RAC pothole

RAC proves potholes ARE getting worse

RAC potholeIf you think Britain’s roads are littered with more potholes these days, RAC breakdown data suggests you may be right: vehicle breakdowns caused by bad roads have risen a whopping 125% between 2006-2016.

The sort of things that are damaged when you hit a pothole – components such as dampers, suspension springs and bent wheels – made up 0.4% of RAC callouts in 2006. By 2016, this had risen to almost 1% of callouts.

“Our analysis… unequivocably confirms what most road users already know, which is that the condition of our local roads has deteriorated drastically in the last decade,” said RAC chief engineer David Bizley.

“This analysis suggests that the quality of the UK’s roads suffered a steady decline from the start of 2007 through to the end of 2009, presumably due to lack of investment in maintenance and resurfacing during worsening economic times.”

Since then, there has not been sufficient funding to fix the backlog.

“Although 0.9% (of call-outs) seems low, the growth in this type of call-out is indisputable. With few exceptions, it’s the vehicle owner who picks up the bill, adding up to millions of pounds each year.”

And motorists are fed up. The RAC Report on Motoring shows the state of Britain’s local roads is their number one gripe and 50% feel the condition of roads in their area has declined over the past year.

One in three thus want the government to prioritise fixing Britain’s roads above everything else and a further half rate extra investment here as a top-5 priority.

Not something that’s going to happen soon though, says the RAC: “The effect of insufficient investment over much of the last decade care going to take some considerable time to rectify,” warns Bizley.

Mercedes-Benz Porsche Museum

Porsche and Mercedes-Benz in historic joint venture

Mercedes-Benz Porsche MuseumMercedes-Benz and Porsche are both based in Stuttgart, and both have huge, modern motoring museums hosting the cream of their car collections.

And the two brands have now joined forces in a classic new venture.

Free entry to Mercedes-Benz Museum for BMW employees

It’s a discount deal: show a ticket for one upon entry to the other and you’ll get 25% off the ticket price. It works both ways: Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are both offering discounts to visitors who’ve been to the other one first.

The deal, which runs until 30 December, means it costs €6 instead of €8 to enter, with the concessionary price cut to €3. And it’s been launched just in time for the holiday season in the local Baden-Wurttemberg region.

To celebrate this historic joint venture, the Mercedes-Benz Museum and Porsche Museum have swapped two cars: outside the Porsche Museum in Zuffenhausen is a 1966 Mercedes-Benz W 111 230 S; outside the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Bad Cannstatt is a 1975 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7.

“Stuttgart has not one but two great car museums,” said head of Mercedes-Benz Classic Christian Boucke. “It’s unique and a real stroke of luck.

“Many visitors tell us that the museums are the only reason they travel to Stuttgart. We are honouring this with a joint campaign.”

“This collaboration also emphasises the good neighbourly relations between the Mercedes-Benz Museum and us, the Porsche Museum,” said Achim Stejskal, head of the Porsche Museum.

Just make sure you don’t visit on a Monday: both museums are closed. They are, however, both open between Tuesday-Sunday, from 9am to 6pm.

BMW M4 Competition Pack

BMW M4 Competition Pack: Two-Minute Road Test

BMW M4 Competition PackHarder, better, faster and, er, more expensive, the Competition Pack cranks the BMW M4 up to 11. For an extra £3,000, the M4 coupe – and its M3 saloon sibling – gain 19 hp, adaptive suspension, sports seats, stylish 20-inch alloy wheels and a fruitier exhaust. Are the upgrades worth it, or is BMW simply gilding the lily?

Prices and dealsBMW dealer

At the time of writing, the M4 Competition Pack costs £60,065, or £62,560 with the DCT semi-automatic gearbox as tested. That’s about £500 more than an equivalent M3, or £3,000 less than the M4 convertible. However, we found discounts of nearly £10,000 on M4 DCTs via ‘reverse auction’ website, AutoeBid – so expect similar savings on Competition Pack cars.

