Wednesday, July 4, 2018

BMW M3 CS 2018 UK review

What is it?
This is end-of-series, limited-run, valedictory version of the F80-generation BMW M3.

It’s a saloon, of course (I’m still not used to that), but, like last year’s M4 CS coupĂ©, the M3 CS gets a dusting of the lightweight panels and aerodynamic features from the M4 GTS of 2016. There's a fairly low-impact suspension update too, as well as a new set of lightweight forged alloy wheels, 'cup' tyres and an extra helping of power and torque.

The CS isn’t cheap, weighing in at fully £23k more even than the M3 Competition Pack – within five grand, even, of the mighty 591bhp M5. But BMW is clearly hoping that there will be enough lingering sentiment for the departing M3 to justify that kind of premium, and it has limited global volume to just 1200 units to try to reassure customers that it’s a savvy-enough buy.

All 1200 of those cars have already been built, by the way, so if you want to bid a particularly expensive, fond farewell to this particular M car, you should move fast. But if you’re not so bothered about how many doors you’re getting, the 4 Series and M4 will remain in production for a while yet.

What's it like?
Like a swotty schoolkid playing up for the teacher’s approval, BMW has studiously addressed almost every dynamic criticism that has been widely levelled at the F80 M3 with this car. It should therefore be harder to conclude that it isn’t an outstanding, class-leading sports saloon in this, its ultimate iteration.

And yet I’m going to. Because, despite the improvements the CS demonstrates in terms of tactile feedback, outright grip, mid-range thrust and all-round driver engagement, I still don’t think we’ll look back at this as the greatest version of a car that represents the M3 at its dominant best. It’s certainly better, mind you, than the M3 was when it first appeared in 2014 – by quite a distance – and the Competition Pack revision that came along two years later.

Our main complaint about the standard F80 was that it just wasn’t that effusive: not engaging enough to drive at everyday speeds, not immersive enough through its controls, not quite progressive enough on the limit, and certainly not in possession of the sort of engine that takes your imagination hostage quite like the Ferrari-derived V6 of the Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio or turbocharged V8 in the Mercedes-AMG C63.

The CS’s rolling chassis, however, makes a big difference to points one and two. The car has received fairly minor spring and damper alterations and software recalibrations for its power steering and e-diff, but I’d say at least half of the extra contact patch feel and loading variation you can detect through the steering wheel is down to those forged rims and Michelin PS Cup 2 tyres. There’s plenty of both now, although the tactility of the steering ebbs and flows with a strange inconsistency, even when you stick to one driving mode.

BMW claims the adoption of a slightly smaller front wheel than the M3 Competition Pack is to the improvement of steering and handling response. And while I agree to a certain extent, I still wouldn’t say the car is quite at the races in terms of the eagerness with which it changes direction.

There’s just a hint of laziness about its initial steering response and a need to get a fair amount of steering angle dialled into the rack before the front axle will really bite around corners, junctions and roundabouts. A few years ago, before the arrival of the rapier-steering Giulia, I might not have noticed it; and with high-speed autobahn stability in mind, I can easily understand why it’s present. But it certainly takes the edge off your perception of the outright agility of the car.

It’s also the introductory trait of an overarching dynamic character with which I find it a touch harder to gel than that of its rivals. It’s not at all hard to sum up how the Giulia feels at its best (scalpel-blade sharp), likewise the C63 S (hot-rod drift machine). But the CS doesn’t define itself in such clear terms. Particularly in this latest form, it’s every bit as taut in its body control and as adhesive as the Giulia, and even more precise and secure in some ways. And yet you can’t drive it quite as instinctively as the Giulia, or with the abandon of the Mercedes.

The CS asks you to invest more deeply but fails to reward you as vividly. It’s more serious and businesslike than the Giulia about the catering for the necessities of going fast, but it's less poised and playful.

