Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Land Rover”

Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic – Driven and Reviewed

Range Rover Sport HSE front and sideIt’s never a nice feeling; you’re pootling along in a press car, weighing up all the apparent pros and cons to be mentioned in your review, and you notice something wrong. I’m not talking about a design element that’s not quite to your taste, or a material in the cabin that cheapens the setting somewhat – I mean a flaw, a blemish, a defect. Having driven the new Range Rover Sport for over 100 miles, I was quite definite that I’d be breaking some bad news to the engineers at Land Rover about the sturdiness of one of their products, thus generating embarrassment and uncomfortable silences all round; the digital fuel gauge was undoubtedly broken.

It just didn’t seem feasible that a 4×4 weighing over two tonnes, with nearly 290 bhp coming from a 3 litre lump would be able to cover this distance without even awakening the digital fuel gauge from its slumber. Oh, and did I mention that this RR Sport, in HSE Dynamic guise will hit 60 mph in a Golf Gti worrying – 6.8 seconds?

Range Rover Sport HSE sideBut then, it moved. Gone was the impending threat of awkwardness, in its place was a sensation of disbelief. Borrowing a fuel cell from one of the now defunct NASA space shuttles would, of course, extend the range a bit, but the clever people at RR have instead opted to keep the much more practical 80 litre tank. So, this thing just couldn’t be that economical, could it? Well yes, it could. Scrolling through the information available on the dash, I found that I was apparently averaging nearly 30mpg, and I hadn’t been anywhere near a motorway – this was all from driving around those fuel guzzling towns and B-roads.

Range Rover Sport HSE rear and sideIt turns out that this new-found eco-friendliness is down to heavy metal, or not-so heavy metal in this case. By ditching the Discovery’s chassis in favour of the full-blown Range Rover’s, they’re now utilising a material that actually was used on the space shuttle – aluminium, instead of conventional steel. By doing this, the Sport’s lost a hefty 420kg from its kerb-weight, mirroring the relatively svelte Range Rover flagship model.

The 545 bhp Range Rover Sport SVR

The 545 bhp Range Rover Sport SVR

The big news coming from the Range Rover camp at the moment may be their ridiculously quick SVR model, with its 545bhp supercharged petrol engine, but this ‘base model’ 3.0 TDV6 remains the one to go for. There’s a bigger diesel available, also a 507 bhp variant of the petrol unit found in the SVR, and even a hybrid, but they can only be had if you opt for the pricier ‘Autobiography Dynamic’ spec. I say save your money and go for the base HSE or the HSE Dynamic we’ve got here; the 4.4l diesel is only marginally quicker than the 3.o and the supercharged petrol has a massive drinking problem. The hybrid might be worth a punt but that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. That said, this model isn’t perfect either; to achieve those impressive economy stats, there’s the inevitable stop/start technology which, for me, is a little too keen to kick in. When the stop’s over and it’s time for start again, the power steering needs a touch longer than the engine to get up to speed and if you try to turn too quickly, the wheel kicks back at you until it’s got itself together.

Range Rover Sport HSE logo badgeThe TDV6 isn’t just the thrifty choice of engine either. The more lightweight nature of the V6 compliments the efforts made to slim-down the new Sport when it comes down to performance and handling too. That 6.8 second sprint to 60mph is impressive enough, but put enough power into any vehicle and it’ll respond accordingly; what’ll really put a smile on your face is the way this large 4×4 negotiates the inevitable twisty bits you’ll come across, and possibly a little sooner than expected. The brakes are obviously under a lot of pressure to calm things down slightly, but instead of that sinking feeling you sometimes get in weightier cars, as the body squirms under braking and you find yourself wishing they’d fitted some discs more similar in size to bin-lids, less like compact-discs, the Sport confidently reins things in with minimal fuss.

Range Rover Sport HSE side ventCome to a bend and the Sport really shows off what it’s all about. I’m always amused when I read a review of the latest 4×4 and its handling characteristics are criticised as they’re ‘just not enough like a normal car’ – I’ve never seen a Focus being besmirched for its inability to drive unaided up Ben Nevis. There are many large 4x4s on the market that were made for tarmac, that’s no secret, but a Range Rover must be able to cut it off-road, or it ain’t gonna get to wear that Land Rover badge. The way the Sport goes around bends isn’t just ‘quite good, considering its off-road capabilities’ – it’s really excellent. The leading corner dips ever-so-slightly on turn in, but then the dynamic chassis levels the whole car out and the torque vectoring system brings the rear wheels into play, giving the feeling that they’re pushing the car around, rather than the front wheels scrambling to pull. There is of course a trade-off for all this on-road fun, and in Dynamic mode especially, you will feel the bumps and potholes a little more than you’d expect in a Range Rover.

