Monday, May 29, 2017


Heading out with a crowd? Why bother taking two cars when there are so many SUVs on the road today that can seat six or more people? Here are some SUVs with third-row seats that are perfect if you have a large family, lots of friends or live life in the car pool lane.

The Chevrolet Traverse can seat up to eight and reviewers say even adults won't mind riding in the way back. Decent fuel economy and lots of cargo space are other high points of the Traverse, and reviewers give it high marks for its car-like performance. If you like the Traverse but want something more upscale, check out the Buick Enclave. It features the same roomy seating as the Traverse, but uses more luxurious cabin materials.

Several reviewers also say the Enclave has attractive exterior styling. For 2013, Hyundai brought the third row back in the Hyundai Santa Fe. Though most reviewers say the third row is best for kids, they do like the long list of standard features the Santa Fe offers. Hyundai also backs the Santa Fe with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which is one of the longest in the class. The Ford Flex has one of the roomiest third rows on the market. It also has available features like a refrigerated console in the second row that makes it a top choice for road trips. It's a great way to get the smooth ride and comfortable interior of a minivan without the minivan styling.. The Toyota Highlander makes getting to the third row easy with a middle seat in the second row that flips and folds out of the way. It also has a strong optional V6 engine.                                                                                       

The Dodge Durango
If your crew needs to get somewhere fast, check out the Dodge Durango. The R/T trim has a powerful V8 engine in addition to standard seating for seven and available all-wheel drive. Even if you go for the base Durango, reviewers say you should like its quiet ride.   

The Mazda CX-9
The seven-seat Mazda CX-9 has performance that reviewers say makes it one of the most fun-to-drive midsize SUVs you can buy. Critics like that the CX-9's V6 has plenty of power and they report that it handles well for its size.      

The Acura MDX
The Acura MDX not only seats seven but it also gets good reviews for its refined performance and good fuel economy for the class. It’s such a good SUV that it won our 2014 Best 3-Row Luxury SUV for the Money award. 

The Land Rover Range Rover Sport
With an optional third-row that brings seating capacity to seven, reviewers say the Land Rover Range Rover Sport can transport a big group in style. Most auto critics praise its off-road performance and say that it has excellent on-road performance as well.  

The BMW X5
If performance is what you’re after, reviewers say the BMW X5 is tough to beat. It has an available third row that makes it possible to bring your whole crew along for the thrilling ride

Thursday, May 25, 2017


The Aygo engine  is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol. It suffers from a prolonged flat spot when you pull away from a standstill, and doesn’t start to pull meaningfully until around 4000rpm. This means you have to work it hard to make decent progress, and you’ll often have to change down a gear to maintain your speed, especially on hills. We’re yet to try an Aygo with the optional automatic gearbox.

The Aygo’s ride is unsettled on patchy surfaces, but it doesn’t become crashy over potholes. Some people will find the steering too heavy for parking and tight turns, although this heft does give some confidence when tackling faster corners, even if you get little sense of how the front wheels are gripping. The Aygo controls its body movements decently well on country roads. out of 5 starsReview-OnRoad Considerable engine noise makes it into the cabin, and you feel vibrations through the steering wheel and pedals. Those pedals are consistently weighted, but the gearshift is frustratingly imprecise, which is especially annoying considering how many gearchanges are required in and out of town. It’s hard to relax at a motorway cruise, too, because there’s non-stop wind noise around the front windows and too much road noise. As long as you stick to the mid-range trims, the Aygo looks well priced; stray too far up the ladder and it starts to become more expensive than rivals. Running costs are impressively low: the Aygo performed better than most other city cars in our True MPG tests, so will be cheap to fuel, and its low CO2 emissions mean tiny tax bills.

Quality & Reliability4 out of 5 starsReview-Ownership Entry-level Aygos feel a little cheap inside, because they miss out on the piano black dashboard trim and leather steering wheel of mid-range models. Even so, all versions have some interior plastics and exposed metal that look and feel low-rent. This generation of Aygo was too new to be included in the latest JD Power customer satisfaction survey, but the previous Aygo and Toyota as a manufacturer scored well for reliability.

Safety & Security3 out of 5 starsReview-Ownership All versions come with stability control, six airbags, hill-hold control and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system. An engine immobiliser is also fitted, which helped the Aygo get four stars (out of five) from security experts Thatcham for its resistance to being stolen. It was awarded just two stars out of five for its resistance to being broken into, however. Driver’s seat-height adjustment comes as standard from mid-range X-Play trim upwards, but you sit quite high even with the seat in its lowest setting. Also, the steering wheel adjusts only for height, so taller drivers may struggle to get totally comfortable. At least the heating and ventilation controls are easy to use, and the good all-round visibility is reassuring when you’re driving on busy roads.

