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BMW M cars by another name – used car buying guide

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Home BMW’s M division has produced generations of high-performance icons, but not every one of them has been called an M car

The cars of BMW’s M division are famed throughout the world, and the new BMW M2 is just the latest example of the breed – but not all of them were badged as M cars. Here are a few which went by other names.

Read our full review of the new BMW M2

1 – BMW 320is (1987-1990)

Like the idea of an M3 but not being chased by B-road heroes? The 320is was the perfect blend of standard E30 shell and a 194bhp short-stroke version of the M3’s 16-valve four-pot, with its reduced 1990cc capacity sneaking it under Italy’s and Portugal’s 2.0-litre tax band. It even had the same Getrag dogleg gearbox and locking diff, plus ‘BMW M Power’ script on the cam cover.

Unlike an M3, however, it doesn’t feature a stiffened, lightened body. Pick a four-door, which came without a bodykit, and you have the perfect sleeper car from as little as €15,000 if you trawl the classifieds in mainland Europe.

2 – BMW 2002 Turbo (1973-1975)

You won’t find an M badge, but check out those stripes. A KKK turbocharger added 40bhp to the 2002tii’s 1990cc M10 motor, giving 170bhp and 130mph. It was far more than simply an engine transplant, though; the shell and suspension were stiffened and a bodykit proclaimed the car’s potency.

All 1672 that were built were left-hand drive and came in white or silver. You’ll pay £50k for a good one, despite the 2002tii being a sweeter drive.

3 – BMW 745i (1984-1987)

The fact that BMW won’t make an M7 frustrates barge fans – the new V12-engined M760Li xDrive 7 Series is the closest you’ll get for now – but if you seek a Seven with M blood in its veins, there’s a super-rare South African version.

The Cape’s 745i got the M1’s 286bhp, 3453cc twin-cam M88 unit, and unless you could spot the M5 brakes, there was no identifying this M wannabe. Only the Nappa leather and discreet logos on the dials gave the game away inside. If you can find one (only 209 were built), our guess is that you’d pay £30k-£40k for it.

4 – BMW 850CSi (1992-1996)

The elegant 850CSi has never been revered like its ancestors. Why? In 850i form it was about as exciting as a Jaguar XJ-S, but while the 550bhp M8 remained a prototype, at least the techno-wizard CSi made it out of Munich. This M car in all but name featured motorsport DNA in its 380bhp 5.6-litre V12, vast ventilated brakes (from the M5) and reworked suspension with rear-wheel steering.

Just 1510 were built. Look to pay upwards of £20k for decent one today.

5 – BMW 3.0 CSL (1971-1975)

The Coupé Sport Leicht homologation special was BMW Motorsport GmbH’s first road car. Aluminium panels and bucket seats helped to shed 200kg from the standard car, while a fabulous M30 straight six and uprated suspension completed the package. You could opt for a race kit on later cars, with rubber air guides on the nose and a huge spoiler.

You’re unlikely to find much for less than £50k, and a pukka ‘Batmobile’ could be four times that.

Alastair Clements

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2016 Aston Martin DB11 leaked in new image

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A new picture of Aston Martin’s DB11 has leaked to the internet ahead of the car’s global debut at the Geneva motor show.

The latest image, which was first published on a Dutch news website but has since been circulated online, shows the front of the new car. A previous leaked image, published yesterday from a private reveal event for customers, confirmed the DB11’s front-end design, while previous leaks have shown the rear of the new car.

The new DB11 will lead a brand relaunch for Aston Martin as the company looks to replace all of its core sports cars in the next five years under boss Andy Palmer.

Previous spy pictures have shown that Aston Martin has been carrying out final testing on the DB11 before its market launch. Autocar has seen the DB11, the styling of which is notably different from the existing DB9’s, while retaining several core Aston Martin cues.

The DB11’s appearance takes styling influences from recent concepts such as the DBX crossover, unveiled at the Geneva motor show last March, and the CC100, which was created in 2013 to celebrate 100 years of the brand.

Although the DB11 is likely to retain many of the attributes that appeal to traditional Aston Martin buyers, it is set to be a brand-new model with totally fresh underpinnings, interior, engines and more.

The engines will include a new 5.2-litre twin-turbocharged V12 with around 600bhp and, later in the car’s lifecycle, AMG V8s.