Locking diffs - the new Sport is still a serious piece of off-road kit

Locking diffs – the new Sport is still a serious piece of off-road kit

The silky-smooth, eight speed ZF ‘box that’s found its way into so many JLR products recently is once again present in the new Sport, and it’d be hard to argue against. Providing a vehicle of this size with a ‘sport’ mode on the gearbox does seem slightly akin to entering a shire horse into the Grand National, but it would be a little daft to delete this option when the car itself is called ‘Sport’. And besides, when the Sport handles as well as it does, it seems fitting to have a ‘box to match the performance. You can change gear yourself, either via the F-Type style trigger gear-lever or some paddles behind the wheel, but, to be honest, when a ‘box works as well as this one, I suspect you’ll end up just leaving it to its own devices.

Range Rover Sport HSE bonnet ventOne aspect I’ve not mentioned yet is how the new Sport looks. I wasn’t keen at all on the first gen Sport; I thought it was too squat and chunky for its own good and I was (possibly irrationally) irritated by the fact that the spare wheel was visible –  too Land Rover, not enough Range Rover, and it looked as if a body panel was missing. This new model is different though. Both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport have taken styling cues from their hugely popular stable-mate – the Evoque, and they’re all the better for it. There’s rounded corners and sweeping lights, cleverly adopted without losing that all-important Range Rover image. Gone is the exposed spare wheel, too, in its place is a under-tray like panel that sweeps up to meet the rear bumper, just like the Evoque’s does.

Using larger Range Rover chassis means much more room inside than first gen Sport.

Using larger Range Rover chassis means much more room inside than first gen Sport.

The fact that I didn’t actually fit into the first gen Sport’s rear seats without the aid of a chiropractor was the final straw for me, I found that truly ridiculous. Not so the new model though. By using the larger Range Rover’s chassis, they’ve increased the room inside significantly, and I now fit into all five seats.

New Range Rover Sport comes with standard phone connectivity

New Range Rover Sport comes as standard with phone connectivity

At £64,995 on the road, the Sport certainly isn’t the cheapest, but you also get a lot of toys and luxuries for that money that you’d pay a premium for elsewhere. What you also undoubtedly get is one of the most comfortable, stylish ways of transporting people or cargo over large distances, and as it’s a Range Rover – those distances don’t necessarily have to be on-road.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic, Engine – 3.0l TDV6, Transmission – 8 speed ZF Auto, Layout – Front Engine, 4WD, Power – 288bhp, Acceleration – 0-60mph – 6.8s, Maximum Speed – 130mph, Torque – 600Nm, Economy – 37.7mpg combined, Emissions – 199g/km CO2, Price – £64,995 OTR, £78,595 as tested

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


Range Rover Evoque SD4 Prestige Coupe – Driven and Reviewed

Range Rover Evoque Coupe front and sideWay back in 1970, if you’d have walked into a Range Rover showroom you’d have more than likely been greeted by a smiling, Sta-Prest salesman who’d have been more than happy to proudly demonstrate the best (possibly the only) luxury 4×4 in the world. It was big, it had three doors, it was quintessentially British and the only quandary you’d be faced with would be which shade of brown to opt for. Staying in 1970 for a little bit longer, it was a similar story if you decided a Mini was the car for you; there were some slight variations in body styles and engines to choose from, but if all you wanted was a clever, compact car for the family, you could simply decide on which particular hue to go for and that was it – your three door marvel of British engineering will be delivered ASAP, Sir.

Fast forward 43 years and things have changed a little. Well, a lot actually. Both brands have been through the British Leyland mill and come out the other side, only just though and with reputations temporarily in tatters. Foreign ownership has been the salvation of both national treasures and through this, the secret of survival has been identified in a certain, undeniable quality; diversity.

