Audi A4 prototype review: 2015 first drive

Audi A4 prototype review: 2015 first drive

Audi A4 prototype review: 2015 first drive

Yes, this really is the new Audi A4. It’s certainly an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach to the styling, but under it lies a much improved car.

Besides, Audi isn’t stupid. There’s logic behind the looks, as boss man Dr Hackenberg tells us: “It’s a mistake if [a new model] makes it predecessor look old. The design is OK. It does not scream ‘it’s a new model’, as that would harm values of the old one.”

This approach has worked well for Audi in the past, but other cars in this sector are exactly the same. The BMW 3 Series hasn’t changed dramatically over its lifespan, and neither has the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The main criticism we have of the Jaguar XE is it looks a little predictable… just like a smaller XF.

But enough about the design. We’ll let you decide whether you like it. More importantly, how did we end up in a car with Dr Hackenberg and what exactly is different about this ‘all-new’ model?

Revealed last month and set to be launched to the media in September before going on sale in the UK in November, the 2016 Audi A4 is currently going through final testing in Germany. We joined engineers (as well as Dr Hackenberg) in a drive of pre-production models ahead of its final sign-off within the next couple of weeks.

2016 Audi A4: on the road

2016 Audi A4: on the road

The Audi A4 has traditionally never been a driver’s car. It’s left that to the BMW 3 Series, while recently the Jaguar XE has thrown its hat into the ring as the enthusiastic driver’s company car of choice.

But, under the watchful eye of suspension and driving dynamics expert Dr Hackenberg, the Audi A4 can finally be considered to be one of the best dynamically.

Although UK specifications are to be confirmed, higher-end models will come with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system. Broadly the same as the system it replaces, under normal driving conditions it’ll transfer 60% of torque to the rear axle and 40% to the front.

But, when required, the central differential can also transfer up to 70% of torque to the front and 85% of torque to the rear. It’s a system that Audi’s spent years perfecting and it does help provide more confidence on greasy or wet roads.

The A4’s wheel-selective torque control goes a step further and can split torque between the front or rear wheels in a bid to prevent those on the inside from spinning up. This results in more agile handling on twisty roads.

The suspension has been heavily revamped for the new Audi A4, with lightness a key consideration. There’s a multitude of suspension options for buyers – from the standard suspension with sensitive monotube shock absorbers, to adjustable sport or comfort dampers.

The ride does appear to be comfortable with even the sportier suspension setups, but it’s hard to tell on the sort of smooth, German roads we can but dream of in the UK. Still, even the 18-inch alloys of our test cars failed to transmit the harshest road surfaces we could find into the cabin.

One criticism many drivers of the outgoing model have is the steering, which features an unnerving ‘dead’ point just off straight ahead. This is now gone, with the A4’s electromechanical steering providing an instant response to every input from the driver. It’s a really pleasing steering set up – one that can be tweaked from ultra-light to sportily heavy through Audi’s driver select system.

Higher-end models will come with dynamic steering which adjusts its ratios depending on your driver select mode and the speed you’re travelling at. While a clever idea, and one we’d imagine we could comfortably get used to, it seems to lack a touch of the directness of the regular steering (we recently criticised a similar system in the facelifted BMW 3 Series).

Aside from the suspension and steering, there’s a host of driver assistance features to make life easier. One of the most significant is the adaptive cruise control (ACC). While ACC isn’t groundbreaking itself – it is becoming commonplace across VW Group products – some of the features debuting on the new A4 are.

For example, the ACC’s traffic jam assist can take over steering at speeds of up to 40mph. It uses the car’s front camera as well as sensors to gently guide the car and follow the vehicle in front in heavy traffic. Essentially, at low speeds, the Audi A4 can drive itself.

2016 Audi A4: on the inside

2016 Audi A4: on the inside

If you’ve ever driven a modern Audi, you’re not going to be particularly surprised by the new A4’s interior. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it feels solid and well-built, and provides that premium feel you’d expect from a car of this class.

A big change to the Audi A4’s interior is the addition of the virtual cockpit, as seen on the latest TT. This replaces the standard driver’s instrument panel (featuring the speedo and rev counter) with a 12.3-inch LCD monitor.

Using a button on the steering wheel, the driver can change the size of the instruments and switch between features such as the sat-nav and audio. It’s a system we like in the TT and it’s transferred well to the A4 – almost making the 8.3-inch MMI touchscreen in the centre console seem redundant.

While UK specifications are yet to be confirmed, the virtual cockpit is likely to be standard on higher-end models and available as an option on the rest of the range.

One complaint about the interior is the bulky transmission tunnel. It encroaches onto the legroom of the front passenger in the left-hand drive model we tried – suggesting, like the outgoing model, there might be awkward offset pedals on right-hand drive versions.

That transmission tunnel makes for uncomfortable seating for middle seat passengers in the rear. Audi says there’s now an extra 23mm of legroom in the rear, yet it still feels cramped for adults. Not a huge concern if you’re a company car driver covering 90% of your miles without passengers, but families with teenage children should probably look elsewhere.

2016 Audi A4: running costs

2016 Audi A4: running costs

With company car drivers being the staple of Audi A4 buyers, Audi has concentrated on making the A4 more efficient – boasting a 21% reduction in fuel consumption compared to its predecessor.

Because of the efforts Audi has gone to into reducing the weight of the A4 and making it more aerodynamic, it’s now class-leading when it comes to efficiency.

The A4 2.0-litre TDI Ultra comes in at 95g/km CO2 in saloon form (99g/km for the Avant) – bringing it below that 100g/km threshold for car tax and company car users. Jaguar has only just edged below 100g/km with its XE, while it’s only with the facelifted car that the BMW 3 Series dips below 100g/km: the volume diesel model starts at 102g/km.

More importantly for those of us who aren’t company car drivers is the A4’s fuel efficiency. With a manual transmission the 150hp A4 Ultra returns a frankly staggering 76.3mpg, while the more powerful 190hp 2.0-litre diesel achieves 68.9mpg in non-Ultra form.

The 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel starts at 67.2mpg, while the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol returns 49.6mpg.

2016 Audi A4: verdict

2016 Audi A4: verdict

Without driving the new Audi A4, you have to look very closely to see the differences over the predecessor. A slightly improved interior and tweaked exterior isn’t enough to excite buyers in the premium segment.

But when you start to look closely and, more importantly, take the new Audi A4 for a drive, you start to realise the new model is a much bigger advancement than you might have originally thought.

