Renault Clio: Retro Road Test

Renault Clio: Retro Road Test

Renault Clio: Retro Road Test

Revealed at the 1990 Paris Motor Show, sales of the original Renault Clio began in the UK a year later. That means it’s celebrating its 25th anniversary this year – so we’ve gone back to the beginning to give an early Mk1 Clio the full MR Retro Road Test treatment.

What are its rivals?

What are its rivals?

A replacement for the Renault 5, the Clio was France’s answer to the Rover Metro, Vauxhall Nova and Ford Fiesta.

Which engines does it use?

Which engines does it use?

Buyers were given the choice of two petrol and two diesel engines. The model we’ve got on test here is the more powerful, fuel-injected 1.4-litre petrol, producing a hefty 60hp.

What’s it like to drive?

Which engines does it use?

Today, the original Renault Clio is an absolute delight to drive. Honestly. The cabin feels light and airy, with excellent visibility all-round. The engine, although asthmatic compared to the turbocharged units powering superminis today, is fine. Get it wound up and it’ll tick along with modern traffic without a fuss.

It’s surprising how refined the original Clio feels. This is an exceptionally good example (it’s from Renault’s heritage fleet), but the engine can barely be heard at low revs. Fortunately, it gets a more vocal as you approach its rev limiter – there’s no rev counter.

The steering is a bit heavy around town (no power assistance here), but it’s easy enough to dart in and out of traffic once you’re used to it. On the open road, it’s not the most communicative handler (and rolls a lot by today’s standards), but it’s OK.

Reliability and running costs

Reliability and running costs

French cars of this era don’t have the best reputation for reliability, but there’s not a great deal that goes wrong with the original Clio. They’re brilliantly simple. Of course, if you’re planning on running a car of this age it’s always worthwhile having breakdown cover, but we doubt it’d be any more likely to leave you stranded than its peers.

It’ll be cheap to run, too. More than 40mpg should be achievable on a day-to-day basis, and parts are cheap and readily available. Insurance is about as cheap as you can get.

Could I drive it every day?

Could I drive it every day?

Yeah, why not? Sure, don’t expect much in the way of creature comforts (although there is a radio that, in our test car, can only find Classic FM), and it’s probably wise to avoid crashing it.

How much should I pay?

How much should I pay?

The original Clio is yet to reach full classic status, so prices are very much in the banger territory – while they’re also getting too old to command a young driver premium. An Auto Trader search suggests you can pick one up for as little as £250, and we wouldn’t spend more than £1,000 on anything but the tidiest example.

What should I look out for?

What should I look out for?

It’s pretty standard stuff, really. Try to find a cared-for example, there must be many ‘one elderly owner from new’ cars out there. Avoid any that have been treated as cheap runarounds as they may have been maintained on a budget.

Rust isn’t a huge problem, but the arches do go, so look out for bubbles – and the automatic gearboxes can go wrong, so make sure you give it a thorough test drive. We’d prefer a manual, but make sure the clutch isn’t showing any signs of slipping.

Should I buy one?

Should I buy one?

If you’re looking for a car that’s going to attract a crowd at a car show, this isn’t it. A Renault 5 or Citroen AX might be more of a classic, but there’s definitely a certain analogue charm to the Clio. If you find a good one, and look after it, it’s only a matter of time before all the rest will have disappeared.

Pub fact

Should I buy one?

For homologation purposes, Renault built the limited-edition Clio Williams. Named after the F1 team, the Clio Williams was powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and finished in a unique blue colour with distinctive gold alloys. It’s one of the most desirable hot hatches of the 1990s.

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

2016 Ferrari GTC4Lusso review: the fastest four-seater (a lot of) money can buy

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)The 2011 Ferrari FF was a groundbreaking car for the world’s most famous supercar brand. Replacing the luxo-cruiser 612 Scaglietti, it eschewed the age-old traditional coupe bodystyle for something much more retro-radical – a shooting brake.

Four full-sized seats, four-wheel drive: it was a Ferrari that shook up the order. And now, Ferrari has shaken the FF itself up, for its mid-life refresh. Bye, FF: hello, GTC4Lusso (yes, there is no space).

So… Ferrari GTC4Lusso: the FF has an all-new name?

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

Ferrari doesn’t mess about with its facelifts. How many know the 430 was actually a facelifted 360, for example? The ‘M’ in the GTC4Lusso’s F151M codename stands for modificata, but this is more face/off than facelift – every single exterior panel apart from the windscreen is different. And the interior is all-new. It also has a wealth of new tech further beneath the surface: the all-new name is entirely justifiable.

Tell me what they’ve done on the outside

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

Ferrari has taken the weight out the FF’s design, sharpening it up with tighter creases and more positive/negative surface shapes. The front is much cleaner, wider-looking and, on the road, flatter and meaner in appearance. The rear is similarly broadened, helped here by a lower roofline (presumably a hugely expensive surface metal change). Even the shape of the rear side windows is different: they’re longer and deeper, so it’s nicer for those in the back.

Yikes. And the inside?

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

This too has an all-new look. And it’s way more appealing than the fussy FF. Built of super-high quality materials, the impeccably finished cabin is shaped around twin ‘cockpits’ defined by the divine air vents. It’s a contemporary luxury contrast to the FF’s slightly early-2000s look. Indeed, FF owners themselves will clamour for a GTC4Lusso just for the step-on inside. And that’s not the half of it.

Looks like Ferrari’s finally sorted out its infotainment system

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

The GTC4Lusso boasts fantastic new infotainment that has an HD-clarity 10.25-inch screen, 1.5 GHz CPU and the sort of responsive, interactive usability FF owners could only dream about. It’s a delight to use and looks fantastic – and, again at no little expense, it’s also nice how Ferrari has designed the dashboard to wrap around it so it’s fully integrated rather than stand-proud.

What’s that fancy display in front of the passenger?

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

Ferrari’s even given us a GT-sector first: a bespoke infotainment display for the passenger that’s hooked to the sat nav, audio and, rather brilliantly, the instruments. Yes, passengers can easily see what gear the driver’s in, what speed they’re doing, the engine speed – even what G-forces they’re pulling. The car-fanatic children of GTC4Lusso owners are going to love it.

Impressive tech. What else is beneath the surface?

The FF debuted Ferrari’s clever four-wheel drive system, PTU (so clever, in fact, it’s patented). With adaptive dampers, the Ferrari DCT gearbox and generation-8 ESP, it was impressive stuff. The GTC4Lusso’s more impressive still though. Single-coil adaptive dampers become dual-coil, it has generation-9 ESP and the PTU AWD has been further developed. But that’s not all…

What has Ferrari also spent big on to engineer the GTC4Lusso?

Four-wheel steering, take a bow. The active rear-wheel steer system counter-steers at low speeds to aid agility and turns the wheels in the same direction as the fronts at higher speed to boost stability. Why fit it? Because the GTC4Lusso is a big car – 4.9 metres long, nearly two metres wide – and rear-wheel steering helps shrink it on twisting roads. Effectively so, too – once you’re used to it. More on that shortly.

How does Ferrari pull together all this tech?

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

As if Ferrari’s software engineers weren’t worked hard enough, the GTC4Lusso also boasts the latest iteration of its ‘side slip control’ electronic brain, SSC4 (also patented). This is what unifies all these different tech features and mechanical systems. It’s the car’s ‘sense’ of how much grip is available beneath each wheel. When it detects one wheel is about to lose grip, it instantly figures out the best way to fix this, immediately firing up the relevant tech to neutralise things. It’s highly-advanced technology involving a huge amount of Ferrari learning and IP: this generation-4 system is the most sensitive iteration yet.

