Editorial

Opinion | Are new cars actually getting more expensive?

The new Volkswagen Golf, and the excellent revised GTI in particular, got us wondering. Just how much more expensive are new cars compared to their predecessors? 

2017 New Volkswagen Mk7.5 Golf GTI

Having already won rave reviews from both print and online media, the Mk7.5 Volkswagen Golf GTI is already attracting attention. Yet a lot of the Internet comments seem to take umbrage at one particular fact – the cost. To clarify, the new Golf GTI has a list price starting at £27,865. As with any modern car, there is the huge temptation to run wild with the extras, but that basic amount will get you a brand-new three-door GTI, with a manual gearbox. No options, no fancy technology packages, not even metallic paint. Signature GTI colours like Tornado Red will add an extra £250, with metallics needing £570. In short, it’s rather easy to spec’ a GTI which costs over £30,000. Shock, horror, Internet outrage.

The most recent time a new Golf GTI garnered such positive attention was with the introduction of the Mk5 in early 2005. After the lacklustre Mk4 effort, the all-new GTI was an absolute revelation. Tartan seats helped, too. Yet when first introduced, the new Mk5 GTI had a starting price of just £19,995. Yes really, less than £20,000, and although the amount did rise shortly afterward, that’s the value we’ve used for comparison.

2005 Volkswagen MkV Golf GTI

A difference of £7,870 equates to a substantial sounding 39.4% increase in those twelve years between 2005 and 2017! On the other hand, horsepower has gone from 197hp in the Mk5 GTI, to 230hp in the Mk7.5, a jump of only 17%. If it had followed the same pattern as pricing, new GTI models should be rolling out the factory with 274hp. So have Volkswagen left new GTI buyers shortchanged?

Well no, actually. Inflation on the cost of goods and services in the UK has risen on average by around 2.9% each year. That 2.9% figure is based on the Bank of England’s CPI information, and there is little difference when using inflation calculators that rely on RPI data instead. We’re not going to delve into A-Level economics and debate the differences here – this is a car blog, not the Financial Times.

2017 New Volkswagen Mk7.5 Golf GTI

Inflation between March 2005 and March 2017 totals roughly – wait for it – 39%. Meaning a new Mk7.5 Golf GTI costs within £75 of what the financial data tells us it should do in 2017. It also means we’re getting a better deal in 2017 with 230hp, and the continuous improvement in technology and specification that has taken place in the last decade. So the next time someone exclaims the new Golf GTI is far too expensive, feel free to shut them down with data.

We couldn’t just leave it at one car, however. The Golf GTI may happen to be a freak automotive bellwether, so we checked out the new Golf R, just to be sure. But this time we went even further back with our research. All the way back to 2002, and the introduction of the Mk4 R32. (more…)

Top Seven New Cars of 2016 | With Ned Jasper

Yeah, 2016 probably won’t go down as a vintage year in terms of global politics and current affairs. However, when it comes to new cars, it’s most certainly been a classic! As the man who has covered the biggest new releases for ESM this year, our man Ned Jasper picks his top seven.

Top 7 New Cars of 2016

Well, here it is. Christmas time 2016. That means festive tunes fill the airwaves, trees go up and presents are bought. That also means that it’s nearly the end of 2016. So let’s take a look back at some of the greatest new cars to come out this year. This is ESM’s top five new cars of 2016. Actually, it’s not. There were so many good contenders this year that we stretched it to seven! Yes, yes, I know I said that last year as well, but this year we really have had some rather special cars released. Here they are:

7. Porsche 718 Boxster S2016 718 Boxster SI know what you’re thinking. Great intro, best cars of 2016, and now I’m presenting you with a Porsche Boxster. What is going on? I had my reservations about this one too. This is the baby Porsche, only with fewer cylinders and a turbocharger. Not really a recipe for success is it? However, it’s been 11 months since this little gem was released and, I must say, it’s grown on me.

First, let’s talk about the heart of this little orange and black tiger. It’s down two cylinders from the previous model, but it’s up one turbo and a whole heap of power. What’s more, the Boxster S has a variable vane turbo – not necessarily something you would expect to find from this class of car.

So what about the rest of it? Underneath we have the same mid-engined, rear-wheel drive, sports car with a manual gearbox (PDK is available, too) that’s been entertaining drivers for nearly two decades. Despite the engine alterations, the recipe remains unchanged with superb handling and excellent composure. Only this time with a little more grunt. Well worthy of the number 7 spot.

