Ministers call for an end to lengthy roadworks

Roadworks TomTom

It’s the news the beleaguered motorist has been waiting for: an end to what feels like roadworks that go on for miles and miles. Highways England is considering proposals to limit the length of roadworks on motorways and A-roads to a maximum of between two and five miles, bringing some relief to commuters.

Government ministers are putting pressure on contractors to shorten the length of roadworks, with the Department for Transport (DfT) calling for “common sense decisions.” A spokesperson for the DfT said: “Our road investment strategy will deliver the biggest upgrade to Britain’s roads in a generation and secure our transport network for the long term.

“But as it is delivered we’ve got to respect the drivers who use our roads every day.

“That means taking common sense decisions to minimise frustrations wherever possible.”

Favourable, if sceptical response to news

Music to the ears of UK motorists? The response on Twitter has been largely favourable, although some are sceptical that the proposed changes will actually take place:

Drivers who have to face the misery of the M3 on a daily basis will undoubtedly welcome the news. Work is currently underway to transform the section between junctions 2 and 4a into a smart motorway, complete with a 50mph limit along a 13.4-mile stretch of road. Construction started last autumn and isn’t expected to be complete until the winter of 2016.

A common sense step?

There are similar works taking place on the M1 and M6 motorways, with drivers resigned to the fact they will face delays to their journey.

Under the proposals, many of the current roadworks would need to be scaled back. The AA’s Edmund King called for more overnight works, with motorway roadworks “limited to 10 miles”, arguing that “more incentives” would encourage contractors to get the work finished on time.

Meanwhile, RAC chief engineer David Bizley, told Motoring Research: “The Government’s road investment strategy has promised motorists the biggest improvement to England’s major roads in a generation. However it is vital that this upgrade is delivered in a way that does not cause unnecessary inconvenience.

“The sight of mile after mile of traffic cones and reduced speed limits, only for work to be taking place on a single small stretch of road, is a source of frustration for motorists. A move to complete major roadworks in phases, which would see motorists encounter shorter ‘bursts’ of temporary speed limits rather than a single one that runs for a long distance, will be seen as a common sense step by drivers.”

£15 billion ‘road revolution’

The government has committed to spend £15 billion before the end of the decade, as part of a ‘roads revolution’ across the country. Planned projects include a smart motorway between junctions 3 and 12 on the M4, along with a similar scheme between junctions 4a and 6 on the M5 in the Midlands. Needless to say, the new proposals will have an impact on the proposed works.

There are currently no timescales attached to the proposals and no guarantee that the limits will be enforced. We’ll bring you more news when we have it.

Vauxhall Astra 2015 first drive

Vauxhall Astra review: 2015 first drive

Vauxhall Astra 2015 first driveThe British-built Vauxhall Astra has long sold nowhere near the volumes it ought to. Vauxhall is Britain’s second-biggest car brand and the family hatch sector is its second-favourite type of car: the Astra should thus be battling with the Ford Focus for the honour of being Britain’s second-favourite car (after the ever-ubiquitous Ford Fiesta).

But it isn’t. To date, the ageing Astra is the sixth most popular car in Britain, a full 20,000 units behind the Focus. The Volkswagen Golf is more popular. The British-built Nissan Qashqai crossover is more popular, for goodness sake. This isn’t how things should be.

Vauxhall knows this. Which is why the all-new Astra has been rethought from the ground up. It’s smaller on the outside than the current car, but bigger on the inside. It has a largely all-new range of engines. The trim line-up is more straightforward. The interior is quantum-leap cleaner and less fussy in design.

In the metal, it’s sharper and less beaky than today’s car. It’s not as bulbous and the contoured surfacing for the side panels is more premium brand than mainstream. The standout is the ‘floating roof’ C-pillar, giving it from-a-distance distinctiveness.

Full matrix LED headlights, like on an Audi A8, are optional, as are tecchy LED tail lamps. The engines from Vauxhall’s all-new turbo family are much-improved, as are the gearboxes, and although the chassis lacks a multi-link rear, the firm says its twist-beam with Watt’s linkage solution is arguably better.

The real headline-grabber is on board, though. This is the first volume Astra to have the firm’s OnStar online concierge system, with a year’s free 4G data (and Wi-Fi hotspot tech) thrown in for free. With Apple CarPlay included too, Vauxhall reckons it’s stolen on a march on the competition here.

It will only have done so if the car itself is better to drive, live with and own than the dreary, disappointing current car, though. Vauxhall desperately needs a stepchange with the new Astra. Does it deliver one?

