How to fix Jeep: what is the future for the firm in Europe?

How to fix Jeep

British-born Manley has been Jeep’s CEO since 2009

It’s two and a half times the size of Land Rover but tiny in Europe. As SUVs get ever more popular, what future for Jeep? We ask pundits and its CEO

Every Easter, thousands of Jeep enthusiasts converge on Moab, Utah, to thread their cars across, through and over challenging off-road desert trails.

Still organised – as it originally was in 1967 – as an enthusiast event, the Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) has nevertheless become such a significant gathering that Jeep showcases new design ideas and this year revealed seven EJS concepts, five based on the new ‘JL’ Wrangler, the range icon launched last year.

Jeep won’t commit to production of any of the concepts, but they provide a creative entrée into a busy year for the brand, which will winch up another level on 1 June when Jeep’s owner, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), announces its next five-year business plan out to 2023.

Jeep and its CEO, Michael Manley, are on a roll right now. Manley, born in Edenbridge, Kent, joined DaimlerChrysler in 2000 as dealer development head and, 18 years on, he runs the two jewels in FCA’s crown – Jeep and RAM – making him one of the most senior Brits in the global car industry.

Manley took the reins at Jeep in 2009, when sales were nudging 400,000 units, and he has shepherded it through an unprecedented period of growth. Last year, sales were 1.41 million units, more than three times 2009 levels, and today one in three of all cars sold by FCA wears a Jeep badge.

As a result, Jeep has five models in the top six of FCA’s bestsellers – each model selling more than 200,000 units. And the RAM pick-up – also Manley’s responsibility – is number one.

But last year, Jeep’s growth stalled and sales dropped by 100,000 units, a decline attributed to fewer US fleet rental sales. Then at the Geneva motor show this March, FCA boss Sergio Marchionne dropped the ‘L-Bomb’, describing European sales as “lousy”.

Manley – who, it is reasonable to assume, is used to such outbursts from FCA’s capo dei capi – remains unruffled by his boss’s candour. “The main number we recognise is 1.9m for this year. That was the global number we put in the 2018 business plan five years ago. That, from a global point of view, is the number that we are really, really focused on,” he says.

Jeep has a hugely busy couple of years ahead of it, not only because of a daunting 500,000 extra sales required in 2018. Five new models are on their way in the next three years, and Jeep will replace its premium flagship, the Grand Cherokee, in 2020.

New models will drive Jeep’s growth and the new Compass, just on sale in the UK, is its most important launch since the Renegade arrived four years ago. The Compass takes Jeep into the heart of the fast-growing global C-segment of SUVs against the Ford Kuga and Nissan Qashqai and forecasts from industry analysts IHS Markit suggest the Compass might hit 400,000 sales by the year’s end, making it easily Jeep’s bestseller.

“In Europe, we’ve never had a really competitive SUV in the volume C-segment. Renegade has already really made big strides for us in the B-segment. And now Compass is building on Renegade,” says Manley.

Later this year, the new Wrangler will arrive in the UK backed up by a greater supply of cars, which up to now has been limited by production bottlenecks in the US.

“We will increase annual Wrangler production,” says Manley, “with more available for all markets – not just the UK, because we have many, many thousands of excess orders, even in the US. But we still haven’t broken the constraint, by the look of forward orders.”

New for the Wrangler – and confirmed for Europe – will be a crew-cab pick-up variant.

“There are two very distinct UK pick-up markets – one focused on low-cost utility. But there’s a part of the market that’s moved into lifestyle and that will be where the Jeep pick-up plays,” says Manley. He also raises the prospect of a range-topping Wrangler pick-up version: “In our range, we have traditionally had a ‘profile’ vehicle that’s raised the vehicle from its standard condition and added additional off-road ability that acts as a halo model. The pick-up truck will have one.”

Like every car maker in Europe, Jeep is facing up to the challenge of diesel’s sales slide, and new hybrid models are on the way. The Wrangler, for example, will feature a 2.0-litre petrol with 48V mild hybrid.

“The investment that’s required to stay compliant in diesel in Europe is substantial, so the cost gap between that and some form of hybridisation is closing,” says Manley. “More and more degrees of hybridisation between 48V mild hybrid and plug-in will give a viable alternative to diesel.”

Given that the lugging power of diesel engines is a significant element in Jeep’s off-road performance, isn’t that a concern? “Hybridisation can give you all of that torque application that’s popular with 4×4 drivers,” says Manley, “and although it adds weight, you’re going to see improvements over time as battery energy density improves.”

Manley is proud of the engineering advances that Jeep has made and says powertrain refinement will improve as new petrol-based hybrids come to market. He points out that since models like the Liberty (sold from 2002 to 2012) have been phased out, Jeep has focused on higher-tech all-wheel-drive systems, unibody structure design and car-like suspensions.

“What we’ve done is try to have car-like ride and drive. That’s important,” Manley says. “The Liberty, for example, was an old- generation SUV. It was significantly compromised and only maybe 15% of the buyers appreciated the capability. That limited its appeal.”

But with a new army of customers attracted onto Jeep’s territory of high-riding cars with better visibility, practical interiors and a tougher look than a hatchback, won’t they demand an even more car-like driving feel than, say, the Renegade can deliver?

“I don’t want my vehicles to be crossovers. I want my vehicles to be competitive against crossovers,” counters Manley firmly. “You and I are going to have to differ on your opinion. We are on the cusp of our new, next generation of engines.

Our new generation of nine-speed transmission today is phenomenal. So all of the things you are talking about is a continuing work-in- progress and we continue to invest to do our own part in bar raising.”

Not one to stand still, Manley is planning a further range extension – a B-segment SUV to slot beneath the Renegade. Details are sketchy at the moment, but it looks like a simple spin-off of the Fiat Panda 4×4 with perhaps an extra 125,000 units within its grasp.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the B-segment SUV gets a mention at June’s high-profile FCA business plan announcement alongside more investment, more models and more ambitious sales targets, becausethe iconic US brand is heading onwards and upwards. And don’t forget there’s a Brit in charge. 

How far upmarket will Jeep go?

As a graphic illustration of how far Jeep has come, the $86,000 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is the ultimate example. Seventy-five years ago, the Jeep was a utility vehicle clogged up to its axles in WW2 battlefields. Today, the Trackhawk is a 697bhp, 3.5sec-to- 62mph luxury beast that snarls like a Nascar racer and is trimmed in fancy leather yet rolls with indecent comfort.

