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SUPER-COUPE TWIN TEST

29 October 2014 | Renault Twingo

29 OCTOBER 2014 £3.50 | AUTOCAR.CO.UK

NEW TWINGO

FULL 8-PAGE ROAD TEST

NEXT LAND ROVER

DEFENDER

Latest on their ‘most capable car ever’

Plus Range Rover is after Tesla

New Merc meets Bentley

So has the S-class coupé now met its match?

Qashqai long-term test

Why it’s the official Autocar mile-eater

PLUS Claire Williams on getting the family business back on top l How to hit 97.9mpg (and enjoy it)

COVER

STORY

38 Mercedes S63 AMG coupé

Rapid and luxurious GTs

go head to head: Bentley

Continental GT Speed vs

COVER

STORY

8

Land Rover Defender replacement due in 2016

28

First drive: facelifted Audi A6 Avant

‘Youcanbereassuredby

theTwingo’shandling,but

notreallyengagedbyit’

Matt Saunders, p56

COVER

STORY

COVER

STORY

46

Talking shop with Claire Williams

66

Nissan Qashqai worries Ryanair

52 Gently does it: Autocar enters the MPG Marathon

THIS WEEK

NEWS

Land Rover Defender replacement Here in 2016 8

Electric Range Rover Land Rover targets Tesla 10

Porsche’s Model S rival Four-door EV planned

Car production rankings revealed China’s on top15

13

Infiniti Q80 Luxury saloon on sale in 2017

16

Skoda focuses on space Big cabins will be key

19

Audi A4 High-tech platform for all-new model 22

Spotlight Why VW says green tech is too costly

24

TESTED

Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI Ultra Better all round

28

Mercedes B-class Electric Drive Impressive EV 30

Audi S6 Avant Facelifted fast estate

33

Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid Slick, frugal SUV 35

Nissan 370Z Nismo Pricey but has appeal

37

Renault Twingo 1.0 SCe ROAD TEST

56

FEATURES

S63 AMG coupé vs Conti GT Speed Fast GTs38

Claire Williams interview F1 team boss talks 46

MPG Marathon Fuel economy challenge

52

OUR CARS

Nissan Qashqai It’s better than business class

66

BMW X5 Flummoxed by a fault warning

69

Toyota GT86 Indulging in sideways silliness

71

EVERY WEEK

Steve Cropley The broad appeal of Brooklands

21

Matt Prior Heeding the rallying cry

23

Joe Saward China eyes its own F1 team

27

Your views Don’t be alarmed by your Insignia

64

Colin Goodwin Tip of the hat to Hans Mezger

64

Subscription offer Free Soundscience speakers68

Richard Bremner The ascendance of Audi

98

DEALS

Used buying guide BMW 318iS from £1k

James Ruppert C ars for first-time drivers 74

72

New cars A-Z All the latest models rated

76

Road test results Autocar’s data archive

91

Classifieds Cars, number plates, services

94

72

Buying a used BMW 318iS

Claire Williams is creating a buoyant company, in both F1 and engineering

Williams adds to Brit pack’s talents

THE BRITISH MOTOR industry is rightly lauded for the performance of companies such as Land Rover, and this week’s cover star is likely to boost it even further. But it’s also worth thinking about the world-class work being done by companies that aren’t so obvious. Firms such as Ricardo and GKN are held in extremely high regard by car companies both here and abroad for their creativity and agility, and it’s no surprise that their handiwork is lurking in almost every cutting-edge new car that’s launched. Now we are fast being able to add a new name to the list:

Williams Advanced Engineering. Of course, considering the company’s noted Formula 1 success, it’s hardly a new name. As Steve Cropley found out after meeting Claire Williams and the rest of the management team (see p46), the new offshoot is now quietly doing valuable work for the likes of Jaguar and Nissan, as well as working on huge numbers of innovative products for other sectors. So it’s going great guns. But who wouldn’t want the company to go even further? And who wouldn’t want to see a spiritual successor to the Renault Clio Williams?

CHAS HALLETT EDITOR

chas.hallett@haymarket.com

@chashallett

THIS WEEK

Issue 6123 | Volume 281 | No 5

Established 1895

AUTOCAR.CO.UK THIS WEEK’S TOP FIVE

VIDEO

Britain’s Best Driver’s Car

The year’s best-handling cars put to the test

REVIEW

REVIEW

Vauxhall Corsa

Hardcore new Conti

Can Vauxhall knock Ford from top spot?

Bentley’s 572bhp road- racer struts its stuff

NEWS

BLOG

Cayman GT4 spied

James Ruppert

Porsche readies hotter Cayman for 2015 debut

Why classifieds still merit print space

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THIS WEEK

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New Defender set for

n Defender replacement to be the ‘most capable’ Land Rover yet n New four-pot diesel and

T he new Defender will be the most capable Land Rover ever built, according to Phil Popham, Jaguar

Land Rover’s group marketing director. Speaking at the recent Paris show, Popham said the long-awaited new model would have the biggest “breadth of capability” of any model to wear the Land Rover badge. The claim emphasises the importance that JLR is putting on replacing the iconic Defender, which has its roots in the 65-year-old original Land Rover model. JLR has, so far, succeeded in

keeping the wraps on the likely styling and the engineering make-up of the new Defender. However, we do know that the styling of the new car has already been signed off. The styling theme for the new model is thought to have been given the green light during the summer. This means that the new vehicle is unlikely to appear in production guise until the summer of 2016. However, a sneak preview in the form of a concept car is currently being discussed. Potential debuts for a concept are next March at the Geneva

show, at the New York show in the spring or at the Frankfurt show next September. There’s also no news about the structure underpinning the

new Defender, but it looks likely to be a version of the company’s aluminium monocoque with the addition of a substantial aluminium superstructure in order to make the architecture as stiff and rugged as possible. This technique — mixing a monocoque passenger cell and

a separate steel chassis — was used under the Discovery to

great success but resulted in

a vehicle that weighed more

New US factory on the agenda for JLR

JAGUAR LAND ROVER is considering building a factory in the United States, according to media reports. JLR has refused to comment but the southern states of the US are the most likely home for a new facility. BMW makes the X3, X4, X5 and X6 SUVs in South Carolina and Mercedes-

Benz builds the M-class, R-class and GL-class in Alabama. Crucially for JLR,

building a factory near either of these existing plants would allow access to an established supplier base. The reports coincided with JLR opening a factory in Changshu, China, with local partner Chery. It will build the Evoque and expand into making “an aluminium Jaguar” by 2016. “New derivatives and models specially designed for China” will also be made there.

2016 debut

THIS WEEK

Q&A Phil Popham, JLR marketing director

What’s behind the recent massive increase in Land Rover sales? Product has been the driver. Six years ago, when the recession hit, we made the decision to cut costs but keep investing in new products such as the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. We’ve gone from an annual cash outflow of around £1 billion to a similar amount as a cash inflow. We’ve also seen a very high proportion of conquest sales with the two new Range Rovers, so we are pulling in customers who are new to the brand. There’s also a four to six-month waiting list for the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, which shows the strength of demand. In the future, we will have great manufacturing flexibility, with the two Range Rovers and the [next] Discovery being built on the same production line. Product demand drives our manufacturing strategy.

Why are profit margins so high? We sell a very rich mix of vehicles. Buyers are keen to purchase a lot of the options and accessories on offer. We’ve also invested heavily in developing markets such as Russia and China. JLR sold 6000 vehicles in China in 2008. Last year, we sold 100,000 vehicles. We are also seeing strong residuals for our models and that’s reflected in monthly payments. Even at the premium end of the market, buyers want to spend less running their vehicles. Total cost of ownership is a big issue.

petrol engines, plus V6 n Pitched as ‘premium durability’

than two tonnes. Repeating the exercise in aluminium should provide even greater structural rigidity than the Disco 4, with much reduced all-up weight. With the new Defender being pitched as “premium durability”, it will come with the new Ingenium four-cylinder turbocharged diesel and petrol engines as well as V6 engines, Autocar understands. They will be connected to eight and nine- speed automatic gearboxes as standard, but there is no definitive news on whether there will be the option of a manual transmission.

The styling is thought to have got the green light during the summer

JLR is determined that the new Defender will be able to thrive in the world’s harshest conditions, to the extent that it will be able to ‘plug into’ existing component networks by using the same wheel and tyres sizes as Toyota’s Land Cruiser and Hilux.

Autocar has been unable to substantiate rumours that the new Defender also uses the same bolt circle diameter to make wheel replacement easier in places such as central Africa. The premium durability theme for the new Defender extends to the interior. Land

The new Defender will be designed to survive in harsh conditions

Rover’s design team is aiming for a cabin that is distinctly more upmarket and better made than that of the Land Cruiser, for example. This, combined with the intention of world-class mechanical durability and off- road ability, should give the

Defender a decisive difference in this market niche. The extra luxury and comfort should also make it more appealing to affluent urban buyers. HILTON HOLLOWAY

Land Rover’s all-electric Range Rover, p10

Electric Range Rover to challenge Tesla

A new all-electric Range Rover model is in the mix as the company looks to emulate the success of Tesla in the luxury EV sector in the United States, Europe and, forecasters say, China

L and Rover is considering

a new battery-powered

Range Rover model to

counter the increasing

success of Tesla in the luxury car sector, Autocar understands. The electric Range Rover would probably be more of a low-roofed crossover-style model than a battery-powered version of the current Range Rover. Jaguar Land Rover group engineering director Wolfgang Ziebart recently hinted at the plans when he spoke to an industry newspaper about JLR’s view on an EV. Ziebart said the market for EVs was split into inner city vehicles and a “second or third car for a wealthy family”. Zeibart suggested that the latter segment had potential for JLR and that any EV would be the size of a “Jaguar XJ” and aimed at the US and China. Land Rover design chief

Gerry McGovern also strongly hinted in the press recently that the company was working on expanding the Range Rover brand with what he described as “incredibly luxurious, low- slung” Range Rovers. Such a model would be more biased to on-road performance but still capable of cross-country driving thanks to height- adjustable air suspension. It seems that this crossover model could be sold in conventional petrol and diesel- powered forms, as well as a purely battery-powered guise. Building a car with a much smaller frontal area would be key to making the battery- powered concept work. Any future electric Range Rover model would have to match the Tesla Model S’s official range of 265 miles to be regarded as competitive, something that would be difficult using a similarly aerodynamically blunt profile to the current car’s.

If the new model gets the go-ahead, it will be based on a version of Range Rover’s aluminium monocoque architecture, modified to accommodate a substantial battery pack. All-wheel drive,

Jaguar F-type gets four-wheel drive

AN ALL-WHEEL-drive F-type has been spied leaving Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich production plant. The coupé is partially disguised, but Autocar understands it to be an F-type S AWD equipped with the 3.0-litre supercharged V6. It is thought that the new model will be launched at the LA auto show in November. The badges on the rear have been obscured by camouflage tape, but one of them is

SPY

SHOT

JAG

F-TYPE

AWD

believed to feature ‘AWD’, while the frontal images show that a sticker in the windscreen denoting it as a ‘plant launch vehicle’, as opposed to a definitive production car. The twin-exhaust configuration of the car matches that of the existing V6-powered F-type models, but it seems likely that V8-engined AWD derivatives will also be offered. Four-exhaust test mules were spied undergoing winter testing in January. Although Jaguar has been tight-lipped about the prospect of all-wheel-drive F-types, its four-wheel-drive XF and XJ models, equipped with a 3.0-litre V6, have been a significant sales success in the US. Additionally, high-ranking Jaguar personnel have previously revealed long- term plans to offer four-wheel-drive variants of all the company’s models.

delivered by using motors on

both the front and rear axles, also seems a certainty.

It is possible that this

proposed crossover could share its basic suspension system with the upcoming Jaguar CX-17 crossover, which is likely to have less extreme

travel than that which is used on today’s Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.

A more road-biased set-up

with air springs would allow the Range Rover EV to run a low ride height at motorway speeds, which would improve aerodynamic performance and stretch the maximum range from a battery pack. Judging by the pricing for today’s Model S, any Range Rover EV would have to cost as much as £90,000 or more, but it seems that JLR planners are considering offsetting the extra cost over a Tesla by selling such a model with a very high standard specification. Investing in an electric crossover model could be a

significant risk for JLR, but Land Rover bosses clearly have to take the premium EV

market seriously, partly as a result of the rise and rise of Tesla (see panel, right). Financial and market analysts have been suggesting that “greenness” is now seen as an “indivisible part of a premium brand”, especially for customers in the highest

income brackets. The Model S has already become the best-selling luxury model in some of the US’s most affluent postcodes and the car has recently started to outsell established models, such as the Audi A8 and the BMW 7-series, in Europe. China is also expected to become a significant market for battery-powered luxury vehicles over the next few years, as the Chinese government pushes hard for the adoption of EVs to help combat the country’s serious air pollution problems. HILTON HOLLOWAY

THIS WEEK

Porsche’s Tesla rival uncovered, p13

The Tesla success story that’s set to run and run

TESLA COULD BE building 500,000 EVs a year, according to a report produced by automotive analysts at International Strategy and Investment. ISI has told investors that Tesla has a major advantage over the competition in that it will not face significant rising costs as global CO 2 emissions regulations become ever more onerous. The business case for a premium electric car also seems to be compelling, according to ISI. While Land Rover and Porsche are realising profit margins of 15-18 per cent — the highest in the mainstream car industry — Tesla could be in line for margins of 25 per cent, rising to a possible 30 per cent by 2020.

ISI has told investors that

it believes Tesla to have

a “tangible lead” in both

product and technology and that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are likely to be the “optimum solution as original equipment manufacturers pursue tailpipe emission-free cars” rather than cars with hydrogen fuel cells. ISI said: “[Tesla] has a market-leading product for which there is no obvious competition [and] has already created substantial brand equity through product and innovation. Global legislation, namely emissions regulations, is a tailwind [for Tesla] yet a headwind for the [premium] competition.” Tesla’s estimations suggest that the cost of batteries

should fall by about 30 per

cent, with ISI estimating a 13

per cent drop in the factory cost of the Model S by 2020. Mainstream car makers, by contrast, will be faced with rising costs as they switch to hybrid transmissions to meet CO 2 regulations. Tesla is also poised for greater success in China, ISI has asserted, not only because premium car sales in the country are booming but also because the Chinese authorities are pushing for a much greater uptake of BEVs. Estimates quoted by ISI suggest that China wants as many as five million BEVs on its roads by 2020, along with some 4.5m charging points. On the open market, ISI said Tesla is attracting buyers

from Mercedes, Lexus and BMW as well as pulling in significant numbers of Toyota Prius customers looking for a premium upgrade. The nature of Tesla’s increasing competitiveness in the marketplace became clear

Model X follows in the emission-free wake of the Model S

last week when Daimler sold its four per cent stake in Tesla, raising £487m. Analysts suggest that the move shows how Tesla has now become a serious rival for premium luxury car makers, rather than a technical partner.

