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The latest independent automotive reviews on the vehicles hitting the UK market.
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Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-27 00:00
It’s hard to believe that one of our favourite SUVs has been on sale for almost four years. The Jaguar F-Pace is due a mid-life refresh sometime this year to keep it fresh against similar premium rivals which unsurprisingly are many, including the Volvo XC60, BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and perhaps, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
Until the refresh, Jaguar has introduced a new Chequered Flag model. It’s a high-end trim grade previously introduced on the XE and XF saloons and takes the mid-spec R-Sport (from £41,530) as a donor model and adds a plethora of extra aesthetic enhancements and extra kit inside and out to create a new, stand-alone trim grade within the current Jaguar F-Pace model range.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of a week with ‘OTV’ – a Jaguar F-Pace P250 Chequered Flag Edition, finished in metallic Eiger Grey. Before it was retrieved destined for the press fleet depot, I made a few pointers…
The Chequered Flag is marked out from other F-Pace models by the aggressive front bumper, borrowed directly from the F-Pace S, the large air intakes of which don’t have centre lateral splits.
More noticeable is the replacement by gloss black of all the chrome brightwork, including the grille surround, side window trims, door claddings, roof rails, and side vents featuring a unique integrated Chequered Flag logo.
Standard kit on the Chequered Flag edition is a set of 20-inch wheels. However, the test car arrived with a set of handsome 22-inchers finished in a similar gloss black. When you order an F-Face Chequered Flag, your exterior colour choice will consist of just Yulong White, Santorini Black and Eiger Grey as tested, which I think suits the large car best.
Inside, the exterior Chequered Flag theme continues when you open the doors and are greeted by model-specific sill plates. The leather upholstery and roof lining are both presented in black and what little contrasts there are in an otherwise dark and gloomy cabin are some silver stitching and aluminium trim panels.
Still, just like inside a regular F-Pace, it’s all ergonomically appealing and Jaguar’s upgraded InControl infotainment system with its 10-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital driver’s display mark it out as being every inch a modern, premium SUV. The system includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The steering wheel adjusts four ways, while the front seats offer decent comfort and eight-way adjustability. Rear-seat passengers benefit from comfortable furniture and good legroom, although the standard (non-sliding) panoramic sunroof on the Chequered Flag may impinge on headroom slightly, depending on their height, of course.
Despite its appealingly rakish exterior, the Jaguar F-Pace is remarkably accommodating inside and truly can deliver on the ‘utility’ element of ‘SUV’. Some of its attractive interior appointments, though, might not stand up well to the rough-and-tumble of family motoring.
Getting into an F-Pace is easy thanks to its raised ride height and wide-opening doors. The door bins and glovebox are a good size and shape, but the storage box between the front seats is a little small.
The F-Pace has a bigger boot than the Porsche Macan and BMW X4 and its 650-litre capacity actually matches cars from the class above, like the BMW X5. This load-carrying ability is all the more impressive, as the F-Pace looks sleek and stylish despite its vast boot.
The 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats are easy to drop (even more so with the standard remote release levers fitted to the boot of the Chequered Flag) and, when lowered, increase the SUV’s load area to a gargantuan 1,740 litres.
The boot opening is large and well-shaped, although while the metal scuff plate at its base looks good, this is prone to getting scratched unless you’re careful.
Beyond the exterior cosmetic previously mentioned, the standard kit list of the Chequered Flag is enhanced over the donor R-Sport by a fixed panoramic roof, a heated steering wheel, heated windscreen and electrically adjustable front seats. There’s also an excellent 380W Meridian sound system and CD/DVD player.
The test car arrived with the following options fitted: Four-way driver’s electric lumber adjust (£250), electrically adjustable auto-dimming, power fold, heated door mirrors with approach Lights (£420), 22-inch alloys (£1,225), privacy glass (£395), sliding panoramic roof (£320), Meridian sound system (£570), keyless entry/go (£530), 360° surround camera (£990), adaptive LED headlights (£750) and auto high beam assist (£150). Total cost £5,600.
There are currently two diesels and just the one petrol engine from which to choose when ordering your F-Pace Chequered Flag. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines are well-powered at 178hp/430Nm and 237hp/500Nm and will be sufficient for most drivers opting for diesel to match their work/life balance.
The test car was fitted with the sole petrol engine choice – an Ingenium 2.0-litre 4cyl turbocharged unit delivering 247hp and 365Nm of torque.
With a respectable 0-62mph time of 7.0 seconds paired with 30mpg economy, it's tricky to recommend the 247hp petrol F-Pace Chequered Flag, as it is run close on performance by the two diesels and they'll use less fuel.
That said, this 250T engine is marginally cheaper to buy, almost silent on the motorway, and gives the F-Pace an enthusiastic and willing edge – even if it's a little noisy when being revved hard.
All Chequered Flag F-Pace models are paired with an eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic gearbox and feature all-wheel drive as standard.
The Jaguar’s AWD system only comes into play if the electronic system senses extra grip is needed, meaning that even with this option fitted, the F-Pace behaves like a rear-wheel-drive car by default – although 100% of the engine’s power can be sent to the front wheels if needed.
The Jaguar F-Pace is a thoroughly involving and rewarding car to drive.
Its steering is accurate and inspires confidence and responds intuitively to your inputs. The development work Jaguar has performed on the F-Pace’s suspension has clearly paid off, as potholes and poor road surfaces are nicely smoothed out. It’s worth noting that the optional 22-inch alloy wheels can cause the worst road surfaces to send shudders through the car. Road noise is still minimal, though, even with big wheels fitted.
In corners, the F-Pace displays relatively little body lean, and it’s easy to forget you’re driving a big SUV on a twisty back road. The automatic gearbox suits the F-Pace better than the manual, switching seamlessly between its eight gears, although it can be a little sluggish at the off.
The only gripe was that set of optional 22-inch alloys which, while they do fill the wheel arches nicely, did compromise the ride quality. You would be well advised to leave your vanity – and the £1,225 they cost – in your pocket and stay with the standard 20-inchers for a more pliant, relaxed ride.
While a Range Rover or Land Rover Discovery Sport will ultimately be able to tackle rougher terrain, the F-Pace Chequered Flag is more than capable of venturing off-road.
There are a variety of electronic gadgets to help you keep control, beginning with the standard Drive Control system that allows you to choose between Rain, Ice and Snow settings.
I drove roughly five miles of green lane with the occasional boggy section and the car performed very well, dismissing the 10-inch mud ruts as if they weren’t even there. Drifting around a wet grassy field was huge fun, too, but less about that.
During the test week and with friends visiting from Cape Town, a total of 544 miles were driven over mixed roads at an average speed of 28.8mph. The average fuel consumption was recorded at 29.7mpg, which is 96.7% of the official 30.7mpg (combined).
The F-Pace shares many mechanical elements with the Jaguar XE and XF saloons, which are tried-and-tested.
Safety is assured too as the Jaguar F-Pace has gone through independent Euro NCAP safety tests and received the full five stars, with an impressive 93% score for adult occupant protection. Jaguar fits all examples with autonomous emergency braking and emergency braking assistance, which help you to stop in a hurry or, if it detects you haven't reacted, will brake on your behalf if an obstacle strays into your path.
This is on top of all those safety features like anti-lock-brakes and stability control that have to be fitted by law.
Attractive, practical, and engaging to drive, the Jaguar F-Pace S is a strong contender in a crowded market. While it may not be the sharpest knife in the luxury SUV class drawer, it’s a versatile blade that’s anything but dull.
Because you’re here and you have been, thanks for reading - WG.
Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-15 00:00
The modern BMW-owned MINI hatch has grown exponentially since its introduction in late 2000. But, along with that growth has come increased maturity, to the extent that it now feels and drives like a sub-compact BMW.
A major leap forward in its evolution was the adoption by the third-generation MINI of the BMW 1-Series chassis in 2014. Sure, it gave the MINI its biggest ever growth spurt in a ‘guess-who-ate-all-the-pies’ kind of way, but it transformed the character of the car in the way it drove and handled.
The new, longer chassis also paved the way for the introduction of the first five-door MINI in the marque’s then-55-year history.
The MINI 5-door Hatch is a full 16 centimetres longer than the 3-door and, with its two extra doors opens up greater practicality: five seats, noticeably more legroom in the back and 30% more luggage space.
In October 2018, the MINI line-up received a series of exterior and interior updates and the cars were no longer classified based on engine, but rather by three dedicated trim levels – Classic, Sport and Exclusive.
We spent last week with ‘FXJ’ – a five-door MINI Cooper 1.5 manual ‘Exclusive’, presented in Midnight Black…
2014: June - the first five-door MINIs go on sale.
2018: October - updated with restyled headlights and rear light clusters with union jack emblems, as well as revised infotainment and some extra personalisation options. Three dedicated trim grades introduced. Two diesel models discontinued.
