Private cabins, flying bars, and hundreds of seats—farewell, Airbus A380

On Valentine’s Day, Airbus confirmed that production of the massive A380 airliner will come to an end, breaking some plane nerds’ hearts. When it was unveiled to the world in 2005, Airbus touted its efficiency over twin-engined long-haul planes, but this mighty carbon-fiber double-decker never lived up to expectations. Not all airports could accommodate its physical size, and getting the self-loading cargo on and off could take a while.

Unlike the 747, it doesn’t appear set to have a continued career carrying cargo, either. You’d expect the biggest passenger plane of the skies to make a pretty decent freighter. But there’s no folding nose variant, so you can’t take full advantage of its commodious interior to carry really big stuff. In 2021, the last A380 will depart final assembly in Toulouse, France. By then, more than 300 of these carbon composite skywhales should have been delivered, and so we expect they’ll remain a regular sight at airports they already service.

The Airbus superjumbo never really captured the public’s heart the way the 747 has, and there’s no denying the decision to put the cockpit on the lower deck gives the plane a hydrocephalic appearance. But the complex curvature of the wing is a thing of beauty, and it’s always wonderful to see something so large land so gracefully. (If you time your visit to the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy annex for the right time of day, you can watch them come in up on the observation deck.)

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Source: Ars Technica

2019 Porsche Macan vs. Jaguar E-Pace: premium SUV face-off

Porsche Macan vs Jaguar E-Pace 2019 - hero

Behind each of those grilles is a 2.0 turbo petrol

The entry-level Macan and range-topping E-Pace are closely matched for performance and dynamic flourish, but which wins overall?

The Porsche Macan and Jaguar E-Pace aren’t exactly mortal rivals. In fact, circumstance has only just brought them into anything close to an overlap. But in another world, they might have been up and at each other like Borg and McEnroe. 

Jaguar and Porsche have remarkably similar histories, after all, starting life as dedicated sports car manufacturers and branching out as they grew. 

Although that process of growth inevitably brought both outfits to the production of a smallish SUV earlier this decade, it brought them there via different routes. It gave us a Macan in 2014, developed on a longways-engined Audi model platform, predominantly rear driven with a ‘hang-on’ clutch-based part-time four-wheel-drive system; and an E-Pace in 2017 with a transverse engine, developed off the Range Rover Evoque’s platform, which is predominantly front-wheel drive with clutch-based, part-time-driven rear wheels. In that respect, these cars are about as different from each other as it’s likely that SUVs would ever be. 

The Porsche’s average UK transaction price is probably above £60,000, the Jaguar’s less than £40,000. The Porsche is one of the country’s most wanted new cars and most savvy new-car buys. The Jaguar isn’t nearly as revered but has greatly bolstered its maker’s balance sheet over the past 18 months. And while the Porsche is nearly a foot longer at the kerb, the Jaguar is an inch taller. 

And yet you can now buy examples of both cars powered by a high-performance 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and priced within £3000 of each other – with torque-to-weight figures within just 2% of matching exactly. That’s as a result of Porsche’s decision to make its four-pot petrol Macan an official part of the UK price list, having only offered it on special order previously (and having deleted the Macan Diesel). 

Different cars, then? Maybe not quite so different. When you get the newly important 2.0-litre petrol entry-level version of the Macan and the top-of-the-range P300 R-Dynamic HSE version of the E-Pace together on some foggy moorland roads, it’s the commonalities and similarities between the cars that you notice first.

It hasn’t always been easy to find reasons to be cheerful when watching the conspicuously consumptive market for luxury SUVs develop over the past decade or so – but the flourishing of the upmarket, downsized performance 4×4 might just be one of those reasons. Unlike other, bigger go-faster SUVs, cars like these two serve up their driving experiences along with an accompanying side order of pragmatism. They’re fast cars, in other words, but with a turn of pace that can be fully deployed on the road because it’s not ridiculous. 

The cars themselves aren’t so wide that they won’t fit within the markings of a British B-road with a little bit of space to breathe. They offer family-friendly practicality, sure – but they’re not so big as to attract the wrong sort of attention, or so expensive as to make you vulnerable to questions about a mid-life crisis. These are performance SUVs of a sort that almost anyone could get behind. 

And get inside, come to mention it. Just as it’s clearly the shorter car of the two outwardly, the Jaguar’s cabin feels the smaller of the two inwardly, but it’s not really any the less comfortable for it. Even taller adults are made broadly as comfy in both rows of the E-Pace as they are in the Macan. Second-row knee room is tighter in the Jaguar, but the Brit’s higher hip point mitigates the difference and makes for better under-thigh support for rear passengers than in the German. But the Porsche hits back mostly on boot space: the Macan’s boot is a good 20% larger than the E-Pace’s below the window line. 

