Coventry MotoFest

MotoFest event brings a £10 million boost to Coventry

Coventry MotoFest

There’s good news for Coventry businesses and MotoFest fans, as the event’s economic impact is revealed. The headline number: an estimated £10 million overall boost to local business incomes.

Power Maxed MotoFest Coventry is, in comparison to other motoring and racing events, still quite young. After just five years running, it’s impressive to see it make such a positive impact on the local area.

The numbers reveal a 35 percent rise in spending at city-centre businesses, while visitor numbers to the city were up 25 percent. The 136,000-visitor figure is higher than at any other time during 2018, making MotoFest Coventry’s most well-attended event.

MotoFest went some way to filling 98 percent of hotel rooms – 4,677 of 4,708 rooms were occupied in the city over the weekend. For reference, the average weekend sees 60-65 percent of rooms filled.

Coventry MotoFest

Businesses in the city enjoyed a superb boost throughout the weekend. The Yard and The Litten Tree – local eating and drinking establishments – enjoyed a 50 percent increase in turnover.

“The MotoFest weekend brought a great buzz to the city and I look forward to next year,” said Richard Easter from LE Projects Ltd, which operates The Litten Tree and The Yard.

“It’s great to know we are providing a £10 million boost to the city by filling the tills, hotel rooms and city centre itself during the festival weekend” said James Noble, Power Maxed MotoFest Coventry Festival Director.

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25 influential cars of the past 30 years

The most influential cars of the past 30 years

25 influential cars of the past 30 yearsSome cars enter production and fade away without anybody giving them a second thought. Others leave their mark on the industry, securing a place in motoring history. The following 25 cars have, in one way or another, shaped or influenced the car industry.

Tesla Model S

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

Whatever your thoughts on Elon Musk and Tesla, it’s impossible not to give the Model S credit for its influence on the EV sector. Six years on from its launch, we’re still using the Model S as the benchmark in the premium EV segment, which just goes to prove how far ahead of the curve it was. Only now are the likes of Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes beginning to play catch-up.

McLaren F1

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

F1 by name, F1 by nature – McLaren’s landmark supercar was the first road car with a carbon fibre chassis and featured tech so advanced, it was decades ahead of its time. It was every inch an F1 car for the road – assuming you had pockets the size of Rowan Atkinson’s – and the result of Gordon Murray’s obsessive approach to car design. Even the engine bay was lined with pure gold.

Toyota Prius

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

Love it or hate it, the Mk1 Toyota Prius was the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle, laying the foundations for a host of rival products. Its rather humdrum styling belied a technologically advanced setup, along with a drag coefficient of just Cd 0.29. Sales of 123,000 were only half the story – the original Prius proved there was a market for hybrid vehicles, with its name becoming a generic term for the segment.

BMW Mini

25 influential cars of the past 30 years


In 1999, the classic Mini was ranked second on the list of the 20th century’s most influential cars, but it’s not eligible for this gallery. Instead, we’re nominating the BMW Mini even if its inclusion will upset the purists. Launched in 2001, the new Mini featured retro styling, a classy interior, keen dynamics and more personalisation options than you could shake a stick at. It wasn’t the first retro-inspired car, but it was the best overall package. The Fiat 500 followed six years later.

Audi TT

25 influential cars of the past 30 years


Of the Audi TT, SangYup Lee, Bentley’s former head of exterior and advanced design and current vice president of design at Hyundai, said: “It is very difficult for me to come up with one car that shocked me as much as TT. This was the most influential car when I was a student. I still remember all my classmates, “Have you seen the TT? This car doesn’t have a bumper!” That was sensational back in those days. I remember in the classroom, looking at my classmates’ sketches, somehow they all looked similar to the TT.”

Toyota RAV4

25 influential cars of the past 30 years


In 1994, the Toyota RAV4 was described by Autocar’s Gavin Conway as “the best-handling off-roader I have driven.” High praise, for what was an automotive pioneer – a crossover before the crossover was even a thing. Sure, there had been plenty of 4x4s before, but the RAV4 combined the high driving position and ruggedness of an off-roader with the handling and dynamics of a hatchback.

Renault Megane Scenic

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

When Renault launched the original Megane Scenic in 1996, it was Europe’s first compact MPV. Developed from the Megane hatchback, the Scenic featured seating for five, space for luggage and a host of storage options throughout the cabin. The designers even called upon their children for help with the interior. Rivals soon followed, including the Vauxhall Zafira, which debuted as a concept in 1997.

Nissan Qashqai

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

Like it or not, the Nissan Qashqai has secured a place in the big book of motoring history. Nissan began working on the Qashqai as far back as 2002, during the development of a new Almera, but a shift in direction led to the design of a car offering the practicality of an SUV with the efficiency and dynamics of a hatchback. A raft of me-too rivals followed, but the Qashqai remains the country’s most popular crossover.

