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  1. Yesterday
  2. The electric Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak has set a new outright hill record Frenchman Romain Dumas has broken the sub-eight minutes barrier in his 671bhp EV racer, shattering Sebastien Loeb's record on the 12.42-mile hill climb Romain Dumas has smashed the outright record for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the electric Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak. The Volkswagen Motorsport team was targeting the electric record for the event, but Dumas’s time of 7min 57.148secs on the 12.42-mill course eclipsed the overall mark of 8min 13.878secs, set by Sébastien Loeb in the Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak in 2013. Pikes Peak notebook: insight and updates from the event Dumas averaged 90.538mph on the 156-turn course in the ID R Pikes Peak, which produces around 671bhp from two electric motors. The machine had been built for the project in just seven months. “We exceeded even our own high expectations,” said Dumas. “Since this week’s tests, we have known that it was possible to break the all-time record. For it to come off, everything had to come together perfectly – from the technology to the driver. And the weather had to play ball too. “That everything ran so smoothly is an incredible feeling, and the new record on Pikes Peak is the icing on the cake. “The I.D. R Pikes Peak is the most impressive car I have ever driven in competition. The electric drivetrain means that many things are different and I learned a lot during the project.” Breaking the record is a major milestone for a full electric motorsport programme, representing the first time an EV has proven quick than a combustion engines machine on a major event. Insight: why Volkswagen targeted Pikes Peak for electric motorsport project The event does suit battery-powered electric cars because, unlike international combustion engines, they don’t lost power at altitude. The finish line of Pikes Peak is 14,115ft above sea level. More updates to follow. Read more Pikes Peak notebook: insight and updates from the event Insight: why Volkswagen targeted Pikes Peak for electric motorsport project Pikes Peak 2013: Loeb and Peugeot smash hill record View the full article
  3. Our Mirai has many miles but few fuelling opportunities ahead The hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Mirai is the future (according to its name in Japanese, at least), but how does it fare on British roads today? We drove one from John O’Groats to Land’s End, via the UK’s tiny network of hydrogen stations, to find out In Orkney, so much electricity is generated by wind, waves and the power of tides that the islands struggle to find a use for it all. In theory, it could be transferred to mainland Scotland, except that the seabed cable required to achieve this would apparently cost around £250 million. So instead, some of this surplus electricity is used to split water into its constituent parts, the hydrogen element stored in pressurised gas canisters and ferried to Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney. Once there, the hydrogen is used to produce... electricity. If that sounds rather a wasteful thing to do, well, welcome to the world of energy generation, and the awkward challenge of storing and transporting that energy to the place you want it, at the time you want it. What has this got to do with driving a fuel cell Toyota Mirai from John O’Groats to Land’s End? A lot more than you might think, and in ways that may eventually affect not only the way that your car is propelled, but also how your house is heated too. The way to look at a fuel cell electric car, explains Jon Hunt, Toyota GB’s alternative fuels manager, is to see it as one component within a cycle of future energy generation and usage. Fuelling a car – and your house, heating and hi-fi – is going to get a lot more complex than an energy company piping volts to your junction box. Instead, it’s going to become a world of give and take, of energy generated by a mix of intermittent renewables and less desirable, but reliable, fossil fuels. But enough, for now, of the potential energy cycles of tomorrow. Right now, our task is to drive the 230-odd miles from John O’Groats to Aberdeen. Not usually a problem with a conventional car, of course, or even a pure electric car if you plan some recharging stops, but in a fuel cell car, the challenge lies in the fact that there are presently only nine hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK. There will be 16 by the end of the year, but that’s of little help to us now, which is why we are specifically heading for Aberdeen, where there is a brand-new hydrogen fuel station. The Mirai will travel a hell of a lot further than the often mythical 100 miles of small electric cars – its not-quite-full hydrogen tanks contain enough to carry us 198 miles, according to the trip computer. Which is a pity, because the first leg is 230 miles. So it looks like we’ll be heading south slowly, though not unknowingly, with the Mirai’s trip computer providing real-time updates of our hydrogen consumption and range. This is automotive on-board data with a difference, the units of measurement being kilograms of hydrogen used per hundred kilometres rather than mpg. The Mirai’s twin tanks (there are two of these carbonfibre, glassfibre-encased cylinders solely for packaging reasons) hold 5kg at a pressure of 10,000psi, or 700 bar. A supply of 5kg doesn’t sound much, and alarmingly less when the screen read-out tells us that we’re getting through it at the rate of 2.5kg per 100km. But Hunt tells us that the high initial reading is partly because of the difficulty of measuring the consumption of a fuel that tends to careen in multiple directions rather than consistently flow like petrol. Just a few ginger miles into our trip, consumption halves to 1.2kg/km. But to have a chance of eking out our hydrogen reserves to 230 miles, I’ll have to score a running average of 0.9kg or less, warns Hunt. So we’ll be holding up traffic shortly. There’s little of it about at first, though. We amble along at 50mph or so, enjoying the Mirai’s boldly individual dashboard. There’s much staring at the consumption read-out, of course, but also the swooping edges and hard corners of the infotainment display and the centre console. It’s not an especially beautiful piece of sculpture, this dashboard, but it’s interestingly busy, rather like the Mirai’s oxygen-gulping, air-cleaving body, which is now occasionally being impeded by traffic. More often, though, it’s the other way around: the desire to go slowly and conserve our hydrogen supplies (now that sounds like a phrase of the future) is still strong despite a consumption rate that has fallen to the desired 0.9kg per 100km. Soon will come hills, however, in the undulating and picturesque form of the Cairngorms. Why climb when we could travel more flatly closer to the coast? Because it should be quieter, and because theM1, when it comes, will be a long and dull contrast. To improve our economising, snapper Luc Lacey joins the back-up Land Cruiser with all his kit to reduce the Mirai’s load, and I run with the air conditioner off, which is more of a sacrifice than it might sound on this sunny day in spring-like Scotland. The Cairngorms promise an entertaining challenge – the aim being to avoid heightening the Mirai’s hydrogen appetite despite an assortment of ascents. With ascents come descents, of course, offering the chance for some fuel saving, and potentially of the exciting kind. Exciting economising? Absolutely, because the aim is to gain as much downhill momentum as you dare and conserve it, ideally with the minimum of braking. Given that there’s an on-board, fuel cell-supplementing, nickel- metal hydride battery pack in regular need of a charge, avoiding the brakes mightseem a surprise because you’d expect to use them to provide regeneration opportunities. However, there’s no scope for regeneration with the Mirai, explains Hunt, because there’s only one motor, andit therefore can’t double as a generator. The brakes are to be avoided, then, within safe reason. Still, when you’re gaining speed down a Cairngorm and trying not to lose it, that can get quite thrilling. The roads are empty enough to uncover a slightly unexpected and deeply pleasing quality of the Mirai, which is that it will comfortably navigate corners at quite a pace and minimal drama, despite its relatively simple MacPherson strut, torsion beam axle suspension, and a fair bit of heft. One major reason is that it is low-lying heft – its fuel cell, battery and motor packaging providing a low centre of gravity. Another is decent chassis balance. This is no sports saloon, but the Mirai is certainly fleet of low-rolling-resistance foot, besides providing encouragingly precise steering. All of which makes this section of the trip pretty enjoyable. And to the surprise of several of us, pretty productive on the economy front too, the Mirai’s hunger dropping to 0.6kg per 100 km. Our 80-mile range is now three miles greater than the remaining distance to Aberdeen, and when we get there, that difference has grown to 38 miles. Hunt reckons there’s a reserve beyond that too. None of which diminishes the relief of seeing Aberdeen’s shiny new hydrogen refuelling station, this city boldly pushing ahead with the hydrogen fuel cell cause. Like Orkney, Aberdeen has an excessof wind power, as well as a highly skilled workforce available from the now-declining North Sea oil industry. Aberdeen now has the busiest hydrogen fuel station in Europe and, indeed, we are part of the unlikely sight of a queue of refuelling Mirais. It’s impressive to realise that in Aberdeen and Orkney, the hydrogen fuel cell economy is already here. That there’s still a long way to go is underlined at our next stop in Sunderland on day two, where we replenish the Mirai from a hydrogen-dispensing truck provided by Fuel Cell Systems. The reason that the refuelling takes place at a factory in Tyne and Wear, rather than at a handy truck stop en route, is The route: If you’re driving from John O’Groats to Land’s End the direct way, you don’t go to easterly Aberdeen, even if that’s further south. It’s no more helpful to head to east-coast Sunderland, nor Rotherham or Beaconsfield, even if all are closer to the equator and therefore to Land’s End. But this roundabout route, as you’ll have guessed, was dictated by the availability of hydrogen fuelling stations. Surf ’N’ turf hydrogen project: On Eday, an island in Orkney, there’s so much wind power that they often have to stall the wind turbines, because there’s nowhere for the electricity to go. Which is how the idea of using it to electrolyse water to yield hydrogen came about. That hydrogen is pumped into steel canisters and shipped to Kirkwall, the Orkney capital, where it’s turned back into electricity by a room full of fuel cells. The power is used by ferries docked and reloading at Kirkwall Pier, while the heat generated is used by local buildings. Aberdeen hydrogen station: The once oil-rich Aberdeen has developed a hydrogen strategy in conjunction with many funders and partners including the EU, energy companies, the Scottish Government, the local council, transport operators and car makers. How Toyota makes the Mirai: There’s one powerful reason why the little pilot plant where Toyota’s hand-made, hydrogen-powered Mirai comes to life looks so very much like it could otherwise be building an Aston or a McLaren. It’s because this same plant that turns out one Mirai every 70 minutes — buried inside Toyota’s giant Motomachi works that started making Crown family saloons in 1959 — was previously the crucible of a run of500 Lexus LFA supercars, using a similar recipe of exotic materials and practising the same principles of hand manufacture. Toyota started making the Mirai in 2014 and has so far sold around 3000 copies in the US, 1500 in Japan and 200 in Europe. Production is slowly ramping up while opinions continue to vary globally over whether hydrogen fuel cell propulsion can ever be important enough to be viable. There’s considerable scepticism on our side of the world that contrasts heavily with the view in Japan and Korea that such cars represent an essential step towards the zero- emissions ‘hydrogen society’ seen by many, including Asian governments, as an ultimate objective. For now, Mirai manufacture is almost entirely by hand. A tight-knit body of workers uses muscle to push the chassis on trolleys along a tiny production line, adding fascia, powertrain and suspension sub- assemblies hand-made off-line by others. Even operations like the bonding-in of the windscreen, robotised almost everywhere else, are done by hand. Not that the operation lacks modernity: bodies are painted by the same process used for bigger-volume Motomachi models. Hand-picked technicians wield computer-linked power tools. Work requires constant verification and signing off (though on paper, in actual handwriting). Toyota aims to build the next Mirai on its new, highly flexible TGNA architecture, already configured for a fuel cell version. For now, the current Mirai’s unique architecture and slow build rate suffice. But Toyota remains adamant that hydrogen cars are heading for practicality and prominence. And having confounded hybrid sceptics by so far putting 10 million Prius family cars on the road, it has earned the right to be confident. Read more Toyota Prius review Toyota Mirai review Toyota Avensis review View the full article
