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Britain’s cheapest SUV is now £1,000 more expensive

Dacia Duster is now more expensive

Dacia, the UK’s champion of affordable motoring, has committed a mild betrayal of its most heavily-touted mantra. It’s increased the starting price of Duster compact SUV by around £1,000, with the announcement of a new entry-level variant.

Previously, the Duster had been available for a four-figure sum (just) with a starting price of £9,995. The new entry-level TCe 100 doesn’t take away from the fact that the Duster remains the most affordable SUV in the UK. It’s still hiked up, though, with a new starting price of £10,995.

Dacia Duster is now more expensive

The TCe 100 replaces the SCe 115 as the entry-level engine, improving on CO2 emissions and fuel consumption by 18 percent. It’s a three-cylinder turbocharged lump that’s lighter and more compact.

It achieves between 48.7mpg and 49.5mpg on the WLTP cycle and produces 126g/km of CO2. Though down slightly on horsepower, it has 66 percent more torque, with 100hp and 192lb ft respectively.

The rest of the range continues on, with TCe 130 and 150 engines further up the engine line-up along with the 115hp diesel. 

Duster delivers for Dacia

Dacia Duster is now more expensive

While you’ll pay a premium, the new entry-level engine sounds like a commendable lump. Dacia has to hope it’ll carry appeal. Over the past year, the Duster is the marque’s best-selling model.

The second-generation car has seen an 89 percent increase in registrations since this time last year, with 100,000 Dusters sold.

‘No plans’ for smart M5 motorway in Somerset

No plans for smart M5 motorway

Highways England says it has “no current plans” to turn the M5 into a smart motorway in Somerset.

The section between Junction 25 at Taunton and Junction 15 for the M4 motorway is a notorious traffic blackspot, especially during the summer. 

A smart motorway is a technology-enabled section of motorway that uses traffic management methods to control the flow of traffic and reduce congestion.

In some cases, the hard shoulder is used as a ‘live’ running lane to increase capacity, along with variable speed restrictions to maintain a smooth flow of traffic.

Previously, Sedgemoor District Council said it would phase in smart technology to cut congestion and increase capacity at peak times.

‘Address existing and future congestion’

Traffic on M5 motorway

The Sedgemoor Transport Strategy document outlined the council’s plans for the road network until the year 2050, including “improvements to address existing and future congestion and resilience issues along the M5 motorway”.

“The Council will also promote smart motorways proposals on the M5 which would use digital technology to better monitor traffic levels and implement hard shoulder running, variable speed limits, or even close lanes remotely via gantry signage if accidents have occurred.”

“The District will be seeking full implementation of smart motorway infrastructure along the M5 corridor,” it said.

But Highways England has ruled it out, which could be bad news for local residents and the thousands of holidaymakers who use the M5 every summer.

‘No current plans’

M5 motorway sign

Rebecca Edmond, head of south west planning and development for Highways England, said: “There are no current plans to introduce a smart motorway to the Sedgemoor section of the M5.

“We are, though, finalising designs to bring more technological benefits to drivers between Junction 23 (Bridgwater) and Junction 25 (Taunton), a part of the motorway which currently suffers from delays.”

Highways England is installing a driver information and queue protection scheme between Junctions 17 and 18, and plans to introduce a similar scheme between Junctions 23 and 25 later this year.

“The scheme will give our South West Regional Operations Centre greater visibility of this area of the network,” added Edmond, “and it means we’ll be able to better detect incidents and then let drivers know so they can make informed choices about their journeys.”

Last week, Highways England announced that it will remove 480 miles of roadworks over the August bank holiday weekend.

Offensive MOT advisory notice ‘completely unacceptable’

offensive MOT advisory note

An offensive MOT advisory notice for a 2004 Smart has been branded “completely unacceptable” by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

Forget failure notices for diesel particulate filters, this MOT advisory requires a profanity filter.

