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  1. Today
  2. Has this supermini evolved into a true class champion for its fifth generation? Four months behind the wheel should reveal all Why we’re running it: To see whether the latest version of Renault’s top-seller can unseat the Ford Fiesta as the UK’s favourite supermini Month 1 - Specs Life with a Renault Clio: Month 1 Welcoming the Clio to the fleet - 1st July 2020 Renault’s most popular model has been a sales success across Europe for four generations now, although it hasn’t managed to claim the supermini top spot here in the UK for quite some time. We Brits just can’t seem to shake our love for the Ford Fiesta – which is a shame for Renault, because the Clio’s claim to the throne has never looked stronger than at the start of its fifth generation. In a group test back in the spring, the new Clio proved that it could rub shoulders with both the Fiesta and the Volkswagen Polo as one of the best superminis on sale. At the time, we said that we could easily recommend it without needing to add any caveats – something that arguably wasn’t the case with the previous Clio. So what has changed? The familiar styling might suggest a relatively modest upgrade, but this Clio now sits on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s all-new CMF-B platform, which also underpins the latest Renault Captur and Nissan Juke crossovers. When we road tested a mid-range Clio last year, it revealed a new-found level of dynamism that was up among the best in the class, along with a more driver-friendly cabin, a vastly improved level of perceived quality and upgraded technology and safety systems that made it seem like fantastic value for money. The question now is whether that’s true across the board. To find out, we’ve added a more expensive derivative to our long-term fleet for a longer stint behind the wheel. The TCe 130 we’ve chosen is currently the most potent petrol on offer, with its 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 128bhp and a healthy 177lb ft of torque from just 1600rpm. That puts it ahead of the equivalent Polo in the performance stakes and on an even keel with the three-cylinder Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa but behind the more powerful mild-hybrid 1.0-litre Fiesta that was introduced last month. A 0-62mph sprint of 9.0sec isn’t to be sniffed at for a mainstream supermini, though, and hopefully the WLTP-tested fuel economy figure of almost 50mpg will translate closely into real-world driving. This is an engine that’s also offered by the Captur, Mégane and Scenic, but here it comes mated exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. I appreciate the inclusion of paddle shifters for taking manual control, but I’m expecting the next few months to reveal whether an auto can justify its added expense or I would have been better off opting for a lower-powered manual. It will also be the first non-electric car I’ve run in almost a year and, as much as I’m going to miss being able to charge for free at the office, I’ll be glad to completely forget my range anxiety. Our Clio is in top-spec RS Line trim, which is inspired by the Renault Sport range – even if there isn’t actually a Clio RS for it to borrow any design elements from. Not yet, anyway. A wider, more aggressive front grille and a faux rear diffuser are purely for visual effect, and the bespoke alloy wheels are no larger than the ones you’ll find on cheaper S Edition trim. The RS Line has the same chassis and suspension set-up as the rest of the Clio line-up, with MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear, and the rear drum brakes are another reminder that, slightly peppier engine aside, this is no hot supermini. RS Line cars are well equipped, though, with a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, a 9.3in touchscreen infotainment system with Android and Apple connectivity and a digital instrument display as standard. The interior also gets a few red trim highlights, some customisable ambient lighting and a leather steering wheel, complete with those shifters. But while Renault says rear leg room has been improved over the previous Clio, it remains lacking compared with the class leaders. Options fitted include the vibrant Iron Blue paint (it should be a rule that superminis must come in bright hues) and the Techno Pack, which adds a 360deg parking camera, Multi-Sense configurable driving modes, wireless phone charging and a hands-free parking system. The biggest question will be if this Clio can justify its £21,655 list price, which puts it directly up against the entry-level Ford Fiesta ST. Renault’s tempting PCP finance deals mean Ford’s miniature hot hatch is likely to set you back around £100 more per month, but given the RS badges, I’m hoping there’s at least a little driver engagement to be found here. Since taking delivery, I’ve managed only a handful of journeys, although thankfully the gradual relaxing of lockdown restrictions meant these could be for more than just going to my local supermarket. I’m already appreciating the Clio’s overhauled interior, with soft-touch plastics and the much-improved front seating position making it an all-round nicer place to be, and all-round drivability has so far proved perfectly enjoyable. Will the rather restricted rear seat space and the automatic gearbox prove to be sticking points? I’ll be sure to report on that once there are a few more miles on the clock. Second Opinion Last year’s road test of the Clio Mk5 exposed a supermini that wasn’t quite as idiosyncratically ‘French’ as its predecessors. The previously soft-edged ride has been traded for a more mature set of road manners, while its handling responses are sharper and more direct than ever. The result is a car that’s perhaps not quite as distinctive as it once was but is immediately more well-rounded and, potentially, marketable. Simon Davis Back to the top Renault Clio TCe 130 R.S Line EDC specification Specs: Price New £20,295 Price as tested £21,655 Options Iron Blue paint £660, Techno Pack £500, spare wheel £200 Test Data: Engine 4cyl, 1330cc, turbo, petrol Power 129bhp at 5000rpm Torque 177lb ft at 1600rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic 0-62mph 9.0sec Top speed 124mph Fuel economy 49.6mpg CO2 130g/km Faults None Expenses None Back to the top View the full article
  3. Pirelli will use a Citroën C3 to test its new WRC tyres Andreas Mikkelsen will pilot the maligned C3 racer for private team Sainteloc, but could have an advantage A bit later this month, the World Rally Championship finally gets under way in Italy with a new driver, a new team and the return of a famous manufacturer. But it’s not exactly what you think. After being cast aside by Hyundai, Andreas Mikkelsen is back at the wheel of a Citroën C3 WRC for the first time since 2017. This time, however, the French car will be run by an equally French private team (Saintéloc) and its striking black-and-yellow livery will reflect Mikkelsen’s latest job: developing new WRC tyres for Pirelli, which will take over as sole tyre supplier from 2021 until at least the end of 2023. As this is pretty much the only chance to regularly drive a World Rally Car for the foreseeable future, it’s a coveted opportunity – and there were several drivers knocking on the door to take it. But that’s not the only reason. Because the Norwegian will be the only driver to have consistent experience of developing and running the new tyres, it adds considerably to his marketability when looking for a full-time drive next year. He’s even got some of his own sponsorship money for the right opportunity, so this makes the 31-year-old a pretty appealing prospect for the future. He already has three rally wins and three third places in the championship behind him, so with the right equipment, he can undoubtedly get the job done. Whether or not the Citroën C3 WRC is the right equipment constitutes a moot point: it was largely unloved by most of its drivers, racking up just six hard-fought wins throughout three seasons of factory competition. But freed from the dogma of factory team engineers, World Rally Cars that were previously considered to be no-hopers can occasionally flourish in private hands, the Peugeot 307 WRC being a prime example. And the C3 should also be very much up to speed with Pirelli’s new tyres in 2021, before the regulations change drastically in 2022. So is what we’re seeing now a warm-up to a triumphant privateer campaign with Citroën and Mikkelsen next year? It would be nice to think so, but the reality is instead a no-brainer. If you’re testing tyres for next year, it would be unfair to give any existing manufacturer or driver a clear advantage. So Citroën and Mikkelsen were clearly the obvious choice. Whether or not they choose to take advantage of the situation in future is entirely down to them… Anthony Peacock READ MORE Is the WRC suffering stage fright? New WRC rules still on track Citroen axes World Rally Championship programme View the full article
  4. Family duties needn't stand in the way of hot hatch larks - ever considered a souped-up MPV? It would be fair to say that nobody has a burning desire to buy an MPV these days. It is a car you don’t want but might very well need. There is, however, a way to make the ordeal a lot more palatable if you’re an enthusiast: buy one that’s been fitted with the engine for the hot hatch you’d rather have bought. Enter the ultimate fast MPV, the Zafira VXR. Critics will be quick to point out that it doesn’t drive like a sports car, and that’s a fair point. Then again, what vehicle from this period (2005- 10) with a roofline this high ever does? The Zafira VXR is still a laugh to drive, dealing with the torque steer that its turbocharged 237bhp and 236lb ft 2.0-litre engine generates or, indeed, watching that plume of smoke you leave behind every time you accelerate hard out of a corner. Aside from a very firm ride that will have delicate stomachs churning in no time, the Zafira VXR is quite a performer that will roast most sports cars at the traffic light grand prix. So, the hot topic now is what you need to know when buying one. Well, as with most family-oriented cars, you’ll need to make sure the interior hasn’t been trashed, particularly those figure-hugging Recaro seats up front. Next, ensure the front tyres have a decent amount of tread because the VXR will eat through them if you drive it hard all the time. You should also check that the recall regarding the heating and ventilation system has been carried out. There have been two issued for this generation of Zafira and the one relating to cars with climate control applies to the well-specced VXR. This involves some modification to ensure water doesn’t get into the system and replacing the blower fan motor, regulator and wiring harness. Make sure this has all been done or things might get toasty. Ford S-Max 2.0 Ecoboost Titanium X Sport, £8999: It would have been nice to find a five-cylinder S-Max with the same engine as the contemporary Focus ST, but those are rare. A better compromise is this later, 2010 example with a 236bhp 2.0-litre turbo. It’s more powerful and far cheaper to run. Mercedes-Benz R500, £8975: True, this is one odd-looking people mover from the outside. However, its 306bhp 5.0-litre V8 means it won’t be visible to bystanders for very long. Inside, you’ll find seating for six, and the middle-row captain’s chairs each has access to a TV screen. Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate, £14,295: There’s been a spike of buyer interest in new E-Class estates. But why buy new when you could have this 6.2-litre V8 monster? This seven-seat example from 2008 is half the price of the cheapest new petrol alternative and has a full service history. Audi Q7 4.2 FSI SE, £7990: Under the bonnet of this SUV hides the not so distant relation of an engine that powered the early R8. Okay, it isn’t as powerful and is ultimately slower, but this has to haul around up to seven people rather than just two and it has a TV weighing it down, too. Auction watch Renault Clio V6 Renault Sport: The story goes that when the boss of VW got wind that Renault was making a ‘three-litre’ Clio, he assumed it was an economy model (three litres of fuel per 100km). But Renault was actually planning was a road-going, fuel-guzzling 3.0-litre V6 Clio – a gloriously mad mid-engined pocket rocket with blistered composite wheel arches more flared than a Bee Gee’s trousers. This particular one is a left-hand-drive import, but that still didn’t stop it making a strong £21,870. Condition is often key with these because, if any of those bespoke exterior panels is damaged, the repair bills will be huge. Future classic Suzuki X-90, £2795: If anyone moans about the number of niche SUVs and wishes we’d go back to a time when 4x4 meant mud-plugger, point them in the direction of this. On the one hand, it was a four-wheel-drive off-roader (yes, there was a 2WD version, too), and on the other, it was a two-seater with removable roof panels. It was so out there that Suzuki withdrew it from sale after 18 months because few were willing to be seen in it. But the X-90’s time may yet finally come, in this SUV-obsessed world, and it could suddenly be seen as a trendsetter, decades ahead of its time. Clash of the classifieds Brief: Find me a plastic sports car for £15,000, please. Renault Alpine GTA V6 Turbo, £11,995 Lotus Elise, £14,995 Mark Pearson: OMG, Max, look at my Alpine. Have you ever seen anything more desirable for this money than this wonderful low-drag GTA? It’s 200bhp turbo fast, fun, lively and wonderfully sleek. It’s a thing of beauty and, yes, it has a glassfibre body, and my low-mileage 1989 car was formerly the property of the chef Michel Roux Jr, so it’s bound to be a pleasing confection. What dog’s dinner have you gone for? Max Adams: I’ll admit that the hood arrangement is a mess, but the Mk1 Elise is a gorgeous little sports car that offers a peerless driving experience. Plus, once that Geely money kicks in and Lotus replaces the present Elise with some weighty, electrified successor, we’ll look back at this 700kg featherweight as an icon. One to tuck away for the future, I would suggest. MP: Not for my future, thanks. Too small. Tiny. Hardly a car at all, really, whereas my Alpine is class and something that would give you immense sensual gratification. MA: That comeback seems a little forced, much like the forced induction that pathetic PRV V6 needs to produce a decent amount of horsepower. MP: And what borrowed pile of old iron propels your toy car? MA: The K-series was a rather advanced engine – on paper. It wasn’t the engineer’s fault that penny-pinching ruined it. Anyway, mine has had lots of work done to eradicate these foibles. MP: Idiot. Verdict: Alpine all the way for me, please… READ MORE Vauxhall not ready to kill off VXR just yet Vauxhall to revive VXR performance line with hot Corsa Used car buying guide: Mercedes-Benz R-Class​ View the full article
