LEVC TX eCity

Taxi! First drive – and ride – in London’s new hybrid black cab

LEVC TX eCity

I’m heading for the offices of the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), when I pass a souvenir shop. There, in the window, among Harry and Meghan tea towels, fluffy British bulldogs and Big Ben bookends, are two toy vehicles: a red bus and a black cab. Because few things say ‘London’ quite like its traditional taxi.

One way the black cab has become so iconic, a cynic might suggest, is by failing to move with the times. The motorised Hackney Carriage has only seen three significant updates since the Austin FX3 of 1948. The car I’m here to drive changes all that. Behind that familiar face, London finally has a high-tech taxi it deserves.

Going by the snappy title of LEVC TX eCity, the new cab ditches outdated diesel engines for plug-in tech. It’s cleaner, cheaper to run, safer and more socially acceptable. It’s also much nicer for both passengers and drivers, as I’ll discover. Here’s what you need to know.

It comes from Coventry, via Sweden and China

LEVC is owned by Chinese carmaker, Geely, but the TX is built in the UK – at a new factory in Ansty, near Coventry. A £325 million investment has created 1,000 new jobs, plus capacity to build more than 20,000 taxis per year.

Geely, which recently bought Lotus, is best known for bankrolling the rebirth of Volvo. Since the takeover in 2010, Volvo has launched a new range of award-winning cars and SUVs, plus standalone sub-brand Polestar.

The LEVC TX eCity borrows many parts from its Swedish cousin, including an electric motor from the sporty Polestar 1 (which has two of them).

Plug-in tech has made black cabs green

LEVC TX eCity

LEVC refers to the TX as ‘electric’ because its 1.5-litre petrol engine is only used to boost the batteries – not drive the wheels. More accurately, it’s a range-extender hybrid, with plug-in points for both CCS- and Chademo-style chargers either side of the front grille.

The batteries can be topped up to 80% capacity in 25 minutes, and full charge gives an electric-only range of 80 miles – two thirds of the 120 miles a typical cabbie drives in a day.

Quoted fuel economy is 217.3mpg, although that drops to just 36.7mpg with the batteries depleted. Still, the old diesel-powered TX4 managed 33.2mpg at best.

One stumbling block for LEVC is that only 60% of cabbies have off-street parking to charge overnight. For those that do, however, the savings are significant. My driver, Pat, says his TX costs £2.80 to charge and saves £80 a week in fuel – around £4,000 a year – versus his TX4.

It’s much more pleasant for passengers

The plan is for Pat to chauffeur me into central London, then I’ll drive back. Opening the TX’s big, rear-hinged ‘suicide’ door, there are now six seats rather than five, along with appreciably more space. Passengers in wheelchairs can face forwards for the first time: a notable safety gain.

The fabrics and fittings are still very much ‘wipe clean’, but there’s air-conditioning, on-board wi-fi and charging sockets for phones and laptops. A standard-fit panoramic glass sunroof bathes the cabin in light – and offers a great view of London’s loftier landmarks. “Tourists love it,” smiles Pat.

On the move, the TX is smooth and eerily quiet, a calm cocoon amid the bustling streets and a stark contrast to rattling taxis of old. With just me on board, its ride feels on the firm side, although a full complement of six passengers would doubtless dampen it down.

And it’s the “ultimate driving machine” for cabbies

Pat pulls over by Regent’s Park and it’s my turn to take the wheel. If you’ve driven any recent Volvo, the TX’s dashboard will feel instantly familiar. There’s a rebranded version of the Sensus touchscreen media system and even the key is the same.

Squared-off styling and a high, SUV-like driving position make the TX easy to place on the road. It’s astonishingly manoeuvrable, too, mainly thanks to front wheels that swivel 63 degrees (versus 38 degrees in a typical car). Three-point turns are a thing of the past.

The instant torque of the electric motor offers brisk acceleration, even if top speed is a modest 80mph. You can also switch into one of two regenerative braking modes, which use friction to slow the car and charge the batteries – allowing one-pedal driving at city speeds.

The new cab is a great way to travel around London – and not only because you can zip along bus lanes. It’s capable and well suited to its environment. Sadly, the same can’t be said of me, and I rely on Pat’s directions to get us home. Sat nav is optional, but it’s no substitute for three years of learning The Knowledge.

First stop: London, then the world…

LEVC TX eCity

LEVC has plans that stretch far beyond the M25. A few weeks ago, a fleet of TXs arrived in Edinburgh and the cab is already carrying passengers in Amsterdam, Hamburg and Oslo.

There’s even talk of the TX being sold in New York – in iconic ‘yellow cab’ livery, no less – now the city’s taxi industry has been deregulated. It sure beats the ‘van with windows’ Nissan NV200.

