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Suzuki Vitara S review - light, punchy Suzuki goes against the crossover grainSuzuki Vitara S review - light, punchy Suzuki goes against the crossover grain

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 11:59:51 +0000

Antony Ingram 21 Mar 2018 From £23,249 Recent jaunts in the latest Swift and the tiny Ignis have revealed there’s more to Suzuki than the Sport models we’ve enjoyed over the years. Light weight and lively engines made them more fun than you might infer from their bare figures - not often the case these days in that section of the market. Compact SUVs aren’t traditionally the most entertaining of cars either, but with a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine (soon to be seen in the upcoming Swift Sport) and a supermini-style kerbweight despite an all-wheel drive transmission, is Suzuki’s Vitara S an exception to that rule? Engine, transmission and 0-60mph time As mentioned above, the Suzuki Vitara S’s 1.4-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged “Boosterjet” engine sees service in the latest Swift Sport. While we’re yet to ascertain whether such a powerplant has merit in Suzuki’s hot hatch - the previous model was the last naturally-aspirated hot hatchback on sale and a bundle of laughs with it - it seems altogether more appropriate for a car the size and shape of the Vitara. Image 2 of 5 Image 2 of 5 It develops 138bhp at 5500rpm and 162lb ft of torque from 1500rpm. A six-speed manual transmission is standard fitment - as is four-wheel drive - while a six-speed automatic is also available. We drove the manual - a car that narrowly misses out on dipping under the ten-second barrier to 62mph (it does the sprint in 10.2sec) and tops out at 124mph. Technical highlights The Vitara S weighs in at 1185kg. In any other range than Suzuki’s flyweight lineup, that would make it impressively free of mass, particularly for a car able to send power to all four wheels. A one-litre, five-door Fiesta is only around 20kg lighter, and while crossovers like the Renault Captur boast similar kerbweights, they lack all-wheel drive - basic, two-wheel drive Vitaras are another 100kg lighter still. > Click here for our review of the Suzuki Swift Sport What’s it like to drive? Hop from some rivals into the Suzuki’s cabin and you might start to realise where the weight savings have come from. If you’re a fan of soft-touch plastics and expensive-looking trim then steer clear, though the main touch points - wheel, gearlever, the Alcantara-faced seats - are pleasant enough and the driving position feels right. That low weight does make a difference on the road too - the Vitara has the kind of agility you expect from a supermini rather than a small SUV. There’s a little more roll than you’d get in a conventional car, though that’s to be expected and it couldn’t be described as excessive. There’s good grip and traction as well, the latter bolstered by the all-wheel drive system, and for a car with a vaguely sporty bias the ride is pliant - more so, in fact, than the Citroen C3 Aircross we drove in the same week. Image 5 of 5 Image 5 of 5 “Snow” and “lock” modes can be selected from a knob on the centre console to send power to all four wheels, otherwise the car operates predominantly in front-drive mode to improve economy. A Sport mode can send extra power to the rear wheels depending on how aggressively you’re cornering, though its effects are hard to detect on dry tarmac. The steering feels like the weak link in the Vitara’s dynamics. It lacks weight, which isn’t a huge problem, but the lack of feedback and slightly imprecise responses are more of an issue - more precision and better loading would give the S a sportier edge without making it difficult for normal customers to drive in everyday conditions. The Boosterjet engine’s a better effort, and bodes well for the Swift Sport. It lacks a little aural character in this form - hopefully we’ll get more induction and exhaust noise with the Swift - but it’s responsive, pulls well from low revs and the six-speed manual has a quick and accurate shift. An easy one, too, thanks to a light clutch. The 1.4 does run out of steam at around 5000rpm, a thousand shy of the [...]

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'There is the point of a car if you’re not going to use it.''There is the point of a car if you’re not going to use it.'

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 10:21:30 +0000

Richard Porter 21 Mar 2018 My car insurance renewal came through last week. My shoulders sagged and a long sigh escaped from my face. Anyone peering into my kitchen window might have assumed it contained a deflating sex doll staring at an envelope. I hate insurance renewal time. ‘Dear Mr Porter, We realise you haven’t used your insurance however we believe you might have seen an accident in the last year so we’re increasing your premium by 87 per cent.’ But no. For another year’s cover, my current insurance company wanted to increase my annual payment by just nine extra pounds. This seemed quite reasonable and, being busy and lazy, I would have simply said yes. Except that I’ve recently done one of those things that makes you feel more grown up: I’ve found a proper insurance broker, one that lets me talk to the same person every time rather than locking me into a spiral of pressing 1 to speak to yet another script-reading stranger with a Welsh accent. For Midlife Crisis Car 2, which you can read about on page 120, the broker had already sorted a good deal. Perhaps they could work their magic for Midlife Crisis Car 1, the Land Rover Defender Heritage I tried to justify to you, or possibly myself, back in evo 220. The good thing about the broker is that they already have my details and in order to get some quotes on the Land Rover they had just one question: what’s it worth? > Click here for our review of the new Range Rover Sport SVR Well now, I know what I paid for it. And I also know it’s generally assumed that these last-of-the-line, limited-edition Defenders have crept up in value. That became clear as soon as the Solihull production line shut down. Shortly afterwards I heard of two people with cars just like mine who moved them on in order to trouser a reasonable profit. For a brief moment I wondered if I should do the same. After all, how often do you buy a new car and then discover that it’s gone up rather than down in value? Yea, yea, pipe down 911 R people – we know, we know. But then I realised, if I sold my Land Rover then I wouldn’t have my Land Rover anymore. And I like my Land Rover. So that thought went away, and I got on with enjoying my life bouncing around in a retro-coloured piece of 1950s farm equipment. But now the broker wanted a value. So I went online to have a look at similar cars for sale. And what I found was quite a shock. I won’t be so vulgar as to share actual prices here, but suffice to say there are people out there putting some very stiff numbers against Heritage Defenders. Whether they’re fetching those amounts, I don’t know. But if they’re getting even close, these old trucks have gone up quite a lot in percentage terms. And this means I’m facing one of those situations that would rightly earn a First World Problems hashtag on Twitter: I’ve got a car that’s becoming too valuable to use. At the time of writing there are a couple that are leggier than mine and are still up for daft cash, but in general the cars for sale seemed to have tiny mileages, which means people are stashing these things away. That’s what you’re supposed to do with cars of rising worth. Don’t expose them to extremes of temperature or moisture or direct sunlight and for heaven’s sake, don’t drive them.  Cold logic says that my car is now too valuable to use and should be preserved in time so that the only thing that moves is its theoretical sale price. Well I’m sorry, but screw that logic and the limited-edition horse it rode in on. What’s the point of a car if you’re not going to use it? If your biggest thrill is thinking about how much money it’s making, you probably just need to sell it. Because in truth, there’s no such thing as a car that’s too valuable to use. So my Defender is going to remain parked on the road and driven around the streets of London or taken for another run up to the damp bit of farmland where we film The Grand Tour. I’m going to keep stuffing the kids in the back an[...]

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New Mercedes C-class Coupe and Cabriolet revealed with AMG C43 variantsNew Mercedes C-class Coupe and Cabriolet revealed with AMG C43 variants

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 19:54:47 +0000

Stuart Gallagher 21 Mar 2018 Mercedes continues to evolve its C-class range by updating the coupe and cabriolet, including the 43-engined AMG variants. Following in the wheel tracks of the new C-class saloon revealed at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, the new C43 Coupe and Cabriolet models will go on sale in April alongside the less potent 2-door derivatives with deliveries scheduled for July.  As with the new C Class saloon, the updated Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe and Cabriolet models have come in for a mild visual makeover incorporating a new twin-bar AMG grille, new front and rear bumpers, a new diffuser and deeper sides sills. There is also a new set of wheels that include revised aero wings and optimised spoke geometry to improve brake cooling, reduce weight and optimise air-flow over the wheel’s surface. > Audi S5 vs Mercedes-AMG C43 vs BMW 440i - group test Along with the aforementioned changes an optional styling pack will also be available, compromising a more aggressive front splitter, even broader side sills and aero ‘flics’ in the rear bumper. Further body options include a Carbon pack that covers the mirror housings and bootlid mounted rear spoiler. Internally the new C43 Coupe and Cabriolet models gain the new AMG three-spoke steering wheel with Performance seats an option along with Mercedes’ latest digital technology. Image 2 of 24 Image 2 of 24 Behind the three-pointed star, the new AMG C43 Coupe and Cabriolet models retain their twin-turbocharged six-cylinder power units but the boost pressure has been increased and the engines remapped accordingly. The result is a 23hp power increase to 385bhp, while torque remains at 383lb ft and a 0-62mph time of 4.7-seconds for the coupe and tenth slower for the Cabriolet. Both models are limited to 155mph. Drive remains via Mercedes’ nine-speed Speedshift 9G automatic gearbox and the company’s rear-biased 4MATIC four-wheel system, which splits drive 31/69 front-to-rear. The chassis is a mix of adaptive dampers and steel springs, with the former featuring Mercedes-AMG’s Comfort, Sport, Sport + and Individual modes, and AMG’s speed sensitive steering is also standard. Prices and full specification for the C43 models as well as the rest of the C-Class Coupe and Cabriolet line-up will be announced at the car’s April launch. Image 1 of 24 Image 1 of 24 [...]