Panamera Sport Turismo concept gives clues to the new car’s styling

THIS WEEK

Porsche plots a Model S rival

German manufacturer set to unleash all-new electric car as battle for the luxury EV market hots up

P orsche is plotting a

milestone entry into the

electric car ranks with a

mid-sized liftback that

aims to compete directly against the Tesla Model S. Currently in the formative stages of development at Porsche’s Weissach R&D centre in Germany, the five- door car is to form part of a new fifth dedicated model range set to slot into the German car maker’s line-up underneath the Panamera, according to German media reports citing comments made by Porsche chairman Matthias Müller.

While conventional petrol and diesel-powered versions of the new mid-sized Porsche model are set to take on established luxury class rivals such as the BMW 5-series, an advanced battery-powered variant is tasked with challenging the Model S on both performance and range in what has developed into an increasingly important global market for electric cars in recent years. Details of Porsche’s first ever series production electric car remain shrouded in secrecy, although Autocar understands that it has been

Audi’s R8 e-tron is expected to have a range of some 280 miles

conceived around a second- generation version of the MSB platform that currently underpins the Panamera. Power for the new five- seat Porsche is planned to come from a state of the art synchronous electric motor. It is likely to provide a similar

output to the unit used by the Model S, which offers 416bhp and 443lb ft in its most powerful guise, in a bid to endow the new Porsche electric car with class-leading performance. The electric motor will draw energy from a yet to

be specified battery. Likely to be a lithium ion type, it is expected to be developed in partnership with Audi, which is currently in the throes of finalising its first electric car, the R8 e-tron. The battery is planned to provide the new Porsche with an all-electric range of over 250 miles. While Porsche is targeting Tesla’s Model S with its new model, which is due in 2018, Audi is set to challenge the soon to be introduced Model X with an electric variant of its new range-topping Q8 SUV as early as 2017. GREG KABLE

Stripped-out cabin reveals P1 GTR’s hardcore intent

THE CABIN OF the McLaren P1 GTR has been revealed for the first time as the Woking- based manufacturer continues to develop its track-focused, limited-edition hypercar. Using the road-orientated McLaren P1 as a base, the GTR’s cockpit has been stripped out to give a greater focus on driver engagement

and weight saving, with few compromises towards comfort. It will also feature a new steering wheel based on that used in the MP4-23, McLaren’s 2008 Formula 1 car. Key controls are located to the wheel’s centre, allowing the driver to adjust the set-up of the car without having to take their hands from the wheel. The buttons for the Drag Reduction System (DRS) and Instant Power Assist System (IPAS) are retained on the steering wheel. McLaren says it has

UK RAMPS UP CAR PRODUCTION

UK car manufacturing was up between January and September compared with the same period last year, with 1,132,017 units produced. It’s the best year-to-date performance since 2008, according to figures released by the SMMT.

configured the controls so they can be comfortably operated when the driver is wearing a full race suit, helmet and gloves. The P1 GTR’s cabin is equipped with carbonfibre seats and full six-point motorsport harnesses. These will be set up individually for each owner and mounted directly to the chassis, reducing weight by having no additional mounting brackets. However, the air-con system will be retained to maintain comfort during track driving.

The P1 GTR’s steering wheel is based on the 2008 McLaren F1 car’s

UK GETS HYDROGEN HYUNDAIS

The first six Hyundai ix35 fuel-cell cars have arrived in the UK. The company says the model is “the world’s first series production hydrogen- fuelled car” and that it is the first time fuel-cell cars have been supplied to paying UK customers.

Car production (millions)

30

25

20

15

10

5

0

EU

8,189,323

Japan

25,886,146

7,084,136

7,084,136

BRIC

8.5%

39.6%

4,122,604

South Korea

7,084,136

NAFTA

6.3%

% share

22.3%

10.8%

12.5%

5,534,876

Others

THIS WEEK

Confidential

CAR INTERIORS WITH the ability to change colour are being developed by major automotive components supplier Johnson Controls, according to board member Han Hendriks. No more details have been given but further announcements are expected early next year.

Audi R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg has revealed some of the costs of lightweight car bodies. Heat-pressed high-strength steel is less than ¤2 per kilo, aluminium costs between ¤5 and ¤10 per kilo and carbonfibre anything from ¤35 to ¤90 per kilo.

China tops car making league

Europe slips to second as China becomes the world’s most prolific manufacturer

C hina’s rocketing

passenger car making

industry is now the world’s

largest by a significant

margin. Nearly 18 million cars were made in China last year, well ahead of the EU’s production total of 14.6m. According to figures just released by the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (ACEA), while EU production remained almost

flat between 2012 and 2013, China overtook the EU in 2012 and continued climbing throughout last year. Collectively, the so-called BRIC group of countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) now produces 39.6 per cent of the world’s cars, but China is responsible for making 27.6 per cent of them. India (4.8per cent), Brazil (4.2 per cent) and Russia (2.9 per cent) are

minnows by comparison. In 2002, China’s fledgling car industry built around one million cars, but by 2006 China had matched the United States’ automotive output of just over four million cars. While nearly every other car making nation saw a drop in production in the wake of the 2008 global credit crunch, China’s car industry enjoyed its most dramatic period of

growth, rising up from just under seven million units in 2008 to just over 14m units by the end of 2010. ACEA figures from 2012 revealed that 2.2m people across the EU are directly involved in the production of all types of motor vehicles, with a total of 12.7m employed across the entire supply chain. This accounts for 5.8 per cent of all people employed in the EU.

Analysts predict eco-cost catastrophe

THE EXTRA COSTS of building more fuel- efficient cars could prove ruinous to some European manufacturers. According to a study by ISI Automotive, the automotive

industry as a whole will have to spend “around £10bn between now and 2022” in order to comply with the EU’s fleet average C0 2 target figure of 95g/km. ISI said most of what in engineering terms is “low- hanging fruit”, such as downsized engines and a greater focus on low rolling resistance and aerodynamic efficiency, has already been exploited, but making the next step in fuel efficiency will be much more expensive.

CITROEN GOES POSTAL

French postal operator La Poste has released a collector’s edition set of stamps covering the 95-year history of the Citroën brand. The 10 stamps feature the brand’s products from the Model A to this year’s C4 Cactus.

“Having studied reports from the European Environment Agency, the International Council on Clean Transport and the European Commission, we think that these [new generation] cars will require an extra £842 in [engineering] content,” said ISI’s report. Although this amount might not seem huge, it is a significant percentage of the factory cost of building a car. The average mass-market

manufacturer only makes a profit margin of between £250 and £320 per car. According to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation quoted by ISI, if the EU targets a new C0 2 fleet average of 80g/ km for 2025, the cost of the extra engineering content could rise to £1100 more than that of today’s typical Golf-sized diesel cars.

VW warns green cars are too expensive, p24

MEXICO MAKES NEW MAZDA

Production of Mazda’s new 2 supermini has begun at the firm’s new factory in Mexico. The Mazda de Mexico Vehicle Operation (MMVO) plant will have an annual capacity of 250,000 units by March 2016.

GM EUROPE’S MONZA concept, built to embody the design direction for Opel and Vauxhall, was placed in the centre of the firm’s Rüsselsheim studio to provide inspirational guidance two and a half years ago, well before the car was publicly aired at last year’s Frankfurt show, according to design boss Mark Adams. It remains there still, influencing the design team of Vauxhall’s next generation of MPVs.

HARM LAGAAY, FORMER head of Porsche design, reckons there’s more scope for originality in design now than ever before, thanks to new materials, the ability to press sharper creases in panels and possibilities with lighting. He says he would love to dive in.

RENAULT’S TWINGO has been upstaged by its Smart

Forfour sister car, which has

a superior rear packaging

solution. Load space can be increased in the Twingo by removing the rear seats; in

the Smart, significant space

is created merely be flipping

the seat bases forward so they lie flat on the floor.

Up to 90 per cent of this car could make production

Infiniti Q80 flagship is a

Luxury saloon concept is set to enter production after 2017 with a minimum of changes; compact Q30 here

The concept’s cabin hints at Infiniti’s younger audience

I nfiniti’s Q80 saloon concept will reach the showroom some time after 2017, according to company

bosses. Infiniti’s European boss François Goupil de Bouillé said putting the range-topping Q80 concept into production is a priority for the company. “The Q80 is way more than a design study,” he said. “This is our entry into the large saloon segment. “Our intention with any prototype is to put as much as possible of it on the road, maybe as much as 90 per cent of this concept.” Infiniti vice president Francois Bancon said he believes a production version of the Q80 would have no direct rivals because models such as the Mercedes-Benz S-class and BMW 7-series — which are similar in concept to the Q80 — appeal to older buyers.

Bancon said the average age of an Infiniti buyer is 54 — younger than those of its rivals — and it’s even lower in China, where the average age is in the late 30s. The production Q80 will be targeting these younger buyers, especially those in China, who want a large luxury saloon but don’t want an S-class or a 7-series because those cars are associated with an older generation. Infiniti’s new European design director, Simon Cox, has also revealed that other top-end cars are being planned. “Just because we’ve done the Q80 doesn’t mean we’re not doing other high-end cars,” he said. Rumours are also circulating that the brand is also plotting a larger, more traditional range- topping saloon along with a Range Rover rival, which will possibly be badged QX80.

‘priority’

next year, Mini and A1-rivalling Q20 planned

Cox, who is based at the new Infiniti studio in London, said the original Infiniti FX crossover (currently badged QX70) is probably the brand’s most iconic and influential model and could still provide inspiration for future models. The production version of the Q80 and other future large Infinitis could be built on shared Mercedes platforms. Renault- Nissan Alliance global director Jacques Verdonck recently revealed that the company was currently considering extending its relationship and using rear-drive Mercedes platforms for its larger cars. “Their rear-drive platforms would make sense for economies of scale, although our tuning would have to be different,” he said. Before the Q80 arrives, the brand is concentrating on the

launch of the Audi A3-rivalling Q30 (see panel, right). In order for Infiniti to stay with the European-led trend for ‘premium downsizing’, Nissan global design director Shiro Nakamura also recently revealed that a smaller Q20 model is being planned that could directly compete with the Mini and Audi A1. HILTON HOLLOWAY

The production Q80 could be underpinned by a Merc platform

THIS WEEK

Compact Q30 is next in Infiniti’s growth plan

INFINITI’S ASSAULT ON the global premium car market will be given a significant boost when the compact Q30 model arrives next year, according to the company’s head of European, Middle East and African sales, François Goupil de Bouillé. He told Autocar that Infiniti is expecting to sell about 200,000 cars globally this year, some 15 per cent up on last year and the third consecutive year of growth for Nissan’s luxury brand. However, he admitted that Infiniti had not yet achieved critical mass in terms of its sales volume. With sales in western and central Europe likely to hit 14,000 units this year (up from just 3000 last year), the Q30 family could boost that figure by as much as 250 per cent. The next key move for the company will be the launch of the new Q30 ‘compact premium’ model, which is based on the Mercedes-Benz A-class platform and will be built at Nissan’s Sunderland plant. Goupil de Bouillé said: “Our main weapon will be the Q30 and it will be something of a big bang. It will be built at our plant extension at Sunderland and will be exported to the United States. There’ll also be the QX30, a compact SUV model based on the same platform. We expect to sell around 60,000 of the two models in the first full year, with 30,000 sold in Europe.” Goupil de Bouillé said that 50 per cent of premium car sales in the EU are in the C-segment, which means targeting cars such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1-series. “The market is not an open door, so we have to offer something different,” he said. “We will use design as a great differentiator. There will be some polarisation [when people see the production car] but

we want to be disruptive in this market.” While accepting that the premium market was relatively conservative, he also added

that Infiniti was looking for buyers who were “motivated by something different”. He also said: “If someone sees an Infiniti,

it should be obvious why the driver bought

it. You have it because you want to be different. We will drive the difference through design.” Production of the Q30 will begin at the Sunderland plant in August next year, with cars arriving in showrooms between October and November. Over the longer term, the wider Infiniti brand “will be all premium segments”, he said, with the London-designed Q80 concept

giving direct clues as to the form of Infiniti’s next-generation flagship. As part of its global expansion, the brand has just opened

a new plant in China with Dong Feng, its

local partner. The factory will build long- wheelbase versions of both the Q50 saloon and the QX50 SUV. HH

The production Q30 will hit showrooms next year

Future Infinitis will draw on the Q80’s styling

THIS WEEK

Skoda’s all-new large SUV will likely share its MQB platform with the Superb

New Skodas to major on space

Czech brand set to distinguish itself by ensuring its future models offer more room than rivals’ cars

F uture Skoda models will flesh out the brand’s reputation for practicality by offering more interior

and luggage space than the opposition. Dr Frank Welsch, Skoda’s board member for technical development, told Autocar that the new Fabia and other future models would “deliver on the company’s brand values of roominess at a reasonable price”. Welsch said the next- generation Superb “would have a longer wheelbase than

the new Volkswagen Passat” while still “being under 5m long”. The new Superb will be unveiled in “less than six months”, Welsch revealed. The new Fabia is part of the trend, offering class-leading boot space while still being just 4m long. “The Rapide is 4.3m long and the Octavia 4.6m long, so you can see how the Superb will slot in at the top of the range,” said Welsch. He also hinted that the replacement for today’s 4.2m-long Yeti would probably be stretched by about 10cm

to improve rear legroom and luggage space. Although Welch didn’t refer to Skoda’s upcoming large SUV, it is likely to be based on the same version of VW’s MQB architecture as the next Superb. “Switching to using the MQB architecture does not restrict Skoda,” Welsch said . It allows us more flexibility to build specific cars. If we are going to have strong brands [in the VW Group] we can’t just use the same platforms. We need to stick to our own philosophy and serve our own customers.”

He added that differentiation would be further extended for Skoda models sold in China. In Europe, estate cars produce significant sales volume for Skoda. In the UK, current Superb sales are still split 50/50 between the estate and notchback, while the Octavia splits 55/45 between the hatchback and the estate. Welsch confirmed that there would not be a vRS version of the

new Fabia due to profitability concerns. Although the previous Fabia vRS sold well in the UK, it had not made the same impact across the rest of Europe.

Ford pumps money into UK plant for new diesels

FORD WILL INVEST an additional £190 million at its Dagenham facility to produce a range of new 2.0-litre diesel engines for cars and commercial vehicles. The development includes an £8.9m contribution from the government’s Regional Growth Fund and will result in the creation of 318 new jobs. The announcement is the second part of a two-stage investment in the new engine

GM LOSSES INCREASE IN EUROPE

Losses at General Motors’ European arm increased between July and September this year. The division was £241 million in the red compared with £148m over the same period last year. The company blamed “restructuring costs” and a slowing of Russian sales.

programme. The original investment of £287m relates to the production of the engine that will find its way into Ford commercial vehicles around the globe. The first of these engines will come off the line at the east London plant towards the end of next year. Production capacity will be up to 350,000 units per year and the first units will be powering Ford’s vans in 2016.

The new tranche of funding relates to the engine for passenger cars. Production is scheduled to start in 2017 — ramping up to a capacity of 150,000 units per year — with the first installation in Ford cars planned for 2018 Ford says that the new engine will deliver greatly reduced nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and satisfy the air quality requirements of the proposed Ultra Low Emission

CITROEN UPS CACTUS VOLUMES

Reports from Spain say that Citroën is preparing to increase production of the new C4 Cactus by about 20 per cent. The new car is built at the Villaverde facility near Madrid and an extra shift will be added at the factory to meet demand.

