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Suzuki’s S-Cross Hybrid takes on a challenging segment

The S-Cross has a whole lot of rivals – but can a new full hybrid setup keep it competitive?

Suzuki has carved a nice little niche for itself by creating low-cost and frugal vehicles that also bring the option of four-wheel-drive – something that many competitors are leaning away from. It has also seriously ramped up its electrification plans, with every car in its range now incorporating some form of electrical assistance, be that mild or full hybrid.

The latter of which has now been applied to the recently-introduced S-Cross, swapping out the mild-hybrid setup (which is still available to buy) in favour of a more electric-focused full hybrid setup.

Photos: PA Media

The biggest changes come underneath the S-Cross, of course, but elsewhere we’ve got plenty of standard equipment and included technology, as well as four-wheel-drive as standard through Suzuki’s AllGrip technology.

The real focus here is on value-for-money. Whereas some other cars in Suzuki’s range utilise Toyota technology, the S-Cross Full Hybrid does with an in-house setup. It’s centred around a 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine, which is then linked to an electric motor and battery. Suzuki says that the combination should bring up to 48.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 132g/km for the four-wheel-drive version, those these do improve on the two-wheel-drive model.

Linked to an automated manual gearbox, this setup brings 0-60mph in 13.3 seconds and a top speed of 108mph. Again, you’ll see slightly quicker acceleration figures from the two-wheel-drive version so, if slightly sprightlier performance is what you’re after, you’re better suited to go for that option.

The light steering that you get from the S-Cross makes it easy to get along with from the off. There’s decent visibility, too, with that high riding position that is so key to this segment’s popularity present and correct. It does actively manage between petrol and full EV modes, and the switch to battery power is largely unnoticeable. It ran in EV-only mode for quite a portion of our drive, in fact.

However, that automated manual is central to the somewhat compromised driving experience that you get from the S-Cross. It’s incredibly slow and dim-witted and makes any kind of forward progression difficult. In fact, the delay is so bad that it feels like the S-Cross is fitted with a large, laggy turbocharger, rather than a naturally-aspirated engine. A broken ride doesn’t help the S-Cross an awful lot, either.

There’s nothing to separate the S-Cross Full Hybrid from the mild one. It would’ve been quite nice to see a couple of styling elements to differentiate the two, but even without these choice accents it’s still a largely good-looking thing – to our eyes at least.

The front lights are sharp in their design, while the ones at the back incorporate a full-width design that is so popular across the motoring industry at the moment. There’s nothing controversial nor eye-catching about the look of the S-Cross but, for many people, that won’t be a bad thing in the slightest.

The S-Cross is nicely kitted out inside with plenty of features and controls. As we’ve mentioned the forward view is good, giving that all-important elevated view of the road ahead. The material quality isn’t the best, mind you, with sharp scratchy plastics littering much of the lower section of the cabin. It all appears just a little bit dated, with the drab colours only contributing to the feel.

In terms of boot space, the S-Cross Full Hybrid falls shy of the regular mild-hybrid; you get 295 litres as standard in the former, which is some way shy of the 430 litres you get in the latter. It’s also a long way off many of its rivals. The Nissan Qashqai e-Power hybrid, for instance, packs a healthy 504 litres, for example.

Suzuki has always focused on value-for-money and that’s definitely the case with the S-Cross Hybrid. It’s packed with standard equipment, with highlights such as 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry and start all included on entry-level Motion cars. Bump up to Ultra specification and you’ll get a panoramic sunroof and a 360-degree parking camera but, as we mentioned, this increases the price of the S-Cross a little too high.

The infotainment setup on the S-Cross feels a little behind the times, in truth, with the eight-inch display on our ‘Ultra’ grade cars being a touch unresponsive during our time with the car.

If you dialled back the clock a few years, the S-Cross Hybrid would feel like an attractive proposition. After all, it’s well-specified and does have efficiency on its side. However, that powertrain and its unrefined, slow-to-respond nature feels significantly behind the times today.

The fact that it’s even less practical than the regular car isn’t great, either. If you do fancy yourself behind the wheel of the S-Cross we’d urge you to go for the regular 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol version but against such prominent and rounded competition, the S-Cross Hybrid is a tricky car to recommend.

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Is the MG4 EV the car to tempt buyers away from well-established brands?

MG is broadening its EV line-up with the new MG4. Ted Welford gets behind the wheel.

The modern-day MG is a far cry from the one that produced classic British sports cars, but it’s proving no less successful. The brand is now expanding further with the new MG4, its first electric hatchback and one that’s set to grow this brand even further. But is it set to succeed?

The MG4 is the first model from the firm to use a bespoke EV platform that will go on to be used in a number of electric MGs in future years – the key advantage to this being that it’s rear-wheel-drive and uses a thin battery that takes up minimal space.

The MG4 also shows a more adventurous design direction for MG, though more on that later. But crucial to the appeal of the MG4 is its price, undercutting rivals by a significant chunk of money.

