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  1. XC40 first to join new scheme that will let web customers part-exchange their old car Volvo has launched what it claims is the “UK’s most comprehensive online new car buying service”. The initiative - live at www.volvocars.co.uk/order-online - allows buyers to configure their new car, part exchange their old one and, if necessary, sign a finance agreement online in less than 20 minutes, according to its creators. Volvos can be bought on factory order or from stock, with orders always linked to a retailer which will set pricing. Used Volvos could be offered at a future date. All sales will be subject to distance selling regulations, giving customers who choose to buy entirely online further consumer rights. Initially only the XC40 will be available through the Volvo configurator, but other models are available to buy online now and configuration will be rolled out from the 3rd of May. Buyers can purchase their car with cash, on a PCP or a PCH, however the latter will not be possible via an electronic signature until the second half of 2019. The configurator is set up to amend the monthly cost of leasing the car as a customer adds options, in order to give them a live quote. “Whether online or offline, the way people buy cars has changed. Customers now have much more control over the process, and Volvo Online helps them to take that one step further,” said Volvo UK managing director Jon Wakefield. “It makes life as easy as possible without compromising on choice or security, and lets customers drive the purchase process when it’s most convenient for them.” Other manufacturers, including Hyundai, Peugeot, Ford and Tesla, have unveiled similar online purchasing initiatives, although reports suggest that, to date, they have been more useful for gaining customer behaviour insight than profitability. “It is very clear that we are entering this space in order to learn,” said Wakefield. “By engaging in this way with our customers we will find out what they want. Our expectation is that a significant number will enjoy the process as part of the transaction, and as we learn we can adapt our service.” Volvo also faces strong opposition from intermediary sites that work with retailer groups to offer its cars, often at significant discounts. These include Autocar’s sister site What Car? which links buyers to retailers of cars at its Target Price - the most its mystery shoppers say you should pay for a new car - or below. However, Wakefield stressed that individual Volvo dealers will be able to set their pricing for the online initiative. “Our retailers will be free to set prices, but if you are wanting to buy on price alone then there are aggregators out there,” he said. “What we’re offering gives you a guiding hand, with a stress-free brand experience.” Volvo’s sales to date in the UK are up 39% year-on-year, driven by the ongoing success of the XC40 and new launches such as the upcoming S60. The UK recently overtook Sweden as Volvo’s third biggest market, behind China and the US. READ MORE Annual sales of Volvo XC40 set to double in 2019 Volvo primed to replace V40 with SUV-coupe UK hosts ‘world’s largest Volvo gathering’ View the full article
  2. Upgraded electric racer has undergone changes to prepare it for the Nordschleife, following its Pikes Peak victory last year Volkswagen has begun testing its ID R electric race car at the Nurburgring, ahead of an attempt to set a new lap record for electric vehicles. The 671bhp ID R, which broke the outright record at the Pikes Peak hill climb last year, has been heavily modified to cope with the 12.9-mile Nordschleife's long straights and fast corners. A new F1-inspired aerodynamics package includes a new rear wing, redesigned front splitter and drag reduction system (DRS) which, when deployed, reduces downforce by as much as 20%. Changes to the energy management system help the car reach its top speed faster, while using less energy from its twin lithium-ion battery packs. Driver Romain Dumas, who has won the Nurburgring 24-hour race four times, will be aiming to dethrone the Nio EP9 electric hypercar. It set the record for fastest EV around the 'Ring in 2017 with a time of 6:45.90. "The extent to which the ID. R has been continuously developed compared to 2018 is impressive," Dumas explained. "I can’t wait to finally drive the ID. R on the Nordschleife.” The modified car is aiming for an average speed of 112mph around the circuit, and should achieve top speeds of 168mph on the straights. That suggests it won't seek to challenge the 5min 19.545sec outright record set by the Porsche 919 Evo hybrid last year. Volkswagen has also teamed up with free-to-play racing simulator RaceRoom to let players digitally compete with its real-world record attempt. A virtual version of the ID R was created using data from the original car, with VW Motorsport engineers helping to create a realistic driving experience. “The ID. R’s mission to be the spearhead of the fully electric ID. product family from Volkswagen continues in full force,” Volkswagen's Motorsport Director Sven Smeets, said. “Once again, this time in 2019, the ID. R will demonstrate the great potential of electric drive, combining emissions-free technology with true emotion.” READ MORE How Volkswagen broke the Pikes Peak hillclimb all-time record Pikes Peak record holder Volkswagen ID R takes to Goodwood hill Volkswagen to bid for electric Nurburgring lap record View the full article
