Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe E 220 d 4Matic 2017 review

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe E 220 d 4Matic front three-quarter shot

Sleek new E-Class Coupé delivers in spades on refinement, equipment and luxury, if not quite so much on outright agility

This is the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé, which sits between the smaller C-Class Coupé and larger S-Class Coupé. Far more than just a rehash of its seven-year-old predecessor, this new sleek two-door has been thoroughly engineered in a move that closely aligns it with the latest E-Class saloon, both structurally and mechanically.Gone is the old C-Class platform that underpinned the previous E-Class Coupé. It has been replaced by Mercedes-Benz’s new MRA (modular rear architecture) platform, which brings about an increase in dimensions; length has increased by 123mm up to a total of 4826mm, width has extended by 74mm to 1860mm and, with the standard steel suspension, ride height has also increased by 32mm to 1430mm.In a move that also endows it with greater levels of interior space, the E-Class Coupé’s wheelbase has also been extended by 113mm at 2873mm, while the front and rear tracks are up by 67mm and 68mm respectively, at 1605mm and 1609mm, over the old model, giving it a substantially larger footprint than before.Mercedes-Benz therefore claims an additional 18mm of head room, 50mm more shoulder room and 38mm more elbow room up front than in the old E-Class Coupé. This increase in accommodation is mirrored in the rear, which has an additional 74mm of knee room, 15mm of head room, 34mm of shoulder room and 13mm more elbow room. Oddly, though, boot capacity has dropped by 25 litres, down to a total of 425 litres.The new E-Class Coupé is offered with three engine choices in the UK, with one diesel and two petrol units ranging in power from 191bhp to 328bhp. The model driven here is the £40,135 E 220 d Coupé. It runs Mercedes-Benz’ latest aluminium-block turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine (which is fully EU6 emissions compliant thanks to a selective catalytic converter and urea injection system), producing 191bhp @ 3800rpm and 295 lb ft @ 1600rpm.It is joined by the £41,025 E 300 Coupé, which has Mercedes-Benz’s widely used turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 242bhp and 273lb ft, and, at the top of the initial range, the £50,775 E 400 4Matic Coupé, which has the soon-to-be-replaced twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with 328bhp and 354lb ft.All models come fitted as standard with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The E 220 d Coupé and E 300 Coupé are rear-wheel-drive, while the E400 4Matic, as its name suggests, has Mercedes’ optional four-wheel drive system, which provides a nominal 45% front, 55% rear apportioning of drive.A choice of three different suspension set-ups will also be offered to UK buyers: a steel-sprung Direct Control system, a steel-sprung Dynamic Body Control system with adaptive damping, and a top-of-the-line Air Body Control system with multi-chamber air springs.In combination with the Dynamic Body Control and Air Body Control suspension, the E-Class Coupé also gets Mercedes’ Dynamic Select system, which allows the driver to alter the dynamics characteristics with four driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus.

Source: Autocar Online

Detroit Electric SP:01 sports car to launch following £1.5 billion deal

Detroit Electric SP:01

Electric performance model will finally make production thanks to investment from Far East Smarter Energy Group of China

The Detroit Electric SP:01 finally looks on course to make production thanks to a new £1.5 billion deal with the Far East Smarter Energy Group of China.

Production of the Lotus Elise-based electric sports car will begin following an initial investment of £300 million. The brand will then use further investment to increase its range, with plans for an electric SUV that’ll arrive in 2018 and another model two years later.

“We have been working exceptionally hard over a long period to establish this joint venture and to secure funding for our ambitious new electric vehicle programme,” said Albert Lam, chairman and CEO of Detroit Electric.

“I am delighted to be able to announce this new joint venture which represents a significant boost to vehicle manufacturing and the EV industry in Europe and an important new step towards bringing our family of EVs to market.”

Electric Bentley EXP12 Speed 6e launched in Geneva

Detroit Electric aims to be selling 100,000 electric vehicles worldwide by 2020. To accommodate for the output the company wants to expand its 400-strong team and site in Leamington Spa. The SP:01 will be the first car to be built there and is expected to trigger the hiring of 120 new engineers and 100 manufacturing workers.

