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

Is Land Rover leaving behind its core market with the Discovery Sport?
Is Land Rover leaving behind its core market with the Discovery Sport With prices for the new seven-seat SUV starting north of £30,000, Land Rover could be at risk of alienating some of its customer base

Just in case you’re still confused, the new Land Rover Discovery Sport is the replacement for the Freelander

Why have they axed such a popular name? Because it was only ever popular in the UK. In key markets like the USA and China it has no traction whatsoever.

Aligning the ‘family man’s’ Land Rover to the Discovery family is rather a smart move too. Not least because it extracts this model from the potentially overpowering shadows of the hugely successful Evoque

The Disco Sport certainly doesn’t look or feel like a dowdier version of the baby Range Rover. It’s also got the advantage of having a brilliantly packaged third row of seats.

One question will be asked of the Disco Sport though. With prices now starting the wrong side of £30k, is Land Rover in danger of leaving behind what used to be the Freelander’s core audience?

Clearly this is the route to profitability and cementing yourself as a premium brand (and no question Land Rover is one) but disenfranchising even those who aspire to buying one could be dicey. Especially when Audi and BMW SUVs can be bought for thousands less. 

Let’s hope we’re wrong on that one and in the meantime celebrate another great looking, world class Land Rover. 

Read more about the Land Rover Discovery Sport

Read Autocar's interview with the men who made the Discovery Sport

Read Autocar's first ride in the Discovery Sport

New Land Rover Discovery Sport unveiled
New Land Rover Discovery Sport revealed Seven-seat Discovery Sport SUV revealed ahead of January launch; set to go on sale for £32,395

This is the new Land Rover Discovery Sport, the long-awaited compact SUV model that finally reveals the firm’s plans for a replacement for the entry-level Freelander.

Following the towering success of the Range Rover Evoque, which has trebled the company’s sales expectations ever since its launch in 2011, Land Rover has also decided to revolutionise its Halewood stablemate, which is almost identical under the skin.

The Discovery Sport – which opens for orders in January with deliveries expected during Q2 of next year – has been comprehensively redesigned and lengthened compared with the Freelander, with new rear suspension and a ‘five-plus-two’ seating format.

It will be packed with technology, including a new infotainment system that will spread through the range and a new kind of exterior pedestrian airbag on the bonnet. 

Land Rover believes that it will attract both the Freelander faithful and a new generation of buyers who wouldn’t have considered a Discovery before.

With a four-level range starting at £32,395 and reaching into the lower £40,000s, the new Sport is the first member of an emerging new-generation Discovery family whose incumbents will lay special emphasis on SUV practicality and stand between the company’s two other emerging model pillars: the rugged Defender family and luxurious Range Rover line-up.  

DESIGN

The Discovery Sport draws plenty of design influence from the Discovery Vision concept, which was shown in New York in April and is sure to also influence the forthcoming Discovery 4 replacement. Although it is 80mm longer than the Freelander and a little lower, the Sport still looks compact but less upright and boxy, and its body sections are fuller. 

Design boss Gerry McGovern calls it the pioneering model in a forthcoming generation of Discoverys that aim to show that premium positioning can be combined with practicality without unhappy compromises in either direction. 

McGovern claims that he’s especially proud of the Sport’s dynamic shape – the way that its ‘fast’ clamshell bonnet works with well raked screens front and rear, a rising beltline, a gently descending roofline (although not enough to compromise interior headroom) and a carefully developed rear spoiler that cuts drag and is also able to keep the rear screen clean in murky weather. 

The Sport shape has been optimised aerodynamically. The frontal area has been carefully controlled (the Sport is 15mm lower overall than the Freelander) and the drag factor, decent for an SUV at 0.36, has been refined both by computer techniques and authentic wind tunnel testing.

Inside the Sport, there’s a sumptuous but unthreatening interior (“premium but not precious” is McGovern’s description). It is reminiscent of other modern Land Rovers in the way that it emphasises strong vertical lines via a prominent centre console, which is nevertheless a little lower and more careful with space than that of the Range Rover Sport

Elsewhere, the accent is on careful packaging that, with a versatile seating system, brings seven-seat capability to every British buyer. The instrument layout is traditional – two analogue dials separated by a five-inch info screen) – but the quality of materials is high and top models have double-stitched leather trim to further boost the premium feel.

In the centre of the dashboard, a new eight-inch screen governs an all-new infotainment system that is expected gradually to flow through the whole range.

As well as handling the usual audio and navigation functions, it provides a hub for a new set of InControl apps that, for now, can provide vehicle tracking, access to emergency services and an in-car 3G hotspot. 

Further back in the car, the second row of seating moves backwards or forwards by 160mm – allowing, at maximum, as much second-row legroom as a Range Rover. However, engineers emphasise that the third row best suits children of 13 or younger, although adults can use them at a pinch and entry/egress has been tested for adults of all sizes. 

With the third-row seats folded into the boot floor, load space is cavernous. Even with the third row erected, it is surprisingly spacious, yet every Sport has space for a compact spare wheel.

BODY AND CHASSIS

Like the Evoque, the Discovery Sport has a steel monocoque basic structure, but the engineers have done their best to improve rigidity and contain weight by increasing the use of high-strength steel. They’ve also followed a general Jaguar Land Rover trend by using aluminium for the Sport’s roof, wings, bonnet and tailgate.

The Sport is 4590mm long – 91mm longer overall and 80mm longer in the wheelbase than the Freelander. That seems relatively little growth in bulk given the impressive space increases in both the boot and rear compartments.

Land Rover’s director of programmes, Murray Dietsch, says engineers heeded calls from Freelander owners to provide more space in both areas. This required them to design both a new chassis/body structure from the centre pillars back, and the new multi-link suspension that eliminates the space-sapping suspension towers of the previous system. 

Like the existing strut front suspension, the new coil-sprung multi-link rear layout uses forged aluminium knuckles and links to save weight.

As a result of these and many other weight control measures, this new seven-seat SUV has a kerb weight of 1817kg – about the same as the slightly smaller, less spacious Freelander and a cool 800-900kg less than that of the ‘grown-up’ Discovery. 

The Sport’s new chassis package includes improved disc brakes all round, a new variable-ratio electric power steering system, the option of an autonomous emergency braking system (it sees obstacles that you don’t) and a new external airbag that aims to reduce the injuries of pedestrians thrown on to the bonnet in an accident.

The Sport also gets an enhanced Terrain Response system that makes the Sport “extremely good” in off-road situations, even compared with its big brothers in the range.

According to Dietsch, the Sport feels nimbler to drive than the Freelander, mostly because of its more sophisticated, more compliant rear suspension. “It rides like a Discovery should,” he says, “with the planted, stable feel the larger model has. But the fact that it’s so much lighter than Discovery 4 means it feels far more agile. But don’t just label it a sportier Discovery; it has a unique character of its own.” 

POWERTRAINS

From its UK launch in January, the Discovery Sport will be available with just one engine – the 188bhp 2.2 SD4 diesel also used by Peugeot-Citroën and Ford – and with four-wheel drive only. However, buyers can at least choose between a nine-speed ZF automatic and a six-speed manual gearbox. 

Later in 2015 – Land Rover isn’t saying precisely when – the Sport will get JLR’s all-new Wolverhampton-built diesel, badged ED4 and evidently good for about 150bhp in entry-level guise from its new Ingenium engine family, destined first for the new Jaguar XE.

The most frugal ED4 version will emit just 119g/km. At that stage, there will be two-wheel-drive versions of the Discovery Sport that, based on Evoque figures, should also shave 80kg off the Sport’s kerb weight. ED4-powered versions of the Discovery Sport will be priced below £30,000.

MARKETING

When the Discovery Sport hits the market on 22 January, there will be four trim levels: SE, SE Tech, HSE and HSE Luxury. The most luxurious will offer the same depth of equipment as the ritziest Range Rover. At that stage, you’ll still be able to buy a Freelander, but production will be about to end. 

By January, two of Land Rover’s three ‘model pillars’ – Discovery and Range Rover – will have started to take shape. Other models in each range are planned, but Land Rover will at this point also turn its attentions to the new Defender.

Read Autocar's preview of the Discovery Sport with the men who made it

Blog: Is Land Rover leaving behind its core customers?

Read Autocar's first ride in the Discovery Sport

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Land Rover Discovery Sport - first ride
Land Rover Discovery Sport - first ride We ride with Jaguar Land Rover's stability control system engineers to gain an insight into why the new Discovery is called the 'Sport'

In the Dolomites mountain range, where switchbacks and steep ascents and descents are myriad, Land Rover has been tuning its new SUV.

Our first on-road experience of the new seven-seat Discovery Sport is with Karl Richards, principal engineer of stability control systems and Terrain Response at Jaguar Land Rover.

Richards has worked at Land Rover since 1997; initially he worked on the Freelander and helped develop its innovative hill descent control system. "I've worked on everything on that platform since; I then went onto the Freelander II and the Evoque," he says.

The Discovery Sport prototypes being trialled here are near-production ready examples, but with partially stripped interiors, camouflage and roll cages for safety.

There's also some additional switchgear and connections inside, allowing the engineers to disable and directly interface with the car's electronic systems.

New Land Rover Discovery Sport revealed

With the car warmed up, and another development Discovery Sport following behind, we head out on to the winding Giau pass – where the altitude of the road peaks at 7336 feet.

“A lot of stuff we’re doing here is dynamic driving,” says Richards, as he flings the Sport with vigour into the first of many hairpins, “where a lot of the stability functions come together.”

A comprehensive list of systems has to work in unison to ensure the Sport performs as expected. The ABS activates into the corner, the DSC operates through it, particularly if you’ve got some understeer, torque vectoring by braking works to aid turn-in and the traction control fires up coming out.

Much to my surprise, the Sport doesn’t appear to protest at this hard and fast cornering treatment. It seems to respond swiftly to control inputs, understeer appears minimal and – despite the steep descents and repeated heavy braking – there’s little sign of any fade.

Blog: Is Land Rover leaving behind its core market with the Discovery Sport?

“Our goal is to make sure that whoever drives it will find it rewarding – and that all of the on-board systems will help them,” says Richards. “We have to make sure the software copes really well. It allows us to add character and flavour to the car and to make it exciting, while still ensuring it’s safe.”

This Discovery feels like it lives up to its ‘Sport’ moniker far more than I initially expected. What’s most notable is its ride and poise. It’s much firmer than predicted, although not to an uncomfortable extent, and body roll is minimal.

“I have a lot of faith and confidence in it,” says Richards. “It’s been one of the biggest targets: making sure it’s consistent and predictable and does what you want.”

Land Rover hasn't left the off-road element of the Discovery Sport unattended though. Although the company has benchmarked the Discovery Sport against the likes of the Porsche Macan, BMW X3 and Audi Q3, the fact that this is a Discovery has clearly not been forgotten.

“To get the green Land Rover badge it has to perform properly off road,” notes Richards. “It's been challenging making sure that the off-road capabilities are there but we've some clever technology and software that helps us meet those targets.”

How the new Land Rover Discovery Sport was designed

We experience both petrol and diesel-powered examples, each equipped with a nine-speed ZF transmission. Both feel suitably fast and the transmission, despite being worked hard in the rapidly changing terrain, does a fine job of selecting the right ratio.

Traction rarely proves an issue, with the four-wheel-drive system shuffling power around with apparent ease, and effortless, quick progress is made over the tight, torturous and hilly roads. The overall impression is of a very surefooted and competent SUV.

The prototypes have also proven reliable, Richards says. “We’ve driven these cars 1000 miles in a day, then driven them in a spirited fashion around here for a week, then driven them to Belgium. Then you can go to the ’Ring, then do a couple of laps flat out. That’s the robustness of them,” he adds.

“We are making sure the customer finds no fault,” states Richards. Those customers, he thinks, will be people who want a car that offers performance, practicality, and a sense of adventure – and want to know that they've a car that's going to do the job wherever they go.

After all, many families are now looking to have one car that will tick all the boxes and suit all conditions. The Discovery Sport, with its seven seats, its plethora of advanced technology, potential driver appeal and off-road credentials, looks well set to embody those requirements.

“It has to do everything – on-road and off-road – well,” concludes Richards, “otherwise we've failed.”

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How the new Land Rover Discovery Sport was designed
Building the new Land Rover Discovery Sport by the men who did it We talk to Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern and project director Murray Dietsch about the journey Land Rover's new seven-seat SUV has taken from concept to production

Land Rover’s design boss, Gerry McGovern, says that with the new Discovery Sport his designers set out to create a luxurious environment with “unparalleled levels of versatility”.

We talked to McGovern about the thought processes, design ideas and reasoning behind the new seven-seat Land Rover Discovery Sport:

What takes precedence in the Discovery Sport, great design or great capability?   

"I’d say the capability was our killer priority. Others have great design, but Land Rovers have always had class leading functionality and always will. The big trick is in putting the two things together well. We’ve spent four years working out the best way to do it."

What were the biggest design challenges?

"The Discovery Sport had to be bigger than a Freelander, but it also needed a sporty silhouette that disguised a cavernous interior. That was a pretty hard thing to do.

"What’s more, it had to look like it was capable of what it can do, which can be difficult with an off-roader whose capabilities are as broad as this one. The design’s got to be embedded in the car. It can’t just be the icing on the cake."

Did that mean you had to make this big-selling model more generalist than other Land Rovers?

"We discussed that aspect a lot. You don’t want to lose your design roots, but equally, there’s no point producing a “Marmite” design and end up not selling enough cars. We opted to give the Discovery Sport a good deal of universal appeal; to make it look really good but try also to convey that it was really capable."

Does that mean future full-size Discoverys will be more generalist? 

"Not necessarily. Their styling has always been quite polarising, yet they’ve been successful in the market. We did try expressing Discovery 4 values in a Sport, but it didn’t really work. So, since there had never been a Discovery in this size before, we felt we had permission to jump away a bit."

Murray Dietsch, Land Rover’s director of programmes, has the major responsibility of replacing Land Rover’s million-selling Freelander with a Discovery Sport that customers will like even better. He explains the key steps:

How did you decide how to change the Freelander?

"First of all, we took a long look at what the customers needed. The first thing we learned was that it wasn’t going to be so easy beating the Freelander: we’re talking about a model that scored 47,000 sales in 2008, its best year.

"But we decided our customers needed something with a bit more capability, and a bit more room – but was still compact. That was the recipe."

Which are the key changes?

"I believe it’s two things, the new rear suspension and the packaging, and one was a driver for the other. We added only 91mm to the total length of a Freelander – which means we’re still 39mm shorter than a five-seat Audi Q5, which is a pretty good benchmark – yet we have five-plus-two seating, plus class-leading boot space. We think it’s a great formula."

Why was the new rear suspension so important?

"Two reasons: first, it removed the space-limiting suspension towers needed by the old strut-type suspension from the boot space, which made a world of difference. Second, it improved the way the car drives, both on and off-road."

So this isn’t just a drive-to-school model, then?

