Bernie Ecclestone: what F1 legacy does he leave behind?

Bernie Ecclestone leaves F1

We look back at Ecclestone’s achievements and controversies in motorsport

Bernie Ecclestone was never going to leave Formula 1 gracefully, so he had to be nudged towards the door marked Exit.

Bernie Ecclestone: should we love him or hate him?

That was his character and, even at 86, he was still motivated, even if he probably should have gone sooner. He had no real desire to change. He wanted to go on doing deals, as he has always done.

It was not about the money – that was just the way of keeping score. It was about getting someone to agree to what he wanted. It was all about winning, and Ecclestone always needed to win.

The only question to him was the scale of the victory. With F1, he had something people wanted, so he was able to squeeze them, to make them pay more than they were willing to pay. Call it greed if you like, but really it was about power.

He was funny, charming and ruthless. Utterly ruthless. He was a car dealer to the core, a genius at spotting people’s weaknesses and using them to his advantage. He understood greed and ambition and recognised the dangerous people and made them his friends, although he has few real friends. He could wrap naïve journalists around his little finger by tickling their ego, making them feel that he was their best buddy, but he was a user. For a journalist, he always had a headline, but a lot of them were simply not true. He was just playing, keeping F1 in the newspapers, being outrageous for the sake of it. Sometimes he said things simply to see if people would challenge him.

There was a good side too, but it was well hidden. He didn’t want people to see that too often, because to him this was a weakness.

What Ecclestone did for F1 was impressive, but how he won control of the commercial side of the sport was not. Juggling companies and contracts, he stripped his fellow members of the Formula One Constructors’ Association (FOCA) of the rights they had won together and then presented them with a fait accompli. At one famous FOCA meeting, Ken Tyrrell had to be restrained from strangling Ecclestone when it emerged what he had done. Ecclestone saw it as their fault for not stopping him. Without him, they probably would not have become as wealthy as they did, because they could never agree. He understood this and made it happen.

In Max Mosley, fellow Formula 1 team owner, FOCA lawyer and later FIA president, he saw a kindred spirit and made sure that they were on the same side as much as possible. Ecclestone listened to smart people, but he didn’t often see the value of anything that didn’t pay up front. If you wanted something from him, you had to pay for it and you had to pay big.

There was rarely investment in the business, and when there was, it often didn’t work. Early attempts at digital TV and an escapade in publishing both lost him a lot of money, although it was nothing compared with the £60m he had to pay to stop his infamous bribery trial in Germany in 2014.

Along the way, one got the impression that he lost his love for the sport and that it became a Monopoly board, but the passion was still there somewhere. He loved and admired drivers and they felt that. He hated stuffy men in blazers but enjoyed dealing with cavaliers like Ron Walker, promoter of the Australian Grand Prix. His passion for Russian president Vladimir Putin showed just how much Ecclestone liked power and the powerful.

Without his attention to detail and micro-management, the sport would not have been as successful as it is, but now and then he did not see the bigger picture.

Or he did not care. He let the sport fall into the hands of the private equity people at CVC, who stripped out money at an alarming rate and put nothing back. It suited him. They left him alone to play his games. The sport suffered from that.

The huge enterprise that Ecclestone created will go on, but much will change. Liberty Media is preaching co-operation, and there is logic in that. The plan is to move the sport forward by working together.

There will be battles ahead, particularly over revenue splits and budget caps, but the aim now is growth from working together and developing new ideas.

The motive is still profit, but Liberty is a very different animal from CVC and the result should be an improvement. Ecclestone did what he liked doing and ignored the rest. If people paid him enough, he let them try new ideas. Now F1 can start to innovate more.

Joe Saward

Source: Autocar Online

Mini Countryman Cooper S v Nissan Juke Nismo RS v Audi Q2 Sport – group test

Mini Countryman Cooper S v Nissan Juke Nismo RS v Audi Q2 Sport - group test

Engaging small crossovers are hardly ten a penny. In fact, there’s still no true driver’s car in this class. Or is there?

Light in a fairly dark place: that’s what the new Mini Countryman promises for keener drivers like us.

It’s a touch harsh to suggest that the market for pseudo-SUV crossover hatchbacks has been murky or uninviting in its infancy. An army of customers has already jumped into it with both feet, after all. But it certainly hasn’t been illuminated by the kind of car that might tempt the hitherto uninterested or unconvinced with a driving experience to get excited about.