 

6. McLaren 570GT2016 McLaren 570GT

You would think that with 562bhp, and a top speed of 204mph, the 570GT would undoubtedly be the fastest hatchback in the world. The thing is, it’s not even the fastest hatchback on this list – told you it was a good year! What the 570GT is, though, is a remarkable piece of British engineering. Not only is it a comfortable, usable supercar, it’s also stunningly good to look at, and actually practical.

First, the looks: unlike the other cars in the McLaren range, the 570GT is a little more mature. There’s no lurid paint and no stripped out interior on this show car. Instead we’ve got rich silver-grey paint, mixed with deep red leather. This car is, in my eyes, the best-looking McLaren of the lot. Now, I said it was a practical hatchback, and I wasn’t lying. In total, the 570GT has 370 litres of luggage space. Sure, it’s split between two different enclosures, but that’s still more space than a Ford Focus.

The 570GT is a remarkable piece of engineering and surely serves as proof that we’re living in a new age. No wonder McLaren has just churned out its 10,000th car!

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Editorial | Volkswagen to end World Rally Championship commitment

Another week, another Volkswagen Group motorsport project gets canned. After the end of Audi’s Le Mans campaign, now comes the closure of VW’s highly successful rally programme. ESM’s Editor reflects.

VW Polo R WRC

Just three days after winning the 2016 Rally GB, along with more World Championship titles, Volkswagen officially that there will be no 2017 WRC campaign. The official reason is that the brand must ‘realign’ priorities in the face of enormous challenges. Whilst the statement from Volkswagen is at pains to avoid any reference to last year’s emissions scandal, this is clearly a knock-on effect from dieselgate.

With litigation and product recalls requiring Volkswagen to set aside billions of euros, continuing an expensive motorsport campaign in the WRC becomes a difficult thing to justify. In addition, it may well be that the Volkswagen brand wants to keep a low profile until the fall-out from dieselgate is completely sorted. It’s worth noting that VW-branded cars didn’t appear in this year’s latest Forza Horizon 3 game on the Microsoft Xbox, due to undisclosed licensing issues. Having been paraded through the global media as a cheat, perhaps Volkswagen wants to avoid rubbing noses in the dirt. Literally.

VW Polo R WRC

What’s more depressing is that Volkswagen Motorsport’s campaign with the Polo R WRC has been nothing short of flawless. From entering in 2013, to now, Volkswagen has taken 42 rally wins from 51 entries – that’s more than 83%! It means the Polo R WRC has notched up four drivers’ titles with Sébastien Ogier, four co-drivers’ titles with Julien Ingrassia, and four Manufacturers’ championships. Whilst cynics and critics will point to contemporary WRC being at its lowest ebb in generations – they’re not wrong – it’s still an amazing performance.

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Motorsport | Audi ditches Le Mans for Formula E

After almost two whole decades of dominance, one of the biggest names in endurance racing has called time on participation. 

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro #7

Audi Sport officially announced yesterday that, at the end of 2016, the Audi brand will no longer compete in the World Endurance Championship. That means 18 years of Le Mans competition will also come to an end, as Audi Sport elects to pursue Formula E instead.

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro #7

This decision is hardly surprising, and had been rumoured in the previous weeks as a very real possibility. Since the introduction of the R10 TDI, Audi’s LMP strategy for the past decade has been built around the use of diesel engines. Following last year’s dieselgate furore, diesel power has become immediately unfashionable across the Volkswagen Group.

Whilst the motoring world was already pushing towards the greater use and integration of electric power, dieselgate has made this even more important for brands like Audi and Volkswagen. Audi Sport already has a partnership with Team ABT Schaeffler Motorsport in Formula E, meaning the barriers to entry are low. Throw in the fact that Formula E now allows for the development of bespoke powertrain elements, and it becomes a fairly easy decision. (more…)

Ned Jasper | Tesla Model S 90 P90D

The Tesla Model S is kind of a big deal. No, scrap that, it’s a massive deal. We’ve heard from The Tame Geek when he drove one, but what is it like to be a passenger in the fastest four-door in the world? Ned found out.

tesla-model-s[Just a small disclaimer before I start the article, due to my age, I haven’t actually physically driven the car myself. I did, however, have a ride in the back, and this is my review from that perspective. Enjoy.]

2.8 seconds – that’s about the time it takes for you to decide whether or not you want to continue reading this article. Hopefully, it’s the former. But if you were in a Tesla P90D – with Ludicrous Mode – 2.8 seconds is the time it takes to blow your mind. Why? Because this 2.2-tonne family saloon can out-accelerate a Porsche 911 Turbo, that’s why! So in case you haven’t already guessed, 2.8 seconds is the 0-60mph time. Now, the way this thing looks.

