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Volvo’s new XC40 Recharge brings added efficiency and range

Volvo has given the drivetrain of its XC40 Recharge a big tweak and Jack Evans has headed to Sweden to see what difference it has made.

Volvo isn’t often one for radical changes. You only need to look at its current line-up of cars to see that over the years this company’s approach has been more about steady evolution rather than ground-up revisions. So it comes as little surprise that the car we’re looking at today – Volvo’s XC40 – has undergone the mildest of changes for 2023.

But where the edits have taken place are designed to make a real difference – but more on that shortly. As an entry into the very competitive SUV segment, the XC40 needs to deliver – but does it? We’ve been finding out.

The big talking point with this revised XC40 centres around which of its wheels are powered. Previously front-wheel-drive, the new model now has rear-driven wheels which, Volvo says, helps with efficiency and making the most of the battery’s charge. On single-motor cars like the one we’re driving – twin-motor versions are also available – the battery size has remained the same at 67kWh, but the move to rear-wheel-drive helps to boost efficiency.

Photo: PA Media

Save for these edited underpinnings, we’ve not got a lot to differentiate the XC40 from the older version. There’s the continued use of eco-friendly materials inside, however, with ‘our’ car sporting a very pleasing wool-based interior.

As we’ve mentioned, the XC40 we’re testing today uses a single motor driving the rear wheels. You get 235bhp and 420Nm of torque, too, resulting in a zero to 60mph time of 7.1 seconds. Its top speed, as it is on all modern Volvos, is limited to 112mph. Opt for the twin-motor version and you’ll see this acceleration figure drop to just 4.6 seconds, too.

Range? That’s up to 290 miles from a previous high of 264, meaning that this XC40 can definitely go further on a charge. Opt for the dual-motor version and you’ll see a top range figure of 334 miles up front 270, mainly down to a larger battery than before.

Despite that switch to rear-wheel-drive, there’s not much change in the way the XC40 drives – but that’s no bad thing. It’s still a comfortable EV to drive around, while the zip of the electric motor means that it feels slightly quicker than those headline figures suggest. The controls are nicely weighted and there’s the option of one-pedal driving, too, so the regenerative braking works to slow the car down when you lift off the throttle. Because of this, you don’t really need to trouble the ‘regular’ brake until you need to bring the car to a complete stop.

The visibility all around is pretty good, too, while the square dimensions mean that the XC40 feels very easy to park and position. The raised seating position is quite confidence-inspiring, too,

As mentioned, most of the changes that have occurred to this new XC40 have done so underneath the car, so the exterior of it remains largely unaffected. It’s still a good-looking model – to our eyes at least – and incorporates the kind of pared-back design that we’ve come to expect from Volvo.

All cars get 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, too. Volvo also offers the C40, which is a more coupe-influenced version of the XC40. The pair share the same underpinnings, but the C40 delivers a slightly more eye-catching design. However, we still like the look of the ‘regular’ XC40.

One of the things that hits you first off with the interior of the XC40 is how well-made it feels. There’s a real sense of solidity to be found here, with good materials used throughout. As mentioned, the wool interior of ‘our’ test car – finished in a pleasant blue shade – really added a more comfortable edge to the cabin, while also looking pretty good too.

Thanks to its boxy nature the XC40 delivers a good degree of headroom for its size while its 489-litre boot is acceptable in size, too. It’s considerably larger than the 340-litre boot you’ll get in the Mercedes EQA, too, which is one of the XC40’s key rivals.

The XC40 remains a very well-rounded electric car. With a smartly made interior and an attractive exterior design, it’s a compact SUV which feels fully in its stride. This slight revision has only helped to sweeten the deal by boosting range and efficiency, too, so it’s definitely a worthwhile update.

The market in which the XC40 sits is definitely a competitive one, but with these tweaks it’s still an electric car well worth checking out.

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First Drive: Is Alfa Romeo’s updated Stelvio still worth considering?

Alfa Romeo has tweaked its Stelvio for 2023. Ted Welford tries it out.

The Stelvio was a real milestone model for Alfa Romeo, arriving in late 2017 as its first SUV, it made an impact, though perhaps didn’t amount to the significant jump in sales that the Italian firm hoped for.

The firm is now having a second wind with the arrival of its smaller Tonale SUV, but it’s not forgetting about the Stelvio yet, which is back with a number of small but noticeable changes to help it keep up with newer rivals, but does it succeed?

It was only a couple of years ago that the Stelvio last received an update, with this focused on bringing this SUV more in the way of driver assistance technology, as well as a more premium-feeling interior.

Photos: PA Media

This latest update doesn’t even go as far as that, with the main changes being new Matrix LED headlights, featuring the brand’s new ‘3+3’ signature, as well as the same digital instrument cluster from the Tonale, replacing the old analogue dials.