What are its rivals?Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe

Until the new Audi RS5 arrives, the M4 has one major rival: the Mercedes-AMG C63 coupe. With 476 hp from its 4.0-litre V8 (or 510 hp in full-fat ‘S’ spec), the muscle-Merc trumps the M4 for outright power – and has a better soundtrack. However, the BMW is a more satisfying steer on a twisty road. You could also consider the Lexus RC F and Porsche 911 Carrera.

What engine does it use?BMW M4 Competition Pack

The BMW can’t match the C63 for cubic inches, but its 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six develops a stonking 150 hp per litre. For those who struggle with maths, that’s a grand total of 450 hp – up 19hp on the standard M4. Maximum power arrives at a heady 7,000 rpm, meaning you need to rev this engine hard to get the best from it. Note the carbon fibre strut brace to stiffen the chassis.

How fast?BMW M4 Competition Pack

You want figures? How about 0-62 mph in 4.0 seconds for the DCT version? Choose a manual gearbox and you’ll lag 0.1 seconds behind at the lights. Which serves you right for trying to save money, frankly. Either way, the M4 Competition Pack is 0.1 seconds quicker off the line than the standard car. Top speed is limited to 155mph.

Is it comfortable?BMW M4 Competition Pack

Those 20-inch machine-polished alloy wheels look fantastic, but they don’t do ride quality any favours (the regular M4 has 19s). Even in Comfort mode, you feel every ripple in the road surface. That said, the M4 doesn’t thump and bang through potholes like some sports cars. And its race-style seats are supportive and well-padded. Full marks for the M-striped seatbelts, too.

Will I enjoy driving it?BMW M4 Competition Pack

Oh yes. The M4 has faced criticism for being too soft, but the Competition Pack sharpens up its edges. It’s ferociously fast, and the chassis is a textbook example of rear-wheel-drive adjustability. Well-weighted steering and a flawless semi-automatic gearbox complete the package. Compared to the C63 AMG, you work a bit harder to experience the BMW’s ample rewards. But that’s hardly a chore, right?

Fuel economy and running costsBMW M4 Competition Pack

The most efficient non-hybrid BMW 3 Series – the 320d EfficientDynamics auto – returns fuel economy of 74.3mpg. The M4 manages less than half that, with official figures of 32.1mpg for the manual and 34.0mpg for the DCT. CO2 emissions of 194g/km mean you’ll pay £500 car tax in the first year and £270 per year thereafter.

What’s the interior like?BMW M4 Competition Pack

The interior of the 4 Series dates back to 2012. Compared with the latest Audi A4/A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the plastics seem a little cheap and the design a little dated. We can’t fault the ergonomics, though. Traditional BMW white-on-black dials and a centre console angled towards the driver were supplemented by an £825 head-up display in our test car. There’s also the excellent iDrive media system, which we’ll come to in a minute…

Is it practical?BMW M4 Competition Pack

For anyone who’s ever squeezed into the back of a Porsche 911, the M4’s two proper, adult-sized rear seats will be a revelation. It’s a little dark back there, and access is awkward behind the bulky sports seats. But if you regularly carry passengers, you could always buy the M3 saloon instead. The M4 also has a decent 445-litre boot – about the same as a Nissan Qashqai.

Tell me about the techBMW M4 Competition Pack

We rate BMW’s iDrive media system as the joint-best available, along with Audi’s MMI. Its widescreen display is mounted high on the dashboard, and the ‘clickwheel’ controller is easy to operate without taking your eyes off the road. It’s far superior to Mercedes’ Comand, and we prefer it to the various touchscreen systems available, too. Standard kit includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, DAB radio and in-car wi-fi. We’d also be tempted to splash out £675 on the premium Harmon Kardon hi-fi.