  4. From a point of near-bankruptcy in 2012, the PSA Group has turned around its fortunes... Vauxhall’s recovery plan is certainly ambitious, but its new owner has shown before that it can work Opel and Vauxhall have not posted a full-year profit this century, losing about £15 billion in the past 17 years. That represents a catastrophic failure by any measure, but it also highlights just how ambitious the recovery plan set out by new owner the PSA Group is. The strategy, called ‘Pace’, calls for (among other things) a 2% operating profit margin by 2020 and 6% by 2026. The latter figure is about the level the PSA Group is at today. With the first anniversary of PSA’s takeover coming up in August, and that ambitious profit target marked as a line in the sand, the expectation is that the cost-cutting seen so far will continue, and that Opel and Vauxhall will get back on the front foot in terms of defining their goals and shaping up to launch new cars. But, as PSA CEO Carlos Tavares warns, more sales won’t mean fewer cuts: “Size does not define efficiency. And we will pull every lever we can to be efficient.” Some aspects of the cost-cutting have been well documented, such as the 650 job losses at the Ellesmere Port plant. Insiders talk in awe at the speed of the decision-making processes compared with the days of GM ownership. “When Tavares sees a logical plan, he asks one of two questions,” said a source. “‘When can we do it?’ or ‘Why haven’t we done it?’ The hard decisions are getting made.” So, too, have seemingly simple ones. One of the first jobs of PSA’s new management was to try to rationalise the product offerings. “Insignia buyers had 27 steering wheel options,” said Opel-Vauxhall CEO Michael Lohscheller, “but around 90% were opting for one of two designs. Yet we were buying in, storing, stock managing the others. It was so complex, so inefficient.” Lohscheller doesn’t tell that story to criticise GM, but rather to highlight why he believes the 2% profit goal by 2020 is achievable. The savings to date are in part why the company was acknowledging, if not celebrating, that it had cut running costs by a remarkable 17% by the end of 2017, five months into the new regime. Even so, the champagne stayed on ice: accounts filed last month revealed that, during that period, Vauxhall and Opel still cost its parent company £160 million in losses. Hence the need to get on the front foot with new product launches too – because that gives dealers access to the latest, very best products and, as Max Warburton, senior analyst at Bernstein Research, highlighted, because it sets the firm on the path to achieving its stated goal of stripping around £620 of cost from each car it makes. This, for instance, is why the new Corsa was delayed while it is engineered to sit on PSA’s small car platform and why the next Astra will share its underpinnings with the Peugeot 308. “PSA’s own turnaround has been rather unconventional,” said Warburton, recalling the firm’s own near-bankruptcy in 2012. Years of multi-billion-pound losses had finally reached crisis point, ending with the Peugeot family selling around half of its shareholding in the firm to stay afloat. “Car industry history is full of comeback stories but they normally involve deep restructuring at a time of economic crisis, a radical improvement in product range and substantial volume growth. PSA under Tavares hasn’t really seen any of these things. “Instead, it’s been a series of small things that collectively add up to a big improvement in performance: some job cuts and early retirements; a big focus on standardisation and purchasing cost reductions; slashing all non-essential spending; sorting out some chronically loss-making emerging markets. Then an intense focus on pricing – being very calculated on reining in discounts and pushing up prices if feasible. Tavares has shown it’s possible even on weak brands and products.” PSA may be an anomaly, but its strategy is working. In 2017, the firm made £3.5bn: its most financially successful year to date. As the graph on page 16 shows, Peugeot’s operating profit margin is the envy of most mass-market manufacturers. To paraphrase Warburton, that’s not a bad situation for a firm that arguably makes one market- leading car (the 5008), one good car (the 3008) and a host of decent, if not inspiring, ones. “PSA provides the template for Opel,” adds Warburton. “Cynics argue that the brands are too weak to save and, after a decade of cost cutting by GM, there’s not much to do. That’s too pessimistic. There are always things that good management can find and improve. Cut and paste the PSA strategy across to Opel and you might just find it works. It won’t be straightforward, it’s theoretically possible.” Under Tavares’s leadership, the goals for Opel and Vauxhall could not be more explicit, nor the blueprint for success so clearly written before them. “We have faced a near-death experience,” says Tavares. “That means we can be more Darwinian, thinking with agility to survive. The choices we must make to thrive are very clear.” A model of efficiency: There are many measures of a company’s success, and some view operating profit margins as a rather blunt and simplistic measure. “Profit margins give a broad approximation of what return a business is making and how healthy it is,” says Max Warburton, senior analyst at Bernstein Research. “Investors are often surprised that Peugeotis making higher margins than VW, given the VW brand has better mix, pricing and volumes. But it’s not complicated – the PSA Group has vastly better labour efficiency. It makes many more cars per employee than VW, its plants build each car in fewer hours and it doesn’t make stuff like axles, seats and interior plastics in-house the way VW does. “It’s incredibly tough to make money building mass-market cars but if you’re not making at least 4-5% operating margins, then you’re unlikely to have the underlying cash flow to invest in new-generation products and technology.” Read more Vauxhall Astra VXR review Vauxhall Corsa review Vauxhall Adam review View the full article
  5. Last week
  6. This is Autocar’s proposal for an Insignia-sized car Vauxhall needs a new concept car and Autocar is helping to design it. We start the project by taking the design brief The idea that Autocar should participate in the creation of a brand-new Vauxhall concept car right from the ground up began late last year as PSA chief Carlos Tavares was inking the deal he’d announced a few months earlier to buy Vauxhall and Opel, the former GM brands in Europe. From the outset, it was clear that to have any chance of future success Vauxhall-Opel will need to change enormously, not just in the predictable ‘lean and mean’ ways but also by presenting a reimagined, thoroughly modernised design philosophy leading to even more desirable, saleable products. No pressure... Vauxhall-Opel bosses decided early on that showing a traffic-stopping concept car would be the most public and easiest-to-understand way of doing this. However, even for a company with a distinguished recent history of eye-catching concepts, this one would have to be pretty damn good. To begin, a thorough re-examination of the marques’ core values was conducted, and along the way, the idea of Autocar’s involvement was born. There were to be three meetings and three magazine articles. The first is this, involving discussions with design boss Mark Adams and marketing director Peter Hope at Vauxhall’s Luton HQ, with our Coventry University-trained car designer Ben Summerell-Youde contributing his own ideas. That’s what you see here. Next, we’ll meet in Adams’ studio in Rüsselsheim, Germany, to view clay models of the car’s interior and exterior, talk trim materials and take part in a ‘naming workshop’. The third story will chronicle the launch, whose venue, date and details are still being decided... Hope has spent plenty of years at Vauxhall, steering its marketing campaigns. Yet he regards his teams’ past four or five months’ work on fleshing out the brand’s values – which started the minute Tavares spoke so persuasively of “releasing the power of the Vauxhall brand in the UK” – as the most searching and productive he can remember. “We were a luxury car maker in the early days,” he explains, “but we’ve been a democratising brand for as long as anyone can remember, and that’s our continuing aim. “One thing we’re reminded of is just how cyclical the car business is. Back at the end of the 1980s, as BL’s reign was ending, we were vying with Renault for 16% of the UK market – pretty different from today for both of us. We were making great cars and doing very well. That’s our first lesson: we’re at our best when we’re confident and there’s a modernity, a sense of stretch, about the products. We want to re-create that.” Britishness has been much discussed, says Hope, and is seen as a very important Vauxhall asset (“we only sell on this island, so we can build a great sense of proximity to the customer”) but there was also much discussion about exactly how you portray it. “Britishness is Danny Boyle and James Dyson,” he explains. “It’s the Tate Modern. It’s the Queen jumping out of a helicopter to open London’s Olympic Games. What it isn’t is thatched cottages and red postboxes and Hugh Grant being a little bit apologetic. It’s bold and progressive, the sort of Britishness British people want...” Adams’ positioning talk is similar, but different. Whereas Hope’s concern is improving Vauxhall’s status and sales inside the UK, Adams’ task is to shape a vehicle that will “sharpen” both Vauxhall’s and Opel’s brand values – for a new owner in an environment that’s transforming itself. It’s an assignment he calls “a once-in-a- career project for all of us”. Adams starts by noting the many similarities between the best points of contemporary British and German design. It’s in his interest, you might say, given that this concept must be as much Opel as Vauxhall. But his evidence is strong: it’s almost eerie how the love of elegant simplicity of Braun designer Dieter Rams parallels that of Apple’s British designer Jonathan Ive. The German love of evolution, purity and precision (Porsche 911) sits very neatly with the British values of Harry Beck (designer of the 1932 London tube map), of James Dyson (“whoever thought a vacuum cleaner could be iconic?”) and of Colin Chapman (“simplify, then add lightness”). Adams’ case is convenient to the project but no less compelling for that. One impression: for all the new-dawn and “sharpening” talk surrounding this new concept, you can’t help being impressed by the faithfulness to these principles of two recent Vauxhall-Opel offerings, the Geneva 2016 two-seat Opel GT concept and the Frankfurt 2013 Opel Monza Concept four-seater, both of which seem already to point in directions that Adams now wants to explore further. Next stop for our little party is Vauxhall’s Heritage Centre, a 75-car collection run by two full-time Vauxhall technicians behind the main Luton admin building. “To understand what you want to take forward,” explains Adams as we troop across the car park, “you’ve got to understand what you did previously that was good. We’ve had periods of greatness, but there were times when what we did was forgettable...” We centre on two products, both concept sports cars, even though I’m getting the strong feeling that Adams reckons the new project should be some kind of big saloon... The tiny, beautiful 1966 XVR sports car concept would make anyone’s timeless list. It would look beautiful if unveiled today, what with its petite shape, arrow nose, tailored wheel arches containing beautiful wheels that reach the body’s very extremities, its radical long-bonnet, short-boot proportions and its beautiful surfacing. Then our eye falls on the ultra- low, more angular SRV concept from 1970, a four-seater despite the small size, powered by a transverse powertrain mounted behind its four easily accessed seats. “These two teach us about future-proofing,” says Adams. “They look as great as ever.” Other Vauxhall models standing around make a supporting point about timeless appeal: a Droop Snoot Firenza HP from 1973 (whose promising career was killed by the fuel crisis) and the sleek 1989 Calibra that never got the credit it deserved. Back in the Luton boardroom, Adams runs through the (remarkably few) guidelines his designers are using on the new concept. Our man Ben takes close note: that’s his design you can see on the right. My view:if they make it like that, they won’t go too far wrong. There’s much progress still to be made, of course, but it’s fascinating to be in at the ground floor on a project deliberately designed to show something of tomorrow’s Vauxhalls, and to see at first hand how determined the company’s professional car creators are to succeed. How the new concept should look, according to Autocar (and Adams): I found all the Vauxhall-Opel background fascinating. I hadn’t realised contemporary German and British design styles had such synergies, or that Vauxhall had so many deeply impressive cars in its back catalogue. But it was the final session on the high-level principles guiding the concept’s designers in Rüsselsheim that really got the creative juices going. Saying that, there were surprisingly few rules. Design boss Mark Adams is keen to keep using the ‘signature lights’ of recent Vauxhall-Opel cars. The latest Astra and Insignia particularly show how narrow they can be yet how prominent, and how well they can incorporate unique daylight running identities. Adams also wants to maintain a precise bonnet centre line, a feature Vauxhalls have carried for 60 years that he believes implies manufacturing precision. He showed me a simple frontal graphic template that makes a good guide: in effect, a pair of crossed lines that places the round badge at the centre, with the bonnet centre line as the upper vertical and the headlights at the lateral extremities. He said it would help, and it has. Oh, and he’s seeking an all-new Vauxhall-Opel grille design on the basis that the outgoing shape isn’t so different from what other marques offer, and a new design would be an unmistakable signal that thIngs are changing quickly in the PSA-owned world of Vauxhall and Opel. “We need our own territory” was how Adams put it to me. So, as you can see, I’ve drawn a D-segment saloon as the brief requires. It’s as ‘bold and pure’ as I can make it, and I’m tempted to give it a ‘V’ name, like in the old days, but haven’t thought of a decent one yet. Viceroy? Too stiff and old school. Verona? Hardly British. Vindaloo? Very British but hardly appropriate. If you have a better suggestion, send it to me and I’ll start a collection. Ben Summerell-Youde Read more Vauxhall Astra VXR review Vauxhall Corsa review Vauxhall Adam review View the full article
  7. The Motorists Guide

