This is quite possibly the best TV advert I’ve seen in sometime:
Celebrating that the Audi R8 V10 now comes with the S-tronic gearbox, this video is just superb. The whip crack violence of each upshift is immense, tempered only be the spine-tingling downshifts with accompanying flames.
Audi, if i win Euromillions tonight, you’ve got my money.
After a long twelve months, the time has finally come to hand out the infamous EngageSportMode ‘macaroni and glitter’ trophies to this year’s award winners. It may now be 2013, but cast your mind back (a few days) to last year.
Despite the world’s ongoing financial problems, the ever-present environmental lobby and the ridiculous price of fuel, 2012 still managed to be an enjoyable year for motoring enthusiasts. In addition, representing a three-fold increase on 2011, ESM now has six (!) awards to dish out.
With so many awards, the ceremony has been split into two parts. So, without further delay, are the first three winners.
Best Car Driven in 2012 Award
The long running saga of potentially buying a new car has provided me with a number of different vehicles to try over the past year. But there was one which stood out amongst everything else in 2012 as being the most complete automotive package. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the Audi A1 1.4 TFSI:
Ignoring the fact I haven’t bought one – due to Tyneside Audi’s refusal to negotiate on price – the A1 was a superb vehicle, and one I enjoyed immensely when I tested it at the end of November. (more…)
If you’ve been reading the long running saga about me attempting to buy a new car, you’ll know that I’d swung towards the Audi A1 but was finding it tough to get a dealership to sell me one. The end result was Tyneside Audi providing me with a A1 1.4TSFI Sportback for the weekend, to give me chance to really test the Ingolstadt baby. What did I think? Read on…
Thursday – 16:45
Getting stuck in traffic having headed through the Tyne Tunnel is not the best way to prepare for a test-drive. Pulling into Tyneside Audi, I parked next to a handsome looking Glacier White with contrast roof A1 Sportback. A few minutes later, and this turned out to be the car I would be spending the next few days behind the wheel of.
First impressions were good. Being the S line, this model had all the extra niceties such as L.E.D. lighting in the doors and footwells, half leather seats and a very tidy perforated leather steering wheel. Despite costing over £18,000.00, the A1′s interior ambience doesn’t make you feel hard done by. Without wanting to roll out too many clichés, the S line’s insides would not look out-of-place in a car costing 2-3 times as much.
Heading out into the rush hour traffic, the VAG familiarity meant I was able to confidently navigate the back roads from the Silverlink to home. The 1.4 turbocharged engine felt instantly zingy, along with sounding a lot throatier than I expected. In fact my entire weekend highlighted just how vocal the mini-Audi was from its engine bay, and all the better it was for it. Lifting off the throttle at higher revs made the turbo produce a noise that I can only really describe as sounding like a surprised owl. So far, so good!
The other things which stood out were the lightness of the steering, and the lack of feedback through that leather-covered wheel. Given that the S line comes fitted as standard with 17″ x 7.5J alloy wheels, I expected to be able to sense some of their inertia through the steering. But I got none; slightly disconcerting with such big rims fitted to a relatively small car. Others have commented that the ride in the S line borders on the unlivable due to the stiff springs/big rims setup. Realistically, it didn’t strike me as any worse than the Polo I’d just climbed out of. Though perhaps owning a Panda 100HP has made anything above falling down a flight of stairs seem comfortable. Posterior intact, I made it home and took time to admire the high quality Driver’s Information System (DIS) and the worryingly low average 24 mpg showing on it!
Friday – 8:45
To get some second opinions on the A1, I picked up a former Audi owning colleague, Natalie, on my way into work. She immediately loved the looks of the A1, which in daylight appeared quite striking with the Daytona Grey roof contrasting sharply with the white paintwork. Those 17″ wheels and S line bodykit also give the Sportback some chunky aggression; for a little car it packs a lot of road presence and seemed to get admiring glances from other drivers. The morning commute did allow Wallsend’s ubiquitous speed-bumps to expose just how stiff the S line suspension actually is, but the A1′s rorty performance through the Tyne Tunnel toll plaza more than made up for this.
Natalie did also point out that, given the relatively high price of the S line, you would expect to find heated seats and a DAB radio as standard. However, these are relegated to the options list (costing £215 and £305 respectively) even for the top of the range Black Edition.
Friday – 14:30
I decided to move the Sportback in my office car park to the window next to my desk, in order to get the chance to take a better look at it. After less than 24 hours, I’m already starting to become quite taken by the smallest four-ringed offering. It may not be ‘pretty’ in the traditional sense, but it certainly packs a lot of aggression into such a small package. Other colleagues at work seemed taken with the baby-Audi, with one describing it as “the best car I’ve seen you drive since you started here”. Praise enough, I think.
Friday – 17:55
If you speak to ESM’s Other Half, you’ll know that I’m usually banned from having any involvement in the weekly food shopping expedition. This tends to work quite well for me, but on this occasion I know I needed to submit myself to the weekly pilgrimage to Asda. Why? To tick off an important motoring cliché, and bring you this all important photo:
Yes, the A1 Sportback’s boot will take a weekly shop for two people and a whippet! It’s also a chance to show off the rather fancy secondary set of lights the A1 has beneath its tailgate. For use when driving with the boot open after a trip to Ikea is the only reason I can see for their existence, but impressive nevertheless.
