Road tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Road tax deadline pushes car sales to record highThe UK car market hit an all-time high last month as buyers rushed to beat the April 1 road tax changes. In total, 562,337 new cars were registered in March 2017 – a jump of 8.4% versus last year. It was also a record first quarter for the car industry, with 820,016 units sold. Let’s count down the top 10 best-selling cars…

10. Mercedes-Benz C-ClassRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

No C-words for Mercedes: its C-Class edged the BMW 3 Series out of the UK top 10 last month. A total of 9,471 were registered.

The sheer breadth of the C-Class range – comprising saloon, coupe, estate and convertible, not forgetting ballistic AMG versions – means there is a model to suit most. Attractive finance deals have also helped its cause.

9. Ford KugaRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

We wonder how many of the Kuga’s 9,561 sales were the top-spec Vignale seen here. Ford’s new sub-brand has an uphill struggle to convince buyers of its premium credentials, but the Kuga itself is proving popular.

One of the Kuga’s strengths is that it feels much like a Ford Focus to drive, with direct steering and good road manners. Its Sync 3 voice-activated media system is impressive, too.

8. MINIRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Retro design is here to stay: just compare the fortunes of MINI (owned by BMW) and Smart (owned by Mercedes-Benz). Trading on classic cool helped MINI to 10,003 sales last month.

In contrast to the Issigonis original, the modern MINI is all about choice. There are numerous body styles and engines, plus a seemingly endless list of personalisation options. We’ll have ours in red with a white roof, please.

7. Volkswagen PoloRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

A new Polo arrives later this year, but the current model soldiers on. Dealers registered 10,711 in March, helping the VW to seventh place in the UK sales chart.

Commenting on the March sales stats, Mike Hawes, SMMT chief exec, said: “These record figures are undoubtedly boosted by consumers and businesses reacting to new VED changes, pulling forward purchases into March… This bumper performance probably means we will see a slowdown in April.”

6. Volkswagen GolfRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

The Golf was actually the UK’s second best-selling car in February, as dealers discounted pre-facelift versions of the current Mk7. Last month, it slipped back to sixth, with 10,819 cars registered.

Interestingly, the four-wheel-drive Golf R outsells the cheaper GTI in the UK – although both are comfortably beaten by the hot GTD diesel.

5. Vauxhall AstraRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

PSA Peugeot-Citroen will be pleased with the Astra’s strong showing; the French company has just bought the Vauxhall (UK) and Opel (Europe) brands from General Motors. A total of 11,680 Astras were registered in March.

The Astra’s success is also good news for the UK, as the car is built at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. Will Vauxhall jobs be safe after Britain leaves the EU? Let’s hope so.

4. Nissan QashqaiRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Here’s another model that’s built in the UK. The all-conquering Nissan Qashqai is made in Sunderland, with one car leaving the line every 62 seconds. No wonder it gains fourth place, with 13,742 registered.

Nissan revealed the facelifted Qashqai – seen here – at the Geneva Motor Show. Apart from some extra chrome, it features an updated media system and the option of Nissan’s ‘ProPilot’ autonomous driving tech.

3. Vauxhall CorsaRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Propping up the top three is the ubiquitous Vauxhall Corsa, with 16,045 sold. A yellow Corsa like the one seen here actually made the news recently after being vandalised for ‘spoiling the view’ in a picturesque Cotswolds village. A parade of yellow cars drove through the village to show solidarity with its owner.

We rather like the Corsa VXR hot hatch, although – inevitably – we’d rather have a Ford Fiesta ST. That’s true for most cars, though.

2. Ford FocusRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Crossovers may steal the headlines, but the mid-size family hatchback is far from dead. The Ford Focus took second place in the March sales bonanza, shifting 17,119 units.

Some elements of the car market are changing, though. Sales of petrol-engined models are up 13.2 per cent following all the negative publicity about diesels. And alternatively-fuelled vehicles, such as hybrids, were up a whopping 31 per cent.

