BMW and Mercedes join forces on autonomous tech

BMW and Mercedes-Benz are teaming up to work on autonomous car tech

BMW and Mercedes join forces on autonomous tech BMW Group and Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, have announced a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly develop autonomous car technology.

The agreement covers work on next-generation driver assistance systems, along with technology that could allow for autonomous driving by vehicles on the highway. The first fruits of the cooperation should be on sale by the middle of the next decade.

It marks a bold step for the two companies which, to some, might seem like rival football teams sharing coaching tactics or player secrets. However, both BMW and Daimler believe the joint working is vital for next-generation developments.

BMW and Mercedes join forces on autonomous tech
And aside from the small matter of BMW and Mercedes-Benz being major rivals in the premium car market, a collaboration between the two brands does make sense.

Developing cars with autonomous capabilities is a major undertaking. Combining ideas and resources here will clearly be of benefit, especially with the Mercedes-Benz badge worn by a wide array of trucks and buses, not just cars.

In addition, the road to autonomous vehicles is likely to be filled with countless legislative and political barriers. Uniform technical standards – in the same way smartphones use Bluetooth, for example – could be beneficial in smoothing out some of the challenges.

The two companies do note that existing development work is unaffected. BMW already has production plans to launch a ‘Level 3’ autonomous car in 2021 with the iNext. Daimler AG aims to go even further, with Level 4 and 5 self-driving vehicles in the next decade.

BMW and Mercedes join forces on autonomous tech
BMW and Daimler AG’s new agreement is just the latest in a line of joint steps being taken by the two companies.

Earlier this year, the duo agreed to invest more than €1 billion ($1.13 billion) in an array of initiatives as part of a joint mobility company. This includes developing the infrastructure for charging electric cars, building car sharing solutions, and creating smartphone apps to promote them.

With startup technology companies keen to get involved with the future of how we own and use cars, established brands will need to evolve.

Ford and Volkswagen made an alliance earlier this year, beginning with an agreement to work together on vans and pickup trucks. The agreement also paves the way for future initiatives on autonomous technology and electric vehicles.

Young drivers spend £9,000 on their first year of driving

cost of getting on the road learner drivers

The expense of getting on the road as a young driver is well known, but how much does it actually cost to pass your test, buy a car and then drive it for a year? According to Admiral, it’s as much as £9,136.

Getting your licence

Learning is a big one. You’re typically looking at £24 per hour to get behind the wheel with an instructor. Intriguingly, the UK is the fifth-cheapest country on Earth in which to learn to drive.

A provisional licence costing £34 plus 47 lessons with an instructor means you’re paying £1,247 just to get to your first test. If you pass, that’s £62 on top. If you fail, you’re in for more lessons again.

That’s not taking into account the £23 cost of a theory test. Just under half of all drivers under 25 passed first time, with it taking two attempts on average.

Insurance costs

cost of getting on the road learner drivers

This will have inspired a good few gasps over the years for young drivers. At present, the average insurance premium for a 17 year-old is a lofty £1,889.

In spite of efforts in recent years to bridge the car insurance gender gap, the gulf is still more than £600 on average. Men between 17 and 20 are paying out around £2,294, versus £1,660 for women.

Buying your first car

According to Admiral, over half of young drivers (under 25) borrow money to buy their cars, with a monthly budget of between £200 and £300. Nearly a quarter of those who borrowed money to buy cars said they’d be happy to pay more than £500 per month.

In total, with your £1,200 on learning (assuming you pass first time) added on to the £1,900 average insurance cost, you’ve got £3,100’s worth of bills before buying the car.

Couple that with a year’s worth of car payments at £300 per month, with around £2,000 as a deposit, and you’re up to £8,000 already, without any maintenance and other unexpected bills.

Getting on the road for less

cost of getting on the road learner drivers

There are plenty of ways you can get on the road for less as a young driver. An intensive one-week course can be had for comfortably less than £1,000. That’s the cost of your lessons, provisional and your test covered.

