Car Reviews /

Volvo S90

Anyone who has read my car reviews with a good memory may actually remember my first car was a Volvo 340. My silver dream machine was quite old but that didn’t matter- it was my first car and I was proud as punch of it. The electric windows didn't work and it wasn't very economical at all but I do remember the car having great seats and it being built so strongly. Another thing I still remember to this day were the daytime running lights, only Volvo and Saab drivers would have their side lights on no matter how bright it was. With LED running lights this wouldn’t be so unusual now but 25 years ago other drivers would flash you as they didn't realise you had no control over them whatsoever. Let's fast forward to 2016 though and I can tell you I've been very privileged to drive the new S90; this car is aimed at the BMW 5 series, Jaguar XF, Mercedes E Class and the Audi A6. The previous Volvo was a firm favourite for taxi drivers and the police loved the sporty T5. This car was launched over 20 years ago, was always a boxy looking car and it still hasn't lost the box styling but is far more cooler now and totally different to its competitors.     Volvo is currently on a roll with the XC90 still selling like hot cakes, this doesn't surprise me at all because it’s a fantastic car. With that in mind, I had very high expectations for this new S90. It's based on the same chassis as the XC90 so Volvo should have another winner on its hands. The S90 is being launched with 2 diesel engines. The first is the D4 which is a four-cylinder 2lt engine which gets to 62mph in 8.2 seconds and it emits 116g/km of co2. The other engine that is badged D5 and that gets to 62mph in 7.3 seconds this engine only comes with four-wheel drive and emits 127g/km of co2. There are also two petrol engines but they won't be coming to these shores. A hybrid S90 should be interesting as it has 402bhp and it emits a measly 44g/km of co2. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to drive this plug in hybrid but I do think this car could really be the pick of the range. It will be great to see what the designers have up their sleeves with the R Design as this will turn the cars from slightly frumpy to full on sporty. The car has been priced slightly higher than the equivalent 5 series which is a very bold move indeed. The base car is priced at £32,555 with the range topping car costing £45,000. The car has two trim levels. Momentum is the equivalent of BMW's SE. Cars come with leather, dual zone climate control, LED headlights and a 9" infotainment screen which dominates the dash. The top spec is Inscription which adds diamond cut alloys, nappa leather and a bigger display between the instrument dials. The cabin really is beautiful, the use of materials from the soft leather to the real wood it's a great place to spend time. The uncluttered facia design just oozes quality; my personal favourite is the stop start button - instead of pressing the button, you twist the knob to start the car, I know it's a simple thing but it kept me happy. There is plenty of room for the driver and passengers alike. The Bowers &Wilkins speakers were excellent, they pump out 1400 watts from the 19 speakers and I've never heard Drake and Rihanna sound so good in my life. The chassis is very comfortable - the ride is very relaxing but it isn't as agile as the 5 series or the Jaguar XF. The Volvo is a very refined long distance cruiser. Around corners and bends, it isn't quite as fun as either the BMW or the Jaguar. The large alloys spoil the ride quality but they fill the wheel arches - knowing all of this I would opt for the large alloys all day long. Volvo have always been pioneers of safety and technology and their latest innovation is Pilot Assist. This system works at speeds up to 20mph. It's not fully autonomous but you have to keep your hands on the wheel and the car can keep you in the right lane and it watches out for any forthcoming hazards. It is semi-autonomous and it takes the strain out of busy commutes. This car is a real breath of fresh air in this segment and the car's interior is one of the best around right now. Volvos still feel like they are tanks, the doors close with a reassuring clunk and I do think anyone who is in the market for something a bit different should not hesitate to give this great car a chance. Car courtesy of Mill Volvo
Car Reviews /

