SEAT Leon Italian Police

Do you know the number to ring in an emergency in the EU?

SEAT Leon Italian PoliceSix million Brits will be, once past Calais, driving abroad to Europe this summer – but the RAC has discovered almost two in three of them don’t know the three-digit number to dial in an emergency.

Knowledge of the correct number – 112 – is ‘worryingly’ low, which could lead to difficulties in an accident.

RAC European breakdown operations manager David Huggon said: “We all recognise 999 as the main emergency phone number in the UK, but it appears that once we’ve left the country we leave our knowledge of who to ring in an emergency behind too.”

10% of motorists say they would dial 111 in an emergency when in Europe: that’s the UK NHS non-emergency line.

6% say they would dial 911, the emergency number in the United States and Canada, while 5% would call 101, the UK non-emergency police line.

Indeed, it’s the introduction of 101 and 111 phone numbers in the UK that might be why motorists are getting confused, reckons Huggon.

112 for the EU

Simply try to remember 112 is Huggon’s advice. “The 112 number works right across the EU, including the UK.

“But it doesn’t get a lot of promotion – certainly not in Britain, where we have 999 anyway, but not a great deal in continental Europe either, although electronic motorway signage in some countries including France is used to remind drivers.”

But won’t they speak a foreign language? Not at all. “Drivers need not be concerned about language barriers either, as in many cases dialling 112 will put you through to an English-speaking call handler while abroad.”

Emergency numbers – the RAC guide

Phone numberWhat it’s forWhere it works
112Emergency assistance lineAll of the European Union
999Emergency assistance lineUnited Kingdom
911Emergency assistance lineAll of North America
101Police non-emergency assistance lineUnited Kingdom
111NHS non-emergency assistance lineEngland and Scotland, and Wales from October 2015

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Nissan Juke-R 2.0

Nissan Juke-R 2.0 review: 2015 first drive

Nissan Juke-R 2.0‘What do you get if you put a Nissan GT-R engine in a Nissan Juke’ was a beyond-your-wildest-dreams question that nobody asked, but which Nissan answered back in 2012 with the Juke-R. No joke: it was a GT-R-Juke.

Engineered and built by crack British race team RML, it went on to tour the world and wow millions with its surprisingly accomplished (and largely sideways and smokey) talents. Nissan may love its EVs but with this, it also created a ‘hybrid’, one that’s done wonders for the brand.

Then, in 2014, the Juke was facelifted, getting sparkly new LED headlights, a new grille and much-needed extra boot space. So that was that for the pre-facelift Juke-R? Not a bit. Since then, it’s been back to work for the RML boys.

Nissan Juke-R 2.0

At the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed, their efforts were revealed – the Nissan Juke-R 2.0, or the facelifted version of Nissan’s wildest car on sale. Present and correct is the new LED-equipped front and rear styling, along with new bumpers now made fully from carbon fibre.

The front bumper has 100% bigger cooling apertures, and for good reason; Nissan has bumped the power of the GT-R engine up to a Nismo-matching 600hp. Truly astonishing. It has also sweated on the detail of the bodywork, so it’s smoother and better integrated, while the wheels are all-new GT-R rims.

Note how we said ‘on sale’? Yes, you can actually buy a road-going Juke-R 2.0. Provided you have £406,000 to spare. You would get stopped everywhere by people (and the police) swearing blind it couldn’t ever be road-legal, so wild is it. Reason enough to want one – but, as we discovered, it’s also pretty handy to drive, too…

2015 Nissan Juke-R 2.0: On the road

Nissan Juke-R 2.0

You step past a huge roll cage to enter the Juke-R 2.0, getting into full-race buckets with four-point harnesses. Do them up and you won’t reach the door to close it. With a fantastic dash mix of Juke shapes and GT-R displays, the effect is not unlike sitting in a BTCC car. It’s the same silhouette, but thoroughly outfitted like a race car.

Unlike the GT-R, you sit really high, feeling like you’re towering over the road, yet the intrusive windscreen pillars make it tricky to see through corners. All this, plus the knowledge IT IS A JUKE WITH 600HP frankly terrifies you even before you start the 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo engine sitting where a 1.5 diesel normally does.

It’s terror that barely diminishes. Just like the GT-R, Nissan’s 600hp Juke is ludicrously fast. We’re talking 0-62mph in three seconds here, with four-wheel-drive bite and fiendishly clever computers overseeing it all, ensuring the shock you get when you emerge from the Silverstone pit lane is total and absolute.

Tepid show car? Not a bit. Earlier, we’d been out in a ‘real’ GT-R Nismo and the electric similarities between Godzilla and its space monkey cousin were remarkable – particularly the staggering power and willingness to deploy it. You can barely paddle-change gear fast enough, and you certainly have to work the brakes hard to shed all the speed you’ve so quickly gained.

Nissan Juke-R 2.0

There are differences. The height and packaging limitations of the Juke platform mean it rolls more in corners, feels less anchored than the GT-R and, crucially, the shorter wheelbase makes it much livelier and more agile.

The latter is actually a good thing, in some ways, as you can actually turn into corners more sharply than in the big, heavy GT-R. The immediacy and bite is astounding. But, if you’re not quick enough, it will bite you; this is a hyper-responsive car that demands concentration. Given how much power it has, it’s worth bearing that in mind.

Speaking of power, the round boost that’s taken it up to 600hp? It’s made a car that was already a colossus of a performer even more mind-blowing. It reminded us of Ferraris Scuderia and Speciale – boy, you have to be good to use it properly. But boy, are the rewards there if you do.

This is why it’s so brilliant. What’s more, if you want to buy one, RML and Nissan will teach you how to drive it properly, to get the best from its race-tuned chassis. As unlikely as it sounds, this will make it one of the closest genuine road-going race car experiences you can get. A cult car that doesn’t disappoint behind the wheel – just as it should be.

2015 Nissan Juke-R 2.0: On the inside

Nissan Juke-R 2.0

Nissan’s quite proud of this bit. Because it does actually start life as a production-spec Juke, buyers can first choose the level of interior kit they’d like, and the trim colours for the dash and doors, before RML takes over and R 2.0’s the rest of it.

It means that functions such as climate control, auto headlights and fancy colour-matched trim lines are retained, surrounding the genuine GT-R dials, levers and displays within. Note that all those displays are fully functional as well – far from an easy job.

Nissan Juke-R 2.0

We’ve covered the obvious stuff like the fact you have a humongous roll cage surrounding you – it’s there to make the chassis as stiff as it is in the GT-R – and the fact visibility could be better. It’s hardly the car you’ll use to quickly nip to the shops.

For this reason, you should also have a standard Juke waiting in the wings. Or maybe a standard GT-R. But the very fact that such a race-engineered hybrid supercar such as this is road-legal and relatively practical is a real achievement. Just don’t think of it as a school-run squirtabout.

2015 Nissan Juke-R 2.0: Running costs

Nissan Juke-R 2.0

Hmm, where do we start? Perhaps best not to go here. The GT-R itself is hardly a cheap car to run. It’s very thirsty, has a hunger for tyres and servicing is both regular and, if you don’t have a Nissan service pack, ruinous by regular car standards.

The Juke-R 2.0 can only further up the ante, due to its scratch-built nature and race car ideals. You’ll have a bit of explaining to do with your insurance company and it’s not going to be one you’ll drop into your local Nissan dealer on a whim.

Nissan Juke-R 2.0

There are positives, though. Retained values for one. It may not be a star performer short-term but, in the long run, a cult car this wild can only spiral in value – particularly as Nissan has vowed to make no more than 23.

For most who’ll be buying it, though, all this is immaterial. They can afford any car in the world with ease – this will be brought for their collection and perhaps for occasional showboating. Running costs are simply not an issue.

2015 Nissan Juke-R 2.0: Verdict

Nissan Juke-R 2.0

The Nissan Juke-R 2.0 terrified us, wowed us, amazed us, and terrified us. Think they don’t make scary monster-cars like they did in the olden days? Think again. It looks brutally nuts, but rightly so. It is.

But if you’re good enough, it’s also usable explosive performance. Unlike other supermini supercars such as the old Renault Clio V6, RML has done a proper job engineering the Juke-R 2.0 as thoroughly as it would a race car, and it shows.

