High Quality Car Servicing, MOTs and Accident Repair

We are a friendly, professional and family run business based conviently off the A3. We have been servicing the motoring needs of Surbiton near Kingston Upon Thames and surrounding areas for over 30 years.

 

           

Welcome to Maypole Motors Ltd


            We are a friendly, professional and family run business based convien

Family run business

With a team of qualified car mechanics and technicians, you can be assured of a truly personal service with all aspects of repairs to your car. Being a member of 'Checkatrade', we are openly vetted and monitored and we welcome any feedback from our customers.

First registered in 1976 we have expanded from a small recovery and service garage employing three staff to its current all encompassing motor group employing in the region of forty-five people. The combination of the services we provide still holds strong links to our initial well known friendly beginnings.

Expansion over the years has merely enhanced the service we provide to all our customers. Our hand picked staff still have the pleasantries of a small local garage and the benefits of large investment in technology training and equipment.

View our promotional video here : http://bcove.me/gz6dumyp

Why is the Porsche Cayman GTS such a peach?
Why is the Porsche Cayman GTS such a peach? Fresh from it taking care of the excellent Jaguar F-type Coupé V6S, Sutcliffe tries to work out why, exactly, the Cayman GTS is as good as it is

So what is it about the Porsche Cayman GTS that is so completely and utterly compelling? Why is it so different to drive from the already very good Cayman S model on which it's based. And is there anything Porsche can do to better it for the rumoured forthcoming R version of its beloved coupé?

The reason it's so compelling, I think, is because it somehow manages to mix such ultra-sharp reactions – be that to its throttle, steering, brake pedal and even its clutch pedal – with a quite extraordinary level of handling forgiveness.

It stops for, turns into and goes around corners with the precision of a competition car, in other words, yet still it manages to feel friendly and approachable and not in the least bit edgy near the limit. And that's a rare if not unique combination for a car that's built to be driven on the road, in my experience.

And then there's the way its engine sounds and responds above 5500rpm, the way its six-speed manual gearbox enables you to slice so cleanly up and down the ratios, the feel and power of its brakes, the clarity and accuracy of its steering, and the near-perfection of its driving position, especially the weighting and location of its brake and accelerator pedals.

Just about everything the Cayman GTS does on the move, in fact, it does beautifully, with an extra 15 per cent more immediacy than in the S version. And that means it feels as sharp and instant as you'd ever really want a road car to, but not so much as a micron more.

Anything more than this and the GTS would feel nervous and neurotic on the road. Yet in the event it goes right up to the point of no return, without going an inch too far. That's how well judged it is as a road car, albeit one that's aimed at the more serious kind of enthusiast.

How can Porsche improve upon the recipe in order to justify sticking an R badge on the tail? I'm honestly not sure it's possible.

As far as I can gather, or certainly according to the rumours doing the rounds at the moment, the next Cayman R might well be powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That will make it more torquey than the GTS, yes, and appropriately F1 in its technical appeal, for sure. But I can't for the life of me see how a turbocharged Cayman R could get anywhere near matching, let alone bettering, the tactile delights of the GTS.

But then again I could be wrong. We are talking about a company that's very much on a roll technically at the moment, after all. And if they can create the GTS in the first place, then why not go one better I suppose.

One car I'd love to see Porsche make – but in an entirely different direction from the GTS – is a Cayman with the engine from the Cayenne S diesel that I drove last week. Imagine that, a 1390kg Cayman with 380bhp and 626lb ft. Now that really would be some kind of spaceship.

New Mini Countryman in development for 2016 launch
New Mini Countryman starts development journey ahead of 2016 launch Following hot on the heels of the facelifted Countryman, Mini starts development on all-new Countryman crossover

It was only back in April that Mini revealed its facelifted Countryman crossover, with minor revisions focusing on improving its styling and fuel economy.

Now the first test mules for the next-generation model have been spotted testing ahead of a planned debut in late 2016 - possibly in time for the LA motor show in that year.

Most obvious about this test mule is its increased size compared to the current car, especially around the bonnet, with the effect magnified by larger alloy wheels. That's likely down to Mini's need to distance the Countryman visually between the rest of its updated range - but it should mean the new car will stretch well beyond the 1789mm length of today's car. 

Space inside should therefore increase as well, with boot space likely to outshine the 450-litre seats-up capacity of the current Countryman. 

Following in the footsteps of the hatchback, the new Countryman will be underpinned by BMW-Mini's versatile UKL1 platform. As with the current car, both front and all-wheel drive versions will be offered.

Styling changes should be comparatively minor, with most work confined to bringing the Countryman's front end in line with the three- and five-door Mini hatchbacks. Expect a larger front grille with chrome surrounds, redesigned and larger front air intakes, reworked light clusters at the front and rear and more prominent badging.

Inside, the Countryman is set to adopt the cabin architecture and fittings from its hatchback sibling. That means the current car's central round speedometer will move to directly in front of the driver.

Power for the new Countryman is likely to come from a range of three-cylinder turbocharged engines found in the BMW 2-series Active Tourer, as well as four-cylinder diesel variants. As with the current car, expect sportier John Cooper Works versions to arrive later.

Although official pricing has yet to be revealed, it's extremely likely the new Countryman will command a premium over the £16,990 asked for today's car

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Morgan boss dispels rumours of stalled sales
Morgan boss dispels rumours of stalled sales Morgan is on course to hit its sales targets for 2014 and hasn't been affected by Charles Morgan's departure, says company boss Steve Morris

Morgan managing director Steve Morris says the British sports car firm is set to meet its sales target in 2014 after sources close to the company suggested new car sales had stalled since the departure of former chief Charles Morgan last October.

Sources told Autocar that while the used car and maintenance parts of Morgan’s business were performing well, it was having a “very difficult year” for new car sales and waiting lists had gone down from around a year to almost nothing.

This, one source said, is because customers are still disgruntled at Charles Morgan’s surprise departure last year, and are uncertain of the direction the company is heading under new management. Subsequently, the source claims the business is “a weekly concern”.

However these are all allegations emphatically denied by Morris, who told Autocar the firm was “on target to achieve budgeted numbers for 2014” and the situation was “very straightforward”, although exact numbers, including the 2014 target set in November 2013, were not revealed.

He did, however, state the mix of sales between the 3 Wheeler and the Malvern-based company's traditional and classic models was good.

He added: “The departure of Charles Morgan has not had any impact on vehicle sales notwithstanding the negative comments that Charles has made in various media platforms from time to time.” He also said he was “disappointed” to learn of the allegations.

On the subject of waiting lists, Morris said there were a lot of “Morgan myths” surrounding this. The company head office officially quotes six months, but depending on the business model of its 60 dealers worldwide this can be shorter or longer. 

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Best car deals: Volvo S80, Seat Ibiza, Ford Focus, Kia Ceed
Best car deals: Volvo S80, Seat Ibiza, Ford Focus, Kia Ceed The best new car deals and new car leasing deals for this week, including offers on the Volvo S80, Seat Ibiza, Ford Focus, Kia Cee'd and Mercedes-Benz S-class

If you’re in the market for a new car, or after the best new-car leasing deal, you can save thousands of pounds with a little research. Here are the picks of what our deals experts have found this week.

Best new car deals

Volvo’s S80 saloon is next in line to receive the XC90’s futuristic interior. Until then, prices on the current car remain competitive. We spotted a good offer from Drive the Deal, getting you a £10,000 discount on a D5 SE Lux Geartronic model. It's currently on offer for £26,730.

Due to arrive in 2017, initial design sketches have already hinted at the shape of the next-generation Seat Ibiza. Prices on the current car remain appealing, with this offer from Pentagon getting you a 1.2-litre model in Tech trim for £10,995 – a saving of £3290 off the list price.

Best new car leasing deals

It’s one of the most popular cars on UK roads, and thanks to this offer from Hippo Leasing you can get a 1.6-litre Ford Focus in Zetec trim for £117 per month. That’s with an initial payment of £495 and over a four-year contract. There’s also an annual mileage limit of 10,000.

The Kia Cee’d might lack the dynamic capabilities of our favourite family hatchbacks, but it’s not without charm. An offer from J&R Leasing will get you a 1.4-litre CRDi model for £134 per month. That’s on a two-year contract, with an initial payment of £1205 and an annual mileage limit of 10,000.

Deal of the week

With the new Mercedes-Benz S-class range being received so well since its launch earlier this year, it’s no surprise that big discounts on the executive saloon aren’t around yet. That said, you can still save almost £6000 with this offer from Drive the Deal, which gets you the S300L BlueTEC Hybrid model in AMG Line trim for £66,290.

Can you find a better deal? Let us know in the comments section below, and see more deals here

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Does it really matter where a car is designed? Infiniti thinks so
Does it matter where a car is designed? Nissan's luxury brand Infiniti has just opened a London design centre, hoping the urban buzz will inspire some truly great cars

Does it matter where a car is designed? Infiniti thinks so.

Nissan’s upmarket brand has recently opened a London design studio in Paddington, next door to its parent company’s European design headquarters. It will also be followed by similar establishments in Beijing and San Diego, all reporting in to the Japanese HQ.

It's all in the name of bolstering Infiniti’s design credentials as it aims to take a much bigger chunk out of sales currently enjoyed by the European premium brands.

According to Infiniti’s London design boss, Brit designer Simon Cox, the studio’s geography is important because the inner city environment is inspirational for its energy and multi-culturalism. Also because of the cars. "You go out there and see a Rolls, parked next to a Porsche and an Aston over the road. It’s amazing," he said. 

All this is helping him and his team help design the next family of Infinitis and what he calls "provocative, but desirable design." Indeed, the London studio has been responsible for the company’s impressive Emerg-e and Essence show cars in the past. Not to mention the Nissan Juke and Qashqai.

I find myself thinking that if I were working for Mr Cox then I’d rather be working in cool, urban Paddington than in Essex or on the outskirts of Coventry. Yet there have been some rather fabulous cars designed in some incredibly dull, uninspiring places. Cox himself, in a former life working for GM, designed some fabulous Cadillacs in some less-than-picturesque corners of the Midlands.

Yet there must be something in it. There’s no doubt that the Rolls-Royce Phantom looks great in London because it was designed there. So too have multitudes of cars that have emerged from California and Tokyo.

I’ve also got a sneaking feeling that Mini would be well-served by having a London design studio. I’m sure that Land Rover would too.

We’ve yet to see a production car from Infiniti’s new London set up. I wonder if it will benefit from its birthplace?

Jeep Renegade first drive review
Jeep Renegade first drive review Chirpy cheap Jeep goes well off-road – as much as that’s likely to matter. Decent handling on it, with a few flaws The Jeep Renegade is something of a different kettle of fish for the compact crossover segment – which still doesn't have what you’d call a proper, old-school 4x4 within it: a car with plenty of grunt, a low-range transfer box and ground clearances to put a Land Cruiser to shame.Most manufacturers would say that’s because compact crossover buyers simply aren’t asking for one, and certainly aren’t willing to pay a premium for one. But to a car-maker like Jeep, given how fast this part of the market is growing, that’s an irresistible invitation to launch one – whether the market wants it or not.The Renegade is a 4.2-metre SUV-in-miniature that’s been designed and developed in the USA, is based on a heavily adapted Fiat supermini platform, and is being built in Italy alongside the forthcoming Fiat 500X.Powered by a choice of MultiAir turbo petrol and Multijet turbodiesel engines, it offers clutch-driven lockable permanent four-wheel drive, an ultra-short crawler transmission ratio, hill descent control and as much ground clearance as a Range Rover Evoque – provided you plump for the range-topping Trailhawk diesel auto version that we tested.

Group Lotus considers cutting a quarter of its workforce
Group Lotus considers cutting a quarter of its workforce Up to 325 jobs at risk at Norfolk sports car manufacturer under a restructuring proposal put forward by company chief Jean-Marc Gales

Group Lotus’s workforce could be cut by a quarter under restructuring proposals announced by new chief executive Jean-Marc Gales.

Ex-PSA Peugeot Citroën president Gales has remained so far silent on his plans for the company since he was appointed by DRB-HICOM, the Malaysian owner of Lotus’s parent firm Proton.

Gales has been assessing the Lotus business, and has today announced that up to 325 jobs could go at the firm under the restructuring. Group Lotus employs 1215 people worldwide, 1032 of which are in its home county of Norfolk.

According to a Lotus statement, the restructuring is “the result of the need both to reshape its organisation and to reduce costs”.

The statement added: “The company wants to ensure that it has the right organisational structure in place to achieve its business goals and to build a strong, sustainable future. Regrettably, it is likely that compulsory job losses will be needed to ensure that the company has the right number of people with the right skills.

“Group Lotus intends to redeploy staff wherever possible and will look for ways to retain specific skills and knowledge within the business, despite the proposed cuts. It also proposes to recruit into key roles, to help achieve the best possible structure and skill base.