Zone (ULEZ) that could come into force in London in 2020. The new diesel engines have been designed and developed at Ford Dagenham and the Ford Dunton Technical Centre in Essex. Ford makes engines at two sites in the UK — petrol engines at Ford Bridgend in Wales and diesels at Ford Dagenham. Total production from the two plants exceeded 1.5m units last year.

A Week In Cars

THIS WEEK

Steve Cropley

MONDAY

A quick, terrifying trip to

Liverpool in the Peugeot RCZ R on a streaming M6 motorway. The terror wasn’t down to the car, whose precision and stability offered me a better alliance than most of the driver/ car combinations around me. This was one of those motorway situations you can’t avoid:

driving rain, two of the three lanes packed with bellowing trucks, impenetrable curtains of spray, a river flowing back along the central reservation so your outside front wheel aquaplanes scarily and Mad Max in a ferociously-driven repmobile

staring up your exhausts. All that and a constant “what the hell am I doing here” dominating your thoughts. After 200 miles on a knife edge it was great to arrive

at the imposing new Titanic

Hotel, chosen by Vauxhall as the base from which to launch its

new, improved Corsa. Enjoyed

some car small talk, savoured a bite then headed for bed in a room the size of a tennis court.

WEDNESDAY

Delighted to meet former Jaguar boss Mike O’Driscoll, now CEO at Williams, where great things have been happening on track and in a new advanced engineering business since he took the role. O’Driscoll now runs the business as a remarkably effective partnership with Sir Frank’s daughter, Claire Williams. “It works really well,” says Mike, “so we don’t waste time wondering why. We just concentrate on getting stuff done.” Read the story on p46.

THURSDAY

To Brooklands, the famous

pre-war banked track just inside London’s orbital M25, to talk money with Allan Winn,

Winn has done wonders to protect Brooklands but the old place needs money

steve.cropley@autocar.co.uk

its dynamic curator. Winn’s network of 800 volunteers and 8000 members has done wonders to protect this greatest of motoring/aviation heritage sites but now the old place needs money as never before – all £1.7 million of it. Once this is raised, Brooklands gets another £4.9m in lottery funds to begin a huge restoration programme. Its wartime Bellman hangar is being moved and repurposed as the ‘Brooklands aircraft factory’, which will sit beside a new-build Flight Shed so the famous Finishing Straight, scene of many a past hair’s- breadth race finish, can be used again. New education, training, archive and workshop facilities are also coming. Meanwhile, Brooklands continues to thrive. Practically every weekend it stages some enthusiastically attended club or marque event that puts the famous Test Hill back in action. You can fly a Concorde there, using the original simulator, with a former captain to show you how. To cap it all there’s a fantastic new ride, the Napier- Railton Race Experience, which I sampled. It features moving seats, surround sound and 3D glasses to show what it’s

really like to drive the mighty 24-litre racer. A few years ago I drove the real Railton, and the ride certainly takes you very close to reality.

FRIDAY

John McIlroy, late of the Autocar news editor’s chair and now

director of testing at What Car?, set off today at the wheel of his BMW i3 to visit relatives in Northern Ireland, a ‘goodbye’ story for his much-loved long- termer. The idea was to do the 415-mile road journey in about the same time you’d require in

a conventional car, but using mostly electric power and

restricting petrol consumption

to just one nine-litre tankful.

In the event, he needed the charging motor just once and for about 30 seconds – when

Mégane RS’s abilities shame cars costing four times as much

he could literally see his next charging station in the distance. With a little more luck, the petrol consumed could have been zero, but to me the point is that the journey was accomplished in the time it’d have taken a Golf diesel.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY

Spent the weekend driving many miles in a bright yellow Renault Mégane RS 275 Trophy, which is one of those rare, inspirational cars whose price-to-capability equation pulverises everything else in sight. This car’s combination

of poke, grip, brakes, steering, gearchange, seats, ride, driving precision, style and all-round

enjoyability would be hard to find at £100k, but in the Mégane’s remarkable case you need a quarter of that.

@StvCr

SPY

AUDI

SHOT

A4

All-new A4 on sale next year

High-tech new MLB-Evo architecture to underpin the next generation of Audi’s biggest-selling model

A udi’s all-new A4 is one of its most technically advanced cars yet and a crucial model for the firm.

The new A4, which replaces what is currently Audi’s biggest-selling model with 338,449 units sold globally in 2013, also marks the debut of Audi’s MLB-Evo architecture. MLB-Evo has been under development for five years and represents a huge investment for Audi. Dumping the traditional welded steel monocoque structure, MLB-

Evo uses a mix of aluminium and steel — and, eventually, some lightweight composite materials — that are joined by rivets, screws and high-tech adhesives. The move has caused Audi to completely retool the factories that will

different parts of the structure results in a more ideally optimised structure. It is understood that the A4 will use high-strength steels for the sills, body pillars and crash structures in the nose. The front suspension turrets

used on the next-generation Q7 SUV, could also get super-stiff composite structures around the bulkhead and composite floor panels. The A4’s technical package will continue to consist of Audi’s combination of a longitudinal

all-wheel drive system using an electrically driven rear axle. Judging by this disguised car, the new architecture has allowed significant changes in Audi’s familiar proportions. The new A4 seems to have a noticeably lower bonnet, which,

build all of its models from the A4 upwards. Audi engineers believe that

and parts of the engine bay will be made from aluminium castings and extrusions, while

engine and native front-wheel drive. However, this should be the least nose-heavy and most

along with the slimmer, lower headlights and much slimmer grille, gives more than a hint of

a

mixed-materials architecture

aluminium is also expected

evenly balanced Audi yet.

the Audi R8 supercar.

is

superior to one made mostly

to be used for the roof panel,

The traditional mechanical

The new car is expected

of steel or mostly of aluminium. The theory is that being able to use different materials in

bonnet and front wings. More exotic variations of the MLB-Evo, such as that set to be

quattro four-wheel drive will remain an option and there’s every possibility of an

to go on sale next year, although there’s no news yet on a public debut.

Audi lines up 67mpg A6 in new facelifted range

THE LAST HURRAH for the current Audi A6 range will include a new 2.0 TDI Ultra model that has a CO 2 figure of just 109g/km and an official average of 67mpg. The first UK deliveries of the new A6 range take place in December. The car features styling changes, a new infotainment system and a range of new headlight technologies, including LEDs, xenons and matrix LED units. All automatic front-drive

A6s now get a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox which allows the car to ‘coast’ in neutral when the accelerator is released. This, along with the stop-start system, is said to reduce CO 2 emissions by 8g/km. Ultra models also use ‘lightweight’ glassfibre- reinforced polymer springs. Audi says each spring is 40 per cent lighter than a conventional steel spring. The entry-level 188bhp

CAR SHARING TIPPED TO GROW

Car sharing clubs could be a mainstream part of London’s transport system by 2020, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan. Commissioned by Zipcar, it says that 800,000 drivers could become members of a sharing scheme by 2020.

2.0 TDI Ultra manual saloon is rated at 113g/km and 65.7mpg and priced from from £31,955, or £33,955 in Avant estate guise. The 109g/km-rated auto Ultra is £33,485 in four-door form. The new 444bhp 4.0 V8 S6 saloon will cost £56,000 and the S6 Avant £58,000. The new RS6 Avant, which uses a 553bhp V8, will arrive in the “first quarter of 2015” but Audi UK has not yet revealed its price.

The facelifted Audi A6 line-up will arrive in the UK in December

MORE HELP FOR USED BUYERS

The UK government’s Used Car Commission wants more protection for consumers from rogue dealers. It has recommended greater cooperation between police and Trading Standards to stop organised car crime.

SPY

ASTON

SHOT

V12

S

GT3

VANTAGE

Aston’s new GT3 spotted testing

SPY SHOTS HAVE revealed what appears to be a more aggressively styled V12 Vantage S being tested at the Nürburgring, correlating with Aston Martin’s plans to make an extreme GT3 version. Sources have confirmed that this is not a prototype of a next-generation Aston Martin or a test mule with a Mercedes-AMG powerplant. However, the final styling of this car — with its heavily flared arches and apparently wider track — may be the first hint at a more aggressive shape for the next generation of Aston road cars. For the GT3, Aston envisages a focus on cutting

weight before increasing power, engineering boss Ian Minards revealed last year. “It would be relatively easy to lose 100kg,” he said. The design focus is on producing a lightweight, high-downforce car. Considerable development potential is believed to remain in the 565bhp 5.9-litre V12. Even a modest hike to 600bhp and the mooted 100kg weight reduction would boost the power-to-weight ratio to 383bhp per tonne, far beyond the reach of the Porsche 911 GT3 and on a par with the Ferrari 458. The V12 Vantage S GT3 is expected to make its debut next year.

Lotus Exige S gains automatic gearbox

LOTUS HAS UNVEILED an automatic version of its Exige S sports car. It will go on sale in January at a premium of £2000 over the manual versions. That means a price of £56,500 for the auto coupé and £57,500 for the roadster. “By introducing a paddle- shifted automatic, we have expanded the Exige range to make it more accessible to customers worldwide,” said Lotus boss Jean-Marc Gales. The Toyota-sourced gearbox

is the same six-speed torque- convertor-based unit used in automatic IPS versions of the Evora, but it has been tailored to suit the Exige S. Sport and Race modes are offered and column-mounted paddle shifts allow for prompt manual overrides. The automatic retains the 346bhp 3.5-litre supercharged V6 of the manual version. It’s claimed to cover the 0-62mph sprint in 3.9sec, which is 0.1sec quicker than a manual Exige S.

Tester’s Notes

THIS WEEK

Matt Prior

Bowler’s Challenge Defender isn’t fast but it really handles

B owler Motorsport is not short of good ideas. It has been doing innovative, interesting things with

Land Rovers for decades. It’s a good company, Bowler. Independent of but retaining close links with Land Rover, it used to make the Wildcat, and now makes the EXR, for road

or rally. In particular, rallying is Bowler’s thing. Its heart lies in off-road racing. And so to the Defender Challenge, Bowler’s latest idea. It is to rallying what the Ariel Atom Cup is to racing:

a one-make, arrive-and-drive

series, to do simply because it’s

a good laugh, or because it’s a

starting point into something more serious. Like the Dakar. Challenge cars start life as Defender vans before Bowler sets to work – adding a 170bhp engine tune and bespoke suspension, plus all the statutory rallying ancillaries. Thus equipped, they cost £50,000 and are homologated

And I’ll tell you:

rallying is hard. I’ll spare you the details of my glorious battle for the lead

for MSA or FIA regulations so can be used on international rally-raid events, too.

Realising that people might want to do just that but are short

of time or space, Bowler can look after everything. Smart company. Yet dim enough to let me have a go last weekend in the Challenge, at the Cambrian Rally, north Wales. I’ve raced on circuits before but had never rallied. And I’ll tell you: rallying is hard. I’ll spare you the details of my glorious battle for the lead, because it

Prior consults with co-driver, who is diplomatic about stage times

matt.prior@autocar.co.uk

wasn’t glorious and I didn’t battle for the lead. But I will tell you that Challenge Defenders genuinely handle. There is no ABS or stability control, and they feel less top heavy than you’d think. And their attitude is very adjustable. Brake well and you can set them up with a Scandinavian flick. Then they’ll drift foursquare around a given corner if you get the throttle right. I don’t get either right very often. One problem, if you’re used to circuits, is that even though you’ve a fair idea of where a corner goes, because a co-driver tells you, you don’t actually find out till you get there. Even then, you don’t discover how much grip there is until it runs out. Yes, conditions change on a circuit, too. Tyres go off. Rubber gets laid. But by and large, each corner is in the same place you found it last time. Rallying’s changing conditions and lack of run-off are unnerving, even though rallying Defenders are not fast cars, tending to finish towards the back of the overall results. Or, in my case, at the very back of the finishers, but let’s not dwell. By the end of the day, I’m not the slowest Defender across a stage, and if I don’t bin a car in my job, it’s a decent day’s work. This feels like a heck of a good day at the office. If you’ve ever thought about going racing, think just as hard about rallying.

@matty_prior

SPOTLIGHT

VW calls the ‘green’ techn

Volkswagen’s boss has warned that setting ever-lower targets for CO2 could result in cars that are just too

V olkswagen’s ‘Group

nights’ have become a

fixed point on the global

motor show circuit.

The night before a big show opens, VW commandeers the biggest exhibition hall in town and rolls out at least eight concepts or new models from its 12-brand line-up. The night before the recent Paris motor show was no different. Although cutting- edge concepts such as the VW XL1 Sport and Lamborghini Asterion hybrid stole the headlines, perhaps the most important car at the event was the production-destined new VW Passat plug-in hybrid. According to the accepted narrative, this is just the sort of car that will become a much more familiar sight on our

roads by the end of the decade. In fact, VW bosses are effectively suggesting that the Passat hybrid could mark the technological high point of the mass-made car. Not because car makers have run out of new ideas and engineering innovations, but because Europe’s new car buyers look like they are increasingly unable and unlikely to pay the showroom price that makers need to achieve to produce such technologically complex machinery. The theory is that the factory cost of hybrid transmissions will fall and the cost of building ‘clean’ diesel engines will increase, resulting in healthy sales of mid-range hybrids such as the Passat. This, in turn, will help VW to

meet the EU CO 2 fleet target of 95g/km by 2020. But once the razzle-dazzle in Paris was over, VW boss Martin Winterkorn stepped onto the stage at the end of the evening to fire a shot across the bows of EU legislators and politicians, warning that the ‘greening’ of the car was not going to plan. Although it was nuanced and diplomatic, Winterkorn’s speech was a direct and serious warning. As things stand, he said, the car industry is going to have serious trouble meeting future CO 2 targets while staying in business. Winterkorn began by warning EU legislators that before they set fleet CO 2 targets for beyond 2020 (something that is already being

discussed), they must give the industry a breathing space of two or three years. Winterkorn pointed out that unless real-world consumers start to buy hybrid and battery electric vehicles in numbers, improving on the

Passat plug-in hybrid could be a high water mark

95g/km CO 2 average would be commercially impossible. “Climate protection doesn’t come free,” as he put it. Like most car makers, VW needs a much bigger take-up of hybrid sales before the factory prices of these complex

Hybrid tech is costly and there aren’t yet economies of scale

THIS WEEK

Winterkorn said Volkswagen invests €10 billion on R&D a year; XL Sport is one result

ology race into question

expensive for people to buy — and that could cause mass makers to shut up shop. Hilton Holloway reports

transmissions start to fall. But, so far, European car buyers are showing no signs of a mass adoption of hybrids. The upshot is that the new plug-in Passat hybrid — and cars like it — might yet mark the technical peak for the mass-market car. And this means that efforts to further reduce average fuel economy will come to a halt. You can’t, as Winterkorn didn’t quite say, force people to buy these low CO 2 models. He repeatedly stressed

that VW was “rigorously” in favour of the 95g/km 2020 target and the greening of its factories, but his killer fact was that reducing CO 2 output by 1g/km required VW to invest “€100 million every year”. Winterkorn said: “We fully back the 95g/km target, but European car makers must not be stopped from competing [with global car makers]. It took a huge effort to get to the 95g/km target and Volkswagen is spending €10

It could easily push the mass makers underwater within the next decade

billion in Europe on research

super-low CO 2 to make them

that government promotion

and development every year.

commercially viable.

of short-term car rental and

“I am making these

Western Europe is regarded

car

sharing is also hitting car

objective and calm points. We can only have environmental sustainability if we can afford it. Otherwise we are calling the industry into question. Volkswagen is doing its utmost to future-proof itself. ”

as a high-cost region when it comes to car building, which makes putting expensive technology into future new models almost impossible. Worse still, demographic changes and government

ownership, especially as more people move into urban areas. On top of these demographic trends, trying to increase the cost of future low-CO 2 models that most people can’t and won’t pay

Winterkorn’s speech did not lead to an immediate volley of

policy across the EU are working against the purchase

for could easily push the mass makers underwater within

criticism from environmental

of new cars.

the

next decade.

activists. But as his warnings

Student debts and rising

Many in the car industry

are repeated in the coming

rent and housing costs are

will

regard Winterkorn’s

months, Volkswagen will doubtless be portrayed

likely to keep younger people out of the new car market

speech as both brave and timely. The industry could

as a typical profit-hungry

for some time. In the UK, all

have already passed the ideal

company intent on holding up

age groups have had falling

mix

of low-CO 2 technology

environmental progress.

incomes since the credit

and

affordability for the

However, there is also likely to be little or no discussion about how you force buyers to pay enough for cars with

crunch, according to research by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA). The ACEA also says

mainstream car. Whether legislators and activists can be persuaded of that is another question altogether.

