• Renaultsport Mégane 275 Trophy – First Impressions

    You could be forgiven for thinking that the current Renault Mégane was getting a little long in the tooth. Its current guise has been on sale since 2009 and in that time we’ve seen all-new sporting models from Ford, SEAT, Volkswagen and Audi. So to step into the Renaultsport Mégane 275 Trophy and still be amazed at how well it drives is testament to the astonishing abilities of Dieppe’s finest engineers.

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy 01

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy (image courtesy of Newspress)

    Close inspection of this Mégane’s tyres reveals that they are the optional semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s. Pick these and you’re treated to a set of rubber that looks barely road-legal but offers amazing grip. The only problem, apart from the £1,000 price tag, is you need to work hard to generate enough heat to extract their full potential. They may be great on dry, smooth tarmac but on a cold, wet Spring morning they could be terrifying – it’s an option aimed squarely at the track rather than the UK’s inclement weather and greasy roads.

    Hidden behind the 19-inch Turini wheels and Brembo braking system lies a set of £2,000 Ohlins dampers that are lifted from the Mégane N4 rally car. That’s a lot to spend on a damper upgrade but they tip the usual road-car compromise back from cost firmly in favour of ability.

    Some special cars feel right within just a few hundred yards and the Mégane Trophy is one of them. The steering is perfectly weighted and talks back to you, unlike in most modern hatchbacks. It’s incredibly direct too and it allows you to point the Mégane exactly where you want it to go.

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy 02

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy (image courtesy of Newspress)

    The grip from those Cup 2 tyres is impressive. While Millbrook’s ever-vigilant marshals put paid to any serious efforts to test cornering Gs, the Michelin’s ability to cope with buy nexium online 275bhp and 360Nm were impressive. As well as the abundant grip there’s a limited-slip differential shuffling torque between the front wheels, and the result is ballistic acceleration from far earlier in the corner than would otherwise seem sensible.

    The Ohlins dampers are superb. Body movement is tightly controlled but there’s a supple side to the Mégane’s ride that’s absent in the standard 275, which usually comes across as ridiculously brittle on anything but the smoothest tarmac. That’s the benefit of upgrading to the more expensive dampers.

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy Wheels

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy Turini wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and covering Brembo brakes

    The last Renaultsport product to feature dampers like this was the Clio 182 Trophy. It used a set of Sachs Race Engineering items that cost 10 times as much as a standard Clio’s dampers but they transformed the Trophy’s handling. It’s now regarded as a collector’s item. Is it worth upgrading your Mégane? Absolutely.

    The rest of the car remains as you’d expect. A bit of carbon effect trim, red highlights, some alcantara trim and firm but well-bolstered Recaro seats. The fussy media system remains, sacrificing touch controls for fiddly buttons down near the handbrake. The Start/Stop button also hints at cost cutting, sitting low and far to the left, a consequence of positioning it for left-hand drivers and not retooling the dash layout for right-handers.

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy 03

    Stickers make it easy to identify the Megane 275 Trophy

    Not that it matters. Renaultsport models have always been about the driving experience and that’s where the Mégane still excels. If you can come to terms with the £32k price of a Trophy-spec Mégane there’s little else that can beat its fluid responses and beguiling chassis. It might be outgunned by several rivals and it might not be cheap either, but the joy of driving is still at the heart of the Mégane’s appeal.

    Performance & Economy 2015 Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy
    Engine 1,998cc turbocharged 4-cylinder, petrol
    Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
    Power (PS / bhp) 279 / 275
    Torque (Nm / lb.ft) 360 / 265
    0 – 60 mph (seconds) 6.0
    Top Speed (mph) 158
    CO2 Emissions (g/km) 174
    VED Band H
    Combined Economy (mpg) 37
    Kerb Weight (kg) 1,376
    Price (OTR) £28,930

    The post Renaultsport Mégane 275 Trophy – First Impressions appeared first on Driving Spirit.