“Group Lotus will now consult with staff and workers’ representatives on the  proposed changes and on ways and means of avoiding job losses, reducing the number of job losses and mitigating the impact of any changes that are necessary.”

Gales said: “We understand the concerns that this proposal will create. We deeply regret the potential impact any reshaping of the business may have on our employees and their families.

“We have worked very hard to avoid the need to make the proposal, but do believe that it is now essential. It is in no way a reflection on our employees who have shown nothing but dedication to us and have worked tirelessly to support Lotus.

“Once the reshaping has been undertaken, and with its strong and experienced management team, Lotus should be a leaner, more competitive organisation, focusing on both producing class-leading sports cars and innovative engineering. We will also build upon the improved sales results seen over the last few months.”

Last month a Malaysian news website reported that Gales was planning to develop a Lotus saloon and SUV to compliment its existing sports car, a strategy akin to Porsche, but he is yet to go public himself on any plans he has for Lotus’s future products.

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Production version of Vencer Sarthe sports car unveiled
Production version of Vencer Sarthe sports car unveiled Small-volume Dutch manufacturer finalises specification for its back-to-basics sports car, which features a revised engine and bodywork

Dutch start-up Vencer has revealed the definitive production version of its back-to-basics Sarthe sports car.

After a period of testing and validation with pre-production engineering prototypes, the company is now building the first customer cars in its factory at Vriezenveen in the east of the Netherlands.

The mid-engined, rear-drive, two-seater is inspired by Le Mans racing cars from the 1980s and is designed to be free of inhibiting driver aids apart from those required for safety reasons.

Vencer has made more than 100 changes and upgrades to the Sarthe since the pre-production car was revealed by Prince Albert II of Monaco at the Top Marques exhibition in Monaco last year.

The Sarthe's 6.3-litre V8 engine is new for the 2015 production car. Vencer has added a supercharger for increased power and torque, as well as immediate throttle response. This engine is now standard for the Vencer Sarthe, whereas the prototype-spec V8 has been discontinued.

Maximum power is now claimed to put at 622bhp at 6500rpm and maximum torque is 618lb ft at 4000rpm. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox with a limited-slip differential and twin-plate clutch.

A 0-62mph time of 3.6sec has been claimed by the manufacturer, which is 0.2sec quicker than the pre-production version, and the top speed is a claimed 210mph.

The basis of the Sarthe is what Vencer refers to as "a hybrid space frame chassis" made of high-grade tubular steel, with a safety structure and rear subframe made of chrome-molybdenum and an aluminium honeycomb floor structure. Body panels are carbonfibre, contributing to an impressively low weight of 1390kg, with weight distribution slightly biased to the rear at 45:55.

The Sarthe is 4515mm long, 1984mm wide and 1190mm high, with a 2791mm wheelbase. The car uses double wishbone suspension front and rear.

Notable new exterior design features include a new quarter-glass design, which is manufactured from clear-coat carbonfibre, and open C-pillars increase the aerodynamic flow.

Together with the automatic rear spoiler – which rises when the car reaches 62mph – they provide additional down force on the rear axle. The new engine cover design and larger side air inlets have been integrated to ensure a greater airflow and cooling to the new engine.

The definitive interior adopts a lightweight, minimalist focus. All interior panels are produced in-house out of carbonfibre. A two-tone leather interior with Alcantara inserts comes as standard and is available in a wide range of colour combinations.

Vencer has developed its own digital display, which it calls Central Information System (CIS).

Prices for the Vencer Sarthe start from €270,882 (excluding local taxes) which equates to roughly £213,000.

The company is keeping its ambitions modest – in the short-term it aims to average one car build per month. It has recently opened a showroom in China and is expanding its European dealer network.

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Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-in Hybrid first drive review
Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-In Hybrid first drive review Luxurious, economical and powerful – it's hard to imagine a plug-in hybrid model getting much better than this The Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-in Hybrid is the first of up to ten petrol- and/or diesel-electric powered models confirmed for launch by the German car maker before the end of 2017.It succeeds the S300 BlueTEC Hybrid and S400 Hybrid but adds one vital new element, namely the ability of its battery to be charged via either standard household mains electricity or a high voltage electrical system – rather than simply by recuperated means or on the go via the petrol engine.This allows the S500 Plug-in Hybrid to use a much larger lithium ion battery than its predecessors, which in turn provides its electric motor with far greater energy reserves and, crucially, a more than ten-fold increase in electric range.On a feathered throttle in optimal weather conditions, it is claimed to be able to travel up to 20 miles before its battery is depleted and the petrol engine is fired up.   At the heart of the hi-tech luxury saloon is a newly developed plug-in hybrid system described as boasting modular properties that will allow it to be tailored for use with varying outputs in a wide range of upcoming alternative drive Mercedes-Benz models.In the S500 Plug-in Hybrid the new system employs a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 direct injection petrol engine developing 242bhp and 354lb ft. The electric motor, meanwhile, is set within the forward section of the gearbox, and generates 114bhp and 251lb ft.Together, the petrol engine and electric motor provide a combined system output of 436bhp and 479lb ft. This gives the S500 Plug-in Hybrid greater reserves than the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, whose supercharged 3.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor deliver a combined 415bhp and 435lb ft.The combined output is channeled through a seven-speed automatic gearbox to the rear wheels in any one of the four different driving modes: Hybrid, E-mode, E-save and Charge. Additionally, the gearbox offers three separate modes: E (Efficiency), S (Sport) and E (Economy).As an incentive to prospective buyers, Mercedes-Benz is offering a six year/60,000 mile performance guarantee for the S500 Plug-in Hybrid’s 8.7kWh battery.More than anything else, though, it is the battery which adds to the weight of the new car. At 2140kg, it tips the scales 145kg above the more traditional turbocharged 4.7-litre V8-powered S500.

New car tax system could cost Government more than £167m - report
New car tax system could cost Government more than £167 million - report The move to scrap paper tax discs, which comes into force next month, could leave the UK treasury severely out of pocket

The abolition of the paper tax disc could cost the UK government up to £167 million.

That’s according to the RAC, which says the cost of chasing those who fail to tax their cars – including those who also drive without insurance – could prove to be extremely costly. 

The RAC estimates that the cost could be more than 16 times the estimated £10 million of savings the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) says it will make by adopting the new system.

According to a survey of more than 2000 motorists carried out by the RAC last month, one third were not aware of any change being made to the car tax system, and almost half were unsure when the changes were due to come into effect.

Announced as part of Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement in December last year, the traditional paper tax disc will be scrapped from 1 October. From that date, drivers will be forced to tax their cars online, and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras will be used to catch motorists avoiding payment.

The RAC also found that most drivers are unaware that any remaining tax can no longer be transferred to a new owner when a car is sold. Instead, new owners will be required to tax their car immediately, while the seller will receive a refund.

While the Department for Transport estimates that car tax evasion affects just 210,000 of the 31.9 million cars on UK roads – accounting for £35 million in lost revenue last year – the potential financial pitfall is inflated when around one million uninsured UK drivers are also taken into account.

If those drivers also fail to tax their vehicles using the new system, it is estimated that an additional £135 million of revenue will be lost.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said the new rules would make “very little difference” for the majority of motorists, but raised concerns over how the new rules would be enforced: “Although there is a network of fixed ANPR cameras in urban areas and on motorways and trunk roads, there are inevitably fewer in rural areas. 

“And, while police officers have the ability to identify untaxed vehicles, they don’t have the capacity to take on an additional workload.”

There have also been concerns raised that, as is the case with insurance, law-abiding drivers will find themselves paying more for car tax in order to cover those who fail to pay.

However, the DVLA has said the new system will work when it’s activated. A spokesman told the BBC: “There is absolutely no basis to these figures and it is nonsense to suggest that getting rid of the tax disc will lead to an increase in vehicle tax evasion.”

The concept of vehicle tax was introduced in 1888. Paper tax discs were first brought into use in 1921, with drivers initially paying £1 for every horsepower produced by their car.

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Video: Jaguar F-type coupé versus Porsche Cayman GTS
Few £60,000 cars can live with a Jaguar F-type V6 S coupé on the road, but could the Porsche Cayman GTS be one of them?

We pit the sensational new 336bhp Porsche Cayman GTS against one of our favourite sports cars - the 375bhp Jaguar F-type V6 S coupé. Which will come out on top? Steve Sutcliffe decides.

Peugeot reveals 493bhp hybrid SUV concept
Peugeot reveals 493bhp hybrid SUV concept French firm shows off its vision of a high-performance SUV which features a plug-in hybrid powertrain and radical design

These pictures show Peugeot’s new SUV concept, named Quartz, which will make its public debut at the Paris motor show next month.

The Quartz concept is designed to show Peugeot’s vision of a high-performance SUV for the future. Described by Peugeot as combining “the body of an SUV with the cabin of a saloon,” the concept features scissor doors, no B-pillar and a retractable step for easy access.

The sleek crossover measures 4500mm long by 2060mm wide and sits on 23-inch alloy wheels shod in 305mm Continental tyres. The alloys are covered with composite flaps that optimise aerodynamic flow and help cool the brakes.

LED headlights feature at the front and rear, with Peugeot’s lion badge featuring prominently as part of the front grille. The concept’s long bonnet flows towards a low-slung cabin, and there are two small spoilers where the roofline meets the rear hatch.

Power for the plug-in hybrid comes from a four-cylinder, 1.6-litre THP 270 petrol engine – which develops 168bhp per litre and 243lb ft - and two electric motors, one on each axle. Each electric motor develops 114bhp, taking total output to 493bhp. The powertrain is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. The front electric motor used regenerative braking to charge the 400-volt battery during deceleration and provides assistance to the combustion engine during gear changes.

Three driving modes are available, with electric-only ZEV mode offering emissions-free driving for up to 31 miles. Road mode uses both the engine and the front electric motor for power, with the second electric motor only starting up when Race mode is engaged. Power is sent to all four wheels and a limited-slip differential also features.

The Quartz features a MacPherson suspension set-up at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. A pneumatic system can automatically adjust the model’s ride height between 300 and 350mm. The system features technology that scans the road ahead through a combination of cameras and navigation data.

The new concept is based on PSA’s EMP2 platform, which was introduced on the Peugeot 308 and will eventually underpin a wide range of models. 

Inside, the Quartz features a new take on Peugeot’s i-Cockpit design, which can be found on its latest breed of production cars. Four bucket seats are fitted with racing harnesses, while the cabin is trimmed with a mixture of leather and "digitally woven textile" that uses fibre derived from recycled plastic water bottles. Digital weaving enables large and complex components to be created in the specific shape that they will be used, with no cutting or waste.

A multi-function steering wheel sits in front of the driver and driving information is displayed on two digital dashboard readouts and a head-up display.

The Quartz concept will be seen at the Paris motor show alongside Peugeot’s re-skinned Exalt, 208 Hybrid Air and 308 GT models.

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Volkswagen shows off go-faster Polo GTI ahead of Paris debut
Volkswagen shows off go-faster Polo GTI ahead of Paris debut Revised hot supermini gets a power hike to 189bhp and 236lb ft and is now available with a six-speed manual gearbox

Volkswagen has revealed an updated version of the Polo GTI ahead of a public debut for the new front-wheel-drive supermini at the upcoming Paris motor show.

Planned for UK sale from next month, the hottest model in the newly facelifted Polo model eschews the turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder direct injection petrol engine of its direct predecessor in favour of a more powerful turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder direct injection unit from the Audi-developed EA888 engine family.

The adoption of the new engine sees power increase by 11bhp, rising from an earlier 178bhp to 189bhp. It also brings an additional 56lb ft of torque, which has increased from a previous 184lb ft to 236lb ft.

In a further change, Volkswagen now offers the Polo GTI with a standard six-speed manual gearbox. The previous model was sold exclusively with a seven-speed dual shift gearbox – a unit that now comes as an option.

In line with other Polo models, it also offers the choice of ‘Sport-Select’ suspension featuring adaptive damping control.

Volkswagen is yet to quote a weight figure for its new go-fast Polo, but official performance figures point to a considerable 0.7sec reduction in the 0-62mph time at 6.7sec, along with a 5mph increase in top speed at 147mph.

The range-topping Polo GTI is differentiated from other Polo models by uniquely styled bumpers, red GTI badges, widened sills underneath the doors and a subtle tailgate spoiler.

Inside, it receives a sports steering wheel, unique instrument graphics and contoured sport seats similar in style to those seen in the front cabin of the larger Golf GTI.

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Lamborghini hints at new car for Paris motor show
Lamborghini hints at new car for Paris motor show The Italian manufacturer issues a cryptic hint that it will unveil a new vehicle at next month's French show

Lamborghini will unveil a new car at the Paris motor show next month.

The Sant'Agata car manufacturer has issued a line drawing of the car, together with the cryptic statement: "Once perfection is achieved, you can just double it".

This could imply that the car marks a revival of Lamborghini's plans to expand its range with a 2+2 model that would echo the 400GT from the 1960s.