Chinese team will be in F1 in “one to two years”

LAT

Grid Gossip

Joe Saward

THIS WEEK

China’s plans to buy into F1

T he media reporting of

Formula 1 is this week

filled with negative stories

of Marussia and Caterham

going to the wall, but one piece of news has been overlooked. Last week in Hunan province in China, a government official, Wei Di, said that a group of Chinese investors is bidding to acquire an F1 team and that there will be a Chinese F1 team “in the next one to two years”. It was not revealed who is behind the idea but they are likely to enjoy close links with the Chinese government.

Many of China’s car makers are government-owned and none is truly successful, which explains why foreign brands control more than 70 per cent of China’s automobile market. The Chinese have been buying into Western firms to acquire technology that will help make them competitive, but they also need to alert their domestic customers that they exist and tell the world that the Chinese automobile industry needs to be taken seriously. F1 is a good way to do that, even if it is necessary to buy in people

The way forward now for F1 is to introduce budget caps

OGIER WINS WRC TITLE — AGAIN

Sébastien Ogier wrapped up his second consecutive World Rally Championship by winning the Rally of Spain last weekend in his VW Polo. His victory put the title out of reach of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala with one round left.

joe.saward@autocar.co.uk

and technology to achieve it. Wei Di is the director of the automobile and motorcycling division of the country’s General Administration of Sport, the agency responsible for all sporting activities, and roughly equivalent to a Western ministry of sport. His department provides the administrative services for the Federation of Automobile Sports of China (FASC), which represents China at the FIA. Wei Di’s comments were followed by a policy document from the State Council – China’s cabinet – revealing the government’s intention to build a sport industry worth more £500 billion by 2025. That seems like an astonishing figure but when you have a

population of 1.3bn (with another 50m expected by 2025), such numbers may not seem quite so ludicrous. The project is part of a bigger policy to transform China’s economy from one reliant on exports, manufactured with cheap labour, to a more sustainable consumer and service-driven economy. The government hopes that this will lead not only to economic growth within China but also to better health. Part of the process will be to reduce the bureaucracy required to develop the Chinese sports market and to welcome private and foreign investment in China’s sports industry, including huge investment in new sporting facilities.

LOPEZ CROWNED WTCC CHAMP

Citroën’s Jose Maria Lopez won the World Touring Car Championship at the first time of asking at the Suzuka circuit in Japan. The Argentine took his ninth race win of the season in his C-Elysée, leading from pole position.

The irony is that F1 is losing teams not because there is no

money in the sport, but because almost half of the revenues are being sucked out by financiers, with the remaining money shared between the teams in such a way that makes it difficult for the small players to survive. It is clear that the best way forward now for the sport is the introduction of a budget cap to reduce spending, and

a redistribution of wealth.

The FIA is supposed to be the

guardian of the sport and so it must be the organisation that acts. One might argue that it

is the commercial rights

holder who has got the sport into this mess – now the FIA needs to fix it.

@joesaward

FIRST DRIVES

This week’s new cars

QUICK FACTS

PRICE £37,935 ON SALE NOW

Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI Ultra

20.10.14, Dresden, Germany Audi’s executive challenger sports a facelift and a more frugal engine

FIRST VERDICT

Cosmetic, equipment and efficiency tweaks increase the appeal of Audi’s exec contender

AAAAC

SO GOOD

n

Excellent diesel engine

n

Quiet and comfortable cabin

n

Swift-shifting transmission

n

Impressive efficiency and range

n

Revisions add visual appeal

NO GOOD

n Steering lacks the finesse of that of a BMW 5-series

TESTER’S NOTE

The A6’s build quality is impressive — no creaks, rattles or shimmies, even over rougher road surfaces. LK

HOT ON THE heels of the recently launched high-efficiency ‘Ultra’ variants of Audi’s A6 comes this, the facelifted version. As well as encompassing the revamped engine line-up, the latest iteration of Audi’s rival to the BMW 5-series benefits from myriad tweaks. The styling has been revised, with

changes to the lights, grille, bumpers,

air intakes, sills and exhausts. The

alterations produce a much more

muscular look that echoes that of the

high-performance S6 and imperious A8. Inside, upgrades include acoustically damped front and side glass, quad-zone climate control and

new trims, which improve the already upmarket cabin further. There have been equipment changes, too. Bi-xenon lights are now standard on entry-level SE models, and S-line versions and above get LED headlights with ‘sweeping’ rear indicators. Standard kit remains otherwise adequate and includes keyless start, heated electric mirrors

and Audi’s media and drive select systems. Opting for an S-line version, as tested here, adds 18-inch wheels, sports seats, leather trim, a bodykit and all-LED headlights. Avant versions also feature new lightweight composite springs as standard. Previously, the 2.0-litre TDI

S-tronic S-line would have averaged 61.4mpg and emitted 119g/km of CO 2 . Now, it returns 64.2mpg and 115g/km – thanks to a coasting mode for the transmission and a revised stop-start system. VED and the company car tax band remain the same as those of its predecessor’s,

The A6’s 2.0-litre turbodiesel is tuned for 188bhp and a broad-shouldered 295lb ft

MANUFACTURER’S CLAIMED FIGURES

This A6 feels sufficiently brisk, is impressively refined and rides decently on its firmer S-line suspension but it lacks driver rewards

The upmarket ambience of the cabin is enhanced by the revisions, which include noise-reducing glass and quad-zone climate control

at £30 and 19 per cent respectively. Buyers in the 40 per cent tax band will pay £240 a month in company car tax. A BMW 520d Touring in paddle- shifted automatic SE specification will cost £228 a month, but opt for SE rather than S-line trim and the monthly outlay for the A6 falls to

Quality of materials adds to the appeal

£212, in part because of a 1g/km drop in CO 2 emissions – the result of one- inch smaller wheels – that knocks the Audi into a lower tax band. A 2.0-litre diesel with a focus on economy might not sound like a great option in an estate with a kerb weight of 1800kg, but this quiet, smooth engine produces a stout 295lb ft between 1750rpm and 3000rpm, and 188bhp between 3800rpm and 4200rpm. This grants the Avant adequately brisk performance, with Audi claiming a 0-62mph time of 8.5sec and a top speed of 140mph. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission remains an impressively swift-acting gearbox. Torque steer is pleasingly minimal in the dry, and traction is plentiful so, for the most part, the A6 refrains from front-driven scrabblery. Occasionally, the transmission skips to too high a gear at too low an engine speed in an effort to eke out maximum efficiency, which causes a slight drone, but not a particularly intrusive one.

Even in S-line spec, the Audi’s ride is pleasingly damped and well controlled, with minimal body roll in corners and none of the harshness that you might expect. Predictably, the A6 is less involving than a 5-series but its steering is precise, its brakes strong and its front-end grip high. Practicality remains a strong point, with plenty of room for five adults in the quiet cabin – although the central rear passenger will have to straddle a fairly hefty central tunnel – and a decently sized boot. A large 73-litre fuel tank gives this A6 a potential range of 1030 miles. We averaged 46.3mpg during our test, meaning a 740-mile range, but attaining more would be comparatively easy. The net result is a gratifyingly competent and enjoyable experience. Those seeking an estate that’s more rewarding to drive should perhaps opt for the equivalent 5-series but will have to accept compromises on the refinement front in return.

LEWIS KINGSTON

AUDI A6 AVANT 2.0 TDI ULTRA S-TRONIC S-LINE

Price

£37,935

0-62mph

8.5sec

Top speed

140mph

Economy 64.2mpg (combined)

CO 2

115g/km

Kerb weight

1800kg

Engine 4 cyls, 1968cc, turbodiesel Power 188bhp at 3800-4200rpm Torque 295lb ft at 1750-3000rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic

QUICK FACTS

PRICE £27,000 ON SALE SPRING

Mercedes B-class Electric

21.10.14, Mallorca Facelift brings the option of all-electric drive to Mercedes’ compact MPV

FIRST VERDICT

Premium driving experience at the expense of ultimate usability

AAAAB

SO GOOD

n

Exceptionally refined drivetrain

n

Real-world performance

n

Fine ride and balanced handling

n

Very practical cabin

NO GOOD

n

Maximum range is 124 miles

n

Even three-phase fast charging takes three hours from empty

TESTER’S NOTE

Although the electric motor will give peak torque from start-up, this ability is restrained by software to stop the car spinning its wheels. HH

RATHER THAN FOLLOW BMW’s lead and build an electric car around an all-new architecture, Mercedes- Benz’s pure-electric version of the newly facelifted B-class is based on the standard production car, which has needed the minimum of engineering changes. Taking inspiration from the

original A-class and B-class models,

the new-generation car can be built

with a double-skin ‘sandwich’ version

of the rear half of the platform. Raising the floor in the rear of the cabin frees up space below, which, in the EV, accommodates the lithium

ion battery pack. Mercedes calls it the

‘Energy Space’ and it’s also used by the natural gas-powered B-class to house three gas tanks. The upshot is that the electric B-class is effectively as spacious as the mainstream versions, which means a 500-litre boot, generous headroom and legroom and the option of a fold- forward front passenger seat to carry loads well over two metres long.

The electric drive system has been sourced from Tesla and it uses a three-mode set-up. Economy Plus – designed for a steady-speed journey – reduces the output of the motor to just 83bhp and top speed to 68mph. Economy mode cuts the output to 132bhp while Sport offers the full 177bhp. However, the two economy modes can be overridden and full power and torque accessed by the driver using the kickdown function. If the Collision Prevent Assist Plus system is fitted as an optional extra, this B-class acquires a very neat radar-assisted recuperative braking set-up. Using information from the radar about the state of the traffic ahead, the car can use recuperative braking to recharge the batteries while slowing itself or, when the road ahead is clear and/or running downhill, switch to ‘sailing mode’, which doesn’t use any battery power. Fully recharging the B-class via a 16A home wall socket will take about nine hours from empty. Using a 400V

three-phase electricity supply (rather more common in Asia than Europe), it can be recharged in just three hours. In terms of all-round refinement and pace, the electric B-class is very impressive indeed and far better than its petrol and diesel sister cars. Indeed, the car’s effortless torque and near-silent progress put it in a category of its own. This car has a level of refinement that would shame some luxury models and the kind

Full charge can take nine hours using 16A

MANUFACTURER’S CLAIMED FIGURES

The electric B-class is far more refined than its petrol and diesel equivalents and it rides better; overtaking pace is impressive, too

Drive

The cabin is well appointed and the sat-nav works efficiently; the only compromise in packaging is a slight loss in rear footwell space

of effortless overtaking ability that would trouble some hot hatches. What’s most disorientating is that these two sides of motoring excellence are delivered in a humble- looking baby MPV. It’s hard to work out why but even the steering response and ride quality of the electric B-class were markedly better than those which we experienced in the all-wheel-drive B220 and the gas- powered B200 on the same roads.

On the wider issue of the facelift, there’s no doubt that the B-class looks much better. The somewhat melted appearance of the original version has been fixed, thanks to the much tauter front bumper design and wheels that now properly fill the arches. The B-class is also a handy size, well packaged and nicely finished inside. The big, tablet-sized screen on the dashboard might look a little clunky, but it is ideally positioned

Merc’s low-tech range extender

WHAT MERCEDES CALLS the ‘Range Plus Range Extender’ is an optional package that adds insulation to the doors and roof as well as a heated windscreen and heat-insulating dark-tinted glass for the rear windows and rear screen. These are intended to reduce the use of climate control, which uses a high-voltage heater and air-con system, both of which are powered by the battery. Extra insulation should help lessen the use of heating and air-con on the hottest and coldest days, in turn extending battery life. Using the heater and conventional screen demisters is one of the main reasons for EVs’ shorter battery life in the winter.

and both the graphics and the presentation of Mercedes’ satellite navigation are first rate. Without any question, this is a delightful car to drive, genuinely enjoyable and satisfying. The downside, of course, is the limited range of the electric B-class and – without a supply of industrial three-phase electricity – the lengthy recharge time. That said, being able to replenish the battery overnight would

be fine for anybody whose daily mileage is less than 100 miles. The truth is that the price of this car (after the government grant) is just about the same as a B220 diesel with an automatic transmission, but in terms of driving pleasure, it is leagues ahead. Odd as it may seem, any lover of driving ability will love the B-class, regardless of its market position as a truly ‘green’ MPV.

HILTON HOLLOWAY

MERCEDES-BENZ B-CLASS ELECTRIC DRIVE

Price

£27,000 (est, inc gov’t grant)

0-62mph

7.9sec

Top speed

99mph

Range

124 miles (NEDC)

CO 2

Zero at tailpipe

Kerb weight

1725kg

Engine

Asynchronous electric motor

Power

179bhp

Torque

251lb ft

Gearbox

Single-speed

MANUFACTURER’S CLAIMED FIGURES

QUICK FACTS

PRICE £58,000 ON SALE MARCH 2015

FIRST DRIVE

Audi S6 Avant

23.10.14, Dresden Audi’s rapid luxury estate receives a facelift to keep it in the game

FIRST VERDICT

Outstanding all-season ability and impressive practicality but lacking in intimacy on challenging roads

AAAAC

SO GOOD

n

Punchy, flexible power delivery

n

High-speed cruising ability

n

Excellent all-round refinement

n

Superb traction

NO GOOD

n

Lifeless steering in all but Dynamic mode

n

Sheer weight

TESTER’S NOTE

The S6 receives an electronic sound symposer to heighten its aural characteristics. GK

IF YOU LIKED the outgoing Audi S6 Avant, you’ll like this facelifted one. That’s because the changes are minor: in a nutshell, revised headlights, redesigned wheels and subtle interior changes. The facelifted fast estate is due to reach UK showrooms next March priced at £58,000, which is £1255 more than the outgoing model.