What about safety?BMW M4 Competition Pack

The closely-related BMW 3 Series scored a full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, and there’s no reason to think the M4 would be any different. All cars come with side and curtain airbags and advanced stability/traction control. Even so, with 450 horses on tap, the biggest threat to your safety (and driving licence) will be your right foot…

Which version should I go for?BMW M4 Competition Pack

The obvious question here is: should you go for the Competition Pack? We certainly would, and BMW expects 70% of buyers to follow suit. With improvements to performance, handling, noise and appearance, the Competition Pack simply makes for a better M4. And its £3,000 additional cost looks modest in the context of a £60,000 car. The only downside is the firmer ride, but we think that’s a fair trade-off for improved agility.

What’s the used alternative?BMW M3

If you don’t have £60,000 to spend on a new M4, the E46 M3 offers just as much fun – perhaps more – for a fraction of the cost. Built from 2000-2006, it’s powered by a 343 hp naturally-aspirated six redlined at 8,000 rpm. Responsive and rear-wheel drive, the E46 remains one of our favourite BMW M cars. Prices start at just £7,000, although we’d budget at least five figures for a good one.

Should I buy one?BMW M4 Competition Pack

Cards on the table, we prefer the titanic torque and aural drama of the Mercedes-AMG C63 to the subtler charms of the M4 Competition Pack. The BMW would best for a track day, but the more exciting Mercedes has the edge on the road. There’s also a BMW M2-shaped elephant in the room. Smaller, cheaper and more fun, the new M2 is our current favourite M car.

Pub factBMW M4 GTS

Even the Competition Pack enhancements don’t make this the hottest M4. That honour goes to the M4 GTS: a lightweight, 500 hp rival for the Porsche 911 GT3. With two seats, a front splitter that doesn’t do speed humps and a price tag of, ahem, £122,000, the GTS gives two fingers to everyday usability in favour of track-focused performance. One for the lottery-win garage, perhaps?

Lotus Elise Race 250

Lotus Elise Race 250: road car for the racetrack

Lotus Elise Race 250There are Elise Cup race series running all over the world and, since we now have a fancy new Cup 250 road-going version of the Elise, Lotus has taken the same performance upgrades and twisted them into the track-going Elise. Creating, says boss Jean-Marc Gales, “the most focused Elise we’ve ever produced”.

Compared to the old Elise Cup 220 R, the Else Race 250 gets a cooler name, an extra 30hp (but no more torque) and a tiny weight reduction to “less than 900kg” (a road-going Cup 250 is 931kg). It also gets a full zero-lift aero package that generates 66kg of downforce at 100mph and 155kg at its 154mph vmax – 30kg more than before (and, um, exactly the same figures as the road Cup 250).

Lotus says it’s enough to deliver a Hethel lap time of 1 minute 33.5 seconds, half a second faster than the Cup 220 R, making it the fastest race-spec Elise ever.

This is another new Lotus that has bene into Gales’ ‘Lightweight Laboratory’. A lithium ion battery cuts 10kg, carbon fibre race seats chop 6kg and the forged alloy wheels are “ultra-lightweight” to give an additional unspecified weight saving. You can go further if you can afford to: the carbon aero pack replaces the regular front splitter, rear wing, rear diffuser and side floor extensions with carbon fibre ones, saving 10kg and perhaps making you race that bit more carefully through fear of shattering them.

Lotus Elise Race 250

What else does a race-spec Elise get? Nitron adjustable dampers, Eibach coaxial coil springs and an adjustable front anti-roll bar. There are AP Racing two-pot front calipers and Brembo single-pot rear calipers, Lotus-developed ABS and Yokohama AO48 tyres; 195/50 R16 on the front, 225/45 R17 at the rear.

The steering wheel is removable, the rear windscreen is polycarbonate and the carbon fibre race seat is FIA-approved and fitted with a six-point harness. You also get an A-frame harness bar, FIA-spec front rollcage, fire extinguisher, battery isolator, and composite blanking plates instead of headlights. If you run out of talent, Lotus has also fitted front and rear towing eyes.

Lotus Elise Race 250

The latest racing car from the company that won seven World Constructors’ Championships and six World Drivers’ Championships costs £53,500 including VAT: if you’re racing in the USA, it’s $76,200 sans local taxes. A road-going Cup 250 Is £45,600. Nobody has ever said racing is cheap.