Lexus LS40025 influential cars of the past 30 years

Lexus went to extraordinary lengths in its quest to make the world’s finest luxury car, leaving no stone unturned in its crusade to out-Mercedes the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. In 2012, Car magazine placed the LS400 40th on the list of the 50 greatest cars of the past 50 years, saying it “exposed the contemporary S-Class as unrefined and crudely made: Lexus didn’t so much raise the bar in mechanical refinement and body engineering, as heave it heavenwards. It eclipsed the BMW 7 and Jaguar XJ.”

Ford Explorer

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

Until the Ford Explorer arrived for the 1991 model year, Americans went about their daily lives in station wagons. No vacation was complete without a heavily-laden wagon – just ask the Griswolds. The Explorer was based on the Ranger pick-up, but unlike its predecessor, the Bronco II, the SUV was available as a four-door, making it more attractive to families. By the mid-90s, it had cemented a position as one of the top 10 best-selling cars in the US.

Mazda MX-5

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

To this day, the answer remains MX-5. Or Miata, in the US. Or Eunos, in Japan. The fact is, the Mazda MX-5 rewrote the small sports car rulebook, taking lessons from the past to create the blueprint for a modern, affordable sports cars. Other manufacturers have tried and failed to replicate its magic.

Porsche Boxster

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

By the early 90s, Porsche was in a mess. Sales were in freefall and the company was too reliant on the 911. It needed a car offering more than just specialist appeal – one that could help it ride out the recession. Step forward the Boxster – a car that would trounce the opposition and show the world how to build a sports car for the new millennium.

Ford Puma

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

Rumour has it that BMW bought a couple of Ford Pumas when it was developing the new Mini. Why? Because the ‘New Edge’ coupe was arguably the best small front-wheel-drive car you could buy, making it the perfect benchmark for the soon-to-be-launched Mini. In a stroke, the Puma rendered all other small coupes obsolete – sorry, Vauxhall Tigra.

Nissan Leaf

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

The Tesla Model S might be the glamorous star of the EV segment, but the Nissan Leaf is the volume hero. Designed from the ground up to be an electric car, the original Leaf was spacious, relatively affordable, ‘normal’ to drive and accessible. In January 2018, the company announced that it had sold the 300,000th Leaf, making it the best-selling electric vehicle in the world. Today, a new Nissan Leaf is sold every 10 minutes across Europe.

Ford Focus

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

Ford caught the industry napping when it launched the Focus. Even in its most basic form, the Focus was a hoot to drive, propelling the ‘New Edge’ hatchback to the top of the class. By comparison, the Volkswagen Golf felt bloated and unwieldy. What made the Focus even more remarkable was the fact that it replaced the tired and outmoded Escort. Amazing.

Bugatti Veyron

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

James May described the Bugatti Veyron as “our Concorde moment”, with Clarkson labelling it “the greatest car ever made and the greatest car we will ever see in our lifetime.” It continues to fire our imagination and it remains the go-to supercar of choice for a new generation of young motoring fans. Bugatti’s single-minded pursuit of speed – and the associated records – has encouraged engineers to continue pushing boundaries, and the rest of us to keep dreaming.

Volvo XC90

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

It’s no coincidence that this gallery features more than a couple of SUVs. The Sport Utility Vehicle has replaced the estate car and the MPV as the default choice for family transport, as highlighted by the success of the original Volvo XC90. At the turn of the millennium, Volvo was a brand built on the estate car, but the XC90 changed everything, becoming a hero of countless soccer moms and dads. Today, the Volvo range features no fewer than three different SUVs.

Land Rover Discovery II

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

The original Discovery of 1989 was good, but the Discovery II was a quantum leap forward. It looked like the Disco I, but Land Rover – now under BMW ownership – was heavily revised, with a tweaked chassis and changes to almost every body panel. Safety was improved, the side-facing seats were good for more than just occasional use, and it felt more luxurious than before. In short, it had become the posh 4×4 to beat.


25 influential cars of the past 30 years

BMW had learned a great deal during its ownership of Land Rover, which is why the X5 was such an accomplished SUV. Actually, BMW decided to launch it under an entirely new category – Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV). In other words, it offered the luxury of an executive saloon, the performance of a sports car and the off-road capabilities of an SUV.

Porsche Cayenne

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

Anything BMW can do, Porsche can do slightly differently. The Boxster may have saved the company, but the Cayenne secured its future, opening the brand to a new audience and generating the profits required in order to do crazy things with 911 models. Without the Cayenne, there might not be a pick ‘n’ mix of Porsche models to choose from today.

