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  1. Today
  2. Bespoke creation readied for wintry conditions with raised suspension, studded tyres and striking livery Bentley has unveiled a one-off ice racing version of its Continental GT, which will compete at the 2020 GP Ice Race in Zell am See, Austria. Bearing a distinctive blue and black livery that pays homage to the record-breaking Continental from last year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, the Ice Race Continental GT has been specially adapted for the competition but is said to be “as close to production standard as possible”. The race car has been raised for enhanced ground clearance and sits atop a set of studded Pirelli Scorpion tyres for maximum grip on snow and ice. The wheelarches have been extended, as well, to make room for a 15mm increase in track width, while Slovenian firm Akrapovic has created a bespoke stainless steel exhaust system for the racer. Further modifications include the addition of a new roof rack, on which is mounted a set of Lazer spotlights and a pair of skis produced for Bentley by winter sports gear manufacturer Bomber. The competition car’s interior largely resembles that of the standard Continental, but that car's leather front seats have been swapped for a pair of purpose-built race items and harnesses. A rear roll cage and on-board fire suppression system also feature. Elsewhere, however, the Ice Race Continental GT remains mostly standard. It uses the same twin-turbocharged W12 motor as the range-topping production model, which produces an unchanged 626bhp and 664lb ft for a 0-62mph time of 3.7 seconds and 207mph top speed. The ice racer will be piloted by Junior World Rally Championship driver Catie Munnings, who said: “I spent some time on the ice in the car just before Christmas. At first I thought it would feel heavy, but I was amazed by how dynamic, nimble and responsive it is.” The GP Ice Race, first contested in 1937, was revived in 2019. It pits vehicles from of various ages and categories against eachother on a 600m track carved in the snow. This year’s event begins on 1 February. Read more Bentley Continental GT breaks Pikes Peak production record​ New Bentley Mulsanne 6.75 Edition is final outing for iconic V8​ Bentley plots £1.5m ultra-exclusive open-top sports tourer​ View the full article
  3. Eye-catching supermini arrives in the UK in range-topping form. Can it compete with the likes of Audi and Mini? There’s a clear family link between this new Peugeot 208 supermini – driven here in the UK for the very first time – and the larger 508 executive car. It’s most obvious in the exterior styling, which could fairly be described as radical for the supermini segment. With the same ‘lion claw’ daytime running lights, conspicous three-digit badge on the nose, chunky wheelarch claddings and gloss-black bar connecting its LED tail-lights, it really stands out from its contemporaries, which include the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.Slightly cartoonish proportions and mustard-yellow paint heighten the effect to the extent that, with the two cars side by side, you would guess far that more than two decades seperate the 208 from its turn-of-the-century 206 ancestor.The ‘trickle-down effect’ continues inside. Whereas the previous 208 looked as normal as you like inside, the new model really is something else. The first thing you notice is how tiny the oblong steering wheel is. It sits below a new 3D version of Peugeot’s digital instrument display, whereon certain features – most notably speed and the arrow representing your position on the sat-nav map – often seem closer to your own nose than the background. This is the kind of thing that feels more expensive – premium, if we must – than it was to develop.To the left is a 10.0in infotainment touchscreen (7.0in on Active and Allure trims) that sits atop a helpful row of piano-key-style shortcut buttons. Well, one row of buttons in front of a row of flat touch-sensitive icons, which seems a very odd decision, because it means you can learn to operate by rote where only half the things are.The display itself is clear and crisp, and its software reacts to your inputs with little delay, although it must be said that the menu structure is confusing. You also have to adjust the air conditioning via the touchscreen, which proves an endless source of frustration.Most positively, however, the quality of the interior is very impressive. So fancy do the materials feel on all of the areas you touch regularly, whether plastic or faux leather, that perhaps the only fair comparison in the class is the Mini 5dr.View the full article
  4. Sketches suggest Ferrari could be plotting an electric successor to the 812 Superfast Drawings suggest that new model could be a GT-style electric successor to the 812 Superfast Details of Ferrari’s first production electric vehicle, arriving by 2025, appear to have been revealed in a series of patents leaked online. A series of sketches and accompanying data, first discovered by US site Taycan EV Forum, suggest that Maranello’s first electric car will be a low-riding GT that could rival the Porsche Taycan and upcoming Tesla Roadster. A plan view shows the EV is likely to feature a two-seat or 2+2 layout, a long bonnet and short overhangs, much like the firm’s 812 Superfast flagship. Also shown are details of the model’s four-wheel-drive powertrain, showing that an electric motor will be mounted to each wheel, and will apparently be capable of operating independently, perhaps allowing for the ability to rotate on the spot. Precise technical data and performance details remain unconfirmed. A Ferrari spokesperson was unable to comment on the patent applications. Ferrari’s first electric car is likely to use technology taken from the new SF90, which pairs a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 with a trio of electric motors for a combined power output of 986bhp - making it Ferrari’s most powerful road car yet. At the SF90’s launch last year, Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri called it “the first step in a direction that Ferrari will enter in unwavering focus and confidence”. In August 2019, the firm’s chief technology officer Michael Leiters explained to Autocar that keeping weight down and ensuring a high top speed were priorities for any Ferrari EV. “Right now, the technology is not mature enough”, he said. “Look at customer requirements: the most important thing is sound. Today, there is also a problem on range, which for a sports car really is a problem. The range of an electric car is especially so if you accelerate or go with high speed.” Read more SF90 Stradale hybrid is most powerful Ferrari road car yet​ Ferrari tech boss on EVs, V12s and next LaFerrari​ View the full article
  5. Images on social media show new family hatch will take styling inspiration from the Tarraco SUV and El-Born SUV The new Seat Leon has been partially revealed in new images posted online ahead of its official unveiling today. The pictures were posted by Instagram user CochesPias, and show the front and rear ends of the Ford Focus rival fully unwrapped. Visible details include an angular front grille design mirroring that of the firm's large Tarraco SUV, and the horizontal rear light bar shown in official preview images released by Seat. Seat hasn’t been shy of dropping teasers of the new Leon ahead of its unveiling. In December it released a video showing details of the model, and recently gave us a look at the upcoming car’s rear in a new image. Seat insiders have called the new car the biggest step forward in the model's history, with a significant improvement in cabin technology and the introduction of variants with electrified powertrains. The all-new SEAT Leon will be unveiled on the 28th January 2020. Here's a sneak peek of it before then! pic.twitter.com/KiGZvN7fMd — SEAT UK Media (@SEAT_UK_media) December 18, 2019 The new car gains a full-length lighting strip across the tailgate that echoes that of Seat's El Born EV, a new design of rear name badge than on the outgoing car and the return of full LED headlights. The new Leon is also set to gain ambient lighting features in the cabin. Despite claims of a radical new design direction beginning with the Mk4 Leon, prototypes feature an evolutionary look. Seat is gradually moving away from straight edges and sharp angles for future models, and this mule's curvier front-end demonstrates that. The C-segment car will get a more advanced infotainment system - which can update maps, apps and functionality over the air - similar to that offered in the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf. Seat CEO Luca de Meo said: “For two years, we have been working on what will be the best infotainment system coming to market next year, starting with the Leon." Along with the new cabin tech, the fourth-generation Leon will also be available with Seat's first plug-in hybrid powertrain to offer improved fuel economy as well as limited zero-emissions running. The plug-in Leon is billed as the model to kick-start Seat’s electrification ambitions, which will gain pace when its first truly bespoke EV, the El Born, is launched in 2020. New Cupra Leon ST hot estate seen ahead of 2020 launch To signify its big stride forward, the upcoming Leon’s look has been described by brand design boss Alejandro Mesonero as taking “a bigger step” than the company has taken since the relaunch of the brand with the current Leon in 2012. “Sometimes you need to take a bigger step so as not to be obsolete. We’re ready very soon for the next, bolder step in design,” he said. Rabe has previously told Autocar that the design and packaging of the five-door car will “not be a typical hatch" and that “it will create some desire”. The next Leon will once again use the VW Group’s MQB platform, albeit a significantly updated version shared with the recently launched Mk8 Golf. The Leon will come in five-door hatch, estate and crossover forms. The latter, jacked-up version will sit below the Ateca SUV in the brand's range and be "more extreme" than the previous version of the Leon estate, according to Rabe. He added: “We talk about hatch and we talk about SUV. Why not make something in-between?” The range is expected to open with the familiar 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder petrol engine, offering similar performance to today's model. Seat won’t drop diesels from the line-up, Rabe said, but the range will include one of the first mild-hybrid petrol options within the VW Group for those wanting levels of economy similar to those offered by oil-burning engines. This is likely to use the 48V system mated to a 1.5-litre TSI engine, as found in the Golf. There will also be a plug-in hybrid Leon, which the Spanish brand has already confirmed will offer a 31-mile all-electric range. Expectations are that the PHEV Leon will use the 201bhp petrol-electric system offered in the Golf, with a more powerful 242bhp plug-in powertrain reserved for the Cupra-branded performance version. READ MORE Cupra Leon ditches Seat badge and goes hybrid for 2020 New Cupra Formentor hits road ahead of 2020 debut Cupra Ateca 2019 long-term test review View the full article
  6. W16 produces 1479bhp in the firm's Chiron flagship Firm's CEO, Stephan Winkelmann, calls powertrain a "USP which is not diminishing in value" Bugatti’s quad-turbo W16 powertrain has life in it yet despite the broader trend for downsizing, according to Bugatti boss Stephan Winkelmann. He acknowledged that Bugatti could have a pool of other engine options to choose from within owner the Volkswagen’s Group arsenal, but said that the “mission for a Bugatti is a different one” to the group’s other brands. Talking about its hypercars, opposed to any potential second model, Winkelmann commented: “The W16 has, in my opinion, an opportunity for the future. It’s a USP which is not diminishing in value.” He added that Volkswagen Group boss Herbert Diess “knows the value of a W16 engine”. Talking more broadly about internal combustion engines, he said: “If it lasts another decade, ICE will be the last of a kind, and the last of a kind means it is collectible. “If there is hybridisation, the battery will be replaced but it won’t be original. The internal combustion engine is something that will grow in value. People are buying Bugattis because they want to enjoy the ultimate performance but also - and this is legitimate - because it’s an investment. “The EB110 is skyrocketing. And Veyrons are going up. I don’t have to be a wizard to forecast that this will happen to the Chiron and therefore, I’m committing to the fact that this is the way to go for the hyper sportscar in the next decade.” READ MORE Record 304mph Bugatti Chiron makes public debut Bugatti reveals two special-edition Chiron models Bugatti La Voiture Noire revealed as most expensive new car of all time View the full article
