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Monday, 5 October, 2015 - 13:47 (UK)  

..:: 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

..:: My 2001 UK Subaru Impreza WRX - Red Mica

NOTE: This page is SSSOOOOoooo... out of date! Had the car just over a year now, and it looks quite different to the pictures on this page.. Also had a few changes under the skin! Soon I'll report on what all has been done to the car.. Not much left to do now.. It's been one hell of a project at a fraction of the cost it would normally be if I had a garage do all the work! Stay tuned! For a sneek peak check out the Lochindorb gallery! (actually event that's more or less out of date now too.. Someone please give me a kick up the ar*e!)


SIDC Member Direct Car Parts Shop

UK Spec Standard 2001 Subaru Impreza WRX Finished in Red Mica 40,000 miles!

Sourced from Sunnyhill Motors in Turrif, Nov 2006.

Black privacy glass fitted which looks sweet against the Red Mica body! Really can't miss it when you see it on the road!

No plans for any modifications at the moment but I'm sure it wont be too long.... :o)
(23/03/07) Nope hasn't taken long at all.. Few cosmetic tweaks here and there since I bought the car, Mud flaps, front grills, fog lamp covers, grill inserts and some vinyl graphics. But the proper modding has started. Front & Rear aluminium top strut braces fitted wont have much affect at the moment unless used in conjunction with other suspension upgrades..

Soon to have the prodrive 3rd decat pipe fitted along with a Prodrive WRSport backbox (ooh burble) can't wait!

Other semi-planned mods are to the suspension. A set of Prodrive/Eibach springs would be nice, stiffer drop links, possibly new Anti-Roll bars. After that getting the suspension geometry reconfigured is a must. May got for the rally Group N settings as opposed to Prodrive configurations which tends to give uneven tyre wear. Only other change would be ECUTek remap for the ECU once the decat and backbox are fitted which would hopefully give bhp a kick up to around 265bhp from 215bhp, and a drop in 0-60 from 5.9sec to 4.8sec (as if it isn't fast enough). The possibilities for modifying truly are endless with these cars. But my pockets aren't that deep *sigh*

Finally got the 3rd cat delete pipe installed today thanks to Wallace Performance in aberdeen for removing the origonal cat pipe which was held in place by very dodgy workmanship!


If you spot me, don't forget to gimme a flash and a wave!!!

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(Coming Soon)



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VW emissions scandal: website to check affected cars now live
VW owners now able to check if their car is affected by the emissions scandal by entering their VIN number on a new website

A website that allows Volkswagen owners to check if their car is affected by the emissions scandal has gone live.

The site allows VW owners to input their VIN number and then see if their car is one of those fitted with the EA189 engine and the so-called defeat device.

Only VW car and commerical vehicle owners are able to use the site. Audi, Skoda and Seat have yet to put similar sites live in the UK. 

Government won't hike tax bills

The Government has confirmed that UK taxpayers will not be hit by a higher tax bill if it turns out that their VW Group cars have been fitted with a ?defeat device?.

Volkswagen has admitted the use of software to manipulate emissions test results in America, but it is not yet clear whether the devices have been used in European tests.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: ?The government expects VW to support owners of these vehicles already purchased in the UK and we are playing our part by ensuring no one will end up with higher tax costs as a result of this scandal.?

He also confirmed that the Department for Transport has pushed for more clarity on the matter and that the next round of tests will look at whether the software ?is being used elsewhere?.

"Neither cars, nor the testing facilities will be provided by the vehicle industry themselves".

VW's remaining EU5 stock taken off sale in the UK

The Volkswagen Group has taken 4000 cars fitted with the EA189 engine off sale in the UK, pending investigations into how it will remove the illegal software that cheated US emissions tests while still ensuring the cars comply with all emissions regulations.

The move covers vehicles from Audi, Seat, Skoda, Volkswagen, and the cars and commercial vehicles affected represent around 3% of the Group?s total UK stock. They are expected to be put back on sale once the Group?s modifications have been put in place.

A spokesman stressed that the decision to withdraw the cars from sale was a voluntary measure, rather than a regulatory one. The vehicles remained on sale beyond the September 1 deadline for Euro 6 emissions regulations to come in to effect because legislation allows manufactures to clear stock of Euro 5 engined vehicles. VW has previously confirmed all of its cars fitted with the latest, Euro 6 classified engines are fully legal.

