Devon knows that pavement parking is a bad move

Pavement parking

When Devon and Cornwall Police stumbled across a Kia Picanto blocking a pavement in Newton Abbot, there was only going to be one outcome.

The Picanto was pushed aside, loaded onto the back of a tow truck, before being taken away to the nearest police station.

To make matters worse for the inconsiderate parker, the vehicle was discovered to be untaxed and uninsured. This isn’t likely to end well for the Picanto owner.

“Don’t park your vehicle like this… especially if you don’t have tax or insurance!” the police tweeted.

A fixed penalty notice might be issued

While parking on the pavement isn’t illegal, you could be accused of committing an offence if the police deem your vehicle to be causing an obstruction. A fixed penalty notice might be issued if, for example, pedestrians or wheelchair users are forced into the road to pass a parked vehicle.

The Department for Transport is considering a ban on pavement parking, bringing the rest of the country in line with London, where parking on the pavement has been illegal since 1974.

Maybe the Picanto owner should check out the Highway Code’s guide to waiting and parking. It could save another run-in with the law. Assuming they tax and insure their car, that is.

Wunderbar: Germany votes for its favourite German cars

German flag

There’s something delightfully German about the readers of a German car magazine voting for their favourite German cars.

It’s wonderfully patriotic and so very, very German.

And we mean this with the greatest level of affection. It’s not as though they haven’t got a fantastisch selection of autos to choose from.

Around 105,000 readers of Auto Motor und Sport voted for their favourite cars in 11 classes, before the magazine declared the winners. When the votes were counted, Volkswagen wheeled away with four class wins, Porsche claimed three, Mercedes two, with BMW and Audi grabbing one apiece.

Germany’s best German cars

Porsche 911

Without further ado, allow us to reveal the best German cars according to German people:

  • City car: Volkswagen Up
  • Small car: Volkswagen Polo
  • Compact class: Volkswagen Golf
  • Middle class: Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Upper middle class: BMW 5 Series
  • Minivan: Volkswagen Transporter
  • Luxury: Porsche Panamera
  • Sports car: Porsche 911
  • Convertible: Porsche 911
  • Compact SUV: Audi Q3
  • Large SUV: Mercedes-Benz G-Glass

Germany’s best imports

Alpine A110 on track

But the Auto Motor und Sport poll isn’t a total German love-in. Readers were also asked to name their best imports from each category. 

It’s a decidedly Euro-centric list, with the Mazda MX-5 the sole representative of Japan. People of Germany, we salute the selection of the Alpine A110. 

  • City car: Abarth 595/695
  • Small car: MINI Hatch
  • Compact class: Skoda Octavia
  • Middle class: Alfa Romeo Giulia
  • Upper middle class: Volvo V90/S90
  • Minivan: Renault Espace
  • Luxury: Aston Martin Rapide S
  • Sports car: Alpine A110
  • Convertible: Mazda MX-5
  • Compact SUV: Jaguar E-Pace
  • Large SUV: Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Just over 3.4 million new cars were registered in Germany in 2018, as the market shrank by 0.2 percent. The Volkswagen Golf remained Europe’s best-selling car, but the market was hit by the effects of the diesel demise and WLTP emissions testing.

 

£28m plan to make the Strand a traffic-free zone

Strand Aldwych

Ambitious plans to transform the Strand Aldwych in London into a “world-class cultural and learning quarter” have been announced.

The £28 million project, which is backed by Westminster City Council, would remove traffic from a 230-metre stretch of the Strand from the junction with Aldwych to the corner of Melbourne Place.

A further stretch would be closed to all traffic expect service vehicles, while improvements would be made to ease congestion in Aldwych. Councillor Richard Beddoe, cabinet member for place shaping and planning, said the Strand Aldwych was “at risk due to poor visitor experience and difficulty in moving through the district”.

The area faces a number of challenges, with traffic congestion, poor air quality and security at the top of the agenda. The proposed improvements include:

  • Removing the gyratory, having two-way traffic in Aldwych and removing it from a section of the Strand
  • The creation of an “amazing” new plaza around St Mary Le Strand Church
  • New connections to South Bank, Covent Garden and the West End
  • The creation of a cultural and learning quarter
  • Tackling air quality issues
  • New facilities for walking and cycling

Have your say

“This historic gateway into the West End is home to some of the capital’s most famous cultural and academic institutions, as well as a major leisure destination in its own right with landmark theatres, hotels and other attractions,” said Cllr Beddoe.

“These concept designs have come together following a great deal of discussion with local groups and we now want to get as much feedback as possible.

“Nothing is set in stone at this stage and we look forward to having constructive discussions as to how we can deliver a world-class scheme that benefits Westminster and London for many years to come.”