You could also fit a black box to make your insurance cheaper. And you could buy a ‘proper first car’ – i.e. a banger for a few hundred quid. Where there’s a will, there’s a way to save. 

2019 Porsche Macan 2.0 review: still the driver’s choice

Porsche Macan review

The Macan is Porsche’s SUV breadwinner. It’s the car that makes 9,000rpm-revving manual 911 GT3s financially possible for the marque. 

Although some enthusiasts lamented its arrival, the cashflow the Macan generates means the cars they really love continue to get better. Indeed, the Macan triples the sales numbers of the 911.

The Macan also brought much of what makes Porsche so revered to a new customer base. We’re not talking scintillating sports car dynamics or spine-tingling engines, but a Porsche-specific design aesthetic, a high level of quality and Germanic common sense.

All that being so, the Macan was not alone in offering these traits. The Audi Q5 and Volkswagen Tiguan provide premium build quality at a more accessible price-point. The Range Rover Evoque has style previously reserved for those with the keys to a ‘proper’ Range Rover.

Yet while sporting dynamics weren’t front-and-centre to the Macan’s appeal in the context of the Porsche range, they were still class-leading among rivals.

Porsche Macan review

That was all nearly five years ago, and the car industry moves on quickly. There’s a new Evoque, Q5 and sporting rivals in the form of Jaguar’s E-Pace and F-Pace. What has Porsche done to keep the Macan relevant in this competitive segment? It’s facelift time…

The biggest change is under the skin. A new 245hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine joins the bottom of the line-up, taking the place of the old diesels. There is no oil-burning option this time around.

A more powerful 354hp 3.0-litre V6 turbo heads the range for now in the Macan S. All cars come with Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch transmission. A Turbo, GTS and Turbo S will be along soon, with the latter potentially sporting up to 500hp.

For now, the Macan and Macan S are all we’ve got, priced at £46,344 and £48,750 respectively, although it’s not difficult to imagine those starting prices swelling with a dusting of options. They could increase by 10 percent in the event of a no-deal Brexit, too.

2019 Porsche Macan: first impressions

Porsche Macan review

Even the staunchest of SUV detractors can’t deny the Macan is a bit of a looker. It was certainly much better received than the larger Cayenne when that first came out.

Then again, Porsche did play it safe, with a familiar face, swooping proportions, pleasing hips and a bulbous backside. All hallmarks of other – more conventionally desirable – cars it’s better known for.

The facelift goes some way to emboldening the Macan and we’re really quite fond of it. The focus of this mid-life nip-and-tuck was definitely the rear, with a width-spanning light bar bringing the Macan into line with Porsche’s new family design. The bar fills dark spaces when you unlock it at night, luminous like a lightsaber.

It’s really rather lovely in person. The Porsche lettering standing bold in the 3D light cutout is a nice touch. The front is a bit sharper, but you’d need old and new cars side-by-side to spot the difference.

Our car came with 20-inch Turbo wheels (£2,576), sports exhaust tips (£548), LED headlights with Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus (£767) and Dolomite Silver paint (£632). That’s more than £4,000 of exterior upgrades alone.

Inside the 2019 Porsche Macan

Porsche Macan review

Onto the Macan’s cabin and it’s good news for the most part. An 11-inch screen replaces the old seven-inch unit. It comes complete with excellent resolution, superb touch sensitivity and response, plus a user interface we couldn’t find fault with. The vents that used to flank the smaller screen in the pre-facelift car are now beneath it, to lend those extra inches.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much standard Macan fare, which is where our concerns begin. See, when the car came out, it was pretty much the final Porsche with the 2009 Panamera-style button fest on the centre console.

A lot of that is retained on this updated car and, teamed with the now somewhat old-school analogue dials, it serves to date the cabin from the off. This is discernibly a mid-life refresh, not to 2019 standard in the same way the brand new 992 911’s cabin is – or indeed the current Panamera.

