Top of the shots: Autocar’s best photos of 2019

Our resident artist Ben Summerell-Youde has been busy again previewing the cars of the future – or, in some cases, the cars of his own mind. Starting at the bottom, this rally raid-style Peugeot 208 sadly will remain the stuff of Ben’s dreams. “As soon as the new 208 pictures landed I wanted to create a 208 GTi, but the factory yellow paint just shouted 405 Dakar to me,” says Ben, who rates the 208 as the supermini segment’s best looker. White wheels and a body kit were the order of the day for the sporty Honda E, too. “I got a bit carried away, which is fine, because no one actually has to build what I come up with.” The Maserati Alfieri is destined for production, however, and we hope Maserati is taking inspiration from Ben.

Bravo to Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Aston Martin for filling our concept car podium this year, each chosen by our in-house designer Ben Summerell-Youde. “It’s good to see a concept that doesn’t just have wider arches and some knobbly tyres,” says Ben of the Audi AI-Trail. “Silent, battery powered off-roading appeals far more than plug-in sports cars.” Ben feels the Mercedes EQS really shows how electric propulsion can benefit proportions. “I hope the new S-Class isn’t too dissimilar.” There’s not an electric motor to be seen on the Vanquish concept, Aston’s preview of a mid-engined supercar. “It looks fresh, and has a better visual balance to it than the Valhalla,” the latter car the Vanquish’s big brother.

Central London rush hour traffic in fading light threatened to turn this David Brown Mini Remastered shoot into one to forget, until a gap appeared on Chelsea Bridge. “It looks a bit like being back in the ’60s,” reckons Max Edleston, who was born in the 1990s…


Autocar’s 10 most-watched videos of 2019

‘Chuffing fast’ is the two-word takeaway from our first drive of Porsche’s first electric car. Not a bad place to start, but the Taycan is charged with offering more than just brutal acceleration. Electrifying a brand so intrinsically associated with old-school performance as Porsche is no mean feat, so the new GT-style EV has to incorporate just the right amount of Stuttgart spirit in its futuristic formula.

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7. Greatest Porsche GTs: 718 Cayman GT4 meets 911 GT2 RS and GT3 RS

We sent three of our favourite models from Porsche’s GT division into battle to see which would emerge as the greatest. The fresh-faced 718 Cayman GT4 has made a brilliant first impression on our testers, with its newly developed 4.0-litre flat-six providing the perfect balance between aggression and accessibility, but can the newbie steal the limelight from the formidable 911 GT3 RS and GT2 RS

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6. Geneva Motor Show 2019 | The 18 cars you must see

The Geneva motor show is always a highlight of the automotive calendar, and the 2019 edition gave us our first look at important new machines from across the motoring spectrum. Alfa Romeo’s bold new Tonale concept appeared for the first time, alongside a trio of stunning new Aston Martins, an all-electric beach buggy from Volkswagen and so much more besides. Join Matt Prior as he gets up close and personal with the event’s star cars.

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5. Mercedes-AMG GT63 S vs Porsche Panamera Turbo S | Which Luxury GT is best?

Cars like the Mercedes-AMG GT63 and Porsche Panamera Turbo S are, sadly, not long for this world, as the focus shifts to electrification. For now, though, the luxury GT segment is among the market’s most highly contested, and in this 1300bhp twin-test, we found out which of the pair offers the best combination of refinement, performance and space. 

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4. 2020 Volkswagen ID 3 driven | Will VW’s EV change the world?

Volkswagen revealed its new ID 3 earlier this year as a bold first step in a plan to sell 22 million fully electric vehicles over the next decade. The hatchback is the first production model to use the modular MEB EV platform, and will be available in a range of trims offering up to 341 miles of range. We went to Wolfsburg for an early spin in a camouflaged prototype, and came away with an understanding of just how profoundly the ID 3 could impact the world of electric motoring. 

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3. Drag Race: 2019 BMW S1000RR vs McLaren 720S vs Ariel Atom 4

Could any machine with just 207bhp on tap possibly stand a chance against Ariel’s biblical track-focused Atom V8 and the lightning-fast McLaren 720S Spider? Well, yes, actually. The BMW S1000RR has a higher power-to-weight ratio than a Koenigsegg One:1, and will accelerate from 0-60mph in a scarcely believable 2.6 seconds – standing it in good stead as we embark on a quest to find the fastest no-roof road vehicle.


