19 Sep 2014

Behind The Scenes At The Red Bull Racing F1 Factory After A Race

This is a great video that shows life in the Red Bull Racing factory in Milton Keynes on the Monday after a race weekend.

It's striking to see how laid back the office seems to be, how deferential everyone is to the guv'nor (Christian Horner) and how Adrian Newey, despite being a genius, is also a luddite.




Living With - 2003 Audi RS6 Avant

Andrew Dryburgh reviews his 2003 Audi RS6 Avant

2003 Audi RS6 Avant

I'm very fortunate to work in car sales for a great Audi dealership where I get to drive some truly astonishing cars every day. Despite being associated with the Audi brand for nearly 12 years I genuinely still surprise myself with the quality of our cars, often using a different model of the range for my commute to try them in a real world drive.

In addition I’m lucky enough to have a company car which I use for 95% of my motoring. However a great deal of my enthusiasm for cars is for slightly older vehicles hence I’ve usually owned my own car in addition.

When I saw that Matt from www.speedmonkey.co.uk encouraged readers to write about their own cars I felt very motivated to write, and that brings us to this article. This isn’t about new a Audi product recently launched, nor do I have a used example of this car for sale.

So tonight, Matthew, I’m going to write about my own car.

What is it?

A 2003 Audi RS6 Avant.

Most people are well versed in this car.  The simple version is an A6 Avant with wide body, wide track, and a 4.2 litre V8 petrol motor equipped with 2 turbochargers and quattro permanent all wheel drive. In 2003 when it was new the performance figures would have been the stuff to win bragging contests down the pub. 450ps (444bhp) power, 560Nm torque, 0 - 62mph in 4.9 secs and a top speed limited to 155mph (where legal).

When I started working at an Audi dealership in 2003 the company owner had an RS6 Avant. It didn’t take long to get under my skin. I remember saying at the time I would own one. I even kept a brochure from when they were new. I got mine in 2008. I don’t do finance or loans and although I’m in the motor trade it still represented a significant chunk of money to spend on my debit card when I bought it.

“They’re around £5,000 - £15,000 at the moment, right? Should I buy one?”

Good heavens, no! Well, not unless you take account of the following:

The RS6 was around £70,000 when new and is a very complex machine. Even if you can afford the present second hand price the regular maintenance and repair costs will always end up being those of a £70,000 car. Brakes are roughly £1,000 at the front and only slight less at the rear. The cam belt (ideally including water pump and thermostat) are changed every 4 years. It requires a service each 12 months or 10,000 miles. Driven (im)properly the tyres will last 5000 miles and will set you back £850 - £1,000 for 4. It will average 15 - 20mpg of super unleaded.

Some of the technology on board is now outdated but a major advantage is that in this day and age you can do a lot of research on a particular model using internet forums even before you view and test drive them. If you buy at the cheap end of the market you’re likely to buy a problem car. From research I knew to watch out for 2 main faults:

All C5 RS6s have a 5 speed ZF tiptronic gearbox with steering wheel mounted manual over-ride gearshift controls (the gearbox is shared with the earlier A8 6.0 W12) and Audi felt it was up to the job of dealing with the power and torque. It wasn’t, and for many owners the gearbox failed causing repair bills of £4,000 - £7,000. It turns out that ZF say the gearbox should be serviced with the fluid and filter replaced throughout the car’s life. Audi on the other hand marketed it as “sealed for life” and isn’t a repair option but a “replace” option. A handful of owners have developed their own manual gearbox conversion at great expense to then go for crazy power outputs from engine and turbo mods.

From the factory the RS6 was the first model in the Audi line up to receive “Dynamic Ride Control” (often referred to as DRC) suspension where the shock absorbers are linked diagonally across the car via an equalisation valve giving very effective (almost “active” in feel although it’s a passive system) anti-roll, anti-dive, and anti-squat behaviour. This made the 2 tonne RS6 (1880kg unladen weight, 2440kg fully laden!) strangely agile for its size. For many owners this first generation DRC system has failed numerous times, and when it’s not working the car feels “drunk” and wallowing at best, and dangerous at worst.
2003 Audi RS6 Avant

As these issues could prove potentially ruinous on costs I read all the forum advice and tried to buy the best car I could.

Even so my car has had both these faults. The gearbox was rebuilt by a ZF agent, and the suspension replaced by adjustable coil-overs and upgraded anti roll bars. The handling is amazing in comparison to standard and the Audi DRC will never fail me again. My ride height can be adjusted however the ride quality has been compromised somewhat.

