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The Motorists' Guide

The Motorists Guide

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  1. Tesla Model 3-rivalling electric saloon from Volvo's performance brand will be unveiled in full in the next few weeks Polestar has released an image previewing the design of its upcoming electric four-door coupé ahead of its release in the second half of this year. The Tesla Model 3 rival will follow Volvo's performance brand's first model, the hybrid-powered Polestar 1, which will go on sale in Europe in summer 2019. Details are scarce, but the company refers to the model's body style as that of a four-door "fastback", and states that it will be the first vehicle to feature Google's new human-machine interface technology and the in-car version of Google Assistant. The company says the new model will "be sold in the Tesla Model 3 price range", suggesting a likely starting price of around £50,000. Customers will purchase the Polestar 2 on a subscription basis, set to take the form of "a slightly more premium version" of Volvo's own Care by Volvo scheme. The company says a full reveal will take place in the coming weeks, but claims the Polestar 2 will produce up to 400bhp and offer a claimed range of roughly 300 miles. Speaking to Autocar at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2018, Polestar COO Jonathan Goodman confirmed some details of the new model. Talking about the range of the entry-level model, he said: "That will represent the lower ‘bookend’ of our showroom range and, for now, it should give us as much access to the volume end of the EV market as we need." The Polestar 2 is understood to closely relate to Volvo's 40.2 concept shown early in 2017, alongside the 40.1 concept which has since been revealed in production form as the XC40 compact SUV. Goodman also warned that any established manufacturer that launches an EV sub-brand built on alternative design over the next few years might be making a big mistake, given the pace at which the market for EVs is set to develop. “The global electric car market was worth four million units in 2017,” explained Goodman, “but it’s quite widely expected to be worth 29m units by 2025. EV owners will come from all walks of life. So it’s a mistake to assume that, because the cars are electric, you have to make them quirky or futuristic. "Other brands may be doing that, but if we’re looking at a market worth 30m cars within seven years, it isn’t going to be niche, it’s going to be mainstream. So you just design a great-looking car – not one with a big blue flash down the side.” In contrast to the cultish following that rival brand Tesla has attracted, Goodman also wants Polestar to have an inclusive attitude towards its customers.“I think it’s very dangerous for brands like ours to sit here and ask ‘what’s our type of customer?'", he went on. “Electric cars will be just as appealing to young executives as they are to retirees. It’s a new market, and purchase intentions will vary. So we’ve got to be a welcoming brand that’s not geeky, cliquey or judgmental.” Read more Tesla Model 3 review Polestar 1 prototypes enter production New electric cars 2019/2020: What’s coming and when?​ View the full article
  2. Page, Missoni and Ingenlath (l-r): three key people shaping Volvo’s next six years Volvo’s close-knit design team has created an enviable run of hits but now must forge a fresh look for its new-era cars The next generation of Volvo cars will evolve their styling and remain faithful to the restrained look of the current range. To boost customer appeal, advanced battery-electric powertrains and self-driving technology will be applied. Under chief design officer Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo is already exploring its next range of models, and at an event in Stockholm to celebrate the completion of its revamp under Chinese owner Geely, he is happy to shine some light on the future line-up and its design. “One thing is clear: we have to move on. Things are evolving and we have to come up with some new and exciting stuff,” he says. Ingenlath cut his teeth at Audi in its days of Bauhaus-inspired restrained design before working for Skoda and Volkswagen. He has masterminded a rapid relaunch of Volvo’s compete model range in just six years after the Geely takeover, working with ex-Bentley interior chief Robin Page and former VW designer Max Missoni. “We managed successfully in this generation not to go down the route of heavily sculpted bodywork, unlike some of our competition that have a hectic look with millions of cuts in the body panels,” says Ingenlath. Now the three designers are working on the second generation of models and a significant question is how to evolve