Monthly Archives: September 2019

Believe it or not, it’s a quarter of a century since people started grumbling about how SUVs had started to feel like hatchbacks.Well, they didn’t say ’SUVs’ back then, as the term hadn’t been invented, but when
the original Toyota RAV4 came to Britain we said it reminded us more of something like a Golf GTi than a proper 4×4.

Now, the RAV4 feels like a big wagon and there’s a whole slew
of vehicles blurring the distinction between hatchback and 4×4 more effectively than ever.The BMW X2 is one of the latest, and it’s one of the most hatch-like yet. It’s a 4×4, but it makes the original X5 look like a tractor.

We’ve got the 20d model here, with all four wheels being driven by an automatic box. We climbed aboard shortly after driving a Jaguar E-Pace, which itself is not what you’d call an old-school mud- plugger, and the feeling of having descended into full-on hatchback territory was immediate and very obvious. Similarities to a traditional 4×4 are incidental at best.

Similarities to the inside of a worrying Dutch brothel, on the other hand… there’s an element of supposition there, he said guardedly, but if you like orange leather, this is the car for you. Tick the Magma Red Dakota Leather option and you’ll get something that looks like the spawn of Judith Chalmers and Phil Brown.

We found it foul beyond words, but taste is personal and no doubt there are people who find us foul beyond words too. Other than that, the cabin is a nice looking affair in which BMW’s usual slick design is set off by plenty of textured, soft-touch surfaces. Build quality is all-round solid, with no more than a few creaks here and there and an excellent firmness to the controls.

The seats are pretty good, too, with plenty of support and a nice, soft leather finish. Choose a better colour and it would look as classy as it feels.The seat backs are a tripe narrow for our liking, but despite the overall hatch-like atmosphere you’re well positioned with a good view of the road ahead. The waistline is quite high and the A-posts rather thick, but this doesn’t impede too much on all- round visibility – unlike the C-posts, which seem to go on forever.

Head and elbow room are better than you might expect from what is a small vehicle by the standards we’re used to. There’s plenty of space to stretch your legs, too, but a six-footer will need to adjust his seat all the way back. Good news here is that another tall ‘un will still fit into the seat behind him; it’ll be a bit of a squeeze, but deep hollows in the seat-backs mean it’s possible.

Headroom in the back is pretty limited, though, and those huge C-posts mean it feels enclosed and dark, even with that garish leather trying to brighten up the place. You certainly can carry adults in the back of an X2, but it’s better suited to kids – which, given the preponderance of yummy mummies one would expect to be buying them, is exactly what will happen.

There’s just about enough stowage provision up front but, with a bin rather than a full cubby, and quite small pockets in the doors, you might find yourself dumping stuff on the passenger’s seat. Bigger items are taken care
of the way you’d expect from a hatchback – the tailgate aperture is smaller than we’re used to, and the load space is only as long as the car’s overall proportions will allow, but the seats drop down easily and lie reasonably close to flat.

As an SUV, then, it feels kind of like a hatchback doing its best. But the payoff should come on the road.

First impressions are that the 2.0-litre diesel engine idles quite noisily. But once warmed up and under load, it settles down to a contented hum – and it pulls very eagerly all the way through the rev range.

It’s easy to drive gently, but doesn’t hesitate to thump you in the back when you kick it down; the route on the event at which we tested the X2 didn’t include any motorway driving, but it’s certainly civilised enough on fast A-roads to suggest it’ll cruise without any grief.

What you might want to do is opt for electronic damper control. This only adds £150 to the bill, and by allowing you to tune the shocks for a more comfortable ride it draws the sting that hampered BMW’s MSport models of old. We remember driving early X3s that were practically unusable on British roads, but while this X2 was on the firm side it dealt perfectly well with the cracks, lumps and pot holes that are often found on our magnificent UK roads.

Further options on our test car included MSport steering; the roads we got to drive hardly let us make the most of this, but the vehicle was certainly agile, feeling light on its feet and able to change direction with the nimbleness of… oh, of a hot hatch. Funny, that.

In this form, the X2 is a true crossover in that it’s a bit of a hatchback, a bit of an SUV, a bit sporty, a bit luxurious and a bit premium. What it’s not is a trail- blazer in any way, and nor is it cheap – the base vehicle we drove lists at £36,590, and by the time all the various options and OTR costs were taken into account it would have cost £44,185.

None of this made it feel particularly special, either. The options included things like electric seats, front parking sensors and a rear-view camera, which are a common sight on other brands’ standard kit lists at this kind of price and indeed cheaper.

That’s always been the way with the premium German brands, so it’s not a criticism of the X2 per se. All the same, it did leave us feeling that it’s a lot of money for a vehicle whose main selling point is that it’s a BMW.

You may not have noticed, but car makers are all flocking to electrified powertrains in a bid to be kinder to the environment with their products.

Taking the first steps into this pool, Bentley have announced the Bentayga Hybrid – which is now on sale across the continent with lower emissions, higher fuel efficiency and an EV mode.

The Bentagya Hybrid’s gasoline propulsion comes from a ‘highly efficient’ 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol unit, which is paired with an electric motor. Together they offer up 516lbf.ft, with the electric motor responsible for 295 of them. This means that the luxury mammoth hits 60mph in 5.2 seconds.

But, the big headline is that with the two working in tandem, the big Bentley can achieve up to 80.7mpg with only 79 g/km of carbon dioxide coming out of the back. All electric range stands at 31.7-miles on an NEDC cycle and the battery can be fully recharged in two and a half hours – at which point it is good for another 464 miles.

