Blog: could motorists be forced to pay millions more in tax to compensate for exaggerated efficiency figures?

Realistic fuel consumption tests? Careful what you wish for…

Blog: could motorists be forced to pay millions more in tax to compensate for exaggerated efficiency figures?

The so-called ‘dieselgate’ scandal has dragged the world of economy claims into the limelight. It’s made front-page news within the mainstream media as prosecutors initiate fraud investigations and top VW bosses jump-ship quicker than you can say ‘TDI’.

It’s bound to have consequences – for Volkswagen Group, of course, but also ripple effects across the motoring industry.

The scandal affects NOx emissions from a range of VW’s turbodiesel engines. This is not the same as CO2 emissions or fuel economy figures.

It’s well known within the motor industry that cars never match their ‘claimed’ MPG figures during everyday driving. The figures are taken from the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) lab-test that all cars are put through. We know that everyday figures are going to be lower (with fuel economy figures overstated by as much as a 74%, according to data released today by Professional Driver Magazine).

You may think this is unfair – that car buyers are duped into thinking they’re going to get much better fuel economy in real life than they actually do. But it’s unfair to blame car manufacturers entirely for this – the figures come from the official EU test, and if carmakers actually could make MPG claims they could potentially be very different.

What the official test is good for is comparing cars. For example, a 150hp Ford Mondeo TDCi returns 67.3mpg officially, while the equivalent Volkswagen Passat returns 70.6mpg. You won’t see these figures on the trip computer under normal driving conditions – but it’s fair to say the Passat should be slightly more efficient than the Mondeo.

There are calls for the test to replicate real driving conditions but this would be very difficult to do inside a lab. Using fuel economy figures taken from the road wouldn’t be scientific – there are too many variables. Cars need to be tested in the same weather conditions, at the same speeds to create a comparable economy figure.

Even the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has admitted the fuel economy test is inadequate in the wake of the VW emissions scandal. In a press release issued last week, the organisation said: “On the separate on-going debate about real-world testing, industry accepts that the current test method for cars is out of date and is seeking agreement from the European Commission for a new emissions test that embraces new testing technologies and which is more representative of on-road conditions.”

But what could such a test mean for the general public, innocently driving our turbodiesel Volkswagens with no intention to cheat the planet?

“There is a direct link between fuel economy and CO2 emissions,” says Professional Driver editor, Mark Bursa. “That means all the cars we’ve tested are certainly emitting more CO2 than claimed. Some would certainly be in a higher tax band if real-world figures were used. The Government could be missing out on tax revenue as a result.”

And that final sentence worries me. The UK Government will be watching the Volkswagen emissions scandal closely, and it’s highly likely there could be repercussions across the board. This could be in the form of revised fuel economy and CO2 tests which, as well as indirectly costing taxpayers millions, could see the vast of majority of motorists having to pay more for CO2-based road tax. Should we be encouraging the Government to look more closely at fuel economy and emission claims when, ultimately, it’ll be us out of pocket?

More on the VW Group scandal on Motoring Research

Mercedes-AMG GT S: Two-Minute Road Test

Mercedes-AMG GT S: Two-Minute Road Test

Mercedes-AMG GT S: Two-Minute Road Test

What is it?

The AMG GT is a sports car of the old school, with a throbbing V8 engine up-front and rear-wheel drive. Priced from a whisker under £100,000, it sits above the SL roadster in Mercedes’ model range – and effectively replaces the gullwing-doored SLS AMG (2010-2014).

What are its rivals?

There’s no shortage of six-figure sports cars competing for your cash. The evergreen Porsche 911 is perhaps the GT’s most obvious rival – and it’s a formidable foe. The Audi R8 offers an even more focused alternative, while the BMW M6 errs towards being a luxury GT (albeit a ferociously fast one). Jaguar’s muscle-bound F-Type V8 R Coupe, however, is perhaps closest to the Mercedes in terms of character.

