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The Motorists Guide

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  1. Japanese marque reveals limited-run 100th Anniversary trim option, available on all key models Mazda is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020 with a new special-edition version of the key models in its line-up, inspired by the firm’s first production car. The 100th Anniversary cars are painted in a pearlescent shade of white, which is contrasted by burgundy leather seats and carpets inside. The colour scheme is similar to that used for top-end variants of the R360 microcar, the commercial success of which helped to establish Mazda as a competitive mainstream manufacturer following its launch in 1960. Additional bespoke touches for the special edition include 100th Anniversary badging on the floor mats, key fob, wheel centres, side skirts and head restaints. Soft-top versions of the MX-5 swap their standard black fabric roof for a dark red one that matches the interior. Models that can be specified with the new limited-run trim package include the 2, 3, CX-3, CX-5, CX-8, 6 and both the RF and soft-top versions of the MX-5. Order books are now open in Japan and the 100th Anniversary models will arrive in the UK later this year. Production will run until 2021, when the company is set to launch its landmark first EV, the MX-30 SUV. Mazda, originally named Toyo Cork Kogyo, was founded in Hiroshima in 1920 and moved from machine tooling into vehicle production 11 years later with the launch of the Mazda-Go auto rickshaw. The R360, an early example of the diminutive Japanese kei car, was the company’s first commercially available production car and was joined two years by the larger P360 ‘Carol’. Read more 30 years of the Mazda MX-5​ Mazda RX-7 revisited - driving the rotary-engined king of spin​ Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport Tech 2020 UK review​ View the full article
  2. Ford aims to take the crossover class by storm as it revives the Puma name Given that the Puma of the late 1990s arrived with the bold tagline ‘A driver’s dream’, Ford’s decision to reprise the name of its pint-size coupé on the tailgate of a crossover seems perplexing.With a larger frontal area, a higher centre of gravity and more weight, this new Puma clearly distances itself from traditional ‘driver’s dream’ territory where the 1034kg original did everything budgets would allow to get closer.But times have changed. Today, the compact crossover class is bursting at the seams with members as manufacturers cash in on demand and the mass-market space for more unusual, enthusiast-minded projects has rapidly shrunk.However, what this segment has long been devoid of is something genuinely good to drive, which is where – Ford says – this new Puma will justify its name. The car will slot into the range between the dreary EcoSport and the Kuga and it shares a platform with the Fiesta, which, as you may have heard, is easily the dynamic benchmark in the supermini class.The Puma is the first small Ford to use hybrid power, in the form of a 48V system bolstering a three-cylinder petrol turbo engine. The car’s striking design, which has been described as ‘anti-wedge’ by one Ford designer, is intended to steal sales from more premium brands, notably Mini. Strong ergonomics are also promised, with the Puma possessing one of the largest boot capacities in the class, more passenger space than the Fiesta and what Ford calls the Megabox, more on which in a moment. Fully digital instrument dials and level two ‘autonomous’ driver aids should add to its appeal.How, then, does the second coming of the Puma measure up to the likes of the Nissan Juke, Seat Arona, Skoda Kamiq, Renault Captur, Volkswagen T-Cross and Mini Countryman? Let’s find out.The Puma line-up at a glanceFor now, the UK Puma line-up is relatively straightforward. Power comes from Ford’s 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol three-pot, which is available with either 123bhp or 153bhp. Mild-hybrid assistance is an option for the 123bhp unit and standard on the 153bhp engine. All are paired with a six-speed manual gearbox that drives the front wheels.The trim line-up is also simple: our Titanium-spec test car represents the entry level and is followed by ST-Line and ST-Line X. A diesel-powered Puma and a sportier ST performance model are in the pipeline, the latter expected to be officially revealed at some point this year.Price £20,845 Power 123bhp Torque 155lb ft 0-60mph 10.0sec 30-70mph in fourth 13.5sec Fuel economy 39.0mpg CO2 emissions 96g/km 70-0mph 57.3m View the full article
  3. Flagship executive saloon will now be solely available as a Recharge plug-in hybrid in UK, but V90 estate still gets choice of powertrains Volvo has dropped all pure petrol and diesel offerings on the S90 in the UK for the saloon’s 2020 facelift, leaving only the T8 plug-in hybrid variant, now dubbed Recharge. The brand has also dropped all ‘Plus’ trim levels from its entire range. It means the S90 now costs from £55,180 in R-Design trim, rising to £56,030 for Inscription trim. The Recharge promises 0-62mph in 5.1sec, a quoted CO2 rating of 40g/km and is capable of up to 166mpg combined. The changes do not affect the V90 estate, which is still available with four-cylinder petrol and diesel variants now featuring mild hybrid technology. The system uses a 48V battery with an integrated starter/generator and energy recovery system, which Volvo claims contributes to a 15% improvement in CO2 emissions. At the same time Volvo has also dropped the price of the smaller S60 Polestar Engineered by a substantial £5,785, while the standard S60 T8 is also reduced by £4,700. Volvo has made a number of relatively small design tweaks to the S90 and V90, which have been on sale since 2016. Both cars get a new front bumper and foglights. At the rear, there are new-look LED tail-lights for the V90, and the firm has installed sequential indicator lights for the first time. There are a number of new paint colours and wheel options, too. The interior has also been refreshed, and Volvo has added an Advanced Air Cleaner, which filters particulates from the cabin and can display air quality on the infotainment system. The system was previously only available in Chinese-market models. There are now two USB-C charging ports in the rear, replacing the 12-volt power outlet, while wireless charging has been added as an option on most variants. The S90 and V90 also gain an upgraded Bowers & Wilkins sound system and an expanded range of leather-free material options. Read more From dependable to disruptive: the reinvention of Volvo Volvo S90 review Volvo confirms electric version of next XC90​ View the full article
  4. A Freelander for under £10 grand? Get it right and you gain an all-rounder for an absolute steal; get it wrong and the repair bills will be never-ending We can’t be serious? Relax, the Freelander 2 is a very different animal from the original – much more reliable and of a higher quality. That said, if you don’t get the tyre pressures absolutely right or you wear the tyres close to the limit, you can fool the system into engaging four-wheel drive. If that happens at speed, expect a large repair bill. But that aside, the model is so capable and comfortable that some enthusiasts reckon it’s a kind of mini Range Rover. We’d not go that far but it’s certainly a jack of all trades, with a plush interior and off-roading chops. We’d plump for a later, facelifted car, such as this 2013-reg 2.2 TD4 GS with 51,000 miles, full service history and leather interior. There was an earlier facelift in 2010, which brought a new grille, lights and bumpers, more torque for the 2.2 TD4 engine and the new, more powerful 2.2 SD4. The 2013 fettle followed this up with more styling tweaks, a new centre console and extra features. A late Freelander 2 still looks good today. Run-out trims such as Metropolis and Dynamic are expensive but nice to have. The 2.2 TD4 engine was the big seller, offering a good balance of price, power and economy. The more powerful SD4 is automatic only. In addition to the quality of the tyres, other things to check are that there are no oil stains around the intercooler and that the Haldex coupling has had its 20,000-mile fluid and filter changes. The drivetrain should be tight and judder-free; ditto, the steering. It’s more likely to have gone off road than most SUVs so check the body and underside for rust and scrapes. Jaguar XF 4.2 SV8, £4495: Dating almost from the year of the XF’s launch, this 2008 XF is the rather special SV8, with 420bhp for 0-62mph in 5.1sec. The mileage is a stiff 124,000 but the car has a full service history and only two previous keepers in the log book. Porsche Boxster 2.7, £24,995: The new six-cylinder 718 Boxster GTS costs £65,949 but how about the same number of cylinders for £40,000 less? That’s the deal with this 2015-reg 2.7 Boxster. It’s done 57,000 miles but it has full Porsche service history, so we’re not worried. Audi A7 3.0 TFSI S line quattro, £13,250: The original A7, launched in 2010, is a fine looker and truly desirable. We fell for this 2011-reg 3.0 TFSI V6 S line S tronic quattro. It has done 79,000 miles and has a full Audi service history. New, it cost almost £50,000 but £13,000 has a far better ring to it. BMW 520i, £2999: Here’s a beautiful 1993-reg BMW 520i with one previous owner and 23 stamps in the service book. It has done 118,000 miles so is just limbering up. If you want to go green, buy it and extract even more value from the CO2 emitted during its production. Auction watch Bentley Arnage Red Label: This 2001-reg Red Label (it’s powered by Rolls’ classic 6.75-litre V8 as opposed to earlier Green Label cars, which had BMW’s more efficient 4.4-litre turbo V8) made £15,900 at auction. That’s about on the money considering that the car had done 51,000 miles and had a solid service history. There was no mention of it being a Bentley or specialist history, though, which is a pity because cars like the Arnage benefit from knowledgeable care. It came direct from a car supermarket, too, which – call us snobs – doesn’t fill us with confidence. Still, what an eyeful. Future classic Renault Sport Spider 2.0, £22,995: Future classic? Surely, the super-rare 1996-99 Spider, the first to bear the Renault Sport name, is a classic right now, isn’t it? After all, there aren’t many cars quite as uncompromising. There’s a roof but it was optional, as was the windscreen. It’s a track-day car, really, but works on the road – just. Power comes from a 2.0-litre engine donated by the Clio Williams, producing 148bhp and mid-mounted. The car’s kerb weight is just 930kg. Our find is a 1997-reg with 22,000 miles for £22,995. Not bad for a classic, future or otherwise. Clash of the Classifieds Brief: Find me a top-handling car for £5000. BMW 335i Coupé, £4750 Porsche Boxster 2.7 S £4989 Max Adams: We all want an E46-generation M3, but these are getting expensive now. So how about the next best thing, a 335i? You get similar levels of power and performance – 306bhp, 5.5sec 0-60mph and 155mph top speed – just in a more subtle and less expensive package. Mark Pearson: Yes, you see yours is all very well but isn’t its engine in the wrong place for top-notch handling fun? It’s all about balance, and my mid-engined Boxster’s a fluid delight on a twisty road, and the aural and sensual pleasures can be heightened by lowering the roof. My 2004 appreciating classic is also a low-mileage bargain. MA: A Boxster is an under-appreciated car, but that’s because of examples like yours with a Tiptronic automatic gearbox that ruins acceleration times. Hardly the ultimate driving machine. MP: Nonsense. Dispensing with the anachronism that is a clutch pedal allows you to concentrate on driving fast. Indeed, so awful is the ancient manual ’box in your 2007 BMW that you’ll probably want to stop driving it after a few miles… MA: I’ll only be stopping to allow you to catch up. Plus, the 335i was regarded as being a bit of a performance bargain when new, and mine’s still cheaper than your Boxster is today. MP: Meh. Verdict: That Boxster boxes clever. I'll take it. READ MORE Jaguar Land Rover to invest £1bn in three new UK-built EVs Land Rover's mild-hybrid tech spells end for V8 diesel Range Rover New Land Rover Defender: UK prices confirmed for 90 and 110 View the full article
