Archive | March, 2012

BMW M5 ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’

 

If you hadn’t already heard, the Olympics are coming to London this year, apparently.

And with the most famous sporting event in the world now associating itself with ‘official Olympic partners’ – as is the way in this corporate-led modern world – German automotive manufacturer BMW has marked the occasion by tearing up the beach at Pendine sands, Wales, with its latest uber-saloon, the M5, creating the toned form of an Olympic athlete in the sand.

The firm’s latest iteration of the seminal super-saloon was slewed sideways on the beach, gracefully arcing across the sand to create the stylised symbol.

The 2012 M5 has an all-new 4.4-litre V8 producing 552bhp and a wall of torque available at pretty much any RPM – 502lb ft to be precise – courtesy of twin-turbocharging forced induction.

This means a massively flexible power band of 5,000 revs. Combine a saturated low-friction surface such as sand and there’s bound to be some serious room spin involved.

But thanks to some stunning car control, V8 warble and gratuitous tail out action, you’ll almost certainly break into a smile as the video is a comforting beacon in the non-motoring friendly season for devout petrol heads, as well as proving the new BMW M5 has not lost its edge with a move to turbocharging.

In fact, the new car has addressed all the areas that came under criticism in the previous generation M5.

A new eight-speed double-clutch gearbox corrects clunky automated manual gear change of the old car, a 10-litre larger fuel tank over the standard 5 Series improves range– as well as the hunt for efficiency thanks to the forced induction – and the massive twisting forces at any revs (again from those turbos blowing hard) means that the transmission doesn’t have to be utilised with quite as vigorously as the unit mated to the previous 5.0-litre V10 screamer.

To see the new ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ doing what it does best, and witness the sensational car control of driver Wolfgang Weber on what is a seriously slippy surface – check out the video.

The ‘behind the scenes’ video with interviews from the Director, Stephen Blackman also explains how the short film was shot and gives a few more gratuitous sideways shots of the big Bee-em – lovely!

Check out the Behind the scenes video:

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London’s new hybrid bus is leading by example

With Mayor of London, Boris Johnson eventually stripping the bendy busses from the city streets of the capital, a new public urban mobility solution (don’t you just love today’s buzz words) needed to be devised.

Cue the New Bus for London, a replacement for the famous Routemaster that was recently revealed, drawing inspiration in its styling and engineering from the legendary London bus.

The famous rear step-off deck will make a return on the New Bus for London, as will a conductor, even though the bus can be operated without one. Two pairs of doors with Oyster card points and two staircases, front and back, will also feature.

More interestingly though, is that the new public transport vehicle has a hybrid power train.

The New Bus for London features a 4.5-litre Cummins turbo diesel engine acting as a generator to provide power to an air compressor for the bus’ brakes and steering, as well as delivering power to charge a 75KWh battery.

The battery provides power to a Siemens electric motor that delivers a twisting force of 1844lb ft – with it being an electric motor the torque is available from zero RPM too.

It’s the electric motor that does all the propulsion, with the diesel unit tuned to sit at optimum RPM for efficiency – just like the Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt range extending vehicle – improving the bus’ ‘green credentials’.

But all this talk (or should that be torque) of the new ultra-efficient bus for the capital has left us wondering something.

With the government showing us the way to go and leading by example, why haven’t hybrids and electric vehicles experienced a bigger take up in urban environments, especially with a £5,000 government subsidy applied to such modes of transport?

Answer: they just aren’t good enough.

The crop of all-electric vehicles such as Nissan’s LEAF, Peugeot’s iOn and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV just don’t have the range to make them functional. Nor are they able to be recharged quickly enough to make them practical.

Plug-in hybrids are getting there but still require a heavy internal combustion engine to be carried around all the time, effectively acting as fuel-economy sapping dead weight when not in use, as well as the hydrocarbon fuel they’re also carrying.

The Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt – employing similar technology as the New Bus for London, with an on board engine acting as a generator for a battery/electric motor combination – appears to be the way forward though.

So then, maybe the real answer to the question of hybrid and electric vehicle take-up is they just aren’t good enough – yet.

 

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There’s never been a better time to buy a convertible

We know it’s not customary to start searching for a convertible in the cold season – we’re in the darkest depths of winter with the country’s roads still slick with salt and atmospheric conditions not best suited to top-down motoring.

But, and it’s one of those big, wholesome well-rounded buts, the winter could mark the right time to start searching for an al fresco motoring proposition, ready for the warmth of spring and summer.

As the warm months arrive they’ll bring with them inflated prices in the two-seater market.

It’s widely recognised that open-top cars are harder to sell on with the weather doing its best to pinpoint their drawbacks – but, start scouring the classifieds before green shoots appear on the trees and a smart buyer could bag a slice of open-top motoring for an appealingly discounted price.

There’s something for everyone in the open-top class, too. Hardened track day enthusiasts will know that the Series 1 Lotus Elise is a properly focussed sports car.

Driven well, even the entry-level Elise with it’s 118bhp 1.8-litre Rover K-Series engine will rival a Porsche 911 of the same era for go and eclipses it through the twisties thanks to its superbly agile handling and 725kg kerb weight.

Believe it or not, examples of this gem of a sportscar can be had for as little as £8,000 pounds. But when spring comes, you can expect prices of even the cheapest and tattiest Elise’s to rise by at least £500.

