27 Nov 2014

What's The Range Rover Sport Like For A Family On A Roadtrip?

My son, Eddie, and his best friend, Jamie, were due to go on a school trip to Cologne but the trip was oversubscribed and they were told they couldn't go. Sod the school, I had a Range Rover Sport SDV6 Autobiography booked in November - let's drive there ourselves!


And so it was. At short notice Land Rover added my friend Michelle (Jamie's mum) to the Range Rover's insurance, I booked a hotel and Eurotunnel tickets and the trip was on.

Friday, 7pm we left West Berkshire in the dark.  The Sport is a large car but we had a lot of stuff and filled it right up. The boys on the back seat had lots of room but then they filled it with bags, food and duvets. They also had televisions set into the front seat headrests and their own wireless headphones.

The rear seat has a large armrest which contains two cupholders and a storage area in which the remote for the rear infotainment is kept. There are decent sized door pockets and nets on the back of the front seats.

In the front you get the door pockets, quite a small glovebox, twin cupholders aft of the gear lever and a fridge under the armrest.

The fridge has a cover over the top with small storage spaces built in but if you want to get to the fridge itself you remove the cover and anything on it falls off.  The cupholders are fine but soon became full of phones, chargers and general stuff.  To be honest the car could do with a little more in the way of storage.  It does have the tech side covered though with three 12v points and two USB points in the cabin.

The boot is vast. It's flat and has a full sized (22 inch) spare wheel replete with alloy under it.  Everyone had a bag and we had food, coats, pillows and more junk. It swallowed everything with ease.

Being winter it was nice to be able to open and close the boot via the keyring - saving on dirty fingers every time we wanted to get to something.
The boys in the back

The Sport is a tall car and sits high up. You climb into it and shorter types can struggle. You can select 'Access' height on the suspension which lowers it a touch but it's still high up.  Michelle struggled to close the door from inside as she's not exactly tall.

No matter, once you're inside it's absolutely lovely. The surfaces, layout and materials are all top notch. Purely to look at and spend time in I can hardly think of a better car. You also look down on almost all cars.

Think your X5/Q5 is a big car? Anyone in a Range Rover Sport will look down at you and your sense of superiority will melt away to be replaced by a nagging sense of jealousy.

The infotainment system is excellent. The back seat passengers can watch television or a DVD whilst those in the front can listen to digital radio or stream music from a phone.

We connected my phone and Michelle's phone. You can select either easily enough without booting the other out of the system.

The front seats are incredibly comfortable. They electrically adjust up, down, forwards, back, squab forward or back, headrest up and down, lumbar up down in and out and side bolsters in or out. They have memory settings so we could press a button and the seat (and steering wheel) would adjust to a preset position.

The digital dials are clear and contain satnav and other pieces of info in between.  The satnav is a bit laggy but the lady who speaks directions is clear and precise.
Late night cruising

I drove at first - Berkshire to Folkestone where we loaded on to the Eurotunnel at nearly midnight. The car was a dream on the motorway. The air suspension makes for a smooth ride, the engine is powerful and quiet and the adaptive cruise control is the best I've ever tested.

The cruise is the only system I've experienced that works in traffic jams. Other systems stop working under 10mph or so.

Loading on to the train was interesting. The Sport is tall and wide. As we drove down the train the steel kerbs were inches either side of the tyres, and occasionally a tyre would brush against a kerb with a loud squeal.

After a short trip under the English Channel we were in Calais and time moved forwards so it was 1.30am CET.  The headlights were electronically reset to driving on the wrong side of the road and the speedo changed to kmh.

We drove non-stop for 200 miles through France, Holland and Belgium before eventually stopping in a service station for a couple hours snooze. As you enter a new country the satnav lady shrills, "Welcome to France."

After a nap we set off again and soon crossed the border into Germany. Bliss - autobahns!  Welcome to Germany indeed. The Germans drive noticeably better than the French, Dutch and Belgians with more respect for distance, speed and other drivers.
Somewhere in Europe
In the dark we hit 130mph, but no-one noticed because they were all asleep. I'd put the new Pink Floyd album on and felt utter serenity speeding through the night on empty roads in the Sport.

Colgne, 7.30am CET. We left the car at the hotel's underground car park and spent the day visiting the cathedral, city centre shops and zoo before heading back to the hotel for a late afternoon nap.

The evening saw us visit a Christmas market and the Glowing Rooms, which is basically 3D minigolf in flourescently painted rooms and is utterly fabulous.

Back at the hotel at 1am we all slept like logs, woke up, breakfasted and left Cologne at 10am.

Back on the autobahn and this time everyone was awake. We travelled at the Sport's top speed of 135mph for a few miles and, again, it felt serene, unflappable and completely at ease.
135mph!

Michelle took over the driving in Belgium. She'd never driven on the continent before but such is the ease of driving the Range Rover Sport found it a piece of cake. I feel asleep in the passenger seat whilst the boys watched DVDs in the back.

