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Explained: all the different types of car

Once upon a time, we lived in a far simpler world. Open the Observer’s Book of Automobiles and, with a few exceptions, cars could be split into a small number of categories. Saloon, hatchback, estate, coupe, sports and off-roader: clear and simple. Sure, you could find the odd supercar or luxury car, but the point remains, we knew where we stood.

Today, we’re faced with crossovers, SAVs, coupes with four doors and ‘coupes’ that are little more than a cosmetically-challenged SUV with restricted rear headroom and a questionable rump. Yes, we’re looking at you, Mercedes-Benz. And don’t get us started on the subject of four-door shooting brakes.

Here, we select 20 different types of car and attempt to provide a definition for each one. Where possible, we’ve included a little background and an example for each classification. 

 

Hatchback


Defining the hatchback is far simpler than pinpointing the origins of the body style. Some will point to the Aston Martin DB2/4 of the mid-1950s, while others will credit the Innocenti-Austin A40S Combinata, which was very much ahead of the curve.

Our love affair with the hatchback arguably began when Renault launched the iconic 4 in 1961. The wide-opening tailgate presented estate-like loading potential, and more than eight million were produced over three decades.

But the saloon and estate refused to roll over and die, with innovative cars such as the Renault 16 and Austin Maxi failing to propel the hatchback into the mainstream. But things changed in the late 1970s when motorists finally saw the potential of the saloon-cum-wagon.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the hatchback as: “a car with a door across the full width at the back end that opens upwards to provide easy access for loading.”

A hatchback might be classed as a three-door or five-door, depending on the configuration, with the tailgate considered to be a door in itself. Today, the three-door hatchback is less popular, with designers working hard to disguise the rear doors.

The current Renault Clio and Suzuki are good examples of the rear door handles integrated within the C-pillar, to create the look of a three-door hatch.

Hot hatch


Without the hatchback, there wouldn’t be a hot hatch, which provides the proof that practicality can be fun. Although the hot hatch is seen as an 80s thing, there were fast hatchbacks before the term was used.

Cars such as the Simca 1100 TI, Renault 16 TX, Chrysler Sunbeam TI and Renault 5 Gordini provided the necessary groundwork for the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Peugeot 205 GTI: the first cars to be labelled hot hatches.

For us, a real hot hatch needs to be front-wheel drive, ideally with three doors. That said, a modern hot hatch is just as likely to feature five doors.

Saloon


“A car having a closed body and a closed boot separated from the part in which the drivers and passengers sit,” is how the Oxford Dictionary defines the saloon car.

For generations, the family saloon was a familiar sight on Britain’s roads and the car you doodled in your sketchbook during double maths.

The traditional three-box saloon might be a dying breed, but the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 keep the segment alive.

Estate car


For estate car, see Volvo.

Enough said.

MPV


Whatever you call it, what we class as a minivan, people carrier or MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) can trace its roots back to the Chrysler Corporation’s Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, launched at the tail-end of 1983.

It didn’t take long for the rest of the world to catch on, with Renault blazing a trail in Europe with the Matra-designed Espace. It spawned a multitude of competitors, designed from the ground up to carry many passengers – usually five or seven – and their luggage.

Compact MPVs soon followed, often based on the platform and mechanicals of traditional family hatchbacks. Examples include the Renault Megane Scenic and Citroen Xsara Picasso.

Today’s MPVs are characterised by flexible seating arrangements and often sliding doors. While the market is in decline, cars such as the Volkswagen Touran, Ford Galaxy and Citroen C4 Picasso remain faithful to the concept of practicality over style.

SUV


An SUV is a Sport Utility Vehicle, a term used historically to categorise a 4×4 or off-road vehicle. The SUV has its roots in military-derived vehicles, such as the Willys Jeep and Land Rover.

As time moved on, the SUV became less workmanlike and more lifestyle-led. The Jeep Wagooner pioneered the idea of a sport utility vehicle long before the term was first used, feeling more car-like than any other 4×4 on the market.

Other SUVs soon followed, most notably the Range Rover, which first appeared in 1970. Early SUVs offered an off-road bias, with some feeling a tad primitive and unwieldy on the road, but today we expect them to offer a perfect blend of on- and off-road capabilities.

They come in all shapes and sizes, from the Suzuki Jimny compact 4×4 to the Bentley Bentayga, which is the fastest SUV ever built. Whatever, to be classed as an SUV, we’d expect a car to offer a commanding driving position, a practical interior and some off-road skills.

Crossover


This is where things get slightly trickier. You’ll have heard the ‘crossover’ word being bandied about in the motoring press, but Joe Public might not have a clue what the word actually means.

In essence, a crossover is a car with the lofty suspension and practicality of an SUV, but with the running costs of a family hatchback. In other words, more urban-roader than off-roader.

The lines have been blurred by the increasingly car-like and more efficient SUVs, which spend more time on the road than off it. In our book at least, a crossover should be two-wheel drive, while an SUV should offer four-wheel-drive capabilities.

But then you find four-wheel drive variants of traditional crossovers and the lines become blurred once again…

The claim that Nissan invented the crossover when it unveiled the Qashqai in 2006 is nonsense, although it unquestionably led to the introduction of the term.

In respect of a front-wheel drive-crossover, the Matra Rancho led the way, although the world wasn’t quite ready for a car with off-road styling but next-to-no off-road ability. You could also point to the AMC Eagle as a crossover pioneer, although its inclusion would shoot a hole through the idea that a crossover should be front-wheel drive.

