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Citroën unceremoniously drops Kris Meeke from its rally team

Will Beaumont

25 May 2018

Last night, Citroën Racing released a statement declaring that Kris Meeke would no longer drive for the team. The decision was made on the grounds of safety, due to the excessive number of crashes that have occurred with Meeke behind the wheel of his C3 WRC.

Peirre Budar, director of Citroën Racing, said: ‘This wasn’t an easy decision to make because it affects a driver and a co-driver, but it is largely founded on safety issues which come under my preoccupations as team principal. We have consequently chosen to make this decision as a preventive measure.’

> Citroën DS 3 review

At the last WRC round in Portugal, Meeke was airlifted to hospital for medical checks following a severe crash. Earlier in the season he squandered his chances of catching Sebastien Ogier in Mexico with a mistake he described as ‘stupid’. He finished that rally in third, the only podium position he’s had this season.

Of course, Meeke isn’t the first rally driver to get a reputation for crashing repeatedly, but since joining Citroën in 2013 the 38-year-old rally driver has only won five WRC events, with a highest place championship result of fifth.

Without the results it has hoped for and crashes that Citroën Racing has described as ‘particularly heavy and could have had serious consequences with regard to the crew’s safety’, it’s not hard to see why the team has come to this decision.

> The future of rallying

However, the statement didn’t have the veil of courtesy that most official releases are covered with and was particularly blunt. Meeke clearly wasn’t given much notice before the decision was made public, either; only 40-or-so minutes before Citroën Racing announced Meeke and his navigator, Paul Nagle, would no longer be part of the team, the British rally driver had taken to social media to proclaim his excitement for the next WRC round in Sardinia.

Citroën Racing has not revealed who will take Meeke’s place for the rest of the season, only that Craig Breen and Mads Ostberg will still drive as planned. Nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb had agreed to compete for three rounds of this year’s season, but with a gap in its driver line-up, Citroën Racing may want to extend that contract.

Trackday Insurance – everything you need to know

Will Beaumont

24 May 2018

You think you’ll be sensible, you’ll take it easy, you won’t push your car too hard – you absolutely don’t need trackday insurance. But then you find yourself with an empty track ahead of you, a rapidly gaining Renault Sport Clio behind, and all the promises you made in the pitlane completely disappear. Instead you go chasing other cars, ones with twice the horsepower of yours, going faster than you’d intended and working your car far harder than you imagined you would.

> Join us on one of our trackdays

To stay at a moderate pace on a trackday takes the sort of willpower that few mere mortals possess. And although you might be a very safe driver, accidents do happen, so some sort of insurance is worthwhile. If you’re lapping your pride and joy, which the car you use on track is very likely to be, it pays to take precautions, because your regular car insurance is extremely unlikely to cover you on track.

Trackday insurance, however, isn’t like your everyday on-road cover, and it’s not immediately obvious what the differences or the benefits are for pure track cover. So we spoke to Adrian Flux, a typical trackday insurer, to find out why you might need track insurance and what it covers you for.

What are the main differences between regular on-road insurance and trackday insurance?

'The main difference between the two is that trackday insurance tends to exclude third-party liability. For the policyholder, this means the trackday vehicle is insured only for accidental damage, fire and theft losses.' [In other words, your car is covered for collision damage regardless of whether the accident was caused by you or another driver, but you are not covered for any damage you cause to another car. That said, it’s a generally accepted rule at trackdays that each driver is responsible for damage to their own car, whoever caused it.]

What criteria can reduce the cost of trackday insurance? Does experience, for instance, reduce cost?

'Yes, previous trackday experience can reduce the price of the insurance. Also, agreeing to a voluntary excess may bring down the cost. The policyholder agrees to a voluntary excess figure when taking out the insurance, and it’s added to the compulsory excess in the event of a claim. The higher the voluntary excess, the lower the insurance premium is likely to be. But the policyholder must choose an amount that’s affordable for them. 

> Need more advice about driving on track? See our trackday guides

'It is worthwhile noting that policies can be track-specific, and cover for some locations can be more expensive than others. Generally speaking, tracks with larger run-off areas are likely to result in cheaper trackday insurance.'

Do cars with modifications to tailor them to trackdays help reduce the cost, or as with road-car insurance, does it generally increase the premium?

'At Adrian Flux, modifications made to cars used on trackdays do not affect the price of trackday insurance premiums. As a specialist insurer and motorsport enthusiasts ourselves, we understand that many vehicles used on trackdays are likely to be modified in some way, shape or form.'

Trackday insurance can be bought for individual events or for an entire season. How many trackdays would you need to attend for it to be more cost effective to go for the latter option?

'This is a difficult question to give a straightforward answer to. As an insurance broker, we use a number of different insurers to find appropriate cover at the right price for our customers. We can’t say a policyholder needs to complete X number of trackdays to get cheaper trackday insurance. This is because it depends on a variety of other factors, including the individual risk, and the different insurers we use have different views on this.'

> Book your next evo track day here

Does trackday insurance differ from motorsport insurance, and how?

'Yes, there is a difference between the two. Motorsport insurance covers policyholders participating in a competitive activity, whereas those with trackday cover are not covered for competition. Trackday insurance therefore tends to be cheaper. Adrian Flux also offers trackday insurance for cars and motorbikes that covers hill climbs, drag strips and even events organised by clubs, magazines and manufacturers.'

Does the insurance include recovery of a damaged vehicle?

'If the vehicle is damaged during a trackday, the trackday organiser would arrange for the vehicle to be removed from the circuit itself. The insurer would then collect the vehicle if it was undrivable, or in a non-roadworthy condition after the accident.'

Although most circuits, proving grounds, sprint courses and hill climbs will be covered by the majority of UK-based trackday insurers, European tracks may not be included, so check your policy before you head to Spa or Paul Ricard. Public Touristenfahrten days at the Nürburgring are even less likely to be covered by either road or trackday insurance.

How expensive is trackday insurance?

These example quotes are based on the assumption of a 40-year-old male, living in Bedfordshire, with no convictions and no accidents. Cover is for a single event (at Bedford Autodrome).

2010 Porsche 911 GT3 (997.2), approximate value £110,000

£730 with £5000 excess.

2010 Renault Sport Clio 200 Cup, approximate value £7,500?

£89* with £1000 excess. 

> Book your next evo track day here

evo track guide

Find more on track cars, track days and track driving through the links below...

evo track days: dates, prices and booking info
Track day cars
Best track day cars How to choose a cheap track day car
Track car of the year 2016 Prepare your car for a track day
evo leaderboard lap times
Track day tips
Track days: everything you need to know Guide to your first track day
Track day noise limits explained Race licences explained
How to go racing
Track day kit
Best crash helmets Best driving gloves
Best driving shoes Understanding racesuits
Track driving
Track driving masterclass Improve your circuit driving technique
Driver fitness: train for track driving Car steering masterclass
Car weight distribution explained Managing car weight transfer on track
How to lower your lap time
Track guides
Bedford Autodrome track days Rockingham track days
Nurburgring Nordschleife
Nurburgring guide History of the Green Hell
Racing at the Nurburgring Fastest Nurburgring lap times
Fastest hot hatches at the Nurburgring What has the 'ring ever done for us?

165mph Honda Civic Type R pickup concept revealed

Antony Ingram

24 May 2018

It's no good checking your calendar - April 1st was months ago, and Honda UK really has built a pickup out of the latest Civic Type R.

The work of Synchro Motorsport, the team behind several Honda racing programmes in the past, the "Project P" Type R was devised and created in some of the quieter moments at Honda HQ, and follows on from previous forays into unusual engineering in the form of the Race of Remembrance diesel CR-V racer and an estate version of the previous FK2 Civic R.

The concept isn't due to make production and isn't currently road legal, being based on an unregistered pre-production car used for testing the current FK8 Civic Type R, but Honda does have plans to put the car on the road, and project chief Alyn James told evo that the project didn't require many compromises from the regular production model.

> Honda Civic Type R review - Just as mad as the old model?

'Many of the people who worked on this project were also instrumental in developing the road car' he said, adding that this insider knowledge meant there were few structural compromises in removing half of the roof and the rear hatch from the five-door production body.

The only issue they've had in fact has been a small electrical glitch with the rear adaptive dampers, which sometimes throw up an error code over certain road surfaces - though the dampers themselves still operate as intended.

Packing the same powertrain as the regular car, Honda predicts the pickup will be capable of covering the 0-62mph sprint in under six seconds - the FK8's standard time is 5.8sec, so little penalty there - and a top speed of around 165mph, against 169mph for the hatch. It retains the R's driving modes too, so in theory it'll work as well on the track as it does on the road.

'We have a special projects division at the factory in Swindon and this project was a fantastic opportunity for the team to show just what their creative minds could do' explained Alyn.

'The passion that our engineers have for Honda is shown in our latest creation and we are even considering taking it to the Nurburgring to see if we can take the record for the fastest front wheel drive pickup truck!'

With the standard road car completing a lap of the Nordschleife in 7min 43.8sec back in early 2017, there's a very real possibility of the pickup dipping under the eight-minute mark...

2018 Ford Mustang review - pony car ponies up even more fun

Antony Ingram

23 May 2018
From £35,995

The new Mustang is a slightly more tempting proposition than before. Whatever you think of the styling changes - the low nose and different headlight treatment isn’t universally popular - the latest car boasts new technical elements, better performance and economy and new safety features, the latter of which should give it a better Euro NCAP rating than its current 2-star attainment.

And of course, it’s still an all-American sports coupe with the option of a thumping V8, a noisy exhaust and some bright paintwork, which is a combination denied to UK buyers until the current Mustang first hit our shores a few years back. That alone will sell it for some - but has the latest round of improvements been worthwhile?

> Best sports cars on the market now

Engine, transmission and 0-60mph time

As before, two engines are available. The first, and - let’s be honest - least appealing is the 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder. Power is actually down but torque is up on the new car, producing 286bhp at 5400rpm and 325lb ft at 3000rpm.

Six-speed manual-equipped 2.3s are capable of covering the 0-62mph time in 5.8sec and nudging 145mph, while those fitted with the new ten-speed automatic go slightly better, knocking three tenths off that time. Convertibles are a couple of tenths slower over each coupe model, though all feature the same 145mph top-end.

The V8 remains the brawnier of the pair, more so than before with a healthy power increase to 444bhp at a respectable 7000rpm. Torque is greater than the turbocharged car too by virtue of cubic capacity; while the peak is at a loftier 4600rpm, the 390lb ft figure is a useful improvement over the 2.3.

That doesn’t quite represent how it feels on the road either, as the turbocharged car suffers low-rev lag and never really gets going thereafter, fighting against a 1662kg kerb weight. The V8 is even lardier at 1743kg in manual form, but it still overcomes aerodynamic drag and rolling friction to post a 4.6-second 0-62mph time in manual form and 4.3sec in the auto. All butt against an electronically-limited 155mph top speed, and the process of getting there feels so much more exciting with that rousing V8 soundtrack to accompany you.

Technical highlights

The new Ford Mustang may look similar to its predecessor but there’s plenty extra going on under the skin, aside from the engine and transmission tweaks already mentioned. The first is optional MagneRide damping, which now gives Mustang owners the ability to firm up the dampers through the Normal, Sport, Track and new Drag settings.

Those drive modes are signalled to the driver through a new TFT display in the instrument cluster, whose layout changes depending on the driving mode selected.

In Normal you get a relatively conventional twin analogue dial setup with the space between showing various different types of information. Snow/Wet is similar, but Sport mode, along with improvements to throttle response (and steering, and with MagnaRide, damping) extends the rev counter all the way along the top of the display. Track goes one further: the circular dials disappear, replaced by a bar tachometer, large gear readout, and much smaller digital speedo. Drag Strip mode focuses on your gear and your speed, and a new “My Mode” is a way to adjust settings to your individual preference.

What’s it like to drive?

A not insignificant 70 per cent of UK Mustang buyers will go down the V8 route, and half of those will opt for the new ten-speed automatic transmission, so it’s this combination we tried first - albeit without the adaptive suspension.

Having driven to the launch venue in our long-term GT convertible, differences between old and new are slight but worthwhile. The quality of some cabin plastics has improved and the leather wrapping an otherwise similar three-spoke steering wheel feels better in the palms. Likewise, the new digital display is a welcome inclusion - digitally rendering otherwise conventional analogue dials seems like a waste of digital real estate, but the new formats when flicking between driving modes are clear, interesting and visually unique.

Equipped with the GT’s standard active exhaust system, the note emerging from behind you is harder than before - though a quiet mode lets you start up the car in relative silence to avoid awkward interactions with your neighbours. A few blips suggest the throttle is still a little slovenly at low revs in Normal mode but it livens up in Sport, and this will be the default if you want to explore the ‘Stang’s best side.

The raised power output isn’t immediately apparent but the five-point-oh is still a deeply satisfying engine to use, pulling throughout its rev range and romping along quite nicely at higher revs, accompanied by an escalating growl that’s increasingly rare as V8s become fewer and further between. The 10-speed auto isn’t the perfect partner though, as the number of gears available seems to confuse it when asking for kickdown. It’s better changing with the paddles, but still only average here; the chunky six-speed manual, now with revised ratios, still seems like the more satisfying option.

Chassis tuning also feels much the same as before. The Mustang remains a hoot to feed down a twisty road provided you don’t ask too much of it; at a brisk pace the steering’s meaty weighting and easy rate of response feel in-tune with the way the body moves about, but push harder and the slightly lazy damping struggles with bumpier surfaces and quicker direction changes.

