Our new car reviews help new car buyers research the latest models in plain English. We avoid jargon in our road tests to help you make an informed decision

Mercedes-AMG G63 review: Rumble in the urban jungle

You’ll hear them before you see them. From SW1 to NW8, they traverse the capital’s poshest postcodes like rolling thunder. White ones often wear Arabic number plates, black ones are more likely Russian. Many are modified. Against the odds, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class – a vehicle conceived as a military workhorse – has become part of top-tier London life. And now, for the first time in 39 years, there’s a new one.

Not that it looks new, you understand. The SUV formerly known as the G-Wagen may be longer, wider and taller, but its styling is near-identical. There’s the same bolt-upright windscreen and flat glass, the familiar Tonka toy stance. Even the external door hinges and wing-mounted indicators – quirks that would ordinarily have been swept away by the demands of aerodynamics and fuel efficiency – have been faithfully replicated. I’m sure that’s exactly how the good folk of Kensington and Chelsea would want it.

Elsewhere, the G-Class is markedly more modern. The old recirculating ball steering is gone, replaced by a rack-and-pinion set-up. The solid front axle is swapped for double wishbones, while the ladder frame chassis is now 50 percent stiffer. Clamber inside and you’ll find a dashboard dominated by two 12.3-inch digital displays. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity, a 15-speaker audio system and 64-colour ambient lighting. All de rigueur in a luxury car costing nigh-on £150,000.

Any pretence of civility is obliterated when you prod the starter button, though. The AMG G63 coughs into life like Ray Winstone with a head-cold. Jettisoning through shotgun-style side pipes, its gluttonous gargle ricochets off buildings in majestic surround-sound. Then the nine-speed auto ’box kicks down and a full Spinal Tap solo is unleashed. Other markets get the slightly-more-sensible 422hp G500 petrol, but we’re limited to this or the 286hp G350d diesel.

We already know and love AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo ‘hot vee’ V8 from the E 63 saloon, AMG GT supercar and others. It develops 585hp here, along with a thumping 627lb ft of torque: enough to blast this 2.5-tonne behemoth to 62mph in a faintly absurd 4.5 seconds. Top speed is 137mph, or 149mph if you specify the derestricted ‘AMG Driver’s Package’ fitted here. At £2,000, it costs £167 per additional mile-per-hour…

At last, however, the AMG G-Class is about more than simply straight-line speed. The outgoing car’s steering was as ponderous and vague as the tiller on the Titanic – with a similar chance of jeopardy if you overcooked a corner – but the new G feels utterly transformed. It turns in keenly, hunkers down and grips hard. There’s still a fair bit of body-roll, of course, and it can’t match the composure of a Porsche Cayenne. But you’re no longer locked in bitter battle with the forces of physics.

This new-found dynamic prowess hasn’t, Mercedes insists, come at the expense of rough-terrain ability. The G-Class still has three locking differentials and a low-range gearbox, plus even more ground clearance than before. Granted, many UK cars venture no further off-road than a gravel driveway, but in Riyadh and St Petersburg these things matter.

As my Instagram account (@timpitt100) bears witness, the G-class already has a legion of loyal fans; the pictures I posted got more ‘likes’ than any other car in recent memory. For such people, this updated G is Mission Accomplished. It retains the indomitable character of the original, while ironing out many of its faults.

If you weren’t convinced to start with, there’s nothing here to change your mind. The G63 is a car that defies categorisation as surely as it defies level-headed logic. But perhaps that’s something to be celebrated.

Price: £143,305

0-62mph: 4.5sec

Top speed: 137mph

CO2 G/KM: 299

MPG combined: 21.4

Mercedes-AMG G63: in pictures

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2020 Honda e

Honda e review: small and perfectly formed EV… at a price

2020 Honda e

The Honda e is an all-electric concept only Honda could build. Taking a different approach to every other car company has created a model that has desirability by the bucketload, even amongst those it patently isn’t designed for or suited to.

It is small, and decidedly premium-priced (from £26,160, or £28,660 for the Advance grade nine in 10 are currently buying), and the range is half that of the similar-cost and significantly larger Kia e-Niro. But for the trend-setting urbanites it’s aimed for, this is immaterial. They want an electric car that feels a million dollars and delivers an experience that’s unique.

The Honda e is that car.

2020 Honda e

For those who might not find it suitable, Honda has an electrified Jazz coming soon that might do the trick, for thousands less. The Honda e will get them through the doors, though. And, as we discovered, if they do accept a test drive, there may be some interesting head-versus-heart decisions to be made.

First impressions

2020 Honda e

Seeing the Honda e out on the road, with normal cars around it, does not diminish its concept car appearance. It accentuates it. The vividly clean and precisely-cut lines are clarity in a car world of compromise. It is vivid, self-assured, and instantly likeable. People will fall in love with it, like they did with the original Mini.

It is small, shorter than a Ford Fiesta, and the tiny 171-litre boot (less than half the size of a Honda Jazz) just about takes carry-on suitcases, but little more. Adults can get into the rear without getting stuck, but it’s undeniably tight. For those in the front, though, it feels fine, with lots of seat adjustment, plenty of headroom and little sense you’re obviously sat in something so compact.

