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The Motorists' Guide

The Motorists Guide

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  1. Tesla Model 3-rivalling electric saloon from Volvo's performance brand will be unveiled in full in the next few weeks Polestar has released an image previewing the design of its upcoming electric four-door coupé ahead of its release in the second half of this year. The Tesla Model 3 rival will follow Volvo's performance brand's first model, the hybrid-powered Polestar 1, which will go on sale in Europe in summer 2019. Details are scarce, but the company refers to the model's body style as that of a four-door "fastback", and states that it will be the first vehicle to feature Google's new human-machine interface technology and the in-car version of Google Assistant. The company says the new model will "be sold in the Tesla Model 3 price range", suggesting a likely starting price of around £50,000. Customers will purchase the Polestar 2 on a subscription basis, set to take the form of "a slightly more premium version" of Volvo's own Care by Volvo scheme. The company says a full reveal will take place in the coming weeks, but claims the Polestar 2 will produce up to 400bhp and offer a claimed range of roughly 300 miles. Speaking to Autocar at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2018, Polestar COO Jonathan Goodman confirmed some details of the new model. Talking about the range of the entry-level model, he said: "That will represent the lower ‘bookend’ of our showroom range and, for now, it should give us as much access to the volume end of the EV market as we need." The Polestar 2 is understood to closely relate to Volvo's 40.2 concept shown early in 2017, alongside the 40.1 concept which has since been revealed in production form as the XC40 compact SUV. Goodman also warned that any established manufacturer that launches an EV sub-brand built on alternative design over the next few years might be making a big mistake, given the pace at which the market for EVs is set to develop. “The global electric car market was worth four million units in 2017,” explained Goodman, “but it’s quite widely expected to be worth 29m units by 2025. EV owners will come from all walks of life. So it’s a mistake to assume that, because the cars are electric, you have to make them quirky or futuristic. "Other brands may be doing that, but if we’re looking at a market worth 30m cars within seven years, it isn’t going to be niche, it’s going to be mainstream. So you just design a great-looking car – not one with a big blue flash down the side.” In contrast to the cultish following that rival brand Tesla has attracted, Goodman also wants Polestar to have an inclusive attitude towards its customers.“I think it’s very dangerous for brands like ours to sit here and ask ‘what’s our type of customer?'", he went on. “Electric cars will be just as appealing to young executives as they are to retirees. It’s a new market, and purchase intentions will vary. So we’ve got to be a welcoming brand that’s not geeky, cliquey or judgmental.” Read more Tesla Model 3 review Polestar 1 prototypes enter production New electric cars 2019/2020: What’s coming and when?​ View the full article
  2. Three of the most revered trackday sports cars in the world today go head-to-head-to-head on track, and from 0-100mph-0 on the drag strip The Ferrari 488 Pista, McLaren 600LT and Porsche 911 GT3 RS are three of the fastest, most exciting and most revered trackday sports cars in the world at the moment. All three deliver more than 500bhp and claim to hit 60mph in three seconds or less. Two of the three have a top speed of over 200mph. But which is quickest in a straight line, and around a lap of Anglesey's Coastal circuit? And which is the most incredible to drive? Our back-to-back test is about to tell you. READ MORE A tail of two cities: 1400 miles in a McLaren 600LT Ferrari 488 Pista review Britain's best driver's car 2018: meet the contenders View the full article
  3. Reports suggest Japanese manufacturer will announce plans to close plant in 2022, putting 3500 jobs at risk Honda is expected to announce that its production facility in Swindon will shut in the next three years, according to several news reports. The closure of the Wiltshire plant, which is the international home of Civic production, could be disclosed in a plan by the Japanese manufacturer as early as tomorrow morning, Sky News suggests. Although it's yet to be confirmed by Honda, the move would be a huge blow for the Government’s hopes of the UK remaining an established manufacturing hub after Brexit, as well as the firm’s 3500-strong workforce in Swindon. It's thought that the threat of import tariffs for European-made cars from Donald Trump’s administration is a significant factor in the plant’s future, because the US is one of the Civic's main markets. Other factors, including uncertainty over Brexit and the decline in demand for diesel vehicles, are thought to be impacting on the viability of the factory. But perhaps the main motivation behind Honda's unconfirmed decision is the new deal the Japanese government has struck with the EU. This means tariffs on Japanese-made cars coming into 27 European countries will be phased out this year, reducing the financial benefit of Honda having a UK hub. The Civic is also built in Turkey, which is likely to be more favourable as a factory from a cost perspective. Honda UK Manufacturing, which was established in Swindon in 1985, has received a total investment of £1.5 billion across the facility's numerous buildings. But the brand's future was looking gloomy way before Brexit. It mothballed one half of its Swindon plant after sales failed to recover following the 2008 financial crisis, and then decided to produce just the Civic hatchback, dumping the Jazz and CR-V. Back in 2008, Swindon produced more than 230,000 cars annually, but with production of the Accord, plus the Jazz and CR-V, since moved elsewhere in the world, that number has nearly halved. Read more: Honda Civic 2019 review Honda to slash production in Swindon, placing 340 jobs at risk Honda Accord axed in the UK View the full article
  4. New scheme will merge BMW's DriveNow rental scheme with Daimler's Car2Go Car2Go and DriveNow will be merged to form a new company that will provide an “ecosystem of mobility services” BMW and Daimler are set to finalise arrangements for the establishment of a new joint-owned urban mobility company this week. Reportedly called Jurbey, the venture will be formed by the two car makers merging their short-term rental schemes, Car2Go and DriveNow, in an effort to compete with ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. Initially announced last March, the delayed plan received the backing of the European Commission on 7 November and is now set to be launched on 22 February. The German manufacturers will each own a 50% stake in the venture. Combined, Car2Go and DriveNow currently provide 20,000 vehicles for use across 31 major cities globally. Aside from car rental, BMW and Daimler have spoken of a desire to improve electric vehicle charging, ride-sharing, parking and communications infrastructure in urban environments, and to enable users to access all these via a single smartphone app. BMW chairman Harald Krüger said the move “will create solutions for tomorrow's urban mobility: intelligent, seamlessly connected and available at the tap of a finger". He added: "We believe this will improve quality of life in major cities”. The announcement comes as several key global manufacturers are beginnig to embrace collaboration as a means of streamlining manufacturing processes and speeding up development. At last month’s Detroit motor show, Ford and Volkswagen detailed plans to launch a ‘global alliance’, with the development of electric and autonomous technology a future possibility. Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche said: “Our vision is to create a major global player for seamless and intelligent connected mobility services together.” Partnerships with companies such as ParkMobile, Moovel and ReachNow will allow the new mobility company to streamline access to each of the areas of its operation. BMW and Daimler have already entered into collaborative infrastructure enhancement projects; along with Ford and the Volkswagen Group, the two launched the Ionity European fast-charging network in 2017. Read more Volkswagen and Ford 'global alliance' confirmed at Detroit​ Seat teases new 'urban mobility' concept car​ Tesla aiming to take on Uber with ride-sharing service​ View the full article
  5. The Motorists Guide

    New Ford Focus ST packs 276bhp for 2019