Range Rover Evoque Convertible

I was very lucky to be invited to the UK launch of the Evoque convertible in Christchurch, which has to be one of the most beautiful places in England. I was there with fellow journalists who all write for lifestyle magazines, so imagine me representing Luxe and rubbing shoulders with the writers for Red magazine, Town & Country etc and you have the gist. We all met the car’s designer and the gentleman who planned the Evoque’s excellent sat-nav and infotainment system. We were also given a talk about Land Rover’s involvement in the America's cup. Sorry guys but I must admit I nearly fell asleep through this section as I have no interest in sailing at all - although I do wish Land Rover good luck trying to bring the cup back to England. The Evoque was launched back in 2012 and it became the fastest selling Range Rover of all time. Victoria Beckham was brought on board to design the interior although I'm not sure what her input was at all.  I was one of the many people who bought into the Evoque. Although it started off bring quite reasonably priced by the time you stared adding in specs the car became very expensive indeed. I went for the 5 door diesel Dynamic HSE, despite wanting the coupe I was advised to buy the 5 door for resale.     As most Evoque owners know it is a lovely looking car but I only kept mine a week as it was way too small. The story does have a happy ending though as I managed to swap the car for a nearly new Sport. I suppose I shouldn't have mentioned that! The convertible Evoque is a totally new niche for Range Rover being a truly premium drop-top SUV During the war most of the Jeeps and Defenders had the roofs chopped off for machine guns and such and were very much workhorses with no luxury at all. Nissan chopped the roof off the Murano a while ago but it wasn't a sales success as it just looked odd. The Evoque convertible is nicely in-between style and function. It looks really good with the roof up or down and Instead of using a metal roof the designers decided to go with a fabric roof. The main benefits being weight saving and the fold away roof so there is a decent amount of boot space. The roof can be folded on the move and it lowers and raises in 20 seconds. Despite the roof being axed the Evoque was still very rigid with no scuttle or rattles in the cabin at all. This may have been due to the extra weight of the under-body reinforcement and the suspension has been strengthened which adds over 300kg over the coupe Evoque. Despite the extra weight it was still great to drive at speed and it savoured corners and winding roads. The boot has 251 litres of room or enough room for a few overnight bags or a trip to the supermarket for a weekly shop. Owners have two trim options and they are either HSE Dynamic or HSE Dynamic Lux, with a fully-spec car costing up to £52,000. Both engine choices are 2lt engines and despite the diesel being economical the petrol engine is the best choice all day long. The petrol engine produces 237bhp and it gets to 62mph in 8.6seconds and its top speed is 130mph. The best-selling engine will be the diesel which produces 171bhp and it gets to 62mph in 10.3 seconds getting to a top speed of 121mph. As with any Range Rover this car excels off road even if most owners will never venture that way. Even if they do it is generally mounting the pavement outside of the school. The car is fitted with sophisticated four wheel drive and it switches to front wheel drive when cruising and also features a 500mm wade capacity. I’m guessing it wouldn't be good for people who sadly suffered in the recent floods this year, but it might be interesting to go through shallow rivers or the like. As with other Evoques the convertible is fitted with hill descent control and all-terrain progress control which would get most owners out of tricky conditions. Once you step inside the car you are greeted with a very nice interior as the leather and piano black trim just ooze quality. The heated seats are a nice touch, with self-parking and the rear sensors essential as the rear window is tiny. I drove the orange coloured car and coupled with the black alloy wheels it really looked very smart. The infotainment system is much better than the previous Evoque's with the dash dominated by a 10.2 inch screen and the use of Google maps making for a much better system overall. It was very easy to pair my phone to the system and everything was very user friendly. I'm sure this Evoque will sell like hot cakes as it has no competition at the moment. You have the practicality of a four-wheel drive car with the option to drop the roof whenever we get our Great British “summer”.
Car Reviews /

