BMW 320d ED Plus long-term test intro

BMW 320d ED Plus (2015) long-term review

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term test intro

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term review: part four

Economy again, but this one was a surprise. Because I really wasn’t trying, honest. It was mainly through boredom driving through a 50mph zone on the M5 motorway that saw me flicking through the BMW’s trip computer. I stopped at the average mpg display, surprised: it was showing 77mpg.

77mpg! Honestly, I wasn’t trying. But if I can accidentally do that, I thought, what happens if I continue this relaxed driving? So, when the roadworks cleared, I cruised for the next 10 miles. Not going overly slowly, but sticking to around 55-60mph, ducking in and out of the trucks, smoothing progress as much as I could.

At Strensham services, I took stock. Total journey was just under 50 miles. I’d been in economy mode for, ooh, about 20% of that. Overall mpg? Check this out.
BMW 320d ED 82.8mpg

Yes, 82.8mpg. Way above this 320d ED Plus auto’s official figure of 68.9mpg – and far in excess of the usual 10% correction figure we generally advise people take off their fuel computer figure to allow for tolerances and speedo error.

With no special tricks and no hard-to-use techniques, I smashed the government figure on a sunny M5 early one Friday morning. Which has now got me thinking – if I can do that partly without trying, what can it hit if I really do go into economy mode?

I’d say it’s one to put to the test over the next few weeks, but that’s perhaps enough for economy for now, don’t you think? Think I’ve deserved a press of the Sport button and a few back-road blasts – cue an early morning charge down to the Goodwood for the 74th Members’ Meeting this coming weekend…

BMW 320d ED Donington

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term review: part three

‘So how’s the fuel economy of your BMW 320d ED Plus going,’ people sometimes ask me (OK, perhaps they don’t say the ‘ED Plus’ mouthful bit…), perhaps knowing I’m a bit of an mpg geek and love the challenge of hypermiling. Oh, pretty good, I cooly say…

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term review

It’s better than pretty good. It’s exceptional. Take one day last week: I cruised down to the office with the trip computer zeroed and, 100 miles of motorway later, I clicked on the magic number: 72mpg. Better than official combined, that, even if the likely optimism of the computer wouldn’t quite have achieved this.

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term review

A few weeks later, I checked again. Another reset, another cruise down the M6 and M1. Result? A glittering 77.1mpg – and, even allowing for the likely few percent optimism of the computer, this was more than likely better than average. See – it can be done!

I wasn’t suffering for it either. The climate control was on. I wasn’t driving ultra-slowly. I wasn’t fit to burst by the end of the trip. Simply driving gently and enjoying all that’s nice about this rear-drive saloon that can also do 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and quickly raise a smile on a back road. Why wouldn’t you?

Is the 320d ED all about economy then?

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term review

I had a few days in a Ford Focus recently. Great car, although I’m not sure how ‘eco’ the Ecoboost engine is – 70mpg means I’m disappointed by 40mpg, particularly when it should be doing 60+mpg.

Anyhoo, the Focus is a great car, with a chassis oozing ability and composure. I enjoyed it a lot.

Then got back in the BMW and re-appreciated its feel-good driving position, tight steering, well-balanced chassis and, most of all, the sophisticated absorbency of the optional adaptive dampers.

Like the Focus, it’s firm – but there’s also compliance and cushioning there, with highly sophisticated body control that’s beyond what passive dampers could achieve, particularly on roads with complex surfaces.

It’s something you appreciate day-to-day too, not just when you’re going quickly: in many ways, rubbish city centre roads are as challenging as empty Welsh B-roads when it comes to body control and ride quality.

Wondering whether to tick the box on the configurator? Wonder no more: do it. You’ll feel the benefits each and every time you turn a wheel.

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term review: part two

7,000 miles in and the ‘eco special’ BMW 320d ED Plus is going just fine. Not that I’ve covered all of those miles since taking delivery: I actually drove this car back from the launch in Spain before it was even assigned to me.

Then another MR team member drove it to Frankfurt (another thousand-odd miles). Yes, it’s been a busy machine alright.

Now it’s settling down into a life on the M6, M1, M40, M25 and many other fine British motorways and A-roads. Doing what so many 3 Series do: 125-mile trips to the office and to meetings before turning round and doing exactly the same back home again.

Such use means you get to know cars intimately. This is the first time I’ve had a 3 Series as a long-termer, but I’ve been driving them for years, most commonly in fleet car dream spec.

As it’s partly the improvements that BMW’s made for the 2016 model year that we’re testing, I thought I’d ring the ways it’s been improved over before.

How is the 2015 BMW 320d ED Plus better than old ones?

BMW 320d LT part 2

The most obvious improvement is engine refinement. This new modular 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel (codename B47) is a significant improvement over the old N47 unit here.

Before, you knew you were in a diesel with a BMW 2.0-litre. They were a bit more gruff, vocal and gravelly than you’d perhaps expect in a premium car. Not anymore with this smooth, quiet-free-spinning unit.

Noise levels are down significantly and it’s now an engine you’ll happily rev or hold a gear in using the eight-speed auto’s paddleshifters. Before, you usually preferred the torquey shove and lower noise levels of an upshift.

In fact, the only time it’s oddly vocal is with cold starts – near-freezing temperatures and below. There, for a few minutes, there’s a sometimes eye-opening amount of clatter from the top end: a metallic rattle like an old British sportscar with worn tappets. I don’t worry too much – with a bit of heat, it soon quietens down.

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term review

Other improvements include the now full LED HID lights, which replace the old Xenon option. They’re a virtual must-have: supremely bright and crisp, it really is like driving along with your own daylight in front of you.

They’re lower power too, so don’t need headlight washers, thus saving the washer bottle level in winter…

Handling is that bit crisper thanks to tweaked settings and hardware, which I don’t get to enjoy all that much on my usual commute, but which makes traffic diversions that bit more fun.

Oh, and on that, iDrive’s RTTI traffic avoidance system is brilliant. Quick to act, it’s sent me on some genius diversions to ensure my ETA is barely affected no matter how ‘red’ the traffic on my normal route. It’s virtually invaluable.

How’s fuel economy fairing?

BMW 320d LT part 2

I say 60mpg: in honesty, rushing about on all these diversion routes means it’s dropped. Call it a regular tank-to-tank 56-57mpg. Hardly a disaster, albeit some way off the claimed 70.6mpg still.

