Land Rover Defender 2020 Tusk disguise

2020 Land Rover Defender teased in revealing new picture

Land Rover Defender 2020 Tusk disguiseLand Rover has given us our clearest look yet of the all-new 2020 Defender by releasing an image of a prototype wearing a ‘Tusk Trust’ conservation charity camouflage.

The teaser clearly shows the new Defender’s clean, utilitarian lines and upright stance – including near-flat sides, a flat roof and a spare wheel carrier hung out back.

Land Rover Defender 2020 testing on road

Even under wraps, it still carries traditional Defender styling cues. It even retains traditional doorhandles, rather than Jaguar Land Rover’s fancier retractable handles.

The ‘wrapped’ teaser shot is part of a new set Land Rover has released to mark World Land Rover Day on 30 April. These show both short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase Defenders experiencing a variety of test action, both on-road, but mainly off-road.

Land Rover Defender 2020 testing off-road

Total testing miles for the prototype fleet has now reached almost 750,000 miles (1.2 million kilometres). Land Rover has carried out over 45,000 individual tests including:

  • 50-degree heat of the desert
  • Minus 40-degree cold of the Arctic
  • 10,000 ft altitude of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado

On-road dynamics have been tested at the Nurburgring in Germany while all-terrain prowess has been honed at Land Rover’s traditional test base at Eastnor, UK.

Land Rover Defender 2020 testing off-road

Sand dune testing has been proven in Dubai and rocky trail ability has been tested in Moab in Utah. It’s all part of Land Rover’s promise the new Defender will offer “unparalleled breadth of capability and new levels of comfort and drivability”.

The final stage of field testing will be conducted at the 14,000-hectare Borana Conservancy with the Tusk Trust in Kenya. A prototype vehicle “will tow heavy loads, wade through rivers and carry supplies across unforgiving terrain in a series of real-world trials”, says Land Rover.

Land Rover Defender 2020 testing off-road

Engineering director Nick Rogers said: “In addition to the extensive simulation and rig testing, we’ve driven new Defender 1.2 million kilometres across all terrains and in extreme climates, to ensure that it is the toughest and most capable Land Rover ever made.”

Supporting operations at the Borana Conservancy in Kenya with Tusk “will allow our engineers to verify that we are meeting this target as we enter the final phase of our development programme”.

Land Rover Defender 2020 testing on ice

The new Defender has been designed and developed in Britain, although it will not be built there. Instead, the global Defender production base is at Land Rover’s new factory in Nitra, Slovakia.

Land Rover Defender 2020 testing on ice

The full debut is scheduled for later in 2019 but Land Rover is happy to take registrations of interest now, via its website.

Jaguar Land Rover may buy Addison Lee for £300 million

Jaguar Land Rover Ad Lee

Jaguar Land Rover may be about to spend £300 million on buying taxi firm, Addison Lee. The bid is potentially part of JLR’s plans to move into personal mobility solutions.

Indeed, the UK-based taxi firm would be an intriguing asset for Jaguar Land Rover, as it investigates the future of car travel beyond the traditional model of buy, own and sell.

Driverless cars, shared ownership, fleet hire and contract-based schemes are just some of the major seismic shifts expected in the car market over the coming years.

Jaguar Land Rover Ad Lee

JLR and Addison Lee have rubbed shoulders in the past, with both part of a consortium to develop and trial driverless cars, as well as more sophisticated connected car technology.

Jaguar Land Rover is one of a few bidders for Addison Lee, which include other manufacturers, tech companies and more. This move is another in the company’s attempts to refocus following a turbulent 2018.

Towards the end of last year, JLR posted its biggest quarterly loss, totalling £3.4 billion. This was thought to be caused by a triple-whammy of a slump in Chinese demand, the backlash against diesel and Brexit uncertainty. This year it is due to shrink its workforce by 10 percent, with around 4,500 employees losing their jobs.