So can this Mini, in 189bhp Cooper S form, change that? With an Audi Q2 Sport and a Nissan Juke Nismo RS ready to provide some competition, now comes the chance to prove itself.

There is debate to be had along several lines where the Countryman is concerned, not least about exactly what kind of car this is, whether it’s exactly what its maker needs right now and whether we’d all more accurately regard it as a ‘normal’ family hatchback rather than the ever so trendy crossover that Mini calls it. But those are questions for another day. A full road test on the Countryman is coming and will leave no query unanswered. Today, we simply want to know how much entertainment there is to be enjoyed by the Countryman driver – and whether it’s enough to elevate the car to a level of esteem thus far unknown to its ilk. Does the Countryman finally make the crossover hatchback fun?

If it does, it’ll be succeeding where several of its rivals have stuttered or failed – or just declined to bother trying in the first place. The closest of those rivals, the Q2, came along late last year and promised a more invigorating drive than the L crossover norm, to complement its neat, stylised looks and downsized dimensions. When we road tested it, we were left a little cold by its driver appeal, but this will be our first chance to assess the car back to back against two rivals. In other markets, the Q2 is available in 187bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol form, which would have been a perfect combatant for the Countryman Cooper S. But Audi UK isn’t offering the top-of-therange petrol version, and the 148bhp 1.4-litre TFSI tested here is the next most vivacious option.

Providing some stiffer competition will be the Juke Nismo RS, a crossover that can be accused of many things, as you’ll soon read, but not a lack of commitment to the performance cause. With a peak of 215bhp from 1.6 litres, it’s the quickest-accelerating and most powerful car of the trio on paper – a fact you’ve probably guessed from its relatively aggressive-looking spoilers, sills and wheel arch spats.

The Juke Nismo RS and its slightly milder forerunner, the Juke Nismo, were intended to relaunch Nissan’s Nismo performance brand in Europe, a project about which we’ve heard little since the hotter of the pair was introduced in 2015. Although we noted some fairly stark problems with Nissan’s realisation of a hottedup crossover when we road tested the car two years ago, we didn’t deny that it had plenty of genuine character, purposefulness and likeability. That charm should be as useful a test for the Mini as any it’ll face today, I reckon.

The Countryman Cooper S that Mini supplied for this exercise has two driven axles and an eightspeed automatic gearbox, while its competitors make do with front-wheel drive and manual transmissions. All three are available with four-wheel drive and a twopedal layout (but only if you’re prepared to drive a diesel in the Q2’s case). Had all three been available in like-for-like front-wheel-drive manual guise, though, there would have been less than £2000 between their respective showroom prices – and any one of ’em could have been bought for less than £25,000.

STRONG-ARMED TACTICS

Strong petrol engines remain scarce commodities around this part of the new car market. Perhaps it has been assumed that crossover buyers care more about style, practicality or convenience than a zesty turn of speed; or at least that, with economy in mind, those who are prepared to pay extra for a bit of pace will prefer a diesel. Whatever the reason, you can count the petrol engines in this class that offer more than about 150bhp on the fingers of one hand.

It’s a context that could have been made for a modern Mini to thrive in, given the emphasis that owner BMW has put on under-bonnet strength for its British brand these past 17 years. And sure enough, the Countryman zips into the frame with the same range of engines that power the Clubman, among them the 189bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol in our Cooper S, with even more powerful plug-in hybrid petrol-electric and John Cooper Works versions still to come. And on the road, the Mini’s engine wastes no time in demonstrating its superiority to the other two here.

The Juke Nismo RS may have the most powerful engine here and the quickest claim for 0-62mph acceleration but, in practice, its power delivery is decidedly peaky. It’s heavy with turbo lag at low revs, then feels uneven as it suddenly comes up with a surge of boost through the middle of the range. Next, it becomes quite thin and reedy-sounding around 5000rpm, only to explode again over the last 1000rpm of the rev range as part of a pretty transparent effort in ECU coding intended to make the car feel quicker than it actually is. There’s certainly drama about the Juke’s power delivery, as well as the greater sonic aggression that you’d expect of a ‘factory-tuned’ performance product going up against two midrange models. But the Juke’s isn’t a great engine: it grabs your attention, but for as many of the wrong reasons as for the right ones.

