Man pays £7.3 million for car number plate

rolls-royce-phantom-d5

A Dubai property developer has hit the headlines after spending a staggering £7.3 million on a car number plate at auction.

In 2014, Ferrari dealer John Collins hit the headlines when he spent £518,000 on the number plate ‘25 O’. To date, this is the record price commanded by the DVLA here in Britain.

We get the distinct impression Balwinder Sahani wouldn’t get out of bed for half a million quid, after spending the an eye-watering 33 million dirhams for the Dubai number plate ‘D5’.

A quick currency conversion reveals that this price equates to around £7.3 million. Having secured the vanity plate, the Dubai property developer is left with the enviable task of deciding which of his six Rolls-Royce cars the plate will adorn.

He reportedly has two more Rolls-Royce models on order…

At the same government auction, Sahani purchased another plate for 1 million dirhams, which joins the ‘O9’ he bought for 25 million dirhams, last year.

Personalised registrations are big business in the United Arab Emirates, where they are seen as status symbols, perhaps more so than the luxury cars upon which they sit. It’s good news for the Dubai economy, with the proceeds of the sale going to fund Dubai’s Road & Transport Authority.

“I believe in giving back,” Sahani told CNNMoney, claiming his purchases are his contribution to the public coffers. “This city has given me a lot.”

Sounds like Sahani is determined to keep giving back, telling Gulf News: “I have collected 10 number plates so far and I am looking forward to having more. It’s a passion. This number [D5] will go to one of my Rolls-Royces.”

As for the UK, the five most expensive number plates are:

  1. ‘25 O’: £518,000
  2. ‘F 1’: £440,000
  3. ‘S 1’: £404,000
  4. ‘1 D’: £352,000
  5. ‘M 1’: £331,000

Not your cup of tea? Don’t worry, the DVLA will sell you a plate for as little as £250. Think of it as ‘giving back’.

New Vauxhall police car factory

Inside the factory that builds police cars

police_car_production_line_07Vauxhall’s new police car factory in Luton is the largest of its kind in Europe and brings 50 new jobs to the town.

The site will convert 2,500 vehicles per year for police, fire and ambulance duties, having moved from its previous location in Millbrook, Bedfordshire. Vauxhalls being lined up for ‘blues and twos’ duties include the Corsa, Astra, Insignia and Mokka, along with vans such as the Combo, Movano and Vivaro.

Vauxhall claims to be the only carmaker to offer a ‘one-stop shop’ for emergency vehicles, with everything handled at the Luton plant. This includes testing, conversions and even the remarketing of vehicles retired from duty.

Today’s police cars are a far cry from the days of The Bill and Juliet Bravo, with new vehicles equipped to battle modern threats, such as terrorism. Connectivity is key, with some Vauxhall patrol cars featuring 4G wifi and Toughbook tablets.

Dick Ellam, manager of special vehicles, said: “Through our flexible production facility, Vauxhall is able to offer a one-stop shop purchasing experience to UK emergency vehicles.

“We can deliver a wide choice of car and van models, specifically designed and rigorously-tested to meet the stringent demands of our emergency services. We can also supply turn-key vehicle solutions that enable rapid turnaround of replacement vehicles, plus we can now offer a unique in-house de-commissioning and re-marketing service.”

Last year, Vauxhall signed a deal to provide 2,000 police vehicles to 28 UK forces, including the supply of 1,200 new Astras. The company claims to enjoy a 70% market share in the UK.

In pictures: the Vauxhall police car factory

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Porsche 996 to 911 GT3 RS

A Porsche 991 GT3 RS for £27,950, but there is a catch

Porsche 996 to 911 GT3 RS

You could spend upwards of £200,000 on a nearly new Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Or you could save yourself the best part of £170,000 by opting for a Porsche Carrera 4+Custom 996 to 911 991 GT3 RS Replica+Race Spec+997+F1+4×4.

Admittedly, the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and you’re unlikely to find this particular model in a Big Book of Porsche History, but it might save you a tidy sum. Not to mention countless calls to Porsche dealers as you search for a new 911 GT3 RS for the recommended retail price.

The ad claims – in uppercase text, for maximum impact: “HERE WE HAVE A VERY UNIQUE VEHICLE FOR SALE.”

We’re not entirely sure that something can be very unique, but we’ll run it with.

“THIS 996 HAS UNDERGONE A COMPLETE TRANSFORMATION TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL. COMPLETELY CHANGING THE DESIGN OF THE CAR TO A COMPLETE MONSTER.”

Actually, Halloween has been and gone. Besides, is this “complete monster” designed to be a trick or a treat?