The consultation will run from 30 January to 13 March 2019. Full details can be found at strandaldwych.org.

Enemy of the state: Government pledges to kill the pothole

pothole uk

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has identified potholes as “the number one enemy for road users” and has pledged to provide £22.9 million for research into new repair techniques.

The government will work with eight local authorities to carry out real-world tests of new road surfaces and technologies, with the aim of identifying a ‘prevention rather than cure’ approach to pothole repair.

Around £1.6 million will be spent on the extension of Cumbria’s existing trial of the use of plastic roads. The local authority was the first in England to incorporate plastic-based material from recycled waste into the asphalt used for resurfacing.

The equivalent of 500,000 plastic bottles and more than 800,000 one-use plastic carrier bags have been used to resurface sections of the A7 in Carlisle.

Other projects include a trial of adapting lighting columns for use as charging points or wi-fi hubs in Suffolk, using kinetic energy to charge roadside battery units in Buckinghamshire, and the use of geothermal energy to prevent footways, car parks and bus stations from freezing over in Central Bedfordshire.

‘Number one enemy’

Road workers fixing a pothole

Chris Grayling said: “Potholes are the number one enemy for road users and this government is looking at numerous ways to keep our roads in the best condition.

“Today’s trials will see how new technologies work in the real world to ensure our roads are built for the 21st century.”

In October 2018, the government made a £420 million pledge to repair Britain’s broken roads, but the problem will only get worse. 

Professor Nicholas Thom, a UK pothole expert, warned that our roads are facing a perfect storm of misery.

“The number of potholes per kilometre on a given authority’s roads depends not only on the repair budget, repair strategy and the climate – frosts are bad news – but also on a historical policy choice, namely what surfacing materials to use. It is a choice that badly needs to be reviewed.”

Slide Rules: 29 cars to help get your drift on

Vauxhall VXR8Driving in a straight line is undoubtedly the most efficient way to go fast. But is it necessarily the most fun? Fans of drifting would suggest otherwise, and we’ve picked the cars that could help you get in on the sideways action.

Let’s be clear – we’re talking about cars predominantly (but not entirely) with rear-wheel drive, and enough power to create slides on demand. That isn’t the same as lift-off oversteer, a phenomenon familiar to drivers of old-school hot hatches such as the Peugeot 205 GTI, for example.

It’s also worth remembering that drifting should only ever be done on a circuit, and not on the street. Not only is it dangerous, but we also promise you nobody on social media will be impressed if you drift on the public highway. Especially when it goes wrong.

BMW M5

BMW M5

In December 2017, the BMW M5 drifted into the record books when it set a Guinness World Record for the longest drift. Instructor Johan Schwartz completed a sustained drift of 232.5 miles, smashing the previous record by 143 miles. To achieve this, the M5 had to be refuelled during the drift in the same way that jet fighters refuel in mid-flight. As a result, a second Guinness World Record was awarded for the longest twin-vehicle water-assisted drift.

Ford Focus RS Mk3

Ford Focus RS Mk3

What better way to get drifting than with a car that features a ready-made ‘drift mode’ setting? Using it won’t instantly turn you into Ken Block, but it will make getting things sideways that little bit easier. Drift mode sends 70 percent of the torque from the 2.3-litre turbo engine to the rear axle, and initially transfers the torque to the outer rear wheel to get things moving. Once sliding, it then splits torque equally between each rear wheel to keep the drift going. The result is lurid slides, but in a controlled manner.

Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic

Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic

Imagine the same ‘drift mode’ principles as the Focus RS, but applied to a 604hp twin-turbo V8 super saloon. While the E63 S may be 4WD most of the time, a complicated series of menu options allows you to disengage drive to the front wheels. This means 627lb ft of torque going to the rear tyres unchecked, as the ESP system is turned completely off. You’ll need a lot of space, and access to lots of fresh rubber if you get too carried away.

Ford Mustang GT V8

Ford Mustang GT V8

The weapon of choice for professional drift racer Vaughn Gittin Jr. is a Ford Mustang, and it could be yours too, even if your name isn’t quite so cool. With the adoption of independent rear suspension for the sixth-generation Mustang, Ford eliminated much of the criticism which the ’Stang had previously garnered from drift enthusiasts. Add in a 5.0-litre V8 engine with 435hp, and 400lb ft of torque, and there’s no reason why you can’t make this muscle car dance.

