Car Reviews /

Range Rover Velar

To say Range Rover can't do any wrong at the moment has to be the understatement of the year! From being a company that just produced one car, they are successfully launching cars in every market segment possible at the moment. They successfully launched the Range Rover Sport and then the equally popular Evoque, both cars have sold exceptionally well and the magic looks set to continue with the new Range Rover Velar. The name Velar was first used on badging of the original 1970's Range Rover so it's quite apt they've bought the name back! I managed to get a glimpse of this car quite a while ago, and it really has the wow factor with its stunning styling and its recessed door handles amongst other things. The car fits between the Evoque and the Sport, I didn't even realise a niche existed but with this car I'm sure they'll have boat-loads of new customers. The designers have given the car a short front but a longer rear overhang, add a sloping roofline and this car really has a presence! I drove the 3litre Diesel which by all accounts will be the best-selling car in the range, this is despite all things diesel being bad news right now. We were actively encouraged by the government to buy them but now they have the same stigma smokers have and people prefer to leave them out in the cold these days than be associated with them!! It's a real shame really because diesels have not only great torque but they also have the added benefit of great economy too. Having driven the 2litre diesel recently, I'd be tempted to order that engine over the more expensive larger one any day. Performance ranges from a top speed of 130mph to 155mph and 0-60mph acceleration ranges from 8.4-seconds to 5.3-seconds, which isn't bad for a car nearly weighing two tonnes. Both V6 petrol and Diesel engines get the benefit of air suspension and this really helps cars fitted the massive 22" alloy wheels. The car is actually based on the same platform as the F-Pace, as with the F-Pace Aluminium has been used extensively to try and make the car not only lighter but more agile too. The very fact it's much more expensive than the Jag hasn't stopped the army of buyers who've ordered the Velar. It looks really smart, especially in the range topping Dynamic Spec and with the all-important black pack, this car just looks the part! When you step inside the Velar you realise this car is a real game changer for all of the cars rivals. The top screen controls the navigation, phone and radio, the screen at the bottom controls the temperature control, along with the heated and cooling seats. The car I drove also had massaging seats the cars suspension settings are also controlled by the bottom screen. The speedo and rev counter are both digital and they really ooze quality! As you'd expect from a car of this calibre, the plastics are decent quality as is the leather, a new more expensive cloth type material from a company called Kavadrat is also available but I'm not sure how many brave buyers have opted for this? It's quite a strange but it has a nice feel to it if that makes any sense at all. The car I drove was fitted with autonomous braking, lane assist, blind spot assist and the excellent matrix led headlights. With all this help it sounds like the car is capable of driving itself! It was also fitted with park assist, which was quite handy as the cars’ rear screen is quite hard to see out of, especially with the thick pillars at the back. The Velar is no way as agile as the Porsche Macan, it feels a bit bulky and awkward even when driven in dynamic mode. Driving the car in this mode does stiffen up the suspension and it also makes the gear changes and throttle response much sharper too. Maybe it's to do with my age, but I much preferred driving the car in Comfort Mode, it just makes the car much more relaxed and a more enjoyable place to be. The car has good headroom in the front and rear but legroom is limited for passengers in the rear. The rear seat can be split in a 40-20-40 configuration and the boot space is a decent 673 litres, that was more than enough space for a few suitcases and weekend bags galore. The Velar is priced from £44K, but once you start ticking the boxes on the spec sheets, most cars will cost well over £70K which is dangerously close to the Sport, which let’s face it, is a bigger more practical car. While I drove this car, loads of people came over and asked questions about it, the consensus was that it is not only very good looking, despite its rather high price, it's going to sell like hot cakes and Land Rover have another cash cow on its hands. Car courtesy of Stratstone Land Rover Sunderland.
Car Reviews /

Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio

Any petrol head will tell you that until you've owned an Alfa you aren't a proper petrol head. Alfa's have never had the best reputation for build quality or reliability but they have made some stunning looking cars that also drive really well. As you may expect, I've owned one Alfa, I bought a 156 when they came out. My car was 3-litre petrol and when you started it, the car just sounded amazing. The car I owned was surprisingly reliable but that didn't stop buttons falling off the seats and trim coming away all over the shop! That said, when you drove the car, it just put a smile on your face; the performance was up there with its German rivals, even if the build quality wasn't. Another thing Alfa has is a very loyal customer base; they are a very passionate bunch who love all things Alfa. The car I've had the real pleasure of driving this month is the new Gulia, when I was given the choice of driving the Diesel or the range topping Quadrifoglio, it was a no brainier for me. The Gulia is rear wheel drive and this is no doubt to take on its German rivals from BMW and Mercedes. The last Alfa that was rear wheel drive was the 75 which ceased production 25 years ago. The Fiat Group, who own Alfa, are investing over £5Billion to make Alfa great again. After driving the Gulia I can say this investment is starting to pay off  and they have also entered the very lucrative SUV market with the Stevlio. I haven't driven that yet, but watch this space! The Quadrifoglio is clearly aimed at the Mercedes AMG, AUDI and its RS model and lastly at the BMW M range. The designers have done a great job and the car really looks the part with carbon fibre all over the place and the impressive 19" alloys really help make the car look extremely sporty indeed. Alfa have used Aluminium in key areas to keep the body weight down and, in doing so, the car has excellent power to weight ratio of 318bhp per tonne. The 2.9litre V6 is turbocharged and it pumps out 503bhp. The engine has been inspired by Ferraris 3.9litre V6 which I'm sure isn't a coincidence at all. The car gets to 60mph in under four seconds and its top speed is 191mph, driven sensibly the car should return most owners 30mpg. All UK Quadrifoglio's come with an 8-speed automatic gearbox and 19" alloys as standard. The car I drove came with the optional ceramic brakes and Sparco seats. These body hugging seats are great and they make you feel like a Formula One driver. They do take up a bit of room for rear passengers and they are priced at £2950 so I can't see many owners opting for them. The Alcantara rimmed steering wheel looked and felt great. My favourite bit was the starter button,  I know I've said it before but simple things and all that. The cars ventilation dials and buttons are very simple and straightforward to use, its SatNav and communication system is also on par with its German rivals. The graphics and screen is a little bit cheap looking for me, but as with all Alfas - it’s all about the engine and the drive. The materials used in the car are good, especially with a good scattering of leather, Alcantara and carbon fibre all over help make the interior feel like quite a special place to be. The rear seats don't fold which doesn't make it very practical at all and with the boot opening being quite small, it doesn't help at all when loading the car with cases, shopping etc. Driving the car in race mode really makes it quite a handful, if you aren't careful. The cars exhaust note sounds really good and throaty indeed, making down changes via the gears and the exhaust pops and crackles like no one’s business. I know this is very childish, but I found myself looking for tunnels just to hear the cars soundtrack of pops and crackles. Beware driving the car in race mode - it turns off the traction control and this can make the car a real handful if you're not careful. After driving the Gulia I can honestly say Alfa are back on track and in the hot seat (pardon the pun) for good times again. The car looks and sounds amazing and it will be quite a rare sight on the roads. Priced at £59k this car really ticks all the boxes for me and I'd have one over its German rivals all day long. Car courtesy of Richard Hardie Alfa Newcastle.
Car Reviews /

