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…

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.

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 (2016) road test review

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 (2016) road test review

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.

Kia ProCee’d GT (2016) road test review

2015 Kia pro_ceed GTCan the head rule the heart when it comes to choosing a hot hatch? To be a truly great hot hatch, a car must have an ability to set the pulse racing long before an ignition key has been twisted. Anticipation is everything.

So can the recently refreshed Kia Pro_Cee’d GT – complete with a seven-year warranty – mix it with the hot hatch establishment? Or, after a week behind the wheel, does satisfaction kill the desire? We borrowed a (very) Liquid Yellow Kia to find out.

What are its rivals?

02_Kia_Proceed_GT_TMRT

Let’s establish one thing from the outset, the Kia Proceed GT – if you’ll allow us to use the more sensible version of its name – isn’t able to mix it with the big league hot hatches. So put aside any thoughts that it could be a cut-price Volkswagen Golf GTi Ford Focus ST or Renaultsport Megane.

The clue is in the name – this is a GT and not a GTi. The little ‘i’ makes all the difference. So think of the Kia Proceed GT as a rival to the Peugeot 308 GT, Hyundai i30 Turbo and Renault Megane GT 220.

Which engines does it use?

03_Kia_Proceed_GT_TMRT

The 1.6-litre T-GDi engine was the first turbocharged petrol unit to be offered by Kia in the UK and it has been reworked for the refreshed Proceed GT. Power remains the same at 204hp, but 195lb ft of torque is now available from 1,500rpm, rather than 1,750rpm in the old model.

Kia quotes a 0-60mph time of 7.3 seconds and the Proceed GT certainly feels brisk. Blisteringly quick, no, but certainly quick enough. It’s not the most characterful of engines, which is perhaps why Kia has chosen to fit an electronic sound generator to the new Proceed GT…

Press a button on the steering wheel and a ‘more distinctive and exciting’ engine note enters the cabin. At the same time, the analogue speedometer goes digital, complete with torque and turbo gauges. The sound isn’t the worst we’ve heard, but it can get a tad irritating when you’re not on it like Rob Bonnet.

What’s it like to drive?

04_Kia_Proceed_GT_TMRT

Within a few miles of driving the Kia Proceed GT you’ll begin to appreciate just what a great all-rounder it is. It may not hit the high notes of the very best hot hatches, but you can still dance to a very merry tune along your favourite B-road.

This is definitely a warm hatch you could live with on a daily basis, as the ride is surprisingly comfortable, even with those 18-inch rims shod in Michelin Sport tyres. The steering is nicely weighted, if lacking in outright feel, and there’s a good level of grip. It even stops well, largely thanks to the new 17-inch front brake discs, up one inch compared with the previous Proceed GT.

Fuel economy and running costs

06_Kia_Proceed_GT_TMRT

On paper at least, the claimed 38.2mpg is perfectly acceptable for a petrol-engined warm hatch, but don’t expect to get anything close to that if you use the Proceed GT to its full potential. CO2 emissions of 170g/km put the Kia in VED band H, resulting in a showroom tax of £295 and annual car tax of £205.

It’s worth remembering the 1.6-litre turbocharged Peugeot 308 GT offers figures of 50.4mpg and 130g/km, so although the warm Pug is more expensive to buy, it should be cheaper to run.

Is it practical?

05_Kia_Proceed_GT_TMRT

If you want the most practical version, Kia has a ready-made alternative in the shape of the five-door Cee’d GT. That said, access to the rear seats is surprisingly easy, although you’ll need to allow for the wide doors when parking. We found access rather restricted in a tight multi-storey car park.

There’s a useful 380 litres of boot space, which swallowed pretty much all the Christmas presents we forgot to order online. Which actually turned out to be rather a lot. You can also fold the 60:40-split rear seats, although at 1,225 litres, the Proceed does give up 93 litres compared with the Cee’d. Up front, there’s plenty of space and storage, including a useful area in front of the gearstick, with enough space to put a charging smartphone next to the well-positioned USB port.

What about safety?

