The most powerful version of the rather handsome new Volkswagen Passat is a four-cylinder diesel.
With quite complicated plumbing arrangements, this engine is force-fed by twin turbos, one low pressure and one high, and to pretty good effect given the 369lb ft of torque that you can undam from 1750rpm. The blower?s turbines are of different sizes, and arranged to ensure that you?re rarely short of the kind of low rev thrust that diesels are so good at delivering.
But while engineering this was an effort, it appears to have been nothing compared to the challenge of persuading the Wolfsburg management to approve an engine capable of delivering enough thrust for a range-topping Passat.
According to VW?s head of product development Jens Andersen, the powertrain department presented several engines to the board, including a transverse five cylinder, a transverse six (it was too wide with the gearbox, he says) and the final twin-turbo four among others.
The stumbling block each time was cost, the earlier solutions generating too much of it for the bosses to be convinced that it could be viable.
As it turns out, the twin-turbo four hasn?t been a cheap motor to engineer either, turbos being expensive devices, the precise control of a pair of them an involved development process and most of its innards have been beefed up to cope with the forces of its extra power. It wasn?t easy to fit the engine beneath the Passat?s bonnet either, given the bulk of the extra plumbing.
So how did this engine get past the board? In the end, says Andersen, enough money had been spent on it that it was cheaper to finish the job rather than abandon it, he explains with a grin.
It?s an engine that will eventually appear in a few other big VWs (it?s too bulky for the Golf) although Andersen isn?t saying which. His hope now is that the engine will find enough buyers to justify the outlay.
And does it deserve to? It certainly delivers a solid stream of stream of thrust, and it?s impressively smooth at higher revs, but the taxi-ish pulse at the lower revs that you often run at is a disappointment. And the extra go sometimes proves a severe test for the Passat?s electronic dampers.
But driven at eight-tenths, which is surely how most 2.0 TDI 4Motion Passats will proceed, you?ll enjoy effortlessly swift progress.
News on Monday morning that Ford is spending £190 million to expand Dagenham production of 2.0-litre turbodiesels for use in both vans and cars ? and has won an £8.9 million grant from the government?s Regional Growth Fund into the bargain ? makes certain elements of both the daily media and the political classes look rather silly. And confuses many people.
For many weekends recently, the Sunday papers have published stories from academic research sources to the effect that the decades of encouragement we?ve had to buy diesel cars ? mainly because, on balance, they?re cleaner ? is completely wrong.
The combination of exhaust particulates and oxides of nitrogen they emit, not well enough measured in current official tests, is allegedly killing both us and our children. London mayor Boris Johnson has been vocal about the damage being done by diesels ? yet David Cameron and Vince Cable deal out financial incentives to encourage further production, in outer London, regardless.
What?s the truth, then? The overall situation is simple, but poorly explained. The official tests are indeed inadequate. They need urgent overhaul to better measure particulates and nitrogen oxides, and in typical, not laboratory use.
Equally, the activists need to acknowledge that the problem is on its way to being defeated: the Euro 6 standards that latest diesels are required to meet by September but many meet now ? admittedly measured in the old way ? are already clean enough to pass the standards Boris has in mind for his 2017 ultra low-emission zone.
The Euro 6 standards are particularly strict on especially on particulates and NOx, though neither the mayor?s people nor the activists seem inclined to acknowledge the progress.
The desirable situation, as usual, sits between extremes. The tests need revision, and soon. Those with diesels with exhaust standards below Euro 6 need to keep them out of polluted and congested areas ? preparatory to swapping them as soon as possible for something cleaner.
And by the way, Boris and company could bite the bullet and rid the metropolis of the many ancient taxi diesels they still allow to ply our inner city, individually pumping out more exhaust rubbish than any other 20 cars of the past decade. Why they?re still allowed is beyond us all.
Bottom line? Well done Ford for upping production of ultra-clean diesels. Well done the government for encouraging them to do it. These engines will surely replace dirtier ones. Well done the activists, also, for continuing to point out the grievous inadequacies of current testing, even if you are seeing fit to leave out a part of the story not convenient to your narrative.
Now is the time for an honest broker equipped with accurate research findings to emerge from the gloom and tell us a balanced story.
Plenty of us are owners of venerable diesels; we need advice about what to do with them. If it?s curtains, someone needs to tell us. But who will it be?
