useful, with many components for the HiPhi 1 sourced from top-tier European firms. Those include Michelin low-rolling-resistance tyres, which, Stanton said, “aren’t widely available in China.”
Stanton had another reason to switch to an EV-only firm: “I got religion, I guess.” Having been involved with JLR’s electrification programme, “the environmental side has become really important to me. Cars have been around for 110 years and I’ve been working in the industry for 35 years. During that time, I think I’ve made the world a worse place. I’ve been contributing to the problem [of emissions].
“Conventional OEMs are trying to move forward, but it is so difficult with everything else they need to do. It’s much easier to create a new world from scratch.”
Asked how he squared that with his role at SVO, Stanton looked slightly uncomfortable – “yeah, there were a lot of V8s” – and said he doesn’t own a conventional car any more.
He said he doesn’t know if Human Horizons will be one of the Chinese EV start-ups that breaks through, but he insists it has the funding and connections to succeed. “I’m in a lucky position because if it doesn’t work out, I don’t really suffer. I can retire and put my feet up,” he said. “But I want this to succeed, because we’ve got 1000 employees now and I want it to work for them.”
Want a fast executive saloon but don't want to shout about it? Volvo's new S60 T8 could be for you. We try it in the UK for the first time
Volvo’s very modernist approach to the performance saloon format. And it will be a direction that the established elite in that segment have to follow as the electrification ramp-up marches on.This is Volvo’s fastest-accelerating production car, but it does things a little differently to the Germans. That’s why this T8-badged S60 gets no big wing, no flared arches, no giant air intakes and no shouty, quad-tipped exhaust to announce its presence. That may cause some to lose interest already. And probably for the best: Volvo isn’t aiming to beat the BMW M340i at its own game here - it’s aiming for a more reserved customer less inclined to make a big song and dance about their car's power and pace.We’re plenty familiar with the concept of Volvo’s ‘Twin Engine’ T8 system, which has proven its worth in the 90 series models and the XC60 to date. But for the uninitiated, here goes: it’s got a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that is both turbocharged and supercharged, but it’s also a plug-in hybrid, supplemented by an 86bhp electric motor driving the rear axle for all-wheel drive. It funnels all the propulsion sources through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. If that all sounds terribly complicated, well, it kind of is. For 2019, the T8 powertrain gets a slightly bigger 11.8kWh lithium ion battery pack, with Volvo claiming up to 30 miles is possible on electric power alone.
Get on trend with a jacked-up hatchback that's as practical as it is stylish
Leasing can be an affordable, practical route into having your own private car, but it's not always easy to tell the good deals from the duds.
The experts at our sister magazine What Car? work hard to find you the best pay-monthly schemes, taking into account mileage allowance, montly outlay, contract length and initial deposit. We'll be bringing you the best deals they find from a different segment each week.
?936 deposit, ?156 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year
Being based on the neat-handling Ibiza gives the Arona a lead over rivals. Its engines are smooth, punchy and light on fuel, too. If you’re tall, you’ll like the head room. There’s also a useful 400-litre boot.
?1091 deposit, ?182 per month, 36 months, 8000 miles per year
There’s more to this small ute than a pretty face. For instance, it has cinema-style rear seats whose squabs tip up so you can stow tall items, plus a 448-litre boot for bulkier loads. Avoid the slow and noisy auto.
?867 deposit, ?144 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year
The Crossland is one of the first fruits of Vauxhall’s new relationship with the PSA Group. It’s impressively roomy and the turbo petrol 1.2-litre is a gem. True, the interior’s a little strait-laced but, hey, it’s a Vauxhall.
?1036 deposit, ?173 per month, 48 months, 8000 miles per year
There’s an all-new Captur coming early next year, but don’t worry: this version is still a good car that’s surprisingly nimble. Those curvy lines conceal a 455-litre boot and a surprisingly roomy cabin.
The second four-door version of the A-Class sticks to the same formula as the hatchback – and largely gets it right
Look closely: this isn’t the new Mercedes-Benz CLA, but rather a saloon version of the new A-Class hatchback. But wasn’t the CLA the saloon version of the A-Class hatchback, I hear you ask? It used to be, but now there are two of them.Why? China and North America are the primary reasons for the need for a more conventional A-Class saloon, where the swoopier CLA sacrifices just too much practicality for style. The CLA, a big commercial success in its first generation, still keeps its place in the line-up, Mercedes taking the opportunity to dial up the driver appeal - with decidedly mixed results, as our recent road test has revealed.That then leaves the A-Class Saloon to simply play the role of being an A-Class with a boot without the need to try and also be a coup? or any other kind of niche. Three boxes, five seats: an age-old formula.The engine range is familiar from the A-Class hatchback, so you can have 1.3-litre and 2.0-litre turbocharged petrols and 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre diesels in various states of tune. They're hooked up to a six-speed manual, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic or eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, depending on the version.Tested here is the mid-upper range A250, which uses a 221bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol unit, decked out in range-topping AMG Line trim.
Our MG has been involved in a drive-by shooting – of an F40 - 4 September 2019
I’m feeling quite settled in our ‘new’ MG now and finding lots to like about what I guess many would consider represents being downgraded into a version with less performance and a manual gearbox. How little ‘many’ know.
Giving up our old 1.0-litre turbocharged ZS has meant getting rid of its hyperactive automatic ’box, which I was glad to do. It also means getting used to a new normally aspirated 1.5-litre engine, though, one with noticeably less accessible torque than the old 1.0-litre turbo had, as well as a manual gearbox that isn’t the most inspiring to use and obliges you to either pay attention or frequently find yourself stuck in the wrong gear on the road, praying for a downward gradient. The 1.5-litre engine leaves plenty to be desired on drivability and outright poke but, even so, it bugs me less than that erratic auto used to.
Meanwhile, I’m finding myself much more enamoured of the MG’s design now that I can look at it in a brighter colour. The ZS is miles more appealing in Dynamic Red than it was in Cosmic Silver (is verbal window dressing like that really necessary on cars like this?) and it has been applied with a reasonably consistent finish across the car’s metal and plastic body panels, which is something you don’t always find on bargain-buy cars. I’ll admit to preferring funkier colours on car designs that are fairly plain and uninspired because it tricks you into thinking they are more appealing than perhaps they really are. For now, consider me tricked.
Driving the ZS every day continues to be made much more comfortable with the addition of the backrest cushion I bought for the last car, but that apart, I find the controls pretty comfortable to use and the car continues to impress me on wider practicality levels. There aren’t many other ?15k cars I could use as photographic tracking platforms. That’s a sum that barely buys an entry-level supermini from a mainstream European brand these days. That thought occurred to me the other day, while I was shooting a Ferrari F40 for an upcoming story, a car I’ve always wanted to photograph. In a way, the humble MG made it possible. Lordy, I’m welling up.
While I’m on, I can also update you a bit on the car’s off-road credentials after it took me to a job in a muddy quarry to shoot something with proper knobbly tyres and locking diffs. Honestly, it’d be fair to say there aren’t any, although the good news, I guess, is that it didn’t get stuck.
Even so, it quickly became obvious that even attempting to cross much rough stuff in this front-driven MG is a bad idea. The car seemed to protest for a few days afterwards, even after I’d hosed out the wheel arches and checked for any scrapes and scuffs. It rode a bit lumpily and felt looser in its handling than normal. Or maybe that was just my guilty conscience.
New paintwork The brighter colour makes the ZS look so much better – and more upmarket – than it did in silver. I’m not saying people stop and stare but I feel a bit richer when I look at it.
Nannying noises All the audible alert ‘bonging’. Yes, I know I’ve turned the headlights off: it’s the middle of the day. And I’m aware I’ve opened the door before switching off the engine…
Don’t look back in anger - 21 August 2019
Some friends came to visit and were surprised (read: livid) to find that ‘my’ ?17.5k MG came with a parking camera, when their ?30k-plus BMW 3 Series did not. Sometimes it’s difficult not to be smug. Anyway, the camera allows me to squeeze into tight spaces with pinpoint accuracy around my north London home. It’d be tricky to go without now.
Life with an MG ZS: Month 3
Air con could do better - 24th July 2019
Warm weather has meant I’ve been using the MG’s air-con a lot more. Even at its coldest setting and on full blast, it struggles to keep the cabin cool. I think it might have something to do with the power supply being cut or reduced at times, but I’m not entirely sure. I’ve heard similar complaints from a reader, so it seems to be an issue affecting other MGs too.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the brand still has pulling power - 26 June 2019
Who’d have thought an understated compact crossover would be so good at attracting the attention of strangers?
I’ve written before, if only in passing, about the MG’s uncanny ability to draw people in on the petrol station forecourt. But it happens frequently enough that I can now guess exactly how the conversation will go. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had to deliver some variation of the following responses: “Yes, it is an MG”; “No, it’s made in China now, actually”; “It’s definitely not like the old MG sports cars”; and “Yes, it is surprisingly cheap!”. Strangers are pleasingly predictable in that sense.
Of course, there are those who don’t take too kindly to the MG, and I’ve found myself having to defend it on more than one occasion. Just the other week there was a security guard who was particularly mean about it…
But anyway, for every person who doesn’t take too kindly to the ZS, there are a dozen more willing to show genuinely positive interest in it. Surely that’s something MG’s UK marketing bods will be pleased to hear; it means they’re doing the right things. A glance at MG’s overall sales figures surely confirms as much: in May, the firm sold just north of 1200 vehicles – up nearly 50% from the same month last year. That figure also means that, for the month of May, MG commanded a greater share of the new car market than Alfa Romeo, DS, Lexus, Subaru and Ssangyong could each manage. At 0.66%, MG still has some way to go to topple the likes of Ford, but progress is progress.
And to be honest, if you take your petrolhead hat off and don your rational thinking cap instead, you can find a fair few reasons to praise the little MG. The cabin, for one, is not only home to all the various toys and features you’d realistically want from a car of this type, it’s a much more hospitable place to spend time than the plastic-heavy interior of the Dacia Duster (although video man Mitch McCabe might disagree with me here). There’s loads of space, too, and the novelty of being able to fit my bulky photography kit in the boot without first praying to the gods of Tetris to ensure everything squeezes in still hasn’t worn off.
I continue to be impressed by the MG’s infotainment suite, and its 36.3mpg economy isn’t terrible either. The styling is also starting to grow on me. I used to think it was a bit plain, but that opinion is slowly changing the more time I spend with the ZS. That said, if I could spec this car all over again, I think I’d go for one of the brighter shades of blue or red. Silver looks pretty smart, but it doesn’t really help the car stand out. I like to stand out. At the same time, my inner car designer would like to see a ZS where the wheels had been moved slightly closer towards their extremities. Perhaps I’ll have a play about on Photoshop over the weekend.