2015 Vauxhall Astra: on the road

Vauxhall Astra 2015 first drive

Vauxhall says the new Astra is between 120kg-200kg lighter than the current car; there’s up to 80kg taken out of the bodyshell and 50kg out of the chassis. And this light-weighting of the hardware can be felt immediately on the road.

Whereas the current Astra is rather mushy, stolid and lifeless, the new car feels much more responsive, agile and able. The steering is far crisper and more direct for one, with on-centre precision where the old car offered uncertainty. It turns into corners confidently and the taut chassis is easy to place.

The setup is a bit sportier than the old car, which does make the ride a little taut over minor irritations, but plentiful work on spring and damper tuning means it actually absorbs bigger bumps absorbently. The additional body control over undulating roads is a big step on too: the Astra no longer heaves and wallows.

First impressions are of a car that has the sort of rolling refinement and composure of a Golf, with the extra bit of control and incisiveness of a Focus. Class comparisons will have to wait for the group tests, but it’s certainly a big step on from today’s model: it’s an Astra you may, at last, enjoy driving.

Vauxhall Astra 2015 first drive

The engine range is broad; we tried the volume 1.6-lire CDTi and found it nicely torquey and, for a diesel, sweet-spinning. It lugs well from low revs and the all-new six-speed gearbox transforms the general driving experience – snappier, lighter and more precise, it no longer feels pre-aged to 150,000 miles’ use from the factory.

The new 1.4-litre turbo is impressive, with full rev range spark and seemingly just as much lugging ability as the diesel. It’s quiet and smooth too, in contrast to the throbby 1.4-litre turbo of today’s car: we liked it a lot.

An interesting addition is the three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo from the Corsa and Adam, Offered in 105hp guise, it’s a disarmingly smooth and quiet engine in normal use – the sort of motor you think has stalled when sitting at the lights. It does need winding up, and does get a bit throbby when worked hard, but is an interesting addition if you don’t mind whipping through the improved new gearbox a bit more than the other units.

2015 Vauxhall Astra: on the inside

Vauxhall Astra 2015 first drive

What a transformation the interior is. Whereas the old car was claustrophobic, oddly proportioned and catastrophically over-burdened with buttons, shiny plastics and unnecessarily fiddly details, the new car is clean, modern and, we’ll say it again, premium.

Detail jewels such as the crisp, backlit dials and piano black trim are expensive-feeling, and the more logical layout of buttons on the dash is much more intelligent – and even if the steering wheel still has far too many buttons, the rim itself is nicely shaped and good to hold. The column stalks are better, too.

The centrepiece is the central screen though, ultra-high clarity and positioned behind a full-length cover for added premium feel. Design and Energy get a 7-inch colour touchscreen but all other cars have a better 8-inch screen: these are the ones you want.

Vauxhall Astra 2015 first drive

Fast-reacting, intuitive, clear and packed deep with functionality and features, the new Astra’s infotainment system is class-leading. The star of the show will be OnStar – even if you never use the easy dial-up concierge (that can set sat nav over the air from you asking ‘take me to the nearest Costa coffee’ or similar), the easy-connect Wi-Fi hotspots for as many devices as the car packs passengers will be a boon.

Indeed, as the inclusive OnStar internet package, free for 12 months, is 4G-fast and uses the car’s roof antennae for an ultra-strong signal, the Astra is likely to immediately be class-leading in the eyes of your passengers.

That they now have more space in the rear, and a comfier rear bench, and will find it easier to get in and out – oh, and can even have heated rear seats if you’re prepared to pay for it – simply further enhances the new Astra’s appeal to passengers. The boot is bigger too, and the more compact rear suspension means it’s deeper and potentially more practically-shaped than rivals.

As if all that infotainment excitement wasn’t enough, all new Astras with the R4.0 IntelliLink audio system get Apple CarPlay. Plug in your iPhone and key features can be easily used through the touchscreen itself. It’s not a Vauxhall innovation, but it’s still brilliant – and the Astra is one of the first cars in the UK to have it.

2015 Vauxhall Astra: running costs

Vauxhall Astra 2015 first drive

The Astra’s new range of engines are much more economical than today’s motors, particularly the petrol engines. That new 1.0-litre turbo averages 67.3mpg and emits 96g/km CO2; the 125hp 1.4-litre turbo averages 52.3mpg and emits 124g/km CO2. Even the 150hp turbo we drove emits less than 130g/km.

The diesel is the eco star: Vauxhall is currently focusing only on the 1.6-litre CDTi, offered in 110hp and 136hp guise, with a 160hp biturbo following a little later. The 110hp is the eye-opener, with 91.1mpg and 82g/km CO2. The CDTi that most people will buy, the 136hp version, still does 76.3mpg and dips beneath the 100g/km CO2 mark.