"Far from it. It’ll certainly drive to school better than most – and it certainly has the accommodation for the job – but we think it’s better off-road that either a Freelander or an Evoque, for two reasons.

"The Evoque’s more attuned to the road, as you might expect, and the latest developments to Terrain Response mean it maintains traction and controls the wheels in low-traction situations even better than previous versions. It’s a good 4x4 – even against our most capable models."

Read more about the Land Rover Discovery Sport

Blog: Is Land Rover leaving behind its core customers?

Read Autocar's first ride in the new Discovery Sport

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Volkswagen Golf GTE first drive review
Volkswagen Golf GTE first drive review New GTE offers the best blend of economy and performance in the Golf range, but could do with more boot space and a lower price Following the introduction of various petrol, diesel, natural gas and pure electric versions over the past two years, Volkswagen has added a new plug-in petrol-electric hybrid variant of the seventh-generation Golf to its line-up.The new car, which opens for orders in the UK in November, carries the name GTE – a nomenclature that Volkswagen suggests hints it is more than just a fuel miser but a genuinely sporting model in the mould of the Golf GTI and GTD.The sister car to the Audi A3 e-tron, with which it shares its hi-tech driveline, the Golf GTE is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder direct injection petrol engine and a synchronous electric motor mounted within the forward section of the gearbox. Together, they provide a combined system output of 204bhp and 258lb ft of torque.The combined reserves are channeled to the front wheels via a specially adapted version of Volkswagen’s six-speed dual shift (double clutch) gearbox known as the DQ400. It provides the driver with the choice of five modes: E-mode, GTE mode, battery hold, battery charge and hybrid.Depending on the mode that is chosen, the gearbox is either decoupled from the engine to provide drag free coasting or recuperates kinetic energy on a trailing throttle, thereby ensuring the maximum possible efficiency.    The electric motor draws energy from an 8.7kWh lithium-ion battery mounted underneath the rear seat in the place usually taken up by the fuel tank. The petrol tank, reduced in size from a regular 50 litres to 40 litres, is housed within a slightly raised floor of the boot.As a result, luggage capacity drops by 108 litres over more traditional petrol and diesel versions of the Golf to 272 litres. Despite the rearward shift of the fuel tank, Volkswagen claims the Golf GTE can absorb a 50mph rear end impact without any serious deformation or safety concerns.    Volkswagen is quick to extol the fuel sipping qualities and low emissions of the Golf GTE, and with pretty good reason. With a combined cycle average on the European cycle of 188mpg and average CO2 emissions of just 35g/km, it promises remarkably economy.Its combination of petrol and electric power also provides it with spritely performance when you explore the kick down potential of the two power sources. Official figures point to a 0-62mph time of 7.6sec and 138mph top speed in GTE mode.In E-mode, the Golf GTE hits 81mph before a limiter caps your speed, making it suitable for both city and motorway running. The claimed electric range is put at 31 miles, although this is dependent upon varying factors including your average speed. The combined range extends to 584miles, or roughly that of a conventional petrol engine Golf.The key to the Golf GTE’s extended electric range is its plug in capability. The new car can be charged on either standard household mains or a fast charge wallbox – the latter of which comes as an option.The recharge time for the battery is put at four hours on a regular 240 volt, 10 amp system and just under two hours on a more robust 240 volt, 16 amp set-up. The socket for the plug is neatly hidden beneath the Volkswagen emblem in the grille. Alternatively, the petrol engine and kinetic energy is used to top up the battery on the run.

Audi TT coupe first drive review
Audi TT coupe first drive review In most powerful S form the third-generation Audi TT possesses real dynamic capability – and plenty of appeal as a classy premium coupé It’s Audi’s TT in S form, the fastest, most powerful and, from £38,900 (£40,270 with a twin-clutch auto), most expensive model in the new TT range.No apologies for choosing this one to test over the less powerful TT variants, though; even if it’s not the volume seller and doesn’t arrive in the UK until March, rather than January like its siblings.There are two reasons the S is compelling. One: the TT shares not just its architecture with the terrific Volkswagen Golf R, but also vast swathes of its powertrain. Which is enticing.Two: the old TT S was by far the finest driver’s car in the TT range. If that’s the case this time around, and if it has been infused with similar magic as the Golf R, finally we might have an Audi that bothers the class lead of a Porsche Cayman, or at least a BMW M235i. That in itself that would be quite something.Some details first. The new TT’s appearance is as you’d expect: modernised, more aggressive, but the old TT was not an impossible act to follow. Not like we believed the first one would be. The TT has progressed from mould-breaker to range staple and established sub-brand. Once, it was hard to believe this was a car launched by a conventional car manufacturer. Now, it’s impossible to imagine Audi without it.The new car is, more or less, the same length as before, at 4177mm, but there is 37mm more in the wheelbase (2505mm) and, it’s claimed, up to 50kg less in the kerb weight thanks, in all, to some 27 per cent of the chassis/body being aluminium.Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front, four-link at the rear. Steering is electrically assisted with varying ratio – faster on-lock than near straight ahead. Magnetically-controlled dampers are standard on the S, and will be available on other models soon after launch.The engine is a four-cylinder EA888 turbocharged petrol unit. Here it makes 306bhp between 5800 and 6200rpm, and 280lb ft, which arrives at only 1800rpm, and sticks gamely around until 100rpm before the arrival of peak power. Plump, then.In the S it drives exclusively through a four-wheel-drive powertrain that’s mostly front-biased but has an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch at the rear axle. Temptingly, as in the Golf R, it can send up to 100 per cent of torque to either axle. It’s said to be good for 0-62mph in 4.6sec, while returning 40.9mpg on the fanciful combined cycle.Lesser models – which start from £29,860, incidentally – can be had with 2wd or 4wd (2.0 petrol) or just 2wd (2.0 diesel).

Hyundai readies more powerful i30
Hyundai readies more powerful i30 New warm i30 hatchback could get the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine from Hyundai's Veloster Turbo

Spy shots have revealed that Hyundai is working on a sportier version of its i30 hatchback.

This test mule, spotted on public roads, wears camouflage that conceals changes to its front and rear bumpers. Also visible are prominent dual exhausts at the rear.

Those exhausts point towards what is likely a new engine option for the i30. One of the probable candidates to donate its engine is the Veloster Turbo, which features a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine developing 184bhp and 195lb ft.

In the Veloster, that configuration results in a 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 133mph. The most powerful i30 at the moment is the 1.6-litre CRDi diesel, which produces 126bhp and is capable of 0-62mph in 10.9sec.

This new i30 variant is unlikely to be badged under Hyundai's new N performance brand, however. The first N-badged model, based on the second-generation i20, is believed to be in development.

When it comes to market this hot i30 will face competition from hatchbacks like Peugeot's upcoming warmer 308, which has recently been spotted testing, and the Kia Procee'd GT.

The new model looks set to sit at the top of a refreshed i30 range, which is due to go on sale next year. Recent spy pictures have revealed the Focus-rivalling i30 will get a new front bumper with updated grille and more prominent Hyundai badging, while minor updates to the car's interior are also expected.

Judging by the early appearance of this test mule it's unlikely the hot i30 will be ready in time for the Paris motor show next month. Instead, expect a motor show debut early next year, possibly at the Geneva show in March.

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Chevrolet announces 650bhp Corvette Z06 pricing
Chevrolet announces new Corvette Z06 pricing New high-performance Z06 variant of the C7 Stingray to cost $78,995; eight-speed automatic transmission now also offered for the C7

Chevrolet has confirmed that its new supercharged Corvette Z06 will cost $78,995 when it goes on sale in early 2015.

A convertible version of the Corvette Z06 will also be offered, costing upwards of $83,995.

Based on current exchange rates, that's approximately £48k and £51k respectively – but, if personally imported into the UK, expect the coupé to set you back around £68k and the convertible £72k.

Bauer Millett, a specialist UK importer of several American manufacturers, will also be offering the Z06 to customers in 2015. Exact pricing has yet to be confirmed but is expected to be in the region of £80k.

The Z06 features a supercharged 6.2-litre LT4 V8, producing 650bhp and 650lb ft. Modern engine features include direct injection, cylinder deactivation and variable valve timing.

As well as additional power, the Z06 benefits from improved aerodynamics, flared arches, wider tyres and six-piston front brake calipers.

Several upgrade options will also be offered, including a carbonfibre aerodynamic package, competition sport seats and a carbonfibre roof panel for the coupé.

Other highlights for the Z06 include magnetic ride control, launch control, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential and a variety of drive modes. Many of these options, including a heads-up display, are shared with the standard C7.

Chevrolet has also announced that 2015 model year Corvette C7s will feature a new paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic transmission, which also available in the Z06.

In the standard 460bhp C7 the new transmission cuts 0.1sec off the previous six-speed automatic's 0-60mph time of 3.8sec. Economy is also up, by 3.5 per cent, with the C7 now reputed to average 24mpg.

Read more about the Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06

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Why Andy Palmer's arrival at Aston Martin is all good news
Why Andy Palmer's arrival at Aston Martin is all good news Guiding Aston Martin into the future is a daunting challenge, but British automotive industry stalwart Andy Palmer is the right man for the job

The arrival of Andy Palmer as chief executive of Aston Martin is about the best news we car lovers could have hoped for.

Apart from the comforting fact that Palmer is a proud Brit – still a desirable credential when it comes to running a company whose fundamental values are all British – he's also an accomplished engineer who loves cars and the car business.

Even better, he is an instinctive supporter of ground-breaking technology, as evidenced by his strong support for the Nissan Zeod hybrid Le Mans project and the more recent Bladeglider sports car concept that uses its most radical chassis principles.

Most of all, Palmer is a grown-up. He has spent years in the ivory tower of the Nissan-Renault empire, negotiating mammoth deals with (and sometimes against) Carlos Ghosn, one of the biggest corporate beasts of all. He will have all the confidence required to steer a British supercar company into the new technology and profitability era that is needed.

It's a near-certainty that Palmer will already have faced up to potential complications surrounding Aston's peculiar ownership structure that has led others in the frame to doubt that they would have freedom to operate.

Aston's management consists of Kuwaiti interests whose bosses like having their hands on Aston's levers, an Italian private equity company most concerned with an early return on its investment, plus the Daimler group that has a five per cent stake. and will supply AMG engines and Mercedes-Benz running gear for the next Aston generation. Daimler's approval in this will have been more important than its small stake indicates.

There will be plenty to do. A new DB9, which will introduce a whole new design style for Aston, is less than two years away. There are similarly large projects planned for 2018 and 2020. As a matter of priority, the company must find ways of boosting sales volume and profits, because it is believed to have accumulated debts its present level of profitability cannot reduce.

It's not yet clear how soon Andy Palmer will actually take the Aston helm. Interested parties say it is a delicate question at present. But there is universal approval inside the Gaydon HQ for the shareholders' choice. For most, the Andy Palmer era cannot start soon enough.  

Mitsubishi promises new Outlander PHEV Concept-S for Paris
Mitsubishi promises new Outlander PHEV Concept-S for Paris Previewed ahead of official unveiling at next month's motor show, new Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid concept promises refined interior and exterior design

Mitsubishi will reveal a new concept car based on its Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid SUV at the Paris motor show next month.

Dubbed the Outlander PHEV Concept-S, Mitsubishi says the concept "magnifies the Outlander PHEV's unique driving experience," and promises "a refined interior and exterior design".

Created around a theme of "sporty and sophisticated", it's likely the Concept-S will keep the standard Outlander PHEV's 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, which runs in conjunction with two electric motors. 

Total power in the standard car is rated at about 200bhp. It has a top speed of 106mph, with the 0-62mph sprint covered in 11.0 seconds.

The look of the Concept-S appears to draw on previous Mitsubishi show cars, most notably the XR-PHEV and GC-PHEV concepts revealed at the Geneva motor show earlier this year.

The original Outlander PHEV made its debut at the Paris motor show in 2012.

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Nissan boss Andy Palmer moves to Aston Martin
Andy Palmer Nissan Palmer to join as head of Aston Martin later this month, tasked with taking back "lost ground" from luxury rivals

Nissan boss Andy Palmer will leave the company to become the new CEO of Aston Martin.

In a statement, Aston Martin said Palmer is tasked with leading "the next phase of technology and product creation". According to a report in the Financial Times today, Palmer will also help Aston Martin to "regain lost ground" against rivals including Porsche, Ferrari and Bentley.

Palmer had also been running Nissan's luxury arm, Infiniti, following the departure of Johan de Nysschen to Cadillac in July.

Reports suggest Palmer was Aston Martin's main target during the recruitment process, which is understood to have taken more than a year. Former Aston boss Ulrich Bez stepped down late last year.

Renault's product planning boss Philippe Klein will replace Palmer as the head of Nissan when he leaves later this month, and will report directly to Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn.

A statement from Aston Martin's board of shareholders reads: "We're delighted that Andy is able to join us as our new CEO at this important time at Aston Matin.

"Andy's wealth of experience on the global automotive stage in marketing and sales, engineering and technology, and luxury and brand management will be instrumental in taking Aston Martin forward through its most significant and ambitous perioud of investment to date."

A Nissan spokesman told Bloomberg that Palmer's departure "is not going to impact on our business.

"We have an established organisation and we have a clear growth plan for the CEO in the Nissan Power 88 plan. That's not going to change."

Palmer began his career in the automotive industry in 1979 as an apprentice before joining Austin Rover in 1986. He moved to Nissan in 1991, and has been based in the firm's home market of Japan for the past 13 years. He was recognised in the New Years Honours list in 2014, receiving the Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG).

There is no indication yet of when Palmer will take up the role.

Read Steve Cropley's blog on why Palmer's move is good news for Aston Martin

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Revised Ford Focus to cost from £13,995
Revised Ford Focus to cost from £13,995 The Blue Oval freezes the price of the entry-level Focus variant, due on sale in November, and lops £100 off the cost of top-end Titanium models

The facelifted Ford Focus will cost from £13,995, the same as the current model, when it goes on sale in November.

Ford's biggest-selling global car has undergone a significant refresh that adds more technology, improved cabin quality, new powertrains, some cosmetic revisions and a raft of chassis and handling tweaks.  

The range retains a six-level line-up of Studio (from £13,995), Style (£16,795), Zetec (£18,295), Zetec S (£20,045), Titanium (£19,795) and Titanium X (£21,795). The prices of the high-level Titanium and Titanium X versions are £100 less than the current equivalents.

The entry-level model will continue to be a 1.6-litre TI-VCT petrol in Studio trim equipped with a five-speed manual gearbox. The cheapest diesel variant will cost £17,895 for a 1.6 TDCi in Style trim with a six-speed manual transmission. The entry-level estate-bodied car is the 1.6-litre petrol at £17,880. 

Ford product development boss Joe Bakaj has pledged that the new Focus, heavily revised in the latest generation, will regain its slot as the best-handling car in the class.

