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 Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza Story
An Introduction to the Subaru Impreza

History of the Impreza
A complete History of Subaru and the Impreza

Special Editions
All the UK special edition Impreza's listed here

My 2001 Impreza WRX
My own 2001 Impreza WRX in Red Mica

Project PPP
Upgraded my WRX with PPP saving nearly £1,200!

Scooby @ Lochindorb
Photo gallery of the car at Lochindorb Jan08

Photo Gallery
MY08 Impreza (Gallery)
MY06 Impreza (Gallery)
MY03 Impreza (Gallery)


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..:: The Subaru Impreza Story

1. The Subaru Impreza Story, as told by me
2. The History of the Subaru Impreza
3. Special Editions
4. Image Galleries
5. My 2001 Subaru Impreza WRX - Red Mica

..:: The History of the Subaru Impreza

Subaru is a subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries. Which was originally Nakajima Aircraft back in 1917. It's wasn't until 1954 before Fuji Heavy Industries took on the challenge of building a road car. The name of this car was the P-1 (Nothing like the modern Subaru Impreza P1) which stood for Prototype-1. This name was later changed to the Subaru 1500. And here the Subaru was born. The name Subaru Closely translates to reference the star cluster Pleiades, which is the same famous star cluster that we see make up the subaru logo today. over the decades Subaru continued to build motor cars and in 1972 made it's first 4WD car with the Subaru Leone 4WD Station Wagon. From that point onwards Subaru made something for a name for it's self in the 4WD motor car department, almost like a trade mark. Think Subaru, think All Wheel Drive. However it wasn't until 1992 that the Subaru Impreza was born. So let's pick up the story from there.


The Launch of the Subaru Impreza (Japan) The Subaru Impreza was developed after rule changes in the World Rally Championship (WRC) demanded a replacement to the Subaru Legacy which was previously used by Subaru in the WRC. The changes meant that a new smaller, lighter and faster car was required in order to compete in the WRC. So even from day one, the Subaru Impreza was developed for rallying.


The Subaru Impreza reached the UK. Initially the Subaru Impreza was available in both Front Wheel Drive (FWD) and All Wheel Drive (AWD) versions. However the FWD was soon dropped in preference of the trademark Subaru AWD system.


The Turbo Charged Impreza 2000 AWD reached the UK (Known as the Subaru Impreza WRX in Japan). Also in 2004, Subaru Technica International (STI) was born and we started seeing STI versions of the Subaru Impreza Turbo. The Subaru Impreza WRX STI meant much more than an extra badge on the body. The STI stood for a full upgrading of the Subaru Impreza Taking was was learned on the World Rally stages and incorporating developments into the road car. Many areas were upgraded for the Subaru Impreza STI versions. Engine, Suspension and overall performance and handling greatly improved over the standard car. Top speed was limited to 155mph and 0-62 came in at just 4.7seconds for the Impreza STI. These figures made the Subaru Impreza very sought after by the local boy racers. Albeit a bit more expensive than the your every day Peugeot 205 and Vauxhall Nova.


Subaru won the World Rally Championship in a 555 WRC Subaru Impreza driven by fellow Scotsman Colin McRae. A brilliant achievement for both driver and manufacturer. Driver Colin McRae for being the first ever British driver to win the WRC, and Subaru proved that the Impreza was a World Leading rally car. To mark the success of Subaru winning the WRC championship that year, a special edition Subaru Impreza was released in the form of the McRae Series Subaru Impreza.


Subaru took the manufacturer title for a second year in a row, and promptly released another special edition Impreza knows as the Subaru Impreza Catalunya.


Subaru won a hat-trick of manufacturer championships and celebrated once again by releasing a new special edition Impreza. The Subaru Impreza Terzo (Italian for 3rd). Only 333 Subaru Impreza Terzos were made, as a mark of the three championships won with the Subaru Impreza. 1997 also saw a few changes to the Impreza road car. Interior styling was updated including an exclusive MOMO racing steering wheel. Meanwhile STI versions were given an newly designed rear spoiler. In Japan a special 2-door coupe Subaru Impreza was released which was used as the 1998 WRC car.