Would you expect the Jaguar to have the richer, more upmarket cabin ambience? It’s true – and it makes sense if you consider that this is a top-of-the-range Jaguar going up against a pretty lowly Porsche. Even so, I still reckon that fact could surprise one or two people. 

The E-Pace’s two-tone leather and its chrome cabin detailing give the car a luxurious air that the Macan’s monotone, all-business interior doesn’t really bother with. The E-Pace’s digital instruments and its tidy fascia layout might go even further to persuade you that it’d be the more pleasant car of the two to live with. The Macan’s switch-festooned high-transmission tunnel console, meanwhile, makes for an unflattering contrast with the Jaguar’s layout, coming straight out of an almost defunct Porsche interior design lexicon. There are more buttons on that console, I’m fairly sure, than empty console. 

Look closer, though, and it’s the Porsche that has the deeper-seated mark of perceived quality. There’s evidence of variable trim fit on the Jaguar. Our test car’s interior door trims didn’t align with their surroundings quite the same on the driver’s side as on the passenger’s, for example. For every place where the E-Pace looks and feels like a near- £50,000 car, there’s a place where it shows its sub-£30,000 roots: the plain grey mouldings behind the steering column and the shiny, unconvincing faux-leather roll-top dashboard. The Macan’s material highlights are less flashy, but its underlying impression of solid, attentive material quality is more consistent. 

So far, so unexpectedly even, you might think – fully expecting the Porsche to need no further invitation to demonstrate its superiority over the Jaguar than a quiet stretch of Exmoor blacktop. Well, don’t bet on it. This contest started out surprisingly close, and it doesn’t get any easier for the German straight away; certainly not until engines and gearboxes, chassis and steering, and bumps and corners have all come into play. 

The cars’ real-world performance levels are broadly similar – and strong, as suggested, without cueing up so much sheer physics to subsequently overcome under braking and when cornering that the qualitative side of the driving experience fades into irrelevance. 

To look at the stubbier Jaguar, you’d never believe it could be the heavier of the two cars. (The Porsche has the more modern and clever mixed-metal construction.) And so when someone tells you that the Jaguar has almost 300 horsepower and the Porsche less than 250, you prepare to feel the difference. 

But you don’t. The E-Pace’s engine revs a touch more freely than the Macan’s; and it sounds better, too, the Porsche’s EA888 Volkswagen Group motor being made to sound slightly plain and reedy by comparison. But only when it’s revving beyond 5000rpm would you say that the Jaguar’s four-pot engine feels any more powerful than the Porsche’s. If I hadn’t already mentioned how close these cars are on torque-to-weight ratio, you’d assume as much by their very similar real-world, roll-on performance levels. And, given the numbers in play, that’s a surprise, too. 

Moreover, while the Jaguar does its best to fool you that it’s accelerating more urgently than the Porsche at full power because it’s got more, closer-stacked intermediate gear ratios through which to churn, it isn’t actually fooling anyone. Porsche’s seven-speed PDK is by a distance a better gearbox for any kind of driver’s car than Jaguar’s nine-speed torque-converter automatic. The E-Pace’s gearbox feels hesitant when both in ‘drive’ and in paddle-shift mode and it shifts quite roughly at times, intruding on your enjoyment. 

The cars develop similar grip levels on wintery, slippery, cross-country asphalt, but it’s the Porsche that makes the better use of its adhesion. This bit, finally, goes broadly to script, then – broadly but not entirely. 

The longways-engined, primarily rear-driven Macan has the better-balanced chassis and cleaner, smarter handling responses of the two cars, so it takes a tight cornering line more willingly and instinctively than the Jaguar. The E-Pace has to let its body roll more to get through the turn-in phase and then even more so with every bit of extra lateral load you dial in. The Jaguar is also notably quicker to push on into understeer and has steering corruption that you just don’t ever feel in the Porsche, as well as less useful torque at the rear wheels when you’d ideally like it back there under throttle. 

At a quicker stride, however, the E-Pace fights back. Being suspended by steel coils and very well-tuned adaptive dampers, it has great close body control at that speed at which good British roads become truly absorbing. The Jaguar deals with bumps honestly and effectively but with suppleness, too, apparently keeping a bit of damping authority in reserve. For a high-riding car, it makes you feel unexpectedly connected to the road and flows along its surface very agreeably indeed. 

The Porsche can flow along happily enough, but it’s at its best at going faster still. Hunkered down on its air springs, it handles so precisely that it simply doesn’t feel either big or tall. The way the Macan scythes and shoulders its way down a B-road is more akin to the handling of a good, fast, four-wheel-drive hatchback than any SUV: it’s balanced, immediate, instinctive and so sure-footed. 