There’s plenty for the driver looking for a more laid back approach to convertible motoring, too.

The BMW 3 Series convertible, Mercedes-Benz CLK drop-top and roofless version of Audi’s A4 can all be picked up for prices around the £10,000 mark – and that’s not the bottom of the range models either.

They may be the previous generation vehicles but with lower than average mileage (convertibles often are due to the seasonal nature of when they’re driven), gutsy straight-six, V6 and four-cylinder turbo engines respectively, electric roofs, and plenty of executive level equipment, all three examples are a bargain buy for a large chunk of premium open-top motoring.

If you’re on the look out for a convertible as a second car and don’t want to spend a great deal then there’s more affordable but no less attractive convertibles available, too.

The Mazda MX-5 MK3 on an 07 plate car can be snapped up for as little as £4,995 – the famous roadster offers sweet handling, smart styling and solid build quality.

Whatever your choice, there’s a couple of basic rules to follow. Watch all your usual motoring outlets like a hawk and don’t buy the first car you see.

Whatever you do though, don’t leave it too long as those winter prices will start to creep up to spring/summer levels.

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Top 10 Business Cars of 2012

The Benefit in Kind company car tax bands are changing for 2012 and that means many manufacturers are making some choice modifications to their line-up of business-focused models, improving overall efficiency with better fuel economy and emissions performance.

So, based on the business-biased diesel models, here is our recommendation for the top 10 (in no particular order) business cars for 2012:

  1.  Toyota Avensis – the new Avensis in D-4D spec emits an astonishing 119g/km CO2 dropping it into the lowest company car tax bracket at 17%. The new Avensis is refined, has a solid 124bhp making motorway cruises a breeze, and will return a combined fuel economy of 61.4mpg. Not bad for a big saloon.
  2. Ford Mondeo – The Mondeo has always been a brilliant drive with communicative steering and taut handling. With Ford’s 200bhp 2.2-litre turbo diesel – it still emits less than 160g/km CO2 so will be relatively wallet and environmentally friendly – the Mondeo promises hugely capable in-gear acceleration.
  3. Vauxhall Insignia – The fastback-cum-coupé styling makes the Insignia a pretty little number to look at, and available with a 2.0-litre diesel engine in either 130bhp or 160bhp tune – the later comes in at under 140g/km CO2 – you can have your cake and eat it (well, sort of) with the Insignia.
  4. Volkswagen Passat – The Passat has grown in stature over the last decade but it seems to occupy a place in the market of its own – not quite in the big league with the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Audi, yet more premium than the Mondeo, Insignia and the rest of the crop, the Passat is still a good buy. Especially with the notoriety VW has gained with its 2.0-litre turbo diesel engines.
  5. Skoda Superb – Sharing underpinnings with the MK6 VW Golf is not a bad place to start. Inheriting the former’s diesel engine line up is even better, but somehow the Superb is just a bit bland. It does everything the VW Passat does admirably but it doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Two choices of VW’s 2.0-litre diesel engine are available – a 138bhp unit and a 168bhp spec engine.
  6. Mazda6 – The Mazda6 shares its chassis with the Ford Mondeo so is bound to be a good steer. The 2.2-litre diesel engines (128, 160 and 186bhp power outputs are available) in the 6 are strong too and give a good slug of performance – it’ll hit 62mph from rest in 8.7 seconds – whilst remaining relatively efficient at 53.3mpg and 140g/km CO2.
  7. Hyundai i40 – Coming way out of left field is Hyundai’s i40 saloon. It’s a striking looking thing with some truly premium design features that bely the car’s basic £22,995 price – around £2,000 less than a similarly specced Mondeo – and comes with decent kit as standard. Its 2.0-litre diesel will return 62.8mpg combined and produce just 119g/km CO2, so it’s efficient and wont break the bank to run, too.
  8. Mercedes-Benz C-Class – The face lifted C-Class is a properly good looking car. That matinee idol face just looks effortless, and combined with Merc’s 2.2-litre diesel engine, emitting 127g/km CO2, it’s a decent drive with better than brisk performance and agile handling. The one problem with the Merc? It’s always lived the shadow of the BMW 3 Series.
  9. BMW 3 Series – In 320d EffecientDynamics trim the 3 Series will return 69.9mpg and emit ljust 109g/km CO2. So it’ll be frugal to run, dynamic, exciting and thrilling to drive, a joyous proposition to own, retain its value well, be easy to sell, and generally cover every base with aplomb. If we were recommending a best in class (whisper it) it’d be the 320d EffecientDynamics. At £27,245 it’s relatively keenly priced, too.
  10. Audi A4 – ‘Vorsprung durch technik’ or ‘advancement through technology’ (it doesn’t sound so cool in English) is what Audi does best. The new A4 offers four different 2.0-litre diesel options, two TDIe eco versions in 136 and 163bhp tune and two non-eco variants in 144 and 177bhp trim, available for the same money. Headlines figures of 112g/km CO2 and 65.7mpg for the lower powered eco diesel are pretty damn good.

 

Check out the emissions based vehicle excise duty/road tax bands to see where your business vehicle falls: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/OwningAVehicle/HowToTaxYourVehicle/DG_10012524

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