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Fast and fun: the racing cars tamed for the road

Homologation Specials

As the wild Toyota GR Yaris makes its debut, there is hope yet for that most elusive breed of performance cars: the homologation special. The Yaris follows a long line of everyday cars closely related to those on the race track and rally stage.

Toyota GR Yaris

Homologation Specials

The GR is a four-wheel-drive wide-arched hot hatchback. Seventy percent of the 260hp that its 1.6-litre three-cylinder engine develops can be sent to the rear wheels. Will that make for the first ever Yaris that drifts?

Toyota GR Yaris

Homologation Specials

Some homologation specials relate very loosely to their racing cousins, but the GR Yaris is a proper job. The three-door shell and bodywork are bespoke. The roof is lowered by 91mm and made of carbon fibre, and the doors are frameless.

Underneath, it’s a merging of the Yaris chassis at the front, and the Corolla at the rear. This allows for clever double-wishbone suspension and that 4WD system. It even has a manual gearbox.

Toyota GR Yaris

Homologation Specials

While the regular white-goods Yaris is built in France, the GR will be made at a specialised Gazoo Racing facility in Motomachi, Japan, using ‘a large number of manual processes’. As well as Gazoo Racing, the GR Yaris also had input from the WRC Tommi Makinen Racing team.

Racing cars for the road

Homologation Specials

These racers for the road are a rare breed, with not many more than the 30 or so we’ve listed launched during the last 60 years. However, they are rarely not epic – as the following round-up reveals.

Ferrari 250 GTO

Homologation Specials

What better place to start than with one of the most expensive cars on the planet? The ‘O’ in the name stands for Omologato, Italian for homologation, and just 39 examples of the 250 GTO were built between 1962 and 1964 for use in the FIA’s Grand Touring Category. It proved successful, taking four class titles in the International Championship for GT Manufacturers. In 2013, this particular 250 GTO sold for $38million (£30million).

1973 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale

Homologation Specials

If the USA was fixated on using homologation rules to push sports car boundaries, in Europe the focus was on winning the World Rally Championship. With a mid-mounted Ferrari V6 engine, and lightweight fibreglass body, the Stratos was as rapid as it was wedge-shaped. The Stradale road car only featured 190hp, down from the 320hp of the full competition cars, but a short wheelbase still made it lively on the road. Although 492 examples of the Stratos were homologated, countless more replicas have been made since production finished.

1973 Porsche 911 2.7 RS

Homologation Specials

For many this is perhaps the greatest Porsche 911 ever made. To enable the Stuttgart company to use the rear-engined sports car in various championships, 500 examples needed to be built. Porsche actually ended up creating 1,580 due to strong demand. Key features were a 210hp engine, enlarged to 2.7-litres, wider rear wheels, and the distinctive ‘ducktail’ rear spoiler. Values have risen by a staggering 700% in the past decade, with the best cars topping over £1million, meaning you’ll really need to want one.

1980 Talbot Sunbeam Lotus

Homologation Specials

Hot on the heels of the Chevette HS was the Lotus-developed rally version of the Talbot Sunbeam. Most significant was the ‘type 911’ 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine, which was a bespoke Lotus unit developing 250hp in competition trim. The road-going model was 100hp down, but still benefited from the same stiffened suspension and uprated anti-roll bar. Success came in a 1980 RAC Rally win for Henri Toivonen, and a Manufacturers’ title in the 1981 World Rally Championship.

1984 Audi Sport Quattro

Homologation Specials

Audi would dominate the WRC during the mid-1980s, and the Quattro was the icon which made it happen. Under pressure from Lancia and Peugeot, for 1984 Audi introduced the Sport Quattro with a shorter wheelbase, carbon-kevlar bodywork, and a 2.1-litre five-cylinder turbo engine making 302hp in road going specification. Contemporary road tests recorded a 0-60mph sprint in 4.8 seconds, aided by the AWD system of the Quattro. Only 164 examples were built, leaving them highly desirable with collectors and demanding prices of over £400,000 today as a result.

1984 Peugeot 205 T16

Homologation Specials

Demonstrating just how wild the Group B regulations allowed manufacturers to be is the 205 T16. Peugeot took a front-wheel drive hot hatch, moved the engine to the middle, and made it four-wheel drive. Peugeot also worked hard to make the T16 look as close to the regular 205 as possible. The plan worked, and Peugeot Sport took the 1985 and 1986 WRC titles. An output of 197hp for the 200 road cars is barely hot hatch power today, but the full-fat rally cars were capable of delivering up to 550hp!

1985 Ferrari 288 GTO

Homologation Specials

Group B was not all about 4WD rally machinery. Ferrari began development of the 288 to go racing in the FIA GT Championship, and took the GTO name from the 250 of 1962. But before the 288 could compete, the FIA abandoned Group B due to several fatal accidents. This left Ferrari with a car but no championship to race in. However, the market for supercars in the 1980s was sufficient for Ferrari to actually sell 272 examples of the 2.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 car, rather than just the 200 required for homologation. Prices today fetch over £2.2million – a sizeable return on the original £70,000 asking price.

1986 Porsche 959

Homologation Specials

The 959 was an evolution of the 911 sports car designed for rallying and off-road use. It was also the fastest production car when offered for sale in 1986, with a top speed of 195mph. The 2.8-litre twin-turbocharged flat-six engine made 444hp as standard, and was combined with 4WD and active aerodynamics. A total of 337 examples of the 959 were built in total, with Porsche reported to have made a loss on every car sold. Microsoft founder Bill Gates had his 959 held in storage by US customs for 13 years before a law change allowed him to officially import it.

1986 Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

Homologation Specials

After Group B came Group A, covering both rally and touring cars. The FIA hoped manufacturers would concentrate on milder production-based machinery, with higher homologation requirements of 5,000 road cars. Ford took the three-door hatchback Sierra and turned it into an unstoppable force in touring car racing, with 15 major championship wins. Over 5,000 road cars were produced, featuring a 2.0-litre turbocharged Cosworth engine making 204hp. A later RS500 evolution model would offer even more power and extra tweaks to keep the Sierra competitive.

1987 BMW E30 M3

Homologation Specials

Built for Group A touring car racing, the E30 M3 would also find itself competing in tarmac rallying too. Victories in 18 championships across the globe demonstrated its capability on track, but it also had a lasting legacy as a road car. Initial E30 M3s featured a 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine sending 192hp to the rear wheels. Later Evolution cars would feature up to 235hp, with even wilder bodywork. A total of 16,000 examples were produced in total, with demand remaining strong today.

