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The Motorists Guide

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  1. This desirable exec four-door looks quite a bargain. We show you which ones to go for To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can have any Audi A6 saloon of 2011-18 you like, so long as it’s diesel. In fact, make that a 2.0-litre diesel, or 2.0 TDI as Audi has it. We exaggerate, of course, but only a little. The fact is that A6 2.0 TDIs outnumber any other A6 saloon variants of the same generation by a huge margin. It’s not surprising, given the A6’s target market and the company car tax structure when it was new. Then there’s the engine itself, which bows only to the BMW 520d in terms of civility. The 2.0 TDI Ultra, launched in 2014, is extremely economical, too. This emphasis on diesel could seem less of a draw for used car buyers, whose mileage might not appear to justify choosing an oil-burner and for whom benefit-in-kind tax savings are irrelevant. However, for these people, there are still good reasons to choose an A6 2.0 TDI or its siblings, the 3.0 TDI and high-performance 3.0 BiTDI. They include the sheer pleasure to be gained from driving such a comfortable, well-appointed and well-engineered car that is also economical and inexpensive to tax. Perhaps of greater appeal, though, is that most A6s are attractively priced, not least because buyers are favouring SUVs over executive saloons. How about £13,500 for a 2016- reg 2.0 Ultra SE Executive S tronic with 33,000 miles? And road tax is just £30. You want something meatier? A 2016-reg 3.0 TDI quattro SE Executive S tronic with 28,000 miles is £15,995, or a same-age and mileage 3.0 BiTDI quattro SE Tiptronic (its V6 produces 316bhp and 479lb ft of torque) is £19,995. These 3.0-litre engines are seriously muscular but the 2.0 TDIs are also powerful and serve most drivers perfectly well. Those are the diesels, but if you hanker after a petrol, and have the patience to scour the classifieds for one, you’ll be rewarded by a choice of 2.0 and 3.0 TFSI engines (there’s a 2.0 TFSI hybrid but it’s as rare as hen’s teeth) and, later in the model’s life, a 1.8 TFSI. Prices start from £13,000 for a 2011-reg 3.0 TFSI quattro SE S tronic with 37,000 miles. Which just leaves the potent S6, a model that deserves its own guide and costs from £20,000 for a 2013-reg with 44,000 miles. This fourth-generation A6 was facelifted in 2014, when it gained styling tweaks, upgraded infotainment and more efficient engines. A second refresh came in 2016 (additional equipment and technology, redesigned front air intakes and a restyled rear end). Throughout, the core trims remained SE and S line, with the fully loaded Black Edition arriving in late 2012. SE is the most comfortable thanks to its smaller alloy wheels and steel springs. If your budget will allow, go for the post-2016-facelift SE with additional equipment. Need to know In the latest What Car? Reliability Survey, the A6 ranks fourth in its class, just ahead of the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Jag XF. Condition-based servicing means A6s may have gone for up to 19,000 miles without an oil change – good for fleet managers’ bottom lines but not necessarily engines’ bottom ends. The 2.0 TDI has a cambelt that must be changed every five years or 140,000 miles. Larger wheels on S line trim upwards spoil the ride. Revised cars from September 2014 have Euro 6-compliant engines. Check the V5 document for confirmation. Our pick Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE Executive Ultra: This entry-level model avoids the S line’s stiffer ride but still spoils you with front and rear parking sensors, four-zone climate control, leather seats, a multimedia interface and a digital radio. Wild card Audi S6: Its 4.0-litre V8 should be ample justification but there are some pretty wild features too, among them active noise cancellation, a quattro drivetrain with a sports diff and figure-hugging sports seats. Ones we found 2013 2.0 TDI S line, 159,000 miles, £5995 2015 2.0 TDI Ultra SE, 80,000 miles, £10,495 2017 2.0 TDI Ultra SE Executive, 28,000 miles, £15,000 2019 2.0 1.8 TFSI S line S tronic, 13,000 miles, £20,750 READ MORE Audi to unveil AI:Trail quattro electric off-roader at Frankfurt Audi developing dramatic A5-sized luxury electric coupé Audi cuts 9500 jobs in Germany to fund EV investment View the full article
  2. We run through the latest new car registration data to see which models are flying off forecourts What's hot and what's not? The SMMT's new car registrations data reveals all, and we've been studying the most recent figures to find out Britain's best-selling new cars. The figures shown for each model are the most recent year-to-date sales numbers available. We'll be updating this list monthly. 1. Ford Fiesta - 9210 It's hardly a surprise to see Ford's supermini in the top spot, because it has been the UK's best-selling new car every year since 2009. What is surprising is that demand for it hasn't slipped following a radical line-up reshuffle last year that brought its entry-level price up by nearly £2000. Clearly, the Fiesta's ability to blend efficiency with dynamism and charm is still a winning formula for a large portion of UK buyers. 2. Ford Focus - 8051 There's success for the Blue Oval in the hotly contested family hatchback segment, too. When we tested the Focus in 2018, we liked its playful chassis set-up, engaging driveline and improved ergonomics – plus points that continue to tempt buyers away from German, Spanish and Czech equivalents. 3. Volkswagen Golf - 7484 A new Golf will land in dealerships imminently, but demand for the outgoing Mk7 variant (or Mk7.5, to be pedantic) is holding strong. Volkswagen's uncanny ability to combine people-pleasing styling, efficient yet potent powertrains and overwhelming practicality in one affordable package means that, even at nearly seven years old, the outgoing car doesn't quite feel its age. 4. Vauxhall Corsa - 6244 The perennial runner-up to the Ford Fiesta in the supermini class finds itself in fourth place, but the Corsa remains Vauxhall's best-selling model in Britain – still technically its home market – and the arrival of the all-new PSA-developed car is sure to keep the nameplate in the top 10 best-sellers list. 5. Nissan Qashqai - 5901 When the Qashqai arrived back in 2006, it heralded the birth of the crossover class, which is now the most crowded and in-demand segment in the UK. Even now, 14 years later, and with nearly 30 well-rounded opponents to fend off, Nissan's mid-sized SUV remains the king. 6. Mercedes-Benz A-Class - 4862 A surprisingly premium entry here from Mercedes, but one that makes a lot of sense when you consider the sheer variety of drivers the A-Class would suit. With petrol, diesel and now plug-in hybrid options on the roster – as well as an overwhelming array of specifications and trim levels to choose from – the A-Class has become a real people pleaser. 7. Vauxhall Grandland X - 3801 Vauxhall's largest model continues to find favour with buyers searching for practicality, space and frugality on a budget. It remains to be seen if the new 296bhp Hybrid4 variant – which commands a near-£50,000 list price in top-rung form – will play a big part in the Grandland's ongoing success. 8. Volkswagen Polo - 3787 The Polo has lost some ground in the past couple of years. It was the sixth best-selling car in 2018 and in December of that year was second only to the Fiesta. The fact remains, however, that it's our favourite supermini on the market today. According to our reviewers, the Polo is "at once roomier, plusher, more technology rich, more pleasant to use and more polished to drive than almost any supermini on the road". 9. BMW 3 Series - 3648 Munich's five-star saloon reclaims its position as one of the UK's best-sellers, seeing off competition from the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class. Attractive finance options aside, a big reason for the 3 Series' appeal is its trademark duality: at home on autobahn, A-road and avenue, it's still one of the most competent all-rounders on sale. 10. Kia Sportage - 3386 The Sportage has become a stalwart of the top-sellers list. It's easy on the eye and offers a satisfying driving experience that belies its affordable family transport billing, while offering class-leading load capacity and the choice of a range of efficient petrol, diesel and mild hybrid motors. Read more New Cars 2020: what's coming this year and when?​ New electric cars 2020: What’s coming and when?​ The 20 best used car bargains for 2020 View the full article
  3. New six-cylinder units offer improved acceleration and efficiency over ageing Ford-sourced V8 Land Rover is set to introduce new mild-hybrid diesel engines to the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport in the coming months, effectively spelling an end to the V8 diesel, Autocar has learned. After introducing its first mild-hybrid systems in four-cylinder powerplants for the new Evoque and Discovery Sport last year, the technology will be introduced in two new six-cylinder diesels. Land Rover hasn’t officially confirmed details, however. It is understood that a 296bhp 3.0-litre MHEV unit, badged D300, will be offered on HSE, HSE Dynamic and Autobiography Dynamic trims of the Range Rover Sport. The mild-hybrid system will give a moderate efficiency boost, as well as aiding smooth stop/start driving thanks to an integrated starter-generator. Exclusive: every new Range Rover coming until 2023 A new, more powerful version of that same engine putting out 345bhp (badged D350) will be available in higher-end trims such as HST. That unit will effectively replace the flagship Ford-sourced 4.4-litre diesel V8, currently built in Mexico and based on a 10-year-old design. Oddly, information for the new unit has already been published by automotive data suppliers, despite it not being listed by Land Rover itself. The data reveals that the new unit puts out 516lb ft of torque, giving a 0-62mph time of 6.5sec and a top speed of 140mph in the Range Rover Sport. It also claims 35.3mpg and emits 210g/km of CO2. These figures are notably improved on the V8 diesel. The same two engines will be added to the full-size Range Rover, with the 0-62mph of the D350 rising to 7.1sec and CO2 emissions up to 225g/km. The D350 will only be available on higher trims of the Range Rover, too. We can also anticipate either one or both of these units to emerge on the Jaguar side with the upcoming facelift of the XF and F-Pace, originally expected to be unveiled by now but likely to be pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. While it remains available to order, it is unclear if there is any intention to return the V8 diesel to the brand in future, but it’s unlikely given the relative inefficiency it offers next to six-cylinder alternatives. This unit is one of the last Ford-sourced engines to be produced, with production of the AJ petrol V8 to cease towards the end of this year at Ford’s Bridgend factory. READ MORE Range Rover EV to be most road-biased Land Rover yet Jaguar Land Rover to invest £1bn in three new UK-built EVs New £25k Land Rover to be followed by luxo-Defender View the full article
  4. This season will be Abiteboul’s fifth in charge of Renault F1 Cyril Abiteboul knows his under-achieving team must soon deliver. But, as he tells Autocar, he has faith for the future In a recent television interview, Watford Football Club manager Nigel Pearson said that he wanted to “enjoy” life as a Premier League manager. Those in the studio smiled knowingly. But how can you enjoy a job like that when you’re under such intense scrutiny all of the time? What has sport at the highest level got to do with pleasure? When we ask the man charged with returning Renault to the front of the Formula 1 grid whether he enjoys his job, he almost breaks into a full smile. Almost. Cyril Abiteboul is warmer than he appears in Drive to Survive, the Netflix documentary series that has boosted his personal profile. But a week before what turned out to be a false start to the 2020 season in Australia, his time is precious. He’s courteous and engages with our questions, but there’s little time for pleasantries. “F1 is a great sport when things go well, but it’s awful when things go wrong,” he says ruefully. “It’s the same for any sport.” Abiteboul knows all about the “awful” bit. Recruited by Renault as long ago as 2001, the Frenchman gained a first sour taste of F1 team management when he was headhunted by the small, underfunded and short-lived Caterham (née Lotus) outfit in 2012, then returned from whence he came in mid-2014, not long before it folded. As managing director of Renault F1, Abiteboul has been at the helm since the car maker’s return as a full-blown factory team in 2016 – but has yet to witness a podium finish, let alone taste champagne. A ‘best of the rest’ fourth in the teams’ standings in 2018 represented progress, but a slip to fifth last year behind powertrain customer McLaren was humiliating. “There is only one word: disappointing,” Abiteboul says of 2019. “It came after three seasons of progression. With Daniel [Ricciardo] joining the team, we would have liked to keep that going – and it stalled.” At 42, Abiteboul is the youngest team principal in the paddock, and he has a commercial rather than an engineering background. As part of grand prix racing’s new generation, at the head of a true manufacturer racing team, he’s well placed to offer an inside view of F1, its future and Renault’s own in a sport some argue is out