  5. Goodwood Members’ Meeting might not take place this year Covid-19 has caused all UK permits to be revoked, leaving the industry fretting about cash Over the past couple of weeks, as the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic began to really hit home, it became clear that British motorsport’s governing body had no option but to close everything down. By removing all event permits from mid-March until at least the end of June, Motorsport UK signalled that no racing in this country will occur for 15 weeks. It may well, of course, be on lockdown for longer. Nobody can argue with the validity of the decision: the movement of people and crowds generated would have been socially irresponsible. An early major casualty was the Goodwood Members’ Meeting, planned for the last weekend of March. The team at Goodwood has said it hopes to reschedule the event for later in the year, but fitting such a major undertaking into an already crowded calendar will be no easy task. And, of course, nobody is yet able to predict when sport will finally be given the green light to resume. The temporary termination of all racing, coming just as the 2020 season was about to kick in, has come as a massive blow to participants and fans alike. But their disappointment is a minor issue compared with the devastation already starting to hit the British motorsport industry. Motorsport is something that we do incredibly well in the UK. Indeed, in many areas, this country leads the world. While the top of the ladder is taking its share of the pain in Formula 1, the World Endurance Championship and the World Rally Championship, the UK’s normally thriving national and historic fraternities are going to be decimated as cars sit unused in workshops. The UK motorsport industry employs some 40,000 people across 4500 or so firms with a combined annual turnover of £9 billion. While a fair part of that relates to F1, a lot of it comes from small specialists supplying niche markets and employing perhaps two or three people. It’s the one-man band that’s the go-to for rebuilding ZF gearboxes in Mk2 Ford Escort rally cars or the small operation that does the best Formula Junior engine rebuilds. There are countless small companies and solo entities that prepare competition cars on behalf of owners. They get the cars ready, run them at events and then prepare them again afterwards. At a stroke, their income will largely stop at a time when many are just starting to alleviate the routine winter cash flow pressure. The coronavirus will change many lives, and those working in motorsport are among the vulnerable. In so many ways, these are dark times. Paul Lawrence READ MORE Bloodhound 2021 record attempt ‘unlikely’ due to coronavirus SMMT predicts 'severe' coronavirus impact on UK manufacturing Coronavirus: UK drivers granted six-month MOT exemption View the full article
  6. New model (rendered by Autocar above) will replace existing Sports Series Sports Series addition will be a PHEV with a twin-turbo V6 and 20-mile electric range McLaren will launch its first mainstream hybrid car later this year, with sources suggesting it will sit towards the lower end of the British sports car maker’s three-tier model range in terms of power and performance. The new car will be part of its Sports Series and will use a twin-turbocharged V6 as part of a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It’s tipped to be revealed this summer ahead of deliveries commencing later this year. While McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt declined to comment on specifics, he admitted that he’s excited at the possibilities of using electrical power to boost performance yet also reduce emissions. “We have experience of hybrid systems with cars like the P1, P1 GTR and Speedtail, and that recipe of offering a car that can be both truly economical and thrilling to drive remains our goal,” said Flewitt. “McLaren is all about building the best driver’s cars, and we see opportunities with hybrid [powertrains], in terms of the instant torque and filling the gaps in the powerband.” While any hybrid’s main drawback is additional weight, Flewitt and McLaren COO Jens Ludmann both suggested that the engineers at Woking have managed to claw back the large majority of the deficit. “At McLaren, we’re fortunate that we’re not so constrained by building to a price,” said Ludmann. “Our customers want the best, so that’s what we obsess over.” With the new car expected to be capable of travelling around 20 miles on electricity alone and recording strong longer-distance fuel economy, Flewitt questioned the government’s recent announcement that it wants to ban the sale of new hybrid cars as early as 2032. Flewitt said: “Hybridisation could play a key role in the journey [to net zero emissions], and I believe that a longer transition period of running hybrids and full EVs alongside each other could be part of the answer. We’ve invested in this technology with the goal of paying back that investment over a number of years. “We believe it will meet customer requirements sooner than full EV. To set a deadline for its end before we have launched it is detrimental to the perception of the steps forward we’ve made, and it both stalls the demand and potentially causes people to hold on to or buy older, more polluting cars.” However, Flewitt admitted that McLaren is likely to have an electric car ready ahead of the deadline, meeting the firm’s internal criteria of offering an all-round package at least as good as today’s equivalent cars in terms of both driver engagement and usability. “Building the car to the deadline is less of a problem,” he said. “What I’d like clarity on is how we as a country will be ready to support those vehicles in terms of infrastructure, supply chain and so on.” READ MORE The rise and rise of McLaren Automotive New 2020 McLaren Speedtail hits 250mph in final tests Steve Cropley's car of the decade: McLaren MP4-12C View the full article
  7. How do you feel just now about a car like the McLaren GT? Extravagant supercars (and hairstyles) seem out of place in these troubled times. But perhaps that's the secret to their appeal This feels like a rash time to be making predictions, but I was going to go out on a limb and say that the well-oiled, heavily styled beard and the man-bun (ask your kids) will be fading memories by the end of the year. This is no time to be indulging in extravagant grooming activity; even though, ironically, some of us have more time than ever to treat ourselves. Yet here we are. I’ve joked before that cometh the crisis, cometh the hour of the unkempt facial hair and the rugged pick-up truck, and never in recent history has that seemed truer than now. So I approached driving a McLaren GT for two days this week with a peculiar sense of trepidation, and was struck by two things. Mostly, that I have never felt like such a pillock in a supercar and regretted not instead being in my Land Rover Defender. Because which one better screams ‘essential travel’? And because, y’know, just what are you doing, man? What need is there for a carbonfibre two-seater that can hold no more than 168 loo rolls in the boot and only 53 packets of microwavable flavoured rice in the frunk? Conversely, though, and to my considerable surprise, I’ve never experienced such a positive reaction to a nice car. I’ve talked to loads of people about the GT (at volume, outside, from a distance, including to a doctor who seemed very relaxed about the hygiene of such an arrangement) and they have all, absolutely without exception, loved it. Quite the paradox, then. At a time when we’re becoming ‘preppers’, gearing (very badly, it has to be said) for isolation and the forthcoming zompocalypse, it’s a car representing the polar opposite that makes people smile, even though supercars are for times of excess and extravagance. Despite £163,000 V8s being beyond louche, this GT has made people go ‘cor!’ rather than, as they often do, flick a few vees as they pass. I couldn’t quite work that out. Until I remembered that I, too, had spent rather more time than is strictly sensible looking at Cobra replicas for sale online last Sunday, and deciding that when all this is over, I really should – must – do the things I’ve been wanting to do for ages. Which is not something I often do in times of my normal gentle contentment. I think the situation will be familiar to those who, when faced with a looming work deadline, have a compulsion to do almost literally anything else instead. Wash the car, watch a box set, just set those pictures in the hall totally straight, and then go for a walk. You can call it escapism. I call it investigating how easily Mk1 Lotus Exige bodywork would fit onto a crash-repaired Elise chassis. When most things are terrible and times are straitened, then, perhaps we look to the things that are precisely the opposite for cheer. I thought that the current health crisis (I won’t write about it every week, by the way. I realise there’s only so much you can take from a car mag) would, like a financial crisis, make us focus on just essentials. But maybe not. Perhaps the extravagance of the supercar – and maybe even the topknot – is here to stay. READ MORE Matt Prior: The Government's dirty car ban is not all it seems Matt Prior: Not a prediction about the A segment's future Matt Prior: The age of the perfect car is near View the full article
  8. Forthcoming Transport Decarbonisation Plan is set to have a major impact on British motorists The UK government has set goals of accelerating the uptake of zero-emissions vehicles and shifting people out of cars by making public transport, cycling or walking "natural first choices" for travel. It has also committed to matching the European Union’s tough fleet CO2 emissions targets. The steps that will be taken to achieve those goals will be outlined in a new Transport Decarbonisation Plan that's due to be published at an environment summit in November. The plan will be a key part of the government’s goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The Department for Transport (DfT) recently published an official document, entitled Setting the Challenge, that outlines “where we are today and the size of emissions reduction needed”. This doesn't set out specific policies, which will be developed as a result of public consultations and workshops, but outlines "strategic priorities". These include: ● Making public transport and active transport (such as cycling and walking) “the natural first choice for our daily activities” so that people use their cars less. This will involve reducing public transport's emissions and making it convenient and cost-effective, plus developing Mobility as a Service platforms. ● Decarbonising road vehicles, with a focus on “ensuring a supportive regulatory framework” and “building [consumer] trust in new technologies”. ● Making the UK a “world leader in green transport technology and innovation” by encouraging research and development investment in new technology. Westminster is already aiming to ban sales of all non-electric cars by 2035 or sooner, with the aim “to put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero-emissions vehicles”. The DfT publication claims that transport is now the largest contributor to the UK's domestic GHG emissions, contributing 28% of the total. Passenger cars were responsible for 55% of domestic GHG transport emissions, although total GHG production by such vehicles has dropped 5% since 1990 despite total miles travelled rising by 22%. However, the report also notes that average CO2 emissions per mile for new cars has risen since 2016. While it acknowledges the dramatic decline of diesel sales has played a role in this, it cites fast-rising sales of SUVs as the main reason. The report note that sales of ultra-low-emissions vehicles – which includes electric cars – have increased massively in recent years, from around 1300 in 2010 to more than 230,000 today. It added that more EV charging infrastructure will be required to continue that growth, given that 20-30% of British motorists don't have access to off-street parking where private chargers could be located. It also calls for a "roaming solution" that would allow EV drivers to access any public charger through a single payment method. The Setting the Challenge document also outlines steps to reduce GHG emissions from goods transport, public transport, air travel and maritime travel. The publication is the first step in a planned seven-month process that will lead to the publication of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan in November. That will include a number of planned publish feedback opportunities, starting later this year. The full document can be read on the DfT website here. READ MORE Petrol and diesel-engined car sales ban could be introduced by 2032 Report: soaring SUV sales causing new car emissions to rise Major EV report calls for charging firms to allow 'roaming' View the full article
  9. Firms call for immediate EU support as coronavirus pandemic halts production, leaving them short of cash Europe’s car makers may be facing the worst crisis they’ve ever dealt with as production ceases and retail operations close during the coronavirus-induced lockdown. New car registrations have plummeted in the past few weeks as nationwide lockdowns are put in place. France has reported that registrations are down 72% compared with March last year. Most national figures have yet to be released, but they're likely to be similarly low and will almost certainly be far worse still in April. It's estimated that the production losses from production shutdowns across the European Union (EU) amount to 1.23 million vehicles so far. European automotive industry association the ACEA has called for “strong and coordinated action” to ensure manufacturers, dealers and the wider supply chain are protected as income falls by an unprecedented amount for many. The ACEA’s director general has called for the president of the EU's European Commission to “take concrete measures to avoid irreversible and fundamental damage to the sector with a permanent loss of jobs, capacity, innovation and research capability”. Some 13.8 million people work in the automotive industry across the EU, with 229 assembly and production plants employing 2.6 million of those in manufacturing. The ACEA claims the pandemic will have “grave consequences... far beyond what we can forsee now” for manufacturers and their employees. Car makers are still spending huge amounts of cash despite not producing any cars. German media reports that Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler held a crisis call with German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday. Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess has said that jobs may have to go if production doesn't restart soon, because the company is burning through around €2 billion (£1.75bn) per week. READ MORE Coronavirus and the car world: Vauxhall supports NHS workers Coronavirus: Jaguar Land Rover lends 160 cars to Red Cross, NHS Paris motor show axed due to coronavirus impact View the full article