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  • Ford S-Max – Don’t Be ‘Sports Dad’

    Purchasing a new Ford S-Max should be regarded as a textbook example of refusing to stand out from the crowd. While being one of the herd is traditionally frowned upon, actually in the case of the new S-Max it’s highly beneficial. Unless that is, you’re ‘Sports Dad’.

    Ford S-Max Static 03

    Ford S-Max

    ‘Sports Dad’ wants to be the best. He wants to the best so much, that he’ll pick the biggest engine with the highest bhp output on his new car just so everybody knows he is the man. Basically, ‘Sports Dad’ is the guy you avoid like the plague when you go and watch your own kids football team playing because he abuses the referee and generally makes a monumental tit of himself. Fear not reader, I’m here to show you how to get the best S-Max for you, all while getting a better S-Max than ‘Sports Dad’ and saving a bit of money in the process.

    The guy we all love to hate has already chosen his S-Max, and naturally it’s the one that sits at the very top of the S-Max pyramid – the 2.3 236bhp litre petrol powerhouse. Ford expects only 1% of all S-Max buyers to take this one up, but that’s ok because ‘Sports Dad’ has always thought of himself as being in the top 1% anyway. For us though, let’s think of that 1% as those people who are so keen to distance themselves from the herd, so keen to look special, that they’d go as far as to shoot themselves in the foot in a bid to impress others around them.

    Ford S-Max Static 02
    Ford S-Max Driving 02
    Ford S-Max Driving 03
    Ford S-Max Static 05
    Ford S-Max Static 04
    Ford S-Max Driving 01

    Yes, as tempting as it may sound on paper, the ‘sporty’ variant of the new S-Max is certainly not the high point of the range. It’s an engine that just doesn’t feel at home in this car, lacking the torque needed to launch the heavy S-Max, and despite that high-ish power output, in reality it doesn’t feel anywhere near as quick as the spec sheet might have you believe. The 6-speed automatic Ford has attached to it doesn’t help either, a pure cruiser unit that’s clearly not been designed to deliver on the excitement front, and to be fair why would it? ‘Sports Dad’ will tell you all about the flappy paddles, but I’ll tell you that it’s so lacking in shift feel you wonder why they even attached them to the steering wheel in the first place. Ford hasn’t offered a manual option with this engine, but even with that option box open I still think it would be a poor choice. Despite the disappointment with this particular powertrain, this is where the problems with the new S-Max end.

    Some drivers will naturally prefer some of the more conceptual design flair seen in some of France’s latest offerings, but it can’t be said that the S-Max isn’t a handsome looking beast. The strong, angular buy nolvadex no prescription lines make this one of the best efforts at putting together an attractive people carrier that I can remember, it looks like a car with real class and that continues inside. From the moment you step in you can see and feel the improvements in the interior, with plenty of quality materials applied to make the cabin a genuinely pleasurable place to spend time. The seating is particularly excellent, providing a hugely comfortable and supportive place to park the posteriors of you and your family. The S-Max now feels more premium than ever before and – through these eyes at least – is a nose ahead of the interior environments found in some of its rivals.

    Ford S-Max Technology Safety
    Ford S-Max Interior 06
    Ford S-Max Interior 01
    Ford S-Max Technology Sensors
    Ford S-Max Interior 02
    Ford S-Max Interior 05
    Ford S-Max Interior 04

    As it’s the modern age, the class and comfort of the interior would be nothing without decent technology to back it up, and there is some very tasty tech to examine. The SYNC2 system is a must have, and while the interface and arrangement of the software is good, the touchscreen it’s wrapped in can occasionally be unresponsive. Other useful features include split view cameras to assist in pulling out of parking spaces and junctions (not something obnoxious yet genetically superior ‘Sports Dads’ will ever feel the need to use), a variable ratio steering setup that Ford has even managed to squeeze the mechanism of inside the steering wheel, and a system to monitor road signs and adapt the speed limiter to match them, theoretically preventing you exceeding the speed limits. For those show offs who always have something new to stick in the garden, boot space starts at 700 litres in 5 seater mode, but the 2 seated van-like layout will bump that up to a cavernous 2000 litres, perfect for that gazebo hauling, faux-brick BBQ buying dad who always calls you ‘mate’.