Ride comfort The MG’s ride is very easy-going on the motorway. Makes those long journeys that much more bearable.
The perils of wide feet: The pedals seem to be spaced too close together. More than once I’ve gone to brake and inadvertently clipped the throttle.
No surprises from the engine, but no disappointment either - 29th May 2019
With only 110bhp and 118lb ft on tap, the ZS won’t be blitzing any hot hatches away from the lights – it’s just not cut out for that sort of behaviour, and I’m not a child. But despite the humble output of its 1.0-litre engine, it’s never felt deficient in real-world performance. It’s noisy under throttle, sure, but at speed it’s just fine.
Comfort comes first, if not from the factory - 15th May 2019
I’ve bought a cushion. The MG’s lack of adjustable lumbar support had been making longer journeys a strain so I splashed out on a memory foam back support and it makes a real difference. In other news, the rubber plugs on the bottom of the parcel shelf strings have broken off. A niggle only – but made all the more niggly by being not quite niggly enough to merit a trip to the dealer.
It’s winning over its photographer driver – and not just for its boot - 1st May 2019
Before becoming custodian of this MG, I’d been the (temporary) keeper of the keys for the Autocar Ford Fiesta ST for a few weeks. Britain’s best affordable driver’s car was suitably impressive and reflected well on its maker. Even the diesel-powered Ford Focus I’d run before the ST could entertain on a decent stretch of road. So the question I’ve come back to more than once now I’m running the MG SUV is: can it offer anything close to the driving pleasure of Ford’s finest?
And you know what? Even though the ZS might not be particularly exciting to point down the sort of roads you use on the way to the more remote Autocar photo shoots, I’ll admit I’m warming to it. It’s not a head-over-heels type affair by any means, but it’s difficult not to respect what the MG can do given the fact that, even in top-spec Exclusive guise, it costs a reasonable ?17,495.
Get a bit of a trot on and there’s nothing cheap about the way it conducts itself. Vertical movements over crests are tidily controlled and shorter, sharper compressions don’t leave me fretting about whether I might have inadvertently shortened my spine. In its primary ride, there’s really not much that offends – handy given the amount of time I spend slogging up and down motorways.
And although it absolutely isn’t a Fiesta ST, the ZS can corner with a surprising amount of enthusiasm. Again, body roll is mitigated tidily and there’s more than enough frontend grip on offer. There are three different settings to alter the steering weight, too: Urban, which makes it almost unnaturally light but is handy for parking; Normal, which is, um, normal; and the heavier Sport setting.
It took me a bit of time to figure out how to cycle between the different modes, because there’s no physical button to do so anywhere in the cabin. Instead, there’s a submenu within the infotainment software, which you access via the 8.0in touchscreen. Finding it is a bit too convoluted for my liking and it can be fiddly on the go, even though the screen itself is impressively clear and easy to read.
In any case, I’m now at the point where I just leave it in Sport mode. This is mostly down to the fact that I find the heftier weight a bit more confidence-inspiring, but also because the faff of having to go through the touchscreen is a bit of a deterrent.
I’m less impressed by the MG’s fuel economy, although this is largely because I got so used to getting about 500 miles of range per tank in the Focus. The MG is currently averaging 36.5mpg, which admittedly isn’t terrible, but my trips to the petrol station are more frequent: I’m currently doing about 350 miles between fills.
That said, the interest people show towards the ZS on the forecourt has come as quite a nice surprise. It might not be the sports car that people tend to remember MG for, but Joe Public clearly still has some love for the marque. And that can only be a good thing.
Capacious boot I still haven’t tired of the sheer amount of boot space on offer. Packing and unpacking photography kit is a breeze.
No fan of the fan The air-con fan can be a bit asthmatic. At times, it quite vocally sounds out of breath – irritating when I’m listening to the radio.?
Straightforward systems are a real plus point - 10th April 2019
MG’s 8in infotainment wins big points for ease of use. The graphics are sharp, Apple CarPlay means I can play music straight from my phone, while access to Google Maps and Waze is handy for getting to shoots in those more remote parts of Britain. A programmable shortcut button on the steering wheel is a neat touch, too.
It’s a company that’s changed drastically: gone are the two-seater sports cars that, for many, were synonymous with the brand; gone too are its UK manufacturing sites. In fact, were it not for Chinese intervention following the collapse of MG Rover in 2005, the MG marque itself might have fallen off the face of the earth entirely.
Surely, rebuilding a brand following the sort of decimation experienced by MG over the years would be a task so gargantuan that Hercules himself might pause for thought. That’s where our latest fleet addition comes in.
In 2018, the firm managed to grow its UK sales by 104% to 9049 units. Of course, a large percentage increase of a small number still amounts to a small number, but the top brass will no doubt be pleased by the trend. I’d hazard a guess they would take a good deal of pleasure from the fact it was their new compact SUV that catalysed this growth, too: the ZS accounted for 5300 of those 9049 sales.
The ZS we’ve elected to run is the top-flight Exclusive model. There are two engine choices at this level: the first a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol that develops 105bhp and 104lb ft; the other a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-pot capable of 110bhp and 118lb ft. Admittedly, the 1.5 is cheaper (?15,495 versus ?17,495 at the Exclusive trim level), but it was the fact the three-pot is mated to a dual-clutch automatic as opposed to the 1.5’s five-speed manual that ultimately swayed the decision.
It’s a car I’m going to be covering a lot of ground in over the next few months, and the idea of a torquier turbocharged engine with an auto gearbox sounded far easier to get along with than the naturally aspirated manual. Hopefully the logic will be proved correct over the coming months.
As for standard equipment, there’s rather a lot of it. In the cabin there’s leather-style upholstery, satellite navigation, air conditioning, an 8in colour touchscreen, cruise control, and audio controls on the steering wheel. There’s also Bluetooth and USB connectivity, DAB radio and Apple CarPlay. Exclusive models get smarter 17in Diamond Cut alloy wheels, while parking sensors and a rear-view camera will no doubt come in handy on the busy residential streets near my north London home.
Despite its reasonably compact proportions, the ZS has so far proved to be a usefully practical runabout. A recent trip to the airport with a group of friends made for an excellent acid test. It can be a squeeze getting five adults into a car at the best of times, but the ZS was more than up to the task: my three back-seat passengers didn’t complain about any lack of head or leg room. Result.
I was equally impressed by just how much luggage we were able to load into the ZS’s boot. With the rear seats in place, there’s 448 litres of storage space on offer – a figure that can be expanded to 1375 litres by folding the second row down. With a car-load of passengers, this obviously wasn’t possible – but the ZS still managed to swallow the three large suitcases we’d brought along with ease.
After running a Ford Fiesta ST for a time, knowing I’ll be able to load all of my photography kit in the MG’s boot without having to worry about how I’m going to make it all fit is going to be a huge relief.
While the 1.0-litre motor doesn’t have reserves of power and torque, the ZS hasn’t yet felt as though it’s struggled in terms of performance. The dual-clutch transmission can be a bit hesitant on kickdown, so overtaking requires a bit of extra forethought, but there’s enough poke here to execute such manoeuvres in a manner that won’t lead to any snickers from underwhelmed passengers.
It rides well on the motorway, too, but I have observed a tendency for it to crash more than I’d like over pockmarked patches of road. More of a concern is the driving position.
The seats have a tendency to leave my lower back feeling a touch stiff; and as the steering column doesn’t adjust for reach, my knees are constantly bent over the pedals. As I’m fairly certain I won’t be experiencing a massive growth spurt over the next few months, I’m hoping this is something I’ll just be able to get used to. We’ll see.
On the whole, though, it’s been a (mostly) positive first acquaintance with our new MG ZS. I’m looking forward to getting to know this car better, and to finding out what its strengths and quirks are. I’m sure there’ll be plenty to discover; after all, we snappers aren’t an idle bunch.
While the MG ZS is a rather handsome-looking thing, I can’t help but detect traces of other cars in its overall design. Its front, for instance, bears more than a passing resemblance to the previous-generation Mazda CX-5. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind.
Specs: Price New ?17,495 Price as tested ?17,495 Options none
Test Data: Engine 3-cylinder, 999cc turbocharged petrol Power 109bhp at 5200rpm Torque 118lb ft at 1800-4700rpm Kerb weight 1239kg Top speed 112mph 0-62mph 12.4sec Fuel economy 45.4mpg CO2 145g/km Faults None Expenses None
The Kia e-Niro meets a diesel BMW X6 in an electric charging bay
Nice people, stupid people, Tesla lovers, strokes of marketing genius and the highs and lows of the charging network
Earlier this year, as part of a long-term test review, I had six months to discover just how good the Kia e-Niro is. But as the time neared its end, it became apparent that the car's real-world 250-300-mile range meant I hadn’t driven anywhere that necessitated the use of the UK's public charging network.
So it was that I took the plunge, adding further jeopardy by making this pioneering journey with my entire family in tow, off on our summer holidays to West Wales.
At worst, I wouldn’t return just on a flatbed truck but also divorced and with children who no longer wanted to know me.
The challenge was complex, because we needed to travel to and from Wales on the motorway networks, whereas we would be looking for every kind of charger available while we were there, from rural public spots to those provided by local car dealers and even, on occasion, three-pin plugs where we were staying.
However, 800 miles later and with two journeys of more than 250 miles under our belts, we were back home and still on speaking terms. It took some planning and there were fleeting moments of inconvenience and lost time, but it worked out just fine, a few ultimately minor dramas aside.
Here, then, are some of the lessons learned from a trip that proved to me once and for all that the capability of today’s EVs and charging network make the switch from a petrol or diesel car far easier than most people imagine.
1. Electric car people are nice people
I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. Social media is awash with virtue-signalling EV evangelists who jump at the chance to strike out at anyone who dare suggest even the slightest compromise of electrification. But everyone I met in an electric car was friendly, helpful and informative, and many went out of their way to help and educate me. This is the kind of advocacy needed to persuade anyone with doubts to switch to electric motoring, and it was a joy to discover a positive subject that bound people together in a common goal.
2. Some people can’t help behaving like idiots
Based on my journey, 'some people' is actually mostly made up of BMW drivers. The chap who parked his diesel X6 in a charging bay and left its engine running for 20 minutes? Idiot. The BMW 5 Series plug-in hybrid buyer who dropped it in a charging bay but then got ticketed because he wasn’t smart enough to plug it in? Bigger idiot. The only upside was that they weren’t using disabled bays, I guess.
