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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space…

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Road tests

Exploring with the Skoda Kodiaq

August 23 2017

The Kodiaq is Skoda’s first foray into large SUV territory, and its first seven-seater. It’s also only the company’s second SUV. The Yeti was launched nearly a decade ago and has been a huge hit, despite its ungainly looks. Skoda has learned from its mistakes. The Kodiaq is a brawny, handsome car that makes you want one on appearance as well as ability. Another good reason to buy one is value. The range starts at under £22,000, although you should budget £24,000 if you want a seven-seat version and £28,000 for one that’s well equipped. Remarkably, such a big vehicle can be powered by Volkswagen’s (Skoda’s parent company, of course) 1.4 litre turbocharged petrol engine. It produces an unexpectedly high power output of either 125 or 150bhp. If you regularly carry a full load, though, you’re much better off going for a diesel. There’s a 2.0 litre unit with either 150 or 190bhp. Other drive options include upgrading from two to four-wheel drive and Skoda/VW’s excellent seven-speed twin clutch DSG automatic transmission. I drove a seven-seat model with the 2.0 litre 150bhp diesel engine and DSG in top spec SE L trim. Even this all-bells-and-whistles model only just breaks the £31,000 mark. It has four-wheel drive which, while not designed to get you across the Gobi Desert, can handle a winter storm in Glen Clova. The interior is as smart as any Volkswagen’s and it’s roomy too. There’s loads of space for five and the rearmost seats are fine for children. In a nice touch borrowed from the Skoda Superb, the Kodiaq has umbrellas stashed in slots hidden in the front doors – very handy on a summer’s day in Dundee. It’s a thoroughly decent drive as well. Ride quality is excellent. Handling is surprisingly sharp for such a big, tall car. It’s not as refined as a comparably sized SUV from BMW or Jaguar but then you pay a pretty penny extra for those. Compare it to large, good value SUVs such as the Kia Sorento, Ford Edge or Hyundai Santa Fe and it’s more than competitive. My time with the Kodiaq overlapped with the new Audi Q5. The Skoda is bigger, more practical, and 10 grand cheaper. Yes, the Audi has a nicer interior and is a bit more refined to drive but if it was my own money I know what I’d be spending it on. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Motoring news

New Audi range is electrifying

June 7 2017

Audi has been relentless in its expansion over the past decade, scattering new models like confetti. It shows no sign of slowing down as we head towards the end of the decade. If anything, in fact, the company is increasing the pace of its model range expansion. The most recent news is the announcement of two new “Q” models – which will bring its SUV range to five – and three all-electric e-tron models. The German car maker intends that at least 30 per cent of its sales will be of electric or part-electric models by 2025, and aims to have the technology available for driverless city cars within four years. The plans were outlined to Audi shareholders during the brand’s AGM in Neckarsulm, Germany. Chairman Rupert Stadler said: “We are rejuvenating our model portfolio enormously and will renew five existing core model series by mid-2018. “In addition, we will expand our successful Q family by 2019 with two new concepts – the Audi Q8 and the Audi Q4 – and we will launch our battery-electric e-tron models.” The Q4 and Q8 will have coupe-like rooflines similar to BMW’s X4 and X6 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe and GLE Coupe. Three new electric Audis will appear by 2020, and the brand will then introduce electric versions across its core model ranges. Audi is also taking over the development of autonomous car technology across the Volkswagen Group and the first examples of driverless cars will be launched early in the next decade. Meanwhile the new ‘myAudi’ programme will establish a digital platform for online services across the range. The latter half of 2017 will see Audi update its luxury flagship models. A new A8 will be unveiled later this month and will be followed by a new A7. Audi haven’t confirmed yet but it seems likely we will soon see replacements for other older models in the range such as the A1, A6 and Q3. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Motoring news