2020 Honda e

The dashboard is breathtaking. Screens span the full width, just like in the concept. At the outer edges are two high-resolution rear-view cameras, which take the place of door mirrors. At first, it’s hard to stop staring at the video feeds of what’s going on behind you.

Ahead of the driver is a colourful instrument display, packed with information, which will take a bit of getting used to. The stars of the show are the dual 12.3-inch HD displays alongside. So central are these to the Honda e experience, we’re given a tutorial before we set off for the drive.

2020 Honda e

They’re touchscreen, with virtual ‘hard’ shortcut keys on the outer edges of each. They work independently, so the driver can use the sat nav and the passenger can play with something else. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto give smartphone mirroring. A clever trick: the driver can open a screen then ‘swipe’ it over to the passenger side (or swap the displays at the touch of a button).

There are some Easter eggs, too. An aquarium, in which you can choose the number and type of fish. Or you can have various full-width wallpapers instead. The Honda virtual assistant (complete with cute bouncing ‘face’ icon) understands natural language. Honda Parking Pilot is an auto-park system that scans bays and shows a live video feed on the screen: if it can manage to auto-drive into one, the space lights up green – simply tap the space and the e takes over to park it up for you.  

2020 Honda e

More generally, the interior has a lovely ambience, purposefully lounge-like with melange-style seat upholstery more like sofas than cars. The wood-effect panel on the dash is convincing (you can actually feel the grain), the brown seatbelts are neat and it all feels high-quality and premium enough to justify the price tag.

Driving the Honda e

2020 Honda e

Electric cars bleep when you turn them on, rather than whirr. So pulling away (via an auto gear panel that mimics the Honda NSX) is oddly silent and uneventful. It puts you in the right mood for the Honda e experience of futuristic city motoring.

What stands out first is the panoramic visibility. Having no door mirrors is key; it’s like removing blinkers. Steering around the city seems so much easier because you can see much more at a glance – helped by the high-set seats and stubby, well-defined dimensions. Using the rear-view cameras is neat, too – they eliminate blind-spots and are particularly useful when squeezing through tight gaps or avoiding errant Valencia traffic (the digital interior mirror isn’t so crisp or useful – and goes blurry when it rains).

2020 Honda e

The e has a taut in-town ride, with a firm feel, although it doesn’t crash or bang. It also keeps the body roll-free when you’re darting through traffic, which calms down the experience for passengers. The test Advance model had the higher-output 154hp electric motor, for 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds. Punchy and immediate response means you can surge forward into gaps normal cars stumble over.

Steering has a weighty, quality feel and the Honda e is rear-wheel drive, which gives great traction away from the line, and means the steering wheel doesn’t squirm if you give it the full beans. Its party trick is in car parks: the turning circle is incredible, little bigger than the length of the car itself. You can steer from one parking space into the next-but-one, in one go.

2020 Honda e

Out of city limits, the Honda e’s high-end fully independent suspension marks it out as a car with more depth than the city car norm. The ride becomes cushioned and able to soak up nasty surfaces, and it feels very stable as speeds rise. The weight of the batteries settles it on the motorway, making it uncommonly relaxing at speed for such a small car.

Handling is great fun. Commanding steering is quick and precise, turning the car in with agility and confidence. You can go early on the power to deploy the instant, powerful surge and shoot out of corners with perfect rear-led balance. It’s like a little sports car in this respect.

You can drive it as a so-called ‘one-pedal’ car, too. In normal mode, there are four stages of battery-charging regeneration (how much it slows down) when you lift the accelerator, selected via steering wheel paddle shifters. Press a button on the centre console and you get three more, stronger, levels. Mastering it is satisfying and the ‘free’ power it puts into the battery useful.

2020 Honda e

How about battery range? On a cold, rainy day, we started out with a 99 percent full 35.5 kWh battery, showing a 153 km (93 mile) range (some way off the claimed 125 miles). After a 93 km test drive, it said 55 km (34 miles) were left remaining – that’s 37 percent charge. We weren’t hanging about, and the stretch included a blast up the motorway. The media before us were probably driving it like they stole it too, so that average range should increase. It seems, however, that you can trust the Honda e’s initial range calculations.

The Honda e is ready to take fast charging: at the stopover, we plugged it in, and it said 49 minutes to a full charge again. Find a full 50 kW charge point (they’re gradually spreading across the UK) and it will go from fully flat to 80 percent charged in 30 minutes.

And the Honda e is ready to entertain you while you wait. It has an HDMI slot, so you can plug in a Google Chromecast device or, as was demonstrated to us, a Super Nintendo Classic Mini, for brilliantly crisp Mario Kart games. Sat on firm, comfortable heated seats, in such a pleasant interior, it’s a pleasant way to wait for a half-hour fast-charge.

Verdict: Honda e

2020 Honda e

The Honda e is a class act. Probably more premium and luxurious than a BMW i3, it is a futuristic car that doesn’t short-change you on comfort or sophistication. It drives nicely, with a sporty feel that should delight enthusiasts, yet is also compliant and quiet enough for those who want to be wowed by the electric cars of the future.