Audi clearly believes that the twin-

turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol unit

and standard seven-speed S-tronic

dual-clutch automatic gearbox require no major fettling because there are no significant changes. Nor has there been any alteration to the

four-wheel drive system. With a stout 444bhp and 405lb ft,

the S6 blasts up to the UK’s motorway speed limit with great bravado. Despite weighing 1960kg, it is claimed to hit 62mph in just 4.6sec, and it accelerates hard up to the limiter at 155mph. Running down a wide, open autobahn near Dresden, the S6 Avant felt right in its element.

On a heavily pegged throttle, the in-gear acceleration is relentless – perhaps not quite as extreme as that offered by the more powerful RS7 but sufficient for fast-lane superiority over all but the most exotic machinery. Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive system includes a so-called Sport differential that juggles power between each individual rear wheel for added purchase. The benefits are most obvious during hard acceleration in lower gears and at the exit of a corner, where the S6 Avant provides exceptional drive no matter what the weather conditions. With its long seventh gear, this car cruises effortlessly at high speeds. An active noise cancellation device, which dampens mechanical sounds by broadcasting anti-phase resonance over the speakers, adds to the S6 Avant’s pleasingly hushed qualities. Yet for all its high-speed authority, it lacks the sharpness to be a truly memorable B-road proposition. Yes, it corners flatly and with impressive

The S6 has relentless acceleration and is hushed at high speed; the cabin is ergonomically sound and imparts a high-quality feel

grip, but it fails to connect fully with the driver. The main problem

is the steering, which lacks for off-

centre response in anything but the most extreme of its driving modes, Dynamic. It never quite manages to shake off the feeling of mass, either. Still, this continues to be an easy

car to get along with in stop-start city driving, where its strong low-end reserves are apparent. The inclusion of cylinder-on-demand technology, which closes down four cylinders on light throttle loads at urban speeds for added fuel savings, helps it to a quoted 30.1mpg and average CO 2 of 219g/km on the combined cycle. Inside, the ambience is familiar, although some fittings are starting to show their age. Even so, the S6 is

a fine place to spend time, thanks to

its outstanding ergonomics, highly supportive seats and excellent fit and finish. Befitting its price, kit levels are high. New options, including a head- up display, also help extend its appeal.

GREB KABLE

AUDI S6 AVANT

Price

£58,000

Top speed

155mph (limited)

0-62mph

4.6sec

Economy 30.1mpg (combined)

CO 2

219g/km

Kerb weight

1960kg

Engine V8, 3993cc, twin-turbo, petrol

Power 444bhp at 5800rpm Torque 405lb ft at 1400rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic

MANUFACTURER’S CLAIMED FIGURES

FIRST DRIVE

QUICK FACTS

PRICE £61,474 ON SALE NOW

Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid

22.10.14, Frankfurt Stuggart brings its latest plug-in hybrid tech to its large SUV

FIRST VERDICT

A hybrid of heightened economy potential, and attractively priced given its complexity and capabilities

AAAAC

SO GOOD

n

Excellent system integration

n

Economy potential

n

Entertaining to use

n

Competitive price

NO GOOD

n

Economy may disappoint

n

Brakes difficult to modulate

TESTER’S NOTE

Our trip computer economy ranged from a hard-driven 18.3mpg to a more gentle 36.7mpg, with further scope for improvement. RB

PORSCHE IS KEEN to sell us plug- in hybrids. It now makes three: the £652,849 918 Spyder, the Panamera and the new Cayenne E-Hybrid, which replaces the plain hybrid version. The price of this revised petrol-electric SUV is the same as that of the V8 diesel, which makes it exceptional value among full-size premium SUVs. The non-plug-in

hybrid Range Rover, for example,

costs £98,425 to the Cayenne S

E-Hybrid’s £61,474.

This upgraded hybrid Cayenne is part of a revised Porsche range, all of which receive new styling and features including an economy-

promoting coasting mode, stop-

start that kills the engine before halting and launch-control with the optional Sport Chrono pack. Sharper suspension geometry and a greater dynamic range between Comfort and Sport modes also feature. The upgrades to the Cayenne E-Hybrid, however, are more substantial. Aside from the facility to

plug it into a mains electricity supply,

it also has a lithium ion battery pack

with almost six times the kilowatt- hour capacity than the previous nickel-metal hydride pack. This

allows the electric motor’s output to jump from 46bhp to 94bhp, while the electric-only range extends from 1.6 miles to between 11 and 22 miles. According to Porsche, that means it now cruises at up to 78mph rather than 40mph in electric mode, while its 410bhp total system output gives

a 5.9sec sprint to 62mph rather than

the 6.5sec of the previous hybrid. Also of note are CO 2 emissions reduced from 193g/km to 79g/km, although the EU method for measuring plug-in hybrid economy are seriously misleading. That said,

this hybrid Cayenne will be genuinely cheaper to run and tax than the last. The Cayenne plug-in’s powerpack

is almost identical to that of the plug-

in Panamera (a more energy-dense battery pack and all-wheel drive are the main differences), the pair

E-Hybrid’s interior differs little from that of the ordinary Cayenne; battery takes four hours to charge from a domestic socket

proving surprisingly reluctant to

engage their petrol engines to achieve decent progress. In its E-Power mode the Cayenne will keep up with most traffic; press the accelerator more firmly and the supercharged V6 leaps

into life, at which point you can access truly substantial acceleration. Despite its hefty kerb weight, the Cayenne handles with some panache.

It rolls a bit, even in the firmest of its

air springs’ settings, but that doesn’t prevent it from tracing curves with

pleasingly assured confidence, your enjoyment heightened by the steering’s precision. With both motors working hard, a decently sporting pace is achieved, and there’s further entertainment to be had from trying to maximise your electric range through brake recuperation. All of which makes this Cayenne

a particularly interesting example

of the breed, and if you successfully harness its powers, it’s a pretty economical one, too.

RICHARD BREMNER

PORSCHE CAYENNE S E-HYBRID

Price

£61,474

0-62mph

5.9sec

Top speed

151mph

Economy

83.1mpg (combined)

CO 2

79g/km

Kerb weight

2350kg

Engine

V6, 2995cc, supercharged,

Power

petrol plus synchronous electric motor 410bhp at 5500rpm

Torque

435lb ft at 1250-4000rpm

Gearbox

8-spd automatic

MANUFACTURER’S CLAIMED FIGURES

FIRST DRIVE

QUICK FACTS

PRICE £37,575 ON SALE NOW

Nissan 370Z Nismo

22.10.14, Rockingham Nissan’s burly V6-engined coupé is repurposed with a softer edge

FIRST VERDICT

Still no delicate masterstroke, but a muscular, charismatic fast GT with much better road manners

AAAAC

SO GOOD

n

Visceral sporting character

n

Improved cabin refinement

n

Simple, mechanical appeal

NO GOOD

n

A BMW M235i is cheaper — and

a much better car

n

Leaden B-road handling

TESTER’S NOTE

Auto-blip rev-match system works well, but interacting with the V6 at every opportunity makes the 370Z more charming in my book. MS

THEY SAY SELF-possession comes with age, and it certainly seems to be coming to the Nissan 370Z. Last year, as a toe-dipping exercise before really establishing its Nismo performance sub-brand, Nissan gave its now five- year-old V6-engined rear-drive coupé an official motorsport makeover. The result can best be described as a momentary identity crisis. It

involved some serious body and

chassis stiffening and some crass

aftermarket-catalogue body addenda, and frankly gave this simple muscle coupé a bit too much performance attitude for its own good.

Roll on 12 months and, following

the wider establishing of the Nismo

brand, the opportunity has been taken to shave off some of the misplaced edges. This 370Z Nismo, like all 2015 model-year Zeds, has thicker carpets and better wheel arch insulation, which dampen down the road roar that earlier examples suffered. It also gets new Recaro bucket seats and a more subtle but no less purposeful-

looking bodykit, with unique front

and rear bumpers and side sills – plus

a much less aggressive rear wing

– replacing the apparently do-it-

yourself styling mods of before. Under the skin, the body braces and upgrades to the braking system and powertrain applied to the last Nismo are carried over, but both spring and damper rates have been reduced. Weighty controls and a flat, short- travel, heavy-feeling ride are the

familiar character traits of this car at low speeds. The gearbox retains its punchy feel, and the steering offers some contact patch feel. Show the Nissan a bumpy, twisting lane, however, and you’ll quickly become aware that this isn’t a true sports car. The wheel control isn’t dexterous enough, and the damping

is still too digital. Never are you more

aware of the Zed’s weight than when the chassis attempts to pummel the road flat rather than flow over it. On faster, well sighted A-roads the Nismo finds its niche. That tremulous

The suspension is softer but the Nismo still struggles for compliance on B-roads; better insulation makes for a quieter cabin

V6 conjures real pace where you can let it rev, and the chassis and steering

take to smoother, gentler curves more

naturally. Blending in the throttle at higher speeds teases tangible balance out of the handling mix, and letting the engine linger at higher crank speeds – at which point it could shake the screws out of your wristwatch, such is the vibration it sends through the controls – at least makes it feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. At the best part of £38,000, of course, you might say it’s a fool’s errand to try that in a 370Z Nismo. Considerably better sports cars are on offer at this level, but perhaps that’s missing the point. In tweaking this flagship Zed as it has, Nissan has recognised that this isn’t an out-and- out sports car, but more of an effusive,

big-hearted, sporting GT. Having done that, it has finally allowed the 370Z the freedom simply to do what it does. And it does that as well as any of its forebears have.

MATT SAUNDERS

NISSAN 370Z NISMO

Price

£37,575

0-62mph

5.2sec

Top speed

155mph (limited)

Economy

26.6mpg (combined)

CO 2

248g/km

Kerb weight

1535kg

Engine

V6, 3696cc, petrol

Power 339bhp at 7400rpm

Torque

274lb ft at 5200rpm

Gearbox

6-spd manual

S63 AMG coupé is

Bentley Continental GT

new Mercedes-Benz

Frankel

at the

it outmuscle it?Andrew

aimed squarely

out after a flat-out day in Wales

Speed. Can

finds

A lthough there is no formal definition, the UK government recognises a mountain to be any peak greater than 2000ft, of which well over 100 exist within the UK. And given the vastness of the great Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia national parks,

you might expect Wales to be home to a fair chunk of them. But it’s not. It has just eight. The two most famous are the 2907ft Pen y Fan, which lies south-west of Brecon, and the 3560ft Snowdon, the highest in respectively the south and north of the country. Handily for a hack looking for a hook to a story about two huge, powerful cars, the route between these two huge, powerful peaks takes in some of the best driving roads in this or any other country in our still intact United Kingdom. The Bentley Continental GT you will know, for it has been a fairly frequent presence on these pages since its launch in 2003, and despite being regularly and at least once comprehensively updated on the way, it remains essentially the same car. The 6.0-litre

twin-turbo W12 motor powering this Speed version isn’t that much changed, either. Yes, its power output has been tickled up by another 10bhp to 626bhp, but given that this engine developed 552bhp in basic form upon introduction over a decade ago, that’s not such a leap. Then again, and for these purposes at least, there’s some benefit to its consistency, for its role here is the provide the benchmark for the other car now pulling into the car park opposite the Storey Arms on the A470, the start point for most hikers on their way up Pen y Fan. That car is, of course, the Mercedes-Benz S-class coupé, perhaps better known as the replacement for the CL. In S63 AMG guise as here, its 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 has a trifling 577bhp but, lacking the Bentley’s four-wheel drive hardware, it weighs a quarter of a tonne less despite being both longer and taller. The upshot is a fractional power-to- weight advantage to Mercedes that would matter little were it not backed by a monstrous torque- to-weight advantage, too. The Speed is Bentley’s

The Merc has clever suspension but the Bentley keeps up

The Mercedes feels very contemporary, not only in its design and materials but also in its provision of tech

The Bentley’s dashboard reflects its older lineage but the quality and choice of materials inject real class

fastest road car yet and it looks likely to be blown to dust by a Mercedes based on a pre-existing saloon with a smaller engine and fewer cylinders. The price differential between them makes painful reading, too, for Bentley fans. At £156,700, the Speed costs over £30,000 more than its rival, money that the Merc buyer could spend speccing his car to the nines or just buying a brand-new Lotus Elise for a bit of fun on the side. And I can think of no other two-door car, save a Rolls-Royce Wraith, capable of making the Bentley look so small. But it does: the Mercedes coupé might sit on a shorter wheelbase than an S-class saloon but it still logs in at well over five metres in length, longer even than four-door rivals such as the Porsche Panamera and Aston Martin Rapide S. Its lines flow beautifully, but next to it, the Bentley looks taut, compact and purposeful. Technologically, it is to the Bentley as a super- computer is to an abacus. Were the roads not so winding, a passenger could have happily whiled

away the entire journey from south to north trying to figure out the full range of its functionality and still found work to do at journey’s end. This is a car that uses cameras as eyes to control the suspension, the cruise control and even the steering – on the motorway, it really will drive itself. Tick the right boxes on the options sheet and you can have a seat with a longer list of massages than a five-star Bangkok hotel and a Burmester music system with more controls than an Abbey Road mixing desk. But we’re not here to fiddle with gadgets, however enticing they may be. We’re here to drive and I make no excuses for falling on the S-class keys first. The route up past Builth Wells, Llandridnod Wells, Rhayader and towards Betws-y-Coed and Snowdownia is one of the best drives anywhere on the mainland, especially if you keep off the A470 and stick to the often more direct and always less travelled B-roads. It was always going to be a challenge for such cars. Despite their sleek lines, these are not

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Bentley vs Mercedes | Luxury GTs