Photos: PA Media

MG is offering two powertrain options here – the Standard Range and the Long Range. The Standard car features a 51.1kWh battery and 168bhp electric motor, with MG claiming a more-than-respectable 218 miles from a charge.

But here we’re trying the Long Range version, which packs a larger 64kWh battery and increases the claimed range to an impressive 281 miles, or 270 miles in the case of our top-spec Trophy test car. It packs a slightly more powerful motor producing 200bhp and 250Nm of torque, though performance is almost identical to the Standard Range car because of the additional weight of the battery – 0-60mph arriving in 7.7 seconds, and maxing out at 100mph.

It can also charge at up to 135kW, meaning a 10 to 80 per cent charge at an ultra-rapid charger would take 35 minutes. When plugged in at home into a 7kW wallbox, it will take nine hours to top-up.

Behind the wheel, the MG4 feels a real step up compared to the brand’s models so far. It’s got a 50:50 weight distribution, and the rear-wheel-drive setup makes it quite entertaining to drive – you can really feel the car pushing you around a corner. The acceleration is brisk and instantaneous (as with any EV), but here it feels quicker than the 7.7-second 0-60mph figure figures suggest.

There are various driving modes and levels of regen to play with, depending on preference, too. It rides well and avoids the choppy ride of many rivals. Our only real complaint is that there is quite a lot of wind and road noise at speed, and it doesn’t feel as refined as plenty of other EVs in this class.

MG’s designs to date have been quite straight-laced and uninspiring, but the MG4 is quite a lot bolder. There are sharp angles all over the place, and it certainly doesn’t give the impression that it’s one of the cheapest EVs on sale.

There are some great touches to it, such as the twin aero roof spoiler, which looks like it’s been taken from a concept car, while the imposing LED rear lights feature a fancy ‘hatched’ pattern on top-spec Trophy models. It’s a touch that wouldn’t look out of place on a high-end premium product. We’re personally not a fan of the front end of the car, as it just looks a bit squashed and busy, though styling will always be subjective.

The MG4’s interior adopts the increasingly trendy minimalist look, with very few buttons in the cabin, and instead just a central touchscreen, which is where you find the climate menus alongside traditional media and navigation functions.

It’s a slick-looking cabin, particularly with the floating centre console – housing the drive selector – that offers loads of storage space beneath. The squared-off steering wheel is another modern touch and features configurable shortcut buttons on it, which you can use to change the climate. It’s a clever feature, and though the interior doesn’t feel quite as well screwed together as some rivals, it certainly doesn’t feel as ‘cheap’ as its price.

The MG4 ticks plenty of boxes in the space department too, with that new platform ensuring there’s room in the rear seats for adults. The 363-litre boot is smaller than a Volkswagen ID.3 and Nissan Leaf’s but is still a practical and usable size.

The talking point with the MG4 is what it costs. Its starting price for the SE Standard Range not only undercuts cars in its class but cars from the class above.

Yet the level of standard equipment is superb and includes LED front and rear lights, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, seven-inch digital dial display, 17-inch alloy wheels and adaptive cruise control. The top-spec Trophy brings a 360-degree camera system, wireless smartphone charging and heated front seats.

The MG4’s starting price truly shows how expensive rival EVs are, and answers the needs of those wanting a lower-cost electric car, yet without having to bring any sacrifice on range and equipment. It’s also hardly any more expensive than a like-for-like petrol or diesel car.

While, yes, there are some areas where it doesn’t score top marks – interior quality and refinement – the MG4 has no real weakness, and how it manages that at this price is remarkable. It should certainly give plenty of the established brands something to worry about.

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Is the BMW i7 a worthy flagship electric car?

BMW is expanding its EV line-up with the i7 – an electric version of its 7 Series. James Baggott heads to California to put it to the test.

This is the latest – the tech laden, gadget toting i7, an electric version of its flagship 7 Series. It’s a clever new model with lots of tricks up its sleeves. Firstly there’s a new look to contend with – a gaping front kidney grille and refreshed headlights can certainly be described as, well, distinctive. Elsewhere there’s plenty of talking points including an optional 31-inch rear cinema screen that folds down from the roof lining and turns the back seats into a movie theatre.

The doors are powered and can be opened or closed with a touch of a button and the interior features a striking new ‘interaction bar’ for some of the controls. But gimmicks aside, it’s what’s driving the wheels that’s really of interest as this is the first fully electric option for the 7 Series.

While the new 7 Series is available with two plug-in hybrid options – sadly neither of which we got to drive at the launch – the big talking point is really the electric unit.

Photos: PA Media

With a range of up to 388 miles, the car boasts 544bhp and a whopping 745Nm of torque. It’s an incredible unit that offers a huge range thanks to massive batteries buried in the floor.

Fast charging can be carried out at up to 195kW – which will give the car 106 miles of range in just 10 minutes. At home, where most people have 7kW chargers, a full replenishment of the batteries will take 16 hours.

