Using Skype from a Volvo

You can now Skype from a Volvo

Using Skype from a VolvoVolvo has become the first car maker to equip its cars with Microsoft Skype functionality – so you can now be even more productive when on the move (or stuck in a traffic jam). 

The firm reckons adding Skype for Business will actually boost the safety of its cars. Instead of fiddling with conference call phone numbers and access pin codes, motorists can join the meeting simply by pressing the Skype logo on the touchscreen. 

And in fitting it, Volvo is taking another step towards equipping its vehicles with things to do when cars become autonomous…

The Microsoft Skype deal also includes Cortana functionality. Volvo will explore how to contextually integrate the voice-controlled personal assistant into its cars. 

“Volvo is leading the way in its recognition that the nature of work is increasingly mobile,” said Skype for Business’s Ben Canning. “People need to be productive from anywhere – including their cars.

“We’re thrilled to extend modern meetings to Volvo cars.”

Auto Trader most searched for used cars 2016

Revealed: the most searched for used cars of 2016

Auto Trader most searched for used cars 2016Once again, German cars dominate Auto Trader’s top 25 most searched for cars, as data released for 2016 proves that we’re creatures of habit.

Here, we run down the top 10. Spoiler alert: there’s not a crossover in sight.

  1. Vauxhall Astra

In common with the Corsa, the current Vauxhall Astra is a thoroughly good car. The previous generation models are harder to recommend, but thanks to their ubiquity, values tend to be low. Prices start from £150, which could be cheaper than a train fare.

  1. Mercedes-Benz E-Class

You won’t find a functioning Mercedes-Benz E-Class for £150, but you’ll be surprised at how cheap they can be. We found useable, high-mileage examples for around £500. You’ll have to put up with a patch or two of body rot and a bit of wear and tear, but it’s still an E-Class.

  1. Audi A3

The Audi A3 is Europe’s favourite premium five-door hatchback, and it’s not hard to see why. New, an A3 will cost around £2,000 more than the equivalent Volkswagen Golf, but in return you’ll get a nicer interior and a gilt-edged brand image. The A3 celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016.

  1. Ford Fiesta

Britain’s most popular new car has to make do with being the seventh most popular car on Auto Trader. The Ford Fiesta celebrated 40 years of production in 2016, while an all-new model arrives in 2017. Stay tuned for a new Active crossover and Vignale posh edition.

  1. BMW 1 Series

What it lacks in terms of style it more than makes up for in terms of dynamics. Quite simply, the BMW 1 Series is the best driver’s car in the segment, with even the standard ‘cooking’ models being a joy to drive. Prices start from around £2,000.

  1. BMW 5 Series

Into the top five, where we find yet another BMW. This time it’s the turn of the 5 Series, which just happens to be BMW’s most profitable model. It’s also the company’s longest-running model line, so finding the right 5 Series for you shouldn’t be a problem.

  1. Ford Focus

The Ford Focus RS was one of the most talked about cars of 2016, but we’d wager it didn’t play a huge part in this result. The Focus revolutionised the sector when it arrived in 1998 and – along with the Volkswagen Golf – it has become the default choice for many people in search of a five-door hatchback.

  1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class

We’re left with a trio of German cars at the top of the tree. Forget cheap city cars and economical superminis, many of you fancy a Mercedes-Benz C-Class. You’ll be pleased to know that prices start from £500, but for that money don’t expect it to look quite as tidy as the one that whizzed past you on the M4 this morning.

  1. Volkswagen Golf

You’d have placed a deutschmark on the Volkswagen Golf appearing near the top. Forget dieselgate, because Volkswagen has spent so long – not to mention billions of pounds – fine-tuning the Golf’s image, that it remains the hatchback of choice for many motorists.

  1. BMW 3 Series

The current, sixth generation BMW 3 Series has been on sale since 2011, so a replacement is long overdue. Fortunately, we won’t have long to wait, because a new version is scheduled to arrive in 2018. For now, it remains the car folk are most likely to click on when they reach the Auto Trader website.

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

2017 Aston Martin Vanquish S review: a GT great

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)2016 was the year of the new Aston Martin DB11 but it’s not the only car the firm sells. Sitting above it in the range is the older Vanquish, a car pitched as a GT supercar rather than the sports car remit of the DB11.