  7. Land Cruiser will do whatever you ask – and keep on doing it Toyota Land Cruisers and Mitsubishi Shoguns are among the hard-grafting off-roaders that get the job done, every time Weeks, if not months, of seemingly relentless rain have made it very wet and very muddy outside, and so thoughts inevitably turn to 4x4s. Reader John knows his stuff, having bought a Nissan Pathfinder brand new and put it to some serious hardcore use. As he told me: “The engine is and always was rough but the thing did the job and was robust and reliable, provided it was regularly serviced. The car has now accumulated 188k miles, having been put to all imaginable uses.” I still a struggle to recommend Land Rover products. I know people with good Discovery experiences, but I’m not one of them. The reliability stats, based on warranty claims, prove the point that apart from a Mk1 Disco and maybe a classic Range Rover that will in any case cost gazillions to sort, you are better off with the 4x4 workhorses of this world. My go-to hardest-working 4x4, based on real-life experience, has to be a Toyota Anything At All. Obviously, though, if like John you are replacing a Pathfinder, it would need to be a Land Cruiser. John will buy new on a PCP but, for fun, let’s look at what a decent amount of money – around £16k – will buy used. I was rather taken by a 2008 3.0 D-4D with 63k miles, a full Toyota history and a £15,800 price. That would be strong money for most 12-year-old 4x4s but is actually very good value for a Cruiser. Plus, this has eight seats so that makes it an MPV, but much more useful. Other comfy, last-forever 4x4s include the Mitsubishi Shogun and I had a decent experience over a year with one. Significantly, £15k gets you a very contemporary 2016 3.2 Di-D 4Work SG2. Okay, it is a van version, but it has 77k miles, leather and 18in alloy wheels. Mind you, a seven-leather-seat 2014 Di-D SG3 with 60,000 miles is just £15,250. Again, we have a proper service history, it’s a one-owner car and it has 18in alloys. A dealer is selling it so there is a proper warranty as well. I feel like digging up a Mercedes G-Wagen and you can pick up a 1991 3.0 GE 300d with over 100k miles and a measly 88bhp but in tidy condition for a bit over £15k. It won’t be very comfy, though. That sort of leads me to looking at Jeeps. I tell you what: a 2012 Grand Cherokee 3.0 V6 CRD Overland with 65k miles, for dead on £15k, seems like a not half bad way to travel if you plan on towing stuff, or just doing some hard work. It’s plasticky, but not too bad as a day-to-day prospect, and just the thing to get you through the winter crud. What we almost bought this week Ford Granada Scorpio 2.9 24V Cosworth: We were all set to snap up this bargain 201bhp Cossie, a 1994-reg with 103,000 miles, for £600 when some bright spark spotted it had no MOT. A rusty underside, apparently. Still, given that elsewhere someone is asking £8750 for a mint 1991-reg with 125,000 miles, it might make a rewarding project. Tales from Ruppert's garage Porsche Cayenne, mileage - 106,043: As I mentioned a fortnight ago, there was a crisis with the Flying Pig involving tyres and, in order to cope with a busy Christmas period, I had to get a set of tyres to keep the show on the road. One garage said they would not replace just the one damaged tyre but would have to replace the entire set. Their quote was £600, so I went off on a ‘who would do the best deal?’ quest. It turned out to be Kwik Fit, which quoted comfortably below £500 for some tyre I’d never heard of. Even so, I went for them. So far, we haven’t fallen off the road so they must be pretty good. Reader's ride Rover 75 2.5 V6 Contemporary SE: David Robertshaw decided to buy a car he’d admired but never driven, a Rover 75: “It had a bulging history file full of invoices. The first owner had spent a fortune on it. It also had a full MOT. I spent a weekend fixing various minor issues before putting it into daily service. “I’ve now covered around 3000 fault-free miles in the six months since buying it. I love the sound of that KV6 engine and the traditionally styled interior, although it is pretty heavy on fuel. My best is 37mpg on a run. However, it does drop below 20mpg on my commute!” Readers' questions Question: I am considering buying a used Mazda CX-5 but have heard that Mazdas get more rust more often than other makes. Is this a true issue with them? Mihail Iliev, Sofia, Bulgaria Answer: Ask enough people and you’re sure to hear stories of rusty Mazdas, and rusty Fords, and rusty Vauxhalls… Independent vehicle inspector Michael Ward says most makes rust eventually and it can break out in damp areas behind body cladding, bumpers and undertrays. Galvanised steel helps put the brakes on body corrosion but offers only sacrificial protection, with the zinc element corroding before the steel. Where you live also plays a part. For example, pine forests, such as those in Bulgaria, produce very acidic soil that washes onto roads and rusts cars. John Evans Question: I thought an electric car would make the ideal towing vehicle, given all its low-down torque, but it seems no one makes an EV that can tow. Why not? Colin Skinner, Harrogate Answer: In fact, there is an electric tow car but it’s an expensive one: the Tesla Model X. It has a generous braked towing limit of 2250kg but costs from £83,000. The reasons other EVs can’t tow are that they’re already heavy without a trailer to tow as well, concerns about what effect a heavy trailer would have on the car’s energy regeneration system and the effect towing would have on the car’s range. John Evans READ MORE Toyota to reveal new small SUV at Geneva motor show Toyota plots new Aygo to capitalise on city car demise Toyota to build prototype 'city of the future' View the full article
  8. Autocar's impression of the how the next-gen Qashqai might look Nissan is fast-tracking the new Qashqai and X-Trail for reveal this year, and lining up an all-new electric SUV Nissan will reinvigorate its ageing line-up by introducing three new models in the next 18 months. A new Qashqai and a new X-Trail are due to be revealed this year and an all-new electric SUV will take on Ford’s Mustang Mach-E in 2021. The significant product overhaul comes at a crucial time for the Japanese maker, which has recently suffered dwindling profits and job cuts and is still reeling from the fallout from the arrest of former CEO Carlos Ghosn. New CEO Makoto Uchida, himself barely a month into the job, is implementing a product plan with renewed vigour, ensuring the manufacturer’s global best-sellers are brought up to the class standard in good time. Following the recently launched, second-generation Juke, three more new SUVs are at the core of the plan to restore sales to their previously strong position. The new Qashqai will be the main European focus, chiefly because the current car remains the most popular Nissan here even in its sixth year on sale. A total of 230,000 Qashqais were sold across the continent in 2018. It was also the fifth-best-selling car in the UK last year, although its sales have declined in other markets. A number of newer rivals are catching up and stealing the Qashqai’s market share, a trend in the fast-growing SUV sector that’s only going to get worse as the current car ages. Now planned for a September 2020 unveiling – almost certainly at the Frankfurt motor show – the third-generation Qashqai will be subject to a bold exterior redesign inspired by the smaller Juke and recent concepts such as the IMQ. The interior is expected to undergo a radical revamp, too – as prototypes for its 2020 X-Trail sibling suggest – with overhauled infotainment and a new dashboard design. Autocar understands that the new Qashqai won’t move to a totally new platform. Instead, Nissan will adapt the CMF underpinnings found in today’s model. The biggest development – although it has yet to be officially confirmed – is that Nissan may not offer any diesel engines in the new model as it looks to put electrification at the forefront of its powertrain strategy. Instead, two new hybrid systems are set to make up the core line-up for the new Qashqai. One is the brand’s ePower system, which uses a petrol engine acting as a generator to charge the batteries and propel the car via electric motors. In Japan, 70% of Nissan Notes sold are fitted with this system. The other hybrid system is expected to be a plug-in setup, built using know-how from alliance partner Mitsubishi. Alongside this, small-output petrol engines mated to mild-hybrid technology to reduce emissions are expected. The Qashqai isn’t likely to be offered with pure-electric propulsion in its next generation, though. Instead, a new electric SUV is scheduled for 2021 and is due to be based heavily on the Ariya concept shown at last year’s Tokyo motor show. The Ariya’s production-previewing design should transfer over largely unchanged to the new model, which is expected to be significantly more expensive to buy than its combustion-engined SUV siblings. Reports from US dealers claimed to have seen the finished model suggest an electric range of about 300 miles and a 0-60mph target of under five seconds. The Ariya will also feature Nissan’s most advanced autonomous driving tech – ProPilot 2.0 – delivering motorway driving functions on a par with those of Tesla. X-Trail is Nissan's first priority Autocar understands the X-Trail will be prioritised for an unveiling before its smaller Qashqai sibling, possibly in the summer. Prototypes have been seen testing in the US, where the X-Trail and Qashqai are sold as the Rogue and Rogue Sport respectively. Nissan sells significantly more Rogues in the US than X-Trails in Europe. It’s also more popular than the smaller SUV in both the US and China, so Nissan will want it to be the centre of attention in these markets. The US test cars provide a clear glimpse of the upcoming X-Trail’s exterior styling. Spy shots also reveal a significantly overhauled dashboard design dominated by a large, free-standing central display that’s flanked by traditional knobs and shortcut buttons rather than touch-sensitive items. There is a separate, small screen for the climate functions, and a now fashionable digital dial display also features. READ MORE New Nissan Rogue hints at styling of next X-Trail Nissan accelerates plan to split with Renault, reports suggest Nissan adds tech-heavy trim for Qashqai, X-Trail and Micra View the full article