For all the peak power the Audi’s engine gives up to both of its competitors, it actually holds its own where it really matters. It makes enough mid-range torque to haul the Q2 along pretty smartly, and although you’d never really confuse this for a performance car, there’s certainly enough grunt here to have fun with.

Overall, the Audi’s engine is less rewarding than those of its rivals because it revs a bit unwillingly throughout the upper section of its range. Mostly, though, it’s because the it’s afflicted by even more pronounced turbo lag below 2000rpm than the Nissan. Climb a moderately steep incline from much lower than that point on the tacho and you can stall if you’re not careful. Plenty of stirring of that six-speed manual gearbox is advisable for Q2 drivers – and, a touch annoyingly, the gearbox turns out to have a slightly notchy, obdurate action.

Greater flexibility and a more even production of power comes exactly where you expect it, from the bigger-capacity four-cylinder Mini. The Countryman’s engine pulls smartly, cleanly and with urgency from well below 2000rpm, and with consistent force right the way up to 6500rpm. The perfect petrol engine would probably be less consistent – less objectively good, I guess – and more exciting; not as mannered as the Juke’s but offering more of a theatrical crescendo. But theatricality may be for the Countryman JCW. The Cooper S has to know smoothness and good manners, too, and it still has enough fire and brimstone in its cultured rasp to keep you coming back.

There’s also much to like about the Mini’s driving position. Last week, in our UK first drive, I criticised it for being too recumbent and not convenient enough for the crossover hatchback crowd. But assuming your agenda is a sporting one, the layout of the seat and controls, and the adjustability of both, may be exactly what you want.

With the driver’s seat at its lowest, you lower yourself into the Mini as you might in a normal hatchback – the steering wheel upright in front of you, your legs pretty straight out. Alternatively, with the seat ratcheted up – and the Countryman’s plentiful head room allows even drivers my size (6ft 3in) to sit higher if they choose – you feel more like you’re upright at the controls, with a good view in all directions, sitting in typical crossover style. Best of both worlds, then.

The Audi gives you no option to sit as low, although its driving position is otherwise adjustable and very sound. The Nissan has a promising bucket seat, but the good news ends there. There’s no telescopic adjustment for the Juke’s steering column at all, and limited leg room for taller drivers. So you end up bentlegged and a bit hunched over the Juke’s controls, wondering exactly how the position you’re adopting is really any more comfortable than you might be in a late-1980s supermini.

The Juke’s hit of nostalgia doesn’t end there. The Nismo RS rides with the oily, cradled sense of purpose that can be conjured by only an expensive set of dampers. It steers with twice as much contact patch feedback as the Countryman Cooper S. In both respects, it feels like a much more serious performance machine than the Countryman or Q2. At times, you can really enjoy the way the Juke’s suspension settles down to work on a B-road, over undulations that  the Audi seems to bound across and the Mini acknowledges only begrudgingly.

But at other times, around faster bends and away from junctions particularly, the Juke seems totally, hopelessly at war with itself. The car’s front tyres generate about half of the lateral grip and traction needed to put down its power and then carry it smoothly through a quickish, longish, averagely adhesive third-gear bend. But somehow that’s enough grip to make the steering wheel dart and squirm in your hands with every off-centre dab of power you apply and over every mid-corner bump.

The Juke is given to cornering with understeer in a steady state. Add throttle into the mix and it can often dive for the weeds quite precariously. Net result? You drive with necessary patience and inevitable frustration when all the electronic aids are on, locked in a continual balancing act between trying to smooth out the boost and trying not to activate the ESP. With the nannies deactivated, meanwhile, you embrace the Juke like a criminal might a suspended sentence – warts, wheelspin, understeer, torque steer and all.

The Audi is far more dynamically competent. It’s vastly less likely than the Juke to frighten you, sure, but similarly unlikely to excite you. The Q2’s suspension feels longer of travel than either the Mini’s or the Nissan’s and yet it doesn’t lope. Firm springing and quite wooden, abrupt damping allow the car to corner crisply and keep decent lateral body control. Grip seems equitably shared between the axles and you can harry the car along happily enough without noticing the moments when the traction control pops in and out. But the car rebounds too readily to feel at home on a really testing road. It also steers strangely – precisely and with directness, but with a leaden weight and almost no attempt at feedback.