The Mercedes’ extra torque is an asset on roads like these

If the Merc is finding these roads hard, how is the Bentley faring? Oddly, every time I look in the mirror, it is still there

pure-bred sports cars nor even purpose-built GTs. Both are spun off saloon car architectures (let’s not forget the Bentley’s Volkswagen Phaeton ancestry) and even the lighter Mercedes weighs the wrong side of two tonnes. But at times, 663lb ft of torque can make even such evident avoirdupois seem irrelevant. Mercedes’ home-grown seven-speed transmission is annoying because it is neither as smooth nor as intuitive as the ZF eight-speeder in the Bentley, but once you’ve learned to lock it in a ratio and let the torque do the work, this is a mightily fast car, and by any conventional standard you like. The four- wheel-drive versions available in left-hand-drive markets will pop sub-4sec 0-62mph runs all day long. And that engine! I am by both instinct and disposition suspicious of downsized turbocharged engines but this one is magnificent. Its performance is not characterised by the turbos at all, merely helped along. They blow relatively little boost, allow for a double-digit compression ratio and, as such, offer neither lag nor impedance to the engine’s voice. Throttle response is electrifying, the noise the very blood and thunder you’d dream of in such a car, and the thrust… well, it is simply majestic. Sad to say, the Bentley engine struggles by comparison. The issue is not its relative lack of torque or that its extra power is entirely stymied by its additional weight, because this is still a massively fast car. But it can’t do the subjective stuff anything like so well. Its voice is dull and its

throttle response slack by comparison. There is no joy in this engine and, to be honest, it has been that way since it was born. We’re deep into mid-Wales and I’m fiddling with the S63’s chassis set-up, trying to decide if its Pendolino-like ability to lean into corners is an asset or gimmick. I decide that on give-and-take roads such as these, where it sometimes struggles to distinguish between curves and cambers, that it’s best left alone and settle for Sport mode instead. I can remember being blown away by how well the S63 AMG saloon handled, but that was by the hardly high standards that you’d expect from a luxury limousine. The bar is far higher here and the coupé is clearing it, but by less than I’d thought. There’s an artificiality to the steering that makes the car difficult to place on the road, and despite the arsenal of electronic suspension trickery at its disposal, it lacks the iron-fisted body control that I’d expected. Then again, these are tough roads and if the Merc is finding them hard, how is the Bentley faring? Oddly, every time I look in the mirror, it is still there and showing no apparent signs of struggling to keep up. The reason why soon becomes clear. In every dynamic area save perhaps braking, it is objectively inferior to the Mercedes. Subjectively, however, it is a rather different matter. Out here where there is no such thing as a constant radius bend, where the only thing that changes more often than the weather is the camber and surface of the road,

The Continental GT Speed is Bentley’s fastest road car

The Speed’s 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 puts out 626bhp

Merc’s 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 is strong and rewarding

Both have commanding presence and turn heads, equines aside (right)

The Bentley builds driver confidence quickly, aided by its good steering

Together, they pack a total of 1203bhp. It’s enough to move mountains

it’s not torque or power that’s the chief determinant of your point-to-point pace: it’s confidence. And this the Bentley supplies. Its old- style hydraulic steering has a feel that you’ll not find in the Mercedes and, despite their passivity and relative technological backwardness, its dampers retain better control of the Bentley’s body. There’s less pitch and heave, and in the medium-speed turns that characterise this part of the world, I’d call it the more nimble of the two, were ‘nimble’ a word you could ever use to describe a 2.3-tonne four- wheel-drive Bentley with a 6.0-litre 12-cylinder twin-turbo motor. Then again, it is shorter in the wheelbase than the Benz, and substantially so, so perhaps we should not be so surprised. How concerned should we be about such issues? These are cars more sporting than sports and there are many who’d argue that there are considerations that should take their place ahead of mid-corner adjustability in the priority queue for such devices. Which is fair enough, but when I turn my attention to less exciting but perhaps more relevant considerations, I find them harder to separate. I

should prefer the Mercedes because, again, if you think about it at all sensibly, it’s just the better car. Its ride is more deft and its interior more spacious in front, back and boot. It’s undoubtedly quieter at a constant cruise and there’s so much to play with in here that years from now you’d likely still be finding new functions that you’d hitherto never known existed. Nor can you quibble with the cabin design, where Mercedes has been able to tempt traditional materials into entirely harmonious

The Bentley is more compact, or less big, than the Mercedes

living arrangements with a post-modern dash of thrilling complexity and sophistication. The Bentley has little to offer in reply and its dashboard, with its simple analogue dials and a navigation screen not unlike that in a Volkswagen Golf, seems antediluvian by comparison. And yet there’s a sense of occasion in here, a feeling of well being amid those exquisitely judged and matched hides and veneers that speak of another set of priorities, an innate class that not even the

Mercedes can match. For the less gadget obsessed, it is a wonderful place in which to pass time time. Despite an entire day on the road, by the time we reach the foothills of Snowdon, a clear victor has still to emerge. Despite all the common ground they share, these are profoundly different cars. Bentley has excelled itself in imbuing the Speed with a timeless quality that the Mercedes cannot match, but if it is performance, ride, refinement or space that matters most to you, the Merc is just better, as well as £30,000 cheaper. Even in this relatively price insensitive part of the market, that counts. In hackneyed terms, the head directs you straight to the Benz, while the heart implores you to go for the Bentley. I decide to sleep on it. Soon after dawn the following day, we finish shooting and I’ve rarely seen this part of the world look more beautiful. But I am tired, there are many long hours of driving ahead and time is short. Bentley or Mercedes? At last, the decision is clear. I walk straight to the Bentley, take one last, wistful look at that gorgeous interior and then, and only slightly guiltily, settle into the Mercedes and head for home. L

Bentley vs Mercedes | Luxury GTs

 

Bentley Continental

Mercedes-Benz

GT Speed

S63 AMG coupé

RATING

AAAAC

AAAAC

Price

£156,700

£125,595

0-62mph

4.2sec

4.2sec

Top speed

206mph

186mph (limited, with Driver’s Pack)

Economy

19.5mpg

28.0mpg

CO 2 emissions

338g/km

237g/km

Kerb weight

2320kg

2070kg

Engine layout

Installation Power Torque Power to weight Specific output

W12, 5998cc, twin-turbo, petrol Front, longitudinal, 4WD 626bhp at 6000rpm 604lb ft at 1700rpm 270bhp per tonne 104bhp per litre

V8, 5461cc, twin-turbo, petrol Front, longitudinal, RWD 577bhp at 5500rpm 663lb ft at 2250rpm 279bhp per tonne 106bhp per litre

Compression ratio

9.0:1

10.0:1

Gearbox

8-spd automatic

7-spd automatic

Length

4806mm

5027mm

Width

1944mm

1899mm

Height

1398mm

1411mm

Wheelbase

2746mm

2945mm

Boot capacity

358

litres

400

litres

Fuel tank

90 litres

80 litres

Real-world range

330

miles

420

miles

Front suspension

Double wishbones, air

Multi-link, air springs,

Rear suspension

springs, anti-roll bar Multi-link rear axle, air

anti-roll bar Multi-link rear axle, air

Brakes

springs, anti-roll bar 405mm ventilated discs (f), 335mm ventilated discs (r)

springs, anti-roll bar 390mm ventilated discs (f), 360mm ventilated discs (r)

Wheels

9.5Jx21in

8.5Jx19in (f), 9.5Jx19in (r)

Tyres

275/35 ZR21

255/45 ZR19 (f), 285/35 YR19 (r)

HOW WOULD THE ASTON MARTIN RAPIDE S HAVE FARED?

WE WANTED THIS to be a three-car test, but so soon after its launch, the Aston Martin Rapide S, newly transformed by an eight-speed gearbox and some suspension revisions, was unavailable. You always have to be cautious about making comparisons about a car that you’ve driven on neither the same roads nor at the same time as its rivals but I think that it would have put on a good show. The Aston’s relative lack of mid-range torque would probably have impeded its progress, but it would have countered with that V12 yowl, wonderful steering and what I’d be happy to wager would be the best-balanced handling of the trio. Standing against it would be ride and refinement levels that, I suspect strongly, would struggle to match even those of the Bentley let alone the Benz and an interior that, while beautiful, is infernally fiddly to use. Of course, it has four doors but I expect that there’d be more room in the back of

the Mercedes, if not the Bentley, and its boot is the smallest of the three. Where would it have come in the final reckoning? I’m not going to predict an order but I expect that it would appeal even more to the heart than the Bentley and even less to the head than the Benz — and it would have been in with a shot.

Not just Williams

Williams is not just coming back in F1 — it’s also now a leading engineering business. Steve Cropley talks to the new boss, Claire Williams, about the turnaround

PHOTOGRAPHY STAN PAPIOR

I t’s a surprise in one way, but not in another, that the first person we encounter on arrival at Williams F1 – on a mission to meet the deputy team principal, Claire Williams, and investigate the reasons for the F1 team’s renewed success this season – is the founder himself, Sir Frank.

As we wait for the receptionist, he appears behind us in the famous wheelchair, on the way to the lift and his office upstairs. My colleague Mr Hallett and I have met him before, but nothing prepares you for the piercing eyes, the directness of the questioning; the sheer force of this exceptional man’s personality. His face is so famous from the haunted fishtank that it’s quite startling to see it in the flesh. He deals with us briskly. In a few seconds, he has satisfied himself on the validity of our errand, made sure that we’re being assisted, politely wished us a successful visit and disappeared into the lift with his ghost-like assistant. Without words, he has also answered a question I might later have asked: what is Sir Frank’s role around here, given that he removed himself from the Williams executive board back in 2012? The

Sir Frank founded the Williams team with Patrick Head

answer is now so obvious: he continues to be the setter of Williams’ standards and the keeper of its flame. He is an enormous, continuing asset –

as his daughter will tell us without prompting in

a few minutes’ time. We troop upstairs, two hacks and a

photographer, and then walk down a long corridor and into a white meeting room with a rectangular table, to await Claire Williams. There is no grand entrance. She appears in a minute or two, accompanied by group CEO Mike O’Driscoll, whom we know well from his days running Jaguar and with whom she nowadays works closely to run the whole Williams group

– both the F1 team and the new advanced

engineering arm. As we exchange pleasantries, I note a hint of weariness with interviews. After 18 months of daily newspaper inquisitions, it is clear that Claire is probably expecting to be asked, yet again, what it’s like being a woman running an F1 team, the classic unanswerable question. We have already resolved not to ask it. Hers is nevertheless an extraordinary story:

the tale of a girl, one of three siblings, brought

up by inspirational parents whose lives were dominated both by big-time racing and then by the additional, enormous challenge brought by Sir Frank’s near-fatal car accident in 1986 that confined him to the wheelchair. Despite it all, Claire, who was 10 when the accident happened, remembers “a relatively normal” household, an atmosphere created by the “strength and stoicism” of her remarkable mother, Lady Virginia, in the family’s Wiltshire home, near Hungerford. It was magical, says Claire, to grow up close to the F1 team and work there during school holidays – although she always understood, from childhood, that there would never be a formal role for her in the family business. “I was content with that and never questioned it,” she says. “I wanted to do my own thing anyway.” After school (“I was always an average student”) she studied politics at Newcastle because the subject interested her, although she admits that it was one of those courses people choose if they don’t have a vocation. After graduating in 1999,

Claire Williams: “The old set-up was no longer feasible”

she began a three-year stint as a Silverstone press officer that ended with redundancy in 2002. After that, she drifted back into jobs at Williams on an informal basis, doing whatever people asked. So far, this hardly sounds like the story of a budding success-grabbing F1 team leader, but during Claire’s later 20s, things began happening to greatly sharpen her focus. There was no single moment of inspiration, she insists, although perhaps the waning success that followed Williams F1’s BMW-powered 2003 season (four wins) may have had something to do with it. “I don’t think of myself as competitive,” she says, “though in the supermarket, I always want to get to the checkout first. When the team wasn’t doing well, I felt massively frustrated, though I had no responsibility for it at the time. I hated hearing people say we were fading the way Tyrrell had done. It hurt. I suppose I’d grown up seeing what it had cost mum and dad to make Williams one of the world’s most successful teams, and I couldn’t bear thinking it wasn’t as good as they’d intended.” Claire’s own ‘modern era’ began in 2010 with a phone call from the head of marketing, Jim Wright, to say that the team’s head of communications had resigned and would she take the job? “I asked if he’d spoken to Frank and, of course, he hadn’t. He’ll tell you to bugger off, I said. So Jim phoned Frank, and that’s exactly what happened. But Jim was sure he could make it right with Frank and, after a couple of weeks, he did.” Claire knew the team from top to bottom and took to the role easily. However, as her career began to take off, the team seemed to get ever closer to the buffers. By 2011, when she gained responsibility for marketing, the team was a lowly ninth in the constructors’ championship. Then in 2012,

The Mansell FW14B is Claire Williams’ favourite in the team’s collection

SELLING F1 TECH ELSEWHERE

ONE OF THE key missions of Williams Advanced Engineering, the new division at Grove tasked with spreading its F1-derived tech into wider areas of the engineering and energy markets, is to make clear that its core business is about much more than motor racing. WAE, which employs 150 engineers, occupies premises at Grove initially built for limited production of the Jaguar C-X75 hybrid supercar, but when that project folded, the management saw an opportunity to keep its technical teams together and deploy them on other projects. Managing director Craig Wilson — a distinguished engineer with Aston Martin, TWR and HSV connections in his background — has been building the business since starting at Grove in January. He says that his company is already a force in the energy storage market, working on large flywheel-based devices for microgrids, and attracting new clients by word of mouth. It has other projects, some for the military, most of them secret, that employ its expertise in lightweight structures, composites, aerodynamics and electrification. One project has been to devise an electric propulsion system for a well known brand of folding bicycle. “We’ve earned good money from day one,” says Wilson. “The business is now expanding strongly. And there’s another kind of return. Our wide- ranging activities mean we’re well placed to pick up industry trends that can help the F1 team.”

when Williams floated on the Frankfurt stock exchange and she replaced Sir Frank as the family’s representative on the board, the team only managed to finish eighth (after an unexpected win for Pastor Maldonado in Spain). But it is the failures of the 2013 season, the year when Claire became deputy team principal with responsibility for marketing, communications and other commercial functions, that will always be most vivid. “It was horrendous,” she says. “In previous years, we’d tried to improve things by bringing individuals into the team. We learned from bitter experience that you’re never going to improve a team of 600-odd people with one appointment. “So for 2013, we decided to make wholesale changes across the group. It didn’t happen in one meeting, but by March-April we had laid our plans, which are the ones we’re still working with today. “The worst thing at that stage was the sinking feeling we had at the start of last season in Australia, knowing the hoped-for improvements to the 2013 car hadn’t worked, that there were still 18 difficult races to go, and we’d be asking our wonderful team of people to leave their families and go racing through the year, without being able to show them the changes we were confident would take effect in 2014.” The nub of the problem, says Claire, was technical leadership. The team had always had plenty of core talent, most of which was staying on board in the difficult days, but the organisation wasn’t allowing them to work effectively. “The old set-up with Frank and Patrick [Head] at the top and everyone below them, led by a technical director, was no longer feasible,” she says. “One of the first things we did was to hire Pat Symonds

From the left:

Symonds, Williams,

O’Driscoll, Wilson

In the 2014 German GP, Massa exited dramatically but Bottas came second; in 2013, a slow stop hardly mattered

as TD [technical director], but then to install commanders of various departments below him, to run things.” Another enlightened decision was to change engine supplier from Renault to Mercedes for 2014. It might look obvious now but it was a tough call then, both because Renault had been

a long-lived and successful partner for Williams

before, and because the decision to change had to be made before Mercedes’ superiority was anywhere near as clear as now, when at the time of writing Mercedes has scored 13 victories to Renault’s three. Williams is third in the constructors’ championship, and its drivers have

been on the podium five more times since Valtteri Bottas’s initial podium in Austria at mid-year. Inside the team’s Grove headquarters, the smiles are back on people’s faces, although most realise that they’re entering an even more critical phase of improvement. “Last season, it hardly mattered

if the team lost two seconds on a pitstop because

someone fitted the tyre blankets the wrong way round,” says Claire. “We weren’t in contention anyway. But the situation is very different now.” We’ve been talking for half an hour, and it occurs to me that Claire has been describing this momentous team turnaround with a certain matter-of-factness mixed with calm determination, and that would elude many a seasoned team boss. Doesn’t this whole thing daunt you, I ask? Isn’t the big danger with F1 that you can do things fantastically well and still fail? Her answer, in a way, restates the Williams credo. “The race team always reminds me of an orchestra,” she says. “If you have the right talent, the right leadership and everyone is working well together, you will be successful.” L

Claire Williams | Interview

PAT SYMONDS ON THE WILLIAMS F1 COMEBACK

FOR A DECADE, Williams F1 had a problem with competitiveness. Then it appointed high-achieving technical director Pat Symonds, who has become a very large part of the solution. When he started at Grove last summer, the team was ninth in the constructors’ championship. Now it’s third and the momentum is definitely upward. “We’re ahead of where I

hoped we’d be at this stage of the season,” says Symonds, “but there’s much more to do. “Observing the team from outside, it was clear there were problems but when I came here

I realised it certainly wasn’t the facilities. The

wind tunnel is 10 years old, but it’s still great. And the core skills here are first

class. But the IT system was

old-fashioned, and so were the ways of working. Engineers were mistaking activity for achievement. They were making

a huge number of new parts for

the car, then reverting to old ones when they didn’t work.” Symonds prefers simplification and engineering rigour in developing the car. “We need to know what is good about the car, and why,” he explains. “We took the best car we could to Australia at the beginning of this year,

and we only put things on it that have been proven to make it faster, which isn’t the way it was done in the past. But this year, our rate of development is better than anyone else’s. We’re really proud of that.” Technical directors are rarely willing to be precise about their targets, but not Symonds. “My ambition is to be in a position to challenge for the championship in 2016,” he says. “We want to make 2015 a dress rehearsal for that. We’ll have new cars for both seasons and hope to start picking up wins on the way. “Like everyone here, I’m keen to win because I don’t much like the alternative. After 33 years in F1, I can’t precisely remember every race I’ve won, but I definitely remember every one I’ve lost.”