We were late for our train but no matter, Eurotunnel put us on the next one.
It's a tight fit on the Eurotunnel

As we entered England in the dark of late afternoon the heavens opened.  Surprisingly the adaptive cruise control continued to work. The M25 was miserable but the Sport made progress as good as it is possible in a car.

We arrived home at 7pm having driven 820 miles in 48 hours. We'd spent around 20 hours in the Range Rover and it had rewarded us with a delightful experience.  Nobody got sore legs or a numb bum, everyone agreed it was an awesome car.

The only disappointment was the fuel consumption. I'd hoped to cover all 820 miles on one tank, possible at just over 40mpg, but in the end the average was 30mpg and we had to brim it in Germany.

In the Range Rover Sport SDV6 Autobiography Land Rover has created one of the greatest motor cars of modern times. It does everything you would want from a car.

Shame it costs £75k.

See my review for full details and specs.

By Matt Hubbard






26 Nov 2014

Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe Review

Colin Hubbard reviews the Mercedes S63 AMG Coupe

2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe

The S-Class is Mercedes' flagship saloon and has long since been its pioneer of technology, showcasing new tech which filters down the range - then into other manufacturers cars which we drive today. Airbags and anti-lock Brakes both originate from the S Class and you'll struggle to find a new car without them now.

Mercedes has just released the coupé version of the current S-Class and, surprisingly, from launch it's only available as AMG model. A non AMG model will be available later this year along with a V12 AMG derivative.

Technically speaking there has previously been a coupé variant in the form of the CL (Coupe Long) but it was never in the limelight and the new tech was saved for the 4 door car.

The coupé is 26cm shorter than the saloon but is 15kg heavier, nevertheless a 10mm drop in ride height on revised suspensions settings along with the shorter length means it is more agile in the bends.
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe

Power comes from the new 5.5 litre bi-turbo V8 rated at 577bhp, which is the unit that replaced the old 6.2 naturally aspirated V8. It is much smoother than the 6.2 and bulging with low down torque. With 664 lb/ft available from just over 2,000 revs it is effortless to drive.

The gearbox is a 7-speed conventional auto which drives the rear wheels only, although LHD markets get all wheel drive.

The chassis has adjustable dampers with air springs and the S-Class team has been working overtime to create 'Dynamic Curve.' This uses a front mounted camera to read the road ahead and, in conjunction with steering inputs,  tips the car into corners when steering angle is applied.

The brakes are large composite vented discs all round with 6 pot front and 4 pot rear calipers which sit behind optional 20' ten spoke alloys. 19' alloys are standard but would look a little lost in the arches.

The coupé has more than a passing resemblance to the BMW 6 series, especially the rear three quarter view but that's no bad thing. Ridges have been used to create tension in the body with 4 on the bonnet and 2 down each side which not only add attitude but also help strengthen the aluminium panels.

The headlights are all LED so not only do they provide an energy efficient clean beam they will also last longer than conventional headlights, that is unless they are stolen as they feature Swarovski crystals set into them. Very bling, very S-Class.
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe

The side profile reveals a tall, pillarless body with shallow glass area.

There's no rear spoiler, not even a retractable one as it would ruin the lines. Instead it relies on a chunky rear diffuser and fairly discrete front splitter for aero duties.

The cabin is a strict 4 seater with some quite plump but supportive front chairs and 2 individual rear seats. The rear seats have much less legroom than the saloon but are adult comfortable all the same with sufficient legroom for a long journey. They are trimmed in perforated leather with complex silver stitching featuring cross patterns at the side that tapers off toward the top. The leatherwork detail is superb and on par with Crewe's finest coupé.

The rest of the materials have been carefully considered, the highlights being Swarovski crystals set into the ashtray lid in piano black lacquer and the headlining trimmed in Dinamica Microfibre which feels and looks like wet suede.

The 'floating' effect dash houses two large digital screens, the central one is for the sat nav mapping and reversing camera duties while the driver's side screen takes care of speedo, revs and the night vision display. When night vision is selected the speedo and rev counter gently roll outwards so the outside night view is a greater area.

The hi-fi is a £5,300 optional extra supplied by Burmester which consists of 24 speakers and a 24 channel amplifier delivering 1,520 watts. It uses the 24 channels to full effect to supply 3D surround sound to the cabin and the sound is epic, full of drama and huge volume. Not only is it crystal clear but the Burmester detailing around the speakers adds to the exclusivity of the cabin.

There is a vast amount of buttons littered around the cabin that seem quite overwhelming at first but on consideration are entirely necessary as there are so many functions I don't have the space to go into them all. To list but a few, there are heated armrests, heated and air cooled electrically operated seats, fragrance generator and head up display. The list is pretty goes on and to try to operate them all from the main system controller on the centre console would take far too long.
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe

The engine starts with a throb and gets going with just a tickle of throttle, straight away it feels cosseting and comfortable as a big grand tourer should. Not as quiet as the saloon but then it is designed more as a driver's car than a chauffeur car so a little more engine noise is appropriate.