Pick-up sector to be Amarocked

November 30 2016

The new Volkswagen Amarok pick-up truck is on sale now with prices starting at £32,493. It’s a model that’s hotly anticipated by many. There was a time when pick-ups were rough and ready workhorses but the past decade has seen them come into fashion as lifestyle vehicles. They’re now just as likely to be owned by a video games programmer living at Dundee’s City Quay as they are by a farmer living in Auchtertool. These lifestyle customers expect comfort, smooth suspension and luxuries like climate control and digital radios. Most pick-ups have upped their game but the Amarok is by far the most refined and car-like to drive. The new model looks to have pushed the envelope still further. The 2.0 litre diesel engine from the old Amarok is gone, replaced by a 3.0 litre V6 – making it the only six-cylinder pick-up in the UK. It also comes with Volkswagen’s excellent eight-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The 201bhp engine means the Amarok manages 0-62mph in 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 114mph, and despite switching to six-cylinder from four, the engines now found under the bonnet are all Euro 6 compliant. A key benefit of this engine is also an improved overall towing capacity. Fitted with four-wheel drive, top spec models will be capable of pulling 3.5-tonnes, up from 3.2-tonnes of the existing version, matching the Nissan Navara and beating the Mitsubishi L200. Volkswagen claims the updated Amarok manages 36.2mpg on a combined run, with CO2 emissions of 203g/km for the 201bhp model. More than £32,000 is a mite steep but cheaper models will be available further down the line with Volkswagen set to introduce a 161bhp version with a manual gearbox in 2017. From the outside the new Amarok distinguishes itself from the previous model through new front bumper and radiator grille design including front fog lights, new alloy wheels and a third brake light with LED technology. Inside the cab the changes are more prominent with an all-new dash panel design which incorporates Volkswagen’s MIB infotainment system with touchscreen, radio and new technology including the option of navigation, Guide & Inform, Car-Net and App-Connect systems. Bluetooth and DAB digital radio are also now standard features. A comprehensive list of safety equipment comes as standard on every new Amarok, including four airbags, Electronic Stabilisation Programme and Volkswagen’s award-winning Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. Other highlights include Park Pilot and a rear-view camera to enhance comfort, convenience and safety. New “ergoComfort” seats can be adapted for all sizes of driver and have already won an award from the Healthy Back Campaign. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk


Passat ventures off road

January 5 2013

The Alltrack is a jacked up four-wheel drive version of Volkswagen’s redoubtable Passat Estate. It’s a car that shares an ethos and many of the same parts as the Audi A4 Allroad and Skoda’s Octavia Scout. Volkswagen have taken a popular, reliable and roomy model and given it enough off-road ability to handle snowy winters or life on a farm, but without the bulk and the expensive running costs of a big 4×4. It makes a lot of sense in Scotland, particularly in Courier Country where a lot of people live along country lanes where four-wheel drive helps but owning something like a Toyota Landcruiser isn’t necessary. The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 2.0 TDI BlueMotion Technology 4MOTION 170PS to give its full title (although in German that’s probably all one word) starts at £28,480, with the six speed DSG auto I drove costing £31,030. That’s not cheap indeed it hauls it into the edge of Range Rover Evoque territory but it’s important to note that prices for its sister car, the A4 Allroad, start out where the Alltrack leaves off. It’s handsome in a grown-up way, managing to look good while simultaneously blending into the background. The interior is bigger than some flats I lived in during my student days. There’s easily room for four six foot adults and all their kit will fit in the 603 litre boot. Drop the rear seats and there’s 1731 litres of space to play with. A handy hatch makes it easy to slide skis through, as I discovered on a weekend trip to Glenshee. A good chunk of the 30 grand price tag has gone into making the Alltrack well equipped and parking sensors, cruise control, electronic parking brake, multifunction steering wheel and touchscreen stereo are standard features. My test car added more than £4,000 of additional equipment, including electric leather seats with massage function, Xenon headlights that bend round corners, and a panoramic sunroof. Although it’s not designed for real rough stuff it should cope with gentle off road activity. A four-wheel drive system is backed up by a 2.5cm higher ride height and underbody protection to guard against rocks and branches. On tarmac, which is where it will spend most of its life, it’s a comfortable cruiser. A soft ride and relatively quiet cabin make motorway miles drift by effortlessly. The only downside is the increased ride height plays havoc with the handling. While grip is fine, excess body roll means it’s no longer a fun car to throw around bends. That won’t bother most users, however. A more serious issue is the DSG gearbox which, so good in other Volkswagens, here is hesitant and slow to engage. Meanwhile, the stop-start function frequently takes a beat too long to restart the engine, resulting in an unnecessary rush when pulling out at junctions. While it has flaws, the Alltrack is a competent all rounder. It looks good, is very well equipped and has the security of off-road capability without the running costs of a big SUV. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

UK & World

Volkswagen suspends executive over monkey experiments controversy

January 30 2018

Car giant Volkswagen has suspended its head of external relations and sustainability in response to controversy over experiments in which monkeys were exposed to diesel exhaust. The company said Thomas Steg is stepping away from his duties at his own request. The statement said the company was “drawing the first consequences” as it investigates the activities of EUGT, the entity backed by Volkswagen and other car makers which commissioned the monkey experiment. The move follows a report in The New York Times that the now-disbanded EUGT commissioned the test to show how Volkswagen’s diesel technology was succeeding in controlling emissions. But the test was carried out with a vehicle rigged to cheat on emissions tests. The practice was exposed in 2015, toppling then-CEO Martin Winterkorn. (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-72310761-1', 'auto', {'name': 'pacontentapi'}); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'referrer', location.origin); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension1', 'By Associated Press Reporters'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension2', 'c7964ac2-3c5b-4b9c-a715-af353989d72d'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension3', 'paservice:news,paservice:news:world'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension6', 'story'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension7', 'composite'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension8', null); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension9', null); ga('pacontentapi.send', 'pageview', { 'location': location.href, 'page': (location.pathname + location.search + location.hash), 'title': 'Volkswagen suspends executive over monkey experiments controversy'});