The MINI’s rivals include similarly upmarket offerings like the Audi A1 and Volkswagen Polo, along with more conventional superminis like the SEAT Ibiza, Mazda 2, Ford Fiesta and Citroen C3. To some extent, the Fiat 500 and its more potent Abarth relatives also stand as retro-styled competition, but these are much smaller.
Inside, it’s standard MINI fare with loads of retro charm without too much compromise in usability. Control of the heating and ventilation is via intuitive dials and the standard 6.5-inch colour infotainment system is easy to get the hang of. A DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a USB socket are all standard, along with a multi-function steering wheel.
However, navigation is not standard but is available via the Navigation pack (£900) or, if you can find an extra £1,100, the more feature-rich Navigation Plus pack, which – at £2,000 is silly expensive – but bestows the MINI with an infotainment and navigation system borrowed from more expensive BMW cars. Both systems have an easy-to-use rotary dial between the front seats that you twist to scroll through the menus and press down to make a selection.
However, the more advanced system comes with a larger 8.8-inch screen that doubles as a touchscreen, and you can even write post codes or search for contacts via a handy handwriting pad.
Navigation Plus also comes with wireless charging, more online connectivity and Apple CarPlay, but you can't have Android Auto.
The quality of materials used inside are of premium quality, with soft-touch plastics deployed in critical touch zones, while the buttons, switches and dials feel nicely damped. It looks great, too, with a cheerful design that’s made to feel special by touches that include extensive ambient lighting.
Being only 5ft 8in, I found the driving position spoilt a little by pedals that are offset to the right of the steering wheel, so had to sit at a slight angle most of the time. No matter how I set the seat up, I found depressing the clutch pedal all the way down to the floor to start the car to be a bit of a stretch.
Still, the seats are supportive and apart from limited forward movement, there’s plenty of adjustability to help set everything up as close to ‘good enough’ as you can.
The extra length of the five-door MINI over the three-door translates to an extra 3cm of leg room and 1cm of head room for the rear passengers. It might not sound like much but it is competitive for the class.
Getting into the back isn’t as easy as it is in most five-door rivals because the door openings are rather narrow and you have to step over a hefty sill. Still, it’s better than wedging past one of the front seats to get back there.
At just 278 litres, the boot isn’t as big as that in an Ibiza, a Ford Fiesta or Skoda Fabia, but it’s still large enough for a big weekly shop and I managed to fit five full ALDI bags in.
However, there’s a substantial lip at the entrance to the boot which you have to lift things over. However, the optional storage pack (included in the £900 Comfort pack) gets around this issue by adding a height-adjustable floor that can be set to lie flush with the entrance of the boot. In its upper position, it also takes out any step in the extended load area when you fold down the rear 60:40-split seats (to reveal 941 litres).
With the updates to the MINI range in 2018, came a more simplified model line-up. Classic, Sport and Exclusive were introduced, each offering increased standard specification and a shortcut to a distinctive interior and exterior character of their choice.
The range-entry Classic gets a 6.5-inch colour infotainment screen, intelligent emergency call, DAB digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity is standard on all models. In addition, there’s ambient lighting, exterior MINI puddle-lamp logo projection and automatic headlights with rain sensor.
Sport models receive many John Cooper Works cosmetic additions including an aerodynamic kit and rear spoiler, alloy wheels, sports suspension, bucket seats, steering wheel and anthracite interior headliner. Sport models are available with 1.5-litre Cooper or 2.0-litre Cooper S engines.
The Exclusive model as tested builds on the Classic model specification with upgraded 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome line exterior finish, leather upholstery, leather steering wheel, interior trim and interior chrome line finish. Exclusive models are also available with 1.5-litre Cooper or 2.0-litre Cooper S engines.
When ordering a new MINI, you typically pick from one of three petrol variants – One, Cooper and Cooper S – followed by a trim level; Classic, Sport or Exclusive.
From 2018, the range-entry petrol MINI One is powered by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine (it used to be a 1.2-litre) with 102hp. Move to the Cooper, which accounts for the majority of sales and you get a punchier 136bhp variant of the same three-cylinder engine.
Topping the standard range is the four-cylinder, 2.0-litre petrol Cooper S. This offers significantly improved performance as it packs 192hp, which aids it in sprinting from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds. A special 60 Years Edition of the Cooper S is also available, which features additional kit and bespoke cosmetic tweaks.
MINI introduced a dual-clutch DCT seven-speed automatic gearbox in 2018 to replace the older six-speed automatic, and the new gearbox is more in keeping with the MINI's sporty nature, providing smooth yet rapid gear changes – it’s just a shame there are no shift paddles behind the steering wheel.
Prior to 2018, the MINI was available with Cooper D and Cooper DS diesel versions, but these were removed from the line-up after the 2018 updates.
‘Handles like a go-kart’, ‘drives like it’s on rails’, ‘sticks to the road like it’s glued’…these are terms you’ll come across in MINI reviews – and they’re all true!
A MINI wouldn’t be a MINI if it wasn’t bursting with character or good fun to drive: fortunately, the MINI 5-door has both of these qualities in abundance. It’s slightly heavier than the three-door model, but its light, accurate steering ensures the nose goes exactly where you point it. The ride is on the firm side but settles down comfortably at motorway speeds and there’s very little lean in corners.
The relative lack of wind and road noise makes it feel like a very grown-up small car. Factor in strong acceleration and this is a surprisingly relaxing long-distance cruiser.
Of all the engines it’s the 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol Cooper as tested that shines brightest, because it’s quick and keen to be revved – but not so powerful that it races to unnecessary or unmanageable speeds. It really suits the character of the car – and has that sonorous 3-pot burble that sounds great.
Over the course my week with the MINI, I drove a total of 328 miles over a variety of M, A and B roads at an average speed of 31.1mph. The average fuel consumption was recorded at 42.3mpg, which is 94.4% of the official 44.8mpg (combined WLTP data).
While the MINI five-door hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, the three-door MINI on which it’s based scored a respectable – rather than exceptional – four out of five stars in 2014.
Its 79% adult occupant and 73% child occupant ratings were good, but it was let down by the lack of safety assistance technology on offer and only scored 66% for the protection it offered to pedestrians in the event of a crash.
The car certainly has a full range of airbags (six, to be precise), as well as three ISOFIX child-seat mounting points, plus traction control and anti-lock brakes. The optional adaptive cruise control features a collision-mitigation function, too. This attempts to prevent front-end crashes by automatically applying the brakes if it detects an imminent impact. Meanwhile, the model’s new longer and higher nose protects pedestrians more effectively than before.
I found the gearbox a bit notchy and while still enormous fun, the extra weight of the five-door is noticeable and for me negated some of its renowned driving thrills. A degree of sportiness has been traded for comfort, which some may appreciate.
The rear door apertures are rather narrow and some may not find this five-door as practical as they had hoped it would be.
At a little shy of £21,000 the MINI Cooper is a tad pricey when compared to most of its rivals and, while the car comes with the basics, you do have to delve into the expensive optional pack list for kit that is standard on many of its rivals.
Size has always mattered and the extra inches on the five-door means it’s a more practical model if parking a MINI on your driveway is a must. You get a comfortable, well-built and appointed car that is practical enough to suit your work/life balance and offers relaxed cruising for those occasional intercity runs.
The mid-range Cooper is recommended over the One and Cooper S. It’s the 1.5-litre turbocharged three-pot that really is the sweet spot of the range.
Go easy on the option packs (Comfort and Navigation is recommended) as, before you know it, you’ve added thousands to the value of the car which you may not see a return on when it comes time to shoot it through for something else.
Because you’re here and you have been, thanks for reading - WG.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-12-18 00:00
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that, because my job requires that I drive over one hundred cars a year, I am a bit spoilt on the automotive front, to be fair.
Some cars come along and leave a truly lasting impression, like the McLaren 570GT, Alfa Romeo’s Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde, the Volkswagen Arteon, Suzuki’s new Jimny, Honda’s Civic Type-R and the Hyundai 130N Performance.
Then, there are the multitude of other, work-a-day cars (you know, the ones people actually buy) that are perhaps less memorable for their ordinariness but for a myriad of reasons, are no less desirable.
One of those little less ordinary and already desirable cars is the MG ZS battery electric vehicle (BEV). The test car was presented in top-spec ‘Exclusive’ trim and finished in an elegant and EV-exclusive Pimlico blue…
When MG Rover collapsed in 2005, Chinese automaker Nanjing Automobile Company bought the historic Longbridge plant near Birmingham, along with the MG brand name for a cool £53 million. In 2007, NAC MG revealed the first MG vehicles manufactured in China – the popular two-door MG TF sports car, the MG 3 (a rebadged Rover Streetwise) and MG ZT (a.k.a. Rover 75).