Its air suspension (optional on our test car) doesn’t produce such a ready sense of ride poise as the E-Pace’s at that just-so speed. Instead, it feels just a little hollow and slightly floaty over bigger intrusions. 

But while the Jaguar absolutely depends on good damper tuning to elevate the driving experience above and beyond that of a pretty typical SUV, the Porsche can play a more complete dynamic hand as a driver’s car. It is naturally more agile and quite a bit more compelling overall. With the suspension in low mode, in fact, the Macan’s driving experience puts you in mind of some modern, mutant, ‘restomodded’ Subaru Impreza Turbo wagon that has been to an expensive European finishing school. It’s a car that always wants to go quicker, to show you how much more it can do. And you just don’t expect an SUV – any SUV – to be capable of that. 

And that the E-Pace isn’t quite capable of that? A shame, perhaps – but it seems less surprising, under the circumstances, than the acknowledgement of how credible an alternative it is to the Porsche in the broadest of senses. 

Because although the Macan has won through in this exercise, it hasn’t done so with much to spare, and it has demonstrated only what we already knew: that it is a remarkable-handling SUV. 

The E-Pace has shown, at the very top of its model range at least, that it has distinguishing dynamic qualities worthy of any Jaguar, something we hadn’t unearthed before. Maybe that’s an even bigger win.

Read more

Porsche Macan S 2019 review

Why Graz is greener: London to Austria in Jaguar’s biggest seller

542bhp Jaguar F-Pace SVR squares up to Porsche Macan Turbo​



Source: Autocar Online

Saturday night fever: experiencing the Daytona 24 Hours

Daytona International Raceway 24 Hours race

The 24 Hours combines Daytona’s famous banking with a twisty infield section

What better way for any motorsport fan to beat the winter blues than by taking in the Daytona 24 Hours in Florida? We park the RV, light the barbie and soak up the action

It’s hard not to feel a pang of envy when friends tell you they’re going abroad in January. With a well-earned reputation for being one of the hardest-going months of the year, it counts Blue Monday among its dark, cold days. 

For travellers with a thing for motorsport, there’s a way to leave all this behind. On the third weekend of the year, Florida’s Daytona International Speedway hosts thousands of race fans from America and beyond.

 

They come for the nation’s first major motorsport event of the year, the Daytona 24 Hours. And just down the road is the ‘Birthplace of Speed’ – the arrow-straight, white-sand beach that has seen cars haulin’ ass and suckin’ gas since 1902. 

These days, it costs 20 bucks to drive as many of the 20 or so miles of compacted sand as you wish. But you’ll have to stick to 10mph. There are few visible connections to the amateur racers who helped put Daytona on the map. Or the likes of Malcolm Campbell, who drove Bluebird to 276mph on the beach back in 1935. 

That’s hard to get your head around, given the fastest prototypes racing at in he 24 Hours won’t even top 200mph on a circuit that combines the famous banked tri-oval with a slower infield section. 

Speed isn’t everything, though. The competitors at Daytona, and the wider IMSA Sportscar Championship, are here to prove their mettle against some of the best drivers and racing teams in the world. 

One of the hottest prospects Britain’s Oliver Jarvis, who races for Mazda. The former Audi Le Mans ace broke the lap record in the ‘Roar Before the 24’ test, then set pole position for the race itself. He’s clearly relishing his US adventure. 

The scale of the speedway itself dwarfs anything Europeans are used to. The recently rebuilt main stadium, called Daytona Rising, seats more than 101,000 and affords a spectacular view of the entire 2.5-mile tri-oval. Jarvis says one of the keys to performing well in the race is to read the traffic and plan where you’ll pass the slower cars. The teams employ spotters, who sit on the fifth floor of Daytona Rising, to help drivers negotiate each lap. 

There’s plenty of spare capacity wherever you go around the circuit and, unlike Europe, the grandstands are free to all. During the preamble, the fans get to meet their favourite drivers and pose next to the cars. 

Then prayers are said, the national anthem is sung and the star-spangled banner is pulled through the sky by plane – followed, comically, by another flying a banner for Bubba Burgers. Watching the start of the race from one of the higher tiers of the grandstand is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Thousands of race fans camp here. But most do it in true American style, in an RV rather than under canvas, so the campsites bear a closer resemblance to a Hollywood film set than a hardcore music festival. 

Barbecues sizzle, fire pits roar and the level of knowledge among the fans we meet suggests these are seasoned race-goers. You can pitch a tent up against the chain-link fence down by Turn 5, if you get there early enough. Alternatively, rent an RV with uninterrupted views over the banking between Turns 7 and 8. 

Seeing the cars run through the gears, then remain flat out in top for sustained periods around the banking, is a novel experience for any European visitor. 

