2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

New Metal | 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

The all-new sixth generation Volkswagen Polo was revealed to the world last week, along with an enhanced GTI model. Yet certain things have left ESM feeling slightly bittersweet about it all.

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

With a life spent living in the shadow of the bigger Golf GTI, it’s unprecedented for Volkswagen to announce a new Polo GTI at the same time as the regular supermini. In fact Polo GTI models have often felt like something on an afterthought, tacked on partway through a lifecycle. Not so with the new sixth-generation Polo, which will be available in cooking GTI specification from the outset.

The biggest news is under the bonnet, where the 1.8-litre TSI engine found in the current 6C Polo GTI is dispensed with, and in comes a new 2.0-litre unit. In world where everything seems to be about downsizing, there is something refreshing about a manufacturer upscaling an engine instead. Power raises slightly to 197hp, marking a minor increase of 8hp over the outgoing model, whilst gearbox choices remain as a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch. With an increase in size of the new car, we would imagine performance things to be pretty much on par with the existing Polo GTI.

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

What has clearly changed are the dimensions, with the new Polo substantially bigger by almost every marker compared to the fifth-generation. The new model is so big that Volkswagen have actually chosen to compare it to the Mk4 Golf – a measure of the expansion in supermini scale over the past two decades. Greater interior and luggage space is the reasoning for this, and it does make you wonder just how people even managed to fit inside cars from the 1990s, let alone even be comfortable within them… (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Croft – what did we learn? | Plus, exclusive photos |

Last weekend saw the British Touring Car Championship make the actual trip to the North East. EngageSportMode dispatched our BTCC Correspondent, ably assisted by Uncle Steve, to cover things on the ground as they happened. 

2017 BTCC Croft (C) BTCC

Shedden arrived at Croft leading the championship table (C) BTCC

On Sunday, BTCC fans woke to the worrying news of the injuries suffered by Luke Davenport, Jeff Smith and Aron Taylor-Smith after the horrifying crash in Saturday’s qualifying. With oil on a wet track, they were simply passengers as events unfolded. It has been a worrying time for the series and support races, as a whole, with some serious crashes in recent weeks. It’s strange to write about because this is something that we have not become accustomed to. It also shows the strength of the cars and the general safety of the series that when an event like this happens, we are so shocked, worried and surprised.

Ever since the eleven, or twelve depending on who you believe, car pile-up occurred on Saturday, I’ve been racking my brains to think of the last BTCC driver to suffer broken bones as a result of a crash. Yes, plenty have been hospitalised over the years, but to break a bone? The best I could come up with was Charlie Cox from 1995, but research suggests he suffered severe concussion rather than broken bones. I know Matt Neal drove towards the end of one of the recent seasons with a broken bone in his hand, but that wasn’t a result of a BTCC crash. Either way, the injuries suffered by Taylor-Smith (broken leg), Smith (multiple chest and shoulder injuries in addition to a broken arm) and Davenport (multiple chest injuries, lung damage, broken arm, leg and pelvis) are horrific, but thankfully rare. ESM would obviously like to send all three our best wishes for a speedy recovery.

With the traditional summer break now upon us, there is an outside chance that Taylor-Smith may be fit to race at Snetterton in seven weeks. However, you feel that it could well be the end of the season for Smith and Davenport.

Following the weekend’s action at Croft, the championship is starting to form a clearer picture. Astonishingly, championship leader, Gordon Shedden, suffered his worst result of the season in Race 15, a not so lowly ninth. However, of course he suffered a disqualification at Donington, a race that he had won. Eleven points behind him is Rob Collard who, given his past reputation, has surprisingly scored points in every single race this season and achieved a podium at each track. This new, steady approach from Collard is proving greatly effective and he will be hoping it continues for the rest of the season as he looks to win his first title. Behind Collard, are the two stars of Croft.

Colin Turkington, ‘The King of Croft’, is a point behind Collard and a further eight points behind is Ash Sutton, who is fast becoming ‘The Prince of Croft’. Sutton continued his excellent Oulton Park form by securing pole position in the truncated qualifying session and made an outstanding start to the opening race as the top six got away in order. (more…)

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…)

2017 Indianapolis 500 | Chevrolet’s Indy 500 Pace Car History

Like just about everybody else this weekend, ESM has decided to jump aboard the Indy 500 bandwagon. 2017 Corvette Grand Sport Indianapolis 500 Pace Car

Thanks to Fernando Alonso deciding to ditch the Monaco GP for a shot at Indy glory, outlets who normally wouldn’t give IndyCar the time of day are making a big deal about the Indy 500. However, the Indy 500 isn’t just one of the greatest motorsport events, it’s also a huge marketing opportunity for car manufacturers.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Indianapolis 500 Pace Car

2017 Indy 500 Pace Car – the Corvette Grand Sport

The biggest prize comes in bagging the prestigious role of supplying the pace car. For many years the race organisers alternated between different marques. However, General Motors has held an exclusive deal to be supplier since 1997, and has used Chevrolet models since 2002, meaning the choice of a C7 Corvette Grand Sport for this year should be no surprise.