There’s many a supercar that doesn’t feel this special and outlandish to drive. Given the fact that you can actually buy one and drive it on the road despite it looking like a GT-racing wannabe, it’s hard not to be seduced by the Juke-R 2.0. Reputation: warranted.

2015 Nissan Juke-R 2.0: specifications

Engine: 3.8-litre V6 twin-turbo

Price: £406,000

Power: 600hp

Torque: TBA

0-62mph: TBA

Top speed: TBA

Fuel economy: TBA

CO2 emissions: TBA

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Top Gear trio Clarkson, Hammond and May confirmed for Amazon show

Top Gear trio Clarkson, Hammond and May confirmed for Amazon show

Top Gear trio Clarkson, Hammond and May confirmed for Amazon show

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have signed a deal with Amazon to appear on a new show set to rival Top Gear.

It’s thought that Amazon fought off competition from Netflix for the trio after Clarkson was sacked from the BBC for punching a producer.

This morning Jeremy Clarkson tweeted:

The programme will air in 2016 and will be produced by former Top Gear executive Andy Wilman.

The deal ends months of speculation about where the Top Gear trio would appear next – with Netflix, ITV and Sky all rumoured.

It’s not known how much the deal has cost Amazon – which is expected to show the new programme through its Amazon Prime service – but it’s thought the Top Gear threesome will be given free reign.

Amazon tweeted that it had signed the trio up for three series of the new car show, which won’t be called Top Gear or feature the Stig.

James May added:

It’s still not known who will present Top Gear on the BBC alongside Chris Evans. However, Jenson Button is the latest to be tipped.

The 20 best hot hatches to suit all budgets

The 20 best hot hatches to suit all budgets

The 20 best hot hatches to suit all budgets

 

Britain loves a good hot hatch. We have done for years, and today’s crop is among the most tempting we’ve ever had.

But not everyone can afford a brand new motor. So, we’re instead turning to the classifieds to hunt down some bargains on the secondhand market.

We’ve got something to suit all budgets – from a £700 Ford to a 300hp monster costing upwards of £30,000. Which one will you choose?

Less than £2,500

Renaultsport Clio 172: prices from £1,000

RenaultSport Clio 172

The Renaultsport Clio 172 is proof – if proof were needed – that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get your hands on one of the greatest hot hatches of all-time. Arriving at the turn of the millennium, the lightweight and immensely chuckable Clio redefined the hot hatch for a new generation. Opt for the 172 Cup for a more hardcore experience.

Ford SportKa: prices from £700

Ford Sportka

When pub chat turns to the subject of affordable hot hatches, it’s often a while before the conversation turns to the Ford SportKa. There then follows a collective nodding of heads as folk remember just how good this pocket rocket actually was. Think of it as a modern-day MK1 Golf GTi, with a wheel at each corner and a 1.6-litre 8v engine. A bargain, with prices starting from just £700.

Citroen Saxo VTS: prices from £1,000

Citroen Saxo VTS

Don’t knock it, because the Citroen Saxo VTS – along with its Peugeot 106 GTI sibling – followed the old school hot hatch recipe. It weighed just 935kg, had a 1.6-litre engine and – thanks to its love of lift-off oversteer – could catch out the unwary. Thanks to an image problem, numbers are dwindling fast. Catch one while you can.

Ford Puma: prices from £500

Ford Puma

Yes, we know the Ford Puma is a coupe, so shouldn’t be included on a list of hot hatches, but by virtue of the fact it can shame many an illustrious hatchback, it deserves its place here. Quite simply, the Puma is one of the best driver-focused front-wheel drive cars you can buy and prices start from £500. Opt for the 1.7-litre version but look out for terminal rust.

£2,500-£5,000

Renault Clio Williams: prices from £3,500

Renault Clio Williams

Already well on the way to classic status, if it isn’t there already. The Clio Williams set the blueprint for all future Renaultsport cars and indeed, it was Renault’s sporting arm which handled the makeover. Power was sourced from a 2.0-litre 16v engine and the one to have is the original Clio Williams, of which 500 were made.

Peugeot 205 GTi: prices from £3,000

Peugeot 205 GTi

If the MK1 Volkswagen Golf GTI represented the birth of the hot hatch, the Peugeot 205 GTI saw it come of age. Whether in 1.6-litre or 1.9-litre form, the 205 GTI represents the pinnacle of the hot hatch. Peugeot has been trying to recapture the magic ever since.

Fiat Panda 100HP: prices from £2,500

Fiat Panda 100HP

Choosing between the next two cars on our list will be tough, but the Fiat Panda 100HP just edges it in terms of charm and style. It’s Italian, after all. Power is sourced from a 1.4-litre engine and develops – you guessed it – 100hp. As an extra bonus, the six-speed gearbox means you’ll easily achieve 40mpg, so matter how much fun you’re having.

Suzuki Swift Sport: prices from £3,500

Suzuki Swift Sport

You can buy a new Suzuki Swift Sport from as little as £13,999, which is undeniably a bargain. But for pure enjoyment we prefer the original first generation Swift Sport. It was less powerful than its replacement, but it required more work to get the best from it. And that’s a very good characteristic in a junior hot hatch.

£5,000-£10,000

Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5: prices from £5,000

Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5

The fifth generation Golf GTI saw a welcome return to form for the car that practically invented the hot hatch formula. It helped that the MK5 Golf provided a good platform, but the 2.0-litre engine and suspension provided the necessary ingredients for success. And the interior was well executed – a fitting tribute to the MK1 and MK2.

Volvo C30 T5: prices from £6,000

Volvo C30

Wait, what? A Volvo on a list of great hot hatches? Well they say variety is the spice of life and the C30 T5 offers something different. A more grown-up approach, if you like. Put it this way – you get the quirky looks and delightful interior of a C30 with the same 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine you’ll find in a Ford Focus ST. Tempting, isn’t it?

Renaultsport Megane R26: prices from £7,000

Renaultsport Megane R26

Frankly, we could have loaded this entire feature with different Renaultsport Meganes, because they’re amongst the best hot hatches of all-time. There have been many special editions along the way, including the not at all clumsily-named Renault Megane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26. For the ultimate experience, opt for the R26.R – the most hardcore of the lot. But you will need to spend much, much more.

Alfa Romeo 147 GTA: prices from £7,000

Alfa Romeo 147 GTA

We admit there are better hot hatches available and the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA isn’t perfect. But the hot Alfa has one ace up its sleeve and that’s the creamy 3.2-litre V6 engine. It also looks a million dollars and has that all important Alfa Romeo badge on the bonnet.

£10,000-£15,000

Skoda Octavia vRS: prices from £10,000

Skoda Octavia vRS

You can spend significantly less and get your hands on the original Octavia vRS. You can also spend less to get an early and leggy MK2. But we’d suggest spending at least £10,000, which will get you a three-year-old petrol or diesel in either hatchback or estate form. Both are super-practical and are backed by one of the best dealer networks in the country.

MINI Cooper S Mk2: prices from £10,000

MINI Cooper S

You can pick up an early first generation MINI Cooper S for a few grand, but we’d suggest opting for the second generation R56 version. The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine is punchy and when combined with the raspy exhaust, emits a better soundtrack than the supercharged Cooper S of before. They hold their value tremendously well, too.

Ford Fiesta ST: prices from £13,000

Ford Fiesta ST

The new Ford Fiesta ST is, quite simply, the best hot hatch you can buy new. And with some tempting PCP offers, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t buy new. But Fiesta STs are now starting to appear on the used car market and prices start at just £13,000. Wow.

Ford Focus RS (MK1): prices from £10,000

Ford Focus RS

We’ve been saying for a while that the original Ford Focus RS is sure-fire future classic with proper investment potential. We may have missed the boat, because prices are heading north of £10,000 and showing no signs of retreating. Never fear, you can always buy the MK2 Focus RS or opt for the equally good ST. Or just wait for the all-new RS…

Over £15,000

Audi S3: prices from £30,980

Audi S3

The Audi S3 produces a delightful soundtrack and offers bags of grip. Sure, it’s not the most involving of hot hatches, but it has a rock-solid image and 300hp from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. And don’t forget there’s a new and even more potent RS3 Sportback to consider, too.