Man jailed for bringing a motorway to a standstill for 28 hours

Man jailed for bringing a motorway to a standstill for 28 hours

Man jailed for bringing a motorway to a standstill for 28 hours

A man has been jailed for two years for causing a public nuisance after bringing the M1 motorway in Leicestershire to a complete standstill for 28 hours.

45-year-old Nicholas Muton, of no fixed abode, climbed up a gantry over the southbound M1 on Sunday 12 June, and stayed there for 28 hours – resulting in police closing the motorway for that time.

Nearly 100,000 vehicles are believed to have been hit by the closure, costing the national economy an estimated £28 million. The traffic was particularly bad as festival-goers left Download, held that weekend at nearby Donington Park.

A number of holidaymakers also complained about missing flights from East Midlands airport.

Sentencing, Judge Adrienne Lucking QC said diversions caused four and a half hour delays for motorists.

The court heard that Muton’s actions were in protest against the police, following a number of complaints he’d made over recent years – including one which was still outstanding.

In 2007, he was arrested for threatening to jump off a bridge over the M1, after he which he claimed he was tasered in custody.

Judge Lucking said Muton’s protest was “a childish response to your beef with the police.”

She added: “Your actions affected not only the economy but the personal lives of other people.

“You knew it had the capacity to cause personal distress to other people who had nothing to do with any of your issues with the police.”

He pleaded guilty at Leicester Crown Court this morning before being sentenced to two years in prison.

Ford Racing Puma: Retro Road Test

Ford Racing Puma: Retro Road Test

Ford Racing Puma: Retro Road Test

The regular Ford Puma is an underrated driver’s car. Combine a zingy 125 hp 1.7-litre petrol engine tuned by Yamaha with an excellent chassis, a light body and a thoroughly satisfying gearbox, and you get one of the most enjoyable front-drive cars ever sold.

Read another Retro Road Test on Motoring Research

But this isn’t a regular Ford Puma. This is the Ford Racing Puma. It’s doing it a disservice describing the FRP as a beefed-up Puma – it’s much more than that. Only 500 were ever sold, and it was developed by Ford Racing Europe.

What are its rivals?

What are its rivals?

Although the Ford Racing Puma was only ever meant to be sold in limited numbers, Ford hoped it’d sell more than it did. A production run of 1,000 was mooted, but a lack of demand meant that was cut to 500 – and half of them were reportedly sold through Ford’s management scheme as they just couldn’t shift them.

The reason? The price. At £22,700 when new, the Puma was more expensive than rivals such as the Subaru Impreza and Honda Integra Type R.

What engine does it use?

What engine does it use?

The Ford Racing Puma uses a revised version of the standard model’s 1.7-litre engine. It produces 155 hp at 7,000rpm (yes, it likes a few revs), meaning it’ll hit 60mph in 7.9 seconds (just 0.7 seconds faster than the regular Puma), and a top speed of 126 mph.

What’s it like to drive?

What’s it like to drive?

Frantic. With a hefty amount of power going through the front wheels, there’s only so far 1990s traction control technology can go towards defeating torque steer. But that’s part of the fun. At the time, Tiff Needell described it as perfect for the new generation of computer game racing driver: “constantly used to making lots of little tiny corrections to keep his imaginary car on the road.”

That feeling is exaggerated by the firm suspension. Combined with the bespoke 17-inch alloys, it makes the average British B-road feel akin to a rally stage. But if you can master its fiery nature, it’s an incredibly fun car to drive. Its tiny Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel gives masses of feedback, while the 215 mm-wide tyres just grip and grip. Even lifting off won’t see sideways heroics like an old-school hot hatch, there’s just a bit too much adhesion to truly steer with the throttle.

Reliability and running costs

Reliability and running costs

While the Ford Racing Puma should make for a fairly reliable car, you’ve got to expect a few issues as even the newest examples are now 15 years old. As with the standard Puma, look out for rust – it’ll fizz everywhere, including the sills, floorpans and arches.