Back in 2008, Lamborghini used the Paris motor show to show off a four-door, four-seat concept called the Estoque; the company was keen to put it into production but the worldwide recession put paid to those plans.

Although it seems unlikely that the new Paris car will be a four-door – Autocar's artist has extrapolated the line drawing to show how it could look – a 2+2 would fit Lamborghini's plan to expand its model range beyond the staple sportscars for which it is best know.

The off-mooted SUV, previewed by the Urus concept, will arrive in 2017.

The manufacturer is tight-lipped about the identity of its Paris concept, although it recently trademarked the names 'Asterion' and 'Encaste'.

Intriguingly, it also filed a patent for a hybrid drivetrain. The four-wheel-drive system uses an electric motor to power the front wheels and a front-mounted engine to power the rear wheels.

It was thought that this system would first be incorporated into a hybrid version of Lamborghini's SUV, due to enter production in 2017, although it could also find its way into the Paris concept.

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Testing of next-generation Mercedes-Benz E-class begins
Testing of next-generation Mercedes-Benz E-class gets underway German manufacturer starts work on the fifth-generation of its executive car in preparation for an anticipated launch in mid-2016

The next-generation Mercedes-Benz E-class has been spied testing for the first time, about 18 months before it is expected to go on sale.

This prototype – which features the new car's body shape – will eventually replace the current W212 generation of E-class which has been on sale since 2010.

Under the disguise, the new E-class will adopt the latest Mercedes-Benz design language as seen on the C-class, the GLA, and the S-class coupé.

Whereas the W212 exhibits very tight surfaces and hard edges, the latest cars created under the eye of design chief Gorden Wagener exhibit more flowing curves and surfaces.

The E-class is based on the MRA (Mercedes Rear-wheel Architecture) that underpins the recently launched BMW 3-series rival, albeit longer, wider and with bigger front and rear overhangs.

The E-class is likely to feature the same range of engines as the C-class, as well as technology that has trickled down from the flagship S-class. The MRA architecture is designed to accommodate plug-in hybrid technology, so expect ultra-frugal petrol and diesel hybrids to feature in the range.

Four body styles are expected to be offered, with the saloon to be followed by an estate, coupé and cabriolet. An AMG-fettled performance variant is also likely, using a version of the new twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine found in the Mercedes-AMG GT and forthcoming C63 AMG.

With the current E63 AMG's 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 549bhp and 464lb ft, expect the new-generation engine to appear in a higher state of tune than it does in the Mercedes-AMG GT.

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Citroen shows off 141mpg C4 Cactus concept
Citroen shows off 141mpg C4 Cactus concept French manufacturer answers economy challenge with Cactus-based Airflow concept, which features a Hybrid Air powertrain and lightweight materials

Citroën has revealed its answer to the French government’s 141mpg challenge with a new concept car based on the C4 Cactus.

The C4 Cactus Airflow 2L is capable of returning “over” 141mpg, says Citroën, and weighs just 865kg – 100kg less than the standard Cactus. The car will receive its public debut at the Paris motor show next month.

Power for the concept comes from a Hybrid Air powertrain – of the same type used by the Peugeot 2008 Hybrid Air prototype which Autocar drove earlier this summer. A prototype of the technology was shown on a Citroën C3 concept car at the Geneva motor show last year.

The powertrain comprises a 3-cylinder 1.2-litre Puretech 81bhp petrol engine - already available as part of the Cactus range - plus a hydraulic pump and air storage tank mounted at the rear of the car. An epicyclic transmission is also used. 

Aside from the obvious economy advantages of using this hybrid setup, Peugeot says it has also reduced frictional losses inside the 1.2-litre Puretech engine thanks to a new internal coating and by using low-viscosity oil.

Three driving modes can be selected, with two utilizing either air or petrol power exclusively, and the third using a combination of the two.

Sitting on new 19-inch low rolling resistance tyres developed by Michelin, the C4 Cactus Airflow 2L concept features lightweight materials including aluminium and steel, while carbon fibre features on the Cactus’ ‘Airbump’ panels.

Standard lighting clusters have been replaced by LED units, while a new lengthened spoiler features alongside a rear-mounted air extractor, plus force-activated shutters on the alloy wheels to reduce air flow.

In terms of performance, Citroën says the Hybrid Air-powered Cactus is close to the Puretech 110-powered model. That means a 0-62mph sprint time of around 9.5 seconds, plus a top speed of close to 120mph.

The concept answers a challenge set by the French government to put a vehicle capable of returning 141mpg into production by 2020. 

Other vehicles revealed to answer the challenge include Renault’s Eolab concept – which is claimed to be capable of returning 262mpg – and Peugeot’s 208 Hybrid Air. All three cars will be seen at the Paris motor show next month.

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2014 Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI first drive review
Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI first drive review Revisions make Volkswagen's five-seat SUV a better car all round, meaning it is worthy of consideration in a tough market segment A subtly revised version of Wolfsburg’s luxury SUV touting what is quite possibly the longest full name in the business: the Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI SCR BlueMotion Technology 4Motion.The well-equipped five seater forms part of a limited, diesel-only line-up of facelifted Touareg models set to reach UK dealerships in November. Priced at £44,500, it competes head-on with the likes of the BMW X5 xDrive 30d, Land Rover Discovery SDV6 and Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec, to name but a few upmarket rivals.The stylistic changes brought to the second-generation Touareg some four years after its introduction are more noticeable than what we have seen on other recent facelifted Volkswagen models – a measure perhaps of the level of competition it faces.At the front, there is a newly designed bumper with larger air ducts for more efficient engine bay cooling and fog lamps set low down underneath a prominent horizontal chrome strip, a wider grille boasting four rather than the previous two horizontal elements and reshaped headlamps housing standard Xenon main beam projectors.The rear also receives a re-profiled bumper which, like that now used at the front, features a heavily chrome strip to accentuate width. There are also new tailpipes and, on models fitted with the optional R-line package, a shiny black valance panels styled to resemble a diffuser. Additionally, the new Touareg gets revised alloy wheels in sizes ranging from the standard 19in of the base model in the UK up to optional 21in items.Inside, the Touareg adopts a lightly redesigned dashboard with new rotary switchgear, front seats with standard lumbar adjustment and a revised range of trims. Among the equipment upgrades is a standard automatic post collision brake function – as seen on all recent Volkswagen models.Under the bonnet sits a reworked version of the Volkswagen Group’s widely used 3.0-litre V6 common-rail diesel engine. The 90-degree unit offers 13bhp and 22lb ft more than the previous powerplant, producing 258bhp at 3800rpm and 427lb ft of torque on a band of revs between 1750 and 2500rpm in this particularly Touareg model.It also adopts a selective catalytic reduction system with AdBlue urea injection technology to provide it with combined average consumption of 42.8mpg, CO2 emissions of 174g/km and EU6 emission regulation compliance – figures that place it in a lower band for a two per cent benefit in company car tax.UK buyers can opt for a less powerful version of this engine in a slightly more affordable base model that costs £1500 less at £43,000. Its output remains the same as before with 201bhp at 3200rpm and 334lb ft between 1250 and 3200rpm. However, its consumption and emissions are little different to the more powerful variant of the revised diesel at 42.8mpg and 173g/km.As part of efforts to introduce greater efficiency to the Touareg, its standard eight-speed automatic gearbox now receives a coasting function in models boasting the BlueMotion Technology designation.It decouples drive to provide a freewheeling effect and added economy on a trailing throttle. Further fuel saving functions on the new model include automatic stop/start and brake energy regeneration.Drive continues to be channelled to all four wheels via Volkswagen’s 4Motion four-wheel drive system. Depending on the trim level you choose, it can be had with rear mechanical differential locks and a five-stage air suspension to provide the Touareg, which shares its genes with Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne alongside which it is produced in a Volkswagen factory in Bratislava, with outstanding off-road ability.

BMW 518d saloon first drive review
BMW 5-series 518d Luxury saloon first drive New entry-level diesel 5-series is a great car in the right specification but it faces stiff competition from the excellent Audi A6 Ultra BMW's 5-series with a new generation of four-cylinder diesel engine, offering reduced emissions and reputedly improved consumption.Pleasingly, the new 'B47' 2.0-litre diesel, which replaces the 'N47', is also more powerful – albeit marginally – than the engine it supersedes. BMW has thusly acquired some cake, and consumed it.The all-new 'TwinPower' turbocharged diesel, which features a single variable-geometry turbocharger – despite what its name suggests – utilises BMW's latest 'modular' design, entailing a 500cc displacement per cylinder.Other changes compared to the previous 518d version of the N47 include a higher-pressure common rail injection system, which now operates at 2000 bar as opposed to 1600 bar, and new injectors. These upgrades grant more precise fuel metering and better atomisation, resulting in a more efficient combustion cycle.There are also myriad other tweaks. At low engine speeds and loads the pump's flow can be throttled back, for example, cutting the power required to drive it and improving overall efficiency.The net result of all these upgrades is a hike of 7bhp, taking total output to 148bhp. The claimed average economy rises from 62mpg to 64.2mpg, while CO2 emissions drop from 119g/km to 115g/km. Torque remains unchanged however, at 266lb ft.Fractional gains at best, admittedly, but as VED, company car tax and fuel costs become ever more prominent concerns, and consumers are oft considering downsizing into a smaller car, every little helps in order to maintain the competitiveness of the larger saloons.Some may be somewhat disappointed to see the new engine retain the rear-mounted and often-problematic timing chain assembly of its predecessor, however; alas the company has had to retain it in order to grant the required bonnet clearance to meet pedestrian crash regulations – which was also the original reason for that design choice. Hopefully, by now, any potential issues have long been engineered out.

Fancy James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 in your living room?
Fancy James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 in your living room? A one-third scale gold-plated Aston Martin DB5 replica is up for auction, but you'll have to be quick to grab it

If you’ve ever nursed fantasies about owning a Bond car, and in particular the most famous Bond car of them all, then a chance is coming your way.

Better still, it won’t cost you anywhere near the money of a ‘Goldfinger’ DB5, because it’s a one-third scale model. Which means that you might well be able to house it in your living room.

The model is virtually identical to the model DB5 used in 2012’s ‘Skyfall’, which sees the Aston completely shot to bits in a shoot-out which also sees Judi Dench’s ‘M’ leaving the franchise. 

Sensibly choosing not to destroy a genuine Bond DB5, film-makers EON Productions commissioned Propshop to make a highly detailed replica by digitally scanning the real thing, and creating a set of miniature components with a 3D printer.

Apart from wearing the famous BMT 216A registration number, the model also features a bullet-proof screen, retractable machine guns, revolving numberplates and the removable roof panel that provides passage for the unfortunate in the ejector seat.

The interior is highly detailed too, and the roof panel is signed by Sir Ken Adam, the designer of the Aston’s ‘Q Branch’ features.

What you’re buying, if you choose to bid, is a replica of a replica in fact, the Skyfall model having been spectacularly destroyed with machine gun fire outside Skyfall Lodge. But this one has been produced in exactly the same way and looks identical bar the not-entirely-tasteful gold-plating of various chrome features such as its bumpers and wire wheels.

If you’re interested, you’ll find the auction on the Christie’s auction house website. The sale proceeds go to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, with bidding at £42,000 so far.

That’s enough to buy you a used example of a contemporary Aston, admittedly, but you probably won’t be able to park that in front of your sofa or caress its miniature machine guns. You'll also need to move fast, because the auction ends in ten hours time.

Autocar magazine 17 September preview
Autocar magazine 17 September preview BMW i8 road test; Porsche Cayman GTS vs Jaguar F-type; Renault Twingo vs Volkswagen Up; Audi's A9 plan revealed

This week's issue of Autocar magazine, dated 17 September 2014, lifts the lid on Audi's plans for a new flagship A9 model.

The Ingolstadt-based manufacturer is set to showcase an advanced four-door concept that reveals the new design language to be adopted by all of its future models.

The new Audi concept will be unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show in November and will also preview a new aluminium-intensive flagship, the long-mooted A9.

Our road test team assesses one of the most interesting and radical new cars of the year, the BMW i8. Does all of that technological sophistication deliver the type of drive that no class-leading sports car can be without? Or are there limitations to all of this cutting-edge complexity?

In the first of two comparison tests in this week's issue, we pitch the Porsche Cayman GTS against the Jaguar F-type. Few £60k cars can live with a F-type in V6 S coupé guise, but is the Porsche Cayman GTS one of them? Steve Sutcliffe judges the contest.

In a slightly less potent (but no less fun) comparison test, we line the new Renault Twingo up against the class-leading Volkswagen Up. It's Gallic flair in the shape of the innovative new Twingo versus the sophistication of the German manufacturer's city car.

We have our first taste of the new five-door Mini. It's the first time the car has been offered as a family-friendly, five-door hatch for the first time, but has it lost pizzazz in the process? Matt Prior finds out.