We’ve taken a look back at fifteen of the Chevrolet pace cars used in the previous one hundred runnings of the Indianapolis 500.

1948 – Chevrolet Fleetmaster Six Convertible1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Indy 500 Pace Car (C) Chevrolet

The first Chevrolet to lead the field at Indy was this two-door convertible. Powered by a 216-cubic inch (3.5-litre) straight-six engine, and with a three-speed manual gearbox, the Fleetmaster was a continuation of a car first introduced before WW2. Despite just 90hp, the Fleetmaster could apparently reach over 80mph. We’re not sure why those guys don’t look more excited…

1955 – Chevrolet Bel Air 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible Indianapolis 500 Pace Car (C) Chevrolet

Introduced in 1955, the second-generation Bel Air bagged the role of Indy 500 pace car for that year. Now possibly one of the most collectable American classic cars, the ’55 Bel Air had the option of a 265-cubic inch (4.3-litre) V8 engine and even air conditioning. Power outputs for the V8 cars ranged from 162hp to 180hp, but performance was still more cruiser than sports car.

1967 – Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS 1967 Chevrolet Camaro Indy 500 Pace Car (C) Chevrolet

Performance was on the cards for 1967, with the new Camaro taking the pace car honours after a twelve-year gap for the Chevy brand. The SS model came standard with a 350-cubic inch (5.7-litre) V8, with an even bigger 396-ci (6.5-l) V8 option available in two states of tune. Naturally, Chevrolet equipped the pace car with the 396-ci engine, producing 375hp.

1969 – Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS1969 Chevrolet Camaro Indy 500 Pace Car (C) Chevrolet

Two years later the Camaro was back at Indy, with the official pace car again featuring the 396-ci V8 engine. More notable was the decision to offer a replica, with the Indy Sport Convertible Option. Buyers got the same Dove White paintwork with Hugger Orange stripes, along with the bright orange interior and cowl induction hood. Over 3,500 buyers took the plunge to pretend to be pacing the Indy field whilst driving to work. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Oulton Park – what did we learn?

The thrills and excitement of the British Touring Car Championship headed north for the latest rounds at Oulton Park. Tom Ingram had been on top of the standings for the majority of the season so far, but he didn’t leave as a happy driver after a disastrous weekend. This was the major headline from the weekend’s action, but what else did we learn?

2017 BTCC Oulton Park

Ingram wasn’t the only driver to have a poor weekend, as fellow championship rival, Colin Turkington, hardly had a dream weekend either. Ingram qualified relatively well in 11th, considering the weight, but that meant he was in a dangerous track position as the opening race started around the narrow circuit, and so it proved.

Ingram was collected by Jack Goff and was left on the grass as a result, while the rest of the field filed by. However, later in the race, worse was to happen as his back wheel came loose and he retired accordingly. Like Matt Neal’s rather unexpected 2 pole positions in a row, Ingram suffered two DNFs in a row. Things hardly improved for Ingram in the final race with a spin, although he did pick up a solitary point for his weekend’s efforts with a fastest lap. Where does this leave Ingram’s title chances? Realistically, Ingram would have been delighted to be 3rd in the standings after twelve rounds and he’s still in a great position to challenge for the championship.

Similarly, you can’t write Turkington off, especially with his favourite hunting ground of Croft coming up next. Turkington had suffered from electrical gremlins during Saturday’s qualifying and they appeared to return after he bumped into the back of Aiden Moffat during a great battle at the front. The subsequent problem dropped Turkington to the back of the pack, something he did well to recover in the second race to a low scoring points position, before finishing fifth in the final race of the day.

2017 BTCC Oulton Park

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New Metal | Volkswagen Up GTI Concept

We seem to have been teased for years about a possible hot version of VW’s city car. Finally, we’re almost there, with the announcement of this production-ready concept.

2017 Volkswagen Up GTI Concept

The ‘concept’ tag needs to be taken pretty lightly. From the details released, and the photos supplied by Volkswagen, this thing looks as close to being fit for human consumption as possible. Come 2018 you’ll be able to take home an Up GTI from your local VW dealership, and we’ll be very surprised if it looks different to this. We’re still mildly disappointed that Volkswagen didn’t take our suggestion of naming it the ‘Power Up’ though.