The two elephants in the room are range and price. Both are unavoidable: it is a compact car precisely because it doesn’t have massive high-range batteries. And it feels so high-end because so much expensive content has gone into it. Those who understand this won’t mind paying a premium. But both factors mean it’s not an everyman EV.  

Rather, it’s an innovative and authentically unique electric car that, yes, only Honda could make. And, to its core audience and far-sighted early adopters, all the better for it.

2020 Honda e: specifications

Price: (including Plug-in Car Grant)

  • Honda e: £26,160
  • Honda e Advance: £28,860

Power: 136hp (Advance: 154 hp)

0-62 mph: 9.0 secs (Advance: 8.3 secs)

Top speed: 90 mph

Range: 137 miles (17-inch wheels: 125 miles)

Boot space: 171 litres (seats down: 861 litres)

Length/width/height: 3,895/1,750/1,752 mm

Weight: 1,514 – 1,542 kg

Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo review: putting the ‘S’ into ‘SUV’

There are two schools of thought here. For some, SUV coupes are a contradiction in terms. They are off-roaders that rarely (if ever) venture beyond tarmac. They aspire to dynamism, yet are blunted by bulk and a high centre of gravity. And they diminish the ‘utility’ of a Sports Utility Vehicle for a sleeker silhouette.

Then again, an arsenal of technology lends most such cars an agility that belies their bulk. Their high driving positions and rangy suspension arguably suit our crowded, crumbling roads. And they are still amply practical for family life, despite some concessions to style.

Like a certain political debate, there seems to be no middle-ground. But whichever side of the fence you sit on, high-riding coupes are here to stay. Indeed, given BMW launched the X6 in 2007, it’s a wonder Porsche took 12 years to join this very profitable party. You’ve probably made up your mind about the Cayenne Coupe already, but assuming you haven’t ‘had enough of experts’, here are a few thoughts from me.

Firstly, how it looks. The Cayenne Coupe is just that: a restyled version of Porsche’s full-size 4×4, with a racier roofline and more bulbous bottom. Look closer and you’ll spot the mildly stretched wings, steeper rake for the windscreen and active rear spoiler, which pops up above 55mph. While hardly beautiful, it’s the best take on Porsche’s ‘911 in platform shoes’ aesthetic yet. Certainly prettier than the rival X6 or Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.

Inside, the rear seats are fixed 30mm lower to compensate for that drooping roof, while boot capacity shrinks by a modest 145 litres versus the standard Cayenne (to 1,680 litres in total). Four individual chairs are standard, with a three-person rear bench a no-cost option. My car had the optimistically-named ‘Lightweight Sport Package’, which limits you to four seats, costs £7,482 and saves just 22kg – negligible on a 2,275kg SUV. On the plus side, the carbon fibre roof and retro 911-style houndstooth trim are properly cool.

An analogue rev counter front-and-centre is also a pleasingly traditional touch, but everything else about the Coupe’s interior feels futuristic. Rather than physical switches, many of the touch-sensitive controls are concealed beneath gloss-black veneer, like a Bang & Olufsen hi-fi. The large touchscreen looks crisp, and syncs effortlessly with your phone, while the digital dials can display the navigation map. Note the chunky grab handles on the centre console, too. Your passenger may be needing those…

Particularly if the word ‘Turbo’ is on the tailgate. This is the flagship Cayenne Coupe – at least until the even quicker Turbo S E-Hybrid arrives – and packs a 550hp 4.0-litre V8 and eight-speed PDK auto gearbox: good for 0-62mph in a ferocious 3.9 seconds, plus 177mph flat-out. Prices start at £104,729, with my test Turbo costing a hefty £127,354 after options.

Many of those extras, such as the tinted taillights (£590), you really don’t need. From experience with other Porsche models, though, rear-axle steering (£1,448) is a worthwhile investment. It makes for improved manoeuvrability around town and better stability at speed: both important in a large SUV. And it helps make the Cayenne Coupe the most driver-focused car in its class.

Select one of the sportier drive modes and body control is iron-fisted, the Porsche hugging the road with steely focus. Its steering is nuanced and direct, while its brakes – £4,217 ceramic-composite discs here – are progressive and mighty. Sitting so high, you’re never totally immersed in the action, but this is the closest an SUV gets to a sports car.

Me? I’d go for the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo estate, which is prettier, nearly as practical and even more engaging to drive. But you’ve already made up your mind, right?

Price: £104,729

0-62mph: 3.9sec

Top speed: 177mph

CO2 G/KM: 258

MPG combined: 20.8

Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo: in pictures

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Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio review: the closest thing to a Ferrari SUV

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

‘Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio’. Does any new car boast a more richly evocative name? Alfa Romeo you know: it’s the visionary Disco Volante, voluptuous 33 Stradale, Targa Florio road race and Dustin Hoffman fleeing Mrs Robinson in a red Spider Duetto. The Stelvio Pass, meanwhile, is one of the world’s great roads, a pulse-spiking ribbon of tarmac with more hairpins than Toni and Guy. And ‘Quadrifoglio’? That’s Italian for four-leaf clover, the good-luck symbol worn by Alfa Romeos since 1923.