The weather hasn’t helped: lots of rain doesn’t help eco driving. I’m also aware of the occasional chatter of the brake drying function (it touches brake pads to discs every 15 seconds or so, to clear off the water and make the brakes act faster in the wet). Wonder if this has a slight effect on economy?

With the new year and hopefully more normal commutes to the office, I’ll see if order can be restored. If I can’t nudge into the 70mpgs over a representative week’s commuting, I’ll be disappointed.

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term review: introduction

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term test intro

The BMW 3 Series celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015 with a mid-life facelift to face off talented new rivals from Audi and Jaguar. Real world highlight of the range is the even more economical BMW 320d ED Plus model, but does reality differ from on-paper perceptions? We’ve six months to find out…

The BMW 3 Series’ 2015 facelift is all but impossible to distinguish on paper. Trust us though, YA 15 OMP really is the latest generation 3 Series, complete with fancy new headlights, more sculpted front bumper and, er, chrome bits for the electric window switches.

Read more:

BMW didn’t need to do much though. It was already the class leader. The Jaguar XE couldn’t beat it, the new Audi A4 hasn’t beat it; the 3 Series has it sewn up. With the mid-life revision, BMW has honed it, taken the edge off the ride, sharpened the handling and perfected something already superb.

It’s also made it greener, although it’s also made the range more complex. The 318i is a 1.5-litre three-cylinder; the 330i is now a 245hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder – and the diesels, well, if you’re a company car driver, we suggest speccing carefully, so myriad are the price options and CO2 configurations…

What model are we running?

Our long-termer is the greenest model you can buy, if not its ultimate fuel-saving guise: the 320d ED Plus. You can get this in sub-100g/km CO2 guise, but only if you choose an auto and only if you take the airstream-like 16-inch wheels (with eco rubber). We had the auto, but not the slippery wheels: a no-cost option are the prettier rims on our long-termer, with sportier tyres. Given the meagre 5g/km penalty, it’s the right choice.

Then it gets slightly confusing. As well as the 320d ED Plus, you can also now get a 320d ED Sport, which emits 108g/km CO2 and averages 68.9mpg (the same as our ‘Plus’). But you can also get a 320d Sport, which emits… 111g/km and averages 67.3mpg.

A 320d ED Sport is £32,285; a 320d Sport is 31,385. And with the regular car you get 190hp instead of 163hp, and a half-second faster 0-62mph time… if you’re going green, surely you’d stick with the £30,485 320d ED Plus? Or, get 190hp and still-decent economy AND a sub-£30k price tag with the £29,785 320d SE upon which the 320d ED Plus is based?

Or, by now, have you lost the will to live and wish we’d just get on with it? OK…

Why are we running it?

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term test intro

We want to find out how economical a BMW 320d is in the real world. BMW sells tens of thousands, on the promise of low tax and high economy, seemingly not at the expense of performance or rear-wheel drive engagement. Sounds like black magic but is it actually a blatant lie?

My journeys are usually high mileage, invariably varied and very representative of the use many other 320d encounter. So if I can get good economy, then hopefully you can too. Upwards of 10,000 miles’ driving should be enough to put it to the test…

We also want to see if living with a BMW is still premium and classy enough. BMW sells umpteen more 3 Series than Ford does Mondeo, yet it’s the Ford that’s perceived as the volume car and the BMW as the exclusive premium machine. Does reality still compare?

Long-term test spec

BMW 320d ED Plus long-term test intro

Press cars contain lots of equipment to help writers tell readers what the various options are like. Which is how our £30,485 long-term test car turns into one costing £40,780.

Must-haves are the eight-speed Sport automatic transmission (£1,690), BMW Professional sat nav (£900 – yes, nav is standard on all new BMWs now, but only the Pro system gives the online features we’re going to test so fully), Adaptive M Sport suspension (£750) and interior comfort package (£695 – it adds split-fold rear seats, more stowage cubbies and the lovely Extended Interior Light Package).

Nice-to-haves is the Visibility package (£850) that includes BMW’s brilliant LED headlights, Enhanced Bluetooth telephone (£350) and Internet (£95 – bargain). Indulgences we love? Anthracite headlining (£215), Head-up Display (£825) and speed limit display (£220); the rest is fancy but not essential (and surely some o fit should be standard – £330 reverse assist camera, anyone?).

What else is out there?

Audi has recently released the all-new A4, and what an impressive car it is. Extremely refined, the interior’s a step-on in terms of quality, appearance and roominess, while the tech it packs in is top-notch: some people will choose the A4 simply for the fact it gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.

Jaguar’s XE vies with the 3 Series for driver’s choice in this class. An excellent first effort at a rear-wheel drive ‘baby Jag’, the XE is ultimately let down by its slightly disappointing interior and not-yet-there engine refinement and infotainment tech. Updates are coming, though…

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a very popular choice. It’s a little spec sensitive; choose the wrong one and it can seems surprisingly average and uncouth for a supposed premium compact exec. But ticking boxes like the bargain-price air suspension restore the class you’d expect from a car that looks not unlike an S-Class.

Other choices? Lexus’ hybrid IS 300h is a bit leftfield but pretty effective, certainly much more so than the so-disappointing Infiniti Q50. Coming in 2016 is the Alfa Giulia, which Italy promises will be a 3 Series beater (although we’ve heard that before) and, who knows, we may eventually get a new Volvo S60 to bring some of the XC90’s excellence to this sector.


Car: BMW 320d ED Plus

CO2: 104g/km

Fuel economy: 68.9mpg

Power: 163hp

Torque: 280lb-ft

0-62mph: 7.9secs

Top speed: 140mph

List price: £32,220 (320d ED Plus auto)

Price as tested: £40,780

Now configure your BMW 320d ED Plus on

Sea dog

Sea dogs: taking your pet abroad this summer

Sea dog

Brittany Ferries has issued advice for anyone taking a pet abroad this summer, which comes off the back of another record-breaking year for the ferry operator.

According to the company, 67,462 pets travelled on its ferries in 2015, an increase of 17% compared to the same period in 2014. In fact, the pet-friendly cabins on the Portsmouth to Le Havre, Bilbao and Santander crossings are always the first to sell out. So if you’re looking to take your sea dog across the water this summer, you might want to think about booking sooner rather than later.

