Wednesday 30 November 2011

Road - Focus Zetec S

Following on from the announcement in September of a new 2 litre 247 bhp Ford Focus ST, comes news from Ford that there’s another on the way. This latest addition to Ford’s sporty range will be the Zetec S with a new 1.6-litre 177 bhp (180 PS) EcoBoost petrol engine.

Based on the existing Zetec car, it gets new front and rear spoilers with lower sill extensions, LED tail lamps and 17in alloy wheels. The ‘sports suspension’ features stiffened springs and dampers.
The five-door Zetec S is available now with an estate car to follow in February next year. In addition to the 1.6-litre 177 bhp engine there is a 1.6 litre, 123 bhp (125 PS) Ti-VCT petrol unit and a 2 litre 160 bhp (163 PS) TDCi oil burner also available with either manual or PowerShift automatic transmission.

Apparently the new 177 bhp EcoBoost turbo-charged petrol engine will do 138 mph and gets off its mark from 0 to 62 mph in 7.9 secs. And as is the way these days, it emits only 139g/km CO2.  

At £18,745 on the road the Focus Zetec S is only £1,250 above the equivalent Zetec car but includes over 1,700 poundsworth of extras. 

Road - Saab sadness

Sad news this morning that Saab Great Britain Ltd (‘Saab GB’) has been placed in administration. With immediate effect, David Dunckley and Daniel Taylor of Grant Thornton UK LLP have been appointed joint administrators of Saab GB.

Saab had a big following (like Volvo) in Scotland, but it seems not big enough, and has been struggling over the past couple of years in a declining market in which it seems only the biggest can survive.

Saab GB has exclusive rights to distribute Saab cars and parts in the UK. It employs 55 people in Milton Keynes and has a 58 strong dealer network across the UK of which 20 are ‘Saab only’ sites.

The Saab GB board is of the opinion that administration gives the company and creditors the necessary legal protection until it has secured the required funding for the company. However, there are still discussions taking place with potential investors regarding the sale of Saab Automobile AB and Saab Great Britain Limited.

A Saab GB customer hotline has been set up on 0845 300 9593 or visit for more details.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Rally - Marathon Rallyist

Andrew Cowan presented the principal awards at the Scottish Rally Championship awards night in Glasgow at the weekend, but when compere Roy Campbell asked who was born after Andrew won the Scottish title in 1976, there was a big flurry of hands from the youngsters in the room.

Although best known for winning the Scottish Rally Championship in 1976 in a Mitsubishi Colt Lancer, Andrew also won a few other wee events such as the 16,500 mile 1968 and ‘77 London to Sydney Marathon Rallies and then went on to win 4 World Rally Championship titles as Mitsubishi team boss with Tommi Makinen.

Over the years Andrew has rallied a wide variety of different cars, not just Mitsubishis, from Hillman Imps to Ford Escorts, but perhaps his most unlikely choice of cars were the Mercedes-Benz 280E with which he won the ’77 Marathon and the 5 litre 450 SLC which he used subsequently.

Coincidentally, when he (and Colin Malkin and Mike Broad) won the 1977 London to Sydney Marathon, there was more Scottish interest further down the field with Jim Ingleby and Bob Smith finishing 14th overall in a Jeep Cherokee.

Anyway, now you know.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Rally - Parliamo Glesca

Sorry about this, but I couldn't resist it. It's a bit of an in-joke so if you don't get it then you'll need to speak to someone from Glasgow or central west Scotland to give you a hand. Or maybe you saw some of the late Stanley Baxter's TV sketches in which he sought to educate and enlighten those who lived outside Scotland's cultural capital about the delights and complexities of the local dialect.

It was obvious that the wine from this chateau Zuriz somewhere in Chile was no ordinary wine, but maybe had some ancient civilised connection with a Glasgow vineyard or 'big hoose wi' brambles' but when I saw these bottles of house-wine on the tables at last night's Scottish Rally Championship awards 'do' I just couldn't help myself.