Jaguar Land Rover Ad Lee

Jaguar Land Rover already has a contract to supply Google company Waymo with a fleet of 20,000 I-Paces, with a view to making them autonomous. 

While Addison Lee’s dominance has been dented by Uber, it still runs around 5,000 cars in London as well as other big cities. It has been looking at autonomous tech, working with Oxbotica to pioneer driverless taxis in the UK’s capital by 2021.

Speed limiters to be mandatory in the UK from 2022

Mandatory speed limitersAdaptive speed limiters could become mandatory on cars sold in the United Kingdom after 2022, following new provisional regulations approved by MEPs.

The news follows similar proposals by the European Transport Safety Council. It’s expected the regulations will have no trouble getting full approval.

How will the Intelligent Speed Assistance work?

The systems will work using speed sign recognition, as well as GPS data, but this won’t be via automatic application of the brakes. Rather, power or rev limiters will be used, such as those restricting certain German cars to 155mph.

Retroactive fitment of the system isn’t likely, but wouldn’t be impossible, given that a lot of the technology is already in use.

Note the little speed limit sign that appears on most new cars sat-nav screens. It’s also how a lot of adaptive cruise control systems adjust speed, too.

Hard or soft speed limiters?

For now, the speed limiters, otherwise known as Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA), won’t be concrete. You’ll be able to push through by pressing hard on the accelerator.

It is suggested by the ETSC, however, that warnings should flash and sound, should you spend an extended amount of time at speeds above the ISA limit. Think of the bonging sound you get when you leave your lights on after you open your door, or if you forget to buckle your seatbelt.

Mandatory speed limiters

Whether soft limiters could turn hard in the future remains to be seen. It’s certainly a possibility.

It’s predicted by the ETSC that as many as 25,000 lives could be saved in the 15 years following the introduction of ISA systems after 2022. That’s as a result of a predicted 30 percent drop in traffic collisions.

While the legislation is primarily a European-led project, the UK’s Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) has said that it plans to go through with limiters, as well as other mandatory safety systems, in the style of the European legislation. There’s no debate ammunition in this for staunch Brexit ‘leavers’, therefore.

Bill Plant Driving School is now exclusively Volkswagen

Bill Plant Driving School Volkswagen

Volkswagen has become the sole vehicle supplier for Bill Plant Driving School, with the national driver training firm using T-Roc and Golf models.

Bill Plant Driving School started using Golfs in early 2018, but the company’s fleet will be Volkswagen-only by the end of the year. The Bill Plant website states that its fleet currently includes the 1 Series, but the BMW’s days are numbered.

Deliveries of the T-Roc to the Bill Plant Driving School fleet began in March, and so far, hundreds of new cars have been delivered to instructors across the UK. Volkswagen expects to deliver more cars as the business opens more franchises using Golf or T-Roc models.

Bill Plant Driving School Volkswagen T-Roc

The T-Rocs will be delivered in 1.6 TDI SE specification and will feature a touchscreen sat-nav system, remote electrically foldable door mirrors with kerb view, front and rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control. Learner drivers can expect to pay £29.50 to receive tuition in Volkswagen’s small SUV.

The Golfs are also powered by a 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine but are delivered in SE Match trim. The spec is largely the same, but learners pay £27.50 for manual gearbox tuition or £29.50 to learn to drive in an automatic. Obviously, both cars are dual-controlled.

‘A smash hit’

Michael O’Shea, Volkswagen UK’s head of fleet, said: “The Golf is Volkswagen’s most popular model and is a smash hit with UK customers, being the second best-selling car in the country, so it’s easy to see why learners can benefit from a Golf being their introduction to driving life.

“The T-Roc SUV, with its numerous safety features, elevated seating position and compact size, has the ideal combination of qualities to make learners feel at ease when venturing out on the road. Volkswagen prides itself on the safety of its cars, so it’s little wonder Bill Plant Driving School chose the Golf and T-Roc to create a whole new generation of Volkswagen fans.”