Saturday – 9:05
No peace for the wicked, or for ESM, as another day at work beckoned. But at least it meant another chance to drive the A1, and the opportunity to play around with the 6.5″ pop-up display mounted on top of the dash. Designed to be used as a sat-nav display, it also incorporates settings for the radio, media-player and other general functions into a ‘lite’ version of the MMI system found on larger Audi models. Once the novelty wore off, I found I could access most options through the DIS screen in between the speedo and rev-counter by using the steering-wheel mounted controls. The large MMI button in the centre of the dashboard also kept fooling people into thinking it was the volume knob for the stereo; it isn’t. That’s the little one to the left. So whilst the 6.5″ screen looks cool, once you’ve used it to play around with settings to get them how you like, you can probably leave it retracted for general use. Until you want to show off to people, that is.
Saturday – 18:00
Despite yesterday’s shopping trip, somebody forgot to buy pasta sauce. What should have been a quick 5 minute trip to the shops became a 45 minute expedition in exploring the full dynamic potential of the A1. Freed from the shackles of commuting traffic and a place to be, the S line proved to he hugely entertaining. It feels every bit as quick, if in fact quicker, than the quoted 0-60mph time of 8.9 seconds. The in-gear flexibility, aided by the turbo’s linear power delivery, means the A1 can gain speed without needing to work the weighty six-speed gearbox too much.
However, the steering still remained lacking in feedback about what the front wheel’s were up to. Whilst personally I’ve never really demanded a car to have a particularly talkative steering wheel, with the A1 there was a feeling of being distanced from what was happening at the business end. I suppose this the pay-off for increased refinement and easier low-speed maneuvering.
Saturday - 21:20
Like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Pringles and heroin, the A1 1.4TFSI proved to be very more-ish. As such, I decided to take the A1 on a tour of some of my old haunts in Newcastle and Gateshead. The underpasses of the Central Motorway also provided a good opportunity to drop the windows and see if the S line sounds as sporty from the outside as it does inside. Pleasingly, it did.
It’s at this point I realise that I cannot genuinely remember the last time I’ve driven a car so much, just for the sheer pleasure of driving. Not since owning the Polo GTi – a car the 1.4TFSI’s performance figures mirror – have I felt the need to be out in the darkness of December, taking photos and blasting between locations with a huge smile on my face.
Sunday – 00:10
Would I normally be out in the small hours of a Sunday morning to help ESM’s BTCC Correspondent get his new iPhone 5 to work? Probably not, but it was another chance to drive the A1. With the Apple product sorted, we took the Sportback out on the deserted roads of North Tyneside for a quick blast down to Tynemouth. The verdict from our touring car specialist? “Buy one”. All good advice, providing you overlook how worryingly low the mpg readout was now showing.
Sunday – 13:15
After the antics of last night, Sunday proper brought a longer distance trip to test out the A1′s motorway abilities. ESM’s OH and F1 Correspondent whippet were loaded up, and we set off for the middle of nowhere in County Durham, where my parents call home.;
Cruising, aptly, down the A1(M) the Sportback proved more than up to the job of mixing it in the outside lane. ‘Big car feel’ is another one of those infamous clichés, but there really is no better way to describe the long-haul capabilities of the baby-Audi. Despite its supermini proportions, it felt rock solid at speed, with the standard fit daytime running lights and snarling front end seemingly make others willing to get out of its way.
Tyre noise was slightly louder than expected, but this is probably more due to the width of the S line’s wheels (and the state of the UK’s roads) than a lack of actual sound-deadening. Of greater concern was the refusal of the average mpg to lift itself above 35 for the trip. Admittedly this did involve some stop-start traffic (making use of the actual stop-start ignition system) but it was still lower than I would have expected.
The clean country air and piercing winter sun gave the chance to take some photos of the A1 in daylight, which you can see below:
The journey back was smoother, and saw the fuel consumption increase to a heady 38.1mpg by the end. Whilst I’d never expect to get close to the official EU combined figure of over 50mpg, it’s still someway off. Hopefully it’s more a case of this exact car being so new, the very low temperatures working the climate control hard, and the lead foot of yours truly.
Monday – 08:35
Having to hand back the keys of the A1 was genuinely a difficult thing to have to do. Whilst it may be pricey for what is effectively a supermini, it’s very hard not to be taken in by the beauty of the fit and finish. From the steering wheel, to the knurled aluminiumbuttons and leather-covered handbrake and gearknob, everything you touch feels expensive.
But the A1 feels far more than just posh Skoda Fabia or Seat Ibiza. The growling exhaust note, the chirping turbo and shove in the back performance make it a riot to drive. Whilst the steering may lack feel, the solidity of the S line suspension never leaves you lacking confidence in the Audi’s abilities. Its been a while since I’ve driven a little car with such enthusiasm and verve, that I’ve wanted to keep piling on the miles for fun.
Combine this with striking looks, big-car refinement, generous kit levels and everyday practicality and the A1 adds up to far more than the sum of its parts. Quite frankly it’s enough to justify the worries about fuel consumption, and to justify this writer considering spending his own hard-earned cash on one. Recommendations cannot come higher than that.
Want more info about the A1? Try here.
Thank you to Tyneside Audi for kindly lending me the A1, though not for losing my VW key ring from the Polo.
As mentioned previously, ESM’s Mate Steve happens to believe the Audi A1 is a “girl’s car”. To uphold order and democracy, the only way to resolve this is by way of a vote. Below is a very simple poll; even if only one person makes a selection it’ll still probably be proportionally more than bothered to turn out to elect a Police & Crime Commissioner. Have at it:
Feel free to leave comments, should your heart so desire.
After a rather lengthy summer hiatus, ESM is back once again. To kick things off after the holidays, I figured another Friday Photo From the Archives might be in order. In fact, this is one taken four years ago this week:
This is my Audi S3, also known as the “worst car I’ve ever owned” and “that bastard Audi”. It was the 225bhp BAM model, fully kitted up with electric, heated, leather Recaro seats, CD-multichanger, climate control and expensive aluminium wing mirrors. It also had an unbelievably high specification of unreliability.