The engine choice on the Stelvio remains the same as before, and though the firm is ramping up its electrified models, there’s no hint of hybridisation here. A 207bhp 2.2-litre diesel is now Alfa Romeo’s only model to be powered by the fuel, but our test car instead uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol unit putting out 276bhp and 400Nm of torque. A ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox is also used, along with four-wheel-drive.

Accelerating to 60mph will take just 5.5 seconds, with the Stelvio able to hit a top speed of 143mph. The downside here is fuel efficiency, with Alfa Romeo claiming just 33.2mpg and high CO2 emissions of 192g/km. In the real world, however, you’re unlikely to even see 30mpg.

The Stelvio’s driving experience has always given an advantage over pretty much all its rivals, with the only exception being the Porsche Macan. We’re pleased to report that nothing has changed here.

The seating position is excellent, while elements like the fuss-free steering wheel with huge metal gearshift paddles demonstrate this is very much a car where the driver is the priority. Though the low-speed ride is a touch firm, once at higher speeds, any ride issues are quickly sorted. But it’s the way the Stelvio handles that really impresses. This is a fairly large SUV but it’s as agile as many hatchbacks, with well-weighted steering (especially in the Dynamic ‘D’ setting). Think an SUV can’t be good to drive? Try out a Stelvio.

A bad-looking Alfa Romeo is a very rare thing, and from the Stelvio’s inception, it’s managed that rare thing of making an SUV look both sporty and elegant. The front end gets the firm’s trademark triangular grille, while the new ‘3+3’ headlights help to give this SUV a slightly more aggressive appearance than its predecessor.

If looks are especially important, there’s a top-spec Veloce that will really appeal. This sits on larger 20-inch alloy wheels while getting a number of gloss black elements to give it a more menacing look. Alfa Romeo is also offering a special-edition Competizione model, sitting on the biggest 21-inch alloys, while also getting red brake callipers to help set it apart.

For all of the Stelvio’s stylish exterior design, it’s a shame the same level of effort isn’t invested into its interior. Though the addition of the new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is welcome, the rest of the cabin hasn’t changed all that much since the car first debuted in 2017. The quality, while far from poor, lacks the premium finish of rivals like the Porsche Macan and Range Rover Velar, and the central 8.8-inch touchscreen looks small by modern standards, and feels behind the times. It’s a shame Alfa Romeo couldn’t find a way of ushering in the impressive new screen from the Tonale.

It’s also not the roomiest car in its segment. The 550-litre boot is a very good size, and has a flat floor to help load items easier, but those sat in the rear will be surprisingly cramped. The smaller, and cheaper, Tonale seems to offer just as much room in this respect.

The Stelvio comes in a choice of two trim levels – Sprint and Veloce. There’s plenty of equipment included from the offset too, such as 19-inch alloy wheels, the twin screens and leather upholstery.

Upgrade to the Veloce and this brings the styling upgrades we’ve already mentioned, as well as a limited-slip differential to enhance the driving experience. Electric front seats are added, along with a power tailgate.

The Stelvio is an SUV that goes about its business differently to most rivals, putting a focus on the driving experience and styling above all else. In these two areas, it’s only the Porsche Macan that can come close.

But there’s no escaping the fact this Alfa Romeo, even with its latest tweaks, is beginning to show its age, with its interior feeling off the pace of its German rivals. Yet if you want an SUV that doesn’t follow the path and will delight you behind the wheel in a way few other cars of this type can manage, there’s a lot to be said for the Stelvio.

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The updated Alfa Romeo Giulia remains as impressive as ever

While Alfa Romeo might be electrifying, it’s not giving up on petrol just yet, as Ted Welford finds out.

While Alfa Romeo might be increasingly turning its attention to attention to electrified models, petrol-powered cars are still soldiering on. In fact, Alfa Romeo expects these versions to continue to grow until they have to be phased out, acknowledging that there’s a large chunk of buyers yet to be convinced by hybrids or EVs.

That leads us to the Giulia – a compact saloon car that first arrived in 2016 and continues to look as stunning as it did all those years ago when it was first shown. But are there other reasons to choose it? Let’s take a look.

Alfa Romeo last updated the Giulia a couple of years ago, when it gained new driver assistance features and quality improvements. This latest update is certainly on the small side, with the firm making minor tweaks to bring it in line with the firm’s new Tonale.

Photos: PA Media

These include its smart ‘3+3’ headlight design, now featuring Matrix LED technology, along with a new digital instrument cluster to help modernise the cabin. In true Alfa Romeo fashion, there’s a new special edition to mark the occasion as well.

Alfa Romeo ditched diesel in its Giulia as part of the last update, and there’s no kind of electrification here – rather just standard petrol units.