In 2007, NAC was acquired by SAIC Motor (4th in the hierarchy of Chinese carmakers) and in early 2009 NAC MG UK Limited was renamed MG Motor UK. Since then, a number of MG models have come and gone through what was a rather painful rebirthing process for the brand in the UK.
However, the brand now has a competitive range of cars in the popular MG 3 hatchback, the compact MG ZS and larger MG HS SUVs.
The petrol-engined MG ZS compact SUV was unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November 2016 and launched in the UK in late 2017. In 2018, the all-electric ZS EV was revealed and is the first battery-only MG production vehicle based on the existing ZS model. It arrived in the UK in September of this year and has already proved immensely popular.
Yes, quite a few now. The ubiquitous Nissan Leaf Plus springs first to mind, along with the Renault ZOE, the Smart ForTwo Electric, Hyundai Kona EV, KIA Soul EV, not excluding the larger KIA e-Niro and Hyundai Ioniq Electric, VW e-Golf and smaller e-Up!
In higher price and quality echelons are the BMW i3, Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive, Tesla Model 3, Jaguar i-Pace and Audi e-tron, plus others.
Comparatively, the ZS EV’s range is nothing exceptional at an official 163 miles (as measured in WLTP tests), while, for context, the e-Niro can manage 282 miles, the Renault Zoe 186 miles and standard Leaf 168 miles (Leaf+ 239 miles).
The ZS EV can take up to 50kW from a public CCS point, giving a 0-80% top-up in around 40 minutes. If you charge up at home or at work using a Type 2 connector from a 7.2kW wall box (as most owners will), the car's 44.5kWh battery takes roughly six and a half hours to charge up fully from empty – ideal for the work day or overnight at home. If you have to charge using a 3-pin domestic supply, expect it to take around 14 hours.
Because most daily round trim commutes are less than 40 miles, the ZS EV is a thoroughly realistic proposition for many families – particularly those with access to another car.
Being a taller, SUV-styled vehicle rather than a hatchback, the MG ZS EV has a bit more presence than a Leaf. It looks tough and bossy, with a big grille and nice rear wheel arch haunches. It won’t turn heads, but it’s pleasant nonetheless. And the colour was favourably commented on several times during the week.
Visually, there are no surprises with the electric ZS as it looks exactly the same as the petrol-engined ZS which, is a bit of an oddity with its dinky 17-inch wheels and protracted front and rear overhangs.
Exclusive to this electric variant of ZS is the rather attractive Pimlico Blue colour choice, which MG design director Carl Gotham calls ‘the colour of the future’. I’ll let that hang there for a second or two…
The great-looking diamond-cut alloy wheel design looks like electricity windmill blades and suit the car perfectly – if only they were 18-inchers instead. When you lift the MG logo in the front grille to reveal the charging sockets, the logo pulses with blue light to confirm it’s being recharged.
The interior carries over in every aspect from the regular ZS and includes the smart and well laid out dashboard, with reasonable quality materials throughout, although some of the plastics around critical touch zones are of poor quality.
The switchgear has a nice feel to it but is not quite up there with the likes of the Leaf or e-Niro. Getting comfortable is not straight forward as, like the Leaf, the steering wheel offers rake only and no reach adjustment. The driver’s seat, too, could do with a broader range of movement.
Nonetheless, the ZS is a decent family car with plenty of room even for two adults or lanky teens in the back, and a good-sized boot with variable floor under which is stored the recharging cables and similar detritus.
An eight-inch infotainment screen takes pride of place on the central console and MG's decision to make it compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is sure to go down well with smartphone devotees. It's mounted slightly oddly, though, behind a glass panel that seems badly prone to distracting reflections and is laboriously slow to respond to touch – sometimes not at all.
Also, there's also no mention of a smartphone app for the MG ZS EV yet, so anyone used to checking up on their EV's charging status remotely over that fourth cup of coffee, or even pre-conditioning the cabin, will be left out in the cold.
Still, most ZS EV buyers will be first-timers to the BEV lifestyle and will likely not miss what they haven’t experienced.
It’s not unusual for hybrid and electric cars to be compromised slightly by bulky battery packs, but not so in the ZS EV. The 44.5kWh battery pack is located under the floor (for a lower centre of gravity) and out of the way.
You do feel slightly perched in its high-set front seats, but passengers in the back in particular, will certainly be glad of the good space compared with a Renault ZOE or the forthcoming Vauxhall Corsa-e.
The ZS EV is one of the larger compact SUVs on the market and its 448-litre boot and roof rails should certainly appeal to potential EV buyers who don't want to sacrifice practicality. With 1,375 litres of luggage room with the rear seats folded down, the MG is more roomy than a Nissan Leaf and similar to the more expensive KIA e-Niro. The boot is a useful shape and you can move the floor up and down to prioritise either a level surface or maximum space.
Considered a part of the MG ZS range rather than a stand-alone model, the EV is offered in Excite and Exclusive trim levels.
Both are well equipped, with adaptive cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, rear parking sensors, navigation and DAB radio. The £2,000 extra for the Exclusive adds roof rails, a panoramic opening sunroof, folding door mirrors, faux leather upholstery, non-gradated heated front seats (either on or off) and a rear-view parking camera.
The standard MG ZS is offered with two unremarkable petrol engines that offer poor fuel economy and substandard performance. The electric powertrain in the ZS is, in contrast, nifty, responsive and costs pennies to run.
The electric motor produces a more than adequate 143hp and gets the ZS EV from rest to 62mph in a respectable 8.5 seconds, which is pretty good for a car at this price. Acceleration up to 30mph is impressive and that’s all down to the way electric cars produce their power – it’s all available instantly from rest, tailing off as your speed increases.
This makes the ZS EV a really good town car. In Sport mode, you can (I did) surprise some performance cars off the lights and there’s certainly enough power that if you put your foot down the tyres will chirp. Continue in that vein though, and you’ll notice the range reduce rather alarmingly. But, driven more sedately, the instant take-up is still very appealing and satisfying.
The ZS EV offers three levels of regenerative braking, from a light ‘1’, a moderate ‘2’ or a surprisingly heavy ‘3’. It is operated by a switch marked ‘KERS’, a moniker used by a previous generation of Formula 1 cars, meaning ‘kinetic energy recovery system’. We now refer to it as regenerative braking which, when lifting off the accelerator has a braking effect as the electric motor becomes a generator and reclaims some of that energy that might otherwise be lost in braking.
This means that for the most part you can drive the ZS EV without touching the brakes at all, particularly when using the active cruise control which brings the car to a stop and sets off again when it detects the lead car’s movement.
Heading out onto faster roads isn’t likely to be as relaxing in the ZS as it would be in some rivals. The car’s top speed is just 87mph, so cruising at 70mph will see your range reduce quite quickly. It’ll be fine for short jaunts, but those looking to do regular long journeys would be better served by a Nissan Leaf Plus or a Tesla Model 3.
The ZS EV’s official combined range is 163 miles. MG claims that in urban conditions this rockets to more than 200 miles due to the energy recovery. However, I certainly didn’t experience any discernible mileage gain around the clogged urban roads of coastal Hampshire.
One thing I couldn’t help noticing was the unrefined character of the active cruise control technology. Underway, the tech was fine, but when in heavy traffic the car slows itself down to a stop, you could hear the whizzes and whirls of the electronic servos going about their business under the car. My 84 year old MIL commented on it, too, and she’s not got the best of hearing. But she doesn’t need reading glasses, so I’d best move on.
During the seven-day test, I drove the MG ZS 189 miles over a variety of M, A and B roads at an average speed of 21mph. The average electricity consumption was recorded at 2.9 miles/kWh (or 87.9% of the official 3.3 miles/kWh) and the total drive-time equated to 9:59hrs. During the week, the ZS EV received a fast-charge top-up and a seven-hour 3-pin domestic plug recharge, which added just 84 miles to the range.
The ZS EV is the first MG in the UK to feature the MG Pilot suite of driver assistance tech that includes active emergency braking, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, blind spot detection, high beam assist and speed limit assist. They are accompanied by irritatingly loud bongs and bells, none of which I deemed to be remotely merrily-on-high for this time of year.
You can turn off the MG Pilot feature, but you’ll have to do it every time you activate the start button. I did.
According to the latest crash-test results from Euro NCAP received just this morning (19.11.2019), the MG ZS EV has been awarded a full five stars, rating 90% and 85% for adult and child occupancy respectively, and 70% for safety assist. The petrol-engined ZS achieved a mere three stars in 2017, before the introduction of MG’s Pilot safety suite.
A few notables: Those irritable alarm bells and bongs, that cheap interior feel, no companion app, less range than key rivals, it’s not exactly exciting to drive and the coma-inducing touchscreen.
If you can live with any or all of those, then the MG ZS EV is well worth parking on your driveway…not too far from the charger, of course.
The MG ZS EV offers interesting styling, plenty of equipment, ease of driving, reasonable quality and a seven-year warranty on both car and battery.