There was just one problem with the launch of the DB11. It was so good, why spend extra on a Vanquish? Now, Aston Martin has a solution: the Vanquish S. A better, faster, even tastier take on the firm’s pinnacle car. Costing, £199,950, it’s just been launched, and we’ve just driven it. Does it solve Aston’s rather enviable dilemma?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

Hit me with some facts on the Vanquish S

Power is up for the Vanquish S, from 573hp to 600hp. The 6.0-litre V12 remains turbo-free, though, unlike the turbocharged DB11; the increase is achieved through old-school tuning. Aston’s also recalibrated the gearbox, uprated the suspension and created a new aerodynamic package. Changes aren’t major, but the engineering work behind them is…

What’s the thinking behind the Vanquish S?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

Aston’s intention with the Vanquish S is to hone and perfect the existing car, which was launched in 2013. Make it feel more like a car wroth the £45,000 premium over the DB11 that’s stealing all the Aston Martin thunder. The Vanquish is an achingly gorgeous car, so Aston wasn’t about to alter this. It simply wanted to make it more of a car for connoisseurs.

What does it look like?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

Aston’s Vanquish S press demonstrator looks special because it’s covered in carbon fibre and subtle graphics. But all Vanquish S look smart because of their enhanced front-end aero pack. A more aggressive front splitter pairs with a bigger diffuser at the rear (they’re carbon fibre as standard), with quad crackle-black exhaust tail pipes adding the finishing touch. A meaner, moodier Vanquish: it’s such a beautiful car, doing anything extra would spoil it. This hones it expertly.

What does the aero stuff do?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

The tweaks to the aerodynamics at the front cut lift significantly – and because the car is now pressed into the ground more firmly, understeer is reduced. The rear diffuser complements the enhanced front end, creating a car Aston says is just as nicely-balanced as the regular car… but sportier and sharper with it.

That dash looks a bit old compared to the DB11, though…

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

The interior feels painfully aged compared to a DB11. Sure, it’s impeccably assembled, thanks to the skilled several-thousands at Aston’s Gaydon HQ. But the spidery instruments, chronically dated infotainment screen, Ford switchgear, hard-to-read centre console, all make it feel a decade old at its core. It’s the elephant in the room you can’t ignore.

Does the interior have its positives?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

Aston Martin has introduced loads of tailoring options for the Vanquish S interior, most of which were fitted to the test car. ‘Filograph’ quilted leather, with its delicious stitching, was stunning, and the satin-finish ‘chopped carbon fibre’ trim was something else as well. The 1000-Watt Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system is also pretty special. Oh, and the quartic steering wheel remains… odd.

Does it make a nice noise?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

Start it up and there’s a typically exciting V12 woofle. It’s hardly subtle. Crucially though, it’s more ‘real’ than some other start-up explosions. All real noise, not artificial stuff. As I’d later discover, Aston’s enhanced this throughout the rev range, so the noise is even richer and more delicious on the move. Like watching a 60s driving movie in surround-sound cinemascope. Lovely.

What were your first impressions?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

First impressions were of a lovely, elegant V12 GT supercar. These machines can be intimidating: not the Aston. Sure, it’s low, wide, potent-feeling and so expensively-crafted you almost fear taking it onto public roads in case someone lunges at you. But this only adds to the feeling of knowing where your £200k goes. There’s something else, too: so-called ‘zero backlash’ tech in the gearbox makes the eight-speed transmission feel even tighter and shift gear even more impeccably. You subconsciously notice this: it adds to the sophistication and quality.

Obvious question… is it fast?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

0-62mph takes 3.5 seconds and Aston’s targeted a 201mph top speed. So it’s fast, yes, but not massively faster than the already-fast Vanquish. One thing Aston’s been careful to retain is that 200mph-plus top speed – something the extra drag from its new aero kit put at risk. Cleverly though, this is actually more aerodynamically sleek than the standard car.

Is it now too fast?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

The power hike is mild, so it’s not colossally faster than the Vanquish. The extra power is felt less than the improvement in pulling power. It has the same torque, but it’s delivered across a fuller rev range – even though it’s not turbocharged, it’s been given a bit of turbo-like depth. It’s faster, but it’s actually easier to drive – and, as proven on the wintry roads of the test drive, a subtle and very progressive traction control system is there to help you out when things get slippery…

How does it feel different to a regular Vanquish?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

The regular Vanquish is a fine car but this one perfects it. Revisions to the suspension, led by ex-Lotus handling guru Matt Becker, mean it’s both sportier yet better-riding. There’s more control, more finesse, more accuracy and delicacy. It’s cultured, tactile, remains unruffled no matter what the road surface below. The differences aren’t night and day, but to the Aston Martin loyalists who’ll be buying this car, they’ll be stark.

If it’s firmer, how can it also ride better?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

Here’s the contradiction with the Vanquish S: stiffer suspension yet better ride. That’s because the springs and dampers have been meticulously tuned by Becker and his team, to precisely hone every aspect with race car precision. Better control, less roll, less heave and pitch – an altogether more premium ride, despite the fact it’s also sharper. Wizardry and black magic, that comes as standard with the Vanquish S.

