Driving Torque

Articles, reviews and opinions about cars and all things automotive

Archive for the month “December, 2014”

Jaguar XFR-S – Driven and Reviewed

Jaguar_XFR-S_side_blueWith the release of the Mk11 in the late ’50s, Jaguar could easily be credited with the invention of the Q-car – otherwise known as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The XF is the spiritual successor to the Mk11, and this XFR-S is not only the fastest XF, it’s the sprightliest saloon car Jaguar have ever made. A Q-car it ain’t though. Just look at it; this is a wolf at a wolf-pride march, wearing a “CANIS LUPUS” T-shirt. With matching hat.

Gen-yoo-ine carbonfibre

Gen-yoo-ine carbonfibre

Potential buyers shouldn’t be put off by the rice-rocket-esque rear spoiler, though (it is carbon fibre, by the way), a far more subtle affair is a no-cost option. Our test car’s ‘Ultimate Blue’ hue might not be to your taste either, fear not – a traditionally discreet black can be ordered with the deft click of a mouse.

Matching bright-blue piping is available on the inside of the XFR-S, if your heart desires. But again, if it’s the more sombre side of owning a Jaguar that floats your boat, it can all be toned down to suit. The carbon fibre theme also continues with aplomb in the cabin, and that can’t be changed; it’s on the fascia and the pattern’s even stitched into the seats – not my taste, personally, but it’s dark enough to fade into the background.

Jaguar_XFR-S_side_badgeThe base XF’s interior was one of the class-leading aspects of the car on its release in 2007, with its cool-azure lighting and swivelly air-vents. That was over seven years ago though, and that’s plenty of time for the competition to catch up. The infotainment system looks a bit lo-res these days and we’ve become accustomed to moving knobs and buttons in this class of car – the vents just don’t wow like they used to. 

Jaguar_XFR-S_wheelThe Meridian sound-system that comes as standard never fails to impress, however. I’m occasionally underwhelmed with the ‘premium’ stereos that cars are fitted with – they just don’t seem to be set-up properly. Not so in this case. Loudness is nothing if the clarity and quality don’t match, but every aspect of this 825W Surround Sound system is impressive. A word of warning though; don’t be overly eager with the volume knob – you might just miss something very special………..

Beware, all who dare enter.....

Beware, all who dare enter…..

……….’What?’ I hear you cry. Well, the ‘heartbeat’ start button that could be considered something of a gimmick in lesser XFs becomes slightly more pertinent in the XFR-S; press it and the whole car comes to life with a jolt that’s reminiscent of a heart attack victim being jolted back from the light. The bark and crackle from the quad performance pipes is more Modena than Midlands, and I challenge anyone with a modicum of petrol in their veins to ever tire of finding a long tunnel, opened the windows and dropping down a cog or two.

Jaguar XFR-S bonnet louvreSo, what is the XFR-S like to live with? Well, let’s cut to the chase; one aspect that can’t be toned down, not that you’d want to, is the 550bhp, supercharged V8 that lurks underneath that power-bulged bonnet. This is one hell of an engine. Linked to the hugely popular ZF 8-speed ‘box that’s been peppered up a bit for the R-S, acceleration is life-affirmingly brutal, even in everyday ‘D’ mode. Put it in ‘S’ and the realisation of just how 550bhp feels with precisely zero delay between order and delivery may take you by surprise, as the instant surge towards the horizon is like no other car I’ve ever driven.

This car will spin its wheels for fun, and if the surface you’re on is anything less than sahara-dry I’d think twice before planting the loud-pedal. With no lag to consider, what you ask for is what you get and a hasty exit from a junction could result in some snaking and the unmistakable smell of burning rubber. There is, of course, a trade-off for this very useful performance, and that’s economy; with all eight cylinders and a supercharger constantly working, even Jaguar’s official 24.4mpg combined seems somewhat optimistic.

Jaguar XFR-S grilleThe good news is that this V8 beast’s drivetrain is fully prepared for what the engine can throw at it and it reins things in in an instant. Even in non-dynamic mode, the rear end steps out slightly but then comes back into line before you know it, leaving you looking and feeling like something of a hero.

What your waiting for?

What you waiting for?

Handling is point-to-point fantastic, especially in Dynamic mode, and you’ll soon forget that you’re in what’s ultimately an executive saloon on steroids. What’s quite surprising is how civilised the ride is when you’re not setting lap-times and you just want to get home in comfort. The revised suspension is a fairly considerable 100% stiffer than a standard XF, and those 20” wheels don’t look like they were designed with wafting in mind, yet the R-S is no bone-shaker and even negotiating speed-humps doesn’t result in the grimace-inducing sound of bodywork on tarmac that you might expect.