07_Kia_Proceed_GT_TMRT

The Kia Cee’d was awarded a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating when it was tested in 2012. The new brakes help to reduce the stopping distance at 62mph from 36.4 metres to 35.2 metres. Given the brakes and a poor soundtrack were two things criticised in the earlier car, it’s good to see Kia has listened to feedback from its drivers.

The Kia Proceed GT also features brake assist and hill-start assist control, which prevents you from rolling back on a hill.

Which version should I go for?

08_Kia_Proceed_GT_TMRT

There’s only one Proceed GT on offer, so your choices are limited. That said, it’s very well-equipped, including a heated D-shaped steering wheel (a first for Kia), keyless entry and start, DAB digital radio, seven-inch sat nav screen, xenon automatic adaptive lights, rain-sensing wipers, heated seats, reversing camera and dual-zone climate control.

Your only decision is the choice of colour. Do you opt for Track Red, Fusion White, Phantom Black or the new Yellow Flame? This colour divides opinion, but we reckon the Kia wears it very well. And it certainly stands out. The Proceed GT received more than its fair share of admiring glances, although the signature ice-cube LED lights certainly help.

Should I buy one?

09_Kia_Proceed_GT_TMRT

Don’t look at the Proceed GT as a rival to the Golf GTi or Focus ST, as you’re likely to be disappointed. But that’s not the end of the story, because by the end of the week we felt we could spend the next seven years with this Kia. It offers about 90% of the talent offered by the class leaders, with 100% of the reassurance offered by a seven-year warranty. Buy one today and it could see you through to the time when the pitter-patter of tiny feet demands something more practical.

What’s more, we think the Kia Proceed GT is one of the best looking cars you can buy. We’d go as far as saying it’s the best looking hot hatch, full stop. At £23,105, considering all the standard kit and warranty, we reckon it’s a bit of steal.

Pub fact

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The Proceed GT is the first Kia to be fitted with Recaro front seats. And it’s not made in Korea. Instead, the Proceed GT is built in Slovakia and is sold only in Europe. Because Europe – and especially the Brits – love hot hatches. Give the Kia a chance and you could find yourself falling for its charms. Your head can rule your heart.

Infiniti Q30

Infiniti Q30 (2016) road test review

Infiniti Q30

Infiniti is Nissan’s premium brand – like Lexus is to Toyota. It’s Nissan’s way of competing with the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. However, its success so far in the UK has been slow, with just 10 dealers and 1,195 new cars registered last year.

Infiniti hopes the Q30 will catapult the brand into the premium mainstream. The car shares its platform with the Mercedes-Benz A-class, and is produced at Nissan’s Sunderland plant.

Infiniti Q30

What are its rivals?

It’s a slightly unusual alternative to the likes of the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and, of course, the Mercedes-Benz A-class. Unlike these conventional premium hatchbacks, it sits a bit higher, offering more practicality (and with it, a slightly heftier price tag). It’s not a proper crossover, though – that will come in the form of the QX30, due later this year. The whole thing is a tad confusing – but following convention isn’t what the Q30 is all about.

Infiniti Q30

Which engines does it use?

The range kicks off with a 1.6-litre petrol engine producing 122hp. It’s likely to be a small-seller in the UK, and for good reason; it doesn’t exactly live up to the Infiniti’s premium image. The most popular choice will be a 1.5-litre Renault turbodiesel, producing 109hp, while a 2.2-litre turbodiesel borrowed from Mercedes-Benz tops the range. That’s the model we’ve got on test here.

Infiniti Q30

What’s it like to drive?

It’s actually pretty good. Despite the raised ride height, body roll is well-contained – although that is partly down to the Sport model we’re testing here, which rides 15mm lower than the regular car. We’d opt for Premium-spec, though – the Sport’s ride is definitely a touch on the firm side.

The 2.2-litre 170hp Mercedes-Benz turbodiesel is clattery on start-up, but offers impressive performance. Handling has been fine-tuned on British roads and you can tell – it turns in well, with the four-wheel drive of our test car providing excellent levels of grip. The steering is on the light side, with little feedback.

