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  1. Our 2018 Route 66 jaunt is worthy of replication Autocar staffers reveal the drives they’ll do when the brakes finally come off lockdown restrictions After a few months during which our collective motoring fix has largely come from essential trips to the supermarket, the gentle easing of the coronavirus-induced lockdown has us imagining a time when life returns to normal (as opposed to ‘the new normal’ we keep hearing about). That’s still some way off, but the gradual return of some driving freedom means we can start to dream and plan out some road trips for the future. So these are our ultimate post-lockdown road trip suggestions – along with a slightly more achievable British equivalent. Want to suggest yours? If so, email autocar@haymarket.com. Spa-Francorchamps for a 24-hour endurance race - Tom Morgan After missing out on so much motorsport, there’s only one remedy once restrictions get lifted: full immersion with a 24-hour race, and the holy trinity of European endurance events are all within driving distance. Of the three, Spa gets my vote. It’s less intense than the Nürburgring, which is as much a techno rave in the woods as a motor race, and has fielded GT cars exclusively for almost 20 years. It makes for a closer-run and easier-to-follow race than Le Mans and its prototype classes. Spa’s notoriously changeable weather often makes for exciting racing and track access is the best of the three. There’s nothing like watching Ferrari, Aston Martin and Lamborghini flying up Eau Rouge in person. We should arrive at a GT race in a GT car, so I’ll take a Bentley Continental GT W12 for effortless long-distance cruising in comfort. Getting there from the UK begins uneventfully, with the M20 giving way to the Eurotunnel. On the French side, I’d head north via Dunkirk. Follow the coast across the border and onto the E40, which loops around Brussels, then sidestep Liège on the E42 and through picturesque Verviers before those final few country miles to the circuit. Camp if you can, and if you have to get some sleep, make sure to wake before dawn to watch the darkness give way to a misty morning before the sun rises. When it’s time to come home, if you fancy a high-speed detour, the derestricted E40 Aachen-to-Cologne autobahn is less than an hour’s drive away. Closer to home: WEC six hours of Silverstone: There’s lots of UK endurance racing, but this one is my pick. For me, it’s motorway from Surrey to Wiltshire to pick up my dad, then a mix of A429 and A44 through the Cotswolds before cross-country to Towcester in time for the grid walk. Deep south road trip - Rachel Burgess The romanticism of the American road trip is as strong today as it was in the 1950s, when it symbolised the progress of the US, not least the growth of the automotive industry. If you fancy veering off the obvious Highway 1 or Route 66 (although do those, too, in your lifetime), a charming alternative is a tour of the deep south. A few years ago, having flown to Atlanta, I picked up an unexpected car for the US, a Volkswagen Eos, but it proved enjoyable for its top-down motoring. If you want to splash the cash, go for an American muscle car. From Atlanta to Chattanooga, home to North America’s only Volkswagen plant, before heading to Nashville and then Memphis. Of course, there are plenty of gargantuan highways to cover off the big miles, but go to the less obvious suburbs (as I did, thanks to Airbnb finds) and you can come across some unexpectedly enjoyable driving roads. For a car museum fix, visit the brilliant Graceland (an unmissable place regardless), where there’s a whole museum dedicated to Elvis Presley’s best and maddest motors. Beware power-hungry cops on town outskirts. Rumours of my being pulled over for unknowingly exceeding the speed limit despite driving at a sensible pace cannot be substantiated. Onwards south, take a detour off Highway 55 towards Homochitto National Forest. The route to my tree-house accommodation wasn’t, let’s say, best suited to the Eos, but I managed it despite wishing for a 4x4. The quiet lanes in this part of the region are worlds away from the seven-lane highways. A fun stop in New Orleans, which involved no driving whatsoever and much dancing and music, before weaving along the south coast to Alabama. In this part of the world, you won’t see much for miles, except for episcopal churches and fast-food joints. After a beach stop, my circular route included a stop in Montgomery, an important and insightful town for recent black history, before finally arriving back at Atlanta. Two weeks, 1500 miles, good company, wind in my hair and lots of Elvis and Motown blaring: few times have I felt more euphoric than this. Closer to home: North Coast 500: It’s predictable for a reason: pick the right time – the shoulder season of summer where you chance good weather without the crowds – and few routes are more enjoyable or breathtaking than that of the north coast of Scotland. Athens to Mount Olympus - Matt Prior Ah, dear old hire car bingo. Remember that? When I first visited Greece, I played it and won, being pleased to be handed the keys to a Citroën Saxo (it was a while ago) for a drive from Athens, heading north through the Greek mainland. Clearly, reason number one to do this is that there are astonishing places to visit on the way: come for the birthplace of Western civilisation and the olives but stay for the road trip. It’s not actually a long journey. From Athens to Mount Olympus is about eight hours if you go via the World Heritage sites at Delphi (which ancient Greeks thought was the centre of the world) and the clifftop monasteries at Meteora. Somewhere between all these, I remember a stretch of road. I’m not sure where or for how long it lasted, but it rose and fell over mountains with fabulous views and virtually no traffic, empty long corners and plenty of time to enjoy it. I didn’t go on to Mount Olympus when I visited but next time I want to, and from viewing it online, the road – a well-finished single carriageway – looks like a similarly great one to take. Greece has tranquil islands to visit, but travelling the mainland has always felt a little underappreciated to me. Just hope that the ‘or similar’ part of the hire car agreement treats you well. Closer to home: Devon: Hmm, there isn’t really one. Maybe Winchester to the Valley of the Rocks in Devon, via Stonehenge. Pick up the A272 for a good drive. Relax during the A303. Enjoy again when you get to the A39. London to Anglesey - Richard Lane The 300 miles between London and Anglesey – ground covered with reasonable regularity by road testers – can seem like a chore. In reality, this journey is anything but, and I miss it already. Autocar’s typical 10am rendezvous in the pitlane at Trac Môn means I leave my home before even the Tube drivers have risen. The following five hours in the saddle tell you most of what you need to write a road test, if you avoid the sat-nav’s preference to waft up the M6 from Birmingham and then track the A55 across the top of North Wales and instead go north-west as the crow flies, shooting past Shrewsbury towards Bala and then Bangor. With the cream of the big-engined GT class, you’re crossing into Wales before you know it. Spiky supercars can labour the motorways, noisily chewing the asphalt, but the softer machines truly seem to do Archway to Brum in one languid stride. Once you’re scaling the B4391 into Snowdonia, the fun really starts and the best cars, such as the Porsche 911, display amazing duality. Whatever you’re in, the roads are something else. As if the emptiness and scenery weren’t striking enough, the surfaces are among the finest in the country. After activities on track (and for such a fine track, the travel would be worthwhile even were it not so spectacular), the way back is just as epic. By the time I slip back into London, at night and with the darkness hiding 800 miles of road grime, the truly special machinery has left its mark like a Lamborghini in a Lada showroom. UK alternative: Northern Ireland: Fermanagh and Leitrim in Northern Ireland are home to numerous mind-blowing B-roads that combine twists and troughs with long sight lines. Pikes peak at sunrise - James Attwood Spectating on the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb is a hardcore experience. There’s only one road up, so fans have to make sure they’re in place before 5am – and you can’t come down until after the finish 11 hours or so later. You’re exposed to the elements, with freezing cold, wind, rain, snow and hail all likely even in July – and, with the summit at 14,115ft, altitude sickness can be a problem. It’s brutal. But it’s absolutely worth it. From near the summit, the view as the sun rises over Colorado is spectacular – and so is the motorsport action. The mix of machinery raises from high-tech prototype hillclimb machines to monstrous trucks and home-brewed custom conversions, all hustled around Pikes Peak’s treacherous switchbacks with scant regard to the huge drops and lack of crash barriers. Of course, you can sample that road as well: aside from the day of the hillclimb, anyone can drive up the toll road. Even at greatly reduced speed, it’s a brilliant, challenging road to drive, with ever-changing views and topography to enjoy. There are plenty of other attractions in the area, too, not least the nearby Penrose Heritage Museum, devoted to showcasing the history of the hillclimb. Nearby Colorado Springs offers a friendly, welcoming base, Denver is only a few hours’ drive away and you could easily add in a trip to the stunning Rocky Mountains National Park. Closer to home: Knockhill: It’s a circuit, rather than a hillclimb, but Knockhill is set in the stunning and hilly Fife countryside, is surrounded by some fabulous roads and isn’t far from Edinburgh. Great driving, motorsport and culture, all in one handy weekend package. Calais to Como - Mark Tisshaw I love a grand tour as much as a great driver’s B-road, perhaps even more so. And my favourite summer holidays of recent years have independently covered both those bases: either driving ones through France over huge distances on the autoroutes or flyaways to the Italian lakes with day-trip drives in little Fiat hire cars up mountain passes. This trip builds in all of these best bits in the most spectacular style. The destination is the Italian lakes, so head south off the ferry at Calais (and it has got to be a ferry, so you can tuck into your last proper bacon sandwich for a while) and plan for a good two days of Continental cruising. Covering huge miles on empty autoroutes might bore some, yet I love the swift progress you can make on the French motorway network, even if your credit card will take a bit of a hammering at the toll booths. Have lunch in Reims, a late-afternoon stop-off in Metz and then an overnight stay in Strasbourg, arriving at dusk, making sure you take an early morning stroll in this beautiful of Franco-German city. Head south through Switzerland and don’t stop until you cross the Italian border and hit Como. You could never tire of simply driving calmly around the lake, enjoying the tranquillity, but you’ve come this far, so head north to the Splügen Pass, a spectacular mountain road back into Switzerland that isn’t so far away for you to miss your lunch booking. I’m off to book it now… Closer to home: Lake District: UK motorways aren’t as fast or fun as French ones, but they’ll ultimately deliver you to a destination just as stunning as Como: the Lake District. The Cotswolds to Aberystwyth - Steve Cropley When the plague is over, I’ll still want to head to remote places where the horde isn’t. It’s what I enjoy. So I’ll get up very early on the first allowable morning, don my comfortable driving shoes and use the first glimmers of light to point my McLaren from the Cotswolds towards Aberystwyth on the western coast of Wales. It’s 150 miles and three-and-a-half hours by the shortest route 170 miles by mine. First, I’ll use the M4 motorway to cross the Severn Estuary, then spear north to Abergavenny, enjoying still-empty roads where at times you can see three corners ahead. I’ll press on to Brecon before the long, looping A470 carries me many an inspirational mile through Rhayader and Newtown (where I may take breakfast) and onwards to Dolgellau. A left turn will take me down the coast to Aberystwyth. I’m hoping to achieve all this before the school holidays, because caravanners get up early, too. Why this destination? Because I had one of the drives of my life in a Porsche 911 on the A470, sharing the joy with a colleague who could really drive. And years earlier, I parked a Lamborghini on the Aberystwyth seafront to find in the morning that someone had written ‘Marry Me’ in dust on the driver’s door. It was a long time ago, but I remember those roads and that place very fondly. UK alternative: Goodwood: To Goodwood, via the scenic A34 and even more scenic A272. I always enjoy it there, and the journeys out and back are a bonus. I don’t even mind if there’s nothing going on. Bonneville Speed Week - Matt Saunders Once travel restrictions allow, a US trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, ideally for Speed Week, is an absolute must for me. This is all Colin Goodwin’s fault. He wrote a spellbinding article about land speed record daredevil Craig Breedlove and the mad month he spent in 1965 swapping the ‘LSR’ with big rival Art Arfons. Now I’m itching to get out there and to stand on the salt on which those incredible records were set. If I can make it for Speed Week, of course, all the better, although I suspect you’d do pretty well to find a hotel room in Bonneville in early August. This is when every speed freak within 1000 miles brings their home-made custom racer and competes in a class in which they genuinely stand a chance of a win regardless of what they can afford to spend. Sounds like proper motorsport to me. I’m told it retains an open ‘club racer paddock’ vibe, so you can just wander along, getting up close with all the cars and chatting to drivers as you go. And then I imagine it’s pretty easy to find a nice ‘quiet’ spot to watch the cars and bikes howling along at 400mph over the famous measured mile. Visiting the telegraph pole and the lake that contributed so tellingly to the provenance of Breedlove’s Spirit of America LSR car would be key. Investigating the quality of edible ballast along the way doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, either. Closer to home: Pendine Sands: Pendine Sands, where Malcolm Campbell ran in Blue Bird, is the closest thing we have to Bonneville. Getting down onto the beach in your car isn’t easy these days, but there are great roads nearby. 