1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II

Homologation Specials

This definitely isn’t your grandfather’s Mercedes! Initially developed for rallying, the 190 E 2.5-16 developed into a purebred touring car racer. The Evolution II was the ultimate version, which featured a Cosworth-developed 2.5-litre engine with 235hp, combined with a five-speed dog-leg gearbox. Lowered suspension, which was self-levelling at the rear, along with a limited slip differential was also standard. Most iconic though was the dramatic adjustable rear wing fitted to the 502 homologation cars.

1992 Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione I

Homologation Specials

After the demise of Group B, Lancia were best placed to capitalise on Group A regulations. The Delta HF hatchback already had a 4WD and a turbocharged engine, meaning it could be homologated and developed with ease. WRC glory came with six consecutive Constructors’ titles between 1987 and 1992. The later Evo I road cars had 210hp, and were capable of 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and a 137mph top speed.

1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Homologation Specials

We’ve seen this one before, but wearing different clothes. Whilst the Escort RS looked like Ford’s humble hatchback, underneath it was actually the chassis and mechanics from the Sierra RS Cosworth. Built for the WRC, the first 2,500 cars were earmarked for homologation, but total production would reach over 7,000. Road cars featured the giant ‘whale-tail’ rear wing, a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with 227hp, permanent 4WD, and a set of Recaro front seats. As part of the Ford RS legacy, the ‘Cossie’ still demands respect today.

1996 Nissan Skyline NISMO R33 GT-R LM

Homologation Specials

Homologation requirements for the GT1 class at Le Mans in the mid-1990s were low. So low that a single road car would be enough. This meant NISMO could go wild, with massively widened bodywork, unique front and rear bumpers, plus ditching the standard 4WD system of the GT-R for the race car. Converted to rear-wheel drive, the back wheels were solely responsible for managing the 600hp from the 2.8-litre straight-six turbocharged engine. The road car was left with only 300hp. Although registered in the UK, the sole 1996 car was never offered for sale, and now resides in Nissan’s Zama Heritage Centre.

1997 Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion

Homologation Specials

Long associated with Le Mans, Porsche took advantage of the GT1 regulations to create a bespoke race car that borrowed the name from the 911 sports car, but little else. The 600hp twin-turbo flat-six engine was taken from the older 962 racer and, unlike the 911, was mounted in the middle of the car. One sole road car was made to be homologated in 1996, whilst a further 20 examples were built in 1997 featuring updated headlights from the newer 911. Although detuned to 537hp, the street version could still do 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and 191mph flat-out.

1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR

Homologation Specials

Create a custom, mid-engined, prototype racer. Insert a 600hp 6.0-litre V12 into the middle. Add on lights and grille from a road car, and you have the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR. It was good enough for Mercedes to take victory in both driver and manufacturer categories of the 1997 FIA GT Championship. A total of 26 road-going CLK GTRs were built, split between 20 coupes and 5 roadsters. At launch, the CLK GTR was the world’s most expensive road car, with a list price of $1million in 1998. Today, prices can achieve up to $1.8million (£1.5million) at auction.

1999 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Makinen Edition

Homologation Specials

Group A regulations had been replaced in rallying by 1997, with new World Rally Car rules in place. However, Mitsubishi continued the lineage of the Lancer Evolution series under Group A homologation. It worked, with the Lancer Evo seeing championship success in both 1998 and 1999 at the hands of rally legend Tommi Makinen. The road car bearing his name featured a revised front bumper, new titanium turbocharger, and 17-inch white alloy wheels.

2004 Maserati MC12

Homologation Specials

With a desire to return to GT racing after decades away, Maserati looked to Ferrari for a starting point. Maserati took the chassis and engine from the Enzo Ferrari, created custom lengthened bodywork for greater downforce, and entered the MC12 into the FIA GT Championship. A total of 50 road cars were produced, with each car pre-sold to loyal customers. The 6.0-litre V12 made the street version fast – with a 205mph top speed – but reviewers were divided as to whether it worked on the highway.

2016 Ford GT

Homologation Specials

Ford made no secret of the fact that the current Ford GT was a racing car first. At the advent of the project, the vision – which became a reality – was a class win at Le Mans in 2016. To be eligible, there had to be a road car, and so the GT was born. It was the closest thing to Porsche and Mercedes GT1 racers in nearly 20 years. With more than 600hp, it’s much more powerful than the racer and has active suspension and active aerodynamics. Options included carbon fibre wheels and heritage liveries harking back to Ford’s inaugural Le Mans victories of the 1960s. Now, four years on, the GT is one of the most sought-after supercars of modern times, in spite of the furore around how you actually buy one – and the rules imposed once you do.

2020 Toyota GR Yaris

Homologation Specials

Aping the fat-arched go-faster masters of the 1980s, the latest homologation hero is, of course, the Toyota GR Yaris. Unlike the Polo above, this really is a comprehensive job. We don’t know the price yet for this ultra-bespoke hot hatch, but it won’t be cheap. Then again, we’re not sure how expensive it’d have to be to put us off…

The cars that died in 2019

Cars that died 2019

Some cars outstay their welcome, while others are cut down in their prime. This year, some household names have disappeared from the nation’s showrooms – gone, but not forgotten. We round up the dearly departed, with the data supplied by Jato. Missing you already, etc, etc.

Alfa Romeo Mito

Cars that died 2019

Alfa’s curious little hatch survived for more than a decade. With a front end inspired by the 8C supercar, and Fiat Punto underpinnings, it had the makings of a credible left-field Mini rival. Quirky and stylish though it was, it quickly began to feel a bit dated by comparison to rivals. It had its peak of 62,000 registrations in 2009, steadily dropping to fewer than 20,000 in 2013. From there, it dropped to 10,000 in 2018, and 1,000 in 2019.

Citroen C4

Cars that died 2019

 

The Citroen C4 was a credible car on its debut in 2004. By the time the second-generation car came around in 2010, the crossover was beginning to get traction. Truthfully, it was doomed from the beginning. It peaked with 108,000 registrations in 2011, though by 2016, it was at less than 48,000. As of its cancellation at the end of this year, fewer than 300 have been registered in Europe.

DS 4

Cars that died 2019

 

The DS brand was born with the DS 4. In making the DS 4 out of the C4, the posh arm of Citroen tried to imbue some qualities from more popular crossovers, such as a higher ride height and chunkier looks. Today, DS is putting its resources into dedicated crossovers.