    Used car buying guide: Ford Focus ST

    23mpg - Is about all you can expect. Plus road tax is £315 The Ford Focus ST Mk2 is an appealing, affordable and tunable hot hatch, although it’s not without its issues, as we discover Not only is the Ford Focus ST Mk2 of 2005 to 2011 one of the great hot hatches but also, thanks to high numbers of used ones, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a good one that fits your budget. Fill your boots with any number of ST-2s or 3s. The basic ST-1 is rarer and not worth bothering with, unless condition and price swing it. The ST-1 has cloth-covered Recaros; the ST-2 has Xenon headlights with washers, a heated windscreen, ESP and two more speakers; the ST-3 has leather Recaros front and rear and those rear seats are a two-seat bench, while the ST-1 and ST-2 have a three-seat affair. Find a Ford Focus ST for sale on PistonHeads As the Focus Mk2’s end drew near, post-2010 ST-3s gained DAB, dual- zone climate and privacy glass. On older STs, when mileage and condition exert a greater pull, there’s little difference in the prices of ST-2s and 3s. That said, a fourth version, the ST-500, might just command a small premium on the grounds of spec and relative rarity. This ST-3- based run-out was launched in 2007 ahead of the 2008 facelift and offered only in Panther Black, with red leather Recaros, extra detailing, special badging and a heat-reflecting windscreen. One dealer wants £5490 for his 2008 car with 124,000 miles and a full Ford history (19 stamps). The facelift brought a restyled nose with new headlights and wings while the tail got a new bumper and diffuser. The dashboard was dressed in fake carbonfibre, the ignition went keyless with a power button and the ST-1 finally got ESP. Those are the features to expect but under the bonnet is where the fun lies. Yes, that really is a five-cylinder, 2.5-litre turbocharged Volvo engine you’re looking at. Forget stately forays to Acorn Antiques, though; in the Focus ST it produces 222bhp and 236lb ft. A sound symposer directs its delicious burblings to the cabin. Expect to find plenty of remapped examples. Those fitted with the Mountune Performance Pack are worth digging out, with power rising to 252bhp and torque to 295lb ft. A Stage 2 tune to around 300bhp shouldn’t require strengthened internals but expect evidence of such work beyond this. When looking at an early ST, and especially a tuned one, check the oil filler for oil andwater sludge and the clutch for slipping. Pre-facelift and modified cars are known for splitting their cylinder liners and cooking the clutch; the 2008 facelift resolved many of these problems. Given the number of used Mk2 STs on the market, you can afford to be picky – not just over condition but specification and options too. Among the latter, those worth seeking out include privacy glass, parking sensors and an electric sunroof. Prices of three- and five-door STs are broadly the same. Colour- wise, the plainer shades emphasise the car’s nicely understated looks. Whichever hue you choose, a full book of service stamps and premium tyres are essential, and beware the Cat C and D write-offs out there. How to get one in your garage: An expert’s view, Steve Bennett, ST-FOCUS.COM: “To my mind, the Focus ST Mk2 is the greatest hot hatch ever. I love the idea that one day a Ford exec said: ‘I know, let’s chuck this big old five-cylinder motor in a Focus.’ I’ve been selling them for more than eight years and I’ve sold hundreds. It has its niggles – split liners, weak clutch, whistling oil filler – but they’re rare. On the whole, it’s reliable. Prices for the best late cars have stabilised. You’ll easily pay over £11,000. Partly it’s because the current car isn’t as good and partly because late, low-mile Mk2 STs are getting rarer. Buy one while you can.” Buyer beware... ENGINE: On pre-2008 STs or modified cars, check for oil-filler mayonnaise, misfiring or white smoke indicating split cylinder liners. A whistle at idle when cold is air being drawn through the oil filler due to a split diaphragm in the oil filter housing. If the boost gauge needle won’t pass beyond a quarter, check the solenoid boost valve (a healthy turbo reads to half- way; a mapped car to three-quarters). On early cars, check the health of the alternator–flickering lights or a battery warning are giveaways. TRANSMISSION: Check clutch operation on early cars – it’s a weak unit. Replace with the stronger RS clutch upgrade – it’s not that expensive but you’ll also need the dual-mass flywheel, slave cylinder and thrust bearing. Check driveshaft boots aren’t split. SUSPENSION: Listen for knocking caused by worn front anti-roll bar droplinks and leaking wishbone bushes. Check for inner tyre shoulder wear and excessive torque steer. Also non-premium tyres suggest penny-pinching elsewhere. BODY: Check the boot for dampness (rain can get in via the seam near the tailgate hinges) and screen wash bottle for leaks. Check sideskirts are secure and look for corrosion where rear arches meet the bumper and on boot bump stops where the paint flakes. Check for crash repairs (orange-peel paint finish, overspray, new wing bolts etc). INTERIOR: Check seat bases for cracking. Also worth knowing... Some modified STs will have had their liners shimmed – what’s called a ‘block- mod’. It’s only done to a sound engine. Expect to pay around £800 for the job (it involves removing the head to push shims between the cylinder liners), a new timing belt and a new water pump. Try motorsport-developments.co.uk. Find a Ford Focus ST for sale on PistonHeads How much to spend: £2500-£3995: Mainly 2005-06 ST-2s but also some ST-1s. Mileages from 80-200k, service histories patchy. £4000-£4995: More 05-07 ST-2/3s with 100k or so and full service history; some 07 ST-1s. £5000-£6495: Loads more tidy 07- and 08-reg ST- 2/3s with around 70k miles, full service history, and new timing belt and clutch. £6500-£8995: Sub-60k 07-08 facelift ST-2/3s with solid histories; higher-mile 09-10 cars. £9000-£11,000: The best, average- to low-mileage 09- to 11-reg ST-2/3s. One we found - Ford Focus ST-2 3DR, 2010, 124K MILES, £5495: Big miles but this car has a full Ford history and a recent cambelt and water pump. It has an upgraded exhaust, a long MOT and its two keys. Bodywork is described as ‘clean’ and tyres ‘good’ John Evans Read more Ford Focus review Ford Fiesta ST review Ford Mondeo review View the full article
  8. The Motorists Guide