  3. Is living with a true hypercar any harder than living with a family hatchback? We're finding out Why we’re running it: We know the 720S is one of the world’s greatest driving machines. But is it an equally rewarding car with which to live? Month 2 - Month 1 - Specs Life with a McLaren 720S: Month 2 British hypercar meets Italian one - 3rd April 2019 Few cars make the 720S feel normal, but the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ that came to visit is one of them. It comes with an even greater sense of occasion and a much better noise. But the McLaren is massively easier to operate, puts you at ease and would be quicker point to point, at least with me at the wheel. It’s more than £100,000 cheaper too… Mileage: 2786 Back to the top Our car beat all-comers but still was upstaged at Silverstone - 20th March 2019 I hadn’t really planned to take the 720S on the track so soon, and for two reasons: the car was still running in and still fitted with mud and snow tyres. Normally, I’d not have gone anywhere near Silverstone that day. But this was no normal track day. Instead it was hosted by Mission Motorsport, a forces charity in which I have some small involvement. If you’re interested, they help former service personnel (and their families), many suffering from terrible physical injuries and many more bearing often even more disabling mental health problems. The mantra is ‘race, retrain, recover’ and, in the seven short years it has existed, the charity has found employment for nearly 150 beneficiaries, with over 1700 others finding work through its wide-ranging programmes. Promo over. Anyway, the order of the day was for those of us with interesting cars to give passenger rides to beneficiaries who might otherwise never hope to sit in something truly exotic. And they turned up in force: in one garage alone there was a Senna, a Porsche 918 Spyder and a new Ford GT, plus the head Ford of Europe’s product communications in a Raptor pick-up, which I thought showed some form. And at home I had the choice of the 720S or my daughter’s 1-litre Aygo. So I did what you’d have done. I didn’t have to wait for customers. One look at the 720S set beneficiaries running, hobbling or wheeling towards it. Once in, I then had to spoil it by explaining that the car was on rubber designed for snow, not Silverstone, and I’d not be able to use all the revs. Whereupon the 720S went out and, without doing more than 6000rpm, made mincemeat of everything out there. Part of the secret was those tyres: Silverstone was soaking and it was like having a set of wets while everyone else was struggling on slicks. The bloke with the Ford GT – a Le Mans standard racing driver – came over and said he simply couldn’t believe how quickly the McLaren had come past. And, idiot that I am, I told him about the tyres. Otherwise, I might now be his team-mate. But there was more to the car’s performance than that: even making reasonable allowance for its rubber, the confidence given by this mid-engine quasi-hypercar in atrocious conditions was ridiculous: even with all the electronics turned off, it never gave me an instant’s alarm. Yet the 720S was not what I remember most. It was meeting Laura Nuttall, the 19-year-old girl who dreamed of joining the navy, went for her medical and discovered she had inoperable brain cancer. She was cheerful, fun and laughed like a drain when we slid sideways through Stowe. She was not at Silverstone to be flung around a track by me, but to drive an HGV and tick it off her all-too-real bucket list. But I think we were able to provide a few moments of amusement in the meantime. I had to go before she drove the truck and I doubt she’s an Autocar reader but, if someone who is knows her, please tell her I hope it was all she ever wanted it to be. Heading home to Wales, it was with thoughts of her courage and dignity alone in my head. Cars are great and this one of the very greatest but, right there and then, I could have been in anything in the world. Love it: HOW USABLE IT IS Levels of comfort and quietness at a cruise are simply outstanding for a car of this potential. Loathe it: POOR DAB RECEPTION It can’t be easy as a carbonfibre tub and aluminium body probably doesn’t make the best aerial. Mileage: 1488 Back to the top The right tyres make all the difference - 6th March 2018 One point of having the 720S for an extended period is to see how it copes with all the stuff you don’t read about in road tests. Like deep snow. On Pirelli Sotto Zero mud and snow tyres, the answer is brilliantly. I roamed around the countryside with barely a slip. I then took out a four-wheel-drive SUV on normal tyres and scared myself significantly. Mileage: 1138 Back to the top Life with a McLaren 720S: Month 1 We’ve six – count ’em, six – months to see what real life with a supercar is actually like - 20th February 2019 It has been my very happy lot these 30 years or more to drive a large number of bona fide supercars and what we now call hypercars, and to have my impressions of them published on these pages. But these have all been necessarily fleeting engagements. Lacking the means to drop a substantial six-figure sum into a form of vehicular transport, I’ve always been aware that however well I might feel I’ve understood the way any one of these eclectic machines might behave on the road, I’ve not really had any experience of what one might be like to live with. Which is why there is now an Aurora Blue McLaren 720S parked outside my house. Over the next six months, I’m going to get to see the other side of the supercar. Sure, I’ll take it to the mountains and a track or two but, to be honest, I already have a good idea what those experiences will be like. They will coruscating and life-affirming, but also familiar to someone as lucky as me. I’m just as interested in the other stuff, of which I have little or no idea at present. How will I come to regard the attention it will inevitably attract? What will it be like in heavy traffic or after hours on the motorway, and where will I be happy to leave it? Will I stop worrying about its width and damaging those hideously expensive wheels? Most of all, I guess, is how much of its potential will I be able to use? Will I find its ability to overtake almost anything almost