The entry-level 200bhp version has now been axed too, with the only option (outside of the sporty Quadrifooglio model) being a turbocharged 2.0-litre unit, developing 276bhp and 400Nm of torque. Drive is delivered to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox too.

Accelerating from 0-60mph takes just 5.5 seconds, with the Giulia able to keep going on to 149mph. Efficiency-wise, Alfa Romeo claims 38.2mpg and 167g/km in the case of our Veloce test car.

There’s no other way of describing the way the Giulia describes other than exceptional. It’s one of the best ‘normal’ cars behind the wheel, with its wonderfully agile handling and perfectly-weighted steering equating to a hugely enjoyable rewarding experience.

The 2.0-litre engine, though perhaps lacking slightly in the sound department, serves up more than enough performance, while the ZF-sourced transmission delivers especially slick gearchanges. It’s improved further if you flick the car into manual mode and can take charge with the large metal paddles mounted to the side of the steering wheel.

While the ride might be a touch firmer than more softly-sprung rivals like the Audi A4, if you want a more enjoyable driving experience, it’s a tiny penalty worth paying for.

It’s a sign of just what a great piece of design the Giulia was when it was new that seven years later it still looks remarkably fresh and modern. The trademark Alfa Romeo grille makes it immediately recognisable, while the addition of its new LED headlights, with a signature inspired by those of past Alfa Romeo models, gives it a fresher design than its predecessor.

Other small changes made to the Giulia include new lower grilles that have been reshaped and feature a new pattern, while there are new smoked LED lights at the rear too. All these changes just reaffirm what a great-looking car the Giulia is.

The only real change to the Giulia’s interior is the addition of a new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and it’s roughly the same as that in the Tonale. It’s not quite up to the same standard as those used in BMW and Audi rivals, but certainly modernises the cabin, and can be configured to display ‘old style’ dials of past Alfa Romeos. The touchscreen itself is starting to show its age, though, and is quite awkward to use because of its position in the dashboard.

It’s not the roomiest cabin, however, and rear seat space is quite tight for adults. An Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series are better options in this respect.

The Giulia line-up includes two main trim levels – Sprint and Veloce – while a special-edition Competizione model is also available.

Even the Sprint is packed with equipment, though, including 18-inch alloy wheels, wireless smartphone charging, Matrix LED headlights and keyless entry. The Veloce brings stylish changes like 19-inch alloy wheels and gloss black detailing, while electric and heated sports seats are also included. The Competizione then brings a Harman Kardon sound system, red b brake callipers and adaptive suspension.

The Giulia is one of those true ‘buy it while you can’ cars. As we head into an electric age, manufacturers will really struggle to make a saloon car as engaging, well-balanced and generally fun to drive as this Alfa Romeo.

It might not be at the front of the pack when it comes to space or value, but if you value style and driving experience above all else, nothing can get remotely close to this Alfa Romeo.

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First Drive: BMW’s X7 M60i brings both power and practicality

The M60i brings extra performance to the super-sized X7. James Baggott has been behind the wheel to see what it’s like.

Meet BMW’s largest off-roader – now with added punch: The BMW X7 M60i. This is the German firm’s ultra-luxury SUV and is designed with well-heeled families in mind. It has acres of space for family transportation with two pop-up rear seats hidden in the boot floor and a sumptuous second row with so much leg space the toddlers will struggle to kick the back of your chair.

The huge SUV joined the BMW line-up in 2019 and was given a mid-ife facelift at the end of last year with an updated front end and mild hybrid engines. It’s best to think of the X7 as the off-road version of the firm’s 7 Series bringing luxurious touches to off-road chic.

The X7’s refresh was relatively mild with most of the attention focused on the whopping kidney grille at the front. New daytime running lights and adaptive LED headlights were added, and at the back, the lights got a new look too.

Photos: PA Media

Inside the curved display is focused towards the driver and showcases a huge amount of information. It also benefits from hand gesture controls, letting you turn the volume of the music up with a twizzle of your finger. However, this is more a passenger pleaser than actually of any use but is fun to use nonetheless.

This review focuses on the top-of-the-range model: The M60i xDrive. This has an impressive 530bhp and 750Nm of torque available from its 4.4-litre V8 petrol. That’s enough to propel it to 60mph in just 4.7 seconds.

For our test drive, we travelled across France to the Alps in a 1,500-mile round trip. The engine was remarkably smooth and relaxing for the duration with spades of power in reserve when it was needed. While big V8s might be fast becoming a thing of the past, there’s a lot to be said for the silky smooth power delivery they can serve up.

Fuel economy for the trip was impressive too. Officially it will do 21.2mpg on the combined cycle, but we got closer to 30mpg thanks to long stretches of motorway miles. It helps that all engines now come with 48V mild hybrid technology which assists the engine to improve efficiency at higher speeds and can even drive the car electrically at very low speeds. The energy is created by braking regeneration and stored in a battery in the engine compartment.