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Range Rover Sport SVR review - big, bold SUV adds more pace to its armoury

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 16:18:56 +0000

Antony Ingram 20 Mar 2018 From £99,680 The Range Rover Sport SVR was the first car to emerge from JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division, and while a 2.3-ton SUV might not have been a natural choice on which to demonstrate SVO’s abilities, it was certainly an impressive statement of intent. Now there’s a new one, which enjoys a series of updates rolled out across the Range Rover Sport lineup, plus a few of its own besides - not least a power boost, some chassis revisions and a selection of visual alterations. > Best performance SUVs on sale now Engine, performance and 0-60mph time As before the SVR uses JLR’s supercharged 5-litre V8, and in this application it develops identical power and torque figures to the Jaguar XJR 575 - 567bhp and 517lb ft of torque. For comparison, the previous SVR managed 542bhp and 502lb ft, so the increase is subtle, but welcome all the same. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard and naturally, power is sent to all four wheels - 21-inch rims are standard, with a 22-inch design optionally available. Braking is by 380mm ventilated discs up front and 365mm ventilated discs astern. In performance terms the upshot of the power boost is a couple of tenths shaved from the 0-60mph time, down to 4.3sec from 4.5 (taking 4.5sec to get to 62mph) and a generous top speed of 174mph. Image 4 of 14 Image 4 of 14 Technical highlights SVO has adorned the SVR with a full carbonfibre bonnet as part of its latest round of improvements (available fully painted, as well as in the two-tone colourway pictured), and while no weight benefit is quoted directly, the latest SVR’s kerb weight, at 2310kg, does undercut its predecessor by 25kg, a clue to the SVO team's search for weight savings elsewhere too (and possibly weight gains in a few areas) - the seats, for instance, are 30kg lighter than before. Engineers have also altered the suspension settings, in particular the damping (SVRs use air springs, active dampers and active anti-roll bars at both ends) in order to control pitch under heavy acceleration and braking, while improvements in turn-in, body control and mid-corner grip are also claimed. Inside, just as with the newly-refreshed full-size Range Rover (and derived from the Velar), all Range Rover Sport models now get the brand’s Touch Pro Duo pair of 10in touchscreens in the centre console. Instrumentation is now via a large 12in TFT screen, while a detailed, 10in head-up display is also standard. Image 12 of 14 Image 12 of 14 What’s it like to drive? Without driving new and old SVRs back to back it’s difficult to determine whether the SVO team’s tweaks have made a considerable difference to the way the car drives, but it remains impressively engaging for a car that weighs around twice as much as a Peugeot 208 GTi. There’s a firmness to the SVR’s ride quality but it stops short of being uncomfortable, even with the SVR containing firmer sports seats than other Range Rover Sports. And the tradeoff is taut body control, which in turn benefits the surprisingly responsive steering, adding-up to a car that, if driven smoothly and on wide enough roads, can be bundled along at quite a pace. Physics will win out eventually in a car of this size and weight, so as we found with the previous SVR, it’s best to be measured in your inputs. Accelerating, braking or steering harshly can induce unwanted body movements and begin to trouble the stability control, but driven smoothly you can really lean on the grip available and make the most of the thunderous pace on hand. Ah yes, that engine. It’s loud and cacophonous, and when you're sharing the roads with others it's difficult not to feel like you're a bit of a nuisance in your “Madagascar Orange” two-tonne SUV with an exhaust note like the Corvettes at Le Mans. Conversely, if you don’t giggle like a schoolchild the first (or even the tenth) tim[...]

Toyota Yaris GRMN – Gazoo Racing turns Toyota tot into a bit of an animal

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 13:24:05 +0000

For  Strong performance, revvy engine, snappy transmission, agile handling Against  Price, it’s sold out, poor driving position, cheap interior Bespoke supermini isn’t cheap (and is sold out), but it delivers raw and undiluted thrills that are missing from many in the class. The unlikely Toyota Yaris is the model that’s been tasked with launching the Gazoo Racing sub-brand in Europe. With a limited run of just 600 cars (400 in Europe and a further 200 restyled versions for the Japanese market) it’s more of a toe in the water exercise than a full-on assault, but its character will set the tone for a raft of go-faster models from the Japanese firm. Aimed squarely at the likes of the Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport  and the forthcoming Fiesta ST, the Yaris hot hatch has been developed over two short years by a small team of dedicated car nuts who are keen to remind the world that Toyota still knows how to have fun. To this end it packs a 209bhp supercharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual gearbox, heavily revised suspension and a limited slip differential.  Given the limited time and budget for its development, the Yaris is actually a real hoot. For starters it’s genuinely quick, the mix of fizzy motor and closely stacked ratios making for rapid progress. And while the chassis lacks the ultimate finesse and poise of the 208 GTi, it makes up for that with an infectious appetite for fun. Whereas the Peugeot remains a little aloof until you really dig deep, the Yaris eggs you on from the moment you prod the starter button. Perhaps more amazing still is how Gazoo Racing has turned the roughest of supermini sow’s ears into a really desirable silk purse. It’s not cheap and they’re all sold out, but the Yaris GRMN deserves consideration among the top tier of hot hatches. Toyota Yaris GRMN in detail > Performance and 0-60 time - You'll have to snatch third before hitting 60mph in 6.3 seconds due to the short gearing. The Yaris tops out at a 143mph.  > Engine and gearbox - Its supercharged, 1.8-litre engine develops 209bhp and 184lb ft of torque – the latter coming on stream at 5000rpm.  > Ride and handling - The chassis setup is well-judged, fostering confidence and exhibiting a pleasing degree of adjustability.  > MPG and running costs - Unsurprisingly the supercharger has a deterimental affect on fuel consumption in the real world, however Toyota quotes a combined 37.7mpg.  > Interior and tech - The lack of adjustment for the driving position doesn't do the hot Yaris any favours.  > Design - The GRMN-based makeover adds some visual aggression lending the Yaris a purposeful road presence.  Image 2 of 17 Image 2 of 17 Price and rivals At  £26,295 the Toyota Yaris GRMN is an expensive go-faster supermini – as a comparison the Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport, the only real alternative, is £23,550, which is hardly a bargain price. However, this financial argument is largely academic, because all the UK cars have been sold. And while the Yaris isn’t cheap, it does feel like a special car that’s been engineered by people who understand the thrill of driving. While we eagerly await the Ford Fiesta ST, the Yaris just edges the Peugeot as our favourite pocket-sized funster. Performance and 0-60 time humb the starter button and the 2ZR fires keenly, idling with a note that’s more vocal than the Peugeot 208 GTi’s but a fair bit quieter than an earlier prototype we drove. It’s a joy to work the GRMN’s engine hard. It’s not just a means of getting along the straight sections of a road quickly, but rather something that’s a source of satisfaction itself just to deploy. Clearly, it lacks the low-down punch of some, but the mid-range is surprisingly effective and most of all, it loves to be extended between 5000-7000rpm.. While there is the distant characteristic whine of a s[...]