The model uses lithium-ion battery packs that – in pre-production form – grant the car a range of 180 miles. Power output from the electric motor is rated at 281bhp with 166lb ft of torque. It takes four hours to fully charge the batteries.

When the car was first shown, the SP:01 was claimed to have a top speed of 155mph and a 0-60mph sprint time of 3.9sec. It was due to be priced at £100,500, although the final price is yet to be confirmed.

Source: Autocar Online

The cars of Formula 1 2017 – pre-season testing update

Mercedes-AMG F1 W08

We revisit the 10 cars of 2017 before they finish testing in Barcelona

Now we’re into the thick of pre-season testing, it’s clear the Formula 1 cars of 2017 are much faster than before – which comes as no surprise, because the new regulations were brought in to do exactly that.

But many other questions remain. How will these larger and more aerodynamically advanced machines fare in a Grand Prix? Will Mercedes remain the dominant force? Can the cars follow one another closely? Will Fernando Alonso stay calm in a McLaren-Honda team that’s clearly still very troubled?

As pre-season testing enters its final days, we evaluate the field and offer some answers.

Click here for more F1 2017 news

Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+

Can anything stop the might of Mercedes? The team remains the one to beat at testing in Barcelona and it has run a largely trouble-free programme, with both drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, racking up hundreds of miles.

Admittedly, Ferrari seems to have closed the gap with Sebastian Vettel in particular looking like he could give the Silver Arrows a challenge at the opening round in Australia. But perhaps the most significant story here is that new signing Bottas is proving to be very, very fast.

The Finn’s early confidence has translated into raw pace, and he even set a new benchmark lap time of 1min 19.310sec on day two of the final test week at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (video above). Lewis Hamilton looks supremely confident, but early signs suggest these two might have a closer fight on their hand than many had expected.

Ferrari SF70H

Hamilton has said Ferrari is the team to beat in 2017, but Vettel has responded by saying Mercedes remains top. Either way, there’s no denying the gap is smaller than it’s been for several years.

Both Vettel and teammate Kimi Räikkönen have gone quickly – the former racked up the quickest time at Barcelona on the final week’s fourth day – and the new SF70H has proved reliable. The team has cleared a gap to chasing Red Bull too, suggesting it might well be a straight fight between the Prancing Horses and Silver Arrows early on in the season.

Red Bull RB13

Red Bull was last year’s second fastest team and the only one that could stop Mercedes winning at every race, but pre-season testing has shown it to be 2017’s third-quickest outfit.

Both the young charger Max Verstappen and hotshot Daniel Ricciardo have shown equal promise in the new car, but it looks like the team will have to find at least half a second per lap to be in within a shout of first place come Australia.

However, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has suggested the team could be sandbagging, so let’s not write Red Bull off just yet.

Williams FW40

Williams has had flashes of brilliance with Felipe Massa in particular showing serious pace. Eighteen-year-old Canadian rookie Lance Stroll has consistently lagged behind his teammate, and had a few incidents, but this is to be expected, given his experience level.

The Oxfordshire-based team narrowly missed out on fourth in last year’s Constructors’ Championship, but it looks like it’s in a good place for an attempt to go one better this year.

Haas VF17

American newcomers Haas had an impressive debut season last year, finishing eighth in the constructors’ championship. The pace of its new car thus far suggests that it could move several places up the grid this year.

Haas’s sophomore F1 challenger, driven by Romain Grosjean and new signing Kevin Magnussen, has managed to penetrate into the top four lap times on multiple occasions. With its much-improved Ferrari engine and Dallara chassis, the American squad could be the big surprise of 2017.

Force India VJM10

Force India, as ever, punched above its weight last year and ranked as the most successful team after the big three – Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

However, this year the midfield looks much closer, meaning drivers Sergio Pérez and new signing Esteban Ocon could find themselves in the thick of it at most races. The team’s pre-season pace suggests its drivers will consistently finish in the top 10, but exactly where that’ll leave the team is not clear yet.