It’s a tough one. For now, can we all agree that a crossover is a daft name, but if it must be used, it needs to denote a front-wheel-drive vehicle with SUV styling and family car-like running costs?

Good, moving on.

City car


There should be no problems describing a city car, which is a small, fuel-efficient vehicle that is best suited to urban driving.

The BMW Isetta, Fiat Nuova 500 and Mini were early pioneers of the cutesy urban car concept, while today’s city cars might offer up to five doors and the level of kit you’d expect to find on a much larger and more expensive vehicle.

Supermini


According to Austin 1100 Club historian, Chris Morris, the 1100 “was the first supermini, as we know them today.” You can understand the logic: here was a natural extension of the Mini, with compact proportions and a roomy interior.

Today, the Ford Fiesta is the archetypal supermini, with a size falling between a city car and a family hatchback, cheap running costs, and as good to drive in town as it is on a long journey.

Coupe


A coupe is traditionally a closed two-door car with a fixed roof, either with two seats or with two additional seats in the rear (known as a 2+2).

Some of the German brands have attempted to stretch the definition by creating four-door coupes, but in reality, these tend to be nothing more than four-door saloons with restricted rear headroom.

Convertible


In Europe, only the Germans purchase more convertibles than the British. Turns out our far-from-tropical climate is no barrier to getting the top down at any given opportunity.

A convertible – or cabriolet – is four-seater or 2+2 with a removable or folding roof. Examples include the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, Mini Convertible and Range Rover Evoque Convertible.

The words are mostly interchangeable, with ‘Cabriolet’ a French word first used in the 18th century to describe a light horse-drawn carriage. Convertible has more modern origins.

Roadster


Once again, the word ‘roadster’ has its origins in the equine world. In the 19th century, the term was used to describe a horse with an ability to draw a carriage over vast distances in a single day.

From an automotive perspective, a roadster is an open sports car with seating for two, with the MGB and Triumph Spitfire two prime examples from the past. Today, the Mazda MX-5 is the archetypal roadster.

Targa


A Targa top is a semi-convertible body style with a removable roof section and a full-width roll bar behind the seats. The name was first used by Porsche when it unveiled the 911 Targa in 1965, with the German firm having the foresight to trademark before the launch.

The 911 wasn’t the first car to feature a Targa roof. In 1961, Triumph created a ‘Surrey Top’ for the TR4, with the equivalent of a rear section of a hardtop and a removable canvas to bridge the gap between the windscreen and the rear of the car.

Sports car


Defining a sports car is a bit like explaining the offside rule to a non-footballist: in your head, it’s easy to grasp, but try educating somebody on the subject.

Google ‘what is a sports car’, and you’ll find that subject is the cause of some debate. “No one knows what ‘sports car’ actually means anymore,” proclaims Road & Track, while Jalopnik asks: “What is a sports car, exactly?”

Things were simpler in the black and white days of Terry Thomas. A sports car was an open two-seater with just enough power to perform. A chariot built with entertainment in mind, along with post-Sunday lunch galivanting through the countryside with your significant other. Ding dong.

An MGB was a sports car. A Ford Capri wasn’t. A Porsche 718 Boxster is a sports car. A Ford Mustang isn’t. And yet all four cars were built in the name of fun, with practicality sitting further down the list of priorities.

But where does the ‘open two-seater’ definition leave cars like the Toyota GT86, Subaru BRZ and Jaguar F-Type Coupe? Nobody could deny their sporting intent, but are they more ‘sports coupe’ than the classic definition of a sports car?

Does it matter? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

Executive


Euro NCAP uses the ‘executive’ tag to categorise cars such as the BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. In other words, cars slightly larger than the archetypal company motor.

There’s an aspirational quality to the executive car, seen as a cut above the ordinary family runabout. Something for middle managers to aim for: the carrot used as a motivational tool by MDs and CEOs.

The Vauxhall Carlton was the carrot for Cavalier drivers. See also: Granada and Cortina, 605 and 405, and Safrane and Laguna.

Today, as carmakers push further upmarket, the ‘executive’ tag is more far-reaching. Everything from the Ford Mondeo to the Tesla Model S can be classed as an executive, with size no longer a barrier to entry. Which is why the ‘exec’ label fits the BMW 3 Series and the 5 Series.

Luxury


There’s a distinct gap between a premium motor and a luxury car. To be considered luxurious, a car must leave nothing to chance in the pursuit of perfection. The most exquisite materials, impeccable craftsmanship and, in today’s world, the most cutting-edge technology.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the BMW 7 Series, the Audi A8 are luxury cars, as is anything built by Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

Quadricycle


From the sublime to the, er… ridiculous. Actually, that’s a little unfair, because the Renault Twizy can be a barrel of laughs, given the right set of circumstances.

It’s just that a quadricycle isn’t really a car. Instead, the EU places the four-wheeled vehicle in the same category as mopeds, motorcycles and motor tricycles.

There are two sub-categories: light and heavy quadricycles. Nip across to France, and you’ll find a multitude of these tiny, low-powered and lightweight vehicles. The predominant brands are Aixam and Ligier.

Supercar


What is a supercar? Again, it’s a hard question to answer, but it provides a useful extra layer above and beyond a standard sports car.

Perhaps it would be easier to start by naming the first supercar: the genesis of the breed. But this will spark yet another debate.

Was it the Bugatti 57SC Atlantic of 1936? Maybe the Mercedes-Benz 300SL of 1954? How about the Lamborghini Miura of 1966? A tough call, but the trio helps to form a precise definition of what makes a supercar.