    So, how do you stick it to ‘Sports Dad’? By knowing the following important information; those who love to drive will ultimately gain more pleasure from one of the more powerful diesel manual options than the petrol powered brute discussed earlier. The new S-Max is a brilliant cruiser, being both remarkably quiet and hugely comfortable and when driven as such it’s a joy, even if as the driver you do feel a little detached from what’s happening outside. With one of the more grunty diesel engines, the excellent manual gearbox, and ‘Titanium’ spec, you’ll have a truly excellent car on your hands. This might be about as good as a people carrier gets. Refined, comfortable, practical, and perhaps most crucially it’s actually quite desirable. It’s also cheaper to buy and will depreciate less than the flash git’s top spec model. That means when you lift lazy waves from the steering wheel of your S-Max outside the school gates, you get the satisfaction of knowing you’re in the better car.

    So, who’s winning now ‘mate’?

    2015 Ford Galaxy

    Performance & Economy 2.0 TDCi Titanium X 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium X
    Engine 1,997cc tubocharged diesel 1,999cc turbocharged petrol
    Transmission 6-speed manual, front engine, front-wheel drive 6-speed automatic, front engine, front-wheel drive
    Power (PS / bhp) 180 / 177 240 / 236
    Torque (Nm / lb.ft) 400 / 295 345 / 254
    0 – 62 mph (seconds) 9.5 8.3
    Top Speed (mph) 131 140
    CO2 Emissions (g/km) 129 180
    VED Band D I
    Combined Economy (mpg) 56 35
    Price (OTR) £33,845 £35,205

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  • 350PS And 470Nm From Ford Focus RS

    350PS, or 345bhp in old money. That’s a lot of power for any road car but when it’s coming from a mid-sized five door hatchback its bordering on the obscene.

    2016 Ford Focus RS (07)

    2016 Ford Focus RS

    It is, if you haven’t already guessed, the output of the 2.3 litre Ecoboost that propels the Ford Focus RS. Despite losing a cylinder and 200cc displacement the new engine pushes out the same grunt as the limited edition RS500 from 2010, backed up by 440Nm of torque (or 470Nm on overboost, which kicks in for 15 second bursts on full buy ativan online cheap throttle).

    No news on the 62mph time or terminal velocity, but suffice to say it’ll be bloody quick thanks to all-wheel drive.

    Ford aren’t messing about. The RS’s only serious rivals in the hot hatch world are the Audi RS3 (367PS for £39k) or the AMG A45 (365PS for £38k), and my gut says the RS will be a better drive than both.

    With the first public sighting at Goodwood this weekend, it looks like the famous RS badge continues to go from strength to strength.

    2016 Ford Focus RS

    Performance & Economy 2016 RS 2009 RS 2010 RS500
    Engine 2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol 2.5-litre 5-cylinder turbocharged petrol 2.5-litre 5-cylinder turbocharged petrol
    Transmission 6-speed manual, front-engined, all-wheel drive 6-speed manual, front-engined, front-wheel drive 6-speed manual, front-engined, front-wheel drive
    Power (PS / bhp) 350 / 345 300 / 295 350 / 345
    Torque (Nm / lb.ft) 440 / 324
    (470 / 346 on overboost)
    440 / 324 460 / 339
    0 – 62 mph (seconds) 4.7 5.9 5.6
    Top Speed (mph) 165 163 165
    CO2 Emissions (g/km) TBA 225 235
    VED Band TBA K L
    Combined Economy (mpg) TBA 30.1 28.5
    Price (OTR) £28,940 £27,925 £35,437

    2016 Ford Focus RS (10)
    2016 Ford Focus RS (09)
    2016 Ford Focus RS (07)
    2016 Ford Focus RS (08)

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  • The Start Of The Zombie Apocalypse

    By , Permalink

    Hollywood has an incredible imagination when it comes to the end of the world. From asteroids to earthquakes, floods to solar flares, you can always trust the wild minds of LA LA Land’s script writers to find new and interesting ways of decimating the world’s population.

