Audi

Gallery Feature | Fifty Shades of (automotive) Grey

Over 17% of new car buyers picked grey last year, and it’s now the third most popular tone in the UK. But how many different types of grey can there really be? Quite a lot, actually.

50 Shades of Grey

For reference ESM’s Editor has never actually seen Fifty Shades of Grey, or read any of the books. However, he surmises that the plot revolves around a man who treats his interior designer quite badly, whilst she struggles to pick the right grey tones for his house. Plus, the lead character insists on one room painted red, in a tribute to Changing Rooms from the 1990s. Beyond that, who knows what happens, other than inspiring us to seek out fifty shades of grey paint offered on new cars.

We’ve taken these directly from the configurator websites for the respective manufacturer. As a result, the quality of some images is not the best. In the case of Skoda, it’s truly dreadful; like 8-bit Nintendo retro. We’ve tried to accommodate as many different brands as possible, but other greys are available. We’re also not sure how some of these can even be classed as grey in the first place.

Shades 1 to 10

Tasting Notes: (more…)

EngageSportMode Awards 2016 | Part One

In many respects – like politics or celebrity deaths – 2016 was a challenging year. But, in the automotive world, things were far better. With the infamous hypothetical ‘macaroni and glitter’ trophies at the ready, these are the things which stood out the most in the last twelve months.

esm-2016-awards-part-one

No, it doesn’t matter that it’s already 2017. We always like to make sure the previous year is well and truly finished before hammering down our judgements. Here, in part one, we cover the cars from 2016 which are most deserving of our collective glory.

Best Car Driven in 2016 – BMW M2BMW M2 ESM 2016 Awards

Trying to narrow down the best thing driven in a year to just one single car is often a tough challenge. However, for 2016, this was pretty easy. We waited all day to try it at the SMMT Test Day in May, but it was completely worth it to get a shot at driving the BMW M2.

With a punchy engine, perfectly balanced chassis, and dimensions suited perfectly to Millbrook’s twisty Alpine circuit it was hard not to be immediately seduced. Whilst 365hp might seem fairly timid in the current horsepower wars, it gives the opportunity to exploit everything the M2 has to offer without feeling the need to hold back.

Like any good performance car it was possible to feel immediately connected with the M2, yet there’s still sufficient depth to know that spending longer with it would never prove to be boring. The seven-speed DCT dual-clutch gearbox is brutally effective at changing cogs, especially in Sport mode, even if purists might argue that the manual ‘box is the one to buy.

Add to this a – relatively – affordable starting price of just over £44,000, vaguely sensible running costs, and a compact size, it makes the M2 easy to justify as the single best car driven in 2016. Testing the M240i also demonstrated just how good the basic package beneath the M2 is, but also just how much more it adds to the equation.

Congratulations, BMW. The M2 was, unquestionably, the best car driven by ESM in 2016.

Honourable mentions – Mercedes-AMG A45 4MATIC, Rolls-Royce Phantom, BMW M240i

(more…)

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…)

Friday Photo – BTCC Audi A4 quattro Super Tourer with Frank Biela

Twenty years ago the British Touring Car Championship was reaching peak popularity with global motorsport fans. On track, the 1996 season was being dominated by an all-conquering silver machine.1996 BTCC Audi A4 quattroFull disclosure – the Audi A4 quattro Super Tourer is, without doubt, the favourite BTCC machine of ESM‘s Editor. Ever. He even has the t-shirt, although it’s a little tight after nearly two decades… So the news that Audi Sport legend Frank Biela is going to be reunited with the A4 quattro this weekend is a big deal.1996 BTCC Audi A4 quattroIn 1996 the BTCC was one of the most competitive championships on the planet. To turn up and take both Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles at the first time of asking, was a huge achievement for Audi Sport, and a massive marketing boon for the Audi brand. Using all-wheel-drive gave the A4 a big advantage over two-wheel-drive rivals, resulting in Biela winning eight races in addition to taking another twelve podiums. Weight penalties in 1997 meant Biela could only fight to second in the championship, whilst for 1998 all-wheel-drive was banned from Super Touring.

Although the technical ability of the A4 quattro was immense, Frank Biela’s own personal talent cannot be understated. Along with the BTCC title, his career highlights include: five outright Le Mans wins (2000-2002, 2006, 2007), two American Le Mans Series wins (2003, 2005), 1991 DTM champion, 1993 French Touring Car champion, and 1995 Touring Car World Cup winner. For many racing drivers, winning one of the above would be immense, but to do all of them is off the chart. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, all those titles were taken behind the wheel of an Audi. Cut Biela open and you’ll probably find his veins arranged in the shape of the Audi badge, such is his association with the brand.