Infiniti Q30

Fuel economy and running costs

On paper, the 2.2-litre turbodiesel returns 57.6mpg. That’s impressive, especially when you consider the performance and the fuel-sapping four-wheel-drive system. Unfortunately, during our week-long, 500-mile test, the Q30’s trip computer is only showing early-30s mpg. We weren’t driving it with economy in mind, admittedly, and our experience of this Mercedes-Benz engine suggests it does need running in before decent economy is returned. Even so, it’s unusual for real-life economy to be quite so far from the official figure.

Infiniti Q30

Is it practical?

It’s a relatively big car, the Q30, and that translates into good levels of interior space. The boot comes in at 368 litres, bigger than that of a Mercedes-Benz A-Class (341 litres) but slotting in neatly between a BMW 1 Series (360 litres) and an Audi A3 Sportback (380 litres).

Infiniti Q30

What about safety?

Safety is where the Q30 excels. It’s actually the safest car in its class, according to Euro NCAP, scoring five stars and an impressive 86% in the child occupant test, plus 84% for adults. It also scored highly in the pedestrian-impact tests – thanks partly to a bonnet that pops up if sensors detect a person has been struck.

Infiniti Q30

Which version should I go for?

We’d be tempted by the 2.2-litre turbodiesel tested here (in more comfortable Premium spec). In reality, though, the 1.5-litre diesel will make more sense for most people – company car drivers especially.

Infiniti Q30

Should I buy one?

If you’re a company car driver considering yet another Audi A3 or the Infiniti, we can understand why you’d be tempted. The Q30 looks great, offers good levels of practicality and is extremely safe. It also drives well, although keen drivers will be better off with a BMW 1 Series.

Our biggest gripe with the Q30 is that it’s just a little bit too much of a Nissan/Mercedes parts bin. It fails to feel as premium as the Mercedes, or most other rivals, and there are switches and instruments everywhere that have clearly been lifted from other models. You’re making a statement buying this car – in Infiniti’s own words, it ‘challenges convention’ – so you’re different from all the Mercedes/BMW/Audi crowd. But you’re making that statement by buying a car that’s basically a Mercedes-Benz A-class, but not as good.

Infiniti Q30

Pub fact

The Mercedes-Benz A-class isn’t known for its comfortable seats, so Infiniti has designed special seats for the Q30. It says the seat-back has been engineered to match the curvature of the spine, helping to reduce backache on long journeys.

Ford F-150: Two-Minute Road Test

Ford F-150 (2016) road test review

Ford F-150: Two-Minute Road Test

This is America’s best-selling vehicle. While Ford sells Fiestas by the bucketload over here, in the States they prefer a big-ass truck. And it is huge. Sitting above the Ranger in Ford’s line-up, the F-150 is the entry-level F-Series truck. Above it are the F-250, F-350 and F-450.

While it hasn’t downsized – doing so would mess with Ford’s winning formula, it has got lighter for the latest generation model. More than 300kg has been knocked off the total mass thanks to extensive use of aluminium.

What are its rivals?

Although the F-150 is by far the biggest seller, it still has plenty in the way of competition – in the States, at least. Biggies (literally) include the Dodge Ram 1500 and GM’s Chevrolet Silverado. There’s also the Nissan Titan and the smaller Honda Ridgeline.

Which engines does it use?

Which engines does it use?

Even the huge F-150 hasn’t escaped Ford’s Ecoboost programme. Engines include an entry-level 3.5-litre V6 and a twin-turbocharged 2.7-litre V6 (tested here). Topping the range, there’s a 5.0-litre V8, for the true American pick-up experience.

What’s it like to drive?

It’s about as American as vehicles come. So the steering is unnervingly light (that’s how they like it in the States), and the brakes offer very little in the way of feel. But the sound of the 2.7-litre V6 Ecoboost we tried is fantastic – and with a 0-60mph time of 6.1 seconds, it’s anything but sluggish.

Which engines does it use?

Fuel economy and running costs

If economy is on your mind, this isn’t the vehicle for you. The 2.7-litre Ecoboost officially returns a combined American 22.0mpg – that’s 26.4mpg. Make the most of that vocal engine, and you’ll easily see that drop far into the teens.

