New Year's 2014 Fireworks London Eye

Met Police issues New Year’s Eve advice for London motorists

New Year's 2014 Fireworks London EyeLondon’s Metropolitan Police has warned motorists not to drive into Central London on New Year’s Eve because road closures means they won’t be able to drive home again.

Road closures in central London start from 2pm on New Year’s Eve – including many central London Bridges.

Download a map of central London New Year’s Eve road closures

All road closures will be in place by 10pm; all bridge closures will be in place by 8pm.

The first road closures at 2pm include Victoria Embankment and Whitehall; by 8pm, many of central London’s key roads will be closed, including parts of Oxford Street, the A4 Piccadilly from Hyde Park Corner and even the A400 Gower Street and A4200 leading into central London.

However, roads will remain Congestion Charge free until they close.

The first bridge to close will be Westminster Bridge, at 2pm. Waterloo Bridge will close at 4pm to pedestrians and 7.30pm to all traffic. Blackfriars Bridge and Lambeth Bridge will close by 8pm and Southwark Bridge could also close as a contingency.

London Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge will, however, remain open.

Road closures will be lifted by 6am on New Year’s Day.

The Met Police also warned central London is set to be extremely busy in the build-up to the New Year’s Eve celebrations, including the Mayor of London’s fireworks display with Unicef.

“Make sure you leave plenty of time for travelling and arrange a contingency meeting place (and time) with family and friends in case you become separated” advised a spokesperson.

Armed Police

Superintendent Jo Edwards also advised London revellers that they can expect to see additional police officers in central London – including an increased number of firearms officers.

“Our plans are purely precautionary and not as a result of any specific intelligence.”

She also called upon the public to inform a police officer or steward if they see anything suspicious.

Edwards added that if you don’t have a ticket for the Mayor of London’s fireworks display, don’t try to get in – it’s sold out. If you do have a ticket, arrive in plenty of time: “We will be supporting stewards with additional entry searches… which is likely to mean it will take longer to get into the viewing areas”.

Many bars and clubs are tickets only too: “if you don’t have a ticket,” says the Met police, “our advice is to watch the coverage on television”.

New Year’s Eve travel advice for central London

Hyundai Genesis

Hyundai poaches Lamborghini man to lead Genesis brand

Hyundai GenesisHyundai has signalled its intent to make its newly-created Genesis premium sub-brand a serious rival for Lexus and Infiniti by recruiting Lamborghini’s former director of brand and design to lead the new division.

Manfred Fitzgerald will start in January 2016 at Hyundai to apply his 20 years’ experience in luxury car brand strategy and marketing to Genesis.

He joins after 12 years after Lamborghini – where, as Hyundai proudly points out, he “played a pivotal role in transforming (it” from a prototype car company to a luxury car brand and increased its sales 10 fold”.

Fitzgerald will be based at Hyundai’s global HQ in Seoul and, as senior vice president, will “take a core role in brand strategy, marketing and other business operations within the Genesis brand”.

Lamborghini Murcielago

And who will Fitzgerald work alongside? Why, new Genesis Prestige Design Division leader Luc Donckerwolke – himself a former Lamborghini man who’s credited with the 2002 Murcielago (above) and 2004 Gallardo.

So, Hyundai’s when’s the first Genesis supercar due?

Audi Q1

Audi is bullish about growth in 2016

Audi Q1

A statement released by Audi promises continued ‘high levels of investment’ in 2016, despite the financial setbacks of dieselgate.

Around 2.1 million Audis worldwide were affected by the diesel emsissions scandal, leaving the company with a huge bill for rectifying cars – not to mention potential court costs.

Nonetheless, Audi is pressing ahead with existing plans, including the introduction of a compact Q2 crossover later in 2016.

The supermini-sized Q2 sees the German marque entering a new segment. It will be based on a four-wheel-drive version of the A1 platform, and its styling is likely to draw inspiration from the Q1 concept seen above.

A new version of Audi’s popular Q5 SUV is also due in 2016. Engines have yet to be confirmed, but expect a diesel/electric hybrid in the mould of the recently-launched Q7 e-tron.

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said: “A significant proportion of our investment is naturally in the field of alternative drive systems.” The brand is “continuing with high levels of investment in future technologies to enhance its strong position”, he added.

Audi plans to expand its range to 60 separate models by 2020.

Jaguar F-Type Project 7

David Beckham buys limited-edition Jaguar Project 7

Jaguar F-Type Project 7

David Beckham has bought himself a rather special Christmas present: a Jaguar F-Type Project 7.

