Archive | October, 2012

Jeep Grand Cherokee With No Reservations

Go on, admit it. You secretly like American cars, don’t you? We’ve heard all the arguments against – poor build quality, massive size, shocking fuel economy, won’t go around corners and so on that will have you nodding your head in agreement down the pub; and yet secretly, at home in your automotive closet, your desire for a yank tank is bursting to get out.

Obviously the blame must lay squarely at the feet of Tony Soprano, cruising around New Jersey in a vast Cadillac Escalade with that desirable V8 rumble as a background. The 2013 Escalade delivers a mighty 402bhp from a 6.2L V8 and looks like it could push through rock with barely a grunt. The downside is surely going to be fuel economy which, for the impoverished British motorist is the be all and end all.

There is however an alternative that looks the part whilst Whether you play the American, British or French version, you will have fun choosing your lucky numbers, colours and combinations!Don’t forget that you will always have the opportunity to play free roulette and gain more knowledge until you are ready for some real action!  Hvordan du Downloader:Oplev glamouren og sp?ndingen af spil hos 888. still offering a respectable 34mpg and a not great but acceptable 218g/km of the nasty stuff. It’s the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but this time, instead of a hairy-chested V8, the brand is offering the new S-Limited, powered by a more sensible 3.0L V6 diesel with 237bhp. So here we have an American auto but with economy whilst still maintaining very respectable performance.

It’s good looking too, if in a rather suspiciously familiar way. At around £45k you get a lot of car for your wampum. There’s ‘Quadra-Lift’ air suspension on the Overland version, fabulous 20” alloys in desirable black, a featured grille and a powered tailgate. There’s ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel too.

Most importantly, this is a car for music lovers everywhere. Get your ‘Best of AC/DC’ tunes ready because Jeep have fitted a Harmon-Kardon music system which belts out no less than 825 Watts of ear-bleeding sound through no less than nineteen speakers and three sub-woofers, whatever they are. Now that’s surround sound.

The really good news is that because of the globalisation and general amalgamations of the worldwide motor industry – including the sharing of platforms and manufacturing techniques – build quality from across the pond has improved no end and should now be at the European standard we expect. In this case the platform is shared with the 2012 Mercedes Benz M-Class, and you can’t say fairer than that. Road going comfort with genuine off-road ability.

So be brave. Don your war paint and reach for the plastic. Dare to be different, before it’s too late.

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Small Is The New Big

If you are fans of the author Lee Child’s thrillers featuring the character Jack Reacher, you will be excited to learn that a silver screen adaptation will soon reach a multiplex near you. Avid readers will know that Jack, at 6’5”, is one massive, muscular dude. It therefore comes as no surprise to learn that the studio has cast the not-so-youthful Tom Cruise in the leading role. Tom, you will remember, is not noted for being especially massive, slightly lacking as he is in the area of extreme tallness, for example: but you never know. He’s a quality actor, so perhaps he can carry it off.

It’s the same with cars. Take the Fiat Panda. This is a small, trendy car clearly destined for the city and is, like Tom, easy to park in a confined space. Yet the canny buyer knows that a 4×4 version exists and it is a mini revelation off road. It sits a little higher than its towny siblings but that, and the fact that it has a diff-lock, are the only differences yet the car really delivers when the going gets gnarly. In other words it is capable of something it wasn’t considered suitable for. Meanwhile Arnold Schwarzenegger insisted on buying a hairy-chested but utterly pointless Hummer to drive around Los Angeles; a motor which in the UK would require a parking space the size of the Isle of Wight.

The point is: if something doesn’t look fit to do the job, can we necessarily assume this to be the case? The universally loathed Lada Riva of historical notoriety was shockingly awful but its cousin the four wheel drive Niva – in many ways also shockingly awful if we‘re honest – was like a tough little mountain goat when taken into rough country. Diminutive city cars have shown that they are perfectly capable of long arduous trips which they were not allegedly designed for, whilst Range Rovers have had in the past a reputation for being a bit sensitive and temperamental in the electrical department.

So, does size matter? Do we care who actually plays Jack Reacher as long as the movie is good? No, of course not. If we can take Keira Knighley as a pagan warrior queen then we’ll not worry too much about Tom as he leaps up to punch foul villains on the jaw.

What you should take from this is that when buying a car, appearances can be deceptive. Because a vehicle looks rugged and smokes Marlboro, it doesn’t mean it is what you need to the job. For example, there’s a trend just now to buy butch 4×4 pick-ups with huge chromium roll bars and many lights.