1. Ford FiestaRoad tax deadline pushes car sales to record high

Its replacement is just a couple of months away, but that can’t stop the evergreen Ford Fiesta topping the UK sales stats. An incredible 25,428 new Fiestas found homes in March.

We’ll miss the current Fiesta when it’s gone. Few small cars are so joyous to drive; even the basic models get the recipe right. Stay tuned for the Motoring Research verdict on the new 2017 Fiesta this June.

Where sports stars buy their supercars

Romans InternationalIf you’re a Premier League player with six – or even seven – figures to splash on a supercar, Romans International is a good place to start. A short drive from the Chelsea FC training ground, this Surrey showroom is well known for its sports star and celebrity clientele. Join us for an awe-inspiring tour.

McLaren P1Romans International

Centrepiece of the Romans showroom at the time of our visit was this ‘Volcano Yellow’ McLaren P1. One of 375 made, the hybrid hypercar is the spiritual successor to the McLaren F1 – arguably the greatest sports car ever made.

This particular P1 has just 690 miles on the clock and comes with various McLaren Special Operations (MSO) modifications, including six-point racing harnesses and carbon fibre interior panels. Now sold, the asking price was around £1.5million.

Ferrari EnzoRomans International

A Formula One car for the road, the Enzo was Ferrari’s 651hp V12 flagship. We wonder what its namesake, company founder Enzo Ferrari, would make of this 10-year-old car’s 137-mile odometer reading. Would you dare drive it?

This was the last of 24 Enzos imported to the UK (Jamiroquai singer Jay Kay famously owns a black one). It’s made regular trips to a Ferrari dealer for servicing – but only in a covered transporter, of course. Asking price? Around £2.5million.

BMW M4 GTSRomans International

The venerable M3 celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016 and, instead of a cake, BMW cooked up the special edition M4 GTS. A lightweight, track-focused adversary for the Porsche 911 GT3, the GTS boasts 500hp and the least speed-hump-friendly splitter we’ve ever seen. Still, it looks cool.

At £139,950, this 870-mile GTS is about £20,000 pricier than a brand new example. Then again, it does come with plenty of extras, including the Club Sport package (Acid Orange rollcage, harness belts, fire extinguisher) and semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.

Tesla Model XRomans International

Launched in 2016, the Tesla Model X is another car that seems too new to be second-hand. The high-performance electric SUV has six seats and radical ‘falcon wing’ rear doors. A range of 336 miles on a single charge means this 495-mile example may have only been recharged once.

A price tag of £139,950 puts the Tesla in the same ball-park as high-end Range Rovers and the Bentley Bentayga diesel. However, this 100kWh P100D version easily outguns them both. Switch to Ludicrous mode and you’ll blast to 60mph in a synapse-scrambling 2.9 seconds.

Porsche Cayenne GTSRomans International

A (slightly) more sensible SUV comes in the shape of the Porsche Cayenne GTS. With a 440hp twin-turbo V6, sports car agility and space for five adults plus luggage, it’s all the car a family-oriented footballer needs. We love the special-order Carmine Red paint, too.

Porsche is notorious for extra-cost options, and the first owner of this Cayenne didn’t hold back. Boxes duly ticked include the panoramic sunroof, 14-speaker Bose hi-fi, keyless entry, heated steering wheel and – oh yes – red seatbelts. This 2015, 17,500-mile car is yours for £62,950.

Porsche 911 GT3 RSRomans International

If the 911 GT3 RS was a footballer, it would be a star striker, with silky skills and a devastating kick. Under that lofty rear wing lurks a 500hp 4.0-litre flat-six, redlined at 8,800rpm. Our only qualm is the absence of a manual gearbox – even as an option.

Finished in the RS signature colour of Lava Orange, this car has covered 2,785 miles since new in 2015. The first owner must be feeling rather smug: it’s nearly doubled in value since then. You’ll need £217,950.

McLaren 570SRomans International

P1 a bit ‘Premier League’ for your pocket? The McLaren 570S is more Championship. Don’t imagine that makes it slow, though: 0-62mph in 3.1 seconds and a 204mph VMax are enough to keep even the speediest soccer stars interested.

