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The Motorists Guide

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  1. The new CPAP developed by UCL and Mercedes-AMG HPP (image: James Tye/UCL) F1 squad's powertrain division teams up with UCL on breathing aid, while ventilator consortium including Ford and F1 teams receives 10,000 orders The Mercedes Formula 1 team’s powertrain division has teamed up with leading London-based university UCL to develop and build a breathing aid designed to keep COVID-19 patients out of intensive care, as the automotive industry ramps up efforts to help tackle the coronavirus. The new Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device developed by the collaboration is set to begin clinical trials within the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, ahead of a planned rapid roll-out across the country. Coronavirus and the car industry: how the automotive world is reacting to COVID-19 Meanwhile, the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium, whose members include Ford and the seven UK-based F1 teams, has finalised designs for a range of Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator Systems (RMVS) that can be quickly produced. Companies in the consortium have now received formal orders from the UK government for in excess of 10,000 units. UCL and Mercedes-F1 breathing aid The CPAP device was developed by mechanical engineers from UCL and clinicians at UCLH, working with engineers from Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth. The devices are similar to those used in hospitals in Italy and China to aid COVID-19 patients with lung infections to breathe more easily, and are used in situations where oxygen alone is insufficient. According to UCL, reports in Italy show that around half of patients given CPAP have avoided the need for mechanical ventilation. The UCL, UCLH and Mercedes-AMG HPP team began work on the project on Wednesday 18 March, and produced the first device within 100 hours. It has now been recommended for use by the required regulator, and 100 devices will shortly be delivered to UCLH for clinical trials. The device was reverse-engineered to enable it to be produced quickly, and UCL says that “rapid roll-out to hospitals around the country” will follow the trial. Mercedes-AMG HPP boss Andy Cowell said: “We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the CPAR project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible timeframe.” Ventilator consortium to ramp up production The VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium is made up for engineering and technology businesses from the automotive, aerospace and medical sectors, and was set up in response to a call from the UK government for assistance in the rapid production of ventilators. The consortium members evaluated a range of designs, and has now agreed on a final version, which it says is based on existing technologies and proven clinical equipment, and can be assembled from materials and parts in current production. Regulators have been involved with the process, and the consortium said it anticipates “a straightforward and very prompt” sign off, with production set to begin this week. The complexity of producing medical equipment means that the devices are unlikely to be produced in the Ford engine plant or F1 workshops, but they will likely develop and supply specific parts to a firm in the consortium that already produces medical ventilators. They will also offer manufacturing support and assembly facilities to enable production to be scaled up. The consortium includes Ford, along with the Haas, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG, Red Bull, Racing Point, Renault and Williams F1 teams. Non-automotive firms involved include Airbus, BAE, Dell, GKN, Microsoft, Siemens and Rolls-Royce. The VentilatorChallengeUK consortium is just one group involving major car firms responding to the government’s call to help ramp up ventilator production as the COVID-19 outbreak approaches the anticipated peak. The seven F1 teams are also involved in the Project Pitlane group, collaborating to develop ventilator technology that can be rapidly produced. READ MORE Coronavirus and the car industry: how the automotive world is reacting to COVID-19 Government to ask UK manufacturers to build ventilators Coronavirus: what motorists need to know View the full article
  2. Bolder design, more choice and improved driving dynamics make the A3 stand out more than ever. Since its introduction in 1999, the Audi A3 has been the conservative and consistent, if somewhat predictable, option in the premium family hatchback class. Now into its fourth generation, there’s no longer a three-door body, but to compensate, the designers have delivered a more appealing design for the five-door Sportback version.Just like its new-generation Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf relations, the new A3 uses an evolution of the Volkswagen Group’s ubiquitous MQB platform, with enhancements to accommodate a wider spread of powertrain options that will include mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants.Three main specifications will make up the A3 offering: Sport, Technik and S line, with each receiving subtle exterior styling differences. In the case of Technik and S line, the headlights feature a small panel of 15 LEDs that provides different light signatures for each version to give greater visual differentiation. Audi distinguishes the S line exterior further with larger honeycomb structures for the side vents and the three Quattro-inspired (blanked-off) slots in the front of the bonnet. Higher-spec Edition 1 and Vorsprung versions will arrive after the start of sales.Anyone stepping out of the relatively minimalist cabin of the previous A3 and into this new one will be in for a shock, albeit mostly a pleasant one. There is a wider variety of materials and a dashboard that is, to a degree, split in two, with a more driver-focused design.Every A3 will come with a 10.25in digital instrument display as standard, with Audi offering a larger 12.3in version (as already featured in several of its other models) as an optional upgrade. There’s also a 10.1in touchscreen that runs Audi’s latest MIB3 infotainment system. Smartphone mirroring for Android and Apple devices is available, although not wirelessly at launch. Usefully, there are both USB-A and USB-C ports in the centre console and an angled wireless device charging pad.As in other smaller models in the Audi range, there isn’t a secondary touchscreen for the climate control settings. Instead, there’s a small cluster in the lower section of the dashboard with easy-to-reach physical buttons that make frequent adjustments possible without glancing away from the road. This is the preferable set-up in our opinion.The A3’s seats are also new and, in a bid to improve its environmental credentials, Audi now uses materials for the inlays that are manufactured from recycled PET bottles. According to the company, each A3 uses 45 discarded 1.5-litre plastic bottles in every set of seats with the new material.Aside from that, there’s 6mm more elbow room in the front and 3mm more in the rear, thanks to an increase in the car’s width. A 7mm increase in front head room and 2mm more shoulder room are also welcome, if small, improvements.The boot capacity of the A3 remains the same as in the previous generation, at 380 litres, and this increases to 1200 litres when the rear seats are folded forward. From Sport specification up, these are split 40:20:40, rather than 40:60.View the full article
  3. The Professionals: TV’s crime-busting duo each drove a Mk3 Capri, at the time one of the UK’s most stolen cars The Mk3 concluded Britain’s long-running love affair with the Capri as a new car. We explain what to watch out for and how much to pay for one today By relocating a single letter, you form what sounds like the word that for many people best described the Capri, a sporty coupé that endured from 1969 to 1986. That was then but, today, a good Capri is a desirable old thing. It’s the third and final generation – launched in 1978 and known, not surprisingly, as the Mk3 – that we’re interested in here. Production ended in 1986 but it took until 1989 for the last example, a 280 Brooklands, to be registered, which tells you all you need to know about this fast Ford’s fading appeal. If only we’d known then what we know now. In 1989, a Brooklands cost around £12,000, but today the best go for as much as £40,000. In the real world, prices for a good Mk3 start at around £8000 but you can get into a tidy 1.3 or 1.6 for £3500. That’s ‘tidy’ as in ‘not as rusty as you might imagine’ because there will be rust. Where there isn’t any, assume it’s because you’re looking at filler. The Mk3 was little more than a refreshed Mk2, which actually was very successful. It used the same Cortina-derived running gear and engines. These ranged from a 1.3 to a 3.0 V6, the latter also available in torquey S form and breathing through three Weber carbs. Styling-wise, the most successful tweak was the way the bonnet extended slightly over the new quad headlights to give a more aggressive appearance. The car was more aerodynamic, too, and the most powerful versions had a discreet rear spoiler. In 1982, the 3.0 engine was replaced by a cleaner 2.8 with fuel injection. Early versions of this unit had a four-speed gearbox. The 2.8i Special appeared with a five-speed ’box and a limited-slip diff in 1984. The 1.3 and 1.6 versions gave people a step up into Capri-land but it was the 2.0 that was the big seller. By 1984, the UK was the only country taking the Capri. In 1986, Ford had a final throw of the dice with the Capri 280 Brooklands, based on the 2.8i Special and finished in racing green. It was the last version off the production line. Depending on the engine, you could have your Capri in L, GL, Ghia, Laser or S trims, but today such niceties have been elbowed aside by vehicle condition. Even mileage isn’t an issue because, at this distance, you’ll be wanting to lift the head and generally fettle anything that moves. Depending on what you’re looking for, the parts situation is either okay or dire. At least, in the absence of good steel ones, someone’s making plastic bonnets now. Beware cars with poor interiors since trim is hard to source. We joke about the name but the Capri is a lovable rogue. Just check for rust and filler, and don’t pay over the odds. How to get one in your garage An expert's view Martin Pawson, founder of Capri Gear: “I started my business in 1994 breaking Capris but today, with prices rising, I spend more time restoring and servicing them. There are a lot of awful, patched-up Capris out there but people just fall for the looks every time. There are fakes, too, such as 3.0-litre cars with 1.6 Laser body shells. The spares situation is getting critical, with many parts now scarce or unavailable. Corrosion is the big enemy. The mechanicals are easy to fix. My favourite is an early 2.8i fourspeed – not the Brooklands, because it was thrown together.” Buyer beware… ■ Bodywork: The body is a rust trap. Outer and inner wings, wheel arches, sills, door bottoms, chassis rails, suspension turrets, hinge mounts and even the fuel tank can all rot out spectacularly. ■ Engine: We could go on about the way V6s blow their gaskets and can even warp, how 2.0-litre Pinto engines suffer a worn camshaft, big-ends knock, the exhaust smokes, Ford carbs on base models can be troublesome from cold, the 2.8i K-Jetronic system fills with rust if unused… but, really, just expect the worst and check everything. This includes the condition of HT leads, watching out for mayonnaise sludge around the oil filler, for overheating issues caused by a clogged radiator and for leaks from the same. ■ Gearbox: Keep an ear out for crunchy synchros and for propshaft rumbles, vibration and whines. A badly worn ’box will jump out of gear on the overrun. ■ Steering, suspension: Some Mk3s are now over 40 years old so are exempt from the MOT test – more reason to check safety-critical items such as springs, dampers, strut top mounts and track control arm bushes as well as the steering rack. ■ Brakes: Tired brake hoses, rusty and warped discs and seized calipers are all possible, especially if the car has been rarely used. ■ Interior: Walk away from anything too tired or worn because sourcing replacement trim can be difficult. Also worth knowing The Capri Club (capriclub.co.uk) is a good place to start your spares hunt. Tickover (tickover.co.uk) is another and so is Capri Gear (caprigear.co.uk), which can also supply responsibly sourced used parts. Online traders are another source of used parts but some pay little attention to environmental regulations when breaking vehicles. How much to spend £1500 -£3999: Project cars, including a 2.0 Laser, but also some 1.3 runners. Recently, a 1981-reg 1.3 Cameo with 105,000 miles made £3300 at auction. £4000-£6000: Mainly 1.6s and 2.0s, including a 1979 2.0 with MOT, new brakes and engine overhaul for £6000. £6001-£7999: More 2.0s, including a 1985-reg £6500 Laser. Also some auction buys, such as a 1985-reg 2.8i that made £7400. £8000-£10,999: 2.0 and 2.8i cars in good condition. £11,000-£19,999: Low-mileage, low-owner Capris in top condition. £20,000-£40,000: Mainly concours-grade 2.8i Brooklands. One we found Ford Capri 2.8i, 1984/A, 114,000 miles, £8500: Well-maintained 2.8i clearly owned by a level-headed enthusiast and in largely original condition. Lots of new parts, including clutch, front wheel bearings, control arms and brakes. The interior is in tidy condition, too. READ MORE What has Ford ever done for us? New Ford Mondeo to launch in 2021, official document reveals Finding the best hot Ford Fiesta of all time View the full article
