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The Alfa Romeo Tonale arrives with big ambitions

The Tonale has been a long time in the making, but what’s it like now that it is finally here? JACK EVANS finds out.

Does the Alfa Romeo Tonale look a little familiar to you? Well, there’s a good reason for that, as it was first revealed at the Geneva Motor Show way back in 2019 where it arrived as a new addition to Alfa’s SUV range, slotting underneath the Stelvio. However, it has taken up until now for it to reach the public road.

With hybrid powertrains and a variety of new technologies and features, Alfa is really throwing a lot of weight behind the Tonale. But with so many competitors to go up against, this family SUV definitely has its work cut out. We’ve been out to Italy to see what it’s like.

Photos: PA Media

This is an important car for Alfa Romeo and one which falls into a segment with many established, well-regarded competitors. So on top of the usual Alfa Romeo styling – which looks even better in the metal than it does in pictures, in our opinion – there aims to be even greater driver involvement through tuned dynamics, as well as good levels of practicality and standard equipment.

It’s capable of receiving over-the-air updates, too, while Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant has been fully integrated to allow you to communicate with other compatible devices in your home. For instance, you could ask your home smart speaker to tell you the fuel level in your car – all via Alexa.

The 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a compact electric motor and battery for improved efficiency and the ability to run on EV-only power at very slow speeds, such as when parking or in traffic. Soon, Alfa Romeo will add a full plug-in hybrid setup to the Tonale range, which will be capable of returning around 37 miles of electric-only range.

This 1.5-litre is still a frugal option, mind you, with Alfa claiming up to 49.6mpg on certain models alongside CO2 emissions of as low as 130g/km. All cars are front-wheel-drive too, driving power through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, with 0-60mph being achieved in 8.8 seconds and a top speed of 130mph possible thanks to 158bhp and 240Nm of torque.

Moving off, the Tonale does well to maintain that silent electric-only propulsion that you get from larger-battery hybrids and this makes town driving very pleasant, as well as quiet. Of course, the engine soon cuts in, but the transition is reasonably smooth, with the 1.5-litre unit itself producing a surprisingly pleasant engine note when given the request to provide more power.

It actually feels reasonably brisk, too, and it’s backed by pleasant steering which feels accurate. On twisty roads, the Tonale feels really composed and impressively level, in fact. However, the seven-speed gearbox lets the package down, as it’s dim-witted and feels at times a little lost in its own ratios. Our Veloce-spec car was also fitted with adjustable dampers as standard, which offered a good amount of comfort in their standard setting, but were far too firm in sportier modes. The 20-inch wheels on our car probably compounded the issue further, mind you, so it could be worth fitting for a smaller alloy if you want a more comfortable ride.

One thing that nobody would have argued with when that concept came out in 2019 was the way that the Tonale looked, so it’s good to see that the original design has been largely carried over to this production version. It’s a great looking thing – in our eyes, at least – with a really purposeful front end and an equally distinctive rear section.

Our car was finished in a superb shade of green too, which only helped it to stand out. It might’ve been the native Italian crowd, but wherever the Tonale went it definitely turned heads and drew glances.

Space isn’t an issue inside the cabin of the Tonale, with great levels of room for those sitting up front and in the rear, too. It’s the latter that is particularly impressive, with loads of headroom and good knee room making this into a practical carrier for passengers of all sizes. The 500-litre boot has a variable floor and is square and really easy to access.

More of a disappointment is some of the material choices. Though we can’t fault the leather-type surface applied to the top of the dash, further down there are vast swathes of cheap-feeling plastic, particularly around the switchgear area. It’s the same story in the back, too. It’s a shame as the general appearance of the cabin is good, but it’s let down by these poor materials. Bearing in mind that this car will start from around £35,000 and it’s definitely not in keeping with the kind of finish that rivals are offering.

It’s a case of peaks and troughs with the Tonale. The engine is accomplished for its efficiency and decent EV-running ability, but it’s let down by the gearbox. The cabin, meanwhile, looks good and is spacious, but can’t hack it when it comes to material quality. It adds up to a car that feels a little muddled, in truth.