The Subaru Impreza 22B. A label that often conjures up thoughts of what the ultimate Subaru Impreza might be. The 22B (Note: for the computer geeks out there, 22B in hex converts to 555 in decimal.) provided a 2.2l boxer engine, more hardcore styling all round including 2-doors instead of 4 and an adjustable rear wing made up just some of the key features of the 22B. Only 400 22B's were made in order to celebrate 40 years of Subaru and only 16 of those were destined for the UK. I've seen three in total!! UK versions also had tweaked gearing which was specifically optimised to UK roads. How cool is that!


To celebrate the new driver lineup of Richard Burns in the Subaru World Rally Team, Subaru decided it was once again time for a special edition. This time the RB5 named after Richard Burns. Sadly in November 2003 Richard Burns was diagnosed with a form of brain tumour and later died on the 25th November 2005 from his illness. This makes the RB5 all the more special now. Only 444 RB5's were made, with the option of the WR Sport pack.

1999 Also saw the release of another special edition. The Subaru Impreza P1, which like the Subaru Impreza 22B was a 2-door coupe model, and like the 22B it was only available in WR Blue. However unlike the 22B the Subaru Impreza P1 delivered a 276bhp out of the box, and supporting a whole load of new accessories such as 10-spoke OZ Titanium racing wheels, improved quick-shift gearbox, rear-wiper, new front wing/splitter, new fog lamps and a new exclusive rear wing. Unlike the Impreza 22B there were 1,000 P1's made. Despite this the Subaru Impreza P1 remains one of the most expensive Subaru Impreza's to buy today.



For eight years, the Subaru Impreza remained more or less unchanged (externally) until 2000 where Subaru decided to update the Impreza for the 21st century. This change was met with mixed views. The appropriately labeled Bug-eye version by critics, was just that. Bug-eyed! One can only guess it was Subaru's attempt to make the Impreza all cute and cuddly. But this didn't go down well with the fans. Many NewAge impreza's promptly had their headlights replaces with WRC look-alike HI-Definition (HiD) lamps or the more aggressive looking Morette cluster. What was in favour of the fans was the globalisation of the WRX name. Previously only used in Japan, the WRX badge was now stuck to any Impreza with a Turbo!


To celebrate Richard Burns's win in the WRC and the launch of the of the new model, Subaru decided to launch yet another special edition Impreza. This time the Subaru Impreza UK300. Once again just like the 22B and P1 the only colour available was WR Blue. The UK300 supported new prodrive styled spoilers of which the rear wing looked like was picked from bit of an airfix kit and not put together properly. Thankfully the front end was improved slightly, with the addition of improved HiD headlamps which made the car look slightly less like a bug. Yet no matter what they did, it was still going to be remembered as the Bug-Eyed version. 2001 also saw the arrival of the NewAge (Must stop calling it bug-eyed) Subaru Impreza WRX STI to the UK. Just like previous STI's, this was based on the WRX but tweaked a little by the Subaru Technica International (STI) team. If that wasn't enough there was also the option of a Prodrive Performance Pack (PPP). The Subaru Imrpeza WRX STI saw a few key changes over the standard Subaru Impreza WRX. This time, the addition of a 6-speed gearbox as opposed to the WRX 5-speed. Also a nice welcome was similar headlamps which were found on the UK300.


It didn't take long before Subaru had to give in to pressure from fans and go back to the drawing board (literally) to come up with a new style Subaru Impreza. So in 2002, Subaru announced yet another NewAge Impreza. The MY03. Main difference here was the front end. More or less everything else stayed the same, but those bug-eyed headlamps were out and replaced with slightly less ugly ones. Also a bigger bonnet scoop was included. Not to be outdone, the Subaru Impreza WRX power was increased by 10bhp. Not surprisingly many Bug-eyed Subaru Impreza's were made available on the 2nd hand market as many owners wanted to change their driveway accessory for the new style Subaru Impreza.

Although Turbo versions of the Subaru Impreza were available in Japan and Europe from more or less day one. The US favoured their muscle cars and not these Japanese breed of performance cars. Which meant the Subaru Impreza Turbo's never "officially" reached US soil until the 2002 model. Any previous Subaru Impreza's were Imports. Unfortunately for the US market the famous 2.0l boxer engine had to go. The fuel regulations in the US meant that the high performance expected from the Subaru Impreza could not be achieved from the 2.0l engine with US fuel. Instead, the Subaru Impreza was given a nice new 2.5l boxer engine for the US market, in order to keep the power and performance up.