Motoring news

Amarok and roll

June 1 2016

Volkswagen’s new Amarok pick -up truck goes on sale at the end of the summer. At the heart of the new pick-up is a 3.0 litre V6 diesel engine, which is available in 161bhp, 201bhp and 221bhp forms. By comparison, the old Amarok was available with a 2.0 litre diesel engine with a maximum of 161bhp. Buyers can opt for a manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic, and the Amarok will be available in both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive forms.Volkswagen says the updated Amarok keeps its place as a premium pick-up truck, and receives new comfort features including 14-way adjustable seats, an improved climate control set-up, paddle-shift options for the steering wheel and 20in alloy wheels. Prices will be released nearer the September on-sale date.

Motoring news

Volkswagen to launch all electric Microbus

September 9 2017

Volkswagen has confirmed it will be putting its all-electric Microbus into production. It is due to hit dealerships in 2022, and will come as the second vehicle in the compact I.D. range behind a compact hatchback. Making the announcement at the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said the Microbus “unites past and future as well as Pebble Beach and the Silicon Valley”. He added: “After the presentations at the global motor shows in Detroit and Geneva, we received a large number of letters and emails from customers who said ‘please build this car’. “The Microbus, which is what the Bulli is called in America, has always been part of the California lifestyle. “Now we’re bringing it back by developing Volkswagen’s next e-generation and by reinventing the Bulli as an electric vehicle.” Though Volkswagen hasn’t disclosed much about the layout of the van, it has said the batteries will be mounted in the vehicle floor – most likely for better weight distribution. “The electric motor’s compact size also means the Microbus has short overhangs and a long wheelbase, maximising space inside. Diess said: “The vehicle therefore looks like a short compact van on the outside, even as it offers the generous interior space of a large van.” Meanwhile, younger people are the most likely to own an electric vehicle and are least likely to worry about “barriers” to ownership, a new study suggests. An AA survey of 16,500 people found that despite the fact that 76% of 18-to-24-year-olds quizzed were concerned about the price of electric vehicles (EVs), 5% of respondents said they owned one – the biggest representation of any age group. The number of EV owners decreased as age increased, with four per cent of 25-to-34-year-olds and 1% of people aged 55 and over owning an electric vehicle. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Motoring news

Orders open for new VW Polo

October 4 2017

Volkswagen has opened the order books for its all new Polo. Prices for the sixth generation supermini start from £13,855 for an entry-spec S trim, with the core mid-range SE starting at £14,630. This is the largest version of the car yet. In fact, it’s as big as the fourth generation Golf (which was sold twixt 1997 and 2003) which shows you how much cars have grown over the years. Volkswagen has dropped the three-door Polo, which accounted for a small proportion of demand, and the five-door car is now offered in seven different trim levels. As you’d expect given its larger dimensions the new Polo has more cabin and luggage space (boot volume in particular has risen dramatically, from 280 litres to 351 litres). It also comes with assistance systems normally associated with larger cars, such as adaptive cruise control and blind spot assistance with rear traffic alert. Every model has an 8in touchscreen, while active info display is an option. Seven trim levels will be available: S, SE, Beats, SEL and R-Line, along with the hotly anticipated GTI and GTI+ models. Entry-level S models come with an eight-inch infotainment system with DAB radio, air-conditioning, Volkswagen’s ‘Front Assist’ automatic emergency braking (AEB) system with pedestrian monitoring and automatic headlights with LED daytime running lights. Stepping up to SE brings a bit more equipment, including 15in alloys, smartphone connectivity and a leather multifunction steering wheel. SEL Polos get a front centre armrest, sat nav, dual-zone climate control and parking sensors front and rear. R-line brings a sportier feel with tinted rear windows, LED rear lights, restyled bumpers and a rear spoiler. Inside, there’s a big injection of quality and luxury, with technology and features from larger Volkswagens making their way into the Polo’s redesigned interior. The most prominent single item is the option of Volkswagen’s Active Info Display digital dashboard, which sees a customisable screen replace traditional dials. There’s a broad range of engines on offer. The entry level 1.0 litre engine is available with 64 or 74bhp, while there’s a turbocharged 1.0 litre with 94 or 113bhp. The two diesel engines are both 1.6 litre in size and produce either 79 or 94bhp. The GTI model gets a 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol unit with 197bhp. No performance figures are available as yet but expect it to move at a rather brisk pace. Prices for all diesel and higher-spec SEL, R-Line, GTI and GTI+ models have yet to be announced, but it’s safe to assume that with a few options fitted, the upper end of the Polo range will break the £20,000 barrier.