a styling theme whose DNA was established in the 1970s and 1980s, and then expertly nurtured into a fresh incarnation under Peter Horbury in the 1990s before Ingenlath and his team honed today’s handsome millennial look. In the same period, Volvo’s main German competition has adopted a busy, heavily sculpted and highly detailed styling direction, matched to huge global sales success but also criticised for its overly fussy look. “We did not enter that war of making hundreds of styling features within one panel and we definitely want to stay out of it,” says Ingenlath. “Autonomous vehicles and battery-electric powertrains are the topics that really matter.” For Page – the Volvo brand’s chief designer since Ingenlath took on responsibility for Polestar in 2017 – the answer lies in details like the latest premium design manufacturing techniques for flush glazing to smooth the upper body and glasshouse, but also by adding a new level of safety equipment, electric powertrains, connectivity and autonomy. “There are other ways of being more modern without it having to be over-sculptured,” says Page. Strategically, Volvo is committed to adding hybrid, plug-in and battery-electric powertrains to all future model segments, a challenge it will meet by designing one platform and body structure to house multiple different powertrains. “Electric cars will influence the way that aesthetics go. But we strictly believe it will not be split into electric and combustion-engine looks,” says Ingenlath. “It would be crazy to split up our car lines into EV and combustion. Within Volvo, it means introducing a new electric drivetrain, and not like a parallel world.” In practice, this is likely to mean a battery-electric Volvo dispensing with the opening at the front – Tesla style – as the needs for controlling airflow change. “There will be a much more closed look, with all the sensors integrated. And no more incredibly aggressive openings in the front,” says Ingenlath. The Volvo design team sees opportunities with powertrains for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) – for example, in packaging – but also parallels with combustion-engined cars. “The safety structure and cooling for batteries are in similar places to a combustion-engined car,” says Missoni, “although wheel sizes have to go up because of bigger brakes to deal with the heavier weight.” So will a future Volvo take on a new shape because of the new electric powertrain? “BEVs have advantages in interior space. But we don’t see a radical need for a change in proportion,” says Missoni. Volvo will also keep its model range tightly focused on the current line-up of saloons, estates and practical SUVs – which rules out sporty new bodystyles like a fastback coupé-style SUV. “The hot, driver-oriented dynamic sporty car is not the core of the Volvo brand,” says Ingenlath. “We have to be precise and clear in what we provide for the customer. We don’t want to put out things that are not core Volvo.” Another no-go is a rumoured subcompact SUV, possibly badged XC20. The designers reckon a smaller SUV would adversely lower the ‘centre of gravity’ of Volvo’s range, cheapening prices and diluting the brand. There’s a strong feeling from this interview that Volvo is in safe but strong and determined hands, run by a close-knit team with a shared vision. Their record so far is exemplary and the omens for the next six years are that history is highly likely to repeat itself. Volvo fans can expect another strong range of desirable new cars, with not a single, fancy, over-adorned body panel to be seen. Read more Volvo excels, Audi and Porsche flop in January registrations​ Volvo XC40 review In pictures: the cars that made Volvo​ View the full article
  3. The Motorists Guide

    Whatever next? The future of motoring

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

    Lexus ES 300h

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

    Skoda Kodiaq vRS 2019 UK review

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

    Volkswagen Polo GTI 2019 long-term review