The DBX Should Be Aston Martin’s Biggest Money Maker

Palmer believes the DBX will sell “about 4,000 a year with a peak of 5,000,” which is significant for Aston’s yearly sales volume. “I can’t give forward-looking data but we are about 6,000 to 6,500 units this year,” Palmer said. “We will not have a full year of DBX but we’ve more sports cars coming: the Vantage roadster arrives next year, and the mid-engine car [the Vanquish comes in 2021]. The DBX will represent the largest-single volume.”Adding in around 4,000 to 5,000 DBX sales to Aston’s yearly volume would put the company between around 10,000 to 11,500 yearly sales. In other words, nearly double what it sold in 2018. If doubling sales doesn’t do the trick for Aston Martin to turn a profit, we don’t know what will.

Andrew Frankel’s car of the decade: Alpine A110

Just occasionally a car will come along that will change the game completely, by providing a level of performance unimagined until that very moment. The McLaren F1 did it in 1994, and I very much suspect the Aston Martin Valkyrie will do it all over again in 2020.

But there’s also the opposite kind of game changer, and, because our interest in them need no longer be merely academic but actually born out of experience, these are even more special. These cars are so rare that, in the 31 years I’ve been doing this job, I’ve seen just two. The first came three decades ago and was called the Mazda MX-5. The Alpine A110 is the second.

The Alpine has an importance that stretches far beyond those svelte lines. Like the little Mazda, the Alpine is a car to make us stop dead in our tracks and question everything we have come to believe about how to make sporting cars. It took the existing narrative that said faster was funnier, grip was good and that size really mattered, and shredded it.

My admiration for the board who were presented with A110 is boundless. The pitch would have gone something like this: we want to make a two seat sports car that’s not very fast either in a straight line or around a corner, it’s going to cost a fortune to develop because it needs a brand new, bespoke platform and, because it only has a four cylinder engine and a brand without much recognition, we can’t even charge that much for it. And the suits sitting around the table would have to have gone: ‘yup, sounds good to us.’ You just don’t expect that kind of thing these days.


Fun facts: Autocar’s miscellany of motoring 2019

9. When Brands Hatch was first used, cars and bikes raced around the circuit anti-clockwise.

10. The Marathon De La Route was the world’s longest motor race and was held at the Nürburgring between 1965 and 1971. In 1967 it was won by a Porsche 911 driven by Vic Elford (among others), his winning margin over the second placed car being just short of 1000km.

11. Alan Stacey became a works Lotus F1 racing driver despite having an artificial lower right leg and having to use a twist grip motorcycle throttle. He was killed at the 1960 Belgian Grand Prix, some say after being hit in the face by a bird.

12. The knob on the gear lever of a Porsche 917 is made from balsa wood and its ignition key drilled, both to save weight.

13. Drivers who have won the Monaco Grand Prix and Le Mans 24 Hours? Tazio Nuvolari, Maurice Trintignant, Bruce McLaren and Fernando Alonso.

14. Drivers who have won the Indianapolis 500 and Monaco Grand Prix? Just one – Juan Pablo Montoya.

15. What about drivers who have won Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500? Again, just one – AJ Foyt

16. And finally, the only driver to have won the Indy 500, Monaco GP and Le Mans? The legendary Graham Hill.

Extant brands owned by General Motors

1. Cadillac

2. Chevrolet

3. Buick

4. GMC

5. Holden

Automotive urban myth

Duncan Hamilton drove while drunk to win Le Mans in 1953


An alternative day out for the motoring enthusiast

If I have an interesting car to test (and it’s sadly rare these days – see dull crossovers and SUVs) then I head down into Sussex to Goodwood for a sarnie and the hope of seeing something interesting circulating the track – which is what Luc Lacey and I decide to do today.

The Camaro most definitely fits into the ‘interesting’ category. It’s a wonderful car to drive slowly. I much prefer Chevrolet’s pushrod V8 to Ford’s 5.0-litre overhead-cammer in the Mustang. Kevin Hurl at Ian Allan will sell you one of these gems for only a few quid over £40,000. When he’s run out of his stock of coupés and convertibles it’s unlikely that any new Camaros will come to our shores. It’s not even certain that Chevrolet will continue to build its iconic pony car for much longer.

We’re in luck. There seems to be some sort of manufacturer-customer day in progress at Goodwood. McLaren is here with a few 720Ss, Aston Martin has a Vantage wearing the company’s famous AML 1 number plate, Ferrari has a 812 Superfast and there’s a Singer here too. Aside from the Singer 911 I’d rather have the Camaro than any of these exotics.