Experience has shown me that Goodyear Eagle Assimetric tyres feel best on the car.

The repairs were expensive at the time but curiously I’m not put off by them. Averaged out over the months of ownership it’s actually cost me very little per year. The fact that the car is somehow more “mine” due to the minor modifications makes it feel more a part of me.

Also as you start to get into the ownership “circles” on various web forums (I would suggest www.rs246.com is the best place to start) you’ll learn of the excellent Audi RS performance specialist businesses around the UK who can help you fix and get the best out of your RS6. 

I’ve had the suspension, ECU remap, transmission ECU remap and gearbox service done at “Unit20” in the Wirral as it’s closest to Scotland. Drivers further south will likely use “MRC”.

Regarding all of the above, maybe I’m being harsh on the old girl.

The Good:

It’s a car with exterior styling that has aged incredibly well. It blends in with formal and informal occasions. It doesn’t shout too loudly to attract the undue attention of the “Boys in Blue”. In short - it fits in everywhere.

It feels absolutely planted on the road in all weathers. There is serious grip to be exploited if your family and dog aren’t in the car to feel sick.

The performance is epic. The torque (especially after the re-map was done) comes in with comically high levels of shove from about 1,500rpm transforming into serious power as the rev counter makes its crazy rush towards 6,000rpm, and the in-gear times from 30 to XXX leptons are astonishing. The quattro traction means you can exploit this performance where others struggle to put down their power.

The car is luxurious and spacious. With the rear seats folded the practicality means anything from fun driving to family holidays to trips with rubbish to the local recycling centre can be done in one car. Mine averages about 18mpg overall, BUT driven carefully on vacations abroad this has shown to rise to 27mpg (for the record - this is slightly better than the lower powered S4 V8 I had before). For the performance potential available the economy is amazing! I’ve often compared this to other large “sensible” family cars like Discoverys, and suspect they’ll average close on the same economy with no driving enjoyment.

Mine is a 2003 model in “Mugello Blue pearl effect” with “Silver” leather upholstery, alcantara headlining in silver, “Poplar Agate” wood inlays (I know - but I’ve grown to love them), electric tilt/slide solar panel sunroof (uses PV panel to power the cabin ventilation while parked) and GSM phone preparation (if you’re using a 1990s Nokia 6310i physically linked to the car via a cradle).

It has an excellent BOSE Hi-Fi, a great Sat Nav system which is getting out of date but is very effective and has taken us on many trips through the UK and France, it has MP3 playing capability from SD card readers x 2 in the Nav unit, a 6CD changer, electric Recaro seats and electric steering column and I can easily fit a bike rack on top in minutes.

It’s getting old and is painfully behind the times on technology compared to the modern Audis I sell. It feels a little but vintage to drive compared to brand new cars. It lacks Bluetooth, iPod integration or the ability to run on 95ron unleaded. The suspension is pretty hard on poor roads, and my right knee aches when I’ve been driving it for a long time. Mind you that might be more to do with my right knee than the car…

I hate starting sentences with “but”, but all of that is part of the car’s charm. In fact I’ve been out in it for most of today, and it’s still an event to drive it.

It’s been all over the UK. To LeMans (Pistonheads camp site), Goodwood, the D-day beaches in Normandy, Legoland, Brittany, Ski resorts in the Alps, driving tours with friends…

So perhaps if you ask that question again:

“They’re around £5000 - £15000 at the moment, right? Should I buy one?”

Yes - you probably can’t afford not to.

All of this writing has made me think… There is a current model in the Audi model range with approximately the same dimensions, the same engine size, same nominal power output, and similar weight. It shares the commonality of an Avant body shell, automated transmission with manual gearshift mode, high performance in a luxury car. I’ve been living with it for nearly 5 months as my day to day company car, and it might be quite interesting to do a comparison review… That can be my next episode.

By Andrew Dryburgh

Twitter: @drybeer
Instagram: drybeer
2003 Audi RS6 Avant

2003 Audi RS6 Avant

2003 Audi RS6 Avant


18 Sep 2014

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design Revealed

If want a new Volvo XC90 and didn't manage to bag one of the 1,927 First Editions (which sold out in 48 hours) you'll have to make do with an XC90 R-Design, Inscription or Momentum

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design
2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

Here, for the first time, are photos of the Volvo XC90 R-Design. It sits at the top of the range alongside the Inscription.  R-Design is sporty and Inscription is luxurious - get it?  The base model is called Momentum and will cost around £45,000.  No prices have been released yet for the Inscription or R-Design.

