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New 298bhp Toyota RAV4 Prime PHEV unveiled at LA
Posted on Wednesday November 20, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-11-20 11:30

Toyota revealed a plug-in hybrid version of the RAV4 at this year’s LA Show, with almost 300bhp and an all-electric range of 39 miles

Toyota RAV4 Prime - front

Toyota’s range of plug-in hybrid vehicles has expanded with the new RAV4 Prime. It’s the most powerful and most fuel-efficient RAV4 to date, sporting a 298bhp powertrain and a claimed economy figures of around 100mpg. First deliveries are expected in 2021.

The RAV4 Prime is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle petrol engine, a lithium-ion battery pack and a pair of electric motors. The system’s combined output of 298bhp gives the RAV4 a claimed 0–60mph time of 5.8 seconds and an all-electric range of 39 miles.

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Like the RAV4 hybrid, the PHEV model features Toyota’s electric all-wheel-drive system, with the combustion engine and front electric motor powering the front axle, and a separate rear-mounted electric motor powering the rear axle. Both motors also feature regenerative braking to charge the battery – the severity of which can be selected using a pair of paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel.

Exact UK specifications for the Toyota RAV4 Prime are yet to be confirmed but, as it’s positioned as the sporty flagship of the SUV’s line-up, it will feature a handful of styling revisions and plenty of standard equipment. American cars come as standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, a unique radiator grille design, piano black exterior trim, a new front splitter and a faux rear diffuser.

The US-spec base-model also features electrically adjustable and heated front seats as standard, as well as a leather steering wheel and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa.

Toyota has also fitted the RAV4 Prime with a host of standard safety equipment, including lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beam assist, automatic adaptive cruise control, road sign assist and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection.

What do you make of the 298bhp Toyota RAV4 Prime? Let us know in the comments section below… 

Hot Ford Shelby Mustang Mach-E on its way
Posted on Wednesday November 20, 2019

Vicky Parrott 2019-11-20 10:17

Ford’s performance brand, Shelby, is to do a fettled version of the electric Mustang Mach-E.

Ford Mustang Mach-E - side static

Ford bosses have confirmed that a Shelby-badged version of the new Ford Mustang Mach-e is in the pipeline, Auto Express can reveal. 

The new Ford Mustang Mach-E, revealed at the LA Motor Show, is the company’s first brand extension of the Mustang name, and with 0-62mph times mooted to be around four seconds for the performance GT version. But now Shelby will take that to the next level with an even hotter version. 

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Ed Krenz, chief program engineer at Ford Performance, told us: “I’m looking forward to the challenge of applying the Shelby characteristics to an electric car. The trick for us is the fun-to-drive part, and sustainability in terms of charging. It needs to be capable to go all day on a track day – you can’t do 20 minutes and then have to charge it all night.”

A Shelby branded version of the Mustang Mach-E would be in-keeping with Ford’s determination to prove Mach-E’s providence as a performance car, and to justify the iconic pony badge it wears. 

Krenz added: “Straight line bit is easy with electric cars, but we know the Shelby DNA down to the ground and applying that to electric is difficult. Even so, all weight’s not bad; we’ve had Mach-E on the simulator and the low centre of gravity is an opportunity.”

Speaking at the launch of the Mach-E, Darren Palmer, Ford global director for Battery Electric Vehicle Product Development, explained that “Mustang needs to be relevant long-term. This takes Mustang in a new direction, and safeguards and supports the base Mustang for the future. I’m not commenting on a Shelby version but, it’s a Mustang…”

The standard Mustang Mach-E goes on sale towards the end of 2020, but expect a Shelby branded version to follow later in 2021 with prices likely to be around £65,000.

Are you excited about the prospect of a performance Mustang Mach-E? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...

New 302bhp MINI John Cooper Works GP launched at LA Motor Show
Posted on Tuesday November 19, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-11-20 09:35

The fire-breathing MINI John Cooper Works GP hot hatch has been unveiled, sporting a lairy body kit, an enormous rear wing and 302bhp

MINI John Cooper Works GP - front tracking

MINI has launched the new John Cooper Works GP at this year’s Los Angeles Motor Show. It’s the fastest road-legal vehicle the brand has ever built, with a 302bhp engine, functional aerodynamics and a tauter chassis. Global production for the JCW GP is limited to just 3,000 units, 575 of which will come to the UK priced from £33,895 each. First deliveries are due in March 2020.

The new MINI GP features similar flamboyant styling to the GP Concept that was revealed at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show with the striking spoiler and wheel arch extensions clearly inspired by that car. Made from carbon fibre-reinforced plastic, the extensions are designed to aid aerodynamics and cover the wider 18-inch wheels, while the front ones also feature the car’s production number.

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All 3,000 John Cooper Works GP cars will share the same paint finish. The body is in Racing Grey, the roof in Melting Silver and the underside of the rear wing, lower air intake and grille trim feature Chilli Red paint. There are also several “GP” logos on the car, with the “JCW” emblem being used only on the brake calipers.

Most of the standard car’s chrome trim components, including the MINI badges, have been swapped for gloss black replacements. The GP also features a pair of darkened headlamp lenses and the latest MINI’s trademark Union Flag tail-lights. 

Inside, there are two heavily bolstered sports seats but the rear bench has been ditched completely to reduce weight. The dash includes 3D-printed trim, again featuring the car’s production number, and the paddle-shifters are also 3D-printed in metal. The car’s nappa leather sports steering wheel also comes with a metal centre-mark at the 12 o’clock position.

The MINI John Cooper Works GP is powered by a reworked version of the hopped-up, turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine found in the recently launched MINI Clubman JCW. Modifications include a reinforced crankshaft, stronger pistons and con-rods, a freer-flowing exhaust system, a larger turbocharger and a new intercooler.

The engine develops 302bhp and 450Nm of torque, which is fed to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a mechanical limited-slip differential. As such, the new GP has a claimed 0–62mph time of 5.2 seconds – which is 0.3 seconds slower than the four-wheel-drive Clubman JCW – and a top speed of 164mph.

Chassis upgrades for the new MINI John Cooper Works GP include larger four-piston brakes for the front axle, a reconfigured power steering system, stiffer suspension mounting bushes, additional chassis bracing and a set of uprated passive dampers and springs, which lower the car’s ride-height by 10mm compared to the standard MINI John Cooper Works.

MINI also says the GP’s lairy body kit provides improved aerodynamic performance and cooling benefits. The front splitter and large roof spoiler have both been designed to improve the GP’s of downforce, while the large vents in the front bumper channel air towards the hatchback’s braking and cooling systems.

What does the MINI John Cooper Works GP have to beat? Read our run-down of the best hot hatchbacks on sale now

New Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2020 review
Posted on Tuesday November 19, 2019

Alfa Romeo Stelvio - front tracking
19 Nov, 2019 1:00pm Steve Sutcliffe

There wasn't much wrong with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, but updates for 2020 have transformed its biggest weakness - the interior

The one thing that wasn’t quite right about the otherwise excellent Alfa Romeo Stelvio – no matter which of its various engines were beneath the bonnet – was its interior.

It looked good inside, true, but the quality wasn’t up to the standards of the best rivals in this class, and aspects such as its connectivity and infotainment weren’t exactly world beating. It wasn’t as competitive as it needed to be to level with the German competition, in other words, even though it looked great and drove well.

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But Alfa reckons it has sorted all that with this, the new 2020-model year Stelvio, tested here in top-spec 280 Veloce trim. From the outside, you might just spot the new styling elements around the tail and along the flanks but the changes are subtle because, let’s face it, there wasn’t much wrong with the way the original car looked.

And the same goes for the way the new Stelvio drives. Mechanically there are zero differences between the MY20 version and the original, although in the case of the 280 Veloce, the CO2 emissions should be slightly lower due to minor tweaking of the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine’s software.

Outputs remain as before, though, with 276bhp and 400Nm to give the same strong 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds. Nothing has changed on the eight-speed auto gearbox, either, and nothing needed to because it still shifts quickly and smoothly. It retains Alfa’s now-familiar three-stage drive program, which alters the mapping for the engine, exhaust and gearbox to make the Stelvio progressively more sporting, or vice versa, depending which setting you select: D, N or A.

The moment you climb inside the new Stelvio, however, you will notice a range of welcome improvements. There’s a new sense of quality in here that simply wasn’t present before. From its new TFT instruments to its big new touchscreen infotainment system, to its new leather-lined gear lever and the more expensively trimmed centre console, the Stelvio feels like a much more premium vehicle inside.

Crucially, says Alfa, the Stelvio also contains a lot more autonomous technology than before. As with most but not all of its competition, the car is now at Level 2 in terms of its autonomy, and at the moment you can’t go any further than that. So you get speed-sensing cruise control, active brake assist and one of the best and most advanced lane-sensing systems available on any car in this class. In short, the Stelvio is now right up there on the technology it contains. 

Inside, not only is the cabin far better in look and feel, and in its quality, but you also get a fair bit more equipment as well. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity become standard, as does wireless smartphone charging (if you have a compatible phone, of course). Bi-xenon headlights are also added to the standard kit list.

From mid-way through next year the car will get its own wi-fi hotspot as well, and Alfa claims that whatever new technologies become available in future can simply be uploaded as new software – in much the same way that you upgrade your phone or laptop as and when new operating systems become available. And these will be available free of charge. 

As with the Giulia, Alfa has also refined its range into a four-tier line-up, or five if you include the bonkers Quadrifoglio. The entry version is badged Super, followed by Sprint, then Lusso Ti, and Veloce at the top. Again, as with the Giulia, no specific UK prices have been announced yet but expect a rise of at least five per cent relative to the current line-up.

That will put the 280 Veloce at over £45k, which will make it expensive even beside the German competition. But given how well it drives – it was always the sweetest of all the mid-range SUVs, particularly with the Q4 chassis and Alfa’s charismatically potent four-cylinder turbo engine under your right foot – the better-equipped, higher-quality, more technically advanced new Stelvio can’t help but be very close to being the best car in its class. It’s certainly one of the most desirable - and on all fronts now, not just emotionally.

4.5
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio has received a mild revamp visually and is basically the same car dynamically as before. But beneath the skin it now contains a lot more technology. It’s also better styled and feels like a much higher-quality product inside, while its connectivity and overall specification have also improved. A good SUV made even better.
  • Model: Alfa Romeo Stelvio 280 Veloce QV
  • Price: £45,500 (approx)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre, 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 276bhp/400Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
  • Top speed: 143mph
  • Economy/CO2: 40.4mpg/169g/km (est)
  • On sale: Now

New Alfa Romeo Giulia 2020 review
Posted on Tuesday November 19, 2019

Alfa Romeo Giulia - front tracking
19 Nov, 2019 1:00pm Steve Sutcliffe

The Alfa Romeo Giulia has been updated for 2020, and the changes have made it better than ever

We like the Alfa Romeo Giulia here at Auto Express, and why wouldn’t you? It’s a great-looking saloon car that drives either very well or brilliantly, depending which engine is thumping away beneath the bonnet. And although it’s not cheap beside the obvious opposition from BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes, it is arguably the most exciting car in its class and almost certainly the best looking. 