BMW 3 Series

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

If you don’t believe the BMW 3 Series is influential, wait until the Paris Motor Show and the number of headlines, features and column inches dedicated to the world’s most popular premium saloon. Make no mistake, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Audi will be keen to get their hands on the new 3er, which, we suspect, will remain the class leader in terms of dynamics and driver appeal.

Chevrolet Volt

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

The Chevrolet Volt – along with its badge-engineered sibling, the Vauxhall Ampera – was the world’s first plug-in hybrid built by a volume manufacturer and should have been a springboard to greatness for GM. That it was a commercial flop shouldn’t take anything away from its influence on the segment. And, let’s remember, the Volt arrived at a time when people were still getting used to the idea of batteries and plugs. If nothing else, the Volt will have influenced the development of the Bolt – Chevrolet lost money on every Volt it sold.

Lexus RX

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

In 1997, Toyota unveiled the Sport Luxury Vehicle (SLV) concept at the Chicago Auto Show, with the production car debuting as the Toyota Harrier in December 1997. The following year, it was exported as the Lexus RX 300, and soon became the best-selling vehicle in its line-up. It was one of the first examples of a premium crossover and proved to be particularly successful in the US, where it was the only car to be seen in for image-conscious soccer moms and dads.

Renault Clio Williams

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

The Renault Clio Williams was the definitive hot hatch of the 90s, and it laid the foundations for a future of Renault Sport products. It’s thanks to the ‘Willy’ that the the likes of the Clio 172 and 182 exist. And for that, we must be thankful.

Uber taxi

25 influential cars of the past 30 years

Autonomous cars and ride-hailing apps – who knows what the future might hold? The Uber cab you took into town on Friday night might be playing a part in the next development of the motor car. In 10 years time, you might not be driving at all…

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Lotus Mark 1

Lotus needs your help to find its first ever car

Lotus Mark 1

In its 70th year, Lotus is rightly looking back at all aspects of its history, while also looking forward to a new era of investment from Geely. In going back to the very beginning, however, Lotus might just need your help. The marque is on the hunt for the very first car its founder, Colin Chapman, ever built: the 1948 Lotus Mark I.

It’s no surprise that Lotus is having a job tracking the car down. Despite its existence being well documented, there’s been no trace of the Mark I since it was sold in November 1950.

The car was based on an Austin 7. Typically, Chapman’s modifications comprised mainly of reducing weight, along with extensive chassis and suspension improvements. The car was campaigned in English Trials – primordial British rally events. His continued modification of, and success with, the Mark I proved to Chapman he had a future in motoring and racing. The “holy grail of Lotus’ history”, indeed.

Lotus Mark 1

“It’s the first time that my father was able to put his theories for improved performance into practice when designing and building a car” said Clive Chapman, Colin’s son and director of Classic Team Lotus.

“To locate this landmark Lotus, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary, would be a monumental achievement. We want fans to take this opportunity to look in every garage, shed, barn and lock up they’re allowed to.

“It’s even possible that the Mark I was shipped from the UK, and we’d love to know if it survives in another country.”

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The car firms NOT attending the 2018 Paris Motor Show

Motor show rebels

In case you hadn’t noticed, an increasing number of car manufacturers are choosing to stay away from motor shows, focusing more on smaller events, social media and direct-to-consumer activity. It means that this year’s Paris Motor Show is notable as much for the list of absentees as it is for the cars on show. Here, we guide you through a list of no-shows at this year’s motor show.



Abarth won’t be in Paris, which means you won’t be able to see the new 124 GT with its carbon fibre roof. But don’t worry, you could always pop down to your local Abarth dealer. According to FCA, the potential sales and publicity aren’t enough to warrant the spend on the show.

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo

Which means you won’t find a new Alfa Romeo gracing one of the halls at Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. What are you missing? Well, Alfa recently launched a new B-Tech package for the Giulia, Stelvio and Giulietta, and there are rumours of a further two SUVs and a new supercar. Fingers crossed the latter comes to fruition.

Aston Martin

Aston Martin

The chances are, Aston Martin would have used the Paris Motor Show to reveal plans for its next-generation hypercar due for release in late 2021. But, as Aston isn’t in Paris, it announced the details earlier this week, with ‘Project 003’ poised for a 500-car production run. It’ll feature active aerodynamics, active suspension and a hybridised turbocharged engine.



There will be a big, Bentley-shaped hole in Paris, but that doesn’t mean Crewe doesn’t have anything new to show. In August, Bentley unveiled the limited edition Mulsanne W.O. Edition by Mulliner at Monterey Car Week. The car pays homage to the company founder’s personal 8 Litre car, and just 100 will be built.



