Audi’s RS 5 Coupé looks amazing

Audi RS 5 Coupé

This is the new Audi RS 5 Coupé, a tasty performance car which Audi says is the perfect combination of “elegant aesthetics with everyday usability”. Fabulous to look at and reportedly sensational to drive, it’s a big marker laid down for BMW’s M division.

The figures are certainly tantalising. Powered by a 2.8L V6 bi-turbo engine, you’ll have 450hp and 600 Nm torque at your disposal, with the ability to spring from 0-100km/h in a mere 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 250km/h.

Faster than its predecessor (which wasn’t slow), the new version is also 60kg lighter and 74mm longer, with the dynamic quattro all-wheel drive resulting in sporty yet very stable handing. A Sport differential will be an optional extra, adding an even more dynamic response through the corners and while accelerating. The RS-specific tuning provides active and targeted torque distribution, which in simple English means the RS 5 will be more agile on the road, combined with greater precision and stability.

Irish orders start from next month, with an on the road price of €110,750. Better start saving.

Rugged efficiency: The Bollinger B1

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Enjoy the ruggedness of a Land Rover Defender or Jeep Wrangler, but want something far more efficient and designed with just a pencil and ruler?

New York-based Bollinger Motors has claimed it has developed the world’s first electric off-roading SUT (sport utility truck), the rather utilitarian all-wheel drive Bollinger B1. It certainly sounds like a nifty vehicle – 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds, top speed of 204km/h, 360hp on tap, and 639Nm torque. The onboard batteries offer a range of up to 321km, depending on whether you opt for the 60 or 100 kWh version, with charging times of seven and 12 hours respectively.

Believed to cost around €50,000, the B1 prototype is the brainchild of a team led by Robert Bollinger, a former ad exec-turned skincare entrepreneur who bought a cattle farm in upstate New York and then decided he’d investigate the electric vehicle market. Built inside a nondescript garage in the Catskills, the B1 is a spartan beast – the only digital addition displays temperature, range and mileage; the windows are opened via a lever, and even the battery level indicator is analogue.

“The idea is that it’s all hands-on. You want to go do something with your own two hands, this is the vehicle. It’s the opposite of where things are going with electric, where the screen will tell you everything, and [it’s] autonomous. That’s all great, but it’s just not our thing,” Bollinger told The Verge recently.

There’s quite a lot of functionality too – you can convert from a full to half cab, remove the rear seats, carry a payload of and tow up to 2,700kg and, thanks to the absence of an engine and the hidden electric powertrain, transport long lengths of wood, piping, skis or anything else you want via a channel right down the middle and a pass-through door at the front. The dashboard is home to several USB and 12-volt outlets, with quite a few 110-volt plugs throughout the interior from which you can power your tools or camping equipment.

And it seems like it’ll be a proper off-roader. Quite nimble on tough ground with a rugged chassis, there’s 39cm of ground clearance, the wheels can be raised or lowered by almost 13cm, there’s a low centre of gravity with 50-50 weight distribution, hydraulic power steering, and approach and departure angles of 56 and 53 degrees. Much more capable than the Wrangler.

Power is delivered to all four wheels via motors mounted on the front and rear axles. Regenerative braking helping to charge the batteries, which are sealed and designed to withstand water levels of up to 1m for about 30 minutes, while you can hose down the interior after a particularly muddy day of off-roading.

If everything goes to plan, production should begin by 2019. Presuming that Bollinger can find a manufacturing partner and bring the B1 to market, you would hope a few changes would be made. The styling wouldn’t suffer with just a few tweaks but, more importantly, more range and better charging times would be a vast improvement, particularly when you’re shelling out that much money.

Perhaps Tesla could lend a hand.

Caddy means business

For small business owners on the hunt for a new vehicle, the case for investing in a small panel van is quite strong. They’re generally quite cheap to buy, the engines offer decent fuel economy, tax is low thanks to their status as commercial couriers, VAT can usually be claimed back, and there’s plenty of space in the back for cargo. There’s also quite a few options on the market from which to choose, ranging from the likes of the cheap as chips Citroen Berlingo to the Ford Transit Connect or Volkswagen’s popular Caddy at the top of the pile.

Vans aren’t generally my forte, as a rule, but I do know that they’re generally not very sporty, nice to look at, or offer much in the way of driving dynamics, though you could possibly make the same argument for the Dacia Sandero. The Volkswagen Caddy, however, is a different story. Though I wasn’t expecting much, I was surprised about how pleasant my Fortuna Red test model was to drive (and look at) – handling that is quite similar to a passenger car is one of its biggest selling points. It’s a more than capable motorway cruiser and tackles main and back roads (including, and very specifically, narrow forest roads in West Cork) without any great difficulty, both loaded and unloaded, albeit with an expected amount of body roll. It also performs admirably in traffic and tight spaces thanks to nicely weighted steering and solid power delivery regardless of speed.

The 150hp 2.0TDI engine (75hp and 102hp variants of the 2.0L block are also available) in my test model funnels power smoothly throughout the five gears – there’s plenty of overtaking oomph, particularly when the cargo bay is empty. If you’re likely to face a lot of traffic every day, the DSG automatic gearbox is well worth the upgrade. Fuel economy is quite fantastic, averaging 5.2L/100km (54mpg), while the suspension irons out the majority of bumps, particularly if you place some cargo over the rear wheels. So far, so good.