Another Subaru WRC title win with Petter Solberg at the wheel. Once again sticking with tradition a new special edition was released, known as the Subaru Impreza WR1. I must admit the WR1 is one of my personal favourites, if only because of the unique Ice Blue colour. Only 500 WR1's were made, but Subaru decided to throw everything at it, including PPP and Driver Controlled Centre Diff (DCCD). The Subaru Impreza WRX STI also saw further improvements in 2004 with upgraded mechanics from the Japanese models. This new revised STI saw a new front diff, along with the DCCD system which was found on the WR1 and UK300 models. Nice!


Towards the end of 2005. Again just 2 years after the previous model was replaced, Subaru decided to release another new bodied Subaru Impreza, the MY06. This time with new crystal rear light cluster and yet another new front end. The jury is still out about whether or not it is a hit or a miss. I personally think it looks Awesome. Almost as though Subaru have forgotten the last 5 years and gone back to the aggressive styling of the original Subaru Impreza from the 90's! I admit, it did take a few days to get used to, but after you see past the SEAT grill and BMW headlamps you soon realise that this is the sort of car you want other people to see you in, in their rear view mirror. (Admittedly briefly as you scream past them shortly after words :) Sadly the MY06 marked the end for the traditional 2.0l boxer engine. Instead we saw the introduction of the 2.5l boxer engine into the Subaru Impreza. A sad end which seems to have gone relatively unnoticed. But then think of what they can do with that extra 500cubic centimetres of space. Mwaahaahaahaa!...


Towards the end of 2006. Subaru / Prodrive announced the realease of a new Special Edition Impreza. Sadly without recent success in the WRC. This time the special edition was to celebrate the life of previous Subaru WRC Champion Richard Burns who sadly died 12 months previously due to a brain tumour. The New Special Edition Subaru Impreza was to be named the RB320. That's 320bhp and a limited number of 320 to be produced. Essentially the RB320 is a 2006 model Subaru Impeza WRX STi PPP with just abotu ever add on you can think of, along with bespoke prodrive/blitsen dampers, exclusive obsidian black paint work, black alloys and full dront grill set. All in all making the RB320 very exclusive and ver agressive looking with only small markings on the passenger, drivers doors and boot lid of a small orange RB320 logo. The rest of the car is very much black in respect for the late Richard Burns. A true trubite to a great champion!



I have yet to come up with a word that describes Subaru in 2007. At the time of writing Subaru had recently announced the drascically redesigned 2008 model of the Subaru Impreza (You can see some photos here) Make your own mind up about what you think of it. My initial thoughts are yuk.. And I have to say my thoughts are still more or less the same. The car does NOT look agressive as it shoudl and just looks like any other family hatchback on the road. a fair pecentage of the Impreza's appeal has always been it's agressive shape and styling. Even teh bugeye version admitedly wasn't welcomed by many had the trademark styling that for every other angle you knew it was an Impreza and more importantly a car to be reckoned with!. This new one doesn't do much for me I'm afraid. Doesn't excite me when I see pictures of it like previous styles. The same recipie is still there usign the same 2.5l boxer engine from teh MY06 models, a new intercooler has been shoved in. Power remains teh same at 225ps for the WRX model, awd as standard of course :). However the tyres are narrower than previous versions. Also it's worth noting that at time of writing there are no plans for a WRX version or saloon version for the UK. Instead we'll have the basic models then a jump up to the STi's I see this as a mistake as the WRX hits a just about affordable market for most peopel who cant afford te £25k price of the STi. However somethign new for the MY08 Impreza will be the introduction of a 170bhp Diesel Impreza. Thats right diesel. Should be interesting...Watch this space...



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Stop-start ? the long-term impact on your car?s engine
Stop-start ? the long-term impact on your car?s engine The increasingly common technology designed to save fuel might reduce consumption, but what effect does it have on engine life?

Stop-start, the system that acts with blink-of-an-eye speed to save fuel in traffic queues, has not just come of age, it?s something car buyers now expect.

In urban situations especially, stop-start should be making a real-world difference, but will the durability of engines be affected in the long term?

A conventional electric starter motor works by engaging a small pinion gear with a large ?ring? gear fitted around the outside of the engine flywheel.

