Hyundai Tucson 2015

Hyundai Tucson review: 2015 UK first drive

Hyundai Tucson 2015Around a decade ago, Hyundai launched a compact SUV in the UK called the Tucson. Then came the freshly designed and European built ix35 in 2009 which took away the Tucson name, and sold as many cars in its first year as that original Tucson sold in its entire UK lifespan.

Now, things have come full circle, as Hyundai returns the Tucson name to its C-Segment SUV.

In the six years between this all-new car and its namesake, the C-SUV market has become hugely important, with the ix35 moving itself to being Hyundai’s second best-seller in the UK. Which means nailing the product in this sector is vital for Hyundai’s future plans.

The result is a handsome new Tucson that is very much on trend, with a bluff chrome-covered nose, sharply creased and sculpted sides, and a roofline that curves towards the rear. Extra features such as asymmetric wheel arches, distinctive LED daytime running lights, and twin exhaust tailpipes, means the new Tucson has real visual impact.

There’s also thoughtfulness in the design, such as the lower section of the tailgate being made of plastic so it’s cheaper to replace in the event of an accident. The new car features 51% high strength steel, boosting crash protection and refinement over the departing ix35.

Prices begin at £18,695 for the entry-level S trim car with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, climbing to £32,345 for the top-spec Premium SE 4WD 2.0-litre diesel with 182hp.

The expected best-selling 2WD 1.7-litre diesel SE Nav rolls in at £22,795, undercutting a similarly equipped Nissan Qashqai by £650.

2015 Hyundai Tucson: On the road

Hyundai Tucson 2015

Most of our time on test was spent in the range-topping 182hp 2.0-litre diesel 4WD model, mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. With 295lb-ft of torque it has the most twist of the Tucson range, yet never felt truly capable of the claimed 9.5 seconds 0-62mph time. The engine is at least refined, and the gearshifts smooth if slightly slow.

We also experienced the 1.6-litre T-GDI turbocharged petrol engine, fitted with the seven-speed DCT dual-clutch transmission. With 175bhp, and a kerb weight some 80kg less than the big diesel, the turbo petrol feels more capable of hitting 0-62mph in the 9.1 seconds. It’s no GTI, but offers decent cross-country progress.

Automatic versions do feature a Sport mode, although this seemed to make little difference to overall driving beyond encouraging the gearbox to cling onto a gear for slightly longer. 

Hyundai Tucson 2015

Ride quality is generally good, and whilst the bigger 19-inch wheels fitted to top-spec cars do make you aware of bumps and potholes in the road, the Tucson does an impressive job of isolating you from them.

Body control is also impressive – there’s no sense of the Tucson being a wallowing SUV – with a crisp turn-in to corners. Steering feel is lacking, but Hyundai is hardly pitching the Tucson as sports car, and it doesn’t detract from the ability to place the car accurately on twisty roads. Braking is strong and progressive, without being overly aggressive in initial bite.

Hyundai’s launch route included the use of gravelled forestry tracks to demonstrate the Tucson’s SUV credentials. While most buyers will never venture further off-road than parking on a kerb, the Tucson does offer some ability away from tarmac.

In 4WD models 100% of the torque is sent to the front wheels until they lose traction, after which up to 50% can be sent to the rear axle. There’s also the option to lock the torque split at 50/50 at speeds below 25mph. On the loose gravel surfaces the Tucson maintained the same confident composure as on tarmac, with the 4WD system subtly transferring torque to keep things moving.

2015 Hyundai Tucson: On the inside

Hyundai Tucson 2015

Whilst the preceding ix35 was never praised for its interior, Hyundai has made a leap forward with the new Tucson. Everything is set out clearly and logically, with most functions controlled through the 8-inch touchscreen.

While it’s an obvious improvement in quality, with the Tucson covering such a wide price range, what feels acceptable at £18,000 might not be so well received at £32,000. Hyundai is targeting BMW and Audi customers with the premium Tucson models and whilst the interior certainly doesn’t feel cheap, some buyers might view it as a compromise.

However, the payoff is a standard specification far more substantial than the equivalent German-brand car. DAB radio is standard across the range, along with USB / AUX inputs, Bluetooth connectivity and air conditioning. Moving up the range, SE grade adds rear parking sensors, climate control, heated front seats, and cruise control over the standard ‘S’ specification.

Premium adds more toys in the shape of auto wipers and lights, privacy glass, leather seats and a blind spot warning system. SE Nav, unsurprisingly, adds satellite navigation that features TomTom Live updates, but also includes a useful reversing camera.

Go all out on the Premium SE model, and you’ll benefit from ventilated front seats, a huge panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, heated steering wheel, and an electronically assisted tailgate. This flagship trim level may be expensive, but there is almost nothing extra you could ask for in terms of technology.

Interior room is decent and boot space is above average for the class, with 513 litres with the seats up, expanding to 1,503 litres when the seats are folded. A full-size spare tyre reduces things by 25 litres but we can attest that it’s worth having, after picking up a puncture from a gravelled forestry road.

2015 Hyundai Tucson: Running costs

Hyundai Tucson 2015

The expected best-selling 2WD 1.7-litre CRDi diesel engine features an official combined fuel economy of 61.7mpg, and 119 g/km of CO2.

Depending on the gearbox, drivetrain and horsepower flavour chosen, the 2.0-litre diesel will officially return between 43.5 and 58.9mpg. For reference, we experienced the 185hp version with 4WD and six-speed automatic gearbox, seeing an average of 36mpg.

At the other end of the scale, the 1.6-litre T-GDI turbo petrol with DCT gearbox and 4WD system maintained a steady 28mpg when tested, compared to a claimed 37.7mpg official combined figure. CO2 emissions are high at 175g/km, with the accompanying VED penalty.

The 2WD – and manual gearbox only – naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine offers up a 44.8mpg average.

Hyundai is proud of the predicted residual values, which are set to offer a 9 – 15% improvement over the outgoing ix35, dependent on trim level. After three years/60,000 miles buyers should see their Tucson holding 42% of its original value. It’s should help Hyundai offer attractive PCP deals to entice customers in, along with the standard five-year/unlimited mileage warranty.

Verdict: 2015 Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai Tucson 2015

The all-new Tucson is a thoroughly competent C-segment SUV, and one that makes a strong case for itself in the UK. While there is no one particular stand out feature, the Tucson manages to do a number of things well to produce an effective overall package.