  9. Our reporters empty their notebooks to round up a week in gossip from across the automotive industry In this week's round-up of automotive gossip, we tap Mercedes' brain on the future of China, quiz Audi Sport on the prospect of an electric R8, hear why Renault is focusing on design and more. Mercedes' China prediction Mercedes predicts that China’s car market will recover over the next five to ten years, despite it dropping significantly in the past 18 months. “It remains the place we see the biggest growth potential,” said CEO Ola Källenius. “We haven’t experienced a large fall, but for everyone I still see potential for expansion there.” Audi Sport keeps R8 options open Audi Sport isn't yet saying whether the next-gen R8 will go electric. Joint MD Julius Seebach said all options were open. For now, it has a strong future in its current generation, not only as a road car but also as a base for the R8 GT3 customer racer that is the most commercially successful GT3 car in the racing world. This makes the future of the R8 a more complex consideration than simply as a flagship road car. Renault's design emphasis Renault must emphasise the design of its cars and their high level of technical innovations in order to grow sales, according to Vincent Tourette, who has led the firm’s UK arm since 2018. Tourette said Renault’s approach had “been a bit hectic” over the past 15 years and that his goal is to create a sustainable future for the firm and its dealer network. Toyota's Prius commitment Toyota says the Prius has a strong future even as the industry shifts to full EVs. “We’re planning our fifth and sixth-generation hybrid systems and I can see the Prius continuing,” said European vice president Matt Harrison. Don’t expect the Prius name to morph onto an EV, either; Harrison says it’s synonymous with hybrid technology. READ MORE Mercedes downplays 75% AMG range restriction claims Matt Saunders' car of the decade: Mercedes-Benz C-Class New Mercedes GLA receives more tech, space and comfort View the full article
  10. Yesterday
  11. The first PHEV to wear the Griffin badge delivers hot hatch pace - but can it match premium competition for ride refinement and interior finish? Meet one half of Vauxhall’s two-step journey towards electrifying its entire passenger car line-up by 2024 - a journey set to make its other significant stride forward in just a few months with the arrival of the Corsa-e electric supermini.The Grandland X Hybrid4 is the first ever plug-in hybrid to wear a Vauxhall badge, 2012’s Ampera being, strictly speaking, a range-extender electric car rather than a PHEV. With a 13.2kW battery, it can deliver as much as 35 miles of zero-emissions range - enough, says Vauxhall, for 80% of customers to do the majority of their driving on electricity alone. A 7.2kW wall box can then recharge it in under two hours, though only if you pay £500 for the option.Of more interest to the average Autocar reader? That this is also the most powerful production Vauxhall on sale today, a pair of electric motors and PSA’s familiar 1.6-litre turbocharged four-pot petrol engine sending 296bhp to all four wheels. 0-60 takes a claimed 5.9 seconds, or enough to raise the eyebrow of the average hot hatchback owner.In the UK, the all-wheel drive Hybrid4 starts with with the well-equipped SRi Nav trim, at £41,500. Our test car, a top-spec Ultimate Nav which adds niceties such as advanced park assist, premium audio and bespoke LED headlights, was an altogether more ambitious £46,650. That isn't too far removed from premium plug-ins from Audi, BMW and Volvo. Fleet customers may be more tempted by the Business Edition at roughly £37,000, but private buyers may want to wait for the less pricey, front-drive only variant set to follow later in the year, with an equally attractive benefit-in-kind tax rate.View the full article
  12. Korean media reports suggest Kia's largest SUV will be shown at a dedicated event on 17 February, with a plug-in hybrid variant on the cards Kia will move its oldest model, the Sorento, into a new generation this year, and now reports from the company's home market suggest it will be revealed in a few weeks' time. A report from The Korean Car Blog states strongly that the reveal, set to take place in South Korea, is planned for 17 February. This is also the date that domestic-market order books will open for the new car, the publication claims. It could mean that the Sorento's European premiere would be the Geneva motor show in early March, although Autocar is awaiting confirmation of this from Kia UK. The new large SUV, which will rival the Skoda Kodiaq, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Nissan X-Trail, shares much of its platform, mechanicals and technology with the latest Hyundai Santa Fe. Recent spy shots revealed that it has a more square-edged design than its curvy predecessor, with the brand’s tiger nose grille visible within a new front-end profile. Kia also appears to be benchmarking the new SUV alongside the pricier BMW X5, showing the Korean firm's ambition for the model. The latest Santa Fe is actually slightly smaller than today’s Sorento, at 4.77m long and 1.89m wide. Whether Kia has slightly shortened the Sorento or extended the existing platform to suit remains to be seen. Either way, it should remain one of the more spacious seven-seat SUVs. The new Sorento is expected to initially use a 2.2-litre diesel engine mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and, on higher-end models, four-wheel drive. But Kia has confirmed that, as part of its electrification plans, there will be a plug-in hybrid version in due course. That will make use of a four-cylinder petrol engine – likely a turbocharged version of the Kia Niro's 1.6-litre unit – and an electric motor mounted on the rear axle to give electric all-wheel drive. Read more: Kia Xceed crossover: first official image released New Kia Soul EV makes European debut at Geneva Kia Sorento review View the full article
  13. Stuttgart's track-ready 911 could be revealed in the coming weeks as it's shown briefly without any disguise in Porsche's Superbowl ad Porsche's upcoming 992-generation 911 GT3 has been seen without disguise - and the brand itself is responsible for its early sneak preview. The track-focused sports car can briefly be seen in the background of Porsche's 2020 Superbowl advert, released online over the weekend. Though only quickly visible, tell-tale GT3 styling cues are clear to see, including the large fixed rear wing, splitter and diffuser, and the classic GT3 centre-locking wheels. The sighting adds fuel to rumours that the car could be a surprise unveiling at the 2020 Geneva motor show in March, alongside the new 911 Turbo which will be confirmed in the coming weeks. Further details are yet to be revealed, but we do know the 911 Speedster’s heavily revised 4.0-litre flat-six engine will be carried over to future GT models as Porsche’s GT division persists with naturally aspirated engines. GT boss Andreas Preuninger said: “We’ve invested in the future with this engine. I can’t comment on future projects but we would be stupid not to re-use this engine somewhere. “Our philosophy in GT cars is to stay naturally aspirated. We want to keep that engine for the future and that’s why we’ve made such a tremendous effort to get the engine right without taking emotion and performance away.” Preuninger declined to reveal which models would use the updated engine, but a strong likelihood is the next-generation GT3. Recently spied prototypes at the Nürburgring Nordschleife emitted the telltale wail of a high-revving engine free from turbocharging, adding further weight to the speculation. The Speedster, a swansong for the 991 generation of the 911 priced from £211,599, uses the same powertrain as the outgoing GT3 but receives a host of updates. Chief among the updates, and in order to extend the regulatory life of this big-capacity direct-injection flat six, Porsche has fitted two sizeable petrol particulate filters – one integrated into the exhaust tract that exits each side of the block. And yet owing to the use of thinner steel, nickel and soldering techniques rather than welding, the exhaust system now weighs 10kg less than before, despite the additional hardware. Power has also increased, from 493bhp to 503bhp, and continues to arrive at 8400rpm. To achieve this with an engine that is not only cleaner but also suffers from an increase in exhaust back-pressure owing to the new filters is no mean feat. The fuel-injection system now operates at 250bar rather than 200 for improved propagation, and each of the engine’s six cylinders now gets a dedicated throttle-body. The combined effect – but particularly due to the new throttle-bodies – is even sharper throttle response, says Porsche. Rachel Burgess and Richard Lane Read more 2019 Porsche 911 Speedster: UK prices and specs revealed​ Porsche 911 GT3 review Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 2019 UK review​ View the full article
  14. More lay-bys and radar detection expected to be rolled out in the coming years The UK government has revealed that 38 people have been killed in crashes on smart motorways in the last five years. The announcement came in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from the BBC’s Panorama programme. It is the first time Highways England, which manages the country’s road infrastructure, has reported the total number of deaths. Smart motorways have come under heavy criticism in the five years since they were first trialled in the West Midlands in 2006. The removal of the hard shoulder to improve traffic flow means broken-down vehicles unable to reach a refuge area are forced to remain stationary in ‘live’ lanes, with no protection against oncoming traffic. The Panorama report also revealed that one section of the M25 motorway has seen a 20-fold increase in near-misses (incidents with “the potential to cause injury or ill health”) since it became a stretch of smart motorway in April 2014. In the five years prior to its reconfiguration, there were 72 near misses. In the five years after, there were 1485. It has also emerged that a warning sign on the same section of the M25 had been out of action for 336 days. Smart motorways are deployed across approximately 200 miles of the UK’s 2,200-mile network. Transport secretary Grant Schapps told Panorama that smart motorways should be “as safe or safer than regular motorways or we shouldn’t have them at all”. It is expected that a government review of smart motorways, set to conclude imminently, will suggest ways the new type of road can be improved. The BBC reports that a radar-based car detection system will be rolled out across all smart motorways over the next three years, automatically detecting stationary vehicles and triggering warning signs to alert drivers behind. There are also calls from figures such as AA President Edmund King to substantially increase the number of refuge areas on roads. Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy for the RAC, welcomed reports of an impending reform: “A commitment to install stopped vehicle detection technology on the whole smart motorway network would be a welcome step and something the RAC has called for consistently in recent years. “RAC research suggests that more than two-thirds of drivers believe that permanently removing the hard shoulder compromises safety in the event of a breakdown. Simply ploughing on with the status quo regardless isn’t an option anymore.” Read more How Autocar writers would fix Britain's roads and transport​ Tory government pledges £25bn for road improvement​ View the full article