Stung by the handling prowess of the latest Volkswagen Golf, which ousted the Focus as the best-handling car in the class, Ford has engineered a raft of detailed chassis changes as part of a deep-facelift that also includes four re-tooled body panels, revised front and rear bumpers, new front and rear lights, a new dashboard and new cleaner engines.

"We want our handling crown back, that's why our engineers put a lot of effort into revamping the Focus chassis," said a determined Bakaj at a launch event for the new Focus earlier this year.

Many of the detailed chassis components are replaced or retuned, starting with new, more expensive front dampers, which now offer more subtle body control thanks to two extra steps in the damper valving.

The springing stays the same, but there are new, stiffer bushes both front and rear, aimed at firming the chassis in a lateral direction with the benefit of more stability.

"The turn-in was already pretty good," says Bakaj, "but the new Focus has less delay on turn-in and that extra edge of bite in cornering."

Also retuned is the electric power steering, which Bakaj says now offers better 'on-centre' feel. "The steering wheel weighting is now much more progressive, too," he adds.

More handling improvements come from a reprogrammed ESC system, which is said to operate more smoothly with more gentle intervention.

As a result, Bakaj says the new Focus is now more stable in extreme lane-change manoeuvres and can tackle slalom-type courses at higher speed. "It gives you more confidence," he adds.

The roll centres have also been adjusted by subtle geometry changes, which reduce cornering body roll.

The facelift program – the Focus was all-new only in 2010 – is the deepest-ever mid-cycle re-fresh applied to Ford’s best-seller since the Focus nameplate was launched in 1998 and follows on from similarly significant revisions applied to the new Fiesta last year.

Indeed Ford's European chief Stephen Odell said: "The changes are so substantial I prefer to call it an all-new car. It's not just the bodywork and interior, but the technology, the suspension and so on. The focus on ride and handling is crucial - it's long been referred to as part of Ford's DNA and we think the changes keep us right there."

Ford has also freshened the Focus visually, with new metalwork, bumpers, grille and lights, created under Ford Europe design director Steffan Lamm. The centrepiece of the new look is a hallmark, trapezoidal grille, now positioned higher up on the Focus nose in what Lamm describes as a 'prouder' position.

The grille in these pictures features five chromed bars with a chrome surround and will be standard on top-spec Titanium models. Entry-level and mid-spec models will feature a matt-black mesh grille, which may appear sportier than this glitzy Titanium version.

"The grille is up high and looks more sophisticated. We have a sporty look, but with a touch of sophistication," says Lamm. Also new are more narrow, less dominant headlamps, a feature that Lamm says will become a feature on all new Ford models.

"Slimmer headlights are part of our design DNA. We did the same on the new Fiesta," adds Lamm. A new bonnet pressing now adds more shape with a centre 'power dome' leading down to the grille-mounted Ford blue oval badge.

To fit the new narrower headlamps and deeper front bumper moulding, Ford says it has also re-tooled the front wings, although the changes are subtle. As significant are the rear styling changes, where a new tailgate pressing features fewer parts, and is laser-welded for greater stiffness.

The new tail-lamps take on a wider proportion, but cleverly Ford has avoided having to re-tool the rear wing panel by retaining the same shape of lamp where the lens wraps around the body side. The tailgate glass is also retained, again to save expensive re-tooling.

A range of revised engines, including a new 88g/km diesel and 99g/km petrol, will also keep the Focus competitive with rivals and all engines now meet EU6 regulations.

The Focus is the first car to be fitted with a new Bridgend-built 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, with 148bhp and 177bhp power outputs. Also new is a 1.5TDCi with outputs of 94bhp and 118bhp and built in Dagenham.

Entry-level models will continue to be powered by the 1.0-litre EcoBoost in either 99bhp or 123bhp versions, and a new version will offer 99g/km, which Ford claims as the first non-hybrid family hatch to slot below 100g/km.

Detailed improvements to the 2.0 TDCi are said to have improved economy by 14 per cent when matched to a manual transmission and 13 per cent with the auto. Also coming is a 1.5 TDCi mated to a Powershift auto, which promises a 19 per cent economy improvement over the outgoing version.

Ford says it responded to customer feedback and has redesigned the Focus centre console to eliminate the 'multi-button' look that many drivers disliked. "Technology has moved so fast with touchscreens becoming available, so we listened to Ford buyers and invested in a cleaner-looking dashboard," says Ford Europe boss Barb Samardzich.

A battery of 18 electronic driver aid 'Assist' technologies have also been added to the Focus for the first time.

The new Focus is the first Ford to offer Perpendicular Parking, an additional hands-free parking technology to help drivers reverse into spaces alongside other vehicles.

The system operates in the same way as the existing Active Park Assist technology, and is made possible thanks to new sensors incorporated at the rear of the car.

These extra sensors also enable Ford to offer two more parking systems: Cross Traffic Alert, which warns drivers reversing out of a parking space of vehicles that may be about to pass behind them, and Park-Out Assist, which helps drivers with exiting a parallel parking space. 

As important is second-generation Sync II software for the driver interface, which is now cleaner looking, and claimed to be simpler in operation. It features a high-resolution, eight-inch colour touch screen and voice control to access audio, navigation, climate control and mobile phones.

Sync II’s navigation system also offers a split-screen display – which is a first for a Ford vehicle in Europe. Ford's MyKey technology – which allows owners to restrict the vehicle's top speed and programme restrictions on other controls – is carried over from the Fiesta.

At the heart of the revised interior is a new, sportier-looking three-spoke steering wheel.

Infiniti ESQ revealed for Chinese market
Infiniti ESQ revealed for Chinese market Pre-facelift Nissan Juke Nismo lives on in China as new Infiniti crossover, which will go on sale later this year with a 250bhp turbocharged engine

Infiniti has revealed the ESQ, a re-badged version of the pre-facelift Nissan Juke Nismo which will go on sale in China later this year.

Prices are due to start at around $32,500 (or £19,500), and for that customers get the Juke Nismo's 1.6-litre turbocharged direct-injection engine developing 197bhp at 6000rpm and 184lb ft of torque between 2400-4800rpm. The engine is coupled to a CVT, which sends drive to all four wheels.

In the pre-facelift Juke Nismo, that engine is good for a 0-62mph sprint time of 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 134mph. Expect fuel economy of around 40.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 159g/km.

Inside, the ESQ retains the cabin layout of the older Juke, plus that model's infotainment system, as well as luxuries like climate control and three selectable driving modes – including Sport and Eco functions.

The ESQ will help Infiniti continue its push into one of the world's fastest-growing car markets.

The firm is currently gearing up to introduce several new models into China. Among them is the Q50L, Infiniti's first domestically produced car for the Chinese market, as well as the QX60 Hybrid, a facelifted QX50L and a sportier version of the QX70.

Those model plans were revealed as part of a leaked dealer presentation, which also showed Infiniti's plans to grow its dealer network in China by opening up smaller franchises in cities across the country. 

Infiniti sold 14,000 vehicles in the first six months of this year in China, showing year-on-year growth of 130 per cent.

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Zenos Cars reveals more powerful E10 S for 2015
Zenos Cars reveals more powerful E10 S for 2015 Higher-powered E10 S costs £29,995 and is powered by a 2.0-litre Ford EcoBoost engine developing 250bhp

Zenos cars has revealed a more powerful version of its E10 sports car, dubbed the E10 S.

Priced at £29,995 - £5000 more than the standard E10 - the E10 S is powered by a mid-mounted 2.0-litre Ford GDTI EcoBoost engine producing 250bhp. By comparison, the standard E10 gets 197bhp from its naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre Ford GDI engine. A range of transmission options are available.

Zenos says the E10 S is capable of covering the 0-60mph sprint in less than 4.5 seconds, with a top speed of 135mph. Available in both left and right-hand drive, the E10 S keeps the same styling as the standard E10, and is also road-legal.

Like its sibling, the E10 S is based around an aluminium extrusion and carbon tub construction, which keeps overall weight down as well as increasing torsional rigidity. 

A track pack, consisting of six-speed transmission, limited-slip differential, Zenos-designed composite seats, four-point racing harness, quick release steering wheel, new wheels, heated driver's seat and adjustable dampers raises the total price to £32,995.

Company co-founder and former Caterham Cars CEO Ansar Ali told Autocar that customers who had already put down deposits for the E10 were offered the chance to upgrade to the E10 S, with most taking the chance. The firm plans to start production of both the E10 and E10 S in January next year, with first deliveries planned for early March.

The E10 is the first of three models from Zenos cars to be introduced over the next five years. Also planned is the E11 roadster and E12 coupé, which are due to arrive in 2016 and 2018 respectively. Both will use the same aluminium extrusion structure as the E10.

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Tracking the best anti-theft devices for our cars
Tracking the best anti-theft devices for our cars High-tech systems for securing vehicles are all well and good, but sometimes more rudimentary solutions are called for

I do love an infographic. It’s like the Internet for grown ups, or for those who didn’t even bother to get dial-up.

So I was fascinated by the infographic that stolen vehicle recovery specialist Tracker sent out which updated me on the £859,500 worth of vehicles the company's devices recovered in July 2014 alone.

What the little pictures told me is that three arrests had been made, which is jolly good. However 19 of the 44 'stolen recovereds' had actually been nicked with their keys.

That is slightly depressing. We should take rather better care of our keys. Even though it is possible for nearby thieves to log all the digital information in the ether and nick our cars anyway. That would account for the other 25 then.

We do need to go back to basics.

Perhaps the simplest deterrent is to keep a yappy dog in the house? You know, the terriers that jump up at the window and go bonkers when all you want to is park nearby.

I think we need a return to great big lumps of metal bolted to steering wheels, or maybe just exterior wheels. At the very least we need an ignition cut off. I’ve gone for those on my older motors.

I think that we need something basic and primeval that can at least bamboozle high-tech thievery. Oh yes, and would even flummox the thief who is lucky enough to purloin the keys.

I was chatting to a friend who has Land Rover 90, which has been pretty much rebuilt, and he really should be keeping a close eye on it. Land Rovers – be they classic-era ones or the latest Range Rover kit like the £80k Sport that Tracker recovered in July – are very stealable.

My mate though has knocked off the immobilser and alarm because they both started to play up. So it is currently unprotected. How mad is that?

So Tracker-style devices aside, what old school anti-theft stuff should we be spannering and plumbing in to our motors?

Porsche Boxster GTS UK first drive review
Porsche Boxster GTS UK first drive review Go-faster Boxster renders the Boxster S entirely redundant, but not the slower but still sweet basic model The new top-range Porsche Boxster, a car that gets the hallowed GTS badge slapped on its rump - first used by the iconic 904GTS half a century ago - and for which Porsche is asking only an additional £5840.In Porsche terms £5840 is not a lot of money. You can spend over half that much just choosing metallic paint, sat nav and a digital radio from the Boxster’s options list. But that’s also the price Porsche is asking to trade up from a standard Boxster S to this new GTS model.In pure equipment terms it seems there is very little choice to be made here: if you gave a Boxster S the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), 20-inch rims, the Sport Chrono Pack, sports seats and dynamic headlights the GTS offers as standard, you’d already have burned through almost all the additional money.That’s without considering the GTS’s additional 15bhp, 10lb ft of torque, unique suspension tune and standard active engine mounts. The GTS also comes with a mildly revised front bumper and rear valence of the squint-and-you’ll-see-it variety.It costs £52,879 which might seem like a lot for Boxster but really isn’t very much at all when you consider it’s £30,000 less than Porsche will charge you for the cheapest 911 cabrio, a car powered by near enough the same engine but is slower because of its extra weight, whatever the official figures might say.The other reason for choosing a GTS over an S is perhaps less rational, but no less real for that. The very existence of the GTS demotes the S from the top of the range offering to a middle order car, and for convertible buyers who like not only to be seen, but to be seen in the best, that’s a privilege for which £5840 may seem like a very small price to pay.

A supercar for the weekend? You'd better think twice
A supercar for the weekend? You'd better think twice Taking a Lamborghini Huracán for the weekend might be your idea of heaven, but it requires special considerations to be used in the real world

Fancy a supercar for the weekend? A dream come true, right? Well, yes and no. Even in the hallowed halls of Autocar, the offer of a truly silly set of keys isn’t a particularly common occurrence, and it’s all-too easy to grab at them without a single salient thought in your head (other than "gimme" of course). 

Experience slowly teaches you otherwise. There are a number of questions you ought to have answers for before you potentially turn an unexpectedly brilliant Friday night into a penitent Monday morning. I’ll use a recent three-day dalliance with the Lamborghini Huracán to illustrate. 

1) Do you have anywhere you actually need to go? 

Obviously you’re going to be ‘going’ lots of places. It’s likely you won’t consider anywhere too far away. In a Porsche 911 GT3, I once chose to buy a bag of cement from Norwich. But wherever you go, you won’t want to stop for very long, or go very far. Walking away from an attention magnet like the Huracán is a test of faith in human nature.

Mine, apparently, is very limited. You have to be the son of a Russian oligarch or seventeenth in line to the Saudi throne to comfortably ditch a supercar on the side of the road. Leaving the Huracán in Lidl’s car park for ten minutes was my limit. 

2) Wherever you do go, do you mind being the centre of attention? 

Because this is going to happen a lot. Especially, it would seem, in a matt black Huracán. In a high street, it's almost a given that almost any supercar is going to turn the heads of dads/adolescents/adolescent dads, but Lamborghini’s new charge generates untold levels of interest. “They look like they’ve seen a naked woman,” the Mrs memorably remarked in Richmond.

‘They’ also weren’t above swerving in front of the car for the perfect camera phone shot or forming a crowd at a motorway petrol station. It’s all thoroughly jolly, but be prepared to wear out your waving arm and do some chatting. 

3) Do you have to get it over anything bigger than a matchbox to park at home? 

Well, then you’ll have to check it has a nose-raiser installed. My current driveway is up a gentle slope you wouldn’t normally concern yourself about in anything else, but in a supercar it might as well be an anti-tank obstacle.

Even without that kind of impediment outside your front door, you’ll find yourself cringing at sleeping policeman. Fortunately, the Huracán had the ability to pick up its skirt in seconds. 

4) Can you face scrutiny of real policeman?

Because this isn’t out the question. Not by a long shot. Even if you manage to stay within the same galaxy as whatever speed limit you happen to be (probably accidentally) breaking, the law will likely take a deep and abiding interest in you.

And if you happen to be heading toward the coast under the cover of darkness in an Italian-registered, right-hand-drive Lamborghini, that interest will inevitably turn into a compulsive need to have a chat. 

5) Do you have the correct documents?

A boring, book-keeping exercise, but one that becomes enormously significant when you’re standing on a verge explaining to plod why you’re in a Lamborghini you don’t own in the middle of the night. When the word ‘impounded’ appears in the conversation, the requirement becomes pivotal.

Press cars, especially those blessed with number plates the local constabulary can’t interrogate, come with necessary information tucked in the glovebox. But your Italian better be up to scratch if you want to help them decipher the difference between a registration document and the insurance. 

6) Are you prepared for the cost?