It now handles with the best – seemingly with little expense in comfort (although we look forward to putting it through a real test on UK roads). The addition of Audi’s virtual cockpit along with a host of technology will appease the most demanding of company car drivers.

They are the mainstay of A4 customers, after all. And on paper, the figures more than stack up for them. It’s a bold move sticking with a steel platform, but Audi has put so much work into saving weight and improving aerodynamics.

The result is huge. It truly is class-leading when it comes to efficiency, meaning it’ll undercut rivals in company car tax and save money on fuel.

We understand why Audi hasn’t changed the A4’s appearance dramatically but for us, having seen just how good the new A4 is, it’s a little bit disappointing that most will dismiss this as little more than a slight facelift.

Our only other complaint? Interior space. Sure, it’s more spacious than its predecessor, but legroom in the back isn’t good for adults. If you rarely carry rear seat passengers, you should give the Audi A4 some serious consideration over a BMW 3 Series or Jaguar XE. Certainly don’t dismiss it without a good test drive.

Specification: 2016 Audi A4

Engines: 2.0 – 3.0-litre TDI diesels; 1.4 – 2.0-litre TFSI petrol

Prices from: £28,000 (est)

Power: 150hp – 272hp

Torque: 184 – 295lb ft

0-62mph: 5.3 – 8.9 seconds

Top speed: 155mph

Fuel economy: 49.6 – 76.3mpg

CO2 emissions: 129 – 180g/km

Tesla Model S P85D 2015 review

Tesla Model S gains ‘Ludicrous mode’ for 0-60mph in 2.8 seconds

Tesla Model S P85D 2015 reviewTesla is to launch an upgraded version of its Model S electric car – capable of 0-60mph in just 2.8 seconds.

This will make it the fastest-accelerating car in the world, claimed the U.S. EV firm (later revised to ‘world’s fastest Model S’)… and the function that delivers this intense acceleration is, brilliantly, called ‘Ludicrous mode’.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed the news in a conference call, as part of a series of updates for the Model S executive car, including a price drop for the regular Model S, plus a more powerful 90KWh battery option.

The 90KWh Model S will boast a range further extended by 5%, says Tesla.

But it’s the ludicrous acceleration of the enhanced Model S P85D that’s grabbing the headlines. And we thought the itself-recently-enhanced all-wheel-drive P85D version was already fast: that does 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds (provided you had the ‘Insane mode’ selected…).

Not fast enough for Musk, who described the acceleration of the Ludicrous mode Model S as “faster than falling”.

Generating 1.1G of acceleration force, he said “it’s like having your own private roller coaster”.

Apparently, engineering changes over the regular P85D are not huge – although Tesla has had to design a new fuse to cope with the ‘ludicrous’ rate of electricity flowing through it.

Keen to buy a Tesla Model S with Ludicrous mode? It’ll cost you $10,000 over the P85D – or, if you own one of those cars, Tesla will upgrade it for $5,000.

Sounds to us like not a lot for what now becomes, according to Tesla, even more easily the world’s fastest-accelerating EV…

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Rover 75

Sabotaged! Why the Rover 75 was a disaster that killed the company

Rover 75This is a car whose career was cut short by talk. Talk that not only sabotaged one of the best cars that Rover ever made, but brought down the company, too.

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But a few hours before that poisonous outburst, things were looking quite good for Rover. It had just unveiled the 75 at the Birmingham Motor Show where Jaguar had just revealed its S-Type, and it was gradually dawning on the attending press that one of these cars was rather more convincing than the other. And it wasn’t the Jaguar.

The S-Type’s retro references to the 1960s S-Type look forced to the point of awkwardness, and its cabin was almost bereft of the kind of beautiful detailing, and quality, that makes a Jag cabin so appealing.

Rover 75

While the 75 was also a car with a wheel or two in the past, it was vastly better proportioned than the Jag, and had a strikingly original wood and leather interior of decidedly superior finish, although that would not be properly obvious until people started spending time with these cars.

Such was Rover’s battered reputation and long history of launching interesting cars that ultimately disappointed, no-one was getting too excited yet. That was despite the fact that this was the first Rover developed under BMW ownership, the German company buying the British one four years earlier in 1994.

Especially as the 75 looked like an obvious descendent of the Rover 600 that had come before it. This Honda Accord-based car was handsome enough, and reliable too, but it would be a while before the positive difference between BMW quality and Honda quality, as harnessed by Rover, shone through.

The Brits take over Birmingham 1998

Rover 75

Both Rover and Jaguar were unveiled on the morning of October 20th, 1998. This was press day at the Birmingham motor show, and the first time that either car had been seen finished and undisguised.

Late on the same afternoon Rover held a press conference expected to provide wider detail about the car. It was scheduled to start at 4.00pm in a room away from the motor show floor itself, and because the car itself had been revealed hours earlier, many journalists did not attend.

They missed a drama far more significant than the unveiling of a new car.

The conference started late, kicking off just before 4.30pm, the delay caused by the late rewriting of BMW Group boss Bernd Pischetreider’s speech.

Pischetsreider wanted to use the opportunity to petition the UK government. First, because the pound’s rise against the euro was crippling the business. In 1997, Rover’s losses had been cut to £91m. In 1998, the year of the 75’s launch, they were rapidly heading towards a stinging and near-unviable £600m.

BMW wanted the government to take action over the currency – Rover was easily the UK’s biggest exporter at the time – and it also wanted the government to contribute £200m towards the huge investment that the German company was about to make at Longbridge for the new Mini and for the smaller Rover R30 project.

Exchange rate issue ‘hugely serious’

BMW, which usually likes to conduct such business in private, was having trouble getting over to the government that the exchange rate issue was hugely serious, and that it needed help to update a plant that had seen no serious investment since 1980, 18 years earlier.

As it was, BMW was now planning to cut jobs and introduce more flexible working practices in an effort to save £150m a year for the next three years. But if it did not get the support, then Longbridge – one of the biggest industrial complexes in the UK, outdated or not – would be wound down.

And that is what Pischetsreider outlined during one of the most bombshell-laden post-conference question-and-answer sessions the UK car industry has ever seen. Criticism of Rover’s productivity, the possibility of Longbridge closing and an apparent admission from BMW that its commitment to the revival of Rover might be wavering, did a fine job of sabotaging the 75’s launch.