Blog – Why the AMG tie-up will only go so far

The DB11 is the direct successor to the DB9, which has been on sale since spring 2004. As with the move from DB7 to DB9, Aston Martin has jumped a number to reflect the substantial changes, but this time there is a car in between. The DB10 appeared in the latest James Bond film, Spectre, but just 10 examples were made, all for the movie. One will be auctioned off for charity.

The DB11 is believed have a newly engineered chassis, albeit one that has been created using the same principles as the outgoing VH platform. It will be a bonded and riveted structure that will be versatile enough to form the basis of other future models.

Aston Martin decided to create the structure in-house rather than share any of the aluminium structure from the Mercedes-AMG GT, despite the two companies’ partnership.

The new-generation VH platform could, therefore, form part of the next Vantage and potentially the production version of the DBX. The platform has been created by an engineering team headed by long-time Aston Martin employee Ian Minards.

All-new lightweight suspension has also been developed in-house and features double wishbones at the front and rear. Reducing the weight of the suspension components is believed to have been a particularly challenging task. It is likely that the AMG partnership has had an influence here, though, with some parts potentially taken from the German brand.

Despite this, the car’s handling development has had a distinctly British influence, with ex-Lotus engineer Matt Becker in charge for the first time. Becker joined Aston Martin in 2014 after 26 years at Lotus. He was brought in specifically to work on next-gen models such as the DB11.

One element set to return to the Aston Martin line-up is a manual gearbox. This move is thought to be a decree from company boss Andy Palmer. The current DB9 comes with only a six-speed automatic gearbox and steering wheel-mounted paddles, but this is set to change with the DB11. A six-speed manual gearbox is likely to be offered alongside a modern ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Read more about the Aston Martin DB10

Precise details of the engines destined for the DB11 have not yet been revealed, although it is likely that a range of units will be made available. The partnership between Aston Martin and AMG makes it most likely that the DB11 will be offered with a 4.0-litre V8 from the German company. This could be the unit from the Mercedes-AMG GT, which has power outputs ranging from 456bhp to 503bhp.

The company has also confirmed that it is building a new V12 that will embrace twin-turbocharing. Reducing the V12’s capacity to 5.2 litres is part of the company’s quest to drop CO2 emissions below the 333g/km of the DB9. The DB11 is likely to be the most powerful of the DB models yet, though, with a power output in the region of 600bhp a possibility.

The DB11 will grow by a couple of inches over the DB9 and a longer wheelbase is planned to give the new car a more spacious interior. It was felt that the DB9 didn’t have enough interior space to allow it to be used as a day-to-day car, with room in its back seats negligible at best.

A day in the life of Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer

Aston Martin plans for the new model to be a more genuine four-seater and Palmer intends the DB11 to be the backbone of the company’s range.

The extra room will be complemented by an airier cabin design, thanks in part to a totally reworked dashboard. The fascia style that has remained largely unchanged since the DB9’s launch has been scrapped in favour of an entirely new layout. It will be a much cleaner design and underpinned by an all-new electrical architecture.

At its centre will be a new infotainment system, which is likely to be the most visible evidence of Daimler’s 5% ownership of Aston Martin. Although it is unclear to what extent the influence of Mercedes parent Daimler will be seen, it could enable the DB11 to take on elements from the latest infotainment systems used in Mercedes models.

Recent spy shots have shown a test mule with a large, digital instrument cluster in the same style as Mercedes’ latest S-Class. The same test car showed a clean central console, but with a set of Mercedes buttons down the side, suggesting the parts sharing will extend beyond the instruments and include a satellite navigation system.

Sales of the DB11 will not kick off until later in 2016, with an autumn or even winter launch date a possibility.

The cars that will shape Aston Martin’s new era

DB11 Volante (2017)

The convertible version of the DB11 is expected to go on sale around 12 months after the coupé. As with the coupé, a Geneva show debut is likely before a launch in late 2017, which could coincide with the addition of AMG V8 engines.

Vantage (2018)

The smallest car in Aston’s range will be the next major model for replacement, and a 2018 launch date is predicted. Expect it to use a similar range of engines to the DB11.The styling will draw heavily on the DB10 Bond car. A roadster version is likely again, too.

DBX (2019-2020)

The biggest new model for Aston, in many senses, is the production version of the DBX concept. The crossover is likely to arrive towards the end of the decade. Prime minister David Cameron has publicly encouraged Aston Martin to build the car at a site in Wales.