BMW’s turbocharged straight-six, meanwhile, sounds better in the CS than it has in any F80 M3 so far, with more real engine noise eddying its way out from underneath that CFRP bonnet than in other versions and a bit less annoying digital synthesis of the same in evidence. But you still have to roll the window down to hear much in the way of genuine induction noise.

Moreover, you’ll have to prefer the character of a motor that revs freely to 7000rpm, and that needs to be worked to feel really potent, to one with a knockout wallop of mid-range torque and the gargle of a V8 if you're to really appreciate this car. Despite the extra 37lb ft of torque on offer and the fact that it’s a sub-4.0sec 0-62mph prospect on paper, the CS still doesn’t feel that quick. 
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Tesla ups pressure on workforce to meet Model 3 production targets

Tesla has upped the pressure on its workforce in order to meet its production targets, particularly so in the dying days of the second quarter, when 5000 cars a week was the company’s aim.

Reuters reports that 12-hour shifts are now being used, while a policy to warn workers a week in advance of weekend shifts - which are now mandatory - has been withdrawn.

Quoting an anonymous source from Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, US, Reuters reports that the all-hands-on-deck approach taken to pushing the Model 3 to 5000 units per week by the end of the second quarter put the Model S production line 800 cars behind schedule at the paint stage.

“They’ve been throwing Model 3s ahead of the Model S to get painted to try to assure that they make their goal of 5000", a production worker said. "The paint department can’t handle the volume.

“They [Model 3 production] were borrowing people from our line all day to cover their breaks so the line would continue to move.”

Tesla reportedly disputed this claim.

CEO Elon Musk’s supervision of the production line led to tensions rising, as he snapped at engineers if production slowed or a problem was encountered with the machines, according to a factory worker.

Tesla’s production problems with the Model 3 have been well documented, calling into question the company’s capability of producing the number of cars for which it has taken deposits.

Last month, Musk tweeted that the company had set up a temporary production line to help achieve Model 3 production goals. This is reported to account for around one-fifth of Model 3 production.

Despite the negative press around the “production hell” of the Model 3, the 5000-a-week target for the end of the second quarter was met, although critics are questioning whether this is sustainable, given the increasing pressure put on the Fremont factory and its employees.
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Volkswagen Golf R power drops to 296bhp amid WLTP changes

Volkswagen’s Golf R super-hatch has followed suit of the Seat Leon Cupra by having its power output downgraded due to changes forced by the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP).

Output from the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is now rated at 296bhp, down from 306bhp in the pre-WLTP car.

A VW spokesman told Autocar: “In the context of new homologations, there are adaptions for the exhaust gas treatment and for the power output. From now on, all Golf R models will feature a 300PS [296bhp] engine.”

Although VW refrained from revealing technical details that show why the power output has changed, it’s thought that the more stringent emissions limits of WLTP — which uses real-world testing rather than the lab-based process of the outgoing New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) — has forced the company to fit a more restrictive exhaust system that reduces its real-world nitrogen oxide output.

Analysis: Are car makers ready for WLTP?

The move will affect cars currently on order. VW said it will contact those awaiting their cars to be built to inform them of the changes.

The Golf R range has also been slimmed down to just the five-door bodyshape and DSG gearbox, meaning the three-door and manual models are no longer offered — a move that is linked to customer demand.

VW and Seat are two of several manufacturers racing to change the specifications of their cars ahead of the introduction of WLTP in September. Some models are even being culled ahead of the deadline, such as the BMW M3, which is being axed because, as a BMW spokesman said, it doesn’t make economical sense to re-engineer a model that is relatively close to the end of its production cycle.

BMW recently confirmed that it had retested its range to WLTP standards, with increases in CO2 and reductions in fuel economy shown across the line-up. This is expected to be true of all retested cars with combustion engines due to the tougher requirements of the new procedure.
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Mercedes-Benz X-Class long-term review

Why we’re running it: To find out why UK drivers are turning to pick-ups in increasing numbers, and to determine whether the X-Class is as refined to live with as Merc’s cars

Life with a Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Month 1
Keep one eye on your load - 6th June 2018

Unless you have a roll-top cover, says a shrewd pick-up driver I know, be careful what you carry in the tray. At a red traffic light in outer London recently, two young blokes, ostensibly crossing the road through the traffic, paused to look into my (empty) load space. I get the feeling that if a toolbox had been in the back, it wouldn’t be mine any more.

