BMW CES 2016

Smart car: BMW’s vision of tomorrow’s high-tech car – in pictures

BMW CES 2016BMW is once again a star draw at the Consumer Electronics Show. This year, its CES 2016 showcase is all about how we’ll interact with the technology fitted to the cars of tomorrow.

At the world’s biggest tech show, it showed us how.

BMW i Vision Future Interaction

BMW CES 2016

The centrepiece of BMW at CES 2016 is its i Vision Future Interaction show car. This concept carries the ideas its tech boffins have been working on, revealing what the dashboard of the future may look like – and how we’ll use it.

BMW i8 Concept Spyder

BMW CES 2016

OK, the i Vision Future Interaction isn’t an all-new car. It’s a tech-packed version of BMW’s open-top i8 Concept Spyder (itself coming soon, surely?). The stuff within is new, though…

The multi-screen BMW

BMW CES 2016

The first thing you need to know is the number of displays: there are three. The driver’s centrepiece is the Head-Up Display, supported by a snazzy 3D instrument pack below. But the most striking screen…

A panoramic vision

BMW CES 2016

…is the new 21-inch panorama display, which stretches across the passenger-side dashboard. It’s a stunning widescreen spectacle.

Dream screen

BMW CES 2016

The panorama display is 110mm high and has multiple uses, both for driver and passenger. Some of this is dependent on which driving mode is selected – yes, the i Vision Future Interaction is an autonomous BMW concept, too.

BMW’s multi-mode driving future

BMW envisages three driving modes in the future. ‘Pure Drive’ is, like today’s BMWs, all down to the driver. ‘Assist’ gives autonomous support and ‘Auto Mode’ takes over completely. Significantly, BMW says such autonomous driving is coming on its cars very soon to approved stretches of road.

Drive mode guide

When it’s in Auto Mode, the BMW’s steering wheel lights up blue. When the car leaves an approved section of road, it turns to red: the driver must take over. If they don’t? The car comes gently to a halt at the side of the road.

Content to suit the mode

The panorama screen does different things depending on driving mode. In Full Auto Mode? It will then, say, switch from an audio phone call to a widescreen video call.

i8 Spyder vision: a web on wheels

Another advantage of being in Full Auto mode is that it unlocks full web access, emails and audiovisual tech – stream a movie to your BMW and watch it in glorious 21-inch widescreen HD. That’ll make the commute a bit easier.

Living room on wheels

To make the most of this autonomy, BMW reconfigures the i8 Vision Future Interaction’s interior in Full Auto mode. The steering wheel moves forward out the way, seats reprofile so the driver can turn and watch the panorama screen; even the headrest has been tailored.

Control via AirTouch

Such tech sounds fine, but how do you control it? BMW doesn’t like touchscreens – that’s why it’s been able to push the panorama screen forward for ideal viewing. Luckily, it’s invented a touch-style way of using it, called AirTouch. No fiddly interfaces here; it’s just like Minority Report.

AirTouch: virtual touchscreen

With AirTouch, sensors in the dash let you scroll sideways through the screen with swipe motions, with icon options popping up as tiles. An ‘air-touch’ gesture is sufficient to choose and select what you want.

AirTouch: does it work?

The big question: is it a load of hot air? At CES 2016, visitors are able to get hands-on with it to decide if they really are like Tom Cruise…

Real touch backup…

Don’t like the idea of this air-gesture stuff? A halfway-house is scrolling using gestures but making selections via a physical button on the steering wheel or passenger-side door sill. And if you’re a traditionalist, a touch-sensitive surface on the leather seats (yes, really) lets you go old school.

BMW’s second CES 2016 i8 showcar

The i Vision Future Interaction isn’t the only concept i8 BMW has at CES 2016. Enter the i8 Mirrorless. It’s an i8. Without mirrors.

BMW i8 Mirrorless

Instead of door mirrors, this i8 has two rear-facing cameras made from Gorilla Glass and housed in aero-tuned pods. A third camera is mounted in the rear screen.

All-seeing i

Images from the three cameras are merged into a high-res widescreen display, sitting where the interior rear-view mirror normally resides. It misses nothing, there are no blind spots and it doesn’t need to be adjusted for individual drivers.

Smart rear-view screen

It’s a smart screen too. If the driver indicates to move into a new lane and it detects a fast-approaching car in the ‘blind spot’, a yellow warning icon flashes. The system also auto-swivels in sharp city corners for an even wider view.

BMW’s cycle-friendly mirror

It will also pick up cyclists and warn if they’re approaching from the rear. Good for cyclist vs. motorist harmony in Central London, then.

‘Back seat driver’

Passengers will love the BMW i8 Mirrorless’ tech, too. They get a rearward view just as good as the driver. The interior’s also quieter for them; no external mirrors means less wind noise (and better fuel economy).

Mirrorless tech: coming soon?

Current legislation forbids cars without external rear-view mirrors. BMW has a halfway-house that may be coming soon, though: the i3 Extended Rearview Mirror, which mixes both old and new.

