BTCC 2017 | Knockhill – What did we learn?

The annual trip to Scotland produced three entertaining races, helped by more incidents of dubious driving standards. The series left Knockhill with a new leader at the top of the standings, but what else did we learn?

2017 BTCC Knockhill

Colin Turkington now leads the way following a hat-trick of thirds from Ash Sutton, while the former leader, Gordon Shedden, sits third and twelve points off top. Saturday’s qualifying saw a Subaru 1-2 with Jason Plato finally producing what we’ve come to expect of him, just ahead of the championship charging Sutton.

Plato duly converted his 50th pole position into a 96th BTCC victory and incredibly his first since the opening race at Knockhill twelve months ago. Although Sutton raced hard, and after a failed switch to try to gain an extra point for leading a lap, this race deservedly belonged to Plato. Their challengers, Turkington and Rob Collard, were a small gap behind the top two, but miles ahead of the rest of the field, which were headed by James Cole, who achieved a career best hat-trick of fifths over the weekend.

2017 BTCC Knockhill

The Subaru dominance continued in the second race, although the drivers switched finishing positions, further enhancing Sutton’s title credentials, while the three behind remained the same as before. The main talking point of the second race came within the first twenty seconds as a large crash, triggered by Andrew Jordan, wiped out several drivers. Jordan out-braked himself which meant he rammed Matt Neal, who in turn went into Senna Proctor who then collected Jordan. A few others had to take evasive action and ended up in the gravel trap, ruining their races too.

It was good to see Jordan admit his mistake afterwards, although it didn’t save him from a hefty fine and penalty points on his licence. Jordan has never shown championship form since winning the title in 2013 and this was a poor mistake. A championship challenge isn’t helped by moving teams each year, but he just doesn’t look as formidable as he was once.

However, the Subarus at Knockhill certainly looked formidable. In the second race, all four were inside the top seven – quite incredible. Just why did they go so well? Sutton’s looked great all season, but the other three have been nowhere to be seen. In Scotland, real wheel drive power was a huge advantage as the top five in the first two races were all powered from the rear. But then, why weren’t the BMWs seriously challenging? This could be down to the Subarus’ boxer engine which allows for a better centre of gravity and on a circuit such as Knockhill, this extra edge could well have been the difference. (more…)

Friday Video | BMW enters the future

Right now the BMW Concept Z4 is the garnering all the attention, as a thinly disguised version of next year’s production car. Yet something else from BMW caught our eye this week.2017 BMW Concept Z4

Yes, yes, BMW have plastered the word concept all over this Z4, but the reality is we would be amazed if the new roadster looked any different to this. It’s certainly not a bad-looking thing, with elements clearly influenced by the i8, but also some subtler homages to the ‘flame surfacing’ legacy of Chris Bangle. Oh how we laughed at his designs when released, yet now they still look modern. Sorry, Chris.

2017 BMW Concept Z4

Given the tepid nature of the current Z4, anything that makes BMW’s roadster more exciting can only be a good thing. The Munich firm promises a ‘stripped back’ experience, with the aim of creating an ‘all-out’ driving experience. Hopefully the finished car delivers on these bold promises, and keeps the Energetic Orange matt paintwork and minimalist interior.

However, it’s not the most exiting thing we’ve seen from BMW recently though, as we came across this video on YouTube:

In case you’re wondering, The Drone Racing League is a fast-growing competition, using high-performance drones capable of hitting 85mph. With major investment from companies like Sky, and F1-owners Liberty Media, the Drone Racing League is getting high-profile coverage. But a demonstration inside the BMW Welt exhibition centre and museum is another level. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Snetterton – What did we learn?

A week is a long time. Here’s a reminder what happened last weekend when the BTCC circus rolled in to Norfolk. ESM’s BTCC Correspondent wasn’t too impressed with proceedings.

2017 BTCC Snetterton

The series returned following the summer sabbatical, but in all honesty, we didn’t really learn a great deal. After Croft, the championship looked like it was going to be a four-way battle and this weekend’s action confirmed this thought following heavy points hauls for the current top four.

Colin Turkington’s rear wheel drive power enabled him to make Jack Goff’s clear view of the track last no further than the first 100 metres or so and championship contender Turkington sped off into the distance, or so it seemed. An extremely rare mistake, or a slippery surface, halfway through the race caused Turkington to spin off, although he did eventually recover to seventh. Ash Sutton strengthened his championship position by hunting down Goff, who was set for his first win, and used his superior tyre grip to secure the victory.