BMW M135i: prices from £31,725

BMW M135i

The BMW M135i offers something different to the other cars on the list – rear-wheel drive. Power is sourced from a silky smooth 3.0-litre 6-cylinder engine and it’ll rocket to 62mph in just 5.1 seconds. The chassis is so well balanced and the car is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Volkswagen Golf R: prices from £30,820

Volkswagen Golf R

A 300hp Volkswagen Golf, whatever next? Fortunately it makes use of the 4Motion all-wheel drive system, so you have every chance of keeping this thing on the straight and narrow. Available in three or five-door form, the Golf R isn’t exactly cheap. But it’s very, very good and can be ordered in super-practical wagon form, too. All the car you’ll ever need?

Honda Civic Type R: prices from £29,995

Honda Civic Type R

And finally, the newest kid on the block – the all-new Honda Civic Type-R. We absolutely adore the latest incarnation, awarding it a maximum five-star review. The engine produces a massive 310hp and yet it remains 100% useable. Drive one – you will want one.

Inverness to Dartmoor in a Skoda Superb

01_Skoda_Superb_Journey

Arrival time: 7:42pm. Whatever you say about the Skoda Superb, you have to admire its optimism. The sat nav looked at the 640-mile journey from Inverness to Dartmoor and reckoned it could be polished off in ten hours. Needless to say, I didn’t telephone the children to tell them daddy would be home to read them a bedtime story. Instead, I concluded that what will be, will be. And if I reached the Devon border by midnight, I’d be doing pretty well.

I’ll admit that the A9-M74-M6-M5-A30 isn’t the most gruelling of endurance rallies in the world, but I had an overwhelming sense of driving into the abyss as I ventured south. One thing you don’t do on the eve of the school holidays is tackle the M6 and M5. Not through choice anyway. You’d encounter fewer obstacles and nasty surprises on the Baja 1000.

Things started very well indeed. As Ken Bruce spoke of wind, rain and traffic chaos in the south of England, I was enjoying sun-drenched Scottish roads and Skyfall scenery. In the first couple of hours I travelled a mere 80 or so miles, delayed not though traffic, but the constant urge to take the long way to the border. It was all-too easy to slip into holiday mode and follow the ‘tourist route’ signs.

03_Skoda_Superb_Journey

Skoda Superb SE L Executive 2.0 TSI

I was at the wheel of an all-new £27,020 (plus options) Skoda Superb SE L Executive complete with the same 2.0-litre TSI engine you’ll find in the Octavia vRS and Golf GTI. What’s more, the car was fitted with the optional six-speed DSG transmission and Dynamic Chassis Control – a first for Skoda. This really is a new breed of Skoda Superb.

Once out of Inverness and on to the A9, it soon became clear that the warnings I had been given were all too true. The main road through Scotland is both magnificent and frustrating in equal measure, with the view out of the window pockmarked by the endless stream of average speed cameras. To compound the misery, lorries are – in places – restricted to 50mph, making progress slow and miserable. It’s not difficult to appreciate why the 273-mile ‘spine of Scotland’ is known as one of the most dangerous roads north of the border.

No matter. The ultra-clear map on the excellent Columbus sat nav highlighted a number of alternative routes running alongside the A9, so I did the right thing and engaged Sport mode. Blimey, I don’t remember my old MK1 Skoda Superb 1.9 TDI Comfort feeling like this. Skoda told us it won’t be building a Superb vRS, but on this evidence it doesn’t need to.

02_Skoda_Superb_Journey

It sets off like the proverbial scolded cat, making the 0-62mph time of 7.0 seconds seem a tad pessimistic. The tyres screech and the engine delivers a throaty roar, the kind of which you won’t get from the 2.0-litre TDI, which is likely to be the big seller in the UK. It’s no vRS or GTI, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

I’ve read reports that the Dynamic Chassis Control isn’t worth the £750 outlay, but on the evidence of my epic drive, it most certainly is. There’s a huge amount of difference between Comfort and Sport, while you can also feel the benefits of Eco and Normal. In Sport, the steering gains more weight, the throttle is more responsive and the suspension is much firmer. Occasionally the DSG gets bogged down, but for the most part it’s the perfect accompaniment to the big Czech.

You’ll want to spend an extra £95 for the 3-spoke leather multifunction steering wheel, which also adds the DSG paddles to the mix. Changes via the DSG shifter aren’t as satisfying, but the paddles seem to provide quicker up and down shifts, while being more in tune with what’s going on under the bonnet. It’s not perfect. Occasionally there’s a delay as the transmission attempts to second guess what you want it to do, which can ultimately ruin a good string of corners. But let’s remember this is a Superb.

07_Skoda_Superb_Journey

Still 522 miles to go…

The steering is nicely weighted, if a little artificial in feel, but body roll is kept in check and the Superb feels much lighter than before. It has shed 75kg compared to the Superb of old and you can feel the effects of the weight-loss diet when you’re behind the wheel. The new Superb has enjoyed fewer working lunches and more time at the office gym.

I could have quite easily played on the Scottish roads all day, but soon realised I was making little progress. By 12:30pm I had reached only as far as Perth, still with 522 miles to go. I’d also lost 30 minutes off my estimated time of arrival. I stopped at a Wild Bean on the outskirts of Perth, but was greeted by a queue for drinks that stretched out of the door. I didn’t want to wait.

The first coffee was consumed at Kinross, by which time the heavens had opened. It would continue to rain for the entire length of the journey. All of a sudden the joys of Sport model and circling the numerous lochs of Scotland felt like a distant memory. Now it was all about getting home. Fortunately I could call upon the Skoda Superb’s trump card: an ability to waft.

Few cars offer such brilliant long-distance comfort as the Skoda Superb. From Glasgow to Staffordshire, the journey should have been absolute torture, lifted only by the delightful surrounding and food at Tebay services. The Superb’s live traffic information warned of dozens of delays on the M6 and M5, with Radio 5 stopping just short of telling people not to bother driving anywhere at all.

06_Skoda_Superb_Journey

But it’s a mark of a true wafter that you don’t mind being delayed in the Skoda Superb. Heated seat set to the max, adaptive cruise control set to motorway speeds and climate control set to ‘just so’, the Superb is as comfortable as it is easy to drive. Special mention must go to the driving position, which I didn’t have to alter once on the entire journey. I could have quite easily driven all night…

Come to think of it, I nearly did. The M6 was as horrid as I had expected. Worse, in fact. By the time I reached the north west of England, the commuters had joined the holidaymakers, presenting the perfect storm of nastiness. All washed down with the very worst of the British weather.

But no matter, because the Skoda Superb keeps you safely cocooned and sheltered from the outside world. The delays also gave me a chance to suss out other people’s reactions to the new car. I suspect in part it’s because it’s so new, but the Superb is a proper head-turner. It received a thumbs up from a van driver and a nod of appreciation from a chap in a Passat.

The Skoda Superb is now a good looking car

Some could argue, with some justification, that Skoda’s new design language is getting dangerously close to Volkswagen and Audi, but there’s no denying this is a sharp looking car. Gone is the frumpiness of the old TwinDoor hatchback, replaced by a confident, almost elegant profile. Now you don’t have to opt for the estate simply to avoid giving fellow motorists nightmares.

And it’s not as though you’ll need the estate for its luggage capacity. The huge tailgate (electrically operated on SE L Executive and above) opens to reveal 620 litres of space, which extends to 1,760 litres with the rear seats folded down. Fit the optional Virtual Pedal and you can open the tailgate by waving your foot under the tailgate. Clever.

It’s at this point that I should hold my hands up and admit that I did send and receive texts at the wheel of the Skoda Superb. But before you go running off to the authorities, let me point out that it’s all thanks to the quite brilliant Apple CarPlay system. This is, without question, the simplest and most effective smartphone link I’ve ever used.

05_Skoda_Superb_Journey

Simply plug your iPhone into the USB port and that’s it. The system will immediately recognise your phone, presenting a familiar home display on the Superb’s infotainment screen. All the phone’s primary functions are accessible and there’s no need to bother with Bluetooth settings or passwords. A couple of scrolls and two buttons later, I was listening to my Spotify playlists. Brilliant.