DS 5

Cars that died 2019

 

The DS launch was also fortified by the larger and luxurious DS 5. Attractive though it was, a crossover it wasn’t, so it wasn’t a sales dynamo. It peaked with 23,000 registrations in Europe in 2012.

Fiat Punto

Cars that died 2019

The Punto outstayed its welcome. Based on the same platform as the Vauxhall Corsa, this generation arrived back in 2005. It peaked with 312,000 registrations in 2006 and 2009, but steadily dropped off from there. Last year, 31,000 new Puntos were sold in Europe. This year, just 500. We suspect the launch of the 500 had something to do with the 2008 drop-off.

Ford B-Max

Cars that died 2019

The MPV is yet another casualty of the popularity of the crossover. Ford’s B-Max, a late arrival to the MPV space in 2012, copped the brunt of the dropoff. Though it peaked with 69,000 sales in 2013, by 2015, it was down in the 40s. No direct replacement is planned for the B-Max.

Kia Carens

Cars that died 2019

Another MPV bites the dust. The Carens leaves Kia’s range, with the marque focusing on the Sportage SUV, and the Stonic and XCeed small crossovers. It’s not exactly had a drop-off to motivate its departure. Numbers have been steady around 20,000 units a year since 2014. What Kia wants, however, is progress.

MG GS

Cars that died 2019

One SUV that isn’t staying the course is the MG GS. Launched quite recently in 2016, the marque wants to focus more on its new ZS model. As such, the breakout SUV for the reborn British brand is being put out to pasture for 2019.

Mitsubishi Shogun

Cars that died 2019

The Shogun, like the Land Rover Defender, is one of those cars that’s hung on through stubbornness. It’s a staple model for Mitsubishi in the UK, but is finally giving up the ghost in 2019. Why? It’s a bit of a CO2 pariah, and it isn’t exactly a big seller. Apart from the 19,000-registration launch of this new generation in 2007, it never exceeded 8,000 annual registrations in Europe.

Nissan Pulsar

Cars that died 2019

The Pulsar arrived in 2015 as a rival to Volkswagen’s Golf, but it was never to be. As the marque that popularised the crossover with the Qashqai and Juke, Nissan should have known better than to introduce a conventional hatch and expect it to do well. After its 43,000-unit peak in 2015, it dropped off by near-on 10,000 units a year annually, until its cancellation this year.

Seat Toledo

Cars that died 2019

Never heard of it? We wouldn’t blame you. Seat’s Toledo saloon was introduced in its fourth-generation in 2012, but European sales peaked at 14,000 in 2013. By 2016, it was below 9,000 units. Seat and by extension the Volkswagen Group, didn’t get where they are without prioritising. Surprise surprise, Seat is now mostly a crossover proprietor, with hatchbacks that make the dealerships look pretty.

Toyota Verso

Cars that died 2019

There are certain moves carmakers take that damn a car before it’s out of production. When the Verso missed out on hybrid power, the writing was on the wall. Combine that with the public’s movement away from MPVs, and it was only a matter of time. Still, sales were steady from 2010 until 2016, dropping a bit from 38,000 units, to 31,000 units. By 2018, Toyota were shifting just 7,000 of them per year.

Toyota Avensis

Cars that died 2019

The Avensis is a bit of an institution in the UK. That said, with the popularity of the family saloon dropping since this generation’s 75,000-unit introductory year, Toyota saw fit to Europeanise the Camry. An efficient way to keep a Toyota saloon on forecourts. Launched in 2009, by 2013, those sales figures were down to the mid-30s at best.

Volkswagen Beetle

Cars that died 2019

A rare case of when retro isn’t best. Contrast to the Fiat 500 which, even in its eleventh year on sale, is more popular than ever, the Beetle floundered. The second-generation ‘new Beetle’ launched in 2011, reached 36,000 units in 2013, and never beyond. A shame?

Volkswagen Jetta

Cars that died 2019

Volkswagen’s booted Golf always felt a bit too American and like a fish out of water in the UK. European sales numbers reflect that, peaking at 22,000 units on launch in 2011, before dropping to 10,000 per year by 2014, and further down still.

Leaving soon: Infiniti

Cars that died 2019

Infiniti is the poster child for sales troubles in Europe. Though not included in the list curated by Jato Dynamics, we thought we’d add a ‘leaving soon’ tag. If you were thinking of buying one, make it quick. Having not cracked Europe, Infiniti is departing in early 2020.

No Deal: European cars we can’t buy in the UK

European cars you can’t buy

From compact city cars to luxury SUVs: there’s a new car for everyone. But that doesn’t stop us peering across the English Channel to gaze longingly at some of the European cars that we’re denied access to in the UK. Here’s a selection of Euro motors we wish were sold on these shores.

Renault Megane Grand Coupe

European cars you can’t buy

When is a compact saloon not a compact saloon? When it’s a Grand Coupe. The name makes no sense, but there’s no denying the Renault Megane Grand Coupe is a good looking saloon. It actually boasts a larger boot than its hatchback counterpart, but while it will be sold in 20 countries worldwide, UK buyers will be denied the privilege of driving the attractive Renault.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio manual

European cars you can’t buy

We still have to pinch ourselves about this one. A genuinely handsome, rear-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo with a top speed that puts it at the top table of the supercar elite. Thanks to the small matter of 510 raging horses, the Giulia Quadrifoglio will hit 191mph, all for a shade over £60,000. Yes, you can buy it in the UK, but the cost of converting to right-hand drive means we don’t get the manual transmission. Shame.

Citroen E-Mehari

European cars you can’t buy

The original Mehari is a bit of cult vehicle within Citroen circles, so this beach buggy for the new millennium has a lot to live up to. The signs are good: a potential range of 125 miles, 70mph top speed and a maintenance-free body are amongst the highlights. It’s already on sale in France, but a UK-launch is unlikely. On the plus side, it’ll be the coolest car at the holiday rental compound.

Renault Talisman

European cars you can’t buy

The Citroen C6, Renault 25, Peugeot 605, Renault Vel Satis and Peugeot 607, to name but a few – lessons from history warning French carmakers that shifting big cars is a big ask in the UK. Which helps to explain why the Renault Talisman isn’t available here. Nobody would buy it and it would depreciate faster than you could say ‘financial ruin’, but that doesn’t stop us wanting one.