Jaguar F-Type R

Jaguar F-Type R

Drifting a Jaguar? Oh yes, this particular Jag likes to slide. Rather a lot in fact, although with a 542hp V8 turning the rear wheels it’s hardly surprising. An electronically controlled limited-slip differential is standard at least, making the tail-out action controllable. Jaguar later introduced the AWD version of the F-Type R for those who preferred to keep things in a straight line.

Toyota GT86

Toyota GT86

How far can a Toyota GT86 drift? A rather impressive 102.5 miles, in fact, based on the recent efforts of one South African car journalist. It shouldn’t be surprising though, as the GT86 – and its Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S siblings – has the natural inclination to slide. Mix rear-wheel drive with relatively narrow tyres and even the oft-criticised power output of only 200hp from the 2.0-litre boxer engine is enough to move the back axle. Just be sure to pick the six-speed manual gearbox rather than the automatic.

Mk1 Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5 (Mk1)

Cheap, plentiful, and with a thriving aftermarket parts industry, the original MX-5 is often touted as the answer to most motoring questions. Learning to drift is just one more solution covered by the Mk1 version. Ideally, with the optional LSD and some cheap and narrow tyres on the back, the MX-5 will be more than happy to start sliding at a fairly low speed. With any luck, you’ll develop sufficient drift skills to move on to something more powerful before rust destroys it.

Nissan S13 Silvia / 240SX / 200SX

Nissan S13 Silvia / 240SX / 200SX

Another contender for the perfect entry-level drift machine, the S13 may be known by various different names throughout the world but the popularity remains consistent. The choice of the SR20DET 2.0-litre turbo engine is what reinforces the drift credentials, allowing anywhere from 200hp to 500hp, dependent on tuning. The neat pop-up headlights only add to the coolness, and a wealth of body kits and upgrade options make it extremely appealing to those in the scene.

BMW M3 (E36)BMW M3 (E36)

It may not be the most renowned car to wear the coveted M3 badge, but that works in the favour of the E36. Lower demand has helped keep prices down, meaning they become affordable options for drifting. A standard limited-slip differential is just one reason why it makes sense, while the 3.0-litre straight-six engine adds 286hp of assistance when needed. Today, used E36 M3s can be bought for less than the price of a nearly new supermini, but will be undoubtedly far more fun to drive. Buy one while they’re still cheap.

BMW M3 (E46)

BMW M3 (E46)

Should your drift car budget stretch that little bit further, the E46 M3 offers many of the same sideways thrills as the E36, but with a slightly more modern look. It also brings more horsepower to the drift arena with 338hp from the larger 3.2-litre engine. This is often still not enough for hardcore drifters, however. Adding a supercharger is one common way of boosting power, while the brave have been known to swap the engine for the 500hp 5.0-litre V10 from the contemporary BMW M5.

Nissan 350Z

Nissan 350Z

With rear-wheel-drive and a muscular 3.5-litre V6 beneath the bonnet, the 350Z has the ability to get sideways as much as styling suggests it should. Having been used in top-level Formula D and D1 Grand Prix drift competitions, there should be no doubts about the potential of the 350Z. With earlier cars having 287hp, rising to 306hp for later versions, that should be plenty of power for sideways antics.

Lexus IS200

Lexus IS200

Not every drift car needs to be a coupe; even a practical saloon can still get in on the action. It might not be everyone’s first choice, but the IS200 – or Toyota Altezza as it was known in Japan – still displays basic drift ability. A relative lack of power limits potential in standard format, so those wanting to really drift competitively may swap the engine for a turbocharged unit from the Toyota Supra.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

UK buyers may associate Hyundai with superminis and SUVs, but in the USA and Korea, the brand produces a V6-powered rear-wheel-drive coupe. In 3.8-litre Track specification, the Genesis comes with 348hp, a Torsen limited-slip differential, and stiffer sports suspension. Drifters are also keen on the large amount of steering lock available, which allows for sufficient counter steering to deal with really big slides. Not something you could do in an i10 hatchback.

Mazda RX-8

Mazda RX-8

If we gloss over the troublesome reputation for the rotary engine in the RX-8, known for failing at relatively low miles, this could be another practical car with sideways agility. With a nearly perfect 50:50 weight distribution and standard limited-slip differential, the RX-8 is nimbler than many other cars on this list. The only drawback is the low level of torque from the Wankel motor, but that can easily be overcome by swapping it for a 5.7-litre Chevrolet V8. Doing so would probably make it more reliable, too…

Toyota Supra

Toyota Supra

For those familiar with the Gran Turismo series of video games, or the never-ending Fast & Furious movie franchise, the fourth-generation Toyota Supra is synonymous with Japanese tuning culture. However, as a weighty and sizeable grand tourer, the Supra needs to go on a diet before it can really start sliding around. Thankfully the famed 2JZ-GTE engine can be tuned to over 1,000hp; providing somebody hasn’t already taken it to fit into a Lexus IS200, that is.