Fancy a used Audi S3 for £2000? Then you'll want to read this week's Used Buying Guide, which offers plenty of hints and tips for bagging a bargain turbocharged four-wheel-drive hatchback hatch.    

Our long-term test fleet features an update on the Alpina D3 Biturbo. We’re settling into life with Alpina’s alternative, diesel-powered take on a BMW M3, and it’s (nearly) all plain sailing so far.

Autocar magazine is available through all good newsagents, and available for download from Zinio and the Apple iTunes store.

You can also buy one-off copies of Autocar magazine from Newsstand, delivered to your door the morning after.

Alternatively, never miss an issue – subscribe to Autocar magazine today.

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New Honda Jazz to go on sale next summer
Third-gen Honda Jazz to go on sale next Summer Improved refinement and increased load-lugging capacity among the key changes for the third-generation supermini, due to reach the UK in July 2015

Honda has released the first details of its new Jazz ahead of a planned debut at the Paris motor show next month.

Due to arrive in UK dealerships next summer – with order books opening around July – the new Jazz is already on sale in the US and other markets, badged as the Fit.

Honda is referring to the Jazz it will show in Paris as a prototype, although the car appears to be almost production ready. The new Jazz measures 3915mm long with a wheelbase of 2530mm – dimensions which have grown by 15mm and 30mm respectively over the current car.

Powering the new Jazz will be a 1.3-litre i-VTEC petrol engine, which can be coupled to either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. A hybrid version, using a 1.5-litre engine in conjunction with an electric motor to develop a combined 133bhp, will go on sale later in 2015.

Built on Honda’s global compact platform, the third-generation Jazz retains the same central fuel tank layout as the outgoing model. Honda says that layout allows it to offer “genuine customer benefits in terms of versatility, interior practicality and storage solutions.”

The car’s suspension has also been revised, delivering what Honda calls “a more refined and comfortable ride for both the driver and passengers”.

The ‘Magic Seats’ seen in other Honda models are fitted. They can be folded forwards to increase storage space. Honda hasn’t released storage dimensions for the Jazz, but the Fit offers a maximum 1492 litres of space – significantly more than the 1320 litres of the outgoing version.

Honda’s Leon Brannan said: “The Jazz is a hugely important car for Honda in the UK, and has been a runaway success since its original launch. It has an extremely loyal following".

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New style and tech for facelifted Ford C-Max
New style and tech for facelifted Ford C-Max Ford promises better interior quality and better handling for its updated C-Max, which will make its debut at the Paris motor show next month

The second-generation Ford C-Max MPV has undergone a series of mid-life changes to bring it in line with the recently revised Focus on which it is based.

Changes to the styling, chassis and engine range have been made to the C-Max, which will reach the UK next summer at prices broadly similar to those of the current, four-year-old car.

Most notable in the revised five-seat C-Max is its new front-end styling, which includes a new trapezoidal grille, headlights and bonnet. The sheetmetal at the sides remains unchanged.

At the rear, a new laser-pressed manufacturing process for the tailgate allows for a simplified and cleaner design. Smaller rear light clusters also feature, alongside a revised bumper. New colour choices and alloy wheel designs complete the external styling changes.

Stefan Lamm, director of exterior design at Ford of Europe, said the changes give the C-Max a “more modern” look. “The current car was looking dated,” he added, “but these changes give it greater width, a new stance and a fresher, more holistic look.”

Inside, a new centre console brings with it reduced switchgear and a new 8in touchscreen that runs Ford’s SYNC 2 infotainment system. Higher-quality materials are also added, including plusher leather on the newly designed steering wheel, which can be heated as an option. 

The engine line-up includes a 1.0-litre EcoBoost with 99bhp or 123bhp (the former with sub-100g/km CO2 emissions) and a 1.5-litre EcoBoost with 148bhp or 178bhp to replace the existing 1.6-litre EcoBoost. The current 1.6 TDCi diesel is replaced with a 1.5 TDCi with 94bhp or 113bhp, while a new 2.0 TDCi is offered with 148bhp or 168bhp. 

Chassis changes include revised suspension and steering systems all geared towards offering a more dynamic drive. 

The changes to the five-seat C-Max are mirrored on the larger seven-seat Grand C-Max, which features sliding rear doors, with the exception of the rear end, which remains unchanged. Both cars will make their public debut alongside the all-new S-Max at the Paris motor show next month.

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Renault to show 282mpg Eolab concept car at Paris motor show
Renault to show 282mpg Eolab concept car at Paris motor show New petrol-electric hybrid concept car previews a B-segment hybrid that's set to arrive within ten years

Renault has revealed its new Eolab concept car, a petrol-electric hybrid which is reputed to average 282mpg and emit just 22/gkm of CO2.

The model, which will make its public debut at the Paris motor show next month, acts as a preview to a new production B-segment model which will appear "within 10 years", according to Renault. It also answers a challenge set by the French government to put a car capable of returning 141mpg into production by 2020. 

The French manufacturer says that in order to reach its frugal economy target, its engineers concentrated on reducing the concept’s weight, refining its aerodynamics and getting the best performance from its petrol-electric powertrain.

The results mean the concept weighs 955kg, about 400kg less than the current Renault Clio. It also comes with a drag coefficient of 0.235, some 30 per cent less than the Clio.

Other weight-saving elements include a new bonnet that is fixed and therefore lighter because it doesn't need any latching mechanism, a thinner windscreen and a magnesium roof that weighs 4.5kg.

Powering the concept is a hybrid power unit that comprises a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder SCe petrol engine, producing 74bhp and 70lb ft, and an electric motor, which is claimed to produce 54bhp and 148lb ft.

The permanent magnet electric motor is integrated into the housing of the car's compact three-speed transmission, which sends drive to the front wheels.

The first two speeds of the transmission are used only by the electric motor, with the third gear being driven by the internal combustion engine, and the automated control unit permits a blend of electric or hybrid outputs. Renault says this transmission offers numerous weight and cost-saving benefits compared to usual CVT or dual-clutch options.

A selectable ‘weekend’ mode allows the car to function as a conventional hybrid for greater range, with both power sources working together and the battery being charged via braking and deceleration.

The Eolab will be presented in two forms at the Paris show. One car will showcase the car’s technology and the other will be a design study. Renault says it has used “warm and sensual lines” to create the Eolab's exterior. The car sits on 19-inch carbon-aluminium wheels shod in Michelin rubber.

A series of active flaps and a front spoiler also open at speed, directing air flow and cooling the engine if necessary.

Inside, the three-door Eolab concept features four leather seats and a ‘floating’ centre console. An 11-inch touchscreen tablet, inspired by Renault’s production R-Link system, controls most infotainment functions and also provides real-time updates on how efficiently the car is being driven. Lights inside the car also change colour according to driving style.

A digital, height-adjustable instrument cluster sits in front of the driver. It features two smartphone-sized screens which display car data and navigation information. The car’s side mirrors are replaced by cameras, which feed directly into screens mounted close to the windscreen pillars.

The Eolab contains 100 new technology innovations, says Renault, which will eventually find their way into the firm’s road cars.

The project's leader, Jean-Pierre Fouquet, says the Eolab concept wouldn't be too costly to put into production: “Today, most of the market’s hybrid vehicles are upper-segment cars with a price tag of more than €40,000 (around £31,900).

“The solutions showcased by Eolab are much more economical and enable hybrid technology to be used for smaller cars and on a much bigger scale. Our objective is to produce a car with two power sources for the price of one".

Any production version of the Eolab is likely to rival Peugeot’s Hybrid Air technology if it goes on sale. Peugeot’s 2008 Hybrid Air prototype is capable of returning 106mpg and CO2 emissions of 50g/km, although it is still at least three years away from production. 

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Bentley Mulsanne Speed unveiled
Bentley Mulsanne Speed unveilved Bentley adds a sportier Mulsanne Speed to its line-up, with 530bhp and a 190mph top speed; it will come to UK showrooms later this year for £252,200

The Bentley Mulsanne has morphed into a sports saloon that the company is billing as “the fastest ultra-luxury driving experience in the world”.

The Mulsanne Speed gets a more potent 6.75-litre V8 engine, bespoke styling inside and out and chassis changes aimed at providing a more focused drive. It will reach the UK later this year, priced from £252,200, after a debut at the Paris motor show in October.

Powering the Mulsanne Speed is a re-engineered version of the firm’s twin-turbo V8 engine. The combustion system has been redesigned, while new variable valve timing and turbocharger controls help swell the power output to 530bhp and torque to 811lb ft at 1750rpm, up from 505bhp and 752lb ft in today’s Mulsanne.

This Euro 6-compliant engine helps shift the Mulsanne Speed from zero to 60mph in just 4.9sec and on to a top speed of 190mph, improvements of 0.2sec and 6mph over the base model.

Cylinder deactivation features on the engine, allowing it to run as a V4 on light loads. CO2 emissions are 342g/km, down from 393g/km in the standard Mulsanne.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox has been recalibrated to improve torque delivery and the connection between car and driver. It also includes a new ‘S’ mode, which keeps the engine speed above 2000rpm to allow quicker turbo response.

A new Sport driving mode is offered in addition to the exisiting Bentley and Comfort modes. This new setting stiffens the air suspension and adjusts the steering “for greater feedback and accuracy”, says Bentley.

Visually, the Mulsanne Speed is differentiated from the standard Mulsanne on which it is based by a new dark tint to the stainless steel front grille, front mesh, front headlights and rear lights.

It is equipped with 21-inch alloy wheels, which are ‘handed’, so there are bespoke designs for the alloys on both sides of the car. Twin exhaust pipes also feature and four new bodywork colours are offered.

New trims, colours and veneers are available for the interior, which as standard has the Mulliner Driving Specification option on the base Mulsanne. This includes diamond quilting for the seats and door panels, special pedals and a new headlining. Order books for the model open at the Paris show.

The Mulsanne Speed joins a revised version of the standard Mulsanne in Bentley’s flagship range. The 6.75-litre V8 retains its 505bhp and 752lb ft outputs, but fuel economy has improved by 13 per cent. The eight-speed automatic gearbox has also been recalibrated for smoother shifts.

The styling is unchanged, but the new paint colours, hides and veneers offered on the Speed are also available on the standard Mulsanne. 

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Alonso, Vettel and Ferrari hold the keys to Formula 1's driver market
Fernando Alonso has a big part to play in Ferrari's F1 future Formula 1's annual round of driver signings is in limbo until the futures of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are settled

While the world is looking at Ferrari and pondering what will happen after Luca di Montezemolo steps down, there has been another key development in recent days that could have a major impact on the Italian team in the long term.

The death, at the age of 79, of Emilio Botín, the chairman of Santander, could turn out to be very significant indeed.

Under Botín, Santander expanded from being a major regional bank in Spain to become a global heavyweight with a market capitalisation of more than $120 billion. As part of that expansion Botín became one of the leading advocates of Formula 1 as a promotional tool.

Santander entered the sport in 2007 as the title sponsor of the British GP and a supporter of McLaren, which that year had just taken on Fernando Alonso.

The goal of the sponsorships was to increase the public awareness of the Santander brand in Britain as the bank consolidated the assets of the Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley companies under its banner.

Recognition of the Santander brand went from 20 per cent to 82 per cent in three years, and by 2013 had reached 94 per cent. With Alonso moving on to Ferrari in 2010 Botín decided to follow, while also continuing with McLaren, and announced a sponsorship deal with the Italian team as well as further sponsorships of individual grands prix.

The bank said that 75 per cent of its profits were generated from countries where F1 was present and was happy to use F1 to grow these markets. The current Ferrari deal runs until the end of 2017 and it remains to be seen whether Ana, Botín's daughter, who has taken over as the chairperson of Santander will continue to follow her father’s passion for the sport.

Major sponsorships are very often linked to the desires of a company's chairman: some like motor racing, some like golf or equestrian sports, and so sponsorships can and do change when there is a change of leadership.

Fernando Alonso may also play a part in that decision-making process. At the moment the F1 world is waiting for the Spaniard to decide on his future. He is deemed to be the best driver in F1 and so the entire driver market depends on his decision.

However, there seems to be an odd phenomenon going on at the moment as an announcement was expected at the Italian Grand Prix earlier this month and did not happen.

The latest thinking in F1 circles is that Ferrari’s new management is looking to build a team that will be able to win in a sustained way, just as it did between 1999 and 2008 when Ferrari won eight out of 10 constructors’ titles.

Alonso is a bit old for that and his apparent desire to switch to McLaren-Honda next year may have got Ferrari thinking. The best long-term bet for the team would probably be Sebastian Vettel, who is much younger than Alonso and is not as happy as he once was at Red Bull Racing.

The suggestion is that the delay in confirming Alonso is because Ferrari is chasing Vettel and will let the Spaniard go to McLaren if the German agrees to move to Maranello.