Ah yes, the insurance. Being handed a supercar is like being loaned anything else expensive – it tends to come with an awful lot of clauses.

Borrowing a car from a manufacturer for the purposes of writing about it is perhaps the least bothersome way of borrowing an automobile ever devised – however, even for scribblers significantly more seasoned than myself there is still the excess to worry about.

Lamborghini’s policy, it turns out, is actually very accommodating. But another manufacturer I can think of will expect a £1000 payout for each rim curbed. Cringe. 

7) Are you prepared for a workout?

It must be said, the Huracán is a fantastically easy car to drive about in normally. In Auto mode its gearbox is easygoing and the V10, although chattery, is incredibly docile at low speeds.

But you won’t want to drive it normally all the time – at some point you’ll go all devil-may-care and want to launch about the place. Which is fine and lovely, and what it’s all about – although that doesn’t stop it being an utterly physical experience.

Get the bit properly between your teeth (admittedly inadvisable on the public road) and it won’t be long before the remarkable all-wheel grip has your core and neck muscles are straining at the effort of keeping you upright. Factor in your heart rate and the tummy-butterfly effect of that V10, and you’ll wish you brought a towel along. 

8) Is it really, at the end of the day, going to be worth all the hassle?

Yes, absolutely. 

New Renault Alpine family to follow sports car
New Renault Alpine family to follow sports car Renault design boss confirms design work on new Alpine car is almost complete, with plans for more cars to follow if the car is well received

Renault’s upcoming Alpine sports car will be used to assess a business case for a wider family of models, according to the firm’s design boss Laurens van den Acker.

Speaking to Autocar at the Moscow motor show, van den Acker said there was “a hope” that the sports car would spearhead a range of Alpine-branded vehicles when it goes on sale in 2016. 

“As with many things we need to have a good business first. We all love Alpines but we all want to make money as well. Let’s get the first car right and then I hope I can start doing Alpines for the rest of my life,” he said

Design work on the car is understood to be at an advanced stage, and although delays were caused by Caterham’s departure from the project senior executives have already signed off the car’s styling. “Carlos Ghosn [Renault-Nissan boss] has seen the car and he’s happy,” said van den Acker.

Final details are being kept closely under wraps, as van den Acker admits “I’ve been a bit cagey to talk too much about it. Sports cars are an endangered species – there are always ten reasons not to do it.”

Late-stage engineering mules of the Alpine model are about to hit the roads, with Renaultsport boss Patrice Ratti saying the car will be “more about driving pleasure than pure power”.

Ratti also warned the near production-ready model – which is tipped to get 250bhp – doesn’t look anything like the Alpine concept car revealed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2012. 

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National Kit and Performance Car Show report and gallery
National Kit and Performance Car Show report and gallery Donington Park circuit played host to myriad kit car clubs and manufacturers, including Westfield, Gardner Douglas and XCS

The National Kit and Performance Car show, which took place at Donington Park race circuit at the weekend, offered visitors an eclectic mix of kit and sports car activities.

The event, organised by Performance Publishing, which produces Complete Kit Car magazine, has been running for a number of years.

Ian Stent, editor of Complete Kit Car magazine, said: "We've got the big guns of the UK kit car industry here – like Gardner Douglas, Hawk, Great British Sports Cars and Westfield – as well as plenty of parts suppliers.

"What we try to do is take full advantage of the circuit, with racing going on all weekend, as well as offering a mix of displays and demonstrations."

Of particular interest on the Gardner Douglas Sports Cars stand was the T70moda, a car that takes inspiration from the CanAm-winning Lola T70. The beautifully presented example packs a 602bhp 7.0-litre LS7 engine, a Porsche GT2 six-speed transaxle and weighs 950kg.

Great British Sports Cars was also drawing much attention, with the likes of its 'Zero' kit appealing to many buyers. Prices for its small Seven-alike kit start at £2345, and include key components like the chassis, wishbones and body panels, with the remainder of the running gear primarily coming from a Ford donor vehicle.

Many more modern-engined kits were on display too, reflecting the adoption of more recent and common donors as older options, such as the Ford Crossflow, become harder and more expensive to source and maintain.

Engine options offered – and in some cases complete powertrain and suspension set-ups – included those from Mazda MX-5s, the Honda S2000 and the E36 and E46 generation of M3. Numerous Chevrolet V8-engined cars featured too.

Around the show, and in the owner's exhibition field outside, were myriad replicas of supercars and sports cars, including Ferrari 360s and Lamborghini Countachs.

"For many it's about the running costs," notes Stent. "We've had people coming from the real cars into replicas because they couldn't justify spending the money on insuring and servicing them.

"With a replica there are compromises but you can service it yourself, get the bits easily and you don't have to worry about where you leave it at the end of the day.

"There are quite a lot of cars here that aren't replicas or standalone kits as well," adds Stent. "The other side of the industry that we see a lot more of now is companies offering panel kits, like the Bertini."

These new panel kits allow builders to rapidly finish a project and end up in a position where they can immediately drive the car. The changes are only cosmetic so the car doesn't require a costly IVA – Individual Vehicle Approval – test.

In the case of the £3750 Bertini, buyers simply replace the body panels on the BMW Z3 base car to end up with a dramatically different looking car. As well as being easier, this kind of project is also typically cheaper than many complete kits.

Similarly, Turismo UK unveiled its Avalanche GT kit for the Mk3 Toyota MR2 roadster at the show. The panel kit, which simply bolts on to the MR2, results in a much more aggressive-looking and distinctive car.

"It's been tough for the industry recently, with the pressures of an ageing population, the recession and the legislative challenges," says Stent. "We can accommodate and adapt to it though – and the right companies are doing big business, and on increasingly expensive cars too."

This fact is borne out by the fact that many of the high-end replicas and kits command significant price tags – a Fusion XCS 427 Cobra, for example, will set you back more than £80,000 in turn-key form. Several of the Cobra replica manufacturers have waiting lists more than a year long, further demonstrating the popularity of such cars.

"Part of the difficulty the industry has is its identity," says Stent. "There are cars here that cost £2000 and those that cost £100,000. It appeals to many different people but that by its nature causes problems for the manufacturers when it comes to promoting and understanding their market."

One key argument for building a kit car – in order to get yourself a fast, affordable car – appears long dead too, further making business challenging.

"People used to build Duttons because they couldn't afford an expensive sports car," says Stent. "They'd get a Cortina, take all the bits off it and have something that went really quite fast. Nowadays you can buy a Porsche Boxster for £5000 or a Subaru Impreza for £1500.

"What the industry is about today is a hobby. The argument for spending £10,000 on a Seven-style car for performance reasons is nowhere near as strong as it used to be. But if it's your hobby and you do it because you enjoy it, learn new skills, go touring, attend meets and so on, then the money doesn't matter.

"This is why you'd most likely spend money on a kit car now; for a leisure-time activity and a hobby – not a means to an end, to get a fast car, like it would have been previously."

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Meet the king of car customisation - Afzal Kahn
Meet the king of car customisation - Afzal Kahn Businessman and designer Afzal Kahn has a canny eye for an emerging trend, as his latest venture proves

At first glance, A Kahn Design’s central Bradford HQ looks like any heavily glazed modern small office block, with tinted windows on the upper floors.

But as you get closer, you notice the ranks of Jeep Wranglers on the forecourt and a handful of big Range Rovers. Walk inside and you’ll encounter the Kahn workshop. It’s not huge, but the projects under way are impressive.

A customised Range Rover Sport is nearing completion and the amount of detailed work that has gone into its transformation is striking. It has been given wider wheel arches, new wheels and a Kahn grille and spoiler. But the whole interior has been retrimmed in red and black and it even has a pair of matching leather-trimmed child seats in the rear. 

It is very eye-catching and has clearly been reworked to a high standard. Sure, it’s not something that I would have commissioned and it is much brasher and brighter than anything that a car maker would normally turn out.

But that’s hardly the point. Afzal Kahn is profitably meeting a desire for individuality among a few hundred wealthy people each year.

These buyers can commission a customised vehicle that is unique – and the trend among the most affluent car buyers to make their cars unique is something that has had super-premium car makers  – such as Aston Martin, with its new bespoke Q division – racing to meet demand. Kahn was very early to this trend. He started Project Kahn in 2004 and concentrated mostly on customising Range Rovers. 

“I started off in the car business as a hobby,” he says. “I had been studying architecture but I pulled out. I wasn’t interested in building property. I was a petrolhead.”

By the late 1980s, Kahn had set up in a small factory building glassfibre components. “I gained experience in that small shop, making body parts for rally shops in the UK, arches and wings and [replica] Sierra Cossie parts,” he says. “By the time I was 19, I had 30 staff. But trends change and I decided to move into making wheels.”

Kahn took his own wheel design to Italy to have it manufactured and the demand for the finished product was overwhelming. “Kahn Design became the number one aftermarket wheel brand in the UK,” he says. Of course, this was the Max Power era and there was huge demand among young petrolheads for eye-catching and individual wheels.

With immaculate timing – a trait that seems to run through Kahn’s business life – as the Max Power trend died almost as suddenly as it had arrived, Kahn switched to the more serious business of modifying Range Rovers with a new business called Project Kahn.

Today, Kahn’s business employs about 100 people, including multi-lingual sales staff and 15 designers trained in the Alias computer design programme. He also has his own in-house photographic and video team.

In the past couple of years, Project Kahn has expanded into modifying and re-engineering Jeep Wranglers and Land Rover Defenders. Kahn estimates that he will sell well north of 500 vehicles this year, including 100 reworked Wranglers and about 200 Defenders. 

He further expanded the business in 2012, established the Chelsea Truck Company and opened a London showroom in what was a defunct Sony retail unit at the western end of Chelsea’s King’s Road.

Again, Kahn had spotted a micro-trend, as the Defender became increasingly fashionable as daily transport in the centre of the capital.

Within this trend for automotive "authenticity", he spotted another opening by championing the Jeep Wrangler, buying the vehicles directly from the importer and adding “£7000 worth of Kahn kit and selling them for £30k, the same retail price as the standard car”. 

Kahn-modified Wranglers make up a large proportion of total UK Wrangler sales and Kahn says that trade price specialist CAP Guide values a Kahn Wrangler 12 per cent higher than the stock model. 

At the time of my visit, work was also well under way on an intriguing customised Defender. The customer had asked for the interior to be removed and the car’s floor and bulkhead to be lined in heavy-duty soundproofing. Once that was completed, it was due to have six individual sports seats installed in three rows of two.

Today, however, Kahn is rapidly progressing towards becoming a fully fledged vehicle manufacturer. One of the most interesting projects currently on the go is a re-engineered Defender called the Flying Huntsman. 

The first example is currently being completed and has had 400mm of extra bodywork inserted directly in front of the windscreen. The extra space allows a 500bhp General Motors LS3 6.2-litre V8 engine (often found in the Chevrolet Corvette) and six-speed automatic gearbox to be fitted. The Flying Huntsman will also get modified brakes and suspension.

But even while that extraordinary vehicle is still being completed, Kahn has already “invested millions” in a new venture to build unique retro-styled sports cars. The Ant-Kahn business is a venture with Ant Anstead, who runs Evante, a specialist maker that builds bespoke sports cars ‘inspired’ by 1950s sports cars, particularly period Aston Martins.

Kahn has invested in a coachbuilding firm in the West Midlands and a composites firm in the south-east as part of the Ant-Kahn project. Ant-Kahn says the business has plans for everything from “coachbuilt special editions to series manufacturing”. 

Again, this new venture seems right on time, as the price of real classic cars ascends into the stratosphere and even Jaguar is getting into the business of building ‘modern collectables’. 

“It’s been an ambition to build my own cars, a dream,” Kahn says. “And between me and Ant Anstead, we have 50 years’ experience and the right skill set.” It’s all a long way from making replica Sierra Cosworth wings and designing wheels but, as ever, it seems like the right move at just the right time.

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BMW M4 convertible first drive review
BMW M4 convertible first drive review More visceral than the M4 coupé thanks to more audible exhaust and well-controlled swirl of air in the cabin, but dynamics suffer slightly The new open-top BMW M4, a convertible whose manners have clearly been tamed for ambitiously rapid high-speed cruising. Like the M3 convertible before it, the BMW M4 convertible is a slightly troubling device for car lovers. This is a machine whose main reason to exist is the exhilaratingly tactile pleasure of driving it as rapidly as you dare. That’s why the M4 coupé has a 431bhp turbocharged straight six engine, fat tyres, a front bumper gaping with air-guzzling grilles, and the option of a swift-shifting seven-speed, paddle-triggered transmission.The M4 convertible has all this too, but it weighs more and is inevitably less rigid to the potential detriment of the road manners that are a BMW Motorsport model’s priority. And this downside has applied to every one of the now five generations of roof-retractable M3 and M4s.None of which has deterred the 60,000-odd global customers who have bought a drop-top M3 over the past 26 years. If you want the top-of-the-range high-performance 3 or 4 Series, this is your car, and plenty of sun-lovers will settle for nothing less.

Moscow motor show 2014 - nine cars you can't buy in the UK
Moscow motor show 2014 - nine cars you can't buy in the UK The Moscow motor show has plenty of new metal on display, but most of it will never be sold on UK shores. Here are our top picks of the cars you won't be able to buy in this country

While the Moscow motor show features an eclectic selection of global brands, most of the vehicles on display there won’t be coming to the UK.

Russia’s unique market  - largely dominated by SUVs and crossovers in rural areas and an increasing number of saloons and hatchbacks in town – demands a wide variety of cars nonetheless, and that’s why so many manufacturers are vying for a slice of the automotive pie.

With that in mind, here are Autocar’s picks of the cars that won’t be coming to the UK.

Datsun on-Do

The on-Do is a compact saloon priced at the lower end of the market. It starts at just below 400,000 Russian rubles, or £6684. For that, you get a 1.6-litre petrol engine with 85bhp, a five-speed manual transmission, five seats and a boot capable of holding 530 litres.

Lada Kalina NFR

A hot version of Lada's Kalina hatchback where power from its 1.6-litre engine has been pushed to 138bhp. Couple that with new styling accents and new air intakes on the bonnet, and we think this hot hatch looks relatively stylish. The 0-60mph sprint is covered in 8.5 seconds.

Haval H9

The H9 made its debut at the Beijing motor show earlier this year, aiming to provide China's emerging SUV market with an affordable off-road model. Two turbocharged direct-injection engines are available, in either 2.0-litre or 3.0-litre form, the larger of which gets 328bhp.

Toyota Venza

One of the curiosities of the Moscow motor show is the number of American-born models on display. Toyota is showing off its latest Venza crossover, available with either a 2.7-litre four-cylinder or 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. Buying one will save you little at the pumps, though, as even the most frugal version of the Venza returns just 27.6mpg.

Citroën C-Elysee

Unveiled at the Shanghai motor show last year, the C-Elysee is mechanically identical to the Peugeot 301, and is built in Spain for Central European markets. Power comes from PSA's VTI 72 engine, which produces 72bhp and can return upwards of 56.5mpg. Interestingly, it's makers say the VTI engine has been developed to run on varying fuel quality, depending on different markets.