  5. Yesterday
  6. There will be no more fun days out at Rockingham… Once-hallowed circuits are being covered with second-hand cars, changing the face of motor racing and testing It’s full of cars. Every last bit of it. Of course it is. It would be remiss of the new owners of Rockingham Motor Speedway – the UK’s first big, proper oval circuit that was last year turned into a car preparation and turnaround depot – to not maximise the space properly. Well, they absolutely have. The banked oval, the surprisingly entertaining infield circuit, the pit complex – used cars are being defleeted and prepared for new customers over every part of it. Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, a place we could phone to book some track time and be travelling at 200mph along its runway a short time later, is similarly about to join it in being closed to the likes of us. Bruntingthorpe has been a car defleeting, preparation, storage and auction house alongside a test track for years, and while the new owners say the circuit will remain open for car maker testing, we’re no longer welcome. Perhaps the car makers are uncomfortable about the legions of unsold metal lined up alongside the runway that would inconveniently appear in media photos and videos. I don’t suppose the site owners are too bothered about the effects on the few motorsport enthusiasts or car nuts who use these places. And in terms of usefulness and providing local employment, I dare say there’s an argument that the locations will be more valuable now than ever. But both are, in their own ways, irreplaceable. Who is building new race or test tracks? And even if you did want to change Rockingham’s use again, once you stop these places regularly making noise, how do you convince the locals – yes, even those who willingly moved next door to a race track – to let them start again? Rockingham has always seemed odd, a huge place that sprung up on the edge of Corby, promising grander things than ever became established there, but it became a valuable part of the UK motorsport scene. I’ve always enjoyed driving there. Bruntingthorpe, too, mostly. Its track management has never been as well regulated as other test tracks, for good and bad. I’ve always been relieved when everything has gone back in its box at the end of the day. But we’ve tested extraordinary things there, and in quiet times it has given me some hilarious work days. Racing teams use it for shakedowns, Triumph bikes use it, truck makers use it and race instructors go there, as have car clubs. And while shabbily surfaced, it’s rather versatile. In the case of both sites, though, I find it hard to escape the feeling that motorsport and motoring enthusiasm have been sacrificed at the altar of keeping the country’s crap car supply turning over. There’s row upon row of boring hatchbacks and mediocre company cars, bought unthinkingly on PCP finance or hire purchase or discounted into big fleets, whose parking dings need removing and wheels need refurbishing before they slide like cattle through an auction square and are churned onwards to their next uninterested owners. Each metal box is, on its own, a representation of personal freedom. But when lined up in their tens of thousands, they become something else, too: a vivid depiction of both the oversupply from which the industry can never fully wean itself and the debt from which people can’t, either. READ MORE The rise and fall of Rockingham Motor Speedway Matt Prior: if you want to build a racing circuit, build it on an old airfield Ghost tracks: The best airfield-based circuits that never were View the full article
  7. The Genva motor show has been axed for next year as well as this one - an ominous sign? The long-term viability of all major shows is now in doubt as Geneva organisers sell up The Geneva motor show, traditionally one of the car industry’s biggest annual events, will not take place next year – and will be sold by organisers in a bid to secure its long-term future. The decision casts fresh doubts over the long-term viability of all motor shows. This year’s event was scrapped days before the doors were due to open in March as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread rapidly throughout Europe, leaving the Foundation of the Geneva International Motor Show (FGIMS) facing a major financial shortfall. It also upset many manufacturers, which had already paid for their stands and were in the final stages of assembling them. FGIMS said the decision to axe next year’s event was taken after most exhibitors said they probably wouldn’t take part and would prefer that the show’s return be delayed until 2022. “The automotive sector is currently going through a difficult phase, and exhibitors need time to recover from the effects of the pandemic,” the organisers added. They said they were uncertain whether an event on the scale of Geneva, which traditionally attracts more than 600,000 visitors, could take place while the pandemic continues. The FGIMS had been in talks with the state of Geneva over a 16.8 million Swiss franc (£14.1m) loan to bolster the event but, with the loan being contingent on an event running in 2021, it has now been declined. Instead, FGIMS intends to sell the motor show to Palexpo SA, the exhibition centre in which it is held, in a bid to secure its future. Palexpo is considering some form of car show for next year as a temporary replacement. How Covid-19 has accelerated the decline of shows Lockdowns and subsequent social distancing rules have led to the cancellation of virtually all large-scale events. As well as Geneva, the Paris, New York and Detroit shows that were due to be held this year have all been axed, while Beijing – originally scheduled for April – has been delayed until October. The Goodwood Festival of Speed, which effectively serves as the UK’s motor show, has also been canned. While many of those decisions have been driven by restrictions and measures to tackle Covid-19, the financial impact of the pandemic has also played a key part, with badly hit car firms unwilling to commit large sums to creating show stands. With travel restrictions in place, several firms are launching cars through online events, which still offer a substantial reach but at a greatly reduced cost. Such events can also be scheduled to maximise publicity, as opposed to competing with other manufacturers at a show. That trend was already evident before the pandemic. For example, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Hyundai, Opel/Vauxhall and Volvo had all decided not to attend this year’s Geneva show. Last year’s Frankfurt show featured a greatly reduced manufacturer attendance. In recent years, several firms had taken to exhibiting only at shows that were in key markets or coincided with new model launch plans. But many are now taking that further. Lamborghini recently announced that it wouldn’t attend any more shows, with marketing chief Katia Bassi saying: “We believe that having an intimate relationship with the customer is key and motor shows are no longer aligned with our philosophy.” While the benefits of stand-alone unveilings are clear, the motor show decline removes a major marketing opportunity and stops the wider public from getting up close and personal with new models in one place. What’s the future of the motor show? The sale of the Geneva show to Palexpo SA should ensure that it returns for 2022, although there will be questions about whether the car firms will come back after a two-year break. What seems certain is that future motor shows are likely to move away from the traditional formula of static car displays on stands in exhibition centres. The organisers of the biennial Paris show have said it is unlikely to return in ‘traditional’ form in 2022, focusing instead on “innovative mobility” and a business-to-business trade event. Germany’s biggest motor show, which alternates with Paris on the schedule, will also have a new look for 2021, with organisers shifting it from its long-term home in Frankfurt to Munich. This year’s Detroit show had seemed likely to serve as a vision for how future events could look. Having struggled to attract exhibitors in recent years, with many firms preferring the New York or Los Angeles shows or tech events such as CES, organisers aimed to revitalise it by moving it from January to June and reshaping it as a Goodwood-style ‘festival’ with a large interactive outdoor area. But with that cancelled, it will be at least 2021 before the revised concept can be tested. Best show moments Mark Tisshaw - Bentley EXP 9 F (2012) I’ve never seen such a stunned yet amused look on a face as that of snapper Stuart Price at the unveiling of the 2012 Bentley EXP 9 F, the SUV concept that became the Bentayga. The car had been nicknamed Falcon, so obviously Bentley brought along a real-life falcon to be next to then boss Wolfgang Dürheimer as it was unveiled. Whether Stu’s stunned look was for the concept’s front end or the falcon, I’m not sure, but the giggles were from him catching the look on the face of VW Group supremo Ferdinand Piëch at the weirdness in front of him. Steve Cropley - Porsche 918 Spyder (2010) I’ll never forget Porsche’s king hit to every other car maker at Geneva 2010. No one had known precisely what was coming, but by 9am on that first day we all knew that, instead of searching for a show star, the answer was right there in front of us. By that time the covers were off the 918 Spyder concept – a 214mph hybrid hypercar with 282bhp of electric front-wheel drive and a mid-engined 600bhp V8. It not only described brilliantly but also looked fabulous, even shading its predecessor, the Carrera GT. Jim Holder - Aston Martin Lagonda SUV (2009) Has another car ever been revealed at a motor show that was so wrong… and yet so right? To my mind, nothing comes close to Aston Martin’s Lagonda SUV concept from the 2009 Geneva show. Although attitudes have changed since then, it was the idea of Aston building an SUV that caused as much horror as the car’s looks. The irony is that if the Lagonda had been put into production, it would have fitted right in with many of the other undignified luxury SUVs on the roads today, and Aston would probably be in far ruder health. Matt Prior - Pagani Zonda (1999) It’s 1999 and only my second Geneva motor show. As a junior in a pre-digital era, I’ve been told to collect press kits; I’ve even got a trolley to carry them. It’s largely a trudge, but there’s rare cool metal to see, too. In a corner, there’s a new supercar. I’ve read that many such cars are no-hopers: poorly engineered and unlikely to take on the establishment. But even my novice eye can tell that this one, engine cover open, looks different. There’s real integrity and it’s beautifully finished. As well it might be; it’s the Pagani Zonda. READ MORE Lamborghini will no longer attend motor shows Geneva motor show axed for 2021 2020 Geneva motor show axed due to coronavirus View the full article
  8. A decent car hamstrung by a sluggish plug-in hybrid powertrain, which makes its price problematic too Just remember, whatever else you take from this, that one of the primary purposes of this new Kia Xceed 1.6 GDi PHEV is to save fuel and curb CO2. With its combined fuel consumption of more than 200mpg, an electric-only range of 36 miles and a carbon output of just 32g/km, you could hardly miss the fact. What’s unusual is that all this energy-saving stuff is wrapped into the body of a so-called sports crossover, the fourth member of the weirdly named Ceed family whose rakish profile (that’s the sports bit) rides higher than other coupés (that’s the crossover) and thus provides you with both a sporty driving position and an elevated eye line at the same time. It’s an interesting combination.View the full article
