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The BMW iX M60 brings fierce performance to this electric SUV

BMW’s flagship EV has received an ‘M’ makeover. TED WELFORD puts it to the test.

Few car firms have caused as much controversy in recent years as BMW, with its divisive-looking models dividing opinion. None more so than the iX, with this flagship electric SUV certainly turning heads, if not always for the right reasons.

But it hasn’t stopped its success, with BMW struggling to keep up with demand, even with first deliveries only commencing at the back end of last year. Things aren’t stopping there, though, with BMW’s performance ‘M’ division now getting its hands on the iX – the result being this new M60 version. Only the second performance EV from the German marque, and its most powerful electrified car yet, does it impress?

In a slightly unusual fashion for an ‘M’ model, not a huge amount has changed for the M60’s design, though given the iX is more than able to stand out on its own, it’s not hard to see why.

Photos: PA Media

Things are pretty much the same as the regular iX inside, too – with the exceptions of some M-specific dials – so it’s really just beneath the surface where things change, as the iX gains revised electric motors that see power and torque jump quite significantly.

The iX launched last year in two forms – xDrive40 and xDrive50, and the latter version is certainly not lacking in pace, producing 516bhp and 765Nm of torque. But this new M60 version gets a significant performance boost, with its redesigned motors producing a huge 611bhp and 1,100Nm of torque. To give that number some context, no BMW has ever had more torque.

The result is a 0-60mph time of just 3.6 seconds, while the top speed increases to 155mph – up from 112mph in other iX models. The same large 105kWh battery from the standard car is used, which enables an electric range of up to 348 miles – impressive, but slightly down on the ‘50’ version’s claimed 380-mile range. It can also charge at up to 200kW, meaning a 10-80 per cent charge can take as little as 35 minutes.

The sheer pace on offer from the M60 is what immediately shocks. Put your foot down and the way this 2.6-tonnne SUV can get up to speed is nothing short of mindblowing.

We got to try the iX on Germany’s derestricted autobahn motorways, and even at higher speeds the pace still keeps coming, rather than dropping off like other EVs have a tendency to. It’s also accompanied by a futuristic sports sound, developed by German composer Hans Zimmer, which really adds to the performance feel. You can choose to turn this off if you don’t like it, though.

When you’re wanting to settle things down, the iX becomes a sedate cruiser that offers exceptional comfort and refinement. For longer motorway trips, it would be an exceptional choice. Around town – and in our case through the centre of Berlin – the near-silent running, impressive camera systems and safety assists make driving something even the size of an iX an absolute doddle.

BMW intended to make a statement with the iX, and it did just that. Though a car’s looks will always divide opinion, its blanked-off grille is certainly not our cup of tea. But it’s a talking point, and turns heads wherever you go – something that’s likely important when you’re spending this kind of money.

The rest of the car is actually quite smart, though, with its flush door handles, thin LED lighting and two-tone body really looking the part. As we’ve mentioned, styling changes on this M60 version are quite limited, but look closer and you’ll notice the blue brake callipers, bronze detailing and 22-inch alloy wheels.

The iX also continues to make a statement when you head inside, with the interior being dominated by the brand’s latest ‘Curved Display’ – which features a digital dial display running into a large touchscreen. Both are super slick to use, while the brand’s iDrive operating system remains the best around. A particular highlight is the augmented reality sat nav, which relays arrows onto the road, making it almost impossible for you to miss your turn.

The material quality is top notch throughout, with a range of materials combining to create a seriously upmarket cabin. For a performance model – even an electric SUV – the seats are very flat, with next to no support. More positively, the iX offers a roomy cabin with loads of rear seat space and a big boot.

Perhaps not surprisingly for a ‘statement’ EV, BMW has thrown all the toys at the iX. Name a feature and this SUV will likely come with it, and it’s packed with high-end touches, from its superb Bowers & Wilkins sound system to a full-length glass sunroof and massaging and ventilated front seats.

Other bits of technology fitted include power-closing doors, the brand’s renowned Laserlight headlights and all the latest driver assistance technology – the advanced adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring being particular highlights.