  10. Mid-sized SUV, set for an unveiling in 2020, gains Juke-inspired styling but retains overall silhouette The next-generation Nissan X-Trail SUV, set to be revealed later this year, has been previewed in a patent filed by the manufacturer in Brazil. The images lack detail, but it's apparent that the Skoda Kodiaq rival will take heavy styling influence from the recently revealed Juke as Nissan seeks to implement a familiar look across its model range. The main changes are at the front, where Nissan has squared off the current car's rounded nose. Tweaks at the rear look to be much more subtle. There's a gently restyled version of the current car's bootlid, a reshaped spoiler and a new 'double bubble' roof design, but the overall silhouette looks remarkably similar. Prototypes for the new US-market version of the X-Trail, the Nissan Rogue, were spotted testing late last year and hinted at the design of the fourth-generation X-Trail, with a more prominent grille and larger wheel arches. Inside, the new Rogue has more technology than the outgoing model. The instruments are digital for the first time. Other additions include an updated infotainment system, large touchscreen display with sat-nav features and a black and chrome set-in-place gearstick. These details are also expected to be carried over to the new X-Trail. The X-Trail is likely to keep both petrol and diesel powertrains, as well as offering a hybrid variant, as Nissan moves towards its target of selling one million electrified vehicles a year by 2022 in line with tough new CO2 regulations. A hybrid Rogue is already available in the US. The large SUV was originally meant to be built in Nissan’s Sunderland plant, but in 2019, Nissan cancelled its plans, citing the diesel sales downturn and Brexit uncertainty as two key factors. However, production of the second-generation has remained at the plant. Read more Nissan X-Trail review 2020 Nissan Juke: the road test New 2020 Qashqai key to Nissan’s three-pronged SUV assault​ View the full article
  11. We take a humble Yeti through the Kingdom of Bhutan, via the infamous ‘death road’, in search of the mystical creature with which it shares its name There’s a traffic jam of humongous trucks in front of me, and I’m teetering between a landslide of rocks and a sheer drop off a towering cliff, adamant that I won’t be reversing. And so begins my journey in the Kingdom of Bhutan, at which we arrived by the most grandiose border point I’ve ever seen: a golden gate befitting a kingdom, opened on command to let our convoy of Skoda Yetis through. This article was originally published on 20 November 2016. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide engaging content in these difficult times. You’ll be familiar with the Yeti, that boxy, Marmite-styling SUV launched in 2010 and one of the early contenders in a now swamped segment. But despite fresher cars such as the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai, Skoda is still keeping up; it sold more Yetis in the UK in 2015 than ever before. So what exactly am I doing in Bhutan? Well, it’s one of the most remote countries in the world, considered the ultimate Shangri-La, so it’s the perfect place to see whether a Yeti can stand up to the toughest of elements. There’s also a far more tenuous reason: Bhutanese people believe in the existence of the car’s namesake, the yeti. My destination is a wildlife sanctuary where yetis – or megoe, as they’re called in Bhutan – supposedly reside. To get there, we – a convoy of Bhutanese guides and back-up – start at the border town with India, Samdrup Jongkhar, on the southern edge of the landlocked country. As we climb away from the quiet hubbub of the town, we quickly come to the mountain roads, full of the unexpected – wandering cows and smiling, waving people – as well as Buddhist shrines. I soon realise this isn’t a place for car spotting. There’s only a handful of vehicles. The most prevalent are big Tata trucks (see ‘The vehicles of Bhutan’, overleaf) adorned with multi-coloured religious symbolism and chugging out big clouds of black smoke. In contrast, Bhutan’s prime minister, Tshering Tobgay, has something more sustainable planned for the nation’s vehicles: he wants everyone to go electric. It’s part of a broader environmental policy that says at least 60% of the land area must be forest – a figure they’ve already surpassed by 10% – and it’s the only nation in the world that is carbon negative. In 2014 Tobgay did a deal with Nissan to supply a bunch of electric Leafs. So committed is Bhutan that the king owns one (and a Toyota Land Cruiser, apparently) and the queen drives a Toyota Prius. Former environment minister Dasho Benji, who also owns a Leaf, told me uptake would come “slowly, slowly” and acknowledged that technology needed to improve for the cars to really take off. EVs are viable in the capital, Thimphu, but in the wilds of mountainous eastern Bhutan where we’re driving, an EV wouldn’t last five minutes. Although Bhutan has similar issues on EV uptake to us in the UK, it’s coming from a very different standpoint. With a population of 750,000, there are no more than 50,000 vehicles on the road. An even more staggering figure came from a former tutor to the king, Englishman Michael Rutland, who said that when he arrived in 1971, there were only 47 vehicles in the entire country. Nevertheless, it isn’t long before we hit the aforementioned stand-off on the so-called ‘death road’, as my passengers inform me that we’re inches from the edge of the cliff. Our saving grace is a friendly local in front of us, who has clearly marked us out as foreigners. He directs the oncoming trucks to the edge of the road, allowing us to squeeze through. Hallelujah. We plough on, never at more than 20mph; there’s too much dust, too many wheel-crunching potholes and that ever-present sheer drop just inches to our left. Not long after arriving at our lunch stop, I find a lama (a monk of sorts) blessing our cars. There’s some surreal chanting and incense burning and then it’s over. I have no idea what just happened, but I’m certain our safety on the journey is guaranteed. Later, as the night draws in, we hit a small town full of unlit streets. It makes for a stunningly starry sky, but trying to drive amid cows napping in the middle of the street while pedestrians walk along the side is tense, to say the least. The next day, refreshed, we’re back in our Yetis. I’m driving the Yeti Outdoor 4x4 in SE L trim, which is just under £25k in the UK, but this one is for the neighbouring Indian market and built in a plant in Aurangabad in central-west India. I was expecting a poor man’s version of the UK model, but the differences are indistinguishable. We even have leather seats. As we climb higher, our guides have told us, the scenery becomes stunning, but I’m so blown away by the first day’s panoramas that it’s hard to believe it can be bettered. But they were right. As the air becomes thinner and we struggle to talk, let alone walk, the vistas become even more inspiring – and the roads become even more dicey. The route to our highest point of 3530 metres is a new road, built two years ago. Visions of velvety-smooth asphalt are not to be. It is, at best, a track, and a rough, ropey one at that. Still, the locals must be pleased: it was a three-day walk before this road existed. And so we arrive breathless at Marek village near Sakteng wildlife sanctuary, where the yetis supposedly live, and where there isn’t a single car. In fact, fewer than 30 tourists visit annually. We speak to locals about the real yeti, but most Bhutanese are non-committal, saying that beliefs don’t have to equate to ‘tangible’ things. There’s an evasive answer. As suspected, you can’t rely on the yeti, but our Yeti is much more reliable. Honestly, I’d never have chosen a Yeti for an epic road trip, but it has been hard to fault. Its saving grace, alongside the four-wheel drive system, has been the Rough Road package, a £210 option, which includes underbody protective cladding. Numerous ‘ouch’ moments, as we hit the sharp edge of lethal rocks or deep ravines, have been negated and hill descent control has become my best friend. Although the Yeti will never be a Land Rover, its four-wheel drive system, which uses a fifth-generation Haldex coupling, has surpassed expectations. Almost a third of UK owners opt for 4x4 in the Yeti, but I’m doubtful many get as much of a hammering as ours has. Deployed for at least three-quarters of the journey, it has managed every hairy situation thrown at it with grace and emerges from our treacherous drive unscathed. And I’m still amazed there have been no punctures. After two days, I’d typically be reluctant to return to a car, but the Yeti is still growing on me. Although the interior is dated compared with its siblings, it’s comfy and well specced. My only complaints are the lack of a USB port – which isn’t the case with UK models – slightly upright back seats and a high biting point for the clutch, which every single driver struggled with on some of the tough terrain. On our final day we retrace our steps, making this a 680km (423-mile) round trip. A former navigator of this journey once counted the corners: there are 40,000. No wonder I’ve spent a large amount of time feeling queasy. As we arrive back in Samdrup Jongkhar after 14 hours of driving, we’re all a little bit broken. The Yeti has excelled, but driving on roads capable of knocking out your crowns take their toll. True, 680km doesn’t sound like much, but we’ve averaged nearly six minutes per kilometre and never ventured above the third of six gears. Our average fuel economy, according to the car, is 25mpg. We hug our new friends goodbye and I’m sad to be leaving this country and our transport. I’m blown away by beautiful Bhutan and its people and more enamoured than I ever thought I could be with a Yeti. Read more Skoda to showcase student-built Scala Spider​ Skoda Superb 2020 long-term review​ View the full article
  12. Why pick the blackest day of your national crisis to announce a return to supercar-making? Italy is now widely hoped to be over the very worst of its tragic national ordeal with Coronavirus. It’s clearly too early to write such a thing without touching wood with just about every extremity of your body; and I freely accept that some people would probably rather I didn’t tempt fate by writing it at all. Still, the figures I’m looking at suggest that the number of new Covid-19 diagnoses in the country peaked on March 21st. While the total number of infected people is still rising, it looks to have almost levelled off. Daily reported deaths from Covid-19 has so far surpassed the 900 threshold only once – on March 27th. The world will be watching closely in the desperate hope that it doesn’t pass that mark again. Whatever the numbers are saying, you can barely make it through a TV news bulletin without realising just how awful the public health crisis in Italy remains. If you or I were responsible for an idling business out there, we would surely wait until certain that the worst of it had passed before we even considered calling our workforces back to the coal face; let alone announcing anything. And yet March 27th was also the day chosen by Ferrari to announce that it would seek to resume car production in both Maranello and Modena on April 14th. Just as Lamborghini had switched to making 'PPE', then, and so many car makers were in the process of producing ventilators to keep people around Europe alive, Ferrari was telling the world - its customers and investors, really - of its plan to resume production of £200,000 sports cars within three weeks. And this not long after, on March 9th, it admitted that production at its Maranello plant was continuing inspite of the fact that the factory was inside the quarantine zone imposed by the Italian government; and only then deciding to officially end its production activities on March 14th. To give Ferrari some credit here, it is at least a distant, slightly disconnected part of a group of car-makers that has already contributed in the effort to fight the virus in Italy - and we probably shouldn’t castigate the firm for wanting things returned to normal as quickly as possible. It has business interests to protect, just like the rest of the industry; and once their lives are no longer under imminent threat, the Italian people will next quite understandably be concerned with their livelihoods. Ferrari minority shareholders the Agnelli family has donated money to the crisis management effort, and the firm has been part of a joint effort to source ventilators and medical supplies from overseas. The FCA Group has also provided transport to the Italian Red Cross and the Italian National Association for Public Assistance. Unlike those of other Italian firms, Ferrari employees have been sent home on full pay - whether they can work from home or not. The company has been far from irresponsible or indifferent in response to what's going on. Even so, it was both the tone and the timing of the press release from the firm on March 27th that offended me. The assertion, on what might well turn out to have been the blackest day of the entire pandemic for a country already in mourning, that even the most serious and pressing commercial concern might still matter. It was at the very least insensitive in the extreme. The international stock markets could have waited another 48hrs, couldn’t they? The release ended with the line that the company “remains confident that, in view of its brand equity, strong balance sheet and sound business model, it will continue to create value for all stakeholders beyond the near term uncertainties.” Well, I'd suggest that prized brand equity might have just taken a bit of an entirely avoidable hit actually. This has never been a company held up for particular ethical rectitude, I realise. If its F1 team manages to get away from its latest engine scandal without punishment, it'll have pulled off something of a neat trick; although cheating at sport hardly seems comparable to this. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Ferrari's name ends up being added to that of Sports Direct and JD Wetherspoons in the 'how not to conduct your corporate strategy in a global public health emergency' hall of infamy. Hit that comment button and let me know if you agree. Addendum: Ferrari has pointed out that the timing of earlier statements concerning the idling of its production facilities obliged it to make another on March 27th; and that at the time the statement was made, since the Italian government's advice was that lockdown would end on April 3rd, its plan for resuming production was intended to be conservative. Read more Coronavirus and the car world​ Coronavirus: Mercedes F1 aids breathing aid development​ Coronavirus: Jaguar Land Rover lends 160 cars to Red Cross, NHS​ View the full article
  13. PHEVs are fast becoming some of the most important cars on our roads as more of us switch from pure combustion to electrified power. These are our favourites The UK company car market is in the midst of a seismic shift right now. The adoption of the latest WLTP emissions testing standard, combined with another tightening down of CO2-based UK company car tax rules, has really marginalised the suitability of conventional petrol- and diesel-powered cars for fleet use and shifted the spotlight squarely and unflinchingly onto the modern plug-in hybrid. As many company car drivers will have already discovered to their cost, if you want to continue paying anything like the same benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax on a company car in 2020 as you did in 2019, the only way to do it – if you haven’t already – is to move out of a petrol or diesel car and into a PHEV. These are the cars you should be considering for that big move. All are electrified hybrid options that’ll get you into the sub-50g/km CO2 money-saving BIK club, although, depending on their officially certified electric-only range, some currently qualify for a tax liability at 8% of their P11D price, some at 12% and others at 14%. Here’s how to choose wisely. 1. BMW 330e BMW’s competitors have followed its lead so many times when seeking success in the UK fleet market over the past few decades. It makes perfect sense, then, that BMW was the first premium brand to offer the market a really convincing plug-in hybrid executive option in the shape of the previous 330e, and that it should continue to lead the field with the current one. The latest 330e combines a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric drive motor mounted upstream of the gearbox, making it handle and behave much like any other G20-generation 3-Series. It imposes a relative penalty on boot space compared with its conventionally powered siblings, but it’s unlikely that typical business users will notice the shortage, and cabin space is unharmed. With up to 288bhp of combined electric and petrol urge, the 330e has a fleet turn of pace and feels particularly responsive, as well as slick-shifting. The weight of its hybrid powertrain can be detected only slightly, and only really in its occasionally permissive high-speed vertical body control. Most of the time, the 330e just feels like an agile, entertaining, first-rate 3 Series in its sporting driver appeal. The 330e has a WLTP-certified electric-only range of 37 miles, putting it in the mid-range 12% BIK tax bracket for 2020-21. Save money with new 3 Series deals from What Car? 2. Skoda Superb iV Skoda may have been busting a gut to change perceptions of its brand of late, but when the opportunity to bring some simple metal-for-the-money value to the plug-in hybrid market presented recently, it didn’t blink. It launched the new fleet-friendly Superb iV: a car that uses the engine and hybrid drivetrain with which drivers of the Volkswagen Passat GTE have become familiar in these past few years but packages them in a bigger family car that's on offer at a lower list price. The Superb iV is surprisingly normal, considering it’s Skoda’s first plug-in hybrid. It doesn’t promise a particularly exciting driving experience, nor is it loaded with ritzy onboard technology or clothed in novel styling features in order to advertise its electrified credentials. It drives, ride and handles pretty much like any other Superb – which means it’s fairly softly sprung and comfort-oriented, and that it's easygoing rather than alert and energetic in its pedal responses. The sheer size of any Superb ought to be a selling point for some, and the iV version is no different. Despite the fact that the battery eats into boot space a little, there’s still 485 litres available in the hatchback version and more still in the estate. Electric range is WLTP-rated at 35 miles for a 12% BIK tax rating. If you’re looking for a roomy and cost-effective PHEV option that feels normal, rather than novel (read ‘a bit funny’), to drive, look no further. Save money with new Superb deals from What Car? 3. Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid The Hyundai Ioniq PHEV is one of this market’s better-established options. When, in October 2018, the UK government removed the £1500 tax incentive formerly applied to plug-in hybrids, the ones that best combined usability, real-world economy and value suddenly stood out. And this was, and remains, one of them. Even now you’ll look long and hard for a plug-in hybrid available for less than £30,000 – and bargain-hunters really needn’t look beyond this one. At the time of writing, Hyundai was even offering finance incentives worth £2000 on the car, the likes of which you rarely see on in-demand electrified models. The Ioniq PHEV offers usable cabin space for four adults, plenty of boot space and a viceless driving experience that, while neither particularly polished or exciting, won’t offend. It mixes combustion power with electric pretty seamlessly most of the time. The car has an electric-only range of 32 miles on the WLTP cycle (putting it in the same BIK tax bracket as most of its opponents in this chart) and runs economically enough the rest of the time. Not with the frugality of the Toyota Prius or the performance of a Mini Countryman Cooper S E, admittedly, but well enough, and with competent ride and handling. Save money with new Ioniq deals from What Car? 4. Mercedes-Benz E300de Mercedes-Benz is the only player in the PHEV segment offering the combination of a diesel engine and electric propulsion. In the E300de, it also allows you to choose a saloon or estate bodystyle, which is another advantage that isn’t as widely available as you might imagine. For those reasons and others, the E300de makes the top half of this chart. Electric range only just scrapes a WLTP-certified 30 miles, although that will depend on optional specification, so the car may well miss a 12% BIK banding if you opt for bigger wheels or a sportier trim. The fact that it’s easy to add options and turn this into a £50,000-plus prospect will also have an impact on its tax efficiency, of course. In the real world, our testing suggests that 22-25 miles is as far as the E300de will run without rousing its four-pot diesel engine. And yet considering it has only four cylinders, its performance is impressively swift. Clever power management makes it easy to capture and recycle energy without realising you’re doing it and the handling is quietly deft and fairly precise for what is, after all, a two-tonne car. Mercedes’ hybrid battery installation does take up some boot space, but it doesn’t prevent the E300de being a supremely practical car – particularly in estate form – as well as a smart, desirable and real-world-efficient one. Save money with new E-Class deals from What Car? 5. Audi Q5 55 TFSIe That Audi’s first plug-in hybrids came with e-tron badges makes it a little bit confusing that the very latest don’t; instead, Audi calls them TFSIe – and there are several headed to market throughout 2020. The one that's already in showrooms is the petrol-electric Q5, the 55 TFSIe, which combines a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric drive motor for a combined peak power output of 362bhp. Performance is predictably strong, but it's not as impressive as the general smoothness of this car’s powertrain in day-to-day operation, which reeks of the kind of attention-to-detail for which its maker is known. The disappointments, beyond a high purchase price, are slightly disappointing real-world economy (think 35mpg on longer journeys); a slightly remote-feeling, carefully filtered and heavily assisted driving experience; and the fact that it doesn't have more than 30 miles of electric range so can’t get below a 14% BIK tax band. Save money with new Q5 deals from What Car? 6. Volkswagen Passat GTE After a temporary suspension of sales, the Passat GTE returned to UK sales last year in updated form. The design came in for a nip and a tuck, but the biggest changes were made under the surface. The battery pack was enlarged to 13kWh, increasing the car's electric range to as much as 36 miles on the WLTP cycle. The list price also fell, which will please the quarter or so of Passat buyers who will opt for the plug-in hybrid version. The powertrain itself consists of a reasonably refined turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, with the two elements combining to deliver up to 215bhp to the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Admittedly, this isn't the quickest or the most exciting PHEV to drive by the segment’s latest standards but, in terms of breadth of appeal and understated Volkswagen-brand desirability, it has plenty to recommend it. Save money with new Passat deals from What Car? 7. Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 Volvo was one of the first premium brands to move into the plug-in hybrid field, but it has waited to get involved with a car priced to appeal in a big way to fleet operators. With the XC40 Recharge T5, however, it has crossed that threshold: this is a compact SUV with only a three-cylinder petrol engine and yet it has combined system outputs of 259bhp and 314lb ft, plus a starting price of only just above £40,000. Like the Audi Q5, the XC40 narrowly misses passing the 30-mile mark for electric range and so isn’t as cheap on BIK tax as other options here. Its driving experience also leaves a little bit to be desired, delivering neither the authoritative turn of speed to make you sit up and pay attention nor the slick refinement and polish to ease your passage. Rolling refinement is only okay, with an edge of firmess and brittleness afflicting sport-suspended R-Design-spec cars in particular. Save money with new XC40 deals from What Car? 8. Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 Mini is growing and maturing as a car brand, and that’s evident in the second-generation Countryman – a car that's more practical and multifaceted than its predecessor and available as an impressive, if expensive, plug-in hybrid with around 27 miles of electric range on the WLTP cycle. Like all Minis, the Countryman Cooper S E is characterful, desirable, quite firmly sprung and spirited to drive – but it also offers decent space for passengers and luggage, four-wheel drive, a combined 221bhp of peak power, 284lb ft of torque and the potential for sub-7.0sec 0-62mph sprints. Its off-road ability is to be taken with a large pinch of salt, but if its value for money is considered in light of everything it offers, Mini-brand desirability included, it’s an appealing option. Save money with new Countryman deals from What Car? 9. Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid4 Vauxhall is looking to become something of a mover and a shaker in the new-age plug-in hybrid fleet market, just as it was in the company car scene 20 years ago when the Vectra was in its pomp. The car it’s looking to for success isn’t anything like a traditional family saloon, however – rather its first petrol-electric SUV, the Grandland X Hybrid4. Sharing its platform and its all-paw powertrain with a number of new Peugeot and DS models, the Grandland X certainly has the stats to catch your eye. Between its turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine and twin electric drive motors, it produces 296bhp and 383lb ft and can accelerate to 60mph from rest in less than 6.0sec. That’s quite of a lot of performance on offer in a car that, thanks to the new tax rules, might cost a company car driver a similar monthly BIK outlay as they were previously paying for a mid-range diesel Qashqai. It's a shame, then, that this Vauxhall's driving experience struggles to deliver against such a top billing. It's quick in outright terms but can be unresponsive and clunky when switching between power sources, while it's a little short on handling finesse and engine-on mechanical refinement. Unlike the Q5 and the XC40, the Grandland X does beat 30 miles of electric range (although not out on the road, in our test experience) and so qualifies for 12% BIK tax. Save money with new Grandland X deals from What Car? 10. Mercedes-Benz A250e As the premium makers move to incorporate plug-in hybrid power into their line-ups, it was only a matter of time before the Mercedes-Benz A-Class sprouted a plug socket. We've driven this car – which combines a turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for 215bhp in total – only briefly on German roads in bad weather, and it didn’t impress us much. But we’re hoping for a better showing in the UK. The reason for that hope? A 15.6kWh battery pack, which is large for any PHEV and gives the A250e an electric range of up to 42 miles on the WLTP cycle, allowing it to be the only car in this list qualifying for 8% BIK tax. You get the same luxuriant interior here as in any other A-Class and excellent infotainment technology, which both distinguish the car amont its peers no matter the powertrain. It remains to be seen if the engine and gearbox will improve on the disappointing smoothness and drivability that we encountered in a pre-production car last year. If they do, expect the A250e to move up this list by a fairly long way. Save money with new A-Class deals from What Car? View the full article
  14. It’s what’s inside that counts. In this case, the Fabia’s engine bay In around 12 months’ time, the all-new Fabia will arrive in Skoda showrooms. About time, too, since the current, third-generation model under discussion here will, by then, be six years old. Still, it has done a great job of connecting Skoda’s supermini with a younger audience. Being a Skoda, it’s a sturdy rather than plush motor but practical with a large boot and good rear cabin space; reliable, too, as its strong showing in surveys attests. It’s also great value. Prices start from around £4500 for a 2015-reg 1.0 MPI 60 S, the entry-level model. This version is okay for scooting around town, but the engine is underpowered and hobbled by being paired with a tallish five-speed gearbox. That didn’t stop it selling well from new, though, and there are lots to choose from all the way to 2018 when it was dropped at the facelift. There’s a punchier 74bhp version badged 1.0 MPI 75 (it survived the facelift), but it’s rare, presumably because the 1.2 TSI, with 89bhp or 108bhp, was only a bit more expensive per month on a PCP finance deal. Whatever the reason, these two 1.2 TSI engines are the ones to aim for, especially the 108bhp (badged 110) that comes with a sixspeed gearbox. A 2016-reg 1.2 TSI 110 SE with 50,000 miles costs around £6500 and the lower-powered but more plentiful 90 SE about £500 less. Which leaves the diesels. There are three, all 1.4s and producing 74bhp, 89bhp and 104bhp. We found a privately advertised 2015-reg 1.4 TDI SE 90 with 43,000 miles for just £4000 but, generally speaking, dealers ask from around £5500. It goes without saying that the diesels are best if your mileage is on the high side (they’ll do around 60mpg), but you’ll need to look hard for one, because they’re easily outnumbered by the petrols and were dropped with the 2018 facelift. You want an automatic gearbox? The Volkswagen Group’s excellent DSG dual-clutch is available with the 108bhp 1.2 TSI and 89bhp 1.4 TDI. They’re reasonably plentiful and a 2015-reg 1.2 TSI 110 DSG with 30,000 miles costs around £7600 at a Skoda dealer. In 2017, just before the facelift, the 1.2 TSI petrols were replaced by torquier and more efficient 1.0 TSI units making 94bhp and 108bhp. As before, the more powerful engine has a six-speed gearbox and is our favourite for its better all-round performance. Pay from £7000 for an approved used 2017-reg 1.0 TSI 95 with 26,000 miles. When it finally came, the facelift signalled the end of the 1.0 MPI 60 as well as both the diesel engines. The 1.0 MPI 75 was spared along with the new 1.0 TSI units. Meanwhile, the styling was tweaked and daytime running lights were added. SE-L trim was the biggest winner, gaining sat-nav and 16in alloys. Need to know Beware the pre-2018 facelift 1.0-litre, three-cylinder 59bhp and 74bhp MPI petrol engines – they’re cheap but underpowered. Hill-hold assist is an option on manuals but standard on the DSG. Look out for cars with useful options including the Simply Clever pack (a net system and extra storage in the boot and a small door-mounted waste bin). A variable boot floor was another option. Check the standard-issue ice scraper is in the fuel filler. Variable servicing means some Fabias may not have seen fresh oil for 20,000 miles or two years. In What Car?’s 2019 Reliability Survey, the Fabia came 10th out of 25 in the City and Small cars class. Our pick Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 110 SE: Not only is this 108bhp unit a sweet motor but it also has a six-speed gearbox where 89bhp versions of the same engine have the long-legged five-speeder that blunts performance. Wild card Skoda Fabia 1.0 MPI 60 S: Only wild in that this is the cheapest, slowest and least well-equipped Fabia of them all. Which is why, of all the versions, it best expresses the Skoda brand’s no-nonsense value. Ones we found 2015 1.0 MPI 60 S, 88,000 miles, £4390 2016 1.2 TSI 110 SE, 35,000 miles, £6495 2017 1.4 TDI 105 Monte Carlo, 25,000 miles, £9700 2019 1.0 TSI 95 SE, 20 miles, £12,495 READ MORE Skoda to showcase student-built Scala Spider New Skoda Octavia vRS gains 242bhp PHEV option for 2020 New Skoda Vision IN is bespoke SUV for Indian market View the full article
  15. Vision AVTR concept previewed Mercedes' ultra-green batteries Environmentally friendly compostable batteries could be coming to road cars – but not for 15 years Radical environmentally friendly organic batteries are a “very promising technology” being evaulated by Mercedes-Benz for future use in road cars – but it's at least 15 years away from mainstream production. The technology was previewed on the future-gazing Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR concept car unveiled earlier this year. Organic batteries are made from graphene-based organic-cell chemistry with a water-based electrolyte. That means they don't use any rare or toxic materials or metals, making them entirely recyclable through composting. Early testing shows they also offer both a high energy density and quick-charging capability. Andreas Hintennach, Mercedes' senior manager of battery research, said: “It’s a very promising technology. I’ve already seen it working in laboratories, where the results look really good, but we don’t see that it’s close to being used in production technology for now. It’s around 15-20 years away.” Mercedes-Benz has set a goal of becoming entirely carbon-neutral by 2039. To this end, it's researching a number of technologies to reduce the environmental impact of battery production – particularly by cutting down the use of controversial materials such as cobalt and lithium. All current electric vehicles, including the Mercedes-Benz EQC and the firm's other EVs, use lithium ion battery technology. Mercedes is working to improve the efficiency of lithium ion batteries – Hinnentach estimates that range could still be boosted by up to 25% – while evaluating a number of future technologies that it aims to introduce within the next 5-15 years. That includes solid-state batteries, but while Hinnentach said this tech “opens a lot of doors and windows”, he cautioned that “it’s not a magic solution”. He added: “Solid state adds lots of positive aspects. It’s not a miracle but would be a huge step forward.” Hinnentach added that a major current problem with solid-state batteries is long charging times, making them unsuitable for road cars. Mercedes is aiming to first introduce them into production in an eCitaro bus in the second half of this decade. Other technologies under investigation by Mercedes include lithium-metal anodes, lithium-sulphur batteries and lithium-oxygen batteries. Hinnentach said that all offer different benefits and drawbacks in terms of efficiency, density and weight. He noted that different battery types would likely be used in different vehicles, with lithium-sulphur, which is lighter than lithium ion, potentially allowing for vehicles to be fitted with smaller battery packs. Asked if there is a risk in pursuing multiple technologies, Hinnentach said: “It is challenging, but you need novel ideas. We need to be very focused on the future. "You do risk inefficiency by looking at multiple options, and not all will make it to market, but if you didn’t take risks in R&D by backing multiple horses, then you could end up losing. We’re also keeping the pipeline open for the future." READ MORE Mercedes-Benz reveals futuristic Vision AVTR concept car Toyota to reveal solid state battery-powered prototype in 2020 New Mercedes-Benz EQE electric saloon spied testing View the full article
  16. New prototype spy shots reveal styling tweaks for estate and bespoke details for hybrid version New prototypes of the facelifted BMW 5 Series have been caught revealing new details ahead of its scheduled launch later this year. The test mules wear the same disguise as those snapped by our photographers last year, but this is the first time we've seen the updated Touring variant being road tested. Like the saloon, it appears to gain only subtle tweaks to the front and rear, but we can see that hybrid versions will be told apart by a bespoke front bumper design, with a horizontal vane spanning the width of the lower air intake. Previous reports that BMW would significantly increase the size of the executive car's trademark kidney grille appear to be incorrect, as it looks to have grown more subtly than it did on the facelifted 7 Series. The move is part of a broader strategy at BMW that aims to give each model its own individual appearance, with the latest 3 Series sporting a different front-end look. Further design changes include redesigned headlights and a more heavily structured front bumper that incorporates newly designed air vents, including vertical air curtain ducts at the outer edges. Changes at the rear are likely to be less significant, although the plastic wrap adorning the spied prototypes hints at styling revisions to the tail-lights, rear bumper, tailpipes and area around the numberplate. Inside, the 5 Series is expected to receive new digital instrument graphics as well as a revised central display housing the infotainment functions. Today’s 5 Series will get BMW’s latest iDrive 7.0 operating system as part of a running change from this month onwards, suggesting the 2020 model will carry this on until the introduction of an iDrive 7.5 system in the eighth-generation 5 Series model due in 2023. The prototype displayed here is propelled by a plug-in hybrid powertrain, shown by the mandatory identification on its front doors as well as the flap for the charging port integrated into the front-left wing. The current G30 5 Series is already sold with a plug-in hybrid set-up in the 530e. This has a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor developing a combined 248bhp and providing an electric-only driving range of up to 40 miles. As part of a push to take its plug-in hybrid drivelines into the performance car class, BMW is said to be planning a new 545e model running the same set-up as the 745e. This would use a more powerful turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine and an electric motor making a combined 388bhp and yielding an electric-only range of up to 36 miles. In further developments, BMW plans to equip all petrol engines with a particulate filter, while the diesels will receive new selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology, according to Munich sources. Read more BMW details hydrogen plans including 369bhp powertrain BMW 3 Series 330e 2020 long-term review​ BMW continues to defend new styling direction View the full article