The latest stop-start technology looks much the same but the motors are more powerful, faster acting and more robust. Some are designated ?TS? for ?tandem solenoid? and designed to cope more smoothly with scenarios where the engine is about to stop and then the driver accelerates again.

Such a moment may come when the driver has decided to stop, but for whatever reason has a change of mind, such as when the traffic moves off unexpectedly.

At that moment the engine might be ?committed? to stopping but is still spinning, so to avoid crunching, one solenoid fires up the starter motor to synchronise its speed with the engine before the second smoothly engages the gear.

Can engines survive stop-start?

So when it comes to durability and long life, all the bases relating to the starter gear itself should be covered, but the higher number of stop-start cycles lead to increased engine wear unless steps are taken to prevent it.

?A normal car without automatic stop-start can be expected to go through up to 50,000 stop-start events during its lifetime,? says Gerhard Arnold, who is responsible for bearing design at Federal Mogul.

?But with automatic stop-start being activated every time the car comes to a standstill, the figure rises dramatically, perhaps to as many as 500,000 stop start cycles over the engine?s life.?

That?s a big jump and one that poses major challenges to the durability and life of the engine?s bearings.

A fundamental component of the engine and also one of the heaviest is the crankshaft. It?s supported as it spins by a number of precision ground journals along its length running in ?plain? main bearings (no ball bearings or rollers, just smooth metal). These are the main bearings and the effect is greater on the bearing at the back of the engine immediately adjacent to the starter motor.

When the engine is running, the crankshaft and main bearing surfaces don?t actually touch, but are separated by a super-thin film of oil, fed under pressure and pumped around the bearing surfaces by the action of the spinning crankshaft. This process is called ?hydrodynamic lubrication? but when the engine stops, the crank settles onto the bearing, the two metal surfaces coming into contact.

How rust helps to prevent wear

When the engine starts, there?s a point before the two surfaces become separated by the oil film called the ?boundary condition?, where the crankshaft is spinning, but there?s metal-to-metal contact between the bearing surfaces.

This is when most wear takes place. Fitting stop-start means the boundary condition (and metal-to-metal contact) could exist perhaps 500,000 times in the life of the engine instead of 50,000 and normal bearings would wear out long before that.

Two things prevent that happening. The first is that bearing manufacturers are developing new bearing material with greater self-lubricating properties to resist wear on start-up.

Federal Mogul has developed a new material called Irox with a polymer coating containing particles of iron oxide (rust), which in this microscopic form is surprisingly slippery.

In fact it?s so slippery that the co-efficient of friction of an Irox bearing is 50 per cent lower than a conventional aluminium bearing and will easily last the life of an engine equipped with stop-start.

Low friction oils can also assist

The second is improvements in lubricating oils. A modern engine oil contains an additive package comprising a complex chemical cocktail. The technical director of UK company, Millers Oils, Martyn Mann, says the formulation of these packages are critical: ?We?ve reduced friction with our oils and improved durability of the oil film and we think that has to be the way forward with stop-start systems.?

Millers began researching low-friction oils in its laboratories back in 2006. ?We put a formulation together, tested it on a friction rig and found we could reduce the sliding friction between typical components like pistons and liners by 50 percent,? says Mann.

Generally, this reduces heat, power loss, fuel consumption and wear but Miller?s new triple ester nano-technology, known as Nanodrive, goes further. Tiny nano-particles like microscopic ball bearings exfoliate under high pressure, the polymer ?flakes? adhering to the engine surfaces.

So far the technology is available only in Miller?s high-end racing oils, but in relation to stop-start, it could also reduce wear during each re-start when the most wear takes place.

With low-friction bearing and lubrication technology in place the potential threat to engine life by stop-start systems should theoretically be overcome. But the current technology is still relatively new and only time will tell whether every car manufacturer has got it right.

New versus used: Nissan Qashqai or Range Rover Evoque
New versus used: Nissan Qashai or Range Rover Evoque? Our crossover class king takes on the diminutive but mighty Range Rover Evoque

This pairing occupies a very specific space. It?s that almond-shaped sliver in the Venn diagram where Nissan?s plaudit-winning family crossover meets Land Rover?s plush, hot-cake-selling compact 4x4.

From new, even the most expensive Qashqai costs less than the cheapest five-door Range Rover Evoque, but delve into the Evoque?s back catalogue and there?s pricing parity: our long-term Qashqai 1.6 dCi Acenta Premium with pearlescent paint lists at £25,155 new, while 2012 Evoque eD4s in entry-level Pure spec can now be had from £25,750 with fewer than 20,000 miles on the clock.