Lest we forget, Alfa has also dished up plenty of disappointment over the decades. Cars like the 1983 Arna hatchback, a marriage of dowdy Japanese design and indifferent Italian build quality. Or the 2005 Brera, an exotic-looking coupe that was about as exciting as Ed Sheeran. Don’t get me started on rust, either. Even Alfa’s great cars – and there have been many – used to dissolve at the merest hint of humidity.

Back to the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Affixing such a glorious name to the portly posterior of an SUV seems a recipe for Alfisti anguish. However, this isn’t just any school-run SUV. Behind that shield-shaped grille lurks a 510hp 2.9-litre V6 – a cut-down Ferrari engine, no less. You’ll also find carbon-ceramic brake discs and (optional) hard-shell carbon bucket seats. Oh, and it has a drive mode labelled ‘RACE’. Things are looking up already.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

The Stelvio shares most of its oily bits with the Giulia Quadrifoglio saloon, with one crucial difference: four-wheel drive. That helps catapult this 1,830kg family car to 62mph in 3.8 seconds – and lap the Nurburgring in a scorching 7min 51.8sec. Among SUVs, only the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S has gone quicker. Indeed, the muscle-Merc and Porsche Macan Turbo are arguably the Stelvio’s only real rivals.

From the outside, there’s no doubting the Quadrifoglio’s sporting intent. Spidery 20-inch alloys fill its stretched wheelarches and four meaty tailpipes jut from its rear diffuser. Inside, those £3,250 Sparco seats, trimmed in Alcantara with red stitching, lift an otherwise mediocre cabin. There are far too many cheap plastics for a £70,000 car, while the fiddly infotainment system feels at least a generation behind the Germans. However, a recent facelift – UK cars will arrive soon – does improve matters here. 

Prod the red starter button, pull the slender aluminium paddle and you’re away. The engine sounds undernourished at first, but its note hardens into a salacious snarl as the revs rise, punctuated by pops from the exhausts. And by God, it’s quick. An almighty wallop of turbocharged torque has it rocketing to the redline as swiftly as you can grab the next gear. This, for now, is the closest you’ll get to that much-mooted Ferrari SUV.

While the rear-driven Giulia is inclined to go sideways at the merest flick of a right ankle, the 4WD Stelvio – with its quick steering, punchy gearbox and sharp brakes – feels tenaciously tied-down. It bites into apices more aggressively than many sports cars, the usual SUV body-roll all but banished. For an average driver like me, it’s certainly a faster car than the Giulia: safer, more confidence-inspiring and perhaps more rewarding as a result. I’m not sure even the Macan matches it for B-road thrills.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

The trade-off for such iron-fisted focus is a ride that’s brittle at best, downright uncomfortable at worst. Even in its more relaxed drive modes – selectable via Alfa’s usual ‘DNA’ dial – the Quadrifoglio is arguably too unforgiving for a family car. You’ll be having a blast while your partner calls the chiropractor.

After a week behind the wheel, I’ve rather fallen for this flawed Italian firecracker. It’s a heart-over-head purchase, in true Alfa Romeo tradition. Most will prefer the more rounded appeal of rivals, but the Stelvio has a bombastic charm all its own.

Price: £70,900

0-62mph: 3.8sec

Top speed: 176mph

CO2 G/KM: 222

MPG combined: 28.8

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio: in pictures

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Honda NSX review: how the people’s supercar humbled Ferrari

Honda NSX classic

After 1989, sports cars would never be the same. That year, the Mazda MX-5 reinvented the roadster – with added reliability – then Honda did the same for the supercar. Its NSX was, in essence, a Ferrari without the flaws.

The New Sportscar eXperimental reached UK showrooms in late 1990, priced at £55,000. Its lightweight aluminium body was shrink-wrapped around a mid-mounted 3.0-litre V6 with forged pistons, titanium conrods and a searing 8,000rpm redline. Suspension was by double wishbones all-round, and F1 hero Ayrton Senna (racing for McLaren Honda at the time) helped hone the handling. No doubt, the NSX was the real deal.

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Reviews at the time, though, were mixed. The NSX torpedoed the myth that supercars have to be hard work, but some thought it too sanitised – complaining it lacked the character of European rivals. Yet history would prove Honda right. Today, you don’t need the skills of Senna to drive a McLaren Senna, and we have the NSX to thank. Equally, what seemed sensible 30 years ago now feels like a glorious throwback to an analogue age.

Honda NSX classic

It’s 6:30am as we board the Channel Tunnel. Two days and 478 miles of driving lie ahead, including stop-offs at historic racetracks in Reims and Rouen, plus a detour into central Paris for an overnight stay. Classic road tests are rarely so rigorous, but I’m hopeful the NSX will rise to the challenge. Me? I’ll need a double espresso first.

Honda’s heritage car hails from 2005, the last year of original NSX production. By this point, engine capacity had risen to 3.2 litres and pop-up headlights had fallen victim to US safety legislation. Metallic orangey-gold paint aside, it looks subtle for a supercar. The plasticky dashboard and parts-bin switches haven’t aged well, but its low-slung driving position is superb. The view ahead, all wraparound windscreen and plunging bonnet, is pure Le Mans racer.