But there were issues with the Giulia, and mostly they concerned the quality of its interior, plus a lack of connectivity and autonomous safety features beside the best cars in this class. In short, although the Giulia was a corking car to drive, it lacked the cutting-edge technology you find inside most (if not all) of its rivals.

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Enter the 2020-model year Alfa Giulia you see here, which doesn’t look or even drive a whole lot differently from the original but whose interior is significantly improved. Not just visually and in its quality, but also from a technical point of view.

Crucially, says Alfa, the car also contains a lot more autonomous technology than before, to a point where the firm claims it is as advanced as the current regulations that define autonomous driving could possibly allow it to be. It is, in short, at Level 2, and at the moment you can’t go further than that. 

Inside, not only is the centre console far more premium in both look and feel but there’s also a better-looking and more functional new set of digitised instruments, with a big infotainment screen to the side of these that can be operated either as a touchscreen or via an iDrive-like rotational switch just behind the new leather-covered gear lever.

Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity become standard, while bi-xenon headlights also become standard. And from mid-way through next year, the car will even have its own wi-fi hotspot.

Beneath the skin, the new Giulia now has speed and lane-sensing cruise control and a whole host of other advanced driver assistance systems that bring it at least up to a level with the main opponents from Germany, says Alfa. And all of this makes the car competitive on all levels with that competition.

At the same time, Alfa has also refined its range into a four-level line-up - or five if you include the Quadrifoglio. The entry version is badged Super, then comes the Sprint, then Lusso Ti, with Veloce at the top. No exact UK prices have been announced yet; the new Giulias don’t hit UK roads until spring next year. But expect a price rise of at least five per cent relative to the current line-up.

Given that there are no specific changes beneath the skin, or to the engines and gearboxes (although emissions are slightly keener, due to minor upgrades in software), it’s not surprising that the new car drives just as well as the old, even though it’s a fraction heavier because of the new autonomous elements. The version we tried was the Veloce 2.0-litre petrol QV, and a peachy thing to drive it was, too. 

If anything, the refinement on the move seems better than before, but that’s purely a result of the new interior being that much higher in quality. The ride also seemed a touch smoother, but otherwise the MY20 Veloce drives just like the previous model. That means brilliant steering response and feel, strong but not thundering performance from the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine (276bhp/400Nn to give 0-62mph in 5.2sec) and a level of handling precision that makes most of the main opposition feel clumsy and heavy by comparison.

Bottom line? The Giulia always drove beautifully, but now it has the technology to match. And that makes it one of the strongest cars in its class, even if it’s also now one of the most expensive.

4.5
It might not look much different to the original Alfa Romeo Giulia, and on the road it might not drive much better than before either, but inside, the new MY20 Giulia is a much more competitive proposition. Overall quality is up, the connectivity is much better, and the instruments and infotainment have also been improved. CO2 emissions should be slightly lower, too. So overall, Alfa has made an already good car even better, albeit at a price.
  • Model: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce QV 2.0 petrol
  • Price: £40,000 (approx)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre, 4cyl turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 276bhp/400Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 149mph
  • Economy/CO2: 46.0mpg/149g/km (est)
  • On sale: Now

New Volkswagen ID. Space Vizzion concept revealed with 367-mile range
Posted on Tuesday November 19, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-11-20 07:55

The new Volkswagen ID. Space Vizzion – the brand’s seventh all-electric ID. concept – is an estate with a claimed range of 367 miles

Volkswagen ID. Space Vizzion - front

Volkswagen has unveiled the all-electric ID. Space Vizzion concept at this year’s LA Motor Show. It’s the seventh member of the ID. concept family and is, in effect, an estate version of the ID. Vizzion saloon, which was revealed in 2018. It previews another all-electric production car from the German brand - a model that will go on sale in North America, China and Europe in 2021.

Like all members of the ID. family, the ID. Space Vizzion concept is based on Volkswagen’s dedicated all-electric MEB platform. It features an 82kWh lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor on each axle. The concept has a combined output of 335bhp, 700Nm of torque, an active four-wheel drive system and a maximum range of 367 miles.

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Volkswagen also says the all-electric estate can sprint from 0–62mph in 5.4 seconds and reach an electronically limited top speed of 109mph. When plugged into a commercially available 100kW fast-charger, the ID. Vizzion will recover an 80 percent charge from empty in around half an hour.

The ID. Space Vizzion measures 4,958mm long, 1,897mm wide and 1,529mm tall, which makes it longer, narrower and marginally taller than the current Passat Estate. Volkswagen also says the estate’s impressive range is due to its aerodynamically optimised front bumper and roofline, which help to deliver a drag coefficient of just 0.24 – better than that of the Porsche Taycan.

Stand-out styling features include a functional rear diffuser and tailgate spoiler, a set of low-drag 22-inch alloy wheels and an illuminated “VW” logo for the front grille. The ID. Space Vizzion also comes with digital door handles in place of conventional protruding units. They can be opened using a smartphone application and contribute to the car’s aerodynamic efficiency.

Inside, the ID. Vizzion concept features a column-mounted gear selector and a 15.6-inch “floating” infotainment screen, mounted in the centre of the dashboard. There’s also an Augmented Reality head-up display and a pared-back digital instrument binnacle in front of the driver, which shows speed, gear and a battery charge level.

The estate’s cabin is also designed to be ecologically sustainable. The dash is trimmed in Alcantara rather than suede and the interior trim pieces are finished in a chrome-look paint rather than metal. The seats are also trimmed in a new, plant-based, leather-like material called AppleSkin, which is made from the residual matter from apple juice production.

At the rear, the Space Vizzion boasts a 586-litre luggage compartment, which is only 29 litres smaller than the Volkswagen Tiguan’s. Under the boot floor, Volkswagen has provided a space for the EV’s charging cables and has fitted a pair of electric longboards, which can be used as a last-mile urban mobility solution.

Volkswagen’s decision to bring the ID. Space Vizzion to Europe contrasts with the policy on the brand’s largest ID. concept car. The ID. Roomzz, which was revealed at the Shanghai Motor Show back in April, is a large SUV built solely with the North American and Chinese markets in mind.

Click here for more information on the all-electric Volkswagen ID.4 SUV...

New 2020 Audi e-tron Sportback unveiled as Audi’s second electric car
Posted on Tuesday November 19, 2019

James Brodie 2019-11-20 06:00

The new Audi e-tron Sportback arrives as a stylish alternative to the standard e-tron SUV, and boasts a range of up to 278 miles

Audi e-tron Sportback - front

Audi has revealed a new version of its all-electric e-tron SUV. The e-tron Sportback is a coupe-SUV with a sporty new roofline, and it also introduces updated technology on board. 

As with the regular e-tron, the Sportback uses an electrified version of the VW Group’s MLB platform, rather than the MEB or PPE platforms that have been developed specifically for electric vehicles.

• Best electric cars on sale

Two versions of the Sportback have been confirmed, so the line-up matches that of the standard e-tron. The 308bhp 50 quattro serves as the entry-level model, and has a 71kWh battery that’s capable of an official range of 216 miles on a single charge.

Above it sits the 55 quattro, which has a larger 95kWh battery pack in combination with a dual-electric motor set-up that brings 402bhp and 664Nm torque. Audi says 0-62mph takes 5.7 seconds, with the top speed capped electronically at 124mph. A maximum range of 278 miles between charges has been confirmed, while the second motor sees boot space drop by 35 litres to 615 litres with seats in place.

While coupe-SUVs are often sold as style-driven alternatives to their more conventional counterparts, the e-tron Sportback has an advantage up its sleeve in terms of aerodynamics. That sweeping shape means a low drag coefficient of 0.25Cd, which unlocks up to 6.2 miles of extra range in the case of the 95kWh version of the car.

Other updates – and ones that will be added to the standard e-tron – include a battery that can be safely recharged to a marginally higher useable capacity, while the front motor decouples when not required to help save energy. Audi has also been able to remove one of the cooling pumps to save weight, and the brake regeneration has been strengthened to allow one-pedal driving. 

Smart LED matrix projector headlights that are capable of broadcasting signals on to the road surface also feature, while sporty S line trim will be added to the line-up. This brings 20-inch wheels, gloss black exterior detailing and sports air suspension as standard. The e-tron Sportback launches next year, priced from around £65,000.

Click here for our in-depth review of the all-electric Audi e-tron SUV... 

New Aston Martin DBX revealed: pictures, prices and specs for the 2020 SUV
Posted on Tuesday November 19, 2019

John McIlroy 2019-11-20 11:25

The new Aston Martin DBX arrives to rival the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus, with prices starting from £158,000

Aston Martin DBX - front

This is the Aston Martin DBX, the first SUV from the luxury sports car brand and a key model in the British maker’s plans to expand over the next decade.

The DBX has been in development since 2015, and is designed to rival the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Bentley Bentayga. It is, Aston Martin hopes, the model that will attract more female buyers to the brand, but also a car that the company expects will appeal to existing customers. More than 70 per cent of Aston’s sports car owners also have an SUV in their garage.

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The DBX is just over five metres long and 2.2 metres wide, including side mirrors. Like all modern Astons, it’s based on an aluminium construction – although the new model gets a specific architecture that sets it apart from the rest of the line-up, as well as composite panels to help keep weight down to just over 2.2 tonnes.

The side profile reveals relatively short overhangs, a set-back cabin, a long bonnet and a cleverly designed roofline that makes it look more sharply raked than it really is.

At the front, the new arrival has the largest front grille Aston has ever made in its 106-year history – designed, creative director Marek Reichman says, to clearly identify the new model as an Aston Martin. “I didn’t want it to be mistaken for anything other than one of our cars,” he told us. “And I didn’t want to try to hide it, either: this is one of our core models. We’ve stopped being just a sports car manufacturer.”

The rear features a fresh take on Aston’s tail-lights, and the bodywork tapers in noticeably beyond the rear wheels – a technique employed to help clear up the car’s aerodynamics and also take it away from traditional ‘slab-sided’ SUV looks.

New Aston Martin DBX: engine and specs

At the heart of the DBX is a retuned version of the Mercedes-AMG-sourced 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine used in the Vantage and DB11. It produces 542bhp and 700Nm of torque – enough to take the car from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and to a top speed of 181mph. A revised firing order and an active exhaust are said to give it a different vocal character to Aston’s sports cars.