If there’s an upside to this, it’s that the Mustang feels very approachable despite its limitations, and many will enjoy the unique experience of threading a slightly unweildy V8 coupe down a challenging British back-road. There’s enough grip at both ends to carry decent pace too, and while traction is good, you can still enjoy small slides here and there (or potentially bigger ones, if you have more space handy) and appreciate the Mustang’s inherent rear-drive balance.

The manual and magnetic ride-equipped 2.3 Ecoboost was a different beast entirely. Though perhaps “beast” isn’t quite the right word, as it feels rather flat and characterless next to the V8. It drones where the V8 roars and caresses you out of roundabouts rather than punching you in the spine like its eight-cylinder counterpart, all the while returning economy figures in the low 20s. Why would you opt for this engine, again?

The manual gearbox is the right choice though - it's as chunky and mechanical as before, though you can’t fully enjoy downshifts thanks to the same grabby brake pedal as its predecessor, which hobbles attempts at slick heel-and-toe gearchanges.

Magnetic ride too seems to work in the Mustang’s favour. Even in normal mode there’s less float than the standard setup without any loss of comfort at a cruise, yet it also bucks and hops less over broken surfaces than the regular suspension, minimising the side-to-side rocking you often got with the old car. There doesn’t seem to be a great increase in firmness in Sport mode, at least on the relatively undemanding test route, but equally there’s little comfort penalty.

Price and rivals

2018 Mustang pricing begins at £35,995 for the 2.3 Ecoboost and £41,095 for the GT. Adding the 10-speed automatic increases this by £1600 and convertibles at £3500 extra.

Those numbers are higher than they were pre-facelift, but still represent relatively good value given the performance on offer - for some perspective, the admittedly higher-end (but otherwise similarly naturally-aspirated) Lexus RC F is in the region of £60k, and reaches 62mph in the same 4.5sec as the auto-equipped Mustang.

It’s harder to make a case for the Ecoboost, not only because it’s only around £5k less than the V8, but also because its relative lack of performance and character makes it a harder sell against some of the quicker hot hatchbacks available in the £30k range; front-drive it may be, but the rowdy Civic Type R will match the manual Ecoboost to 62mph and deliver greater thrills on the road.

Opt for the V8 coupe with the manual transmission and specify magnetic ride, and the new Mustang is a small but usefully improved car over its predecessor. But best of all, it remains a Mustang - and that gives it a feel-good factor like few other cars at this price.

McLaren names Kenny Brack as new chief test driver

Lee Stern

23 May 2018

Kenny Brack has joined McLaren Automotive as the marque’s chief test driver. He will be charged with the dynamic development of future models and will report to chief operating officer Dr Jens Ludmann.

Brack has previous with McLaren, having consulted on the development of the 720S and the Senna. Since then, the Swede has remained on McLaren’s books in a similar capacity, contributing to the development of yet-be-announced models, so his transition into the role should be fairly seamless.

> Watch Brack's incredible lap of Goodwood in a GT40

Brack’s resume makes for impressive reading, especially when you look under ‘racing experience’. The 52-year-old has collected honours in multiple motorsport disciplines, a career highlight being his 1998 IndyCar title.

Speaking on the announcement Brack said: ‘It is a great gift to be able to work with your passion and break new boundaries, and to have the opportunity to work with the highly skilled and determined team at McLaren Automotive is just fantastic.’

Ludmann also commented, saying, ‘Kenny’s record as a formidable first-class racing driver speaks for itself, but I believe his talents as a development driver are even more impressive and make him the ideal person to lead the team shaping the way that McLaren cars drive.’

> McLaren Senna review

Chris Goodwin, who had previously held the role, left the position to join Aston Martin, earning the title of ‘expert high performance test driver’ in the process. Goodwin arrived at Aston with an impressive track record, having overseen the development of McLaren’s recent crop of road cars. He’ll need to call on all his experience as he’s heavily involved in the development of the Valkyrie, Aston Martin’s forthcoming new-age hypercar.

New Ferrari SP38 one-off supercar revealed

Jordan Katsianis

23 May 2018

Ferrari has just unveiled the new SP38, a bespoke commission designed and built by Ferrari’s One-Off programme for one of the brand’s most dedicated customers. Referencing the iconic F40, the SP38 will make its debut at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este car show on the shores of Lake Como in a few days time.

Based on underpinnings borrowed from the Ferrari 488 GTB, the SP38 shares the mid-mounted twin-turbo 3.9-litre V8 engine and dual-clutch gearbox combination, but like all bespoke commissioned Ferraris, the biggest changes are concentrated on the exterior styling.

Featuring completely new bodywork, the SP38’s most defining feature is its fixed rear wing, designed in homage to the F40. An unusual addition today thanks to the advancements made in active aero, the wing sits far lower than on the F40 so not to contribute to a high coefficient of drag. Atop the engine is a solid cover with three slats, perhaps referencing the three gills that sit on each side of the F40’s rear wing.

Below the rear wing sit four roundel taillights, again in reference to the F40, but it does lack the triple outlets of the iconic old car, instead using a familiar dual exhaust setup from the 488 GTB. Alongside the slim flanks, Ferrari has moved the standard 488’s gaping side intake to an opening behind the door glass.

The gaping front intake is topped by a pair of slim headlights, sat within smoothly bulging front arches and a low scuttle. Like some of Ferrari’s other one-off commissions, the SP38 has a wraparound windscreen, giving the car a different silhouette to other series-production Ferrari models. Also new are the five-spoke wheels, yet another nod to the F40.

> Ferrari 488 GTB review

The SP38 is just the latest in a series of bespoke commissions built for Ferrari’s favourite customers. Ferrari’s other notable creations include the 512BB-inspired SP12 EC, (built for Eric Clapton, hence the name), the F12 TRS and the 458MM Speciale, each custom designed and built by the Ferrari One-Off programme. As usual with these commissions, the subject of money is far too vulgar to mention, but if you had to ask, chances are you can’t afford it.

Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale vs Lamborghini Huracan Performante: old vs new track tuned supercars

Adam Towler

27 May 2018

When Ferrari launched the 360 Modena in 1999, the junior supercar was suddenly not so junior any more. At the 2003 Geneva show, the firm followed up with something even more special: a road car that effectively channelled the genes of the 360 Challenge one-make race car (with nods also to the 360 N-GT and 360 GTC FIA GT Championship racers). It was called the 360 Challenge Stradale and, bar the very-limited-run 348 GT Competizione, was nothing less than the first Ferrari road-racer since the F40.

There was something else motivating Ferrari, too: while the firm didn’t intend its wealthy clientele to buy a 360 CS then strip it down and prep it for Le Mans, it did envisage the CS making it onto the trackday scene – one that was becoming ever more prevalent at the time and one that Ferrari needed to cater for.

> Lamborghini Huracan Performante review

All of which makes the 360 CS the genome for a particular genetic strand of supercar: lighter, angrier, honed for the track but still road-legal. It’s a niche that’s been thoroughly explored over the past 15 years by those great rivals from Maranello and Sant’Agata Bolognese, but recently also by Woking’s finest in the form of McLaren’s 675LT and 570S Track Pack. Unequivocally, though, with the Huracán Performante we have the current ultimate of the species, with the Nordschleife credentials to support it.


Lamborghini Huracan Performante & Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale

 

The last time I drove a 360 Challenge Stradale, I was still in my 20s (sadly the somewhat distant past). The car was yellow with stripes, and the number plate looked like something knocked up in the Maranello factory crèche with marker pens. It was the first Ferrari I’d ever driven – a 360 CS press car in Italy, no less – and I’ll freely admit to being intimidated in the extreme. It was so loud it made bystanders jump when it fired up, and the whole car seemed to tingle with a barely contained pent-up rage.

Fast forward to a windy but just about dry Bedford Autodrome and, while the Stradale’s stats pale in comparison with those of the Lamborghini parked alongside, its aura still captivates all who pass near. Let’s be honest: there are five-star evo cars and there are five-star evo cars. The Stradale is evo royalty.

> Ferrari 488 Pista 

This CS set the blueprint for the type: highly tuned engines, advanced electronics, bespoke tyres, extreme aero, and weight loss via the removal of extraneous items and implementation of exotic materials. All would be core attributes of the hardcore supercar in the years to follow. Three seconds faster around Fiorano than the standard car was the objective; 3.5sec was the result.


Lamborghini Huracan Performante & Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale

 

Not that the Ferrari screams about its intentions: there is no towering rear wing raised high in the slipstream; no ‘canards’ festooning the nose. The CS’s enhancements are subtle but no less effective. Post Stradale, the standard 360 looks a bit undefined, lofty, timid. The CS’s lower front air dam, deeper sides and subtly raised rear deck contributed to a 50 per cent increase in downforce, meaning 40kg more of the invisible force at 124mph. Useful, but comically smallfry when you consider the Performante has 750 per cent more downforce than the standard Huracán…

Given that the power increase would be minimal over the standard car, Ferrari knew weight loss was going to be the most effective way to increase performance. In the ideal lightweight specification, that reduction is 110kg – ‘ideal’ including the lightweight bucket seats, Lexan side windows with pull-back openers, and no radio. There are too many details to list here, but the fact that the interior is bare aluminium underfoot, the floorpan is carbonfibre (50 per cent lighter) and the wheel bolts are titanium gives you some idea. A kerb weight of just 1280kg means the CS sits exactly halfway between the regular 360 and the Challenge race car (1170kg with fluids) in terms of mass.

> Ferrari 458 Speciale 

The Stradale also has the final incarnation of Ferrari’s original Dino- series V8, first seen in the 308 GT4 of 1974 and used in everything from Mondials to the F40. Blueprinted for use in the CS, with a slight rise in the compression ratio, reduced internal friction, polished intake ports and new intake and exhaust systems, it makes 420bhp (up 26bhp on the regular car, although some would say more given the Modena’s optimistic quoted power) at 8500rpm.

 

Lamborghini Huracan Performante & Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale

If there was something reassuringly traditional about the CS’s engine tuning, the transmission was decidedly modern. Ferrari, originator of the single-clutch automated manual during the 1989 F1 season, was quick to adopt two pedals in its road cars, and there’d be no manual alternative for the CS, though it does seem quaint today that Ferrari boasted of changes in Race mode ‘as quick as 150ms’, along with a separate Launch mode.

There’s more to impart about the Challenge Stradale, a lot more, but now is the time for driving – I simply cannot resist it any longer. And let’s get the obvious out of the way first: if there’s one thing that makes the CS feel old, perhaps even older than its 14 years, it’s that gearbox. None of us who drove it in its heyday could have imagined that there would be ’boxes like the Performante’s just over a decade into the future.

> Lamborghini Aventador SV 

The nicest thing you can say about the Stradale’s Magneti Marelli single- clutch affair is that its crudity requires a level of interaction the driver of the new car simply wouldn’t comprehend; the cruellest is that, as with the BMW E46 M3 CSL, it’s a flaw that today comes close to ruining a near-perfect car, and that the desire to experience it with a manual ’box is almost overwhelmingly strong.


Lamborghini Huracan Performante – engine bay

 

No matter. Wedged into the Stradale’s bucket seat, you feel the whole car tremor at idle with the energy of the V8. Pulling away I learn there are expansion joints on the Bedford track that I never knew existed: the CS tells you absolutely everything, and I mean everything, about the surface beneath you. Editor Gallagher puts it best: ‘Assisted by its cab-forward driving position, it’s as though you have the palms of each hand resting on the top of each tyre.’ There’s a lightness of touch, too – in the steering, the way the car rides bumps, changes direction. It’s a nimbleness that helps it shrink around you, makes it less intimidating. And when the tail begins to slide, it does so progressively, communicating clearly.

Select Race – the CS’s simplicity is very appealing, in contrast to the Huracán – and the gearshifts are quicker, while the surprisingly pliant ride firms up. It’s almost too much out on the road but, flying along between the hedges, you are totally immersed in the Stradale experience, the unfiltered sensations of air rushing over the car, debris being flicked up and, most of all, that engine getting to work.

> Ferrari 360 CS

It’s not terribly fast if you keep the revs low, but around 4500rpm it wakes up, both in terms of acoustics and energy. Jump on the throttle now and the intake flaps crack open so aggressively the sound is like a pair of Samurai swords being scraped together. And what engine noise: a brutal, tearing howl as the CS leaps forward. Hit the left-hand pedal and it’s replaced by the roughness of the superbly effective carbon-ceramic brakes, donated by the Enzo and like two sheets of industrially abrasive sandpaper being rubbed together. Gearbox and all, it’s one of the most exciting, absorbing, desirable cars I think I’ve ever driven.

The Stradale was followed by the even more outrageous 430 Scuderia, which upped the ante for power (503bhp), aero and, most notably, the electronics for the gearbox and the chassis. Then there was the 458 Speciale, the ultimate incarnation of the high-revving, naturally aspirated lightweight Ferrari road-racer. 

It took a while before Lamborghini decided to play Ferrari at its own game. The Gallardo was an altogether different proposition when its meaty V10 and all- wheel drive appeared towards the end of the 360 Modena’s production life. It wasn’t until 2007 that Lambo unleashed its own ‘CS’ in the form of the raw, raucous Superleggera (up just 9bhp on the regular Gallardo but 100kg lighter), following it up with a Mk2 version in 2010, the Spyder Performante and even more aggressive Super Trofeo Stradale a year later, and finally the Squadra Corse of 2013. And now we have this matt orange and ‘THE PERFORMANTE OFFERS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT DRIVING EXPERIENCE, BUT ONE THAT’S EVERY BIT AS INVIGORATING’ bleached bronze animal parked before us: the Huracán Performante.

> Ferrari 430 Scuderia

Initially, the Performante seems true to type. It is lighter than the base car, albeit by only 40kg this time, thanks to extensive use of carbonfibre – in this case the ‘forged’ variety, using chopped fibres in a resin, which looks curiously like black mahogany. Inside and out, it feels consciously styled, unlike the purely functional CS, from the flip-up starter button ‘protector’ to the extravagance of its exterior forms. It works hard for your attention, and inevitably gets it.