So, when a fellow table guest asked, what's that you've got over there, I replied: "Erra bottle of red wine owererr, and erra bottle of white wine." As I said, if you don't get it, then get some outside help!

Rally - Night of Champions

Scottish rallying accorded its newest British Champions a standing ovation last night in Glasgow. At the Scottish Rally Championship awards, a packed house of 450 end of season revellers rose to their feet as one when David Bogie and Kevin Rae were greeted as only the second Scots to win three consecutive national titles since the late Drew Gallacher (in 1978, '79, and '80) and the first Scots to win the British title since Alister McRae last won it 16 years ago.

It was a cracking night and worthy of true champions with Andrew Cowan presenting the awards. Just the week before David and Kevin had been hailed British Champions at the Dulux British Championship awards night in Englandshire, but a Scottish homecoming and celebration is always extra special.
Maw and Paw had to help carry off the silverware!

And here's a nice wee story about a nice young man. David was out driving his truck the other day and stopped outside a butcher's shop in Carlisle to buy a pie for his lunch. He joined the queue and waited his turn till he got to the counter and asked for a steak pie to take out.

The butcher looked at him: "You're David Bogie, aren't you, the new British Rally Champion?"

An embarrassed David said: "Aye, that's right."

A long and loud standing ovation
The butcher replied: "Me and my mates have been following you all year, well done, you deserve it," - and wouldn't take any money for the pie!

When David got back out to the truck, he phoned Kevin to tell him that fame does have some rewards. Quick as a flash, Kevin said: "Quick, get round to Currys and Comet and see if they'll give a you a free plasma TV."

Saturday 26 November 2011

Road - Frenzy in French

The big reason that I like small cars with a sporty nature is that you can drive them flat out (at times!) without breaking the speed limit. Whereas large capacity sports cars and supercars can break this country’s quaint driving laws in first gear, let alone fifth, small cars can reward the enthusiasts with more buzz per bhp than bonus-fuelled bank busters.

And since Renault is coming to the British Rally Championship next year with its hugely popular (in France) Twingo Renaultsport R1 and R2 Trophy Championship, Renault gave me a wee shottie in their French squib, the Twingo Renaultsport 133.
It may only have a 1598 cc engine and a five speed ‘box, but it’s got more bounce than a hyperactive budgie. The 133 hp engine needs revs to get the most out of it, but you get the full ‘French frisson’ at  4000 rpm all the way up to 6750. Keep it stirred and this thing’s got more flounce than the Follies Bergere.

Suspension? Forget it. But given the fun and frolics, only a boney bummed supermodel would complain. That’s down to the almost ‘sidewall-less’ 195/40 x 17 Contisport Contact 3 tyres which grip like a tramp to a sovereign, but soak up any ‘give’ in the shock absorbers. When on the limit, the wee thing skips and bounces through the bends, but never feels out of control.

Ford used to have a reputation for producing fun-filled and affordable small cars, but given what Renault is up to these days, that reputation is seriously under threat.

Fifteen grand for this much fun can’t be all bad.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Road - Silence of the Vans

Well, there I was, averaging 3.67 mpkWh. And no, I wasn’t boiling a kettle. I was driving a van, an electric van. Renault had brought a couple of Kangoo ZE all-electric vans up north for the Scottish motoring writers to try out, and it was quite eerie.

The vans had just arrived in the UK and this was our first chance to drive them. There is no external difference apart from the ‘fuel flap’ on the nose and there is little to give the game away inside, until you turn the key – and nothing happens!

Well, a green ‘Go’ light does appear on the dash and this informs the driver that the system is primed and raring to go. Select ‘D’ on the automatic style stick-shift, a gentle prod on the accelerator and suddenly movement is underway – silently.

In fact the whole experience is just like driving an ordinary vehicle although the braking takes a bit of getting used to. It doesn’t do freewheeling. When you lift your foot off the accelerator, the vehicle immediately starts to slow down. It’s quite disconcerting at first because although you haven’t touched the brakes, there is a bit of serious deceleration underway. Once you get used to it, and learn to anticipate it, there is little need to use the brakes except when some silly burd with one hand on the wheel, the other clamping her phone to her head decides to turn right across your bows, while indicating left. I was very nearly the first British journalist to crash an electric Kangoo.