There are a few critical areas where it could be improved, but overall this makes much more sense for urban driving than a petrol- or diesel-engined compact SUV, with the accompanying green credentials and reduced running costs.
As a proposition for first-time electric-only customers, the new MG ZS EV has to be one of the best on the market.
Because you’re here and you have been, thanks for reading - WG.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-12-13 00:00
As facelifts go, this is much more than just a nip and tuck. Land Rover takes a clutch of knives to its most popular medium-sized SUV and the result is so impressive, you can barely see the cut lines.
‘From the ground, up’, ‘new’, ‘all-new’, ‘completely redesigned’, etc. These are terms you’ll hear often in the automotive industry. Five years into its life, the Land Rover Discovery Sport has received a mid-life facelift - but so much has changed that you could argue that it’s an all-new model.
There’s little to indicate how deep these changes run from the outside. The overall look has gently evolved - new lights, revised bumpers, but similar proportions overall. All but the keenest eyed observers will need an old and new one parked side-by-side to spot the difference.
This week, I test the new Land Rover Discovery Sport D180 AWD R-Dynamic, presented in range-entry S trim (OV69 OOE) and finished in Eiger Grey metallic paint.
2014: The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a mid-sized SUV that went on sale in September 2014. It replaced the Freelander in a revised range of Land Rover-branded vehicles.
2017: Subtle styling tweaks to keep it fresh against strengthening rivals. Jaguar Land Rover’s own Ingenium Si4 petrol and Sd4 diesel engines were introduced.
2018: All engines received particulate filters to meet EU6d TEMP/WLTP emissions regulations which came into effect from September.
2019: In May, the new Disco Sport was revealed for its 2020 model year. It has been designed to mix things up a bit, blending fashion and practicality with a pinch of style. It rides on the same JLR Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA) platform as the new and much-improved Range Rover Evoque and introduces significant updates inside and out, along with new mild-hybrid Ingenium engines and updated technology.
Many, and their numbers are rising. With premium SUVs such as the Volvo XC60, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC appealing to the heart, while practical but cheaper rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Skoda Kodiaq, Lexus NX and Tiguan Allspace offer the same blend of seven-seat practicality in modern, good-to-drive packages. Rivals higher up the automotive food chain include the Porsche Macan, Mercedes-Benz G-Class and the in-house Range Rover Velar.
One of the Disco Sport’s biggest attractions is its impressive interior and refinement, which has improved markedly for 2019 and slots neatly between the stylish Range Rover Evoque and rugged Land Rover Discovery, although it does lack the design flair of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.
The revised dashboard loses some of the chunky switchgear buttons and controls of the previous model. In their place are modern, touch-operated controls, which are thoughtfully arranged with most in easy reach giving the dash a clean and organised look.
The steering wheel design has been simplified somewhat with a new design layout. But there are a large number of buttons, which could be confusing at first as to which one does what. The rotary gear selector found in the previous car has been replaced with a traditional ‘joystick’ style gear selector.
A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster adds a modern look to the dashboard as well, and is complemented by a centrally mounted 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment screen.
Most of the trim feels robust, but there are some cheap feeling materials too close to critical touch zones – especially the panel around the gearstick. Lighter seat upholstery covers will show up dirt far more quickly than the darker options. But, even with darker trim and headlining, the Discovery Sport never feels claustrophobic inside.
With seven seats as standard across a majority of the model range – even if the third row is only really suitable for kids – the Land Rover Discovery Sport has the jump on the old Freelander, as well as many of its current rivals.
The Discovery Sport makes excellent use of its relatively compact dimensions – it's about the same length and width as a Skoda Octavia. It's easy to get comfortable, as the driver's seat adjusts for height and the steering wheel adjusts up and down as well as in and out.
All of the furniture is comfortable and provides good support, with up to a metre of legroom available in the second row, which can be slid back and forth to prioritise passenger or boot space as necessary.
This helps with space in the third row, with the second row sliding forward to give more space to the rearmost passengers. But even with this adjustment, the back row is really only suitable for adults on shorter journeys or grumpy ‘inbetweeners’ likely glued to their phones and eroding their opposing thumbs anyway.
Land Rover has also fitted USB and 12-volt charge points in every row of seating, as well as heating and ventilation controls front and rear.
The rear doors open to almost 90 degrees, so climbing in is easy, while the second row of seats folds to allow access to the third row.
There are plenty of useful storage spaces in reach of passengers, along with numerous cup-holders and USB ports for all three rows. The door pockets are deep, there's a large tray in front of the front-seat passenger and a storage box with a lid between the front seats.
The boot measures 754 litres with the third row of seats folded, but with all seven seats in place this shrinks to 157 litres, which is, only really enough room for a couple of squashy bags. Fold rows two and three and a cavernous 1,794 litres is revealed.
The boot is well thought-out, with few intrusions to get in the way of bulky cargo. While there’s no underfloor storage, you can box-tick an optional system of adjustable rails to hold luggage in place, while a number of handy hooks, a 12v power sockets and USB chargers are fitted to all models.
The Discovery Sport is split into to trim lines – Standard and the sportier looking R-Dynamic. Each of those is available in four trim grades of Standard, S, SE and HSE.
Stepping up to the SE gets you upgraded LED headlights, a power-operated boot lid and front fog lamps. You also get the same 10.25-inch Touch Pro infotainment system and navigation as the standard model, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Opting for the sportier looking R-Dynamic trim line adds dark 19-inch alloy wheels and leather upholstery with contrasting stitching.
The HSE model adds Windsor leather trim, 14-way power-adjustable seats, keyless entry and a 'ClearSight' rear-view mirror that can switch to a camera view if passengers or luggage are obscuring the inside rear view. It takes some getting used to and some refocusing of the eye. After a while, I didn’t bother with it and relied on correctly repositioned side mirrors.
Single options fitted to the R-Dynamic S test car: Metallic paint (£670), 19-inch alloys (£965), privacy glass (£400), heated steering wheel (£225), 360° surround camera (£575), ClearSight interior rear view mirror (£325), InControl tracker (£545), fixed panoramic roof (£1,100). Total: £4,805.
Apart from the most basic D150 diesel engine (which also doesn’t get the third row of seats), the entire engine range gets a mild-hybrid setup, which assists the engine at lower speeds.
Just one diesel engine is available in the Discovery Sport: a 2.0-litre Ingenium unit which, along with offering better fuel economy and lower emissions, is also smoother and quieter than the chatty 2.2-litre that powered the Sport's predecessor, the Freelander. Improved engine mounts and a stiffer chassis have also made the updated 2019 Discovery Sport noticeably more refined.
Available in three power outputs (150, 180 and 240hp), I found in testing that despite the 180’s decent performance numbers, it can feel a bit sluggish. Push down the accelerator to get things moving and you’ll find a lot of power arriving all too quickly and can catch you out as it did me more than a few times.
I haven’t driven it, but I expect the power delivery of the 240hp model to be more linear and less impatient. If you can afford it, it’s also likely to be the ideal engine to go for if you plan on doing any towing.
The entry-level 150hp engine is also offered with front-wheel drive, providing better fuel economy, with no real penalties during day-to-day driving. If you don’t plan on heading off-road or towing a heavy trailer, this shouldn’t be seen as too much of a negative.
With a standard nine-speed automatic gearbox, the 180hp version as tested registers a 0-60mph time of 9.4-seconds, while the 240hp model takes 7.4 seconds.
There’s also a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, badged P200 and P250, with 200 or 250hp respectively. The former can get from 0-60mph in 8.6 seconds, while the P250 takes 7.3 seconds and boasts a 139mph top speed, making it the fastest Discovery Sport on offer. Like the D180 diesel, the 200hp petrol feels like it needs working quite hard, making the more powerful P250 option a likely better bet.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport feels agile and composed on the road, yet the range of equipment offered makes it extremely capable off-road, too. It borrows heavily from the Range Rover Evoque, which is a good starting point. But the Sport uses a completely revised rear suspension system, primarily to increase interior space.
At low speeds, the suspension can be firm with the odd jolt from poor road surfaces, which copes better at higher speeds smoothing out the road imperfections, making for a very quiet and comfortable long-distance cruiser.
While not exactly living up to its Sport name, it boasts improved handling as well. The steering is car-like and impressive for an SUV and reacts quickly, making it good fun to drive on a twisty back road, and better than the more pliant Volvo XC60.
There isn’t much feedback through the steering wheel, which can make it harder to ascertain what’s going on at the front end. Still, there’s plenty of grip thanks to the four-wheel-drive system and that raised driving position means the Sport is easy and relaxing to drive.
Somewhat naturally given its heritage, four-wheel drive is the Discovery Sport's selling point. Even if you don't plan to take the car off the road, it’s good to know the Terrain Response system will always optimise grip. You can choose to tweak the setup to tackle a variety of surfaces, such as mud, sand, snow and rocks. When the terrain gets more rugged, though, the Disco Sport takes it all in its stride - from faster off-road tracks to light green laning or even mud-laden downhill sections.