Citroen C-Elysée

European cars you can’t buy

We’re not fans of small saloons in the UK, preferring the practicality of a hatchback. Thus the C-Elysée – a staple of the French taxi trade – has never made it to these shores. On the one hand, that’s a positive; Jalopnik journalist Doug DeMuro described it as the worst car he’s even driven. On the other, the championship-winning WTCC racer looks pretty cool.

Fiat Freemont

European cars you can’t buy

Spend some time across the Channel and it won’t be long before you stumble across a Fiat Freemont, especially in its native Italy. Actually, that’s a bit of a moot point, because the Freemont is based on the all-american Dodge Journey. It was unveiled back in 2007, so it’s hardly a spring chicken and is currently being phased-out. If we’re honest, that’s probably a good thing.

Dacia Lodgy Stepway

European cars you can’t buy

The Dacia Lodgy offers space for up to seven people and traditional Dacia value for money. OK, so the Stepway version does inflate the price, but it looks a million Euros. Practical, wipe-clean motoring for a bargain price. Where do we sign? Oh, we can’t. Shame.

Renault Espace

European cars you can’t buy

The Renault Espace helped to establish the people carrier segment in the early 1980s and it soon became part of the UK furniture. The fourth generation Espace offers styling that doesn’t say to the world you’ve given up on life and are well past your prime. In fact, it looks more appealing than the majority of crossovers. Being denied access to the Espace just isn’t playing fair.

Opel Ampera-e

European cars you can’t buy

The original Vauxhall (and Opel) Ampera was one of the first production plug-in hybrids. Sadly, it was too far ahead of its time and sold in tiny numbers. This second-generation car – renamed Ampera-e and only available in left-hand drive – looks more conventional and is now fully electric. Opel claims a range of 236 miles using the latest WLTP test cycle.

Mercedes-Benz G500

European cars you can’t buy

If you want a new G-Wagen in the UK (and we do), your only option is the blood-and-thunder 585hp AMG G63. However, many consider the detuned 422hp G500 a better all-rounder. It’s quieter, smoother and more efficient – and considerably cheaper to buy, too. But only if you live on the continent…

Volvo S60 Polestar

European cars you can’t buy

We’re fortunate enough to be offered the Volvo V60 Polestar, but the S60 is strictly off limits. This is due in part to the fact that we prefer wagons to saloons, but there’s something delightfully old-school about the S60 Polestar. Avoid the Rebel Blue paint job and it’s one of the world’s ultimate sleepers.

Skoda Rapid Spaceback ScoutLine

European cars you can’t buy

On character count alone, this is one of the biggest names in Europe. The Skoda Rapid Spaceback Scoutline could be the Rapid you always dreamed of. Don’t let the looks deceive you, because this particular Skoda has about as much off-road ability as a Mini Moke, but it looks wonderfully cool in Pistachio Green.

Toyota Camry

European cars you can’t buy

The Camry made its UK debut in 1984, soon establishing itself as the flagship of the Toyota range. It majored on equipment and refinement, but there was a Sport model, complete with 2.2-litre 16v engine. The Camry lived on until 2004, but hasn’t been seen in the UK since. However, it will make a comeback later this year…

Lada Granta Sport

European cars you can’t buy

Who doesn’t want a budget-priced compact saloon with sporting credentials? The Lada Granta Sport is powered by a distinctly old-school 1.6-litre 16v engine, delivering a distinctly old school 0-62 mph time of 9.5 seconds. For some reason we’re really keen to drive it. We have visions of being transported back to the 1990s. And that’s a good thing.

Renault Clio Estate

European cars you can’t buy

Small estate cars aren’t hugely popular in the UK, with the Skoda Fabia and SEAT Ibiza representing the best of a rather niche breed. But we feel we’re missing out by not having the Renault Clio Estate on sale in the UK. One for Nicole’s more practical sister, perhaps?

Toyota Highlander

European cars you can’t buy

The Toyota Highlander is a seven-seat SUV built at Toyota’s plant in Indiana, along with its assembly plant in China. It’s not widely available in Europe, but customers in Moldova and Ukraine are able to get their hands on Toyota’s “sophisticated” SUV. We’d like a single Highlander to be sold in the UK, just to enable us to use the ‘there can be only one’ gag.

Lada 4×4 Urban

European cars you can’t buy

The word ‘urban’ is often synonymous with cutting-edge cool. Not here. Lada’s 4×4 Urban is essentially a reworked version of the ancient Niva, with a 1.7-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and (slightly) more modern dashboard. Like the Land Rover Defender or Suzuki Jimny, though, it has a certain back-to-basics appeal.

Fiat Tipo saloon

European cars you can’t buy

While UK buyers will be able to buy to the Fiat Tipo as a hatchback or estate car, we’re being denied the compact saloon. Taking into account the fact that small estates are a hard sell in the UK, we think the Tipo saloon looks rather stylish. A budget alternative to the Audi A3 saloon and Mercedes-Benz CLA?

Renault Kwid

European cars you can’t buy

The Indian-market Renault Kwid is set to enter Europe and there’s every chance it could arrive in the UK as a Dacia. Remarkably, prices in India start at the equivalent of £2,945, so it could present astonishing value for money in the UK. A decent addition to the Dacia range? We think so.

The crazy world of Group B

The crazy world of Group B rally cars

To mark the 30th anniversary of the end of Group B rallying, we select our favourite cars from the sport’s wildest era

The biggest and most flamboyant American cars

The biggest and most flamboyant American cars

The biggest and most flamboyant American carsFrom the 1960s through to the early 1980s, giant beasts roamed the highways of America. Bedecked in chrome and vinyl, wearing whitewall tyres and powered by huge, lazy engines, these land yachts were the biggest of the big. We’ve unearthed 21 of these dinosaurs, and all of them stretch the tape measure to at least 214 inches (5.4 metres) in length. Let’s set sail.

1963 Dodge Custom 880 – 214.8 inches / 5.45 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Our first port of call is Dodge’s short-lived Custom 880. Although still a large vehicle by modern standards, the era of the land yachts was one where size really did matter. Under pressure to compete with Chevrolet, Dodge rushed out its own version of the Chrysler Newport. A 361-cubic inch (5.9-litre) V8 engine with 265hp was standard, with a 383ci (6.3-litre) 305hp V8 optional. It wasn’t enough, and the 880 was dead in the water by 1965.