Rules are more relaxed than before

Before 2012, Britain’s pet passport rules were much stricter than the rest of Europe. Animals had to be vaccinated against rabies six months before travelling and have a blood test to prove the vaccine had been effective.

Under the current rules, when you enter or return to the UK from another EU or listed country, your pet must meet the entry requirements. These are as follows:

  1. Your pet must be microchipped. This must be done before your pet gets a rabies vaccination.
  2. Your pet must have been vaccinated against rabies. You must wait 21 days from the date of the vaccination before travelling. The day of vaccination counts as day 0 and not day 1.
  3. Your pet must have a pet passport or third-country official veterinary certificate.
  4. If travelling from a listed country, fill in a declaration, confirming that you aren’t going to sell or transfer the ownership of your pet.
  5. Dogs must have had a tapeworm treatment no less than 24 hours and no more than 120 hours (5 days) before entry.
  6. You must use an approved transport company and an approved route unless you’re travelling between the UK and Ireland.

Brittany Ferries offers pet-friendly cabins on its Portsmouth to Le Havre, Bilbao and Santander crossings, with the option of on-board kennels. For routes to and from France, travellers can carry their pet in the car, with regular visits to the car deck for owners to check on their loved one.

Christine Barker, general manager Brittany Ferries holidays, said: “Boarding kennels can cost as much as £150 a week in London, and more than £100 a week outside the capital.

“But aside from the money, there’s the emotional cost of leaving a key member of the family behind. More people want to take the family pet on holiday, particularly as many properties make no charge.”

More information

According to the UK government, you can enter or return to the UK with your pet cat, dog or ferret without quarantine if you follow certain rules. Your pet has to travel within five days of you, or someone else you’ve authorised in writing. There are different rules for pets travelling outside the five-day limit.

You cannot travel with more than five pets unless you’re attending a training for a competition, show or sporting event. You’ll need written evidence of registration for the event when you travel, while all pets must be attending the event, be over six-months old and meet the pet travel rules.

There are no restrictions on bringing pet rodents, rabbits, birds, ornamental fish, invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles to the UK from other EU countries. Pet rabbits and rodents from countries outside the EU most spend four months in quarantine and will also need a rabies import licence.

When you return to the UK, staff from the ferry company will scan your pet’s microchip and check your documents. Your pet will be held and could be put into quarantine or sent back to the country it travelled from if you don’t have the correct documents or your pet hasn’t been properly prepared for travel. You are responsible for the the cost of quarantine or the re-export of your pet.

For more detailed information on pet travel, visit the government website.

Top Gear London filming March 2016

Chris Evans apologises for ‘disrespectful’ Top Gear scenes

Top Gear London filming March 2016BBC Top Gear host Chris Evans has apologised “unreservedly” for scenes over the weekend that appeared to show filming near the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall.

Paparazzi shots showed presenter Matt LeBlanc and stunt driver Ken Block driving Block’s ‘Hoonicorn’ near to the war memorial – scenes that drew immediate criticism with one retired Colonel, Richard Kemp, telling the Telegraph it was wrong to film next to “a sacred tribute to millions of people. Jeremy Clarkson was certainly no saint but I don’t believe he would have ever performed a stunt in such bad taste.”

Today, Chris Evans responded to the criticism on his BBC Radio 2 breakfast show, stating that he “completely understood the furore” around images of the shoot.

“It doesn’t matter what actually happened, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances were that could explain this away, what is important about this is what these images look like and they look entirely disrespectful – which is not and would never be the intention of the Top Gear team or Matt.

“Retrospectively, it was unwise to be anywhere near the Cenotaph with this motor car.”

Evans acknowledged that there had been some “very incendiary comments written alongside these pictures, and I completely understand this furore, but the Top Gear team would never, ever do that.”

Chancellor George Osborne

Chancellor complains to Top Gear for disturbing Budget

Top Gear London filming March 2016Chancellor George Osborne has scolded BBC Top Gear producers for disturbing him while trying to write the 2016 Budget.

The crew were filming on Horseguards Parade during the weekend – with one stunt apparently acted out right outside the Chancellor’s residence.

The irritated Chancellor thus took to Twitter to censure the produces and ask Top Gear host Chris Evans to “keep it down please”.

The scene is the latest in a number of stunts filmed around the City of London over the weekend. On Saturday, Top Gear host Matt LeBlanc and ‘hoonigan’ stunt driver Ken Block apparently surprised a bride and groom on their wedding day by blasting past St Paul’s Cathedral.

Top Gear filming in London – in pictures

More controversially, there have been reports of action being filmed near to the Cenotaph in Whitehall, although producers insist the filming was being carried out at a respectful distance from the war memorial.

All scenes in the weekend’s filming were also agreed with Westminster council in advance, said a spokesman.

TDI diesel

New £800 tax for diesel cars proposed – plus diesel scrappage scheme

TDI dieselA think-tank has called for the scrappage scheme to be re-introduced for diesel cars – as well as a hefty £800 first-year tax rate for new diesel vehicles.

The Head of Environment and Energy at the Policy Exchange think-tank, Richard Howard, says car buyers should be discouraged from choosing diesel cars over petrol, hybrid, electric or LPG models.

He said: “The problem with diesels, as exemplified by the Volkswagen ‘dieselgate’ scandal, is that they perform very badly in terms of local air pollution. Emissions standards have systematically failed to control NOx emissions from diesel cars and vans.”

Studies by the Policy Exchange, in partnership with King’s College London, suggest the trend towards diesel cars (which account for 36% of cars on UK roads today – up from 14% in 2001) needs to be reversed.

But, the think-tank claims, this shouldn’t be done in a way that penalises motorists who bought diesel cars in good faith (for example, by retrospectively increasing taxes on diesel fuel or banning diesel vehicles from city centres).

Policy Exchange has outlined a proposal to increase the first year’s vehicle excise duty (VED) on new diesel cars to £800. This, it says, could decrease sales of new diesel cars by 50% yet still raise £500 million a year to help fund a diesel scrappage scheme.

In 2010, the Government ran a scrappage scheme to encourage people who’d owned an old car (more than 10 years old) for more than a year to trade it in for a new, more efficient model. In that case, the Government paid £1,000 towards a discount on a new car, with car manufacturers paying a further £1,000.

The diesel car scrappage scheme being proposed by the Policy Exchange follows a similar principle – with the Government’s funding coming from the increased VED, while “given that car manufacturers are at fault for creating polluting diesels in the first place, it is only right that they should contribute to their replacement.”