All this brings me onto what is undoubtedly the most diverse product from the Range Rover stable to date – the Evoque. Launched in 2011 with considerable fanfare (some of it Spice Girl related), it’s now an everyday sight on our roads whilst still retaining an air of exclusivity. Ironically enough, if it’s a quality SUV you’re after with comparable kerb appeal and quirkiness, realistic competition comes in the surprisingly similar sized Countryman or Paceman models from, would you believe it, MINI? How things have changed in just over four decades!



The ensuing popularity was such that Land Rover were moved to introduce round the clock manufacturing of the Evoque, in order to keep up with the insatiable demand it generated, and it’s not hard to see why. Just on face value, the Evoque is an attractive proposition, especially in three door, coupe guise such as our SD4 Prestige test car. The Evoque looks it’s best when viewed from the front, with its pepper pot, two-bar-grille that makes it unmistakably part of the Land Rover group. The appeal lies in its jutting chin and narrow lights, giving the impression of a stalking ninja in full, face-concealing headgear. The lines created by these feature headlights continue down the side of the Evoque, past the A-pillar, intersected briefly by some relatively oversized front wheel-arches that add a chunky, almost playful nature to the sometimes sombre Range Rover brand.

Range Rover Evoque Rear cornerA near vertical tailgate, combined with the coupe’s impressively large doors add an air of shooting brake to the Evoque. It’s an appealing shape that’s easy on the eye with enduring popularity. It’s only really the Evoque’s rear end that could be described as slightly questionable; the rear window is impossibly small and the level at which bodywork changes colour and morphs into bumper/undertray is a little too high. The result is a multitude of features seemingly squashed into a relatively meagre area. One feature I never tire of though, is the ‘comet’ style rear lights ands their ‘glowing ball with streaking tail’ design. Think you’ve seen them somewhere else? Jaguar’s F-Type sports similar lights, if somewhat exaggerated when compared to the Evoque.

Range Rover Evoque rear light clusterAnyway, enough of how the Evoque looks, the more pertinent question is possibly how it feels and how it behaves, both on and off-road.

I don’t know how they do it but Range Rover have a knack of producing incredibly comfortable seats and the Evoque continues this trend with aplomb. Various heating, cooling and shape adjustments all contribute to making even the longest of journeys as bearable as possible. Memory seats are, for me, an essential purchase in a car, as I love the guarantee of my seat returning to my optimum position after someone else has driven it. A shame then that whoever was tasked with positioning the buttons that control the Evoque’s memory seats opted to plonk them just behind the interior door pulls; it’s quite unnerving to open or close ones door and find your seat is unexpectedly moving as your knuckles have inadvertently scraped said buttons. Very frustrating.

Memory seat controls - well within knuckle range

Memory seat controls – well within knuckle range

The rest of the Evoque’s interior is the usual high quality fare we’ve grown to expect from the brand. There are splashes of metal and wood in all the right places, the still awesome dual-view TFT screen, and many niceties that all contribute towards a deeply pleasing ambience. Find much better and you’re probably sat in, well, a full-size Range Rover. The sense of space in the Evoque comes as something of a surprise; no occupant will find themselves cramped, even in this coupe model, and yet the boot, although not cavernous, is a decent shape and size too. Anyone with concerns about visibility stemming from that diminutive rear window I mentioned earlier can be reassured that the Evoque comes complete with a pair of door mirrors that wouldn’t look out-of-place on a road-train; it takes a bit of getting used to but missing something in those bad-boys would be no mean feat. One aspect of coupe ownership that could easily frustrate is the method of accessing the rear seats. Naturally, the front seats have acquired a motor for effortless movement back and forth but the rate at which they move is best described as glacial. Obviously health and safety will have legislated on the appropriate pace for this motion, to stave off any potential law suits resulting from trapped limbs etc. Sometime though, allowing access and egress from rear seats demands a certain level of stealth, i.e. in torrential rain so I can’t help but feel that this is one luxury feature too far and should have probably been left on the shelf.

Range Rover Evoque Coupe seat button

One motor too far?

I’m in the fortunate position to be able to comment first hand on how the 4WD Evoque copes with going off-road as I took one around Land Rover’s very own test facility at Gaydon. Obviously the good folk at LR weren’t going to allow me to attack the off-road course if they weren’t confident in its capabilities but rest-assured, this is no walk in the park. Some of the hills, valleys and troughs had me doubting anything would make it through, but put the Evoque into the appropriate mode for the terrain and it just goes and goes like a particularly determined mountain goat. Our intrepid Evoque was fitted with an underbody tray as height clearance is obviously not quite up to Defender levels but apart from that, you can be confident that this is by no means all show, no go.