Play with the throttle a little more and it responds quickly to your inputs, with so much torque available from so little revs and the masses of sound deadening you could soon land yourself in trouble.

Full throttle reveals a dirty, bassy V8 rumble from the 4 shiny tailpipes, the previously subdued soundtrack now angry and immediate. The pull is spine-crushing and grip is outstanding in a straight line although you can feel the traction control delicately cutting power when exiting corners.

Time to try out the much hyped AMG 'Dynamic Curve' ride control now so I drop out of sport mode and into it. It's a weird feeling at first, when you start to move the wheel into a corner the outside effectively hardens up and the inners soften so a tipping motion is felt which makes the car feel quite edgy on tight roads.

Apparently it's noticeable externally and works exceptionally well at high speeds but at low speeds on winding roads it is edgy and sensitive. Like a Jack Russell waiting for you to throw a ball it is ready for your inputs in that you can feel the body twitch and move around with heavy steering inputs.
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe

The actual ability when in this mode feels much tidier than in sport if you don't provoke it, it is genuinely usable not just a gimmick.

The coupé corners with more poise than the saloon, the slightly sportier set up and reduction in wheelbase have made it more agile and it feels almost effortless to drive fast. The vast external dimensions do genuinely feel like they shrink the faster you go.

Those plump front chairs do a great job of holding you in place when hustling along, not gripping like a vice more cocooning like a baseball glove.

It really does feel special place to spend time and is enjoyable and quite majestic to drive. This is much more the drivers car over the saloon.

Mercedes has nailed the luxury feel to such a level that its main rival is the Bentley Continental GT. Both cars are sporty yet luxurious coupés and having driven the CGT I'd say both are equally talented and would only be divided by personal taste.

The 4.0 V8 CGT is near enough the same price as the S63 but doesn't quite have the pace of the German car, if you want comparable performance you will need to find another £28k for the W12 Speed, making the S63 seem like a bit of bargain.

The S-Class Coupé S63 combines waftability with road crushing ability in a great looking package.

Stats

Price - £125,595 (£155,115 as tested)
Engine – 5.5 litre, V8, twin turbocharged, petrol
Transmission - 7-speed twin clutch auto
Drive – rear wheel drive
0-62mph – 4.2 seconds
Top speed - 186 mph (limited)
Power – 577 bhp
Torque – 664 lb ft
Economy – 28mpg (combined)
CO2 - 237 g/km
Kerb weight – 2,070 kg
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe

2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe

2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe

2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe

2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe

25 Nov 2014

2014 Porsche Cayman GTS Review

Matt Hubbard drives the Porsche Cayman GTS on track at the Porsche Experience Centre at Silverstone

Porsche Cayman GTS
Porsche Cayman GTS

Since I was young I've almost idolised the Porsche 911. To me it was the definitive sports car in terms of looks, performance and balance between road and track use. Last year I drove a 911 Turbo and was blown away by it.

Recently I drove a 911 Carrera 2S and was again blown away by its handling, poise and agility but also its ability to be the best sports car on road and track.

But then I drove the Cayman GTS at the same track on the same day. For all my love for the 911 the Cayman GTS proved to be the better car on the day. Oh dear. Dreams not exactly shattered but certainly slightly disturbed.

I'd previously driven the standard Cayman. It was fast and handled magnificently, the chassis and seats were firm and the manual gearbox's ratios were a bit long for the road but ultimately I said it was, "...balanced, focussed, confidence inspiring, practical and fun."

The Cayman costs £40k, the Cayman S costs £49k and the Cayman GTS costs £55,397. You may think that hike is a bit steep but, to put things into perspective, the 911 C2S costs £83k and the Jaguar F-Type V6 S costs £60k.  Even a VW Golf R with a few options can cost as much as the base model Cayman.  In that context it's a bit of a bargain.

The GTS is essentially a fully optioned S. It is powered by a 3.4 litre boxer engine and produces 336bhp (15bhp more than in the S). The gearbox in the test car was a 6-speed manual.

Other goodies include 20 inch alloys, PASM as standard, Sport Chrono with adaptive engine mounts, sports seats, a sports exhaust and bi-xenon lights. Oh, and a new spoiler and steering wheel.
Porsche Cayman GTS
Porsche Cayman GTS

Fire up the engine and it barks into life. Porsche engines sound über Germanic (if that is yet a thing) and the GTS's exhaust note, aided by the active exhaust, makes a lovely, crisp noise.

The driving position is perfect for most heights and shapes. The seats are body hugging, legs are outstretched and the steering wheel is in the driver's lap.

The gearstick sits in just the right place, atop a busy centre console with buttons for the various driving modes aft and the climate controls fore - see my Cayman review for a more thorough explanation of the infoscreen and driving modes.