Lamborghini Huracan Performante & Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale

On road or track, the Performante offers a completely different driving experience to the Stradale, but one that’s every bit as invigorating. As with the CS, and despite all the other tech on show, the Lambo is defined by its engine, although again their characters are very different. The gains on paper over the standard V10 are small, an additional 29bhp meaning a peak of 631bhp at 8000rpm, but if the regular 5.2-litre lump is bombastic, then the Performante’s motor is an early-days Prodigy gig crammed into your garden shed. I am convinced that in years to come we’ll look back at this era and wonder how an engine as visceral, tuneful and soulful as this was actually offered for sale.

Much as with the CS, we can thank time-served tuning for the V10’s additional focus, with revised intake and exhaust systems, titanium valves and the use of fluid dynamics software to improve gas-flow. Its war cry when closing in on 8000rpm must shatter fine bone china in the next county, but I also love how, in Strada mode with the exhaust valve closed, the intake rasp between 3000 and 4000rpm sounds as though the engine’s gargling with razor blades. I haven’t heard airbox music like that since the aforementioned CSL.

> best track cars

Performance? How about 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds, or 0-124mph in just 8.9? Even with just a delicate smear of throttle, the Performante makes its way down a road like a Cruise missile at low level, daring the driver not to brake for the oncoming corner. And, when you do, it claws furiously at the tarmac.


Lamborghini Huracan Performante & Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale

But what really propels the Performante to the pinnacle of this particular genre is its aero – or, in Lamborghini speak, Aerodinamica Lambo Attiva (ALA). It’s an active aero package that manipulates the flow of air for either maximum downforce or drag reduction, depending on how and where the car is travelling. It is this, along with the huge strides in tyre performance, that surely make that 6:52.01 lap time at the old Nürburgring possible. As a comparison, Sport Auto magazine timed the 360 CS at 7:56 back in 2004. Whatever else their respective merits, the Ferrari wouldn’t see which way the significantly heavier Lambo went at the Green Hell.

Back on UK roads, it’s hard to judge exactly how much difference ALA is making. Certainly, the car feels very stable, but most of all it simply feels overwhelmingly fast. So colossal is the scope of the Performante’s performance envelope that it is unfeasible to deploy very much of it – or, at least, a lot of it for very long. Is this the reality of technology chasing ever-decreasing lap times? That isn’t meant as a criticism of the Performante per se, or Lamborghini even; it’s what the market seems to demand.

 

Lamborghini Huracan Performante & Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale

Thankfully, even at 40 per cent effort, a Performante is a wonderful thing. You notice the polish in its steering first – a fluid, oily quality and precision almost entirely absent from the standard Huracán. The ride in the softer Strada setting is spookily good, too. 

Few things turn into a corner like a Performante hooked up with the road’s surface, such is the extraordinary front- end grip on offer, while traction, with the benefit of four-wheel drive, is massive. You can still feel the chassis working, shuffling torque, its attitude adjustable with the throttle. On the circuit, however, while the Lambo’s limits are way beyond the Stradale’s, there’s plenty of evidence that it will be a lot less tolerant once it does slide, requiring quick correction and careful balancing on the throttle. That said, and leaving the additional performance to one side, you wish every Huracán drove this well.

So Lamborghini produces arguably the world’s greatest current hardcore road-racer, though the competition with Ferrari inevitably rumbles on. There will be a harder, lighter, faster 488 GTB – we may have inadvertently seen it already (see page 52). As for this pair, they’re so different but bristling with the same spirit: the Ferrari a gossamer approach to hardcore, the Performante a true raging bull in every sense. Magnifico.

 

'Now everything has a Sport mode. Even my dishwasher has one'

Richard Porter

22 May 2018

The Ferrari 250 GTO did not have a sport button. Nor did the Lamborghini Countach or the Lancia Delta Integrale. And I’m not sure anyone has ever marked them down for this. Now, however, everything has a Sport mode. Supercars, saloons, hot hatchbacks. Even my dishwasher has one, though it just makes everything faster and therefore even more likely to bake a trace element of Weetabix into a diamond-hard scab you have to smash the bowl to remove.

I’m not sure when the Sport button became a thing, but it was almost certainly in the ’80s when increasingly advanced control modules allowed large German saloons to sprout a Sport mode on their automatic gearboxes. You dabbed a button by the selector and the changes got a little less slurring, although only in the same way that a fat barrister might be less slurring if you caught him in the bar at 7.30pm rather than 8pm. And that was it for Sport mode for the ’80s and into the ’90s. It made automatic ’boxes almost imperceptibly snappier, which is to say not very snappy at all.

> Click here for more opinion pieces by Richard Porter

However, sometime in the ’90s and into the new century, with greater computing power and the rise of adaptive damping, Sport mode became more comprehensive.  I remember the first time I noticed this, in a Mercedes E55 AMG. Not the slabby one that always developed crusty arches; the softer shaped one that came afterwards. The W211, if you’re a proper Merc nerd. Pushing the Sport button didn’t just make a half-hearted stab at taking some slack out of the gearshifts. It sharpened the throttle and firmed the air suspension too. If you dabbed it in traffic you felt the revs rise a little, like the car was tensing itself. The difference between normal and Sport was obvious. Extremely obvious. You might almost say too obvious.

Fiat Panda 100HP sport button

And this brings me to where we are today, in Sport mode Babylon. Even quite ordinary stuff has a Sport option and, by and large, these settings all behave the same, making an immediate and appreciable difference to the superficial feeling of the car. Which is where the problem lies. They’re like Victoria Beckham’s suit ‘n’ sunglasses bodyguards. Massive, obvious, not necessarily useful in the circumstances where you’d hope they would shine. Whereas what I’d like Sport mode to mimic is the security set-up I once saw protecting Prince Harry, which was two people in casual clothes discreetly hanging around in the background, blending in, monitoring the situation but, you could bet, quite able when required to snap someone’s arm off. That’s the sort of subtle but useful backup I want, yet few car makers do it. Porsche is a notable exception, and Aston’s DB11 is pretty good too.

These, however, are the exceptions. Most performance-orientated cars lack this subtlety. They feel as if Sport mode isn’t set up as the engineers and test drivers would like it because they’ve been overruled by the marketing department and market researchers who told them customers don’t want a snadge more rebound damping and a whisker of extra response from the throttle. They want a car that feels sporty, even if that results in an idiotically stiff ride, pointlessly heavier steering and needlessly brutal tip-in on the accelerator pedal, none of which makes for better or more satisfying progress down a wiggly road. As a demonstration of how the average Sport setting is stiffness over substance, we once conducted an experiment on Top Gear in which a Golf GTI was lapped in Sport mode and then in its Comfort setting. It was actually a tenth quicker in Comfort.

Oh but wait, you think, lots of cars now have a programmable setting that lets you choose from a small smorgasbord of functions and blend them to your choice. And sometimes that helps. I’ve spent a lot of time in cars where you flick it into Sport mode and then five minutes later start prodding desperately through submenus to stop the damn thing feeling so artlessly leaden, and the solution to this is always, absolutely always, as follows: softer suspension, normal steering, sharper engine/gearbox response. Then later you go back to default normal mode and the throttle feels really flat, so you end up driving it the whole time in your personal configuration and wondering why the car wasn’t just sold like that and the bloody Sport mode blanked off.

Which is, I’m afraid, where I’m going with all this. I’m bored of Sport modes and their fake ‘sportiness’. The 250 GTO didn’t have a Sport mode, nor did the Countach or Integrale. Perhaps because their creators just got the basic set-up right in the first place.

Richard is evo’s longest-serving columnist, pen behind @sniffpetrol and script editor on 'The Grand Tour'

McLaren P1 v McLaren 720S review - in-house rivals battle it out

Adam Towler

24 May 2018

I still haven't got used to the raw fury of the McLaren  720S fully winrg-out. I’m not sure I ever will, I;m not sure I ever want to, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Experiencing 8000rpm within the confines of hedges, trees and ditches still evokes a mix of breathless exhilaration, suppressed fear, and a cringing sense of social irresponsibility. In fact, anyone who says they’ve strung together a proper road while dipping regularly into the final 2000rpm on the rev-counter is either some conduit for the spirit of Ronnie Peterson or telling some really big fibs. As you will have gathered if you’ve read the preceding pages, the 720S’s ultimate performance redefines ferocious at anything sub-hypercar level, perhaps even beyond.

It may also have occurred to you that the 720S offers the kind of fireworks that would give the mighty P1, McLaren Automotive’s first Ultimate Series car and spiritual successor to the legendary F1, a very hard time. Indeed, its lap time at Anglesey proves that, in certain situations, it’s faster.

> McLaren 720S review

Shorn of the P1’s hybrid system’s weight penalty and with the benefit of five years’ further car-making experience, the conventionally powered 720S threatens to make the P1 seem over-complicated and over-the-hill. Is this a case of early adopters paying handsomely (£866,000 in the case of the P1) for the futuristic tech, only to see those who waited longer getting similar performance for a quarter of the money? I’ll admit, that was what I thought – before McLaren offered the chance to drive a P1.


McLaren 720S in Italy - front corner

What is it about the P1’s demeanour, I wonder, that has the ability to command everything in its orbit? I think it might be the relationship between the turret-like occupant pod and bodywork so pared-back that it’s almost non-existent: less recognisably car, more alien inter-galactic craft. The 720S metaphorically shrivels ever-so-slightly, slipping into the background in suitable deference to its illustrious father.

After the soft-touch thunk of the 720’s door closing, the crack as I slam the P1’s door overly hard makes me wince. Once inside it’s recognisably McLaren, but there’s a lot less trimming and much more structural carbonfibre on show. There’s nothing like the 720’s rearward vision, either, but in an odd sort of way I don’t mind that: I don’t want my £2m-plus (at current market values) hypercar experience to be too friendly, too easy, too accessible.

> McLaren P1 review

The P1’s V8 may be smaller than the fundamentally similar engine in the 720S, but it has more power (727bhp to 710bhp) and it is, of course, further boosted by its 176bhp electric motor. At its peak that makes 903bhp, a figure so massive that I’m not sure I can begin to imagine what it might feel like.

 

You can tell a lot about a car in the first 50 metres, and the P1 feels firm but poised, reassuringly rigid but also unfiltered in refinement terms – every bit of gravel on the road can be heard and felt, but not in an uncomfortable way. And it is patently very, very angry.

To be honest, I had a preconception about the P1. I knew it would be fast and clever but, as with other hypercars, I always questioned its relevance beyond introducing new technology. Surely its limits were just ludicrously high for the public road. Frankly, what was the point?

> McLaren Senna

I was wrong though, very wrong, because the P1 is by several degrees of magnitude more exciting than the 720S. Indeed, it is one of the most exciting cars I’ve ever driven, period. Furthermore, this isn’t an experience defined by raw speed. There’s a purity to the way the P1 handles and feels – the way it pivots beneath you, the lack of slack absolutely anywhere in its make-up, its nimbleness in spite of its weight. Ludicrous expressions like ‘an Elise with a nuclear reactor on board’ spring to mind. It’s the sort of car you’d take out just to pop to the shops to buy milk. I never expected that.


McLaren P1 – front quarter

But the really special thing about the P1 is its combination of almost incomprehensible power, freakishly immediate throttle response due to the electric torque-fill, and the colossal wheeze of the giant turbochargers. In fact, the only thing louder than the P1’s turbos is the sound of my hysterical laughter every time they huff. Embarrassing but true.

Jumping back into the 720S afterwards feels, rather absurdly, like an anti-climax. I must have driven over 2000 miles now in McLaren’s latest supercar and I happen to think the car is a genuine triumph, but, be in no doubt, it’s no cut- price P1. Not by a long shot.

 

How to set a fast supercar lap time: McLaren 720S at Anglesey

Steve Sutcliffe

24 May 2018

It's an intense experience extracting a lap time from a car such as the McLaren 720S, especially at a circuit such as Anglesey, which can be frighteningly rapid in a couple of places but is also extremely tight and twisty in others. Which basically means there is nowhere to relax and think for even half a second about what the car is doing and why.

In a 720S, the moment you leave the pitlane the world goes into hyperspace, and unless you’re right on top of it mentally right from the word go, it could easily get away from you. And yet, if you do manage to switch your brain on properly, and the circuit is dry, and the ambient temperature is warm but not too warm – so conditions pretty much perfect, in other words – the 720S can be utterly magnificent, as its best time will show.

 > McLaren 720S review

But there are several key things that need to be in place before the magic starts to happen, only one of which is the state of your noggin. The tyres and specifically the tyre pressures also play a big part in ‘getting it right’ at Anglesey. You also need to put the car in the perfect configuration within the adjustable drive programs, and the ones initially recommended by McLaren aren’t necessarily the best ones to go with in this instance.

 

To begin with, the small army of technicians sent with the 720S to Anglesey reckon the car will be quickest with everything dialled up to max – so Track for the drivetrain and suspension, manual for the transmission, and all the aero fully active – but with the traction control still partially switched on. This puts the car in what McLaren describes as Dynamic Mode, which still gives you a small amount of assistance from the TC system, and a touch of help from the ESP as well in extreme circumstances.

What Dynamic Mode allows you to do, in theory, is nail the throttle as early as possible mid-corner, leaving the systems to sort everything out. This means you won’t get great gobs of unwanted oversteer, or wheelspin, even if you try.