Given that Jeep is eyeing up new territory above the Grand Cherokee for the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models, the pricey Trackhawk is surely paving the way, isn’t it? “To answer your question simply: yes,” says Jeep CEO Michael Manley.

However, Jeep is not generally heading towards some stratospheric price positioning, like too many Land Rover and Range Rover models. And that’s great for car buyers, especially in the US, where Jeep is synonymous with the great outdoors and the freedom to roam. But it might not be so great in a pure business sense. That’s because bigger list prices equal bigger margins and happier chief executives. Last year, an ambitious plan to make the next Wagoneer family on a new unibody chassis was quietly shelved and, with it, ambitions to take on Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands can be positioned to do that.

Instead, the Wagoneer will be based on a low-cost body-on-frame platform, possibly a variant of the RAM pick-up, since production is slated for the Warren plant in Detroit, home to the RAM 1500.

Jeep can deploy the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer as two different trim levels on a full-sized SUV to take on bestselling models like the Chevrolet Tahoe and its platform twin, the Cadillac Escalade. The Wagoneer can be priced against the Tahoe at around $55k while the Grand Wagoneer shoots high at the $80k Escalade.

So while premium manufacturers slug it out with aluminium spaceframe chassis and super-luxury interiors, Jeep looks content to feed its loyal customers rugged, honest SUVs that drive much better than they once did and offer touches of luxury but are not pretentious or over-priced.

What the experts say: 

The general agreement is that Jeep has come a long way fast but also faces several significant challenges in the future.

The most pressing is the hugely ambitious 1.9 million sales target for this year. In fact, IHS Markit, which supplies detailed sales forecasts to the main players in the car industry, predicts a much more conservative increase in sales of just 125k in 2018, rather than the 500k Jeep expects.

“We don’t see such an optimistic year,” says IHS consultant Colin Couchman. “Jeep has had a big global target for some time. But the sheer scale of growth in SUVs might mean Jeep gets crowded out by rivals, especially in China.”

IHS believes Jeep won’t hit its 1.9m target until 2023 – in other words, at the end of the next five- year plan from Jeep parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). And it predicts a brief lull in sales in 2019 and 2020 of around 1.55-1.56m units, until sales in Europe, China and Latin America lift again in 2021 and boost the total to 1.68m – when the new small B-segment Jeep is launched.

Peter Wells, who leads Cardiff University’s Centre for Automotive Industry Research, believes Jeep faces some major strategic challenges.

Wells says: “It comes down to investment and strategic partners. Can FCA find a partner to make the kind of cost savings that the RenaultNissan Alliance has?”

Wells says that alliance is saving around $5 billion a year, from an annual purchasing bill of about $100bn – cash that it can invest in electrified powertrains, new platforms and production capacity.

Wells says: “I think Jeep will struggle to hit the volumes they’re talking about. And I think they’ve got to do more to build the brand around the world. Land Rover has been brilliant at that.”

Read more

Jeep Wrangler review 

Jeep Cherokee review 

Jeep Compass review

Source: Autocar Online

Pedal cars: the vintage machines that are hugely collectible

Posh pedal cars

The growing popularity of pedal cars paused…

Posh pedal cars have become hugely desirable – and valuable. We attend the auction of one amazing collection

A nostalgic spin and drift around the park with the radio-controlled Tamiya Porsche 959 you built as a teenager? Irresistible.

Beers, pizza and a riotous evening with your mates and a Scalextric set usually dormant in your loft? Ditto. A 20-minute, leg-pumping workout as you shave tenths off your lap time around the garden in your childhood pedal car? Possibly not, unless you’re bashless enough not to mind appearing in A&E with a small metal motor vehicle wrapped irremovably around your legs.

Pedal cars: once a hugely desirable toy for the small and incompletely formed, these four-foot-long, pump- action motors were quite often a pastiche of the car dad drove – or something he was never likely to drive at all, such as a Jaguar E-Type or an F1 racer. Pedal cars have taken many forms, some surprising and some surprisingly detailed. But the trouble with them is that, unlike the simple finger twitching required to control a radio-controlled car or slot racer, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to relive the pleasure of pre-teen automotive pedal power because you are now too big.

None of which has stopped these machines from becoming collectible. Neither has the inconvenience of their size, which is considerably greater than that of almost every other kind of toy car. For proof, you only have to look at the collection of 156 pedal cars sold at auction last month, the most expensive of which attracted an £8200 winning bid (£9154 with fees), while the cheapest was a deeply tired £50 machine that had lost its bonnet.

Until 21 March these toys all belonged to Jaguar Land Rover – surely among the odder items the company has owned. The company acquired them in 2014 as part of the 543-strong James Hull car collection, which included a large number of highly desirable Jaguars.

On the same day as the pedal car auction, 110 ex-James Hull JLR cars and camper vans, mostly duplicates, were also sold, with JLR’s Heritage division planning to keep quite a number of other-brand models in its now sizeable collection.

So which pedal car scored a £9154 sale? That was a beautiful replica of a 1930s Blower Bentley, complete with model supercharger beneath its mesh-protected headlights. This is a pedal car you wouldn’t want to let a child anywhere near, despite the provision of leather flying helmet and an electric motor. The same applies to many of these cars, including a petrol-engined AC Cobra of impressive quality (it went for £5712 with fees), some beautiful pre-war sports cars and grand prix racers and a couple of restored DS Citroëns.

Most of the cars were more mainstream, the vast majority relying on junior feet for propulsion. That sounds like a simple method of travelling from dad’s armchair to the bathroom, except that for a small child it’s a sizeable test of co-ordination. The child must consistently pump their legs while navigating domestic furnishings, walls, doors, dogs and adult shins if they are to avoid both a Carpet Traffic Accident and the irritation of relatives. Despite these minor drawbacks, though, pedal cars are almost as old as the car itself.

The first appeared in the 1890s and were doubtless considerably more reliable than the full-size cars on which they were modelled. Many were fabricated from pressed steel and featured plenty of detail, making them the rich child’s plaything.