    Does VW’s hot supermini prioritise quality over driving fun? Let’s find out Why we’re running it: To find out if there’s a truly engaging hot hatch hiding under the prim and proper facade of VW’s hot supermini Month 2 - Month 1 - Specs Life with a Volkswagen Polo GTI: Month 2 Nothing comes for free, so what price the GTI+ performance? - 30th January 2018 The clearest indication of Volkswagen’s desire to make this latest Polo GTI a true little brother to the Golf GTI can be found under the bonnet. As mentioned previously, for the first time in a Polo, you’ll find a version of the Volkswagen Group’s EA888 engine, and a rather good job of providing the hot hatch with plenty of power and torque it does. Of course, packing a punch of extra performance comes at a cost and, in the case of the Polo, one place that cost shows up (quite literally) is in fuel economy. Granted, how far a car can stretch a tank of fuel is the sort of practical, fiscally minded thing you probably aren’t supposed to think about too much when buying a hot hatch. But I’d argue that if you’re buying a performance-based supermini, you’re likely to be searching for value for money. When our road testers put the Polo GTI through its paces, they returned a touring economy of 46.8mpg. That fell to 14.0mpg when they pushed it on our test track. Over the full gamut of road test driving, they found it averaged 36.6mpg – and, a few thousand miles in with our long-term test car, that roughly tallies with the figures we’ve been achieving. What has been really notable so far is how much that fuel economy varies in different situations. Living within the M25 and just a few miles from Autocar Towers, I find that most of my daily driving is of the stop-start urban variety. And on that sort of route, I struggled to get the on-board computer to register an average fuel economy of 40mpg – and, doing the sums, I was getting closer to 32-33. But after prolonged spells on motorways and A-roads, I was getting close to or just above 40mpg, and without spending the entire time in Eco mode (which uses fewer revs and changes up gears sooner). That’s hardly a disgraceful tradeoff for a 6.7sec 0-62mph time, but it might serve as a note of mild caution to those interested in a Polo GTI as an ‘everyday performance’ option. And it is, by comparison, notably lower than I achieved with my previous long-term test car, the Suzuki Swift Sport. Granted, that car was lighter and less powerful (and had a smaller fuel tank, so I found myself at the pumps more often) but such costs will add up over a prolonged period. I’ve yet to sample the Ford Fiesta ST that’s on our fleet – and it’s probably the key rival for the Polo GTI – but it will be interesting to know if that car’s ability to use only three cylinders on light throttle loads makes it more economical for urban use. It’s the fact that the fuel economy struggles so badly in an urban environment that annoys, because that’s where you’re least able to extract the pleasing performance from the Polo GTI’s engine. So I’m trying to find ways to improve the fuel economy while driving in the city. Coasting is a little hard, given the auto ’box, but by trying to read the road ahead, judicious use of the Eco mode and more gentle use of the throttle, I’m slowly increasing that average mpg. Let’s see how it goes. Love it: DIGITAL DRIVER INFO DISPLAY So many options, and no end of info I can squeeze onto there… Loathe it: DIGITAL DRIVER INFO DISPLAY ...in fact, there may be too many options. Still hunting for the perfect layout. Mileage: 5579 Back to the top Life with a Volkswagen Polo GTI: Month 1 Welcoming the Polo GTI to the fleet - 2nd January 2019 Time for a quick recap. You might recall that my previous long-termer was a Suzuki Swift Sport. I enjoyed it’s fizzy, fun nature enough to overlook a handful of minor niggles and annoyances. But it left me posing a question: would I swap the Swift Sport for a hot hatch which traded some of that charm for a bit more polish? Something like, say, a Volkswagen Polo GTI? Good question, if a slightly leading one, because shortly before I waved goodbye to the Swift Sport, a Volkswagen Polo GTI duly arrived at Autocar Towers. It’s almost as if it was planned this way… Anyway, the polish promised by the new fourth-generation Polo GTI was highlighted by our road test team. They cited the class-leading interior and all-round quality, and noted that this is the most convincing Polo GTI yet, one that feels like a proper performance car rather than just a top-spec regular Polo. That’s certainly what VW has pushed for: this GTI has appeared unusually early on in the Polo’s life, and the firm says the MQB A0 platform the car is built on was engineered with this GTI version in mind. Sounds promising, then – although you can probably feel the ‘but’ coming. In this case our testers felt the Polo GTI traded on “cold, hard capability” instead of hot hatch sizzle. Key to that capability is the EA288 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot engine – the same one you’ll find in the Golf GTI and plenty of other Volkswagen Group performance cars. Here it’s been tuned to make 197bhp and 236lb ft, so I’ll have a fair amount of extra go under my right foot compared with the Swift Sport’s lowly 138bhp and 170lb ft. Clearly, the Polo GTI has the performance, then, but our testers struggled to find the fun. Their verdict was that the Polo GTI is a good car but