    Trump considering 20% tax on US car imports

    Cars imported to the US could be slapped with raised import tariffs President suggests overseas car makers could be charged as much as 20% import tax; European premium brands could be hit US President Donald Trump has renewed his threat to European car manufacturers importing cars into America, threatening 20% import tax on cars entering the US from the EU. Based on the Tariffs and Trade Barriers long placed on the U.S. and it great companies and workers by the European Union, if these Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing a 20% Tariff on all of their cars coming into the U.S. Build them here! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2018 It's the latest in a string of outbursts by Trump in his frustration at trade tarriffs, having expressed disappointment previously at the disparity between European car sales in the US, and US car sales in the EU. Trump also previously revealed to French President Emmanuel Macron that he wishes to raise levies on imported cars to 25% and obliterate European luxury car sales in the US. Wirtschaftswoche reports that the comments, made to Macron and reported to the media via several EU and US diplomats, could spark a trade war between the US and the EU, with Germany’s car industry being a heavy source of income to the union. He has previously expressed his distain at German luxury brands, particularly Mercedes-Benz, and its prominence in New York’s Fifth Avenue. It’s reported that Trump said the tax would be upheld until Fifth Avenue was devoid of Mercedes models. In the US, Trump has launched an investigation into whether vehicle and automotive parts imports are hindering the sector’s ability to compete globally. Under the US’s Trade Expansion Act of 1962, such a scenario could allow Trump to raise import tariffs to protect national interests. This was the process undertaken last month when Trump raised tariffs for steel and aluminium imports. Tariffs for those materials now stand at 25% in a move to protect local producers. Global new car sales: the key trends and what they mean Currently, the US charges just 2.5% on car imports; this is lower than the EU’s 10% and China's 25%, although the latter will lower its tariff to 15% from 1 July. Trump had previously described China’s unusually high import tariff as “stupid trade” and threatened to raise tariffs on EU-imported cars. Although a large portion of the US’s most popular car models, including those from foreign brands (such as the upcoming BMW X7), are already manufactured within its borders, many are imported from other countries. Most imports come from Asia, but several European brands, including Land Rover, don’t have US factories. In fact, the US is the largest export market for cars built in the EU. Last year, £171 billion worth of cars were exported from the EU, with the US accounting for 25% of them. Of those cars, just over half were exported by German car makers. Top 10 best-selling cars in Britain Leaders in China and South Korea have already said they will monitor the situation closely and react accordingly to protect the interests of brands in their countries. Although China is the world’s largest new car market, with 23.9 million vehicles sold there last year, the US remains a core focus for most global brands. In 2017, 17.2m vehicles were sold in the US, compared with 15.6m in the EU and European Free Trade Association countries. A Mercedes spokesman has been approached for comment. Felipe Munoz, global analyst at JATO Dynamics, said: “While German-made cars accounted for 4% of Q1-18 US sales, American-made cars made only 1.3% of German registrations in the first quarter. Most of the units imported from Germany are premium cars, which tells a lot about the position of American car industry in the premium market. Germans are the world’s leaders in the premium market as they hit before American and Japanese cars, and have been evolving fast, with large ranges of products.” “Any attempt to increase taxes on German cars would have a larger effect on BMW and Mercedes, and a lower effect on Volkswagen, as most of the sales of the premium brands correspond to imported models (63% for Mercedes and 64% for BMW). It would also hurt the operations of Porsche, which imports all of its cars from Germany. If the trade conditions get tough for German imported cars, this would have a bigger effect on sedans and sport cars, which are the largest part of their imports. As these segments don’t grow anymore, both BMW and Mercedes could consider axing some of the models or increase local production of SUVs.” More content: Honda Civic Type R Pickup Truck revealed Throwback Thursday: Autocar's first Alpina experience View the full article
  9. The Motorists Guide

    Mercedes-AMG GLC 63

    Is AMG's rapid GLC 63 SUV the answer to your prayers, or to a question nobody’s asking? Given the nature of the website you’re reading, it’s probable that you already have an opinion on the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S 4Matic+. And, well, it might not be entirely favourable.This near-£80,000 car is nevertheless something of a poster child within the corporate headquarters of Daimler AG in Stuttgart, where all the product planning, the marketing and the accounting happens, and, bluntly, where the bottom line is the primary concern.It’s also where they’ll be giving themselves a big pat on the back, because demand for SUVs such as the GLC has been nothing short of phenomenal. In fact, it has played a decisive role in Mercedes-Benz last year shoring up its position as the world’s biggest luxury manufacturer. Compatriot brand BMW previously held that title for a decade, so it’s a momentous achievement.There is also the small matter that next year’s pure-electric EQ C SUV – a product for which the term ‘game changer’ could well prove to be something of an undersell – will share this SUV’s production underpinnings. For a model that has never particularly tickled enthusiasts, the GLC is building a significant legacy.The line-leading GLC63 S 4Matic+ is (or at least should be) more obviously concerned with the matter of driving. As the performance-oriented coupé derivative of a medium-sized premium SUV, its taxonomy is idiosyncratic.And yet despite the niche-player status, it could be argued that this car is also everything that currently makes Mercedes such an aspirational brand condensed into one package: a glorious-sounding AMG engine of eight cylinders, a raised driving position and an urbane design whose heavy-set but strangely gentle curvature is calculated in its mass-market appeal.Of course, were you to throw all your favourite ingredients into a salad bowl, the resulting concoction would probably be repulsive. But it might just be the best thing to ever hit your taste buds. So which is it for this multifaceted AMG? View the full article
  10. The Motorists Guide

    Top 10 best convertibles and cabrios 2018

    There's nothing like driving in the summer sun with the roof down - but which 10 convertibles make our top picks? We might not have the ideal climate for them, but in Britain we love our convertibles. And when those sunny days do finally arrive, there’s never a bad time to drop the top and enjoy some wind in your hair. Our idea of soft-top perfection isn’t all about raw performance and speed, either. The following 10 cars are our picks of the best convertibles and cabriolets for open-air cruising. 1. Porsche 718 Boxter Say what you will about Porsche’s decision to replace swap the Boxster’s evocative naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engine out for a new turbocharged flat-four, you can’t deny just how brilliant the 718 is at fulfilling the open-top sporting two-seater brief. Yes, it may not sound quite as spine-tinglingly good as it used to, but as a driver’s machine it’s tough to beat. Communicative steering, a supremely balanced chassis and plenty of grunt all combine to make this the stand out car in its class. Its mid-engined layout means there’s a usable amount of storage space at the nose, too, which is handy. 2. Audi TT Roadster From a modest 1.8-litre 178bhp petrol, all the way up to the bahnstorming 395bhp RS model, Audi’s TT Roadster can be as powerful or as sensible as your budget will allow. It’s not as engaging or as sharp as the Porsche - its steering can feel remote at times, and some variants are front-wheel drive - but it’s still a capable steer and it looks the part, too. You can even have it with a diesel engine if you want to combine open-top motoring with more reasonable fuel bills. A word of caution, though: by opting for the roadster over the coupe you’ll do away with the small - but still useful - rear seats, which is worth bearing in mind. 3. Mercedes-Benz E-Class convertible Next to the Porsche and the Audi, the E-Class Cabriolet is definitely more of a cruising machine than something to pilot down your favourite stretch of British B-road. And when it comes to cruising, the E-Class excels. Air suspension (standard on AMG-Line cars) provides a supple and comfortable ride, and the quality of materials in the cabin is truly excellent. A selection of four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines provide amicable pace, but the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol found in the E400 is easily the most endearing, combining power with plenty silky-smooth refinement. 4. Mini Convertible While we’re yet to drive the latest Mini Convertible in the UK, the previous model impressed us through its ability to provide a genuine open-top driving thrills without compromising ride and handling, or its on-road manners. For the most part, it holds its own against its hard-top rangemate as far as dynamism is concerned, which is no mean feat in the convertible supermini class. That it exudes charm and feels decently sprightly in Cooper S guise are further feathers in the Mini’s cap. It is a touch pricey, mind, especially once you start delving into the options list. 5. BMW 4 Series Convertible While convertible version of BMW’s 4-Series does lose out on some of the coupe’s sleek visual appeal, it remains a commendable driving machine. As is common in this class, a range of petrol and diesel four-cylinder power plants represent the bulk of this model’s engine line-up, but it’s the 3.0-litre 322bhp six-cylinder you find in the 440i that’s the peachiest offering. Not only does it provide the drop-top 4-Series with commendable pace and accessible torque, it sounds great too. That it also comes with proper rear seats is an added bonus, while many buyers will also be attracted to the increased sense of security that comes with a folding metal roof. 6. Audi A5 Cabriolet This handsome, refined convertible isn’t the sort of car that’s going to keep a Porsche 718 Boxster buyer up at night, fretting that he might have picked the wrong drop-top. Where that car champions engagement and dynamism, the A5 Cabriolet is a much more laid back option that places long-legged waftability over any outright driver focus. But that’s okay, as people buy different convertibles for different reasons. It’s not quite as focused as a comparable BMW 4 Series in the handling department, but being an Audi it comes with plenty of tech and a top notch interior. 7. Mercedes-benz C-Class Convertible Following the demise of the CLK, this is the first Mercedes cabriolet to wear a C-Class badge on its tail. Quite a handsome-looking thing, isn’t it? That it’s also one of the most luxuriously-appointed and materially rich convertibles in its immediate class only further adds to its appeal. Power is provided by everything from a humble four-cylinder diesel in the likes of the C220d, all the way up to the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 you’ll find in the AMG-badged C 63 S. We’ve tested both, and while they are certainly entirely different beasts, both were looked on favourably. The diesel for it combination of comfort and class, the V8 for its raw power and character. A new model is right around the corner, too. 8. Audi A3 Cabriolet The A3 Cabriolet has come a long way since it was introduced back in 2008. Where that original model was based on the contemporary A3’s hatchback shape, today it’s the saloon variant that has had its roof chopped off and it’s a change that’s worked wonders for the car’s kerbside appeal. Here’s a compact drop-top that looks great, packs commendable performance and composed - if not particularly engaging - handling. A facelift in 2016 helped keep the A3 competitive, introducing new a headlight and taillight design, Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit and a new 2.0-litre TFSI engine to the range of existing petrol and diesel power plant. 9. Mercedes-Benz SLC Despite its compact, two-seat layout, the SLC isn’t quite the driver’s car its proportions might lead you to believe it is. Does that make it any less desirable as a two-seat cruiser, though? Not particularly. Although it’s now becoming slightly long in the tooth, the SLC still looks great and the AMG-fettled SLC 43 version offers respectable, if not particularly astounding, performance and an appealing, waspish V6 soundtrack to boot. Its handling is also far more convincing than its SLK-badged predecessor’s was. 10. VW Beetle Cabriolet The Beetle Cabriolet is arguably the most Marmite, love-it-or-hate-it convertible in this list. The rag-top Volkswagen’s funky looks will no doubt attract as many buyers as they discourage, but then again, subjective appeal is an intricate part of convertible ownership isn’t it? The Beetle isn’t particularly stellar when it comes to the ride and handling departments, but chances are anyone who actually buys one likely won’t be too concerned with such things. This is a car that’s more focussed on being a charming fashion statement than a B-road barnstormer, and depending on the importance you put on such things, you’ll either want one or you won’t. View the full article
  11. Toyota aims to sell 50 Centurys per month in Japan, although official pricing has not yet been revealed Low-volume model sits atop Toyota’s line-up in Japan, with just 50 units to be sold per month Toyota has revealed its new Century limousine, the redesigned luxury saloon that claims the title of Japan’s most popular chauffeur-driven luxury car. Under the bonnet is a 5.0-litre V8 engine with supplementary electric motor to form a hybrid system producing 425bhp in total. This system replaces a V12 that featured in the previous Century and achieves 38.4mpg on the Japanese test cycle. Performance figures have not been released. Toyota aims to sell 50 per month in Japan, although official pricing has not yet been revealed. Given the fact that the Century is hand-built, it’s expected to carry a hefty premium over the brand’s other mass-produced models, and a price well into six figures is certain. The car’s badge alone, a phoenix, takes six weeks to engrave. The new car gets more modern safety technologies, including Toyota’s Safety Sense pack, which consists of a pre-collision system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic lights and road sign recognition. Soundproofing sits high on the agenda when constructing the Century, while a system to limit engine noise and vibration is also fitted. The rear pillar of the car has been made more upright to give onlookers a greater sense of significance of the rear passengers, says Toyota. The Century was first introduced in 1967 and was named in celebration of Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda’s 100th birthday. The new car is the first full refresh the model has had in 21 years, although it still uses traditional techniques in its design and construction. Compared with the outgoing model, the new Century's wheelbase increases by 65mm to 3090mm to provide more rear and, to aid entry and exit, the car sits lower to the floor by 15mm. At 5335mm long, it’s 110mm longer than the extended-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and is 1930mm wide and 1505mm tall. Once in the back, the left-hand passenger in the new Century has an electric extending leg rest, massage seat and an 11.3in entertainment system with 20 speakers and a 7.0in touchpad control module. Read more: The greatest Q cars ever made The 100 most beautiful cars in pictures Opinion: Why Ariel should build an electric limousine Throwback Thursday: testing the Chinese government's luxury limo in 1975 View the full article
  12. New variant will come with more power and less weight than the 570S on which it is based and will be revealed on 28 June The upcoming McLaren 600LT, a hardcore version of the 570S that forms part of the firm's entry-level Sports Series, has been caught on camera for the first time six days before its reveal. The sighting shows that the model, which will be revealed on 28 June, will follow suit of the 675LT and recieve a 'long tail' (hence the name) to enhance aerodynamics. This change harks back to the McLaren F1 GTR 'long tail' that was produced for endurance racing in 1997. Along with a modified body, the 600LT will use a more potent version of the 570S's 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 producing 592bhp (600PS) and breathing through a lighter and less restrictive exhaust system. The tailpipes for this exhaust will come through the car's engine cover, as seen on the test car and previewed up close in an earlier official image (see gallery). When revealing its official pictures, McLaren confirmed that it has reduced the 600LT's kerb weight — the standard 570S weighs 1440kg — but it has yet to reveal a figure. The 675LT shed 100kg from the 650S it is based on, suggesting the 600LT could tip the scales at less than 1350kg. McLaren 570S Spider Track Pack 2018 UK review The harcore Sport Series model, which was scooped by Autocar in March, will make its public debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, when it will be driven up the famous hill climb. Production of customer cars will be “limited to the few”, suggesting the 600LT will be made in similar numbers to the 675LT Super Series model, of which just 500 were made. Because it belongs to the Sports Series, the new car is unlikely to receive quite the same extent of obsessive attention as the 675LT, which added more than £65,000 to the price of the £195,250 650S on which it is based and included 110 component changes or deletions just to save weight. But we could still see a car with a price that's up from the 570S's £149,000 at something nearer £200,000, before customers start splurging on lightweight carbonfibre options. Expect lighter wheels, reduced sound deadening, the titanium exhaust that's already available through McLaren’s MSO department, thinner glass and perhaps a Perspex rear screen. The 600LT is also said to be slightly more road-oriented in focus than the track-honed 675LT and therefore a usable everyday machine that should nevertheless acquit itself with honour on the circuit. The 675LT offered three times the downforce of the 650S and McLaren will no doubt be looking for substantial gains on the 600LT, too. Don’t expect huge changes to acceleration or top speed figures, because the 570S is already traction limited and whatever additional power the car receives is likely to be largely offset by the drag created by that additional downforce. The real performance gain is likely to be best measured in a lap time. The 600LT is likely to follow in the footsteps of the 675LT by offering limited-edition models of both coupé and spider variants. Read more McLaren 570S Spider Track Pack 2018 UK review McLaren 570S review McLaren 720S review McLaren 675LT review View the full article
  13. The Motorists Guide