Back in the real world and, let’s be honest, the common-or-garden speed hump is about as tasty as it’s going to get for 90% of an Evoque’s day. Thankfully, off-road prowess doesn’t have to mean wobbly on-road traits and back on the black stuff, the Evoque feels more mid-size hatch than tall lofty SUV. The suspension and drivetrain combine to give a smooth, silky ride that seemingly irons out all the creases and ridges we’ve grown accustomed to on British roads. I defy anyone to spot a change of ratios in the wonderful 6 speed ‘box, although this is due to be updated with a lightweight 9 speed ZF unit in the near future.

Devilish red jewels in Dynamic mode

Devilish red jewels in Dynamic mode

If you choose to, you can opt for a ‘dynamic’ driving mode in the Evoque, complete with red jewelled rings around the dials. This is supposed to support a more enthusiastic driving style but personally, I wouldn’t bother. I’m all for more feedback and response on the twisty bits but honestly, I felt that the standard ride blends comfort and driveability to near perfection, dynamic mode simply took away from the whole experience without enough significant gain.

The Evoque faced more than its fair share of thinly veiled criticism when it was announced, possibly not helped by a certain Mrs Beckham. Two years on, we’ve got 24 hour production lines and worldwide popularity, and it’s not hard to see why. Who’s laughing now, eh?

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Range Rover Evoque SD4 Prestige Coupe, Engine – 2.2l Diesel, Transmission 6 spd automatic, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 190PS, Torque – 420Nm, Emissions – 169g/km CO2, Economy – 43.5 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 121mph, Acceleration – 8.0s 0-60mph, Price – £40,995 OTR, £46,875 as tested.

For full details of the Evoque and any other Range Rover products, go to http://www.landrover.com

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan – Driven and Reviewed

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Red Front view

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan

Most of the roads that surround my house are cobbled, gnarly and somewhat antiquated. One, in particular, features a substantial dip running the width of the street, no-one knows how it occurred but many debutants to the road have failed to slow down and their car’s chins have fallen foul of this, almost, anti-speed-bump. Having lived in the area for many years now, it’s second nature for me to slow down to a crawl and therefore preserve my car’s splitter but, for some reason, the dip recently disappeared for a week. There’s no way that our local council suddenly deemed this bumper-killer a priority and fixed it, oh no, this magical occurrence can only be explained by the car I was lucky enough to be testing and its disregard for such uneven surfaces – the Mitsubishi L200 Trojan.


Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Red Side View

A pickup – useful in a myriad of ways

Once the preserve of builders and farmers, pickups have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent times with the Mitsubishi L200 always at the forefront. A particular genre of pickup has become commonplace on our roads and that’s the double-cab, or crew-cab, just like this L200 Trojan we have here. It doesn’t take an economist to point out the advantages of owning a double-cab as it toils monday to friday as a tireless workhorse and then transforms into a fun, family wagon when required, potentially making a dedicated ‘work van’ redundant. What I wanted to know was, is this Mitsubishi L200 Trojan a jack-of-all-trades or a master-of-none?

The pickup must surely be one of the most challenging genres of vehicle to apply visual highlights to due to their ‘three box’ shape and utilitarian requirements. The last generation L200 was very popular, in no small part because of its butch but attractive looks that seemingly appealed to both sexes equally. Mitsubishi have really gone to some lengths to make this latest take on the L200 stand out from the crowd. With its new, angular, more aggressive ‘face’ and the clever line that runs from the roof, behind the rear doors, all the way to the side rails, scything the L220 in two and turning the cabin and load area into two apparently separate areas, Mitsubishi have created an unmistakable identity for their pickup and stepped away from the associated generic look.

In the Cabin

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Interior

The cabin’s a huge advance on previous generations

This multifunctional theme continues in the cabin of the Trojan and Mitsubishi have made efforts to make it a pleasurable environment whilst, at the same time, keeping the practical aspects that are essential in a semi-industrial vehicle. Our test car came with leather seats which could be accused of being something of a luxury in this instance but, all things considered, their ‘wipe clean’ nature is actually more in-keeping with the rest of the interior than cloth may be.