    Viral diseases are the big one though. They’ve been through a bit of a renaissance in recent years, triggering a surge of fascination in the Zombie Apocalypse that’s spread like the very same plague into TV, book and videogames.

    Zombie Horde By Joakim Olofsson

    This is what you get for putting car park tickets in your mouth!

    When it only takes a little scratch or nibble to turn even the most dedicated vegan into a sausage-munching undead monster, there’s plenty of scope for Hollywood to get carried away, the virus spreading from host to host like wildfire. But I think I’ve spotted an untapped delivery method, a device yet to be written into a Hollywood blockbuster – car park barrier tickets.

    You know the credit card sized pieces of plastic that you slip into the machine to raise the barrier? When you jump in your car where do you put it? Hold it in your hand while fumbling for your seatbelt? No, too fiddly. Pop it onto the dash where it could slide away and disappear beneath a pile of old CDs? Not likely. Do you pop it in your mouth? Hmmm, tasty.

    So just think for a minute what’s happened to that sliver of plastic before you clamped it between your teeth. Cue flashback graphics as we wind the clock back a few hours.

    Jim, the bus driver, has had a bit of a bad tummy, and just before he handed the card over to you he’d had to make an emergency dash to the toilet. Trouble is, his hygiene isn’t great so he forgot to wash his hands before he rushed back onto the bus. He might not be licking the ticket, but by God, you don’t want to know what he’s added to it’s shiny buy brand name nexium 40 mg online surface.

    Car Park Barrier Ticket

    Just think where this has been before you clamp it between your teeth!

    Now we go further back in time to see the previous user of the ticket. We’ll call him Bob. He’s a large, sweaty bloke, who keeps everything in his trouser pockets. That includes the car park ticket, which sat nestled against his moist gentleman’s area for several hours before he popped it into his own mouth during his dash for the barrier.

    Uh-oh, flashback again, and there’s Barbara. The day before Bob had the ticket she’d chucked it into the bottom of her handbag, where it mixed with manky old chocolates and other unmentionables that haven’t seen the light of day for years. Oh, and there she goes, gripping the card with her teeth and drooling a little as she struggles to fasten up her seatbelt.

    Flashback to an attractive blonde who still manages to look glamorous even when she has a plastic card poking out from between her pouting, red lips. Further back, through old lady, stressed businessman, mum with screaming kids. All so desperate to get out of the car park as quickly as possible that they didn’t think twice about what they were putting in their mouths.

    Somewhere at the start of all this is Patient X. He’s a part-time laboratory assistant who accidentally mixed two strange formulas into one petri-dish, before spilling some on a familiar piece of white rectangular plastic that he’d chucked onto his workbench. The rest, as they might say if they hadn’t all been turned into mindless zombies, is history. Wind the clock forward to the present day and Bob, Barbara and the others are now all flesh-eating undead, having transferred the vile virus to one another by licking contaminated saliva from that one piece of plastic.

    So what’s the best way to stop this zombie plague from spreading? Simple. Don’t put the damned tickets IN YOUR MOUTH. It’s a disgusting habit anyway.

    Picture credit – Zombie Horde by Joakim Olofsson

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  • Tesla Model S – Driven

    It’s fair to say our first drive of the Tesla Model S is not entirely going to plan. Fellow scribe Phil Huff is peering through the rear window with a slightly quizzical expression. “You’ve broken it,” he jokes.

    Tesla Model S85

    Tesla Model S85

    It later transpires this assessment might not be so far from the truth. Right now, however, we’re locked outside what could well be the future of motoring, stranded at our photo location just above the Milbrook Hill Route (famously the road on which 007 totalled his Aston Martin in Casino Royale). There are worse places to be marooned, admittedly, and it provides a good opportunity to reflect on what we have gleaned about the car so far.