anywhere offset by the fact that it’ll never be long before it catches up with the next lot of traffic? Personally, I am excited beyond words by the prospect of spending so much time with such a car but, professionally, I think it’s going to be fascinating, too. In the meantime, allow me to show you around. Y27 MCL is brand new, with just 395 miles under its Pirelli Sotto Zero mud and snow tyres. Not being my car, I didn’t have much choice over the specification, but was able to give a general guide as to what I’d like (as well as choose the late Gilles Villeneuve’s race number for its personalised plate. He was my childhood hero and raced for McLaren in Formula 1, so it seemed apt). Which was a fairly discreet car with a modest list of options. The only thing I asked for was a front axle lift, because otherwise I’d have damaged it every time I drove it to my home down a bumpy lane in the Welsh borders. What turned up was a car with the Luxury Specification pack, which means leather extending over the dashboard and storage areas behind the seats. It also has heated, electrically adjustable seats, which I was pleased to see: McLaren’s racier carbonfibre buckets are excellent at keeping you rooted to the spot on the track but less suited to a large middle-aged driver on a long run. For a car like this, the options count is indeed somewhat restrained, although still not cheap. Over £10k went on forged wheels and a sports exhaust alone. Other than that, the paint added £1940, orange calipers a further £1140 and the nose lifter £2200. Then there’s the 360deg aerial view of the car when parking (£4720) and one last grand went on an Alcantara wheel and a car cover. Were I speccing it myself, I’d probably have the wheels, nose lift and Alcantara wheel although I must admit to a sneaking admiration for those orange calipers. All it lacks is the 12-speaker sound upgrade because the standard four-speaker system is adequate but not much more. But even as it is, £21,590 on options will be well below what most owners will spend. I collected it from Rybrook Specialist Cars, where McLaren has its Bristol dealership, and was given a comprehensive walk-around by general sales manager Ross Thorley. Little things stood out: there’s no fuel cap to unscrew, and no fiddly bonnet latch to worry about. Just press the button on the key or in the car and up it pops. The ergonomics and the way the displays work are so much better than in earlier McLarens and the controls for the active dynamics panel are at last of the quality you’d expect for a car like this. It’s also even easier to fall into and climb out of than not just any other McLaren but also the similarly carbonfibre-tubbed, dihedral-door BMW i8 I ran a couple of years ago. And that’s about it for now. I’ve driven it only briefly since, for the photographs you see here, and am diligently observing the running-in schedule, which calls for gentle operation for the first 625 miles. Even so, I can already feel the traction control holding the car back almost all the time: I’m sure the Sottos will be excellent should it snow, but the motor has so much torque that even merely moderate applications of throttle in quite high gears can set the little warning light flashing furiously. The Sottos stay for now, because I am driving it to Switzerland in early March, after which it will be fitted with some rubber altogether better suited to its hypercar potential. After which I expect I’ll need to get to know it all over again. At least I hope so. Second Opinion The potential for shattered dreams is considerable when running a supercar – firing up the engine often, coping with terrible weather and crap roads, with the car’s performance muzzled for more mundane trips. I have faith in the 720S, though. For ergonomics and visibility, it’s arguably the best of its breed, and the damping is eerily sympathetic for a car with cast-iron body control on the track. If a ‘daily driver’ can ever tout a mid-mounted V8, this is it. Richard Lane Back to the top McLaren 720S Luxury specification Specs: Price New £224,990 Price as tested £246,580 OptionsExterior special paint (Aurora Blue) £1940, sports exhaust £4900, 10-spoke super-lightweight forged alloy wheels £4520, Stealth wheel finish £1170, McLaren orange brake calipers £1140, steering wheel with carbon black Alcantara rim £520, 360deg parking assistance £4720, nose lifter £2200, car cover £480 Test Data: Engine V8, 3994cc, twin-turbo, petrol Power 710bhp at 7500rpm Torque 568lb ft at 5500rpm Kerb weight 1419kg Top speed 212mph 0-62mph 2.8sec Fuel economy 23.2mpg CO2 276g/km Faults None Expenses None Back to the top View the full article
  4. The Yeti's boxy looks gave it a distinct character Skoda’s characterful Yeti proved to be a minor masterstroke, as would buying one With the quirky Yeti crossover, Skoda proved something that many of us had come to doubt: that while the Volkswagen Group’s strategy of sharing platforms, engines, suspension systems and whatever else between the various models across its brands is clearly good for business, would any of them ever be able to produce a car with a discernible personality of its own? Then, in 2009, the Skoda Yeti arrived, with its unusual styling and a distinct character all of its own. The Yeti predated today’s seemingly unstoppable SUV-mania, and even now it doesn’t really sit comfortably in that category. It shared its underpinnings with the Volkswagen Golf, and although it is a little taller than a conventional hatchback, it doesn’t have so many of the unavoidable drawbacks of a high-riding SUV. In fact, its seating position and on-road manners are much more car than SUV-like, which means it can be fun to drive on the right road. That’s where the better part of its distinctive personality comes from. What the Yeti does borrow from today’s SUVs is flexibility, practicality and, if it’s a four-wheel drive model, real off-roading ability. The VarioFlex rear seat system – which allows you to slide the bench forwards and backwards, remove it entirely or pull out only the middle chair to create more second-row space for two – gives the Yeti a level of versatility few other cars can match. For all of those reasons, it is close to incomparable as an affordable family car a decade after its launch. The cheapest official Approved Used cars start at around £7000 and many of them have covered fewer than 50,000 miles. The 4x4 models start at £8000 and it’s worth paying that bit extra. Not only does a second driven axle make the Yeti better suited to winter driving (particularly when matched with winter tyres), but the four-wheel-drive cars also benefited from a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension architecture. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel that you’ll find beneath the bonnet of the vast majority of these Yeti 4x4s is strong and torque-rich, whether it’s in the lower, 138bhp state of tune or the higher 168bhp specification. Upwards of 45mpg is well within reach, too. Approved Used Skodas come with a 12-month warranty and roadside assistance over the same term, although buyers have the option of upgrading to 24-month cover. What’s most agreeable about the Yeti, though, is that Skoda’s designers and engineers were able to peer into an enormous warehouse packed to the rafters with VW Group mechanical components, all of them very well used across the business and long since over-familiar, and yet they pulled down only the right parts and wrapped them up in a funky body to create not only an original concept but also a very charming car. With the Yeti having now been replaced by the Russian-doll Karoq, we’ll probably never see its like again. Need to know The Yeti’s slightly odd front styling won’t be to all tastes, not least due to its somewhat gawky foglights. Skoda updated the car with a more conventional front end in 2013 and these models aren’t much more expensive today. On top of the VarioFlex rear seat system, the front passenger seat can also be folded forward into a horizontal position. That means the Yeti can be used to transport very long objects, such as rolled-up carpets or, er, guttering. A number of owners have reported issues with hesitating engines. This can be fixed by the fitment of a shim beneath the turbo solenoid, which is a cheap and simple repair that should have been applied to an approved car. Our pick Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI 4x4 170: A 4x4 Yeti with the more potent diesel engine is uniquely appealing: quick, good to drive and practical. On a set of mud and snow tyres, it’ll also go much farther into the woods than you might imagine. Wild card Skoda Yeti 1.2 TSI: Front-drive Yetis don’t have the 4x4’s low-grip traction and aren’t as fun to drive, but it’ll be more than adequate in most circumstances. The 1.2-litre petrol engine is cleaner, too. Ones we found 2012 Yeti 1.2 TSI, 40,000 miles, £7295 2014 Yeti 1.6 TDI Greenline, 52,000 miles, £7985 2012 Yeti 2.0 TDI 4x4 Elegance 140, 59,000 miles, £8000 2013 Yeti 2.0 TDI 4x4 Elegance 170, 56,000 miles, £9495 Read more Skoda Yeti: full road test Taking the Skoda Yeti on an epic journey through Bhutan​ Skoda to build new European factory to meet demand​ View the full article
  5. Geely's new electric-only brand makes its debut with an affordable, long-range saloon for China This is the first model from Geely's brand new electric vehicle (EV)-only brand, and a car that the Chinese giant says has been benchmarked against the Tesla Model 3.The Geometry A was officially unveiled at the recent Shanghai motor show, and we've already had a brief spin on a test track at Geely's research and development centre in the Hangzhou Bay area.Two statistics stand out, not least for their apparent contradiction with each other. The first is a range of up to 311 miles (500km) for the model fitted with the larger (61.9kWh) battery pack. The second is pricing in China that ranges from 210,000 RMB (£24,000 at current exchange rates) for the lesser (51.9kWh) version with a 255-mile range up to 250,000 RMB (£28,600) for the plushest long-range model. Factor in the current Chinese market EV subsidies and those fall to RMB 150,000 (£17,200) and RMB 190,000 (£21,700) respectively.But the A is far from being the sort of cheap and cheerless appliance those prices might suggest, having a very generous standard specification and an impressively upmarket finish. It sits on an electrified version of Geely's existing saloon platform - future EVs will use an architecture shared with Volvo - and uses a 161bhp motor to turn its front wheels. Geely claims a 0-62mph time of 8.8sec.View the full article
  6. What we think a two-door Panamera would look like More practical alternative to the 911 could be revealed as early as next year Porsche is understood to be developing two-door coupé and cabrio versions of the Panamera designed to rival the BMW 8 Series and Aston Martin Vantage. According to reports, which senior figures at the firm have not denied, Porsche is developing the two variants of its grand tourer for a planned unveiling next year. The cars are designed to offer enhanced practicality and space over the 911 but still be considered as 2+2s rather than outright four-seaters. Asked about the possibility of such cars, Porsche design boss Michael Mauer, who designed the original Panamera, said: “As a designer there are no limits to what I can conceive. I believe it is the design department’s role to sketch and consider every model it can for the future so that we are ready should anyone wish to pursue a project. “But if you are asking me to confirm if such projects are on the way then you are going to be disappointed. It is not my role to consider such things.” Reports in German media suggest plans for the cars are already well advanced and speculate that they will sit on shortened versions of the Panamera’s MSB platform. Were a version of the 2015 Bentley EXP10 Speed 6 concept to be given the go-ahead (unlikely, given recent reports), it is possible that this too could use the platform, bringing a further economy of scale. There is also a suggestion the cars will not carry the Panamera name, to fit a sportier, less practical end of the market. But powertrain options are expected to be taken from the Panamera range and include a plug-in hybrid option, given the need to reduce overall fleet emissions and the fact that more than half of European Panamera buyers opt for that set-up at present. Read more Used car buying guide: Porsche Panamera​ Porsche Panamera GTS 2018 review​ BMW 8 Series review View the full article