On the road it’s incredibly smooth. The power delivery is linear and rapid, and like most electric cars, very rapid. With several different driving modes, piped in sound via the 36 speakers ranges from Hans Zimmer-like cinema scores to growling roars. It’s all rather dramatic.

The 7 Series has active steering and suspension which helps to offer the smoothest ride possible, even reducing roll to keep occupants comfortable. There’s a brilliant head-up display and augmented reality sat nav built into the dash that projects arrows onto a live video feed of the road ahead as well.

The car is full of clever tricks too. In countries that allow it, fully autonomous driving is available on motorways up to 85mph and it can even park itself. It will remember 10 different parking spaces in underground garages or similar and can take over and park for you.

The looks are a little controversial, but BMW likes to make a statement with its design. The new nose is the focal point but there are lots of additions to make it more aerodynamic and thus maximise its range.

BMW describes the new look as its ‘luxury class face’ and it’s also present on the new X7, so you better get used to it.

For the first time, there’s an optional two tone paint – with one colour above the doors and another below them. It’s all rather regal, but probably won’t be chosen by very many buyers.

Inside it’s rather classy too. The new interior has had a lot of thought put into it including spacious, reclining rear seats and that cinema screen to entertain executives.

The screen is 31-inches and, although it’s rather close to your face, the 8K quality is stunning. It works thanks to Amazon Fire TV software and a 5G internet connection from the car, which owners will have to pay for separately.

In the back, speakers are buried in the seats to really give a cinematic bass-filled experience and the 2000W Bowers & Wilkins sound system does sound incredible.

The auto opening doors are a bit of a gimmick, though – they close or open electronically at the touch of a button, just like they do on a Rolls Royce, but it’s really no quicker than just doing it yourself.

The spec is very high. There’s lots of kit included as standard, like a clever security system that records images around the car if it detects a break in.

The BMW curved dash has two displays – one 12.3 inches and the second 14.9 inches – which are angled towards the driver and are a brilliant addition.

The entry level Excellence specification has niceties which include 19-inch alloys, illuminated kidney grille, front and rear heated seats, adaptive LED headlights, head-up display, wireless mobile phone charger and much more. An M Sport specification, which adds things like larger wheels, is also available.

Just nine per cent of global BMW 7 Series sales will head to Europe. Add in the fact that a lot of people have fallen out of love with saloons and it doesn’t really matter how many tricks the i7 has up its sleeves, as it’s unlikely many retail buyers will shell out for one. Far more of interest to them are the electric SUV models BMW offers, like the fantastic iX.

Most i7 models will actually find their way into the hands of chauffeurs and with much of the focus on back seat comfort – and entertainment – those who do get a lift in the new car are unlikely to want to get out at the end.

That said, the tech making a debut on the i7 is fascinating and (mostly) very well executed – what will be of real interest is just how quickly much of that trickles down to more affordable cars in BMW’s range.

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The Peugeot 408 is a great alternative to a conventional SUV

Peugeot is expanding its line-up with the new 408 fastback. Ted Welford heads to Barcelona to put it to the test.

Against the vast swathes of SUVs, manufacturers are increasingly having to think outside of the box when it comes to their cars’ designs. This equates to increasingly bolder options for customers, and the latest example of this comes from Peugeot, with its new 408.

Designed to sit between the conventional 308 hatchback and 508 saloon in the line–up, Peugeot’s calling it a ‘fastback’ and is targeting those that are looking to escape an SUV, yet want something more exciting than a traditional hatchback. But is it more than just a niche-filling exercise?

Photos: PA Media

The 408 is a new addition to Peugeot’s range and arrives with a striking new look. We’ll explain more about the design later, but a few highlights are its fantastic colour-coded, frameless grille along with the popular SUV cladding for a more rugged appearance.

Electrification is core to the 408 too, with hybrid versions predicted to account for the bulk of sales, while there’s the new version of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit system, bringing the latest in-car technology that the firm has to offer.

There are three powertrains on offer with the 408 – a 128bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine that serves as the only non-electrified version, and a choice of two plug-in hybrids.Both these hybrids use a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, though with two different outputs, and are paired to the same electric motor and a 12.4kWh battery. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is also used, with power delivered to the front wheels.

There are two combined power outputs – 178bhp or 222bhp, with our top-spec test car using the latter. The sprint to 60mph takes 7.6 seconds (only three-tenths quicker than the 178bhp car), with a top speed of 145mph possible.

Peugeot claims up to 40 miles of electric range is possible (though based on our testing, we reckon 30 miles is more likely), with Peugeot saying more than 200mpg and CO2 emissions of 26g/km. Speaking of charging, it will take three hours and 25 minutes to charge the 408, though you can reduce this time to an hour and 40 minutes with a faster 7.4kW onboard charger.

Peugeot won’t admit it, but the 408 is essentially a sibling model to the Citroen C5 X – a model with a particular focus on comfort with its softer suspension.