With plenty of motorway miles to Reims, I’m dismayed to discover ‘infotainment’ is limited to a cassette player. Fortunately, the 280hp V6 makes its own music: a sultry snarl that swells to a rabid mechanical shriek. Beyond 5,500rpm (where many engines would shortly run out of revs), Honda’s VTEC variable valve timing kicks in like a nitrous boost, piling on speed with insatiable intensity.

We pause for photos in the evocative pitlane of Reims-Gueux – which hosted the French Grand Prix until 1966 – then drive what remains of the former circuit. The back straight is now a busy dual-carriageway, passing a retail park and drive-thru McDonald’s. The magic seems long gone.

The NSX is busy casting its spell, though. Its power steering feels light but lucid, its stubby gearlever moves with rifle-bolt precision and its pedals are just-so for heel-and-toe downshifts. Panoramic visibility and modest dimensions also mean we cope calmly with rush-hour Paris. Unlike, seemingly, every other driver on the infamous Périphérique ring road.

Honda NSX classic

If the ‘road to Rouen’ sounds like a stand-up comedy tour, the reality – 80 miles on Autoroute 13 – is less amusing. But while the old Rouen-Les-Essarts circuit has vanished almost without trace, the surrounding hills form a perfect playground for the NSX. It flows between apices like a parkour athlete, its pliant suspension and progressive chassis delivering the raw, seat-of-pants feedback that’s so often smothered in modern cars. Here, on rural roads more accustomed to tractors and decrepit Clios, the Honda feels transcendent.

This purity still appeals, some 30 years after launch. The current NSX is an altogether different beast, a futuristic hybrid with nigh-on twice the power, yet I wonder if it will ever inspire the same reverence. If driving is your drug, the original NSX is a Class A hit. After a road-trip to remember, I think I’m addicted.

Price: from £45,000

0-62mph: 5.5sec

Top speed: 168mph

Horsepower: 280

MPG combined: 22.8

Honda NSX: in pictures

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Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review: Bjorn to be wild

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

Time was that a top-end Volvo estate would pack a meaty five- or six-cylinder turbocharged engine and be driven by your local undercover constable. Today, things have changed. The cops are now in BMWs and Volvo has moved on.

The new V90 T8 Twin Engine with ‘Polestar Engineered’ input is a case in point. Pop the bonnet and you’ll see just four cylinders, but there’s a turbo and supercharger, plus clever plug-in hybrid electric power. The result is an Audi S6 rival with around 60hp more power, which starts from £3,000 less. 

Volvo V90 T8: First impressionsVolvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

Firstly, the standard Volvo stuff. Spoiler alert: it’s a safe, highly accomplished family wagon. Standard kit includes Europe-wide navigation and semi-autonomous driving tech, as well as an arsenal of safety and assistance systems.

Its styling is sharp and pleasing, yet inoffensive and unpretentious. The R-Design package adds some decidedly un-Volvo sportiness, including 20-inch wheels and stylish (but fake) exhaust outlets. We love those pickaxe LED running lights, too.

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

On the inside, it’s just as smooth and sleek. The Polestar seats and leather appointment throughout the cabin are superb. On the whole, build quality is excellent, although cheaper materials are there if you look hard enough.

The touchscreen user interface is a bit quirky, and we worry whether Volvo’s infotainment is losing its edge in 2020. But it’s sharp-looking and performs well – once you learn how to operate it. 

Volvo V90 T8: On the roadVolvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

Volvo claims the T8 will go between 29 and 35 miles on electric power alone. We found a minimum of 20 miles could be expected in normal driving from the 11.6kWh battery. Charging takes around four hours. 

Without a lead foot, it’ll happily run in EV mode in most situations, including at motorway speeds. For short trips that would leave diesel drivers shedding a tear for their DPF, zero-emission motoring is a real bonus. Indeed, we didn’t run the engine itself until three days into our week with the T8.

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

Swipe in the infotainment and you can select ‘Charge’ or ‘Hold’, either forcing the internal combustion engine to add to the battery charge, or maintaining what it has for later.

Volvo V90 T8: ‘Polestar Engineered’ modeVolvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

To access the fruitier side of the T8, you roll the drive selector wheel past Pure (mostly electric) and Hybrid modes to Polestar Engineered. The digital display changes, from monitoring your power usage to a sporty red rev counter. Now you have access to the full might of the T8’s 400hp combined output. 

With it, you’ll see 62mph in five seconds – on par with the Audi S6 – and reach a top speed of 155mph. Electric power goes to the rear wheels via an 87hp 65kW electric motor, while the 2.0-litre engine’s 317hp heads to the front via a slick-shifting eight-speed auto gearbox.

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

It’s quick, yet undramatic. “Oh bother, I’m already at the speed limit,” you calmly mutter, as the T8 slices down the road. What sound do you hear from the petrol engine? It’s a curious concerto: mostly four-banger gruffness and the whirr of battery regeneration. Braking is impressive for a two-tonne-plus car.

The Active Four-C Chassis adaptive dampers (a £1,500 option) keep the V90 taut when cornering. Turn-in is good, but feel is non-existent. All told, the T8 does the business, but it is business – it’s no Dancing Queen. But neither are its rivals.

