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Mitsubishi L200

Mitsubishi L200: Two-Minute Road Test

Mitsubishi L200

Mitsubishi L200: What is it?

This is the fifth generation of Mitsubishi’s rough-n-ready L200. It’s a double-cab pick-up with five seats and a lengthy loadbed. Prices start at £23,700, although that drops to less than £20,000 excluding VAT for business users. Oddly, the old, fourth-generation L200 remains on sale as a budget alternative. It’s priced from £19,800 (£16,500 excluding VAT) for the double-cab version.

Mitsubishi L200: What are its rivals?

The L200’s rivals include (clockwise from top) the Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux, Volkswagen Amarok and Ssangyong Korando Sports. The Nissan and VW offer sophistication on par with many passenger cars, although neither is cheap to buy. The Toyota is showing its age now, but viewers of Top Gear will know all about its reputation for being indestructible. And the budget-priced Ssangyong is rather agricultural to drive.

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Mitsubishi L200: Which engines does it use?

Only one a 2.4-litre diesel that produces 153hp in the entry-level L200 4Life and 180hp in all other models. We sampled the 180hp engine in the top-spec Barbarian, which lopes to 62mph in 10.4 seconds and tops out at 111mph. As you’d expect, there’s plenty of torque for towing. Peak pulling power of 317lb ft arrives at a lowly 2,500rpm.

Mitsubishi L200: What’s it like to drive?

We could use the cliché and tell you the L200 is ‘car-like’ to drive. However, that wouldn’t be entirely true. Yes, it’s decently refined and the steering feels accurate and well-weighted. But there’s still a fair amount of body-roll when cornering and the ride is decidedly bouncy – thank the old-school leaf-spring rear suspension. That’s not to say the Mitsubishi is at all unpleasant. Just don’t expect this truck to drive exactly like a car.

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Mitsubishi L200: Fuel economy and running costs

Economy is one of the L200’s key strengths. The 153hp engine returns 44.1mpg, while the 180hp version manages 42.8mpg. Opt for the five-speed automatic gearbox and the latter figure is 39.2mpg, which is still class-leading for a large, double-cab pick-up. Mitsubishi offers a decent five-year/62,500-mile warranty, too.

Mitsubishi L200: Is it practical?

And talking of key strengths, practicality is really what the L200 is all about. Its loadbed capacity is on par with rivals and maximum payload is 1,050kg – more than enough for a few bags of cement. Hook up a braked trailer and you can tow 3,100kg; caravans, horseboxes or boats shouldn’t pose a problem. If you plan to use the L200 as a family car, there is a wide range of aftermarket truck-tops available to cover and secure the loadbed.

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Mitsubishi L200: What about safety?

The L200 hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP. However, it comes with a good range of safety kit, including seven airbags and electronic stability control to prevent skidding. The latter system incorporates Trailer Stability Assist, to prevent a towed trailer from destabilising the truck.

Mitsubishi L200: Which version should I go for?

You need a amount of bravado to drive a truck with ‘Barbarian’ written down the side. For that reason alone, we’d steer clear of the top-spec L200. Its tacky ‘plastic chrome’ adornments only serve to seal the deal. The 4Life feels a little basic, so we’d go for the second-tier Titan. It comes with air conditioning, xenon headlamps, 17-inch alloys, tinted glass and a DAB radio.

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Mitsubishi L200: Should I buy one?

This is certainly one of the strongest contenders in its class. For many buyers, its low running costs will make it their top choice. If you’re buying an L200 instead of a car, you may be disappointed – its rugged roots are still evident. But judged as a pick-up, it is definitely worth consideration. Few vehicles offer so much all-round capability for the cash.

Mitsubishi L200: Pub fact

During the 1980s, the L200 was sold in America as the Mighty Max. We can’t help wishing that Mitsubishi would reintroduce the name for the UK. A ‘Mighty Max Barbarian’ – now there’s a thought…

 

Lexus GS F review: 2015 first drive

Exclusive, expensive and exciting, the GS F could make you think twice about buying that M5.