Want to know how important the new Corsa is to Vauxhall? It?s the company?s most profitable car. One in three Vauxhalls sold is a Corsa. Even last year, late in its model cycle, Vauxhall shifted 85,000 of them in the UK. Four per cent of all new cars sold here is a Corsa.
And half the people who buy them are spending their own money. They?re not fleet buyers, they?re private punters, and you upset those at your peril.
The new Corsa, then. It is not radical. It is not outlandish. It takes the previous formula ? which was not an unsuccessful one ? and refines it. More economy, more refinement, a heated windscreen, more safety systems and lower running costs: all are promised.
Most are delivered, as we found out on in our first drive. Whether they are enough to take the Corsa from middle-order to class front-runner is another matter entirely.
We?ve come to suburbia to find out, shooting around a housing estate in the south east that?s like so many others. It?s where private buyers pick from options sheets and choose new-build, broadly-similar homes on finance; where colours and specs and costs sway them one way or another. These cars fit in well here.
The journey to our urban destination features motorways, town roads and a few country lanes. A modern supermini should be easily comfortable on all three.
Best among them, by our reckoning, has hitherto been the Ford Fiesta, by a nose. Primarily that?s because we?re an enthusiasts? magazine and it is the most pleasing car in the class to drive, with slick steering, keen body control and the kind of dynamism, even on base models, that you?d do well to find in lukewarm versions of the opposition.
It arrives here with spec slightly out of kilter with the others, because that?s all we could borrow. But no matter that it arrived burdened with two additional doors, and that it?s slightly down on power.
The 1.0-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder engine making 99bhp isn?t far behind; and from experience we know it?s a revvy, peppy, smooth piece of kit. In Zetec trim it?s priced at £14,545.
Read the full Volkswagen Polo review
Then there?s Volkswagen?s Polo. If you?re choosing a supermini you need a pretty good reason not to look at one. Memory and experience tells us it majors on perceived quality and refinement instead of dynamism, which is no bad thing. It comes to us with the same number of doors as the Corsa, and is closer on power.
The Polo has a four-cylinder 1.2-litre turbo and makes 109bhp. It costs £15,610; expensive, but that?s because it?s an SEL. You can buy one that?s priced more in line with the Corsa but it?s SE Design, which means you only get 89bhp. The short of it, then, is that the Polo asks a premium. We?ll see if it warrants it.
So to the Corsa. It?s the same model we tested in the first drive. A three-door, 1.0-litre turbo petrol, with a new three-cylinder engine and in SRi-VX Line 115 form; not a sporty specification for the most part, but including 17in wheels and some red flashes on the interior.
Fact is there?s too much intrinsic value in the ?SRi? tag for Vauxhall not to use it, even if the suspension or intent doesn?t warrant it. But with 114bhp the Corsa is the most powerful car here and, at £14,460, also the cheapest.
Does it feel the cheapest? Inside, not particularly. Elements of the dashboard have received some Adamification, but Vauxhall hasn?t overloaded the Corsa with highlights from its premium city car. Supermini drivers are too conservative to yield to that sort of thing.
Instead, then, the Corsa?s dashboard has a new touch-screen, through which the entertainment and communications systems are controlled, with only a few supplementary buttons ? city steering, door locks and the like ? remaining on the dash. Below are conventional dials for the heating and ventilation; though not of high material quality.
The rest of the cabin materials are as good as you?d expect ? no more, but no less. Piano-black plastic adorns most of the dash, firm plastics abound, but the steering wheel and stalks ? the pieces your fingers touch most ? feel of reasonable quality and the driving position is comfortably adjustable.
It out-does the Fiesta in many respects. The Ford doesn?t show the same consistency of material choices. The Corsa?s steering wheel feels more pleasing to the hands and the Ford has an untidy upper dash.
There is nothing wrong with having buttons on the console, but the Fiesta?s controls are far from an ergonomic delight, and the large centre heater dial in the dash centre clicks with no more refined a feel than a washing machine?s dials. The faux silver plastic on the wheel is too obviously plastic, as well.
But the driving position is a match for the Vauxhall?s; a couple of our testers felt the driver?s seat could be a little lower, but most thought it comfortable.
All of our drivers, though, agreed that neither the Vauxhall nor the Ford?s interiors were a match for the Polo?s. Volkswagen has great consistency across its models. I think you?d know you were in a VW, blindfolded, whether you were in an Up or a Phaeton, such is the consistency of material choices and the slickness of control weights.