of step with its time. First, Renault itself. There’s almost an assumption that it’s just a matter of time before it sells off the F1 team, just as it did in 2010 – especially because it’s not winning. Changes at the top, with Luca de Meo replacing the disgraced (but F1-friendly) Carlos Ghosn, have further fuelled speculation. Abiteboul doesn’t groan, but he might as well do. “It’s a pressure for all 10 teams,” he says, “but there’s something a bit awkward about Renault. It feels to me that we have to respond to that question much more. It’s not just you asking, it’s everyone. And I wonder why. “We have been in F1 for 42 years in some shape or form. I accept our lack of consistency [see box, right], plus there have been some statements and changes of management. I get all of that. But the reality is we’re well established with two factories [the engines are built in Viry-Châtillon, near Paris], we’re now a group of 1200 people and we’re well advanced, not only for this year but into next. “The new Concorde [Agreement, by which F1’s finances are distributed to each team] is progressing in the right direction and we’ve got a set of regulations which are very positive for us. Directionally, it’s all good. “I do accept we are part of an automotive industry that is shaking, and that is also true for Renault. But are we really struggling more than [Mercedes parent firm] Daimler? I’m not sure. The value is here already and will be only better in the future. It’s down to us to crystallise our potential, starting with our performance. If our performance was better, we would have to respond to fewer questions of this type.” His defence of F1’s relevance to car makers is no less assertive. “Connectivity, electrification, artificial intelligence, fuel efficiency, lifestyle…” he rapid-fires the merits. “Biofuels are coming, a first step in the right direction, plus a number of technologies that are becoming more relevant to car manufacturing.” F1 may have embraced the hybrid age, but the paddock is resistant to full electrification. “For me, it’s not a step for F1, because we need enough energy density to race for 300 kilometres [186 miles] at a very high performance level,” Abiteboul says. “Right now, there’s nothing in terms of battery technology that can offer the same energy density. The big news for Renault at the start of this year is PHEV cars. Electrification and the internal combustion engine are complementary, not in opposition to each other.” If F1 is truly in tune with wider automotive thinking, though, why don’t more car makers join in rather than head for Formula E? “It’s a risk if you aren’t capable of performing at the appropriate level – a huge risk,” he answers. “Already being in F1, we have critics that we weren’t able to fight for P4 last year, which is what I believe we will be doing this year. But P4 is quite an achievement. There are a number of brands, including the most established that are extremely well financed, that don’t even dare go into F1 because of the risk associated.” Really? The likes of Audi and Porsche are running scared of F1 failure? And who would want to come in just to fight for P4? A budget cap in 2021, along with new technical regulations (now for 2022) and a fresh financial deal to bring about a fairer and more equitable distribution of revenue, all aim to make the sport more competitive. “I think it’s a shame,” Abiteboul says of the budget cap, “but I don’t see a better way to fix a system that has been created by the last round of Concorde negotiations, which weren’t negotiations but bilateral agreements created by Bernie [Ecclestone] for a very specific purpose. It badly damaged the sport, and the only way is financial regulation. I don’t like it, but it’s a necessity. It’s a fix which might one day be replaced by something else.” The criticism of Ecclestone references the individual deals he brokered with Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull to settle civil unrest among the teams around a decade ago. A union of teams dissatisfied at their share of F1’s success briefly threatened a breakaway – but Ecclestone turned to an age-old strategy of divide and conquer, fracturing the union by negotiating new terms on an individual basis. Tempted by self-interest, the ‘big three’ each buckled, signed their own deals and set F1 on course for the ‘us and them’ divide that’s so apparent today. “We need to move away from the two-tier system,” says Abiteboul. “On one side, we’re doing an excellent job with new marketing initiatives such as Netflix and F1 city festivals, but if we really want to capture this new audience, we need to have a sport that’s much more competitive than the one we have now. What I really like about the [2022] regulations is that, for the first time, we have defined them for the show, rather than having a show that is a consequence of a set of regulations.” But will the grid concertina and allow Renault to fight for victories? Abiteboul is cautiously optimistic – but deep down surely knows that his team’s future is banking on it. “For sure, we will not be able to hide forever,” he admits. “The expectation has to be realistic and reasonable. But yes, [in 2022] we can’t hide if we aren’t capable of fighting for podiums. We don’t expect to dominate, but fighting for podiums is the target.” Smile, Cyril. Smile like you mean it. Just like Nigel Pearson. READ MORE Racing lines: the future of F1 could benefit from a Formula E tie-up Why less is more when it comes to F1 coverage Formula 1 new cars 2020: all now revealed Racing lines: The line between innovating and cheating is slim in F1 View the full article
  5. TVR ran the Tuscan Challenge series from 1989 until 2004 TVR old boys reunite at Silverstone for a blast into the past Social media doesn’t have to be all about watching fluffy animals doing the funniest things. It can also trigger happy reunions, as this recent example proves. The evening before a Silverstone test day, Martin Short posted a clip of his TVR Tuscan Challenge racer, which he would be taking for a quick blast on the Grand Prix circuit the following morning. Old rival, former enemy and now good mate Ian Flux spotted it and asked if he could have a go, and the next day there they were in the pit lane, recalling the best of times. British motorsport is blessed with plenty of great characters and their tall war stories (too many of which are sadly unprintable), and these two are among the best of the breed. Short is a wheeler-dealer enthusiast who raced a kit car in the 1980s before getting into Rover one-make racing and eventually making it all the way to the top class of the Le Mans 24 Hours. As for ‘Fluxie’, he has been a fixture since the 1970s. A mechanic for Graham Hill’s F1 team, he was hugely prolific on the national scene, racing everything from Formula 3 and Formula Atlantic to Thundersports and the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC). In the 1990s, the pair found themselves pitched together in what is still remembered by many as one of the loudest, most brash and most entertaining UK racing series ever to run. Racing championships built around single makes and models remain an accessible and relatively simple form of motorsport for all ages and ranges of talent. But let’s not pretend they make the blood run hot. Back in the 1990s, such series were all the rage, based mainly around front-wheel-drive saloons – think the Vauxhall Vectra and, er, Volkswagen Vento. In their midst, TVR’s Tuscan Challenge was something else entirely. Launched in 1989, the series proved the perfect promotional tool for the small, Blackpool-based sports car specialist. The Tuscans were properly hairy, at first powered by 4.5-litre Rover V8s and later by TVR’s own AJP engine pushing out more than 500bhp, just to the rear wheels (naturally). They weren’t for the faint of heart. “Looking back over all of my career, those four years of Tuscans when it was at its height were the best,” says Flux, who won the title in 1996. “There were 12 to 14 top drivers and you didn’t know where you were going to come. As for the off-circuit activities and the laughs we had…” Time to leave it there, Fluxie! These two had their fair share of run-ins back then. I recall a sense of trepidation each time I stepped into the paddock as a young reporter. The drivers were all of the ‘larger than life’ variety, many using the Tuscans as a stepping stone to great things further up the ladder, among them Jamie Campbell-Walter, Bobby Verdon-Roe, Phil Hindley, Ian McKellar Jr and Mike Jordan, father of current BTCC ace Andrew (coincidentally, he had brought his own Tuscan out for a play at the same Silverstone test day). Guest drives proved a popular draw, even attracting Nigel Mansell in 1993 at Donington Park – just after he’d clinched the Indycar crown and only 12 months after he had become F1 world champion. Sadly, a famous TOCA Shootout shunt in a Ford Mondeo BTCC racer put Red Five in hospital, making him a Tuscan non-starter. But those who did race, fought and fell out with each other have fond memories, and today it’s all water under the bridge (mostly). At Silverstone, Short and Flux were like a couple of old schoolboys after both had taken Martin’s perfectly preserved, Mole Valley-backed Tuscan out for a twirl. “By the time I had got to Becketts, it had all come back,” said a grinning Fluxie, after his first run in one for more than 20 years. “There’s just a feel, loads of front-end grip as you turn in, that leaves you thinking: ‘Oh God, this is f***ing great!’” Short credits Flux and the late, much-missed Colin Blower for coaxing him into Tuscans. “They said ‘you need to get out of Rovers and come and do some proper racing’,” he recalls. “I tested here and spun at every corner. I was so deep into front-wheel-drive mode I was nailing the throttle at every turn. I drove the whole race with my right hand on my knee to remind myself not to nail it. Finishing third in that race changed my life, because after that I had two dealers fighting over me. That led to my career in TVRs, which found me a sponsor who was a TVR owner, and that led me directly to Le Mans.” The rich seam of racing history means original Tuscans fetch a pretty penny today, but surely enough survive for a proper reunion with many more of the old faces. A perfect idea for the Silverstone Classic, I reckon. Green around the gills Passenger rides with racing drivers. In all honesty, they’re not top of my good-time list, mostly because they usually make me feel queasy. But when seasoned historic racer Willie Green won’t take no for an answer, it’s time to strap in and hold on. Turns out I was glad that I did at Silverstone. Green had a lovely, self-prepped and lightly modified racing Ford Capri 2.8 and was keen to show me how satisfaction on track doesn’t necessarily come through brute speed. There were plenty of faster cars buzzing around us on a busy test day, but Willie was in his element on standard rubber, steering the car mostly with his right foot and with only the most subtle of fingertip inputs. Watching a master craftsman at work close at hand is a privilege and, in this case, a reminder how racing drivers – even those of a fine vintage – work at a level most of us can only aspire to. By the end I was left feeling just a little green – mostly with envy. READ MORE Racing lines: The line between innovating and cheating is slim in F1 Racing lines: Powertrain innovation may be key to F1's survival Racing lines: Autocar meets... Alice Powell View the full article
  6. Growing popularity of EVs is good news for emissions, but bad news for waste battery levels Report suggests repurposing end-of-life batteries is necessary to prevent dangerous levels of waste The UK could soon have a significant EV battery waste problem on its hands, according to battery recycling specialist Aceleron. The Birmingham-based company, which calls itself a 'circle-economy battery developer', anticipates that “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”. The solution, claims Aceleron, is for battery production to operate on a circular model that ensures minimal wastage and preserves valuable resources. “By designing batteries for the circular economy from the outset, we can prevent mountains of battery waste from being created worldwide,” said CEO Dr Amrit Chandan. “The decarbonisation of transport is critical, but we are currently solving one sustainability issue while ignoring another. Waste is the elephant in the room." To this end, Aceleron builds long-life battery packs that are designed to be repaired and reused, which means they can be given a ‘second life’, unlike conventional units. They are equipped with intelligent management software, which means their performance can be monitored remotely and individual components can be replaced when necessary. The company has signed a new deal to supply electric ATV manufacturer Eco Charger with bespoke lithium ion power packs, of which it plans to repurpose more than 90%. The same size as traditional lead acid units, Eco Charger’s batteries are claimed to be four times more powerful and weigh half as much as a standard battery. Reports of a looming waste battery problem are seen by some as heavily exaggerated, however. Earlier this year, Alan Colledge, senior manager at recycling firm Cawleys Hazardous Services, told Autocar sister magazine CAT: “The overall picture is positive, and it’s alarmist, unhelpful and untrue to say that we face a potential electric vehicle battery mountain in the UK. "We should be confident that electric vehicles can be recycled well and not let concerns about battery mountains spook the market on the consumer or trade side.” Colledge's comments came following the release of a University of Birmingham survey that claimed: “Recycling technologies for end-of-life lithium ion batteries are not keeping pace with the rapid rise of electric vehicles." Various vehicle manufacturers have explored ways of recycling EV batteries. In 2017, Renault unveiled a plan to convert expired units into home energy storage systems, while 500 BMW i3 battery packs have been used to store energy from a wind farm in South Wales. Read more Renault to repurpose EV batteries into home energy storage systems BMW i3 batteries used in National Grid storage facility Behind the scenes of Britain's battery revolution​ View the full article