It’s all a bit of a tech-fest then?

It’s jam-packed with technology – so you may actually be pleased to hear the engine, a 6.3-litre V12 derived from the Ferrari Enzo – is decidedly old-school. No turbos, no hybrid, not even engine stop-start. A quarter of Ferrari customers choose a V12 because, why, it’s a Ferrari V12; the firm messes with this formula at its peril. So it’s not gone tech-crazy here. But it has still lived up to its founder Enzo’s assertion that customers buy an engine and get the rest of the car for free…

Wait, what – it now has 690 horsepower?!

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

Yes, the GTC4Lusso has 690 horsepower, 30 horses up on the FF. And that was hardly a slouch: at launch, it instantly became the world’s fastest four-seat GT car by a ridiculous margin. Even more ridiculous today: 0-62mph takes 3.4 seconds and it can do 208mph flat-out.

So what does such power feel like on the road?

Be in no doubt, the GTC4Lusso is a colossally fast Ferrari. Behind the wheel, you’d swear it’s as fast as the 488GTB, partly because of that ridiculous power output, which makes it one of the most potent cars you can buy, but also because the high-rev drama is so intense. It loudly howls with astounding intensity near its 8,250rpm power peak (yes, 8,250rpm) and, anti-social as it may be, the fireworks it releases are truly remarkable. Particularly if you have three passengers: many of them may well find it a bucket list memory.

Ah, but the FF was always a bit of a drama monster, wasn’t it?

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

In this revvy and dramatic respect, the GTC4Lusso continues the FF feel. However, at lower revs, it’s very different. Ferrari has boosted the torque curve at normal-driving revs (you get 80 per cent of its pulling power at 1,750rpm), but it’s also made it quieter in normal use. Quieter? Yes, and rightly so. This is a GT car so will be used for meek and mellow driving with others on board, so the last thing you want to be doing is howling through the city looking like a bit of a hooligan. Ferrari’s thus programmed the exhaust baffles to open up less eagerly, and this alone makes the GTC4Lusso feel like a more cohesive GT car.

Er, sounds to me like the FF’s gone soft then

Depends what you mean by soft. Cushy ride? Yes, once you tune into the typical-Ferrari tautness, you’ll note the ride is improbably compliant and quiet, absorbing bumps and potholes without a crash, flowing along undulations without neck-jarring jiggles. This is also a step on from the FF and it makes the GTC4Lusso a more appealing everyday car – which is exactly what Ferrari clients have been asking for. And, as they’re the ones with the £250,000 cheques, Ferrari has obliged.

But does it still have an edge?

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

Does it ever have an edge. Four-wheel steering is used to boost agility and sharpness, make the steering faster-reacting, and the front end keener to turn-in. The GTC4Lusso is the same size as the FF, but it feels smaller and more shrink-wrapped because the chassis is more confidently agile. Indeed, until you dial into it, you’d almost accuse it of becoming nervous, such is the alacrity it now demonstrates.

Gawd. The last thing I want from a 690-horsepower car is for it to be nervy

Don’t worry. This nervousness is only at first – say, for the first hour or so. All modern Ferraris since the 458 have had fast, high-geared steering and the GTC4Lusso is no exception. Rear-wheel steering adds something extra, though. The back end adds to the turning effect, giving it an initial ‘kick’ when you turn the wheel that feels like a strange form of oversteer at first. Consciously try to sense this and work with it, though. Then, your steering inputs will become smaller (and later into the corner) and the GTC4Lusso will become an extremely sharp and incisive machine with supreme mid-corner stability once it’s turned into the bend. You just have to put a bit of consideration into it for it to be your friend.

And the other dynamic aspects of the GTC4Lusso?

Ferrari fundamentals mean it has high quality dynamics. The steering is firmly weighted and very clean; not packed with pure feel, no, but accurate and pleasant. Brakes are also firm but powerful, the accelerator pedal is one of the nicest you’ll press and the brilliant interruption-free seven-speed DCT gearbox is impeccable (you’ll fall in love with the ‘click’ from the paddles). Oh, and power hard out of corners for the most delicious rear-squat feel of power-on traction, without a hint of nervousness or edge. This is a very well sorted car indeed that, for all its intimidating power output and initial hesitancy, is more on your side than you’d ever expect of such an exotic supercar.

I forgot about the people in the back

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

As well you may. Don’t worry. Those in the rear have an unexpected amount of room and comfort, further boosted over the FF by a few crucial millimetres here. Two bucket seats are almost as large and enveloping as those in the front, there’s enough headroom for your six-foot correspondent despite the panoramic roof that envelops the interior in light. And the enlarged side windows give a cleaner, nicer view out than the slightly porthole-like FF. It shames a Bentley Continental GT, perhaps its most obvious (only?) rival. Rear passengers even get their own set of those brilliant air vents seen up front. They’re fine. Carry on driving.

If I’m going to justify it, I’ll need more than the fact it’s a four-seater

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

Will a claimed 450-litre boot do? One that extends to 800 litres with the seats down? Admittedly, it’s a funny shape, and you won’t be seeing much behind you if you if fully-loaded. But it’s still a mark of the GTC4Lusso’s un-Ferrari-like practicality that could work wonders if you utilise its four-wheel traction to drive across muddy fields and buy things from estate car drivers at car boot sales.

Any more sensible stuff?

Well… economy’s less sensible. 18.8mpg combined, and 350g/km CO2. It’s one of the thirstiest, carboniest cars you can buy. And it costs £240,430 without a single option (no Ferrari is sold without a single option). But it does have 12,500-mile service intervals and, unbelievably, servicing is FREE for the first seven (count ’em – seven) years. It’s also the Ferrari you can use every day, should you wish to cut down on your fleet. Not that most GTC4Lusso owners, many of whom own several Ferraris (and half of whom will swap an FF for one) would dream of doing so.

2016 Ferrari GTC4Lusso: verdict

Ferrari GTC4Lusso (2016)

The Ferrari GTC4Lusso is the definitive modern Ferrari GT car. Some up to now haven’t fully digged the mini-estate car styling. For them, Ferrari’s lowered the rear, widened the visuals and made it look more distinctive and less like a prancing horse wagon. But most of its select clientele relish how much extra the GTC4Lusso offers as a result – four seats, four-wheel drive for all-weather driving, all combined with the impeccable lineage of being a V12 Ferrari.

The FF wasn’t perfect. It looked a bit awkward, which Ferrari’s fixed here more successfully than the images fully portray. Its interior was a generation behind, as was its infotainment. Both are now bang-up-to-date. The chassis is more dynamic, although the bigger advantage is actually in improved comfort and GT tendencies, something enhanced by the engine that, although even more wildly powerful and potent, is now also quieter and more dignified when you’re not being Alberto Ascari.

Ferrari’s cut no corners with the GTC4Lusso, and it shows. It’s a highly accomplished GT car. Those who can afford it and take the time to understand how to get the most from it will find a very rewarding ownership proposition indeed.