Saloon (2019-2020)

A new saloon would be a replacement for the Rapide and is due towards the end of the decade. This is expected to be larger and more spacious than theRapide and could carry the Lagonda name, which recently returned for the £696,000 Lagonda Taraf.

Vanquish (2020)

Aston’s two-door flagship is likely to be one of the last models to be replaced. The new Vanquish is set to appear around 2020 and will again be offered in a choice of coupé or convertible bodystyles.

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Volvo to offer virtual keys from 2017

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Home Volvo confirms that it will be the first manufacturer to offer cars with digital key technologyVolvo keyless

Volvo plans to introduce virtual-key technology to its car range in 2017, using mobile phone technology to replace the traditional car key.

The car key will be replaced with a Bluetooth-enabled digital virtual key that can be downloaded into a smartphone app. The app will be available on iOS, Android and Windows devices and replicates typical key functions such as locking, unlocking and boot release. It also allows drivers to start the car’s engine remotely.

Volvo will use its current security systems in which both the car and the key hold part of an encrypted key combination to protect the car from potential hackers. If the car’s battery goes flat and cannot recognise the key, drivers must call for roadside assistance.

Multiple virtual keys can be stored on a single device, allowing easier access to a number of Volvos. The new technology could be used for car rental and car-sharing schemes, where a key can be downloaded with your rental agreement. It’s a move that Volvo claims will offer more flexibility to its customers.

Trials will be carried out this spring with car-sharing firm Sunfleet, which is based in Sweden. Physical keys will still be offered to the customers who want them.

Matthew Griffiths


The new Volvo XC90 costs from £45,750

It has big boots to fill and talented rivals to face. Is it up to the task?

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James Bond’s Aston Martin DB10 sold for £2,434,500

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The Aston Martin DB10 driven by Daniel Craig in the James Bond film Spectre has been sold at auction for £2,434,500 this evening.

The DB10, one of two remaining out of the ten examples made exclusively for use during the filming was donated by Aston Martin for the charity auction at Christie’s in London. It is the only one of the remaining cars that will ever be offered for sale by the Gaydon-based car company.

An anonymous buyer paid £2,100,000 for the car, well above the £1.5m estimate that had been placed on it ahead of the auction. With buyer’s fees taken into account, the final sum is £2,434,500, although auctioneer Christies will also donate its fee to charity once its costs have been taken into account.

Proceeds from the sale will go to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The DB10 was the star lot out of ten Bond-related items being auctioned for charity. The second-most expensive item was the Day of the Dead costume worn by Craig at the start of Spectre. It went for £98,500.

In total, the ten lots raised £2,785,500 for MSF and other charitable causes.

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2016 Mazda MX-5 Sport Recaro review

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Mazda has a long history of churning out special editions of the MX-5, something that hasn’t changed with this fourth-generation car. The Sport Recaro variant is based on the 2.0-litre Sport Nav model, with additional equipment and more aggressive looks.

As you’ve probably guessed from the name, it has a pair of Alcantara-trimmed Recaro sports seats with a matching trim panel on the dashboard. It also has alloy pedals and a punchy Bose sound system.

There bigger changes outside, including diamond-cut 17in alloy wheels, standard metallic paint, a bodykit in gloss black and a small spoiler on the bootlid. Although there are no mechanical changes, it shares the Sport Nav’s Bilstein shocks, stiffer springs, front strut brace and limited-slip differential.

While some may be disappointed there isn’t more power or a sharper focus to the handling, the MX-5 remains a joyous thing. Despite riding on stiffer sports suspension, there’s more body roll than you might expect, but the more time you spend behind the wheel, the more this makes sense. Thanks to the body being allowed to move, you really feel the mass of the car shifting around. You soon learn to use the weight transfer to pin the nose to the ground on corner entry to allow the tail to become mobile.

You have to wait to jump back on the power though; get on it too early and you’ll get understeer. Balance it right and you feel the tail moving oh-so-slightly, helping you round the corner. You have to work at it, but it’s rewarding when everything clicks.

If you’re new to rear-wheel drive it really is an excellent car to learn in. Well-judged stability control helps; you’ll be travelling very quickly in the dry before you feel it cut in and it’s subtle when it does. A word of warning though, should you decide to switch everything off in the wet, the short wheelbase means the tail steps out abruptly. 