The former England footballer splashed out £135,000 on one of 250 Project 7 roadsters. That’s a hefty £43,000 more than the F-Type V8 R Convertible on which the car – a product of Jaguar’s new SVO performance division – is based. However, it’s safe to assume the Project 7 will become a collectors’ item in future.

The Project 7’s 5.0-litre V8 engine gets a power boost from 550hp to 575hp. That’s sufficient for 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and a (limited) top speed of 186mph. It also has stiffer anti-roll bars, stickier tyres and standard carbon-ceramic brakes.

Jaguar F-Type Project 7

In common with other F-Types, though, the Project 7 has just two seats. So David will have to leave his four children at home.

Beckham works as a brand ambassador for Jaguar Land Rover, so it’s not known if he paid full-price for his limited-edition F-Type. The car joins his eclectic collection, which includes a Cadillac Escalade and a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti.

The F-Type Project 7 has now sold out, but don’t worry if you missed it. A similarly potent F-Type SVR is in the pipeline – with four-wheel-drive for potentially even quicker acceleration. Add it to your 2016 Christmas list now…

BMW CES 2016 AirTouch

BMW to show AirTouch contactless tech at CES 2016

BMW CES 2016 AirTouchBMW will reveal a new forward-looking Vision Car concept at CES 2016 that debuts new contactless touchscreen technology it’s calling AirTouch.

This allows screens to be operated in the same way as a touchscreen – without actually having to touch the screen.

A step on from the Gesture Control seen in the new BMW 7 Series (first previewed at CES 2015), AirTouch uses sensors in the dashboard that, BMW says, permit three-dimensional control.

“A movement of the hand or a gesture activates the surfaces on the large panorama display,” explains the firm – and in the teaser image above, suggests this will be an extra infotainment screen mounted on the passenger side of the dashboard. It’s in addition to the familiar driver-focused central iDrive screen.

AirTouch appears to get round the slightly awkward situation of today’s infotainment tech being based around touchscreens… but BMW’s interiors not being optimised for them.

The brand appears unwilling to change its interior architecture to put the screens within reach of hands: AirTouch instead allows touch-style control without spoiling its design philosophy.

It’s not completely touch-free either. BMW says the Vision Car has a small button on the left rim of the steering wheel, and an additional one on the passenger sill. Both allow inputs to be confirmed.

BMW will reveal more about AirTouch in its CES 2016 showcase next week in Las Vegas. The firm is already hinting that this new tech will be just a small part of the forward-looking tech extravaganza coming to its new Vision Car concept…

London congestion charge dropped for Christmas

London congestion charge dropped for festive season

London congestion charge dropped for Christmas

Transport for London has confirmed that it’s suspending the congestion charge over the Christmas period.

From Friday 25 December to Friday 1 January inclusive, road users in central London won’t have to pay the usual £11.50 congestion charge.

But visitors are warned that they might be affected by road closures in London during the holiday period – especially ahead of the annual New Year celebrations.

Engineering work will also be carried out on overground and underground networks, so check ahead if you’re travelling in London over Christmas.

The full list of major road closures in London are as follows:

Central London – Until tomorrow, Wednesday, The Cut will be closed at the junction with Blackfriars Road. Until Sunday 3 January, there will also be works on Blackfriars Road and New Bridge Street. Blackfriars Junction and Ludgate Circus have lane closures until Thursday, and also between Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 December. From Saturday until Thursday 31 December, Southwark Street will be closed eastbound at the junction of Blackfriars Road. This is due to Cycle Superhighway works.

Aldgate East and Bow – From tomorrow, Wednesday, until Sunday 3 January, lane closures will be in place on Whitechapel High Street, Mile End Road and Bow Road. This is due to Cycle Superhighway 2 works.

Central London – From around 14:00 on Thursday 31 December, Waterloo, Westminster and Jubilee Bridges, and roads in central London will start to close to prepare for the ticketed fireworks event. All bridge and road closures will be in place from 20:00 and most will re-open at 06:00 on Friday 1 January, or when it is safe to do so. Central London road closures will remain until 18:00 to facilitate the New Year’s Day Parade.

Old Street – Until Thursday, lane closures are in place at the junction of Old Street and Great Eastern Street, due to Cycle Superhighway works.

Stockwell – From Thursday until summer 2016, Stockwell Cross will have lane closures due to public space and cycling improvement works.

Swiss Cottage – From Saturday until Thursday 31 December, Avenue Road will have lane closures due to utility works.

Victoria – From Saturday until Thursday 31 December, lane closures will be in place on Grosvenor Place southbound and Lower Grosvenor Place eastbound. This is due to utility works.