In a company with a history of fast saloons like Jaguar, the title of ‘fastest ever’ holds a large volume of water. At a shade under £80K, it’s not cheap – over £6K more than the more powerful M5. The question is, would the M5 make you smile as often as the R-S? Somehow, I doubt it.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Jaguar XFR-S, 5.0l V8 Supercharged, Transmission – 8 spd auto, Layout – Front engine, RWD, Power – 550bhp, Torque – 680Nm, Emissions – 270g/km CO2, Economy – 24.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 186mph limited, Acceleration – 4.4s 0-60mph, Price – £79,995 OTR, £81,795 as tested

For full details, go to; http://www.jaguar.co.uk/jaguar-range/xf/xf-models/xfr-s.html

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Citroën C1 Airscape – Driven and Reviewed

Citroen_C1_Airscape_roof_open

 

 

The ‘A’ segment of the car market is absolutely awash with choice at the moment, with some cars on offer being more ‘A’ than others. If we’re using size as the main gauge for pigeonholing cars, the triumvirate of Aygo/108 and what we have here – the 3466mm C1 could quite easily be the yardstick of ‘A-ness’ that all future cars are measured by.

Sibling rivalry - the Peugeot 108

Sibling rivalry – the Peugeot 108

Which one?

We drove the C1’s sister car – the New 108 at its UK launch back in July and were impressed with its good blend of driver satisfaction and funky, customisable styling. So why would you pick the C1 over the 108 or the Aygo, and pertinently, over the rest of the competition out there?

Well, if you’re male is as good a reason as any I suppose. The 108’s advertising has placed it unashamedly in the sights of the female of the species, and its styling is fairly effeminate too. The C1 takes some styling cues from Nissan’s Juke with its large, circular main headlights and slashed ‘eyebrow’ sidelights, but this also gives it a more aggressive, testosterone-ey feel that’ll go someway towards providing Jonny Teenager with a bit more street-cred, a bit less of a ‘Mum let me borrow the car for the evening’ vibe.

Citroen_C1_Airscape_rearAnd with which engine?

This C1 we have is the range-topping Flair model, complete with Airscape full-length fabric sunroof and power being provided by the most pokey engine in the range – the 82bhp, three-cylinder PureTech unit. It’s what you could call a ‘characterful’ little engine, and it’s instantly recognisable as a three-cylinder with surprising levels of grunt low down that’ll find the C1 being propelled up to 70mph quicker than one might expect.

It’s not all good though; Ford and Vauxhall are two of the major marques who’ve gone to great lengths to make the three-cylinder engine popular again, and they’ve done so by making them more refined, less Eastern Bloc. This PureTech engine is still a bit too lumpy; the car shakes at standstill and a smooth getaway requires some real concentration to coordinate clutch and throttle pedals perfectly. Coupled with the sound insulation that’s lost though the Airscape’s fabric roof, you could well find yourself wishing you’d gone for the less powerful VTi engine (68bhp); I drove this engine in the New 108 and it is far easier on the senses.

Apart from that folding roof which does rob a couple of inches of headroom in the rear, every possible bit of space is utilised to full effect in the C1. The shape might not be the sleekest in the world, but there’s good reason for that – it’s ultimately very practical. A whole four-piece family fit nicely on the surprisingly comfortable seats and, as long as no attempts are made to practice your golf swing, you don’t feel like you’re sat on top of each other.

Citroen_C1_Airscape_interiorApp-ropriate

The fact is though, this car isn’t really aimed at people who are looking for a car to ferry their 2.4 children around Europe in; it’s more for short distances with a solitary user who are probably either female or youthful, or both. The interior reflects this fact, it’s not exactly weighed down with buttons and knobs, but the central 7 inch multimedia system is very clever and it’s tablet-like appearance is no accident. It’s called Mirror Screen and it’s designed to do what it says on the tin – mirror your smart phone, so that functions such as navigation and music are downloaded to your phone and can then be used when you drive your car.

Citroen C1 Airscape roof openAs nice as a full-length opening roof and a few touches of chrome might be, at nearly £12K without options, this ‘Airspace’ model in ‘Flair’ spec has priced itself out of the market. For that kind of money, you’d at least expect your rear windows to open properly, not just be the hinged affairs usually found in 3 door cars. It might be a touch dour in comparison and more B segment than A, but you can buy the excellent Ford Fiesta for under £10K at the moment. Or if its visual impact you’re after, the Fiat 500 and even the Vauxhall Adam are similarly priced.