The DBX features a nine-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, and four-wheel drive, incorporating an active centre differential and an e-diff at the rear. This allows torque to be split front to rear (it ranges from a 47:53 split, to almost entirely rear-drive), although the car also uses its brakes to vector torque across the front and rear axles to aid turn-in and improve agility.

The car returns just under 20mpg on the official WLTP test, meaning CO2 emissions of 269g/km. Aston hasn’t confirmed plans for an electrified version, but well placed sources admit that its platform has been engineered to accept a plug-in version in the future, particularly when city-centre regulations could outlaw cars with no pure-electric capacity.

Aston isn’t claiming that the DBX will be able to match a Range Rover off road, although the brand’s dynamics chief, Matt Becker, says it should be at least as capable as the Cayenne or Bentayga – so everywhere from muddy tracks to sand dunes, and very much at home hauling a horse box across a soaking-wet field.

“We tried many of the car’s likely rivals early on,” he told us, “and it brought it home to us what a challenge this was going to be. It’s a car that has to handle around the Nürburgring but also be capable of towing more than 2.5 tonnes or driving through half a metre of water.”

Indeed, the car’s maximum wading depth is precisely 500mm, and its approach and departure angles are 22.2 degrees and 24.3 degrees respectively, although raising the air suspension increases these figures to 25.7 degrees and 27.1 degrees.

On the road, the air suspension – which has four settings – is paired with a 48-volt anti-roll system. Aston says that, in its most aggressive setting, the system can keep the car’s body roll to a level comparable with that of the DB11 GT. But when you’re going in a straight line, it counters the movement of the wishbones to smooth out the ride.

New Aston Martin DBX: interior and tech

Inside, the DBX features a new iteration of Aston’s infotainment system, developed with Daimler. There’s a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch central infotainment display neatly integrated into the fascia. Apple CarPlay is standard, along with an 800-watt sound system, USB sockets front and rear, a three-zone climate control system and ambient lighting with a choice of 64 colours. There’s room for four six-footers, plus a shorter adult in the middle seat, and the rear feels surprisingly airy, thanks to a full-length panoramic glass roof that allows extra light in.

Unsurprisingly, the DBX is the most practical Aston ever. Beyond the five-seat cabin, with a pair of Isofix points in the rear, the boot capacity is a healthy 632 litres, and there are an additional 62 litres below the boot floor. The rear seats fold in a 40:20:40 split, and the car can lower itself by 50mm so it’s easier to load heavy items.

In addition, the back doors have minimal intrusion from the rear wheelarches, making it easier to get in and out, and to install or remove a child seat or baby chair. The DBX is likely to be available as a four-seater through Aston’s Q personalisation service, which would allow the space between the rear seats to be used for everything from champagne fridges to cigar boxes.

Back in the regular DBX range, Aston will also offer a number of ‘packages’ that will focus on specific areas. The Pet package brings a portable washer to help clean a muddy dog after a walk, while the Snow package includes boot warmers. Additional accessories will include a bike rack, a roof box, a gun cabinet and a surfboard holder.

The DBX will be built at Aston’s new facility at an old military airport in St Athan, Wales. It’s available to order now, with UK prices starting from £158,000 – around £20,000 more than a V8 Bentayga and about the same as a Lamborghini Urus. The first DBXs should reach customers by spring 2020.

Q&A with Marek Reichman

Aston Martin Chief Creative Officer

As Aston Martin’s Chief Creative Officer, Marek Reichman is more accustomed to designing elegant sports cars, so with the DBX he had a very different challenge. Auto Express sat down with him to get his take on the project and what’s next for the company.

Q: How comfortable are you with the idea of Aston producing an SUV? 

A: “Very. We’re a company that has always made sports cars. There’s no reason why an SUV can’t be the next generation of what we consider ‘sporting’ or ‘sports’. It’s a Sports Utility Vehicle but it’s not ‘utility’ like a [Land Rover] Discovery or Defender.”

Q: How did you strike a balance between desirable looks and practicality, then?

A: “I said to the designers, ‘This is not a bread van. It sits somewhere between a coupé and something like a Mk4 Discovery.’ Some SUVs are about being upright, being stately, but for us, we wanted to show our car’s sporting capability visually.

“DBX had to look dynamic, look lithe, because this is a car that has to perform on a dynamic level but also a luxury level. Equally, I’m 6ft 4in and I told the team, ‘I want to be able to sit behind myself in this car.’ And I can.” 

Q: Is this going to be the only Aston Martin SUV? You originally showed a two-door – but could you also go up or down in size?

A:  “When we showed the first concept car, the two-door coupé, maybe that’s the future of GT driving. Who knows? But it was a bit of a red herring to signify and announce that we were doing this.

“As for other models, think of DB11, Vantage and DBS Superleggera; it’s one platform, with the thinking to develop three cars – and they all have derivatives, or soft-top versions. In effect we’re doing six cars off one initial platform. So we can’t do the DBX and say, ‘It’s an SUV and it lives as this one SUV forever.’” 

Do you like the look of the new Aston Martin DBX SUV? Let us know your thoughts below…

New Isuzu D-Max XTR 2019 review
Posted on Monday November 18, 2019

Isuzu D-Max XTR - front tracking off-road
18 Nov, 2019 4:30pm James Brodie

Britain loves a pick-up and now Isuzu are targeting the burgeoning 'lifestyle' section of the market with the new D-Max XTR

While Isuzu has no presence in the UK car market any more, the Japanese marque’s hand in the nation's commercial vehicle is an ever-strengthening one, and one that the brand hopes will flourish next year when a new version of the Ford Ranger rivalling D-Max arrives in showrooms. In fact, it’s already been revealed in a spec ready for the Asian market.

Until it makes its way over to Europe, the second-generation version of this hard-wearing workhorse is being given a rather typical send-off. New special and limited-edition versions of the D-Max are working well for Isuzu’s expanding dealership network, and this one, the XTR, is positioned as the most ‘lifestyle’-orientated version yet. 

Best pick-up trucks 2019

This is a pick-up of the same mould as the Ford Ranger Raptor, majoring on an aggressive makeover and trick suspension componentry to add kerb and off-road appeal. 

Visually it’s transformed with new black-plastic moulded treatment front, side and rear, with flared wheel-arches and heavy duty-looking 17-inch wheels shod in chunky off-road rubber from Pirelli. It rides 250mm taller than a regular D-Max, and completing the look are new black side steps and a tailgate spoiler.

Inside, the seats are now cloaked in leather and suede, and finished with bright green XTR logos embossed on the backrests. There are additional suede touches and carbon-fibre trim elements designed to give the cabin a more upmarket touch, but it still feels like a rough-and-ready environment rather than a car-like one, even with the addition of a new steering wheel with a partial suede rim and snazzy green stitching. 

Back on the outside, you’ll spot plenty of vibrant green chassis componentry sticking out from underneath the D-Max XTR; this is important. 

The suspension set-up has been totally overhauled by UK specialists Pedders, in a bid to make this the most capable version of the D-Max when the going gets tough. New springs join in too, designed to ensure acceptable ride quality on road, while the brakes are also new, and provide supposedly better stopping power than before. 

On that last point, the D-Max certainly still feels its weight. It weighs almost two tonnes empty, so standing on the middle pedal still doesn’t quite bring the truck to a totally abrupt halt, and it feels like the braking could be better. 

Ride quality is acceptable, though, when you consider the context of what this truck is. Sure, with an empty pick-up bed it’s still a jarring experience, but the body feels well controlled, despite the increase in ride height raising the centre of gravity. 

The engine, while decently economical if Isuzu’s 40.4mpg claims stand up, is still an agricultural thing in character. It needs revving out to get moving, soon booming around the cabin and combining with steering and a gear change that remain very much embedded in commercial vehicle territory, rather than approaching the near car-like action of the latest Mitsubishi L200. It qualifies as a passenger car rather than a CV, so 70mph, not 50mph, applies as the legal speed limit for the XTR. 

Will buyers mind these flaws? Probably not. The XTR’s main appeal lies in its looks but also its prowess off road - and it stands up here very well. Like all versions of the D-Max, the XTR features selectable four-wheel-drive with a locking central differential and selectable low range. Extremely effective hill descent control, high levels of grip and great visibility combine to deliver a pick-up with serious mud-plugging capability. 

Best small vans to buy

Elsewhere, equipment levels are strong and the XTR features creature comforts such as heated front seats and strong infotainment. Best of all, though, this represents a cost-effective alternative to the Ford Raptor if you’re in the market for a pick-up with macho appeal. It’s much cheaper on list price than the Ford, but because it still qualifies as a commercial vehicle, it also qualifies for a VAT exemption. Do the maths, and it’s a very tempting saving for a pick-up that’s 80 percent of the way there.

3.5
The Isuzu D-Max XTR looks the part and by and large it feels the part too, if a pick-up truck with some much-flaunted toughness and off-road ability appeals to you. It doesn’t go the the absolute extremes of chassis modification to arrive with a fresh edge off road compared with normal versions of the pick-up, while the visual transformation is ultimately the most appealing aspect. The engine is a weak point and performance is lacking, but pitched against the Ford Raptor, the price really isn’t.
  • Model: Isuzu D-Max XTR Nav+ 4x4 Double Cab
  • Price: £35,149
  • Engine: 1.9-litre 4cyl turbo diesel
  • Power/torque: 161bhp/359Nn
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel-drive
  • 0-62mph: 12.7sec
  • Top speed: 112mph
  • Economy/CO2: 40.4mpg/183g/km
  • On sale: Now

New Ford Mustang Mach-E ride review
Posted on Monday November 18, 2019

Ford Mustang Mach-E - front tracking
18 Nov, 2019 1:00pm Vicky Parrott

The Ford Mustang Mach-E may still be hot off the press but we have already been for a ride in the all-electric SUV

Sitting in the back of a camouflaged Mach-E as it’s driven around an airfield on the outskirts of Los Angeles is a surreal experience, but it does give a taste of what this all-new, pure-electric SUV has to offer. 

When it goes on sale at the end of 2020, it’ll be offered with both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive as well as two battery options. Our Mustang Mach-E 4X gets the latter, complete with the big, 99kWh battery and 333bhp.

Best electric cars to buy

The first thing that really strikes you about being a passenger in the Mach-E is how much space there is. Even with the optional fixed glass roof, there’s room for someone well over six-foot to stretch out, even when sat behind a tall driver. It’s usefully more spacious than Jaguar I-Pace, for instance. 