The motor might not be particularly powerful but it’s certainly eager. It’ll happily rev round to its limiter making a rorty noise in the process. It’s easy to keep it on the boil thanks to the precise, short-throw gearchange that’s a delight to use.

Even if you short-shift, the car’s sub-1100kg weight (including a driver) means it’ll pull from a little over 1000rpm without too much fuss. This helped the car achieve an indicated fuel economy of more than 40mpg – if the trip computer is to be believed.

Inside, shorter folk won’t have too much difficulty getting comfy, although taller drivers may struggle a little. This isn’t helped by a steering wheel that adjusts for rake only. The Recaro seats do an excellent job of keeping you pinned in place and even prove comfortable after a whole day of driving. They’re heated as standard, which is nothing short of bliss on a cold winter’s day.

You are acutely aware you’re in a sports car though. At a motorway cruise there’s plenty of road and wind noise while the ride is firm, if not actually uncomfortable. Still, you don’t buy something like this for a limo-like ride and refinement.

Although it is the priciest fourth-generation MX-5 yet, there’s an argument that the Sport Recaro represents fair value. It may be £1000 more than Sport Nav trim, but you do get kit worth well in excess of that if bought separately. Furthermore, some of the equipment is exclusive to this limited edition.

Ultimately, if you’re tempted by the 2.0-litre Sport Nav, we’d shell out the extra £1000 for the Recaro Edition. Whether or not it makes a better sports car than the base 1.5-litre on standard suspension and smaller wheels is a whole different argument, but whichever model you go for, you’ll have a blast.

Mazda MX-5 Sport Recaro

Location Lincolnshire; On sale Now; Price £24,295; Engine 4 cyls inline, 1998cc, petrol; Power 158bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 148Ib ft at 4600rpm; Kerb weight 1075kg; Gearbox 6-spd manual; 0-62mph 7.3s; Top speed 133mph; Economy 40.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 161g/km, 27%

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Lamborghini Centenario previewed in patent images

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The Lamborghini Centenario has been previewed, in patent images that depict the full styling of the limited-run car.

The £1.64 million Centenario is due for its official debut at the Geneva motor show, but the images, filed in October 2015, reveal the design of the car from multiple angles.

From the patent images, the car appears to feature styling that builds upon that of the Huracan, with the archetypal wedge-shape and a blacked-out roof. Long overhangs extend in front and behind the wheels, to incorporate the slim front-end and rear diffuser.

The rear light clusters are incorporated into a full-width light bar with Lamborghini’s trademark chevron light motifs at the end of the bar, with three central exhausts above an extreme diffuser, which extends from below the car to behind the light clusters. Louvres shroud the rear windscreen – another typical Lamborghini feature.

It is believed that a tweaked version of the 690bhp 6.5-litre V12 also used in the Aventador will be employed, albeit in a 759bhp guise for the Centenario. In spite of this, more specific details are under strict wraps, and aren’t expected to be revealed until the car’s Geneva show debut.

Only 40 Centenario models will be made – 20 coupés and 20 convertibles, and all have already found homes. The Centenario name isn’t officially confirmed yet, although Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann revealed that a name has been decided upon.

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2016 Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet previewed ahead of Geneva show debut

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The upcoming Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet has again been previewed ahead of its global debut at the Geneva motor show. The new model will go on sale in the UK this summer, and is described as being “an attactive entry-level model in the range of Mercedes dream cars, with all-season open-air driving enjoyment included as standard.”

A previous teaser sketch which showed the rear of the model was accompanied by a short statement, confirming that “for the first time in the history of this model series, there will also be a C-Class Cabriolet. The sporty four-seater with a soft top is based on the successful coupé version.”

Set to join saloon, coupé and estate versions of the fourth-generation C-Class in an ever-burgeoning Mercedes-Benz line-up, the C-Class Cabriolet has previously been spotted testing in the run-up to its launch. While the car’s styling remains similar to that of the C-Class Coupé, a longer rear deck can be seen, as well as a windscreen-mounted air deflector and a deployable wind break. The car’s interior will be identical to that of other C-Class models. 

The rear-wheel-drive convertible will be offered with the same six-cylinder petrol and four-cylinder diesel engines as the coupé. Included in the line-up will be a C450 Sport model, which will feature a 362bhp twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine and will be capable of reaching 62mph in less than five seconds. A plug-in hybrid model based on the C350e is also planned.