So it’s fitting that he’ll be driving the A4 quattro BTCC racer this weekend at Knockhill, doing parade laps as part of the David Leslie Super Touring Car Festival. It probably wouldn’t have been fair on everyone else to let him actually race, we imagine. To celebrate, Audi UK have shared a host of photos from that successful 1996 season. Enjoy:

Ned Jasper – Friday Video – What makes a good car advert?

With one of the best car adverts of late banished from our TV screens, Ned takes aim at those making, and scrutinising, those commercials.
Audi R8 V10 plus
Nowadays, you’d be hard pushed to go out and not find an example of health and safety. We drive our cars with seat belts, airbags and countless electronic systems which prevent you from skidding of the road every time you’re a little heavy footed. As a result, countless lives have been saved and the world is a better place for it. But then we have “health and safety gone mad”. It’s a phrase we hear a lot these days, but is there any truth in this expression?

Actually, yes. I can’t speak for every aspect of modern society – that would take too long and be about as interesting as an empty pint glass – but what I can talk about is car advertisements. Now, it’s no secret that we’re quite partial to a good car ad, especially those from a certain four-ringed company. [Guilty as charged! – Editor]

But, how on earth does this relate to health and safety? Well, it’s because one of Audi’s latest R8 ads, The Eye, has been banned. If you don’t know what I’m talking about watch this:

Done that? Good. The ad in question was struck from our screens by the ASA (the Advertising Standards Authority) as it ‘linked speed with excitement’. I know. It turns out, a big, shiny, bright orange supercar is exciting, who’d thought?

The thing is though, the advert didn’t feature high speeds. Was it inferred? Well, yes. But all we saw was a 30mph tracking shot and a retina. To add insult to injury, the removal of what is one of the only interesting car advertisements currently on TV was down to ONE measly complaint.

It is because of things like this that almost all car adverts are now not only tedious, and stale, but also related in no way to the car in question. After all, the advertisement is supposed to make you want to buy the car, not hate it. The following is a small compilation of some of the worst car advertisements shown on TV, and don’t fear, because after you’ve sat through 4 minutes of dull, unimaginative drivel, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best car ads of all time.

Citroen C1

I wish I could magic a car out of a bus stop too! But I’m not Harry Potter, so I’ll just walk instead. Maybe ASA should step in here, before everyone tries to walk through a bus-stop and steal a car!

Toyota Aygo

Hilarious!…Not. Another great message, dress up as a seat and prank McDonald’s. I still know nothing about the car.

Toyota Aygo 2

Boy, am I excited! What could make me want to buy the car more than it driving through a maze full of balloons that change colour! That’s right Toyota, there IS a better way.

Peugeot 108

Brilliant, some moody lighting, and a montage of the car driving. If I need some wheels to meet a shady lover in the dead of night, I know where to look.

There. I’ve tried my best to inject the dullest part of this article with a comical interlude. But the facts remain that all of these adverts tell you nothing about the car. A car ad should be something that captivates, then charms us into wanting one more than our next breath. We want loud noises, aural symphonies, drifting, explosions, and chills down our spines. We want to feel like we’re watching an action movie, not a documentary!

Most of all, we want to react to it. We want that uncontrollable urge to tell everybody we’ve ever met just how cool the advert was. Or better still, we want to buy the car. Below is an eclectic mix of some of the very finest automotive advertising, so make a cup of tea, and sit down for the best 10 minutes you’ve spent on the internet today (probably).

E39 BMW M5

It’s spaceman meets family man. This video does without any iconic music or slick acting, It simply shocks you – or would have done back in the early noughties when this advert first hit TV screens. It leaves you to contemplate the thought of your neighbour’s new BMW outrunning a Saturn V rocket.

Peugeot 205 GTI

Do Bond’s budget cuts mean he’s ditched the Aston in favour of a cheeky little french hatchback? No. But who wouldn’t want a car that could beat an entire airforce? Perhaps it’s a little silly, but you’re talking about it, which means the advert’s worked.

Audi R8

Chillingly good. [I still have this one saved on my Sky+ box – Ed]

BMW M235i

That was cool, I want one just that little bit more now.

Audi R8

If you didn’t have a smile on your face by the end of that, you’ve got something wrong with you!

Now I’ve put the world to rights, and no doubt wasted your afternoon, maybe you’ll be a little more critical of the next car ad you see. I’ll leave you with two things. The first being this bonus clip – which is more of a short film than an advert – and the second being the overwhelming desire to own every car you’ve seen in the latter ads!

