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New Mitsubishi Outlander previewed ahead of 16 Feburary reveal

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The next-generation Mitsubishi Outlander will draw heavy styling influence from last year’s striking Engleberg Tourer concept – but we won’t see it in UK dealerships. 

As shown in an official preview video (below) released by the brand ahead of its 16 February unveiling, the Toyota RAV4 rival will sport Mitsubishi’s new chrome-heavy Dynamic Shield front end with slim LED headlights and sizeable air intakes, plus a wraparound-effect front windscreen. 

Behind the A-pillars, the SUV looks to have evolved more subtly over today’s car, with visible differences limited to chrome door handles, a more pronounced swage line and reshaped brake lights. 

Visually linking the production car to the Engleberg Tourer concept suggests that Mitsubishi will incorporate some of the latter’s innovative powertrain technology. The show car used a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, twin electric motors and a 20kWh battery for four-wheel-drive and an electric-only range of 44 miles. 

With a full fuel tank and a fully charged battery, Mitsubishi said the Tourer – a suffix that hints at its potential focus on long-distance refinement – was capable of travelling 435 miles in a single go. Mitsubishi has confirmed the Outlander will use an upgraded four-wheel-drive system inspired by Dakar racers and rally cars. 

The new Outlander will be launched in February 2021 in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, but Mitsubishi has frozen all imports to Europe as part of a wider cost-cutting strategy in which it will refocus its efforts on the more profitable South East Asia market.

In its current form, the Outlander PHEV is one of Europe’s best-selling plug-in hybrids and consistently tops the plug-in SUV sales charts in the UK, where Mitsubishi has sold 3167 cars since January. 

READ MORE

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV review

Electrified Mitsubishi Engelberg Tourer makes Geneva debut

Audi SQ5 Sportback 2021 review

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The volume and note alters with the driving modes, Dynamic being the choice for those who want the full unfiltered experience.

The SQ5 Sportback’s assured dynamic qualities allow you dig deep into its performance, whether on a multi-lane autobahn or threading down a winding back road. It’s predicable in its actions, if lacking the sort of engagement that enthusiast drivers might seek. 

The control of body movement is particularly good, thanks to the adaptive qualities of the dampers and general tuning of suspension, and the Quattro system provides plenty of grip and traction. Sadly, though, the variable-rate steering, while nicely weighted, lacks for vital feedback.

On smooth roads in Comfort mode, the SQ5 Sportback delivers quite a relaxed ride, although it can still become unsettled when the surface isn’t perfectly free of imperfections. Dynamic mode is quite a lot firmer, leading to more aggressive vertical movement and some odd harshness over larger bumps.

Inside, it’s much the same as the SQ5 – at least up front, where the SQ5 Sportback receives the same dashboard, digital instruments, touchscreen infotainment display, multifunction steering wheel and choice of trims. Quality is generally quite high, although there are some cheap-looking black plastic elements out of your direct line of sight.

The raised front seating position gives you an agreeably commanding forward view, while the standard sport seats are terrifically comfortable, with firm cushioning and excellent support. Rearward vision is compromised somewhat by the more sloping rear screen, although not to the degree found in some rivals. 

With the rear bench mounted quite low, most adults should be able sit up back without any concerns over the reduction in head room caused by the more shapely roofline. Boot space, however, is reduced by 10 litres over the SQ5, at a nominal 500 litres.

Inside the industry: Tavares eyes China but faces challenges

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Asked seven years ago why Mercedes-Benz was so determined to chase success in China, then boss Dieter Zetsche waved aside accusations of risking boom and bust as the market grew exponentially, referring instead to the opportunity to plant his firm’s fortunes on a tripod rather than stilts. It was an eloquent reference to having strong bases in Asia, Europe and the US, thus diluting the risk of regional economic fluctuations.

To date, even during a global pandemic, this strategy has looked sound. Mercedes’ resilience in 2020 was thanks in no small part to its performance in China, where it set a new sales record, remarkably shifting 11.7% more cars than in 2019 in a market down 6.8%.

Underlining the benefits of the tripod idea perfectly, almost exactly one in three of the 2.1 million Mercedes sold found a home in China.

It’s little wonder, then, that Carlos Tavares, now the boss of 14 marques after the PSA Group and FCA merged, is also looking east.

For all the advantages of scale, to stretch Zetsche’s analogy, the new Stellantis firm’s global base currently sits on stilts of different lengths and strengths.

Dominating in volume on one side is Europe, a market so challenged and regulated that some firms are leaving it, while on the other is the potentially more lucrative but often tribal US market.