In fairness, the Macan’s instrument cluster features part-digitisation in the form of a screen in one of the ‘pods’. It’s an easily configurable and welcome companion to the big screen, with a pleasing aesthetic. But it’s quite obviously a vestige of the previous-generation car.

Porsche Macan review

Practicality could be better, too. While front occupants should be fine (with their standard eight-way electrically adjustable seats, no less), rear passengers could find themselves a little cramped. This is absolutely fine if you want a car for your nuclear family – kids will be comfy in the back – but average-sized adults will struggle for headroom due to that sloping roofline.

The boot is far from class-leading in terms of space, but 500 litres is enough for a week’s shopping or a couple of suitcases. The opening is a little high up, although the optional (£1,860) air suspension can go some way to remedy this. An electrically powered tailgate is, pleasingly, also standard. Even in the world of posh crossovers, you don’t buy the Porsche for its load-lugging capacity or ability to carry five fully-grown adults with ease.

We fear we’re being a little harsh. There’s a lot to praise and as great as it ever was. It all feels absolutely solid, starting with the ‘thunk’ as you shut the door. The quality is second to very few rivals, if any, and there’s a real sense that everything’s been meticulously thought through.

2019 Porsche Macan: on the road 

Porsche Macan review

Let’s get this out of the way now. A fire-spitting 911 GT3, this is not. But nor does it need to be: this is the people’s Porsche. Nevertheless, a level of expectation in terms of the dynamics comes with the badge. Pleasingly, it acquits itself very well and keeps the rest of the class honest.

We first observed a surprisingly compliant ride, thanks in no small part to the comparatively small wheels. Comfort doesn’t come at the expense of cornering, though. The Macan feels wieldy for an SUV, with a remarkable lack of lean. It’s not shot-through with feel and it will push on if you’re bullish, but it’s nicely balanced.

The elephant in the room is the engine. It’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit with 245hp, going to ground via a seven-speed PDK transmission. It’ll get you from 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 141mph.

Porsche Macan Review

Those are good numbers for a crossover, but it doesn’t feel that fast. Put your foot down on a run and it’ll dispatch a few downshifts with ease, but the four-pot sounds uncomfortable as the car ekes out every last rev to muster up performance. Indeed, peak power comes in at 5,000rpm, so you’re well and truly spinning it up before you get everything it has to give.

It’s not like losing a litre and a couple of cylinders does the economy any good either. Porsche quotes 34mpg, but we struggled to top 30mpg when not being extra careful. We’d go for the Macan S with the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 – 354hp from six cylinders sounds much more like it, much more Porsche.

None of this will matter in a couple of years when the second-generation Macan comes with all electric power, of course. We’re rather looking forward to it.

2019 Porsche Macan verdict: 4 stars

Porsche Macan review

The Macan is, by virtue of its badge, subject to judgement by lofty standards.

The cabin is a very nice, generously equipped and well put-together. The performance is ample for the average SUV buyer. Yes, we’d take the V6, but it’s down to personal taste. The four-pot just felt a bit too far out of character.

As for the practicality, well, you don’t buy a Macan for class-leading boot depth, you buy it because it’s a Porsche. It’s an SUV-shaped taste of a marque so adored by many, which exhibits the style and quality, if not the purity, that the badge promises. We fully understand why they sell as well as they do.

For all its little flaws, it’s still a great car. Nevertheless, that all-new electric successor on the horizon is a bit too close for comfort. We couldn’t whole-heartedly recommend the updated Macan, based on the fact an all-new model will be out while you still have a year left on the PCP contract.

Porsche Macan review

If we were to buy one, we’d save up for the rumoured Turbo S that will see off the combustion-powered Macan. If horsepower isn’t your tonic, perhaps holding on a year for some run-out deals would be a good idea.