3. The Tesco/Pod Point/Volkswagen tie-up is a stroke of genius
Parked up in Tesco in Cardigan taking on a quick top-up, I must have encountered close to 100 shoppers wanting to know what I and my Hyundai Ioniq-driving neighbour were up to. It helps, of course, that there are big signs and a video screen to catch the attention, but for most people I spoke to, it was the prospect of free fuel that had them intrigued and - from the quality of the questions - off to research more about electric cars. Greater news for EV uptake, even greater news if you’re about to launch the ID 3.
4. 7kW charging on the motorway is useless
You don’t need big energy to charge overnight at home, but it’s all you want when you’re trying to get somewhere. Incredibly, I encountered numerous motorway outlets that could only trickle around 20 miles of range into the car in the maximum 45 minutes of charging allowable. That's nigh-on useless and underlines that as well as expanding the network, providers must focus on upgrading it where appropriate.
I have pondered over naming and shaming, but the weight of evidence against Ecotricity is overwhelming, both from the fact that my only disrupted or failed charges came at its hands and the catalogue of complaints online. The company isn’t without its positives, but it's regularly providing the sort of experiences that would put off many people from making the switch to an electric car and prompt hugely damaging headlines. If it won’t improve its act, someone else should be asked to step in.
6. Planning ahead isn’t that hard - but it helps to do it
It sounds obvious, but if you’re like me, the only planning you’ve thought about ahead of long trips previously is trying to avoid rip-off motorway prices. Driving an electric car requires more care, but not much, and of course you get better with experience. There are apps to tell you where chargers are, how fast they charge, whether they’re working and whether they’re available to use. Even if you hate planning ahead, you’re looking at five minutes of homework.
7. Charging needs to be simpler
That said, the infrastructure providers and legislators need to bang their heads together fast. I was delighted to discover a Welsh Government initiative trying to pull together the mishmash of providers under an umbrella scheme, so that users could access all the chargers using one app or card, rather than having to sign up to a patchwork of providers. Rumour has it there are more than 50 providers in the UK; someone needs to get the patchwork working together or make contactless payment easier, becuase it’s not unreasonable for people to reject anything that makes life harder.
8. Range doesn’t just get you from A to B, it gives you options
For all the headlines about there being more chargers than fuel stations in the UK now, one of the electric car owner’s biggest fears must be crawling up to a charger only to discover it's either busy or broken. It actually happened to us, but whereas the 100-or-so-mile Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe owners were trapped in line, we could motor on to the next set of chargers. If you’re buying, don’t just consider what’s enough, consider what will give you freedom whatever the circumstances.
9. Everyone wants a Tesla
Every car maker is either launching or developing a so-called Tesla-killer, yet it only takes half a day on the road to realise just how lazy a line that is. Yes, Tesla has many issues to overcome and yes, it faces mounting opposition from the establishment, but be in no doubt that it remains the maker of the most desirable electric cars on the planet today, as well as garnering something of a cult status among children, the next generation of car buyers. It’s far from a perfect car company, but write it off at your peril. The Supercharger network is a major bonus, too.
10. Don’t underestimate the three-pin plug
It’s a crime that some car makers sell electric cars without the choice of what kind of cable you get with it. My advice would be to have both fast/rapid and three-pin options, as supplied by Kia. The latter may take days to fill a car like the e-Niro from empty to full, but it’s a great way to top up in remote locations and earn a few more options for where you can get to once you get going again.
11. The cars and the charging infrastructure are good enough today
I know there’s a mountain of obstacles still to overcome, but the number of mainstream media articles showing long-distance electric car journeys ending in disaster, prompting widespread disbelief at how the country will never be ready to switch, are nonsense. I know it’s possible because I did it and met tens of drivers who've happily taken on far more ambitious journeys without issue. Cars like the e-Niro with 250-plus miles of real range transform the capability, and there are more than enough performing chargers out there to keep most people moving. It’s not for everyone, I know, but I truly believe that for most of the people, most of the time, switching would be no barrier to their lives as they know them today.
12. Don’t forget what you’ve forgotten
As I write this, the e-Niro has gone to find a new owner, its loan having ended a week ago. Yesterday, I took my new test car - a perfectly brilliant diesel-powered seven-seat SUV - for its first fill. I’d forgotten how dirty fuel pumps are, how much time you end up spending at them and - above all - how expensive they are, to the extent one 500-mile tank cost me ?75. That's precisely half what I estimate the e-Niro to have cost me over 10,000 miles, thanks to my access to some free and much relatively cheap home charging. Charging sounds a faff, and it can be, but 99% of the time I plugged in and forgot about it until it was time to get in the car again. That is an infinitely preferable experience to going to a fuel station and parting with wads of cash.
Mercedes launched Maybach as a premium sub-brand in 2014, initially with a reworked Mercedes-Maybach S-Class. It has now confirmed that it will reveal the first Maybach SUV at an event in November.
Sources at the Frankfurt motor show told Autocar that the the GLS Maybach will launch at a price of around ?150,000. It has been developed to offer performance, accommodation and features commensurate with the existing Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, according to senior Mercedes-Benz officials. They cite China, North America and Russia among the new model’s key target markets.
Autocar can confirm the new Mercedes-Maybach GLS will receive its own unique styling elements, many of which will be drawn directly from the Mercedes-Maybach 6 coup? concept revealed at Pebble Beach in 2016 as a preview to the future of Mercedes-Benz’s Maybach sub-brand.
Despite retaining the same aluminium, high-strength steel and composite body panels as future standard GLS models, the new upmarket SUV is expected to sport a different grille and unique headlight and tail-light graphics, as well as added chrome and individual wheel designs in a move aimed at providing it with a more noble appearance in line with the current Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.
Secrecy surrounds the layout of the new Mercedes-Maybach GLS, although there are suggestions it could also have an extended wheelbase in an attempt to provide it with the sort of rear-seat leg room offered by the luxury SUV competition. The current 5130mm-long second-generation GLS rides on a 3080mm wheelbase – some 40mm shorter than that used by the 5199mm-long Range Rover SVAutobiography Long Wheelbase but 80mm longer than that of the 5140mm-long Bentley Bentayga.
Inside, the second of the new generation of Maybach models is planned to gain a luxuriously equipped cabin with appointments and materials beyond those of Mercedes-Benz’s existing Designo line. Among the more unique touches will be Maybach-themed digital instrument infotainment system graphics, says an insider closely involved in the new model’s development.
Although the standard third-generation GLS is planned to offer seating for up to seven on three rows of seats, the new Maybach model is set to offer two rows of seats with dedicated seating for four, or, as an option, five.
Among the engines likely to be offered by the future range-topping GLS model is Mercedes-Benz’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol mated to a standard nine-speed automatic gearbox, with both 4Matic four-wheel drive and Air Body Control air suspension due to be standard. Insiders also hint at plans for a twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 flagship, although this has yet to be officially acknowledged. Also under development for the new GLS are petrol-electric and diesel-electric hybrid drivetrains – the latter of which is set to debut in the E-Class later this year.
Mercedes-Benz’s plan to extend the Maybach line-up to include a GLS-based model comes after strong sales of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class.
Nissan Juke rival arrives on roads in November and completes Czech firm's SUV line-up
The Skoda Kamiq, revealed at Geneva motor show and on roads this November, will be priced from ?17,700.
The smallest SUV in Skoda’s line-up, the Kamiq range comprises four trim levels, S, SE, SE L and Monte Carlo, the latter of which will become available later this year. Of the three trims available to order now, prices range from ?17,700 to ?25,130. The Kamiq's key rival, the new Nissan Juke, starts from ?17,395.
Entry-level S trim includes 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail lights, air conditioning, infotainment system with DAB and a 6.5-inch touchscreen display. The mid-range SE model, from ?19,135, adds 17-inch alloy wheels, 8-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay, rear parking sensors and cruise control.
The Kamiq, which completes Skoda's European SUV range, will offer class-leading space and features, claims the Czech firm.
The Juke rival, first shown at the Geneva show, is smaller than its Karoq and Kodiaq siblings. The Kamiq is based on the Vision X concept shown at last year's Geneva show and is the first Skoda to show the influence of new design chief Oliver Stefani.
While it takes styling cues from both the Karoq and Kodiaq to ensure a 'family' resemblance between Skoda's SUV offerings, the Kamiq has several distinctive features, including a more upright grille and optional narrow LED running lights. The latter feature animated ‘dynamic’ indicators and sit above the main headlights. As with the new Scala, the boot displays the Skoda name in letters, instead of the firm's logo.
The Kamiq will be offered with front-wheel drive only. Although aimed primarily at a family market in urban areas, it will deliver “sporty” handling, according to project manager Emil Nikolov. The Kamiq is available with optional Sport Chassis Control, which makes the car sit 10mm lower than standard and uses adjustable shock absorbers.
Three petrol engines and one diesel are offered in the UK. There are two 1.0 TSI petrol options, with 94bhp and 113bhp respectively; and a 1.5 TSI petrol with 148bhp. The diesel offering is a 1.6 TDI with 113bhp. In certain European markets, a CNG powertrain will be offered, although this option won't come to the UK.
There is a choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
The new compact SUV is 4241mm long with a wheelbase of 2651mm, both of which are 85mm longer than the Arona. That also makes the Kamiq 106mm longer than the Juke, with a 121mm-longer wheelbase. Skoda says extending the wheelbase has allowed it to maximise interior space; the firm claims that the Kamiq has more rear leg room than in the Octavia and Karoq.
It has a boot capacity of 400 litres, identical to the Arona's and 46 litres bigger than the Juke's. The Kamiq's boot can be accessed using an electric tailgate and expands to 1395 litres with the rear seats folder.
The interior features a similar layout to the recently launched Scala, including the option of a 9.2in free-standing infotainment touchscreen that sits above a hand-rest 'shelf' and an optional 10.25in virtual cockpit. The air vents have been pushed to the side of the dashboard in a bid to increase space and ambient lighting is offered in three colours. Options include heated front and rear seats. Skoda claims more than 20 of its 'Simply Clever' features are available, including a removable LED torch in the boot.
The Kamiq will be offered with a permanent internet connection and a number of connected features, such as remote vehicle access via an app. The car comes with Front Assist and Lane Assist as standard, with optional safety features that include Park Assist, Rear Traffic Alert and a rear-view camera.
The Kamiq is unrelated to the Chinese-market SUV of the same name. That machine is larger and built on an older platform, but Skoda has used the same name because they are the smallest SUVs it offers in each market. As with the Karoq and Kodiaq, the Kamiq name is based on a word from the Inuit language. It "embodied something in which you can feel comfortable in any situation and that has its own character," according to Skoda sales boss Alain Favey.