Then there’s the question of rivals. Just going off this indicative starting price, the Tonale falls slap bang in the middle of other options that just do things a little better and feel a little more rounded. It just feels as though the Tonale is hamstrung by a series of issues that stop some key attributes from shining to the fore. It’s by no means a bad car, but with premium aspirations come premium requirements and that’s something the Tonale doesn’t quite nail.

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Fisker’s Ronin aims at ‘longest range for a production EV’

The upcoming Fisker Ronin electric sports car plans to deliver the longest range of any EV on sale.

The US-based firm has developed the Ronin – named after the film of the same title that is renowned for its car chases – to follow on from its Ocean SUV and Pear models. The four-seater convertible will definitely be a new sight in the EV segment, arriving as the first of its type. However, this bodystyle will be backed by ‘active aerodynamic technologies and an innovative battery design’ with the battery pack itself integrated into the structure of the vehicle.

“The aim is to achieve the world’s longest range for a production EV, combined with extremely high levels of performance,” CEO Henrik Fisker said. “Project Ronin will be a showcase for our internal engineering, powertrain, and software capabilities.”

Fisker says that the Ronin will feature ‘unique’ doors that will make getting in and out of the vehicle easier, while sustainable vegan materials will be used throughout the interior.

A teaser image has been released, showcasing the Ronin with its roof stowed away. The car’s long bonnet can easily be seen, as can a distinct nose section.

Currently, the Mercedes EQS has the longest range of any production EV, and is capable of delivering up to 453 miles between charges. It can also charge at speeds of up to 200kW, resulting in an 80 per cent top-up being conducted in 31 minutes. The Fisker Ronin would therefore have to exceed this in order to take the top spot in terms of electric-only range.

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Is the Cupra Born a sporty EV worth considering?

Cupra is expanding its line-up with the new electric Born. JACK EVANS finds out what it’s like.

Cupra is a company really finding its feet. It may have only established itself as a separate entity from parent company Seat a few years ago, but it has already expanded its range to become a real presence here. Now, it is turning its attention to the flourishing EV segment with its first electric car – the Born.

Sitting atop the same platform as cars like the Volkswagen ID.3 and Audi Q4 e-tron, the Born aims to bring a slightly sportier character compared with its Volkswagen Group stablemates, as well as the more distinctive design that Cupra has become known for. We’ve been testing it out.

As we mentioned, the Born uses the Volkswagen Group MEB platform which has been designed specifically for electric vehicles, rather than adapted from an existing petrol or diesel setup. That means it goes hard on making the most of the space it has to offer, while the battery is placed low to improve weight distribution and ensure that roominess isn’t impacted.

Photos: PA Media

The Born is also offered with a series of battery and power options, giving buyers a variety of entry points into the line-up.

Though there are a few powertrain setups available for the Born, we’re testing out the anticipated best-seller, which combines a 201bhp electric motor with a 58kWh battery. It’s pretty punchy, too, bringing a 0-60mph of just 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 99mph. There’s a good deal of torque, too, at 310Nm.

With that 58kWh battery, Cupra claims a range of up to 261 miles. The Born can also charge at speeds of up to 125kW, meaning a five to 80 per cent charge could be completed in as little as 35 minutes. If you’ve got a three-phase 11kW home charger then a full top up could take six hours, or around eight with a conventional 7kW unit.

Cupra really has pushed to make the Born feel sportier than other cars on the same platform, which is why it sits on a lower suspension setup and can even be fitted with wider tyres for improved grip and higher cornering speeds. These changes are really noticeable too, as the Born corners keenly and remains well planted through the bends. The only negative by-product of this is a really firm ride, which does tend to get pretty unsettled over poor surfaces – something exasperated when travelling at slow speeds.