  9. BTCC Cosworth Hybrid Toyota Corolla BTCC racer fitted with new Cosworth-developed system completes two-day test at Snetterton The British Touring Car Championship has tested its new hybrid powertrain system for the first time. A Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Corolla fitted with the new Cosworth-developed TOCA Hybrid system, scheduled to be introduced in the 2022 season, ran during the BTCC’s recent two-day test at Snetterton in Norfolk. Development driver Darren Turner drove the machine on both days of the test, running in wet and dry conditions. The hybrid system will be integrated into the championship's existing 2.0-litre turbocharged powertrain, using a 60V gearbox-mounted electric motor. Activating hybrid mode will add around 40bhp to a car’s power output, and the BTCC will use it to replace success ballast, with race winners getting restricted use of the hybrid system. BTCC boss Alan Gow said the test was “an extremely proud moment for everyone involved in the BTCC and the TOCA Hybrid project itself.” He added: “The BTCC was the first major touring car series to confirm its intentions and pathway for introducing hybrid technology and this is clearly another hugely significant milestone as part of that. “This is obviously just the start of the extensive programme ahead, prior to the full introduction of hybrid technology into the BTCC in 2022, but Cosworth, Speedworks and all of the technical partners involved should be congratulated for the professionalism, expertise and efficiency shown.” Turner said: “The BTCC is leading from the front yet again, and this will be a great addition to the racing. We have regularly deployed the system on track and it works really well. It will undoubtedly add an extra and exciting dimension to both the defensive and attacking aspects of the racing.” READ MORE BTCC: Cosworth to provide hybrid technology for 2022 Racing Lines: the man bringing hybrid technology to the BTCC How to build a BTCC race engine View the full article
  10. Snouty body and seriously beefed-up powertrain make A45 S a match for the Nissan The insane Mercedes-AMG A45 S comes in at £50k. Does it make sense to spend that much money when you could instead buy a lightly used Nissan GT-R? How expensive can the humble hot hatchback become before the concept loses all meaning for drivers of typical means? Renault recently let its ambition run rampant with a version of the Mégane RS that, in its most pulverisingly hardcore, carbonfibre-wheeled form, costs more than £72,000. It’s an awe-inspiring asking price, and too much, because if most of us wanted an impractical machine that prioritised involvement for that sort of money, we’d have the new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 or a lightly used Lotus Exige Sport 410. And it wouldn’t require much head-scratching to come to that realisation. But now Mercedes-AMG is having a go. Its effort is called the A45 S, and all £50,570 of it (£56,570 for the option-laden Plus driven here) is being chased across the sort of patchily damp, unevenly cambered B-roads we all know and love. Fast? Freakishly so – genuinely supercar-baiting. Expensive? Evidently, but had you bought a Delta S4 Stradale from Lancia in 1985, it would have cost you £55,000, translating to £167,000 today, so along with the RS Trophy-R, we’re hardly talking unprecedented sums. And unlike in those cars, you do at least get a second-row bench behind the deep buckets in the AMG. Very much like the Lancia, there’s a whiff of homologation about this new Mercedes, even though – with no A-Class motorsport activity since the previous generation competed in the BTCC – it’s nothing of the sort. Compared with the £38,000 A35, designed to go up against the Volkswagen Golf R et al, the A45 S is a different animal: broader wings, wider tracks, brackets welded in to stiffen the sleek, snouty body and a truly world-class powertrain with recording-breaking specific output. This car even has canards, ridiculously, and four 82mm tail-pipes to visually balance out the huge – and optional – rear wing. The Nissan GT-R also has a wing, not least because it can hit 196mph. Road test editor Matt Saunders has brought one along because it poses an enviable conundrum for the would-be A45 S buyer. When the R35-generation GT-R arrived in 2007, Nissan perpetrated a memorable strategy balls-up by underpricing it to an almost comical degree. It cost £56,000, undercutting rivals in performance and pedigree by light years, and the bargain price solidified Godzilla’s reputation as one of the great giant-slayers. Nissan remedied its mistake, and the GT-R has since become steadily more expensive; the new track-day Nismo version costs an astonishing £175,000. But today you can buy a lightly used, post-facelift example for the same money as a new A45 S. And that leads us to today’s burning question: when it comes to these giant-slayers, could you honestly bring yourself to buy the hatchback over the supercar? Would you be a fool to even consider it? Many people will consider it, on account of the GT-R’s age. First built at Nissan’s plant in Tochigi Prefecture, where even the police force enjoy the local speciality, fundamentally the current GT-R is now long in the tooth, and nowhere is that more evident than its interior. Equally, its primeval road presence is undimmed after all these years, and it’s difficult to think of many cars that need less of an introduction in terms of performance. In my 2017 guise, the GT-R’s twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V6 makes an unstressed 562bhp and 470lb ft, put to the road through a BorgWarner twin-clutch six-speed transaxle and Nissan’s ATTESA E-TS driveline. With two lengthy propshafts, the system is generously rear-biased but can go half-and-half for the torque split as necessary, and the GT-R remains among the quickest ways to string several counties together short of using aviation fuel. These newer cars supposedly put more of the ‘GT’ in ‘GT-R’, too, with softer damping and better acoustic insulation, but on noisy Dunlop tyres this example still feels reactive and raw, if not to the extent that owners of the latest Mercedes-AMG C63 S would be up in arms. Litchfield, the world-famous specialist where this car is for sale, nevertheless tends to swap the Dunlops for Michelin’s excellent Pilot Sport 4S rubber. Finished in Sun Yellow, the little A45 S is nuclear fusion on wheels: a concentrated dose of massive energy. It’s up against the GT-R here, but a compact footprint and the fact the closed-deck, hand-assembled, AMG-grade engine makes fully 416bhp from merely two litres and then delivers it to all four corners makes it more of a successor to the old Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. There’s no full-time four-wheel drive or manual gearbox, though. Instead you get an eight-speed dual-clutch auto and a set of clutches in the rear axle that can siphon all the available torque (meaning up to half what the engine is making at any given moment) to either side. The engine has also been swivelled so the exhaust ports and twin-scroll turbo now face your kneecaps and the intake looks forwards. This set-up also shortens various air channels for better response. An electronic tickle of the mass-produced M260 engine in the lesser A35 it is not. From what Saunders says after following in its wake, it’s clear that the AMG has the measure of the GT-R in terms of point-to-point pace on the road – which is remarkable. Whether that would still be the case on a bone-dry day, when the coupé’s larger contact patches and more balanced layout could make the difference, seems academic. You’d need to be travelling at speeds not so much unprintable as incomprehensible to really show much difference. More surprising still is that the Mercedes’ primary weapon isn’t its mighty but strangely workmanlike engine. We expected it to rock up with an absolute head-banger of a powerplant paired with a chassis so uncompromising it would be almost impossible to live with. Not so. Its blend of body control and pliancy at speed is an exhibition, and likewise the relatively plush low-speed ride is unrecognisable from the old A45. Where the GT-R’s chunky body can find itself a half-step behind the road surface, the A45 S has an almost telepathic awareness of what’s going to happen next, to the extent that you may get a vague sense of futility. Any corner, seemingly at any speed: you can feel the clever driveline triggering differentials and flexing torque even as the nose whips in. And while the stubby tail will swing, what the car really wants to do is stay perfectly neutral and fling itself forth, with the rear axle mucking in to an enjoyably detectable degree. Short of crassly overriding physics, it doesn’t do understeer. With 200kg less to carry, despite the two extra doors, the AMG has the GT-R licked for agility. And while its speed-sensitive steering is less consistent and can become twitchy on choppy surfaces, it possesses life and heft – traits carried over from AMG’s fine-steering bigger-hitters. In comparison, the GT-R needs some winding up, and in more ways than one. You need to acclimatise, because with all that mechanical clonking, gentle turbo whistle in the background and delicate but acute accelerator response, the car feels shot through with an authenticity that can be mildly intimidating even at sedate speeds. Also, the cabin is on the tight side and the Naca ducts in the bonnet bulge up into your field of vision, although as rivals have grown, the GT-R no longer seems to spread across its lane so thuggishly. Only when you really begin to explore the performance – the car’s potential, and how much of it you might exploit between here and there – do you realise that the GT-R, even in its twilight years, can still draw you deeper into the driving experience than so many others, including this phenomenally effective AMG. Fail to read the road and it will hop and skip at times, and despite the point-and-squirt reputation, the combination of its long nose and rear torque bias means it’s only with a sense of excitement and trepidation that you begin to brake later and chase the throttle earlier. Then you start to find its groove. In this weather, it will slide freely, sometimes unexpectedly, and to get the most out of any GT-R you need to show respect and finesse, which you don’t always with the A45 S. This makes it an addictive car. How likely is it that any committed GT-R shopper could be tempted to buy an A45 S instead? Bluntly, there’s next to no chance. As much as the performance continues to represent superb value for money, the Nissan’s heritage and aura are what give it almost inimitable appeal at this price, and its rawness is worn as a badge of honour. Inevitably, the hot hatch’s slick usability also undermines its sense of occasion, if only a little. Those of a more open-minded disposition are strongly advised to drive the AMG. Plenty will scoff at the price, but you need to forget about traditional hot hatches and coldly consider what this one can do. The performance is simply extraordinary, and the fact it comes from an engine of only conventional displacement means the handling isn’t made nose-heavy by additional cylinders. This M139 unit is also smooth and linear (although not by any means immune to turbo lag), which is some achievement, given the stress it needs to withstand. The new gearbox is a touch slurpy in comparison with the best dual-clutchers, but it’s easily good enough, and the car also does surprisingly well in other core areas: driving position, pedal weighting and, let’s not forget, passenger space. So please excuse the cop-out, but there really is no loser on this occasion – because both cars are exceptional in many ways, and because both manage it despite pariah status. The GT-R has to share its badge with all manner of soulless metal and the A45 S will always carry the baggage of being a hatchback, but they’re giant-slayers both. The GT-R’s spirit, the more unfiltered nature of its talent and the eventfulness of even a short drive ultimately give it the edge, but few A45 S owners will regret their choice. This latest AMG – a car more identifiably AMG than hot hatch – is clearly worth the money. The world of used GT-Rs Never mind the £63,000 GT-R driven here: a quick skim through the online classifieds shows it’s now possible to get hold of an early GT-R for less than half that. Assuming you can find one with a traceable and reasonably caring history, the arguments for such an outrageous, sub-£30,000 purchase are straightforward: 478bhp, 434lb ft, amusingly brutal kerbside presence and true driver appeal for VW Golf GTI money. At the other end of the spectrum, post-2017 GT-R Nismos, with their GT3-spec upgraded turbos, enormous carbon-ceramic brakes and perforated bodywork, still go for more than £100,000. What’s important to remember is that Nissan has continuously refined and improved the GT-R, often without fanfare between major facelifts. Not only that, but also the original cars need servicing every six months or 6000 miles; Nissan moved to annual servicing for 2012, so you’re better off with the most recent car possible. Whichever GT-R you plump for, the robustness of the powertrain is legendary – standard engines will reliably take around 770bhp, while the ’box can handle 630lb ft – and with specialists like Litchfield, there’s plenty of support. Lastly, because Nissan keeps pushing up its prices, residual values tend to stay strong. The best GT-R for your budget 2013 GT-R, £42,995: This is a second-phase GT-R, so it benefits from better gearbox mapping and more power: 542bhp. With GT-R culture being what it is, standard earlier cars are rare, but this seems a good example with relatively few miles. It looks epic in pearl white. 2019 GT-R Prestige, £68,000: Considering the GT-R is now priced from £83,955, this 1960-mile example looks inexpensive. Alongside the visual tweaks, third-phase cars made 563bhp and received stiffer bodies to go with softer damping settings. There’s also improved NVH and interior upgrades. 2018 GT-R Track Edition, £89,995: The Track Edition shadows the Nismo, sharing its seam-welded shell, wider track and hollow anti-roll bars. This one has been fettled by Litchfield to make 630bhp. Arguably representing an R35 sweet spot, it’s still good value. This article was originally published on 29 February 2020. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide engaging content in these challenging times. READ MORE Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S Shooting Brake 2020 UK review Limited-run Nissan GT-R 50 by Italdesign makes production debut Top 10 best supercars 2020 View the full article