Saturn Sky Red Line

Saturn Sky Red Line

Just before General Motors killed off the Saturn name, it produced this compact two-door roadster with rear-wheel drive and up to 290hp. In performance Red Line trim, the Sky benefitted from a torque-sensing limited-slip differential and enhanced Bilstein suspension, making it far more capable than the cute looks might suggest. It also enjoyed a short-lived career in the Formula D drift championship, competing against the platform-sharing Pontiac Solstice.

Toyota Corolla (AE86)

Toyota Corolla (AE86)

This is the famous ‘Hachi-Roku’ Toyota, credited by many as helping create the modern drift scene in the hands of Japanese driver Keiichi Tsuchiya. With a lightweight construction and short wheelbase, even the 130hp of the four-cylinder engine was enough to make wild slides possible. The AE86 was also immortalised in the Initial D manga series, something that has created a cult following for the diminutive hatchback and kept values high.

Nissan Skyline 25GT-T (ER34)

Nissan Skyline 25GT-T (ER34)

While the AWD Skyline GT-R might be the car that gets all the attention, that grippy drivetrain is no good for drifting. Instead you need the GT-T model, which uses a 2.5-litre turbocharged straight-six engine, but sends power to the rear wheels only. While you can have your GT-T in a two-door coupe body, there’s something infinitely cooler about opting for the four-door saloon. You can even convince yourself that it’s a practical family car.

Lexus SC300

Lexus SC300

Also known as the Toyota Soarer, the Lexus SC was pitched as a rear-wheel-drive luxury grand tourer to rival Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti. Initially available with a 4.0-litre V8, in 1992 the SC300 was launched with a 3.0-litre straight-six, just ripe for the addition of a sizeable turbocharger. This has made it popular with drifters moving up the ladder to more powerful machinery, but the SC300 does require a radical diet to shift the added bulk of leather seats and wood interior trim.

Mazda RX-7 (FD)

Mazda RX-7 (FD)

As with the RX-8 earlier, the RX-7 uses the characterful but delicate Wankel rotary engine, with the added bonus of twin turbochargers. This means up to 276hp, and the potential for much more with modifications. The car pictured belongs to ‘Mad’ Mike Whiddett, a professional drift racer from New Zealand, and is known as the Madbul. With up to 537hp at the rear wheels, it represents what can be achieved with an RX-7.

Nissan Silvia (S15)

Caterham Seven

Unlike the previous generations of Nissan Silvia, the S15 was created to go faster on track rather than simply for drifting. That meant out with the old viscous limited-slip differential, and in came a new helical one. It did also gain a new six-speed gearbox, and 250hp turbo engine, along with bigger brakes and uprated suspension though. Drifting fun is still available; you’ll just need to work harder to unlock it.

Caterham Seven

Nissan Silvia (S15)

If working hard for your drift is important, then look no further than the Caterham Seven. On paper it sounds so easy, with an ultra-lightweight construction and power to the rear wheels. Caterham even offers drifting experiences – so confident is it in the abilities of the Seven. But being so delicate to throttle and steering responses means the hard work comes in keeping it sideways through longer corners without ending up facing the wrong way.

Vauxhall Monaro VXR

Vauxhall Monaro VXR

Feeling brave? Then welcome to the world of drifting a 6.0-litre V8 muscle car, originating from Down Under. As a thinly disguised Holden HSV GTO, the Monaro VXR packs 397hp and a chunky 390lb ft of torque. Despite the monster engine, and big coupé body, the VXR is surprisingly capable on-track and can be made to pull lurid slides as long as you dare.

Volvo 360 GLT

Volvo 360 GLT

Stop laughing; we’re being completely serious here. While it may look like something your grandmother would (and probably did) drive, it does have genuine drift potential. This comes courtesy of standard rear-wheel drive, but also the gearbox being a rear-mounted transaxle that aids weight distribution. The 360 GLT is the pick of the 300 Series, with the 2.0-litre engine being the only with sufficient torque to enable drifting. Just try to think of a decent explanation to friends and family when you buy one.

Dodge Viper SRT-10

Dodge Viper SRT-10

The 8.4-litre V10 Viper is a pretty scary car to begin with, thanks to 600hp and 560lb ft of torque that can easily overwhelm the rear tyres. You’d need to be mad to want to drift one, but that’s exactly what Samuel Hübinette from Sweden has done. Oh, but his particular competition-spec Viper has 825hp. Having won the Formula D drifting championship twice, we can surmise that Samuel is rather handy behind the wheel. Best leave the Viper to the professionals.