Both have five doors and five seats and drive their front wheels only via a four-cylinder diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox. 

This second-gen Qashqai is sharper-looking, more upmarket and more refined than the first. It is an impressive piece of kit ? engineered for purpose with a good helping of quality to boot.

But can it really hope to mix it for style and comfort with something wearing a Range Rover badge? And can the Rangie offer the practicality and parsimony to take it to the Nissan when it comes to daily chores and household finances?

Our thoughts on how these cars look shouldn?t carry much weight, but the ways in which they fill what is essentially a common footprint ? the Evoque?s extra 159mm of width is the only notable exterior discrepancy ? could barely be more different.

And in such an image-conscious market, it?s hard to argue that the Evoque?s arresting aesthetic isn?t a major reason why it?s the fastest-selling used car in the UK. Sure, this new Qashqai looks bolder than the über-conservative original, but beside the Evoque, it seems more than a little plain.

That theme continues inside. The Qashqai?s cabin is hard to fault for ergonomics, comfort and solidity, but its aesthetic anonymity means you?d struggle to pick it out in a line-up if you stuck gaffer tape over the steering wheel boss. Meanwhile, the Evoque serves up new levels of design and luxury.

There?s high-quality leather on the seats, dashboard and grab handles, and the cabin?s smart, geometric shapes contrast with the Qashqai?s faddier, swoopy lines.

Dinginess is a complaint that you could level against both interiors, and that sensation is heightened in the Evoque, with its smaller glass area.

Read the full Range Rover Evoque review

However, although the Range Rover?s squashed-sandwich profile means that there?s not much light in the back, it does allow for a decent amount of space ? a six-footer can happily sit behind another with enough room above and in front, although the Qashqai offers a fair bit more legroom despite its fractionally shorter wheelbase.

The rear seats split and fold in both, boosting load space from 430 to 1585 litres in the Qashqai and from 575 to 1445 litres in the Evoque.

The Nissan?s space is more uniform and easier to access, and its two movable boot panels add flexibility, including the option to make an entirely flat floor with the seats folded, which the Range Rover can?t quite manage.

Litreage at the other end is less closely matched, but the Qashqai?s 1.6 makes a respectable 128bhp against the Evoque?s 148bhp 2.2, and the Nissan is actually quicker, taking 9.9sec to reach 62mph instead of the Evoque?s 11.2sec. In reality, both are nippy around town.

It?s only on the motorway that the Evoque?s extra 90kg and bulkier form start to tell, with the granular but well mannered engine straining when goaded while the Qashqai?s smoother unit springs on. Both exhibit turbo lag but pull comfortably from below 2000rpm and simmer down nicely in sixth.

Read the full Nissan Qashqai review

Shifting gear is far more rewarding in the Range Rover. Its stubby lever?s short throw is enjoyably compact and stocky whereas the Nissan?s longer action feels looser. So it is with the steering, the Evoque?s helm feeling much weightier than the Qashqai?s, even when the Nissan is in Sport mode. 

Both set-ups are nicely progressive, though. Spirit these cars down a twisty road and the British-built Japanese offering yields the more car-like experience, containing roll and resisting dive better than Gaydon?s finest, but the Evoque?s greater track and wider tyres lend it higher limits of grip.

The flipside is that the Evoque has the comfier ride in all situations, smothering scars and ridges with a stately lope, and with only a slight tendency to fidget on the motorway to threaten the peace. The Qashqai?s ride niggles that bit more, most obviously in town, and, in sum, it feels tauter but less settled.

The verdict

The Nissan boasts more gizmos. Items such as sat-nav, traffic sign recognition, auto low-beam, lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors (the standard Evoque gets rears only), panoramic roof and rear privacy glass are all included here but cost extra on the Range Rover.

Typically, the Evoque counters with luxury and style: leather, 18-inch alloy wheels and an 11-speaker audio system are standard fit. Those hungry for kit could defer to a higher-mileage Evoque equipped with the Tech pack and stay in the same price range. The pack cost £1900 from new and includes sat-nav, front parking sensors and rain-sensing wipers.