But here, Peugeot has managed to liven up the experience a touch, with the 408 feeling flatter through the corners, and feeling more secure if you put your foot down a bit. It’s no sporting model, but it sticks to the road well, while the hybrid setup delivers a decent amount of punch when the ‘Sport’ driving mode is selected.

At the same time, it rides well with comfortable leather and Alcantara seats helping out with this, while the refinement on motorways was particularly impressive. The hybrid system isn’t the smoothest, however, and the petrol engine and gearbox aren’t the quietest or most responsive when the battery range is depleted.

The 408’s design is one that will really divide opinion, and it’s Peugeot’s boldest model in some time – and that’s coming from a brand that has been pushing the boundaries anyway.If you like a clean, fuss-free design, it might not be the car for you. There’s an awful lot going on, and we mean a lot. There are lines, creases, and angles all over the place, but combined, it’s a really smart package and one that gives off a look of a car more expensive than it is. The number of people that stared at the 408 on our test route only emphasised this. That frameless front grille is stunning, as are Peugeot’s trademark ‘claw’ headlights.

Bits we don’t like? All personal of course, but we think there’s too much plastic cladding going on at the rear, while the 20-inch alloy wheels (thankfully optional) are challenging. That’s being kind.

Inside, the 408 really delivers on the promise of feeling larger than a regular hatchback. The 471-litre boot (536 litres on non-plug-in models), is a great size, while there’s a decent amount of room in the rear seats. Headroom is slightly impeded by a combination of a sloping roofline and panoramic sunroof, but six-feet tall adults will still be able to sit comfortably.The quality throughout the cabin is excellent, with green stitching and Alcantara and leather seats (fitted to GT models) only adding to the ambience.

The i-Cockpit system is a touch hit-and miss, however. The digital dial display offers 3D graphics, making it slightly harder to read than a standard 2D effect. The small steering wheel (a feature Peugeot has used for some years) also remains a point of contention – with the top of it often restricting the vision of the dials themselves.

Standard equipment on the entry-level Allure trim includes Peugeot’s latest 10-inch touchscreen, which is fantastic to use and offers quick and easy widgets that make it far less fiddly to use on the move, along with a 10-inch digital instrument cluster, 17-inch alloy wheels and a reversing camera.Mid-spec Allure Premium brings much more visually-pleasing 19-inch alloy wheels, along with keyless entry and adaptive cruise control. If you want all the bells and whistles, the GT packs full Matrix LED headlights, a heated steering wheel and electric boot, along with the aforementioned colour-coded grille we’ve already mentioned.

The Peugeot 408 feels like a breath of fresh air in the increasingly ‘samey’ new car market. Bringing a cool new design, it will likely appeal to both hatchback and SUV buyers that want to combine the two models without losing out on too much of one or the other.

Also packing a high-quality interior, good on-road manners and a generous amount of space, the 408 is a really welcome addition to the Peugeot line-up. The only real sticking point comes from fellow French brand Citroen with its C5X. The 408 might offer a sharper design and slightly better interior, but it doesn’t quite justify its price over its arch-rival.

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The new Ford Ranger Raptor takes this pick-up to another level

Ford is back with a next-generation of its Ranger – debuting in extreme Raptor form. Ted Welford heads to Barcelona to put it to the test.

Ford holds a pretty enviable position in the pick-up market. Its F-150 is the best-selling truck in the States.

And sitting at the top of the Ranger line-up as the halo version is the Raptor. While only taking up a small fraction of Ranger sales, this toughened-up, sports-tuned truck still makes up for one in 20 pick-ups sold in Europe. Now Ford is back with a next-generation version, bringing a whole wealth of improvements.

Photos: PA Media

This latest Ranger introduces a number of key upgrades, not least on the interior where a new 12-inch portrait touchscreen dominates proceedings.

But our focus is the Raptor. Showcasing its importance, it arrives on sale several months before standard Ranger models. It’s a sizable thing to behold, sitting noticeably higher up thanks to its tough Fox suspension setup, which has been re-engineered. There’s a new front locking differential to help with extreme terrain, while the key highlight is the arrival of a new, powerful petrol V6 engine.

Previously Raptors making it to Europe were offered solely with a 2.0-litre diesel engine, and though this will return a few months down the line, the real highlight here is the new turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol unit.

Producing 288bhp and 491Nm of torque, it’s almost 100bhp up on the diesel, and immediately gives the Raptor a sportier focus. Accelerating from 0-60mph takes just 7.7 seconds – bear in mind this truck weighs nearly 2.5 tonnes unladen – while it will keep going to 111mph. Ford’s 10-speed automatic gearbox is also used, with an electronic all-wheel-drive system adopted.

The elephant in the room is the frankly abysmal running costs. Ford claims just 20.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 315g/km. If you care even the slightest about fuel bills, it will likely be worth waiting for the more efficient diesel.