And speech texting works, to a point. Occasionally I had to change the text message prior to sending, but such is the quietness of the Superb’s cabin, there’s little chance of being misheard. Only once did the system replace Superb with Sceptical. “I’m at the wheel of a new Skoda Sceptical”, I told my mum. I let that one go for the amusement factor.

Suffice to say, I would now like Apple CarPlay on my own car.

M6 TOLL CLEAR

In Staffordshire, three words I longed to read appeared on the overhead gantries: “M6 TOLL CLEAR”. This was to be my one shining light in the middle section of the journey, a chance to break free of the relentless traffic. £5.50 well spent.

Sadly, everybody else had the same idea and I encountered most of them in the service area. Yes, I know it kind of defeats the object to stop on a motorway where you’ve paid to avoid congestion, thus cutting your journey time, but I really did fancy an injection of caffeine. And I figured it would be quieter than the common or garden service areas and their lengthy queues for refreshment. I was wrong. It was bedlam in there. I grabbed a drink and got on with the journey. It was still raining. Hard.

By now it was 7:30pm, so I had a little over ten minutes to get home before the sat nav’s original estimated time of arrival arrival. Needless to say I wasn’t going to make it and midnight was now the most optimistic forecast.

08_Skoda_Superb_Journey

Yet despite being on the road for close to 11 hours, I wasn’t feeling the slightest bit jaded or desperate to get home. In fact, when the sat nav warned of yet more delays on the M5, I made a snap decision to leave the M42 and head down to the M4 via Redditch, Evesham, Cheltenham and Cirencester.

All of a sudden I had the roads to myself. Sure, the sat nav was now telling me I wouldn’t be home before 1:30am, but I had kind of given up hope of getting back at sensible o’clock. Once again, the Superb proved itself to be an unlikely B-road companion. It’s whippet-like off-the-line pace will be alien to drivers of Superbs of old, but it’s a truly fabulous thing to drive quickly.

Proper ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ car

There’s a composure and sense of calmness about the way it goes about its business. It’s a proper ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ car. It’s just a shame that most people will opt for the diesel versions, because there’s a hint of a Q-car about the Superb 2.0-litre TSI. Goodness knows what the 280PS version will feel like.

The Smart Light Assist means you can have main beam on all the time, as demonstrated by the fact that I didn’t receive any flashes from irate drivers. And the Lane Assist is rarely obtrusive and does come into its own in contraflows and slow moving traffic.

From the M4 to when I eventually peeled off the A30 for home, the journey was uneventful and supremely comfortable. I walked in the door, 13 hours and 18 minutes after leaving Inverness, having completed the 693-mile journey at an average speed of 52mph and an average economy of 35.5mpg.

Given I spent the first couple of hours playing in Scotland, during which time the economy dropped to 22mpg, these are pretty good figures. Even at 1:21am, I could have easily driven on to Land’s End and beyond. Sadly, the Skoda Superb offers many toys, but the ability to float isn’t one of them. Though given the conditions I encountered in the Midlands, it did a pretty good impression of a boat.

09_Skoda_Superb_Journey

I emerged from my 13-hour drive filled with respect for the Skoda Superb. There’s so much to admire about the new car and it’s almost laughable that Skoda sees it as a rival to the Vauxhall Insignia and Ford Mondeo. Spend some quality time with this car and you’ll realise it is much, much more than that. This is no built-to-a-budget sales rep special. In SE L Executive trim at least, the Skoda Superb is more than a match for its illustrious German rivals. Seriously, it really is that good.

Crucially, Skoda has added even more space to the Superb (boot capacity is up by 60 litres, rear legroom remains unchanged), yet it somehow feels smaller on the road. It retains a formidable presence, but when you’re at the wheel it feels more engaging. More willing to entertain. And I never thought I’d write that about a Skoda Superb.

Is the Skoda Superb a true game changer?

I’ll readily admit that I’m a bit of a Skoda Superb fanboy, having owned a nearly new MK1 and emerging deeply impressed with the MK2 1.8 TSI 4×4 I drove a few years back. Skoda is calling the new Superb “a game changer”, a tired phrase we hear all too often in press conferences and in media packs. But in the Superb, Skoda does have a car to take the brand to uncharted heights. Only the blinkered and the ignorant would view this car with anything other than admiration and respect.

04_Skoda_Superb_Journey

As I write this, the Skoda Superb is sat outside the office, waiting to be returned to Skoda HQ. It’s taking all my willpower not to jump behind the wheel and head off for another 600-mile drive. It’s not flawless, but it comes close. The ride quality doesn’t feel quite as sumptuous as before and there’s a noticeable amount of road noise, not helped by the 18-inch alloys and 235/45 tyres. I’d also like the driving mode selection button to be accessible via the steering wheel controls, but given most Superbs will spend their entire lives on motorways, I’m probably alone with this request.

I fully expected the Skoda Superb to be comfortable, spacious and well-equipped. But I didn’t expect to be tapping its dashboard in appreciation of its dynamic qualities. Yes, I did indeed let the car know how much I enjoyed driving it. Hey, it was late and I was probably feeling a tad delirious by that stage. To paraphrase the late Roy Orbison, I could have driven all night. Part of me hopes the 2.0 TSI remains an undiscovered gem of the Superb range. Let the masses have the diesel versions.

We’ll keep this as our little secret, OK?

Read more:

Skoda Superb review

Skoda Superb stars in latest Euro NCAP tests

Skoda Superb SE Business launched for company drivers

Land Rover Defender Heritage edition review: 2015 first drive

Land Rover Defender Heritage edition review: 2015 first drive

Land Rover Defender Heritage edition review: 2015 first drive

2015 Land Rover Defender Heritage: Overview

The Land Rover Defender as we know it is ending production later this year. The manufacturer is keeping extremely tight lipped about what, if anything, is set to replace the iconic vehicle. But for now it’s cashing on the car’s heritage by launching a trio of special editions to see off the Defender.

This is the, er, Defender Heritage special edition. Finished in Grasmere Green, the Heritage is the cheapest of the limited-edition trio. Land Rover says it’s a modern interpretation of HUE 166 – the first ever Land Rover ever made back in 1948.

The cynical might call this Land Rover’s attempt at printing money. Many manufacturers introduce special editions as a model nears the end of its lifecycle, with fancy paintjobs and a few extras that’ll tempt punters to part with their cash.

But surely Land Rover doesn’t need to do that with a car as popular as its Defender? Everyone loves a Defender – even the Queen loves a Defender.

2015 Land Rover Defender Heritage: on the road

2015 Land Rover Defender Heritage: On the road

If anything, it’s amazing the Land Rover Defender has lasted this long. Driving a Defender is an experience, to say the least.

If you’ve never driven one before, it’s quite an intimidating experience. The steering wanders about like it has a mind of its own, while the awkward seating position makes everything feel a little odd.

The gears are in the wrong place, you sit far too close to the steering wheel (especially in the Heritage edition hard-top we drove, with its bulkhead preventing the seat being moved backwards). The pedals stick to the original brief that they can be operated by a driver in wellies. In fact, they’re probably best operated in wellies for maximum shoving power.

You probably don’t need us to tell you just how incredible the Land Rover Defender is off-road, though. Even the cockiest of drivers would run out of confidence before the Defender does.

With a bit of time, you’ll get used to the Defender’s character on the road, too. You can’t drive it like you drive an ordinary car, but with 122hp, the 2.2-litre turbodiesel is more rapid than you may expect.

It’s also surprisingly easy to manoeuvre around town. Good visibility, combined with a high-up driving position and lots of right angles, mean it’s easy to judge the situation and squeeze the Defender into tight gaps. Just don’t go expecting a black-cab turning circle – you soon get used to shunting back and forth to fit into parking spaces.

2015 Land Rover Defender Heritage: on the inside

2015 Land Rover Defender Heritage: On the inside

Inside, splashes of Grasmere Green brighten up the Defenders normally dark cabin. There’s extra leather, notably on the steering wheel, while the padded cubby box is a welcome addition.

But don’t go thinking the Heritage is luxurious. There probably isn’t a vehicle that feels further away from the modern SUVs Land Rover also specialises in. The only thing it shares with a Range Rover is that commanding driving position.

The switchgear can be traced back to 1980s Rovers, while the Heritage’s heated seats are little more than a token gesture. But, like most things with the Defender, you quickly accept these quirks as part of its charm. On any other car, it just wouldn’t be acceptable.