Over the huge distances we covered during our test, the X7 was incredibly relaxing to drive. Despite its huge size, the road and wind noise was noticeable by its absence and the way the big SUV rides means we jumped out at the end of our 13-hour drive reasonably fresh. The adaptive air suspension certainly helped.

It’s surprising how quickly you get used to the sheer size of the car and the clever parking cameras and sensors make it pretty easy to slot into parking spaces. We had a few issues with the radar cruise control on our trip, though, as it stopped working a number of times.

With the two extra seats in the rear boot floor – which rise and lower electronically at the touch of a button – the X7 is noticeably longer than its X5 little brother. But, despite this extra length, the proportions are still pleasing to the eye. The huge front grille won’t be to everyone’s tastes, though, but in the M Sport spec of our test car, it certainly looked menacing.

There’s no doubt this is a luxurious SUV that could easily rival cars costing considerably more. We’d suggest it would give the likes of the new Range Rover and even a Bentley Bentayga a run for their money.

The new curved screen is wonderful to use and offers a huge expanse of space to display information. The 12.3-inch screen behind the steering wheel offers clever touches like augmented navigation directions that overlay arrows over a live video feed of the road ahead while the 14.9-inch control display is easy to manipulate.

The display and the software take a little bit of getting used to, though – but this is no complicated iDrive of old, which used to frustrate owners. The new version simply has so many screens and functions that it can take time to work out where things are.

We did find the button for the massaging seats, though, which offered heating, cooling and a variety of different back kneading modes.

The standard specification is high to start with and includes 21-inch alloys, illuminated kidney grille, ambient lighting and metallic paint. Inside you get a sports steering wheel, four-zone air con and acoustic glass. Apple CarPlay and a wireless charging tray for your mobile are also included. M Sport specification models, like our test car, get extra badging and some additional design tweaks.

There are very few BMW X7s sold every year – and that’s a real shame because we think this is a genuine alternative to the likes of a Range Rover. It offers fantastic driver and passenger comfort, is packed with luxurious extras and, with this stonking M60i powerplant, is great fun to drive.

Wafting across France was a pleasure in the handsome SUV and with two children in tow, it coped with all the additional space requirements they demanded with ease. The boot is absolutely humongous, we loved the powered third row of seats that rise out of the floor at a touch of a button and it was very relaxing to drive. If you’re in the market for one of the largest SUVs around, the X7 certainly comes highly recommended.

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Prototype Drive: The future looks bright for BMW’s upcoming i5

The 5 Series enters into an electric era with the new i5. Jack Evans gets behind the wheel of an early prototype.

The BMW 5 Series has proven to be a remarkably popular car for the brand. As well as becoming a household name, more than 10 million examples have been sold worldwide since 1972, spanning seven generations in the process. Throughout that time the 5 Series has established a reputation for delivering both sportiness and comfort, which is a tricky cocktail to mix.

Now, we’re onto the new eighth-generation 5 Series. As well as traditional petrol and diesel versions, this latest incarnation will see the arrival of a very special 5 Series – the electric i5. We’ve been behind the wheel of a prototype version to see what we might find when it arrives in full production form later this year.

As you can see from the images, the cars we were given were clad in heavy camouflage, so we can’t comment on the exterior design of the new 5 Series. However, we were told that the cars were near production-ready in terms of dynamics and driving styles, so there’s a good deal to dig into with this new i5.

Photos: PA Media

It’s a car which is set to debut with some clever new features, too. A highlight is a new Automated Lane Change which, in conjunction with Level 2 autonomous capability, allows you to drive with your hands away from the wheel and even change lanes simply by looking into the side mirrors following a prompt on the dash. We’re told that BMW is awaiting approval for its use in Germany, but it’s expected that this function could be rolled out on all i5 models soon.

The i5 uses a wholeheartedly clever architecture. The ‘regular’ eDrive40 which we drove – alongside a short test of the performance M60 XDrive version – is rear-wheel-drive as you might expect a BMW to be, with a healthy 321bhp being sent to the wheels. Underneath we’ve got clever active roll stabilisation which helps the car to remain flat in the bends, while air suspension on the rear axle enables it to bring a comfortable ride too.

Clever tyres with foam insulation which helps to reduce in-cabin noise are fitted too, while production versions of the i5 will get Air Performance wheels which help to reduce drag. The all-important range? BMW states that the i5 should manage up to 361 miles, while it also says that it should be able to charge at over 200kW – super speedy, then.

Though the outside might be fully covered and the interior mostly shrouded in black coverings to stop us from seeing the basic design of the cabin, you’d be hard-pressed to tell that this was a prototype through the way it drives. The i5 steers, corners and accelerates in superb fashion, with great agility despite its relatively large size. There’s some real performance here, too, and to use the i5 feels as-quick as a usual 3.0-litre straight-six petrol version.