The heyday of the metal pedal car lasted half a century, from the 1920s through to the end of the 1960s. In the 1970s they were increasingly made out of plastic (as with so many things of the time), somewhat diminishing the appeal to collectors, many of whom were present for this bonanza of pedal-powered automobilia.

“Pedal cars have a huge following and they always go very well,” says Toby Service of Brightwells auctioneers. “It’s extraordinary to see so many in one place. I’ve only seen one collection bigger than this in my 17 years”. Also extraordinary was a collection of model planes, many of them radio-controlled and large enough to need the hangar space of a domestic garage. Most spectacular was a huge Hercules bomber, a bargain at £896. Still, all lots found homes, underlining the appeal of machines that their collectors can neither drive nor fly. 

Our highlights: 

TRIUMPH TR3 – £1064

This impressive Triumph is almost big enough for an adult to enter, although battery life (it’s electric) would then be further curtailed by the extra weight.


Another electric car rather than a pedal-powered one and really beautifully finished despite not being a scale replica of a specific Ferrari.


This magnificent monster, modelled on an aircraft from the ‘Dambusters’ squadron, is radio controlled. Not surprisingly you need official clearance to fly it, what with its 204in wingspan.


A miniature of the real thing and it’s made by Morgan. This beauty is electric powered and the body is crafted from lightweight aluminium.


A home-made pedal car of dramatic silhouette, and almost of a scale to be considered a threat. Based on a ride-on lawnmower, presumably bladeless.


Possibly the oldest pedaller present, and wonderfully patinated with it. It even has brakes, in contrast to real period Bugattis, which fell infamously short in this department.

Source: Autocar Online

Insight: Waymo – Google's self-driving division


Waymo-equipped Jag I-Pace

The head of Google’s self-driving division, Waymo, tells us why car enthusiasts shouldn’t be scared of the future

The boss of the most powerful self-driving car technology company in the world has a Porsche 911 GT3 on order. And a Caterham in his garage. And two more Porsche 911s nestling alongside that: a 997-series C2 S and a 964-series Targa.

Easy natured and always the evangelist, John Krafcik – CEO of Waymo, part of Google – breaks into a ready smile as he can see my brain computing that one. “We are not the enemy. Yes, you can have self-driving cars and enthusiasts’ cars,” he says, grinning. “What we’re doing at Waymo does not mean the end of driving.

If you just want to get somewhere, we hope you’ll use one of our cars. Hail it on the app, get driven there autonomously, hop out.

Jaguar deal could encourage Waymo to start autonomous car tests in Britain

“But people will always want to own cars – and if you’re buying something, we want it to be special.

I can see how we might disrupt the utilitarian market, because we can likely cover those needs in a cost-effective way, but the beauty for car enthusiasts is that every car that gets sold will have to be more interesting. It’ll have a purpose.”

Krafcik, 56, and Waymo were thrust further into the spotlight last month when it was announced that the firm had committed to buy up to 20,000 Jaguar I-Paces, which it will offer to the public to use autonomously from 2020. To look at him, you’d think he’d spent his life in Silicon Valley – there’s the floppy hair, stubbly chin and jeans, for starters – but in fact he spent decades in the car industry, working his way through the ranks (see separate story, right) before answering the call from Google’s founders to head up Waymo in 2016.

Ask him if the firm ever had plans – as long rumoured – to make cars as well as develop self-driving technology and he’s coy, saying only that “I’m not aware of it”. But when Waymo was launched at the tail end of 2016, those rumours were, for now at least, put firmly to bed.

“We built our own test car, called Firefly, but that was really because we could take advantage of the so-called ‘golf cart regulations’ that were in place to test our technology,” he says. “Up to 35mph, it could run in neighbourhoods without the need for a steering wheel, and it was our way of logging test miles. But building full cars is best left to the experts. They have their specialisms, we have ours.”  

Those test miles are now Waymo’s answer to any concerns about the safety of the public testing of self- driving cars. Given a chance, Krafcik will repeat like a mantra the dual facts that the firm has covered five million autonomous test miles on public roads in the US and more than five billion miles in computer simulation. He’ll also state that Waymo’s proprietary lidar and radar systems, developed since 2008, are the best in the world, so much so that the firm plans to become the first to start public trials of autonomous cars without any ‘fail-safe’ humans behind a wheel over a 100-square- mile area of Arizona this year.

“When we set the company up, we asked ourselves what our role should be, and the answer was to develop the world’s best driver,” he says. “The technology we have today can drive anything from a giant truck to a Prius. If it moves, we can find a way to drive it.” Given that studies suggest autonomous driving technology will be a £5 trillion a year business by the middle of this century, you’d think it was pretty easy to understand Google’s interests in getting involved. Krafcik counter that with a steeliness that suggests there may be a truth to his words: “You might think money was the primary motivation, but it can’t be. The goal is zero fatalities. That’s it. If there’s payback for that social benefit, then great.”

On the subject of safety, Krafcik feels that the car industry had become complacent. “The word ‘accident’ was actually created to almost explain away what were, in reality, tragedies,” he says. “Everyone knew the facts, but there had become a level of acceptance that people would die because of cars. But 140 deaths an hour – that’s too much.

“So we embrace the drive for zero fatalities. We want safety and mobility for all. Neither’s easy: the former is more of a goal, while the latter is a big challenge. Just in the US, there are 30 million people today who don’t have access to transport.”

Waymo, of course, is one of many firms vying for supremacy in the field, including Jaguar Land Rover, which will continue to develop its own systems, but there’s no doubt that the benefit of Google’s brains trust, reputation and war chest has given it a head start. Self-driving may not be a nirvana for many car enthusiasts, but there’s no doubting that in Krafcik its future is being driven forward by one.

How Krafcik got where he is today:

His formative years – “My boss [at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc] was a Yoda-like figure: very wise, but he talked in riddles. Early in my career, I was sent to a GM factory. It was impressive, but I did notice some cars being repaired off the line and some people sleeping in cardboard boxes on site. I got back, presented my report, said how impressed I was and so on – and then got sent to a Toyota plant in Japan. It was extraordinarily efficient. My boss had made his point: I recognised the standards to strive for.”

Why he gave it all up to be an engineer – “I wanted to design cars, so I asked Ford if I could. They offered me the chance to run some plants. I said no, persisted and eventually got a role as a product design engineer. It was the best job I ever had. I learned the product development processes and a respect for how car makers engineer in so much quality and reliability.”