PGO Cevennes

This retro-styled open-top model is stood next to a coupe version of the same name in Moscow. Exact output from its 1.6-litre hasn't been revealed, but plenty of eyes are on the two-door Cevennes, both from potential customers and rival manufacturers.

Geely Emgrand EC7

The EC7 was meant to be Geely's launch offering in the UK two years ago, but even though we tested the mid-size saloon in 2012 it is yet to be offered officially on these shores. Power comes from a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine developing 137bhp, and prices are due to start from around £12,000.

Changan CS75

There's more than a hint of Land Rover influence in the styling of the Changan CS75. Powered by a 2.0-litre VVT engine developing 156bhp, the CS75 can reach 62mph in 8.1 seconds. Changan is part of a strong contingent of Chinese manufacturers at the Moscow show, with the manufacturer flanked by Hama and Volvo owner Geely.

Kia Quoris

Technically, Kia's new flagship saloon is something of a cheater on this list, because although Russian sales start next month company officials say there are plans to bring it to Europe and the UK. We've already driven the 3.8-litre V6-powered car, finding it to be somewhat lacking compared to European rivals.

Scroll through the gallery above to see more pictures, and let us know your favourite in the comments section below.

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New versus used: Porsche Cayman S or Lamborghini Gallardo
New versus used: Porsche Cayman S or Lamborghini Gallardo The £64,000 Porsche Cayman S and £67,500 Lamborghini Gallardo are both desirable cars, but which should you pick if you're in the market?

The second-generation Porsche Cayman is a five-star motor and today’s benchmark junior sports car.

The 271bhp 2.7-litre version costs £39,694, and the 321bhp 3.4-litre Cayman S is £48,783. That you can debate their merits against the £73,509 911 Carrera with an entirely straight face illustrates their outstanding value.

But the cost of options is the elephant in the room. Take this Racing Yellow Cayman S. For extra dynamic focus, it features carbon-ceramic brakes (£4977), PASM adaptive dampers (£1700), a Sport Chrono Plus pack (£1084), torque vectoring with a limited-slip differential (£890) and lightweight, leather-finished sports bucket seats with integrated airbags (£2226).

A bi-modal sports exhaust, 20-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors and sat-nav swell the final bill to £65,573.

It’s worth seeing what else that buys before signing up. Jaguar F-type V6 S? BMW M4? Lotus Evora S? All tempting. But none comes near the firepower and presence of our used contender: the 492bhp, V10-powered Lamborghini Gallardo.

Yep, Sant’Agata’s Audi-financed saviour can now be had from just £55,000. Owned by Gareth Hardiman and for sale through independent Lamborghini specialist Buckinghamshire High Performance (bhpmsport.com), this gorgeous, 24,500-mile example – lurking low, wide and dark like a prowling stingray to the Cayman’s yellowfin tuna – is priced at £67,500.

The sting in its tail is BHP’s own cat bypass and a Tubi exhaust, which fill the cavernous space of our aircraft hanger with an extremely rude, extremely loud bark and burble that has us all sharing guilty smirks. 

The Lambo’s dated, slow-witted E-gear automated manual gearbox would have been floored by the technical brilliance of Porsche’s slingshot PDK dual-clutch automatic, so manual it is for our mid-engined two-seaters.

The Cayman sends drive to the rear wheels only whereas our 2004 Gallardo drives all four with the help of a limited-slip differential at each axle. 

Climbing in, you immediately notice how much more luxury the Gallardo offers. There’s Alcantara on the ceiling and stitched leather not only on the seats but also on the door cards and the dashboard. Adding extra hide to the otherwise plastic-heavy Cayman would cost an additional £1428. 

The Gallardo’s cabin is unmarked, save for some thinning of the helm’s Alcantara, but the Porsche’s slick instrumentation and stylish yet robust switchgear have a clear edge over the Lambo’s chunkier fare, which features interesting toggle switches alongside more mundane Audi-sourced buttons and outdated red LEDs. Unsurprisingly, the Porsche’s modern sat-nav wins, too.

Hitting the road first is the Cayman S. Were this a track exercise, I’d have been glad of the bucket seats’ security, but their limited adjustment and thin padding do little for comfort. That aside, the driving position is ergonomically sound.

Within moments, you’re treated to what could be the sweetest manual gearbox on sale. It’s light yet mechanical feeling, with a joyous lubricity that seems to suck the shifter into each nook.

With the hard-biting carbon-ceramics making in-roads near the top of the brake pedal, you need to be pressing on to make heel-and-toeing tenable, but a rev-matching function (part of Sport Chrono’s Sport Plus mode) lets you enjoy rasping, seamless downshifts even during dull commutes.

I could leave the £1530 sports exhaust, though. The contrived fun of the grumbles that it emits on the overrun in Sport mode is outweighed by its overbearing constant-throttle volume, even in Normal mode, and the flat six – from its tractable bottom end, 4500rpm pickup and free-revving, howling upper reaches – already offers plenty of entertainment.

The Porsche is genuinely rapid when pushed, but power is dispatched with incredible composure thanks to the Sport Chrono pack’s vibration-quashing active transmission mounts and the assured deftness of the chassis.

PASM’s Sport mode gets knobbly on rippled B-roads, but even in Normal mode, the Cayman retains excellent body control and you can feed it through corners with huge confidence. Get over-exuberant with the throttle mid-corner and the torque vectoring brakes the inside rear wheel to keep the car turning, while the limited-slip diff produces very strong grip on the exit.

But the Porsche isn’t just at home on twisty roads – it’s pliant in town and calm on motorways, too. This is an extremely usable sports car.

The Gallardo’s gearbox is a delight for different reasons. Its open gate lets you gaze inside at the greased linkage and rings with every strike of the lever. It’s a delightful point of interaction with the charismatic 5.0-litre V10, which needs fewer revs to come on song than the Cayman’s six-pot and lets out a race-worthy scream towards its 7750rpm red line.

The approach of a corner initiates an indulgent sequence: lean on the powerful, ventilated discs, blip the skinny throttle pedal between downshift ‘clacks’ and a single ‘pop’ of sniper fire follows from the exhaust.

Roll is marginal and the four-wheel drive system lends a totally planted cornering stance. You can feed power in early, but the pace it produces is in a different league from the Cayman’s, so full throttle can’t be laid on with anything like the same abandon without triggering the traction control.

The firmness of the ride – which, on a bumpy road, affects comfort more than it does confidence – only highlights how well tuned the Cayman’s set-up is. But although we once reckoned that the Gallardo was short on steering feel, its hydraulically assisted helm is a veritable flibbertigibbet compared with the Cayman’s slick yet relatively monotonous electric set-up.

The Lamborghini is never quiet, but it’s no louder than the Porsche when cruising. And usability isn’t compromised: all-round visibility is surprisingly good, the turning circle usefully compact and the steering light when manoeuvring, although the boot is far too small to cope with extended trips.

Because of its age, the CO2-heavy Gallardo nevertheless costs the same in VED as the Cayman, at £285, but that’s where parity on running costs ends. Services are due annually or every 7500 miles for the Lambo, with one major for every two minors. BHP charges £1680 for the former, £600 for the latter.

The Porsche operates on two-year/20,000-mile intervals, which alternate between £480 and £610 at Porsche Centre Reading, and it uses less than half as much fuel.

The verdict

So which wins? The Cayman S is easily the more multi-talented and rounded proposition. But you could arguably retain the bulk of its most endearing skills by spending less than £40,000 on the entry-level model. If you’re buying for weekend thrills more than daily duties, though, it has to be the Gallardo.

It’s an absolute showman, and Audi-hewn robustness has let it age gracefully. And if the running costs worry you, know that early Gallardos are currently appreciating. Now there’s food for thought.

Porsche Cayman S 

Price £64,043; 0-62mph 5.0sec; Top speed 175mph; Economy 32.1mpg; CO2 206g/km; Kerbweight 1389kg; Engine 6 cyls, 3463cc, petrol; Power 321bhp at 7400rpm; Torque 273lb ft at 5800rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

Lamborghini Gallardo

Price £67,500 (price new: £155,000); 0-60mph 4.1sec; Top speed 192mph; Economy 14.5mpg; CO2 450g/km; Kerbweight 1520kg; Engine V10, 4961cc, petrol; Power 492bhp at 7800rpm; Torque 376lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

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Revived British marque Atalanta to reveal new car
Revived British marque Atalanta to reveal new car Car maker to show off first example of new car that blends its original 1930s philosophy with modern safety features

Revived British marque Atalanta Motors will reveal its first new model for 75 years at the Hampton Court Palace Concours of Elegance next week.

The Atalanta Sports Tourer was first shown to the public on 5 March 1937. Just 21 cars were produced before the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 forced the demise of the company.

Atalanta was relaunched by Staffordshire-based motoring enthusiast Martyn Corfield in 2012.

The modern take on the Sports Tourer blends Atalanta’s original 1930s philosophy with modern safety features. Each car will be built to a customer's individual specifications and 90 per cent of the component parts are designed and engineered by Atalanta, including castings, forgings and fabrications. The exterior is a hand-crafted aluminium-over-ash coach-built structure.

Corfield said: “As in the 1930s, Atalanta Motors provides the opportunity to commission an individual driving machine to exacting requirements. The new sports car offers an exhilarating drive with assured handling and a supremely comfortable ride".

Chassis number one of the brand new model will be shown at event, which runs from 5-7 September. An original 1937 Atalanta is also expected to be on display.

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Saab's owner wins protection against bankruptcy
Latest Saab news Swedish car maker encounters another round of financial woes as it tries to source investment to pay suppliers

Saab's parent company has successfully applied for protection from bankruptcy as it seeks extra time to source funds to save the car maker from financial collapse.

The company trying to revive the Saab brand to make electric vehicles, National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), recently admitted that it did not have enough money to pay all of its 900 suppliers.

However, NEVS stated that it was involved in "tripartite negotiations with two global vehicle manufacturers" who might invest in Saab and enable the suppliers to get paid.

It also said, however, that negotiations "are still progressing, but are complex and have taken more time than we predicted".

The majority of NEVS suppliers have chosen to await the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, but some creditors have filed applications for a court order to force the company to pay them.

That is a situation NEVS is keen to avoid because it fears it might jeopardise its investment negotiations with the unnamed car companies.To give itself more time, NEVS applied to a Swedish district court for bankruptcy protection.

That was turned down on Thursday, but a second application earlier today was approved and the district court of Vänersborg has appointed an administrator during the reorganisation period.

Saab has been rarely been far from financial turmoil since it was offloaded by General Motors to Spyker in 2010.

The latest round of financial woes comes shortly after NEVS finally presented its Saab 9-3 electric vehicle. The car is equipped with lithium-ion batteries and has a claimed range of approximately 120 miles, a maximum speed of around 75mph and a 0-60mph time of ten seconds.

The 9-3 EV is part of a prototype series built in Trollhättan in May as test beds for technical development and to verify the manufacturing set-up in preparation for the production of customer cars.

NEVS started production of petrol-powered 9-3 Aero Sedans in December 2013, but stopped the build in May.

In a further twist, Reuters has reported that Saab AB, the defence firm which licences the Saab name to NEVS, has withdrawn that right in light of the financial situation. 

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Radical RXC
Radical RXC The Radical RXC offers one of the most extreme driving experiences available on public roads A Le Mans car for the road. That, in a nutshell, was what Radical set out to create when designing the extraordinary new Radical RXC, and in a nutshell that’s exactly what they have built.The RXC may look a touch barking when encountered amongst ordinary, everyday traffic – to a point where people stare at it in complete bewilderment when they see it rumbling along the public road.But beneath its Le Mans prototype-like bodywork, complete with full GT3 specification multi-adjustable rear wing, it’s actually a rather good sports car, albeit one that’s a touch more extreme in its delivery compared with, say, a Volkswagen Golf GTi.At its heart, just behind its two racing bucket seats, sits a 3.7-litre Ford V6 that produces either 350bhp in standard tune or 380bhp with a bit of tweakery to its throttle system. In both cases it's mated to a seven-speed sequential paddle shift gearbox built specifically for the car by Quaife, who also make the torque-sensing differential that’s fitted to the car.All up, the RXC weighs just 900kg, which means it isn’t just quick but crackers fast in a straight line. Radical claims a 0-60mph time of just 2.8sec with a top speed limited by the relatively short gearing in seventh to “just” 175mph.They don’t quote a 0-100mph time just yet, but having spent a day howling around the Yorkshire moors in it I’d guess it could hit three figures in a fair bit less than seven seconds. Which puts it very much in the premier league when it comes to outright acceleration.But it’s what the RXC does around corners and under brakes that will at first fray and then obliterate the outer edges of your imagination, and the reason why is because it produces downforce. Lots and lots of downforce, to the extent that – in theory – it could be driven upside down through a tunnel without falling off the ceiling.Yup, at 175mph Radical claims the RXC produces its own weight in downforce – a full 900kg – and on the road what that translates to is a level of high speed grip that will reduce most passengers to a gibbering wreck, and leave most drivers giggling in disbelief.At low speeds, so let’s say anything under 50mph, you can’t really feel that prodigious downforce. Instead, all you notice is how relatively un-dreadful the ride is and how crisp the steering seems; Radical worked hard to get the damping of the all-round double wishbone suspension to a level that would ensure the car had a half decent ride quality, and I’d say they hit the bullseye on that one – because amazingly it rides pretty well.As soon as you venture beyond 60mph, though, and ideally a fair bit higher than that on a track, you can feel the stability levels going up, front and rear, and the steering also gets a touch meatier. And yet... if you then really lean on it and get it to start sliding around – there is no traction control and no ABS – it’s actually rather well behaved.There’s no precipice of grip that you walk up to and then just fall straight off; instead, when it goes, it goes gradually. On a track, therefore, I’m sure this car would be a) phenomenally rapid compared with other cars of a similar price, but also b) an absolute peach to throw around on account of its handling being so friendly. As a combination, that’s no small achievement on behalf of the RXC’s chassis engineers.Talking of steering, the RXC has a unique system that enables you to dial the level of power assistance up or down in five different stages (see sidebar). But however much assistance you call upon, the front end of the RXC always feels pinned to whatever apex you choose to aim it at. And the way it stops is quite outrageous, frankly, for a car that wears number plates and a tax disc.It also sounds deliciously potent, inside and out. You’d never guess that its engine is from a humble Ford given the range of exotic noises it gives off under full bore acceleration. It’s the same engine that Ginetta uses in the excellent G60, but it sounds even angrier in this case, and feels even more potent, which is saying something.A less than brilliant aspect of the RXC is the way you enter it, or climb back out of it. So wide are its sills that the only way you can enter it realistically is by flinging open the gullwing door, then treading all over the seat and inserting yourself into its guts as elegantly as you can.Which is to say, not very. If it’s raining you’ll get whatever is on the bottom of your shoes all over the seats. Those in this test car fortunately weren’t covered in the expensive leather hides that Radical hopes many RXC customers will end up specifying.Another as yet unresolved issue is the gearchange, specifically the smoothness of the upshifts and the lack of a proper blip during donwshifts. Use the clutch conventionally up or down and there’s no problem, of course, but if you make a full steam upchange and don’t use the clutch, the corresponding wallop in the back isn’t entirely pleasant, even if the shift itself happens in microseconds. Radical realises there’s a bit of work to be done here, however, and is continuing to tweak the software to make the shifts a touch less manic.When they sort that gearchange, the RXC will be something else. As it stands it’s already one of the more surprising cars we’ve driven this year, not simply for its sheer speed across the ground but for the quality of its execution and its composure at high speed thanks chiefly to the downforce.It’s expensive at a whisker under £100k, true, but then there’s nothing else quite like it to drive right now, not at this price point or, indeed, at any price point come to think of it.As a track day car it is sensational, and as a road car it is completely nuts. And that’s nuts as in smashing-super-great. No wonder Radical’s order books are full.  Radical RXC Price £97,000; 0-62mph 2.8sec; Top speed 175mph; Economy 25-40mpg; CO2 n/a; Kerb weight 900kg; Engine V6, 3700cc, petrol; Installation mid, longitudinal, rear wheel drive; Power 380bhp at 6750rpm; Torque 320lb ft at 4250rpm; Gearbox 7-spd paddle shift, sequential

More powerful Peugeot 308 hatchback spied
More powerful Peugeot 308 hatchback spied French manufacturer's family hatchback gets a performance upgrade ahead of possible Paris motor show unveiling

A warm version of the Peugeot 308 family hatchback has been spied testing, and the advanced state of the car suggests it could be ready in time for the Paris motor show in October.