    Most powerful Focus ST yet gets clever, driver-focused tech and a sportier edge The new Ford Focus ST will offer “the most responsive and agile Focus ST driving experience ever, on road and track”, according to the car maker, thanks to the model’s new C2 platform. On sale in the summer, this latest Focus ST is offered as a five-door hatch or estate, in petrol or diesel variants, and with a host of new technology derived from halo models such as the Ford GT supercar and the Mustang. It is the first front-wheel-drive Ford to get an electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD), intended to enhance cornering stability. Rev-matching technology is available with the six-speed manual gearbox. A seven-speed automatic is also available. Selectable drive modes are another first for the Focus ST. They comprise Slippery/Wet, Normal and Sport, plus a Track mode for versions equipped with the Performance pack. The drive modes adjust various parameters, including the ST’s electric steering, which is Ford’s fastest yet and 15% faster than a standard Focus’s. There is also continuously controlled damping (CCD), standard on five-door petrol variants, which monitors suspension, steering and braking inputs to adjust damping responses every two milliseconds and promises “ultimate refinement”. Leo Roeks, Ford Performance boss in Europe, said: “Technologies like eLSD and CCD make the Focus ST the most ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ yet, able to switch from refined tourer to focused performance car at the push of a button. “We’ve incorporated learnings from programmes including the Ford GT and Focus RS to develop a mid-size performance car with a degree of flexibility that’s unique in its segment.” The petrol Focus ST, using Ford’s 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine, is the most powerful yet offered in an ST. It delivers 276bhp at 5500rpm and 310lb ft from 3000rpm to 4000rpm. It is also claimed to be the most free-revving Focus ST engine yet. The benchmark sprint of 0-62mph is said to take less than 6.0sec, making it at least 0.5sec quicker than the outgoing equivalent model. Anti-lag technology, developed for the GT supercar originally, is intended to provide immediate power delivery in Sport and Track drive modes. The tech keeps the throttle open slightly when the driver comes off the accelerator, easing the reversal of airflow and allowing boost pressure to build faster on demand. Meanwhile, the diesel ST, with its 187bhp 2.0-litre Ecoblue motor, has the most powerful diesel engine yet offered on a Focus. It delivers peak power at 3500rpm and 295lb ft between 2000rpm and 3000rpm. The model produces 10% more power than and over twice as much torque as the original ST170. Ford says the ST’s six-speed manual transmission aids “more urgent gearchanges and… a sportier feel”, thanks to a shift-throw reduction of 7% compared with the standard Focus. Revmatching technology, first seen on the Mustang, is also introduced as part of the optional Performance pack for Ecoboost manual models. While the petrol-powered Focus ST receives Ford’s new electronic limited-slip differential, the diesel Focus gets torque vectoring control technology, which reduces understeer by applying brake force to the inside front wheel when cornering. Exterior tweaks over the standard model are subtle: there are unique alloy wheels, a revised grille for increased cooling and changes to the low wing and air curtains to improve aerodynamics. At the rear, there is a spoiler and twin tailpipes. The Performance pack adds red brake calipers. Inside, the Focus ST receives Recaro front seats, a sports steering wheel and a host of ST-embossed features, and engine and exhaust noise is amplified in Sport and Track modes. Pricing has not been released but the model is expected to start from around £28,000. Read more Ford Focus ST review​ Ford Performance's switch to hybridisation should be celebrated​ Driving a Ford Fiesta ST on Britain's best driving roads View the full article
  6. The Motorists Guide

    New Ford Focus ST packs 276bhp

    Latest Focus ST is said to be the “most Jekyll and Hyde yet” Most powerful Focus ST yet gets clever, driver-focused tech and a sportier edge The new Ford Focus ST will offer “the most responsive and agile Focus ST driving experience ever, on road and track”, according to the car maker, thanks to the model’s new C2 platform. On sale in the summer, this latest Focus ST is offered as a five-door hatch or estate, in petrol or diesel variants, and with a host of new technology derived from halo models such as the Ford GT supercar and the Mustang. It is the first front-wheel-drive Ford to get an electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD), intended to enhance cornering stability. Rev-matching technology is available with the six-speed manual gearbox. A seven-speed automatic is also available. Selectable drive modes are another first for the Focus ST. They comprise Slippery/Wet, Normal and Sport, plus a Track mode for versions equipped with the Performance pack. The drive modes adjust various parameters, including the ST’s electric steering, which is Ford’s fastest yet and 15% faster than a standard Focus’s. There is also continuously controlled damping (CCD), standard on five-door petrol variants, which monitors suspension, steering and braking inputs to adjust damping responses every two milliseconds and promises “ultimate refinement”. Leo Roeks, Ford Performance boss in Europe, said: “Technologies like eLSD and CCD make the Focus ST the most ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ yet, able to switch from refined tourer to focused performance car at the push of a button. “We’ve incorporated learnings from programmes including the Ford GT and Focus RS to develop a mid-size performance car with a degree of flexibility that’s unique in its segment.” The petrol Focus ST, using Ford’s 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine, is the most powerful yet offered in an ST. It delivers 276bhp at 5500rpm and 310lb ft from 3000rpm to 4000rpm. It is also claimed to be the most free-revving Focus ST engine yet. The benchmark sprint of 0-62mph is said to take less than 6.0sec, making it at least 0.5sec quicker than the outgoing equivalent model. Anti-lag technology, developed for the GT supercar originally, is intended to provide immediate power delivery in Sport and Track drive modes. The tech keeps the throttle open slightly when the driver comes off the accelerator, easing the reversal of airflow and allowing boost pressure to build faster on demand. Meanwhile, the diesel ST, with its 187bhp 2.0-litre Ecoblue motor, has the most powerful diesel engine yet offered on a Focus. It delivers peak power at 3500rpm and 295lb ft between 2000rpm and 3000rpm. The model produces 10% more power than and over twice as much torque as the original ST170. Ford says the ST’s six-speed manual transmission aids “more urgent gearchanges and… a sportier feel”, thanks to a shift-throw reduction of 7% compared with the standard Focus. Revmatching technology, first seen on the Mustang, is also introduced as part of the optional Performance pack for Ecoboost manual models. While the petrol-powered Focus ST receives Ford’s new electronic limited-slip differential, the diesel Focus gets torque vectoring control technology, which reduces understeer by applying brake force to the inside front wheel when cornering. Exterior tweaks over the standard model are subtle: there are unique alloy wheels, a revised grille for increased cooling and changes to the low wing and air curtains to improve aerodynamics. At the rear, there is a spoiler and twin tailpipes. The Performance pack adds red brake calipers. Inside, the Focus ST receives Recaro front seats, a sports steering wheel and a host of ST-embossed features, and engine and exhaust noise is amplified in Sport and Track modes. Pricing has not been released but the model is expected to start from around £28,000. Read more Ford Focus ST review​ Ford Performance's switch to hybridisation should be celebrated​ Driving a Ford Fiesta ST on Britain's best driving roads View the full article
  7. The Motorists Guide

    Used car buying guide: Mk2 Mazda MX-5

    A cared-for Mk2 will deliver a rewarding drive A second-gen Mazda MX-5 is more fun to drive than a Mk3 and you can pick up a runner with an MOT for just £350 If the prospect of owning a good Mazda MX-5 Mk1 is fading as prices rise, how about a Mk2 one instead? True, it’s not as pretty and it has an even worse reputation for rust, but as the years roll by, it seems less bland, while a wire brush and lashings of Dinitrol anti-rust proofing should keep the worst of it at bay. If Volkswagen ever thought launching a new Golf was tough, launching a new MX-5 must have been harder still for Mazda’s dutiful executives, still reeling from the success of the original. Of course, it could never be a straight copy but, even so, the absence of the Mk1’s pop-up lights – a move forced on Mazda by US safety officials – was a blow. A bit like when BL was forced to replace the MG B’s traditional chrome bumpers with ugly rubber affairs. Still, what else were you going to buy back in 1998, especially since word was that the car possessed the same sweet, rear-drive handling, delicate steering and crisp gearchange (plus some extra kit including a heated glass rear window) that had made the Mk1 such a winner? Twenty-one years later, these very qualities continue to attract second-hand buyers, especially now that prices for Mk2s begin from as little as £350 for runners with an MOT. In fact, they don’t really go any higher than £3500 for the best cars. In part, they’re held back by the Mk3, which kicks off at around £2250 but also by demand for clean Mk1s. You’ll easily pay £6000 for a good one of those. Condition and not age or specification or size of engine is key to valuing a Mk2. You’re just as likely to find a tatty but late-plate 2004 1.8i Sport for a few pounds as you are an early but bright 1998 1.6 for a few thousand. Those two engines are your lot. The 140bhp 1.8 Sport had a Torsen limited-slip differential and 15in alloy wheels. Cars dating from the facelift of 2001 are known as Mk2.5s. It was a mild affair, the biggest change being the headlights, which now had three bulb chambers. The front bumper also gained a couple of foglights, or mesh grilles if the trim level didn’t permit them. An automatic gearbox slipped onto the price list but missed the point and is rare today. The 1.8i S gained larger, 16in alloys. Being an MX-5, there are a few special editions to disentangle. Two that caught our eye were a 2001 Y-reg 1.8 Jasper Conran 1.8 with 75,000 miles, a new belt and a good service record for £1795, and a 2003 53-reg 1.8 Angels, inspired by the film Charlie’s Angels, with 79,000 miles for £2190. However, standard, Sport or special edition, it doesn’t matter. Condition is king and until you’ve crawled around the car testing the sills with a magnet and lifting the carpets checking for damp, there’s no point getting excited about the specification. But by all means get excited about how it drives. How to get one in your garage An expert’s view Ashley Martin, The MX-5 Restorer: “I know Mk2 MX-5s inside out, literally so, due