I had never really set out to buy this particular S3. At the time I was only 23 and was more interested in just test driving one rather than actually purchasing. However, the salesman at a local used car dealership was such a patronising, belittling arsehole when I enquired about the S3 that I set out to prove him wrong. He didn’t believe I could afford to buy “his” car, and that he would only let me test drive it if my Father was there. Perhaps this was an incredibly elaborate sales technique, but it worked. Money was transferred, the car became mine.
On the day of picking it up I was understandably excited. Here was a proper car, not the small hatchbacks I’d been used to. The Polo GTi was traded in, and I drove off in the S3. My happiness lasted all of about an hour. Accelerating away from a roundabout the S3 stuttered, a warning light appeared on the dash, and the car instantly felt slower. Not being far from home, I trundled back and used the Microsoft repair method; turned it off, then back on again. The fault light had gone. Phew.
My relief was only short-lived. Monday morning’s commute to work again brought the warning lights, misfires and low power back into play. Luckily, a colleague had access to the VAGcom diagnostic software which we plugged the S3 into. Some diagnostic runs up the A19 suggested something was clearly amiss with the Audi; with an overboosting turbo knocking the engine into limp-mode when the pressure became too much. Phonecalls were made to the dealership and, with the car being under warranty, they were happy to take it back and get it sorted. They even provided me with a courtesy car; a gold Peugeot 307 with a knackered exhaust.
Time passed. July became August, and August became September. In total it took six weeks, two garages and an Audi UK technical specialist to finally resolve the S3. Numerous parts were changed or swapped. I even received a second courtesy car because the first one’s tax expired. The replacement Vauxhall Astra 1.4 automatic is possibly the worst car I’ve ever driven.
The repairs to the S3 cost me nothing, but cost the dealership around £1,750, wiping out any profit they had made on the car. In hindsight, I should have rejected the car after the first week of it being off the road and got my money back. But my age, and determination to own that car, overruled my head on this occasion. Frankly, I wish I hadn’t bothered. Even when fixed the S3 proved to be an unreliable pain. In addition to the replacement parts fitted under warranty, in my tenure with the car it also had:
- Both front suspension springs replaced after a random failure whilst driving,
- All four coil-packs replaced, a week after the new suspension springs had been fitted,
- A single piece of interior trim replaced for £80,
- A replacement armrest mechanism after the original failed,
- The exhaust manifold welded back together after it started blowing gases into the engine bay.
To put this into perspective, the above all took place between September 2008 and March 2010! The car was hardly a paragon of vorsprung durch technik, and left me with the constant feeling that something else would break whenever I drove it. To top it off, the actual driving experience itself was hardly incendiary. With such weighty trim level and quattro drivetrain, the S3 constantly felt slower than it should be. The 1.8T engine always felt laboured and soulless, with the six-speed gearbox not adding much to the party either. The 4WD system wast not even a true “quattro” setup, using the Haldex controlled system instead.
Power would only be diverted to the back wheels once the fronts began to lose grip. Combined with the overenthusiastic ESP system, the result was a rear differential which did very little the vast majority of the time. Once the front wheels began to slip, the ESP would generally cut in, killing power and leaving nothing to be transferred to the back. This would prove particularly frustrating in snow, when the ESP and Haldex sensors would get into a fight, leaving the S3 to swing between grinding understeer or lairy oversteer in the same corner.
Add to this the fact the Recaro seats gave the constant impression of sitting on top of them rather than in them (the electrical gubbins also made it impossible to get them to sit low enough in the car), the lifeless steering and the horrendous thirst for super unleaded never failed to uninspire me.
All in, the S3 ranks as the worst car I’ve owned for the simple fact the driving experience failed to make up for the unreliability and dynamic shortcomings. To finish off the Friday theme, some research into the chassis number turned up some interesting reading. My S3 was actually built on a Friday afternoon. This probably explained its half-baked build quality!
Eventually the constant expenditure on new parts and repairs became too much. The S3 went up for sale and set off for pastures new in Aberdeen. Within a week, the pesky hot-hatch had already broken down. At least it was draining somebody else’s bank account for a change.
It’s been a while since EngageSportMode browsed the adverts in search of possible used car bargains and beauties. Well, that’s a lie; ESM is always checking the classifieds, just in case, you know? Anyway, after that brief spell of good weather the other week, ICAT/CD’s attention has been turned towards convertibles this time. For some, bizarre, reason the UK remains once of the biggest drop-top markets in Europe. Perhaps it’s that classic British sense of optimism, or humour, that leads us to buy so many roofless roadsters? Either way, here is a selection of vehicles at both ends of the unlimited headroom scale.
I Could Afford That
It’s common knowledge that if you’re any sort of motoring publication/website writing about cheap convertibles, then you have to include the Mazda MX-5 as the recommended buy. ESM isn’t going to conform to such stereotyping and instead tracked down the MX-5′s Japanese rival; the MR2.
Looking a little bit like a squarer, 3/4 scale Porsche Boxster, the third generation MR2 packed 140 hp into it’s short mid-engined body. Performance is decent, with 0-60 mph in less than 7 seconds and the handling was roundly praised for being excellent. This particular model is blessed with both a hard-top and air-conditioning; perfect for the unpredictable British weather.
There isn’t a photo of the interior but I’d presume that a) it has one, and b) it’s a plasticky late ’90s Japanese affair. However, even with close to 100k miles on the clock, I would wager money this little MR2 is still pretty damn bulletproof compared to an MG TF for example. Granted there won’t be much luggage space, but who would really buy a roadster for practicality? Although, compared to many of its rivals, the MR2 was rare in having a genuine glass rear-window!