To these eyes the XC90 looks better in blue than it did in any of the launch colours, the shape, the creases, the curves all look sharper and easier on the eye.

The XC90 production line will start in earnest in May 2015 and first deliveries will take place in July.
2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design
2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design
2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design
2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design
2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design
2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design
2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design
2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design
2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design wheels

2015 Volvo XC90 R-Design wheels

By Matt Hubbard





17 Sep 2014

10 Motoring Anniversaries in 2014

The current year has certainly been buzzing with anniversaries from the motoring world. Seemingly every other day, a manufacturer has inflated the party balloons, wrapped the presents and indulged in too much birthday cake. Gather round, light the candles and get ready to sing, for here is a list of ten vehicles and manufacturers celebrating an anniversary in 2014.


Vauxhall VXR - 10 Years


Vauxhall's VXR range has become synonymous with epic performance and giant slaying capabilities. The Australian Commodore badge engineered Monaro became the stuff of legends, outperforming many major German premium offerings. All of this began in 2004 though, with the upgraded Vauxhall VX220, the VXR220. Ever since, the UK has been offered the likes of the Astra VXR, Corsa VXR, Zafira VXR, Insignia VXR, Vectra VXR, Monaro VXR and the VXR8 to list a few. An exciting future still lies ahead for the Vauxhall brand.

Mazda MX5 - 25 Years


Mazda's MX5 has always enjoyed affection from the motoring press and owners alike. Providing superb handling at a relative bargain, the little Japanese sports car has definitely made a hefty impact on our shores. Launched back in 1989, the cute little sports car caught the world's imagination with the inclusion of quirky pop-up headlights, amongst other traits. Many would go so far as proclaim the MX5 as providing the thrills of a true British sports car.

Land Rover Discovery - 25 Years


Also born in 1989 was a best-seller from Land Rover. Originally based on the contemporary Range Rover, albeit at a lower spec and price, the Discovery was designed to compete with many Japanese offerings at the time; i.e the Mitsubishi Shogun/Pajero. Ever since though, the Discovery has sold tremendously worldwide and became one of the best off-roaders that money could buy. The modern equivalent appears increasingly upmarket as the years progressed, however be sure that the current ownership will take this model to new and greater heights.

Seat Ibiza - 25 Years


Quite frankly, the saviour for the Seat brand, who had previously only really offered rebadged Fiat technology. The Seat Ibiza sold strongly due to its Porsche engineered engine. Originally a unit destined for the Volkswagen Golf, the brand was coincidentally later commandeered by the Volkswagen Group. Hence all future models were based upon the contemporary Polo. Ever since, the Ibiza has become Seat's best-selling model, vaguely keeping the Spanish Catalan state afloat financially. Cupra models have continued to excite the motoring world throughout each generation, leaving high hopes for the brand's future.

Peugeot GTI - 30 Years


In 1984, Peugeot created a monster. One of the pioneers of the traditional hot hatch was born, and what a marvellous piece of technology it was. Even 30 years on, teenagers still lust after an original 205 GTI on equal levels to the rivalling Golf GTI. Peugeot had a few greatest hits with the 309 GTI and 106 GTI. For years though, the GTI label has remained little more than a trim level, with lacklustre offerings in the form of the 206 and 207 GTI. Worry not, for the spirit is back with the 208 GTI, which finally handles like a true Peugeot GTI should.

Mitsubishi - 40 Years


Believe it or not, the Mitsubishi brand has existed in the UK now for 40 years. With such famous models as the Colt, Galant, Shogun/Pajero and Lancer, Britain has received the Japanese brand well. Most associate the brand with the Lancer Evo series, which took the rally driving scene by storm with its heated rival, the Subaru Impreza.

Ssangyong - 60 Years


The Korean brand which no one seems to know how to pronounce is now 60 years old. Launched in 1954, the brand manufactured army jeeps and trucks for many years. British consumers only became aware of the brand in the early 90's, following a partnership with Daimler-Benz which created the Ssangyong Musso. Ever since, the brand has earned a reputation for quite questionable styling. Despite the obscure offerings, the brand continues to grow and offers competitive off-road and MPV vehicles.