 > Best cheap track cars

As for the tyre pressures, these need to be dropped right down (well outside Pirelli’s official guidelines at some circuits, and especially at the front) to give the car as much bite as possible, not just on turn-in but, more vitally, mid-corner and at the exit as well. McLaren has learnt this trick a million times over now at its various customer trackdays, but still stresses that the car is better on the road at the recommended pressures.

So with all this information fizzing around my head, and my heart thumping pretty hard with a mix of mild anxiety and major excitement, I go out for the first time in the 720S – to try to learn both car and circuit. And straight away, from the moment I open it up down towards turn two in third gear, the 720S feels like a complete madman.

The acceleration it produces is actually quite shocking, even when you’re braced for it, and the way it subsequently stops for and then turns into the corner that follows seems thoroughly ridiculous for a car that wears a set of number plates. You need to be ready for the 720S – not because it will bite you as such, but because you might very well find yourself entering a corner 40mph too fast...

> Book an evo track day here 

I do four quick-ish but fairly calm laps and note a number of things. One, that there is still a bit too much understeer, which is killing the car’s speed through at least four corners. Two, that Dynamic Mode might not be the way to go because it is taking the throttle away in too many of the acceleration zones, so I’ll need to take a brave pill and switch the whole lot off next time out. And three, that it is otherwise absolutely chuffing sensational around this circuit, not least the way it stops but arguably even more so the way it goes, which is to say like a perfectly aimed bullet whenever there is so much as a hint of a straight line to fire it down.

I come back in, tell the techies about the understeer and they call Pirelli and get permission to drop the fronts even further. They also fit a brand spanking new set of P Zero Corsas all round and simply say ‘best of luck’ when it comes to trying it with everything switched off. They also suggest I do two slow laps to bring the tyres in and then, well... see how she goes.

Back out again and after the two slow laps I get that lovely feeling from the 720S, that rare one where the car feels almost perfectly dialled in to the circuit. All the crazy stuff is still there (mental acceleration, fantastic stability under braking, incredible speed and response from the gearbox, up or down the ratios) but there is now much more bite at the front end, which means it can carry much more speed into and through the corners. And although the wheelspin needs managing via your right foot on the way out of them, there is now instant and massive acceleration as well, which simply wasn’t there in Dynamic Mode because the electronics wouldn’t allow it to happen.

> Best track cars

The 720S does a lap time of 1:11.5 and hits a top speed of 143mph in the process. To give that some context, the P1 did a 1:12.6 on the exact same specification tyres in near-identical conditions (evo 200), while a more direct rival, the Ferrari 488 GTB could manage ‘only’ a 1:12.8 (issue 228). And remember, the 720S is a standard production model that McLaren will make 1400 of each year. Insane. Absolutely, brilliantly insane.

 

Tesla Model 3 ‘to outpunch BMW M3’

Lee Stern

21 May 2018

Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, threw down the gauntlet with claims that the performance Tesla Model 3 will be faster than a BMW M3, as he took to social media to disclose benchmark performance figures for the upcoming, all-electric sports saloon.

In a series of posts, Musk divulged key figures boasted by the range-topping Model 3, offering them to a BMW M3 for the purpose of comparison. ‘Cost is $78k. About same as BMW M3, but 15 per cent quicker and with better handling,’ he said. He went on to reveal a claimed 0-60mph time of 3.5sec and a 155mph top speed; 0.6sec faster than the M3 but the same top speed.

> BMW M3 review

Getting progressively punchier with his comments, Musk said the Model 3 ‘will beat anything in its class on the track’. However, he stopped short of detailing the Model 3’s full specification, so whether it has the necessary hardware to corroborate that statement remains to be seen.

Musk, though, did confirm, that like the faster Model S and X variants, the performance Model 3 will employ a dual motor set-up – with a motor powering each axle. Both draw power from a collection of batteries, located in the chassis floor, which have a capacity that translates to a 310-mile range, according to the entrepreneur.

> Tesla Model 3: specs, prices and full details on the all-electric compact exec

Converting the quoted price to pounds sterling sees the Model 3 come in at £58k, a tad less than the entry-level M3. That said, when the Model 3 eventually lands on UK shores it’s likely to cost more based on the difference in price of the Model S in the UK and USA – £123k and $135k respectively. Apply that logic here and it's fair to assume the Model 3 will retail closer to £80k.

Peugeot 308 GTi by PS production halted by incoming Euro 6.2 emission regs

Jordan Katsianis

21 May 2018

Peugeot is to temporarily halt production of the 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport ahead of incoming Euro 6.2 emission regulations. As with many older or high-performance engines, new WLTP regulations are forcing manufacturers to take more dramatic measures in order to comply.

The French marque will approach the problem by fitting the 308 GTi by PS with a petrol particulate filter when it resumes production in October, an increasingly common move by manufacturers to reduce emissions without the need for substantial hardware change.

> Click here for our group test between the Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport and its rivals

Peugeot is adamant that the 308’s 266bhp power output won’t change, although we won’t know if the 1.6-litre engine’s enthusiasm for revs will be quite so unaffected. Initially co-developed with BMW in the previous-generation Mini, the Peugeot’s THP 1.6-litre engine was thoroughly redesigned by Peugeot Sport in order to produce its impressive power and torque figures. As a result, it’s hardly surprising, due to the engine’s relative age, that it has been affected by these new legislation changes.


Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport - static profile

Peugeot also confirmed that it has stopped building three-door variants of the 208 supermini, killing off the 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport in the process. We are, however, expecting a new-generation 208 to appear at the Paris motor show in October.

Although a next-generation 208 GTi by PS has not been confirmed, Peugeot has previously made mention that the GTi brand and its variants will remain crucial parts of the future Peugeot line-up. What will this mean for the next-generation hot hatch? With Peugeot back at full strength where hot hatchbacks are concerned, we can’t wait to see what the it has in store, even if the new emissions regulations are becoming increasingly difficult to overcome.

Peugeot 406 Coupe: review, history, prices and specs

Antony Ingram

24 May 2018

Were it not for a hardy few remaining manufacturers, the concept of the traditional coupe would be dead - in Europe, at least.

Only the premium manufacturers offer proper coupes these days - think 4-series, A5, C-class coupe - while a hardy few mainstream brands continue to offer more performance-orientated models, like the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ, the Nissan 370Z, and the Ford Mustang. For the average customer though, crossovers have taken their place - and the roads are a less attractive place for it.

> Ford Puma - review, history, prices and specs

Back in the 1990s you could barely move for stylish mainstream two-doors. In no particular order, the average magazine group test could have included Far-Eastern offerings in the form of the Toyota Celica, Honda Prelude, Mitsubishi FTO, Nissan 200SX and Hyundai Coupe, Ford’s Probe and then Cougar, the Vauxhall Calibra and later Astra Coupe, BMW’s stalward 3-series, and even coupes from Rover and Volvo.

And if you wanted Italian beauty, there were three options: The Alfa Romeo GTV, Fiat Coupe, and Peugeot 406 Coupe. Italian? Call it a collaboration, as Peugeot’s repmobile-based coupe was penned, like the GTV, by Pininfarina.

It arrived slightly before evo’s time, but our predecessors at Performance Car became familiar with it, and today Peugeot’s beautiful coupe is emerging from the other side of its depreciation curve. Here’s why it’s still appealing two decades on.

> Ford Mustang review

Peugeot 406 Coupe in detail

Even in its mid-nineties twilight the Peugeot 405 was winning plaudits for its ride and handling, so the 406, which arrived in the UK in early 1996, had plenty to live up to.

Early reviews suggested the Mondeo and Primera rival had hit the mark - and it frequently ranked alongside those two cars in particular for its blend of ride and handling, falling head and shoulders above others in the class. Quality had taken a step up too, while the 406 was offered with a range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines and a range-topping 2.9-litre V6, shared with Citroen and Renault.

That bode well for the 406 Coupe that arrived in 1997. While identifiable as a member of the 406 family, the new Coupe was altogether more stylish than its four-door counterpart. Not surprising really, given its Pininfarina provenance: the 406 Coupe was both designed and built by Pininfarina in Italy, and had originally been a styling proposal for Fiat - which eventually went with the in-house design composed by Chris Bangle for its own sporty two-door Fiat Coupe.

> Peugeot 208 GTi review

Peugeot initially chose the 406 saloon’s 2-litre, four-cylinder petrol (with a modest 138bhp) and the 2.9-litre “ESL” V6 - co-developed between PSA and Renault to replace the ancient PRV unit - which produced a healthier 194bhp in its first form. This engine was quickly declared the pick of the range, for its mellifluous if muted engine note, because it suited the character of the car, and because it featured a few choice tweaks over the 2-litre version to wake up the chassis.

Tuning for the Coupe was slightly different to the saloon anyway. It used the same layout, comprising MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link rear (with coil springs all round), but with 0.6in and 1.4in wider tracks front and rear and a half-inch drop in ride height. The classy six-spoke alloy wheels sound tiny by today’s standards - they were 16 inches in diameter - but suited the Coupe’s shape and had 215-section tyres for suitable levels of grip.

V6 models got variable-assistance steering over their 2-litre counterparts, while electronic two-stage dampers were an option. While not badged as such, the shapely seats were made by Recaro and the brakes by Brembo.

> Peugeot 308 GTi review

2-litre models were given less favourable reviews than the V6 on launch - the four-pot was never a particularly enthralling power unit - and later in the car’s life it ended up being replaced by a 2.2-litre petrol. A 2.2-litre HDI-badged turbodiesel was also offered, being on-trend for the 90s and early 2000s but seeming less appealing today, both in light of ever more stringent regulations on diesels and the simple appeal of running a car for fun rather than day-to-day commuting.

And while today’s prices are on the way up, you’re still getting plenty for your money. Back in 1997 the basic 2-litre Coupe cost £20,360, with the V6 at £23,900 and the range-topping V6 SE costing £26,720. That latter figure would be an eyebrow-raising £46,000 today, so the low four-figure sums you’d pay today - and not for long, surely - look tempting indeed.

V6

2.0

2.2 HDI

Engine

2946cc, V6

1997cc, 4cyl

2179cc, 4cyl

Max power (bhp @ rpm)

194 @ 5500

138 @ 6000

136 @ 4000

Max torque (lb ft @ rpm)

197 @ 4000

140 @ 4100

173 @ 2000

Weight

1458kg

1350kg

1410kg

Power-to-weight

127bhp/ton

102bhp/ton

96bhp/ton

0-62mph

7.9sec

10.5sec

10.6sec

Top speed

146mph

127mph

129mph

What we said

Performance Car, first drive (June 1997)

‘As you might guess from those power and torque outputs, the V6 is a gutsy little number. A mere stroke of the throttle pedal is all that’s required to send the Coupe rushing forward from even the lowest engine speeds and its mid-range eagerness makes it a formidable, yet easy-going, performer in most everyday situations.

‘Your pace across country is greatly aided by the all-round excellence of the chassis. Over-light power steering tarnishes the shine slightly, but otherwise it’s the perfect picture of finely balanced composure. Provided you stay within the (high) limits of its roadholding, its movements are graceful and hugely satisfying to the keen driver.’

Performance Car, full road test (August 1997), John Barker

‘On the open road, the V6 is gutsy and keen, hauling well from low revs, hitting its stride in the mid-range and powering to the red line with a confident air. Response is crisp whatever the revs and while it’s not as tuneful as an Alfa V6 (it’s not alone there) it’s appealingly gruff when extended and stronger than you think.

‘Yet the 406 could be even more desirable. By Peugeot’s very high standards, the Coupe’s ride and handling are quite ordinary; it’s easily unsettled and surprisingly short of feel and fluidity. Perhaps the optional electronic damping makes the difference.’

What to pay

Excellent: £3000
Good: £2000
Average: £1500
Project: £800

The Chiron that evo built - how you buy a £2.5m Bugatti Chiron

Stuart Gallagher

20 May 2018

You know the score with buying the latest must-have high-performance car. You either need to be a blood relative of the company CEO or be prepared to allow the dealer’s sales director to drink your wine collection and hang your art in his smallest room. Oh, and if his kid is looking for a prom date, he can take one of your offspring – and you’ll have to pick up the bill for the chopper so they can arrive in style, too. Then and only then will he instruct the receptionist to allow you beyond the coffee machine and the copies of Vogue to sit outside his office, feeling like a fifth-former who has been spotted challenging the geography teacher to a round of Jägerbombs. 

Even if you make it this far, chances are you’ll be told you still can’t have the car you’ve saved for, lusted over and promised yourself because, despite all the hoops you’ve jumped through, you aren’t deemed a special customer. Not that anyone knows what the criteria is to become a special customer these days, but it’s probably easier to become a Freemason than it is to become someone considered worthy enough to buy the same new car as a YouTube vlogger. They will, of course, sell you a used example at a premium…

> Click here for our review of the Bugatti Chiron

And how much harder must it be to acquire an example of one of the most expensive, most powerful and fastest production cars currently on sale? There must surely be a surgeon on hand to remove the required limbs simply to gain access to the showroom… 

Not quite. You do have to ring a doorbell at Bugatti’s Mayfair showroom, but all it takes is a quick press and a moment or two before the receptionist opens the door and welcomes you in. No appointment, no pre-arranged qualifying interview. No organs left at the door or offspring offered to the staff. Simply ring the bell and be welcomed into the surreal world where £2million-plus hypercars are sold. And don’t fret that you’ll be in the way, for the Bruton Street showroom welcomes as many as 500 walk-ins every month. 

‘It’s a cliché, but we don’t need to “sell” a Bugatti,’ says Anita Krizsan, Bugatti brand director in the UK. ‘When a customer walks in, they have already bought the car in their mind. They have come to us to help them make it a reality.’ With 500 Chirons set to be built and the list price starting at £2.1million plus taxes, you’d expect there to be a bit of sales job to do, but seemingly not. 