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All-new BMW 3-series spotted testing – 2018’s crucial new compact execAll-new BMW 3-series spotted testing – 2018’s crucial new compact exec

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 12:19:34 +0000

Jordan Katsianis 20 Mar 2018 The current ‘F30’ BMW 3-series is due for replacement later this year, so it’s not surprising to see the next-generation version of the compact executive saloon undergoing testing in preparation. New from the ground up, the G20 3-series will need to take on the polished Audi A4 and recently renewed Mercedes-Benz C-class in order to maintain its position at the top of its class. The development car shown in these images is a late-cycle prototype, giving us a clue to its near production-ready status. > Click here for spy shots of the upcoming BMW M3 From what we can see under the body-concealing wrap, the new 3-series should ape the larger 5-series, with similar wide kidney grilles and LED headlights. BMW design hallmarks such as the quartet of round headlights and the Hofmeister kink at the base of the C-pillars both appear to be present and correct, despite being details that are no longer sacred within BMW’s design studios. Image 3 of 21 Image 3 of 21 At the rear, BMW’s next-gen L-shaped lamps, first seen on the X4, have been applied, sitting on what looks to be a more aggressive tail that integrates wider wheelarches and a tapered bootlid. The second car pictured is likely to be an M Sport model, given away by its more aggressive bumper treatments and rear bumper vents. The cabin will also likely mirror that of the 5-series, which is no bad thing, but as with the exterior, those wanting a dramatic change might be disappointed. BMW has given no indication as yet whether it will follow Audi in moving to a touchscreen-only infotainment system in the future, but as one of the originators of the click-wheel interface and with i-Drive being one of the more resolved systems, if it ain’t broke, why change it? Instead BMW will focus on further improving interior plastics, build quality and general refinement. > Click here for our review of the BMW 5-series Engine choices should mimic the three-, four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel units available in the current 3-series, although we also expect a stronger emphasis on plug-in hybrid versions such as the tax-friendly 330e. We have already spotted the BMW M3 in development, albeit in an earlier prototyping stage than this car. That car will hold on to its six-cylinder power unit and is tipped to apply mild hybrid tech with a 48V electrical system, which could support an electrically assisted turbocharger. The next 3-series will be rolled out in saloon and estate forms, with coupe and convertible body styles due soon after under a 4-series classification. Due to be shown to the public later this year, the compact executive class is sure to become more competitive upon its release.   Image 1 of 21 Image 1 of 21 [...]

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Range Rover PHEV review - we meet the P400e luxury plug-in hybrid SUV

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 17:47:34 +0000

Antony Ingram 19 Mar 2018 From £86,965 Concerned about the environment but aren’t yet ready to give up vehicles containing two and half tons of raw materials and interiors featuring more leather than a branch of Doc Martens? You probably aren’t the only one as it turns out, as Land Rover will now sell you the Range Rover P400e PHEV - a plug-in hybrid variant of the full-size Range Rover, available in both standard and long-wheelbase formats. > The best new SUVs to buy now Any environmental kudos will probably be moot next to the potential taxation and usage benefits of a plug-in Rangie for the brand’s typical customers, but to make sense it must also feel like a proper Range Rover - and when the primary source of power is a 2-litre, four-cylinder engine, that’s not as easy as it sounds. So does it succeed? Image 4 of 18 Image 4 of 18 Engine, transmission and 0-60mph time No six- or eight-cylinder unit here; beneath the Range Rover’s considerable clamshell bonnet lies a 1997cc inline four-cylinder “Ingenium” petrol engine. Use of such a lump means that in JLR’s entire catalogue only the XJ and the new all-electric i-Pace do not yet boast a four-cylinder engine somewhere in their respective lineups. In this format the Ingenium develops 296bhp on its own, a figure raised to 398bhp when the efforts of a 114bhp electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission are taken into account. Peak torque is quoted as 472lb ft - in the Range Rover lineup that gives it more twist than the V6 diesel or supercharged V8 petrol, but less than the 4.4-litre V8 diesel. Power is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, allowing for a 0-60mph run of 6.4sec (6.8sec to 62mph) and a 137mph top speed - figures that just eclipse the V8 diesel. At the other end of the scale, Land Rover quotes up to 31 miles of all-electric running, at up to 85mph. A more realistic EV range is around 20 miles, requiring a 7.5-hour charge at 10 amps (think a regular three-pin plug) or a 2h 45m top-up at 32 amps. Image 9 of 18 Image 9 of 18 Technical highlights Land Rover’s hybrid features work much like many other makers’ setups, but the novelty here is that the company has been able to combine it with all the other electronic toys you’d usually expect on a Range Rover. You can, if you so choose, drive the car off-road entirely in EV mode, since the electric motor acts through the four-wheel drive transmission, and Land Rover’s familiar Terrain Response functions all operate quite happily in EV mode too, regardless of the surface you’re traversing. Indeed, it’ll wade (at up to 900mm) in EV mode, but Land Rover recommends the engine be running to prevent water entering the exhaust system. Elsewhere, the Range Rover benefits from a host of upgrades across the range. Visually there’s a new grille and various LED headlight options, while the front and rear seats have been redesigned, with a minimum of 16-way electric adjustment and up to 24-way adjustment in range-topping models. A notable addition is the two 10-inch touchscreen setup first seen in the Velar, allowing dominion over everything from navigation and entertainment to adjustments of the Terrain Response system. It looks great and operates well at a standstill, but experience with Audi’s similar two-screen system shows there’s room for improvement at JLR - the Touch Pro Duo setup can be slow to respond, and lacks haptic feedback. Image 13 of 18 Image 13 of 18 What’s it like to drive? Our main concern, and probably a concern for owners, will be whether the plug-in Range Rover delivers the levels of performance and refinement we’ve come to expect from the V6 and V8-engined models. In short, it does - but only up to a point. The good news is that the car is predictably sil[...]

Hyundai i30 N vs VW Golf GTI vs Peugeot 308 GTi reviewHyundai i30 N vs VW Golf GTI vs Peugeot 308 GTi review

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 14:17:30 +0000

James Disdale 20 Mar 2018 You can't really fault Hyundai’s ambition. With no real high-performance heritage to speak of, the Korean brand has climbed up to the highest board on the diving tower and taken aim at the deep end. It could have stuck to doing what it does best, which is churning out worthy but dull hatchbacks and SUVs that are long on warranty but short on fun, but the company wanted to inject some excitement into its rather humdrum image, and the result is the i30 N. This isn’t some tepid toe-in-the-water exercise like sister firm Kia’s warmed over Proceed GT, either – this is a proper, no-expense-spared job. How proper? Well, former BMW M head honcho Albert Biermann has been the technical driving force behind the i30 N, and his back catalogue suggests he doesn’t on the whole do duffers. This theory appeared to hold true when Steve Sutcliffe returned from the car’s overseas launch (evo  241) singing its praises. From out of nowhere Hyundai had delivered a hot hatch that wasn’t just good for a first effort, but good period. Yet before we can give the i30 N a true evo seal of approval, it has to impress both here in the UK and against some formidable rivals, which are themselves in tip-top shape thanks to recent revamps. > Click here for our review of the Hyundai i30 N Before even turning a wheel on any of the testing Dartmoor roads we’ve chosen for its fast-hatch baptism, it’s clear the Hyundai means business. Finished in the brand’s WRC-inspired Performance Blue, there’s also a black front splitter, red stripes front and rear, arch-filling 19-inch alloys and a prominent tailgate spoiler. We’ve got the flagship Performance model here (there’ll be a lower-powered version in time), its turbocharged 2-litre four-cylinder boasting 271bhp and 260lb ft of torque – although there’s 18 seconds’ worth of 279lb ft overboost if you keep your foot in. These outputs are channelled through a six-speed manual transmission to an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. Other high-performance badges of acceptability include Brembo brakes, adaptive dampers and multiple driver modes. There’s even a rear strut brace. Image 4 of 13 Image 4 of 13 The £27,995 Hyundai isn’t the only ‘Performance’ tagged machine here, because the latest, version 7.5 VW Golf GTI can be ordered in two heat levels – standard tune is 227bhp, while the 242bhp GTI Performance sits just above it. It costs more – from £30,475 in i30-matching five-door form – and is a little down on power in this company, but additions such as a trick front diff, adaptive dampers (an £830 option) and larger brakes give clues to the Volkswagen’s intent. And while it’s not as aggressively styled as the Hyundai, its melding of perfect proportions, subtle aero additions and that iconic red stripe mark it out as something a bit special. By contrast, you’d be forgiven for losing the £28,590 Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport in a motorway services car park. A recent spell under the knife has resulted in the same bulbous nose treatment as the brand’s burgeoning range of high-riding SUVs, but in all other respects it looks like a humdrum five-door hatch. What makes the forgettable exterior so hard to forgive is that it hides some choice mechanical modifications. The turbo 1.6-litre’s headline figure of 266bhp gives it the highest specific output, and it also features a specially reinforced block, forged pistons and a single twin-scroll turbocharger. > Click here for our review of the Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport Other highlights include dustbin lid-sized Alcon brakes that can trace their roots back to the 206 WRC, and a proper Torsen locking differential. Like the Hyundai, a six-speed manual is the only transmission option (the Golf can be had with three pedals as tested here,[...]