People! Hounslow is not in Arizona! You do not live in the outback! You do not need ‘roo bars! These trucks are workhorses; they are not for outings to the seaside. They are mostly fitted with leaf springs at the back to support heavy loads and this will bounce your passengers around until they are overcome with nausea. Just like the movies, when it comes to buying cars don’t let appearances deceive you. Good things can come in small packages. Just ask Mrs Cruise. Actually; no. Don’t.

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Sao Paulo Sensations

Motor shows are perennially popular. They are the conduit for manufacturers to let the buying public know about their latest offerings and concepts. They tell us which way the industry is going. Up here in the hard lands of the winter we’re used to hearing about the shows in Europe and the Far East, but down in the Southern Hemisphere, where the other half live, people buy cars too apparently and one of their most prestigious motor shows has just closed in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Manufacturers are keen to commit to Brazil as they see it as a growing and productive economy, unlike stagnant Europe. Brazil is now listed as the fourth largest car market in the world and car makers have sensibly been revealing new models to this burgeoning market.

Volkswagen have been aware of this for decades of course. They’ve been building cars there since 1959. This time they have introduced the new, and frankly sensational Taigun concept to the world (pictured). It’s an SUV, Jim, but not as we know it. Based on the UP! City car but with slightly larger dimensions, it is a full five-seater with a punchy one litre engine driven through a six speed ‘box. Lined up against it’s bigger siblings the Tiguan and Toureg, the family resemblance is there but in a tiny dimension. If it is finally built, and it looks probable, it will almost certainly sell in droves.

In keeping with the small is beautiful theme, Nissan have shown the Extrem concept – and yes, that is the right spelling. Designed to sit below the Juke and Qashqai models, the Extrem is based on the Micra platform and is believed to be demonstrating Nissan’s future look.

Interestingly, Renault sell their Dacia brand in South America badged as Renaults. This is apparently because there the people don’t really go along with the rather pretentious idea of low budget ranges and the like. There are cheap cars and there are expensive cars and that’s it. Thus the Dacia Duster becomes the Renault DCross and very butch it is to, with many manly embellishments to the exterior. Brazilians like their motors a bit tougher than us soft Europeans, which is why Honda add bigger bumpers and body cladding to the Jazz and call it the Fit Twist!

Things are changing in the car world. Sao Paulo is now arguably the most vibrant of auto industry market places. All the brand names had a car or two on show and many new ideas have been seen. It demonstrates the continuing trend to smaller vehicles with smaller, more efficient engines. Maybe it would shake up the European market if customers decided to go Latino!

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Business Vehicle Leasing Gets The Green Light

The legendary oil billionaire J. P. Getty once said “If it appreciates, buy it. If it depreciates, lease it” and he should know. Companies today are catching onto the fact that business vehicle leasing is the way forward because they realise that it is tax and VAT efficient and saves valuable capital from the ravages of wholly owned fleet vehicle depreciation. In these difficult and competitive times though, is it enough?

The worldwide attitude to automobiles is changing thanks to the on-going ecology and climate change debates and the motor industry is taking notice, producing low emission cars to satisfy the demands for cleaner air. The choice of fuel and energy efficient cars has increased in leaps and bounds and there is now a wide selection on offer to businesses choosing the leasing route.

The obvious choice might seem to be the wholly electric car and it’s not a bad idea except for the problem of their limited range and it’s probably best to stick with that which is tried and tested. The choice of vehicle must of course be dictated by the nature of the company’s business, so what’s out there now that will appeal to business users?

For a start, there’s the Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI CR Greenline II 105PS. This is a brand that has eclipsed its history and is now highly regarded. This model is conveniently a hatchback, seats four in comfort, delivers 75mpg and under the present rules attracts no congestion charge fees.

City cars are very popular these days and are more versatile than you’d think, particularly for urban users. The Volkswagen Up has from the outset proven popular thanks to the legendary VW build quality and, like the selection above, offers cost-busting statistics. There are less expensive versions available from Skoda and SEAT too.

The Vauxhall Corsa 95PS 1.3CDTi Ecoflex Start/Stop is the company’s latest addition to their green range. It’s a very good looking car and offers the prospect of 85mpg. Staying with Vauxhall, there’s also the choice of their new hybrid, the Ampera 1.4 16v VVT V6 Earth ECOTEC E-REV Auto. This plug-in runs on electricity that is topped up by a 1.4L petrol motor which, put simply, acts as a generator. This dispenses with the range problems that afflicts regular EV’s and the company reckon the car is good for the equivalent of an astonishing 235mpg!