The electric crossover-style SUV will be a big part of the VW ID brand's range offensive in the US. The bodywork similarities of these two prototypes suggest the ID 4 will be closely linked to the ID 3 it is testing alongside, albeit slightly larger and sporting more evident SUV design cues.
The ID 4 was on show at Frankfurt sporting a heavily camouflaged livery and inside a glass box wrapped in a similar pattern. The set-up was similar to that used by VW when it launched pre-sales for the ID 3 hatch earlier this year.
Despite the camouflage, the new EV appears to retain many of the same exterior themes as the ID Crozz concept car, which was first shown more than two years ago and then reworked for the 2017 Frankfurt motor show.
Two production versions of the ID Crozz will be offered: a coup?-SUV in the vein of the original concept and this straight SUV model with a more conventional roofline and tailgate design. We can also see it has conventional rear doors, ditching the sliding items of the 2017 car. It's not yet clear if the coup? variant will also adopt this approach, but it's likely.
The ID 4 will be built in Europe, the US and China, cementing its status as a truly global model and a crucial kingpin of the brand's rapid EV rollout.
"As early as 2020, we aim to sell 100,000 all-electric Volkswagens [per year]," said VW Group chairman Herbert Diess at the Crozz concept's 2017 unveiling. "But this is just the beginning. By 2025, annual sales could increase tenfold to one million vehicles."
Diess said the new ID electric car line-up will be offered alongside traditional combustion-engined and hybrid-powered VW models.
The ID 4 aims to combine the dynamic lines of a modern-day sports car with the all-terrain capability of a dedicated off-roader. It's said to offer interior space on a par with the Tiguan Allspace, a new long-wheelbase version of VW’s best-selling SUV model.
The ID Crozz concept is 4625mm long, 1891mm wide and 1609mm tall, putting it in between the five-seat Tiguan and seven-seat Tiguan Allspace in terms of dimensions. The wheelbase is 2773mm.
The MEB-based ID Crozz features two electric motors – one mounted within the front axle, and one at the rear - powered by an 83kWh lithium ion battery housed within the floor structure. The front electric motor sends its 101bhp and 103lb ft to the front wheels. The rear unit delivers 201bhp and 228lb ft to the rear wheels, giving the car a combined output of 302bhp and 332lb ft of torque.
This is just under 100bhp more than the powertrain used by the rear-wheel-drive ID hatchback, intended to offset a likely weight increase. The ID 4 is set to have a range of more than 311 miles, with no specific figure yet quoted. No performance figures have been revealed, though VW says it intends limiting the top speed to 112mph.
With the car's large battery mounted low down within the floor structure and the electric motors also housed within the axle assemblies front and rear, VW also claims it possesses a front-to-rear weight distribution of 48:52. VW officials have talked up the dynamic qualities, suggesting the new platform and chassis provide a “large spread between handling and comfort”.
New sports car will spearhead the German company's comeback; is inspired by its 2009 limited-edition GT MF5
German sports car maker Wiesmann will end a tumultuous period in its history by introducing a new car in 2020. Called Project Gecko internally, the model will draw inspiration from the limited-edition GT MF5 of 2009.
Project Gecko will spearhead the company's comeback after a short hiatus. It remains under wraps, but teaser images strongly suggest it falls in line with the previous design language, featuring a long bonnet that flows into an upright grille with vertical slats, plus a sloping roofline and pronounced rear wheel arches. Wiesmann points out that its stylists call the model an evolution, not a revolution.
Lightweight materials such as aluminium keep the car's mass in check. That's even more important than it was in 2009, because the regulations with which the coup? must comply to be street legal in key markets around the globe have become much stricter. Wiesmann has also pledged to modernise key features, likely in the name of comfort and daily usability.
Project Gecko – a name that won't be used in production – will arrive with a front-mid-mounted 4.4-litre V8 engine provided by BMW's M division. The twin-turbocharged unit will spin the rear wheels through a BMW-sourced automatic gearbox in a mechanical layout that enable a 50:50 weight distribution. Wiesmann hasn't published any performance specifications yet.
The new car will be assembled by hand at the original Wiesmann factory in D?lmen, Germany. Production is scheduled to start in 2020, so we expect to learn more details about the car over the coming months. While pricing hasn't been announced publicly, enthusiasts interested in the first new Wiesmann model in more than a decade can put their name on the waiting list from 17 September.
Wiesmann's decision to rummage through the BMW parts bin hardly comes as a surprise. Founded in 1988, the German firm has historically powered its cars with six, eight and ten-cylinder engines stamped with a Munich parts number. Using turn-key components allowed it to keep costs in check while developing limited-edition sports cars with a retro-inspired design, although it filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and has struggled to recover since.
Korean maker has had to cut off Nexo supply in Europe and US this year because of huge demand in home market
Hyundai Nexo sales are being held back by limited production capacity, but still growing exponentially according to the firm’s hydrogen fuel cell business head Dr Sae-Hoon Kim.
The Nexo, the firm’s second-generation production fuel cell passenger car, was launched last year, with plans to sell around 1500 cars in 2019. However, in Korea alone 5500 cars have been ordered, meaning supply has been cut off for potential US and European buyers.
“We have to do what makes most business sense, and with good subsidies available in Korea that could be cut off at any time the decision was made to fulfill those orders,” said Kim. “We are doing our best to meet demand but it keeps on growing.”
As a result Hyundai has invested in upping its production capacity of fuel cell vehicles to 40,000 per year, on a par with Toyota’s current projections. While these figures remain tiny in global car production terms, and even compared to battery-electric production numbers, Kim says that it brings production ever-closer to a point that it is commercially viable.
“At around 200,000 units a year you get the scale to buy the materials you need at a cost that could put a hydrogen car on a cost par with today’s battery-electric vehicles,” he said. “At the current rate of demand I can see that happening within five years.”
Kim also highlighted Hyundai’s recent work in developing fuel cell technology for commercial vehicles as a priority for advancing the uptake of hydrogen, saying: “The key is that you need 5-10 times more durability than for a passenger car, around one million kilometres,” he said.
“We can see today how we get to 500,000km in two to three years, and from there it is possible to take the next steps with the stack design I believe. These improvements don’t necessarily add cost - if you improve technology, sometimes it can reduce costs.”
One dealer had a 2012, 83,000-mile Ka 1.2 for ?2200
Are there bargains to be found via dealer groups online?
Got a fairly daft press release the other day going on about ‘decidophobia’. Apparently, we Brits struggle with information overload when buying a used car.
At that point, I’d have usually binned it, since the basis of the quoted stats will be a small survey. Good job I kept reading, though, because I found out that the company that carried out the survey is owned by Volkswagen and Daimler. They should have told me that a lot earlier rather than making up a phobia. They should also have mentioned they use selected dealers who supply cars that are less than eight years old and under 100,000 miles. So let’s go and do a virtual check of their stock.
Being me, I searched for cheapness first and came up with a bunch of city centre assault vehicles. First off, there was a Ford Ka 1.2 Studio from 2012. It had 83,000 miles and cost just ?2200, which is pretty good from a dealer group, in this case a Nissan outlet. They usually don’t stock affordables because they can be a pain to warranty.
Similar models included a 2012 Citro?n C1 1.0 VTR three-door at the same outlet with 70,000 miles and on offer at ?2500. Otherwise, a badge-engineered Peugeot 107 1.0 Urban with 77,000 miles and a couple of extra doors at ?2400 at a car supermarket offered something more practical.
You can compare and contrast, as most clever websites allow you to do these days. Plus you can get posh barges like Bentleys. Without searching too hard, I found a 2013 Bentley Flying Spur with 35,000 miles from Bentley’s own Specialist Car Division, priced at ?53,950. If a Spur makes you feel like a chauffeur, then a Continental GT – in this case, a 2012 car in Mulliner Driving spec – came in at ?57,950. Or ?69,000 would get you the same model and spec but this time as a roof-free GTC.
Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes come the everyday family cars. A Vauxhall Astra 1.4i Exclusiv from 2012 with 74,000 miles is a reasonable ?3500.
So what we have here is another way of choosing your next used car. You may well end up at the same place as you would have anyway, but it is true the reassurance is very nice. That is what buying from a dealer should be. There are 1400 dealers in this arrangement so there is plenty of choice. A couple of big manufacturers are involved so clearly there is money to be made from us. Should I use such a service, or some other used car search? I just can’t decide what to do.
What we almost bought this week
Perodua Myvi 1.3: When it was launched in 2006, Malaysia’s version of the Daihatsu Sirion cost just ?6799 after a ?1000 dealer cashback. Today, those same folk who bought into the tough little hatch should be congratulating themselves since, as we found, a 2010-reg example with 83,000 miles and full service history still commands a price of ?1690.
Tales from Ruppert’s garage
Land Rover Series 3, mileage - 130,565: Just checking in with the Lorry, which is doing sterling work, shifting all sorts of stuff. Indeed, not pictured is a load bay stuffed to the roof with all sorts of metal- and paper-based nonsense.
I also took the time to do a check and saw that, after a long time of being normal, the oil level had dropped a bit. I don’t think it is a problem – just might be a week or two longer since I checked. I use the mineral stuff that Halfords does, although I am sure someone else supplies something that is just as good. But I can’t be bothered to find it.
Honda Accord: Here’s the second instalment of Nick Williams’s love-in with used Hondas. “My Accord is still going strong. I’ve had it for five years now. It has done 90,000 miles and is extremely reliable. Expenditure – apart from insurance, car tax, fuel, servicing and MOT – has been a set of Michelin Primacy 3 tyres three years ago and brake pads and discs on the front.
“Even though it has a 200bhp 2.4-litre, I get very reasonable mpg. I think it will be our main car for years yet. And it’s not costing me a ?300-per-month PCP!”