Apart from the delightfully simple climate control, that’s about it for creature comforts in the L200. The dash has been ergonomically shaped to bring it slightly more up to date but don’t go expecting Range Rover grade plastics or B&O stereos, that’s just not what the L200 is all about. Primarily, it’s function over form, all the way.

2.5l Common Rail Diesel

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Gear Sticks

A ratio for every occasion

Fire the 2.5l Diesel engine up and, from the cabin, it’s surprisingly civilised. That’s not to say that there isn’t a fair amount of the usual Diesel clatter going on under the bonnet but Mitsubishi have provided ample amounts of insulation to keep the L200’s occupants in as much peace as possible. Our Trojan came with the 5spd manual ‘box and gear-changes were solid and purposeful as one may expect from a vehicle of this type. It’s important to remember, however, that 5th gear is very long and really only for 60mph +, around town, it’s strictly gears 1-4 only.  The clutch was actually quite light which made this around town driving as easy as it can be, dimensions allowing.

It’s these dimensions that serve as something of a double-edged sword for the L200 double-cab. As with many Japanese cars, width is kept to a minimum at 1.75m but it’s the length that can be a little intimidating. It would be pointless to shorten a pickup as it would consequently stop serving the purpose for which it was intended, but, at over 5m, this Trojan dwarfs it’s stable-mate – the Shogun by some 30cm.

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Red Rear Window

Electric rear windscreen – handy for ferrying long items and aiding reversing

This length only really becomes an issue when reversing the L200, especially as the rear of the glasshouse stops some 1.5 short of the rear of the body, resulting in quite a bit of guesswork when parking. I found two makeshift solutions to this problem- one was to wind down the electric rear windscreen which increased visibility slightly (not overly accurate), the other was to ask a passenger to get out and watch me back (not overly popular, esp. in rain). The correct way to eliminate this reversing issue is to spec your L200 correctly and opt for the C£400 reversing camera, if there’s one option that just cannot be overlooked, this is surely it.

Leaf-Spring Suspension

Being a ‘proper’ off-roader, the L200 has more than adequate ride height for clearance which gives a good view of underneath and its oily bits, in particular the rear leaf-spring suspension. Although somewhat antiquated in appearance, this setup actually works very well, given the chance and should in no way deter potential suitors. On the road, handling is way better than it deserves to be, given the ride height and technology used and easily embarrasses competition such as LR‘s Defender with its tendancy to wander. Through the corners, the L200 provides ample grip and feedback and will only start to lean and meander if pushed to levels beyond a pickup’s usual remit. The only constant reminder of what the L200’s sitting on comes when the car slows down to a stop – there’s a definite rocking sensation in all directions, not dissimilar to standing onboard the deck of a docked boat.

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Dials

4wd or rear wheel drive – it’s your choice

With no weight over the rear wheels, it can come as something of a surprise when the rear wheels start spinning in first gear at seemingly low revs but, again, the L200 is capable of lugging over a tonne around so the rear axle will be very lively when unladen. Manually selecting 4wd will remedy this and also provide extra levels of confidence on slippery or uneven surfaces. I think that 2wd is more than ample on most roads, however and driving those front wheels will inevitably eat into that all important fuel economy.

In Conclusion

Mitsubishi double cab pickups are a common sight on our roads and it’s easy to see why; it does so many things so well. This, coupled with impressive warranties and build quality make it something of a bargain. Just remember that it is a relatively cheap vehicle with practical roots and it would be unfair to compare certain aspects against 4x4s costing twice as much – if you’re expecting a Range Rover, go buy a Range Rover.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Mitsubishi L200 Double Cab (Leather) Trojan, Price – £23,189, Engine – 2.5l Common Rail Diesel, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 175bhp @ 4000rpm, Torque – 295 lb/ft @2000rpm, Acceleration – 12.2s 0-62mph, Maximum Speed – 103mph max, Emissions – 208 g/km CO2, Economy – 35.8 mpg combined

Cööl βritannia – Jaguar, Aston Martin and Bentley fly the flag

Jaguar F-Type rear light cluster

A close up snapshot of the upcoming Jaguar F-Type

For a city with a reputation for nose-to-tail gridlocked traffic, the New York 2012 Motorshow has yet again given us some interesting focal points, not least of which are the Land Rover DC100 and the Jaguar F-Type – undoubtedly the highlight of the show. The attention lavished on both of these cars confirmed something for me that I’ve suspected has been emerging of late, British automobilia is once again leading the way in the ‘cool’ stakes. For a while I feared that I was allowing myself to be swept away on the wave of hype surrounding the Olympics and the Jubilee but now I’m not so sure. Think about it, Bentley and Rolls-Royce can’t produce cars quickly enough, especially to satisfy the demand in the cash-rich Asian and Middle-Eastern markets. Jaguar and Land Rover have well and truly disposed of their stuffy, tweed jacket images and seemingly have the Midas touch with every new model they conjure up and Aston Martin are regular victors of the coolest brand in Britain competition – that’s not just automotive brands by the way, it’s every brand on the planet!