10 must-visit motorsport events The motorsport calendar is in a state of flux for 2020, but here are some key events – starting at a low budget and rising – to plan for in the future. The British Isles Club racing: For some no-frills entertainment, head to your nearest circuit or a national rally meeting. There’ll usually be lots of racing and a huge variety of cars. BTCC race meeting: Britain’s top motorsport championship is a brilliant day out, with an action-packed schedule. The nine circuits on the calendar span the country; we’d highlight Brands Hatch and Knockhill as particularly good for spectators. Wales Rally GB: Venture into a cold, muddy, dark forest to stand around for hours on end in the pouring rain? Oh yes. It’s worth it to see the world’s best rally drivers tackle Britain’s formidable forest stages. A great weekend adventure: sleep in the car for hardcore thrills or book a Welsh B&B if you’re soft. British Grand Prix: Even if the racing is dull, the British GP is still a fantastic event. Modern Formula 1 cars are spectacular to watch at Silverstone and the crowd creates a big-event vibe. If you really insist that F1 was better in the old days, try the enthralling Silverstone Classic. European road trips Belgian Grand Prix: Spa-Francorchamps is a manageable road trip from the UK and the best track on the F1 calendar. Fickle weather often makes for a thrilling race, too. If you fancy a touch more culture, try the Italian GP at Monza. Monte Carlo Rally: It’s chaotic and spectating requires lots of planning, but it’s worth it to see the World Rally Championship’s best put to a unique test. 24 Hours of Le Mans: It’s a week-long festival, but it’s the moments that will stick out: watching 200mph prototypes streak down the Mulsanne Straight at night or GT cars roaring under the Dunlop Bridge at sunrise. And, of course, eating frites avec mayo while watching some of the world’s top drivers do battle. Long-haul epics Bathurst 1000 (New South Wales, Australia): Clamber up Mount Panorama to sample big, brash, noisy Australian culture. Once you tire of admiring the fans, the supercars are also pretty spectacular. Indianapolis 500 (Indiana, US): You could argue that the Daytona 500 Nascar event is now America’s biggest race, but the sheer pageantry and 119-year history of the Indy 500 sets it apart in our view. The incredible speeds of modern Indycars are mind-blowing. Dakar Rally (Saudi Arabia): This will be an adventure. The epic rally will again be held in Saudi Arabia in 2021, making it marginally more accessible than South America to brave UK fans who fancy heading out into the desert. Best hire a 4x4 if you do. 10 must-visit motoring museums Here are museums where you can revel in the rich history – and exciting future – of all things car-related, in ascending order of adventure. The British Isles British Motor Museum (Gaydon, Warwickshire): This covers the history of UK motoring, with more than 300 cars ranging from 1890s pioneers to one-off prototypes (MG EX-E, anyone?). It’s packed with British-built machines, including a plethora of Jaguar and Land Rover models. Jim Clark Motorsport Museum (Duns, Berwickshire): This small but brilliant museum is a fitting tribute to Jim Clark, featuring cars, photos and exhibits that chart his rise from sheep farmer to F1 legend. Plus, Duns is a beautiful town near fabulous roads. For a broader motorsport museum, try the new Silverstone Experience. Haynes International Motor Museum (Sparkford, Somerset): Complete a trip to Somerset with a visit to this collection of more than 400 cars. Exhibits span the whole range of the motoring world – and you can probably buy a manual on most to take home. Brooklands Museum (Weybridge, Surrey): The car collection is absolutely top quality and the aeronautical exhibits are almost as fascinating. Make sure to scramble up the circuit banking. Pair with a visit to neighbouring Mercedes-Benz World. European road trips Autostadt (Wolfsburg, Germany): While most of the expo-style Autostadt is dedicated to the Volkswagen Group, head to the Zeithaus for a meticulously curated collection of significant cars that span multiple brands. Museo Ferrari and Museo Enzo Ferrari Modena (Maranello and Modena, Italy): Two museums dedicated to one firm would seem excessive – except this is Ferrari. The town of Maranello is a near-pilgrimage for tifosi, and the museums offer the chance to admire incredible hypercars and racing machines. Cité de l’Automobile (Mulhouse, France): Claims the largest collection of automobiles in the world, with more than 500 cars from nearly 100 manufacturers. Bugattis are a speciality. Long-haul epics Toyota Automobile Museum (Nagoya, Japan): This museum isn’t filled with ancient-but-still-working Corollas; it’s packed with cars that tell the history of motoring from a variety of makers. Petersen Automotive Museum (Los Angeles, California): The building is spectacular, but the cars are the stars. Famous Hollywood machines include the DeLorean DMC-12 from Back to the Future and Magnum PI’s Ferrari 308 GTS Targa. Lada Avtovaz Museum (Togliatti, Russia): It will take some effort to reach Togliatti, nestled in Russia’s Samara Oblast, and even more effort to find the Avtovaz Museum on the ground floor of a nondescript, Communist-era office block. But you’ll be rewarded with a fine collection of oddball Russian motoring classics. Riva Las Vegas. 10 driving roads to tackle Here are some routes to consider when an adventurous journey no longer has to mean a petrol station stop en route to the supermarket. The British Isles Rhondda Valley: This would make a good first step for a tentative post-lockdown day out. The roads to the west of Pontypridd, on either side of the Rhondda river, are mostly great – but don’t miss the A4061 north out of Treherbert or the roads around the Bwlch-y-Clawdd car park. Yorkshire Dales: The glorious Dales rarely disappoint on a fine day. The Buttertubs Pass is one of the best driving roads there and the Ribblehead Viaduct is very scenic. Leighton Reservoir is also a pretty spot if you’re on your way back to the M1 to go home. Kielder Forest: Head from Hexham on the A69 north-west along the B6320 towards Kielder Water. There’s plenty of Hadrian’s Wall to visit and a trip over the border into Scotland if you fancy it. Then test your eyesight at Barnard Castle on the way home. North Coast 500: Follows the coastal roads around the Highlands, leaving from and returning to Inverness. Quicker and more open on the east coast and generally narrower and more spectacular on the western side, it’s one for the bucket list. Applecross, looking over to Skye, is a treat on a clear day. European road trips Route de Thorenc, France: One of the most spectacular roads in Alpes-Maritimes is made up of sheer cliffs, winding corners and stupendous views. Don’t miss the Col de Vence and the Route Napoléon out of Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey or the beautiful Verdon gorges. Grossglockner Pass, Austria: This Alpine pass goes up above 2500 metres at points and is probably the most spectacular of all – plus one of the better ones to drive. The Italian Dolomites are only a couple of hours away, too. Sierra Nevada, Spain: Few places in Europe make it so easy to drive from the beach to a ski resort so quickly as here. From Granada, head for the A395 out of Canales. The infamous Ronda road is two hours to the west. Long-haul epics Teide National Park, Tenerife: The TF21 up to Teide National Park is a mega drive. It’s also a mecca for cyclists, too, so be careful. Don’t forget the observatory at the top of the mountain or to go stargazing yourself. Carmel Valley Road, California: Highway 1 is overrated. Take this ribbon of asphalt instead, which wriggles along the side of the Big Sur State Park and ends up a stone’s throw from Monterey for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the epic Laguna Seca raceway. Great Ocean Road, Australia: This 170-mile stretch of coast road runs along Victoria’s southern shore and is about as far south as you can go in the country. If you’re going to do it, do it in a rented Holden, mate. 10 top cars to experience Fancy trying something new now you’re back on the road? Here are some entertaining cars to drive, ranging from daily drivers to rare exotica. Mainstream models Ford Fiesta ST: A champion of bang-for-your-buck motoring. The new three-cylinder engine isn’t quite as special as the old four-pot, but snappy handling and an incredibly agile chassis make for a masterclass in affordable fun. Mazda MX-5: Seminal roadster is challenging but forgiving, is pure in its rear-driven handling and, slightly dull steering aside, connects the driver wonderfully well to the road. All the sports car you’ll ever need, pros and novices alike. BMW M2 Competition: Feels every inch the E30 M3 for modern times, only it will do effortless, grab-yourself-another-gear oversteer almost on a whim. Makes a hero of its driver but is also usable day-to-day. Alpine A110: One of the best sports cars currently on the market. It has super-expressive handling, punchy performance and character to spare, all wrapped up in a gorgeous retro design. Handling thrills don’t get much more accessible than this. Accessible alternatives Caterham Seven 270: The entry point to the Caterham family may not have the neck-snapping accelerative punch of its bigger brothers, but the fidelity of its controls and immersive handling will remind you why you fell in love with driving in the first place. Ariel Atom 4: The Somerset rocket has finally eradicated some fighty handling traits and now offers arguably the purest feeling of ‘man and machine’ short of driving single-seat racing cars. Sublime driving controls help tame its performance. Porsche 911 Turbo S: The fastest point-to-point machine on the planet is back and needs no introduction. Gut-wrenching straight-line speed is almost matched by the rate at which the Turbo S obliterates corners. It’s out of this world. Supercars to sample Aston Martin Vantage: This bruiser hasn’t been the sales success Aston hoped for, but there’s a thundering V8 sports car beneath the aggressive exterior. Manual gearbox provides a rare level of additional immersion, too. McLaren 600LT: One of the purest, most talkative steering racks out there, paired with an extraordinarily talented chassis. Its turbocharged V8 might not win too many hearts, but the 600LT is nonetheless a world-beating supercar. Ferrari 812 Superfast: Any V12 Ferrari GT is endlessly special, but never has there been one so exciting to drive as the current 812 Superfast. A regal 6.5-litre engine and a stunning chassis combine to deliver a driving epiphany. READ MORE How a Porsche Boxster took on Storm Brendan and the NC500 A road trip in Britain's cheapest used car 15 countries in 24 hours with a Bentley Continental GT View the full article
  2. One of Polo Storico’s restored Miuras is an old prototype from 1971 The treasure trove of artefacts inside Lamborghini’s heritage division could grace any museum collection "The name Rodrigo Ronconi corresponds to the truth,” says Rodrigo Ronconi, without unlocking his gaze from the data sheet of one very problematic Diablo. “Otherwise there is no truth,” he finishes, looking up through tortoise-shell spectacles. Righteous words, but Ronconi is not an arrogant man. At least, he doesn’t seem arrogant in the three minutes I’ve known him. He seems industrious, very passionate and, frankly, like he could do without our surprise visit, although he hides it well. His Diablo issue is trivial but, at the same time, not. The owner needs part of the body repainted and wants it done yesterday. Tracking down the code for this ‘unique’ hue so it can be mixed afresh in Milan, and at great expense, has pitched Ronconi onto the trail of two Diablos from the early 1990s. The £160,000 question is: which one exhibits the correct paint code for our beleaguered owner? As an archivist at Lamborghini’s Polo Storico department, this is Ronconi’s bread and butter. Time pressure, attention to detail, plenty of cash on the line. All the storied brands now have enterprises that service, restore, promote and authenticate their diasporas of heritage scattered around the globe, and Lamborghini is no different. The market for classics is worth around £1.78 billion annually (enough to buy every Porsche 911 2.7 RS in existence almost twice over) and so there is money to be made, but Lamborghini also seems to have strong altruistic inclinations. The marque is still young and some of the existing staff were inducted in the 1980s or even the ’70s, not long after Ferruccio and Enzo fell out. Now is therefore the time to begin preserving the brand’s history and exploit the pool of lived experience before it dries up. Lamborghini is now so serious that it even consulted Porsche Classic, masters in the field of conservation, for advice when it established Polo Storico in 2015. It remains a relatively small operation, not only because the department is younger than the Aventador but also due to the relative scarcity of Miuras, Countachs, Espadas and so on. Lamborghini built just 6900 cars between the initial 350 GT of 1964 and the very last Diablo in 2001, which is nothing. By comparison, Ferrari made around 60,000 cars during the same period and, by Lamborghini’s own admission, the internal library of photos and records at Maranello is astonishing in its depth. Jaguar, meanwhile, built 67,000 E-Types alone between 1961 and 1975. But there is still plenty to do. The ‘truth’ Ronconi speaks of sits at the heart of the work Polo Storico undertakes when it isn’t forensically restoring cars like Miura SV chassis #4846 – the wondrous, perfect green machine pictured above – or making historically accurate spare parts. This work involves the awarding, or sometimes the withholding, of prized certificates of authenticity, which cost up to €10,000 (£8900) but can mean rather a lot more than that to an owner or prospective purchaser. “Twenty-five years ago, you could find a Miura hidden behind other used cars at a dealership,” says Ronconi. And he isn’t exaggerating. Even in 2005, an unexceptional but sound SV sold for just £176,200 at Bonhams; today, a similar car would set you back around £1.5m. And alongside its current status as the most valuable car ever to wear the bull crest, Gandini’s masterpiece is also the model that causes the most severe certification-related headaches for Ronconi and co. “They are the hardest. Some owners state that the modifications from early P400 or S [specification] to an SV have been done at the factory,” he says. “This is, in the majority of cases, not corresponding to the truth.” The chuckle as he says this gives away his love of the job: “Lamborghini did some upgrades on some cars – cars that had been heavily damaged – but we don’t have the data.” And the supposed word of the chief tester at the time, heard third-hand through your cousin’s friend’s gardener’s neighbour, isn’t going to convince someone like Ronconi. Strictly speaking, even an endeavour as innocent as fitting SV wheels to an otherwise pristine P400 or using 215-section tyres to improve the handling (an early Miura uses 205-section rubber) is enough for Lamborghini to withhold the documentation. Harsh? Perhaps, but where else do you suggest they draw the line? That every different model has similar idiosyncrasies makes the job an investigative minefield. Which brings us to the Comitato dei Saggi (the Committee of Wise Men). This intimate group meets ad hoc to debate and determine originality when the subject matter strays beyond even the considerable expertise of the archivists. It passes judgement in more complicated cases: for example, one concerning the front clam of a crashed Miura – one that was not restored by Polo Storico and that seems to have a repunched VIN on the new panel. Certification can be awarded to a car whose engine and, say, differential or body have differing numeric identities but are nevertheless each original, but you need to know your stuff to make that call. The Comitato dei Saggi therefore consists of Lamborghini CEO and former Ferrari Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali; Lamborghini chief technical officer and father of the Bugatti EB110’s quad-turbo V12, Maurizio Reggiani; chief engineer for the Miura and long-time global motorsport tsar Gian Paolo Dallara; Mauro Forghieri, an engineer of extraordinary breadth and talent and