The Model S came out in 2012, yet in the Spring of this year, we saw it oust its cocoon and flourish into quite a handsome brute. The combination of the long sloping roof line and powerful stance make spotting one on the roads an occasion. What’s more, the new eyelash-shaped wrap around headlights make it yet more menacing in the dark. Overall the Model S manages to mix a little bit of the future with much of the present. So even in 10 years time, I can’t imagine it looking dated.

With it being “the car of the future” and all, the Model S is inevitably a tech fest, and the whole car is adorned with little flourishes that do more that just please the eye. Those devilish lights, for example, are now full-LED and fully adaptive. The air suspension is fully adjustable too and, with the help of GPS mapping, the Model S will track where you’ve altered the suspension so that next time it can automatically do it for you. (more…)

F1 – Buttoned up, or down and out, for Jenson?

After a fairly dull and dismal Italian Grand Prix on track, the only major talking point from the weekend was McLaren’s 2017 driver lineup. Does it mean things are all over for JB?2016 Jenson ButtonIt’s a classic McLaren piece of stage management. Stoffel Vandoorne joins Fernando Alonso as the two race drivers for 2017, whilst Buttons retains an “ambassadorial” role within the McLaren universe. It means the team have an option should a) Vandoorne somehow prove to be useless, or b) Fernando Alonso decide he can’t be bothered with the same crap anymore. It also means the firm retains the ability to milk Jenson’s marketing appeal. No doubt there’ll be numerous videos of him drifting McLaren road cars and other race cars over the next twelve months.

2016 Jenson Button

Expect more of this in the next year.

McLaren are no stranger to having drivers take a sabbatical. Mika Häkkinen famously took one for the 2002 season which, curiously, was also announced just before the 2001 Italian Grand Prix. After being World Drivers’ Champion in 1998 and 1999, along with finishing as runner-up in 2000, Häkkinen has suffered a challenging 2001. With the desire to win having faded, and fear from big crashes lingering, it wasn’t a huge surprise that Häkkinen officially announced his retirement from Formula 1 in 2002, at the relatively young age of only 33. (more…)

Opinion – Why the resignation of Chris Evans gives hope for Top Gear

With news that Chris Evans has, quite publicly, quit as a Top Gear presenter after just one series, ESM reflects on what it means for the show.Top Gear Chris EvansIn a world where someone resigning from a top job has become almost commonplace, that Chris Evans threw the towel in quite so soon after the end of Top Gear’s series 23 is still a little surprising. Faced with falling viewer figures, despite the almost desperate protestations from Evans that they didn’t show the true picture, his position looked untenable. On social media much of the ire of Top Gear viewers was directed at him personally. News of a police investigation over historic accusations from the 1990s were probably the nail in the coffin.

Perhaps it’s also proof that the UK hasn’t become completely “anti-expert” in outlook, despite what the recent EU referendum might suggest. Whilst nobody can deny Evans is passionate about cars he isn’t an automotive journalist and, as the lead on a motoring show, that’s potentially a big deal. No, Matt Le Blanc isn’t a journalist, and nor is Sabine Schmitz or even Eddie Jordan, but they weren’t the ones plastered on the front of magazines and across adverts. He was the poster boy for the ‘new’ Top Gear and therefore the one most likely to take the flack if it failed.

It won’t have helped that not a week went by without some news story of a producer quitting, in-fighting between Evans and Le Blanc, and the cringeworthy spectacle of him puking his guts after being in-car with Sabine Schmitz. Whilst the latter might have been a way to try to inject some lighthearted humour, and make him appear human, it did little but make him seem unsuited to a job that involves testing performance cars. Becoming emotional and crying his eyes out over the McLaren F1 was also awkward and embarrassing to watch.

Evans had an almost unwinnable situation. He would never be Clarkson, yet had the job of anchoring Top Gear faced with an audience almost expecting him, and it, to fail. Whoever was the lead presenter for series 23 of Top Gear would have faced a metaphorical kicking from the media and those who watched each week. To counter that would have needed an almost superhuman dose of personality, knowledge and charm. Sadly, despite all his previous successes, Evans lacked those when it came to a motoring show.

For someone who owns a plethora of expensive supercars and classics, he ultimately failed to communicate that passion and excitement in a way that made his features palatable. Contrast that with the successes of Chris Harris and Rory Reid in conveying how a car makes you feel, but with some form of critical analysis, and the gulf between them and Evans becomes all too apparent. From the first episode we complained about how Evans seemed to be shouting constantly and, as the series continued, his voiceovers seemed to also be read with the basic delivery of a primary school presentation. (more…)

Opinion – Season 23 ‘New’ Top Gear and Extra Gear

So, after months of speculation and hype, the latest version of Top Gear finally arrived. The reaction across social media and wider has been almost universally poor. ESM’s editor explores why it missed the mark.