Porsche 718 Cayman

Prior to introducing the Boxster and Cayman, Porsche was a company in big trouble. They went on to become sales phenomena, helping put Porsche back into profitability. After owning quite a few Boxsters I remember with excitement ordering a Cayman. It was always called the poor man's 911 but personally thought it was kinder to call it the thinking man's Porsche. I remember watching Top Gear one night with Jeremy Clarkson reviewing the Cayman. Knowing his hatred for Porsches, I watched, eagerly waiting for him to hate the car. It's a well-known fact in the car industry that what Clarkson says can make or break a car. Having ordered my car I was waiting to see what he had to say. I'm sure he liked it but he trotted out the familiar ‘poor man's 911’ line and promptly decided to re-name the car a Coxster. When I started the car up for the first time the noise made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The engine is behind you and with the blaring exhaust, it made for a truly memorable drive home - especially with its exemplary handling. I really couldn't wait to get my hands on the keys and take it for another drive. A trip to the Lakes was on the cards and the weather was great with the perfect car for the day at hand.     As I get to drive different cars most weeks it's interesting when I get some feedback from people. I think the colour of the Cayman- a metallic Miami blue - just made it look really amazing and attracted a fair bit of attention. Normally no one comments on the car but with this machine, loads of people commented on just how beautiful it looked. At first glance, the new Cayman doesn’t seem too different to the model it is replacing. However, I’m informed that only the roof, bootlid and windscreen are the same, with every other panel being changed. The new model has what can only be described as a sweat band running along the back of the car, with Porsche lettering running along underneath the third brake light. A bit of a jigsaw puzzle, the Cayman features front suspension from the 911 Turbo and rear suspension with bits from the GT4 especially when it comes to lateral stiffness. The S also features beefed up brakes from the 911 with four-piston callipers and thicker discs. The 911 has always been the benchmark for two seater sports cars. So the Cayman, with its new smaller turbocharged engine, had a great deal to live up to. It has two engine choices like the previous Cayman. The difference now is both engines are not only smaller but they are both turbocharged as well. You can choose from either a 2.0lt or 2.5lt engine which get to 62mph in 5.1 and 4.6 seconds with top speeds of 170mph and 177mph respectively. In the right hands or feet the car should return around 35mpg but while I had the car, I managed to average around 20mpg. As I've said the engine is mounted behind the driver so not only does that help give the car perfect weight distribution it also gives you two boots. One behind the engine and one at the front. As the engine powers the rear wheels all the front wheels have to do is steer – something they do well. The feedback is brilliant and I for one am a fan of the electric steering. Unlike some I've tried recently Porsche have nailed it with excellent feedback through the steering wheel right into your hands. The cars subtle exterior design tweaks really look great, but inside the car looks just like the 911 and the dash and multi-media system is light years better than the previous car. The system comes with Apple Play so it's much easier to link your iPhone and access music and entertainment via the touchscreen display. The optional Porsche Adaptive Suspension lets you choose from Normal or Sports mode - sport is more at home on a race track as you feel every imperfection in the road and we all know how bad some of our roads are in the UK. Owners will really relish driving this car down some country roads as it really feels planted to the road and there is virtually no body roll at all. Put the car into sport mode using the new dial on the GT steering wheel and the engine really comes to life. From the first popping and rasping exhaust noises, you really want to downshift all the time just to hear the amazing noise from the engine; saying that the new smaller engines just don't have the same amazing soundtrack of the previous six cylinder engines. As with all Porsche cars it's very easy to go mad with the spec sheet. the Cayman comes with air conditioning, part leather upholstery, digital radio, parking sensors and heated seats as standard. For me the car needs large alloy wheels and the excellent PDK gearbox. They are priced from £40k for the base 718 and the S comes in at £49k - but believe me when I say they can become really expensive once you start ticking the options on the spec sheet. If you are looking for a well-engineered two seater coupe the Cayman is still the best car by miles and you can't help smiling after every drive. Car supplied by Porsche Newcastle
Car Reviews /