Volvo V90 T8: VerdictVolvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

So… The winner takes it all, or the loser standing small? To stick with the Abba theme, we’d take a chance on the V90 T8.

You won’t go around scaring BMW M5s, but if you’re an enthusiast in the market for a fast family wagon, it’s a compelling machine. And for a competitive price.

Bought as a company car, the benefit-in-kind taxation of the 43g/km-rated T8 could be highly appealing, too. We’d suggest test-driving one first, and seeing if you like hybrid way of doing things.

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine review

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine R-Design Plus: Specification

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-charged plug-in hybrid

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive

Power: 317hp (engine) + 87hp (electric)

Weight: 2,050kg

0-62mph: 5.3 seconds

Top speed: 155mph

Fuel economy: 25-40mpg (our testing), 97-117mpg (official WLTP results)

CO2 emissions: 49/g/km

Boot size: 560 litres

Price: From £59,655

Price as tested: £67,500

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Ford GT review: a Le Mans racer with number plates

Ford GT

Ford v Ferrari, a new docudrama starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, debuts in cinemas soon. It retells one of the most celebrated stories in motorsport: how Henry Ford II tried to buy Ferrari, was rudely snubbed by Enzo, then enacted his revenge on the racetrack. Ford’s weapon of choice was the GT40 – so-called because it was just 40 inches tall – and it went on to utterly dominate endurance racing.

Success for the GT40 took time. At Le Mans in 1964, all three cars failed to finish. The following year, Ford suffered the same fate. But an updated MkII model came good in 1966, with a legendary 1-2-3 finish in the 24-hour race. Ferrari’s 330 P4 prototypes were nowhere to be seen. Incredibly, Ford would win Le Mans four times in a row, from 1966 to 1969, cementing the GT40’s near-mythical status and inspiring Hollywood to tell its tale.

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The story doesn’t end there, though. Fifty years after its first historic victory, Ford returned to Le Mans in 2016 with a new GT (not christened ‘GT44’, despite being four inches taller) and won the LMGTE Pro class. Job done, you might think, but unlike the original GT40, this car has another mission to accomplish: taking on Ferrari on the road. That’s where I come in.

Ford GT

OK, so I didn’t drive the GT on the road. Ford only has two press cars in Europe and didn’t want either reconfigured by an over-excited hack confusing the M6 with the Mulsanne Straight. Instead, I was let loose on M-Sport’s new test-track in the Lake District. As the firm behind Ford’s WRC rally cars, M-Sport knows how to design a tortuously twisty loop of tarmac. Whether such a circuit suits a barely-disguised Le Mans racer is another matter. Oh, did I mention it was raining?

In the metal (sorry, carbon fibre), the GT looks stone-cold sensational, the voluptuous curves of the GT40 fortified by slash-cut intakes and aggressive aero. The rear view – past two afterburner tailpipes, over the transparent engine cover and through diverging rear buttresses – is like nothing else. In radiant ‘Triple Yellow’ with nose-to-tail racing stripes, it makes brightens up even a damp day in Cumbria.

I lift the scissor-style door and slide over a wide sill. Headroom feels tight with a crash helmet on and the bucket seat doesn’t move; you pull a strap to slide the pedals instead. Ford anoraks will spot the infotainment screen from a Fiesta, but that’s your lot for luxury – there are no cupholders and no carpets. No matter: this car is for driving, and its suede-wrapped wheel and anodised shift paddles feel superb.

Ford GT

In place of a good ol’ V8, the latest GT packs a downsized 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6, but what it lacks in cubic inches is amply compensated for by twin turbos and a dry weight of 1,385kg (scarcely more than a new Ford Focus). With 656hp coursing through its carbon fibre rear wheels, it scrabbles for traction in first, second and third gears, but feels brutally quick. It’s also fiercely loud: not sonorous like a Ferrari, but industrial and raw like a race car.

It responds like a race car, too. Anti-lag technology keeps the thrust coming, while the dual-clutch gearbox never pauses for breath. Its suspension is taut and tied-down, its steering telepathically direct. Switch into Track mode and the whole car drops by 50mm, but even in Normal it feels fiercely focused. However, while its sheer speed intimidates, its balanced, cohesive chassis does not. By the time my brief session comes to an end, I’m convinced I could win Le Mans.

Price: £450,000

0-62mph: 2.8sec 

Top speed: 216mph


MPG combined: 17.0

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Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1 review: power to the people

VW Golf GTI Mk1

In 1975, Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik patented a new type of puzzle. Within three years of reaching the shops, his Rubik’s Cube had sold 200 million. At the same time, another surprise success was brewing in Germany. A team of Volkswagen engineers had been working weekends on an unofficial project called ‘Sport Golf’. After some arm-twisting, managers sanctioned a run of 5,000 cars to homologate the Golf for racing. But the new model – swiftly renamed Golf GTI – was such a hit with press and public alike, production was immediately ramped up from 50 to 500 cars a day. One of motoring’s few true icons had arrived.