It has also been announced that anyone with an order placed for an affected car will be given the choice of withdrawing from the sale without penalty, taking delivery of the car after the modifications have been fitted or taking delivery of the car as soon as it is available and then having the required modifications retro-fitted.

More than 1.1m UK cars affected

Volkswagen has previously announced it will recall more than 1.1m cars in the UK as part of the ongoing emissions scandal.

The full number of cars to be recalled is 1,189,906, and this is spread across five different brands in the VW Group. Volkswagen accounts for the majority, with 508,276 cars affected, while Audi has to recall 393,450 models. Skoda also has a notable number affected, with 131,569. Seat and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles are also involved, with 56,773 and 79,838 vehicles being recalled respectively.

In a statement, the firm says: "In the coming days, the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) details of affected cars will be released to retailers. In addition, a self-serve process for customers to check if their vehicle is affected will be set up."

It also confirmed that it intends to keep individual markets informed about the progress of the recall process, saying: ?Customers with these vehicles will be kept informed over the coming weeks and months. All of the Group brands affected will set up national websites to update customers on developments.?

It is not yet known whether the owners of affected cars will be offered compensation. Various lobbying groups are claiming that the potential loss of value to the cars should be reimbursed by Volkswagen.

A spokesman had previously confirmed that VW will not rush a technical solution, preferring to focus on getting it right. He said: "We don't want to be fast - we want to be certain. Over the next days and weeks we will write to all affected customers and we will put in place free-of-charge fixes for all affected customers."

The spokesman said that the precise nature of the modifications is still being set, but it is believed that some vehicles will need just a software update, whilst others will require a hardware upgrade as well. Both jobs are described as a "simple service procedure" and said to be "simple and straightforward".

However, the spokesman was unable to confirm whether the revisions would require the vehicles to be recertified for their emissions and economy figures.

The official VW statement reads: "An internal evaluation on Friday established that a service procedure is required for some five million vehicles from the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand out of a total eleven million Group vehicles worldwide. These vehicles from certain models and model years (such as the sixth generation Volkswagen Golf, the seventh generation Volkswagen Passat or the first generation Volkswagen Tiguan) are fitted with Type EA 189 diesel engines."

Why did VW cheat?

A senior source within the German car industry has shed light on the most significant outstanding question of the VW emissions scandal, namely why?

If the offending cars have all the emissions equipment on board to make the car compliant with the regulations, why take such an enormous risk engineering in the so-called ?defeat device? to bypass that equipment?

?I expect it was pressure on the engineers that made them do it,? said the source. ?Remember this system was designed some time ago when emissions controls were not as sophisticated as they are now, and the pressure to pass the tests would have been immense.

?And I imagine the reason they installed the defeat device is that without it there would have serious consequences not in the laboratory but on the road, either with the car?s performance, driveability, fuel consumption or some combination of the three.?

He went on to confirm that technology has since evolved sufficiently for there to be no need for such devices today.

So why, then, did VW not simply stop using the defeat device when it was no longer needed? ?There are two possible reasons. First it would likely have been integrated within the entire electronic architecture of the car and not easy to remove, second to remove it those responsible for its installation would have first to have flagged up the fact that they?d put it there, which they?d probably not be too keen to do??

The source said he believed the defeat device was likely to be present also on VW products sold in Europe with the EA189 engine [since confirmed by a German minister] but almost certainly not active which he said, was ?nothing like as bad as having active, but still illegal?.

He said also he believed that VW alone was using such a device and that all other German car manufacturers had no equivalent systems on the cars they sold today.

The one remaining question is who signed off the defeat device. Former VW boss Martin Winterkorn has denied knowledge of it and his resignation, while inevitable, was no kind of admission of guilt.

Whoever was responsible, it seems likely that more heads will have to roll before the true picture emerges.

11m Audis, Seats, Skodas and VWs affected globally

While the VW Group has said that 11 million vehicles worldwide are affected by the scandal, only 5m are from Volkswagen brand itself. Audi has revealed that 2.1 million vehicles from its brand are affected worldwide, with 1.42 million of those being in Western Europe. Audi model lines affected include the A1, A3, A4, A5, A6, TT, Q3 and Q5 ranges. Over 500,000 of the affected cars are in Germany, with a further 13,000 in the US. Skoda has also revealed that 1.2 million of its cars worldwide are affected by the scandal. Seat has said that 700,000 of its vehicles are affected globally. 