What we're interested in here is the driving experience.

It starts with a heavy clutch. Not too heavy it'd be a pain in traffic but heavy enough you know the Cayman GTS means business.  A sturdy clutch for track abuse - good oh!

The gearbox is slick and accurate, and has a bolt-action feel. Porsche makes the best manual gearboxes in the business, and the GTS's is no exception.

The steering is light but can be firmed up by selecting Sport mode. It's electrically assisted but feel and feedback has been tuned in by some of the best engineers in the world, and it shows.

Pull away and the engine feels lively. Low speed manoeuvring is a piece of cake.  Mash the throttle and acceleration is very quick. If such a thing exists the engine has character - some engines feel lifeless whilst some feel fast but a bit too binary, the 3.4 flat-6 in the GTS provides meaty, analogue power in a big woosh of noise and torque.
Porsche Cayman GTS
Porsche Cayman GTS

0-60 takes around 4.7 seconds which is fast but not brutal. The engine note rises like a heavy metal solo to a peak at 7,500rpm, change up and start again.

Find a corner and the Cayman turns in like a dream. The steering is the sharpest and most direct there is. The engine in the Cayman sits behind the passengers and ahead of the rear axle. This makes for the poise of a ballet dancer as the rear faithfully follows the front round an apex with a hint of lean on the rear tyres.

It is a flattering car in the same way a Lotus is, but whereas you'd be sweating buckets after 20 laps in an Exige S you're ready for 20 more in the GTS.

Of course you should drive it properly to extract the most from the Cayman GTS but cack it up and the PSM (Porsche Stability Management) takes over and sorts things out.

You can drive lap after lap, improving your lines, leaving the braking later and acceleration earlier and the GTS remains neutral. It never throws a spanner in the works, staying faithfully accurate at every turn.

I normally stay dead silent when at the wheel on a race track but I was chattering away to my bewildered passenger - such is the measure of the car, it's confidence inspiring and allows you to use more brainpower to drive it than worry about what it might do next.

The 911 is a similarly finely-tuned track weapon but the Cayman GTS is marginally more tolerant and easier to drive due to its superior balance (the engine not being in the boot) and as such rewards the driver more.

The Porsche Cayman GTS is one of those rare beasts - a car that is more than the sum of its parts. A Cayman S with all the options the GTS has as standard costs £55k but the GTS is a much better car.

It is the best new sports car in 2014.

Stats:

Price - £55,397
Engine - 3.4 litre, flat-6, petrol
Transmission - 6-speed manual
0-62mph - 4.9 seconds
Top speed - 177mph
Power - 336bhp
Torque - 280lb ft
Economy - 31.4mpg
CO2 - 211g/km
Kerb weight - 1,345kg
Porsche Cayman GTS
Porsche Cayman GTS

Porsche Cayman GTS
Porsche Cayman GTS

By Matt Hubbard


24 Nov 2014

Rolls Royce Wraith Video Review

You can read my 2014 Rolls Royce Wraith review here. I had the car for an hour so jumped out and recorded a quick video.


It was absolutely hammering down. The BBC forecast a wet morning and dry afternoon. We took the cars out at 1.30pm and the heavens immediately opened, but that couldn't dent the impression the Wraith left on me. It really is a superb car.

The drive was on the roads around the Goodwood factory. I spotted a reasonably quiet spot by the side of the road which is where I filmed this vid.



By Matt Hubbard


21 Nov 2014

Battle Of The Hot Hatches

Hot hatches are back with a vengeance. After years in the doldrums we're now awash with them.  Here are my fave five.

Hot hatches

If you're in the market for a hot hatch here are my thoughts on my favourites. The links take you to the written reviews and the video reviews are below. They are the Volkswagen Golf R, Vauxhall Astra VXR, Audi S1, Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo and Volvo V40 T5.

Volkswagen Golf R - Crushingly capable



Audi S1 - By god it's quick



Vauxhall Astra VXR - Manically insane



Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo - Frantic and fun, deserves a better press than it has



Volvo V40 T5 - Proof that you can have speed as well as comfort



By Matt Hubbard



20 Nov 2014

2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Rolls Royce Ghost Series II

2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase
2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase
Five minutes into my drive in the Rolls Royce Ghost, with the rain pouring down and the sky a slate grey, I sighed a deep sigh of contentment.

As I accelerated down a straight length of road a shower of raindrops, previously lodged atop the grille, formed around the Spirit of Ecstasy and headed towards me like stretching stars as the Millennium Falcon hits hyperdrive.

The water hit the windscreen and was swept away and into the ether by the wipers. Meanwhile I was insulated from the rain, the cold, the dire state of the road by the most luxurious, magnificent machine it is possible to buy.

The Ghost is long, wide, heavy, fast and crafted by hand from the finest materials available. It is also built to be driven in, rather than be driven, but to own one and merely ride in it would be a shame.