The Rubik’s Cube and the Golf GTI are both simple concepts. The Cube is three layers of coloured plastic, yet it has 42 quintillion possible permutations. The GTI was merely a Golf with a 110hp 1.6-litre engine from the Audi 80 GTE, stiffer suspension, cosmetic tweaks and (slightly) better brakes. Yet it was brilliant to drive, without sacrificing practicality or reliability. It captured the zeitgeist and defined a wholly new type of car: the hot hatchback.

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Today, that basic formula has hardly changed. The seventh generation Golf GTI has just been phased out (soon to be replaced by the Mk8, while the original has graduated to bona fide classic status. The car pictured here, owned by GTI enthusiast James Bullen, won the ‘Made in Germany’ class at the prestigious London Concours last summer, seeing off a BMW M1, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren 722 and Porsche 930 Turbo LE. Exalted company indeed.

VW Golf GTI Mk1

This isn’t just any Mk1 GTI, though. One of 1,000 Campaign editions built to round-off production of Das Original, it boasts a punchier 112hp 1.8 engine, 14-inch Pirelli ‘P-slot’ alloys (with Pirelli tyres), a twin-headlamp grille, green-tinted glass and a leather steering wheel. It’s also in breathtaking, better-than-new condition. The first owner paid £6,949 in 1983, but a GTI of this calibre could cost £30,000 now. To think I once bought one for £800…

Those memories of my much-loved Mk1 soon come flooding back. Giugiaro’s ‘folded paper’ styling still looks fresh, while that red go-faster stripe – endlessly imitated – hints at excitement to come. Inside, it’s less evocative: upright, functional and slightly austere. Still, a dimpled golf-ball gear knob lightens the mood, and there’s no faulting the textbook Teutonic build quality. The unassisted steering feels heavy and the Golf’s five-speed ’box is obstinate when cold, but it immediately feels peppy and well-suited to city streets. At 3,725mm long and 1,625 wide, it’s actually smaller than a current VW Polo.

VW Golf GTI Mk1

On open roads, the featherweight 840kg Mk1 is plenty fast enough to be fun. Its fuel-injected engine punches confidently out of corners, revving beyond 6,000rpm with real verve, while a fluid, forgiving chassis helps you maintain momentum, despite the modest grip. Push hard and you can lift an inside rear wheel, or even provoke a slide, yet it never feels edgy or unpredictable like the equally iconic Peugeot 205 GTI. Then as now, Volkswagen has always played it safe.

Driven: the cars that shaped Volkswagen’s past – and future

As for the brakes – the Achilles’ heel of right-hand-drive Mk1s, due to a convoluted cross-linkage – they’re actually better than I remembered. Then again, my Golf GTI was hardly perfectly preserved like this one, and I too am erring on the side of caution. Much as I’ve relished driving James’s pride and joy, I’m quietly glad to hand it back unscathed.

Price: £8,000+

0-62mph: 8.2sec

Top speed: 114mph

Horsepower: 112

MPG combined: 36.7

Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1: in pictures

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Honda NSX 2020 review: exotic, exhilarating… and easygoing

Honda NSX

There’s a feeling among some petrolheads that cars peaked in the early 1990s. It’s been downhill ever since. Writing for Autocar, Colin Goodwin went further, declaring 1994 ‘the greatest year in the history of the car’. I wasn’t old enough to drive back then, but I wonder if Colin is right.

Yes, cars today are better built, safer and more sophisticated. But as driving machines, they’re also more homogenised, sanitised and mundane. To quote Colin: ‘[1994] marks a point in time when cars were simpler, less cluttered with technology and, most importantly, had realistic performance’. One example he uses to illustrate this is the Honda NSX.

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The original NSX was no dinosaur: it was the first mass-produced car with an all-aluminium body, while its 274hp V6 used VTEC variable valve timing to boost power and economy. At heart, however, this was a straightforward sports car, with its engine in the middle, rear-wheel drive and virtually no electronic aids. Its superb steering, balletic handling – honed by Ayrton Senna – and high-revving howl left journalists in raptures and Ferrari red-faced. How the NSX felt to drive was what mattered.

Honda NSX

For the second-generation NSX, launched in 2016, Honda could have refreshed the same formula. Instead, perhaps inspired by hybrid hypercars like the LaFerrari and McLaren P1, it created something far more futuristic. The slightly by-numbers styling of the Mk1 made way for a riot of aggressive angles. And while there was still a V6 behind the seats, it was complemented by two turbos, three electric motors and a nine-speed gearbox driving all four wheels. On paper, this looked like progress.

On the road, many were less convinced. The NSX was heavy (1,759kg) and didn’t feel as raw and exciting as rivals. So Honda has obliged with a mid-life makeover, focused on righting these wrongs. Thermal Orange pearlescent paint aside, there are few visual changes – and no extra power for the 581hp hybrid drivetrain. But new anti-roll bars and rear-wheel hubs, plus tweaked settings for the steering, dampers, transmission and four-wheel-drive systems, promise a much sharper drive.

They deliver, too. Spin the Dynamic Mode dial to Sport+ and the NSX leaps to its toes: energised and agile. It turns in sharply, poised and playful mid-corner before Velcro-like grip rockets it onwards. The light steering jostles with incessant feedback and the huge carbon-ceramic brakes are easy to modulate. The suspension is also supple enough for British B-roads, transmitting every ripple and bump without making the car feel skittish. I’m not in the same universe in terms of driving skill, but I suspect Ayrton would approve.