not necessarily one for Autocar readers. And, hey, I read Autocar (it’s a good magazine, you should check it out), so let’s put that to the test – because my suspicion is that the Polo’s comfort and class might start to shine through over the course of a few months. We’ve opted for a Polo GTI+ with a few thousand miles on it already, so we know the engine is nicely loosened up. First impressions are good. The Flash Red paint is stylish without being showy, and the GTI-only styling tweaks – including 17in alloys, twin chrome exhausts, restyled bumpers and GTI badging – add a touch of class over the regular Polo. GTI+ trim adds automatic LED headlights, rear tinted glass and electric door mirrors, while extras inside include a 10.5in touchscreen (regular GTIs get an 8.0in unit). With that big screen at the centre of the dashboard, everything looks very VW Group-slick, especially with the digital driver info display and – of course – classic tartan seats. I’m not quite as sold on the big swathe of red on the dash: while a valiant attempt to break up the black trim, it doesn’t give the intended premium polish. The GTI+ costs £22,610, but our options include climate control (£415), the £285 winter pack and Brescia black diamond alloys (£350). Pre-crash prevention and subscriptions to VW’s infotainment and safety services push the cost of our car to a hefty £25,345. For that money, even if we unlock a huge chunk of character, we won’t be as forgiving of flaws as we were with the £17,999 Swift Sport. Still, initial impressions are that the Polo looks and feels like the premium small performance hatch it’s priced at, although initial driving impressions aren’t quite so positive, largely due to the gearbox. While a manual version is on the way, the Polo GTI has so far only been offered with a six-speed dual-clutch auto – and it already feels like the lack of a stick shift is going to be a sticking point. It’s got that slight auto hesitation away from a standstill but, more notably, if you press the throttle enthusiastically at low speeds, the ’box seems to struggle. On a few occasions when accelerating in second, it decided to change down to first, resulting in much noise and wheelspin and little premium-polish vibe. It’s proving to be far smoother with a bit of throttle restraint, but the Polo GTI doesn’t feel as accessible as the plug-and-play Swift Sport. But then, a few days into my time with it, I had to make a long early-morning trip down the M4. Suddenly, the plush interior and smooth, efficient powertrain shone, and several hours of motorway was spent in contented comfort. Then, on exiting the M4, a Welsh road provided evidence of the Polo GTI’s hot hatch handling and response. The Polo GTI is undoubtedly a very good car, and it does seem to offer a blend of performance and premium comfort. That’s the balance VW has always tried to strike with its GTI models, and something the larger Golf GTI has absolutely nailed. Mention the Golf GTI, of course, and you’re reminded that its smaller brother has never quite scaled the same lofty heights. And given that we had a Mk7.5 Golf GTI on our fleet last year and universally loved it, you can be sure we’ll return to that comparison in a future update. For now, the signs are that the Polo GTI might not be a pure hot hatch and isn’t as joyfully fun as the Swift Sport – but it is a more rounded proposition. Gearbox aside, that blend might find some favour with this Autocar reader. Second Opinion I share James’s view that the Polo GTI would be more enthusing with a manual ’box. The auto is unpredictable in town and removes a layer of interaction so crucial in a small hot hatch. Also slightly disappointing is the road noise kicked up by those large-ish wheels at high speeds Lawrence Allan Back to the top Volkswagen Polo GTI+ specification Specs: Price New £22,160 Price as tested £25,345 Options Discover Navigation 3-yr subscription £650, Vodafone Tracker 1-yr subscription £485, Climate control £415, Brescia alloys £350, Winter pack £285, PreCrash protection £140 Test Data: Engine 4 cylinder, 1984cc, turbocharged petrol Power 197bhp at 4400-6000rpm Torque 236lb ft at 1500-4400rpm Kerb weight 1355kg Top speed 147mph 0-62mph 6.7sec Fuel economy 34.9mpg CO2 134g/km Faults None Expenses None Back to the top View the full article
  10. The Motorists Guide

    Lexus ES