to the cavity rust issues afflicting them and Mk1s. We do a really thorough repair job on the cars. I own a Mk1 and a Mk2, both 1.8s, and love them. I’ve driven a few Mk3s but there’s something about the earlier cars. They just want you to have fun. There’s a huge and growing following for both, with the Mk1 still the most popular. The trouble with the Mk2 is that it’s not a question of if it will rust but when. They are cheap, though.” Buyer beware… ■ Engine: Cambelt should be changed at 60k miles. With luck, the water pump will have been changed at the same time. Check for oil leaks from the cam cover (not serious) and listen for misfires caused by the coil packs. (There are two.) HT leads routinely break down. ■ Gearbox: On the overrun, a sound like marbles rattling in a tin is gear lash caused by the gearbox being misaligned when being refitted after, for example, clutch removal. Many garages don’t realise it has to be aligned. Later cars got a rubber damper. The later, six-speed gearchange is not as quick as the five-speed. Listen for failing propshaft joints (they’ll squeak), especially in reverse. ■ Suspension, steering and brakes: Check for uneven tyre wear, suggesting incorrect four-wheel geometry. All four should be set up independently of each other. Suspension bushes will look terrible but they rarely fail. Check for seized brake caliper pistons and springs broken by speed humps. ■ Body: Regarding rust, later Mk2s fare worse than early ones. Rotting rear wheel arches are easy to spot but the sills, which rust from the inside out, will require much closer examination. Front chassis rails suffer badly. Unlike the Mk1’s, they’re a double-skinned box section for additional impact strength but this traps moisture and they corrode. Surface rust blights the underside, rear subframes and wishbones. Check for bonnet corrosion caused by stone-chipping. ■ Interior: Expect worn seats and collapsed armrests. Also worth knowing The first thing to do when you get your Mk2 home is brush and then rustproof the underside with something like Dinitrol. It’ll stop things like subframes becoming terminal. Then go online and find out where all the entry holes are and flood the cavities to delay rot from the inside out. How much to spend £350-£1249: All ages and mileages and in running order but verging on the tatty, such as a 2003 1.6 with rotten sills for £1150. £1250-£1999: Huge choice of better-looking cars, many with full or near-full service histories but check for filler in places such as sills and wheel arches. £2000-£3500: More of the same, including a promising 2002/52 1.6 with 60k miles and an excellent Mazda service record for £2299. Also, a nice, one-owner, 1998 S 1.8 Sport with 22k miles and full Mazda service history for £3000. One we found Mazda MX-5 1.8 Sport, 1999/V, 64K miles, £1999: ‘Full service history!’ exclaims the ad before admitting that it has had 11 services… No worries. Your biggest concern will be body rot but this is an early Mk2 and these were better protected, so fingers crossed. Read more 30 years of the Mazda MX-5 Miata Mazda MX-5 30th Anniversary Edition marks three decades of iconic sports car​ Mazda MX-5 review View the full article
  8. Facelifted SUV gets mild hybrid engines and revised four-wheel drive system that admirably copes with snowdrifts It started out pretty much as planned. We’d headed off early morning and spent the first couple of hours running on a series of snow-strewn roads not far from Arvidsjaur in the northern reaches of Sweden, where Mercedes-Benz carries out the majority of its winter testing activities, typically in sub-zero temperatures.But when the snow that had been dumping down turned to rain and the particular road on which we were driving a prototype of the new GLC became covered in an instant layer of clear-glaze ice, things suddenly became a lot more treacherous.Mercedes, for its part, was seeking to display the traction enhancing effects of the facelifted SUV’s reworked 4Matic four-wheel drive system ahead of its planned unveiling at the Geneva motor show in early March.What the company's head of overall testing activities, Peter Kolb, perhaps hadn't banked on, though, was a freakish change in weather conditions. “I’ve been coming here for years. To get rain like this at his time of the year is quite unusual,” he tells us.But despite the precarious conditions and next to no grip as we headed uphill, the GLC excelled. Even without the benefit of studded tyres, it still managed to keep moving, thanks to the deft apportioning of power to each wheel. As a display of just how far modern four-wheel drive and electronic stability systems have come, it couldn’t have been better.View the full article
  9. Page, Missoni and Ingenlath (l-r): three key people shaping Volvo’s next six years Volvo’s close-knit design team has created an enviable run of hits but now must forge a fresh look for its new-era cars The next generation of Volvo cars will evolve their styling and remain faithful to the restrained look of the current range. To boost customer appeal, advanced battery-electric powertrains and self-driving technology will be applied. Under chief design officer Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo is already exploring its next range of models, and at an event in Stockholm to celebrate the completion of its revamp under Chinese owner Geely, he is happy to shine some light on the future line-up and its design. “One thing is clear: we have to move on. Things are evolving and we have to come up with some new and exciting stuff,” he says. Ingenlath cut his teeth at Audi in its days of Bauhaus-inspired restrained design before working for Skoda and Volkswagen. He has masterminded a rapid relaunch of Volvo’s compete model range in just six years after the Geely takeover, working with ex-Bentley interior chief Robin Page and former VW designer Max Missoni. “We managed successfully in this generation not to go down the route of heavily sculpted bodywork, unlike some of our competition that have a hectic look with millions of cuts in the body panels,” says Ingenlath. Now the three designers are working on the second generation of models and a significant question is how to evolve a styling theme whose DNA was established in the 1970s and 1980s, and then expertly nurtured into a fresh incarnation under Peter Horbury in the 1990s before Ingenlath and his team honed today’s handsome millennial look. In the same period, Volvo’s main German competition has adopted a busy, heavily sculpted and highly detailed styling direction, matched to huge global sales success but also criticised for its overly fussy look. “We did not enter that war of making hundreds of styling features within one panel and we definitely want to stay out of it,” says Ingenlath. “Autonomous vehicles and battery-electric powertrains are the topics that really matter.” For Page – the Volvo brand’s chief designer since Ingenlath took on responsibility for Polestar in 2017 – the answer lies in details like the latest premium design manufacturing techniques for flush glazing to smooth the upper body and glasshouse, but also by adding a new level of safety equipment, electric powertrains, connectivity and autonomy. “There are other ways of being more modern without it having to be over-sculptured,” says Page. Strategically, Volvo is committed to adding hybrid, plug-in and battery-electric powertrains to all future model segments, a challenge it will meet by designing one platform and body structure to house multiple different powertrains. “Electric cars will influence the way that aesthetics go. But we strictly believe it will not be split into electric and combustion-engine looks,” says Ingenlath. “It would be crazy to split up our car lines into EV and combustion. Within Volvo, it means introducing a new electric drivetrain, and not like a parallel world.” In practice, this is likely to mean a battery-electric Volvo dispensing with the opening at the front – Tesla style – as the needs for controlling airflow change. “There will be a much more closed look, with all the sensors integrated. And no more incredibly aggressive openings in the front,” says Ingenlath. The Volvo design team sees opportunities with powertrains for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) – for example, in packaging – but also parallels with combustion-engined cars. “The safety structure and cooling for batteries are in similar places to a combustion-engined car,” says Missoni, “although wheel sizes have to go up because of bigger brakes to deal with the heavier weight.” So will a future Volvo take on a new shape because of the new electric powertrain? “BEVs have advantages in interior space. But we don’t see a radical need for a change in proportion,” says Missoni. Volvo will also keep its model range tightly focused on the current line-up of saloons, estates and practical SUVs – which rules out sporty new bodystyles like a fastback coupé-style SUV. “The hot, driver-oriented dynamic sporty car is not the core of the Volvo brand,” says Ingenlath. “We have to be precise and clear in what we provide for the customer. We don’t want to put out things that are not core Volvo.” Another no-go is a rumoured subcompact SUV, possibly badged XC20. The designers reckon a smaller SUV would adversely lower the ‘centre of gravity’ of Volvo’s range, cheapening prices and diluting the brand. There’s a strong feeling from this interview that Volvo is in safe but strong and determined hands, run by a close-knit team with a shared vision. Their record so far is exemplary and the omens for the next six years are that history is highly likely to repeat itself. Volvo fans can expect another strong range of desirable new cars, with not a single, fancy, over-adorned body panel to be seen. Read more Volvo excels, Audi and Porsche flop in January registrations​ Volvo XC40 review In pictures: the cars that made Volvo​ View the full article
  10. The Motorists Guide

    Whatever next? The future of motoring