London will remain LEVC’s biggest market, though, and the TX has already become part of the streetscape here. Shame the souvenir industry hasn’t kept pace; it’s still flogging toy TX4s…

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The Grand Tour Game

The Grand Tour video game lets you race against Jeremy Clarkson

The Grand Tour GameEver watch The Grand Tour and wish it was you behind the wheel, smoking the rears of a 1,000hp hypercar at Portimao circuit? Well, wish no more. Provided you have an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 console, The Grand Tour Game is here to sate your cravings for supercar buffoonery.

Images and video from the game show famous Grand Tour machines such as P1 OOV (the McLaren P1 press car), the Rimac Concept One (as crashed by Hammond), Porsche 918 Spyder and indeed the Lada fire engine.

Xbox vs PlayStation: how to be a (virtual) racer

The game seems to be more of an arcade racer than the last word in driving simulation, with ‘power-ups’ available. ‘High tea’ mode, meanwhile, spreads cups and saucers across the track to shred opponents tyres. Think bananas in Mario Kart…

As for the boys, they’re obviously integral to the TGT experience, and this is also true of the game. They feature as opponents, with original voice acting to boot.

A four-player split screen option is a clever inclusion by developer Amazon Game Studios, given racing titles of recent years have favoured online multiplayer modes instead. Graphics-wise, it won’t worry Forza Motorsport 7 or Gran Turismo Sport, but it looks decent.

The Grand Tour GameNaturally Clarkson, Hammond and May had a few things to say about the game.

“It’s a video game featuring me, the crashy one, and the slow one. That’s all you need to know,” said Jeremy Clarkson. “If you’ve always wanted to come on the road with us, this is as close as you’ll ever get. Unless you kidnap James and steal his face.”

“If you’ve ever wanted to do my job, now you can,” said James May. “Obviously not literally, it’s just a game, so please don’t go through the drawers of my desk.”

“I live in the deep countryside, so frankly I’m impressed by anything that runs on electricity,” said Richard Hammond. “But I have to admit this game is particularly brilliant, especially the four-player split screen.”

To find out more about The Grand Tour Game, click here.

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Disguised new 2019 BMW Z4

Motor show for millionaires: new car debuts at Monterey Car Week 2018

Disguised new 2019 BMW Z4It’s Monterey Car Week 2018, which means we’ll soon be swamped with headlines about all things automotive: new, old and everything in between. This high-rolling automotive frenzy on America’s west coast – which includes the famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – has become a region-wide show all its own, with every facet of upmarket car culture explored and enjoyed.

With the world’s eyes on the California coast, the event has become a popular way to launch new cars. This year looks better than ever, with some of the coolest and most important new supercars on display – including the world reveal of the car pictured above, BMW’s hotly-anticipated Z4 roadster.  

Here, we run through the ones no auto enthusiast can afford to miss.

Audi PB 18 e-tron

Audi PB 18 e-tron

Audi’s electric supercar racer is dedicated to the Pebble Beach event – note the ‘PB’ in its name. We don’t know much else about the PB 18 e-tron though, although from what we’ve seen so far, it looks superb. Are there hints, perhaps, of the electric-powered R8 successor? Does Audi have a global headline-grabber waiting for us at Monterey?

Automobili Pininfarina PF0

Automobili Pininfarina PF0

The fledgling manufacturer, born out of the legendary styling house, is showing its first car to customers at Monterey. The Automobili Pininfarina PF0 EV supercar is said to be capable of 250 mph and have simple, uncluttered styling, similar to classically beautiful Pininfarina designs of old.

BMW Z4

BMW Concept Z4

Somewhat closer to everyday reality comes the long-awaited new BMW Z4. The fruit of a joint development effort with Toyota, the Z4 shares a platform with the soon-to-be-revealed Supra Mk5. The concept Z4 debuted at Pebble Beach this time last year; it’s fitting the world debut will occur at Monterey too. This is going to be a big-news event, alright.

Brabham BT62

Brabham BT62

“The Brabham BT62 is set to win the hearts and minds of the American public,” says its maker. And, when wrapped in green and gold Dan Gurney livery – in honor of the first Brabham driver to win an F1 Grand Prix – who are we to argue? The 710 horsepower BT62 is a track-only hypercar that runs on slick tires and generates over 2,600 pounds of downforce.

Bugatti Divo

Bugatti Divo

The Divo is a curious machine, given what we know about it so far. A Bugatti track car? Not exactly ground it has covered with its last three products. Still, the Vision Gran Turismo demonstrated Bugatti isn’t averse to the idea. The $5 million Divo will be based on the Chiron platform, but the company insists they are two distinct cars.

Hennessey Venom F5

Hennessey Venom F5

John Hennessey himself will be at Monterey to give us an update on the Venom GT’s successor, the $1.6 million Venom F5. What’s ‘F5’? That’s a speed range for Tornado jets, ranging from 260 to 318mph. So you get an idea of what Hennessey’s planning here; the current target is 301mph, courtesy of 1,600 horsepower.

We don’t yet know what engine will deliver this fearsome power, though: could that be confirmed at Monterey, along with more details of a mooted land speed record run?