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Peugeot 106 Rallye - review, history, prices and specsPeugeot 106 Rallye - review, history, prices and specs

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 14:00:26 +0000

Antony Ingram 16 Mar 2018 Peugeot might be back to its old hot hatch building form with cars like the 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport, but one celebrated moniker from the past hasn’t yet returned to sporty Peugeots: Rallye. The badge was first seen on the 205, but Peugeot later built Rallye versions of the pre- and post-facelift 106 supermini as well as a decontented version of the 306 GTI, dubbed the 306 Rallye - and collectively they’ve become some of the most sought-after models in Peugeot’s hot hatch back-catalogue. > Best hot hatchbacks to buy now It’s the 106 we’re concentrating on here, which was one of the most accessible Rallye models when new in both its generations, with prices under £10,000 on their respective 1994 and 1998 launches. While both marginally pre-dated evo’s creation we’ve driven examples of both over the years - and with prices of 205 GTIs now rising beyond the means of many, the 106 Rallye may well be your best way to sample Peugeot at its hot hatchback peak. Image 2 of 19 Image 2 of 19 Peugeot 106 Rallye in detail One word describes the creation of the original 106 Rallye: Homologation. The sub-1300cc class was big business back in the early 1990s, but Peugeot’s sporty 106 XSi just missed out on complying with the rules, owing to its 1.4-litre capacity. The solution was simple: drop a 1.3-litre version of Peugeot’s venerable TU-series four-cylinder behind the nose instead. The eight-valve, single overhead camshaft unit featured a high-compression cylinder head, dedicated intake manifold, and a suitably mountainous camshaft to enable 100bhp at a lofty 7200rpm. Unlike its 205 Rallye predecessor, which featured a pair of carburettors, the Rallye used Magnetti Marelli fuel injection. The Rallye’s basic suspension layout matched that of the XSi, with struts up front and a trailing arm and torsion bar layout at the rear (a classic Peugeot setup). Springs and dampers were shared with the XSi but thicker anti-roll bars gave the Rallye an even more aggressive setup. Image 6 of 19 Image 6 of 19 5.5x14in Michelin steel wheels - one of the Rallye’s most distinctive visual features - hid front discs and rear drums, while Rallye buyers had the option of white, red or black paintwork. Equipment levels were sparse, but a red interior carpet and three-spoke steering wheel - with a set of red seatbelts - gave off the correct vibe. Plenty of Rallye buyers would quickly remove them anyway for Group N and Group A competition. > Peugeot 106 GTI review, history and specs The Phase 2 Peugeot 106 arrived in 1996, with styling cues from the recently-introduced 406, but it would be 1998 before we got the second-generation 106 Rallye. It too was a homologation model, though this time used a 1.6-litre 8v version of the TU engine family. By now, it also played second fiddle in terms of performance to the 16v-powered 106 GTI, but the Rallye countered with significantly less weight and of course, a lower price - £10,045, when a GTI was £12,935 in 1998. Front and rear suspension was identical to the GTI, but while GTI models rode on alloy wheels, the Rallye once again got white-painted Michelin steel wheels, this time 6in wide but still 14in in diameter. The standard tyre size was 175/60 R14, and where the S1 Rallye had used rear drums, the S2 received 254mm ventilated discs up front and solid 254mm discs at the rear. While left-hand drive markets once again had the option of black paintwork, the 500 cars which made it to the UK in right-hand drive would be split between Bianca White and a new shade, Indigo Blue. The blue theme carried over to the interior, on the carpets and on the instruments regardless of exterior colour. The red seatbelts were gone, but flashes of yellow, blue and red - as per the Rallye’s exterior decals - appeared througho[...]

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McLaren Special Operations 570GT Black Collection revealedMcLaren Special Operations 570GT Black Collection revealed

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 16:04:02 +0000

Jordan Katsianis 15 Mar 2018 If you’re of the opinion that black is always the new black, McLaren Special Operations might have just designed the perfect 570GT for you. Creatively called the 570GT Black Collection, the model will be limited to 100 units worldwide and feature a bespoke set of finishes inside and out. Based on McLaren’s regular 570GT, the MSO Black Collection picks up the recently launched Sport Pack, bringing the GT into line with the more dynamically focused 570S, and also gains a new titanium MSO sports exhaust system. > Click here for our review of the new McLaren 570GT Aesthetically, the changes comprise a range of MSO finishes, including a new Carbon Black paint finish, black-finished trim components (usually finished in dark grey or carbonfibre) and a diamond-cut set of McLaren’s twin-spoke alloy wheels. Carbon-ceramic brakes are also standard fit, the calipers finished in liquid black. Image 2 of 10 Image 2 of 10 Inside, the theme is continued, with pretty much the whole interior finished in a combination of black leather and Alcantara. However, along with the demure palette is a higher level of standard equipment, including the excellent Bowers & Wilkins sound system, electric and heated sports seats and a panoramic glass roof. Buyers also have the option of upgrading to MSO’s new electrochromic glass roof, allowing the driver to pick how tinted the glass is. This is all on top of the minor upgrades the whole 570 range received for the 2018 model year, combining a suite of detail improvements that were first seen on the 570S Spider. We are fans of the 570, and its supercar performance for sports car price does make the 570 a tempting alternative to less exotic rivals such as the Audi R8 V10 Plus and Porsche 911 Turbo. At £179,950 for this Black Collection model, though, the price is getting perilously close to that of the 720S, and that’s one car we are really rather fond of indeed. Image 1 of 10 Image 1 of 10 [...]

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Ford Focus ST170 - review, history, prices and specsFord Focus ST170 - review, history, prices and specs

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 15:38:36 +0000

Antony Ingram 16 Mar 2018 The mk1 Ford Focus RS might steal the limelight but there’s another option if you’re looking for a hot hatchback based on the first-generation Focus: the ST170. It’s fair to say the ST170 didn’t shine on its debut in 2002. Part of that was due to the increasingly exciting hot hatchbacks available at the time, following the EP3 Civic Type R that kicked the class through the 200bhp barrier, but in part, it seems, it was Ford’s decision to hold back the ST170 just a little given the RS was just around the corner. > Cheap fun cars for fast car fans Even so, the first hot Focus packed an excellent chassis and handsome styling, and slotted neatly into the space left by the short-lived Ford Racing Puma and alongside the concurrently-launched Mondeo ST220 - the early 2000s was a great time to be a fan of understated but otherwise excellent fast Fords. Image 7 of 7 Image 7 of 7 Ford Focus ST170 in detail If the Mondeo had demonstrated Ford getting its act together and the Ka and Puma cemented its ability to create drivers’ cars from humble underpinnings, then the first-generation Focus was Ford showing it could create a true class leader completely from scratch. The Focus differed from the old Escort in virtually every way, save the carry-over of a few Zetec engines, and was all the better for it. With VW’s Mk4 Golf on the horizon Ford had made a big quality push, but when the Golf arrived it couldn’t compete with the Ford’s dynamics and for a company as staid as Ford had been in the preceding decade or two, the sharp “new edge” styling was bang up to date. With a 128bhp 2-litre Zetec topping the range though, the one thing the Focus initially lacked was a performance variant. That took four years to arrive, with the ST170 finally making its debut in the spring of that year. The Zetec saw some work to lift its output, with new forged pistons, dual-length inlet tracts, a new cylinder head with larger inlet valves and stiffer valve springs, with variable intake cam timing and a freer-flowing exhaust system. This little lot raised power to 171bhp (unlike modern use of numerics for power figures, ST170 is more of a guide than a PS figure), with 144lb ft of torque. Ford opted for a six-speed Getrag manual gearbox, which sent power to the front wheels like every other Focus. The fifteen-spoke, 17in alloy wheels were large for the day, and housed 300mm front and 280mm discs behind, with 215-section, 45-profile tyres transferring that acceleration and braking force to the road. Unfortunately, these efforts were overshadowed by those of the ST’s competitors, which offered more punch or less weight, and it was the Ford’s engine, though willing, which let down the car’s performance overall. The fluid chassis was another story, with great damping and plenty of feedback through the steering, while the subtle cabin turned out to make the RS’s violent combination of blue and black look a little try-hard. Image 3 of 7 Image 3 of 7 Available with three or five doors or more rarely as an estate, picking up even a good ST170 requires very little cash these days. With the next-generation five-cylinder turbocharged Focus STs keeping a lid on prices from above they’re likely to remain affordable for a little while longer too, but sporty Fords only ever go up eventually... Zetec ST170 RS Engine 1989cc 1989cc 1998cc, turbocharged Max power (bhp @ rpm) 128 @ 5750 171 @ 7000 212 @ 5500 Max torque (lb ft @ rpm) 128 @ 3750 144 @ 5500 229 @ 3500 Weight 1223kg 1208kg 1278kg Power-to-weight 106bhp/ton 143bhp/ton 169bhp/ton 0-60mph 9.2sec 7.9sec 6.3sec Top speed 128mph 134mph 144mph What we said Ford Focus ST1[...]