If you’re looking for something more serious that can really dispose of those motorway miles then there is always the BMW 520d saloon. If there was ever a class leader then this is it. It’s tried, it’s tested and is considered to be a real driver’s car that nevertheless delivers frugal fuel usage and low CO² emissions. Performance without damaging your green credentials!

Whatever your needs, the selection of green cars is wide and varied –  there‘s something for everyone from city cars to prestige saloons; these days business vehicle leasing is justifiably popular as rates start at below £100 per month, ex VAT. This has got to be a good deal in our economic climate!

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Cheaper Car Insurance Through Technology

As with most of the technology in our 21st Century lives, there are good things and bad things. Cars are no different. The reasons for fitting complicated and expensive to repair electronic parking brakes have never been fully explained. With vehicles that warm up quickly, is there any real call for heavy electric seats? Whatever, they’re with us now and some people obviously like them.

Sometimes though, technology turns up a really good idea. It was one Heinrich Hertz who, in the closing years of the 19th Century found that radio waves bounced off metal objects (strangely, he then went on to invent car rentals). The idea of radar (radio detection and ranging for the purists) was developed over the years with events speeding up rapidly during the 2nd World War. All this science and engineering was building up to one thing – the front end of the new Mazda CX-5.

Although by no means alone in this field of development, Mazda have been actively investing in this technology to help reduce the severity of collisions and the excellent and highly driveable CX-5 is the first in the Japanese company’s range to feature radar across this 18 model SUV range.

It’s called ‘Smart City Brake Support’ and it’s one of products to feature in Mazda’s SKYACTIV range of technologies. This is an automatic emergency braking system that uses sensors in the front of the CX-5 to monitor speed and distance to the vehicle in front. If the system decides that it’s all getting a bit leary and a shunt is imminent, the brakes are applied. For now, the technology works best at speeds below nineteen mph. This doesn’t sound a lot but in reality there are many slow speed crunches that often cause a disproportionate amount of damage.

Even the most hardened of technophobes should be impressed by this. As research and development continues, there is much that could be achieved with this science.

The really, really good news is that, from the 20th October, the Association of British Insurers have lowered this car’s insurance rating by two groups. This could make as much as fifty pounds difference on the average premium. It is said that if this technology were adopted on all cars then the occurrence of accidents would drop by 27% across Europe. Obviously there’s no way of proving this claim but what is sure is the fact that the CX-5 is a very impressive car indeed. A class act.

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Are Puncture Repair Kits Overblown?

Tyres. They help to keep us safe when the road conditions get tough. They support the car and, for the most part, work with the suspension to aid a comfy ride. What would a car be without them? A cart, that’s what. So we’re all agreed then – tyres are a good thing. That is, until they puncture.

When tyres get punctured there are certain facts of which you can be sure. It will be dark. It will be raining. The baby will have just delivered a rip-snorter and you’ve run out of nappies (been there!). You will have forgotten to charge your mobile and your sat-nav thinks you are somewhere north of Murmansk. You sigh and with a resigned shrug exit the vehicle, open the boot and discover to your horror that the spare wheel has gone and in its place is a small pump and a flagon of goo.

Congratulations. You have just discovered the latest trend in car design. No spare wheel. As more and more manufacturers get on this money-saving bandwagon so the argument for and against rages with ever increasing fury. The general consensus amongst motorists seems to be that repair kits are a bad thing.

This is the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” debate. Car makers say that losing the spare saves a lardy 20 kilos, thus making the car lighter and more fuel efficient. Others might suggest that it is just a money saving gambit and, in any case, if manufacturers wanted to save weight there are plenty of other ways. Lightweight bonnets for example.

Let’s be fair though. For a start, punctures are not the phenomenon that they once were. Tyre build quality and strength has improved – despite us having road surfaces that resemble the surface of the moon – and indeed some drivers never experience tyre failure. There’s an alternative suggestion that, in fact, motorists fail to educate themselves about their car and when the crunch comes they have no idea how to operate the repair kit, assuming erroneously that a spare was supplied. These days the canny buyer checks first.

Nevertheless, tyre damage isn’t always a pinhole that can easily be stopped up by process of a chemical bung. Sometimes it’s more disastrous, like a tear or shredding. It would be like trying to keep a punctured airship inflated by stuffing an old sock in the hole.

Horror stories about these space saving kits have started to appear on television and on consumer websites. It’s certainly true that the roadside assistance organisations have experienced more call-outs for the problem of puncture stranded drivers. Manufacturers say that their cars come with roadside assistance in the price, but that’s usually only for the first year. Then what?