This 2016 570S looks surprisingly subtle in Blade Silver. Well, until you open those show-stopping dihedral doors. With 4,400 miles on the clock, it’s priced at £144,950 – on par with a new example.

Mercedes-AMG GT SRomans International

Fancy a more traditional supercar? The Mercedes-AMG GT S is large of V8, loud of exhaust and hirsute of chest. It looks especially menacing in launch Edition One spec, with matte-grey paint, black alloys and a carbon fibre front splitter.

Having 510 rampaging horses under your right foot means you’ll be glad of the optional ceramic composite brakes – and perhaps that fixed rear wing, too. This car is barely run-in, with 1,350 miles under its wheels, and was priced at £115,950 (now sold).

Bentley BentaygaRomans International

We’ve just driven the new Bentley Bentayga diesel, and very impressive it is too. But if you’ve already got a WAG and a mock-Tudor mansion, only the full-fat W12 petrol Bentayga will do. It’s the ultimate luxury SUV – at least until the Rolls-Royce Cullinan arrives in 2018.

There’s no such thing as a ‘standard’ Bentayga, but this example is more special than most. Optional Mulliner Driving Specification includes quilted leather seats and door panels, while the audiophile-spec Naim hi-fi is a must-have. Priced at £159,950 (now sold), it’s a handy way to skip the six-month waiting list for a new one.

Abarth 695 BipostoRomans International

Forty thousand pounds for a Fiat 500? No, that isn’t a misprint. But the two-seat Abarth 695 Biposto is more like a pint-sized GT3 than your mum’s 500 Pop. Its lengthy spec list includes 18-inch OZ alloys, an Akrapovic exhaust, Brembo brakes, carbon fibre bucket seats and a titanium strut brace.

Better still, this delivery-mileage 2016 Biposto is a Ferrari Edition – one of 99 made. The ultimate rocket shopper? All it needs are a couple of prancing horse shields on the front wings…

Best budget cars for track days

Best budget cars for track daysWant to push your car to its limits in a safe environment – and without the risk of seeing flashing blue lights in your mirrors? A track day might be just what you’re looking for. Track days take place at circuits around the country throughout the year and typically cost around £200. For that, you can use the track all day and, on an ‘open pit lane’ event, you can go out onto the track and come back into the pits whenever you like.

Keep it cheapBest budget cars for track days

Still, you’re unlikely to want to thrash your daily-driver around a circuit. What would your other half say if they found out you’d been drifting the family motor? How would your boss react if you were asking for new tyres on your company car a little too often? And remember, your insurance won’t cover you on-track, so the lower the value of the car, the less you’ll worry about getting it wrong.

So here are some options for track day cars that cost buttons, but will still leave you grinning from ear to ear.

Mazda MX-5 (Mk1)Best budget cars for track days

There’s only one place to start a list like this and it’s with the venerable Mazda MX-5. There’s a reason you won’t go to a track day without seeing one of these. Rear-wheel drive makes it fun in the corners, and low weight means you’ll get plenty of track days from a set of tyres and brakes. It may not be the quickest on the straights, but the unstressed engine is practically bombproof. Just watch out for rust.

BMW 328i (E36)Best budget cars for track days

Want to keep that classic front-engine, rear-wheel-drive balance, but with a bit more oomph? The BMW 3 Series might be a bit of a barge in standard form, but budget for uprated suspension and brakes and you’ll be driving one of the best all-round track cars for a minimal outlay. What’s more, you can pretend you’re a 90s touring car driver while you do it.

Toyota MR2 (Mk2)Best budget cars for track days

The Toyota MR2 is the alternative for those who find the MX-5 just too obvious or, indeed, rusty. The mid-engined layout might make it intimidating for the first-time track day driver, but it provides a long-lasting appeal to those who like a challenge.

Renaultsport Clio 182Best budget cars for track days

If the classic rear-wheel-drive track car is the MX-5, the archetypal front-wheel-drive track car is the Clio 182. As the name suggests, its 2.0-litre engine produces a healthy 182bhp. Combine this with low weight, sharp handling an affordable purchase price, and you can see why hot Clios make a popular track-car choice.