    Modular platforms like Volkswagen's MEB architecture can help to streamline production The world around us is changing – and fast. We examine how the challenges and opportunities will change how we make, buy and drive cars, too The car industry is a fast mover but it can sometimes be difficult to figure out in which direction it’s heading. EVs looked set to take over the world and to some extent they are, now helped by new UK legislation to ensure there’s enough energy to go round. In-car technology is evolving and connectivity is developing fast as the move towards autonomous cars ramps up. Meanwhile, neither petrol nor diesel is dead yet. In California, there’s been another major step forward with hydrogen propulsion as the state gears up for more potentially world-changing innovation. So what’s really in store over the next few years? Here’s our guide. What 5G really brings 1G started in the 1990s, then 2G enabled the sending of text messages, 3G brought internet browsing and 4G made it faster – so it’s not hard to see where the world is going with 5G (fifth-generation) connectivity. Car makers are working hard to exploit the faster network (for example, the hardware needed for 5G has already been incorporated into Volkswagen’s new MEB EV platform). So too are suppliers such as Harman, which is developing technology allowing vehicles to share information via Smart City Command Centres linking to emergency, and other, services. Harman is also working on technologies called Traffic Light Optimised Speed Advisory to help adjust speed to synchronise with traffic lights, and Signal Violation and Advance Signage Assistance to warn that you may be about to jump the lights or warn of temporary road works. Harman predicts entertainment systems will click up a notch too, with the possibility of video streaming for rear seat passengers and online gaming. Research firm Gartner predicts 60 million connected cars by 2020 and 220 million in the following four years. 5G will provide the one gigabit per second (Gbs) bandwidth needed to support that with a capacity 1000 times higher than 4G. It will be faster too, at around 70Gbs compared with the average UK broadband connection of around 36Gbs. Tyres to get smart and communicate wear Tyre manufacturers sometimes come up with wacky-sounding concepts, but one idea the industry has consistently touted has been the value of smart tyres that can communicate their condition and wear status. Falken has previewed a smart tyre called, you’ve guessed it, Smart Tire, it’s tread made from Liquid Farnesene Rubber (LFR) which helps the tyre to remain efficient for longer. The company claims the wet grip performance can remain consistent for 12,000 miles and wear resistance is improved by as much as 51%. In addition, Active Tread technology senses road conditions and detects moisture and cold temperatures, allowing the tread to adapt to the conditions. Goodyear’s intelligent tyre prototype, shown in 2017, is designed to share with fleet managers data such as wear, temperature and pressures. But a wider application could be to interact with an autonomous car system informing it of the level of grip in real time. Continental is also experimenting with smart tyres and embedded sensors. The importance of tyres is sometimes underestimated by drivers and new technologies should improve grip, reduce wear and improve safety. Batteries to charge faster for longer Scientists at the Technical University of Munich have developed a clever new laboratory test procedure which could lead to much faster charging of the lithium ion batteries that EVs rely on for power. While lithium ion batteries are fine if charged slowly, they can be damaged by charging too fast for too long. The effect is due to lithium metal plating of the graphite anodes inside each battery cell. As the plating builds up during repeatedly charging too fast, the battery capacity deteriorates and driving range is reduced. Public chargers today charge at a high rate until the battery reaches 80% charge and then back off to a much slower rate for this reason. It’s impossible to study an individual cell once it’s shielded by a metal battery case, so the Munich team created a glass that exactly models the real thing. Using a process called electron paramagnetic response spectroscopy (EPR), scientists can accurately observe the build-up of plating as it happens. Until the technique was developed, there had been no analytical technique for measuring this process in real time. It is hoped it will make it possible to exactly predict the onset of plating and reduce the margins needed to protect batteries during fast charging. That in turn should lead to batteries that can be fully charged much faster than they are today. How simulators improve driver assistance The number of situations a critical advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) potentially have to deal with is mind-boggling. Truth is, it’s impossible to set up and test every possible scenario, or even imagine what they could all be. There isn’t the time, either. Ansible Motion, whose advanced simulators are used by a number of major car manufacturers, reckons doing so could take 100 years using conventional methods. The latest simulators ease that problem by investigating a vast number of possible scenarios in a very short time, crunching through them at lightning speed and compressing that 100 years of work into a few months. The upshot should be more capable and reliable ADAS systems. Hydrogen primed for the big time In the race to find sustainable alternatives to combustion engines, battery-powered EVs have elbowed their way to the front. That was predictable: recharging batteries is well understood and an electrical infrastructure already exists. But hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), which have lost ground since the millennium, could be set to make a comeback. In 2017, the highly influential California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP) published its ‘2030 Vision’, detailing plans to bring one million FCEVs to the roads by 2030, supported by 1000 strategically placed hydrogen filling stations. Fuel cell powertrains are also ideal for heavier vehicles (powering a 32-tonne articulated lorry isn’t feasible using a battery). Hydrogen is already delivered to filling stations by articulated lorry, the trailers left on site. CaFCP claims the plan would lead to a reduction in petroleum fuel consumption of 263 million litres. The corresponding NOx reduction would run to 3.9 million tonnes. That forecast is based on today’s existing renewable energy mix in the state of 33% renewable hydrogen, which is expected to yield a drop of 2.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses. The plan is already backed by legislation. In January 2018, an executive order directed state entities and the private sector to join forces in bringing five million zero-emission vehicles to California roads by 2030. It also specifies an increase in hydrogen filling stations in the US state from 35 today to 200 by 2025. Hydrogen fuel is measured by weight rather than volume and 1.2kg contains about the same energy as a gallon of petrol. Hydrogen fuel cells are twice as efficient as combustion engines, which could make direct comparisons confusing. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s solution is called MPGe (gasoline equivalent fuel consumption). The MPGe of a 2017 Honda Clarity is 80mpg (based on Imperial gallons). CaFCP expects that the cost of hydrogen could fall from £12 per kilogram today to half that by 2025. That would put the fuel cost of running a Honda Clarity on a par with an equivalent-size conventional car such as a BMW 5 Series. As part of the project, Ricardo Strategic Consulting has taken a long, hard look at how much it will cost to fill up with hydrogen, concluding that in a region like California where FCEV use intensifies, the cost of hydrogen fuel will fall dramatically by 2030. The 35 hydrogen stations in existence today serve almost 5000 vehicles. On that basis, hydrogen stations are running at only 50% capacity, which means that at present they are not that cost effective to set up and run and hydrogen fuel itself is more expensive. Based on one million vehicles, 5000 stations would run at 90% capacity and increased demand and improved distribution could see the cost of hydrogen drop to around £2.40 a kilogram in California. The advantages of FCEVs are that the only tailpipe emissions are water and heat, refuelling is as simple to that of a conventional car and takes about the same time, and the range is similar too. History has shown that California’s stance on cars and the environment (the banning of leaded petrol and introduction of catalytic converters) tends to cascade down to the rest of the world, so this space is one to watch. Questions remain over new-car subsidies In November 2018, the Department for Transport axed the plug-in car grant for hybrids and reduced it by £1000 to £3500 for battery-electric vehicles. The official reason is it “was designed to kick-start the early market for electric vehicles. Having already supported the purchase of 100,000 plug-in hybrid cars, we are now focusing on zero-emission models” – which doesn’t explain the near-25% reduction in the electric car grant. To further fuel the debate, some think a technology doesn’t deliver if it needs subsidising and others believe electrified vehicles should be supported until scale of economy kicks in to bring prices down. Either way, what happens in the next two years after the grant changes could play a big part in how fast the electric revolution unfolds. Mild-hybrid trend set to spread Instead of being marketed as something special wearing a different badge, every car with a combustion engine needs to be hybridised if the technology is to make a real difference. That’s starting to happen: every automatic model in the 2019 Range Rover Evoque line-up, for example, is a 48V