Verdict: Yeah, I would buy one, but I’m not convinced the dog would be happy about being wedged into the load space under the bonnet.
Designed by the Newcastle upon Tyne College of Art graduate Peter Horbury, the C70 changed the face of the previously square and solid Swedish company. The convertible version doesn’t quite look as good as the coupe, losing the hard-top’s DB7-esque roofline, but certainly couldn’t be called unattractive. With the fully electrically powered roof in place, the C70 does look slightly dumpy but that’s the price of the sky as your headlining.
This example features the 2.0 Turbo engine with 163 bhp. Given the automatic gearbox and considerable weight of that folding roof, performance is more sedate with 0-60 mph in 10.4 seconds and a breezy top speed of 124 mph. The mildly terrifying 26 mpg official fuel consumption is also as wallet frightening as the interior is chunky:
Such a thirst for fuel and such low performance returns might explain why this car seemingly only has 36,000 miles under its belt. I’d also wager it’s had some substantial kerbing at some point to necessitate the alloy wheels being refurbished in that attractive gun-metal colour. It does have all the toys you could ever need, and is a lot of car for the money, which probably explains why in the time of researching and writing this someone has stuck a deposit down on it!
Verdict: Even if I wanted to, it appears someone else has already bought it. But given the choice, I still wouldn’t. Little bit too pipe and open-toed sandals for me.
If the C70 above is gloriously late 1990′s in design, then this SL is unashamedly more ’80s than Wall Street. I originally started looking at first-generation SLKs, such as this one, when researching convertibles. But then I thought why go for the Quarter Pounder when you could have a Big Mac?
Another classic motoring cliché is to roll out the line about Mercedes-Benz’s of this era having “tank” or “vault” like build quality. It is true that this R129 model had much tougher plastics inside than the subsequent R230. Plus, with a kerb weight in the region of 1,800 kgs it has the bulk to match an armoured fighting vehicle. Unfortunately this one doesn’t quite have the torque needed to propel such mass, being only the 2.8 litre straight-six compared to the substantially more powerful 5.0 V8 model. But 200 bhp allows the driver to cruise to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds, and all the way up to 140 mph should you so wish. Just try not to worry about the equally ’80s fuel consumption; a 23 mpg average!
Whilst it may have almost 150,000 miles under its lengthy bonnet, from the pictures at least this SL280 doesn’t appear too tired. It also seems to have had a fair bit of money lavished on it of late; a new roof cannot have been cheap. Furthermore, even if only half the extensive interior fittings work, it’ll still be better equipped than your average modern family hatchback. A Bose sound system, electrically adjustable seats, and automatic climate-control are all things you would expect to pay extra for today; the SL came with them standard almost 20 years ago. The hard-top roof would also come in handy when the weather turns colder.
Verdict: So with my commute I could get it on limited mileage classic insurance, use the remaining money to pay for the fuel…not sure where I’d put the hard top though…might need a bigger shed. If you hadn’t guessed, yes I’d buy it.
So should your numbers come up on tonight’s Euromillions draw, where should you be placing your deposit tomorrow morning? How about this for a start:
The Audi R8 is without a doubt one of the most complete supercars ever built. Futuristic looks, stunning performance, quattro agility and Audi quality has produced a terrifyingly competent product whilst still maintaining a degree of soul. This GT Spyder is the ultimate R8 and also the most expensive Audi ever offered for general consumption, with new prices starting at £158,175.00. By choosing one somebody first signed for you’ve already saved over £3k with this one; about enough for you first month’s fuel!
The GT Spyder weighs in 85 kgs lighter than the regular open-top R8, meaning it’s 552 bhp really does deliver the hit of the whole fruit. The 5.2 litre V10 is mated to the R-tronic semi-automatic gearbox which isn’t perfect, but allows the almost 400 lbs ft of torque to be used effectively. 0-60 arrives in only 3.8 seconds and it’ll be knocking on the door of 200 mph before the aerodynamics call enough. Whilst the standard R8 isn’t exactly subtle, the GT’s body is a riot of carbon-fibre, splitters and wings on the outside; marking this as a special 1 of only 333 examples.
Inside is also more bespoke than normal, with the fixed bucket seats, alcantara steering wheel and even more carbon-fibre marking this out as something special. As hardcore as the GT Spyder may appear, according to those in the know it’s still perfectly usable on a daily basis unlike some other supercars. Provided you can live with fuel consumption somewhere in the low teens that is!
Verdict: The ultimate convertible example of a thoroughly engineered supercar? Unquestionably. I’d probably stick with the coupe version though; in orange.
And there we have it. Four delectable cabrios without any mention of the predictable MX-5.
Tonight ESM would like to bring you a review from another member of the blogosphere, and good personal friend, The Tame Geek. In the same way that Top Gear has a “tame racing driver” the internet has its own Tame Geek. But along with liking all things techy and shiny, he does also have a soft spot for all things automotive.
He therefore decided to review of one of EngageSportMode’s favourite cars; the ESMCoTY2011 one in fact. The Range Rover Evoque. So, did it tickle his techy tastebuds, or leave him desperate for an upgrade? Read on:
An Evoqueative Drive
Some days the stars will align and you’ll get very lucky. This just so happened to be the situation that I found myself in, on a beautiful sunny day when I was handed the key to a brand-new Range Rover Evoque.
This was a dealer model SD4 2.2L Diesel Auto with almost every toy inside. But we will come back to the inside. First let’s start with the outside of the Evoque. The Evoque has to be one of the most dramatically design vehicles available to purchase today. This is true in both its five door and three door guise. I didn’t have the coupe; I had the five door to hand.