An item on the car’s MOT history has been dubbed “the most offensive MOT advisory ever”, following widespread sharing on social media.

The MOT advisory – which isn’t safe for work – was entered by an MOT tester at an independent garage, and called the Smart’s owner a rather crude word.

To compound the misery for the owner, the Smart failed its MOT on account of a registration plate lamp not working.

The DVSA is investigating the MOT advisory notice

Offensive MOT advisory

Neil Barlow, DVSA’s head of vehicle engineering, told Motoring Research: “DVSA’s priority is to help everyone keep their vehicle safe to drive.

“The comment posted on the MOT history service is completely unacceptable and how now been removed. We are investigating this further.

“Since 2017, there has been a profanity filter in place to stop MOT testers being able to include these words on a certificate.”

Last month, the DVSA published a new guide setting out 15 important points to ensure MOT testers carry out each test to highest possible standard. There are penalties for failing to meet the required standards, and the DVSA can ban a garage from running an MOT centre for up to five years in the most serious cases.

MOT test stations are required to check at least one MOT test from each tester every two months and must check that new staff are eligible to meet the standards. All MOT testers must complete their annual training and assessment programmes by the end of March every year.

A total of 31 million MOT tests were recorded on the DVSA database in 2018, each one free of swear words and offensive remarks. That said, we suspect the responses to many MOT failure notices were greeted with phrases that aren’t necessarily safe for delicate eyes and ears.

The world’s first solar road is a failure

French solar road a failure

A 0.6-mile stretch of solar road paved with photovoltaic panels that was billed as ‘unprecedented’ when it was unveiled in 2016 has been all but condemned

The French government invested €5million (£4.6 million) into the Route Solaire. It contained 2,800 photovoltaic panels that could absorb solar energy to power nearby households. It was expected the ‘Wattway’ would generate as much as 790 kilowatt-hours per day, but it never reached that output.

Normal solar panels that don’t double as roads are usually pointed towards the sun. As a road, the panels had to be flat, limiting their exposure. In addition to this, dead leaves and other environmental run-off that could limit the efficiency of the panels were not accounted for.

French solar road a failure

It’s also estimated that the Tourouvre au Perche area of Normandy doesn’t get the level of solar exposure required to make a solar road worthwhile. In 2016, the area had around 40 days of strong sunshine.

Of course, the solar panels not working quite as well as the designers had hoped is one thing. The fact that the road isn’t structurally sound is quite another. Upon its completion, it was claimed that the silicon resin surface was able to withstand the weight of 18-wheelers.

Three years on, the road hasn’t been as durable as expected. The resin is splintering, the panels are peeling and the electrics are failing, locals claim.

Even when new, the road wasn’t considered fit for purpose. The road generated a high level of noise, leading to locals requesting that the speed limit be lowered to 70kmh (43mph).

‘Should first stop cars driving on it’

Even the builder, Colas construction group, has admitted the project has been far from a success. “Our system is not mature for inter-urban traffic.

“If they really want this to work, they should first stop cars driving on it,” commented Marc Jedliczka, vice president of the Network for Energetic Transition.

Car insurance admin fees are hitting motorists in the pocket

Car insurance admin fees rising

As if the rising cost of car insurance wasn’t enough, motorists are also facing a dramatic rise in admin fees.

New research shows that, since 2012, the cost of making a mid-term adjustment to a policy has risen by 38 percent to an average of £28.25. A material change could include altering a name, address or occupation, or adding or removing a named driver.

Meanwhile, cancellation fees have risen 49 percent over the same period, with the average charge now standing at £60.85. Insurers are legally required to give a 14-day ‘cooling-off’ period, but an administration fee may still be applicable.

Thirty-eight percent of insurance companies even charge a set-up fee for new policies – up from 12 percent in 2012. Motorists are being charged an average £37.63 to cover the cost of arranging a policy.