MG - 90 Years


Of course, MG may not have existed for much of the past decade, however the lads at Longbridge are thrilled to celebrate their 90th anniversary. Following the brand's resurrection, the amount of dealerships is ever-expanding. The brand's history, although rocky at times, is one of the most colourful in the history of British motoring. Many Brits remember fondly the MGB, MGF, MG Metro, MG Maestro, MG ZT and various other offerings. Although current offerings lack the passion of the past, we can only wish the best for the future of the Chinese owned British car manufacturer.

Bentley - 95 Years


One of the best luxury car manufacturers in the world is now celebrating its 95th birthday. In 2013, one in every four luxury cars delivered was a Bentley, impressive despite the limitations of handmade methods of manufacturing. Bentley cars have established themselves firmly throughout history. Bentley models were used as off-road vehicles during World War One, as well as other winning multiple 24 Hour Le Mans races and amongst the ownership of the world's most rich and famous. Since ownership was earned by the Volkswagen Group, sales have risen from strength to ever-growing strength. Expect even bigger things for the Bentley brand

Maserati - 100 Years


Not often in the motoring world do we experience a centenary celebration. But when we do, little more can top the history of the Maserati brand. Started in 1914 by three brothers; Alfieri, Ettore and Ernesto, the story began with the First World War. As luxury racers became their pedigree, the brand became synonymous with providing only the best combination of performance and luxury.

By Mike Armstrong


16 Sep 2014

What's Under The Tarp?

We all love a mystery, a whodunnit, a thriller.  In the car world the equivalent mystery is the car under the tarpaulin.


Take a photo of a car under a tarp and you're guaranteed to get petrolheads on social media in a flutter of, "It could be..." and, "I think it's a..."

Sometimes the car under the tarp is easy to identify, maybe by a distinct shape (Beetle, Mini etc) or a hint of unique wheel peaking from under the cover.

Sometimes it's much tougher. A heavy tarpaulin evens out the bodywork and creates a generic shape, and if the wheels are aftermarket then you've no chance.
What's under the tarp?

Take the photo above.  Respondents on twitter reckoned it was, or could be, a Camaro, R34 Skyline, Corvette, Audi A5 coupe or Honda NSX.  And it's identity is still a mystery. I walk past it most days and think it could be...a Corvette or Skyline or maybe a Mitsubishi or some other Nissan coupe.

I once went to a work colleague's house and spotted a car under a tarp in her drive. I wracked my brains but couldn't work out what it was. Some time later I asked her, "A silver Mercedes," was the answer. "Which?". "Oh I don't know, some sports car."  From that little info I'd say it was an SL.

Geoff Maxted of DriveWrite recently posted this photo on his Facebook page asking "What's under the tarps?"
What's under the tarps in Geoff's photo?

I got them all right based solely on the wheels poking out from under the covers. Mystery solved.  Satisfaction. That was an easy one, but not all are, which is why us petrolheads love a game of what's under the tarp.

By Matt Hubbard



15 Sep 2014

For Cars Companies As For Rock Bands

I often write articles in my head during long journeys. Not many of these end up getting written and published as they're often rubbish or I forget what the crux of it was.  This time, however, the idea stayed with me and, in hindsight, it doesn't seem too mad.


The car industry is long established. The market is made up of a few majors players who have survived world wars, recessions, mergers, poor product and mega-recalls to exist in 2014.  Similarly music has a handful of stars who have defied the odds just by carrying on.  This column looks at the similarity between car manufacturers and their musical counterparts.

Let's start with an easy one.  Iggy Pop first came to prominence in the 60s. He was innovative and influential, his work appealed to a niche audience but everyone had heard of him.  His sound was spiky and raw but other musicians were influenced by his style, and even ripped off his songs, which helped grow the Iggy brand.  He would have faded away a long time ago had not several collaborations and outside influencers revived him at various points in his career.  For Iggy read Lotus cars. Both of them are still around today, everyone has heard of them and admires them but few buy the actual product.

Moving on to a bigger name - Porsche.  Again, hard edged but with more of a commercially accessible nature than Lotus.  Porsche has evolved glacially, growing steadily, until mega-success saw them become one of the biggest players in the worldwide car market - despite their core product, sports cars, being very much a niche.  Metallica has a similar career path to Porsche. They've been around a long time but have stuck at the same formula, with little derivation, yet they've grown to become one of the biggest bands in the world - witness their recent headline slot at Glastonbury for evidence of that.