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2018 Classic Motorsports Mitty to celebrate Nissan’s historic motorsport icons2018 Classic Motorsports Mitty to celebrate Nissan’s historic motorsport icons

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 15:20:49 +0000

Lee Stern
15 Mar 2018

Nissan has been announced as the feature manufacturer for the 2018 Classic Motorsports Mitty festival which will be held at Road Atlanta over the last weekend of April. In celebration of its past motorsport triumphs, Nissan is presenting a collection of its most successful race cars, spanning three decades, at Historic Sportscar Racing’s vintage festival.

Many of the decorated cars Nissan will display were driven to victory by Stuart Morton, who will oversee the weekend's racing action as grand marshall. His four Sports Car Club of America titles were split across two disciplines – the Under 2.5-litre Trans-Am series and C-Production championships, where he drove the BRE Datsun 510 and BRE Datsun 240Z respectively, both of which will be in attendance.

> Nissan GT-R review

Arguably the crowning car of Nissan’s exhibition, a former IMSA entry, will be a GTP ZX-Turbo. It went toe-to-toe with Porsche’s 962 during the ’80s and ’90s, claiming three IMSA constructors titles between 1989 and 1991, powered by a 3-litre turbocharged V6 that developed 641bhp and 506lb ft of torque – enough to outpunch the famous Porsche.

The list of past Nissan motorsport entrants doesn't stop there, however: a 1995 300SX SMZ and 1990 PPG Indy car series pace car complete the band of Nissans set to be shown at the 41st Mitty festival.

Speaking ahead of the festival, Morton said: ‘Road Atlanta is right up there with the best road racing tracks in the country, so I’m pleased to be honoured in this way. Nissan has a tremendous racing heritage that goes back even before BRE, but it really blossomed under BRE in 1970 and continued through the GTP era. Nissan has a tremendous amount of racing credibility. An awful lot of people still support Nissan and Datsun in racing today, and most of that enthusiasm goes back 50 years.’ 

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Ford SportKa - review, history, prices and specsFord SportKa - review, history, prices and specs

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 12:15:29 +0000

Antony Ingram 15 Mar 2018 The warm reception to Volkswagen’s new Up GTI is as much down to its near-uniqueness in the market as it is any talents of the car itself. Put simply, affordable, compact fun cars are few and far between these days. It wasn’t always this way. From the late 90s to the late 2010s the market was awash with such cars, from hot Peugeot 106s and Saxos through the Lupo GTI, Suzuki Ignis and Swift Sports, the Yaris T-Sport, the Citroen C2 GT and even a fizzy Nissan Micra, in the shape of the 160SR. And who could forget the Fiat Panda 100HP? > Cheap first cars for fast car fans Then there’s the Ford SportKa. An amalgamation of shopping trolley, concept car styling cues and selected bits from Ford’s excellent Puma, it became one of our favourite tiny hatchbacks of the era, delivering fantastic fun for a modest price. Image 11 of 12 Image 11 of 12 Ford SportKa in detail The SportKa was a beneficiary of Ford’s transition from peddler of dreary fleet cars in the 1980s to a builder of genuinely entertaining family hatchbacks through the 1990s. The transition is often credited to the hiring of engineer Richard Parry-Jones, whose early efforts can be seen in the way the Fiesta went from an also-ran as a Mk3 to class-leader as a Mk4 in handling terms, and the front-drive Mondeo coming out of nowhere to become one of the best-driving cars in its class in 1993. The Fiesta’s improvements also helped spawn both the 1996 Ka and the 1997 Puma. While the Puma became a darling of road testers everywhere in the late 90s, the Ka was perhaps even more impressive. Its planned two-stroke engine never materialised, instead getting a pushrod 1.3-litre four dubbed Endura-E, but the chassis - fairly basic, with MacPherson struts at the front and a coil-suspended torsion bar at the rear - sparkled in a way few small cars did, save the original Mini, which was still on sale at the time. > Best small cars to buy now But that 59bhp four-pot hobbled it in performance terms, taking over 14 seconds to reach 60mph. It would be 2003 before that situation was rectified, when the introduction of the convertible StreetKa - built by Pininfarina but originally styled and revealed as a concept by Ghia - and corresponding tin-topped SportKa also brought a 94bhp, 100lb ft 1.6-litre four-cylinder. 94bhp isn’t a lot, but with 50 per cent more power than the original Ka there was now enough brawn to properly exploit the much-altered chassis. The front track grew by 22mm (under extended arches, like the StreetKa), wishbone bushes were stiffened, extra bracing was added, the suspension dropped by 14mm over 16-inch wheels and the anti-roll bar stiffened by 60 per cent (with the rear torsion beam stiffened 45 per cent). The SportKa also got a few Puma bits, including the slick-shifting five-speed transmission and the Puma’s front strut top mounts. Plenty was done to reduce friction in the steering rack too; all this work seems remarkable considering it was being enacted on a cheap supermini, but the result was evo through and through. > 2018 Ford Fiesta ST While the engine remained relatively low-tech even by the standards of the day, it delivered a rorty note and great throttle response, allowing the SportKa to sprint to 62mph in 9.7sec and finally crest 100mph, with a 108mph max. The steering was fantastic, the gearshift sweet and the handling thoroughly entertaining. Given that SportKas are currently astonishingly cheap (albeit frequently rusty), it’s well worth a look if you’re after evo fun on a budget. Ka (1996) SportKa StreetKa Engine 1299cc 1597cc 1597cc Max power (bhp @ rpm) 59 @ 5000 94 @ 5500 94 @ 5500 Max torque (lb ft @ [...]

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Alpine CEO to take over JLR Special Operations Alpine CEO to take over JLR Special Operations

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 11:29:44 +0000

Lee Stern 15 Mar 2018 JLR has announced that John Edwards, managing director of Special Operations, will leave his position in June. His role will subsequently be assumed by Michael van der Sande, who currently heads up Alpine. There are also further appointments to the Special Operations team that have yet to be announced. Jaguar  Land Rover Special Operations launched in 2014 under Edwards and has since delivered high-performance SVR models for both brands. More recently it has also undertaken production of continuation models such as the E-type Lightweight and Defender Works. > Alpine A110 review Upon Edward’s decision to leave JLR after 27 years of service he had this to say: ‘These crucial new appointments put Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations in excellent shape for the future. Our Special Vehicle Operations, Bespoke and Classic businesses are strategically important for the entire business and I am confident the new recruits will bring fresh thinking and new direction’. Following the announcement, Dr Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover CEO, spoke in glowing terms about Edwards: ‘He has been a remarkable leader, serving Jaguar Land Rover with distinction for 27 years. John has been instrumental in the formation and success of Jaguar Land Rover Classic and has led the team behind our world-beating SVR and SV Autobiography models – cars that our most discerning customers love.’ Edward’s replacement, Michael van der Sande, will arrive with an impressive resume, having held senior roles at Harley Davidson, Aston Martin and most recently Alpine as managing director. The French marque’s recent resurrection has been kick-started by the brilliant A110 sports car, which has spawned Cup and GT4 derivatives. > Jaguar F-type SVR review Speaking about his forthcoming move Michael van der Sande said, 'In just four years Special Operations has established itself as a force in the automotive world with outstanding cars such as the Jaguar F-type SVR and Range Rover SV Coupe, coupled with the revitalisation of the Classic business and continuation models such as the Jaguar XKSS. These are exceptional achievements and I relish the opportunity to lead the team behind these achievements to even greater success.’   [...]

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Electric Audi e-tron Gran Turismo due in 2020 - could this be the new Audi R8?Electric Audi e-tron Gran Turismo due in 2020 - could this be the new Audi R8?