2017 Volkswagen Up GTI Concept

Power comes from a tuned version of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine used in the normal Up. However, it’s been boosted to deliver 113hp and 148lb-ft of torque. Granted in 2017 that doesn’t sound like a great deal for a hot hatch, when the latest Mk7.5 Golf GTI packs almost 227hp, and the Golf R is endowed with over 305hp. So why would we be getting excited about a city car with so little power, even if it does have a six-speed manual gearbox?

2017 Volkswagen Up GTI Concept

Volkswagen is keen to play up the similarities between the Up GTI and the original Mk1 Golf GTI. That 1976 car used a 1.6-litre engine, producing 110hp, and was able to do 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds, plus a top speed of 113mph. By contrast, the Up GTI is even quicker, doing 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds, and topping out at a claimed 122mph. On paper at least, it therefore beats the most thumbed page in the Volkswagen GTI history book. A low weight of 997kg for the Up GTI compares favourably to a Golf from 40 years ago, which tipped the scales at just 810kg. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Thruxton – What did we learn?

The British Touring Car Championship returns this weekend, with the action taking place at Oulton Park. Our BTCC Correspondent recaps what happened last time out at Thruxton.

BTCC 2017 Thruxton

Thruxton may be home to the fastest corner on the BTCC calendar, but the latest rounds won’t be remembered for being a classic. Other than the incidents of a farcical second race, it was, in truth, a fairly processional affair. However, what else did we learn?

First of all, for how many years have we complained about the tyres at Thruxton and, in particular, punctures? This year, there were no major incidents, which ironically meant it perhaps wasn’t as entertaining as we’ve become accustomed to. Whether the tyres will ever be good enough to allow a soft option tyre here remains to be seen, but great credit must go to Dunlop for this season’s tread. A slight change in the compound make-up and width seems to have made all the difference, which is great if the drivers can now concentrate on driving without the worry of punctures.

Another thing we have become used to seeing at Thruxton is front wheel drive cars at the front, especially the Hondas. Saturday’s qualifying and the opening race seemed to continue the form guide as the evergreen duo of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden in the manufacturer Hondas and Eurotech’s Jack Goff held the top 3 positions. An astonishing point to note is that it was Neal’s first pole in nearly five years. However, from the second race onwards, it was the BMW show – helped by the sunny conditions, which in turn helped their tyres.

BTCC 2017 Thruxton

Wins for Rob Collard and Colin Turkington handed BMW their 100th outright BTCC win. It’s a great achievement by one of the stalwart teams of the series.  Following the BMWs’ performance at Thruxton, supposedly one of their weaker circuits, they must be seriously confident for the rest of the season. Turkington is now less than 20 points behind leader Tom Ingram and must be feeling confident that title number 3 could be on its way if his and BMW’s form continues. (more…)

Friday Video | Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT drag race

We’re not shy about being fans of Hemi power here at EngageSportMode, even when placed in something slightly inappropriate like an SUV. This video might demonstrate why.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

Hurrah, we can use our preferred ‘nobody needs one, but we still love’ line again! The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is totally unnecessary, but we still love the fact it exists. We love the new Hellcat-powered Trackhawk version even more, but that’s not the one making waves here today.

No, this is just the ‘regular’ Hemi-powered SRT Grand Cherokee with a 468hp 6.4-litre V8, taking on a classic hot rod. Naturally this hot rod is based on a Ford Model A body, but this too features a Hemi engine up front. We can’t really say ‘under the hood’ given that this one has pretty much gone sans bonnet.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT UK

It’s also a little bit of an unfair matchup, given that the Hemi in the hot rod is 1956 DeSoto FireDome unit – the original Chrysler hemispherical engine. With 304hp it’s a little bit down on the new 6.3-litre motor in the Grand Cherokee, even if it does have substantially less weight to haul. So who won? Well, we won’t spoil the surprise for you:

So yes, we’d still quite happily have an SRT Grand Cherokee please, Jeep.

News | Porsche produces one-millionth 911

It might have taken over 53 years of production, but Porsche has finally built the one-millionth version of the 911. It’s green, and a little bit hipster.

2017 One-millionth Porsche 911

Painted ‘Irish Green’ in fact, and apparently inspired by a colour used on a 911 owned by the founder of the company – Ferry Porsche. Put together by the Porsche Exclusive team inside the Zuffenhausen factory, the one-millionth 911 is meant to celebrate the history included in the previous 999,999 examples built before it. But you can’t buy it, and it’s heading to spend a life within Porsche’s own museum.