Red Bull Racing might say that Vettel is committed to stay but its goal is to sell product and when a driver is too successful, it becomes the star who wins, rather than the car. It also has Daniil Kvyat waiting in the wings to create a 'double Dan' team with Daniel Ricciardo, if the opportunity arises.

BMW 520d Touring first drive review
BMW 520d Touring first drive review Punchy, refined and ever so frugal, BMW’s latest diesel engine provides the 520d with a new lease of life A slightly faster, more economical and further refined version of one of the UK’s best-selling executive class estates – the BMW 520d Touring.Having undergone a mid-life facelift last year with a number of mild exterior and interior styling tweaks, Munich’s popular mid-range model has now received a new four-cylinder diesel engine in a move that further enhances its standing against rivals including the newly facelifted Audi A6 2.0 TDI, Jaguar XF 2.2D and Mercedes-Benz E220 Bluetec.The B48-designated unit is the same longitudinally mounted 2.0-litre common rail unit unveiled in the facelifted X3 xDrive20d back in April. In the 520d, it delivers 187bhp at 4000rpm and 295lb ft of torque on a band of revs between 1750 and 2500rpm.This gives it a slight 6bhp and 15lb ft increase over the old N47 engine, with which the 520d’s new engine shares its 90.0mm bore and 84.0mm stroke measurements. Despite the apparent similarities, though, BMW claims the B48 is new from the ground up.Key among its developments is a new Bosch injection system. It operates at a higher pressure than previous incarnations, reaching peak values of up to 2000bar or some 200bar higher than before. It also receives injector nozzles with seven holes for improved combustion properties.The new BMW engine also adopts a new variable geometry Honeywell turbocharger that is claimed to bring a 50 per cent reduction in frictional losses due to new bearings. There is also a more efficient electrically operated oil pump that brings reduced pumping losses compared with the older N47 engine.As before, buyers can mate the 520d’s new engine to a standard six-speed manual or optional eight speed automatic gearbox – the latter running a heavily over driven 0.64:1 top gear in combination with a 3.1:1 final drive ratio and a range of fuel saving features that underpin BMW’s EffientDyanmics initiative.Alongside standard rear-wheel drive, BMW also offers the 520d with optional xDrive four-wheel drive. Beware, though. Despite its traction enhancing qualities, it adds 105kg to 1735kg kerb weight of the standard rear-wheel drive 520d Touring driven here, taking it to 1840kg.For those on a tighter budget, BMW has also launched a reworked version of the 518d in both saloon and Touring bodystyles. It receives a slightly detuned version of the B47 engine with 148bhp at 4000rp and 265lb ft between 1750 and 2500rpm.  

Toyota reveals rugged urban SUV concept
Toyota reveals rugged urban SUV concept Rugged Urban Utility vehicle is aimed at US town and city dwellers who need to carry lots of gear

Toyota has produced a new compact SUV concept vehicle in reaction to the growing popularity of do-it-yourself in American cities.

The Urban Utility vehicle – or U2 for short – is made from robust materials and, says Toyota, combines "the functionality of a traditional pick-up and the spaciousness of a cargo van".

The vehicle has been created by Toyota's Calty design studio in California. The concept has an open architecture and is made from robust materials. 

Among the practical features are a roll-back roof and a rear hatch that can be folded down to create a ramp. Inside, a rail system makes it easy for owners to customise the interior.

The chunky U2 has a durable underbody and bodywork and comes with customisable side panels. Exterior highlights include retracting roof panels, rear glass that can be opened and slides away, a drop-down hatch that forms a load ramp and replaceable protective ridges on the rear hatch.

A retractable utility bar can do anything from hold a desk to provide hooks for shopping bags. The side windows flip up, so it’s easy to reach into the vehicle from the roadside.

Other highlights include a front passenger seat that can be folded or removed completely and rear seats that fold up for extra load space.

Kevin Hunter, Calty President, said U2 was a "possible future vision for urban mobility" and added: "Toyota saw an opportunity for a new approach to an urban vehicle, based on the increasing re-urbanisation of our cities, and on urban drivers’ desire for flexibility, fun and manoeuvrability."

The Toyota U2 will make its public debut at the World Maker Faire event in New York on 20 September.

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Camp Jeep 2014 report and gallery
Camp Jeep 2014 report and gallery New, classic and modified Jeeps congregate in Italy for a weekend of off-roading and entertainment in the first manufacturer-supported event in Europe

"It's a bit of a party at the end of the day," says Andrea Pallard, Jeep PR, gesturing at the large rock band-like stage in the background.

"We've beers, barbecues, off-road trials, test drives and instructors – it's an event for the private customer to enjoy," he adds, as a Grand Cherokee driven by World Rally Champion Massimo 'Miki' Biasion clambers out of a ditch behind us.

It's here, in the Frazione Viazzano estate, near Parma in Italy, that Jeep has chosen to host what is claimed to be the first officially backed European "Camp Jeep".

The event, open to owners and those merely interested alike, is designed to demonstrate and promote the strengths of the brand, while giving owners the opportunity to test their Jeeps and enjoy the social aspect of such a gathering.

"We expect around 150-200 private customers to visit Camp Jeep," says Pallard. "They are coming from Italy, Belgium, Poland, Slovenia, Germany, Austria – primarily from Europe." Admission to the three-day event would set you back €130, approximately £100, and – pleasingly – passengers of paying customers could enter the rally for free.

The reasons for choosing Frazione Viazzano as the venue for Camp Jeep become evident once you clear the crest of the hill at the end of the access road. The estate, which is commonly used for hunting and off-road events, consists of vast tracts of land, miles of off-road trails and a disused terracotta mine.

Consequently it's ideal for Jeep, as it allowed three off-road courses to be established, ranging from simple gravel-strewn trails to assault courses laid out in foot-deep mud – and the variety of surfaces and inclines easily accommodate both beginners and professionals alike.

A lesson in off-road driving with Miki Biasion

As well as the opportunity to drive off-road and try new cars from Jeep's line-up, including the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, visitors could also browse a host of aftermarket suppliers, buy spare parts, listen to live music and drive quad bikes on a dedicated course.

Numerous privately owned Jeeps, ranging from new Jeep Cherokees through to custom-built competition Wranglers, were lined up alongside a collection of historic models – including an original Willys MB, Cherokee Chief, Gladiator pick-up and several earlier Wranglers.

Jeep's new compact SUV, the Renegade, was also on display. It garnered much interest from those interested in a smaller, more economical Jeep that still bore many of the brand's familiar hallmarks. It, like Jeep's other new models at the show, was a common sight around the event, regularly being demonstrated on and off the road.

"The longest route is 11 miles," notes Pallard, "and during this there are the option of yellow and black sections." The yellow routes typically involve muddy sections, meaning addition care is required, while the black routes are strictly reserved for modified Jeeps – those with with substantial lift kits, tuned engines, modified drivetrains and specialist off-road tyres.

Visitors could also increase their off-road abilities by partaking in the "Jeep Academy", where instructors – trained by Jeep's US staff who regularly test the cars in the most arduous of conditions – provide instructions on how to get the best out of each Jeep.

We watch as three Wranglers, each bearing a club banner, descend into the first stage of the course, churning dust into the air. "It's the first time that we're working directly with the Jeep clubs in Italy and Europe," adds Pallard, "usually they work on their own."

"We've got good connections here now though; a staff member in Turin has a family member who runs a famous dealership so we're now friends with all the clubs."

The intention, if the meet proves successful, is to host similar Camp Jeep events in different countries – and on a yearly basis.

After all, in an increasingly competitive and lucrative SUV market, and with the need to maintain distinction and justification for purchase, the logic behind hosting such events is clear. It allows Jeep, in an engaging and interesting fashion, to continue to build its relationship with current customers, and educate new buyers about its history and capabilities.

Next to us, a couple unfamiliar with Jeep clamber aboard a new Cherokee and head out on to the trails with an instructor, as the seemingly endless cycle of test drives continue.

"It's a good way to communicate the brand," says Pallard. "It's better to show these off in the countryside, rather than in dealerships."

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A lesson in off-road driving with World Rally Champion Miki Biasion
A lesson in off-roading with World Rally Champion Miki Biasion Ex-Lancia rally driver Massimo 'Miki' Biasion gets behind the wheel of a new Jeep Wrangler to show us just how you should drive off road

I'm talking to a Jeep representative when, over my left shoulder, a Grand Cherokee heaves over the crest of a hill – and solidly embeds itself in a hidden ditch.

There's lots of off-roading going on at the Camp Jeep event we're at, but it's usually confined to the trails surrounding the centre and not its car park.

The Grand Cherokee spins its wheels, throttle pinned to the floor and undertrays complaining at the abuse, before clambering its way to freedom and into its proper parking space.

An enthusiastic-looking fellow clambers out of the Jeep's cabin, shuts the door and bounds over to join us. He realises our glance is transferring to him, to the Jeep, and back again, trying to compute his somewhat unusual entrance.

"A shortcut," he says, grinning. The press officers introduce us; this is Massimo 'Miki' Biasion, the Italian two-time World Rally Champion. The man who drove legendary cars such as the Lancia 037, Delta Integrale and S4. The man who dominated Group A rallying in the late 1980s.

I'm somewhat overcome, but also slightly confused as to why he's at a Jeep event. He tells me it's because of the region's fantastic wine, cheese and prosciutto, and laughs.

"It's actually my first event with Jeep," he says. "I love off-road events, and have been a rally driver for many years and campaigned many cars. To be here and stay with off-road enthusiasts is a great opportunity."

Biasion, who lives in the north-east of Italy, appears impressed by the Grand Cherokee. "It's a limousine but it can go everywhere; the comfort and capability is unbelievable," he says.

He does a quick head count and, realising that there are only two journalists and one Jeep representative, asks if we'd like to come along for a ride. I can't say "yes" fast enough.

We jump into a Wrangler that's just returned from a lap of the trails around Camp Jeep. Biasion gets comfortable in his seat, fires up the engine and drives the Jeep briskly out of the parking area, wheels already scrabbling on the loose surface.

A marshal guides us into the trail's entrance – a sharp corner that leads down a steep hill. The surface is rocky, with lots of loose gravel and sand, and deep ditches loom either side of it. Put a wheel wrong at speed and you'd probably regret it. Even the instructors drive very sedately here, though, so I'm not expecting any drama.

Biasion, however, clearly has other ideas. We clear the marshal, the nose swings down, pointing into the valley, and he pins the throttle to the floor. The Jeep surges forwards, body weaving left and right, axles swinging wildly; I realise very quickly I'm going to have to brace myself against the roll cage a little more firmly.

Over the whine of the turbocharger, the roar of the diesel and the clatter of shrapnel hitting the underside of the Jeep, I manage to ask Biasion what his top tips are for off-road driving.

"You must drive a Jeep," he shouts, beaming, before sawing at the wheel and sending the Jeep into a graceful slide, arcing around the complete length of a corner.

"If you drive fast off road you lose time, though," says Biasion. "The trick is to follow the ground with the car and the wheels, drive very smoothly. If you try to push a little bit and the car starts to jump and shake, it's much more uncomfortable and usually slower."

He puts the Wrangler through a rut, causing it to bounce hard, and fights to get it pointing back in the right direction – demonstrating his point precisely.

"You have to make good use of the traction, too," he adds, "if you hurry and spin the wheels then you'll lose time." Biasion observes that this is where a lot of people go wrong in off-road hillclimbs too, making rushed, fast ascents – when they should instead take their time and crawl up.

We turn off on to one of the more aggressive tracks, slick with mud and covered in deep ruts. The Jeep representative, who's come along for the ride, points out that the traction control is still on. Biasion flicks the switch, squeezes the throttle and all four wheels spin wildly. This seems to please him, presumably because of the extra degree of control and flexibility, and he pushes on into the woods.

"In the mud you must use the brakes very gently, very smoothly," he observes. "Never lock the wheels; if you do, the mud packs into the tread in the tyres, then it's incredibly difficult to get any grip or traction."

The Jeep ploughs with gusto through the ruts, its speed constant, Biasion just making minor inputs to keep it on the right path. We clear the trail, making our way back on to the gravel section, and he opens the throttle wide again. Gravel is fired backwards at a vast rate of knots, the Wrangler lunges forwards, and the next series of corners is rapidly dispatched in a series of neatly linked drifts. This, I can't help thinking, is mad; this is an SUV, not a hatchback.

Camp Jeep 2014 report and gallery

"The electronics these days really help, though," says Biasion. "For example, if you're in dunes you can go anywhere in a new off-roader, but if you try to do the same without you'll get stuck every 10 metres.

"It's the same in snow, but people must understand that while four-wheel drive and electronic systems helps you go, they won't help you stop," he affirms. "If you don't have winter, or even all-season tyres, you won't be able to do anything. You can be the World Rally Champion, but if you don't have the proper tyres then it's dangerous."

A rally car this is not, but everything appears so precise, controlled and moderated that the ride is nothing but intoxicating and invigorating, rather than alarming – despite the severity of the terrain.