> Best hypercars 2018

‘Fifty per cent of the customers we’ve taken orders for in Europe are new customers to Bugatti,’ Krizsan continues. ‘When the Veyron was launched, they weren’t in the market for that kind of car, for various reasons. Now they can have a Chiron and, while they’re waiting for their car to be built and delivered, they will buy a used Veyron.’ As you do. 

Then there are the customers, six of them so far, who have ordered a Chiron to a relatively ‘standard’ specification that allows for quick delivery and have then returned to spend rather longer on the configurator to order a car more closely aligned to their desired spec. And not forgetting the customer who took delivery of a Chiron on a Friday and ordered another first thing Monday morning. 

So what’s the process to ordering a Chiron? What goes through the mind of a typical customer? And what happens when you let a car hack go through the steps? 

‘It’s very different for every customer,’ explains Krizsan. ‘Some will take an hour to choose their specification and it will be very personal to them; others will take six months and the whole family will be involved.’ It took me all of 30 minutes, but then I’m a simple man lacking in imagination.

‘Some customers like to have their car very similar or as close as possible to the specification the car was launched in. Others will want bespoke colours and trim throughout, which we can do, though any unique materials requested have to go to the factory to be tested just like any other part fitted to the car. If you want us to paint the car in a colour that’s unique to you, we can, but it will add to the build time while the factory finds a suitable supplier and it passes all of our quality control tests.’

I suspect that most of you will have played with the configurator on Bugatti’s website, scrolling through the colours on offer. If you’re a customer sitting on one of the leather chairs in the showroom, you get to do the same, but on a configurator offering much greater detail and one that you’ll have access to from anywhere in the world once you’ve started the order process. 

‘Many customers have a clear idea of how they would like their Chiron to look,’ says Art Katallozi, brand co-ordinator at Bugatti in London, ‘and I’m here to show them their ideas on the configurator and help them realise their goals.

‘Sometimes a customer may be in two minds about a body colour, or which contrasting colour goes with their main colour. Or should it be two-tone at all?’ Apparently, 95 per cent of Veyrons were finished with two-tone paint, but a similar proportion of Chirons are being finished in a single colour.

‘Or it could be a wheel finish, interior colour for the seats or the carpets, or maybe the stitching in the steering wheel they are undecided on,’ continues Katallozi. ‘We are able to show them every opportunity. Sometimes a customer will revert back to their original specification; others will leave having ordered a Chiron in a specification they had never considered, and perhaps never would.’

Once you’re in the ordering process, which does involve the grubby subject of money – unavoidable even at this level, it would seem – there are factory visits for every customer (and their family) and, of course, the test drive. Well, you’d want to experience a 1479bhp car before you took delivery, wouldn’t you? As you’d imagine, it’s no ordinary demo, with factory test driver Loris Biocchi or one of his colleagues, perhaps Le Mans winner Andy Wallace, demonstrating exactly what such power feels like before handing over to the customer. 

Then you wait. If you ordered today, you could expect delivery around this time in 2019, with a Chiron currently taking six to nine months to build, depending on the spec. And then all that’s left to decide is whether to have your latest hypercar delivered to your home for a very private handover, or whether you’d prefer to press the showroom’s doorbell once more.

New 2018 BMW M3 CS review – hottest ever M3 hits the road

Bob Harper

24 May 2018
£86,425

This is the new BMW M3 CS – the brother to the M4 CS that BMW launched last year – and it’ll be this generation of M3’s glorious swan song with production ending in the summer. It has more power and torque and is the most powerful road-going M3 ever produced. With suspension tweaks, Cup tyres and set of styling upgrades, it may well be the finest example of this generation of M3. 

BMW says production will be limited to around 1200 units worldwide and they’re selling fast despite an £86k price tag that looks a trifle optimistic to say the least. We went to the Nürburgring to test the car on the roads around the iconic track to see if it is as good as the hype suggests.

> Click here to read our review of the BMW M4 CS 

Technical highlights

The CS is based on the latest M3 Competition Pack model and utilises the same springs and dampers although for this application the software calibrations have been retuned for the Adaptive M dampers along with those of the Active M differential and the electric power steering.

The aim is to get the absolute maximum out of the new wheels and tyres the M3 CS wears – lightweight forged alloys (9x19in up front, 10x20-in at the rear) which are wrapped in 265/35 ZR19 and 285/30 ZR20 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres respectively.

Other than tweaks to the car’s underpinnings the M3 CS broadly follows the styling of the M4 CS that was launched last year. There’s plenty of carbonfibre in evidence with a new carbon front splitter, gurney flap rear spoiler and rear diffuser while the front bonnet is also made from carbon fibre and features the large cooling duct first seen on the M4 GTS. Like on all non-sunroof M3s, the roof is also made from carbonfibre. Poking out from the rear diffuser is an M sports exhaust system with M etched into the tips.

Inside, the M3 CS does without the composite door panels of the M4 CS – perhaps reflecting the slightly more everyday nature of the more practical four-door machine – but has the same seats as the Comp Pack cars clad in Merino leather and there are swathes of Alcantara trim adorning the centre console and dash facings. It’s a pretty good place to spend time and has plenty of equipment such as BMW’s navigation and multimedia systems and heated seats.

Engine, transmission and 0-62mph

The CS uses a tweaked version of the M3’s twin-turbo straight-six endowed with an extra 10bhp over the Competition Pack model – now 454bhp at 6250rpm – while torque has swelled to 443lb ft at 4000-5380rpm, a gain of 37lb ft.

There’s only one transmission option, the seven-speed M Dual Clutch Transmission, and thus equipped BMW claims a 0-62mph time of 3.9sec (0.1sec quicker than the Comp Pack) and a top speed of 173mph thanks to the standard M Driver’s pack that’s usually denied to UK buyers.

What’s it like to drive?

Despite a 10bhp power hike and a loss of 10kgs from its kerb weight, you’re probably not going to notice a surge of additional performance in a straight line, but it still feels strong while the additional torque does make itself felt when punching out of corners. It also feels slightly more eager right at the top of the rev range. 

It sounds superb thanks to the CS’s retuned sports exhaust – there’s a more organic note to it with less of the augmented sound found in the standard M3. At full chat it rewards with a delicious deep-chested howl and plenty of pops and bangs when coming on and off the throttle or changing gear.

It’s the chassis revisions and the Cup 2 rubber that really make the CS though and the greatest benefit is to the steering which feels more direct and makes the M3 turn in with greater precision and less understeer that before. There’s real bite when committing to a corner – and small inputs are immediately rewarded with detailed movements. At the same time the rear axle is more planted and with that boost in torque the CS will bound eagerly out of corners. The changes BMW has wrought may be minor but they’re very effective in making the CS a thrilling drive, especially in the dry conditions we tested under. 

In Comfort mode the suspension is fairly compliant but switch to Sport or Sport+ and there’s far less body roll on offer, allowing the CS to cope far better with dips and crests. It gives the car a seriously planted feeling that inspires confidence when pushing on. It’s at its best on smooth roads though – lumpy Tarmac can still upset it in the stiffer settings.

Elsewhere the M DCT is still pretty effective – if perhaps not quite class-leading any more – upchanges are fine but occasionally a rapid drop down the ‘box can upset the rear axle a little. Our car was fitted with the optional – to the tune of £6250 – carbon ceramic brakes and they’re more than up to the job of washing off speed.

Price and rivals

It’s here that the M3 CS begins to look a trifle silly with an on-the-road price of a faintly ridiculous £86,425. Or to put it another way, £23k more expensive than a DCT-equipped normal M3 and £20,000 on top of the already excellent M3 Comp Pack with the dual-clutch ‘box. 

Yes, the CS does come with a unique set of spoilers, interior embellishments, chassis revisions and those wheels and tyres, but it’s quite a price hike over the ‘normal’ M3 models. If you could fit a set of Cup 2s to an M3 Comp Pack you may well have the best of both worlds at a far lower price.

However, consider it a four-door version of the M4 CS and looks to be quite the bargain. The saloon CS is £5190 cheaper than its coupe equivalent while also being a limited edition, unlike the M4 CS. It might not have the same lightweight composite doorcards and fabric doorpulls as the M4 CS, but the limited edition M3 still matches the coupe on power and performance.

> Click here for our Supertest between the M4, RS 5 and C63 S

With its sharper focus the M3 CS doesn’t really have any direct rivals with the Audi RS4 (currently only available as an Avant) not offering the sort of driver involvement you get with a CS. Mercedes’ C63 S might have the beating of the M3 in the horsepower stakes but it’s nowhere near as finely honed as the M3 CS either.

The CS is effectively in a class of its own, both in terms of pricing and driving experience, and while it is a limited run model, it’s a high price to pay for exclusivity. It’s also worth noting that if fast four-doors are your thing you could have a new M5 for more or less the same money…

Best 4x4 cars 2018 – the pick of today’s all-wheel-drive performance car crop

Antony Ingram

19 May 2018

Ever since Audi brought an all-wheel drive car along to the World Rally Championship, the potential for driving all four wheels of a performance car has been abundantly clear. Speed and usability go hand-in-hand, and should the weather turn against you, 4x4’s extra traction will keep you moving when all around are forced to tread gently.

As the performance of road cars climbs ever higher, all-wheel drive starts to make even more sense, harnessing ever greater outputs through ever smarter means - and in recent years, those means have included hybrid 4x4 systems that negate the need for complex transmissions, bringing the added benefits of improved economy and emissions.

What’s notable from our list of the best 4x4 performance cars is the variety too, from hot hatchbacks to high-end supercars and a real spread in between. All-wheel drive is no longer just for getting muddy - it’s a way of further increasing the remarkable breadth of abilities of the modern performance car.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

There’s a time and a place for SUVs, but few performance versions have really got under evo’s skin. Two that have got closest are the Porsche Macan GTS and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, and as the more exciting to drive of the pair it’s the Alfa that qualifies for a place on this 4x4 performance car list.

While weight and height mean it doesn’t quite have the cornering brio of the Giulia saloon, it’s arguably even better in the kind of road and weather conditions we experience in the UK. The extra traction of an all-wheel drive system is most welcome, while the raised stance and greater wheel travel allows you to tackle broken surfaces with less circumspection than you might in the Giulia.

> Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio review

The £69,500 price tag is hefty (closer to the £69,505 Macan Turbo Performance Pack than our preferred £58,158 GTS) but given the Stelvio’s Ferrari-esque engine, mighty performance (0-62mph in 3.8sec, 176mph) and appealing and spacious cabin, nor is it poor value. It makes you wonder what Ferrari itself might offer over and above the Stelvio when its own SUV-style car arrives.

Audi R8

The Audi R8 sits alongside the Porsche 911 Turbo in defining the modern everyday supercar - only with a mid-engined layout and sleek styling (not to mention a howling V10 engine), it arguably fits the definition even better than its Stuttgart rival.

While typical Audi attributes like slick styling and a great cabin have played a part in the R8’s success, its ability to put considerable power to the road with minimal drama has been a factor too. Ironically, Audi has recently introduced a rear-wheel drive version of the R8, dubbed RWS, but all-wheel drive still defines it.

> Audi R8 review

The latest R8s are indecently fast yet approachable too, feeling even more agile than their 911 rivals and delivering an even more spine-tingling soundtrack. Power oversteer is always on the cards, but in normal performance driving the quattro setup simply enhances traction and stability in the best tradition of AWD performance cars.

Audi S1

You forgot the Audi S1 existed, didn’t you? It’s an easy thing to do - the hot hatchback market has moved so quickly over the past couple of years that the S1’s time in the limelight was brief, while subtle styling and a price tag that puts it out of touch with more conventional front-drive hot superminis (from £27,125) means it’s often overlooked.

It probably shouldn’t be though. While it lacks the outright excitement of cars like the Peugeot Sport 208 GTi and the latest Fiesta ST, its Haldex all-wheel drive setup is completely unique in this class (though one other manufacturer - Suzuki - still produces a regular all-wheel drive supermini) and gives it poor-weather ability beyond any of its rivals.

> Audi S1 review

You also get the satisfaction of a potent 228bhp, 2-litre turbocharged engine, though performance is offset slightly by a 1315kg kerbweight. It fights back again with one of Audi’s more engaging chassis and a level of build unmatched by its less premium rivals. It’s a hidden gem.

BMW M5

Frank van Meel, CEO of BMW’s M division, recently told evo that BMW doesn’t like to call the rear-drive only mode in the new M5 a “drift mode”. ‘Every mode is a drift mode in an M5’, he said.

It’s difficult to argue with that, though like its Mercedes-AMG E63 S rival, the latest M5 does indeed have a mode that directs power to the rear axle alone. That such a mode is no longer the default is a symptom of a car that now produces 592bhp in its basic form, and 553lb ft. Given the previous M5 struggled to contain its lesser outputs, all-wheel drive seems sensible.

> BMW M5 review

What the latest M5 lacks (similarly to its direct predecessor) is a real connection to the car, but the power and traction on offer certainly make it capable. It remains one of our favourite super-saloons, but on first acquaintance we’re not quite as fond of it as we are of the AMG.

Ferrari GTC4Lusso

Ferrari’s next dabble into all-wheel drive may not be quite as appealing as its current effort. The GTC4Lusso - previously known as the FF before extensive revisions a couple of years back - is a hugely desirable car and a fantastic grand tourer.

All-wheel drive has only enhanced those abilities over predecessors like the 612 Scaglietti and 456, allowing a GTC4Lusso on suitable tyres to venture up to the kind of ski resorts and mountain passes that a car like this is surely designed for.

> Ferrari GTC4Lusso review

The AWD setup itself seems fiendishly complicated, with a separate transmission for the front wheels and a transaxle rear, but the benefits are a good front-to-rear weight balance (47:53) and quick responses. With four-wheel steering too the GTC4Lusso is very nimble for a car of its size, and puts its power to the ground quite remarkably given the near-700bhp V12 up front. We’re rather taken by the styling, too.