China should provide the answer for Mercedes, yet nobody knows the risks there better than Tavares; PSA’s fortunes slumped catastrophically in China in recent years, chiefly in the face of competition from rapidly improving Chinese manufacturers competing in the mid-market.

At its peak in 2014, PSA sold a Mercedes-eclipsing 730,000 vehicles in China; last year, it sold fewer than 50,000, having declared its break-even total to be about 150,000 after an emergency restructuring in 2019.

The FCA side of Stellantis, meanwhile, has little more to speak of, having been slow and short on funds to enter China with a flourish.

Asked late last year if he would consider shuttering operations in China, Tavares replied: “We need to find a formula to succeed.” The logic is clear, but whichever brand leads the way, seeking redemption, a relaunch or a fresh start is going to be expensive and hard work.

With the pressures of Stellantis’s restricted global spread now sharply in focus, the challenges of formalising the merger now pale in comparison to the difficulties (and opportunities) ahead.

As a man who is fond of justifying hard decisions on the basis of building a sustainable future for his employers and employees, Tavares has no option other than to make it work.

READ MORE

Management structure of 14-brand Stellantis company detailed 

FCA and PSA merge to make world’s fourth biggest car firm 

Stellantis boss warns 2030 ban could close Vauxhall UK factory

Shell acquires EV charging firm Ubitricity

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Energy giant Shell has purchased EV charging firm Ubitricity as part of a drive “to support drivers as they switch to lower-carbon transport”.

The purchase includes Ubitricity in its entirety and is expected to be finalised later this year, subject to regulatory approval. A price hasn’t been publicised. 

Ubitricity is one of the largest EV charger providers in the UK in terms of individual devices in operation, with its 2700-plus public chargers giving it a market share of 13%. 

Ubitricity’s chargers are integrated into existing street furniture, such as lamp-posts and bollards, largely aimed at urban-dwelling EV owners who don’t have access to a private driveway or garage. 

Shell said its purchase of Ubitricity marks its “expansion into the fast-growing on-street EV charging market”. More than 1000 ultra-fast EV chargers are already in operation across 430 Shell retail sites in the UK. 

István Kapitány, executive vice-president of Shell Global Mobility, said: “Working with local authorities, we want to support the growing number of Shell customers who want to switch to an EV by making it as convenient as possible for them. 

“On-street options such as the lamp-post charging offered by Ubitricity will be key for those who live and work in cities or have limited access to off-street parking. 

“Whether at home, at work or on the go, we want to provide our customers with accessible and affordable EV charging options so they can charge up no matter where they are.”

Shell plans to become a net-zero-emissions energy provider by 2050. In line with that goal, its first bespoke EV charging forecourt is set to open in London in the next few months. 

READ MORE

How Shell is reinventing the fuel station for EVs​

UK’s shortage of on-street EV charging highlighted in new study​

Analysis: How UK will keep EVs charging​

Tickets for 2021 Goodwood events on sale from 1 Feburary

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On Monday 1 Feburary, the Goodwood Estate will make tickets available for the 2021 editions of its flagship motoring events, after each was cancelled in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. 

The Sussex venue’s automotive calendar is set to begin on 15-16 May with the 78th Members’ Meeting, before the Festival of Speed takes place from 8-11 July and the Revival from 17-19 September. Tickets for each go on sale on the Goodwood website at 0900 next Monday, or buyers can “skip the queue” by joining the Goodwood Road Racing Club Fellowship.

Uncertainty surrounding the longevity of England’s national lockdown measures mean the nature of the events is subject to change. The Estate said: “Although we remain positive that things will look a little more normal by the summer, the team at Goodwood are working hard to ensure our events remain safe and enjoyable for all of our visitors. We’ll continue to work with local and national authorities as the Covid restrictions evolve and ensure our events follow all appropriate guidelines.”

If any of the three events are cancelled as a result of government guidance, ticketholders will be offered a full refund, or the opportunity to carry their ticket over to 2022. 

None of the three events took place in 2020, with the Speedweek event, held behind closed doors in October, standing in for the Festival of Speed and Revival with a mix of historic and new cars on display. 

Numbers for the 2021 editions will be limited, with many 2020 ticketholders having retained their passes, and each event will be run in accordance with government guidelines on social distancing. 

As usual, the first event will be open only to members and fellows of the Goodwood Road Racing Club. Held at the Goodwood Circuit, it will “recapture the intimacy and camaraderie of the members-only race weekends held in Goodwood’s heyday”.

The event has moved from its usual April date to May in order to avoid clashes with other motorsport events and to allow more time for its organisation.

Planned highlights of the Members’ Meeting include the SF Edge Trophy, in which priceless pre-1923 racers go head to head, and the Gerry Marshall Trophy race for Group 1 touring cars from 1970-1981. 