The sporting character of the new variant is evident thanks to the addition of twin exhausts, a lower ride height compared to standard Peugeot 308s, and different alloys wheels and tyres.

This front-wheel-drive model will likely sit above the existing 154bhp 1.6 THP in the 308's range. It isn't clear which engine powers it, although it possibly uses the 197bhp derivative of the 1.6 THP unit installed in the 208 GTI.

Peugeot served notice of its intention to create performance halo models at the top of the 308's range when it showed off the 308 R concept at last year's Frankfurt motor show.

The car caught by our spy photographers might not be the most extreme 308 we'll see in the future; Peugeot is believed to be considering an even hotter production version of the 308 R that would be fettled by the company’s motorsport division.

That version could be a rival for the likes of the Seat Leon Cupra 280 and use the 266bhp 1.6 THP petrol engine installed in the Peugeot RCZ R sport coupé. 

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Which cars will do a million miles and still be around in 2031?
Which cars will do a million miles and still be around in 2031? Inspired by a Saab 900 owner who racked up a seven-figure mileage, here are some more vehicles that could survive the looming apocalypse

Putting a million miles under your tyres is easy, as long as you are kind to your car and most important of all, you own the right car.

A few years back a traveling salesman, Peter Gilbert, was able to put 1,001,385 miles in his 1989 Saab 900. He then donated it to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum after Saab verified the mileage.

All he did was regularly service the car, change the tyres every 45,000 miles and rebuild the gearbox at 200,000 miles. The Saab even survived eight head-on collisions with errant deers. Not surprisingly, Gilbert replace his faithful old Saab, with another one that had rather less than 1m miles on the clock.

This got me thinking – which cars could you buy and rely on to be around when their odometers click onto 1,000,000? It took Gilbert 17 years to pile on those miles, so which cars could we be driving in 2031? Here are my predictions:

Toyota Landcruiser

If it came down to the survival of the fittest, then you can’t buy better than the utterly indestructible Landcruiser. When the going gets rough over the coming decades, as it certainly will, with road repair budgets cut to the absolute minimum, then the Landcruiser can certainly cope. Plus there is bags of room inside for the whole family, the dogs and all their rubbish. This is an off-roader which can cope with the very long haul.

Lexus LS430

If a Landcruiser is a tad too agricultural for your automotive sensibilities, then don’t worry because those nice people at Toyota have their top-of-the-range limousine to get you comfortably through the next decade. The huge V8 under the bonnet of the LS430 is under-stressed and whisper quiet and is unlikely to need anything more than the odd oil change. There are lots of electronics on board, but Toyota’s are made from sterner stuff. Don’t worry – you are being wafted around in a Lexus.

Mazda MX-5

Any Mazda would do really, but an MX-5 is huge fun to drive and will never bore you in the coming decades. It also won’t break down. A non-contact engine means that even if the worst happens then all you have to do is buy a new rubber cambelt. If only British sports cars had been built to this standard. You won’t find any Lotus Elans or MGBs with a million miles, but a Mazda MX-5 is as close to a dead cert as you can get.

Morgan 4/4

The tragedy of all Morgans is that they don’t get used enough, but we think that rather than covering a few summer miles each year, it could easily cope with the daily grind. After all, the mechanicals are modern and should last the course as will the aluminium panels. The wood frame of the Morgan 4/4 is flexible and with copious applications of Ronseal should survive. The great thing is Morgans have a habit of maintaining their value. A million-mile Moggie, we think, could well be worth a million.

Ariel Atom

You really couldn’t find much less of a car and with a reliable Japanese engine singing in your ears, the only question will be whether you as the driver could endure a million miles. Especially as your own body is effectively the bodywork. Otherwise the Ariel Atom has the absolute bare essentials and should be all you need for the next few years.

Land Rover Defender

We are determined to fly the flag here, yet we are the first to admit that the modern Land Rover Defender is a lot more complicated than it used to be. Our theory is that as bits fail or fall off, we simply replace them with older bits from earlier series models – coils replaced by cart springs, electric windows ousted for sliders, that sort of thing – so that it becomes progressively more basic and durable year by year. By 2031 it will be a Series One in all but name.

So do you have any suggestions?

BTCC 2014 race report - highlights from Knockhill
Colin Turkington tops the points table after the latest round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, which saw victories for Matt Neal, Mat Jackson and Rob Collard

Relive the action as the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship moves to Knockhill, providing wins for Matt Neal, Mat Jackson and Rob Collard. The results mean that Colin Turkington tops the points table, followed by Gordon Shedden and Jason Plato.

Denza first drive review
Denza EV first drive review Daimler joint venture with BYD yields this four-door notchback for China, but it's not fast or refined enough to compete on European turf The new Denza notchback, a practical and (with Chinese government subsidies) relatively affordable electric vehicle developed in a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler and the automotive arm of Chinese industrial giant BYD.Although initially conceived on the same underpinnings as the superseded first-generation Mercedes-Benz B-class, the first in what is expected to grow into a limited range of Denza models has ultimately been engineered in China around what is described by Daimler-BYD Auto officials as a “totally unique platform”.That platform features a longer wheelbase, wider tracks and increased overhangs than its German sibling – measures that provide it with interior space approaching that of the existing E-class saloon, including a commodious 460-litre boot complete with a full-sized spare wheel.Power for the weighty 2090kg steel bodied notchback, which was styled under a team headed by Olivier Boulay at Daimler’s Beijing based design studio, hails from a front-mounted electric motor provided by BYD Auto.With a peak output of 115bhp and 214lb ft of torque, it propels the new car from 0-62mph in a claimed 14.0sec and to a top speed limited to 93mph.Energy for the electric motor is provided by a relatively large 47.5kW/h lithium iron phosphate battery consisting of 144 individual cells and produced by BYD Auto parent company, BYD Company.Encased in a cast aluminium cradle and mounted within the floor, it is claimed to provide the Denza with an overall range of up to 208 miles at an average speed of 37mph.

Lada boss sets out road to recovery with new plan
Lada boss sets out road to recovery Russian manufacturer looks to recover market share and grow its brand, but boss Bo Andersson says his first priority is improving Lada's reputation

Lada boss Bo Andersson has unveiled a new plan which will see the company return to a 20 per cent market share in Russia by 2016. In addition, the brand wants to be building one million cars per year by the end of the decade.

The move comes following news that Lada’s parent company Avtovaz – now owned by Renault-Nissan – will be cutting back production in Russia by 25,000 units for three months over fears of poor demand in the country.

Russia's car market contracted by 5.5 per cent to 2.78 million units last year, while Lada's global sales were also down by 19 per cent, at 481,000 units.

Speaking to Autocar at the Moscow motor show, where Lada launched three new models – the X-Ray compact SUV, Vesta compact saloon and WTCC-ready Vesta racer – Andersson said focusing on Lada’s home market was his top priority.

“Our first focus is Russia. This is a very competitive market and if we’re not competitive here then we can’t be competitive elsewhere,” he said “ But what we are also thinking about is our key export markets. Germany has always been a big market for Lada, as is Sweden and Egypt. 

“The first focus is the Russian federation, then the former Soviet Union and finally export markets. If we’re not successful here [in Russia] then we won’t be in those countries.”

Building that success will involve turning some customer’s perceptions of Lada around. As Andersson says: “When we look at the customers half don’t like us and half love us. 

“The most important thing is that we need to improve service at the dealers. People come to the dealership and they say parts aren’t covered by warranty. We’ve created new rapid deployment forces which can go out and fix an issue. We are rebuilding loyalty.

“Nobody will buy a Lada if we’re not competitive, so we’re also improving quality. People want a good gearbox, good steering, good brakes and air conditioning. For most customers that’s enough, they don’t want all the electronics, just the things they need.”

Despite the country's uncertain future, though, Andersson remains optimistic: “We plan for the worst and we hope for the best. 

“The big thing that is happening this year is that five million used cars will be sold [in Russia]. Now we can say why buy a three-year old European car when you can buy a new Lada for the same price?”

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Renault to unveil 141mpg concept car at Paris motor show
Renault to unveil 141mpg concept car at Paris motor show Design boss confirms "experimental" super-frugal concept car, which will rival Peugeot's 2008 Hybrid Air, for October show

Renault will present a new “experimental engineering” concept car at the Paris motor show in October, Autocar has learned.

Speaking at the Moscow motor show, Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker confirmed the new concept is Renault’s answer to a challenge set by the French government, to put a car capable of returning 141mpg into production by 2020.

“We’ve come up with a really interesting concept,” he said.

Van den Acker also confirmed the new car won’t be a modified version of an existing Renault product, saying: “It doesn’t have an existing platform, because the existing platform would be too heavy. To be able to get to these numbers you need a dramatic weight reduction and a dramatic aerodynamic improvement.” 

The design chief wouldn’t be drawn on what form the new concept will take, only saying there would be a mixture of traditional hatchback, sports car and crossover styling traits: “I think there’s a little of all of those in there,” he said.

Renault isn’t the first French firm to answer the challenge. Earlier this year Autocar drove the near production-ready version of Peugeot’s 2008 Hybrid Air concept, which is powered by a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine with 81bhp in conjunction with a pair of hydraulic pumps, meaning total power is rated at 112bhp. 

In total, Peugeot's car is capable of returning an estimated 106mpg – impressive, but still short of the French government’s 141mpg target.

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Aerodynamic and suspension tweaks for Nissan 370Z Nismo
Aerodynamic and suspension tweaks for Nissan 370Z Nismo Japanese company's sporting arm gives the flagship 370Z a makeover to deliver a sharper and more engaging driving experience

The flagship Nissan 370Z Nismo has been revised to deliver a sharper and more engaging driving experience, while the Japanese manufacturer has also improved refinement and enhanced equipment levels across the entire 370Z range.

The changes focus on aerodynamic and suspension tweaks, but the performance of the 370Z Nismo is unchanged, meaning it is still powered by a 339bhp, 3.7-litre six-cylinder engine and can sprint from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds.

Available only as a coupé with a six-speed manual gearbox, the 370Z Nismo features suspension enhancements introduced as part of the updates of the entire range.

To improve ride comfort, the rear spring and damper rates have been altered, while changes to the carpets and inner rear wheel arch protector have further reduced road noise.

The exterior changes include a redesigned front bumper which features a larger air intake, additional air inlets ahead of the wheel arch and new LED daytime running lights.

At the rear, Nissan has introduced a new bumper and spoiler design. The new version features a smaller rear spoiler that works in tandem with the new front bumper to create significantly more downforce when driving at speed.

Nissan's engineers say downforce is now more evenly distributed over the front and rear axles, giving a more balanced feeling on the road.

Other updates include the introduction of black headlamp bezels, red Nismo trim at the base of the bumper, redesigned side sills and door mirrors and special Nismo badging. Revisions also include new 19-inch alloy wheels finished in black and silver.

Inside, the car features new Recaro seats that offer significant improvements in support and comfort and have been tailored specifically for the 370Z Nismo.

By adopting a new shell-based construction instead of a traditional tubular frame seat, Nissan has improved the rigidity of the seat and reduce the weight.

The new seats are trimmed in red and black leather and Alcantara to match the 370Z Nismo's steering wheel.

Nissan has also made a raft of enhancements across the 370Z range, including a new design of 18in wheels, new seats and the revised suspension also featured on the Nismo-tuned variant.

The pricing and specifications of the revised 370Z range are to be revealed shortly, ahead of the car going on sale in September. The 370Z Nismo currently costs £37,015.

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Video: Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG tested
Steve Sutcliffe drives the 355bhp GLA45 AMG, but is this hot crossover worth £44k?

Steve Sutcliffe drives the Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG. With 355bhp from its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine it's certainly powerful, but is it worth £44,595? And is it as good as the stunning A45 AMG hatchback?

Jaguar's Ian Callum reveals his personal take on the classic Mark 2
Jaguar's Ian Callum reveals his personal take on the classic Mark 2 Jaguar's design chief's personal renovation project features many aesthetic and technical modifications

A Jaguar Mark 2 redesigned by Jaguar design director Ian Callum has been unveiled after 18 months in development.

The finished car was shown off at the opening of the new headquarters of Shropshire-based restorer Classic Motor Cars (CMC), which was responsible for the reengineering of Callum's Jaguar.

The car was redesigned by Callum for his personal use and boasts many aesthetic and technical modifications. He endeavoured to retain the integrity of the original Mark 2, while making it even more exciting in shape and performance.

Callum said: “This is a very personal statement. A long-held notion that, although the Mark 2 has always been a beautiful car, it could be even more exciting in shape and performance. Whilst maintaining the purity of the car’s form, I wanted to add a number of modern twists to the design. Simplification and clarity was my objective.”

The Mark 2 by Callum features a modified and uprated 4.3-litre XK engine, five-speed manual gearbox, unique independent rear suspension and upgraded front brakes.

Callum said: “The stance of the Mark 2 is already excellent, but I wished to make it even better. The car’s form is now 30mm lower and sits on 17-inch split rim spoke wheels. The bumpers are now part of the overall form. It is a fine balance of extracting and adding.

“I have always loved traditional louvres as seen on many older racing cars. Four louvres appear on the side of the car to add to that sense of power and ‘something different’. Of course they had to work, so they have been designed in a low-pressure area for a better internal airflow from the modified engine.”