Which engines does it use?

Which engines does it use?

Under the GT’s long, curvaceous bonnet lurks a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that produces 462hp in the standard car and 510hp in the S tested here. It’s mated to a seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox with ‘flappy paddle’ shifters behind the steering wheel. Performance? Yes, there’s plenty of that. The S hits 62mph in 3.8 seconds and doesn’t run out of puff until 193mph.

Fuel economy and running costs

Let’s just skip over this section, shall we? OK, you want figures? Well, the GT isn’t quite as filthy as you might expect. Average fuel economy is 30.1mpg, and CO2 emissions of 219g/km mean it escapes the top tax-bracket for VED. Needless to say, though, if you flex your right foot too much (as you surely will) economy can dip perilously close to single figures…

What’s it like to drive?

Fuel economy and running costs

Your first impression is of thunderous, all-enveloping V8 noise. Once you get past that, though, the AMG GT is surprisingly civilised and easy to drive; its steering is light and ride comfort is better than a 911. But don’t be fooled. Select one of the sportier driving modes and the mega-Merc sharpens up its act, changing direction with an agility that belies its considerable size. You’ll do well to use a fraction of its potential on the road, but every journey is an occasion.

Is it practical?

Is it practical?

Again, this is hardly the car’s strong point. It doesn’t offer rear seats like a 911 or M6, but there’s enough luggage room for two people on a week in St Tropez (that’s where supercar owners holiday, right?). Indeed, squeeze your bags either side of the carbon fibre strut brace and there’s 350 litres of the space. For comparison, a Ford Fiesta musters just 290 litres…

What about safety?

Mercedes-Benz is a leader in safety technology and, as you’d expect, the AMG GT comes loaded with the lot – including automatic emergency braking, Attention Assist (to monitor driver tiredness) and Adaptive Brake Assist (primes the brakes if an emergency stop looks likely). Our test car was fitted with optional ceramic composite brakes, which scrub-off speed at a reassuring rate. They certainly aren’t cheap, though – at £6,000.

Which version should I go for?

Which version should I go for?

At the time of writing, the AMG GT costs £97,200 and the S is £110,500. There’s no rational reason to spend £13,000 more for an extra 48hp (the standard GT is hardly slow), but then this isn’t a rational sort of car. The monster-Merc celebrates excess, so go for the GT S and worry about the loan repayments later.

Should I buy one?

We would. Little else this side of a Lamborghini comes close to the AMG GT for aural and visual drama. It isn’t a car for shrinking violets, but it feels special – and it makes you feel special, too. We preferred the similarly-priced Porsche 911 GTS on-track, but the easygoing AMG is better on the road.

Pub fact

Pub fact

It’s not often we describe a car costing north of £100,000 as ‘good value’. But the AMG GT S costs £60,000 less than the old SLS AMG, yet offers similar power and performance. Yes, you forgo the gullwing doors, but you can buy yourself a BMW M3 with the change.

Man criticises Elon Musk – gets Tesla order cancelled

Elon Musk reveals Tesla Model X SUV

Elon Musk reveals Tesla Model X SUV

Tesla boss Elon Musk has taken the covers of the company’s new Model X SUV at an event held in California.

Like the Tesla Model S, the X is powered by two electric motors creating a combined output of 762hp – meaning it can hit 62mph in just 3.2 seconds.

That’s in ‘ludicrous’ mode – typically, the P90D model takes 3.8 seconds, while providing up to 250 miles of range from a single charge.

With the batteries located on the Model X’s floor, Tesla says it’ll handle better than other SUVs thanks to its low centre of gravity. It also boasts the lowest drag coefficient in its class of 0.24 – thanks partly to an active spoiler that adjusts depending on speed.

The Tesla Model X is practical, too, with seven seats and a towing capacity of 2,250kg. Tesla says it’s ‘designed to be the safest car on the road’ with automatic emergency braking and a side-collision avoidance system as standard.