Up against competitors such as the Nissan Qashqai, Mazda CX-5 and Ford Kuga the Tucson is a real contender and one not to be overlooked by potential buyers. Taking on the likes of Audi and BMW at the top of the Tucson range is another battle, and one where customers may need more persuading to avert their badge snobbery.

But, in much the same way Aldi and Lidl have quietly taken the fight to established supermarkets by offering the squeezed middle-classes better value for money, there’s no reason why Hyundai cannot do the same with the Tucson in the SUV market.

Specification: 2015 Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai Tucson 2015

Engines: 1.6, 1.6 turbo 4-cylinder petrol; 1.7 and 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel

Gearbox: Six-speed manual and six/seven speed automatic; 2WD or 4WD

Prices from: £18,695

Power: 114hp – 182hp

Torque: 119 – 295lb ft

0-62mph: 9.1 – 13.7 seconds

Top speed: 109 – 125mph

Fuel economy: 37.2 – 61.7mpg

CO2 emissions: 119 – 177g/km

Volkswagen Phaeton

New Volkswagen Phaeton is ready – but it's too expensive to build

Volkswagen PhaetonVolkswagen has reportedly finished developing the all-new Phaeton luxury saloon – but is delaying its launch while it works out how to make it cheaper to build.

Bloomberg reports the car is being reworked to lower production and material costs for the hand-built Mercedes-Benz S-Class rival.

The original, launched back in 2002, has been in decline for years. Last year, Volkswagen sold just 4,000 units: Mercedes-Benz sold 100,000 S-Class.

A pet project of Ferdinand Piech, the Phaeton famously offered 186mph motoring in 50deg C heat while maintaining a stable 22deg C cabin temperature.

The new one is likely to push further engineering boundaries – but now Piech has departed Volkswagen, it seems some of his ultra-high targets for the new Phaeton may now be under review.

“There is always the element of the Phaeton being the answer to a question no one ever asked,” said Tim Urquhart, market researcher at IHS Automotive, told Bloomberg.

“It is surprising VW is sticking with model, he said. Given Volkswagen’s renewed focus on saving costs, “it is even more lucky to survive.”

Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo teaser

Hyundai N performance brand to launch at Frankfurt 2015

Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo teaserHyundai N, the firm’s performance sub-brand rival to Nissan Nismo and SEAT Cupra, will make its world debut at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show next month – on a radical supercar concept.

The brand will feature on a concept created for the Gran Turismo franchise, called Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo: yes, Hyundai’s using its opportunity of becoming the latest maker to roll out a Gran Turismo ‘vision’ car as the chance to launch its new performance car division.

The extra publicity from the younger audience it’s targeted with appealing to thus comes for free. Clever Hyundai.

Hyundai will also show a mid-engine concept car called RM15 that will show “how the Hyundai N driver-focused technologies could come into production”.

Hyundai RM15 concept

Curiously, this appears to be a mid-engined version of the Hyundai Veloster, a car that’s long since been withdrawn from the UK due to slow sales. Could Hyundai possibly be planning a Renault Clio V6-style low-volume special..?

We also wonder if the 300hp 2.0-litre engine it uses is a preview to the motor we’ll perhaps see in a Hyundai i30 N hot hatch rival to the Honda Civic Type-R.

N “capitalises on Hyundai Motor’s fast-growing strength and signifies the pace of change within the brand,” says the firm.

It’s all about “matching the company’s ambition to challenge perceptions by making real and emotional connections with customers”.

All will be revealed about Hyundai’s first-ever performance sub-brand at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show on 15 September.

Google patents GPS system to help you avoid potholes

Google patents GPS system to help you avoid potholes

Google patents GPS system to help you avoid potholes

Google has patented a system that will let your sat nav warn you of bumpy roads using sensors fitted to other vehicles.

The GPS system will monitor vibrations inside cars to work out how bumpy a road is and pinpoint where potholes are.

This will then let you choose an alternative, smoother route avoiding the most potholed roads.

The data is also likely to be passed onto Google’s own self-driving cars to provide a more comfortable ride for their passengers.

The company already uses GPS data from phones running Google Maps to monitor traffic conditions and provide routes which avoid jams.

A similar system is already in the pipeline from Jaguar Land Rover. This uses sensors to profile the road’s surface and adjust the car’s dampers in preparation for hitting a pothole.

This information can also be shared between cars fitted with this system – and JLR is also working on using it to report deteriorating road surfaces with local councils.

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds

Cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds

Car insurance is getting cheaper, according to a new report, but finding the cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds is far from easy.

Yes, the new ‘black box’ technology can hep reduce premiums, but buying the right car in the first place makes all the difference.

The cheapest cars for teenage drivers aren’t necessarily the ones they want to drive, but not everyone can afford the best new small cars, so we’ve listed the 15 cheapest cars to insure for young male and female drivers.

This is based on customers aged 17-18 who quoted on Confused.com.

We’ve only listed cars valued between £600 and £10,000 to prevent the average premium being skewed by extremely cheap or expensive cars.

The average used is the median and we’ve only included cars which at least 1,000 customers have quoted for, so your own quotes may be lower or higher than the figures here depending on your individual circumstances.

The older you are the less your insurance will be, and factors such as being married can help reduce your premium.

20: Citroen C3 – average premium: £2,275

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Citroen C3

The 20th cheapest car to insure is the Citroen C3. Of more than 2,000 people aged 17 – 18 who applied for a quote on the Confused.com website, the average customer paid a premium of £2,275

19: Citroen C2 – average premium: £2,269

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Citroen C2

The Citroen C3’s sportier three-door sibling, the Citroen C2, costs 50p a month less to insure than the C3. Go on, treat yourself.

18: Nissan Micra – average premium: £2,266

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Nissan Micra

The Nissan Micra is more of a car teenagers’ mums would be proud to see in, but if they can spare their blushes, it will cost them £2266 a year to insure.

17: Suzuki Swift – average premium: £2,238

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Suzuki Swift

The Suzuki Swift is the superbike of the supermini sector: revvy engines, lightweight build and loads of thrills. Let’s hope insurers don’t find out what a blast it is, and push up premium prices.

16: Fiat Seicento – average premium: £2,230

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Fiat Seicento

The Fiat Seicento is now very old and, according to period crash safety tests, far from safe. It’s cheap to insure but is the risk worth it?