Bonus E39 BMW M5

Ned Jasper

In-depth Launch Review – Updated 2016 Audi A3

As one of the key models in the Audi range, getting the refreshed A3 right is an important job. We drove all four body types, and various engines, to see if the A3 still has what it takes in a competitive market.2016 Audi A3 UK Launch

Backstory
In the same year England crashed out of Euro ’96, Audi launched an upmarket compact hatchback to the world. Suffice to say some things don’t change – not least when it comes to football and, two decades later, Audi has released a refreshed version of the third-generation A3. Accounting for over a quarter of all 166,708 Audi sales in the UK alone last year, the A3 is clearly a big deal for the marque.

Being such a big-seller, it’s perhaps understandable that Audi has taken a subtle evolutionary approach with this mid-lifecycle update. The original third generation A3 only went on sale in 2013, so this update comes quite soon in car terms. With a significant proportion of outgoing A3 models potentially still leveraged on personal finance or business lease deals, the last thing Audi needs is to be damaging residual values with radical restyling efforts. Plus, the A3 has always been the more mature hatchback in the VAG platform-sharing world.

2016 Audi A3 UK Launch

One of these is not like the others

Update and refreshed
Keeping that maturity in mind; reprofiled front and rear bumpers, the new Audi corporate grille, and updated lighting are the biggest changes on the outside. Xenon headlights are now standard across the range, whilst higher-spec versions get fancy LED units. There’s new colours, including the ESM-pleasing Vegas Yellow, and different alloy wheel designs. In short, you’re most probably going to be a real Audi geek to be able to spot the differences. But whilst it might appear similar to the outgoing version, the technology underneath is where the biggest changes have occurred.2016 Audi A3 SportbackVirtual Cockpit, first seen in the TT and R8, is the most important news for the revised A3. It’s on the options list but, once sampled, it would be a tough call not to tick that box. Having a 12.3” screen instead of conventional instrument dials makes so much sense, with the ability to see all information right in front of you. It renders the standard 7″ MMI display on the centre console essentially redundant, to the point we drove with it retracted most of the time. Thankfully that centre screen can be dropped and raised at the press of a button. It’s a novelty – but we approved.

Remember when infotainment controllers like MMI were controversial? Yeah, we’d forgotten about that, too. The revised MMI system in the new A3 is simpler, with fewer buttons and optional touchpad atop the main controller. We’re fussy when it comes to infotainment systems, but this version of MMI is genuinely a joy to use. It’s logical, responsive and also pretty good to look at. Furthermore, it proves that touchscreens aren’t always the answer to everything.

Being 2016, online connectivity is also a big deal. With the optional Technology Pack, buyers can have an embedded SIM card fitted at the factory, allowing access to the Internets immediately. It’s worth it for the integration of Google Earth and Google Street View into the navigation system alone. In fact, our notes from the test day labelled it as “awesome” which is probably all you need to know.

Safety and assistance systems from models higher up the Audi food chain also make an, optional, appearance in the new A3. Along with adaptive cruise control there’s emergency brake assist, active lane assist, and traffic jam assist. The latter allows the A3 to keep itself in lane, brake, and accelerate on congested roads. Make no mistake – this is the onward march of autonomous driving.

Aside from new technology, the changes inside are limited to new air vents, new steering wheel designs and… that’s about it. However, it still looks suitably modern, although it should do when the previous version is less than three years old. The minimalistic style, thanks to a dashboard not dominated by an infotainment screen, makes for an attractive and well-built interior.

Revised petrol engine choices now range from a new 113hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo, to a 1.4 TFSI (featuring cylinder-on-demand tech) producing 148hp, and a 2.0-litre TFSI unit with 187hp topping the range. Diesels feature a 108hp 1.6-litre TDI, and 2.0-litre TDI units in 148hp and 181hp flavours.

All engines have the option of the S tronic dual-clutch gearbox, with the most powerful engine variants available with quattro all-wheel drive. A new S3 with 306hp is also coming soon, but not present at this launch event, and there’ll be an RS3 with even more power in due course. That excites us – a lot.

On the road

A3 Saloon 1.4 TFSI CoD [S tronic] S Line016 Audi A3 Saloon S LineSay what you will about badge snobbery, but the A3 saloon has seemingly succeeded where the Volkswagen Jetta has failed. The four-door A3 has become a desirable compact sedan, no doubt helped by strong lines and balanced proportions on the outside. (more…)

Photo Gallery – 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed – Paddock Action

Despite weather that threatened to make Goodwood seem more like Glastonbury at times, the 2016 Festival of Speed proved to be as impressive as ever. ESM was there, for two days this time, getting up close and personal with as much of the machinery as possible. We could write 1,000s of words but, instead, we’ll give you the pictures first. 2016 Goodwood Festival of SpeedTrying to pick which photos to feature isn’t easy given the ridiculous selection of race and road cars on offer at the Festival of Speed. To try and keep things simple, we’ve broken it down into three galleries: the highlights from the paddock, what the manufacturers brought to the motor show, and cars in action tackling the hill climb. In this first gallery we’ve covered our favourites from the various paddocks at Goodwood, where it’s possible to be inches away from priceless racers and motorsport icons. We’ve also included what we found after the (long) trek to the rally stage at the top of the hill, and a special feature on BMW.

