Gumball 3000 – Dublin to Bucharest

Have you ever heard of a little super car event called the Gumball 3000? No? Well its huge! Gumball 3000 2016 starts its journey from Dublin to Bucharest this Saturday. With over 100 cars including Supercars, Hypercars and all round expensive machines, the Gumball 3000 is certain to be an exciting event.

Gumball 2015 AMG GT

Driving the cars are not only very rich people but also pretty famous. David Hasslehoff, Afrojack and Josh Cartu are some of the celebrities that will be waltzing around the streets of Dublin over the next couple of days. Also among the drivers are Youtubers and Carspotters like Shmee150 and Marchettino.

Gumball 2015 Shmee150

Gumball kicks off from Merrion Square in Dublin from 10am on Saturday morning with the cars departing on Sunday morning at 10am for Belfast, from there they will head to Edinburgh. Be sure to check it out, you never know when they’ll be back again!

Did we learn from Diesel Gate?

While scrolling through some car adverts recently, I was noticing a lot of diesels for sale. Not that this is new to me, practically every new BMW 5 series on the road is a 520d. But it got me thinking, did Dieselgate turn anyone against diesels?

I decided to go and do a little bit of research and found some interesting results. The figures below are sales figures from May 2015 to December 2015, the 152 plate.

  • SEAT sold 434 diesels equaling 57.79% of its sales and 371 petrols, 42.21% of sales. This doesn’t seem to bad, no? Thats what I thought, but just wait.
  • Audi sold 1,944 diesels, 91.57% of their sales. 91.57%! This leaves it with 173 petrols sold, only 8.15%.
  • Skoda sold 2,111 diesels, 66.32% of total sales, and 1,072 petrols, 33.68%.
  • I’m saving the mother ship for last, Volkswagen. Volkswagen sold 1,736 petrol cars, 27.92% of sales. It sold 4,474 diesels, equaling to 71.85% of total sales. Four thousand, four hundred and seventy four cars. I should mention, however, that 8 electric/petrol plug in hybrid electric vehicles were sold, only 0.13%.

Although these figures are quite surprising to some, I am not surprised. We, the Irish motorists, were persuaded by the Irish government’s strategy of basing the vehicle tax on the vehicles emission’s. This meant that in 2008, an Audi A4 2.0TDI (diesel) cost €280 per year to tax and a 1.8 TFSI (petrol) cost €570. So it made sense to save the €290.

But it was in mid 2015 that the buyers of these diesels had realised that they had made quite a big mistake, through no fault of their own however. Volkswagen reported that more than 15 million of its cars, including Audi, Skoda, SEAT and VW, had been programmed with software that when the car was being tested for emissions it would give a false figure, much lower than the actual figure. So therefore, VW cheated on their emissions.

Recently, Volkswagen published news that it had a €1.4bn (after tax) loss in 2015. This is compared to an €11bn (after tax)profit 2014. Are Volkswagen worried about this loss? Most definitely not. It is one of, if not the, most powerful car manufacturers in the world. It has €24.4bn in liquid assets, €1.4bn means nothing to it. It has set aside €16.2bn to deal with the cars affected by the diesel gate. So if this loss in 2015 doesn’t worry the company, what is it worried about? Reputation. It should be worried that if sales keep falling, that this €1.6bn could turn into €16bn.

The forward thinkers among us will have already come to the conclusion that diesel is on its way out, and you would be right. VW are improving its electric and hybrid systems with new cars coming out almost every year. The Golf, for example, has 2 electric variants; the e-Golf and the GTE. The Passat also has a GTE variant. Moving away from VW for a second, Toyota offer every car in its range as a hybrid. It is the only car company to offer diesel, petrol and hybrid/electric on each car in its line-up. Although almost 60% of its sales in 2015 were diesel, they push its hybrid technology more and more. Take Lexus for example, Toyota have been doing hybrid technology for years.

So the question still remains, have we learned from Dieselgate? From the way things going, no. Volkswagen Ireland has sold 8,555 cars this year, 6,139 of which have been diesel. Are Irish consumers putting their trust into diesel again? Are they just so tempted by the, slightly, lower cost of tax?

Let me know:

  • Are you a diesel car driver? Why?
  • Would you buy a diesel again? Why?

Audi RS3 – Quick Drive

The Audi A3 got the RS treatment to release 367hp and 465Nm from a 2.5TFSI engine. You can tell already, it is an absolute monster.