However, it’s those prolonged periods of hardship that are to prove the downfall of the much-fancied Mazda team. Despite the number 77 car of Jarvis leading the race, and the 55 sister car clawing its way back to the front of the pack after problems, both suffer engine trouble. In the garage, the engineers pull the engine cover off 77 and remove the air intake from the roof. Taking turns to smell what lies beneath, their pained expressions suggest something catastrophic has occurred. 

Mazda runs a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine pushing out more than 600bhp. The competition, including eventual winner Cadillac, have six- or eight-cylinder motors, which are inherently less stressed. 

I ask Jarvis if he feels the strategy of using an engine that reflects Mazda’s road car range and ‘challenger spirit’ is the right one. Needless to say, his view is that’s a decision for those that run the team and pay the bills. “I just drive the car as fast as I can,” he says. 

Now Mazda must improve the durability of the RT-24P over the rest of the IMSA season, so it can deliver on its promise when the Daytona 24 Hours comes back around in 2020. Better luck next year. 

Rain took the shine off the race for visiting fans and drivers this time. But still, it sure beat Blue Monday.

James Mills

Read more

Iconic race cars at the Daytona 24 Hours​

How road cars inspire race car design at Daytona 24 Hours​

Race, retrain, recover: driving in the lifesaving Race of Remembrance​



Source: Autocar Online

Amazon leads £544 million investment in EV start-up Rivian

Rivian R1S LA motor show

Online retail giant helps take fledgling American manufacturer’s total investment to around £894.5 million

Online retail giant Amazon has led a $700 million (£544m) round of investment in American electric car start-up Rivian.

The fledgling manufacturer has attracted big interest since its public debut at the 2018 Los Angeles motor show. Today’s round, which includes investment from existing shareholders, brings the total raised by the company to around $1.15 billion (£894.5m). 

According to sources speaking to Bloomberg, Rivian is currently in discussions with General Motors (GM) to secure further investment. If a deal is secured, it’s understood that GM would be listed as minority shareholder and Rivian would be valued at between $1bn and $2bn (£778m and £1.56bn). It will remain an independent company.

Rivian is aiming to bring the first electric pick-up truck to market. It only announced itself to the world last year despite having been developing and producing electric platforms since 2009. 

Rivian R1S SUV and R1T pick-up aim to shake up the 4×4 market

Rivian is hoping to have the kind of impact Tesla has made in shaking up the established automotive set and believes it has found a niche with the creation of go-anywhere electric vehicles.

The R1T pick-up and R1S seven-seat SUV, the first and second in a series of models eventually planned, are built on a bespoke electric ‘skateboard’ chassis that is modular and can be used on all different types and sizes of vehicles. The initial pair are closely related, the chief difference being a slightly shorter wheelbase in the R1S. The R1S is 5040mm long, making it Range Rover-sized, while the 5465mm-long R1T is marginally longer than the Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

In both cars, the lithium ion battery pack is mounted in the floor. The R1T is good for a 230-mile range in its standard 105kWh capacity, a 300-mile range with a 135kWh battery pack, or up to 400 miles with a 180kWh ‘mega-pack’. In the R1S, the same battery packs are offered with ranges of of 240, 310 and 420 miles respectively.

The two models share their drivetrains, too. Four electric motors, one for each wheel, give them four-wheel drive. Each motor produces 197bhp (total combined figures through the gearbox are 754bhp and 826lb ft in the 135kWh version), which allows for prodigious performance. It’s claimed both vehicles can crack 0-60mph in just 3.0sec and 0-100mph in less than 7.0sec in the 135kWh versions.

Double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension features, alongside air springs and adaptive dampers. Rivian claims the electric drivetrain and chassis set-up allows for both impressive on-road performance and handling and precise off-road control that surpasses any existing mechanical solutions. Its flat floor is also reinforced with carbonfibre and Kevlar to protect the battery pack, while both models get five-star crash test safety ratings in the US.

A distinctive front-end exterior design appears on both cars, while the spacious interiors get premium but durable materials that are easy to clean, in keeping with the cars’ off-road lifestyle brief. Two screens feature inside, running Rivian’s own software and graphics.

There are packs of novel hidden features and clever solutions in both models, including a 330-litre front storage under the nose, and the pick-up has a full-width storage compartment between the rear doors and rear wheels that’s good for housing golf clubs.

Rivian, first formed in 2009, is looking to do things differently from other start-ups by having its entire business plan and funding in place before going public with its intentions, and even then keeping targets conservative.

Company founder and CEO RJ Scaringe has already gone through two stillborn versions of the R1T to get to this third, production-ready version.