2015 Land Rover Defender: running costs

2015 Land Rover Defender: Running costs

Yeah, running costs aren’t the Defender’s strong point, either. In fact, it’s the reason Land Rover is ending production of the Defender after all these years. It’s just not possible to tweak the emissions to bring them under ever-tighter EU regulations.

As such, the 2.2-litre turbodiesel Defender currently emits 266g/km CO2 and returns 28.3mpg. Even petrol 4x4s sip fuel at a slower rate than that these days, so a real-life fuel economy figure of mid 20s at best is poor for a diesel.

But Land Rover will point out that the Defender is eco-friendly in other ways. There’s a figure banding about that 75% of all Land Rovers ever made are still on the road, and most Defender buyers want them for their abilities. Think of it as a commercial vehicle rather than an SUV and it doesn’t look too bad.

2015 Land Rover Defender Heritage: verdict

2015 Land Rover Defender Heritage: Verdict

Journalists, enthusiasts and buyers alike have all been too kind to the Land Rover Defender for far too long. It’s old and outdated and really doesn’t belong in 2015. If you’ve never driven one before, you could well hate it.

But we’re going to let it off. Because we love it. It’s got more character than a country pub. Sure, it’s got its faults, but you learn to overcome them. No arm-room? Wind the window down and adopt the typical Defender arm-out pose. Noisy? Turn the radio up. Awful brakes? Press harder, and slow down using gears like in the olden days.

If you’ve got a spare £30,000 or so sitting in your bank account, go out and buy one. Not only will it be an investment, but it’ll provide as much fun as a supercar costing considerably more. And for heaven’s sake use it – whether it’s for taking the family for days out or finding out just how capable it is off-road. If you don’t, it’s wasted on you. Give it to me instead.

Specification: 2015 Land Rover Defender Heritage Edition

Engines: 2.2-litre TDCI diesel

Prices from: £27,800 (estimate)

Power: 122hp

Torque: 177 – 295lb ft

0-62mph: 14.7 – 15.7 seconds

Top speed: 90mph

Fuel economy: 25.5 – 28.3mpg

CO2 emissions: 266 – 295g/km

We drive Land Rover’s history

Land Rover Defender: meet the ancestors

We drive Land Rover’s history

The Isle of Islay, just off the west coast of Scotland, is home to around 3,000 inhabitants. Accessible from the mainland only by ferry or air, it’s an isolated place. Mobile phone signal is barely existent – and if you can get it, your operator will assume you’re abroad and charge you exorbitant rates.

It’s no surprise then, that Rover managing director Spencer Wilks and his chief engineer brother Maurice liked to escape the West Midlands in favour of their family retreat on the island. Not that getting a mobile phone signal was a concern over 60 years ago.

Although the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales is often considered the birthplace of the Land Rover (it’s where Maurice drew an initial sketch of the car into the sand), Islay is where it really developed as an idea.

So, with Defender production due to end this year, we headed out to Islay to discover the island that inspired an iconic vehicle – and drive a line-up of the Defender’s predecessors.

Series I

Series I

The Series I, or simply the Land Rover as it was known back then, was introduced in 1948.

The example we drove is owned by the Dunsfold Collection. Apparently it’s manager Phil Bashall’s pride and joy, and that’s evident from its simply immaculate condition.

The car is a 1954 Series I 107-inch pick-up – the equivalent of today’s Defender 110 truck cab. There’s little evidence that it’s over 60 years old, but there are little quirks that set it apart from today’s Defender.

The wipers, for example, are manually operated. An interesting concept on a wet Scottish island. And the speedo is set in the middle and bobs around telling you vaguely how fast you’re daring to go – with VMax from its 53hp 2.0-litre petrol engine somewhere around 50mph.

‘Charming’ is the word.

Series II

Series II

Technically, this isn’t a Series II, but a Series IIA. Cosmetically there’s little difference to the II, but at this point a 2.25-litre diesel engine was introduced to the Land Rover for the first time.

The Series IIA on Islay is a 2.25-litre petrol, however. The first vehicle we drive after landing on the island, it’s a quick lesson in driving older cars. With no synchromesh on lower gears, it requires double de-clutching. Combine that with brakes lacking in servo assistance, and we soon discover how difficult it is to slow down an old Land Rover while heading downhill into a cute Islay village.

The steering doesn’t help the experience, either. Driving in a straight line was tricky – something we put down to an ‘old Land Rover’ thing, but actually turned out to be a dodgy steering box.

Still, despite these issues, it’s hard to deny the Series IIA is a lovely vehicle in which to potter around a Scottish island. Made in 1965, it looks like something out of Heartbeat, while its 2.25-litre petrol engine provides adequate power for Islay’s minor roads.

Series III

Series III

This isn’t our first encounter with MJP 936W – a 1980 109-inch Series III. We first got to drive it around Land Rover’s off-road course in Solihull during a visit to the Defender production line.

It’s as terrifying as I remember, with (quite literally) the turning circle of a bus and ancient drum brakes. But it’s also brilliant fun. By now I’m starting to get used to dropping down through the gears rather than relying on the brakes – a technique few of us use in our everyday driving.

It’s got the same 2.25-litre petrol engine as the Series IIA, but with a load of extra mass. It’s certainly more suitable for pootling around than getting anywhere in a hurry.

90 40th Anniversary

90 40th anniversary

The launch of the 90 and 110 in 1983 represented a turning point for Land Rover that some hardcore enthusiasts still struggle to accept. It’s when Land Rover made the switch to coil spring suspension, instead of leaf springs.

Driving this Land Rover 90, it’s hard to argue that leaf springs are better in any way. Not only do the coil springs provide a more comfortable ride, they also give more axle articulation when off-road.

But that’s enough about suspension – what makes this 90 so special? Well, it was produced to celebrate 40 years of Land Rover production in 1988. The plan was to launch a limited run of 40 special editions, all bearing the number ‘40’ on the number plate. However, with the 1980s being a turbulent time for car production in the UK, strike action led to the project being cancelled.

Just two were built. This one was finished in traditional Land Rover Bronze Green paint, with even the wheelarches colour-coded. It was equipped with a khaki soft-top, providing a nod to soft-top models of earlier Land Rovers.

Driving it around Islay, there’s just something about it that feels so right. Possibly the perfect compromise between old and new, it’s easy to drive, but still feels like you’re driving a classic vehicle.

110 V8 County Station Wagon

110 V8 County Station Wagon

The 110 County Station Wagon represents a shift away from farmers’ workhorses to recreational family vehicles. With more comfortable seats than the regular 110, as well as a number of improvements over the years (from exterior stickers to a radio-cassette player), the CSW made the 110 genuinely desirable for the first time.

Powered by a 3.5-litre Rover V8, you’d expect the 110 CSW we drove on Islay to be pretty rapid. But with just 134hp and a weight nudging two tonnes, it’d struggle to keep up with a modern Transit-engined Defender. Still, if you do boot it (and try not to think about the fuel bills if you do), it does at least sound good.

The extra length of the 110 compared to the 90 can also make things tricky off-road – while negotiating a narrow, rocky descent onto a beach, for example, the shorter vehicles were much happier to lift a wheel and get on with it.

Defender 90 Heritage Edition

Launched as a final send-off for the Defender, our first impressions of the Heritage edition are that it looks stunning in its Grasmere Green paintwork.

After driving its predecessors, it even feels modern. And that’s not something we’d expect to write about a Defender.

The 2.2-litre TDCI diesel is quite vocal, but it does have a degree of performance to go with it. By that we mean it’ll keep up with normal traffic.

It’s still definitely a Defender, though. The whole experience is a bit Marmite. However, if you’re of the Defender mindset, you’ll love it.

Read our full Land Rover Defender Heritage edition review

Lotus Evora

Lotus Evora 400 review: 2015 first drive

The Lotus Evora has raised its game. Lighter, faster, more efficient and more fun, this British sports car is now a real alternative to a Porsche 911.

Lotus Evora

New Lotus Evora 400 is lighter, faster, more efficient and more fun

New Lotus Evora 400: Overview

Building a car that becomes an icon is not something you can write into your business plan. It happens through a combination of excellent design, an understanding of what the public might want in the future, and a large dose of luck. Every manufacturer wants to do it, but most – even after a blinding success – usually fail the next time around.