Bill Plant Driving School Volkswagen Golf

Tom Hixon, head of instructor support at Bill Plant Driving School commented: “We’ve received tremendously positive feedback from our driving instructors and pupils about the new Volkswagen Golf, and we also welcome the T-Roc to the Bill Plant Driving School fleet.

“Every week hundreds of pupils will have their first experience of driving with Bill Plant Driving School inside either a Volkswagen Golf or T-Roc. This is a tremendous partnership for Bill Plant Driving School as we continue to grow our business in 2019.”

Labour would use car tax to fund public transport

Corbyn Labour busses car tax

Jeremy Corbyn has unveiled Labour plans to divert car tax revenue to public transport. At present, money earned by the government from car tax is exclusively used to maintain Britain’s roads.

The ‘Campaign for Better Transport’, in which as much as £1.3 billion per year could be diverted to public transport, was announced during the local election campaign in Nottingham. The plan is a response to the ‘devastation’ of bus services under the Tory government.

As yet, the plan does not involve any unscheduled increases to car tax. It’s merely a change to plans for pre-allocated funds from vehicle excise duty (VED). 

Where will the tax money go?

Among other things, the money would go towards reversing cuts to 3,000 bus routes and funding further expansion of the bus services throughout the UK including in more rural areas. In addition, a free-to-ride policy is planned for under-25s.

According to Department for Transport figures, local bus passenger journeys dropped by 85 million to 4.36 billion between March 2017 and March 2018. That’s a 1.9 percent drop in the space of 12 months.

Corbyn Labour busses car tax

The bus services are described as a “lifeline” by Corbyn, saying “bus networks are essential for towns and cities and for tackling rural poverty and isolation”.

“Cuts have had disastrous consequences for our towns and city centres and for air pollution and the environment.”

It’s claimed that budgets for local authority bus services have been cut by as much as 45 percent since 2010. 

Conservatives: “Motorists will be clobbered”

Conversely, the Conservatives reckon the plan would have to result in rises in taxation paid by motorists, saying we’ll be ‘clobbered’. And they say budgets for road maintenance, which are already tight, will be slashed.

“Along with their plans to put politicians in Westminster in charge of running local bus services, their pledge to slash funding for roads and their calls to increase fuel duty, this just proves they are not on the side of hardworking families who rely on their vehicles,” said Marcus Jones, Conservative vice chairman for local government.

Revealed: the best and worst car insurers for claims handling

car insurance claim form

You never know how good a car insurance company is until you make a claim. Which is why new research into the best and worst insurers for claims handling could prove to be invaluable.

Consumer group Which? surveyed 2,111 car insurance customers who had made a claim in the past two years. They were asked about their experience during the claims process and how likely they would be to recommend their provider.

This kind of study is worth considering when you’re faced with a stream of quotes on a price comparison website. Often, it pays to look beyond the price.

The AA finished bottom of the table for car insurance, with a customer score of 55 percent. A third of respondents felt their claims were handled more slowly than anticipated. The result: a disappointing two-star rating from Which?.

Axa was voted the second worst car insurer for claims handling, followed by Hastings Direct and Allianz. All three were awarded a damning one-star rating for communication.

Car insurance Brexit

At the opposite end of the table, NFU Mutual was rated the best insurer for claims handling, with Which? awarding a maximum five-star rating for speed of handling claims and a four-star rating for communication.

Interestingly, NFU Mutual also topped the table for home insurance (Which? surveyed 1,456 home insurance customers).

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “When things go wrong motorists and homeowners should be able to count on their insurer, but it is concerning that some providers make the claims process difficult – with muddled or slow communication and poor customer service.

“Anyone unhappy with how their insurer handled their claim should shop around when it is time to renew – do your research and find an insurer that will make the claims process as stress-free as possible.”