The biggest event, the Festival of Speed, will return to the Sussex estate’s 1.16-mile hillclimb course to celebrate the theme that had been planned for 2020: The Maestros – Motorsport’s Great All-Rounders. Drivers, teams and manufacturers who have enjoyed success in various motorsport disciplines will be honoured on the course and in the paddock. 

American racing legend Mario Andretti has already confirmed that he will attend, but it’s unknown whether Jacky Ickx – who was scheduled to be at the 2020 event – will make an appearance. 

The event is planned to follow a familiar format, with cars, motorbikes and all other manner of vehicle taking to the storied hillclimb. Official details will follow, but we can expect a mix of new and old metal, with some manufacturers likely to host new model unveilings in the paddock. 

As is customary, the Revival will celebrate the “golden age” of the Goodwood Motor Circuit: 1948-1966. Historic cars, many of them driven by famous racers and celebrities, will be driven in anger around the course in authentically recreated events.

Goodwood owner The Duke of Richmond said: “More than anything else, it’s the people who make our events so special: the drivers, the teams, our staff and, above all, the fans. We were incredibly disappointed not to be able to welcome them to our much-loved events in 2020. Now we’re thrilled to be able to announce that all three motorsport events are planned to be back next year. 

Audi Q5 Sportback 40 TDI 2021 review

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The past decade or so has been a period of huge growth for Audi. Clearly central to this success has been Ingolstadt’s ability to turn out SUVs in all sizes and classes with a wide range of drivetrains and at a level of quality consummate with its premium brand positioning.

Among it all, one model in particular has stood out: the Q5. Introduced in 2008, Audi’s second dedicated SUV has regularly been among its three best-selling models. Even in the difficult sales conditions encountered last year, it still managed to pull in more than 130,000 sales worldwide.

Now, following the launch of the facelifted second-generation model, a rakishly styled variant of the mid-sized SUV has arrived in the form of the new Q5 Sportback. Produced at Audi’s newest manufacturing plant, in Mexico, it has been conceived to take on the likes of the BMW X4, Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupé and Range Rover Velar in a market niche that continues to grow in the UK as more and more buyers overlook traditional coupés in favour of style-led SUVs that offer more commanding seating and greater everyday practicality.

Audi is no stranger here, of course, with the Q3 Sportback, E-tron Sportback and Q8 all adhering to the same formula.  Taking the lead from these three existing SUVs, the Q5 Sportback borrows the front end styling of its long-established sibling and mates it with a new liftback style rear end that features a large, clamshell-style tailgate, giving it a distinctly more rakish appearance. 

There are some unique design touches, mind you, including a new front grille with a honeycomb-style design and restyled tail-lights with differing OLED graphics depending on the equipment line buyers choose. However, there’s no denying the overall visual links between it and the conventional Q5.

The packaging of the liftback adds a scant 7mm to the overall length of the Q5, taking the Q5 Sportback up to 4690mm. Despite its more sporting lines, its width remains the same, at 1893mm, but its height is reduced by as much as 62mm, at 1600mm.

Predictably, the similarities extend to the interior: the Q5 Sportback contains the same dashboard, switchgear, trim elements and seats as the facelifted Q5. It’s a fine driving environment, with great clarity to the instruments, excellent ergonomics and the sort of quality materials befitting the new model’s premium positioning. It has lost out on space, though. The sloping nature of the roof reduces rear head room, while the angled tailgate robs 10 litres of boot space underneath the cargo cover, reducing it to 510 litres when the adjustable split-folding rear seatbacks are set in their regular position. When they’re folded down, there’s 1480 litres of luggage room.

The Q5 Sportback is produced with a wide range of petrol and diesel engine options in both four-cylinder and V6 guise, all shared with the Q5, although not all will be available at the start of UK deliveries in June.

Confirmed so far is only a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine with 201bhp, badged 40 TDI – the model that’s expected to account of the majority of British sales. In line with developments brought to other recent new Audi models, it features a new twin-dosing exhaust with two catalytic converters and an Adblue injection system that are together claimed to dramatically reduce NOx emissions, making the car compliant with the EU6d emission regulations that came into force at the start of this year.

Used car buying guide: Volvo P1800

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You will get to surprise your neighbours twice when you rock up in a P1800: once when you tell them it’s a Volvo and again when you reveal that the first examples were built in West Bromwich.

This is no doubt a conversation that you will become used to having fairly quickly, considering that the P1800 coupé is among the most objectively eye-catching cars ever released, but this stylish Swede has a few more trivia tricks up its sleeve.