And so it has been with Lotus. The 1996 Elise was, and still is, an outstandingly successful small sports car, arguably the purest driving machine you can buy today. The 2009 Lotus Evora has not had the same level of success, with just over 3,000 finding buyers in six years.

However, there’s a new broom at Lotus. Jean-Marc Gales brings a hard-nosed business brain into the Norfolk company and a straightforward mission to ramp up annual sales to 3,000, from a mere 1,200 in 2014.  How will he do that? The primary platforms are a radically revised Evora and a whole lot more dealers.

02_Lotus EvoraThe Evora 400 replaces all the previous models. The vision is to make it not just 50hp faster than before, but a whole lot more agile and dynamic. On the Lotus test track at Hethel, a six-second lap time improvement was the target. A seven-second reduction was achieved. Anyone who follows motor racing will realise just what a giant step that is.

The changes are major, with more than two-thirds of the 400 said to be new. Weight has been added – bigger brakes, an intercooler and a larger oil cooler – and taken out with lighter seats, panels and wheels. The net result is a 42kg saving.

The body has been restyled, with a more scoops, wings and splitters, although it’s still a long way from pretty. The interior gets yet another overhaul. The Evora 400 is priced at £72,000 in the UK.

03_Lotus EvoraNew Lotus Evora 400: On the road

For a moment, let’s forget about road driving and concentrate on the track side of things. The suspension is stiffer both front and rear, which reduces body-roll in bends and gives the Evora 400 a whole lot more directional agility. The tyres – Michelin Pilot Super Sports– are now 285-section at the rear, and whether it is the extra width, the new rubber or the chassis changes (or indeed all three), the car’s cornering speed is simply breathtaking.

The Evora sits flat, the steering is pin-sharp and full of feel, and throttle response is razor-sharp. Yes, you’ll have to forgive the clichés but this Lotus is one of those cars that simply brings them out. It’s so easy to feel quickly at one with this car, making it far easier to drive really fast than an Exige S.

Sport mode is essential for track use, letting the rear of the Evora twitch at times, but with a comforting safety net as soon as the car starts to get out of shape on an 80mph corner. Race mode does the same, but the Evora gets more sideways before assistance cuts in. Or, if you have the ability of a Lotus test driver, you can switch the whole lot off. No thanks.

08_Lotus EvoraThe massive AP Racing brakes help bring those lap times down, while manual cars are aided by a limited-slip differential. This is a first for the Evora, and, for the time being, available only on manual cars.

Does all this translate to a useable road car, though? The worry is that the stiffer suspension might compromise the ride comfort too much. Yet Lotus is a master at the art of suspension design, and it was aided during the development phase by the poor state of many of Norfolk’s country roads.

So yes, the Evora 400 does feel a bit stiffer, but compliance is extremely good, so neither comfort nor directional stability are adversely affected.

More to the point, this Evora feels blindingly fast. The engine responds instantly to throttle movements, while the steering dances about in you hands but always keeps you on the right track. It’s both impressive and fun.

05_Lotus EvoraNew Lotus Evora 400: On the inside

The changes inside the Evora are focussed on customer feedback. So it’s easier to get in and out, with the door opening now 56mm lower, plus narrower door sills. Footwell space has been increased, the seats move further back and there are re-designed rear seats – although it’s still hard to fathom how even kids would squeeze in there.

There’s an upgraded heating and ventilation system that pumped through a good volume of cooled air on a warm July morning. The instruments have a cleaner design and a lot of the switchgear has been moved to the centre console, reducing the risk of pressing the wrong button.

Embracing all this is a real ramp-up in the feeling of quality. The Evora, at long last, feels like a genuine high-end sports car, where it is no longer necessary to forgive small flaws that were occasionally not far below the surface.

06_Lotus EvoraCoupled to that are some excellent new Sparco seats that combine an appropriate level of comfort and cushioning on the road with supreme levels of sideways support when you are cornering at the highest speeds on the track.

The boot, so they say, will take a set of golf clubs, and of course there’s space for more gear on the rear seats. I should mention the noise here, too. A three-inch exhaust system gives a terrific soundtrack, but when you’ve had enough, the only option is to select the least focussed ‘Drive’ setting for the chassis and throttle. We suggested to Jean-Marc Gales that a quiet mode in ‘Sport’ would be useful.

07_Lotus EvoraNew Lotus Evora 400: Running costs

A £72,000 outlay buys you get a pretty well-equipped Evora 400. You’ll want the Leather pack or Alcantara pack at £2,500 apiece, and perhaps the faster-changing automatic transmission, with paddle shifters (£2,000).

Despite the extra power of the Evora 400, Lotus has squeezed the CO2 emissions down by 4g/km to 225g/km. The statutory average fuel consumption figure is 31mpg.

Key to Evora ownership is how well the 400 will hold its value. Prices of used Evoras are buoyant at the moment so although a used Porsche will undoubtedly be easier to sell, the Evora does stand up alongside one.

09_Lotus EvoraNew Lotus Evora 400: Verdict

This is undoubtedly the best road-going Lotus for years. Naturally, the performance is a key aspect, combining visceral excitement with a truly outstanding chassis.

But you already expected that, didn’t you? More to the point is that the Evora 400 ably stands up to its competition in terms of showroom appeal for the first time. No longer is an Evora simply the plaything of the dedicated Lotus enthusiast, who accepts the quirks with equanimity.

The new feeling of quality, inside and out, and the easy nature of the Evora when you don’t want to drive it like a race car, suddenly mean Lotus can find a whole new batch of customers. Let’s hope it succeeds.

10_Lotus EvoraNew Lotus Evora 400: Specification

Engine: 3.5-litre supercharged V6

Price: £72,000

Power: 400hp

Torque: 302lb ft (410Nm)

0-62mph: 4.2 seconds

Top speed: 186mph (300kph)

Fuel economy: 31.0mpg (9.1 l/100km)

CO2 emissions: 225g/km

 

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

McLaren 675LT review: 2015 first drive

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

McLaren has tested the new 675LT against the clock. It’s just half a second slower than the mighty P1. “A bit too close for comfort,” admitted an engineer to us. Before adding, “it’s also faster than those other two hypercars…”.

That’s a mark of this extraordinary car’s might. You may at first glance think it’s just a tuned up 650S Coupe, like us when we first saw it ahead of the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, but we’d be wrong. 33% of it is completely different to the 650S. The 25hp power boost to 675hp comes courtesy of an engine 50% new.

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The McLaren engineering whizzes set out to create something a little bit special, but then engineering enthusiasm kicked in; they’ve actually created some thing very, very special indeed. Welcome to the McLaren 675LT – the new McLaren Longtail.

OK, so the tail of the McLaren 675LT isn’t actually much longer than the tail of the McLaren 650S Coupe it’s derived from. Actually having a ‘long tail’ isn’t the point here: rather, it’s a car that uses the philosophy being the legendary original McLaren F1 GTR ‘Longtail’.

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

Which is? Taking a regular car and tirelessly improving it to create a highly honed special with an extremely hardcore focus sold in strictly limited numbers. Only 500 will be built, each costing £259,500. Money’s proven no object: they’re already all sold out.

Besides, it does look tantalisingly different to the 650S in the flesh. With its broader stance, bigger air intakes, ultra-aggressive front splitter, jaw-dropping wheels, beautiful carbonfibre addenda and, of course, that humungous rear Airbrake, the expert eye won’t miss it.

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

The untrained eye might, until they see the 675LT in action: when raised, the Airbrake, now stretching the full length of the car into (at huge expense) the rear bodywork, looks staggering. It’s enormous. It’s fully active (adjusting its profile as you drive, tucking away when it senses straights to act like F1 DRS) and effective, and will make other motorists swoon when they see it operate before their eyes.

And that’s what McLaren hopes most 675LTs will be doing – driving. It’s the driver’s McLaren which, for a range of cars that already eyeballs Ferrari and Lamborghini, is saying something. See it as McLaren’s Ferrari 458 Speciale – and boy, is it special.

2015 McLaren 675LT: on the road

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

On McLaren’s Silverstone launch, we drove it in two stages – and fittingly, the on-track part came first. McLaren wanted us to find the limits quickly, so we could concentrate on the experience out on the road. It’s a measure of how talented the car is that we were happily doing this within three laps, with sky-high confidence.