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Audi RS3
Engine: 2.5 Petrol  – 367hp and 465Nm.
Transmission: 7 Speed S-tronic, Quattro four wheel drive
Price: The A3 range starts from €26,360 and the RS3 starts from €65,900, as tested – €72,948, including options.

The Audi RS3 is something a little bit special, more than just a “souped up” A3. From the outside, it looks angry. Give it a lick of Catalunya Red metallic paint, some chrome around the front grill and spoiler, Audi’s

signature S and RS chrome mirrior housing, and lets not forget the huge oval exhaust tips at the rear, and you’ve got something truely unique looking. On the inside, the test car we had was finished in Lunar Silver leather. As the RS3 is only available as a Sportback, this means it comes with 4 doors so you have no option but to let people in the back. This is no bad thing though as it helps give the RS3 its title of a hot hatch, its practical.

But what you’ve all come here to read is about how it drives. Well let me tell you, once you turn that key and the car burbles… sorry no, ROARs into life, you know you are in for a good time. Having taken the RS3 for a motorway blast, a backroad hoon and sensible cruise, I can confirm that it is both fast and agile when needed but is also the perfect all rounder. With a weight reduction of 55kg and an increase of 27hp over its predecessor, the RS3 is no slouch. It can propel occupants from 0-100km/h in just 4.3 seconds and is good for 280km/h. Using the Quattro four wheel drive, the RS3, much like the TTS, has tons of grip on tap.

The RS3 is almost the perfect package of practicality and performance. Although, being a premium product from a premium brand, buyers will be expected to pay a premium price. Audi will have to watch out for up and coming rivals that may well be just as good, but cheaper.

Ian

Mercedes E220d – First Drive

Mercedes had the Irish launch of the all new Mercedes E-Class on Monday in Palmerstown House and Estate. The damp and gloomy Irish weather didn’t stop the E-Class from shining.

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Mercedes E220d AMG Line Nightpack
Engine: 2.0 Diesel  – 194hp and 400Nm.
Transmission: 7 Speed Automatic, Rear Wheel Drive
Price: The E-Class range starts from €50,550, The 220d starts from €52,850.

I waited about an hour to get the E-Class in the AMG Line Nightpack and it was definitely worth the wait. From the outside, the car is completely baller. Finished in Obsidian Black Metallic with 20″ Multispoke Black alloys, the Night Pack certainly sets it apart form the Avantgarde and Exclusive models. The Night Pack is an option coming in at €1000.

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Mercedes E220d Night Pack

Inside, the black theme continues. Equipped with AMG Interior, this test car had black leather/alcantara sports seats. Ambiant Lighting comes as standard across the range with 64 colours to choose from. Naturally, the interior is a scaled up version of the C-Class and a scaled down version of the S-Class, much like the rest of the car.  The dash has a clean and uncluttered layout. As expected form a Mercedes, it has a quality feel to it. The multi functional steering wheel now has a cool feature. Instead of traditional buttons to swipe through menus, Mercedes have replaced them with touch pads. A neat feature and surprisingly easy to use when on the move.

The new E-Class showcases what’s to come for the Mercedes line up in terms of technology. Drive Pilot will be Mercedes version of autonomous driving. The system scans up to 80m behind the car and 250m ahead of the car when the driver indicates out of the lane. This is to make sure the coast is clear and its safe to overtake, change lane, etc. The E-Class has also followed in the footsteps of BMW now allowing users to park their car with their phone. BMW has done this with their key and Audi have released videos in the past of this but Mercedes have taken action.

In terms of safety, Mercedes are offering some very up to date technology. Introducing, Pre Sense. One of the features of Pre Sense is when a car hits the E-Class side on, it moves the seated occupant towards the centre of the car. Therefore reducing the blow of the hit.  Another feature of Pre Sense is Pre Sense Sound. When a  car hits the E-Class and the airbags are about to go off, the speakers around the car set off a small sound that closes your eardrums (or something…) so that when the airbags go off, the sound doesn’t deafen the occupants. Complicated, but pretty damn cool!

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From the quick test drive, I found the new E-Class to be suited to Irish roads. Each test car was fitted with the standard suspension and not the optional air suspension. Dynamic Select comes as standard and allows the driver to switch between Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport + and Individual. Mercedes will only sell the new car with the impressive 9 speed automatic. Although, maybe Irish buyers may like to see a manual?