Infiniti Prototype 10

Infiniti Prototype 10

Infiniti is bringing a single seater concept to Monterey! An all-electric one at that, as the latest instalment in its vision of the future. Encouragingly, design chief Karim Habib – whose arrival at Infiniti has ushered in this new era of design – says the Prototype 10 has been inspired by “an optimistic bygone era in which cars were characterized by the simple love of driving”. We await more with encouragement.

Mercedes-Benz EQ Silver Arrow

Mercedes-Benz EQ Silver Arrow

This retro-styled EV racer is set to pull off that old trick of amalgamating old and new, looking to the future while sweating its heritage. It will resemble the old smooth-body speed record Silver Arrow cars, but pass by with the hum of electric motors – rather than the thrash of a straight-eight.

Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

The new fastest car around the Nürburgring is to appear at Pebble Beach with a raging bull on its snout and ‘Jota’ on its rump. The Lamborghini Aventador SVJ is the fastest flagship Lambo to date, the Jota name a nod to the original Miura Jota of 1970.

Singer DLS

Singer DLS

Don’t be fooled by those classic looks, Singer’s new ‘Dynamics and Lightweighting Study’ packs a fearsome punch. And a 500 horsepower Porsche flat-six tuned by Williams is just the start. The spec list also includes carbon fiber bodywork, multi-link suspension, carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes and magnesium BBS wheels. The ultimate 911?

Volkswagen ID R

Volkswagen ID R

Two months after smashing the Pikes Peak record, Volkswagen’s all-electric racer appears in more sedate surroundings at Pebble Beach. The 680 horsepower ID R, which set a time of 7mins 57.1sec for the legendary hill climb, will be joined on stage by the new VW Atlas Tanoak pick-up.

BMW M8 Gran Coupe Concept

BMW M8 Gran Coupe Concept

BMW’s showing the production M850i Coupe at Monterey, but is also giving the four-door M8 Gran Coupe Concept its North American debut. After 19 years, the 8 Series moniker is back, and BMW wants nobody at Monterey to miss it.

Byton

Byton

Byton’s debut at Monterey will be the first time a Chinese brand has shown cars there. And they’re quite the cars: the K-Byte Concept is a Tesla Model S-challenging sedan that claims Level 4 self-driving autonomy, and is being shown in the U.S. for the first time.

The M-Byte, meanwhile, is an SUV that has the Tesla Model X in its crosshairs and actually goes into production in China next year – and the U.S. by 2020. We wonder if Elon himself might head over to check out the competition…

Polestar’s North American debut

Polestar 1

Polestar is Volvo’s new performance electric car brand and it’s making its North American debut throughout the Monterey Bay area during Monterey Car Week. It will be bringing the Polestar 1 production-ready concept, and the designer of the car, Thomas Ingenlath (also Polestar CEO) will ensure it gets plenty of attention as he’s also been named as an honorary judge for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

“It’s great to bring Polestar to America,” he said. “North America is a major market for our new brand and we have received great feedback and high interest in the Polestar 1 from our American customers. So far, nearly 200 customers have placed deposits in the United States alone – the largest number of any country. Now it’s their turn to see the car in person and in a beautiful environment.”

Nissan showcase

Nissan GT-R50

Nissan is the first featured marque of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which is worth a mention in itself. Will it bring a road car surprise to help mark the occasion in style? It’s one worth keeping an eye on – already confirmed is the next-generation Nissan Formula E race car, the North American debut of the divine Nissan GT-R50 by Italdesign pictured above… oh, and more than 50 retro Nissan and Datsun racers, to help provide some old school context to the new metal.

SSC Tuatara

SSC Tuatara

Way back in 2011, SSC revealed the Tuatara, a hypercar it claimed would secure the production car world land speed record. Only 12 would be built, each powered by a twin-turbo V8 engine. Seven years on, we’ve heard little… but now SSC has revealed the engine that will power the Tuatara, so maybe things are finally set to get real. Here’s hoping: that speed record isn’t getting any easier to achieve…

The Quail and the Sale

Ferrari 250 GTO

Aside from the headline events of car week, Pebble Beach and the Concours d’Elegance, the Quail Motorsports Gathering sees a group of cars put on display at Quail Lodge, without judging, for a select group of ticket-holders.

Several big-money sales are taking place, too, with Bonhams and RM Sotheby’s offering a bumper selection of priceless rarities and classics. RM could set an auction record with this Ferrari 250 GTO, among a selection of other fabulous Ferraris going under the hammer.

Keep coming back for more news from Monterey Car Week 2018…

Pininfarina PF0 Concept Sketch

Pininfarina PF0 electric hypercar: ‘American dream’ becomes reality

Pininfarina PF0 Concept Sketch

Monterey Car Week approaches, with the famous Pebble Beach concours this weekend. That means a lot of significant new car debuts – some more significant, to both manufacturer and market, than others. Few can top Automobili Pininfarina in such stakes, though. The debut of its self-made car signifies the realisation of an American dream. 