  17. Pro drivers faced pro gamers in The Race All-Star Esports Battle last week Virtual racing is becoming intrinsic to F1, with stars like Lando Norris using sims to sharpen their skills and racers transitioning from gaming to real-life cars Nothing seems real right now, so it’s somehow fitting that motorsport offers a comforting distraction from our grim plight in a made-up dream world. What’s new, eh? Quiet at the back… To the millions already tuned in, virtual or ‘sim’ racing was already a well-established and lucrative self-sustaining universe, but with real life on hold, it has suddenly burst into the mainstream. “How many nights does it take to be an overnight success?” as Torque Esports boss Darren Cox rhetorically puts it. Formula 1 stars Lando Norris and Max Verstappen were catalysts for the craze when they entered a couple of sim races on the weekend when they should have been lining up on the grid for the real Australian Grand Prix. But the reality is the pair, along with an increasingly large percentage of their fellow professionals, weren’t doing anything they don’t usually do. Online racing is increasingly part of the racing driver existence, and not just for the youngsters. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and seven-time F1 grand prix winner Juan Pablo Montoya, 44, has years of sim racing experience. “It certainly keeps you sharp. Both myself and my son Sebastian use sim racing in our real-world training and preparation,” he exclusively told Autocar. “The tools we have available are quite remarkable and it’s considerably cheaper than actually going testing on-track for real. “Racing is in our DNA, so whether I’m competing for real or racing in a virtual event, I still want to win. Sebastian is now very fast on the sim and we’re very close in competition – but I certainly don’t want to let him win. “Normally, you only get to race on weekends; with sim racing, you can be racing every day of the week.” The burst of wellpublicised sim activity on the Aussie GP weekend attracted telephone-number viewing figures.And predictably, by the following weekend, when the Bahrain GP should have been happening, F1 was running its own virtual race ‘in Sakhir’, while Nascar was also getting in on the act. While the ‘real’ racing drivers naturally drew the interest, sim professionals more than held their own – although it was Renault Academy and Formula 2 racer Guanyu Zhou who won the first official Formula 1 GP that didn’t actually happen. Montoya has long had respectfor the racers he encounters online. “I was a coach on the World’s Fastest Gamer competition last year and was massively impressed with the talent,” he says. “Over 12 days, we put 10 gamers through all sorts of virtual and real-world tests. “James Baldwin was the guy who came out on top [he will this year be racing in the real world for Jenson Button’s GT World Challenge Europe team], but on any given day there are a lot of gamers who have the raw skills to become real-world racing drivers.” Not just a game It’s hard to take the racing too seriously, especially when Norris suffered a tech problem during the formation lap for the virtual Bahrain GP that left his car running on autopilot for half the race – and he still finished in fifth place. But as Montoya points out, there’s still a link between ‘gaming’ and the serious simulator development work that every F1 team today invests so heavily in. “When I first went to F1 with Williams [in 2001], we were just developing the sim, and then when I was at McLaren, they already did a lot of sim work,” he says. “Now all teams in professional motorsport use simulators to help move their programmes forward. The sims are so good that many of the programmes use a specific platform to develop the car, and they are the same that are used in sim racing.” “It’s very realistic,” Montoya insists. “In building the virtual tracks, they laser-scan every inch of the road – every bump you feel for real, you feel in the game. The cars are also remarkably close. “The only difference in real life is you have the fear: in the game, you can hit the reset button and try again, whereas in real life there can be massive consequences if you make a mistake. “It doesn’t replace being in a real car 100%, but it’s a lot better than just sitting on the couch, waiting for this unfortunate situation to end.” The stuff of Hollywood Will this spell in the limelight help push more gamers from virtual to real-life racing? Perhaps. It has already been done plenty of times before. Reigning World Touring Car Cup champion Norbert Michelisz was a pioneering convert, as was Briton Jann Mardenborough, who was discovered through Nissan’s PlayStation-supported GT Academy. The 28-year-old has apparently now signed a Hollywood movie deal to tell his story. His manager, Darren Cox, was a founder of the GT Academy during his time at Nissan and was behind the sim race that Verstappen took part in on the Australian GP weekend. Understandably, he’s protective of his thriving industry now that it’s hitting the mainstream. “It’s Wayne’s World,” he says. “When Wayne was in his basement, his show was cool and everyone thought he was funny. Then the big TV executive bought it, stuck him in a studio and it was rubbish. That’s the danger: you get the over-polished F1 replica. So we have to avoid ‘Wayne’s World syndrome’. If you watched Lando’s feed [during the Veloce-run race], he was swearing. Can you imagine that? No one was bleeping it out.” Esports motor racing is more than just a fad; it’s too well-established to be that. And as Cox points out, racing drivers might now have ‘virtual’ clauses in their F1 contracts to sim race for more than just off-duty fun. This opportunistic explosion of interest could have lasting consequences once we all return to what counts as our ‘real’ world. READ MORE Racing lines: Pure ETCR's deep digs at Formula E Racing lines: F1 pulls in the public; car makers? Not so much Racing lines: New year, new deals - welcome to F1's 'silly season' View the full article
  18. Giulietta's time is at an end Upcoming Tonale SUV is indirect replacement for hatchback, says Italian maker The Alfa Romeo Giulietta will be axed later this year as the Italian maker focuses on expanding its more profitable SUV line-up. The hatchback was not included in plans for the brand detailed late last year, but its off-sale date had not been confirmed until now. Fabio Migliavacca said: “Giulietta is expected to finish its life at the end of this year. The trend is to have SUVs in the C-segment, so the Tonale SUV will be the replacement for Giulietta.” He added that Alfa Romeo was focused on ensuring the upcoming Tonale would have the same driving dynamics as the Giulietta despite being an SUV. “We don’t expect driving dynamics to be a weak point for the Tonale,” he said. The Giulietta, launched in 2010, has struggled to find sales in recent years. Last year, it sold 15,690 units in Europe, compared with 78,911 in 2011, its best-selling year. Meanwhile, the Tonale (above), which has already been seen in concept form and through leaked images, is expected to be revealed officially this year, although the coronavirus pandemic may well delay its launch. The Tonale will sit below the Stelvio in Alfa Romeo’s SUV range and will be the brand’s first plug-in hybrid, employing a similar set-up to the upcoming Jeep Compass PHEV, which is promising an electric-only range of 30 miles. Migliavacca said that although the plug-in hybrid Tonale will have commonalities with its Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) stablemate at Jeep, it will still be an Alfa Romeo: “For the performance side of things, it will be an Alfa Romeo. Every single brand in FCA keeps its identity even with shared elements.” READ MORE New Alfa Romeo Tonale: 2020 production car leaks online Alfa Romeo scraps plans for new GTV and 8C models New Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA is firm's most powerful model yet View the full article
  19. A quick, classy and quiet electric SUV that builds on the solid foundations of its more upright sibling This is the car with which Audi is aiming to challenge the Jaguar I-Pace for zero-emissions SUV driving honours.The E-tron Sportback 55 quattro, as its name suggests, is a more sporting version of the E-tron 55 quattro that has been on sale here since mid-2019. Outwardly, it’s distinguished from its sibling by a more heavily curved, coupé-like roofline and liftback-style tailgate, among other subtle changes, including more aggressively styled bumpers and headlights using Audi’s new digital matrix LED technology.Together, these alterations provide the E-tron Sportback with a shapely profile similar in style and detailing to the Elaine concept that Audi unveiled three years ago.Sharing certain exterior design elements with conventionally powered Audi models, it’s perhaps not as distinctive as the I-Pace. But with a drag coefficient of just 0.25Cd, it’s among the most aerodynamically efficient series-production SUVs yet, beating the Jaguar in this crucial area by a considerable 0.4Cd margin. This is thanks in part to the availability of ‘virtual exterior mirrors’, which use a camera to project a live video feed on the forward part of the doors inside.The changes to the cabin over the regular E-tron are slight, but that’s no bad thing. In terms of attractiveness, perceived quality and tactility, the dashboard, controls and trim materials are all premium in nature.The optional front sports seats are firm and supportive, setting up a pleasantly roomy and airy driving environment. However, accommodation in the rear is compromised to the tune of 20mm by that plunging roofline.The adoption of a more heavily angled tailgate also reduces boot capacity by 45 litres over the E-tron, at 615 litres. Even so, it’s still quite versatile, with 58 litres more than the I-Pace. Like the E-tron (alongside which it’s produced at Audi’s factory in Brussels, Belgium), the E-tron Sportback is based on a modified version of the MLB Evo platform, housing between its axles a sizeable 95kWh lithium ion battery made up of cells supplied by LG Chem.At 4901mm long, 1935mm wide and 1616mm tall, the E-tron Sportback is 85mm shorter, 60mm narrower and a considerable 89mm lower than Audi’s conventionally powered flagship SUV, the Q8.The drivetrain is borrowed wholly from the E-tron. It uses two differently specified asynchronous electric motors, one sitting up front that produces peaks of 181bhp and 182lb ft of torque and a second at the rear making 221bhp and 232lb ft.Together, they provide a maximum system output of 402bhp and 490lb ft for limited periods of up to eight seconds in Boost mode, which is activated by slotting the gear selector into S. In D, the combined output of the motors is reduced to a milder 355bhp and 414lb ft to help increase efficiency and consequently extend the range between charges. The I-Pace’s two motors, by way of comparison, deliver a maximum combined 394bhp and 512lb ft.Power is sent to all four wheels via a single-speed gearbox attached to each motor and networked via a central power electrics system. In a key departure from its more practical sister, however, the E-tron Sportback features a decoupling mechanism between its front and rear axles.This enables it to send its drive exclusively to the rear wheels in everyday driving in D, giving it an additional seven miles of range over the E-tron, at 278 miles. It’s only when you call up greater reserves via the kickdown function in S that the other motor is called upon and the front wheels begin to do the driving.View the full article
  20. Aston Martin is confirmed as rebranded Racing Point Formula 1 team for 2021 and team boss and chairman explains what it means Aston Martin's path to Formula 1 was officially secured on 30 March under new shareholder investment, including from a consortium lead by new executive chairman Lawrence Stroll. The 2021 F1 season will see Aston return to the grid as a works F1 team operating from the team's base in Silverstone. The move is effectively a rebrand of Stroll's existing Racing Point team. Aston Martin Lagonda approved a £536 million fundraising round on Monday, underpinned by an injection of £260m of new capital from Yew Tree Consortium - a group of investors led by Stroll. The current Racing Point team today released a statement detailing the importance of a Formula 1 to the Aston brand. "There is no better way to build the Aston Martin brand globally, and to engage with its customer base, than to have a successful works team in Formula 1. The sport demands excellence in design and engineering, and relentless innovation, much of which will be shared with the engineering and development teams at Gaydon and will progressively be incorporated into the future generations of cars, particularly the planned range of mid-engine cars." The statement confirms work has begun "to lay the foundations for the success of the team, the development of the cars and the building of the brand globally". This is despite the whole sport coming to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing a number of teams to join the effort to develop and build hospital ventilators. Racing Point released a Q&A with Lawrence Stroll discussing the Aston deal and its future in F1. Q&A with Lawrence Stroll Events have developed quickly over the last few months, but you must be delighted to have officially completed the process. “The process of investing in this wonderful car brand has required all of my attention and energy for a number of months. There were certainly some sleepless nights. At the same time, it has been one of the most exciting deals in which I’ve ever been involved. Cars are my passion, a huge part of my life, and Aston Martin has always had a special place