Official figures say that the Evoque will cost about 12 per cent more in fuel, and its higher emissions attract £130 in annual road tax to the Qashqai?s £30. Nissan London West charges £159 and £249 for the Qashqai?s alternating minor and major annual services.

Lookers Land Rover in Battersea, London, asks £392 and £515 for the Evoque, but that drops to £325 and £429 for cars more than three years old.

If you can stand those extra running costs, the Evoque is the clear winner. It?s a mite less practical and has less safety kit, but you?d never call it impractical or unsafe, and the luxury and comfort that it ladles on put it well beyond the Nissan?s reach.

Read Autocar's previous new versus used: Aston Martin V12 Vantage S or McLaren MP4-12C

Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi Acenta Premium

Price £25,155; 0-62mph 9.9sec; Top speed 118mph; Economy 64.2mpg; CO2 115g/km; Kerb weight 1535kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Power 128bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

Range Rover Evoque eD4

Price £25,750 (price new: £27,995); 0-62mph 11.2sec; Top speed 112mph; Economy 56.5mpg; CO2 133g/km; Kerb weight 1625kg; Engine 4 cyls, 2179cc, turbodiesel; Power 148bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 280lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

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Noble M600 targa considered
Noble M600 targa considered Fixed-head M600 could be joined by a targa version, with prototypes built to assess demand

Noble Automotive is building a prototype targa-roofed M600 to help judge demand for a production version.

Company MD Peter Boutwood said the prototype is likely to use a T-bar roof arrangement with removable carbonfibre panels set around a fixed longitudinal strut. 

Renderings of an M600 roadster have previously been released, but the test vehicle will be the first open-top version of the mid-engined, 650bhp supercar. Structural rigidity will not be affected, says Boutwood.

The company has also confirmed development of a new automatic transmission option, conceived with the Middle Eastern market in mind. The set-up will use steering wheel-mounted paddles to operate an automated version of the existing Graziano six-speed manual gearbox.

While the £229,800 M600 is now five years old, there are no plans for a facelift. ?We won?t do an update just for the styling,? said Boutwood. ?The engineering of the car is still where we want it to be.?

Boutwood also revealed that he would like to build a ?more affordable? car in the mould of the smaller, 425bhp M400, which was manufactured in South Africa between 2004 and 2007 and priced at £62,000. However, Noble is now committed to UK manufacturing, so the margins on such a vehicle would be unjustifiably small, he said.

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Peugeot looks to sporty core models, leaving RCZ's future uncertain
Peugeot looks to sporty core models, leaving RCZ's future uncertain Peugeot's Audi TT-rivalling RCZ could be a victim of PSA boss Carlos Tavares's global model cull

PSA boss Carlos Tavares has refused to confirm that Peugeot will replace the Audi TT-rivalling RCZ

"It still has a couple of years to go," he said "and we are going to concentrate on making sporty derivatives of mainstream models." That means projects such as the forthcoming 308 R will be given priority.

He also ruled out the chances of Peugeot returning to making other more exotic sports cars, despite the company previewing such models with a variety of recent concept cars, including last year?s Exalt.

Since joining the company at the end of last year Tavares has been on a mission to reduce the numbers of models sold by Citroën, DS and Peugeot and the complexity of platforms. His aim is to reduce global models from 45 to 26, built on just two platforms, raising the possibility that the RCZ replacement maybe a victim of this cull. 

Tavares did confirm however that the company was pressing on with other technologies. "An EV is a few years away but they?re only useful as commuter cars. We really want to do petrol plug-in hybrids for family cars and long-distance journeys."

However, he also revealed that the radical Hybrid Air technology previewed by both Citroën and Peugeot "has no business case at the moment as we need to share it with another car maker."

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Comparison: Porsche Cayman GTS versus Jaguar F-type coupe
Comparison: Porsche Cayman GTS versus Jaguar F-type coupe Few £60k cars can live with a Jaguar F-type V6 S coupé. Is the Porsche Cayman GTS one of them?

Should you ever need proof that sports cars are getting better with every minute nowadays, the two you are looking at above will provide it with more than a little room to spare.

Because what strikes you about the Porsche Cayman GTS and Jaguar F-type V6 S coupé ? especially when they?re lined up beside one another, sporting similarly bright red paintwork, waiting metaphorically to lock horns ? is that they are both such lovely-looking cars.