15: Daewoo Matiz – average premium: £2,233

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Daewoo Matiz

The Daewoo Matiz isn’t as aged at the Fiat Seicento, but it’s still far from new. even at £2,233 a month, insurance will still cost thousands more than the car.

14: Volkswagen Beetle – average premium: £2,222

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Volkswagen Beetle

The retro Volkswagen Beetle bring a funky interior and Volkswagen-grade integrity without costing a fortune to insure. And if retro isn’t quite cool enough…

13: Rover Mini – average premium: £2,163

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Rover Mini

… The Rover Mini offers genuine old-school style as even models built in the late 1990s dated back to the 50s! Maybe not as cheap to insure as you’d think though, as we’ll see.

12: Hyundai i10 – average premium: £2,141

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Hyundai i10

The boxy Hyundai i10 is no looker but it’s a cheap, reliable motor that doesn’t cost much to insure.

11: MINI One – average premium: £2,101

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: MINI One

How about this – the modern MINI One costs over £50 a year less to insure than the real thing! As it’s bigger, more comfortable, faster, greener, more reliable and easier to drive, maybe it’s the more tempting option for 17-18 year olds?

10: Vauxhall Adam – average premium: £2,089

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Vauxhall Adam

The brand new Vauxhall Adam is cheaper than any other Vauxhall to insure for a year – yes, even baggy old Corsas.

9: SEAT Arosa – average premium: £2,070

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: SEAT Arosa

The SEAT Arosa is a bit of a forgotten citycar these days, but if you can find one, you can be confident it won’t cost a fortune to insure.

8: Suzuki Alto – average premium: £2,018

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Suzuki Alto

Like the Hyundai i10, the Suzuki Alto isn’t very cool but is very reliable – and is pretty cheap to insure too.

7: Kia Picanto – average premium: £2,001

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Kia Picanto

The last car costing more than £2,000 a year for 17-18 year olds to insure is the Kia Picanto. Teens may prefer the second generation one above though, rather than the boxy original.

6: Fiat 500 – average premium: £1,985

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Fiat 500

Dropping in under £2,000 a year to insure for 17-18 year olds, the Fiat 500 is another retro recreation that couldn’t be cooler. See, teenagers, you can argue a case for it to mum and dad!

5: Toyota Aygo – average premium: £1,883

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Toyota Aygo

Mum and dad may prefer to get you a reliable, trustworthy Toyota. No bad thing, even if the second generation car pictured above is far cooler than the slightly anonymous original.

4: Ford Ka – average premium: £1,858

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Ford Ka

The first generation Ford Ka used to be everywhere, but rust is quickly withering them. The second generation car, pictured above, isn’t anywhere near as good, although it is cheap to insure.

3: Citroen C1 – average premium: £1,750

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Citroen C1

Fancy a Citroen C1? It’s a safe bet for insurance, coming in at £1,750 for 17-18 year olds. Come on, Foxes, it’s not that bad a choice!

2: Peugeot 107 – average premium: £1,722

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Peugeot 107

Peugeot obviously attracts safer and more sensible 17-18 year olds: it’s otherwise identical to the Citroen C1, but costs just a fraction less each year to insure.

1: Volkswagen Up – average premium: £1,654

The cheapest cars to insure for 17-18 year olds: Volkswagen Up

You need to go Up to put your insurance costs down: the cheapest car for 17-18 year olds to insure by far is Volkswagen’s smallest citycar. That the VW Up is so good to drive, so safe and so smartly engineered is all further icing on the cake.

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Superformance GT40

Superformance GT40 review: 2015 first drive

Superformance GT40

Superformance GT40

Superformance GT40: Overview 

Forty-nine years ago Ford achieved the impossible: beating Ferrari in the Le Mans 24-Hour race. The Italian team had been dominant for the previous six years and the Americans desperately wanted to give them a spanking. The car that did the job in 1966 – and for the following three years – was the GT40.

From the mid to late 1960s just over 100 Ford GT40s were built. Today they sell at auction for in excess of £3 million, so if you want one, well, your pockets need to be very deep indeed. For years its been possible to buy replicas, some built up from a kit of parts in your own garage, others sold as finished cars. Most are million miles from the genuine article, and everyone knows it.

B_Superformance_GT40

In the world of historic cars, though, this swathe of replicas is topped off by the Continuation Model, cars so true to the original that they are granted chassis numbers that run on from the older original. Jaguar has just released five new lightweight E-Types like this. Superformance is licensed to build continuation GT40s in the same way.

These cars are so true to the original that it is said more than 90% of the parts are interchangeable with the original 1960s Ford. Built in South Africa, you can own one today for a mere £120,000 – half the price of a latest Ferrari 488 GTB. Your Ford will have a pounding V8 just like the original, but will be (slightly) sanitised for road use. There’s history here. Ford built seven Mark 3 GT40s as road cars, complete with luggage space, back in the day.

C_Superformance_GT40Superformance GT40: On the road 

You have options: 342, 402 or 427 cubic inches, which translates to 5.6 to 7.0 litres engine capacity, and power ranging from 405hp to 560hp. As the originals had ‘just’ 380hp, that’s a good start.

We’d better touch on the transmission before going any further, too. If you wish, there’s a five-speed ZF box, with the gear lever mounted in the door sill. That’s good for originality but makes it a bit tiresome getting in and out, so you can opt for a centre-mount stick instead. There’s also the option of a British-built Quaife gearbox that’s much more modern and easier to shift.

Even with the Quaife box, though, there’s a learning process before the changes become quick and smooth. This GT40 doesn’t make concessions the way a modern supercar does. You need to be wearing the right shoes and get the cockpit adjusted for you when you take delivery. Only then can you maximise your chance of getting on top of this machine.

D_Superformance_GT40

When you do, oh goodness, the Superformance GT40 is something else. The V8 first growls, then simply hollers from inches behind your kidneys. The noise is such that it feels like you’ve hit the speed limit even in first gear. Then, patiently at first, depress the meaty clutch pedal and select second thorough the dog-leg gearchange, and carry on punching towards the horizon.

Driving this GT40 is an enthralling experience, one that’s helped by a surprisingly compliant ride that deals readily with bumps without, as we rather expected, throwing the car off-course on bumps. There’s no power steering or power brakes, but the former lightens quickly with a bit of forward motion and the brakes are never a problem. The GT40 grips well, too – although it will be a brave driver who explores the limits.