Honda Civic Type R (EP3)Best budget cars for track days

The Civic Type R packs all the Clio 182’s pointiness and punch, but with the addition of Japanese reliability. Its high-revving VTEC engine is often criticised for lacking low-down torque on the road, but comes into its own on track, where you’re exploiting every last rpm.

Caterham SevenBest budget cars for track days

A price tag of around £15,000 for a track-worthy Caterham might be pushing the limits of what we can describe as a cheap track car, but the sub-600kg weight means it’ll look after its brakes, tyres and other consumable parts like nothing else. And let’s not forget the mind-blowing handling, acceleration and braking that this featherweight offers.

Lotus EliseBest budget cars for track days

The Elise is to the Caterham what the MR2 is to the MX-5. Uber-lightweight, direct and driver-focused, but with the engine in the middle instead of at the front. Also, like the MR2, we’d advise that the Elise isn’t for the inexperienced track driver – it can be notoriously snappy thanks to that mid-engined layout.

Toyota MR2 (Mk3)Best budget cars for track days

A saying you hear trotted-out about the Mk3 Toyota MR2 is: ‘80% of an Elise for 20% of the price’. While we’re not convinced this really is the case, we can’t deny that the Mk3 MR2 makes a fine track car, no doubt helped by the weight saving of 200kg compared to its predecessor.

BMW M3 (E46)Best budget cars for track days

We’ve already suggested the E36-generation 328i, but the E46 M3 has everything we like about its older brother turned up to 11. The screaming 3.2-litre straight-six pushes out 343hp which, combined with the M-car’s upgraded suspension and brakes, will put you straight to the top of the lap-time leaderboard. While these can be had for as little as £7,000, beware of the ‘M tax’ on consumable parts like brakes.

Subaru Impreza WRXBest budget cars for track days

The only four-wheel-drive car to make the list is the rally-derived Subaru Impreza WRX. While the Impreza may have cut its teeth on the dirt, it can hold its own on tarmac, too. On a wet track day, not many things will keep up with it. But be warned, that four-wheel-drive grip means tyres won’t last long in the dry.

Ford PumaBest budget cars for track days

With just 123hp, the Ford Puma may be the least powerfuk car on this list, but it punches above its weight on-track thanks to its rev-happy Yamaha-developed 1.7-litre engine, low weight and acclaimed handling. Like the MX-5, though, finding one without the dreaded tin worm could prove a challenge.

Mazda RX-8Best budget cars for track days

The Mazda RX-8 is powered by a rotary engine, rather than a conventional piston engine. It revs to a dizzying 9000rpm and, thanks to its compact dimensions, is fitted low in the chassis, improving the car’s handling. Every silver lining has a cloud, however, and the RX-8 is notoriously unreliable.

Porsche 944Best budget cars for track days

Porsche 944s are getting rarer by the day but, if you can find a clean one, you’ll have a worthy track car. The 3.0-litre versions produce a healthy 211hp, although on a car of this age the suspension is likely to feel tired and be in need of a refresh.

Porsche BoxsterBest budget cars for track days

The Porsche Boxster is one of the best performance bargains there is, with prices starting from as little as £3,000. A hardcore track-dayer may consider the Boxster a little soft for serious circuit work, but for someone wanting their track car to double up as weekend sports car, it could be the ideal choice.

Jaguar S-TypeBest budget cars for track days

And finally… the leftfield choice. The Jaguar S-Type, in V6 manual form, has all the right ingredients for a good track car: a reliable 250bhp engine, manual gearbox (essential), and its driven wheels at the back. Aftermarket parts may be hard to come by, but fit coilover suspension and strip out the interior to save weight and you’ll be embarrassing people in ‘faster’ cars.

Unique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Unique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for saleIf you’ve given up hope of ever finding a genuine ‘barn-find’, may we suggest taking a look at your nearest castle? A collection of 12 classic cars has been unearthed in a Swiss castle and will be offered for sale, without reserve, at the Bonhams Spa Classic sale in May.