Chevrolet S-10

Chevrolet S-10

For entry-level drifting, look no further than a compact pick-up truck. Consider the positives of a Chevy S-10: there’s a plentiful supply, so they’re cheap as chips; all the weight is over the front wheels; and they’re rear-wheel drive. Even a lowly four-cylinder S-10 is easy to provoke, but a V6 would deliver the maximum fun. Think of all the spare tyres you can carry in the back.

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

What do you get if you cross a Holden Commodore with a Chevrolet Camaro? Aside from clouds of tyresmoke and a fuel bill to rival the national debt, the answer is the Vauxhall VXR8 GTS. This Anglo-Aussie-American rear-driver was powered by supercharged 6.2-litre V8 to make it about as planet-friendly as dumping a mountain of plastic carrier bags in the Arctic. But don’t let that trouble you.

Ford Mustang (Fox Body)

Ford Mustang (Fox Body)

Head to YouTube and you’ll discover the drifting potential of the Fox Body Mustang. Why are they so good? Well, they’re not too heavy, they’re affordable, parts are cheap and creating a modified monster is a realistic prospect. Avoid the wheezy 4.2-litre V8 and opt for the 302-inch V8 Windsor for the maximum thrills.

BMW M2

BMW M2

Rear-wheel drive, a short wheelbase and a punchy 3.0-litre twin-turbo engine sound like the ingredients for a perfect drift car recipe. You’d be right, as the M2 has the ability to go sideways with relative ease, meaning it spends most of its time hemmed in by the ESP system. But select ‘M Dynamic Mode’ and the stability control will allow for some oversteer on-demand action before stopping the fun. There’s also the added bonus of the ‘Smoky Burnout’ launch control setting, just in case you need to finish off your rear rubber.

Citroen marks 100 years with Origins special editions

Citroen C4 Cactus Origins

Citroen is paying homage to 100 years of ‘creativity and boldness‘ with help from a new range of Origins limited edition cars.

Sadly, this doesn’t mean we can look forward to a Citroen AX GT ‘restomod’, a CX for a new-generation or a modern-day 2CV – although we can dream. Instead, it’s a range of limited-run specials based on some of Citroen’s most popular models.

The first two vehicles in the UK are the C3 Origins and the C4 Cactus Origins. Later this year, Origins versions of the C1 and C3 Aircross will be available to order.

All feature bronze highlights and a nod to the original Citroen chevron logo.

The C3 Origins is available in a choice of Polar White, Cumulus Grey, Platinum Grey or Perla Black body colours, paired with a black roof and 17-inch black alloy wheels.

Citroen C3 Origins

A special Origins colour pack features bronze fog lights and Airbump panel surrounds, along with the Origins logo on the door mirrors and roof pillars. Inside, the C3 Origins features Heather Grey and black seat upholstery, and a soft-touch dashboard trim with a bronze surround.

The C3 Origins is available with a choice of two 1.2-litre engines – a PureTech 82 and PureTech 110 – with the latter equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. Prices range from £16,585 for the PureTech 82, to £19,005 for the PureTech 110.

The C4 Cactus Origins is largely the same as the C3 Origins, although Pearl White paint is also available, while Perla Nera is substituted for Obsidian Black. Only one powertrain is offered: a 1.2-litre PureTech 110 with a six-speed manual gearbox. The price is £20,215.

Citroen Origins logo

Customers can place orders now, with deliveries expected in March 2019. Origins versions of the C1 and C3 Aircross will be available to order in March for delivery in June.

The Volkswagen Dune Buggy is back… as an EV!

Volkswagen Dune Buggy conceptVolkswagen is set to make waves at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show with a surprise new all-electric Dune Buggy concept. 

Modelled on American dune buggies from the 1960s and 70s, the door-less concept ‘brings a legend back to life,’ reckons Volkswagen.

Using the modular electric drive matrix (MEB) that all Volkswagen’s future electric cars will be based upon means series production is theoretically feasible, too. If there is a business case, that is.

Volkswagen Dune Buggy concept

For now, Volkswagen is keen to show just how flexible its new electric car underpinnings are. Back in the 1960s, dune buggies were based on VW Beetle chassis. Today, the MEB puts a modern twist on this.

And here, Volkswagen makes a promising admission. “Like the Beetle chassis of yesteryear, the MEB has the potential to facilitate the development of low-volume niche models.”

There we have it: the switch to electric is going to mean more choice and variety of specialist cars, not less. And the Dune Buggy concept is the first example of just what’s feasible.

Just like the 60s originals, it has no roof or doors, but it does have large wheels and off-road tyres – and open side sills – to give an appearance like no other.