Our rapidly travelling Wrangler closes the distance on a new Renegade that is tiptoeing around the course. Biasion gets within a few feet of it and darts incisively left and right, looking for a gap, pushing closer and closer. It's clear that his competitive edge is still razor sharp.

He manages to get a few feet up the inside of it at one point, but there's simply not enough room. He beeps the horn once, waking the Renegade driver up; they promptly pull over slightly, Biasion guns the engine, waves thankfully and shouts "ciao" out of the window. The driver of the Renegade merrily waves back, despite now being enveloped in a cloud of dust from our rapidly accelerating Wrangler.

The Jeep storms down another gradient, up the next ascent and then – as it breaches the top of the hill – leaps into the air. Biasion keeps his foot in, the Jeep landing squarely and smoothly on the approach to the next hillock, and then repeats the process again. With the terrain, I think, not against it. Clearly he's been around this circuit before.

Suddenly he hammers on the brakes, the Jeep sliding on the loose surface. He pitches the now slowed Wrangler into a corner, and gently rolls past a marshal’s point placed just around the corner with the engine idling. He salutes, a slightly comical smile on his face, waits until they’re out of view and then, lo and behold, wrings the engine out for all it's worth.

We arrive back at the meeting point, adrenalin pumping and feeling all too inclined to ask if we can do that again – but we have to move on, and Biasion has other people to give rides to.

The grins and our vibrant demeanour make it clear that we've enjoyed ourselves, though, and we pour forth praise and thanks. Biasion nods appreciatively.

"It's a great thing to do because you're in nature and there's no traffic," he says. "You have to drive carefully and respect nature, though – drive using your head and intelligence. Drive aggressively and it won't end well."

There's just time for one more question: does he own a Lancia? The answer is, sadly, no – he has a Jeep and a Fiat Fremont.

In some respects, however, it doesn't come as a surprise; judging by the number of videos of him driving historic rally cars on YouTube, the frequent opportunities to drive them probably outweigh the need to own one.

Nevertheless, from this experience alone, it's clear his passion, enthusiasm and ability haven't faded one ounce.

"It's a good feeling, off-roading, isn't it?" he adds, as we turn to depart. "I love it."

Camp Jeep 2014 report and gallery

See Miki Biasion in action in his Lancia Delta S4 below

Cockpit comparison - Jaguar F-type versus Eurofighter Typhoon
Cockpit comparison - Jaguar F-type versus Eurofighter Typhoon Do sports cars really have cabins inspired by jet fighter cockpits, as some manufacturers imply? We ask the Eurofighter Typhoon designers for their verdict

How many times have you read a manufacturer describe the cabin of its new car as being “inspired by a fighter jet cockpit”? Virtually all sports car makers have trotted out that phrase at one time or another.

It’s a good marketing line, but what is actually meant by it? Does it mean that, to use the dreadful cliché, the controls fall readily to hand? That all the important instruments are in line of sight? Or what? Well, it’s time to put a cap on this nonsense.

I decide I will ring BAE Systems, maker of the Typhoon fighter, and ask if I can speak with the people who actually design fighter cockpits. Better still, perhaps I could bring a modern sports car for them to have a look at and get them to judge it for fighter cockpit-ness.

And so a couple of weeks later – thanks to the miraculous organisational skills of BAE PR man David Coates – photographer Stan Papior and I are thrashing up the M6 to BAE System’s Warton factory near Preston in a Jaguar F-type roadster. This is going to be a very good day out.

Head of the cockpit group is 49-year-old Miles Turner, who has been with BAE since leaving school but has been leading the cockpit team for the past three years. With him is colleague Paul Chesham, who’s 40 years old and studied aeronautical engineering at Loughborough and followed that up with an MSc in ergonomics.

To my amazement, the large open-plan office in which we meet Turner and Chesham is devoted to cockpit design, because the Typhoon’s interior is continually being upgraded and improved by the 28 boffins in the team.

We’re not able to sit in a real Typhoon cockpit, but we do have a Typhoon simulator and a mock-up cockpit that Turner and his colleagues use as a day-to-day tool. In the simulator, everything works as it does in the real aircraft.

Dear God, it looks complicated. In front of me are three screens, each surrounded by unmarked buttons. Between my legs is a joystick that’s bristling with buttons and switches. “The joystick,” explains Chesham, “has 130 separate functions. It didn’t have that many on the first Typhoons, but we’ve kept adding to it.”

The cockpit is snug but not uncomfortable. To each side of me, there’s a long panel containing switches and buttons which stretches behind my back so that I can’t even see some of the controls.

“The idea is that the primary controls or the most important ones are to the forefront and the less crucial ones are out of the way,” explains Turner. “The other key point is that we try to group functions together, such as communications and the radio controls.” Sure enough, I can vaguely recognise knobs and switches that work the radios.

Many of the switches and knobs have designs that look influenced more by Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts and Dolly Mixture than aviation’s history. “Because many of the controls are out of the pilot’s line of sight,” explains Chesham, “he has to be able to identify them quickly and accurately by feel.”

The three screens can each display a baffling amount of information, with the choice of which of them displays what being variable; for example, you could put information about the engines’ performance on any of the three screens.

The pilot can scroll across all the displays using a cursor controlled by a ‘coolie hat’ switch on the joystick. Turner and Chesham explain that flying the Typhoon is actually pretty straightforward. The tricky bit is operating all of the systems, and making this easier for the pilot is what their job is all about. 

The most obvious crossover between a fighter jet and a car is the head-up display, or HUD. The only difference is that in a car, you get speed, time and perhaps directions to the local chippy, whereas in the Typhoon, you’re presented with a huge amount of information spread across virtually the whole windscreen.

Target selection, interception details, speeds, times and a multitude of information can be displayed. Now I am beginning to understand why the selection process for fast jet pilots is so rigorous and why so few make the grade.

Time for Turner and Chesham to have a sit in our F-type. By chance, the week before coming up to Warton, I’d met Jaguar design boss Ian Callum and told him what we were up to. “Has the design of fighter cockpits influenced your work?” I asked. 

“No, but some of my designers talk about it,” Callum said. “But the switch that selects the driving mode in the F-type is the same design as the one in the Typhoon that selects ‘economy’ mode.”

A nice fit, but unfortunately it’s news to Turner and Chesham, because there is no such switch on the Typhoon. “The obvious difference between a car and a combat aircraft,” says Turner, “is that in a car, style takes preference over function. For us, it’s all about function and ergonomics.”

Both men agree that although the Jaguar’s cockpit looks great, it has virtually nothing in common with a fighter jet’s. And I’d lay money on them saying the same thing about the cabin of any other sports car.

There’s an interesting point to be made here: the modern car is getting more complicated, with manufacturers throwing more ‘infotainment’ features such as apps and internet access at drivers in what, I suspect, is an attempt to woo younger buyers. It is illegal to hold a phone handset to the ear but not to operate more and more complicated systems while on the move.

I suspect that today, there are far more accidents caused by eyes being inside the cabin rather than on the road than current statistics show. 

If the level of equipment and functions fitted to cars continues to increase, I reckon car interior designers will have to place a greater focus on ergonomics and function than on style. Mind you, there’s nothing unsexy about the Typhoon’s cockpit.

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Seat Leon ST FR 1.4 TSI ACT first drive review
Seat Leon ST FR 1.4 TSI ACT first drive review The Leon ST beats all competitors on style, and thanks to this new petrol engine is also remarkably efficient Seat’s Leon estate, equipped with the Volkswagen Group’s latest hi-tech 1.4 TSI petrol engine. The engine is already offered on VW and Audi models, and now finds its way into the Seat range.The engine replaces the previous 138bhp 1.4 TSI in the Leon range, adding cylinder-deactivation technology in the process. Power is up by 10bhp and performance is usefully improved, while economy is also up from 55mpg to 60.1mpg and CO2 emissions dropping from 122g/km to 109g/km.The engine is only offered in sporty FR spec and is available on all three Leon bodystyles. We’re testing the ST estate model here.

New Ford S-Max revealed - interview with Stefan Lamm
New Ford S-Max revealed - interview with Stefan Lamm Ford's exterior design boss says the second-generation S-Max will become a European flagship for the brand

As the first pictures of Ford's second-generation S-Max are revealed ahead of its Paris motor show debut next month, we talk to the firm's director of exterior design, Stefan Lamm, about the task of following up the best-selling original.

How big a challenge was it to create a successor to the S-Max?

It’s an important product for the brand, after inventing the segment in 2006. We’ve sold 400,000 since, and it still mixes sportiness, dynamism and value like nothing else on the market. So under this premise it was a challenge, particularly when the current car still looks so fresh.

Would you describe it as a big visual leap for Ford?

It’s very clearly part of the new design we showed with the Evos in 2011 and will introduce with the new Mondeo. But as it is a European model, we’ve been able to put even more Evos in it. The S-Max shows Ford still has expertise in white space vehicles. 

Why has the switchgear been reduced so much inside?

We’ve listened to feedback from our customers. We’ve overloaded centre consoles in the past, and are now simplifying it on our vehicles. Our interiors are now easier to use, they're simplified and more functional. 

The S-Max is a European model in a range of global Fords. Would it be fair to call it your flagship?

Yes, you could say the S-Max is Europe’s flagship. It’s our model with the highest conquest rate for sales. Customers love it as it's prestigious and fun to drive, and there’s nothing else like it.

Could the S-Max become a global car?

It’d be hard to imagine a US customer appreciating this type of car, as the need to cleverly put a lot of people in a small car is not applicable there as it is in Europe.

In China, the car is considered too expressive, and the one child policy means there is no demand for such cars. But tastes are changing so rapidly there and people react very quickly to trends, so the markets are getting closer. Traditional attitudes are changing.

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New Ford S-Max revealed ahead of Paris debut
New Ford S-Max revealed ahead of Paris debut Plush new S-Max to offer seven seats as standard when it goes on sale in the UK next summer, with prices starting from around £25,000

These are the first official pictures of the second-generation Ford S-Max, which is revealed here ahead of its planned debut at the Paris motor show next month.

Ford is promising an even sportier drive and a more premium cabin for the new model. Other highlights of the sleek new seven-seat MPV, famed for its involving drive in its first generation, include an all-new chassis, new engines, the option of four-wheel drive, and a more flexible interior.

It will reach the UK next summer, with prices due to start at around £25,000.

Underpinning the new S-Max is a new platform known as CD4 which is shared with the soon-to-launch Mondeo, Edge SUV and upcoming Galaxy replacement, which the new S-Max has been engineered alongside.

The chief program engineer for Ford’s large cars, Rolf Deges, says the new S-Max “strengthens the strengths of the old car, fixes the weaknesses and adds new technology”. 

“The fun to drive nature is one of these key strengths - with the sharp steering, agile handling and predictable, linear responses".

Despite the new S-Max broadly retaining the same dimensions inside and out as the model it replaces, there are no carried-over parts.

The MacPherson strut front suspension has been redesigned over the old S-Max, and a new integral link rear suspension system has been added. A new ZF-supplied electric steering system also features, while optional is a new ‘Advanced Front Steering’ set-up, a fully variable system similar to BMW’s Servotronic.

The petrol engine range includes a new 158bhp 1.5-litre Ecoboost unit hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox, and a 237bhp 2.0-litre Ecoboost with a conventional automatic.

On the diesel front, a new 2.0-litre TDCi unit with 118bhp, 148bhp or 178bhp is offered. A six-speed manual is standard with this engine, and a six-speed dual-clutch Powershift auto’ is optional on the 148bhp and 178bhp versions.

A fully flexible all-wheel drive system shared with the upcoming Mondeo and Edge is also offered with the two most potent diesel options. 

Ford of Europe’s design department has overseen the design of the S-Max, which unusually for Ford and its global car policy is very much still a European-focused product. Stefan Lamm, director of exterior design, said customers “would see the new Ford family look, but also the resemblance to the original S-Max” in the new car.

He added: “The car is a bit lower and with a higher beltline. We’ve moved the A-pillars back for a more premium and sporty profile, without impacting on the flexibility customers told us to keep. It looks more muscular and dynamic, and there’s less glass than on the current car to help make it look more upmarket and less van-like.”

The front-end design sports the latest Ford family face, first seen in production on the upcoming Mondeo after being previewed on 2011’s Evos coupe concept. Full LED lights with the ability to automatically dim certain sections as not to dazzle other road users are optional.

Two character lines run down the sides of the car, and the rear is visually widened by pronounced shoulders, slim horizontal taillights and a chrome bar in between.

Top-spec Titanium models, which account for up to 60 per cent of S-Max sales, also get a rear diffuser with integrated rear tailpipes, plus the optional of up to 19in alloys, as seen on this test car. An even plusher Vignale trim, previewed on Mondeo and S-Max concept cars, is likely to launch by the end of 2015. 

Inside, Lamm said the focus has been on making the S-Max “more luxurious and sophisticated, with premium materials, and simple, useful and easy to use technology”. 