  15. El Born-inspired tailgate lighting strip and angular profile suggest edgy new look for upcoming hatch Seat hasn’t been shy of dropping teasers of the new Leon ahead of its unveiling tomorrow. In December it released a video showing details of the model, and recently gave us a look at the upcoming car’s rear in a new image. The fourth-generation of the Spanish brand's Ford Focus rival will be revealed at a dedicated event on 28 January. Seat insiders have called the new car the biggest step forward in the model's history, with a significant improvement in cabin technology and the introduction of variants with electrified powertrains. The all-new SEAT Leon will be unveiled on the 28th January 2020. Here's a sneak peek of it before then! pic.twitter.com/KiGZvN7fMd — SEAT UK Media (@SEAT_UK_media) December 18, 2019 The latest picture expands on the fleeting view of the Leon’s back shown in the above video. It shows the new car gains a full-length lighting strip across the tailgate that echoes that of Seat's El Born EV. We can also see a new design of rear name badge than on the outgoing car, while at the front, the video showed the return of full LED headlights. The new Leon is also set to gain ambient lighting features in the cabin. Despite claims of a radical new design direction beginning with the Mk4 Leon, the test mule shows an evolutionary look. Seat is gradually moving away from straight edges and sharp angles for future models, and this mule's curvier front-end demonstrates that. The C-segment car will get a more advanced infotainment system - which can update maps, apps and functionality over the air - similar to that offered in the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf. Seat CEO Luca de Meo said: “For two years, we have been working on what will be the best infotainment system coming to market next year, starting with the Leon." Along with the new cabin tech, the fourth-generation Leon will also be available with Seat's first plug-in hybrid powertrain to offer improved fuel economy as well as limited zero-emissions running. The plug-in Leon is billed as the model to kick-start Seat’s electrification ambitions, which will gain pace when its first truly bespoke EV, the El Born, is launched in 2020. New Cupra Leon ST hot estate seen ahead of 2020 launch To signify its big stride forward, the upcoming Leon’s look has been described by brand design boss Alejandro Mesonero as taking “a bigger step” than the company has taken since the relaunch of the brand with the current Leon in 2012. “Sometimes you need to take a bigger step so as not to be obsolete. We’re ready very soon for the next, bolder step in design,” he said. Rabe has previously told Autocar that the design and packaging of the five-door car will “not be a typical hatch" and that “it will create some desire”. The next Leon will once again use the VW Group’s MQB platform, albeit a significantly updated version shared with the recently launched Mk8 Golf. The Leon will come in five-door hatch, estate and crossover forms. The latter, jacked-up version will sit below the Ateca SUV in the brand's range and be "more extreme" than the previous version of the Leon estate, according to Rabe. He added: “We talk about hatch and we talk about SUV. Why not make something in-between?” The range is expected to open with the familiar 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder petrol engine, offering similar performance to today's model. Seat won’t drop diesels from the line-up, Rabe said, but the range will include one of the first mild-hybrid petrol options within the VW Group for those wanting levels of economy similar to those offered by oil-burning engines. This is likely to use the 48V system mated to a 1.5-litre TSI engine, as found in the Golf. There will also be a plug-in hybrid Leon, which the Spanish brand has already confirmed will offer a 31-mile all-electric range. Expectations are that the PHEV Leon will use the 201bhp petrol-electric system offered in the Golf, with a more powerful 242bhp plug-in powertrain reserved for the Cupra-branded performance version. READ MORE Cupra Leon ditches Seat badge and goes hybrid for 2020 New Cupra Formentor hits road ahead of 2020 debut Cupra Ateca 2019 long-term test review View the full article
  16. An eminently likeable and capable small car with good dynamics but a limited range and an ambitious price A theme common to many electric cars is that their weight and architecture lead to them feeling lead-footed and brittle. The Honda E has circumnavigated that issue. So, whatever else comes of this sub-supermini hatchback, attractive but not quite as pretty as the concept that preceded it, one of its plus points will be the way it drives.Its new platform provides allround independent suspension with a MacPherson strut at each corner; dynamically, Honda has targeted much larger cars. For rolling comfort, smoothness and refinement, the E succeeds where others have not.There is a catch, of course. This is a compact car – 3.9m long – that can be so only because it has a small energy store. While almost every manufacturer strives to fit a capacity of 60kWh or more (the Nissan Leaf e+ has 62kWh), the E has a liquid-cooled battery pack of just 35.5kWh between its axles. Resulting range, in 151bhp form, is a WLTP-certified 125 miles on 17in wheels or 137 miles on 16in wheels. And on our cold test day, it managed even less than that.The E comes in two flavours: the regular 134bhp model and the 151bhp Advance tested here, which respectively cost a not-insignificant £26,160 and £28,660 after the plugin grant. Both can be slow-charged at a rate of up to 6.6kW or DC rapid-charged at up to 100kW, although a 50kW fill will be almost as quick – 31 minutes from 0-80%, rather than 30. It’s like flying from Birmingham to Newcastle: no sooner than you’re up to speed, it’s time to wind down again.View the full article
  17. Tuscan Vulcan: late Mk3 Tuscan was revived by Str8six as a 505bhp V8-powered special The TVR Tuscan is a practical but brutish two-seater that’s a joy to drive – when it works. We explore the pleasures and pitfalls of buying a used one One well-respected TVR dealer advises its customers to imagine they’re a brain surgeon. As someone who might be required to perform life-saving surgery at any time of the day or night, they must have a car they can depend on to get them to the hospital. A TVR Tuscan, says the dealer, is not that car. Instead, it’s a second or third motor for weekends when the sun is shining and when a roadside breakdown isn’t a matter of life or death. Not the most encouraging way to begin a buying guide but it’s best you know now that, like all TVRs, the Tuscan is a model that demands regular care and attention from its owner, and not a little tolerance. It wasn’t meant to be like this. With a removable, all-weather hard-top and large boot, the two-seat Tuscan was, said TVR, the company’s most usable creation to date. On paper, certainly, but then, as ever, TVR left much of the car’s development to its test engineers – the firm’s customers. It’s why, today, you’ll struggle to find a TVR in original condition. Not that you’d want to. Instead, most have been upgraded and are probably running either a rebuilt or refurbished engine and transmission along with uprated brakes, suspension and ancillaries. Bodies are likely to have been repainted, too. Not that this is a bad thing; far from it, in fact. Just make sure you have sight of all workshop bills so you can see what’s been done, when and by whom. Multiple previous owners? Not necessarily a bad thing either, since for each one of them, owning a Tuscan has been their life’s ambition and they’ll have spoiled it rotten. It was launched in 1999, powered by a superb straight-six engine designed by Al Melling, built by TVR and called the Speed Six. There was a 3.6-litre producing 350bhp and a torquier 4.0-litre version with 360bhp. There was also a so-called Red Rose 4.0 with 380bhp, but the one that attracts a premium today is the 390bhp 4.0 S. The two-seater body was made of glassfibre (it was a quality job with even shutlines and the option of a ‘flip’ paint finish) and mounted on a tubular steel chassis with outriggers. The bonnet was a two-piece affair with three vertically stacked lights at each corner. Until 2003, the Tuscan was offered only in Targa-style form (the big boot was ideal for storing the roof and back window). The Mk2 was launched in 2004, the most notable change being the adoption of twin headlights. A convertible became available, too (it’s also sought after today), while the power output of the 4.0 S increased to 400bhp. By this time TVR had been bought by Nikolay Smolensky, a Russian businessman. Under his ownership quality improved and, for Mk3 models, the Tuscan’s exotic dashboard was given a makeover and dubbed the ‘wavy dash’. Without a doubt, a good Tuscan is a joy. If, and when, TVR production recommences, values may rise higher. Buy now before they do. How to get one in your garage An expert's view James Agger, James Agger Autosport: “For a long time the buying advice was the later the better, but now forget age, colour and engine – how it’s been maintained and who has done what are all you should care about. All parts are available and everything is repairable. The Tuscan S and the convertible are the most sought after. You can get a reasonable Tuscan for £25,000 but most are around £30,000. The best are between £38,000 and £52,000.” Buyer beware... ■ Engine: Avoid engines with oil and coolant leaks, mechanical noises and misfires – repairs can cost thousands. High underbonnet temperatures cook rubber hoses, electrics and ancillaries, which all sit alongside the engine block. Check annual servicing has run to more than just an oil and filter change. Favour specialists over general workshops. A major 12k-mile service with tappet adjustment is about £650. ■ Gearbox: A healthy gearbox action is heavy but precise; an obstructive change may require a rebuild. Clutches last around 35,000 miles at most. ■ Chassis: Check the chassis for rust (outriggers are vulnerable). Engine heat blisters the protective coating. ■ Brakes, suspension, steering and wheels: Most suspension systems have been upgraded so check the quality of the work and the components. Original cars were firm but never harsh, so over-enthusiastic modifications can upset the Tuscan’s delicate balance. Brakes should be powerful but progressive. Brake lines will probably have been upgraded by now. ■ Body: Shutlines should be reasonably consistent. Check the front splitter for grounding damage. On the coupé, check the removable Perspex screen for scratches and that the useless original securing clips have been upgraded. ■ Interior: Check the rev limiter, shift lights and main LCD display. Electric windows and door locks can be troublesome; damp is often the cause. Roof seals were poor from day one. Heater controls can have a mind of their own. Also worth knowing Engine going west? Consider a rebuild by a specialist such as Power Performance. It costs around £5500 and comes with a three-year warranty. Sounds a lot but you’ll get some of it back in the car’s increased value. How much to spend £15,000-£16,500: Few cars at this money. We saw a refurbed 2001 Cat C write-off for £16k. £20,000-£24,999: Straight cars in good condition, including an 80,000-mile, 2001-reg 4.0, now a 3.6, with sensible upgrades. £25,000-£29,999: Lots more choice. Mostly 2001-03 cars with around 50,000 miles. £30,000-£34,999: Some nice cars, like a 2003 with 28,000 miles and a full TVR service history for £32,995. £35,000-£44,999: Mainly low-mileage Mk2s. £45,000-£55,000: More late-plate cars (2006-07), most with around 30,000 miles. One we found TVR Tuscan 4.0, 2001, 42,000 miles, £26,995: On sale at respected TVR dealer Mole Valley, this example has history from day one. It’s a sensible price, too. If you’re new to TVR, buying from a local specialist is the best plan. READ MORE TVR says work to start soon on new Welsh factory TVR factory construction delayed by EU rules 500bhp TVR Griffith to be displayed at London motor show View the full article