A VW Group statement read: "As previously announced, all new Volkswagen Passenger Car brand vehicles that fulfill the EU6 norm valid throughout Europe are not affected. This therefore also includes the current Golf, Passat and Touran models."

The figures also include 1.8 million light commercial vehicles.

The first recall confirmed was the 480,000 VWs in the USA. Volkswagen has set up a website for owners of affected vehicles in the US, which features a video apology from the company's US boss Michael Horn.


SMMT: just because VW cheated, it doesn't mean the whole industry is cheating

Speaking at a conference on air quality, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) Mike Hawes said: "Consumers are right to be concerned following the events of the past ten days. But we must remember, the actions of one company do not mean collusion. Implicating other brands or companies would be unfair and wrong.

"It would be wrong to penalise all diesels. The latest diesel vehicles are the cleanest ever - effectively reducing nitrogen oxide levels by 92% compared with earlier generations. They make a significant contribution to climate change targets, an environmental challenge which cannot be ignored.

"We recognise the current regulations for testing are out of date. We want, for consumers and our own industry?s integrity, a new emissions test that embraces new technologies, and which is more representative of on the road conditions."

VW's global meltdown

There have been calls for governmental probes in to VW?s actions from around the world since the firm admitted cheating in the US emissions tests, including in Canada, Germany, Italy, South Korea, UK and the USA. The UK government has already announced it will launch an inquiry into the scandal.

VW has put aside a fund of ?6.5bn (approximately £4.7bn) to cover the costs of dealing with the issue, and says it will adjust its financial targets for 2015 as a result. The matter came to light when the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) revealed that while testing 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel cars of the Volkswagen Group they detected electronic manipulations that violate American environmental standards.

Reports have since surfaced that Volkswagen was warned about the legality of its software as far back as 2007.

According to the EPA, this means that the cars under investigation could be emitting up to 40 times the national standard for nitrogen oxide (NOx), which is linked to asthma and lung illnesses. The cars affected are 2009-2014 Jettas, Beetles, Golfs, Audi A3s, and VW Passats built from 2014-15.

The issue will be investigated by the US Congress?s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

?Strong emissions standards are in place for the benefit of public health,? said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy in a joint statement.

?Manufacturers throughout the United States, and across the world, have developed leading technologies to reduce airborne emissions within the limits set by EPA and state environmental agencies. However, reported EPA allegations that certain Volkswagen models contained software to defeat auto emissions tests raise serious questions,? they said.

?We will follow the facts. We are also concerned that auto consumers may have been deceived ? that what they were purchasing did not come as advertised. The American people deserve answers and assurances that this will not happen again. We intend to get those answers.?

A date for the US Congress hearing has yet to be set. Since the scandal broke the VW Group share price has fallen by more than 50% from its 2015 high.

VW emissions scandal: how it unfolded

The Volkswagen emissions scandal is currently headline news, but the story has its roots in May 2014, when a study found higher-than-clamed emissions coming from two Volkswagen vehicles. Here's our timeline of how the story unfolded.

May 2014 The West Virginia University?s (WVU) Centre for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions publishes results of a study commissioned by the International Council on Clean Transportation that found significantly higher-than-claimed in-use emissions from two diesel cars, a 2012 Jetta and a 2013 Passat. A BMW X5 also tested passed the tests. 

WVU alerts California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the issue.

Summer 2014 Over the course of the year following the publication of the WVU study, VW continues to assert to CARB and the EPA that the increased emissions from these vehicles could be attributed to various technical issues and unexpected in-use conditions.

December 2014 VW issues a voluntary recall of approximately 500,000 vehicles to address the emissions issue.

6 May 2015 CARB, in coordination with the EPA, conducts follow-up testing of these vehicles both in the laboratory and during normal road operation to confirm the efficacy of VW?s recall. Testing shows the recall has had only a limited benefit.

None of the potential technical issues suggested by VW can explain the higher test results consistently confirmed during further testing by CARB.