Switchgear has been drastically reduced, with many functions carried out by an 8-inch touchscreen that runs Ford’s SYNC 2 infotainment system. The instrument panel is now digital. An electric parking brake is standard, which frees up more storage space.

UK-spec S-Maxes will all offer seven seats as standard. The three middle row seats all fold flat individually, and can be slid forwards and reclined to boost access to the two rear seat that fold into the boot floor. Rear passengers also get the option of their own air-con system.

New technology and options offered on the S-Max includes an autonomous braking function that can stop the car from speeds 112mph, a panoramic roof, and parking and lane keeping assist systems. 

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Roland Kruger announced as new boss of Infiniti
Roland Krüger announced as new boss of Infiniti Ex-senior manager and designer of BMW replaces departed boss Johan de Nysschen

Infiniti has named its replacement for departed boss Johan de Nysschen, who has joined Cadillac, as BMW's Roland Krüger.

In taking up the role of president of Infiniti, Krüger also becomes a senior vice-president of Nissan. Unlike de Nysschen, who worked more closely with Andy Palmer (who recently left his role as Nissan boss to join Aston Martin), Krüger will report directly to Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn as Infiniti aims to ramp up its assault on the premium sector.

Commenting on the new appointment, Ghosn said: “Roland Krüger has a consistent record of high performance in the premium automotive sector. He brings unique leadership skills that will accelerate Infiniti’s progress in the global premium market.”

Initially a designer at Mitsubishi, Krüger joined the BMW Group in 1998 and held several senior management roles at the company, including MD of its Asian business.

Infiniti aims to sell 500,000 units in 2020, which the company equates to a 10 per share of the global luxury market. Though traditionally strongest in the USA, Infiniti's HQ is now in Hong Kong, it has a European base in Switzerland, a new design centre opens in London next week, and manufacturing of the new Q30 compact crossover – expected to replace the QX70 as Infiniti UK's best-seller – will begin in Sunderland in 2015.

The brand now competes in 50 markets. While European sales for 2014 are set to reach 7000, the company plans to sell more than 50,000 units in 2018 by expanding its dealer network, introducing fresh powertrains such as the Q50's new 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, and entering additional premium segments, including four new models in the next four years.

Recognising the time required to build a premium brand, Infiniti Northern Europe boss Steve Oliver cited that 20 years that have elapsed since Audi joined the premium sector with the A4. "We're in that early gestation period," he said, before emphasising the need for steady, sustained growth rather than chasing huge volumes. Infiniti began selling in Europe in 2008.

Infiniti is planning to increase its UK dealer base from nine outlets to 25. UK sales in 2013 totalled just 385 vehicles, but stronger recent performance means estimates for 2014 are being pitched at a record 800 units.

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Toyota to display new crossover concept at Paris motor show
Toyota to display new crossover concept at Paris motor show Japanese manufacturer set to preview a proposed C-segment compact crossover that will utilise a hybrid powertrain

Toyota will present a new concept vehicle named C-HR at the Paris motor show next month. The vehicle will, says Toyota, reveal an "innovative vision for a compact crossover model".

The Japanese company goes on to say that "the C-HR concept combines a powerful new design language with an engaging driving experience and a hybrid powertrain".

Back in July a converted, high-riding version of the Toyota Auris was spied testing at the Nürburgring in Germany, and it seems logical to conclude that the C-HR concept will preview a production variant of the more rugged C-segment offering.

Such a car – which could take the Auris Cross name – would sit below the RAV4 compact SUV in the firm's line-up and is likely to be sold globally from 2017.

Although our spy photographs showed a car shrouded in a familiar Auris shape, it is believed that the test mule was assessing the new vehicle's underpinnings. Both two- and four-wheel-drive versions of the Auris Cross are expected to be made available.

The teaser image issued by Toyota suggests the Paris concept will have a more sporting appearance than the test car, with a more steeply raked rear section, a integrated roof spoiler and striking light clusters all visible.

The Paris show will also be the venue for the first European appearance of the finalised exterior design of Toyota's Fuel Cell Vehicle, which is due to be launched in Europe next year.

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Formula E's brave new world starts with a bang
Formula E's brave new world starts with a bang A dramatic last-lap accident between two cars fighting for the lead ensured the new electric racing series garnered plenty of publicity

If the weekend’s first-ever FIA Formula E race in Beijing taught us anything in absolute certainty, it’s that the new Dallara-built chassis is extremely tough.

Nick Heidfeld found that out first-hand after getting walloped by Nicolas Prost as he tried to overtake the Frenchman for the lead on the final corner of the final lap.

The contact pitched Heidfeld into a spin, and a temporary corner kerb acted as a ramp that launched his Venturi-entered car into the air. The German flipped upside down and smashed into the flimsy looking barrier that was in front of the decidedly less flimsy catch-fencing.

It was a scary accident. Heidfeld wriggled out of what was left of his car and jogged in the direction of Prost, who was wandering away from the scene of his crime with as much French nonchalance as he could muster in the circumstances.

Heidfeld looked ready to apply a solid right-hook to his aggressor, and no-one would have blamed him, but he showed his class in his restraint.

Prost initially denied responsibility, which was unsurprisingly not a view shared by the race stewards who handed him a grid penalty for the next race. Prost and Heidfeld, who are team-mates in the same endurance racing team, later used the healing medium of Twitter to make up.

Although it was far from the ideal start for either Heidfeld or Prost – one of whom was about to make history as the first Formula E winner, an honour which instead went to Lucas di Grassi – it ensured the new electric racing formula was plastered all over the papers and television news.

It was a shame the fight for victory ended that way, though, because it was shaping up for a tense end, the kind of climax the series organisers would have hoped for to prove the worth of their brave new concept.

With all the drivers having a limited amount of power to use, Heidfeld appeared to have eked out his car’s energy more effectively than Prost, who opened up a lead of more than three seconds at one stage of the race.

The possibility of using such divergent strategies could prove to be the Formula E championship’s trump card in future races – as long as at least one driver is prepared to go for broke things should get exciting in the closing laps.

Promising stuff, then, although it's clear the series is a work in progress. The format of mid-race car changes is going to take some getting used to, and some of the teams might struggle to get on the pace with the race format being condensed into just one day at most circuits. It's also quite odd to let the momentum peter out by having such a lengthy interval before the next race in Malaysia on 22 November.

On the other hand, it gives the championship organisers plenty of time to assess what went well and fix what didn’t – and for the Venturi team to stick Heidfeld’s battered car back together.

Our British manufacturers should make fewer supercars and more vans
Our British manufacturers should make less supercars and more vans Would there ever be scope for our nation's engineers and entrepreneurs to put their collective might into creating a fully British load-lugger?

I noticed the other day that Transport Minister Baroness Kramer announced that more than 1000 local authority vehicles, from buses to fire engines, will soon be cleaner and greener.

That’s a good thing of course. Apparently 17 local authorities have been awarded grants for a wide variety of cutting-edge, pollution-reducing technologies that will now be fitted to 1163 vehicles.

In addition, the Department for Transport also announced the allocation of an additional £50,000 of funding to help local authorities monitor the results of their clean technology projects.

Indeed, the Clean Vehicle Technology Fund adds up to £5m. But is that what we need to be doing, chucking more money at local authorities? They seem to be among the worst spenders of money in the country.

That’s a side issue, because what bothers me more than anything is that the buses, vans, police cars and ambulances used by our public services seem to be, by and large, built abroad. At the very least anything bought with tax payer’s money ought to be built here.

Several years ago a friend who used to rebuild cars for a living, so knew what was involved in making something, could not understand how this country didn’t make its own van. I know that Vauxhall does, but I am idealistically referring to a British-owned company.

I would not want to create another state-owned BL scenario because we know how that ended. A vehicle has to be good in its own right and commercially successful rather than state subsidised.

Maybe what I am suggesting is that the last thing I want to read about is yet another British car company making half-a-dozen bespoke pseudo-supercars that cost a fortune and won’t be around for the long haul.

So this is my call for our engineers and entrepreneurs to build a better van. Believe me if you do, they will come and buy it. Then the local authorities will be obliged to at least consider it.

So are you bothered about where the next British van is coming from?

Could Peugeot ever match Volkswagen in the eyes of car buyers?
Could Peugeot ever match Volkswagen in the eyes of car buyers? PSA chairman Carlos Tavares is confident that Peugeot can win customers over and become as renowned for reliability and quality as German brands

So here’s an interesting question. Do you think that Peugeot is on a par with Volkswagen? In other words, do you find the French brand equally desirable and making the same quality of cars?

Interestingly PSA’s chairman, Carlos Tavares, doesn’t think his company is quite there yet but reckons he can make it happen.

"My ambition is for Peugeots to be as good as Volkswagens and to sell at the same price," he told Autocar. "We have a great product, good brand values and great engineering and the facts will speak for themselves. Hopefully the stars will align and the customers will get it."

Maybe he has a point. The word is that recent models such as the Peugeot 2008 and the 308, given a fillip from winning the European Car of the Year award, are selling well and commanding good prices in dealers.

Warranty experts will also quietly tell you that even older models are also as reliable, if not more so, than the Germans.

So the big questions are these: will us customers ever ‘get it’ as Mr Tavares wants us too, however good the cars become? Will the French ever be renowned for reliability and quality even if the data supports the theory? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. 

Mini five-door first drive review
Mini five-door first drive review New five-door Mini widens the car's appeal, but this particular variant is thwarted by the presence of more practical, cheaper rivals It is, Mini says, the first Mini hatchback with five doors. That might come as some surprise to those of you who’ve seen a Countryman, but Mini says: “Ah, we think you’ll find that’s a crossover or SUV, not a hatchback.”Hmm. Let’s suspend reality for a moment and pretend that’s true and this also becomes the first Mini hatch – the world’s most famous small car – to measure more than four metres in length. It’s also quite an expensive Mini hatch. The addition of two doors brings with it a £600 increase over the three-door Mini.The range’s starting price is therefore £14,350. In the Cooper SD form you see here – which we’re trying because it’s a variant we haven’t tried before, and because it was what was made available to us – the asking price is £20,050; or £21,675 with the auto gearbox that was also fitted. That’s demanding territory for a Mini. It’s pushing into Volkswagen Golf territory.Of the five-door’s additional 16cm length over a three-door Mini, 7cm has gone into the wheelbase and is channelled straight to rear legroom. The front cabin remains the same.The rest of the length goes behind the rear wheels, making luggage volume 278 litres – up by 67 litres. For the record, a Volkswagen Polo has a 280-litre boot within its 3972mm length. A Golf 380 litres within 4255mm.

Evanta Motors reveals racing car plans
Evanta Motors reveals racing car plans New British car company to collaborate with another vehicle manufacturer on motorsport project

Evanta Motors boss Ant Anstead has announced plans to build a new racing car, which is scheduled to be unveiled at the Geneva motor show next year.

Speaking to Autocar at the Goodwood Revival, where the company took the wraps off its new Barchetta road car, Anstead said he wanted his firm to “provide a service for the gentleman racer”.

The new competition car will be produced in collaboration with another vehicle manufacturer, and has already been accepted to compete in an existing race series. Anstead says a one-make racing series exclusively featuring the car is also under consideration.

While Anstead wouldn’t be drawn on any technical details, it’s possible the new car will use the same 450bhp 6.2-litre V8 engine as the Barchetta.

Work on the project is currently in the design stages, but the model is scheduled to be revealed alongside a new GT concept road car at the Geneva show next March. 

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Video: new Audi TT S tested
Video: new Audi TT S tested The new TT S is a undoubtedly a fast, capable and upmarket coupé – but does it have any driver appeal? Matt Prior finds out

Is the new Audi TT S more of an engaging, exciting proposition than its predecessor? Matt Prior gets behind the wheel to find out.

Read the first drive of the new Audi TT S.

BTCC 2014 race report - highlights from Rockingham
Colin Turkington increases his Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship lead in an action-packed day of racing at Rockingham

Watch as Colin Turkington dominates the day's racing, at the Rockingham race circuit, and maintains his grip on the championship's number one spot.

Anyone noticed how busy our roads have become, post recession?
Anyone noticed how busy our roads have become, post recession? Sales of new cars are up in Britain, and so is traffic congestion. Sutcliffe believes there is a somewhat gruesome solution

I will no doubt be shot down in flames, having been thrown to the lions and then set on fire for what I am about to write next but... I'm beginning to wish the ruddy recession had never ended.

Why? Because since our beloved economy turned the corner and everything has now officially begun to look all nice and fluffy again financially, more and more people are buying and driving around in their cars than ever before – because why else are there SO MANY CARS ON OUR ROADS NOWADAYS?

I mean what the heck has happened to traffic congestion during the 12 months since the recession was declared over?

Why does the western half of the M25 grind to a halt pretty much every time I use it nowadays, seemingly no matter what time of day it is. And why do all journeys now seem to take twice as long as they did just a couple of years ago?