Rear-view mirror ‘plus’

A camera in the roof overlays images onto the regular rear-view mirror. This allows the wider-screen view and also includes the warning alerts of the i8 Mirrorless. It’s coming soon as an option to a BMW near you, we hear…

BMW and the Internet of Things

BMW’s future tech isn’t all fancy screens and movie-style gestures. At CES 2016, it’s showcasing the technology powering it. The BMW of tomorrow will be fully connected to other devices as a component in the so-called ‘Internet of Things’.

BMW Connected: the ultimate digital assistant

A key component in owning tomorrow’s BMW will be using BMW Connected. This integrates the car more fully into the owner’s life, as part of a ‘total mobility solution’. Huh? It means the car will digitally merge into your life, rather than being a disconnected box on wheels.

Digital car component?

Can’t get your head around it? Don’t worry. It’s all very new and forward-looking, and BMW admits this approach to mobility is radical and ‘an industry first’. As with smartphones, we’ll get there.

The self-learning BMW

Part of BMW Connected’s functionality is learning your regular journeys and thus alerting you if there’s traffic en route. It will know if there’s traffic on your way to work, for example. It may even send an alert to your smartwatch to set off earlier…

The engine: Open Mobility Cloud

Powering BMW Connected is the Open Mobility Cloud. This has the necessary ‘learning capability’ and lets BMW Connected integrate with other third-party apps and, significantly, other networked systems. Hence it being a complete ‘smart digital mobility assistant’.

How the BMW Internet of Things car will work

What sort of things will this smart connected tech allow BMWs to do? Link with a smart mirror in your house for one, which it calls Mobility Mirror. As you check your hair and tie in the morning, this networked mirror will also show diary dates, traffic updates and the state of charge of your BMW i3 parked outside.

Networked heating

If you’ve got your smart coffee machine hooked up to the Open Mobility Cloud, turning it on will automatically start pre-heating your i3’s cabin.

Valet parking

Picking up your i3 key will trigger it to autonomously drive out your garage and be sitting outside your house waiting for you.

Watch the valet

You can even watch the i3 auto-park if you want: BMW Connected will show you the view from the car’s cameras on your smartphone, smartwatch or, yes, the Mobility Mirror.

Virtual security guard

This has added functionality. If the car senses someone has driven it, BMW Connected will automatically feed the view from the cameras to the driver’s smartphone. They’ll get popup alerts if the car is hit, too; BMW calls it Bumper Detect.

Heat your home from your car

You can control things in the home from the car as well. Samsung’s invented a ‘Smart Things’ app that hooks up smart home functions, which means you can turn on the heating or check the doors are locked from your iDrive screen as you drive.

It’s not all cars

It’s not only cars that are getting smart. BMW makes around 120,000 motorcycles a year and, at CES 2016, it has demonstrated world-first laser lights for bikes.

Twice-as-bright motorcycle lights

Fitted to a BMW K 1600 GTL concept machine, BMW’s motorcycle laser lights are twice as good as normal lights, with a range of more than half a kilometre.

Head-up displays for riders

BMW launched Europe’s first head-up display in 2003. Now it’s coming to bikes, as previewed by the head-up display helmet. This displays data in front of the rider’s eyes, so they no longer have to look down at the instruments.

Safety benefit

Fully programmable, display options include sat nav, tyre pressures, speed and fuel level. Future vehicle-to-vehicle communication will also allow incidents on the road ahead to be flashed up – a huge safety boon for riders.

Find your friends

Motorcyclists who like going on ride-outs will love this possible tech: other riders could be visualised on the head-up display, so you can see where your mates are even if you can’t ‘see’ them…

Motorcycle head-up display: coming soon

BMW’s designed the system to be fitted to any helmet. All it needs are two batteries, which run for five hours between charges. Tantalisingly, it’ll be developed to production level “within the next few years”.

Smart streetlights

BMW even wants to make streetlights smarter. They’re potentially a ready-made EV recharging infrastructure: all you need is a charge plug on each lamp. Enter BMW Light & Charge…

The streetlamp of the future

These modular LED lights can replace normal streetlamps and come fitted with a standardised EV charge connector. They’re contactless: use a chargepoint card or, naturally, a smartphone app.

Smartlamps: coming soon near you?

BMW will carry out trials in Oxford, Munich and Los Angeles with the new streetlight charge point system. London and Berlin decision-makers have also expressed an interest in trying it.

Cool new BMW tech you can buy today

The CES 2016 showcase is all well and good, but can you actually buy any of this today? Well, sort of: BMW also had its new 7 Series on show, which includes things like Gesture Control and rear-seat BMW Touch Command.

BMW Gesture Control is here

Gesture Control is a production first: swipe, point and rotate hand movements are picked up by a 3D sensor in the dash so you can accept phone calls or turn up the stereo without touching the dash.