Does it earn its ‘S’ badge?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

The Vanquish S is a marvellous car to drive. The steering is beautifully weighted and the build-up in forces as you turn into a corner is impeccable (there’s no hesitancy or ‘grey area’ to steer through, either). Suspension is controlled yet supple, seemingly at ease on the very worst of British roads. It feels lighter on its feet, quick-witted, smaller and wieldier than you’d expect from its GT-car dimensions. Sportier and sharper, certainly. But I’d say it’s also S for superior. And sublime.

How does it feel different to a DB11?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

The DB11 is an easier car to drive, simply because it’s turbocharged. It feels more modern. The interior is fantastic; it’s a ‘new’ Aston, and this is not. What the Vanquish S is, however, is a meticulously honed one, an Aston Martin that feels like it’s been to finishing school. And it’s the feeling of such depth of engineering that will draw people to it. It feels more bespoke, more individual. It feels like you’d hope a £200k car would feel.

Does it still have a place in the Aston Martin line-up?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

The Vanquish has sort of been forgotten this year, with the rightful excitement over the DB11. Inside, it feels like an old car, but outside, it still looks beautiful and the ‘S’ enhancements have underlined its range-topping authority. The fact it now drives as it should means it still has a place for aficionados. The case for the regular Vanquish has been weakened by the DB11, but this restores it.

Hasn’t there been a Vanquish S before?

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

Aston Martin last sold a Vanquish S in 2004. It was a more powerful version of the original 2001 Vanquish, with a power boost from 450hp to 520hp. The formula was the same: changes weren’t dramatic, but they honed the core car and, in 2007, became the final new car to be produced at Aston’s historic Newport Pagnell home. Its history is brief, but it’s still a storied moniker in Aston Martin folklore.

Verdict: Aston Martin Vanquish S

Aston Martin Vanquish S (2017)

In not changing too much and instead honing the fundamentals already there, Aston Martin has perfected its range-topper – while also keeping the price hike relatively sensible (it’s around £7,000). It’s now a car brand loyalists will savour, and one that existing Vanquish owners will salivate over. More importantly, it asserts the Vanquish’s range-topping status in the face of such stiff internal competition from the brilliant DB11.

Sure, its aged interior is a sore point, and the new tech of the DB11 will still see that car take the bulk of sales. But the Vanquish S is now a car distinct enough to confidently sit at the top of the Aston Martin range. It now feels sufficiently special to earn its S stripes.

Lamborghini Miura at Miura

Lamborghini Miura concludes its Grand Tour

Lamborghini Miura at Miura

Where do you go to bring the curtain down on 12 months celebrating 50 years of the Lamborghini Miura? Geneva – where the car was first unveiled to the public in 1966? How about the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo – where the Miura wowed the crowds during the Grand Prix weekend? No, Lamborghini headed to a farm.

Looking more like a scene from The Grand Tour, a procession of Lamborghinis – led by a stunning Miura SV from the Museum at Sant’Agata Bolognese – headed from Madrid to a farm in Andalusia. Sounds unlikely, until we tell you the name of the farm in question – Miura. In typical farm fashion, the roads were decidedly muddy. No red carpet for the Miura and its six friends.

Today, the farm is run by Eduardo and Antonio Miura, the sons of Don Eduardo who met Ferruccio Lamborghini in 1966. The farm has a heritage dating back over 175 years and is said to be one of the most highly respected bull breeding farms in Spain. A fitting location for a brand with a bull at the heart of its logo.

Miura

By Lamborghini’s own admission, nobody is quite sure why Marcello Gandini’s masterpiece was given this name; Ferruccio never disclosed why he came up with the analogy. Miura bulls are said to be the most intelligent and fiercest of all fighting bulls, with bullfighters speaking of an unmistakable gaze. Whatever, it’s a fitting name for a car that put Lamborghini on the map.

Launched in 1971, the Miura SV was the best of the breed. By now, Lamborghini had ironed out the issues associated with the early models – the original Miura P400 was developed in just four months – and the SV was a fitting send-off for one of the most beautiful cars of the 20th century. Power was increased to 380hp, while Lamborghini also improved the suspension. New taillights, an SV badge and wider rear arches – introduced to accommodate the larger wheels – made the SV model easy to spot.

Sadly, as you can see from the video below, Lamborghini dispensed with the headlight ‘eyelashes’, removing one of its most iconic features. 

The video is a bit too ‘lifestyle’ for us, but stick with it because there’s some nice footage of the Miura at the end. You can just hear the sound of the 3.9-litre V12 over the Spanish music. Fortunately, there are no tunnels or bulldozers involved. 

Honda S500

Honda has now made 100 million cars

Honda S500How popular are Honda cars? Very popular: there have now been more than 100 million of them produced since the very first S500 sports car (pictured above) in 1963.