Practicality

The Caddy’s cabin isn’t anything special, though still among the best in class – build quality is quite good, as is the dashboard layout. The seats are very comfortable and head space is abundant, though your legs miss out on extra room, particularly on the passenger side. Overall it’s like driving a cheaper Golf with the back seats missing. The materials are very plasticky though undoubtedly hard-wearing, which is what the average customer will be looking for. It’s not overly insulated – the roar of the 2.0TDI can be easily heard at lower speeds in particular, unsecured load in the back can be a little distracting, the fuel tank can be heard audibly sloshing around (took a while to figure that one out), and whenever I approached 80km/h there was a distinct whistling noise emanating from somewhere around the windscreen.

But alongside the driving experience, practicality is where the Caddy scores highest. Within the cabin there are a number of nooks and crannies ready for tools and paperwork – a handy square compartment on top of the dashboard, side pockets that can hold a large bottle of water comfortably, a small-ish glove compartment, and room behind the two front seats as well. A roof shelf extends across the full width of the vehicle, invisible from the outside, handy for storing smaller odds and ends. Storage trays under the seats are an optional extra.

And then there’s the rear load space inside which you can fit a standard Euro pallet, accessible through the boot door (either a somewhat awkward lifting tailgate or split side hinged rear doors that can fold back 180 degrees) and via an impressively wide sliding door on the passenger side. The short wheelbase version can carry a payload of 762kg and tow up to 1,500kg, with a load length measuring almost 1.8m, while the longer wheelbase Caddy Maxi offers 832kg – the Transit Connect still has the edge here at 1,000kg, and there’s no high roof option in the VW. It is quite sturdy in the back, all tough plastic and protectors, as well as six anchors for securing your load, and you get another two in the Maxi model.

Cost

Because it’s more of a premium vehicle, the Caddy weighs in on the expensive side, though does tend to hold its value well. A starting price of €17,490 (including VAT) will get you the base model 75hp short wheelbase panel van (a little underpowered) rising to €29,810 for the top of the line 150hp version. Should you require a little more luggage room, the Maxi Caddy starts off at €19,815 with a more powerful 102hp engine, topping off with the 150hp version for €27,810. All of the engine options are diesel-powered, paired with a variety of five, six and seven-speed manual or automatic gearboxes (I’d opt for a six-speed manual or seven-speed auto given the choice).

So what do you get for your hard-earned money? The list of standard equipment on the base model is decent, including cruise control, hill hold control, regenerative braking and brake assist; adding a leather steering wheel, body coloured bumpers and a driver alert system under the Trendline trim level. Things get a little bit more luxurious (for a van) in Highline, including a multi-function steering wheel, alloy wheels and air conditioning. Carpet, front and rear parking sensors, roof rails and an alloy spare wheel are added as standard if you opt for the Alltrack spec, a more rugged version of the Caddy that turns it into something of a van/SUV crossover. There’s also a lengthy options list, but only a few items really catch the eye. Park distance control with a reversing camera is a must (€301), the sat nav will set you back €407, while a hitch can be factory fitted for €646.

There are plenty of options in the small van market and depending on what you want – more load space, better fuel economy or a cheaper price – there are other options besides the Caddy. But, if you want the best all-rounder, combining comfort, practicality, driving dynamics and load space into a rather good-looking package, it’s a very strong contender.

Volkswagen Caddy review Ireland

 

 

Annoying motorway habits

Annoying motorway habits

According to a recent survey by easytrip, the thing that frustrates Irish motorists the most on the motorway is when people don’t use their indicators. If you ask me, that should be extended to every single road – for the most part indicators are either used sparingly or when the driver has already started making their turn, which really defeats their purpose.

Continue reading “Annoying motorway habits”

BMW launches emissions allowance

BMW diesel emissions

Fancy a new BMW or Mini with €2,000 chopped off the price-tag?

BMW Ireland has just announced its Lower Emissions Incentive Allowance, essentially a €2,000 grant towards a new electric, hybrid or standard model with CO2 emissions of 130g/km or less.

Available until December 31st, to qualify for the scheme you’ll need to trade in a diesel vehicle that meets the Euro-4 emissions standard or below. If you don’t have any idea what that means, BMW has developed a handy online tool to see if your old car qualifies.

Continue reading “BMW launches emissions allowance”

Tyres under pressure

Keeping your tyres properly inflated will both save you money and improve your safety on the road – underinflated tyres result in worse fuel efficiency and increase stopping distances and the risk of aquaplaning. The risk can be even greater in heavier vehicles with larger load weights than your average family car.

Continue reading “Tyres under pressure”

Tracking charge points

Zap-Map charge points
Photo: Paul Sharp/SHARPPIX

If you’ve ever driven an electric vehicle (EV), you might know the frustration of arriving at a charge point only to discover there are no free spaces. If you’re running low on juice, it could mean a worrying and rather slow drive to the next available location.

Zap-Map, however, aims to fix this. One of the leading charging platforms in the UK, Zap-Map has just announced the launch of its app for EV drivers in the Republic of Ireland, incorporating live data from ESB and its network of over 1,200 charge points across the country.

Continue reading “Tracking charge points”