Vauxhall has intentionally simplified the trim line-up, which should help residuals, and says list prices themselves are much better value than the current car. It expects the SRi to be the volume model, with either the 1.4-litre turbo 150 or 1.6-litre CDTi 136; SRi trim is almost £1,000 cheaper than today’s version and has a fleet-friendly, insurance-friendly driver assistance package, OnStar and sports seats all as standard. There’s a fleet-friendly SRi Nav derivative too.

Other trims stretch from Design, fleet-focused Tech Line and retail-focused Energy, through SRi to the range-topping Elite. Impressively, Vauxhall reckons the Elite, which has electric leather seats, climate control plus heated rear seats and a couple of extra USB sockets for those in the back, to be a strong seller as well. Well, it is £1,960 cheaper than the current car…

2015 Vauxhall Astra: verdict

Vauxhall Astra 2015 first drive

If you’re familiar with, and unimpressed by, today’s disappointingly old-Vauxhall Astra, prepare to be surprised: the new one is a huge improvement. It’s nicer to look at, nicer to drive and much nicer to sit in. With the extra infotainment tech Vauxhall’s launched on it, the new Astra can even claim sector-unique appeal.

There’s still a bit of an image problem to overcome, but the new car’s considerable additional appeal should help enormously here. From being a meek also-ran, it’s now a much more competitive alternative to the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus – with the ability to edge them in some key areas that could sway buying decisions.

Impressed? So are we. Bring on the group tests: on first evidence, the Focus should be worried.

Volkswagen diesels ‘manipulate’ US emission testing: VW CEO ‘deeply sorry’

Volkswagen Jetta Clean DieselVolkswagen and Audi diesel cars built between 2009-2015 have violated US air pollution regulations, alleges the Environmental Protection Agency – through the use of a ‘defeat device’ that turns on full emissions controls only during official testing.

It means cars in normal use are emitting nitrogen oxides – NOx – at up to 40 times the mandatory standard.

Volkswagen may now face civil penalties and other fines for the use of the defeat device, which is said to have been used on almost 500,000 Volkswagens and Audis since 2008.

Cars affected include:

  • Volkswagen Beetle (2009-2015)
  • Volkswagen Golf (2009-2005)
  • Volkswagen Jetta (2009-2015)
  • Volkswagen Passat (2014-2015)
  • Audi A3 (2009-2015)

CEO Winterkorn ‘deeply sorry’

In an unusual move, Volkswagen AG CEO Dr. Martin Winterkorn has already responded, saying over the weekend that “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public.

“We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly and completely establish all of the facts of this case.

“We do not and will not tolerate violations of any kind of our internal rules or of the law.”

The firm has now ordered an external investigation and Winterkorn says it is now his and his Board of Management’s top priority.

If found guilty, Volkswagen could face breathtaking fines of up to $18 billion (£11.5 billion): that’s because of possible fines of $37,500 for every one of the 482,000 diesels sold with the emissions defeat device fitted.

Volkswagen share price drops 13%

As the world woke up to the news this week, shares in Volkswagen went into free-fall, suffering their most dramatic plunge in almost six years. Reuters is reporting that Volkswagen shares fell 13% to 140.95 euros by 0207 EDT, ‘the biggest one-day drop since November 2009.’ This follows a 4.5% fall in New York, immediately after the announcement by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Following the unexpected departure of Ferdinand Piëch, 2015 is shaping up to be a year to forget for Volkswagen. This latest allegation catapults the company from the business and automotive press, to the consumer news headlines. A story to watch.

Frankfurt exclusive: no sales projections for Citroen’s DS brand

DS4 1

DS Automobile’s marketing chief has told Motoring Research that it has no sales projections as a brand.

Interviewed at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, VP global sales and marketing Arnaud Ribault told us that DS is concentrating on selling itself a premium player rather than outright sales.

Ribault said: “At the moment, I have no sales projection figures I can give you. It’s about doing our own thing and introducing DS as a brand rather than chasing sales.”

DS officially separated itself as a brand from Citroen earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show. But rather than being a French equivalent to the premium German manufacturers, Ribault insists it’s doing things differently.

“We are more of a luxury brand. The Germans are very good at what they do – we can’t compete directly with them. We provide luxury in a different way.”

In pride of place on the DS stand at Frankfurt is the facelifted DS4 along with a DS4 Crossback.

The latter is very similar on the model on which it’s based, but with added ground clearance hinting at crossover aspirations. But Ribault told us it definitely isn’t taking on the Nissan Qashqai.