the man to whom, aged just 26, Enzo Ferrari entrusted his entire racing operation; and the former head of Lamborghini’s offshore programme, Mauro Lecchi. It’s a jaw-dropping line-up, for sure, and having your car assessed by the gang must feel like taking your driving test with Jim Clark in the passenger seat while Alain Prost and Lewis Hamilton confer in the back. Ronconi now takes a moment to dig out some extra special paperwork, starting with the build sheet of the very first 350 GT development car. It’s truly extraordinary. Hand-measured cylinder tolerances are scribbled down, as is the 46 hours this V12 spent on the bench and its 6500rpm ceiling. We can read that it used Borgo pistons and an alternator from Bosch and that the compression ratio was a fairly conservative 9.5:1. These sorts of artefacts form the foundation of the archive and are gold dust for the archivists. “When I read some data made by the engineers – Paolo Stanzani, for example – then it means I’ve found a treasure. [We have] the very first testing reports of the first Miuras – Bob Wallace’s and Dallara’s thoughts. It’s just a few papers, but once you read them…” Ronconi trails off, but his thinking is obvious. Polo Storico has arrived in the nick of time. This archive will soon find new premises, but for now there’s not even proper atmospheric control in the room where all this delicate paperwork is stored, and for years Lamborghini was frankly negligent, allowing its latest cosmic wares to shunt the marque’s heritage into the shadows. Yet Dallara and Forghieri are still only a phone call away, despite their pencil annotations appearing right here on diagrams that represent ground zero for the supercar as we know it. This realisation is as profound as it is humbling, and it seems that Lamborghini is finally seizing the opportunity to get its house in order. “Okay, gentlemen” is our cue. For Ronconi, our stay represents 30 minutes he’ll never get back, but for us it represents an intoxicating insight into the Lamborghini time machine. As for the colour of that Diablo, the correct hue will be identified by a colleague in the paint shop; a colleague who has worked in the paint shop since the days of the Diablo, who possibly painted that very car and is now mere weeks from retirement. Like I said: it’s all happening just in the nick of time. The other machines In addition to its historic road cars, Lamborghini will provide a white ‘Historical Authentication’ dossier on, well, anything that has ever carried one of its mighty engines and is period-correct, including these eclectic machines… Lotus 102 1990: Known mostly for its livery, the 102 is the only Lotus ever to use a 12-cylinder engine – and what an engine it was. For an F1 application, Lamborghini tuned its 3.5-litre V12 to deliver 750bhp and spin to 14,000rpm in race trim. Not that it ever powered the team to victory; driver Derek Warwick eventually described it as “all noise and no go”. Riva Aquarama 1968: Understandably, Ferruccio Lamborghini felt he needed a glamorous aquatic runabout and so commissioned Riva to build him an Aquarama – only one that, instead of housing the usual twin V8 engines, was upgraded with twin 4.0-litre V12s born in Sant’Agata, each making around 350bhp. They sit beautifully exposed, with their bright-blue cam covers on display. Murcielago R-GT GT1 2004: The Murciélago was never a natural fit for motorsport (although you wouldn’t guess it, its centre of gravity is high and its driveline is heavy), but the rear-driven GT1 was loved for the way it looked and sounded, both of which could be summed up as ‘pure evil’. Impressively, the 6.5-litre V12 was also strong enough to go racing unmodified. READ MORE New Lamborghini Huracan Evo RWD Spyder revealed Driving a Lamborghini Murcielago with 258k miles on the clock Lamborghini previews 819bhp V12 track-only hypercar View the full article
  3. Oldest Nissan Leafs may have lost up to 8% of their range There's no need to be scared of second-hand EVs. Here's how to suss out a potential purchase There's no need to be intimidated by the prospect of buying a second-hand EV, given the wealth of dealer and aftermarket resources on offer to advise and support owners taking their first steps into the world of electrification. The nature of their powertrains, performance and construction, however, does mean that the process for identifying a good one isn’t the same as for a combustion-engined car. There’s no oil to dip, clutch to test or coolant to check here. EV guide part one: every electric car rated | EV guide part two: your questions answered Battery degradation The biggest difference, and the aspect that understandably scares off some would-be buyers, is the battery. Batteries lose charge over their life, which has made some buyers afraid to buy pre-owned ones. But as long as you consider your range needs, you shouldn’t have much to fear. It’s true that turn-of-the-decade EV pioneers couldn’t travel as far on a charge as their present-day descendants and will have lost some of that battery capacity as the years have gone by and their batteries have aged. The typical battery loses around 2% of its charging capacity each year, which is why most 2011-reg Nissan Leafs have lost about 5-8% of their original range. Just how much the car’s range has depleted has a lot to do with how it has been treated by its previous owners. Excessive use of rapid chargers isn’t conducive to optimal battery performance, nor is always charging to full or discharging below 20%. There are two extremes, however, and low-mileage EVs have been known to suffer as a result of insufficient charging. It’s relatively easy to check a battery’s health, because most EVs have a clear range indicator. An early Leaf is now likely to have only 13 of its 14 indicator lights illuminated when fully charged, for example. It’s harder to tell a Renault Zoe’s battery capacity; you need a dealer to interrogate the vehicle’s software. But ignore scare-stories about having to splash out thousands on a replacement battery pack, since it’s possible to buy replacement cells for a few hundred pounds that will restore the lost capacity. What to watch out for Only buy a used EV that has a full service history, because this guarantees that it has received all of its software updates. The battery may still be under warranty, too. Check all the electronics and infotainment functions work. Make sure all the charging leads are present, because replacements are expensive, and pay particular attention to the regenerative braking, because worn brake components suggest the car has been driven hard. With some early EVs, you have to lease the battery separately, unless the finance has been settled and it’s now included in the car’s selling price. Advertisements aren’t always clear about whether the price of a used EV includes the battery or whether it must be leased, so be sure to ask at the outset. The difference in upfront cost can be stark: a 2015-reg Zoe 22kWh i Dynamique Zen with 23,000 miles and the battery included is £10,995, compared with £7995 for a same-age, similar-mileage Zoe 22kWh Dynamique Nav whose battery must be leased. Lease deals vary in price, typically depending on mileage and term, with monthly payments for a Zoe lease starting from around £50. EV OWNERS' EXPERIENCES Nissan Leaf 30kWh Tekna - Andrew Freeman: I’ve owned this car for three and a half years and driven 39,500 miles in it. I love it – and how much money it has saved me. Most EV owners say the same things about why they love their cars: the instant torque and linear power delivery stand out. But I’d add one thing: I thought I’d be getting used to the car and looking to replace it, but I still love driving it. It feels special. I do hate the feeling of range anxiety as the charge ticker runs down, though, and you can’t trust all public chargers. You don’t have that doubt with a petrol car, so we take our 12-year-old Nissan Micra on longer journeys. The best advice I could give anyone considering buying an EV would be to buy one that has thermal management of its batteries to ensure best range; to buy a car with at least a 50kWh battery capacity and 100kW rapid-charging capability; and to insist on a test drive of at least 24 hours. You need to know if the car will fit into your life. Tesla Model 3 Performance - Chris Thomson: I’ve driven an EV since 2014. I had two Nissan Leafs and a Renault Zoe before switching to the Tesla, in which I’ve covered 5000 miles in five months now. I love the way EVs drive and the instant torque away from traffic lights. The performance and long-distance capability of the Model 3 are exceptional. The silence and refinement mean a £25,000 Nissan Leaf can feel as comfortable as a Mercedes S-Class. The main surprise is how easily an EV can slot into your daily life, if your profile suits. It’s also easy to cover long distances with the Tesla Supercharger network. A lot of people would be surprised if they ran an EV for a week or two. Apart from the higher-than-average purchase cost, they are incredibly cheap to run and maintain. These days, I’d struggle to highlight a complaint. I feel a bit spoilt now with the Superchargers but, with previous EVs, the unreliability of the public charging network meant I never bothered attempting to use an EV for long distances. Hyundai Ioniq Electric 30kWh Premium - Robert York: I bought our 68-plate Ioniq Electric second hand in May 2019. We’ve done 17,000 miles, mostly on the motorway. I knew what I was getting into, because our previous car was a 22kWh Renault Zoe, which I’d run since 2016 from new. It brought me back to car ownership after about 10 years of living without one. The Ioniq stands out for its efficiency. In summer, I get 150-160 miles from a charge; in winter, I still get 100-110 miles. It’s always enough. I love driving the Ioniq, and I’d echo what almost every EV driver says about it being quiet, smooth and relaxing to drive. People should try these cars, because the upsides are quite considerable. I will avoid buying an ICE car again; it would be like turning back the clock on the progress I’ve made. There are compromises: on long journeys I have to stop and fill up more often than in an ICE car. But it’s worth noting how far the charging network has come in four years; I’ve done a driving holiday in Scotland, 2000 miles in two weeks, with no trouble. READ MORE Ultimate EV guide: Every electric car rated Ultimate EV guide: The big questions answered New electric cars 2020: What’s coming and when? Top 10 best electric cars 2020 View the full article
  4. Some difficulties still arise when you use public EV chargers How green exactly is an EV? Are there enough public chargers? We answer the questions that keep would-be EV buyers up at night Got a question about buying an EV? Never fear, as Steve Cropley has the answers. So read on to find out just how eco-friendly an electric car really is, whether you need to worry about range and much more. EV guide part one: every electric car rated | EV guide part two: how to buy a used electric car Is it true that the total cost of an EV is currently greater than of an equivalent petrol or diesel car? Yes, mostly due to the high initial cost of the vehicle. The outgoing Volkswagen e-Golf cost around £33,000 (£29,500 after the government grant); an equivalent 1.6-litre turbo petrol Golf undercut that by at least £7000. But it has to be remembered that the resale prices of EVs are high now and likely to remain so. Meanwhile, the fuelling costs of an EV are substantially lower. EDF Energy says that, based on an average electricity cost of 14p per kWh, a Nissan Leaf or a Kia e-Niro costs about £4 per 100 miles, compared with more like £14 per 100 miles for a 40mpg petrol equivalent. In a 12,000-mile year, assuming no hikes in tariffs, that puts the cost of the electric e-Golf at a shade under £500, whereas the petrol Golf will cost more like £1750. On top of that, you save big time on company car tax, road tax and, if you’re a Londoner, the ULEZ fee and the congestion charge (just raised from £11.50 per visit to £15). Tesla says that for inner-city commuting, this amounts to £576 per month, or an enormous £27,627 over four years. Batteries degrade, don't they? If so, how quickly? The jury is still out on this one, but the general feeling is that automotive traction batteries degrade slower than owners and manufacturers initially feared. Some early, high-mileage Nissan Leafs and Renault Zoes are showing battery degradation, but later cars are resisting this better. Many regular users are pleasantly surprised. Having said that, the battery is the most expensive component in any current EV, and if it were to need replacing after eight or 10 years, it’s doubtful that the car would justify an investment of up to £5000 to £10,000. There are ways of prolonging battery life – such as not fully charging every time – which help. Tesla, a consistent technology leader, is about to introduce what it labels a longer-lasting “million-mile battery” in China-built Model 3s and others later. This also has a lower content of cobalt, the battery’s priciest chemical constituent. So the technology is moving rapidly the right way. Will I still suffer range anxiety? Apologies for this, but yes and no. If you buy a short-range city car like the Volkswagen e-Up and set out for Glasgow, stopping every 120 miles will be a bind, especially if all the chargers are occupied when you get there. A growing factor may also be ‘charge-point anxiety’. But if you have a longer-range EV with rapid-charging capability – and importantly, if you remember to leave town with the battery fully charged – you’ll have much less trouble. There are many EVs with viable 250-mile ranges, and a few will do 300 miles or more. Tesla is the best case: its Supercharger network is very strategically placed and their ‘pumps’ are plentiful. It’s not difficult to find Tesla owners of many years standing who have never had a problem with charging. Okay, but I can't afford a Tesla. What will the charging infrastructure be like for me? At present, the answer to this question almost depends on what version of the truth suits you. The charging network for non-Teslas is patchy and needs much improvement, yet EV zealots furiously insist that running an electric car is practical and fun. The story seems to be that it can work fine if you have the facility to charge at or near home and you’re the kind of person who can think ahead. Problems occur if you expect, as owners of petrol and diesel cars do, that refuelling will look after itself. But there are many positive signs. A British business, City EV, is fitting 3kW charging points to lamp posts in Brighton. The biggest operator of charging points in Europe, BP Chargemaster, has taken to opening multi-point rapid-charging stations, Tesla-style, in key locations. Another progressive business, Ionity, is building a network of 350kW rapid chargers on Europe’s arterial roads. And the dozens of charger providers in the UK are now refining their procedures so that casual users can operate units via smartphone apps or bank cards rather than needing to be members. Even naysayers agree that the situation will get better, because it has to do so if the majority of cars sold come 2032 are electric, as is presently the plan. But for now there’s no substitute for planning ahead, and there are numerous apps, such as Zap-Map and Plugsurfing, to help with that. If I buy an EV, will I really be helping to reduce CO2 emissions? It’s well known that an EV powertrain produces no CO2 in its operation, which is a good start. Unfortunately, though, battery production can be very CO2-intensive, so your EV is never likely to be entirely blameless. Research by the ICCT (International Council on Clean Transportation) suggests that an electric car with a medium-sized battery would have a permanent CO2 cost of around 35g/km (or worse if the battery were very large), giving it a useful rather than huge advantage over the latest strain of modern turbodiesel engines. Other research is more damning still. The guidelines seem to be to buy a car with a modest-size battery, to choose a plug-in hybrid if you need to do lots of longer journeys and (if possible) to ensure your battery manufacturer was using renewable energy for the production job. I've heard that EVs are harder and more expensive to recycle than ordinary cars. Is this true? They are, and it’s all down to the battery. This consists of many small and delicate individual cells that contain both precious and toxic materials. The science of recycling is developing fast, because it has to, given the value locked up even in a depleted battery. The batteries themselves are being designed for easier end-of-life recycling and specialist recyclers are developing techniques to streamline the work. What’s more, there’s a worldwide move to delay the recycling of end-of-life car batteries and instead use them to make up much larger battery banks that store, for example, wind-power generated overnight when demand is low so that it can be deployed when the need arises. READ MORE Ultimate EV guide: Every electric car rated Ultimate EV guide: How to buy a used EV New electric cars 2020: What’s coming and when? Top 10 best electric cars 2020 View the full article