  7. Growing popularity of EVs is good news for emissions, but bad news for waste battery levels Report suggests repurposing end-of-life batteries is necessary to prevent dangerous levels of waste The UK could soon have a significant EV battery waste problem on its hands, according to battery recycling specialist Aceleron. The Birmingham-based company, which calls itself a 'circle-economy battery developer', anticipates that “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”. The solution, claims Aceleron, is for battery production to operate on a circular model that ensures minimal wastage and preserves valuable resources. “By designing batteries for the circular economy from the outset, we can prevent mountains of battery waste from being created worldwide,” said CEO Dr Amrit Chandan. “The decarbonisation of transport is critical, but we are currently solving one sustainability issue while ignoring another. Waste is the elephant in the room." To this end, Aceleron builds long-life battery packs that are designed to be repaired and reused, which means they can be given a ‘second life’, unlike conventional units. They are equipped with intelligent management software, which means their performance can be monitored remotely and individual components can be replaced when necessary. The company has signed a new deal to supply electric ATV manufacturer Eco Charger with bespoke lithium ion power packs, of which it plans to repurpose more than 90%. The same size as traditional lead acid units, Eco Charger’s batteries are claimed to be four times more powerful and weigh half as much as a standard battery. Reports of a looming waste battery problem are seen by some as heavily exaggerated, however. Earlier this year, Alan Colledge, senior manager at recycling firm Cawleys Hazardous Services, told Autocar sister magazine CAT: “The overall picture is positive, and it’s alarmist, unhelpful and untrue to say that we face a potential electric vehicle battery mountain in the UK. "We should be confident that electric vehicles can be recycled well and not let concerns about battery mountains spook the market on the consumer or trade side.” Colledge's comments came following the release of a University of Birmingham survey that claimed: “Recycling technologies for end-of-life lithium ion batteries are not keeping pace with the rapid rise of electric vehicles." Various vehicle manufacturers have explored ways of recycling EV batteries. In 2017, Renault unveiled a plan to convert expired units into home energy storage systems, while 500 BMW i3 battery packs have been used to store energy from a wind farm in South Wales. Read more Renault to repurpose EV batteries into home energy storage systems BMW i3 batteries used in National Grid storage facility Behind the scenes of Britain's battery revolution​ View the full article
  8. Lambo’s Squadra Corse motorsport division is developing a track-only version of the Aventador, and it could preview a Le Mans entry Lamborghini is going after Ferrari’s FXX division with an ultra-limited, track-only model to be revealed by its Squadra Corse racing arm. The model, which follows on from the road-usable SC18, is now undergoing high-speed track testing, as shown in a new video released by the firm. Unconfirmed reports suggest the new, Aventador-based model will be called the ‘SVR’. Lamborghini has now confirmed that the track car will take its power from an uprated version of the Aventador's naturally aspirated 6.5-litre V12, with output boosted to 819bhp. The latest video doesn’t reveal much in terms of information, but it gives a clear visual indication that the new car’s bodywork is far more bespoke than that of the SC18, sharing very little of its profile with the Aventador, as shown in a preview clip from last year. A wedge shape with a deep front end and pronounced splitter, a roof-mounted scoop and a track-bred rear wing design are visible. An aggressive diffuser setup can be briefly glimpsed. Last year, Lamborghini’s boss, Stefano Domenicali, told Autocar that it is evaluating an entry into the 2021 Le Mans hypercar category. Homologation rules dictate that the race version must be strongly related to a road-legal model, with 20 examples required to be produced over a two-year period. That suggests the Le Mans racer isn't likely to be based on this car, because it won't be road legal. Read more: Lamborghini plots all-electric four-door GT for 2025 Bigger cars, bigger factory: how Lamborghini is changing Sussex to Sant'Agata: taking the Lamborghini Huracan Performante home View the full article
  9. S660 and Copen are the only kei sports cars in production Kei cars are big in Japan, but do they deliver driving thrills? We sample a pair in Tokyo to find out When the American style of christening storms came to Britain a few years ago, it was inevitable that some wag in the Met Office would find a way to undermine the whole concept with an underwhelming name to snigger about. Storm Brian was the result. It’s a fine English name but perhaps lacking the gravitas of many of those coined overseas. “In terms of impact, we’ve had spray overtopping quaysides,” someone from the Environment Agency told the BBC of Brian’s pummelling of Cornwall. Top marks for not trying, Brian. While Brian was doing his thing on the other side of the world, Typhoon Lan – now there’s a name – was homing in on southern Japan, bringing with it 140mph winds and a storm that made photographer Stan Papior wish he’d invested in a waterproof camera and jacket. Look really closely at some of his pictures here and you still won’t see Mount Fuji, the enormous, awe-inspiring backdrop we’d planned to use to celebrate one of the Japan’s most wondrous automotive creations: the kei sports car. Where’s Brian when you need him? There are only two kei sports cars in production at time of writing – the Honda S660 and the Daihatsu Copen – and we have an example of each with us. Like all kei cars, they are built to strictly controlled dimensions – so no longer than 3400mm and no wider than 1480mm. No kei car can have an engine bigger than 660cc, nor one more powerful than 63bhp. Most end up at those extremes; anything smaller would surely be blown away by Lan, and even Brian might have something to say. In truth, the only extreme thing about these cars is just how small they are. As we set out from Tokyo in them, a Jaguar F-Type Coupé pulls alongside us at the first set of traffic lights. “Aww, how cute,” the driver of the enormous Jag, which looks about four times the size of the S660, must be thinking to himself. And who can blame him? Both of these things are so sweet and endearing, you’ll forgive them almost anything. But more on that later. We’re in Tokyo, to embark on a whistle-stop cultural tour of Japan from its capital city to as high up Mount Fuji as the road will allow. The reason? To see whether or not, in a post-Brexit world, the UK’s trade negotiations with Japan should include a line or two about getting these cars back over here. After all, Japan is one of the world’s few other right-hand-drive markets. The S660 is Honda’s third attempt at getting its sports car mojo back, after the Civic Type R and the NSX. The two-seater is more like the latter than the former in that it is mid-engined and rear-wheel drive, its 660cx engine at the 63bhp limit. The turbo helps push torque to 77lb ft, and it gets a six-speed manual gearbox. So it’s pleasingly old school in its approach to the sports car, something that extends to the soft- top roof that’s removed by hand and stored in the car’s only storage space in the front. The space is measured by weight (10kg), rather than capacity, such is its diminutiveness. After this, your luggage can extend to no more than a bottle to fill the cupholder. By comparison, the Daihatsu takes a more grand tourer approach, with its folding hard-top roof still leaving plenty of room for a bag or two, roof up or down. Even with all that extra weight of the roof mechanism, the Copen surprisingly comes in at the same claimed 850kg kerb weight as the S660, the two cars also both using MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension. This is the second-generation Copen – the first, which no one could tell one end from the other, was exported to countries including Britain with a larger, more powerful 1.3-litre engine. This time, it’s a 658cc 63bhp engine, mounted up front and driving the front wheels, and only on sale in Japan. The Daihatsu is available in several different flavours, our test car being an Xplay version, which aims to bring the crossover together with the sports car for the first time since the Porsche 911 Safari rally cars, as someone in Daihatsu’s marketing department probably decided. There is no getting away from the fact that it’s quite weird looking, but at least it’s weird looking from all angles; there’s a theme that’s been stuck to but, by the end of our two days with the little car, I actually come round to quite liking it. In this spec the S660 comes in at ¥2.2 million (about £14,500), but it can be had with fewer toys for around ¥1.9m (£12,500), which is what our Copen will cost. The starting prices of these cars are rather at odds with kei cars’ sole purpose of being cheap to tax, insure and run, especially when you consider that most well-specced superminis in Japan can be bought for much less. That said, you have to go up to ¥2.5m (£16,800) for a Mazda MX-5 – a bargain price at list but with none of the other kei car cost benefits. So kei sports cars have their place; indeed, 10,298 S660s found homes in Japan last year (far more than Honda needs for it to be profitable), compared with 5152 Copens. It’s the Copen I try first. Hmm. It’s easy to get in and out of, at least, which technically is a good first impression. A better one than how woolly the clutch feels, how the steering doesn’t feel like it does anything for the first quarter of a turn, how third gear in the gate seems impossible to find and how the chassis has the sophistication over bumps in the road akin to a McDonald’s when it had the word ‘restaurant’ above its front doors. Still, the Copen provides a nice view of that Honda in front. It looks like a shrunken McLaren, something that Honda embraces right down to the little rear window that opens like on a 650S Spider, allowing the cabin to be flooded with the sound of three cylinders and 63 horses. Perhaps I’m asking too much of the Copen. It does have some nice bits. I like that the steering wheel is big, that its tyres are nice and skinny like a motorcycle’s, and that its controls are at least light enough to make progress through Tokyo traffic fairly easily. I can also make more sense of the sat-nav in Japanese than some systems I’ve come across in English – recent efforts from Peugeot and Alfa Romeo spring to mind. In Tokyo, we make two stops. First, its lowest tunnel, nicknamed Ghost Tunnel by locals and soon to shut. I have to crane my neck to walk into it, a cramped experience that provides a good warm-up for driving the S660 later on. From there, we head to the famous Rainbow Bridge, which looks like the Golden Gate Bridge without the red paint, or the Severn Bridge to Stan’s eye. Come to think of it, lots of bridges look the same – something that can’t be said of the traffic on Tokyo’s roads, which are a paradise for a spotter of weird and wonderful cars you can’t get in the UK. Not just the creativity of kei cars but also Japan’s other domestic creations, typically MPVs of all shapes, sizes and right-angle designs – this is one market the SUV has yet to conquer. Perhaps the Copen will be better on the main motorway heading to the town of Fuji, our stop for the night ahead of our trip up the mountain itself tomorrow. Progress isn’t quick, not because of the traffic but because of the stops to take in road-side delights such as vending machines in the middle of nowhere and service stations selling everything from camouflage cakes to kitchen tongs in the shape of cat paws. As this is the weekend, you’ll find car clubs meeting in service station car parks, and we spot a Toyota HiAce van fan club coming together in one. When we’re actually moving, the Copen does endear itself more at speed. The high-speed ride is better than the low-speed ride, and it’s capable enough at keeping up with the pace of the traffic. Kei cars are nominally limited to 100kph (62mph), but it’s more a suggestion than a cap; the maximum indicated 140kph (87mph) on the instrument dials is reached easily enough despite the lack of power – although not before I’m told off by a Japanese woman’s voice in the cabin (the source of which I never quite manage to discover) in a ‘I’m not angry, I’m disappointed’ kind of way. We reach Fuji, a working port town the kind of which you pass through rather than visit. It’s Saturday night, but the funky neon signs Stan