The Ranger Raptor is a truck like no other. Designed to be one of the most capable ‘off the shelf’ vehicles around, its talents are staggering. Our test route involved some impressively daunting rock climbs, and extreme, steep descents, and it felt like it was hardly working up a sweat. There are front and rear locking differentials and that bespoke Fox suspension setup is entirely different to a regular Ranger.

The Raptor is a model developed by Ford Performance too, and that’s really amplified with this V6 engine. The power on offer is superb, while a new active exhaust system gives this Ranger a burble that you just can’t help but smile at. A ‘quiet’ setting is available, though, so you don’t have to fall out with your neighbours.

To embrace the full madness of the Raptor, however, you need to put it in the Baja mode (one of seven different driver settings), though Ford stresses this is for off-road settings only. It offers the full performance of the Raptor to be unleashed, allowing for ridiculous sideways action.

Though there’s no denying the Raptor’s off-road pedigree, it’s no secret that the majority of these models are bought for the way they look. It’s possibly one of the most aggressive vehicles on the road, with its crazy ride height (those side steps are needed to help you access it more than anything) and chunky bumpers looking particularly assertive.

Even though the standard Ranger is hardly a shrinking violet, the Raptor is noticeably angrier. There’s the imposing FORD lettering on the grille, combined with new wraparound C-shaped LED lighting at the front. You can go even bolder by optioning the new Raptor-exclusive Code Orange paint colour, as well as a special decal pack.

The last Ranger’s cabin was starting to show its age, so this new Raptor feels like a real step forward, not least helped by the new 12-inch touchscreen. Benefitting from Ford’s latest software, it’s as good to look at as it is to use. Ford’s also brought back traditional climate buttons, which are very welcome – not least when off-roading.

The quality feels like a step up, too, with new red accents and leather and Alcantara seats ‘inspired by fighter jets’ giving the cabin a welcome lift. One gripe, though, is the rather flimsy drive mode selector dial, which feels like it could come off in the palms of the heavy-handed.

This new Raptor also continues to suffer from the same practical problems as its predecessor. Because of the revised suspension, its payload is capped at 652kg, while its 2.5-tonne towing limit is down a tonne on the standard model.

The Raptor is laden with off-road features – those Fox dampers don’t come cheap, and neither does that sports exhaust and the raft of other changes Ford makes to transform a Ranger into a Raptor.

But the spec is generally excellent, including Matrix LED headlights, a 10-speaker B&O sound system, keyless entry and electric and heated front seats.

While Ford is getting understandably sensible with its electrification plans (just look at the news the Fiesta is being discontinued as the brand goes EV-only), the Ranger Raptor feels like a true final blowout for a big, silly-engined pick-up.

It’s a remarkable feat of engineering that manages to feel like a skunkworks project, when in fact it’s built by one of the world’s largest car makers. Its off-road capability is unmatched, and it somehow manages to be even more ‘tough’ than before. Combined with a more modern cabin, its hilarious V6 engine, and its sports exhaust, the Ranger Raptor can bring a smile to your face whatever the occasion. Until you reach a petrol station, that is…

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The Porsche 911 Turbo S is the all-occasions performance car

The Turbo S might be one of the most potent 911s you can get – but what else does it have to offer?

That famous Porsche ‘Turbo’ badge is cemented in legend in motoring circles. Those five letters inspire images of the Turbo of the 1980s, with its giant arches and huge spoiler encapsulating everything about the time period. These days, the Turbo might not be as out-there in terms of styling, but everything else has been dialled up considerably.

We’re looking at the range-topping Turbo S here, which brings larger-than-life performance incorporated into the latest 992-generation body. Let’s see what it has to offer.

Photos: PA Media

The Turbo S is one of the most powerful 911s in the 992-generation line-up that you can get. But over and above this, it has its own set of aerodynamic tweaks to ensure that it’s better at keeping level when travelling at serious speeds. These changes also help to visually differentiate it from the rest of the 911 range, but more on that later.

You also get Porsche’s latest interior technology, with its sharpest screen and quickest systems that make interacting with the car’s auxiliary functions a breeze.

Mounted right at the back of the Turbo S is a 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged flat-six engine which develops 641bhp and a huge 800Nm of torque. You get all-wheel-drive as standard, too, with all that power being sent to the wheels through Porsche’s eight-speed PDK automatic gearbox.

Zero to 60mph? That’ll take just 2.5 seconds while Porsche claims a top speed of 205mph. Thankfully, the Turbo S comes equipped with powerful ceramic composite brakes with 10-piston front callipers – four-piston versions are at the rear – which can help bring all of that fury to a halt effectively. Porsche claims that you should be able to see around 25mpg in the Turbo S too, while CO2 emissions stand at 257g/km.

One of your initial reflections on the Turbo S is simply how easy it is to drive. This isn’t a car which is accompanied by a sense of intimidation; it doesn’t feel too large to pilot, nor are the controls tricky to master. Compared with a lower-powered 911, the Turbo S remains remarkably fuss-free to drive in an everyday manner.