Lexus GS F

Lexus is best known for fuel-sipping hybrids, not flame-spitting super saloons. And no matter how good the new GS F is, that’s unlikely to change.

You see, this flagship V8-engined GS is destined to remain a rare sight. Lexus expects to shift just 100 each year in the UK half as many as the RC F coupe. But therein lies the rub, because selling in small numbers is a big part of this car’s appeal. Put simply, you won’t spot another in the golf club car park.

Let’s start with the styling, which is angular, aggressive and distinctively Japanese. Lexus’ prominent ‘spindle’ grille is framed by gaping air intakes, while orange brake callipers hide behind 19-inch alloy wheels. At the rear, twin tailpipes hint at the prodigious performance on offer. There’s also a spoiler made from carbonfibre-reinforced plastic just like the LFA supercar.

The heart of the GS F is more conventional: a 5.0-litre petrol V8 that drives the rear wheels via an eight-speed semi-automatic gearbox. However, while its Audi RS6, BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63 rivals all boast in excess of 550hp, the Lexus makes do with ‘just’ 477hp.

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Even so, that’s sufficient to catapult this luxury car to 62mph in 4.6 seconds (on par with a new turbocharged Porsche 911 Carrera) and a top speed of 168mph. A torque-vectoring differential, which constantly adjusts drive between the rear wheels, bodes well for cornering agility, too.

Perhaps the GS F’s biggest point of difference, though, is the way it is marketed. It isn’t cheap, at £69,995, but everything well, almost everything is included. That means (deep breath) adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, sat nav, metallic paint, Bluetooth, leather trim, dual-zone climate control, head-up display, automatic headlamps/wipers, a reversing camera, front/rear parking sensors and electric front seats with heating and ventilation.

In fact, the only options are a sunroof and 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. Beyond that, you only need worry about paint colour. Compare with the German brands, which offer a bewildering range of extras nearly all of them at additional cost.

All of the above is somewhat meaningless, however, if the GS F doesn’t deliver the goods from behind the wheel. So we took one to Jarama race circuit in Spain and the fabulous rural roads that surround it to see if Lexus really can beat the Germans at their own game.

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Lexus GS F: On the road

Road cars, even ‘sporty’ ones, often feel out of their depth on a race track. As the Lexus GS F is a large, four-door saloon weighing well in excess of two tonnes, you’d be forgiven for thinking it does, too.

But you’d be wrong. On the tight turns and cobbled kerbs of Jarama – a circuit used for the Spanish Grand Prix until 1981 – the GS F did a passable impression of something small, light and remarkably nimble.

Key to this agility is the standard torque-vectoring differential (TVD), which adjusts torque between the rear wheels to improve traction, turn-in and stability.

The TVD offers three modes. Standard is a stable set-up for regular road driving. Slalom sends more torque to the outside rear wheel when cornering to help the car turn more keenly. And Track diverts torque to the inside rear wheel, for improved stability – and tail-wagging oversteer on demand.

Lexus_GS-F_Blue_04Beefed-up Brembo brakes scrub off speed effectively, but like any car with 477hp coursing through its rear tyres, the GS F needed handling with care on a rain-soaked circuit. One downhill hairpin in particular provided several heart-in-the-mouth moments. However, our abiding impression was of a car that works with its driver, offering lots of feedback and lots of fun

The GS F also impresses on the road, but for different reasons. Yes, it’s a sports saloon, but it’s also a Lexus – and that means impressive refinement and light controls. Indeed, we found the steering a little too light in anything other than Sport+ mode. Only when you approach the limits of grip does the helm really start to bite.

Above all, though, this is a car dominated by its engine. Peak power of 477hp is developed at a heady 7,100rpm, so you need to explore the upper reaches of the rev counter. But that’s no chore – this 5.0-litre V8 loves to stretch its legs.

Floor the throttle and it awakens with a rumble, then a red-blooded roar. The noise is augmented through the stereo speakers, so you’re never completely sure what’s real and what’s synthetic. But no matter, only a Mercedes-AMG V8 beats it for deep-chested, turned-up-to-11 volume. It’s preposterously, wonderfully OTT.