2017 One-millionth Porsche 911

Cynical marketing creation? Why of course. Despite the fact the Cayenne and Macan SUVs have kept the company afloat, and helped transform it into a hugely profitable concern, the 911 is still the golden goose at the heart of the Porsche brand. So with a company that majors on reminiscing the history of the 911, celebrating this particular manufacturing milestone was a ‘no-brainer’ for the marketing folk.

2017 One-millionth Porsche 911

We could possibly even label this as the ‘hipster 911’ with the choice of interior and exterior colour choices. Historic paintwork? Check. Steering wheel and dashboard featuring mahogany trim like the original 911? Check. Seats clad in ‘pepita’ cloth trim like it’s still 1964? Also present. Retro-recreations of the Porsche crest badges used on the original car? Yes, they’re here, too.

This is the Porsche that wants coffee produced from a bespoke copper still, with hand-selected beans. It wants food served on a slate, by a waiter with a beard and tattoos. Ok, we could go with the clichés, but we’ll stop here. We imagine any true hipster would pine for the one-millionth Volkswagen Beetle which was produced way back in 1955 anyway… (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Donington Park – What did we learn?

The first race weekend in the 2017 British Touring Car Championship failed to excite our correspondent. What did he take away from Donington Park?2017 BTCC | Donington Park

After a rather tepid affair at Brands Hatch last time out, the action and drama heated up at Donington Park on a weekend marred by the horrific injuries suffered by Billy Monger in the F4 support race. Apart from learning there was more brilliance shown from the marshals and medical services at the track, what else did we learn?

It is perhaps time to stop referring to Tom Ingram, Aiden Moffat, Jack Goff and Josh Cook et al. as ‘young guns’ and ‘rookies’ despite their age and experience after yet more sterling efforts at Donington. In fact, Ingram leads the championship, as his outstanding displays from Brands Hatch continued. Ingram was naturally helped in achieving this by Gordon Shedden’s failed ride height in the final race where he’d crossed the line first. However, Ingram followed up a strong qualifying with a brace of fifth place finishes and another win. He is deservedly top of the ladder and it is a great achievement for Speedworks and Ingram.

When you consider that Ingram is already 82 points ahead of Jason Plato, you would suggest the he will be, or is, a serious title challenger, but what is happening to Plato? His new teammate, Ash Sutton, has outperformed him so far and achieved two podiums at Donington, and these were achieved after starting at the back in the opening race after his qualifying pole lap was discounted. Rarely has Plato been uncompetitive in his BTCC career, but this season has been quite disastrous so far, albeit six races in and with a DNS. A serious championship contender can perhaps afford one bad event per season, yet alone two when the competition is as tough as this season’s. Although, I didn’t publicly air my predictions for the season, I did fancy Plato in what looked like a strong Subaru last season. Will he win the championship? No.

Similarly, Moffat won’t win the championship either, but we did learn that his consistent improvement over the last couple of years has been finally rewarded with a maiden win. It was a great effort from the Scot and I’m sure that it will be the first of many in what promises to be an excellent career. He seems a genuine chap, who just wants to race and not be bothered by complaining about boost levels and such like as some of the field mix themselves with.

2017 BTCC | Donington Park

The mere sight of rain clouds often causes panic and more debate amongst teams and drivers, yet sheer pandemonium greets the precipitation and it was no different at Donington. Generally, the drivers hate rain and the fans love it because it makes the racing unpredictable and ups the ante of excitement. Race three was no different. Several drivers took the scenic route on the warm up laps and the race was stopped after a lap with cars strewn everywhere, including leader Matt Neal. It was, as a fan, brilliant to watch. It was, as a driver, a nightmare.

Why? These drivers are meant to be the best in Britain, yet some of them are calling for the race to be delayed, stopped and so on. Motorsport is dangerous, we all know that, but if you’re not prepared to play ball, don’t race. Similarly, the F1 drivers have a tantrum at the sight of rain. They are meant to be the best in the world. Yet, their former supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, even pondered the idea of fake rain via sprinklers to liven up the races. As a driver, the spray is obviously horrendous, blinding, but surely in 2017 there must be some technological advances somewhere to ease the problem in one way or another? Admittedly, there were small streams across the track, but again, remind yourself that these are supposedly the best drivers in Britain. Again, do we not have the technology to easy these problems? A lot of questions, I know, but it seems completely stupendous that we have to stop racing because it’s a bit wet. (more…)