Why he left Ford – “At that time, it was the greatest collection of clever people who couldn’t work out how to get on. I couldn’t aspire to the next level of management there as I didn’t like how those people treated other people.”

The route to Waymo – “I joined Hyundai and had a blast. Then at the height of the recession, I was asked to run Hyundai USA. We had some great years and then I joined True Car, a website selling cars. And then the phone rang. It was Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. I took the call!”

Read more 

Tesla Model S review 

Tesla Model X review 

Jaguar deal could encourage Waymo to start autonomous car tests in Britain

Source: Autocar Online

A drive in the 666bhp Lister Thunder

Jaguar F-Type R-based Lister Thunder

A revived Lister will be producing a run of 99 Thunder

A riotous exhaust and a brutish bodykit mean the new, Jaguar F-Type R-based Lister Thunder is anything but subtle. We drive it

We’ve not made it 50 yards when photographer Luc suggests that this is the most feral-sounding thing the sensible side of a Ferrari 812 Superfast.

He is probably correct too. Lacey isn’t a man prone to hyperbole, which is funny in itself because the car we’re driving trades committedly in the stuff: it’s an inky menace with acid-green highlights, enormous wheels satiating their arches with barely a toothpick’s width to spare and bodywork draped to the asphalt like a studded-leather ballgown. It sounds like a Nascar escapee, for pity’s sake.

Welcome, then, to the Lister Thunder. While this development car is recognisably F-Type, any vestigial elegance of Jaguar’s coupé is buried beneath a truly gothic disposition. At heart it’s an F-Type R, only with new supercharger pulleys, an upgraded intercooler, improved induction and a tickled ECU that boosts the 542bhp 5.0-litre V8 to 666bhp.

A 0-60mph time of 3.2sec and a top speed of 208mph put its performance in the realm of supercars. Four-wheel drive and an eight-speed torque-converter gearbox from ZF are carried over from the donor car, while a new exhaust supplied by Quicksilver not only saves 10kg but also delivers the chased-by-a-Spitfire soundtrack through carbonfibre-wrapped tips of a riotous bore. Even the crackles on the overrun don’t relent until you’ve picked up the throttle once again, meaning unrelenting noise of a murderous timbre is omnipresent.

What the name Lister means to you will almost certainly depend on your age. For a millennial such as your correspondent, it’s the Storm: a 7.0-litre wedge that raced in various GT series in the late 1990s and was homologated with four £450,000 road cars. For Lister CEO Lawrence Whittaker (slightly older), it’s most likely the Le Mans, which was a modified Jaguar XJS whose pulverising 600bhp was exceeded only by the blunt visual trauma of its bodykit.

For Whittaker’s father, Andrew, with whom Lawrence bought the rights to the Lister name for a six-figure sum in 2013, it’s the legendary Knobbly sports car. And, in fact, the Thunder we’re driving today might never have existed were it not for a Knobbly of questionable provenance and a stash of forgotten parts in Cambridge.

It was the disappointment of learning that their ‘1958’ Knobbly used a chassis dating from the 1980s and a body from the 2000s that led the Whittakers to George Lister Engineering in Cambridge. The place is genesis for Lister’s original racers and it was here the pair discovered forgotten blueprints and parts and even an original chassis jig.

Naturally, at this point the mission brief shifted from restoring a solitary Knobbly to purchasing Lister in its entirety and building a run of 10 recreation cars. Wealth acquired from another business – Warrantywise – proved handy in this regard, and with FIA certification for historic racing, even at £250,000 apiece the box-fresh Knobblys promptly sold out.

Fast-forward just five years and the company is preparing for June deliveries of the car before you here, which represents Lister’s return to the road. Some car it is too. And yet, if the prospect of driving a 666bhpF-Type on damp roads flanked by dry stone walls patiently waiting to tear into that bodywork sounds intimidating, the reality is different.

The Thunder is spectacularly quick in a straight line, but the supercharged delivery is so superbly linear that you’re never taken unawares by the distance-compressing hops in a way you might be in some similarlyformidable turbocharged rivals.

Moreover, and as you’d hope to find in an aspiring GT car, the Thunder allows to you establish a rhythm through and between corners. With seemingly bottomless reserves of torque, you’re also permitted to set the tempo as you please. 

There’s traction too, and in circumstances like these we’re grateful for the driveshafts in the front axle. Without them you’d need to be exceedingly confident in your abilities to use even two-thirds of what this powertrain can deliver.  As it is – and absurdly so, given the numbers involved – you’re encouraged to chase the throttle right from the moment that green- lipsticked nose is turned in and the body settled on its outside springs. A hot-rod? Not exactly, which just goes to show how deceptive appearances can be. If a valve big enough to tame that exhaust note could be found, the Thunder is comfortable enough to make a formidable tourer.

Certainly the interior is pleasing enough in an old-school manner. The black leather is from Bridge of Weir and broken up by green stitching almost everywhere you look. Jaguar logos on the air vents and steering wheel give the game away, and the digital displays are yet to be reskinned on-brand, but taken as a whole it feels adequately bespoke.

Acting as a metaphor for the entire car, the faintly aged feel of the architecture and switchgear is countered by a cosseting, focused ambience brought about by a low-slung driving position and a high scuttle. If nothing else, the place is rich in character.

Push on and it’s apparent this chassis still needs some fine-tuning before the keys are in customers’ hands.Those 21in wheels give the Thunder the stance of something that drove straight off the pages of Ian Callum’s sketchbook but they mean tyre occasionally meets arch-liner with a ‘pzizz’ that cuts through the exhaust blare.

Despite using KW springs stiffer than those found on an F-Type R (the adaptive dampers remain factory specification), the suspension is still a little slow to mop up road surface corrugations, particularly when loaded up. On these Lancashire roads, it can precipitate a faint skittishness that’s as welcome as cold hotpot, although it never threatens to incurably disrupt the balance of the underlying Jaguar chassis.

Indeed, one of the Lister’s strengths is that its sheer drivability belies the ludicrousness of the noise and firepower at hand. Snagging that carbonfibre splitter in town is going to be your greatest concern.