Don’t head to Paris in search of the refreshed 500X and the 500L S-Design, because Fiat is staying in Italy. Meanwhile, Fiat Professional has been at the Hanover Motor Show, showcasing the Ducato, Fullback and Doblo. Contain yourself.



Back in the 80s and 90s, it would have been unthinkable for Ford to be absent from a major international motor show, especially with such an important car to display. If you fancy a gander at the new Focus, simply head to your nearest Ford showroom. They’re not hard to find.



These days, many manufacturers use more intimate and specialised events to showcase new cars and concepts. The Infiniti Prototype 10 was revealed at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and hints at future design cues from Nissan’s posh arm. Cool thing.



Jeep is another victim of FCA’s decision to give Paris a miss, which means visitors will be denied the opportunity to see the new Cherokee, revamped Renegade and all-new Wrangler.



An international motor show without Lamborghini is like a trifle without a cherry. A picnic without a Scotch egg. Juventus without Ronaldo. A pizza without pineapple. No, wait, not the last thing.



Mazda has tweaked the 2.0-litre motor in the MX-5 to produce 184hp – 26hp more than before. It means that, cutting a potentially long and wordy review short, the best affordable sports car is better than ever. But you won’t be seeing it in Paris. Unless one happens to drive by when you’re on a romantic weekend away with your significant other.



It has been a busy year for McLaren. The 600LT made its world debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Senna was unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show, before gracing the cover of Forza Horizon 4.



The 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV won’t be in Paris, but fear not, because it’s already on sale in the UK. Buy one, and impress your friends with some killer stats, such as 46g/km CO2, an EV range of 28 miles and WLTP combined fuel economy of 139mpg.



Nissan might not be in Paris, but it hasn’t turned its back on motor shows. The Navara Dark Sky Concept, built in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), was unveiled at the Hanover Motor Show. It can tow a mobile astronomy laboratory, which makes a change from caravans and horseboxes.



This is the Rolls-Royce Dawn Black Badge owned by Benjamin Treynor Sloss, vice president of engineering at Google. He took delivery at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. In other news, Rolls-Royce recently opened a new showroom in Leeds, which is the UK’s fastest growing city. Fancy that.



Subaru might not be in Paris, but earlier this year, the brand returned to The Game Fair as the official sponsor of the Shooting Line, with a Forester offered as the top prize. Feels more authentic than taking a few highly-polished cars to the French capital.



Despite being owned by the French PSA Group, Vauxhall and Opel will be skipping Paris. “We made the decision to put a stronger emphasis on our own events for the upcoming product launches,” a spokesperson told Automotive News Europe.



Audi, SEAT and Skoda will be in Paris, but Volkswagen is taking a break. It’ll use the time to celebrate the five-star Euro NCAP safety rating for the new Touareg. The large SUV scored 89 percent for adult occupant safety, 86 percent for child occupant safety, 81 percent for safety assist and 72 percent for pedestrian safety.



On the subject of motor shows, Bjorn Annwall, Volvo’s senior vice president of strategy, brand and retail, told CNBC: “Why stand in a crammed hall together with all the competitors shouting when you can have a more intimate relationship and discussion with the relevant journalist at home?”

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DS Store Manchester showroom

ALL new cars will be bought on finance within 10 years, says Auto Trader

DS Store Manchester showroomCash is no longer king when it comes to buying a new car: within 10 years, predicts automotive marketplace Auto Trader, every new car sold in Britain will be bought using some form of finance.

Already, many brands say around three in four new cars sold to retail buyers are bought on PCP finance schemes. This trend is set to continue, says Auto Trader, as new types of finance roll out.

Key to the end of traditional car ownership will be the growth of subscription models. These will further broaden the choice of finance and leasing options available and make the idea of paying many thousands of pounds upfront for a new car seem quaint and old-fashioned.

“The age of traditional ownership is coming to an end,” said Auto Trader CFO and COO, Nathan Coe.

“As consumers increasingly source their cars in the same way they do their music or movies, the route from business to motorist will need to evolve alongside it.”

There are many new schemes emerging that offer the flexibility of services such as Uber with the independence of regular use of a car. Examples include Drover, Audi On Demand and new VWDS Rent-a-Car. 

Finance ‘ownership’

Cash has already been happily substituted by finance for most people. Of the 13,500 people interviewed for the bi-annual Market Report, 98 percent who purchase on finance claim they own the car – even though, in reality, they do not.

“Motorists seek the comfort and certainty of exclusive access, or usership, and find it hard to distinguish this from true ownership.”

One thing’s for sure though – people don’t want to share their cars with others. Eighty percent overall (and 86 percent of ‘future car owners’ aged 16-21) demand exclusive access to a car. More than half are simply unwilling to share with others.