BMW tablet

BMW even has its own tablet computer in the back of the new 7 Series, incorporating BMW Touch Command to adjust air con, seats and lights, plus surf the net and play video games. All this is today, but it sounds like there’s plenty more coming tomorrow, too…

Motorway at night

Motor-no-way: 1 in 5 Brits steer clear

Motorway at nightAlthough they’re statistically Britain’s safest roads, motorways still strike fear into millions of British motorists, with a new survey revealing 22% of the nation’s 38 million drivers rarely use them.

The overwhelming reason, according to the analysis by the RAC? For nearly 7 in 10, it’s the speed at which traffic travels at: over half say this means they feel more at risk of being in an accident.

The statistics disagree: motorways carry 21% of British road traffic, yet account for 5.4% of road fatalities and less than 5% of injured road casualties.

“Despite motorways statistically being some of our safest roads, many people still seem to rely on partners, friends and family when they need to use one,” said the RAC’s Simon Williams.

“The message to them has to be: with the right instruction and advice, plenty of care and practice, confidence in motorway driving can easily grow.”

But there is another significant reason for not using motorways: 32% feel they’re simply too boring…

British motorway facts

  • There are 2,300 miles of motorway in Britain
  • They carry 21% of all traffic in Britain
  • In the year to September 2015, 65.4 billion miles were driven on British motorways
  • That’s an all-time high figure – and 2% up on 2014: yes, motorways are getting busier
  • Of the 1,775 fatalities on British roads in 2014, 96 occurred on a motorway

Cool Runnings: Nissan builds a seven-seat bobsleigh

Nissan bobsleigh

It answers a question nobody ever asked, but that didn’t stop Nissan from building the world’s first seven-seat bobsleigh. So if you’re looking for alternative transport for the school run, pop into your local Nissan dealer.

Actually, don’t do that, because – for now at least – the Nissan bobsleigh is a one-off. But hey, if you live at the top of a mountain and just happen to have a bobsleigh track running between you and the nearest school, perhaps you should speak to Nissan. Just don’t bank on the bobsleigh having any cup holders. Or room for luggage. Or heated seats…

[bctt tweet=”Just don’t bank on the bobsleigh having any cup holders. Or room for luggage. Or heated seats…”]

According to the team at Nissan, the bobsleigh was inspired by the X-Trail – well they would say that, wouldn’t they – and was handcrafted by bobsled manufacturer Diego Menardi at his workshop in Cortina. You’ll remember Cortina d’Ampezzo from the Bond film, For Your Eyes Only. Yes, the one in which Roger Moore ends up on the famous Eugenio Monti track.

Anyway, back to the Nissan bobsleigh, which is something we never thought we’d write.

Nissan worked with Diego Menardi and sport expert Ian Richardson to, in Nissan’s words, “morph car design with Olympic aerodynamics.” The result is a seven-seat bobsleigh with headlights and Nissan’s familiar V-shape front grille. Although it’s not a grille. But it does have a Nissan badge.

Nissan bobsleigh and X-Trail

Darryl Scriven, design manager at Nissan Design Europe, said: “We wanted to give the opportunity to experience first-hand the adventurous nature of our crossover segment through the thrill and excitement of Olympic bobsleighing.

“The outcome mimics the fresh ideas and technologies from the brand’s ground-breaking crossover models.”

There’s apparently no truth in the rumour that Nissan is set to launch a second bobsleigh based on the Pulsar five-door hatchback. The segment-busting bobsleigh was likely to feature the most rear leg-room in its class, along with unparalleled levels of elbow space.

According to Nissan, the bobsleigh has a top speed of 65mph and is capable of sprinting to 62mph in 30 seconds. In light of the emissions scandal, Nissan has chosen to keep the economy figures close to its chest.

Speak to your local dealer about arranging a test drive. Just be sure to take your own snow, bobsleigh track, mountain, gloves, helmet and life insurance…

Honda HR-V

Honda HR-V long-term review: update

Honda HR-V

It’s the end of January and there’s still no snow in the south-east of England. That will probably please a lot of crossover owners, because, despite the styling, their cars will be no better than a regular family hatchback when it comes to dealing with the white stuff.

The HR-V is not even offered with four-wheel drive in the UK, which is a reflection of where Honda sees the real demand. It’s far more about style and space than off-road prowess, although a decent set of winter tyres will surely still see this compact crossover navigate itself out of most slippery situations.

I left the HR-V at Stansted airport for a few days last week, using my usual meet-and-greet service. It seems to be the same as valet parking, except you have to walk a few yards more to get into the terminal – and it’s more wallet-friendly.

The Honda, of course, disappears off to a distant car park, to be retrieved a few hours before my flight lands. This time I kept a note of the mileage and I reckon it hadn’t travelled further than one side of the drop-off-zone to the other. Yet it’s always worth doing a walk around to check for damage, as once you’ve left the airport, you are on your own.