Cabin Entry-level X models are sparse; they get LED daytime running lights, USB and aux connections, and electric front windows, but not much else. We’d go for the good-value X-Play model, which adds air-con, Bluetooth, two extra speakers (making four in total), a rev counter and a leather steering wheel complete with audio controls. The more expensive models come with desirable kit such as alloy wheels, part-leather sports seats, radio and a reversing camera, but they’re a little pricey.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Firing up the engine is an event. Hit the red button on the helm to awaken the starter which requires two or three snarling revolutions to crank up the highly tuned 2.0-litre four. Once again, the production car lapses back into concept car mode. Idle speed is revving up and down the tone ladder in 200rpm waves; the water pump, the oil pump and the injection pump take a few moments to synchronise their a capella performance; you can almost feel the lubricant swarming out to the remote corners of the powerplant which duly changes its tone of voice from high-pitched metallic to a healthy baritone.

Playing with the throttle introduces the two key sparring partners to this quattrophonic ring: the intake plenum and its broadband coloratura, and the dual-stage exhaust system which oscillates between mass murmur and raw roar. When you shift down on the move with the left index finger, the chips will automatically blip the throttle; when you give her stick and keep the right foot firmly planted, a phonetic explosion marks the transition from bawl to blare at 4500rpm; when you change up one gear close to the redline and then another, the four sounds almost like a five, and then very briefly even like a six.

Although the TT420 may have what it takes to evolve into the next TT RS, it won’t feature this engine. Instead, the top-of-the-line version will run Audi’s five-cylinder unit, which gets a new lease of life in the shape of a seriously modified alloy-block motor (good for 525bhp in the latest S3-based hot concept).

The TTS will remain loyal to the 2.0-litre TFSI, which is featured by every mainstream VW Group brand. Originally pegged at 292bhp, TTS output has recently been lifted to 306bhp. How come? Because Ulrich Hackenberg, now Audi’s r&d supremo, felt an urge to eclipse the 296bhp Golf R. For exactly the same reason, the output of this hot TT420 concept was increased to a lofty 414bhp – 20bhp more than the 394bhp Golf R400 concept. Talk about inter-brand one-upmanship. Although it is the most powerful 2.0-litre petrol engine, this particular iteration is not currently confirmed for production.

The TT420 is redlined at 7200rpm, and the turbocharged 16-valver produces peak power at 6700rpm. The maximum torque of 332lb ft is spread over an uncommonly wide rev band from 2400 to 6300rpm. With four-wheel drive and a tidy 1344kg kerbweight, 0-62mph takes just 3.7sec. Like the engines of the Lamborghini Huracan and the race-winning Audi R8, the third-generation 2.0-litre four (EA888) features a mix of direct and indirect injection systems for maximum mid-range grunt, impressive high-end urge, quick low-end response and strong overall efficiency.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


The new XE has arrived and in exhilarating style. A true driver’s car, the rear wheel drive Jaguar XE redefines the concept of the sports saloon thanks to its advanced lightweight construction, streamlined styling, luxurious interior, and outstanding ride and handling. 

XE is packed with a wide range of state-of-the-art technologies designed to keep you connected, keep you in touch and to make every journey a pleasure.The Jaguar XE body uses over 75 percent aluminium content, which far exceeds any other car in its class. This gives us a body structure with unrivalled low weight: it’s light but also immensely strong with extremely high levels of torsional stiffness. We’ve made sure our aluminium-intensive body structure exceeds all global safety standards without compromising on vehicle design or refinement.” 

To this end, the most efficient Jaguar XE, powered by a new 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine with 280lb ft of pulling power, will deliver average economy of 75mpg and emissions of just 99g/km of CO2. That makes it the most efficient Jaguar ever built and eclipses the best currently offered by rivals. The BMW 3 Series Efficient Dynamics model, for instance, is powered by a 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine with 280lb ft of pulling power, and averages 68.9mpg and emits 109g/km of CO2. However, both BMW and Mercedes are preparing to launch new engine variants of their models within a year, the figures for which have not been revealed.

This new, efficient diesel engine will be part new range of all-new turbo-charged four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines from Jaguar, branded as Ingenium and which, the firm says, will deliver class-leading fuel efficiency, refinement and performance. The engine range details have not been revealed in full, but they are said to be up to 80kg lighter than the current equivalent units. The diesels will all be available with the choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes, while two 2.0-litre petrol models will be available with the automatic gearbox only. Jaguar has yet to reveal the power outputs and performance figures for the petrol engines.

As well as the low emissions and high fuel economy contributing to low running costs, VED road tax and company car taxation, the diesel engines have service intervals of 21,000 miles or two years. No figures for the petrol engines have been released. Jaguar also says that the engine bay layout has been exhaustively engineered to ensure key parts are easily accessible, bringing down the cost of servicing and helping to reduce the XE's insurance rating.