1975 Dodge Charger SE – 216 inches / 5.48 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Most people immediately think ‘muscle car’ when the name Charger is mentioned. But by 1975, an icon of the horsepower wars was little more than a jaded luxury coupe. It may have had sumptuous 24-ounce shagpile carpeting inside, but the square exterior styling made it a nightmare for the NASCAR teams forced to use it on-track. Dodge only managed to sell 31,000 examples in 1975.

1970 Ford LTD – 216.1 inches / 5.49 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Between 1969 and 1978, Ford sold 7.75 million examples of the second-generation LTD and its Mercury sisters. It was also the biggest car offered by the Blue Oval during its lifetime. Styling for the 1970 model year included a grille inspired by the Thunderbird, combined with funky hidden headlights. Engine choices ranged from a big 302-cubic inch (4.9-litre) V8, through to a really big 429ci (7.0) V8.

1971 Buick Riviera – 217.4 inches / 5.52 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Big and bold was the look for the third-generation Buick Riviera, launched in 1971. A giant ‘boat tail’ rear end seems apt for a land yacht, but the radical styling proved unsuccessful with buyers. A ‘Full-Flo’ ventilation system, with a habit of sucking exhaust fumes and rain water into the cabin, probably didn’t endear the Rivera to customers either. More impressive was the standard-fit ‘MaxTrac’ traction control for the 455-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 engine.

1969 Dodge Polara – 220.8 inches / 5.61 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Now we’re getting into the realm of serious yachting as we sail across the 220-inch longitude. Adopting Dodge’s ‘fuselage’ styling concept, the 1969 Polara was available in five different body styles. Engine choices were all V8s, ranging from a modest 230hp 381-cubic inch (6.2-litre) to the thumping 440-ci (6.5-litre) Magnum with 375hp and 480lb ft of torque. The sales brochure boasted of hidden windshield wipers, and carpets so plush you’d want to take your shoes off to drive.

1959 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country Wagon – 220.9 inches / 5.61 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

It might be from an earlier decade than the others on our list, and it also happens to be an estate. But the ’59 Town & Country is still very much a land yacht. Standard-fit was the ‘Golden Lion’ 413-cubic inch (6.77-litre) V8 engine, with 350hp and a push-button three-speed automatic transmission. Optional extras included the ‘Mirrormatic’ electrically dimming rear-view mirror. Strange to think you often need to pay extra for an automatic dimming mirror on a new car almost six decades later.

1980 Plymouth Gran Fury – 221.5 inches / 5.62 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

For a significant period of its life, the Plymouth Gran Fury existed to satisfy the demands of the fleet market, and this lifeline kept it alive. It may have been downsized for 1980, but this is still a huge vehicle. Police chiefs loved them, with a special package offered to boost the 360-cubic inch (5.9-litre) V8 engine to a ‘massive’ 195hp. By 1980, the land yacht era had capsized, and Plymouth ditched the Gran Fury part-way through 1981.

1973 Chevrolet Impala Custom Coupe – 221.9 inches / 5.64 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Chevrolet’s marketing pitch for 1973 sounded more like a political campaign speech, rather than a way to sell cars. It was about ‘building a better way to see America’ and what could be better than seeing it from the vinyl and woodgrain interior of your Impala? Powering you across the country was a standard 145hp ‘Turbo Fire’ 350-cubic inch (5.7-litre) V8. But, if you really wanted to make progress, you could pick the optional 455-ci (7.5-litre) ‘Turbo Jet’ V8 with 245hp. That might have required several more stops for gas, though.

1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible – 224.1 inches / 5.69 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

This is decadence! In 1976 Cadillac was very keen to stress that the Eldorado was the last American convertible. Features such as automatic climate control and plush six-way adjustable leather seats pushed the Eldorado’s weight to 5,153lb (2,337kg). Thankfully, propulsion came from an extravagant 500-cubic inch (8.2-litre) V8, even if all that displacement could only generate 235hp. Owners might have been even more grateful for the standard ventilated disc brakes.

1976 Ford Thunderbird – 225.7 inches / 5.73 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Can you imagine how long polishing all the chrome on the Thunderbird’s front bumper would take? And that’s before you even get to the grille, the headlight surrounds, wing mirrors, and finally, the rear bumper. All that shine meant the Thunderbird weighed in at over 5,000lb (2,268kg). Power came courtesy of a 460-cubic inch (7.7-litre) V8, connected to a ‘Cruise-O-Matic’ transmission. An eight-track tape player was a $382 option, whilst the distinctive ‘Lipstick’ colour scheme added $546 to the $7,790 list price.

1977 Dodge Royal Monaco – 225.7 inches / 5.73 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

If you were the kind of person who liked traditional value, combined with an added touch of luxury, then the Royal Monaco was for you. Slide around on the standard vinyl-upholstered seats, revel at the choice of two ashtrays in both the front and rear passenger compartments, and impress people with your hidden headlights. If you’re really feeling flush, perhaps you might go for the option of a locking gas cap, or the unmitigated luxury of an electric digital clock.

1978 Ford Country Squire – 225.7 inches / 5.73 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Nothing says ‘premium’ like slapping simulated woodgrain to the side of a station wagon. From 1951 to 1991, Ford’s full-size estate featured imitation timber trim. The 1978 Country Squire would be a final flourish for outlandish size, as the following year saw a smaller seventh-generation car. But in 1978, tipping the scales at some 4,881lb (2,214kg) meant even the largest engine option of the 460-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 could only push the Squire to a maximum speed of 111mph. Still, at least you wouldn’t have to worry about varnishing that wood.

1970 Buick Electra 225 – 225.8 inches / 5.74 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

It becomes evident how important size was in the land yacht era, when manufacturers were willing to incorporate length into a model name. Between 1959 and 1969, the length of the Electra had fluctuated, but for 1970 it returned to that eponymous measurement. Also new for 1970 was a 455-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 with an impressive 370hp and 510lb ft. It may have been vast, but the Electra 225 was certainly no slouch, making it one of the raciest yachts on our list.

1972 Lincoln Continental Mark IV – 228.1 inches / 5.79 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Aside from the Ford Thunderbird, the Lincoln Continental range of the 1970s is perhaps the best example of the personal luxury coupe genre. For those customers wanting to go completely overboard, Lincoln offered a range of designer special editions. Created by Bill Blass, Gucci, Givenchy, and Cartier, each car came with a bespoke colour scheme, plus a gold-plated plaque on the dashboard. The latter could even be engraved with the owner’s name, just in case you forgot who you were.