Five 2019 Porsche Macan rivals

Range Rover Evoque

Audi Q5

Mercedes-Benz GLC

Jaguar F-Pace

BMW X4

How much did our test car cost?

Porsche Macan 2.0: £56,977 (£46,344 without options)

Which engines does Porsche offer with the Macan?

2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, 245hp

3.0-litre turbo V6, 354hp

Ferrari F8 Tributo revealed: a 211mph tribute to the V8 engine

Ferrari F8 Tributo Geneva

The Ferrari 488 GTB’s successor has been revealed. Meet the new 710hp F8 Tributo, due to debut at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show

Let’s get something clear straight away. No, it’s not a hybrid. Yes, it appears to be based on an architecture that goes back to the 458 of 2009. And no, it isn’t any more powerful than the 488 Pista.

Also, while the ‘Tributo’ name sounds like it should be attached to something limited-run or one-off, this is a series production car.

A ‘Tributo’ to the Ferrari V8

Ferrari F8 Tributo Geneva

Now let’s look at the numbers. Packing a 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8, the F8 matches the 488 Pista with its 710hp output – and is nearly 50hp up on the 488 GTB.

Ferrari makes a great deal of fuss about this award-winning engine, with the car’s name referencing the three-time ‘Best Engine’ award winner. It’ll crack 62mph in 2.9 seconds and match the Pista’s 211mph top end.

Weight down, aero up

Ferrari F8 Tributo Geneva

The F8 Tributo has lost 40kg versus the 488 it replaces, while the new bodywork improves aero efficiency by 10 percent. Notice the louvred engine window at the rear: a reference to possibly the greatest ever V8 Ferrari – the F40.

The slats also help extract hot air from the engine bay without interrupting the efficiency of the ‘blown spoiler’. This aerodynamic aid has been ‘further evolved to increase downforce generated at the rear’.

The front features a new S-Duct (the vent in the bonnet), which increases front-end downforce by 15 percent.

A ‘Ferrari Styling Centre’ overhaul

Ferrari F8 Tributo Geneva

There are plenty of giveaways that this is not an all-new car, but a close relation to the 488 GTB and 458. However, the F8 moves the styling and aero game on a long way.

Praise be, the four-rear-light Ferrari look is back on mid-engined Berlinettas, for the first time since the F430 of 2004. Everything is evolved from the Pista and, indeed, from the racetrack, albeit toned down here.

There’s no getting away from that classically sleek silhouette, though. We also note a few styling hints from the 458 MM Speciale one-off. And the horizontal LED lights mimic those seen on the Ferrari FXX-K hypercar, with vents above to carry over lines from the 488.

Inside the new mid-engined Ferrari

Ferrari F8 Tributo Geneva

Inside is where the biggest update was needed over the 488. Happily, the F8 moves the game on just enough.

The new-style Ferrari wheel with a more compact airbag appears alongside a redesigned dashboard. The weird trapezoidal vents are gone, for a start, in favour of more traditional circular items.

Ferrari F8 Tributo Geneva

All in all, the F8 Tributo is a nice styling step-on for the 488 GTB, with Pista power, updated aero and a much-needed lift for the interior.

It’s not the leap into the future that we were expecting, but it does give a fitting nod to Ferrari greats of the past. We’re in no doubt it’ll take the fight to the new Lamborghini Huracan Evo and McLaren 720S.

We can’t wait to see it in the metal at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show

Land Rover excels in new car NOx emissions AIR index – but Renault slammed

AIR IndexA diesel Renault Clio emits 20 times more NOx pollution in real-world town and city driving than a diesel Land Rover Discovery, a new independent test called the AIR Index has revealed.

The new standardised rating system for air quality has been developed to clean up confusion around vehicle nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and highlight the worst polluters.

Land Rover Discovery

The big surprise from the launch tests is that the large 3.0-litre TD6 Discovery is so much cleaner than the diesel Clio, a far smaller model with an engine half the size, weighing almost half as much.