in my heart. "To stand here today and announce that the agreement is finalised is a huge privilege and one of the proudest moments of my career. With all the paperwork completed, I can focus my attention on implementing the strategy to make this fantastic brand even more successful in the years ahead.” Formula 1 is an important part of the strategy and you have confirmed the Racing Point team will be known as Aston Martin F1 Team from 2021. “A brand with the pedigree and history of Aston Martin needs to be competing at the highest level of motorsport. I think it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in recent memory in Formula 1 and it’s incredibly exciting for all stakeholders in the sport, especially the fans. I can’t think of a better name for a Formula 1 team. "Our investment strategy places Formula 1 as a central pillar of the global marketing strategy, and it makes perfect sense to rebrand Racing Point for this purpose. Aston Martin has been competing very successfully in various classes of motorsport throughout its history, but we now have an opportunity to create a works team in Formula 1. The global spotlight of Formula 1 is second to none and we will leverage this reach to showcase the Aston Martin brand in our key markets.” You’re also keen to leverage the technology of F1 competition for the Aston Martin road cars. “This is another important part of the strategy. Not only does Formula 1 help elevate the brand, it opens up the opportunity for technology cross-over. I’m incredibly excited to see what technology can filter down from the racing programme into the road cars. This will be particularly relevant for the mid-engine road cars that will be launched in the future. There will be a genuine collaboration to ensure that our road cars share the DNA of our success on the track as well.” What is likely to change at Silverstone over the coming 12 months? “The group of men and women at Silverstone are true racers and their determination and spirit is one of the main reasons I invested in the Formula 1 team. After 30 years, they deserve this opportunity to represent this legendary brand. We are continuing to invest in the team to give everybody the resources required and we will see the benefit of those efforts this year as Racing Point. "With the Aston name comes more pressure and expectation. We will need to be competitive from the outset. But I have no doubt the team at Silverstone will rise to the challenge and do the Aston Martin name proud.” The coronavirus pandemic presents difficult times for the whole world. How is this impacting on plans for 2021? “I don’t think there is any area of life or business that hasn’t been touched by this devastating pandemic and the racing community is certainly adapting as best it can. Of course, as racers, we are all very frustrated not to be competing, but we all understand the bigger picture in this global fight and so we stay at home. "The team is also supporting Project Pitlane to help accelerate the production of ventilators. In the meantime, we can rely on video conferences to keep our plans for 2020 and 2021 moving forward. I am committed to Formula 1 with a long-term vision and this is just a temporary pause in the journey.” READ MORE Aston seals funds for DBX production but issues long-term warning Mercedes to discuss Formula 1 withdrawal, potentially triggering sensational Aston Martin buyout Billionaire Stroll takes major stake in Aston Martin View the full article
  21. New tax rules incentivise EV ownership We help you figure out how much Vehicle Excise Duty you'll be paying on your new car, whether it's petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric How much do you have to pay to tax your car? From today, 1 April, the amount could change because the government has overhauled the Vehicle Excise Duty system to encourage buyers to choose zero- and low-emission vehicles. How much you'll pay depends on what kind of car you have, how old it is, and how you want to pay. This article should help you make sense of it all. Vehicle Excise Duty, known as VED, is a tax levied by the government on every vehicle on UK public roads and is collected by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). It’s a major source of revenue for the government, totalling billions of pounds each year, which goes into the central coffers of the exchequer. Although VED is often referred to as road tax, this is misleading. The tax isn’t on the road: it’s on the vehicles that use it. Road tax was abolished in the 1930s and the cost of maintaining the UK’s roads is currently covered by general taxation, not specifically VED. However, in his 2015 budget, then-chancellor George Osborne announced that a new road fund would be set up whereby all funds raised through VED will go into the building and upkeep of the UK’s road system. This new system was implemented by Rishi Sunak in his 2020 budget, but scheduled road works are likely to be pushed back as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. The VED system based on vehicle emissions was introduced in 2001 as part of a push to reduce pollutants being released into the atmosphere. Vehicles emitting more pollutants cost more to tax, as part of efforts to persuade drivers to consider buying cleaner vehicles. Changes to system in April mean significant differences for new car buyers. How VED has changed from April 2020 The changes coming into force as of April 2020 were drawn up as a means of enhancing the appeal of electric vehicle ownership. The government has uprated VED in line with the retail prices index (RPI) for cars, vans, motorcycles and motorcycle trade licences, but the biggest change, and the one that will be felt most by motorists and traders, is the switch from using NEDC emissions testing as the basis for the various tax band tiers to the new WLTP system. This new method is said to deliver more realistic readings for a vehicle’s fuel consumption, emissions output and driving range, and will result in vehicles moving up a band and becoming, on average, £5 more expensive to tax annually. On 6 April, benefit-in-kind car tax will be removed for electric vehicles, as part of a move to incentivise fleet managers and company car drivers to choose zero-emission models. Further incentive comes in the form of the removal of the £320 ‘expensive car tax’ for electric cars costing more than £40,000, which means anyone buying a new electric car from 1 April will save £320 per year for years two to six of ownership - a total saving of £1600. The exemption is set to be in place until 31 March 2025 and ongoing ‘expensive car’ payments for cars bought before 1 April 2020 will be scrapped. Elsewhere, diesel cars that don’t meet the latest RDE-2 emissions standards will be taxed at higher rates than their petrol equivalents, but a new flat rate of £150 for purely combustion-engined cars registered after 1 April 2017 will come into effect in April 2021. A flat rate of £140 will be applied to hybrids registered after this date. The old system will still apply to vehicles registered before 1 April 2017. See some examples of these changes at the end of this article. OLDER VEHICLES If your vehicle was registered before 1 March 2001, then the engine size in cubic centimetres (cc) is what’s important. • Cars with engines equal to or smaller in capacity than 1549cc (roughly equivalent to 1.5 litres) have to pay £145 a year, assuming they pay up front for 12 months. • Cars with engines larger than 1549cc will have to pay £235 a year. The exact amount due can vary slightly, depending on whether you pay for six months or 12 months, and whether you pay all at once or in instalments. You can see a full breakdown of the charges by going to the DVLA website. NEW VEHICLES If your car is newer, and was registered between 1 March 2001 and 1 April 2017, then it’s the emissions that you need to think about. Petrol- and diesel-powered cars are the most commonly taxed vehicles and they’re categorised by bands that are determined by their CO2 emissions. Prices vary slightly depending on how you pay – in one go, or in instalments. The table below shows the prices for six- and 12-month cycles and you can see the full breakdown by going to the government’s VED website. Petrol and diesel vehicles *Includes cars that have a CO2 figure higher than 225g/km but were registered before 23 March 2006. Alternative fuel vehicles If your car is powered by an alternative fuelling system, then the charges are slightly different but based on the same premise. Alternative-fuel cars include hybrids and vehicles that run on biofuel or a variant of gas, such as LPG or CNG. Once again, the costs vary slightly depending on how you want to pay. *Includes cars that have a CO2 figure higher than 225g/km, but were registered before 23 March 2006. TAXING FOR THE FIRST TIME If your car is brand new and you’re taxing it for the first time, then the costs are slightly different again. The below prices are only applicable the first time a car is taxed. After that, it follows the tables above. The system rewards drivers of new, low-emitting cars with a lower-than-usual payment for the first year, but it smacks high-emitting vehicles with a fairly stiff initial charge. The prices are for 12 months and are payable only in a single payment. You can see further details here. Petrol, diesel and alternative-fuel vehicles, first year only Goods vehicles and motorbikes have their own VED system, which you can find more about here. PAYMENT Once you’ve figured out what you owe, you can pay your VED in a variety of ways. The simplest method is online at https://www.gov.uk/vehicle-tax, using a credit or debit card. You’ll also need one or more of the following documents to hand: • The V11 reminder letter that was sent to you when your existing tax was running out • The car’s V5C registration document, which must be in your name • The V5C/2 new keeper supplement if you’ve just bought the car • The ‘last chance’ warning letter sent to you if you’re about to end up on the wrong side of the law for not either paying or declaring a SORN If you’d rather use more traditional methods, you can pay over the phone by calling 0300 123 4321. There are charges for this call, which you can read about here. You can also pay at any post office that can process vehicle tax. You’ll need to bring one of the following: • The V11 reminder letter that was sent to you when your existing tax was running out • The car’s V5C registration document, which must be in your name • The V5C/2 new keeper supplement if you’ve just bought the car You may also need your MOT test certificate, valid for the start of the new tax period, and a valid Reduced Pollution Certificate if the vehicle has been modified to cut its emissions. In Northern Ireland, you’ll need to bring your insurance certificate or cover note. EXEMPT VEHICLES From a financial point of view, the best position to be in is to be exempt from paying any VED, and if you’re in any of the following categories, you don’t have to pay anything. The following are exempt from car tax, and have been since before the changes took place: • Vehicles used by a disabled person • Vehicles registered before 1 January 1980 • Electric vehicles • Steam vehicles • Mobility scooters • Mowers • Agricultural, horticultural and farming vehicles If you own a car but you don’t drive it on public roads, then you’re also exempt, although you’ll have to declare it to the DVLA. This is called a Statutory Off Road Notification, or SORN, and you can declare it here. Be aware that if you don’t let the DVLA know that you want the car registered as off the roads, you’ll be liable for road tax even if the car doesn’t move. Conversely, if you want to take the vehicle back onto public roads, you’ll need to pay the appropriate amount of VED first. Unless you’re in the above categories you’ll have to pay. Well, almost – if your car is particularly green and emits less than 100 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre (g/km), then it is also exempt. But everyone else will need to cough up. THINGS TO NOTE Unlike in the past, you don’t need to wait for a tax disc to be sent for display in the vehicle’s window. The tax disc system was abolished in 2014. It’s important to note that VED no longer transfers to a new owner when you sell or buy a car. The new owner will need to tax the car afresh and they’ll need to do so before they drive the car. Some examples using the new system: Hyundai Ioniq Electric Price when new: £29,450, CO2 emissions: 0g/km First year tax rate after 1st April 2020: £0 Tax rate after first year of ownership: £0 Tax cost across first three years: £0 Tesla Model X Performance Price when new: £100,400, CO2 emissions: 0g/km First year tax rate after 1st April 2020: £0 Tax rate after first year of ownership: £0, plus £0 'expensive car' fee Tax cost across first three years: £0 Mercedes-Benz E 300 de AMG Line Price when new: £53,354.99, CO2 emissions: 40g/km First year tax rate after 1st April 2020: £0 Tax rate after first year of ownership: £320 (including £310 Premium fee) Tax across first three years: £660 Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 GT Convertible Price when new £47,185, CO2 emissions: 274g/km First year tax rate after 1st April 2020: £2175 Tax rate after first year of ownership: £560 Tax across first three years: £3295 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Price when new: £225,000, CO2 emissions: 290g/km First year tax rate after 1st April 2017: £2175 Tax rate after first year of ownership: £890 (including £310 'expensive car' tax) Tax across first three years: £3955 READ MORE Budget 2020: How the government’s plans will affect motorists​ Government estimates 634,000 untaxed vehicles on UK roads​ Analysis: will car sharing replace vehicle ownership?​ View the full article