However, when you take the base model C1 which is priced at a far more tempting £8,245, and that’s before Citroën’s legendary discounts are taken into account, it becomes a different proposition altogether and is well worth a look.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Citroën C1 Airscape Flair, Transmission – 5 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 82bhp, Torque – 116Nm, Emissions – 99g/km CO2, Economy – 65.7 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 106mph, Acceleration – 11.0s 0-62mph, Price – £11,785 OTR, £12,680 as tested

For full details, go to; http://www.citroen.co.uk/new-cars-and-vans/car-range/citroen-c1

New Nissan Juke – Driven and Reviewed

new_nissan_juke_front_and_sideThe Original

Nissan’s Juke gave us something of a shock when it was released on an unsuspecting world over four years ago – in 2010. It wasn’t as if we’d not seen small SUVs before, but the Juke was something different; not only was it responsible for the emergence of a whole new type of vehicle – the ‘compact crossover’, but the way it looked was original and daring, to the point of being divisive.

Whichever side of the love/loathe fence you happen to sit on though, there’s no arguing with success, and the British-built Juke has sold in absolute droves – to the point that it’s now an every-day sight on most UK roads and its looks have inspired other manufacturers to ditch the dull, in favour of something a bit more bold.

After four years, it was time for an update to ensure things were kept as fresh as ever. Enter then, the New Juke – ta-daaaaaa. Ok, admittedly it’s not that different to the original, so this is more of a facelift than a completely new design, but the Juke has developed something of a cult status – to alter it beyond recognition would have been something of a shot in the foot for Nissan.

Subtle updates

There are some cosmetic alterations to the New Juke, mainly in the lights department. Both front and rear have seen a slight revision to keep them cutting edge – with LEDs being utilised and fresh, shapely lenses. Front and rear bumpers have also been treated to a going-over from the designer’s brush, with some new shapes and added aggression for the 2015 model Juke.

new_nissan_juke_rear_lightThe Juke’s interior still mirrors the exterior’s unconventional look, and there’s plenty of shiny plastic, moulded into distinctive shapes. They may look a little lacking in substance, but if you give them a prod, there’s no bending or flexing and everything feels screwed together well enough.

Perhaps the most important part of the New Juke is what you don’t see – a revised boot, raising capacity from 251 litres to 354, and also, what lurks beneath the bonnet.

New_nissan_juke_cabinThe Juke’s eye-catching styling has proved something of a bind in the boot-space department up to now. It would have been more practical to make its silhouette more angular and box-like, thus allowing the Juke to do a decent impression of a small van when the need arose. Because the Juke was always supposed to be more coupe-like, it’s lost out to its rivals in the field of load-lugging. A new raised floor has not only allowed the addition of an under-floor storage area, but it’s made loading and unloading larger objects a doddle. With the rear seats in their laid-flat position, our Juke swallowed an average size fridge with ease.

new_nissan_juke_sideNew Petrol Engine

So, boot capacity has increased, but quite contrarily, there’s now an engine option available that’s gone the other way. A new 1.2l turbo petrol unit can be opted for on 2wd models only; Nissan expect it to become the most popular engine across the range, as the trend seems to be away from larger Diesels, into smaller, lighter petrol-powered cars.

Our test car is fitted with a good old 1.5l Diesel unit though, and there’s a lot to be said for it. Nissan claim just over 70mpg on the combined cycle, and although this may prove a touch optimistic in the real world, there’s no disputing that it’s frugal enough. Its torquey too. I usually find that ‘change up/down’ indicators are overly keen to get a car into top gear, resulting in some laboured juddering and a forced gear drop. Not so with this engine. The indicator can sometimes be encouraging a lower gear when the engine’s 260Nm of torque is coping just fine with what’s being asked of it. Happy days.

new_nissan_juke_pure_drive_logoThe trade-off for this old-school Diesel economy and torque is unfortunately some very old-school clatters and rattles, especially on cold start-ups. This Renault sourced unit has been around for a few years now and it shows; in a world of increasingly hushed Diesel engines, this one does lack slightly in refinement. That said, the cabin is insulated well enough and if it’s economy and grunt that you’re after – this engine fits the bill perfectly.

The suspension has also been tweaked slightly in this New Juke, and at slower speeds around town, it’s comfortable and forgiving. Over less-than-perfect surfaces though, the ride still tends to become unsettled and skittish, making you feel like the tyres could do with a few less psi.

new_nissan_juke_front_lightIs it for me?

No matter how good the updated Juke is, if you didn’t like the look of the original, you’re not going to be enamoured with this one as Nissan have stuck pretty steadfastly to their recipe. A smaller engine, a larger boot and some subtle light alterations have kept the New Juke fresh and relevant against the rapidly increasing competition though, so if you’re in the market for this niche of car, the original might still be for you.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Nissan Juke 1.5l Diesel Acenta Premium, Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 110Ps, Torque – 260Nm, Emissions – 104g/km CO2, Economy – 70.6 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 109mph, Acceleration – 11.2s 0-62mph, Price – £17,865 OTR, £18,365 as tested

For full details, go to http://www.nissan.co.uk

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