The Ghost was introduced in 2010. A long wheel base version arrived in 2011, a two-tone Ghost was revealed in 2012 and the Ghost Series II was launched in 2014. The test car was a two-tone (Salamanca Blue and Silver) Extended Wheelbase Series II.

It is made on the same production line as the Wraith, with which it shares a platform and takes the same amount of time to build, at the Goodwood factory in Sussex.  It is 5,569mm long, which allows for lots of interior space, a huge boot and a long bonnet under which resides a 6.6 litre V12 engine.
2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase
2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase

That engine produces 570bhp and 780Nm/575lb ft of torque. Even though it weighs a hefty 2,495kg the Ghost is incredibly fast. 0-60mph takes 5 seconds and the top speed is limited to 155mph.

I'd imagine that even at 155mph the car would remain as refined as it did at legal speeds in Sussex.

It is a handsome car. It doesn't come with curved, swooping bodywork, instead the Corinthian columns up front orchestrate a grandly sweeping expanse of metalwork with no jarring lines to detract from its elegance.

The front door opens in the standard fashion, hinged at the front, but the rear door bucks the trend and hinges at the back. When open the pair welcome occupants on board equally, as if to ask, "would you like to drive or be driven?"

Choose either option and you'll be welcomed by plenty of space. The rear in particular has enough leg room that a six footer can cross his or her legs, whilst watching TV, sipping on champagne and ordering the chauffeur to put his foot down.

The interior of the test car is unlikely to be the same as any other Ghost. Just like the infinite options available for the paint colour the choice of leather, trim, veneer (or not as the case may be) are many, and can be individually ordered if the customer chooses.

Your family crest or favourite bird of prey (a frequent request from middle-east buyers) can be hand stitched into the leather, the climate controls can all be located on one particular side at the rear, indeed almost anything is possible.
2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase
2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase

But whatever you order, and as long as you don't make a hash of it (which has been known to happen) your Ghost will be just about the best car available on the planet.

The air suspension makes for a smooth ride on whatever surface, the driving position is ideal without the need for too much adjustment, although it can be adjusted to fit just about any body, the steering and controls are light to the touch and the controls are delicately damped.

The Ghost comes laden with all the tech you need but it is hidden away until such point you choose to use it. Adaptive cruise, auto wipers and lights, adaptive main beam, satnav, digital radio, bluetooth are all standard.

It is a quiet car but it is not silent. The glass is thick and does a good job of keeping most sounds out but you do hear the world around you, albeit muffled. The engine, though, is almost silent unless it is pressed into action and, as it's a V12, the noise is smooth and deep.

The Ghost is a car that is more than the sum of its parts. It costs twice as much as an S-Class and for some people that is enough reason to buy the Mercedes, but to judge it based on its specs, space, looks or even exclusivity is to miss the point.

The Rolls Royce Ghost has a gravitas, a bearing that elevates it above any other luxury car apart, that is, from the Phantom. The Wraith is a Rolls Royce for those who want their luxury a bit sharper, a bit faster and a bit more youthful.
2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase
2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase

I have no concept of one-upmanship, I would never buy a car for the benefit of others opinion of me, to make people judge me as a person, to show off in. I don't care what car the neighbours own, I just like cars that drive great, make me feel good and that have a personality. This car has a presence that I've not felt before in the hundreds of cars I've driven.

It is a special car. For that alone it is worth the price, which is a not insubstantial £216,684.

Stats:


Price - £216,684
Engine - 6.6 litre, V12, twin-turbo, petrol
Transmission - 8-speed ZF automatic
0-60mph - 5 seconds
Top Speed - 155mph (limited)
Power - 570bhp
Torque - 575lb ft/780Nm
Economy - 20mpg
CO2 - 329g/km
Kerb Weight - 2,495kg
2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase
2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase

2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase
2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase

2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase
The Spirit of Ecstasy 

2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase
2014 Rolls Royce Ghost Series II Extended Wheelbase


19 Nov 2014

Has Jenson Button Already Signed To Race For Audi At Le Mans/WEC?

Three interesting pieces of information came out today:

2 - Tom Kristensen will retire from endurance racing, his last race with Audi is 30 Nov in Brazil
3 - McLaren is having a sale on replica team wear

Put two and two together and Jenson has been told he's leaving McLaren, and Audi have signed him. In order for the focus to be on Kristensen in Brazil Audi has requested Jenson and McLaren that they delay the announcement until Monday 1st December.

McLaren know this will filter out so are flogging Jenson teamwear cheap in order to get a load of it sold before nobody wants it anymore.

The timing of these announcements is too perfect for it to be anything else, isn't it?

Best book the Le Man tickets. It's going to be a humdinger. Webber in a Porsche and Button in an Audi?

By Matt Hubbard


2014 Range Rover Sport On The Road

I'm running a Range Rover SDV6 Autobiography for a week and seeing as I've just bought a GoPro Hero3 thought it was time for an on the road video review




Here are the stats for the test car.