  5. EVs like these will soon become mainstream - but is the government's heavy-handed ban the best way of achieving this? Plans to ban non-electric cars are unrealistic and potentially damaging. We give our view and show you how to give yours Earlier this year, the UK government announced that it was considering bringing a planned ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans forward from 2040 to 2035 – or maybe even earlier – and extending it to include hybrids and plug-in hybrids. As part of the process, the Department for Transport and Office for Low Emission Vehicles launched a public consultation to find out what the public thinks of its proposals. The consultation asks for views on:  The phase-out date.  The definition of what should be phased out.  Barriers to achieving the above proposals.  The impact of these ambitions on different sectors of industry and society.  What measures are required by government and others to achieve the earlier phase-out date. This is a hugely significant and important decision, and we at Autocar felt it was vital to make sure that our voice – and yours – is heard. Below, therefore, is our response to the consultation, which we have submitted to OLEV. We urge you to do the same. Autocar's view Let’s make one thing clear: Autocar supports the electrification of the UK car parc as quickly as is practicable, both as a way of cutting toxic emissions in our cities and of eliminating the CO2 output of British cars and vans, a contributor to global warming. For years it has been clear to us – as we believe it also has been to all global car makers – that these are dominant, desirable outcomes. However, the proposed ban on sales of all internal-combustion-engine (ICE) cars and vans by 2035, and possibly 2032, strikes us as a close-to-unworkable way of achieving laudable aims. It’s almost guaranteed to do irrevocable harm to a British car industry that was once the darling of politicians but has been successively battered by the Great Recession, Brexit uncertainties and now the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. We believe a realistic examination of the effects of the proposed ban must generate a change of emphasis. Our contention is that:  A ban on volume-produced ICE-only cars and vans is right in nearly all cases, but there must be exclusions to protect our unique specialist and low-volume car industries.  However, the ban shouldn’t extend to plug-in hybrids – at least until pure EVs prove their suitability for all current car and van users – because they will remain essential for long-range drivers.  The authorities should set standards, not enforce specific solutions in a case like this.  Despite Brexit, all limitations must be introduced in close co-operation with nearby large car markets (Germany, France, Italy and Spain) to allow vital economies of scale.  Any ban should be introduced no sooner than 2038 – three full car model generations ahead.  A government minister with special responsibility in these important areas should be either appointed or deployed forthwith. It’s well known that car companies need to plan models and production facilities two decades ahead and to commit to new models 12-15 years out. To allow them only 12 years for an almost total revision of planning and technology seems certain to cause both serious industrial upheaval and a late-2020s-onwards collapse in new car sales in favour of raging demand for nearly new ICE and hybrid vehicles. The ban must be sensitively ‘sold’ and implemented to avoid threatened market upheaval, and once made, decisions must be adhered to. Arguably, 2032-35 also provides insufficient time to win over a public still sceptical about electric vehicles – largely following governmental failure to expand or organise EV charging infrastructure. Expecting a market that currently buys 2.5% electric cars to move to 100% in a dozen years while easier options continue to be available strikes us as unrealistic. Especially when existing EV incentives penalise hybrids, which more imaginative eyes might see as contributing powerfully to lowered pollution levels now while serving as useful stepping stones to full-EV adoption. Autocar’s great concern is that companies will be driven into deep unprofitability, an extremely undesirable situation when manufacturers – and their key suppliers – must be enthusiastically encouraged to stay in the UK (providing jobs) while investing in new models, processes and suppliers with unprecedented speed. Our proposal Our proposal for the years ahead would run like this:  Decide on a 2038 ICE-only ban for all but low-volume manufacturers and make it stick so that car makers can, for the next 18 years, depend on it for planning purposes.  Heavily incentivise EV ownership, in the style of Norway, as a way of dramatically boosting demand.  Reverse current policy so as to encourage the development and use of petrol-assisted plug-in hybrids, which will be vital both for long-range drivers and to provide others with a palatable step into full EVs, as well as making a major contribution to lowering pollution levels now.  Fulfil legislators’ frequent promises to expand and improve EV charging infrastructure by organising the commercial aspects of the coverage, rather than allowing a market free-for-all.  Take special control of motorway EV charging – probably the biggest priority for an EV future.  Ruthlessly deter the use of old and high-polluting petrol and diesel cars and vans everywhere, but…  Avoid pejorative curbs of Euro 4-onwards petrol and Euro 6-onwards diesel cars, so as to give lower-income motorists hope of maintaining affordable mobility in comparatively clean cars.  Ensure that local council rules applying to car use are uniform so that owners can travel freely to new places without risking unknown infringements based on vehicle type.  Drastically improve growth incentives for the hydrogen industry to provide clean propulsion for the British trucks and buses that remain major polluters and will need this technology in future.  Drastically improve the tone and quality of political rhetoric so the car industry once again believes its value to the UK’s economy is understood. ‘Sell’ the new system to the public, giving car owners plenty of time to understand and get used to it.  Protect our unique small-series-car industry and motorsport industry, which are major contributors to employment and export. Companies will need continuing freedom to manufacture and test cars for markets without bans.  Avoid knee-jerk curbs on classic car ownership, thereby supporting an industry that generates many jobs and big money yet, because of owners’ low mileages, creates negligible measurable pollution. Our conclusion Naturally, there’s even more to do. No ban should appear until there has been a thorough and impartial assessment of the oil industry’s recent, game-changing plan to introduce low-carbon fuels in two stages. Perhaps as a result, the ICE ban can be introduced more slowly to do even less harm to the UK automotive industry. Two last things: we must consider the capability of the power grid to cope with the coming exponential demand for car power and must take much more care about the sourcing and recycling of EV batteries. Estimates of the effects of an EV-only car parc on the UK power grid vary from “it’s no problem” to “it will be cataclysmic”. A government that expects the public to support – and pay for – the huge changes ahead owes them clear information about how the power will be provided. On batteries, more than 70% begin life in China, often depending on energy-intense processes supported by that country’s coal-fired power stations. New, clean sources must rapidly be approved and financed, just as battery recycling must grow in scale and sophistication. It’s not enough to talk of second lives for batteries in remote wind-farm storage facilities. After a time even these batteries will end their lives: currently in landfill, most of them. Despite concerns, we at Autocar enthusiastically welcome the electric age. We love clean air. We want to address climate change. We know that fantastic EVs can be built already. But we believe that UK laws aimed at promoting the new era must be more imaginative and more sensitive. The adoption of more reasonable and realistic legislation in 2038 should be the start. Have your say The deadline for submissions to OLEV is Friday 31 July, and they must be emailed to communications@olev.gov.uk or sent to Consultation Response, Office for Low Emission Vehicles, Zones 3/29-33, 33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1 4DR. We would love to read your responses as well so that we can outline the views of our readers in a future issue. If you would like to contribute, email yours to autocar@haymarket.com. READ MORE Petrol and diesel car sales ban could come in 2032 Special report: Covid-19 and the future of the UK car industry Government body calls for car tax hike to help cut emissions View the full article
  6. Buying an EV is no longer a novel concept, but go in prepared With car makers and legislators thrusting EVs out of their niche and into the mainstream, here’s our extensive buying guide for those tempted to take the plunge The moment has come for electric cars. Lockdown is easing and, due to that, we’re seeing a rapid acceleration in demand for new cars – along with a determination in many a keen owner’s mind that this is a time to take a new view on life and concentrate on what really matters. For a great number of us, that means making a well-informed and far-sighted decision about our next car. Do we stick with the same, safe, internal-combustion choices or embrace the future with an EV? We know it’s coming, so why not do it now? EV guide part two: your questions answered | EV guide part three: how to buy a used EV Autocar believes it’s okay to think such things. Even before Covid-19, this was always going to be a major year for EV sales. The biggest European car makers must this year begin reducing their fleet-average CO2 emissions to 95g/km, and there’s no better way of offsetting the petrol cars that most of the market will still want by selling a decent number of zero-emissions ones. One reason EVs were so hard to buy last year is that firms were using 2019 to clear their less fuel-efficient stock, knowing 2020 would be the year of the EV push. Now, suddenly, they want to sell you battery cars. There are other prime reasons for considering the change. The supply of enticing EVs has grown from a dozen to 40-plus in short order, and there’s now a viable second-hand EV market, reassuring for those considering the change. Company car economics have moved decisively in the favour of EVs, too. Road tax is eliminated, parking costs are low, fuelling costs are slashed and London’s congestion charge and ULEZ fees don’t apply. What used to be a speculative topic has become a serious option. Now read on as we rate every EV on sale and answer the questions surrounding them. Note: Prices include the government grant if the car costs less than £50,000 and thus is eligible. Runners and riders Audi E-Tron: The Audi E-tron range has already expanded to include an entry-level 50 model that sneaks below £60,000 and a Sportback variant with a superbly effective – and believe it or not – drift-enhancing torque-vectoring rear axle, but the midpoint 55 in the standard body remains the most compelling. Its 250 miles of range is a touch disappointing, but the E-tron is outstanding for refinement and usability, while its performance is strong enough to fulfil its premium-luxury brief and its 150kW charging capability outguns what Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz offer. The E-tron is brilliantly unremarkable, which is what many want from their first EV. * Spec is for the E-tron 55 quattro BMW i3: The radical, composite-bodied BMW i3 awaits cast-iron-classic status, but in the here and now, you can still buy one factory-fresh despite the model having been introduced as far back as 2013. There have, of course, been several updates since then to keep BMW’s first electric car competitive in terms of range and interior technology, but the one thing the i3 still does better than so many others is combine strong ergonomics with ease of use. It’s fantastically stress-free to pilot through busy city streets and can comfortably seat four. Yes, the ride is a bit bouncy and you’d expect a longer range, but the rakish i3 still makes a compelling case for itself. DS 3 Crossback E-Tense: All four of the major PSA Group brands will end up with an electric compact car either this year or next. And all four will use the same platform, electric motor and battery, so you might wonder why you would splurge on the one that will undoubtedly be the priciest of the quartet when you could save a few grand by just buying smarter. Well, the others don’t have the fashionista style of the DS. They’re not quite as practical, either, even if rear quarters here aren’t as accommodating as the crossover billing might suggest. Performance, handling and range are all a shade above the class average, but they won’t stay so for long. Honda E: Remember the original Insight, with its Integrated Motor Assist driveline and slippery two-seat body? That car was Honda at its imaginative best and, two decades later, it seems the Honda of old is back. The simply named E is a city car that feels special and unusual in a way that few rivals can dream of. It’s genuinely good to drive, having its single motor powering its rear wheels, and superbly agile – impressive attributes before you even consider the inimitable design and classy interior. However, poor range and a high price make it much more of a heart than a head buy. As one tester put it, the E is easy to like but harder to recommend. Hyundai Ioniq Electric: The Hyundai Ioniq has one significant claim to fame: it’s one of only two cars