E_Superformance_GT40Superformance GT40: On the inside 

Crank open the driver’s door via the neat, recessed aluminium handle, drop over the broad sill into the period seats and then, AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, duck your head as your swing the door shut. Just like the original, the Superformance GT40 has a door line that extends nearly to the centre of the roof. Without the head nod, you’ll scalp yourself. But only once, we’d suggest.

With the pedal and seat properly preadjusted, this is a snug cockpit that offers a surprising degree of comfort. ‘Surprising’ in that you probably think it will be desperate but it’s actually OK. And from someone who has passengered in a classic Ford GT40, there’s one major advantage with the Superformance machine: air conditioning. It may not be full climate control but believe me, when that cool air wafts over your face and lower body, the GT40 experience instantly moves up several levels in creature comfort.

F_Superformance_GT40

It’s far from pretty inside, for the dashboard is a facsimile of the original car, which means a bank of Smiths instruments and plenty of rugged panelling. There are tiny openings in the plastic side windows, that you’ll just get an arm through to take a toll ticket, and also a helicopter-type fresh air vent. Crude, yet effective.

What you don’t get is luggage space. Not any. Well, not unless you are prepared to stuff a soft bag in the front of the long passenger footwell and another – and here we are talking about pushing the limits of probability – under the passengers arm along the door sill. Still, Ford’s 2006 GT40 recreation, the Ford GT, was no better.

G_Superformance_GT40Superformance GT40: Running costs 

OK, we are not talking about efficiencies that approach those you got from a supercar even 30 years ago. Here we have a major league American Ford V8 engine that’s been tuned with horsepower in mind. True, the Superformance GT40 does have a catalytic converter in a nod towards todays legislation, but – shock – owners have been known to remove these between the annual MOT tests.

The UK Importer, Le Mans Coupes Ltd, based near Gatwick, does offer a GT40 with a modern Ford Boss Mustang engine if you fancy that sort of thing, but it’s not really in the spirit of the whole idea.

H_Superformance_GT40Superformance GT40: Verdict 

The Superformance GT40 is a thoroughly well-engineered recreation of an all-time classic. It’s impossible not to admire the way this car has been developed and brought to fruition.

It’s also hard to see how it’s built for the price. Sure, you’ll get a properly finished Porsche 911 for this money, but this GT40 is hand-built and such a rarity that you can forgive the rather basic interior for your little part of history.

Thanks to Le Mans Coupes Ltd

Specification: Superformance GT40

Engine: 5.6-litre V8 petrol

Gearbox: 5-speed manual

Power: 430hp

0-62mph: 4.0 secs (est.)

Top speed: 180mph (est.)

CO2: 338g/km

 

Triumph TR7

40 years of the Triumph TR7: the story of Britain’s forgotten sports car

Triumph TR7Forty years ago, Triumph broke with tradition and launched its wedge-shaped TR7 sports cars. The advert claimed it was ‘The shape of things to come’, and from some angles it even looked like it.

Nose on from above, for example, when you’d see a sleek, steeply-raked bonnet and pop-up (sometimes) headlights. Or from the side, provided you could only see the front half of the car, its gently flared wings, dipping bonnet-line and neatly integrated black impact bumper – a novelty in the mid ‘70s – promising, well, the shape of things to come.

So, what about the rear half? That was the shocking bit. There was so much to take in, too, from the abruptly cut roof and its sharply plunging, flat-paned rear window to the clumsily protuberant rear bumper, plus a curious crease line that arced from behind the front wheels to the tip of the rear wing.

Triumph TR7

Legend has it that designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, then entering the zenith of his career, said ‘My God! They’ve done the same to the other side as well’ when he first saw the TR7 at a motor show.

Today, you can buy a TR7 from around £2,000 – a fraction of the cost of its more traditional predecessors. Perhaps its time as a prized classic will come, but life has never been easy for the TR7…

Journos: startled and confused

Triumph TR7

The TR7 wasn’t only criticised for its startling style. UK motoring journos asked why it wasn’t mid-engined like the Fiat X1/9, Porsche 914, Lancia Monte Carlo Spider and any number of supercars, especially when British Leyland was known to have been working on a mid-engined MG sports car.

Instead, this new TR was merely a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive machine, and more than that, its rear axle was of the cheapskate live variety rather than independent.

But most controversial of all was the fact that this sports car’s roof was steel and firmly welded shut. Weren’t sports cars supposed to be about feeling the summer breeze and seeing the sky above your head?

This, the lack of a six cylinder motor and the TR7’s wedgy contrast to the masculine, brick-like TRs that had gone before added up to a package that was even more controversial than the equally wedged Leyland 18-22 Series (soon to become the Princess) revealed at much the same time – and the Allegro that had lurched onto our roads two years earlier.

Bullet tipped

Triumph TR7
However, quite a bit of thought had gone into the Bullet project, as the TR7 was codenamed. Two top British Leyland engineers had travelled to the United States – by far the biggest market for Triumph and MG sports cars – to sound out a range of experts on how the Triumph TR6 should be replaced.

Almost all of them said that mechanical simplicity was essential – they didn’t want the independent rear suspension of the TR6, they wanted a simple four cylinder engine and they certainly didn’t want an exotic and difficult-to-repair mid-engined layout.

So Bullet got all of these things, and a fixed roof, because it looked like the US government was going to legislate convertibles out of existence for safety reasons.

And while it had that live axle, it was well-located with four links. This and long suspension travel provided the car with ride and handling far more sophisticated than any previous TR had managed.

Triumph TR7

But Bullet wasn’t necessarily going to be an adventurous wedge-shaped car at this point, British Leyland’s management and boss Sir Donald Stokes had yet to decide on design proposals coming from Triumph and from the Austin Morris design department.

Austin Morris was involved because BL also had the problem of replacing the MGB, although the sports car and its GT coupe stablemate were still setting sales records in the US.

But with BL as cash-poor as a gambling addict, there were thoughts of badging Bullet either as an MG, a Triumph, or with minor modifications (that would probably be badges, then) both.

A new TR was the priority though, and Triumph put forward a model based on earlier work by Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti, who had produced several very successful models for the company, the Herald, Spitfire, GT6 and TR4 among them.