  22. We round up our hottest stories, pictures and videos for you to devour in your lunch break It’s everyone’s favourite part of the working day, lunchtime, and you’re no doubt craving a hefty dose of car-related content. So we’ve revived our Autocar Lunchbox feature to bring you our favourite videos, stories, photos, quotes and more all in one place. Here are today’s picks: HOT NEWS Bentley’s first EV Bentley has begun conceptual work on a new high-riding saloon that it’s preparing to launch as its first fully electric car by 2025. The radical model will further the firm’s ambition to establish itself as the most environmentally and sustainably led premium luxury car maker in the world. Bentley's first EV to be high-riding saloon in 2025 VIDEO OF THE DAY The Ford Ranger Raptor is one of our favourite off-roaders of the moment. We'd say pick-up, but it's not much of a double-cab pick-up these days, because the sturdy leaf springs have been chucked out at the back and the whole chassis redesigned, with coil springs and Fox Motorsport dampers, to create a Baja-style rally car. Appropriately, then, we have a Bowler Bulldog, a real-life cross-country rally car, to test alongside it. See which won in our ultimate 4x4 showdown. PHOTO OF THE DAY Look at that, a proper 1980s hot hatch icon. The original Lancia Delta HF found its way onto bedroom walls across the land following a series of high-profile WRC successes and has become one of the most collectable cars of its era. The same cannot be said, however, for its name-sharing descendant, which sold slowly and had little in the way of kerb appeal. We’ve been considering whether reviving a historic nameplate is always a smart idea for manufacturers. Good, bad or ugly? When car nameplates come back QUOTE OF THE DAY “Frankly speaking, we had a meeting on a Stelvio GTA but it’s just not in line with customer expectations. It has to be the best possible [on track]. On the Stelvio, we have a higher centre of gravity [than a Giulia] so it won’t achieve the same goals.” Mixed news here from Alfa Romeo’s product marketing boss. On one hand, hot SUV fans will be disappointed the firm has no plans to introduce an even faster version of the rapid Stelvio Quadrifoglio, but some enthusiasts will take solace in the fact that the revived GTA nameplate will adorn only the most performance-focused models, such as the latest version of the Giulia. Alfa Romeo: no plans to expand GTA range FROM THE ARCHIVE Nearly every mainstream brand nowadays has a performance division that turns up the wick on their hatchbacks, saloons and estates to create true sports car baiters. Think AMG, Cupra, N and R… But did you know British Leyland was doing the same thing way back in 1970. We headed to Abingdon to sample five of the Special Tuning division’s most potent reworking. Throwback Thursday 1971: British Leyland Special Tuning POPULAR OPINION The new lockdown rules put in place last week mean we’re unable to get out and about in the latest new cars and can’t shoot features, but Steve Cropley has noticed that we’ve quite quickly adapted to the new way of working. We’re using virtual meetings to plan the magazine and profiting from a goldmine of archive images, and none of us even has to go to the airport for a while! Steve Cropley: The last dash before lockdown View the full article
  23. Travel restrictions have wreaked havoc on Autocar's diary, but there's a silver lining At Autocar the diary moves fast. Every five working days we put out more than 80 pages of news and reviews, buying guides, our long-termer updates and, of course, features. Pure editorial, so that’s without counting ad pages. And when it comes to features, much of it is necessarily long-lead stuff – stuff that, frankly, we’re pretty glad to have right now. A white-knuckle dispatch from the North Coast 500, an interview with Stefano Domenicali, an exposé on Toyota K-Series head-gasket failure: all can be researched, written and laid out on the page well in advance of the Friday evening the issue in question goes to the printers. But the news and first drives sections work on a tighter, more fiddly schedule. And for the latter especially there are big spreadsheets crammed with details. During an average month, the road-test desks at Autocar and our sister mag What Car? will drive 85 new cars in the UK and attend around 20 international launches for big-hitters like a new Clio or the latest Porsche GT3. For every one of them, the right person needs to be in the right place, at the time, with a deadline to hit and, much of the time, a photographer in tow. You don’t need me to tell you that for March and April this year, and for the foreseeable future, those spreadsheets are looking somewhat barren, as manufacturers have cancelled international launches and the people who travel the length and breadth of the country to deliver our test cars on home soil are stood down. For them, delivering the car isn’t the problem. Needing to then get two trains, followed by a bus or the Tube, in order to then get home is the issue. Nobody should ask them to do that, and nobody at this magazine is. As you’ll discover in due course, Autocar is in a good position to cope with this immediate lack of test cars, though some lateral thinking has been required. Ordinarily, there’s a lull in the diary during January, as the industry reboots after Christmas, and then again in July, when so many people are on holiday, but what’s happening now is completely unprecedented. Big stories have been postponed or cancelled. Our first taste of the Ferrari SF90 Stradale, for example, has been spiked, and the full road test of the F8 Tributo at MIRA lost for now alongside the likes of the new Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia. There are countless others. And now, the point I want to make. Sorry for the preamble. This calendar bloodbath isn’t all bad news. Why? Because Britain’s domestic tuning scene is world-class. The only thing is that, because we’ve only got so many pages to print on, and those pages are usually filled with mass-market models that people simply need to know about, rarely – and wrongly, though it’s manpower we lack, rather than the will – do these smaller companies get the attention they deserve. But even as the foreign launches started falling like dominoes, this was changing. We visited BBR GTI earlier this year to drive its latest – and utterly brilliant – take on the MX-5, and more recently Autocar has been to Ford-honing stalwart Mountune in Essex. These two outfits achieve something that’s not at all easy: appreciably improving already excellent production-spec cars that have already been lavished with massive R&D spend, and for not a lot of your hard-earned. And better still, they’re not alone. As this pandemic recedes and our personal freedoms return, there will be an inevitable delay before the launch diary for big manufacturer events revs back up. It’s during that time you can expect to read more about Britain's 'tuners', though that term undersells what many of them do. You'll read about Litchfield, experts in improving Nissan GT-Rs and even the Porsche 911, and Birds BMW, which is stockpiling the old rear-driven M140i and making them even better driver’s cars. We’ll get back in touch with Miltek, Revo, CSR Porsche and Autofarm. And, of course, Bowler. And if DMS is offering a 6000bhp upgrade for the McLaren 720S, we’ll drive that too. In this country we have an embarrassment of engineering riches hidden beneath the likes of Lotus, Aston Martin and Caterham. In 2020, expect to read a lot more about it. READ MORE 90 Years Special: The history of Autocar's road test procedures Autocar's exclusive McLaren F1 road test: 25 years on The 100 best British cars ever built View the full article
  24. Volkswagen Tiguan-sized electric SUV to arrive in Europe in August; UK launch could follow in 2021 Chinese manufacturer Aiways will open European orders for its U5 electric SUV at the end of April, ahead of deliveries starting in August. The U5 is a Volkswagen Tiguan-sized SUV with front wheels that are powered by an electric motor fed by a 65kWh battery pack. Its range is 313 miles on the NEDC cycle, with WLTP testing yet to be completed. Aiways has previously suggested that it could launch in the UK in right-hand-drive form in 2021, after the start-up company revealed strong interest. Aiways plans to produce 50,000 units of the Kia E-Niro rival this year, but the effect of coronavirus is likely to adversely hit this target, given the Chinese factory has just been reopened following the pandemic. In Europe, the U5 will be available for lease only, and exclusively online. Klose says a monthly lease cost of less than €400 (£346) is being targeted, making the U5 the equivalent of a €35,000 (£30,244) vehicle, but, crucially, that it offers all the benefits and equipment of a premium model with an electric drivetrain for the cost of a typical family SUV. “If you look at the size and the price, it’s a spot in the market that’s empty,” Klose told Autocar at the Shanghai motor show last year. “When you see the final version and the feature list, you will understand that this vehicle is not entry-level. Yet when you compare to the electric models from Audi and Mercedes, we’re half-price.” In time, Aiways hopes to offer a smaller battery pack to bring the cost down further, because it says most people simply don’t need the kind of ranges being offered for everyday use. Customers will be able to swap to a smaller battery pack and have their monthly lease cost reduced. Alongisde the U5, Aiways also already previewed a larger SUV, the U7, at last year's Shanghai show. The U5 and U7 use the same architecture, which can house different motors and sizes of battery pack and accomodate four-wheel drive. Also part of the Aiways group is the reborn Gumpert brand, which revealed an fuel cell electric supercar called the Nathalie last year. Klose told Autocar there will be technology transfer between Aiways and Gumpert but that the two companies have autonomy from one another. READ MORE Aiways U5 2019 review Chinese car maker Aiways to bring electric SUV and supercar to Europe 2019 Shanghai motor show: all the new cars revealed Gumpert reveals methanol-fuelled Nathalie in production form View the full article
  25. Volkswagen Tiguan-sized electric SUV to arrive in Europe in August; UK launch could follow in 2021 Chinese manufacturer Aiways will open European orders for its U5 electric SUV at the end of April, ahead of deliveries starting in August. The U5 is a Volkswagen Tiguan-sized SUV with front wheels that are powered by an electric motor fed by a 65kWh battery pack. Its range is 313 miles on the NEDC cycle, with WLTP testing yet to be completed. Aiways has previously suggested that it could launch in the UK in right-hand-drive form in 2021, after the start-up company revealed strong interest. Aiways plans to produce 50,000 units of the Kia E-Niro rival this year, but the effect of coronavirus is likely to adversely hit this target, given the Chinese factory has just been reopened following the pandemic. In Europe, the U5 will be available for lease only, and exclusively online. Klose says a monthly lease cost of less than €400 (£346) is being targeted, making the U5 the equivalent of a €35,000 (£30,244) vehicle, but, crucially, that it offers all the benefits and equipment of a premium model with an electric drivetrain for the cost of a typical family SUV. “If you look at the size and the price, it’s a spot in the market that’s empty,” Klose told Autocar at the Shanghai motor show last year. “When you see the final version and the feature list, you will understand that this vehicle is not entry-level. Yet when you compare to the electric models from Audi and Mercedes, we’re half-price.” In time, Aiways hopes to offer a smaller battery pack to bring the cost down further, because it says most people simply don’t need the kind of ranges being offered for everyday use. Customers will be able to swap to a smaller battery pack and have their monthly lease cost reduced. Alongisde the U5, Aiways also already previewed a larger SUV, the U7, at last year's Shanghai show. The U5 and U7 use the same architecture, which can house different motors and sizes of battery pack and accomodate four-wheel drive. Also part of the Aiways group is the reborn Gumpert brand, which revealed an fuel cell electric supercar called the Nathalie last year. Klose told Autocar there will be technology transfer between Aiways and Gumpert but that the two companies have autonomy from one another. READ MORE Aiways U5 2019 review Chinese car maker Aiways to bring electric SUV and supercar to Europe 2019 Shanghai motor show: all the new cars revealed Gumpert reveals methanol-fuelled Nathalie in production form View the full article
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