Question: I paid a deposit on a car but have changed my mind about buying it. Can I get my money back? The car was a nearly new MX-5, so the dealer will have little trouble reselling it. Gary Kingman, Basingstoke
Answer: Whether the dealer does or does not have trouble selling it is irrelevant. In paying the deposit, you formed a legally binding contract to buy the car and your deposit is non-refundable. Circumstances when you could get your money back include if the dealer broke their side of their agreement, there’s a cooling-off period in the contract or you bought the car away from the dealer’s premises. John Evans
Question: I can’t decide between a 2016 Subaru BRZ SE Nav with 22,000 miles for ?14,290 and a 2015 Toyota GT86 D-4S with 24,000 miles for ?15,500. Both have full history. Can you help, please? Paul Hudson, via email
Answer: The Subaru is younger and ?1000 cheaper but still you’re undecided between it and the older, more expensive Toyota? It can only be an image thing because both are equally well equipped and drive identically. We’d go with the BRZ and spend the saving on getting a little more power out of that 2.0-litre engine. John Evans
Woking’s most user-friendly car to date is still a McLaren first and foremost, and a GT more in name than behaviour
McLaren says this is a new kind of grand tourer. A lighter, more dynamic, more, er, McLaren-y kind of grand tourer. It exists because the 570GT didn’t quite hit all its marks. It was gorgeous, rapid and more practical than the 570S, but the feedback from the punters was that they wanted a car like that but even more so. And the GT is the result.It's anything but a softened-off, reskinned and renamed 570GT. It has its own bodywork, its own specification of carbonfibre monocell, the 4.0-litre engine from the 720S – albeit with smaller turbochargers and high-compression pistons – and the Proactive Chassis Control suspension also developed for the 720S. Its steering, brakes and stability system all have a bespoke tune, while Pirelli has provided a new P Zero tyre with a compound that has a broader envelope of ability, particularly on wet roads.The engine has been lowered to provide more luggage space, while the ride height has been raised so that, with the nose lift, the GT will get over the same speed hump as a Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Inside, there’s a new instrument pack and sat-nav five times faster than the previous version. Yet the price is a surprisingly modest – by McLaren standards – ?163,000. Perhaps that’s why the company expects it to account for 25% of sales. And no, there's no Spider version in the current product plan, which extends up to 2023. The GT is a standalone model.Yet despite the fact that 60% of the parts on this car are new, it feels neither like a new kind of McLaren nor a new kind of grand tourer. It feels like a McLaren. And I have no issue with that.
Our reporters empty their notebooks to round up a week in gossip from across the automotive industry
In this week's gathering of gossip from the meeting rooms of motoring, we hear why Nissan didn't reinvent the Juke, how Mercedes' two very different EVs are very similar underneath, and more.
Marchionne's V12-powered legacy
A chance chat between former Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne, who died last year, and the design team led to the creation of the Monza speedster. Marchionne and the design team shared their love of speedsters of the past and “during this conversation, we said why not make one as a concept?” said Ferrari design boss Flavio Manzoni. “The project started like this.”
Off the buses
Citroen boss Linda Jackson has said it’s up to car makers to prove that the personal freedom cars can offer has a vital role in the future. “I think people have a bad view of the car industry,” Jackson said. “Everybody is knocking the car and saying it’s going to be impossible to get around in cities without everybody going to public transport… We want to say: ‘Hold on. People want freedom, liberty and mobility’.”
Merc's skin-deep differences
Although the new Mercedes-Benz EQV sits in a different segment from the EQC, development of the two was not entirely separate. “We’re working really close together,” said EQV engineer Volker Scheinh?tte of the two engineering teams. “We share the same software, but for the van features, we are branching out a bit.”
Rejuventating the Juke
Nissan designers considered reinventing the Juke for its second generation. “We wondered whether we should come with a completely different angle, but there was so much material from the first generation that we could improve, that’s the way we felt it should go,” said Nissan Europe design boss Matt Weaver.
The X2 visits BMW M to receive a hot-hatch drivetrain in its crossover-coup? body, with mixed results
Cars that try to be all things to all people usually end up feeling as compromised as the brief suggests. That’s what BMW set out to avoid with this latest version of the X2, which not only wants to mix a small SUV with a coup? but also morph into a hot hatch.You see, the X2 has paid a visit to BMW M to be fitted with a 302bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. This drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox – a spec that’s well into Volkswagen Golf R territory.M also fits its own tune of suspension, which is firmer and lower than that of the standard X2 on which the M35i is based. If you want the adaptive dampers that come with the M Sport package, you’ll have to sacrifice the 20in alloy wheels of our test car for a 19in set, because the larger wheels aren’t compatible. Even without that package, this is a ?42,000 car. Crikey.
German transport ministry tells Audi it must meet next week's deadline for retrofitting new diesel software
The German transport ministry has threatened to issue Audi with further fines if it does not meet upcoming deadlines for the retrofitting of manipulated diesel models with new software, according to German media reports.
Bild am Sonntag claims it has sighted documents revealing the German transport ministry has issued Audi with an ultimatum in relation to a demand originally made in 2017 to rid diesels of so-called “cheat software”.
It is said to lay out conditions that could see the German car maker slapped with fines should it not meet a 26 September deadline for the retrofitting of V6 and V8 diesel models with EU6 certification.
The retrofit measures are aimed at bringing various Audi models up to a legal state by adding software code that does not include manipulation measures that can lead to significantly higher emissions on the road than in test conditions.
As well as threatening further fines, the German transport ministry is also said to have informed Audi it will push ahead with plans to cancel the type approval for offending diesel models not retrofitted before the deadline.
Audi says it is within the timeframe to meet the 26 September deadline. “In September, and thus within the deadline set by the German transport ministry, we will table documents for a further 8200 vehicles,” it says.
All up, a total of 12,400 cars are said to be affected by the deadline. Audi says it has an additional software solution for the remaining 4200 cars. “We see no reason for a withdrawal of type approval," it says. "The solution is imminent; we will keep the deadline.”
Additionally, Bild am Sonntag reports Audi is facing a potentially costly buyback of older EU4 diesel models. Nothing is official just yet, although it cites sources suggesting the models in question cannot be made legal through software measures alone but require significant re-engineering of hardware.
Two new diesel engines, more standard equipment and improved interior refreshed large SUV
The updated RenaultKoleos large SUV will cost from ?28,195 when it goes on sale in the UK in November.
The new version of the model was first revealed at the Shanghai motor show, and receives a number of changes to bring it into line with the recently refreshed Kadjar sibling.
External changes are as subtle as they are on the Kadjar and include an altered grille, new skid plates front and rear and additional chrome. LED headlights are now standard fit across the range, while new two-tone alloy wheels and a Vintage Red paint scheme are added.
Interior upgrades include new soft-touch materials, trim details and two-stage reclining rear seats on all models. A new pedestrian detection function has been added to the active emergency braking system, while the infotainment now gets full-screen Apple CarPlay capability.
Renault has also added two new diesel engines to the Koleos. The first is a 148bhp 1.8-litre unit, replacing the 1.6-litre diesel in the outgoing model. It’s front-wheel-drive only, puts out 250lb ft of torque and is claimed to emit 143g/km of CO2 emissions. A new 2.0-litre also features with 187bhp and 280lb ft of torque, claiming 150g/km of CO2.
The marque has seemingly taken the opportunity to make both engines CVT-only, reflecting the decreased popularity of manual transmissions in this class. Greater refinement is also claimed, while the more powerful diesel comes with an intelligent all-wheel-drive system.
Alongside the material changes, Renault has also simplified the Koleos range. Two trim levels are now offered: Iconic and GT-Line.
Iconic models receive kit including a 18in alloy wheels, a 7in touchscreen, front and rear parking sensors, a rear parking camera, LED headlights, automative lights and wipers, and heated and cooled cup holders. Prices start from ?28,195 for the 148bhp dCi 150, and ?31,195 for the 187bhp dCi 190.
GT-Line trim adds 18in alloy wheels, an 8.7in touchscreen, an electric tailgate, leather seats and heated electrically adjustable front seats. That model costs ?30,195 and ?33,195 for the dCi 150 and dCi 190 respectively.
As a result, he wants to see charging infrastructure drastically improve to allow drivers to feel more confident. Should that happen, car makers won't have to fit batteries as large as they currently do to their electric cars, bringing the costs down as a result because the battery is often the most expensive component.
“I hope the infrastructure is fixed,” Speth said. “The price of electric cars is still too high, as we need to do a big range. So, you have a big battery that is needed, as you can’t charge the car. If you can charge, we can make the battery smaller and bring the cost down."
He continued: “There will be no reduced cost for three to five years. We need a more dense charging network, more quality and more quantity, that are more standardised and provide faster charging. You clearly need a good spread across the country, not just in London.”
Speth is convinced that electric cars are the future and that charging infrastructure will catch up as more are made by more car companies. “With more demand for chargers, it will come," he said. "It will come later, but it will come.”
Tarak Mehta, the boss of ABB’s electrification division, said working towards common charging standards is “a role we take very seriously”.
Mehta said that although he understands the reasons for car firms wanting to gain an edge with their own systems and infrastructure projects, this complicates the situation.
“With the nature of politics, the way the automotive OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] feel about themselves lends itself to not having too many common standards,” said Mehta. “The infrastructure is proportional to the [number of] standards, so one standard versus two has a substantial impact on the cost of infrastructure you need in any one geography.
“On the commercial vehicle side, we see a far more collaborative evolution. On the automotive side, let’s put it this way: it’s a bit more challenging. The good news is that, so far, in any one geography, we’re down to one or two standards, and that’s probably good enough.”
Although there has been a move towards a common charging plug design, EV owners still face the need to sign up with several companies in order to use a variety of charging points.
“The biggest issue [on the payment side] is data,” said Mehta. “Convergence could happen very quickly if there was an agreed data-sharing model, because a lot of data that comes with EV charging has value. Getting that data shared is a bigger issue than getting credit cards working [across different accounts] and having it standardised might take some regulatory effort.”
Can Alpina improve upon perfection? - 28 August 2019
The new B3 has arrived and prototypes for BMW’s new 4 Series have been spied at the N?rburgring, so it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a successor to our B4 S will soon arrive. I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t outdo the existing model in every measurable way, but will it look as pretty? I doubt it.
From the Italian peaks to another breathtaking pinnacle - 21 August 2019
We’re on the home straight. In fact, it’s a matter of mere weeks before the B4 S leaves Autocar’s long-term fleet and returns to Alpina GB. Obviously there’ll be a full debrief in due course, but the impending departure of its pinstriped form is triggering bittersweet emotions every time I slide aboard and start its straight six.
Most of this magazine’s editorial staff have the privilege of sampling several lifetimes’ worth of cars and that’s especially true for road testers, who drive numerous new models every week and are expected to assess and write reports on at least two or three of them. Never is there a dull moment, but the relentless variability is such that the constant of a comfortable, quick and decently discreet long-term test steed starts to feel very special. The B4 S is exactly such a car, and I already know I’ll miss it appallingly.
So now you understand why I was looking forward to collecting the Alpina from our road-test base after landing nearby at Heathrow airport one Saturday lunchtime. Not much sleep on a three-day job involving narrow Italian mountain roads and a preposterously wide car had left my charred brain cells craving its manageable dimensions, familiar cabin and comparatively stress-free insurance premium. What I didn’t expect to hear emanating from the engine was a rotary thud reminiscent of helicopter blades turning from afar. It was less pronounced with the gearbox disengaged and dissipated above 1700rpm or so, but sounded too heavy-set to be top-end and that made me very worried indeed.