  4. The Autocar team list their favourite car details - from door handles to rev counters, and everything in between The average car is made up of around 30,000 parts. Not all of those parts are created equal, of course, and some, whether minor features or useful innovations, deserve celebration. Here are some of our team’s favourites. Bentley Continental GT rotating display - Rachel Burgess A gauche choice, given that you can buy a very respectable used car for the same money, but Bentley’s £4500 rotating display wins hands down, purely for its James Bond-esque element of surprise. Admittedly, the three sides of the rotating display don’t offer features such as weapon or ejector buttons, but nonetheless, this cool set-up has raised a smile on every person whom I’ve seen witness it. Ariel Atom 4 spaceframe - Matt Saunders I suppose it’s a bit of a cop-out picking a whole spaceframe as a car part, but that’s what I’m doing. The bronze-welded tubular steel spaceframe of the Ariel Atom 4 really is a work of rare genius. Not only does it define the totally inimitable look of the car from without, but it’s also the filter through which so much of your enjoyment of the car is delivered when you’re within. You can see the front wishbones bobbing away through it; the brake caliper and brake lines, too, running to the beautiful milled-from-billet nearside front wheel hub. You can worship and adore the expensive Eibach pushrod suspension bolted to it; even poke your right elbow through it when you need a bit of extra leverage on the steering wheel. It’s no exaggeration to record that it, more than anything else, is what makes the Atom brilliant: like some full-sized Meccano set built on money-no-object terms. Pontiac GTO hood-mounted rev counter - Colin Goodwin No doubt current pedestrian impact regulations would rule out a comeback for one of my favourite car details. It’s the bonnet-mounted rev counter that was fitted as an option to Pontiac Firebirds from 1967 onwards and also to the Pontiac GTO. Buick pinched the part for its 1970 Skylark GSX as well. A pal of mine had a 1969 GTO and later a 1970 model, both of which had what Americans call ‘Hood Tachs’. I don’t remember either of them ever working but they looked cool and were quite a good idea because the last thing you wanted to do in a muscle car from that era was take your eyes off the road. BMW 3 Series (E21) door handle - James Ruppert The best interior door handle known to humanity belongs to the E21-generation BMW 3 Series. It is ergonomically perfect. Instead of a plastic or chrome pull, which wastes valuable space on the door card and is a pointless engineering indulgence, the handle is incorporated into the pull. You don’t actually see it, just squeeze it. The more you use it, the more natural it becomes – until you try to exit from another vehicle and realise that the door pull won’t let you out. Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’ exterior door handle - Andrew Frankel They say the shape of the shark ceased to evolve millions of years ago because it had reached a state of perfection. The door handle should have gone the same way half a century back. The world of car design should have looked at that tiny little silvery hook, so elegant in its own right, yet so respectful of and deferential to the rest of the car’s styling, and said: “Okay, no one is ever going to do it better than that.” And in the past 50 years, no one has, and I suspect no one ever will. After all, how do you improve on perfection? Mini head-up display - Mark Tisshaw The first car I drove with a head-up display for any length of time was the third-gen Toyota Prius, about a decade ago. For no real reason other than being a luddite back then, I didn’t like it, and over the months running it, I actively tried to come up with ways to block its projection out of the top of the dashboard, such as with sheets of A4 that would then just glare onto the windscreen and make it worse… A head-up display next turned up again on a Mini Cooper I started running in 2014. For no real reason other than no longer being a luddite, I thought it was brilliant. Now, it’s my favourite piece of car kit bar none. Head-up displays stop your eyes from leaving the road to check the speed and reduce cognitive load and strain on your eyes. Sorry, Prius, it was me and not you. Skoda bottle clenchers - Jim Holder Set into the bottom of cupholders aboard most Skodas are five raised moulded plastic mounds. They look like a design quirk, or possibly a way of raising your drink above any spillages, until you place a bottle of pop (or similar) in there, whereupon they transform into the most useful thing you never knew you needed, vice-gripping the base of a bottle while you turn and open the lid. Anyone who has ever tried opening a bottle while driving – using either two hands or both legs and one hand – will immediately appreciate the safety significance of such a simple detail. Volkswagen GTi tartan - James Attwood It’s tempting to pick Volkswagen part number 199 398 500 A, but since the firm has never actually used currywurst in a car build, it apparently doesn’t count. Instead, I’ll opt for another VW classic: the GTI’s tartan fabric trim. Forget plush leather, Alcantara or similar: GTI tartan is the only fabric I can think of that’s absolutely synonymous with a particular model. It’s as much a part of the GTI recipe as a tuned engine, revised suspension and twin exhaust pipes. Ford Mondeo estate Mk4 dash vents - Hilton Holloway I’ve been thanking them for nearly three years. READ MORE Meet the engineer who fixes what car makers can’t How 3D printing is aiding classic car revival How Volvo makes its crystal glass gearsticks View the full article
  5. Harrier is Tata's flagship SUV The Harrier gives JLR hardware a Tata twist, but how will it fare on India's four-lane roads crammed with twice as many cars and bicycles (often driving the wrong way)? What does everyone in the UK make of Jaguar Land Rover being owned by an Indian company?” This is a question that was asked a few times on my trip to India, and my reply was always the same: “It’s not something that anyone really thinks about or is bothered by, to be honest.” British car companies have always enjoyed their best days under foreign ownership and, given that history, the fact that JLR is foreign-owned (as are Bentley, Rolls-Royce, McLaren, Lotus, Aston Martin and now even Morgan) hardly even registers. While an Indian conglomerate owning JLR was a headline back in 2008, it’s still considered as British as Tetley tea. Tata has been a very good owner for JLR. Despite the troubles of the past couple of years, the overall story since the conglomerate took over is pretty much one of exponential success. In its first full financial year under Tata ownership, 2009-10, JLR sold 208,000 cars. By 2018-19, that had increased to 578,000 cars. Tata backed JLR, gave it the capital to succeed and left the management to get on with it. And, with Land Rover in particular, it has had a happy knack of making the right car at the right time – best seen with the Range Rover Evoque. JLR has done plenty for Tata, too. For a long time, that was typically seen through revenues and profits – and lots of them. But now, despite the huge price and positioning gap between the Tata brand in its native India and Jaguar and Land Rover around the world, some proper JLR hardware has made it over to India to be used on a Tata model. That model is the Harrier, Tata’s new flagship SUV. Underpinning it is a Tata version of the Land Rover D8 platform, which was used for the Discovery Sport until that car’s update last year. Tata calls its platform Omega. The two architectures share hard points and a fundamental design, but in going from D8 to Omega, plenty of changes were made to allow the Harrier to be sold in India at a price that works for a Tata and using locally sourced parts. That’s not just through material changes but also through updating the rear suspension design, for example. This is something that’s becoming more common in India. For instance, the MQB A0 platform that underpins the Volkswagen Group’s small cars in Europe has been remade in India using 95% local parts to ensure it can be sold at the right price. Whereas ‘decontenting’ was the word before, now it’s very much ‘rebuilding’. You’re still making a sandwich, just you’re using plain white loaf instead of fancy artisan bread. That said, there’s one big change from Land Rover to Tata: the loss of four-wheel drive. While the Harrier’s underpinnings may be derived from Land Rover, its diesel engine and manual gearbox both come from Jeep, and repackaging them to fit the four-wheel drive system would be too costly, leaving only the front wheels to be driven by the diesel-and-manual combination. Not that four-wheel drive is missed where I’m driving it: downtown Mumbai in Friday morning rush-hour traffic. As soon as you get off the plane and into a taxi in India, you know you’re a long way from home in the context of driving. I’d arrived there on Monday morning, so I’d had a week wide-eyed and clenching my bottom in the passenger seat to see what I was in for. A four-lane road? Try six or seven cars wide using the space, with bikes weaving in-between. And typically then at least one car or bike coming the wrong way towards you. Oh, and if you’re driving at night, don’t expect them to have any lights on. Then there are the pedestrians: just walking out, zipping in and out of traffic like they’re actors performing in a hazard perception test with little regard for their own safety. There are stray dogs, too. Not to mention terrible road conditions and the horn being used by everyone several times a minute. If you’ve ever driven in Naples, which is about as extreme as Europe gets, quadruple the intensity of that experience and you’re still not there. Not the ideal location to test a car, then. Yet it’s a much calmer place at dawn, as I meet colleagues from Autocar India who have readied the Harrier for us. Mumbai is serene and beautiful in the early morning light, and this is the only real time you can get on the road if you want to move at more than about 10mph or have the chance to get out of second gear. So I don’t spend too long looking at the Harrier before it’s straight to our first destination. Even on this short drive, I find a reassuring familiarity about the Harrier. Some of the switchgear and even the fonts used on the instrument screen and other controls are straight out of the Land Rover parts bin (and why not?), while the perceived quality is good for a car priced from the equivalent of around £13,500 (less than half of what an original Discovery Sport cost new), rising to about £17,500. Our test car sits nearer the top of the range. There’s a good, honest robustness to the Harrier on first impression. Our first port of call is Bombay House, which is Tata’s global headquarters. A lovely old Edwardian building in the pleasant Fort district, it’s also known for being a friendly home for Mumbai’s stray dogs; when it was refurbished in 2018, a special kennel was opened inside it as a safe place for them to go. Company grandee Ratan Tata is known for his love of dogs, and they quickly surround me and the car – in a way nowhere near as threatening as that sounds. Parked outside Bombay House, the Harrier looks a smart-enough vehicle. It’s fairly generic and nondescript, a bit like a previous-generation Hyundai. Hyundai, incidentally, is a brand that you now see everywhere on the roads in India, having become the second-biggest-seller in the country behind Maruti Suzuki, which holds a monopoly over the cheap small cars that continue to dominate. So the Harrier is by no means offensive, even if it hasn’t inherited the visual flair from Land Rover’s design department like it has its underpinnings from the engineering team. Back on the road and the traffic is starting to appear. We’re on a photographic picture tour as much as a road-testing one, and if this is a tricky place to be writing about cars, that’s nothing compared with what the photographers have to do. So it proves at our next stop, the bustling Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (still known by most locals as Victoria Terminus), an extraordinary gothic Victorian railway station that’s one of Mumbai’s several Unesco World Heritage landmarks. The ‘no rules’ aspect of Indian roads is now in full view. Waiting patiently for the storm to subside to appear in a picture, I’m swarmed by all manner of vehicles by the side of the road, anticipating the cue from the photographer. We get one clear shot of the Harrier after 15 minutes of set-up, so I’m glad not to stall the car’s rather sensitive clutch and then manage to collect my colleague ahead of our next stop. As the volume of traffic increases, the Harrier is beginning to show its limitations and why it hasn’t been the market success that Tata hoped for. Offering customers various engine and transmission options is vital for success in India, yet Tata has so far sold the Harrier with just a 138bhp, 258lb ft 2.0-litre diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Given the decline of diesel in India, having no petrol option seems an odd decision, and given the size and weight of the car (it’s 4.6 metres long and weighs 1675kg, putting it in the Audi Q5 category), the lack of an automatic ’box seems even stranger. It makes the Harrier far from the most relaxing car to drive, especially in the stressful downtown Mumbai traffic as we head down the bustling Mohammed Ali Road, with manoeuvring tricky and even greater anticipation needed to ensure that I’m in the right gear at the right time to exploit any sudden gap in the traffic. Still, at least the brakes work well, as one pedestrian who steps out in front of us is glad for… Our last stop is the Gateway of India, a monumental arch that’s perhaps Mumbai’s most famous landmark, where our tour of the city ends and the Harrier heads back into the care of Autocar India. It’s a car I’m pleased to have driven – yet, unlike Mumbai, I leave with no great memories of it. It is a sufficiently good product to have performed better than it has done, but is in no way outstanding, despite its touch of star quality from the Land Rover brand above. Endearing and likeable enough, then, but all a bit forgettable. Yet perhaps the overriding emotion is one of relief at having handed back the car in one piece. Time for good lie down. Three famous Tatas Tata Nano: The Nano was billed as the world’s cheapest car, costing around £1700 at launch in 2009. Tata hoped to build 250,000 per year but just 300,000 had been made when it was axed in 2018. Being known as a cheap car is what hindered it, as buyers instead opted for models with greater cachet. Tata Sierra: The Sierra was India’s first home-grown SUV model. Launched in 1991, it gained a cult following and was even exported to Europe, for markets including Germany and France. It lived until the end of the decade before being replaced by the Safari. Tata recently previewed a return for the Sierra with a concept car. Tamo Racemo: Three years ago, Tata announced it would launch the Tamo brand, whose first model was to be a tiny two-seat sports car based on the Racemo concept. Its spec was impressive, with a carbonfibre chassis and double-wishbone suspension, but the project was put on indefinite hold in 2018. READ MORE Matt Prior: Whatever happened to the Tata Nano? Tata rules out sale of Jaguar Land Rover, but looks for partners 2018 Tata saloon to complete trio of next-gen models View the full article