The best car insurance companies for claims handling (best first):

  1. NFU Mutual
  2. RSA
  3. LV=
  4. Direct Line
  5. Co-op

The worst car insurance companies for claims handling (worst first):

  1. AA
  2. Axa
  3. Hastings Direct
  4. Allianz
  5. Ageas

The AA told Which? it did not feel the research reflected the feedback it received from customers, while Axa said it would be making changes to improve its customer service.

Dancing on ice: learning to drift in a Honda Civic Type R

Civic ice driving

There’s a good reason many of the world’s greatest rally drivers come from Finland. Its roads are one big, snow-covered special stage.

To sample the Finnish way of doing things, we travelled to Kemi, where northern Finland meets the Baltic Sea, to drive Honda Civics on ice.

Front-wheel drive on ice

Honda Civic ice driving

Momentum and weight-transfer are your buzz-words when it comes to hustling a front-wheel-drive car on ice. In a rear-drive sports car, fluffy rooster tails and easy rotation come with a tap of the loud pedal. Not so in a Civic. If anything, there’s a bit more skill involved.

You have to feel how the tyres are interacting with the surface, or you risk understeering into a snowdrift. You need to look a corner or two ahead and think how you approach each turn, in order to set yourself up for the next. Knowing where the car wants to swing is half the battle.

Many marques, including Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Porsche, have their own snow driving experiences. However, you’ll learn just as much from a front-wheel-drive Civic. You might even have more fun, too.

Honda Civic ice driving

Even in a 1.0-litre front-wheel-drive hatchback, there’s a sense of satisfaction and achievement that comes with getting your lines just right.

After plenty of laps, our race-hardened instructor finally shouts with pride – and it’s a good feeling.

Making the sensible Civic come alive

Honda Civic ice driving

Before any tail-out shenanigans can occur, there was a secret code we had to enter into the Civic’s control system. Brake down, handbrake up, clutch in, clutch out, handbrake down, brake up… Don’t quote us on that.

Put it this way, it required some Googling and at least three attempts to disable the stability systems. But once we got there, the tail chased us around and the wheels started scrapping without electronic interruption.

Even Honda admits the 1.0-litre Civic isn’t an exciting car in ordinary circumstances. It isn’t meant to be. Nevertheless, there is a good chassis hiding in there, as evidenced by the rip-snorting Type R version. 

Honda Civic ice driving

However, none of us preferred the Type R in these conditions. The softer suspension of the standard car gelled beautifully with the well-judged steering. Get your eye in after a few laps and a balletic lift-off oversteer dance comes together naturally. 

It shows how much care is given to the development of even ‘everyday’ cars. In the real world, most Civic owners won’t ever experience this. Unless they take a road-trip to Kemi…

Civic Type R tackles the frozen trackHonda Civic ice driving

The Type R initially served to demonstrate how beneficial the 1.0-litre’s softer setup was. However, where the hot hatch jarred in terms of rigidity, it won us over again with a quality gear shift, rorty engine and quick steering.

You can get up a bit more speed, too and on ice, more speed means more momentum. We weren’t using the Type R’s considerable power reserves by any means, but it got us going and the results were lengthy skids and even a couple of transitions. All with front-wheel drive.

Honda Civic ice driving

It was an experience in a part of the world that was utterly unforgettable. I know we all came away better drivers as a result.

Research says drivers think cyclists are ‘less than human’

Cylclists dehumanised by driverDrivers dehumanise road users on bicycles, according to new research from Australia. And this could explain why many are aggressive – sometimes uncharacteristically – towards cyclists.

Researchers canvassed 442 people, with both cyclists and non-cyclists represented. They were asked to rank cyclists on a scale from ape to human. They were also asked to rank cyclists on a scale between cockroach and human…

Over half, on both scales, said cyclists weren’t fully human. In fact, non-cyclists rated cyclists as only 45 percent human. Even more weirdly, those who considered themselves cyclists only rated their fellow pedal-pushers as 70 percent human.