  18. Refreshing new take on a hybrid small car. It's expensive, though, and will need to be more refined than this early prototype when it goes on sale in the autumn If you were thinking of swapping the Mercedes-Benz S-Class for a supermini to save the planet, think again. Downsizing is no longer enough when it comes to reducing CO2.Small cars are harshly treated in this year's stiff new EU emissions legislation and superminis are going to have to get electrified to keep up. Nor is a battery electric going to cut it: they're too expensive. As Ali Kassai, director of Renault's electric vehicle product planning, points out: "There's a lot of resistance from buyers to the idea of a £30,000 battery electric hatchback."Besides, Renault already sells its Zoe battery electric, which means the equivalent Mk5 Clio needs another drivetrain. In this case, it's a hybrid, although its crossover cousin, the Captur, gets a plug-in hybrid drivetrain based on the same system at the end of this year.So far, there have been only two hybrid superminis: Honda’s Jazz hybrid and Toyota’s Yaris hybrid, which, since 2011 and 2012 respectively, have proven that you can (just) make money with a tiny hybrid. Renault aims to do the same with its Clio E-Tech hybrid, which goes on sale this year at about £25,000.The E-Tech project started about eight years ago, when the French government challenged its home car makers to come up with eco cars for the end of the decade capable of fuel consumption in the range of 150mpg. By the 2014 Paris motor show, we were looking at Renault’s Eolab concept, heavily aero styled with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain that included a three-speed clutchless transmission. The 75bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, 53bhp electric motor and 6.7kWh lithium ion battery gave an NEDC fuel consumption of 282mpg, with 22g/km CO2 emissions and an electric-only range of 40 miles."We learned a lot from that car," says Grégoire Ginet, powertrain marketing director. "It's one reason why we have two motors in this system."Renault's system also borrows from Formula 1 energy recovery practice, being based on a twin-motor system, with a simple four-speed dog-clutch gearbox built by Renault at its STA plant in Ruitz, France.The main electric motor is a 230V 48bhp unit from a Nissan X-Trail hybrid and the secondary smaller motor is a 230V 20bhp unit. Both motors can drive and recharge on overrun, but the smaller unit assumes the duties of starting the petrol engine, spinning up the gearbox to synchronise the shifting (dog ’boxes can be very noisy and brutal) and maintaining the battery charge above a minimum level to restart the engine. That petrol engine is a 140bhp 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder unit based on a Nissan MPI engine from cars sold in Russia and South America. It has no belt-driven ancillaries, with the water pump, air-conditioning compressor, transmission and engine oil pumps, power steering and brake servo all electrically driven. The dog-clutch gearbox is augmented with a two-speed transaxle, giving the option of up to eight proper gear ratios, although because both transmissions have a geared neutral, the system can juggle up to 15 ratios in total.With the exception of the 1.2kWh 38kg lithium ion battery pack under the boot floor, the entire driveline fits under the Clio's bonnet. With a smaller fuel tank, the Clio E-Tech weighs about 10kg more than a standard Clio 1.3 dual-clutch; about 1.26 tonnes, then.View the full article
  19. MIT says its ‘supercap’ can double the energy density of a carbon-based one Lamborghini and MIT's metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) mate increased surface area with the ability to conduct electricity, improving BEV range Lamborghini's collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop totally new supercapacitor technology for its hybrid supercar powertrains could lead to a major breakthrough in energy storage for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). If the technology continues to evolve as hoped, it could be an alternative to battery technology and dramatically reduce BEV charging times. Traditional capacitors are common in electronics and have a variety of uses. One is to act as a kind of electrical reservoir that can accept a charge very quickly and discharge it equally quickly. Typical uses are storing energy for amplifiers to draw on or to smooth out an electrical supply. One application is in a camera flash. The capacitor charges then releases its energy in one go to fire the flash, but it’s all over in an instant. That’s why today’s supercapacitors are useful for buffering power in fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and hybrids but not for providing the range needed in BEVs. Unlike a battery, a capacitor is a purely mechanical device and no chemical reaction takes place inside it. That’s why it can charge and discharge so quickly. Supercapacitors have been on the radar of FCEV and hybrid producers for a couple of decades now and are simply much more powerful than their smaller counterparts but with a different type of internal structure. Fuel cell developers recognised their value for providing transient bursts of power for acceleration early on, because this is something that fuel cell stacks don’t handle well. The ultracapacitors (similar thing) of Honda’s FCX-V4 – the first FCEV certified for general sale in the US, back in 2002 – could knock out 30kW of electrical energy but for only 10-15sec. With that kind of capacity, existing supercapacitors are no substitute for a battery, but that could change in the next few years, and it’s to do with the choice of materials used to make them. All supercapacitors currently contain carbon-coated electrodes, but Professor Mircea Dinca and his team at MIT have come up with a new class of materials, which go by the name of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), as an alternative. These are porous like a sponge, the labyrinthine structure of which has a much larger surface area for a given mass and volume compared with the carbon normally used in supercapacitors. The bigger the surface area, the more energy the supercapacitor can store. The downside is that MOFs are normally poor conductors of electricity, the opposite of what’s needed for supercapacitors, but that’s where the MIT researchers have made a breakthrough. Their new MOFs are electrically conductive, which, in combination with the large surface area, opens up possibilities for increasing the energy density of a supercapacitor. So where supercapacitors are already power dense, they could also become energy dense like a battery. MIT’s current MOF generation is just a starting point; it’s hoped that the surface area can be significantly increased. This could lead to a supercapacitor with storage capacity close to that of a battery but also the spectacular power performance of a supercapacitor that can be charged extremely rapidly. E-axle: a sideways glance In 1983, Xtrac, then a fledgling motorsport transmission company, developed a unique hydraulic four-wheel drive system for the 560bhp Escort of rallycross champ Martin Schanche. Now it has announced an e-axle for use in the 2021-2024 World Rallycross Championship. The single-speed e-axle can be used with motors of up to 335bhp. It has semi-dry-sump lubrication and a ramp-type limited-slip diff and weighs just 21kg. Two will be used per car to give four-wheel drive. READ MORE Under the skin: The quest for perfection in EV battery tech Under the skin: Why you can always count on ABS Under the skin: Why mix and match is a good idea for electric powertrains View the full article
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  21. Deer warning signs are installed in areas with high deer numbers, so take heed, even if you haven't seen them Collisions between vehicles and deer cause many deaths, including human, in the UK every year It was 5.30am when Aaron Herringshaw set off from his home in Bournemouth at the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz C200 CDi estate to drive the 25 miles to his job as a chef in deepest Dorset. He liked the drive, especially at that time of the day when the sun is rising and the roads are quiet. Then, as he was travelling along a familiar country road, a deer leapt out from a hedge immediately ahead of him. With no time to react, Herringshaw struck it. The deer bolted away. Some months later, Herringshaw recalls the experience of hitting a large deer at about 40mph. “It was terrifying,” he says. “The animal was literally right in front of me and there was nothing I could do. The Mercedes was a heavy car but it shook with the impact.” Such was the damage to the 15-year-old Merc that Herringshaw’s insurer wrote it off. Herringshaw replaced it with a BMW 320d saloon of a similar age. However, within weeks, and on his same commute, he hit another deer in similar circumstances. Unfortunately, this time the deer was killed and, again, Herringshaw’s car was written off. “Now, every time I drive on a country road, I’m fearful another deer will leap out in front of me,” says Herringshaw. “I see them all the time where other people don’t. I was never a fast driver but now I don’t do anywhere near the speed limit, which makes drivers behind me impatient.” Has Herringshaw just been unlucky? In fact, according to several studies, 400 drivers and their passengers are injured in collisions involving deer each year, and possibly as many as 1000, and up to 20 are killed. As for the deer, it’s estimated that at least 40,000 are killed on UK roads each year, and possibly as many as 74,000. The peak months for collisions are May and October to January, and peak times are the early morning, when deer go in search of a mate or new territories. However, with the exception of the figure quoted for human deaths, the numbers for human injuries and deer fatalities should be treated with caution. That’s because there is no legal requirement in the UK for incidents to be reported and the official records that do exist are often inconsistent between monitoring organisations. Until more accurate data is available, motorists can only look abroad to gain a more precise picture. In Germany, for example, where collisions involving animals must be reported, there are 1000 non-fatal and 20 fatal driver and passenger casualties each year, arising from 220,000 deer-related incidents. Whatever the true facts, it’s fair to say that deer collisions are a problem in the UK, as I discovered when I posted an account of my own near-deer experience on a popular motorists’ forum. It quickly attracted a stream of tales along similar lines, some of them quoted below but others withheld on grounds of taste, because a collision with a deer can be a messy affair… Estimates of the size of the UK’s deer population vary between 1.5 and two million. It’s the highest for 1000 years and the figure is expected to rise further. According to surveys carried out by the British Deer Society, there are six recorded species of deer in the UK, each concentrated in different areas. In England, for example, muntjac and fallow deer dominate the Midlands, south and east, whereas red deer are mostly found in the centre and north of Scotland but also in Cornwall and Norfolk. Roe deer are spread evenly across the whole of the UK. Useful pub quiz facts, perhaps, but knowing where particular deer dominate could save your life or, at least, your no-claims bonus. The point is that, depending on the species, deer can be very big animals. Red deer are the biggest. Indeed, they’re Britain’s largest land mammal. A fully grown male measures up to 1.37m at the shoulder and weighs up to 190kg. Fallow deer are smaller, males being up to 0.94m and 93kg. Muntjac are among the smallest, at 0.52m and 18kg, but a 30mph collision with one still has the potential to cause significant damage or injury. The south-east of England experiences the UK’s highest number of deer-related road accidents and many councils have taken steps to keep motorists and deer apart. One such is Hertfordshire County Council. “We have erected deer fences in locations that are known migration crossing points, especially on major new roads,” says Phil Bibby, the council’s cabinet member for highways and environment. “However, we cannot protect every road, so we urge motorists to be cautious, especially on rural and semi-rural roads.” Meanwhile, in partnership with Highways England, some councils have been encouraging land owners, who have a right to control deer on their land, to increase culling rates. Other measures include erecting deer warning signs, especially at known crossing points, and in a few locations dynamic warning signs activated by the presence of deer. Despite these and other measures, however, drivers are often blasé about the proximity of deer and who can blame them when deer are rarely seen in some locations, despite their numbers? Leonardo Gubert, senior ecologist at Highways England, warns against complacency. “You may be well travelled and on a well-known route with signs warning of deer but never spotted the animals before, but the fact is these signs have been installed in areas with high deer numbers,” he says. “There may only be one deer hidden in nearby foliage or woodlands or they may be a species that gathers in large groups with the possibility that when you see one and avoid it, others follow and dart into the road. It is vital drivers are aware of the presence and take extra care.” If you find yourself behind Aaron Herringshaw on some quiet Dorset road, you can be sure that’s exactly what he’s doing. See a deer? Here's what to do Deer Aware offers drivers this advice for staying safe:  Heed deer warning signs and drive with caution.  