Central London – Until Thursday, there will be overnight closures in both directions on Victoria Embankment and Upper Thames Street between Westminster Bridge and Southwark Bridge from 20:00 until 05:00. On Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 December and Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 January, Tower Hill and Lower Thames Street will be closed westbound from Tower Hill to Fish Street Hill, from 08:00 until midnight. This is due to Cycle Superhighway carriageway resurfacing works. There will also be lane closures at the junction of Victoria Embankment and Savoy Place.

Elephant & Castle – Until Sunday 3 January, there will be lane closures on Newington Causeway and the Elephant & Castle Link Road. This is due to junction improvement works. For more information, please visit tfl.gov.uk/elephant

Upper Holloway – Until late 2017, lane closures are in place in both directions on Holloway Bridge. This is for bridge strengthening works, as part of the Road Modernisation Plan.


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Spotify logo

Tesla adds free Spotify Premium to ALL cars in Britain

Spotify logoTesla has given UK Model S owners an early Christmas gift – by adding Spotify Premium to every car in Britain completely FREE of charge.

The automatic upgrade is underway now and will happen ‘over the air’ as part of Tesla’s routine software updates: owners thus won’t have to do anything to get the upgrade.


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Tesla owners won’t need to already have a Spotify account – the full library will be accessible without signing in, via Tesla’s trademark massive touchscreen.

Those who do have Spotify accounts already will be able to port across their playlists, favourites and other Spotify data into the car.

Tesla won’t even charge any data fees for streaming near-limitless music into the Model S.

Tesla’s made the move because its previous digital music streaming service, Rdio, has gone bust. Spotify is a much more well-known and popular alternative and its inclusion in all Teslas in Europe, Hong Kong and Australia is worth £9.99 a month in the UK.

Spotify is among the leading digital archive services, featuring millions of songs from thousands of artists. It claims to have more than 75 million active users, including 20 million paid users.

MRAdvent 24 Dec: The Darkness falls over Christmas

The Darkness Ferrari

And so we come to the end of our Christmas advent calendar. Over the past 24 days, we have featured everything from Santa giving his sleigh a wash to model cars rolling off the production line in glorious black and white. We end with darkness. Not in the literal sense, but with The Darkness.

In 2003, Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) was famously robbed of the Christmas number one slot by the downbeat and comatose Mad World. We can’t right this wrong, but we can give The Darkness some extra exposure in 2015.

But why does it belong on a motoring website? Well it just happens to feature a Ferrari 308 GTB, so that’s a good enough reason for us. And we didn’t want to run with Chris Rea again. Surely he’s home by now. If not, should we think about sending out a search party?

All that’s left for us to say is have a very merry Christmas and thanks for reading our words in 2015. Take it away, Justin.

Honda HR-V

Honda HR-V long-term review: part three

Honda HR-V

I’m back in the HR-V after a three-week break while I was away in Australia. Like every Honda I have driven, indeed owned, it’s dead easy getting back into the groove. Hondas are so easy to drive, still with probably the slickest manual gearchange you’ll find anywhere.

I had a bit of spare time yesterday, so I got out my Samsung phone’s USB charging lead, plugged it into the Honda’s port and waited to connect it into the system. Nothing. Seems like they are incompatible, though I can’t imagine why. Android phones have been around for years now and this is supposed to plug me into a whole new world of Honda apps.

Like so much in the car business when it comes to driver-car interface electronics, there’s a void between what the manufacturer promises and what actually occurs. I am guessing here, but I bet that Honda was as pleased as punch with its button-free navigation/music/phone system in the HR-V. Yet it is so maddeningly complicated to work, requiring you to take your eyes off the road several times in order to hit the right area of the touch screen to do, well, almost anything.

It may seem churlish to touch on Honda’s dismal 2015 F1 experience with McLaren, but I sense there is a parallel here. Honda develops things in a vacuum, rather than calling in outside expertise. A few focus groups and the company would have been painfully aware of the problems with its in-car entertainment system.

Honda HR-V

Economical diesel engine

Enough of that. It was only a bit more than a decade ago that Honda didn’t have a diesel engine to its name, before hitting the ground running with the brilliant 2.2-litre unit in the Accord. This much newer 1.6 turbodiesel is similarly impressive. The performance is entirely in keeping with the car, punchy and relaxed at all times.

But it is the economy that has been astounding me. This morning on my sub-30mph, 12-mile urban drive to the office it averaged 62mpg. And yes, I have checked the trip computer and it’s very accurate. Economy never drops below 53mpg. Compare that with our Kia Sportage, which will struggle to reach 30mpg on the same run (though it does have an automatic transmission and four-wheel drive).