Deciding which one might be the better of the two is therefore likely to be an exercise in semantics, because this is a contest in which personal taste is always going to count for much.

However, there are key differences between them ? quite dramatic ones in some cases. Besides, we at Autocar have never been all that happy to deliver a ?horses for courses? type of verdict, so separate them we shall attempt to do.

But before any opinion about what they do and how they differ from one another subjectively, let?s work out what they?ve got and how much they actually cost ? because even here, there are elements that are far from straightforward. 

The Cayman GTS, for instance, costs a seemingly fine-value £55,397 in its basic form, for which you get a 336bhp version of Porsche?s 3.4-litre flat six engine, an uprated chassis, PASM (Porsche?s electronic damping control system) as standard and a six-speed manual gearbox, among other goodies.

Factor in the options fitted to the test car, though ? which include carbon-ceramic brakes, sports bucket seats, a limited-slip diff with torque vectoring and the no-cost optional sports chassis ? and the price of the GTS soon heads towards the wrong side of £70k.

Read the Porsche Cayman GTS first drive review

And at that point, the F-type V6 S coupé, which initially appears to be the pricier of the two, at a whisker over £60k, actually becomes nothing of the sort.

Why? Because the Jaguar comes as standard with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, a limited-slip diff and a far better-appointed cabin, featuring most of the elements you need to pay extra for in the Cayman straight out of the showroom.

In reality, therefore, it is the Jaguar that is the cheaper of the two ? by about £5k if you spec them like for like. So right there is one reasonably big difference to bear in mind.

As, of course, is the fact that the Jaguar?s V6 engine is supercharged and sits squarely between the front wheels, whereas the Cayman?s flat six is atmospheric and nestles lower in its chassis, behind the seats but well in front of the rear axle.

Front-engined versus mid-engined, supercharging versus atmo, manual gearbox versus automatic? already a picture is starting to emerge.

And yet still we haven?t mentioned arguably the biggest difference of all between them on the spec sheet: how much they weigh. Bottom line, despite Jaguar?s latest and greatest sports car featuring all sorts of exotic materials, the F-type coupé still weighs 249kg more than the Cayman GTS.

So whenever the Jaguar tries to stop for, or turn in to, or accelerate out of a corner, it will always be carrying the equivalent of an extra three decent-sized passengers, even though it is a mere two-seater like the Porsche. And that?s a huge advantage to give away before you?ve so much as turned a wheel against one of the sweetest-driving sports cars there has ever been.

There are plenty of ways in which the F-type can and does hit back, of course, all of which we?ll come to in a while. But that fundamental difference between them, a full quarter of a tonne of extra kerb weight, never fully goes away, no matter how much more delicious its exhaust note may be, or how much extra power and torque it develops.

Interestingly, the Jaguar definitely feels, and indeed is, marginally the quicker of the two in a straight line where it counts. Ignore the 0-60mph times, because these include the extra benefit of the Cayman?s superior initial traction when leaving the line, and instead consider the more realistic scenario of being in second gear and then nailing it all the way up to the top of fourth.

Side by side ? and we did just this at the track ? the Jaguar more than has the edge, which is surprising, perhaps, until you consider the following.

One, the F-type has a lot more torque to call upon ? 339lb ft between 3500rpm and 5000rpm against 280lb ft for the Cayman, which doesn?t even register until 4750rpm. 

Two, the ratios within its eight-speed gearbox are shorter and stacked more closely in the Jag than they are in the surprisingly long-geared Porsche.

Also, the gearbox itself shifts that little bit quicker than any human could in a manual Cayman. Ticking the box marked ?PDK? in the Cayman would add an extra ratio and bring a touch more kaboom to its mid-range acceleration, true, but it would also add yet more thousands to the price of the already pricier GTS.

What?s more, the Jaguar?s supercharged V6 emits a cartoonishly magnificent noise at 5000rpm and beyond, one that eclipses even the GTS for pure bravado, even if the Porsche does make a deeply menacing sound all of its own. As with their styling, the F-type is more extrovert in its performance.

It howls and screams and goes that little bit harder in the process. That said, the Cayman has the higher top speed ? 177mph versus 171mph ? and is fractionally the cleaner, at 211g/km versus 213g/km.

You find yourself driving them in quite different ways in order to get the most out of them. The Porsche needs revs and only really reveals its true colours on the far side of 6000rpm.