The 100 millionth Honda was made in one of Honda’s 34 car factories spread across five continents, and comes as the pace of production grows ever-higher

Banzai! Lifting the lid on Honda’s heritage collection

Honda made its 5 millionth car in 1978, and its 10 millionth in 1983. The 50 millionth model came in 2003: in just 13 years, it has thus doubled the number of Hondas produced.

A fair few of them have been built in the UK, too. Production here started in 1994 with the Accord. Today, the Swindon factory is building the new Civic hatchback for global markets.

Takahiro Hachigo, president and CEO of Honda Motor, said: “The passion of our company founder who wanted to help people in their daily lives and pursue the joy of driving has been inherited by Honda associates as the original starting point of Honda automobile manufacturing.” The landmark 100 millionth car is a glowing demonstration of their success.

Honda doesn’t want to let up, either – and is planning yet more exciting new cars in order to continue its expansion. “Striving to meet the next 100 million customers,” confirmed Hachigo, “Honda will continue delivering increasingly attractive products.”    

Question is, how long before it hits the 200 million cars mark? Who fancies placing a bet on before 2040?

Crash for cash: leaders of £1.1m car crash scam jailed

An elaborate ‘crash for cash’ scam in south-east England has been foiled by the Metropolitan Police. The fraud involved 19 people, including a company boss, and generated £1.1m in fake personal injury claims.

The criminals staged deliberate collisions with innocent drivers so they could then sue for injuries. Mohammed Zubair Jamil masterminded the scheme, processing false insurance claims through his accident management company, based in Hertfordshire.

The Met Police estimates that, in total, Mr Jamil and his accomplices have caused around 300 car crashes.

Telematics data used to catch fraudsters

The gang were caught after a telematics box  installed in the ‘lead’ car provided data on a fake crash. The data was analysed by fraud investigation experts, APU Ltd, who concluded the crash must have been intentional.

Neil Thomas, director of investigative services at APU Ltd, said: “We have been hard on the heels of crash for cash fraudsters for years now. The depth of data available via cutting edge telematics systems necessitates a scientific approach to interpret crucial information into meaningful evidence, then it needs to be presented in court so that the layman can understand it.

“This particular criminal network caused hundreds of fake accidents, all of which were planned, but any of which could have gone badly wrong. He and the other men were putting lives at risk.”

Five members of the gang jailed

Sentencing five of the gang to jail terms ranging from 16 months to four-and-a-half years, Judge HH J Barrie said: “The idea that crash for cash frauds are victimless crimes has to be rebuffed immediately. The impact of this offending on the insurance industry is substantial and this in turn leads to routine increases in insurance premiums for the wider public.”

“Moreover no regard is had at all for the occupants of those cars or their vulnerability. In short, the risk to innocent members of the public of serious injury or worse cannot be underestimated in this type of fraud involving deliberate dangerous driving.”

 

The best Christmas TV for petrolheads

The best Christmas TV for petrolheads

The best Christmas TV for petrolheads

Festive television isn’t what it used to be. Thirty years ago, more than 30 million people sat down to watch Eastenders on Christmas Day – a record that still stands and is unlikely to be beaten. Instant access to the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube means that many people choose to watch TV on demand.

But that didn’t stop us from grabbing a copy of the Radio Times and – armed with a red pen – circling the shows most likely to appeal to petrolheads over Christmas. Here are 25 shows you can watch during the seven days from Friday 23 December 2016.

The Grand Tour: Amazon Prime

23 December

The Grand Tour pitches its tent in the very festive surroundings of Kakslauttanen, Finland, as messrs Clarkson, Hammond and May wish us a very Happy Finnish Christmas. Stay tuned for a battle royale between the Ford Mustang and Ford Focus RS, while the boys also have some last minute Christmas shopping ideas. Expect anything but the conventional.

Casino Royale: ITV2

23 December, 9.00pm

From a battle royale to Casino Royale, which sees Daniel Craig in his first outing as 007. Cars range from the very Bond Aston Martin DBS and DB5, to the more humble Ford Mondeo. Look out for 007’s pursuit of Le Chiffre, in which the DBS performed a dramatic tumble. The scene was filmed at the Millbrook Proving Ground, near Bedford.

Quantum of Solace: ITV2

Quantum of Solace: ITV2

Christmas Eve, 9.00pm

Twenty-four hours later, James Bond returns in Quantum of Solace. The film is another ‘Ford fest’, including the unlikely debut of the second generation Ford Ka. Also look out for a fleet of hydrogen-powered Ford Edge SUVs and a Volvo S40. The movie opens with an epic tussle between a pair of Alfa Romeo 159s and Bond in a DBS. Oh, and a Land Rover Defender…

The Transporter: Film4

Christmas Eve, 11.10pm

If you’ve had your fill of Bond – not to mention mince pies and sherry – allow Jason Statham to offer a change of direction, if not pace. Sadly, Frank Martin (Jason Statham) doesn’t get behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Transporter, instead relying on a BMW 7 Series. One highlight is the chase scene through the streets of Nice.