that can be bought as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or an electric car. The EV is the best of the lot, although it’s not the kind of car that a designer might describe as ‘emotional’. Launched in 2016, it hails from a time when some thought alternatively fuelled cars had to look and drive a bit like the Toyota Prius in order to succeed. Suffice to say, it’s not particularly engaging: its performance is responsive but a little meek by EV standards and its handling a bit soft and steady. It’s efficient, though, getting nearly 200 miles out of a 38kWh battery, and it’s a true four-seater with a good boot. Hyundai Kona Electric: Kia and Hyundai made a big splash when they entered the electric car market with their crossover siblings. Hyundai’s creation, the Kona Electric, set new standards for range in particular. The entry-level version we’ve included specification for is only where the car opens for business, with range-topping 64kWh-battery versions offering close to 300 miles of usable range for less than £36,000. It offers good performance and drivability, and Hyundai’s Smart Regenerative Braking system (which uses the radar cruise sensors to adjust the brakes to suit the traffic flow) is particularly clever. It isn’t as spacious as some rival EVs, though. Jaguar I-Pace: Being bold usually gets you some credit, but the I-Pace continues to win Jaguar praise not only because it beat both Audi and Mercedes-Benz to the EV market. Despite approaching its second birthday, the I-Pace still feels really innovative, and although it has much less visual bulk than a typical mid-sized SUV, it’s surprisingly spacious. However, the strongest selling point remains its driving experience: the I-Pace has swift, super-responsive performance and taut, agile, engaging handling, so cleverly walking the line between family car and sports car in its dynamic character. Kia E-Niro: On the continuum of practicality versus cost versus driving range, the Kia e-Niro is straight unbeatable, and some conspicuous cheaper interior plastics and uninspiring handling thus won’t matter a jot to the vast majority of owners. Admittedly, the Hyundai Kona Electric, which is the e-Niro’s technological cousin, offers slightly more range for just a little extra outlay but, in our experience, the Kia is the more refined and smooth-riding of the pair, despite its more junior status. In years to come, this will be seen as the car that really put Kia on the map, and deservedly so. Kia Soul EV: The Soul is now three model generations old. It has become symbolic of Kia’s developing maturity, evidence that it’s ready to reach beyond budget routes with genuinely stylish and alternative cars. And now that the Soul is electric-only (in Europe, at least), it has an alternative powertrain to match its signature kooky Imperial stormtrooper styling. Think of this as a slightly cheaper, slightly more practical sibling of the Hyundai Kona. It’s roomy enough for four adults and, while its boot could be bigger, it would be a good choice for a family wanting to make an impression everywhere they go. Mercedes-Benz EQC: Very few Autocar group tests have been contested exclusively by electric vehicles so far, and yet the Mercedes-Benz EQC is already the winner of one. You’d be right that the I-Pace is more stylish and the E-tron is more refined, but it was the EQC that had the sufficiently well-balanced hand of performance, range, space and luxury appeal to beat its rivals from Jaguar, Audi and Tesla last year. Its cabin has most of the space and allure of any high-end Mercedes, with a few special high-tech materials and touches added in. It’s pacey, it rides comfortably and it handles deftly, too. MG ZS EV: Few cars make electric driving affordable quite like the Chinese-built ZS EV, which offers performance and practicality on par with the segment-defining Nissan Leaf at a much lower price. It has space for a family of four and, while its official range is tricky to achieve (you’ll manage 120 miles at best, really), handling and performance are pretty creditable. You can get better from other EVs on all sorts of fronts, but the fact that you can buy the ZS for the price of a pretty ordinary petrol hatchback and could use it in very similar fashion says much about the pace of development of EVs. Mini Electric: Mini has always seemed the brand ripest for electrification and, after several development projects, it finally has its first series-production EV. The good news is that this drives like any other Mini, feeling planted yet fleet of foot and steering with enjoyable accuracy. It’s also lighter than many rivals and richer in character, which counts for quite a bit when the powertrain is whisper-quiet. In many ways, then, this is an excellent first EV. Range could be a fly in the ointment, however. Officially, it’s 145 miles, making the Mini a lot less usable than the rivals that can manage around 200. Nissan Leaf: The trailblazing Nissan Leaf has almost a decade of success behind it now and, if you want to bet on a sure thing as far as the technology and reliability of your first EV are concerned, that may mean a lot. Behind that eye-catching design, the Leaf is a regular five-door hatchback with a roomy cabin and a fairly steady, reassuring driving experience, although its powertrain’s quiet smoothness and slick drivability augment its dynamic appeal. If 168 miles aren’t enough, there’s the e+ version with 214bhp, a 62kWh battery and a 239-mile range, but this pushes a reasonable price above £33,000. Peugeot E-208: If the supermini class is the battleground for mass-market electric-car superiority, Peugeot can lay claim to leading on it with the e-208. Put simply, few, if any, rivals offer the same blend of generous range, fast-charging capability, dynamism and desirability. Thoughtful engineering pays off, it seems, and the e-208’s platform was designed from the outset to house 300kg of battery, for which the rear axle has also been widened to make space. The e-208 doesn’t ride quite as sweetly as conventional 208 variants and is pricey, but make no mistake: this is the supermini benchmark. Peugeot E-2008: Built on the same underpinnings as the e-208, the e-2008 adds some height, a bit of length and improved ergonomics in general to the mix. The result? An unusually heavy compact crossover with more than 200 miles of range, a spacious interior and likeably distinctive looks. Peugeot insists that this most expensive 2008 is also every bit as easy to use and live with as the conventional versions, which is largely true. Drawbacks? Higher trim levels are expensive and you need them to get the best of the e-2008, while Korean rivals offer considerably longer ranges. Polestar 2: You’ll probably know of the 600bhp, plug-in hybrid, carbonfibre-bodied Polestar 1 coupé. But it’s the 2 that really matters because, not only is this slope-backed crossover electric, it’s also the car that will take Volvo’s new sister brand into the mainstream. The 2 is built on a modified version of the Volvo XC40’s platform and, with potent motors at each end, it’s also quick enough to trouble a BMW M3. But most surprising is how expertly its chassis has been tuned: the 2 is genuinely fulfilling to drive. And its cabin, while smaller than ideal and clearly in receipt of various Volvo parts, is also a highlight. Porsche Taycan: Porsche bided its time before unleashing its first EV, but the result is the finest electric driver’s car on sale and one that feels like a true Porsche from behind the wheel. There are several flavours, starting with the 4S and culminating £55,000 later with the sensationally quick, 751bhp Turbo S. The “functional luxury” of the cabin is also typical for Porsche and leads the way for perceived quality. The Taycan isn’t perfect, mind: space in the rear and boot is modest compared with the Tesla Model S, as is range, with no Taycan exceeding 300 miles. Still, for those who have deep pockets, it’s a gem. Renault Twizy: Strictly speaking, the Twizy isn’t a car at all: it’s a heavy quadricycle, according to technical vehicle classifications. For bikers who passed their test before 2001, it’s therefore a four-wheeled option. It would make a really compact and characterful little machine to run, provided you go in with your eyes wide open. This is a tiny car and a strict two-seater, and even if you specify the optional door panels, it remains fairly open to the elements. Performance is peppy in town but slow above 40mph, maxing out at 50mph; range is about 50 miles on a good day and three-pin-plug charging is slow. Renault Zoe: The Renault Zoe, once the pioneering electric supermini and now in its second generation, manages to extract an enormous 238 miles of range from its new 52kWh battery. That alone will secure it a good deal of sales at the expense of Mini and Peugeot, and the Zoe still touts one of the most likeably individual designs in the class to go with a good amount of space inside. Two things to note, however: this is an expensive car compared with the opposition, and the interior feels neither special nor intuitive enough now that Mini and Peugeot, among others, are on the scene. Seat Mii Electric: Seat will eventually offer its own take on the Volkswagen ID 3, named the El-Born, but the first-ever electric model offered by the marque is the Mii Electric, which slots into the family hierarchy beneath the Volkswagen e-Up but above the Skoda Citigo-e iV, in terms of both price and equipment. One key difference is that the Seat and Skoda are offered only in electric form, after the petrol models were dropped last year – and the fact that the Mii’s sportier suspension gives it a worse ride than its siblings. Otherwise, the Mii is a strong competitor at the affordable end of the EV spectrum. Skoda Citigo-E IV: Many will be delighted to discover that there’s a car mechanically identical to the Volkswagen e-Up but several grand cheaper. Admittedly, there are sacrifices to be made with the Skoda Citigo-e iV: heated seats (considered by many as essential in an electric car) and parking sensors are optional, as is manual height adjustment for the front seats. Stingy? Just a bit, but in light of its urban remit, the Citigo’s range is impressive, its performance adequate and its ergonomics excellent in several key respects. As a second or third car and a toe in the water of electrification, you could do far worse. Smart EQW Fortwo and Smart EQ ForFour: It wasn’t so long ago that an EV meant something small and slow, good on crowded city streets and easy to park but pretty hopeless at much of the rest of what is expected of a car today. It doesn’t any more, thankfully, but if you do happen to want a car purely for urban duties, Smart still caters for you. The newly electric-only brand offers two-door hatchback, two-door cabriolet and four-door hatchback versions of its city car, which is a choice you don’t get elsewhere. Space, usability and performance are limited, though, while range really suffers, not helped by the lack of DC rapid charging. * Spec is for the Smart EQ Fortwo Tesla Model 3: This is the car that’s turning Tesla into a really significant global car maker. Slightly shorter than the BMW 3 Series, it has the price and proportions to fit into the lives of urbanites, suburbanites and rural-dwellers, and because it’s a Tesla, it has eye-catching performance and range to seal the deal. Its modern, minimalist and upmarket interior appeals, too, although the rear could be roomier. Prices extend all the way up to £56,000 for the Performance, with its 3.2sec 0-60mph sprint and 300-mile-plus range. But every variant is a keen-handling, zappy driver’s car of real energy and pace. Tesla Model S: The Model S was the breakthrough car for Tesla. It emerged in 2012 and a year later earned a 4.5-star road test endorsement, back when most electric cars wouldn’t get close to that sort of score. Fast, quiet, refined, technologically advanced and decently long-legged, it demonstrated the potential that luxury electric cars held – and it would be many years before anything really got close to it. Just lately, the Model S has been shaded both within Tesla showrooms and without. But it’s still compelling, especially when you consider its ranges and the ultra-quick Performance version at £97k. Tesla Model X: Family-friendliness is by the far the best argument in favour of the Model X. This is an SUV with sci-fi-style electric gullwing rear doors, remember, and at two and a half tonnes, the Performance version can still hit 60mph in three seconds flat. The Model X isn’t the comfiest, the quietest or the most generally impressive big electric car to drive, but it is the only seven-seat EV on sale, it offers strong performance and its promise of a 300-mile range is fairly realistic. Plus, it’s supported by Tesla’s Superchargers, which really are well-provided on UK motorways and couldn’t be easier to use. Vauxhall Corsa-E: When Vauxhall at the very last minute ripped up its plans to deliver the new Corsa on a General Motors platform and instead borrowed one from its new PSA Group owner, new doors were opened for the brand. One led to its very first pure-electric car and perhaps its most significant model since the original Corsa (or the Nova, as we know it here). The Corsa-e is, in essence, the same supermini as the Peugeot e-208, only a little quicker and sharper in its handling but less distinctive inside and out. In short, it’s a very solid effort with a good range and certainly worthy of your consideration. Volkswagen E-Up: The e-Up is a stalwart of the electric genre, having first appeared back in 2013, but Volkswagen didn’t take half measures in updating it last year. A new battery has effectively doubled its real-world range, yet its price has actually fallen to the extent that it undercuts some excellent city car rivals – and there’s a lot more to like about it besides. While slow by any outright measure, the e-Up is deceptively brisk as an urban runabout and offers variable regenerative braking settings, allowing you to maximise range. Excellent front-seat space is also totally at odds with the tiny exterior dimensions. Volkswagen ID 3: The ID 3 has a pivotal role for a company that has invested more than most in turning itself around and looking forward after the Dieselgate scandal. And what a transformative car it could be. The first creation to use the specialised MEB platform, it’s a rear-motored, rear-driven marvel that’s shorter than the Golf yet as roomy as a mid-sized saloon. This hatchback handles in a wieldy, approachable way around town; it’s not sporty or fast like a Tesla, but it’s nippy and overwhelmingly easy to drive. Its vital stats aren’t eye-popping, but top-end variants can charge at up to 125kW and have a range of up to 350 miles. Top 5 range 1 - Tesla Model S Long Range: Big-batteried big saloon tops the range pile on 379 miles. 2 - Tesla Model 3 Long Range: 75kWh small saloon is rated for an impressive 348 miles. 3 - Volkswagen ID 3: 77kWh battery of the priciest ID 3 keeps Elon from a podium lockout, managing 340 miles. 4 - Tesla Model X Long Range: Seven-seat SUV is sizeable yet manages 315 miles. 5 - Polestar 2: Polestar still quotes 311 miles as just a ‘target’ for the 2, but it’s unlikely to undershoot. Top 5 in the city 1 - BMW i3: Compact, nippy, agile and straight-sided, with great visibility. Unbeatable. 2 - Honda E: Surprisingly refined, comfy and easy to drive, with a tiny turning circle. A mini-limo. 3 - Volkswagen E-Up: Has zip and grip as well as diminutive size, plus a bit of desirability with it. 4 - Volkswagen ID 3: Family hatchback uses its rear-engined layout to create great manoeuvrability. 