    Daimler appoints sales expert as new Smart CEO

    Katrin Adt replaces Annette Winkler as the new CEO of Smart Daimler small car brand's new boss Karen Adt starts on 1 October, former boss Annette Winkler will continue at Daimler as board member for Mercedes South Africa Daimler has announced former sales executive Katrin Adt as the the new CEO of Smart, replacing Annette Winkler, who steps down at the end of September. Adt joined Daimler in 1999, and worked in various sales positions until 2013, when she branched out into human resources. It's understood that the move aims to reverse Smart's falling sales, which have fallen sharply across Europe since a peak in 2016. Adt was formerly responsible for managing Smart's sales worldwide, and previously held the post as boss of Daimler's luxembourg sales. Britta Seeger, Mercedes' sales boss, said: “Katrin Adt has years of international experience. With her experience in various management positions in sales and marketing and the companywide management culture initiative Leadership 2020, she will steer Smart into a successful future.” Adt's successor Winkler was appointed to lead the Daimler brand in 2010 and is praised for ushering in Smart’s electric era, with both the Fortwo and Forfour getting Electric Drive-badged variants during her tenure. She joined Daimler in 1995 as head of PR and communications for Mercedes-Benz. Smart, post-Winkler, will become a "fully electric urban mobility brand". Steve Cropley: Why I'm glad Smart is going all-electric Dieter Zetsche, head of Daimler, said: “As a true entrepreneurial personality, she has led Smart to new successes and systematically transformed it into an electric mobility brand. Under Annette Winkler’s leadership, the smart plant in Hambach has continually improved its competitiveness and is extremely well positioned for the future.” Winkler said: “One of the key responsibilities of every executive is to pass on leading positions to the next generation at the right time. And that time has now come — with the clear focus of smart as a fully electric urban mobility brand and with the decision to develop the Hambach facility into a plant for fully electric vehicles within the Mercedes-Benz production network.” Smart's global sales under Winkler have increased steadily, from just below 100,000 in 2010, to 135,868 last year, after a 2016 peak of 143,719, according to JATO figures. The brand has had some difficulty maintaining sales, however; last year's figure almost matches that of 2008, when the brand had only one model in its lineup, rather than the two cars offered today. The Fortwo has fallen across this timeframe, from 115,900 sales in 2009, to 95,000 in 2017. Things have not been plain sailing elsewhere; in the US, Smart became an electric-only brand as petrol sales were heavily outnumbered by their plug-in counterparts. Around 7100 alternatively-fuelled Smarts were sold last year - only modest growth over around 6100 in 2014. 74% of Smart's sales were in Europe last year, Winkler will continue to work for Daimler as a board member for Mercedes-Benz South Africa from September 2019. Read more: Smart Vision EQ makes public debut as 'electric city car of future' Porsche 911 Turbo S vs Smart Fortwo: a real-world race across Wales Smart Fortwo Cabriolet Electric Drive 2017 review View the full article
  14. The E-Class (top) and C-Class are among models set to receive new PHEV variants Hybrid versions of C-Class, E-Class, GLE and S-Class to be replaced in coming months Mercedes-Benz has pulled plug-in hybrid versions of the C-Class, E-Class and S-Class from production, as well as all GLE models, to make way for their successors. The trio of PHEVs, plus the one GLE PHEV that departs along with the rest of the range, will be replaced in the coming months by models utilising Mercedes' most advanced electrified powertrains, described by the company as “third-generation” technology and marketed under the EQ banner. The new EQ system, first announced in the spring, comes exclusively with Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic gearbox, which is packaged together in same unit with the clutch and electric motor. The electric drive from this tightly packed unit has been uprated so it now contributes 121bhp and 325lb ft of torque alongside each model’s respective combustion engine. Mercedes said the top speed in electric mode for its third-generation system is now 87mph, up from 81mph for the second-gen system. Pure-electric range is also up to as much as 31 miles for each model — a gain of around 10 miles on the previous generation. A Mercedes spokesman confirmed to Autocar that the first car to benefit from the new tech will be the S-Class. Already on sale in other markets, the updated luxury model will arrive in Britain in the autumn with a new S560e variant that uses a six-cylinder petrol engine with the electric drive unit, replacing the outgoing S500e. Soon after that, two E-Class PHEVs, one with a four-cylinder diesel engine and one with a four-cylinder petrol unit, will be announced. The first customer cars are due on road before the end of this year. In spring 2019, a C-Class PHEV with the same four-cylinder diesel as the E-Class PHEV will arrive. It will be shortly followed by an all-new plug-in A-Class that will be a new rival to the Audi A3 e-tron. Although Mercedes has yet to officially announce the GLE’s successor, Autocar understands that the next-generation car is due later this year and will be offered with a GLE 560e, utilising the same plug-in powertrain as the S-Class PHEV. Demand for hybrid Mercedes models has grown substantially in recent years. The firm’s top-selling PHEV in Britain is the electrified C-Class. Last year, PHEVs accounted for 9.2% of C-Class saloon sales and 14.2% C-Class estate sales. More content: Ford Ka+ Active 2018 UK review Volkswagen aims for solid-state battery tech by 2025 View the full article
  15. The Motorists Guide

    Lamborghini reveals restored one-off Miura SVR

    The Miura SVR was inspired by the Miura Jota... One-off hardcore Miura has been restored by Lamborghini’s Polo Storico classics division. Its owner will continue to use it on track Lamborghini has restored the sole Miura SVR, with the finished car being showcased at a special event at Japan's Nakayama circuit. The Miura SVR was converted between 1974 and 1976. It was inspired by the Miura Jota, which was developed in collaboration with Lamborghini's test driver, Bob Wallace. The restoration took 19 months to complete - a month longer than it took Lamborghini to originally convert the car to SVR status. The SVR was originally sold in Italy in 1968 as a Miura S, passed around multiple owners and was then sold to Heinz Straber, who commissioned the conversion. The car first arrived in Japan in 1976 with new owner Hiromitsu Ito. It quickly became famous, inspiring both the Circuit Wolf comic book and a 1:18 scale model by toy maker Kyosho. Paolo Gabrielli, head of Lamborghini aftersales and Polo Storico, explained that the SVR had to be restored using records from the original conversion because the original production documents weren't relevant to the car. “The car arrived in Sant’Agata in pieces – although the parts were all there – and with considerable modifications,” Gabrielli said. The customer behind the restoration requested only four-point harnesses, more supportive seats and a removable rollbar as modifications to the car’s original specification. This is because they will continue to use the car on track during exhibitions. Read more: Hero: the meaning of the Lamborghini Miura Pagani announces restoration service How to buy a restored classic Range Rover JLR Classic to restore recently discovered 1948 Land Rover launch car £52m Ferrari 250 GTO becomes most expensive car ever sold View the full article
  16. The Motorists Guide