Underlining this efficiency drive, the XE will also get the company’s new electric power steering system. Until now, Jaguar has eschewed such systems as it didn't believe they provided the same level of feel as a mechanical set-up. However, Jaguar says that the technology is now far more advanced than when rivals first used it, and that the economy benefits and low-speed manoeuvrability benefits are matched by the level of steering feedback.

Other, bigger six-cylinder engined versions of the XE will be available. The car pictured here is the Jaguar XE S, which will be available from launch and which is powered by a supercharged 335bhp 3.0-litre V6 engine that powers the XE from 0-60mph in 4.9sec and delivers 361lb ft of pulling power, taking it to a limited top speed of 155mph. The engine is a modified version of the unit that powers the base Jaguar F-type, and the performance on offer in the XE is broadly comparable with the £39,310 Audi S4, which produces 335bhp, 325lb ft and hits 0-60mph in 5.0sec. The XE S will be differentiated by an 'S' badge on the front grille. The car also features a deep front bumper, black mesh grille and large air intakes.

The Jaguar XE sits on a new aluminium platform architecture that will be used across variety of new products, including a new Jaguar SUV which is expected to go on sale around 2016. Jaguar says it is a world leader in lightweight aluminium construction thanks to its historic use of the material in cars, claiming the new structure is the the most advanced available in the world. The XE is also, it says, the lightest, stiffest and most aerodynamic Jaguar ever built as a result of this platform technology – and that this lightness is what underpins its fuel and emissions efficiency plus impressive handling and ride characteristics.

The ride and handling are also enhanced by the unique suspension setup, influenced in part by that used on the Jaguar F-type sports car. The XE uses suspension technology which is more commonly associated with bigger, more expensive cars. Insiders say this is because Jaguar prioritised benchmark ride and handling characteristics as a way of making the XE stand out from its rivals. Furthering the use of aluminium, some of the suspension parts are made from the material to lower weight in this critical area. 

Although the XE has yet to be tested, Jaguar is also predicting that it will score a full five-star Euro NCAP crash test result. This is thanks to the strength of the aluminium architecture and the presence of active safety systems including a pop-up bonnet which is triggered when a pedestrian hits the front of the car, so that it is less harmful in a second impact.

Other technology firsts for the XE include an All Surface Progress Control system, which works as a low-speed cruise control function in slippery conditions. It has been developed with assistance from sister company Land Rover, with the aim of giving the rear-wheel-drive XE better traction when pulling away on low-grip surfaces up to speeds of 18mph. By controlling the throttle and brake controls without the driver having to make inputs, it delivers the ideal power through each wheel without letting them slip or slide.

The XE also has stereo sensors as standard, which scan the road ahead and which can trigger the brakes if the potential for an impact is detected. This auto-brake system can act to either reduce an impact speed or bring the XE to a standstill, depending on the time it has to react. The sensors also control the XE's lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition technology. Other standard equipment includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, semi-automated parallel and bay parking and traffic detection when reversing.

Jaguar stresses that the design and engineering departments working together to reach the best solutions to each others demands. As a result, company officials say, the XE structure is perfectly proportioned, with a short front overhang, longer rear overhang and – when viewed in profile – a cabin pushed towards the rear of the car, to give it a sporty, coupe-like look. It is also the most aerodynamic Jaguar ever built, with a drag coefficient of 0.26. That compares to the BMW 3 Series’ drag coefficient of 0.26.

The interior also takes several design cues from the F-type, including the design of the dashboard dials and the cockpit-like area which wraps around the driver. Jaguar also says that the XE has ‘generous’ amounts of leg- and headroom in the front and back, although it has yet to give specific measurements. Other highlights include a choice of fabrics and leathers, stitching styles and wood veneers, to give the car a handcrafted look. Ambient lighting that can be switched between 10 colours will also be available. 

The XE also has a new generation infotainment system – an area where Jaguar has traditionally lagged behind rivals. It is operated using a central 8.0-inch touch-screen or voice control functions. The so-called InControl system is designed to integrate with a driver’s smartphone, both to control the car functions and manage their day while on the road. InControl Remote allows Apple and Android smartphones to remotely control a range of vehicle functions, including pre-setting of the XE’s climate control system, securing the car or even starting the engine.

The Jaguar XE is slightly longer and wider than a BMW 3 Series, but a fraction lower. Boot space is a claimed 455 litres – the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class all have 480 litres. The boot opening can also be powered, which Jaguar claims no other rival offers, while the rear seats split 40:20:40 for maximum flexibility.

Although the Jaguar XE has been unveiled, full details of the trim and engine options, plus pricing, will not be revealed until October 4, at the Paris motor show. Order books will open on that date, with deliveries expected to begin around April 2015. We hope to test the car early in 2015.