Elon Musk reveals Tesla Model X SUV

Every model will also come with a forward-facing camera, radar and 360-degree sonar sensor that, the manufacturer claims, will ‘enable advanced autopilot features’. Although they’ll just be used for tricks such as automatic parking for now, Tesla hints that they bring ‘the Model X ever closer to autonomous operation’.

Like the concept version revealed in 2013, the Model X features ‘Falcon Wing’ doors that require just 30cm of space on either side to open. They open automatically as the driver approaches the car, meaning they never need to touch the door.

As in the Model S, the Model X will feature a large 17-inch touchscreen on the centre of the dashboard to control the car’s features, from audio to vehicle data.

Prices are yet to be confirmed for the UK, where the Model X is expected to go on sale before the end of the year. Expect them to be similar to the Model S, starting at around £55,000 and going up to £90,000.

Mazda teases new concept sports car ahead of Tokyo debut

Mazda teases new concept sports car ahead of Tokyo debut

Mazda teases new concept sports car ahead of Tokyo debut

Mazda has released this picture of a new concept sports car ahead of its debut at next month’s Tokyo Motor Show – and hinted that it could be rotary-powered.

Details are sketchy but, in a statement, the carmaker said: “Despite its modern look, Mazda’s latest creation clearly embodies the carmaker’s lineage.”

Some are suggesting it could sit above the MX-5 in Mazda’s range as a replacement for the rotary-powered RX-8, which was axed in 2012.

The new sports car will appear alongside two racing-spec MX-5s on the Tokyo stand, as well as a 1967 Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S – the company’s first rotary powered mass-production model.

The Mazda Koeru crossover SUV concept, which made its debut at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, will also be on display.

Volvo XC60 2.0 D4 SE Lux Nav

Volvo XC60 D4 SE Lux Nav Geartronic review: 2015 road test

Volvo XC60 2.0 D4 SE Lux NavEverything at Volvo seems to be XC90-themed these days. Perhaps understandably, given how able its all-new, first-in-a-new-generation luxury SUV is. But despite a knockout breadth of talent, it is, whisper it, not for everyone. Why? Prices. They start at £45,000. £15k more than the old one – rising yet further if you add on the sensibly-obligatory air suspension Volvo will probably soon standardise anyway.

Enter the dealers’ ace card when customers admit to this – the XC60. On sale since 2008 and facelifted in 2014 to add a bit more visual vim, it’s still not the standout wow the XC90 is (and, as we’ll see, lacks its interior appeal) but, with prices starting from £31,660, it has plenty to offer those who want a Volvo but don’t want to pay Porsche prices.

It shares an engine with the XC90 for one – Volvo’s excellent new 2.0-litre four-cylinder which, in the test D4, produces 190hp. Have it with a six-speed manual if you must, but commensense should default the XC90’s eight-speed auto at £1,485 more (if only to make a compromised electronic parking brake more manageable).

The more powerful ones come with four-wheel drive but you can also get a lower-CO2, lower-price’d front-wheel drive version, again tested here. It emits 117g/km as a manual or 124g/km with the XC90-apeing automatic we chose.

There’s lots to appeal, then, and plentiful parallels with the flash new XC90 that’s drawing the customers in. Will they be disappointed by its more old-era Volvo looks and interior though, or find an undiscovered gem when they discover what it’s like in action? There’s many an XC90-led sale that depends on the latter.

Not to mention many a rival dealer selling Land Rover Discovery Sport, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC keen to tell Volvo XC60 customers their newer models are better. Are they?

2015 Volvo XC60 review: on the road

Volvo XC60 2.0 D4 SE Lux Nav

The Volvo XC60 shows its age in two rather misleading ways within 15 seconds of you getting in. One, with its irritating ignition slot to the left of the steering wheel, leaving keys jangling loudly on an imminently-chipped dash. Second, by sounding just a bit too gruff and clattery on startup for a supposedly 21st-century motor.