Summer 2015 CARB and the EPA make it clear that they will not approve certificates of conformity - necessary for vehicles to be sold in the USA ? for VW?s 2016 model year diesel vehicles until the manufacturer car adequately explain the anomalous emissions and ensure the agencies that the 2016 model year vehicles would not have similar issues.

3 September 2015 During a meeting VW admits it has designed and installed a defeat device in these vehicles in the form of a sophisticated software algorithm that detects when a vehicle is undergoing emissions testing.

18 September 2015 CARB and the EPA make their findings public, stating that Volkswagen has violated two sections of the Clean Air Act, firstly by selling or offering for sale vehicles that did not comply with their certificates of conformity, and second by manufacturing and installing into these vehicles an electronic control module capable of switching its calibration to beat the emissions tests.

Read more on the Volkswagen emissions scandal:

Muller announced as new VW Group CEO

How the Volkswagen story unfolded

Reports suggest VW was warned of illegal software 'years ago'

How VW's 'defeat device' works

Top VW bosses to leave

Prosecutors to investigate Martin Winterkorn

PSA Peugeot Citroën leads calls for tougher emissions test procedures

Your key questions answered

BMW - why the X5 complied with independent US emissions test

Blog - it's time for firm action in the wake of the VW emissions scandal

Blog - what really happens in an official economy test

Blog - It's time VW started talking to its customers

Blog - thinking about buying a VW diesel? Carry on regardless

Blog - the VW Scandal and the growing dangers of its ripple effect

Blog - VW's scandal has put the entire motor industry under pressure

Blog - Winterkorn pays a high price

Blog - the emissions scandal could sink Volkswagen's US ambitions

Blog - are we about to see the death of diesel?

Blog - VW's US boss faces the music

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Hyundai Tuscon 2.0 CRDi
New Qashqai rival puts the emphasis on easy-going real-world ability The new Hyundai Tucson is the latest in a long line of crossovers to go up against the class-leading Nissan Qashqai. It is a slightly larger replacement for the now-superseded ix35.Even before turning a wheel, the Tucson has much in its favour. For example, it comes with a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty. That eclipses the vast majority of its rivals, which typically feature three-year, 60,000-mile warranties.There?s a sense from the outset that the Tucson has been designed to be painless to live with. From its simple push-to-open fuel filler door to the easily dropped rear seats, every aspect appears pleasingly straightforward.Hit the road and this theme continues. Urban and country roads are tackled with ease, rarely troubling the driver and passengers. The 2.0-litre diesel engine doesn?t feel particularly muscular, despite producing 275lb ft, but it rarely frustrates, isn?t overly intrusive and grants adequate acceleration.That?s in part thanks to a precise, easily shifted six-speed manual gearbox with its well-spaced ratios. An automatic four-wheel drive system, which can send up to 50% of the available torque to the rear, provides plenty of traction.Carrying speed through corners proves no major issue because the Tucson has a keen front end and impressive body control. It rides in a fine, well-damped fashion, but this version was a little harsh over broken roads with its 19in wheels.There?s little in the way of feedback through the steering, though, and the woollen feel around the dead-ahead is a further negative, but it?s otherwise precise and well-weighted. Braking power is decent and easily modulated with a satisfyingly snatch-free response at lower speeds.Some may find this Hyundai?s lack of engine and steering verve disappointing but, given the Tucson?s intended market, it?s not a huge strike against it. That said, although there?s not much here for the keener driver, there is pleasure to be found in the way the Tucson smoothly, competently and comfortably gets down the road.Levels of equipmentThe cabin is hardly inspirational to look at but scores for practicality. There?s stacks of room, plenty of storage space, comfortable seating for five adults and a vast load bay. Equipment levels are impressive helping to justify the £28,000 list price somewhat. As standard, this Premium version includes dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation with an 8.0in display, DAB radio, cruise control, heated seats all round, traffic sign recognition and automatic emergency braking.Only dull, hard and easily marked plastics let the cabin down ? a shame when you consider the attention to detail elsewhere. A full-size spare wheel is standard, for example, and bag hooks in the load bay reduce the chances of spilling the weekly shop.This diesel may not measure up on the efficiency front, though. Hyundai claims 54.3mpg, but following our test across a mix of roads, the trip computer reported an average of 38.2mpg. That would still result in a range of more than 520 miles, though, thanks to a 62-litre tank.VerdictThose in the market for a crossover should definitely consider the smart, capable, practical and likeable Tucson ? but not in this particular specification.We?d go for the SE Nav version instead, with the quieter and more efficient 1.7-litre diesel. It doesn?t do away with too many luxuries and, in the real world, doesn?t feel much slower than the 2.0-litre diesel tested here. More pertinent, it?ll cost you some £5000 less.Admittedly, that model isn?t available with four-wheel drive, but that?s unlikely to spook many buyers. Put some of the saving towards a set of winter tyres instead and enjoy.Hyundai Tucson 2.0 CRDi 136ps Premium 4WDPrice £28,075; Engine 4 cyls, 1995cc, diesel; Power 134bhp at 2750-4000rpm; Torque 275lb ft at 1500-2500rpm; Kerb weight 1662kg; Gearbox 6-spd manual; 0-60mph 10.9sec; Top speed 114mph; Economy 54.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 139g/km, 25%