lines up for photos switch off one by one just as he’s about to shoot them. The better news is that we don’t end up succumbing to the fugu fish we later have for dinner, which can be poisonous if prepared incorrectly. Having survived to day two, I finally get a proper go in the Honda. The cabin seems borrowed straight from the old CR-Z hybrid they stopped selling in the UK a couple of years ago, with clear and cool-looking digital dials, a small, chunky steering wheel, a lovely gear knob with a sweet shift to match, and comfy seats. There’s a screen on top of the dash that also handily displays the g-force, clearly an essential part of the kei car armoury. The control weights are much more akin to that of a sports car than the Daihatsu, with more weight and feel behind them, which immerses you more in the drive. This doesn’t extend to the chassis too much, though, for the Honda also lacks sophistication in the way it handles bumps; this isn’t a mini Lotus Elise to that end, although it easily beats the Copen here. The handling is more of a joy, however, as we wind sharply uphill on the road out of Fuji before reaching the mountain’s easterly base, where we park our cars and walk into the clouds. Here, I’m expecting the Honda to show off some Lotus-style handling that it hinted at earlier in the day at lower speeds. It may well do, but the traction control system has other ideas: even when it’s off, it jumps back in, and to go around a corner at any sort of speed results in the car beeping at you for no understandable reason. Shame, as it’s got a lovely turn in, and you can wiggle its bum on the exit of a corner. There’s a good sports car in here somewhere – however small it is – let alone a good kei car. I’m not expecting much as I switch back to the Copen, yet I’m pleasantly surprised. Kudos to Daihatsu for making the car so resistant to understeer and, without the electronics faffing about to hold you back around every corner, you can carry more speed out of the bends. It’s warm-hatch-like in its performance on this road, the one place where it really excels. Like a kei sports car should, really. It’s the Honda I return to for the return leg back to Tokyo, having stopped at the shrine to Mount Fuji on the way back down to see what can be done about the rain. Nothing much, it turns out, and the Honda bears the brunt of the worst conditions yet on the flooded motorway with visibility no more than a few car lengths in front. You would expect the S660, or any kei car, to feel rather exposed in such an environment, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s even confidence-inspiring, and feels ‘big car’-like here. It’s happy, and so am I. The only thing that isn’t is my neck, which has to be hunched down to avoid banging on the rollover hoop. I’m not exactly a giant at 5ft 10in, so anyone bigger need not apply. It is not too much of an issue in town or on a mountain road but becomes one on a longer motorway run. We arrive back in Tokyo after dark, and well ahead of the full force of Lan, which was due to hit Tokyo at six o’clock on Monday morning. In the end, it did a Brian and just missed the city, leaving clear blue skies rather than a trail of destruction in Japan’s capital. The clouds above Mount Fuji apparently dispersed too. Even so, as endearing as the cars are, I’m not planning a return trip yet, nor to send David Davis a text to add something to the Japan trade talks post-Brexit. Kei sports cars have their own place in Japan and in Japanese culture; they are a satisfying itch to scratch when visiting but there’s no need to have one waiting for you at the airport back home. Just knowing they exist is enough for me. This article was originally published on 25 November 2017. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide entertaining content during these difficult times. Three of the best Kei sports cars SUZUKI CAPPUCCINO - This 1990s joy had a timeless shape with so much appeal that it was exported to Britain, one of the few kei cars ever to do so. It was rear-wheel drive and a coupé, targa and full convertible all in one, depending on which parts of the roof you removed. AUTOZAM AZ-1 - This car started life as a Suzuki, but became a Mazda. The baby Ferrari, mid-engined and with gullwing doors, is now one of the most sought-after kei cars in Japan and fast appreciating. Much of the AZ-1 development actually took place in the UK. HONDA BEAT - The inspiration for the current S660, the Beat was a Pininfarina design and, like the S660, mid-engined and rear-wheel drive. Never sold outside Japan, it was the last car company founder Soichiro Honda signed off for production before his death in 1991. Read more The history of the kei car​ Toyota unveils Copen GR Sport as hot compact convertible Is time running out for Japan's car industry?​ View the full article
  10. 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 Toyota powers up 'GR86' coupé Fresh from reviving the Supra to great critical acclaim, Toyota is at work on an entry-level performance model in the vein of the ageing GT86 sports coupé. Newly leaked reports suggest it will pack a 252bhp turbocharged petrol motor and hit showrooms in just over a year's time. Next Toyota GT86 confirmed for 2021 in leaked presentation​ VIDEO OF THE DAY Bored at home? Planning to get stuck into a DIY project? You could take inspiration from JCB, which last year tasked some of the finest minds in British engineering with creating the world's fastest tractor. And here it is: the Fastrac 2. We went behind the scenes at the company's HQ to see how it came together. How to build the World's Fastest Tractor: JCB Fastrac 2 timelapse PHOTO OF THE DAY No, we've not been hanging around in our local shopping centre car park, doing donuts and revving our hatchback's 1.4-litre motor. This is the Paul Swift school of stunt driving, and it's a great way of learning how to maintain car control while on two wheels, reversing at full speed and spinning into tight spaces. How to drive on two wheels with stunt ace Paul Swift QUOTE OF THE DAY “All of our marketing blah-blah about reinventing an icon is true, I think. The 60-second elevator pitch for the Defender is ‘capability. This is not a sport utility vehicle. It’s a 4x4.'”​ Jaguar Land Rover's chief commercial officer, Felix Bräutigam, makes no secret of the thought process behind bringing back the Defender. The fact remains, however, that the new model occupies a much more premium segment of the market than did its forebear, and only a three-day trek across Namibia would give us the chance to see if it deserved to wear the iconic nameplate. Land Rover Defender 110 S 2020 review FROM THE ARCHIVE This year's Formula 1 season has been steeped in uncertainty since the Australian GP – and then nearly every subsequent race – was postponed in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy looking back at some of the most memorable F1 races of all time. This week, we recount the legendary Jacques Villeneuve's first stint behind the wheel. From the archive: Jacques Villeneuve makes dramatic F1 debut​ POPULAR OPINION An ode to a motoring icon Do you remember when you properly fell in love with cars? For Colin Goodwin, it was a chance encounter with a relative's Jaguar E-Type that kick-started the beginning of a long-standing infatuation with the automobile. He takes us for a trip down memory lane. How I fell in love with cars: Colin Goodwin​ View the full article
  11. Seat Tarraco Spanish firm's profits up after sales rise 10.9% in 2019 – but Seat warns Covid-19 could hit 2020 performance Seat broke its sales record for the second consecutive year in 2019, thanks to the success of its SUV line-up and the growth of the Cupra sub-brand – but it has warned that the Covid-19 pandemic makes it impossible to make any forecasts for this year. The Barcelona-based firm sold a total of 574,078 vehicles last year, a 10.9% rise on its record 2018 total. Seat’s three-strong SUV line-up, comprising the Arona, Ateca and Tarraco, accounted for 44% of that total, up from around a third in the previous year. Meanwhile, sales of Cupra models rose 71.8% year on year, to 24,664. Seat sold 68,822 cars in the UK, its third largest market behind Germany and Spain, which represented a 9.5% year-on-year increase. With the rise in sales of SUVs and the premium Cupra models, Seat’s average per-vehicle revenue rose by 4.2%. That helped lift the firm’s pre-tax profits by 17.5% year on year to €346 million (£309m). Seat boss Carsten Isensee said the results “provide a solid foundation on which to build the company’s long-term future”. The firm increased spending on long-term investments and R&D by 3% to €1.259 billion (£1.12bn). Seat is taking the lead within the Volkswagen Group on the entry-level version of the MEB electric platform that will be used for the Volkswagen ID Entry and other small car models around four metres in length. Marketing chief and Cupra boss Wayne Griffiths said Seat’s focus for 2020 will shift from simply growing its sales. He said: “Our main goal for this year is to improve the profitability of our sales and stabilise our market share.” Griffiths added that Cupra is “a strategic priority”, because of the higher revenues of its models. Seat will launch five electric or electrified models in 2020 and 2021: the electric Seat Mii, plug-in hybrid versions of both the Seat Leon and Cupra Leon, the Seat Tarraco PHEV, the Cupra Formentor PHEV and the Seat El-Born EV. As with all car firms, Seat is facing massive uncertainty this year due to Covid-19, with production at all its sites temporarily suspended. Isensee said: “The coronavirus pandemic prevents any reliable forecast regarding the impact on the global economy and Seat’s performance in 2020.” In the longer term, Seat is focusing on expanding its presence in Latin America. It sold 24,314 vehicles in Mexico last year (up 5.4%) and expanded into Chile. It is also developing expansion plans for Colombia and Peru. Seat has also postponed its plans to enter the Chinese market in a joint venture with JAC Volkswagen. READ MORE Seat El-Born: full details of all-electric hatchback VW Group's sub-£18,000 small EV due in 2023 Cupra Formentor launched as brand's first bespoke model View the full article
  12. New Toyota GR86 (left) and Subaru BRZ should be faster New GR86 sports car is set to launch next summer with 252bhp turbo flat-four; Subaru version to follow The replacement for the Toyota GT86, due to be named the GR86, will come out next year with a 252bhp turbocharged petrol engine, alleged leaks from US dealer presentations reveal. Posted on Instagram by regular scoop source Allcarnews, the Toyota-branded slideshow reveals the sports car is planned to be launched in summer 2021, between an all-new crossover and a ‘CUV’. There's no clear indication that the Subaru version, the replacement for the BRZ, will make its debut at the same time, but it’s entirely likely. The post also claims that the GR86 and BRZ will sit on a new platform and produce 252bhp from a forced-induction engine – two facts Autocar revealed earlier this year. This is likely to be the 2.4-litre flat-four unit that Subaru uses in the US market Ascent. The GT86 and BRZ were launched in 2012, and their future had been in doubt for years because of relatively low sales in a declining market. But both companies have committed to developing a replacement, with the GR86 a key part of Toyota's growing performance car line-up. Toyota boss Akio Toyoda is a major proponent of using performance models to boost the brand’s image under the Gazoo Racing division, which also includes Toyota’s various motorsport programmes. The original GT86 pre-dated the creation of that brand, which started with the GR Supra and will also include the GR Yaris, the first model developed purely by Gazoo Racing. The next GT86 is set to be rebranded to bring it in line with that nomenclature. The next-gen sports car will feature some substantial changes from the existing model. While the original was built on a Subaru platform, the firm’s current architectures are not suited to rear-drive cars, so Autocar understands the new model is set to be built on Toyota’s TNGA platform. With Toyota taking the lead on the platform side, it is up to Subaru to once again provide the propulsion. As we previously reported (and new reports appear to confirm) the existing 2.0-litre naturally aspirated unit will be switched for the turbocharged 2.4-litre boxer powerplant currently used in the Ascent, Legacy and Outback models. That engine produces 252bhp in the Ascent, a figure that would represent a significant upgrade on the outgoing model’s output. Forced induction would also provide a substantial torque upgrade over the old car, too, providing a draw for those who weren’t satisfied with the performance of the outgoing GT86 and BRZ. Both brands may wish to retain the drivability and character of a naturally aspirated unit, but this needs to be balanced with what buyers are demanding – and that appears to be the on-tap grunt of a turbocharged unit. Toyota and Subaru will also want to improve the aesthetic appeal of the new car, both inside and out. The old GT86 and BRZ were widely criticised for their low-rent cabin, so expect improvements in technology, material usage and fit and finish. Whether or not the model becomes more of a true four-seater in order to really help it stand up against more practical rivals remains to be seen. Such changes – particularly the power upgrade – would be likely to see the price of both cars increase. However, both brands will be conscious of the close