Ford Focus RS

The Focus RS is not a car for everyone, and as it’s soon to go off sale as the all-new Focus rolls out, it’ll shortly be a car for no-one. But it offers something Ford fans have been waiting for ever since the first-generation Focus RS arrived looking like a de-liveried version of McRae’s rally car: all-wheel drive.

Ford’s most recent RS wears its four-wheel drive heart on its sleeve, the GKN “Twinster” rear clutch pack offering a torque vectoring function that allows 100 per cent of the 2.3-litre engine’s torque to be sent to one single rear wheel. The result is the car’s much-vaunted “drift mode”.

> Ford Focus RS review

Power oversteer in all-wheel drive cars isn’t new, but Ford made a feature of it before cars like the new M5 and E63 S arrived with their own systems to bias power towards the rear. It’s a bit of a gimmick truth be told, but thankfully you still feel the benefits in the RS even in its regular driving modes, punching you hard out of tight corners and offering great off-the-line traction. The RS is far from perfect, but we hope Ford doesn’t wait too long before replacing it.

Honda NSX

The original Honda NSX might have lacked the firepower we now expect from supercars, but it was light, advanced and spectacularly usable by the standards of the day. The latest model continues that trend, and while some will bemoan the lack of natural aspiration or the “impurity” of all wheel drive, it’s a similarly remarkable car in the real world.

The NSX’s all-wheel drive setup comes courtesy of a hybrid drivetrain, utilising a twin-turbo V6, electric motor and nine-speed dual-clutch transmission setup at the rear, and a pair of electric motors at the front axle, for a combined 573bhp and 476lb ft. The upshot is 0-60mph in sub-3 seconds (though no official number is claimed) and a 191mph top speed.

> Honda NSX review

The electric running gives it a USP that few other cars in this bracket can boast and on-road performance and composure is staggering, to the extent you really need a track to make the most of it. When you do you finally start to feel the chassis moving underneath you, get to appreciate the fantastic brakes, and experience the traction of the torque vectoring setup.

Lamborghini Huracan Performante

For a car so similar under the skin to the Audi R8, you’d scarcely believe there’s any connection when driving, or indeed looking at, the Huracan Performante. Those concerned that Lamborghini might have gone soft couldn’t be further from the truth - and that’s not just a dig at the marque’s deeply uncomfortable sports seats.

From the bright paintwork to the forged composite components (which take on a marble pattern on details like the enormous rear wing), to the howl of its 631bhp 5.2-litre V10 and a windscreen that couldn’t be more raked if it was horizontal, the Performante is a special car.

> Lamborghini Huracan Performante

But it’s also a serious one, capable of circulating the Nordschleife in under seven minutes, wearing stiffer suspension than a regular Huracan, active aero, and a rear-biased all-wheel drive system that’s surprisingly forgiving for such a focused car. It’s fast, aggressive and addictive, and one of the most exciting all-wheel drive performance cars on sale.

Mercedes-AMG E63

The E63’s natural home is barrelling down an autobahn straining against its limiter - regardless of whether we’re talking the standard 155mph limiter or the 186mph raised ceiling of the optional AMG Driver’s package. It’ll do so in comfort and relative silence, and if you’ve got the Estate with its vast luggage area, then all the better.

But it’s also one of the great hooligan cars, something resolutely unchanged despite the latest model boasting drive to all four wheels rather than just the rear pair. There’s something primally satisfying about launching as quickly as the E63 is capable of - 3.4sec to 62mph in E63 S trim - the now-ubiquitous 4-litre biturbo V8 delivering sledgehammer performance that eclipses even its predecessor.

> Mercedes-AMG E63 review

It’s a genuinely good car to drive too. It’s a very predictable car to drive quickly, with linear responses to both its steering and its drivetrain and brakes. And with the drift mode, which sends power to the rear axle alone, it’ll oversteer until the day cars are banned forever.

Nissan GT-R

It’s difficult to believe the R35-generation Nissan GT-R is ten years old in 2018. From its styling, presence and head-turning ability to its levels of performance, it does the job now as completely as it did back in 2008, even if the rest of the world has finally joined it. The most recent facelift kept it fresh and improved the interior too, though it’s fair to say most still won’t choose it for cabin ambience.

What they might choose it for is the way it puts 562bhp to the road for a claimed 2.7-second 0-62mph time, though we’ve never timed it quite that quickly ourselves. Oddly, the Nismo GT-R boasts the same 0-62mph figure, but around the wide expanses of a race track it feels even more rampantly fast.

> Nissan GT-R review

The most surprising part of driving a GT-R is discovering it’s nothing like the videogame-like experience you’ve been led to expect. Despite its weight it’s agile, adjustable, and the steering delivers genuine feedback, while recent revisions have mellowed the ride quality. Just as with previous GT-Rs, all-wheel drive is an inherent part of the car’s dynamics, and it’s all the better for it.

Porsche 911 Turbo

If Honda’s NSX illustrates the new way of doing things, the Porsche 911 Turbo remains the archetypal usable supercar - just as it was when the original NSX debuted, in fact. While the Turbo is overshadowed to a degree by Porsche’s GT and RS models, the modern Turbo is still a 198mph car capable of sprinting to 62mph in three seconds flat - and the Turbo S is a genuine 200mph car.

All-wheel drive has long been a 911 Turbo staple and for good reason - it has kept the increasingly muscular power and torque outputs in check (up to 572bhp in the Turbo S) and ensured it’s as usable on the road and in all conditions (perhaps more so) as any other 911.

> Porsche 911 Tubro review

Modern Turbos will still play the hooligan, and while they’re not the most exciting or tactile of modern 911s, they still fare very well in comparison to similarly potent rivals. That lack of drama manifests itself as reassurance on wet roads and poor surfaces, allowing you to press on where others might encourage you to bleed off pace.

VW Golf R

You see a lot of Golf Rs about, but that comes as little surprise to us. The excellent finance deals available certainly help, but the Golf R is an excellent hot hatchback in its own right, and in this generation firmly established itself as the true drivers’ car in the Golf range - Clubsport GTIs aside.

All-wheel drive lets the R find traction where the front-drivers might not, but it’s not the overly safe, nose-led experience that some other VW Group all-wheel drive products have offered in the past, either. In fact, the R has quite an adjustable chassis - one that four-wheel drive allows you to exploit more often.

If there’s a criticism it’s that the R’s elevated abilities do hide the chassis’ best from you until you’re going very quickly indeed, though they’re easy to appreciate on wet and greasy roads - and the R still features all the regular Golf’s best attributes, from handsome styling to a great driving position and quality cabin.

Shelby Series 1 headlines auction of Carroll Shelby’s private collection

Lee Stern

18 May 2018

On 3 June 2018, Bonhams is presenting the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance Auction, where no fewer than 23 cars formerly owned by the late Carroll Shelby will cross the block, including a Shelby Series 1 bearing an estimate of between £74,000 and £93,000.

All lots will be offered without a reserve. However, no one is expecting the hammer to fall on low bids in light of the unique ownership history attached to the cars. The majority of them wear Shelby's name, although the collection isn't just an homage to his own creations.

> 2019 Ford Mustang GT500 spied

A pair of De Tomaso Panteras – a GTS and GT5-S (the latter has no powertrain) – bring an Italian influence to the horde. That said, it’s the all-American Shelby Series 1, cast in the archetypal muscle car mould, that will really grab the attention of Shelby fans.

Designed and built the from ground up by the Texan, unlike Shelby’s otherwise mostly AC or Ford-derived products, it’s the truest manifestation of his performance car ideals. Shoehorned under the bulging bonnet of Shelby's own Series 1, the first of 249 to roll off the production line, sits a 4-litre V8, bolstered by a prototype supercharger that later became a $20,000 optional extra.

Power and torque supposedly stand at 600bhp and 530lb ft respectively, and thanks to the car’s sub-1300kg weight – courtesy of the carbonfibre body – this Series 1 can sprint from 0 to 60mph in 3.2 seconds.

> Ford Mustang review

Presented with just over 10,000 miles on the clock, it’s in immaculate condition. Further Shelby icons complete the collection: there’s an assortment of Mustangs, a prototype Dodge Charger and a 427 Cobra tagged with the highest estimate out of Shelby’s former steeds. 

New Audi A6 review - sharp saloon squares up to 5-series and E-class

Antony Ingram

17 May 2018
From £47,000 (approx)

The Audi A6 is now in its fifth generation and like its executive car rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the latest version continues to offer a taste of life in the luxury car leagues, with levels of refinement, driver assistance systems and technology to make you think twice about paying extra for larger saloons from the class above.

From semi-autonomous functions and haptic touchscreens to mild hybrid technology, the A6 certainly competes on paper, but our recent disappointment with the A7 Sportback suggests Audi can’t get complacent. The good news is, the A6 is a better effort than the A7 - but once you get past all the technology, what’s it like to drive?

Engine, transmission and 0-60 time

UK sales will kick off with three different engines, a pair of them diesel and one powered by petrol. The latter is the same 3-litre turbocharged V6 we’ve seen recently in both the new A7 and A8 (plus a selection of Audi’s other models, including S variants in a higher state of tune), badged 55 TFSI and developing 335bhp through a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic. It’s claimed to reach 62mph in 5.1sec and run on to 155mph, but as yet Audi hasn’t confirmed fuel economy or CO2 figures for the model.

It’s confirmed even less where its new arrival, the 40 TDI, is concerned though. Its 2-litre EA288 Evo turbodiesel power unit now uses an alloy rather than a steel block for claimed refinement benefits and 20kg less over the front wheels. It’s a little more potent than the old diesel too with 201bhp, and it uses the same seven-speed S tronic as the 55 TFSI - but otherwise, details are thin on the ground.

> Click here for our review of the Audi A7 Sportback

The last remaining unit gives us slightly more to go on, the familiar turbocharged V6 diesel being badged 50 TDI and putting 282bhp and 457lb ft to the road. Like all A6s it sends power to all four wheels, though unlike the 40 TDI and 55 TFSI, it uses an eight-speed Tiptronic torque converter automatic, and unlike the 55 TFSI, its quattro system uses a self-locking centre differential, rather than a multi-plate decoupling clutch. Top speed is 155mph with a 5.5-second 0-62mph run, plus the potential for 50.4mpg economy on 18-inch wheels.

The 40 TDI is probably the most surprising engine of the trio, with high levels of refinement and the ability to deliver a solid whack of performance across a broad spread of the rev range. Ultimately it can’t quite match the V6s in terms of resistance to noise and vibration and it lacks their performance too, but nor does it feel like a compromise too far. The V6s still feel more appropriate and, of the pair, it’s the petrol that feels sweetest, but the diesel digs deeper for its performance from lower revs so there’s not a lot in it for real-world pace. And naturally, the TDI models’ economy will see them comfortably outsell the TFSI when the A6 goes on sale in the summer.

Technical highlights

All new A6 models use mild hybrid technology, which in Audi-speak means a belt-driven starter-alternator with the ability to turn the engine on and off in an instant, with a backup pinion starter motor for cold starts. The system uses 48-volt electrics in the six-cylinder models and 12v electrics in the four-cylinder cars, but the idea is similar - energy recuperation under deceleration, reduced turbo lag, and the ability to occasionally coast with the engine off - good for a 0.7-litre fuel saving every 62 miles, according to Audi.

Just as with the A7 and A8, the latest A6 has grown physically compared to its predecessor (liberating more interior room) but also grown in weight, starting at a claimed 1825kg where the old car began at 1770kg. For reference, it’s also heavier than its closest competitors from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, though Audi’s standard all-wheel drive will account for some of that mass.

What’s it like to drive?

Audi failed to find the right balance between dynamism and comfort with its A7 Sportback, but thankfully it’s got much closer to the mark with the A6. It handles about as well as the A7, but seems to ride with a little more pliancy and with the saloon body rather than in large four-door fastback form, the A7’s uncomfortable structural resonance is nowhere to be heard.

Time with the A6 has convinced us that you’re still better off avoiding some of Audi’s flashier technology however, as the best of the bunch to drive on the launch event was the 40 TDI Sport, rather than the four-wheel steering and air suspension-equipped V6s on hand.

On adaptive dampers and optional 19in wheels (both V6 cars were on optional 20in wheels) the 40 TDI rode with a fluency alien to the slightly lumpier air-sprung cars. Bumps can still be felt, but the suspension feels like it’s absorbing them rather than being lifted by them, and while an E-class feels more pliant still, the basic A6’s ride is still more than acceptable with no apparent penalty in terms of body control.

Equally, while four-wheel steered cars undoubtedly feel nimbler, resisting understeer for longer and darting into corners sooner, the conventionally-steered car felt more progressive, had more natural weighting as the steering loads increased, and put you in better touch with what the front wheels were doing. The brakes on all models are reassuringly firm and powerful, once past an initial soft patch in the pedal travel.

Are they fun cars to drive? Not as such - fantastic refinement, high levels of grip and unflappable stability are undoubtedly welcome for a car of this type but do separate you from the action somewhat. Its quiet, comfortable, spacious and well-designed cabin and its slick controls will all delight more on a bleary-eyed early-morning airport run more than they will on a country road, and token gestures such as a Dynamic mode and the ability to change gear manually can only go so far (though to be fair, throttle response and steering weight are both very well judged in Dynamic).

It’s an excellent executive saloon though - up there with the 5-series and E-class, albeit with strengths in different areas. We’ll just have to wait for the inevitable S6 and RS6 models for the A6 lineup to show its more entertaining side.