  11. Volkswagen Group veteran will leave Czech brand after successful five-year stint in charge Skoda boss Bernhard Maier will leave the firm at the end of the month, the latest in a string of moves among senior management in the Volkswagen Group. The 60-year-old German has served as the Czech brand’s CEO since November 2015, when he moved over from sister brand Porsche. Under his leadership Skoda has greatly expanded its sales and model line-up with the launch of the Kodiaq, Karoq and Kamiq SUVs. The firm is also gearing up to launch the Enyaq iV, its first bespoke electric vehicle, based on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform. No reason for Maier’s departure has been given, nor confirmation on whether he is leaving the Volkswagen Group. Maier has served in various roles within the Group since joining to run Porsche’s German division in 2001. In a statement, Skoda said a successor would be elected in line with Czech law and would be announced at the firm’s next board meeting in August. Volkswagen Group chairman Herbert Diess said that Maier “has made an extraordinary contribution to enhancing the brand’s profile,” adding: “His years at Skoda are among the most successful in the company’s 125-year history.” Maier’s departure from Skoda is the latest in a string of management changes within the Volkswagen Group, with include Ralf Brandstätter taking over as CEO of Volkswagen from Diess. According to reports in the German media, Maier had been considered for a switch back to take over Porsche from Oliver Blume, who would in turn switch to the CEO role at Volkswagen, but that plan changed after Brandstätter's appointment. German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that Maier upset some Group board members with his push to expand Skoda sales in key Volkswagen markets while undercutting the German brand on cost, thanks to lower production costs in the Czech Republic. READ MORE Skoda boss plays down plan to reposition as budget brand Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI 2020 UK review Bentley names Volkswagen tech chief as new engineering boss View the full article
  12. Pandemic has cut key revenue stream, leaving councils across England massively worse off Councils across England are estimated to lose millions in parking fees as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with some set to face shortfalls well into the millions. Figures released by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government today show that local authorities were expecting to bank more than £885 million in parking fees, but this has been destroyed by lockdown and the suspension of parking charges throughout the crisis period. The councils whose incomes from parking fees have been hit hardest include Westminster (expecting to lose £143,274,000 across its 2019-20 and 2020-21 budgets), Kensington and Chelsea (£72,615,000 across the same period), Camden (£57,280,000) and Brighton and Hove (£51,939,000), with most others also set to endure loses in the millions. The losses will put councils in a difficult position, because while reintroducing charges would increase revenues, it could deter customers from returning to local high streets, which have also been hit hard by Covid-19 and need to recover quickly. Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “If councils weren’t already under significant pressure, they’ll be bracing themselves even more as they see a huge chunk of their income for the year lost. “For being so dependent on this income stream, councils are now stuck at a crossroad. Waive the fees entirely and absorb the financial hit or reapply them and risk hurting or, worse, losing businesses that bring in business rates and jobs in their towns. “This loss of revenue should also act as a wake-up call to towns and cities intent on banning drivers from their centres. If they ban cars completely, they need to be prepared to lose a huge chunk of a major income source.” READ MORE Bristol City Council approves first UK ban for diesel cars Oxford set to introduce city-centre Zero Emission Zone in 2020 Government delays Clean Air Zone roll-out until 2021 View the full article
  13. Jaguar's first EV offers style, speed, comfort and zero emissions. Here's how to get one Remember the days when a Jag was either a gloriously fast roadster or an iconoclastic luxury saloon beloved of rather raffish company directors? Get real, sunshine: this is the 21st century and every landlord’s favourite car brand is now more likely to be an SUV or, even more on-trend, an all-electric SUV. Enter the I-Pace, a stunning-looking zero-emissions car that has taken its class by storm since 2018. In fact, Jaguar was the first established luxury car brand to design its own electric vehicle from scratch. It then charged into a marketplace seemingly dominated at that stage by Tesla and it has come out the other side triumphant: the I-Pace has won fans for its styling, SUV practicality and long-range capability. Under its floor is a huge battery pack that drives all four wheels via two electric motors – one at the front and one at the back. That 90kWh battery gives the car exceptional performance and an official range of 292 miles, superior to most of its closest competitors. As for trims, even the entry-level S spec features lots of luxuries, including keyless entry, dual-zone climate control and ambient interior lighting. Upgrading to SE gets you bigger wheels, adaptive cruise control and additional safety kit. Range-topping HSE cars also have heated rear seats and matrix LED headlights. On the road, the I-Pace can, despite its svelte looks, feel a little heavy, which is no surprise because, at nearly 2.2 tonnes, it is actually a little heavy. However, it handles well and goes like an express train when you put your foot down. It is quiet, too, and even rides well, although sharp irregularities can catch out an I-Pace riding on the bigger, 20in wheels. Inside, it’s even more impressive. The driving position is low for an SUV and the seats offer plenty of support. All I-Paces get a slick 12.3in digital display, which lets the driver decide exactly what information they want to see directly in front of them. They also get a partly touch-sensitive panel, lower on the centre console, which is used to control the secondary systems, including the climate control. The infotainment touchscreen looks great, too, and the use of plush materials in all the right places lends the Jag an air of real quality. Space is plentiful, with room for two lanky individuals to sit behind two equally tall people. Boot space is reasonable and there’s a much smaller, additional boot at the front of the car, where you might expect to find a conventional engine. The I-Pace has been around since 2018, so there are plenty on the used market. Expect to pay around £45,000 for a 2018 S car. Up that to £50,000 for a 2019 example, and between £50,000 and £60,000 for a higher-spec model or a 2020 car. Need to know Annual road tax will be free, but you will pay a luxury car tax supplement. It’s a fixed sum levied on cars that cost over £40,000 when new and currently stands at £325 a year. Insurance costs will be on the high side and servicing is required every year. The I-Pace comes from new with a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty and the battery itself is covered for eight years from new, with a 100,000-mile limit. There was the option when buying new of changing the standard suspension set-up for air suspension and that’s worth seeking out on a used car. Our pick I-Pace EV400 S: Even the most basic I-Pace is handsomely equipped, and this S version has so far been the biggest seller, which means tracking down a good used one should be easier. We’d look for one of these and keep those costs down. I-Pace EV400 SE: Sitting neatly between the popular S and the top-spec HSE, the SE is worth a punt if you value the addition of larger alloys, a high-speed emergency braking system and adaptive cruise control. Ones we found 2018 I-Pace EV400 S, 20,000 miles, £44,965 2018 I-Pace EV400 HSE, 5000 miles, £57,000 2019 I-Pace EV400 SE, 12,000 miles, £61,995 2020 I-Pace EV400 HSE, 6000 miles, £63,995 READ MORE On a charge: Driving the Jaguar I-Pace from London to Frankfurt From ink to I-Pace: How Jaguar designs an electric car Jaguar eyes compact hatchback to succeed XE and XF View the full article
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  15. Turner has been racing F1 world champs in esports Aston Martin racer Darren Turner is swapping his simulator to return to the real world of racing "Fernando Alonso fired me off into the wall at Indianapolis.” If that sounds alarming, never fear: Darren Turner is only talking ‘virtually’. Like many of his friends and contemporaries, the 46-year-old Aston Martin Racing GTE driver has used esports to keep his hand in during lockdown and has enjoyed sparring with such luminaries, but he is now revving up for a return to real-world racing – plus an exciting new test and development role for the British Touring Car Championship. Turner raced in the BTCC in 2006-2008, winning five races for Seat, before Le Mans and sports car racing with Aston became his main focus. Now he is returning to the BTCC, not to race but to develop the series’ new hybrid system, due to become mandatory in 2022. The intensive test programme begins this week, with Turner driving at Snetterton for two days in a Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Corolla fitted with the new Cosworth Electronics system. Adding to the spectacle BTCC boss Alan Gow made the call for Turner to help. “Presumably, they need someone independent of the championship,” says Turner. “I’ve always had a good relationship with Alan since my own BTCC days.” Hybrid technology has dual benefits for the BTCC, pulling it closer into line with road car marketing while also adding a potential ingredient to spice up the show – something never far from the top of Gow’s agenda. “Introducing a hybrid is right for the BTCC, but it needs to add to the racing and not be detrimental,” says Turner. “The plan is for this to enhance the show, with more scope for overtaking and also to be used in defensive mode too, to add a bit more strategy.” The initial plan is for hybrid power to be available for use after the first lap, but the specifics of deployment have yet to be pinned down. That will be part of Turner’s job. “Spectators will be able to know the driver has engaged the hybrid, as will competitors,” he says. “It should mean another level of interest. It’s another weapon in the drivers’ racing armoury.” Testing, testing Turner has little experience of hybrid systems in racing cars, but testing and development is nothing new to a driver with increasingly extensive knowledge of such work out on the road with Aston Martin, in everything from the Valkyrie to the new DBX SUV. “I’m involved in most of the products coming out of Gaydon, under [Aston Martin chief engineer] Matt Becker,” he says. “On the Valkyrie, Chris Goodwin is the lead test driver. It makes me realise how simple race car development is in comparison. There’s one objective with a race car: to be fast, reliable and win races. That’s pretty much it. Road car development has got everything: all the things we go through and take for granted on the road have to be tested and validated. I never know until I get there what my test programme will be, but it’s only rarely about ultimate performance.” Sim stints close to reality The increasing importance of simulation is another Turner speciality. He runs Base Performance Simulators in Banbury, which came in handy for the esports high jinks of recent months. Racing wheel to wheel with Alonso and Jenson Button in the Legends series, in virtual Brabham BT44s, was a buzz. “It’s been amazing, and off the back of it, there’s a WhatsApp group going on,” he says. “It’s so nice to be involved with these drivers: good banter and good competition. Esports gives you the racing fix without the big pressures of being out there for real. That makes it a friendlier environment. And I’ve been selling sims too: Jason Plato, Dario Franchitti and Karun Chandhok have all bought our sims recently… I never thought I’d take money off those guys!” Turner has 17 Le Mans starts and three class wins under his belt, but the virtual 24 Hours that ran on the June weekend the real race was supposed to be happening was an eye-opener. “My first stint was midnight until 3am,” he says. “Beforehand, I thought: ‘I’m not sure I can do three hours in a sim.’ Three hours in a racing car, with all the adrenaline, goes really quickly at Le Mans. But in a sim… Turns out it went like that: really quick. At the end of three hours, I was ready to go again. “Car damage was ‘on’ so you had to look after your car. You couldn’t go in with a no-consequences gaming attitude. Also, having to deal with faster LMP1 cars and managing the traffic was just like the real thing. And there was a little moment when a Corvette came alongside me on the Mulsanne and the noise that was reverberating between the two cars was exactly like what you get in the real world. It blew me away how realistic it was. I was grinning all the way down the straight.” Turner will return to real racing – all being well – in the World Endurance Championship on 15 August at the Spa 6 Hours. Le Mans is scheduled for 19-20 September, the first time it has been delayed until the ninth month of the year since 1968. “Hopefully it will go ahead,” says Turner. “It’s important in our little world that we start again. Le Mans in September will make it completely different to anything I’ve experienced before: probably lower ambient temperatures, running in the dark a lot longer [up to 11 hours]. Things will be more crucial than they usually are.” Esports has been a welcome diversion, not to mention a good bit of business for a true racing entrepreneur. But as his WhatsApp friends would surely agree, it’s only ever a substitute for the real thing. READ MORE Virtual motors, real racing: The success story of esports Racing lines: It's time to take F1 sims seriously Racing lines: How F1 can become more competitive Racing lines: The line between innovating and cheating is slim in F1 View the full article