You might know, for example, that the Guinness World Record for the highest mileage travelled by a single car is held by the late Irv Gordon’s 1966 P1800S, which quickly hit 250,000 miles without requiring any unscheduled maintenance, before going on to accumulate 3,000,000 miles in 2013 at the age of 47 years old – with its original engine block and gearbox still in situ. Proof, perhaps, that this is one of few bona fide classics that wouldn’t suffer being pressed into daily service.

Midlands manufacturer Jensen built the car under licence from 1961 until 1963, but quality problems led to P1800 production being shifted to Gothenburg, with the car adopting the S suffix that it would wear until the end of the decade.

Those early cars are tricky to find (the sole example in the classifieds at the time of writing was listed in the Netherlands for £90,000) and are primarily distinguished from later cars by a unique ‘cowhorn’ front bumper and a slight power deficit.

With a production run of nearly seven years, it’s the P1800S (the S for Sweden) that dominates the classifieds today. This facelifted car used the same carburetted 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine as the Jensen-built model, but with power upped from 101bhp to 109bhp in 1963 and again to 115bhp in 1966.

Fuel injection didn’t arrive until 1969, when the P1800E (the E for einspritz) was ushered in with a new 2.0-litre engine producing an extra 15bhp and a raft of other upgrades, including disc brakes, rather than drums, at each corner.

It’s this later P1800 that is likely to tempt the more casual enthusiast, thanks to its electronic injection being easier to live with than a pair of SU carburettors and its relative concessions to safety giving it the edge in terms of daily usability. Not only that, but also you will pay around £10,000 less for a clean example.

What’s more, there’s added variety, courtesy of the shooting brake-shape P1800ES, plenty of examples of which are still knocking about.

The P1800’s modest output – in all guises – meant it was never viewed as a bona fide sports car, so most examples have been driven carefully and maintained to stock specification. If buying a project car, however, spend some time making sure that all parts are present and correct, because rebuild costs can quickly spiral, and you can get stopped short of the finish line by an elusive switch, seal or screw.

How to get one in your garage

Analysis: Subaru staying in Europe despite 2020 “disaster”

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Subaru’s British and European operation is being radically overhauled after the Japanese firm suffered a “ridiculous” year for sales in 2020, according to its UK managing director.

While most brands recorded substantial falls in registrations across the country, due to the pandemic, Subaru (which is run in the UK and Europe by British independent importer International Motors) was the hardest hit of any, with a year-on-year decrease of more than 68% compared with 2019.

It shifted only 951 cars last year, compared with just under 3000 the year before. In August, Subaru’s 69 UK dealers clocked up just 34 registrations between them.

“2020 was a horrible year,” admitted John Hurtig, who moved from heading up Subaru’s Nordic operation to become UK boss last summer. “What can you say? It’s just an embarrassing number. There’s no more context, to be honest.”

Hurtig details some specific reasons that contributed to 2020 being one of the brand’s worst on record here, stating that “it’s not really as bad” as the numbers make it seem.

“As a brand, we had a very high registration number in December 2019,” he explained. “In fact, it was actually the best month Subaru UK has had ever. So we went into 2020 with a big backlog.”

Hurtig admitted this was entirely down to the company pre-registering cars en masse to avoid being handed hefty fleet-average emissions fines when the European Union’s new CO2-cutting regulations came into force in January 2020. All of those cars were sold throughout the year as discounted pre-registrations.

There were two other crucial factors, Hurtig claimed, that meant Covid-19 and associated lockdowns did greater harm to Subaru than to other brands.

One was its customer base. “Our target audience, is, to be honest, older people,” he said, “and those are the [biggest] risk group [for the disease]. So they have been very concerned about getting out there and doing business; that has been the feedback we get from customers. This might be one of the reasons it’s hit us more.”

Perhaps even more significant, however, is what Hurtig describes as a need to “rebuild the dealer network from the roots”.

He explained: “We’ve changed a lot of things within Subaru UK. We also need to change the structure of our dealer network entirely. There’s a lot of things we lacked in the past – from both sides of the business. I’m not just blaming the dealers; 50% [of the blame] goes back to us as an organisation as well.”

While he acknowledges that there’s a “core” need for more Subaru presence in the UK, both in terms of dealers and investing more in marketing and brand awareness activities, more pertinent is actually getting those dealers engaged in the brand and on-message.

“We need the right dealers,” he said. “It comes back to that. We can have the best marketing and brand awareness, but if the dealers aren’t on the same page, it’s useless. So this has to be developed hand-in-hand.”

Why Extreme E will begin a new era for motorsport in 2021

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When Extreme E (XE) was announced by Formula E founder Alejandro Agag two years ago, such a novel concept seemed even less credible than his idea of an electric single-seater racing series did before Dieselgate.