We’ll bring you more details on the cars when we have the info, but for now enjoy the photos of the cars discovered in the castle.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL RoadsterUnique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £520,000 – £690,000

If ever a car was befitting of a Swiss castle it would be a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster. It was launched in 1957 when Mercedes-Benz decided to capitalise on the popularity of open-top two-seaters by converting the 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ to create a topless icon.

The 300 SL Roadster isn’t in concours condition, which might explain the relatively low pre-auction estimate. In 2015, an unrestored 1960 example sold for just under a million at the Mercedes-Benz sale in Stuttgart.

Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Double PhaetonUnique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £520,000 – £690,000

Bonhams is expecting this Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost to sell for upwards of £500,000 when it goes under the hammer in Belgium. “It is the last word in motoring luxury and perhaps the most influential automobile from the early days of motoring,” said Bonhams.

Maserati Ghibli SSUnique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £86,000 – £130,000

The owner of the Swiss castle must have had a thing for Maseratis, as this Ghibli SS is one of three such cars in the collection. First shown at the 1966 Turin Motor Show, the Ghibli was Maserati’s first genuine supercar and a credible rival to anything offered by Ferrari or Lamborghini at the time.

It was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro during his time at Ghia, with the coupe version later joined by a stunning Spyder. The SS model benefited from a larger 4.9-litre V8 engine, up from 4.7-litre, giving it a top speed of 170mph. In 2016, a concours-winning Ghibli SS sold for £203,100 at the Bond Street sale.

Aston Martin V8 VolanteUnique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £78,000 – £120,000

In 1978, Aston Martin finally saw sense and created a convertible version of the AMV8. It featured the new burr walnut trim, blanked-off bonnet scoop and sculpted spoiler of the ‘Oscar India’ hardtop model, but the highlight was the power-operated, fully-lined hood.

The Volante tipped the scales at 1,860kg, some 42kg heavier than the hardtop version, which only served to dilute its performance. That said, a 140mph top speed and 0-60mph time of 7.7 seconds is hardly sloth-like. This 1980 car has a mere 36,485km (22,670 miles) on the clock.

Rolls-Royce Phantom IIUnique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £69,000 – £100,000

The Rolls-Royce Phantom II was the last of the marque’s 40/50hp models and was essentially a development of the earlier Phantom. Improvements included a new chassis design and added synchromesh on the higher gears.

Only the chassis and mechanicals were built by Rolls-Royce, with the owner free to select the coachbuilder for the body. In the case of this ‘castle-find’ Phantom II, the body was finished by Mulliner in West London, a company which, by the 1930s, worked almost entirely on Rolls-Royce and Bentley projects.

Lamborghini Espada Series IIUnique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £60,000 – £95,000

At the time, the Espada was Lamborghini’s most successful model, with 1,227 units sold during a decade of production. The brief to Marcello Gandini was simple: design a genuine four-seater supercar in order to expand the company’s product line-up. It was unveiled at the 1968 Geneva Motor Show and proved to be incredibly popular.

This is a Series II model, distinguishable from the outside by the deletion of the grille which covered the vertical glass tail panel. More significantly, the interior was overhauled, while power from its 3.9-litre V12 engine was increased to 350hp. A total of 575 units were produced, making the Series II – or 400 GTE – the most common Espada.

Maserati Indy AmericaUnique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £43,000 – £69,000

Practicality was clearly the order at the day at the Swiss Schloss, because here’s another four-seater GT from Italy. The Indy was first shown at the 1968 Turin Motor Show on the Vignale stand, but a year later it appeared under the Maserati banner in Geneva. The name was chosen to commemorate Maserati’s success at the Indianapolis 500.

As a 1971 car, this Indy is powered by the 4.7-litre engine, giving it a top speed of 160mph, which, at the time, made it one of the fastest four-seater cars in the world. In all forms, a total of 1,136 units were produced, making the Indy a successful if underappreciated GT car.