    This Japanese entrant aims to gatecrash the German-controlled executive saloon market in a way the GS could never manage If you’re a car maker aiming to intrude on the most firmly established fraternity in the automotive world, you had better have some substance to your product.For the crimped metalwork of this week’s test subject, that comes in the form of a lineage stretching back six previous model generations. It was 1989 when Lexus introduced the ES 250 (for ‘Executive Sedan’), and in doing so created one of its first model ranges. Front-driven and powered by the 2.5-litre V6 from the Toyota Camry, the original ES set firm the mid-size saloon template for Lexus, with four-cylinder engines eventually introduced in 2010 and a hybrid option arriving a couple of years later.Not that us Europeans would necessarily know as much, because this seventh-generation ES is the first of its line to be sold this side of the Atlantic. Nonetheless, as a nameplate it arrives with the weight of 2.3 million sales behind it and is fed into a stronger current of hype than Lexus has ever known outside Japan and America.The marque’s European brand presence has doubled of late thanks to the NX crossover and, with the help of the excellent LC sports car, this refreshing and coherent design language has become more recognisable. These are good things because, if your aim is to take market share from the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class, it’s best that people know who you are.To stand a chance of meaningful success here, the car that supersedes the slow-selling GS will not only need to uphold Lexus’s reputation for creative interior design but match it with appreciable quality. Front-wheel drive means it will never lead the field for outright dynamism, but suspension fastidiously tuned for comfort, and precise driving controls, ought still to stand out.With hybrid power, the new ES must be conspicuously efficient and, as a relative newcomer, it must also appear good value against its better-established foe. By implementing new drivetrain technologies and with the manufacturing economies gained from platform sharing, Lexus appears to have prepared well for the challenge. Today, we find out how convincing the ES is in execution. View the full article
  11. Forthcoming Mercedes-Benz GLE EQ Power plug-in hybrid A-Class PHEV part of massive expansion of EQ Boost-branded range planned by German firm in next year Mercedes-Benz says 2019 will be its ‘year of the plug-in hybrid’, with plans to hugely expand its EQ Power-branded range as part of a massive £9 billion electrification strategy. The German firm has already launched plug-in versions of the C-Class, E-Class and S-Class, which feature a hybrid system with a 121bhp electric motor capable of around 31 miles of electric-only running. The hybrid system is offered with both petrol and, on the C-Class and E-Class, diesel engines. Mercedes will expand its PHEV range to 10 model variants by the end of this year – and more than 20 by the end of 2020. The next-generation S-Class, due in 2020, will be powered by a range of plug-in hybrid engines, alongside a fully electric version. The GLC and GLE are both confirmed to receive the powertrain during 2019, and the firm also says it will launch its first compact plug-in hybrid model. As revealed by Autocar last year, that will be an A-Class PHEV designed as an Audi A3 E-tron rival, featuring a version of its petrol-electric powertrain developed for compact cars. Set to use a 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a 90bhp electric motor, it will also be offered on the B-Class and forthcoming GLB small SUV. The focus on plug-in hybrids for 2019 is part of the firm’s plans to electrify its entire model range by 2022, with the goal to launch more than 130 electrified vehicles in order to reduce emissions levels to meet increasingly tough CO2 targets. The strategy involves three strands: EQ Power plug-in hybrids, EQ Boost 48V mild hybrids and the EQ range of pure electric vehicles. Mercedes-Benz chiefs believe that, as well as offering reduced CO2 emissions compared with pure combustion-engined cars, plug-in hybrids can help showcase the benefits of fully electric powertrains to customers. That is because PHEVs can be used for short journeys using electric-only power. Claus Ehlers, the firm’s powertrain strategy boss, said plug-in hybrids were “an important step in the move towards e-mobility, because they enable the majority of customers to do many daily short drives without producing any local emissions”. Mercedes-Benz experts forecast that EVs and PHEVs combined (referred to as xEVs by the firm) will account for around 40% of its total sales by 2025. Depending on the speed of adoption, it expects fully electric vehicles to account for between 15% and 25% of total sales by then. Ehlers said the uncertainty over the speed of EV uptake among customers means that combustion-engined cars will still “play a major role” in the future, which is why Mercedes-Benz is also pushing 48V mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid systems. Ehlers added that Mercedes-Benz has developed its electric car architecture and powertrains to allow it to rapidly adjust its car production to changing demand, including the ability to build EVs on the same production line as combustion-engined cars. For example, the three versions of the GLC – mild hybrid, PHEV and hydrogen fuel cell – along with the related electric EQC can all be assembled on the same line. Read more Mercedes EQ S to be flagship in £9bn electric model blitz New 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE on sale from £55,685 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class to be offered with hybrid and electric powertrains View the full article