Surprisingly, around 250,000 original Dune Buggies were built, right up to the 1980s. Now, it’s making a comeback, at the 89th International Geneva Motor Show on March 5 2019.  

And the story almost certainly won’t end there…

Brexit blamed for UK car industry six-year low

Jaguar Land Rover car production lineBrexit has already done ‘enormous damage’ to the British car industry as new figures show 2018 production figures fell by 9.1 percent.

Overall investment in the UK car industry also halved in 2018, according to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Total 2018 car production of 1.52 million cars was a six-year low for the British automotive industry.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes

“UK automotive is on red alert,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “Brexit uncertainty has already done enormous damage to output, investment and jobs.” New investment of less than £600 million in 2018 was 46.5 percent below 2017 levels.

“Yet this is nothing compared with the permanent devastation caused by severing our frictionless trade links overnight, not just with the EU but with the many other global markets with which we currently trade freely.

“Brexit is the clear and present danger and, with thousands of jobs on the line, we urge all parties to do whatever it takes to save us from ‘no deal’.”

Jose Mourinho visits a Jaguar Land Rover car production line

UK demand for British-built cars fell 16.3 percent, while exports dropped 7.3 percent. 80 percent of new cars built in Britain (that’s 1.24 million cars) are exported – the majority of then to the EU.

10 percent of all cars sold in the European Union are built in Britain.

British car production 2012-2018

Overseas demand from China fell 24.5 percent, but exports to the United States actually grew 5.3 percent. The U.S. is now the second largest export market for UK automotive, behind the EU.

Exports to Japan also grew, by 26 percent, and South Korea grew 23.5 percent.

As the SMMT pointed out, both markets, along with Canada and Turkey, are “subject to preferential EU trade agreements, from which the UK benefits.

“Time has almost run out to guarantee continuity of any of these arrangements before Brexit, and ‘no deal’ could therefore put more than two thirds of UK automotive’s global trade under threat.”

Top 10 British-built best-sellers in the world

  1. Nissan Qashqai
  2. Mini
  3. Honda Civic
  4. Toyota Auris
  5. Vauxhall Astra
  6. Range Rover Sport
  7. Nissan Juke
  8. Range Rover
  9. Range Rover Velar
  10. Jaguar F-Pace

Driving my first Ferrari: does it live up to the legend?

Ferrari Portofino road trip

Ask anyone who likes cars – hell, ask anyone. What is the ultimate car brand? The car everyone knows and most people want? Love them or lump them, there is only one answer: Ferrari.

I’m not a Ferrari fan in particular. I’ve always loved the more subtle four-seat GTs (330 GT, 456 GT, 612 Scaglietti), but a Ferrari has never been my dream car. Yet it’s the marque that has always resonated as the cultural archetype for racing, luxury, success and excess. The embodiment of Italian bravado and style.

Ferrari Portofino road trip

I grew up watching the Scuderia dominate Formula One racing, in between reading gushing reviews of red road cars that seemed to have no equal. Sure, Aston Martin and Porsche occasionally had a good pop, but journalists always came running back, arms and eyes open wide, to the contemporary Ferrari.

Fast-forward some 15 years and I find myself with a Ferrari and a weekend to go and play. Now, I thought, was the watershed moment: a rite of passage. Would the real thing live up to the legend?

A fair prediction would have been ‘no’. For it wasn’t a snarling 812 Superfast or side-slip-equipped 488 Pista sat outside the office awaiting a coat of wintry grime: it was a Portofino.

The Portofino is the successor to the California, a car occasionally dismissed as ‘not a proper Ferrari’. Granted, very few buyers of these front-mid-mounted V8 cars are Ferrari veterans. It’s not got the same multi-way traction control as the mid-engined models, or indeed a blood-curdling, free-breathing V12 like the flagship GTs.

Ferrari Portofino video review

This is the drop-top, diet Ferrari that belongs on the Pacific Coast Highway, or so those drift-happy journos will tell you.

I’m no wannabe Park Lane poser, though – I wanted to actually drive the thing. So, with friends living on the Scottish border, the obvious thing was to head up north…

Getting in my first Ferrari

Friday afternoon comes and a red fob slides onto my desk. “It goes without saying… be careful,” I’m warned. No arguments there. I walk outside and, while excited, I can’t get away from the feeling that Ferraris used to be prettier. And smaller.

This so-called ‘entry-level’ car has some size and presence about it, but not the delicacy and elegance of the marque’s older models. It’s much better looking than 2009’s California, mind.