Renault R.S.17

Renault is targeting a fifth place finish this year, with its experienced new signing Nico Hülkenberg leading the charge alongside his British teammate Jolyon Palmer. The R.S.17 is the first car Renault has designed itself since its comeback last year, with the R.S.16 having been penned by Lotus (the team Renault bought out).

However, the closeness of the midfield means Renault will need to stay out of trouble to reach its target.

Toro Rosso STR12

Toro Rosso finished in seventh position in 2016, and it looks like it’s at least maintained its position in the field during pre-season testing.

It has occasionally shown stronger pace, suggesting more consistent points finishes are on the cards. Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. remain drivers, so continuity might encourage consistency from the Red Bull junior team. 

Sauber C36

This Swiss team finished second-last in the standings last year, scoring points on just one occasion all season. In 2017, its 25th season in the sport, it has a chance to make significant progress, with drivers Marcus Ericsson and Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein both having something to prove.

Sauber has been in the midst of the mid-pack during testing, making it one of several teams that could steal points at certain races. It’s using Ferrari’s updated engine, suggesting it’ll be most competitive at power-favouring circuits.

McLaren MCL32

McLaren, while not necessarily the slowest, is arguably the most disappointing team so far in 2017. The power and reliability problems of Honda’s old engine have not been ironed out with its heavily reworked 2017 unit.

Fernando Alonso has remained visually calm but no doubt his patience will be wearing thin if the team can’t move things forward before round one. His new teammate Stoffel Vandoorne has just one F1 race to his name, but he scored points in that race, and all signs point to him being very quick. But even a pairing as talented as this needs a fast, reliable car.

2017 Formula 1 race calendar

1 Australian Grand Prix – Melbourne – 26 March

2 Chinese Grand Prix – Shanghai – 9 April

3 Bahrain Grand Prix – Sakhir – 16 April

4 Russian Grand Prix – Sochi – 30 April

5 Spanish Grand Prix – Barcelona – 14 May

6 Monaco Grand Prix – Monte Carlo – 28 May

7 Canadian Grand Prix – Montreal – 11 June

8 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Baku – 25 June

9 Austrian Grand Prix – Spielberg – 9 July

10 British Grand Prix – Silverstone – 16 July

11 Hungarian Grand Prix – Budapest – 30 July

12 Belgian Grand Prix – Spa-Francorchamps – 27 August

13 Italian Grand Prix – Monza – 3 September

14 Singapore Grand Prix – Singapore – 17 September

15 Malaysian Grand Prix – Kuala Lumpur – 1 October

16 Japanese Grand Prix – Suzuka – 8 October

17 United States Grand Prix – Texas – 22 October

18 Mexican Grand Prix – Mexico City – 29 October

19 Brazilian Grand Prix – São Paulo – 12 November

20 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Abu Dhabi – 26 November

The story behind one of Formula 1’s greatest photos

Source: Autocar Online

Alfa Romeo Mito and Giulietta unlikely to be renewed

Alfa Romeo Guilietta

2016 Alfa Romeo Guilietta

Replacing the two smallest Alfa models isn’t a priority, says boss Reid Bigland

The Alfa Romeo Mito and Giulietta are unlikely to spawn direct replacements and are “not at the same level as the Giulia and Stelvio“, according to Alfa boss Reid Bigland.

Speaking at the Geneva motor show, Bigland said the Giulietta and Mito would “stay for the foreseeable future”, but new Alfas would be like the Giulia and Stelvio and “put the driver at the centre”, in line with the firm’s new strategy.

“They are very good cars but not at the same level as the Giulia and Stelvio,” he said.

Bigland said that decisions on future Alfas would be taken on their global appeal above all else, and the Mito and Giulietta were very Europe-focused models.

“I have nothing to announce on this, but our lens will be less Europe and more the entire globe. The European market will be a consideration, but we’ll take quite strongly Asia and North America [into consideration too]. In China and North America, the compact segments are small segments [for sales].”

To that end, Bigland said the next Alfa model would most likely be an SUV, sized immediately above or immediately below the Stelvio. He said the decision to launch future Alfas would be taken purely on the basis of the size of the global segment in which it would compete.