Jaguar E-Type Series 3 V12Unique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £34,000 – £60,000

By 1971, the Jaguar E-Type was on borrowed time. A decade on from its sensational debut, Jaguar had one last throw of the dice by introducing the Series 3 model, complete with 5.3-litre V12 engine. The new chrome grille and flared arches did little for the E-Type’s styling, while the softer suspension only served to blunt its performance.

The E-Type was losing its lustre. The energy crisis meant that only the very rich or very foolish could afford to run a V12 sports car, while strikes hampered production. Today, the Series 3 is the most affordable E-Type you can buy and that V12 engine holds massive appeal.

Maserati QuattroporteUnique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £34,000 – £60,000

The Maserati Quattroporte was introduced at the 1963 Turin Motor Show with coachwork designed by Pietro Frua. This 1968 car is notable for the twin headlights, which were added to the Series II model in 1965. These had already been fitted to cars exported to America.

It was never a huge seller, with production estimates ranging from 679 to 776, depending on the source. Thanks to the increased power from its 4.7-litre engine and rigid rear axle, the Series II car is the Quattroporte to own.

Jaguar E-Type 4.2Unique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £26,000 – £34,000

The second E-Type in the collection happens to be a Series 2 model, first introduced in 1968. The second generation E-Type ushered in a number of design changes, most notably the removal of the glass headlight covers, a larger grille and revised bumpers.

Bonhams has slapped a relatively low pre-auction estimate on this 1970 car, which is probably reflective of its ‘castle-find’ condition. For some context, a dry-stored Series 2 sold for £51,750 at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting sale in March 2017.

Mercedes-Benz 500 SLCUnique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £17,000 – £26,000

To create the SLC, Mercedes-Benz took the R107 SL, stretched the wheelbase and added a roof and two rear seats. The majority of cars were powered by V8 engines, including, in the case of the 500 SLC, a 5.0-litre variant.

As a 1981 car, this particular 500 SLC is a very late model, as the SLC bowed out in the same year, leaving the SL to soldier on until 1989, at which point it was replaced by the R129 model.

Ford MustangUnique Swiss ‘castle-find’ car collection for sale

Pre-auction estimate: £10,000 – £15,000

The final car in the Swiss collection is perhaps the most surprising: a 1973 Ford Mustang convertible. This American import is a very late first-generation model, as the much-maligned Mustang II arrived in 1974.

The convertible Mustang enjoyed a surge in popularity in 1973, with rumours circulating that Ford wouldn’t be building a drop-top version of the second generation car. Just under 12,000 were produced in 1973, nearly double the number recorded in the three previous years.

Exclusive: we drive a Volvo V90 police car

Volvo police carVolvo has form with police cars. Sure, your local bobby probably runs around in an Astra, while an unmarked BMW 5 Series is able to put the frights up any daring company car driver pounding up a motorway at 90mph. But the Swedish car firm has been making police cars since 1929 – and selling them to the British police since the 1960s.

Today, there are around 400 Volvo police cars on UK roads. The vast majority of these are V70 armed response vehicles or traffic cars. But, as the V70 is no longer produced, that could be about to change…

Volvo V90 police carVolvo V90 police car

Yes, say hello to the Volvo V90 police car. Here it is in Swedish livery, being tested on a frozen lake somewhere in the Northern Circle at a top secret military base. We say ‘tested’, that’s actually our man living out a childhood dream of driving a police car. On a frozen lake. Mostly sideways.

What’s the point of that?Volvo V90 police car

It’s not all in the name of fun and frolics. Honestly. Volvo’s test drivers spend at least 500 hours putting the latest police cars through their paces in hot and cold climates. The logic goes that if it can survive being driven hard in temperatures way below zero degrees, a pursuit through Bradford’s housing estates won’t phase it.

What’s under the bonnet?Volvo V90 police car

Under the bonnet of this V90 – and, indeed, all V90 police cars for now – is a standard four-cylinder D5 diesel engine. The twin-turbo unit produces 235hp and, before all the extra weight of the police equipment is added, propels the V90 to 62mph in 6.9 seconds.