Which itself is good news for car dealers, added Coe. “Contrary to speculation, these new access models don’t signal the death knell for the industry.

“Instead they will fuel the market by making driving more accessible to a wider demographic, offering manufacturers a new way to get consumers behind the wheel, and will complement rather than cannibalise existing retail models.”

Kia Stinger joins Western Australian police force

Cop that! Second Aussie police force picks Kia Stinger for highway patrol

Kia Stinger joins Western Australian police force

It may not have been intentional, but the Kia Stinger is fast becoming the car of choice for road policing units across Australia.

Coming after the recent news that the Queensland Police Service will take delivery of a fleet of Stingers, the Western Australian Police Department has also announced plans to recruit the feisty Korean.

Long dependent on domestic creations like the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore, Australian police forces have been faced with problems in planning how to replace ageing fleets.

Ford discontinued the Falcon in 2016, whilst the latest Holden Commodore is now derived from the latest Vauxhall Insignia. That means a serious lack of rear-wheel-drive action, seemingly so beloved by traffic cops Down Under.

Fortunately, the Stinger seems to have appeared at just the right time, offering turbocharged power to the back wheels. All 50 Stingers snapped up by the police in Western Australia will use the 3.3-litre turbocharged V6 engine, with 365hp and 376lb-ft of torque.

With 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, plus the added bonus of Brembo brakes and a mechanical limited-slip differential, the Stinger should be a formidable pursuit vehicle. An extensive six-month evaluation confirmed that it either met, or exceeded, all the requirements for policing in Western Australia.  

Kia will supply the cars in standard form, with only an additional wiring loom needed to add lights, sirens, and other accessories.

Western Australia has suffered a long running battle with dangerous or antisocial driving, more commonly referred to as ‘hooning’. Recent legislation has allowed the police to seize and impound cars for speeding offences, or even intentionally causing tyres to lose traction.

Hopefully the threat of the Stinger will help the police in Western Australian keep the ‘hoons’ at bay.

2018 Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi

2018 Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi gets new clean diesel tech

2018 Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCiWith diesel under attack, Nissan has added a raft of emissions-cleansing technology to its top-selling crossover, the Qashqai. Revised 1.5 dCi models are on sale now. 

The key feature of the new engine is the addition of a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system. This uses the AdBlue additive, which significantly reduces the formation of harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

It hasn’t simply been bolt-on technology, either. Nissan says more than 90 percent of the engine has been modified – including the fuel pump, dual mass flywheel, oil cooler, even the oil filter. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai

It’s easy to tell the new engine from the old one: it has 115hp, a 5hp boost over the previous (and long-running) dCi 110. The new dCi 115 also has an overboost function, which produces a further 5hp plus a useful step-up in pulling power for 15-second intervals (easily enough to get you past that slow-moving dawdler). 

Nissan’s released fuel economy figures for the new 1.5 dCi 115, tested to WLTP standards and back-translated to the outgoing NEDC standards. They show models with 16-inch and 17-inch alloys average 74.3mpg, while posher trims with larger 18-inch and 19-inch wheels average 67.2mpg.

CO2 emissions? 100g/km for the smaller wheels, a rather hefty jump up to 110g/km for the larger wheels.

As for prices, the upgraded dCi 115 engine costs a mere £225 more, model for model, than the dCi 110 it replaces. But where Nissan may struggle is the fact this represents as much as a £1,995 premium over a 1.2 DiG-T turbo petrol engine, when entry-level Visia trim is compared.

In this case, it may not be dislike of diesel that’s leading to its downfall, but simply the significant extra expense of all its emissions-reducing technology…

Winter is coming: Our favorite all-wheel drive SUVs

There’s a rough line that runs across the country from Portland, Oregon, to Washington D.C. Winters below this line are mostly survivable, while winters above this line are simply awful. Rain, snow, endless cold and darkness, ice, sleet, yetis  . . . why the founding fathers chose this bit of land instead of someplace nice like Mexico is beyond knowing.

 For vehicular motivation during the stretch, we insist on all-wheel drive. There are many variations on the system available, but every modern one uses sensors to continuously monitor each wheel and deliver torque exactly where needed. While nothing beats driver training and ample practice, having a car smart enough to keep itself pointed in the right direction is a near necessity to winter driving safety.

Starting MSRPs are for the model and do not necessarily reflect all-wheel drive pricing.

Subcompact: Ford EcoSport

Ford EcoSport

Starting MSRP: $19,995

Ford’s five-seat EcoSport comes standard with a 1.0-liter turbo three-cylinder driving the front wheels, but all-wheel drive (AWD) mated to a 166-horsepower 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated four is available in all but the one trim level for $1,595; on the SES model AWD is standard. Both engines use a six-speed automatic transmission.