Take extra care in the peak danger months of May and October to January.  If you see one deer, expect more.  At night, and so long as there is no oncoming traffic, use main beam, which will help pick out the eyes of deer. If you encounter one, dip your lights to avoid startling and ‘freezing’ it.  Don’t over-swerve to avoid a deer, and if a collision is inevitable, hit it while maintaining full control of your car. If you hit a deer...  First, make sure you are safe.  Do not approach the animal or attempt to calm it.  Call the police. Near-deer experiences Here are some of the stories posted on a popular motorists’ forum by drivers who have had recent close encounters of the deer kind.  “Last month, a deer jumped out in front of me, at about 3pm on a clear afternoon. I didn’t hit it but I did hit an oak tree and caused enough damage to write off my car.”  “A deer jumped out from a gap in the hedge and I swerved, putting my car up a grass verge and clipping a hedgerow.”  “I hit a deer the day after I picked up my brand-new Civic Type R.”  “A mate hit one at 20mph, a week after buying an Audi S3. The impact took out the front bumper, grilles and anything plastic and triggered the airbags.”  “I wrote off my Mini last year hitting a deer.”  “I see a dead deer by the side of the road every two to three weeks on a 25-mile section in rural Devon.”  “I was driving a Ford Puma when a muntjac leapt across the road. It obliterated the bumper, broke a headlight and bent the chassis.”  “One massive stag caught the edge of my car’s windscreen pillar. Another hit the bonnet and smashed the lights. And another smashed the windscreen of my rental car.”  “One very early summer morning, a massive stag leapt in front of me. Had I left the house half a second later, I might have been speared by its antlers!” READ MORE Hyundai to use AI to diagnose crash victims' injuries Accident investigation: meet the people keeping our roads safe New JLR safety technology to prevent bike collisions View the full article
  22. The 3 arrived in 2013 and hinted at MG’s potential The doyen of British motoring is rejuvenated and going places with a plan that includes an electric-only family estate and perhaps even a Porsche rival MG is on a roll. Its biggest roll since the 1920s, you could argue, when an obscure British sales manager-turned-engineer, Cecil Kimber, took just three years to create the world’s best-selling sports car from the everyman Morris Minor – and then built a thriving, highly profitable global business on the back of it. Now it’s happening again. In the UK alone, annual MG sales have trebled in three years to 13,075 units and are strongly tipped to smash the 20,000 barrier by the end of this year. Even more expansion is predicted through 2021-22, fuelled by the arrival of more well-targeted, mostly electrified models. After a decade in the doldrums, MG has suddenly become the fastest-rising car brand in the UK and its management now realistically views the likes of Hyundai and Kia as role models. Around the world, the MG brand does best in China but it also finds traction in Australia, New Zealand and India. The brand appeals in some European countries, too, such as the Netherlands, and is gathering strength in South America and the Middle East. Of course, today’s MG is dramatically different from Kimber’s ‘Morris Garages’, established 95 years ago to make sporting models out of workaday Morrises. That company progressed by tortuous steps to become the BL-owned, Abingdon-based MG Car Co that built the MG B and Midget until it hit the buffers in 1980. Thereafter, the octagonal badge was used mostly on Rover’s mid-engined MG F roadster (from 1995) and a series of badge-engineered Rover saloons. Today’s company is Chinese-owned MG Motor, a subsidiary of the seven-million-sales-a-year Chinese mass manufacturer SAIC, which acquired both the iconic British brand and its ex-BL, ex-Rover Longbridge manufacturing plant in 2007 and built cars in small numbers there until 2016. Nowadays, SAIC makes 750,000 MG-badged cars for sale around the world and every UK-sold MG is imported from China by MG Motor UK, a sales company with headquarters on Marylebone Road in central London. However, this is a very different sort of sales company, as we recently learned in a meeting with Daniel Gregorious, MG Motor UK’s head of sales and marketing. Today’s MGs may be manufactured in China but much of their design emanates from a studio upstairs in the Marylebone building (which welcomes you via a sumptuous coffee shop called the Roadster Cafe). And 120 miles to the north-west, at Longbridge, in the very building where Mini pioneer Sir Alec Issigonis once held sway, several hundred engineers are shaping the inner workings of MG’s and SAIC’s forthcoming products. MG may not be true-blue British any more but local influence remains key to its designs. MG’s recent success, says Gregorious, has been propelled by the rise of the new B-segment SUV, the ZS, launched in 2018. Before that, the 6 saloon (launched in 2011) was a failure and the 3 supermini (launched in 2013) was modestly successful. But it was the arrival of the modern, right-sized ZS that really started something. Throw in unexpectedly strong demand for an all-electric ZS unveiled last September (a planned 1000 launch models sold out in two weeks) and a successful debut for a brand-new C-segment HS SUV a month later and you have all the elements for success. Since Gregorious arrived at MG two years ago from increasingly high-powered positions at Peugeot, Kia, Chevrolet and Renault, he has embraced a wide range of duties under MD William Wang, including negotiating with China over the timing, volume, pricing, marketing and model mix of UK cars (“SAIC will make over 300,000 electrified cars next year”) and building the dealer network to its current 120-strong level, which, he says, suits the company’s current vision of the future. “Our acceleration really started with a significant facelift for the MG 3 in 2018,” says Gregorious, “which went well. Then came the new models. Now that we’re offering a supermini, a compact SUV – with both electric and conventional power – and a new family-sized SUV, we have products that fit many markets right across the globe.” SAIC’s plan has always been to position MG as its global brand, and its export success compared with less well-known Chinese marques shows the power of MG’s brand recognition, although Gregorious insists that none of it could have happened without the appropriate, well-engineered products the company now sells. More MGs are coming. In the middle of this year, there will be a plug-in petrol hybrid version of the HS, a model designed to take advantage of new UK benefit-in-kind laws for company cars and to suit zero-emissions legislation coming to city centres. Gregorious confirms that the HS can also be built with an all-electric powertrain like the ZS EV, but no decision has yet been made to do it. Next on the new-model agenda is an all-electric estate similar in size to the Ford Focus but available with battery power only. “That’s exciting,” says Gregorious, “because it’ll be our first model that’s truly unique in the market. We expect success but it’ll be fascinating to see how it plays with fleet and business customers.” The new electric estate will use a very similar powertrain to the ZS EV’s but is likely to have a greater touring range. MG hasn’t named it yet – Gregorious has made suggestions but hasn’t heard any decision – although ZT might well suit a range that already contains a smaller ZS. Beyond that, MG could eventually consider sportier petrol engines for the ZS (it already has higher-tune petrol engines that would suit a kind of ZS GTI), although it seems to regard electrification as a better high-performance avenue. If the plug-in HS and new electric estate sell well, Gregorious says MG’s next move will be to launch a production version of its handsome E-Motion high-performance four-seat sports car, unveiled as a concept at the Shanghai motor show in 2017. It’s a twin-motor, all-electric design with 3.0sec 0-60mph acceleration plus exotic styling aimed at moving it into Porsche or Jaguar territory. “The car is still in our plans,” says Gregorious, “and it will make a great halo flagship car. We’re only planning one model like it at present. But if we can do well with mainstream models, there could be plenty of opportunity for more sporty models in the future.” Q&A, Daniel Gregorious, head of sales and marketing, MG Motor UK Do you have much say in the cars that MG builds? “We have quite a lot of say, because we have important design and engineering operations in the UK. Also, the owners are well aware that the heritage of MG comes entirely from the UK. New models aren’t forced on us: we can choose what we want and then make them better.” How serious is SAIC about building the MG brand? “Very serious, I’d say. The company has spent around £7 billion on R&D over the past five years – in both Longbridge and China – on electric car research, connectivity and autonomous driving. It regards Britishness as a vital component of its offer.” How are you positioning MG? “We don’t want to be the cheapest. Another brand that plays on low pricing [Dacia] does that very well. We want to offer value for money, but also offer an aspirational product we can legitimately sell on its quality. We see people moving happily moving out of Fords and Nissans into MGs.” How important is the MG brand for attracting new customers? “It’s an enormous help. It gives people confidence to come and investigate our cars. We’re pretty confident that if they see, touch and sit in the products, they’ll like them. It’d be tougher with an unfamiliar brand. The seven-year warranty’s important, too.” READ MORE MG to bring HS plug-in hybrid to UK in 2020 MG ZS EV gets extended discount offer following record sales The MG Motors plan - and Longbridge's important role View the full article
  23. Lightly revised city-car can still charm, but without hardware upgrades now looks well off the EV pace Not that you’d know from the look of this new Fortwo, but the scene at Smart is changing.Daimler recently sold half the brand to Chinese giant Geely – parent company of Volvo, Lotus and, perhaps in the near future, beleaguered Aston Martin – with the intention of moving production to China for the next-generation models, which are due in 2022 and will likely include some form of B-segment crossover.The corporate management team has also been shaken up and the brand is now an all-electric one, despite the fact zero-emission Smarts accounted only for 18,000 of 118,000 worldwide sales last year. That's bold, but it also feels like a move in the right – and possibly the only – direction. However, beyond the backstage bustle, from now until 2022 the ‘Smart car’ itself will exist in something of a holding pattern, with these 'new' but, in truth, largely unchanged Fortwo coupe and cabrio models offered alongside the four-door Forfour.The three-cylinder petrol engines have gone, but aside from the LED headlights and larger grille, there’s little different about how these cars look, and all will use the same reasonably perky 80bhp electric motor and 17.6kWh battery previously fitted to all electric Smarts. Don’t expect any lifetime upgrades, either.At least not physical ones. Acquired by Daimler in 1994 to function as something of a laboratory for future personal transport, Smart is still a forward-thinking brand, and its digital-technologies arm is more active these days than, for the time being, its efforts in either design or engineering.The new models therefore come with a suite of app-based ‘Ready To’ services, including one that allows the owners to give access to the car to other individuals, and even charge them for use on by-the-minute basis.View the full article