Porsche 718 Boxster

I was feeling the love recently when I was invited to four separate Porsche garage launches for the 718. I decided to go to our local Porsche garage at the Silverlink and it was really great to see some of the old team - yes I'm talking about you Sid! I've always had a soft spot for the Boxster as it was my introduction to the Porsche family. I remember the deal as if it was yesterday from start to finish. I bought a copy of Top Marques and saw this Boxster for sale in Edinburgh. A week later I was picking it up. When I started the car up for the first time the noise made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The engine is behind you and with the noise from the exhaust, it made for a truly memorable drive home especially with its exemplary handling. After seeing the 718 being launched I really couldn't wait to get my hands on the keys and take it for a drive. A trip to York was on the cards and the weather was great so I had the perfect car for the day.     As I’m lucky enough to get to drive different cars most weeks, it's interesting when I get some feedback from people. I think the colour of the car and its red roof just made it look really amazing indeed. Normally no one even comments on the car, but the 718 was getting a few enviable looks, with people commenting on just how beautiful the car looked. The Boxster has always been the benchmark for two seater sports cars so the 718 has a great deal to live up to. It has two engine choices like the previous Boxster. The difference now is that both engines are not only smaller but are both turbocharged. You can choose from either a 2.0lt engine or a 2.5lt engine getting to 62mph in 5.1 and 4.6 seconds and top speeds of 170mph and 177mph respectively. In the right hands the car should return around 35mpg and not surprisingly, whilst I had the car I managed to average around 20mpg! As I've said, the engine is mounted behind the driver so not only does that help give the car perfect weight distribution it also gives you two boots – one behind the engine and one at the front. As the engine powers the rear wheels all the front wheels have to do is the steering. The feedback from the handling is brilliant and I for one am a fan of the electric steering. Unlike some I've tried recently, Porsche has nailed it with excellent feedback through the wheel. The cars subtle design tweaks really look great but inside the car looks just like the 911 with the dash and multimedia system lightyears ahead of the previous model. The system comes with Apple Play so it's much easier to link your iPhone and to access music and media via the touchscreen display. The optional Porsche adaptive suspension lets you choose from normal or sport mode. This is more at home on a race track as you feel every imperfection in the road and we all know how bad our roads are here! Owners will really relish driving this car down some country roads as it really feels planted to the road and there is virtually no body roll at all. Put the car into sport mode using the new dial on the GT steering wheel and the engine really comes to life. From the popping and rasping noises from the exhaust, you really want to downshift all the time just to hear the symphonies from the engine. The 718’s roof can be opened and closed on the move, despite being a cloth roof the wind and road noise isn't that bad at all, you can quite easily hold a conversation while driving on the motorway. The rear visibility isn't excellent though and I found myself needing to use the rear parking sensors all of the time. As with all Porsche cars it's very easy to go mad with the spec sheet. The car comes with air conditioning as standard, part leather upholstery, digital radio, parking sensors and heated seats. For me the car needs large alloy wheels and the excellent PDK gearbox. They are priced from £42,000 for the base 718 with the S coming in at £51,000 - but believe me when I say they can become really expensive once you start ticking the options on the spec sheet. If you are looking for a well-engineered two seater convertible the 718 is still the best car by miles and you can't help smiling after every drive. Car supplied by Porsche Newcastle
Car Reviews /