1970 Imperial Crown – 229.7 inches / 5.83 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Chrysler had used the Imperial name since the 1920s, but between 1955 and 1975 it created a standalone marque to rival Cadillac and Lincoln. Life was tough for the third-generation range of Imperials, as being based on Chrysler platforms and bodyshells placed them at a disadvantage versus other luxury brands. Instead, the Imperial had to compete on features like a standard 440-cubic inch (7.2-litre) V8 engine with 350hp, or bench seating described as being like a sumptuous sofa – finished in cloth and vinyl.

1975 Cadillac Coupe de Ville – 230.7 inches / 5.86 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Across the 230-inch threshold we sail, and into what we can probably title as the ‘super yacht’ category. These next six cars are truly vast, and the de Ville is a perfect expression of the self-indulgence available. Interiors were offered in both leather or patterned velour, while the exterior featured a huge vinyl roof and cornering lights to help steer your ship. Airbags for the driver and passenger were an option, as was traction control and, of course, whitewall striped tyres.

1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham – 231 inches / 5.88 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

By the late 1970s, land yachts like the New Yorker were bigger than disco music. But 1978 would be the final year of the Chrysler ‘C-body’ platform that saw service in many of the full-size machines on our list. A 400-cubic inch (6.6-litre) V8 came as standard, unless you happened to live in California or high-altitude states ,where the smaller and cleaner 360-ci (5.9-litre) V8 was mandatory. On the options list was a AM/FM stereo with a search function operated by a foot switch, and even a CB radio.

1974 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight LS – 232.4 inches / 5.90 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Another giant of the Chrysler ‘C-body’ era was the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight. Before the marque was made to walk the plank in 2004, Oldsmobile was the oldest surviving American car brand. The glory days came in the 1970s, and with cars like the colossal 1974 Ninety-Eight it’s not hard to see why. Plus, any car with a 455-cubic inch (7.5-litre) V8 engine named ‘Rocket’ gains serious credibility. The record length for ’74 models came from the need to incorporate federally mandated 5mph bumpers into the already vast design.

1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V – 233 inches / 5.92 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

If you thought the Mark IV Continental was whale-sized, then we’re going to need a bigger boat for the Mark V. With almost a further five inches in length, the Mark V was even more opulent and ostentatious. A vinyl roof was standard for 1979, as were the round ‘opera’ windows, and a Cartier-logoed clock. For true glitz, buyers could opt for The Collector Series, which was promoted by Tom Selleck. Gold-toned grille inserts, a crystal-like hood ornament, and acres of padded vinyl proved you were ready to celebrate the final year before downsizing would claim another victim.

1975 Buick Electra 225 – 233.7 inches / 5.96 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

Having strayed a long way from the original 225 inches, by 1975 the Electra was now one of the biggest monsters roaming the turnpike. According to Buick, the 225 was for those who wanted to drive a luxury car without being pretentious. Although the promotional photo, taken outside a sprawling mansion, somewhat begs to differ, while interior options included plush patterned velour upholstery. Sadly, the steadfast 455-ci (7.5-litre) engine was now smothered by emissions and fuel-saving changes, producing just 205hp.

1973 Imperial LeBaron – 235.3 inches / 5.98 metresThe biggest and most flamboyant American cars

This is it, the end of our epic voyage. It means we’ve come to the biggest land yacht, and one of the longest post-war American production cars, period. Federally mandated bumpers were responsible for making the LeBaron even lengthier in 1973, adding an extra 5.8-inches to its already imposing dimensions. After 1973, the Imperial brand would slip away, finally being cast adrift for good in 1975. Oil embargos and emissions regulations would be the factors that sunk the Imperial, and would do the same for the rest of the land yacht fleet by the early 1980s.

Vauxhall Cavalier GSi: £3,489

The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

The cars your dad drove – and dreamed aboutIt’s Father’s Day this weekend (you hadn’t forgotten, had you..?), so we thought it was time to trawl the archives in search of cars your dad drove… and those he dreamed about.

In each case, we’ve selected the sensible and the sexy, or the humdrum and the hero.

Honda AccordThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Spare a thought for your poor, beleaguered father. At the end of the 1990s, he was preparing to wave goodbye to more than just the last millennium. A receding hairline was a sign that his best days were behind him, with his misery compounded by the list of potential company cars faxed to him by his fleet manager.

If he was lucky, the company would offer him a Mondeo, but the spectre of the original Vectra was a looming menace. Sensibly he avoided the Avensis and opted for the reliable Honda Accord, which ensured he would make it home for tea and your weekend trips to the seaside would pass without a call to the AA.

Honda Accord Type RThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

“The Accord has the lowest running costs, the best residual values and one of the most comprehensive warranties in its class. It’s also well built and has a better image than most of its rivals. Extremely well equipped and tremendous value, in SE trim it costs around £1000 less than the equivalent Passat and comes with cruise control and ABS as standard,” said Fleet Car Business in 1999.

Which is all well and good, but as your father browsed the Honda website, he couldn’t help but have his head turned by the Accord Type R. He pleaded with Colin the fleet guy, but even the prospect of a delete option on that rear spoiler wasn’t enough for him to put a four-door saloon with the performance of a touring car in the office parking lot.

Ford SierraThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

When the Ford Sierra arrived in the UK in 1982, its space-age styling wasn’t exactly met with universal applause. Even some dyed-in-the-wool Ford fans preferred the outgoing Captain Sensible Cortina to the Kool & The Gang Sierra. Others simply switched allegiances to the Vauxhall Cavalier.

But soon, the Sierra cemented itself as part of the furniture in 80s Britain, alongside Daisy Duke’s shorts, Sonny Crockett’s espadrilles and Terry Wogan’s microphone. Some 3.4 million Sierras were sold before it made way for the Mondeo.

Ford Sierra RS CosworthThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

As if to motivate your father to try even harder at work – “these paperclips won’t sell themselves, you know” – Ford unleashed a number of ‘sportier’ models. The fuel-injected 2.0iS was within reach, as was the XR4x4, if your dad spent less time eating Early Starters in the Little Chef.

But no hostile boardroom takeover would be complete without an in-yer-face Sierra RS Cosworth. In excess of 200hp, a top speed of 149mph and a 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds. In his head, your father’s 1.8-litre LX was a pair of Recaro seats and a whale-tail away from a Cossie. The reality was quite different.

Vauxhall CavalierThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Back in the day, your father would do anything to get ahead in the office, even if it meant jumping the queue once in a while. Insert something here about a high-flying career or a jump in sales.