For

  • V12 experience, Ferrari handling with GT comfort
  • Luxurious and modern interior
  • Very surprising practicality

Against

  • Boot not the most useful shape
  • Feels nervy if you’re more familiar to Aston Martins and Porsches
  • Of course, the price…

2016 Ferrari GTC4Lusso: specifications

Price: £240,430

Engine: 6.3-litre V12

Gearbox: seven-speed dual clutch auto

Power: 690hp

Torque: 514lb ft

0-62mph: 3.4 seconds

Top speed: 208mph

Fuel economy: 18.8mpg

CO2 emissions: 350g/km

Length/width/height: 4922/1980/1383

Kerb weight: 1920kg

Audi A3: Two-Minute Road Test

Audi A3 (2016) road test review

Audi A3: Two-Minute Road Test

Another week, another ‘new’ Audi. This time it’s the A3 – a facelift, even by Audi terms, with a few tweaks to the design (the A4-esque headlights, for example, and a wider grille) and some extra tech that’s trickled down from larger models.

What are its rivals?

Rivals come from traditional upmarket C-segment contenders. So, the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

What’s it like to drive?

What's it like to drive?

Under the bonnet, there are two new TFSI petrol engines: an entry-level 1.0-litre and a larger 2.0-litre. Despite the current anti-diesel sentiment, most buyers are expected to opt for a turbodiesel, available in 1.6-litre (110hp) or 2.0-litre (150hp and 184hp) forms.

We tried the entry-level 1.6 diesel in a three-door A3 in Sport trim with a manual gearbox. Although it suffered from that irritating turbo lag that we’re far too used to from diesels tuned with economy in mind, it’s a good drive. Most junior executives will be happy to punt one along as a company car.

The steering is slightly numb, while you’d probably be better off opting for the standard suspension rather than the firmer sports set-up (a no-cost option) – unless most of your driving is on ultra-smooth motorways.

Fuel economy and running costs

In 1.6-litre diesel guise, the Audi A3 returns an official fuel economy of 78.5mpg (when fitted with the 17-inch alloys that come as standard on the Sport). CO2 emissions come in at 107g/km, meaning road tax will cost you £20 a year and you’ll pay 18% BIK company car tax.

Is it practical?

Is it practical?

The A3’s interior is where it really impresses. It’s always felt to be of top quality, but it’s been brought bang-up-to-date with the addition of Audi’s clever Virtual Cockpit (essentially an LCD display that replaces the conventional dials and can be used to show satellite imagery of the route ahead, media information and even social media channels), plus various other tech.

Those seeking practicality might prefer the five-door Sportback version, with its 380-litre boot (bigger than both the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class).

What about safety?

When tested in 2012, the Audi A3 was awarded five stars by Euro NCAP. German engineering combined with a host of safety kit means the Audi A3 is a very safe car.

Which version should I go for?

Which version should I go for?

As well as the entry-level diesel, we also enjoyed a brief drive of the 1.4-litre TFSI petrol in saloon form. If you’re not restricted to diesels for fuel economy or company car tax reasons, the petrol is a likeable choice. With 150hp and cylinder-on-demand tech, it’s both fun to drive and easy on fuel.

Should I buy one?

It’s not the sort of car that necessarily appeals to the heart, but the A3 is a really well-polished contender in the popular premium C-segment. There are body styles to cater for everyone: three- and five-door hatches (the latter a ‘Sportback’ in Audi lingo), a cabriolet and even a saloon.

Buy one (or, perhaps more likely, consider one as a company car), and you’ll be treated to the best interior in its class, a plethora of new tech to keep the iPhone generation happy, and sensible running costs. If you’re a keen driver, though, you might want to check out the BMW 1 Series.

Pub fact

Pub fact

The first-generation Audi A3 was launched in 1996, and was the firm’s first ‘small car’ since the 1974 Audi 50. The Audi 50 went on to become the Volkswagen Polo.

Best of British: 25 homegrown cars to make us proud

Best of British: 25 homegrown cars to make us proud

Best of British: 25 homegrown cars to make us proud

The biggest challenge when creating a list of 25 great British cars is deciding which ones to leave out. We’ve selected 25 of our favourite motors, including a few that might raise a few eyebrows. That said, we start with something entirely predictable…

Jaguar E-Type Series 1

Prepare an A to Z of great British cars and you must start with the letter E. The Jaguar E-Type is, almost without question, the most beautiful car ever to emerge from these shores. Some would say it’s the most beautiful thing Britain has ever built. A car so delightful, none other than Enzo Ferrari was forced to proclaim it as “the most beautiful car ever made”.

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Mini

The original Mini: the little car that changed the world. Like the E-Type, everything that could be written about the Mini has already been written. Its incredibly clever packaging, fun-to-drive dynamics and ability to appeal to everyone from rock stars to housewives ensured the Mini would be remembered as a true great. When the Cooper S took on the Monte Carlo Rally — and won — the Mini’s place in the history books was assured.

Range Rover Classic

Range Rover Classic

The Range Rover might not have been the first ‘posh’ SUV — the Jeep Wagoneer can claim that title — but it revolutionised the sector. Here was a car that was just as good on the road as it was off it. By today’s standards, it was a relatively crude affair, but as it evolved, the Range Rover morphed into the definitive luxury SUV.

McLaren F1

Ferrari and Maranello, Lamborghini and Sant’Agata, McLaren and… Woking. Its birthplace might not sound as illustrious as that of its Italian rivals, but make no mistake, the McLaren F1 is a legend amongst supercars. It held the record for the fastest production car in the world and featured an innovative three-seater layout. The engine bay housing the 6.1-litre V12 engine was, quite literally, made of gold.

Lotus Elise S1

“Simplify, then add lightness.” Lotus founder, Colin Chapman, may have died many years before the first Elise rolled off the Hethel production line, but it’s fair to say he would have approved of its construction. By stripping away all that was unnecessary and making efficient use of lightweight materials, Lotus created one of the world’s ultimate drivers’ cars. It’s as though the British B-road was invented for the Elise.

Austin Seven

Austin Seven

When Herbert Austin set about creating the Austin Seven his ultimate aim was to build “a decent car for the man who, at present, can afford only a motorcycle and sidecar”. It has been likened to the Ford Model T, but thanks to the many variants, it’s also like a Swiss Army Knife on four wheels. The Seven provided a cost-effective platform for racing, which led to the Design Museum crediting it as laying the foundations for Britain’s supremacy in Formula One design and construction. Praise indeed.

Lynx Eventer

We don’t need huge sales figures, record-breaking top speeds or groundbreaking technology to make us proud. Consider, if you will, the Lynx Eventer. Take one Jaguar XJ-S, send it to coachbuilders Lynx and, hey presto, a 155mph performance car with the practicality of a family estate. Proof that nobody does a shooting brake quite like the British.

Aston Martin DB5

Without the help of a certain Mr Bond, we’ll never know if the Aston Martin DB5 would have enjoyed quite the same level of success. It’s interesting to note that in the Goldfinger book, author Ian Fleming placed 007 at the wheel of a Aston Martin DB MkIII, but the film producers chose to use the recently launched DB5. The ultimate Bond car and the ultimate Aston Martin? Quite possibly, Miss Moneypenny.

Land Rover Series I

Land Rover Series I

Britain’s most famous off-roader was conceived on a beach in Anglesey and built using some old wartime Jeeps. We can thank Rover designer Maurice Wilks, who sketched a design for the ultimate off-roader in the sand at Red Wharf Bay and helped to kick-start a production run that would span close to seven decades.

MGB

Over half a million were built and it encapsulates all that is good (and bad) about the British sports car. It is, of course, the MGB – one of Britain’s finest exports and, for a while at least, the world’s best-selling sports car. Drive a good one and you’ll never look back. Drive a rough one and you’ll take the bus back.