The former is quickly solved: keyless go, standard on most XC60. The second disappears within a few minutes of a cold start – this is generally a smooth, sweet and hushed engine, strikingly so in town. Just one a little less able to be consistently quiet in the XC60’s older, more compromised architecture. You’ll briefly sense the same

Roughness when you rev it really hard, but it again soon fades.

It’s broadly a world-class engine, one with the torque to respond to small throttle inputs with a smooth, confidence-inspiring surge, yet maintain swift progress without feeling strained. It’s a very relaxing long-distance cruiser, one that seems more powerful than it actually is (always a good litmus test).

Volvo XC60 2.0 D4 SE Lux Nav

The eight-speed automatic suits it well too, although the installation isn’t as good as in a BMW: there are surges, slightly confused gearchanges and a dulling of the sixth sense you’ll find in an X3. The front-wheel drive bit? In normal weather, you’ll only notice it when you exploit the flood of torque out of a junction. We can’t comment on wintry road progress (and potential for embarrassment at a lack of).

It feels a heavyweight on the road, in a good way: the ride is compliant (the test car wore its 18-inch wheels well) and very smooth-riding at speed, giving it the roll-along gait of a bigger, more expensive SUV. Surprisingly crisp and responsive steering and reasonably well contained roll help retain composure in corners, but it will object if you try to drive it with too much enthusiasm (unlike an X3 or Discovery Sport).

Special mention to the steering weight. There’s too much of it. This is a more physical car to drive in town than it should be, which seems odd given its otherwise family-friendly mannerisms. The big 18-inch wheels mean the steering doesn’t self-centre coming out of slower-speed turns as well as it might, either. It’s an odd quirk of a car that otherwise does not being a sportscar so well.

2015 Volvo XC60: on the inside

Volvo XC60 2.0 D4 SE Lux Nav

The Volvo XC90 has, in a class of BMWs, Audis and Mercedes-Benz, the best interior of the lot. The XC60 does not. Here’s the most stark illustration of how modern Volvo’s moved on, from plain-spongy-look plastics to its forgettable design that looks like all other Volvos from the past decade.

Then there’s the infernal centre console with all its confusing buttons, and an infotainment system with an ease of use akin to pulling teeth. Of course, with time, you’ll get used to it, but there’s still too much time staring at it instead of the road (thank goodness Volvo’s City Safety system is standard).

It’s still a nice car to sit in though, with high-set and supportive seats (always a Volvo strong point), a great view down on the road and a good-quality, premium feel to the controls and switchgear. Fully electronic instruments are a recent touch, and look great, and the sat nav is pretty clear once you’ve worked out how to set it.

Special mention to the epic stereo, another Volvo tradition. It’s one of the best systems in this class, with loads of depth and clarity instead of just pure power or bass. You could buy this car for the sound system alone and not be feel short-changed.

In the rear, there’s more space than you first think – door apertures are a bit small but the bench seat is ample and there’s decent legroom. The size of the boot is immediately obvious though: the space looks vast, wide and long, with a perfect (and flat) sill height for easy loading.

There’s no seven-seater but for families of four or five, there’s plenty to like in the practicality-focused XC60. Refinement rounds it out: noise levels are premium-level low 95% of the time, with almost disarming silence when pootling in town and a lack of fuss at higher speed. Not quite an XC90 haven but close.

2015 Volvo XC60: running costs

Volvo XC60 2.0 D4 SE Lux Nav

The big thing about the new 2.0-litre diesel engines is emissions and economy. On the combined cycle, the test D4 officially returns 60.1mpg and, as mentioned emits 124g/km CO2, putting it in the same tax band as a supermini.

We all know test cycles are one thing – but it proved surprisingly economical during road testing too. Easy runs on the motorway regularly saw it top 50mpg, with 55mpg at a push: less frugal long-distance running didn’t see it dip below low-40s.