The suspension has been designed and reengineered by CMC. The front incorporates a bespoke power assisted rack, uprated coil springs, roll bar and wishbone bushes, adjustable dampers and solid subframe mountings, repositioned to improve anti-dive characteristics.

The unique independent rear suspension now includes uprated coil springs, blade control wishbones, outboard disc brakes, an anti-roll bar and adjustable dampers.

The car has been fitted with a high-end Clarion audio system with recording studio-specification cabling.

Also in attendance at the reveal of the Mark 2 by Callum were Formula One and motorcycle world champion John Surtees and Jaguar's test driver Norman Dewis.

The original Jaguar Mk2 saloon was produced from the late 1950s until the late 1960s, and became well known for its prowess in touring car racing.

The car will make its first public outing at the Salon Prive car show at Syon Park in west London on 3-5 September.  

Forget the Ford EcoSport and focus on a baby Landie or Volvo
Forget the Ford EcoSport and focus on a baby Landie or Volvo Most B-segment SUVs on the market are indifferently executed, which leaves an open goal for a manufacturer to build a truly good one

Ford’s new B-segment SUV, the EcoSport, has recently been taking quite a kicking from us road testing types (not to mention from those inside the Blue Oval’s mighty portals who know a good car).

Why? Not because it’s a thoroughly bad car — which it isn’t — but because it’s the poorest Ford we’ve seen in ages. We’re used to great looking, great driving, well-made cars wearing Ford badges, and the EcoSport misses that description on a couple of counts.

Read Matt Saunders views on the Ford EcoSport here

Yet for all these caveats, I thoroughly enjoyed the 500 miles I did in an EcoSport across last weekend, which probably sound to you a lot like a critic having his cake and eating it.

It did to me, too. Or at least it did until I realised that all the positive properties that apply generally to B-SUVs generally (high H-point, great headroom, low road noise, small car agility with big-car feel) and not to the Ford in particular.

The front I can live with, as far back as the B-pillars anyway, but further back than that it’s pretty terrible — made the more so by that excrescence of an exterior spare wheel. Reminds me of the old days of the outside loo.

And continuing the organic allusions, that incongruously swoopy plane across the top of the EcoSport dash reminds me — both in texture and colour — of a view across some pretty daunting mudflats where I used to work in Australia.

The plain truth about EcoSport, and the surprisingly large number of indifferently executed B-SUVs currently on the market (only the Dacia Duster rates as many as four Autocar stars) is that excellence hardly matters. They’re selling out of their skins anyway.

Ford’s figures show a 40 per cent growth in demand last year, and it’s still accelerating. Land Rover says by 2020 a remarkable 20 million of the world’s car buyers will want SUVs. People love the concept: big-car substance and strength with small-car agility and parkability.

However, we’re now well overdue a really good B-SUV — and I’m looking to two manufacturers currently not in the game to pull it off: Volvo and Land Rover.

The Germans could probably do it, too, but they have this curious habit of producing cars without much in the way of a soul, which I happen to believe a B-SUV needs.

Land Rover’s recent offerings, and Volvo’s terrific new XC90 show they’re the manufacturers who are on the pace with new-breed SUVs. Come on chaps — we’re waiting.

Alfa Romeo Giulia spotted testing - first pictures
Alfa Romeo Giulia spotted testing - first pictures Alfa Romeo's new BMW 3-series rival will go on sale in 2015 with styling inspired by the 4C and a new rear-drive platform

This is our first look at Alfa Romeo's upcoming BMW 3-series rival, the Giulia.

Although this early-stage chassis testing mule wears modified Maserati Ghibli bodywork, Autocar understands it is being used to test Alfa's new rear-wheel drive platform, which will underpin the Giulia when it goes on sale in the second half of next year. 

Described by company officials as being "the perfect embodiment of [Alfa's] DNA", the Giulia will be powered by a range of Italian-built four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines.

Lower-powered versions of the four-cylinder engine will come with between 105bhp and 190bhp available, while higher-powered versions could offer as much as 320bhp. 

Top-end Giulia models, powered by a six-cylinder petrol engine, will come with between 400-500bhp. Those cars will be badged as Giulia Cloverleaf, and will act as rivals to BMW's M3 and Mercedes-Benz's C63 AMG. Though natively rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive will be optional on the new car.

Alfa Romeo bosses have previously noted the challenges posed by the Giulia, particularly in relation to its styling. Speaking to Autocar late last year, the firm's design boss Lorenzo Ramaciotti said designing the 159 replacement had been "the hardest challenge" faced by the company. "There is a lot of expectation," he said "So what we do has to be remarkable but stand the test of time".

Inside, this test mule features trim elements from several different Fiat-Chrysler brands, but the project name "Tipo 952" can be seen.

The Giulia's new platform and engines will also become an integral part of Alfa's revival plan, which hinges on launching seven other new models by 2018.

Among the planned cars is a replacement for the current Giulietta, and an estate version of that car, as well as a new BMW 5-series rival, two SUVs, a "speciality" sports car to sit alongside the 4C and a Giulia estate.

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Should a 17-year-old be racing in Formula One?
Should a 17-year-old be racing in Formula One? Max Verstappen will be F1's youngest-ever racer when he climbs into his Toro Rosso next year, but that should not matter as long as he has the talent to win

A few years back I drove a Formula 3 car for a day around Pembrey race circuit in Wales. It rained all day and I wasn’t especially quick but, all things being equal, it was a top day out anyway – for all sorts of reasons.

One, because the car itself had just won that year’s championship and was being run by the extremely decent bunch of blokes at Carlin Motorsport, which is owned by one of the great unsung heroes of British motor racing – and unashamed Autocar fan – Trevor Carlin.

Two, I got to spend some quality time talking with the team about who, out of the various young guns that had driven for them in recent years, they thought might make it all the way to the top. 

This was the most intriguing part of the day by far, and two names kept cropping up: Jean-Eric Vergne – who had won the championship that year – and Daniel Ricciardo, who had won it the year before. 

When pushed, the lads at Carlin reckoned that Ricciardo might go furthest, although they reckoned that 'Jev' was a pretty damn talented racing driver as well.

A few years later, of course, both would progress to F1. The Carlin lads had been spot on with their observations on both counts. But it was Ricciardo, they admitted quietly, who fried their minds the most. Not merely with his speed – which they said was outrageous – but also his consistency, and the fact that he was 'on it' from the moment he turned up at whatever circuit they were racing at that weekend, in all weathers, in all conditions.

Which is why I was fascinated to hear what Trevor Carlin had to say about Max Verstappen when he was quizzed about Scuderia Toro Rosso’s new signing recently at Spa. He basically told Sky's Anthony Davidson that he thinks 16-year-old Verstappen is "the best he’s ever seen".

As a result, and bearing in mind who Carlin has witnessed first hand over the years, I’d say that makes young Max an odds-on favourite to do the business. And I don’t care if he’s not old enough to drive a road car on the public road for the time being. It’s just a very exciting, if slightly insane prospect, knowing that someone so young and inexperienced will be going head-to-head with the very best.

But at the same time I do feel sorry for Vergne, because he’s been booted from Toro Rosso for being not quite good enough when, in fact, he’s probably quicker – and better – than at least half the grid in Formula One right now.

It's a cut-throat business, is F1. But I’m certain that it’s a business in which Max Verstappen deserves his place – for the time being, at any rate.

Renault Twingo TCe 90 Dynamique first drive review
Renault Twingo TCe 90 Dynamique first drive review New city car is entertaining to drive and commendably spacious, although it lacks the refinement of the Volkswagen Up The all-new Renault Twingo, the product of a co-operative project between the French company and Daimler’s Smart brand. It’s the first five-door Twingo and the first new rear-engined Renault since production of the boxy 10 saloon ended in 1971.The new Twingo is just 3.59m long, which is pretty compact for a full four-seater with a well-sized rear cabin. Indeed, the new Twingo is a full 10cm shorter than the outgoing three-door Twingo but has a 12cm longer wheelbase.Renault says the rear-engined layout has allowed its engineers to push the dashboard further forward. This lengthy cabin, combined with a front passenger seat back that folds forward, allows loads as long as 2.31m long to be fitted inside the Twingo.Although there’s no luggage space under the bonnet (the space is filled with the radiator and various fluid reservoirs), Renault says that not having the engine mounted between the front wheels has greatly improved crash safety. Renault expects a four-star result in the NCAP tests, but says it will regard that as a good result in the wake of more the stringent regulations introduced in January this year. The Twingo structure’s main safety cage is made of very high strength steel than can absorb forces of "120kg per square millimeter".Pedestrian protection is also claimed to be much improved thanks to the amount of free deformation space allowed by the empty nose. Renault engineers have not had to raise the bonnet line to meet the pedestrian protection regulations, which – along with the very short nose – they say gives the Twingo driver the best forward view of any car in the A segment.Perhaps the biggest advantage with the rear-engined layout is the ability to allow the Twingo’s front wheels to pivot by 45 degrees off the straight-ahead position (the previous Twingo managed only 30 degrees). This gives the Twingo a tiny turning circle of just 8.9m, only marginally larger than that of a London black cab.At the rear is a re-engineered version of Renault’s familiar three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. The unit has been rotated by 49 degrees, so it is 15cm lower than its usual upright position, sitting under the boot floor. Renault says that this re-positioning of the engine means half of the components have had to be re-designed. The rear suspension is an unusual De Dion torsion beam design.This turbocharged engine, like the 69bhp normally aspirated unit, drives a conventional five-speed manual gearbox. There will be the option of a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, but it won’t arrive for another 12 months. Interestingly, the engine block can be lowered by 150mm to aid with major servicing.Inside, Renault’s designers say they have managed to carve out 52 litres of storage space, including space under the rear seat bench (like the original Mini). The boot offers a limited 188 litres, however. The seat backs can be locked in a more upright position to stretch that to 219 litres. Pushing the rear seat backs forward creates a completely level load bay.

Next Jaguar XF to adopt XE's aluminium architecture
Next Jaguar XF Second generation of Jaguar's luxury saloon is expected to use iQ[AL] underpinnings and will grow in size to make room for smaller XE

The second-generation Jaguar XF has been caught testing on British roads about a year before it is expected to go on sale.

JLR's mid-size luxury saloon is expected to grow in size to make room in the model range for the hotly anticipated new Jaguar XE, which will slot in below the XF.

Consequently, the next XF should offer more space and comfort for occupants. Saloon and estate versions of the XF are expected.

As with the XE, JLR's new iQ[Al] aluminium architecture is at the core of the next XF's development.

The underpinnings are scalable and company chiefs have previously stated that they will be used for a wide range of vehicles.

That makes it highly likely that Jaguar will pick from the new family of Ingenium engines, such as those installed in the XE, to power the bigger car.

The XE will use 2.0-litre, four-cylinder Ingenium units, but the powerplants use fixed 500cc cylinder sizes and so other capacities could be possible.

Additionally, the XE will be available with the supercharged V6 engine found in the Jaguar F-type and it seems likely that the XF will receive this too.

The next XF is also likely to adopt the XE's front suspension, which is a sophisticated, lightweight aluminium double-wishbone arrangement.

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Autocar magazine 27 August preview
Autocar magazine 27 August preview New versus used; BMW X4 full road test; new Volvo XC90 revealed; goodbye to our Range Rover

This week’s issue of Autocar magazine, which is available to buy in the shops and via download now, assesses the kind of dilemmas that can keep daydreaming car enthusiasts occupied for weeks.

Should you go for a brand new car, weighing up the thrill of owning a pristine motor against the ever-present spectre of crippling depreciation? Or should you buy wisely, getting the maximum bang for your buck by choosing a second-hand purchase after letting some other mug take the initial hit? 

We’ve pitched a collection of the best new cars on the market today up against second-hand rivals from a similar price point.

Should your money go on a new Porsche Cayman S or a used Lamborghini Gallardo? Does a pristine Aston Martin V12 Vantage make a better buy than a previous owned McLaren MP4-12C?

Our news section kicks off with an analysis of the new Volvo XC90 and what the car means for the Swedish company. The Mercedes-Benz GLK (which is expected to be renamed) has also been confirmed for the UK, and we’ve got the latest details of the model which has previously been denied to prospective customers in right-hand-drive markets. 

We’ve got a special report on the future of Lada, and speak to the British designer who is helping to shape the Russian brand’s future.

Steve Sutcliffe offers his opinions on the Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG as we get our first opportunity to assess the car. Does he like it as much as the A45 AMG he ran as a long-term test car for six months? Find out in this week’s issue.

Meanwhile, Autocar’s experienced test team gets to grips with the BMW X4 in this week’s eight-page road test. 

The imperious Range Rover has now left our long-term test fleet. During our time with us it’s been everywhere from the Le Mans 24 Hours to a Truro City FC football match. We reflect on the highs and lows of living with it in this week’s issue.

Our used buying guide focuses on the Peugeot 306 GTi-6, and offers useful hints and tips for bagging a well-cared-for example for reasonable money.

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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Maserati begins development of new Levante SUV
Maserati begins development of new Levante SUV Italian company's premium sports-utility vehicle starts testing ahead of its anticipated launch in late 2015

Test mules for the forthcoming Maserati Levante SUV have been seen on the public road for the first time.

Almost three years on from the unveiling of the Maserati Kubang concept which served notice of the Italian manufacturer's plans to build a rival to the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X6, our spy photographers caught this early chassis testing mule testing on roads in Italy.

The test car appears to be based on a heavily modified and raised Ghibli body, although this isn't expected to look like the definitive production version, which will take cues from the Kubang. The high-riding stance and large wheels of the test mule suggests that it could be assessing a four-wheel-drive system.

The test mule has a much more rugged appearance than a standard Ghibli, with flared wheel arches and a revised roofline, which could be carrying some supplementary weight in order to simulate the higher kerb weight of an SUV compared to the 1810kg Ghibli.

The Levante will use a version of the ‘Q4’ all-wheel drive system adapted from its application in the latest Ghibli and Quattroporte models.

The all-wheel drive system will be modified for the Levante’s dual-purpose role, with Maserati expected to draw on sister brand Jeep’s expertise for the SUV’s rough-terrain capabilities.

The Levante’s structure will draw on the Quattroporte and Ghibli, while some electronics will come from Chrysler and Jeep. Its underpinnings are a development of those used on the Jeep Grand Cherokee. As with the Quattroporte and Ghibli, the Levante is expected to contain a high level of weight-saving aluminium in its body and suspension.

Engines for the Levante will include the firm’s new 410bhp twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol V6 and a 530bhp twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8. A 271bhp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel will be the key powerplant for Europe. The engines will be linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

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New Suzuki Vitara to be unveiled at the Paris motor show
New Suzuki Vitara to be unveiled at the Paris motor show Japanese manufacturer to go head-to-head with Nissan, Vauxhall and Ford with new compact crossover, due in UK next year

A new Suzuki Vitara compact crossover will be unveiled at the Paris motor show in October and will go on sale in the UK next spring.