proximity of more premium models, such as the Audi TT and BMW Z4. Toyota won’t want to tread on the toes of its own Supra, either, particularly in Japan where a four-cylinder version of the reborn sports car is offered. The second-generation BRZ and GT86 will build on expanding links between Subaru and Toyota. As well as the sports car, the two firms are teaming up to develop a new EV platform and electric SUV. Toyota weighs up sports hybrids Toyota is considering hybrid versions of future performance car models – but only once the weight of the systems are reduced. The Japanese firm is in the process of electrifying all of its models, with a heavy focus on hybrid systems. But the new GR Yaris will only be offered with a three-cylinder, 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, despite 80% of Yaris sales expected to be hybrid. Naohiko Sato, chief engineer of the GR Yaris, said that while a hybrid system would fit in the car and was under evaluation, Toyota didn’t believe it was currently suitable for performance cars. “Right now, if we chose an electrified powertrain for a sports car, it would be heavier,” said Sato. “We decided it’s not the right way to go right now. Maybe when the technology gets better and we have new technology allowing lighter powertrains, it could be good. “Right now, the Prius and RAV4 plug-in hybrids can have big batteries because they’re not sports cars, but it is best not to have a big battery for a sports car.” The Gazoo Racing range Toyota GR Super Sports - arriving in 2021: Road-legal version of forthcoming Le Mans racer will serve as range-topping ‘halo’ model, built in very small numbers. GR Yaris - arriving in late 2020: Four-wheel-drive, 247bhp-plus hot hatch brings World Rally Championship learnings to Yaris range. GR Supra - on sale now: Famed two-seat grand tourer has been reborn through partnership with BMW. GR86 - arriving in 2021: Second generation of rear-wheel-drive coupé will be brought in line with new GR branding. READ MORE Toyota plots new Aygo to capitalise on city car demise Toyota Corolla goes hybrid-only for 2020 New 2020 Toyota Yaris revealed with ground-up redesign View the full article
  13. Roadworthy vehicles can be driven for essential purposes without an MOT certificate from 30 March Vehicle owners will be granted a six-month exemption from MOT testing, in an effort to keep essential workers on the road during the Covid-19 outbreak. The exemption comes into effect from 30 March, but the Department for Transport has warned that vehicles should only be used “to travel to work where this absolutely cannot be done from home, or shop for necessities”. MOT tests had already been suspended for heavy vehicles – including lorries, buses and trailers – last week, but the halting of roadworthiness testing has now been expanded to include cars, vans and motorcycles. Vehicles must be kept in a safe, roadworthy condition, and garages are allowed to remain open to carry out essential repair work. The official announcement says drivers “can be prosecuted if driving unsafe vehicles”, but it is unclear whether the usual financial penalty for driving without an MOT – up to £1000 in some cases – is still in place. Transport Secretary Grant Schapps said: “Allowing this temporary exemption from vehicle testing will enable vital services such as deliveries to continue, frontline workers to get to work, and people to get essential food and medicine. “Safety is key, which is why garages will remain open for essential repair work.” The universal MOT exemption will be in place for 12 months, but valid MOT certificates remain a legal requirement until it comes into effect on 30 March, and tests are still being carried out. The cancellation of MOT testing is the latest adjustment made by the Department for Transport in light of the government’s decision to enforce a widespread stay-at-home directive. Practical driving tests have been postponed for three months and London’s Congestion and ULEZ charges have been halted. READ MORE Coronavirus: What motorists need to know​ Coronavirus and the car world: further UK plant closures View the full article
  14. The day started with an Up GTI and ended with Rolls-Royce Forget bolshy saloons and toffee-nosed sports cars. A humble VW Up (GTI) is all you need to have fun In this week's automotive adventures, Steve finally gets a taste of the nippy new VW Up GTI, reads a book and ponders the latest must-ride Scottish driving route: the Jim Clark Trail. Saturday, Sunday An exhilarating weekend dashing about the Cotswolds in the latest Volkswagen Up GTI, a car that has been around for years and I have heard plenty about but never driven. 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. Conclusion: you don’t. Tuesday I’ve finally lifted my nose from what must surely be one of the most remarkable car books ever written. Conservatively named Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Car Engineer, it follows the 41-year career of its author, Peter Hill, who started at Crewe as “a humble apprentice”, rose high in the engineering ranks and left at the turn of the century when the two marques split. The book, many years in creation, is an intimate insider’s guide to a hectic era, detailing design and engineering challenges, model changes, funding difficulties, secret concept cars, ‘now it can be told’ test sessions and much more, all of it over 540 riveting pages. The writing style is nothing like your usual author-ese: it’s an entirely guileless account of Hill’s experiences, packed here with the minutiae of technology (with supporting drawings) and there with the author’s view of the company’s marketing and political challenges. Sure, it’s opinionated, but the author’s authority is irresistible. Only those who truly study these cars and this era will read every word, but for them this book will be an absolute treasure. Wednesday Scottish driving routes are all the rage, and the latest and most fascinating – if the shortest – is the Jim Clark Trail, promoted by the recently expanded Jim Clark Museum in Duns. It’s only 50 miles of driving, but it connects the champion’s birthplace and grave, the museum, the place where his driving career began and where he watched his first motor race. It’s also an absorbing journey through some of the most uplifting countryside anywhere. For soft southerners, it’s worth a driving trip to Scotland on its own. And, of course, if you’re prepared to venture 300 miles north (Scotland’s bigger than you think), you can tackle the North Coast 500 while you’re out. For full Jim Clark Trail details and more, visit jimclarktrust.com. Friday I’ve got a configurator obsession. What attracts me most is finding enticing specifications by ticking as few boxes as possible. It’s not about saving money (not one of my strengths; ask the Steering Committee), but I have always had the abiding feeling that car companies engineer ideal models, shortly before allowing marketing types to spoil them. They do this by adding needlessly bigger wheels, shiny tailpipes, slabs of meaningless carbonfibre, aero gadgetry that works only above 120mph and £5000 sound-lab audio systems, even though a car’s continual background noise (in sound-lab terms) is never less than awful. My recent drive in a no-frills Porsche 911 Carrera has added fuel to this fire: it convinced me that a superb car can be built for precisely £85,010, a cool £30,000 less than people usually pay for a loaded 911 S. My choice would be a white-with-black Carrera (£82,793) with Crayon seat stitching (free), model identification deleted (free), Sports Seats Plus (£324), LED headlights (£699), parking sensors and rear camera (£464), a heated steering wheel in Alcantara (£505) and a £225 outdoor cover. That’s a wonderful car and an outrageous bargain. And I’ll bet that compared with most 911 deals, it would save me the cost of a supermini. And another thing... London’s traffic is light at present, apparently because large swathes of the population are avoiding contact with their fellows and potentially the Covid-19 virus by staying at home. Surprises me: I’d have thought the traffic would swell as people used their own cars as isolation devices like I’m doing. READ MORE VW braces for “very difficult year” as pandemic shuts factories Volkswagen electrifies classic Type 2 Samba with 82bhp motor Four-wheel-drive 'key' to hot Volkswagen ID 4 GTX EV Volkswagen to launch 34 new models in 2020 View the full article
  15. Modest power and range gains make for a more well-rounded EV that is no longer out of its depth when distance driving Europe can’t seem to get enough of Renault’s compact electric supermini. On the continent, more Zoes were sold in January than any other EV, largely thanks to an interior and exterior overhaul that also saw the introduction of a new, more potent powertrain and higher capacity battery.That car has now touched down in the UK, with a 52kWh battery good enough for a WLTP-certified 238 miles of range. That’s a 30% increase over the old car, which Renault expects to have a big impact on customers weighing up whether to make their next car an electric one.It also bodes well against the upcoming tidal wave of affordable EVs including the Honda E, Mini Electric, Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e, of which only the PSA models can claim to go further on a single charge, even if real-world driving will see that figure nudge under 200 miles in the summer months, and closer to 160 in the winter.Renault is also sweetening the deal with a 7kW wallbox included with the price of the car, for anyone making the switch to electric for the first time, although 50kW DC rapid charging is an optional extra.View the full article
  16. High-speed parallel parking, J-turns, drifting and driving on two wheels are all in a day’s work for this daredevil We’re standing on a large expanse of asphalt contemplating a small group of cones arranged in a box a little longer than a Ford Focus. One side of the box is open and the asphalt next to it is covered in lurid black smears of melted rubber. “Basically, you’ve got to pull on that handbrake like you’re taking it home with you,” says Paul Swift, making his famous ‘parallel parking’ stunt sound like a walk in the park. I’ve come along to Thruxton circuit in Hampshire to join in with one of Paul Swift’s Stunt Driving Experience events, which Paul and his team hold throughout the UK. The idea is to learn the precision driving techniques that lie behind a few key manoeuvres used by stunt drivers, like the famous ‘J-turn’ used by the good guys to escape from the bad guys in the movies. Another is drifting, but not the usual high-speed, rear-wheel-drive, car-chase variety; instead, we’re going to try low-speed precision drifting in a specially set up front-wheel-drive car. For added fun, I’m going to try hanging out of the passenger window of a Ford Focus being driven on two wheels by Paul (hopefully the two on his side). The trick that is secretly worrying me most, though, and the one I suspect might inflict most damage on my ego, is that seemingly impossible parallel parking manoeuvre. If you haven’t seen it done, it involves charging towards a parking space between two cars, then handbrake turning into the space with inches to spare. Instructor Graham Nicholson explains how it’s done: “Build your speed up to about 20mph then declutch and, as you approach the box, turn in on a smooth curve and aim at the centre of the space. Whatever you do, keep off the footbrake.” Sounds easy… As I coast towards the space, I’m struck by how it appears to diminish in size the closer to it I get. On arrival, I yank the handbrake hard and – amazingly – it almost works, with just one or two minor casualties in the ranks of cones. After another couple of attempts I get a clean result, which teaches me that success is down to finding the right technique, then practising it over and over again. Not sure I’d ever want to swap the cones for real cars, though. Pulling off a seamless J-turn is slightly harder, even though it doesn’t look it. Mark Jones is instructing on this one and he explains that the trick is to grasp the left-hand side of the wheel with your right hand at the nine o’clock position, build up speed in reverse then, when he calls it, declutch and flick the wheel over through 180deg to the three o’clock position. Do this and the car snaps around viciously, tyres howling. As it comes back into line, the idea is to flick the wheel back to where you started, then select a forward gear in order to make your escape from the bandits without stopping. Straightening up at precisely the right moment when your head is doing its best to leave your shoulders is tricky, but doing it smoothly is even harder. Jones suggests bracing my arm rigidly to lock the steering wheel and counter the inertia in the road wheels, but that proves to be easier said than done when you’ve got biceps like Minnie Mouse. So far so good, though. My nemesis, the parallel park, has been banished and the J-turn nailed, so next up is the front-wheel-drive drift car, which I’m struggling to get my head around. Drifting is normally prolonged power oversteer, and conventional wisdom says you must have rear-wheel drive for that. Swift’s drift car is the same one he uses for driving on two wheels, fitted with a Quaife diff. But what really makes the drifts happen is a pair of plastic tyres on the rear wheels. This time I hop in alongside The Maestro for the demonstration. He drives around a cone as a datum point in first gear and, as speed builds and the rear begins to slide, a quick flick on the steering wheel sets up the drift. The trick, says Swift, is to keep the speed steady and not work the throttle in order to avoid introducing too many variables. I give it a go and promptly spin; those plastic tyres really do the job, and once the Focus lets go, it’s around like a shot if you don’t catch it. However, with a bit of practice, I find I can hold the drift for a couple of laps. It’s actually a lot of fun and a great way to practise car control in a small space. We have a go at an autotest around a course of cones in a Focus RS and against the clock. Not my finest hour. I move on to the grand finale: hanging out of the window of Swift’s Focus when it’s on two wheels. “Once we’re up on two wheels, stand on the side of the passenger footwell and pull yourself up through the window,” he says. “When I say ‘get in’, be quick, because we’ll be coming down.” Once Swift is doing his stuff and I’m poking out of the passenger window like some kind of unhinged tank commander, it actually feels more natural than sitting down in a car that’s driving along at 45deg. There’s also an underlying serious side to the day. With cars doing so much for the drivers these days in terms of electronic assistance, it’s a great way of learning what a car really can do and how to control it. But most of all, it’s good fun trying out some great new driving techniques – and that’s something I can never get enough of. This article was originally published on 21 January 2017. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide entertaining content during these difficult times. Read more From Aston with love: Driving James Bond's DB5​ Ford Focus RS review New Ford Focus RS hinges on hybrid system breakthrough​ View the full article