It shifts, too. Ford claims 0-62mph in under seven seconds for this Mach-E variant, but it feels way faster than that; the trademark, instant punch of electric acceleration never more shocking than as a passenger. There aren’t any claimed 0-30mph times yet, but we’d say it’s got to be substantially under the three-second mark for this variant. 

The suspension on the prototype car feels quite stiffly sprung yet well damped. There’s not much body-roll, even through a heartily-driven slalom course, and while expansion joints send a noticeable thump through the car, it doesn’t feel brittle or jarring. 

Ford has gone to great lengths to try and make this SUV live up to the controversial Mustang badge. While the concept of such an iconic performance badge being on an SUV is going to irk plenty of enthusiasts, even from the back seats the Mach-E does have a sense of being fun. Is it good enough to justify the pony on its nose, and to warrant the famous Mustang becoming a brand more than a model? That judgement call will have to wait until we’ve driven the finished article. 

Mitsubishi Mirage given new look as part of 2020 facelift
Posted on Friday November 15, 2019

James Brodie 2019-11-18 03:00

The updated Mitsubishi Mirage takes on the latest brand look, gets new materials inside and comes with updated infotainment

Mitsubishi Mirage - front

The Mitsubishi Mirage supermini has been given a nip and tuck, with a revised version of its Ford Fiesta rival due to hit UK showrooms early next year. 

Quite obviously, the exterior design changes substantially up front, with a totally new front end designed around Mitsubishi’s ‘Dynamic Shield’ face with C-shaped metal strakes and a new grille, appearing alongside newly minted headlights with LED multi-bulb lamps.

Best superminis on sale

Around the back, the bumpers have been swapped out for chunkier items, intended to give the Mirage a tougher look. There are new L-shaped LED combination lamps too, while a new set of 15-inch wheels and two new paint colours have been added to the Mirage’s palette: White Diamond and Sand Yellow.

Inside changes aren’t too far reaching. Mitsubishi has played with the materials, introducing soft touch cloth finishes on touchpoints, adding faux carbon fibre to the instrument panel and introducing a new fabric/synthetic leather upholstery on high-spec versions of the Mirage.

Mitsubishi has updated the infotainment too, to a seven-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

The engine remains a 1.2-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinder petrol with 79bhp and 107Nm torque. Earlier in 2019, Mirage was updated to meet real-world driving emissions regulations, rejigged to return CO2 of 107g/km and fuel economy of 60.1mpg.

Final UK specifications have not been outlined by Mitsubishi’s UK arm, but when the updated Mirage goes on sale early in 2020, a slight rise on the £11,295 price tag of the current model should be a given.

Do you like the look of the updated Mitsubishi Mirage? Let us know below...

Audi appoints Markus Duesmann as new CEO
Posted on Friday November 15, 2019

Alex Ingram 2019-11-15 15:10

Markus Duesmann will take up the position of Audi CEO on April 1 next year, replacing Bran Schot

Markus Duesmann - Audi CEO

Audi has confirmed that Markus Duesmann, a former BMW board member, will become the company’s new CEO. The 50-year old will take the position on April 1 next year replacing current boss Bran Schot. 

Duesmann, whose background is as a mechanical engineer, has worked across the automotive industry for over thirty years. His former roles include time at BMW, where he worked in engine development and most recently as Board of Management Member for Purchasing.

New Audi S8 review

Speaking of the appointment, VW Group boss, Dr. Herbert Diess, said: “As an excellent engineer, Markus Duesmann will do everything in his power to leverage the great potential of the Audi brand and will once again demonstrate the promise of Vorsprung durch Technik”.

The announcement also confirmed Schot, 58, will leave the Group by mutual consent at the end of March. Dr Diess thanked him for his contribution to the brand since his appointment in June 2018: “He took over the management of Audi AG at a difficult time, very successfully managed the business and initiated important changes. We expressly thank him for that.” 

Schot had held the position on an interim basis, following the arrest of former Audi CEO Rupert Stadler in 2018 for his involvement in the Dieselgate scandal.

Click here for all the latest Audi news and reviews...

 

New Ford Mustang Mach-E electric SUV arrives with 370-mile range
Posted on Friday November 15, 2019

John McIlroy 2019-11-19 14:48

The all-electric Mustang Mach-E crossover builds on the famous sports car nameplate and gives Ford a rival for the Tesla Model 3

Ford Mustang Mach-E - front studio

This is the new battery-electric vehicle from Ford, called the Mustang Mach-E. The new all-electric crossover is designed to build on the famous sports car nameplate and give the American manufacturer a proper rival for the likes of the Tesla Model 3 and Jaguar I-Pace.

The Mach-E is a 4.7-metre long SUV (slightly longer than the Jag) with a relatively low and aggressive roofline – but it’s a full five-seater, with a total luggage capacity (front and rear) of more than 500 litres. Prices start from £40,270 for the standard model but you'll need £46,570 for a 4x4 variant and £58,000 for the First Edition. The first Mach-E models will reach UK dealers towards the end of 2020. 

Ford Mustang Mach-E ride review

The car’s looks and layout are likely to be controversial with Mustang devotees – but they sit in line with the current trends towards taller vehicles, and are required in any case to accommodate the Mach-E’s batteries in the thicker floor.

The front and rear of the crossover include obvious Mustang design cues in the head and tail-lights, while a complex front moulding incorporates the sports car’s grille shape, but with a flush finish instead of any air intakes. And like the sports car, there are no Ford badges to be found on the Mach-E; instead, the famous Mustang emblem is located on the car’s nose and rear.

Murat Gueler, chief designer for Ford of Europe, said the firm is optimistic that doubters will be won over by the final shape. “We wanted to make this an EV with soul,” he told us. “The Mach-E is definitely inspired by Mustang, and that’s a vehicle that only Ford could do.”

Along the flanks, the Mach-E’s profile is disguised by a thick extra section – in contrast-black colour on the car in our pictures – which tries to fool the eye into thinking that the roofline is more coupé- like than it really is. The side profile reveals a long wheelbase (2,984mm) with short overhangs, but a longer bonnet than a Jaguar I-Pace, for example.

The Mach-E also does without conventional door handles; instead, there are buttons on the B and C-pillars that pop the doors open. Rear passengers will just open the door by grabbing the metal itself, but research suggested to Ford that those opening the front doors would feel uncomfortable putting their fingers into the resulting crevice, so they get a small ‘lip’ below the button that they can then use.

The car will be accessed via a smartphone key, and Ford says that depending on user patterns, the car may learn to recognise the user approaching at a common time – just before the morning commute, for example – and pop the door open automatically. There’s also a keypad in one of the B-pillars in case your smartphone is out of charge.

The electric Mustang will be offered in a range of different technical levels. The entry point, Mach-E, will be rear-wheel drive and available with two different combinations of electric motor and battery. The cheapest version will have 255bhp and a 75kWh battery for a range of 280 miles, while the more potent edition brings 282bhp and gets a 99kWh battery for a WLTP range of around 370 miles – the most of any model in the line-up. Both of the electric motors offer 415Nm of torque, for a 0-62mph time of less than eight seconds. The equivalent, entry-level Tesla Model 3 has 252bhp and covers the 0-62mph dash in 5.3 seconds.

The four-wheel-drive Mach E – which will carry the complex monicker Mach-E 4X, and is the car in our pictures – is also available with the lower-powered electric motor and 75kWh battery, delivering a range of 260 miles between charges. It’s also on offer with a flagship set-up with 333bhp and the 99kWh battery. Ford says that four-wheel-drive models will manage the 0-62mph dash in less than seven seconds, and the increased torque figure across all of its electric motors – 582Nm – would support this. Regardless of power output or battery, all Mach-Es have a top speed of 111mph.

The Mach-E’s performance figures look respectable for an electric vehicle, rather than startling, but a faster GT edition of the car is under development. Gueler told us that the more focused version would sit lower and look more aggressive: “We definitely still have plenty of ‘Mustang spice’ that we can add to the mix,” he said. Called the Mach-e GT, Ford is targetting a 0-62mph time of ‘less than five seconds’, a power output of 458bhp and 830Nm of torque.

Inside, the dashboard is dominated by a portrait-orientated 15.5-inch touchscreen, which features an interface that’s totally new to Ford. The system incorporates some algorithms that use search data from your web browser or smartphone to suggest likely destinations or music – much like Google’s Android Auto. It’ll also recognise which phone has been used to open the vehicle and offer tailored content to the user in question.

The screen incorporates a wide range of features, but key car-related controls, such as the heating and ventilation, are sited at the bottom and have a clear interface. There’s even a tactile rotary dial, which is neatly integrated into the centre of the lower portion of the display.

The car has no conventional instrument panel; instead, Ford has installed a 10.2-inch digital layout that looks particularly crisp. The company has decided against fitting a head-up display to the new offering, however.

The dashboard tech doesn’t end there, because the fabric section along the top edge of the fascia can actually hide a sound bar, incorporating speakers from Ford’s audio partner Bang & Olufsen. The cubbyhole at the bottom of the dash includes a wireless charging pad for smartphones, along with both USB-A and USB-C connectors.

The new model is easily the most practical car to ever carry the Mustang name – and it should be competitive in this area against many of its rivals. There is 402 litres of luggage space behind the rear seats, and this expands to 1,420 litres if you fold down the second row. In addition, the bonnet can be opened using controls on the central infotainment screen to reveal a washable load area with an additional 100 litres of space.

Rear-drive Mach-Es will get 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, along with LED tail-lights, phone key access, adaptive cruise control and up to 150kW rapid charging. The Mach-E 4X adds larger 19-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights, eight-way powered front seats and heated folding side mirrors.

In addition, Ford is offering a First Edition version in limited numbers; it gets a full-length panoramic glass roof, 19-inch alloy wheels, a 10-speaker B&O sound system and exclusive exterior colours, including metallic Grabber Blue.

Q&A with Murat Gueler

Chief designer, Ford of Europe

Murat Gueler has worked on a number of key projects at Ford, including the recently launched Puma. He gave us extra insight into the thought processes that led to a Mustang becoming Ford’s first EV.

Q: Was the Mustang always at the heart of the electric car that Ford’s ‘Project Edison’ was designed to produce?

A: “No, not at all. It was going in a completely different direction, in fact, and it wasn’t working out. It was a bit of a ‘eureka’ moment, at the end of 2016 or early in 2017, when we first started trying to inject some Mustang DNA into the project. When the first design popped up, it made the program. And it started us moving in a different way, because the principles that we had been working on couldn’t be applied on this car.”

Q: Purists are probably going to complain about the idea of a Mustang being an SUV, let alone one that runs purely on electricity. Are you prepared for a backlash?

A: “I don’t see this as an SUV, really. When you look at the side profile of the car, I don’t think it’s a conventional SUV at all; it’s really a crossover that incorporates inspiration from Mustang, hopefully without us going overboard with it.