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Lexus GS F: On the inside

The GS F may deliver Porsche-baiting performance, but this is no stripped-out road racer. ‘Luxury comes as standard’, proclaimed a Lexus manager over dinner and, PR hyperbole aside, he was right.

The interior of the GS F is beautifully finished. Supple leather covers the sports seats, while Alcantara (an artificial suede-like material) swathes the dashboard and door-tops. Even the flashes of carbonfibre-effect plastic look realistic.

Settle into the heated, ventilated and memory-adjustable driver’s seat and your view ahead is dominated by a large TFT rev counter. Switch to Sport or Sport+ modes and the display changes, becoming redder and angrier – another deliberate echo of the LFA supercar.

There’s also a large 12.3-inch colour screen for sat nav and infotainment functions. Its high position on the dashboard means you don’t need to divert your eyes from the road, but we still struggle with Lexus’ overly-sensitive touchpad controller. It’s much trickier to use than the ‘clickwheel’ favoured by Audi and BMW.

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For a large car, the GS F isn’t particularly spacious in the back; both legroom and headroom are limited for taller adults. The wide transmission tunnel also means a fourth passenger sits with legs splayed in a manner that could make even hardened motoring hacks blush.

You can’t fold the rear seats to boost luggage space. However, the boot’s 520-litre volume is identical to a BMW 5 Series and there is a ski hatch for loading longer objects (like, er… skis). If you want a warp-speed family wagon, though, you’ll need to shop elsewhere – start with the Audi RS6 or Mercedes-AMG E63 estate.

We’ve already touched on the GS F’s generous standard equipment, so we won’t list it all here. Suffice to say that, like-for-like, once options are taken into account, you can expect at least a five-figure price gap between this car and its German rivals.

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Lexus GS F: Running costs

Let’s not dwell on this too much, eh? You can’t expect a 5.0-litre petrol V8 to sip fuel like a Toyota Prius, even if they are distant cousins.

Official economy for the GS F is 25.2mpg, but that figure can easily plummet below 20mpg if you drive with a heavy right foot. For comparison, the GS 300h hybrid returns 60.1mpg.

Those quad tailpipes also emit their fair share of CO2 260g/km, to be exact. That puts the GS F in the top band for car tax (VED). You’ll pay a wallet-wilting £1,100 in the first year, then £495 a year thereafter.

It’s a shame that Lexus won’t match the warranty of its parent company, Toyota. It seems odd to offer five years and 100,000 miles of cover on a sub-£9,000 Aygo, but only three years/60,000 miles on a £70,000 GS F.

That said, three-year/60,000-mile cover is pretty much standard among the ‘premium’ brands and Lexus has a proven reputation for near-perfect reliability.

Near-perfect? Yes, genuinely. Regular chart-topping performances in Which? and JD Power surveys have made Lexus – and its highly-regarded dealers – the benchmark against which all other carmakers are judged.

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Lexus GS F: Verdict

The GS F doesn’t quite offer the dynamic delicacy of a BMW M5 or the gut-punching oomph of an Audi RS6. But we’re not sure that really matters.

Today’s sports saloons provide performance so far beyond what you can safely – and legally – use on the road that emotive appeal, i.e. how the car looks, sounds and makes you feel, is arguably more important.

And there’s no question, the GS F pushes our buttons. It looks fabulous, especially in the Azure Blue seen here, or bright Solar Flare orange. And you’ll never forget there’s a V8 under the bonnet; the noise under full-bore acceleration is akin to a low-flying bomber.

The fact that it will remain a rare beast undoubtedly adds cachet, too – and protects future resale values. The RC F coupe will be more popular, but the GS F is undoubtedly cooler.

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Our only real bugbear is that the GS F could have been a lot cleverer. Like most petrolheads, we’re suckers for a big V8, but surely with all its expertise in petrol/electric tech, Lexus could have produced a hybrid super saloon? A budget Porsche 918 Spyder, if you like.

Using batteries would make the GS F a truly unique proposition in this sector, boosting low-down torque while improving fuel economy and drastically lowering the car’s tax liability.