The price is £141,155, which puts the Thunder squarely in the crosshairs of Aston’s V8-engined DB11, while the additional £14,850 for which Lister asks to fit a carbonfibre bonnet brings the new Bentley Continental GT into play.

Anyone considering buying a Lister would be mad not to sample alternatives of this calibre before putting pen to paper, and yet we’d understand the person for whom the Thunder’s rarity and sheer eccentricity ultimately win out. There is work to be done here, not least with the finer chassis tuning, but encouraging first impressions suggest one of Britain’s best-loved marques is properly back, and with a deafening bang.

The next chapter: 

There are all sorts of risks involved in acquiring such a storied marque as Lister, and Lawrence Whittaker – as a young man in the context of his position – must have been relieved when orders totalling £3.1 million rolled in only 24 hours after announcing the Thunder. He and father Andrew had already orchestrated a successful run of continuation examples of the Knobbly, but this was proof there was also a hearty appetite for road cars. Those road-going Listers will be built at a new facility in Milton Keynes. Up to six cars can be worked on concurrently, with a three-month lead-time for the conversion.

Whittaker’s medium-term ambition is to develop his company into a tuning outfit with intimate links to Jaguar. He cites Alpina’s relationship with BMW as an appealing model that would afford Lister early access to future cars and economise the modification process both in terms of expenditure and time.

As it stands, a Thunder begins life as a complete F-Type R, with Lister having no use for many of the parts it strips from the donor car. Jaguar – and particularly design director Ian Callum – has given short shrift to third-party tuners in the past, although the company has already been in touch to offer help with sourcing cars for modification. Where this will eventually lead is anybody’s guess, but it’s an encouraging start.

Once the run of 99 Thunder models is completed, attention will turn to the recently announced F-Pace SVR, for which Lister has already made plans. As much as 670bhp is on the cards, with a larger production run of 250 cars reflecting current market tastes. Don’t be surprised to see a Lister-ised take on the Range Rover Sport, either.

The grand plan is to sell enough modified Jaguar Land Rover cars to build a bespoke Lister and revive the ‘Storm’ moniker. It would be an expensive project – a figure of £50m passes Whittaker’s lips – taking the form of a hypercar to rival the likes of Pagani and Koenigsegg.

Annual production would be in single digits, with the asking price running to six. Before all that, however, there are the remaining Thunder build slots to fill.

Read more 

Jaguar F-Type R review 

Jaguar F-Type SVR review 

Jaguar F-Pace review 

Source: Autocar Online

The power of Scotland: remembering Jim Clark

 Jim Clark

Clark was Formula 1 world champion in 1963 and in 1965

Jim Clark was arguably the top driver during a golden era for Formula 1. To mark 50 years since his passing, we takes a Lotus Evora to Scotland to trace the formative years of the world’s fastest farmer

There’s an archetypal personality in the Scottish Borders, the verdant wedge of rolling lowland abutting England’s northernmost reaches.

Innocent of motorways and barely skirted by rail, the region preserves an identity shaped not only by agriculture but also centuries of cross-border conflict. It’s an archetype that’s modest but steely, cautious of strangers and reluctant with an audience but boisterous among friends. I grew up surrounded by it. You’ll find it from Burnmouth to Buccleuch. Nothing unusual, then, about James Clark, Jnr, the young farmer from Chirnside. Except that he was the greatest racing driver in the world.

Clark was Formula 1 world champion in 1963 and in 1965, when he paused from winning six consecutive grands prix to triumph at Indianapolis. He narrowly missed three more F1 titles, was twice runner-up at the Brickyard and claimed the 1964 British Saloon Car Championship.

On 7 April 1968, Clark was killed when his Formula 2 Lotus-Cosworth crashed in the woods at Hockenheim. In the subsequent issue of Autocar, the accident’s cause eluded editor Peter Garnier, as it eludes today. Garnier’s eulogy concluded: “Though most of us will see him in memory, garlanded and waving after some great victory, it is perhaps the thought of his less glamorous, simpler background in his native land that endeared him to us all so much.”

That is why we’re making a pilgrimage to see the places, meet the people and drive the cars that helped shape a champion, when motorsport for Clark was still a local, amateur affair. We’re armed with a Lotus Evora GT410 Sport, the latest machine from the marque that carried Clark to his greatest triumphs, liveried in dark green with yellow calipers in tribute.

We’ll be guided by my father’s 1965 copy of Clark’s autobiography, At the Wheel – the book that inspired Webber the Elder growing up in Hawick as it did a teenage Steve Cropley kicking up dust in the Australian Outback. Such was the global appeal of this local hero; the man the French christened ‘Superjim’ and the Italians ‘Clarkissimo’.

Our first call is not Chirnside but Kilmany, the Fife village where Clark was born in 1936 and spent his first six years. There we visit the commemorative statue by local sculptor David Annand. Set on a peaceful lane next to the babbling Motray Water, it shows the distinctive 5ft 7in frame in racing overalls, mid purposeful stride. It’s a beautiful piece and, I’m told, an uncanny likeness.

A chance meeting with Rob and Susan Whiteford, current owners of the farm at Wester Kilmany, lets us draw the Evora in front of Clark’s sturdy but homely birthplace. (Long before Indy, his first victory milk was taken behind the upper right-hand window, if you’re interested.) Rob’s father acquired the tenancy from the Clarks when they moved south in 1942.

The Evora’s ‘GT’ prefix points towards a racing-inspired spec, including lightness-adding carbonfibre panels, Eibach springs, Bilstein dampers, four-piston AP calipers and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, not to mention the charge-cooled Edelbrock supercharger that helps mine 410bhp from the mid-mounted, Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre V6. But as an ensuing dual-carriageway sprint shows, it can tour too. The ride is slightly animated but far from uncomfortable and the steering settled, while impressive tractability lets us engage sixth and leave it there. Even the dual-mode exhaust becomes unexpectedly civil.

Which is just as well because an art exam is happening as we simmer between the ochre-walled buildings at Clark’s alma mater, Loretto in Musselburgh. The 191-year-old school has added wings, girls and day pupils since Clark’s time as a boarder between 1949 and 1952, but its courtyard – and the red-blazered, tieless throng milling through it – has changed little. On one side sits the chapel, which houses a plaque marking Clark’s achievements in racing. Ayrton Senna paid homage in 1991.