The think-tank is also calling for incentives for people to switch to vehicles fuelled by liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Currently, just 0.1% of cars run on LPG (compared to 4% in Europe), with a catch-22 situation created by a shortage of filling stations.

Policy Exchange says this could be overcome by the Government encouraging the uptake of LPG vehicles through a fuel-duty freeze.

Toyota Carina E

Toyota Carina E: Retro Road Test

Toyota Carina EIf you’ve never driven a Toyota Carina E, there’s a good chance you’ve been a passenger in one – probably after several pints and a large kebab. Yes, during the 1990s, this British-built saloon faithfully plied its trade outside train stations and nightclubs as one of UK’s favourite minicabs.

While a penchant for private-hire doesn’t bestow much glamour, taxi drivers know a reliable, affordable and easy-to-drive car when they see it. And those same virtues still apply to the Carina E today.

This immaculate 22,000-mile example belongs to Toyota UK’s heritage fleet. Of all our Retro Road Tests so far, it’s perhaps the car that surprised us most…

What are its rivals?

02_Carina-EThe Carina E was launched in 1993 – the same year as the curvaceous new Mondeo. Ford’s first ‘world car’ offers more engaging handling, but isn’t as robust as the Toyota.

The Vauxhall Cavalier, meanwhile, was nearing the end of its production life in 1993. Prices are firmly in banger territory today – but we still wouldn’t recommend it. A better bet is the Honda Accord, which combines Japanese reliability with a dash of style.

Looking back, perhaps the most significant car here is the BMW 3 Series. It was more expensive than a Carina E – and remains so second-hand – but would eventually go on to outsell the Mondeo. The notional divide between ‘mainstream’ and ‘premium’ cars has widened ever since.

What engine does it use?

Toyota Carina EAs the first Toyota built in the UK, the Carina E was tailored for European tastes (the ‘E’ stands for ‘Excellence in Europe’, in case you were wondering).

Toyota offered 1.6-, 1.8- and 2.0-litre petrol engines, plus two 2.0 diesels – one with a turbo. Try finding a non-turbo diesel in 2016…

Our test car is the entry-level 105hp 1.6 petrol, which lopes to 62mph in a leisurely 11.2 seconds and has a top speed of 118mph.

What’s it like to drive?

Toyota Carina ECabbies spend much of their waking lives behind the wheel, so comfort easily trumps sporty handling on their list of priorities.

Here, the Carina doesn’t disappoint. Its controls are so light and linear, it feels like every moving part is coated in Teflon. Even with a five-speed manual gearbox – rather than the optional four-speed auto – it could scarcely be easier to drive.

The 1.6-litre engine is quiet, while the soft suspension and spongy seats keep you well insulated from the road. Throw the Carina into a corner and its high-profile tyres will squeal in protest. But that’s all part of the fun…

Reliability and running costs

Toyota Carina EDo you even need to ask? These cars can take a six-figure mileage in their stride, and some have been around the clock more than twice. Toyota features one 153,000-mile Carina E on its blog, which its owner says has “run like clockwork” and never broken down.

The Carina was built before the current EU fuel-test cycle was standardised, so economy is quoted as 57.6mpg at a constant 56mph, or 45.3mpg at 75mph and 35.3mpg on the urban cycle. Those figures compare favourably with many superminis of the time – thank Toyota’s ‘lean burn’ twin-overhead-cam engine.

Could I drive it every day?

Toyota Carina EAbsolutely – thousands did. The Carina E is automotive white goods, a car that simply does the job without undue fuss or unexpected expense. Petrolheads may frown upon it, but on a cold Monday morning in February, we’d pick a Carina over a ‘characterful’ old Alfa Romeo every time.

If you have a family, it’s worth hunting down the five-door hatchback, instead of the four-door saloon seen here. The rear seat is comfortably big enough for three (potentially fee-paying) passengers, and folds forward to boost luggage space when needed.

How much should I pay?

Toyota Carina EUnloved and worked to death, the Carina E is fast-disappearing from our roads. Just eight were advertised on Auto Trader at the time of writing, and the most expensive of those was only £995. The cheapest, a 1997 car with 184,000 miles, was £375.

For the price of a single monthly finance payment on many new cars, you could buy a Carina E outright. Worth thinking about, isn’t it?

What should I look out for?

Toyota Carina EIf possible, avoid mega-mileage minicabs and go for a family-owned car with a thick folder-full of service history. That said, mileage is less important than condition at this price.

Check all the electrics work (parts such as window motors can be disproportionately expensive) and listen carefully for ‘blowing’ from the exhaust. The Carina came with a six-year anti-perforation warranty, but rust may be bubbling in the wheelarches and around the sunroof (if fitted).

Should I buy one?

Toyota Carina EWe were expecting to find the Carina E terminally dull. However, in a world where every thrusting executive car wears a bodykit, sports suspension and rubber-band tyres, the Toyota’s laid-back, softly-sprung charms have grown with age. It’s a superbly relaxing way to travel.

Yes, it still looks bland. And your neighbours won’t be impressed. But console yourself with annual running costs that would barely buy a set of floor mats for a BMW. Few cars can offer so much for so little.

Pub fact

Toyota Carina EToyota recently tracked down Britain’s oldest Carina E. Mike Hoyland’s car was among the first to emerge from the Burnaston factory, and was first registered in July 1993.

Mike has owned his trusty Toyota ever since, and has no plans to sell it.

Read the full story on the Toyota blog.


Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Mercedes-Benz E-Class review: 2016 first drive

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

“O Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz” wailed Janis Joplin in 1970. Back then, of course, buying a Mercedes was a far simpler affair. Janis would have been limited to several rather staid saloons, or the fabulous ‘Pagoda’ SL roadster.

Today, Mercedes’ vast line-up stretches from SUV crossovers to shooting brake estates, offering buyers an embarrassment of riches. Yet the Mercedes-Benz E-Class remains at the very core of the range. In various guises, it has been the benchmark luxury saloon for more than 60 years.

So, with the weight of history heavy on its shoulders, Mercedes is pulling out all the stops for its new, 10th-generation E-Class. It promises ‘the most intelligent business saloon’. Does it deliver?