What really impresses, however, is the ride. Electric cars sometimes struggle to dial out their extra weight (brought on as a result of the batteries) but there’s none of that here. The only time the i5 felt remotely unsettled was over some seriously potholed sections, but for all other areas it remains really comfortable yet without being overly-soft at the detriment of the body control. It’s going to prove very easy to get along with over long distances, that’s for sure.

Of course, we can’t comment much on the way the i5 looks. However, it does incorporate plenty of range-boosting measures to make sure it gets the last out of very kWh, so there’s active vent control which opens and closes areas of the bodywork depending on the driving situation while the wheels, which we’ve touched upon, help to ‘smooth’ out the car and make the whole exterior as slippery as possible.

And estate fans, fear not, there’s going to be Touring version of the i5 too, so if you’re after a more practical version then you’re in luck.

Much the same as the exterior, the majority of this prototype’s exterior was shrouded to prevent us from seeing too much. There was, however, a decent amount of both leg- and headroom inside, though a transmission hump remains in the rear since this car will still be offered with usual petrol and diesel engines.

There’s a good boot, too, which is square but easy to access. We can’t state an exact figure for the boot size, but it appeared to be pretty much line with the load area you’d get in the previous-generation 5 Series.

BMW hasn’t announced specifications or trims for the 5 Series just yet, but we know that it’ll run the firm’s newest Operating System 8.5, which will bring a broader variety of functions and systems than the previous setup. It also comes with a huge number of assistance systems, too, such as the aforementioned Automated Lane Change and highway assist, as well as active cruise control with traffic light recognition.

It has also been engineered to meet 2023 Euro NCAP safety regulations, with an on-board system which is better at recognising scooters and motorcycles. It’s also able to autonomous apply the emergency brakes when reversing – something many of the latest cars only do when travelling forwards.

The i5 feels like it’s already on its way to big things. The key factor here is that it feels like a BMW first and foremost and then an electric car afterwards. It’s not just a battery attached to a car for the sake of it; it still rides and steers just as you’d expect a BMW to do.

Providing BMW delivers on the cabin front – and with the exterior design, too – we’re quite sure that the i5 will go on to be a hugely popular EV and one which perfectly lines up with the 5 Series models which preceded it.

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The Purosangue is here to send Ferrari into a new era

The Purosangue is Ferrari’s latest V12 powered model, but it brings practicality as well as performance. Jack Evans finds out what it’s like.

So here we have it – the Ferrari Purosangue. It’s a car that was shrouded in mystery for many a year, with a ‘will they, won’t they’ question surrounding whether or not it would even make it into production. But here it is, arriving as Ferrari’s first four-door, four-seater model.

Designed to offer the space and versatility that people can’t get from other Ferrari models – yet while delivering the same razor-sharp performance and agility – the Purosangue has been absolutely loaded with go-faster technology and a host of innovations. We’ve been driving it to see how they all work.

Ferrari downright refuses to call the Purosangue an SUV, instead placing it alongside its historic range of 2+2 models, albeit with a decent slug more space in the back. But there’s no denying that it’ll be seen by many potential buyers alongside cars like the Lamborghini Urus and Aston Martin DBX707 – though the Purosangue commands a much higher price tag than those models.

Photos: PA Media

A wealth of lightweight materials and clever building processes have also ensured that the Purosangue is lighter than its previous four-seater models, even though it’s larger. It’s fair to say that even though the Purosangue looks relatively compact in the pictures, it’s a very large car in the metal.

You might be expecting that in the time of electrification, you’d be finding some battery-assisted, turbocharged engine setup underneath the Purosangue’s bonnet. Not in the slightest. Burbling away is a mid-front-mounted 6.5-litre naturally-aspirated V12, with 715bhp and 716Nm of torque there to access at a moment’s notice.

The Purosangue is four-wheel-drive, too, with the gearbox mounted at the rear and a special ‘Power Transfer Unit’ positioned ahead of the engine to provide near-perfect weight distribution. Zero to 60mph? That’ll take just 3.1 seconds while flat-out the Purosangue will manage 193mph. Efficiency, naturally, isn’t the best – with 16.3mpg being claimed. Drive a little harder and it wouldn’t be hard to push that into single figures. Emissions are also high at 393g/km CO2.

As we’ve touched upon, the Purosangue is a large car so it can feel a little intimidating, to begin with. It’s also much lower down than you might expect, so you do get the sensation of sitting ‘in’ the car rather than ‘on’ as you do in other ‘conventional’ performance SUVs. But it’s no trouble getting up to speed with the Purosangue thanks to a spot-on driving position with loads of adjustability.