The US-based company is backed by investors from the Middle East, and employs some 750 people worldwide. Its design and engineering centre is based in Plymouth, Michigan, and other key sites include a battery development facility in Irvine, California. It has opened an advanced engineering centre in Chertsey, Surrey, too.

Manufacturing will take place at an old Mitsubishi plant in Illinois, bought by Rivian for $16 million (£12.5m) last year. This has a capacity of up to 350,000 units per year.

Rivian’s ambitions are much lower than that initially, with plans to be selling some 50,000-60,000 of its premium electric off-roaders by 2025-2026. It does, however, plan to offer its electric skateboard chassis to other companies – either car makers or any brand looking to launch an electric car – as long as their products don’t compete with Rivian’s own. The R1T will go into production in late 2020 with the R1S in early 2021, the former priced from around $70,000 (£55,000). Right-hand drive production for the UK will follow around a year later.

Opinion: Rivian isn’t just another electric start-up

Dyson’s electric car – our vision of what it will be like

Musk pledges Tesla pick-up will have ‘game-changing’ new feature



Source: Autocar Online

Amazon leads $700 million investment in EV start-up Rivian

Rivian R1S LA motor show

Online retail giant takes total investment in fledgling American manufacturer to around $1.15 billion

Online retail giant Amazon has led a $700 million round of investment in American electric car start-up Rivian.

The fledgling manufacturer has attracted big interest since its public debut at the 2018 Los Angeles motor show. Today’s round, which includes investment from existing shareholders, brings the total raised by the company to around $1.15 billion. 

According to sources speaking to Bloomberg, Rivian is currently in discussions with General Motors (GM) to secure further investment. If a deal is secured, it’s understood that GM would be listed as minority shareholder and Rivian would be valued at between $1bn and $2bn (£770m and £1.5bn). It will remain an independent company.

Rivian is aiming to bring the first electric pick-up truck to market. It only announced itself to the world last year despite having been developing and producing electric platforms since 2009. 

Rivian R1S SUV and R1T pick-up aim to shake up the 4×4 market

Rivian is hoping to have the kind of impact Tesla has made in shaking up the established automotive set and believes it has found a niche with the creation of go-anywhere electric vehicles.

The R1T pick-up and R1S seven-seat SUV, the first and second in a series of models eventually planned, are built on a bespoke electric ‘skateboard’ chassis that is modular and can be used on all different types and sizes of vehicles. The initial pair are closely related, the chief difference being a slightly shorter wheelbase in the R1S. The R1S is 5040mm long, making it Range Rover-sized, while the 5465mm-long R1T is marginally longer than the Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

In both cars, the lithium ion battery pack is mounted in the floor. The R1T is good for a 230-mile range in its standard 105kWh capacity, a 300-mile range with a 135kWh battery pack, or up to 400 miles with a 180kWh ‘mega-pack’. In the R1S, the same battery packs are offered with ranges of of 240, 310 and 420 miles respectively.

The two models share their drivetrains, too. Four electric motors, one for each wheel, give them four-wheel drive. Each motor produces 197bhp (total combined figures through the gearbox are 754bhp and 826lb ft in the 135kWh version), which allows for prodigious performance. It’s claimed both vehicles can crack 0-60mph in just 3.0sec and 0-100mph in less than 7.0sec in the 135kWh versions.

Double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension features, alongside air springs and adaptive dampers. Rivian claims the electric drivetrain and chassis set-up allows for both impressive on-road performance and handling and precise off-road control that surpasses any existing mechanical solutions. Its flat floor is also reinforced with carbonfibre and Kevlar to protect the battery pack, while both models get five-star crash test safety ratings in the US.

A distinctive front-end exterior design appears on both cars, while the spacious interiors get premium but durable materials that are easy to clean, in keeping with the cars’ off-road lifestyle brief. Two screens feature inside, running Rivian’s own software and graphics.

There are packs of novel hidden features and clever solutions in both models, including a 330-litre front storage under the nose, and the pick-up has a full-width storage compartment between the rear doors and rear wheels that’s good for housing golf clubs.

Rivian, first formed in 2009, is looking to do things differently from other start-ups by having its entire business plan and funding in place before going public with its intentions, and even then keeping targets conservative.

Company founder and CEO RJ Scaringe has already gone through two stillborn versions of the R1T to get to this third, production-ready version.

The US-based company is backed by investors from the Middle East, and employs some 750 people worldwide. Its design and engineering centre is based in Plymouth, Michigan, and other key sites include a battery development facility in Irvine, California. It has opened an advanced engineering centre in Chertsey, Surrey, too.

Manufacturing will take place at an old Mitsubishi plant in Illinois, bought by Rivian for $16 million (£12.5m) last year. This has a capacity of up to 350,000 units per year.