“I couldn’t see what use Latin would be for a farmer,” wrote Clark. He frequented the library for other reasons: “I read the three books on motor racing in the school library from cover to cover several times, and remember those special mornings when it was time to collect my weekly motoring magazines.” Today, books about Clark inspire the students.

A coast-hugging cruise down the A1 leads into the Borders and Chirnside, where there’s a memorial to Clark designed by Ian Scott- Watson, the friend who started Clark in racing and managed him through the early years. We’ll meet him tomorrow. For now, we’ve a short drive to the family farm that Clark left school at 16 to manage.

Similarly traditional to Wester Kilmany, the house at Edington Mains is larger, and the acreage only a little diminished from when Clark tended crops and livestock here. Current owners Dave and Tanya Runciman relay that a young Clark would jump from his first-floor bedroom onto his father’s truck before tearing off in whatever vehicle he could lay hands on. The first of these illicit forays was in an Austin 7, when he was aged just nine.

It was from here that Clark and pals pedalled six miles to the disused military airfield at Winfield – briefly a motor-racing Mecca for 50,000 spectators, now just gravel and tall grass – to peek through the hedges at the Ecurie Ecosse team in testing. The spectacle stayed with him.

Aside from late, fiscally motivated stints in Paris and Bermuda (income tax hit 91.25% in 1967), this remained Clark’s home and it’s where he wrote the book I’m carrying. The house became filled with trophies, although it remained simply furnished, the occasional rogue sofa spring known to keep visitors alert. Such antithesis to the glamour and danger of professional racing weighed heavy on Clark: “There is a constant tug between the sport and attractions of returning to life on the farm, not to mention allaying the constant and understandable anxiety of my parents.”

We break towards Hawick. On the quiet, narrow, helter-skelter back roads, the Evora comes alive. Sport mode sharpens the throttle and opens the exhaust valve wide, smothering the supercharger’s hum with a full, racy yowl, the engine doing tremendous work between 3750rpm and the 7000rpm redline. The aluminium gearknob shifts neatly, crisp throttle response abets heel-and-toe and the brakes give that delightful, sandpapery racing feel under duress.

The Evora never feels like grounding out or springing skyward, its suspension and aero relentlessly forcing the lightweight alloy wheels and Cup 2s into the grit-seasoned surface. It’s near freezing, but only the standing water and tractor- dragged mud give cause for pause. Otherwise, both ends are tacked down, the Evora’s nose obedient to the swift and transparent hydraulic steering.

On this road, a young Clark came face to face with Ecurie Ecosse’s three dark blue Jaguar C-Types, line astern and squirming into a hairpin: “I remember thinking what a shower of madmen they were. But at the same time, I felt a twinge of envy.” We strafe on past Kelso, where years later a typically flat-capped, betweeded Clark attended the ram sale five days after winning the 1963 title.

Although Clark had earlier runs in rallies, gymkhanas and autocrosses, the opening entry in Scott-Watson’s detailed record of his friend’s achievements is a sprint meeting at Stobs Camp, near Hawick, on 3 June 1956. The 0.8-mile hillside circuit surrounds half of what was once a military training facility turned POW camp. Up to 5000 Germans were detained here in WW1. D-Day preparations took place during WW2. The family of owners Nicky and Sandra Ewart returned it to farming in 1960.

The now gravelly perimeter road that once traced the barbed wire was still neat tarmac when Clark arrived to compete in the Sunbeam Mk3 passed down by his father. That the almost identical Sunbeam-Talbot 90that Kevan Younger of Coldstream Classic Cars has brought along is now hired for weddings tells you how unsuitable it seems for motorsport – yet a Mk3 won the Monte Carlo Rally the year before, and Clark raced his successfully.

It almost didn’t happen, though, as Graham Gauld noted in his 1968 biography, Portrait of a Great Driver. Following practice, the stewards “felt sure that if he ran in the event he would have the world’s biggest accident”. Perhaps the narrow, twisty track, cursed with mad cambers and edged by trees and ditches, explains why Clark was the only finisher in class – and therefore the winner. Gauld reported: “His driving was at times heart-stopping, the car clearing the ground completely on the downhill stretch.” Having edged around the crumbling circuit in a 4×4, slithered the Evora up the soundest stretch and then tried Younger’s car – which he barely dares take above 40mph on the road – I can confirm that prospect is frightening.

With Younger is Bob Smith, who serviced the Sunbeam for Clark (until he wrote it off, that is). The young farmer’s speed was locally infamous by then. Smith tells of Clark giving his terrified shepherd a lift backfrom a livestock sale. “How many sheep did you count?” asked Clark as they pulled into Edington Mains. “Sheep?” said the shepherd. “I could barely count the fields!”

On to Charterhall, another wartime airfield turned circuit. Clark watched his first race here, in 1952, back when this remote, two-mile track – now desolate save for the resurfaced main straight – attracted international stars. Racers that day included 1950 world champion Giuseppe Farina in the Thin Wall Ferrari, Prince Bira and Stirling Moss.

The names were glamorous, but the facilities were not: a double- decker for the timekeepers and long- drops for loos. Still, thousands came, and Clark himself soon become a draw. In autumn 1959, he raced Scott-Watson’s Elite here, fresh from 10th place at Le Mans – a remarkable result for a group of holidaymaking farmers who’d collected only a partially prepared car from Lotus mere days before.

This was the gung-ho Border Reivers team that indoctrinated Clark into serious racing, including third at Le Mans in 1960 in an Aston Martin DBR1. Two years earlier, the team’s Jaguar D-Type had thrown Clark in at the deep end during testing at Charterhall, providing one of the many pushes he needed en route to greatness: “I thought they were daft asking me to drive it. All I did was take it up and down the straight, and it scared me to death.”

The team was named for the area’s plunderous, mounted gangs of the Middle Ages, and marked by the badge you see on the delicious blue Elite that joins us on that very straight. It belongs to Doug Niven, cousin of Clark and a successful racer himself. Its fizzy little fire-pump-derived Coventry Climax 1.2-litre straight four makes just 72bhp but moves the GRP-bodied Elite along smartly, its exhaust rasping away. There’s a tiny shifter for the ZF four-speed, yet an enormous steering wheel. The suspension is soft, but nimbleness comes from a mere half-tonne kerb weight. Petite, unconventionally engineered and lightweight, it’s pure Colin Chapman.