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 09:36:45 +0000

Steve Walker 15 Mar 2018 Audi has chosen its Annual Press Conference in Ingolstadt to announce that a new Audi e-tron Gran Turismo 4-door coupe is in the works. The all-electric machine is destined to form a 'sporty spearhead' for the marque’s e-tron plug-in car range and could point to a restructuring at the top of the Audi Sport performance car line-up. It will hit the streets in 2020.  Mixed in to a slightly less engaging cocktail of 2017 financial results, the new car announcement came as a surprise and was accompanied by a shadowy teaser sketch revealing the new car’s aggressive front end and swooping roof line.   > Best sports cars on sale now The design is expected to be inspired by the recently unveiled Audi e-tron SUV concept with the trademark wide Audi grille and the rear strip lighting that’s already being rolled out to the firm's higher-end production cars. The sketch also reveals that classic GT car proportions have been adopted, despite the EV powertrain beneath, with a prodigiously long bonnet and the roofline descending to a squat, powerful tail. The interior will doubtless be built around Audi’s Virtual Cockpit display, as well as the dual-screen infotainment system from the A8. Audi describes the new sports EV as 'highly dynamic' and using 'purely electric drive'. It’ll be the first Audi Sport model to get the e-tron electric drive technology but it’s unlikely to be the last as hybid and pure electric play an increasing role in the make-up of performance cars in the next decade. Speaking about the new GT, Rupert Stadler, Audi Chairman of the Board, said: 'We interpret sportiness very progressively with our fully electric e-tron GT. This is how we will take our high-performance brand Audi Sport into the future.' The Audi e-tron Gran Turismo is set to be built at Audi’s Bollinger Hofe site, 240km to the west of Ingolstadt. The car will form part of an Audi e-tron portfolio that will span more than 20 models by 2025, at which point the brand hopes that its EV and PHEV models will account for one third of sales. @AudiSport has something very special coming to Gran Turismo Sport on April 9th. Stay tuned for updates! #Audi #VisionGT #etron #LeagueofPerformance — Gran Turismo (@thegranturismo) March 9, 2018 The car could also point to a change in strategy for Audi and the wider Volkswagen Group with the Gran Turismo effectively replacing the Audi R8, the brand’s current flagship sports car, to leave more room for the Lamborghini Huracan to breathe in the supercar market. Audi has already hinted that the R8 will not get a direct replacement and the e-tron GT could take it in a new direction with an Audi Sport flagship facing-off against the Porsche Mission E, another pure-electric 4-door that's likely to use the same platform and technology. We may know more about the new GT on April 9th with the makers of the Gran Turismo driving game having already teased a new Audi Sport e-tron car that's set to appear in the game. The car silhouette in the teaser image seems to have different proportions to the on in the Audi sketch but could be a virtual racing version of the e-tron Gran Turismo. We'll bring you more when we have it.  [...]

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BMW M3 CSL headlines CCA’s Practical Classics saleBMW M3 CSL headlines CCA’s Practical Classics sale

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 17:13:10 +0000

Lee Stern 14 Mar 2018 On the final weekend of March, at the Classic Car Auctions Practical Classics sale, a BMW M3 CSL is going under the hammer with an estimate between £40-45k. Showing just 36,000 miles on the clock, it provides a rare opportunity to take ownership of a true BMW Motorsport icon for reasonable money. Conceived as a harder-edged, track-variant of the E46 M3, it sold in limited numbers – just 422 were registered in the UK – the majority of which were specified in Silver Grey Metallic, just like this example. It’s judged by CCA to be in very good condition, scoring four out of five stars on the attached condition report (five star ratings are generally reserved for concours show cars), which indicates it’s been well cared for by previous owners. > BMW M4 review The BMW M3 endured a 95kg diet in its transformation to CSL (Coupe, Sports and Lightweight) specification: carbonfibre panels replaced heavier metal items – such as the roof – while the front-seat shells and rear bulkheads were constructed from glassfibre plastics, and an aluminium honeycomb sandwich arrangement formed the boot floor. Image 2 of 9 Image 2 of 9 To complement the weight loss BMW tweaked the 3.2-litre straight-six and saw to the chassis, too. A new intake system consisting of a carbon airbox and trick software, that constantly adjusted the fuel-to-air mixture, delivered increases in power and torque, lifting the respective totals to 355bhp and 273lb ft. The chassis revisions, however, were more comprehensive: both the front and rear tracks were broadened, a more aggressive geometry set-up was configured and new spring and damper units were fitted, too. > BMW M5 review Some may baulk at the prospect of a £45k BMW M3 that’s covered nearly 40,000 miles, especially when you consider similar money buys you a brand new BMW M2. However, values for the CSL will continue to rise as the supply for naturally aspirated sports cars drys up. evo comment ‘The CSL immediately proves itself to be one of those cars that naturally draws you into upping the pace, cajoling you into braking later and harder carrying more speed to the apex. It really comes alive, revealing a much keener, harder edge than any previous M3’. This example will go under the hammer on the weekend of 24 and 25 March at the NEC in Birmingham, alongside a collection of other affordable classics such as a 1988 Ford Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth, Nissan R33 GT-R V-Spec and 1965 Porsche 912.   Image 1 of 9 Image 1 of 9 [...]

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New BMW M5 Competition Pack confirmed for 2018New BMW M5 Competition Pack confirmed for 2018

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 16:07:52 +0000

Jordan Katsianis 14 Mar 2018 BMW has confirmed its 2018 MotoGP M5 safety car will be a test bed for the new M5 Competition Pack, which will be launched some time this year. We’ve seen the MotoGP M5 before, featuring a swathe of M Performance carbonfibre parts, but BMW M GmbH President Frank van Meel has now confirmed it will also act as a development platform for the upcoming M5 Competition Pack. > Click here for our review of the new BMW M5 Likely to echo the Competition Packs in BMW’s M3 and M4, we expect the M5 to include a combination of drivetrain and chassis upgrades. In an M4, the Competition Pack is made up of new adaptive dampers, a more direct steering rack, a recalibrated active rear differential and new 20-inch alloy wheels. The 3-litre straight-six engine’s power output is also bumped up 20bhp. Image 3 of 6 Image 3 of 6 The changes may seem subtle, but they helped transform the standard M4 into a far better driver’s car, containing the standard car’s wayward rear axle and dramatically improving steering feel. For the M5, we expect a similar set of upgrades, including a rise in power over the standard car’s 592bhp. It’s not unreasonable to expect an output of over 600bhp, a figure closer to arch rival Mercedes-AMG’s E63 S. The standard M5’s switchable all-wheel-drive system should ensure the extra power is kept under control, but we expect BMW’s aim for the M5 Competition Pack will focus on improving the big saloon’s precision, more than outright grunt thanks to the standard car’s already proficient outputs. We were impressed by the standard M5 on the international launch last year, but judging by the M4, a Competition Pack could make it even better.   Image 1 of 6 Image 1 of 6 [...]

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2018 Ford Mustang 10-speed automatic transmission: everything you need to know2018 Ford Mustang 10-speed automatic transmission: everything you need to know

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 11:39:19 +0000

Sean Carson 14 Mar 2018 Ford has divulged the technical intricacies of its new 10-speed automatic transmission available on the  2018 Ford Mustang. First of which was that it was developed partly in response to general flack directed towards the six-speed auto version. Ford admits its previous self-shifting Mustang was way behind the curve and that this new box is a “quantum leap”, with the brand’s automatic transmission specialist, Ian Oldknow, outlining why. > Ford Mustang Bullitt It’s still a torque converter, but a new integrated turbine clutch saves 1kg (important, as it’s rotating mass) and improves packaging as the housing is used as part of the clutch pack. This also means there’s more space for “improved dampers” that help smoothness. Image 2 of 6 Image 2 of 6 With 10 ratios to span a similar speed range to its predecessor, more ratio steps mean the engine can be kept closer to peak performance – particularly important with naturally aspirated engines like the 5.0-litre V8 – while these smaller steps between ratios mean faster and smoother shifts, too. Changes are controlled by new direct-acting electric solenoids that give more control over the process and deliver a quicker reaction from the clutches on the four planetary gears for both up and downshifts. > Ford Mustang Steeda Q500 Enforcer This faster-acting system underpins the Mustang’s new Drag Strip driving mode (one of six). In this setting the transmission doesn’t reduce torque between changes – instead, it keeps the throttle wide open for the fastest shift times and maximum performance. We were told refinement is sacrificed but that reliability won’t be. The new solenoids also mean the 10-speed box can now downshift directly to the right gear, similar to a dual-clutch transmission. Ask for full throttle when cruising along in top and the car doesn’t need to kick down through multiple gears before hitting the optimum ratio – here it can go straight from 10th to fifth, say, so more time is spent driving rather than shifting. It can skip shifts going up the box, too. > Ford Mustang review To boost this connection to the transmission Ford now runs a “maximum lock-up” strategy with the torque converter, claiming there’s very little slip other than when moving off from a standstill, where it’s been tuned for a faster launch. Image 1 of 6 Image 1 of 6 [...]