Nissan GT-R

My earliest memory of driving a Nissan was buying a locally built Primera. It felt good to buy a car not only that was made locally but it was built as if it were made in Japan. The car was as dull as dishwater but its excellent gearbox and all-round reliability made this car something I really grew to like very much. The car I have driven this month is the Nissan GT-R and having driven this car over six years ago, I can't even begin to explain just how much I was looking forward to driving this beast once again. The very first GT-R came out in 1969; this 2lt mean machine wore the Skyline badge. A coupe version followed in 1971 and a replacement model came out in 1973, limited to just 197 cars. That was the end of the Skyline name until 1990 when Nissan decided to enter racing and the marque was reborn.  This brings me on to the latest most recognised version of the GT-R the latest incarnation of this Japanese supercar has become even better than the excellent car I drove those six long years ago.     In my last review a friend of mine had just bought a GT-R but due to her becoming a grandmother recently she has sold the car. As a treat I decided to take her out for a spin in the GT-R I had and she was tempted to go straight the garage and order one. If she does I want a commission, guys. Nissan have made only subtle changes to the car but it's really a force to be reckoned with. From what I remember the only changes I noticed on the outside of the car were the LED lights incorporated into the front bumper. Any GT-R buffs please excuse my ignorance if I have missed out anything else new, but I didn’t notice it. The car has a drag co-efficiency of 0.27 making the car very sleek. If you haven't seen a GT-R before you can't help but notice the massive tyres and the huge rear exhaust pipes, it could quite easily be a Batmobile. Driving this car you realise just how big and muscular the car actually is, driving around town or along narrow roads can be scary for the inexperienced. Ordering the GT-R in Nismo mode makes this car even more focused and performance tuned but will set you back an eye watering £120,000. The other new version available is the Track Pack GT-R this is an extra £10,000 over the standard car but it is a much more track focused car with firmer springs, lighter Nismo wheels and improved brake cooling. The rear seats have been removed and combined with the new lighter alloys helps save 20kg in weight. If I am being totally honest I personally think the standard GTR is amazing value and I don't think the extra 10k makes the already fantastic car any better at all. Anyone used to a Porsche 911 will find the interior quite an afterthought. It seems as though the designers really knuckled down with the exterior design and the engine but they left the cars’ interior to some young novice. The dash is dominated by a screen which not only has an array of options and data read-outs but has so many buttons it can be quite bewildering. The interior trim and plastics are really very cheap and pretty nasty. I'm sure in my last review I likened the plastic to recycled Bic pens and the screen was like something from Dixons. Fans of the GT-R will no doubt say the car is about the performance and handling. With that in mind it has to be said this car is unbelievable on both counts. The standard model has 523bhp and it gets to 60mph in a mind boggling time of less than three seconds and thanks to the excellent four-wheel drive the car feels glued to the road. Each engine is bench tested at full revs for 10 minutes and the tyres are filled with nitrogen as air is just too unpredictable. The dual clutch gearbox is as good as Porsche’s PDK box. The GT-R’s gearbox can be adjusted from snow mode to R-mode. This changes the shift speed and pattern. In R-mode the engine runs to the limiter. This setting is ideally suited to the track. Parking the GT-R can be quite nerve racking as the slightest touch of the throttle and the car lurches forward. If you perform a three point turn when the car is cold you will hear a great deal of noise from the front differential. Despite driving the car in comfort, I still found the ride very harsh around town or at slow speeds. The standard car has two rear seats which are really only useful for young kids and if a six foot driver sits in the front there is virtually no space in the rear at all. The boot has plenty of room for two sets of golf clubs, so keen golfers will be happy as they have space galore. The car comes with a three year or 60,000 mile warranty and it needs to be serviced every 6000 miles. If you do want to buy this beast it may be advisable to purchase the servicing pack which will save you money over the ownership of the car. The GT-R really has to be the most value for money supercar on the market. It has the power and pace to keep up with Porsche and Ferrari but on tricky roads the car makes you look like a formula one driver. Just as I was about to finish this review I noticed Nissan showcasing the new 2017 GT-R in New York. Once again it's hard to notice the differences on the outside but thankfully the designers have given the interior a real once over. I can't wait to drive it and let you know my thoughts again.
Car Reviews /

Jaguar F Pace

Readers of my reviews may remember my first memory of a Jaguar being my Uncle's XJ with the pouncing Jaguar on the bonnet. Being a young boy at the time being enclosed in a sea of stunning leather, beautiful carpets and lashings of wood made his car more appealing than my parents’ house. Imagine my excitement then, when I could finally buy my own Jag and I didn't do things by half either. Instead of buying an X type I decided to go full hog and swap my Porsche Cayman for a stunning XK Coupe. When my friends or so called friends had found out what I'd done they said I would need a pipe and slippers. Going from the best two-seater sports car to a large four-seat grand tourer was beyond them all. The Jag was such a stunning car it made absolute sense to me. The drive to the garage in the Cayman was brilliant as there were loads of winding and twisting country roads. The drive back home in the Jag wasn't quite as exuberant as the drive in the Cayman. It sounded amazing but it was nowhere near as much fun to drive as the Porsche. Corners just couldn't be taken with the same speed or confidence at all but still I loved the Jag as it was not only stunning to look at, but it was so sumptuous inside.     This brings me on to the car I've been driving this month, the new Jaguar F Pace is Jaguars first SUV. As with most other manufacturers everyone is desperate to get onto making an SUV as they mean big profits for the manufacturer and we all love them - the F Pace has already become Jaguars fastest selling car in history, priced from £35k, the F Pace has been firmly aimed at the Porsche Macan, Mercedes GLC and the BMW X4. The first thing you will notice is just how sporty the car looks, my car was the R Sport and featured wheel arch filling alloy wheels. My white model with black alloy wheels just looked the business. The standard suspension is quite firm and when you add large alloy wheels the ride becomes harder again. If you're more interested in comfort, you would be better off sticking with the standard wheels as when coupled with the optional adaptive suspension, the car becomes very comfortable. You have the choice of either a 2lt diesel, 3lt diesel or a 3lt petrol engine. They average 53mpg, 47mpg and 31mpg respectively, although the most popular engine is likely to be the 2lt diesel. The F Pace is priced from £35k for the Prestige and this rises to £52k for the range topping S. Having driven the 2lt diesel before I know it will be not only slow but a very noisy engine to choose. Luckily I was given the 3lt diesel to drive and it was very quick, economical and not very noisy at all. In this small body the engine felt very quick and quiet with wind and tyre noise kept to a minimum, even at motorway speeds. The car's interior is very plush and it feels very classy. From the rotary gear selector to the two tone leather interior it just smacks of quality. The dash mounted screen controls, the sat nav, all just oozes quality. All buttons and stalks have a real premium feel and the interior is on par with its competitors. There are plenty of cubbie holes for storage and the door bins are a good size, I had plenty of room for my keys and sweets. Passengers in the rear have a decent amount of room although entry into the rear is slightly harder as the rear doors aren't very wide at all. The F Pace beats all of its competitors with the largest boot in its class with either its seats up or down. The range starts with the Prestige which comes with 18’ alloys, 8’ touch screen, sat-nav, heated seats, part leather seats and dual zone climate control. The Portfolio adds 19’ alloys, xenon lights, electric seats, power boot, panoramic roof, keyless entry and updated speakers. The R Sport also gets a sporty body kit. All models come with a system which detects impending head -on collisions and prevents them. The F Pace is a welcome addition to the booming SUV market. I'm not sure how good it will be to drive off road but I'm sure the closest most drivers will get to going off road will be mounting a pavement. Car supplied by Stratstone Jaguar, Newcastle
Car Reviews /