  16. An exceptional AMG engine finds an unusual, attractive and practical berth The CLA 45 S Shooting Brake is the sort of special car that comes along when a manufacturer follows its nose for longer than is normal or, perhaps, sensible.The road that led to the creation of this expensive and unbelievably quick junior AMG estate began when Mercedes introduced the third-gen A-Class in 2013. It was a different car from the imaginative, original A-Class. The body had morphed into more customary two-box proportions and, as for the powertrain, rather than sitting obliquely beneath the front footwell in an ingenious feat of packaging that didn’t compromise safety, it now rested above the front axle, as with every other hatchback.It was sad to watch the likeable A-Class fall to convention, but the new layout meant Mercedes could put into production an idea it had only ever dared toy with for those precariously tall early cars. That idea was to build an entry-level AMG that could fire the brand headlong into the hot hatch wars. And AMG being AMG, when that car arrived in the form of the A45, the 355bhp developed by its hand-built 2.0-litre engine really was, for a while at least, ‘world-beating’. And outrageous.At the same time, Mercedes also took the opportunity to re-body its reinvented A-Class. The sleeker CLA saloon was born and it spawned an all-new shooting brake with added practicality and, in the eyes of many, added desirability. The arrival of AMG derivatives then gave us one of the most curious and rare-groove cars on sale at any price point in the form of the original CLA 45 AMG Shooting Brake of 2015. It felt forged in the mould of the V10 BMW M5 Touring and Ferrari FF: fast but useful and quirky, even though, with limited space and route-one handling, it never appealed as much as it could or should have.That car has now been revamped, AMG permitted to reprise the 45 recipe, only with more power and technology. There’s absolutely no mistaking the new car, either. In 2020, the CLA 45 S comes replete with almost comical motorsport-style canards, four 90mm exhaust pipes and AMG’s new 2.0-litre M139 meisterwerk powerplant unusually swivelled 180deg. It means the turbo now faces backwards, vacating space for a generous, Corvette-esque intake duct at the front along with better aero. The M139 also delivers 415bhp and 369lb ft and accelerates the car to 62mph in 4.0sec, making the CLA 45 S Shooting Brake quicker on paper than both AMG’s own V8-engined C63 Estate and even the Audi RS4 Avant. And now I suspect I’ve really got your attention.View the full article
  17. Growing popularity of previously niche brands and changes in powertrain choices are two of the trends in car-buying habits Dramatic changes in buying habits emerged from UK car sales figures for June, the first full month that car retailers have been open post-lockdown. UK new car sales fell 34.9% year on year in June. The figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), announced earlier this week, show a significant improvement over April and May (down 97% and 89% respectively) but are still far from the industry's hoped-for comeback, after being out of action for more than two months. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes described June’s new car sales as “not a recovery and barely a restart.” He added: “Many of June’s registrations could be attributed to customers finally being able to collect their pre-pandemic orders, and appetite for significant spending remains questionable.” There were 145,377 new cars sold in June, a decline of 78,044 units over June 2019. For the year to date, the market has fallen by almost half (48.5%), with 653,502 new cars sold in the first six months making it the lowest level since 1971. However, while the decline certainly reflects economic uncertainty, UK-wide retailers are not yet fully up and running. Only English dealerships were open for the full month, with delayed reopenings for Welsh and Scottish showrooms. In England, one in five retailers remains shut and reports suggest upwards of 30% of sales staff remain on furlough. The irregularities of the top 10 best-selling cars from the past few months started to normalise in June, with the main players, the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta, back at number one and two spots. That’s in stark contrast to April, when the Tesla Model 3 - never before even in the top 10 - became the best-selling car, with 658 sold. This was thanks to socially distanced delivery of a number of pre-ordered sales before the lockdown. Nevertheless, the electric Model 3 remains at number nine in June’s top sellers. Tesla is one of just two manufacturers that have managed to grow UK sales in the first six months of 2020. The other is underdog MG, which has long been off the radar for most UK buyers. Thanks to its ZS EV - another electric car - MG achieved its best yet June volume, with 2025 cars sold and a record monthly market share of 1.4%. For the year to date, the sales of Chinese-owned MG are up a quarter, moving it ahead of Dacia, Lexus and Mitsubishi in the sales charts and putting it within reach of Fiat, Mazda and Suzuki, which are all less than 1000 sales ahead, according to the SMMT figures. Both Tesla's and MG’s success reflects the growing demand for plug-in vehicles, which was already on the rise pre-pandemic. Plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles held more market share than 'regular' hybrids in June, while pure EVs had a 6% share, with sales up by 262%, the equivalent of 8903 cars. Despite this rise, Marshall Motors Group CEO Daksh Gupta, doesn’t believe it’s related to lockdown: “We are starting to see an increase in prominence of hybrid and EVs - but there’s a huge shortage in supply. There’s more appetite for environmentally friendly vehicles - but this was improving anyway rather than as a result of lockdown.” Diesel-powered car sales, which have been steadily decreasing over the past few years because of the backlash following Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, now account for less than a fifth of sales. Just 23,011 diesel vehicles were sold in June, compared with 87,896 petrol ones, the latter making up 60.5% of overall share. By comparison, in 2016, diesel car sales accounted for almost half of total volume. Given the economic uncertainty, it’s no surprise that fleet sales fell by a substantial 45.2% in June, which the SMMT attributed to “businesses pausing purchasing amid expenditure reviews”. Private demand was more resilient, falling 19.2% compared with June 2019 and accounting for more than half of the overall market. Of those private buyers, Gupta identified two key trends that are helping sales: those who would ordinarily use public transport and those described as ‘revenge buyers’ - the consumers who haven’t struggled during lockdown thanks to the furlough scheme or otherwise and want to treat themselves after lockdown and no longer have holidays high up their agenda. As a result, the number of cars part-exchanged - previously making up 63% of buyers - has now dropped to 50%. Nonetheless, car retailers remain cautious about the year ahead. Jardine Motor CEO Neil Williamson described its sales in June as “better than our worst-case scenario”, adding: “Let's wait and see if it continues.” Vertu boss Robert Forrester said: “June saw robust sales in all areas of the business, reflecting pent-up demand, and this is expected to continue for some time. We should not declare victory too early given the economic weakness likely to be created by the rise of redundancies across the UK and many sectors in major trouble. This may be only the end of the beginning.” READ MORE One in six UK automotive jobs under threat, says SMMT How MG Motor is driving its way back to the big time Dieselgate: UK Volkswagen owners win ruling over emissions scandal View the full article
  18. British firm is moving its Worcester-based activities closer to home and creating new aluminium production line Lotus will bring together its steel fabrication and lightweight structures departments in a new, purpose-built facility in Norwich, creating up to 125 jobs in the area. While the British brand's steel fabrication arm is located near its headquarters in Hethel, its lightweight structures department is based some 180 miles away in Worcester. Lotus says the new investment “demonstrates its commitment to the region and to Norwich”. The new 12,300-square-metre Hurricane Way factory will produce aluminium chassis structures for the Elise, Evora and Exige sports cars, as well as aluminium components for “other global car companies” - likely Volvo, LEVC and Lynk&Co, which are also owned by Chinese car-making giant Geely. Also taking place in the new building will be the welding and fabrication of steel structures, including subframes and suspension components. The Worcester building in which this currently takes place will be repurposed by the freeholder when Lotus leaves in May 2021, and staff will be offered the opportunity to transfer to the new location. Lotus has been owned by Geely since 2017. It says that it has outgrown its existing facilities as its expansion under Chinese ownership has continued. This latest move will allow it to upgrade its machinery and tooling in preparation for new models arriving in the coming years. The decision is being supported by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. Chris Starkie, chief executive of the organisation, said: “We are delighted to have helped Lotus complete this deal to develop a new production facility in Norwich. It underlines the commitment of this globally recognised brand to the county with which it is synonymous and reinforces our region as a centre of excellence in low-volume, high-tech manufacturing.” His views were echoed by the leader of Norwich City Council, Alan Waters, who said: “The potential of dozens of new jobs in the pipeline also comes at a particularly welcome time as we continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic. We very much look forward to continuing to work with Lotus as the new facility gets up and running.” READ MORE New V6 hybrid ‘Esprit’ to lead Lotus expansion plan Lotus marks 20 years of Exige with new special edition Reborn Lotus Esprit spied testing for the first time View the full article
  19. New drop-top's electrified 6.5-litre V12 is the most powerful powertrain fitted to an open-top production car The new Roadster version of Lamborghini’s Sián hybrid hypercar is the most powerful open-top production car in the world, its 808bhp output usurping the 780bhp Ferrari 812 GTS. Just 19 examples of the Sián Roadster will be built – making it much more exclusive than the series-produced Ferrari - and all have been sold already. Like the striking hard-top Sian revealed at last year’s Frankfurt motor show, the Roadster takes the bulk of its power - some 774bhp - from an uprated version of the Aventador’s naturally aspirated 6.5-litre V12 and features a 34bhp 48V electric motor integrated into the gearbox for zero-emission low-speed manoeuvres. Lamborghini Sian FKP 37: 808bhp hybrid honours late VW boss The electric motor is also used to flatten the Sián’s acceleration curve, kicking in to provide torque fill that mitigates the effects of deceleration during gearchanges. An added benefit of this, Lamborghini says, is that “the pilot will feel only the pull backward of acceleration, eliminating uncomfortable jerking movements”. As a result, the Sián Roadster is claimed to dispatch the 0-62mph sprint quicker than the conventionally powered Aventador SVJ Roadster’s 2.9sec and its top speed is pegged at more than 217mph. A weight figure of under 1650kg is claimed, although we have no indication yet of how much heavier the hard-top is for comparison. At the reveal of the hard-top, Lamborghini claimed that the addition of an electric element to the V12 motor has not affected the powertrain’s trademark sound. Both versions of the Sián can call upon a supercapacitor power storage unit - said to store 10 times more power than a conventional lithium ion battery - to provide instant torque boosts at will while travelling at speeds of up to 81mph. The device, evolved from that used to power the Aventador’s starter motor, weighs just 34kg, giving a power-to-weight ratio of 1bhp per 1kg and ensuring minimal impact on performance. Symmetric power flow means it charges using energy recovered under braking at the same rate as discharging, providing maximum efficiency. The Sián’s trademark design features are carried over unaltered, including the six Countach-inspired brake lights, hexagonal exhaust exits, Y-shaped headlights and gaping air intakes at the front and side. Also featured are heat-sensitive cooling vanes on the rear deck that rotate according to the engine temperature, aerodynamic ‘airstreamers’ at the rear and a retractable spoiler that sits flush with the engine lid while the car is stationary. According to Lamborghini, removing the roof has had no effect on the Sián’s aerodynamic efficiency. Each of the 19 examples sold will be built to the owner’s desired specification by Lamborghini’s Ad Personam personalisation arm, with the option to choose from a range of exterior and interior colours and finishes, and even have the 3D-printed air vents inscribed with the owner’s initials. 'Sián' translates to ‘flash’ or ‘lightning’ in English and Lamborghini is using the Sián duo to set the tone for its upcoming electric era. CEO Stefano Domenicali said: “The Sián’s innovative hybrid powertrain heralds the direction for Lamborghini super-sports cars, and the open-top Sián Roadster affirms a desire for the ultimate lifestyle Lamborghini as we move towards a tomorrow demanding electrification.” Unlike the Sián hard-top, the Roadster has been revealed at a stand-alone event. Lamborghini recently announced its intention to stop attending motor shows and will focus instead on providing the “exclusivity, personalisation and one-to one contact” it says its customers want. Read more Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster review Lamborghini plots all-electric four-door GT for 2025​ Lamborghini will no longer attend motor shows​ View the full article