MHEV (mild-hybrid electric vehicle). Full hybrids and plug-ins are more expensive with electric drives integrated with engines and transmissions, bumping costs and weight up. That solution allows short-range electric-only driving but it doesn’t necessarily give the masses the opportunity to drive a car that can recover energy and re-use it. But 48V technology is changing all that and coming on stream in a big way. Fitting a beefed-up, belt-driven starter-generator (BiSG) in place of a conventional starter and alternator turns a conventional car into an MHEV. MHEVs have a small 48V battery to power the motor-generator and accept charge from it, and the existing 12V architecture runs in parallel with it for compatibility with existing 12V equipment. Eventually, it’s envisaged that dedicated 48V equipment will come on stream – like, for example, ultra-fast heated screens. MHEV components such as 48V batteries and starter-generators have already reached off-the-shelf levels so expect an explosion in standard MHEVs like the Evoque as prices tumble and the tech filters down the food chain to cheaper cars. Look, no hands: rise of autonomy At Autocar, we get the opportunity to try many amazing prototypes years before they get to production and many require a change in the law before they can go on sale. One example of that is remote control parking, allowing the parking of a car without a driver at the wheel. BMW 5 and 7 Series both have the technology but, in 2018, UK law was changed to allow the devices to be used on public roads. The law has a wider significance in that it demonstrates that legislators have an appetite for removing legal barriers to autonomous vehicles as soon as possible. Fall of internal combustion? Talk of its demise remains premature While it may not seem like it, we’re still a long way from seeing the back of the combustion engine, although naturally aspirated engines have mostly been replaced by smaller turbocharged examples. The problem with combustion engines is that they just aren’t efficient, converting not much more than a third of the energy in petrol or diesel into mechanical energy. Downsizing and turbocharging help improve efficiency, but the days when that old American adage “there ain’t no substitute for cubic inches” held true are long gone. So the message for petrolheads is enjoy those naturally aspirated V8s and V10s while you can – they won’t be around for much longer. Smaller, boosted combustion engines generally will be, though, because there’s no replacement yet. Car engines have become super-sophisticated using every trick in the book in a single package, such as electro-hydraulic valvetrains, variable camshaft timing, variable geometry or twin-scroll turbocharging, integrated exhaust manifolds, smart oil pumps to reduce losses in the engine, smart battery charging using the alternator only when slowing, smart water pumps and cooling systems to improve thermal efficiency. And, of course, petrol direct fuel injection. The jury is out on the public perception of diesels despite the new WLTP emissions regulations finally giving a fairer indication of what both diesel and petrol engines actually emit from the tailpipe. But close scrutiny does show that the latest WLTP diesels are genuinely cleaner at the tailpipe than some older petrol engines. For now, it’s hard to see how larger SUVs can survive without diesel power, as hybrids are not effective on fast motorway runs. The future of diesels is another case of ‘watch this space’. Government eyes means of taxing electric chargers EV owners rejoice in the fact that, when charging at home and especially using an off-peak tariff, a 300-mile vehicle can be fully charged for little more than the cost of a gallon of diesel. That may change in the future, however, as a critical mass of EVs on the roads is reached and governments start to feel the pinch from lost tax on road fuel. The Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 mandates that all government-funded home charge points for electric vehicles installed from July 2019 must use smart technology allowing them to be accessed remotely and capable of “receiving, interpreting and reacting to a signal”. This means that smart chargers will be connected to the electricity supply company, allowing it to reduce or delay charging so the local distribution can cope with mass EV charging at peak periods. Distribution companies say there’s no shortage of energy in the national grid, so this move should remove a key technical obstacle at local level. Users will have the ability to override this if they need a charge quickly. By the end of 2018, the government had supported the installation of 60,000 domestic charge points through the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme grant and the grants will remain at the current level of £500. The downside is that smart chargers also offer a mechanism for levying a fuel tax on EV charging, separate from the rest of the household supply. Domestic electricity is already subject to VAT at 5% in the UK and business electricity at 20%. So EV drivers are currently paying 5% VAT for charging at home and 20% VAT when charging at a public network such as Ecotricity (pictured, right). That said, using a slow, 10 amp charge cable to charge from a domestic socket at home might be a loophole. On the plus side, smart chargers could mean lower charge prices for EV owners as electricity suppliers compete to provide the cheapest ‘EV home charging tariff’. Why sharing is good for us all The PSA Group, encompassing the Citroën, DS, Opel/Vauxhall and Peugeot brands, is one of the latest to reveal a new platform. Its ‘multienergy’ Common Modular Platform (CMP) and a variant, eCMP for EVs, was launched late last year, just days before Volkswagen’s dedicated EV, MEB platform. Modular platforms are all the rage these days and will be key to future developments because they streamline production, make introducing variants easier and faster and reduce manufacturing through economies of scale. But who benefits? The customer, or just the manufacturer? The answer is both. The car maker becomes more profitable and therefore more stable, while customers get more capable, technically advanced products and, in theory, more features for their money. Modular platforms are a bit like a standard kit of standard parts, like Lego. It’s possible to build a variety of things with different combinations, but with the same components. A vehicle architecture, like Jaguar Land Rover’s D7a aluminium intensive architecture, is a slightly different animal. A platform is a modular chassis sharing different ‘top hats’. An architecture goes further, sharing component design but with some differences, such as bigger versions of the same thing. That allows the building of both larger and smaller cars, from SUVs like the F-Pace and Velar, to smaller saloons like the XE. Why should we care about what’s under the skin? Using modular architectures and platforms is sometimes seen as a cop-out, making all cars look and drive the same. Actually, they’re just a better way to design and build good, reliable cars without starting from scratch each time. Holograms ready to push your buttons It’s ironic that a technology designed to simplify in-car controls could make it worse, but that seems to be the case with touchscreens that have invaded the car market. It’s true that by the 1990s the proliferation of tiny buttons in cabins had spiralled out of control as cars gained many more functions, and then with the advent of the smartphone and a new way of life for most, designers thought they had the answer. The problem with touchscreens is that, so far, they have no haptic response. You can’t feel what you’re touching, forcing drivers to take their eyes of the road. Buttons are at least tactile: the switches in Hyundai’s Nexo fuel cell EV are an example of great design with large buttons that have a significantly different feel and shape so you can quickly learn what you’re touching. Manufacturers haven’t given up on touchscreens, though, and technology suppliers such as Continental AG and Bosch have both demonstrated examples. The Continental 3D Haptic touchscreen concept has guide channels to help you move around the screen and gives mechanical feedback in the form of a pulse or vibration when a button is pressed. Others are going further with augmented reality (virtual reality overlaid on the real world). Volkswagen has demonstrated a 3D augmented reality system combining a holographic menu with gesture controls on the ID Vizzion concept car. That involves wearing 3D glasses today but augmented reality of some sort is planned for the ID electric model range based on the new MEB platform. The Mercedes A-Class is already equipped with a slightly simpler augmented reality system developed in conjunction with Harman, which overlays views from external cameras over maps to aid visibility. An example is displaying on to the dash a traffic light you are too close to see without leaning forward. Another is to overlay house numbers on a sat-nav street view to make it easier to find a house without taking your eyes off the road. Read more 90 years special: we predict the future of the Autocar road test​ The future of Vauxhall: exclusive drive of the GT X Experimental EV​ Autocar's guide to what will happen in 2019 View the full article
  11. The Motorists Guide

    Lexus ES 300h