Enter The English Patient

Rover 75

It wasn’t so much a shadow as a total eclipse swamping the car’s birth, the following day’s papers full of the threat to its maker’s future. The stories also confirmed what many people within the car industry had known for months – that there was significant conflict between BMW and Rover management, and that there was a sizeable and fast-growing faction within BMW that wanted rid of Rover. ‘The English Patient,’ they disparagingly called it, after the film.

Yet the car itself did not look like the product of an ailing business. Granted a decent development budget, improving facilities at the Gaydon development centre, access to BMW’s considerable engineering resources and a parts bin studded with high-quality, up-to-the minute kit, the R40 development team produced a car to match the quality of Rovers produced in the 1950s and ‘60s.

The 75 had a particularly stiff bodyshell – essential for refinement, suspension effectiveness and crash performance – as well as BMW’s admired multi-link ‘Z’ rear axle and a sophisticated MacPherson strut layout. It was a layout intended to produce the world’s best front-wheel drive chassis.

Rover 75

The engine’s were Rover’s own four and six-cylinder ‘K’ Series – at this point, the issue of the four’s cylinder head gasket design had yet to boil up – and a strong BMW turbodiesel.

Award-winning styling

But the 75 impressed most with its styling. At first, the chrome grille and the body’s curvily understated sculpting looked unexceptional. But the more you looked, the better it got. The way the wings flared over the wheels, the clean-cut flanks, the tasteful deployment of chrome and the unfussy detailing still look good today, and won the 75 awards for its styling at the time.

Inside, it got a little radical. There was the expected wood and leather, but the sculpture of the dashboard, the cream instrument faces, the unusual door trims and the sumptuously upholstered seats produced a particularly inviting cabin, and one of genuinely high quality. The dashboard’s wood was real, and expensive, soft-feel plastics were used almost everywhere that wood, leather, cloth or carpet were not.

Rover 75

Better still, the 75 drove very well, impressive in particular for its ride, comfort and civility. Though its road manners were soft, it handled impressively when pressed. By the end of its first year it had attracted plenty of positive reviews, and 15 international awards. But it had not attracted remotely enough customers.

Sales targets: missed

The effect of Pischetsreider’s tirade was to severely limit 75 sales, the question of Rover’s survival once again in doubt and intensified by an increasingly regular flow of negative stories. BMW and Rover had originally planned to sell 140,000 75s annually – actually an optimistic ambition even taking account of plans to export more cars.

This forecast eventually fell to 100,000 by the time the car was launched six months late – for quality reasons – in June 1999. One year into its career, even that figure looked a distant dream, just under 60,000 cars coming from a Cowley factory that had the capacity for 140,000. Not only did it demand fail to push output to anywhere near that level, but it was not long before the Oxford stopped making 75s altogether.

Rover 75

In spring 2000 BMW announced that was to sell Rover, initially to the private equity business Alchemy, who envisaged a much-reduced business that would concentrate on MG, but ultimately to the Phoenix Consortium, lead by former Rover boss John Towers.

Phoenix euphoria ‘naive’

The Phoenix plan aimed to produce 200,000 cars annually, retained more jobs and was increasingly seen as a better future of BMW’s cast-off than Alchemy’s seemingly brutal plans. Phoenix won the day, amid euphoria that would soon be seen as naively misplaced.

MG Rover, as Phoenix renamed the business lasted a little less than five years. It went bankrupt in April 2005, having failed to find a partner of any significance that might enable it to invest in the much-talked about and ultimately mythical new medium car. In the meantime, the 75 was by far the strongest model in MG Rover’s range, being newer and more completely developed than the smaller 25 and 45.

MG Rover was not without its successes, the creation of three MG ranges out of the three Rover models unexpectedly successful, the conversion of Rover 75 to MG ZT producing an engaging and mature sports saloon. But none of this was enough, and nor were efforts to squeeze costs out of the business, a programme called Project Drive stripping components and quality out of the cars.

Rover 75

By the end of its life, the 75 had become seriously cheapened, and more like the penny-pinched cars that MG Rover’s predecessors had peddled for decades.

Production of the 75 never exceeded the 53,600-odd built in the first year, sitting in the low 30,000s for the next three years before dipping to 24,000 in 2004. In 2005, when MG Rover went bust, under 5,500 were produced.

But, the 75 has had a strange and surprisingly long afterlife in China, where it was produced as the MG7 and in facelifted form as the Roewe 750, this version still available today some 17 years after the original 75 first appeared.

There’s irony in its achievement of so long a life, given that the 75 was a commercial failure for its creators and a partial cause of Rover’s downfall.

Though not as much of one as Bernd Pischetsreider, whose bold acquisition strategy enabled Rover to build one of its best-ever cars, and ultimately killed the brand.

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2015 BMW X1

BMW X1 review: 2015 first drive

It’s take two for BMW’s compact SUV rival to the Audi Q3. Pleasingly, it’s more than twice as good

2015 BMW X1The new second-generation BMW X1 is the sporty, well-honed Audi Q3-rivalling compact SUV BMW should have launched from the start. The contrast with the outgoing model could not be more stark. Along with the 5 Series GT, it’s a black sheep of the range: ill conceived, rather ugly and disappointingly shy of BMW’s usual impeccable standards. It sells extraordinarily well overseas: goodness knows why.

Take two, an all-new model that launches in the UK in October with prices from £26,780, is immeasurably more convincing. Visually for one, there’s no comparison. Taller, wider yet shorter than the current car, it looks like a squat, sporty baby brother to the X5. It’s now really well proportioned and has way more attitude and presence.

Despite being taller and more SUV-ey, it’s more aerodynamic and considerably more economical. Based on BMW’s adaptable UKL platform used in the 2 Series Active Tourer, future 1 Series (and also, believe it or not, the MINI), the bulk of cars feature latest-gen xDrive all-wheel drive, but there’s also a fuel-sipping front-wheel drive model (the old two-wheel drive X1 turned the rear wheels).

Such a clever new platform, that lends itself so well to practical MPVs, means interior space and practicality has leapt ahead on the new X1. This in itself will make it an interesting similar-price alternative to the 3 Series, and could help BMW UK’s X1 performance match last year’s global stat that 1 in 10 new BMWs sold was an X1.

Yes, it’s a key launch for the firm, that begs the question: if the sorely compromised old car sold so strongly, how well could this one do? It all depends on whether it performs as well as it looks. To the road, then, in a 231hp, from-£36,060 xDrive25d launch car in Austria, then.