Clambering inside, being careful to avoid dinging the door and the five-figure satin paint, there’s no indication that this isn’t a ‘proper’ Ferrari. The cabin is beautifully appointed.

The lack of bucket seats (thank God) juxtaposes with lashings of carbon fibre and shift lights on the steering wheel. I’d save some pennies and take the classier standard alloy finish. It’s true what they say, modern Ferraris are an ergonomic nightmare, at least at first.

Engine: Start | Stop

Ferrari Portofino road trip

Foot on brake, press the bright red button on the wheel marked ‘Engine Start | Stop’ and the dash and wheel lights flutter into life. It’s an event, and that’s before the V8 catches with a bark and a woofle. Immediately, folks working in the same building wander over – “Superfast, right”? This was the first indication that, to anyone other than seasoned anoraks, the horse commands attention regardless of the snout atop which it prances.

The first challenge is getting out of the office car park. Obviously, it’s parked facing away from the exit, which itself is a bit of a climb. A trial by fire in terms of getting used to the dimensions and learning the control weights, then. The dual-clutch box, while whip-crack on a run, feels somewhat sluggish when crawling. One to get used to.

Ferrari Portofino road trip

Once you’re up and running, another Ferrari cliche becomes abundantly clear. The steering really is lightning-quick when you’re fresh from other cars. Otherwise, the gearbox is superb and the now-standard carbon-ceramic brakes aren’t nearly as grabby as earlier systems were purported to be. All in all, without a heavy clutch, worrying cabin heat or strong-arm steering, the Portofino seems decidedly un-Ferrari-like, at least in the classic sense.

I get on the road properly and, to my delight and relief, the Portofino lets another surprise out of the bag. It rides really quite nicely. First stop: home to show mum and dad – you would, wouldn’t you? Up the A1 and A505 I fly, in superb comfort and with consummate effortlessness – the Portofino giving a taste of its GT credentials.

I pick up a friend and make a beeline for my childhood home. Yet again, the car gets the attention befitting the badge. Local lads run up the high street to catch it. This is a front-engined silver cabriolet – a far cry from a mid-engined red supercar. Still, a Ferrari has that kind of magnetism, not to mention the noise.

The long run up to the Scottish borders

Ferrari Portofino road trip

By the time we get underway, it’s nearly 9pm and we’ve got the better part of a five-hour drive ahead. This was to be a real test of the Ferrari’s GT credentials.

Set cruise, wiggle your backside into a long-term position and watch the miles disappear. This is the side of the Portofino’s personality that I became most grateful for as I spent 16 of the next 48 hours driving. It settles down beautifully on compliant suspension and there’s no drone from the engine.

It’s not perfect, mind. Be sure to leave it a while after you’ve put the roof up. A whistle or two can be heard from the roof if the rubbers haven’t settled. That quick steering requires a bit of micro-management at speed, too.

Hours go by and you often forget you’re in a Ferrari – in my case, my first. Is that a bad thing? It took us all weekend to decide. A quick coffee stop revealed it has the car park presence. You can’t help but smile as you walk back out to it. Before we knew it, we were snaking our way up the A66 and across onto the M6.

Ferrari Portofino road trip

The final word on the Ferrari’s grand touring prowess was that, even with 250 miles behind us and a weekend’s driving ahead, we were sad this journey was ending. A new Bentley Continental GT might have done a better job still, but the Portofino is a superb long-distance tourer.

For your own mental maths, we burned through just under £60 of high-octane – a wedge over half a tank on the run up. You could do 400 miles on a tank without worrying, I reckon. The final practical test was a very steep, very tight driveway entrance. It was a nail-biting experience, but the baby Ferrari was just slim enough to get through without a graze.

Portofino in the Lake District

Ferrari Portofino road trip

It’s a foggy Saturday morning in Cotehill as we head down for breakfast in Keswick. We needed to fill up for the long day of testing, filming and photography ahead deep in the Lake District.

Our chosen arena would be a challenge for any pretender to supercar status. The Buttermere to Honister pass is tight, twisty and the surface quality is comparable to an adolescent’s face. You’ve got to watch your extremities, mitigate throttle, be exact with steering and not overstep your braking zones.

Ferrari Portofino road trip

The Portofino, where hot hatches would ordinarily thrive, gobbled it up. Superb body control with the ‘bumpy road’ button pressed gives you the confidence to push on. The traction control system when in ‘Sport’ on the Manettino is watchful but lenient – you can feel the power moving the car around its axis via the electronic e-diff, without the sense that technology is killing the fun.

The way the car limits torque through first and second gears delivers the feeling of a nitrous hit when you reach third wide open. If you flat-foot it in third from low revs, the boost really encourages the car to get away from you, even with the traction on. The brakes, handily, arrest momentum without breaking a bead.