Porsche 996 to 911 GT3 RS advert

“THIS VEHICLE HAS A FULL BODYKIT SUPPLIED AND FITTED BY XCLUSIVE CUSTOMZ. HERE WE HAVE A PORSCHE 911 996 FULLY CONVERTED TO THE BRAND NEW 991 GT3 RS. THIS VEHICLE IS A COPY OF A £250000 SUPER CAR.”

No expense has been spared in creating this ‘copy’ of a new 991 GT3 RS, making it unrecognisable from its 996 Carrera 4 former self. Indeed, Porsche aficionados might find it unrecognisable from a 991 GT3 RS. But we digress.

There are many reasons why this is not a ‘copy’ of a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, not least the absence of a 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine developing 500hp. But hey, a GT3 RS owner doesn’t get to play with a manual gearbox.

Besides, as the ad claims: “THERE IS NOT ANOTHER LIKE THIS ON THE MARKET.” This is the truth. We checked on Auto Trader.

According to the DVLA, this “metallic white” Porsche 911 is actually listed as ‘grey’ and was registered in October 2001. It comes with a fresh MOT, having failed the test the first time for the nearside front headlamp not working on dipped beam. That’ll be those costly aftermarket LED headlights playing up.

If this GT3 RS doesn’t float your boat, Xclusive Customz will offer you a ‘Porsche 996 to 997 body kit’ for £1,995. Alternatively, for something a little more mainstream, how about a ‘Vauxhall Corsa D to VXR body kit’ for £550?

We’re not entirely sure what these replicas are trying to achieve. Those that don’t know, probably don’t care, while those that do know will probably mutter some obscenities under their breath.

On the one hand, this is better than slapping a few Ferrari badges on a Toyota MR2, as at least the base car rolled out of a factory in Stuttgart. But we’d rather rustle up a further £10,000 and drive home in a brand new Porsche 718 Cayman.

As for a brand new 911 GT3 RS: the Porsche website is listing the car at a recommended retail price of £131,296, but the ‘limited availability’ tag tells you all you need to know about your chances of finding one. Best get on the blower to AK Prestige Cars of Sheffield.

View the ad here.

MINI EU

Brexit sales boost to British cars from Europe

MINI EUBargain-hunting European car buyers are taking advantage of the post-Brexit weakening of the pound by buying cars advertised on sale in Britain.

Car search website motors.co.uk reports a “significant” rise in searches from other European countries, particularly when the pound was down to £1.09 against the Euro back in October.

The Republic of Ireland is especially noteworthy: visits from its residents searching for cars sold in sterling grew by a hefty 151% compared to the same period in 2015.

Ireland, of course, is a member of the EU and has adopted the Euro, meaning the exchange rate is very favourable – and, of course, like the UK, its cars are right-hand drive.

Experts say this backs up anecdotal evidence that visits to Northern Ireland by Republic of Ireland car buyers are significantly up.

Visits to the motoring website from Cyprus and Malta have also spiked: again, both those countries drive on the left.

Motors.co.uk director of business intelligence Dermot Kelleher said other retail industries had already seen evidence of this ‘Brexit boost’ from Europeans shopping in the UK.

“It stands to reason that the savings on even more expensive good such as cars could be even greater – encouraging more European consumers to spend in the UK.”

2016 Lotus Evora Sport 410 review: a British Porsche-beater?

2016 Lotus Evora Sport 410 review: a British Porsche-beater?

2016 Lotus Evora Sport 410 review: a British Porsche-beater?

Don’t dismiss the Lotus Evora 410 as just an Evora 400 with an extra 10hp. Revealed at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, Lotus has applied founder Colin Chapman’s philosophy of “simplify, then add lightness” to the Evora sports car. We’ve been to the firm’s Norfolk factory to find out whether it’s a successful formula.

Hit me with some stats

The Evora 410 is powered by the usual 3.5-litre supercharged V6 producing – you guessed it – 410hp. A muscular 302lb ft torque means it’s open to lazy third-gear track driving, while working through the gears allows you to hit 62mph in 3.9 seconds. That’s 0.3 seconds faster than the Evora 400.

What about weight?

So, that low-weight thing that Chapman was so keen on. An extra 70kg has been shaved off the already-lightweight Evora 400, with a number of carbonfibre panels used – including the roof, rear quarter panels (where you’d find glass on the regular Evora 400) and the tailgate. The result is a dry weight of 1,270kg.

Crucial kilos have been saved all over the place. For example, a super-lightweight lithium-ion battery knocks a considerable 11.3kg off the total mass, while 5.5kg of sound insulation has been stripped out. Even scrapping the mudflaps saved 0.7kg – and the badges on the rear of the car have been replaced by stickers.

Does it feel that fast?

Does it feel that fast?

Yes, ludicrously. You’ll have to spend close to £127,000 on a 911 Turbo before you can buy a Porsche that reaches 62mph as quickly as the Evora 410. There’s next-to-no lag when you stamp on the accelerator, while the noise combined with the steering feedback takes you back to a time when analogue sports cars were commonplace.