On the road: 2015 BMW X1

2015 BMW X1

BMW’s multi-flexible UKL platform is a star draw in anything using it, and this is no exception. We drove the top-spec xDrive25d version, with xDrive, and found it a neatly-handling delight compared to the old car.

It has a tightly-honed crispness to it that fully feels ‘premium’. As you’d hope from a BMW, it’s not soggy or wallowy (particularly with the test car’s optional Adaptive Dynamics suspension), giving it the attitude to match its good looks. Yes, it really is a ‘sporty’ SUV.

Steering, while not boasting 3 Series-like feel, is well weighted and very accurate, and the athleticism it shows through twisting sequences is pleasing, particularly with the reassurance of BMW’s typically brilliant xDrive all-wheel drive system. Whenever you do sense it working, you feel it’s working for you, both your safety and engagement.

The 2.0-litre diesel is, well, a 2.0-litre diesel – but a jolly good one at that. Part of BMW’s modular family, it’s got little of the gruff breathing of older 2.0-litre BMW diesels, revving surprisingly freely and performing much more quietly at lower revs. The spread of drive is impressive and fast-acting, and it still out-performs pretty much any rival.

Needless to say, our test car’s optional eight-speed automatic was excellent, and those clever Adaptive Dampers smoothed off the corners of the reasonably sporty-setup suspension. Flick a toggle to convincingly make it firmer and sportier without destroying the ride, where the reduction in apparent roll helps enhance control (and the feeling of control for passengers) away from the motorway.

On the inside: 2015 BMW X1

2015 BMW X1

We never thought we’d be praising this with a BMW, bit it is so: you sit high, much higher in the new X1 compared to before, and it’s better to sit in as a result. The old one felt like sitting in an estate fitted with tall chairs – the fact you step up into this one and sense much more of the ‘command’ feel ((c) Land Rover) immediately positions the car correctly.

You will also sense the model’s MPV roots, mind, but this isn’t altogether a bad thing. It’s really roomy in there for one, with a deep windscreen further benefitting from a dash that falls away from it to enhance the roominess. The driving position is a bit MPV-like (fractionally close pedals and perched feel atop firm seats particularly) but the overall SUV sensation overcomes this; besides, it’s way roomier than the annoyingly impractical old one.

It’s particularly impressive in the rear. You even get split-slide rear seats there. There’s an abundance of leg and headroom, and three abreast shouldn’t be a problem. In terms of passenger practicality, it betters a 3 Series here and, for those to whom a 2 Series Active Tourer just isn’t cool, BMW dealers now have the perfect solution.

The boot’s massive too: 505 litres seats up, 1,505 with them down. There’s an electric tailgate that can be operate hands-free by kicking beneath the rear bumper. Once you get over the feeling you look like a wally, it’s cool.

As for the dash, the 2 Series roots are clear, but it’s all nicely finished (well, in our top-spec test car, at least), perhaps not as enveloping as an X5 but eminently practical and easy enough to use. The iDrive system, for example, remains head and shoulders above the premium competition (and, like all BMWs, sat nav is standard).

Running costs: 2015 BMW X1

2015 BMW X1

BMW’s are generally very fuel efficient. This xDrive25d averages 56.5mpg and emits 132g/km CO2. Stop-start is standard, as is the eight-speed automatic – yes, the gearbox is that good, it still keeps CO2 low and gives 56mpg despite its ease of use.

Alongside the three diesels (150hp, 190hp and 231hp) will be a single turbo petrol at launch, producing 192hp: even this xDrive20i version can do 44.8mpg, should you find yourself becoming a bit anti-diesel.

Because it’s such a step on from the old car, retained values should leap accordingly, to the premium level you expect of a BMW. This will help keep leasing and PCP rates low, helping meet BMW’s expectation that the X1 will soon start outselling the X3 again (this year’s prediction is 8,000 cars).

The trim line-up goes standard, Sport, xLine and, from later in 2015, M Sport. Sport has big 18-inch wheels but xLine is the fancy-pants one, with LED headlights, Dakota leather and even more premium detailing outside and in. You can only get the xDrive 25d as an xLine, anyway.

Verdict: 2015 BMW X1

2015 BMW X1

It’s certainly a surprise, the new 2015 BMW X1. A pleasant one, because it’s so much better than the old one, and immeasurably more appealing to look at and be within. The cool factor has gone through the roof – it will finally be seen as a proper junior X5.

You can nit-pick and say the 2 Series Active Tourer MPV roots are felt inside, but the benefit is the practicality that will make it a similar-price alternative to a 3 Series. You’d never consider the old one alongside BMW’s 40 year old icon.

No wonder BMW’s predicting a stepchange in sales (without impacting on the larger X3, either). This car deserves it. Second time lucky, BMW.

Specifications: 2015 BMW X1

Engines: 2.0-litre turbo petrol, 2.0-litre turbodiesel

Prices from: £26,780 (test xDrive25d xLine: £36,060)

Power: 150 – 231hp

Torque: 206 – 331lb ft (280 – 450Nm)

0-62mph: 6.6 – 9.2 seconds

Top speed: 127 – 146mph

Fuel economy: 44.8 – 65.7mpg

CO2 emissions: 114 – 146g/km

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BMW 3 Series LCI 2015

BMW 3 Series facelift review: 2015 first drive

BMW responds to the Jaguar XE’s challenge with a revised 3 Series. It’s subtle, but only because it was already superb…

BMW 3 Series LCI 2015How do you enhance a car that, until recently, was the clear class-leader? If you’re BMW, you don’t mess with a winning formula, but simply tweak and hone the bits that weren’t quite so perfect with the aim of reclaiming your class leadership crown. So, watch out Jaguar XE: the 2015 BMW 3 Series facelift is here.

You’re hardly going to notice at first, until we start to see lots more of them on the road. Only then will the crisp new headlights, more sculptural front bumper and high-tech LED rear lights become clear (and start to make the old car look surprisingly dated). Initially, the most standout part will be some of the new colours.

BMW hasn’t cut corners though. For one, it’s installed an all-new engine range, that now opens with a British-built 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol that’s also seen in the MINI Cooper (and, for added kudos, the BMW i8). Now all-turbo, the engine range is packed out with new modular EfficientDynamics motors, that share a 500cc cylinder capacity and are crowned by the 326hp 340i BMW laid on for the launch event.