Land Rover Discovery

The Discovery was launched in 1998 and it was originally launched with three doors. The five door was launched in 1990 and both cars had five seats as standard and two more jump seats were available as an optional extra. The car's interior was designed by the Conrad group and it was classed as a lifestyle vehicle, many of the designers ideas were deemed a bit too wacky and they weren't incorporated into the final design. The basic structure was basically a Range Rover but the interior featured parts from the Montego & Maestro. Exterior parts came courtesy of the Maestro van, freight rover van and the Morris Marina it wasn't really the best of starts for the car! Initially the Disco was going to take on Japanese rivals, because of its lower pricing it was a success, factor in the cars incredible off-roading ability and Land Rovers were finding new homes all over the world. Fast forward to the fifth generation Discovery and thankfully there isn't a hint of any old Rover car parts anywhere. The latest Disco has the family genes running through it with the familiar headlights and the curvy sexy body shape. The rear end is a real talking point and it's definitely a love or hate design. Personally for me it's a grower, but I do think this car is very colour dependent. In black or grey it looks amazing but in white it's far too much like a van! To help reduce weight the car has been fitted with an aluminium monocoque but it still weighs over two tonnes. The car features air suspension across the range and it just glides along the road, I love hearing the hissing and various noises the car makes when you park up and get out (I know it's really sad). The car has four spec levels; all cars are fitted with Bluetooth, DAB radio, cruise control and autonomous braking. I drove the new 2lt diesel and I'll be honest with you I just presumed it would be slow and unresponsive especially mated to the standard 8 speed auto box. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised as it was really good, it managed to get to 60mph in eight seconds and it's top speed was 121mph but the best bit was the economy and it managed to return about 40mpg even with my heavy right foot! The 3lt V6 diesel obviously sounds great with its sportier engine note, it gets to 60mph slightly quicker at 7.7 seconds and its top speed is only 10mph more than the smaller engine. As you would expect the petrol V6 is the sportiest of the range, you'll pay for this not only at the petrol station but when you come to sell the car as it will depreciate the most. The two diesels should retain nearly 59% after three years. The interior is very classy indeed and nothing like the first generation Disco. The switchgear and materials are excellent, there is a real abundance of storage space in the door pockets and the storage area underneath the arm rest is huge and it can be refrigerated. The panel housing the ventilation controls opens up to reveal storage for phones, keys or even sunglasses. The infotainment system is much more than just sat-nav, if it's used in conjunction with the app it allows you to fold seats down; lock doors and the fuel level can be checked via the app. With all seven seats up the boot has 285 litres of luggage space, with the rearmost seats down it increases to 1137 litres and with all the seats down this increases to a mammoth 2106 litres or nearly as much as a small van. The rear two seats actually accommodate two adults unlike its competitors; they aren't just for teenagers or small children. The Discovery has just been named Tow car of the decade, I'm sure you'll see plenty pulling along horse boxes or caravans this summer! The Discos lack of rear tailgate has led the designers to come up with a clever solution. A one-piece boot opens to reveal an electrically operated flip down ledge that can actually support 300kg. With all of the cars safety technology from air bags all over the place to its autonomous braking and lane departure warning I'm sure this car will achieve a 5 star Ncap rating. Land Rover has introduced a service pack for five years or 50,000 miles, a three year unlimited mileage warranty also gives owners peace of mind. Looking at some of the last shape Discovery's on the forecourt the latest model looks a million times better and with its weight saving use of aluminium it is a much better car to drive as well. I think Land Rover will be onto another sales success with this car and it's great to see another British success story.
Car Reviews /