Renault Clio

Inspired by the independent Euro NCAP testing regime, the founders of the AIR Index hope the new ratings will have a similar effect on real-world car emissions.

They also hope it will help policy makers when formulating clean air policies for towns and cities.

AIR Index: Kia Sportage

Instead of testing in labs, the AIR Index is conducted by on-road driving. The testing is described as “scientifically robust” according to new internationally-agreed methodology. It is a development of an earlier ranking called the EQUA Index.

AIR Index: how it works

AIR Index scale

The AIR Index is a colour-coded scale from A to E, based on those used for consumer white goods, and already used to show new car CO2 emissions.

An ‘A’ rating in the AIR Index equals NOx emissions of between 0 and 80mg/km. The official legal limit for new car NOx emissions is 80mk/km for diesel, 60mg/km for petrol cars.

In other words, any car that doesn’t get an ‘A’ rating exceeds official lab-tested NOx limits in real-world driving.

AIR Index infographic

The worst, an ‘E’ rating, represents NOx emissions of 600mg/km or more. This shows just how much NOx pollution the 2017 Renault Clio actually emitted in real-world driving – and how unexpectedly green the Discovery was.

“It proves that not all ‘Chelsea tractors’ are dirty polluting machines,” said a spokesman. “It finally offers clarity.”

AIR Index: Kia Sportage

The AIR Index operates independently and is intended to support the latest WLTP and RDE ‘real-world emissions’ scale, which is scheduled to go live in September 2019. This only gives a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ score: AIR is much more granular – and, added the spokesman, doesn’t simply look at brand new cars.

Ratings for a total of six cars have been revealed as part of the AIR Index launch. They represent a cross-section of cars, both small and large, diesel and petrol. All meet the latest Euro 6 emissions standard.

AIR Index rating: launch tests

  • 2018 Land Rover Discovery 3.0 TD6 (diesel): A
  • 2017 Nissan Qashqai 1.2 DiG-T (petrol): B
  • 2015 Mini Cooper SD (diesel): C
  • 2018 Dacia Duster 1.5 dCi (diesel): D
  • 2017 Ford Focus 1.5 TDCi (diesel): D
  • 2017 Renault Clio 1.5 dCi (diesel): E

‘Game changer’

“The AIR Index is a game changer,” said co-founder Massimo Fedeli. “It gives easy to understand, at-a-glance information on actual vehicle emissions in towns and cities.

“It provides car buyer with the answer they need to make the right purchasing choices, it makes the industry accountable to produce cleaner cars and gives cities and policy makers the accurate data to create fair policies.”

AIR Index: Kia Sportage

Dan Carder led the West Virginia University team that uncovered the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, and has endorsed the new rating. “If the AIR Index had been implemented 15 years ago, dieselgate would likely not have happened.”

 

Ken Block's New 2019 Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Ken Block’s Escort Cosworth lives again with an awesome new livery

Ken Block's New 2019 Ford Escort RS CosworthMotorsport maniac Ken Block has unveiled the impressive design for his new Ford Escort RS Cosworth, ahead of it embarking on a world tour.

After much teasing on social media, Block launched a video showing the finished concept for the car branded by him as “Cossie V2”.

It comes less than nine months after his original Escort Cosworth was engulfed by flames, following an accident on the New England Rally in July 2018.

Ken Block's New 2019 Ford Escort RS CosworthGiven the devastating fire damage which the 1991 RS Cosworth suffered, Block was forced to start from scratch in building a replacement Escort.

This has at least allowed for improvements to be made to mechanical construction of the car and, most importantly it seems, the chance to create an entirely new livery.

To create the new design, Block turned to California-based Troy Lee. Known for creating impressive custom paint schemes for motorsport helmets, designing an entire vehicle livery required Lee to work on a much bigger canvas.

Ken Block's New 2019 Ford Escort RS CosworthInstead of simply making drawings to show off the new livery, Block already had plans to render the plans for the car in CGI.