Let’s start with the technology, which is probably way beyond anything Janis ever dreamed of. Having unlocked the car using your smartphone, you’re greeted by a widescreen digital dashboard, plus ambient LED lighting in 64 colour choices. Touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel offer Bang-and-Olufsen-style cool.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The E-class can’t quite drive itself, but only because legislation won’t allow it. The optional Drive Pilot system (£1,695) follows other cars at up to 130mph, using sat nav and road sign recognition to keep you within speed limits. The car will assist with steering to help you change lanes, provided it detects the lane is clear, while Evasive Steering Assist helps you avoid any pesky pedestrians that cross your path.

The latest E-Class also majors on efficiency at least until the bombastic AMG E 63 version arrives. A new 194hp 2.0-litre diesel engine returns a thrifty 72.4mpg in official fuel economy tests, along with CO2 emissions of just 102g/km. Later this year, we’ll also see a 286hp plug-in hybrid, which ekes out 134.5mpg and 49g/km. All cars come with a nine-speed automatic gearbox there is no manual option.

And what of the styling? It seems almost churlish to criticise Mercedes for its ‘Russian doll’ approach to design when most of its competitors do the same. And the E-class is certainly a handsome car in the metal, with broad shoulders and an elegant coupe-like roofline.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class arrives in showrooms in May, with prices from £35,935 for the entry-level E 220d SE, rising to £46,610 for the E 350d in AMG Line trim. Its rivals include the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF and Lexus GS.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class: On the road

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

We already know the E-Class can pretty much drive itself, but what is it like with a living, breathing human behind the wheel?

Tyre-smokin’ AMG versions aside, the E-Class has always been a car to soothe the senses, not stimulate them. Its traditional strengths are comfort and ease of driving; it has never aspired to be a ‘sports saloon’ like the BMW 5 Series or Jaguar XF.

For now, there are three engines available in the UK: 194hp E 220d diesel, 258hp E 350d diesel and 286hp E 350e plug-in hybrid – the latter arriving towards the end of 2016.

We started our test drives in the entry-level E 220d, which will account for the majority of sales. The car accelerates briskly (0-62mph in 7.3sec) and very smoothly, aided by a nine-speed automatic ’box that is operated via a column behind the steering wheel, in trad-Mercedes style.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Leaving Lisbon on the auto-estrada, what’s immediately noticeable is the noise – or lack of. Thank the new, much-quieter diesel engine and the E’s slippery shape. With a drag coefficient of 0.23, it’s the most aerodynamic car in its class.

The steering is light, and the plethora of driver aids – including active cruise control and lane-change assist – make for a relaxing drive. This is what the E-class does best; it’s still a car that you could drive for hundreds of miles and emerge feeling fresh.

Climbing into the rock-strewn hills of Cascais, the Mercedes starts to feel out of its comfort zone. On blistered, broken Tarmac that would be a familiar sight in the UK, the ride isn’t as absorbent as you might expect. And while switching into Sport or Sport+ modes sharpens up the handling, it can’t provide the exquisite driver feedback of a Jaguar XF.

We also tried the 3.0-litre E 350d, which is markedly quicker (0-62mph in 5.9sec), with a more deep-chested sound and a larger helping of mid-range torque  – useful for overtaking. However, we’d find it hard to justify a £9,000 premium over the smaller engine (E 350d prices from £44,930).

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The hybrid E 350d will be more expensive still, and thus only makes financial sense if you have charging points at home and at the office. It’s even quieter than the diesels, and the transition between petrol and electric power is almost imperceptible. Mercedes’ use of a conventional automatic gearbox is a plus-point, too – as anyone who has sampled the whiny CVT ’boxes of Lexus and Toyota hybrids will testify.  

Lastly, a quick word about the Multibeam LED Intelligent headlights. Available as part of the Premium Plus pack (£3,895), they ‘blank out’ parts of the main beam, allowing you to drive with full headlights on at night. As an oncoming car approaches, the area of blanked-out light widens to compensate, meaning the other driver won’t be dazzled. It’s clever and, on dark mountain roads, proved very effective.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class: On the inside

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Many people’s first taste of the E-Class will be from the back seat, as a passenger in a minicab. The car frequently serves as an upmarket alternative to a Toyota Prius or Ford Galaxy in the UK. In Germany, meanwhile, the E-Class is simply the default taxi usually seen sporting yellowy-beige paint and a six-figure mileage.

If you’re lucky enough to have ‘James’ doing the driving, the mid-size Merc is a pleasant place to spend time. The sweeping roofline doesn’t restrict rear headroom, the soft leather seats are very supportive and refinement is excellent. The only minus point is the large transmission tunnel, which forces a fourth passenger to seat with legs awkwardly splayed.

Mercedes-Benz dropped the ball for a while when it came to quality. But those ill-fated Daimler-Chrysler years are fast becoming a distant memory, as the interior of the new E-Class attests. Build quality is hard to fault, with swathes of leather, wood and aluminium across the dashboard and doors. It’s attractive, modern and undeniably ‘premium’.

We’d advise caution with trim options, though. The wood finish in one of our test cars appeared to have been liberated from the side of a 1970s American ‘woody wagon’. And the brown leather/black plastic/white carpet combo of another was simply bizarre – not to mention impractical.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

With so much technology on board, the E-Class dashboard could have boasted more buttons than a shirt factory. Fortunately, Mercedes’ Comand media system allows most ‘infotainment’ functions to be controlled via a clickwheel or touchpad behind the gearlever.

Alternatively, you can use the touch-sensitive pads on the steering wheel, which swipe left/right and up/down, just like a smartphone. It’s an intuitive solution that allows you to keep your hands safely at ten-to-two.

The ‘virtual’ dials can be customised in one of three displays: Classic, Sport and Progressive the latter inspired by the futuristic Tron film. Those crazy Germans, eh?

We found it best to rely on the head-up display, an £825 option fitted to our test cars. The sheer amount of information displayed around the dials, from nav directions to distance from the vehicle in front, can be a little bewildering.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Running costs

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Prices for the E-Class have crept up versus the outgoing car. The range now starts at £35,935 (previously £32,750) for the 194hp E 220d SE. That compares to £32,295 for the 190hp Audi A6 Ultra and £32,615 for the 190hp BMW 520d.

As with most German cars, it’s also possible and very tempting to add thousands to that price with extra-cost options. The Premium Pack includes keyless entry, memory seats and a panoramic sunroof for £2,795. Or you could upgrade to Premium Plus, with 13-speaker sound system and active LED headlights, for £3,895.