Still, the days of thirsty petrol V8s are numbered, so we should probably enjoy them while we can. Right, we’re off to buy shares in Shell and see if we can find £70k down the back of the sofa…

Lexus GS F: Specification

Price: £69,995

Engine: 5.0-litre V8 petrol

Power: 477hp

Torque: 391 lb ft

0-62mph: 4.6sec

Top speed: 168mph

Fuel economy: 25.2mpg

CO2 emissions: 260g/km

Vuhl 05

Vuhl 05 review: 2015 first drive

Vuhl 05

Vuhl 05: Overview

Even standing still, the looks of the Vuhl 05 are arresting. It oozes athleticism, appearing to move at speed even when its wheels are firmly planted on the tarmac.

The Vuhl is a track car, you won’t be astonished to hear. What may surprise you is that it comes from Mexico, is built to an exacting quality and works pretty damn well on the road, too.

The chassis is aerospace technology, all bonded aluminium and honeycomb stiffening with the engine and rear suspension bolted directly to the rear of the passenger cell. That makes it very light indeed, and at less than 700kg, the power-to-weight ratio is 400hp per tonne.

We were one of the first to drive what turns out to be the only car currently in Europe. The launch price is £59,995 and it’s being sold through Bespoke Performance in Ware, Hertfordshire.

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Vuhl 05: On the road

There’s nothing really intimidating about the Vuhl, save for the fact that you’ll want to remove the steering wheel via the quick-release mounting, in order to thread your legs into the footwell. Pedals, gearchange, handbrake, they all have old-school functionality

Press the start button on the central pillar (there’s a kill switch under a red lever alongside) and the Ford 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine starts readily. Then it’s simply a matter of dipping the clutch and heading off.

The gearbox and pedals are straightforward, with not an automated change or flappy paddle in sight. Ground clearance is certainly an issue, although Vuhl assures us that the carbon bits on this car can deal with the light brushing that inevitably happens.

With an acclimatisation period that’s measured in minutes, the time soon comes to find a straight piece of road and explore the Vuhl’s 285hp performance envelope. And it’s simply eye-watering. Not merely because there’s little in the way of a windscreen, but the astonishing way it accelerates forward.

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Vuhl quotes a 0-60mph acceleration time of 3.5 seconds. That’s the same as the forthcoming McLaren 540C. But it feels even faster, with all the wind, engine noise and closeness to the road. This is truly thrilling stuff, with turbo boost instantly responding to a small movement of the throttle. Passengers will be left speechless.

Stick the Vuhl on a typical British winding road, peppered with surface imperfections, and the story is also a good one, with delightfully precise, accurate, low-friction steering and suspension that has the compliance to keep the car pointing in the right direction and prevent passengers being hammered around.

Neither the steering nor the four-pot braking system are servo-assisted, but in a car this light it doesn’t matter. Indeed, many would argue that the benefit is that the feel though wheel and pedals is maximised.

We’ll have to leave track impressions to another day, but rumour has it that Vuhl is going to sharpen it up a bit for customers who want to maximise circuit agility. The risk is that this will be at the expense of the decent ride comfort experienced here.

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Vuhl 05: On the inside

OK, there are a couple of issues here. The lack of windscreen we’ve already mentioned. There are also no doors, or side windows, or roof. That means climbing in over the – admittedly low – sides and then dropping down into the seats. There’s less padding here than Chris Froome gets on his Pinarello Dogma bike, but that can be fixed to your own personal specification.

The race bucket seats and full harness safety belts are a necessity for track use, but less than ideal on the road. However, you do feel well-ensconced in the Vuhl, better able to concentrate on the job in hand.

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A full-face helmet is the obvious answer for distance of any significance on the road. Instead we ran with tight-fitting Oakleys, which started to lift off at speed.

Just how fast was hard to say because the speedometer was reading close to 900 mph, which can’t have been right, surely… The instrument pack is tucked behind the steering wheel and not the easiest to use on the move. Thankfully, there’s a set of coloured digital lights that progressively illuminate as the revs get close to the red line.