  12. The Motorists Guide

    Land Rover Discovery SVX cancelled

    Hardcore off-roader no longer planned for production, but SVX badge will live on elsewhere Land Rover’s Discovery SVX concept car will not make production as originally planned. The rougher, tougher Discovery SVX was first seen at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, where the company confirmed a follow-up production version to go on sale by the end of 2018. As well as crowning the Discovery range with a more extreme, off-road-focused model with V8 power, the model was also due to launch the SVX sub-brand from Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations for its most extreme vehicles. SVX models would sit alongside SVR performance models, and SVAutobiography luxury cars as part of a three-pronged range of vehicles fettled by SVO. Land Rover has confirmed to Autocar that a V8 engine (the concept’s was a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 with 518bhp) is now no longer destined for the Discovery, meaning the Discovery SVX is no longer going ahead in its current form. However, a spokesman said that the firm would still be pushing ahead with the SVX badge in the future, on unspecified models. The move follows last week’s confirmation that Land Rover would not build the two-door Range Rover SV Coupé after all, despite the £240,000 limited-run model being put on sale and revealed in its final production form. SVO has also just lost its design boss, Wayne Burgess, to Geely’s new design centre in Coventry. READ MORE Reborn Land Rover Defender crucial to firm's 2019 revival Range Rover SV Coupé axed Every Jaguar Land Rover to be renewed by 2024 View the full article
  13. Cancelling the Range Rover SV Coupé and Discovery SVX means Land Rover can turn its attention to cars that will sell in numbers, like the new Defender It’s rare for a car maker to reverse launch plans for a model already confirmed for production and put on sale, but Land Rover did just that last week in axing the Range Rover SV Coupé. This week, it has followed that up by confirming to Autocar that the Discovery SVX concept car would not now make production as had originally been planned. While a loss of face on both of these is inevitable, both decisions are actually confident and positive. A two-door Range Rover limited to 999 units (if Land Rover could find the buyers…) and priced at £240,000 might bring some marginal short-term financial gain but, with budgets squeezed and Jaguar Land Rover facing serious challenges, this isn’t what it needs for the fight in which it is now engaged. The car was a distraction, its unique body (only the bonnet and part of the tailgate were shared with the standard Range Rover) taking engineering and company resources away from Land Rover when real innovation and invention are needed most. That’s not only around models like the upcoming Defender but also electric cars, an area in which Land Rover, unlike its Jaguar sibling, has yet to show its hand. The decision to axe the Discovery SVX, which was not seen as a production car even if it was confirmed, was taken for slightly different reasons but with the same sentiments behind them. It has bitten the dust as Land Rover is no longer planning to offer the Discovery with a V8 engine, but that decision takes down with it what should have been the roughest, toughest model Land Rover makes. The Discovery SVX also helped in part fill the gap of the Defender as best it could as the most extreme Land Rover in the range, at a time when the launch date of that car still wasn’t clear. But now Land Rover has confirmed the Defender will launch this year, so why would buyers opt for a Discovery SVX when they could have the real thing? While a good-looking and seemingly sensible car back in 2017, now it would be a distraction to the Defender. There are no wounds to lick for Land Rover here. The company has innovated more than most car makers in recent years and been rewarded with both critical acclaim and commercial success. With these decisions, it can get back to making models that really push the company forward. READ MORE Reborn Land Rover Defender crucial to firm's 2019 revival Range Rover SV Coupé axed Every Jaguar Land Rover to be renewed by 2024 View the full article