  17. Does the new Defender have the off-road prowess to justify its name – and how does it drive? Cue three tough days in Namibia I don’t know if it’s bold or reckless to launch a Land Rover in Namibia.Not because of the barrenness, what with it being the second least densely populated country on earth, having a land mass three and a half times the UK’s but only 2.5 million inhabitants. Not because the terrain is challenging and so vast that there’s a national park the size of Belgium.No, it’s because the default car of choice is a Toyota.It’s not that you don’t see Land Rovers. Walk around the capital, Windhoek, and you’ll find Range Rovers as you will everywhere money lives, but out in the wilds – and Namibia is second only to Mongolia when it comes to wilds – the Hilux is king. Namibia is a country where four in 10 brand-new cars are Toyotas, where it used to be a much higher percentage than that, and where the Hilux’s capability and longevity mean that, in the places you’d really want to test a Defender, the cars that aren’t Hiluxes are other beaten-up Japanese pick-ups. There are a few old series Land Rovers going on adventures, but the working or adventuring truck market is one, you have to conclude, the Defender left some time ago.What does it want to be now? Well, this is it, the new Defender, the most difficult vehicle to replace since Volkswagen tried to reinvent the Beetle. The old car had a separate chassis because that’s how you did things in 1948 and, although updated during its life, true modernisation had probably faltered by the 1980s and the Land Rover hasn’t been a ubiquitous, everyman’s vehicle for most of this century.And so, as with the modern Mini, the new Beetle and the Fiat 500, the reinvention comes. Not an easy task. “All of our marketing blah-blah about reinventing an icon is true, I think,” says Felix Bräutigam, Jaguar Land Rover’s chief commercial officer, who has joined us for the drive and, having worked at Porsche (and with a 911 GT3 RS 4.0 and the last-ever manual Jaguar F-Type in his garage), I think you’d like him a lot.“The 60-second elevator pitch for the Defender is ‘capability’,” he says. “This is not a sport utility vehicle. It’s a 4x4.”Interesting distinction, and not one I often make. What else is a 4x4, not an SUV? Search Jeep Wrangler, Mercedes G-Class and Toyota Land Cruiser and you’ll find their makers all file them under ‘SUV’, but Bräutigam has stripped out the term in Defender literature. Land Rover would like you to think this is the real deal, a Land Rover like no other. “Land Rover is a three-legged stool again,” he says.Is it like the old one? If you imagine Land Rover development had continued in, say, Porsche 911 or Honda Civic style, with regular updates and model cycles and some technology step during each one, is this where you’d end up?I don’t think so: the new Defender, one of the most capable vehicles on earth though it may be, is pitched where the previous Defender left off, as a premium want-vehicle, not as the need-vehicle that is how the original series Land Rover began its life.A 911 has always been a sports car, the Civic always a family runabout. But I think the Defender has changed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a thing. We can discuss its looks – I will as we go on – but the trouble with assessing design is not that you and I think differently, but that as familiarity sets in, even our respective views change. I already feel differently from how I did when I saw this car last year, for better and worse.The hardware, then, is where objectivity lies. Underneath the body, with its bluff back end, reassuringly familiar side-opening tailgate and three- and five-door variants badged 90 and 110, sits a derivative of Jaguar Land Rover’s big aluminium D7 architecture.Don’t think that means it’s overtly based on something else: the platform has a suffix for different models, so a Jaguar XE is a D7a and a Range Rover is a D7u and even a Jaguar I-Pace is D7e. But it means there are shared modules and crash structures and, notably, commonality in the expensive bit between the front axle and the dashboard.But the new Defender’s aluminium shell, in all of the body-in-white and not just the outer panels, is unique to this car. It sits higher than on any other Land Rover, too.Attached to the bonded and riveted shell are steel subframes front and rear, with independent suspension all round – wishbones at the front, integral link at the back. No, it doesn’t have a separate steel chassis any more and nor is there a solid axle to be seen, as you’ll still find front and rear on a Wrangler and beneath the back of a Land Cruiser, G-Class and every pick-up. But Land Rover claims a 29kNm/ deg torsional stiffness, a 900kg maximum payload and a towing limit of 3500kg (3700kg in the US).Engine options are 2.0-litre diesels with 197bhp or 237bhp, a 2.0 petrol with 296bhp and a 3.0 V6 with 396bhp. A plug-in hybrid is coming soon: “We didn’t want to make a last hurrah of a pre-Greta era,” says Bräutigam. “This is a justifiable car.” For now, though, we’re driving the most powerful diesel and petrol.All engines drive through a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. There’s no manual option and I doubt there will be. There’s an electronically controlled centre and rear differential and the Defender gets Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, so it is not a car with which you can choose to lock the differentials as you can in a Wrangler or G-Glass. But it does have a low-ratio transfer case and, remember, despite each wheel’s independence and the unitary body, it’s not an SUV. Well, we’ll see.Later, base models will have coil springs as standard, but early cars – we’ve driven two 110 variants, with 90s coming later – will run on air springs, one of a raft of technologies that serves to improve the Defender’s off-road capability. We’ll test that a lot here. “Once through these traffic lights,” I’m told at the start of the drive, “we won’t see Tarmac again for three days.”View the full article
  18. ... It's finally here. The new 2020 Land Rover Defender has arrived, replacing a car that could trace its roots back to the very 1948 birth of Land Rover. Land Rover doesn't like to call the Defender an SUV - insisting it is a true 4x4 - but the new car can be had in either short-wheelbase 90 or long-wheelbase 110 form, as tested here. It comes in a variety of forms. We've driven the 2.0 diesel D240, a 237bhp diesel with a 0-60mph time of 8.7seconds and a top speed of 117mph. Then there's the P400, a V6 petrol engine with a 0-60mph time of 5.8sec and a 119mph top speed. Prices, in the UK, start at around £45,000, but it's possible to spec a Defender up to six figures. The cars you see here (driven before the Coronavirus outbreak took hold internationally), were pretty heftily specced, at around £65k for the D240 and £80k+ for the P400. When it goes on sale, the Land Rover Defender will face competition from all kinds of vehicles, from the Jeep Wrangler to the Ford Ranger Raptor to the Toyota Land Cruiser and more. Here's what it's like, driven over vast distances albeit all off-road... READ MORE Land Rover Defender 110 S 2020 review Land Rover Defender: UK prices confirmed for 90 and 110 Land Rover Defender: The story behind the 4x4's production View the full article
  19. All-new version of Ford's best-selling SUV, driven here in plug-in hybrid guise, mixes dynamic appeal with practicality and refinement This is the new Ford Kuga, part of Ford’s belated multi-pronged attack on the ever-growing SUV sector. There has been a Kuga on the Blue Oval’s books since 2008, but it was pretty much the only credible crossover offering, if you exclude the rather undercooked EcoSport and Escape models.The original looked great and steered more sweetly than the competition yet it failed to sell strongly, partly because the SUV boom was far from in full swing. The second-generation car arrived in 2013 and was a product of the global ‘One Ford’ policy that meant it had to work as well in New York as it did Neasden. It grew in size, yet retained its predecessor’s ability to entertain its driver. After a slow start, sales finally took off, and in its last couple of years on sale, it finally hit its stride, becoming Ford’s biggest-selling SUV.So there’s quite a bit resting on the shoulders of the latest version. New from the ground up, it’s arguably the most ambitious iteration yet. Not only does it take a different design approach to its predecessors, but it also features Ford’s broadest range of powerplants yet, including petrol, diesel, diesel mild hybrid and, as tested here, petrol plug-in hybrid.It’s also bigger and more spacious than before and it packs all the latest showroom lures, including semi-autonomous driving modes in the form of adaptive cruise control and steering assist. There’s also cutting-edge connectivity and a healthy smattering of TFT screens. Yet despite all this increase in tech, it’s also a claimed 80kg lighter compared with its similarly specified predecessor.In the case of this plug-in hybrid version, that’s harder to verify because there’s no direct comparison, but at 1844kg, it’s a useful 50kg lighter than a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Still no lightweight, but not bad given how much there is packaged underneath the all-new skin.Powering this plug-in version is a variant of the Atkinson-cycle 2.5-litre petrol four-pot already seen in the Ford Escape, which was the North American version of the previous Kuga.Mated to what is essentially a CVT transmission, it’s boosted by an electric motor fed by 14.4kWh lithium ion battery. The total power output for the whole system is a respectable 222bhp and the electric motor can propel the Kuga at speeds of up to 85mph and for as many as 35 miles before internal combustion takes over or you can find a recharging point. (You’ll need six hours from a domestic supply for a full charge.)Externally, it’s all change for the new Kuga. Gone are the angles and sharp creases, replaced by softer, more rounded lines. The similarities to the smaller Puma are obvious, and if the slightly bulbous new car isn’t as handsome as before, then it’s certainly distinctive, particularly with this ST-Line test car’s colour-coded wheel-arch extensions and 18in gunmetal grey alloy wheels.Like its predecessor, there’s a heavy Focus theme once you climb aboard. In fact, the dashboard is carried over largely unchanged, complete with the same simple-to-use Sync touchscreen, which is installed with the FordPass Connect app that allows you to remotely access and monitor the car’s functions from your phone.As with the Puma, there’s a TFT instrument cluster ahead of the driver that changes its ‘theme’ depending on the selected driver mode, which on the Kuga extends beyond the usual Comfort, Sport, Eco and Slippery to include a pseudo off-road setting for sand, gravel and rocks, although only the 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel is available with four-wheel drive.Yet although it looks the part, the smartly designed interior still falls short of that premium ambience Ford has been striving for. Most of the materials look and feel good, but there’s too much hard and scratchy plastic lower in the cabin. Still, you sit high behind the wheel, with good visibility ahead. Rear visibility isn’t quite as good, with the thick C-pillars limiting your over-the-shoulder view.In the rear, there’s a split fold bench that now slides back and forth by up to 150mm, allowing you to choose between greater space for either luggage or legs. With the seats pushed back, there’s loads of room to stretch out, yet the boot can still accommodate 411 litres in the plug-in or 475 litres in other models. Slide the seat forward as far as it will go and there’s up to 645 litres, or 581 litres for the plug-in.As for pricing, the plug-in Kuga is pretty much on the money with its rivals, with Titanium models starting at a competitive £33,095 and rising to £37,795 for the Vignale. View the full article