Is it practical?

Hell yeah. Or at least, it is if you don’t really need a boot. There’s a massive 1.7-metre load bay, and there’s practically BMW 7 Series levels of rear legroom.

Ford F-150: Two-Minute Road Test

What about safety?

Basic physics suggests that, if you’re driving something with the mass of a Ford F-150, you’re likely to come off better in a collision with a Smart Car. Despite now being constructed broadly of aluminium (rather than heavy-weight steel), it scored five stars in crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s safety tests.

Which version should I go for?

The 2.7-litre V6 makes sense to us – it’s certainly quick enough, considering the slightly iffy handling and brakes. It also sounds good and is better than the others on fuel (OK, less bad…).

Ford F-150: Two-Minute Road Test

Should I buy one?

You can’t. At least, not officially, if you’re in the UK. That’s not a complaint – it towers over things like the Audi Q7, so would make very little sense on our small, congested roads. But it doesn’t stop us wanting to import one.

Pub fact

Every 19 seconds someone is buying a Ford truck, with the F-Series range accounting for 90% of Ford’s profits globally.

Autonomous speed enforcement

Motorists beware: the Robocop Enforcement Trailer is coming

Autonomous speed enforcement

Be afraid. Be very afraid. If you thought you had the upper hand over average speed cameras, mobile safety cameras and fixed Gatsos, all that could be about to change. The Vitronic Enforcement Trailer is coming and it hasn’t had any dinner.

This autonomous speed enforcement system is able to reach parts other speed cameras cannot reach, including areas without power supply and in situations where it would be too hazardous for a human to set up a mobile device. With the Enforcement Trailer, there’s simply no hiding place.

The French Ministry has already purchased 150 of these menacing machines, with 50 already in operation in France. So you may have been caught by an Enforcement Trailer – you just don’t know it yet. And be warned: there’s every chance these Robocops of the roadside will venture across the English Channel and into the UK.

Vitronic is probably one of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of. From its Wiesbaden headquarters it specialises in industrial automation, logistics and traffic technology; supplying speed and red light enforcement systems and license plate readers to the public and private sectors. Many toll system operators use its TollChecker system to automate toll collection and enforcement.

Doesn’t eat, sleep or drink for five days

Vitronic autonomous speed camera

According to the German firm, the Enforcement Trailer makes “zero demands on the local infrastructure” and is ideal for rural roads, work zones and areas where it can be left unprotected for long periods of time. A long battery life and armoured shell ensures it can catch the maximum number of speeding drivers over the longest period of time.

Indeed, the Enforcement Trailer – a name that in itself sounds rather sinister – has an independent power supply based on high-performance batteries, enabling an uninterrupted operation for five days. Asking a safety camera operator to work for five days without a break would be unethical. Not to mention illegal.

[bctt tweet=”Asking a safety camera operator to work for five days without a break would be unethical. Not to mention illegal.” via=”no”]

Crucially, the light radar technology allows authorities to enforce speed limits of all vehicles across all lanes simultaneously. Variable speed limits and bans on through traffic specific to certain times, lanes and vehicle classes can also be monitored. In short, the Enforcement Trailer has got your number and if you’re up to no good, there’s simply no hiding place.

Hates humans, loves catching offenders

Scary speed camera

An integrated modem transfers case data wirelessly via GSM and enables remote access to the measuring system. This means no human intervention is required between the time of installation and removal. At which point the Enforcement Trailer is dragged away, kicking and screaming, pleading for more action.

Vitronic claims it can be transported by virtually any vehicle that has a tow-bar and it even has its own remote-controlled engine for precise alignment. Once at ground level it’s extremely difficult for unauthorised parties to remove it, with the armoured shell and alarm system helping to protect it from anyone who may have been caught by the box that’s set to launch its own war on speed.

They may look like a cross between a cash machine and a recycling bin, but they could soon be coming to a roadside near you. We have just one question: assuming the Enforcement Trailer is not monitored by CCTV, what’s to stop someone sticking a blanket over the top, therefore rendering Robocop useless?

Answers on a postcard.

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