He said: “The DS 4 Crossback is its own thing, it doesn’t have any clear rivals. If we had to pick a car, however, it would probably be the Volvo V40 Cross Country.

“It’s not a rival to the Qashqai. The Qashqai is more of an SUV than the Crossback.”

DS says it plans to be fully established as a brand of its own within 15 years, with six new models due by 2020.

When asked whether the DS4 Crossback previews future crossover and SUV models, Ribault hinted “that would be a wise observation”.

Previously, VP products and business development for DS, Eric Apode, told us sales of the DS4 have been disappointing in the UK, and suggested an SUV could be a good move for the brand.

Jaguar F-Pace

Jaguar: ‘the F-Pace is our Evoque’

Jaguar F-PaceJaguar F-Pace programme director Andy Whyman believes the new SUV will be as transformational for the firm as the Range Rover Evoque has been for Land Rover.

“The ingredients are there,” he said at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. “The vision has been clear from the start and it’s a logical new car for us in a fast-growing segment.”

The Evoque heralded the start of the current boom in Land Rover sales and even today, five years after launch, the factory is still operating around the clock to build more than 100,000 units a year.

Jaguar, which last year sold 81,570 cars, feels the F-Pace will deliver a proportionally similar lift – and will mean the entire brand should no longer outsold by the smash-hit Range Rover Evoque.

No crossover with Land Rover

Whyman says there was never any concern that the first-ever Jaguar SUV would step on the toes of Land Rover.

“Both brands are very different and are positioned separately: our research shows there’s likely to be little cross-shopping between the F-Pace and Land Rover models.

“It’s first and foremost a Jaguar: it handles like a Jaguar, has sports car proportions and, while it can tackle mixed-road conditions, is a road-biased vehicle.

“It’s obvious to customers that the Jaguar and Land Rover brands are different: we don’t expect Range Rover Sport customers to start looking at F-Pace.”

Whyman also said the firm is comfortable with its first SUV. “It is natural to us – we don’t think of it as an SUV: it ‘feels’ like a Jaguar.”

Jaguar F-Pace

Jaguar F-Pace SUV revealed: Jaguar has made a 4×4!

Jaguar F-PaceJaguar has revealed the new F-Pace SUV on the eve of the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Its first 4×4, the sporty-looking new ‘performance crossover’ goes on sale in 2016 priced from £34,170.

Jaguar F-Pace SUV revealed in World Record stunt

The new Jaguar F-Pace is a sporty five-seat crossover that has one car in its sights – the Porsche Macan. Jaguar says the standard-setting Porsche is the best car in this sector for driving dynamics – and is the one it’s focused on beating…

Jaguar F-Pace

Built in Britain at Jaguar’s Solihull plant, the F-Pace is targeted with bringing a whole new sector of customer to the Jaguar brand. 4 in 5 buyers will be new to the brand and, of all the firm’s new cars, it’s the F-Pace that will “forever change perceptions of the brand”.

The idea of designing an SUV, admits Jaguar design director Ian Callum, was something “I never dreamt of doing”. Jaguar, after all, owns Land Rover, which only makes… SUVs. However, the market now demands SUVs in all shapes and guises – so Jaguar had to respond.

The Jaguar F-Pace is thus designed as a performance crossover SUV, one that takes direct influences from the Jaguar F-Pace (hence the name).

Unlike Land Rovers, you’ll rarely see F-Pace off-road; but you will, hopes the brand, see them in high streets across the world – the medium-sized SUV sector the F-Pace competes in is set to grow 50% between now and 2020…

F-Pace: concept car to production

Jaguar F-Pace

The Jaguar F-Pace is the production version of Jaguar’s stunning C-X17 concept car, revealed two years ago at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show. This was the first clear signal that the brand wanted to make an SUV…

Jaguar F-Pace

Since C-X17, Jaguar’s been working hard to productionise it, says Callum. “Every millimetre has changed since the concept – but not so you’d notice.” Can you tell the difference?

“The F-Pace is true to the spirit of Jaguar,” says designer Callum. “It has elegance, a sense of speed and motion that most SUVs don’t have.” Size-wise, it’s similar to the Porsche Macan, and will also compete with the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.

Callum uses descriptions such as strong proportions, sweeping rooflines and strong haunches to describe the F-Pace. “I could be talking about the F-Type, and this is no coincidence – there’s a lot of that car in the F-Pace.”

The tail lights are similar to the Jaguar F-Pace – which, said Callum, are influenced by the E-Type. Most won’t realise this but “I know where it came from,” he said…

It’s a five-seat SUV – you wouldn’t be able to get that sweeping roofline if it was a seven-seater. Jaguar has no plans to make a seven-seat version: it’ll leave that market to Land Rover.