Then there’s the engine. There’s certainly a countdown on naturally-aspirated behemoths like the Ferrari V12, but it’s an absolute joy to behold. Responsive and sharp – and not to mention hugely characterful in sound – it’s a real delight and, when coupled with the sharp, agile steering, makes for an experience you’ll get from no other car of this size. Even the ride quality is good, helped no end by the superbly complex active suspension system which works to keep body roll in check while also managing to suppress bumps and road imperfections.

The Purosangue definitely takes styling cues from other Ferrari models but blends all of these attributes together in a very different way. As we’ve mentioned it’s far lower than your ‘traditional SUV’ but also has those trademark Ferrari elements of a long bonnet and a short, sharp rear end.

The front lights look ultra sleek, too, while the light units at the back play closer to the ones you’ll find on the Roma. There are aerodynamic elements at play throughout the car, too, with clever inlets on the front wheel arches, for example, helping to channel air to ‘seal’ the front wheels in and make things as slippery as possible.

The Purosangue is a dedicated four-seater – there’s no option to have an extra chair placed in the middle of the second row. But that does mean that those sitting in the rear have got plenty of space to stretch out and relax, with the ‘proper’ sports car rear seats providing ample support. They can be folded flat, too, extending the Purosangue’s boot space. Plus, access to the rear is excellent courtesy of the forward-hinged doors which not only work well, but provide some real theatre too.

The material quality is, as you might expect, very good. But it’s the ergonomics and space that we find to be very impressive. Our only gripe here is with the large screen placed in front of the passenger – it controls media functions and can display performance data, but it can’t be used to input a destination into the navigation, which is one of the things that’d be really handy for someone travelling alongside the driver to be able to do.

The Purosangue is one of the most expensive cars of its type in the market today. The interior feels decidedly special, with the main screen ahead of the driver showing a huge array of data and features. The Purosangue relies on smartphone mirroring for navigation, too, but trying to operate Apple CarPlay – which is primarily designed to be accessed via touch controls – with the buttons on the steering wheel can prove a bit frustrating.

Those in the back get their own dedicated heating and ventilation controls accessed via a cool rotary dial, too, and there’s the same thing for those people in the front. Having proper heating controls is much easier than them being located within the mains screen’s menus, too.

It’s almost frustratingly hard to find fault with the Purosangue. Yes, it’s expensive and yes, it’s far from efficient, but as a proper driving experience – and one which allows you to bring passengers along for the ride in – it’s remarkable. That V12 engine may not be long for the new car market, but while it’s here it remains one of the great characters in motoring.

Against the current crop of performance SUVs, the Purosangue is easily the most agile and engaging, yet it can deliver this while also having the flip side of a comfortable and relaxing driving experience. It’s an impressive thing indeed.

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The updated DS 3 brings a new look and longer range

DS has revised its ‘3’ crossover. Jack Evans heads to Valencia to try it out.

DS may still feel like a relatively new car firm, but it has actually been with us for a number of years now. The DS 3 has always been a core model for the luxury-orientated firm and it’s one which has evolved and changed as time has passed. This new electric model, which ditches the ‘Crossback’ name to become just ‘DS 3’ has now been updated with a tweaked exterior but, more importantly, some considerable changes to the battery and electric motor.

But the EV segment is a hotly contested one, which means that the DS 3 has to hit the ground running if it wants to hack it against rivals.

You’d be hard-pressed to work out what has changed if you took the DS 3 at face value. As we’ve mentioned, it has dropped the ‘Crossback’ term, but now this crossover-shaped model gains a slightly more aggressive front-end design and some interior tweaks.

Photos: PA Media

It has also been given the new DS Iris infotainment system which sees a 10.3-inch screen included as standard on all models. In typical facelift fashion, we’ve got a series of new exterior colours and alloy wheel designs to help keep things fresh.

Though petrol versions are also available, here we’re driving the electric ‘E-Tense’ version, which utilises a new battery-powered setup which aims to bring added efficiency and more power than the car it replaces. The battery, for instance, now has a usable capacity of 51kWh while the electric motor has 154bhp to offer.

Compared with the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense launched in 2019, the new car boasts 52 miles more range at 251 miles in total, yet the charging time associated with it remains the same – it’ll take 30 minutes to take it from 10 to 80 per cent charge with a 100kW rapid charge, or eight hours via a standard 7.4kW home charger. These efficiency gains haven’t come just through a new battery and motor, but also thanks to added aerodynamic cleverness – the whole car is 10mm lower than before, for example.

The DS 3 isn’t an overly large car despite its chunky design, so it’s not difficult to get familiar with. The seating position is good and gives a great view of the road ahead, while the seats on our Rivoli-specification car were comfortable. In fact, comfort is one of the things you really notice with the DS 3 – the ride quality is excellent and helps to make the whole car feel refined at speed, while exterior noise is very well isolated, with only a small amount of wind noise from the wing mirrors interrupting things.