5 - Smart EQ Fortwo: So short that you can just about park it sideways in a tiny kerbside space. Top 5 driver appeal 1 - Porsche Taycan: In a league of one for poise, feel and involvement. Outstanding. 2 - Tesla Model 3: Hairline throttle response, huge thrust and taut handling make it very compelling. 3 - Jaguar I-Pace: Has the balanced grip, agility and finely tuned steering of a Jaguar great. 4 - Mini Electric: Offers the most fun of the affordable EVs by some margin. Quick and pointy. 5 - Polestar 2: Has impressive body control and handling balance, with Tesla-bothering pace. Great. Top 5 value 1 - Skoda Citigo-E iV: An impressive 170 miles of range for just under £17,500. Right now, that’s unbeatable. 2 - MG ZS EV: Could almost be a petrol compact crossover for its reasonable £25,000. 3 - Nissan Leaf: Roomy hatchback offers a lot for well under £30,000, and discounts aren’t unknown. 4 - Kia E-Niro: Award-winning crossover offers genuine family usability for a reasonable £35,000. 5 - Peugeot e-208: Cheaper at entry level than any of its electric PSA Group stablemates. My best electric drive Porsche Taycan Turbo S, Route de Thorenc - Matt Saunders: A few years ago, I had a once-in-a-lifetime drive in an electric hillclimb car. Not one driven by Pikes Peak legend Nobuhiro Tajima, sadly (else I’d insist on being called Monster), but still: this Mitsubishi had three motors and would surely have set a competitive time if it hadn’t been crashed halfway up the mountain (not by me, I hasten to add). The best compliment I can pay the Porsche Taycan is that it made that car seem quite pedestrian – and it didn’t do so with brute poke on a drag strip, either. The roads of the French Préalpes d’Azur are among the greatest in Europe, and they don’t let up. They give you 200 metres of clear line of sight, then three corners of different radii within the next 200. Wide sections followed by sudden, unforgiving, rocky narrows, with the constant prospect of a quarter-mile drop into the gorge below to contend with if you get things badly wrong. They make you concentrate all right. Something heavy or underbraked, oversized or short on tactile feedback would have hit its natural speed limit very quickly here, but the Taycan just wanted to surge on quicker and quicker. It’s so much smaller on the road than you think it will be and feels so much lighter. And yes, it’s rapid; but that’s only a small part of what makes it a really special driver’s car. Porsche Taycan, Tesla Roadster, Renault Twizy, France, London, Ibiza - Richard Lane: When I was asked for my fondest EV memory, three bubbled up, so I’ll touch on each. The most recent is driving a Porsche Taycan in France with Matt Saunders. While the car felt sensationally complete in its own right, the equity its powertrain gave to the stunning surroundings was profound. Car and driver, moving through awe-inspiring scenery at stunning pace and with barely a whisper. The thrill of movement, rather than the car, was put on a pedestal, which I liked more than I was prepared to admit at the time. The second memory is from almost a decade ago, when I first drove the Tesla Roadster. Even now, it’s difficult to put into words the sensation of a Lotus Elise-sized (and slightly rickety) car accelerating from a standstill at the same rate as the Lamborghini Huracán shifts at full throttle from 7500rpm. I’d never felt anything like it, and the bowel-loosening impact was heightened by the fact that photographer Olgun and I were still struggling out of congested London; neither of us had truly appreciated before just what electric motors may mean for the future of performance. Finally, there was the international launch of the Renault Twizy. Empty, twisting Ibizan back roads in the off-season and a punchy little quadricycle that could oversteer. Enough said. Driving the worst electric car in Britain - Steve Cropley The annoying thing about the Reva G-Wiz, and the Mahindra e2o that followed it, is that it made sense. This tiny, ugly, Indian-made electric contraption, registered as a quadricycle to avoid lots of awkward European crash and compliance laws – even if it looks vaguely like a little hatchback – was quick to catch on in London a couple of decades ago. That was because it allowed moneyed owners who cared only about convenience to zip through the traffic in something barely bigger (and significantly uglier) than a wheelbarrow and then park all day for free in the centre of the capital – a sacred advantage. You’d see grand-looking legal or corporate types, who had left their Bentleys in the garage, looking smug as they crawled along with the traffic in their G-Wizes, because they weren’t going to have to bother with constraints like the rest of us. It made sense – or rather it did until you drove one. Then you knew different. Think of all the ways we judge cars: steering, driving position, accelerator response, body roll and road grip. In the G-Wiz, they were all terrible. The wheelbase was so short and the tracks so narrow that your body weight created dramatic body roll. It cornered differently through left-hand and right-hand bends. The brake pedal was always long, so you never quite knew for sure the thing was going to stop. In my brief time at the wheel, I had a closer views of the backs of red buses than I ever want to have again. Since my day in an e2o a few years ago, I’ve often thought the car would at least be instructive for trainee road testers. I mean, if you want to know what the influence of decent shock absorbers is on ride quality or what centre feel is to steering, there’s no better way of finding out than trying a car with none of either. What the car did have was compactness, which would have been great if it wasn’t for the fact you felt so damned vulnerable. Two things seem to have killed the e2o here: the rise of other cheap and much better EVs available on PCP deals and a rising unwillingness of drivers, even those who love beating the system, to look like such a pillock. EVs had to start somewhere in the UK, and the G-Wiz had the virtue of making everything that came after it look fantastic. READ MORE Ultimate EV guide: How to buy a used EV Ultimate EV guide: The big questions answered New electric cars 2020: What’s coming and when? Top 10 best electric cars 2020 View the full article
  7. Nissan's second electric car is an SUV; set to be unveiled on 15 July before going on sale later this year Nissan is about to launch its second dedicated electric car for Europe, the Ariya SUV, with a new preview video revealing a debut date of 15 July. The video doesn't fully give the game away, but it does give us enough of a glimpse to see that the Ariya retains much of the design of the 2019 concept car that previewed it. A striking LED lighting signature can also be seen at the end. Earlier this year, revealing patent images were posted online, showing how the production car's shape differs from the concept that was revealed at the 2019 Tokyo motor show. The shots, posted most clearly by Instagram fan account Nissan Arabia, show the 4.6m-long family SUV retains the concept's overall shape, although a few detail changes can be spotted. The bumper shape, particularly the lower portion, has been slightly altered, with a towing eye cover visible and LED lights also brought in to the intakes at the edges of the front. The side view seems broadly identical, bar a charging port raised higher in the wing, a shark-fin aerial on the roof and alterations to the roof spoiler. The side mirrors aren’t incorporated in the patent shots, suggesting Nissan might be looking to swap traditional items for cameras, as per the Honda E and Audi E-tron. At the rear, more significant alterations are visible. It looks like the rear window has been reduced in terms of visible area, while a rear wiper has been brought in. The backlit Nissan logo seen on the concept also appears to have been ditched, although the full-width LED tail-light design should be retained. The bumper shape has also been altered for production. With no interior images, we can only go by the minimalist design of the concept’s cabin for reference. Expect it to showcase the long-awaited generation shift of Nissan interiors and infotainment alongside the new X-Trail seven-seat SUV, which is due at the end of this year. The production version of the Ariya will use a new Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance modular architecture that offers increased flexibility with the motor and battery pack size. There's still no indication of the powertrain beyond Nissan calling it a “high performance, 100% electric drive system” with dual motors for four-wheel drive. However, we do know that the Ariya will offer Level 2 autonomous driving assistance features. Read more: 2021 Nissan Rogue leaks, previews next X-Trail New Nissan Z car to use 400Z name and twin-turbo V6 New 2020 Qashqai key to Nissan's three-pronged SUV assault View the full article
  8. The holiday home on wheels is here to stay. We forgo the Travelodge to sample different takes on the camper-car formula This is elevated living of a different kind. Not living in a high-end house, or decamping to a five-star hotel, but living several feet above the ground and beneath a roof, in the dry, with light and bedding. That might not sound much, but it is when you’re about to spend the night in a field, having arrived by car. For many, the next step will be a romantic but potentially miserable wrestle with a tent. More luxurious, if less adventurous, is to arrive in a vehicle that doubles as your accommodation. It’s two of the latest of these self-contained, wheeled shelters that we plan to test by taking them to the Latitude music festival in Henham, Suffolk. One is a Mini Countryman carrying a tent in a roof box. The other is the Mercedes Marco Polo campervan, which provides rather more in the way of amenities. For almost as long as the car has existed, people have used it as a device of escape. Escape from the drudge of work, escape from the same old scenery, escape to a lover’s arms and escape to a dreamed-of holiday destination. Once the piston engine had become powerful enough to haul a car, its occupants and a bit of luggage, it wasn’t long before the idea of combining a car with a compact house, in emulation of a snail, took hold. The first of these is thought to have been the 1910 Pierce-Arrow Touring Landau. Motorhomes and campervans have been around for a good century, almost as long as the option of piling a tent into a car and pitching up for a scenic adventure. Campervans have got better over the decades and the Marco Polo is Mercedes’ latest device for providing instant overnight accommodation. Tents have improved, too, Mini’s ingenious glassfibre box enabling roof-top accommodation for two. It’s not cheap, though: £2762 is plenty for a compressible rectangular enclosure and mattress. To this you must add the price of a Countryman, of course, and our range-topping £36,610 Cooper S All4 Countryman takes the total to £39,372. A base Countryman costs £22,625 and pairing the tent with this would substantially undercut our Marco Polo. Here, that latter option is a 220d Sport long-wheelbase model costing £53,825, without almost £7000 of options. An auxiliary water heater (£1345) and a side awning (£695) are the only items directly relevant to bedding down. The Marco Polo is the campervan version of the Mercedes V-Class minibus. Converted by specialists Westphalia, it’s a regular member of the Mercedes range. It rides on a long wheelbase, sleeps four and includes a kitchenette with two-burner hob, a fridge, a sofa bed, a wardrobe and an elevating roof in which a second, high-rised double bed can be found. All that’s missing is the loo and a shower, these absences defining the vehicle as a campervan rather than a motorhome. Your occupation of this compact world is enjoyed while stepping on yacht wood flooring, the V-Class’s electrically sliding side door opening towards an awning that can be extended outwards with the aid of a winding handle and an assistant to fumble the telescopic aluminium legs into place. Erecting this shady canvas roof takes longer than it does to turn the Mini’s top box into a tent. To achieve this, you must release the trio of ribbed tongues that keep a lid on the tent, whose glassfibre roof gently lofts skywards on a quartet of gas struts. If you get the knack of releasing those nail-breaking tongues, your shelter can be ready in around one minute. A mattress and two pillows are included, as well as an aluminium ladder that’s almost essential for the ascent to bed. The AirTop roof tent is the work of the Italian Autohome company and the Mini design team and is intended to appeal to those given to making spontaneous overnight sleeping arrangements in random locations. Our plans are neither spontaneous nor randomly located, the aim being to test both vehicles in the real world of a Suffolk music festival. Mumford & Sons are headlining, along with Fleet Foxes and a heap of other bands, as well as a smattering of comedy and cabaret and an impressive array of food stalls. To get the best from it, you could stay from Thursday night to Monday morning, but we do Friday to Sunday, which means two nights aboard our vehicles. The ‘we’ in this case are an old mate and his two teenage kids, my wife and your reporter. Our destination is the campervan field at Latitude. It’s more than 130 miles to Henham, near Beccles – far enough to drive both these mobile homes and discover the very obvious. Which is that they’re about as different to pilot as a seaplane and an executive jet. That’s no surprise, given that one is a sporting hatchback carrying an object on its roof and the other is a minibus carting the contents of a small flat. The Mercedes is a valiant performer so long as you’re bold with the accelerator, because the 2.2 diesel is a gatherer of momentum rather than a power-packed propellant. Given that these are relaxing holiday wheels, that matters less and, in any case, the Mercedes feels quite hefty in bends, which it nevertheless negotiates tidily enough. The Mini feels lithe, eager and almost unaffected by the flat-pack penthouse apartment on its roof. It’s not quite entertaining enough to wear Cooper S badging, but it does ride with a pliancy uncharacteristic of Minis. All of which makes it more than decent as everyday wheels. The Merc, on the other hand, would be ponderously extravagant as daily transport. But it’s a great place to enjoy the mornings before the festival kicks off. You can seat four around a fold-out table once you’ve swivelled the front seats. That’s fiddly – they must be repositioned on their runners several times to clear the bodywork – but it gets easier, and erecting the table is simple. You can also enjoy the lazy novelty of sitting while cooking or washing up, although there’s plenty of space to stand beneath the elevated roof. Housed within that is a double bed of impressive comfort, making it all the harder to stir yourself and clamber back down to get the things you forgot to carry up in the first place. There’s even a USB port at this upper level, although we found that phones charged at a glacial rate. That may be because, ideally, the Marco Polo should be plugged into a 230V power supply, unavailable in our field. No such facility is required for the Mini’s tent, whose sole electrical item is an off-grid light – whose batteries are flat. But you’ll need a torch anyway, to unzip the tent’s flap (there are two, conveniently), extract the ladder and climb in. It’s cosy for two but more comfortable than it sounds. There’s a big net shelf to carry clothes and stuff, you can open extra panels for ventilation and you learn to live with whichever telescopic strut you’re sleeping closest to. Obviously, you can’t do much in here except sleep – you can comfortably sit up, but not stand – and there’ll be no making tea, either. But as instant, comfortable, go-anywhere, rain-proof and wind-proof accommodation for two, this top box is brilliant. The Mercedes is in a different league, with its space and well-made facilities. When plugged in, it’s airconditioned and has all that you need apart from loo and shower, although there’s a hose for the hardy. Less impressive is the sliding sofa bed that will get you grunting like a coal miner, and the fact that we managed to drain the main battery with limited use and no warning. A jump-start sorted that, as might a detailed study of the comprehensive manuals. Of the two, the Marco Polo is easily the more civilised to live in and a fine machine in which to luxuriantly discover other worlds at a gentle pace. But the Mini’s top box is a terrific – if expensive – solution for more spontaneous adventuring and feels appealingly intrepid with it. This article was originally published on 27 August 2017. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide engaging content in these challenging times. Read more Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo review​ Land Rover Defender gains roof tent as option​ View the full article