The PF0 electric hypercar is limited to 150 units and capable of more than 250mph. The Pininfarina name is one of the most revered in the industry, with Battista Farina first journeying to the States in the 1920s to court industry titans and shape his ideas. The gifted pens of his Turin styling house, Pininfarina, sketched the lines of some of the most beautiful cars in history – many of which regularly enjoy the limelight at Pebble Beach.

The company’s ultimate goal, however, was always to produce a car under its own name. Automobili Pininfarina and the PF0 are the realisation of Battista Farina’s original ambition.

“Our American dream was established in the 1920s even before the company was formed” said Paolo Pininfarina.

“My grandfather, Battista, visited Ford and at the end of his tour and had lunch with Henry Ford, who asked him to become their chief stylist. But he had other ideas and the rest is automotive history”.

Michael Perschke, CEO Automobili Pininfarina, is excited by the auctions: “Our time at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and in the Monterey auction houses will also be a highlight. We will celebrate Pininfarina’s unique place in automotive history and undoubtedly pick up further inspiration for our future range of cars from these Italian masterpieces”.

What can we expect of the car itself? Everything we know so far is collated here, although we won’t have to wait long to hear and see more. Of the car’s relation to previous Pininfarina pieces, design director Luca Borgogno said “we are defining a car that is not overdesigned; we want something that is super clean and looks impossibly simple. Whenever you look back at classic Pininfarina cars, these qualities stand out”.

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Audi on demand

Audi on demand: hire a new car from one hour to 28 days

Audi on demandLike the idea of driving a new Audi, but don’t want to commit to buying one? The launch of the Audi On Demand ‘mobility service’ in the UK is your answer.

With prices starting from £70 a day (they range up to £190), motorists can rent an Audi for periods as brief as one hour, up to 28 days. The fee covers everything – including fully comprehensive insurance and roadside assistance – and there’s no mileage limit.

Delivery and collection are free within a 30-mile radius of an Audi dealer, and renters can also collect from the showroom itself.

Audi on demand

At the moment, it’s only Audi Manchester (in Oldham) that’s offering the Audi On Demand car rental service, but others will soon follow. Edinburgh and Glasgow are launching this week, with Newcastle, Birmingham and London all launching in 2018.

Longer-term, Audi plans to take the scheme nationwide.

Audi on demand

How does it work? First, register on www.uk.audiondemand.com, says the firm. If you’re eligible, you can then choose from a “continually expanding” menu of cars that currently includes:

  • Audi A1
  • Audi A3
  • Audi A4
  • Audi A5
  • Audi Q3
  • Audi Q5

Customers at selected locations will also find they can try an Audi A5 Cabriolet, Audi S3 or Audi A5.

To take delivery of the car, customers need to show a custom QR code, plus photo ID and a valid driving licence. And that’s it – then drive away in a brand new Audi for as long as your loan agreement says.

“Audi On Demand is the premium mobility service with a difference,” said Audi UK director Andrew Doyle. “The traditional model of ownership is constantly evolving and this innovative concept firmly puts Audi UK ahead when it comes to meeting customer demand and transforming into a digital premium car company.”

There are plans to launch a service for business customers in 2019, and roll out yet more mobility products “based around the same mantra of customer flexibility and convenience”.

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Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce Ti

Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio upgraded with revised engines and Apple CarPlay

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce TiAlfa Romeo is upgrading the Giulia and Stelvio range in time for the September 2018 registration change, with cleaner Euro 6D ‘WLTP-compliant’ engines, new trims, and the introduction of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across the range.

The top 40 cars available with Apple CarPlay in the UK

Apple CarPlay to finally offer Waze, Google Maps

The smartphone-linking functionality is part of the 8.8-inch Alfa Connect infotainment system, which also includes standard sat nav on all models.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce Ti

The Euro 6D upgrade sees AdBlue NOx reduction added to both 2.2-litre turbodiesels – and they both receive a 10hp power boost, so are rated at 160hp and 190hp respectively. In the Giulia, both claim 57.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 129g/km.

The 2019 model year Giulia range, which starts from £32,490, receives an equipment boost for individual models, too. Speciale versions have new 18-inch diamond-cut alloys, rear privacy glass and black brake calipers, while Veloce models get dark-finish five-hole 18-inch alloys, rear privacy glass and a standard auto-unlock Convenience pack.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

The fiery Quadrifoglio (pictured above) also gets rear privacy glass, along with anodised black brake calipers and, for the more practicality-minded, 20/20/40 split-fold rear seats with a third rear centre seatbelt.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce Ti

Alfa has introduced a new model for the 2019 model year, called Giulia Veloce Ti. Priced from £45,500, this is aimed at mixing Quadrifoglio looks with more accessible (and affordable) Veloce 280hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol performance.

The Veloce Ti gets the 19-inch dark five-hole alloys previously reserved for the Quadrifoglio, plus carbon grille and door mirrors, red brake calipers and the choice of optional Competizione Red and Trofeo White. There’s a £1,650 Carbon Pack option too.