‘Fees should be proportionate’

The cost of car insurance admin fees

Lee Griffin, founder and CEO of GoCompare, the company behind the research, said: “The car insurance market is highly competitive, so rather than incorporating the costs of certain admin tasks into the basic premium, some insurers make other charges.

“This helps keep premiums down by ensuring that only the policyholders who change or cancel their policy, for example, pay for the additional work required to administer their policy.

“Insurers should be upfront about any admin fees they charge. These should be clearly set-out in their terms and conditions, so drivers are aware of the full costs before signing-up to a policy. Fees should also be proportionate to the cost of the company of undertaking the work.”

Motorists are advised to challenge their insurance company if they think they’ve been charged a disproportionate amount for cancellation or a mid-term adjustment. Some companies may reduce or waive the fees if it means retaining a customer.

If the fees weren’t declared prior to the policy being agrees, a customer can ask the Financial Ombudsman Service to review the case.

Car insurance admin fees overview

  • Adjustment fee: £28.25 (up from £20.51 in 2012)
  • Cancellation fee: £60.85 (up from £40.95 in 2012)
  • Set-up fee: £37.63 (up from £20.66 in 2012)
  • Duplicate documents fee: £13.85 (down from £18.58 in 2012)
Lamborghini Aventador S 2019 Art Car

This Lamborghini has been turned into an incredible work of art

Lamborghini Aventador S 2019 Art CarSome might argue that a Lamborghini Aventador S is already worthy of display in an art gallery, with bold lines and geometric shapes. 

However, the Italian supercar manufacturer has taken things further, inviting young street artist Skyler Grey to create this bespoke collectors item.

The grand unveiling of this special Lamborghini is part of Monterey Car Week 2019, taking pride of place in the Lamborghini Pavilion at the Pebble Beach Golf Course.

A complete blank canvas

Lamborghini Aventador S 2019 Art CarIt takes a brave person to use a paint roller on a $420,000 (£342,000) supercar, but that was exactly what 19-year-old Skyler Grey did.

Lamborghini invited the young artist to its new paint facility at the Sant’Agata factory, allowing him to unleash his full arsenal of street art tools and techniques. 

Along with the rollers, Grey

used air brushes, spray guns, and stencils to transform the original Arianco Atlas (orange) paintwork of the V12-powered Aventador S.

Running with the bulls

Lamborghini Aventador S 2019 Art CarBold splashes of yellow, orange, and white have been used by Grey to bring turn the Aventador S into something Andy Warhol would be proud of. 

Planning the design concept took almost a year. Grey needed to liaise with various teams at the Lamborghini factory to ensure his vision was viable.

Actually turning his ideas into a finished creation took a total of three weeks. The artist completed the exterior design by signing his name on the bodywork.

Total stitch up

Lamborghini Aventador S 2019 Art CarNot even the interior has been spared from a makeover, with the Grey adding an extra custom design to the real panel. 

Grey has added the embroidered image of a cartoon bull, surrounded by splashes of simulated paint. Lamborghini used its skilled upholstery experts to make the design come to life.

By contrast, the remainder of the cockpit in black leather with orange stitching seems almost subtle. 

Fighting the counterfeiters

 

Lamborghini Aventador S 2019 Art CarAlong with pushing the boundaries of cars as art, Lamborghini has used new technology in selling the finished Aventador S. 

With Grey’s work already attracting an impressive following, it is perhaps unsurprising that an avid art collector has snapped up the finished mid-engine coupe. 

Lamborghini has used blockchain technology to register and certify the car as authentic. The aim is to stop anyone from attempting to pass off an imitation of Grey’s work as the real deal. 

Viewing gallery

Lamborghini Aventador S 2019 Art CarGrey’s Aventador creation is the latest addition to a list of Lamborghinis turned into works of art. Earlier this year, photographer Fabian Oefner released images of a classic Miura which appeared to be exploding into component parts. 

However, this special Aventador S is due to start firmly in one piece for now. The Lamborghini Pavilion at Pebble Beach will see it on display alongside other regular production models. 