The 2014 car has been developed quickly and cleverly

Tim (on right) and

plot

Kevin

an co-driver

eco-friendly

course

ON YOUR MARKS

GET SET

SLOW

Don’t be fooled by the cars’ slow pace — the competitive effort in the annual MPG Marathon is cranked up at ten-tenths for all of its two days and 320 or so miles. Feather-footed Tim Dickson gives it a go

PHOTOGRAPHY LUC LACEY

Racers Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal (left), in a BTCC- liveried Civic, are part of a large Honda team

W e’re somewhere on the A343 in Hampshire. The road snakes quite steeply downhill and we’re building speed rapidly – 45mph, 50, 55,

then 60mph. Up ahead are BTCC aces Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden, driving a Honda Civic Tourer liveried up just like their race cars, and we’re slowly gaining on them. In neutral. There’s a Volkswagen Passat between us and them and, for a moment, I consider overtaking it to conserve our precious momentum. Suddenly, the racers have to brake almost to a standstill for a van in front that has slowed to turn right. It’s infuriating. We’re only a few hundred metres from our next destination and we could have got there without touching the accelerator pedal had no one got in the way. This, if the pictures haven’t already given it away, is the MPG Marathon. It isn’t a race – far from it – but the competition is white hot. Despite this, my co-driver Kevin Booker and I reckon that we could be in with a chance of doing pretty well, given the outstanding real-world economy of the 1.6 i-DTEC Civic hatch we’re driving and what turns out to be a shared long-term preoccupation with particularly parsimonious driving.

The annual MPG Marathon has been running since 2000, when Ross Durkin of the CO 2 -savvy Fleet World magazine decided to resurrect the Mobil Economy Run, a fuel economy driving challenge held a few decades ago and contested by eco-driving pioneer, one-time economy world record holder and former Autocar deputy editor Stuart Bladon, who, incidentally, is still at it, driving a Peugeot 308 in this year’s event with brother Hugh as co-driver. Durkin’s timing for the inaugural MPG Marathon was fortuitously impeccable, coinciding as it did with the UK’s near-crippling fuel price protests, which made almost everyone in the country acutely aware of just how much fuel their car was using. Since then, because of environmental concerns/wars in the Gulf/punitive road and company car tax rules/spiralling fuel duty (delete as appropriate), fuel economy has gained an ever- increasing importance. These days, the MPG Marathon, which takes place on public roads, takes the form of a ‘navigational scatter’ event. In other words, competitors are given a list of destinations to which they can get by any route they so choose. A few years ago the routes from point to point

All entrants set off with tanks filled and caps sealed by the AA

‘Your Views’ regular Victor Harman hit 84mpg in a Seat Leon

One entrant took part in a Subaru BRZ; another in an Alfa 4C

were fixed, but this caused all sorts of logistical and administrative headaches with the organisers because it meant that the event was classified as actual motorsport. The ‘scatter’ approach is much simpler, plus it allows drivers to get creative with their navigation. To prevent cars becoming too much of a low-speed rolling road block along the way, there’s a maximum time allowed to get to each of the day’s checkpoints, with half a mile per gallon docked from your overall recorded economy figure for each minute you’re late. Competitors cover around 320 miles over the two days of the event, depending on their choice of route. All you have to do to win is record a mile per gallon figure higher than anyone else’s, but there are also awards given for best improvement on the manufacturer’s claimed

BY THE TIME WE’RE BACK AT BASE, THE TRIP METER HAS SETTLED ON 98.1MPG

combined economy figure, and a prize for the most economical van. Cars (and vans) have to be standard, and are rigorously scrutineered by the AA, with the fuel tanks brimmed and sealed before setting off. Point-to-point mileages are noted along the way. This year’s MPG Marathon has

attracted a decent mix of competitors. There are fleet managers, police drivers and representatives of various public sector bodies, plus a smattering of interest from the manufacturers, including Seat and Peugeot. Kevin and I are part of Honda UK’s multi-pronged effort, which includes us in the Civic hatch,

racers Neal and Shedden in a Civic Tourer, the BBC’s Paul Clifton and

traffic cop Shaun Cronin also sharing

a Tourer and four guys from Honda’s

R&D department – Fergal McGrath, James Warren, Tony Shiggins and Julian Warren – in, you guessed it, another Civic Tourer, which they all had a hand in developing. Elsewhere, there are defending MPG Marathon champs Nick Chapman and Rosemary Horner in a Ford Fiesta 1.6 Econetic and up and coming Formula Ford racers Harrison Scott and Louise Richardson in a Fiesta ST-3. There’s also a Subaru BRZ. And an Alfa Romeo 4C. Day one begins with a run from our

base, south of Cirencester, to a hotel just off the A40 near Abergavenny, and we opt for an easy jaunt along the M4 into Wales. We’re fighting

a headwind and battling for inside

Stuart Bladon (in foreground) is a former mpg world record holder; you choose your own route between checkpoints; Tim and Kevin coax their Civic’s mpg close to three figures

lane space with lorries, but the steady pace has our trip meter claiming 89.4mpg at the end of it. Not bad going – if accurate – but we’ll need to do better if we’re to be in with

a chance of winning. The next leg

takes us north-east to Worcester. It’s

a pleasant drive and we barely feel

like we’re holding anyone up, but torrential rain and deep standing water- in Great Malvern causes extra drag for the final few miles. The trip reckons on 86.7 mpg at the end of it. Our final run of the day takes us back to Cirencester, but there’s a monster traffic jam to carefully navigate our way out of on the Worcester ring

road and monsoon conditions on the M5, so the trip computer reckons on 82mpg for that leg. The next day is more of the same. Driving really, really slowly is, as it

turns out, quite relaxing. It focuses your mind if you’re at the wheel and

forces you to plan ahead in a way that many drivers would do well to try for themselves, but the total absence of pressure to make progress at all costs takes quite a weight off your shoulders. As a passenger, you can relax knowing that you’re not going to be scared witless by any daft overtaking or heavy-footed ‘look at me’ stupidity. It’s also considerably cheaper than driving really, really

Your pace rarely exceeds 55mph or so, which means that trucks can gradually creep up on your tail

MPG Marathon | Drive

ECONOMICAL, WITH THE TRUTH

OFFICIAL COMBINED ECONOMY figures get a bad press, but the MPG Marathon proved that they can be bettered. All it requires is a mix of self-control, patience and, every now and then, an utter pig-headed, slow-motion belligerence. You’ll spend 99 per cent of your time not going very fast at all, and one per cent refusing to slow down for anything to conserve momentum. The sworn enemies of ultra-high economy figures are hard acceleration (or anything other than barely perceptible acceleration) and sustained high speeds — meaning anything over 55mph or so. As such, the bottom seven- eighths of the accelerator pedal’s travel become redundant, along with your air-con, heated seats and other power-consuming luxuries. Coasting in neutral used to be outlawed in fuel economy challenges, but it’s used increasingly these days. There are arguments for and against it, but harvesting the car’s stored kinetic energy even on slight downhills really does seem to make a difference. As does slipstreaming lorries on motorways, although this is frowned upon, too — especially if you get close enough to activate your car’s collision avoidance autonomous braking system.

quickly, and will even save you a fair few quid compared with driving really, really normally. We record a trip-computed 91mpg and 88.5mpg respectively for the

first two runs of day two, and then hit fuel-saving gold on the final leg, back on the M4 from Bath to Cirencester.

A tailwind and some sneaky

slipstreaming has the Civic’s claimed economy edging up and up. And up. At one point, it’s nearly into three

figures, but by the time we’re back at base, it has settled on 98.1mpg. Not bad going, but enough to win? All the cars are carefully refilled and brimmed by the AA. That takes

a while, so the official results aren’t

announced for a few days but, even so, it’s clear that Team Honda’s Civics have excelled. At the final count, the R&D Civic Tourer is declared the winner, with an incredible

97.92mpg, just beating the defending champions’ Fiesta by 0.84mpg. The 95mpg Citroën C4 Cactus of John Kendall and Paul Nieuwenhius is third. Winners of the prize for biggest improvement over the manufacturer’s claimed combined economy figure goes to the Scott/

Richardson Formula Ford racer pair in the Fiesta ST-3, with a remarkable 75.77mpg at the final count (Ford claims 47.9mpg combined for the ST-3). Kevin and I finish fourth overall with 88.6mpg – impressive enough on its own, and it means that the on-board trip computer is incredibly accurate, but disappointing

given the margin to the winners. Still, it’s a surprisingly fun event, albeit one with a serious and ever more relevant message: we could all use a lot less fuel if we wanted to. You just have to put your mind to it. L

The AA scrutineers the event; the overall winners were Honda’s R&D crew in a Civic Tourer

PHOTOGRAPHY STAN PAPIOR

ROAD TEST

No 5189

Renault Twingo

Will Renault storm the market with its rear-engined city car?

MODEL TESTED

1.0 SCE Dynamique

l

Price £10,995 l Power 69bhp l Torque 67lb ft l 0-60mph 17.6sec

l

Fuel economy 42.3mpg l CO 2 emissions 95g/km l 70-0mph 53.8m l Skidpan 0.74g

M ore than 20 years ago, long before the city car class blossomed to accommodate the diverse range of models you’ll

find in it today, a 3.4m, three-door, left-hand-drive-only Renault proved that small could once again sell in big numbers. Offered with only one engine and in one trim level, the 1992 Twingo was a bold, characterful and utterly distinctive urban runabout of simplicity, compactness, value and abundant flair. It was more desirable than a Fiat Panda and more modern than a Mini and it beat the Ford Ka to market by several years.

WE LIKE Stylish and alternative Clever smartphone integration Manoeuvrable in town

l That’s what 45deg of steering angle looks like. It makes for an 8.6m turning circle. From the other side, you can see the chassis and steering links.

l Top-spec as-tested Dynamique trim has a camera-based lane departure warning system. It only issues audible and visual warnings, though, so it’s not ‘lane keeping’.

l The bonnet release catches are on either side of the ‘lozenge’. Flip off the blanks, unlock, pull out the latches and the panel slides about eight inches south. Fluid bottles are underneath.

l A stubby front end is made possible by the rear-engined configuration. It’s interesting that Renault has shunned the one-box silhouette of the original Twingo, though.

It was a hard act to follow. Launched in 2007, the second- generation Twingo should have built on its predecessor’s success but it never hit the sales heights of the Mk1. Renault started work on a better- packaged, more original replacement in 2008. A rear-engined platform was the only way to take the car forwards, as Renault saw it, but prohibitively expensive. Then along came Daimler, which needed something similar for its Smart brand, and a future for the Twingo was secured. Time to find out exactly what that future looks, sounds and drives like.

DESIGN AND ENGINEERING

AAAAC

The biggest gain for the Twingo earned from its move to a rear- mounted engine, we’re told, is packaging – and good packaging is critical at this end of the market. At just under 3.6m long, the new car is almost 100mm shorter than its predecessor, 90mm shorter than a Panda and 70mm shorter than a Hyundai i10. But it’s not the shortest car of its kind. All three of the

HISTORY

The original Twingo’s origins are a matter of debate. The car bears a striking resemblance to a prototype built by Polish manufacturer FSM for a project with which Renault was also involved. The car was called the Beskid and the story goes that FSM

never extended its patent. The Renault Twingo emerged on the market shortly after it expired. This Mk3 Twingo was signed off in 2010, when Renault’s tie-up with Daimler was inked. It was previewed last year by the Twin’Run and Twin’Z concepts.

Polish Beskid has a claim to the Twingo’s ancestry

WE DON’T LIKE Short on space Sanitised handling Lacklustre performance and economy

l The wide shoulders with inset tail-lights are a surprisingly evocative nod to the original mid-engined Renault 5 Turbo — an influential car for the Twingo’s designers.

l The exaggerated rake of the rear screen also references the R5. Renault almost put hip-mounted air intakes just ahead of the rear axle, to complete the tribute.

l Optional (for £850) full-length sunroof looks a bit untidy when furled but it does a decent job of sealing the cabin when it’s closed.

l This recess looks as if it should hide a release switch for the rear hatch. In fact, the button is next to the numberplate lights.

ON THE INSIDE

l White accents on the steering wheel, doors and fascia are also available in blue, black and red.

l Removable flexicase storage box holds 2.6 litres of stuff. Annoyingly, it’s cut flush with the fascia on one side but stands proud for right-hand-drive versions.

l The instruments are clear and readable, but they’re more ‘Smart’ than ‘Twingo’. It’s understandable but regrettable as well.

MULTIMEDIA SYSTEM

In a fairly obvious bit of marketing, Renault has identified that this car will be bought by the smartphone generation so it has provided a handy universal mount to hold said hardware. It fits neatly into the fascia, has its own USB connection and power supply and it’s standard equipment. Genius. Download Renault’s free R&GO app to your phone and you’ll also instantly endow your Twingo with navigation, extended communication, multimedia and trip computer functions. The nav is provided by CoPilot and the mapping is downloaded with the app, so using it doesn’t eat into your data allowance. Renault’s R-Link touchscreen multimedia set-up is optional on Dynamique spec cars. it has a 7in screen, voice control and surround-sound audio by Arkamys. It’s part of a £600 Techo Pack, together with a reversing camera. We can’t imagine that many will go for it, though.

min

820mm max

860mm

920mm

1554mm

min

530mm max

830mm min

max

850mm

1100mm

m

6

.