Back to a smaller player - Subaru. Once a worldwide name they made a few disastrous choices and, despite the fact the cars are good, slipped into relative obscurity, just as Prince has done.  Both Subaru and Prince are still plugging away with new stuff but neither seems to be able to make their way back to the top.

The next pair have both seen huge success and have both been wildly hyped, for good reason as they were both great.  They were loved by journalists and the public alike and are still remembered fondly.  But that greatness has faded into a shadow of what it once was as the components of what made them brilliant have disappeared so that today only a fraction of the substance still exists. Guns N'Roses and Alfa Romeo - we all want you to be as good as you once were but sadly you are not.

How about Jaguar and Iron Maiden, surely I can't find a link between those two?  Oh, I can.  Both have several distinct phases to their careers.  Both had a period when they were considered the best in the world at what they did. Their stars shone bright and what they produced back then is still considered classic and brilliant.  Then due to infighting, lack of new ideas and trading on the same old same old for too long they fell into a period not so much of obscurity but certainly of inferior product and fallen sales.  But they both pulled through spectacularly to achieve a third phase with the best cars and music they've ever made, eclipsing their earlier work and making them more money than they ever had before.  It doesn't hurt that Maiden's drummer is a huge Jaguar fan and had a bespoke XKR-S built for him by Jaguar's SVO.

Volkswagen has been around for donkey's years. Aside from in the beginning they've never been particularly innovative but have always been there and have sold cars by the bucketload by sticking to a tried and tested formula to become one of the world's biggest brands, just like the Rolling Stones.

Another band who've been around for a long time and have ploughed the same old furrow is Motorhead.  Everyone's heard of them, but by not making mainstream product hardly anyone bought their records.  Perseverence and sheer will, with a large dose of belligerence, has meant they've never been signed by a major label and are still resolutely independent. Their core audience, though, adores them and keeps coming back for more despite the fact the formula is largely unchanged.  That's pretty much the formula that has kept Morgan in business for decades.

I could do a lot more of these but it is probably time to end. Despite what I said at the start of the article it probably was a mad idea. Hope you enjoyed it.
A detail from Nicko McBrain's Jaguar XKR-S

By Matt Hubbard






12 Sep 2014

Driven – Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

Colin Hubbard reviewed the hardtop Audi R8 V10 back in July.  Here's his review of the convertible R8 V10 Spyder

Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

The test car was finished in pearl effect phantom black and, along with titanium-finished double arm 19 inch alloys, looked staggeringly good with the hood up or down.

The other staggering item is the price - nearly £130,000 on the road - some £10,000 more than the hardtop but it does come with everything you need or want in a supercar.

And supercar this is, not only does it have the performance to back the name up but the open cockpit amplifies the driving experience.

Power is supplied by the same Lamborghini derived 5.2 V10 as the hardtop but the spyder carries an additional 75kg from its electrically folding soft top, additional bracing and a powered rear glass window. Magnesium in the roof structure helps save a little weight but performance is still marginally blunted, taking half a second extra to 62mph  - 4.1 seconds - and with a top speed of 194mph it only loses 1mph to the hardtop.

The chassis is quattro equipped so is all wheel drive with a varying split of power to the front and rear wheels depending on conditions and traction. The suspension is electromagnetic dampers and coil springs which feels as fresh today as when the R8 was originally launched, magic carpet to tight and taut at the touch of a button.

Thankfully the test car was fitted with steel disks - Audi's new cross-drilled wavy disks in this instance, to save unsprung weight. Not only do they look great but along with the multi-piston calipers they slow the car's 1,645kg down with ease and offer excellent modulation.
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

From the outside it looks very classy, black really suits the Spyder and highlights the curve on the engine cover nicely. Unfortunately due to a complicated folding soft top the R8 loses the glass engine cover but all is forgiven as the overall shape is stunning.

Even with the hood up it retains its good looks although the hood arches down unnecessarily toward the rear to retain the sleek lines, while the vertical rear window is electrically retractable and can be operated independently of the roof.

Inside is familiar R8 territory being classy rather than shouty unlike its Italian sister. To be honest the new R8 will be welcome as it hasn't changed since it was launched in 2006 but time has been kind and it's still a nice place to be.

The obvious benefit of a soft top is the infinite roof height and the wind in the hair driving experience but what you get in the R8 is the sound of that glorious V10 engine mounted just inches behind you.