Bentley Continental Supersports

By the time you get to read this review the chances are that the car I'm driving may have already sold out. The reason for this being Bentley are only making 710 Supersports so if you are lucky enough, I would dash to the Silverlink and order your one straight away. The original Supersport was launched in 2009 and all 1800 cars sold very quickly. Buyers have been pestering Bentley to bring another one to the market and thankfully, they have listened. The car I drove was white with some very sexy looking stripes on the bonnet and very impressive looking black alloy wheels. Opting for the X Specification pack gives you two-toned paintwork and tri-toned interior trim options. The Mulliner department are always there to satisfy their clients expectations and owners exacting needs, especially when money is no object. Before you even drive the car it looks extremely sporty indeed, even at standstill. The new look bumpers and carbon fibre splitter at the front and the diffuser at the rear just highlight the cars sporty intentions. A rear spoiler can be fitted to the coupé just to give the car a more sporty look and feel, add to this the smoked lights and you really have one hell of a sporty looking Bentley! I’m sure W.O Bentley would approve of this beauty as would the original Bentley Boys of yesteryear. Starting the car, it just sounds so unbelievable.  Follow this with a blipping the throttle and the engine just sounds amazing. The Supersport costs £43,600 more than the GT Speed you will get change out of £215,000, just! You may think is any car worth an extra £44k over the already quick GT Speed? Well in a nutshell, most definitely YES!  Considering the car weighs over 2.2 tonnes it’s is scarily quick. Bentley have managed to shave 40kg off the Supersports weight by adding carbon ceramic brakes and a titanium exhaust along with 21 inch forged alloy wheels. I can only liken the performance to an Italian sports car as it really has the performance and the comfort that you just don't get in a run-of-the-mill sporty vehicle. Planting your right foot down on the throttle gives you a ferocious performance, 60 mph arrives in 3.5 seconds and it hits 100 mph in an impressive 7.2 seconds. The 0-100 mph time is 1.7 seconds quicker than the previous Supersport and for anyone interested, the cars top speed is 209 mph and it actually returned 18 mpg, even with my lead right foot! Considering just how heavy the car is, its performance is beyond belief and its safety aids just make an average motorist feel like a formula one driver. The chassis has been carried over from the Speed version and it rides 10mm lower than the standard Continental GT. Due to the extra performance of the car it needs stiffer springs and anti-roll bars. It also features a new exhaust system and intakes, larger turbochargers and a revised air cooling system is also required for the extra 79 bhp increase over the previous Supersport. The only thing this car has in common with the rest of the Continental range is the 8-speed gearbox. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on one of these stunning vehicles you must downshift the car at speed because the pops and crackles from the four exhaust pipes just make you smile every time, well it did me anyway! The Supersport retains the Continentals four-wheel drive system with 60% of its torque allocated to the rear wheels. But it also adopts the torque vectoring technology previously seen on the Bentley GT3. It can brake individually on the front and rear wheels to assist with hard acceleration coming out of corners with the inside rear wheel to aid its turn.  As with all Bentleys, the car’s interior is exquisite, from the beautiful leather to the carbon fibre on the dash. It just exudes quality especially the thick pile carpet and the beautiful stitching on the seats.  The workmanship just can't be knocked at all. The front seats are the sporty bucket variety and the car has rear seats instead of roll bars! If you are one of the lucky 710 buyers, you are in for a real treat as this motor is worth every penny of the £212,500 asking price and although it’s a fair chunk of cash, I'm sure, in time it will actually appreciate in value. Car supplied by Bentley Newcastle.
Car Reviews /

BMW 5-Series

At first glance the new 5-Series looks just like a mini 7-Series, this isn't a criticism or a bad thing because they are both very smart looking cars. The 5-Series has been around for over 45 years and it has consistently been a massive seller for BMW. This car has been driven for three million miles over four years and the engineers have fine tuned everything and here we have the results of all of this hard work. It's obvious to see why the designers don’t want to design something that's going to upset future buyers but I think they've done a great job with this car. It not only looks like a real executive car but it has a clever balance of sporty touches thanks to the M-Sport tweaks, deeper front and rear bumpers, subtle side skirts and lovely 19" alloys. The new enlarged kidney grills hark back to the early 5-Series and they really help give this car an aggressive look from the front. I drove the 530d with the optional X-drive. The engine produces 261bhp and it gets to 60mph in 5.4 seconds. It’s very quiet, you can barely hear it at tick over but when worked hard, it does have a great sounding growl. Thanks to Syntak technology the engine is encased with soundproof material. The best seller in the range is going to be the 520d which will account for a staggering 80-90% of sales. The new 5-Series is 100kg lighter than the outgoing car, thanks to the use of aluminium panels; it has helped shed loads of weight. Basically this is the Slimming World version! It is also 36mm longer and 6mm wider meaning passengers sitting in the rear now have more leg room than most other rivals. The boot capacity has also been increased by 10 litres to 530 litres. Thanks to this the current car is 11% more economical and 10% quicker than the outgoing model. Factor in the aerodynamic shape and its class leading 0.22cd figure, this car literally glides through the air. Because of the cars aerodynamic shape and the acoustic glass, wind noise is kept to a bare minimum. Potential owners can opt for the Integral Active Steering which is only available with cars fitted with X-drive BMW's 4-wheel drive system. The electronically controlled set up turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front ones to significantly improve manoeuvrability. At high speed the rear wheels point the same way as the front, thankfully! This helps sharpen turn in and boosts stability. All 5-Series get Driving Experience Control which gives the driver access to comfort, sport and eco pro, each tailoring steering and throttle responses to suit conditions. The optional adaptive dampers priced at £985 help tense up or soften depending on which setting you chose. The system constantly monitors your driving style. This option mated to the Professional Infotainment System works to unlock the Adaptive Mode. This works with the satellite navigation system to continually be ready for upcoming hazards like a sharp bend or junctions. The car I drove had 19" alloys and combined with the adaptive dampers, helped give this motor a very comfortable ride, especially in comfort mode. BMW's Autonomous Driving set up gives the car the ability to accelerate, brake and steer up to speeds of 130mph. It works really well but it does require you to keep reminding it that you are awake and paying full attention, although The Hoff had plenty of faith in Kitt, I'm not sure if I could trust a car to drive itself, personally. The car now has a few gadgets that were originally seen on the 7-Series, LED headlights are standard throughout the range, gesture control works to mute or increase / decrease the volume or to answer calls. The car's interior just has a real quality feel about it and it is up there with the competition, all buttons and switches just ooze quality. The dash is dominated by a 10.25" screen which is very user friendly and it works by either using the rotary dial or touch screen. Apple Car Play is an optional extra priced at £235 and I'm surprised it wasn't fitted as standard. BMW have priced the car at £36,025 and the range topping 540i Sport comes in at an eye watering £49,945! After spending a few days in this car I really didn't want to give the keys back. I really can't wait to drive the M5 when it's launched as that is going to be one hell of drivers’ car. Car supplied by Lloyd Newcastle.
Car Reviews /