Lotus Elan Sprint

When you can count the likes of Jay Leno, Gordon Murray and Harry Metcalfe on your list of owners, you know you’re doing something right. The Lotus Elan Sprint weighed just under 700kg and, with its front-mid engine layout, offered near-perfect weight distribution. Another reason why we can be proud of the Elan? Mazda used it as the inspiration for the MX-5, which is the best affordable sports car you can buy.

TVR Sagaris

TVR Sagaris

The TVR Sagaris is a bit of an enigma. On the one hand it offered the brutal performance, outlandish styling and design quirks that you’d expect from one of Blackpool’s finest. But read the contemporary reviews and you’ll find it was one of the most sorted and predictable sports cars TVR had ever produced. Overall, it’s the kind of homegrown low-volume sports car Britain does best.

Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

Is the Silver Shadow the greatest car Rolls-Royce has ever produced? Most certainly not, but its ‘car for the masses’ approach took the brand into unchartered waters, becoming the firm’s most successful car in the process. Compared to the models before it, the Silver Shadow of 1965 was, relatively speaking, rather conventional. But it retained the exquisite craftsmanship and sense of luxury.

Ford Lotus Cortina

The Mk1 Ford Lotus Cortina was one of the true pioneers of the performance saloon and one of the world’s first Q-cars. The recipe was simple: take a lightweight Ford Cortina body and add a Lotus engine from the Elan and Europa. A legend of road and track was born, with the Cortina providing the benchmark for all future performance family saloons.

Triumph Dolomite Sprint

Triumph Dolomite Sprint

A controversial choice, perhaps, but the Triumph Dolomite Sprint deserves far greater respect than it receives. While the likes of the Alfa Romeo GTV, BMW 2002tii and Ford Escort RS200 are held up as 70s performance gems, the rear-wheel drive, Michelotti-designed Dolly Sprint is largely forgotten. In its day, the Sprint more than lived up to its name, while offering the practicality of four doors. A rare highlight of the British Leyland era.

Bentley 3-Litre

Talk about making a grand entrance. The 3-Litre was Bentley’s first production vehicle, which laid the foundations for a future of elegance, performance and racing success. Indeed, the 3-Litre was successful in the 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930 24 Hours of Le Mans races.

Morgan 3 Wheeler

It’s only right that the nation that gave the world the Ministry of Funny Walks should also deliver the brilliantly bonkers Morgan 3 Wheeler. It weighs a featherlight 525kg, helping to get the most from its 2.0-litre V-twin engine. Better still – the forthcoming all-electric EV3 weighs less than 500kg, with Morgan claiming a potential range of 150 miles. We can hardly wait.

Jensen FF

Jensen FF

The Jensen FF will go down in history as the world’s first non-SUV to offer permanent four-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes. The FF stands for Ferguson Formula, after the company that supplied the four-wheel drive system, but while the Jensen wasn’t a sales success, it laid the foundations for future 4WD road cars. The Audi quattro is just one example.

Reliant Scimitar GTE

There’s an unwritten rule that suggests you cannot write about the Reliant Scimitar GTE (Grand Touring Estate) without mentioning Princess Anne. The Princess Royal received her first Scimitar on her 20th birthday, clearly attracted by the performance and practicality. The GTE also paved the way for the likes of the Volvo P1800ES and Lancia Beta HPE.

Rover SD1 Vitesse

With a longer list to work with, we would have included a number of different Rovers. But for this shortlist, we settle on the Rover SD1 Vitesse. Here was a car that could have been a world-beater, but build quality issues, poor reliability and striking workers meant it never really stood a chance. The 190hp 3.5-litre Vitesse was a fitting swansong for Britain’s nearly car, giving it the performance to match its Ferrari Daytona styling.

Gordon-Keeble GK1

Gordon-Keeble GK1

Another controversial choice, but hear us out. Spend some time in the company of a Gordon-Keeble and you’ll begin to admire its understated beauty (you can thank Giugiaro for that). But it’s so much more than a pretty face, as highlighted by its wondrous interior and 5.4-litre V8 engine. Here’s a GT that could transport you to the South of France with all the elegance and charm of a Facel Vega, Ferrari or Aston Martin. Oh, and it has a tortoise for a badge.

Bentley Turbo R

The Turbo R arrived in 1985, effectively replacing the Bentley Mulsanne Turbo. The R stood for Road holding, with Bentley placing greater emphasis on dynamics and driver appeal. Power was up, the suspension was stiffened and alloy wheels were added. The Turbo R might have upset the Bentley purists, but it’s a true great.

Vauxhall Chevette 2300HS

The Vauxhall Chevette 2300HS was a hot hatch before the world knew what a hot hatch was. A hairy-chested, homologation special that stank of Brut and needed to be taken by the scruff of the neck to get the best from it. Unlike other rally specials of the era, the Chevette is still relatively cheap, so grab one while you still can.

Rolls-Royce Phantom

Rolls-Royce Phantom

Put aside the German parentage for a moment and revel in the absolute majesty of the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Built within a stone’s throw of Lord March’s country pad, the Phantom proves that when it comes to opulence and luxury, Britannia still rules the waves.

Austin FX4

From a car that only the chosen few will enjoy to one that will have touched millions of lives. The Austin FX4, better known as the Black Cab, is one of London’s most famous icons, up there with the Routemaster bus, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.

Ford Fiesta ST200: Two-Minute Road Test

Ford Fiesta ST200 (2016) road test review

Ford Fiesta ST200: Two-Minute Road Test

It’s three years now since the brilliant Fiesta ST was launched. And while nothing has come along and knocked the plucky Fiesta off its perch as number one hot hatch of this size in that time, Ford decided it was time to give the ST a little extra.

Coinciding with the Fiesta’s 40th anniversary (so call it a 40th anniversary special edition if you like), the Fiesta ST200 comes with more power, more torque, tweaked suspension and a shorter final drive. Is this the ultimate Fiesta ST?

What are its rivals?

What are its rivals?

Sure, there are the Fiesta ST’s conventional rivals such as the Renaultsport Clio 200 and Peugeot 208 GTi, but we already know the regular ST beats them. Its real competition comes from within – in the form of the Fiesta ST tweaked by Mountune. That comes with 215hp, more than the ST200 (on paper – we’ll come onto that) for just £599 over the regular model.

What’s it like to drive?

What's it like to drive?

But there’s more to the ST200’s performance than that 200hp figure suggests. Like the regular ST, it comes with an overboost function. This boosts power to 215hp for 20 seconds, while torque increases by 22lbft. In reality, that means the ST is pretty much a 215hp car – how often do you keep your foot on the accelerator for more than 20 seconds in the UK?

Needless to say, it’s quick. The official 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds shaves 0.2 seconds off the regular car. If Autobahn cruising is your thing, that shortened final drive results in a 143mph top speed (in a Fiesta!). It also sounds fantastic, while acceleration comes in pretty much any gear – meaning you don’t have to drop down should you wish to overtake. You probably will, though, as the gearbox features the same short throw and slick feel as the regular ST.

The Fiesta ST’s party piece is its handling. On twisty, bumpy, broken British roads, there’s very little that’ll keep up with the ST200. It’s an absolute hoon. The regular model has recently had its steering revised, and it provides levels of feedback that we’re just not used to from electronic power-assisted steering.