2016 Dodge Viper ACR

Spoiler alert: Imagine this, but with Chris Evans shouting in your face, and you’re basically there.

I’ll admit that I’d grown tired of the previous incarnation of Top Gear. The format had become stale, Clarkson had disappeared even further up his own backside, and the whole thing appeared to have been lingering around just a little too long. I always remember Clarkson writing that they’d stop making TG when it became obvious the time had come – fate seemingly ensured that happened.

Which begs the question as to why, with the possibility of completely blank slate and an almost limitless budget, did the BBC and Chris Evans decide to do nothing but remake old ‘new’ TG but with different people?

What staggers me is that this approach appeals to almost nobody. Loyal fans of Clarkson, Hammond and May have departed to await Amazon’s The Grand Tour so clearly this new TG wasn’t going to attract them back. Chris Evans doing a Clarkson impression is not the same as the real thing. You can dress yourself in a bear costume, make bear noises, and even shit in the woods, but it doesn’t make you a bear. In the same way shouting, and leaving slightly too long a… pause doesn’t make you a Clarkson.Top Gear StigYet, by slavishly copying the format and style of the previous iteration of TG, it means the latest version does nothing to attract new viewers. One of the key issues was the fact the actual setup and structure of the programme had become boring, yet the producers did zero effort to move away from it. Even the overwrought editing of videos remains, making it hard to actually see or hear the car you’re meant to be focussing on. So that’s impressive work in managing to appeal to no one and ostracize everyone – not even Clarkson et. al managed that.

Perhaps that is what enrages and disappoints me the most. The BBC had a huge opportunity to take TG in a different direction, just as Clarkson and Andy Wilman had done 14 years ago, but completely choked. What we’re left with is a product that manages to be inferior to its predecessor. This is like a car being given a mid-lifecycle facelift, where the accountants decide they need to save some money so cutback on equipment and features. Yes it might look newer, but underneath you’re left with less than you would have previously got for your money. There’s now no chemistry between Matt LeBlanc and Evans, no controversial comments, and zero innovation.

Think taking a Dodge Viper and Chevrolet Corvette to the Fallon Naval Air Station is a new idea? No. Jesse Crosse did that back in 2005, but had the sense to include a Ford Mustang as well. But he didn’t feel the need to SHOUT ALL THE BLOODY TIME or strap pointless lasers and missiles to the cars. He also managed to actually form opinions, rather than just regurgitate from a press release. (more…)

Opinion – Should we get that excited about the 2017 WRC Polo?

With changes afoot for the 2017 World Rally Championship, why is EngageSportMode’s editor failing to get excited about the prospect of a 380hp Polo?

2017 Volkswagen Polo R WRC Concept

Here’s the deal. I’ve owned five different Volkswagen Polos in 14 years, including an R-Line and two different GTI versions. As such, it’s fair to say I’m something of a fan of VW’s supermini offering. I’ve also been into rallying since I was – to engage James May mode – a small boy, and have been mightily impressed with Volkswagen Motorsport’s complete domination of the WRC for the past three years. So why on earth am I not excited and entranced by the 2017 Polo WRC Concept show above?

The press release details should be whetting my appetite, even if the artwork rendering isn’t. The promise of more power – up to 380hp – in a lighter, wider, more extravagant body should be welcome news to any petrolhead. They’ll even be allowed to use an electronic centre differential to control the transmission of power, and the overall aim is to make the cars far more spectacular than before. With huge spoilers, flared arches and a ginormous rear wing the promise is certainly there. But what does that mean for us mere mortals who have to drive normal roads cars, and don’t get to play with WRC machinery? Probably very little. (more…)

Opinion – Does the world need the Maserati Levante?

Is nothing sacred from the unstoppable rise of the SUV? Now after a century of producing grand tourers and saloons, not even Maserati is immune from the lure of the Sports Utility Vehicle.

2016 Maserati LevanteAlthough not due to make an official debut until the Geneva Motor Show next week, Maserati released a limited number of photos showing off the forthcoming Levante. Depending on your personal view of SUVs, the styling could range from challenging to dramatic, whilst incorporating a number of design features that seem inspired by the Porsche Cayenne and even the Nissan Qashqai. Calling it pretty would be brave move.

2016 Maserati LevanteCast your mind back to 2002, and remember the launch of the original Porsche Cayenne. Recall the shock and outrage that Porsche – so long the producer of stylish, if anodyne sports cars – could make something so in-your-face. Purists bemoaned the death of the Porsche brand, that nobody would buy one, and the company would collapse in shame. (more…)