Rivian’s ambitions are much lower than that initially, with plans to be selling some 50,000-60,000 of its premium electric off-roaders by 2025-2026. It does, however, plan to offer its electric skateboard chassis to other companies – either car makers or any brand looking to launch an electric car – as long as their products don’t compete with Rivian’s own. The R1T will go into production in late 2020 with the R1S in early 2021, the former priced from around $70,000 (£55,000). Right-hand drive production for the UK will follow around a year later.

Opinion: Rivian isn’t just another electric start-up

Dyson’s electric car – our vision of what it will be like

Musk pledges Tesla pick-up will have ‘game-changing’ new feature



Source: Autocar Online

Skoda Kodiaq vRS 2019 UK review

Skoda Kodiaq vRS 2019 UK first drive review - hero front

Skoda breaks new ground with vRS treatment for the Kodiaq SUV. We’ve driven it in the UK to see if it’s worthy of its initials

This is nothing less than a Nürburgring Nordschleife record holder, and one we’ve driven before, albeit in Spain.Indeed, there’s no quicker seven-seater SUV around the circuit’s 160 corners than the Kodiaq vRS, at least according to Skoda. In this respect, it joins the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, Jaguar XE SV Project 8 and Lamborghini Aventador SVJ in being the cream of its particular crop. But don’t get too excited. You have to wonder how many comparable cars have even been timed, and a lap time of 9min 29.84sec is quick but hardly fast. This may be the most powerful diesel engine ever fitted to a Skoda, but 237bhp and 369lb ft still has to overcome 1880kg, and no amount of engineering is going to rein in such a high centre of gravity.Cut through the marketing and there’s potentially a lot to like about this car. In fact, lesser models in the Kodiaq range are tremendously likeable, because they take such an unpretentious approach compared with most mid-size SUVs. Their handling is assured, while their interiors are spacious and, thanks to Volkswagen Group hand-me-downs, contemporary enough in technological terms. The chiselled exterior design is also confidently understated, and the cars are good value for money.Admittedly, the vRS goes against that grain in several ways. It starts with the 20in ‘Extreme’ alloys, which with an anthracite finish wouldn’t look amiss on the SVJ. The front grille, window frames, wing mirrors and roof rails are then finished in gloss black, and along with big-bore dual exhaust tips, there’s red vRS badging on the nose and rump. In Velvet Red metallic paint, the overall effect isn’t subtle.   There’s also the small matter of price: £42,870, rising with our test car’s vast panoramic sunroof (£1175), Canton sound system (£405) and rear-view camera plus full LED lights (£385). That’s rather a lot, but if the Kodiaq vRS turns out to be a cut-price Audi SQ7, perhaps there’s justification.

Source: Autocar Online

Sebastian Vettel backs Ferrari’s ‘extreme’ design in bid for F1 title

• Four-times F1 champion ‘really excited’ by Ferrari’s new car
• Mattia Binotto says team ‘tried to be as extreme as we could’

Sebastian Vettel is confident Ferrari have the car to mount a strong fight for the Formula One title . The team unveiled the SF90 at Marenello on Friday as they attempt to end more than a decade without winning F1, with the team principal, Mattia Binotto, describing the design as an “evolution” pushed to be “extreme”.

The car is named to recognise the 90 years since Enzo Ferrari established the Scuderia at Modena in 1929. Since then they have competed in every F1 championship and are the most successful team in the sport. However they have not won the drivers’ championship since Kimi Raikkonen’s victory in 2007 and the constructors’ since 2008. Last season their challenge fell away as Vettel made mistakes and the team failed to match the development of Mercedes.

Related: Will Mattia Binotto reinvigorate unruly Ferrari’s F1 fortunes? | Giles Richards

Continue reading…

Source: Formula 1

Lexus ES

Lexus ES 2019 road test review - hero front
This Japanese entrant aims to gatecrash the German-controlled executive saloon market in a way the GS could never manage