  7. Thed Björk claimed Lynk&Co’s first race win in Morocco European market newcomer Lynk&Co could establish a loyal following before its cars even hit the road The old ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ adage was always something of an oversimplification for car makers to go motor racing, but the ethos does still stand. Will BMW really sell more of its new 3 Series because Andrew Jordan scored a win first time out in the British Touring Car Championship? Unlikely. But it sure doesn’t hurt BMW’s cause to re-establish the model as the totem for saloon-car excellence. It’s heartening that motorsport is still of value to car makers in these fast-evolving times, and beyond the BTCC, there’s a great example on the global stage of a rising Chinese brand using racing to introduce itself to the world. We’ve yet to see Geely’s Lynk&Co on European roads, but that hasn’t stopped it showcasing the 03 TCR in the FIA World Touring Car Cup – and like BMW’s 3 Series in the UK, it’s already a winner. A four-car super-team has joined the burgeoning series, headed by a trio of drivers who share eight World Touring Car Championships between them: 49-year-old French legend Yvan Muller, Guernsey’s Andy Priaulx, who is making a tin-top return this year at the age of 44, and Sweden’s Thed Björk. Muller’s promising nephew, 22-year-old Yann Ehrlacher, is in the other 03. But the interest goes deeper than its stellar drivers, because Geely is offering the world a sneak preview of its cars before they are launched beyond its domestic market. “This is a global programme, meaning it has relevance for both China and the western market,” says Lynk&Co’s Johan Meissner. So why WTCR? “It’s a perfect match for us,” he says. “[The TCR rules] utilise standard road cars as a base, providing us with an opportunity to connect the race and road car development. The WTCR also has extremely close and competitive racing, with 2019 promising to be one of the toughest touring car seasons ever. Our target is to become world champions.” The Swedish-based Cyan Racing team has already made a splash. At the Marrakech street circuit earlier this month, Björk finished second on the 03 TCR’s debut, then took a historic win – the first for a Chinese car maker in an FIA event – in Race 3 after Muller retired from the lead. WTCR resumes this weekend in Hungary. It’s a great global series – a shame, then, that it lacks a round in Britain. Read more BTCC 2019: New BMW 3 Series takes first race win​ Lynk & Co reveals 493bhp concept car based on TCR race car​ BTCC 2019: why the sport is back to its best View the full article
  8. Merc's new BMW 3 Series rival will arrive early next year, sporting electrified powertrains and advancements in tech Mercedes-Benz is well into the development phase of its next-generation C-Class, and prototypes have now been seen testing on the Nurburgring. Seen on the infamous track in typical disguise ahead of an early 2020 debut, the compact exec has been given an evolutionary redevelopment to restore its competitive edge against the new BMW 3 Series. The bulk of the changes are focused more on under the skin advancements than a big external revamp. Key to the changes is a reworked platform, new hybrid drivetrains, a revised chassis and a much more advanced 48V electric architecture. Insiders suggest it will offer new autonomous driving functions, including hands-off driving at speeds of up to 81mph. Mercedes hasn’t departed greatly from the design lineage of the popular fourth-generation C-Class, but closer inspection of the prototypes reveals some detailed changes including a lower front end and a more heavily angled rear window that serves to shorten the length of the bootlid. The new C-Class has also undergone extensive aerodynamic development. Officials suggest it has a Cd of just 0.25, representing best in class for aerodynamic efficiency. These early prototypes of the new C-Class, codenamed W206, also reveal it will be close in size to its predecessor but adopt a slightly longer wheelbase. The model is based on a modified version of the current C-Class’s MRA platform, with new aluminium structural elements to boost rigidity, though sources say it won’t be much lighter. Inside, the new C-Class is set to adopt an interior similar to that used by the new EQ C, with a dual-screen infotainment and instrument panel and conversational gesture control. The next C-Class will launch with electrified drivetrains across the range. All petrol and diesel engines, including four-, six- and eight-cylinder powerplants that will continue in AMG performance models, are set to be combined with a 48V electric system and integrated starter motor. The system recuperates energy under acceleration, allows off-throttle coasting and could also offer a boost function for extra power in short bursts. Additionally, it will receive a number of plug-in hybrid drivelines in both petrol-electric and diesel-electric guises, all planned to offer an electric range of up to 50 miles in combination with a larger-capacity lithium ion battery than the 13.5kWh unit in use in today’s C300e. Read more Mercedes-Benz C-Class review Mercedes-Benz plots new driver-focused SL for 2020​ Mercedes pulls PHEVs from production to make way for third-gen tech​ View the full article