    Dacia Duster 2018 review

    It's still not as refined as other SUVs, but in terms of sheer value the second-generation Duster is very much in a class of its own In a world where cars are becoming increasingly more advanced and complicated, there has always been something rather refreshing about the Dacia Duster.Here is an SUV that, in an incredibly simplistic sense, offers you everything you need in a car - namely an engine, four wheels and a steering wheel - and absolutely nothing that you don’t. The entry-level version of the original Duster didn’t even come with air conditioning or a radio, which is certainly saying something in this day and age.Welcome, then, to the new second-generation Duster that, in base-model specification, still doesn’t include a radio or air conditioning. However, this almost puritanical approach towards excess in the context of car manufacturing means that the Duster - indeed, the entire Dacia range - is still incredibly affordable. “Shockingly affordable”, even, if you take a look at the Renault-owned brand’s marketing material.That suitably named Access model will set you back a miserly £9995, which is an increase of £500 over its predecessor. Aside from the new styling - which lends the car a wider, more muscular stance, despite it being almost identical in size to its forerunner - you now get electric power steering and LED daytime running lights as standard. Phwoar.Our more luxuriously equipped Comfort test car, which sits above Access and Essential and below the flagship Prestige in the rejigged line-up, comes with a few more creature comforts. With a 113bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels (there’s also a four-wheel-drive version available, as well as a front-driven diesel), it’ll cost you £13,195.For that sum, you get a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, Bluetooth and DAB radio, rear parking camera and sensors, electric windows all round and electrically adjustable wing mirrors. New 16in alloys, meanwhile, are suspended by MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. Talk about living the life of Riley.View the full article
  17. The Motorists Guide

    Ford Ka+ Active 2018 UK review

    This SUV-inspired makeover for Ford’s city-friendly small car will find its fans, but the Ka+ Active doesn’t set any new benchmarks for the class This is the latest evidence that not even the smallest cars are immune from the creeping influence of SUVs.Ford’s not-quite-a-crossover is a slightly taller, slightly tougher version of the Ka+ five-door supermini — one that the company is hoping will help it top the record-breaking 200,000 SUVs Ford sold in Europe last year.It follows the same basic formula as the similarly rugged Fiesta Active and will form a triumvirate with the Focus Active when it arrives early next year.Quite how active you’ll actually get while behind the wheel is up for debate; while you get SUV-friendly features such as a boosted ride height, chunkier bumpers and wheel arches, as well as standard roof rails for sporty types to lug their gear around with, this is still very much a supermini best suited to town and city driving.So that may make the car more suited to the perils of off-street parking than any kind of off-road adventure, but the 15in alloy wheels, chrome accents on the grille and foglights, exclusive interior fabric and slightly tweaked front end go a long way to helping the Active variant stand out from the standard car.Ride height has been raised by 23mm, giving the Ka+ Active that upright, crossover feel that’s so in demand right now, while a larger anti-roll bar works with the electronic stability control to reduce the chances of rollover while those rails are fully loaded. It sits on 185/60 tyres, slightly skinnier than the 195/55s found on the standard car, for a marginally softer ride.Otherwise, the mechanicals are mostly unchanged. The sole petrol engine is the 81bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit also found on the rest of the Ka+ range, with 85lb ft of torque, a top speed of 105mph and hitting 0-60mph in 13.5sec. A 1.5-litre diesel also joins the line-up — a first for the Ka+ — but Ford isn’t expecting it to be a big seller. There’s still no Ecoboost variant, either, in order to keep some space between the Ka+ and the Fiesta.The Ka+ Active has the same MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension as a regular Ka+, as well as a five-speed manual gearbox raided from the new Fiesta’s parts bin.View the full article
  18. A £75m investment in an American battery tech company puts VW on track to dramatically improve the range of its EVs Volkswagen has announced that it aims to have a production facility for solid-state batteries by 2025. The announcement comes with the VW Group’s £75 million investment in Californian battery technology company QuantumScape, following six years of collaboration with the firm. Solid-state battery technology, Volkswagen claims, would more than double the capacity compared with the brand’s current lithium ion batteries, boosting the range of the e-Golf from its current 186 miles (NEDC) to 466 miles. Volkswagen claims to have already successfully tested solid-state battery technology produced with QuantumScape at a scale comparable to that of an electric car, and claims to be the first to do so. Last year, BMW announced its investment in solid-state battery company Solid Power, and aims to have solid-state-powered EVs on the road in 2025 - the same goal as Volkswagen. QuantumScape CEO Jagdeep Singh said: “Volkswagen is the world’s largest automotive manufacturer and leads the industry in its commitment to electrification of its fleet. We think the higher range, faster charge times and inherent safety of QuantumScape’s solid-state technology will be a key enabler for the next generation of electrified powertrains.” The VW Group’s head of research, Axel Heinrich, said: “The solid-state battery will mark a turning point for e-mobility. By increasing our stake in QuantumScape and forming the joint venture we strengthen and deepen our strategic cooperation with an innovative partner and secure access to the promising QuantumScape battery technology for Volkswagen.” It’s the first time Volkswagen has put a date on its solid-state battery target, despite having a range of EVs due within four years in the ID, ID Crozz and ID Buzz. The first of these, the ID hatchback, will reach production in November 2019. BMW Group, Dyson, Fisker, Porsche and Toyota also have plans to produce solid-state batteries, because the upcoming technology is claimed to have the potential to revolutionise EVs through its faster charging, greater capacity and greater energy density than the current lithium ion batteries. Read more: Volkswagen ID hatch to stay true to concept, says design boss Dyson's electric car - our vision of what it will be like Insight: could Fisker become the next Tesla? BMW announces partnership with solid-state battery company View the full article
  19. Third-generation SUV gets new technology and road-biased styling as VW targets affluent buyers in Europe and China Volkswagen is now taking orders for the new Touareg, with prices for the flagship SUV starting at £51,595 and first deliveries due in the summer. While that price leaves it £3425 cheaper than the Mercedes-Benz GLE, it makes the new car £6165 more expensive than its predecessor — a reflection on VW's efforts to push its top model further upmarket. The brand justifies the price hike by stating that the new Touareg represents the “biggest leap forward” in the history of the SUV. The third-generation model, which was unveiled in Beijing during the spring, has been redesigned with new technology, road-focused styling and a revamped interior that is dominated by VW’s new Innovision Cockpit. This Touareg is the first to have such a clear focus on the Chinese market because, aside from being the largest new car market in the world, it's seen rapid growth in SUV demand in recent times. SUVs accounted for 8% of the Chinese market in 2007, but by 2017 this had skyrocketed to 45%. ​VW boss Herbert Diess said: “The new Touareg sets a new benchmark at the top of the automotive world and shows what VW can do in terms of design and technology. It is a reflection of our brand.” Three trim levels are offered at launch and the UK starting price applies to the entry-level SEL. Prices for the plusher R-line variant, which comes with sportier bodywork details, start from £55,095, while R-line Tech sits atop of the launch range with more standard kit (more on that below) and a starting price of £58,195. At launch, just one engine is offered: a 3.0 TDI V6 producing 282bhp. It produces 443lb ft of torque from 2250rpm, enabling the SUV to sprint from 0-62mph in 6.1sec, while top speed is 146mph. The Touareg range will gain a second 3.0 V6 diesel engine with 228bhp and 369lb ft in the autumn, as well as a 3.0 V6 petrol with 335bhp and 332lb ft. New VW Touareg: should the people's car be a premium car? The Chinese line-up includes a 362bhp plug-in hybrid that will arrive in late 2019. That variant is likely to go on sale in Europe, although no date has been set. A 415bhp, 664lb ft 4.0 V8 diesel will be offered in some markets, likely including the UK, although no date has been set for its arrival either. All of the engine options are powered through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with standard all-wheel drive featuring a centre differential lock, with five standard and four optional drive modes. To aid the driving dynamic, the Touareg features electromechanical active roll compensation, which adjusts the anti-roll bars to smooth the ride when cornering. It also has air suspension to boost ride and all-wheel steering to aid handling. Oliver Müller, the Touareg’s vehicle development boss, told Autocar: “We wanted to combine a sporty drive with comfort. The focus in on on-road handling, but it was important to make sure it was still good off road. It’s part of the DNA of the car. The look is more on-road now, but it’s still an off-roader at heart.” The exterior design of the new Touareg moves further away from the off-road styling of the original, with a bold front grille designed particularly to appeal to the Chinese market. While built on the same VW Group MLB platform as the new Porsche Cayenne, the only exterior part the two now share is the front windscreen. Exterior designer Frank Bruse told Autocar: “The key difference is that we were allowed to do our own door panels; before, we had to share with the Cayenne. That gave us more freedom.” Q&A: Frank Bruse, Volkswagen Touareg exterior designer At 4878mm, the Touareg is 77mm longer than before. It is also 44mm wider (1984mm) but 7mm shorter (1702mm). With the rear seats up, the boot has a capacity of 810 litres, 113 litres more than the previous model. The aluminium and steel body helps to make the car 106kg lighter than before. The dashboard is built around VW’s new Innovision Cockpit, which merges a 15.0in infotainment touchscreen with a 12.0in digital instrument cluster. The customisable infotainment screen also controls features such as smartphone integration, air conditioning and seat massage functions, while analogue controls remain for the volume and other frequently used switches. A range of driver assistance features come as standard, including traffic jam assist, lane assist, autonomous emergency braking, a night vision camera and a driver fatigue warning. Standard equipment includes all-round LED lighting, multicoloured interior LED lighting and a 1270mm-long sliding panoramic roof. The Touareg is designed with a range of customisation options based on three optional trim levels: the wood-dominated Atmosphere; Elegance, based on metal colours; and the stand-alone, sporty R-line. All three will feature spoilers and side sills, with R-line also gaining wheel arch extensions. The Touareg will be able to tow trailers of up to 3.5 tonnes. Read more Volkswagen Toureg review Volkswagen Polo review Volkswagen T-Roc review View the full article
  20. The Motorists Guide