The Japanese company is reviving the Vitara model name for its all-new five-door car, which will battle rivals such as the Nissan Juke, Vauxhall Mokka and Ford Ecosport in the competitive and fast-growing compact crossover segment.

The Vitara – which was spied testing in the summer – is effectively a replacement for the previous-generation S-Cross, because the new SX4 S-Cross has moved up a class in size to fight the Nissan Qashqai.

Like the Grand Vitara, a four-wheel-drive option will be offered via the company's AllGrip system and power is likely to come from the 1.6-litre petrol and diesel powerplants installed in the SX4 S-Cross.

Suzuki says the Vitara "will have a striking road presence with distinctive design." Customers will have the option of personalising the car with various colour and trim customisation options.

The Vitara production model is based on the iV-4 concept which was first shown at the Frankfurt motor show in 2013.

The new car is based on an all-new platform, which is expected to underpin a number of future vehicles. It is likely to be built at the firm's Hungarian plant and is part of a model expansion plan by Suzuki.

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Why Renault is making a bold statement with its new racer
Why Renault is making a bold statement with its new racer The French manufacturer wants to make significant inroads into the Russian car market, and the attention-grabbing RS 01 is part of the strategy

With its home motor show in Paris just around the corner, I’ve been wondering why Renault chose this week's Moscow motor show to launch its new £282,000 RS 01 racing car.

After all, while Russia may be the second-largest car market in the European sales region behind Germany – and many say it will surpass it to become the largest by 2016 – there are still just 274 cars per 1000 people in the country according to Avtovaz boss Bo Andersson.

It's interesting to see global brands grabbing for space in the country's capital – car dealerships are huge and very plush – but Renault has already made significant in-roads into Russia's vast and potentially lucrative market with its World Series by Renault package of racing championships.

The series staged the first international track event of its kind to take place at Moscow Raceway in 2012, and the event attracted more than 78,000 spectators over two days.

The firm’s chief financial officer Dominique Thormann has said that one of Renault’s main challenges in the second half of this year is its “lack of visibility” in emerging markets such as Russia.

In terms of making bold statements, the RS 01 is quite a show-stopper. Powered by the same 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged engine as the Nissan GT-R, the closed-cockpit racer comes with 493bhp.

It’ll be seen in action next year, and could well give Renault exactly the kind of visibility boost its wants to help grow its market share here.

Volkswagen e-Golf struck by charging setback
Volkswagen e-Golf struck by charging setback Wolfsburg’s electric hatchback is 'too new' for some motorway fast-chargers, posing potential challenges for owners

The first UK customers taking delivery of a new Volkswagen e-Golf over the coming weeks may encounter problems with fast-charging, Autocar has learned.

The electric Golf, which is fitted with ‘Combined Charging System’ DC rapid-charge functionality as standard, is currently incompatible with many of the ‘CCS’ charging installations already in place on the UK motorway network and operated by sustainable power provider Ecotricity.

It’s believed that a software problem with the chargers prevents them from establishing a connection with the car, and starting a charging session. 

Volkswagen UK is currently working with Ecotricity and charger manufacturer DBT-CEV to address the problem, but for the moment the electric VW’s longer-range autonomy is seriously hamstrung.

AC 'trickle-charging' – which takes some seven hours to completely refresh the car’s 24kWh lithium-ion battery – will be the only available solution at most public charging points. Via rapid-charge, e-Golf owners should be able to restore 80 per cent charge, and roughly 85 miles of range, to their car’s battery in 30 minutes.

The problem is specific to the e-Golf, with other cars using the ‘CCS’ fast-charging standard such as the BMW i3 and even the older VW e-Up city car charging from Ecotricity’s DBT fast-chargers without issue.

Meanwhile, other ‘CCS’ fast-chargers in the UK – specifically those manufactured by ABB and installed by network operator Chargemaster off the motorway network – will charge the e-Golf.

Both Ecotricity and Volkswagen UK were approached by Autocar for comment to clarify the situation.

In a statement, Volkswagen said: "A software issue with some DC fast-chargers means that they currently will not charge the e-Golf. In our testing with similar chargers, they operated as required.

"We are working with the manufacturers of the units to come to a solution. Volkswagen e-Golfs can of course also be charged using widely available AC charging using either a standard Type 2 connector or indeed a domestic three-pin socket."

An Ecotricity spokesperson added: "VW and DBT are working on a solution that will update the software throughout the network, allowing e-Golfs to charge on the electric highway. This should be completed within the next week or two."

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Dacia Sandero RS performance hatch in the works
Dacia Sandero RS performance hatch in the works Renault's low-priced model to get performance makeover for emerging markets, but don't expect it to go on sale in Britain

Renault is working on a performance version of the Dacia Sandero, which will go on sale next year but won’t be sold in Europe.

Speaking to Autocar ahead of the Moscow motor show, Renaultsport boss Patrice Ratti revealed that work on a hot Dacia Sandero is already well under way, with the new model intended to help spearhead Renaultsport’s growth in emerging markets such as Russia and Brazil.

Both the Sandero and its Sandero Stepway crossover sibling are marketed under the Renault brand in those countries, and as such are key candidates for Renaultsport modifications.

Ratti also confirmed the Sandero RS won’t be powered by an engine currently in its line-up, but said big power gains weren’t needed for the car: “A Sandero is lighter than a Clio, so you don’t need that much power."

The most powerful version of the Sandero currently on offer in Russia produces 101bhp from its 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.

In the long term, Ratti says the Sandero RS will sit at the base of Renault’s performance range – possibly alongside a hotter version of the new Twingo – with the Clio RS and Mégane RS models fitting in above.

A performance crossover, which is likely to based on the Renault Captur, would also be part of the line-up.

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The British designer who is giving Lada a makeover
The British designer who is giving Lada a makeover Once-derided Lada is embarking on an ambitious renovation. It's an enormous task, but former Volvo and Mercedes designer Steve Mattin is relishing it

What gives real credibility to the remarkable reinvention plan Lada is about to embark on is the man behind it.

British designer Steve Mattin was lured to Lada in autumn 2011 from a distinguished stint as Volvo’s design boss (where he designed models including the S60, V60 and XC60) and previously Mercedes-Benz (where his designs included the previous ML, GL and SL models) on the promise of a true blank sheet of paper to define Lada on.

The following August he presented the X-Ray concept, a bold, three-door compact SUV that caused Moscow motor show visitors to question whether the car in front of them really was a Lada.

“The challenge was to redefine the brand, build it and give it a new identity, and create a real strategy around future products with a consistent design language,” he says.

“It was a heavy decision to make to come here after Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, and a completely different opportunity. It’s a chance to redefine a brand, and there are not many opportunities like that in the industry."

Mattin took over from very early design work on the next-generation of production Ladas and begun to shape them in his image. Unusually for a car maker, Lada has no real design history or icons in its range to draw inspiration from, at least not in a positive light.

Nor does Russia have an instantly identifiable design culture or framework to reference as with, for example, a Volvo, leaving Mattin with a true fresh start for Lada.

The X-Ray concept is a model that has clearly inspired the Vesta and follow-up X-Ray concept on show in Moscow today. “The initial X-Ray was great because it allowed us the freedom to start to define Lada, to show the new brand and face, and how we can enter new segments. The reaction to it was amazing and surpassed all expectations. It has influenced us and given us confidence.”

Mattin says such a design revolution is needed at a brand like Lada, which cannot take its patriotic Russian customers for granted in a car market swelling with cars frankly better and more appealing across the board than Lada’s existing range.

“People want emotional design in Russia now,” he says, “they expect good design and want to be excited. There’s an enormous amount of goodwill for the brand but we must give people the excitement. It won’t happen overnight – look at Skoda and Kia – but with an influx of new product with an emphasis on design, new platforms, and better quality and finish, we can make a bigger step quicker.”

All the steps to turn Lada into a serious player both at home and further afield, so does Mattin see Lada as the next Skoda or Dacia?

After all, the same signs are there as the early days of Skoda and Dacia’s reinventions, after a takeover from bigger firms prepared to back them, as Renault-Nissan is doing with the previously derided Togliatti-based Lada.

“I’d love to think so," Mattin says. "There’s a huge opportunity for growth inside and outside of Russia, but you can’t go and do that until you get the products right. And there’s lots more cool and exciting products to come…”

We await them with interest. 

Renaultsport confirms plans for a hot Twingo variant
Renaultsport mulls over hot Twingo variant French manufacturer's performance arm is studying how it can tease more performance out of third-generation city car

Renaultsport bosses have confirmed that a performance version of the new Renault Twingo is being considered, but the model won't be badged Twingo RS if it gets the green light for production.

Speaking to Autocar ahead of the Moscow motor show, Renaultsport boss Patrice Ratti said the firm is currently considering how to bring a performance Twingo to market.

The main challenge, he says, is extracting sufficient power from the Twingo’s three-cylinder engine. The standard Twingo is offered with a choice of three-pot engines – a 1.0-litre 69bhp normally aspirated unit and a 0.9-litre 89bhp three-cylinder turbocharged power plant.

Due to the tight size restrictions of the third-generation model, Ratti said installing a larger, four-cylinder engine isn’t possible without significantly modifying the rear-drive Twingo’s layout.

It’s also unlikely any performance Twingo would top the 131bhp offered by the previous Twingo RS. Therefore, Ratti says that any hot version of the new car would be badged as 'GT' rather than as a full-blown 'RS'.

Read our review of the previous Renault Twingo Renaultsport 133

Earlier this year Renault's head of small car development, Benoît Bochard, told Autocar that the last Twingo RS was not a success in sales terms, because customers did not want to pay a high price for such a small car.

Work on the model is understood to be at a very early stage, but may account for recent spy pictures showing a new Twingo with different front air intakes and new dual exhausts at the rear.

“I wouldn’t want to make it and not have it be as good [as the last Twingo RS],” said Ratti. “We have to decide.”

A hotter Twingo is unlikely to be seen before the end of next year. Renault previewed the new Twingo with a high-performance Twin'Run concept, the styling of which could inform the performance model.

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Lada reinvents itself with three bold new models
Lada reinvents itself with three bold new models Russian manufacturer presents the new X-Ray compact SUV, plus road and track versions of the Vesta compact saloon at Moscow motor show

Lada has launched two new models and a new race car at its home Moscow motor show as it bids to reinvent itself as the maker of stylish, desirable, high quality cars with appeal not just to the domestic buyers so loyal to the brand, but also eventually those further afield.

At Moscow it is presenting the X-Ray compact SUV and the Vesta compact saloon, both thinly veiled looks at new families of models that will go on sale from September 2015.

There is also a World Touring Car Championship version of the Vesta saloon that will go racing next year, with two British drivers – Rob Huff and James Thompson – and Russian Mikhail Kozlovskiy behind the wheel.

All this has been made possible by a takeover of Lada’s parent firm Avtovaz by Renault-Nissan, which has gradually been increasing its ownership to now 67.1 per cent of a holding company that controls 74.5 per cent of Avtovaz. Renault acquired an initial 25 per cent stake in 2008 for $1 billion (£600m).

The bold, distinctive new design direction, overseen by British design director Steve Mattin, is the first phase of this reinvention, which is in part backed up by proven Renault-Nissan-sourced platforms and likely powertrains.

Up first in the Lada reinvention is the Vesta, a 4.4-metre B-segment saloon, which will replace the Priora in Lada’s line-up and become its likely second best seller after the smaller 4.2-metre-long Granta saloon when it goes on sale in September 2015.

It’s based on a new modular platform that several different variants of the Vesta and other models are likely to be spawned from. The production car will look almost identical to the four-door concept at Moscow, save for some detail in the headlights and slightly narrower wings.

The Vesta will be seen first though in WTCC racer form, when the 2015 season starts next spring. Unusually, the Lada road car design team has worked with the Lada Sport design, and Mattin, who gave Autocar an exclusive preview of the new Ladas before the Moscow show, believes the Vesta’s layout and proportions lends itself to a competitive racer far better than the Granta. A Lada Sport-fettled version of the Vesta saloon is already being mooted to further link the road and race programmes.

The final car in the trio is the second X-Ray concept. It’s closely related to the Dacia Sandero Stepway under the skin, but with a bespoke Lada look inside and out. Clearly inspired by the original three-door X-Ray concept, the now five-door model is still officially a concept, but a much closer look at the production car that’s due on sale in early 2016. A family of X-Ray vehicles is also planned.

Mattin says is not quite as close to production as the Vesta, but “every detail has a production relevance”. It’s another potential big seller for Lada, as the market is also subject to the global boom of popularity in compact SUVs.

That front face is the most eye-catching part of Lada’s reinvention. Mattin studied rivals and wanted to do something completely different from the horizontal front-ends and trapezoidal and single-frame front grilles currently dominating the industry.

He settled on the ‘X’ theme, a bold treatment that connects the headlights, front grille, lower air intake and front fogs. The angle and size of the X can be changed for different models to give it a different treatment, but maintaining the new strategic look. “It’s simple and bold,” says Mattin, “X is a strong letter.”

The X theme can be seen all over the new-look Ladas. Look at the new cars in their sleek profiles, and another X is spelled out in the bodywork, something Mattin describes as “clean and simple, really emphasising the wheels”.

There’s another X in the rear light graphics, and the side X runs around the rear light clusters to create another X. “Everywhere you look you see an X,” says Mattin, something that even applies inside, where the plusher, more European-like cabins with large touchscreens and higher quality materials are also furnished with Lada’s new favourite letter on the seat fabrics among other locations.

The newfound boldness and confidence is also reflected in the Lada name being spelled out across the back of the new cars, and a more modern looking and bigger badge created for the brand also. After the Vesta and X-Ray, the new look and brand identity will be rolled out across the rest of the range. 

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Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE first drive review
Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE first drive review Fast, loud and brash, the race-inspired 1LE option package transforms the standard Chevrolet Camaro into a track-ready pony car The Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE is big, brash, bold and, finished in our test car's premium bright yellow paint, can probably be seen from space.Chevrolet's supercharged ZL1 and 7.0-litre Z/28 performance models are legendary, but as General Motors’ fifth-generation pony car nears the end of its production run, the manufacturer’s engineers have delivered what is perhaps the coolest and most desirable Camaro yet.The 1LE production code originated in the 1980s as a secret, in-the-know option box for racers to check and, while today’s 1LE isn’t intended for the racer-only set, it includes much of the same clever engineering that makes it not only noticeably quicker than the SS but also thoroughly more enjoyable to drive.By all rights, the fundamental changes made to the Camaro by the addition of the 1LE option package should demand a separate Camaro model, but in keeping with tradition and avoiding confusion in the marketplace, the 1LE is available exclusively on the Camaro SS with a manual transmission. The lack of 1LE badging adds a massive cool factor.Under the bonnet is an unchanged 6.2-litre LS3 V8, producing a thundering 426bhp and 420lb ft of torque, but the exclusive Tremec TR6060 close-ratio six-speed gearbox awakens that lumbering engine.

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