  24. Serial car collector Bremner struggles with all the admin If you're not careful, your dream of owning a fleet can turn into a nightmare of paperwork The mild epiphany came last year: I am probably the world’s worst small fleet manager. Apart from not quite knowing how many cars I had – 12, 13? – most of them had no MOT, no tax and few were runners. This is the challenge of having a deep-seated urge to own a car museum, a busy job and limited mechanical skills. Having this many cars might suggest that I’m loaded, but no – most of them are cheap cars, bought cheaply. One reason there are so many is a large one-time chicken shed. It’s eight miles from home and shared with an enthusiast mate and some other friends who store the odd car there. But it’s only the odd car. Most of them are mine. Once you have a space like this, the overriding temptation – for me, at least – is to fill it. At its peak, mate Bryan and I have established that you can get 17 cars in if some are narrow enough to allow three abreast storage in this long, thinnish space. Having to park the cars in two nose-to-tail columns sometimes means quite a bit of shuffling, but this is far from the biggest impediment to enjoying them. Instead, it’s me, and around 13 box files of documents, one for each car. They contain V5s, MOTs (mostly expired), repair bills, handbook packs and assorted historical paraphernalia, and if you’re to have a hope of keeping on top, you need to know not only the mechanical status of each car, but also whether it has MOT, tax and insurance. Insuring them is easy. Most of them are on one classic policy renewed annually with Hagerty. That the policy is good value is another reason I have so many: it doesn’t cost much to add a car on, presumably because the insurer has worked out that you can only drive one at once, and because they won’t be getting used most of the time. Or any of the time. Of course, I could use a spreadsheet. But that begins to turn the hobby into something like work and, when you look at it, rather rams home how much work there is to do. So I don’t have one. Instead, there’s a single A4 sheet with each car’s status on it. Sometimes, it gets updated. Mostly, though, I know which of my cars are road legal and, this year, following the epiphany, more are. Friends have sometimes helped – Bryan performed a full BMC-style service on my 1963 Austin Mini – and so has the nearby garage. Apart from the local used car dealer, I’m probably their most regular MOT customer. They let me descend into their pit to inspect the rust beneath each classic, which is useful, although it can lengthen the to-do list. There has been quite a lot of descending into the pit this year, with no fewer than seven of the 13 being submitted for MOT, several of them passing first time. The most troubled was the newest, in fact – a Y-registered BMW-era R50 Mini Cooper. There’s a club for these, the R50 on sale for only three months before the plate changed to the new-style 51, so by definition any Y-reg Mini will be early. Mine is the 155th, and it failed on brakes, several glowering warning lights and headlamp aim. I did the rear brake disc change, the local garage the rest. The ABS light was extinguished for a confirming test drive and the MOT before illuminating again. Damn. It’s back at the garage as I write this. There has been more success with the Triumph TR7, Austin Mini, Citroën AX GT, Chevrolet Corvair, Austin Metro and Leyland Princess – all winning a ticket and most in fine fettle. The Metro is now sold as part of a pruning quest to get (slightly) more sensible. Still, I have the choice of driving any of those MOT flaunters, plus the Abarth 124 Spider that I bought sooner than intended because I got a crazy 33% discount. I’ve put barely 2000 miles on it, and far, far less on any of the others. So why acquire so many when there isn’t enough time to drive them, let alone do the necessary maintenance to keep them alive? It’s an obvious question. And one I might just have been asked before. Partly, it’s the thrill of the chase. Part of it is nostalgia for my days at British Leyland, and a love for Italian cars. Part of it is the hoarding instinct and the no more than semi-suppressed desire for a museum. And part of it is about rescuing interesting (to me) orphan cars at risk of extinction. Which explains the 12,000-mile TR7, the ultra-rare Mk1 1750 SS Allegro, the 26,000-mile 1963 Mini Mk1, the 12,000-mile Metro and the low-mileage Leyland Princess. I mean, how often does a 16,000-mile Leyland Princess turn up? Hardly ever, which is why I felt compelled to buy it. True, it didn’t run when I bought it seven years ago, and it’s only running properly now, but this car is rarer than a Ferrari 328. With good reason, you might quip, but if you want a technically interesting piece of wedge-tastic 1970s memorabilia with a vinyl roof, it’s hard to top. The others? Some are reassembly projects to be enjoyed, a few more will be sold and, if I can manage it, the ones that now have MOTs I’ll keep that way. The tickets will fill up my box files. READ MORE EV conversions slammed by classic car experts Blast in the past: How to rent a classic car The best cars from the classic rebuild industry View the full article
  25. The Gladiator glides over terrain that would stymie a lesser vehicle The Wrangler-based Gladiator – Jeep’s first pick-up in 27 years – looks born ready, for anything. We put it through its paces on rocky terrain New Zealand’s summer is so wet that 1000 tourists have been stranded by road blockages, rain is falling at up to 40mm per hour, the Met Office says “small tornadoes are possible” and, earlier today, while driving along a road in a Jeep Gladiator, I was overtaken by a speed boat in the other lane. Now it’s, well, I don’t know what time exactly but gone midnight in a basement bar in Queenstown, on New Zealand’s South Island. It’s loud and dark but Jeep’s global president and the company’s star exterior designer are still here. Both have just spent two days getting soaked to the skin and are ready for several more. Pick a car company boss and a chief designer: can you picture them in a pub talking about making a pure-electric adventure truck, having already spent half a week up to their ankles in mud? Jeep talks about ‘authenticity’ in the same way everybody who wants to make serious 4x4s talks about authenticity. The difference is that it’s not just a few engineers and some in-house or drafted-in experts who live it. The Gladiator’s designer is Taylor Langhals; bearded, relaxed, 30, the fourth generation of his family to work at Jeep. He’s wanted this job since he was a kid. And the Gladiator – Jeep’s first pick-up for 27 years – is special to him. That there are faux imprints of a dirt bike tyre moulded into the head of the load bay and that the Jeep factory’s zipcode (in Toledo, Ohio) is stamped just inside the tailgate might seem twee. But don’t be in doubt about how senior Jeep people use these vehicles. The tailgate opening hatch measures 1270mm across because that will accommodate the widest snowmobile you can buy. “And that’s the one I have,” says Langhals. Snowmobiles, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, fishing gear, camping gear, outdoor stuff, pulling boats: that’s the point of the Gladiator. Given how frequently Jeeps are used, abused and modified in the US (“let’s be honest: Wranglers stay stock for about five minutes”), it’s about time Jeep had a pick-up again. It made one as long ago as 1947 and first introduced the Gladiator name in 1962. A pick-up stayed on sale, latterly as the Jeep Comanche, which looks like an aftermarket hack job of an XJ-series Cherokee, until 1992. But since then, there hasn’t been a pick-up Jeep, which seems like an odd oversight given the kind of use Wranglers get in a country where pick-ups are some of the best-selling, and certainly the most profitable, vehicles. The Gladiator isn’t a workhorse or commercial vehicle, though. It’s a fun wagon. Its payload is 620kg rather than 1000kg-plus – despite having a rear axle from a Dodge Ram – and its towing weight is 2721kg. It’s what Americans consider a mid-size and what we think of as a big truck, at around 5.5m, the length of a Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger. Think of it as a Ranger Raptor rival if it comes to the UK (still in question), where it would have a 3.0 diesel. In the US, and here in New Zealand, there’s a 285bhp 3.6 V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic. EVs and plug-in hybrids are coming, Jeep president Christian Meunier assures us. Given the high current fleet CO2 average of Jeep owner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, they’ll have to. But with that come advantages, too. Think of heading softly down a track, roof down, making no noise to alarm the wildlife. Think of setting up camp and having the electrical power you brought with you. Think of the advantage of being able to dole out precisely how much torque each wheel’s grip can handle, with instant response. Meunier says the firm will use electrical power to make Jeeps “more capable than ever”. Personally, I’d love to see the return of a forward control Jeep, too, but flat windscreens are out these days, because while they can be made aerodynamically efficient (and while with a pure-electric powertrain that wouldn’t matter so much anyway), pedestrians don’t respond well to impacts with them. Like all big pick-ups, the Gladiator is a separate-chassis off-roader. Here, though, that chassis is very obviously, given the size and shape of the front half, from a Jeep Wrangler – another Langhals design. Jeep has managed and curated the Wrangler through its incarnations with the kind of care that has kept it relevant and incredibly successful. It helps, I suppose, that Americans live the lifestyle and have the space and access to enjoy it that most of us in Europe can only imagine. But still, getting it right enables Jeep to sell a quarter of a million Wranglers a year, while Mercedes sells less than a tenth as many G-Classes and Land Rover has sold no Defenders since 2016. For the Gladiator, the Wrangler’s frame has been extended by a fairly whopping 780mm, with 490mm of that in the wheelbase and the rest behind the rear axle. It’s neither a cheap nor easy car to assemble, says Meunier, formerly of Infiniti and who has headed Jeep since April last year, joining just in time for Jeep’s annual jamboree in the Sierra Nevada mountains. As per the Wrangler, different trim levels don’t just give different interior options. All have the same functional and chunky centre console inside, and the same rear-seat space, but Sport and Overland models get one kind of low-ratio transfer case, with top-spec Rubicon cars getting a lower-speed crawl ratio, heavier-duty axles with locking differentials and a disconnecting front anti-roll bar, rock rails, tow hooks and heavier-duty bumpers. The approach angle is an astonishing 40.7deg and there’s 250mm of ground clearance and a 760mm wade depth. Common to all Gladiators, too, as with Wranglers, you can take the doors and roof off, and removing four bolts lets you fold the windscreen flat onto the bonnet, making this the only convertible pick-up on sale today. You can even have tubular bars in place of doors. That’s a feature that, when rain is falling at 40mm per hour, may be a suboptimal choice. Standing in a rock field, which the Gladiator is traversing with more ease than a pick-up should, and looking up at the 3000m Mount Aspiring, I’ve never felt rain like it. The trouble with it is that it washes away land, rocks and roads and everything else between. Normally, car makers don’t want us going places their off-roaders might get stranded and advise on routes accordingly. But going by their faces when we find the river flowing beneath a flooded field – the Gladiator dips into it and bow waves form from the bonnet lip, threatening the 760mm wade depth (and drenching the feet of some colleagues who have made the poor door option) – I’m not sure that’s the case here. There’s no denying a short-wheelbase Wrangler will go further off road than a Gladiator, on account of its wheelbase being shorter. The Gladiator’s breakover angle is 18.4deg and departure angle 25deg, owing to its long bed. But this is still a vehicle that will get you much further than you need. It’ll do the Rubicon Trail, after all. With that – especially in Rubicon trim, which comes with 32in