  9. New Mazda CX-30 rival to be offered in "growing number" of markets – but UK launch plans unconfirmed Toyota has further expanded its global SUV line-up with the launch of the new Corolla Cross. The compact model has gone on sale in Thailand and “will be launched in a growing number of other markets” in the future. The new model is named after the long-running Corolla family car and is based on the same TNGA-C platform. Although the Corolla was recently reintroduced to the UK market, the firm declined to comment on whether the new SUV will be launched here. A spokesperson said: “We cannot confirm any introduction to Europe or other global markets.” Toyota says the machine's development was based on the key phrase “Corolla meets SUV” and it has been designed to blend ‘sturdy’ SUV design cues with a smooth, quiet ride and “exceptional comfort”. At 4460mm long, 1825mm wide and 1620mm tall, the Corolla Cross is marginally larger than the C-HR crossover that is sold in the UK, although its 487-litre boot is far bigger than the C-HR’s 377-litre version. The Corolla Cross uses a new torsion-beam suspension design that, Toyota says, has been developed to offer a “stable, cushioned ride”. In Thailand, it will be offered with a 1.8-litre petrol-electric powertrain that provides a total of 121bhp and a regular 1.8-litre petrol unit producing 138bhp. Given the flexibility of Toyota’s TNGA platform, other units could be fitted in different markets, including the more powerful 1.8- and 2.0-litre hybrid systems offered in the UK. The Corolla Cross is the second new Toyota SUV launched recently to take the name of one of the firm’s popular hatchbacks, following the Yaris Cross. The Corolla Cross would fit into the hugely popular compact SUV market in the UK and build on the heritage of the nameplate, but it is unclear if there would be space for it in Toyota’s UK SUV range alongside the Yaris Cross, C-HR, RAV4, Highlander and Land Cruiser. READ MORE Toyota Corolla review New Toyota Yaris Cross SUV revealed as Nissan Juke rival​ New Suzuki Across revealed as Toyota RAV4-based SUV​ View the full article
  10. Our Mirai has many miles but few fuelling opportunities ahead The hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Mirai could be the future, but how does it fare on British roads today? In Orkney, so much electricity is generated by wind, waves and the power of tides that the islands struggle to find a use for it all. In theory, it could be transferred to mainland Scotland, except that the seabed cable required to achieve this would apparently cost around £250 million. So instead, some of this surplus electricity is used to split water into its constituent parts, the hydrogen element stored in pressurised gas canisters and ferried to Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney. Once there, the hydrogen is used to produce... electricity. If that sounds rather a wasteful thing to do, well, welcome to the world of energy generation, and the awkward challenge of storing and transporting that energy to the place you want it, at the time you want it. What has this got to do with driving a fuel cell Toyota Mirai from John O’Groats to Land’s End? A lot more than you might think, and in ways that may eventually affect not only the way that your car is propelled, but also how your house is heated too. The way to look at a fuel cell electric car, explains Jon Hunt, Toyota GB’s alternative fuels manager, is to see it as one component within a cycle of future energy generation and usage. Fuelling a car – and your house, heating and hi-fi – is going to get a lot more complex than an energy company piping volts to your junction box. Instead, it’s going to become a world of give and take, of energy generated by a mix of intermittent renewables and less desirable, but reliable, fossil fuels. But enough, for now, of the potential energy cycles of tomorrow. Right now, our task is to drive the 230-odd miles from John O’Groats to Aberdeen. Not usually a problem with a conventional car, of course, or even a pure electric car if you plan some recharging stops, but in a fuel cell car, the challenge lies in the fact that there are presently only nine hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK. There will be 16 by the end of the year, but that’s of little help to us now, which is why we are specifically heading for Aberdeen, where there is a brand-new hydrogen fuel station. The Mirai will travel a hell of a lot further than the often mythical 100 miles of small electric cars – its not-quite-full hydrogen tanks contain enough to carry us 198 miles, according to the trip computer. Which is a pity, because the first leg is 230 miles. So it looks like we’ll be heading south slowly, though not unknowingly, with the Mirai’s trip computer providing real-time updates of our hydrogen consumption and range. This is automotive on-board data with a difference, the units of measurement being kilograms of hydrogen used per hundred kilometres rather than mpg. The Mirai’s twin tanks (there are two of these carbonfibre, glassfibre-encased cylinders solely for packaging reasons) hold 5kg at a pressure of 10,000psi, or 700 bar. A supply of 5kg doesn’t sound much, and alarmingly less when the screen read-out tells us that we’re getting through it at the rate of 2.5kg per 100km. But Hunt tells us that the high initial reading is partly because of the difficulty of measuring the consumption of a fuel that tends to careen in multiple directions rather than consistently flow like petrol. Just a few ginger miles into our trip, consumption halves to 1.2kg/km. But to have a chance of eking out our hydrogen reserves to 230 miles, I’ll have to score a running average of 0.9kg or less, warns Hunt. So we’ll be holding up traffic shortly. There’s little of it about at first, though. We amble along at 50mph or so, enjoying the Mirai’s boldly individual dashboard. There’s much staring at the consumption read-out, of course, but also the swooping edges and hard corners of the infotainment display and the centre console. It’s not an especially beautiful piece of sculpture, this dashboard, but it’s interestingly busy, rather like the Mirai’s oxygen-gulping, air-cleaving body, which is now occasionally being impeded by traffic. More often, though, it’s the other way around: the desire to go slowly and conserve our hydrogen supplies (now that sounds like a phrase of the future) is still strong despite a consumption rate that has fallen to the desired 0.9kg per 100km. Soon will come hills, however, in the undulating and picturesque form of the Cairngorms. Why climb when we could travel more flatly closer to the coast? Because it should be quieter, and because theM1, when it comes, will be a long and dull contrast. To improve our economising, snapper Luc Lacey joins the back-up Land Cruiser with all his kit to reduce the Mirai’s load, and I run with the air conditioner off, which is more of a sacrifice than it might sound on this sunny day in spring-like Scotland. The Cairngorms promise an entertaining challenge – the aim being to avoid heightening the Mirai’s hydrogen appetite despite an assortment of ascents. With ascents come descents, of course, offering the chance for some fuel saving, and potentially of the exciting kind. Exciting economising? Absolutely, because the aim is to gain as much downhill momentum as you dare and conserve it, ideally with the minimum of braking. Given that there’s an on-board, fuel cell-supplementing, nickel- metal hydride battery pack in regular need of a charge, avoiding the brakes mightseem a surprise because you’d expect to use them to provide regeneration opportunities. However, there’s no scope for regeneration with the Mirai, explains Hunt, because there’s only one motor, andit therefore can’t double as a generator. The brakes are to be avoided, then, within safe reason. Still, when you’re gaining speed down a Cairngorm and trying not to lose it, that can get quite thrilling. The roads are empty enough to uncover a slightly unexpected and deeply pleasing quality of the Mirai, which is that it will comfortably navigate corners at quite a pace and minimal drama, despite its relatively simple MacPherson strut, torsion beam axle suspension, and a fair bit of heft. One major reason is that it is low-lying heft – its fuel cell, battery and motor packaging providing a low centre of gravity. Another is decent chassis balance. This is no sports saloon, but the Mirai is certainly fleet of low-rolling-resistance foot, besides providing encouragingly precise steering. All of which makes this section of the trip pretty enjoyable. And to the surprise of several of us, pretty productive on the economy front too, the Mirai’s hunger dropping to 0.6kg per 100 km. Our 80-mile range is now three miles greater than the remaining distance to Aberdeen, and when we get there, that difference has grown to 38 miles. Hunt reckons there’s a reserve beyond that too. None of which diminishes the relief of seeing Aberdeen’s shiny new hydrogen refuelling station, this city boldly pushing ahead with the hydrogen fuel cell cause. Like Orkney, Aberdeen has an excessof wind power, as well as a highly skilled workforce available from the now-declining North Sea oil industry. Aberdeen now has the busiest hydrogen fuel station in Europe and, indeed, we are part of the unlikely sight of a queue of refuelling Mirais. It’s impressive to realise that in Aberdeen and Orkney, the hydrogen fuel cell economy is already here. That there’s still a long way to go is underlined at our next stop in Sunderland on day two, where we replenish the Mirai from a hydrogen-dispensing truck provided by Fuel Cell Systems. The reason that the refuelling takes place at a factory in Tyne and Wear, rather than at a handy truck stop en route, is that there will be a permanent hydrogen fuel station, rooted to the ground, in Sunderland later this year. The factory in question is Haskel, which is developing the sophisticated hydrogen refuelling systems needed to replenish high-pressure hydrogen tanks swiftly and without a pause. This mobile refuelling process took about 10 minutes rather than the four minutes from a permanent fuel station – a delay most users will hopefully be happy to accept for a mobile supply that’s potentially available anywhere and still vastly less time-consuming than recharging an EV. A facility like this would allow the wanton use of hydrogen, and we are able to be equally wanton on the first leg of day three, to Rotherham, because the distance is easily within the Mirai’s reach. It’s difficult to drive with abandon after husbanding our hydrogen for many hundreds of miles, but this is a good chance to stretch the Mirai’s 152bhp, 247lb ft electric motor, which spins up more strongly than you might expect, providing performance that’s a lot more interesting than eco. Despite which, it’s hard not to scroll through the Mirai’s multiple display screens. Apart from your current average hydrogen consumption and average speed, you can watch the pulsing power-flow schematic familiar to Prius owners (though it’s less complicated), and view a dated daily record of your distance and consumption. There’s real pleasure in seeing what the Mirai can do, and what you can do with it. Indeed, your own resource-husbanding efforts are assessed by the car itself; my best economy driving, on the rare occasions when I remembered to check the display, scored 84 out of 100 A useful score-improver is to let the electric motor’s in-built creep get you moving before you get accelerating and, more obviously, stay in the econometer’s green zone. These are techniques we will adopt on the final leg of the journey from the Shell hydrogen pump located at Beaconsfield services. The reason for deploying every technique is that Land’s End is 276 miles away, which is further than we have been on a full tank, if within the Mirai’s claimed 300-mile range. Once again, we drive like we’re towing a caravan, doubtless triggering similar levels of slow-tow irritation among those in our wake, who are unaware that this displaced air is completely unpolluted by the Toyota in front. By the time we get to Devon, we look likely to make it. Our cruise rises to a more reasonable 60mph, which drops once we’re travelling between the hedge-walled lanes of Cornwall. Our excitement is replaced by bafflement when we arrive because the famous Land’s End signpost is nowhere to be seen. Turns out that it’s stored for the night by the owner of Britain’s south-west tip, who charges £10 for photographs of the signpost, for which we must wait until tomorrow. Meanwhile, we calculate that we’ve driven 1109 miles, including our travel from Orkney, and that we’ve been behind the wheel for 19 hours and 40 minutes, at a 56mph average speed and a similarly decent 0.9kg of hydrogen per 100km. We used 16.1kg in all, at a cost of £193, working out at 17.9p per mile. We spent 15 minutes refuelling during our four stops and exhausted 14.5 litres of unadulterated water. During our celebratory photographs the following day, we’re joined by a group of Japanese tourists delighted at our record- setting, and still more so that it was achieved in a Toyota. One day, perhaps, they and us will regularly be driving fuel cell cars. The route: If you’re driving from John O’Groats to Land’s End the direct way, you don’t go to easterly Aberdeen, even if that’s further south. It’s no more helpful to head to east-coast Sunderland, nor Rotherham or Beaconsfield, even if all are closer to the equator and therefore to Land’s End. But this roundabout route, as you’ll have guessed, was dictated by the availability of hydrogen fuelling stations. Surf ’N’ turf hydrogen project: On Eday, an island in Orkney, there’s so much wind power that they often have to stall the wind turbines, because there’s nowhere for the electricity to go. Which is how the idea of using it to electrolyse water to yield hydrogen came about. That hydrogen is pumped into steel canisters and shipped to Kirkwall, the Orkney capital, where it’s turned back