Infiniti Q30

I am quite sure if you were to ask the vast majority of the British public to name five car manufacturers, none of them would even dream of mentioning Infiniti. But ask the very same question in the States and I am sure quite a lot of people would mention them. When you consider the brand was originally launched 25 years ago they really do not have any brand awareness in the UK at all. In a valiant attempt to take on the Germans at their own game, Nissan, Toyota and Honda all launched premium brands. As I have mentioned before, in America they have managed to outsell their competitors by making their cars not only look great but jam pack them with technology, with the trump card being the car’s excellent reliability. Infiniti was originally launched in Europe about eight years ago when they introduced the Q45 which looked very nice. This smart looking car didn't put Infiniti on the map but now they are here with a bang, thanks to clever F1 sponsorship with the Red Bull team. They are also looking to enter a car into the BBTC. They have invested heavily into designing all of the dealerships to look amazing. As soon as you walk into the showroom the place just screams quality. And thankfully, for a change, Infiniti have chosen our very own local super group Vertu to lead the charge in spreading the word about this company. The new Q30 is the car to put Infiniti on the map, and best of all it is being built in Sunderland at the Nissan plant. The staff have been retrained in how to build a premium car that is firmly aimed at the BMW 1 series, Mercedes A Class and the Audi A3.     This car looks very smart indeed and you can't help but think it's a small SUV. Infiniti are launching a Q30 SUV next year called the QX30. In the right colour with the right wheels, this car looks simply amazingly. The cars suspension and engines come courtesy of Mercedes. We therefore have a Japanese car that is built in Sunderland with essential German components. The car's doors have a real reassuring German sounding thunk and the team at Sunderland have really excelled themselves with the build quality. When you step inside the car the soft touch materials really ooze quality. The car's cool interior makes a nice change to its competitors quite boring looking interiors. The Infiniti’s infotainment system is all controlled via an iDrive style controller which if I am being honest, isn’t as good as its competitors versions. Infiniti have used the Mercedes parts bin to the max, it has to be said this is not a bad thing at all. The best-selling car in the range is likely to be the 1.5lt Diesel engine which has been sourced from Renault. The other two engines are supplied by guess who! Yes you're right, they are supplied by Mercedes and it may not surprise you to know the dual clutch gearbox is also courtesy of Mercedes. A manual gearbox is available with smaller engines and larger engines get the option of four wheel drive. The car available in three trim levels. The entry car is the SE, followed by the Premium and the range topping trim, the Sport. In this guise the car gets lower and stiffer suspension and much more aggressive looking bumpers. The car's steering is also weighted to give the driver a much sportier feel. To try and address this noise and refinement issue the engineers at Infiniti have attempted to alter the acoustics by using noise cancelling technology. I can honestly say the 1.5lt diesel I drove was very noisy and maybe the noise cancelling technology wasn't working at all though it was very economical even with my lead right foot. The car has sufficient poke to overtake and the power is delivered in a seamless manner. The car's trump card is its fantastic handling. The suspension keeps the passengers extremely well cushioned from our terrible roads and whenever you feel like driving the car in a sporty manner it really steps up to the plate and it doesn't disappoint at all. At speed the car really suffers from excessive wind and tyre noise and unfortunately not even the boffins at Infiniti have managed to solve these issues. The 1.5lt engine really needs to be worked hard to make any real progress while the 2.0lt petrol engine is slightly sportier. The car is priced from £20,550 with the range topping car costing £27,300. Passengers have plenty of headroom and the boot is also a decent size for most growing families. This car will definitely put Infiniti on the map but it doesn't quite beat the class leading Audi A3. Anyone looking for something slightly more different to the boring German competitors should head on down to our local Infiniti dealership. I am sure Jeff and his great team will look after any potential customers. Anyone who saw me driving the understated blue chrome wrapped car will be devastated to know it's been sold, but you could always get a gold wrapped car which seems to be the latest craze in the Middle East! Car courtesy of Vertu. Infiniti
Car Reviews /