Spectre: Sky Cinema Action & Adventure

Christmas Eve, 8.00pm

Yes, it’s another Bond movie, but in the case of Spectre there’s a chance you haven’t seen it since it hit the big screen in 2015. The Aston Martin DB10 is the star car, although the Jaguar C-X75 driven by henchman Mr Hinx runs it quite close. Quite literally, in fact.

Road: ITV4

Road: ITV4

Christmas Day, 12.50am

If you’re still awake at ten to one on Christmas morning, don’t be surprised if Santa doesn’t pay you a visit. But if you can’t sleep, this documentary promises to be a real treat. Narrated by Liam Neeson, it’s a profile of Joey Dunlop, the motorcycle racer who won 26 races at the Isle of Man TT between 1976 and 2000.

Mad Max: Fury Road, Sky Cinema Hits

Christmas Day, 1.20am

“Strap yourself into the rumble seat and explore the post-apocalyptic world of Max Mad: Fury Road, where the vehicles are not mere showpieces, but built and modified to perform live stunts on a massive scale.” If that doesn’t whet your appetite, nothing will.

Steve McQueen – The Motorbike Movie Star: ITV4

Christmas Day, 7.00am

If your presents aren’t doing it for you, tune into ITV4 on Christmas morning for some Steve McQueen action. This two-part documentary sees Henry Cole going on a road trip to California, charting the life and times of the legendary McQueen. Sure beats a pair of socks and a bottle of smellies.

Fast & Furious 7: Sky Cinema Hits

Fast & Furious 7: Sky Cinema Hits

Christmas Day, 11.20pm

By this point on Christmas Day, you will have eaten too much food and consumed far too many bottles of granny’s gin, so a couple of hours on the sofa might be most welcome. Fast & Furious 7 is a fitting tribute to the late Paul Walker and one of the best films in the franchise.

Harley and the Davidsons: Discovery

Boxing Day, 8.00pm

Based on a true story, Harley and the Davidsons charts the birth of Harley-Davidson during a time of great social and technological change. How far will founders Walter and Arthur Davidson and their friend Bill Harley go to reach the ultimate American dream? This is the first of a three-part drama.

Gran Torino: Sky Cinema Select

Boxing Day, 10.00pm

In box office terms, this is Clint Eastwood’s most successful movie, grossing more than $148m since its release in 2008. When somebody tries to steal Walt Kowalski’s immaculate Gran Torino, he sets out on a mission to reform the local youth. It’s all set to the backdrop of Detroit’s crumbling automotive industry. A terrific film.

Back to the Future: Sky Cinema Greats

Back to the Future: Sky Cinema Greats

Boxing Day, 10.10pm

Is there anybody on the planet who hasn’t seen Back to the Future? Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is sent back in time by the mad scientist Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), with the DeLorean DMC-12 acting as the time machine. Three decades on, the car remains as popular as ever, and it’s all thanks to this film.

The Italian Job: Sky Cinema Action & Adventure

Boxing Day, 10.20am

The quintessentially British ‘comedy caper’ sees three Minis escaping from Turin following an ambitious gold robbery. The film is filled with famous one-liners, not to mention a brilliant opening scene involving a Lamborghini Miura and a bulldozer. But the stars of the show are the red, white and blue Minis. Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea…

Herbie Rides Again: BBC2

Bank Holiday Tuesday, 7.50am

The sequel to the 1968 film Herbie The Love Bug finds the oh-so-cute Beetle involved in a battle to save the home of Mrs Steinmetz from a corrupt developer. Keenan Wynn is excellent as Alonzo Hawk, but Herbie is the undoubted star of the show.

Cars 2: BBC1

Cars 2: BBC1

Bank Holiday Tuesday, 10.50am

The original Cars movie was dripping in charm and originality, and while this follow-up isn’t quite the sentimental and nostalgic treat, it’s not without appeal. Lightning McQueen is challenged to race in the World Grand Prix, while Mater becomes tangled in some international espionage. Cars 3 is set to hit the big screen in 2017.

Skyfall: ITV2

Bank Holiday Tuesday, 8.00pm

To some, Skyfall is one of the best Bond movies of all-time. Director Sam Mendes – making his 007 debut – manages to find a terrific balance between realism and standard Bond overindulgence. The Aston Martin DB5 makes a surprise and welcome return, although it meets an explosive end in Scotland.

Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo: BBC2

28 December, 7.40am

Herbie is rolled out once again, this time in order to race in the Monte Carlo Rally. As you’d expect, things don’t go according to plan, and the loveable Bug tangles with some jewel thieves.