Price and rivals

Audi hasn’t yet confirmed full pricing details for the A6 range and neither the 40 TDI nor 55 TFSI even have estimated figures.

We do know the 50 TDI will be in the £47,000 range in entry-level Sport trim however and about £3000 more than that for the S Line, and using the A7 Sportback for comparison we’d estimate the 55 TFSI cars to be around £3000 more apiece than their diesel counterparts. The 40 TDIs should be a useful amount cheaper than the 50 TDIs.

Sport specification includes full LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, standard passive dampers, a pair of touchscreens (8.8in and 8.6in), a suite of safety systems and mild hybrid technology. S Line offers all this plus Matrix LED headlights, 10mm lower sport suspension, a styling kit and 19in wheels. Options include upgrades to 20 and 21in wheels, adaptive air suspension, two different Bang & Olufsen sound systems, all-wheel steering, a head-up display, a night vision camera, power closing doors… the list is endless and generally fairly expensive.

BMW and Mercedes’ closest offerings to the 50 TDI Sport are the 530d xDrive SE (£46,805) and E350d 4Matic AMG Line (£49,755). There’s not a lot between them - all three offer outstanding levels of refinement, with the Audi probably edging the others on cabin quality, the BMW on dynamism and the Mercedes on comfort. And you already know which badge you prefer...

Volkswagen T-Roc R spied

Lee Stern

17 May 2018

Our spy photographers have captured images of a hotter VW T-Roc undergoing testing. Sporting a series of Volkswagen R-inspired touches that mark it out from the standard model, many expect it will be labelled the T-Roc R, indicating its powertrain will be borrowed from the Golf R.

VW’s R-based makeover for the T-Roc is typically restrained. There’s a subtly redesigned front apron and a bigger grille, supported below by a silver-chrome skid plate. More exterior brightwork lends the T-Roc R further distinction from lesser models, with chrome strips stretching down the flanks – just above the sills – and being repeated on the rear bumper corners.

> VW Golf R review

There’s also a slim silver panel, sitting at the rear valance’s bottom edge, which highlights the quartet of tailpipes below it. It’s this exhaust arrangement, akin to the Golf R’s, that leads us to believe the SUV is running a powertrain derived from VW’s flagship hot hatch.

Should that be the case, the T-Roc R would get VW’s sturdy, EA888 turbocharged 2-litre four-cylinder engine in its highest state of tune, delivering 306bhp to all four wheels via a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox – although the former would likely be omitted for this installation.

Transplanting the Golf R’s oily bits into a T-Roc wouldn't take much: the T-Roc and Golf are built on the same platform, so mixing and matching parts requires little-to-no bespoke engineering – in VW manufacturing terms it’s akin to plug and play.

> VW Golf GTI TCR – a Clubsport successor?

While Volkswagen is yet to officially sanction the T-Roc R, you’d be silly to bet against it coming to fruition. VW bosses recently admitted to evo that the marque’s R brand, currently exclusive to the Golf, would diversify and cover a wider range of models – the T-Roc R seems to be the first.

Rare Ferrari 512 BBi heads to auction

Lee Stern

17 May 2018

On 18 May 2018, Silverstone Auctions will host an all-Ferrari sale at its namesake race circuit. Amongst the highlights, we’ll see a 1984 Ferrari 512 BBi go under the hammer with an estimated price range of £210k - £240k. The hefty valuation reflects the car’s exclusive nature – it’s just one of 42 right-hand drive 512 BBis sold in the UK.

A289 HPL’s odometer reads just 21,000 miles; the bulk of which were accrued prior to 1994 when it was acquired by an owner with an extensive Ferrari collection – since then it’s covered less than 1,000 miles. Complete with a detailed history this Rosso Cosra example has been well cared for.

> Ferrari 812 Superfast review

Already a seldom-seen Ferrari with a total production volume standing at 1,007, this specific 512 BBi is rarer still, courtesy of the Ermenegildo Zegna-designed wool inserts to the seats and door panels.  It’s one of just twenty-one models that were so trimmed.

The 512 BBi was the third in Ferrari’s BB (Boxer Berlinetta) model series – comprising the 365 GT4 BB, 512 BB and 512 BBi – that was sold in the ‘70’s and 80’s. It’s the BB suffix that marks out these cars in Ferrari’s lineage, denoting their rare, flat-12 engine layout. Two cylinder banks, horizontally opposed, formed a completely flat plane, consistent with the boxer arrangement, which lives on today in Porsches and Subarus.

This boxer installation was a development from the engines sat in preceding BB models. However, the aluminum, 4.9-litre flat-12 was fuel-injected for the first time. The modification, forced by stricter emissions regulations, brought about a drop in power output to 335bhp – 20bhp less than the 512 BB that went before. Despite that, the 512 BBi was good for a 174mph top speed.

> Ferrari 488 Pista: everything you need to know

Fuel delivery systems aside, the 512 BBi’s mechanical specification was identical to the 512 BB. As such, dual overhead camshafts, a dry-sumped oil supply system and disc brakes were all found within the car’s tubular steel frame.

This 512 BBi is one of thirty-plus Ferraris, presented by Silverstone Auctions, that will roll across the auction block this weekend, along with a Daytona, Testarossa, F430 and many more.

Bentley Continental GT C getting ready to fend off DB11 Volante

Jordan Katsianis

17 May 2018

Bentley’s next Continental GTC will soon be arriving to join the GT coupe in Bentley’s all-new Continental range. In essence, the recipe shouldn’t vary much from the previous generation GTC, so expect the same opulent four-seat convertible body, but with all the latest advancements adopted from the impressive new GT.

The new GTC will make the switch to the GT’s new chassis, one co-developed with Porsche that also underpins the Panamera. Inherently more dynamic than the previous car’s VW Phaeton-derived underpinnings, the new chassis is both lower and wider than that of the previous GTC and should benefit from a rise in structural rigidity over the old car.

> Click here for our reveiw of the new Bentley Continental GT

Under the new GT’s long bonnet will sit the current 626bhp twin-turbocharged 6-litre W12 engine (a fact confirmed by the ‘12’ motif on the prototype’s front wing), although we expect V8 and hybridised options to be available later in the car’s model cycle.

Looking at the new bodywork, the coupe’s long, fastback-style roofline is the most dramatic change, with the fabric roof returning to the aluminium bodywork at a more acute angle in order to fit the folded roof under the car’s beltline. Otherwise, the new Continental GT’s details will remain largely intact, so if you’re a fan of the new car’s opulent design, you’ll likely find the new GTC appealing.

Inside, the new Continental GT Convertible’s sumptuous interior is also shared with the coupe, and will combine the latest infotainment architecture, including the Toblerone-like rotating infotainment screen, with soft waxy leather and mirror-finish timber veneers.                                    

The car is due to be revealed later this year and after being impressed by the coupe, our expectations are high, but the GTC will not have the luxury four-seat convertible market to itself. Aston Martin’s DB11 Volante is the most impressive DB11 yet, and Mercedes-AMG’s S63 Cabriolet has also just been refreshed, meaning that Bentley will have its work cut out to stay on top.  

'Toyota can make white goods models and still be the world’s most exciting car brand'

Richard Meaden

15 May 2018

ith the internal combustion engine enduring a slow death by a thousand downsizes, and the art of driving under threat thanks to the wider world’s obsession with autonomous cars, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s all doom and gloom in our corner of the automotive world.

You’ll know I rarely pass up the opportunity for a moan, but despite there being plenty of scope to launch into another of my four-weekly whinges, I’m in uncharacteristically high spirits. In this rare moment of optimism I wanted to explore a concept I’ve been pondering for a while: which is the most exciting car brand?

My nomination is not one born from great industry wisdom – I’m a huge fan of the products, not a student of the business. Rather, I prefer to look at what a company is doing across the whole spectrum of what’s relevant and exciting to me. That means cars I can afford and cars of which I can only dream. It means a commitment to motorsport. It means heart, authenticity and the ability to surprise.

> Click here for our review of the Toyota Yaris GRMN

Conveniently ignoring my first tenet of affordability, I initially thought of Aston Martin. Partly because it’s a marque I’ve been a fan of since seeing (and hearing!) an X-Pack Vantage as a kid, but mostly because it hasn’t so much weathered the stormy post-recession years of declining sales and an ageing model range as emerged phoenix-like with afterburners lit.

Toyota Yaris GRMN – front

With its range revitalised thanks to the new Vantage and V12, V8 and Volante DB11s, plus an all-new DBS Superleggera poised for launch and the Adrian Newey-designed Valkyrie set to blow every other hypercar out of the water, Aston is nailing it. Factor in a mid-to-long-term strategy that includes an SUV, mid-engined sports cars, hybridisation, electrification and the rebirth of Lagonda, and CEO Andy Palmer’s visionary ‘Second Century’ plan puts Aston Martin on a stratospheric trajectory.

Yet there’s another company I believe is more deserving: Toyota. What?! I know. It surprised me, too. Largely because there’s a contradiction that leaves me feeling conflicted. After all, how can the maker of countless millions of white goods models qualify to be the most exciting car company in the world? Well, that same company gave us the LFA – arguably the greatest money-no-object expression of pride and passion in modern automotive history. At the other end of the scale it signed-off the Mk3 MR2 – a brilliantly wrought little sports car and now an everyman Elise on the used market. It also thought deeply enough about driving to step off the ‘more is better’ merry-go-round and build the refreshing (if not entirely satisfactory) GT86.

And today? Now we have the gloriously named Yaris Gazoo Racing tuned by Meister of the Nürburgring (GRMN to its friends) – a millennial Clio Williams if ever there was one, and the first of a promised family of Gazoo-tuned high-performance models. There’s the upcoming Supra – built on a platform shared with BMW’s Z4, but delayed because reportedly Toyota boss Akio Toyoda (a 105 RON petrolhead) said it fell short of delivering the driving experience he wanted for Toyota’s sporting flagship. And then there’s Lexus, which has become a genuine challenger to the established German marques.

When I mentioned all this to evo’s editor he was unusually effusive. This is highly irregular, for ordinarily Mr Gallagher is a true colossus of contempt, yet he immediately got where I was coming from. Indeed he took the idea and ran with it, suggesting Toyota is one of the few car makers from which you could populate a genuinely appealing and utterly diverse three-car garage. And do you know what, I think he’s right. I’d be pretty chuffed to have a Yaris GRMN for bombing around in, Lexus LC500 for making a statement and a Toyota Hilux for when The Donald or Little Rocket Man leave us with a smouldering post-apocalyptic wasteland to roam.

Fancy something less utilitarian? Swap Hilux for Land Cruiser. Want something small, affordable (at least as new cars go) and rear-wheel drive? Switch Yaris for GT86. Think picking a Lexus is cheating? Wait for the Supra. Feel the LC is a bit softcore? Get yourself an RC F. Or blow the lottery win and buy an LFA and a 2000GT. And then there’s Toyota’s commitment to motorsport. Whether it’s chasing that cruelly elusive Le Mans victory, the factory return to the WRC, Akio Toyoda’s fanatical obsession with the Nürburgring N24, or the wider global activity in NASCAR, the Dakar and Japanese GTs, you clearly have a company with heart, passion and an admirable preparedness to chase a dream.

These days it can feel like the car industry is deserting the enthusiast, but when it gets things right it remains a rich source of pleasure. That the world’s largest car company can also be the most exciting is inspiring evidence of just that.

Aston Martin DBS Volante spotted - soft-top super-GT to follow Superleggera

Jordan Katsianis

15 May 2018

As news about Aston Martin’s new DBS Superleggera continues to drip-feed from official and non-official sources, our snappers have spotted a DB11-based convertible undergoing testing with a hybrid of DBS and DB11 bodywork. Does this mean the next DBS Volante will be a bridge between those two models, or is Aston Martin holding the rear styling of the new DBS Volante close to its chest until the DBS hard-top is revealed in full?

Looking at the front of the test car, it’s clear that it shares its large grille opening and distinctive intakes on either side with other DBS prototypes that have been spotted in the past. The headlight openings in the new vented clamshell bonnet should contain bespoke lighting units, while the wheels and brakes are also consistent with other DBS test cars, featuring larger calipers and the likely inclusion of carbon-ceramic discs hiding behind the delicate new wheel design.

> Click here for the latest on the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera

From here, though, the similarities with other DBS Superleggera test mules end, as this convertible does away with the aggressive sills and features rear quarters entirely shared with the DB11, aside from some makeshift quad exhaust outlets.

From previous spy pictures, the DBS Superleggera coupe might not look immediately distinct from the DB11, but sit the pair side-by-side and you’ll notice that the DBS has a far more upright and square rear end, with the inclusion of what we now know are Vantage-derived tail lights. Under the more upright rear sits a more aggressive rear diffuser, peppered with four large oval exhaust outlets.

If these latest photographs do indeed show simply a convertible version of the DBS, we’ll expect it to share the same, uprated 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 as the DBS, which should offer in the region of 700bhp. Needing to maintain a clear gap between itself and the new 630bhp DB11 AMR, this sort of power figure is becoming increasingly likely for both coupe and convertible.

> Click here for our review of the new Aston Martin DB11 Volante

Contrary to previous assumptions that Aston Martin will name its next flagship sporting GT the Vanquish, the British marque has since confirmed that it will carry the DBS Superleggera nomenclature instead, harking back to the DB4 and DB5 Superleggera that donned the name of their Italian coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Superleggera. 

A Volante version of the DBS has been inevitable. However, the specific path it will tread is still speculation. We will get a much better idea of what to expect when the DBS Superleggera makes its debut later in the summer.