into electricity by a room full of fuel cells. The power is used by ferries docked and reloading at Kirkwall Pier, while the heat generated is used by local buildings. Aberdeen hydrogen station: The once oil-rich Aberdeen has developed a hydrogen strategy in conjunction with many funders and partners including the EU, energy companies, the Scottish Government, the local council, transport operators and car makers. How Toyota makes the Mirai: There’s one powerful reason why the little pilot plant where Toyota’s hand-made, hydrogen-powered Mirai comes to life looks so very much like it could otherwise be building an Aston or a McLaren. It’s because this same plant that turns out one Mirai every 70 minutes — buried inside Toyota’s giant Motomachi works that started making Crown family saloons in 1959 — was previously the crucible of a run of500 Lexus LFA supercars, using a similar recipe of exotic materials and practising the same principles of hand manufacture. Toyota started making the Mirai in 2014 and has so far sold around 3000 copies in the US, 1500 in Japan and 200 in Europe. Production is slowly ramping up while opinions continue to vary globally over whether hydrogen fuel cell propulsion can ever be important enough to be viable. There’s considerable scepticism on our side of the world that contrasts heavily with the view in Japan and Korea that such cars represent an essential step towards the zero- emissions ‘hydrogen society’ seen by many, including Asian governments, as an ultimate objective. For now, Mirai manufacture is almost entirely by hand. A tight-knit body of workers uses muscle to push the chassis on trolleys along a tiny production line, adding fascia, powertrain and suspension sub- assemblies hand-made off-line by others. Even operations like the bonding-in of the windscreen, robotised almost everywhere else, are done by hand. Not that the operation lacks modernity: bodies are painted by the same process used for bigger-volume Motomachi models. Hand-picked technicians wield computer-linked power tools. Work requires constant verification and signing off (though on paper, in actual handwriting). Toyota aims to build the next Mirai on its new, highly flexible TGNA architecture, already configured for a fuel cell version. For now, the current Mirai’s unique architecture and slow build rate suffice. But Toyota remains adamant that hydrogen cars are heading for practicality and prominence. And having confounded hybrid sceptics by so far putting 10 million Prius family cars on the road, it has earned the right to be confident. This article was originally published on 24 June 2018. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide engaging content in these challenging times. Read more Analysis: do hydrogen-powered cars have a future? Toyota Mirai review New Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle makes European debut View the full article
  11. Delayed F1 2020 season got underway in Austria last weekend Italian circuit will host its first F1 race following events in Austria, Britain, Hungary and Spain Italy’s Mugello circuit has been added to the Formula 1 calendar for the first time, joining Russia’s Sochi track in a revised schedule for September. The start of the 2020 season was delayed by 114 days as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, finally getting underway last week at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Only the first eight races leading up to the end of August had been confirmed, however, with the two new events taking the championship towards its as-yet-unconfirmed finale. The Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello will take place on 13 September. This will be the first time that an F1 race has been held at the Ferrari-owned circuit, although official testing did take place there in 2012. The venue is more commonly associated with the MotoGP motorcycle series and is known for its 0.7-mile main straight. F1 2020: everything you need to know as the season restarts The Russian Grand Prix will return to the seaside resort of Sochi for the sixth time since 2014, perhaps marking the end of the original 2014-2020 agreement to hold F1 races at the venue. With 10 races now confirmed, the 2020 season still falls well short of the 21 events that made up 2019’s calendar, but F1 says there are “more to be announced in the coming weeks” and expects to host between 15 and 18 in total. F1 CEO Chase Carey said: “We had a great start to our season in Austria last weekend, and we are increasingly confident in our plans to race throughout the remainder of 2020. The Russian Grand Prix is a major moment in our season, and we are looking forward to being back in Sochi in September. “We are equally excited to see Formula 1 race for the first time at Mugello, an occasion that will mark Ferrari’s 1000th [F1 championship] Grand Prix. Both races will be a huge boost for fans with more announcements on the next races in our calendar coming in the weeks ahead.” Along with Mugello and Sochi, F1 will race again at Austria this weekend for the Styrian Grand Prix and twice at Silverstone in August. There will also be conventional visits to Hungary, Spain and Belgium. Initially, races will be held behind closed doors, but F1 bosses anticipate that spectators will be allowed in towards the end of the season. Extra European rounds are under consideration, too, with Hockenheim in Germany and Portimão in Portugal being considered. In addition, Bahrain, China and Russia could each hold double-header races. Read more Daniel Ricciardo on F1's future, Hamilton's success and how to win​ F1 latest: Sainz signs for Ferrari, Ricciardo joins McLaren​ Exclusive: McLaren plans to sell stake in F1 team to secure future View the full article
  12. Is this crucial plug-in hybrid version of the big-selling saloon a true BMW to its core? When BMW introduced the current version of its evergreen compact executive option, the 3 Series, at the start of 2019, the proportion of UK sales it expected to be accounted for by the plug-in hybrid version – the 330e – was about a quarter.That was then; and so much has changed since. The UK company car system now gives plug-in cars two or three times the cost-related tax advantage for fleet drivers that it did even a year ago. Meanwhile, no government mandarin wastes an opportunity to reaffirm the plan to outlaw the sale of internal combustion-engined cars before the middle of the next decade.We can say with some confidence, then, that no other version of the 3 Series is likely to be as important to the firm’s near- and mid-term sales success in the UK as this one; and that the verdict we’re about to come to may well be the most crucial we’ve delivered on any 3 Series to date.The 3 Series line-up at a glanceWith both M Performance versions of the G20-generation 3 Series present and correct in the range, as well as our plug-in hybrid and low-end petrols and diesels, all that’s now missing is a top-of-the-line M3.It’s a fulsome line-up, with all cars except the entry-level diesel getting an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. SE and Sport Pro trim levels appear below M Sport on the 330e. View the full article
  13. Hybrid-only S-Class is due to be unveiled this year with evolved styling and a tech-heavy new interior Mercedes-Benz is due to unveil its new S-Class flagship later this year, and the luxury saloon has been caught with minimal disguise by our photographers. Previously spotted prototypes wore heavy camouflage, but we can now see clearly that the seventh-generation BMW 7 Series rival takes an evolutionary approach to the exterior redesign, with a similarly curvy look to today's car. The tail-lights take inspiration from that of the latest CLS. The interior, caught on camera earlier this year, takes a more radical step forward, with a greater emphasis on technology. The minimalist dashboard is dominated by a Tesla-style portrait display - significantly larger than any screen Mercedes has offered in previous models - paired with a freestanding digital instrument display. This week, Mercedes offically unwrapped the interior of the new S-Class, revealing that it will feature the second-generation version of the firm's MBUX infotainment system - with fewer physical controls, five touchscreens and an array of motion-detector, sensor-operated functions. The seventh-generation S-Class looks set to regain its place at the forefront of the brand's technical know-how, with a range of new electrified powertrains and advanced driver assist features. Comfort and technology levels will take a boost, with the target of lifting it beyond rivals such as the 7 Series and Audi A8. The new Mercedes flagship, which is due in UK showrooms next year, has been developed to support two distinctly different saloon models for the first time. While standard versions are set to receive a range of plug-in hybrid drivetrains, the German car maker will also launch an aerodynamically optimised pure-electric version that will serve as the flagship model for its new EQ electric vehicle sub-brand. Badged EQS, the new model will offer a claimed range in excess of 310 miles on the latest WLTP test cycle when it goes on sale in 2022. Plug-in hybrid versions of the S-Class will feature part-time zero-emission capability for distances of up to 62 miles, together with the option of a newly developed 4Matic four-wheel drive system with fully variable apportioning of drive between the front and rear axles. The EQS forms part of Mercedes’ £9 billion programme to introduce more than 10 dedicated electric vehicles to the UK market within the next six years. In a further change, it is believed that Mercedes-Benz has decided to do away with its long tradition of offering the standard S-Class, which goes under the internal codename W223, with two different wheelbases. Nothing is official at this stage, but it is understood that the growth of the E-Class to a length of 4920mm is behind a decision to produce the new S-Class exclusively in long-wheelbase guise, with the car measuring around 5280mm in length. However, while the standard S-Class sits on the MRA platform, the more technically advanced four-wheel-drive EQS will be the first Mercedes-Benz model to be based on the new Modular Electric Architecture (MEA) platform. Unlike the structures being developed to underpin smaller EQ models, it is not based on an existing platform but has been developed as dedicated EV architecture with a flat floor to house batteries. The drivelines set to power hybrid versions of the new S-Class are based around Mercedes’ latest 3.0-litre and 2.9-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines and the AMG-developed 4.0-litre V8, all of which operate in combination with a disc-shaped electric motor housed within the automatic gearbox and a lithium ion battery located in the boot floor. The electric EQS is set to receive two electric motors – one acting on the front axle and the other driving the rear – providing permanent four-wheel drive in all variants. In the EQC, this set-up delivers more than 400bhp and some 516lb ft, although engineers involved on the development of the EQS suggest it will offer even greater levels of power and torque, with a planned AMG performance model earmarked to produce more than 600bhp. Despite the differing platforms, both the standard S-Class and the EQS are set to share the same active suspension system. A development of the existing S-Class’s AirMatic+ system, it works in combination with a 48V electrical architecture and a stereo camera that scans the road ahead to adjust the spring and damper action on each wheel, allowing it to not only counteract body lean in corners but also to better control pitch. Stylistically, the new S-Class is claimed to break new ground with a lineage that Mercedes-Benz design studio sources say will influence a whole new generation of models. Recent prototype spy shots preview a design that will feature distinctive tri-band LED multibeam headlights, a new interpretation of the classic Mercedes-Benz grille and door handles that retract back into the bodywork to help improve aerodynamic properties. The EQS will adopt its own distinct styling. Reflecting the packaging advantages inherent in electric vehicles, it receives a shorter bonnet and more heavily raked windscreen than the standard version of the new S-Class, similar to that of the CLS. Read more Mercedes to reduce model line-up, platforms and powertrains Mercedes EQS: electric luxury limo to spawn AMG version Farewell to the V12: celebrating the endangered engine​ View the full article
  14. Ultimate version of two-seater will take AMG's 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 to its limit and pack racing-spec aerodynamic features, with full unveil due soon Mercedes-AMG is about to unleash the swansong for its GT sports car range - the Black Series - with an official video giving a revealing glimpse at the new model. Posted to social media, the video (below) shows the model being taken for a spin around a wet circuit. The Black Series can be seen from numerous angles, revealing it takes inspirating from the brand's GT3 and GT4 racing programmes. The most noticeable addition is a massive, two-level rear wing dominating the tailgate. Other changes visible include a big rear diffuser, new front grille for increased cooling and a big splitter underneath. It's clear that adding downforce and high-speed stability was a prominent development focus. Previous images of prototypes testing at the Nürburgring showed an adapted GT R bodyshell with new bonnet vents necessary to cool an extensively modified twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, which is mooted by insiders to put out at least 680bhp. The future range-topping coupé will be beaten in acceleration terms only by the limited-run AMG One hypercar when it arrives in mid-2020, AMG boss Tobias Moers confirmed to Autocar at the New York motor show. Moers said: “It will be the fastest AMG yet, bar the One. Not in terms of top speed, but lap times. “Driveability is most important but, with balance, it gets good lap times too.” Currently, the most powerful iteration of the 4.0-litre V8 is found the GT 63 4-door Coupé, where it makes 630bhp. The expected pushing of the envelop up to and possible above 680bhp would ensure the Black Series easily surpasses the peak output offered by the 577bhp GT R and GT R Pro. It would also edge it towards one of the category's most radical supercars, the 690bhp Porsche 911 GT2 RS. According to Moers, the Black Series will be “great competition with our close neighbour.” The GT Black Series' extra grunt will be accompanied by a more focused chassis and aerodynamic setup, which may go even further than the track-focused GT R Pro. That car was designed with uprated suspension and aerodynamic upgrades but received no extra power over the regular GT R. Such a setup should ensure the GT Black Series tips the scales at around 1575kg, in line with or slightly less than the GT R Pro. The 2020 arrival of the GT Black Series will mark a return for AMG's most extreme moniker after a seven-year hiatus. The last Black Series model was based on the SLS and entered production in 2013. Read more 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT range topped by hardcore GT R Pro Mercedes-AMG GT63 S vs Porsche Panamera Turbo S | Which luxury GT is best? Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro 2019 review View the full article
  15. 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
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