    The exciting new Lexus ES shatters preconceptions about executive saloons with a brave new approach to design, making it lower, wider and sleeker Lexus Owners Club has been fortunate enough to road test the all-new Lexus ES 300h, and in this instance, we were given the F Sport version to trial. This executive saloon is described as ‘combining a stunning coupé-like silhouette with the roominess and refinement of a flagship saloon, the ES delivers elegance and comfort in one exceptional vehicle’, first thoughts are that the ES definitely satisfies this statement. ENGINE/DRIVETRAIN As per most Lexus Hybrid powertrains, the motive power is provided by a smooth, if not a slightly ‘revvy’ engine, which delivers more than enough power to propel the ES to cruising speed with enough gusto to satisfy most drivers. Gearing is provided by an E-CVT Automatic Transmission which is seamless in distributing the power to the road and allows for a very smooth ride, even under hard acceleration in Sport+ mode. HOW IT WORKS - Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (E-CVT) is an intelligent transmission which offers an infinite number of gears within a broad range of ratios, allowing for automatic gear changes. By constantly analysing vehicle speed, road conditions, engine power and driver input, it selects the optimal (most efficient) gear ratio for that precise moment. When that moment passes, it moves seamlessly to the next ratio. HOW IT WORKS - CVT works in harmony with the Lexus Self-Charging Hybrid technology, simultaneously handling inputs from both the petrol engine and the electric motor. Without the constraining effect of fixed gear ratios, the engine can be operated at its most efficient speed to either propel the car or charge the batteries. If the computer decides that the petrol motor is not needed for a time, it can be shut down and the E-CVT used to direct propulsion from the electric motors to the wheels instead The 4th generation Lexus Hybrid Drive is incredibly fuel efficient, with the power being distributed via either engine and/or electric motor. The driver information screen gives a diagrammatic display of the power distribution occurring, switching from engine to motor and also back to the battery on regeneration cycles. We managed an average of 35 mpg, mainly during Motorway driving with minimal energy regeneration occurring. This would have vastly improved if the car had been driven on town and extra-urban routes where the majority of the driving could have been on regenerated electric power and then the overall mpg would be a lot closer to the manufacturer's claimed economy figures. EXTERIOR The ES is quite a sizeable car with an overall length of 4975mm and a width of 1865mm which places it in the mid to full-size range. Its height of 1445mm and ground clearance of only 150mm gives a low ride height and stability at higher cruising speed. Combine this with the coupé silhouette body design, Lexus has produced a worthy competitor in the mid-range executive market, possibly competing with Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar for the coupé look 4 door cruiser. The F SPORT we road tested has a number of features inspired by the LC range including 19” alloy wheels and figure-hugging leather seats. This range also offers an Adaptive Variable Suspension system, similar to that found in the LC sports coupé which adds adjustable dampers at each wheel with 650 levels of damping force to provide ultimate control on any road surface. The F SPORT model also offers 2 exclusive colour choices including F Sport white and Azure Blue INTERIOR The general feeling when entering into the ES cabin is one of satisfaction that you have chosen a car with a quality finish and unrivalled comfort levels. Equally, it does provide an awareness of being quite low to the ground when nestled into the supportive F Sport leather seats. The usual Lexus refinement is evident throughout the interior, albeit the leather and stitching used on the seats and door cards through to the legroom and comfort levels within the interior space. Everything has been thought of when it comes to the positioning of controls, armrests, seat adjustment and good all-round visibility with minimised drivers' blindspot areas. The rear passenger area is equally as comfortable as the front seating area and ample legroom and head height for the majority of occupants. The dash panel is clearly laid out and convenient for both driver and passenger use with many functions being controlled through the numerous steering wheel buttons. The standard Lexus scroll pad works well but takes some getting used to if you are familiar with the previous trackball type. Vehicle information and entertainment are displayed through the widescreen multimedia panel located in a high but unobtrusive position in the centre of the dash panel. Our only criticism of the interior is that the seat runner mechanism is on display when the seat is in a mid-way to fully retracted position and it could also present an issue with clothing being drawn into a rotating screw thread. A lightweight plastic cover would go a long way to hiding this mechanism. LOAD SPACE The boot load space is incredibly voluminous and with a low entry point allows for plenty of suitcases and other large items you may wish to transport. A centre seat armrest allows access to the boot from inside and long loads can, therefore, be carried with ease. A space-saver spare wheel accompanied by a comprehensive tool kit under the load area carpet which is more than enough to get you out of trouble if it is only a flat tyre that needs changing. The only criticism within the boot area is the lack of cover on the hinge mechanism which looks somewhat unsightly but otherwise, it is perfectly functional. Some of the previous Lexus models don't have this mechanism on display and is something to possibly consider for future production models. SAFETY The ES is equipped with the latest 2nd generation Lexus Safety System+, comprising advanced technologies that help prevent three of the most common accident types: rear-end collisions, lane departures and collisions involving pedestrians and which is designed to support driver awareness, decision-making and vehicle operation over a wide range of speeds and conditions. The technology in the ES reacts to compliment the drivers senses helping prevent collisions before they happen. A pop-up bonnet, activated by sensors mounted in the front bumper ensure that in the event of a collision with a pedestrian, the impact raises the bonnet and by allowing more space between the hard components of the engine compartment and the pedestrian, the level of injury is reduced. To top it all, the ES has also been awarded a 5 star Euro NCAP rating for safety. TECHNICAL INFORMATION ENGINE: 2.5 litre (2487) 4 cylinder inline, 6-valve DOHC, with VVT-iW (Intake) & VVT-I (Exhaust) TRANSMISSION: E-CVT Automatic Transmission POWER: Hp (kW) 218 (160) TORQUE: Nm 221@3,600-5,200 rpm CO2 EMISSIONS: (g/Km) 100 (combined) MAX SPEED: (MPH) 112 0-62 MPH: (Secs) 8.9 COSTS & SPECIFICATIONS (effective from 1st February 2019) ES 300h from £35,150.00 ES 300h F SPORT from £38,150.00 ES 300h Takumi from £45,650.00 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS A special thanks to Snows Lexus Hedge End for the loan of our ES 300h featured in this review For more information about the ES 300h visit: https://www.snows.co.uk/lexus/new-vehicles/
  12. Behind each of those grilles is a 2.0 turbo petrol The entry-level Macan and range-topping E-Pace are closely matched for performance and dynamic flourish, but which wins overall? The Porsche Macan and Jaguar E-Pace aren’t exactly mortal rivals. In fact, circumstance has only just brought them into anything close to an overlap. But in another world, they might have been up and at each other like Borg and McEnroe. Jaguar and Porsche have remarkably similar histories, after all, starting life as dedicated sports car manufacturers and branching out as they grew. Although that process of growth inevitably brought both outfits to the production of a smallish SUV earlier this decade, it brought them there via different routes. It gave us a Macan in 2014, developed on a longways-engined Audi model platform, predominantly rear driven with a ‘hang-on’ clutch-based part-time four-wheel-drive system; and an E-Pace in 2017 with a transverse engine, developed off the Range Rover Evoque’s platform, which is predominantly front-wheel drive with clutch-based, part-time-driven rear wheels. In that respect, these cars are about as different from each other as it’s likely that SUVs would ever be. The Porsche’s average UK transaction price is probably above £60,000, the Jaguar’s less than £40,000. The Porsche is one of the country’s most wanted new cars and most savvy new-car buys. The Jaguar isn’t nearly as revered but has greatly bolstered its maker’s balance sheet over the past 18 months. And while the Porsche is nearly a foot longer at the kerb, the Jaguar is an inch taller. And yet you can now buy examples of both cars powered by a high-performance 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and priced within £3000 of each other – with torque-to-weight figures within just 2% of matching exactly. That’s as a result of Porsche’s decision to make its four-pot petrol Macan an official part of the UK price list, having only offered it on special order previously (and having deleted the Macan Diesel). Different cars, then? Maybe not quite so different. When you get the newly important 2.0-litre petrol entry-level version of the Macan and the top-of-the-range P300 R-Dynamic HSE version of the E-Pace together on some foggy moorland roads, it’s the commonalities and similarities between the cars that you notice first. It hasn’t always been easy to find reasons to be cheerful when watching the conspicuously consumptive market for luxury SUVs develop over the past decade or so – but the flourishing of the upmarket, downsized performance 4x4 might just be one of those reasons. Unlike other, bigger go-faster SUVs, cars like these two serve up their driving experiences along with an accompanying side order of pragmatism. They’re fast cars, in other words, but with a turn of pace that can be fully deployed on the road because it’s not ridiculous. The cars themselves aren’t so wide that they won’t fit within the markings of a British B-road with a little bit of space to breathe. They offer family-friendly practicality, sure – but they’re not so big as to attract the wrong sort of attention, or so expensive as