The Jaguar XE will be available in a standard, R-Sport and S trim variants, and wheel sizes will vary from 17-20 inches. The most efficient XE will sit on special aerodynamic 17-inch wheels, while the S variant pictured here is on 20-inch wheels. Given Jaguar’s heritage and the fact it has made so much of the XE’s driver focus, a Jaguar XE RS to rival the BMW M3 is certain to go on sale in around 18 months.

Thursday, May 4, 2017


The new Toyota Prado comes with many different car features and clever design elements that equip it for many off road situations while ensuring that it is a completely safe and comfortable car to drive. This car is powerful car, whether you elect for the 4.0L Dual VVT-i V6 engine or the 3.0L Turbo Diesel engine.

Each model offers masses of space for driver, passengers and luggage with highly flexible seating configurations enabling you to create extra cargo space when you need it.

Prado has an incredible array of safety features to help keep you safe, these include seven SRS airbags , AB-i (Active braking with intelligence) , Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRC) among others.

All automatic models come with Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) and Kakadu models feature CRAWL Control to help give you more control in off road situations. Yet it offers all mod cons, fantastic audio and virtually every kind of driver and passenger comfort you can think of.

The V6  Prado has a 6-cylinder Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) engine that pumps out 202kW of power and 381Nm of torque. Yet, while the car's performance is awesome, for all the hard work going on under the bonnet, it's surprisingly quiet and economical too. The new look is somewhat divisive, but Prado has always been a capable tool of trade, with function outweighing form, appealing to families wanting an SUV with enough room for the kids and a bunch of gear; anyone who needs to tow long distances; or people who want to head off-road in reasonable comfort.

Toyota stated at launch that the dynamic frontrunner in the class, the Land Rover Discovery, had been benchmarked. As such, changes have been made to Prado’s steering and suspension systems. Benchmarking is admirable, but you can’t always turn one thing into something else. As such, if you’re stepping out of a Disco into a Prado, don’t expect the same level of on-road finesse and handling. Prado simply can’t match Discovery for outright handling and chassis balance on-road.

The steering system has been retuned, with changes made to the rack itself. The main changes have been directed at improving steering response and delivering a more connected feel to the road, especially when you’re cruising along the motorway at 100km/h. Previous Prados felt a little disconnected at highway speeds – this new Prado doesn’t, and that’s a good thing. It doesn’t have the same taut, firm feel to the steering that a Discovery has, but there’s a noticeable improvement over the outgoing model.

Highlights of the standard features list include a reverse-view camera, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, wider cross-section tyres, steering wheel mounted audio and telephone controls, and an audio system controlled via a central 7.0-inch screen and featuring six speakers. Cruise control, push-button start, Bluetooth phone connectivity and USB/auxiliary inputs are standard across the range.

The exterior mirrors are both powered and heated, which was extremely handy during the torrential rain and cool weather over our week-long test. If you live in regional areas with frosty mornings, you’ll love this feature.

The GXL also comes standard with three rows of seats (seven in total) and has three-zone climate control, side steps, fog lights, privacy glass, leather steering wheel and shift knob trim and importantly for many buyers, a retractable cargo cover (it’s surprising how many SUVs don’t offer one as standard).

Prado’s interior is more workmanlike than luxurious. The velour trim looks to be typically hard-wearing and durable, but can’t match the leather offered on Discovery 4 for example. Comfort, visibility and ergonomics are – as you’d expect from Toyota – exceptional. The high and mighty driving position especially affords excellent all-round visibility in or out of town.

The low-range system works seamlessly with the auto ‘box and is switchable electrically at low speed. The locking centre diff is also standard for GXL and is a handy off-rood tool to have in the kit bag when the going gets tough. It has to be said though, that such is the overall grip and composure of the Prado when you’re off-road, you’ll only need to employ the centre locker in the toughest of surroundings.

While I’m tempted to hammer the 3.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo diesel engine for being too old, it has to be said that it does the job required of it easily. It’s no technical tour de force by any means, but 127kW and 410Nm are more than enough to get the Prado up to speed and keep it there without working too hard.

It’s loud and there’s more clatter than we’re used to from the current crop of high-tech Euro diesels. but there’s in-built toughness and genuine durability under the Prado’s bonnet. The auto isn’t as exotic as some, either, but it also gets the job done without any hesitation, slurring or harsh shifting.

Roll on overtaking and acceleration isn’t the diesel engine’s forte, with the Prado never feeling especially nimble or sprightly, but you probably won’t be driving like an F1 pilot with six passengers in the car either. Where the Prado feels a little spongy at times, it has an innate ability to iron out potholes and really poor road surfaces with comfort. Rutted dirt roads are no match for the Prado’s composure either.

Toyota vehicles are known for their longevity, though the brand still offers just a three-year/100,000km warranty. Ownership prospects are enhanced by affordable capped-price servicing for the first three years of ownership, with scheduled visits every six months or 10,000km, at a cost of $210 per service.