Price - £74,995 
Engine - 3 litre, V6, turbocharged, diesel 
Transmission - 8-speed automatic 
0-60mph - 6.8 seconds 
Top speed - 130 mph 
Power - 288 bhp 
Torque - 443 lb ft 
Economy - 37.7 mpg 
CO2 - 199 g/km 
Kerb weight - 2,144 kg

By Matt Hubbard


2014 Range Rover Sport SDV6 First Drive Review

I'm running a Range Rover Sport SDV6 Autobiography for a week. Here are my first impressions.

2014 Range Rover Sport SDV6
2014 Range Rover Sport SDV6
Good looking car isn't it. In photos the Range Rover Sport looks great, in the metal it's even more fabulous. The old Sport was a bit too square, a bit too squat and a bit too chunky - in physical weight as well as visual weight.

The new one carries over only the name. Instead of being based on the old Discovery the new Sport shares the aluminium chassis of the Range Rover, which means it's been on a diet. Instead of two and a half tonnes it weighs a 'mere' 2,144kg.

That makes a load of difference. I've driven the V8 petrol and the V8 diesel but for this car I needed a V6 diesel as I'll be putting a lot of miles on it so range and economy are vital.

You could say putting a more economical engine in a £75k SUV is daft but it really isn't. Less than 10% of Rangie Sports will be powered by the petrol V8, and the majority of the balance will be V6 diesels. If you have enough money for a £75k car you 'aint daft. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.

And, besides, the SDV6 in the test car returns 37.7mpg and emits 199g/km of CO2. That slaughters the SDV8 on eco-stats and therefore running costs.

This one comes with Scotia Grey paintwork and Ivory leather seats. The combination of dark exterior and light interior works well. Subtle but classy.
2014 Range Rover Sport SDV6
2014 Range Rover Sport SDV6

The spec is to die for. The seats and most of the dash and doors is leather, trimmed to perfection. The ebony interior highlights and aluminium panelling look rather wonderful.  The Jaguar Land Rover touchscreen is a delight (even if some journalists don't like it) and controls several key systems such as the sound system and infotainment, heated and cooled seats (front and back), satnav etc.

The test car has a bunch of options, which will be handy as four of us will be driving to Germany and back over the course of a weekend. They include:

Dual View Touchscreen - £600
Super Premium Audio System 1700w - £5,000
Park Assist - £450
Privacy Glass - £300
Adaptive Xenon Headlamps - £300
Rear Seat Entertainment - £1,500
On Board Television - £800
Cooled and Heated Front and Rear Seats - £500

I've driven the car in the dark and the adaptive main beam is a bit basic compared to Volvo's as it switches on or off with no middle ground, but the light is clear and bright.

The engine is something of a peach. It's so quiet you'd hardly know it's a diesel but it has plenty of punch from low down in the rev range. The 8-speed automatic gearbox is well suited to the engine with ratios that suit its torque band and kick-down at a sensible pressure on the throttle. With some cars you have to firmly plant the throttle to overcome the car's inherent need to preserve fuel, which makes for often jerky progress.
2014 Range Rover Sport SDV6

It's also worthy of it's Sport moniker, well sort of. This is an SUV after all but it's a sprightly one that corners better than you'd imagine. Compare it to a ten year old 4x4 and it's light years ahead in terms of dynamics and performance for a given amount of power extracted from a litre of fuel.

I'll write a full review once the car's gone back. This week I'll be putting over 1,000 miles on it so will have plenty to say about it.

So far, after a few miles, it's proving to be worth every penny of its not insubstantial asking price.

Stats:

Price - £74,995 
Engine - 3 litre, V6, turbocharged, diesel 
Transmission - 8-speed automatic 
0-60mph - 6.8 seconds 
Top speed - 130 mph 
Power - 288 bhp 
Torque - 443 lb ft 
Economy - 37.7 mpg 
CO2 - 199 g/km 
Kerb weight - 2,144 kg
2014 Range Rover Sport SDV6

2014 Range Rover Sport SDV6

2014 Range Rover Sport SDV6

2014 Range Rover Sport SDV6

By Matt Hubbard


18 Nov 2014

Guy Martin, Carl Fogarty On Reality TV And The Brands Hatch Invader

Motorcycle racing has a low profile in the mainstream media, but in recent weeks it's been given a massive boost.


For those of us who've followed road racing for a while Guy Martin's success on mainstream TV has been no surprise. Guy has a strong, interesting personality which shone through in the movie TT:3D. 

After that his increasing fame could only be reigned in by his reluctance to do too much telly, on top of all his other commitments. Happily, Guy seems to have found the time and made some great TV programmes.

Speed with Guy Martin saw our erstwhile hero set various records, including a fantastic episode where he became the fastest rookie at Pikes Peak on his homebuilt motorcycle.  You can watch some short films he recorded with C4 here.