Pretty low benchmarks both, therefore, for our Mini to measure up to, but we already knew that much. So is the strength of the Countryman’s powertrain echoed in its chassis? Is this the car to finally put the crossover hatchback on the petrolhead’s radar? Truth is, I doubt it – although the car’s handling poise is easily good enough to earn it the spoils today.

The Countryman does what Minis do: it corners quick, flat and fast, has tenacious grip and steers like it’s on a hairline trigger. It handles small and medium-size bumps fairly well, and certainly better than its range mates and well enough to earn some recognition as a more rounded, grown-up car to drive than other Minis, but it still trips up and fusses over larger and sharper intrusions. The previous Countryman was a much less coherent, less well-resolved thing to drive, rolling harder, steering less keenly and generally pulling off Mini’s dreaded ‘go-kart’ impression much less well. So you can only congratulate Mini on ending up with what, I’m sure, was precisely the car it intended. In its way, the Countryman is an impressive thing: agile, terrierish and ‘Mini’-like to its core, despite its size.

But it’s not the fast crossover hatchback as you or I might idealise it: something that’ll engage with an uneven road a bit like an Ariel Nomad or a junior rally car, rather than fidget and toss over bigger bumps like they’re the distractions between the corners it really turned up for. Mini has executed the Countryman Cooper S in the only way it knows: like a conventional hot hatch. And driving it is fun. But it makes me wish someone would come along, take a risk and do things a bit differently – and sooner rather than later.

1st Place – Mini Countryman Cooper S ALL4 auto

Rating 4/5 Price £28,025 Engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, turbo, petrol Power 189bhp at 5000rpm Torque 207lb ft at 1350rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1530kg 0-62mph 7.2sec Top speed 138mph Fuel economy 44.1mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 146g/km, 28%

2nd Place – Nissan Juke Nismo RS

Rating 3/5 Price £22,905 Engine 4 cyls, 1618cc, turbo, petrol Power 215bhp at 6000rpm Torque 207lb ft at 3600rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1315kg 0-62mph 7.0sec Top speed 137mph Fuel economy 39.2mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 168g/km, 32%

3rd Place – Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI Sport

Rating 3/5 Price £24,400 Engine 4 cyls, 1395cc, turbo, petrol Power 148bhp at 5000rpm Torque 184lb ft at 1500rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1265kg 0-62mph 8.5sec Top speed 132mph Fuel economy 51.4mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 124g/km, 23% 

Source: Autocar Online

2018 Lamborghini Urus SUV spotted testing – picture gallery

Lamborghini Urus prototype

Lamborghini’s new all-wheel-drive SUV will arrive in 2018 and be available with a hybrid powertrain and a turbocharged V8

The Lamborghini Urus SUV has been caught testing for the first time in spy pictures that show a test mule in Europe.

Despite the heavy disguise, it’s clear the production version of the all-wheel-drive turbocharged SUV will stick closely to the rakish styling of the concept unveiled at the 2012 Beijing motor show.

Although the spy pictures show a typically sharp and angular Lamborghini design on the outside, Autocar understands the interior will be significantly more comfort-orientated and conventional.

Lamborghini’s first SUV since the 1986 LM002 will be built on the same platform that underpins the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga and 2018 Porsche Cayenne. It will feature the brand’s first plug-in hybrid powertrain, which will be offered alongside a twin-turbo 4.0-litre petrol V8 engine in the line-up.

Lamborghini LM002 SUV driven

That engine will be the company’s first turbocharged V8. Lamborghini bosses have eschewed the naturally aspirated V10 and V12 units from the Huracán and Aventador for their new SUV in pursuit of better fuel economy and an extensive power spread, with low-end torque and top-end power.

Lamborghini has already confirmed to Autocar that it won’t offer rear-wheel-drive variants of the Urus. That’s in line with its strategy for the all-wheel-drive Aventador, but not the Huracán, which is available in four-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive guises.

The SUV will be a luxury rival to the likes of the Bentayga, Range Rover SVAutobiography and forthcoming Rolls-Royce Cullinan.

Autocar understands that special-edition models of the Urus are under consideration. These include a hardcore Superveloce variant and a more focused luxury model.