It feels like an old-school hot hatch, with true throttle adjustability and compact dimensions that make it really easy to hustle along. A thicker front anti-roll bar ensures the ST200’s turn-in is wonderfully accurate, while revised dampers provide a slightly firmer but not overly harsh ride.

Fuel economy and running costs

Fuel economy and running costs

That extra power means fuel economy has taken a knock – but it’s far from bad. It officially returns 46.3mpg, while CO2 emissions are 140g/km. It’ll cost £130 a year to tax (the same as a regular Fiesta ST), while servicing should be fairly reasonable at Ford dealerships.

Is it practical?

Is it practical?

The ST200 is no less practical than a regular Fiesta. That means you can squeeze in four passengers (five at a push) and there’s more room in the boot than, for example, a Mazda MX-5. But that’s the beauty of hot hatches compared to out-and-out sports cars.

Inside, the ST200 comes with unique Recaro front seats that some might find borderline firm. But this isn’t meant to be a cosseting car. More of an issue is the dash, which is starting to look very dated – with a tiny infotainment screen and lots and lots of buttons.

What about safety?

What about safety?

When tested by Euro NCAP in 2012, the regular Fiesta was awarded a five-star safety rating. There’s no reason why the ST200 should be any less safe – apart from the fact you can be going very fast, very quickly. Not a car for 17-year-olds then, but it has got Ford’s clever ‘MyKey’ feature that can be used to enforce a speed limiter.

Which version should I go for?

Which version should I go for?

Initially, the ST200 was limited to just 400 models, all finished in distinctive Storm Grey. But demand has been so great that production has been increased. As many as 1,000 could be sold, product manager Pierre Bonnet told us.

Should I buy one?

Should I buy one?

We’ll make no bones about it – we’re huge fans of the Fiesta ST200. We nearly stopped off at a Ford dealer on the way home, that’s how much we enjoyed driving it.

The clincher is the price. At £22,745, the ST200 is £5,000 (or 28%) more than the £17,745 ST-1. And the ST-1 is going to be very nearly as much fun, especially if you get it tuned by specialists Mountune. That makes the ST200 a little difficult to justify.

But, if you can justify it (and live with the dated interior), you’ll absolutely love the ST200. It’s the ultimate Fiesta ST, which itself is the ultimate affordable hot hatch (and arguably more fun than bigger hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI). It looks great in Storm Grey, and you’ll be given a great deal of kudos turning up at fast Ford meets in one. You could almost look at it as an investment.

Pub fact

Pub fact

The Fiesta ST200’s 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine boasts 200hp (before the overboost kicks in) – that’s twice the power offered by its Fiesta XR2 ancestor.

Mercedes AMG GT R (2016)

Lewis Hamilton reveals new Mercedes-AMG GT R

Mercedes AMG GT R (2016)Lewis Hamilton has helped Mercedes-AMG reveal a dramatic new 585hp AMG GT R in a dramatic dynamic drive at Mercedes-Benz World Brooklands, UK. The new Mercedes-AMG GT R has had most of its development carried out on the Nürburgring race track to make it one of the most focused high-performance road cars yet built by AMG.

And it even has a paint job to match – a special ‘AMG green hell magno’ green, in tribute to the racetrack Sir Jackie Stewart called ‘green hell’…

Mercedes AMG GT R (2016)

Hamilton was in great form at the reveal of the GT R, grabbing the keys from Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers to take it for a quick spin at the famous Brooklands circuit. “I was surprised it was street legal,” he said: the wide body, extra power and bellowing sound all get his vote.

“The improved aerodynamics are cool too – most people don’t notice that.” So, how has Mercedes-AMG created the bright green new GT R that’s so impressed the reigning F1 World Champion? We found out…

The Mercedes-AMG GT R has been created to bring closer links between its road-going supercars and the firm’s motorsport GT3 racers. There’s a thriving AMG GT3 customer-sport racing series and many of these features have been incorporated into the new GT R. It’s a much, much more focused car than any AMG GT up to now.

Mercedes AMG GT R (2016)

Pretty much everything involved in performance and dynamics is new. Key features of the Mercedes-AMG GT R include wider front and rear wings to cover wider tyres (325-section at the rear!), bigger rear spoiler and a double diffuser similar to that which was banned in F1 for being too effective. It has adjustable coilover suspension, active rear-wheel steering and lightweight wheels with racy cup tyres – plus a huge number of expensive detail changes throughout. Extensive upgrades indeed…

The GT R’s stance oozes attitude. Carbon fibre front wings are 46mm wider, and they’re 57mm wider at the rear. Tracks are wider and there are 19-inch forged alloys at the front, 20-inch rims at the rear. That big rear wing is also manually adjustable depending on the type of use (or type of racetrack you’re at): just like in motorsport.

All-out speed isn’t really the focus here, even though the engine does boast a serious step-up in power to 585hp (compared to the current GT S’ 510hp). This delivers 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 197mph.

Oh, and you’re probably aware there’s already a GT-R in the world – the Nissan GT-R. Clearly though, Mercedes-AMG has reached an agreement that means Nissan’s happy with its GT ‘racing’ being called GT R. We’re sure the lack of a hyphen in AMG’s version is key here…

Mercedes AMG GT R (2016)

The front end oozes aggression. A 15-fin chrome grille mimics the AMG GT3 racer, while the shape of the grille mimics the famous 1952 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL that won Mexico’s Panamerica race. It’s lower and meaner at the front, feeding extra air to the engine, reducing lift and enhancing aerodynamics.

There are active aerodynamics underneath: at 50mph, a carbon fibre panel lowers 40mm, ‘sucking’ the car to the road, something that adds greater stability and extra feel to the steering. It also helps send more air to the rear double diffuser, clamping down the rear end at speed as well. Don’t worry – it’s mounted on springs, so won’t easily be broken…

A Mercedes-AMG first is active rear-wheel steering. Up to 62mph, they turn in the opposite direction to the fronts, making the GT R more agile. Over this, the turn in the same direction, improving high-speed stability and also making it more responsive at speed.

Mercedes-AMG has given the interior a race-style makeover with weight-saving manually-adjustable bucket seats, yellow-highlight dials and, brilliantly, yellow seatbelts.

The 585hp engine is faster-responding and Mercedes-AMG has fitted a lighter flywheel to further enhance the race-like feel. The ‘race start’ launch control has been sharpened too: it now dials up more starting revs and has better control of wheel slip. Dynamic engine and gearbox mounts are fitted.

Mercedes AMG GT R (2016)

Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres are standard – rubber that Mercedes-AMG amusingly calls “street-legal racing tyres”. Not only do they have more grip than the regular tyres, they also last 50 per cent longer on a racetrack.

Car tuners love coilover suspension because it’s just like tech from motorsport. It’s fitted to the Mercedes-AMG GT R; it’s fully adjustable and is paired with AMG Ride Control adaptive damping with three settings. Mercedes-AMG suggests ‘comfort’ for the road, ‘sport’ for challenging, undulating racetracks such as the Nürburgring and ‘sport plus’ for flatter, higher-speed circuits such as Germany’s Hockenheim.

You want settings and adjustability? The Mercedes-AMG GT R gives you settings and adjustability – not least a nine-level traction control system, adjusted via a cool yellow twist-dial in the centre console. Choose level 1 for wet weather, up to level 9 for maximum slip. Be Lewis Hamilton om the move, in other words.