  6. Eye-catching Range Rover changes colour dramatically from different perspectives JLR's SVO arm does some extraordinary things. We visit its state-of-the-art base for a first-hand look Your first thought when you step over the threshold of Jaguar Land Rover’s £20 million Special Vehicle Operations division in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, just outside Coventry, is that you’ve arrived in the foyer of a Formula 1 team’s headquarters. The place has the same wall-to-wall modernity of a classy, new piece of industrial architecture, the same aura of forensic efficiency of a grand prix team and the distinct feeling that nothing here happens by accident or just the passage of time. But whereas F1 teams make half a dozen cars a year and don’t build the engine, this place handles vehicles by the thousand. Managing director Michael van der Sande says SVO’s job is to take JLR’s already potent and luxurious models and “amplify” their characteristics, at times “turning them up to 11”. Among manufacturers of premium cars, there’s a powerful demand for bespoke and specialist vehicles that seems currently to defy economic cycles. BMW has its Alpina and Mercedes has its AMG, and on this spot, where Peugeot once built numerous undistinguished 206s, specialist Jaguars and Land Rovers now start their lives. SVO builds several different kinds of bespoke car. Broadly speaking, there’s the uniquely specified, hugely valuable type that involves wholesale re-engineering, complex painting and often lengthening and armouring to meet some ultra-rich customer’s whim. Then there’s the most common type, production SVR models whose enhanced packages still allow them to be made on JLR’s regular production lines; the Range Rover Sport SVR and Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic are good examples. Such cars, around 10,000 of them per year, don’t need a special trip through the new SVO Technical Centre, because they’re built to suit the facilities of JLR’s regular assembly processes. And somewhere in the middle of these is a breed of standard cars whose owners desire only special paint jobs: SVO handles around 5000 of these a year and has an innovative robotised plant whose smart ovens, JLR claims, save enough heating to power 65,560 homes for a year. Quality is extraordinarily high. The production-line SV models may not be built on SVO’s premises, but they’re still very much the business of van der Sande and his engineering director, Jamal Hameedi, whose spectacular pedigree includes time as the global engineering chief of Ford Performance, responsible for cars including the Focus RS and latest GT. They decide in the first instance exactly what these profitable and strong-selling SVR cars will be like and then set about developing them. SVO’s contribution to group earnings is described by van der Sande as “very significant”, although nobody inside or outside the group will talk precise figures. It’s obvious, and becomes clearer as we walk around, that this is a very high-margin business. The most modified cars we come across, some kept secret until their owners see them for the first time, are akin to works of art and so can require months in preparation. If you’re a serious bespoke customer here on a visit, you’ll probably be accompanied by someone from your local dealership. Having signed in, you turn right out of the foyer into a luxurious design suite where you can view, touch, feel and smell samples of paint and trim materials, fascia textures and badgework. This is where you propose and mock up – on a gigantic digital configurator – your desired vehicle. “People can spend up to half a day in here,” says van der Sande. “We encourage them to do it. And we often offer one of our designers to assist with choices. Clients usually find their suggestions helpful.” Do customers ever insist on bad choices? According to designer Adam Hatton, who has particular expertise with bespoke projects, it’s rare. “Clients have strong likes and dislikes,” he says, “but they’re rarely adamant. We advise them, no more than that. In rare cases, we might emphatically discourage someone from making a choice we think they’ll regret. But we have to understand their priorities – that some apparently odd choices work better in different cultures and light conditions than the UK’s. “It’s one reason why we usually issue high-quality renderings. They show what a car will be like with pretty good accuracy and they’re especially handy for people who can’t come to Coventry.” Beyond the design studio is a spacious, sumptuously curtained meeting room, all carpets and soft sofas, where clients can relax, chat with SVO experts and eat food specially prepared by in-house chef Graham Edwards, a former protégé of Raymond Blanc, whose task is to create dishes that suit clients from all corners of the globe. As well as being a private meeting room, this can be a superb viewing room: the curtains roll back to reveal floor-to-ceiling glass walls displaying the well-lit vastness of the 20,000-square-metre Technical Centre’s car creation bays. Immediately outside are the last handful of the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 super-saloons from the promised batch of 300 being prepared for delivery. This machine is van der Sande’s quiet pride and joy, not just because its 592bhp supercharged V8 engine makes it the most powerful road-legal Jaguar in history but also because of the extensive re-engineering it entailed. “It’s very different from the base car,” he says proudly. “We even had to shift the headlights forward to make a bit more space. The Project 8 is a completely focused track car; only the bonnet is unaltered. We dialled everything else up to 11…” Van der Sande views Project 8 as the perfect demonstration that SVO is just as well equipped for complex engineering as for amazing trim and paint makeovers. “You learn enormously from projects like this,” he explains. “They test the limits of a design. Lessons we’ve learned from the Project 8’s sealed aerodynamic floor are already being incorporated into the tooling of the next-generation models…” Past this line-up of Project 8s, we turn right, staring into the well-ordered build bays, where big projects are proceeding under the hands of technicians whose very body language tells you they’re the best in the business. On one side are armoured Range Rover Sentinels with reinforced floors and two-inch-thick armoured screens and side windows. They weigh four tonnes at the kerb yet still have the ability to jump kerbs and accelerate very quickly indeed. Across the wide aisle is possibly the most eye-grabbing Range Rover I’ve ever seen, brilliantly black-topped but with an extraordinary metallic colour on its lower flanks that flips between a luminous greeny yellow and a more subdued grey. It’s worth £15,000 on its own, I learn, and when you examine the flawless edges and lustrous surfaces, you can see where all that money goes. This car is at Ryton for much more than painting. It’s to be completely retrimmed and equipped with a beautifully engineered SVO rear console (the work of Hameedi’s team) that contains all manner of storage spaces, screens, switches and ventilation outlets. It’s as expensive as the paint, we estimate, yet there’s a demand for 800 to 900 of these every year. “You don’t just build that console and bung it in the car,” explains van der Sande. “You test its functions endlessly, then you fit it to test cars and you subject it to tough road trials. After that, it might be okay. “Cars earmarked for major work come to us as primed and recoated bodies,” he continues. “We paint them, build them up and fit their complex body parts. It takes two weeks to paint and five or six weeks to build. And for the most complex jobs, like this one, you might need six to eight weeks more. We estimate five months for a job like this, then try to beat it by a week or two.” How does van der Sande view the future of vehicle personalisation? The demand is durable, he believes, but the challenge is to meet the rising quality standards of customers while growing slowly. Launching new line-built SVR models is another challenge; the reason the company began at the top of its price list with the Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic, Range Rover Sport SVR and Jaguar F-Type Project 7 was that the potential profit margins were very generous. Even the most recent pair, the Jaguar F-Pace SVR and Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography, cost £75,000 and often much more once extras have been taken into account. Would SVO ever do a Range Rover Evoque SVR? It’s a possibility, allows van der Sande, but not in the short term. SVO is limited by how quickly its engineering teams can grow. “We’re in an intentional period of slow growth,” he says. “We want to build strong foundations, and we believe this is how you do it." A boss who "always wants to deliver" Michael van der Sande, managing director of SVO, has taken a more interesting path than most to reaching the job he loves. Dutch by birth, his mother and grandmother were rally drivers and one of his early girlfriends was a Ford dealer. As a kid, he made the key decision to follow a career with cars and arrived in the UK 25 years ago, landing at Bentley and Rolls-Royce in Crewe. From there, he began a 12-year marketing career with Harley-Davidson, working at the US firm’s headquarters in Milwaukee, as well as in Africa and the UK. He then took a one-year posting with Tesla as global director of sales and marketing before moving to Aston Martin “at the depth of the crisis” but still helped launch the Rapide and One-77. Next he spent five years in Paris with Renault, working closely with design boss Laurens van den Acker, before leading the launch of Alpine for two and a half years. In June 2018, he started at SVO, which he labels the greatest gig of all. “When you’re passionate about something,” he says, “you always want to deliver.” READ MORE Jaguar Land Rover to invest £1bn in three new UK-built EVs Jaguar Land Rover warns of global coronavirus impact The future of Jaguar Land Rover, according to CEO Ralf Speth View the full article