TR7: a clean-sheet design

Triumph TR7

Austin Morris design boss Harris Mann, on the other hand, had the ideal clean sheet of paper and set about creating a more dramatic sports car with American tastes in mind. The decidedly rakish angle of his car’s windscreen was designed to allow the driver to see America’s overhanging traffic lights, for example.

The result was as arresting as a giraffe in a shopping mall, his startling slice of wedge worthy of a blister-packed Hot Wheels toy.

And it was Mann’s design that won the styling model face-off, with only a handful of management attendees voting for the more old-fashioned Triumph proposal. But Triumph’s engineering team did at least get the job of developing the car, and providing the so-called ‘slant four’ engine that enabled Mann’s steeply-sloped bonnet to emerge in production.

Triumph TR7

What didn’t make it were Mann’s hidden door handles and his neat flip-up headlamp covers, the engineering department forcing a shape that was distressingly close to a pair of toilet lids. At least they were body colour, until the paint began to peel off their top surfaces.

Not that this was the most serious of the early TR7’s deficiencies. “Unfortunately the (styling) buck was the only TR7 where the panels fitted and the wheels filled the wheel arches,” reckoned one of BL’s senior US managers. And he was not wrong.

The Speke factor

Triumph TR7

The TR7 was to be produced at BL’s Speke plant in Liverpool, a factory notorious for an unruly, strike-prone workforce that had transferred to the assembly line many of the skills they’d learned from the docks they were recruited from. Among these were gold-standard pilfering, and a lack of cooperation as shocking as the TR7’s style.

There were workers who wanted to work, but their efforts were undermined by the political militants, whose rebelliousness was fired by the presence of the Workers Revolutionary Party and the International Socialists, few of whom actually worked at the plant.

All of which meant that the TR7 was shoddily built and often not built at all, so frequent were the strikes. Not all the faults were introduced by its assemblers, however. Inaccurate body tooling ensured that the doors were too big for their apertures, for instance.

Rain often prompted one or both of the car’s headlights to go on strike, like their assemblers, and on some cars an emergency stop would have the screen popping out, its advanced, heat-bonded seal failing to stick.

Successful launch against the odds

Triumph TR7

Despite all this, dogged work by BL’s US team (who cobbled together a barely acceptable bunch of press demonstrators by cannibalising some cars) meant the TR7’s 1975 American launch was a success.

Poor brakes and a vibratory engine were criticised, and many found the styling less than beautiful, but they welcomed a car that looked refreshingly radical and loved the comfort of its exceptionally well-designed interior.

It was quite keenly priced, it rode and handled well, delivered adequate performance and was far more civilised than any British sports car that had come before. And Americans were already migrating to coupes from convertibles, encouraged by the earlier arrival of the highly desirable Datsun 240Z.

Europe did not see the TR7 until 1976, the priority being the US. And just two years later the car’s career looked like it might be all over, thanks to a five-week strike that began on the day BL’s new South African boss Michael Edwardes arrived, tasked with sorting government-owned British Leyland out.

Some early sorting saw the shutting of the section of Speke factory that made the TR7.

But, despite the fact that the car itself had made no money – and that even Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, to whom Edwardes was ultimately answerable, reckoned it should be killed off – the car was transferred to Triumph’s Coventry plant.

The TR7 survives

Triumph TR7

Over 200 improvements were made in the process, most of them aimed at fixing poor quality – although the doors still didn’t quite fit – and the TR7 briefly entered a more stable period.

Highlights were the arrival of a convertible, which rid it of the turret-top roof that many hated, and for the US, the impressive V8-powered TR8. Convertible-killing legislation never came to the US, and the drop-top TR7 turned out to be a pretty agreeable machine.

More upheaval was to come – literally – with the closure of Triumph’s Canley plant, which saw TR7 production moved once again, this time to Rover’s Solihull factory. With the move came another mild quality upgrade, and plans to introduce the TR8 in Europe.

Unfortunately, by now the TR7’s sales trajectory was much the same as the sinking crease lines on its flanks, and it would not be long before its viability was called into question.

That saw the European TR8 programme cancelled, and by 1981 the plug was pulled on the whole project in spite several attempts, one of them a risible MG rebranding, to save the car.

The TR7 dies (and so does Triumph)

Born 40 years ago, the last TR7 was built on October 5th 1981, ending the long and (mostly) successful career of TR sports cars and in truth of Triumph too. The Acclaim saloon launched at much the same moment was little more than a rebadged Honda.

With a tumultuous history like that, and styling that still startles for many of the wrong reasons, it’s easy to view the TR7 as a total failure.

In profit terms it almost certainly was, but the 7 turned out to be the most produced of all the TRs, scoring 112,368 sales during its six turbulent years.

Triumph TR7 Project Lynx

Had it been better made that number could easily have been higher, enabling the fulfilment of a development programme that also included the Lynx 2+2 coupe (pictured above) and a 16-valve model besides.

But like so many British Leyland stories, this is another one peppered with wistful what-ifs.

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Aston Martin DB9 GT 2015

Aston Martin DB9 GT review: 2015 first drive

Aston Martin DB9 GT 2015Meet the final hurrah for the longest-running modern-era Aston Martin still on sale. Aston Martin is about to enter a new modern era, you see, and this car’s replacement – 2016’s DB11 – will see the firm embark on an ambitious future with multiple new models, all-new architectures (and more than a little Mercedes-AMG tech for good measure).

The company has a lot to thank the DB9 for, though. It signalled the arrival of the ultra-pro Aston Martin fit for Bond and proved to be an ever-desirable lynchpin around which the firm regularly sold more cars than ever before. Thousands of new ones have been delivered each year since its launch back in 2003 and, like Reggie Perrin’s boss CJ, Aston didn’t get where it is today without the DB9.

How fitting for this new Aston Martin DB9 GT to be the most powerful iteration of the car yet, then: 547hp from the 5.9-litre V12 (that’s a 30hp boost), produced at a howling 6,500rpm, albeit no boost to a more meek 457lb ft of torque that you have to wait until 5,500rpm to experience. It’s a tiny bit faster, with 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds (just 0.1s faster than standard) and a 183mph top speed, although speed isn’t why this engine has been uprated. Simply, it’s the last, so it has to be the best.