We’d like a sharper brake pedal – it feels really spongy most of the time – but thankfully the regenerative braking is something you rely on to bring the car to halt instead. The DS 3 does suffer from a fair bit of pitch when slowing down, mind you; heavy braking will cause the nose to really dive.

The look of the new DS 3 plays really close to that of its predecessor. How to differentiate them? Well, at the front, the LED running lights have been moved further to the edges of the car to give a wider, more imposing impression, while the main headlights are now LED as standard too. Much of the original DS 3’s chrome has been ditched, too, replaced by black or grey elements instead.

It’s an upright-looking car, too, but we’d argue that it remains one of the more unusual-looking cars in the segment and, against many rivals, looks pleasantly different to our eyes at least. The door handles, which fit flush when not in use, are a really premium touch too.

The interior of the DS 3 is something of a mixed bag. If you’re after a cabin which looks like nothing else on the market, then you’re in luck, but if you’re wanting the best possible ergonomics then you may want to look elsewhere.

The diamond-pattern dashboard feels somewhat cluttered and clumsy to use, while the buttons surrounding the switchgear are frustratingly tricky to use. They’re all the same colour, shape and positioned in a row, so even an action as simple as trying to lower the windows feels needlessly complicated. It’s a bit like someone sneezed buttons, in truth.

But there are some decent quality materials throughout, while rear-seat leg and headroom are adequate enough.

The DS 3 is an attractive proposition in what is becoming a very crowded market. We like the way it rides, with this car’s comfort and impressive refinement separating it from its rivals. The on-board tech is good, too, and the exterior design is refreshingly different to others around it.

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Does the Cupra Leon work with a non-sporty engine?

Once known as a hot hatch, Cupra is now introducing a very unsporty 1.5-litre petrol engine to the line-up. Ted Welford tries it out.

Before Cupra split from Seat to become a standalone brand, it was always known as the Spanish firm’s performance arm. Known for models like the Leon Cupra R and Ibiza Bocanegra, it was famed for injecting extra performance and fun into everyday cars.

It appeared Cupra would look to continue doing that on its own too, when it launched with the 300bhp Ateca. Now that looks to be changing as Cupra has introduced a very unsporty engine to its Leon hatchback, but does it get the right results?

Cupra says the engine is being done to ‘introduce greater affordability and choice’ to the Leon range, and there’s nothing wrong with this. Other than the fact Seat will sell you its Leon with exactly the same engine for a few thousand pounds less. Confusing, right?

Photos: PA Media

There are industry rumours that have been circling for several years that Cupra will become the ‘car’ brand, while Seat focuses on ‘mobility’, including with the likes of scooters that it already sells. New unsporty Cupra models only seem to confirm suspicions like these.

But back to the Cupra Leon itself. It’s been on sale for a couple of years already, and being available with a choice of plug-in hybrids and 2.0-litre petrol units delivering up to 296bhp.

This latest 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine is one that’s well used across the Volkswagen Group, and puts out 148bhp and 250Nm of torque, with drive being sent to the front wheels. There’s a six-speed manual available (the only such in the Leon range) as well as a seven-speed DSG automatic that features mild-hybrid technology as standard, which we’re trying here.

Accelerating to 60mph takes 8.5 seconds, with Cupra claiming a 133mph top speed. It’s noticeably the most efficient petrol Leon offered too, returning up to 48mpg with 135g/km CO2 emissions.

The concept of a sporty car with a non-sporty engine is nothing new; just look at the success Mercedes has had with AMG Line, for example. It’s safe to say this Leon’s engine is not sporty, but it goes well enough while returning an easy 45mpg. The DSG gearbox can prove a bit jerky, though.

There’s plenty of adjustability behind the wheel too, and with the driver’s seat going a long way back, it could be a great choice for the long-legged, while the low seating position gives it a ‘sporty’ feel. But one thing we can’t get on with is the Leon’s ride, which is far too firm – it crashes over bumps and potholes, especially considering its 18-inch alloy wheels aren’t the biggest. It’s not very refined either, with lots of road and wind noise being transmitted to the interior.

The latest-generation Seat and Cupra Leon have a particularly sharp design, with some neat details such as the full-width LED light bar with ‘scrolling’ indicators and a sharp crease line that runs all the way down the side of the car.

For this 1.5-litre petrol model, which is available only in entry-level ‘V1’ trim, the styling is quite toned down considering the sporty intent. There’s silver and matte black 18-inch alloy wheels, Cupra’s funky badging at the front and rear, but other than that, there not too many differences to the regular Seat.