The first thing you notice is just how striking the vehicle is. The lines leading from the bonnet all the way to the tailgate are well-defined and hinted at its off-road family heritage. It is by no means a small car. Yes it may be the smallest of the Range Rover family but it is still considerably larger than the popular crossovers available today. This is a very good thing because today’s crossovers are merely extended hatchbacks and lack the level of respectability that the Evoque comes with.
For most people it’s an urban vehicle, which will come as no surprise given 90% of them will be driven by the affluent ladies and gentlemen of your local city centre. But don’t let that confuse the point that this vehicle will function perfectly well off road. Its high ground clearance and its excellent choice of tyres give you the feeling that you can actually use this vehicle anywhere. James May did put that to the test on Top Gear, driving it through the Nevada desert, but then again they’ve got considerably higher budget than a couple of blogs.
Let’s move inside shall we? That of course is a rhetorical question. The best place to be is in a Range Rover. This is undoubtedly true about the Evoque. The fit and finish of this vehicle is nothing short of German. That is meant to simply say that there are certain levels of workmanship available in the automotive industry. At the very top-tier we have Rolls-Royce and we have Bentley, two magnificent British brands, both now German companies. Both of those marks exemplify outstanding quality, so does Jaguar Land Rover. Over the last few years the resurgence in excellence from Jaguar has been evident in XF and the new XJ. This quality has found itself transplanted into the Range Rover family. When you plant your bum into the finely upholstered seats and just run your eyes over the consoles you can really start to see where your money goes when you buy one of these. The stitched leather and leather effect plastic make for a very modern yet classically styled cabin.
Prior to getting into the Range Rover I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-released version of the Jaguar XJ, the most recent iteration. The steering wheel in the Range Rover is of the same quality and feel of that of the XJ. This is a very good start I thought.
As I mentioned above the version of the Evoque I had been filled with toys. The keyless system worked exceedingly well. Handy when you want to go for a drive. As ever it’s the small touches that outline quality. For example pressing the ignition button raises the gear selector out from the centre console. Again with the modern addition to many high-end vehicles of an automatic parking brake you can simply turn the gear selector to drive and go. If it were any simpler it would be electric. Simple, yes, but not a smooth one. We will come back to the gearbox later.
Returning back to the cabin, above me was the panoramic roof option which opens out the vehicle beautifully especially on a sunny day and really adds a certain level of grandeur to driving. It does feel like you’re piloting a conservatory. It certainly doesn’t handle like one though. All of the buttons on the centre console and on the dashboard are made from a reassuringly tough plastic. Not quite as dense as that found enough VW group car but certainly better than that found an American or Japanese vehicle. This car happened to be blessed with full satellite navigation, television and the screen that lets the passenger to view one output and the driver to view another. A feature that first appeared in the Range Rover and in the Mercedes S class alike. Toys like this make vehicle feel expensive. It should, these are not cheap options. Inside are also fully adjustable electric seats with heating and a full complement of buttons to press when you want to go off road.
So now for the most important part of any car, what is it like to drive? Well, firstly the Evoque does not feel as big as it is. Surprisingly nimble, with body roll comparable to a large saloon but less of that thank of a larger 4×4 vehicle. It certainly moved around a lot less than other crossover vehicles do, this may have quite a lot to do with adaptive suspension. The steering is relatively sharp for an electric steering setup. After driving cars with other electric steering setups you can feel very disconnected from the driving experience, some people call this a bad thing. I personally say that if you want to driver’s car, buy a Lotus. If you want something to cruise around in and go up and down motorways, it’s perfectly fine. That said, electric steering setups can very often be improved by a good chassis setup. For instance the VW Scirocco.
The issues start to appear when you want to change gear. Wanting to change gear is a very odd sensation in an automatic. The gearbox has several settings and several modes, when in normal Drive mode, the car is very comfortable but can be very slow to respond when you put the hammer down. The situation improves slightly when you engage Sport mode. This sharpens up the throttle response considerably and effectively means of the car changes gear when the rev marker starts to tickle the redline. Using the paddles on the automatic to shift gear is just as quick as letting the automatic gearbox do the job. It is by no means anywhere near as good as a double clutch setups available or any of the fast responding BMW gearboxes. I would in all honesty save my money and go for the manual, especially with the 2.2 L diesel.
The driving position is very nice if a little alien. Again this car is considerably smaller than the rest of its family, thought you sat almost as high as you do when you’re in a Range Rover Sport. This does feel very odd but reassuring. After only a few moments driving you can understand why so many people buy these for the feeling of safety not only in size, but in how far ahead you can see.
So, the overall verdict. The Range Rover Evoque is a fantastic addition to the company’s product line. Like some cars in different categories it really does have little or no competition. Like the VW CC or the Lotus Elise. Some will argue that the likes of Audi and BMW offer comparable vehicles, but the truth of the matter is that they are just simply stretched versions of their existing cars on their existing platforms. Whereas the Range Rover Evoque is a completely new offering and is styled so very differently from everything else that it is creating its own niche.
But can I recommend the car? Yes, is the short answer.
I can recommend it for anybody that wants an exceedingly well-built vehicle with a huge range of options that will likely last for a considerable amount of years and given current trends, hold onto its value fairly well. This could be all the car you ever need. There’s still a lot of room for improvement; firstly in power. I foresee that there will be, at some point, a version of this vehicle offered with a 3 litre V6 diesel engine likely to be called the Evoque Sport Diesel. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the new F-type’s supercharged V6 petrol end up in there as well.
But would I buy one with my own money? No.
My personal preference leads me to other vehicles and getting more for my money. If I want to go out with £34,000 today I wouldn’t buy a mid-level Evoque. That’s what you get for this money remember, the model that I tested is priced somewhere in region of £41,000. I would take that money and buy a 2011 Audi A7 Sportback S-line 3 L TDI. It’s faster, just as economical, arguably slightly better built and has a higher level of standard specification kit.