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A key feature for the new car is the line up of new engines. The E220d I drove has the new 2.0 4 cylinder diesel unit with 194hp and 400Nm of torque. What is even better is that it has CO2 emissions of just 102g/km. This puts it in Band A3 with an annual motor tax bill of just €190/annum. Later this year, Mercedes will introduce an E200d which has around 150hp and they also hope to bring a 2.0 Petrol to the Irish market too, also with around 150hp. If the E200d or E220d doesn’t tickle your fancy, buyers can opt for the E350d. This features 258hp and 620Nm from a diesel V6 unit.

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Mercedes claim they have added €7000 worth of extras as standard in the new car even though it is €850 cheaper than the outgoing model at €52,850.  The E200d will have a starting price of €50,550, €550 cheaper than the previous model. The E350d starts from €68,200. Prices are yet to be confirmed for the Estate and Petrol models.

For more info on what Mercedes plan on the future and for a quick glance of the Mercedes E-Class, check out my launch piece here.

So the E-Class is looking good so far, it is an improvement on its predecessor…from what we can tell so far. Hold out for a full review coming later this year.

2016 Mercedes E-Class – Launch

Mercedes launched the E-Class to the Irish Press yesterday. Priced from €50,550, it may be appealing to a lot of Irish buyers.

With expectations to pass BMW in 2016 and claiming to have passed Audi last year as Irelands highest selling premium brand, Mercedes hope to continue to sell the E-Class as their best selling model.

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Three trim levels will be available – Avantgarde, Exclusive and AMG Line. Prices for the E220d will start from €52,850 and €50,550 for the E200d, arriving later this year. An estate model will also be available from July onwards, just in time for the 162 registrations. The car will only be available with a 9-speed automatic.

The E220d is €850 cheaper than the outgoing model but has €7000 worth of extras as standard. This includes full leather interior, 64 colour ambient lighting, keyless start, sat nav, reversing camera, parking pilot, Comfort Seat pack with heated seats and Dynamic Select.

Coming soon – Our first drive in the new Mercedes E-Class 220d AMG Line with Nightpack.

Ian

Audi A7 Competition – Quick Drive

Out of the range of cars driven over the course of the day, the A7 Competition was one of the most intriguing. Having read about and seen/heard the SQ5, with which this engine is shared, I never thought I would like it. A 326hp V6 Bi-Turbo diesel with an artificial petrol exhaust note pumped through the cabin? It all seems very fake. But no, do not dismiss this car. The A7 Competition is one very interesting and competent car.

Static photo Colour: Misano Red Fuel consumption figures Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI competition: Combined fuel consumption in l/100 km: 6,1; Combined CO2-emissions in g/km: 162

Model Tested: Audi A7 S Line Competition
Engine: 3.0 Bi-Turbo Diesel  – 326hp and 650Nm.
Transmission: 8 Speed Tiptronic, Quattro four wheel drive
Price: The A7 range starts from €68,900, as tested – €101,628, including options. PCP starts from €769/month.

Static photo Colour: Misano Red Fuel consumption figures Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI competition: Combined fuel consumption in l/100 km: 6,1; Combined CO2-emissions in g/km: 162

Let me introduce the Audi A7 Competition. A 3.0 Bi-Turbo diesel V6 putting out 326hp and 650Nm. Finished in Daytona Grey and equipped with optional 20″ 5 spoke alloys, the A7 immediately stands out from its standard form. The A7 was introduced back in 2010 and was instantly a hit. Its lift back design was a lot more handsome and much less awkward looking than the A5 introduced 3 years previous. I have always been a fan of the A7 because put simply, it is just a very handsome car. It is proportioned perfectly and ticks a lot of boxes in terms of space, practicality and performance, no matter what engine you choose.

The test car we drove had a great colour combo of Daytona Grey pearl effect exterior paint and Black Valcona Leather with red stitching on the inside. Space is not an issue in the A7. Up front, the cabin is laid out well and not cramped. Even though the A7 is a liftback, there is plenty of headroom in the rear for taller passengers. The boot is deep and the rear seats can fold down in case you need to carry larger items.

Cockpit Colour: Misano Red Fuel consumption figures Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI competition: Combined fuel consumption in l/100 km: 6,1; Combined CO2-emissions in g/km: 162

But what you really came here to read about, is how it fairs on the road. The A7 not only looks good but drives well too. The Quattro system gives tons of grip and although the A7 is a large car, it copes well on the backroads. Equipped with Audi Drive Select, the steering, suspension and much more can be tweaked with the push of a button. The A7 uses an 8 speed Tiptronic, and not the S-Tronic, gearbox  so can be put into manual mode which allows the driver to use the paddles equipped on the steering wheel. The one thing that got me was the sound of the car. The artificial petrol sound being pumped throughout the cabin is very easy to get use to and makes the driving experience a lot more pleasurable.