This allowed Block and his designer, Ash Thorp, to plot ideas for how radical the new RS Cosworth could be, without having to enter a wind tunnel. Design elements from Block’s current Ford Fiesta rally car have also been incorporated.

Once the finished concept for the car was created, Block’s team was able to map the livery ideas from Troy Lee onto the CGI rendered Escort.  The result is certainly stunning, and turns the classic Escort shape into a modern-looking rally weapon.

As part of the 2019 ‘Cossie World Tour’ event, the real finished RS Cosworth will make appearances at selected rally events across the globe. Block has also previously not ruled out the prospect of his new Escort undertaking a cameo in his Gymkhana series of videos.

Jeep and Detroit's Electric Future

Opinion: can electric Jeeps help secure the future of Detroit?

Jeep and Detroit's Electric FutureFiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has announced a major $4.5 billion investment plan, with the potential to create thousands of jobs in Detroit, Michigan.

It comes less than six years after the city had to file for bankruptcy when it found itself in almost $20 billion of debt. Decades of urban decay, combined with political corruption and greed, brought Detroit to its knees in December 2013.

But now, with resident major automotive manufacturers looking to build for the future, Detroit could truly be the beating heart of America’s car industry again.

Electroshock therapy

Jeep and Detroit's Electric Future
A substantial part of the production plans announced by FCA focus on the electrification of Jeep models. The Jeep brand should see the creation of four new electrified models, with plans also allowing for full battery-electric creations in the future.

Some $1.6 billion of the proposed investment would be used to build the first new assembly plant to be constructed in Detroit since 1991. Up to 3,850 new jobs could be created, with FCA already making plans to start construction later in 2019.

The Mack Avenue Engine Complex, currently used to produce the Pentastar V-6 unit, would be converted into a hub for the production of the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee. More importantly, the new facility would also build plug-in hybrid versions.

FCA’s Warren Truck facility would also see investment to build electrified versions of the forthcoming Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models. This upgrade alone would account for $1.4 billion of funding, and create up to 1,400 new jobs by 2021.

Building from the ground up

Jeep and Detroit's Electric Future
The substantial planned outlay by FCA comes less than a decade after the previous Chrysler Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, following the impact of the ‘Great Recession’ on the company.

However, the new FCA iteration has invested more than $14.5 billion in the United States since 2009, creating some 30,000 jobs. It marks an impressive turnaround for a company which, like the City of Detroit, was brought to the point of collapse.

Even the untimely death of CEO Sergio Marchionne in 2018 has done little to dampen the plans of the company.

Put your hands up for Detroit

Jeep and Detroit's Electric FuturePerhaps key to FCA’s resurrection has been popular offerings to North American customers.

Muscle cars like the hyper-powerful Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcat twins may appear uncouth, but they have generated huge amounts of positive publicity for the company. A horsepower war could be seen as crude to some European commentators, but it makes enthusiasts pay attention. More importantly it makes them pay, period. 

Building the Jeep Gladiator pickup truck, and bringing about the return of the Grand Wagoneer luxury SUV also belies a brand which is seemingly listening to what customers are asking for. Adding electrification to this agenda allows FCA to try to future-proof that level of demand.

The recent experience of Honda’s UK manufacturing plant is a reminder of how important the ability to electrify products is to a factory’s future.

Together in electric dreams

Jeep and Detroit's Electric FutureFCA is not alone in making major investments in Detroit. Ford purchased the dilapidated Michigan Central Station in 2018, with plans to use it as a hub for autonomous vehicles.

The 18-story building has been used a symbol of Detroit’s fall from grace for three decades, but filling it with software engineers and robotics experts is an important step in the renaissance of the structure and the city.

Given that even those with only a passing interest in cars know about the importance of Detroit to the automotive industry, the efforts of FCA and Ford are significant. Hopefully the city can make the most of a second chance at being an automotive world leader.