Does it sound good?

Does it ever? If you want to treat your ear drums on a daily basis, don’t even consider a Porsche 718 Cayman when you can buy one of these instead. “Sound is a priority for us,” said Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales with a smile on his face during the press conference ahead of our Evora 410 drive.

Baffles in the exhaust can be opened or shut using a button on the dash – while those wanting even more noise can opt for titanium pipes. Unnecessary, we expect, but then who cares? It could be the best-sounding car this side of an Aston V8.

Is it scary to drive on the road?

Surprisingly, not at all. Despite being a high-powered, mid-engined Lotus, it’s easy to make progress in the Evora 410. The rack-and-pinion steering tells you everything you could possibly need to know, and even the clumsiest of point-and-squirt drivers won’t find it a handful.

What about on track?

What about on track?

That docility transfers well to track. Lotus chucked us the keys and told us to go and have some fun on their test track – where we flicked between Normal, Sport and Race modes and tried to find out what the Evora 410’s like at the limit.

The answer? Fun, but not at all terrifying. Sure, it’ll squirm about a bit if you’re too hamfisted (although the ultra-grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s fitted as standard prevent any serious sideways heroics). It’s easy to get into a flow of setting tidy lap after tidy lap, though. As a car that you can drive to a track day, show up exotica and then drive home again, the Evora 410 is one of the best.

What exactly do sport and race modes do?

Like most 21st century sports cars (indeed – most cars, full-stop), you can flick between different driver modes using buttons on the dash. These tweak the throttle response and allow you to play around more with oversteer before the traction control kicks in and kills the fun.

So how quick is it around Hethel?

We weren’t attempting to set any track records during our visit to Hethel, but Lotus says it’ll lap its test track in 1min 28sec. That’s three seconds quicker than a Lotus 400 – a huge chunk of time for an extra 10hp and added lightness.

Should I buy an automatic or manual?

Should I buy an automatic or manual?

We drove a manual Evora 410 on track and spent some time on the road in an automatic version. The former is obviously the choice of keen drivers – working through the gears suits the ethos of the car, and the ’box is a lovely one to use.

But, in the nicest possible way, the six-speed automatic wasn’t as awful as we expected. It’s not as slick as a Porsche PDK gearbox, and changing through the gears using the steering-wheel-mounted paddles isn’t as fun as driving stick. But it will blip the throttle on downshifts when Sport mode is selected. It does little to disguise the performance available, too.

How firm is it?

Sitting 5mm lower than the Evora 400, you’d expect the 410 to be a trifle firm on bumpy British roads. And you’d be right. But it’s certainly bearable – soaking up bumps in a manner that means you don’t, unlike in many track-oriented cars, find yourself slowing down just because it’s becoming uncomfortable.

Is it practical?

Yes and no. For a start, there are only two seats, and you’ll miss creature comforts such as a radio (we’ll come to that shortly). Parking is tricky, too – replacing glass with opaque carbonfibre has that effect. But then, we found the race-derived seats to be surprisingly comfortable, and there’s a boot big enough for a weekend bag or two. It’s certainly more liveable-with than, say, an Elise.

Tell me more about the interior…

Tell me more about the interior…

Lotus says it’s worked hard to improve the perceived quality of the interior – the sort of thing that contributes to the Porsche Cayman being the default sports car for so many buyers. While the Evora 410’s interior, which is manufactured by hand at the firm’s Hethel factory in Norfolk, isn’t exactly luxurious, it does feel special.

You sit behind the thick-rimmed, flat-bottomed wheel, while all the controls are easy to find and simple to operate. Colour-coded stitching adds a sporting element, while a large aluminium facia takes the place where there would normally be an infotainment system. It’s far from drab.

We need to talk about the price

OK, the Lotus Evora 410 isn’t cheap. It’ll set you back £82,000 – that’s £10,000 more than the Evora 400, around £18,000 more than the Cayman GT4 before it sold out, and well within Porsche 911 territory.

What about extras?

Not everyone will want an entirely stripped-out Evora. For those people, it’d be wise to save money and opt for the £72,000 Evora 400 instead, but that has a 10hp deficit and lacks the cachet of the 410’s badge. If you do want to add extra weight to the 410, you can ask Lotus to fit a radio, air-conditioning, extra sound-deadening and even leather seats. Seems a bit daft to us…

Should I buy one?

Should I buy one?

At such a huge chunk of money for a car without a radio as standard, only the most serious of enthusiasts will be able to justify a Lotus Evora 410. If you’re after a daily driver, or a car for cross-continent road trips, the lesser Evora 400 or a rival (ahem, Porsche) will be a wiser bet.