Lamborghini has also revealed a new roadster version of the Aventador SVJ, limited to just 63 examples. Also on show is the Huracan Evo GT Celebration, which pays homage to the endurance racing success of the brand.

Read more:

BMW is going to Coachella with art-covered i8s

Hyundai makes a bold statement with unique Tucson N Line art car

Lexus has made an art car

Are you paying too much for your car hire excess insurance?

Car hire companies

Only 29 percent of motorists questioned in a new study were aware they could take out a car hire excess insurance policy BEFORE they left the UK.

Holidaymakers face excesses of £500 to £2,000 in the event of an accident, with the amount pre-authorised on a credit card for the duration of the hire period. Excess insurance can be arranged at the rental desk, but it comes at a cost.

Arranging excess insurance in the UK is often cheaper than paying for an expensive, but similar, hire car company policy abroad.

The cost leaves many travellers disgruntled, with 70 percent of the motorists surveyed by the RAC describing the excess insurance offered by rental firms as “expensive”.

It’s little wonder, then, that 17 percent of British holidaymakers admit to risking it and not taking out one of the hire car company’s policies. Of those who ‘risked it’, 23 percent said they were worried about the consequences of having to pay such a large amount on their credit card.

‘Usually very costly’

Car hire excess insurance cover

RAC head of insurance Marcus Latchford said: “While rental agreements in Europe generally include collision damage waiver, theft and third-party liability insurance, customers also have to decide whether or not to protect themselves against the large damage excess amount that is temporarily held on their credit card while the car is on hire.

“Taking out the rental company’s excess insurance policy is usually very costly which leads to many travellers just taking the chance that nothing bad will happen to their hire vehicle and the excess will not be charged to their card.

“By far the best course of action is to take out specialist insurance to cover the excess amount and any additional damage repair costs incurred via a specialist policy bought in the UK. The trouble is not enough people realise this is an option so they end up losing out financially by buying expensive hire car excess insurance policies, often with a lower level of cover.

“We need to make people aware that very affordable UK alternatives exist so it becomes second nature to take out a policy before travelling.”

The RAC has launched its own car hire excess insurance, with cover available from £2.99 a day or £42.99 for an annual policy. In contrast, rental companies charge an average of £9 a day for similar cover.

Brown Lee Ford Mustang Gulf Heritage Edition

Ford Mustang gets the official Gulf Oil Heritage Edition treatment

Brown Lee Ford Mustang Gulf Heritage EditionA Tennessee Ford dealership has created a special Mustang, which celebrates the famous Gulf Oil racing livery.

Brown Lee Ford, based in Morrison, Tennessee, plans to offer 119 examples of the Gulf Heritage Edition ‘Stang, with buyers able to pick between coupe or convertible versions.

Just like the special Heritage Edition version of the Ford GT supercar, this Mustang pays homage to the 1968 and 1969 Le Mans-winning Ford GT40 race cars.

Retro-fantastic

Brown Lee Ford Mustang Gulf Heritage EditionDescribed as one of the most-recognized liveries in motorsport, the custom-painted Gulf Oil colors of blue and orange certainly make this Mustang stand out.

Along with the paint scheme, Brown Lee has also added a host of CarbonAero exterior parts. Carbon fiber is used for the front splitter, side skirts, rear diffuser, and the rear spoiler with a special Gurney flap.

Unique Gulf Oil badging is applied to the trunk decklid, and also to the front fenders. The front grille is also badgeless, giving this Mustang a more aggressive look. 

Powerful piece of history

Brown Lee Ford Mustang Gulf Heritage EditionWith Brown Lee selling a range of modified Fords from tuning companies such as Roush, Hennessey, and Shelby, the Gulf Heritage Edition has gained some extras.

Under the hood, a Whipple Stage 2 supercharger sits atop the 5.0-liter V-8 engine, which also gains upgraded fuel injectors and an air-to-water intercooler system. A new air intake has been added.