Road-going Panoz Deltawing GT sports car concept revealed
Deltawing racer of 2012 to spawn new two-seat and four-seat Panoz road cars with as much as 340bhp

A conceptual version of the planned road-going Panoz Deltawing GT sports car has been revealed in the US.

The launch of the sports car and a subsequent four-seat saloon - which as yet hasn't been given a timescale - is portrayed as a comeback for the US-based Panoz. The sports car is based heavily on the Deltawing racer, which currently competes in the IMSA Tudor Uniter SportsCar Championship in the US.

While the car's makers have yet to reveal the powertrain which will be used in the road car, the company has described its vehicle architecture as a "green technology multi-tool", saying it could incorporate engines powered by petrol, diesel and compressed natural gas, as well as hybrid and electric powertrains.

Autocar understands that both cars will be built around a lightweight aluminium chassis and feature engines mounted transversely at the rear. The GT two-seater will have a turbocharged four-cylinder engine of undisclosed origin producing in the region of 340bhp, while a three-cylinder engine with 105-110bhp is planned for the saloon, in which the rear seats would be mounted over the drivetrain.

Both cars will retain the narrow front track and 30/70% front/rear weight distribution central to the lightweight Deltawing racer, which was conceived to achieve the same performance as its rivals while using half the fuel.

Panoz envisages a price of $60,000-$70,000 for the GT and $27,000-$30,000 for the saloon. The cars will be made by the Deltawing Technology Group, which incorporates the currently dormant Panoz.

Deltawing boss Don Panoz said: ?I?m certainly no tree-hugger and have no opinion on global warming, but if you have better fuel economy and lower emissions, then that makes a contribution to society.?

Deltawing first revealed a concept for a road car last May at a time when it envisaged selling its technology to a large manufacturer. Now it has decided to build road cars itself ? although it hasn?t ruled out licensing deals - and has recruited Brian Willis from Multimatic, where he was a key figure in the design of Ford?s forthcoming carbon fibre-bodied GT, to lead the programme.

Development of the two-seat Panoz will begin in earnest first, and the firm has set a target of beginning real-world testing by the end of this year. The plan is to develop the car in a racing environment, with race outings late this season on the cards.

Willis, who joined Deltawing at the end of February, admitted that he was facing ?some aggressive development goals?.

Panoz?s previous road car project, the front-engined Abruzzi ?Spirit of Le Mans?, which was revealed at the race from which it took its name in 2010, never made it into production.

Panoz and US team owner Chip Ganassi, who are among the rights holders to the Deltawing concept, were known to be pursuing a legal action against the creator of the car, Ben Bowlby, and Nissan, which turned the 2012 Le Mans race programme into a reality with the supply of engines, finance and technical resources.

They alleged that last year?s Nissan ZEOD RC, which, like the Deltawing, was given the ?Garage 56? entry reserved at Le Mans for experimental machinery, violated its intellectual property rights.

An attempt by Nissan to have the case dismissed failed early this year. The continuation of the action, which also names Nissan global motorsport boss Darren Cox, comes at a time when the manufacturer has gone quiet on its plans for the narrow-track BladeGlider concept, revealed at the Tokyo motor show in 2013.

Speaking to Autocar at the Geneva motor show earlier this year, Nissan bosses described the BladeGlider as an "exploratory concept", despite it being 18 months since the car was first revealed. Chief planning officer Philippe Klein has said producing BladeGlider is "not among the immediate priorities" of the firm.