Read the full Ford Fiesta review
The Polo is the only one of these three to use metallic highlights successfully ? the rings around the dials, on the dash buttons and the gearlever. These little slivers lift what is, otherwise, a fairly austere cabin.
But even if there are hard surfaces in here, they?re satin, not shiny, and the weighting and slickness of all the controls ? major and minor ? make it feel the most complete piece of design of the three. Not the most interesting, not the most alluring, but the one you?d be happiest to stay in for hours. The driving position is superb, too, with a hugely adjustable wheel and the lowest-set seat of the trio.
Rear accommodation is also good in the Polo. Truth is, it?s fine in all ? you can carry four adults should you choose.
Set with my driving position, the Fiesta gives slight advantage to the Polo, which gives more again to the Corsa; which is not surprising given the Corsa breaches four-metres in length and has the longest wheelbase. But none is uncompetitive. There just isn?t that variation in the class. There?s only 10 litres between the seats-up bootspace of these three. On paper, they?re millimetrically different.
On the road, the differences are rather more marked. And in the first instance, the Corsa pulls an advantage. The new 1.0-litre triple engine is excellent. It pulls well from low revs, and maintains its enthusiasm at high revs, not that there?s great reason to go there. There?s a touch of bump and notch on the six-speed box, but it?s positive.
It makes the Ford?s triple ? hitherto a paragon in the 1.0 class ? start to feel ordinary. Not that it is, mind; its economy, noise and refinement are still strong. But the Corsa has moved things onwards.
The Fiesta, with this power output, only gets a five-speed box, but it?s so long geared ? it can reach 60mph in second and spins at 3250rpm at 90mph in top ? that it hardly matters.
Such is the flexibility of the Ford triple too that, although the quoted 0-62mph time is 11.2sec, it doesn?t feel overwhelmed by its rivals. The Corsa?s claimed 0-62mph time is 10.3sec and the Polo?s 9.3sec.
But all are capable of accelerating even once at motorway speeds without changing down a gear. There?s less in it than the figures suggest. The Polo feels comparatively quick, but it?s also smooth, with low road noise levels, and has the best gearshift of the three, via its notch-free, easy six-speed gearbox.
If there?s an area of the powertrain where the Corsa?s not on top of its game, it?s the way it consumes. During their time with us, these three didn?t follow the same route ? so a like-for-like fuel consumption comparison can?t be had. But we do know that the Corsa is a 115g/km car, the VW a 110g/km one, and the Ford, at 99g/km, is the only one to break the 100g/km barrier.
It?s also the one most likely to put a smile on its driver?s face. This is only a cooking Fiesta, don?t forget, but Ford is happy to sacrifice some low-speed ride quality for better body control. Not that you?d know ? it was just as comfortable as the others.
Perhaps there?s a touch more road noise ? that?s another of those areas where there?s precious little in it ? but the Fiesta?s taut and composed. That it rides on small wheels and 55 profile rubber probably compliments the bump absorption, while body movements and agility are so high on the agenda that the Fiesta is a particularly rewarding steer.
Read the new Vauxhall Corsa first drive review
Control weights are heavier than in either of the other two ? which can make them feel more agile over the first 20 metres or so ? but once you delve deeper it?s clear that the Ford has the most complete dynamic repertoire.
The Polo does what most Volkswagens do. The consistency that is present in the cabin materials is replicated by the control weights. They?re all light and smooth, which is enough to make the Polo the easiest car to drive of the three. If your commute consists of loads of low-speed, stop-start traffic, then the VW is the most relaxing choice.
More so than the Corsa, certainly; which, as it did before, falls in neither camp. That?s despite some UK-exclusive tuning for the power steering, making it more responsive off the straight-ahead to suit our twistier roads, and extensive British testing for the damping.
The ride is mostly fine, though our test Corsa betrays the fact it?s on 17in wheels from time to time around town with the odd thump. The steering, though, can feel wickedly sharp at times, pitching the Corsa at a corner and seldom settling to be free of nervousness.
The body pitches over quickly and the springs push back against body roll firmly too. The Fiesta just feels more composed, more often. The Polo feels more relaxed, but no less enjoyable.