Renault have also addressed the price issue which has plagued the adoption of electric vehicles. The base model van is 17 grand (excl VAT) plus a monthly subscription for the battery pack starting from 60 quid a month. Thereafter a full charge is expected to cost around £2.50 and the van should be good for a range of 105 miles - unless you’re playing silly beggars at the traffic lights because of the instant torque!

Yes, it will spin its wheels, but it wisnae me, it was another journalist!

The battery pack sits under the rear floor so the van part of the vehicle still has the same volume and payload of a diesel or petrol version, so there is no compromise there. It won’t suit everyone, but at this sort of price, it could appeal to those delivery drivers in congested town and city centres who don’t move far from base.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Road - A New Korando

SsangYong was in Scotland today showing off its new model SUV, the Korando, and what an impressive compact SUV this is. The Korean car maker has had a difficult time over recent years, but Indian car firm Mahindra & Mahindra has taken a majority stake in the company so its future looks more assured. And given the quality feel and build of the new Korando, it will inject some confidence into the brand.

The new Korando is a much more refined machine than its predecessor and just like Kia with the Sportage and Hyundai with its i35, SsangYong has pulled up its troosers to take on the European market.

Starting from £16,995 for the entry level 2WD model, prices go up to £22,995 for the 4WD top-spec car with 6 speed automatic ‘box, and it comes not just with a 5 year warranty, but also a 5 year ‘limitless mileage’ warranty!

Whereas the bigger engined Rexton 4x4 uses a 2.7 litre Mercedes-Benz engine and gearbox, the Euro-5 two litre job and six speed ‘box in the Korando is SangYong’s own, and all the more impressive for that.

From Glenskirlie I drove the Korando over the ‘Tak Ma Doon’ road from Kilsyth to the Carron Valley Reservoir and it soaked up the bumps and dips admirably well. It’s not the fastest thing in the world and the gearbox had to work the engine hard on some of the steeper bits, but overall this is an entirely likeable addition to the ‘crossover’ market.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Road - Misfuelling

Here’s a worrying thought. When it comes to putting the wrong fuel in either a petrol or diesel car, more men than women get it wrong! You’d think we would all have learned by now, green for petrol and black for diesel – or is it the other way round?

According to a Green Flag survey the practice is still rife with one misfuel event happening every 3.5 minutes which equates to around 150,000 misfuels per year. And depending on how quickly you notice the mistake and who you call out, a misfuel can cost anything from £175.00 to £3,000 - and upwards, depending on how much damage is done.

Anyway, a chap called Lee Steadman has designed and produced a neat wee device to prevent motorists putting petrol in diesel vehicles. It has taken the British engineer two years to design, test and manufacture prototypes, but the final product is now on the market.

The opening to a fuel tank fitted with a Diesel Head needs a ‘diesel’ diameter nozzle to activate the opening and let the nozzle in which means that the smaller petrol nozzle won’t fit – although I know a few numpties who would have a go anyway. The only thing you have to be aware of is the clearance between your existing filler and any body flap that hinges over it, so check the fitting first.

Constructed from cast metal, the device is available via: for £34.99 and a lockable version for £39.99. 

So just how sure are you that you, the wife or the weans won’t fill up at the wrong pump in the middle of Winter, knee deep in snow, at the height of the Christmas shopping rush, with congested traffic clogging up every highway and byway, and your temper is more frazzled than the average bloke’s barbecued sausages?

Monday 21 November 2011

Road - A1 for 5

The new five-door Sportback version of Audi’s premium subcompact A1 saloon goes on sale next month priced from £13,980 to £21,270, but first deliveries won’t be made till Spring 2012.

The extra two doors adds a £560 premium over the equivalent three door model and offers a full five-seat capability. And despite the similar dimensions, there’s slightly more head and shoulder room.