That said, it is easy to pilot with relatively light controls. The instant availability of the torque also means that the Born feels quite quick and far speedier than its on-paper figures would suggest. Visibility wise it’s largely acceptable, though the chunky A-pillars do mean you have to take a little more care when entering a roundabout or exiting a junction.

We think Cupra has done really well when it comes to the Born’s styling. It’s definitely the most eye-catching out of the Volkswagen Group’s range of EVs, with its slim headlights, full-width rear light bar and range of copper accents really ensuring that it stands out from the crowd. We particularly liked the contrast diffuser fitted at the rear of the car, which helps to give it even more stance on the road.

There is a good variety of exterior colours too choose from as well, though to our eyes at least it’s the darker shades that suit it the best.

With the majority of controls centred in the Born’s infotainment, there aren’t too many buttons left to clutter up the car’s cabin. It does mean it all feels quite stripped back, though a good level of fit and finish means that this doesn’t come at the detriment of quality. The front seats are comfortable and easy to adjust, too.

But it’s in the back where things are really impressive. There’s loads of legroom for those sitting in the rear, while headroom is also very good. In terms of boot space there are 385 litres on offer and you can extend this by lowering the rear seats. Our only issue is with the charging cable storage; it’s underneath the boot floor which means that if you’re out and about and need to top-up, you’ll need to take everything out of the load area in order to access the cables.

Our car came in V3 specification and, for its £38,390 price tag brought a good deal of standard equipment such as as 12-inch infotainment system and 5.3 digital cockpit, as well as wireless smartphone integration and adaptive cruise control. You also get 12-way electrically adjustable front seats with pneumatic lumbar support and a massage function. The infotainment system is jam-packed with features, but because it holds access to all major functions it feels a little cluttered and makes a process as simple as increasing the cabin temperature more tricky than it should be. There are slim shortcut buttons for this below the screen, but they’re very compact and aren’t lit up either.

Our test car did come with a single optional extra – silver paint for £565 – but, in truth, there’s very little need to go troubling the options list with the Born.

Cupra has done well to bring some real attitude to the EV segment with the Born. It’s definitely got that dynamic flavour, with the kind of body control and eagerness for corners that we’d be expecting more from a hot hatch than a battery-powered model.

That low-speed ride sure is firm, mind you, which might put off some people who are looking for comfort from their EV. That said, with its good value for money and high levels of standard equipment, this could be something people are happy to contend with.

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Fifty years of BMW M to be celebrated at Goodwood Festival of Speed

The Central Feature at the upcoming Goodwood Festival of Speed will pay tribute to 50 years of BMW’s M division.

First established in 1997, the Central Feature has been used to celebrate a variety of different car manufacturers and milestones, with each marked by a sculpture positioned in the centre of the Festival, which is located at the Goodwood estate near Chichester in West Sussex.

This year, it is being used to honour 50 years of BMW M. First launched in May of 1972, BMW M has gone on to create some of the best-known sports and racing cars ever produced and plans to make several new announcements at Goodwood.

It’s expected that the much-anticipated M3 Touring – an estate version of the performance-orientated M3 – will make its formal debut at Goodwood, with a strong chance that it’ll be used to take on the famous hill.

Frank van Meel, CEO of BMW M said: “As BMW M, we feel honoured to play a very special role at this year’s Festival of Speed. For our 50th anniversary, we couldn’t imagine a better place to celebrate our products with fans of the brand. I am particularly looking forward to unveiling a certain vehicle to the world’s public for the first time – a vehicle we have been waiting a long time for.”

Photos: PA Media

Visitors to the show – which takes place from June 23 to 26 – will be able to see some of BMW M’s latest models at its Trackside and Stable Yard locations. Full details of the firm’s presence at the Festival will be announced over the next few weeks.

The Duke of Richmond said: “We are delighted to be celebrating 50 years of BMW’s hugely successful Motorsport division at this year’s Festival of Speed, and it is especially fitting as we prepare to honour ‘The Innovators – Masterminds of Motorsport’. BMW M’s success can of course be attributed to half a century of innovation and we look forward to honouring the marque’s past, present and future achievements at Goodwood in June.”