The BladeGlider was originally scheduled to go on sale in 2017, priced from around £30,000.

Gary Watkins

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BMW 730d
Sixth-generation luxury saloon ramps up the refinement and technology to take on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class The sixth-generation BMW 7 Series looks set to make quite an impact on the luxury car ranks when it goes on sale in November following a debut at the Frankfurt motor show.The new four-door car comes loaded with a host of new technologies, including lightweight carbon fibre constructions, new petrol and diesel engines, internet-supported connectivity, various autonomous driving and safety features and an optional smart key that allows you to monitor functions such as fuel range and interior temperature from the palm of your hand.Also available is an autonomous parking function enabling you to step out and park the car at the press of a button, the 7 Series aims to challenge the dominance of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and provide stiffer competition to the Audi A8, Jaguar XJ and Lexus LS than its predecessor.Evolutionary constructThe new 7 Series, which comes in both standard and long-wheelbase guises, receives an evolutionary design with a bolder face than before. It lacks the outright presence of some rivals, but a sleeker form provides a class-leading drag coefficient of 0.24. Combined with a new 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder diesel engine in the rear-wheel-drive 730d driven here, the shape contributes to exceptional claimed fuel economy of 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of just 119g/km.At 5098mm long, 1902mm wide and 1478mm high, the new 7 Series is the same width as its predecessor and just 19mm longer and 7mm higher in standard-wheelbase guise. The long-wheelbase variant is a further 139mm longer ? 18mm more than its predecessor ? at 5238mm. Both variants share the same wheelbase measurements as those of the outgoing models, at 3070mm and 3210mm respectively.The 7 Series? construction incorporates a number of load-bearing carbon fibre-reinforced plastic components, including the header rails, sills, B-pillars, centre tunnel and C-pillars. Further weight savings include new aluminium doors, weighing 12kg less than before, and an aluminium roof. As a result of these and other changes, the new 730d weighs 85kg less than the outgoing 730d, at 1755kg.Engine choicesFrom launch, the 7 Series will be offered with the choice of two new six-cylinder engines, both mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox which operates in conjunction with the satellite navigation for greater efficiency.The B57 engine used here by the 730d develops 7bhp and 45lb ft more than the N57 unit it replaces, with 261bhp and 457lb ft. Along with economy and CO2 figures that better those of the old 730d by a staggering 12.4mpg and 29g/km, it endows the new model with the same 6.1sec 0-62mph time and 155mph top speed as its predecessor.BMW has always endeavoured to make the 7 Series the most engaging car in its class to drive, often at the expense of outright comfort. For this sixth-generation model, however, the focus has shifted. Agility and sportiness remain at its core, but it is now supported by additional levels of comfort, making it more limousine-like than any 7 Series before it.Driving comfortsA new suspension system, which now has air springs front and rear, rather than just at the rear, means the new model adopts continuously variable damping control, automatic self-levelling and an ability to alter the 135mm ride height on the go at the push of a button. In Sport mode the ride height is automatically reduced by 10mm at certain speeds.Electro-hydraulically operated roll bars are available as part of an optional Executive Drive Pro function on most models, bringing faster damper reaction times for improved ride comfort, a more progressive build-up of lean and reduced body roll.Once on the move, the 730d is reassuringly muscular and refined. Its six-cylinder diesel engine provides lively acceleration and gathers speed in a wonderfully nonchalant manner on a pegged throttle. It can get a little vocal in manual mode if you hold on to lower gears longer than necessary, but in automatic mode the gearbox shifts up well before engine noise becomes an issue. Unsurprisingly, the long-legged gearing means the 730d feels most at home on the motorway.Four different driving modes are now offered via an optional Driver Experience Control function, including a new Comfort Plus mode. You can also dial up Comfort, Sport and Adaptive, the last of which seems the most logical for everyday driving.In Comfort Plus mode, the new BMW is much quieter and noticeably smoother than its predecessor. The suspension is far less sensitive to surface coarseness and has greater ability to sponge away bumps, making it a more relaxing and unruffled way in which to travel.Crucially, the softer-riding traits of the new car do not compromise its handling. In Sport mode, superb damper tuning provides excellent body control and truly impressive B-road ability for such a big car. Grip levels are also high.Allied to the suspension is a new electro-mechanical steering system, which reverts to a fixed-ratio rack in place of the variable-ratio rack of old. As fitted to our test car, there?s also an optional rear-wheel steer function, providing up to three degrees of counter-steer for added manoeuvrability in town, or two degrees of parallel steer for greater agility on the open road.Having earlier praised the system following a brief run in a prototype, we?ve got some reservations after trying it on the road. The weighting is light and accommodating, but it lacks the consistency of the earlier example when turning from dead-centre. It?s fine around town, but the combination of increasing assistance and weighting can be more of a hindrance than help at higher speeds.Intelligent infotainmentAmong the highlights of the new, more luxurious interior are sumptuous new seats, new digital instrument graphics that change colour depending on the driving mode, a new multi-function steering wheel and revised switchgear. There?s also a fifth-generation iDrive system with a new touchpad and touchscreen, which can be operated with pinch, point and swipe commands, or via the rotary dial on the centre console.Optional gesture control is also offered. It uses a sensor to detect hand movements that control functions including the volume of the stereo and the acceptance or rejection of calls. An upgraded speech control system is also available.Despite the incremental increases in exterior dimensions, there?s a feeling of greater accommodation both in the front and in the rear ? the latter of which feels truly expansive in long-wheelbase guise.VerdictOverall, the new 7 Series is a significantly improved car. Its evolutionary styling may not move the game along, but its classy cabin, high-tech underpinnings, added space and dazzling range of options elevate it to a new level of excellence.In 730d guise, it delivers strong performance and impressive refinement with outstanding economy. Most important, it provides an engaging driving experience while delivering much-improved comfort. It is equally as compelling from the driver?s seat as it is from the rear quarters. Be careful in choosing those options, though. From its base price of £64,530, the new BMW soon becomes a much pricier proposition.BMW 730dPrice £64,530; Engine 6 cyls in line, 2993cc, diesel; Power 261bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 457lb ft at 2000-2500rpm; Kerb weight 1755kg; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; 0-60mph 6.1sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 62.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 119g/km, 21%