“As for the purists, I’m sure there will be some who never change their mind about it, but we know from some customer clinics that others have come round to this idea quite quickly.

“After all, only Ford Motor Company can make a Mustang. And Mustang-inspired design gives us a unique point of view when approaching this kind of car.”

Q: What were the big challenges in making the Mustang EV in this format? 

A: “There were a few areas we had to watch carefully. We worked very closely with the engineering team to make sure that we could deliver the right proportions for the car, because that’s the starting point. Then we focused on giving shape and muscle to it – but even then, it had to be carefully monitored. There is a lot of sculpture in this car but it’s well controlled, I think.”

Q: You’ve already confirmed a ‘GT’ Mach-E is on the way. Is there scope to make that car look more aggressive?

A: “For sure. We’ve said with this car that we’ve added some Mustang spice to it. There’s plenty of spice left that we can still add, I promise.”

What do you think of the new Ford Mustang Mach-E? Is it worthy of the nameplate? Let us know below…

General Election 2019: where do the parties stand on motoring?
Posted on Friday November 15, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-11-19 11:32

With the UK electorate going to the polls on 12 December, we explain the policies each party has in store for motorists

Parliament

A Parliamentary deadlock means the UK is holding its third General Election in the last five years, with Boris Johnson’s Conservatives facing off against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, while a number of smaller parties fight to have their voices heard.

There’s no doubt that Brexit is the main issue on the agenda but this is a General Election, not a referendum, so all matters of policy are up for debate, including those relating to motoring.

UK car production fell 3.8 per cent in September

As manifestos are released and policies announced in the run-up to polling day on 12 December, we’ll update this page with everything you need to know about what the parties have planned for drivers.

Conservative and Unionist Party

Leader: Boris Johnson
Slogan: “Get Brexit Done. Unleash Britain's Potential”
Manifesto: Not yet released

Conservative leader and incumbent Prime Minister Boris Johnson called this General Election in the hope of winning a majority in the House of Commons, enabling him to pass his new Brexit deal and lead the UK out of the EU. As such, this is mostly what he’s been talking about so far in the campaign.

Johnson has discussed some of his plans for post-Brexit Britain, though, having made a speech at the LEVC (London Electric Vehicle Company) factory in Coventry, where he talked about his proposed “green energy revolution”.

As part of this policy, Johnson promised that a future Conservative Government would invest an additional £500 million in fast-chargers for electric cars and vans, promising no driver will be more than 30 miles from an EV charger. 

Labour Party

Leader: Jeremy Corbyn
Slogan: “It’s Time for Real Change”
Manifesto: Not yet released

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pulled some dramatic policy rabbits out of his hat at the last General Election and looks set to do the same this time around, with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell having already announced plans for free superfast broadband in every home.

Although it has made no promises to drivers via the official channels, internal Labour party documents allegedly obtained by the Conservatives have revealed a few of the motoring-related policies Corbyn is said to be considering putting in his party’s manifesto.

According to these documents, Labour wants a 60 per cent reduction in vehicle mileage with a “large and rapid” shift away from car use, helping the party achieve its goal for the UK to have net zero carbon emissions by 2030 - 20 years earlier than the current Government’s target.

Other policies mentioned in the alleged document include increases to fuel duty, a road pricing scheme, a workplace parking levy, a reduction of motorway speed limits to below 70mph, and the cancellation of all new road-building schemes.

In response to the leaked documents, Conservative Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Corbyn is coming for your car and will exhume the last Labour Government’s war on the motorist.”

Liberal Democrats

Leader: Jo Swinson
Slogan: “Stop Brexit. Build a Brighter Future”
Manifesto: Not yet released

The Liberal Democrats’ leader Jo Swinson has tried to position her party as the obvious choice for those wanting to keep the UK inside the EU, with plans to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit without holding a second referendum.

Therefore, as with the Conservatives, Brexit is the key focus of the Lib Dems’ campaign, meaning most of their other policy ideas won’t be revealed until their manifesto is launched at some point later in the campaign.

One motoring policy the Lib Dems do have planned, though, is to bring the 2040 ban on the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars forward to 2030, as part of plans to expedite the UK’s move to net decarbonisation.

Scottish National Party

Leader: Nicola Sturgeon
Slogan: “It’s Time to Choose Our Own Future”
Manifesto: Not yet released

Another party with a clear anti-Brexit stance, the Scottish National Party wants to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence with the aim of pulling Scotland out of the UK and then applying for membership of the EU separately to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

With all this on its plate, the SNP hasn’t yet made any motoring-related policy pledges. Earlier this year, though, the party did make a budget agreement with the Greens in the Scottish Parliament, one of the conditions of which was the promise to allow councils in Scotland to implement workplace parking levies if they wished to do so.

The Brexit Party

Leader: Nigel Farage
Slogan: “Change Politics for Good”
Manifesto: Will not be released

The Brexit Party won the European Elections in May 2019 and has been gearing up to contest a General Election ever since. Recently, though, party leader Nigel Farage agreed to not to field any candidates in seats won by the Conservatives at the 2017 General Election. As a result, the Brexit Party is only contesting a relatively small number of seats across the UK.

If the 2019 General Election results in a hung parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party, however, The Brexit Party could end up as the only group in the House of Commons willing to form a coalition with them.

Nigel Farage has already said the Brexit Party will not be releasing a manifesto. It has announced some transport-related policies, though - party chairman Richard Tice said they intend to scrap the HS2 rail project and instead use the money to “invest in the regions and in infrastructure projects which benefit areas other than London”. What this may mean for the motorist is as yet unknown.

Green Party of England and Wales

Co-leaders: Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry
Slogan: “Leading the Fight for Climate Action, a People's Vote, a Fair Society for All”

Manifesto: Released

The Green Party’s main issue of concern is the environment and this is what guides the majority of its policies. With this in mind, co-leaders Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry launched their manifesto with plans for a ‘Green New Deal’.

As part of this policy, a new ‘Carbon Tax’ will be imposed on all fossil fuels, including petrol and diesel, and new road-building schemes will be halted, with the party pledging to make travel by public transport cheaper than driving a car.

The Green Party wants to bring the 2040 ban on the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars forward to 2030. The manifesto also describes plans to create a network of EV charging points by requiring their construction through the planning system and “encouraging” the private sector to continue installing them.

Finally, the party would reduce the default speed limit to 20mph in residential areas and 40mph in non-residential areas, with the exception of “major” roads.

Plaid Cymru

Leader: Adam Price
Slogan: “Wales, It’s Us / Ni yw Cymru”

Manifesto: Not yet released

Plaid Cymru (The Party of Wales) advocates Welsh independence from the UK within the EU, in the same way the SNP does with Scotland. Earlier this year, Plaid expressed concerns that the UK was being left behind when it came to the adoption of EVs and the infrastructure to support them, calling on the Welsh Government to do more to get drivers into ultra-low emission vehicles.

Plaid has also complained in the past that Wales has been “short-changed” when it comes to transport infrastructure funding. In addition, it takes a mixed view on the building of new roads, having supported some projects while opposing others.

Democratic Unionist Party

Leader: Arlene Foster
Slogan: “Strength to Deliver”
Manifesto: Not yet released

Having propped up Theresa May’s Conservative minority Government via a confidence and supply deal in the wake of 2017’s unexpected General Election result, the Democratic Unionist Party fell out with her replacement Boris Johnson when they refused to back his new Brexit deal, which leader Arlene Foster felt wasn’t to the benefit of Northern Ireland.

On matters of transport, the DUP has previously supported investment in new road-building projects, as well as in improving public transport. While there should be more detail in the party’s manifesto, Foster’s key aims will no doubt be making the party’s voice heard in the ongoing Brexit debate and resolving the breakdown in the power-sharing arrangements at Stormont.

UK Independence Party

Leader: None
Slogan: “Time to Get on with Brexit!”
Manifesto: Not yet released

With leader Richard Braine having resigned right at the start of the 2019 General Election campaign, it’s fair to say the UK Independence Party is at a bit of a disadvantage. That said, it has announced it will contest a handful of seats on 12 December.

UKIP is another party that has a section on its website dedicated to transport policy. Here, the party says it wants to scrap all road tolls in the UK and block the introduction of any form of road pricing, arguing that “road users are already overtaxed and should not be paying twice to use our roads”.

Another one of UKIP’s motoring policies is to abandon the rollout of smart motorways altogether, and instead put the money towards fixing potholes. Additional parking fees and low-emission zone charges that are “discriminatory” towards owners of diesel vehicles would also be abandoned by the party. Finally, UKIP has pledged support for improving the UK’s EV charging infrastructure and developing autonomous vehicles.

Who do you want to win the General Election? Let us know why in the comments below...

'The Bristol City Council diesel ban is persecuting innocent drivers'
Posted on Friday November 15, 2019

Mike Rutherford 2019-11-17 14:00

Innocent motorists are being unfairly picked on as a result of the diesel ban by Bristol City Council, says Mike Rutherford

OPINION - Traffic

If you live in or need to travel to the bottom-left-hand corner of Britain, you deserve deep sympathy from me and, I suspect, other fair-minded folk who regard freedom of movement as a basic human right.

It’s bad enough that the motorway ‘network’ in this quarter of our green and pleasant land is woeful when compared with other large, populated regions of Blighty. And I’m deeply saddened that, in what is supposed to be ‘modern Britain’, the anti-car politicians in parts of the south west (and further afield) seem to be waging a vicious war on cars and their occupants.

ULEZ explained: everything you need to know

Coincidentally (or was it?), on the same day in early November, Bristol City Council and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) in effect announced that they’re dumping yet more transport-related misery on the south west. 

I’m not sure if this pair of giant, powerful, organisations are guilty of ineptness, mindless sabotage, political game-playing or plain bullying of defenceless, salt-of-the-earth folk merely trying to get from A to B. But I know the declarations from Bristol Council and RMT will absolutely sabotage many people who use diesel cars, and/or the trains that are supposed to (ha!) serve as alternatives to our 24/7 personal mobility machines powered by seemingly politically incorrect internal combustion engines.

In short, across some busy sections of the fiefdom it controls, Bristol City Council is slapping a blanket ban on privately owned, new and old diesel cars at certain times of the day. It’s the first British city promising to outlaw even brand-new, expensive, state-of-the-art cars with D designations. While we wait for that, the RMT ‘workers’ at South West Trains are, as we went to press, refusing to work for 27 days over the busy Christmas holiday. This, after the serial strikers tasked with working on neighbouring Southern Railway trains have paralysed the service during their recent years of brutal industrial action/work inaction.