James May – the Christmas Reassembler: BBC4

James May – the Christmas Reassembler: BBC4

28 December, 9.00pm

It’s not a car programme as such, but anything involving James May normally turns out to be rather good. In 1972, May was given a Hornby Flying Scotsman train set for Christmas. Now, 44 years later, he rebuilds the train in his workshop. According to the Radio Times, the nostalgia becomes a little too much for ‘Captain Slow’, as he sheds a tear upon completion.

Herbie Goes Bananas: BBC2

29 December, 7.45am

Had enough of Herbie for one Christmas? Herbie Goes Bananas is arguably the weakest film in the franchise, and the final movie before the Beetle returned in 1997 with a remake of The Love Bug.

Turbo: BBC1

29 December, 9.00am

We’ll stick our hands up here – this is a film we haven’t seen. According to the IMDb website, “a freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.” Sounds implausible, but rather fun. The Radio Times gives it four stars.

Cannonball Run II: ITV4

Cannonball Run II: ITV4

29 December, 7.45pm

A guilty pleasure if ever there was one. In his review, Roger Ebert labelled this film as “one of the laziest insults to the intelligence of moviegoers that I can remember,” before claiming that “sheer arrogance made this picture.” It’s not great, but the cars are good and there’s a star-studded cast including Burt Reynolds and Catherine ‘Daisy Duke’ Bach.

Guy Martin – Cycling Home for Christmas: C4

29 December, 9.00pm

At the time of writing, news was reaching us that injury has forced Guy Martin to pull out of his latest world record attempt. Martin was hoping to complete a 4,802-mile pedal-powered ride of the British coast in just 20 days. In a statement, he said: “Well, it’s not gone quite to plan.” Will this TV show be canned?

The World’s Most Expensive Toys: More4

29 December, 10.05pm

We can’t promise you a truck-load of Ford Transit models, but this show will reveal some of the world’s most extravagant toys. According to the Radio Times, this includes a £30,000 electric toy car. Wow.

The Grand Tour: Amazon Prime

30 December

In the first of two special shows, The Grand Tour abandons its tent for a road trip across Namibia in a trio of beach buggies. Reading between the lines, this has all the hallmarks of a Top Gear festive special, so we have high hopes that this will be a Christmas cracker.

Gone in Sixty Seconds: Sky Cinema Action & Adventure

Gone in Sixty Seconds: Sky Cinema Action & Adventure

30 December, 12.55am

No, not the original Gone in 60 Seconds, but the 2000 remake Gone in Sixty Seconds. It’s all rather simple: 50 exotic cars must be stolen and loaded onto a container ship within a short period of time. Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie star, while Vinnie Jones makes his second screen appearance since making his debut in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

 

Credits: 1 – Amazon Prime , 2 – Ford,  3 – Newspress, 4 – Universal Pictures, 5 – Autogas, 6 & 7 – Newspress, 8 Autogas, 9 – Silverstone Classic

Behind the scenes at the DVLA's £5.1m number plate auction

Behind the scenes at the DVLA’s £5.1m number plate auction

Behind the scenes at the DVLA's £5.1m number plate auction

I’m stood next to the DVLA’s expert auctioneer, Gary Earle, watching a determined bidder sat at the front of the room and bidding on a personalised plate: ‘111 OM’. It looked like he was going to get it for a couple of grand, but now phone bidders are pushing the price up. His mannerisms are those of someone who’s nervous. As bidding comfortably exceeds £5,000, he looks like he’s already over-budget, but doesn’t want to go home empty-handed.

The bidder holds his nerve, however, and the hammer falls in his favour at £8,800. That’s nearly £11,500 by the time you add auction fees and VAT on top.

As soon as the auction’s over, he’s out of the room with a grin on his face. I chase him out to ask why on earth he’s just spent more than £10,000 on a piece of paper (you have to buy the plastic plates separately).

“I already own another one very similar to this,” Oliver Morgan tells me. I clock a North-Eastern accent – we’re in Hertfordshire – and ask him how far he’s travelled to buy ‘111 OM’.

“I drove down from Durham,” he says. “I could have bid online or over the phone, but I missed the deadline to apply for registration and I didn’t want to miss the plate.”

Has he got an equally flashy car to put the plate on? “I’ve only got a work van, but that’s got my other plate on it. This will probably go on my girlfriend’s car for now.”

With that, he hits the road.

Tell me about a number plate auction

Behind the scenes at the DVLA's £5.1m number plate auction

The DVLA held five live auctions in 2016, with the final auction at The Hanbury Manor Hotel near Ware in Hertfordshire. An impressive £5.1 million was raised over the three-day sale, taking the total made from number plate auctions in 2016 to £25.6 million.