Honda HR-V

I have this theory that, in winter, diesel fuel is less calorific than in the summer months. The fuel companies add an anti-waxing agent to prevent diesel from thickening up in low temperatures, and in my experience this goes hand-in-hand with worsening economy. That’s certainly the case with our personal 2.0-litre Kia Sportage, but with the Honda the difference seems to be marginal.

I guess that fact that the economy is now more commonly mid-fifties than high-fifties isn’t really much of a reason to worry. It means the HR-V diesel still an amazingly economical vehicle, and with fuel currently at 97.9p for a gallon, it’s makes for very cheap motoring.

Specification: 2015 Honda HR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX manual

Price (October 2015): £24,495

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

Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel

Power: 120hp

Torque: 221lb ft

0-62mph: 10.5 secs

Top speed: 119mph

Fuel economy: 68.9mpg

Live: Land Rover Defender production ends at Solihull

The Land Rover Defender production line in Solihull produces its final vehicle today, after a run of more than 60 years.

It’s a historic day for the British brand, which is seeing its production of its iconic vehicle axed due to ever more stringent safety and emissions regulations.

We are reporting live from Solihull, where the final vehicle left the production line at 09:22. TV news crews, journalists and hundreds of JLR workers were on hand to witness the historic event.

Follow MR’s Andrew Brady on Twitter @MR_AndrewBrady for regular updates – and live Periscope videos from inside the Land Rover factory.

Here is the final Defender making its way down the line:

And this is the moment when it drove away, to cheers and applause:

Classic Land Rovers were lined up to pay homage, too:

While TV reporters and cameras blocked the production line:


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Retro Road Test: Land Rover 90 40th Anniversary

Retro Road Test: Land Rover 90 40th Anniversary

Retro Road Test: Land Rover 90 40th Anniversary

This is a rarity for the Motoring Research Retro Road Test: a review of car that’s only just gone out of production, the Land Rover 90 40th Anniversary. Yes, after 25 years, the Land Rover Defender production line has now ground to a halt. And that’s doing it a disservice – the Defender name is 25 years old, but it can trace its roots as far back as the 1948 Land Rover Series I.


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The Defender on test here isn’t actually a Defender at all – it’s from 1988, so predates the Defender name by three years. It’s a special 40th Anniversary limited edition model – very limited edition, in fact. Industrial action at Rover Group at the time meant just two were made before the special edition was binned.

What are its rivals?

It kind of lives in its own sector, the Defender. Sure, there are cheaper, tougher, more comfortable 4x4s that make a lot more sense from a practical perspective. But none of them are a Defender. If you must look elsewhere, consider the likes of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class or Toyota Land Cruiser. Or a Unimog.

What engine does it use?

What engine does it use?

Being a Ninety as opposed to a later Defender, E40 KDU is powered by a fairly asthmatic 2.5-litre turbodiesel. It was replaced in 1990 by the more popular 200Tdi, which then became the enthusiast’s favourite 300Tdi. Later models used a range of BMW and Ford turbodiesels – all of which were more efficient and offered greater performance, but lacked the bush-mechanics simplicity of the earlier engines.

What’s it like to drive?

It’s got a lot of charm, the Defender. We’d argue that an early 90 such as this is the best compromise between old-school simplicity and modern-day comforts. Its coil springs (as opposed to the leaf springs fitted to Series Land Rovers) offer comfortable (if slightly bouncy) ride quality, while the steering is vague in a way only Defenders can get away with.

Reliability and running costs

Reliability and running costs

“If you want to go into the Outback,” the Aussies say, “take a Land Rover or a Land Cruiser. If you want to come back alive, take a Land Cruiser.”

Yeah, Land Rover Defenders aren’t known for being reliable. And they’re not the most efficient vehicles – expect early-20s MPG. But they’re well catered for in terms of owners’ clubs and online forums – and they’re generally easy to fix if (when) they go wrong.

Could I drive it every day?

It takes a special kind of person to drive a Defender every day – but people do manage it. You have to be prepared for water coming in when it rains, and don’t expect a great deal of comfort. Still, enjoy looking down on other motorists, and be prepared to give other Defender drivers a cheery wave.

How much should I pay?

How much should I pay?

Defender prices have always been strong – now more so than ever, with production finally coming to an end. Pay as much as you can afford – concentrate on condition rather than age, and try to get a desirable station wagon over a commercial variant. You’re not going to lose out on a Defender (until you start taking running costs into account).

What should I look out for?

Rust is the biggy – have a good poke around with a screwdriver, particularly checking the rear crossmember and the bulkhead. They can be replaced, but it’s not cheap. Other than that, look for one that’s been pampered by an enthusiast. Although earlier engines can take more abuse than later ones, look for evidence of regular servicing. Also check that the four-wheel-drive system works as it should – ensuring the low-range engages and disengages easily.

Should I buy one?

Should I buy one?

Objectively, there are many better, more sensible alternatives. But none of them are as cool or iconic as the Defender. Buy now while they’re still attainable, and have a great deal of fun while watching prices rise even higher.