  20. A ride in an E-Type roadster made Goodwin a full-blown petrolhead Neither my mum nor my dad drove when I was a kid so it was a life of buses, trains and walking to school. Trips in cars were very memorable even if it was only a ride in my big sister’s Austin A30 van. Sometimes she let me do the steering sat on her lap. Occasionally I got a lift to school with a friend whose mum drove a Morris Minor Traveller but one Saturday this friend’s cousin came to collect us from school. He drove a red E-Type roadster. This was the late 1960s and our parents’ views on health and safety, especially where cars were concerned, were somewhat different to the Isofix era of the 21st century. None of the parents collecting their kids even commented when five of us managed to squeeze ourselves into the Jag. Two on the passenger seat and three arranged along the scuttle and clinging onto the seat backs. I can’t remember the cousin’s name but he drove like a nutter. It was hard to hang on but my God what a ride. It was nearly 50 years ago now but I remember it like yesterday. The noise of the 4.2-litre engine (I was clued up on E-Types and had several model ones), the sensation of cornering and the acceleration. I remember our driver yelling that we were ‘doing 90mph’, which was committed in leafy Surrey. Those on the back were struggling to still hold on but I was mesmerised by the speed. I had seen 70mph riding in my aunt’s Triumph Vitesse convertible (also heavily laden with children) but 90 was a personal best. We might have hit my first official ton but by this time we’d managed to crouch down behind the seats to get out of the slipstream. I loved rides in any car, even the Minor Traveller and A30 van, but it was that ride in the E-Type that really lit the fire. Beforehand I just liked cars and machines like road rollers and dumper trucks and even my dad’s Suffolk Colt lawnmower. That Jaguar, however, made me fall in love with fast cars and speed. I’ve come close to owning E-Types on several occasions. Just writing this makes me want one afresh. I think it’s only a matter of time before this 50-year itch is properly scratched. READ MORE Jaguar Land Rover to invest £1bn in three new UK-built EVs Opinion: Jaguar sales are toppling - new metal must bring them up 2020 Jaguar XJ: latest images reveal electric luxury car's look View the full article
  21. Disguised prototypes of Ford Fiesta ST rival now have bodywork of Hyundai's new-generation supermini The Hyundai N line-up will continue to expand in 2020 with the Kona N crossover and the long-awaited i20 N hot hatch. Although prototypes for the Ford Fiesta ST challenger have been seen a few times before, this is the first time that Nurburgring test cars have worn a production body from the new-generation i20, which was revealed earlier this year. Despite heavy body camouflage, the test hack is wearing the trademark features of a performance model, including a wheel design inspired by the bigger i30 N hiding red painted brake callipers, plus revised front and rear bumpers and a twin exhaust outlet. Expect similarly sporting upgrades to the i20 N's interior, including figure-hugging sports seats, liberal N badging and different trim details. Powertrain details for the i20 N remain scarce. Some rumours suggest the i30 N's 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine will be detuned and squeezed under the bonnet of the smaller car, but another likely candidate is the Korean brand's widely used 1.6-litre T-GDi motor. This offers 174bhp in the flagship Kona but would need to be boosted to beyond 200bhp in order to ensure its competitiveness with rivals such as the Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI. As with the i30 N, the hot supermini will continue to be developed at Hyundai's Nürburgring test facility. Expect a bespoke chassis set-up with stiffer springs and dampers, as well as some of the adjustable drive modes offered in its bigger sibling. Autocar understands that both the Kona N and i20 N will go on sale early next year. Given the typical unveiling a few months prior, we could see both minus the disguise before 2020 is out. Read more: Hot Hyundai Kona N seen testing at the Nürburgring Hyundai i30 N Performance long-term review Hyundai N division 'halo' car could be AWD and hybrid View the full article
  22. We all know it’s a fine executive as both saloon and estate, but can it hold its head high in £40k company? Let’s see Why we’re running it: To see whether the latest Superb can cut it as an object of not only supreme practicality but also luxury Month 2 - Month 1 - Specs Life with a Skoda Superb Estate: Month 2 Too eager to warn of almost-danger - 4 March 2020 As phenomenally versatile as our top-spec Superb is, it’s not immune to the irritations of modern electronic safety systems. The emergency braking is particularly irksome, because a loud alert is triggered if it thinks you’re about to hit something, even when you’re only reversing slowly. Its ability to startle passengers is world-class. Mileage: 6238 Back to the top Life with a Skoda Superb Estate: Month 1 A trip to the family business results in a grudging conversion - 26 February 2020 Our Superb has been with us only six weeks, yet it has already settled into the kind of rhythm of service that makes very short work of the everyday. I’ve taken to describing it as being like a great cup of tea: it’s entirely ordinary but also entirely perfect in its own way, and it has a habit of making the apparently unbearable seem, well… just fine. As I’ve been coming to appreciate, this car is both comfortable and comforting to use in a much bigger way than encompasses just its function. It eases the pain of a 5am start and a 150-mile schlep before breakfast very nicely indeed – and I have plenty of days when that particular talent is so greatly appreciated. There isn’t a journey on the planet from which it couldn’t remove stress – and that’s not simply because it’s so spacious, refined and compliant, but also because it’s so wonderfully easy to use. The one thing it isn’t, though, as is already very plain to me, is special. The Superb is a car almost totally without ego. There is no sense of occasion about driving it; and if there was, the minor strain it might put on your brain to perceive it would likely feel entirely un-Superb-like. And so, because it’s such a humble thing and you don’t feel inclined to take it on special trips to ‘nice’ places, I’ve made a mental note to ensure I do get it out and about a bit more than I have been. Every new car needs a fuss made of it, after all. Trip number one was up to the Midlands to visit my folks – not least to find out what my dad, who’s a bit of a car buff himself, would make of the Superb. Dad’s a veteran of 35 years as a fish shop proprietor; and he clearly did much better at frying fish ’n’ chips in his younger years than I have at taking photos of cars, because 20-something years ago, he had a brand-new E36-generation BMW M3. I was so keen to find out what he’d make of the Superb that I simply parked it in front of the chippy and let him make his mind up. He definitely liked what he saw – at least to begin with. He was interested; said it looked great; wanted to know more about it. And then I told him that it was a Skoda – and he insisted I move it away from the front of the shop immediately. Dad has always been one for expensive German cars – BMWs and Mercedes, mostly – and, to be honest, his reaction didn’t surprise me. But I persisted. I showed him the sheer size of the Superb, the quality and richness of the interior and all of the on-board technology – and eventually he nodded that nod. It was the nod of a man who has inwardly realised he might have misjudged something, but possibly not seriously enough to admit as much to your face. Every visit to the family chip shop ends in the same way: dad wishes you well and gives you a sack of surplus potatoes to take away with you. These slid into the Superb’s boot next to all of my uncommonly bulky photography gear with room to spare. Of course it did. And then I wended my way home at much the same easy 40mpg stride at which I arrived, feeling like the Superb and I had done our bit both for Kordal family relations and Skoda’s international brand perception. Love it: Space exploration It’s a big car, but I haven’t knowingly passed up a parking space in it yet; and I’ve yet to get anywhere near filling up it – either with cargo, rubbish or both. Loathe it: Lethargic engine I’m not a fan of diesels of any kind, but the lethargic responses of this one really do annoy at times. I’m just going to have to slow my mental pace a bit… Mileage: 5946 Back to the top No shortage of space yet - 19 February 2020 The Superb’s capacious, 660-litre boot gobbles up my expansive collection of photography kit with the enthusiasm of a starved Cookie Monster and still has room to spare. Meanwhile, the car’s ride is otherworldly good; you can leave your ‘magic carpet’ at home. Whisper it, but from a purely pragmatic point of view, I think this might be the best long-term test car I’ve ever had. Mileage: 5610 Back to the top Keep your hands where I can see them - 5 February 2020 I’m frequently being told that I have surprisingly soft, dainty hands, which comes as a surprise given they’ve weathered their fair share of storms out on photoshoots. There must be some truth in this, however, as the Skoda constantly thinks I’ve removed my hands from the wheel when I haven’t, forcing me to give it a jiggle to let it know I’m still there. Mileage: 4953 Back to the top Welcoming the Superb Estate to the fleet - 29th January 2020 Ask the road testers of this magazine what they consider to be the greatest estate car on the planet and they’ll quickly say something along the lines of ‘Audi RS6 Avant’, followed more cautiously by ‘or a Skoda Superb’. Listen carefully and you might even hear the slight inflection placed on the second syllable of ‘Superb’. Because even when you happen to be the person making the claim, it still comes as a surprise that such an outwardly unremarkable machine might be the greatest of anything at all. But we know that the Superb is remarkable, and especially in long-bodied form. This second iteration (there was no estate variant for the original Superb, introduced in 2001) gets strong but refined Volkswagen Group engines and even more cargo potential than the Mercedes E-Class Estate – a total behemoth and the reigning capacity champ at the luxury end of the market. The latest Superb also possesses a likeably understated exterior design of sharp yet unobtrusive creases, and inside you’ll find good perceived quality. If this all seems overwhelmingly positive for what is only paragraph three of a fresh long-term test, my apologies, but I need to continue, because there is then the price. When our road testers gleefully fix their timing gear to the new RS6, there’s a good chance it will explode to 100mph and back before the entry-level Superb estate can even reach 60mph, but at almost £100,000, the Skoda’s big, bad, eight-cylindered cousin will cost four times as much. And that has always been the magic of the Superb estate: considering what it can do, it’s exceptionally good value. Which is where this long-term test gets interesting. Our Superb has been ordered in range-topping L&K guise, which is an all-the-trimmings specification named after Václav Laurin and Václav Klement, the men who together founded Skoda (until 1925 known as Laurin & Klement) in the Kingdom of Bohemia (today the Czech Republic) back in 1895. Equipped with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and four-wheel drive, it costs £40,295, which pushes it into the clutches of BMW’s 520d estate, which starts at £41,460 in SE trim. The BMW is similarly sized, similarly powerful (184bhp plays 187bhp, in the Skoda’s favour) and is an exceptionally good everyday car. What we are therefore going to find out is whether, in 2020, Skoda can compete directly with the Bavarians, which is something that possibly hasn’t happened since (and please don’t quote me on this) Václav Bobek’s 1100cc Skoda Supersport beat the bigger-engined Formula 2 BMW of Zdenek Sojka during the 1950 Czechoslovak Grand Prix at Brno. One imagines a few corks were popped from bottles of Bohemia Sekt that evening, and if our Superb can score a recommendation over the 520d SE, it’ll be a similar story, albeit one unfolding at Skoda’s UK public relations offices in Milton Keynes. One thing in the Skoda’s favour is that it is positively overflowing with kit, much of it genuinely useful. Take, for example, the flashlight and 12V adaptor I’ve already found in the boot, and the umbrella compartments in the front doors. The ‘key’ features list runs the length of an A4 page but, as far as we’re concerned, the most important elements are the adaptive cruise control, 10-speaker Canton sound system, 9.2in touchscreen display, matrix LED headlights and rear parking camera (useful because the car is longer than a VW Passat, although shorter than an Audi A6 et al). We’ll touch on items such as the ‘virtual pedal’, voice command and park assist, and their usefulness or otherwise, in future reports. Meanwhile, elements such as the privacy glass, gloss black interior inserts and scrolling indicators are a matter of personal taste. My opinion is this L&K looks like a car most of us would be proud to own. However, if the Superb estate really is