However, if you’ve got the cash to spend on an extremely competent track car and B-road blaster, the Evora 410 is one of the most satisfying cars serious drivers can buy. And you’ll still be able to use it for the odd weekend away. We’d approve.

SEAT at night

Car theft goes up 25% in winter

SEAT at nightAnalysis of stolen and recovered car theft data has revealed 25% more vehicles are stolen in the winter months than in the summer.

Car tracking firm Tracker has crunched the numbers and discovered that as the months get colder and darker, stolen vehicle rates get higher.

This is because of a combination of factors, including opportunist thieves carrying out thefts in the dark because there’s less chance of them being caught in the act.

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Police fail to investigate 30,000 car thefts a year

Owners leaving the keys in iced-over cars ticking over on their driveway while they go back indoors for a warming cuppa is another reason.

Andy Barrs, head of police liaison at Tracker said: “January especially is a peak month for thefts as it’s when we typically experience harsh frosty mornings; drivers often leave cars unattended for a few minutes whilst de-icing which presents itself as a prime opportunity for criminal gangs.”

Thieves exploit the change in the weather, he said – which is why motorists should be extra-vigilant now the clocks have gone back and the evenings are darker.

Barrs has some top tips for motorists worried about car theft, including simple things like hiding belongings in the boot, parking in well-lit areas, keeping your eyes peeled for CCTV cameras you can park next to and, on modern cars with keyless ignition, always making sure you have the keys on you.

“Never leave the car documents or spare keys inside the car,” he added. “This only makes it easier for thieves to sell it on.”

2017 Renault Zoe

The 2017 Renault Zoe electric car does 250 miles on a charge

2017 Renault ZoeThe revised Renault Zoe electric car supermini, which is now on sale in the UK, will now do up to 250 miles on a single charge in range-topping Z.E.40 guise.

The new battery in the Zoe EV boosts power from 22kW to 40kW, significantly increasing the range on the official NEDC test cycle. Storage capacity has almost doubled.

Could these perks encourage you to drive an electric car?

Best new cars for £200 a month

Renault’s £174 Zoe deal: batteries now included

Renault adds that in real-world driving, the battery will do 186 miles in everyday conditions, and even stretch to 124 miles when it’s extremely cold.

The new battery also offers quick-charge functionality. Renault bundles each Zoe with a free fast-charging wall box, capable of charging a battery from flat to 100% full in less than four hours.

Renault’s curious battery lease scheme has been further tweaked for the 2017 Zoe, with the newer, more straightforward and less divisive outright purchase scheme sitting alongside it. Drivers who cover up to 4,500 miles a year can lease a 22kW battery for £49 a month or the Z.E.40 battery for £59 a month. Other options are available, including an unlimited mileage scheme for the Z.E.40, costing £110 a month.

The new 2017 Zoe range starts at £18,995 for the iExpression Nav R90 22kW, once the government Plug-in Car Grant has been taken off. That’s if you buy the batteries: lease them, and the price falls to £13,995 (lease cars lose the ‘i’ at the start of their name).

The Z.E.40 battery starts at £23,445, or £17,845 if you’re happy to lease the batteries.

How to spot a 2017 Renault Zoe

2017 Renault Zoe EV

The new 2017 Zoe looks very similar to the outgoing model. There are three new colours, tweaked alloy wheels and instead of having a blue Renault logo and badging, it’s now chrome.

A posh range-topping Signature Nav trim has been added, with heated leather seats, BOSE stereo, rear parking camera and fancy alloy wheels.

Expression and Dynamique Nav models remain – and even the base Expression gets TomTom sat nav, climate control, Bluetooth and 7in touchscreen. There’s now a Renault Z.E. Connect app that lets you monitor charging remotely. It’s a £75 option.

Renault has also tweaked the model names of its Zoe range. Previously, motors were dubbed R240 or Q210 – that’s either rapid or quick charge, and the range in kilometres.

Now, they’re known as R90 and Q90 – indicating power output in hp rather than range.

The new Renault Zoe range is on sale now. First UK deliveries are expected in January 2017.

2017 Renault Zoe prices – outright purchase

  • iExpression Nav R90 22kW: £18,995
  • iDynamique Nav R90 Z.E.40: £23,445
  • iDynamique Nav Q90 Z.E.40: £24,195
  • iSignature Nav R90 Z.E.40: £25,495
  • iSignature Nav Q90 Z.E.40: £26,245

All prices after Plug-in Car Grant

2017 Renault Zoe prices – battery lease

  • Expression Nav R90 22kW: £13,995
  • Dynamique Nav R90 Z.E.40: £17,845
  • Dynamique Nav Q90 Z.E.40: £18,595
  • Signature Nav R90 Z.E.40: £19,895
  • Signature Nav Q90 Z.E.40: £20,645

All prices after Plug-in Car Grant