It doesn’t look that much different either, to be honest. Aston Martin’s got plenty of other things to be doing than be spending time unnecessarily adding fripperies to a still-beguiling design. So we’ve just got black-painted front splitter and rear diffuser, tweaked lights front and rear plus a beautiful set of 10-spoke 20-inch alloys. Black anodised brake calipers and a GT-branded metal fuel filler round exterior tweaks out (unless you choose the special Scintilla Silver AML paint, mind: until this, that’s not been offered on the DB9).

Inside, there’s special fluted leather with a GT-branded head restraint, fancy Iridium trim pack and the option of Copper Cuprium leather. Think metallic copper-painted leather (or, don’t: this frankly sounds far worse than it actually is).

All routine stuff then, with no changes to the suspension or setup that would alter how the DB9 GT drives: again, they probably haven’t got time for that. Or could it be that this definitive DB9 has already been honed to perfection and doesn’t need any further tweaking – is it the best DB9 ever built? We put the £140,000 car to the test.

2015 Aston Martin DB9 GT: on the road

Aston Martin DB9 GT 2015

Driving the DB9 GT is like meeting an old best friend you haven’t seen for a while: you quickly rediscover why you got on so well and all the satisfaction quickly comes flooding back. The DB9 has always been a good GT car and, in 2012, became a truly great one. The DB9 GT fittingly rounds things off beautifully.

It’s a sensation overload. Everything is so wonderfully organic. The firm seats, engine woofle, utterly slack-free, gloop-free, EPAS-free steering, precision syringe-like accelerator pedal travel, even the intricately measured brakes that give you the sensation of clasping the carbon ceramics with calipers by fingertips; everything is old school in a good way – the stuff that a real GT car should do, done sublimely.

It doesn’t drive any differently to the spot-on, then-five-star 2012 DB9 that so revived the model when the short-lived Aston Martin Virage died (and donated its front end to the DB9). Marvel at how a 4.7 metre-long, 1,860kg car conceals the weight of its big V12 up front so well with intricately-measured responses and agility; smile at the natural squirm and variations in weighting sent to your fingertips through the steering (most of which is filtered out by modern electronic systems).

Aston Martin DB9 GT 2015

It’s a big, wide car but isn’t daunting because you don’t have to question or doubt anything it does. The rear transaxle gives it a sense of satisfyingly rear-biased weight distribution (it’s 51% at the back but it feels more than that), and a limited-slip differential helps you dial it up in confidence, particularly if you sport-mode the DSC and turn on the firmer adaptive damping setting.

The engine has more power too, although most of the time you’re unaware of it as it doesn’t have any more torque. So it still feels slower and less responsive than you’d expect a big V12 to – dare we call it flat at real-world revs before the six-speed auto or yourself downshifts three or four (yes, that many) gears? Peak torque is 5,500rpm around the reverse-sweep tacho, and feels it.

But work it harder than you’d ever imagine you’d have to, and it’s fittingly fast. Not like the missile more modern rivals are – machines such as the Ferrari F12 have redefined what’s fast these days – but pleasingly potent and enough to ensure you’re not embarrassed on the odd AMOC track day or continental cruise. Most won’t care how fast you are, they’ll be listening to you instead. Can you make sure your new-era cars sound this good, Aston?

2015 Aston Martin DB9 GT: on the inside

Aston Martin DB9 GT 2015

The cabin is of course very familiar. We’ve been living with this look for 12 years now, and it’s featured in every single Aston Martin launched since the DB9 rolled out. Spidery dials, arching centre console with its rotating pop-up screen, 1970s Jaguar XJ-S-style fly-off handbrake to the right, Ford PAG-era minor switchgear: you barely need to reacquaint yourself, so well will Aston fans know it all.

What’s striking about the DB9 GT is the truly wonderful fluted leather seats and, in the test car, the awful-sounding but, to these eyes at least, actually rather intriguing bronze metallic contemporary leather, offset by the DB9 GT’s iridium trim pack. It certainly looks striking and, if noting else, will provide a talking point at AMOC festivals in 30 years’ time. The Alcantara steering wheel probably won’t fare so well, though: leather would be preferable in a special like this.

The interior retains its more airy, light and open-plan feel compared to the Aston Martin Vantage – that raked-back GT-style rear window lets in a lot of light – and even the fact you seem to sit a bit high, giving a slightly lofty-feeling view out, feels fitting in this car.

Aston Martin DB9 GT 2015

Needless to say, it’s beautifully assembled and feels brilliantly hand-crafted (they don’t quite get the recognition they ought, but they do the bespoke-build thing very well indeed at Gaydon). Of course, you can ring the ways it’s showing its age – some wind rustle around the windows at speed, no driver information screen in the dials and so on – but all that’s to be expected in a runout special. In terms of this architecture, this is as good as it gets, and it duly feels lovely.

And even though the infotainment system is hardly cutting edge, and still bygone-era in its smallish display, tortuous controls and lack of touchscreen, Aston has still added a bit of tinsel for the DB9 GT. Now dubbed AMi II, it gets SMS smartphone integration, neat vehicle status displays (the power and torque meters are cool) plus the chance to tailor background themes that, again, will provide some Sinclair ZX81-style amusement at AMOC meetings in decades to come.

2015 Aston Martin DB9 GT: running costs

Aston Martin DB9 GT 2015

An area in which the Aston Martin DB9 GT truly is old school is in its thirst for fuel. None of this engine stop-start, consumption cycle-massaging fuel-saving nonsense for the big V12: it officially drinks a gallon of (super) unleaded ever 19.8 miles and if you don’t like it you can lump it.

CO2 emissions are correspondingly high at 333g/km, easily placing it in the most punitive tax bands, which will be relevant only to those whom these things matter – it won’t to most customers, which is why economy hasn’t been a particular focus to date.

At least, from our experience, that economy figure should at least be a bit more attainable than some more modern rivals which claim mid- to high-20s: we drove the big V12 across Europe earlier this year and saw 20-plus on the trip computer without even trying to modulate our speed. One to bear in mind in the face of undoubted future worries about fuel consumption.

Other running costs are not going to be any different from any other Aston Martin. Premium-level, then. Things like 20-inch tyres aren’t cheap. At least you shouldn’t have to buy new brakes all that often, as carbon ceramic stoppers are standard, and you can almost put your life savings on the fact that, after an initial dip, this end-of-era DB9 GT will eventually be worth more than you paid for it. Have you seen car auction prices recently..?