Range Rover Evoque Convertible will appear at LA motor show
Land Rover's open-top Range Rover Evoque will go on sale next spring after its first public appearance at the LA motor show next month

Land Rover has confirmed that the upcoming Range Rover Evoque Convertible will make its global debut at the LA motor show next month, before going on sale in the UK next spring.

Described as being "the most capable convertible in the world", the open-top Evoque has been shown in a series of official photos testing at Land Rover's proving ground. The car is said to have passed the off-road tests "with flying colours."

Land Rover chief engineer Mike Cross said: "Thanks to a combination of innovative engineering and the application of advanced technologies, Evoque Convertible will deliver a dynamic and assured SUV experience that has been tested around the world. We call it ?The Convertible for all Seasons?.

These latest preview images come just days after full-scale wire models of the car were unveiled in London. The series of six computer-modelled aluminium wire mock-ups were placed in several locations in the capital in order to "give the public a chance to see how the Evoque Convertible will look in its natural environment". The stunt was similar to the way in which Jaguar Land Rover launched the original Evoque in 2013.

The wire models are said to give an accurate representation of how the open-top Evoque will look and include 3D wheels and wire-formed seats. JLR design boss Gerry McGovern said: "The Range Rover Evoque Convertible is perfectly suited to the urban surroundings of a city like London and it?s the perfect place to showcase the world?s first luxury compact SUV convertible."

Confirmation of the Range Rover Evoque Convertible came at this year's Geneva motor show, when Land Rover released official pictures of a test car being driven through the tunnels of the Crossrail project currently being constructed beneath London. Land Rover also issued a short video of the stunt.

The car?s existence confirmed an open secret that Land Rover has been preparing a convertible Evoque, having first shown a concept version of such a model in 2012.

The production Evoque Convertible will be built alongside the five-door and coupé variants at Land Rover?s Halewood plant.

Land Rover engineers will have worked to solve any issues with body rigidity and handling that have arisen through the loss of the Evoque?s roof; it?s not yet known whether the move has hindered the Evoque?s off-road capabilities.

Previous spy pictures clearly show that the soft-top Evoque will get revised rear-end styling, with the most prominent addition being a rear-mounted lip spoiler.

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