And it?s the dynamics, as much as anything, that seals the Corsa?s fate. A Fiesta is more rewarding to drive. The Polo is more relaxing to drive. And while the Corsa?s interior is superior in feel to the Fiesta?s, it doesn?t come close to matching the Volkswagen?s. The Corsa is a good car in its own right, but third in class, and third in test, is where it sits.
The top two are harder to decide. If you value dynamics you?ll prefer the Fiesta?s natural feel, responsive steering and fleet-footedness. I can understand that. I?d rather drive a Fiesta and therefore, for me, for us, it?s the winner.
However, I suspect most supermini buyers would prefer the relaxed, composed way the Polo does things. And given the choice, there would be as many times as not when I?d be happier to see the Volkswagen sitting on the driveway.
Read Autocar's previous comparison test - McLaren P1 versus Porsche 918 Spyder
Ford Fiesta Zetec 1.0 100 5dr
Price £14,545; 0-62mph 11.2sec; Top speed 112mph; Economy 65.8mpg; CO2 99g/km; Kerb weight 1101kg; Engine 3 cyls in line, 999cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 99bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 125lb ft at 1400rpm; Gearbox 5-speed manual
Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI 110 SEL 3dr
Price £15,610; 0-62mph 9.3sec; Top speed 121mph; Economy 58.9mpg; CO2 110g/km; Kerb weight 1135kg; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1197cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 109bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 129lb ft at 1500-400rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual
Vauxhall Corsa SRi-VX Line 1.0i 115 3dr
Price £14,460; 0-62mph 10.3sec; Top speed 121mph; Economy 57.6mpg; CO2 115g/km; Kerb weight 1177kg; Engine 3 cyls in line, 999cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 114bhp at 5000-6000rpm; Torque 122lb ft at 1800-4500rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual
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How entirely fitting it was that the day of this test was that day that always comes each autumn.
You know the one. It?s Monday morning. You leave the house in darkness. It is pelting with rain. You know that you?ll not return before darkness. There is no question about it: you will need a decent coat, from this very day forward, until the return of spring.
The only question is what car should accompany you from this day forth, too. A car for squalid, wet road conditions during which, when the asphalt isn?t merely covered in rainwater, it?s covered in mud, frost, wet leaves, snow, ice or gritted slush.
Conventional wisdom and shrewd advertising suggest that you want four-wheel drive. However, do you need it and, if so, how large a vehicle do you want with it? A full-blown 4x4? A rapid estate? A sports car, supercar or conventional hatchback? Is either front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive completely out of its depth?
To answer all of these questions and more, we gathered together the cars that you see here. Five are four-wheel-drive, and each a different kind of vehicle: our SUV is a Range Rover Sport with a supercharged engine; the sporting GT car is a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S; the hatchback is a fast one, a Volkswagen Golf R; the family estate another fast one, an Audi RS4; the archetypal all-weather supercar is Nissan?s GT-R.
In the front-driven corner, we have a fairly regular hatchback in the shape of a Mini Cooper, and representing rear-wheel drive cars is a Toyota GT86. Both are light and wear sensible rubber.
We?ve left it to the discretion of those who supplied the cars as to which OEM tyres their cars arrived wearing.
At 13deg ambient temperature, theoretically it was too warm for winter tyres to enter their optimum zone, but some winter tyres can disperse more water than their ?summer? counterparts.
As it is, the Range Rover?s Continental Crosscontacts are winter-proof anyway, and all of the other cars came on conventional rubber bar the 911, which arrived wearing Pirelli Sottozero winters.
To complete the equation, we enlisted MIRA proving ground?s wet handling circuit and wet straights, on which we ran five different tests. Our Vbox supplied the data. Our spreadsheet did the mathematics. By the end, we will know in a fairly scientific fashion which car is, beyond doubt, the best in the wet.
Test 1: 70-0mph
Fairly straightforward test, this. You?re travelling on a motorway at the legal limit when somebody swings into a lane in front of you and loses control. You have to stop. Now.
Here, four-wheel drive is, of course, no use whatsoever, because none of the wheels is driving. What helps are good tyres, little weight and sound weight distribution. Which is why the Mini Cooper steals a very early advantage, stopping in just 55.2m.
It?s a good result that is almost matched by most of the other cars here. Toyota?s GT86 is one exception. Despite being light and on generous rubber (215/45 R17) it needs 60.1m.