More luck, Derek Bell is here. Bell is a constant presence in our world, popping up like Zelig at car launches and various events. If you’ve had the pleasure you’ll know what a warm-hearted bloke he is. “You’ll never believe it,” he exclaims, “I’ve just spun that BMW M4 at Madgwick.” If I’d come out with this sentence the world would have replied, ‘and so?’, but D. Bell losing it is unusual. “It’s modern steering: no feel for what the car is doing.” Quite.

We must crack on as we want to be at our next stop for afternoon tea. We’ve got to negotiate the A27 east of Brighton and then head north to the village of Buxted in East Sussex, home of Crosthwaite & Gardiner. Put simply, this outfit is one of the finest automotive engineering companies in the world. A bold statement, but given that Mercedes-Benz and Audi trusted the company to build replicas of their Silver Arrows racing cars, the claim is somewhat justified.

Dick Crosthwaite, who set the company up in 1969 with the late John Gardiner, is now semi-retired and his son Ollie runs the business day to day. There is much going on at C&W that we’re unable to photograph or talk about, but that doesn’t overly restrict us as there’s plenty to gawp at and ogle. The machine shop is fascinating, with cutting-edge computer-controlled tools producing parts to ridiculously tight tolerances.

A trip around the stores is worth another couple of hours of our time. Beautifully turned nuts (with integral washers) for Bugattis, brand-new D-Type cylinder heads. Talking of which, C&W will supply a brand-new E or D-Type racing engine ready to go. Or a 2.5-litre Coventry Climax engine for a Cooper or Lotus F1 car. Then there’s the room where hundreds of patterns are kept. The last time I felt this in awe of history I was standing in the Museum of Cairo.


Aston Martin DB12 AMR Rendering Imagines James Bond’s Future Ride

The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato is arguably one of the most beautiful shooting brakes the world has ever seen and has fueled the imagination of independent artists to create their own two-door wagon designs. Brought to you by the same talented man behind the hypothetical Porsche 911 GT1 project we shared back in August, this DB12 AMR by Emre Husmen from Istanbul imagines the next generation of Gaydon’s grand tourer in the spicy AMR trim.

The GT has switched from its coupe shape to the more practical shooting brake body style with an extended low-slung roof and side cameras instead of conventional mirrors to create a sleeker side profile. Large alloy wheels with an intricate spoke design further contribute to the DB12 AMR’s special appearance, while the slim LED taillights extending onto the tailgate are a nod to the latest Vantage.

The dual exhaust tips and large air intake up front signal the imaginary DB12 AMR still has a combustion engine, as do the carbon fiber shift paddles behind the high-tech steering wheel with a display mounted in the middle. To the right of the screen, the graphics showing the battery is 99% charged indicate the author has conceived the shooting brake with an electric motor to aid the combustion engine for better efficiency and low-end performance.

According to a report published by Top Gear magazine, the DB11’s replacement is scheduled to come out in 2023, but a potential AMR version would arrive at a later date as it has been the case with the DB11 AMR. As emissions regulations get stricter in some parts of the world – especially in Europe – we won’t be too surprised if Aston Martin will electrify its grand tourer. Its tie-up with Mercedes means the British company has a partner with expertise regarding performance hybrids considering AMG has already announced plans to launch fast electrified cars in the years to come.

Meanwhile, the DBX SUV is a crucial model for the company and needs to be a commercial success to safeguard the company’s future.


Grand flicks: Autocar’s favourite car movies

For a start, that wonderful celluloid cad and bounder Terry-Thomas is in it – and not only that, he’s also driving a Benelli. Well, actually an Aston Martin DB3S, but here’s your first clue that this is no ordinary film, which uses four-wheeled plot devices. Hero Ian Carmichael is conned by Peter Jones and Dennis Price into buying the preposterous Swiftmobile, which underneath the serpent and elephant bonnet ornament is actually a 4.5-litre Bentley. It all comes good in the end as Carmichael part-exchanges it for a Healey 3000 and £100. James Ruppert

Cars (2006)

Directed by John Lasseter and Joe Ranft; starring Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Paul Newman

Yes, it’s a computer-animated kids film about a world populated by anthropomorphic cars. But beyond the talking cartoon jalopies and Nascar racers, Cars celebrates the joy and romance of open-road motoring like few other films. The characters’ personalities encapsulate the spirit of the (surprisingly accurate) cars they represent, while the plot – racer Lightning McQueen gets stuck in the sleepy town of Radiator Springs – is really a touching lament to a golden age of motoring ended by the rise of highways. Plus it helped to make petrolheads of a generation of kids growing up in a world hostile to cars. Sadly, follow-up Cars 2 was turgid, although I will forever love Cars 3 for containing a Jocko Flocko reference. James Attwood