    Suzuki Swift Sport long-term review

    The Japanese hot hatch is all grown up in terms of character, technology and price, but is it still a fun-loving kid at heart? Let’s find out Why we’re running it: To find out if the new, turbocharged Swift Sport still offers good, simple hot hatch fun that can compete with the best in class Month 1 - Specs Life with a Suzuki Swift Sport: Month 1 Welcoming the Swift Sport to the fleet - 30 May 2018 Turns out that patience isn’t always a virtue. Or, to subvert another cliché, sometimes good things come to those who don’t wait. And proof of that, currently parked outside Autocar Towers, is small, fun and very, very yellow. That’d be our new Suzuki Swift Sport, then. We’ve been asking (well, pestering) Suzuki for one for our test fleet since our first, brief taste of the hot hatch in Japan last year. Eventually, and possibly just to keep us quiet, Suzuki offered to deliver one to us near the end of May. But they also casually mentioned that, if we fancied getting one nearly a month earlier, we could. The catch: we’d have to pick it up from an event they were running - in Dublin. So we’d have to fly to Dublin, collect the Swift Sport, catch a ferry to Holyhead and then drive the 300 or so miles back to Autocar’s Twickenham base. Catch? That’s not a catch. More like a kid being told they can have their Christmas present early and then given the chance to play with it for hours. After all, what better way to learn about a new car than with an extended road trip spanning urban driving, motorway mileage and, via a short but brilliant detour, some of the finest driving roads in Wales? As an aside, our lack of patience wasn’t even tested when it came to speccing the Swift Sport: there aren’t any options to consider. Every car gets a six-speed manual ’box, specially tuned exhaust, LED headlights, 17in alloys and the distinctive Sport body kit. Inside, there’s air-conditioning, a leather steering wheel, a colour touchscreen and driver assistance systems such as forward detection, lane departure correction and adaptive cruise control. Our only choice concerned the colour. We went for Champion Yellow, largely because I have fond memories of similarly hued Ignis and Swift Sport rally cars from a decade ago. The opportunity to do such varied mileage is a key part of the reason we wanted the Swift Sport on our fleet. Previous versions have quietly become cult favourite hot hatches, because they were simple, small, fuss-free and fun. Or, as we described it in our review, a “pleasingly old-fashioned little bundle of joy”. Success creates expectation – and so our hopes for this new Swift Sport have duly been raised. In addition, Suzuki hasn’t simply updated its hot hatch with a new look and minor tweaks: there are some substantive changes under the bonnet. Suzuki has replaced the peppy 134bhp 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine from the old Swift Sport with a 138bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged motor. That means the car has more torque – 170lb ft compared with 110lb ft – but, according to our first drive recently, perhaps a bit less character. That first review did highlight some cause for concern, as reflected by its three-star score. While our testers still judged the Swift Sport “a fine little driver’s car”, there were furrowed brows over the price: it’s been hiked to £17,999 (albeit discounted to £16,499 until the end of June 2018). Now that’s expectation raising – it’s four grand more than a Volkswagen Up GTI, for starters. Still, like any kid unwrapping a shiny new toy, I wasn’t really thinking about the price when I collected the keys at Dublin Airport. All I wanted to do was try it out. With not enough time before the ferry to find some fun Irish roads, I settled for a trip to Phoenix Park, largely so I could drive a bit of the classic street circuit (albeit very slowly). That seemed a great idea, until it was time to head to the ferry terminal. The two were only split by six or so miles – except it was six miles right through the centre of Dublin, in ridiculously heavy traffic. That wasn’t good for my nerves but was a useful test of the Swift Sport’s abilities in stop-start urban driving. Unlike some hardcore hot hatches, and without the use of any drive modes, the Swift Sport is capable of doing a more than passable impression of a non-sporting Swift, which helped ease my attempts to manoeuvre my way out of near-gridlocked traffic on a succession of bumpy back streets. Next stage of #OperationSwiftSport: the appropriately named Dublin Swift ferry. Next stop: Holyhead... pic.twitter.com/bOTaLzFE2F — James Attwood (@Atters_J) 4 May 2018 Having made it to the ferry terminal in the nick of time, the jaunt across the Irish Sea was a chance to relieve the stress of city driving and mentally prepare to exploit our new Swift in full Sport guise on my planned route from Anglesey to an overnight halt in Shrewsbury. The trip proved that although the Swift Sport might have grown up and become a little more serious, it’s still capable of entertaining with a responsive, reactive and just plain fun drive. As first impressions go, it was hugely positive and it’s whetted my appetite for more time with the Swift Sport on some of the UK’s finer flowing A and B-roads. It’s worth noting that it didn’t disgrace itself the following day, when the final part of the journey took in the motorways of Britain, when I set off from Shrewsbury to Twickenham with a mild detour via Bristol (it made sense at the time). Brizzle. #OperationSwiftSport pic.twitter.com/HVdY1dD4ZD — James Attwood (@Atters_J) 6 May 2018 I arrived back at Autocar HQ after a long weekend of getting to know the Swift Sport keen to spend more time in it. One first impression: it remains good, simple fun, yet is also a hot hatch that should settle in nicely as a daily driver. Of course, it’s always fun being allowed to open your presents early. The question will be whether they’ll still feel shiny and exciting a few months down the road. At some point, too, the question of value will come into play and we’ll have to consider that £17,999 price – and the similarly priced elephant in the room that is the new Ford Fiesta ST. Still, that’s for the months ahead. Right now, I’m after an excuse for another Swift Sport road trip. Second opinion Past Swift Sports have, in my opinion, offered as much pep and performance as you need to drive spiritedly but safely on Britain’s roads. The balance between everyday usability and sports tuning has always seemed spot on and the early signs are this latest version gets it right too. Matt Burt Back to the top Suzuki Swift Sport specification Price new £17,999 Price as tested: £17,999 Options: none Engine 4 cyls, 1373cc, turbocharged petrol Power 138bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 170lb ft at 2500-3500rpm Top speed 130mph 0-62mph 8.1sec Claimed fuel economy 50.4mpg Test fuel economy 41.9mpg CO2 125g/km Faults None Expenses None Back to the top View the full article
  21. Porsche 919 Hybrid could go after 956’s Nürburgring record With no minimum weight limits, no balance of power and no fuel saving to contend with, a new record attempt would be as pure as motorsport gets Another bleedin’ attempt to set a record lap time at the Nürburgring. Here we go again. Yawnarama. Except that this one might actually be a bit special. The other month, Porsche took its 919 Hybrid LMP1 endurance racing car and removed from it lots of the bits that made it comply with the regulations it used to compete under. So instead of its 2.0-litre turbocharged V4 engine making around 500bhp, derestricted it now makes over 700bhp. And the electric motors that are attached to it add nearly another 450bhp, up 10%. The weight is down by 40kg to under 850kg. Downforce is up by half. And in April, the 919 Hybrid ‘Evo’ lapped Spa in 1min 41.77sec, faster than Lewis Hamilton’s pole time for the 2017 Belgian GP. It clocked 223mph on the straight as it did so. Last week, it was testing at the Nordschleife, creating speculation about how fast it might go. “Timo Bernhard (two-time Le Mans winner, driving) loves that track... perhaps he comes again,” said Porsche, not- terribly-cryptically, to suggest that a flat-out timed run is still to come. The current lap record is 6min 11.3sec, set by Stefan Bellof in a Porsche 956 in 1983; still regarded, quite rightly, as an extraordinary lap. Already, though, today’s cars are approaching that time. The circuit is faster now than it was then, no question, but in qualifying for this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, which uses the Nordschleife and modern GP tracks combined, it took a Porsche 911 GT3 R race car around 6min 30sec to complete the northern loop. At Spa, the 919 Hybrid Evo was 27% faster than a 911 GT3 R. With a similar delta on the Nürburgring, then, the 919 would complete a lap in 4min 45sec. For 12.9 miles. Even if the time is shy of five minutes by a dozen seconds, that would be an average speed of 150mph. Hence why I care about this particular lap time. Yes, it’s only a time trial and there’s no overtaking and there’s no strategy and, you might argue, ultimately, no point, but it is just so spectacularly fast that you have to take notice. Besides, the purity is part of the appeal: nobody is trying to preserve their tyres or find a way around some regulatory loophole, or being held back by a balance of performance, or finding themselves ballasting their car up to a minimum weight limit. It is motorsport at its most perfect – a bunch of engineers, taking a car, and wondering: “How fast can it go?” Which is wonderful. The only thing better were if it wasn’t based on an existing racing car. How fast could you make it go then? And what it if were not just Porsche doing this? Recently, the technology shift has been predominantly from road to racing cars. This could swing it back again. What if there was an open, unlimited formula time trial, and anyone was invited? No entry fee, no season beginning and end, no politicking and petty regulations – just engineers making the world’s fastest cars, however they want, and putting a stopwatch on them, for all the reasons car makers started racing in the first place. For the learning, for the marketing but, above all, for the love, because going ever faster is what we are inexorably drawn to do. Read more Porsche Panamera review Porsche 911 GT3 review Porsche 911 GT2 RS review View the full article
  22. Lamborghini Aventador Sant’Agata vows to resist downgrading or turbocharging its sports car powertrains Lamborghini is determined to stick with naturally aspirated engines for its super-sports models despite many of its rivals switching to turbocharging to enhance performance and reduce emissions. The company’s technical director, Maurizio Reggiani, also said that he is intent on resisting any pressure to reduce the number of cylinders in its next generation of supercars. “Every car has a mission, and based on that mission you have to choose the right engine,” Reggiani said. “For the [Urus SUV] the decision was turbo, but we will continue to choose natural aspiration for the super-sports cars. In the future, we will need to take account of fuel consumption and emissions. I am convinced the naturally aspirated engine coupled with a hybrid system can be the right answer.” The Huracán replacement, due in 2022, is likely to become a plug-in hybrid, but Reggiani hinted that the Aventador arriving before then will also switch to part-electric power. He said: “We need to reinvent this icon without [losing] the characteristics of the current car: carbonfibre, the V12 naturally aspirated engine and other components. Looking forward, if it is a hybrid then in what ways can we compensate for its weight?” Reggiani admits that he sees battery density, and the need to accommodate a significant number of cells, as being nearly as much of a problem as weight for sports cars. Lamborghini is working on a project with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston to develop carbonfibre bodywork that can act as a storage battery as well as superconductors. Last year, the Italian car maker revealed the electric Terzo Millennio concept, created with MIT, which showcased next-generation energy storage systems and innovative materials. Reggiani also said that an electrical drivetrain may help to civilise a version of the current Aventador’s sometimes aggressive single-clutch transmission: “You could use the electric motor to ensure that you don’t have torque interruption.” As well as his commitment to a naturally aspirated V12 for the Aventador replacement, Reggiani is planning for the next Huracán to stick with a non-turbo 10-cylinder engine. “The reaction you have to a 10-cylinder engine you cannot have from any other kind. This is what our customers love,” he said. “Why do I need to do something different? If I trust in the naturally aspirated engine, why downgrade my powertrain to a V8 or V6? I am Lamborghini, I am the top of the pinnacle of super-sports cars. I want to stay where I am.” Read more Lamborghini Huracan review Lamborghini Aventador review Lamborghini Gallardo review View the full article