If you’re a car maker aiming to intrude on the most firmly established fraternity in the automotive world, you had better have some substance to your product.For the crimped metalwork of this week’s test subject, that comes in the form of a lineage stretching back six previous model generations. It was 1989 when Lexus introduced the ES 250 (for ‘Executive Sedan’), and in doing so created one of its first model ranges. Front-driven and powered by the 2.5-litre V6 from the Toyota Camry, the original ES set firm the mid-size saloon template for Lexus, with four-cylinder engines eventually introduced in 2010 and a hybrid option arriving a couple of years later.Not that us Europeans would necessarily know as much, because this seventh-generation ES is the first of its line to be sold this side of the Atlantic. Nonetheless, as a nameplate it arrives with the weight of 2.3 million sales behind it and is fed into a stronger current of hype than Lexus has ever known outside Japan and America.The marque’s European brand presence has doubled of late thanks to the NX crossover and, with the help of the excellent LC sports car, this refreshing and coherent design language has become more recognisable. These are good things because, if your aim is to take market share from the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class, it’s best that people know who you are.To stand a chance of meaningful success here, the car that supersedes the slow-selling GS will not only need to uphold Lexus’s reputation for creative interior design but match it with appreciable quality. Front-wheel drive means it will never lead the field for outright dynamism, but suspension fastidiously tuned for comfort, and precise driving controls, ought still to stand out.With hybrid power, the new ES must be conspicuously efficient and, as a relative newcomer, it must also appear good value against its better-established foe. By implementing new drivetrain technologies and with the manufacturing economies gained from platform sharing, Lexus appears to have prepared well for the challenge. Today, we find out how convincing the ES is in execution.

Source: Autocar Online

Mercedes-Benz plans 2019 plug-in hybrid model blitz

Mercedes-Benz GLE EQ Power

Forthcoming Mercedes-Benz GLE EQ Power plug-in hybrid

A-Class PHEV part of massive expansion of EQ Boost-branded range planned by German firm in next year

Mercedes-Benz says 2019 will be its ‘year of the plug-in hybrid’, with plans to hugely expand its EQ Power-branded range as part of a massive £9 billion electrification strategy.

The German firm has already launched plug-in versions of the C-Class, E-Class and S-Class, which feature a hybrid system with a 121bhp electric motor capable of around 31 miles of electric-only running. The hybrid system is offered with both petrol and, on the C-Class and E-Class, diesel engines.

Mercedes will expand its PHEV range to 10 model variants by the end of this year – and more than 20 by the end of 2020. The next-generation S-Class, due in 2020, will be powered by a range of plug-in hybrid engines, alongside a fully electric version.

The GLC and GLE are both confirmed to receive the powertrain during 2019, and the firm also says it will launch its first compact plug-in hybrid model. As revealed by Autocar last year, that will be an A-Class PHEV designed as an Audi A3 E-tron rival, featuring a version of its petrol-electric powertrain developed for compact cars. Set to use a 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a 90bhp electric motor, it will also be offered on the B-Class and forthcoming GLB small SUV.

The focus on plug-in hybrids for 2019 is part of the firm’s plans to electrify its entire model range by 2022, with the goal to launch more than 130 electrified vehicles in order to reduce emissions levels to meet increasingly tough CO2 targets. The strategy involves three strands: EQ Power plug-in hybrids, EQ Boost 48V mild hybrids and the EQ range of pure electric vehicles. 

Mercedes-Benz chiefs believe that, as well as offering reduced CO2 emissions compared with pure combustion-engined cars, plug-in hybrids can help showcase the benefits of fully electric powertrains to customers. That is because PHEVs can be used for short journeys using electric-only power.

Claus Ehlers, the firm’s powertrain strategy boss, said plug-in hybrids were “an important step in the move towards e-mobility, because they enable the majority of customers to do many daily short drives without producing any local emissions”.

Mercedes-Benz experts forecast that EVs and PHEVs combined (referred to as xEVs by the firm) will account for around 40% of its total sales by 2025. Depending on the speed of adoption, it expects fully electric vehicles to account for between 15% and 25% of total sales by then.

Ehlers said the uncertainty over the speed of EV uptake among customers means that combustion-engined cars will still “play a major role” in the future, which is why Mercedes-Benz is also pushing 48V mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid systems.

Ehlers added that Mercedes-Benz has developed its electric car architecture and powertrains to allow it to rapidly adjust its car production to changing demand, including the ability to build EVs on the same production line as combustion-engined cars.

For example, the three versions of the GLC – mild hybrid, PHEV and hydrogen fuel cell – along with the related electric EQC can all be assembled on the same line.

Read more

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New 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE on sale from £55,685

2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class to be offered with hybrid and electric powertrains



Source: Autocar Online

Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 15 February

Lamborghini Gallardo

For a hair under £60,000, this Lamborghini Gallardo is worth a (very, very scrupulous) once-over

Lamborghini Gallardo £59,999: We must be mad but this 59,000-mile, right-hand drive, 2003-reg Gallardo is a rare and sought-after manual one and comes with stacks of history. 

It has had a really thorough going over recently; lots of things from new handbrake pads and brake fluid, through new OEM filters and the correct grade of branded oil, to having the throttle bodies cleaned, brakes and underside cleaned and checked, the offside lower front ball joint reconditioned and the wheels aligned. 

Worth making the journey for a look-see, then, but before we do, we’d want to know if it’s wrapped; and if it is, we’d wonder what’s lurking beneath. That aluminium body is hellish hard to repair and who’d want a knocked-about Gallardo anyway? 