The Cannonball Run (1981)

Directed by Hal Needham; starring Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett

There’s no point pretending car chase films are high art; they’re all about entertainment. And you can’t get more entertaining than the hammed-up megastar-fest that was The Cannonball Run. The cast read like a Hollywood who’s who: Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Peter Fonda and – most importantly – the god-like Burt Reynolds. All they did was have a daft race across the US, but it was hilarious: the cars were brilliant and the character cameos likewise. Jackie Chan drove a rocket-powered Subaru GL. Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr dressed up as Catholic priests, for heaven’s sake. What’s not to like? I haven’t seen it for years, but as a teenager my best mate had a copy on VHS that we wore out over a couple of otherwise uneventful summers. And I will remember the title sequence, with the white Lamborghini Countach on the run from the patrol car that gets ‘resprayed’ red, for as long as I live. Matt Saunders


Aston Martin Counting On Strong DBX Sales

Aston Martin is counting on strong sales of its first SUV, the DBX, to turn around the struggling company.

The carmaker is indebt, and has had to increase its debt in order to facilitate the development of the off-roader, but in an interview with Automotive News Europe, Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer said that DBX will help turnaround the company’s fortunes.

“Every car we launch is important because of the way the business runs. But in terms of changing the company so that we address each of the luxury clusters, this is really important,” he said. “So far, we have replaced the core GT and sports cars — our historical ground. This is the first model that expands the portfolio.”

Palmer said that Aston Martin is hoping to build between 4,000-5,000 DBXs a year, almost doubling its output, but it faces stiff competition in the form of the well-established Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover.

“Today more than 70 percent of Aston Martin customers have an SUV in the garage, so the hard work is already done,” said Palmer. “We just need to convert those people from their daily driver into an Aston Martin SUV.”

“They are coming out of Porsche Cayennes and Range Rovers. What we are looking to do is cream off the top of that premium SUV sector. The Cayenne has been an important benchmark in the development of the car. Our cars don’t compete directly, but they [Porsche] are a very credible source when it comes to ride and handling, and build quality.”

One critique of the DBX has been that it might have arrived too late. Rival brands such as Bentley, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Rolls-Royce all joined the SUV market in recent years, and amid growing environmental concerns, there’s speculation that the SUV bubble could soon burst, but that’s not something Palmer is expecting.

“The whole industry is under the spotlight in terms of CO2 so obviously it’s important to make increasingly efficient SUVs. Do I think there’s a wholesale change from SUVs back to another type of vehicle? I don’t see it at the moment,” he said. “If you look at the startup EV makers they are all basically starting with SUVs. If you look around the world, the SUV is the preferred body type.”


Frankel’s big fat Christmas car quiz

11 – What was unusual about the Ferrari 166S in which Clemente Biondetti contested the 1950 Italian Grand Prix?

12 – What was unusual about the Kurtis Kraft that took pole position for the 1952 Indianapolis 500?

13 – Which car manufacturer also makes condiment dispensers?

14 – Which man was known as ‘the hyphen in Rolls-Royce’?

15 – What is the only car manufacturer selling cars in the UK whose name begins with a double letter?

16 – Who was the only woman to finish in the points in a world championship grand prix?

17 – Who was the first person to win a race in a car using disc brakes?

18 – What and where was the world’s first purpose-built race track?

19 – Which is the world’s oldest motorsport facility to have been in continual use?

20 – What role in the James Bond film The Living Daylights did then Aston Martin chairman Victor Gauntlett turn down?

21 – What is the unique claim to fame of Louis Chiron, after whom the Bugatti Chiron is named?

22 – Why in 1964 did Porsche change the name of its new sports car from 901 to 911 after just 82 had been built?

23 – What was unusual about Eddie Hall’s participation at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1950?

24 – What four companies do the four rings of Audi represent?

25 – What was unusual about the door bins of the Lancia Stratos?

26 – Where are the interior door handles of a McLaren Senna located?

27 – Who was the first person to travel at greater than 400, 500 and 600mph and where did he do it?

28 – What was unusual about Vittorio Brambilla’s victory in the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix?

29 – Which was the last grand prix not won by one of Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari or Red Bull?

30 – Which was the first production road car to use monocoque construction?