The biggest two global segments for premium cars is now served by the Giulia and Stelvio for Alfa, but there is debate on what size of SUV makes up the third most popular segment. That’s why no decision has been taken on whether to go bigger or smaller than the Stelvio next.

The promise of six new Alfas had “slipped a little bit”, said Bigland, who didn’t confirm any new targets.

Read more about the Geneva motor show here

Geneva motor show – the 14 cars you must see

Source: Autocar Online

Life with a used Renault Clio Renaultsport 182 – part 1

Renaultsport Clio 182

How the car sits now

This 13-year-old hot hatch hasn’t moved in nine months. Can it be returned to its former glory?

I’ve been putting it off for months, but this week I’ve finally decided I’m going to do it. I’m going to save the Clio.

My old Renault Clio Renaultsport 182 – as it was officially called in 2004 – is a 54-reg, in Racing Blue, all boxes ticked model, with a healthy 120,000 miles on the clock from its original engine and gearbox.

At a glance, it looks to be in good condition, but examine closely and you’ll spot a face full of stone chips, paint flaking off the Speedline Turini wheels (sourced from a Clio 172 Cup and badly spray painted by me) and heat-damaged front tyres.

The brakes are also dodgy, the steering wheel’s ‘pleather’ is crumbling, and the last time the car ran, its 2.0-litre F4R engine had developed an inconsistent and unpredictable misfire. Then the front right spring cracked and it’s been off the road since.

That was June 2016.

I must confess that most of the faults have come thanks to the life this car’s lived. It’s spent thousands of miles on track (see picture above) and countless more thrashing along B-roads. I can trace almost all of the problems back to a moment or period in the car’s life – the cracked spring was likely due to me clouting a kerb at Rockingham a couple of years back, and the dodgy brakes are most probably due to air in the system after long abuse.

Yet it’s taken me until now to build up the funds (and courage) to get working on the car. The target is to have it both MOT’d and taxed by April. Then I intend on turning what is a half-hearted attempt at a track car into a properly fast road weapon.

Right now it has a Sparco Sprint bucket seat, Eibach Proline springs, Ferodo DS2500 brake pads, a Yozzasport exhaust and an induction kit and custom remap from K-Tec Racing – a setup that proved to be great for the year before things started to go wrong. At its last rolling road session, the engine was producing a healthy 186bhp.

So, the plan from here will go like this: once the misfiring is cured, I want to add slightly lower Eibach Sportline springs, a racing steering wheel, harnesses, new tyres and a half roll cage. I also want to get the wheels painted silver – but by a professional this time.

Of course, first on the agenda is getting the engine running properly. The plugs are fairly new, so I guess a good place to start is by changing the ignition leads. My wallet is already trembling.

More content

Used Mercedes | Life with a 190E – part 1

Source: Autocar Online

Brexit: Bentley could shift production to Europe in ‘worst case scenario’

Bentley Continental GT production line

Bentley produces its cars in Crewe, Cheshire

Car maker believes its British identity is key, but its CEO admits export tariffs could force it into continental Europe

Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer has emphasised the need for Britain to secure a tariff-free trade deal with Europe, stating that a ‘worst case scenario’ could force the company to move to continental Europe.

Speaking to Reuters at the Geneva motor show, he said the brand’s British identity and Crewe production plant were key to its success, but that “before we would not produce any Bentleys anymore, we would produce them somewhere else”.

Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, is set to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon this month, allowing the UK to leave the European Union (EU). Bentley is among several brands pressuring her government to negotiate a deal whereby cars can be exported to Europe without incurring fees.

Europe is fast becoming Bentley’s biggest market, and access to technology and staff from its German parent company Volkswagen has been pivotal to its success.

Will the Bentley EXP12 Speed 6e make production?

Dürheimer said that Bentley employees would need to be able to travel freely around the continent without visas to remain competitive with Europe-based rivals. If the British Government is unable to confirm such a scenario, Bentley may be forced to take action.