On the Monday, another visit to my nearest BMW service centre (last time it was lambda sensors) confirmed this was a particularly unwelcome noise and that I should expect to be relieved of the car for a short while. As it happened, an on-the-spot check found all eight bolts on the crankshaft pulley hub were loose, and simply torquing them cured the problem immediately. The engine will at some point need a new hub, however, as there’s now some wear within the bolt holes. That will be replaced under warranty, but if any readers know why this odd problem might have arisen in the first place, I’d be interested to hear from you.
Elsewhere in the past few weeks, one of Autocar’s Subscriber Extra events demanded a trip to Bentley’s premises in Crewe. A 300-mile day with a foray onto Cheshire’s matrix of excellent B-roads was perfect B4 S fodder, and spotting the W12- engined Continental GT currently run by fellow staffer Rachel Burgess in the factory car park didn’t make me envious in the slightest. Not only is the smaller car’s total lack of pretence massively appealing, but it’s also a car to which a slither of oversteer comes so naturally. Priorities. A good margin of fresh air between the bodywork and scenery on all but the smallest roads also allows you to place the car confidently and wring out the performance.
Steering The steering wheel is thin and the action is totally instinctive. Sport mode allows you to set the engine map independently of the suspension and steering, so you can get the sharpest throttle response with light steering.
DAB, or lack thereof Almost every new car we test now has digital radio. The software in the Alpina isn’t enabled, and it’s irritating when your favourite London stations drop out by the time you’ve reached Luton.
Life with an Alpina B4 S: Month 4
A mini road test truly brings home the brute force at this car’s disposal - 31st July 2019
Alpina began with racing and only later branched out into the world of road cars, so it’s no surprise those cars are fast. What you might not realise is just how seriously it takes the business of covering the length of a football pitch per second.
For high-speed driving there is the draped bodykit, and in recent times the design of these parts has been informed by wind-tunnel testing at BMW. However, at this price level there are limitations to what’s achievable with aero and so elsewhere Alpina needs to be clever.
For example, the supremely natural steering action is just a touch firmer off-centre in the petrol models than the diesel models. Why? Because the diesels typically manage only around 170mph on the autobahn whereas the petrols – as we discovered first-hand when our B4 S hit 201mph – will go beyond 190mph and so the additional composure is beneficial.
Similarly, the new B7 runs a much greater degree of negative camber and toe-in than a regular BMW 750i. It helps the car better execute one of Alpina’s more dramatic handling benchmarks: a sudden lane change at 185mph.
But all this stuff is mostly irrelevant outside Germany. What we’re interested in is how a car goes below 100mph. To this end, I promised a while ago we’d attach our VBOX telemetry equipment to the B4 S and, during a quieter moment of the recent Ferrari 488 Pista road test, the opportunity to do so arose. The metrics of particular interest are 30-70mph in fourth gear (indicative of mid-range torque and flexibility), 50-70mph in third gear (power and pace further up in the rev range) and 0-100mph, if only for the bigger picture.
The numbers are surprising. On a warm track, the B4 S managed 4.6sec for the fourth-gear run, which if nothing else underlines the fact Buchloe’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo six makes a remarkable 486lb ft. That time is not only quicker than that of the new Porsche 911 Carrera S (5.3sec) and Aston Martin Vantage (4.7sec), but also the new Mercedes-AMG C63 S (4.7sec), which uses the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 as the Vantage and is generally regarded as something of a torque monster.
Curiously, the new Audi RS4 Avant matched the Alpina, despite the heavier estate body and four-wheel drive hardware. The outgoing M4, which we tested in 2014 and in pre-Competition Package guise, mustered only 5.4sec.
You would expect the tables to turn further up the rev range, and things are indeed a lot closer. Nevertheless, for the 50-70mph run in third gear, the Alpina stopped the clock at 1.8sec. In a car that prioritises old-world refinement and usability, that’s a very quick time. In fact, it’s a tenth quicker than the Aston Martin and Porsche. Quicker too than the RS4, but matched exactly by the AMG. In a nutshell, the B4 S is a total assassin.
Admittedly, for the sprint to 100mph from a standstill, its power to surprise begins to wane. A time of 9.0sec lags behind that of the Carrera S (7.7sec) and the Vantage (8.3sec), and also the M4 by two tenths, but still beats the C63 S and the RS4 Avant. With traction only slipping momentarily in second gear, its time was hampered certainly by the lack of launch control and also by its slower gearshifts.
Alpina would argue that neither fractionally quicker cog-swapping nor the ability of a computer to balance power with traction and flawlessly fire the car off the mark is particularly relevant on a weekday evening, and I’m inclined to agree. I would like it if the delivery was more linear, though – when the larger turbo wakes up at around 3000rpm, you really know about it. Step-off and the initial wave of acceleration can also feel a bit abrupt when you’re crawling about at low speeds. Curiously, leaving the ’box in Sport mode can help.
But more broadly, if the aim of this long-term test is to determine whether ?65,000 is too expensive for a 4 Series that isn’t an M-car, in terms of performance the answer has to be a resounding ‘no’.
Sunroof Along with the light upholstery and zero window tints, the cabin’s lounge-feel is a delight – and genuinely calming.
’Opal’ leather When it’s clean, it’s lovely – if a bit fancy. Reckon on wiping it down with Autoglym (or some such) every 2000 miles, though.
We fitted a ‘race’ display alongside the instrument binnacle’s beautifully crisp and legible blue-backed roundels. The small screen, for which you will need to sacrifice an air vent, is a ?650 factory option and gives data on g-force, split times for accelerations, oil temperature and so on. It’s largely superfluous but it’s a lovely bit of geekery.
You might be surprised by how much it costs to service a B4 S - 10 July 2019
You might wonder what the service schedule for an Alpina looks like. Equally, you might have better things to do, but since you’re reading this, I’ll assume there’s a degree of interest.
In fairness, it’s an interesting question, because although the B4 S looks a lot like the BMW 440i on which it’s based – albeit a supersonic version – there is almost no part of the donor car Alpina leaves untouched. The aluminium crankcase is recast to take an extra turbo along with the associated oil and water reservoirs, but this is just the start. An entirely new cooling system is fitted, replete with a high-performance intercooler; the Akrapovic exhaust system, which uses the smallest silencer possible, is unique to the car; the hand-assembled Drexler limited-slip diff is unique; forged 20in wheels and bespoke Michelin tyres are unique; and the ZF gearbox is heavily reworked. You then have a pretty extensive aero kit, massively optimised suspension geometries and a high-quality coat of paint.
So it’s surprising to discover the service requirements are exactly the same for a B4 S as for the 440i, which means a trip to the dealer every 16,000 to 18,000 miles, depending on your driving style. On the day I called Sytner Nottingham, for such a service they quoted ?667 for a 440i M Sport, ?1050 for an M4 Competition and ?675 for the B4 S. The M4, like all M cars, also requires a 1200-mile running-in service, at which point the gearbox and differential oil is changed and the car’s launch control function is enabled. Launch control isn’t particularly ‘on brand’ for Alpina and, helpfully, neither does the B4 S need this type of service.
Rubber is expensive, but not unreasonably so. A set of ALP-branded Michelin Pilot 4S tyres costs ?1210 versus ?1230 for a set of the slightly wider Pilot Super Sports on an M4 Competition. Wear doesn’t seem to be a particular problem, either, although a few skid shots at Longcross proving ground might soon change that.
Moving on, I mentioned last time that the pressures for these tyres seem on the high side. And at the recommended 49psi, they really are generously pumped up. An M4 Competition on 20in wheels should run around 40psi tops, but Alpina’s factory-set figures need to account for the car being driven at its quoted top speed of 190mph, with four passengers on board and all their luggage. Lower pressures could result in heat building up to the extent that it damages the construction of the tyre and causes a delamination. At autobahn speeds, the ensuing accident would resemble an aircraft crash, hence why Michelin and Alpina don’t take any chances.
In the UK, we don’t drive anything like as fast and the back seats of this particular B4 S are as virginal as the day they were upholstered in Buchloe. I’ve therefore set the pressures to 44psi (well, maybe a smidge less) at the front and 38psi at the rear: figures communicated to us unofficially, but nevertheless what the chassis engineers recommend for one passenger with luggage. I won’t say the effect has been revelatory, because the car rode remarkably well as it was, but the front axle now gets greater purchase with the road and rolls along with an oily slickness. Counterintuitively, the balance is also a bit more oversteery, particularly in the wet – no bad thing, so long as you’re up for it. Overall, the car’s ride and handling mix now feels as though it’s sitting in a sweet spot, and because this is an Alpina, that spot is very sweet indeed.
Exhaust note It’s unexpectedly fierce once the valves open at around 3000rpm; deadened a touch by the turbos, but an addictive straight-six snarl.
Chunky airbag Thin-rimmed wheel is a delight to hold, but the airbag looks too chunky. Thing is, the racy M-car alternative would look out of place.
Last week, it was 201mph in our McLaren. This week’s 201mph run is courtesy of Alpina - 19th June 2019
Can we agree that many comparison tests are predictable affairs? Any new hot hatch will go to Wales with a mob of its peers, any new limousine will lose to an S-Class, and so on. Equally, some of these contests are much more oblique and all the more intriguing for it. They brew up in your brain unsolicited, ready to break out at a time when you almost certainly won’t have a pen to hand. Like on the autobahn.
Our B4 S has been back to mainland Europe, serving as rapid transit between a reporting job at Ford’s Lommel proving ground in Belgium (believe me when I say the new Focus ST will be worth the wait), Cologne airport and the N?rburgring, where we drove some other interesting cars you’ll hear about soon. It was 1000 miles in four days, much of it on the fastest public roads on the planet but with enough rat runs through the Ardennes and Eifel to relieve any itch for hard cornering. It was a perfect mission for our long-termer.
It reminded me of a similar trip in a Ferrari 575M Maranello – a manual in Tour de France blue with the Fiorano handling pack, so doubtless worth many billions of pounds by now. I mention it because although the Italian car has double the cylinder count of the Alpina, the similarities are striking elsewhere. Each is purely rear driven, each weighs 1690kg, and although the Ferrari is shorter, lower and wider, you wouldn’t know it unless you parked the pair abreast.
With 508bhp, the 575 makes a little more power, but because the Alpina is twin-turbocharged (BMW’s N55 block is recast to take the additional turbo), it wins the battle for torque, and so the official 0-62mph times are a dead heat at 4.2sec.