  9. The key to Flipping Bangers' success is the relationship between presenters Gus Gregory (left) and Will Trickett (right) A new show on BLAZE® celebrates the art of restoring classic cars on a strict budget and timescale. Here are the episodes you can’t miss Anyone who has restored, or even just tinkered with, a classic car will know that things rarely run smoothly. Not great when you’re the one with oil and an expensive repair bill on your hands, but there’s a certain vicarious thrill in watching other people face the pain – and pleasure – of turning rust into gold. Say hello to Flipping Bangers on free-to-air channel BLAZE®, in which a pair of passionate petrol-heads buy and restore down-at-heel classics with their own money, then have to sell them for double the money in to turn a modest profit. And don’t think they’ve got all the time in the world to fettle their budding pride and joy with tender loving care. The second the car enters their workshop they’re up against it, as it is placed on an internet auction. Let’s badger the bodgers The secret to the show is the stripped back reality and the genuine chemistry between designer, engineer and boat builder Will Trickett (the one with the mad sideburns), and respected car and travel photographer Gus Gregory. “The hook is, it’s real,” says Gus. “There’s no background army doing the cars up. Will and I do the job properly, and there are definitely moments where you can spend a long time doing something before you know if it’s working.” As Will adds: “It’s very seat of the pants. When it goes wrong, it goes wrong – and we’re the ones who have to sort it out.” The relationship between the pair can be likened to experienced expert and enthusiastic amateur. “Will is a trained engineer,” points out Gus. “So, I’m sure he rolls his eyes when I’m looking something up on the internet.” But both share a passion for turning maligned cars into something special. “The thing that drives us both is the determination to do the best job we can,” says Will. Will and Gus lament how modern cars lack scope for tinkering. “The Audi A2 was the first car I remember with a plastic cover on the engine and holes for oil and water,” says Gus. “Today’s manufacturers don’t want you looking under the bonnet. There’s no gain in getting people into car maintenance” But Flipping Bangers isn’t only for experienced enthusiasts. “There’s always going to be a diehard audience,” says Will. “The key is bringing on youngsters or newbies – the sort of people who don’t realise their 1980s Ford Escort is a classic, and probably think it’s just a pile of junk. But old cars are still cool.” After a successful first outing, Flipping Bangers is back for a second 10-episode run – starting this Friday 26th April at 9pm on BLAZE®. So we asked Will and Gus to pick their must-watch moments from series two. Episode 1 - MGB (26th April): Things start with a bang. Will and Gus spot a good-looking car, but soon spot problems that require a major rethink. “The classic tale of a classic car,” says Gus. “It looks like a bargain. Once you start poking round, it’s a world of pain. Apart from the engine and gearbox, everything was wrong with it.” Episode 3 – Austin Maestro MG (10th May): Gus and Will want a classic British sportscar, but settle for something more modest. The end results are something to see. “The Maestro was a much maligned car by the motoring press and the public,” says Gus. “But I think they’re great cars, and this turned out to be something special.” Episode 4 – Suzuki SJ (17th May): Will and Gus head off the beaten track with a budget 4x4. Off-road means ‘mud’, and a major clean of the Suzuki exposes a host of other issues, but the results live up to the ambition. “With the Suzuki, we managed to do exactly what we’d planned,” says Will. “And we had a great day off-roading in it.” Episode 5 – Morris Minor (24th May): Like the MGB, Will and Gus face a world of welding woes and a race against the clock, budget and enthusiasm with this iconic classic. “Welding saps time, but it also saps you of energy,” says Gus. “It can be exhausting cutting and grinding.” The Morris may be a trial of love, but the results are worth seeing. Episode 6 – Skoda Estelle (31st May): “I love Skodas,” says Will. “When I was young, everyone took the mickey out of them, but we managed to find a good example.” The build isn’t without its problems – thanks to some ‘Eastern Bloc’ fuel issues. But some innovative thinking on the exterior gives it a new lease of life. Episode 8 – Volkswagen Beetle (14th June): As you’d expect with a motoring icon, good cheap examples are hard to find. Gus and Will find a project car at a budget-friendly £1000, but it hasn’t been well maintained. “The VW Beetle was difficult,” says Will. “We had one plan with great intentions, and then had to change it.” The question is, will they be forced to sell it as spare parts, or be able to pull off something spectacular? Episode 10 – SAAB 99 (28th June): The perfect car for the perfect finale – a classic bit of Scandi-car. “The Saab was very difficult to know what to do with, because it was at the end of its days,” says Gus. “But we genuinely gave that car a new lease of life.” Episodes of Flipping Bangers air at 9pm every Friday on free-to-air channel BLAZE®, starting on 26th April. BLAZE® is available on Freeview 63, Freesat 162, Sky 565 and Virgin Media 216. Find out more at www.blaze.tv View the full article