  7. Different but the same: the Alpine A110, A110 S and Life110 assemble for action The original Alpine A110 achieved a rare five-star road test rating. Now there's a more focused, more powerful A110 S or an aftermarket-bred, fine-tuned Life110. Which is best? Yes, it’s convention to test a group of cars that are differently shaped, but this isn’t a normal group test. At least they’re a different colour. What we have here is a five-star car in the shape of the (dark blue) Alpine A110, a slightly flawed but brilliantly refreshing small French two-seat sports car with a bespoke aluminium platform and a Renault Sport engine in its middle to drive its back wheels. We’ve said an awful lot about the A110 already but, to recap, it’s a revelation. Weighing just 1103kg (in Pure form, or 1123kg as the Légende), it has agility in spades, while the ride over poor surfaces is doubly impressive. What we particularly love about it is its lack of convention; Alpine knows a great driver’s car doesn’t necessarily need to have incredibly stiff suspension and that not everything has to feel like it was developed on a race track. However, the white car here is the newer Alpine A110 S, which is definitely not an A110 mark two but a different take on the original; the two are meant to do different things. The S is a more, well, trackish, tied-down, focused version of the A110. Some of the things that the standard car deliberately isn’t, in fact. To that end, it has a bit more power – a 40bhp increase to 288bhp, although torque remains the same, at 236lb ft, because that’s the operating limit of the standard dual-clutch automatic gearbox. A suspension drop puts the S 4mm closer to the ground, stiffens the springs by 50%, stiffens the anti-roll bars by 100%, retunes the dampers and adds 10mm of width to the standard 205/40 front and 235/40 rear tyres. That said, you can spec the 215/245 rubber on the standard A110 too if you pay for the optional forged wheels (sorry, this test will get a little geekily detailed). Those two would be sufficient on their own to make for a test of which is better in real-world Britain, but you will have also noticed the third car in the pictures: the lighter-blue one. It’s owned by, and a project of, David Pook, formerly a Jaguar Land Rover dynamics specialist and now the proprietor of Life110. Pook will take your standard A110 and can change it, he thinks for the better. And if you thought details were complex already, brace yourself. On Pook’s own car, the dampers are unchanged, but the new Eibach springs are 30% stiffer and the car sits a full 16mm lower. The wheels are 18in Evo Corse items, as used in the Alpine Cup racing series. They can run the standard or 10mm-wider rubber, ideally the latter, and are half-an-inch wider than even those forged Alpine alloys, which effectively stiffens the tyre sidewall for better response and accuracy. There’s a carbonfibre lip spoiler, too, but where it gets really detailed is in the geometry settings. The regular A110 doesn’t run very much camber but has lots of range of adjustment, while Pook’s investigation found it runs toe-out at the front and toe-in at the rear – a trick usually reserved for front-wheel-drive cars and one of the reasons people have reported the A110 to be borderline for stability at high speeds. Now his car runs toe-in at the front. You can spec any of the Life110 modifications – geometry (£156), springs (£480), spoiler (£750) and wheels (£1655) – individually, but this car has them all. But let’s begin with the regular A110. The goodness is all there, you know. I’ve driven it down to our meeting point and had a great early morning blast, even in poor wintry conditions. From there, I head out on a short but testing driving loop that consists mainly of small, heavily cambered and poorly surfaced roads that are, in short, rubbish. And the A110 is enjoyable on those, too. It just turns so ably, smoothening and gliding over surface imperfections. There isn’t much you’d pick over it. Probably not the A110 S in these conditions. There’s a reason that Alpine reckons the regular model will outsell the S by three to one (an unusual ratio when it comes to top-spec variants), and it’s all about use on roads like these. The S is a different kind of A110, not a better or worse one. Its ride is more tied-down, no doubt, and with that comes more stability. It’s impossible to say precisely how much each mechanical modification is responsible for each dynamic characteristic change, but there’s more focus and more steering feel, weight and accuracy. Also more fidget and conventionality, though. If the regular A110 feels like it was designed with nothing else in mind, the S seems more ‘normal’. If it had come out first, you’d have sworn it had been conceived with a Porsche benchmark in mind. Quicker? Perhaps, but the extra urge is at the top end so, in these conditions and on this road, you don’t notice much of it. Then there’s the Life110. A halfway house? Yes and no. In some ways, it’s just different again – simply another nuanced option. But in tone, it’s more ‘regular improved’ than ‘S wannabe’. The ride is ever so slightly firmer than the standard car’s, although not by nearly as much as the S, despite it riding even lower. It’s a shame to lose some of that plushness, but the A110 has plushness to spare and there are big gains to be had elsewhere. The steering is the biggest, with more precision, self-centring and road feel than a regular A110. So the Life110 feels more responsive when you turn and is more composed, while the magic of the regular A110’s agility, plus nearly all of its waft, is retained. There are conditions, then, in which each variant would be best. I could imagine some big cheeses being presented with all three, having to decide which they ought to sell and saying ‘er, all of them?’. But if I had access to them all, with the kind of driving I do, I suspect I’d drive the Life110 most, the A110 next often and the A110 S the least – while wondering what Pook’s geometry and wheel but not spring changes would be like on the standard car. Dieppe or Stuttgart? Given the A110 S feels like a more conventional mid-engined sports car than the regular A110, as if it were developed with a rival in mind, lining it up alongside that rival feels the right thing to do. Step forward the Porsche 718 Cayman T, the nicest of the turbocharged four-cylinder Caymans. It starts out life as a 2.0-litre model and then gets a load of options that you could throw at the standard car but would cost you more in individual add-on fees if you did. There’s a limited-slip differential with torque vectoring, active suspension (PASM) with a drop in ride height, active drivetrain mounts and 20in (rather than 18in) alloy wheels. PASM on the Cayman T is 20mm lower, rather than 10mm lower as a usual option, but other than that (plus some decals, fabric door handle loops and barely relevant details), this is a regular car with options. The Cayman T costs £52,055, which isn’t so far from the £56,810 of the A110 S, although either can come in at around £60,000 once specced up. Both are terrific cars, especially on smoother roads, and the Alpine feels like it were specifically targeting the Porsche. Despite the extra security and stability over the regular A110, the A110 S still turns more quickly than the Cayman and gives great steering feel while it’s at it. It probably rides better than its German rival, too. However, the Cayman has terrific reserves of ability and a cornering stance that’s more adjustable on the throttle. There’s a better driving position and a greater sense of all-round solidity, too, plus it comes with a fine manual gearbox (a dual-clutch automatic is an option). The A110 S probably outnoises it (a slight matter of taste), so this ends up an exceptionally close contest. I would pick the A110 S, just, while remembering that, in truth, if I wanted an A110, the S isn’t the version to have anyway. READ MORE Alpine A110 receives two new special editions for 2020 Andrew Frankel's car of the decade: Alpine A110 Alpine unveils rally-inspired A110 SportsX concept View the full article
  8. Our first UK drive of Porsche's EV raises the age-old question: how fast is too fast? Before I get into this one, I just want to state for the record: I am not one of those motoring writers who only cares about cars with more than 400bhp. Most of my daily driving is done in a Mazda 3, and I reckon the Volkswagen Up and its siblings might be some of the best cars released in the past decade. But nor am I anti-fast car, and every now and then, I get some seat time in something seriously rapid. Monday was one of those times, as I sneaked in Autocar’s last UK first drive a few hours before Boris Johnson announced the pandemic lockdown. The new Porsche Taycan Turbo. You can read my wider thoughts on it here. Spoiler alert: it’s fantastic. The first truly dynamically capable mass-market EV. But it made me realise that electric cars are accelerating the ‘faster is better’ mantra that has plagued the car industry for at least two decades, and they’re doing so at an unprecedented rate. The Taycan, like most EVs, weighs quite a lot. So it needs a fair few kilowatts to get it moving. And 500kW (that's 671bhp) does the job pretty well, in my book. In fact, after half a day driving across some of the quickest, most well-sighted roads in the south-east, I’m convinced nobody needs or can make proper use of anything faster on any British road. Whether you want to risk losing your licence or not. The acceleration is so savage and instant - particularly from a launch, but at any speed and in any situation - that it concerns me somebody with nothing more than a healthy bank account and a driving licence can get hold of one. Yet the Taycan is barely the tip of the iceberg. Think about Rimac’s work in taking EVs well beyond 1000bhp. And then think about the 1900bhp Pininfarina Battista. And then the 1973bhp Lotus Evija. Making an EV generate numbers that were beyond all logic only a few years ago seems too easy. I’m aware I’m staggering down a well-trodden path here, but what possible use is 1973bhp in a two-seater in any road situation? One slip of the foot, one tiny misguided moment of showing off, and you’re either at three-figure speeds or ploughing into whatever was 100m away three seconds ago. Such a prospect would even be daunting on some of the UK’s smaller circuits. And anyway, would you want to take your near £2 million hypercar to Brands Hatch only to stuff it on the third lap due to the mind-scrambling straight-line speeds outpacing your braking timing, or make it another handful of laps before the battery has less charge in it than your phone? As has been the case for years, these cars exist for bragging rights or for those who simply must have the ‘ultimate’ thing. They are at their best on a deserted airfield. Fine, they have a purpose, albeit a narrowly defined one. But we’ve been banging this drum for as long as I can remember: more speed does not equal more fun. Porsche, I think, gets this. The 911 is often at its most engaging in its slowest spec, and I suspect that, were it not for the existence of Tesla’s stomach-churning Performance models, the Turbo and Turbo S Taycans would not have been made the priority at the model's launch. More often than not, it’s when approaching a car’s limits (either by chucking it into a bend or spinning the engine as fast as it will allow) that it starts to really come alive and give you involvement that lasts far longer, and gets old far less quickly, than a sub-3.0sec 0-62mph launch. And with the traction and chassis composure necessary to keep a mega-quick EV in check, hitting that sweet spot is harder than ever. Read more: Matt Prior: how much power is too much? Steve Cropley: small and simple is the formula for driving nirvana The best slow cars to drive fast View the full article
  9. With a long-rumoured (and heavily delayed) TVR revival on the cards, are the older ones now dinosaurs? To drive a TVR Griffith today is to experience that moment in your time machine when your hand slips on the lever and accidentally transports you back farther than you intended to go. I know this car was built this century and, from its number plate, so do you. But that’s not how it feels. It doesn’t even feel like a child of the late 20th century, despite its design dating from the early 1990s. The ’80s? Nope. The ’70s, then? Try again. This car might have the look and performance of a reasonably recent sports car, but its heart and soul seem to have been wrought in the 1960s. So why didn’t we say so at the time? Well, we all know humans who bear their years spectacularly well and those that do not, so why not cars? Truth is, the Griffith is no longer a snarling, edgy sports car with quasi-supercar performance. Now it’s just a nice old thing, a favourite uncle who’ll sit you down by the fire, hand you a glass of scotch and tell you how it used to be. To me, at least, the fact that a Griffith feels like a 1960s throwback is a perhaps unexpected but nevertheless entirely welcome turn of events. Any car spared the slow slip into oblivion goes through a cycle that progresses roughly from new and desirable to secondhand and affordable, and then from pointless old shed to appreciated and appreciating classic. Cars need time for their inadequacies relative to modern machinery to count for less than that charm inherent in all old things of power and beauty that were desirable when they were new. And some need more time than others. And whatever its failings, power and beauty the old Griffith can do. Indeed, it’s here to represent the very best of its brand – the car that best captures all that we’ve always wanted TVRs to be. Earlier cars were uglier, slower and less able; more modern ones were too truculent and difficult to drive and own. The Griffith was the high point, the ultimate development of the charmingly simple philosophy that had been core to the appeal of all TVRs made before it and which would forever after be eroded by the more exciting and dramatic but less reliable TVRs that followed. If you want a 1960s analogy, Formula 1 cars reached that point in about 1967, when efforts to minimise drag resulted in the cleanest racing shapes of all time. But then designers realised the air was better exploited than avoided and things were never quite the same again. What, then, do I recall? Certainly that the shape was at least in part the work of Iain Robertson; we used to work together on this magazine and did our first races in the communal office Caterham. His boy, Charlie, now does great things in sports cars, winning last year’s LMP3 title in a Ginetta shared with Sir Chris Hoy. A rumour than can no longer be corroborated – because neither party is with us – is that at least one element of the car’s shape was down to Ned, the dog of TVR boss Peter Wheeler, who, for reasons best known to Ned, bit into a lump of clay and spat out a chunk of improbable aesthetic excellence. It’s probably untrue, but that means it’s possibly true, providing those fragments of hope to which I choose to cling. I recall a simple backbone chassis made from triangulated tubular steel with (rot-prone) outriggers. There’s a double wishbone at each corner and different-sized wheels front to rear: 15s for those doing the steering, 16s for those doing the driving. And then there was the powertrain. I really wanted a precatalytic converter 4.3-litre car for this test, but at the time of looking there just weren’t any nice ones around. Their power – 285bhp – was nice, but they made the best noise of any Rover V8 I’ve ever heard. Many Griffiths had standard 4.0-litre engines, which still provided decent performance for their 240bhp, but when I contacted Graham Munt, who has been selling TVRs at Fernhurst Motor Co in Surrey since 1983, he offered me this beautiful, 27,000-mile 5.0-litre Griffith 500 – and I was not about to say no. The 500 turned out to be the ultimate Griff because, while plans to put TVR’s home-grown straight six engine under the bonnet didn’t quite come to nothing, by the time the car did come out, it was rather different and called a Tuscan. The 500’s engine makes 340bhp and a beautiful sound, albeit slightly sanitised by the presence of catalytic converters. The camshaft, which should be quite spiky, can go a little soft after many tens of thousands of miles, but otherwise, if accorded the courtesy of thorough routine maintenance, these engines are strong. So, too, are their mightily constructed Borg Warner gearboxes – although not the sweeter but more fragile Rover transmissions used by early Griffs. You sit low in the car and try to refamiliarise yourself. This is one of TVR’s saner cabins, but you can still struggle with the basics, such as finding the door handle, which is actually on the transmission tunnel. The heating and ventilation and many unmarked buttons remain as mysteries to me to this day. The dials are hard to read and very yellow. The fit and finish would elicit gales of laughter and gasps of horror if tried today, but with the slightly baggy leather chair and off-the-peg steering wheel, it kind of fits the car’s bluecollar character. The engine doesn’t howl, growl, roar, thunder, scream, shriek or wail. It woofles. As you pull out onto the public road for the first time in such a car in very many years, all sorts of things occur, some as rekindled memories, others for the very first time. The speed of the steering is familiar. You get just one complete turn of the wheel in each direction, which I guess was done to make the car feel agile. But the softness of the ride is not so easily recalled. I know TVR always made its cars soft at the back in order to provide the traction required for decent – and all-important – 0-60mph times (4.1sec, as you’re asking), but this thing positively floats. This should make the car feel horrible, but it doesn’t. Instead, it fits perfectly the surprisingly vintage narrative now emerging. It makes the car comfortable, switches your vision for it from an urge to go screaming around a race track to a desire simply to sit back, relax and watch the world go by, safe in the knowledge that if you do get held up, parked under your right foot there’s still 340bhp in a car weighing little more than a tonne. That should, in theory, make it Mercedes-AMG GT fast, but in reality it doesn’t feel close to that level. Not that this matters. The Griff remains an effortless overtaker, its engine so laden with torque that you downshift in advance as a precaution rather than a necessity. The engine woofles some more as the thrust arrives to sweep you effortlessly past whatever is in your way. I now notice how narrow it is, too – something that never struck me in period. Squirting past traffic on the leafy lanes of West Sussex, that comes as a real bonus. TVR's 10 greatest hits - from Chimaera to the Tamora The handling is more familiar. TVRs never understeered then, and it’s a script to which this one doggedly sticks. At first it almost turns in too well, but once you get used to the speed of the steering, you can guide it smoothly enough. There’s less grip than I remember, but I don’t know the age of the Toyos on this car, and when it does go, it’s always at the back. But it feels too soft to be a drift car, even with its standard Salisbury limited-slip diff, so if it’s going to break away unexpectedly, it’ll more likely be while cornering at higher speeds over a crest. It’s an interesting characteristic, but nothing worth panicking over. But it reminded me why, back in the days when I’d drive anywhere to drive anything around any track, TVRs were usually notable only by their absence. A standard Griffith would make a rubbish track day car, but that’s precisely why it’s such an engaging road tool today. It has a gait, a state almost of repose, that I found utterly endearing. It’s practical, too, with a big boot and a brilliantly simple targa roof. It would be a fine companion on a summer’s touring holiday. And no, I don’t think you’d have to factor in a stint on the back of a lorry, provided the car had been looked after; the fundamentals are strong and everything that was going to fall off would have done so long ago. So don’t think of the Griffith as a rather more spacious, less competent alternative to a Lotus Elise or similar. More than anything, it struck me as a more modern interpretation of those great six-cylinder Austin Healeys of the 1960s, making up in looks, sound and pure character what it unquestionably lacks in ultimate dynamic ability. It’s a very different sort of driving pleasure, but for those of us now inured to the quasicompetition car feel of hardcore modern sports cars, it’s all the more enjoyable as a result. This article was originally published on 29 January 2017. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide engaging content during these challenging times. Read more TVR Griffith production: planning application for factory submittted​ Used car buying guide: TVR Tuscan Used car buying guide: TVR Griffith​ View the full article
  10. British land speed record project goes into hibernation as sponsorship industry shuts down, says CEO A planned land speed record attempt by Bloodhound LSR next year is now looking “unlikely” as the team mothballs the project during the coronavirus pandemic. The British rocket- and jet-powered machine was due to attempt to beat the current record, set by Thrust SSC in 1997, of just over 763mph. However, a media release sent out today confirms the pandemic “has inevitably had an impact on potential sponsors”. Ian Warhurst, Bloodhound’s CEO, said: “Rightfully, the world has more important things to focus on right now. Discussions with a number of global brands were looking promising when Covid-19 struck, but the sponsorship industry literally shut down. “This means our ability to raise the necessary funds in time and, consequently, the window to conduct the LSR [land speed record] campaign safely in 2021 is now very likely to be missed.” The project hibernation is intended to reduce overheads “to an absolute minimum”. It’s unclear if anybody working on Bloodhound no longer has a job in place, though In an attempt to lift the spirits of fans, the team has released a video showing how Bloodhound accelerates compared with a Formula 1 car, a Bugatti Chiron and a ‘regular’ road car. The speeds of the cars represent how they would perform on a normal road surface. Bloodhound reached a new top speed of 628mph at the end of a testing session in South Africa last year, with driver Andy Green, the current record holder, lifting off the throttle at 615mph. The programme was designed to measure the car's drag at high speeds, rather than reach the car's maximum speed. The project was saved from administration in December 2018 when Warhurst stepped in. However, the team has long been vocal about the need for more sponsors to carry the project to its completion. In pursuit of 800mph: how Bloodhound aims to break the land speed record Bloodhound LSR reaches 628mph as testing concludes Racing lines: Bloodhound LSR run fires rockets and hearts View the full article
  11. 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 Seat ain't so... The long-serving Alhambra MPV will end production at the end of this month after a decade on sale, Seat has confirmed. The Ford Galaxy rival has been produced at the Volkswagen Group's AutoEuropa plant in Portugal since the first generation was launched in 1995. The VW Sharan, with which the Alhambra shares all but its badge, will soldier on for now, however. Seat Alhambra taken off sale but VW Sharan sticks around​ VIDEO OF THE DAY Aston Martin will hope to get its expansion plans back on track by launching the 542bhp DBX in spring 2020 - the first SUV in the company's 107-year history. So, is it a match for a Lamborghini Urus? We rode along with the car’s chief chassis engineer, before taking the wheel ourselves, to find out. PHOTO OF THE DAY Welcome to the Autostadt, home to the rarest and most important Volkswagens ever built. This fantastically clean example of the iconic Type 2 Microbus was used to transport fizzy drinks for German brand Sinalco, and it’s just one of many vehicles at the museum which played a fundamental role in bringing motoring to the masses. Virtual Tour: Treasures of the official VW museum QUOTE OF THE DAY “Be in no doubt that only a smattering of road-legal cars (and certainly very few with four usable seats) could keep up with the Taycan Turbo in the real world.” Porsche’s first electric car has finally landed in the UK, and Lawrence Allan has been finding out whether the Turbo variant’s 671bhp and ‘hilarious’ levels of acceleration make any sense on our potholed and crumbling road network. Porsche Taycan Turbo 2020 UK review FROM THE ARCHIVE The Caterham Seven offers one of the purest and most ‘analogue’ driving experiences of any sports car available today, but has evolved radically over the course of its (technical) 63-year life. The original model, bearing a Lotus badge, was launched in 1957 as "a jumping-off point for the young enthusiast who wished to enter sports car racing without too much expenditure, while being usable as a normal road car, albeit with some degree of discomfort,” according to our road testers. We very much enjoyed our first drive… Throwback Thursday: 1957 Lotus Seven first drive POPULAR OPINION When the motorsport industry began to shut down at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many questioned why the World Rally Championship was going ahead with its first race in Mexico. Sebastien Ogier had only this to say upon receiving his winner’s medal: “The most important thing now is just to get home safely and hope that we haven’t spread any harm to our friends in Mexico.” Anthony Peacock considers what it means for the rest of the season. Opinion: Sebastian Ogier's 'inappropriate' win View the full article
  12. Mazda adds cylinder deactivation to petrol SUV, alongside minor revisions to cabin and refinement Mazda has given its CX-5 another mild revision for the 2020 model year, including efficiency tweaks to the petrol variant. The Ford Kuga rival now benefits from cylinder-deactivation tech for the 163bhp Skyactiv-G petrol engine, although it's added on versions with the manual gearbox only. The new system, which shuts down two cylinders under light throttle loads to reduce fuel consumption, is claimed to give an 8% reduction in CO2 emissions when measured on the WLTP cycle. The Skyactiv-G unit is an older engine than the Skyactiv X unit found in the 3 and CX-30, so it doesn't feature the spark-controlled compression-ignition technology. Other tweaks include a revised navigation display for the infotainment screen, intended to enable clearer operation, and extra sound insulation has been applied to improve cabin refinement. The CX-5 has already benefited from several updates since its launch in 2017. Last year, a round of chassis tweaks introduced new suspension components and anti-roll bars, plus Mazda's G-Vectoring Control system to enhance high-speed stability. Available to order from 1 Apri, the 2020 CX-5 is priced from £27,030, rising to £39,085 for flagship variants. Read more: Mazda CX-3 removed from sale 'for the moment' Mazda favours smaller batteries for upcoming EVs Mazda 3 2020 long-term review View the full article
  13. Ferrari Italian supercar firm set to re-open Maranello factory on 14 April Ferrari is planning to resume production at its Maranello factory on 14 April, a month after work at the plant was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak in Italy. The Italian firm suspended production at the facility on 15 March largely due to supply chain issues, and for the safety of its employees. Maranello is in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, which borders Lombardy - the region worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. The shutdown was originally scheduled to last until today (Friday 27 March) - but although the closure has now been extended, Ferrari said in a statement that “subject to supply chain continuity, it now plans to resume production as of 14 April.” It added: “All activities that can be conducted in smart working will continue to be performed as has been the case in recent weeks. The company will continue to cover all days of absence to those unable to take advantage of this solution. “Given the huge uncertainty and lack of predictability that the Covid-19 has created, the company is taking all appropriate actions to assure the wellbeing and welfare of its employees and that are deemed to be in the best interest of all stakeholders.” The firm is understood to have support from unions for the plan to resume production, and with measures put in place to ensure employee safety. Ferrari has continued to pay staff in full while production has been halted. It is understood that Ferrari has not experienced an abnormal amount of order cancellations, and is looking at ways of making up the production shortfall. This could be done by temporarily adding a second shift or by working on Saturdays. Ferrari said it will provide a further update into its financial situation during an investor earnings call on 4 May. The Agnelli family, whose Exor holding company controls Ferrari, has supported efforts to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak in Italy with a €10 million (£8.85m) donation to the Italian civil protection department. Exor firms, including Ferrari and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, also purchased 150 ventilators and arranged for them to be shipped to Italy. They have also purchased and distributed respirators, medical kit and masks. Ferrari and other Exor firms have also been working with the Italian ventilator production firm Siare Engineering, helping it source parts from other markets to speed up its manufacturing. It is believed that Ferrari has offered to help by using its facilities to assist in production of key components of the firm's ventilators. That would likely include the use of its machine plant and foundry. READ MORE How coronavirus is impacting the car world Ferrari, Fiat Chrysler suspend production in Italy due to coronavirus Coronavirus: what motorists need to know View the full article