Ferrari Portofino road trip

With getting on for 600hp, you’d imagine the Portofino to feel like a pike in a paddling pool on the B5289. On the contrary, the performance is exciting, but not overwhelming, the chassis poised, balanced and exploitable. The quick steering begins to make sense when you can only see as far as the next switchback.

When you rip it up and down the revs via the dual-clutch transmission, you come to realise there really is a 488 hiding under the bonnet, ready to be called upon. It’s the deftest of Dr Jekyll GT cars with a Hyde-flavoured supercar available on request. That’s something few other rivals can offer.

It also accrues speed like nothing from even 15 years ago. It’s at the extremes of performance you can really use and enjoy on the road.

Does it sound like a Ferrari should?

Ferrari Portofino road trip

The Portofino doesn’t quite have the vocal intricacy and rev-range of the old naturally aspirated Ferrari V8s. It is a close relation, though, as if you’re hearing an F430 through a pillow.

The soundtrack is by no means without drama of its own. High-rev gearshifts are accompanied by pops and crackles, and there’s that quintessential Ferrari bark as the valves open around 3,000rpm.

When you pile on the loud pedal, there aren’t turbo noises in the classic whoosh and chirp sense. This isn’t an Audi Quattro, or indeed an F40. The exhaust noise could only be Ferrari, if a little dulled by the turbos. Interestingly, there’s no ‘loud exhaust’ button.

Heading home: M6 and the Yorkshire Dales

Ferrari Portofino road trip

For the drive home, we wanted a back-to-back re-run of the two opposing sides to the Portofino’s character. So we traded the A66 for a few more miles of M6, before getting off at Kendall for a B-Road thrash across the Yorkshire Dales to the A1.

Much of the Dales is a bit more open than our Lake District routes so we got to open the Ferrari up a bit more. We wouldn’t be doing the Portofino a disservice to say that a ‘proper’ supercar would do really fast stuff with a bit more drama. You always get the sense that you’re munching miles rather than attacking a road, as it might feel in a 488.

Ferrari Portofino road trip

Still, added drama is a frequent bedfellow with poor refinement. We were happy with seven-tenths of the supercar experience without any of the irritants: a feeling that became abundantly clear as the final dark hours of our weekend road trip eroded away.

For the last blast back home to bed, the fact that the Portofino is capable of really settling down was invaluable to a driver who’d, by now, had his fill.

Verdict: prancing horse or phoney pony?

Ferrari Portofino road trip

The Portofino isn’t the most spine-tingling of sports cars. It will, however, put a smile on your face if you take the scenic route and let that muzzled 488 lump off its lead.

Before and after. Looks better dirty, imo… Cosetting svelte GT when you want it to be, with deployable and exploitable supercar character (and performance) there on demand. pic.twitter.com/ZCB4pvj9Fa

— Ethan Jupp (@EthanIsSaying) January 7, 2019

The rest of the time, it really is a car for all seasons: a well-judged entrance into Ferrari ownership and a supremely accomplished GT.

The smallest horse in the stable is still a prize steed, by my reckoning, a worthy introduction to this most prestigious of automotive marques.

Pre-booked parking can save 132 tonnes of CO2 per year

pre-booked parking

New research has revealed the potential CO2 savings motorists could make by using pre-booked parking services rather than embarking on the usual car park mooch for a suitable bay.

As much as 132 tonnes of CO2 were saved by the customers of YourParkingSpace.co.uk. That’s an amount equivalent to burning 53 tonnes of coal.

In addition to the CO2 savings, as much as 46,000 grams of nitrogen oxides (read, the dieselgate McGuffin) was saved by those who made a beeline for pre-booked spots. Both CO2 and NOx can be extremely harmful to both our health and the environment.

Such savings are a major advance and a great plus in the argument for pre-booked parking.

‘Circling the block’

“Changing attitudes towards how motorists drive and park can help put an end to the environmentally damaging practice of circling the block in the hope of finding an available parking space,” said Harrison Woods, managing director at YourParkingSpace.co.uk.

“Our research is a stark reminder of how much air pollution can be avoided – some 132 tonnes of carbon dioxide in one year alone by YourParkingSpace.co.uk customers – simply by driving straight to a pre-booked parking space.”

“As well as having an environmental advantage, parking in a pre-booked space also has a positive financial impact for local homeowners who provide many of these spaces, while providing cheaper parking for needy motorists.”

pre-booked parking CO2

The service has something for those who have already ditched smoggy internal combustion, too. It’s teaming up with Zap-Map.com to make parking spaces with charging facilities available to pre-book.