Short Review

2017 Volvo V90 D5

Quick Review | Volvo V90 D5 PowerPulse AWD R-Design

Yes, it’s a huge diesel estate on EngageSportMode. It’s also one of the best cars we’ve driven this year, and we’re not ashamed to admit it.

2017 Volvo V90 D5

When we recently wrote about Volvo’s new electrification strategy, we mentioned how we’d been somewhat seduced by an experience with their product range. This particular V90 is the one which lured us in, and we’re still pining for it now to be honest.

2017 Volvo V90 D5

But why? Well, the way it looks for a start. For a giant station wagon, the V90 is a genuinely beautiful thing. Volvo’s new corporate style certainly helps, with distinctive grille and headlights much of the appeal. R-Design specification adds a different front-end, with a unique bumper featuring integrated fog lights but, to be honest, the V90 actually works best in standard trim. The pointed estate rear is far more successful than the truncated S90 saloon, and also creates a distinctive side profile.

2017 Volvo V90 D5


Quick Review | MINI John Cooper Works Challenge

Can a MINI priced at £32,000 ever really be worthwhile? Well, yeah actually, based on our brief experience at the 2017 SMMT Test Day.

2017 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge

On the face of it paying the same amount as a Volkswagen Golf R, or a Ford Focus RS, for any MINI may seem hopelessly decadent, or even foolish. But stick with us on this, because the John Cooper Works (JCW) Challenge manages to back up the big price tag.

We were a little undecided on the regular JCW hatch when we drove it at the 2015 SMMT Test Day, with the automatic gearbox fitted to that particular car seeming intent on spoiling the fun. Thankfully a six-speed manual is the only option for the JCW Challenge – phew – and it fits perfectly with the hardcore ethos the car is meant to embody, being based on the Challenge race car.

2017 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge

This is, essentially, a parts bin special with a host of bolt-on goodies from aftermarket performance suppliers. Were this the early 2000s, the ‘shopping list’ decals on the doors would be very long indeed. Brembo supplies the four-pot brake calipers, whilst Mintex provides the pads. Michelin is responsible for the grippy Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, which wrap around lightweight 17” Team Dynamics alloy wheels. Finally, the two most important items are the adjustable coilover suspension from Nitron, and the Quaife limited-slip differential.

2017 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge

The latter two have a substantial impact on how the JCW Challenge drives. The Quaife automatic torque biasing diff is seriously aggressive, but allows the JCW’s 228hp and 236lb-ft to be transferred to the road with zero fuss. Add in the almost instantaneous turn-in response from the steering, to a rock-hard suspension setup, and the feeling really is like driving a giant go-kart. (more…)

Short Review | 2016 BMW M240i Convertible

The M235i might be gone, but the replacement has even more performance. We took a short, topless, drive, to see if the M240i stacks up as a cut-price M2 alternative.2016 BMW M240i Convertible

Full disclosure. The M240i does not have a 4.0-litre engine. BMW nomenclature has paid little attention to engine capacity for years, so don’t be fooled. No, under the bonnet is a 3.0-litre straight-six TwinPower turbo engine, that has gained more horsepower and torque. Peak power has increased to 335hp – a rise of 14hp – whilst twist is up to 369lb-ft. That last figure is significant for two reasons: it’s the same torque as found in the E39 M5 but, more importantly, it’s the exact same amount as the M2 Coupé.

2016 BMW M240i Convertible

Performance is improved over the M235i, with 0-62mph taking just 4.7 seconds in the M240i when fitted with the optional eight-speed Sport Automatic gearbox. The six-speed manual car needs 4.9 seconds to do the same sprint, with both topping out at an electronically limited 155mph top speed. We didn’t experience the three pedal car, so can’t comment on how it compares, but the automatic ‘box is supremely efficient and effective at banging through the ratios. Eight gears are probably overkill, especially with so much torque on offer, but they contribute to respectable sounding CO2 and mpg figures.2016 BMW M240i Convertible

The automatic transmission also suits the slightly more laid-back, cruiser, image of the Convertible version. (more…)

Short Review – BMW 420d Coupé

Tonight we hand you over to our good friend and technological expert The Tame Geek, who has been behind the wheel of another new car!