(Top tip for spotting it at a glance over the Quadrifoglio? The replacement of the ‘green cloverleaf’ shields on the front wings with a ‘Veloce’ badge – although it doesn’t get the flared arches of the QV, either…)

Inside, Quadrifoglio leather and Alcantara sports seats are fitted, plus carbon interior trim, leather dashboard, black rooflining and illuminated carbon door sills. A Quadrifoglio in all but engine – and the turbo four still does 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, while also returning 40.9mpg instead of barely 30mpg…

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

And the 2019 Stelvio range? Priced from £36,990, Super models receive Michelin Crossclimate winter tyres, the Speciale has rear privacy glass and black brake calipers, and the Quadrifoglio gets rear privacy glass, anodised brake calipers and 20-inch five-hole alloys in silver.

Alfa Romeo launches five-year warranty

Alfa also reminds us that its cars are now offered with a five-year, 75,000-mile warranty, which is backed up with three years’ free servicing and five years’ roadside assistance. A sign, perhaps, that modern Alfas now appeal to the head as well as the heart?

2019 Alfa Romeo Giulia pricesPrice
Giulia 2.0 Turbo petrol 200hp Super£32,490
Giulia 2.2 Turbo diesel 160hp Super£33,140
Giulia 2.2 Turbo diesel 190hp Speciale£36,990
Giulia 2.0 Turbo petrol 280hp Veloce£38,975
Giulia 2.0 Turbo petrol 280hp Veloce TI£45,500
Giulia 2.9 V6 Bi-Turbo 510hp Quadrigolio£62,500
Giulia 2.9 V6 Bi-Turbo 510hp Quadrigolio NRING£82,500
2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio pricesPrice
Stelvio 2.2 Turbo diesel 190hp RWD Super£36,990
Stelvio 2.0 Turbo petrol 200hp AWD Super£37,590
Stelvio 2.2 Turbo diesel 190hp AWD Super£38,790
Stelvio 2.2 Turbo diesel 210hp AWD Speciale£43,390
Stelvio 2.0 Turbo petrol 280hp AWD Speciale£44,790
Stelvio 2.2 Turbo diesel 210hp AWD Milano Edizione£45,090
Stelvio 2.0 Turbo petrol 280hp AWD Milano Edizione£46,490
Stelvio 2.9 V6 Bi-Turbo 510hp AWD Quadrifoglio£69,500
Stelvio 2.9 V6 Bi-Turbo 510hp AWD Quadrifoglio NRING£89,500
Volkswagen Beetle Vase [Cabrio dash]

The best car features owners didn’t know they had

Volkswagen Beetle Vase [Cabrio dash]

A survey of 2,000 UK motorists by Citnow has uncovered the 10 best-loved features owners found in their cars.

These range from interior ‘easter eggs’ that surprise and delight, to genuinely useful features that we’re surprised aren’t seen more widely.

Let’s look at the list…

Volkswagen Golf GTI: golf ball gearknob

Volkswagen Golf GTI Golf Ball Gear Shift

‘GTI’ is one of the most prestigious names in hot hatchery and by extension, one of the most revered badges on the road. Today, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is the perfect double act of genuine class-beating competency and fun throwbacks to GTIs of old. One example of the latter is the golf ball on the gearknob, which heads the list of best-loved features .

Volkswagen Beetle: flower vase

Volkswagen Beetle Vase [from above]

If you thought the golf ball shifter was a fun trinket, the Volkswagen Beetle and its dashboard vase will appeal. The ‘New Beetle’, when it arrived in 1997, aimed to distil the cultural phenomenon of the original in a contemporary package. Yes, even down to some flower power… Motoring meets botany, resulting in perhaps the weirdest feature of any car from the last 20 years. It makes number two on the list.

Vauxhall Corsa: Flexfix integrated bike rack

Vauxhall FlexFix Bike Rack

The Beetle’s vase can be best described as a gimmick that’s most useful when you’re without a place to store your pens. The Flexfix slide-out bike rack on the Corsa (available as far back as 2000) is of rather more use to more people. Clever packaging makes it third on the best-loved list.

Skoda: integrated umbrella

Skoda Superb Umbrella

This one, especially for Brits, is a no-brainer, and somthing you’ll find in both a Rolls-Royce and a Skoda Superb. The door-stored umbrella has to be a godsend whenever you park up in wet weather. The challenge is remembering that it’s tucked away there.

Mini: ambient lighting

MINI Ambient Lighting

In the coolness stakes, this is close to the top. Ambient lighting has proliferated throughout the car market, but the playful implementation in the Mini is rated one of the best-loved features by buyers.

Honda: Magic Seats

Honda Magic Seats

Heading the list of practical but not necessarily cool quirks are Honda’s ‘Magic Seats’. These flip-up rear seats, which create a floor-to-ceiling storage space, debuted on the Jazz in the early 2000s and eventually made their way onto the Civic. Unlike a lot of what’s on this list, they are a genuinely useful feature if your Jazz or Civic is thus equipped!