  23. Romain Dumas in qualifying at Pikes Peak Fresh from Le Mans, the Frenchman will drive the Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak on the Colorado hill climb this weekend Autocar digital editor James Attwood will be providing updates from the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Check back here throughout the weekend for insights and updates. Preview: why Volkswagen is going for a new electric Pikes Peak record Romain Dumas' guide to the Pikes Peak hill climb Bentley Bentayga bids for production SUV Pikes Peak record Thursday 21 June: why Romain Dumas has no regrets he never reached F1 Romain Dumas never made it to Formula 1. He doesn’t really care. He doesn’t have the time. Last weekend, the 40-year-old Frenchman raced a works Porsche 919 RSR in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (his car, pictured below, retired with mechanical issues). This weekend, he’ll take on a very different challenge, driving the electric Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak machine on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado. The contrast between a round-the-clock endurance race and a 10-minute blast up a hill is typical of Dumas’s career, which has included winning Le Mans outright in Audi and Porsche (below) LMP1 prototypes, the 2016 World Endurance Championship title, two American Le Mans Series crowns and multiple wins in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. And when he’s not racing sports cars, he’s won Pikes Peak outright three times, contested the Dakar Rally for Peugeot and, in his spare time, goes rallying. He’s pretty much done it all. Almost. “If you ask me what was missing in my career, it’s F1 and IndyCar,” says Dumas. “I did an IndyCar test once, which was exciting — but I did think: ‘This is quite dangerous.'” Dumas showed enough potential and form in the junior single-seater categories to earn a test with the Renault F1 team in 2002, but that was as close as he came. Still, he harbours no regrets. “F1 is possibly the only category where it’s not just about the cars, but about what is going on around the track,” he says. “It’s possibly not made for me. “If I’d done F1, I don’t know I would have been successful, and I would never have done Le Mans and Dakar and Pikes Peak. I’m more happy about what I’ve done than what I haven’t.” Preview: why Volkswagen is going for a new electric Pikes Peak record The next step comes this weekend, when he returns to Pikes Peak, this time as a works VW driver. He’s certainly the favourite for victory; unsurprisingly, nobody else has come close to his pace in practice so far this year. He was 11.049sec quicker than Norma driver Simone Faggiolli in qualifying — which took place on a 5.15-mile section of the course. Romain Dumas's guide to the Pikes Peak hill climb But for Dumas and VW, winning the event is a mere by-product of the real goal: setting a new hill record for an electric car. If Dumas succeeds, it will be another highlight of a CV that is all the better because it doesn’t include F1. Read more Preview: why Volkswagen is going for a new electric Pikes Peak record Romain Dumas' guide to the Pikes Peak hill climb Bentley Bentayga bids for production SUV Pikes Peak record View the full article
  24. Hyundai's performance arm, N, is introducing its design to the regular i30 in order to compete with the Ford Focus ST-Line Hyundai is readying an i30 N-Line warm hatch for launch this summer. The model will usher in a new trim level that'll rival Ford’s ST-Line and Vauxhall’s recently relaunched GSi. As the first model to get a proper N performance variant, the i30 will also be the first Hyundai to be offered with this sporty N-Line trim. It will be part of the manufacturer's plans to expand its go-faster N division. Recent images of an i30 N-Line prototype spied testing indicate that it will have 18in wheels, more aggressive bumpers than standard i30s and red accents, all of which are influenced by the design of the i30 N. Some of the i30 N’s interior features will also be carried over, although its figure-hugging sports seats don’t appear to be fitted to the test car, suggesting N-Line seats will be more closely related to the regular ones. Hyundai will give the i30 N-Line a mildly uprated chassis tune. It will fit between the set-up of the regular model and the more focused i30 N. Expect slightly lowered suspension with tweaked damper rates to help improve handling, plus the fitment of Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, which are less performance-oriented than the Pirelli P Zeros offered on the i30 N. Hyundai i30 N long-term review Like the red-blooded i30 N, the N-Line’s chassis and geometry set-ups have been honed at the Nürburgring. Hyundai's head of testing and high-performance development, Albert Biermann, oversees this track work and has pledged to produce engaging cars, suggesting the i30 N-Line be more playful than the hatchback class average. Like Ford, Hyundai is expected to eventually offer its new performance-inspired trim in conjunction with a wide range of engines. Currently, the standard i30 is offered with 1.0 and 1.4-litre petrol engines, as well as a 1.6-litre diesel. The i30 Tourer and Fastback bodystyles are also set to be offered with N-Line trim. Hyundai is eager to tap into the warm hatch segment inhabited by the ST-Line and GSi cars because of rapid growth in demand for such models. The i30’s main rival, the Ford Focus, sells in ST-Line form more than any other. The best-selling Focus derivative in Britain is the 123bhp 1.0-litre Ecoboost ST-Line with a manual gearbox. Ford’s top-selling Focus costs from £21,285, so expect the i30 N-Line to be priced to compete with that. The first examples are due in Hyundai showrooms later this year, following an introduction later in the summer. More content: Vauxhall Corsa GSi returns as driver-focused VXR replacement Kia Ceed GT hot hatch due next year with i30 N 'agility and playfulness' View the full article
  25. Leo Varadkar pledges to cut emissions to make his country “healthy and great again” The Irish prime minister has pledged to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars within his country from 2030, in a move he said will help to make Ireland “healthy and great again”. Leo Varadkar said during a speech at Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin that banning car tailpipe emissions, as well as the use of peat and coal in power stations, would help to make Ireland “a leader in climate action”. If enforced, his 2030 combustion car ban would be enforced a decade before a similar ban takes place in the UK. It is not yet known if Varadkar’s ban would exclude hybrid cars, like the UK ban will. Varadkar said his harsh actions would come as part of plans to make Ireland sustainable. He said such a move would require “profound changes in how we live our lives and that will only be possible with the support of communities and individuals”. Varadkar’s comments come in the same week that British Mayors from several leading cities met the UK’s environment secretary, Michael Gove, to propose moving the 2040 ban on pure petrol and diesel vehicles forward by 10 years in a bid to cut pollution. “Air pollution is not an isolated problem, it’s a national health crisis,” Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said. “Our country’s filthy air is shortening lives, damaging lungs and severely impacting on the NHS.” Gove recently introduced a new clean air strategy that outlined plans to reduce particulates from vehicle brakes and tyres. However, the strategy refrained from tightening plans introduced in 2017 that included the 2040 petrol and diesel car ban. More content: Polestar boss: high-performance Volvo models won't dilute brand image Aston Martin to use Silverstone's Stowe Circuit for high-speed testing View the full article
  26. Volvo's new S60 range is topped by a Polestar Engineered model Thomas Ingenlath has said that a future range of tuned Volvos will serve a different purpose to Polestar cars Polestar boss Thomas Ingenlath says that the brand’s future range of performance-tuned Volvo cars, starting with the new S60, won’t dilute Polestar's identity. Established as a racing team, Volvo bought Polestar to be an in-house tuner of hot variants, but last year spun it off as a separate brand to focus on electric cars. Polestar will start with the hybrid 1 (pictured below), with subsequent vehicles all full EVs. However, Polestar will continue to produce Polestar Engineered versions of select Volvo models, although these will now exclusively feature electrified powertrains. The S60 Polestar Engineered uses the same T8 hybrid engine as that featured elsewhere in the range, tuned to give 409bhp and 494lb ft of torque. The biggest change is the car’s suspension tuning, in particular the use of Ohlins dampers, designed to offer a more engaging drive. Asked at the launch of the S60 if the Polestar Engineered line could dilute the identity of the Polestar stand-alone brand, Ingenlath admitted: “The danger is there.” However, he added: “From what we do content wise, it’s not something that contradicts. Moving from the previous S60 Polestar Engineered to the new S60 Polestar Engineered matches what we do with the Polestar brand: it’s a commitment to electrification and a premium performance attribute. “In the future, the core business and our main business is the Polestar brand, and what we produce to give to the customers with Polestar cars is a base on what we’ll give to Volvo as a spice with Polestar Engineered.” Read more 2018 Volvo S60 to face 3 Series with keener handling and plug-in variants Volvo XC40 to be firm's first fully electric vehicle Polestar 1 to star at Goodwood Festival of Speed View the full article
  27. Cars equipped with continuously adaptive damping can respond to holes in the road Ford is introducing pothole-detecting technology that can smooth out a car’s ride over broken roads to its range via the fourth-generation Focus. The system comes with Ford’s continuously controlled damping, which is a £650 option, and uses 12 high-resolution sensors that can ‘see’ potholes before the car drives over them. Once a pothole is identified, the dampers are automatically adjusted to their hardest setting, so the wheels that run over the hole don't fall so deep into it. This, Ford said, reduces the impact as the wheel bounces back out of the hole, improving the ride and reducing the chances of damage. The system is said to be most effective at the rear of the car, because there’s a greater amount of time for the damper to tense before a wheel is confronted with the pothole. First introduced in the US last year, the tech will be available in Britain when the first new Focus (above) models arrive in showrooms in the summer, and will then be available on all Ford models above the Focus. The tech will be standard in all models equipped with continuously controlled damping. “Our engineers are always searching for the roughest roads to really test our suspension to the limit, but more and more we're noticing that the rough roads are finding us,” said Guy Mathot, vehicle dynamics supervisor for the new Focus. “Potholes are a problem that isn’t going away any time soon but, with our advanced suspension technology for the all-new Focus, we've been able to reduce their impact.” The UK’s pothole problem peaked after the ‘Beast from the East’ storm passed over the British Isles during the winter. The UK Government announced a £100 million fund to repair potholes in March, but experts claim that this is well short of the investment required to properly fix the county's roads. More content: Ford Fiesta ST review Aston Martin to use Silverstone's Stowe Circuit for high-speed testing View the full article
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