The Racing Puma could prove a headache in the running stakes thanks to its unique parts. The upgraded braking system, for example, can prove to be temperamental, with genuine front brake discs costing more than £200 each before fitting. Interiors have never been Ford’s specialism, and they’re likely to be showing their age. Good luck trying to replace tired pieces of trim.

Could I drive it every day?

Could I drive it every day?

The interior is much like the regular Puma – which itself is much like the Fiesta of the same period – albeit with lots of bright blue Alcantara and, of course, the Sparco racing seats. The result is a slightly dated cabin, but with air-con, a CD player and a heated front windscreen (check it works properly!), it’s an easy enough place to spend time in.

We’ll give the usual Retro Road Test caveat, though – would you really want to drive a Ford Racing Puma every day? With so few ever sold, and prices rising, it seems a bit of a shame. Much better to pamper it and enjoy your time with it more than you would using it on the commute.

How much should I pay?

How much should I pay?

There was a time when £5,000 would get you a choice of Racing Pumas… the challenge now is finding one actually for sale. If you do, that £5,000 might buy a ropey example, but you’d be better spending as much as £10,000 on a cared-for car. If you’re struggling to justify spending that kind of money on a Puma, just think: how much would it be worth if Ford had given it an RS badge?

What should I look out for?

What should I look out for?

As we’ve mentioned, rust is a killer. Crawl underneath with a screwdriver and a magnet and walk away if you find excessive bubbling along the sills. That aside, you want signs that it’s been looked after. So full service history, four matching quality tyres and, ideally, not too many miles on the clock.

Should I buy one?

Should I buy one?

On paper, it’s perhaps difficult to justify a Racing Puma when you can pick up a regular model, which isn’t much slower, for less than a grand. But it really is a special car to drive – one of the best handling front-drivers ever sold. And a good example is only going to go up in price. Think of it as an investment.

Pub fact

Pub fact

If you want the ultimate in front-wheel-drive handling, seek out an FRP fitted with a limited-slip diff. It was available as a factory extra, but only 80 customers ticked that option box – largely because most were standard management cars. It is possible to retro-fit one, however.

Video: Sebastian Vettel races a Ferrari in an ambulance

Video: Sebastian Vettel races a Ferrari in an ambulance

Video: Sebastian Vettel races a Ferrari in an ambulance

Ever wanted to swap jobs with F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel? An ambulance driver from the South East has done exactly that – giving him tips on how to drive a three-tonne ambulance, then getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari 488 GTB.

As part of the job-swap, organised by Shell, both drivers discussed performance driving techniques before going head-to-head around the track – with Vettel in the ambulance, and paramedic Alex Knapton in the Ferrari.

Despite the heavy ambulance boasting just 118hp and a modest top speed of 88mph, Vettel managed to lap the makeshift circuit in two minutes and 10 seconds – seven seconds quicker than Knapton in the 488.

Knapton, a paramedic with South Central Ambulance Service, said: “Getting the opportunity to swap the ambulance for the Ferrari 488 GTB was a dream come true. It was an unbelievable experience to get that close to one of the stars of Formula 1. Sebastian was on great form coaching on high performance driving tips and joking about the lack of a radio in the ambulance.”

Vettel added: “Paramedics play an essential role in motorsport around the world and not just in Formula 1. They need to perform to such high standards every day because lives depend on them. Shell V-Power race fuel supplied to Scuderia Ferrari contains at least 99% of the same types of compounds used in Shell V-Power fuels for the road.”

Young drivers in the UK most likely to be distracted by 'attractive pedestrians'

Young drivers in UK most likely to be distracted by 'attractive pedestrians'

Young drivers in the UK most likely to be distracted by 'attractive pedestrians'

Drivers aged between 18 and 24 in the UK are more likely to be distracted by ‘attractive pedestrians’ than anywhere else in Europe.

That’s according to research by Ford, which questioned 6,500 young drivers across Europe about the risks they take behind the wheel.