What do you they have in common? An expensive price tag, exhilarating performance, drop-dead gorgeous styling and the capacity to make grown men (and women) go weak at the knees.

Above all else, if a child makes room on their bedroom wall for a poster of said car, then it is almost certainly a supercar. Think Ferrari 812 Superfast, Porsche 911 GT3 RS and Lamborghini Huracan.

Hypercar


“We can agree that both supercars and hypercars are expensive, exotic and fast. The difference between them is really a matter of extremeness. And in the case of companies with multiple models, the car’s position in the model line.

“No hypercar has a more expensive or more exclusive corporate sibling.” Maxim presents a pretty decent summation of the supercar versus hypercar debate.

Maxim goes on to claim that the Bugatti Veyron was “probably the first bona fide hypercar,” which is something many people would agree with. Although we’d also add an honourable mention for the McLaren F1.

It’s all about excess and pushing the boundaries. The McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari, Bugatti Chiron and Rimac Concept One are 100% hypercar.

Pick-up


We conclude our rundown of the different car classifications with an easy one: the pick-up. There are various types – double cab, crew cab, single cab – but thanks to the Ford F-Series, the pick-up is the best-selling vehicle in the world.

Agree or disagree with our definitions? Let us know. In the meantime, we’re off to ask BMW why it felt the need to invent the Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV) tag, as well as sending a ‘cease and desist’ letter to Mercedes-Benz concerning its SUV coupes.

>NEXT: Car clocking is on the rise – and PCP deals could be to blame

McLaren 570GT 2016

2016 McLaren 570GT review: the people’s McLaren?

McLaren 570GT 2016The McLaren 570GT is the model everyday Porsche 911 buyers have been waiting for. The sublime 570S, McLaren’s first Sports Series model, is a fantastic machine, but it’s a little too focused for the people who buy most 911s. More GT3 than Carrera 4S. Cue the 570GT.

OK, it’s still not quite a rival to the ‘volume’ 911. It’s called 570 because it still has 570hp. Still has 911 Turbo S power, then – with the price tag to match the range-topping non-road-racer Porsche. £154,015 makes it even pricier than the 570S, in fact. McLaren’s production limit is 5,000 cars a year: it has no need to make an ‘affordable’ model.

What the 570GT does do is broaden the Sports Series appeal a little for those who, like so many 911 drivers, will use their cars more regularly than once or twice a week. Of all the McLarens on sale, the 570GT is most likely to be the daily driver, is the one that will cover the highest annual mileage. This is the McLaren you’ll be seeing in the Waitrose car park.

McLaren 570GT 2016

So this is the McLaren that’s easier to live with than any other. OK, it can’t match the 911’s USP of being a four-seater, but that’s because the engine’s in the middle rather than far out back. What McLaren has done is give it an additional boot, and a ‘hatchback’ to load it up through.

It also has an elegant new fastback rear to integrate this side-hinged door. With a standard panoramic roof, it has a glassier, sleeker look than the more focused 570S, although they’re clearly otherwise one and the same. Similarly inside: interiors are identical, just trimmed in comfier materials and more elegant combinations for the 570GT.

McLaren initially thought the 570S would be the best-selling Sports Series but, since revealing the 570GT at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, believes it could actually be this. Certainly it’s the McLaren most likely to draw wavering 911 owners bored with a Turbo’s normality, plus a few ‘everyday’ R8 and Aston Martin DB9 owners for good measure. So what’s it like?

The McLaren 570GT is an elegant looker…

McLaren 570GT 2016

The main visual changes are that smoother rear, fancier alloys and more grown up colours. It loses the 570S’ skeletal flying rear buttresses and the extra volume in the rear gives it, well, more of a GT look. This makes it a sleek-looking thing on the road, particularly in the subdued silvers and greys many everyday drivers will choose. See – McLaren doesn’t have to be all extrovert lime green paint and track-spec exposed aerodynamics.

… But it’s still a racy McLaren

McLaren 570GT 2016

That’s not to say it’s gone soft. This is still a McLaren honed in the same aerodynamic wind tunnel used by the F1 racers, after all. So it’s still packed with diffusers and carbon fibre addenda, still has standout purpose and muscularity that will turn even the stiffest of necks. Compared to the ‘humdrum’ 911 and R8, it’s still a radical, attitude-lavished car to look at.

It’s still not the easiest car to get into…

McLaren 570GT 2016

For supercar step-in-and-out-ability, nothing beats a 911. The McLaren, 570GT, with its dihedral ‘scissor’ doors, chunky sills, low seats and MonoCell tub you have purposefully to ease yourself into, is a car tricker to hop into and out of. It hasn’t gone everyday in this respect. Nor would today’s McLaren buyers, who like this sense of climbing down into a racing car, want it to (but maybe it’s something McLaren may want to consider in the future).

… But loading luggage is a breeze!

McLaren 570GT 2016

The 570GT has not one but two boots! One deep one in the front, like a 911, plus the extra load deck (McLaren calls it a Touring Deck) behind the front seats. Leather-lined, with anti-slip ribbing and an anti-fling-luggage-forwards bar, the side door opens kerbside for both left-hand and right-hand drive markets, and McLaren even fits folding seats so you can flip the seatback forward and chuck stuff into the 220-litre space without opening the rear door. Luggage space is up to 370 litres (just 10 litres shy of a Volkswagen Golf): GT-ability swells accordingly.