off-road tyres as standard – there is a slight agricultural feel to the Gladiator, on road. But the same is true of the Wrangler and any pick-up onto which you start putting serious off-road extras. Choose a Sport or Overland model and, immediately, there’s improved steering response and a more settled road ride, and I still think they’ll go further than not just any rival, but further than most owners will realistically expect. At a little over 100,000 square miles, New Zealand’s land mass is about 10% bigger than the UK’s, but with a human population of 4.7 million (and over a million and a half of those living in Auckland) and a sheep population of 30 million (not so many in Auckland), it’s considerably less dense. Because it’s so green, there are shades of Wales and Scotland to it, but it goes on further and higher, and even Scotland’s grandest lochs and glens don’t match the scale and beauty of it. If you had to pick a country in which enough grows that you’d probably survive post-zombie apocalypse, it’d be right up there. For 95% of the time, even away from the publicly accessible rough tracks that scatter across the New Zealand landscape joining farmsteads to main roads, and onto the dirt and mud tracks that sheep and cattle farmers have let us use and that are usually traversed only by tractor or quad or hoof, even the most basic Gladiator will get you through. As ever, it’s tyre choice that settles most arguments one way or the other most of the time. But put sufficiently aggressive rubber on it and a Jeep will climb slopes you can’t walk up, ford rivers that would drag you off downstream, and make a cosy noise like a tent thanks to the patter of rain on canvas roof. Whether you’ll be able to do that in the UK is still to be decided. It’s not going to sell in huge numbers here: the Wrangler doesn’t and its 2.2 diesel isn’t considered butch enough for the job, so it’ll have the 3.0 diesel that would be more expensive and thirstier still. It’d have to be a £50,000 car, surely. Meunier suggests he’d like the UK to commit to a number. British contacts suggest Jeep HQ is still to decide. But we should know soon. The Gladiator will be too big for most small parking bays, its exceptional off-road ability will go unchallenged for more than 99% of its life and we are not a nation that intrinsically has the dirt bike/jet ski/snowmobile lifestyle owing to there being so many people, so little land and insufficient access to the free land that there is. So the Gladiator doesn’t make that much sense. Naturally, then, I’d have one like a shot. Driving in New Zealand New Zealand’s roads are a curious mix of the familiar and the unusual. They drive on the left and you can be on lakeside bends that feel like Scotland’s. But some of the markings are yellow. Mostly things are single carriageway. Around towns, there are dual-lane roads and there are motorways and expressways – although not much more than 200 miles in total. More common, then, are broad, well-surfaced single carriageways with a 62mph limit, dropping to 30mph or 25mph in towns. Traffic is, unsurprisingly, light, and visibility, where the road scores across plains, is very good, so overtaking is easy. You don’t see so many big old Fords and Holdens as I imagine you once would have. Japanese and Korean cars have taken hold. The Toyota Corolla is the best-selling passenger car but two-thirds of the country’s cars are 4x4s or pick-ups. As roads head up into hills, and where things get even more remote than usual, gravel tracks take precedent, so you can see why. Bagging a Munro Before returning to the UK, I had four hours free and was two hours from Invercargill, so I went to visit Burt Munro, who built a streamlined Indian motorbike in the shed he lived in and took it to Bonneville Speed Week. In 1967, aged 68 and on a 47-year-old bike, he hit 183.586mph, a story dramatised in the charming film The World’s Fastest Indian. The record still stands. READ MORE Jeep Renegade plug-in hybrid: technical details revealed Jeep Wrangler review How to fix Jeep: what is the future for the firm in Europe? View the full article
  26. Volkswagen adds entry-level SE trim to its flagship SUV. Is this new no-frills Touareg the version to go for? The Volkswagen Touareg has always been a pretty good car for people who don’t really like to stand out. Next to the likes of the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, its comparative lack of pretence has historically marked it out as the large SUV of choice for anyone who might not want others to notice - and then potentially sneer at - the fact they’ve just gone and spent quite a lot of money on a large SUV. A sort of low-key social climber’s Q-car.The third-generation Touareg changes this slightly. With Volkswagen’s popularity reaching an all-time high in China (it's now the brand’s largest market), not only did Wolfsburg elect to stage the model's 2018 unveiling in Beijing, but it also designed it specifically with the Chinese market in mind. Which makes sense, really; after all, if you want a car to do well, make it for the people who buy it in the greatest numbers. This helps to explain why the new Touareg looks the way it does, with enough chrome on its front end to attract even the most docile and disinterested of magpies.But as bedazzling as it might now be, the Touareg still sits more towards the inconspicuous end of the upmarket SUV spectrum compared with the latest X5 and GLE. This is particularly true of this new entry-level SE model, which Volkswagen has just introduced to the UK with a £45,445 asking price.View the full article
  27. Electric seven-seat luxury SUV is due in 2022; expansion of 40-series is also planned Volvo will launch an electric version of its next-generation XC90, which is due in around 2022. The third-generation XC90 will be the first model based on the updated SPA architecture that will underpin all next-generation versions of Volvo's 60-series and 90-series models. Confirming the news, Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson also revealed that an expansion of the smaller 40-series of models was also due to take place beyond the sole XC40 of today. Whether that will be a more direct replacement for the recently discontinued V40 family hatchback isn't yet known, but Samuelsson said the firm “realised the need for another small, premium car” with a particular focus on Europe, and that there are “plans to do more models of the family”. The 40-series will initially expand with the electric XC40 Recharge later this year, and at least one new bodystyle will follow it, separate from anything badged XC40. Volvo’s strategy for electric cars is to offer electric versions of existing models rather than bespoke creations – a role that it believes it has covered off with its new Polestar electric performance car brand. As well as being offered as an EV, the next XC90 will continue to be offered as a plug-in hybrid and likely a mild hybrid petrol. There will be no diesel option, however, because Volvo plans to not offer diesel as it replaces and adds to its range from now on. Samuelsson confirmed the future SPA cars, including the XC90, will all be offered with a high degree of automated driving potential on highways that will be optional for the customer. The hardware will be there to allow full hands-off and eyes-off driving should regulations allow this in time, but Samuelsson dialled back from Volvo offering a fully autonomous car – as much of the industry is now doing. Production of the XC90 will move from Torslanda, Sweden to Volvo’s new plant in South Carolina, US. READ MORE From dependable to disruptive: the reinvention of Volvo Volvo reveals XC40 Recharge as first full electric model Volvo UK boss: focus is electric XC40 and online sales Volvo launches 'UK's most comprehensive' online car sales service View the full article
  28. El Born-inspired tailgate lighting strip and angular profile suggest edgy new look for upcoming hatch Seat hasn’t been shy of dropping teasers of the new Leon, set to be unveiled next week. In December it released a video showing details of the model, and recently gave us a look at the upcoming car’s rear in a new image. The fourth-generation of the Spanish brand's Ford Focus rival will be revealed at a dedicated event on January 28th. Seat insiders have called the new car the biggest step forward in the model's history, with a significant improvement in cabin technology and the introduction of variants with electrified powertrains. The all-new SEAT Leon will be unveiled on the 28th January 2020. Here's a sneak peek of it before then! pic.twitter.com/KiGZvN7fMd — SEAT UK Media (@SEAT_UK_media) December 18, 2019 The latest picture expands on the fleeting view of the Leon’s back shown in the above video. It shows the new car gains a full-length lighting strip across the tailgate that echoes that of Seat's El Born EV. We can also see a new design of rear name badge than on the outgoing car, while at the front, the video showed the return of full LED headlights. The new Leon is also set to gain ambient lighting features in the cabin. Despite claims of a radical new design direction beginning with the Mk4 Leon, the test mule shows an evolutionary look. Seat is gradually moving away from straight edges and sharp angles for future models, and this mule's curvier front-end demonstrates that. The C-segment car will get a more advanced infotainment system - which can update maps, apps and functionality over the air - similar to that offered in the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf. Seat CEO Luca de Meo said: “For two years, we have been working on what will be the best infotainment system coming to market next year, starting with the Leon." Along with the new cabin tech, the fourth-generation Leon will also be available with Seat's first plug-in hybrid powertrain to offer improved fuel economy as well as limited zero-emissions running. The plug-in Leon is billed as the model to kick-start Seat’s electrification ambitions, which will gain pace when its first truly bespoke EV, the El Born, is launched in 2020. New Cupra Leon ST hot estate seen ahead of 2020 launch To signify its big stride forward, the upcoming Leon’s look has been described by brand design boss Alejandro Mesonero as taking “a bigger step” than the company has taken since the relaunch of the brand with the current Leon in 2012. “Sometimes you need to take a bigger step so as not to be obsolete. We’re ready very soon for the next, bolder step in design,” he said. Rabe has previously told Autocar that the design and packaging of the five-door car will “not be a typical hatch" and that “it will create some desire”. The next Leon will once again use the VW Group’s MQB platform, albeit a significantly updated version shared with the recently launched Mk8 Golf. The Leon will come in five-door hatch, estate and crossover forms. The latter, jacked-up version will sit below the Ateca SUV in the brand's range and be "more extreme" than the previous version of the Leon estate, according to Rabe. He added: “We talk about hatch and we talk about SUV. Why not make something in-between?” The range is expected to open with the familiar 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder petrol engine, offering similar performance to today's model. Seat won’t drop diesels from the line-up, Rabe said, but the range will include one of the first mild-hybrid petrol options within the VW Group for those wanting levels of economy similar to those offered by oil-burning engines. This is likely to use the 48V system mated to a 1.5-litre TSI engine, as found in the Golf. There will also be a plug-in hybrid Leon, which the Spanish brand has already confirmed will offer a 31-mile all-electric range. Expectations are that the PHEV Leon will use the 201bhp petrol-electric system offered in the Golf, with a more powerful 242bhp plug-in powertrain reserved for the Cupra-branded performance version. READ MORE Cupra Leon ditches Seat badge and goes hybrid for 2020 New Cupra Formentor hits road ahead of 2020 debut Cupra Ateca 2019 long-term test review View the full article
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