to make you vulnerable to questions about a mid-life crisis. These are performance SUVs of a sort that almost anyone could get behind. And get inside, come to mention it. Just as it’s clearly the shorter car of the two outwardly, the Jaguar’s cabin feels the smaller of the two inwardly, but it’s not really any the less comfortable for it. Even taller adults are made broadly as comfy in both rows of the E-Pace as they are in the Macan. Second-row knee room is tighter in the Jaguar, but the Brit’s higher hip point mitigates the difference and makes for better under-thigh support for rear passengers than in the German. But the Porsche hits back mostly on boot space: the Macan’s boot is a good 20% larger than the E-Pace’s below the window line. Would you expect the Jaguar to have the richer, more upmarket cabin ambience? It’s true – and it makes sense if you consider that this is a top-of-the-range Jaguar going up against a pretty lowly Porsche. Even so, I still reckon that fact could surprise one or two people. The E-Pace’s two-tone leather and its chrome cabin detailing give the car a luxurious air that the Macan’s monotone, all-business interior doesn’t really bother with. The E-Pace’s digital instruments and its tidy fascia layout might go even further to persuade you that it’d be the more pleasant car of the two to live with. The Macan’s switch-festooned high-transmission tunnel console, meanwhile, makes for an unflattering contrast with the Jaguar’s layout, coming straight out of an almost defunct Porsche interior design lexicon. There are more buttons on that console, I’m fairly sure, than empty console. Look closer, though, and it’s the Porsche that has the deeper-seated mark of perceived quality. There’s evidence of variable trim fit on the Jaguar. Our test car’s interior door trims didn’t align with their surroundings quite the same on the driver’s side as on the passenger’s, for example. For every place where the E-Pace looks and feels like a near- £50,000 car, there’s a place where it shows its sub-£30,000 roots: the plain grey mouldings behind the steering column and the shiny, unconvincing faux-leather roll-top dashboard. The Macan’s material highlights are less flashy, but its underlying impression of solid, attentive material quality is more consistent. So far, so unexpectedly even, you might think – fully expecting the Porsche to need no further invitation to demonstrate its superiority over the Jaguar than a quiet stretch of Exmoor blacktop. Well, don’t bet on it. This contest started out surprisingly close, and it doesn’t get any easier for the German straight away; certainly not until engines and gearboxes, chassis and steering, and bumps and corners have all come into play. The cars’ real-world performance levels are broadly similar – and strong, as suggested, without cueing up so much sheer physics to subsequently overcome under braking and when cornering that the qualitative side of the driving experience fades into irrelevance. To look at the stubbier Jaguar, you’d never believe it could be the heavier of the two cars. (The Porsche has the more modern and clever mixed-metal construction.) And so when someone tells you that the Jaguar has almost 300 horsepower and the Porsche less than 250, you prepare to feel the difference. But you don’t. The E-Pace’s engine revs a touch more freely than the Macan’s; and it sounds better, too, the Porsche’s EA888 Volkswagen Group motor being made to sound slightly plain and reedy by comparison. But only when it’s revving beyond 5000rpm would you say that the Jaguar’s four-pot engine feels any more powerful than the Porsche’s. If I hadn’t already mentioned how close these cars are on torque-to-weight ratio, you’d assume as much by their very similar real-world, roll-on performance levels. And, given the numbers in play, that’s a surprise, too. Moreover, while the Jaguar does its best to fool you that it’s accelerating more urgently than the Porsche at full power because it’s got more, closer-stacked intermediate gear ratios through which to churn, it isn’t actually fooling anyone. Porsche’s seven-speed PDK is by a distance a better gearbox for any kind of driver’s car than Jaguar’s nine-speed torque-converter automatic. The E-Pace’s gearbox feels hesitant when both in ‘drive’ and in paddle-shift mode and it shifts quite roughly at times, intruding on your enjoyment. The cars develop similar grip levels on wintery, slippery, cross-country asphalt, but it’s the Porsche that makes the better use of its adhesion. This bit, finally, goes broadly to script, then – broadly but not entirely. The longways-engined, primarily rear-driven Macan has the better-balanced chassis and cleaner, smarter handling responses of the two cars, so it takes a tight cornering line more willingly and instinctively than the Jaguar. The E-Pace has to let its body roll more to get through the turn-in phase and then even more so with every bit of extra lateral load you dial in. The Jaguar is also notably quicker to push on into understeer and has steering corruption that you just don’t ever feel in the Porsche, as well as less useful torque at the rear wheels when you’d ideally like it back there under throttle. At a quicker stride, however, the E-Pace fights back. Being suspended by steel coils and very well-tuned adaptive dampers, it has great close body control at that speed at which good British roads become truly absorbing. The Jaguar deals with bumps honestly and effectively but with suppleness, too, apparently keeping a bit of damping authority in reserve. For a high-riding car, it makes you feel unexpectedly connected to the road and flows along its surface very agreeably indeed. The Porsche can flow along happily enough, but it’s at its best at going faster still. Hunkered down on its air springs, it handles so precisely that it simply doesn’t feel either big or tall. The way the Macan scythes and shoulders its way down a B-road is more akin to the handling of a good, fast, four-wheel-drive hatchback than any SUV: it’s balanced, immediate, instinctive and so sure-footed. Its air suspension (optional on our test car) doesn’t produce such a ready sense of ride poise as the E-Pace’s at that just-so speed. Instead, it feels just a little hollow and slightly floaty over bigger intrusions. But while the Jaguar absolutely depends on good damper tuning to elevate the driving experience above and beyond that of a pretty typical SUV, the Porsche can play a more complete dynamic hand as a driver’s car. It is naturally more agile and quite a bit more compelling overall. With the suspension in low mode, in fact, the Macan’s driving experience puts you in mind of some modern, mutant, ‘restomodded’ Subaru Impreza Turbo wagon that has been to an expensive European finishing school. It’s a car that always wants to go quicker, to show you how much more it can do. And you just don’t expect an SUV – any SUV – to be capable of that. And that the E-Pace isn’t quite capable of that? A shame, perhaps – but it seems less surprising, under the circumstances, than the acknowledgement of how credible an alternative it is to the Porsche in the broadest of senses. Because although the Macan has won through in this exercise, it hasn’t done so with much to spare, and it has demonstrated only what we already knew: that it is a remarkable-handling SUV. The E-Pace has shown, at the very top of its model range at least, that it has distinguishing dynamic qualities worthy of any Jaguar, something we hadn’t unearthed before. Maybe that’s an even bigger win. Read more Porsche Macan S 2019 review Why Graz is greener: London to Austria in Jaguar's biggest seller 542bhp Jaguar F-Pace SVR squares up to Porsche Macan Turbo​ View the full article
  13. The 24 Hours combines Daytona’s famous banking with a twisty infield section What better way for any motorsport fan to beat the winter blues than by taking in the Daytona 24 Hours in Florida? We park the RV, light the barbie and soak up the action It’s hard not to feel a pang of envy when friends tell you they’re going abroad in January. With a well-earned reputation for being one of the hardest-going months of the year, it counts Blue Monday among its dark, cold days. For travellers with a thing for motorsport, there’s a way to leave all this behind. On the third weekend of the year, Florida’s Daytona International Speedway hosts thousands of race fans from America and beyond. They come for the nation’s first major motorsport event of the year, the Daytona 24 Hours. And just down the road is the ‘Birthplace of Speed’ – the arrow-straight, white-sand beach that has seen cars haulin’ ass and suckin’ gas since 1902. These days, it costs 20 bucks to drive as many of the 20 or so miles of compacted sand as you wish. But you’ll have to stick to 10mph. There are few visible connections to the amateur racers who helped put Daytona on the map. Or the likes of Malcolm Campbell, who drove Bluebird to 276mph on the beach back in 1935. That’s hard to get your head around, given the fastest prototypes racing at in he 24 Hours won’t even top 200mph on a circuit that combines the famous banked tri-oval with a slower infield section. Speed isn’t everything, though. The competitors at Daytona, and the wider IMSA Sportscar Championship, are here to prove their mettle against some of the best drivers and racing teams in the world. One of the hottest prospects Britain’s Oliver Jarvis, who races for Mazda. The former Audi Le Mans ace broke the lap record in the ‘Roar Before the 24’ test, then set pole position for the race itself. He’s clearly relishing his US adventure. The scale of the speedway itself dwarfs anything Europeans are used to. The recently rebuilt main stadium, called Daytona Rising, seats more than 101,000 and affords a spectacular view of the entire 2.5-mile tri-oval. Jarvis says one of the keys to performing well in the race is to read the traffic and plan where you’ll pass the slower cars. The teams employ spotters, who sit on the fifth