Welcoming the X-Class to the fleet - 23rd May 2018

It’s supposed to be about money. The reason you see the population of four-door, extended-cab, one-tonne pick-ups on our roads swelling so fast is widely claimed to be because they’re as cheap to run, from a benefit-in-kind (BIK) point of view, as company vehicles.

However, the underlying reason seems to be that they look pretty cool, at least to some of us, and I’m among the supporters.

That, and a curiosity to find out about this new vehicle breed, currently being ever more enthusiastically touted by Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Volkswagen, Ssangyong and now Mercedes, is behind our decision to adopt one.

The X-Class comes about as a result of a cooperation with Nissan(there’s a lot of Navara under it) but it’s also very much its own vehicle, what with multi-link rear suspension, an all-Merc interior, a lot of styling changes, a higher price than the Nissan and an extra-chunky three-pointed star grille that leaves no one in doubt as to which showroom this came from.

Let’s talk money. The situation is that while ordinary vehicles attract rising rates of BIK taxation according to purchase price and CO2 output, light commercial vehicles (which must be rated above one tonne of carrying capacity) attract a lower charge which is fixed.

If you’re a 40% tax payer, the annual difference in tax between, say, a similarly priced Land Rover Discovery Sport and our £39,780 X-Class could be more than £1600, so it definitely matters.

The X-Class is a comparatively new arrival, and fits into a ‘premium’ slot roughly £5000 above the lesser marques. You still get a lot of truck for your money: from a £34k base, we added options that took ours to just short of £40k.

Our additional kit includes an all-round camera, Mercedes-Benz’s comprehensive Comand nav and audio package (which still includes a CD player for us Luddites) plus stuff like side-steps, roof bars, chrome underbits front and rear and a chrome roll-over bar so huge it looks as if you could connect the whole machine to a sky hook.
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2019 Jeep Wrangler arrives in autumn with 2.2-litre diesel and 2.0 petrol for Europe

The diesel produces 197bhp and 332lb ft of torque, and has an aluminium block, variable geometry turbocharger and stop-start. The petrol, meanwhile, gives 268bhp and 295lb ft of torque, and is available exclusively with an 8-speed automatic gearbox.  

The car, which is already on sale in America and arrives in Europe in autumn, is also the first Wrangler to get a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that uses a twin-scroll turbocharger and new eTorque technology.
This mild hybrid system outputs a maximum of 270bhp and 295lb ft of torque, while also enabling significant improvements to efficiency. Stop/start technology is included, and the engine can switch off when the car is coasting.
The Wrangler is also offered with a 3.6-litre petrol engine with 285bhp and 260lb ft of torque, while a 3.0-litre diesel that produces 260bhp and 442lb ft will be added to the range from 2019. Both units use start/stop technology.
As standard, the Wrangler sends torque through a six-speed manual gearbox, but an eight-speed automatic is also on offer. Drive is channelled to all four wheels, with low-ratio 4:1 locking differentials available (they’re standard on Rubicon cars).
The American SUV, first shown at the LA motor show, has been given a big technical boost to bring it up to date, but designers have been sure to retain the familiar look of its forebears, which stretch back to 1986.
It’s offered in two- and four-door guises in Sport, Sport S, Sahara (exclusive to the four-door) and Rubicon trim. The model gets new LED lighting and is available with more open-air options, including one that enables the doors and roof to be removed.
Inside, Jeep’s Uconnect infotainment technology features within a centrally mounted touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Base cars get a 5.0in screen, but 7.0in and 8.4in versions are available in higher models. A 7.0in digital LED instrument cluster display is also available; base cars make do with a 3.5in screen between the dials.
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