Volvo XC 90

My first car was a Volvo 340, it wasn't the most obvious choice for a young lad who had just passed his test. It felt like a tank to drive and it was really heavy on petrol. A few things stick in my mind about that car, the car was built like a tank and the seats were very comfortable. Because it was as aerodynamic as a breeze block I remember it being noisy at speed. The other thing that sticks in my mind is the fact that all Volvo's & Saab's used to have daytime running lights. This is the norm now with all manufacturers giving cars quite funky led lights indeed. When the Volvo XC90 was launched over 10 years ago it became a real sales success. It totally surpassed Volvo's sales expectations and waiting lists quickly formed. Owners were able to buy the car and either sell it for a profit or keep it for a year and not lose a penny. This car just pressed all the right buttons for owners, it a nice enough to look at and it was very family focused indeed. As this car is so well loved by current owners this latest Volvo XC 90 had a lot to live up too. Imagine the pressure the designers and engineers were under to get the new car right. Up until about 6 years ago Volvo was owned by Ford, it was the height of the credit crunch. In their wisdom they decided to sell of Land Rover, Jaguar and Volvo. A Chinese company called Geely bought Volvo, after considerable investment they will soon see some rewards. The new XC90 now looks very menacing from the front although the rear looks very similar to the current model. Step inside and it's a different matter indeed. The interior just oozes quality, none of the cars competitors can get anywhere close to it at all. The XC90 is the first car to use a new platform called SPAR I believe there is no connection to the convenience stores!! Volvo have fitted the car with new much more efficient engines, a hybrid version is also available. This promises amazing economy but there is a £10,000 premium to pay, that may outweigh the the potential savings to be made. The Diesel engines promise 50mpg plus economy and the hybrid promises over 112mpg. All cars feature 4-wheel drive and they all have 8 speed gearboxes as standard. In the UK we get 7 seats but in some markets the car is only available with 5 seats. The rear two seats are ideal for anyone under 5ft 8" unlike most competitors who can only accommodate children. Just to prove how family friendly this car is, the second row seat can be supplied with a child seat. With the 3rd row seats up there is still enough room for some bags or a buggy. With the seats folded this car has estate car rivalling space. There is also a handy divider that can be flipped up to stop smaller items from sliding around the boot. Being so family friendly this car has loads space for storage dotted around the cabin. The cars standard suspension is very good on our terrible roads, after driving a car with air suspension I would be tempted to opt for that as it makes the ride quality even better especially when the largest alloys are fitted to the car. Anyone using the car off road can also increase the cars ride height by 40mm which may help if the car is struggling off road. Back to the car's interior and the stunning use of leather and metal make this place a real joy to be. Driving for hours in this environment is just so relaxing and it just oozes class. The dashboard only has 8 buttons and everything is controlled by what looks like a tablet. The home screen controls everything from the navigation to the excellent sound system. The XC90 is a big old beast and the driving position is excellent, you sit very high in the car and you have a commanding view of the road ahead. Volvo are not famed for making sporty cars but in it's R Design trim the car looks amazing. It is also available in either Momentum, gives the car leather upholstery, climate control, Bluetooth, Sat Nav, 10 speakers and MP3 player. Inception gives the car larger alloys, memory seats and plusher interior. The R Design adds a sportier look inside and out. Being a Volvo the cars trump card is safety, there are air bags all over this car, anti whip lash headrests, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring. Volvo's trump card has to be its city safe system. The system applies the brakes if it senses someone or something stepping out in front of you. According to Volvo this car is most safety focused Volvo ever! If you are looking for something other than a X5 or a Q7 this car really should be on your shopping list. From its macho new looks to its stunning interior this car had the X Factor in abundance. Car supplied by Mill Volvo
Car Reviews /