A high-performance Mercedes-AMG C63 Cabriolet should join the range before the end of 2016. Like the saloon, it is expected to be powered by AMG’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine with 469bhp in standard form and 503bhp in range-topping C63 S guise.

As with other models in the range, the C-Class Cabriolet will be offered with two different suspension systems. The car’s standard set-up will feature conventional springs and dampers, but Mercedes-Benz’s AirMatic arrangement will be optional.

Read more Geneva motor show news

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2016 Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D Business Edition review

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Home The Avensis gains new diesel engines, suspension tweaks and a restyle inside and out. Can it now match the class best?

Toyota tries to maintain the substance and turn up the style

The Toyota Avensis is adequate but generally underwhelming family transport

The Avensis gains new diesel engines, suspension tweaks and a restyle inside and out. Can it now match the class best? Overhauled Toyota Avensis estate wades back into battle against all-new rivals with new diesel engines from BMWAlan Taylor-Jones

The Toyota Avensis has become a familiar sight in taxi ranks up and down the land. Its reputation for reliability, plus its space and decent economy have made it a popular choice for those that require a dependable workhorse above all else.

Now, Toyota has facelifted the Avensis to share the new family face and make it more appealing for those buyers after something extra from their faithful, four-wheeled friend. Not only has the exterior styling been massaged, the cabin is all-new with more equipment and the promise of improved material quality. You also get more kit for your cash.

The oily bits have also been under the microscope; the suspension has been retuned, sound insulation improved and there are a pair of new diesel engines available.

Predictably, Toyota has downsized; the 2.0 and 2.2-litre diesels have been replaced by 1.6 and 2.0-litre units respectively. As you’d expect, economy is up and emissions are down. In this instance, we’re looking at the bigger engine in mid-spec Business Edition trim.

Economy and emissions may have been improved over the old 2.2-litre diesel’s figures, but power has not. This new unit develops 141bhp to give a 0-62mph time of 9.5sec – not fast but perfectly acceptable. 

More important is flexibility, and this is something the Avensis has plenty of. Assuming you’re not expecting to gain speed rapidly, this engine will slog from surprisingly low rpm, which is handy because it gets loud and clattery approaching 3000rpm and beyond it.

Indeed, refinement is not this car’s forte; at idle and low rpm, you feel the motor vibrating through the pedals and steering wheel, although the engine quietens right down while the vibrations smooth out when you’re up to motorway speeds.

The suspension also feels most at home in this environment. It’s softly sprung, so it’s quite happy to lollop along at speed, but does roll noticeably when cornering. Bigger bumps can also thump through the structure and unsettle the car slightly.

When you factor in steering that feels precise enough without ever really telling you what’s going on, a strange grittiness to the gearbox when moving the stick left to right and stability control that can’t be turned off, you have a car that should be avoided by the keen driver. A Ford Mondeo certainly has nothing to fear.

Inside, the Avensis remains a spacious choice, albeit not quite on the level of the huge Skoda Superb. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of rear head and legroom for adults, and centre-seat occupants will appreciate the flat floor.

Up front, drivers get plenty of adjustment for both the steering wheel and seat, including adjustable lumbar support on all but basic Active models. You also get a good-sized boot, although hatchback-bodied rivals are easier to load.

As for the new dash, it may look a little more contemporary than the old one but it still lags behind those in the Skoda Superb or Volkswagen Passat. Not only is it bland, there is a surprising amount of cheap-feeling plastic in areas you interact with regularly.

We’re also not the biggest fans of its infotainment system. It may have standard sat-nav but it can be laggy, and the graphics look dated. Even worse, the screen sometimes goes black when you’re navigating between functions, something that proves distracting during the hours of darkness.

Make no mistake; the Avensis is by no means a bad car. It has a five-year/100,0000-mile warranty, plenty of equipment, and it’s generally comfortable to drive. For those that are even slightly interested in the way a car handles, though, there’s little of interest here. Those buyers are still best off in a Mondeo.

Yet, even wearing our sensible hat, it’s hard to build a case for the Avensis when you could instead have a Skoda Superb. Certainly not when they cost similar money, and offer more room and cheaper running costs.

Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D Business Edition

Location West Sussex; On sale Now; Price £23,155; Engine 4 cyls inline, 1995cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 141bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 221Ib ft at 1750-2250rpm; Kerb weight 1470kg; Gearbox 6-spd manual; 0-62mph 9.5s; Top speed 124mph; Economy 62.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 119g/km, 21%

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