 

Kia Stinger 2.2-litre CRDi review – diesel power suits the Stinger

Lee Stern

17 May 2018
£34,225

So far Kia has built a reputation on value and reliability, manufacturing a string of mainstream models ranging from city cars to seven-seat SUVs. This is not a premium brand - and until recently it hasn’t pretended to be. Even so, it hasn’t let a lack of experience in pricer, more niche segments from getting bold in its ambitions. The first fruit of its labour is the Kia Stinger, a sleek and stylish four-seater coupe aimed straight at BMW and Audi.

Our first drive in the Stinger came in the range-topping, twin-turbo 3.3-litre petrol V6 GT-S. We noted an exploitable, adjustable chassis – the work of ex-BMW M Division boss Albert Biermann – and decent refinement. To see if Kia has managed to transfer these qualities to less engined models we grabbed the keys to the expected best-seller: the 2.2 CRDi diesel.

> BMW 4-series review

Satisfying the GT criteria, the Stinger’s interior is clearly a step up from any Kia before it. A combination of leather and soft-touch materials trim much of the cabin, and where you do find plastics, they’re of a higher quality. All of which highlights the regrettably coarse, plastic steering-wheel boss, that would look more at home in a budget supermini. Still, given the high standard of the rest of the cabin, it’s a forgivable oversight.

The controls are well laid out on the centre console, with the slim, silvery infotainment button panel neatly integrated into the bottom edge of the wing-shaped dashboard. Below it sits the climate controls, which are easy to feel for and adjust thanks to its intuitive mix of buttons and rotary dials.

The interior is by no means revolutionary, but it looks and feels special enough, and the technology suite provided reflects the Stinger’s flagship status, even more so in midrange ‘GT-Line S’ trim which brings a sunroof, LED headlights and a 360 view camera.

> Audi A5 review

Technical highlights

At 1,778kg the diesel Stinger is no lightweight, especially when you compare it to a BMW 420d Gran Coupe (1640kg) and Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI (1520kg). So, to keep all the mass in check there’s the same, fully independent suspension arrangement from the GT-S, with Macpherson struts upfront and a multi-link setup, incorporating double wishbones, at the rear. However, the adaptive dampers from the GT-S are replaced with passive units, which like the former, have been developed at the Nurburgring. Elsewhere, the five driving modes – smart, eco, comfort, sport and sport+ – remain.

Of the three Stingers offered the diesel is equipped with the smallest and lowest grade brakes. Whereas both petrol models receive ventilated discs all-round, the diesel makes do with a ventailied pair up front and solid items at the rear, measuring 320mm and 315mm respectively. They’re concealed by 18-inch wheels, an inch smaller than those worn by the GT-S, shod with 225/45 R18 tyres.

Engine, transmission and 0-60mph

The Stinger posts respectable benchmark performance figures: it can crack 62mph in 7.6 seconds from a standing start and sail onto a 143mph top speed. For reference, the equivalently-priced Volkswagen Arteon is slower to 62mph (9.1 seconds), and fall shorts of the top speed too, managing just 137mph.

> Kia Stinger GT-S review

When you begin to extend the turbocharged 2.2-litre four-pot the Stinger accelerates in an effective but muted fashion, pulling hardest between 3,000 and 4,000 rpm; maximum power is delivered at 3,800rpm, so there’s little point venturing far beyond this peak. There’s ample low-down grunt, too, so the engine is perfectly tractable spinning slower, with maximum torque available from 1,750rpm through until 2,750rpm.

Drive is channeled to the rear wheels via an automatic eight-speed torque converter and a limited-slip differential. Bearing in mind the gearbox is built in-house it’s a relatively slick performer and a well-judged match for the engine.

In comfort and eco the ‘box slurs shifts, under partial throttle, virtually undetected adding a welcome dose of refinement to the powertrain. Ramp things up to sport/sport+ and it shifts quicker and holds onto gears for longer, however it’s not all good.

> Hyundai i30 N review

Despite the presence of wheel-mounted paddles you can never take full control of the transmission. Using the paddles enables manual mode for a short period, before the ‘box takes back full control. On a twisty road you’re left frustrated, eagerly awaiting a downshift that inevitably arrives too late, after you’ve negotiated a corner.

What’s it like to drive?  

Before you even turn a wheel the Stinger puts you at ease. It’s a doddle to find the perfect driving position, which is highly adjustable, so you can locate the major controls at ideal lengths away and seat yourself really low the chassis. The latter helps you gauge the saloon’s dimensions and familiarise yourself with its extremities.

On the move the Stinger feels lighter than its claimed kerbweight, while the positive steering fosters confidence. There’s a natural weight and directness to the helm that allows you to place the car intuitively through a series of bends. If they’re of a tighter radius, however, you’ll be forced to deviate from the ten-and-two position on the steering-wheel to dial in the necessary lock, with the seat bolstering often obstructing the arm as you twirl the wheel through a corner. Once you’ve mastered sleight of hand this is no longer a problem, and you can begin to explore the chassis’ adjustable nature.

> Volkswagen Arteon review

Enter a corner with too much speed and the nose will wash wide as the Kia’s heft makes itself known. The thin-rimmed wheel starts to squirm, delivering decent feedback for the first time. Just as in the GT-S though, a measured application of the throttle can quell the understeer, rotating the car progressively – thanks to its long wheelbase –  back towards the apex.

However, it’s not as easily executed. Metering out the correct throttle input is difficult in light of the diesel engine’s slower response and aggressive torque delivery.

Driven with less aggression, and tackling wider, faster corners, the Kia then feels moe settled. Here the balanced suspension setup contains roll and filters out minor, mid-corner imperfections. Push harder, on more testing surfaces, and the Stinger begins to unravel. That buttoned-down body control suffering as the damping struggles to keep pace with undulating surfaces.

That said, expecting the Stinger to be a cut-price sports saloon would be asking an awful lot, especially in diesel guise, where it best lends itself to loping along motorways. Considering it’s been conceived as a GT, its sporting credentials should be commended. They do little to comprise the Stinger’s overall comfort and refinement; the Kia’s relaxed gait makes easy work of long hauls, riding better on the smaller and taller rubber (compared to that of the GT-S).

As we’ve already discovered the diesel Stinger receives the ‘weakest’ brake package. However, that label turns out to be somewhat misleading – there’s ample stopping power. With no dead travel at the top of the pedal you get immediate bite, and further still, depress the pedal towards the stop and the brakes won’t wilt; ABS intervention is seldom required.

During more sedate driving through, heavy footwork can make for jerky going: the top of pedal is very sensitive so it can be grabby if you're not precise. Even so, it's something you would acclimatise to quick enough.

Price, specs and rivals

At £34,225 the diesel Stinger is keenly priced. Better still, the options list consists of nothing more than £645 paint finishes, with extra equipment bundled into the pricer, GT-Line S trim, at £3,000. With that comes: ventilated front seats, a 360-view camera, a 15-speaker system and LED headlights.

Standard specification is generous though, as it is with any Kia – electrically adjustable and heated front seats, a HUD, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay all feature, as do a heated steering wheel and full leather upholstery.

Rivals comes in the shape of the Audi A5 Sportback, BMW 4-series Gran Coupe and Volkswagen Arteon. You can purchase all three for the same money as the Stinger, however none are as well specified, or pack as much performance at the price point.

For example, the cheapest diesel Audi A5 Sportback, in entry-level SE trim, is priced at £35,565. That sum affords you a 2-litre diesel sporting a manual gearbox – opting for the automatic will set you back a further £1,500; an A5 Sportback with Stinger-rivalling performance costs £37k.

> Kia Stinger range review

It’s a similar story for the Stinger’s Arteon counterpart in terms of price. It pairs a 148bhp  2-litre diesel with a seven-speed automatic transmission, so just like the Audi, it’s outgunned on the performance front. That said, it’s well-equipped.

The blanket German premium extends to the BMW 4-series Gran Coupe, with the direct Stinger rival, the SE, priced at £36,625.

 

Lotus Exige Sport 410 review – first drive of latest mid-engined sports car

Stuart Gallagher

17 May 2018
£85,600

Fear not, this isn’t another special edition – not that you could blame Lotus if it were, as the company’s special editions are customer-led, with production sold out before most are announced. Rather the £85,600 Sport 410 fits between the two existing models – the Sport 350 and Cup 430 – in the recently revised Exige range. Until an all-new Exige (and Evora) arrives in 2020, this is how the line-up will stay for the next 18 months. 

Developed from the range-topping Cup 430, the Sport 410 is said to blend the performance and focus of the former with the more road-biased set-up of the Sport 350. It retains the familiar 3.5-litre supercharged V6 and six-speed manual gearbox. 

> Lotus Elise review

Technical highlights

Where the Cup 430 is an Exige with a clear focus on aerodynamics, the Sport 410 relies more on mechanical grip than aero for its handling balance. To this end, there are no extreme vents on the top of the front wheelarches, not that this stops it from producing 150kg of downforce at 180mph, split 60kg at the front and 90kg across the rear axle.

Further changes to the car’s aerodynamics include new front intakes to increase the airflow speed and create an air curtain over the front wheels to restrict turbulence and drag. There’s also a carbonfibre front splitter, a flat underside and an aluminium diffuser, all taken from the Cup 430. 

Beneath the body is very much a Cup 430 chassis, albeit one that’s been tuned for more on-road compliance rather than for chasing the fastest lap time. Therefore the Nitron springs and three-way adjustable dampers have their own settings, yet retain the Cup’s adjustability (24 clicks for rebound and low-speed compression, 16 clicks for high-speed compressions). With less downforce than a 430, the chassis settings have been adjusted to ensure the car is still ‘pushed’ into the surface. Both Eibach anti-roll bars have also been adjusted accordingly. 

> Just looking - Lotus Elan M100

Running Team Dynamics forged wheels, measuring 17 inches at the front and 18 at the rear, the Sport 410 is fitted with Michelin’s Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyre, with AP Racing discs and calipers nestled behind. 

If you want to go further with your Sport 410, Lotus will sell you a titanium exhaust that trims a further 10kg from the car’s already light weight; sill covers, a rear diffuser and binnacle surround in carbonfibre trim 2.7kg; and if you’re feeling brave you can delete the airbag and save yourself another 2.5kg. If you spec all of these you will have ordered the lightest V6 Exige ever sold, tipping the scales at 1054kg dry, or 1108kg with fluids.

Engine, transmission and 0-60mph

Rather than tune the Sport 350’s supercharged V6, for the Sport 410 Lotus has instead detuned the 430’s version of the same engine. Along with the new engine map there is also a new water-to-air chargecooler, an additional front radiator and a new water-to-oil oil cooler installed in the engine bay. Peak power is 410bhp produced at 7000rpm and 310lb ft of torque available from 3000 to 7000rpm. Of the three Exige models now on sale it has the flattest torque curve. 

> Porsche 718 Boxster GTS review

The six-speed manual transmission is as per the other models, but there’s a smaller (240mm) clutch than in the Sport 350, and the 430’s lighter single-mass flywheel is also fitted. 

In terms of performance, the Sport 410 reaches 60mph in 3.3 seconds and tops 180mph regardless of whether you order the coupe of roadster variant. 

What’s it like to drive? 

Driving an Exige is like being in a small room with three very clever people telling you exactly what’s happening in a the world in a voice that’s so crystal clear it makes actual crystal look a bit murky. 

> evo best track cars

It’s the steering that grabs your attention first, initially because in 2018 an unassisted rack is such a rare thing that you’re instantly hit by the realisation that you need to put some effort in when first manoeuvring at low speeds. Add speed and it’s delightful. Delicate and delicious from turn to turn, flowing with an uncorrupted clarity and such a clear channel of communication that you steer with your instincts as much as you do with actions. 

The three-spoke steering wheel moves in your hands a great deal on the road as it reports everything the front wheels are absorbing, but the car is never thrown off line and with the lightest of grips you can edge it to where you want it to go, the front end faithfully obeying every input like a child that’s been promised Ben & Jerry’s if they finish their homework within the hour. On track the 410 feels connected to your eye sockets, turning with your eyeballs as they focus on the corner entry, apex and exit. So natural is the steering’s motion that you don’t register your wrists’ fluid movements as they roll from turn to turn. 

As with the steering, the chassis is in constant dialogue with you, too. There’s more movement than in any of today’s sports cars as the dampers and springs register, digest and react to every roll and hole in the tarmac. At first you think it’s too busy, too intrusive, but then you begin to stretch that V6, snick another gear and suddenly every piece of movement adds another layer of reassurance, inspiring confidence to push further on into the Sport 410’s performance. 

> New Porsche Cayman GT4

And boy does it have some guts. Below 3000rpm the V6 pushes you around at hot-hatch pace, but as soon as you extend the revs, reaching beyond 4000rpm and opening the exhaust’s valve, the Exige lays down its supercar credentials. A combination of the single-mass flywheel and the shove of the supercharger turns the Exige from a thoroughbred sports car to a supercar-baiting flyweight. The rate at which it piles on speed in the top three gears would require a 911 to be a Turbo rather than a Carrera turbo to get away from you. 

Combine that steering, chassis and engine performance in a low, light, narrow(ish) two-seater body and the result is a car that punches so far above its weight you can’t believe Lotus charges so little for it. 

For some it won’t be perfect. On poor surfaces there’s a lot of road noise, and for those used to being cocooned in a silent cabin surrounded by plush leather, thick carpets and an infotainment system, the wind noise around the top of the B-pillar will be unexpected. But if you love driving on road and track, relish being integral to a car’s ability and its performance, then you’ll fall for the Exige Sport 410 big time. 

Price and rivals

£85,600 for a Lotus Exige will be considered toppy by some, madness by others. ‘You could buy a Porsche 911 for that. Or a Cayman GTS and have change!’ they cry. And they’re right, but when it comes to being immersed in the driving experience and dining on the thrills it brings, few come close to the Exige Sport 410. 



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