Not only was this to be an amalgam of rallying and circuit racing contested by 550bhp electric SUVs but quite literally a race to save the world, broadcasting races from damaged locations with the goal of raising public awareness of environmental and sustainability issues.

But already the scepticism and scoffing is dying down. Since Autocar first spoke to Agag, XE has been awarded FIA International Series status and fleshed out with a number of star names, both human and corporate. It’s not content to be seen as a Mickey Mouse Cup. That much is clear.

American motorsport titans Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing will each run a car, as will reigning Formula E (FE) champion Techeetah and the Volkswagen Group’s new electrified sporting road car brand, Cupra (in collaboration with Abt, the motorsport outfit that runs Audi’s efforts in FE and the DTM touring car series).

The signing of Formula 1 design expert Adrian Newey by the Veloce team has also drawn attention and the drivers of the mechanically identical Spark Odyssey cars will include rallying legends Sébastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz and World Rallycross (WRX) champions Mattias Ekström, Timmy Hansen and Johan Kristoffersen. Ekström, who was tempted across from WRX by the Abt team with which he won the DTM in 2004 and 2007 and is currently on the Dakar Rally, reckons the rallycrossers are best equipped for the unusual challenge of XE. “Especially when it comes to the jumping, loose gravel, close contact and four-wheel-drive sliding experience,” says the 42-year-old Swede.

But is this a serious campaign, or just a chance for fun with some old friends? And more broadly, is XE an entertainment show rather than serious competition; or even primarily a environmental concern, with the sport an afterthought? “I’m not there for any show,” Ekström says. “I’m there to win the race. If you want to see it as a show, go ahead, well done, but I want to have a big trophy. That has always been my aim. When I put my helmet on and go racing, I’ll do my best and try to win. And there will be a couple more boys and girls who will have the same opinion.”

Uniquely, XE decrees that each car must be shared by a man and a woman. “I actually have been beaten by girls before, and I have no problem with this,” says Ekström, who will share driving duties with fellow touring car veteran Claudia Hürtgen.

You might well think that these drivers are joining XE simply because it’s a solid opportunity to race, but for Ekström at least it holds greater relevance. The truth is that, like a famous compatriot of his, he is passionate about conservation – although it took him many more years than Greta Thunberg to take notice.

“I drove in the DTM for 17 years,” he says, “and we were consuming tyres and fuel and parts like there was no tomorrow, but there was never anyone asking if that was good for the environment. In XE, we will be allowed to use 10 tyres per season. In the DTM, we used 10 sets in a weekend.

How the Bugatti Chiron became the first 300mph road car

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Raphanel acknowledges that setting his record was considerably less fraught but admits to having had worries about tyre life. He explains: “They had tested them on a bench machine at 435kph (270.2mph), because that’s all the machine could do: 435kph and a 20-second cycle. They said after six cycles, the tyres will probably explode, which of course means two minutes. But then when I broke the record, I noticed that the tyres were the same as I had used the day before; they said ‘you’re still in the window’. All I could do was hope: it’s not a window you want to fall out of.”

Bugatti says that it won’t defend its title, but if the company were to change its mind, would either of its record-setters be tempted to try again if Winkelmann phoned to offer them another go?

“‘Hello? Hello? Stephan? It’s a bad line, I can’t hear you,’” jokes Raphanel. “Personally, I was very happy to do this, to be part of history – but in my case, one time was enough. We did the records to show that Bugattis are the best cars in the world, not because we’re the best drivers.”

“When you’re a racing driver, if somebody asks you a question like that, you’ll always put on this persona of everything being good and say ‘bring it on’,” adds Wallace. “It’s easy to stand here knowing that we’re not going to do it and say ‘of course I would’. But in reality, it’s not just a straight yes: I would seriously have to think about it. It’s not just a walk in the park.”

The 10 fastest production cars (sort of)

While overall speed records are recorded and verified by the FIA, the production car title has always been subject to looser criteria and, like boxing, runs under what are effectively a variety of codes and self-appointed sanctioning bodies.

The big ideological division is now one that dates to the very beginning of record-setting: whether a car needs to run a course in two directions for an average time. Although Pierre-Henri Raphanel’s Bugatti Veyron Super Sport record was run in two directions at Ehra-Lessien, Volkswagen has since stopped these, meaning that two-way runs can only take place on either lesser tracks or public roads. Guinness World Records recognised Raphanel’s run as a record but not Andy Wallace’s later effort; instead, the Chiron’s time was validated by Germany’s TUV Technical Inspection Association.

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