It’s sweated the suspension tune, lowered RWD saloons by 10mm for a sportier centre of gravity, honed both six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic gearboxes (the former now self-blips on downshifts) and carried out umpteen other tiny tweaks that an engineer told me will never make the headline briefing sheet but combine to make the revised 3 microscopically bit-by-bit better than ever.

On sale now with prices starting from £24,975, deliveries of the facelifted 3 Series range start in September, giving the Jaguar XE just enough time to assert its position as leader of the compact executive sector before BMW renews its challenge. Is the 2015 3 Series up to the job, though?

On the road: 2015 BMW 3 Series facelift

BMW 3 Series LCI 2015

 

BMW only had the top-spec 340i for us to drive on the launch event. Producing 326hp, its 3.0-litre straight-six turbo certainly doesn’t want for power, particularly when combined with the optional eight-speed automatic transmission (at 5.1 seconds to 62mph, it’s faster from a standstill than the six-speed manual). This all-new engine has a bounty of pulling power that’s ever-ready to start surging and, at higher revs, it sounds nicely classical.

It also has real immediacy. Turbo delay has been near-minimised and both the linearity and control with which you can deliver the drive is very impressive. It means you can ‘drive it on the throttle’, precisely trimming lines through corners with your right foot, something not really possible with the softer response of older turbo cars.

Here’s where you can start to have fun with the rear-drive 340i. Sat forward in the car, sensing the perfect weight distribution, the car feels very confident and incisive, giving you the confidence to press on and exploit it. You might even turn the traction control off; ace predictability won’t bite you if you do. It’s too comfortable to be an M car but it’s not far off in terms of driver satisfaction.

This is something you have to dig into, though. It’s not immediately apparent how engaging the 3 Series is. In top-spec guise, with the brilliant (optional) Adaptive Dynamics suspension dampers working so well, some of the surface-level charisma you get in a Jaguar XE is missing. The ride is excellent and it’s extremely stable and comfortable at speed, but you do worry BMW’s gone a bit Mercedes Benz-like.

Maybe regular cars will wear their hearts on their sleeves more. It’s certainly worth being patient with the 340i though, because the ability and rewards it has during full-attack driving are worth it.

Oh, and you’ll note we’ve not talked about the steering. That’s because test cars were fitted with BMW’s £290 Variable Steering, which changes the ratio to match your speed so you don’t have to shuffle the wheel, and does all sorts of other tricks. A £290 bargain? Not a bit of it. The artificial, inconsistent feel, darty initial response and feeling of it magnetically stiffening in corners would have us with our heads in our hands if we didn’t know how decent the standard system is. Avoid.

On the inside: 2015 BMW 3 Series facelift

BMW 3 Series LCI 2015

The interior looks no different to the old car, so will be very familiar to many. Even the excellent iDrive system will be taken for granted: the surprise will be finding it’s now standard, rather than optional – unless, that is, you’ve driven a rival car and been surprised at how insuperior their systems are.

You still sit forward and, on the electric chairs of the 340i, too high. Two rear adults still just have enough space in the rear, but best not try to get three in there. You’ll still get even slim, tall Coke bottles stuck in the door pockets, but BMW’s chuffed with the sliding cubby it’s integrated into the centre console; good for throwing the keyless-go keyfob into, with smartphones having their own slot on top.

But while it’s all familiar, it is also more appealing than before, because BMW has poured over the details and given it a lift in perceived quality. The dash is less plasticky and spongy-look than before, the plastics less low-rent and shiny. There’s more piano black and chrome detailing. There’s enough options flexibility to trim a good proportion of the 25,000 a year BMW sells here in a bespoke fashion.

Mercedes aces it for design impact still, and we’re sure the new Audi A4 will lead the way for quality and sophistication. BMW’s still level pegging with the similarly driver-focused Jaguar XE though, and has addressed grumbles quality wasn’t what it was with this F30 model ably.

Running costs: 2015 BMW 3 Series facelift

BMW 3 Series LCI 2015

The new engines are all so efficient, BMW’s given them all EfficientDynamics branding. The greenest, now sub-100g/km CO2 (like the Jaguar XE), is called EfficientDynamics Plus. Its 2.0-litre diesel engine can average an impressive 74.3mpg.

This 340i, with 326hp, isn’t quite as green, but it can still return 41.5mpg if you’re sensible and pay extra for the automatic transmission. Leave it as a manual and you’ll get just 36.7mpg. Counterintuitive, we know: CO2 confirms this with 159g/km for the auto, a hefty 179g/km for the manual.

The subtle refresh should keep a check on residuals and BMW’s standardisation of sat nav means no headaches when choosing one as a company car. Just be aware that retained values can soften as a car ages, and when the new Audi A4 arrives later this year, the BMW will be the oldest car in its sector.

It’s unlikely to make too much of a difference to this well-liked, in-demand premium car, though. It will still surprise you in how well running costs stack up alongside mainstream cars such as the Ford Mondeo…

Verdict: 2015 BMW 3 Series facelift

BMW 3 Series LCI 2015

BMW hasn’t revolutionised the 3 Series because it didn’t need to. Until the Jaguar XE came along, it led the class. The surprise battle of the British Jag thus led BMW to hone and perfect the 3 Series, rather than reinvent it.

It’s an approach that’s worked. We can’t say whether the 3 Series is the firm class-leader again – we’ll have to wait to drive UK-relevant models later in the year for that (which is why we’re hedging our bets with a four-star score) – but we can say it’s an already excellent car that’s been yet further improved.

The new battle with the Jaguar XE continues…

Specification: 2015 BMW 340i

Engine: 3.0-litre straight-six turbo petrol

Prices from: £38,125 (auto: £39,505)

Power: 326hp

Torque: 332lb ft

0-62mph: 5.1 – 5.2 seconds

Top speed: 155mph

Fuel economy: 36.7 – 41.5mpg

CO2 emissions: 159 – 179g/kmg/km

Mercedes-Benz GLC

Mercedes-Benz GLC review: 2015 first drive

Finally, Mercedes-Benz has a medium-sized to take on the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Land Rover Discovery Sport. Was the new GLC worth the wait?

Mercedes GLC 1

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLC: Overview

The medium-sized, five-seat 4×4 is fast-becoming the default family car. No longer do upwardly-mobile folks aspire to a Ford Mondeo or Audi A4; they want a Ford Kuga or Audi Q5.

So why has it taken Mercedes so long to enter this ever-expanding sector? After all, BMW launched its X3 more than a decade ago, and even the Q5 has been around since 2008.