It’s ridiculously refined (for a supercar)…

McLaren 570GT 2016

On the road, the first thing that strikes you is how quiet and plush-running the 570GT is, for a supercar. It’s not silent, and the twin-turbo V8 is rightly ever-present (the 570GT exhaust is apparently quieter, but you’d barely guess), but cruising noise from wind rush and, in particular, tyres is extremely low. There’s one key reason for this: McLaren’s using Pirelli’s new noise cancelling tyres, that dampen out tyre noise at source. They really work, making the 570GT a very relaxing, appealing motorway supercar cruiser.

… And it’s staggeringly fast

McLaren 570GT 2016

This may be the (rich) people’s everyday McLaren, but it’s also still stonkingly fast. The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 is identical to the 570S, so its only a bit of extra weight that dulls acceleration. A bit: 0-62mph takes 3.4 seconds, it does a quarter-mile in 11.1 seconds and will hit 204mph. Get it above 3,500rpm and it’s mind-blowingly rapid for a GT car, with the howling, wailing exhaust note to match. Way more thrilling than any anodyne-feel 911 Turbo S, that’s for sure.

It’s softer, but only relatively

McLaren 570GT 2016

McLaren has softened the suspension, a bit, made the steering a fraction slower and fitted regular steel brakes as standard rather than the track-feel carbon ceramics of the 570S. Compared to the S, it is more compliant, a touch less intense, easier to live with everyday. Compared to most other cars, it remains a true supercar, all nose-darting intensity, amazing grip, never-ending grip and taut, positive, ‘I feel like Jenson Button’ riding attitude.

The 570GT is not as thrilling as the 570GT, but it’s easier to live with

McLaren 570GT 2016

If you’ve driven the 570S, the 570GT won’t immediately grab you with quite the same intensity. It’s a fantastic car, but it’s strengths over the wild 570S are slower-burn. Only after an hour or so will you appreciate the better ride, more easy-converse noise levels, more relaxed steering and airier cabin. You don’t need to think about where to put all your stuff when you get in; the soft leather and sunshine-lavished cabin feels less like a road-going Le Mans car and more like a very special, more interesting alternative to a 911. Which will, if you drive your 911 to a McLaren dealer for a test drive, will make you feel a million dollars.

Its everyday strengths are considerable

McLaren 570GT 2016

All McLarens have great forward visibility: the deep front screen, thin pillars and low nose sees to that. Great for hitting an apex, surprisingly perfect for threading through Central London. The 570GT enhances this with its standard panoramic glass roof and standard front and rear parking sensors. McLaren also includes standard soft-close doors, electric heated seats and an electric steering column that slides out the way for easy entry and exit. It hasn’t turned into an S-Class, far from it. But for those who like to use their supercars hard, this is the best McLaren for the job.

Verdict: 2016 McLaren 570GT

McLaren 570GT 2016

The McLaren 570GT is the best definition of McLaren’s Sport Series models. It’s very McLaren, so is all fantastic design, exotic engineering, ultra-precision drive and mind-warping speed. But this is McLaren blended more to the (relative) everyday: you could use it to commute in if you wanted to, and the refined extra comfort that makes it such a good GT car will also make it good for the M25 grind and inner-city jams McLaren’s entrepreneurial customers may choose to use it in.

For instant-hit satisfaction, the purity of the 570S still gets our vote. If you have a fleet of cars, like many McLaren customers, you may prefer the sharper, more F1-like 570S for its pure McLaren brilliance. But anyone who’s looking for a McLaren as an alternative to a 911 or R8 – and given those cars’ sales, there may be a lot of them – should steer to the thrilling 570GT. No wonder McLaren’s betting it will sell better than any other car it has ever made.

For:

The most practical McLaren yet…

… But little less exciting than the others

Thrilling yet tolerable to live with everyday

Against:

Not as exciting as a 570S

Still hardly as everyday as a 911

Price remain more Ferrari level than Porsche

2016 McLaren 570GT: specification

Price (from): £154,015

Engine: 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo

Gearbox: 7-speed twin-clutch auto

Power: 570hp

Torque: 443lb ft

0-62mph: 3.4 seconds

Top speed: 204mph

Fuel economy: 26.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 249g/km

McLaren 570GT 2016

2016 McLaren 570GT review: the people's McLaren?

McLaren 570GT 2016The McLaren 570GT is the model everyday Porsche 911 buyers have been waiting for. The sublime 570S, McLaren’s first Sports Series model, is a fantastic machine, but it’s a little too focused for the people who buy most 911s. More GT3 than Carrera 4S. Cue the 570GT.

OK, it’s still not quite a rival to the ‘volume’ 911. It’s called 570 because it still has 570hp. Still has 911 Turbo S power, then – with the price tag to match the range-topping non-road-racer Porsche. £154,015 makes it even pricier than the 570S, in fact. McLaren’s production limit is 5,000 cars a year: it has no need to make an ‘affordable’ model.

What the 570GT does do is broaden the Sports Series appeal a little for those who, like so many 911 drivers, will use their cars more regularly than once or twice a week. Of all the McLarens on sale, the 570GT is most likely to be the daily driver, is the one that will cover the highest annual mileage. This is the McLaren you’ll be seeing in the Waitrose car park.

McLaren 570GT 2016

So this is the McLaren that’s easier to live with than any other. OK, it can’t match the 911’s USP of being a four-seater, but that’s because the engine’s in the middle rather than far out back. What McLaren has done is give it an additional boot, and a ‘hatchback’ to load it up through.