There’s also AMG Line body styling at £2,495 and, rather more usefully, the safety-enhancing Driving Assistance Plus package at £1,695. Oh, and don’t forget the Comand Online media system and 12.3-inch digital dashboard. Those are £1,495 and £495 respectively.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

However, don’t remortgage the house just yet. The good news is that you should claw back some of that initial outlay via low running costs. Opt for the 2.0-litre diesel E 220d and claimed fuel economy is a very impressive 72.4mpg. Even the next-best-in-class BMW 520d only manages 68.9mpg.

CO2 emissions of 102g/km mean free car tax (VED) in the first year and just £20 a year thereafter. Company car tax costs will be correspondingly low, too.

If you can wait until later this year, the plug-in hybrid E 350e trounces those figures, with 134.5mpg (provided you charge the batteries before you set off) and a tax-free 49g/km CO2. But it will be significantly more expensive to buy – probably around £50,000.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Verdict

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The launch slogan for the new E-Class was ‘Efficiency. Safety. Comfort’ and in those three areas, the new car excels.

Starting with efficiency, the new 2.0-litre diesel engine is the most economical engine in its class. A claimed 72.4mpg is a real achievement in a mid-size luxury saloon, even if the real-world figure is unlikely match it.

In terms of safety, the E-Class continues to be at the forefront. Standard equipment includes automatic emergency braking and full-length roof-mounted airbags. Spend a relatively modest £1,695 on the Driving Assistance Plus package and you also get active cruise control, blind-spot assist, lane-keeping assist and more. Euro NCAP hasn’t crash-tested the new E-class yet, but we suspect only the forthcoming Volvo S90 may better it.

And comfort? Well, the ride isn’t as pillowy as we’d hoped – a fact highlighted by a passenger-ride in the super-smooth S-class shortly afterwards. But the E is still a very comfortable car, not least because it’s so refined and easy to drive.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Job done, then. Well, with 13 million E-Classes sold since 1953 there’s no doubt Mercedes knows its customers. We still prefer the sleeker styling and sportier road manners of the Jaguar XF, but we’d understand if you didn’t.

Mercedes has played it safe with the car at the heart of of its range. But by doing so, it has also played to the E-Class’s strengths. Quietly and calmly, it has regained its place as the benchmark luxury saloon.

Mercedes-Benz E 220d SE: Specification

Price: £35,935

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel

Power: 194hp

Torque: 295lb ft

0-62mph: 7.3sec

Top speed: 149mph

Fuel economy: 72.4mpg

CO2 emissions: 102g/km

Jaguar Land Rover

Are Brits proud enough of Jaguar Land Rover?

Juergen StackmannDuring an enlightening round table with Volkswagen brand CEO Juergen Stackmann at the Geneva Motor Show, he made an interesting observation: the turnaround of Jaguar Land Rover over recent years has been remarkable, with the firm becoming a genuine premium market player with world-class products in just a single model cycle – an outstanding performance.

“You must be very proud, no?”

It struck me: are we? Do we really appreciate just what the home brand has achieved following the unshackling from Ford into a standalone group, which happened just as the 2008 recession struck?

Maybe with Land Rover, the profitable side of the group, we do – although few could have expected the smash-hit Range Rover Evoque, the margin-rich continuation of the Range Rover Sport and the sheer brilliance of the latest Range Rover. But then, Land Rover’s always done well: in a world now besotted by SUVs, it would almost be a surprise if it wasn’t thriving.

Jaguar, though – there’s the real story. Back in 2008, it was making the elderly XJ, the low volume XK and had just launched the breakout XF – a car that, for all its wonderful style and beautiful interior (arguably more beautiful than today’s cabins), was still derived from Ford-sourced S-Type underpinnings.

The XF was Jaguar’s only volume car and even this was hardly high volume. Lacking a serious sales alternative to the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, it really was a minnow in the premium sector. The Germans simply didn’t consider it a serious rival.

Jaguar Land Rover

Now look at it: there’s a brand-new XE made from an all-Jaguar, aluminium-intensive platform, winning plaudits and leaping straight into the position of driver’s car alternative to the 3 Series. There’s an all-new XF, again heavily using aluminium, that on paper makes as much rational, tax-friendly sense to business users as the smaller XE does.

The svelte XJ has been tweaked and the F-Type continues to get ever-faster and more lairy, neither car not really registering on saes charts but providing useful image-boost assets for the firm.

And soon, there’ll be the F-Pace. Jaguar’s first SUV. A great-looking machine that’s chasing the Porsche Macan and, by all accounts, is just as good to drive. Unlike the so-so XE and XF interiors, its cabin is also bang on the money, while both pricing and CO2 are double-take competitive.

The F-Pace, along with the XE, are going to transform Jaguar. Its sales are, relative to previous years, going to skyrocket and it may finally be able to stand on its own two feet rather than being propped up by the financial might of Land Rover.

And if Jaguar’s able to do this in a generation, what else could it do once the momentum really starts to flow?

Stackmann is right to ask us if we’re proud of Jaguar Land Rover. Perhaps we should ask ourselves that. Put the usual British cynicism to one side for a moment: even in the boardrooms of giant German car brands, JLR’s achievements are being recognised. Maybe it’s time we started shouting about them too.

BMW Vision Next 100

BMW Vision Next 100 concept revealed on 100th anniversary

BMW Vision Next 100 concept car revealed on 100th anniversary – with video and exclusive picture

BMW has revealed a dramatic concept car called Vision Next 100 that takes a far-sighted look into the autonomous, zero-emissions cars of the next 20 and 30 years – exactly 100 years to the day since the company was formed.

The BMW Vision Next 100 is a 5 Series-sized car with a 7 Series-sized interior and a futuristic shape created by BMW Group design chief Adrian van Hooydonk.

BMW Vision Next 100 – in pictures

The future car will take BMW’s reputation of being ‘the ultimate driving machine’ to the next level, says van Hooydonk. With the Vision concept car, “we want to turn the driver into the ultimate driver.”

It’s thus packed with technology – but the interior has purposefully been kept clean. There is a steering wheel – this is important, says Van Hooydonk – but other controls and buttons are absent.

Instead, the entire windscreen takes the form of a head-up display, upon which head-up display messages are shown in piloted drive ‘boost’ mode’.