But of course, in the background is that monstrous performance. Even a moderate depression of the throttle brings the horizon hurtling towards you, while more sustained applications result in stomach-moving acceleration. However, because of that four-wheel-drive system, it’s all done with very little fuss and boatloads of traction. You do have to be careful, mind you, as the acceleration you get in the Turbo S can have you nearing legal limits in next to no time.

As we’ve already mentioned, the Turbo S is a little more understated than its 80s-era predecessor, but it’s still got some real presence. There’s that aforementioned aerodynamic kit which plays a key role in the Turbo’s look, with the air intakes in front of rear arches being a key part of this and something we’ve seen on previous generations.

There is, of course, a large rear spoiler too, while the oval exhaust pipes are different to the square ones you’ll find on regular non-S Turbo. There’s a clever auto-deploying front spoiler and active cooling air flaps which are activated at different times depending on speed.

The cabin of the 911 Turbo S is snug and cocoon-like. The red interior of our test car may not be to everyone’s tastes, but to our eyes, it contrasted the silver exterior of the car brilliantly. There’s loads of adjustability, too, with those up front able to easily get comfy in the sport seats.

There are rear seats but, in truth, these are really only going to be of use for small children. We tried two adults in the back there and found that there was simply not enough legroom when the front seats were in place. However, you do get a handy 128 litres of storage in the nose, which is actually quite square and deep. It’s easy to access, too.

The Turbo S is by no means a cheap car. However, you could quite easily do without the options as you get an extensive list of equipment as standard – though you’d expect that for a car of this price.

Highlights include a full Bose surround sound system with 12 speakers and subwoofer, as well as Porsche’s infotainment system which is clear and easy to use. But, in reality, what you’re paying for here is the performance that the Turbo S offers and the huge amount of engineering that has gone into making it this fast and usable.

The Porsche 911 Turbo S is a car that can quickly change your perception of speed. It is monstrously quick and capable of delivering the kind of acceleration that seems more appropriate for something that can taxi, takeoff and land rather than stay on the road.

That it does all this in such an approachable and unflustered way makes it even more remarkable. It’s not only a superb addition to the 911 range but a fitting continuation of that Turbo name.

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The Ferrari 296 GTS is a convertible supercar without compromise

Ferrari’s expanding its hybrid supercar line-up with the drop-top 296 GTB. Jack Evans finds out what it’s like.

Ferrari established a whole new school of thought with its 296 GTB. It’s a supercar for the modern age, with a full hybrid setup helping to bring the option of pure-electric running in a car that can still bring fearsome acceleration. But far from resting on its laurels, Ferrari has now transferred this into a new drop-top version – the 296 GTS.

Continuing a long and esteemed bloodline of convertible Ferraris, can the 296 GTS deliver the same high-octane experience as its GTB stablemate? We’ve been finding out.

Photos: PA Media

Now obviously, the biggest change here is that folding hard top roof. Elegant in design, it takes just 14 seconds to raise or lower at speeds of up to 28mph. When it’s fully retracted, a height-adjustable section of glass sits in the middle, helping to reduce buffeting at speed.

Ferrari has also added extra strengthening to the 296 GTS to compensate for the roof being lopped up, but despite this, it weighs only slightly more than the GTB. You can also specify a more focused Assetto Fiorano package for the GTS, bringing Multimatic shock absorbers and bodywork tweaks for extra downforce. It’s a set of measures designed to angle the GTS towards on-circuit work.

You’ll find the same V6 twin-turbocharged setup in the middle of the 296 GTS as you will in the GTB, developing 819bhp and 740Nm of torque. Thanks to an electric motor – positioned between the engine and the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox – and a 7.45kWh battery, the GTS can travel for up to 22 miles on electric power alone at speeds of up to 84mph. It’ll take around two hours to fully charge via the plug, too, though Ferrari emphasises that it’s more easily charged via the engine. The whole setup can return up to 43.5mpg, while emissions are impressively low at 153g/km CO2.

But when that V6 engine is blended with the electric motor for performance, you can get from 0-60mph in just 2.7 seconds and carry onwards to a top speed of 205mph. It’s blistering performance, that’s for sure.

It’s often the case that a convertible version of a standard supercar is the less focused, more blunted option. However, Ferrari hasn’t paid any attention to this. The 296 GTS is sharp, lively and exceptionally direct.

That V6 engine – which has gained the nickname ‘piccolo V12’, or baby V12 – is easily one of the most accomplished on sale today, howling away while giving superb responses no matter the situation. And then there’s the traction, which is close to astounding. Even during a torrential Italian downpour, the 296 GTS seemed to generate grip out of nothing, and even through slippery hairpin bends.

The 296 GTS even shone on the motorway where, roof raised, it remained quiet and composed with minimal wind noise. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of sacrifice in opting for the drop-top over the coupe, in truth. It’s also great to have the option to run on electric power around town, too, with the GTS doing well to top up the batteries with engine and braking power even when they’re fully depleted.