Thankfully, the Gulf Heritage Edition also features Brembo brakes. These include Gulf orange-painted six-piston calipers at the front, with four-piston versions at the rear. Also included are performance Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. 

Blue and orange for all 

Brown Lee Ford Mustang Gulf Heritage EditionA set of 20-inch gunmetal alloy wheels are bolted on, whilst the suspension is lowered to ensure the perfect stance. This includes full coilover suspension for Mustangs without the adjustable Magnetic Ride system.

Whilst the dealership has not quoted specific performance numbers for the Gulf Heritage Edition, each car will be subjected to a chassis dynamometer test before delivery. 

Inside, the interior is finished in a combination of leather and Alcantara upholstery, with custom Gulf Oil stitching and embroidery applied. Buyers can pick between the standard sports seats, or Ford Performance Recaro versions. 

An expensive anniversary gift

Brown Lee Ford Mustang Gulf Heritage EditionLike any good limited edition, each car will come with a special build plaque signifying which of the 119 units it is.

At $139,995 it represents a sizeable jump compared to price for a regular 5.0 V-8 Mustang, and almost double the $73,995 for the forthcoming 2020 Shelby GT500.

However, for those who want to celebrate the iconic Gulf Oil livery in style, this Mustang is certainly cheaper than the mid-engined Ford GT version.

From Valkyrie to Valhalla: Aston Martin’s hypercars come to life

Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

The reveal of the Aston Martin Valkyrie, formerly known as the AM-RB 001, was met with as much scepticism as it was excitement. Could Aston really make this incredible set of numbers a running, driving, selling reality? 

Three years on from the launch of the AM-RB 001, the Valkyrie is almost ready for both customers and Le Mans. Not only that, there’s yet another Aston hypercar bringing up the rear, with James Bond behind the wheel…

Aston Martin Valkyrie

AM-RB 001 told us exactly what Aston wanted us to know. That it was a collaboration with Red Bull, that F1 design genius Adrian Newey was the brain behind it, and that it was 001 – the first of more to come. 1,000hp, 1,000 kilograms, a naturally-aspirated V12 and track performance to rival the fastest Le Mans cars. Scarcely believable at the time.

Then they named it and got more specific on specs. The Valkyrie should beat a one horsepower per-kilogram power-to-weight ratio, but the weight figure is to be closer to 1,200kg than to 1,000kg.

Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

Incredibly, the Valkyrie got more extreme with the AMR Pro track-only variant. It looks like something you’d spy at the front of the grid at the start of Le Mans. Funny, that…

Before we heard and saw that V12, the Valkyrie still felt conceptual. Then the news, pictures and videos came out of Cosworth dyno testing the 6.5-litre V12 to beyond 10,000rpm. It’s a beautiful piece of engineering.

Around the same time, the facility that lucky buyers are using to create their dream Valkyrie was revealed. It was bittersweet to see, knowing we had neither an allocation of one of the 150 cars, nor the minimum £2 million required to make it happen.

Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

As if one 1,000hp hypercar wasn’t enough, Aston announced the 003 at the Geneva Motor Show. A car to take on McLaren’s Senna, the 003, which soon became the Valhalla, is to get a twin-turbo V6 engine mated to a hybrid system, and put out around 1,000 horsepower. We should have known better than to assume how far from reality it was.

Answering the prayers of petrolheads the world over, Aston then confirmed that it would be adapting the Valkyrie for racing in the new hypercar class at Le Mans. The Valkyrie is to bring a V12 back to top-flight endurance racing in 2021.

Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

Somehow the story of a pair of Aston Martin hypercars would feel incomplete if Bond didn’t get his hands on one. Yes, 007 should be getting a 003 as his company car. Quite how the MI6 budget stretches to such a car is a mystery. How will Adrian Newey feel about all those heavy gadgets?