The Sport will also wade through up to 600mm of water, and because there isn't much bodywork overhanging the front and rear wheels, it can traverse deep ruts and ravines like few other cars of its type.
During the week’s test, I drove the Disco Sport a total of 406 miles over a variety of M, A and B roads at an average speed of 33mph. Much of that total was under cruise control, the use of which was subject to local conditions and speed limits and includes two or three miles of light green-laning and river wading.
The average fuel consumption was recorded at 37.1mpg, which is almost spot on when compared to the official WLTP data of 39.6 – 37.2mpg (combined).
The original Discovery Sport scored a full five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash-testing in 2014 and did significantly better than the Evoque in the adult, child and pedestrian protection categories at that time. This new 2019 Disco Sport has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, but I see little reason why it shouldn’t again be awarded the full five stars.
Standard safety kit includes automatic emergency braking, nine airbags and various electronic stability systems to improve grip. There’s also a pedestrian airbag mounted at the base of the windscreen and two ISOFIX child seat mounts in the second row –plus a third on the front passenger seat.
Land Rover's Terrain Response system is fitted to all models. This allows you to select the type of surface you’re driving on, including snow, sand and rocks and adjusts the car to cope accordingly. There’s also hill-descent control, which controls the brakes to stop the Sport running away from you down a steep slope.
Another cool trick is Land Rover’s Advanced Tow Assist, which when reversing, essentially does the counter-steering for you, by transforming one of the rotary dials in the car into the steering knob.
A few, such as the rather thirsty D180 diesel as tested and, as is expected in most three-row MPV-wannabe SUVs, the rear is quite cramped. It’s pricey, too and not too far removed from the Evoque, if the third row isn’t required. Runnings costs are likely to make your eyes water and not with happy tears, and then there’s the car’s questionable reliability record. Though this 2019 model has plenty of new components, the poor reputation of the previous car should not be ignored.
That Land Rover keeps on hitting the nail directly on the head continues to impress, especially given the onslaught of rivals the new Discovery Sport now faces.
Overall, the Sport in its name refers to exterior aesthetics for an active, outdoorsy lifestyle rather than how it drives. As a comfortable, versatile and attractive family SUV with more off-road capability than most will ever require, there is much in the new Disco Sport to warrant its recommendation.
Because you’re here and you have been, thanks for reading - WG.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-11-27 00:00
It’s been a long road for the Nissan LEAF. Introduced in 2011 - several months ahead of the smaller Renault Zoe - the LEAF was the first mass-market battery-only electric vehicle (BEV) and, despite other upstarts making gains in the intervening years, it remains the best-selling BEV in history with more than 460,000 units sold worldwide. The Nissan LEAF has won about every award for green cars - including the World Green Car Award - twice.
Earlier this year, Nissan delivered a redesigned and improved LEAF. The range retained the 40kWh battery model and added a newer, higher-capacity model with its 62kWh battery architecture, offering more power, more durability and more range. That new model is dubbed the e+ and is the subject of our review this week.
From being seen by many as a quirky outsider, the Nissan LEAF has become an electric force to be reckoned with – around half of all BEVs sold in the UK last year wore a Nissan badge. Now into its second generation, the LEAF continues in its quest to 'normalise' electric cars into mainstream daily culture – but does it offer enough to attract drivers away from diesel and petrol?
The test car was provided by the good chaps at Nissan UK and presented in Tekna trim, finished in ‘Magnetic Red‘, with a two-tone ‘Pearl Black’ roof. In between lashings of horizontal wind-borne rain, I made a few soggy notes of all the things I liked about this second-generation Nissan LEAF.
There are many, so pop the kettle on and find a comfy sofa – this will likely borrow the next seven-or-so minutes of your day…
In its earlier years, rivals to the LEAF used to be few and far between and numbered little more than a handful at best. However, in recent years a plethora of car manufacturers have caught up with the LEAF and include the Renault Zoe, Hyundai Ioniq and Kona Electric, Smart ForTwo Electric, Ford Focus Electric, the KIA Soul EV and e-Niro, and Volkswagen’s e-Golf and e-UP, MG ZS Electric, et al.
In an echelon above, there’s also the BMW i3, Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive, Tesla Model 3, Jaguar i-Pace and Audi e-tron, plus others.
The standard 40kWh LEAF is capable of a maximum range of 168 miles (under the new WLTP testing regime), while the LEAF e+ claims a range of 239 miles. Battery charging won't take forever – with the smaller battery 40kWh LEAF a 50kW quick charger will give you 10-80% capacity in around 60 minutes.
The larger capacity 62kWh battery in the LEAF e+ takes around 45 minutes to charge from 20% to 80% capacity using a 50kW quick charger, but using a 6.6kW home wall charger will take around 11.5 hours to achieve a 100% charge – or comfortably overnight.
The LEAF comes with two charging cables, one for a three-pin household socket, and one for a fast charger. They're stored out of the way on each side of the boot, leaving the rest of the space clear for luggage.
Nissan has done a complete 180 with the styling of this new LEAF. Where the first-generation advertised its electric powertrain with futuristic styling, its successor looks like an ordinary hatchback - and is all the better for it. Nissan’s current house styling cues, including the ‘V-Motion’ grille and ‘floating’ roof line, are borrowed from other current Nissan models.
As with the first-generation LEAF, the charge ports are housed in the nose of the car. But this time it’s discreetly hidden under a flap between the grille and bonnet edge. Visually, the e+ model is indistinguishable from the standard-range LEAF, with only discreet badging to show that you’ve invested in the extra range.
The interior also carries over from the standard-range LEAF. Most of it is standard Nissan fare, meaning a rather sober, sensible design but let down by some cheap-feeling materials in the cabin’s critical touch zones.
Fortunately, the overall familiarity with other Nissan models affords the LEAF a reassuringly normal feel – until, that is, you put it into ‘drive’. In place of a conventional lever, there is a circular knob-like device that slides around to select drive, neutral or reverse (‘park’ is a button on top). The shifter carries over from the first-generation LEAF which I like. It is function-over-form-practical and becomes easy to use quickly when performing parking manoeuvres.
Like the standard-range LEAF, the e+ has a reasonably good driving position, but there is limited steering column adjustability (it tilts up and down but doesn’t telescope which is somewhat of an oddity in this day and age).
The front seats are surprisingly comfortable and the car offers good outward visibility aided by a 360-degree camera system on the Tekna trim test car), despite a steeply-raked windshield and thick rear pillars.
The LEAF might not look any bigger than a regular hatchback, but it’s actually 110mm longer than a Ford Focus and 20mm wider than its predecessor. This means you shouldn’t notice where Nissan has squeezed in the larger battery pack, which is kept low down and mostly beneath the rear seats.
It’s reasonably spacious inside the LEAF, with enough room to accommodate four tall adults. Rear passengers sit a little higher owing to the batteries which are stored beneath the rear seat, which means a good view out, but also that their knees are tucked up slightly. Interior space isn't great though, with slim door pockets up front and a small tray in the centre console.
Happily, it's an easy car to get in and out of. The doors open nice and wide and the position of the seats are well-judged and are at the right height for most adults' hips to slide onto.
The extra length pays dividends when it comes to the boot because with 435/1,161 litres of space it’s not only big for a BEV, it’s larger than most regular family hatchbacks. In comparison, the Volkswagen e-Golf has a 341-litre boot, while the Hyundai Ioniq Electric manages 350 litres. In Tekna and e+ Tekna trim levels, the LEAF is fitted with a Bose stereo system that includes a large boot-floor mounted subwoofer, which impinges slightly on usable boot space.
There are three trim levels to choose from when buying a Nissan LEAF: Acenta, N-Connecta, and Tekna. There’s a £1,700 price jump from the range-entry Acenta to N-Connecta, while you’ll need to add around another £1,000 for the top of the range Tekna trim. The e+ model with the bigger battery pack is only available in top-spec Tekna trim as tested.
LED daytime running lights and LED tail lights are standard, as is automatic air conditioning, cruise control, electric windows, a seven-inch TFT screen, Nissan Connect navigation with an eight-inch touchscreen, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. There’s plenty of safety equipment, too, with six airbags, intelligent emergency braking, lane departure warning, cross traffic alert and a blind spot warning.
The N-Connecta trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, electric folding mirrors, part leather seats and parking sensors. Tekna includes full LED headlights, leather seats, heated seats and steering wheel, an electronic parking brake and a seven-speaker Bose audio system.
The e+ Tekna gets all the standard Tekna kit plus metallic blue front and rear bumper accents, revised suspension and 100kW rapid charging capability.
Single options fitted to the test car were Magnetic Red metallic paint (£575) and a two-tone Pearl Black roof (£350).