Guy has never managed to win a TT but Carl Fogarty has - King Carlos of Blackburn has won 3 TTs.

And now he's on ITV every night for three weeks on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.  Carl said he went on the show because he wanted a new challenge.

Appearing alongside idiotic reality TV stars and a footballer who's scared of his own shadow Carl won the first challenge of the series with ease, spending 12 minutes in an underground box full of snakes.

When the challenge finished he said, to himself, "Yes. Victory." To Foggy, who retired due to injury in 2000, a win is a win and he's won some races in his time.

World Superbike titles in 1994, 1995, 1998 and 1999 and 59 wins from 219 starts is the headline but what shows the true mettle of the man is his three TT victories. In 1992 Steve Hislop and Foggy fought one of the best TT battles of all time, which you can see below.

It's brilliant having road racing stars on mainstream TV. The sport attracts extreme personalities because you need to have a screw loose to take the risks required to win - unlike football - and it's good that some of them are getting the exposure they deserve.


Finally, the news has just come in that Jack Cottle, the blithering idiot who drove his VW Polo on to the track at Brands Hatch during a race, has been jailed for 8 months.

Great. He deserved it. Racers take enough risks, they don't need some half-wit moron adding to the danger on track, although Maldonado fills that role in F1.

By Matt Hubbard





How Does The Ford Mondeo Stack Up Against The Vauxhall Insignia?

Mark Turner of Blacktopmedia recently tested the Vauxhall Insignia and thought it would be appropriate to throw it in the ring with a couple of its usual suspect sparing partners.


Let’s start with the Mondeo.

Since god was a boy the Mondeo has been the staple diet of reps up and down the country.
Why? Because it does what it says on the tin and does it well.

From the first drive of the Mondeo Titanium X Business Edition, I felt completely at home, familiar, comfortable in each other’s company.

I don’t know how Ford do it but it just fits. Everything worked, it made sense, I didn’t need a degree from NASA to work it and I didn’t need to add 20 minutes to each journey to allow me time to figure out how to start it, set the seat position, work out the stereo controls and so on.

Ironically, the only criticism I had of the Mondeo was that it was a little unremarkable to look at.
The styling is a little unexciting. It is undoubtedly a handsome car but the styling, on the outside at least, is reserved. Oh, and the driver’s seat wasn’t fully electric on this £25k model, so what.

The fit and finish is flawless and exudes quality befitting a more prestige marque. The bluetooth integration was a piece of cake, sat nav worked perfectly and the interior is such an agreeable place to be you won’t mind sitting on the M25 all day.
The controls are very well organized and felt familiar and there are enough toys to fulfil your needs but the car still feels balanced. The tech complements the car and doesn’t feel intrusive. You feel like you are in control but the electronics are quietly working away in the background.

So, it looks good, works well and feels right. That’s all fine but if it drives like a dogs dinner it’s all been a waste of time. Well, nothing to worry about there.

The 2014 Mondeo doesn’t disappoint. The driving dynamics are great. The car rides well, taking on our degrading and crumbling city streets without breaking in to a sweat.
The gearbox is near perfect with 6 well-spaced ratios making good use of the power available.
The engine is a gem. The 2.0 TDCi is a great power plant that offers a solid spread of power and torque from low revs. There is little or no turbo lag and the engine is very refined and quiet for a diesel.

In summary, the 2014 Mondeo is a hard act to follow. It sets the bar pretty high. It drives really well, is built well, looks good and is well priced. You could say it does exactly what it says on the tin……and does it well.






17 Nov 2014

What Makes The Toyota GT86 Such A Good Car?

The Toyota GT86 is acknowledged to be quite a special car. Journalists and petrolheads rave about them, forums chat about them. If you haven't driven one and don't quite understand what all the fuss is about then let me explain.


I had a GT86 for a week in the summer. It's a devastatingly capable machine at an affordable price. But what makes it such a good car? In this video I explain about all the small details that come together to make it one of the classic sports cars of this era.



You can read my written review of the GT86 here and watch my video walkaround/review below.



By Matt Hubbard


14 Nov 2014

Bernie Ecclestone - F1 Is For Pensioners, Not Youngsters

He's 84 himself and Bernie Ecclestone reckons F1 is only for people who've got lots of money to spend, which doesn't include youngsters


Bernie Ecclestone was interviewed by Campaign Asia-Pacific (nope, never heard of it) and pretty much compounded most fan's belief that he's a geriatric idiot who sold F1 down the river for a few (billion) quid in his pocket.

In the interview he says:

"I’m not interested in tweeting, Facebook and whatever this nonsense is. I tried to find out but in any case I’m too old-fashioned. I couldn’t see any value in it. And, I don’t know what the so-called ‘young generation’ of today really wants. What is it? You ask a 15 or 16-year-old kid, ‘What do you want?’ and they don’t know."

...and...