It’s true that Bristol City Council’s decision to effectively slap prohibition orders on private diesel cars (but not its own diesels, and many other derv-powered vehicles, strangely enough) is still a year or two away. But it has been given the nod of approval by this local authority. Make no mistake, this is a ban on new, nearly new and old perfectly legal cars purchased, owned, serviced, taxed and insured by law-abiding individuals. These are the innocent victims of the discrimination I refer to.  

If Bristol City Council really cared about air quality and had the courage, it would ban all diesel modes of transport, including buses and coaches, taxis, trucks, vans and other goods vehicles, never mind the countless ships that use Bristol Docks. Go on Bristol, I dare you. 

Ironically, many of those ocean-going, cargo-carrying, marine diesel-burning vessels deliver brand-new diesel cars to the city’s colossal quayside. The council’s apparent position is that the motor manufacturers of the world can send shiploads of such vehicles to the area – but they can’t be driven by real-world motorists on many of the city’s streets. It’s insane. And the stench of hypocrisy is overwhelming. 

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...

BMW 330e vs Volvo S60 T8
Posted on Friday November 15, 2019

Auto Express 2019-11-16 10:00

As the automotive world becomes increasingly electrified, we find out which does it better out of the BMW 330e and Volvo S60 T8

BMW 3 Series vs Volvo S60

There’s no escaping the fact that the future of the car contains some electrified element. Many new electric cars are launching and proving that such technology is genuinely viable, but what if a full EV still isn’t a realistic proposition for you? Could your motoring future lie with a plug-in hybrid car?

Manufacturers are quite literally plugging every gap in their line-ups, and with hybrid technology advancing, these cars now require few compromises but offer big financial incentives when it comes to tax, fuel and other running costs. The latest model to join the ranks is BMW’s 330e, a plug-in version of the German firm’s 3 Series junior executive saloon that combines petrol and electric power.

That means there’s only one rival: the Volvo S60 T8. The Swedish brand has proved something of a pioneer when it comes to plug-in power over recent years, after starting to implement this technology in its larger SUVs. But which is the better plug-in compact executive saloon car? Read on to find out.

BMW 330e

Model: BMW 330e M Sport
Price: £39,980
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol + electric motor, 288bhp 
0-60mph: 5.5 seconds
Test economy:  55.9mpg/12.3mpl 
CO2: 38g/km
Annual road tax: £135

The 330e is BMW’s next logical step in its roll out of 3 Series models. The firm’s new junior executive saloon was launched this time last year, but this important plug-in model will be of big interest to company car users. So what’s it like?

Design & engineering

BMW always designed the G20 3 Series with a plug-in variant in mind, so the car’s CLAR architecture was engineered to accept a battery. It’s mounted under the boot, so it does demand a little compromise when it comes to practicality, as we’ll see, but it also brings benefits.

This is the second generation of plug-in hybrid 3 Series, but the formula is different. The battery has grown to 12kWh, of which 10.4kWh is usable. It supplies a 111bhp electric motor that drives the gearbox and rear wheels only, along with the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. The two combined deliver 288bhp and a total of 420Nm of torque. This means the 330e produces less power but more torque than the Volvo. However, it’s also lighter, at 1,740kg compared with the S60’s 1,960kg.

Alongside the hardware, there’s lots of software with different driving modes to control the powertrain. The default hybrid setting combines the petrol and electric motors intelligently. There’s also an Eco Pro setting for maximum efficiency.

Sport mode sharpens things up and keeps the petrol engine running all of the time, with an ‘Xtra boost’ setting for an even greater shove from the e-motor; maximum power is available for 10 seconds. There’s an all-electric mode for driving in town, which offers a claimed 36-mile range.

With the supplied Type 2 cable, the 330e’s battery takes three and a half hours to top up using the BMW’s 3.7kW on-board charger; expect this to take a lot longer on a domestic three-pin supply.

In £39,980 M Sport trim, the BMW undercuts the Volvo by a significant £9,825, and despite giving away 97bhp, the kit tally is fairly level. The 3 Series features nav, a digital dash, Apple CarPlay, heated leather seats, climate and cruise control, parking sensors, a reversing camera and good safety tech, so it looks keenly priced compared with the S60.

Quality mostly befits the 330e’s price, too. The materials and build are generally good, although some cheaper plastics in places do creak, but otherwise there’s little to split the two cars inside.

Driving

There are more differences in the way these two cars drive. Both models feel torque-rich due to the instant surge from their electric motors. The BMW’s lower power output was clearly offset by its lower weight, yet it was still half a second slower from 0-60mph than the Volvo. It took 5.5 seconds, but this is more than adequate performance and rivals a hot hatch for acceleration.

In-gear the torque fill from the e-motor means it’s much quicker than a diesel counterpart, too. Again, it trailed the S60 from 50-70mph in the higher gears, taking 6.2 and 8.3 seconds in seventh and eighth respectively, but as with its flat-out sprint, the 330e never feels slow, even if the S60 T8 was significantly quicker over these tests. Where the BMW betters the Volvo is with its handling. You certainly feel the extra few hundred kilograms or so over a diesel 3 Series, but the 330e still has the balance BMW is known for. It just rolls and pitches a little more, but the steering is heavier and better weighted than the Volvo’s set-up.

The grip runs out in both cars earlier than you might expect due to their heavy batteries trying to tear them away from your chosen line, but the BMW counters this with a cossetting ride. It feels plusher and more forgiving over bad surfaces; the Volvo is a little more fidgety, but still rides well. Refinement in the 3 Series is great and in all-electric mode, wind and road noise are well suppressed. 

Practicality

The battery position means the 330e loses 105 litres of boot space compared with a conventional 3 Series, at 375 litres in total. This is slightly down on the S60. The good news is there’s no compromise in passenger space, so the rear of the cabin is as roomy as we’ve come to expect from this seventh-generation 3 Series.

Both cars have flaps on their front left wings that protect their charging sockets, so bear this in mind when parking at a public charging point or if you have a tethered charger at home. The standard cables do have plenty of length to account for this, though.

Ownership

For a premium brand, BMW’s results in our Driver Power 2019 survey weren’t great; it finished in 25th position overall and in the dealer section of our polls, trailing Volvo.

Safety is a lot better – autonomous braking with collision warning and lane-departure alert are  standard. Eight airbags are also included, but if you want lane-keep assist and blind-spot warning, they’re part of a £1,250 pack. Semi-autonomous cruise control to keep you in your lane also comes with that pack.  

Running costs

Plug-in cars have big tax benefits due to their low CO2 emissions. The 330e produces 38g/km of CO2, while the Volvo emits 42g/km. Both sit in the lowest 16 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax band, so higher-rate earners will pay £2,555 a year to run the BMW as a business vehicle. This is around £2,000 less than a 320d.

The Volvo is pricier and will cost more to run, at £3,184 a year for the same driver. Plug-ins are about efficiency, too, and the 330e returned 55.9mpg, which means an annual fuel cost of £1,248 (12,000 miles). Of course, plug-in more and costs will drop.

Testers’ notes: “The BMW’s eight-speed auto transmission is smooth and mostly manages the change between power sources well. However, in electric mode it can sometimes be a little jerky when coming to a stop.”

Volvo S60 T8

Model: Volvo S60 T8 AWD R-Design Plus
Price: £49,805
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol + electric motor, 385bhp 
0-60mph: 5.0 seconds
Test economy: 56.9mpg/12.5mpl 
CO2: 42g/km 
Annual road tax: £455

The S60 T8 takes Volvo’s Twin Engine hybrid technology and packages it into a junior executive saloon that rivals the BMW 330e. However, is it a better-executed solution than its German rival?

Design & engineering

There’s one great difference to the Volvo compared with the BMW: the price. In R-Design Plus trim to match the M Sport 330e, the S60 costs £49,805. That’s £9,825 more than the BMW, which is significant.

As we’ve seen, the Volvo offers more power. Its 2.0-litre turbo and supercharged four-cylinder engine combines with an 86bhp electric motor to produce a total of 385bhp and 400Nm of torque. But unlike the BMW, the e-motor doesn’t drive the eight-speed auto gearbox. Instead, the Volvo’s electric drive unit is mounted on the rear axle for e-four-wheel drive. 

It doesn’t offer any more electric range from its 11.6kWh lithium-ion battery, of which 9.9kWh is usable. Volvo also claims 36 miles on electricity alone, but in cooler test weather, both cars were seeing closer to 26 miles. Using a Type 2 cable (a £50 extra on the Volvo) with a 3.7kW supply, the S60 takes three hours 15 minutes to recharge. Like the BMW, the S60 will take much longer using a three-pin plug.

So the Volvo partly justifies its higher price by the extra power, but it’s no different to the BMW when it comes to quality or kit. The cabin materials are nice and it’s slightly better built than the 3 Series, but you don’t get full leather: half-leather, half-cloth trim is standard. You also have to pay £375 extra for a reversing camera, which is standard on the BMW.

Parking sensors are included, though, along with climate and cruise control, heated seats, keyless operation and LED lights, nav and some other great tech, but smartphone connectivity is a £300 extra.

Side-by-side, the price difference is hard to justify when it comes to quality and tech, so the Volvo looks on the expensive side compared with the BMW.

Driving

While the T8 is obviously quicker thanks to its punchier powertrain, the 330e has more than enough performance, so you’d hardly call the BMW lacking. The Volvo was half a second faster from 0-60mph, taking five seconds, while it maintained this margin from 30-70mph through the gears.

There was nothing to split them from 30-50mph in third and fourth, but from 50-70mph the gap between the Volvo and BMW started to grow in the S60’s favour as you move through the gears.

But this is where its advantage on the move ends, because the S60 is firmer than the 3 Series, so it’s not quite as comfortable. The steering, too, is light and not as meaty as the BMW’s. Neither offers much in the way of communication, but the 330e has better balance and, actually, equal traction, even though it’s only two-wheel drive.

The Volvo’s engine is coarser when it’s working as well, but otherwise it’s a nicely refined package.

One surprising feature is that the BMW feels like it rolls and pitches more than the Volvo; that’s probably because the difference between a regular 3 Series and this plug-in when it comes to dynamism is greater. Both cars’ eight-speed automatic transmissions were superbly smooth and rarely got caught out switching between power sources.

Practicality

Like the BMW, the Volvo demands a compromise when it comes to boot space. The standard S60 offers 442 litres, while the T8’s battery pack and rear motor set-up cuts this to 390 litres – 15 litres more than the BMW. Both still have enough volume for day-to-day duties, but weekends away or multiple golf bags will test both cars more than their standard counterparts.

Otherwise, there’s very little to differentiate the T8 inside from a normal S60, so the same big, lidded storage tray in the centre console and large door bins give plenty of space for odds and ends. The S60 is as roomy in the back as the BMW, too. If anything, there’s slightly more legroom, but it’s very marginal and you’ll be hard-pressed to notice the difference.