As it has more performance and the same near-silent driving experience as the first-generation LEAF, few are likely to be disappointed with the latest model. It’s not especially sporty, but drives better than you might expect and its e-Pedal and ECO mode are successful innovations.
The LEAF's ProPilot technology is fitted as standard in the top of the range Tekna model, but is an option on lesser-equipped models in the range. It can control the car's steering, braking and acceleration while reading road markings and monitoring the car in front. The same technology allows the car to park itself and activate emergency braking to avoid other cars and pedestrians. It's a level of technology rarely seen on cars of this price.
The 62 kWh battery pack in the LEAF e+ increases power to 214hp and cuts the 0-62mph time down to 7.3 seconds. It also raises the car's top speed from 90mph to 98mph.
Driving the LEAF e+ is a breeze, with smooth and seamless acceleration accompanied by a distant hum from the electric motor. Thanks to the nature of electric motors, there’s no hesitation when you press the pedal, just an instant increase in pace.
The steering is quite light, making it well suited to urban driving, while the suspension can be slightly firm at times. The LEAF e+ Tekna as tested features slightly stiffer suspension to compensate for the additional battery weight – but is never uncomfortable.
As you’d hope from such an innovative car, Nissan’s e-Pedal technology represents a real step forward in electric car control - even if it does feel quite ‘aggressive’ in operation. Once activated, this allows you to drive the car using just the accelerator pedal, with the conventional brakes needed only to come to a more abrupt halt when required.
Allowing a few hours to get used to it, you gently squeeze the accelerator to speed up, and gradually reduce pressure to slow down and stop. This uses the regenerative force of the electric motor to reduce your speed, not only reducing your fatigue in traffic but also putting more energy back into the battery pack and boosting driving range.
Less aggressive in action but serving the same regenerative purpose is the new ECO button which I left activated for most of the test miles driven.
During the seven-day test, I drove the LEAF a total of 341 miles over mixed roads at an average speed of 24mph. The average electricity ‘consumption’ was recorded at 3.6 miles/kWh and the total drive-time equated to a becalmed 11hrs and 14 minutes. In addition, the LEAF’s batteries received a 42-minute, 80% top-up during the test week.
It’s no surprise the new LEAF scored the full five stars when crash-tested by Euro NCAP. Nissan has a good record here, with the previous LEAF managing a top rating and models like the popular Nissan Qashqai SUV following suit.
Some alternatives offer a greater driving range, more rear headroom and better quality interiors, but not one of them offer all three. Like most things in life, compromises need to be made. Personally, I don’t think any of those negatives would be a deal-breaker – either individually or collectively. The Nissan LEAF isn’t available on the Motability scheme either, which is a pity.
Given that its objective is to make electric-only driving accessible to more people, the new LEAF scores a direct hit. With a contemporary exterior design, a sensibly proportioned interior and longer driving range from the e+ variant, it isn’t an EV for committed environmentalists only.
Buyers after a petrol or diesel Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus should seriously consider the Nissan LEAF e+ BEV.
Because you’re here and you have been, thanks for reading - WG.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-11-15 00:00
Successful family SUVs need to be many things to a great number of people. They need to be able to handle the school run, the football club, those long-distance trips with the family, the dreaded IKEA excursions, trips to the skip and maybe the daily commute.
If, while doing all that, you need to chill in considerable comfort and style, the Volvo XC60 should be high on your shopping list…especially since it also comes with practical safety tech that’s a step ahead of most alternatives.
Unlike the predictable looking Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC, the XC60 cuts a real dash, with Thor’s hammer-style headlights, swept-back windshield and distinctive rear lights.
I spent much of last week in the XC60 T6 AWD variant, presented in R-Design Pro trim and finished in ‘Burst Blue’. In between enjoying myself so you didn’t have to, I made a few notes for your delectation…
Plenty…the XC60 shares a very crowded playing field and very little of it is level. The exemplary Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5 are both right there, as is the Land Rover Discovery Sport, BMW X3 and Jaguar’s F-Pace. All are implacably competent, but the Volvo feels very different inside. Its decor is as Skandi as Sandi Toksvig and carries far more taste than IKEA’s meatballs.
Owners of Volvo’s first-generation XC60 (2008-2017) will be rightly bowled over by the new model, which leads the class hand over foot for interior quality and design. It might have a lot of hand-me-down trim and technology from the larger XC90, but that’s no reason to complain.
Like many high-riding SUVs, those inside an XC60 tend to look down on most other road users in traffic. For many, that’s pretty much the point. The XC60’s driving position is superb, thanks to plenty of adjustment in the steering wheel and the extremely comfortable and supportive driver’s seat.
Seat height and lumbar adjustment are electric on all trim levels, but you have to slide the seat back and forth and recline it manually on Momentum and R-Design models; full electric adjustment, with memory recall, is standard if you opt for the Pro Pack (as tested) or opt for the Inscription trim. It’s worth mentioning that both central and door armrests are positioned near-perfectly for you to rest your elbows.
After Tesla pioneered its (silly large) portrait-orientated infotainment screen in its Model S, Volvo introduced its Sensus system with the XC90 and it’s fitted as standard here in the XC60. The nine-inch portrait touchscreen is clear and controls almost every aspect of the car, from the navigation, audio, phone, car settings and climate control and, while it takes a while to get used to, I found it works well if a little slow on cold mornings (honest!).
Despite a lower stance and curvier lines compared to its predecessor, the latest XC60 still has plenty of space for five occupants to relax in comfort.
Compared to its larger XC90 stablemate, the XC60 is only 9mm narrower, but it loses 118mm of height and most significantly, is 261mm shorter. Still, there’s good shoulder, knee and headroom in both the front and rear seats. Of course, being so much shorter means there’s no room for a third row of seats. If you want to carry seven, you’ll need to step up to the XC90, or look at alternatives like the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Before it started making SUVs in 2002, Volvo used to be famous for its box-on-wheels estate cars. Fortunately, the XC60 wears a far more stylish and premium design. This does come at the cost of boot space though, which measures 505 litres to the window line, 635 litres to the roof and expands to 1,432 litres if you fold down row two.
Space behind the rear seats just manages to beat the Porsche Macan and Lexus NX, but both the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 have 550 litres and the longer Jaguar F-Pace has 650 litres. A powered tailgate is fitted as standard
Trim levels are Momentum, R-Design and Inscription, but there’s also a Pro version of each, which adds its own suite of convenience and technology upgrades. From the range-entry Momentum, the XC60 is a very well equipped SUV, with highlights including the nine-inch portrait infotainment screen from the XC90, DAB radio, Bluetooth, navigation, 18-inch alloy wheels, a powered tailgate and keyless entry.
R-Design trim as tested adds a sporty accent, with exterior and interior styling upgrades such as larger wheels, dual exhaust pipes, sports seats and a black interior headlining, while firmer suspension lessens the extent that the XC60 leans in corners. However, it makes for a slightly less comfortable ride without adding greatly to driver enjoyment.
Inscription is the most luxurious offering with its Nappa leather seats and ambient lighting providing a far more upmarket atmosphere inside than its predecessor could offer.
Single options fitted to the R-Design Pro test car: Laminated side and rear windows (£750), CD player in armrest (£100), temporary spare wheel and jack (£150), premium ‘Burst Blue’ metallic paint (£975).
Option packs fitted:
The XC60’s engine line-up can seem a little confusing, so let’s explain; Engine badges with a ‘D’ at the front are diesels, while a ‘T’ signifies a petrol and a ‘B’ is for a mild hybrid.
Volvo has moved to a new streamlined vehicle architecture that only uses 2.0-litre engines, and while they aren’t class-leading in terms of performance, they’re likely to satisfy families and business users alike. With a good blend of economy and a reasonable turn of speed, most will find any XC60 a fine all-rounder, particularly seeing as it’s equipped with four-wheel drive and a choice of manual (D4 engine only) and automatic gearboxes as standard.
In the XC60 T6 as tested, Volvo adds a supercharger to its already strong 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine for a grand total of 310hp and 400Nm of torque. That gives it spritely acceleration with satisfying power delivery, thanks to the added boost from the supercharger.
The twin-charged engine is connected to an excellent Aisin-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles that, to be honest, I barely used, simply because the default transmission mapping is perfectly suited to the engine’s performance.
The XC60's all-wheel drive system is laudable and, like the transmission, fades into the background largely unnoticed, allowing all 310 horses to grip the road with little drama when you need to join flowing traffic quickly, and it offers solid reassurance in inclement weather – much of which was experienced during the testing week.
When it comes time to haul those 310 horses to a controlled stop, the SUV's brakes feel on point with very little fade experienced during frequent testing.
Unlike certain rivals from Porsche and BMW, which favour sportiness, it’s immediately obvious that Volvo has prioritised comfort with the XC60. Our test car rode on optional air suspension and the ride was exceptional, with very little body roll experienced in the corners.