Objectively, does an electric family SUV really need more than 600bhp? It doesn’t, but seeing is truly believing as to just how rapid this EV is, which will appeal to some buyers.

Though we reckon the standard iX ‘50’ version – or even the substantially cheaper ‘40’ – will be a better fit for many, if you crave the best-of-the-best, this M60’s combination of quality, technology and sheer performance is truly unmatched.

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The best convertibles to enjoy the summer sun

Malta is one of the best countries to drive around in a convertible, soaking up the summer sun or enjoying a light evening breeze. Here is a list of the best convertibles on sale today, accounting for a wide range of budgets.

Photos: PA Media

Mazda MX-5

If you’re looking for an affordable sports car, the Mazda MX-5 should be at the top of the list. The latest generation offers one of the purest driving experiences in the new car market, thanks to its simple layout and lightweight construction.

It looks great, has an interior with a hint of premium appeal (particularly in higher specifications) and a roof you can throw down in seconds. You can also pay extra to get a folding hardtop version, should that be more appealing.

Fiat 500 Convertible

If style is your preference over driving thrills, why not take a look at the Fiat 500 Convertible? The dinky Italian supermini is now only available with an electric powertrain, which suits it perfectly.

This does make it a bit pricier than before, but Fiat has given it a fantastic design update and decent equipment levels to make up for it. It has an impressive range of almost 200 miles, too, making it surprisingly adept at longer distance drives.

Audi A5 Cabriolet

Stepping up a level now, we have the Audi A5 Cabriolet. This is fairly large and practical for a convertible, focusing more on style and comfort than being particularly sporty. If you want the high-performance RS5 it’s sadly not available as a drop-top.

That’s not a big problem, though, as the A5 Cabriolet brings one of the best cabins in the business as well as genuinely usable rear seats. With the roof up it’s so quiet you’d never know it’s not the coupe, either.

Ford Mustang Convertible

You’ll have to dive deeper into your pockets to get yourself a Ford Mustang but if it’s a performance convertible you want it offers so much more than the Audi.

While it lacks the A5’s interior class and quality, it makes up for it by having a glorious V8 engine under the bonnet. And there’s no better way to enjoy the sound of the 444bhp on offer than with the roof down. It’s available with a manual gearbox, too, for that old school purity.

Porsche 718 Boxster

The Boxster used to have a bit of a reputation as the Porsche you bought because you couldn’t afford a 911. However, it has now carved itself out as a genuinely fantastic option for those who want a sports car that’s open to the elements.

If it’s within budget, the best option is the Boxster GTS 4.0, with its 395bhp 4.0-litre engine and countless mechanical upgrades that make it one of the best handling cars on sale.

Lexus LC Convertible

The Lexus LC Convertible is not cheap, but it does provide an ownership experience few rivals can match up to. For a start, it looks fantastic, with genuine concept car styling making it stand out whatever the paint job.

There’s also a brilliant V8 engine under the bonnet that makes revving out to the red line addictive. Finally, the cabin is worthy of the price tag, with high quality materials and a cool design.

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Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Volkswagen get five stars in latest crash test ratings

Four vehicles have been given top marks in the latest round of crash testing by Euro NCAP.

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Volkswagen Multivan, as well as two electric vehicles in the Kia EV6 and Volvo C40 Recharge each took home five stars.

All models performed exceptionally well in crash tests, scoring 90 per cent or more for adult occupant safety. The Kia EV6 was rated 86 per cent for child occupant safety, with the other three getting 89 per cent.

Of the five-star cars tested, the C-Class got the lowest score for driver assistance technology, losing marks for its seatbelt reminder in particular. However, at 82 per cent it still performed well, with the C40 Recharge performing the best of the bunch at 89 per cent.

The biggest differences between these models came in the ‘vulnerable road users’ section, with the C-Class’s active bonnet meaning it significantly outperformed the EV6.

As well as these models, Euro NCAP also tested the Peugeot 308 and Vauxhall Astra, which both sit on the same vehicle platform. Unsurprisingly, this meant they both performed similarly in testing, receiving four stars each.

Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of Euro NCAP, said: “On the whole, we see good scores for crash protection which is, of course, reassuring.

“But crash avoidance is as important as crash protection and the benefits of simply not being in a collision are, of course, immeasurably greater.

“So we will keep the emphasis on all areas of safety in the coming years and some manufacturers will have to continue to up their game in this area if they are not going to be left behind by the competition.”

Euro NCAP also gave an ‘Advanced’ reward to Mercedes-Benz’s ‘Car-to-X Communication’ system, which uses data from other vehicles to provide early warning of potential hazards ahead.

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BMW M3 and M4 ‘50 Jahre’ editions celebrate half a century of BMW M

BMW has revealed special editions of the M3 and M4 to celebrate 50 years of BMW M.

The two models wear ‘50 Jahre’ badging, which translates to ‘50 years’. The German car maker says the editions mean ‘M enthusiasts around the globe can express both their passion for racing and their awareness of tradition’.

Based on the current generation of M3 and M4, both come with a straight-six-cylinder engine that makes 503bhp, fed to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

There will be a ‘strictly limited’ number of each version, with different global markets getting different configurations and the selection of historic paint colours from BMW M history.

For Europe, there is an exclusive M4 offered in Carbon Black, Macao Blue, Brands Hatch Grey, Imola Red and San Marino Blue. There are 19-inch forged alloy wheels up front with 20-inch wheels at the rear, offered for the first time in grey and gold/bronze matte.

Photos: PA Media

In China, the M4 has Fire Orange and Stratus Grey paint options, as a nod to the fact this is the Year of the Tiger.

Inside, ‘Edition 50 Jahre BMW M’ letting is placed on the sill plates, with similar wording on a plaque on the centre console and the headrests of the front seats.

The M3 version was designed specifically for the USA and Canada, with five paint choices called Cinnabar Red, Techno Violet, Interlagos Blue, Fire Orange and Limerock Grey.

Various M Performance Parts are available to upgrade each edition model, including a carbon-fibre front splitter and rear spoiler, and a carbon/titanium tailpipe trim.

These models get similar door sill lettering and plaques, as well as M stripes in the upholstery and an exclusive seam pattern.

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British Motor Show to be ‘greenest car show ever’ through use of sustainable fuels

The British Motor Show 2022 will be ‘the greenest ever event of its type’ thanks to the use of sustainable fuels.

Organisers have teamed up with Coryton Advanced Fuels to ensure that all vehicles within the show will run on advanced biofuels made from agricultural waste.

While most of the car industry is pressing ahead with phasing out combustion engines and switching to electrified transport, the use of sustainable fuels has been increasing in popularity in recent years.

These fuels, which are also known as synthetic or eFuels, are essentially no different in their basic makeup to the diesel or petrol that comes from crude oil. However, they are produced from renewable sources so their emissions are carbon neutral.

The other benefit is that they can be used in existing combustion-engined cars without any adaptation needed.

Coryton’s ‘Sustain’ brand will be the official fuels partner of this year’s British Motor Show, and will supply all of the petrol and diesel used at the event, including everything from passenger shuttle buses to vehicles used in the live test drives.

The British Motor Show CEO Andy Entwistle said: “While electricity is an option for more motorists than ever, many of us want to make a difference now.

Photos: PA Media

“The beauty of Coryton’s solution is that while the fuel emits carbon, it only emits what it takes out of the atmosphere in the process of it being refined, thus neutralising the overall carbon output.

“By using it in our own vehicles, we want to create a show with minimal carbon output and show that combustion-engined cars can be environmentally friendly right now, especially for those who cherish their classic cars or cannot yet afford a new EV.”

Andrew Willson, Coryton’s CEO, added: “As a company we’re committed to creating world-leading sustainable fuels, raising the profile of these options and helping people to understand the impact they could have on reducing carbon emissions in the immediate future.”

On top of the partnership with Coryton, the British Motor Show says it will be offsetting visitors’ carbon footprint as well as promoting advanced fuels and electric vehicles to showgoers.

The event takes place on August 18-21 at Farnborough International.

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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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