Monthly finance payments will be a byproduct of the list price, of course. Where the XC90 may have deterred, the XC60 will appeal.

2015 Volvo XC60: verdict

Volvo XC60 2.0 D4 SE Lux Nav

After all the hoo-haa with the Volvo XC90, the XC60 has perhaps been forgotten. Certainly by us – which is why testing this latest D4 SE Lux Nav so surprised and impressed us.

It’s not a standout style-stalker and the interior does feel decidedly retro, but it still puts in a strong performance in action, for those seeking a refined, comfortable and flexible family SUV: it’s more able, and thus more like the XC90, than you might first imagine – yes, mainly thanks to the cracking engine, but also courtesy of its well-developed drive that knows what its target market is looking for.

2015 Volvo XC60: specifications

Model tested: XC60 2.0 D4 SE Lux Nav Geartronic

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel

Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic

Price: £36,710

Power: 190hp

Torque: 295lb-ft

0-62mph: 7.6secs

Top speed: 130mph

Fuel economy: 60.1mpg

CO2 emissions: 124g/km

fiat_chrysler_fca_logo

Fiat Chrysler accused of “significant” under-reporting of deaths

fiat_chrysler_fca_logoFiat Chrysler Automobiles has been accused of a “significant failure” to properly disclose deaths and crashes in its vehicles by U.S. safety body the NHTSA.

The Italian-American organisation didn’t disclose accurate information of injuries and other data said NHTSA chief Mark R. Rosekind – which is now going to take appropriate action against FCA for the under-reporting error.

The firm said in a statement: As a result of FCA US LLC’s heightened scrutiny of its regulatory reporting obligations growing out of its recent Consent Order with NHTSA, FCA US identified deficiencies in its TREAD reporting.

“FCA US promptly notified NHTSA of these issues, and committed to a thorough investigation, to be followed by complete remediation.

“FCA US is in regular communication with NHTSA about its progress in the investigation.”

Breaking news – more as we get it

fiat_chrysler_fca_logo

Fiat Chrysler accused of "significant" under-reporting of deaths

fiat_chrysler_fca_logoFiat Chrysler Automobiles has been accused of a “significant failure” to properly disclose deaths and crashes in its vehicles by U.S. safety body the NHTSA.

The Italian-American organisation didn’t disclose accurate information of injuries and other data said NHTSA chief Mark R. Rosekind – which is now going to take appropriate action against FCA for the under-reporting error.

The firm said in a statement: As a result of FCA US LLC’s heightened scrutiny of its regulatory reporting obligations growing out of its recent Consent Order with NHTSA, FCA US identified deficiencies in its TREAD reporting.

“FCA US promptly notified NHTSA of these issues, and committed to a thorough investigation, to be followed by complete remediation.

“FCA US is in regular communication with NHTSA about its progress in the investigation.”

Breaking news – more as we get it

Police admit to hiding speed cameras in tractors

Police admit to hiding speed cameras in tractors

Police admit to hiding speed cameras in tractors

Humberside Police has admitted to hiding cameras in farm vehicles in a bid to catch speeding bikers on rural roads in East Yorkshire.

This is despite advice from the Government that ‘vehicles from which mobile speed cameras can be deployed should be liveried and clearly identifiable as an enforcement vehicle’.

A police spokesman confirmed to the Daily Mail that they were using tractors and other agricultural vehicles in a bid to cut down on fatal accidents involving motorbikes.

As part of Operation Achilles, the force has previously used marked bikes to catch speeders and reduce accident rates in the area.

But it decided that it’d prove cheaper to buy a tractor and a horsebox to hide police officers with handheld speed guns.

Inspector Mark Hughes from Humberside Police Road Policing told the Mail: “At the moment Humberside Police are conducting Operation Kansas in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

“This operation runs alongside the well-established and much publicised Operation Achilles. It is concerned with “high-end” speeding offenders in East Riding, deploying speed cameras, which are located in a variety of stationary vehicles.