Honda NSX

The NSX is ferociously fast, combining a wallop of electric torque with frenzied petrol power at the top end. Zero to 62mph takes 3.3 seconds, with urgent response at any speed. Being able to cruise silently around town in Quiet mode, using electric power only, feels very right-on, and helps towards impressive 26.4mpg economy. At times, I wished it sounded more special – its cultivated snarl won’t startle onlookers like a Lamborghini V10 – but mostly I was glad for its relative decorum. The novelty of constant barks and bangs soon wears thin.

It still isn’t perfect. The boot is tiny, the plastic paddle-shifters feel naff and the media system, shared with the Civic hatchback, is woeful. A price tag of £170,000, swollen by the weak pound, also makes it notably more expensive. Even so, only the more-commonplace Porsche 911 Turbo offers such easygoing usability in a supercar package. The new NSX might lack the simple charm of the original, but as the car industry rushes towards electrification, it feels forward-thinking and right for its time. The future is orange.

Price: £170,000

0-62mph: 3.3sec

Top speed: 191mph

CO2 G/KM: 242

MPG combined: 26.4

Honda NSX: in pictures

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Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder review: the sound and the fury

Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder

Two months ago in Sant’Agata Bolognese, a village near Italy’s supercar mecca of Modena, a Lamborghini Huracan was wrapped in protective plastic and loaded aboard a truck. The car itself – a grey coupe bound for South Korea – was nothing unusual. But Huracan number 14,022 had made history: eclipsing its Gallardo predecessor to become the best-selling Lamborghini of all time.

To put that number into perspective, Lamborghini built just 6,514 cars in its first 27 years. From the 350 GT in 1963 to the final Countach Anniversary in 1990, that’s an average of 20 a month. At around 260 a month, the Huracan is mass-produced by Sant’Agata standards. However, unless you’re a parking valet at the Dorchester, the littlest Lambo remains a rare sight. For further perspective, Nissan’s mega-factory in Sunderland churns out 1,000 Qashqais every day.

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Now, Lamborghini’s golden goose has received a mid-life makeover, intended to keep it fresh until its replacement – likely a plug-in hybrid – arrives in 2022. The Huracan Evo inherits the 640hp engine from the Performante, plus rear-wheel steering, a downforce-boosting ducktail and an adaptive dynamics system called LDVI. Inside, the dated infotainment has been binned for a touchscreen with gimmicky gesture control (flick a V-sign to raise or lower the volume) and far-more-useful Apple CarPlay. There’s still no Android Auto, though.

Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder

You’ll have spotted this Evo is the soft-top Spyder, with a fabric roof that retracts in 17 seconds at up to 31mph. With an extra 120kg of body bracing, it’s slightly slower than the coupe (3.1sec vs. 2.9sec to 62mph) and around £16,000 pricier, at £218,317 before options. However, once you hear the fresh-air fury of Lamborghini’s 5.2-litre V10 inches behind your back, details like these cease to matter. The drop-down rear window also lets you enjoy the aural assault with the roof up, and without getting drenched. Perfect for England in November.

That outrageous engine still defines the Huracan experience. In Strada (road) mode it’s surprisingly civil, shifting up early and muting the high-mounted tailpipes to a stentorian growl. Even your grandmother would scarcely raise an eyebrow. But switching to Sport or Corsa (track) unshackles a rottweiler with a ravenous hunger for revs. Unfettered by forced induction, the V10 soars to its 8,000rpm redline, gleefully goading you to go faster. The Lamborghini inhales the road like a rock star snorting cocaine. It’s pure supercar decadence.

Unlike the original car, though, the Huracan’s chassis no longer feels like a supporting act; rear-wheel steering bestows a renewed exuberance and agility. My colleague, who was lucky enough to attend the Evo coupé launch at Bahrain’s Grand Prix circuit, tells me it transforms the on-track handling. Where once there was play-it-safe understeer at the limit, now the Huracan feels poised and playful. I can, um, confirm the rear-steer makes it more manoeuvrable in London multi-storeys, too.

Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder

The new Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Integrata (LDVI) system also plays its part. It emulates Ferrari’s Dynamic Enhancer, continuously predicting your next move and priming the steering, suspension, transmission and stability systems to suit. You don’t feel it working, but that’s the point. Despite the dartier turn-in, everything seems to coalesce and flow. Compared with pulse-spiking Lamborghinis of old, the four-wheel-drive Hurcan is easy to exploit and enjoy.

Exploit that V10 too much, of course, and, rather like our errant rock star, you could swiftly end up explaining your actions to a judge. Thankfully, the Huracan feels special at any speed: its extravagant styling and shock-and-awe soundtrack make children point, boy racers salute and rev their engines, and strangers strike up conversations every time you stop. That simply doesn’t happen in a Qashqai.

Price: £218,137

0-62mph: 3.1sec

Top speed: 201mph

CO2 G/KM: 338

MPG combined: 19.9

Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder: in pictures

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