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Yamaha Tricity 125 gains updates for 2022

Yamaha’s three-wheeled Tricity scooter has gained a range of revisions, bringing more tech and improved efficiency over the previous model.

The 125cc-powered scooter aims to be a choice for urban riders, as well as those who only have an A1 motorcycle licence. It’s equipped with a new Euro5 compliant engine, with a durable forged piston and a newly designed cylinder head. It also features Yamaha’s Variable Valve Actuation which brings nippy acceleration but with reduced fuel consumption.

The Tricity’s eco credentials are further boosted by a 32-bit starter-generator control unit that controls the engine’s electrical functions. A new Smart Motor Generator system combines the previous model’s separate generator and starter motor into one unit, giving very quiet starts and restarts as a result. A new stop-start system is also included to aid efficiency further.

Yamaha has also tweaked the Tricity’s steering system, allowing the front wheels to always carve a steady arc, even when leaning. This makes the whole bike feel more intuitive and easy to ride. The wheelbase is 60mm longer than before, while the engine mounts have been revised to give better comfort levels as well as improved refinement.

Photos: PA Media

The twin rear shock system has also been refined, with the length of the shocks themselves giving 90mm of travel.

New LCD instruments are also included and can be paired to a rider’s smartphone via Yamaha’s MyRide app. In doing so, the rider can view notifications for incoming calls, email, text messages and more all via the bike’s LCD instruments. The app can also be used to see key information such as fuel consumption.

Two new colour schemes are also available with the new Tricity – Petrol Blue and Sand Grey.

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Abarth 695 Tributo 131 Rally pays tributes to firm’s racing history

Abarth is harking back to its rallying days with a new special edition version of its 695.

Called the 695 Tributo 131 Rally, it’s limited to just 695 units worldwide and, of those coming to the UK, each will cost from £32,325. It pays homage to the Abarth 131 Rally, which made its debut in 1976 in Group 4.

Equipped with a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 178bhp and 250Nm of torque, the 131 Rally will hit 60mph in 6.5 seconds and carry on to a top speed of 140mph. Plus, it also receives Koni FSD shock absorbers alongside Brembo brake calipers for high levels of stopping performance. These include 305mm and 240mm ventilated discs on the front and rear of the car respectively.

Photos: PA Media

All cars get 17-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels and a ‘Record Monza Sovrapposto’ exhaust system with quad outlets. The rear spoiler can also be adjusted into one of 12 different positions, allowing it to bring added downforce when travelling at greater speeds. Inside, there are Sabelt fabric seats with blue contrast stitching.

The 131 Rally’s exterior design pays tribute to its rally predecessors with its bicolour three-layer ‘Blue Rally’ livery, while inside a variety of ‘Easter Eggs’ – where designers hide certain elements – have been incorporated, with highlights including the silhouette of the 131 Rally being engraved on the lower part of the car door.

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These are the upcoming SUVs you need to look out for

The SUV segment has got some new contenders arriving soon, but what do you need to know about them?

The SUV segment has already been riding high on a wave of interest and investment, but some key additions announced over recent weeks mean it’s about to get even more interesting. The sales of these high-riding models continue to rise, which is why so many manufacturers are getting their own models into the scene now.

They’re coming from some slightly left-field car makers, too, but it just goes to show the power that this market currently has. Let’s take a look at some of these key new additions.

Lotus Eletre

Lotus unveiled its new Eletre electric SUV during a glossy presentation this week, showcasing a completely new direction for the brand which is best known for its lightweight sports cars like the Elise and Exige. With around 592bhp, the Eletre definitely has performance on its side, with two electric motors providing a sub-three-second 0-60mph time.

Plus, Lotus says it’ll do up to 373 miles between trips to the plug, while the ability to charge at speeds of up to 350kW means that close to 250 miles of range could be added in just 20 minutes.

Ferrari Purosangue

Ferrari held off for some time before confirming that its new SUV – called Purosangue – would actually be entering production. However, it has finally stated that the new car would indeed be heading onto the roads.