“I have about nine to 12 months where I can wait and see what’s going to happen and then I need to take serious decisions. It’s all connected to future models,” Dürheimer said.

Toyota also voiced its concerns over Brexit at the Geneva motor show, with executive vice president Didier Leroy telling Reuters that production of the next-generation Auris may be moved from Britain if tariffs are introduced.

“By 2018 probably we have to make some decision, but it doesn’t mean to start the investment,” he said, suggesting the Japanese manufacturer will decide whether to further invest in its Burnaston plant once Britain’s Brexit plans have been revealed.

Conversely, Opel/Vauxhall’s new owner, the PSA Group, has said that tariffs may leave its brands with a competitive advantage, because it could optimise its Vauxhall plants for British supply of PSA products and therefore avoid additional costs.

PSA boss Carlos Tavares said: “Car makers fear that leaving the European market will result in applied tariffs for exporting and importing vehicles to Great Britain.

“If Peugeot were to have a car plant in Britain, it would overcome such tariffs.”

Source: Autocar Online

Nurburgring lap time record competition proposed by James Glickenhaus

Lamborghini Huracán Performante at the Nürburgring

Lamborghini Huracán Performante at the Nürburgring

Lamborghini is the latest manufacturer to set an unverified Nürburgring record; Glickenhaus wants a “Road Cup” competition to award an official fastest lap

James Glickenhaus, the wealthy American who recently announced he plans to build a road-legal version of his Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG 003 race car, has also told Autocar that he wants to launch a “Road Cup” competition at the Nürburgring Nordschliefe to discover which road-legal car is really quickest around there.

Annoyed by unverified manufacturer lap times, most recently Lamborghini’s claim that the Huracán Performante has posted a 6:52 time of the 12.7-mile circuit, Glickenhaus is proposing a competition to be run as part of the Nürburgring 24 Hour race (N24), with road-legal cars having to drive from Cologne, Germany to the Nürburgring on the same set of tyres that they then set a lap time on.

Glickenhaus himself admits that this may sound mad, and also that the Nürburgring authorities haven’t agreed to his idea yet. “They’re reading about it in the press,” he told Autocar at the Geneva show, “they’re going to be like ‘what the hell is Jim doing?’”

Yet Glickenhaus has form here – he already endows a cup and prize that’s awarded to the fastest-qualifying car at the N24 race, and he’s already spent many millions of dollars developing and racing both the Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina and, more recently, his own SCG 003.

He’s also adamant that his newly-announced Stradale road-legal version, which will be limited to a run of three customer cars and which will cost $1.8m, will prove to be the fastest car around the Nürburgring.

“We know its [race] sister can do a 6:20 lap,” he told us. “It did that with 580hp, 100kg more downforce and half a g more lateral cornering ability. But this car weighs the same, has 300bhp and 250lb ft more.

“On race tyres it would be faster than the race car, but n road tyres it will be about 30sec per lap slower, so around a 6:40. That’s as fast as anyone’s going to go.”

Even if Glickenhaus gets his plan approved, we’ll have to wait until next year to see it. “My idea is to let them yell and scream,” says Glickenhaus of the N24 organisers.

“Then they’ll get over that and we’ll come back and race at the Nürburgring for next year. We’re going to do it.”

If he manages it, we’ll be there.

Source: Autocar Online

Comment: How Kia has finally cracked the UK market

Kia Sportage

Kia Sportage

It’s taken more than two decades, but Kia has now become a major force in Britain thanks to strong SUV sales

There might be no better illustration of the power of predictive product planning and perfect launch timing than the Kia Sportage.

Kia has been strong in SUVs since its first tentative steps in the UK in the mid-1990s. I remember a facility trip to South Korea where the first-generation diesel Sportage was handed over to eager journalists who were unable to contain their giggles when the dumpy-looking SUV’s measly 55bhp output was insufficient to get it into the outside lane of Kia’s banked test circuit.

Blessedly, the factory listened to our comments, and the diesel was never imported to the UK. The petrol model, however, sowed the seeds of recent successes, proving that breakthroughs in the car market can easily take more than a decade to build.