One of the best things about the Cupra Leon is its interior. The cabin is dominated by two screens – a large main touchscreen and also a digital dial display. Some might find them a bit too much, particularly with the climate buttons being controlled through the screen, but generally they work well. The quality is good throughout too, with the copper accents helping to lift the interior.

One area where it excels in particular is space. Particularly for those in the rear, there’s a great deal of both legroom and headroom, especially considering the Leon’s size. The 380-litre boot is useful too, though it does have quite a high load lip.

As we’ve mentioned, if you want this 1.5-litre engine, it’s the standard V1 trim you have to go for. That said, considering its entry-level status, it comes with a lot of equipment included.

There’s a full digital cockpit, 12-inch touchscreen with wireless smartphone mirroring, along with a heated steering wheel, park assist and reversing camera to name just a few highlights.

Introducing a sportier-looking car with a ‘lesser’ engine and lower running costs is no bad thing, after all this is what the majority of buyers opt for. There’s plenty to like about the Cupra Leon too, including its pleasant interior and strong practicality,

However, its main issue is the fact that Seat will sell you its Leon, which rides better and comes with the same equipment, at a lower price. If you want a genuinely sporty Cupra Leon, go for the full-fat 296bhp version. If not, Seat’s version is a far better choice than this Cupra.

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Performance is the name of the game for the Mercedes-AMG SL55

The new SL is here, bringing with it a host of innovations and a brand-new chassis.
Jack Evans finds out what it’s like

The SL has been a mainstay of the Mercedes range for a long time now. The original ‘Super Light’ has represented something of a multi-tool kind of sports car that’ll gladly do a few hundred miles in a stint yet deliver an involving and exciting driving experience.

Now, there’s a new one and it’s the first to have been developed by the in-house performance car arm AMG. It has a boatload of new features to check out, so we’ve been pushing and prodding to see what this new SL offers.

There’s very little that could tie the new SL to its predecessor. This is a thorough and extensive change, with a brand-new chassis underpinning a car which has a number of fresh engine choices. You might notice that the SL has a fabric roof, too, replacing the folding metal version of the car it replaces.

Photos: PA Media

Inside, we’ve got some of the latest tech that Mercedes has to offer, while two rear seats mean that you can take passengers out for the ride as well. The exterior design has been noticeably beefed-up, too, with a look closer to that of the AMG GT 4-Door.

You can get the SL with a variety of engines – including an entry-level 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol – but the one we’re driving today uses the classic Mercedes 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine that we’ve seen in a number of its performance cars. Thanks to 469bhp and 700Nm of torque, the SL55 will manage 0-60mph in just 3.7 seconds and head on to a top speed of 183mph.

There’s a nine-speed automatic gearbox, too, while 4Matic all-wheel-drive gives more assured handling in poor conditions. With such a hulking engine, 21.9mpg combined is to be expected – though it’ll drop considerably during sportier driving.

The SL isn’t shy and retiring when you start it up, with a deep rumble coming from the exhaust when it kicks into life. Moving off, the SL’s long bonnet makes itself immediately known and it takes a little bit of getting used to initially. The seats are comfortable, too, and there are heat blowers in the seatbacks for when it’s chilly with the roof down.

It’s relatively comfortable on a cruise, too, though low-speed potholes do tend to unsettle it. However, throw a little extra pace at the SL and it’s obvious that this car has been seriously uprated over its predecessor. It’s very sharp through the bends, with agile handling and some serious response coming from the engine.

As we’ve already touched upon, the new SL is a far meaner-looking thing than before. The fitment of that fabric roof does give it more of an old-school feel, mind you, and it can be folded away in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 37mph, so you’ll be able to get it closed should a sudden downpour occur.

It’s a physically more imposing car than the one it was before, too, and definitely has a bit of muscle car to it thanks to that long bonnet and short rear overhang.

The SL comes with two rear seats as standard, but it’s best to call them ‘occasional’. With an adult driver up front, there’s not a whole lot of legroom for whoever is sitting behind, though you could probably squeeze in for a short period of time. With the roof up, headroom is quite snug and, of course, with the roof down there are miles of it available.

The general fit-and-finish is good, plus the number of heated elements are welcome on a convertible during winter – heated seats, steering wheel and the aforementioned blowers really mean you can go roof-down more frequently. It’s just a shame that the heated seats turn down automatically – as they do on all Mercedes cars – rather than sticking to the hottest setting you’ve picked. Boot space is a little on the small side at 213 litres and considerably less than you got in the old SL – so practicality has definitely taken a hit.

The new Mercedes SL feels like a far more direct proposition than it was before. Having AMG involved from the start has ensured that it steers, accelerates and feels more like a genuinely sporty car than ever before. The V8 engine continues to be full of character, too.

It’s a shame that boot space has declined as it means that the SL isn’t quite as usable on a daily basis as before, but in all other areas, this is a much sharper and more focused proposition.

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