  14. The versatility of Volkswagen's MEB electric vehicle platform means it can underpin the revived Beach Buggy.... Volkswagen's MEB-based beach buggy is proof of the greater design freedom afforded to manufacturers by EV platforms Electric drive provides great freedom for designers,” Volkswagen’s head of design, Klaus Bischoff, told us recently. “We minimise the cooling holes; the axles move further apart and generate stunning proportions. We have the unique chance to lead Volkswagen into a new age.” And so arrive preview pictures of the Volkswagen ID Buggy, a concept car that’ll be at the Geneva motor show next month, which is precisely where a concept car like this would stay were it internally combusted. But because it’s electric, it might – might – have a future. Car companies have sometimes been wary of the phrase ‘platform’ in the past, often preferring ‘architecture’ to define an engineering structure that pertains mostly to the parts between a car’s front and where the driver sits. In a typical internally combusted car, it’s where the expensive bits are: the powertrain, the electronics, and complex bits of the crash structure. Creating many different models from one common architecture, then, is cheaper than redoing the whole shebang for each one. But it brings limitations: there’ll be different engine sizes, the beefiest of which will need more cooling, which might define the car’s bonnet height, which determines windscreen height, and therefore roughly where the driver sits and the roof height. They are restrictions that would make a car proportioned like the ID Buggy impossible to produce (unless based on a Porsche 911, I suppose). But most EVs use – and there’s no great shame in the phrase this time – a genuine platform kinda thing; a skateboard-like tray of batteries along the floor between a car’s axles, and a relatively compact electric drive unit at either end – maybe both. Granted, I’m simplifying. But it’s a less complex mechanical set-up than an ICE car, and the possibilities almost feel like a return to the old coach-building days: take your common platform, stretch it to whatever length you like, and apply bodywork around it. Good aerodynamics increase an EV’s range but, on a Buggy, does that matter? There are fewer weight restrictions than on an ICE car because even a heavy EV has zero tailpipe emissions. And if you want a low rear deck (as on, say, a VW Microbus), put the motor at the front. If you want a low front (as on the Buggy), put it at the rear. Little wonder, then, there are dozens of start-up EV companies, because the (relative) simplicity means cost of entry to car making is lower than it has been for decades. Select batteries from a big supplier, pick some electric motors and, even if they’re not the most efficient, the differences in thermal efficiency of the best and worst are small in the 90% range. It’s not like the difference between a four-cylinder turbodiesel and a petrol V8. And here’s a thing. That electric motors look and feel similar is as a result of their terrific efficiency. Noise and character, the things that set so many cars apart from each other today, are a result of dreadful thermal efficiency – sub 50% – of their ICE engines. Great sound is just power that’s going to waste. Yes, motors take that character and differentiation away. But they’ll allow much greater creative freedoms in design elsewhere. Read more Volkswagen electric dune buggy revealed in new images​ Geneva motor show news Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo van makes its motor show debut at LA​ View the full article
  15. For a hair under £60,000, this Lamborghini Gallardo is worth a (very, very scrupulous) once-over Lamborghini Gallardo £59,999: We must be mad but this 59,000-mile, right-hand drive, 2003-reg Gallardo is a rare and sought-after manual one and comes with stacks of history. It has had a really thorough going over recently; lots of things from new handbrake pads and brake fluid, through new OEM filters and the correct grade of branded oil, to having the throttle bodies cleaned, brakes and underside cleaned and checked, the offside lower front ball joint reconditioned and the wheels aligned. Worth making the journey for a look-see, then, but before we do, we’d want to know if it’s wrapped; and if it is, we’d wonder what’s lurking beneath. That aluminium body is hellish hard to repair and who’d want a knocked-about Gallardo anyway? Assuming it’s au naturel and we make the journey, we’d want to have that V10 engine pressure tested. (It’s prone to oil pump problems.) It’s