Ferrari has managed to transfer the look of the 296 GTB over to the GTS largely unscathed. The buttress-style sections behind driver and passenger add an old-school appearance to the GTS, while behind them there’s a smoke section of glass which allows you to peer through and view the V6 engine underneath. The full-width ‘aerobridge’ in the middle looks particularly striking.

The real drama in the look of the GTS comes in that elaborate folding metal roof. It’s an elegant process, with the rear section raising or lower and the roof moving concertina-fashion at a steady pace. If the GTS hadn’t made much of an entrance already, operating that roof will no doubt get you noticed.

As with all Ferrari models, the cabin of the GTS is really focused around the driver. Everything is angled towards the person behind the wheel, so you do feel the centre of attention when you’re driving. That said, Ferrari still includes a small screen ahead of the passenger, too, which gives them access to performance figures and also allows them to control the media functions of the car. The seating position is wonderfully set up, though we did find the seats fitted to our particular car a little firm on the lower back.

Everything is finished to a high standard, too, with great materials used throughout. There’s also a small boot area under the bonnet, which is large enough for a few soft weekend bags, so there is an option when it comes to storage.

As we’ve come to expect from Ferrari models, the 296 GTS is jam-packed with technology. There’s a huge central screen head of the driver, which is where you control practically everything in the car, from the heated seats to the navigation. Herein lies the slight issue, in that there are so many functions located in one screen – controlled via the buttons on the steering wheel – that it can become a little confusing.

The screen is sharp and great to look at, mind you. The steering wheel also controls functions such as the audio volume, selected track, lights and driving modes. It can feel a little intimidating, to begin with, but it actually soon becomes second nature.

There’s no need to make any bones about it – the 296 GTS is an exceptional car. Quite often there’s a downside to lopping off the roof of a car but, with the GTS, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It steers, accelerates and performs just as you’d expect a cutting-edge supercar to, but takes this to an extra dimension with the ability to lower the roof.

Add in its electric-only ability and this quickly becomes a drop-top that can do it all. You expect big things from Ferrari and in the 296 GTS, it has more than delivered.

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BMW’s 330e Touring combines performance, space and efficiency

The 3 Series has gained a number of updates, but what is it like in ultra-efficient 330e layout? JACK EVANS finds out.

Think of BMW and which model springs to mind? We’d guess it’d be the image of the famous 3 Series that would come up immediately. Despite the increasing popularity of SUVs and crossovers, the 3 Series remains one of BMW’s big-hitters, with more than 1.1 million examples sold worldwide since 2019 alone.

Recently revamped, the new 3 Series is available with a series of punchy yet efficient engines, with the one we’re testing here – the plug-in hybrid 330e – one of the most appealing to business users. Let’s see what it has to offer.

Photos: PA Media

The 3 Series might’ve been tweaked in its recent update, but it’s still very recognisable as BMW’s core model. It has gained a redesigned nose, while inside it benefits from BMW’s latest infotainment technology and ultra-wide curved screen.

But the fundamentals remain the same. Here, in Touring (estate) guise, it stays focused on practicality, with its 410-litre boot being well-shaped and easy to access. As with nearly all generations of Touring, the latest 3 Series also incorporates a clever ‘pop’ glass hatch at the rear, which means you can access the load area without having to open the entire boot.

As mentioned, we’re looking at the plug-in hybrid 330e here. It uses a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine combined with an electric motor to develop 288bhp and 420Nm of torque. It’s available both with or without BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system – we’ve got it fitted here – which brings added traction.

As well as a 0-60mph time of 5.6 seconds, you could see up to 188mpg and CO2 emissions of between 42 and 33g/km depending on specification. Plus, there’s the chance to drive up to 42 miles on electric power alone. All versions use an eight-speed automatic gearbox, too, while BMW claims an 80 per cent charge will take 4.2 hours via a domestic socket.

The 330e delivers a very attractive blend of efficiency and performance. For most of the time it’s quite happy to mix in that electrification with the petrol engine intelligently, while the chop between EV and petrol power is done seamlessly – you can’t really notice it. This isn’t a car which goads you into driving faster, mind you, and while the engine note of the 2.0-litre engine isn’t that bad, it’s just not a car which feels like it needs to be hustled.

No, the 330e is a car you drive in a more sedate manner. The steering has great balance to it, mind you, and though the suspension feels a touch firm for country roads, it settles down nicely at a cruise. During our spell with the car we spent much of the time in battery-only mode and it’s here where it felt particularly compelling.

As we’ve already touched upon, BMW has updated the exterior look of the 3 Series but it’s still very recognisable. The kidney grilles have been redesigned and made larger – as is the way with current BMW models – but they’re very much in proportion with the car as a whole and don’t look too oversized. The headlights have been made slimmer – and incorporate LED technology as standard – while more areas of the car have been painted in the same colour as the body.