  20. Spanish marques will be joined by mobility brand Seat MO and Martorell factory will become electric car hub Seat and Cupra will receive a research and development investment of €5 billion (£4.5bn) by 2025, with a focus on preparing both brands for further electrification. Vehicle development will be a core pillar of the latest in a long line of Volkswagen Group electrification investments announced over the past few years, with Seat’s technical centre taking the lead. Factories will be upgraded, too, with the two firms’ facility in Martorell, Spain intended to become a future hub for Seat's and Cupra’s electric vehicle production. The announcement follows the reveal of the Cupra el-Born, the first electric hot hatchback to be introduced within the VW Group. It's set to go on sale in 2021, after a decision was taken last year not to introduce a specific Seat version but instead focus on the higher-margin Cupra variant. Speaking to Autocar after the unveiling, Cupra CEO Wayne Griffiths said the decision to launch the model initially as a performance variant is “a win-win for both brands, our customers and our dealers”. He added: “I don’t think we will lose anything by launching it as a Cupra. I think we’ve been able to differentiate the car more in terms of design - make the car much more provocative, more sporty, more sophisticated inside and outside. It shows us that Cupra can perfectly combine electrification and performance." Griffiths said the decisions to work on the Cupra model started “very soon after” the original Seat-badged concept was unveiled. It was a process of around 18 months to transform the model from its original Seat form to the Cupra version. When asked if the decision not to do a Seat version indicated that the investment focus was shifting away from Seat and towards Cupra, Griffith said: “We will be investing €5bn [£4.5bn] in both brands, in electrification and technology. We’ve just invested €1bn [£0.9bn] in the new Seat Leon. We will be spending money on both brands because one is not there to substitute the other. They have totally different purposes, different positioning, different types of cars, different design. They complement each other excellently. “We have a limited amount of investment and we have to share that across the brands - and we have a third brand now with Seat MO for micro mobility. These areas of the company are profitable. And we’ve done a good job with Seat, moving it in the last four to five years from being quite irrelevant in terms of market share to become the fastest growing brand in Europe with a market share of over 3%. “ At last year’s Frankfurt motor show, Volkswagen chairman Herbert Diess hinted at a plan being considered to rebrand Seat, which would see the Spanish maker taking the Cupra name instead in order to push it further upmarket. However, such a plan or decision has yet to be officially confirmed. The Cupra brand itself has had a relatively successful start, helped by it being launched off the back of two popular models: the Cupra Leon and a Cupra version of the Seat Ateca. Both models have sold over 40,000 examples combined since the division was split from Seat two years ago. READ MORE Cupra Tavascan: emotive EV concept shown at Frankfurt New 2021 Cupra el-Born is VW Group’s first EV hot hatch New 2020 Cupra Formentor: pre-orders open in UK View the full article
  21. Next-gen M3 will make a dramatic departure from the design of the standard 3 Series The next-generation BMW M3 – due for launch in September – has been snapped with minimal camouflage, confirming at last that it will wear the same vertically oriented front grille as its M4 sibling. The performance saloon has been spotted multiple times before - and we've driven it in prototype form - but it has always shielded its nose from view. Speaking at the unveiling of the standard 4 Series, BMW design chief Domagoj Dukec said the "polarising" design will become a "brand-shaper", but implied it would not make its way to the M3: "the 3 Series has a very horizontal one because it’s a more rational, serious car. A coupe like the 4 Series should express the exotic part of BMW.” First drive: 2020 BMW M3 prototype Now, though, it appears the brand will strengthen the link between the two mechanically identical cars with shared design elements. Apart from the front end, the M3 looks to retain the overall profile of the standard 3 Series, while gaining performance-oriented styling tweaks including widened wheel arches, a subtle rear spoiler and four large exhaust pipes. A leaked image of the rear end previously revealed that it would also feature black plastic trim elements and a downforce-enhancing rear diffuser. The hotly anticipated performance saloon will use an extensively updated version of BMW’s twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine, producing 473bhp and 443lb ft. The use of a four-wheel drive system similar to that used on the M5, and any form of electrification is believed to have been vetoed because they would add too much weight, complexity and cost. However, persistent reports suggest that the 2020 M3 could be the final M model to be launched without some form of electrification; something made necessary by the increasing priority of meeting fleet-average CO2 targets. There are no confirmed details about the new M3’s performance, but the lighter, more powerful car will eclipse the current M3 CS’s 0-62mph time of 3.9sec. It will be sold with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or an optional eight-speed automatic, but the auto will enable better performance figures thanks to a built-in electronic launch control system. The M3 will also benefit from the increased rigidity offered by its part-aluminium, part-high-strength steel CLAR underpinnings. This is a key reason behind BMW already making class-leading claims about the dynamic abilities of the base 3 Series. The regular car’s wider track and uprated suspension systems should also give engineers the foundations for a more dynamically capable M3. As well as offering greater performance potential, the stiffer chassis will reduce the amount of vibration transmitted into the car to enhance overall refinement. It should also allow engineers to adopt softer spring rates to give the M3 a more compliant ride in its most comfortable mode, without hampering the car’s overall dynamic ability. Inside, the next M3 will follow in the M5's footsteps by swapping its dashtop infotainment screen for one that’s more tidily integrated into the dashboard. The iDrive system is expected to retain a rotary control knob because it has been praised for its ease of use in current cars. The M3 will also gain significantly more advanced driver assist features, but former sales and marketing boss Ian Robertson has hinted to Autocar that most BMW models will steer clear of the full autonomous hardware suites to be used on i5 and i7 due from 2021. M models, in particular, will still possess a very driver-centric character. The M3 continues to form the basis for the technically identical M4 coupé, while M-worked 3 Series models will lend their hardware to a two-door M440i M Performance coupé and M440d M Performance coupé. These models are also due to arrive in showrooms in 2020 and are part of a 26-model onslaught of M division-tuned cars that aims to more extensively rival the growing ranges of Mercedes-AMG and Audi Sport. It remains uncertain whether the car will feature an active rear-wheel steering system to enhance agility and boost high-speed stability. Although it is under consideration, the business case for developing the system for the M3 only is believed to be under debate. The car, now testing on public roads in development form and due to go on sale in 2020, would inherit its active steering technology from the 5 Series and 7 Series. If the hardware does make the cut and is fitted to the super-saloon, the M3 would be the only car in the upcoming 3 Series range to feature it. Read more BTCC then and now: 2019 BMW 3 Series meets 1991 E30 M3 BMW M3 review 40 years of BMW M cars​ View the full article
  22. Flagship saloon gains improved suspension, more autonomous driving features and a 12.3in touchscreen Lexus has updated its LS flagship saloon, with a focus on improved ride, comfort and enhanced technology. The refreshed fifth-generation saloon goes on sale in Japan later this year and is expected to be offered in the UK, although Lexus has yet to confirm markets outside of Japan. The facelifted LS gains a new Adaptive Variable Suspension system with reduced damping forces, as Lexus seeks to improve upon the LS’s trademark ride quality and refinement. In addition, the engine mounts have been changed and thicker seats added to further reduce vibrations in the cabin. On the inside, the main changes are improved technology, headlined by the addition of a new advanced driver assistance and safety package called Lexus Teammate. This gives the LS more autonomous driving features, allowing it to change lanes and overtake other cars automatically. The system also receives automatic over-the-air software updates and a new 12.3in touchscreen infotainment system. The LS’s exterior has been lightly updated, with a new front bumper, darkened front grille and a new black trim around the rear lights. The black detailing theme extends to the inside, where controls on the steering wheel and centre console mirror the darker look. The facelifted LS has two powertrains. The LS 500h hybrid gains increased battery assistance when accelerating and reduced engine noise. Meanwhile, the 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol model is claimed to have sharper acceleration as well as improved shift timing, which, Lexus says, results in less frequent downshifts. Lexus president Koji Sato said: "The LS, as a flagship, has constantly pursued innovation and has provided new technologies and value for its customers. In developing the new LS announced today, we furthered the evolution of the exceptional quietness and comfort that has been a steadfast constant since the model's first generation.” READ MORE New Lexus IS features fresh styling, new tech and enhanced chassis Lexus plots new entry-level compact for 2021 Lexus UX 300e: more details revealed for first Lexus EV View the full article
  23. Formentor is the first stand-alone model for Cupra First 100 UK-bound Formentors will be specified with a 306bhp four-wheel-drive powertrain The Formentor has joined reworked versions of the Ateca and Leon in Cupra’s line-up, and pre-orders are now being taken for the hybrid crossover in the UK. A deposit of £500 secures one of 100 early production cars, which will be specified in limited-edition VZ trim and equipped with the top rung 306bhp four-wheel-drive powertrain. The first examples are set to arrive in the UK in the last quarter of 2020. As Cupra’s first stand-alone model, the Formentor was shown as a concept at the Geneva motor show last year and the design is largely unchanged in production form. New 2021 Cupra el-Born is VW Group’s first EV hot hatch Cupra boss Wayne Griffiths said the machine “is destined to make Cupra an even more relevant brand in the market.” Built on the same version of the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform as the Ateca, the Formentor is 4450mm long, 1839mm wide and 1511mm tall, with a wheelbase of 2680mm. It sports more aggressive styling than the Ateca, with a long bonnet, sharp side sculpting and a steeply raked, coupé roofline. It sits on 19in wheels as standard, with 18in brakes. The Formentor will be offered with two powertrains, including the 242bhp and 295lb ft eHybrid plug-in unit that featured in the concept. Used in other VW Group performance models, including the Cupra Leon, it mates a 148bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with a 114bhp electric motor. A 13kWh lithium ion battery gives the Formentor a 31-mile electric-only range. The 306bhp range-topper comprises a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit, which produces 295lb ft and sends power to all four wheels. Both powertrains use a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The Formentor is also fitted with the VW Group’s Dynamic Chassis Control. Inside, the Formentor’s dashboard is built around a 12.0in infotainment touchscreen and a digital instrument display. The dash also features a horizontal LED light strip, which runs into the front doors. Those lights are used for safety functions, such as blindspot detection. The interior has bucket seats as standard, with a flat-bottomed sports-style steering wheel that features the engine start and drive mode buttons. Pricing has not been set but is expected to exceed the £36,780 starting point of the Cupra Ateca. READ MORE Cupra boss: No bespoke sports cars for now Cupra Leon eHybrid plug-in hot hatch launched with 242bhp New Cupra Ateca Limited Edition gets design and performance tweaks View the full article