  10. Rivian's R1S electric SUV made its debut last year Strategic partnership will lead to Ford using Rivian's skateboard architecture for a new battery electric model Ford has agreed a deal with Rivian to develop a new model on the fast-rising electric vehicle (EV) maker's platform - and take a minority stake in the firm. Rivian is currently developing its R1T pick-up truck and R1S seat-seat SUV, which will both be built on a bespoke 'skateboard’ chassis that was designed to be modular, so it can be used for a wide range of machines. The new strategic partnership, in which Ford has taken around $500 million (£386 million) equity investment in Rivian, will result in engineers from the two American companies working together to develop a battery EV for Ford. There are no details yet on the type of vehicle the firms will work on, although it will be “all-new”. In the US, Ford has shifted its focus to pick-ups and SUVs, and it's currently developing an electric version of its hugely popular F-150. Ford boss Jim Hackett said the partnership with Rivian “brings a fresh approach” to Ford's development of EVs and that the fledgling firm “can benefit from Ford’s industrial expertise and resources”. Rivian founder RJ Scaringe called the deal a “key milestone in our drive to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility”. Rivian will remain an independent company. Ford is just the latest major investor the firm has secured; it had already raised £894.5m, including £544 million from online retailing giant Amazon, announced at the Los Angeles motor show. The deal is also the latest in a number of partnerships that Ford has secured as part of its global restructuring. It recently agreed a deal to work with Volkswagen to develop a range of vehicles, including vans and mid-size pick-ups, and has talked about building vehicles using the German conglomerate's MEB platform for EVs. Read more Amazon leads £544 million investment in EV start-up Rivian​ "How I started my own car firm" - the story of Rivian​ EV manufacturer Rivian plans rally-style performance car​ View the full article
  11. Mercedes' all-new SL drop-top is due in 2020 with AMG chassis development, and shortened mules testing new platform have been seen Novel-looking Mercedes-Benz prototypes, believed to be chassis mules for the next-generation SL, have been spotted - a week after AMG boss Tobias Moers told Autocar that SL prototype would hit the roads this year. The prototypes show an E-Class saloon with a significant chunk removed from the wheelbase and body. The length and detailing of this chopped mule strongly suggests it is a test bed for the new shared sports car platform. Moers confirmed last week that the SL, which will launch by 2021, will be “aligned” with the next AMG GT. Both cars will share a new aluminium-intensive platform, known internally as the Modular Sports Architecture (MSA), in an attempt to increase the economies of scale and overall profitability of two of Mercedes’ most exclusive model lines. Autocar first scooped the new SL last October, but only recently has Moers gone on the record to confirm AMG's development of the new model. “We’re bringing back the historic DNA of the SL," he said. "It's far sportier [this time round]. It will have a perfect compromise between driving dynamics and comfort because it’s still kind of a cruiser too.” This is the first time AMG has overseen development of any SL across its previous seven generations. Moers said: “Handing over SL to AMG as the performance and sports car brand is great. There’s lots of responsibility behind that, and I’m really honoured.” He also confirmed that the eighth-generation SL would be offered only as a roadster, like its predecessor. Autocar has previously reported that the model will receive a traditional fabric hood in place of the folding hard-top arrangement that has been used for the past two SL incarnations. Overall, the SL will be revived as a lighter, faster and more engaging model, which is why AMG has been tasked with heading up the project. SL and GT sharing As well as sharing a common platform structure, the two upmarket Mercedes sports cars are expected to share axle assemblies, suspension, steering systems, 48V electric architecture and hybrid drivetrains, among other components, in a move to cut costs and boost production efficiency. The new SL and GT will be built alongside each other at Mercedes’ plant in Sindelfingen, Germany. Early plans to base a successor to today’s smaller SLC off the same underpinnings have been abandoned following a recent decision not to replace the junior Mercedes roadster due to dwindling sales. Early prototypes of the new SL were spied testing on track with the new platform underneath a shortened S-Class Coupé body. They give away little about the car’s mechanical set-up, which is rumoured to run a transaxle arrangement with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox integrated within the rear axle assembly, like on the GT. However, the overall dimensions of the engineering mules suggest the production version will be slightly larger than the existing SL, which is 4630mm long, 1870mm wide and 1310mm tall. The adoption of the MSA platform is claimed to have had a positive effect on the styling of the new SL, whose proportions are said to be more in keeping with earlier incarnations of the classic roadster than the current model, which shares a platform with saloon models such as the C-Class, E-Class, CLS and S-Class. A Mercedes source told Autocar that the new SL receives a longer bonnet and more rearward-positioned cabin. “The new platform has given us more freedom,” the source said. “There’s more distance between the front axle and the front firewall. This gives it more traditional proportions.” The decision to replace the folding hard-top of today’s SL with a more compact fabric hood is also said to have provided greater scope in the styling of the rear of the new model. “It’s much more shapely, especially at the rear, because it is no longer dictated in height and width for the packaging of the hard-top roof,” the source added. In a