"If you have a brand that you want to put in front of a few hundred million people, I can do that easily for you on television. Now, you’re telling me I need to find a channel to get this 15-year-old to watch Formula One because somebody wants to put out a new brand in front of them? They are not going to be interested in the slightest bit. Young kids will see the Rolex brand, but are they going to go and buy one? They can’t afford it. Or our other sponsor, UBS—these kids don’t care about banking. They haven’t got enough money to put in the bloody banks anyway. That’s what I think. 

...and...

I don’t know why people want to get to the so-called ‘young generation’. Why do they want to do that? Is it to sell them something? Most of these kids haven’t got any money. I’d rather get to the 70-year-old guy who’s got plenty of cash. So, there’s no point trying to reach these kids because they won’t buy any of the products here and if marketers are aiming at this audience, then maybe they should advertise with Disney."

...and...

"They say the kids watch things on [tablets and phones], but it doesn’t mean they’re watching Formula One. And even if they are today, will they still watch it when they are 40? The world has changed so much in the last few years, and I doubt that’s going to stop. But with all the technology out there are limits to what we can do and the amount of time people can watch something."

So, even if you started watching F1 in your teens Bernie doesn't care. It's only when you got much older and had some spending money that he cared about you.

Bernie Ecclestone cares nothing about F1, that is obvious. He doesn't want to grow it, he doesn't want it to appeal to a wider audience, he doesn't want you watching it if you are young.

I'd argue that F1 'belongs' as much to the audience, those of us who've watched it all our lives, than it does to him and his partners in crime, CVC.

What a jerk. Let's all laugh at him failing to walk through a door properly.


By Matt Hubbard




Has The Audi TT Mk1 Finally Become Acceptable To Petrolheads?

For too long the Audi TT has been maligned as a hairdressers car or a Mk4 Golf in fancy clothes but it finally seems to have come of age

Audi TT Mk1 3.2 V6

Clarkson did one of his typical hatchet jobs when he reviewed the TT V6. If he doesn't like a car he'll find some reason to trash it, and this he did with the TT, understeering it round the Top Gear test track and spending half the review deciding what to wear.

And in typical fashion that set the standard. Car enthusiasts said the TT was rubbish. So it was, wasn't it?

Well, no it wasn't. OK in standard form with 150bhp and front wheel drive it didn't have a great deal going for it aside from its looks (which still look fresh 16 years later) but with quattro four wheel drive and either 225bhp 1.8T or 250bhp V6 the TT is a fantastic car. And any car will understeer at the TGTT if the driver wants it to - I know I've driven it.

But nobody knew because Uncle Jezza said it was a car for people who don't like cars.

The TT has several things going for it.

It was launched in 1998 but looks great inside and out even today, in fact the design influenced Audi for years and some Audis still carry design cues from the Mk1 TT. The engines are all good, even that 150bhp 1.8T is reasonably lively.  The interior is practical, it has +2 rear seats and a large hatchback boot. It has four wheel drive which makes for supreme grip in all weathers.

It has all the toys you'd expect from a premium car. It is so well built it doesn't often go wrong and it has no (OK, well one*) inherent faults. It is based on a VW chassis and has VW engines so parts are cheap. And it's bloody fast.

The TT doesn't have the steering feel of a Porsche Boxster of the same era but then again it doesn't have the same catastrophic engine problems the Boxster does.

So why is the TT coming back into fashion? Why are people saying they secretly liked TTs all along?

Nowadays you can buy a TT 225 for £2,000. That is within the budget of a motoring journalist, amongst the least well paid of professions. But a very influential bunch of people.

I've seen at least five car journos openly discussing Mk1 TTs on social media or magazine blogs, talking about how they'd like the special edition TT Sport but can't stretch to that so a 225 will do instead, or even a V6 but you'll need to shell out around £5k for a decent one.

This chatter spreads, to forums, to car enthusiasts on Twitter and Facebook and now everyone likes TTs.

It also helps that the TT Mk3 is getting such good reviews. Good news filters down.

The Audi TT Mk1 has finally come of age. No longer is it for hairdressers and women. People have realised, 16 years after it first went on sale that the Audi TT is a damn fine sports/GT car you can drive every day of the year - and therefore doesn't need to be kept just as a second car for the summer months.

Someone who's known this for years is Speedmonkey's Col - my brother. He had a 225 in 2005 and bought a TT V6 last year.

I liked it so much I bought one myself.  I've written about it several times in my 'fleet' updates.

The moral of the story is that you shouldn't always listen to what others are saying. Some journalists write bullshit reviews and, as they're only human, they are sometimes influenced by what others are saying.

The TT was always a good car, it's just that no-one was brave enough to say so.

Audi TT Shootout – Mk1 3.2 V6 vs Mk2 2.5 RS



* the one inherent fault in the TT Mk1 is the DSG gearbox. Not many last beyond 100,000 miles without some expensive fault. The 6-speed manual is excellent though, and reliable.
@SpeedmonkeyCol with his and my TT V6s

By Matt Hubbard