In Touring specification the 3 Series looks particularly sleek – in our eyes, at least. A redesigned diffuser makes it look a little sportier than before while our test car’s flat grey exterior paintwork helped to give it a stealthier appeal.

There’s a real sense of solidity to the cabin of the 3 Series. Everything feels very well put together, with areas like the armrest and central tunnel buttons being particularly strong in this respect. There’s space, too, with decent levels of head- and legroom for those sitting in the back, though obviously, this more compact estate car isn’t able to provide the last word in outright spaciousness – you’d need to move up to the larger 5 Series Touring for that.

As mentioned, the boot is of a decent size – though it is slightly down on the regular 3 Series. The rear seats can be individually folded, too, which means that there’s more storage flexibility should you need it.

BMW has really bumped up the level of standard equipment available on the new 3 Series, with all cars getting features such as 17-inch alloy wheels and three-zone climate control fitted from the off. The big new addition is the Curved Display, which merges a 12.3-inch driver display with a 14.9-inch infotainment screen to create one super-large monitor. It’s also really easy to use and, though it’s packed with menus and features, can easily be navigated either through the touchscreen or the rotary wheel.

The BMW 3 Series feels like a car that is well and truly in its stride. This 330e model in particular will prove compelling for business owners who will appreciate its super-low CO2 emissions and decent electric range.

But above that, the 3 Series just remains a car that is as practical as it is good to drive. Throw in some of the latest technology that BMW has to offer and you find yourself with a very appealing package.

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Nissan’s X-Trail arrives with seven-seater versatility and hybrid tech

The new Nissan X-Trail arrives with a bold new look and a clever hybrid system. JACK EVANS Evans finds out what it’s like.

The Nissan X-Trail has historically been a more rugged, adventure-focused cousin to its more everyday, road-going Qashqai cousin. And, in the wake of the new Qashqai, we have a brand-new X-Trail. Arriving with a bold new look and a completely hybrid setup – as well as all-important seven-seater versatility, this fourth-generation X-Trail looks to pick up where its very successful predecessor left off.

With more than seven million X-Trails finding their way to homes over 20 years, it’s a very important car for Nissan. But is it any good? We’ve headed to Slovenia to find out.

Photos: PA Media

Underpinning the new X-Trail is a CMF-D platform, created by the wider Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Alliance and is currently being used across a number of vehicles within its portfolio of brands. This lightweight platform promises improved refinement and ride comfort over the previous X-Trail which should, in theory, make it even easier to live with daily.

Elsewhere, we’ve got some of Nissan’s latest in-car technology, as well as an upgraded version of its ProPilot assistance technology designed to make the X-Trail as safe – and simple to drive – as possible.

The X-Trail that we’re driving today has been equipped with Nissan’s latest e-Power setup, which we’ve already seen in the Qashqai. It uses a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine – which effectively works as a generator – to power an electric motor on the front wheels. The X-Trail is available with a new e-4orce setup, which – aside from the slightly dubious name – adds a second electric motor to the rear axle, giving it four-wheel-drive. That engine is never used to directly power the wheels.

It’s designed to give a more EV-like feel to the driving experience, while a 0-60mph time of seven seconds means it’s more than punchy enough. Nissan claims that you should see CO2 emissions of between 143 and 148g/km for this four-wheel-drive version, while economy figures sit at 44.8mpg.

The X-Trail rides away in a typically silent manner, with the engine largely playing second fiddle to the electric motors. That continues throughout most types of driving, with even highway driving seeing the petrol engine remain mute in the background. Only during really heavy applications of throttle is it really called into play where it can be a little noisy. It’s very much the minority of the time, mind you.

Elsewhere, things are good. The X-Trail is a large car but it’s pleasantly resistant to roll and pitch through the bends. The ride can feel a little firm at times, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary for the segment. That e-4orce all-wheel-drive system, meanwhile, does give the X-Trail a healthy dose of traction and even taking it on some rutted, sweeping gravel tracks saw it remain settled.

The X-Trail has been given a chunkier, more off-road-ready look compared with many of the cars in the segment. There’s plastic wheelarch cladding, for instance, while the gap between arch and tyre has been increased for the X-Trail to help it with a more upright stance. The front end has been given a squared-off look, too, not by blunting off the ‘nose’, but by giving it upright air intakes that give the impression of a more angular appearance.

Around the back, there’s a similar blocky appearance, while the boot switch location – which isn’t in the traditional spot above the rear number plate – is a hark back to earlier X-Trail models.

In a market awash with options, the X-Trail does well to stand out. It’s just got a little more character than its Qashqai stablemate – bourne through its added practicality and versatility. The new e-Power setup works well in its application here too – as does the new e-4orce setup – though we’d argue that many drivers might naturally lean towards the two-wheel-drive version unless added capability is what you’re after.

The seven-seat option, though slightly limited in terms of outright spaciousness, adds another string to the X-Trail’s bow. All in all, it feels like a very credible family car and a welcome addition to the segment.

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