2016 Festival of Speed – Main Paddock

BMW Paddock Highlights
BMW was the featured marque at the Festival of Speed, so the brand accounted for a lot of the cars on display. Including one particular car that’s very dear to ESM’s heart.  (more…)

Friday Video: 2016 Audi Sport R8 Advert ‘Spin’

We never really feel the need to justify posting anything to do with the Audi R8 here at ESM, and we just can’t escape the mesmerising attraction of the latest advert.Audi R8 V10 plus

Whilst previous R8 adverts have concentrated on the epic power and glorious sounds of the R8’s V10 engine, the latest video is apparently all about control. Perhaps Audi are rather sick of people complaining about their adverts and trying to get them banned, hence the “speed isn’t everything tagline’ from the new ‘Spin’ commercial. Clearly it isn’t glamourising speed – that R8 appears to be moving very slowly round and round in a circle. Plus it does have a soundtrack featuring Dusty Springfield which is hardly the music for some crazy driving antics. Perhaps Dusty Spinfield would be a more appropriate name. Anyway, decide for yourself here:

We’re fans, but it’ll never top our favourite R8 advert, which somebody did try to have banned in the UK would you believe? We’re glad they failed. No doubt there’ll be complaints to the ASA about ‘Spin’ also, so enjoy whilst you can.

SMMT Test Day 2016 – Part One

Returning to the SMMT Test Day after the extravagant ‘twelve cars in one day‘ affair of last year, ESM promised to try to be more selective over driving choices this year. The result was certainly a varied motoring experience, to say the least.

SMMT Test Day 2016It’s the potentially the biggest day of the year for anyone who writes about cars, bringing manufacturers and media together in one place. The problem comes from being faced with well over 100 cars from almost 40 different manufacturers – there’s almost too much choice of what to drive. But there’s also the challenge of getting to drive the most popular stuff. The Ford Focus RS, Ford Mustang, Audi R8 and BMW M2 were big attractions, so ESM decided to take a slightly more left field approach this year.

Despite the promise to avoid the ‘drive everything that moves’ scenario, we still finished the day having tried a dozen of cars. Perhaps that is just our default setting at SMMT? Either way, here’s the lowdown on what we got behind the wheel of. Due to the sheer number of cars driven, we’ve split our day into two parts.

1. SEAT Ibiza Cupra2016 SEAT Ibiza CupraWhen is a VW Polo GTI not a Polo GTI? When it’s draped in the Spanish body of a SEAT Ibiza, that’s when. Having just literally climbed out of our Polo GTI, getting back in to the Ibiza Cupra felt instantly familiar. Everything fell into place rather quickly, which meant no delay in getting up to speed in testing it out. Interestingly, the doors rattle the same as the GTI where the body meets the seal. 2016 SEAT Ibiza CupraThere are some differences, however. The exhaust note warbles a bit more than the Polo, the gearshift throw is minutely shorter, and the suspension didn’t feel quite so rock-hard in sport mode. Quite possibly we’d need to spend more than just a few short minutes with the Ibiza Cupra to draw out the individual nuances. But it’s good, and if you pick this over a Polo GTI you’re not making a bad decision. Also, tip of the hat to SEAT’s press office for emailing details of the car being driven immediately. That’s impressive service.

ESM Rating: 8.5/10
Stats: £18,900, 1.8-litre I4 turbo, 189hp/236lb-ft, 0-62mph 6.7 seconds, 146mph top speed

2. Audi RS Q3 Performance2016 Audi RS Q3 PerformanceA quattro all-wheel-drive system connected to a five-cylinder turbocharged engine sounds like a recipe for a retro rally car, rather than a fast crossover. But that’s exactly what the RS Q3 packs underneath, and it makes for a fairly entertaining creation which lets you live out your Group B rally fantasies with the whole family. (more…)

Friday Photo – The beauty of Daytona

Along with the challenge and excitement, ESM’s favourite thing about endurance racing is the fact it produces some awesome photographs. Sunsets, glowing brakes, and flaming exhausts just make for extremely photogenic scenes.

2016 24H Daytona

Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet, Kevin Estre and Nick Tandy.

We decided to pick out a few of our favourites from last weekend’s 24 Hours of Daytona, and we weren’t disappointed with the quality of pics on offer. Enjoy.