Production of the Urus may begin around April this year and Autocar understands pricing is likely to be similar to that of the Huracán, which starts around £180k.

Lamborghini has been experiencing strong growth through sales of the Huracán and Aventador. The company has been recruiting extra staff in preparation for production of the Urus and is aiming to double its worldwide sales by 2019. Its production site in Sant’Agata Bolognese is set to double in size to cater for the demand.

Huge delays since the concept car’s first outing in Beijing five years ago led to speculation that the Urus could be axed, but instead the Asterion hybrid sports car was put on hold in favour of the SUV and these spy pictures show development is on track.

Source: Autocar Online

2017 Audi S4 saloon review

2017 Audi S4 saloon front shot

It’s business as usual for the latest Audi S4 with rapid all-weather pace but a slightly numb driving experience

If there’s any badge that signifies discreet all-weather performance, it’s the little ‘S’ found on the back of performance Audis like this new Audi S4. Whether on an S1 or an S8, it guarantees a strong engine and Velcro-like traction wrapped in a package that will fly under the radar of all but the most hardened car nut.One of the longest serving members of the S dynasty is the S4 saloon, which, apart from a brief dalliance with a bent-eight, has always stuck to the tried and tested recipe of a boosted engine up front, four-wheel drive and all but the smallest of visual nods to give away what it’s capable of.The latest version ditches the supercharged six of its predecessor, replacing it with a single-turbo V6 that pushes out a healthy 349bhp and 368Ib ft of torque. That might be down on the Mercedes-AMG C 43 – arguably its closest rival – but it matches its 0-62mph time of 4.7sec.As is usually the case, the aluminium-effect door mirrors and quad exhaust pipes are the easiest ways to spot an S4. Inside, you get electrically adjustable Nappa leather sports seats, plenty of S badging and Navigation Plus.

Source: Autocar Online

Mercedes-AMG C 63 Cabriolet

Mercedes-AMG C 63 Cabriolet
AMG brings bi-turbo V8 power and a hot chassis to the drop-top C-Class

We didn’t formerly road test the recent Mercedes-AMG C 63 coupé, on account of the fact that we’d already tested the saloon and were hoping that an even more extreme Black Series version might come along at some point, and therefore doing so might prove to be AMG overkill.However, there’s something quite compelling about AMG at the moment, and the roll Mercedes’ performance division is on makes the C 63 S Cabriolet worthy of your, and our, attention.Besides, we haven’t road tested a current C-Class Cabriolet yet, so this model represents an intersection of what the two separate labels stand for.The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet is a comfortable, confident four-seat convertible, but one not noted at most points within its range for being a sports car.The C 63, meanwhile, is something else: a confident four-seater, certainly, but one that gives over so much to driving pleasure that comfort drops down the list of its priorities and abilities.Which makes you wonder: how far can you stretch, in any direction, the C-Class and AMG characters, and do they still meld when you try?Let’s hope so, because the arrival of the C 63 Cabriolet takes the total number of C-Class derivatives with AMG elements in the mix to 12, across saloon, estate, coupé and convertible body styles, although many of those use the lesser twin-turbo V6 engine and are badged C 43. It’s a car we like a great deal, but it stops some way short of offering the full AMG experience.The C 63 Cabriolet ought to be something else again, then, what with it having the segment’s only twin-turbo V8 engine, says AMG, proudly.A BMW M4 Convertible gets by with a twin-turbo straight six, it’s true, but we’re prepared to squint a bit and forget that the Jaguar F-Type R doesn’t have rear seats – but it does have a V8, albeit supercharged.The C 63 Cabriolet is alone among the three, however, in having more than 500bhp, at least in S form. Whether that’s enough to make it the most compelling car in the segment is what we’re here to find out.

Source: Autocar Online

Bugatti Chiron: how to build a £2 million hypercar

Bugatti Chiron

In the light tunnel, a six-hour inspection is carried out before the car is signed off

As the first Chirons are readied for delivery, we see how Bugatti makes the model at its Molsheim facility

The Bugatti Chiron is being readied for roll-out after a year spent showcasing the hypercar at events around the world, following its launch at the Geneva motor show last March.

Customers will receive the first cars by next month. Around 70 examples are expected to be made in Bugatti’s so-called Atelier this year — 14% of the production run of 500 models overall.