  24. Fernando Alonso 2008 Japanese GP Spaniard to make shock comeback for team with which his secured his two world championships Double world champion Fernando Alonso will make a surprise return to Formula 1 with Renault next season, the French manufacturer has confirmed. The Spaniard will return to the category after a two-year hiatus with the team for which he secured his two world titles in 2005 and 2006. Seventeen of Alonso’s 32 F1 race wins came driving for Renault, and this will be his third stint with the team. Alonso, who turns 39 later this month, will replace the McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo alongside Esteban Ocon. Cyril Abiteboul, the boss of Renault's F1 team, said: “The signing of Fernando Alonso is part of Groupe Renault’s plan to continue its commitment to F1 and to return to the top of the field. His presence in our team is a formidable asset on the sporting level but also for the brand to which he is very attached." Abiteboul called the signing "a bold mutual choice as well as a project for the future." While Renault has only confirmed Alonso's seat for next year, Abiteboul suggested the signing was made in part to help prepare for the radical new rules package due to arrive the following season, saying that Alonso's "mission will be to help Renault DP World F1 Team prepare for the 2022 season in the best possible conditions.” Renault F1 boss: 'we will not be able to hide forever' Alonso said: “Renault is my family, my fondest memories in Formula 1 with my two World Championship titles, but I’m now looking ahead. It’s a great source of pride and with an immense emotion I’m returning to the team that gave me my chance at the start of my career and which now gives me the opportunity to return to the highest level. "I have principles and ambitions in line with the team’s project. Their progress this winter gives credibility to the objectives for the 2022 season, and I will share all my racing experience with everyone from the engineers to the mechanics and my team-mates. The team wants and has the means to get back on the podium, as do I.” Alonso began his F1 career with Minardi in 2001 and became Renault’s test driver the following year. He was promoted to a race seat in 2003, with the then-22-year-old taking his first win in that year’s Hungarian Grand Prix - at the time making him the sport’s youngest race winner. The Spaniard took seven wins in 2005 to claim his first title, ending Michael Schumacher and Ferrari’s five-year run of dominance, and followed up with another seven-win season to retain the championship in 2006. Alonso left Renault to join McLaren for 2007, but his relationship with then-team boss Ron Dennis quickly deteriorated over perceived preferential treatment to rookie team-mate Lewis Hamilton. That left to Alonso playing a role in unearthing the Spygate scandal, and he was released from his contract after a single season, leading to a return to Renault for the following year. While Renault had fallen off the ultimate pace in 2008, Alonso managed a pair of wins - although his Singapore Grand Prix win came in controversial fashion after team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr was ordered to crash to bring out the safety car at an opportune time. After a winless 2009 season with Renault, Alonso joined Ferrari, finishing runner-up in the championship three times before his relationship with the Italian team deteriorated. He then made a shock return to McLaren, but the team struggled to be competitive, and after four tough seasons he left the squad – and F1 – at the end of 2018. Since leaving F1, Alonso joined Toyota’s sports car racing squad and won the 2018-19 World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours. He also competed in the Indianapolis 500 and the Dakar Rally. READ MORE Opinion: should Fernando Alonso be considered an all-time great? Alonso and Toyota win 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours again despite late drama Renault F1 boss: 'we will not be able to hide forever' Opinion: the trouble with Renault in F1 View the full article
  25. Range-extender van promises 58 miles of electric-only running and is priced from £46,500 before government grant of up to £8000 The London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) has revealed the final production version of its taxi-based VN5 van. The new van, using the same range-extender electric vehicle technology as its TX London taxi, is available to order now for deliveries at the end of 2020 from the company's factory in Ansty, Warwickshire. Priced from £46,500, it will be eligible for the van-specific UK plug-in car grant of up to £8000. The VN5 can manage a WLTP-certified electric-only range of up to 58 miles from a 31kWh battery and has a load area that can accommodate two Euro pallets. Claimed carrying capacity is 830kg. The taxi’s bodywork has been adapted to allow a single side-loading door and 60/40 split rear doors for loading. Combined with the three-cylinder petrol range-extender engine, the VN5's total range will be over 300 miles. Three variants will be offered, with base Business trim coming as standard with autonomous emergency braking, cruise control, a 9.0in touchscreen and 50kW DC rapid charging that will can allow a full charge in 30 minutes. Moving up to City spec adds a heated steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors, curtain airbags and lane departure warning, while Ultima brings posher seats, a rear-view camera and 22kW AC fast charging. A number of options packs provide a host of active safety kit, plus features such as sat-nav and additional storage. Behind the wheel of the LEVC TX taxi LEVC claims the VN5’s aluminium monocoque and SMC construction make it built to last “twice as long” as competitors, thanks to corrosion and dent resistance and high crash-energy absorption. A five-year, 150,000-mile warranty is standard, with a battery warranty of eight years, and there is the option to extend both warranties further. Service intervals are a relatively long 25,000 miles, too. LEVC says the market for such a van is likely to increase noticeably. London’s Metropolitan Police & Fire Service has already committed its fleet to being zero-emissions-capable by 2025. LEVC also says it expects 40% of vans will be ‘new energy’ by 2030, rising to 100% by 2040. It adds that the VN5 van is intended for companies that cover around 100 miles per day in cities and is designed to allow goods to be picked up at an out-of-town depot and transported into the city, where the van will operate largely in zero-emissions mode. The implication is the VN5 will be, from a business perspective, superior to pure-electric delivery vans, which have a more limited range and potentially require more downtime for charging. LEVC CEO Jörg Hofmann said last year: "Due to the rapid rise in internet shopping – the 'Amazonisation' of retail - every day there are 65,000 unique LCV journeys into London. London’s ULEZ is a blueprint, and all major UK cities will introduce a clean air zone by 2020. There's huge demand for a medium-sized zero-emissions-capable light van, and the solution we offer will be more than capable of meeting the requirements of a rapidly evolving green logistics market." Because the VN5 is based on the TX, which incorporates a number of Volvo components and sub-systems, LEVC says it will feature "the latest active safety systems and crash standards" and that it has a passenger area "benchmarked against premium MPVs". One real-world advantage for the VN5 will be its ultra-tight 10.1m turning circle. When production is in full swing, LEVC expects to sell around 10,000 vans each year and will be looking to export to continental European cities. LEVC - which is owned by Chinese giant Geely - says that it will also be introducing a "full range" of electrified commercial vehicles from 2020 onwards. Autocar understands that Geely is now working on a line-up of more cost-effective commercial vehicles aimed at regional cities, a number of which are expected to introduce London-style low emission zones over the next few years. Hofmann told Autocar that LEVC is looking a "potential future portfolio' of new vehicles via owner Geely. First drive: LEVC TX taxi on the streets of London Electric LEVC TX taxi hits German streets as part of global expansion In pictures: taxis of the world View the full article
  26. Jag’s keen handling makes it difficult to drive conservatively We find out if how far an electric car can travel is really dictated by driving style, with the help of two Jaguar EVs It’s hard to hold back. Here you are, driving a car with 395bhp and 513lb ft, but you need to drive it in a not-in-a-hurry kind of way. That isn’t because this is an electric car with a range minimal enough to send you into fretful anxiety within half an hour of getting in it, but because we’re conducting an experiment. Not a strictly empirical experiment, but one intended to find out how far you can go in an I-Pace if you drive it in a reasonable, speed-limit-observing manner, and how far you can go in one if, say, you’re cutting it a bit fine for a meeting. Some real-world driving, then, and we have two I-Paces for the purpose. Both are ready to set out from Autocar’s satellite HQ in Feltham, Middlesex. Both have been on charge overnight, both are indoors and enjoying the same mild ambient temperature (more on this later) and both have the same destination. Which is Hinkley Point, in Somerset, the site not only of an existing nuclear power station, but also of a completely new (and controversial) nuclear power station that’s currently under construction. The relevance, of course, is that some of the electricity generated by both these plants will be used to power, among other things, the rising numbers of EVs Hinkley Point also provides us with a realistic target. According to Zap-Map, a charger location smartphone app recommended by Jaguar, we have a choice of three routes. The most interesting takes in motorways, A-roads, urban traffic and country lanes. This trip amounts to 139 miles, which on the face of it should be well within the I-Pace’s official WLTP driving range claim of 292 miles. Mind you, along the way we’ll be making a few diversions for photography, which will further eat into our available range. Nevertheless, your reporter should be in for an anxiety-free drive behind the wheel of the red car. The idea is to drive the car normally but with energy saving very much in mind. Eco-driving won’t be foremost in the mind of the man at the wheel of the blue I-Pace. This is the car that’s going to be driven by road tester Richard Lane, who will enjoy some of its considerable performance on his way to our seaside rendezvous. Before we set off, I speak to James Matthews, the I-Pace’s vehicle integration manager, to better understand the art of maximising its range. He says: “An EV is similar to an internal combustion engine car [in that its] efficiency is quite temperature dependent. The temperature affects how much you can store and also how much you have available. Batteries are like human beings. They like to be in the 20-25deg C range before they’ll operate happily.” For this reason, charging just before your journey is desirable not only because you can condition the temperature of the cabin, using the charging point’s power, but because the similar pre-conditioning of the battery improves its ability to give. “Ideally you’d charge the battery with the car cold, and then warm the car with pre-conditioning. Then you can get more out of the battery,” says Matthews. For this reason, he explains, “the I-Pace’s coolant system is made up of three temperature management systems which are mixed and matched to get the battery to an optimal temperature when you start to draw current”. After a night topping up on our identical chargers, the I-Paces’ ranges differ slightly despite the 100% battery reading. The blue car forecasts 252 miles, the red car 269 miles. That slight difference is about to be widened significantly – the blue I-Pace aiming for a swift arrival at Solstice services on the A303, where we’ll meet snapper Will Williams. Lane will drive his I-Pace in Normal mode, with occasional forays into Dynamic when the road invites it. The red I-Pace will remain firmly in its Eco setting, with the maximum regenerative effect engaged via the infotainment system. In this form, the twin motors can produce as much as 0.4g of deceleration, which is enough to ensure that the brake pedal rubber experiences little wear. And it doesn’t take long to be fascinated by the Jag’s urge to slow as you release the accelerator. It’s odd at first, but before long you’re able to avoid using the brakes, even if you must sometimes accelerate slightly to get to a junction until you’re better able to judge the ebb and flow of its progress. Even if you’ve driven an EV before, it’s unlikely to have provided deceleration this powerful. The novelty is intriguing. This high regeneration mode also eliminates the energy-wasting creep of an automatic, besides running assorted sub-systems in energy-saving states. Your husbandry of Amperes can be viewed in the infotainment system by unearthing (and ‘unearthing’ is the word for locating information within this obtuse human-machine interface) the graphic which rates your use of accelerator, speed and brakes. By the time we reach the M3, I discover that I’ve already achieved five out of five on all three metrics, to score a 100% rating. Only the need for some sudden, traffic-avoiding acceleration knocks this back to 99%, suggesting that it’s very easy to reach a top score. At Solstice services, 67 miles later, the speedy blue I-Pace has used 121 miles of its range and has 65% of battery life remaining. The red I-Pace has used only 32 miles of range, although its battery reserve is closer to the blue car’s at 70%. By the time the cars are close to Hinkley Point, the range of both has been depleted considerably – it would seem for several reasons. The most obvious is that they have covered more than 80 miles, this the distance between the services and a car park near Hinkley Point A power station, but it also seems that continuous cruising on the motorway, which barely involves any regeneration, takes quite a toll on the driving range. In fact, the blue I-Pace almost doesn’t make this