Callum’s given the F-Pace a simple look inside, in contrast to the ‘fussy’ interiors of some rivals. Once cool feature is the illuminated smartphone holders on the centre console – after all, says Callum, who wants to store smartphones in cupholders…

Jaguar says the F-Pace has the world’s most advanced infotainment system, with more computer processing power than a Boeing 777. It’s called InControl Touch Pro and uses a 100GB SSD, Ethernet networking and a quad core processor.

The F-Pace even debuts a new piece of wearable Jaguar technology – the Activity Key. This is a waterproof band you can wear when swimming, that unlocks the car instead of a key. It’s a Jaguar first.

It’s built on Jaguar’s aluminium-intensive architecture also used by the new XE and XF. It has double wishbone front suspension and Integral Link rear suspension that are sold in three grades – two of them the same as on the sporty F-Type.

Most F-Pace will likely be sold with the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, offered in rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive guise. It also offers a V6 turbo diesel and the two V6 engines taken straight from the F-Pace – it currently thus produces up to 380hp, for 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds. Watch out, Macan…

The Jaguar F-Pace will cost from £34,170: that will buy you a 180hp 2.0-litre Ingenium turbodiesel with a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive.

Deliveries of the Jaguar F-Pace will begin in 2016, although the firm says customers can head over to its website right now to start configurating the car.

The F-Pace will be sold in familiar Jaguar trim lines: Prestige (from £34,170), R-Sport (from £36,670), Portfolio (from £39,170) and the sporty S (from £51,450).

Jaguar has an extra range-topping model for the launch of the F-Pace, called First Edition. This has extras such as mighty 22-inch alloys, Windsor leather seats, LED headlights and a panoramic roof. It costs from £65,275.

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Jaguar F-Pace loop-the-loop

Jaguar F-Pace SUV revealed in World Record stunt

Jaguar F-Pace loop-the-loopThe Jaguar F-Pace SUV was revealed in dramatic fashion on the eve of the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show – with a Guinness World Record for the largest ever loop-the-loop!

Jaguar’s first-ever SUV, the new F-Pace crossover goes on sale in 2016 priced from £34,710. It’s going head-to-head with the Porsche Macan and Audi Q5, and will also rival the BMW X3.

Jaguar F-Pace

It’s a crucial car for Jaguar, which the firm will give its public debut at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show this week. But, before that, it had a Guinness World Record to claim – for the highest-ever loop-the-loop!

Brit stuntman Terry Grant drove the new F-Pace around the 19-metre high 360-degree loop, experiencing forces of 6.5G in the process – that’s more than space pilots. Jaguar’s been planning the launch stunt for months…

Stunt driver Grant said: “Driving the world’s largest loop tonight was a very proud moment in my career… I am delighted to bring the Guinness World Record back to the UK and help Jaguar run rings around their competitors ahead of the motor show tomorrow.”

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2016 Bentley Bentayga

New 2016 Bentley Bentayga SUV revealed

2016 Bentley BentaygaThe new Bentley Bentayga SUV has been revealed ahead of its public debut at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show next week.

And you can come out from behind the sofa now, because the Bentley Bentayga isn’t as scary as the EXP 9 F concept led us to believe. Still has a silly name, mind.

Bentley Bentayga

Bentley isn’t afraid to roll out a number of superlatives and Top Trump style claims to support the launch of the new Bentayga. Are you sitting down?

OK, well according to Bentley, the Bentayga is ‘the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious and most exclusive SUV in the world’, making it the SUV to beat all SUVs, right?

Bentley ventured across five continents during the development of the Bentayga, claiming to have undertaken the most exhaustive programme in the brand’s history. Dirt and gravel in South Africa, the dunes in Dubai, mud in Crewe and the freezing temperatures of the North Cape, the Bentayga has been there, done that. Not to mention 400 laps of the Nürburgring.

From EXP 9 F to Bentayga

Bentley EXP 9F

Bentley’s first SUV has come a long way since its debut as the EXP 9 F concept of 2012. It’s fair to say the concept didn’t receive unanimous support at the Geneva Motor Show.

Back then, Bentley spoke of positioning the SUV above the likes of the Range Rover, Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and Audi Q7, charting new territory for a car of this ilk.

At the time, the idea of a Bentley SUV hadn’t been granted full board approval, but given the popularity of SUVs, it’s no surprise to see the EXP 9 F becoming a reality.

Bentley Bentayga

The Bentley Bentayga is powered by an all-new 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine developing an almost ridiculous 599hp at 5,250-6,000rpm.