Dynamic photo Colour: Misano Red Fuel consumption figures Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI competition: Combined fuel consumption in l/100 km: 6,1; Combined CO2-emissions in g/km: 162

The A7 is based on the A6 but a lot more handsome and practical. The A7 is very a very good drive but it cannot beat the rear wheel drive Mercedes CLS. Yes you guessed it, its a lot more engaging car to drive. There, I said it.

Though, if you are an Audi nut and the S7 or RS7 are just that little bit out of your price range and you need the economy of a diesel (Audi states it can get 6.3l/100km), well then the A7 Competition is certainly one to keep on your radar. Based on looks alone, it will certainly make your neighbours jealous.

Ian

Audi TTS – Quick Drive

The new Audi TT hit Irish roads in 2014. Its biggest feature was the new Virtual Cockpit. But pair the cute coupé with 310hp and 380Nm and you can forget all about the Virtual Cockpit because I can guarantee you, you’ll be having too much fun.

Dynamic photo

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Audi TTS
Engine: 2.0 Petrol  – 310hp and 380Nm.
Transmission: 7 Speed S-tronic, Quattro four wheel drive
Price: The TTS range starts from €48,900, as tested – €71,567, including options.

You must take a minute to behold the beauty of the TTS. Finished in Sepang Blue, the 2 door coupé is certainly something to behold. From the outside, what sets it apart from a regular TT are the sports bumpers, for increased aerodynamics, and the quad exhausts at the back. Open the door and the magic continues. Our test car had grey leather which complemented the cabin nicely. Close the door, foot on the brake and press the start button. I am about to get the true TTS experience. The 2.0TFSI burbles into life. I select D on the S-Tronic gearbox and pull out the gates in an em… playful manner.

Dynamic photo

The excitement for the TTS continues out on the road. The TTS  handles very well, body roll is contained nicely, grip is good from the Quattro system and the steering does not lack feedback. Switching over to the paddle shifters, the TTS becomes an even more engaging car. I certainly made use of the paddles by downshifting every chance I got. That exhaust note is glorious.

Dynamic photo

To get the most out of the Quattro system, I should have driven it in the wet. I can only imagine its capabilities on those greasy backroads, the cars computers going crazy transferring power to all four wheels giving it maximum grip. The TTS comes standard with Sport Suspension and 19 inch alloys so the ride is comprised, even in Comfort setting.

But putting this aside, drivers will love the TTS. It did not disappoint and nor should it disappoint a true driver. Letting it loose on an open road is where it is happiest.

Audi A8 – Quick Drive

Continuing my series of Quick Drives is the Audi A8. A competitor for the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes S-Class, the Audi A8 is a joyous place to be. I spent some time in the A8 taking in the luxury and classiness.

Audi A8

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Audi A8 SE Executive.
Engine: 3.0 diesel  – 262hp and 580Nm.
Transmission: 8 Speed Tiptronic, Quattro four wheel drive
Price: The A8 range starts from €93,900, as tested – €104,136, including options.

Audi A8 2014 January launch at Carton House Spa and golf Hotel in Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

The week I had the A4 on test, I was getting all kinds of looks from people. I put this down to the fact that I was a 21 year old driving a 2015 Audi A4. Now, just imagine a 21 year old driving a 2016 Audi A8. It was certainly entertaining. 

I hopped into the driver seat of the A8 and was immediately greeted with class, lashings of the leather, wooden inlays and luxury. Although the A8s infotainment system isn’t as up to date as it is in the Q7 or A4, it didn’t matter. It was fitting. The rows of buttons and the keypad just above the gearstick didn’t at all look out of place. It was the small touches that counted. For example, the small analog clock in the centre of the dash and the fact that the media system was hidden behind a small ‘push-door’. It wasn’t until I was almost finished my time in the A8 when I realised that I had had RTE Lyric on the radio the  whole time in the background…

Innenraum

The A8 is a weird one. As I pulled out of Killruddery House, I wafted up to the speed limit and happily sat there. As I pulled onto the motorway I put my foot down to get up to speed, the A8 surprised me. All hell broke loose, all of the 272hp and 580Nm were all released at once, the A8 powered ahead. Up to 100km/h I go and I release my foot from the accelerator. The engine quietens and again andI’m wafting along at 100km/h.