Pub fact

The 2,000,000th Defender left Solihull towards the end of last year. It was a unique special edition, built with the help of Land Rover brand ambassadors and celebrities including Bear Grylls and Adam Henson. It sold at auction for an incredible £400,000.

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6

Bentley wants to build the Speed 6 sports car – and it could be an EV

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6The Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 two-seat sports car concept is actively being considered for production viability – and it could even come to market as an electric vehicle (EV).

“We are working on two ideas at the moment,” said chairman and chief executive Wolfgang Durheimer. Putting the EXP 10 Speed 6 concept that wowed the 2015 Geneva Motor Show is one of them.

A two-seat, two-door super-sport car can’t be confirmed at this early stage, explained Durheimer – but the fact that the firm is willing to openly discuss it suggests the project is more than just speculation.

Indeed, he even showed a schematic of the Bentley model line, with two question marks depicting future product: the ‘Speed 6’ was placed ahead of the Continental range, indicating this would be an entirely new model line for Bentley, not a replacement for the Continental.

Speed 6 EV?

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6

The production car could even be an EV. Speaking at the global launch of the new Bentayga SUV, product line director Peter Guest told Motoring Research the idea of it being an electric sportscar “is an interesting one.

“The breakthrough for me is the Porsche Mission E. This has a fast charge time, high performance, long range – and Porsche’s committed to put it into production before 2020.”

Bentley is, of course, part of the recently-formed Volkswagen Group sport and luxury brand group, alongside Bugatti and, yes, Porsche: Durheimer admitted to Motoring Research that close collaboration with such performance specialists (and the technology-share opportunities this brings) “is very helpful”…

What would also be helpful for the viability of Porsche’s €1 billion Mission E project would be to share the architecture and technologies across another model. Cue the Speed 6?

Speed 6 for 2 not 4

Guest added a production Speed 6 would “definitely not be a 2+2” – that’s the Continental’s remit. Indeed, to complement a production Speed 6, the next-generation Continental GT could even grow to offer more space in the rear seats.

“It is a pure two-seater. Some dealers have said “can it just be a 2+2” but that’s not this car’s territory.”

The speculation will continue, but one thing’s for sure: Bentley wants to build it. And is happy to go on the records and tell us this.

Now the Bentayga’s been launched and is bringing in cash, attention will now turn assessing the Speed 6’s viability. We could even have a decision before 2016 is out.

2016 Bentley Bentayga

Bentley Bentayga review: 2016 first drive

2016 Bentley BentaygaThe Bentley Bentayga was an inevitability from the moment we saw the first concept at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. SUVs are popular and profitable for premium automakers. Lack one and you’re missing out.

So here in 2016 is the production version of that controversial concept. You could never call an SUV pretty but it’s far more acceptable than the divisive EXP-9F: Bentley’s never made an SUV before and, with this, it’s given us a more sportily-styled one than most.


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Of course, it’s big: 5.1 metres long, around two metres wide and a kerbweight of 2.4 tonnes. It also only seats five (or, ideally, four), in opulent comfort, rather than squeezing in seven. You don’t expect to get seven in a Mulsanne, so why here?

It is a striking thing in the metal (aluminium at that, for a near-quarter-tonne weight saving over steel). The front is bluff and ‘Bentley’ but the so-called side power line and bulging rear haunches really stand out: add in an almost fastback-style rake to the rear for something way less boxy and brutal than we were expecting. It’s world’s apart from a Range Rover.

Saying that, it’s a design that has the nobility you expect of a Bentley. A Range Rover has this too: a Range Rover Sport, arguably, does not.

2016 Bentley Bentayga

Features such as the shallow glass and massive 22-inch alloys (the biggest ever on a Bentley) further aid the proportions and, in standout colours such as bright red or the gorgeous blue pictured here, it’s far more appealing than we ever dared hope back in 2012. Designer Sangyup Lee, who joined Bentley in 2013 to deliver the Bentayga, is a genius.

Costing from £161,355, Bentley says most won’t leave the Crewe factory with a price tag less than £200,000. There’s never been such an expensive, posh SUV before, giving Bentley no end of headaches in finding rivals during development, but also allowing it to claim it invents a new category: the luxury SUV.

It’s based on the Volkswagen MLB platform also used by the new Audi Q7, albeit with 80% unique components, including the 6.0-litre W12 TSI petrol engine. First deliveries will be underway soon, initially of the limited-to-608 Launch Edition (a mere £230k…) so we headed to California to try out the fourth vehicle in Bentley’s model line for the first time.

On the road

2016 Bentley Bentayga

The 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbo TSI engine is all-new. Despite being exactly the same size as the old one, “not a single nut or bolt is the same,” insists Bentley. It produces a headline 608hp and an even more traditionally Bentley-like monstrous torque figure of 664lb-ft. In new money, that’s 900Nm, and is yours between 1,250-4,500rpm. Remarkable.