And the HR-V, although it is notionally half-a-class smaller than cars like the Sportage, does exceptionally well for passenger and cargo space. Honda’s ‘Magic’ rear seat is still the cleverest of inventions. The rear cushion lifts up against the backrest so tall things can be stored upright, or the backrest and cushion fold forward in one action to give a big, deep boot floor.

Just before Christmas and still inclemently warm weather. I wait with baited breath to see if, eventually, the HR-V will be caught out when it finally does snow. There’s nfour-wheel-drive option in the UK, you see.

Honda HR-V

Specification

2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX manual

Price: £24,495

Price with options: £25,470 (metallic paint £525)

Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel

Power: 120hp

Torque: 221lb ft

0-62mph: 10.5 secs

Top speed: 119mph

MPG: 68.9

CO2: 104g/km

Audi A2: Retro Road Test

Retro Road Test: Audi A2

Audi A2: Retro Road Test

This is what the future looked like in 1999. A future that, in Audi’s view, relied on clever packaging, lightweight aluminium construction and, er, diesel engines. The 90hp 1.4-litre TDI, introduced in 2003 and tested here, could return 65.7mpg. That was groundbreaking 12 years ago.

What are its rivals?

What are its rivals?

The Audi A2’s biggest rival was from fellow German manufacturer Mercedes-Benz, with its supermini-on-stilts A-Class. You could compare its MPV/supermini design with the likes of the Honda Jazz, but you probably shouldn’t.

What engine does it use?

What engine does it use?

Buyers had a choice of two four-cylinder petrol engines: a 75hp 1.4-litre three-cylinder, which has a tendency to feel underpowered, or a 1.6-litre 110hp unit – which is a tad feistier. The 1.4-litre TDI diesel was better regarded in its day, however. It was available with 75hp, or the more powerful 90hp (tested here) after 2003.

What’s it like to drive?

What’s it like to drive?

Its low weight means the 90hp diesel Audi A2 feels a lot quicker than you’d expect – and faster than its 10.9-second 0-62mph time would suggest. It’s a clattery old three-cylinder diesel by today’s standards, though – noisy at idle, but getting more characterful as you give it some beans. It likes to be given said beans, too; its narrow power-band is higher up the rev range than you’d expect if you’re accustomed to modern diesels.

It’s a really fun car to drive around town, with light steering and a tight turning circle. Our biggest criticism, and the biggest issue in its day (apart from price), is its ultra-firm ride. But that does translate into a car that can handle surprisingly well out of town. On motorways, it’s still sprightly enough, if not particularly quiet.

Reliability and running costs

Reliability and running costs

The A2 has typical Audi build quality, so there shouldn’t be a lot that goes wrong with it. The cambelt needs changing every 60-80,000 miles, so budget £500 for that, and make sure it’s serviced regularly.

With its official 65.7mpg fuel economy figure, the A2 should be cheap to run – and its 42-litre fuel tank should equate to more than 600 miles before you have to fill up. Insurance might be costlier than you’d expect, as the aluminium body panels are expensive to repair.

Could I drive it every day?

Could I drive it every day?

Absolutely. If long motorway miles are your thing, you’d find a bigger Audi of the same age much more agreeable. But the A2 offers a fun drive for those who do more miles in urban areas. At less than 1.7m wide, it’ll squeeze through tight gaps, while it’s also a doddle to park. Its clever packaging means it’s surprisingly practical, and the rear seats fold down if you need extra boot space.

How much should I pay?

How much should I pay?

The Audi A2 was always expensive. The list price of this model was more than £16,000, while some owners apparently payed more than £20,000 with options. The relative rarity and timeless looks mean the A2 held onto its value well for a while, but they are now starting to approach banger territory. You can find one for less than £1,000, but you’d be wise to budget double that if you want a fairly tidy diesel.

What should I look out for?

What should I look out for?

The usual stuff – has the cambelt been changed, has it been regularly serviced? And look out for any that have been repaired badly. The aluminium construction is tricky (and thus costly) to fix, so watch out if corners have been cut.

Should I buy one?

Should I buy one?

Very few cars have resulted in as much classified browsing in the Motoring Research office as the Audi A2. It’s a flawed car by today’s standards, but its design has aged so well. There’s no doubt that it’s a future classic, so buy a good one and look after it.

Pub fact

Pub fact

Audi decided the A2 could go without an old-fashioned bonnet, so instead fitted a service hatch for easy access to essential fluids. If you want access to the engine, you have to unscrew two catches and lift off the 8kg bonnet. It’s easy enough, but in reality most owners will have little need.


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