The survey found that two thirds of young drivers admit to being more relaxed about their driving in summer – which explains why motorists in this age group account for 21% of road deaths during the summer months. This drops to 15% at other times of the year.

Ford is offering free training for young drivers through its Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) programme. By the end of the year, 20,000 drivers across 13 European countries will have benefited from the scheme.

DSFL manager Jim Graham said: “Summer is a great time to enjoy the freedom of driving, which is as much a part of being young today as it was for previous generations. But too many young adults are dying in car crashes caused by a combination of inexperience and poor decision making.”

The majority of young driver fatalities involve young men, and the Ford survey confirms they are more likely to engage in risky behaviour.

Young men are three times as likely as young women to be distracted by attractive pedestrians, while 25% have been stopped by the police compared to 16% of women.

They’re also more likely to speed, use mobile phones while driving and drive after consuming alcohol.

Graham added: “It is crucial that we find the right way to reach young people with these very important messages and to ensure that as many drivers as possible have the opportunity to benefit from DSFL training.”

Alarmingly, 57% of young drivers admit to driving more safely with parents or grandparents in the car, and 41% said they would take more risks with friends in the car.

Young drivers in the UK most likely to be distracted by 'attractive pedestrians'

Young drivers in UK most likely to be distracted by ‘attractive pedestrians’

Young drivers in the UK most likely to be distracted by 'attractive pedestrians'

Drivers aged between 18 and 24 in the UK are more likely to be distracted by ‘attractive pedestrians’ than anywhere else in Europe.

That’s according to research by Ford, which questioned 6,500 young drivers across Europe about the risks they take behind the wheel.

The survey found that two thirds of young drivers admit to being more relaxed about their driving in summer – which explains why motorists in this age group account for 21% of road deaths during the summer months. This drops to 15% at other times of the year.

Ford is offering free training for young drivers through its Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) programme. By the end of the year, 20,000 drivers across 13 European countries will have benefited from the scheme.

DSFL manager Jim Graham said: “Summer is a great time to enjoy the freedom of driving, which is as much a part of being young today as it was for previous generations. But too many young adults are dying in car crashes caused by a combination of inexperience and poor decision making.”

The majority of young driver fatalities involve young men, and the Ford survey confirms they are more likely to engage in risky behaviour.

Young men are three times as likely as young women to be distracted by attractive pedestrians, while 25% have been stopped by the police compared to 16% of women.

They’re also more likely to speed, use mobile phones while driving and drive after consuming alcohol.

Graham added: “It is crucial that we find the right way to reach young people with these very important messages and to ensure that as many drivers as possible have the opportunity to benefit from DSFL training.”

Alarmingly, 57% of young drivers admit to driving more safely with parents or grandparents in the car, and 41% said they would take more risks with friends in the car.

20mph speed limit

Safety group unconvinced about 20mph Edinburgh safety scheme

20mph speed limitRoad safety charity IAM RoadSmart says Edinburgh’s 20mph city-wide speed limit set to come into force on Sunday 31 July is a cheap, blanket approach that doesn’t address specific safety issues.

The Scottish capital will be the first to impose a 20mph speed limit on more than 80% of city streets, an initiative intended to make roads ‘safer and calmer’.

But the IAM says it’s potentially confusing because drivers take their cues from the environment and, on some roads, it “looks and feels safer to go over 20”.

The new Edinburgh speed limit will be policed in the same way as other speed limits: transgressors will be hit with a £100 fine and three penalty points.

Councillor Lesley Hinds leads Edinburgh’s transport division and admitted to the Edinburgh News that it “would take a bit of time for it to become second nature.

“It’s a change of attitude. People used to drink and drive and that attitude changed.”

The IAM believes there’s some way to go: “Covering whole areas in one 20mph limit and putting up some signs is a cheap way to do it,” said policy and research director Neil Greig.

“If you look at the evidence, what seems to work is measures like speed bumps and narrower roads.

“We’d rather see investment made in dealing with the streets where there will be most benefit.”