The Mercedes-AMG GT R will be a step up from the GT S because “it combines the driving dynamics of our AMG GT3 racing car with the everyday practicality of the AMG GT,” says Mercedes-AMG CEO Tobias Moers. “It’s a new benchmark in performance for street-legal cars.”

Mercedes AMG GT R (2016)

The Mercedes-AMG GT R is lighter than other AMG GT models, courtesy of some exotic components. The carbon fibre torque tube, which delivers drive to the rear wheels, weights 14kg, 40 per cent less than standard. There’s less soundproofing, a titanium exhaust silencer, forced alloy wheels and other tweaks. The 15kg overall weight saving over a GT S doesn’t sound huge, but when you consider extra tech such as a stiffer chassis, rear-wheel steering, that larger rear wing, it’s more impressive than it seems.

There’s an interesting nugget in the tech pack for the new Mercedes-AMG GT R: the firm says that incorporating motorsport tech into the AMG GT road car has seen networking between race teams, aerodynamics boffins and designers that has “even resulted in an innovation that now has a patent pending”. Once the patent is granted, we’ll find out what that innovation is, we’re sure…

“Our sports-car and performance brand AMG has its roots in motorsport and, ever since its formation, has repeatedly faced up to the competition on the racetrack. These genes are particularly prevalent in the new AMG GT R. Boasting a wealth of technological innovations, the new top-of-the-range model is proof of the close collaboration between our constructors of racing cars and road-going vehicles,” said Daimler AG board member Prof. Thomas Weber.

Mercedes-AMG GT R launches at Mercedes-Benz World in Brooklands on 24 June – the opening day of the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed. It will go on sale on 21 November 2016 and deliveries will begin in March 2017. Prices? To be confirmed, but there will be a serious hike over today’s £110,000 GT S, that’s for sure…

Jaguar Union Flag

Brexit: the UK automotive industry reacts

Jaguar Union FlagBritain has voted to leave the European Union, a decision that could have a particular impact on the automotive industry: of the 1,682,156 vehicles produced here in 2015, 77.3% were exported and 57.5% went to Europe.

Opinion: should carmakers have done more to prevent a Brexit?
In or Out: European cars we love – and those we’d send back

That equals almost 750,000 cars being exported to the EU: with the average value of an export being £20,900, this means £15.6 billion of trade could be in jeopardy if, once British export plans are confirmed, a swift resolution to trade deals is not found.

Britain’s next-biggest automotive trade partner is the United States, which take just 10.9% of exports: the ramifications are potentially thus serious.

Top export destinations for UK cars

  1. EU: 57.5%
  2. US: 10.9%
  3. China: 7.0%
  4. Turkey: 2.9%
  5. Australia: 2.8%
  6. Russia: 2.0%
  7. Japan: 1.8%
  8. South Korea: 1.7%
  9. Canada: 1.2%
  10. Israel: 1.2%

The short-term impact on British motorists is also potentially costly. The RAC has already predicted fuel prices will rise by 2p a litre due to the fall in the value of sterling, while Glass’s says there will be a slowdown in market activity as people put off big-ticket purchase decisions because of the Brexit uncertainty.

The UK automotive industry employs almost 800,000 people and had turnover of £69.5 billion in 2015. Seven mainstream car manufacturers build vehicles here, as do eight premium and specialist brands. It is one of the UK’s most important industries.

Here, then is how the automotive industry has reacted to the news – and keep coming back to more Motoring Research analysis of what Brexit means for the automotive industry…

SMMT

Chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The British public has chosen a new future out of Europe. Government must now maintain economic stability and secure a deal with the EU which safeguards UK automotive interests.

“This includes securing tariff-free access to European and other global markets, ensuring we can recruit talent from the EU and the rest of the world and making the UK the most competitive place in Europe for automotive investment.”

Jaguar Land Rover

A JLR spokesperson said: “For Jaguar Land Rover, today is just business as usual. We are a British business with a strong manufacturing base in this  country, we call Britain home and we remain committed to all our manufacturing sites and investment decisions.

“We respect the decision of the British people and in common with all other businesses, Jaguar Land Rover will analyse the issues arising from it: as of today, nothing has changed for us or the rest of the British automotive industry.

“Europe is a key strategic market for our business, comprising 20% of global sales, and we remain absolutely committed to our customers in the EU.

“There will be a significant negotiating period, and we need to understand more about that as details emerge. We will work hard 
with all parties to ensure that the importance of the British automotive industry is fully understood at every level of the 
negotiation process.”

In 2015, Jaguar Land Rover produced 500,000 vehicles in the UK: 80% of production was exported to more than 180 countries

BMW Group

A BMW GB spokesperson said: “BMW Group respects the British electorate’s decision to leave the EU. While it is clear there will now be a period of uncertainty, there will be no immediate change to our operations in the UK.

“Today, we know that many of the relevant conditions for supplying the European market will have to be re-negotiated, but of course we cannot say what this means for our UK operations until those future regulatory and legislative arrangements are agreed. We will not speculate about the outcome of these negotiations nor about any possible effects that might have on our production operations in the UK

In 2015, 201,206 MINIs were built in the UK. 80% of MINIs built in Oxford are exported, and 50% of those go to Europe

Honda

A Honda spokesperson said: “A decision has been taken by the British people and Honda respects that decision. At this moment, it is not clear what conditions and rules will ultimately replace the UK’s membership of the EU. We will therefore carefully monitor developments.

“We continue to prepare for the production launch of the 10th generation Civic from our Swindon plant. Honda remains committed to its business in Europe.”

In 2015, Honda built around 130,000 cars in the UK. 40% went to Europe

Nissan

Motoring Research contacted Nissan for comment: the firm said it is making no comment at this time.

In 2015, Nissan produced 476,589 and exported 55% to Europe

Toyota

A Toyota spokesperson said: “Going forward we will closely monitor and analyse the impact on our business operations in the UK, and how we can maintain competitiveness and secure sustainable growth together with the UK automotive industry and other stakeholders.”

Aston Martin

An Aston Martin spokesperson said: “Aston Martin will now orientate its business to deliver our mid-term plan in the context of the exit and the market and forex volatility that may exist during the period of transition. As the UK could now be subject to new trade tariff barriers, we also anticipate the need for additional productivity and efficiency in the medium term.  

“Nevertheless, it is important that Government must now maintain economic stability and secure a deal with the EU which safeguards UK automotive interests. This includes securing tariff free access to European and other global markets.

In 2015, Aston Martin sold 3,500 cars

Bentley

A Bentley spokesperson said: “Bentley Motors respects the outcome of the EU referendum and will now work with the UK Government and motor industry to secure a positive future for its business.

“Although it is too early to assess the full implications on our operations, our cars will continue to be built with the same passion and dedication by our skilled workforce. As a global business, operating in many different international markets, we are well-placed to adapt to changing economic and political conditions.

“We will stay focused on our exciting plans for new products. Bentley has a strong future and will continue to be the world’s most sought after luxury car brand.”

In 2015, Bentley sold 10,100 cars, of which 1,695 (17%) went to continental Europe

Glass’s

Rupert Pontin, Glass’s director of valuations, said: “A ‘Brexit’ is an interesting result that sees the UK very much embark on a new chapter that is largely unwritten.

“If the Brexit voters are correct in their thinking, it could create greater prosperity for the country in the long term but, over the next few months and years, the road is likely to be very bumpy. Markets will be affected, as will the value of the pound, and we expect to see consumer confidence tail off until the view of the way forward becomes clearer. How long this will take is difficult to predict.