And we haven’t even mentioned the 664lb ft of torque between 1,250 and 4,500rpm. The Bentayga has just upped the ante in the powerful SUV stakes.

All of which means the Bentley Bentayga has a top speed of 187mph and a 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds. You may not like the idea of a super SUV, but these figures are astonishing.

Amazingly, the Bentayga emits ‘just’ 292g/km CO2, in part thanks to Bentley’s Variable Displacement system, allowing the engine to run as a six-cylinder.

Release the throttle in gears 5th to 8th and the Bentayga will open the torque convertor, dropping the engine to idle and allowing the SUV to coast, thus saving fuel.

At launch, the W12 is the only engine available, but Bentley will offer diesel and hybrid variants in the future. It’s unlikely that these will offer the same jaw dropping performance figures.

Bentley claims the Bentayga offers the widest range of on- and off-road drive settings of any vehicle. It’s all thanks to the Drive Dynamic Mode and optional Responsive Off-Road Setting.

Eight driving modes are available, with the Driver Information Panel displaying information on pitch, roll, wheel articulation, steering angle, compass bearing and altitude.

As you’d expect, the Bentley Bentayga is loaded with the latest array of safety and support mechanisms, including adaptive cruise control, park assist, traffic sign recognition and night vision.

None of this will shield you from the attention you’ll almost certainly receive when driving the Bentayga. It’s certainly better looking than the concept, but it’s hardly subtle.

At the front you’ll find swathes of in-your-face mesh and what Bentley calls ‘floating’ all-LED headlamps. Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. You can make up your own mind.

The rear end is far less offensive with lights that feature B-shaped illumination graphics. The large Bentley badge is a helpful reminder of what has just overtaken you.

But if the exterior styling is up for debate, there can be no doubts about the interior. According to Bentley, it’s ‘the world’s finest cabin’, so read on to find out why.

The dashboard has been inspired by Bentley’s ‘wing’ design and can be finished in one of seven different veneers. Oh, and did we mention the 15 different interior hides?

Highlights include the Bentley knurling on the drive mode selector, gear knob, bullseye vents and organ pulls. One can also select from 15 different carpets.

The front seats offer 22-way adjustment, enhanced with six-programme massage function, seat heating and ventilation. Cliche alert: this looks a fine place to be.

Almost as good as the rear seats, which can be ordered in either two- or three-seat configuration. Opt for the former and you’ll be treated to 18 different adjustments, massage, ventilation and footrests.

Open the hands-free tailgate to reveal 430 litres of boot space (590 with the load cover retracted) and a fixed back, dividing the cabin from the boot.

Should sir or madam wish, the boot can be ordered with a folding event seat, presenting a viewing platform for use at the polo or cross country eventing.

At launch, the Bentley Bentayga is available with an integrated Mulliner hamper set, complete with fridge, fine china cutlery, crockery and crystal glass. You can also order a Mulliner Tourbillon by Breitling clock.

Deliveries will commence in early 2016, by which time Bentley will have released prices for the Bentayga. Don’t expect much change from £150,000.

Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover Evoque review: 2015 first drive

Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover Evoque:  Overview

Like the original Audi TT or MINI, the Range Rover Evoque was an ‘It car’ – a must-have four-wheeled fashion accessory. A long waiting list followed its launch in 2011, and more than 450,000 have since found homes. In fact, one in three Land Rovers sold worldwide is an Evoque. However, fashion is fickle and, four years later, the car is due a mid-life facelift.

At first, you will struggle to spot the differences, but that’s probably a good thing. It still looks radical – like a concept car with number plates. Plus, having modelled the rest of its Range Rover line-up on the Evoque, Land Rover wasn’t likely to sanction a radical redesign.

So there’s a new front bumper with larger air intakes, all-LED adaptive headlights, a restyled grille, sparklier taillights and five new alloy wheel designs. Inside, you’ll find redesigned seats, upgraded materials and a new touchscreen media system.

The big news, though, is under the bonnet – specifically the new 150hp or 180hp 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine. It transforms the Evoque into the most efficient Land Rover ever made. In 150hp two-wheel-drive guise with a manual gearbox, it returns 68mpg and CO2 emissions of 109g/km – impressive figures for a car of this type.

02_Range Rover Evoque

The Evoque is also offered with a 240hp petrol engine (not available to drive on the launch), plus six-speed manual or nine-speed automatic gearboxes. Buyers can opt for two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive or Active Driveline, which switches between the two depending on road conditions.

Trim levels start at SE, then rise through SE Tech, HSE Dynamic and Autobiography. Standard equipment on all models now includes automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning.