But that’s just me. I’d pick a super saloon over a 4×4 any day.
So there you have it. The diesel five-door Evoque seemingly not quite good enough to make one Tame Geek part with his money. Interestingly, the sluggish gearbox is something ESM noticed when driving it. Something for the facelift perhaps?
Don’t forget to check out www.tame-geek.co.uk for all your technology and gadget news and opinion. He’s also a very talented when it comes to marketing and design, along with being an able swordsman (seriously!).
Friday is the first main day of the actual Festival of Speed. ESM spent the vast majority of it taking the long walk from the bottom of the paddock all the way to the rally-stage at the top of the hill. This is what we encountered along the way.
So that is Friday’s action covered. Come back for Saturday and video highlights soon.
Whilst the Festival of Speed “proper” doesn’t begin until Friday, Thursday plays host to the Moving Motor Show event. Designed to let the public get up close and personal with a range of new cars from Skoda and SEAT to Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari. Of note were the BMW M5′s which seemed to rev and crackle for fun, and sheer awesomeness of five Audi R8 V10 Spyders tearing up the hill one after another.
Thursday is also the quietest day of the Festival of Speed, with not all garages and paddocks full with cars. The number of spectators is also lower, giving the early bird the chance to get close up with the vehicles on site without wading through a wall of elbows.
ESM arrived on Thursday in sweltering humid conditions at around lunchtime. Once the tent was up and somelight refreshment taken onboard, we set off to explore. Below is a pictorial summary of what we found:
Stay tuned for further photo and video highlights from the other days of the Festival of Speed.
With the sun burn now slowly (and painfully) turning to a rich golden brown, it’s time for Engage Sport Mode to reflect on just what happened at Oulton Park yesterday.
The 2.26 mile Cheshire Circuit played host to rounds 10, 11 and 12 of this year’s British Touring Car Championship. The Yuasa Hondas of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden look to be the cars to beat this season, with convincing performances in the previous rounds. Admittedly, ESM fell out of love with the BTCC a number of years ago (to be discussed later in the week) and was very much there for a good time, rather than as a die-hard fan.
As a result, the pictures you see below cover a variety of on and off track entertainment, including 2010 champion Jason Plato eating a burger. All the photos below were taken in an amateur style on a iPhone 4. I do not profess to be a professional photographer, nor do I particularly aspire to be one. ESM took along its “roving photographer” for the proper pics, also to be featured later in the week. Enjoy:
It was just after this point that ESM’s iPhone ran out of battery. Which was a shame, as the third and final BTCC race provided lots of action right under our very noses. Luckily our roving photographer got some great shots which will be neatly delivered later in the week.
If you want to know more about who won, who lost and who half of the people above are, then head on over to the offical BTCC website here.
The Infiniti brand is to Nissan what Lexus is to Toyota; essentially blinged up versions of domestic Japanese models, renamed to charge Americans more money for them.
Whilst Infiniti was launched in the United States back in 1989, it wasn’t until 2008 that the decision to branch out in to Europe was taken. In keeping with the “premium” image comes a premium price tag. The cheapest G-Series saloon starts at just shy of £35k, rising to £58k for the range topping FX 4×4 SUV.
And that’s the one ESM found itself in, powering around the streets of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, desperately trying not to look like a drug dealer. Though, as you can see from the photos below, not looking like your friendly, neighbourhood, crack dispensary is not easy:
This is the FX30d S Premium, looking to cost someone mental enough to pay full price a whopping £53,415. As you can probably guess from the “d” in the name, this is a derv powered machine; a 3.0 litre V6 kicking out 253 bhp and a not unsubstantial 406 lb-ft of torque. A 3.7 litre V6 petrol is also available, along with a suicidally thirsty 5.0 litre V8. Given that the Renault sourced diesel engine was shoehorned in for the European market, the US bias behind this car is obvious.
Regardless, despite weighing the best part of almost 2.2 tonnes, the diesel engine manages to launch the FX30d to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds and on to a 132 mph top speed. Warm-hatch performance for such a huge vehicle is not to be scoffed at, but the payback comes in the form of only 31 mpg average fuel consumption. In reality, 25 mpg is probably more realistic. The 7-speed automatic gearbox does have a Sport mode with flappy-paddle shifters, but even in my short drive the novelty soon wore off. This is a car to be left to do its own thing in D. Performance matches the figures, with the FX feeling quicker than a crude-oil burner of such stature really should. Braking is equally, and reassuringly, impressive.
A few roundabouts provided the only real chance to test out the handling of this 4-wheel drive behemoth, which was grippy and stable. The suspension also happens to have a Sport mode, though this served only to amplify the crashy nature of the ride; something not helped by the big pimpin’ spec 21″ wheels:
The steering is light and not particularly communicative, though accurate which is useful given its 2.13 metre width. With the narrow lanes of some of the “Toon’s” dual-carriageway, the automatic lane departure warning kept making itself known; just one toy from the entire box Nissan has emptied into the FX Premium through its sunroof. Adaptive cruise-control, dual-zone climate-control, heated and cooled leather seats, touchscreen satellite navigation and a media hard-drive are your starters for 10. More interestingly, the FX includes cameras mounted at the front, back and both sides to offer a very handy bird’s eye view when parking. Given the cramped feel to the cabin and restricted vision of the outside world, this feature is more necessity than gimmick in the FX.
Along with feeling cramped, the FX’s interior struggles to live up to its £50k expectations. Plastic abounds in the cockpit, along with a tacky Maserati emulating analogue clock:
Other bits appear stolen from the rest of the Nissan range, and do very little to create a feeling of bespoke craftsmanship. I have no doubt that it will be well put together and ultimately reliable, but in this price range that special ambience behind the wheel is critical.