  14. Seat’s only MPV is removed from price lists but its Volkswagen counterpart will continue for a short period The long-serving Alhambra MPV will end production at the end of this month after a decade on sale, Seat has confirmed. The Ford Galaxy rival has been produced at the Volkswagen Group's AutoEuropa plant in Portugal since the first generation was launched in 1995. It was produced alongside the near-identical Volkswagen Sharan for the same period. Despite the Alhambra’s production coming to a close, Autocar understands Volkswagen will continue producing the Sharan for a limited period once production restarts after the coronavirus pandemic. That car will only remain on sale until the end of 2020, however. Seat issued a statement on the Alhambra's production end, saying it is "reviewing the suitability of older models to ensure we’re fit and sustainable for the future." 'As part of this strategy we’re focusing on new and electric models such as the Seat Leon plug-in hybrid and Cupra Formentor plug-in hybrid crossover coupé and will be removing older vehicles from sale with newer, cleaner models to replace them in the future.” The large MPV market has long suffered at the hands of SUVs, with a growing number of seven-seat options available including Seat's own Tarraco. However, the space and versatility the Alhambra offered meant there were enough sales from large families, fleets and private hire companies to sustain it until now. Nearly half a million examples have found homes over the years. A direct replacement for the Alhambra and Sharan isn't currently on the cards, with the Volkswagen Group looking to novel designs such as the electric Volkswagen ID Buzz to carry the torch for MPVs. READ MORE New 2020 Seat Leon: new images released ahead of UK launch SUV surge helps Seat break sales record in 2019 Seat could rebrand as Cupra in upmarket push View the full article
  15. The WRC was widely criticised for holding Rally Mexico during pandemic, with even the eventual winner Ogier expressing concern It may have been his first victory for Toyota, but it was probably the one that Sébastien Ogier was least bothered about throughout his illustrious career, despite the fact that it swept him into the lead of the World Rally Championship. “The most important thing now is just to get home safely and hope that we haven’t spread any harm to our friends in Mexico,” said the Frenchman. He was one of many drivers to question what they were doing on Rally Mexico at all, given the Covid-19 pandemic that has wiped out the first part of the Formula 1 calendar as well as the next scheduled WRC round in Argentina, not to mention thousands of other sporting events the world over. But in the end, a compromise was reached in Mexico whereby Sunday’s three stages were cancelled to limit the potential damage and allow people more time to travel home in the face of growing worldwide travel restrictions (particularly in the US, which many transit when going to and coming from Mexico). Everyone got out and nobody was taken ill, so the FIA and Rally Mexico organisers just about got away with it – in stark contrast to the barrage of criticism levelled at the Australian Grand Prix the same weekend. Now there’s going to be quite some gap until the next round of the WRC: Portugal, from May 21-24. For the time being, that’s still due to go ahead as planned, although the global situation is of course constantly evolving. After Portugal comes, in June, Italy: one of the countries worst affected by the outbreak. Even Kenya, which will host the Safari Rally in July, has announced stringent measures to contain the coronavirus, including long quarantine periods and school closures. It’s possible that the WRC season might not be able to restart until the second half of the year, with or without some rescheduled events. It would certainly make what has been billed as Ogier’s final season in the sport, with the best car, an odd one. But would it be enough to make the 36-year-old six-time champion reconsider his decision to quit at the end of the year, perhaps wanting one final clean run at the title with a team and car that by then he would finally know quite well? Because these interruptions should in theory disadvantage those who are trying to settle into new environments. We’ll get to find out in Portugal – hopefully. Anthony Peacock READ MORE Racing lines: WEC's rules confusion is a threat to its credibility Racing lines: The line between innovating and cheating is slim in F1 The closest thing to F1? Driving Rodin's 675bhp FZED View the full article
  16. The 944 downed the mighty Audi Quattro in 1986 and the practical Porsche still shines today. Just look out for a whining transaxle The 944 was a car into which you could get most medium-sized domestic appliances – the Porsche Club GB’s experts know a practical sports car when they see one. They know a good one, too, praising the 944 of 1982-92 for its agile handling, strong performance, aggressive looks and easy cruising ability. The testers on Motor, Autocar’s then sister publication, agreed. In 1986, they set a 944 Turbo against an Audi Quattro, praising the Porsche’s less laggy engine, beautifully weighted steering, impeccable balance and immense grip. The 944 evolved from the smaller, less powerful 924 and passed through various iterations culminating with the S2-based SE of 1991. The pick of the lot is the standard S2 launched in 1990, powered by a 3.0-litre engine with 208bhp. We found a 1992-reg with 83,000 miles for £12,995. Finished in white and with blue leather, it has stacks of history, possibly as a result of having had eight previous keepers. The advertisement carries pictures of the car’s stamped service book pages but you’ll need to examine them carefully to establish where the gaps are. We have an Autocar reader to thank for pointing out that on 16-valve engines it’s vital that the timing chain tensioner pads are changed and the chain itself checked. If it fails, it will take the cam sprockets with it. On a test drive, listen for a whining transaxle. Unless the clutch has been replaced, it’s probably due one. Our find looks solid but scrutinise the body for rust on sills, wheel arches, suspension mounts and jacking points. Inside, be sure the headlining is secure and the dash isn’t cracked. BMW Z4 M Roadster, £12,500: The Z4 M Roadster is softer than the coupé and better for it. Both have feelsome hydraulic steering, a speed-sensing diff and a 338bhp 3.2-litre six-pot engine. This private 2007 example has just 60,000 miles on the clock and a full service history. Ford Capri 2.0 S, £8400: Are Capris getting better looking with age? This 87,000-mile Mk3 S of 1982, five years before the axe fell, looks an eyeful in bright red with original ‘strobe’-effect Recaros. Recent work includes a new clutch, brakes and – no surprise – welding. Renault Sport Megane R26R, £19,995: Lightness was key to the R26R. It shared its 227bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine with the R26, but this car set a Nürburgring lap record thanks to its 123kg weight advantage. Only 230 made it here. Our example is number 105, a 2009-reg with 24,000 miles. Plymouth Prowler, £24,997: We recently called the Prowler one of the greatest car flops of all time. It was underpowered and hobbled by a four-speed auto ’box but, if you can get over that, there’s much to enjoy in its 50:50 weight distribution. This is a 2011-reg import with 45,000 miles. Auction watch Ferrari 412: For years, the V12-powered 400, 400i and 412 were the go-to cars for people after a ‘bargain’ Fezza and a cure for hypersomnia. Today, the few that remain fetch stronger money (from around £50,000). Even so, one fortunate punter managed to hook a 1986-reg 412 with 73,000 miles for about half that sum. The hammer fell at £27,560. It came from a private collection and, according to the sale catalogue, was originally ordered by Peter de Savary, an English entrepreneur, who subsequently lost it in a game of golf. Not in a bunker, we presume… Future classic Ford Focus ST170, £3500: You could argue that at its advanced age the future has already arrived for the Mk1 Focus ST170, but still prices remain stubbornly low. You can get into a runner from as little as £750 but there are signs its fortunes may be turning. For example, we spotted an immaculate 2002-reg with 45,000 miles and a good service history for £3500. Strong money when you can get into a 2007-reg Mk2 ST with 60,000 miles for the same price, but the ST170 is much rarer and blessed with a really sweet chassis. Clash of the classifieds Brief: Find me a cool JDM car for £10,000. Honda Beat, £6999 Honda Civic Type R EP3, £9490 Mark Pearson: Small is beautiful, as Michael Schumacher noted many years ago. Wait, what? No, it was EF Schumacher, in fact, but whatever, he was right. Cars are too big, too heavy and too complicated now. What you need is a low, light, analogue, mid-engined two-seat roadster like this delightful 1992 JDM Beat. No car was ever more nimble. It’s like a McLaren F1 but without the vulgarity. What you got, Max? Max Adams: I have also gone for a Honda, but mine’s a 2003 Japanese-spec Civic Type R. An EP3, no less. It may look like the regular hot hatch, but this Championship White example gets a raft of go-faster extras that UK-spec cars missed out on: a limited-slip differential, close-ratio gearbox, better brakes, stiffer anti-roll bars and, oh yeah, more power. MP: The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the bold. My little thing is a gorgeous companion on a summer’s day. A lovely naturally aspirated engine and swift responses. Manga/ anime features, too, so plenty to look at. I like yours but isn’t it a bit… crashy? MA: Only if you overcook things in the corners. Mine has the fully independent rear suspension, remember, so it’ll ride better than the FN2 that came after it. MP: Hmmm, I value my fillings so I’ll take the Beat. Oh, wait, it’s up to John, isn’t it? John? Verdict: Manga/anime? Just give me the Type R. READ MORE Porsche sales soar in record 2019, decision on hybrid 718 this year How a Porsche Boxster took on Storm Brendan and the NC500 Modern-day 914 on the way, hints Porsche View the full article
  17. New car output fell 0.8% in February but a prolonged shutdown will bring about a much steeper drop British new car production fell only slightly in February, but the SMMT has warned of a much sharper drop in output as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Figures released today by the SMMT, the UK motor industry's body, show that 122,171 new cars were built last month, a drop of 0.8% compared with January. The fall has been attributed by the SMMT to “slower demand in key global export markets”. Reduced demand from the US and Asia meant new cars built for export fell by 3.1% to fewer than 95,000 units, despite a 3.6% increase in units shipped to the EU. However, the figures were bolstered by a resurgence in domestic demand, which climbed by a significant 7.8%, with 27,172 cars built for the home market. Overall, new car production in February fell 1.5% year on year. The SMMT said the figures come “at a time of unprecedented challenge for the UK and its automotive industry”, as nearly all British vehicle manufacturers have paused production in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The organisation estimates that the shutdown could mean the UK produces 200,000 fewer cars in 2020 than in 2019 - a drop of -18% - but has warned that the impact could be “far more severe” if the shutdown continues for several months. The government must, the SMMT said, accelerate access to emergency financial support for all businesses. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Despite the myriad global challenges the UK automotive industry has faced in recent times, it remains fundamentally strong and February’s figures reflect that. However, these figures also reflect the calm before the storm. “With UK car plants now effectively on national shutdown and many global markets closed, the outlook is of deep concern. We wholeheartedly welcome government’s extraordinary package of emergency support for businesses and workers, but this must get through to businesses now. “If we’re to keep this sector alive and in a position to help Britain get back on its feet, we urgently need funding to be released, additional measures to ease pressure on cashflow and clarity on how employment support measures will work.” Many vehicle manufacturers, parts suppliers and engineering firms based in the UK have pledged their support to helping sustain the NHS through the Covid-19 outbreak, offering to build medical ventilators, maintain emergency vehicles and transport key workers. Read more Coronavirus: What motorists need to know​ Coronavirus and the car world: further UK plant closures Coronavirus and the Chinese car industry: what we can learn View the full article