    The Model S has been around for a couple of years now, but recent months have seen a growing number taking to our roads. It’s a discretely handsome sports saloon with a generous luggage capacity and enough room to seat five adults. There’s even the option of two additional rear-facing seats in the boot, should you need them. Outwardly, there are almost no clues to the fact that this is an all-electric vehicle, but as such it’s exempt from road tax and the Congestion Charge. Perhaps more importantly, it also falls into the lowest bracket for company car tax.

    Things are a little more radical on the inside. The massive 17-inch touch screen display is not only the largest, but also the cleverest that we’ve encountered, controlling everything from the sat nav to the sunroof. It’s like sitting inside Google.

    Tesla Model S85 Interior

    Tesla Model S85 Interior

    The dashboard itself is a strikingly simple design, clad – in the case of our test car – in Alcantara and carbon fibre. The quality of the materials is first rate and they lend the cabin a bespoke feel that distinguishes the Tesla from its more mainstream competitors.

    But enough of the pleasantries, what’s it like to drive? Really rather good, in short. You can feel the mass when pressing on – it weighs a not-inconsiderably 2.1 tons – but the combination of prodigious thrust and near-total silence from the electric powertrain is quite surreal.

    Right now the internet is awash with videos of this car’s twin-engined evil twin, the P85D, demolishing supercars from a standing start. Our test car is ‘only’ the single-engined carisoprodol buy rear-wheel drive S85 model, but even this comparatively mild example of the breed feels good for its claimed 5.4 second nought-to-sixty time.

    Where the Model S really scores, though, is response. With 440 Nm of torque available instantly, right from a standing start, overtaking urge is never more than a twitch of the toe away. There’s no shortage of grip either, with decent chassis balance and chunky, if somewhat lifeless, steering.

    A small confession here: in the brief time we had with the car, I didn’t think to check which of the two braking modes had been selected. As sampled, lifting off the accelerator resulted in something not unlike conventional engine braking, while the middle pedal had a pleasingly natural feel. It certainly wasn’t the alien experience you might expect from a regenerative braking system.

    Tesla Model S85

    Tesla Model S85

    All of this, of course, means little if you can’t get in to drive it. Having soaked up the Bedfordshire sunshine for 20 minutes a support car is dispatched to recover us and the stricken Tesla. The central locking issue is eventually traced to a slightly unlikely culprit, in the form of the dictaphone I’d brought along to record my notes. Apparently this had interfered with the keyless entry fob lying next to it in the centre cupholder. We’ll let you decide whether that constitutes a teething issue or (as one of Tesla’s European representatives insisted) user error.

    But the fact is, the fundamentals of this car are superb. The Model S is reassuringly conventional when you want it to be and yet a genuine game-changer in other respects. It’s more than capable of competing with its internal combustion powered competitors in terms of comfort and performance, with anecdotal evidence suggesting there’s enough real-world range to get you from, say, London to Birmingham.

    Throw in ultra-low running costs, plus more pioneering technology than you can shake a stick at, and it also starts to look like good value, starting at £59,380 on the road. This not a car reserved for hair shirt environmentalists, nor is it a low-volume concept like Volkswagen’s plug-in hybrid XL1. The electric car, it seems, is very much a reality.

    2015 Model S 85

    Performance & Economy 2015 Tesla Model S 85
    Engine 85 kWh Battery
    Transmission Automatic gearbox, rear electric-powered motor, all-wheel drive
    Power (PS / bhp) 366 / 362
    Torque (Nm / lb.ft) 440 / 324
    0 – 60 mph (seconds) 5.4
    Top Speed (mph) 140
    CO2 Emissions (g/km) 0
    VED Band A
    Combined Economy (mpg) n/a (310 mile range)
    Price (OTR) £54,000

    Tesla Model S85
    Tesla Model S85
    Tesla Model S85
    Tesla Model S85 Luggage Compartment
    Tesla Model S85 Seats In Boot
    Tesla Model S85 Interior
    Tesla Model S85
    Tesla Model S85
    Tesla Model S85

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