By the time costs for venue hire, staff and the like are taken out, that money goes to the treasury. There’s a lot to be made from vanity, it seems.

The auctions move around the country, usually located at upmarket hotels where bidders can turn buying a number plate into a few days away.

How does the DVLA choose the number plates?

How does the DVLA come up with the number plates?

“Coming up with 1,500 registrations can be a big job,” DVLA Personalised Registrations manager Adam Griffiths says. “All registrations we auction have never been on a car before. We basically think of them out of thin air and check records to see if we’ve ever sold them, or if they’ve ever been assigned to a vehicle.

“If there’s no record, we can sell them.”

Number plates have to follow certain approved formats, however, mainly to prevent them getting confused with similar-looking plates. So, ‘1 AAA’ is plate, but ‘1 A1A’ isn’t. Registrations beginning with ‘O’ weren’t issued for a long time as it looks identical to ‘0’, but the DVLA has been introducing them to auctions in recent years.

The team will also look at requests from members of the public. If someone wants a plate, and it’s never been sold or assigned to a vehicle, the DVLA can put it up for auction.

Buyers have to be careful, though. While it’s tempting to re-arrange a plate by moving or adding a space, doing so is classed as misrepresentation and can cost you a fine of up to £1,000. You may also have your plate confiscated by the DVLA. If you’ve spent thousands on a registration and tweaked it to look like your name, this could hit you hard in the wallet.

Top 5 registrations sold at Hanbury Manor

Top 5 registrations sold at Hanbury Manor

These are the most expensive plates sold at the Hanbury Manor sale. The hammer prices don’t include VAT (20%), buyer’s premium (8% + VAT) and an assignment fee (£8), so can cost thousands more than initially appears.

1: 911 O – £33,500
2: 110 A – £31,000
3: 400 B – £29,400
4: 993 TT – £28,000
5: 120 C- £27,600

Other highlights include ‘LAM 805V’ (£26,100), ‘488 M’ (£15,500) and ‘GG66 GGG’ (£11,200).

Behind the scenes at the DVLA's £5.1m number plate auction

Behind the scenes at the DVLA's £5.1m number plate auction

Behind the scenes at the DVLA's £5.1m number plate auction

I’m stood next to the DVLA’s expert auctioneer, Gary Earle, watching a determined bidder sat at the front of the room and bidding on a personalised plate: ‘111 OM’. It looked like he was going to get it for a couple of grand, but now phone bidders are pushing the price up. His mannerisms are those of someone who’s nervous. As bidding comfortably exceeds £5,000, he looks like he’s already over-budget, but doesn’t want to go home empty-handed.

The bidder holds his nerve, however, and the hammer falls in his favour at £8,800. That’s nearly £11,500 by the time you add auction fees and VAT on top.

As soon as the auction’s over, he’s out of the room with a grin on his face. I chase him out to ask why on earth he’s just spent more than £10,000 on a piece of paper (you have to buy the plastic plates separately).

“I already own another one very similar to this,” Oliver Morgan tells me. I clock a North-Eastern accent – we’re in Hertfordshire – and ask him how far he’s travelled to buy ‘111 OM’.

“I drove down from Durham,” he says. “I could have bid online or over the phone, but I missed the deadline to apply for registration and I didn’t want to miss the plate.”

Has he got an equally flashy car to put the plate on? “I’ve only got a work van, but that’s got my other plate on it. This will probably go on my girlfriend’s car for now.”

With that, he hits the road.

Tell me about a number plate auction

Behind the scenes at the DVLA's £5.1m number plate auction

The DVLA held five live auctions in 2016, with the final auction at The Hanbury Manor Hotel near Ware in Hertfordshire. An impressive £5.1 million was raised over the three-day sale, taking the total made from number plate auctions in 2016 to £25.6 million.

By the time costs for venue hire, staff and the like are taken out, that money goes to the treasury. There’s a lot to be made from vanity, it seems.

The auctions move around the country, usually located at upmarket hotels where bidders can turn buying a number plate into a few days away.

How does the DVLA choose the number plates?

How does the DVLA come up with the number plates?

“Coming up with 1,500 registrations can be a big job,” DVLA Personalised Registrations manager Adam Griffiths says. “All registrations we auction have never been on a car before. We basically think of them out of thin air and check records to see if we’ve ever sold them, or if they’ve ever been assigned to a vehicle.

“If there’s no record, we can sell them.”

Number plates have to follow certain approved formats, however, mainly to prevent them getting confused with similar-looking plates. So, ‘1 AAA’ is plate, but ‘1 A1A’ isn’t. Registrations beginning with ‘O’ weren’t issued for a long time as it looks identical to ‘0’, but the DVLA has been introducing them to auctions in recent years.

The team will also look at requests from members of the public. If someone wants a plate, and it’s never been sold or assigned to a vehicle, the DVLA can put it up for auction.