The XC60 feels at its best on the motorway where this supreme comfort comes into its own along with the outstanding refinement. Relaxation behind the wheel is paramount, which helps to explain why there is little in the way of driver involvement.
During the seven-day test, I drove 412 miles over mixed B, A and M roads (much of which was under active cruise control depending on local conditions and speed limits), plus some six-or-so miles of light green-laning. No deliberate attempt at frugality was made at any time during the week.
The total drive-time was a pleasurable 12hrs and 26 minutes and the average fuel consumption was recorded at 29.6mpg, which is pretty much middle-for-diddle when compared to the official WLTP data of 28.0 – 31.7mpg.
Volvo is planning for zero fatalities in any of its new cars by 2020, so there are fewer safer cars in which to put your family. Volvo’s continued focus on safety means the XC60 is fitted with lots of potentially life-saving equipment as standard.
Autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, dual-stage airbags and traffic sign recognition are all fitted as standard, while there’s also a system called oncoming lane mitigation, which steers away from oncoming traffic to avoid a head-on collision. The Volvo put in a very impressive performance during its Euro NCAP crash test as a result, receiving a full five-star rating.
The latest XC60 is a huge step forward for the Volvo brand, with vast improvements in the interior making this latest car feel hugely competitive next to rivals.
Add in a relaxing and comfortable driving experience and an impeccable safety record, and the XC60 makes a fantastic case for itself in the mid-size SUV market. Besides, every driveway needs a little Scandi style, don’t you think?
Some alternatives with a sportier ethos are far better to drive. Fuel economy isn’t great and if that’s a priority, then you should consider a range-entry diesel or lesser powered petrol variant. The Sensus infotainment system can be slow in responding to touch and sometimes refuses to get out of bed at all on cold mornings.
We tend to think of today's glut of SUVs and crossovers as a bad thing, emblematic of a nation that's given up on the notion of driving enjoyment and instead resigning itself to practicality above all else. The Volvo XC60 challenges that notion.
It's undeniably handsome inside and out, with a tasteful exterior opening up to an interior that's luxurious without being ostentatious.
All in all, the XC60 stacks up very well as a capable and safe family SUV of the highest quality. It’s not an out-and-out driver’s car, but it’s very comfortable to travel in and refreshingly refined when cruising.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-11-11 00:00
From the top, it’s important that you know how much I like this car. Enormously, as it turns out. So, you may, at any time prior to the verdict some 1,300-odd words further down, want to revisit this opening paragraph…for the purposes of balance, you understand.
#NotFakeNews: There is such a thing as a car that's too good. Most of the premium quality cars currently available at any price point still carry a few notable flaws – either outright deal breakers or niggly-nagglies – that remind you that humans are still in charge of their respective designs and build.
Rarely does a car come along that makes you wonder if the entire development team was replaced by overly scrutinous androids. The 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback is one such car, and its class-leading antics are almost frustrating in their pitch-perfect execution.
The Audi RS5 Sportback is a fast five-door hatchback that's an alternative to more traditional super-saloons like the BMW M3, Mercedes C63 and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde. You'll pay more for the Audi than the M3 or Giulia but the Mercedes is slightly more expensive than all three.
In many respects, the RS5 Sportback is identical to its coupe sibling, but has two extra doors and an additional 60mm between the axles for improved rear comfort.
Unlike similar feral products from the likes of BMW M or Mercedes-AMG stables, Audi Sport’s fastest models tend not to look like they could kneecap you for no immediately apparent reason. Their performance-oriented styling is usually more subtle and conducive to flying in under the radar.
But while this RS5 Sportback would likely still come across as the more sophisticated member of a trio comprising a C63 and an M3, the 20in alloy wheels, high-gloss black trim pieces and louder sports exhaust introduced as part of the Audi Sport Edition mean it can still turn heads.
Turning more heads and being the trigger for indiscriminate curb side/traffic light chatter was the Sonoma Green paint colour. While undoubtedly a bold left-field choice, I really loved it and thought it well-suited to the character of the car.
Inside, it’s back to RS5 business as usual for this Sportback model. You get a lovely interior with plenty of plush materials, a slick infotainment system with smartphone mirroring, and Audi’s signature Virtual Cockpit digital driver’s display.
Audi’s top-spec Navigation Plus infotainment system comes as standard, along with the brand’s Virtual Cockpit. This replaces the conventional analogue instrument panel with a 12.3in high-resolution digital display that can show information on speed and revs in the form of conventional gauges; satnav instructions or performance data, or several combinations of each.
The driving position is tough to fault, too, with plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment and a comfortable backrest that provides plenty of upper back support. You can adjust both the bolster and lumbar support to find a supportive position, and they even have a massage function to accompany the heated elements.
Even if you’re extremely tall, you’re unlikely to have any complaints about how far your seat slides back or how much room there is above your head, despite how its standard panoramic roof reduces ceiling height compared to the regular A5 Coupe or Sportback.
The Sportback also gains a large rear hatch, making it a truly practical vehicle, despite its 465-litre boot being 15 litres down on the Giulia, M3 and C63. With a bigger boot opening than its saloon rivals, it's easier to load bulky items, and with the rear seats folded down there's space for flat pack furniture and even a bike.
It might have an Audi badge glued onto it, but the RS5’s 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine is shared with the Porsche Panamera 4S. Thanks to its twin turbochargers, this engine delivers 444hp and 442lb/ft (600Nm) of torque and feels much more urgent low down in the rev range than the previous V8-powered RS5.
Even so, it’s worth revving the V6 hard to make the most of its performance. Do this and the quattro four-wheel drive system provides traction to slingshot you off the line, making the 3.9sec 0-62mph time seem entirely plausible – and it’ll top out at a governed 155mph.
Once on the move, though, it never feels quite as quick as an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, BMW M4 Competition Pack or the Mercedes-AMG C63. Mind you, you’ll be in licence-losing territory quicker than you can say Quadrifoglio.
The automatic gearbox has eight well-chosen ratios. It operates smoothly when you’re driving sensibly, although there is a noticeable delay to change down when you ask for a sudden burst of acceleration. It’s smooth and obedient when you take control manually, too, but isn’t quite as snappy to shift as the dual-clutch gearboxes in rivals.
Set the car into Dynamic mode on the Audi Drive Select system and the automatic gearbox response sharpens up; it’s quicker to change down, allowing much easier overtakes. It also holds onto gears for longer so you can build up through the rev range for even more power.
The Dynamic mode also ramps up the noise from the optional sports exhaust; in this setting, you’ll find the engine howls and parps when you’re revving it, but the downside is a pronounced drone at speed. In Comfort mode, the engine note is more refined, but is sometimes intruded upon by rumbling road noise.
Dynamic mode also adds weight to the steering, but it’s still quite heavy even in Comfort mode, making it difficult to turn out of T-junctions or parking spaces sharply. Enter a series of corners and you’ll find that it’s easy to place the front of the car, but while the optional Dynamic Steering system (which varies how far you have to turn the wheel, depending on speed) certainly helps you get around tight turns easier, it also reduces the sense of connection with the front wheels and makes it less instinctive to know what they’re doing.
However, no matter how hard you push, the RS5 never feels like it’s going to get too out of shape. Some may miss the sense of adjustability and ‘honed-to-hoon’ dynamism offered by the rear-wheel-drive Guilia, M4 and C63, but in the dry, the traction you get out of corners from Audi’s quattro system is virtually unbeatable.
Fast, frantic but perfectly practical, the Audi RS 5 Sportback aims to be the market's definitive mid-sized high performance five-door hatch. It gets a sophisticated quattro 4WD system and can hit 174mph on the Nürburgring but is just as happy popping to the skip on a weekend, or collecting your dry cleaning. The spec of this revised version looks impressive, including an RS sport exhaust system and a sport differential. You only truly get a sense of just how fast it is by following behind in something else.
Sure. Some alternatives are cheaper and sound more exciting and, while there’s a much-welcomed 60mm more legroom than the coupe, the rear can still feel cramped for those gifted with more height than I (which, to be fair, is pretty much everyone else).
I take nothing away from Audi’s ethos of quality and refinement but, compared with its rivals the RS5 Sportback feels like something of a blunt clinical instrument from behind the wheel, and one that perhaps lacks character. Some may say the RS5’s envelope hasn’t even been opened, let alone pushed.
An Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is more exciting, while the V8-powered Mercedes-AMG C 63 has a greater sense of occasion. But, hey, see paragraph one.
Is it perfect? No, of course it isn't.
But what other high-performance four-wheel drive mid-sized hatch of this sort is there to challenge this one? The closest thing the market has to offer, a rear-driven Mercedes-AMG C 63 wagon, wouldn't give you the all-round grip and really needs a dry racetrack and a licence to burn rubber if it's to appeal over an RS5 Sportback.