Short Review – BMW 420d Coupé

BMW 420d Coupé 001

Another review of a car that’s not from the VW Group?! YES! The Tame Geek has been busy! Busy and loving it.

As regular readers will know, I have a soft spot for coupés. I love the way they look, the way they drive and the way they make you feel. So after getting offered a drive in a brand new type of coupé, I couldn’t turn it down.

There have been big shifts in BMW over the last few years. After loosing their way a bit and releasing abominations like the X6, it was clear that a change was needed. First up was an all new 3 Series. The car that has been the leader in the C/D segment since it was invented, was important. Audi, Mercedes and VW had been chipping away at sales and had been closing the gap between them and the top dog.

The new 3 Series blew them all back. Faster, more economical and with more kit, it quickly re-established its dominance. There’s only one thing it didn’t have. A coupé. Audi never released an A4 coupé; they released the A5. They never released an A3 coupé; they brought us the TT.

BMW 420d Coupé 002


Short Review – Ford Focus ST Estate Mountune

EngageSportMode is a fan of quick estates so, when given the chance to get behind the wheel of Ford’s latest hot load-lugger, we jumped at the opportunity.

Ford Focus ST Estate Mountune 000

To get it out of the way, the colour is called Tangerine Scream. Quite frankly it sums up the nature of the Focus ST Mountune perfectly. This car really does make you want to shout – in a good way – when you’re behind the wheel of it. So what makes this orange dog-carrier so much fun?

Ford Focus ST Estate Mountune 001


Hyundai i30 – Short Review

EngageSportMode’s BTCC Correspondent recently went on holiday to France. Whilst he was there, he found himself with a Hyundai i30 at his disposal. So what did he make of the Korean hatchback?

Hyundai Holiday Hell? Quite the Opposite…

I was recently lucky enough to have a mini break in the South of France. On arrival at Montpellier Airport, I knew that I was going to have a new experience – driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. We were the typical Brits before we arrived, having searched the Internet for the cheapest and best possible hire car deal. In the end, I was fairly pleased as we had settled on a new shape Ford Focus. As I drive a similar sized car, a SEAT Leon TFSI, I was interested to see how a Focus shaped up in comparison. However, on arrival at Hertz, I was told our hire car was now a Hyundai i30. Apparently, despite having confirmation for a Ford Focus, they were able to and did change it to a similar car in the same category. (more…)

To Infiniti, But Probably Not Beyond

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:


Volkswagen Take up! – Short Test

ESM lives, like rather a lot of people in the UK do, in a city. As such, sensibly (and predictably) ESM drives what is best described as city-car. The end result is making this writer rather well positioned to pass judgement on Volkswagen’s new baby; the up!

VW’s recent track record with the smallest of automotive contenders has been a mixed bag. The Lupo was well regarded but expensive, with the Fox conversely managing to be cheap but unlikeable. With the up! VW hopes to finally kill both metaphorical birds with one polished jewel of a stone.

Even with the £7,995 priced, entry-level, Take up! I got chance to drive there is a sense that this is not just another cheap commodity item. A new car always looks shiny, even in black, but you get the impression those years of grime and bird-crap won’t stop the up! from looking any less glossy. Standard steel wheels add a sense of utility to the Take up! (factory alloy wheels aren’t even an option on this base model) making kerbs less fearsome. (more…)

Stealth and Safety

What car would a Ninja drive? Maybe a Nissan Skyline GT-R for some knockout power or perhaps a Honda NSX for shuriken sharp handling? Or, what about an electric car; smooth and serene, thus allowing them to sneak up on their intended target without being heard? If so, the car ESM has driven today may be the Ninja’s new best friend.

A few weeks ago my mother told me she would be changing her company car. The options were not good. Currently she drives a diesel Mk5 Golf (not even the good 2.0TDi but the ancient engined 1.9TDi version instead), having turned down the option of a VW Jetta (bad move). But the new list consisted of…..a Toyota Prius, or a Toyota Auris Hybrid. This was far, far worse than a rattly diesel Golf.

Luckily, still being of sane mind, my Mam realised how awful the Prius would be and ruled it out straight away. This left only the Auris, all by itself. The Auris is an uneventful car; stout, stable and solid along with being built in Britain. Quite frankly it is the Mark’s & Spencer boxer short of motoring. Something I could see Sir John Major in (the car, not the boxer shorts that is).