The little badge on the back of the Cavalier acted like a barometer of success. An ‘L’ delivered a Philips stereo radio cassette player, remote-controlled door mirrors and flush wheel trims. But a man in a CD was a man in control. His Cavalier offered electric windows, mirrors and aerial, plus power steering, sunroof, central locking and a tiltable steering wheel.

Vauxhall Cavalier CalibreThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Your dad was happy cruising in his Cavalier CD, sunroof open, Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald cassette on repeat to sooth away the miles spent on the M1. Happy, until he saw a blaze of Carmine Red exiting the Roadchef at Watford Gap. Your father’s ‘Lady in Red’ wasn’t a lady at all, it was a Vauxhall Cavalier Calibre.

These run-out models were styled and converted by Tickford and Irmscher and only 500 were built, each one commanding a price tag of £13,000. Even today, your father probably daydreams about turning up at a meeting in a Calibre, so best not tell him there are believed to be four on the road.

Ford CortinaThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Ford knew how to tickle the fancy of the average company car driver. In the days before motivational memes, a Ford Cortina brochure could make the difference between jumping out of bed and pressing ‘snooze’ on the bedside teasmaid.

Over the course of two decades, the Cortina was the archetypal fleet and family car, being cheap to run, cheap to service and good to drive. It also was named after an Italian ski resort, which added a touch of glamour to the otherwise worthy saloon.

Ford Cortina LotusThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

But your dad didn’t want to be ‘Jim from sales’, he wanted to be Jim Clark. Which is why he had his eyes on the Lotus version. The recipe was delightfully simple: add a Lotus twin-cam engine to a Cortina bodyshell to create an instant legend.

To your father, the Lotus Cortina was as tantalising as a free bar at a sales conference with drinks served by Diana Rigg in a catsuit.

Peugeot 405The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

We hate to break it to you like this, but once upon a time, your dad fancied himself as Surbiton’s answer to Tom Cruise, and your mum was his Kelly McGillis. All that was needed to complete the effect – aside from a pilot’s licence – was the Porsche 356 Speedster replica as seen in Top Gun.

Only your father couldn’t stretch to a 356, which is why the sight of a Peugeot 405 blazing a trail through a field of burning maize took your dad’s breath away. The British-built 405 became a sales sensation (just like your dad).

Peugeot 405 Mi16The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Your dad would have been happy in his 405 GRD, until Peugeot decided to up the ante with the 405 Mi16. This was less a case of having your cake and eating it and more having your cake and slapping it in the face of your unsuspecting work colleagues. The Mi16 was a race-bred hero.

Drivers would gleefully inform anyone who’d listen that the engine was derived from the 205 T16 Group B rally car, which is why your father fancied one parked outside his three-bed Poco Home.

Ford CapriThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

The Ford Capri should have been enough for your father. Although it was based on the humble Cortina, the transformation from everyday to exciting was quite remarkable.

Even the lowly 1.3- and 1.6-litre versions looked the part and while he wouldn’t like to admit it, the Capri offered the much needed comfort and practicality a traditional sports car couldn’t offer.

Ford Capri RS3100The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Throughout its long and illustrious career, the Capri range featured a range-topping model, kicking off with the Advanced Vehicle Operations RS3100. The pert ducktail spoiler sat on the back, encouraging your father to spend the best part of £2,500 on the flagship Capri.

The V6 Capris were the cars you always promised yourself, the others were merely pretenders.

Vauxhall VivaThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Vauxhall did its best to extol the “sporty qualities” of the Viva, positioning the HB version as “Britain’s sportiest 1.1-litre gadabout”. There aren’t enough gadabouts in today’s new car market.

It handled well enough, but the Viva wasn’t exactly what you’d call exciting. Even the Brabham failed to live up the promise made by the illustrious connection.

Vauxhall Viva GTThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

The Vauxhall Viva GT, on the other hand, was a different kettle of carp. That it was more a rival to the Escort Twin Cam and Cortina GT than the Lotus Cortina hardly seemed to matter, because the hot Viva looked the part.

The contrasting bonnet was an option, but the bonnet scoops were standard fit, guaranteed to turn heads on the King’s Road. The GT took Viva drivers somewhere they’d never been before: 100mph.

Austin/Rover MontegoThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Naming a car after an exotic location is a clever marketing trick – witness what the Cortina name did for Ford’s family saloon. Montego, then, should conjure up images of long days relaxing by the ocean on Jamaica’s north coast.

In truth, the Montego felt about as exotic as a Rustie Lee leftover curry in the TV-AM studio, but it sold well enough and was more than attractive to fleet buyers. But your father didn’t fancy Rustie Lee, he was after the automotive equivalent of Grace Jones.

MG MontegoThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

“The quickest MG production car of all-time,” proclaimed the headlines, as Austin Rover waved the MG Montego Turbo under your father’s nose. “Quicker than a BMW 325i, a Porsche 924 or a Ferrari Mondial,” claimed the ailing British company, knowing full well that your dad would be impressed.

It was faster than a Grace Jones right hook on an unsuspecting Russell Harty, and Austin Rover even managed to tame the torque steer. If only somebody was on hand to tame Grace Jones, thought Harty. Probably.

Volvo 240The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

During the late 70s and throughout the 80s, nothing said ‘middle class family man’ quite like a Volvo estate. Only wrapping yourself in After Eight mints and sticking a Sade compact disc on repeat would be more middle class.

Your dad pretended he was happy with his 2.4 children and golden retriever. But in truth, his head had been turned by a hot Swede. No, not Britt Ekland…

Volvo 240 TurboThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Secretly, in 1985, your dad was watching Swedish porn, as the Volvo 240 Turbo romped to victory in the European Touring Car Championship. This was as far away from daytrips to the in-laws as your father was from marrying Felicity Kendal.

Your dad’s heart rate had just returned to normal when Volvo decided to go racing again, this time in an 850 estate. Well, strike me down and call me Björn Borg.

Peugeot 406The cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

A Peugeot 406 towing a caravan could act like a metaphor for your father’s life. No, really, it could. Sure, the 406 estate is handsome enough and certainly capable of living a long and fruitful life, but it’s not exactly svelte, suave and sophisticated.

And that caravan weighing things down at the back represents a mortgage, bills and responsibilities. Ouch.

Peugeot 406 CoupeThe cars your dad drove – and dreamed about

Looking at the Peugeot 406 Coupe, it’s hard to believe it’s related to the more humdrum versions. Fact is, Pininfarina penned one of the most beautiful cars of the turn of the millennium, which seems to look better with every passing year.