I also think anyone buying one new is going to suffer depreciation on a truly epic scale. Whilst the £53,000 list price may well undercut rivals such as the BMW X6 (equally pretentious) or the Range Rover Sport, and be better equipped, Infiniti lacks the brand cache. I realise launching a new badge is difficult, and that it took Lexus until the release of the IS200 in 2000 to get a foothold in Europe, but I’m not convinced by the Infiniti project.
Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and even Lexus all offer (relatively) affordable entry-level models to welcome new, young, buyers into their marques. With a £35k opening bid, Infiniti is asking substantial sums of money for a unknown entity. However, given the Nissan model range it can hardly offer a gold-badged Micra or Note as competitors to the Audi A1 or BMW 1-Series.
The FX30d S is not a bad car by regular measures of performance or value for money. But in a market segment where choice is based on image and desirability the FX it makes a very poor argument for itself.
Writing about the Polo earlier this week got me thinking about my appreciation for VAG products in general. The result being a list forming, photos being researched and this post about some of the more obscure models to emerge from Germany that I have a fondness for. These are not in any particular order, just the way in which my brain spat them out onto paper.
1999 – 2005 Volkswagen Bora V5
For (almost) as long as the Golf has existed, VW has produced a version with a huge boot grafted onto the back-end to meet the demand of the American market. Those on the other side of the pond have, generally, shown a far greater demand for models with a trunk, resulting in the Jetta, Vento and Bora models. In Europe, these models have never garnered the same appreciation; leaving them to be the unloved middle child, wedged awkwardly between the smaller Golf, but larger Passat.
I, however, have a relative fondness for these ugly ducklings, and the Bora V5 is a particular favourite of mine. Packing 170bhp in later models, the narrow-angle five cylinder was as punchy as it was aurally satisfying. It’s also completely unassuming looking, making it an excellent Q-Car and thus why I love it.
2003 – 2004 Volkswagen Golf R32 (Mk4)
The Mk4 Golf never received an amazing amount of praise in terms of being a driver’s car. Comfort and refinement were the order of the day, with dynamism taking a (spacious) back seat. The GTi failed to win applause, even with the 180bhp 1.8T engine. Then the R32 arrived.
I have probably never lusted over a German hatchback as much as I have the Mk4 R32. Everything about it screams exotic, despite the number of bodykitted diesels and 1.4s out there now. From the 18″ wheels, to the twin exhausts, signature Deep Blue Pearl paintwork and sculpted Konig seats everything about it looks special. Furthermore, if you thought the V5 Bora sounded good, listen to this. It’s 240+ bhp makes it genuinely fast and the Haldex 4WD keeps everything in check. The fact a low-mileage, unmolested, Mk4 R32 has a higher used value than the later Mk5 says everything you need to know; and makes me sad not to be able to afford to have one on my drive.
2005 Audi TT quattro Sport
Until the more recent TT RS, this was the most hardcore version of Audi’s ubiquitous coupe. It’s also the only car I’ve witnessed someone get genuinely stuck in due to its high-waisted Recaro Pole Position bucket seats.
Audi added an extra 15 bhp, removed 75kgs of weight, painted the roof section black and fitted special 18″ alloys. Most of the weight savings came from junking the back seats and rear parcel shelf, leaving a huge strut-brace and motorsport styled cargo net instead. Some people wimped out and picked regular “comfort” seats instead for this 800 only special edition. Losers.
2003 - 2004 Audi S4
To replace the previous S4 model’s 2.7 Bi-Turbo V6, Audi decided the best option was to shoehorn a 4.2 litre V8 under the bonnet. Featuring 344 bhp (one more than the contemporary BMW M3) this engine propelled the subtly styled S4 to 60mph in around 5 seconds and on to a limited top-speed of 155. The pay off was fuel consumption which averaged an official 20mpg; the reality somewhere much further south! It also happens to be another V8 vehicle my Father test drove and then didn’t buy, settling instead for the far more “sensible” Subaru Impreza STI.
2008 – 2010 Volkswagen Passat R36
Answering a question which nobody really seemed to have asked, VW unleashed this muscle-car version of the popular Passat rep-mobile. A 300bhp 3.6 litre (hence the name) V6 placed the R36 in a curious performance middle ground. Quicker than hot-hatches, but slower than the super-saloons. This probably explains why only around 160 found homes in the UK during its production run. I like its charming, unassuming looks and the fact nobody would ever have any idea what it is.
2000 – 2002 SEAT Ibiza Cupra R
By the time this hot little number emerged from Martorell, the Mk2 Ibiza chassis was getting pretty long in the tooth. Dumping the veritable 1.8T unit into the front gave 150bhp in the regular Cupra. However, for the Cupra R, the boost was cranked up to 11 to deliver a further 30bhp, making this supermini properly quick.
Aside from the engine, the R received a host of SEAT Sport parts, including Brembo brakes, stiffer suspension, carbon fibre bits and – most importantly – extra instrument gauges. This made the limited edition R rather special, making it stand out from the regular Cupra model. Contemporary journalists rated its speed, but not its unforgiving ride. Trying to find one today is hard; finding an original one that hasn’t been enhanced by its owner is even more difficult.
2002 – 2005 Volkswagen Passat W8
In the late 1990s/early 2000s Volkswagen was in the process of rapidly expanding its product range and technology across all the brands in its stable. Under the direction of Ferdinand Piech, Wolfsburg churned out some unique offerings; to test engineering or to test the market’s reaction.