It also has an elegant new fastback rear to integrate this side-hinged door. With a standard panoramic roof, it has a glassier, sleeker look than the more focused 570S, although they’re clearly otherwise one and the same. Similarly inside: interiors are identical, just trimmed in comfier materials and more elegant combinations for the 570GT.

McLaren initially thought the 570S would be the best-selling Sports Series but, since revealing the 570GT at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, believes it could actually be this. Certainly it’s the McLaren most likely to draw wavering 911 owners bored with a Turbo’s normality, plus a few ‘everyday’ R8 and Aston Martin DB9 owners for good measure. So what’s it like?

The McLaren 570GT is an elegant looker…

McLaren 570GT 2016

The main visual changes are that smoother rear, fancier alloys and more grown up colours. It loses the 570S’ skeletal flying rear buttresses and the extra volume in the rear gives it, well, more of a GT look. This makes it a sleek-looking thing on the road, particularly in the subdued silvers and greys many everyday drivers will choose. See – McLaren doesn’t have to be all extrovert lime green paint and track-spec exposed aerodynamics.

… But it’s still a racy McLaren

McLaren 570GT 2016

That’s not to say it’s gone soft. This is still a McLaren honed in the same aerodynamic wind tunnel used by the F1 racers, after all. So it’s still packed with diffusers and carbon fibre addenda, still has standout purpose and muscularity that will turn even the stiffest of necks. Compared to the ‘humdrum’ 911 and R8, it’s still a radical, attitude-lavished car to look at.

It’s still not the easiest car to get into…

McLaren 570GT 2016

For supercar step-in-and-out-ability, nothing beats a 911. The McLaren, 570GT, with its dihedral ‘scissor’ doors, chunky sills, low seats and MonoCell tub you have purposefully to ease yourself into, is a car tricker to hop into and out of. It hasn’t gone everyday in this respect. Nor would today’s McLaren buyers, who like this sense of climbing down into a racing car, want it to (but maybe it’s something McLaren may want to consider in the future).

… But loading luggage is a breeze!

McLaren 570GT 2016

The 570GT has not one but two boots! One deep one in the front, like a 911, plus the extra load deck (McLaren calls it a Touring Deck) behind the front seats. Leather-lined, with anti-slip ribbing and an anti-fling-luggage-forwards bar, the side door opens kerbside for both left-hand and right-hand drive markets, and McLaren even fits folding seats so you can flip the seatback forward and chuck stuff into the 220-litre space without opening the rear door. Luggage space is up to 370 litres (just 10 litres shy of a Volkswagen Golf): GT-ability swells accordingly.

It’s ridiculously refined (for a supercar)…

McLaren 570GT 2016

On the road, the first thing that strikes you is how quiet and plush-running the 570GT is, for a supercar. It’s not silent, and the twin-turbo V8 is rightly ever-present (the 570GT exhaust is apparently quieter, but you’d barely guess), but cruising noise from wind rush and, in particular, tyres is extremely low. There’s one key reason for this: McLaren’s using Pirelli’s new noise cancelling tyres, that dampen out tyre noise at source. They really work, making the 570GT a very relaxing, appealing motorway supercar cruiser.

… And it’s staggeringly fast

McLaren 570GT 2016

This may be the (rich) people’s everyday McLaren, but it’s also still stonkingly fast. The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 is identical to the 570S, so its only a bit of extra weight that dulls acceleration. A bit: 0-62mph takes 3.4 seconds, it does a quarter-mile in 11.1 seconds and will hit 204mph. Get it above 3,500rpm and it’s mind-blowingly rapid for a GT car, with the howling, wailing exhaust note to match. Way more thrilling than any anodyne-feel 911 Turbo S, that’s for sure.

It’s softer, but only relatively

McLaren 570GT 2016

McLaren has softened the suspension, a bit, made the steering a fraction slower and fitted regular steel brakes as standard rather than the track-feel carbon ceramics of the 570S. Compared to the S, it is more compliant, a touch less intense, easier to live with everyday. Compared to most other cars, it remains a true supercar, all nose-darting intensity, amazing grip, never-ending grip and taut, positive, ‘I feel like Jenson Button’ riding attitude.

The 570GT is not as thrilling as the 570GT, but it’s easier to live with

McLaren 570GT 2016

If you’ve driven the 570S, the 570GT won’t immediately grab you with quite the same intensity. It’s a fantastic car, but it’s strengths over the wild 570S are slower-burn. Only after an hour or so will you appreciate the better ride, more easy-converse noise levels, more relaxed steering and airier cabin. You don’t need to think about where to put all your stuff when you get in; the soft leather and sunshine-lavished cabin feels less like a road-going Le Mans car and more like a very special, more interesting alternative to a 911. Which will, if you drive your 911 to a McLaren dealer for a test drive, will make you feel a million dollars.

Its everyday strengths are considerable

McLaren 570GT 2016

All McLarens have great forward visibility: the deep front screen, thin pillars and low nose sees to that. Great for hitting an apex, surprisingly perfect for threading through Central London. The 570GT enhances this with its standard panoramic glass roof and standard front and rear parking sensors. McLaren also includes standard soft-close doors, electric heated seats and an electric steering column that slides out the way for easy entry and exit. It hasn’t turned into an S-Class, far from it. But for those who like to use their supercars hard, this is the best McLaren for the job.