2017 BTCC Snetterton

The day’s second race was again fairly dull until about half distance. However, this time it was a lights to flag victory for Sutton while all three BMWs hunted him down as a pack, although Goff ran second for quite some time. Rob Collard went into the weekend second in the championship and he needed a slight tap on Goff to achieve second in the race, although Turkington made a great move on him to secure the position for himself later in the race.2017 BTCC Snetterton

Sutton’s chance of winning all three races ended on an entertaining opening lap of the final race as a collision with Rob Austin ended both of their races, but Sutton later alleviated Austin of any blame, although it looked a rash move. Unlike the previous two races, most of the action in this race came at the start, rather than at the end. However, race leader Andrew Jordan suffered what appeared to be an electrical issue on the penultimate lap, whilst leading with a decent gap, which gifted the race win to championship leader, Gordon Shedden.

The victory meant that Shedden held on to his lead at the top of the standings, although with a reduced margin as the top four are now covered by eleven points. At the back of that pack, but most definitely in form is Sutton. Disregarding the retirement in the final race, Sutton had finished no lower than fourth in the previous eight races, winning four of them; serious championship form. (more…)

Friday Video | Muted Mustang GT

The world of EngageSportMode is slightly sad this week, and Ford’s latest updates about the new 2018 Mustang GT aren’t really helping.

2018 Ford Mustang GT

Why the long face? Well, the nice man from Ford came and took our Mustang V8 GT Convertible away on Monday, and things just haven’t been the same since. No longer can we sleep soundly in the knowledge that 5.0-litres of eight-cylinder power is close at hand, or that our Shell loyalty card will be gaining new points soon. But, we’re also guessing that people nearby are glad not to be dealing with the immediate rain showers every time the roof was dropped, or hearing the tugboat burble of a big V8 motor.

2018 Ford Mustang GT

Although the 2018 Mustang won’t do anything about the weather, it would be able to help with the issue of noise. Whilst we didn’t find the V8 GT ‘Coyote’ engine to be ridiculously loud – it’s certainly no modified Subaru Impreza – it still made its presence known. Ford knows this, and that’s why the new 2018 ‘Stang is going to feature a “Good Neighbour Mode” on certain versions:

Using the active exhaust valves to quieten an engine is pretty novel to us, given that most cars with an exhaust button are there solely to make things louder. Which the new 2018 Mustang will also do, with Sport and Track mode settings that we certainly approve of. (more…)

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

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New Metal | Hyundai i30 N

It seems to have spent an inordinate amount of time lapping the Nürburgring, but Hyundai’s new hot hatch is finally here. 

2017 Hyundai i30 N

Hyundai is suitably proud of the fact that the new i30 N has racked up some 6,000 miles of testing at the fearsome Nürburgring-Nordschleife circuit. That includes competition running in the ADAC 24 hours race, along with substantial time polishing and refining the dynamics. It means Hyundai is putting real faith in the i30 N being able to perform on track.

2017 Hyundai i30 N

Before we go any further; what does the ‘N’ stand for? According to Hyundai it symbolises the shape of a chicane, and is relevant to this i30 being developed in both Namyang and at the Nürburgring. There are plans for more N-branded road cars, but this is where it all begins for real.

2017 Hyundai i30 N

Although in reality, things started quite some time before 2017. Hyundai has been competing in the World Rally Championship with the i20 WRC car, wearing N badges, since 2014. Also, Hyundai offered the i30 Turbo as part of the previous generation range. We tested the old i30 Turbo and found it broadly commendable, plus a solid platform for future hot hatches. As such, we’ve high hopes for the i30 N, based on our previous quick Hyundai experiences and the wealth of performance equipment thrown at this new car.

2017 Hyundai i30 N

Power comes from a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, producing 247hp and 260lb-ft of torque. There is, however, an optional Performance Package that along with various other tweaks, boosts power to a more substantial 271hp. This leaves the i30 N in something of a hot hatch hinterland – more powerful than a Golf GTI, but with less horsepower than a Golf R, for example. (more…)

Editorial | Volvo – fully switched on from 2019?

If you’ve read the news lately, you could be forgiven for thinking that Volvo has killed the combustion engine. No, not quite, but you can’t blame the company for blowing its own trumpet a little. 