The BMW gets a bag for its charging cables, while the Volvo has space under the boot floor for stowing them when they’re not being used.

Ownership

Volvo’s safety tech is extensive, and the S60 features lots of active systems to prevent incidents such as going off the road and avoid oncoming traffic. You also get autonomous braking, with pedestrian and cyclist detection. 

Lane-keep and blind-spot assist are part of an option pack, as with the BMW, but it only costs £625 here. Both cars scored a full five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Volvo’s performance in our Driver Power 2019 poll was stronger than BMW’s. It came 13th overall, while its official dealer network ranked ninth. That’s still not a stunning result for a premium brand, though. 

Running costs

Hybrids are all about running costs, so it was pleasing that the Volvo returned 56.9mpg, which means an annual fuel bill of £1,266 – £22 less than the BMW.

While the S60 is slightly pricier for business users to run than the BMW, for private buyers the Volvo should retain more money. The T8 is predicted to hold on to 50.2 per cent (£24,997), losing £24,828 over three years or 36,000 miles. The BMW’s residual value of 45.6 per cent (£18,227) equals depreciation of £21,753.

There’s one other point to factor in. Both cars get a £10 break in annual VED due to their plug-in status, but because the Volvo exceeds the £40,000 threshold, you have to pay the five-year subsidy, so it’ll cost £455 a year to tax after the first year.

Testers’ notes: “The Volvo also has a ‘B’ mode for the gearbox, like many full EVs, that adds more regenerative braking when slowing down. It’s a neat feature that gives you a taste of the full EV driving experience.”

Verdict

First place: BMW 330e

These cars are well matched and little separates them except for price – which is where the BMW seals its victory in this test. That near-£10,000 difference between the two is just too much for the Volvo to overcome, given the 3 Series gets slightly more equipment, is near enough as practical, offers plenty of performance and – key for any plug-in hybrid – serves up strong efficiency. 

Second place: Volvo S60 T8

The Volvo is faster and rides as well as the BMW, plus its powertrain is punchy yet smooth while delivering strong fuel efficiency. But otherwise its clunkier infotainment system and price premium mean the S60 T8 can’t carry off the victory over its German rival. However, the Volvo is an accomplished car that shows how right the manufacturer got it first time round with plug-in tech.

Also consider...

Mercedes C-Class

Mercedes C 300 de - front

Model: Mercedes C 300 de Sport
Price: £43,015
Engine: 2.0 diesel + e-motor, 302bhp

Mercedes’ take on a plug-in junior exec uses a four-cylinder diesel and an electric motor for a total of 302bhp, so it’s more powerful than the BMW – but it’s also pricier and Sport Edition doesn’t feature as much kit as M Sport. The 300-litre boot is small, too.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 - front

Model: Tesla Model 3 Standard Range
Price: £38,500
Engine: 1x e-motor, 235bhp

Designed with batteries and electric motors in mind, while the Tesla’s 254-mile claimed range limits usability a little compared with these PHEVs, it’s cheaper and will cost less to run, while the boot is bigger, too. It’s our reigning car of the year.

Figures

BMW 330e M Sport Volvo S60 T8 AWD R-Design Plus
On the road price/total as tested £39,980/£43,520 £49,805/£55,030
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £18,227/45.6% £24,977/50.2%
Depreciation £21,753 £24,828
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £1,278/£2,555 £1,592/£3,184
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,248/£2,080 £1,226/£2,044
Insurance group/quote/VED 33/£733/£135 42/£531/£455
Cost of servicing £25 per month (3 yrs) £1,004 (3 years)
Length/wheelbase 4,709/2,851mm 4,761/2,872mm
Height/width 1,827/1,444mm 1,437/1,916mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,998cc 4cyl in-line/1,969cc
Peak power/revs  288/5,000 bhp/rpm 385/6,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  420/1,350 Nm/rpm 400/2,200 Nm/rpm
Transmission  8-speed auto/rwd 8-speed auto/4wd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 40 litres/£190 60 litres/£150
Battery (total/usable)/e-motor power 12.0/10.4kWh/111bhp 11.6/9.9kWh/86bhp
Boot capacity 375 litres 390 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,740/525/750kg 1,960/469/2,000kg
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 25th/25th 13th/9th
0-60/30-70mph 97/87/87/76/5 96/84/74/76/5
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 5.5/5.0 secs 5.0/4.5 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 2.4/2.9 secs 2.5/2.9 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th 3.9/5.0/6.2/8.3 secs 3.7/4.1/4.9/5.3 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  143mph/2,000rpm 155mph/1,900rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  45.8/33.9/8.9m 47.0/34.6/8.7m
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range 55.9/12.3/492 miles 56.9/12.5/751 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 176.6-201.8mpg 122.8-176.5mpg
Govt claimed electric range 36 miles 36 miles
Recharge time 3hrs 30mins @ 3.7kW 3hrs 15mins @ 3.7kW
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 117/38g/km/16% 115/42g/km/16%
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/camera Eight/yes/yes/yes Seven/yes/yes/£375
Auto box/lane-keep/blindspot/AEB Y/£1,250*/£1,250*/y Yes/£625*/£625*/y
Clim./cruise ctrl/leather/heated seats Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/half/yes
Met paint/LEDs/keyless/pwr tailgate Yes/y/£990*/£990* £675/yes/yes/no
Nav/digi dash/DAB/connected services Yes/yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto £350*/yes/no No/£300*/£300*

World’s first parts-only warranty launches
Posted on Thursday November 14, 2019

Tristan Shale-Hester 2019-11-14 17:33

MotorEasy and Haynes tie up to provide protection for owners who take care of their own car maintenance

Haynes parts warranty

A new parts-only warranty, providing cover for owners who like to take care of their cars themselves, has launched. Because the warranty guarantees only parts, prices are likely to be lower than conventional warranties that pay out for both broken parts, and the labour required to fix them.

The scheme is a joint effort by warranty, breakdown cover and insurance provider MotorEasy, and workshop-manual publisher Haynes. Customers are provided with a free Haynes manual for their car, plus the parts needed to fix any faults that occur during the warranty period.

• Car warranty advice: manufacturer warranty cover and extended warranties explained

As part of the deal, Haynes also offers a library of how-to video tutorials for more than 2,000 maintenance tasks that are said to apply to 11 million cars currently on UK roads.

The policy also provides discounted access to MotorEasy’s network of 10,000 garages in the event a repair proves to be beyond owners’ level of technical skill.

The warranty begins with a free initial health check, after which problems relating to overheating, air conditioning, emissions, in-car entertainment and sat nav are covered, as well as failures identified during MoT and servicing or following a recovery.

Duncan McClure Fisher, founder of MotorEasy, commented: “MotorEasy helps replace the parts, while Haynes offers the insight into how to fit them - it’s the perfect partnership for peace of mind.

“MotorEasy exists to make member’s car ownership experience less stressful and more financially predictable. This is perfectly complemented by Haynes’ reputation for providing the motorist with invaluable support for over 50 years, helping keep vehicles on the road without spending a fortune on repairs.

“Together we are able to provide an evolving solution that’s perfect for encouraging basic car maintenance skills and offering experienced mechanics valuable support.”

Jeremy Yates-Round, managing director of Haynes, added: “This collaboration revolutionises the way car enthusiasts can protect themselves against the spiralling cost of expensive repairs, and the support of MotorEasy and Haynes makes vehicle maintenance and repair a far less daunting prospect.

“Haynes workshops have stripped down and documented over 300 vehicle models to help hands-on motorists. A parts-only warranty is a great, cost-effective initiative that is an extension of Haynes’ work, which we are delighted to support.”

Do you think a parts-only warranty is a good idea? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...

Hyundai Vision T plug-in hybrid SUV concept teased
Posted on Thursday November 14, 2019

Luke Wilkinson 2019-11-14 16:30

Hyundai's new prototype will be unveiled at the 2019 LA Motor Show, sporting an active front grille and a pair of hidden LED headlamps

Hyundai Vision T Concept teaser

Hyundai will unveil a new plug-in hybrid compact SUV concept at this year’s Los Angeles Motor Show. Called the Vision T, it’s the third concept vehicle the Korean marque has launched this year, following the retro-styled Hyundai 45 electric SUV from the Frankfurt Motor Show and the 400bhp iMax N Drift Bus.

We expect the Vision T concept will preview the forthcoming 2021 Hyundai Tucson. Its front-end styling is remarkably similar to our recently spied facelifted Tucson mule, sharing the same trapezoid-shaped radiator grille, the same splitter design, similar triangular headlamps and a pair of near-identical air ducts on either side of the bumper.


Facelifted 2021 Hyundai Tucson spied testing

Stand-out design features of the Vision T concept include an electrically operated charging socket flap, a full-width rear light bar and a pair of hidden LED headlamp lenses, which share the same texture and pattern as the radiator grille – and which appear to vanish into the bumper when not in use.

The concept’s front grille is also fitted with a set of active vanes, similar to those found on the Aston Martin DBS GT Zagato, which can automatically open when the combustion engine requires cooling. Once the engine temperature drops, the vanes close again to maximise aerodynamic efficiency and fuel economy.


Hyundai is yet to confirm any details on the Vision T’s underpinnings or powertrain. However, given the concept’s size, styling and name, we expect it will be based on an updated version of the current Tucson’s platform and powered by a reworked version of the 139bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder PHEV unit lifted from the IONIQ.

What do you make of the new Hyundai Vision T concept? Let us know in the comments section below… 

 

Used Nissan Pulsar review
Posted on Thursday November 14, 2019

Used Nissan Pulsar - front
16 Nov, 2019 3:00pm Richard Dredge

A full used buyer’s guide on the Nissan Pulsar coverin the Pulsar Mk1 (2014-2018)

SUVs and crossovers are big business these days, and much of this is due to Nissan’s efforts with the Qashqai and Juke, which both launched new segments. More than a decade ago Nissan decided the way forward was not to offer its customers hatchbacks such as the Almera and Primera; instead it would focus on crossovers that had the same usability as a hatch, but with added versatility and a raised ride height to offer a greater feeling of security, thanks to the better visibility.

The Juke and the Qashqai were smash hits, so it was something of a surprise when Nissan launched the Pulsar in 2014. Not that UK buyers particularly noticed the arrival – or the demise – of this small family hatch. 

Models covered

  • • Nissan Pulsar Mk1 (2014-2018) - There are more exciting rivals, but this hatchback is well priced. 