Verdict: 2016 McLaren 570GT

McLaren 570GT 2016

The McLaren 570GT is the best definition of McLaren’s Sport Series models. It’s very McLaren, so is all fantastic design, exotic engineering, ultra-precision drive and mind-warping speed. But this is McLaren blended more to the (relative) everyday: you could use it to commute in if you wanted to, and the refined extra comfort that makes it such a good GT car will also make it good for the M25 grind and inner-city jams McLaren’s entrepreneurial customers may choose to use it in.

For instant-hit satisfaction, the purity of the 570S still gets our vote. If you have a fleet of cars, like many McLaren customers, you may prefer the sharper, more F1-like 570S for its pure McLaren brilliance. But anyone who’s looking for a McLaren as an alternative to a 911 or R8 – and given those cars’ sales, there may be a lot of them – should steer to the thrilling 570GT. No wonder McLaren’s betting it will sell better than any other car it has ever made.

For:

The most practical McLaren yet…

… But little less exciting than the others

Thrilling yet tolerable to live with everyday

Against:

Not as exciting as a 570S

Still hardly as everyday as a 911

Price remain more Ferrari level than Porsche

2016 McLaren 570GT: specification

Price (from): £154,015

Engine: 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo

Gearbox: 7-speed twin-clutch auto

Power: 570hp

Torque: 443lb ft

0-62mph: 3.4 seconds

Top speed: 204mph

Fuel economy: 26.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 249g/km

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 7-speed manual

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S manual: a change for the better

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 7-speed manualThe Aston Martin Vantage is not a new car; it was launched in 2005 and is due for replacement in a year or so’s time. The V12 Vantage S is not a new car either; it was launched in 2013 (after an earlier V12 Vantage in 2008). So why are we claiming a first drive in a £140,495 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S?

Because this one has a manual gearbox – a seven-speed manual at that. Enthusiasts still want stick-shifts and Aston Martin is keen to position itself as the enthusiast’s sports car brand. The V12 Vantage S is the first to go big on a manual gearbox option, but it’s not going to be the last, vows CEO Dr Andy Palmer.

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 7-speed manual

Aston isn’t dropping the existing Sportshift III automated manual. That will be offered alongside the seven-speed manual, at the same price, and probably still sell in greater numbers than this. It’s both a statement, this car, and also a toe in the water to help define the all-important Astons of the future.

Seven speeds, you’re probably thinking. Like a Porsche 911? Yes – that’s another brand that has committed to the manual gearbox, in contrast to Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren et al.

But for enthusiasts, it’s even better than the Porsche. Not only does it have seven gears, first is on a dog-leg: down bottom-left.

Steeped in heritage vibes, that makes this the coolest manual gearbox on sale.

But if you’re paying £140,495, cool only takes you so far. Aston’s Sportshift III paddleshifter is better than it’s ever been. The manual’s got to be good to stand alongside it and not be labour in vain. We spent a day driving it: here’s what you need to know.

It feels weird to drive at first

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 7-speed manual

For what seems like forever, Aston Martins have had gearboxes controlled by buttons on the dashboard, and no clutch pedal. Here’s one with a meaty clutch and not only a gearlever, but one that moves in initially mysterious ways.

Your muscles know first is left and up, not double-left and down. Forcing them past two spring indents to bottom left doesn’t feel right. Time and again, your tense, clumsy arm will go from second to fifth. The gearchange feels blocky and gnarly as a result.

Give it time. You’ll learn the new logic, not have to double-think every gearchange and, with a lighter grasp and more relaxed arm, discover it’s actually quite a slicky, snickety shift. And bottom left for first is not weird. It’s cool.

It’s remarkable how much more interactive it feels

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 7-speed manual

Closer involvement with gears somehow makes the rest of the V12 Vantage S feel tighter and more natural. There’s a sense of far more control over the engine and, as a consequence, the attitude and handling of the car. It’s less stage-removed tech marvel, more purist sports car.

Literally the only change is the gearbox. It shouldn’t make this much difference. But it does, because you’re more involved and realise still how much feel and feedback this Aston has to tap into. It may be getting on, but this is the very reason why it’s so appealing. Digitised modern alternatives are lacking compared to this (take note, Aston).

The meaty feel of the clutch, the intricate, weight-shifting flow of the steering, the fluidity of the gearchange all create a beautifully well-matched and experiential drive that, if you’re an enthusiast, will delight you constantly.

You don’t care about 0-62mph times

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 7-speed manual

Launch control this, seamless shift that – all immaterial. The howling, wailing V12 Vantage S manual claims the same sub-four-second 0-62mph time as the Sportshift III auto, but you’ll more likely be pulling five seconds at best and enjoying every split-second far more.

Driving the peaky V12 manual fast requires the driver to really drive it. Here, the pleasure comes from doing this well, not necessarily doing it as fast as possible. Besides, the brutality required to clock-watch manual cars is simply anathema on a car this tactile.

The gearbox will flatter you at the press of a button

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 7-speed manual

Had enough of trying to be an auto-matching driving god? Turn on Aston Martin AMSHIFT. This uses a battery of sensors to auto-blip on downshifts like a pro; it’s more convincing/less irritating than some such systems.

It also, bizarrely, allows full-throttle gearshifts. You still pump the clutch but can keep your right foot planted. What did we say about muscle memory? Like rubbing your chest and patting your head, just you try to do this without fluffing something. This is a curious extra feature we didn’t like.