BMW i8

Being such an aspirational purchase for me at the time, I remember buying my first BMW like it was yesterday. We take the brand for granted now but 20 years ago there weren't as many around, so it felt like a real achievement to own one of these amazing cars. Prior to buying my 320i I would normally buy either a Japanese car which despite great reliability, were really dull and boring to drive. My 320i was a high mileage rep mobile, but I still remember how the car felt like new despite its age which stands as a testament to BMW’s exceptional engineering. The car I had the pleasure of driving was the stunning new i8 which looking at, you could easily believe it was a concept car with its very futuristic styling. The car’s look reminds me of the BMW M1 from the front and it reminds me of the Jaguar XJ220 from the side. I am sure you will agree neither were ugly cars. The latest trend for most manufacturers is to have at least one hybrid model in its range. Even Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche have got in on the act with supercars fitted with both electric motors and petrol engines. As you can imagine these cars are not only amazing to drive and filled with technology they are also well and truly out of the range of most people. I wouldn't class the i8 as a cheap car but compared to the cars mentioned above, it’s a relative bargain at £100k - plus you can receive a £5k rebate from the government. The i8 is fitted with a three-cylinder 1.5lt engine and two electric motors. It’s a combination of power which gets the car storming to 62mph in 4.4 secs, and a top speed of 155mph.     Believe it or not, the same engine is also fitted to the MINI - but thankfully in the i8 it has been supercharged to produce 231bhp. The motors and engine combined produce 357bhp with the engine driving the rear wheels and the electric motors driving the front wheels. This explains the cars exceptional road holding and fantastic grip levels. Throw in exceptional feedback from the steering wheel and bring on those country roads. The engineers have also used some amazing sound technology to make the engine sound really sporty – more like a rasping V6 than a 3 cylinder engine. On electric power alone it is possible to drive the car for up to 22 miles. While I had the car I never needed to charge the batteries; all I had to do was to put the car into sport mode and all of the clever technology charged the batteries while I was driving. I managed to achieve 35mpg but this was way off the headline grabbing figure of 135mpg. The car only emits 49g/km which makes this car congestion charge exempt in London, making it a very good car for businesses as its benefit in kind makes it much cheaper to run than equivalent sports cars. As BMW's have always been advertised as being the ultimate driving machine, they have gone to great lengths to make sure the body is very light. They have also gone to extreme lengths to make sure the car has perfect 50/50 weight distribution, with the use of carbon and light composite plastics helping achieve this in the cockpit, and aluminium has been used to save weight elsewhere. The scissor doors do look amazing but entry and exit from the car is quite awkward as the sills are quite high. Once you finally manage to get into the car you need to reach up to close the door. A self-closing door would have been a nice touch but I can only imagine it was either too expensive or too heavy to make it viable. Once inside, the interior is very BMW with the dash angled towards the driver and the speedo and rev counter looking very funky indeed. A static screen allows you to see how economically you’re driving along with information about which motors are being used and so on. The screen also works the SatNav and entertainment features via the iDrive system. Vision from the rear window is really limited and the rear sensors will need to be used quite a lot. One area where this car is let down is its lack of boot space. The rear boot is only capable of taking a couple of soft travel bags. I would personally use the rear seats to hold luggage as they are too small to sit in and access to the rear is quite difficult. After driving this amazing looking futuristic car, I can safely say the future is bright especially with the use of this technology and when it's combined with a petrol engine.   Courtesy of Lloyd BMW.
Car Reviews /