There will be a choice of four TFSI and TDI engines initially with a 1.2 TFSI petrol (86 PS, 160 Nm), a 1.4 TFSI petrol (122 PS, 200 Nm), an extremely tasty 1.4 TFSI twin-charge petrol (185 PS, 250 Nm) and a 1.6 TDI diesel (105 PS, 250 Nm) with a 2 litre TDI to follow in summer 2012 (143 PS, 320 Nm).

Standard features include alloy wheels, split/folding rear seat, front and rear electric windows, air conditioning, single CD audio system with MP3 compatibility, ESP with latest differential lock system

The Sport model additions include larger 16-inch wheels, sports suspension, sports seats, Bluetooth mobile phone preparation and a Driver’s Information System. Beyond that, the S line versions get an exclusive S line exterior treatment plus larger 17-inch alloy wheels, S line sports suspension and leather and cloth combination upholstery.

Of most interest to us will be the turbocharged and supercharged 1.4 TFSI 185 PS with its seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch gearbox. Audi says it will sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 7.0 seconds and top out at 141 mph. The same transmission will also be available as an option for the 122 PS, 1.4 TFSI.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Road - Le Sizzler!

Unfortunately the French word for ‘sizzle’ is 'crepiter'. I say unfortunately, because I wanted to use the French word to describe last week’s press appraisal car, the Renaultsport Megane 250 RS which was very reluctantly handed back when the Renault man called to collect it. It may be just my warped sense of humour, but the French word for sizzle is a bit too close to some earthy English lavatorial expressions to do the 250 RS justice!

But then again, maybe it’s a good thing it’s gone, cos I still have my licence. The turbocharged, 2 litre, four cylinder engine is deceptively quick. Sitting cruising at what feels a like a relaxed and comfy 70 mph turns out to be 90! It’s the same when squirting along the back roads, the bends come up a bit more eagerly than anticipated.

Thank goodness for the Brembos and the big discs all round. In fact Renault claim the biggest front discs (340 mm) of any comparative hot hatch. So maybe they had a hunch that this 250 bhp sizzler would catch out the dozy driver. Having said that, the suspension and chassis are good for it.

What does catch out the unwary is the fact that the power is not delivered in frenetic lumps like highly tuned, high revving, high performance non-turbo cars. Neither does it have any noticeable turbo lag, as the turbo pumps in the oomph almost imperceptibly but increasingly strongly all the way up to 5500 rpm when it maxes out at 340 Nm of torque. The engine will keep on revving to 6700 rpm, but there’s no point. Keep it on boost, and it pulls like George Clooney at a granny night.

Neither does it scratch and scrabble for grip with a mechanical LSD keeping the front end under control - most of the time.

24 grand sounds a lot of money, but then again, there’s more fizz in champagne than a bottle of Beaujolais.

Friday 18 November 2011

Road - Tornado Totty

Sorry, I just couldn't resist this picture. It was sent out in the press pack ahead of the Los Angeles show and is a photograph from the 1955 exhibition.

There was no caption with it, so here's one I made earlier:

" That was some Hurricane, that was! "

It makes a pleasant change from all these glamour-less shows that we have nowadays with political correctness gone mad. Such sweetness and innocence, eh?

Road - Men in Black

Not it’s not a new boy band, or even a man band. Nor is it the line-up for a re-make of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Bunfight at the OK Corral. Nope the Prime Minister, David ‘SpeedCam’ Cameron was at McLaren ordering his new prime ministerial limousine. Well, not quite. He was there to officially open McLaren Automotive’s Foster + Partners-designed McLaren Production Centre.

Apart from the new road car production facility, McLaren will have their hands full opening 35 planned global dealerships between now and the end of 2012 while working on the next generation of high-performance cars which will take annual production to 4,500 cars per year by 2014.

They are also currently at work preparing their works and customer GT3 racecar operations for the first full season of competition next year.