Rear view of the BMW 5 Series GT

BMW 5 Series GT

Contrarily and for the first time that I can remember, the previously untouchable über-cool German marques look a bit lost. Their pedestal looks shaky at best and they appear to have resorted to attention grabbing party tricks in an attempt to regain some of the limelight. Top of this list of tricks is undoubtedly the ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ niche market trick. BMW and Porsche seem to have followed Mercedes down this well trodden path, apparently working on the theory that if you make enough variations on a model, there must be one to suit every need.

Now I know what you’re thinking, the only reason that many British car brands still exist is due to massive inputs from across the globe, even Germany and you’d be right. It took our friends from the Fatherland to show us how to build Rollers and Bentleys properly but they seem to have been so preoccupied with rebuilding our houses, their own have been sorely neglected. The same can hardly be said of Jaguar Land Rover‘s new owners though can it? Their owners –  Tata  seem to have revolutionised the management procedures of the company but left the important bits like how the cars look and feel up to us Brits.

Bentley Continental Convertible with roof down

Bentley Continental Convertible

The USP of the German marques for years was, of course their build quality and I’m not saying for a minute that they’ve forgotten which end of a screwdriver is which but it was somehow inevitable that, given enough time, money and help from VW and BMW we were going to catch on eventually. The problem the likes of Audi have now is that their USP is no longer unique and, worse still, the lowly British brands that they used to deride have re-discovered their USP in abundance. Amongst other things, its called style; it simply oozes from every pore of the current crop of British marques. From Astons to Range Rovers, from their interiors to their wheel nuts, British cars have once again got that certain something that makes them stand out from the crowd and the Germans seem to be floundering in their attempts to recreate it.

Unfortunately, one plucky Brit appears to be stuck in the stalls and that’s Lotus. It’s still early days in their master- plan and I really hope that everything comes into fruition but as it stands, they’re really lagging behind the competition. They undoubtedly make some of the best driver’s cars on the road but in these days of frugality, that simply isn’t enough. When people spend tens of thousands of pounds on top-quality items, they demand just that – quality, a car must not only get them from A-B in style but be able to recreate that feat on a daily basis. Without some serious re-jigging of their priorities, Lotus will continue to be a flashback to the days of British car manufacturing when the notion of quality-control was a mere pipe dream.

By Ben Harrington

Frankfurt Motor Show 2011

Ferrari 458 Spider

Well well well, the Frankfurt motor show opened its doors to much fanfare on Tuesday and I’m delighted to say that it appears to have on show some of the most interesting new models I’ve seen for years. There really is a plethora of eye-catching cars, not always for the right reasons but hey, it wouldn’t be a motor show without the weird and wonderful, would it?

‘All new’ Porsche 911 991

To name but a few of the headline grabbers on display, Porsche left us all dumbstruck with their, ahem, all new 911….wing mirrors.

Ferrari’s decided to take their styling cues from Renault these days by emulating the very clever folding hard top as previously seen on the Wind. Joking aside however, this is one of those very rare occasions when I’m prepared to admit that a car looks better in convertible guise than hard top.

Land Rover DC100 Concept

It was inevitable that this day would come eventually. Some poor soul at Land Rover has finally been tasked with replacing the iconic 67 year old design of the Defender. Re-inventing the wheel seems preferable to me as you’re only going to upset millions of purists, however good the replacement may look, drive or feel.

Ford Evos Concept

Having been brought up on a staple diet of Capris, I was very excited when Ford unveiled their latest design concept, the Evos. As usual, Ford were keen to deny that this would go into production and even more keen to distance themselves from the Capri name. Why Ford, why? Embrace this much loved icon and do us all a favour by dispelling the memory of, I can barely say it, the Cougar!