Bentley Bentayga

For years and years now, the Range Rover has been the king off roader’s. They are so capable off road but they are also great for driving over long distances. There are plenty of manufacturers wanting to milk the SUV cash cow: Jaguar, Maserati, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and there is even talk of Rolls Royce building one! When Porsche introduced the Cayenne to the world, purists of the brand were in uproar. But the car’s SUVs account for over 70% of all sales. It's no wonder then, that car makers are desperate to get a piece of the action. Jaguars newly launched SUV the F Pace has become the company's fastest ever selling car. That brings me on to the car I've been driving this month, now get ready for this. I've been driving Bentley’s take on the luxury off roader… the Bentayga. The designer’s brief was to build the world’s fastest, most luxurious off roader. As soon as you enter the car, you can't help but be wowed by the interior. When you start the car and plant your foot on the accelerator your neck is pushed back into the headrest thanks to the unbelievable power. It feels like a power boat with the front end rising under acceleration. Starting the car sounds amazing with the engines growling- it just makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Initially Bentley thought they would sell about 3,500 Bentayga’s per year but this has been increased to 5,500 units. Anyone fortunate enough to be invited to the factory will see Bentayga’s all over the place in various colours. Now here is some news that will send a real shockwave through the very heart of Bentley purists’ necks; apart from the company launching an SUV, there is talk of a diesel engine being introduced for the Bentayga. At the moment the car is fitted with a W12 6lt engine which produces 600bhp and it gets to 62mph in 4.1 seconds, with a top speed of 187mph; pretty impressive figures for a 2.4 tonne off roader. The car is priced from £160k but once you start ticking a few options the price quite easily jumps over the £200k mark. One of the cheaper options is the cars over mats which are priced at £370 and believe me, they are very thick pile mats indeed. Music lovers will love the Naim premium audio system priced at £6,300 but the Tourbillon clock priced at £110k may even make a billionaire think twice about ordering one! The cars styling is very brash. The front is pure Bentley but the back looks a bit like an Audi Q7; no surprise then that the Bentayga is based on the same floor plan as the Audi. The car is very colour dependant so if you're lucky enough to buy one, make sure you get a dark colour with big alloy wheels. I drove a car with 22" alloys and the ride was very comfortable indeed and opting for smaller alloys will improve the ride even more. The air suspension works a treat with most pot holes etc handled with ease. Driving the car through winding roads it cornered with little or no body roll at all. The car has three driving modes from comfort, sport or Bentley mode. In Bentley mode the car drives the way the engineers would recommend. Thanks to the double glazing the car is quiet at speed as well beating all of its competitors quite easily. To help with economy, half of the car’s cylinders shut down. Power is split 40/60 with a bias of power going to the rear. Most owners will expect to return 15mpg around town and possibly about 23mpg on a long run. The car also has the ability to tow 3.5 tonnes and though I can't see many owners having a caravan, I'm guessing it will come in handy for towing horse boxes. The car's interior just oozes quality, where robots are used for heavy lifting but every car is still hand made. The cars leather is just so sumptuous and the wood trims are multi lacquered and very highly polished indeed. Depending on how deep your pockets are you can choose from Californian redwood or even Stone. The Bentayga’s dash is dominated by an 8" touch screen, 60GB hard drive infotainment system. The integrated Satav is very good indeed and also incorporates voice control, text to speak and Wi-Fi, along with other connectivity options. The cars switches and buttons are still top notch, I was disappointed with the indicator stalks which looked cheap and in my opinion even the clock on the dash looked cheap despite being a Brietling. Owners can choose from either three seats in the rear or two, with a raised transmission tunnel and both seats are massaging and they recline. Choosing the four seat car you lose out the chance to fold the rear seats. The boot isn't massive and it only holds 431 litres of luggage. The Bentayga's styling makes it like marmite, the car is an amazing off roader with the luxury Bentley owners demand. The Range Rover has real competition for the first time in years and unlike its competitors it's hand-made in the UK. Car courtesy of Bentley Newcastle.
Car Reviews /