Opinion: An all-electric Porsche Macan is a great idea

Porsche Macan Electric

Porsche has just announced that the next-generation Macan SUV, coming in 2021, will be electric-only.

That means no petrol, no diesel, no hybrid. Electric only. And we think that’s a great idea.

Better performance, better looking

An electric Macan makes sense. Firstly, the shape of small SUVs is conducive to electric powertrains. There’s plenty of room for batteries, and lowering the centre of gravity would be no bad thing.

More freedom to style and shape the body wouldn’t hurt either. There’s no way current crossovers will get worse in terms of looks or handling if they go electric-only.

But better than Tesla?

Porsche Macan Electric

Imagine, if you will, a smaller Tesla Model X, with more range and quicker charging. It has also exchanged silly doors for Porsche badges, Porsche styling and indeed Porsche build quality. And it costs £30,000 less.

That sounds like a pretty appealing package to us.

Better than the current four-cylinder

The four-cylinder engine at the bottom of the current Macan range simply isn’t enough. It sounds asthmatic and has nowhere near the get-up-and-go you expect of a Porsche.

There’s no joy lost in exchanging it for electric motors and an 80kwh bank of batteries. You can bet the electric Macan won’t hang about.

More range than petrol?

There probably won’t be any economy or range lost either. We estimated we’d get a maximum of 450 miles out of a tank in the four-cylinder Macan when tested.

That was based on it achieving a deeply unimpressive 30mpg. Even that proved ambitious at times.

Porsche Macan Electric

We’d wager that the next-generation electric Macan will get very close and possibly surpass that range, with performance to frighten a Macan Turbo. Indeed, it’s due to get a version of the 800-volt technology we’ll see in the Taycan later this year.

We hope we’re not being optimistic with our number plucking. An electric Macan that can do all of the above sounds like Porsche-badged perfection in an Elon Musk electric utopia.

It’s time for electric cars without caveats. And if anyone can do that, it’s Porsche.

Five stars: Euro NCAP names safest new SUVs

Mercedes G-Class safety rating

The new Mercedes-Benz G-Class is one of three new SUVs to be awarded a maximum five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP – highlighting the reinvention of this iconic off-roader.

What’s even more impressive is that the G-Class – a left-hand-drive G 350d – was subjected to Euro NCAP’s more stringent protocols of 2019, making a five-star rating harder to achieve than last year.

The Mercedes scored 90 percent for adult occupant safety, 83 percent for child occupant safety, 78 percent for vulnerable road users, and 72 percent for safety assist technology. 

Seat’s new seven-seat SUV, the Tarraco, delivered an even better performance, scoring a near-perfect 97 percent for adult occupant safety. For child safety, pedestrian safety and technology, the Tarraco scored 84 percent, 79 percent and 79 percent respectively.

SEAT Tarraco crash test

What makes this all the more impressive is that the Tarraco shares its platform with the Kodiaq, with the Skoda receiving lower scores in every category when it was crash tested in 2017.

Finally, the new Honda CR-V is awarded a maximum five-star rating, scoring 93 percent for adult safety, 83 percent for child safety, 70 percent for vulnerable road users and 76 percent for safety assist technology.

The power of consumer testing

Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of Euro NCAP, said, “Here we have three new vehicles, competing in the same segment and getting top safety ratings.

“That’s impressive enough, but the fact that all three off-roaders are equipped with pedestrian and cyclist AEB systems really demonstrates the power of consumer testing not only to encourage better performance but also to promote new technologies as standard-fit across Europe.”

Last year, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class was named the safest small family car by Euro NCAP, with the Lexus ES scooping the award in the large family car and hybrid/electric categories. The Hyundai Nexo was the safest large off-road car of 2018.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Fiat Panda received a zero rating while the Jeep Wrangler was awarded just a single star.