The Vision car is also an autonomous car and in the so-called ‘ease’ mode, the entire screen becomes a display, with information such as video feeds of conference calls and even images such as attachments to emails.

It’s not all about simply overloading the driver with connected car information though. BMW wants to regulate the flow of data to the driver, by giving the vehicle intelligent and self-learning capabilities. Crucial information will only be shown where necessary, and not at inopportune, danger-inducing moments.

Trick features here include a dashboard whose surface is made up of ‘waves’ of warning lights: the car will, for example, detect a cyclist hidden behind a van and the dashboard in that corner will light up red: as the cyclist nears the car, the lights will flow across (and the car will autonomously stop where necessary).

Purposefully, seats and door panels blend into one within the open plan interior. This is to make it more flexible and comfortable in autonomous mode: occupants will be able to relax, turn around to speak with passengers or simply lean back for the conference call they’re conducting…

BMW Vision Next 100

Outside, It retains the BMW kidney grille, says van Hooydonk – but instead of air intakes, it contains all the sensors for the autonomous tech! Also, four round lights become four light ‘bars’.

It’s a simple, purposefully minimalist design, with few lines but complex use of light and shadow interplay. It’s as big as a 5 Series outside yet as big as a 7 Series inside…

Uniquely, the wheels are fully enclosed, but ‘flexible’ bodywork allows the front wheels to still turn – the panel ‘expands’ so the wheels can steer.

The windows are also heavily tinted in body-colour. BMW says privacy will be even more important in autonomous cars – where, presumably, you won’t simply be concentrating on driving, and may not want others looking in and watching you…

The BMW Vision Next 100 has a ‘companion light’ structure in the centre of the dashboard. In autonomous mode, this glows white, to let occupants know the car is in control. It is also functional to pedestrians: when, at a crossing, the car detects someone, it glows green, to let them know it’s safe to cross.

BMW Vision Next 100 concept car revealed on 100th anniversary – with video and exclusive picture

Why is the BMW Vision a sporty saloon?

Unlike many other futuristic concepts, the BMW Vision Next 100 is a low-slung saloon car rather than a tall SUV. van Hooydonk said this us because “The Neue Klasse cars started the growth of BMW and the company became known for sporty limousines: we took this as a theme as we feel it’s the core of the brand.

“The Vision vehicle should thus be a sporty limousine.” The Cx drag factor of 0.18 sets a new record, says van Hooydonk, which is another reason why the design is so sleek.

BMW won’t yet be drawn on how far off production the remarkable Vision Next 100 concept is though. van Hooydonk simply (and interestingly) said: “If you can imagine it, you have made first step…”

Kruger did add that it’s very much for the next 20-30 years, rather than any sooner: “There will be some components and elements coming earlier, but this is a car looking far into the future with BMW Group.”

Sinclair C5

Sinclair C5: Retro Road Test

Richard Gooding recalls the story of one of the most recognisable electric cars ever. Sadly, it was also one of the least successful, but was the Sinclair C5 simply too innovative, too early?

While electric cars are now a more common sight on our roads, back in 1985 they were the stuff of automotive dreams. Yes, there had been electric vehicles since the very first cars at the turn of the 1900s, but most people’s experience with one was of the milk float that delivered their early morning pint.

In 1980, the British government abolished road tax for electric vehicles, and in 1983 it introduced legislation for ‘electrically-assisted pedal cycles’. British technology pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair – yes, he of Sinclair Executive pocket calculator and ZX81 home computer fame – had an idea that he thought would revolutionise commuter transport.

His £12m project was the Sinclair C5, a three-wheeled electric ‘tricycle’ aimed at those who travelled alone, either in cars, on their bicycles or on public transport. Sir Clive had dabbled in electric vehicle research since the early 1970s, but the 1983 legislation fitted in perfectly with the C5’s technical make-up. And so it was that, two years later, arguably the UK’s most recognised electric vehicle was born.

What are its rivals?

The launch price of the Sinclair C5 was £399, plus £29 delivery. The only way of buying one was by mail order – the C5 arrived in a cardboard box, delivered to your door, an option which wasn’t available to other small ‘cars’. The most conventional four-wheeled rival was the 998cc Austin Mini City E, which was almost ten times the price – at £3,298.

Other contemporary competition included the also-three-wheeled 850cc, 73.3mpg Robin Rialto 2. The larger three-wheeler promised ‘A Car You Can Afford To Get Excited About’, according to the press ads. And buyers obviously believed them, as it had a 12-month waiting list when new. However, if we’re talking innovative disasters, the Sinclair C5 is joined by the equally cult-ish DeLorean DMC-12 as one of the biggest transport failures of the 1980s.

What motor does it use?

Due to the legislation it was designed for, the C5 was limited in both performance and weight. Motor output was stifled, too: a 250-watt ceiling was applied to vehicles in the ‘electrically-assisted pedal cycle’ category. Sinclair’s engineers took a 12V DC, 250W, 29A, 3,300rpm permanent magnet motor supplied by Italian company Polymotor to provide power for the C5.

One of the long-held myths about the motor found in the C5 was that it was also used in washing machines – this was emphatically not the case. However, Hoover engineers were trained to service the C5 as Sir Clive’s mobility project for the masses was also built in the company’s factory in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales.

The little white wedge easily slotted into the category of vehicle it was designed for. With a 45kg weight with battery, it undercut the imposed restrictions by 15kg. The battery was a ‘deep discharge’ unit, which meant it could be charged hundreds of times with no noticeable loss of performance. Or that was the theory anyway. The C5 is rear-wheel drive, too – just like all the best driver’s cars! – with the left-hand rear wheel powered by the electric motor.

What’s it like to drive?

Andrew Brady used the word ‘intimidating’ when describing the driving experience of a 1990 Vauxhall Nova 1.2 Merit during a previous MR Retro Road Test, but the Sinclair C5 takes that to a whole new level. Maybe two of the right words to describe the C5 driving experience are ‘terrifying’ and ‘fun’. Sitting above the handlebars on the thinly-padded seat, your arms reach down past your bent legs – which can, and will have to, pedal at some point – while your feet rest on the pushbike-like Sinclair-branded and grooved pedals. So far, so familiar, should you use conventional two-wheeled forms of transport.