In fact, Mercedes does have previous with medium 4x4s. The GLC’s predecessor, the GLK, was sold in Europe, just never converted to right-hand drive. Brits had to stretch to the larger GL-class (now renamed GLE) or – more recently – squeeze into the compact GLA crossover.

As its name suggests, the GLC is based on the same platform as the C-class saloon. A single 2.1-litre diesel engine is available from launch, offered in two states of tune: 170hp 220d and 204hp 250d.

The 220d sprints to 62mph in 8.3 seconds and has a top speed of 130mph. The 250d is quicker, at 7.6 seconds and 138mph respectively. Yet both engines achieve identical fuel economy of 56.5mpg and emit 129g/km CO2 (£110 annual car tax at 2015 rates).

All GLCs come with a nine-speed automatic gearbox – operated via a stalk on the steering column, in traditional Mercdes style – and four-wheel drive. However, while torque (pulling power) is split 45% front and 55% rear in the 220d, the 250d has a 31:69 split for sportier handling.

There are three trim levels available: SE, Sport and AMG Line. Standard equipment on the SE includes a heated windscreen, keyless entry, sat nav, DAB radio, reversing camera and an electric tailgate.

Spend an extra £2,495 on the Sport and you’ll get auto parking, heated front seats and smatterings of wood trim. The AMG Line package (a further £1,495) adds sports suspension, along with an AMG-branded bodykit, steering wheel and pedals.

As you’d expect, there’s a long list of expensive options, from a panoramic sunroof to a premium Burmester sound system. The £495 Off-Road Package allows the GLC to step on Land Rover’s toes with five off-road driving modes, a reduction gear, diff-lock and adjustable ride heights for the (optional) air suspension.

The GLC arrives in UK showrooms in October. Prices start at £34,950 for the 220d and £36,105 for the 250d.

Mercedes GLC 2

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLC: On the road

Mercedes has its bonkers AMG models (more on that later), but what the company traditionally does best is comfort.

Here, the GLC doesn’t disappoint; driving it is a genuinely relaxing experience. The diesel engines are barely audible when cruising, wind and tyre noise are muted, and the standard nine-speed automatic gearbox shuffles ratios so unobtrusively you hardly notice it.

Ride comfort is very good, too – even on the steamroller-sized 20in alloys of AMG Line versions. However, all the cars we drove were fitted with optional air suspension, so we’ll reserve judgement on the conventional spring set-up until we drive the GLC in the UK.

To be frank, the 34hp difference between the 220d and 250d diesel engines is rarely noticeable on the road. Only when our test route veered into the hills and hairpin bends of France’s Alsace region did the 250d’s extra grunt become apparent.

Show the GLC a sequence of tight corners and it holds its line well, with ample grip and little body-roll to upset the car’s balance – or indeed your passengers.  Nonetheless, this isn’t a sporty SUV and it doesn’t try to be. The steering lacks the feedback of a BMW X3 and feels oddly artificial in Sport and Sport+ modes.

Few GLC owners are likely to venture off-tarmac (spare a thought for those shiny alloys!), but many will take comfort in knowing that they could. Short overhangs, coupled with the optional Off-Road Engineering package (£495) mean the Mercedes can go where, in this class, only a Land Rover Discovery Sport might dare to tread.

And finally, the AMG question. Mercedes says a performance-oriented GLC isn’t on the cards just yet. But expect to see an GLC 45 AMG in the not-so-distant future – based on the four-wheel-drive GLA hardware, rather than the rear-wheel-drive C63 AMG saloon.

Mercedes GLC 3

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLC: On the inside

For years, Audi has been the benchmark when it comes to car interiors. But that may be about to change. Mercedes has really upped its game with the GLC, with a cabin that is both stylish and beautifully made.

Close the GLC’s wide, heavy doors and you feel sealed-off from the outside world. A high centre console cocoons you in the driver’s seat, and simple white-on-black dials are easy to read through the chunky, three-spoke steering wheel.

The dashboard isn’t entirely bereft of buttons (like a Tesla or Volvo XC90), but it’s an uncluttered design that incorporates most ‘infotainment’ functions within the ‘Comand’ media system.

Sadly, Comand isn’t as intuitive to use as Audi’s MMI system, or indeed BMW iDrive. And it doesn’t offer touchscreen functionality. Even so, it’s relatively user-friendly – with nav, phone, entertainment and car settings accessible via a click-wheel or (trickier to use) touchpad. The 7in tablet-style screen is mounted high on the dashboard, placing it easily with the driver’s line-of-sight.

Space inside the GLC is merely average for a car in this class. Two tall adults can get comfortable in the back, but the middle seat is narrow and occupants must splay their legs either side of the wide transmission tunnel. Not very dignified.

Boot capacity is 550 litres – identical to the BMW X3 and fractionally more than the Audi Q5. A Mercedes C-class Estate holds 490 litres.

As you’d expect, the GLC comes with a long list of safety kit, including a full complement of airbags and automatic emergency braking. We tried the optional Distronic Plus active cruise control, which maintains a set distance from the car in front. It’s a valuable safety aid on the motorway and at lower speeds can even adjust the steering so you ‘follow’ other cars in traffic. Who needs a ‘real’ driver anyway?

Mercedes GLC 4

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLC: Running costs

Perhaps we should count ourselves lucky we get the GLC at all. As previously mentioned, the old left-hand-drive GLK never made it to Britain.

However, the Europeans still have the last laugh with two engines that aren’t available here yet: the 211hp 2.0-litre petrol GLC 250 and 320hp petrol/electric GLC 350e plug-in hybrid.

The 350e hybrid is the undisputed efficiency champ of the GLC range. It emits just 60g/km CO2 – well below the threshold for free car tax. And it ekes out 109mpg, provided you drive you’re taking the official EU fuel economy test (i.e. very carefully). However, it won’t be cheap to buy when it comes to the UK in “a couple of years time”, according to one Mercedes insider.

For now, your choice is limited to 170hp 220d and 204hp 250d diesels. The good news, though, is that both offer an identical 56.5mpg and 129g/km CO2. That’s slightly better than the equivalent Audi or BMW, and also means there is no penalty for choosing the more powerful engine – apart from the initial £1,155 difference in list price.

Mercedes’ three-pointed star carries plenty of car-park kudos and that, coupled with the strong demand for 4x4s, leads to strong predicted residual (resale) values for the GLC. Whole-life running costs – or indeed monthly leasing costs – should therefore be competitive, as the car holds onto a greater percentage of its value than ‘mainstream’ rivals.