Buyers have to be careful, though. While it’s tempting to re-arrange a plate by moving or adding a space, doing so is classed as misrepresentation and can cost you a fine of up to £1,000. You may also have your plate confiscated by the DVLA. If you’ve spent thousands on a registration and tweaked it to look like your name, this could hit you hard in the wallet.

Top 5 registrations sold at Hanbury Manor

Top 5 registrations sold at Hanbury Manor

These are the most expensive plates sold at the Hanbury Manor sale. The hammer prices don’t include VAT (20%), buyer’s premium (8% + VAT) and an assignment fee (£8), so can cost thousands more than initially appears.

1: 911 O – £33,500
2: 110 A – £31,000
3: 400 B – £29,400
4: 993 TT – £28,000
5: 120 C- £27,600

Other highlights include ‘LAM 805V’ (£26,100), ‘488 M’ (£15,500) and ‘GG66 GGG’ (£11,200).

The best-selling cars around the world

The best-selling cars around the world

The best-selling cars around the worldThe Ford Fiesta has been the best-selling car in the UK for what seems like an eternity, but what about the cars doing the business in other countries? Thanks to data sourced from the Best Selling Car Blog, let us take you on a whistle-stop tour of the world as we discover the most popular cars of November 2016.

USA: Ford F-Series (72,089 registrations)The best-selling cars around the world

Few things in life are guaranteed, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the Ford F-Series will remain at the top of the US sales chart. Registrations are up 11% compared to November 2015, with the car in second spot – the Chevrolet Silverado – shifting a ‘mere’ 45,280 units.

China: Haval H6 (70,292 registrations)The best-selling cars around the world

For the first time in Chinese history, more than one million SUVs are sold in a single month, reports the Best Selling Cars Blog. Meanwhile, saloons are down 0.1% and MPVs are down 19%, as China mirrors the trends seen across the world. The Haval H6 is quick to take advantage, overtaking the Wuling Hongguang to claim top spot. Registrations are up 74% compared to November 2015.

India: Maruti Suzuki Alto (23,320 registrations)The best-selling cars around the world

Maruti Suzuki dominates the sales charts in India, with no fewer than seven models found in the top ten. Sitting pretty at the top with 23,320 registrations is the Maruti Suzuki Alto, while the more familiar Swift, Baleno and Celerio also appear near the top.

Germany: Volkswagen Golf (17,841 registrations)The best-selling cars around the world

The Volkswagen Golf remains the meister in Deutschland, but registrations are down 16% compared to the same period in 2015. Overall, Volkswagen’s year-to-date registrations have shrunk by 3%, but it does manage to fill 40% of the top ten. Creeping into the top ten, with registrations up 29%, is the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Japan: Nissan Note (15,784 registrations)The best-selling cars around the world

In Japan, the charts are split into two groups: standard cars and kei cars. Overall, the Nissan Note is the best-seller, thanks largely to the launch of the new e-Power variant. Registrations are up a huge 144%, seeing it rise from 30th to 1st, toppling the Toyota Prius in the process.

Brazil: Chevrolet Onix (15,700 registrations)The best-selling cars around the world

For the second consecutive year, the Chevrolet Onix is set to cement its position as the most popular car in Brazil. Meanwhile, the Jeep Compass – still fresh from its global debut in Brazil – jumps from 75th to 23rd position. Does this point to wider success for the Brazilian-built SUV?

Italy: Fiat Panda (13,197 registrations)The best-selling cars around the world

The Fiat Panda remains numero uno in Italy, but the star performer is its larger sibling – the Fiat Tipo. Registrations are up 3,276%, seeing the Tipo jump from 14th to 4th in November. The estate version is now the best-selling car in its segment, ahead of the Audi A4, Volkswagen Passat and Peugeot 308.

Canada: Ford F-Series (11,273 registrations)The best-selling cars around the world

As the Best Selling Car Blog points out, pick-ups are the dominant force in Canada, with the Ford F-Series, Ram Pick-up and GMC Sierra up 37%, 16% and 20% respectively. In common with the US, the F-Series is by far and away the leading vehicle, with 135,422 registrations in 2016.

France: Renault Clio (10,163 registrations)The best-selling cars around the world

As you’d expect, the top ten in France is dominated by French cars, with the Renault Clio sitting pretty at the summit. Meanwhile, the new Megane slots in at number six with 4,793 registrations, while the new 3008 makes its debut with 4,476 units, enough to earn it a seventh place slot.

South Korea: Kia Morning (9,256 registrations)The best-selling cars around the world

If the Kia Morning looks familiar, it’s because you’ll know it as the Kia Picanto. It’s the first time the city car has topped the South Korean charts since November 2014.

For more information visit https://bestsellingcarsblog.com