  18. Hydrogen is the way to go, or not; depends who the expert is Has our columnist had his fill of experts? Not quite - but some clarity would be a fine thing Is it getting harder to identify experts? As I write, a few moments ago the prime minister was flanked by two of them and they were flawless in their reasoning for the UK’s stance on combating the coronavirus epidemic. Clear, concise, precise, honest, trustworthy. But just now, I opened the website of a newspaper that has contacted several other experts, all similarly brilliantly qualified and working in the same sort of field, and they don’t agree with the government’s experts, or each other, on the approach we should take. I mean, they all think you shouldn’t go on a cruise, but I don’t think that’s news to anyone. Then I opened social media and people definitely didn’t all agree there, so I watched a few car build and cat videos and closed it again. Once, you’d open a newspaper or turn on the TV or radio and you could be relatively sure that in times of crisis – this probably counts – you’d hear from an expert or two. And that would be that. But everybody is a publisher these days, and the internet has placed data at everyone’s fingertips so now everyone can be an expert, too. Or, rather, they can adopt a particular position, and then build a case around it, to look like one. Not that the virus experts we’ve heard from are diametrically opposed – they all know a storm is coming and what the science suggests (it’s not great) – it’s just that their interpretation of the facts makes them vary on what they think will give us the best chance. But then I wondered. And I am going to stretch a point here, perhaps insensitively, but there we are, it’s 2020 and it probably won’t be the most glib thing you read today. (Less glibly, I wish you all the best during the coming months.) We’re experts here, of a fashion. I’ve done nothing but work in the field of cars since I was about 16 because I think they’re an invention that changed the world for the better. (And I like the vroom noises.) And there are hundreds of thousands of other automotive experts throughout the globe, all aware of the science behind all of the technologies that will drive our cars in future. Toyota currently likes hybrids and fuel cells. Yet I spoke to a senior executive from a different manufacturer the other day who thinks hydrogen has no future; that if you start with sustainability as your base point, you end up having battery-electric cars, and that’s that. But China is investing quite heavily in hydrogen – and if you put in an infrastructure for that, why not use it for cars? A good argument. Because production is still not as efficient as charging a battery, and the storage and transportation is a nightmare, and because you can mitigate the carbon output of trucks by running them on biofuels. Another convincing argument. Still, then, I’ve asked the experts and come away not quite any wiser. It’s no wonder Michael Gove once said that “people in this country have had enough of experts”. Although Sheffield University then did a study into Gove’s claim and found there was no evidence he was right, either. Forget experts not agreeing with each other. We can’t even agree about experts. READ MORE Toyota to suspend production at all European plants New Toyota Aygo to be designed, developed and built in Europe New Toyota small SUV gets all-wheel drive and hybrid powertrain View the full article
  19. Will the UK’s narrower, bumpier roads put this 671bhp electric Porsche in its place? This, allegedly, is the year of the electric car. “Wait, wasn’t that last year, or the year before?” I hear you cry. Well, this time, we’re inclined to believe it. Or rather we were, were it not for a certain global pandemic forcing mass factory shutdowns and sending car company shares plunging at an alarming rate.This is the first year that new EU corporate fleet average emissions targets come into play, prompting certain manufacturers to flood the market with the lowest-CO2-emitting cars possible (namely, EVs and plug-in hybrids) to help avoid hefty fines.Trying to do this in a slowdown economy, where most people aren’t allowed to go to work and dealers are almost entirely off limits, is a near-impossible task. Estimates for new car sales in the coming months are bleak at best, understandably so, and this could put some makers in precarious financial situations.But, hey, there’s enough doom and gloom around these days. The new, all-electric Porsche Taycan is finally here, on British roads, and that’s something to celebrate, if our verdicts from launches abroad (remember going abroad?) are anything to go by.Having most recently driven the current ‘base’ Taycan – the 4S –and with a Turbo S set to undergo Autocar’s full road test treatment in the coming weeks, we find ourselves sliding behind the wheel of the middling Turbo. Not that 671bhp and nearly £116,000 really justifies the use of the term ‘middling’.Customers for a car in this price range – people who are unlikely to baulk at the £23,000 jump from Turbo to Turbo S – may see the 81bhp deficit between this and the S as substantial. But, actually, both cars reserve this maximum power rate for full-bore launch mode. In normal driving, both Turbo and Turbo S make an identical 617bhp.View the full article
  20. Popular event in July will be rescheduled as a result of coronavirus pandemic Goodwood Festival of Speed, widely considered as the UK's leading automotive event, will be postponed because of the coronavirus crisis, Goodwood has confirmed. The show was scheduled to run from 9-12 July. Goodwood said a new date will be confirmed in the coming weeks and is likely to be in late summer or early autumn. Tickets already bought will remain valid. The Duke of Richmond, owner of the Goodwood Estate, said: “Over the last few weeks, we have been working together with everyone involved to understand the viability of the Festival of Speed going ahead in July. Due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus threat and not knowing whether the situation will have significantly improved by then, we sadly need to postpone the Festival of Speed in July. “These are dramatic and unbelievable times but they will pass and we are already trying to think about just how exciting it’s going to be to welcome you all back to Goodwood for what perhaps might be the ‘Greatest Event Ever”. It is the latest in a slew of delayed or cancelled automotive events. Following the last-minute axe of the Geneva motor show in March, the New York and Beijing shows, both scheduled for April, have been delayed. The Detroit motor show, which is due to open on 9 June, is still going ahead. Goodwood Festival of Speed has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to the absence of a successful British motor show, the appeal of dynamic vehicle appearances on the famous circuit, and a very British garden party atmosphere which is starkly different to typical exhibition-hall shows. Last year’s highlights included reveals of the Mercedes-AMG A45, electric Mini and BAC Mono R. The VW ID R racer made a triumphant return by beating its own EV record at the Goodwood hillclimb - and taking the outright record, which had stood for twenty years, in the process. READ MORE Coronavirus: UK drivers granted six-month MOT exemption Coronavirus: What motorists need to know Coronavirus and the Chinese car industry: what we can learn View the full article
  21. Initial four of 20 limited-run cars completed before coronavirus forced temporary factory closure The first four Morgan Plus Four 70th anniversary roadsters have rolled off the production line at the company's Malvern factory, ahead of customer deliveries later this year. Limited to just 20 uniquely specified cars, priced at £60,995 each, the 70th anniversary marks seven decades since the model's 1950 debut. It also celebrates the switch from the steel ladder chassis it has always used to the new CX bonded aluminium platform, which was introduced in the Plus Six and is set to be used in the new-generation Plus Four. The four cars were completed before Morgan closed its factory for one month in order to help fight the spread of Covid-19 – the first time it has closed for an extended length of time since World War 2. READ MORE: New Morgan Plus Four arrives with BMW power, new chassis The 20 cars, painted in platinum metallic in honour of their 'platinum' anniversary, have all already found homes. Each car will also have its chassis painted gold, with a motorsport-inspired front valance and an exterior blackpack, and will roll on Satin Grey wire wheels. Inside, each car will carry an individual numbered dashboard plaque. Heated 'performance' seats will be trimmed in black leather (with monogrammed head restraints) and fascias will be finished in Ravenwood, a wood so dark that design boss Jon Wells describes it as “almost piano black”. The 70th anniversary cars will come with a special engine map configured by Morgan’s in-house performance arm, Aero Racing, and a new exhaust from the same source. These lift power from the standard 154bhp to 180bhp, shaving around a second off the 0-62mph time, to “less than seven seconds”. More important than the stopwatch time, Morgan experts say, is the fact that the engine revs much more freely. Although Morgan’s 4/4 and Roadster models have also used the steel ladder chassis, the 70th Anniversary Plus Four will be the company’s only move to mark the chassis change across its range. Morgan bosses had planned for the whole batch to be ready for delivery during April, but with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic forcing a temporary shutdown, those orders are expected to be completed once restrictions are lifted. READ MORE Morgan ditches traditional ladder chassis for next-gen frame Used car buying guide: Morgan Plus 4 Morgan Plus Six is marque's first all-new model in 19 years 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 Land Rover’s new MHEV tech, introduced to the Evoque and Discovery Sport’s four-cylinder engines last year, will soon be rolled out to the full-size Range Rover with a pair of new six-cylinder units, Autocar understands. The 296bhp D300 and 345bhp D350 motors will offer enhanced efficiency and smoother stop-start driving, and will essentially replace the Range Rover’s 4.4-litre diesel V8, which is now 10 years old. Land Rover's mild-hybrid tech spells end for V8 diesel Range Rover VIDEO OF THE DAY More Land Rover news now. Well, it’s not strictly news unless you’ve been living under a rock… The new Defender is finally here, and we’ve been getting dusty out in Namibia to see if the blocky SUV boasts the same off-road credentials as its iconic forebear. See how we got on below: PHOTO OF THE DAY A bona fide muscle car should be able to consume rear tyres as quickly as it consumes fuel, but the latest Ford Mustang needed to inject a degree of frugality and refinement into the mix if it was going to be a success in Europe. Back when it arrived on our shores, we put it up against the latest iteration of the Chevrolet Camaro to see which best embodies the ‘no replacement for displacement’ ethos. Ford Mustang versus Chevrolet Camaro: muscle car twin test QUOTE OF THE DAY “The EV revolution could create more than 11 million tonnes of battery waste worldwide a year in the next 20 years - enough to fill Wembley Stadium almost 20 times.” Battery technology firm Aceleron lays bare one of the potentially dangerous side effects of widespread EV adoption: waste. The solution, it claims, is to cultivate a circular economy that sees battery components refurbished and re-used. Battery technology firm warns of looming EV waste problem FROM THE ARCHIVE The Autocar long-termers garage always houses an eclectic mix of new cars, ranging from snorting fire-breathers like the McLaren 720S to frugal runabouts such as the Kia Ceed. It hasn’t always been that way, though; in 1897, the fleet comprised just one car: a 4hp Daimler with coachwork by Arthur Mulliner. It took a year to arrive, and covered a whopping 276 miles in its first ten days in our tenure. Not bad, when the national speed limit was just 14mph… Throwback Thursday: Autocar gets its first long-term test car in 1897 POPULAR OPINION When you regularly get behind the wheel of some of the most powerful new cars on the planet, a diminutive supermini can feel underwhelming, but not the Volkswagen Up GTI. “Its zippy engine and Mini-like handling – along with the glorious simplicity of its styling and character – make you wonder why on earth you need anything bigger or pricier for honest driving enjoyment,” reckons Steve Cropley. “Conclusion: you don’t.” Steve Cropley: Small and simple is the formula for driving nirvana​ View the full article
  23. Ultra-exclusive speedster adopts a retro-inspired livery in tribute to Bruce McLaren's early racing efforts MSO, McLaren’s in-house personalisation division, has created a special edition of the new Elva speedster that pays homage to one of the firm’s historic race cars. Finished in a distinctive shade of ‘Anniversary Orange’, the Elva M6A Theme by MSO has been created in tribute to company founder Bruce McLaren’s iconic M6A, with which he won the 1967 Can-Am Challenge Cup. The one-off special edition's motorsport-inspired livery incorporates a subtle grey racing stripe along the sides, a retro-inspired ‘McLaren Cars’ logo and Bruce McLaren’s signature. The prominent '4' decal is a reference to the Kiwi’s long-standing race number. The theme is carried over to the interior, where the dashboard, centre console and door panels are painted in the same shade of orange. The brake calipers, also finished in orange, sit behind new 10-spoke alloy wheels, painted in black. Whereas the original car was powered by a naturally aspirated Chevrolet-derived 5.9-litre V8, today’s road-legal car packs Woking’s range-topping 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. The new MSO edition is mechanically unaltered from standard, meaning it produces 804bhp and can crack the 0-62mph sprint in less than three seconds. McLaren will build just 399 examples of the Ferrari SP2-rivalling Elva, with customer deliveries set to get under way later this year once the Speedtail’s production allocation has been fulfilled. Prices start from £1,425,000, including UK VAT. Read more McLaren Elva revealed as 804bhp Ultimate Series roadster​ McLaren at 20,000 cars: a picture history of its road cars​ On the trail of Bruce McLaren in New Zealand​ View the full article