One word of warning, though. If you want to protect that resale value (and save yourself money upfront), go easy on the options. As with any upmarket German car, it’s easy to add thousands of pounds’ worth of extras to a new GLC. And you’ll get very little of that money back when the time comes to sell.

Mercedes GLC 5

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLC: Verdict

With worldwide SUV sales booming, it’s hard to imagine the GLC being anything less than a success. It looks good, drives well and comes with all the equipment that spoilt-for-choice buyers will expect.

Just as importantly, it wears the right badge and feels unequivocally like a premium product. No question, it’s a very desirable family car.

Does that make it the best SUV in its class? Certainly it has the edge on the ageing Audi Q5, which is due for replacement in 2016. And while the BMW X3 is more rewarding to drive, the Mercedes feels more comfortable and, yes, ‘premium’.

If you need seven seats, or want to go off-road, the Land Rover Discovery Sport remains the obvious choice in this class. If you drive mostly in the city, the hybrid petrol/electric Lexus NX is worth a look, too. And if want an SUV that genuinely handles like a sports car, it has to be the Porsche Macan.

As an all-rounder, though, the new GLC is hard to beat. Mercedes took a while bringing a medium SUV to the UK, but the GLC gets it right first time. 

Specifications: Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4Matic SE

Price: £34,950

Engine: 2.1-litre diesel

Gearbox: 9-speed automatic

Power: 170hp

Torque: 295lb ft

0-62mph: 8.3 seconds

Top speed: 130mph

Fuel economy: 56.5mpg

CO2 emissions: 129g/km

Fiat 500 review: 2015 first drive

Fiat 500 review: 2015 first drive

Fiat 500 review: 2015 first drive

Yes, honestly, this really is the new Fiat 500. No, it’s not very different to the outgoing model, but Fiat insists there are 1,800 tweaked components in it. Somewhere.

Grab your magnifying glass and we’ll take you through some of them. The 500’s ‘face’ has been tweaked (Fiat insists the 500 adopts a personality like a human…), with a new grille, lights and front bumper giving it a look similar to the bigger Fiat 500X. To the rear, the taillights have been revised, as has the bumper.

Increasingly in this sector, buyers are demanding more personalisation options – fancy colour schemes, showy stickers and the like. Just see the Vauxhall Adam and Toyota Aygo for evidence of that – as well as the bigger MINI.

So, Fiat is offering just that. Along with a couple of new colours, buyers can now opt for striking black and yellow or black and red variants as well as a number of ‘second skin’ options. These start at £140 for a pattern along the window line, going up to £780 for a pattern along the upper half of the 500.

Is all this enough to tempt the fashion-conscious buyers Fiat so badly relies on for the 500?

2015 Fiat 500: on the road

2015 Fiat 500: on the roadWe tried two engines: the 1.2-litre 69hp four-cylinder petrol, and the more potent, turbocharged 0.9-litre two-cylinder TwinAir producing 105hp.

The former has a rather old school feel to it – we’re starting to take for granted buzzy, turbocharged units in small cars such as the Fiat 500. But it’s quiet and refined, providing a fairly linear delivery of what little power it has. It perhaps lacks the fun factor of turbocharged units, but it ought to prove efficient unless you work it particularly hard.

The TwinAir engine is perhaps more suited to the Fiat 500. It’s a little less refined than the 1.2, and does get particularly vocal as the revs increase. But you soon start to accept that this is what the Fiat 500 is about – an eager two-cylinder engine that lacks refinement but makes up for it in character and tractability around town.

On the new Fiat 500’s launch route in Turin, we didn’t get the opportunity to try either at higher, motorway speeds. Fiat’s argument will be that it’s a vehicle that’s at home in the city, but increasingly people are expecting cars in this sector to be able to cruise at motorway speeds when required. Going by experience of the same engines in the previous model, we expect the TwinAir would be better suited to motorway speeds – if a little vocal.

On bumpy roads, the Fiat 500 does have a tendency to transfer harsh surfaces into the cabin. This isn’t helped by fitting fashionably large 15 and 16-inch alloys – of which, there are two new styles.

Handling is fun, particularly around town, while lower models come with a city steering button to make the steering ultra-light when required. The TwinAir 105, on the other hand, comes with a sports button to do the opposite. A little pointless on a car like this, we feel.

2015 Fiat 500: on the inside

2015 Fiat 500: on the inside

Like its predecessor, the one thing the Fiat 500 can’t be criticised for inside is its lack of character.

One of the most notable changes is the disappearance of the CD player. Instead, the new Fiat 500 now sports a new ‘Uconnect’ infotainment system with USB and auxiliary input across all models. Yet to be confirmed for the UK, higher models may come with Uconnect Live. This uses your smartphone to connect to the internet and access online services such as Tunein internet radio as well as news feeds and social networks including Twitter and Facebook.

It sounds good in theory but, as we found on our test route around the Italian city of Turin, internet radio soon loses its appeal when you can’t maintain a stable internet connection.

The interior also boasts a new steering wheel, its thin rim adding to the retro charms of the Fiat 500. Like its predecessor, a lot of attention has been paid to making the Fiat 500 feel a truly special car inside. It lacks the hard, bland plastics of many city cars (unless you look really closely), but the seats are a tad on the firm side for our tastes.

It might be a bit harsh to describe it as a case of style over substance, but practicality isn’t exactly the 500’s strong point. Only available as a three door, the rear seats would feel claustrophobic for anything but the shortest of journeys, and the 185-litre boot falls short of rivals such as the Peugeot 108 and Volkswagen Up!.

If you’re unlikely to carry many passengers and want a car that’ll make you feel good as you commute through urban streets, the Fiat 500’s interior firmly ticks that box.

Our only other complaint inside is the seemingly slack build quality. It’s a cliche to say Italian cars lack the robustness of German rivals, but our (nearly-new) test cars were already starting to display a few irritating rattles.

2015 Fiat 500: running costs

2015 Fiat 500: running costs

From launch, buyers get a choice of two engines: a 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated petrol producing 69hp and a 0.9-litre turbocharged unit available with 85 or 105hp.

The engines are the same as the outgoing model, although they were tweaked last year to meet Euro 6 regulations.

Both versions of the TwinAir unit emit less than 100g/km CO2, meaning free road tax, while the 1.2-litre emits 110g/km. An ‘eco’ version of the 1.2 is expected later in this year dropping below the 100g/km barrier, as well as a 1.3-litre diesel.