The headline figures guarantee bragging rights: 4.1 seconds to 62mph and, at 187mph, the world’s fastest SUV. Again, in metric, that’s 301km/h: was that extra 1km/h engineered in to grab it the record, we wonder… but be in no doubt the headlines are justified – this is a devastatingly rapid machine. Sports car fast, despite being an SUV.

The torque makes it. In combination with near-instant throttle response, the Bentayga’s eye-opening speed is truly effortless, on tap at will. Waft around at low revs to keep pace with almost anything on the road, shove the accelerator further into the rich carpets for higher revs and eye-opening step-up power. It just floods in.

High revs are the only time the engine’s vocal – a cammy, unusually ‘V6-like’ noise for a 12-cylinder, overlayed with distant turbo whistle. Otherwise, it’s stupendously quiet, smooth and isolated. At tickover, you genuinely can’t feel or hear it, have to check the tacho to see if it’s started (stop-start means you’re often in doubt). It’s every inch the creamy, rich engine you’d hope.

2016 Bentley Bentayga

Pleasingly, with such a powerful engine, it’s no soft, squidgy SUV either. This is perhaps the biggest surprise of the Bentayga on the road: how the firm’s blended agility with comfort. The ride, of course, is lush, with air-cushioned absorbency and pliancy that’s justifiably magic carpet, even on the meaty big wheels most buyers will choose.

But it handles too. Really handles. From the first turn-in, you feel the uncannily roll-free body (thank new 48-volt anti-roll tech for that) which, in combination with surprisingly meaty steering bite, makes the Bentayga extremely agile for a big 2.4-tonne SUV. Yes, agile: it even boasts clean front-end turn in and inertia-free manners through switchbacks, just to further reinforce its litheness. The nose only pushes on when the lack of roll fools you into entering corners at silly speeds.

This makes it a beautifully relaxing and confident car to drive. The lovely ride, reassuring steering weight and planted handling make it unlike almost any other SUV: most are wallowy and plush, some are taut yet lumpy, but the Bentayga is neither. Add in its speed and muscle for something that absolutely delivers the Bentley rich all-rounder experience we know from the Continental GT (even if, inevitably, some of the Conti’s driver focus is ultimately absent).

Indeed, the only time it does feel like a squidgy, heavy SUV is under braking – there, you do feel the mass as the brakes are worked super-hard. You also feel the weight shift forwards and the nose dive. Bentley’s working on carbon ceramic brakes but they’re not here yet. When they are, they’ll lessen a rare chink in its armour.

2016 Bentley Bentayga

We should also add its off-road ability. Technology and air suspension give it loads, more than enough to tackle loose surfaces and steep gradients that would terrify even the most hoo-ray of owners. We even took it into the sand dunes for full-throttle four-wheel drifting fun: and if it’s not quite enough as standard, Bentley also sells an off-road pack with even more capability.

On the inside

2016 Bentley Bentayga

Inside, the Bentayga is breathtaking. Truly extraordinary. If it’s not the best new car interior in the world right now, it’s pretty damn close.

You notice the silence first. It’s among the quietest, most refined cars in the world – Rolls-Royce quiet, the sort of quiet that makes you think you’ve gone deaf. Refinement so impeccable, Bentley’s even had to specially engineer the electric windows so they go up and down without jarring. 70mph sounds like 30: that’s how peaceful it is. What wind noise, etc.

As for design, it’s a modern version of the traditional Bentley twin-cowl dash, with much more sculpture and depth than the rather flat and 2D current design in the Conti. It’s shapely and intricately detailed; the Bentley ‘jewellery’ around all the wood and leather (both are abundant) is just as you’d expect of a luxury car and more.

Occupants sit high – a steep step-up is aided by flat sills (and the door bottoms cover the sills so trousers don’t get dirty when you step out) and the view out is commanding. It feels more planted than the regal view out of a Range Rover, but still look-down.

2016 Bentley Bentayga

The dash features contemporary-look controls throughout, from the big dials and central colour display screen, to the widescreen infotainment display in the centre console (a little too VW-Group in appearance, perhaps, but packed with modern tech as a result). Switches, displays, buttons: all have a sort of 4K clarity that makes even the smallest detail seem special.

It’s roomy enough, with big-car legroom in the rear and ample space in the front. The five-seat bench in the rear is OK, but to match the cossetingly comfortable seats in the front, you need the two-seat rear pack. There are dual tablet displays in the rear, connected to the infotainment system: you can view the same mapping systems as the driver, should the plethora of entertainment options not be enough.

2016 Bentley Bentayga

Only the boot seems a bit small: 430 litres is not brilliant for such a large SUV. Blame the sporty rear design, although the space that is there is easy to load and, again, all trimmed in rich and ultra-quality materials. You can even get an optional slide-out rear bench, to mimic the Range Rover’s split rear tailgate whose bottom half so many sit on.