The range starts at £30,200 for the eD4 150 SE. The 180hp diesel and Si4 petrol cost from £32,800 and £43,000 respectively.

Five-door and three-door ‘Coupe’ versions of the Evoque are identically priced, giving you a straight choice between function and fashion.

03_Range Rover EvoqueRange Rover Evoque:  On the road

No Land Rover launch would be complete without some hill-climbin’, mud-squelchin’, river-fordin’ off-roading. But let’s start with how the car copes on Tarmac – undoubtedly where 99% of Evoques will spend 99% of their time.

It’s a cliche to describe SUVs as being ‘car-like’ to drive, but the Evoque genuinely is. High driving position aside, it feels like a sporty hatchback, with eager steering and little body-roll when cornering. On tortuously twisty Spanish mountain roads, it was fast, confidence-inspiring and fun.

If anything, the Evoque’s steering is a little too sensitive for motorway driving; the regular corrections needed at speed make longer journeys feel tiring. We’d welcome a bit more feedback through the chunky three-spoke wheel, too.

However, ride comfort is good – certainly better than some German rivals – and wind noise is well-suppressed, despite the car’s bluff-fronted shape.

The new Ingenium diesel is also commendably hushed. Even under full acceleration, the noise from the lightweight aluminium engine is more petrol purr than commercial clatter.

04_Range Rover Evoque

The 150hp unit powers the Evoque to 62mph in 11.2 seconds, while the 180hp version shaves that to 10.0 seconds. However, that additional 30hp makes little perceptible difference on the road; both offer ample mid-range torque for swift, safe overtaking.

The standard six-speed manual gearbox has a short throw and feels pleasingly mechanical. But we’d fork out £1,800 for the smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic, which also comes into its own for off-road driving.

Ah yes, the rough stuff. You may scoff, but the Evoque’s ability to bump over boulders and slither down sand dunes is arguably more relevant than a sports car being able to exceed 150mph. At least if the apocalypse strikes, you’ll have an escape plan.

We tried both front- and four-wheel-drive models at the Les Comes Land Rover Experience centre near Barcelona. Steep gravel switchbacks, deep muddy ruts and a particularly scary bamboo bridge provoked moderate sweating and occasional swearing from driver and passenger. Yet the Evoque handled them with ease.

In the unlikely event you do want to take your Evoque off-road, the automatic gearbox offers All-Terrain Progress Control – essentially a low-speed cruise control for slow and steady progress over tough terrain. With the system activated, the Evoque feels almost unstoppable; it hauls itself up hills and over obstacles with studied nonchalance.

05_Range Rover EvoqueRange Rover Evoque:  On the inside

Interior space has never been the Evoque’s strong point – thank those bulbous wheelarches and that stylishly sloping roofline. It’s acceptably roomy in the front, but the rear bench is best suited to children or teenagers.

So its ideal for young families then? Not really. The 575-litre boot can swallow a weekly shop, but you’d struggle to squeeze in a large baby buggy. If you need space for kids/dogs/bikes/flat-pack furniture (delete as appropriate), Land Rover’s own Discovery Sport is an eminently more sensible choice – plus it has the option of seven seats.

Despite all of the above, the Evoque’s cabin is a pleasant and undeniably ‘premium’ place to be. Upgrades for 2015 include soft leather padding on the door panels and a redesigned centre console (still with Land Rover’s trademark big buttons, which are designed to be pressed by gloved hands). No mention of Victoria Beckham helping with the design this time, though…

06_Range Rover Evoque

The new InControl Touch media system is certainly a step forward. However, confusing sat nav graphics led to an unscheduled detour through Barcelona’s not-very-scenic industrial estates. We’d also prefer a separate joystick or clickwheel controller – as offered by Audi, BMW and Mercedes – rather than merely a touchscreen; they are simpler and safer to use while driving.

Standard equipment on the entry-level Evoque SE includes heated front seats with electric adjustment, cruise control, DAB radio and automatic headlights/wipers. Stepping up to SE Tech adds sat nav, xenon headlamps and a heated windscreen, while HSE Dynamic comes with a sporty bodykit, rear-view camera and premium sound system. The all-bells-and-whistles Autobiography has a full Oxford leather interior with heated rear seats and in-car wi-fi.

07_Range Rover EvoqueRange Rover Evoque:  Running costs

Land Rover is proud of its new diesel engines, and rightly so. The most efficient 150hp two-wheel-drive models are now dubbed ‘E-Capability’ and wear a blue (rather than red) Evoque badge on the tailgate.