The F1 team is already preparing ‘build-work’ on next year’s car, the MP4-27, and has already stored 18,918 individual components from more than 3,000 different works orders and signed off more than 5,500 technical drawings.

And if that’s not enough to be going on with, planning permission has been submitted for the McLaren Applied Technologies Centre while the design of the new McLaren GSK Centre for Applied Performance is already underway.

They are also working with marine competition teams and have entered into a new five-year deal with Specialized for development of the new top-of-the-range S-Works SL4 carbon-fibre road bike.

During the PM’s visit, McLaren Group chairman Ron Dennis: “Through everything we do, McLaren strives to find the solution. We never stop. We exist to go faster; to be state-of-the-art; to innovate; to perform with belief, flair and passion; to be the absolute best at what we do. And everything that McLaren is has been built on the founding principles of good design and solid, seamlessly efficient engineering and manufacturing.”

 “I’m delighted that the Government is embracing that initiative too: we need to encourage young people to embrace the STEM subjects, by which I mean, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.”

Now here’s a thought. How about Ron Dennis for PM? Wouldn’t that give Frau Merkel and Monsieur Sarkozy a fright.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Road - Hitting the right Note

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then I must have a squint. Or is it simply that the Porsche Panamera is so different from what has gone before that we can’t accept the idea of a larger four door sports saloon with a Porsche badge on the front?

Whatever, Porsche will reveal its new Panamera GTS to the public at the Los Angeles show which opens tomorrow over there in Americky. The 4.8 litre V8 has been uprated to produce an extra 30 hp and an additional 20 Nm of torque resulting in a high revving (6700 rpm) unit that produces 430 hp and a total of 520 Nm.

The engine drives all four wheels through a seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) transmission. That’s their way of saying it’s a double clutch gearbox!

Anyway, forget all that technical stuff for a minute because the thing that will really sell this car is the exhaust. The exhaust pipes have a larger diameter than the previous model to reduce back pressure, but there are two ‘tuning flaps’, which allow additional exhaust openings, thereby emitting more noise!

The flaps are controlled by a switch in the centre console. This also which features a ‘last mode’ function that remembers the last setting - and restores it when the engine is started. Ideal for Sunday mornings and waking the neighbours.

Compared to the car’s enhanced aural attraction, the rest of the technical spec pales into insignificance. Who cares if it’s got six pot callipers inside the 19 wheels, or that the adaptive air suspension can hunker the vehicle down into an ultra low sporty setting while switching to a harder spring rate, or that the rear spoiler automatically changes its angle to suit the performance-oriented setting?

And who cares about the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) which is twinned with the electronically-controlled rear axle differential lock and PTV Plus? The fact that PDCC limits body roll by using active anti-roll bars on the front and rear axle is of little interest to the Porsche nuts who will simply buy the car for the noise.

Unfortunately, premium products come with a daunting price tag which in this case, values a band new Porsche Panamera GTS at £90,409, and that’s the starting price.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Road - A new 'M'

First introduced 25 years ago, BMW has released details of its latest M5 saloon which goes on sale this month. This fifth generation of sophisticated tarmac tearaways has moved the game on to a new level.

The new twin-scroll turbocharged 4.4 litre V8 churns out 560 hp and generates an asphalt rippling 680 Nm of torque through its 7 speed double-clutch transmission. This translates into a 4.4 second, nought to 62 mph sprint and 155 mph (limited) top speed. Another impressive figure is the acceleration time from rest to 124 mph – 13 seconds!

The 7 speed transmission offers manual (S) and fully automated (D) shift options, with three programmes in each, allowing the driver to select sport, comfort or efficient driving styles via a rocker switch.

Naturally the chassis has been tickled to cope and includes for the first time an Active M differential with electronic damping control.

Inside the 19 inch rims are sets of 6 piston brake callipers with BMW claiming that new pad materials will resist fade even under repeated heavy braking.

There are no claims that the machine has been developed on the Nurburgring (as is fashionable these days) but then they don’t need to. The ‘M’ series reputation speaks for itself.