We like the bins, pockets, and hooks inside that make sure the small ute stays organized. Second row seats fold away to create a flat floor, making hauling large objects a breeze.

Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system is available, and offers enhanced voice command response, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and B&O Play

Subcompact: Jeep Renegade

Starting MSRP: $18,845

Jeep’s tiny Renegade blends city style with enough offroad substance to live up the Jeep name. All-wheel drive models start at $20,100 and are powered by a 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbo. A 2.4-liter engine with 180 horsepower is available for $1,330 more, and adds a 2,000-pound towing capacity.

We love the chiseled looks and beefy stance of the Renegade. Though small, it looks substantial. There are ten colors to choose from, including four brilliant electric shades that make a statement (green, orange, yellow, and red).

Actual adults can sit in the second row (we’ve been there), and the standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and navigation make Jeep’s littlest SUV even more attractive.

The Trailhawk model ($26,945) adds serious off road cred with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, 8.1 inches of wheel articulation, 19-inch fording ability, skid plates, tow hooks, and a 20:1 crawl ratio.

Subcompact: Hyundai Kona

Starting MSRP: $19,500

Hyundai’s standard Kona comes out of the box with standard front-wheel drive, but AWD is available at every level for $1,300. SE and SEL models get a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower, while Limited and Ultimate get a 175-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo.

Seven inches of infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard fare, HD Radio and Sirius offered on all but the base SE trim level. The Ultimate model ($26,400) comes with an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, a head-up display, 4G Wi-Fi, and wireless charging.

An all-electric Kona is expected in early 2019.

Subcompact: Mazda CX-3

Starting MSRP: $20,390

The Mazda CX-3 is a critically acclaimed mini-ute in stock form because of its blissful handling and superb styling. The 2.0-liter engine delivers 146 horsepower and pairs perfectly with the chassis, encouraging drivers to take an extra lap around the block on the way home from the store.

Selecting all-wheel drive adds $1,400 to the bottom line across the trim range. Mazda’s unique torque vectoring system continuously monitors road conditions and wheel speed, looking for even a microscopic slip. Torque is sent to each wheel individually, improving grip and balance. In our testing, cornering is remarkably sharp and handling crisp overall, making for a truly fun-to-drive cute ute.

Compact: Hyundai Tucson

Starting MSRP: $22,550

We like the Hyundai Tucson for its blend of value for money, usability, and quality. Touchscreen infotainment and smartphone integration is standard on all models. Heated front seats, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are standard on all but the base SE model, as are eight-way power adjustable seats with power lumbar support.

Inside, the cargo space is intelligently designed without intrusions or odd corners that made packing difficult.

All-wheel drive is available across the range fro $1,400, paired with one of three engines, depending on trim: a 164-horsepower 2.0-liter, a 180-horsepower 2.4, or a 1.6-liter turbo good for 175.

Compact: Honda CR-V

Starting MSRP: $24,250

The Honda CR-V is delightfully spacious, with ample room for both people and their stuff. Full-size American adults can sit comfortably in either row without cramped feet or legs, with a full 39 cubic feet in the cargo area. Fold down the second row and the CR-V will swallow an impressive 76 cubic feet.

The base LX model comes equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 184 horsepower. EX models and above have Honda’s terrific 1.5-liter turbo with 190 horsepower. Both powerplants can be paired with AWD for $1,400 more.

Compact: Subaru Forester

Starting MSRP: $24,295

The Subaru Forester is all-new for 2019 and now offers more safety and capacity than ever. The wheelbase has been stretched to 105.1 inches from 103.9 on the outgoing model, benefitting legroom. Further gains in head, hip, and shoulder room have also add to passenger comfort.

The revised 2.5-liter boxer engine under the hood now makes 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, and is paired with a continuously-variable transmission. Torque vectoring all-wheel drive is still standard.

All Foresters now come with advanced safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and pre-collision braking and throttle management.

The fifth generation Forester will begin arriving at dealerships this fall.

Compact: Ford Escape

Starting MSRP: $23,940

The affable Ford Escape is offered with AWD on all but the entry-level S trim. SE and SEL models are powered by a 1.5-liter turbo with 179 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of user-friendly torque on tap. The top Titanium trim gets the 245-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo with a whopping 275 lb-ft. AWD is an additional $1,350 on all models.

We found the Escape one of the easiest small SUVs to live with in our tests. The seats, ergonomics, and airy cabin worked together as one to keep us relaxed and refreshed while driving, even on long road trips. Infotainment was modern and easy to use, with excellent navigation and voice recognition.