For 2016, Aston has fitted better sat nav and Apple CarPlay for iPhones

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 7-speed manual

Aston may be busy developing all-new cars like the DB11 and this car’s replacement, but it hasn’t forgotten the current Vantage. For 2016, all models get the new AMi III infotainment system. Aston’s improving its once-awful sat nav by degrees and this is the best yet.

It is faster, has better graphics and far easier destination input. It also incorporates Apple CarPlay, so iPhones can be paired with an Aston – and controlled through the infotainment screen at last.

… But the interior deserves modern classic status

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 7-speed manual

The oh-so familiar interior is beautifully made, a real credit to the Gaydon craftsmen – but boy, they’ve had practice with it. The architecture is aged, spidery displays hard to read and the once jewel-like dials are now simply dull. The lack of a decent dial pack information display is glaring. Supplementary sat nav directions before your eyes? Forget it.

Then there’s the infuriating Aston glass key, the old JLR column stalks, Volvo switches, and fly-off handbrake by the driver’s right thigh that could come straight off a 1970s Jaguar XJ-S. The new-era Aston interior, underpinned by Daimler tech, can’t come soon enough.

Aston Martin made a manual because they’re all enthusiasts

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 7-speed manual

So why did Aston Martin go to the expense of producing a manual-gearbox V12 Vantage S so late in its life? Because “the true purist will always hanker for the tactility and connection offered by a manual transmission,” says product development director Ian Minards.

“At a time when manual transmissions have almost entirely disappeared in high performance cars, this makes the manual V12 Vantage S a very special car indeed.” He’s right.

Verdict: Aston Martin V12 Vantage S manual

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 7-speed manual

For years, we’ve been told paddleshift gearboxes are where it’s at. Stick-shifts are old-fashioned, grandpa: F1 drivers change gear with paddles and no sporty supercar worth its salt should do otherwise.

Aston proves that’s not the case. There is still a low-volume place for a manual gearbox, for those who want to enjoy the experience rather than just the lap time. Like us, such people will find the V12 Vantage S surprisingly more engaging as a result. Aston’s onto something here.

For:

  • Greatly enhanced engagement and interactivity
  • Sense of greater, more natural control
  • Dog-leg first cool-factor is off the scale

Against:

  • Old interior
  • Familiar car
  • Dog-leg shift pattern takes some getting used to

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S manual: specification

Price (from): £140,495

Engine: 6.0-litre V12

Gearbox: 7-speed manual

Power: 573hp

Torque: 457lb ft

0-62mph: 3.9 seconds

Top speed: 205mph

Fuel economy: TBA mpg

CO2 emissions: TBA g/km

Jay Leno buys a Morgan 3 Wheeler from Homer Simpson

Video: Jay Leno buys a Morgan 3 Wheeler from Homer Simpson

Jay Leno buys a Morgan 3 Wheeler from Homer Simpson

American TV host and car collector Jay Leno is to appear in a forthcoming episode of The Simpsons – in which he buys a Morgan from Homer.

A teaser clip released by the sitcom shows Leno ringing the doorbell at the Simpsons’ Springfield pad and telling Homer he wants to buy the Morgan 3 Wheeler parked outside.

Although we don’t know how Homer came to own a Morgan 3 Wheeler, he tells Leno he’s happy to sell it to him as long as he pays cash ‘with no questions asked’.

In the clip, we also see Leno’s 1973 Citroen DS, but the collector also owns a number of McLarens (including the exotic F1 and P1), a Bugatti and several Bentleys.

He admits that he had to advise scriptwriters on the intricacies of Morgans.  “I can tell the person who wrote it is not a car aficionado, because they had no idea what they were talking about,” he said.

“The original script said it had a marble interior.”

It’s not the first time The Simpsons has featured car-related storylines. In 1999, Homer buys a ‘Canyonero’ SUV and discovers it’s a model marketed at women, so gives it to Marge. In 1991, Homer finds out he has a long-lost brother who is the boss of a car manufacturer in Detroit. He designs his own car, ‘The Homer’, which makes the company go bust.

Lotus Hethel Edition Evora 400

Lotus Evora 400 Hethel Edition marks 50 years in Norfolk

Lotus Hethel Edition Evora 400Colin Chapman moved Lotus from its cramped Hertfordshire HQ into its first purpose-built facility in Hethel, Norfolk 50 years ago in 1966 – and the firm is celebrating this in 2016 with a limited Hethel Edition Evora 400.

It won’t be the only Hethel half-century celebration Lotus plans to roll out this year either: “We are immensely proud to be part of the community,” said Group Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales, and “we’re looking forward to celebrating our connections to Norfolk throughout 2016.”

Lotus Evora 400 review: 2015 first drive

Offered in three iconic Lotus-themed heritage colours – Essex Blue, Motorsport Black and Racing Green – each hue boasts lightweight silver forged alloy wheels, contrasting brake calipers, bespoke graphics and, inside, either black or red leather.

All the changes have come from the Lotus Exclusive programme, created by the Lotus Design team to let owners ultra-personalise their cars. Quite the alluring alternative to an off-the-peg sports car, reckons Lotus.

The £75,500 special is otherwise as per the regular Evora 400, which means a 400hp 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine capable of 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, a 1 minute 31 seconds lap time around Lotus’ Hethel test track, plus enhanced handling courtesy of a stiffer, more rigid aluminium chassis.

“The Evora 400 is the latest in a long line of world-beating sports and racing cars to have all been hand built in Hethel over the last 50 years,” said Gales. “It is entirely fitting that this limited edition be dedicated to our home.”