Mercedes GLE Coupe SUV

My earliest memory of the iconic three-pointed Mercedes badge has to be my Uncle’s S Class. Prior to buying the Merc he had always been a Jaguar fan and having been a passenger in both the S-Class and the Jag, I remember them as totally different beasts. The Jag with its lashings of wood and plush upholstery, the majestic leaping car on the bonnet and its seats which were better than those in our house. The Mercedes-Benz with its velour interior and build quality akin to a tank, it was definitely built to last. Being used to my Dad’s Ford Cortina, as good a car it was, it just didn’t have the build quality or the heavy doors of the S-Class. But somewhere down the line, Mercedes lost their way and started to use cheaper parts and it showed. The most over engineered car of the time, 190 is still clocking up stratospheric mileage as a taxi in many European cities and Mercedes started to get a bad name for itself for the poor quality of its builds. But it looks like they are turning the corner now, which brings me perfectly to the car I’ve had the pleasure of driving this month – the Mercedes GLE Coupe SUV. Launched with three engine options – the 3.5L diesel, 4.5L V6 and the AMG 6.3 which is powered by a huge 5.5L V8 twin-turbo – it’s a sporty alternative to the Range Rover Sport and a direct competitor to its German cousin the BMW X6. Unless you have an oil field in your back garden the petrol engine versions of this car are going to be costly to run. As you may expect then, the Diesel engine will be the best selling engine in the range. Don’t let the diesel fool you though, with a top speed of 140mph and 0-60 in seven seconds so it's no slouch. You can expect around 35mpg from the Coupe which is only 4mpg off Mercedes’ own number at 39mpg, though that figure should be helped by the nine-speed automatic gearbox all cars are fitted with. From the two trim specs available, even the base AMG line comes with auto dimming and folding mirrors, parking sensors, reverse camera, heated seats, climate control and DAB radio. For those wanting even more of a refined experience can opt for the Designo line which will add heated and cooling massage seats, 360 degree camera and a Harmon Kardon sound system. The GLE has a real presence on the road and thanks to huge wheels, large Mercedes badge and sporty body kit, will certainly turn heads on roads filled with small Euro-boxes. Speaking of Euro-boxes, which are often renowned for their sharp handling, the Coupe is as smooth as silk around corners thanks to the adjustable driving modes and air suspension allowing it to be as responsive as a car half its size. In comfort mode, the car’s steering feels precise but still quite heavy. Put it into sport mode though and the car transforms. Firmer body control and extra grip thanks to the four-wheel drive systems leaves it wanting to be thrown into corners and tight country roads. Inside, Mercedes have ensured the Coupe’s dash and interior are up to the standard with the C Class interior and although it does look a little busy with so many buttons, you can't fault the materials used. Built for comfort and durability, they are plush to booth the eye and the touch, but feel so well put together that they will last a long time as well. On the topic of buttons, although functional, the Coupe’s multimedia system seems to be over complicated to me. I still prefer the iDrive system from BMW which is much easier to use. Unlike the original X6, the GLE is fitted with three rear seats, and while it may be comfortable enough, tall passengers may find headroom to be a little tight. The GLE is a very good car indeed and it's a perfectly accomplished SUV that gives both the Porsche Cayenne and the Range Rover Sport a real run for their money. If you are looking for something new and unusual the GLE may be your go to car. It has bucket loads of kerb appeal and I'm sure it will be built to last a very long time indeed.
Car Reviews /