Mini Convertible: Openometer

MINI Openometer

Aaaaaand… we’re back to the gimmicks. It doesn’t get much sillier than the Mini Convetible’s ‘Openometer’. This gauge records the amount of time you have spent travelling with the roof down. At least you can say with the utmost certainty how much sunshine you’ve got, before deciding whether to buy another drop-top.

Nissan: curry hook

Nissan Curry Hook

As unknown features go, this is about as middle-of-the-road as they get. How many cars do you know of with a hook specifically for takeaways? Er, none? Well, there is one. From 1996, the Nissan Almera came equipped with this feature, which you can now find in the boots of many new cars.

Renault Modus: Boot Chute

Renault Modus Boot Chute

This is a feature that was absolutely infamous at the time, mostly among journalists. The boot chute is one of those great ideas that simply didn’t catch on (the name surely didn’t help, although this was, remember, the company that also gave us the Renault Wind).

Too close to a car or a wall behind you? Need to load shopping? No problem! The lower part of the tailgate opened to create a ‘Boot Chute’. It provided excellent access for luggage in confined spaces. Bring it back, Renault!

DS 3: perfume dispenser

DS 3 Perfume Dispenser

The last item on the list is the DS 3’s perfume dispenser. Of course, it’s not actually exclusive to the DS. Many cars are now getting integrated fragrances, but it remains a laughable hidden feature.

Or is it? Plenty of us fit our own air fresheners, so why should a built-in one seem weird? Regardless, it rounds off the top 10 hidden features that buyers love.

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Ford Mustang Bullitt in Kona Blue

Ford is raffling the world’s only blue Mustang Bullitt for charity

Ford Mustang Bullitt in Kona BlueFord has built a one-off Mustang Bullitt in BLUE and is now raffling it to raise up to $60,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

Instead of the iconic Dark Highland Green (or the Shadow Black alternative that few are expected to option), the JDRF Mustang Bullitt is finished in Kona Blue metallic and comes with bespoke grey wheels.

The blue exterior theme is carried through inside: the black leather seats and dashboard are stitched with blue thread.

Ford Mustang Bullitt in Kona Blue

The special Mustang is the star of Ford’s stand at the 2018 Woodward Dream Cruise; it’s on show at the Ford Media Club House at Kruse and Muer, Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak. There, visitors can buy a ticket for the raffle, for $10 a go.

Ford will later move the JDRF Mustang Bullitt to Mustang Alley at the intersection of 9 Mile and Woodward Avenue in Ferndale.

But although it has a cool new blue paint job, the Mustang Bullitt is unchanged beneath the surface. Which means the 5.0-litre V8 still puts out 480hp, for a top speed of 163mph.

Ford Mustang Bullitt in Kona Blue

It has the same minimal badging too, and Ford has retained both the blacked-out grille and, of course, the white cue ball gear shifter.

The raffle will close on November 9th. The winner will be selected on November 13th.

Can’t visit Woodward Dream Cruise but still want to be in with a chance of winning the blue Mustang Bullitt? You can also buy tickets online – visit: www.onecause.com/jdrfbullitt. 

Go on – it’s all for charity. And it could secure you one of the most collectable Mustangs on the planet…

In pictures: Kona Blue Mustang Bullitt

(click to see more)

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Rulebreakers: 25 wild hot hatches with a twist

We believe that a true hot hatch should be front-wheel drive, powered by a four-cylinder engine, based on a humble hatchback and have a glass tailgate at the rear. Or, maybe we’re just getting old.

Some of the hot hatches featured in this gallery are pretty conventional, while others bend the rules just a little…

Aston Martin Cygnet V8

Aston Martin V8 Cygnet

Our Ethan Jupp suggested this might be the world’s craziest hot hatch, and he might have a point. Unveiled at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Toyota… sorry, Aston Martin Cygnet V8 boasts a power-to-weight ratio of 371hp per tonne and will hit 60mph in 4.2 seconds. Whether you’d feel safe taking the supermini formerly known as the iQ to its 170mph top speed is up for debate, but you have to admire this crazy one-off.

Renault 5 Turbo

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

If a V8-powered Toyota iQ with a posh badge stretches the definition of a hot hatch, things aren’t going to improve with the Renault 5 Turbo. It had very little in common with the regular Renault 5 parked on the high street, with its unique parts making it extremely expensive to build. This meant it was also expensive to buy, which is why Renault launched a cheaper Turbo 2.

MG Metro 6R4

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

The MG Metro 6R4: Austin Rover’s supercar and the most bonkers Metro you’ll ever meet. It’s amazing to think that you could buy the 6R4 rally car off-the-shelf for £40,000. Even more amazing was the fact that this mighty Metro sounded like an F1 car, performed like a supercar and was talented enough to do battle with any contemporary rally car.

Peugeot 205 T16

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

It took Jean Todt and his team at Peugeot-Talbot Sport just two years to produce a mid-engined four-wheel drive rally car, yet despite the haste, the 205 T16 proved to be a formidable machine on the rally circuit. The competition car and its road-going equivalent were light years away from the regular 205, but the T16 offered showroom appeal by the lorry load. In its day, the four-wheel drive, mid-engined T16 cost £26,999 – the equivalent of £77,770 today.