good the throttle bodies have been cleaned since they’re a trouble spot, too. We’d also check for overheating. Moving to the transmission, the manual gearbox is tough but can suffer cable stretch, so we’d feel for imprecise changes. The seller has had the suspension checked and picked up a problem with the offside front ball joint (common). He’s had the rack checked, too, but it’s worth inspecting the condition of the gaiters. The nose can suffer bad stone-chipping so, while a wrap would ring alarm bells, we would have no issue with a clear vinyl film here to protect it. Inside, the Audi-sourced trim and controls stand up well. Even so, we’d check the driver’s seat bolster for wear and the Alcantara steering wheel cover for shine – and then have a lie down. Volkswagen Phaeton LWB, £9800: Diamonds aren’t the only things that are forever – so is the VW Phaeton. The seller claims this 2005-reg V10 TDI conveyed a certain singer to and from her concerts and residences and had done 263,000 miles when he bought it. He’s since added 30,000. Alpina D3 Biturbo, £23,490: This 2015-reg, 90,000-mile D3 is for the next time someone knocks diesel. Alpina went through the BMW F30- based saloon fitting new manifolds, tweaking all the settings and suspension, and fitting a soul-stirring exhaust. It does 0-62mph in 4.6sec. Lancia Thema 2.9 8.32, £25,000: Not the time of the next train to Woking but the number of cylinders (eight) and valves (32) that this very special Lancia has. The 2.9-litre engine was based on that used in the Ferrari 308 but is less powerful. Our example is a 1990 car with 47,000 miles. Skoda Rapid 136, £4000: Years ago, an Autocar reader wrote to say his Rapid coupé was as much fun as his Porsche 911. And we can confirm this rear-engined car is indeed a hoot. Our 1989 find has adjustable suspension, a Weber carb, new tyres and a good service history. Auction watch Land Rover Defender Tomb Raider: If the Camel Trophy ‘One life, live it’ slogan doesn’t make you want to saddle up your Defender and head for the mud, look out for one of these: a Defender 90 Tomb Raider. It was released in 2001 on the back of the Lara Croft action movie. Just 250 were built, each decked out with the requisite body protection, spotlights and alloy wheels but also a roll cage, detachable winch, long-range fuel tank and fire extinguisher. You’re too late for this 113,000-mile 2.5 diesel that made £14,300 but you can still find the odd 100,000-miler for around £18,000 in the classifieds. Get it while you can BMW 730d M Sport, price new - £73,430, BMW PCP/HP deposit contribution - £17,754: Perhaps the two aren’t linked, but with the facelifted 7 Series due soon (bigger grille, quieter, posher interior), BMW is putting its hand in its pocket to the tune of almost £18,000. That’s its deposit contribution to a PCP or hire purchase deal on a new, outgoing Seven, and almost double what is required from the customer (£10,000). It’s a discount, really, but to be expected on such a big-ticket motor. Bear it in mind if you’re shopping for a nearly new one at just a couple of grand off list… Clash of the classifieds Brief: You have £40k for a hardcore but discreet sports saloon that won’t attract the wrong kind of attention. Maserati Quattroporte 4.7 V8 Sport GTS, £29,995: The Quattroporte was never much cop as a luxury car, so when it was facelifted, Maserati turned it into the sporting saloon it always should have been. Complete with a gloriously noisy V8 engine, properly sorted passive dampers and springs, and a more conventional ZF automatic gearbox instead of the jerky automated manual, it was the finest Quattroporte ever made. Plus, all the oiks who worship at the altar of AMG, RS Audis and M division BMWs will have no clue what this is. Max Adams BMW M6 Gran Coupé, £36,000: Take all that’s good about BMW and wrap it in a four-door, pillarless, coupé-style bodyshell of exquisite loveliness and unholy discreetness and add a wonderful 552bhp twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 that will do all you ask of it, all of the time. This gorgeous Gran Coupé might be loaded with goodies but it’s really, really fast – think 0-62mph in 4.7sec – handles like a sports car, rides like a magic carpet and cossets like a luxury liner. This one has done a mere 43k miles and will leave you change from your £40k for a trans-continental driving holiday. I’m in love. Mark Pearson Verdict: Sensational car, that Maserati, but its exhaust can wake the dead. Flawed M6 version notwithstanding, the big Beemer it is. Read more Used car buying guide: Lamborghini Gallardo Alpina D3 Biturbo review Five used Lamborghinis that you might just be able to afford​ View the full article
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