Prod the starter button to wake the engine and it barks loudly at you, the cloth hood not insulating your ears the same way the tin top does. As it's a gloriously sunny day the hood is lowered straight away (in 19 seconds) although it can be lowered at up to 31 mph.

Out of the launch venue and the R8 rode the speed bumps easily. Even though it's a low car it is still everyday friendly and as I hadn't pressed the sport button yet the dampers were still in their softer setting.
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

Once on the open the road the Spyder comes into its own. You can hear and feel the V10 howling and popping as if it's in the cabin. When you experience the sound and feel the wind rushing around you the small dent in acceleration from the hard top is instantly forgotten and it feels just as fast.

There is a little chassis flex, even though the aluminium spaceframe chassis features some elements of carbon composites this supermaterial can't quite match the rigidity of a hardtop when the roof is cut away. It's acceptable though and doesn't affect the overall driving experience.

As it was a dry day and the R8 is all wheel drive grip is predictably impressive. On curvy roads the back wants to push out a little under hard acceleration and the front end is light but digs in well

Now it's time to press the sport button which turns the hard top V10 into an animal. No change in the Spyder and it quickly drops a couple of cogs of the S-Tronic gearbox. Now the howls and pops are more HOWLS and POPS which wake you like a glug of energy drink.

The metal particles in the dampers are charged,  thickening the viscosity of the fluid so the damping is firmer. The beauty of this system is that they are still constantly adjusted many times a second so while the ride is firmed up the chassis is not bone jarringly hard. The ride is now excitable and also a little jumpy, but not brittle so it flows with the road, finding traction where a firmly damped car would skip.

The changes in sport mode transform the experience and the whole car comes alive like a child on its second bag of Haribo. Suddenly that extra £10,000 seems like money well spent and on a sunny day I can't think of another car I would want to be in.
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

As the roads twist and turn and the Spyder gets into its groove and covers ground incredibly quickly and competently, the 10 fizzing cylinders just behind you with little in the way of silencing, you feel like you are in your own exotic amphitheatre.

Part of the driving route is on the motorway so I raised the hood to test the sound deadening properties at speed. At a steady 70mph on a busy road sound is muted and quiet enough for a conversation without shouting.

As I exited the motorway I opened the rear window which reveals an entirely different character to the car. Instead of the wind whistling in your ears and rushing past your face all is now calm, the engine note clearer but no less loud.

I also noted a whirring sound like a belt driven supercharger with the back window down that I didn't notice with the hood down. It's a strange noise but one I liked and which added to the driving experience.

As I passed into a built up area where the speed limit reduced from 60mph to 30mph I was still in sport mode so the 7 speed gearbox changes down 3 gears - with each change it auto blips the throttle - thrum, thrum, thrum. It's too much for urban areas so I pressed the sport button to put it back to the default setting to avoid looking like some attention seeking footballer.

After a few more miles I gave it one last blast, with the sun beating down on my face, the wind in my stubble and the hairs on the back of my neck tingling from the high pitched V10.

As I parked up I thought back to the price and wonder if Audi is asking too much for this ultimate incarnation of the R8. It only takes a nanosecond to answer and it's an absolute no. Yes it's not as flamboyant as the £60,000 more expensive Lamborghini but it is a hell of a lot classier instead, being a car for the restrained type. More Bond than Beckham.

Stats


Price - £124,650 (£129,005 as tested)
Engine – 5.2 litre, V10, petrol
Transmission – 7 Speed S-Tronic
0-62mph – 4.1 seconds
Top speed - 194 mph
Power - 517bhp at 8,000rpm
Torque - 391lb ft
Economy - 19mpg combined
CO2 - 349 g/km
Kerb weight - 1720kg
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro

Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro
Audi R8 V10 Spyder 5.2FSI Quattro


11 Sep 2014

2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian Review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian twin-cab pick-up

2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian
2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian
The Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian is essentially a work-horse.  Underneath the stylish bodywork is a ladder chassis with leaf-spring suspension at the rear, in order to accommodate a 1,100kg payload in the load-bay.

But step into the cabin and you're in a leather clad, gizmo laden car with heated seats, cruise control, infotainment system, automatic lights and wipers and electric windows.

It's this trade-off between utilitarianism and luxury that has seen the L200, and other pick-ups, move from the building site to the school car park.