The other exception is the Nissan GT-R, whose 255/40 ZR20 front and 285/35 ZR20 Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres simply won?t bite initially. There?s also its notable 1740kg kerb weight. So even though it slows from lower speed with lots of conviction, it takes a long time to get going. Ditto the Range Rover Sport, whose tyres do what they can but cannot alter the fact that it weighs over two tonnes.
Results: 1) Mini Cooper 2) Audi RS4 3) Volkswagen Golf R 4) Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 5) Range Rover Sport 6) Toyota GT86 7) Nissan GT-R
Read the full Porsche 911 Carrera 4S review
Test 2: 0-30mph on a mixed surface
MIRA?s wet straights aim to replicate some of the less predictable elements of wintery driving. So the left wheels of our test cars are parked on low-grip basalt tiles ? think ice. The right pair are on regular asphalt. Stability control systems are left in place. We then accelerate as fast as possible, to 30mph.
As tests of traction go, it is a good one. It?s perhaps no surprise that, because acceleration tests push weight on to the rear tyres, the rear-engined 911 is king here. And how. Its traction and stability systems are deftly judged to minimise slip and ask for just a quarter turn of opposite lock as it reaches 30mph in 2.98sec.
Nothing else gets close. The Range Rover, which has significant weight transfer and runs on knobbly tyres, is next best, at 3.74sec. Audi?s RS4 is the only other car to beat 4.0sec. Worst is the GT86, but it is light, which is no help here, and its stability and traction control systems feel clumsy.
Results: 1) Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 2) Range Rover Sport 3) Audi RS4 4) Volkswagen Golf R 5) Nissan GT-R 6) Mini Cooper 7) Toyota GT86
Read the full Volkswagen Golf R review
Test 3: 30-0mph on a mixed surface
This split braking test is like the acceleration one, only you stop rather than go. Simples.
Tyres and brake sizes and weight affect the result here, but because speeds are low, it?s just as much about the cleverness of the electronics. Anti-lock, electronic brake-force distribution and stability control all play a part. The driver might have to wind on a little lock here and there, but largely he?s a passenger.
Pleasingly, the results are all satisfactory. The quickest stopping time is 3.28sec, for the 911 again, presumably because of the water dissipation allowed by its winter tyres, and the slowest time is the Range Rover?s, presumably on account of its mass, at 3.93sec. The gap between second (impressive Golf R) and sixth (GT86) is only 0.17sec. The Mini needs the most steering correction.
Results: 1) Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 2) Volkswagen Golf R 3) Nissan GT-R 4) Mini Cooper 5) Audi RS4 6) Toyota GT86 7) Range Rover Sport
Read the full Audi RS4 Avant review
Test 4: Lateral g
I?ve said it before and I?ll say it again: four-wheel drive gives you traction, not grip. At least, I thought I knew that.
Yet the two cars that displayed the least lateral grip around our wet circular track were the Mini and GT86. Two-wheel-drive. I think it?s because when they push wide, more power only makes things worse. That and the GT86?s slow stability control system.
However, with the other cars, great stability is garnered by their four-wheel drive systems. When one axle lets go, they apportion power intelligently to the opposite end and then grip is regained.
For the most part, they?re accompanied by excellent electronics so that none of them is a stranger to the high side of 0.6g. However, here the Golf R ? hitherto merely a near front-runner ? comes to the fore. That it can maintain a lateral g figure of 0.665g is unsurpassed here. The next best is Nissan?s GT-R, whose powertrain finally reveals its impressive shuffling capabilities.
The rest of the 4wd cars are at the 0.62sec-something mark, but that?s way ahead of the 0.5sec-something of the 2wd cars. Although tyres give you grip and 4wd gives you traction, without traction, you can?t exploit the fullest extent of the lateral grip.
Results: 1) Volkswagen Golf R 2) Nissan GT-R 3) Audi RS4 4) Range Rover Sport 5) Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 6) Mini Cooper 7) Toyota GT86
Read the full Nissan GT-R review
Test 5: Lap time
The final test is the only one for which the stability control systems are switched off. We?ve tested them enough already and, come on, seriously, what did you expect when slides are in order? Besides, all of these cars go faster with the stability control switched off (we tried it), and this is, it?s true, as much a test of amusement as it is outright ability.