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Vuhl 05: Running costs

You don’t really need to ask about running costs, do you? The base price of £60k can be extended by adding carbon seats with water-resistant suede trim, exposed carbon body panels, that quick-release steering wheel, electronic data acquisition, built in HD camera and a titanium bolt pack.

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Vuhl 05: Verdict

The track day market in the UK is a vibrant one. You can get lots of entry-level fun in a Caterham, while a Porsche 911 in GT3 guise is a popular but much more expensive route.

Cars like the Vuhl offer something else, a racecar-like experience in a car that’s much more approachable for the non-professional racer.  There are already quite a few to choose from: Arial, KTM, Lotus and Radical all offer highly capable alternatives.

Yet the Vuhl looks, in our eyes, the most eye catching of them all. And from our perspective on the road, it’s possibly just as much fun, too.

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Vuhl 05: Specification

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder

Price: £59,995

Power: 285hp

Torque: N/A

0-62mph: 3.5 seconds

Top speed: 150+mph (240+km/h)

Fuel economy: N/A

CO2 emissions: N/A

Skoda Octavia vRS estate 4x4

Skoda Octavia vRS 4×4 set for UK debut

Skoda Octavia vRS estate 4x4

Hot on the heels of the new Skoda Octavia vRS 230 – the most powerful production vRS ever – comes the news that a 4×4 variant is on the way. Could this be the missing cog in the Skoda Octavia line-up?

More details on the UK specification will be released next week, but initial reports suggest the Octavia vRS 4×4 will be powered by the firm’s 2.0-litre TDI engine and offered with the six-speed DSG transmission. With 184hp on tap and the benefit of all-wheel drive, you stand every chance of matching the claimed 7.6 seconds it can take to reach 62mph.

A 141mph max and 280lb ft torque

The Octavia vRS 4×4 has a top speed of 141mph, with torque listed as 280lb ft between 1,750-3,250rpm. Fuel economy is 57.7mpg, with CO2 emissions of 129g/km. Needless to say, there’s currently a cloud hovering above Volkswagen Group diesel emissions…

Speaking about the Octavia vRS 4×4, Werner Eichhorn, Skoda board member for sales and marketing, said: “The Octavia vRS has been very well received, and sales have exceeded our expectations. This 4×4 version will continue to drive the success of the model series.”

Skoda Octavia vRS 4x4

The third-generation Octavia vRS has been on sale since 2013, with more than 58,000 units produced to date. The new 4×4 version will be available in both hatchback and estate variants. It’s the ninth 4×4 in the Skoda range, which includes the Yeti 4×4 and Superb 4×4.

Sadly, Skoda is sticking to its guns and not giving the world a Superb vRS. We can only hope that there’s a change of heart in the Czech Republic.

In the meantime, there’s no word on whether a petrol version of the Octavia vRS 4×4 will be offered. We’ll bring you more news on the UK spec, including prices, next week.

Ford Bridgend petrol engines

Ford approves new £181m Brit-built petrol engine range

Ford Bridgend petrol enginesFord has approved a new £181 million range of petrol engines to be built at its plant in Bridgend, South Wales – entirely coincidentally, in the same week as #dieselgate threatens the future of the diesel engine.

Production of the new engines will begin in late 2018. They are currently being designed by teams based in Britain and Germany.

Welsh economic minister Edwina Hart welcomed the news: “Ford is a Welsh Anchor Company and the Bridgend Engine Plant plays a key role in the economy of South Wales.

“In a climate of stiff global competitiveness, we have been actively seeking to win a share of this investment for Wales and so we are delighted with today’s announcement”

A total of 750 skilled Welsh jobs will be secured “for many years”, added Hart.

Ford used the announcement to remind us that one in four of all Fords sold in Europe uses an Ecoboost petrol engine. One in five uses the award-winning 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol motor.

Five million Fords sold worldwide have been fitted with an Ecoboost petrol engine, which uses features such as turbocharging and direct injection to improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions to near-diesel engine levels – without the associated NOx penalties.

As the VW emissions scandal threatens to engulf the automotive industry and the future of diesel in Europe, Ford’s Welsh investment may be extremely well-timed. Prepare to be busy, Bridgend…