There are alternative solutions. Run flat tyres as standard, narrow space saver spares or even buying your own spare steel wheel with a budget tyre fitted. The downside of the latter is, of course, that cars designed without a spare wheel won’t have a handy boot well to drop one in.

The debate rumbles on. Until such time as a consensus is reached (don’t hold your breath) the best thing a would-be buyer can do is check with the dealer and see. But what if you really, really want a car despite the lack of a spare? Well, then it gets even more confusing…

NEWSFLASH 21st October: Ford have announced that their dealers have been instructed to tell customers that the car they are ordering does not have a spare wheel. Failure to do so will result in the customer being entitled to a full refund. Great, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

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Dacia Sandero – The People’s Car for the 21st Century

In 2009, the estimable James May pronounced this vehicle to be an ‘anti-fashion’ car when he drove one in Romania. It was, he said, basic and all the better for it. You’ll be glad to hear, therefore, that you too can make such anti-establishment statements, now that owning cars is seen as being equated with devil worship in some quarters.

As previously reported, the car was shown at the Paris Motor Show and will soon be available to buy. Expect to see it making an appearance on British roads in January next year; but how interested will the public be in a seriously cheap car like the Sandero? Dacia are promoting it as ‘shockingly affordable’ but is this code for ‘shockingly awful’?

It is going up against some seriously powerful opposition. The all-conquering Fiesta is in its sector along with Vauxhall’s Corsa and the now popular Kia Rio. Certainly motorists in the UK are strapped for cash as successive car-hating governments bear down upon the national wallet. This may be the Sandero’s time.

In fact, it’s not a bad looking car. It won’t win any design awards but that’s not really the point of the Sandero. The company, bankrolled by Renault, have cut the fancy stuff to the bone. It’s been reported that drivers are rebelling against what they see as excessive and pointless trinkets and devices being loaded on cars to make them seem more desirable. No worries with the Sandero then. The basic models will of course have the entry-level safety equipment you’d expect, like airbags, power-steering and ABS. But you can forget about such fripperies as alloys, electric mirrors and even basic air-conditioning. Just open a window, why don’t you?

Further up the range and things start getting a bit more luxurious. Fog lights and height adjustable seats feature whilst at the top of the range alloys finally make an appearance along with a trip computer! Space-age. The interior is much improved over the earlier version driven by Mr May.

It is wrong to dismiss this car as a bit of a joke. The company are using proven technology and the model has a good reputation for reliability. Elsewhere in the world the Sandero and other models in the range have been very successful and in demand, that’s why a RHD model has been so long in coming. For many drivers, a new car with warranty for well under seven grand is going to be very tempting indeed. Get one via your local Renault dealer. Oh, and it is pronounced ‘Datcha’, by the way. J

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Topless Cascada From Vauxhall

The designers at Vauxhall have obviously been working tirelessly lately. They’ve gone electric with the terrific Ampera, made much of the Mokka and the funky Adam; now they’ve got the wind in their hair with the, it has to be said, sensational looking Cascada, which is Spanish for waterfall. Let’s hope they don’t mean coolant.

If we’re honest, Vauxhall’s choice of car names may not be to everyone’s taste. There is a trend, to be fair, for being a tad left field – a bit out there – these days when it comes to the naming of products generally but, well…

Anyway, if this new convertible drives as well as it looks they surely are onto a winner. It’s a big car, comfortably seating four, and its underpinnings are a mixture of Astra and Insignia bits. Crucially, the body has been strengthened to minimise scuttle shake. This is a problem that still assails some convertibles even with today’s build integrity, so it will be interesting to see how the Cascada deals with it.

The hood is fabric but is multi-layered and has thermal lining. Vauxhall state that it will withstand the worst that the British winter can throw at it. Not that you’ll find out this winter because the car won’t be in the showrooms until March next year – just right for the undoubtedly glorious summer in 2013.

This car is bigger than an equivalent A5 ragtop but should undercut the German car on price. It will be powered initially by a 1.6L petrol turbo shoving out a relatively modest 168bhp, which probably means leisurely rather than sporty progress. A smaller 1.4L is on the cards coupled with the now ubiquitous two litre diesel. Don’t despair though because at least one more powerful version is in the pipeline. A six speed auto box will keep everything under control.

Previously seen on the hot VXR Insignia, the Cascada will offer the proven technology of the company’s HiPerStrut front suspension which, in combination with adaptive dampers, is designed to rein in any tendency for torque steer. This is the phenomenon whereby engine torque under heavy acceleration seems to pull the car to one side –  a common enough experience with more powerful front wheel drive cars.