“For the motor industry, all of these developments are very likely to have negative effects including a period of instability for new and used car sales, as well as an increase in pre-reg activity and downward pressure on values.

Road Haulage Association

Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “This is an ‘earthquake moment’ for the whole country, the economy and our industry. We simply cannot take anything for granted. It’s vital that Ministers and the Bank of England work quickly to steady markets and nerves.”

FairFuelUK

Howard Cox founder of FairFuelUK said: “We are hearing that major oil supplying countries may differentiate oil prices for the UK and EU States following Vote Leave’s victory in the EU Referendum. Any knee jerk reprisal by penalising UK drivers with higher prices at the pumps through higher oil prices, is nothing short of opportunistic, vindictive and unnecessary.

“We are horror-struck that there is hear-say, no matter if it is just grapevine gossip, that global oil prices may now be manipulated by economic region.”

Blog: should carmakers have done more to prevent a Brexit?

Opinion: should carmakers have done more to prevent a Brexit?

Blog: should carmakers have done more to prevent a Brexit?

It’s a historical turn of events that has divided the country: the UK has voted in favour of a so-called ‘Brexit’ of the European Union.

The markets have reacted, with the pound plunging to its lowest level against the dollar since the mid 1980s. No one really knows what the future holds for the UK – but there’s one thing that’s guaranteed, global car manufacturers who produce cars here are going to be disappointed.


More on Brexit from Motoring Research:

The Telegraph: What would Brexit mean for motorists and the UK car industry?

RAC: What the EU referendum means for drivers?


Japanese manufacturer Toyota produces cars at its site in Burnaston, Derbyshire, and warned this week that “if the UK leaves the EU, we think it unlikely that the UK can keep the current trading arrangements.”

It added this would mean paying duties on cars – as much as 10%, leading to huge losses to Toyota, or more expensive cars for customers.

Nissan meanwhile, with its huge Sunderland plant (where around half a million cars are built a year), went as far as taking legal action against Vote Leave for using its logo in its material. And other manufacturers, including Vauxhall, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover, all voiced support for the Remain campaign.

Industry body SMMT also backed staying in the EU – no surprise, as 80% of cars built in Britain are exported, contributing £15.5 billion a year annually to the UK economy.

SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said a Remain vote would continue the automotive industry’s success, “rather than jeopardise it by increasing costs, making our trading relationships uncertain and creating new barriers to our single biggest and most important market, Europe.”

So where did it go wrong? Seemingly at around 1am this morning when Sunderland was one of the first areas to reveal the results of local polls – with Leave taking the lead with 61% of the votes. That’s in an area where around 7,000 people are employed directly in car manufacturing by Nissan, a manufacturer which has strongly backed remaining in the EU.

The people of Derby, home to Toyota’s UK factory, also backed Brexit – with 57% voting Leave, despite the firm directly employing nearly 4,000 workers in the area. And 56% of people supported the Leave campaign in Solihull, home of Land Rover.

The SMMT has been quick to react. Mike Hawes said: “The British public has chosen a new future out of Europe. Government must now maintain economic stability and secure a deal with the EU which safeguards UK automotive interests. This includes securing tariff-free access to European and other global markets, ensuring we can recruit talent from the EU and the rest of the world and making the UK the most competitive place in Europe for automotive investment.”

We don’t know what will happen now. Manufacturers aren’t going to suddenly close down their huge British plants are move production elsewhere – but there could, and will be, significant consequences for car making in the UK.

It raises the question: should car manufacturers have done more? Many wrote to workers, making it clear where they stood. But should they have spelt out the consequences of backing Boris Johnson et al? Or would that have been undemocratic?

BMW Z1 (1990)

BMW Z1: Goodwood Retro Road Test special

BMW Z1 (1990)The BMW Z1 was first seen in 1986, first shown at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show and first went on sale in 1988. The first two-seat BMW since the 1959 507, it was called Z1 for a reason: this was the first truly forward-looking BMW of modern times. Even the name emphasised this: it’s Z for zukunft, German for ‘future’.

Initial demand was huge (this was the late 80s, after all). An original plan to build just 5,000 was raise up to 8,000 with the vast majority going to Germany. A lack of right-hand drive hampered its appeal in the UK, although a heady list also didn’t help. Today, it still sells for upwards of this list price: how’s that for a depreciation-buster?

Goodwood FoS 2016

The Z1 here is from BMW GB’s heritage fleet, that we drove to the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed – at which BMW is the honoured marque as part of its centenary celebrations. Fitting: at the time, the Z1 was certainly one of the most ambitious models from its 100 years in business.

What are its rivals?

Alfa Romeo Spider (1990)

Back in 1990, rivals were few. Roadsters had fallen out of fashion and Mazda had only recently launched the MX-5 to bring them back into style. The archaic Alfa Romeo Spider couldn’t really be considered an alternative and neither Audi nor Mercedes-Benz had rivals to it. Even the MGF was some way down the line.

Today, it’s a relatively accessible way into exclusive BMW ownership. Cars such as the Z8 are way off the scale these days but you’ll turn just as many heads in a Z1.

What engine does it use?

BMW Z1 (1990)

The Z1 uses the 2.5-litre straight-six M20 engine from the E30 BMW 325i. First launched in 1977, the motor was by now fuel injected but still getting on a bit (think single overhead cam, two valves per cylinder). Even so, 170hp and 168lb-ft of torque are decent numbers for 1990. It’s paired with a five-speed Getrag manual gearbox.

The Z1 perhaps isn’t as light as you’d think, with a kerbweight of 1,250kg, but rear-drive traction is still able to deliver 0-62mph in 7.9secs. Decent aerodynamics (with the roof up, at least) give it a top speed of 141mph.

What’s it like to drive?

BMW Z1 (1990)

It’s truly bizarre in one respect: you can legally drive with the doors open, almost touch the ground as you move. Do so and you feel uncommonly exposed and open, which is an ever-wonderful experience so long as you’re not going too quickly (wind blast takes over at more than 40mph).

The Z1 feels a bit rattly for the first 10 minutes. The chassis is stiff but it still lacks modern car torsional rigidity, so it feels its age. The steering’s a bit twirly, gearchange long-throw and the harmonious engine is tappety and lacking immediacy (it’s not quick by modern standards, although the torque is easy-access). But you soon tune into it and the agedness is replaced by uniqueness.

Up the speed and the Z1 smoothes out, relaxed damping floats it along beautifully (but still in control) and the steering becomes fingertip-input tactile and chatty (with the stuff they tune out of modern systems), almost as if it’s being awakened by at-speed downforce on the front end. An innovative early iteration of a rear diffuser plans the rear too and makes it feel unexpectedly stable and confident at speed. It’s a genuine all-day-long 150km/h autobahn cruiser.

It’s not over-stiff, far from aggressive, is simply neat, tidy, compact and engaging. It’s not focused fun in the way a period M3 is, and certainly rolls a lot more than some sportier cars, but this is all part of the appeal. And, doors open, the torquey engine has enough grunt to require few gearchanges, so you can drive left arm resting on the sill, right hand on the steering wheel. A style that feels ideal for the little Z1.