Another nugget we learnt on the launch: this is the first Bentley that’s been tested for towing, and can handle a 3.5-tonne trailer. There’s even a trailer assist programme: press a button and the Bentayga will reverse itself and the trailer it’s towing into a space. Magic.

Running costs

2016 Bentley Bentayga

What, you really want to know how much a big, heavy £150,000 Bentley with a 12-cylinder petrol engine will cost to run? Er, OK. Are you sitting down?

Actually, it’s not quite as bad as all that. Oh sure, 21.6mpg is hardly green and CO2 emissions of 296g/km are three times a Ford Focus Ecoboost. But it is a 2.4-tonne SUV, remember – and as Bentley says, those emissions are more than a Focus Ecoboost’s worth less than the original 2003 Continental GT W12…

2016 Bentley Bentayga

Actually getting sub-300g/km for a petrol SUV as big as this is an achievement in itself, helped by the Bentley Variable Displacement system. This shuts down half the cylinders during light loads so it operates as a fuel-efficient six-cylinder (you can’t tell). Stop-start is standard and allows you to coast, engine off, to a halt.

The full might of Volkswagen Group brings added features to make living with it easier: adaptive cruise control, head-up display, even night vision. The driver assistance systems’ 12 ultrasonic sensors, five cameras plus short- and long-range radar is reassuring tech to have supporting you.

Bentley says prices aren’t the biggest concern of owners, which is perhaps a good thing: the sheer amount of customisation outside and in, and the amount of money you can spend on it, would never be fully recouped on the secondhand market.

Not that depreciation is going to be too much of a concern for the first few years: we suspect demand is going to far outstrip supply here, which will make the Bentayga a hot, desirable and safe place to put (all) your money.

Verdict

2016 Bentley Bentayga

Doubters and naysayers, at ease. You can’t hate the Bentley Bentayga, because it is an extraordinary car and a fantastic achievement by the Crewe company.

It fully deserves a five-star rating, and not just because it’s effectively the first car in its class. The Range Rover is classless and desirable, but this has moved the luxury SUV game on for those who like driving, not just wafting. The interior is a triumph, the engine’s a powerhouse and the refinement is outstanding.

We shuddered at the thought of a Bentley SUV a few years ago, and the 2012 concept looked set to confirm our worst fears. But the Bentayga has confounded all our fears. A cosseting, rapid and satisfying to drive luxury SUV, it’s a true Bentley – the best car the firm makes. Without doubt, one of the best premium SUVs you can buy, full stop.

2016 Bentley Bentayga: the best 5 rivals

The Bentayga creates an entirely new class of car, the luxury SUV. Apart from the Range Rover, it’s thus without rival. Bentley admits it struggled to find genuine competitors – which is why it says even cars such as its own Flying Spur could be considered a rival…

  • Range Rover
  • Mercedes-Benz S-Class
  • Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
  • Audi Q7
  • Bentley Flying Spur

2016 Bentley Bentayga: specifications

2016 Bentley Bentayga

Engine: 6.0-litre W12 TSI twin-turbo

Price: £161,355

Power: 608hp

Torque: 664lb-ft

0-62mph: 4.1secs

Top speed: 187mph

Fuel economy: 21.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 296g/km

BMW 225xe

BMW 225xe: Two-Minute Road Test

BMW 225xe

You could argue that this is a practical BMW i8. It shares its three-cylinder petrol engine with the i8, combined with an electric motor (just the one, unlike the i8 – plus its drivetrain is the opposite way around). It’s not quite as fast as the i8 either. However, it does come within the spacious, compact-MPV package that is the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

What are its rivals?

There aren’t many, if any, direct rivals for the BMW 225xe. It lives in its own little ‘plug-in hybrid compact MPV’ niche. Diesel-powered cars such as the Mercedes-Benz B-class and Volkswagen Golf SV are perhaps its most obvious rivals. Then there’s the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV which, although larger, is leading the plug-in hybrid revolution in terms of sales.

BMW 225xe

Which engines does it use?

The BMW 225xe combines a 1.5-litre petrol combustion engine – providing power to the front of the car via a six-speed steptronic auto transmission – with an electric motor at the back, driving the rear wheels. This essentially creates an ‘on-demand’ 4×4 system, with the two separate motors capable of producing a combined 224hp.

BMW 225xe

What’s it like to drive?

That results in a 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds, and a top speed of 126mph. The nicest thing we can say about this car is that it drives exactly like a regular 2 Series Active Tourer. Sure, there’s an element of i3 about its power delivery, but it lacks the harsh regenerative braking and would be easy to live with, even if you’ve never driven an electric or hybrid car before. Its darty nature makes it a joy to drive around town, while wind and road noise is well managed at higher speeds.

BMW 225xe

Fuel economy and running costs

The result of all this hybrid gadgetry is a CO2 emissions figure of just 46g/km and official fuel economy of 141.2mpg. In real life, though, you won’t achieve these figures. Just how efficient the 225xe is will depend heavily on the kind of driving you do, and how often you plug it in. But these figures do result in favourable tax rates for both private buyers and company car drivers: a 7% BIK rate for the latter, in fact, and free car tax (VED) for the former.