Why? Because the recession ended.

Suddenly, and collectively, we have become less worried about losing our jobs, and more worried about what the neighbours might think, what with that eight-year-old Ford Focus cluttering up the drive. So collectively we have all gone out and bought more cars, each of which is making our roads feel more crowded, and our lives – certainly while trying to get anywhere on those roads – more stressful.

To get anywhere by road nowadays takes far longer than it did in the depth of the recession, which means it has become a far less efficient way of travelling, ironically. And so the merry-go-round goes round. Until it will all come grinding to a halt once again when the next recession kicks off.

And when it does, if all else fails, remember to remember but one thing; remember to relish those empty roads when they appear again. Because it won't be long before the next recession ends, and then the M25 and all the other major roads in the UK will once again begin feel like the road around the Arc de Triomphe on a Friday night.

Don't say I didn't tell you so.

DS brand to drop Citroën badge in Europe in 2015
DS brand to drop Citroën badge in Europe in 2015 The French manufacturer's premium brand will stand alone from next year in a bid to match the appeal and exclusivity of Audi by 2020

The DS brand will drop the Citroën badge in Europe next year and aims to be challenging Audi by 2020, according to PSA chairman Carlos Tavares.

Speaking to Autocar Tavares said: "From 2015 DS will be disconnected from Citroën. We don't need to have separate platforms, or even separate dealers, but we will have separate manufacturing and engineering standards".

The aim is to match the appeal and exclusivity of Audi by the next decade. "DS can be an Audi rival by 2020. The products in the pipeline are extremely exciting but we are not just going into premium as we're not going to be fighting the Germans with the same weapons.

"We want to convey a French sophistication, trendiness and the French way of life. The Germans can't do this and we'll see some concept cars that will back this up."

DS brand boss Yves Bonnefort has already admitted that the company will expand from three to six models in the coming few years, including a luxury saloon for China, the DS9, an SUV and, possibly a Fiat 500 rival for Europe.

At next month's Paris motor show it will unveil the Devine DS show car, previewing a new look. Tavares, however, is keen to stress that the brand won't be looking for Audi-style sales volumes.

"We have to be patient about sales and I don't want to measure success in this way. We'll measure it in per unit profit and making huge margins. This is a long run 20 to 30 year story," he said.

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2014 Porsche Cayenne Turbo first drive review
2014 Porsche Cayenne Turbo first drive review Steroidal SUV packs more power, more torque and the kind of dynamic ability that would leave many sports cars trailing The new Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and a proper piece of work it is, too. Now in its 12th year of production and fourth model incarnation, the Cayenne has become Porsche's most lucrative vehicle by far in the decade-and-a-bit that it's been on sale.The Turbo has long stood proudly at the top of the family tree, which is why Porsche tends not to skimp on anything whenever a new version appears.This latest model is no exception. It has more power, more torque and more performance than ever before, plus a touch less weight to carry. Its twin-turbo V8 engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox are more efficient than ever and the car is therefore faster but more economical than any previous Turbo.In most eyes it also looks better than ever, thanks to a raft of styling updates front and rear. These include new LED lights at the back, a more sloping roofline and a shallower but more potent looking grille at the front. Together these make the new Turbo look wider and more purposeful, says Porsche, even though at 2185kg it's actually a fraction less heavy than the previous model.The suspension has been extensively modified to deliver yet more control on and off road, and at high and low speed thanks to software alterations and the fitment of new four-piece bushes front and rear.Air suspension is standard and can be raised or lowered to aid off road flexibility, claims Porsche. More realistically, however, this enables a Turbo driver to lower the ride height of their leviathan by around half a metre to make loading the shopping that much easier.Inside, the new Cayenne Turbo's mix of quality, technology, logistics and architecture is hard to fault. Same goes for its packaging, the rear seats having been redesigned to afford more comfort and a better view forwards, the boot being as good as it gets in terms of size and shape within this class.

Goodwood Revival 2014 show gallery - updated
Goodwood Revival 2014 show gallery - updated Glorious Goodwood stepped back in time last weekend for its retro-themed motoring festival, where some of the rarest classic cars in the country stood alongside plenty of new metal

Goodwood felt like a time capsule last weekend as the heritage-themed Revival took hold at the iconic motoring circuit in West Sussex.

Celebrating the heyday of British motorsport throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s, the Revival offers visitors the chance to see some of the rarest and most exotic cars in the world.

How to prepare a Ford GT40 for the Goodwood Revival

The Revival, now in its 17th year, had a number of important motoring anniversaries to mark. First up was the 50th anniversary of Sir Jackie Stewart's breakthrough Formula 3 test drive in 1964. There was also a special Lavant Cup race, planned to help mark the 60th anniversary of the Jaguar D-type.

Maserati continued its centenary celebrations there too, with a collection of pristine 250F cars on display.

New cars are largely confined to the Earls Court motor show, with the likes of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, BMW i8, Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air and McLaren P1 all featured.

Jaguar's Lightweight E-type – which made its debut at Pebble beach earlier this summer – also received its European debut.

Elsewhere, the Revival also played host to a completely new sports car called the Evanta Barchetta. The 450bhp, V8-powered sports car costs from £125,000, with first orders taken at the show. Its makers say the design is inspired by the retro look of 1950s racers and just 99 will be made.

The Revival always feels unique in that the vast majority of visitors play their part in making its time-travel effect feel real. Most dress up in fashion from the relevant eras, and are supported by an army of actors which bring the Goodwood estate to life. Laurel and Hardy, James Bond, the Beatles – they were all there.

Click through the gallery above to see more pictures of the Goodwood Revival, and let us know your favourites in the comments section below.

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Facelifted Mercedes-Benz B-class revealed
Facelifted Mercedes-Benz B-class revealed Subtle styling tweaks and revised engines underpin changes to Stuttgart’s popular MPV

Mercedes-Benz has revealed a facelifted version of the second-generation B-class ahead of a planned public debut for the five-seat MPV at the upcoming Paris motor show.

Set for UK delivery early next year, the refreshed B-class receives a range of mild exterior styling changes, highly quality interior appointments and a more efficient engines, including a revised version of the Renault-supplied 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel unit that provides the B180 CDI Blue Efficiency with combined cycle consumption and average CO2 emissions that better the outgoing model by 4.2mpg and 4g/km at an impressive 78.5mpg and 94g/km in standard six-speed manual guise.

The highlight of the facelifted line-up is the B-class Electric Drive – a car developed and engineered by Mercedes-Benz in close co-operation with California electric car specialist, Tesla.

Powered by a synchronous electric motor developing 177bhp and 251lb ft of torque, Mercedes-Benz’s first true series production electric car is claimed to provide 0-62mph acceleration in 7.9sec and a top speed limited to 100mph.

Set to rival the BMW i3 and recently introduced Volkswagen eGolf when it goes on sale in the UK with other models during the first quarter of 2015, the B-class Electric Drive uses a 16.6kWh lithium ion battery that is claimed to provide it with a range of 124 miles.

All up, the battery and its ancillaries add some 200kg to the kerb weight, taking it up to 1650kg. By comparison, the i3 tips the scales at a comparatively lightweight 1195kg while the e-Golf is claimed to weigh 1510kg.

Among the stylistic changes brought to the B-class is a new front bumper with larger air ducts for more efficient engine bay cooling, a revised grille and daytime running lamps integrated into the headlamps assembly rather than lower down on the bumper as before.  Buyers can choose to option the new car with LED headlamps, although they are not available on the B-class Electric Drive.

Mercedes-Benz's design team has also tidied up the rear with altered tail lamps graphics and a deeper bumper that houses trapezoidal shaped tail pipes, as seen on the German car maker’s more expensive models.

Despite the changes, Mercedes-Benz says the B-class continues to set the standard in terms of aerodynamic efficiency in its class, with the B180 CDI Blue Efficiency boasting a drag co-efficient of 0.25.

Inside, the new B-class receives updated appointments, equipment and safety equipment, including a new standard 8.0 inch free standing monitor, optional keyless entry and a revised attention assist system that now monitors driver fatigue within an extended speed range from 37 to 124mph and uses a five-stage display.

The B-class will continue to be sold exclusively with four-cylinder engines. On the petrol side they range from a 120bhp 1.6-litre on the B180 through to a 208bhp 2.0-litre with the B250. The diesel line-up starts with an 89bhp 1.6-litre on the B160 CDI and progresses through to a 175bhp 2.2-litre in the B220 CDI. Gearbox choices include a standard six-speed manual or optional seven speed dual clutch unit.

In a further development, a total of four facelifted B-class models – the 181bhp 2.0-litre B220, 208bhp 2.0-litre B250, 134bhp B200 CDI and 174bhp B220 CDI – will be sold with optional 4Matic four-wheel drive.

Since its launch in 2011, the second-generation B-class has garnered more than 350,000 sales worldwide.

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Skoda Fabia estate spotted ahead of Paris reveal
Skoda Fabia estate enters final development ahead of Paris reveal Third-generation Fabia estate set to be unveiled at the Paris motor show; sales expected to start in October ahead of deliveries in mid-2015

The estate version of the new third-generation Skoda Fabia, which is due to be revealed at the Paris motor show next month, has been spotted undergoing development tests.

Skoda's new compact estate will share the same styling as the recently revealed Fabia hatchback. The same larger corporate front grille with prominent Skoda badging should feature, as well as revised light clusters at the front and rear.

Its larger proportions should extend luggage capacity well beyond the 330 litres seats-up storage offered by the new hatchback, and could well build on the maximum of 1605 litres in the older Fabia estate.

Engine and transmission options will be shared with the hatchback, meaning a range of turbocharged 1.2-litre four-cylinder units developing between 89bhp and 109bhp. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit found in the VW Up and Skoda Citigo should also be offered.

Trim levels and options should also carry over unchanged from the hatch, as should the option of a 15mm lower chassis for improved handling.

Given that the current Fabia estate commands a £1500 premium over the equivalent supermini, expect prices for the new model to start at just over £11,500.

Customers should be able to order the new Fabia estate, as well as the hatchback, in October. The first deliveries are expected towards the middle of next year.

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Infiniti Q50 2.0t Sport first drive review
Infiniti Q50 2.0t Sport first drive review New Infiniti Q50 suffers from too much weight and not enough dynamic edge to let its fine new engine shine as brightly as it might The new auto-only, 208bhp 2.0 turbo petrol version of Infiniti's Q50 compact saloon.It joins existing £28,000-plus 2.2-litre diesel and £40,000-plus performance hybrid variants, and continues the brand's quickening assault on the most fruitful prestige segments by slotting in alongside the usual German stalwarts.Unlike the diesel, there's no entry-level SE spec – only £31,775 Premium and, tested here, £34,125 Sport. That makes it £145 less expensive than equivalent diesel Q50s and pits the Sport against the £195-pricier, 242bhp BMW 328i M Sport auto.It also faces rivalry from the £2280-cheaper, 181bhp Mercedes C200 AMG Line auto, with which it shares its spangly new US-built engine and familiar seven-speed transmission.While the Q50 is closer in size to 3-series and C-class, the aged Nissan 'FM' platform beneath it means kerb weight falls uneasily into 5-series and E-class territory.A penalty of 227kg over the C200 means both cars reach 62mph in just over seven seconds, despite the Infiniti's higher output. The 328i takes just 5.9sec, yet matches the Q50's economy.

Porsche Cayman GTS UK first drive review
Porsche Cayman GTS UK first drive review Staggeringly precise, flatteringly controllable, totally immersive, and now also that little bit quicker. The best just got better The Porsche Cayman GTS is the new top-of-the-pile version of the firm’s mid-engined two-seat sports coupe. And there has never been a quicker or more powerful one.Even the stripped-out, diamond-hard 2011 Cayman R made do with 11bhp and 7lb ft less than this, and took four tenths longer to hit 62mph. None of which really helps classify this wonderful introduction, because despite all that, the Cayman GTS isn’t a replacement for the old ‘R’.While the latter was a fairly short-lived trackday hell-raiser with aluminium doors and a standard specification that chucked out the radio, the air conditioning and even the interior doorhandles, the former is a simpler and more livable prospect. It gets more standard equipment, more power and a more focussed dynamic setup than a normal ‘S’ – and it costs more than the old ‘R’ did.Over and above ‘S’ specification, the GTS adds 20in alloy wheels, a retuned PASM adaptively damped suspension setup with 10mm taken out of the normal ride height, Porsche’s Sport Chrono package with dynamic engine mounts, sports seats ‘plus’, bi-xenon cornering headlights, a sports exhaust, special bumper styling, a new rear spoiler and a tastier-looking steering wheel.For that, as well as the revisions to the cylinder head that produces the additional 15bhp and 7lb ft, Porsche charges a premium of just under £7k. But add as much of that as possible as optional kit on a Cayman S and you’ll end up within just £800 of the Cayman GTS’ price anyway.

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