What’s different, then?Volvo V90 police car

All Volvo V90 police cars are start off as standard cars, taken from the production line at the same point ordinary models are shipped off to dealers. But, rather than being loaded onto a transporter, police-cars-to-be are taken around the back of Volvo’s factory in Torslanda, near Gothenburg, and modified by the special vehicles division.

And what happens next?Volvo V90 police car

Here, a special team of converters spend around six days turning it into a cop car. A special boot frame is fitted to cope with all the gear carried by traffic officers (and prevent it flying forwards in the case of a rear-end shunt), while brakes are upgraded to help bring the heavyweight V90 to a stop. The suspension also gets upgraded, with a 300mm lift and firmer dampers. The wheels are replaced by XC90 alloys.

Is anything done in the UK?Volvo V90 police car

Once police cars arrive in the UK, they’re sent to one of a small number of specialist converters where the finishing touches are put in place. The correct radio is fitted, for example, while British ‘battenburg’ livery is applied to make it stand out.

Why are they so close to standard?Volvo V90 police car

Police cars are generally bought outright rather than leased, so police forces want to be able to get as much of their investment as possible back when it comes to resale time. As such, once you remove the kit fitted by Volvo’s special vehicles workshop, the V90 looks like pretty much any other model.

It looks rather luxurious insideVolvo V90 police car

Inside, it’s exactly as you’d expect a high-spec V90 to be. Leather seats are fitted (they wear better than cloth and are easy to wipe down), while the standard infotainment system is left in place (the aftermarket computer system that controls the blues and twos, as well as having its own sat-nav feature, is hinged to cover the standard system but can easily be lifted up).

Does it have holes in the roof?Volvo V90 police car

You used to be able to spot an ex-police car by holes in its roof where the lights were fitted. That’s not the case any more… everything is flush mounted, and cabling for the LED roof lights runs through the roof bars. All this helps when the police car has to be sold after retirement.

How long do forces keep police cars?Volvo V90 police car

Traditionally, forces would keep traffic cars for a maximum of three years and 100,000-150,000 miles. Now, budget cuts dictate that forces must keep hold of them for longer – as much as five years and several hundred thousand miles – so they need to be pretty robust.

How often are police cars serviced?Volvo V90 police car

Most police forces have their own workshop for routine servicing, which is carried out regularly, while some even invest in diagnostic equipment to enable more serious work to be carried out. Obviously, under routine police work the cars can be damaged fairly regularly – and for bodywork they’re usually returned to a local Volvo dealer.

What other challenges do forces face?Volvo V90 police car

Over the last eight or so years, all traffic cars have been diesel, with police forces keen to save money on fuel. As diesel becomes a naughty word and police need to be seen to be doing their bit, we could see a shift towards petrol or hybrid police cars. Indeed, with a plug-in hybrid T8 V90 on its way, it’d be fair to assume these might be pressed into police duty.

What about driverless tech?Volvo V90 police car

Volvo is big on autonomous technology, and safety systems such the firm’s City Safety automatic emergency braking could prove to be problematic. If a car will do everything in its power to prevent a collision, how do police carry out tactical stops that involve making contact with other vehicles? Fortunately, for now, the technology can be turned off…

And in the future?Volvo V90 police car

Who knows? Police cars are a tiny part of what Volvo does, so it won’t hold back on developing its driverless features for those rare occasions when traffic officers need to take control. Will we see driverless police cars? “Cars will outskill even police drivers,” Volvo’s special vehicles chief, Ulf Rydne, told us.

Will we see Volvo V90 police cars on UK roads?Volvo V90 police car

There are a few hoops Volvo has to jump through before we’ll see V90 police cars on the roads. It needs to be added to the Home Office framework, which means it’s approved for UK police forces. But as Swedish police have already tested the V90 and given it a 9.2/10 rating – higher than any other car ever – it’s unlikely that it won’t be approved in the UK. We ought to see V90 police cars patrolling our motorways by the end of 2017.