Unfortunately, pedigree comes at a cost. In this case, £73,040.

Rally - WRC Shake-Up

Shockeroony! Citroën Racing has dispensed with the services of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia from the end of this season. Initially contracted until December 2013, Citroën Racing has terminated their contract as of now.

Joining Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena for the 2012 and 213 WRC campaigns will be Ford’s top twosome, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen.

Commenting on the decision, Olivier Quesnel, Citroën Racing Team Principal, said: “Seeing Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia leave strikes a particular emotional chord in the whole team.  Citroën Racing trained them, first of all in the JWRC and then in the Citroën Junior Team and the Citroën Total World Rally Team. They had a very good season with five victories and third place in the Drivers’ World Championship, and they made a productive contribution to the conquest of the Manufacturers’ title alongside Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena who have claimed their eighth consecutive world crown, a unique achievement in motorsport.”  

“Now, we’re very happy to welcome Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen. They’ve been our toughest rivals over the last four seasons and we’re really looking forward to our future collaboration.  Mikko is a talented driver and his consistency will be a big help in our fight to retain the Manufacturers’ title.” 

Road - New Ford Kuga

The Los Angeles Motor Show opens to the public tomorrow and whilst it is of little direct interest to us over here, that fact that more and more manufacturers are designing and producing ‘global’ cars means that any new products which are shown over there might well appear over here.

For instance, Ford will debut its new Ford Escape at the show, otherwise known as the Ford Kuga in Europe. Obviously the marketing types have been at the blurb already because this four wheel drive SUV is being touted as a ‘Smarter Utility Vehicle’ because it will have more electronics inside it than R2D2.

For instance, it’s got a ‘hands-free’ powered tailgate. This is not radically new as powered tailgates have been around for a while now, but Ford have taken the idea a step further, a sensible step further that is.

Imagine approaching the car with your hands full of shopping and your ‘blipper-key’ is still in your pocket. Well, because of the proximity sensor, the car knows the key is approaching but if hands are full, the ground is wet and it’s still raining, what do you do? Apparently, if you wave or kick your foot under the tailgate it will open automatically. Now that’s progress.

Ford is also promising a few more ‘driver aids’ with ‘automatic hands-free parallel parking’ (which really works), voice activated controls for some of the interior gadgets, automatic ‘blind-spot’ warnings and an automatic over-ride system which will apply the brakes in an emergency or if it thinks the driver is tackling a corner too enthusiastically. Naturally there will be a switch to over-ride this electronic witchcraft!

European customers will get their first sight of the new car at the Geneva Motor Show next March, but for now, here’s a couple of pics.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Road - By yon bonnie banks

I nearly forgot. The Suzuki Kizashi. That’s why we were at Loch Lomond yesterday. A number of English journalists had flown in from the deep south – Leeds, Manchester and Heathrow – and we all met up at Glasgow airport where we collected the cars and then took them for a drive up to Crianlarich.

I don’t know what the visitors were expecting but one chap wearing a hat, scarf and overcoat earnestly asked me if the cars were fitted with Winter tyres! Crikey, the sun was shining.

The Kizashi is a difficult car to place. The kit and spec pitches it at the premium end of the mid sized saloon car sector, but the price puts it at the bottom.

It’s got a 4 cylinder, 2.4 litre engine with 175 bhp and it’s got four wheel drive. It’s also got a CVT gearbox, but unlike others tried recently this one works rather well. Using the paddles actually makes it feel like a gear change. The car is front wheel drive until a button engages the intelligent all wheel drive system.

And that’s about it. Suzuki are only bringing in 500 of these for sale next year and there is only one spec. No diesels and no base models.

So what’s the plan? Apparently the Kizashi was designed from the ground up and built by Suzuki themselves to show what they can do, so it’s a sort of ‘halo’ model for the range. It offers a comfortable ride and a well equipped cabin and although no price has been confirmed, it is expected to go on sale next year for around the 23 grand mark.

In other words, a lot of car with a wee bit of exclusivity for not a lot of money.