BMW 225xe

Is it practical?

Yes – just as practical as the regular BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. With the rear seats up, it has 400 litres of boot space (the same as a petrol- or diesel-powered model), stretching to an impressive 1,350 litres with them folded down. The interior has the premium quality you’d expect from a BMW, without any sacrifices for the plug-in hybrid system.

BMW 225xe

What about safety?

The regular 2 Series Active Tourer achieved a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and the 225xe is packed with safety kit. This includes stability control, six airbags, tyre pressure monitors and a system that will automatically apply to brakes to prevent low-speed collisions.

BMW 225xe

Which version should I go for?

There are just two versions of the BMW 225xe: the entry-level Sport, or the Luxury (with a price premium of £750). For the latter, you forgo sports seats for extra comfort, and some extra chrome on the outside. We’d be tempted to stick with the Sport.

BMW 225xe

Should I buy one?

There’s a lot going for the BMW 225xe. Just like the regular model, it combines family-car practicality with a typically BMW driving experience. It handles well, and the interior is suitably premium. Best of all, there are no sacrifices for the plug-in hybrid system. The biggest downside? The £35,155 asking price.

BMW 225xe

Pub fact

The BMW 225xe’s battery can be recharged in just two hours and 15 minutes, when using BMW’s i Wallbox. Alternatively, a conventional charger will replenish it in three hours and 15 minutes.

BMW 330e

BMW 330e: Two-Minute Road Test

BMW 330e

BMW has taken its company-car-favourite 3 Series, fitted it with the 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged petrol engine out of the 320i and added an electric motor, with the ability to be charged like an electric car. The result is potentially staggering fuel economy figures, but also a quick and enjoyable drive.

Mercedes-Benz C350e

What are its rivals?

Audi is yet to launch a plug-in hybrid A4 (although it’s on the horizon), so rivals come down pretty much solely to the Mercedes-Benz C350e. There is an outside contender, however: the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Sure, the Japanese 4×4 is not a conventional BMW 3 Series rival, but people are buying them by the bucketload for its low tax bracket. And the Outlander’s figures square up neatly against the 3 Series.

BMW 330e

Which engines does it use?

The 330e combines a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the front (from the 320i), with an electric motor under the boot floor. It’s rear-wheel drive all of the time, with power distributed through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

BMW 330e

What’s it like to drive?

When you set off in the 330e, it runs entirely on electric power, keeping in automatic eDrive mode all the way up to 50mph, when the petrol engine kicks in. It’s a near-silent, refined drive around town – more pleasant than the equivalent diesel. When the roads open up and the speed limit increases, it has plenty of power for overtaking and spirited driving as the engine quietly kicks in. However, the weight of the batteries is definitely noticeable if you’re used to a regular 3 Series.

BMW 330e

Fuel economy and running costs

Disregard the official figures (148.7mpg in SE guise) – the fuel economy will come down to how often you charge it up and what sort of driving you do. If you charge it regularly and only do short journeys, you’ll end up using very little petrol. On longer journeys, the petrol engine will work as a generator to charge the electric motor, so it’ll be more economical than the equivalent 320i.

What’s more relevant is the 44g/km CO2 figure, which puts it in the 7% company car BIK band. It’ll also be free to tax for private users, plus it’ll be exempt from the London congestion charge.

BMW 330e

Is it practical?

This is where the 330e starts to fall apart compared to the likes of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Of course, it’s based on the regular 3 Series, so it’s not impractical per se, but 110 litres of boot space have been eaten up by the batteries. For solo company car drivers it will be fine, but families might find it a struggle.

BMW 330e

What about safety?

As you’d expect from a BMW, the 330e is packed with kit to make it safe in the event of a crash (as well as technology to prevent a collision in the first place). Features include lane-departure warning and city braking function, which can apply the brakes if it detects a pedestrian stepping in front of you.

BMW 330e

Which version should I go for?

Unfortunately, you can only get the 330e as a saloon for now. An insider told us he saw no reason why it couldn’t be offered as a Touring (estate) in the future, but for now it’s targeting American and Chinese markets – both of which prefer saloons.

We’d probably opt for the entry-level SE model, as it’s got plenty of kit as standard and buyers of the 330e are all about keeping costs low.

BMW 330e

Should I buy one?

Spend your own money on one? The £33,935 start price (before Government grant) is a lot of money. But as a company car, it makes so much sense. There’s a reason why fleet users crave a 320d to cover the miles, and this is nicer to drive and will get fewer scowls as diesel resentment builds. We’re surprised BMW is only expecting to sell just over 1,000 in the UK in the first year.

BMW 330e

Pub fact

The 330e is able to cover 25 miles using electric-power alone. In theory, if your commute is less than this, and you have a charger at home and work, you may never need to start the petrol engine at all.