In a similarity (which, don’t worry, is largely the only one) to four-wheeled vehicles, you then insert the ignition key into the master security switch and turn on the power. Motor load and battery condition are shown by two LED graph displays under the aerodynamic front cowling. Push the left-hand handlebar starter/accelerator button and you’re away. Ignore the twisted ‘mirror’ logic, which makes you think you want to steer the way you don’t want to go, and instead relish the ‘acceleration’ offered by that 250W motor. Be careful, though: one slightly clumsy over-operation of said button and you shoot off unsteadily into the path of the nearest bus or HGV.

If you’ve not been scared witless by that point and are still firmly ensconced behind that front cowling, braking is controlled either by un-pressing the handlebar accelerator button or by squeezing the bike-like triggers. Unbelievably, the C5 has front calliper and rear drum brakes, so comes to a stop quickly and safely, if not the most elegantly. With a top speed of 15mph, Sir Clive Sinclair’s baby doesn’t sound fast, but believe us, it feels it. As a driver, you’re so exposed to both the elements and the passing traffic that bowling along at speeds of up to half of the legal urban limit feels anything but pedestrian. Which, incidentally, is another type of road user you have to watch out for.

Sinclair claimed that the C5 had the ‘same seat height’ as a family car. That was true if that car was originally from 1959 and was called a Mini. And despite Lotus being involved with the project, and Sinclair’s claims of ‘extraordinary manoeuvrability’ when it was new, the C5 certainly doesn’t handle like a sports car. It does share a low centre of gravity with the legendary cars from Hethel, but that’s where any similarities end.

As the C5 is an ‘electrically assisted pedal cycle’, no helmet, driving licence or road tax is required to drive one, so the Sinclair marketing machine included 14-year-old children in its target market. Health and safety? This was 1985: they were different times.

Reliability and running costs

Many C5 owners reported unit burn-outs as the permanent magnet motor struggled to cope with any form of gradient; pedal assistance was very often required. Also, C5s suffered the indignity of running aground over speed bumps, even small ones. The single gear was also a cause of complaint.Plus, there was no reverse gear, so every backwards turn turned into a multi-point negotiating nightmare.

Sinclair claimed that the C5 could be driven for five miles on one penny’s worth of electricity, or 1,000 miles for the contemporary price of a gallon of fuel. The official range on a single charge was stated to be 20 miles, but most owners reported half that in cold conditions. The 15kg battery could be charged to full capacity from flat in eight hours – much longer than today’s all-electric cars. Some enterprising modern-day owners of C5s swap the old lead acid battery for lightweight Lithium-ion replacements for increased range and better reliability. One owner reports 45 miles of range from his 60Ah lithium-ion battery, which weighs half as much as the original.

Could I drive it every day?

You could, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Unless weaving in and out of much larger traffic like a large white and yellow plastic ant floats your boat. There is virtually no crash protection with a C5. We’ve driven the super-rare Volkswagen XL1, and that felt small, but the C5 feels tiny among car-sized traffic flows. Drivers also find themselves at the same level of most vehicles’ exhaust fumes. On the plus side, the C5’s turning circle was two-thirds of the original Mini’s.

It’s not quite all the smiley, zero-emission. free spirit, wind-in-the-hair motoring the Sinclair publicity video of 1985 would have you believe. ‘Driving’ a C5 in the UK is mostly a cold and draughty experience. And we’d dispute the ‘extremely safe’ claims, too. We certainly wouldn’t want to have an accident in one, however minor. Best not obscure the rear reflector. Also, its limited range would make it only suitable for short trips. Like the pure-electric range of most hybrid cars of today, in fact…

Watch the original TV ad for the Sinclair C5

How much should I pay?

How long is a piece of string? We’ve seen C5s on well-known auction sites for around £500. ‘Project’ C5s can start at £75, while at the opposite end of the scale, fully working and ‘restored’ C5s can be had for £695. Used Robin Rialtos start at around £250, while a working more modern electric G-Wiz can be bought from £1,000. Three year-old Renault Twizys, meanwhile, start at around £3,200.

What should I look out for?

Spare parts could be an issue. Used handlebars are priced at around £20 online, and a complete set of wing mirrors can fetch £80. Replacement used motors can start at £55. There’s a burgeoning market in the 3D printing of Sinclair C5 parts, though, with at least a dozen individual components now available as part of a testing programme.

Should I buy one?

If you’re a culture junkie and the idea of owning a piece of motoring history appeals, then yes, undoubtedly. Even if it will never go very far. The C5 is such a recognisable and symbolic piece of motoring folklore, due to both its promise and failure, that it will always be a talking point. If you’re lucky, you might even find one with all the period accessories, such as a booster cushion for those short of leg, a ‘High-Vis Mast’ (basically a metal pole with a reflective flag atop it), a second battery, side screens for increased weather protection, and a tonneau cover.

If you really want to fit in, try also to find the period ‘designer’ clothing (very stylish 1980s drama Howards’ Way), the ‘weather cheater’ poncho, and the car-like C5-branded mud flaps, turning indicator kit, and wing mirrors. And by the time you’ve whiled away many wine-fuelled nights on online auction sites, and spent vast sums of money on genuine ‘bargains’, you could have gone and bought that tidy Mini E – a car that doesn’t look like a cut-price Tron prop.

The C5 was never designed for long distances, and its limitations show when its comes to practicality. The aforementioned weather protection (or lack of) is just one issue. Another is luggage space. The promotional videos of the time boast of a ‘large capacity boot’, but if you have more than 28 litres of luggage, then the flip-out ‘boot’ on the back of the driver’s seat will be of little use. It’s perfect for your poncho or Pac-A-Mac, though.

Pub facts

The Sinclair C5 was launched at Alexandra Palace on 10 January 1985, and the assembled throng of journalists included friend of MR and ex-Top Gear presenter, Sue Baker. With a suggested 9,000-17,000 C5s finding homes in 1985, Sir Clive Sinclair claimed that his plastic fantastic dream was the UK’s best-selling electric car until the more modern and four-wheeled Nissan Leaf overtook it in 2011 with sales of 20,000.

Sinclair was in the mood for more electric vehicle creation in 1992, when the Zike electric bike was released. Like the C5, production lasted just six months – and around 2,000 were sold. Nineteen years later Sir Clive was at it again with the X-1, an electric ‘sit-down’ cycle, which was to be sold for £595. However, it never reached production and the cash he needed to develop his four-seat electric car vision never was generated.

Thanks to enthusiast Alex Goodwill for allowing us to drive his Sinclair C5.