Kia, with its range of good-value SUVs, has been steadily adding UK market share so that last year it finished with 89,000 sales, making it bigger than Citroën, FiatLand RoverMazda and Mini. Sales volume has just about tripled since 2007.

The breakthrough came with the previous, third-generation Sportage, which was launched in 2010 when C-segment SUVs were just gaining in popularity and market choice was relatively limited.

Kia started 2010 with 5,000 sales of the Sportage, but the right car at the right time was worth double-digit growth as it rocketed up to 20,000 sales in 2015.

Last year was an even better year for the Sportage. A brand new model with more appealing styling and interior and better engines and road manners rode the waves of burgeoning SUV sales to record an astonishing 40,000 registrations – double its previous year’s sales. In fact, the Sportage now generates nearly half of Kia’s total sales volume.

“We got in on a 1 February launch, so we hit the March market, which helped,” says UK CEO Paul Philpott, “but we could also build on an established customer base and a model with very strong residuals.”

With strong residual values underpinning PCP finance and keen pricing, the Sportage is highly competitive on monthly rates. “You can have a top-spec Sportage for a mid-spec SUV from a European manufacturer,” says Philpott.

The Sportage appears to be in demand in the used market, too, and Kia claims it’s the ‘fastest-moving’ used car in the UK, with each model averaging just 24 days on a dealer forecourt.

The importance of the success of the Sportage can be seen elsewhere in the range, with the forthcoming Stinger (pictured above), a rear-wheel-drive sports fastback that it’s hard to imagine Kia having the confidence to launch without the success of its big SUV.

The Stinger might add 2000 to 3000 cars to Kia’s UK full-year sales when it launches in 2018, but its more important role is to build some love for the Kia nameplate and lift sales of bread-and-butter models like the new Picanto city car, whose 13,000 annual sales are expected to rise, possibly to as high as 15,000 a year, if the upper-end of sales expectations are met.

Don’t sniff at all those SUVs increasingly visible on Britain’s roads. They help enthusiast cars like the Stinger into production, and we should all be grateful for that.

Source: Autocar Online

Tata Motors to partner with Volkswagen and Skoda for new Indian product range

Matthias Müller

Matthias Müller, Volkswagen Group CEO, reportedly signed an agreement with Tata

The deal will allow Volkswagen and Skoda to make a bigger impact in the Indian market; official announcement expected on Friday

Tata Motors has reached a deal with Volkswagen and Skoda to develop a new range of products, according to Autocar India.

Matthias Müller, CEO of the Volkswagen Group, and Guenter Butschek, managing director of Tata Motors, reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday at the Geneva motor show ahead of an official announcement, which is expected on 10 March.

The partnership has been under discussion for more than a year, with Volkswagen’s MQB-A platform suggested as the possible shareable architecture. However, it was deemed too expensive for the Indian market, so instead it’s thought that Tata will use its own Advanced Modular Platform (AMP) to spawn a range of products as part of the alliance.

Tata will focus on engine development, because the Volkswagen Group’s units are too expensive, and it is thought to be interested in using Volkswagen’s electrical technology as well.

The vehicles produced will target the Indian market, allowing Volkswagen and Skoda the only real possibility of making a meaningful sales impact in a country that is notoriously difficult to crack for non-domestic manufacturers. The deal will also allow Tata to save costs in developing its new platform.

Source: Autocar Online

Skoda Octavia vRS long-term test review: first report

Skoda Octavia vRS long-term test review: first report

A used Octavia vRS diesel wagon offers a lot of space, comfort and grunt for the price of a new Ford Fiesta. Is it the smart buy that it seems?

“Welcome to the fold,” said the editor on my first day. “Here’s your first task: find us a used car for our long-term test fleet.”

“Right you are,” I said. It seemed like a great idea. As used car editor, running a used long-termer makes perfect sense. I’ll get to live with and own a car without all the high-tech bells and whistles and lengthy new-car warranties that we motoring journos are used to. Used cars are, quite frankly, where it’s at. And any accusation that I’m only saying that because of my job title will be roundly refuted.