8

1646mm

:

e

l

c

r

i

c

g

n

i

n

r

u

T

Volkswagen Group’s Slovakian- built sister models and the Citroën- Peugeot-Toyota triplets – five-door five-seaters all – require 100mm less space at the kerb. On the spec sheet, the VW Up also trumps the Renault on boot space, as does the i10. So

there’s reason to be a touch suspicious about Renault’s claims that this car is packaging marvel. The rear-mounted motor does bring other benefits. In our test car,

it was Renault’s 999cc naturally

aspirated three-cylinder SCe petrol engine mounted transversely, inclined by 49deg and reconfigured for compactness. It produces 69bhp and

67lb ft and drives the rear wheels via

a five-speed manual gearbox. Those

are competitive but unexceptional outputs, but more puff can be had from a range-topping turbocharged 898cc, 89bhp TCe model. With no engine to encumber them, the Twingo’s front wheels can turn through 45deg of steering lock in either direction – about 50 per cent more than most front-engined cars’. The turning circle is just 8.6m; again, beatable, but solely in a Toyota iQ. The Twingo is constructed of

HOW BIG IS IT?

0.32

high-strength steel but has a ‘soft’ frontal section featuring bonnet, bumper and front wings made of Noryl memory plastic, which is light, good on pedestrian protection and pops back into shape after a minor ding. Suspension is via independent struts at the front and a de Dion torsion beam at the rear.

INTERIOR

AAABC

The Twingo’s cabin has plenty of colour and visual interest, as well as some novel storage solutions, but there’s a bit of sleight of hand going

on in here: eye-catching features intended to cover up for a cabin that isn’t as practical as it should be. The driving position is sound, but you don’t get the reach adjustment of our test car on entry-level models, and neither do you get ISOFIX child seat anchorages for the front seat as standard, which could be an issue for parents with child seats that are too bulky for the back. There’s decent room for your extremities up front but headroom

188-

980 litres

630mm

46%

VISIBILITY TEST

Strong. Higher driving position than some and sensibly sized pillars. The B-pillars can intrude at junctions, though.

HEADLIGHTS

Adequate, but not as bright on main beam as the pretty LED running lights might suggest.

1452mm

2492mm

3595mm

WHEEL AND PEDAL ALIGNMENT

Good, which is pleasant to find, given that Renault’s joint-venture partner, Smart, didn’t do so well on this front with the last Fortwo. Pedals are small but not too closely stacked. Wheel has lots of adjustment, except in basic spec.

120mm

54%

473mm

1425mm

100mm

l Passenger space in the front is good, but entry-level cars do without reach

adjustment for the steering wheel and ISOFIX mounting points for child seats.

Typical rear

legroom 750mm

l There’s decent legroom in the back but headroom is very limited, even by the

standards of city cars. The optional sunroof may be partly to blame for that.

Width 920-1150mm

Height 330-600mm

Length 580-1440mm

l The boot is a bit shallow, for obvious reasons, but it is usable. The rear

seatbacks and front passenger seatback fold to accommodate longer items.

ON THE ROAD

Track notes

DRY CIRCUIT

Renault Twingo 1.0 SCe Dynamique 1min 43.4sec Volkswagen High Up 1min 34.5sec The dry circuit was in fact wet for the Twingo’s laps, but that only partly explains the Renault’s poor time. Poor front-end purchase and sluggish performance disappoint.

WET CIRCUIT

Renault Twingo 1.0 SCE Dynamique 1min 31.6sec Volkswagen High Up 1min 21.8sec Can’t blame the elements this time. The car’s front end won’t be hurried, and stability control only stays out of the way if you’re super-smooth.

T3

T4

T2

T5

l It stops well for T1 — because it isn’t going fast in the first place — but understeers a bit past the apex.

l T1 can tease lift-off oversteer out of a family estate but there’s no such fun to be had in the Twingo.

T2

T3

T1

T4

Start/finish

T5

T6

T1

T7

Start/finish

l Fleeting, momentary balance presents on the entry to T4 but is soon snuffed out by the ESP.

T6

T8

T7

l Skinny front tyres find some grip in T3 and T4 but you’ll still miss the apex if your inputs are remotely hurried.

ACCELERATION 12deg C, wet and windy

Renault Twingo 1.0 SCE Dynamique Standing quarter mile 21.8sec at 65.8mph, standing km 39.4sec at 82.2mph, 30-70mph 19.1sec, 30-70mph in fourth 33.2sec

 

30mph

40mph

50mph

60mph

70mph

80mph

5.4s

8.9s

12.5s

17.6s

24.5s

36.9s

0

5s

10s

15s

20s

25s

30s

35s

Volkswagen High Up (2011) Standing quarter mile 20.1sec at 71.7mph, standing km 36.4sec at 88.7mph, 30-70mph 14.0sec, 30-70mph in fourth 25.3sec

 

30mph 40mph

50mph

60mph

70mph

80mph

4.7s

7.0s

9.6s

13.8s

18.7s

24.5s

0

5s

10s

15s

20s

BRAKING 60-0mph: 2.94sec

 

30mph-0

50mph-0

70mph-0

 

DRY (wet)

9.8m

27.6m

53.8m

0

10m

20m

30m

40m

50m

 

WET

9.5m

26.6m

54.6m

 

30mph-0

 

50mph-0

70mph-0

On the limit

The adhesive limit of the Twingo’s handling is easy to approach and defined absolutely by its front wheels. Early-onset understeer, managed by a sensitive ESP system, has been deemed a small price to pay to stop almost any chance of lift-off

oversteer. Many would claim that’s an appropriate compromise for such

a car. To us, though, a balanced,

progressive and controllable chassis

is always the safest and best option.

The car’s propensity to plough on isn’t so serious that it’ll present at

town speeds, but you could certainly encounter it on a wet country road at

plenty less than 60mph. The steering just about communicates the point

of breakaway, and the ESP chimes in subtly, allowing you to keep your foot in as if nothing was happening.

in the back is poor. Most adults will struggle with only 860mm of it. An Up gives you 920mm and most family-sized cars at least 950mm. Up front, we like the pragmatic universal mounting clip for a smartphone, which fits neatly into the centre of the audio control console. Less impressive is the gimmicky storage box, which doesn’t fit so neatly into its dock ahead of the gearlever and sticks out sufficiently proud of the fascia to foul your left leg. There’s a pair of cupholders underneath it, but they’re small and shallow. The seats are comfortable and the front passenger’s seatback folds flat to allow through-loading. But the boot is only averagely large for the class. Our biggest disappointment, though, is not to see more imagination in the layout of the instruments and secondary controls. The original Twingo had centrally cited dials, vibrant upholstery and handy storage cubbies crammed into every corner but it was also a car introduced before the widespread adoption of airbags. But despite having two extra doors and a sunroof, this Twingo still isn’t flattered by the comparison.

PERFORMANCE

AABCC

Neither the quality nor the quantity of what the Twingo’s offers in this department impresses. It’s not a painfully slow car, but it’s sufficiently pedestrian to be hard work to drive at times, and it’s less flexible and less refined than its competition. Were it the job of an Autocar road test to make excuses for a car that doesn’t quite cut the mustard, we might explain the Twingo’s failure with overly long gearing or tightness in the engine. But, frankly, so what? Most of the comparable cars that have braved our timing gear in the past five

You have to be very committed and aggressive to elicit even a hint of oversteer from the car. We managed it once during several kinds of limit handling test — and the electronics managed the situation almost instantly.

Value (£1000s)

years have done so with little more than 1000 miles on the odometer, and every one – from Chevrolet Spark to Toyota Aygo via i10, Picanto, Ford Ka, Vauxhall Adam and Up – needed less than 15sec to hit 60mph from rest. The Twingo took 17.6sec. It’s a shortfall that you inevitably perceive on the road. Seldom are you afforded the opportunity to accelerate from low speeds in this car using less than about 90 per cent throttle, out of duty to avoid holding up traffic behind. Overtaking is possible out of town, but you need lots of room and, ideally, a descending gradient. On the motorway, the car’s cruise control often fails to conjure enough power to maintain 70mph up a long climb in top gear. Such concerns may be unlikely to bother city dwellers, but a torquier delivery would certainly give the car more authority in the cut and thrust of urban traffic and make it feel less exposed the rest of the time. Whether you’re in town or out of it, the engine’s relatively rough manners at low crank speeds, where it grumbles and thumps a bit before settling down to work, don’t speak of attentive engineering.

RIDE AND HANDLING

AAACC

The Twingo does an entirely reasonable, broadly uncompromised job of covering the dynamic basics and satisfies its primary purpose as a manoeuvrable, manageable city car adequately. However, it doesn’t go very far above and beyond that remit to conjure the qualities of bigger hatchbacks like the better city cars can. It doesn’t ride or handle well. And, tellingly, you could drive it 150 miles without realising which axle was driven. Which is exactly how Renault wants it. You can be reassured by the handling of this car, but not

Under the skin

l Rear-engined layout was meant to make pedestrian protection better but has had mixed success.

The Twingo gains speed slowly because of its lack of torque

really engaged or entertained by it. The opportunity to produce a feelsome steering system, thanks to plenty of mechanical advantage and low weight on the front end, has largely been missed. There are almost four full turns between locks on the Twingo’s tiller; skinny five-inch-wide rims on the front axle too, as standard. But although you get fleeting snatches of contact patch feedback, there’s not quite enough of it to be worth noting. Moreover, the hoped-for cornering balance of an even vaguely sporting rear-driven machine has been painstakingly engineered out, lest you happen to be a giddy 19-year-old who’d freeze at the very idea of it. The chassis develops only limited lateral grip at the front wheels, and the ESP intervenes very early before understeer is given the chance to morph into knee-jerk throttle-off oversteer. Driving the car remotely keenly gives you the impression that Renault has deliberately taken grip away from the front end, so that the stability control will keep cornering speeds down almost routinely – like a proxy for a tutting driving instructor. Being rear-engined, the Twingo is inevitably more prone to directional

disturbance than something with its mass centred further forwards, so over bumps, camber changes and through crosswinds, it’s not as stable and directionally faithful as it might be. The car rides quietly but not with the low-speed absorbency of an Up. At higher speeds and over more troubling surfaces, the necessary firmness of the rear suspension manifests in a tendency towards head toss and a noticeable fidgeting in the body control.

BUYING AND OWNING

AAABC

There are plenty of good micro cars with prices that start with an eight; a few, even, with a seven. The Twingo starts at £9495. Knowing that most city cars are bought on finance, Renault will probably offset some of that price penalty against lower interest rates, and will rightly be able to factor the car’s four-year, 100,000- mile warranty, four years’ breakdown cover and four years’ free servicing into the monthly payment mix. Still, on the face of it, the car’s not cheap. Neither is it overly frugal,

despite Renault’s claims. On our touring economy test, the Twingo returned 51.7mpg. Under the same circumstances, the more powerful Up nudged 60mpg, and the current Aygo bettered it. Residual values aren’t expected to be stellar, although they are competitive. And insurance costs should be competitive, too, with only a handful of cars in the class qualifying lower than the group two rating of the entry-level car.

DEPRECIATION

12

10

8

6

4

2

0

New

Toyota Aygo

Volkswagen up

Renault Twingo

1 year

2 years

3 years

4 years

l A showing of more than 40 per cent is no bad result, particularly for recovering Renault.

l Engine and transmission are forced down and forwards under the floor if the car is rear ended.

CRASH PROTECTION

Committing to a rear-engined construction can’t have been an easy thing for safety-conscious Renault. As Daimler discovered with Smart more than a decade ago, front-engined cars tend to perform better in frontal crash tests because the weight of their engines doesn’t add to the deformation of the passenger compartment. In a like-for-like frontal crash, the average rear-engined car has 150kg of engine and transmission trying to force its way through the cabin. Renault’s answer to this for the Twingo was to engineer crash pathways that force the engine down under the cabin floor in the event of a serious collision. Elsewhere, the car’s bodyshell is designed for particular strength in the transmission tunnel, sills and doors in order to preserve the integrity of the cockpit. The car missed a five-star crash rating by Euro NCAP, scoring only 78 per cent for adult occupant protection and 68 per cent for pedestrian protection, despite its extensive ‘soft’ nose and under-bumper padding.

Power output (bhp)

Torque (lb ft)

DATA LOG

RENAULT TWINGO

£10,995

TECHNICALTECHNICALTECHNICALTECHNICAL LAYOUTLAYOUTLAYOUTLAYOUT

1.0 SCE DYNAMIQUE

Steel unitary construction with a transverse rear-mounted three-cylinder engine connected to a five-speed manual transmission for rear-wheel drive. Suspension is via struts up front and a de Dion torsion beam at the

On-the-road price Price as tested

£12,935

back, with a 22mm anti-roll bar at the front. Weight distribution is 46 per cent front, 54 per cent rear.

Value after 3yrs/36k miles

£4425

Contract hire pcm

£155.25

Cost per mile

29p

Insurance/typical quote

3/£291

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

Front and side airbags

n

Cruise control/speed limiter

n

Lane departure warning

n

Manual air conditioning

n

Front fog lights

n

Height-adjustable driver’s seat

n

DAB tuner

n

16in Emblem alloy wheels

£275

Metallic paint, Flame Red

£595

Interior Style Pack

£100

Exterior Touch Pack

£100

Electric folding sunroof

£850

Stowage area under back seats

£20

Options in bold fitted to test car

n = Standard na = not available

RANGE AT A GLANCE

ENGINES

POWER

FROM

ENGINE

1.0

SCE

69bhp

£9495

Installation

Rear, transverse,

0.9

TCE

89bhp

£11,695

rear-wheel drive

TRANSMISSIONS

 

Type Made of

3 cyls in line, 999cc, petrol Iron block, aluminium head

5-spd manual

n

Bore/stroke

72.2mm/81.3mm

6-spd dual-clutch automatic

na

Compression ratio

10.5:1

(due late 2015)

Valve gear Power Torque

4 per cyl 69bhp at 6000rpm 67lb ft at 2850rpm

 

Red line

6000rpm

Power to weight Torque to weight Specific output

80bhp per tonne 77lb ft per tonne 69bhp per litre

ECONOMY

 

SUSPENSION

TEST

Average

42.3mpg

Front MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar

Touring

51.7mpg

Rear Torsion beam, coil springs

Track

27.5mpg

CLAIMED

Urban

56.5mpg

STEERING

Extra-urban

76.3mpg

Type Electrically assisted rack and pinion

Combined

67.3mpg

Turns lock to lock

3.9

 

Turning circle

8.6m

 

Tank size

35 litres

Test range

326 miles

ACCELERATION

ACCELERATION IN GEAR

MPH

TIME (sec)

MPH

2nd

3rd

4th

5th

0-30

5.4

20-40

6.5

10.0

-

-

0-40

8.9

30-50

6.9

11.0

13.7

21.1

0-50

12.5

40-60