further departure from today’s model, it is also expected that Mercedes will provide the 2020 SL with a 2+2 seating layout. Autocar has been told that AMG is keen to give the new SL the same sort of practicality as the Porsche 911, with a set of rear seats capable of accommodating adults for short journeys or, alternatively, luggage as an extension of its boot. SL to get hybrid line-up Mercedes plans to offer the SL with a limited range of hybridised in-line six-cylinder and V8 petrol engines in a line-up that’s likely to include both standard and AMG models. The range is understood to start with an SL450 EQ Boost model running a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder developing around 365bhp, along with an added 22bhp in combination with an integrated starter motor. Further up will be the SL53, which will run a more powerful AMG-tuned version of the SL450 EQ Boost’s mild-hybrid drivetrain with around 430bhp and added 22bhp through electric assistance. Among the V8-powered models will be the SL500 EQ Boost. It is due to receive a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 with a similar power output to the SL53, but significantly more torque. Topping the range will be the SL63. It is likely to be offered in two states of tune, with the most powerful model running a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 capable of in excess of 600bhp and more than 30bhp of electric boost. It is unclear if Mercedes will continue with the V12-powered SL, although, given the potential output of the SL63, it would seem unlikely. All engines for the new SL will come as standard with Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic gearbox, with the AMG variants set to adopt the Speedshift electronics package for faster shift times. Suggestions are that Mercedes could offer 4Matic four-wheel drive alongside standard rear-wheel drive, although this has yet to be confirmed. Despite the SL’s market repositioning, it won’t completely abandon the luxury focus, so expect the interior to be almost as opulent as Mercedes’ other high-end models. It will be more driver-focused than cars such as the S-Class Coupé, but there could still be plenty of the brand’s latest driver assist systems drafted in, including its semi-autonomous Drive Pilot function. Additional reporting by Rachel Burgess Read more Mercedes-Benz SL review New Mercedes-Benz SQC: all-electric SUV revealed Mercedes-AMG SL 63 review View the full article
  12. More efficient drive unit, faster charging and chassis upgrades for largest Teslas, entering production this week Tesla has announced a series of upgrades for its Model S saloon and Model X SUV, including a range improvement of more than 10% for Long Range models. The American EV maker claims to have substantially upgraded the drive unit fitted to both cars, introducing the “optimised permanent magnet synchronous reluctance motor” from the Model 3, and using silicon carbide in the unit’s electronics. Redesigned gearing, new bearings and improved cooling and lubrication boost all-round motor efficiency. The secret tech behind the Tesla Model 3 The result is a claimed EPA cycle range of 370 miles for the top-spec Model S and 325 miles for the equivalent Model X. This is apparently achieved without any changes to the 100kWh battery pack in both cars. At the same time, Tesla claims to have improved power and torque “significantly” without quoting specific figures. Charging times have come down, too, with both cars capable of achieving 200kW on the latest ‘V3’ Superchargers and 145kW on the more common ‘V2’ Superchargers. The upgrades extend beyond the powertrain, however, with both cars receiving a fully adaptive damping system for the air suspension. Developed in-house, it’s claimed to constantly adapt to the road surface and driver behaviour, while bringing the cars lower to the ground when cruising to optimise aerodynamics. More minor changes include new wheel bearings and new tyre designs for certain variants claimed to boost steering feel, ride quality and range. By way of recompense to those who purchased a Model S or X before the updates, the firm is offering a free Ludicrous Mode upgrade to existing owners buying a new Performance model. In an unusual move, the company has backtracked on its relatively recent decision to axe Standard Range variants by reintroducing them on both models. The updated Teslas are entering production at the firm’s factory in Fremont, California, this week, with online ordering open now. A Tesla UK spokesperson claimed that any of the new models ordered would be subject to a similar delivery wait time as the outgoing variants. Read more Elon Musk claims Tesla will have robotaxis on roads by 2020 Analysis: why FCA Group is paying Tesla Tesla Model S review View the full article
  13. High-riding version of Britain's cheapest car is still a relative bargain, even with extra equipment – if not quite the steal of models lower down the range In recent years, Dacia’s design team have admitted their surprise at having to create an ever-growing range of optional extras in order to keep up with demand from customers keen to add a few luxurious touches to their budget-conscious buys.That’s now being reflected in the model line-up: this new range-topping Sandero Stepway Techroad is effectively what happens when you tick all the options boxes on the high-riding version of Dacia’s supermini.It comes equipped with a rear parking camera, 7in touchscreen with smartphone syncing, LED headlights, electric windows and door mirrors, a raft of safety systems and a number of other shiny extras.It’s all wrapped up with new exterior and interior design flourishes, which include Techroad decals and new paint colours.It’s the most expensive version of Britain’s cheapest car. But is it worth the money?View the full article
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