Something your father was reminded of, as a 406 Coupe whooshed past in a display of French glamour, as he trundled along the A303 to screams of “are we nearly there yet?”

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

Lego Bugatti Chiron: a hypercar in 3,599 pieces

LEGO Bugatti ChironBugatti and Lego have revealed what could be the world’s fastest Lego Technic model: the 1:8 scale Chiron hypercar kit. On sale now through Lego stores, it arrives in all retailers from 1 August 2018. The price? £329.99.

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

Lego CEO Niels B. Christiansen and Bugatti president Stephan Winkelmann revealed the new kit at Lego House in Billund. It was first seen two years ago, but has only just reached production.

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

The Lego Bugatti Chiron kit is full of complex detail engineering, comprising of no fewer than 3,599 pieces. Christiansen reckons “our Lego designers have done an amazing job capturing the details of this iconic Bugatti design. It truly stands as testament that with Lego bricks you can build anything you can imagine… it’s a huge model that I can’t wait to start building myself”.

When Christiansen says huge, he means it. The Chiron model is 560mm long, 250mm wide and 140mm tall…

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

Winkelmann said the Lego Technic Chiron “is an expression of a perfect relationship. I am impressed at the precision and refinement with which our super sports car has been translated into the Lego world and I am sure that fans of both Lego bricks and Bugatti will love this product.”

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

The attention to detail is wonderful. Lego has engineered an impressively convincing replica of the Chiron’s aerodynamic bodywork, including spoked rims with low-profile tyres.

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

The rear wing is a moveable active spoiler and – brilliantly – the kit includes a ‘speed key’ that lets model-makers twitch the position of the rear wing from the handling position to its more streamlined top speed setting.

LEGO Bugatti Chiron

Inside, the cockpit is super-detailed, with Lego even engineering moving paddle-shifters for the eight-speed gearbox. Behind, the mighty W16 engine is faithfully depicted, and this too has moving positions.

Under the hood of each Lego Bugatti Chiron is a unique serial number, which can be used to unlock special content via lego.com/technic. You’ll find another delightful feature hidden there, too – a Bugatti overnight bag.

If you need further justification to fork out £300+ on a Lego kit, check out the presentation set. All models come in an exclusive box, with a coffee table-style collector’s booklet that includes the instructions. Set aside plenty of time, but rest assured, your efforts will be worth it.

In pictures: Lego Bugatti Chiron

2018 Volvo model range meets WLTP

Volvo is first to give ‘real’ fuel economy data across its range

2018 Volvo model range meets WLTP

Unless you’ve managed to avoid the news for the last three years, you’ll know that the long-running ‘NEDC’ emissions and fuel economy testing regime has come under criticism. The huge gulf between the results from the official figures quoted online and in brochures, and the performance of cars in the real world, was no longer acceptable. 

The car industry has devised an answer. First introduced in September 2017, the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Testing Process (WLTP) has been designed to recreate the conditions drivers actually experience more closely.

Combining a laboratory test with a new on-road ‘Real Driving Emissions’ test lasting two hours, buyers should have more confidence in the figures provided for comparison on fuel economy and emissions. 

Volvo is now ahead of the curve. It has become the first manufacturer selling cars in the UK to have every model across the range complying with the new WLTP rules. This includes all petrol and diesel-powered models, plus the collection of hybrid vehicles offered by the Swedish brand. 

Set to apply to all new registrations from the 1st September 2018, only new cars homologated to meet WLTP standard will be able to be sold in the European Union. Although manufacturers will be able to sell a limited stock of cars tested under the old rules, compliance with WLTP is a must for major players.

Basically, cars that aren’t WLTP-compliant by September will be barred from sale in the UK. Hence the significance of Volvo’s achievement, nearly five months ahead of schedule. 

Volvo has already committed to a programme of ensuring all new Volvo models offered from 2019 will feature some form of electrification, along with plans for 50% of all products on sale by 2025 to be fully electric. 

Of course, with a model range focussed on a core of premium SUVs and estates, and with powertrains shared between many products, Volvo has arguably had a slightly easier task to ensure WLTP compliance than other manufacturers.

This should still take nothing away from the fact that Volvo can lay claim to being the first, and adds pressure to other brands to ensure their new cars meet the 1st September deadline…

2018 Ford Fiesta ST in Performance Blue

Why is the 2018 Ford Fiesta ST such a star car?

A first drive in the 1.5T Fiesta ST new fast Ford for 2018 leaves us breathless

New car registrations improve in April 2018

April new car sales recovery fails to lift industry gloom

New car registrations improve in April 2018New car registrations staged a recovery in April 2018, reports the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) – but only thanks to a disastrous performance in April 2017 following the roll-out of controversial new road tax legislation.

Despite the improvement in the headline figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes warned that “it’s important not to look at one month in isolation and, given the major disruption to last April’s market caused by sweeping VED changes, this increase is not unexpected.”

Sales were up 10.4 percent, with 167,911 new cars registered. Other factors helping the year-on-year growth include Easter falling earlier in 2018, giving two extra selling days, and bad weather in March pushing some new car deliveries into April.

Year-to-date new car sales are still down though, by a significant 8.8 percent. 

What’s more, the breakdown of the new car sales figures shows the demonisation of diesel continues. Petrol registrations were up 38.5 percent; diesel was down 24.9 percent. Petrol thus now accounted for 63.8 percent of all new cars registered in April, a shocking increase over the 50.9 percent in 2017.

Diesel has plunged from 45 percent to just over 30 percent.

Plug-in hybrid and electric cars were up too, by almost half, but this is still from a very low base – they make up just 5.6 percent of new car sales.

“While the continuing growth in demand for plug-in and hybrid cars is positive news, the market share of these vehicles remains low and will do little to offset damaging declines elsewhere,” said Hawes.

Once again, he called for the government to take action to reassure people. “Consumers need certainty about future policies towards different fuel types, including diesel, and a compelling package of incentives to deliver long-term confidence in the newest technologies.”

Top 10 best selling cars: April 2018

2018 Ford Fiesta Vignale

1: Ford Fiesta

2: Volkswagen Golf

3: Nissan Qashqai

4: Ford Focus

5: Volkswagen Polo

6: Ford Kuga

7: Vauxhall Mokka X

8: Vauxhall Corsa

9: Mercedes-Benz A-Class

10: Mercedes-Benz C-Class