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"Nowadays Lamborghinis flatter their drivers, rather than frighten the bejesus out of them""Nowadays Lamborghinis flatter their drivers, rather than frighten the bejesus out of them"

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 14:53:07 +0000

Richard Meaden 13 Mar 2018 When I was a kid, I was fascinated by Lamborghini. Specifically the Lamborghini Countach. This was partly down to learning its name was derived from a Piedmontese swear word (what impressionable small kid doesn’t love a bit of legit profanity?), but it was mostly down to the crazy looks and Top Trumps-winning specification. There was also an air of mystery to Lamborghini that made the company and its cars seem all the more fantastical. In the days before Google, Twitter and YouTube, the folklore surrounding Lamborghini was spread via a kind of osmosis. Mostly via the pages of motoring magazines such as Motor and Car. And what tales they were. The tractor maker motivated by his dislike of Enzo Ferrari and dissatisfaction with the cars from Maranello. Models named after fighting bulls. A mysterious Kiwi engineer called Bob Wallace, who created hardcore experimental cars such as the Miura Jota in his spare time, then tore off down the autostrada until they threatened to take off. The Espada’s party piece of accelerating from walking pace to V-max in one gear. Barry ‘BR33’ Robinson. The LM002. And, of course, my treasured die-cast Marzal. > Click here for our best car pictures of the week gallery Thus steeped in geek mythology, I burned to drive or even ride in a Lamborghini. The wait was long, but thankfully the gods smiled upon me and I landed a job as a motoring journalist. Given I’d spent my school years reading and re-reading Car magazine’s ‘Convoy!’ story, where Mel Nichols recounted bringing a Countach, Silhouette and Urraco back from the factory to the UK, I was never going to have a normal job. But to find myself learning my craft alongside those who had worked through those Car magazine glory days somehow cemented my spiritual connection to Sant’Agata. I had to get there. The moment came in 1996 and it couldn’t have been more perfect. The car was the Diablo VT Roadster. No, not a balls-out SV, but it was a Diablo and it was just for us – a private gig for Performance Car magazine, not an orchestrated launch. The informality of those pre-Audi days was obvious when Valentino Balboni met us from the airport. It continued when we arrived at the factory and were told to wait cinque minuti. An hour and several rocket-fuel espressos later, we were led to the service department, where the car was waiting for us in the sunshine. I’ve driven many Lamborghinis since, but apart from spending a day on classic Appennine roads in a Miura SV (once again with Balboni for company) for an early evo, nothing has come close to that first visit. Of the current crop, the Huracán Performante has an abundance of fire and brimstone, but the cars and the company are too accessible, too damned reasonable. Press access should rely on a little black book of factory or importer contacts and a preparedness to spend fruitless days waiting while the test car is finished. Buying them should require more than just money. Driving them should demand a level of skill, hand-eye guile and a pinch of madness. Nowadays Lamborghinis flatter their drivers rather than frighten the bejesus out of them.   Not that Lamborghini is alone in this – most of the once-exotic, eccentric and esoteric family-run marques have gone too mainstream. Ferrari has been consistently building truly sensational cars since the turn of the century, but since the departure of Luca di Montezemolo the company has traded hot-headed charisma for cold-hearted corporate governance. There are flashes of Lamborghini’s [...]

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G-Power BMW M4 CS launched with 592bhp from new upgrade packageG-Power BMW M4 CS launched with 592bhp from new upgrade package

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 14:06:33 +0000

Jordan Katsianis
13 Mar 2018

G-Power has released details of a new upgrade package available for the BMW M4 CS. Building on the standard S55B30 straight-six engine, G-Power is quoting a power figure of 592bhp through a variety of upgrades.

Representing a significant 140bhp power increase over the standard M4 CS, the major source of the power gain is generated from a bespoke ECU software package, unlocking the engine’s potential without compromising on reliability or driveability.

> Click here for our reveiw of the BMW M4 CS

In addition to the revised ECU, G-Power has also replaced the turbo’s compressor wheel with a new CNC-milled unit, developed in-house by G-Power’s engineers. Combined with a new turbo housing, the new pulley wheel’s lower weight will also reduce rotational inertia inside the turbocharger, improving throttle response despite the higher boost being produced.

Performance times are quoted at 3.7 seconds for the 0-62mph sprint, topping out at close to 200mph thanks to the removal of BMW’s top-speed limiter.

G-Power has also fitted a titanium exhaust system tipped with four 90mm carbonfibre finishers. Bespoke coilover suspension and new 20- and 21-inch wheels have also been fitted.

For those not familiar with the company, G-Power is a German tuning company formed in the early 1970s specialising in BMWs. By 1976, G-Power had developed its first tuning kits for various BMW models, consisting of uprated carburettors, cams and headers. By the 1980s, G-Power had moved on to manufacturing plastic bodywork for the BMW 2002, and now specialises in upgrade packs for most of BMW’s sports car range.


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Mazda says Skyactiv-X is competitive with EV emissions till infrastructure improves Mazda says Skyactiv-X is competitive with EV emissions till infrastructure improves

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 11:32:06 +0000

Jordan Katsianis 13 Mar 2018 Mazda has backed up its development of its new Skyactiv-X  internal combustion engine with a set of figures that the company says underline the current problem with pure electric vehicles. Mazda has based these findings on what it calls a ‘well-to-wheel’ emissions evaluation, taking into account the entire life-cycle journey of the corresponding electricity from its point of production right through to its consumption within the car. > Click here for our review of a prototype Mazda 3 Skyactiv-X Using a mid-sized electric vehicle as a base, the average energy consumption is rated at approximately 200kWh per 100 kilometres (62 miles). Using this as a guide, electricity produced from a coal-fired power plant will equate to an emissions rating of around 200g/km for a pure EV charged from the mains – significantly higher than most new petrol- or diesel-powered mid-sized family cars. When averaged out between other major electricity sources, including petroleum and liquified petroleum gas, this figure does shrink to 128g/km, but this is still only 14g/km below Mazda’s Skyactiv-X engine, which will go into production next year. The market will continue to trend away from the internal combustion engine, but Mazda’s ‘right solution at the right time’ mentality will ensure that its latest generation of petrol engines will be as competitive as possible until the infrastructure required to power an electric car future has matured. Rather than acting as a preventer of Mazda’s development in electric vehicle tech, this is instead an intended wake-up call to consumers about the realities of battery electric vehicles within the current infrastructure. Mazda’s development of a battery electric vehicle due for release next year, and the brand’s first mild-hybrid the year after, will continue as scheduled. As the generation of electricity continues to diversify from non-renewable sources, the real emissions generated by an electric-car-friendly infrastructure will drop. For the moment though, Mazda’s intention to keep its finger in the internal combustion pie is an encouraging sign that it has not fallen into the trap some manufacturers might in creating an EV-heavy product line-up before the market, or indeed infrastructure, is there to handle it. Image 1 of 11 Image 1 of 11 [...]

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Best estate cars on sale 2018 - the new practical performance estates that hit the spotBest estate cars on sale 2018 - the new practical performance estates that hit the spot

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 10:40:08 +0000

Antony Ingram 15 Mar 2018 The appeal of a fast estate doesn’t need a great deal of explanation, in the same way a hot hatchback is fairly easy to understand. You’re combining performance with practicality, albeit to an even greater degree, and throwing in a sleek, elongated profile as a bonus - often resulting in a car with more elegance than the hatchback or saloon upon which the estate is based. In recent years we’ve seen performance crossovers and SUVs muscle in on the fast estate’s role, but for some customers the original is still best. The lower centre of gravity benefits handling (and often ride quality, given taller vehicles often use firmer setups to maintain their dynamics), while the lower profile, smaller frontal area and lower weight all benefit both performance and efficiency. It’s difficult to pinpoint the origins of the concept - American manufacturers were dropping powerful V8s in “wagons” as far back as the 1940s and 1950s, while for those of an evo disposition, it was the 1990s and early 2000s when the concept really took off, from Volvo’s 850 in the BTCC through various AMGs and the first “super” estate, the V10-engined  E61 BMW M5 Touring. Today the choice remains wide, albeit one dominated largely by German manufacturers. There are pockets of resistance here and there - notably Ford’s Focus ST, the Volvo V60 Polestar, and the seductive Ferrari GTC4Lusso - but otherwise most options hail from BMW, Mercedes-Benz or the wide-reaching Volkswagen Group. Even considering the German bias though, there’s variety here, from practical and economical front-drivers to rear-drive sledgehammers and all-weather, all-wheel drive heroes. Best estate cars 2018 Image 2 of 14 Image 2 of 14 Alpina B3 S / D3 BiTurbo BMW makes some impressive fast estates, but Alpina makes even better fast BMW estates. The 3-series Touring-based B3 S (petrol) and D3 (diesel) are among our favourites, combining knee-tremblingly handsome styling over Alpina’s classic multi-spoke alloy wheels with knockout performance and beautifully-trimmed cabins. If you already own a 3-series Touring in 340i or 335d specification, imagine it with every tangible aspect improved by maybe 20 per cent. Unfortunately, you’ll also have to imagine it with the price increased by about 20 per cent too in the case of the D3 (to around £50k), or about a third for the B3 S (in the £60k range), but consider that an exclusivity tax. The D3 BiTurbo gets you a 345bhp, 516lb ft version of BMW’s 3-litre straight-six diesel, with a 4.6-second 0-62mph run and 170mph top speed. The B3 S’s figures are 434bhp, 487lb ft, 4.3sec and 188mph, so both surely provide all the “fast” you’re likely to need from a practical 3-series. Both ride and handle fluently too - even on Alpina’s customarily large 19- and 20-inch wheels. Image 3 of 14 Image 3 of 14 Audi RS4 The latest RS4 might have dropped its predecessor’s 4.2-litre V8, but there’s still a lot to like both about the new car and its 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 drivetrain. The performance, for one - 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds and, with a raised limiter, 174mph is as quick as you’re likely to need to transport Labradors, wardrobes or other estate-car luggage clichés. The RS4 also has a pleasing duality to its personality that allows it to serve both as an estate car and as a performance car. Left in its Comfort settings the ride is pliant and the engine smooth and quiet, making long[...]