The French car maker, owned by the Volkswagen Group, says the process of making a Chiron to delivering it takes between six and nine months. Each €2.4 million (£2m) 1479bhp supercar, which can reach 62mph in less than 2.5sec and hit 261mph, is assembled by 20 employees by hand using more than 1800 parts.

Bugatti claims its Molsheim facility has been “extensively modified” to take account of the car’s higher performance over the Veyron and the “generally more complex nature of the new product and its production process”.

Here, in pictures, are the production process highlights.

The Chiron is built in Bugatti’s ‘Atelier’, at its headquarters in Molsheim, which has been the company’s base since it was founded in 1909. The building, built in 2006, is shaped like an oval to echo the brand’s logo, the Bugatti Macaron.

The Atelier has a floor space of more than 1000 square metres. The new glossy white floor is made from epoxy and is conductive, which ensures the dissipation of any electrostatic charges. 

The only electronic tool in chassis assembly is the new EC nutrunner system. It creates a data value for each bolt on the chassis and stores it on a computer connected to the system, which in turn gives the assembly worker a signal when the right torque value is reached. There are more than 1800 bolted joints on a Chiron, with documentation required for 1068 of them.

Chassis assemblers marry the joining of the monocoque and the rear end. Three employees spend about one week on the assembly of the chassis. The staff, in contrast to traditional production line workers, must be able to assemble the entire chassis, including the rear end, monocoque and frame.

Bugatti’s upgraded rolling dynamometer is the most powerful of its type in the world, according to the brand. It says the unit has been the biggest investment in preparation for the Chiron. The changes, including larger electric cables, were needed because the old tech could not absorb the 1479bhp and 1179lb ft developed by the Chiron. The new unit can produce electricity of up to 1200A during operation; excess power is fed into the local grid in Molsheim.

During the water test, the Chiron is exposed to monsoon rain for 30 minutes to ensure there are no leaks.

Only after this will the interior be fitted, which typically takes two people three days. The next step is a test drive — once the car has been covered in a strong transparent plastic foil, which takes a day in itself.

The car is driven around 190 miles at varying speeds, including in excess of 155mph on an airport runway. 

In the light tunnel, a six-hour inspection is carried out before the car is signed off. 

Source: Autocar Online

Porsche Panamera

Porsche Panamera
Four-seat grand tourer bids to redefine performance in the luxury class

By 2009 Porsche had well established the idea of its badge appearing on the prow of a five-door model.Seven years of the Cayenne had left an indelible mark on the brand; if the conditions were right, it was capable of anything, no matter what tradition had previously dictated.Yet the appearance of a saloon was almost as controversial. Porsche had pondered the idea for decades, even creating an ill-fated 989 prototype in the late 1980s, but the idea was greeted as a misshapen spanner in the internal machinery of the world’s most renowned sports car maker.The look didn’t help. The Panamera’s Porsche design cues were stretched to the limit of credibility and beyond.There were other flaws, too. But it was engineered like the Tirpitz and in the right spec could leap continents in mighty bounds. Its audience was dramatically smaller than that of the Cayenne, but it was chairman of the board-shaped and respectable.Helpfully, it suited China’s burgeoning back-seat luxury market to perfection. The model was updated in 2013, but not to the point where it destroyed the opposition in the way the contemporary 911 managed.This latest version, though, can claim a much more credible level of newness. It is bigger, reshaped, remodelled inside, overhauled in the chassis and endowed with Porsche’s latest engines and gearboxes.After seven years, the Panamera no longer has to prove itself against the stigma of contentiousness; the mission now is to make Porsche’s idea of a four-seat GT seem unequivocally more appealing than BMW, Audi, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar have managed in the meantime.The manufacturer has promised to redefine the performance benchmark in the luxury class. We chose the 4S Diesel with which to examine that claim.

Source: Autocar Online

Renault Grand Scenic

Renault Grand Scenic
Can the latest Scenic live up to its sharp and glossy new look?