Scoring high on both fronts are the Golf R and 911 C4S. The 911 feels like it would make a terrific rally car. It?s easy to use its weight distribution on turn-in to keep the nose tucked in, and then drive it out on the power with a little corrective lock applied.You can do similar in the Golf, to an extent, only without the advantage of an engine hanging over the rear. However, the Haldex 4wd system?s ability to apportion power to the rear before the fronts have even relinquished grip is a boon. The RS4 has similar traits, too.
The Range Rover Sport?s fourth-best lap time is impressive, as is its willingness to apportion power rearwards. When it starts to slide foursquare, it takes a lot of space, but if we were in any doubt as to whether we?d picked the right SUV for the job, this lap won us over.
The GT-R?s tyres did it no favours under braking but it comes in ahead of the 2wd cars. The Mini ? nimble, entertaining ? hangs gamely on to the coat-tails of the rest. The Toyota does not even try to stay with them; this a sideways car in the dry. In the wet it?s hilarious, so it doesn?t matter that it finishes 7.5sec adrift of the Mini and 14.85sec behind the 911 and Golf.
Results: 1) Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, Volkswagen Golf R 3) Audi RS4 4) Range Rover Sport 5) Nissan GT-R 6) Mini Cooper 7) Toyota GT86
Read the full Range Rover Sport review
What?s best in the wet? Not a Toyota GT86, unless your idea of ?best? is simply spinning up a pair of rear wheels and giggling. That is far from without its appeal but, in this test, the Toyota fares no better than last by a distance ? even if it is the car that all of our testers would choose first to re-run all of the tests.
That the Mini finishes sixth, albeit closer to the pack, justifies the decision to include five four-wheel-drive cars here. I thought that they would be better, and they are.
The fact that a Nissan GT-R can gather no clear air over a Range Rover Sport, though, says quite a lot about both: the pair finish equal fourth. The GT-R has fabulous tyres in the dry, but its lower weight, better body control and terrific power can?t open up a gap over the Range Rover, which is a mighty performance SUV.
The Range Rover still doesn?t make the podium, which is rounded out by Audi?s RS4. We suspect that it, too, would have fared better on rubber more suited to wet conditions than its 30-profile Bridgestone Potenzas, but it was a small distance behind the front two.
The 911 finished first in so many tests that it could have won, such is its traction and the water displacement properties of its tyres. In lateral grip tests, however, that was less of an issue and its inherent rear-biased weight distribution unsettled it to the extent that the Golf R nips ahead of it. Strong everywhere ? under acceleration, braking and laterally ? the Golf R is the ideal way to make a car for wet conditions. It goes, stops and grips like no other.
Read Autocar's previous comparison test - new Vauxhall Corsa versus Ford Fiesta and VW Polo
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This week's issue of Autocar magazine, dated 22 October 2014, reveals the secrets of the forthcoming BMW M2 coupé. We've got the latest information on the Munich manufacturer's latest performance car, which is currently under development.
As the autumnal weather takes a turn for the worst, we ask what car is best in the wet? Included in our shoot-out on a soaked test track are the Toyota GT86, Range Rover Sport, Volkswagen Golf R, Nissan GT-R, Audi RS4 and Porsche 911 Carrera 4S.
Matt Saunders drives the thundering Bentley Continental GT3-R. With 572bhp, a top speed of 170mph and a price tag of £237,500, the GT3-R is a glorious tribute to Bentley's return to racing, but how does it compare with the Crewe manufacturer's more luxurious grand tourers?
The stunning Porsche 918 Spyder is the subject of our in-depth eight-page road test. Does the high-tech hypercar convince our team of intrepid testers than it is as compelling as rivals from McLaren and Ferrari? Find out in this week's issue.
At the more modest end of the performance envelope, we compare big-selling superminis, pitching the new Vauxhall Corsa against the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, the two cars it must beat if it wants to achieve the Luton brand's aim of becoming the nation's best-selling car.
Other key first drives in this issue include the clever and practical Skoda Fabia 1.4 TDI 90 SE, the prodigiously powerful Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, the rugged Seat Leon X-Perience 2.0 TDI and the retro-themed Jenson Interceptor Supercharged.
Our Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV blends go-anywhere looks with the promise of hybrid frugality, and this week we put the former part of that equation to the test by taking to Britain's green lanes to find out if it really can cope with off-road driving conditions.
The subject of this issue's used buying guide is the Jaguar S-type R, offering hints and tips on how to bag this slice of sporting elegance at a bargain price.
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