This is a serious engineering project: when engineers reveal “there’s some P1 in the front suspension”, you listen. With 40% more downforce to deal with, front suspension is 27% stiffer and the Airbrake-pressed rear is 60% stiffer. “It’s been tuned to be more agile,” they told us. “And the steering is even faster than the P1…”

Despite grippier track-biased Pirelli Trofeo tyres, McLaren’s reengineered the ESP so you can more easily burn them out – there’s even a dedicated Track ESP mode plus, rather surprisingly, a ‘burnout’ mode – the 675LT will lay down long, long lines of black rubber if you so wish. And do donuts. This sounds a seriously unhinged bit of car.

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

Thing is, it’s not wild and crazy. Just very focused and very, very good. On track, with all its grip, agility, direct-connection feel and eye-opening extra bite when the ‘aero’ setting of the Airbrake kicks in, it gives the fantastic feeling of getting better the faster you go.

It’s two or three levels above most supercars, with aspects such as the Airbrake-enhanced brakes, sensuous steering and frankly ridiculous speeds at which you can chuck it about and get sideways if you don’t want to drive it in the purist way you should do with something this capable all combining to deliver a driving experiential whirlwind.

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

On the road, it’s naturally taut, rolling along with a racecar’s attitude and poise. Potent, from the first turn of the is-it-really-this-direct, Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel. But again, it’s not aggressive, doesn’t feel it might chew your arm off. Just egg you into driving very, very illegally.

McLaren’s complicated adaptive suspension keeps the body flat and in control without tearing into B-road intrusions, while the precision you can steer it despite the explosive engine is a step on even from the ultra-accurate 650S. Even the panoramic front visibility helps here: steer it on the nose but also see exactly where you’ve just placed that nose.

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

It’s a breathless experience if you want it to be, because the car’s so much better than you, but still tries to involve you and won’t remain aloof if you’re not up to it. The 675LT also works on the road, though, despite all this track-optimised brilliance, and it’s this combination that will make you chew wasps that they’re only making 500.

The engine? Sensational. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear it’s from a race car; that’s how wild it sounds. The wail at ultra-high revs is incredible and performance is something else: it makes light work of Silverstone’s F1-grade long straights, never mind the roads around it.

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

McLaren has fitted stiffer engine mounts so you can ‘feel’ the engine more, and ignition cut on sport-mode gearchanges, for aggressively, thumpingly instantaneous shifts. The speed is class-leading, the sensations fantastic. The engine even ‘revs up and down’ faster: it’ll change speed at 31,000rpm in a second. Be in little doubt, that makes for a awe-inspiring engine in practice.

Oh yeah, and if you think 25hp more doesn’t sound like much, do also note the 675LT is also 100kg lighter than the 650S…

0-62mph in 2.9 seconds, for the record; 0-124mph in 7.9 seconds, and a 205mph top speed (but that bit’s immaterial, say the McLaren engineers – acceleration’s where it’s at). Faster than you’ll ever need, then – but it’s how it delivers this, and what it then lets you do with it, that’s so fantastic.

2015 McLaren 675LT: on the inside

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

“We didn’t want to create a stripped-out special,” say the McLaren engineers. That would have been the cheaper, easier route. So instead, they’ve again created a highly bespoke interior that’s like a Le Mans racer but also like something posh that will readily swallow a continent or two.

The dashboard is 650S-lite, with extra carbon fibre but fewer heater control dials on the door panels. In the name of weight-saving and simplicity, they’ve been stripped out, with the central touchscreen now multi-funtionally taking their place.

Seats are deep, stiff, Alcantara-trimmed bodyguards of support. It’s a struggle even to get into them if you’re wearing the wrong jeans, and they certainly won’t let you roll about once within them. It may give McLaren some future warranty work in retrimming the side bolsters, mind.

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

Lots of bits are as per 650S; the rev counter is the same but for the 675LT branding. There’s one distinct differentiator though – McLaren’s onboard lap timer infotainment system, called McLaren Track Telemetry. It’s superb. Within a lap, it will detect the track you’re driving on – and then start displaying lap times in real time, just like those we watch during F1 qualifying.

There’s more. String together a sequence and it will show you how far ‘up’ or ‘down’ you are on your best lap. Even better, it will illuminate individual corners on the map in red or green, depending on if you’re faster or slower.

Best of all, you can order a trio of cameras to go with it – one looking ahead, one looking behind, one filming you. This will overlay with the car data and you can download the whole lot to a USB circuit to analyse at home or, more likely, share on YouTube. And how cool is that?

2015 McLaren 675LT: running costs

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

McLaren being McLaren, this hasn’t been overlooked. It emits 275g/km CO2 on the official cycle, and will average 24.2mpg. If you ever see that flashing on the trip computer, though, you’re doing something wrong. Because this isn’t a car for cruising.

That’s why running costs may be, er, a little high. Those Trofeo tyres are not cheap. It will devour fuel on track. Because it feels so much like a bespoke racing car, you’ll want to make sure it’s engineered to a suitable level during ownership, and that also costs.

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

But who cares. The people who’ve bought this have several other cars anyway, and a couple of thousand pounds on the credit card whenever it needs it isn’t going to worry them. Quite right. McLaren’s spent so much time and money creating the 675LT with these people in mind, and it’s the focus on its core customers that’s the reason it’s so great.

Besides, they’re actually a canny bunch. So superb is the 675LT, so pure to its purpose and already iconic, it’s hardly going to depreciate. In today’s exalted supercar climate, that quarter-million price tag is only likely to spiral.

You’ll spend a bit running it, then. But you’ll get that back when you sell it over and over again. If you could ever bear to part with it, that is…

2015 McLaren 675LT: verdict

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

The McLaren 675LT is fantastic. Fast, entertaining and utterly charismatic, it’s a bespoke-tuned version of a mainstream car that has limitless appeal and, with its Airbrake, P1 suspension, track-tuned suspension,F1-grade interior and frankly ridiculous speed, huge allure.

It’s limited to 500, it costs a quarter of a million quid and they’re all sold out anyway. It doesn’t matter. McLaren’s intention with the 675LT was to create a model that will define a new series of cars, offering LT-branded step-up ‘Speciale’ tuning over the standard cars, without straying into P1-style exclusivity.

It’s done this brilliantly. The 675LT is focused, flippin’ fast and flooding-in-sensations fantastic. Far more extreme than a 650S Coupe – which you should note if you’re hopeful of trading up from one (you’ll be stunned by the extra attitude, the sheer intensity) – but that’s what makes it so epic.

Unfair to give a car you can’t even buy, and which costs £259,500, a full five stars? Not at all. The 675LT really does deserve no less.

2015 McLaren 675LT: specifications

McLaren 675LT 2015 review

Engine: 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo

Price: £259,500

Power: 675hp

Torque: 516lb ft (700Nm)

0-62mph: 2.9 seconds

Top speed: 205mph (330km/h)

Fuel economy: 24.2mpg (11.7l/100km)

CO2 emissions: 275g/km

Mitsubishi L200 review 2015

Mitsubishi L200 review: 2015 first drive

Mitsubishi L200 review 2015Mitsubishi moves the double cab sector on significantly with the new L200. Highly accomplished in all areas, it now leads the sector and might even tempt a few SUV owners to move across.

Mitsubishi is going with the strapline ‘showing the world how it’s done’ to promote the all-new L200 when it launches in September 2015. “It’s a bit big-headed,” admitted UK MD Lance Bradley. But the brand also believes it’s got every right to shout about its achievements.

The L200 pickup, sold these days in four-door double cab guise, has for years been THE double cab to have. At one point, it commanded 70% of the total marketplace – that’s quite staggering class domination. Sales swelled due to the early 2000 company car tax break boom and, although they faded a little after 2008, they’ve recently been growing once again (17% last year, 23% the year before).

And that’s with the dated 2006 Series 4 model. With this new Series 5, Mitsubishi expects big things from a vehicle that makes up 1 in 7 dealer sales. The firm reeled off a list of stats it claims class leadership for: fuel economy, emissions, performance, 4WD tech, safety, utility, manoeuvrability, driving dynamics… never before, said Bradley, has a new car been launched that leads the class in so many ways.