Not only did the Renault Scenic essentially invent the European compact MPV segment, but its four-generation lifespan has also neatly charted the evolution of the family blob on wheels.And at its inception in the mid-1990s, the Scenic was very much a blob: a swollen, high-ceilinged carcass welded to the front-wheel drive platform of the contemporary Mégane hatchback.It neither sounded nor looked like much of a prospect, and even Renault believed it would be a niche product.But the model won the European Car of the Year title in 1997 and caught the public’s imagination in the best possible way. At its peak, the manufacturer was said to be turning out 2500 examples a day.Its replacement added to the line-up a long-wheelbase Grand version, which came with the two third-row jump seats necessary to bridge the gap between the compact segment and the longer-running, more expensive large MPVs.However, the outgoing Scenic III floundered, along with the rest of the class, as droves of family buyers migrated from drab five-door bubbles into the more dynamic profile of the crossover.Renault’s introduction of its XMOD model was intended to stem the tide, but its half-hearted execution and off-key looks only highlighted how unfashionable the Scenic had become.At the Geneva motor show in 2011, Renault proved well enough that it could read the writing on the wall by showing the R-Space concept, a strikingly voluptuous take on the MPV format that was followed by the Initiale Paris two years later.In 2014 the latter went real-world with the non-right-hand-drive and ostensibly crossover-influenced new Espace, a car with which the latest Scenic shares much of its big-wheeled, flashy front-end styling and swept-back visual theme, along with a platform and a production line.This new Scenic looks about as shapely as an MPV might be made to look and is launched in the UK with a 36-version showroom line-up.That suggests Renault is wildly more confident about the model’s prospects now than it was 20 years ago. We’re testing the seven-seat Grand variant to find out if such optimism was suitably justified. 

Source: Autocar Online

2017 Honda Civic Type R Black Edition UK review

Bespoke styling for no extra cost makes the limited edition Honda Civic Type R Black Edition a good buy

A short on-sale stint of only a couple of years could make the current Honda Civic Type R feel like a bit of a flash in the collective hot hatch pan, but it’s had an enduring impact despite that. As if being the first turbocharged Type R wasn’t headline enough, it also delivers an aggressive, rather uniquely hardcore experience that sets it apart from rivals such as the Ford Focus RS, and even the Volkswagen Golf GTi Clubsport S.Only 100 of these Black Edition cars will be produced, as a swansong for this wonderfully banzai hot hatch before its successor replaces it later this year. There are no mechanical changes, so don’t get too excited. You do, however, get the hazard-warning red and black exterior styling, and an interior with more black finish than usual, too. And all for the same £32,300 as the standard Civic Type R GT model that it’s based on. 

Source: Autocar Online

Peugeot 3008

Peugeot 3008
Peugeot’s awkward high-rise hatchback turns stylish compact SUV

The new Peugeot 3008 is a different kind of car from the one that took its maker into the crossover niche eight years ago.Having been designed before the stylistic norms of the growing market segment had set hard and fast, the original 3008 was very much a hatchback with a sprinkling of SUV about it. Some thought it weird, others a bit ugly – but we always quite liked it.The new 3008, by contrast, can be recognised as a downsized SUV rather than a crossover hatchback.Peugeot has evidently weighed the potential sales growth it might enjoy by pitching the car directly at the likes of the Volkswagen Tiguan and Mazda CX-5 against the risk of alienating that portion of the 3008’s original customer base who might have preferred a more discreet design – and found in favour of the former.Quite understandably, too, with the sub-£30,000 SUV segment expanding at its current rate.But beyond the question of how well it succeeds what was a clever and likeable predecessor, the new 3008 is being set up by its maker to lead the redefinition of the brand’s design identity and accelerate the process of Peugeot’s gradual upmarket relocation, which began with the 308 in 2013.It’s intended to be elegant and desirable as well as versatile, and while it’s larger than the car that went before it, it’s also lighter.While the outgoing diesel-electric Hybrid4 model isn’t going to be directly replaced (a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid is planned for 2019), the new 3008 is being launched with a modern mix of three and four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines and with a choice of manual and torque converter automatic gearboxes.Off-road appeal will be limited by the absence of a four-wheel-drive model, at least for now, but is redressed by an increase in ground clearance, dual-purpose tyres for those who want them and new traction control system.On the face of it, the new 3008 has an air of style and technological sophistication about it. Could it be the fully realised evidence of PSA Group boss Carlos Tavares’ new, more ambitious Peugeot? Let’s find out.

Source: Autocar Online

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