Surely, though, it’s no contest on the autobahn? Well, the slippery Ferrari’s claimed top speed is 202mph but our Alpina nailed an indicated 201mph on the deathly quiet stretch of the A1 that begins at Kradenbach, so you can forgive me for calling honours even.
It’s a great comparison, because since the launch of the repressively hardcore 812 Superfast, the 575 Maranello has become ever more the poster child for what muscular GT cars should really be about. It’s an aristocrat. Meanwhile, the Alpina is mostly seen as the pipe-smoking uncle of BMW’s M4 and yet these are in many ways the same fabulously capable, cultivated and charming machine. So my question is this: does the B4 S owner of the present day get much the same experience as the 575 owner of yesteryear, only for less than half the ?160,000 buy-in?
Allowing for the more intangible elements – any 12-cylinder Ferrari is endlessly special, above even Alpina’s homegrown appeal – my cautious opinion is that they do, which seems mad because unquestionably the B4 S is expensive for a 4 Series.
Moving on, here are some concrete observations accumulated during the trip. The ‘Merino’ leather-lined seats look ordinary but even after eight hours on the road I can say they are among the most comfy I’ve experienced in any class of car. You simply don’t notice them (unlike, ahem, those in the Ferrari), and that’s the greatest compliment I can give a chair. Less impressive is the brittleness that can creep up through the steering on rougher roads.
Alpina’s recommended pressures seem on the high side, so we’ll see if bleeding off a bit of that pressure improves the otherwise excellent ride quality. And on the subject of tyres, Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4S rubber is formidable come rain or shine. In combination with Drexler’s limited-slip differential the B4 S generated phenomenal traction on the twisting roads surrounding the ’Ring.
Stints at very high speeds dropped economy from the usual 28mpg to 25mpg, which is still acceptable given the performance. And finally, that performance itself: in the next few weeks, we’re going to fix our timing gear to the B4 S and see just how quick it really is on the mile straight at MIRA. My gut says it’s a giant-slayer.
Cavernous boot It’s lavishly carpeted, naturally, and holds a vast 445 litres – more than almost any other coup? of comparable performance.
Switch-tronic There’s little wrong with the shift, but a car this quick needs paddles, not little buttons. Those found in the new Edition 99 would do nicely.?
B4 isn't sure it's breathing properly - 22nd May 2019
An engine-management light is very rare in an Alpina this young, apparently, but the helpful techs at Baron’s BMW Kentish Town tell me it’s a lambda – or oxygen – sensor. There’s one each side of the cat, and one (or both) isn’t reading properly. The B4 S remains very much operational, but the new part’s arrival could be a fortnight away.
We approved of the car the first time we drove it – thankfully now the DVLA does too - 8th May 2019
Some will have clocked a gap in our Alpina reports stretching back into February, a hole of almost three months. An explanation is now required.
Has the road-test desk been enjoying the car’s unassuming but quite devastating performance too much to have bothered to file a single report? Plausible, but no. Has the car suffered some embarrassing mechanical catastrophe and quietly been shuffled from the limelight? Thankfully not.
The truth is to be found some 6800 miles from road-test headquarters at 30, Teban Gardens Crescent, Singapore. It’s here you’ll find Alpina’s sole concessionaire in the world’s third wealthiest per capita economy. It’s also where this B4 S was originally destined, where indeed it briefly ventured, and where it probably would have stayed were it not for the fact that, due to a punitive tax regime, over there an Alpina like this costs about the same as a 911 Turbo. No contest? Not really, and people said so with their wallets.
And so to cut a saga short, there are plenty of countries that, like Singapore, drive on the left, but very few that have an established appetite for brand-new and expensive Alpina cars. It meant that after failing to find a buyer, our example was shipped back to Germany and converted to the UK spec in preparation for a stint at the magazine you’re holding. After we drove it home from the Alpina factory in Buchloe on temporary German export plates – a splendidly comfortable and sometimes breathtakingly fast journey touched on in our initial report (6 February) – that should have been that.
Alas, as it was originally Singapore-bound, this particular Alpina never received what’s known as a Certificate of Conformity for European markets, which details everything from engine power to axle weights. Several attempts to register the car with the DVLA were therefore thwarted, hence the delay. But eventually, after various documents were unearthed and decoded from German, an Individual Vehicle Assessment was booked and the DVLA duly satisfied. “You’d think we had built our own kit-car, and built it badly” was how one manager at Sytner, the UK importer for all Alpina cars, put it during a phone call.
Now we have it back, already our B4 S has had a run-in with the new 911, if only in passing. Given the asking price for what is essentially a modified 4 Series, albeit modified extensively, I think it’s reasonable to compare the two cars and it’s a duel we’ll return to in more detail over the coming months. But so far it is one-nil to Alpina. Okay, so rolling refinement isn’t the be-all and end-all for a performance car, but the older, fractionally less powerful (but far more torquey) car was demonstrably more relaxing on the 140-mile, motorway-heavy route up to MIRA, where the 911 recently underwent the track element of its road test.
The Porsche’s problem is its beefed-up rear spring rates. They support the mass of the engine sublimely in the Welsh mountains but channel considerable tyre roar into the cabin at a cruise and have the chassis labouring on less than ideal surfaces.
The Alpina isn’t perfect in either respect, but despite the vast, 20in forged wheels and 30-section tyres, it glides along by comparison, treading lightly and riding fluidly. Its 3.0-litre straight six matches the displacement and turbo count of its compatriot, but it’s also less booming than those famous horizontally opposed half-dozen cylinders, with the tall seventh gear overdrive dropping the tacho to around 1700rpm at a quick cruise.
Among cars of comparable size and performance, it’s without peer in its long-legged manners, at least in this tester’s humble opinion. You’d never know what performance lurked within, and it would be even better if you could select the Sport weighting for the notably delicate steering but keep the two-way adaptive dampers in Comfort.
I suppose that is the most attractive element of Alpina’s proposition. No matter where this B4 S may end up during it’s time with us or what rivals it might come up against, you just know it’s always going to be the one everybody will want to drive home.
Unfussy looks The ‘F32’ 4 Series provides a superb basis for Alpina’s additions – the muscular lines are deceptively simple but purposeful.
White leather It’s already picking up marks and slightly undermines the B4’s vibe as a serious driver’s car. Makes for a wonderfully airy cabin, though.
Bit of trivia for you: all Alpina cars have two VINs. The first is applied to the donor chassis as it travels down BMW’s production line. But the development engineering and some pre-assembly still takes place at Buchloe. It’s here the original VIN is crossed out and a new one etched on when the car has its aero components and interior fitted.
This car is special, but special enough to merit the outlay? Let’s find out - 6th February 2018
Tiny Alpina doesn’t have the inventory resources of a major car maker, so it’s rare a box-fresh example can be conjured for a long-term magazine test. Rare, and sweeter still if you happen to be the road tester dispatched to the Bavarian town of Buchloe for a factory collection.
This magazine makes no secret of its fondness for Alpina’s under-the-radar approach. The cars go like rockets but are a pin-hammer to M division’s nail guns: less thrilling but more obliging when all you want is to hang a picture. And frankly, I defy anybody not to warm to a company whose engineer-founder Burkard Bovensiepen not only chooses to live slap-bang between final assembly and the engine workshop but also harvests the hot test-bench exhaust gases to heat his swimming pool.
There’s also an unusual side hustle, to help make ends meet: wine. Half a million bottles of it are stored on site. In the early days of tuning BMW engines for racing, Bovensiepen would arrive at far-flung meets in a van stacked with spare parts. And being parts for touring cars, most of them never made it back. The vacated space became the basis of a wine distribution network. Fast cars and wine don’t really go, but Alpina has a habit of deftly defying convention.
It’s why, were it our money, at least one-third (and most probably two-thirds) of the road test desk, which will be running this B4 S, would opt for Alpina’s alternative to the BMW M5. There isn’t a journey I wouldn’t cheerfully undertake, in any weather and at any speed, from behind the wheel of the B5 Biturbo because the chassis is so gloriously supple, given how rigorously it marshals 600bhp. Speed, comfort and control – the concentrations are just right for day-to-day driving.
Our new long-term test car is similar in conception but has a tougher task. It’s smaller than the B5 Biturbo so won’t naturally ride with the same composure, even though it needs to get close to that level to justify its price. As a bona fide performance coup?, it simultaneously needs to be responsive; not M-car alert but not far off.
BMW subsequently pacified the M4’s twitchy suspension, creating a far more exploitable road car, before Alpina gave the B4 a minor increase in power to create the B4 S. As it stands, the result is two extremely similar cars on paper. It’s no wonder Alpina UK spends plenty of time telling confused potential customers that this car is not a BMW trim level offered as some sort of expensive satellite to the M division’s wares.
So what better journey to enlightenment than the one from Bavaria to London? The evolution of BMW’s N55 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six, tuned to deliver 434bhp and a mammoth 486lb ft – and deliver it beautifully – is a story for another report. Suffice it to say this is a very special motor and one that, nourished by Aral’s near-mythical 102-octane brew, fired our B4 S to an indicated 194mph on a section of autobahn near the Belgian border. Less fire, more waft, in fact.
Alpina’s chassis revisions have always seemed impossibly painstaking when you consider just 250 or so employees turn out only around 1500 cars each year. The bushings are bespoke, and so are the anti-roll bars, dampers and springs, and the geometry. The ‘ALP’-marked tyres are also a custom compound from Michelin and are definitely not of the dreaded run-flat variety. Again, any ride assessment deserves more space than it can get today, but 1049 miles in two days suggest Alpina’s diligence has mostly paid off.
As this is an introductory report, we should talk about specification, of which there is much. Alongside the detail work to the engine and adaptive suspension, as standard Alpina fits a rich-sounding Akrapovic sports exhaust more Joe Bonamassa than Kirk Hammett, and the S, unlike the original B4, also benefits from a mechanical limited-slip differential.
There is engine stop/start, automatic LED headlights, DAB radio, cruise control, parking sensors, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, heated electric sports seats and folding wing mirrors. Those using the car daily will want for nothing, it seems.
Optionally, our car wears Alpina’s hallmark blue metallic paint (?1590) with an Opal White leather interior (?1215) whose purity will probably prove harder to preserve than a wedding train dragged through a farmyard. Additional noteworthy outlay is detailed in the test data box at the bottom of the page.
The total cost for this particular 4 Series, with options, is ?78,880. When Porsche gets round to pricing the basic 992-generation 911 Carrera later this year, it’s likely to settle on a similar figure, and perhaps this single but significant fact undermines the case for the B4 S altogether. I’m not so sure.