car park at all. Lane suffers sufficient range anxiety to divert to a nearby charger, which turns out to have the trickle-juicing 7kW Mennekes connector. He takes the risk of abandoning this to reach our rendezvous with a mildly alarming 29-mile range, compared with the red I-Pace’s 75 miles. The Zap-Map app tells us that the nearest charging point with the fast-charge CCS connector is at Sedgemoor services 33 miles away. However, the app also suggests that the chargers in both the north and southbound service areas are non-functioning. We call Ecotricity’s Electric Highway operation, and a very helpful chap tells us that the northbound charger is now functional, and that we need its app, not Zap-Map’s, if we want the very latest charger status. It’s fast becoming apparent that loading your phone with apps and contact numbers is wise if you’re an anxiety-prone electric vehicle driver. Lane makes Sedgemoor with 12 miles of range and 8% in the battery. “It was very stressful,” he says of the last leg of a 198-mile journey on the one charge. The red car makes Sedgemoor with 56 miles and a 26% reserve, and must initially make do with a slow charge (10hr 28min for a full recharge, estimates the Jag’s readout) because Lane has plugged the sole 50kW charger into his near-volt-less I-Pace. We are now 140 miles from Autocar HQ, prompting Lane to buy another standard 45-minute charge, and coffees all round while we wait. With this 90-minute double dose, his range is now 155 miles. I only give the red I-Pace one 45-minute charge from the 50kW point, taking the range to 139 miles. It’s a mile short of the distance from Sedgemoor services to the office but I reckon I can make this up, and more, by slinking down the motorway at 60mph. However, by the time Chieveley services appear 87 miles later, I’m down to a 12-mile range, and another coffee opportunity, albeit one not necessarily wanted. A further 45-minute boost takes this to 66 miles, which should be enough to cover the final 49 miles to the Autocar office. In fact, I get there with 23 miles to spare and 11% in the battery, the regenerative moments through urban streets extending the Jag’s reach. That doesn’t lessen the tension much, and nor does the fact that the Jag’s sat-nav is unable to tell you what type of charger it’s near. Instead, it can only indicate the location of undefined power sources. By now I have been on the road 13 hours to complete a 328-mile journey, and although a good chunk of that time was occupied with photography, the reality is that from Sedgemoor services onwards, I have had to drive far more slowly than the I-Pace is capable of, in order to avoid having to stop for a third charge. Lane needs two more charging stops to reach his home in London. So, what have we learned? That driven modestly, the red I-Pace has covered 239 miles on a charge. The briskly driven blue I-Pace needed an electron infusion at 208 miles, which is not vastly less given that it was driven a lot harder. The distance covered by the red car is obviously short of the manufacturer’s claimed 292-mile figure, but it’s not bad and makes this EV a lot more usable than many examples of the breed, a point underlined by the distance covered by the blue I-Pace. Although the last 40 miles of that car’s journey to its first recharge were very gingerly driven, it appears that you can regularly indulge all that power and still have a reasonable three-figure range. That makes the I-Pace a very viable electric car, albeit one that has also been designed for a charging network that is only now beginning to appear across the UK. When 100kW fast chargers are available, rather than the 50kW dispensers we used, you’ll be able to drink that coffee rather more speedily while gaining a range boost. In the meantime, I-Pace buyers will need the early-adopter’s more patient mindset if they’re not to face occasional frustration. What we’ve also learned is that despite an overstiff ride, a flaky infotainment system and sub-standard minor ergonomics, this is an impressive EV, one whose performance and handling make it hard not to arrive early for that coffee of necessity. How to optimise an EV’s range: Pre-conditioning your EV, hours before you get into it, comes first. That’s easy if you have a home charger and (in the I-Pace’s case) the smartphone app that allows you to specify cabin temperature. That way you start with a 100% charge, and give the air-con the task merely of maintaining your chosen temperature rather than having to use power to shift the cabin climate from extremes of hot or cold. Selecting Eco modefrom the drive settings is obvious, but also very helpful in maximising the motors’ regenerative braking when you come off the throttle. Using the hydraulic brakes in addition to motor braking wastes both momentum and your battery’s charge. Anticipating road conditions to maintain momentum is good, and avoiding steady state, high-speed cruising (not always ideal or possible, of course) will also help to preserve your battery’s range. Planning ahead is vital too. Know where you plan to recharge, and check that the charger is actually working via an app. The Ecotricity and Zap-Map apps can help. The need for planning will diminish as more high-output chargers are deployed in the future. Charge of the fast brigade: At present, unless you own a Tesla and thus have access to the company’s dedicated Supercharger network, there is no ultra-fast-charging network in place to support the rapid roadside recharge needed for the big-battery, long-range EVs that are being planned by most of the premium car makers. To fix that, BMW, Daimler, Ford and the Volkswagen Group have joined forces to create Ionity, a network of 350kW charging stations. The plan is to have 400 sites in total in Europe by 2020 with about 40-45 of them in the UK. The first UK station is due to open this month in Maidstone, to join eight already operational on the continent. Stations will be around 62-75 miles apart, in motorway service areas, and each will contain about half a dozen charging points. A five-minute charge from one of the 350kW points should give around 62 miles of driving range, providing the car is capable of accepting full-power charging. The charger will automatically operate at the fastest rate the car’s batteries can handle safely. A standard cost for the chargers is in place: £8 per hour in the UK or €8 on the continent. The key reason for the creation of Ionity is that the manufacturers behind it do not have to wait for a suitable charging infrastructure to emerge from various governments. The company hopes its roll-out will help to standardise the Combined Charging System connector across the industry. At present, there are four different types of charger. Ionity is open to the prospect of working with other car makers, including Tesla, but has so far resisted investment from oil companies. In addition to Ionity, the E.ON and Clever networks will install 220 180kW stations across Europe by 2020, Podpoint plans to install a series of 150kW chargers across Britain and the EU-funded Ultra-E consortium is installing a 175kW ‘corridor’ from the Netherlands to Austria. Shell is involved with a plan to install 40 high-charge stations in the UK by 2020. These are in addition to the 1656 50kW chargers, as used on our Jaguar I-Pace drive, that are currently available in the UK. This article was originally published on 30 September 2018. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide engaging content in these challenging times. Read more Jaguar I-Pace review Jaguar I-Pace gets faster charging and extra tech for 2020​ View the full article
  27. Hot MEB-based electric hatchback promises a 310-mile range and can do 0-31mph in 2.9sec The next production model from Cupra – Seat’s now-separate performance brand – will be a sporting version of the el-Born electric hatchback. Revealed today ahead of a full launch in 2021, the Cupra el-Born is said to bring “sustainable mobility with a unique character and dynamism” and will be the first performance-oriented version of the modular MEB electric platform in the Volkswagen Group’s range. Cupra has been chosen to launch the el-Born instead of Seat, as was originally intended. When asked if the el-Born will ever hit the market branded as a Seat, Cupra CEO Wayne Griffiths said "We are launching the el-born as the first fully electric model under the Cupra brand. I believe this is the right decision, the el-Born has all the genes of the Cupra brand...I think any good news for Cupra is good news for Seat." Since the 2019 el-Born concept was unveiled Cupra's design team have given it a new, brand-specific look, largely centring around a more aggressive front-end redesign and bespoke interior details. Only a scant amount of technical detail for the Cupra el-Born has been released. The EV will be powered by a 77kWh (82kWh gross) battery pack that sends power through a rear-mounted electric motor of undisclosed output. Cupra promises a range of up to 310 miles on a single charge, with rapid-charging making it capable of receiving 161 miles' worth of charge in 30 minutes. That’s significantly more than the el-Born was expected to launch with in Seat form; the Seat el-Born concept features a 62kWh battery for a range of 261 miles. Although no 0-62mph time has been released, Cupra is quoting a 0-31mph time of 2.9sec. For reference, the Seat concept promised a 0-62mph time of 7.5sec from a 201bhp electric motor. The el-Born will bring features that first appeared on its Volkswagen ID 3 sibling, including an augmented-reality head-up display, while Cupra-specific detailing includes sports bucket seats and a racier steering wheel design with driving mode buttons. The el-Born will be manufactured alongside the ID 3 at the Volkswagen Group’s plant in Zwickau, Germany. It will join the upcoming Formentor in the Cupra line-up in 2021, alongside the existing Leon and Ateca - two cars that have racked up a combined 40,000 sales in the two years since Cupra split from its Seat parent brand. Griffiths has also confirmed a specific Cupra dealer network will be set up over the coming months and years across Europe, offering a bespoke sales and aftersales experience that he believes is key to the brand's success. READ MORE: New 2020 Cupra Formentor is brand's first performance model Cupra Leon eHybrid plug-in hot hatch launched with 242bhp Facelifted 2020 Cupra Ateca arrives with improved dynamics View the full article
  28. Second-generation MBUX system features fewer buttons, augmented reality and sensor-activated functions The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, set for its debut later this year, will be the first car to feature the second generation of the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system. The system is said to be ‘learn-capable’ and brings enhanced speech recognition functionality, upgraded displays and more opportunities for personalisation in both the front and rear of the car. Mercedes notes that in the S-Class’s primary markets - the US and China - the car’s owner customarily sits in the back, so it has “systematically designed the new edition of its flagship model with the rear in mind”. As such, rear passengers have access to the same infotainment functions as those in the front, controlled via up to three touchscreens - each of which can be specified with OLED technology and haptic touch feedback. Increased use of sensors plays a big part in the system’s update. The exit warning function can detect when an occupant wants to leave the car, the interior’s ambient lights flash red when another vehicle approaches a blindspot and the front passenger seat can detect whether a child seat is correctly secured. The S-Class can also automatically automatically adjust the seats and mirrors according to suit the driver, raise and lower the rear roller blind when the driver looks over their shoulder and operate the sliding sunroof according to hand gestures. There are 27 fewer traditional buttons and switches in the new S-Class compared than in today's model, with a heightened emphasis on swiping, voice control and hand gestures. Some functions, however, such as the headlights and windscreen wipers, can be operated using familiar physical controls. The MBUX system’s trademark “Hey, Mercedes” voice recognition function has been upgraded as well. It can now be used to explain where the car’s first aid kit is located and connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth, as well as traditional functions such as accepting a phone call or displaying the sat-nav map. If a driver says “I’m tired”, the system will activate an ‘energising’ programme, or if a rear passenger says the same phrase, a ‘wellbeing’ programme. As part of the upgrades, Mercedes has also tightened the security of its infotainment. As well as requiring a PIN to enable certain functions, it will use a combination of fingerprint, face and voice recognition to give access to individualised settings or verification of digital payment processes. MBUX can be connected to the Mercedes smartphone app to allow for owners to set up to seven different profiles - with preferred automatic seat, radio and lighting settings - and activate them by scanning a QR code on entry. These can then be transferred via the cloud to other Mercedes models equipped with the same system. The cloud software also allows for Smart Home-equipped appliances and domestic systems to be controlled from within the car. Augmented reality features, too, projecting three-dimension directional arrows onto the road ahead to reduce the need for the driver to take his or her eyes off the road. READ MORE 2021 Mercedes-Benz EQS previewed in new official images Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d 2020 UK review Mercedes-Benz to sell Smart factory in France View the full article
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