We stop by the Jim Clark Museum in Duns, a compact but rich collection of trophies and mementos, from Charterhall’s tiny silver cups to the cache of trophies and trinkets from Indianapolis. The Jim Clark Trust works to maintain Clark’s legacy and recently raised funds to expand the museum to house cars as well as artefacts as of next spring. The trust marked Clark’s passing with a range of local events on 7 and 8 April.

Then we visit Scott-Watson, who warmly and generously shares stories of ‘Jimmy’ and ‘Mossy’, Chapman and more. He invested huge amounts of faith, encouragement and, indeed, personal funds to get Clark racing. 

Before leaving the Borders, we call on Eric Bryce, a local lensman who photographed his friend Clark over a decade. By the fire, we pore over countless images, from his first photograph of the Sunbeam at Charterhall to post-win celebrations at the 1967 British Grand Prix, Clark garlanded as Garnier described.

“That was the final picture I took of Jimmy,” says Bryce, thoughtfully. “It was the last negative on the roll of film.”

Our final leg leads west of Edinburgh to the only one of our three Clark venues still hosting competition. Created in 1932, Bo’ness Hill Climb was Scotland’s first purpose-built track and nowadays hosts the Bo’ness Revival – a classic car show combined with historic motorsport each September. At 0.35 miles, the course is shorter than before but retains its charming feel, climbing among thick woodland and then snaking through a pretty courtyard. It’s a delightful place to enjoy old cars.

Clark competed in three Border Reivers cars here in 1959, including the highly successful white Porsche 356A 1600S he’d recently bought from Scott-Watson for both racing and daily driving. We’re lucky to be joined by Simon Whittley and his 356, identical in all but colour. From within that bulbous yet graceful form, its perky, responsive, rear-mounted four-pot boxer warbles beautifully. Its steering is keen, its gearshift long but silky, and the brakes work too. I can see how the 356 helped Clark earn his stripes.

Within a year, Clark was racing for Lotus in F1. A 1961 entry at Charterhall was his final race in Scotland, and for the Border Reivers. But in his introduction for At the Wheel, Clark’s next patron, Chapman, recognised the “trait of Scottish character” that helped Clark become a champion, calling it “a certain dourness and a very strong determination to succeed”. Chapman went on: “There are other racing drivers who have to generally attract attention to themselves to make up for lack of ability; but Jimmy has not had to do any of that, and if he left racing tomorrow, he would leave it with an example which others would find hard to follow.”

I think that’s just as true 50 years after the fact.

Q&A – Ian Scott -Watson:

We chat with the man who set Jim Clark on the path to world domination.

What made Clark different from modern Formula 1 champions?

“Firstly, the ever-present risk of death: Sid Watkins’ successful measures to minimise danger did not exist in Jim’s day. He used to be pretty upset when his competitors were killed and by the number of race widows, although he seemed to switch that fear off in the cockpit. Also, Jim never really appeared to worry about the lack of money he was earning compared with today’s drivers. He raced for the love of the sport.

Finally, he was essentially a gentleman, and behaving in the way some more recent drivers have would just never occur to him. He would have worried about the risk of causing fatal accidents.”

Are there similarities between Clark and other drivers?

“While I am sure Jim would have considered Jenson Button a worthy competitor, I doubt whether he would have felt the same about Mansell, Senna, Schumacher, Vettel and Hamilton. He always seemed to like Bruce McLaren and Dan Gurney, who shared his parameters.”

He had talked about retiring young. Do you think he would have raced much longer?

“I think he would most probably have been champion in 1968, and possibly beyond, but could well have retired then. I think he would have deemed it a good idea to retire at the top. Although he loved living on the farm, I think he would have wanted some other challenge first. He enjoyed flying and I believe he and Colin [Chapman] had been considering developing composite planes.”

What made Clark a great driver?

“Jim had an extraordinary natural talent, quite remarkable vision and incredibly rapid reactions. He was a brilliant shot and had played hockey and cricket for Borders teams. His ability to overcome problems with the car he was driving was legendary. To start, I had great trouble in getting him to believe in his own ability. Chatting at Goodwood after his first stint in the 1959 Tourist Trophy, he asked: ‘Why is everyone going so slowly?’ I replied: ‘It’s not that. It is that you are so quick!’ I noticed a change in him then. I think that was the first occasion when he really began to believe that perhaps he actually was that much quicker than his peers.”

Why does Scotland produce so many race aces? 

Alongside the likes of Flockhart, Ireland, Stewart, McRae, Cleland, Coulthard and Franchitti, Jim Clark is one of a plenitude of world- class drivers to emerge from Scotland. So why does the country punch above its weight when it comes to producing racers? We quiz two of them to find out.


Hailing from Dumfries, McNish competed in 17 F1 races and had a successful career in endurance racing, topping the podium at Le Mans three times, including twice for Audi, for which he is now Formula E team principal.

“I don’t believe it is just driving talent, good luck or the roads, but also inspiration, determination and support. It takes a lot of commitment just to reach an event, never mind compete, so when you get the chance, you give it your all. Sitting in the back of a van for seven hours after a kart race is a much happier ‘debrief’ if you have won a trophy, so you do everything to achieve that.

“We also support each other: Jim supported Jackie, Jackie supported, guided and pushed me, David Coulthard and Dario Franchitti,andwetryto do the same for the next generation, be it a word in the ear of someone that matters or supporting programmes such as Scottish Motor Sports. We are proud of our heritage, but also know the future does not happen by luck.”


Born in Edinburgh, Shedden followed in Clark’s footsteps by winning the national touring car title, taking top BTCC honours three times. He’s now an Audi Sport driver in the new World Touring Car Cup.

“Living in Scotland certainly has plenty of challenges. The location inevitably means that anyone who wants to succeed in motorsport either has to move down south or be prepared to cover plenty of motorway miles. Either way, it takes dedication, commitment and sheer doggedness when the cardsarestackedagainst you. Growing up in Scotland also means you can see four seasons in a day, so racing and learning in nasty conditions is part of life. It makes the nice days a breeze in comparison.”