The Alpina is faster and a more special, unusual sight on the road. It comes with added practicality and is built from an outfit overflowing with charm, history and a sense of intimacy. Could it possibly be worth the money? It just might. In three months’ time, we’ll know for sure.
Specs: Price New ?63,000 Price as tested ?72,880 Options Alpina Blue metallic paint ?1590, Opal White merino leather ?1215, BMW Icon adaptive LED headlights ?1200, reversing assist camera ?330, glass sunroof ?825, Harman Kardon sound system ?325
Test Data: Engine 2979cc, 6cyls, petrol Power 434bhp at 5500rpm Torque 486lb ft at 3000rpm Kerb weight 1690kg Top speed 190mph 0-62mph 4.2sec Fuel economy 31.0mpg CO2 207g/km Faults None Expenses None
Speaking to Autocar earlier this year at the new XE’s unveiling, senior product planning manager Wayne Darley said the XF was “the next priority”.
“If you look at when those two cars [XF and F-Pace] went on sale - late 2015 and early 2016 - that gives you a good idea of the timings”.
The changes will be as significant as the XE, with evolved exterior looks but significant cabin upgrades, focusing on a substantial boost in perceived quality and new technology features. Like the smaller saloon, the XF is set to adopt features from the I-Pace, including a new secondary central screen for the climate control functions and a new steering wheel.
Both cars will also join the XE in receiving RDE2-compliant diesel engines, which Darley said required a “huge push” on the engineering side to ensure the XE was the first car in its class to market with the ultra-efficient engines ahead of an emissions regulation change in 2021.
What remains unclear, however, is whether the XF S will return. The new XE will no longer be available with the supercharged V6 S variant for the rest of its lifecycle, while V6 petrol and diesel versions of the F-Pace and XF are no longer on sale.
Jaguar Land Rover has just released a new inline six-cylinder petrol engine in the Range Rover Sport, but with the XE S axed due to slow sales it remains to be seen whether that engine will return to the larger models.
The prototype spied here sports a petrol powerplant, according to number plate data, but there is no indication it uses a mild hybrid system as such checks commonly reveal. It remains to be seen if the model will benefit from the same efficiency-boosting 48v electrified system as its Land Rover cousins - but given the XF's older platform, it's not likely.
There are many things to like about the Tigra: it’s an eye-catching, hard-top convertible that’s reliable, easy to drive and cheap to run
Vauxhall has a habit of pulling a rabbit out of the hat from time to time. Remember the original Zafira with its Flex7 seating system and the Signum with its FlexSpace rear-seat arrangement? You can add another in the shape of the Tigra of 2004-09 – a pretty Corsa-based car with a clever electric folding roof.
Forward 15 years and the classifieds, if not exactly wilting under the weight of used Tigras, are at least straining slightly. Prices start at just ?500 for runners of all ages and top out at a shade over ?3000. Around ?1500 is all you need for a clean, well-serviced example from a good home.
The model arrived with a choice of two petrol engines: a 1.4 16-valve producing 89bhp and a 1.8 producing 123bhp. A 69bhp 1.3 CDTi diesel followed in 2005. The 1.4 was the best. What it lacks in outright oomph it makes up for by being sweeter, more flexible and considerably more economical than the 1.8. However, it suffers timing chain issues (you can spot a 1.4 a mile off by its tinkling engine) whereas the 1.8 is a straightforward new-belt-at-40,000- miles affair.
Those are the engines but the folding roof is why people bought the Tigra – and what a roof. To operate it, you undo a couple of latches, press a button and watch as the motors take over. It should be stowed within 20 seconds. To ensure it folds away neatly, the rear window and pillar drop almost vertically, allowing the roof panel itself to stow unobtrusively above, so preserving boot space.
On that point, with the roof folded away, there’s 250 litres of luggage space, while in the closed position, there’s no less than 440 litres. In addition, there’s a shelf behind the front seats (there are no rear seats) that will happily accept 70 litres of luggage or something the size of a sports bag.
Allowing for the fact that the roof seals may now be tired, the cabin should be relatively quiet and certainly watertight with the roof up. Over time, body shimmer may have loosened some of the cabin’s fixtures and fittings but otherwise it’s a well-built car that should still feel reasonably tight.
The rear Targa-style section of the roof could be specified in either matt metallic Star Silver or in matt Moonland, both of which give the little car a pleasingly sporty and technical appearance. Alternatively, it could be ordered in the car’s body colour, which makes quite an impact. On that point, we found a very pretty 2009-reg 1.4 with 45,000 miles finished all over in yellow, a rare shade, for ?2500.
Today, trim levels are rather academic but Exclusiv (leather, aircon and alloy-effect touches to the interior) is a good one to shoot for. Sport versions get 16in alloy wheels and a silver Targa-style section.
In no way is the Tigra a driver’s car, but as a cheap and attractive hatchback with a difference, it makes a lot of sense.
An expert’s view
Tim Harrison, founder, Fix My Vauxhall: “I’m an auto electrician and have been working on Vauxhalls since the 1980s. The Tigra’s roof is generally reliable. I can’t think of many issues apart from failure of the pump modulator. Otherwise, being a Corsa under that trick body, the Tigra is a reliable and easy-to-drive car that’s also surprisingly well equipped. I mean, leather, climate control and a Targa-style panel that could be painted in a contrasting colour are pretty impressive on a car costing such little money, even when new. Don’t ignore the diesel. It’s a Fiat engine and pretty tough, as well as economical.”
? Engine: The 1.4 suffers timing chain tensioner problems. It’s a common fault and heard as an annoying rattle at tickover that just gets louder over time. Fresh oil every year or 12,000 miles is key to its extended life but they still wear out in the end. Best thing is to have the chain and water pump replaced at purchase. Avoid 1.4 engines with numbers beginning 19F, which may have sub-standard camshafts. The 1.8 uses a belt that should be changed at 40,000 miles. Both engines can suffer uneven running caused by a faulty oxygen sensor and alternator issues at around 70,000 miles.
? Transmission: If selecting reverse is difficult, suspect worn linkage bushes. Replacement is the only long-term cure. Don’t worry: the 1.8-litre version isn’t missing a sixth gear; it just feels like it needs one because fifth is far too low. It feels notchy as well.
? Brakes: Check front discs and pads for wear. Ensure the handbrake releases because the rear shoes can stick to the drums in damp weather. Scrutinise workshop invoices for evidence of biennial brake fluid changes.
? Body: Check the hood cycles correctly and the roof seals fit tightly. Inspect the headlights for misting.
? Interior: Feel for water ingress via the door-mounted speakers. (Water gets in through the top window seals, runs down the inside of the door and exits near the speakers.) Check the floor for damp caused by water entering via the brake master cylinder, where the rubber mastic bonding it to the bulkhead has failed.
Also worth knowing
If the roof plays up, first try leaving the battery disconnected for three hours. Reconnect it and drive for 30 minutes until you hear a bleep signifying the system has reset itself. Otherwise, a slow roof could be a failing pump modulator. We found a set of two used pumps and rams for ?150.
How much to spend
?500-?999: A good selection of 1.4s and 1.8s with long MOTs and up to 90,000 miles.
?1000-?1499: Better condition, lower mileages and many with full service histories.
?1500-?1999: The best cars begin at this money, most with leather, air-con, sat-nav, full service history and about 50,000 miles.
?2000-?3500: Strongly priced cars, but ?2500 buys the best 2009 1.4 16v Exclusiv with 34,000 miles so be wary of paying more.
One we found
Vauxhall Tigra 1.4I 16V Exclusiv, 2009/58-red, 72k miles, ?1495: Finished in bright blue metallic with a matt silver rear roof section, this Tigra really stands out. Other highlights include its seven service stamps and long MOT. Being Exclusiv, it has heated leather seats and climate control.
A breakthrough in motor and electronics design by Continental AG allows mild hybrids to deliver electric-only driving like a full hybrid for less cost
As well as allowing cars to temporarily run on electric power, a 48V system can take care of all the ancillaries
It may not sound like it, but it’s probably one of the smartest innovations aimed at making cars more sustainable that has emerged in the past few years: 48V technology.
It’s relatively cheap and fits into existing vehicle architectures but it’s only just coming of age. As well as providing a hybrid drive, it can handle loads of tasks that need doing around the car but previously used energy created by burning fuel.
While 48 might look like a figure plucked out of the air after a brainstorming session in the bar, there are good reasons for it. The first is that it’s classified as low voltage and safe. Anything above 60V in a car is deemed a high-voltage system – and a high-voltage system is a lot more expensive than a low-voltage one. The safety systems, power controllers and heavy cabling involved in a high-voltage system all contribute to the high price, whether it’s 65V or 800V. Power (watts) derives from the voltage and the current (amperage). Increase either and the wattage goes up. But increasing amperage requires the use of larger, heavier, more expensive cables to reduce electrical resistance, whereas using a higher voltage and lower current doesn’t. A 48V battery is small and relatively inexpensive and installation is straightforward because a 48V electrical architecture sits alongside the car’s original 12V system.
The use of 48V architectures is on the rise because the electrical consumption of cars has gone up due to more complex infotainment, connectivity and navigation systems and the dozens of driver assistance systems emerging. Cameras, radar, sensors and controllers plus the electronic systems to go with them all need more power than a 12V system can deliver. A 48V set-up also allows jobs normally done by the engine – such as powering electric water pumps, air conditioning compressors, oil pumps and heating – to be offloaded to electrical power, saving fuel. Automatic gearboxes can function when engines are shut down thanks to electric oil pumps; stop/start becomes smoother and can kick in before the car comes to a halt saving more fuel; and electric boosters in diesels reduce turbo lag.
Obviously, there are limitations. Until now, the assumed maximum power of a low-voltage hybrid (or EV) motor/generator has been around 12kW (16bhp). That low, 12kW power figure has limited mild hybrids to boosting power and recovering energy, rather than providing an electric-only mode like a (high-power) full hybrid. Now, though, it looks as though that limit has been busted. Component supplier Continental AG recently announced a new 48V mild-hybrid drivetrain producing 30kW (40bhp). The improvement has been achieved by increasing the efficiency of the power control system and new design of high-efficiency, water-cooled motor/generator. The increase in power means it’s possible to drive short distances in electric-only mode like a full hybrid and makes the prospect of powering small city cars and scooters using 48V systems even more realistic.
It’s the A8’s ticket to ride
It may be at odds with the low-cost benefit of 48V systems but the new Audi A8 has a predictive active suspension system driven by the new electrical set-up. The system can alter the ride height by up to 85mm in 0.5sec, reacts by monitoring the road surface ahead with a front-facing camera, reduces body roll by 40% and consumes an average of 10-200W, peaking at 6kW if there’s a sharp suspension movement.