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30 years of Porsche's four-wheel drive 911 - Carrera GTS v Carrera 4 GTS

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 17:55:51 +0000

Will Beaumont 13 Mar 2018 This year, 2018, marks 30 years of all-wheel drive Porsche 911s. Porsche has been dabbling with four-wheel drive for longer than that though; Ferdinand Porsche developed an electric car with motors at each wheel, and then, in 1947, Porsche built the Type 360 Cisitalia, a supercharged V12 racing car that could be switched between two- and four-wheel drive. The ‘80s saw more all-wheel drive Porsches: a 911 Turbo Cabriolet concept, the Type 953 Paris-Dakar winner with engageable four-wheel drive and then, of course, the Ferrari F40-rivalling Porsche 959 in 1986. Before, eventually in 1988, it created a four-wheel drive version of the 964 911. Porsche used a similar drive system to the one found in the 959, with two electronically-controlled clutch packs either side of a planetary gear set as a centre differential. The clutches then vary the amount they lock and so vary the amount of drive sent to each axle. The rear diff worked in the same way, helping distribute drive across the back axle. > Read our review of the current Porsche 911 Carrera range  Of course, the 911 never, particularly, had a traction problem thanks to its engine position. Utilising that advantage, though, is only really possible at high speeds – the 911’s numerous race and rally wins prove it is possible. But at road-going speeds, four-wheel drive traction on slippery surfaces is unbeatable. That’s why Porsche gave the 911 four-wheel drive. Image 2 of 38 Image 2 of 38 Not only was it physically quite easy, there’s an unobstructed path from the 911’s gearbox to the front axle thanks to the car’s rear-engined layout, but also adding a little extra weight to the front axle was hardly going to cause many issues for the tail-heavy, nose-light 911. Porsche always touted the 911 as an everyday, totally-useable sports car and four-wheel drive opened it up to an entirely new market where slippery, icy conditions ruled out most performance cars completely. And that’s kind of the point of the four-wheel drive 911. It’s not better than a two-wheel drive car, it’s just different and, for some, it's the only reason they can choose a 911 or any sports car. At almost every stage in the 911’s range there’s both a two- and four-wheel drive version, which one you choose depends on what suits you and your environment. There’s the Carrera 2 and 4, and GTS versions of both of those. As the 911 encroaches into supercar territory, you can have rear-wheel drive GT3s and GT2s (if you can get your hands on one) or all-wheel drive Turbos. There is no right and wrong answer in the 911, two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive debate. Porsche 911 Carrera GTS v Carrera 4 GTS So how do you decide? If you get lots of snow and you want to drive all year round, you need four-wheel drive, naturally. But if you live somewhere that’s frequently wet and very occasionally sunny and dry – I don’t know, say, the United Kingdom – where four-wheel drive might be useful, but not absolutely necessary, is it worth it? If you want a proper back-to-back test of a two- and four-wheel drive 911 you have to choose the Carrera GTS and Carrera 4 GTS. Ok the GT3 RS and Turbo has about the same power as one another, both have a PDK gearbox and even the same wide bodyshell, but, come on, they’re hardly the same sort of car. You can have exactly the same power in a normal Carrera and Carrera 4, but the all-wheel drive car gets [...]

Brabham BT62 - legendary racing car manufacturer to launch new car

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 16:49:59 +0000

Jordan Katsianis
12 Mar 2018

Brabham has given us the first indications of its return with a teaser video previewing a new road or race car apparently called the Brabham BT62. Other than the BT62 name and the new company name, Brabham Automotive, few details have been released and there's next to no information on what the firm intends to build as yet. That's aside from a teaser video featuring a burbly exhaust note.

At least something can be read into the car name released in the video, the BT62 handle following on from Brabham’s usual naming convention for its racing cars. The burbling soundtrack also potentially says a lot, with evo’s most proficient audio anoraks placing the engine noise in the historic engine category thanks to a lumpy idle and carb-fed gurgle.

> Click here for our review of the Lister Thunder - a 666bhp modified Jaguar F-Type 

All this points to a possible re-creation of one of Brabham's racing icons, much in the same way as Jaguar Classic has reimagined the lightweight E-Type and XKSS for wealthy clients.


An icon of the sport and a hero in his home nation of Australia, Sir Jack Brabham, the man from whom Brabham Automotive takes its name, won three straight Formula One Drivers’ titles and his team took two manufacturers' titles, too. Brabham was also the only Formula One driver to win the world championship in a car bearing his own name.

Brabham Automotive has been launched by Sir Jack Brabham's son, Le Mans winner David Brabham, and should emulate the ideology of the original racing team, even if we aren’t quite sure what form its new product will take. More information on the 'Brabham BT62' will be revealed on May 2nd.

Lister Thunder review – is 666bhp too much?Lister Thunder review – is 666bhp too much?

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 12:12:31 +0000

John Barker 13 Mar 2018 £139,950 You’re more likely to hear it before you see it, unless you’re using binoculars or have the eyesight of Steve Austin, and when you do see the Lister Thunder it doesn’t disappoint. Sitting low on wheels that look even bigger than their 21in diameter, the Lister is what could have been on the sketch pads of Jaguar’s designers when they penned the F-type. There’s not a single Jaguar badge to be seen though and although Lister has been associated with Jaguar since the ’50s, the name will be new to some because the British firm’s last road car, the Storm, was made is tiny numbers in the ’80s. Since taking over, Lister’s new owners, Andrew and Laurence Whittaker of Warrantywise, have already launched a ‘continuation’ run of its most famous racer, the Knobbly, and is now taking deposits for the Thunder, of which 99 will be built, priced from £139,950.  > Lister Storm Engine, transmission and 0-60 time The Thunder is based on the all-wheel drive F-type R. The wick is turned up on the 5-litre, supercharged V8 with greater boost from its supercharger, new intercoolers and air filters, a whole new Novitec exhaust and a remap. This lifts power from 542bhp to 666bhp, backed up by 720lb ft of torque. ‘It came out at 670bhp on the dyno,’ says Laurence Whittaker, ‘but 666 is more evocative’. This 100bhp-plus increase is said to drop the 0-60mph time to 3.2sec and raise the top speed to 208mph.   Image 2 of 15 Image 2 of 15 Technical highlights The uprated V8 is hooked up to the standard eight-speed ZF auto box. Also retained are the adaptive dampers, though the springs and spring platforms are adjustable KW units, offering an adjustable set-up. Those huge Vesson alloy wheels are shod with the lowest profile Michelin SuperSport tyres - just 25 section 295s on the rear. Proper rubber bands.  The other major component of the make-over is the interior re-trim. The seats, facia, door casings and just about every surface in the cockpit is re-covered in the finest Bridge of Weir leather with contrast green stitching. > Jaguar F-Type SVR review What’s it like to drive? It’s all about the noise at first. Jaguar’s V8 F-types are known for being quite vocal but the Lister takes this to another level. There are no tailpipe valves so there’s no ‘quiet’ mode, and  it’s incredibly loud at idle, under power and even on the overrun, so much so that it takes a few miles to get your head around the rest of the car. This is the prototype and the chassis set-up is not finalized. In the wet with the car set to the slippery road mode, which sets the dampers to soft, the rear tyres lightly scuffed the wheelarches over big bumps. The torque can kick the tail out exiting junctions but, as in the standard F-type, straight-line traction is phenomenal. Generally, the felt a little distracted on lumpy B-roads and then we hit a decent bump and lost a rear suspension brace. Lister has taken another look at the set-up since.  In the dry, with Dynamic mode selected and the damping set firm, we had no issues with arch clearance and the Thunder felt much better - grippy, planted and poised. Is it fast? Perhaps not as fast as it sounds but low-down and mid-range urge is strong and, tellingly, this is one of those cars that is always travelling 20m[...]

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