Midsize: Chevrolet Traverse

Starting MSRP: $29,930

Chevrolet’s popular Traverse SUV offers AWD on the LS trim and up, starting at $34,800. A 3.6-liter V6 with 310 horsepower on tap sits under the hood paired with a nine-speed automatic, returning 20 mpg in the combined cycle and offering up to 5,000 pound towing capacity.

Three rows offer seating for up to eight, and cargo area of 98.5 cubic feet. Thoughtful storage abounds, with bins, pockets, cubbies, and an under floor tray to keep everything tidy. There are a total of 10 cupholders, and the front doors even have a place for umbrellas.

A seven-inch touchscreen Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard on the LS, and two USB charging ports are found in each rows.

Midsize: Mazda CX-9

Starting MSRP: $32,280

We like the Mazda CX-9 for its artful blend of performance, handling, and utility. LIke its smaller CX-3 sibling, the 9’s AWD system uses Mazda’s unique torque vectoring to improve chassis dynamics, providing extra grip when cornering, braking, and accelerating. AWD adds $1,800 to the vehicle in all but top Signature trim, where it’s included in the $45,365 price.

Power is provided by a 2.5-liter turbo four making an impressive 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 23 mpg on the combined cycle, only a mpg less than the front-wheel drive model.

The three-row CX-9 has an elegant interior, with thoughtful attention to touch surfaces and trim pieces. Mazda announced at the New York Auto Show in March that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available in 2019 models.

Midsize: Subaru Ascent

Starting MSRP: $31,995

The Subaru Ascent is an all-new three-row SUV and the biggest in the company’s lineup. Standard motivation comes in the form of a turbocharged 260-horsepower boxer engine paired with a high-torque continuously-variable transmission driving all four wheels. Fuel economy is 24 mpg combined in lower trims, 23 mpg combine in upper.

The second row can be configured with either captain’s chairs or a bench, for a total capacity of eight. The seats have a wide sliding range of motion for legroom, access to children in car seats, or balancing passenger and cargo room. 

The Ascent comes with dual USB ports in the first two rows on standard trims; upper get an additional two in the third row. Apple CarPLay and Android Auto are played through six speakers in all but the top model, which gets a 14 speakers powered by 792 watts of Harman Kardon premium sound.

Midsize: Jeep Grand Cherokee

Starting MSRP: $30,895

For decades, one of America’s favorite family trucksters has been the Jeep Grand Cherokee. For 2019, the model offers something for everyone.

The base Laredo model in 4×4 spec starts at $33,195 and is powered by a 3.6-liter V6, standard in all models but the performance-oriented SRT and Trackhawk models. A 3.0-liter diesel is offered in mid and upper trims.

Amenities range from a family-friendly cloth interior with modern 7.0-inch infotainment to a leather-lined luxo-ute with a 19-speaker sound system many symphonies would envy.

Models wearing Jeep’s “Trail Rated” badge are ready for offroad adventure with increased approach, breakover, and departure angles, improved wheel articulation, and a 44:1 crawl ratio.

For fans of ultimate street performance, Jeep has added the Trackhawk to the lineup, powered by a 707-horsepower supercharged V8.

Full-size: Nissan Armada

Starting MSRP: $46,090

Nissan’s eight-passenger Armada is built with body-on-frame construction, creating a study base for some serious capability. WIth a 5.6-liter V8 under the hood steaming out 390 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque, it’ll carry 1,724 pounds and tow 8,500.

Prices start at $48,990 for four-wheel drive (4WD), but even base models have leather-trimmed seats, navigation, and a 13-speaker Bose sound system. Stepping up to the mid-range Platinum ($62,090, 4WD) adds climate-controlled front seats, entertainment for all three rows, and a power liftgate.

The Armada uses an intelligent drive system to automatically switch between two- and four-wheel drive depending on traction. With 4WD engaged, off road capability is increased with high and low gearing ranges, two forward crawl speeds, and one reverse crawl speed.

Full-size: Lincoln Navigator

Starting MSRP: $72,555

The twin-turbocharged V6 under the hood of the seven-seat Lincoln Navigator boils out 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. In all-wheel drive form ($76,505), towing capacity is a prodigious 8,300 pounds. Even with all the grunt and a curb weight of almost three tons, fuel economy is still 18 mpg on the combined cycle thanks to a 10-speed transmission making the most every ounce of power. Electronic traction assist is available on Select ($76,555) and Reserve ($81,705) models. 

Of course, the story with the Navigator isn’t mindless strength, but luxury. In base Premiere trim, leather seats are heated, captain;s chairs adorn the third row, and there’s no pesky manual effort involved in manipulating the third row. Wi-Fi connectivity for up to ten device is standard, as is a 10-inch touchscreen controlling 14-speaker Revel premium audio and Apple CarPlay.