Reliability and running costs

BMW Z1 (1990)

Cleverly, BMW largely used stock mechanicals for the Z1. And the bits that weren’t pilfered from other models were kept simple and fulsomely over-engineered: the ultra-stiff chassis is evidence of that. Even the doors seem generally trouble free – proof of how heavy-duty they are being the fact the whole car vibrates when they’re operated…

The most niggly mechanical part is actually the engine. Unlike the later M50 engine, the M20 motor uses cambelts, and these need regular, religious changes every three years or 36,000 miles. Factor this into running costs, but you’ll benefit from decent economy and low cost of maintenance otherwise.

Needless to say, replacing the body panels is tricky: repair is probably the best option these days. In theory, you can remove them all in 40 minutes. In reality, factor in two days…

Could I drive it every day?

BMW Z1 (1990)

There are a few barriers to everyday Z1 driving. Of course, it’s only left-hand drive. The doors may drop into the sills but it’s still really tricky to get in and out of – the leather on the side sills takes a beating. It doesn’t have air con (there was the space behind the dash to install it) so gets hot in summer if you don’t lower the doors and roof – and if you do, wind noise quickly starts roaring. The boot is tiny and your relegated gear feels exposed if you use the passenger seat instead. You may find a few leaks inside if it rains.

On the flip side, the tappety engine is ultra-flexible so you can leave it on one gear and cruise easily. The controls are reasonably positive and the brakes – supported by ABS – are less heart-in-mouth than some other older cars. And you can feel the deep engineering integrity of BMW.  Even the fact it’s left-hand drive is countered by great visibility and compact dimensions.

How much should I pay?

BMW Z1 (1990)

You can get scruffy ones for less than £25,000 but really you need to budget at least £30,000 to get into Z1 ownership. Some of the nicest cars are now nudging £45,000, even £50,000 (and we’ve seen one with delivery miles only retailing for £79,995).

The days of a bargain Z1 are thus gone, if they ever existed at all. But get a good one and it’s so rare and such a curio, it will never lose money – it’s a bona fide BMW desirable classic.

What should I look out for?

BMW Z1 (1990)

Check those composite panels with a fine toothcomb, as it’s massively difficult to get replacements, warn experts. They shouldn’t fade too badly, as the colour is impregnated within them, although this actually makes repairs easier to spot. It’s near-impossible to replace the interior trim.

Give the engine a good check-over for evidence of good maintenance, regular belt changes and no cracked head gaskets or smoky exhausts. At least here, it’s easier to fix. Also look for the original Z1-branded Sony stereo: they’re worth a small fortune these days and you can mark cars down that lack them.

Should I buy one?

BMW Z1 (1990)

Very few Brits know what the BMW Z1 is. Most were sold in Germany and its lack of official right-hand status here affords it an exclusive image. This makes it a genuine modern-classic BMW curio, one that you can pick up for similar-to-E30 M3 money and turn far more heads.

It’s not as thrilling to drive as an M3 but it’s surely a bona fide classic that, so long as you’re careful with it and keep it in tip-top condition, will surely only go up in value in years to come. Indeed, it’s already starting to happen: if you want to buy one, you should definitely buy one now.

Pub fact

BMW Z1 (1990)

The Z1’s rear Z-axle suspension was later used by the BMW E36 3 Series – and was also fitted to the Rover 75. Although the MG6 reportedly uses components and designs derived from the 75, it doesn’t share the Z-axle rear suspension – apparently because BMW refused to licence the clever design to the brand’s Chinese owners.

Specifications: 1990 BMW Z1

Price (1990): £36,925

Engine: 2.5-litre 6 cylinder

Power: 170hp

Torque: 169lb-ft

0-62mph: 7.9secs

Top speed: 141mph

Length/width/height: 3921/1690/1277mm

Weight: 1250kg

Should I buy one?

Audi RS7 Performance (2016) road test review

Audi RS7 Performance: Two-Minute Road Test

This is the car you buy if the regular 560hp, 3.9sec to 62mph Audi RS7 isn’t quick enough. Or, more accurately, this is the car you buy if money is no object and you want the ultimate fast, family-carrying Audi.

The RS7 performance boasts a power increase of 45hp from its 4.0-litre twin turbo V8, shaving 0.2 seconds off its 0-62mph time. It also sports a fancy overboots function, which can increase torque when required to a hefty 553lb ft.

What are its rivals?

At £92,060, the RS7 Performance squares up against the BMW M6 Gran Coupe and Mercedes-AMG CLS 63. There’s also the Porsche Panamera, but you’ll have to spend more than £130,000 on the Turbo S to get acceleration similar to the RS7 Performance.

What’s it like to drive?

What's it like to drive?

Ferociously fast. Like, supercar fast. Go hard on the throttle and it just obliterates everything else on the road this side of an Audi R8.

Select ‘dynamic’ mode in the Audi driver select and it sharpens everything up – including the throttle, steering and suspension. While it almost goes without staying that the RS 7 Performance is ridiculously quick in a straight line, it’s impressive how much it shrinks around you in the corners.

Its Quattro all-wheel-drive system gives you all the confidence you need to make progress whatever the conditions. It ordinarily runs a slight rear-drive bias, but shifts torque between all four wheels when required. The brakes (upgradeable to ceramics if you wish), are incredibly meaty and will scrub speed off pleasingly quickly. The only thing that’ll make you back off through corners is the complete lack of feedback through the steering wheel – a frustrating trait of fast Audis.

The Performance is fitted with a sports exhaust as standard, and in Dynamic mode it’ll pop and bang like a true supercar. Driving through villages, little old ladies look terrified while others look very confused about whether all that noise is coming from a five-door Audi.

The really impressive thing about the RS7 Performance is how docile it is when required. Shift to Comfort mode, trickle the throttle and it’ll transform into a much more relaxed motorway muncher. Thanks to the air suspension, fitted as standard to the RS7 Performance, the ride is good – despite the 21-inch alloys.

Fuel economy and running costs

Fuel economy and running costs

Are you kidding? Officially the RS7 Performance will return 29.7mpg. It might, with a seriously restrained driver behind the wheel. Realistically, you’re going to be happy to see anything more than teens. CO2 comes in at 221g/km, meaning you’ll pay £640 in road tax for the first year, and £290 a year thereafter.

Is it practical?

The interior of the RS7 is a thing of beauty. Audi’s interiors are among the best, and even though it’s visually very similar to the regular model’s cabin (fancy seats aside), you won’t be left in any doubt that you’re sat in a very expensive car. It’ll sit four adults in comfort, and its 535 litres of boot space should be plenty for most. If you need more, buy its estate equivalent, which we’ll come to shortly…

What about safety?

What about safety?

Euro NCAP hasn’t tested the RS7, but it’s safe to say (see what we did there?) it’d be a surprise if it scored anything less than five stars. Audi engineering combines with the plethora of safety tech as standard, meaning the RS7 Performance is probably a relatively nice car to crash. Apart from the fact you might be going very quickly when it happens…

Which version should I go for?

There’s only one version of the RS7 Performance – and that commands a premium of £6,575. When you’re looking at spending around £90,000 on a car, can you justify an extra £6k on buying the fastest one for ultimate pub bragging rights?

Should I buy one?

Should I buy one?

We’ll ignore the fact that no one needs a car this fast, or the many hours you’d waste a year filling it with fuel. Some people will be able to justify the RS7 Performance, and we have a lot of respect for those who can. The biggest challenge it faces is the RS6 Performance – essentially the same car with a bigger boot, smaller price tag and, in our opinion, better looks.

Pub fact

The Audi RS7 Performance’s 3.7-second 0-62mph time is within 0.3 seconds of the Audi R8, Lamborghini Huracan and Ferrari California.