Jaguar XE 20MY

Jaguar XE overhauled with new gadgets and ‘cleanest in class’ diesel engine

Jaguar XE 20MYJaguar is aiming to turn around the fortunes of its BMW 3 Series-rivalling XE saloon with interior tech borrowed from the I-Pace electric SUV and a diesel engine that’s cleaner than every single rival.

Revealed in London at The Bike Shed in Shoreditch, the 20MY Jaguar XE (that’s 2020 model year, although it’s on sale right now) at first glance doesn’t look all that different.

Jaguar XE 20MY

Jaguar admits styling changes are restricted to new bumpers front and rear, dark-tint tail lamps with a new LED lighting pattern, plus full LED headlights with their own fresh LED running light design. The cutouts in the front bumper are wider and lower, making the XE look wider, and the graphics are more distinctive from a distance (or in a rear-view mirror).

Jaguar XE 20MY

The chassis is largely unchanged too, with just a few tweaks to make the XE a little bit sharper and smoother-riding. “We really focused on the things that mattered to our customers,” said Jaguar Land Rover MD Rawdon Glover. Updates to the exterior and chassis are thus “subtle”.

Jaguar XE 20MY

Inside is where the big news is, with a set of changes “completely transforming it from the outgoing model”. And not before time: the sub-par interior was always a key weakness of the original XE.

Described as all-new by Jaguar, the centrepiece of the interior is the new Touch Pro Duo ‘twin-screen’ setup in the centre console. Nabbed from the I-Pace, this is leagues ahead of the plasticky climate control setup on the old XE. The HD infotainment screen also now comes with Apple CarPlay, at long last.

Jaguar XE 20MY

There’s a steering wheel from the I-Pace, with touch-sensitive controls, plus a 12.3-inch driver display also nabbed from the electric SUV. The gearshifter, meanwhile, is taken from the Jaguar F-Type sports car: all 20MY Jaguar XE are automatics.

Jaguar promises “extensive use of soft-touch materials, premium veneers and all-new door trims that improve usability and practicality”. It still won’t be the roomiest of cars in the rear seats, but at least it’s a nice place for those in the front to sit in.

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Clean diesel

Jaguar XE 20MY

Big news for company car drivers is the new XE D180 RWD version: it’s the first 2.0-litre turbodiesel to be RDE2 NOx compliant. What does this mean? Exhaust emissions as clean as a petrol car – and a 4 percent saving on company car tax.

Private buyers also enjoy a first-year saving on VED road tax. No rival is yet available with an RDE2 diesel engine, giving Jaguar a handy advantage in a hotly-fought market.

Jaguar XE 20MY

Jaguar adds that diesel haters now have little to dislike. The clean diesel is as green as a petrol, gives 25 percent better fuel economy and emits 15 per less CO2. Drive over 12,000 miles a year? Diesel is the most cost-effective solution for you.

Also available in the new XE are 2.0-litre petrol engines in either 250hp or 200hp guise; they’re labelled P250 and P300. With optional four-wheel drive fitted, the P300 does 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds.

Jaguar XE 20MY: prices and specs

Jaguar XE 20MY

Jaguar XE prices start from £33,915 and it’s offered in a simpler line-up of S, SE and HSE trim levels. For each grade, a sporty-look R-Dynamic pack can be added on (the red car above is R-Dynamic): this has performance exterior design tweaks, sports seats with contrast stitching, and satin chrome gearshift paddles.

Jaguar XE 20MY

Every new Jaguar XE comes as standard with 18-inch alloys, leather seats with electric operation, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, a rear camera and lane-keep assist.

Jaguar has crunched the numbers and says the new car is better value than before. The D180 R-Dynamic S, at £36,145, costs £670 less than the old XE R-Sport… even better, it has £1,100 of extra kit, making a total saving of £1,770.

Jaguar XE 20MY

The New Jaguar XE is available to order now, with deliveries expected from the summer. Just don’t expect to see it at the Geneva Motor Show next week, if you’re heading over: neither Jaguar nor Land Rover are attending – and they’re not the only ones