As you may have guessed, the thing isn’t cheap, with prices starting at £133,100.

With its debut SUV entering the final stages of production, Aston Martin have let slip that the DBX will be powered by a rather potent V8.

The 4.0-litre power plant is the same twin-turbo unit from the Vantage, but it will produce 542bhp combined with 516lbf.ft – making it the highest performer of all the V8s in the current Aston range.

Testing has been extensive, with the British marque determined to keep the DBX on par with it’s performance cars both on the civil roads and race tracks. There are no official top speed figures yet, but in testing the DBX is alleged to have broken 180mph on several occasions, according to Aston themselves.

In the remaining time before the scheduled December unveiling, engineers will be fine-tuning the handling setup and continue to fine tune the powertrain to, as Chief Engineer Matt Becker says, “make this the most exciting SUV on the market.”

The company who are building the self-proclaimed ‘spiritual successor’ to the old Defender, INEOS Automotive, have confirmed that their no-nonsense 4×4 will be called the Grenadier, rather than the working title of Project Grenadier, following an online vote.

It has also been confirmed that the Grenadier will be built in a brand new and bespoke facility in Wales.

Based in Bridgend, there will be 200 jobs created initially with that potentially rising to 500 in the long run. The site development is now underway to account for the planned start of production next year.

INEOS have also announced that there will be a sub-assembly plant in Estarreja, Portugal, which will produce the vehicle’s body and chassis in conjunction with the European chain of the brand’s suppliers.

CEO of INEOS Automotive, Dirk Heilmann, said of the progress: “Confirming production in the UK, as well as our investment in Portugal, is a major milestone for the project. We are progressing well with the design and engineering work, as well as our marketing and distribution plans. In the months ahead, we look forward to sharing more information about the Grenadier, and engaging with local suppliers, the community and region, in advance of the start of production in 2021.”

Renault have released the pricing for the new Koleos, with the entry point for the range set at £28,195 OTR.

That’s for the Iconic trim with the 1.7-litre 150bhp diesel, front-wheel drive version, though. The same trim with the 2.0-litre 190bhp engine, however, starts at £31,195. All engines are paired with Renault’s CVT transmission, and regardless of trim it is only the more powerful Koleos models that are available with power to all four wheels.

For the range-topping GT Line trim and four-wheel drive, the price is £33,195.

Click here to refresh yourself of the nuances of the latest Koleos.

Volkswagen’s latest addition to the R family is now on sale in the UK.

The T-Roc R packs 296bhp and 295lbf.ft, which means it will top out at 155mph and hit the 62mph mark in 4.9-seconds.

Customers on these shores will get a set of 19-inch alloys – a whole 2.54cm bigger than other markets – whilst you can add adaptive dampers to the party for £695. This enables access to multiple driving modes which offers drivers more adjustability in their performance focussed SUV. Plus, it is sold exclusively with the combination of 4MOTION and a seven-speed DSG transmission.

The T-Roc R has the most vibrant palette of any past R vehicles, with orange, yellow, and red all available. Obviously, being the 21st century, you can get it in black, grey, silver and white, too, along with the signature R Lapiz Blue hue. All colours are available in conjunction with a black roof, A-pillar and mirror housings, too.

On sale now, the T-Roc R’s pricing starts at £38,450 on the road.

£78,800. That’s how much you can spend on the new Land Rover Defender.

Unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show, the so-long-awaited-it’s-become-tedious 90 and 110 are at the other end of the tech scale from the vehicles that once bore the same names. Terrain Response and automatic transmission are standard on all models, as is air suspension on the 110.

The Defender 110, which is the first model to go on sale, has approach, departure and breakover angles of 28, 40 and 28 degrees respectively with its suspension set to Off-Road height. Max wading depth is 900mm – supported, naturally, by a Wade setting in the drive mode palette, at least on models with the top Terrain Response 2 programme.

The smallest wheels available on the new Defender are 18” in diameter. Fitted only to the base model, these are – almost unbelievably – steels. Next up the trim levels, the S model gains 19” alloys; the SE, HSE and X all run 20-inchers.

At launch, there’ll be a choice of four engines. If you want diesel, you’re looking at the 2.0-litre SD4 with 200 and 240bhp outputs, while the petrol options are the 300bhp 2.0 Si4 and 400bhp 3.0 i6.

Yes, a 400bhp Defender. This engine is only available in range-topping X trim – which in turn is the only way of getting Terrain Response 2. It’s also the only model with an electronic active diff, configurable Terrain Response, All-Terrain Progress Control and, on the 90, air suspension.

No surprises, this is the one that’ll cost you the £78,800 at launch. That’s on the 110, for which orders are open now.

At the bottom of the range, the base-spec Defender 110 D200 is priced at £45,240. Land Rover says that when the 90 goes on sale, it’ll start at around £40,000, and that there’ll also be commercial model costing around five grand less than that.

The interior is a smart affair, much in-line with the rest of the family, although it does debut the new Pivi Pro infotainment system. This has 14 different apps that can receive updates over the air, so you’ll always have an up to date system.

Whilst the contents of the engine bay may be found across the Land Rover family, the D7x platform is 95% new. Consisting of an aluminium monocoque, the new structure is the stiffest that Land Rover has ever produced. With triple the rigidity of a standard body-on-frame design, the D7x platform provides a setup suited to the new electrified powertrains.

Land Rover says the new Defender will be available in 128 markets around the world. Engineering boss Nick Rogers says it’s ‘the most capable Land Rover ever made’ – capable of what, we’re about to find out…