floor of Daytona Rising, to help drivers negotiate each lap. There’s plenty of spare capacity wherever you go around the circuit and, unlike Europe, the grandstands are free to all. During the preamble, the fans get to meet their favourite drivers and pose next to the cars. Then prayers are said, the national anthem is sung and the star-spangled banner is pulled through the sky by plane – followed, comically, by another flying a banner for Bubba Burgers. Watching the start of the race from one of the higher tiers of the grandstand is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thousands of race fans camp here. But most do it in true American style, in an RV rather than under canvas, so the campsites bear a closer resemblance to a Hollywood film set than a hardcore music festival. Barbecues sizzle, fire pits roar and the level of knowledge among the fans we meet suggests these are seasoned race-goers. You can pitch a tent up against the chain-link fence down by Turn 5, if you get there early enough. Alternatively, rent an RV with uninterrupted views over the banking between Turns 7 and 8. Seeing the cars run through the gears, then remain flat out in top for sustained periods around the banking, is a novel experience for any European visitor. However, it’s those prolonged periods of hardship that are to prove the downfall of the much-fancied Mazda team. Despite the number 77 car of Jarvis leading the race, and the 55 sister car clawing its way back to the front of the pack after problems, both suffer engine trouble. In the garage, the engineers pull the engine cover off 77 and remove the air intake from the roof. Taking turns to smell what lies beneath, their pained expressions suggest something catastrophic has occurred. Mazda runs a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine pushing out more than 600bhp. The competition, including eventual winner Cadillac, have six- or eight-cylinder motors, which are inherently less stressed. I ask Jarvis if he feels the strategy of using an engine that reflects Mazda’s road car range and ‘challenger spirit’ is the right one. Needless to say, his view is that’s a decision for those that run the team and pay the bills. “I just drive the car as fast as I can,” he says. Now Mazda must improve the durability of the RT-24P over the rest of the IMSA season, so it can deliver on its promise when the Daytona 24 Hours comes back around in 2020. Better luck next year. Rain took the shine off the race for visiting fans and drivers this time. But still, it sure beat Blue Monday. James Mills Read more Iconic race cars at the Daytona 24 Hours​ How road cars inspire race car design at Daytona 24 Hours​ Race, retrain, recover: driving in the lifesaving Race of Remembrance​ View the full article
  14. Online retail giant helps take fledgling American manufacturer's total investment to around £894.5 million Online retail giant Amazon has led a $700 million (£544m) round of investment in American electric car start-up Rivian. The fledgling manufacturer has attracted big interest since its public debut at the 2018 Los Angeles motor show. Today's round, which includes investment from existing shareholders, brings the total raised by the company to around $1.15 billion (£894.5m). According to sources speaking to Bloomberg, Rivian is currently in discussions with General Motors (GM) to secure further investment. If a deal is secured, it's understood that GM would be listed as minority shareholder and Rivian would be valued at between $1bn and $2bn (£778m and £1.56bn). It will remain an independent company. Rivian is aiming to bring the first electric pick-up truck to market. It only announced itself to the world last year despite having been developing and producing electric platforms since 2009. Rivian R1S SUV and R1T pick-up aim to shake up the 4x4 market Rivian is hoping to have the kind of impact Tesla has made in shaking up the established automotive set and believes it has found a niche with the creation of go-anywhere electric vehicles. The R1T pick-up and R1S seven-seat SUV, the first and second in a series of models eventually planned, are built on a bespoke electric ‘skateboard’ chassis that is modular and can be used on all different types and sizes of vehicles. The initial pair are closely related, the chief difference being a slightly shorter wheelbase in the R1S. The R1S is 5040mm long, making it Range Rover-sized, while the 5465mm-long R1T is marginally longer than the Mercedes-Benz X-Class. In both cars, the lithium ion battery pack is mounted in the floor. The R1T is good for a 230-mile range in its standard 105kWh capacity, a 300-mile range with a 135kWh battery pack, or up to 400 miles with a 180kWh ‘mega-pack’. In the R1S, the same battery packs are offered with ranges of of 240, 310 and 420 miles respectively. The two models share their drivetrains, too. Four electric motors, one for each wheel, give them four-wheel drive. Each motor produces 197bhp (total combined figures through the gearbox are 754bhp and 826lb ft in the 135kWh version), which allows for prodigious performance. It’s claimed both vehicles can crack 0-60mph in just 3.0sec and 0-100mph in less than 7.0sec in the 135kWh versions. Double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension features, alongside air springs and adaptive dampers. Rivian claims the electric drivetrain and chassis set-up allows for both impressive on-road performance and handling and precise off-road control that surpasses any existing mechanical solutions. Its flat floor is also reinforced with carbonfibre and Kevlar to protect the battery pack, while both models get five-star crash test safety ratings in the US. A distinctive front-end exterior design appears on both cars, while the spacious interiors get premium but durable materials that are easy to clean, in keeping with the cars’ off-road lifestyle brief. Two screens feature inside, running Rivian’s own software and graphics. There are packs of novel hidden features and clever solutions in both models, including a 330-litre front storage under the nose, and the pick-up has a full-width storage compartment between the rear doors and rear wheels that’s good for housing golf clubs. Rivian, first formed in 2009, is looking to do things differently from other start-ups by having its entire business plan and funding in place before going public with its intentions, and even then keeping targets conservative. Company founder and CEO RJ Scaringe has already gone through two stillborn versions of the R1T to get to this third, production-ready version. The US-based company is backed by investors from the Middle East, and employs some 750 people worldwide. Its design and engineering centre is based in Plymouth, Michigan, and other key sites include a battery development facility in Irvine, California. It has opened an advanced engineering centre in Chertsey, Surrey, too. Manufacturing will take place at an old Mitsubishi plant in Illinois, bought by Rivian for $16 million (£12.5m) last year. This has a capacity of up to 350,000 units per year. Rivian’s ambitions are much lower than that initially, with plans to be selling some 50,000-60,000 of its premium electric off-roaders by 2025-2026. It does, however, plan to offer its electric skateboard chassis to other companies – either car makers or any brand looking to launch an electric car – as long as their products don't compete with Rivian’s own. The R1T will go into production in late 2020 with the R1S in early 2021, the former priced from around $70,000 (£55,000). Right-hand drive production for the UK will follow around a year later. Opinion: Rivian isn't just another electric start-up Dyson's electric car - our vision of what it will be like Musk pledges Tesla pick-up will have 'game-changing' new feature View the full article
  15. The Motorists Guide

    Skoda Kodiaq vRS 2019 UK review

    Skoda breaks new ground with vRS treatment for the Kodiaq SUV. We've driven it in the UK to see if it's worthy of its initials This is nothing less than a Nürburgring Nordschleife record holder, and one we've driven before, albeit in Spain.Indeed, there's no quicker seven-seater SUV around the circuit’s 160 corners than the Kodiaq vRS, at least according to Skoda. In this respect, it joins the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, Jaguar XE SV Project 8 and Lamborghini Aventador SVJ in being the cream of its particular crop. But don’t get too excited. You have to wonder how many comparable cars have even been timed, and a lap time of 9min 29.84sec is quick but hardly fast. This may be the most powerful diesel engine ever fitted to a Skoda, but 237bhp and 369lb ft still has to overcome 1880kg, and no amount of engineering is going to rein in such a high centre of gravity.Cut through the marketing and there's potentially a lot to like about this car. In fact, lesser models in the Kodiaq range are tremendously likeable, because they take such an unpretentious approach compared with most mid-size SUVs. Their handling is assured, while their interiors are spacious and, thanks to Volkswagen Group hand-me-downs, contemporary enough in technological terms. The chiselled exterior design is also confidently understated, and the cars are good value for money.Admittedly, the vRS goes against that grain in several ways. It starts with the 20in 'Extreme’ alloys, which with an anthracite finish wouldn’t look amiss on the SVJ. The front grille, window frames, wing mirrors and roof rails are then finished in gloss black, and along with big-bore dual exhaust tips, there's red vRS badging on the nose and rump. In Velvet Red metallic paint, the overall effect isn’t subtle. There’s also the small matter of price: £42,870, rising with our test car’s vast panoramic sunroof (£1175), Canton sound system (£405) and rear-view camera plus full LED lights (£385). That's rather a lot, but if the Kodiaq vRS turns out to be a cut-price Audi SQ7, perhaps there’s justification.View the full article