Though full details surrounding the car are scarce for now, expect this car to pack a serious punch in order for it to rival the likes of the Lamborghini Urus and Aston Martin DBX.

Alfa Romeo Tonale

Alfa Romeo has introduced its next SUV this year, following on from the popular Stelvio. The Tonale enters into the fiercely competitive compact SUV segment, but does so with a striking look and a modern interior.

Maserati Grecale

Maserati is getting in on the action too, with its Grecale. Arriving underneath the larger Levante, the Grecale is actually based on the same platform as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, so it looks to inherit some of that car’s excellent poise and balance.

With a full-fat Trofeo version bringing some serious performance to the table, this is one Maserati that definitely isn’t lacking in firepower.

Kia EV9

Kia has just confirmed that its EV9 large electric SUV will be entering into production next year, with the aim to continue the success enjoyed by the smaller EV6. It’s a car packed with clever features, including an ultra-wide touchscreen and flexible interior that will deliver plenty of space.

It’s also got a special ‘sky’ panoramic roof and a unique grille design that hides a unique star-like LED design.

Nissan Ariya

Nissan is really laying its cards on the table with the Ariya. This electric SUV marks a whole new stage for the brand which is well known for its Leaf, bringing a classy design as well as plenty of high-end technology.

Capable of returning up to 248 miles from a charge the Ariya has plenty of range, but thanks to dual electric motors and up to 389bhp, it’s still got plenty of punch, too.

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Ford’s Ranger Wolftrak showcases the best this pick-up truck has to offer

The Wolftrak is packed with equipment and features a rugged, go-anywhere design. JACK EVANS finds out what it’s like.

The pick-up segment is pretty compact these days. Volkswagen’s Amarok is due a replacement, while the Mercedes X-Class bit the dust a little while back too. The Ford Ranger – which we’re looking at today – is also set to be replaced shortly too, but while it’s still here, is it still a good rival to the likes of the Toyota Hilux and Isuzu D-Max?

Well, to find out we’ve tested it in beefed-up Wolftrak form, which brings a meaner look compared to the standard Ranger.

The Wolftrak has been designed to offer the kind of robust, rough-and-tumble design that people expect from a pick-up truck. So it comes with a standard-fit load bed protector, which means that you’re able to transport all manner of items back there without worrying that you’re going to damage the paintwork.

Photos: PA media

Plus, it’s got a range of standout features including a variety of matt black parts in areas such as the grille, skid plates and wheel lip mouldings. It also comes with 17-inch alloy wheels shod in chunky, off-road-ready tyres. Inside, there’s plenty of high-end equipment fitted as standard – but more on that later.

You might think that the Wolftrak would be kitted out with the 2.0-litre biturbo engine from the range-topping Raptor, but we’ve got a slightly less powerful – but no less robust – motor fitted here instead. It’s a 2.0-litre single turbo diesel, with 168bhp and 420Nm of torque, which on our test car was managed by a six-speed manual gearbox – though an automatic is also available.

Acceleration is adequate enough at 11.1 seconds from 0-60mph, while a top speed of 112mph is more than enough for a truck like this. There’s also selectable four-wheel-drive, while Ford says the Wolftrak is capable of carrying a 1,000kg payload and also has a 3,500kg towing capacity.

The Wolftrak is remarkably pleasant to drive, considering its upright positioning and reasonable rudimentary chassis. Of course, like most pick-up trucks it feels a little jittery when without a load in the bed, but on a cruise it’s reasonably quiet and refined. There’s a good deal of wind noise generated when travelling on the motorway, but this is to be expected by a vehicle of this type.

The engine might not look all that powerful on paper, either, but it’s got a decent enough amount of shove while those deep torque reserves mean that there’s always power on hand should you require it. The engine noise piped into the cabin even has a good sound to it.

Though the six-speed manual is a little vague in its operation, it’s quite light and simple to use. The only real issue is the Ranger’s size, which does come into play when trying to navigate a busy parking area – though you’ll be aware of this when you sign up for a pick-up truck.