For those who need a bit more room, an extended-length Navigator L is offered.

Full-size: Ford Expedition

Starting MSRP: $51,790

Ford’s eight-seat Expedition is powered by a 3.5-liter turbo V6, pumping out 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque in XLT and Limited trims, and 400 and 480 respectively in at Platinum model. A ten-speed automatic mated to either both delivers smooth power and enables 9,200 pounds of towing capacity when paired with all-wheel drive (about $3,100, depending on model).

Available options packages can elevate the Expedition to corporate sibling Lincoln levels. The unpoetically named 202A group ($5,605) adds heated and ventilated front seats, leather first and second rows, power third row, power liftgate, heated steering wheel, connectivity with Wi-Fi hotspotting, and blind spot information.

Shoppers needing extra cargo area can look at the extended-length Expedition Max.

Full-size: Chevrolet Tahoe

Starting MSRP: $48,395

With seating for up to nine and a choice of two naturally-aspirated V8 engines, the Chevrolet Tahoe is a breath of old-school fresh air in a segment increasingly crowded with luxury vehicles. That’s not to say it’s not modern—it is—but GM already has two offerings in the luxury SUV field, the GMC Yukon Denali and Cadillac Escalade, and keeps the Tahoe delightfully simple.

A four-cylinder turbo has been announced for the 2019 Silverado pickup and will undoubtedly appear in the Tahoe, but for now power comes as god intended: from displacement. A aluminum block 5.3-liter V8 produces 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft, while the optional 6.2-liter makes 420 horses and 460 lb-ft. Four-wheel drive adds $3,000 to the bottom line.

The Tahoe comes with modern amenities, even in base trim. Three-zone climate control is standard, along with remote start and a rear vision camera. Chevy’s 8.0-inch infotainment system offers voice control, HD radio, Wi-Fi hotspotting, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Heated leather seating, Bose premium audio, and active safety features are available.

Buyers wanting a bit more space behind the third row can look at the Tahoe’s longer but otherwise identical twin, the Chevrolet Suburban.

M6 ghosts

Who you gonna call? M6 motorway crashes allegedly caused by ghosts

M6 ghosts

Mike Brooker, a self-appointed international psychic medium has claimed that the M6’s history of accidents can be put down to the road being haunted.

A notorious stretch of the motorway – Junctions 16-19 – has an inordinately high number of road accidents. It’s also allegedly home to legions of eternally restless spectral beings. Brooker’s theory is that the motorway disturbed old Roman burial sites, as well as the sites of significant Anglo-Scottish conflicts dating back 200 years.

Regardless of how surreal “real negative energy” sounds, Brooker isn’t wrong when he says “what is clear is that something is very wrong to cause so many accidents on what is, to all intents and purposes, a fairly straight stretch of road”. From the beginning through to August 2017, more than 70 severe accidents have occurred in this veritable accident blackspot.

M6 ghosts

In the defence of these very far-fetched claims, there have been numerous reports of odd phenomena. Sightings include rather out-of-place historic-looking figures and phantom lorries.

Work is ongoing to upgrade the M6 – including the allegedly most-haunted areas – to Smart motorway specification. More than £250 million-worth of installations will include emergency areas at Junction 18 and 19. Joining them will be 258 new adaptive electronic signs and 70 CCTV cameras. Perhaps the latter can capture some of the supernatural happenings for all to see?

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Fuel prices

A fuel price war could be coming, as oil costs slump

Fuel prices

Fuel prices have hit highs not seen since 2014, but the AA says relief is on the way. Relief, it says, that could amount to 3p a litre – or £1.50 a tank.

Of course, there’s always a possibility that any savings consumers can look forward to may be dented by the rumoured un-freezing of fuel duty in the Autumn budget. It’s been held at 58p a litre since 2011.

Nevertheless, the AA predicts a forthcoming decrease in prices due to the strengthening of the pound, allied with a cut in the wholesale cost of oil. Such drops have triggered penny-by-penny falls in competing forecourts’ prices in the past, resulting in price wars at the pumps.

How to find the cheapest petrol and diesel near you

“In the past, such a significant drop in wholesale prices would have triggered a pump-price battle among the supermarkets” said the AA’s fuel price spokesman, Luke Bordet.

“For the moment, drivers should keep an eye out for competitive oil company sites, taking the opportunity to undercut expensive supermarket sites”.

A drop in fuel prices would follow a full 11 consecutive weeks of price rises to date. In that time, the national average for a litre of petrol has reached £1.31 a litre. Diesel is even more expensive, at £1.35 a litre on average. Contrast to July 2018, when the average cost for petrol and diesel was £1.28 and £1.31 respectively.

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