Mitsubishi L200 review 2015

Visually, you might miss the fact that it’s the new L200 at first; it’s clearly derived from the look of its predecessor. Look more closely, though and you’ll see the lines are more tightly sculpted, the front more modern and, with upper-grade trim’s daytime LED running lights, appreciably more distinctive. The bulging strakes above front and rear wheelarches is also cool.

Mitsubishi is selling it with an all-new, all-aluminium 2.4-litre DI-D diesel engine, the first in the sector to have variable valve timing. Producing 151hp or 178hp, it’s offered with a new six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic with sector-first paddleshifters.

Even the base car has air con, alloys, cruise control and seven airbags. The new Titan adds DAB, keyless go, 17-inch alloys, privacy glass and DAB for £1,000 more and the volume Warrior has so much equipment, less than 10% of sales are likely to be of the range-topping Barbarian, even though the small businesses who make up the core of L200 sales usually default to the top-spec variant.

Prices start from £19,749 plus VAT (both fleets and small businesses are VAT exempt, so there’s no point in quoting it), or £20,749 for that Titan and £23,049 for the Warrior. By car standards, it looks an absolute bargain. Mitsubishi is also claiming next-generation dynamics, which will make every other double cab seem dated and old fashioned.

We’ve heard such claims before, though. They’re bold, but not always borne out. Can the new Mitsubishi L200 live up to them?

2015 Mitsubishi L200: on the road

Mitsubishi L200 review 2015

Double cabs are usually harder work than regular SUVs to drive. They have rugged ‘separate chassis’ construction, that’s great off road but a bit old fashioned on it. They also have rear leaf springs, the sort of tech cars from the 1960s were fitted with before more modern solutions came along. It means they are, yes, a bit more truck-like than normal SUVs.

The L200 is the least truculent double cab ever though. It’s a big step on, immediately apparent from the quieter and less clattery engine, much closer and snapper gearchange (slick, swift and now almost entirely notch-free), lighter and easier clutch and steering that’s still a bit low geared compared to normal cars but far quicker and less twirly than it was.

The rugged, tough feel behind the wheel remains (that’s why people buy them, after all), but it’s less lead-footed and awkward to drive. You could even call it sleek at low speed; certainly it’s easier to drive slowly and smoothly, important given the conditions most will be used in. Compared to the old one, it feels like a smooth-running Rolls-Royce.

Mitsubishi L200 review 2015

The ride is also a big advance. It’s much quieter and more capable of shrugging off potholes without noise or shudder; initial damping is impressive and, while the underlying ‘shake-shudder’ disturbance typical of double cabs is still there, it’s much reduced and better isolated.

It’s well damped at higher speeds, with less body float and squirm, and more controlled lean in corners. Tighter, sharper steering makes for better handling as well, with a more direct front end and lighter-weight flow through bends. You can both drive it faster yet with more confidence: it’s hardly chuckable now, but won’t terrify you when roads get twisty.

Power deliver is less switch-like than it was. The motor is not as flat and lifeless ‘off boost’ and more progressive and responsive when the turbo kicks in (from around 1,500rpm). The refinement and smoothness is a boon too: it is a bit noisier than a regular SUV, but far less so than before, and it’s only above 3,500rpm that you’re reminded of the industrial clatter normally experienced in double cabs.

It’s not quite now a competitor to a conventional SUV such as a Land Rover Discovery Sport, of course. Start throwing it about and you’ll quickly find the tyre-squealing limits; be heavy on the power and steering at low speed and the rear end will start jumping around as the tyres spin away the power.

It’s a heavier and more industrial machine, which will still lean if pitch it into corners hard and display a shuddery ride if you drive it quickly (and unladen) down really broken roads. The brakes perhaps aren’t as punchy as a road-going SUV either.

That’s by SUV standards, though. By double cab standards, it’s a massive leap on, and better than anything else out there. That it gets so close to being compared to an SUV says it all.

2015 Mitsubishi L200: on the inside

Mitsubishi L200 review 2015

The L200 looks similar at first inside too, but you’ll quickly appreciate the fundamental differences. For starters, the dash has more depth and so, with a more car-like driving position and less of a ‘sitting on the floor’ feel, is much more SUV-like.

The seats are more supportive and it’s a rare double cab to have a rake AND reach-adjust steering wheel, so you can set it really close and comfortable. You step up very high into it but you also sit commandingly high, and details such as the huge door mirrors help the view out.

As ever with double cabs though, it’s very tricky to reverse. The hidden length of the rear deck can’t be engineered out, so Mitsubishi vets around it with rear view cameras – pity they’re not standard on the basic cars.

The overall dash design is more modern, with a sleek and high-mounted touchscreen on most models (it includes DAB radio) and climate control on all but base cars. Plastics are hard but the finish is less shiny, so it all looks much better quality. Dials are easy to read and the sat nav that’s standard on Warrior and above is as clear to use as the steering wheel buttons and electronic four-wheel drive shift knob.

Mitsubishi L200 review 2015

In the rear, it’s even trickier to step up into, but there’s much more space there now, particularly kneeroom and footroom. The backrest isn’t pressed bolt-upright against the rear bulkhead, further enhancing comfort, and it’s only a slightly flat rear bench, leaving occupants feeling a bit perched, that detracts from the SUV-esque feel.

Refinement has improved considerably. We did a direct comparison between new and old L200: the latest car has far less engine noise and clatter, less road noise, better isolation of bumps and bangs, less wind noise (it only starts to intrude above 75mph), fewer creaks and an overall sense of being smoother, sweeter and more SUV-like.

It genuinely can now pass as a refined, well-stocked alternative to a conventional SUV, and that’s not something any other double cab can claim.

Finally, the rear deck. It’s 1,470mm long and, coincidentally, 1,470mm wide, 475mm deep (15mm up on before) and will carry a tonne in weight (and tow a further 3.1 tonnes on top). Mitsubishi offers a range of trick load covers that make it a more usable space – they turn it into a lockable boot as well. As standard, it isn’t: no point fitting a lock when people could just lift the stuff out anyway…

2015 Mitsubishi L200: running costs

Mitsubishi L200 review 2015

Mitsubishi proudly shows us one fact during the press conference: the L200 is more economical than any other double cab on sale. By how much? Between 11% to 47% – a potentially huge degree, in other words.

It averages a car-like 42.8mpg and a bigger 75-litre fuel tank pushes the driving range up to nearly 700 miles. Service intervals are better than they were, at 12,500 miles or 1 year, although they do still seem a bit short by car standards.

New safety systems will help reduce insurance premiums. The L200 is the first double cab to have a lane departure warning system, and there’s a speed limiter plus hazard lights that automatically flash under heavy braking. Super Select 4WD is another traction-boosting boon.

CO2 emissions are the lowest in the class, with up to a 33% advantage over rivals. Mitsubishi MD Bradley reckons this could pay dividends in the future if the government launches a CO2-based tax scheme for commercial vehicles – currently, they’re the only major vehicle sector that’s exempt from this.

2015 Mitsubishi L200: verdict

Mitsubishi L200 review 2015

Mitsubishi promised a stepchange with the new L200, but we’ve heard that before. Would you believe, though, it’s right. The new L200 really is that much of a move on – importantly, in all the areas that matter to road-biased small business users.

It’s quieter, smoother, faster, greener. It’s easier to drive, nicer to drive, more composed to drive. The ride is more comfortable, stability is more planted and refinement more SUV-like. It’s tough – confidently so when you’re shrugging off speed bumps like they’re not there – but not truculent.

The interior is smarter, quieter and packed with more tech, and comfort is such that the family won’t mind if you start taking them out in the small business do-it-all at the weekend, instead of the compact SUV they’re used to. In so many ways, it’s a winner.

They might even like the L200 so much, it could replace the family car; no double cab has ever offered so few compromises to quite justify that statement before.

2015 Mitsubishi L200: specifications

Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel

Price: £19,749 – £23,799 (plus VAT)

Power: 151 – 178hp

Torque: 280 – 317 lb ft (Nm)

0-62mph: 10.4 – 12.2 seconds

Top speed: 105 – 111mph

Fuel economy: 42.8mpg

CO2 emissions: 173g/km (169g/km 151hp 4Life)