Cylclists dehumanised by driver

Researchers believe this dehumanisation can be directly linked to drivers’ attitudes and aggression towards cyclists on the road. Regarding driving behaviours such as blocking, driving closely and cutting off, 17 percent, 11 percent and 9 percent respectively said they’d exhibited them.

The more we see cyclists, the more they rile us up, too. According to the research, drivers who came across cyclists on the road at least once a week reported as much as four times more aggression towards them.

We’re not fully convinced, but the rift between cyclists and drivers is clear. As we’re encouraged to get out of cars and onto bikes, hopefully such attitudes will start to change.

Full-size LEGO Honda Civic Type R took 1,300 hours to build

Lego Honda Civic Type R

It’s 2019. We should have flying cars, right? Well, instead, we have many full-size cars made of Lego. Following a McLaren 720S and Bugatti Chiron, is something a bit more relatable. Meet the new all-Lego Honda Civic Type R.

While real Civic Type Rs pass through the Swindon plant at a rate of knots, this one took a little longer to bed. In fact, it’s the first hand-build Type R, with a team of nine taking over 1,300 hours to assemble it.

It’s comprised of 320,000 pieces and really is all-Lego, from the wheels, to the bodywork, to the windows – everything! Well, everything you can see… Sadly, it does require a steel frame structure to underpin it and all the Lego pieces are glued in, but still, it’s an impressive thing to behold.

Lego Honda Civic Type R

It even features working lighting, controllable via an iPad application. It’s not just mains and rears, either. The brakes, fogs, indicators and day-runners work too. All in, it weighs just over 1,300 kilograms, which isn’t far off what the production car weighs.

The Lego Civic Type R, as commissioned by Honda Australia and assembled down under, will go on a tour of the country over the coming months. Honda Australia is supporting the upcoming Lego Masters show, which will feature Lego experts battling in a building competition.

Being that far away, sadly, the chances of prior 1:1 Lego models meeting the Type R are slim.

Lego Honda Civic Type R

“Honda is a company that is all about creativity and innovation so it’s great to support a family show that mirrors these ideals so well,” said Honda Australia Director, Stephen Collins.

“Through Lego Masters, we’ll see some of the dreams of the contestants, and also fans, come to life – we’re proud to be helping drive that.”

Jaguar SmartWallet Toll

Motorists to ‘fill their Jaguar Land Rover Smart Wallet as they drive’

Jaguar SmartWallet TollJaguar Land Rover is testing ‘Smart Wallet’ technology that motorists will top up with cryptocurrency earned by sharing information about traffic jams and potholes with navigation providers and local authorities.

They will then be able to spend this on toll fees, parking, electric car charging – and even coffee.

SmartWallet Automatic Payments

The new tech is being developed by Jaguar Land Rover’s software engineering centre in Shannon, Republic of Ireland. It is already being trialled in models such as the Jaguar F-Pace and Range Rover Velar.

JLR is working with the IOTA Foundation (that’s ‘internet of things’), using its ‘distributed ledger’ tech to make and receive payments. For non-tecchies, this is a way of making and receiving cryptocurrency payments from machine to machine, without the involvement of a central bank account.

It will allow motorists to automatically pay tolls from their smart car wallet, and future smart electric car charging will also be possible.

SmartWallet TollBooth Detected

JLR wants the car of the future to be an integral part of a shared economy, turning the car into “a third space, in addition to your home or office,” said software architect Russel Vickers.

Engineering director Nick Rogers said cryptocurrency will “make people’s lives better, by allowing drivers to safely share data and make payments from their vehicle.

Jaguar SmartWallet Toll

“The team in Shannon are pioneering and testing these sophisticated connected technologies that will help people to make the most of the time they spend in their car.”

Jaguar Land Rover Shannon

Other tasks being undertaken by the new Shannon R&D facility, which has been supported by the Irish Development Agency, include work on next-generation electrical architectures, and adding driver assistance features for the cars of the future.