While your chauffeur might be having some fun up front, you will be relaxing in the back. The A8 comes in a Long Wheel Base version (with prices starting from €98,400) but the Short Wheel Base does not leave the rear occupants wanting more. There is tons of leg room and head space so passengers won’t feel cramped. Many options are available for rear passengers to enjoy including the Bang & Olufsen sound system (€10,772.50), digital TV (€2,866.42) and an Audi Connect system allowing occupants to use internet on board – Phone prep – High with Connect (€1,160.11).

The A8 comes with lots of standard equipment meaning that there is not much need for those pricey optional extras. Standard equipment includes; Audi Music Interface, Audi Presense, Cruise Control, Electric Seat Adjustment with memory, Front and rear park assist with rear reverse camera, 360 degree birds eye camera, Heated front seats, Inlays in walnut brown, LED interior lighting package, Light and Rain Sensor, MMI Navigation system plus, MMI Touch and Valcona Leather upholstery. Options on our test car included;  the Sport Package (€3,500), Matrix LED Beams (€1,432) and Metallic Paint (€1,644).

Audi A8 2014 January launch at Carton House Spa and golf Hotel in Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

If you’re still looking for that S-Class or BMW 7-Series well you might want to think again. The Audi A8 has lots to offer and may surprise you in more ways than one.

Ian

Audi A3 – Facelift

One of Audis best selling  cars is the A3. Now into its third generation, the A3 has received another facelift.

Dynamic photo, Colour: Tango Red
Dynamic photo,
Colour: Tango Red

The A3 has been given the A4/R8 treatment so now it looks like its more mature siblings. The headlights are flatter, with distinctive outer contours.

Though, the biggest update to the A3 is the new 1.0 petrol engine. It will be given a 1.0 TFSI, 3-cylinder engine with a 115hp and 200Nm output. This could be the pick of the bunch for the updated A3.

Static photo, Colour:Tango Red
Static photo,
Colour:Tango Red

Now also available in the A3 is the virtual cockpit. Read about my experiences of the virtual cockpit in the A4. A new 7-inch display is as standard now and can be equipped with MMI Navigation or MMI Navigation plus. By equipping the on-board internet, users can use navigation with Google Earth and Google Street View traffic information in real time. They can also see real time info on parking, destinations, news or the weather.

The facelift A3 is due to go on sale in August.

Static photo, Colour: Ara Blue
Static photo,
Colour: Ara Blue

Audi Q7 – Quick Drive

Yesterday, I was invited to the Audi Ireland Refresher Day in Killruddery House in Bray. What a venue it was! As soon as I entered through the large gates, lined up were a serious line up of cars. The Q7, A8, A7 Competition, A6 Avant and A4 were available from their “normal” range. Then parked up in front of the house were the serious machines; the TTS, RS3 and R8.

Audi Q7

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Audi Q7
Engine: 3.0 diesel  – 272hp and 600Nm
Transmission: 8 Speed Tiptronic, Quattro four wheel drive
Price: The Q7 range starts from €72,125, as tested – €104,376, including options.

2015 Audi Q7 Quattro PMcG-43 (1280x853)

To start off, I was in the Q7. The first thing you notice about the Q7 is how absolutely and utterly HUGE it is. Pulling out of the gates of the house was done with care, it was quite a squeeze. It is when you climb aboard that you start to appreciate the sheer size of the Q7. Inside, the cabin is nicely laid out. Equipped with the virtual cockpit as standard, the Q7 is, once again, tech heaven. Options, in terms of technology, on this Q7 were the Phone Box (€701) and Audi Connect (€495). To read more about Audis tech, you can read my in depth review of the Audi A4.  Space is on the Q7s side with the 770 litre boot space and rear legroom galore, it is certainly a talking point. There are also 2 folding seats in the boot for the emergency school run.

2015 Audi Q7 Quattro PMcG-88 (1280x853)

As fun as it is playing around with all the toys, it was probably a good idea to take it for a drive, so thats what I did. The Q7 is 325kg lighter than the old model and as odd as it seems, for such a large car, this does not go unnoticed. The Q7 handles surprisingly well for the big boy that it is. Soaking up the uneven, pothole riddled backroads of Wicklow, the Q7 hadn’t a problem. But not only does it like munching up the backroads, motorway cruising is easily done. Equipped with  cruise control as standard, the Q7 will cruise the country with ease.

2015 Audi Q7 Quattro PMcG-55 (1280x853)

Competitors for the Q7 include the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5. Although the BMW may be more dynamic in terms of driving and the XC90 pretty great in every way, its once you step into the Q7 you know you are driving something special. The cabin is something to behold, something to be proud of when you own it. The Q7 is a serious SUV for the Irish market.

Ian