Porsche 911

I remember buying my first Porsche like it was yesterday. Looking at the adverts in Top Marques magazine I spotted this reasonably priced car for sale at the Porsche dealership in Edinburgh. I called the salesman and manage to do a deal over the phone as I didn't have a part exchange. I paid the deposit over the phone and I was so excited I was counting the days until I picked the car up. As most of my Uncles loved Mercedes cars I was the first person to own a Porsche in the family. The night before I was going to pick my car up I couldn't get to sleep with excitement. After tossing and turning I guess I finally managed to get to sleep, the train journey to Edinburgh beckoned. The salesman picked me up from the station and promptly whisked me back to the garage to do my paperwork etc. I remember starting the Boxster like it was only yesterday, the hairs on my neck stood up and I really had a tingle down my spine from the noise of the engine and the meaty growl from the exhaust. Most Porsche fans will say the Boxster is not a proper Porsche but let's not forget this car and the Cayenne have helped the company to become the money making machine it is. This brings me on to car I have had the real pleasure in driving this month, the new turbocharged 911. Once again Porsche purists will be appalled to read about the company going down the turbocharged route, the company's justification for doing so is for greater efficiency and economy. With so many manufacturers going down the hybrid electric route it was only a matter of time before the 911 was made more environmentally friendly. The 911 was originally launched back in 1963 and it has been improved every time but this has to be one of the biggest changes to the car ever. The only non turbo version in the range will be the GT3 which for now will still have a naturally aspirated engine. The car is available in either coupe, cabriolet or a targa which is a half way house between the two and with either two or four wheel drive. I have been given the best selling Coupe S to drive, first impressions are the car is not too dissimilar to the outgoing model from the outside. There are new mirrors, more aerodynamic body styling, new door handles and a more retro looking rear air cover. The main changed are to the engine and the cars dashboard, stepping inside the cabin and you realise the 911 really is a car you can drive everyday. The cars dash is leather trimmed and the scattering of aluminium gives the car a real premium feel. The touchscreen controls all of the cars sat nav, phone the inclusion of Apple Car Play makes it easier to play music or view messages. The driver and passenger have plenty of both head and legroom, the two rear seats can be folded for luggage and cases or they are ideal for two young adults. The front boot is ideal for a couple of weekend bags or a small case, just for the record there is more than enough room for a supermarket shop as well. Being such a sporty car with massive alloys and tyres you would expect the ride to be very firm indeed. The car I drove had pasm fitted as standard and what a difference it makes to the cars ride. I can honestly say the imperfections in the road were handled with ease. The cars electronic stability is excellent and it should keep most drivers out of trouble. Should you be unfortunate enough to be involved in a crash then the front, side and window airbags will protect the cars occupants. Optional safety equipment includes blind spot monitoring, active cruise control and more powerful carbon brakes. Given the choice of the 7 speed manual or the 7 pdk auto box I would go for the optional automatic all day long. It simply is a real joy to use and you physically can't change gears as quick as the box does. The manual also has a very heavy clutch which makes driving in traffic more like a workout for your left leg. I always remember hearing horror stories about 911's losing control on bends but this car is no longer intimidating to drive at all. A normal driver now feels like Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel as it is just so easy to drive. The cars steering is just so precise, you simply move the wheel and the car goes exactly where you want it to. Factor in the amazing road holding and you really have a car to have massive amounts of fun in. The base model Carrera now gets to 62mph in a blistering 4.6 seconds, the Carrera S has so much pulling power you could literally leave it a high gear all day long. The Carrera is supposed to average 38mpg but in the real world most drivers should achieve 30mpg with a mix of town and motorway driving. The 911 comes with leather upholstery, sat nav, digital radio and dual zone climate control as  standard. The list of options is extensive and most owners can spend another £10,000 above the cars list price with consummate ease. The new turbocharged engine makes the car more efficient than ever and the bonus of better economy makes this car an even more practical car to drive daily. Despite the engines being a touch more refined this car is still the class leader and I can honestly say I didn't want to give the keys back!! Car supplied by Porsche Newcastle.
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