Land Rover claims 68mpg for the Coupe in E-Capability guise – better than the most economical Audi Q3 or BMW X1. CO2 emissions of just 109g/km equate to annual car tax (VED) of £20. Comparative figures for the five-door version are 65.7mpg, 113g/km and £30.

This 16% improvement in efficiency versus the outgoing car is particularly good news for company car drivers. It translates into Benefit-In-Kind tax savings of 3%. Extended service intervals – stretched from 16,000 to 21,000 miles – drive down those all-important running costs, too.

However, don’t book that Caribbean cruise just yet; there is a caveat to all this money-saving merriment. List prices for the Evoque have jumped significantly, so the range now starts at £30,200 – an increase of around £1,000. A mid-range 2.0 TD4 180 SE Tech auto will set you back £36,600, around £1,900 more than the old 2.2 SD4 Pure Tech Pack auto.

08_Range Rover EvoqueRange Rover Evoque: Verdict

Has Land Rover done enough to keep its ‘It car’ fresh and fashionable? Well, we can’t predict the whims of fashion, but there’s little doubt the 2015 Evoque is a significant step forward. Finally, this British success story has the modern diesel engine it always deserved.

In terms of the new Ingenium unit, we have no complaints. It’s smooth, responsive and efficient. And (money-saving tip!) the 150hp version is plenty quick enough for most needs.

Unfortunately for the Evoque, Land Rover has now put the same engine into the Discovery Sport, which looks pretty similar, costs about the same and is vastly more practical.

The Evoque remains a sportier and more satisfying drive, but if we had upwards of £30k to spend on a new SUV, we’d opt for the more sensible Discovery Sport.

Range Rover Evoque 2.0 eD4 SE 5dr 2WD

Price: £30,200

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel

Gearbox: Six-speed manual

Power: 150hp

Torque: 317lb ft

0-60mph: 11.2 seconds

Top speed: 113mph

Fuel economy: 65.7mpg

CO2 emissions: 113g/km

2016 Porsche 911 Carrera revealed – and it's turbocharged

2016 Porsche 911 Carrera revealed – and it’s turbocharged

2016 Porsche 911 Carrera revealed – and it's turbocharged

Porsche has revealed a mid-life facelift for its 911 Carrera and Carrera S models – with the biggest change being a new, twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre flat-six engine.

It’s the first time entry-level 911s have used forced-induction in the car’s 52-year lifespan, meaning it’s a controversial (if predictable) move for the carmaker.

Put your prejudices to one side, however, and you’ll be treated to the fastest 911 Carrera and Carrera S models ever.

How fast is the 2016 Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S?

With a boost of 20hp, the Carrera now boasts 370hp and the Carrera S 420hp. Torque has been increased by 44lb ft for each model, available at 1,700rpm to 5,000rpm. Both redline at 7,500rpm – meaning, Porsche insists, enthusiasts won’t miss the 911’s typical sonorous flat-six engine sound.

Fitted with the PDK transmission, the 911 Carrera coupe with optional sport chrono package reaches 62mph in 4.2 seconds, while the Carrera S takes just 3.9 seconds. That’s 0.2 seconds quicker than the outgoing models – and the S is the first 911 Carrera ever to break the 4.0 second barrier.

The 911 Carrera’s top speed has been increased to 183mph (a rise of 4mph), while the Carrera S can now reach 191mph (3mph faster than previously).

2016 Porsche 911 Carrera revealed – and it's turbocharged

What about efficiency?

In traditional turbocharged fashion, efficiency has been improved by as much as 12% compared to the outgoing models.

Fitted with Porsche’s PDK transmission, the 911 Carrera will return 38.2mpg on the combined cycle (an increase of 3.8mpg), while the Carrera S is capable of 36.7mpg (compared to its predecessor’s 32.5mpg).

This translates to CO2 emissions of 169g/km for the Carrera PDK and 174g/km for the Carrera S PDK.

What else is new?

As part of the optional sport chrono package, the 911 Carrera now features a ‘mode switch’ on the steering wheel – derived from the hybrid mode switch of the Porsche 918.

This allows drivers to switch between ‘normal’, ‘sport’, ‘sport plus’ and ‘individual’ driving setups. There’s also an additional ‘sport response’ button – allowing maximum acceleration for 20 seconds by holding onto the optimum gear and adjusting the engine management for a more spontaneous response.

For the first time, Porsche’s active suspension management (PASM) chassis is fitted as standard to Carrera models – lowering the right height by 10mm. New dampers combined with wider rear wheels improve body control, says Porsche.

Orders are now being taken for the new Porsche 911 Carrera, with prices starting at £76,412 (Carrera S £85,253). Deliveries will begin in December.