Volkswagen Golf W12-650

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Probably the most outlandish Golf ever made, the 650 in the Golf W12-650 referred to the car’s power output: 650ps. This power was sent to to the rear wheels – so not an authentic hot hatch, then – via a six-speed Tiptronic gearbox. It wasn’t just the power that was pumped up to the max: the bodywork is such that it looks almost cartoon-like, too wild to be a reality. Which, of course, it wasn’t. The W12 remains a concept, which is probably good news for the world’s driving licences.

Audi A1 Quattro

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

For the ultimate Audi A1, forget the 231hp S1 launched in 2015, what you really need is the 256hp A1 Quattro of 2012. Only 333 were built, each one commanding £41,020 when new, so it’s hardly surprising that only 19 were sold in the UK, especially when you consider that it wasn’t available as a right-hooker. Essentially, the A1 Quattro is an S3 in a supermini suit, which means that it’s super-quick: 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 152mph.

Renaultsport Clio V6

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Not content with building the world’s finest hot hatches, Renault decided it could extract even more from its humble supermini. The Clio V6 was the kind of crazy idea that rarely sees the light of day, yet somehow Renault really did remove the rear seats and stick a 3.0-litre V6 into the back of a supermini. The original Clio V6 developed a reputation for being a little lairy, but the Mk2 was more refined, thanks to a little help from Porsche.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Volkswagen has a habit of building special editions to mark important milestones in the history of the Golf GTI, and the Clubsport S was its 40th anniversary present. That it broke the official Nurburgring record for a front-wheel drive car is largely irrelevant, but the fact that this thing pumped out a whopping 310hp certainly isn’t. Sure, it’s not as wild as the W12, but the Clubsport S had no rear seats and, more importantly, it made production.

Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy-R

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

The Megane 275 Trophy-R is another hot hatch with a Nurburgring lap record to its name and is, as the spiritual successor to the R26.R, one of the most hardcore Meganes you can buy. Renaultsport left no stone unturned in pursuit of weight-saving, removing everything from the rear wiper to the back seats. In return it added Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, Speedline alloys, Recaro bucket seats, Ohlins adjustable dampers, composite front springs and an Akrapovic titanium exhaust to create the ultimate version of one of the world’s best hot hatches.

Dodge Shelby Omni GLHS

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Who else but Carroll Shelby would build something as bonkers as the Omni GLHS. Powered by a 2213cc engine mated to a Garrett turbocharger, the 175hp Dodge could hit 60mph in a sports car-taming 6.7 seconds. Mr Shelby added Koni shocks, 15-inch ‘Centurion’ alloys and Goodyear performance tyres to the mix to create an all-American take on the hot hatch formula. The car pictured was owned by Carroll Shelby and sold for $27,500 at Monterey in 2016.

Mazda 323 GT-R

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Built for Group A homologation purposes, the Japan-only Mazda 323 GTR was based on the GTX and packed a 210hp punch, stiffer suspension, all-wheel drive, larger breaks and obligatory body enhancements. 

Nissan March Super Turbo

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

In the case of the March Super Turbo, Nissan isn’t guilty of adding unnecessary superlatives to a car’s name. You see, the 930cc Nissan March – or Micra – featured a supercharger and a turbocharger to create a SUPER TURBO. A lowly 110hp might not seem like a lot, but the twin-charged March weighed less than a bag of sugar, helping it to hit 62mph in 7.7 seconds. Not to be confused with the familiar ex-driving school Micra.

Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Until Audi unleashed the 400hp RS3, the Mercedes A45 AMG was the most powerful production hot hatch of the modern era. Three hundred and eighty one horsepower. Think about that for a moment – 381hp @ 6,000rpm. It remains a staggering figure for what is essentially a five-door family hatchback, especially when 300hp seemed like a lot just a few years ago.

AMC Gremlin 401-XR

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

We featured this AMC Gremlin 401-XR in April when it was listed for sale on bringatrailer.com. Only 21 examples of the 6.6-litre 401-XR were ever built, with Denwerks Vintage Car Shop creating car number 22 four years ago. In true American style, it was more at home on the quarter-mile than it would be on a B-road, but you’ve gotta love the Stateside take on the hot hatch recipe.

Mazda 3 MPS Extreme

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Even in their standard guise, the Mazda 3 and 6 MPS models are spoken about in hushed tones, famed for their no holds barred attitude to horsepower. Unveiled in 2007, the 3 MPS Extreme was, ahem… even more extreme, with Mazda squeezing an additional 27hp from the 2.3-litre turbocharged engine. The 282hp Extreme also featured Cootes suspension lowered by 25mm, 19-inch BBS alloys and cosmetic upgrades.