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Source: Autocar Online

Video: Audi R8 vs Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid drag race

It’s a drag race showdown between Audi’s supercar and the hybrid version of Porsche’s grand tourer

What’s quicker: a bona fide supercar in the shape of an Audi R8 or a 4-seater large grand tourer such as the Porsche Panamera?

The E-Hybrid, producing nearly 700bhp, is the fastest Panamera that Porsche have made to date but it’s more than 700kg heavier than the R8. So which will win in a drag race? Well, let’s find out…

Source: Autocar Online

Win tickets to the Classic & Sports Car Show

Classic & Sports Car Show

Here’s your chance to claim one of 10 pairs of tickets to the celebration of historic racing cars, classic machinery and vintage aircraft

Autocar has teamed up with our sister brand, Classic & Sports Car, to give away 10 pairs of tickets to their brand new event on 23-24 June at Bicester Heritage.

The Classic & Sports Car Show in association with the Flywheel Festival, will combine track action from world-class historic racing cars and motorcycles with an array of vintage aircraft and classic military vehicles, with incredible live demonstrations both on the ground and in the air above the atmospheric Bicester Heritage site.

For your chance to win a pair of tickets, and for full terms and conditions, please click this link.

If you’re not lucky enough to win, you can save 15% on advance tickets. Simply click here to book tickets, and use the discount code ‘ACCSCS’. Good luck and we hope to see you there!

For more information on the Classic & Sports Car Show in association with Flywheel, click here.

Click here for your chance to win free tickets to the Classic & Sports Car Show

Source: Autocar Online

Porsche engine boss arrested on suspicion of diesel emission manipulation

Following a raid on offices and homes of Porsche’s high ranking officials, its powertrain development boss Jörg Kerner has been taken into custody

Porsche powertrain development boss Jörg Kerner has been taken into custody following a raid on offices and homes belonging to high ranking officials from the German car maker by lawyers and staff of the Stuttgart public prosecutor’s office and the German police this week.

According to information from the Stuttgart public prosecutor’s office, the 48-year-old German engineer was arrested on Thursday [19 April 2018] on suspicion of fraud related to the dieselgate emission manipulation scandal.

Earlier in the week, German media reports suggested Porsche research and development boss, Michael Steiner, was also among the officials being investigated for possible involvement and/or knowledge of matters relating to the manipulation of diesel emission figures via secret software programs.

In an official statement issued on Friday on the accusations being levelled at Porsche and its employees relating to the fitment of so-called defeat devices in various diesel models, including the Macan and Cayenne, Porsche chairman, Oliver Blume said: “Porsche does not develop or produce any diesel engines or diesel software. The prosecution has accused Porsche of being aware that impermissible control equipment was installed. We reject this accusation.”

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Source: Autocar Online

Nissan cutting hundreds of jobs at Sunderland plant

Nissan Sunderland

Nissan is set to cut hundreds of jobs at its Sunderland plant

Slump in demand for diesel engine behind job cuts at UK’s biggest car factory

Nissan is set to cut hundreds of jobs at its Sunderland factory due to declining demand for diesel-engined cars, according to reports.

It is unclear exactly how many jobs will be lost due to the layoff, which was reported by the Financial Times. Around 6700 people are currently employed at the Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK) plant, which produces the Qashqai, Juke, Leaf and X-Trail, along with the Infiniti Q30 and QX30.

The rapid decline in demand for diesel – in the UK, sales of diesel cars fell by 37% in March – is understood to be behind the move. Around a quarter of the cars produced at Sunderland are diesel-engined.  

A spokesman for NMUK said the job cuts are linked to the facility “transitioning to a new range of powertrains”. He added: “As we make the operational changes to support this, we will be managing a short-term reduction in powertrain supply and plant volumes at NMUK in line with our 2018 business plan.”

The new Leaf is being built at Sunderland, one of three worldwide Nissan plants producing the second-generation electric vehicle.

While Nissan has previously said the failure to agree a deal over Britain’s departure from the European Union could lead to the Sunderland factory’s closure, the spokesman said the move was “not related to Brexit” and added that volumes are expected to increase at the plant when the new Juke, Qashqai and X-Trail are launched in the coming years.

Jaguar Land Rover recently cut 1000 contracted agency workers at its Solihull plant due to the fall in diesel sales.

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Source: Autocar Online

New Jaguar XE plug-in hybrid to face off against BMW 330e

Jaguar XE plug-in hybrid to face BMW 330e

Jaguar has been spotted testing an XE with a 1.5-litre engine

Its 1.5-litre hybrid powertrain will be shared with the Range Rover Evoque

Jaguar is preparing to launch a plug-in hybrid version of its XE in a bid to expand the saloon’s reach and provide an answer to the BMW 330e.

Seen here testing in public near the firm’s West Midlands base, the car’s powertrain combines a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor, which also serves as the engine’s starter motor, to enable a limited range of pure electric running.

The electrified powertrain will use a lithium-ion battery pack that comes as part of new 48V electrical architecture. The system is to be shared with the Range Rover Evoque PHEV from Jaguar’s sister brand, Land Rover, as well as other models from the group.

Jaguar has remained tight-lipped on the XE plug-in hybrid’s development, telling Autocar “Jaguar Land Rover does not comment on future product plans”. But Autocar understands the XE plug-in will be vital in capitalising on a growing demand for cars capable of pure electric running.

This is a market BMW has already tapped into with its 330e, which represents a large portion of 3 Series demand in regions quick to adopt electrified power, such as Scandinavia. Jaguar will be well aware of the potential these regions present for XE growth.

It’s also intended for the PHEV XE to help plug the gap left by dwindling demand for diesel models, which prior to the most recent downturn, represented around 90% of JLR’s sales. Jaguar’s XE has been particularly hard hit by this shift, so the plug-in variant will be important in providing customers with a low CO2, high economy alternative.

It seems likely that Jaguar will produce a hybrid version of the XEL, the long-wheelbase variant sold in China, to help boost global sales numbers for the XE family. Currently, the XE lags far behind its German rivals, the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Last year in Europe, Jaguar sold 18,999 XEs, which was far below the 129,053, 146,006 and 176,915 respective units of 3 Series, A4 and C-Class. Jaguar has responded to shrinking demand for new cars by not renewing 1000 agency staff contracts and moving 360 workers from its Castle Bromwich plant, where the XE is made, to its Solihull site.

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Source: Autocar Online

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