2015 Aston Martin DB9 GT: verdict

Aston Martin DB9 GT 2015

It pleasingly didn’t, but Aston Martin could rightly have called this DB9 GT the ‘Ultimate’ and not been disingenuous in doing so. As the firm prepares for a new era of technical alliance with Daimler, and the launch of the DB11 in 2016, so the DB9 GT showcases why the current modern era of the firm has been such a success.

Hopefully, future models will be this organic, this sensations-packed and detailed, this appealingly hand-crafted. It drives in an old-school way that, in the main, is good, and hopefully Aston will be able to keep all this too. In so many dynamic ways, it still feels contemporary and pleasing.

For all its lovely noise, the engine needs more torque, and much more flexibility. Rivals have low-down turbo assistance, and the lack of it dates the DB9. As does the interior, the infotainment system, the minor controls and, of course, the oh-so familiar looks.

But we know all that. The DB9 GT isn’t about being new, it’s about sending off this fine Aston Martin in style, and it does that perfectly. This is a great car, one of the most significant of all in the firm’s glittering history, and the DB9 GT sends it off in fitting style.

2015 Aston Martin DB9 GT: specifications

Aston Martin DB9 GT 2015

Engine: 6.0-litre V12

Price: £140,000

Power: 547hp

Torque: 457lb ft

0-62mph: 4.5secs

Top speed: 183mph

Fuel economy: 19.8mpg

CO2 emissions: 333g/km

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Rolls-Royce Wraith

The Wraith is on: it’s Rolls-Royce versus the train

Rolls-Royce Wraith

“Leave in time for a nightcap in the onboard bar and dine from a menu created from the finest Scottish produce. Enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep in your cosy cabin and wake refreshed to breakfast in bed.” Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? The Caledonian Sleeper train must be the ultimate way to travel between London and Edinburgh.

Or is it?

A little over two years ago, I ‘raced’ the Cornish Riviera sleeper train between London and Penzance and – by visiting every station and sticking to all the speed limits – I beat the train by a few seconds. No really, I did. It was a proper Top Gear-style photo finish. Only without the brilliantly-executed script and huge production budget. You can read about the exploits over on PetrolBlog.

I always promised myself I’d do it again. The sleeper train to Scotland was an opportunity too good to miss. So when Rolls-Royce got in touch to say that if I was ever planning to do something similar, they’d provide car, I jumped at the chance. And tonight, the race, or should I say, Wraith, is on. Hashtag #WraithTheTrain, etc, etc.

At around ten to midnight, the passengers onboard the Caledonian Sleeper will be settling down to enjoy a nightcap, before enjoying a relaxing sleep. Meanwhile, somewhere outside Euston Station, a pair of intrepid (read: foolish) explorers will be firing up the V12-engined Rolls-Royce Wraith and attempting to escape from London.

Caledonian Sleeper

All things being equal, the train should pull into Edinburgh’s Waverley Station at 07:22, precisely 7 hours and 32 minutes after leaving London. By following a similar route to the train, essentially via the M6 to Carlisle and then across to Edinburgh, the Wraith should arrive within seven hours. Take the more direct route via the A1 and it takes 7 hours and 13 minutes. Either way, we should beat the train.

But throw into the equation Britain’s love affair with overnight roadworks, average speed cameras and delays getting out of London and into Edinburgh, and we have ourselves a leveller. A combined fuel consumption of 20.2mpg will result in a number of stops for fuel, so this one is going to be tight. Incidentally, the Wraith is currently averaging 14.1mpg…

Of course, you can get to Edinburgh quicker by taking a train at a more sensible time. But to do so would be to go without the luxury and class of the Caledonian Sleeper. And what better car to pit against the grace and pace of the luxotrain than a 6.6-litre Wraith, the most-powerful Rolls-Royce in history. With 623hp and 590lb ft of torque on tap, it’s hardly lacking in power. Mind you, at £255,365 (plus taxes), our test car represents a far more expensive route north than the price of a train ticket.

Right now, there are four questions to be answered. Firstly, will the amount of coffee consumed be greater than the amount of super unleaded? Secondly, which route will we actually take? Thirdly, will we actually beat the train to Edinburgh? Finally, wouldn’t it have been more sensible to stay at home to watch the Great British Bake Off?

Find out the answers to all this and more by following @MajorGav on Twitter or using the hashtag #WraithTheTrain. If you see us heading north, give us a Railway Children-style wave. But no petticoats. Thank you.

Sleeper photo © Ed Webster / Wikipedia

Jaguar XF

All-new Jaguar XF review: 2015 first drive

Jaguar XFThe pre-launch hype about the Jaguar XE rumbled on for months, culminating with a car being helicoptered into a celeb-packed Earl’s Court, serenaded by pop princess, Emeli Sande.

There’s no such razmatazz for the XE’s big brother, the new 2015 XF. Just a flight to Spain to drive on mountain roads near Pamplona followed by track time in the range-topping 380hp XF S.

Fortunately, Jaguar’s luxury saloon doesn’t need the star-studded talents of Stella McCartney, the Kaiser Chiefs or, um… Gary Lineker to stand out. It may not look that different to the old XF (or indeed the XE), but it’s undeniably handsome, with squat, sporty proportions and a sweeping, coupe-like roofline.

Beneath the surface, the new XF’s body is built largely from aluminium to save weight. And new ‘Ingenium’ diesel engines promise big gains in fuel efficiency.

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There are four powerplants available at launch: 163hp or 180hp 2.0-litre diesel, 300hp 3.0-litre V6 diesel and 380hp 3.0 V6 petrol. The 2.0-litre diesels come with six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes; the 3.0-litre engines are auto-only.

The entry-level 163hp diesel is the expected bestseller, particularly for company car drivers. It sprints to 60mph in 8.2 seconds and ekes out 70.6mpg with CO2 emissions of just 104g/km. That equates to £20 annual car tax at 2015 rates (figures for the 2.0 163 auto are 68.9mpg, 109g/km and £20 respectively).

At the opposite end of the scale, the 380hp supercharged XF S storms to 60mph in just 5.1 seconds and returns 34.0mpg and 198g/km (£265 car tax).

Buyers can choose from four trim levels: Prestige, R-Sport, Portfolio and S. All come with Jaguar’s InControl Touch media system, with an 8in touchscreen, navigation and voice control. Optional InControl Touch Pro arrives later this year, with a larger 10.3in screen and ‘virtual’ instrument display – similar to the latest Audi TT.