Nissan Pulsar

History

Nissan has offered a Pulsar in some markets since 1978, but it was sold as the Cherry or the Sunny for much of its life in the UK. The model covered here is codenamed C13 and badged as the Pulsar; it went on sale in the UK in autumn 2014, priced from £15,995. Buyers could choose between a 114bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine or a 109bhp 1.5 diesel, both turbocharged. Each engine came with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but the petrol unit could also be mated to an Xtronic CVT automatic box.

Four trim grades were offered: Visia, Acenta, n-tec and Tekna, with N-Connecta agppearing in spring 2016, followed by N-Connecta Style in autumn 2017. In spring 2015, a 187bhp 1.6 DIG-T petrol engine joined the range, with a manual gearbox.

Nissan Pulsar reviews

Nissan Pulsar in-depth review
Nissan Pulsar 1.5 dCi Tekna review
Nissan Pulsar 1.6 DIG-T Tekna review

Which one should I buy?

The 1.2 DIG-T 115 engine can feel underpowered on long journeys, but it’s generally fine as a local runabout. Diesel power will suit long-distance drivers better.

The basic Visia has a five-inch infotainment display, Bluetooth, alloy wheels, air-con, cruise control, all-round electric windows, plus electric door mirrors. Acenta adds auto emergency braking, an upgraded hi-fi, dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, heated door mirrors and keyless go. The n-tec has sat-nav, DAB, a reversing camera and LED headlights. Tekna features leather trim and heated front seats. 

Alternatives to the Nissan Pulsar

Obvious rivals are the Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. All are capable, but you’ll get more for your money with the Ford or Vauxhall because the Golf’s prices are higher. Or you could opt for a SEAT Leon, which looks sharp despite being six years old.

Other tough adversaries include the Hyundai i30 and the Kia Ceed, which major on value and come with long manufacturer warranties. The Mazda 3 is fun to drive, well equipped and attractive, while the Honda Civic is roomy and reliable. You could also consider the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Toyota Auris and Peugeot 308.

What to look for

Safety kit

All Pulsars are well equipped: Acenta brings AEB, while Tekna gets blind-spot and lane-departure warning.

Gearbox

Don’t dismiss the Xtronic CVT automatic transmission too quickly; it’s slicker than you might expect, with stepped gears. 

Engine

Be aware that stop/start glitches can sometimes arise from software faults or below-par batteries. These gremlins affect every engine.

Oil consumption

Some early 1.2-litre Pulsar engines were fitted with poor-quality piston rings, which could lead to a hefty thirst for oil.

Interior

Whichever Pulsar you buy, you’ll get enough space for five adults and a decent-sized boot; with the seats up, the load bay can accommodate 395 litres, and with them folded this jumps by 1,000 litres. Buy further up the range and you’ll benefit from nicer cabin materials; entry-level Pulsars feature some cheaper plastics that don’t look especially appealing – but the dashboard is easy to use.

Prices

You can buy a nearly new Nissan Pulsar for between £6,595 and £12,989 on our sister site BuyaCar.

Running costs

The Pulsar came with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty when it was new, although it’s possible to extend this by one, two or three years, taking the mileage cap to as much as 120,000.

The service interval for petrol-engined Pulsars is every year or 12,500 miles; diesel models extend this to every 18,000 miles or 12 months. Services alternate between minor and major, priced at £199 and £279 for petrols, rising to £229 and £329 on diesels. There is no cambelt to replace, but the coolant needs to be renewed every five years or 60,000 miles. The brake fluid has to be changed every two years. 

Recalls

Nissan has issued two recalls for the Pulsar. In March 2016, 8,404 models built between May 2014 and December 2015 were recalled because the headlight self-levelling mechanism could be unreliable when the car was fully laden. Four months later, 7,393 Pulsars made between April 2014 and May 2016 were recalled to update the oxygen sensor failure software. 

Driver Power owner satisfaction

The Pulsar has never appeared in any of our used car Driver Power surveys, but it was in our 2017 new car poll, when it came a very respectable 23rd out of 75. Its high rating was largely thanks to its comfort and infotainment systems, as well as low running costs. The Pulsar’s engines and safety features got a thumbs up, too; reliability and the dynamics were the low points.

Few cars of the past decade have as low a profile as this small family hatch, but don’t be put off. The Pulsar is no class leader, but it’s refined and well equipped, plus you get plenty for your money. When you consider that you can buy a Tekna edition with less than 30,000 miles on the clock for £8,000, the Pulsar can make a lot of sense. It’s also a comfy car and it’s very family-friendly with its spacious cabin and roomy boot, so if you’re in the market for an Astra, Golf or Focus then you might want to also consider this less obvious alternative.

New DS 7 Crossback E-Tense 2019 review
Posted on Thursday November 14, 2019

DS 7 Crossback E-Tense - front
15 Nov, 2019 9:30am Alex Ingram

The new plug-in hybrid DS 7 Crossback E-Tense promises 217mpg and a 31-mile all-electric range

This is the new DS 7 Crossback E-Tense: a plug-in hybrid SUV that marks the latest step in the manufacturer’s drive towards an electrified fleet of vehicles. Every new model released by the French brand from 2025 onwards will either be fully electric, or a plug-in hybrid with at least a 30-mile EV range.

The DS 7 Crossback falls into the second camp, taking on rivals like the BMW X3 xDrive30e and the Audi Q5 TFSIe. And it’ll face them up directly when it comes to price, too: the E-Tense is yours for between £47,725 and £56,075, depending on the model. That’s almost a perfect match to the more established premium choices from Germany.

Best hybrid SUVs on sale right now

The hybrid system is a significant model not only for DS, but the PSA group as a whole: while the DS 7 Crossback gets the low-emissions tech first, it’ll soon drive a wide range of Peugeots, Citroens and Vauxhalls, too.

It’s a powertrain that DS itself dubs as a “high performance hybrid” - perhaps why the manufacturer quotes, of all things, a zero to 1000-metre time for the car (25.9 seconds, for those of you wondering). But there are plenty of more relevant stats to reel off about the E-Tense. The hybrid system uses a pair of electric motors teamed up to a 13.2kWh battery. The result is that the DS 7 Crossback can travel up to 31 miles between battery top-ups, and at speeds of up to 83mph in zero emission mode. Charging takes 1h 45 minutes from a 7kW charger, or eight hours from a regular three-pin plug.

It feels more than capable enough as an EV, too. Each of the two electric motors produces 108bhp, so performance feels only slightly less sprighly than the combustion engined versions - with the E-Tense delivering a much smoother, quieter drive. 

Switching to either Hybrid or Sport mode brings the combustion engine into play. The 1.6-litre turbocharged unit makes 200bhp on its own, which combined with the electric motors can mean a total output of 296bhp and 450Nm of torque. That’s the same power as a Cupra Ateca, and 50Nm more torque.

So as you would expect then, the combined shove of petrol and electric make the E-Tense much more lively in a straight line than the exclusively petrol or diesel models in the range. It’d be better still if the eight-speed automatic gearbox was a little more responsive when kicking down, but at least the electric motors manage to fill-in some of the delay.

As with the rest of the DS 7 family, however, in the other aspects of the driving experience this car hasn’t quite nailed its brief. It was never intended to be sporty, so it’s not really an issue that it lacks sharpness compared to a BMW X3 or a Jaguar F-Pace. What is more of a worry is that, long motorway runs aside, it never quite delivers the soft, pillowy ride comfort DS promises. Clever (in theory) adaptive dampers prime themselves to cushion bumps on the road ahead based on information relayed from forward-facing cameras, yet the DS 7 tends to either wallow without much control in Comfort, or fidget around in Sport.

Beyond those three driving modes, there’s also a 4WD mode. With adequate charge, this allows the DS 7 Crossback to venture off road in complete silence - the engine only kicking in to satisfy extreme torque demands. Traction is limited by the on-road tyres, otherwise the experience of silent, zero-emissions off-roading holds plenty of appeal.

Elsewhere, the E-Tense remains much the same as the combustion DS 7 range. The only exterior details that set it apart are a gorgeous ‘Pearl Crystal’ paint finish that’s optional and exclusive to the E-Tense, subtle badging, and a charging port flap located on the opposite side to the fuel filler. Inside, the cabin is a mix of beautiful finishes in some places - the choice of leather or alcantara layered across the dashboard feels particularly lovely - while in others, the plastic feels a little hard and scratchy.

Go for top spec models, though, and there’s some fascinating tech that little else in the class offers. A night-vision camera, for example, that can be display its images in the centre of the digital driver’s display, and which can recognise pedestrians and cyclists from hundreds of metres away. Then the LED matrix lights, standard across the range, have a cornering function which lights sections of road according to steering angle. There’s also a huge infotainment touchscreen, though while this looks pretty, it doesn't quite feel as slick to use as those found in other premium models. 

As with the combustion-powered side of the DS 7 Crossback range, the E-Tense is available in three trim levels. The line-up kicks off with the Performance Line trim, which gets 19-inch alloy wheels on the outside and lashings of Alcantara interior trim inside. The Prestige model brings in leather seats (fully electric and massaging in the front, and with electric backrests in the rear), front parking sensors, a reversing camera and keyless entry.

The range is crowned with the Ultra Prestige. That adds a panoramic sunroof, an uprated Focal sound system, a remote tailgate, and a semi-autonomous drive function, which accelerates, brakes and steers between lanes.

But there’s a price to pay for all of this tech, and it’s one that’s rather hard to justify. The DS 7 Crossback starts from £47,725, and based on a four-year PCP deal, it’ll cost £599 per month with a £6,284 deposit. However, Audi’s Q5 TFSI e benefits from not only a £4,700 deposit contribution and much stronger residual values, so on similar terms it’ll cost you over £5,300 less to finance over the four year agreement.

The DS 7 will achieve as much as 217mpg in WLTP tests, but while this will vary wildly in either direction based on the sort of driving you do and how frequently it’s charged, it’s the CO2 figure of just 33g/km that matters more. It places the E-Tense into the lowest Benefit in Kind company car tax bracket, something the BMW X3 xDrive30e (56g/km) can’t achieve. However, at 49g/km, the Audi Q5 just makes it. 

2.5
Based purely on the way it drives, the PHEV is the best powertrain the DS 7 Crossback offers. Smooth, refined and potentially very cheap to run, it's a step up beyond the conventional petrol or diesels. Whether it's one that justifies a £47,000-plus asking price, however, is much harder to argue. If you’re desperately bored by the German premium offerings, it will be worth a look, but otherwise the DS 7 Crossback can’t quite match the slick driving experience or infotainment tech found in its rivals.
  • Model: DS 7 Crossback E-Tense 4x4 Ultra Prestige
  • Price: £56,075
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl petrol hybrid
  • Power/torque: 296bhp/450Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 149mph
  • Economy/CO2: 217mpg/33g/km
  • On sale: Now


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