to box above its traditional utility division, ride comfort and rolling refinement will need to play the biggest part. Further to this, with so much equipment to transport and the need for that transport to double up as a stable platform from which to shoot car-to-car ‘tracking’ shots on the move, automotive photographers like myself crave cavernous estates with a magic-carpet ride. In this case, my first impressions have been very good, the combination of Skoda’s non-Sport chassis, adaptive DCC dampers and the long wheelbase generating pliancy that easily betters many cars with expensive air suspension. In an era when you can find 19in wheels even on a supermini, the Superb’s unique (and somewhat inelegant) 18in Propus Aero alloy wheels also look a wise decision, and with such big wheel arches to fill, there’s plenty of sidewall to absorb tired British roads. Admittedly, go too fast and the vertical control movements seem to pay homage to Citroën’s egg-caressing 2CV, but it’s a worthwhile compromise and with DCC there’s always the option of firming up the suspension when I’m in a rush. Which, in fairness, is more often than not. Take it as read, then, that our new Superb will prove useful in the months we have it. Early indications are that its diesel engine is also capable of delivering excellent fuel economy, so for motorway driving, it seems to be just the ticket. But are its formidable kit list and attempted air of luxury enough to tempt us away from more aristocratic rivals? We’ll soon find out. Olgun Kordal Second Opinion When you consider this car’s spec and capability, £40,000 doesn’t feel unduly expensive in objective terms. It’s subjectively that the sometimes cold Superb could come unstuck compared with a BMW 5 Series, of which even the most basic versions ride and handle with a finesse that any enthusiast can appreciate. That said, the effortless way in which the Skoda’s suspension lowers the rear axle down from sleeping policemen is nothing less than sublime. Richard Lane Back to the top Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 190 L&K DSG 4x4 Estate specification Specs: Price New £40,295 Price as tested £41,845 Options Integrated towbar £805, Business Grey metallic paint £595, temporary spare wheel £150 Test Data: Engine 4 cyls, 1968cc, turbocharged, diesel Power 187bhp at 3500-4000rpm Torque 295lb ft at 1750-3250rpm Kerb weight 1635kg Top speed 142mph 0-62mph 7.7sec Fuel economy 41.0mpg CO2 171g/km Faults None Expenses None Back to the top View the full article
  23. Aston Martin has suspended production at its St Athan plant British car makers halt manufacturing following latest government instructions to tackle Covid-19 outbreak Aston Martin, McLaren Automotive and Morgan Motors have all suspended production in the UK following the latest government instructions to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Aston Martin will “temporarily suspend all manufacturing operations” at its plants in Gayden, Newport Pagnell and St Athan. Production is provisionally scheduled to resume on Monday 20 April, but the firm says it will continue to review the situation and “will look to resume operations as soon as it is reasonable to do so”. CEO Andy Palmer said that “it is our responsibility to ensure we do all we can to support the government’s efforts in slowing the spread of Covid-19 over the coming weeks.” He added: “I hope and believe that our national fight against this dreadful virus will be successful, and as soon as we have the ability, we will, of course, return to normal operations.” McLaren, which has its main car production facility in Woking and a carbonfibre components production site near Sheffield, has suspended manufacturing until the end of April. In a statement, it said that it was “taking this action to ensure the safety of our workforce in light of the latest government advice and so that the company is well placed to resume operations as smoothly as possible in the future.” Low-volume sports car maker Morgan has also closed its factory in Malvern. A spokesperson said: “We have made the decision to close our factory for the next four weeks to minimise any movement of staff and partners.” The closure of the facilities effectively completes the shutdown of the UK car manufacturing industry. You can read about the other plants that have closed in the UK and worldwide here. READ MORE Coronavirus: what motorists need to know How coronavirus is impacting the car world How to ensure you keep receiving Autocar during the Covid-19 outbreak View the full article
  24. British car maker's styling direction will move from the 1940s to the 1960s, keeping distance with the present Morgan is famous for building roadsters that look like time capsules from the 1940s, but its stylists don’t feel constrained by its vast heritage. The company is open to the idea of moving its design language forward. “We have always believed that Morgan's design library is incredibly flexible and in no way constrained by the nostalgic influences that we deploy in our cars,” head of design Jonathan Wells told Autocar. He cited the members of the Aero range, which put a more contemporary spin on Morgan’s design approach, and the stillborn electric EV3 as examples. Both stretched the boundaries of the company’s visual identity but neither looked out of place in its line-up, because they retained a high degree of purity. “Every part of a Morgan should communicate its function and be there for a reason,” Wells said. Morgan will follow these strict guidelines as it creates newer-looking cars, which Autocar understands is a process already under way as the British firm mulls designs for forthcoming models. “Instead of moving so drastically from the 1940s and the 1950s to the 2020s and the 2030s, we’re sort of migrating into the 1960s and the 1970s and maintaining that distance [with the present],” Wells affirmed. “We’re trying to do so in a way that we don’t generate a pastiche but maintain that authenticity and function.” Although he stopped short of revealing precisely what the company has in the pipeline, or when it will expand its range, Wells did tell us that the process of designing a car like the recently revealed all-new Plus Four starts by carefully studying the era to which it's a tribute. Simply copying and pasting an existing design wouldn’t cut it. “We try to imagine what these designers were inspired by," said Wells. "For example, the understanding of aerodynamics in the 1950s was very different than the understanding of aerodynamics today and, as a result, that was influencing the shape of those cars. We also try to understand the manufacturing techniques at the time and the cultural influences, which could be anything from interior design to fashion, and try to replicate that. We find it really exciting." READ MORE New Morgan Plus Four arrives with BMW power, new chassis Morgan ditches traditional ladder chassis for next-gen frame Autocar confidential: Morgan's factory expansion plans, BMW's hydrogen doubts and more Blast in the past: How to rent a classic car View the full article
  25. Autocar’s advice on how drivers will be affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic As the UK government effectively orders the entire population to stay at home in an effort to contain the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, motorists are understandably unsure as to how the new rules affect them. Autocar has compiled this guide to help you know what you can and can’t do until the restrictions are lifted. What is the coronavirus (Covid-19)? Covid-19, also known as the coronavirus, is a potentially deadly viral infection that is easily transmitted between individuals. Originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan, it's highly contagious and sufferers only begin to show symptoms several days after infection. The elderly and people with underlying health conditions can develop especially serious forms of the resulting illness, so the UK and most other countries around the world have imposed strict lockdown measures to limit its spread. Can I still go for a drive in self-isolation? Although driving hasn't been banned, you should take your car out only if you have no other alternative. The government has said trips to the supermarket and pharmacy are permitted, as well as commuting for key workers, but simply driving for pleasure isn't advisable until the restrictions lift. How can I stay safe when refuelling at a petrol station? The price of fuel has fallen quite significantly because of the coronavirus pandemic – the Morrisons supermarket chain has dropped unleaded prices by an unprecedented 12p per litre – and fuel stations remain open for the time being. Fuel pump handles have, however, been identified as high-risk touchpoints, so customers have been advised to use gloves while filling their car and to wash their hands thoroughly as soon as possible after leaving. Can I still get my car serviced? Some garages have been forced to close due to social distancing restrictions limiting the number of people that can be in one place. However, under the terms of the government’s latest announcement, MOT test centres have been classed as essential businesses. This means that key workers' vehicles, which are considered essential means of transport, can still have their annual tests carried out. Garages are likely to postpone any other work until the stay-at-home rule is lifted. What if my car's MOT runs out? As it stands, a valid MOT certificate remains a legal requirement for any vehicle being driven on public roads. Measures are being put in place at many test centres to protect the health of customers and staff, including free vehicle collection and drop-off services, careful post-test cleaning and online booking forms. The penalty for driving without an MOT can be up to £1000, so if your car’s MOT is set to expire in the next few weeks, it’s best to book it in for a test now, while you still definitely can. Do I still need to pay the Congestion Charge or ULEZ entry fee? Central London's Congestion Charge (£11.50 per day) and ULEZ entry fee (£12.50) have been suspended indefinitely as part of a drive to reduce crowding on the city’s diminished public transport offering. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the move will also make it easier for key workers, such as NHS and supermarket staff, to get to work. A total of 40 underground stations have now been closed, while bus and mainline train services in and around the capital have been heavily reduced. Announcements will be made before the Congestion Charge and ULEZ entry fee are reinstated. What do I do if I've booked a driving test? The DVSA has suspended practical driving tests for up to three months, with the exception of those booked by critical workers, including NHS workers and goods delivery drivers. Any booked tests will be automatically rescheduled at no cost to the learner, who will be notified of the new date by email around two weeks before the original scheduled test. Driving theory tests have been cancelled for one month. The DVSA will issue refunds for any tests that had been booked and continues to take bookings for test slots from 21 April onwards. Is now a good time to buy a new car? Dealerships had, by and large, announced temporary closures even before the Prime Minister forced all non-essential retailers to shut down. Lookers, one of the UK’s largest multi-marque dealer groups, said yesterday (24 March): “It has become clear that maintaining safe social distancing measures whilst continuing to operate car dealerships has become increasingly difficult. Against this background and with the support of our OEM brand partners, the Group is temporarily closing all of its trading locations with immediate effect.” Rival firms including Sytner, Marshall Motor Group, HR Owen and Chorley Group, as well as many smaller dealers, have all now closed their doors for the time being. Online platforms, such as our sister title What Car?'s New Car Buying service, remain in operation, offering buyers the ability to specify and order a new car without violating the self-isolation rules. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that much of the European, US and Asian manufacturing sectors remain in a state of shutdown, so waiting times for new cars are likely to be significantly extended. Can I still buy a used car or go to an auction house? Various sources have reported a huge spike in online searches for used cars costing less than £2000 as second-hand dealerships and auction houses are forced to move to a digital sales model to limit person-to-person contact. From 26 March, BCA, the UK’s largest used car auction chain, will host all of its events online, with prospective buyers invited to place their bids via a dedicated website or app. Punters can also take their chances with a used car from the internet’s still thriving array of private sales platforms, including Gumtree, eBay and Facebook Marketplace. It goes without saying, however, that buyers should take every precaution possible when viewing or picking up a used car: stay a safe distance from the seller, disinfect the interior thoroughly and don’t spend more time out of the house than you absolutely have to. The most important thing to remember is this: if you can wait to buy a car until after the outbreak, you should. Read more Coronavirus and the car world: driving test suspension, more plant closures​ Autocar and Covid-19: a word from the editor​ MOT Checklist: everything you need to know View the full article
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