Assuming it’s au naturel and we make the journey, we’d want to have that V10 engine pressure tested. (It’s prone to oil pump problems.) It’s good the throttle bodies have been cleaned since they’re a trouble spot, too. We’d also check for overheating. 

Moving to the transmission, the manual gearbox is tough but can suffer cable stretch, so we’d feel for imprecise changes. The seller has had the suspension checked and picked up a problem with the offside front ball joint (common). He’s had the rack checked, too, but it’s worth inspecting the condition of the gaiters. 

The nose can suffer bad stone-chipping so, while a wrap would ring alarm bells, we would have no issue with a clear vinyl film here to protect it. Inside, the Audi-sourced trim and controls stand up well. Even so, we’d check the driver’s seat bolster for wear and the Alcantara steering wheel cover for shine – and then have a lie down.

Volkswagen Phaeton LWB, £9800: Diamonds aren’t the only things that are forever – so is the VW Phaeton. The seller claims this 2005-reg V10 TDI conveyed a certain singer to and from her concerts and residences and had done 263,000 miles when he bought it. He’s since added 30,000. 

Alpina D3 Biturbo, £23,490: This 2015-reg, 90,000-mile D3 is for the next time someone knocks diesel. Alpina went through the BMW F30- based saloon fitting new manifolds, tweaking all the settings and suspension, and fitting a soul-stirring exhaust. It does 0-62mph in 4.6sec.

Lancia Thema 2.9 8.32, £25,000: Not the time of the next train to Woking but the number of cylinders (eight) and valves (32) that this very special Lancia has. The 2.9-litre engine was based on that used in the Ferrari 308 but is less powerful. Our example is a 1990 car with 47,000 miles.

Skoda Rapid 136, £4000: Years ago, an Autocar reader wrote to say his Rapid coupé was as much fun as his Porsche 911. And we can confirm this rear-engined car is indeed a hoot. Our 1989 find has adjustable suspension, a Weber carb, new tyres and a good service history. 

Auction watch 

Land Rover Defender Tomb Raider: If the Camel Trophy ‘One life, live it’ slogan doesn’t make you want to saddle up your Defender and head for the mud, look out for one of these: a Defender 90 Tomb Raider. It was released in 2001 on the back of the Lara Croft action movie. Just 250 were built, each decked out with the requisite body protection, spotlights and alloy wheels but also a roll cage, detachable winch, long-range fuel tank and fire extinguisher. 

You’re too late for this 113,000-mile 2.5 diesel that made £14,300 but you can still find the odd 100,000-miler for around £18,000 in the classifieds. 

Get it while you can

BMW 730d M Sport, price new – £73,430, BMW PCP/HP deposit contribution – £17,754: Perhaps the two aren’t linked, but with the facelifted 7 Series due soon (bigger grille, quieter, posher interior), BMW is putting its hand in its pocket to the tune of almost £18,000. That’s its deposit contribution to a PCP or hire purchase deal on a new, outgoing Seven, and almost double what is required from the customer (£10,000). It’s a discount, really, but to be expected on such a big-ticket motor. Bear it in mind if you’re shopping for a nearly new one at just a couple of grand off list… 

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: You have £40k for a hardcore but discreet sports saloon that won’t attract the wrong kind of attention.

Maserati Quattroporte 4.7 V8 Sport GTS, £29,995: The Quattroporte was never much cop as a luxury car, so when it was facelifted, Maserati turned it into the sporting saloon it always should have been. Complete with a gloriously noisy V8 engine, properly sorted passive dampers and springs, and a more conventional ZF automatic gearbox instead of the jerky automated manual, it was the finest Quattroporte ever made. Plus, all the oiks who worship at the altar of AMG, RS Audis and M division BMWs will have no clue what this is. Max Adams

BMW M6 Gran Coupé, £36,000: Take all that’s good about BMW and wrap it in a four-door, pillarless, coupé-style bodyshell of exquisite loveliness and unholy discreetness and add a wonderful 552bhp twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 that will do all you ask of it, all of the time. This gorgeous Gran Coupé might be loaded with goodies but it’s really, really fast – think 0-62mph in 4.7sec – handles like a sports car, rides like a magic carpet and cossets like a luxury liner. This one has done a mere 43k miles and will leave you change from your £40k for a trans-continental driving holiday. I’m in love. Mark Pearson

Verdict: Sensational car, that Maserati, but its exhaust can wake the dead. Flawed M6 version notwithstanding, the big Beemer it is.

Read more

Used car buying guide: Lamborghini Gallardo

Alpina D3 Biturbo review

Five used Lamborghinis that you might just be able to afford​



Source: Autocar Online

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