Now once again Aston skeptics are eating their words. Even amidst the financial woes, it’s mighty impressive that these two enormous projects are proving the doubters wrong by going flat-out at Silverstone.

 Aston Martin Valkyrie

Valhalla and Valkyrie are words borrowed from Norse mythology. You might have heard them referred to in some of Marvel’s Thor comic books and movies. 

Valhalla is a sort of Norse heaven, and a Valkyrie is a “chooser of the slain”. That means someone that scours battlefields looking for fallen warriors worthy of entry to Valhalla. They don’t pluck these names out of thin air, you know…

 Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

The Valhalla is still some way off. Aston refers to this running driving version as a ‘dynamic concept’. It’s a good indication of how Valhalla will look on the move, even if it’s not a verifiable representation of the finished article like the Valkyrie VP1 prototype.

This comes on the eve of the Valhalla’s North American debut at Monterey Car Week in the Quail display. It’ll be the first time Aston’s sophomore hypercar has been seen on the other side of the pond.

 Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

Aston reckons the Valhalla will be more suited to road use than its big brother the Valkyrie, even looking as it does and performing as they claim it will. “Though making greater concessions to practicality and road use, Valhalla remains true to the uncompromising engineering ethos laid down by its bigger brother.”

Even following in the wake of the incredible Valkyrie, offering over three-times as many units, Aston says the Valhalla is over-subscribed. It’s currently in the process of ‘hand-picking’ buyers to get the chance to own one of the 500 Valhallas it plans on building.

 Aston Martin Valkyrie

Even though this weekend arguably belongs to baby brother Valhalla, it’s worth an update on the car that started it all. This is verification prototype number one of the Valkyrie – the first fully representative running prototype. It debuted at Geneva and has been testing hard ever since.

What better stage on which to debut what Aston hopes will be the world’s greatest hypercar, than the interlude in the British Formula 1 Grand Prix? The Valkyrie took some laps with intrepid tester and master helmsman Chris Goodwin at the wheel, with the car sporting an appropriate Red Bull livery.

 Aston Martin Valkyrie and Valhalla

It’s been a long road getting the Valkyrie into the hands of customers. From sketches on an F1 design genius’s desk in 2014, to a generation-defining hypercar in 2019. Valkyries are expected to arrive in buyer’s special Aston-designed garages by the end of 2019. As for the Valhalla? That’s expected to be ready in 2021. Patience is the ultimate virtue…

Could electric cars cause blackouts?

Could electric cars cause blackouts?

Could a significant upturn in electric car registrations highlight energy shortages and cause blackouts? In the aftermath of more than a million homes going without power last Friday, experts are uncertain.

EVs could put a strain on the National Grid that it’s not yet ready for.

SaveMoneyCutCarbon is warning that increases in electricity demand could result in black-outs and power cuts by 2040. The main culprit of that demand? Electric cars…

At present, we’re well behind some European countries when it comes to electric vehicle registrations. As the charging infrastructure strengthens and the cost of EVs comes down, more British motorists will be considering making the switch in the coming years.

Could electric cars cause blackouts?

Mark Sait, chief executive of SaveMoneyCut Carbon, warns that if we match some European registration figures it “could create real concerns”. Near-on half of all cars registered are electric in Norway.

“The spike in demand from EVs could very well cause blackouts in certain areas of the UK, with there not being enough power generated, or particularly if the technology generating that power had not been upgraded,” explained Sait.

The National Grid has reported that we need a 20 percent increase in energy capacity by 2050. Sait is warning the real figure could peak at way more than that – double today’s 348 terawatt/hour yearly demand – if we move towards EV registration targets.

Could electric cars cause blackouts?

“As more and more EVs are plugged into the grid, the demand in electricity will constantly rise,” he warned.

SaveMoneyCutCarbon is in the business of helping large facilities including schools and hotels cut their energy consumption. Sait’s warning is that a country-wide consumption cut strategy needs to be considered if the grid hopes to cope with increased demands from electric cars that are coming sooner than we think.