Jaguar CX-16

Undoubtedly the star of the show for many people, myself included is this car, the Jaguar C-X16. I know I keep saying it but the way Jaguar has been turned around of late is nothing short of staggering. If it performs anywhere near as well as it looks, I can honestly say that if I was in the market for a car of this genre, I would march straight past the Porsche 911’s in their showroom and place my order for one of these, and that’s saying something.

Bugatti Veyron L’Or Blanc

One for those of you who were reluctant to invest in a Veyron due to its abhorrent lack of porcelain, this one’s got it in abundance, inside and out. There you go, your prayers answered. I did say that not everything was in good taste!

By Ben Harrington

History of Volvo

Volvo was originally founded as a subsidiary of Swedish engineering component manufacturers, SKF, its original purpose being to expand the parent company’s market into the US. Founders Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larsson also included the production of automobiles into Volvo’s original manifest although this was certainly never meant to be the sole aim of the company and it wasn’t until ten years after Volvo’s launch that a car bearing this moniker would seethe light of day.

Close up of Volvo grill badge

Volvo – Latin for ‘I roll’

The name Volvo comes from the Latin for ‘I roll’. It’s absolutely no coincidence that one of parent company SKF’s main products was ball bearings. The Volvo badge which is still familiar today is from the Swedish symbol for iron and has always been placed on a diagonal bar across the car’s radiator grille.

Volvo Jakob

Volvo Jakob

You could say that Volvo’s birthday was April 14th 1927 when their first car, the ŐV4 – nicknamed Jakob rolled off the production line in Gothenburg. The four cylinder ŐV4 and PV4 models were available in hard top and cabriolet guise and proved an instant success in Scandinavian countries as they were designed to be better equipped than competition from the US to withstand the harsh conditions of their winters.

Quality was a word that became rapidly synonymous with Volvo and this soon evolved into an association with making extremely safe cars. The following statement was made by the company’s founders:-

‘Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo, therefore, is and must remain, safety’, Assar Gabrielsson and Gustav Larsson, 1927.

1929 saw the introduction of Volvo’s first six cylinder model, the PV651. The success of this larger car financed the construction of Volvo’s first purpose built factory and the purchase of their engine supplier.

As was the case with many automotive manufacturers, World War Two saw the production of Volvo cars decimated as the factories were modified to produce military machinery. In stark contrast, 1944 saw the release of the PV444 model which combined American flair with European elegance. This model, along with the PV544 helped Volvo gain a foothold in the lucrative American market during the ‘50s and ‘60s.

The launch of the hugely popular Volvo Amazon (or 120 as it was known in the US) in 1959 again highlighted Volvo’s dedication to automotive safety as it was the first car to be sold with seatbelts as standard. This would later progress to being the first car with three point seatbelts.

Roger Moore as the Saint with his Volvo

The Saint

Moving into the 1960s, Volvo launched their first sports car, the P1800. This was later to become famous across the world as the car Roger Moore drove in ‘The Saint’. The ‘60s also saw Volvo’s new factory opening at Torslanda in 1964. This allowed annual car production to expand to 200,000 as Volvo’s worldwide appeal continued to grow, especially with their own niche market, the family car.  This demand for a safe, well made car was satisfied further in 1966 with the release of the 140 model, initially in saloon guise and latterly as an estate.

Volvo’s reputation for being market leaders in automotive safety was upheld further during the 1960s and ‘70s as they introduced the world to such safety features as crumple zones, collapsible steering columns and side impact protection systems. This list of innovations is by no means exhaustive.

The 1970’s saw Volvo successfully purchase the car manufacturing arm of Dutch company DAF. DAF’s existing models were simply rebadged as Volvos, a move that resulted in Volvo expanding their range yet further into the smaller car market.

Following the collapse in 1993 of a proposed merger with Renault during its latter stages, Volvo remained the world’s largest independent automotive manufacturers. This would remain the case until 1999 when Ford purchased the company for US $6.45 billion.

Ford placed their new acquisition in their Premier Automotive Group (PAG) along with Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover. Despite announcing losses year after year, Ford insisted on keeping Volvo when the rest of the PAG had been disbanded.

Today, Volvo are owned by Chinese automotive giant Geely following a successful buyout in 2010. Geely acquired the firm for US $1.8 billion following extremely complex negotiations. This is someway off the value Ford initially placed on the company of US $6 billion.

By Ben Harrington

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