Volvo T8 Twin Engine Range

Given the past year, and the risk of being labelled a traitor or enemy of the people, we’d wonder if any organisation would be truly happy about making the front cover of the Daily Mail. But that’s exactly what Volvo got on Thursday, along with sizeable coverage in the The Times and The Guardian. The reaction on social media was slightly more mixed, with many pointing out that the newspapers and other had massively misunderstood the announcement by Volvo. This wasn’t ‘pure electric cars only’ as a strategy, and manufacturers like Lexus already offer hybrids across their model range.

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

Perhaps there was a, justifiable, element of resentment from other brands, that Volvo has stolen so much of the headlines with this announcement. For a carmaker to be on the front page of multiple newspapers and not to have done something wrong – Volkswagen – is rather rare. But that is exactly what Volvo achieved yesterday. Granted many mainstream journalists got completely the wrong end of the stick, and believed Volvo would banish the internal combustion engine completely by 2019. However, we imagine Volvo’s PR department were still rather pleased with the coverage all the same.

Volvo S90 T8 Twin-Engine

The truth is virtually all major manufacturers are going to need to further embrace hybrid and electric vehicles, in order to meet the EU’s 2021 target of fleet CO2 emissions averaging no more than 95g/km. That’s quite a tall order, and therefore the more ultra-low and zero-emissions cars a manufacturer has, the lower their overall fleet CO2 average. This is why Volvo is not dispensing with internal combustion in 2019, but merely ensuring it becomes a smaller part of their model range and, where still offered, includes some form of hybrid system to further reduce CO2 outputs. (more…)

New Metal | 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody

America is in a rather strange situation politically at the moment. Thankfully, things are just as crazy in the world of muscle cars. How better to improve on the Challenger SRT Hellcat than by making it wider?2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody

Yes, it’s another Mopar creation on EngageSportMode. No, we’re not sponsored by Dodge. Although if Sergio Marchionne wants to share some of his indeterminable wealth, we’re more than happy to sell out here. Or we will accept payment in the form of a Challenger SRT Hellcat.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody

“Happy 4th of July! Let’s celebrate it by adding a widebody kit to the already mental 707hp SRT Hellcat”. We like to think that those were the words which came out of the Dodge engineers, and marketeers, responsible for this latest creation. This wasn’t a particularly challenging exercise for the people at Dodge; taking the flared fenders from the Demon and slotting them on the Hellcat instead. (more…)

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…)

1999 6N2 Polo GTI

Back Catalogue | Volkswagen Polo GTI

With a new Volkswagen Polo GTI announced, we’ve taken a look back at the previous versions of Wolfsburg’s supermini that have worn the fabled hot hatch badge. And not just because ESM’s editor has owned two of them…

VW Polo GT

Ok, maybe the ownership history plays a small part in it, but there’s also the motivation to raise the profile of the Polo GTI and its ancestors. Having spent some 19 years living in the shadow of the bigger Golf GTI, we think it’s only fair that the Polo gets some attention. There were fast Polos before the GTI, but here we’ve stuck with the six that were given the GTI badge.

1998 – 6N Polo GTI


Until 1998, the most powerful version of the third-generation 6N Polo was the 1.4-litre 16V model with 100hp. Things changed in 1998, with the introduction of a limited edition GTI, boasting a 1.6-litre engine producing 120hp. Suspension lowered by 15mm, a set of 15″ BBS RXII alloy wheels, uprated brakes, and a standard Electronic Differential Lock were the other mechanical changes.

Inside was a leather-wrapped steering wheel, with sports seats and red-edged floors mats also part of the package. Only 3,000 cars were produced, and all in left-hand drive, meaning the UK would have to wait slightly longer for a Polo GTI.

 

1999 to 2002 – 6N2 Polo GTI

1999 6N2 Polo GTI

ESM’s editor had one. He still talks about it now. A lot…

As part of a comprehensive mid-life facelift, Volkswagen made the Polo GTI a permanent fixture on the 6N2 price list. Much was carried over from the 6N GTI including the same 1.6-litre engine, but with power boosted to 125hp. This drove the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox, which gained a reputation for failure at high mileage. Something the 6N2 GTI owned by ESM’s editor fortunately managed to avoid. 0-62mph needed 8.7 seconds, with a top speed of 127mph, meaning performance was more warm than boiling.

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