The Passat W8 was one of the more left field items offered by VW. In its most basic form the engine was half a Bugatti Veyron W16 or two-thirds of a Bentley W12 (minus the turbos). Producing only 275bhp from its 4-litres isn’t exactly staggering, but did result in comical fuel consumption – around 16mpg! For the 170 people who bought one in the UK they suffered soul destroying depreciation, followed by the realisation they should have just bought an Audi. Pointless; but that’s why I like it.
2002 – Present Volkswagen Phaeton
If the W8 was pointless, the Phaeton took Piech’s narcissism to an entirely new level. Intended to test the technology for the Bentley Continental GT, the Phaeton was also made to make the automotive world realise no market was off limits to VW.
The brief for the Phaeton was that it must be able to hit 300kmh, whilst maintaining an interior temperature of 22′C, even when it was a roasting 50 degrees outside. God knows how much time and money went into the design of this beast, along with the epic Transparent Factory. In particular I love the fact it came with the massive V10 diesel engine, offering up a house-demolishing 553lb ft of torque!
I occasionally pass a Phaeton on my way to work – sadly not a V10 diesel – and it always makes me smile. Knowing a) that somebody lost a boatload of money buying it, and b) the sheer level of engineering underneath is cause for celebration.
2000 – 2002 VW Polo GTi
There is, of course, more than a hint of bias in this inclusion. Having owned a 6N2 Polo GTi for several years, before changing it for an ill-fated Audi S3, it does hold many fond memories for me. Even now I can still remember the specifications: 1.6 litre 4-cylinder with 125bhp and 112lb ft of torque, gave 0-60mph in around 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 130mph. The same engine would go on to power the Lupo GTi which managed to sell even fewer examples than its Polo brother (900 vs 3400).
At the time road-testers praised the upmarket looks and interior of the GTi, along with its respectable equipment count. But it came under fire for a lack of driver involvement and uninspiring handling. To be honest, the latter never really bothered me; I’d tweaked my example so much it went far beyond the original specification!
In the years since the 6N2, the Polo GTi has evolved to be an even closer miniature clone of the Golf GTi. It may be quicker, bigger and fancier, but for me there will always be an endearing charm to my version.
2006-2010 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
So we begin back where we started; looking at a Golf with a fat arse. The GLI has been available as US market mainstay for a number of generations, providing the sedan alternative to the Golf (or Rabbit) GTI. I especially like the Mk5 version for looking so much like the GTI, even down to the wheels and trademark grille, but then wedging a massive trunk at the rear end. Mechanically it was identical to the Golf, using the 2.0TFSI engine with 197bhp sending power to the front wheels. Performance was slightly blunted compared to the GTI, owing to the extra weight of all that junk in the trunk, but it still makes for an effective compact sedan.
In the UK, Volkswagen decided not to include the actual GLI model in its lineup. Instead it offered a curious TFSI version that used the GLI engine in a regular Jetta body; another wolf in sheep’s clothing. Even more curiously, Volkswagen USA also produced a special limited edition diesel Jetta TDI Cup edition in 2010:
Intended to celebrate the USA only race series, this bespoke limited edition matched an aggressive race-derived bodykit to a 170bhp 2.0TDI motor. As a former diesel Jetta owner, this across-the-pond model represented the zenith of derv compact VW saloons to be admired and lusted over. Unfortunately, given the UK’s lack of interest in the Jetta, there was no chance of an offering such as the TDI Cup over here.
So there we go. A collection of the Volkswagen Group’s more unique offerings.
The previous post on that turbo-cento got me thinking about a new car which it’s very, very similar to. Well, similar in that it’s essentially a small city-car with a turbocharger attached. So like two peas in a pod then; yesterday’s Fiat and today’s Audi A1 Quattro:
I have to admit I am a fan of the normal A1, so the thought of an high-performance, four-wheel drive version excites me a great deal. 256bhp and 258lb-ft of torque in a baby hatchback can only make for rapid progress potential. I also love the way it looks. For once that deep Audi grille is matched with the pumped up bodywork of the rest of the car. I particularly like the red strips in the head lights, the wide gloss black panel beneath the tail lights and the race inspired diffuser.
When the A1 Clubsport Quattro concept was first revealed last year I never actually imagined Audi would bother to make it. Years of reading about concept cars had made me cynical that they are just marketing gimmicks, intended to somehow have a halo effect over the cars manufacturers actually sell. So for the fact it exists Audi should be commended.
Less commendable, however, is the mechanical underpinnings the A1 Quattro actually makes use of. Whereas the concept used the punchy, offbeat sounding 2.5 litre straight 5-cylinder engine, the real deal is left with the 2.0 TFSI unit found in the Audi S3. Given Audi’s rich heritage of 5-cylinder motors – and the fact they sound awesome – when producing something as bespoke and limited as the A1 Quattro (only 333 to be made), I would have thought wedging the 2.5 engine in there would have been achievable. Clearly not. The side exit exhaust has also disappeared, but I’d imagine that’s more to do with legislation than anything else.
The interior is also somewhat less hardcore than what the concept envisaged. Here’s the concept, with its thin fixed-bucket seats, full harnesses and shiny toggle switches:
And here’s the finished version. Very leather, very refined, very regular Audi A1. It even has an armrest for God’s sake!
My old Audi S3 had a similar armrest. It got in the way when driving quickly and eventually broke. Nevertheless, 4-cylinder or 5-cylinder engine, stripped out race-spec interior or plush upholstery, I am still very much besotted with the A1 Quattro. As are the other 19 people in the UK who have stumped up the £40,000 or so to own one of these left-hand drive only machines. At that price it actually makes the Cinquecento turbo look good value.
But let’s be honest, the A1 Quattro is a trinket, a jewel, a Ming vase of a car; to own it is the point. The fact it’ll probably be damn good to drive is merely a bonus.