As for a high performance SUV, forget it: you'd be all over the place just trying to keep this Audi in sight. Drive it and you'll experience a slightly guilty thrill as if something this much fun really couldn't be legal. Indeed, one day cars like this might well be legislated out of existence.
In the meantime, enjoy this one while you can. The robot in me loved it.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-10-16 00:00
If this be our automotive future, beam me down, Scotty!
Few electric cars have caused as much of a furore as the Tesla Model 3. It’s been teased and talked about, previewed and – not least – plagued by production issues that have seen the European launch date pushed back repeatedly.
Now a common sight on US roads for over a year, Tesla’s more affordable and long-awaited Model 3 has finally arrived in the UK. It brings competitive performance, a practical EV range and stunning technology to the mainstream executive class.
Pricewise and with a premium badge, the closest rival to the Model 3 is the BMW i3 at £35,350. Other less premium EVs include the KIA e-Niro (£32,995), VW e-Golf (£33,785) and Hyundai Kona Electric (£26,900).
Lower down the EV price scale are the Renault Zoe, KIA Soul, Nissan Leaf and MINI Electric, all of which continue to appeal as our driving habits adapt to a new automotive world order.
In the non-EV arena, Tesla has its sights set on sales conquests from traditional ICE-powered executive saloons such as the venerable BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Jaguar XE, Mercedes C-Class and Volvo S60.
The Model 3 is smaller, cuter and imbued with a style cheekiness missing from the bigger, heavier-looking Tesla S and X models. The front end is short thanks to the extended cabin area and the car is unlocked with a credit card waved against the B-pillar – or you can set up your smartphone to work just like Tesla’s card key by unlocking the car as you approach.
When unlocked, push the left side of the flush door handles to open the door. The handles don’t pop out as they do on the Model S and are a tad awkward to use with one hand if you’re holding anything else.
Inside, you’ll find that space is pretty similar to that in a BMW 3 Series. There’s the added bonus of a flat floor with no transmission hump, but rear headroom might be a little tight for taller adults who could have their heads brushing the sloped, full-length glass roof that the Model 3 gets as standard.
It certainly feels airy and spacious and is quite comfortable throughout and you’ve got a choice of front and rear boots with a combined 542 litres of storage space.
Access to the rear luggage space is good by class standards and the boot lid is hinged to lift higher than most saloons. Meanwhile, the rear seats split and fold to reveal the surprisingly large luggage area.
Slide into the front seats and you are enveloped in openness. It’s a perfect example of just how well ‘minimalism’ can work in a car. Steering wheel aside, there is nothing directly in front of the driver and even the vents are hidden in a single, slim crease that stretches the full width of the dashboard and looks like a design feature rather than a vent.
The dash is dominated by a slim, 15-inch landscape touchscreen. It controls absolutely everything, including the air-flow direction from those vents, steering wheel adjustment, external mirrors – and more.
You may think that having everything on the screen could be problematic, and although Tesla has put the most important driver information as close to the driver as possible, you do have to look further away from the road to check your speed than you would usually.
A head-up display would be a welcome addition and go some way to solving this problem. Otherwise, it doesn’t take much time to become familiar with the screen’s menu layouts and how to use the two switches on the steering wheel.
In practice, it's these wheel-mounted controls that you use to control most functions, including the audio functions, cruise control and the like.
There are no conventional trim grades as such. Instead, the three available variants of Tesla Model 3 are based more on electric motor power output and battery range.
In the UK, the line-up consists of the ‘Standard Plus’ with its 254 mile range as tested here, ‘Long Range’ (348 miles) and ‘Performance’ (329 miles). The Standard Plus has just one electric motor driving the rear wheels, while the Long Range and Performance models have two motors driving all four wheels. Be warned: the battery range will plummet if you drive the car like you stole it.
The equipment list is pretty much standard throughout the Model 3 range: 18- or 20-inch alloys, electric front seats, heated mirrors, heated seats, parking sensors, navigation, etc.
It might be the least expensive Tesla currently available but, even in range-entry guise few are likely to be disappointed – as even the base model packs a claimed 254-mile range and the ability to sprint from 0-60mph in just 5.3sec. It even comes with Tesla’s ‘Autopilot Drive Assistance’ system, which takes the edge off long trips and brings added space-age feel.
A dual-motor version with all-wheel drive and increased range is available as well; it can cover a claimed 329 miles and serves up a supercar-rivalling 0-60mph time of 3.2sec.
One thing strikes you as soon as you take the wheel of a Tesla Model 3: its steering is surprisingly fast-geared, giving the wheel an immediate response. At first some drivers may find this disconcerting, as it makes the car respond to inputs in a heartbeat, but you’ll quickly learn to enjoy the agility this imparts, and its quick turn-in becomes second nature.
It's quite a heavy car, with a kerb weight stretching from 1645kg to 1,847kg depending on the size of batteries fitted, but it doesn’t really feel it when you thread it along your favourite back road.
The suspension keeps the EV composed through corners, with just a little body roll when you’re really pushing hard. Despite this agility and keen handling, the Model 3 still soaks up the worst road lumps and bumps. If ride comfort is your priority, we would recommend sticking with a smaller choice of alloy wheels, however.
Like most EVs, the Model 3 features a regenerative braking system that helps top up the battery when you’re driving. There are two modes; in ‘standard’, the car slows significantly when you lift off the accelerator, which feeds more energy back to the battery. The ‘low’ mode is less severe and is probably best for most driving conditions. Drive the Model 3 with a measured degree of attentiveness and it’s very possible to match the claimed range in the real world.
Of course, you don't necessarily have to do all of the driving. In the UK, the Model 3 comes with Autopilot as standard, with adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping. You still have to rest a hand on the steering wheel just so the system knows you’re conscious, but the Model 3 will accelerate, brake and steer while monitoring the vehicles around you.
Indicate left or right and Autopilot will also judge if it's safe to change lanes and complete the manoeuvre for you. It's the most intuitive semi-autonomous tech driving available right now and regularly gets better thanks to live, over-the-air updates from Tesla.
Investing in a Model 3 gives you access to Tesla’s own network of Superchargers that allow you to charge the battery (from 10-80%) in as little as 30 minutes. In Tesla UK’s early days, recharging was free but now you have to pay each time, but at around £14, the price is still reasonable.
You can also charge at any public CCS charging point. This method takes longer (around 1hr 15min) for the same 10-80% top-up, whereas a full 0-100% charge at home using a 7kW type 2 charger takes 11hr 45min – or overnight at home or at the office during the day – which is little hardship, to be honest.
The Model 3 has been on sale for some time in the US, where it appears to have been largely reliable but plagued by quality control issues like poor paintwork, large gaps between panels and poorly fitted trim.
In the media, this is often attributed to Tesla's relative inexperience in mass producing cars compared with manufacturers like Mercedes, but Tesla is also keen to show it offers great customer service by rectifying issues quickly under warranty.
The Model 3 has yet to prove itself in the fiercely competitive European market. If it can hold a candle to the century-old, fossil fuel-drinking proletariat here, it can be deemed a success.
Euro NCAP has now crash-tested the Model 3 and it scored the highest-ever figure in the safety assist category, with an impressive 94 per cent. Its overall five-star score includes excellent ratings for adult and child occupant protection, and it scored well in the vulnerable road user category too.
The Tesla Model 3 is one of the safest cars on sale and the manufacturer claims the Model 3 is particularly safe thanks to its compact electric powertrain, which allows for large crumple zones and a rigid passenger compartment.
Thanks to its semi-autonomous Autopilot technology, the Model 3 is also covered in myriad sensors and cameras that can help protect occupants by alerting them to danger and even braking or steering itself around obstacles.
Several reasons: If your lifestyle supports an electric car, the Tesla Model 3 is as good as it gets. Tesla needed to introduce a brand-entry product that is more affordable and available in bigger numbers, and while the Model 3 is by no means a cheap option, it is definitely closer to the mark than what came before.
Progress with electric cars is really gathering momentum and this car is a good indicator of the state of the art. None of the premium marques (Audi, BMW and Jaguar) come close to matching the Model 3's all-round efficiency as well as the convenience of its own-brand Supercharger network.
If you’re after the cheapest Tesla Model 3 on offer, then a £38,100 Standard Range Plus in two-wheel drive form (as tested) is where you need to head. Bragging right aside, it produces a very green 0g/km of CO2 and capable of a claimed range of 258 miles (WLTP) on a full charge.
With rivals like the Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes EQC lining up to take a slice of the executive electric class, Tesla has never faced so much competition. And yet, despite very publicly reported company difficulties and that growing competition, the Model 3 still feels like a trailblazer…different, but in all the right ways.
The car is great to drive, packed full of tech, is fast and even quite practical. Sure, the ride is more firm than some of its rivals, but it’s never uncomfortable even over our crusty UK roads. Factor in a competitive price, especially given its sheer pace and it’s in a prime position to steal punters away from both EV and non-EV rivals.