Vauxhall Astra VXR Extreme

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Back in 2014, when the Vauxhall Astra VXR Extreme broke cover at the Geneva motor show, a 300hp front-wheel drive hot hatch was a big deal. How times have changed. The Extreme also featured extensive use of carbon fibre, aluminium front wings, six-pot Brembo brakes, Hankook tyres, Recaro bucket seats, six-point harnesses and an Alcantara-clad steering wheel. In Renaultsport style, Vauxhall ditched the rear seats for a safety roll bar.

Volkswagen Golf GTI 16S

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Many of the cars featured here need to be viewed in the context of the era in which they were built. This is certainly true of the Golf GTI 16S, which is arguably the factory high-performance version Volkswagen should have built. Some 1,600 were built for the French and Swiss markets, with Oettinger swapping the original 8-valve engine for a light alloy 16-valve. The result was a 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 121mph.

Sbarro Super Twelve

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

The Sbarro Super Twelve – an 80s supercar the size of a Mini. This thing was powered by two six-cylinder 1300cc Kawasaki engines, each with its own five-speed gearbox. With 240hp on tap in a car weighing just 800kg, the performance figures are rather terrifying. A 0-60mph time of 5.0 seconds and a power-to-weight ratio to rival a Lamborghini Countach. What a thing!

Volkswagen Polo R WRC Street by B&B

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

There have been many wild Volkswagen creations over the years – we could have filled the entirely gallery with Wörthersee special editions or aftermarket creations. The Polo R WRC Street by B&B cost a staggering €41,850, but the performance figures are as astonishing as the price. Total output of 362hp and 376lb ft – more powerful than the Polo WRC rally car!) – provided a top speed of 168mph and a 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds.

Audi RS3 Sportback

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Remember when hot hatches were slightly unhinged, lightweight and relatively affordable? The Audi RS3 Sportback is light years away from this vision of utopia, with a £44,755 price tag, 400hp and a 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds. Thanks to its 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine, it sounds fantastic, but the driving experience is more large car than hot hatch.

Peugeot 308 R Hybrid

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Peugeot unveiled the 308 R Hybrid at the Shanghai motor show in 2015, and while a production version hasn’t been released, this could represent the hot hatch of the future. By pairing a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine with a couple of electric motors, Peugeot created a 500hp monster, good enough to hit 62mph in 4.0 seconds. Green credentials are provided courtesy CO2 emissions of just 70g/km.

Renault Twin’Run V6

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Renault built the 5 Turbo and Clio V6, so why did it stop short of putting the Twin’Run V6 into production? Powered by a 3.5-litre V6 developing 320hp, the Twin’Run paid homage to the Renault 5 courtesy of its headlights and side decals, while the four LEDs are a nod to the light racks used on night specials.

MINI JCW Challenge

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

Developed in secret at the MINI Plant in Oxford, the JCW Challenge was approved by BMW, but the Germans acted merely as facilitators, letting the Brits run wild. The result was a race-bred MINI featuring Nitron shocks, Mintex brakes, Quaife limited-slip differential and Team Dynamics wheels. The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine was unchanged, with MINI saying: “It’s not about ultimate speed, but how much fun you have between [the corners].” Only 100 were built, each one costing £32,000.

Nissan Micra 350SR

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

What, another Nissan Micra? Again, the 350SR is a world away from the Micra driven by your gran, with a 350hp Nismo-fettled 3.5-litre V6 powering the rear wheels, along with a host of upgrades under the bonnet. The project took two years to complete and cost around a quarter of a million pounds to build.

Toyota Aygo Crazy

Rulebreakers: wild and extreme hot hatches

We conclude with a car that’s Crazy by name and crazy by nature: the Toyota Aygo Crazy. Powered by a mid-mounted and turbocharged MR2-sourced 1.8-litre engine, the Aygo Crazy developed 200hp and cost Toyota a rumoured £100,000 to produce. The Yaris GRMN is arguably the Aygo’s spiritual successor.

Lotus 70

Lotus celebrates 70th in tyre-smoking style

Lotus 70

This is a very special year for Lotus Cars. It’s the 70th anniversary of the historic British marque and it’s celebrating in style.

Remember Colin Chapman’s famous old mantra? Simplify, then add lightness? It is a methodology the marque has lived by for its road and racing cars since its inception – and it’s now followed suit with its 70th anniversary celebration video…

True to Lotus tradition, there’s no frippery or fakery here. “Rather than rely on artificial aids or electronic trickery, the new video perfectly reflects Lotus’s approach to sports cars”.

It depicts an Exige Sport 410 and an Evora GT410 Sport ripping around the company’s Hethel circuit smoking tyres in no particular direction. Nothing wrong with smoke for smoke’s sake. It is a special birthday, after all.

Then, we get a wide shot and, lo and behold, a rubber ’70’ is seen sprawled out, with the Exige adding just a bit more for good measure. Brilliant.

Lotus is fervent in stressing that “no CGI and more than a few pairs of tyres” were all that went into it. That, combined with some very skilled driving courtesy of Gavan Kershaw, head of attributes and Daniel Peck, vehicle dynamics engineer…

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