“Vehicles which are detected travelling at very high speeds are stopped further along the road and drivers/riders are spoken to and dealt with at the roadside.

“Although the majority of offenders are motorcycles, a number of cars are also dealt with on this operation. We regularly record speeds in the high 90s and over 100 mph, these being on country roads where the national speed limit of 60 mph is in force.”

SEAT

SEAT: 700,000 cars affected by VW emissions scandal

SEAT

SEAT is the latest VW Group manufacturer to come clean about how many of its cars are affected by the #dieselgate scandal.

The manufacturer has said that 700,000 of its cars have been fitted with the software which will trick US emission tests.

It’s not clear how many of these vehicles have been sold in Europe – but it’s thought to be a large proportion.

SEAT’s owner, Volkswagen Group, says 11 million of its cars are affected. Broken down brand-by-brand they are:

Volkswagen: 5m
Audi: 2.1m
Skoda : 1.2m
SEAT: 700,000
Vans: 1.8m

The saga continues to be investigated, with CEO Martin Winterkorn having already resigned over the matter.

More on the VW Group scandal on Motoring Research

Audi TT TDI

MPG Marathon 2015 in an Audi TT TDI: LIVE

Audi TT TDIThe timing couldn’t be better. Just over week after #dieselgate kicked off, here we are about to drive 370 miles on the MPG Marathon 2015 to see what sort of economy we can achieve in the real world.

And we’re doing it in an Audi TT TDI. Yes, an Audi TDI. But don’t worry. This one’s Euro 6-compliant. That means it’s unaffected by the diesel software scandal (so there’s no risk of our result being protested).

This year, things are centred around the rather wonderful Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire. Today, we’re doing a southwards loop, tomorrow it’s a westwards one. The tank is sealed and we have an in-car tracker, plus a strict set of waypoints to visit and timed checkpoints to hit.

The average must be 30mph; any slower and we’re penalised. So we can’t creep around at 19mph trying to eek out the miles. With a mix of roads from A to B to M, it is indeed pretty real-world.

The briefing’s just about to kick off and we’ll be liveblogging from the TT’s passenger seat when we’re not driving. Dieselgate has many people asking the question, so we’re here to provide an answer: just what mpg can you get from a VW Group 2.0-litre TDI..?


Day 1: overnighter

We *just* missed out on going to bed with a ‘7’ in our heads. As we pulled into the car park, 70.1 clicked back to 69.9. Which means tomorrow’s drive downhill to the main road is going to be the most eco drive ever seen on the MPG Marathon.

Otherwise, it’s continued to be easy. Grippy tyres and roll-free suspension mean brakes are entirely optional; more importantly, looking way ahead means they’re not even necessary when junctions, red lights and traffic appear.

But it’s getting competitive. Paul’s been staring at the MPG readout continually and I’ve been trying to do all I can to push up the economy.

Light weight helps, natch: and the car had two big bottles of water. So I downed ’em. That’s at least a kilo we don’t have to drag uphill, right?

Day 1: lunchtime

Audi TT eco day 1 01

First leg done, and the most eventful part was trying to work out how to use the sat nav, how to reset the trip computer, how to find the odo, how to tune in 6Music. The in-dials display looks lovely, but isn’t the most intuitive of things to use.

Eventually, we got underway, for an easygoing combination of 50mph cruising and trying to lose as little speed as possible at roundabouts. TTs grip well. TT TDIs build momentum willingly as well – too willingly, so the need to ease back on hills makes it painfully frustrating at times.

Now we’re underway again, and I’m blogging from the passenger seat. Paul is the lead sponsor and is currently experiencing all this. Never has a TT been driven with more restraint.

MPG Marathon 2015 on Twitter

MPG MARATHON 2015 entry_list