Up until then it feels merely rapid, but over the final 2000rpm it goes delightfully berserk. The throttle response becomes ultra-sharp, which has a knock-on effect on the chassis that we?ll come to. At its peak, the GTS feels every inch as fast as the Jaguar.

But because the Jaguar requires less effort to get more out of generally, it always feels more potent than the Cayman.

Read the Jaguar F-type coupé review

More energy is unleashed via far less throttle in the F-type, and you can find yourself driving it very quickly across country almost without realising ? whereas in the Cayman, every extra mile per hour requires an increase in both physical and mental effort. The Porsche feels more intimate and intense as a result, the Jaguar less manic and more relaxed.

It?s not quite like that with their handling, steering, ride and braking qualities, though, because in all of these areas the Cayman consistently has the edge.

In isolation, the Jaguar has pretty decent steering, with a meaty kind of response to its broad leather rim that enables you to place the nose of the car in any corner just so. And it neither understeers nor oversteers to any great degree, either (unlike the V8 F-type coupé, which is maybe a bit too lively for its own good at the rear in some circumstances) and it stops about as well as you could wish for in a 1600kg sports car.

But however sharp and agile and composed the F-type feels, the Cayman instantly seems that much more incisive when you climb from one to the other and drive it through the same set of corners.

You get the immediate impression that there is simply less car to maintain control of, and by that I mean less inertia to keep in check, less body roll to deal with and less space required in which to slow down or change direction or aim at the next apex. The Cayman just needs less room in which to operate, basically, and yet it has more grip mid-corner and feels a fair bit more adjustable via the throttle.

And right at the top of its game, if you?re prepared to stand firm on the edge of the cliff and then look down into the abyss, the Cayman can do things that the F-type can merely dream about. Between 5500rpm and its 7900rpm cut-out, the Cayman?s engine becomes so responsive that it actually alters the whole feel of the chassis.

Up at 5500rpm and beyond, every thousandth of an inch of movement on the throttle unleashes an extra hit of energy through the rear tyres, in turn increasing the sense of response beneath your backside. 

Get right in tune with this car and you can steer it on the throttle as much as you can via the steering wheel itself, assuming that there is the space in which to do so.

I?d not recommend going that far on the road too often, but on a track it becomes a defining factor of the GTS. It?s the reason why, sometimes, you will climb out of this car chuckling to yourself, giddy about what it will let you get away with. 

For a mid-engined sports car, its level of forgiveness is extraordinary, yet at the same time it feels as sharp as a razor blade, fresh from the packet.

The verdict

As a combination, allied to the GTS model?s stunning good looks, beautifully made cabin and fabulous flat six engine, this Porsche makes for one heck of a package, even if that package is on the wrong side of expensive once all the right options have been added.

And it?s enough of a package overall to leave the Jaguar not so much reeling in defeat as blinded by the genius of the GTS. The F-type does very few things wrong and most things very well indeed.

It looks sensational inside and out, goes hard, sounds great, stop well, handles entertainingly, steers properly, costs slightly less in real terms and is significantly better equipped. It also rides a touch more comfortably (although the GTS somehow manages to ride pretty well on the road, too) and is marginally quicker where it counts.

No, the Jaguar loses out in the end only because it finds itself trying to compete with one of the sweetest road cars that Porsche has ever produced.

That?s how good the Cayman GTS is, truly, so the fact that the F-type runs it close is testament to how fine a job Jaguar has done in this case ? because on any other day, against any other rival, the F-type coupé V6 S would walk it. But not today ? not against a car as exceptional as this.

Read Autocar's previous comparison - Nissan X-Trail versus seven-seat competition

Porsche Cayman GTS

Price £55,397; Top speed 177mph; 0-62mph 4.6sec; Economy 31.4mpg; CO2 211g/km; Kerb weight 1345kg; Engine 6-cyls horizontally opposed, 3436cc, petrol; Power 336bhp at 7400rpm; Torque 280lb ft at 4750rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual 

Jaguar F-type V6 S coupé

Price £60,250; Top speed 171mph; 0-62mph 4.8sec; Economy 31.0mpg; CO2 213g/km; Kerb weight 1594kg; Engine V6, 2995cc, supercharged, petrol; Power 375bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 339lb ft at 3500-5000rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic

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