But what to get? At first, the imagination ran amok. There are quite a lot of very interesting used cars out there now. An E46- generation BMW M3 counts as a used car, right? What about a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG? Or maybe a Vauxhall Monaro?

“No,” said the editor, quite firmly. “It has to be something sensible. Something affordable. Something Autocar readers would love to buy. Something you could use as a daily driver. Oh, and we haven’t got any money for you to spend, either, so you’ll have to get creative in finding it. Off you go.”

A few short weeks later I was taking delivery of our Skoda Octavia vRS Estate. A 2011 example finished in Brilliant Silver, it fits the bill perfectly. The Mk2 Octavia vRS is a car we’ve always felt to be spec sensitive. Serve it up in petrol hatchback form and a Volkswagen Golf GTI will always have the edge, but as a diesel estate – as here – the vRS starts to make a whole heap of sense, especially with the DSG automatic gearbox we’ve got.

The numbers tell the story. The 2.0-litre diesel delivers 168bhp and a solid 258lb ft of torque. Consequently, 0-60mph comes up in 8.4sec, with in-gear punch to match. All this while providing fuel economy – according to official figures – of 47.9mpg on the combined cycle.

Meanwhile, boot space is one of the best around – better in terms of pure capacity than a VW Passat Estate of the same age when the rear seats are upright and almost as spacious with them down. This, in other words, is a car that ticks every box.

But the Octavia vRS is also looking like great value these days. Prices start at £2500 for a baggy, high-mileage petrol hatch, but a good, solid, pre-facelift diesel estate can be yours for less than £5000, with an early diesel in hatchback form or a petrol model in either bodystyle fetching anywhere in between. A facelift TDI wagon like ours can be had with reasonable miles from £7000, with the very best low-mileage ones topping out at about £15,000.

So how on earth did we come by such a thing for the princely sum of nought pounds and nought pence? Well, time for a spot of full disclosure: we’re only borrowing it. Yes, our (well, that should be ‘our’) Octavia is actually part of Skoda’s heritage fleet. Which explains its faintly believable mileage and its fabulous condition.

You might argue that this isn’t fully representative of the 70,000-oddmile examples you’ll find on your local used car forecourt. I’ll give you that one. But the flipside is that it enables us to test drive a known good example to see how a Mk2 Octavia vRS stacks up today without wondering whether worn bushes, tired brakes or slack steering are distorting the experience. And rest assured that, in future, we’re aiming to try some proper, high-mileage used cars in this slot. Think of the vRS, then, as an exception rather than the rule – an opportunity we were given that seemed too good to pass up.

“Yes, but with that mileage, it’s sure to be problem-free,” I can hear you saying. Well, on only its fourth day with us, the vRS disproved that notion. Leaving the office that evening, I popped the key in the ignition and turned it. Nothing. Not even the reassuring sight of some dashboard lights. Oh.

I resorted to the timehonoured trick of turning it off and on again, by locking and unlocking it. Indicators flashed: there was life! I climbed in again. Dash lights came on, the car started and all was well. Almost. The traction control and brake warning lights stayed on, the clock had reset itself and the auto function on the electric windows wouldn’t work.

I tried a tentative pull-away, at which point the dash lights vanished. The auto gearbox felt jerky at first, too, as though it was relearning my driving style. But after a few miles it had smoothed out again. Even the auto windows started to work.

The next day, a man was dispatched from Skoda to check that all was well. He couldn’t find any faults, and to this day the car has been fine, so fingers crossed that it was merely a glitch caused by the car being raised from a lengthy slumber and pressed into daily service. I’ll keep an eye on it, though, and let you know. There’s nothing like a bit of used car jeopardy to add a frisson of excitement to your commute, eh?

Otherwise, though, I’m feeling rather pleased thus far. On the daily shuttle to work, the Octavia is every bit the consummate all-rounder I’d hoped it would be. At weekends, it has already proven its worth on a trip to the local DIY establishments. And in traffic, the auto ’box is a boon. It may be older than the rest of our fleet, but the vRS already feels like a welcome addition.

Source: Autocar Online

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