The Wolftrak takes the Ranger’s already commanding looks and takes them one step further. With its variety of matte black elements, it definitely has an undercover, almost menacing appeal while the large wheels and tyres give some indication of the kind of terrain it can tackle.

You do get some Wolftrak badging but it’s reasonably subtle and doesn’t scream quite as hard as the Raptor, which is emblazoned with badges and logos across its entire body. If you’re after a truck with plenty of presence but without too many extras, then the Wolftrak will no doubt prove appealing.

This isn’t some agricultural pick-up truck. With its variety of leather-wrapped elements and eight-inch touchscreen, the cabin of the Wildtrak feels decidedly upmarket. You can only specify it as a double cab, too, which does mean that it’s the best option if you’re looking to take passengers with you. Our truck didn’t come with a cover over the top of the load bay, so this meant that we had to transport belongings and items in the back of the truck, which doesn’t feel the most secure. A cover for the load bed would easily remedy this, mind you.

You get a nice elevated view of the road ahead too, of course, while the seats themselves have four-way adjustment so you can get into a pretty good position. They’re comfortable and well-padded, too.

As we’ve already highlighted, there’s an eight-inch infotainment system included as standard on the Wolftrak and it’s running Ford’s Sync 2.5 system which, though not the very latest that the firm offers, is decent enough in its operation and includes Apple CarPlay, so it’s easy to integrate your phone via a USB cable.

Elsewhere, we’ve got a six-speaker sound system and Ford’s clever Pass Connect technology, which allows you to remotely connect to the Ranger via a smartphone app. Through this, you can check to see if it’s locked and even be alerted if an intruder tries to gain access to the vehicle.

The Wolftrak feels like a fittingly rounded version to celebrate the ending of this generation of Ranger. With its extensive standard equipment and robust build quality, it feels like a showcase of why this truck has proved so immensely popular – and leaves us with a high level of expectation of the new one.

Should you consider it anyway? Absolutely. If you’re after a pick-up that tows, carries and goes off-road without any real fuss, then the Ranger Wolftrak is still a great choice.

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The 1,000bhp Hennessey Mammoth 6×6 truck rolls off the production line

Famed American tuner has produced a six-wheel-drive performance pick-up.

Hennessey has confirmed that production of the Mammoth 1000 6×6 TRX has begun in Texas.

The famed American tuner is well-known for creating high-performance versions of American models, but has gone the extra mile with this upgraded Dodge Ram TRX.

The most notable change is the addition of a third axle, positioned at the rear. It also gets a mountain off-road kit to lift the ride height, while suspension comes from Bilstein with 20-inch alloy wheels and 37-inch off-road tyres.

All of these additions contribute to a truck that will dwarf others on the road, standing at almost seven feet tall.

Under the bonnet there have been changes too, with the Ram’s engine overhauled to produce an extra 300bhp. The 6.2-litre supercharged ‘Hellcat’ V8’s new output is 1,012bhp with 1,314Nm of torque.

The third axle extends the vehicle’s length by four feet, which means the load bed has an even bigger capacity than before.

Photos: PA Media

The Hennessey Mammoth 6×6 costs from $449,950 (£345,700), which includes the purchase of the base Dodge Ram. Also included are new front and rear numbers, a dazzling array of LED lights and a bespoke interior. All Mammoths come with a two-year/24,000-mile warranty.

John Hennessey, company founder and CEO, said: “Everything we do at Hennessey Performance is turned up to 11, but the Mammoth 1000 6×6 is definitely turned up to 12!

“Everything on the Mammoth 6×6 is bigger, badder, and more imposing – plus, it’s still super-fast, while being a total powerhouse off-road. It’s the undisputed king of the road.”

This is not the first 6×6 made by Hennessey. It has delivered more than 20 VelociRaptor 6×6 models, based on the Ford F150, and Goliath 6×6, based on the Chevrolet Silverado.

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