And it's easy to see why.  In my week with the L200 Barbarian I used it to move several items around that most cars wouldn't have accommodated - a ton of junk to the tip prior to a house move, a bed, a lawnmower.  When you have the capacity to move these things you do.  Instead of wondering how you're going to get that old sofa to the tip you just chuck it in the back of the L200 and take it yourself.

And this with a car that has an interior that's as good as any other SUV.

There are down sides though.

Whilst the interior is on the surface as good as it is in, say, a Toyota RAV4 it's less well thought out and has several flaws.  The seats look nice but they're hard and not very supportive.  The driving position is odd.  The floor is quite high and the chairs quite low but the pedals aren't deep as they are in a sports car.  Add in that the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach and you need short legs and long arms to get really comfortable.

The infotainment unit is an aftermarket Kenwood affair.  It covers all the bases (USB, Bluetooth, DAB, satnav etc) but is fiddly to use and the sound quality from the speakers is terrible.

The heated seats and rear window button are hidden away under the dash so you have to lean down to see them.

The ride and handling are poor, as a result of the L200's height and leaf spring suspension.  It's bouncy and leans in corners.
2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian
2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian

The engine and gearbox are pretty good.  Only one engine is offered in the L200.  In the Barbarian it has 175bhp (in lesser models it has 134bhp) and 258lb ft of torque.  The gearbox in the test car was a 5-speed automatic.  5 speeds may be considered too few nowadays but the combination of engine and gearbox works fine and makes for surprisingly spritely performance.

Economy is not as good in mid-size SUVs.  The official figure is 32.1mpg but I saw 24mpg over the course of a week, although that was based mainly on shorter trips on local roads rather than long motorway miles.

The car's off-road capabilities are good.  It can run in rear wheel drive or four wheel drive with or without locking differentials.  That and the massive suspension travel and grippy tyres make it capable of going as far off road as even the most capable SUVs. The fact it is lighter, at 1,865kg, than bigger SUVs helps too.

On paper and on the road the Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian doesn't really stack up against similarly priced SUVs.  Having said that I liked it enormously.  It has a character that can only be experienced by spending time with it.

The more I drove it the more I forgave its flaws and the more I appreciated its abilities.

Bear in mind the L200 range starts at £17,400 (after tax, it's 20% cheaper for businesses), and the Barbarian is almost at the top of the range, it's not unreasonably priced.

If you're not a builder but fancy running a twin cab pick-up in lieu of an SUV for its load-lugging and off-roading capabilities and the fact it looks good and stands out from the crowd then you won't be dissapointed in the Barbarian.

Just don't forget that underneath it is quite agricultural.

Stats


Price - £28,798
Engine - 2.5 litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged, diesel
Transmission - 5-speed automatic
0-60mph - 12.1 seconds
Top speed - 111 mph
Power - 175 bhp
Torque - 258 lb ft/400 Nm
Economy - 32.1 mpg
CO2 - 208 g/km
Kerb weight - 1,865 kg



2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian
2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian

2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian
2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian

2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian
2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian

2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian
2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian

2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian
2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian

2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian
2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian

2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian
2014 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian


10 Sep 2014

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible - Photos, Specs And Price

BMW has chopped the roof off the 2-Series Coupe to bring us the 2-Series convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible
2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

The 2-Series Coupe is one of the best looking models in the BMW range and that seems to have translated to the convertible, although at the rear the waistline looks a tad high and the wheels too small.

It'll come with four engines and three trim levels - Sport, Luxury and M Sport.  It also comes with the coveted M badge as the M235i.

The soft top (thank goodness BMW didn't go for a folding hard-top) raises or lowers in 20 seconds at up to 30mph and seats four.

The BMW 2-Series Convertible will go on sale in February 2015.  Prices and specs are shown below.


ModelPower
hp
Torque   Nm0-62mph secondsTop
Speed
mph
Combined mpgCO2
Emissions g/km
Price
BMW 220i Sport Convertible1842707.5 (7.6)144 (140)41.5 (44.1)159 (149)£29,180
BMW 228i M Sport Convertible2453506.1 (6.0)155* (155*)41.5 (42.8)159 (154)£31,550
BMW M235i
Convertible
3264505.2 (5.0)155* (155*)33.2 (35.8)199 (184)£37,710
BMW 220d Sport Convertible1904007.5 (7.4)140 (140)60.1 (64.2)124 (116)£29,965
2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

2015 BMW 2-Series Convertible

By Matt Hubbard