TVR not reveal London Motor Show

New TVR not revealed at London Motor Show

TVR not reveal London Motor ShowThe final design of the new TVR is at the 2016 London Motor Show but company chief Les Edgar has REFUSED to pull the covers off the new sports car!

It’s set to be revealed later this year but it will be customers who get to see it first during private viewings, promised Edgar – as a reward to the hundreds of people who have already placed a deposit on the unseen sports car.

TVR’s first motor show in a decade, Edgar said TVR is back to do what it was doing before – but doing it better than before. “A lot better,” he stressed.

We may not have seen the car but we do know it is going to be “a hairy beast: loud, fast, furious and British”. It will be a true TVR: “Our competition is actually ourselves”. Modern TVR will live up to the drama of the old TVR, “but better than it’s ever been before”.

Gordon Murray speaks

TVR preview Summer 2016

Ace car design legend Gordon Murray was also on hand to not reveal the new TVR: the new sports car is using his company Gordon Murray Design’s iStream construction architecture.

For Murray, it’s a project he’s proud to be involved with. “This is my third British supercar, all of them very different. The McLaren F1 was all about materials and performance, while the lightweight Rocket sports car still holds the world record for lightest ever car – just 370kg.

“Now we’re bringing the muscle car back to the UK.” Carroll Shelby hijacked the AC Ace in the 60s and created the iconic Shelby Cobra, reckons Murray: modern TVR is taking back the legend.

The new TVR is also an antidote to today’s high-tech hypercars, reckons Murray. It will weight 1,150kg, not 1,500kg, and won’t be packed with batteries and KERS.

“This is a pure driver’s car… it will not drive itself, it will need attention. It’s the antidote the self-driving autonomous car.”

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6

Bentley wants to build the Speed 6 sports car – and it could be an EV

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6The Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 two-seat sports car concept is actively being considered for production viability – and it could even come to market as an electric vehicle (EV).

“We are working on two ideas at the moment,” said chairman and chief executive Wolfgang Durheimer. Putting the EXP 10 Speed 6 concept that wowed the 2015 Geneva Motor Show is one of them.

A two-seat, two-door super-sport car can’t be confirmed at this early stage, explained Durheimer – but the fact that the firm is willing to openly discuss it suggests the project is more than just speculation.

Indeed, he even showed a schematic of the Bentley model line, with two question marks depicting future product: the ‘Speed 6’ was placed ahead of the Continental range, indicating this would be an entirely new model line for Bentley, not a replacement for the Continental.

Speed 6 EV?

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6

The production car could even be an EV. Speaking at the global launch of the new Bentayga SUV, product line director Peter Guest told Motoring Research the idea of it being an electric sportscar “is an interesting one.

“The breakthrough for me is the Porsche Mission E. This has a fast charge time, high performance, long range – and Porsche’s committed to put it into production before 2020.”

Bentley is, of course, part of the recently-formed Volkswagen Group sport and luxury brand group, alongside Bugatti and, yes, Porsche: Durheimer admitted to Motoring Research that close collaboration with such performance specialists (and the technology-share opportunities this brings) “is very helpful”…

What would also be helpful for the viability of Porsche’s €1 billion Mission E project would be to share the architecture and technologies across another model. Cue the Speed 6?

Speed 6 for 2 not 4

Guest added a production Speed 6 would “definitely not be a 2+2” – that’s the Continental’s remit. Indeed, to complement a production Speed 6, the next-generation Continental GT could even grow to offer more space in the rear seats.

“It is a pure two-seater. Some dealers have said “can it just be a 2+2” but that’s not this car’s territory.”

The speculation will continue, but one thing’s for sure: Bentley wants to build it. And is happy to go on the records and tell us this.

Now the Bentayga’s been launched and is bringing in cash, attention will now turn assessing the Speed 6’s viability. We could even have a decision before 2016 is out.

Porsche Mission E

Porsche to build Mission E electric sports car

Porsche Mission EPorsche will launch its first all-electric car before the end of the decade as it commits €1 billion to put the Mission E concept car into production.

The 600hp four-door, four-seat sports car will have a range of over 300 miles, accelerate to 62mph in less than 3.5 seconds – and Porsche promises a flat battery will recharge to 80% capacity in just 15 minutes.

Porsche chairman Dr. Oliver Blume says it is “beginning a new chapter in the history of the sports car”. More than 1,000 new jobs will be created to build the production Mission E in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen: Porsche is even extending its engine factory to add electric motor production capacity.

The Mission E was revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2015. A beautiful, surprisingly compact and delicate machine, the influence of the Porsche 911 is clear: the focus now is on how much of the concept car will make production.

In making the Mission E, Porsche hopes it will future-proof its world-famous sports cars by responding to ever-present environmental concerns (and face off the threat of upstart eco brands such as Tesla).

Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, chairman of the supervisory board of Porsche AG said: “With Mission E, we are making a clear statement about the future of the brand. Even in a greatly changing motoring world, Porsche will maintain its front-row position with this fascinating sports car.”

Uwe Hück, chairman of the Central Works Council and deputy chairman of the Porsche AG Supervisory Board, enthusiastically added: “A day to celebrate! Yes, we did it! With today’s decision, Porsche is driving flat out with no speed restrictions into the automotive and industrial future.”

Mercedes-AMG GT interior

New Mercedes-AMG GT interior revealed

Mercedes-AMG GT interiorMercedes-AMG has revealed the interior of its all-new GT sportscar, which is set to be fully revealed in public in autumn 2014 at the Paris Motor Show. Read more