Aston Martin DB11

Aston Martin was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford and they became associated with luxury grand touring cars in the 50s and 60s. As a company they have specialised in producing cars at home on the racetrack as they are on the roads. Often making appearances at long distance races including the world famous Le Mans, they actually got their start in the hill climbing world. The company has had a bit of a chequered financial history; the company was purchased by David Brown in 1947 with Ford taking ownership in 1994. In 2007 Aston was taken over by a consortium of investors led by David Richards who later became chairman in 2007. Aston’s new CEO Andrew Palmer has big plans for the brand. In 2007 the company had its best ever year for sales with 7,000 cars sold. In 103 years Aston have only sold 70,000 cars! In 2020 Mr Palmer wants to sell 140,000 cars which is quite a substantial number of cars for such a short space of time. To get them to this target the company is launching the new Vantage & Vanquish in 2018 and a SUV titled the DBX in 2019. The other car hoping to be a sales phenomenon is the DB11 which is the machine I’ve had the pleasure of driving. This DB11 is replacing the highly successful DB9. It looks stunning and is amazing from every angle with the car’s wing vents being visually stunning and highly useful – jetting air out of the front wheel arches to reduce drag. The rear spoiler takes air pressure from the back of the rear window and pushes it through the edge of the boot to reduce drag even further. The body is 30mm longer than the DB9 and the wheelbase has been extended by 65mm,  achieved by moving the front wheels forward. The car’s suspension has unequal length front wishbones and new multi-link rear with adjustable dampers, steel brakes and aluminium callipers. The car has three ride settings- GT, Sport and Sport Plus. In Sport the dampers are stiffened and steering and throttle response become much sharper indeed. In GT mode the car soaks up good old British potholes with ease and makes for a very comfortable drive, even at speed. To help reduce weight the car has glued and riveted sections which has trimmed 20kg off the slimline DB11.   Aston have used a Bosch electric steering system which works very well and feels equally as responsive. Specially developed 20’ tyres are used to stabilise the car through corners and turns and reduce torque steer, while a new 5.2lt V12 with two turbos has been fitted to the DB11, meaning it pumps out 600bhp and it should be good for 200mph. Aston have fitted an eight-speed gearbox to the DB11 and it gets to 62mph in 3.9 seconds. While I had the car I managed to average 17mpg – well off the Aston Martin quoted figure of 25mpg. The exhaust note is still amazing and it sounds so much better than its turbocharged rivals. At 7,000rpm it just sounds amazing. This is partly due to the exhaust silencer valves which allow the car to be started quietly if needed. Stepping inside the car and as you would expect from a hand-made vehicle it's just totally stunning inside. The new dash and facia help bring Aston up to date and there are a few scatterings of metal especially around the air vents. I hate to say this but I really think the dash looks cheap and no way near as special as previous Aston's. The speedo and other dials are digital and not analogue like previous DBs and I just don't think they have the quality of say a Range Rover.  I didn't realise Mercedes own a small stake in Aston but the giveaway for me was the single stork which has always annoyed me about Mercs. A central screen dominates the dash and thankfully the sat-nav and the radio are all controlled via the touchscreen. Previous Astons had a beautifully designed key which was inserted into an  emotional control unit better known as a key slot on the dashboard. Potential owners now have a keyless go with a starter button all of which isn't as fancy but it's much more practical. The rear seats are ok for youngsters, but I think any adults sitting in the rear would not be comfortable. As you may expect the boot isn't massive but you should be able to get a set of golf clubs but not much else. This car is a stunning car and it drives really well, priced from £155,000 it isn't exactly a steal but its only competitor is the Continental GT which is heavier and not quite as nice to drive. Astons MD is going to personally sign off the first 1,000 cars to make sure they meet his very high standards. If you are lucky enough to be able to buy one you will be very happy indeed. Car courtesy of Aston Martin Newcastle