  24. Chevrolet’s V8 engine has 31bhp more power than Ford’s and, crucially, more character We compare two brawny, V8-engined old-school muscle cars, to see which best suits a UK buyer Whichever good ol’boy it was who first bawled the phrase ‘There ain’t no replacement for displacement!’ way back when – almost certainly from beneath the wide brim of a Stetson, rye whiskey held aloft – he probably had a point at the time. If you wanted to go faster, you needed more cubes. But in the age of smartphones and cryptocurrencies, it’s a bit of a quaint notion. There are, after all, countless other ways of making a car shift along more quickly, such as hybridisation and turbocharging, or perhaps using clever lightweight materials so that what displacement you do have can work a lot harder. And yet, there really is no replacement for displacement. Nothing else comes close to the soaring soundtrack of a great big atmospheric engine, and nothing matches the frantic power delivery – the kind that makes you screw your face into a tight ball – that you get from six or eight big unassisted pistons pounding up and down. You just can’t beat it. But in the affordable performance car sector, those high-capacity, naturally aspirated engines have more or less disappeared recently, done for one by one by relentlessly punitive emissions regulations. Everything’s got a turbocharger on it these days. Well, not quite everything: there is still the good ol’ American muscle car. The latest Ford Mustang is a global car, which means you can have it in right-hand drive. It even has European-style multi-link rear suspension, rather than a live rear axle. The sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro, meanwhile, is close to 100kg lighter than the version it replaces and it too uses a more sophisticated multi-link rear end. In some very important ways, then, the latest breed of American muscle car has been dragged into the 21st century. In one crucial department, though, the Mustang and the Camaro are still deliberately and deliciously old-school: both have heaving great V8s that make their power through glorious old displacement alone, with not a turbocharger or electric motor in sight. The Ford’s measures 4951cc, the Chevrolet’s even bigger at 6162cc. That’s all well and good. Yes, they’re relatively modern cars these days, just with old-style V8 engines, but let’s be realistic about this: you wouldn’t actually consider owning one in the UK, would you? It’s easier to make a case for the £38,095 Mustang now than ever before, and although the Camaro, which is a fraction more expensive at £39,040 (prices correct at time of writing), remains left-hand drive only, it is now being sold here by an official dealer, Surrey-based Ian Allan Motors. If you’ve ever felt that muscle car itch, there’s never been a better time to scratch it. You could drive the Camaro every day for a year in the UK and be pretty damn sure of never seeing another one. Just as Ford did with the Mustang – and like Dodge managed with its Challenger – Chevrolet has brilliantly reimagined the overall aesthetic of the original Camaro in this latest model. It looks right up to date, but it’s still unmistakably a Camaro. Aside from their big V8s, American muscle cars have always been characterised by one other thing: completely shonky interiors. It’s been part of the trade-off. You put up with scratchy plastics and shoddy build quality because the list price was so modest and there was a whacking great V8 up front. That’s still very true of the Mustang. Its cabin is fit for purpose but the materials are unimpressive and the dashboard design is slavish to the 1960s original to the point of pastiche. It’s all just a bit tacky. The Camaro, meanwhile – in what must be a first for this sort of machine – feels like a premium car from within. The material quality is much better and the design is clean and simple. There are elegant flourishes too, like the low-set central air vents that double up as heater controls. Overall, it’s a more pleasant environment, although it should be acknowledged that the Mustang’s steering wheel does reach out a lot further, giving a more natural seating position. As far as the steering itself goes, though, it’s the Camaro’s that feels better. It does initially, anyway. Whereas the Mustang’s helm is quite vague and imprecise at first, the Camaro’s is tight, quick and very direct, making the car seem lighter and smaller. But when you start to really lean on the Chevy’s front axle in corners, you realise that the heightened rate of the rack is a bit of an artifice because, although the front end does keep up with it, the rest of the chassis doesn’t. What you feel from behind the wheel is the front axle darting hurriedly into a bend, then the car tripping over itself as it struggles to haul its 1659kg mass into the corner. That makes the Camaro feel just a touch clumsy. Ford’s engineers, by comparison, seem to have been bold enough to allow the Mustang to behave like a muscle car. They haven’t tried to make it feel more athletic than it really is. So although its steering is quite loose to begin with, it is actually better matched to the rest of the chassis. Once the two cars are loaded up mid-corner, it’s the Ford that’s the easier car to read too, the one that gives you a clearer idea of what’s going on down below. You feel just a little more empowered to drive the Mustang right up to the limit of grip. Both cars may well be more modern now with their multi-link rear suspension arrangements, but both still feel completely different to any European four-seat coupé, both still with a definite American flavour. They take up a lot of road and, rather than being darty and lithe, they’re both somewhat relaxed and sedate. They move to the rhythm of air raid sirens. You don’t try to really hustle them along a road, then, but instead stroke them along at good speed, pouring them smoothly into bends. The Mustang is a global car but still most at home on the kind of wide, endlessly long and arrow-straight roads that demand a long-legged gait and fluid, rangy suspension. The kind of road, frankly, that we don’t have a great deal of here in the UK. Our back roads tend to be tight and twisty with three-dimensional surfaces. Aside from feeling quite sizeable, then, both cars also feel very busy, rising and falling markedly with the road surface and bouncing a little on their springs, getting heavy in compressions and very light over crests. Of the two, though, it’s the Camaro – at least with this test car’s optional magnetic dampers – that has the tauter body control. So they still drive like American muscle cars. That’s the point, really, and don’t think for a moment they aren’t fun or entertaining because of it. But the Mustang and the Camaro are really only about one thing: their wholesome V8s. Being a good chunk bigger than the Ford’s engine, the Chevrolet’s motor is more powerful, producing 447bhp and 455lb ft versus 416bhp and 391lb ft. But what’s so much more important than sheer grunt alone is character and soundtrack. The Camaro’s engine is unmistakably a V8, warbling into life in a way only eight cylinders in a vee can and pulling all the way to the 6500rpm redline with a wonderfully hard-edged and off-beat rumble. The Mustang’s engine delivers much the same effortless, torque-rich performance as the Camaro’s, but – criminally – it does so without a great deal of character. The soundtrack is bland by comparison, all wind rush like a hairdryer rather than being tuneful in any way, and beyond 6000rpm the engine wilts miserably. Perhaps it was the Camaro’s optional sports exhaust that made the difference, and perhaps an uprated set of pipes would be all it’d take to enliven the Mustang. Whatever, the Chevrolet’s more characterful V8 counts for so much in a type of car that trades entirely on the strength of its character. But here’s a quandary: does the Camaro’s more seductive engine outweigh the inconvenience of driving a left-hand-drive car? Maybe the novelty of its roaring soundtrack and ferocious top-end would diminish with every unsighted junction, every dicey overtake and every out-of-reach ticket machine if you used the car every day. But if you kept the Camaro as a weekend plaything, sitting over on the wrong side might even be part of its charm. The Ford certainly isn’t without its appeal, but there is more to enjoy about the Chevy. And although there are plenty of European coupés much better suited to UK roads, the Camaro proves once and for all that for soundtrack, drama and good ol’ boneheaded giggles, there’s still no replacement for displacement. THE RESULTS 1st - With a more characterful engine and a higher-rent cabin than the Mustang, the Camaro is our muscle car of choice. 2nd - Fun to drive and great to look at, but the cabin feels cheap and the engine lacks the Camaro V8’s drama and soundtrack. This article was originally published on 28 January 2018. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide entertaining content in these difficult times. A great American rivalry: In the car world, rivalries don’t get much more bitter than Ford versus Chevrolet. The two automotive giants have been at war for decades, most notably in the pick-up truck and muscle car sectors. The latter conflict has waged since 1966, when Chevrolet first introduced the Camaro as its response to Ford’s genre-defining Mustang. In the battle for sales, the Blue Oval has more often than not had its nose in front. As of 2014, the Mustang had outsold the Camaro in 31 of the 41 years that both cars had been on sale. In 2017, Ford sold 81,866 Mustangs in the US compared with Chevrolet’s 67,940 Camaros. But the Mustang versus Camaro conflict is about so much more than just sales figures. It’s a rivalry that’s so deeply ingrained in US popular culture that, for most people, it would be unthinkable to change allegiance from one to another, just as an English football fan would never dream of switching his support from Liverpool to Manchester United. Perhaps Hollywood can settle the rivalry once and for all. Arguably the Camaro’s most famous movie appearance was as Bumblebee in the Transformers series. The Mustang’s star turn? As Steve McQueen’s ride in Bullitt, of course. It doesn’t get any cooler than that... Read more Mustang: all the wild and wonderful offshoots​ Ford Mustang Bullitt review UK sales of Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro end View the full article
  25. The model will share its platform with the new Yaris and could offer the same powertrains Yaris-based chassis mule shows off new model's raised ride height and long wheelbase Toyota will launch a Yaris-based small SUV for Europe, featuring all-wheel drive and a hybrid powertrain, later this year and new images show a chassis mule undergoing cold weather testing. The prototype wears a bodyshell that's heavily based on the outgoing Yaris but it's clear to see that it will sit much higher than that model and feature a bespoke headlight design. The Japanese firm says the as yet unnamed new model blends the firm's “extensive small car experience with its strong SUV heritage”. The model was first announced at a company showcase event in January, before the maker released a darkened image of the SUV's rear styling in the run-up to a planned unveiling at the Geneva motor show. Following Geneva's cancellation, the new small SUV is now expected to be launched at a dedicated event later this year. It will use the same TNGA-B platform and 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid powertrain as the new Yaris supermini. Despite sharing many parts with the Yaris, the SUV is an entirely new design, Toyota has said. Toyota Europe vice-president Matthew Harrison promised that the car won't be "just a Yaris with body cladding and raised suspension". Instead, it will be "an entirely new and distinctive B-SUV model" with a "compact, dynamic design and a personality of its own”. Sitting directly below the C-HR, it will be longer, wider and taller than the Yaris, with a longer wheelbase, and offer an 'intelligent' four-wheel drive system and proper off-road suspension, according to Toyota representatives. Toyota hopes the model will help capitalise on the ongoing popularity of compact high-riding models and predicts it will make up almost 30% of its European sales volume, along with the Yaris, by 2025. It will face stiff competition from the all-new Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Ford Puma. Toyota said the name of the SUV, volume plans and the timing of its introduction will be announced at a future date. It will be built alongside the Yaris at Toyota's plant in Onnaing, France. READ MORE New 2020 Toyota Yaris revealed with ground-up redesign Next-gen Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ on the way with more power Toyota GR Yaris hot hatch unveiled with 257bhp turbo engine View the full article
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