All models return over 60mpg on the combined cycle, with the 85hp TwinAir returning a very commendable 74.3mpg.

Going by these figures, and our experience of its (very, very similar) predecessor, the new Fiat 500 should be a very affordable car to run. Expect fuel consumption to dip if you’re using it for motorway journeys (only the 105hp version gets a six-speed ’box), but most buyers won’t feel the need to wait for the diesel version.

2015 Fiat 500: verdict

2015 Fiat 500: verdict

No, the Fiat 500 isn’t a lot different to the outgoing model. But the 2008 Fiat 500 has been such a success for the company, it’d be daft to change things drastically.

The updates bring it inline with competitors, offering new technology and a host of personalisation schemes – something the young buyers after this kind of car desperately want, if car manufacturers are anything to go by.

The interior might be a little fussy with some, but many will like it. Interestingly, Fiat insists it’s added a dose of masculinity to the latest 500 – making it a truly unisex car. Whether that’s worked, we’ll let you decide.

All we know is that, for traditional Fiat 500 customers, we reckon the manufacturer’s done just enough to keep them interested. The engines are nothing to shout about, although we do like the characterful TwinAir, while economy figures also stack up.

Specification: 2015 Fiat 500

Engines: 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol, 1.2-litre petrol

Prices from: £10,890

Power: 69 – 105hp

Torque: 75 – 107 lb ft (102 – 145nm)

0-62mph: 10.0 – 12.9 seconds

Top speed: 117mph

Fuel economy: 60.1 – 74.3mpg

CO2 emissions: 88 – 110g/km

Volvo S40 Polestar

Volvo buys Polestar, aims to double sales

Volvo S40 PolestarVolvo has bought the Swedish high performance car company Polestar and will now officially use it on high performance factory-built Volvo Polestar models.

Polestar and Volvo already collaborate on bespoke aftermarket performance versions of cars such as the V60 and S60: now, the brand will become a fully integrated part of future model planning.

It means Volvo now has a ready-made performance brand rival to BMW M and Mercedes-AMG.

The Geely-owned Swedish car company has bold aims for Volvo Polestar vehicles, too: it wants  to double sales in the medium term from today’s 750 cars, as well as enhancing the aftermarket Polestar performance kits already sold through Volvo dealers (it’s a ready-made alternative to BMW M Performance).

Volvo Polestar: plug-in hybrid performance

Hakan Samuelsson President CEO Volvo Car Group

Volvo Polestar aims to focus on plug-in hybrid technology to deliver interesting future performance cars, reveals the firm. Already the largest manufacturer of PHEVs in Europe, Volvo reckons its ‘twin engine’ electrification tech will create powerful performance cars that are also environmentally friendly.

The firm has also earlier revealed a 450hp 2.0-litre tri-boost engine concept that would give it a ready-made rival to the BMW M3 Saloon and M4 Coupe…

“Driving a Volvo Polestar is a special experience,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars.

“We have decided to bring this experience to more Volvo drivers, placing the full resources of Volvo behind the development of Polestar as the model name for our high performance cars.”

All Polestar employees will now become Volvo employees under the deal, completed for an undisclosed sum.

Polestar racing to continue – but be renamed

The Polestar racing team will remain under founder Christian Dahl’s creation – and it will be renamed.

“We are extremely satisfied with the way the performance business with Volvo has developed,” said Dahl.

“But we are a racing team first and foremost. This is an opportunity to return our full attention to our core business – to develop and race Volvo cars.”

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@JeremyClarkson via Twitter

Clarkson drives last ever lap of Top Gear test track

@JeremyClarkson via TwitterJeremy Clarkson has driven his last ever lap of the Top Gear test track after raising over £100,000 for charity to do it.

But the question is, which car did he do it in?

The former Top Gear presenter posted a picture to his 5.3 million followers on Twitter, of him standing next to three supercars and asking which he should do it in.

The three choices were:

  • Mercedes-AMG GT
  • LaFerrari
  • Ferrari 488 GTB

More than 11,000 retweets and 26,000 favourites later, the debate still rages on.

Clarkson has yet to reveal which car he actually chose, but did report after the drive that he was a “bit sad leaving the place for the final time”.

There were two good things about the last lap though, he added: “It raised a load of cash for a good cause.

“And I did the mother****** of all tail slides through Chicago.”

Racing driver Marino Franchitti and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason were also there, it was later revealed: Clarkson also drove them around the Top Gear test track before undertaking his final lap.

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2016 Ford Shelby GT350R 3D printed

Fancy a new Ford? Now you can print your own

2016 Ford Shelby GT350R 3D printed

How would you like to get your hands on the all-new Ford GT before anyone else? Or the Ford F-150 Raptor, as driven by Jeremy Clarkson as he slowly made his way to rescue a stricken Richard Hammond in Canada. How about the 2016 Focus RS, to see if it has what it takes to beat the new Honda Civic Type-R?

Well Ford has the answer. Of sorts.

Ford uses 3D printing for prototyping new parts and is using the technology to produce scale models of its most popular vehicles. And who doesn’t love a scale model?

By visiting 3d.ford.com, you can order one of six model Fords, including the world’s best hot hatch – the Fiesta ST, along with the Focus ST, Focus RS, F-150 Raptor, Shelby GT 350R and GT. The cost of each pre-printed model is $39 (£25), although if you happen to have a 3D printer of your own, you can download a .STL file for $4.99 (£3.20) and print it yourself.

The models are made from single-colour blue PLA/ABS plastic, with the exception of the Ford GT, which is made from limited edition full-colour sandstone. It comes with a unique Forza Motorsport 6 presentation box and a weightier price tag. At $230 (£148), this is one for the enthusiasts.

Ford GT 3D printed

For now, only six cars are available, but more cars will be available in the future. How about some classic Fords? We’d very much like a 3D printed model of the Ford Capri RS3100, Escort Mexico and GT40. Although there’s currently no option to order a 1/32 scale model of such legends, there is a wider range of files available.

On the same website, Ford is showcasing its range of 3D models available for use in animation, visual effects and video games. Many cars from Ford’s back catalogue are available, including the MK1 Transit, RS200 and Probe. Warning: you could easily lose an hour searching through the list of cars.

Is this is a glimpse into the future of car production? In years to come, you could be ordering your own 3D printed family car and driving it to work.