Also in the box will be the usual extras you’d expect in a premium car with the added bonus of a heated steering wheel. This is Vauxhall’s first foray into this premium sector since the 1930s. Judging by the image above they are on to a winner. Even in our climate.

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WRC Gets Great New Promoters

Rally fans rejoice! The World Rally Championship – so disappointing in recent years – has at last hooked the right promoters to bring the sport back to the level it achieved in the old Group B days; but hopefully without all the tragedy.

After much unnecessary faffing about by the FIA, it has finally been announced that The Sportsman Media Group and Red Bull Media House have signed up to promote this great sport in 2013 and beyond. With a household name like Red Bull – no strangers to active sports promotion – on board there is every reason to hope that next year will see a massive resurgence in the popularity of this great motor sport.

This announcement has been enhanced by the further news that nine times World Champion Sebastian Loeb is to retire from active participation at the top level; although he will contest a few rounds next year for Citroen, he won’t be in contention for the title. This will be good news for every other driver as Loeb has dominated the sport for the last decade, establishing himself as, without argument, the greatest rally driver ever.

Alongside the new promoters come some rule changes. Basically, it will cost less for teams to compete which in turn means that there will hopefully be greater participation from manufacturers. Already Volkswagen have confirmed a full blown WRC Polo Team, probably headlined by rising French star Sebastian Ogier. Hyundai will make a belated return and field a rally version of its popular i20 (pictured) with the intention of full commitment by 2014.

Over the years fans have been increasingly starved of TV coverage as time has gone on. This hasn’t been helped by the total domination by the mighty Citroen / Loeb alliance. In 2012, with no real promoter other an the individual sponsors for each event, Motors TV have struggled on with ‘day after’ highlights of each events. The commentary from Colin Clarke and Julian Porter is terrific but this doesn’t make up for the paucity of media interest.

Although the in-car shots are great it would be good to see more use of the aerial helicopter coverage too. The manufacturers need top media coverage to promote their wares. The cars look like the ones we drive (on the outside at least) and the sport itself is a truly exciting spectacle.

Let’s hope that between the promoters, the FIA, the World Motor Sport Council and the car makers themselves, 2013 will be the year that the WRC once again reached the heights it has previously achieved. Let us also hope that it’s free-to-air viewing too!

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Monsieur Renault – With This Clio You Are Really Spoiling Us

Congratulations to all our readers on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Well done.

Perhaps they should award all European motor manufacturers a prize for making some great cars these days? For example – the Renault Clio, which has been with us for many years now and has always been considered a good, if unexciting, buy. Clio’s are a decent drive and have proved to be reliable, but now the company has looked closely at the competition and decided that it was about time Nicole and Papa’s favourite pull-mobile upped its game.

This new version really is a good looking car with the sort of design currently popular with manufacturers of small cars. It looks especially good in yellow; not a colour that suits all vehicles. Inevitably, a one litre, three cylinder motor has found its way under the bonnet with a small turbo attached. This makes for a lively 89bhp which delivers a surprisingly perky drive, much as a driver might expect from a four-pot motor.

The real talking point though will be the latest version of the established 1.5L dCI turbo engine. The company states that this improved engine will produce CO² at a low enough rate to be road tax free, deliver more torque and achieve a truly impressive 83 miles per gallon. In 2013, Renault intend to introduce an ECO version to further enhance these figures.

If that’s not enough to persuade potential buyers then the interior certainly will. On previous iterations of this car the fixtures and fittings were adequate but no more. The driver’s station in this Clio is like having your own mini-flight deck. There’s chrome and colour coding and a massive touch-screen which let’s you tinker with music, telephone and navigation as well as the almost inevitable ability to download apps. Perhaps they do one for meeting French girls. Or boys. Whatever.

If your motoring is mostly city and local then it is probably not worth paying diesel premium as the triple cylinder engine is more than up to the job; but if you’re planning to venture further afield or are a high mileage user then the diesel has got to be first choice. Don’t expect high performance but these engines won’t leave you struggling to keep up.

As has proved to be the case generally in the small car sector, the Clio is not as small as it used to be. This means that leg and headroom is improved, both front and back. It is a five door only, but with that sexier three door look thanks to hidden rear door handles. Handling has been improved thanks to a wider track and sharper steering. Other engines options will follow plus the inevitable and much anticipated RenaultSport version for the hot hatch aficionado.

All in all, Renault appear to have done the business. This is a car with something for everyone and will no doubt ring alarm bells down in the Fiesta and Polo camps. The intense competition in the small car sector can, in the long run, only be good for consumers. Long may it continue. Va Va Voom etc.

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