XF prices start at £32,300 for the 2.0d 163 Prestige, rising to £35,100 for the mid-range 2.0d 180 R-Sport. The range-topping 3.0 V6 S is £49,945.

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2015 Jaguar XF:  On the road

Jaguar saloons used to be softly-sprung, comfortable and, for want of a better word, ‘wafty’. The original XF marked a shift away from softness to sportiness as Jaguar tried to shake off its ‘old man’ image.

The new XF is very much cut from the same Lycra. It’s a sports saloon in the mould of the BMW 5 Series, rather than a comfy cruiser like a Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

As such, its ride is on the firm side, especially at low speeds around town. The V6 we tried had optional adaptive dampers and was noticeably better in this regard, although still a little stiff on huge 20in alloys and rubber-band tyres.

Fortunately, the trade-off for a little wiggle and jiggle is secure and confidence-inspiring handling. The XF turns in eagerly, its standard torque vectoring system subtly braking the inside wheels to really tug you around tight corners.

The steering is direct and full of feedback, while the eight-speed automatic automatic gearbox adapts seamlessly to your driving style. Only a rather spongy brake pedal lets the side down.

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Frustratingly, the predicted bestseller – the 163hp 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel – wasn’t available to drive at the launch. However, we did try the 180hp version, which costs between £500 and £900 more to buy (depending on spec) and is only slightly less efficient.

The new engine is an impressive all-rounder: smooth, refined and decently quick (0-60mph takes 7.5 seconds). It’s all you really need. Just don’t drive it back-to-back with the 3.0-litre V6.

Ah yes, the V6. This flagship 380hp lump is lifted straight from the F-Type and transforms the XF into something very far from ‘old man’. Kick-down is downright savage with the gearbox in Sport mode, and the whine of the supercharger as this luxurious saloon gathers its skirts and charges for the horizon is addictive stuff.

We also sampled the – somewhat more sensible – XF 3.0-litre diesel, which occupies the middle-ground between these two extremes. Its muscular low-rev torque makes it feel almost as quick as the petrol V6 in normal driving, but you’ll pay a hefty price – nearly £11k more than the most expensive 2.0-litre diesel. And if you can afford £50k, you can afford the petrol car’s supercharged fuel bills, right?

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2015 Jaguar XF:  On the inside

The outgoing XF didn’t just ditch the soft suspension of Jaguars past. It also swapped trad walnut-n-leather for an interior more akin to a trendy wine bar. Aluminium detailing and cool blue lighting were the order of the day.

The new XF keeps the rotating air vents and rotary gear selector of its predecessor, but the rest is all new. A low seating position and wide centre console make the driver feel cocooned inside the car, while the sporty, three-spoke steering wheel feels great.

There’s good news for passengers, too. Rear legroom is up by 15mm, while headroom has increased by up to 27mm. Spend a little more and you can even treat the kids to heated rear seats and four-zone climate control.

Most XFs have conventional dials, but a 12.3in ‘virtual’ display is available, in conjunction with the new InControl Touch Pro media system.

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We tried a developmental version of this set-up, which isn’t available until the end of 2015. It’s bold, bright and very user-friendly, with iPad-style swipe and ‘pinch to zoom’ functionality on the central touchscreen. However, we were less enamoured with the virtual dials, which are harder to read than the old-fashioned physical type.

The XF comes with all the safety kit you’d expect, including automatic emergency braking. However, Jaguar has followed the German brands’ lead elsewhere, relegating many of the most desirable features to the options list.

Full-LED headlights, a laser head-up display, adaptive cruise control, auto parking and a ground-shaking 17-speaker Meridian sound system are all available, if your pockets are deep enough.

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2015 Jaguar XF:  Running costs

Right, ignore everything we said earlier about buying the supercharged V6 petrol. If you want affordable running costs, the four-cylinder diesels are the ones to go for.

Jaguar’s 15 years of expertise with aluminium has certainly paid off. Not only is the XF 2.0d 163 the lightest car in its class by 80kg (equivalent to ditching an adult passenger), it also boasts the lowest CO2 emissions of any non-hybrid model – at 104g/km.

That’s great news for company car drivers and means just £20 annual car tax at 2015 rates. Claimed fuel economy of 70.6mpg is not to be sniffed at either.

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The XF isn’t cheap to buy, though. Its starting price of £32,300 is around £1,500 more than an equivalent BMW 5 Series. However, residual (resale) values are forecast to be among the best in class and, according to Jaguar, that reduces whole-life running costs for the 2.0d to less than the Germans.

One question mark with the new XF is reliability. The marque has fared well in recent JD Power surveys, which focus on newer cars. But the – more in-depth and comprehensive – Which? Car Survey points to longer-term reliability issues across the existing Jaguar range.

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2015 Jaguar XF:  Verdict

The new XF isn’t a game-changer like its predecessor, but it doesn’t need to be. It builds on the strengths of the outgoing car, with added ‘grace, space and pace’ (to quote the famous vintage Jaguar ad). Oh, and a large dollop of extra efficiency, too.

If you’re looking for the last word in luxury, you’ll be better served by a Mercedes E-Class. The XF is unashamedly a sports saloon, and it rewards keen drivers with a chassis that matches the best BMW can muster.

Nonetheless, all its main competitors are very competent cars that we’d happily drive every day. Much of your choice essentially comes down to design – and here the XF excels.

Removing our objective road-test hats for a moment, we think the XF is comfortably the best looking car in this segment. It’s sleek and elegant, with a low-slung silhouette that hints at sportiness within. The fact that it looks very similar to the smaller XE hardly seems to matter – identikit cars have done Audi and Land Rover no harm.

The XF’s cabin is gorgeous, too. And quality feels sufficiently good to allay our fears about long-term reliability. Just go easy on those extra-cost options.

From frugal Ingenium diesels to fire-breathing V6 petrol, the XF has got most bases covered. If you’re in the market for a luxury saloon, it should be near the top of your shortlist.

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2015 Jaguar XF:  Specification

Jaguar XF 2.0d 180 R-Sport auto

Price: £36,850

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel

Gearbox: 8-speed automatic

Power: 180hp

Torque: 318lb ft

0-60mph: 7.7 seconds

Top speed: 136mph

Fuel economy: 65.7mpg

CO2 emissions: 114g/km