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Mustang sallies forth and conquers the world

Ford is reining in its iconic Pony sports car, the Mustang, to make it safer and more neighbour friendly. But whoa, before you kick off a shoe, the good news is that performance has been improved, not diminishedMustang has been the best-selling sports car in America for 50 years and now after storming into Europe, it us the most popular sports car on the planet. Last year, 150,000 Mustangs were sold across the world, well ahead of Ferrari and Porsche. Now exporting to 146 countries, sales outside the USA have leapt by 100pc.The 2018 version arrives here in March with a long list of safety and performance aids, including a “Good Neighbour Mode” that allows the high-flying executive heading off to an early morning flight to smother the 5-litre V8 engine roar until out of earshot of sleeping neighbours. On the open road you can reset for a full-blooded drive.Almost 100 Mustangs have been sold here in two years and up to 25 new owners are expected to buy a new model brimming with technology.The 5-litre 450bhp and 2.3 litre EcoBoost 290bhp engines get a new 10-speed transmission which enables the engine to deliver peak power and torque for faster acceleration.The 5-litre will now accelerate to 100km/h in less than four seconds when a Drag Strip Mode is enabled. Typically, when a driver shifts gears, time is lost but this new box enables the engine to deliver peak power and torque when up-shifting. This gives a sprint once confined to supercars. For tax and environment reasons, the 2.3 litre version is more popular here. Prices across the range are from €55,000 to €72,000.The Mustang has languished at a two-star Euro NCap safety rating but it could win higher marks with such high-end technology as Pre-Collision Assist, Pedestrian Detection, Distance Alert, Lane Departure warning and Lane Keeping Aid. There is also an optional MagneRide Damping System for instant response to changing road conditions: Normal, Sport track and Snow/Wet modes.Thanks to rapid growth in international markets, the Ford Mustang is the most popular sports car in the world, according to Ford analysis of IHS Markit new vehicle registration data in the sports car segment. “The legacy of Mustang continues to grow, and in places it never reached before,” said Mark Schaller, Ford Mustang marketing manager.For 2018, a more athletic look is highlighted by new front and rear design and more advanced technologies such as an available 12-inch all-digital instrument panel.

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Plug-in hybrid for Range Rover speeds race to electric era

A plug-in hybrid Range Rover is on the way in yet another major indication of how big the swing towards electrification has become.The new Range Rover P400e combines a 300PS 2-litre 4cyl petrol engine with a 116PS electric motor, and road tax runs at as little as €170-a-year.The combined 404PS output (it is calculated as less than the two separate outputs) through the permanent four-wheel drive system means a 0-100kmh time of 6.8 seconds. And there is an enormous 640Nm of torque (pulling power).But because of the electrified powertrain, the car only emits 64g/km on the NEDC combined cycle (2.8 l/100km).They claim it can do up to 51km on the electric charge alone.All of which goes hand in hand with the car’s renowned on and off-road prowess.Parallel Hybrid is the default driving mode, combining petrol and electric drive.There is a save function that prevents the battery charge dropping below a pre-selected level.There is a charging time of 2 hours and 45 minutes for the batteries.This is the latest plug-in from the company following the revelation last week of the Range Rover Sport PHEV.The manufacturer says: “Jaguar Land Rover’s ICE to ACE journey continues, moving from conventional internal combustion engines to autonomous, connected and electrified vehicles.”There are design tweaks and a redesigned cabin to coincide with the announcement.Despite the car’s frugality on fuel consumption, passengers are steeped in luxury.The front seats can feature 24-way movement, there are as many as 17 connection points, including domestic plug sockets, USB, HDMI and 12-volt – and 4G wi-fi hotspots for up to eight devices. You can also order seats with 25 massage programmes.Rear legroom has been increased to 186mm.And there is the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system with twin high-definition touchscreen controls.

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Why this new e-Golf shines light on two electric futures

I think I caught a glimpse of not one, but two futures with this week’s review car (nothing like a good dose of the practical present to light up the crystal ball). I was driving Volkswagen’s new all-electric e-Golf. It may not be the most dramatic development on the electric vehicle (EV) scene, but I think my sojourns in it permitted a real foretaste of contrasting tomorrows. One is the clichéd version where we all swoosh silently in our sparkling EVs with not a tailpipe in sight.The other is not nice at all, not least because it is soaked in regret that we didn’t do something – really do something – when we had the chance.If we continue to shuffle along we’ll end up patching together an EV future that’ll do justice to no one. Like the un-joined-up thinking that kept two Luas lines apart for so long.So either we, as a government and a society, are going to ‘go electric’ or half boil the kettle. And we don’t have that much time. As a wise young man said to me recently: “Faraway is quite close.” It is, you know.Anyway, here’s my personal taste of the bad future. I needed to charge the e-Golf. I wanted a quick boost of 40mins or so to get my range back above 200km (in eco+ mode). But there aren’t that many charging points in my neck of the woods. Of the cluster at the Luas stop at Stillorgan, one of the nozzles was filthy, covered in clay. And because I wasn’t travelling by Luas, the notice warned the monetary charge could be – stress could be – €45 a day. For Luas users, it is a max of €4 a day. So it’s free to charge but you pay to park. Time to rethink? Definitely.In town, two points I’d selected from the app were occupied – one by a non-electric car.It was wet, miserable, cold. If this is the future, I said, I couldn’t be bothered.The thing is the car itself was excellent; silky smooth, hush-quiet and a real pleasure to drive. I was well tuned in, too, with apps, directions and range monitor (my ‘eco’ driving rated a 98pc Blue score). But that didn’t bring any of the charging stations nearer, nor reduce the hassle.So I drove carefully back and charged overnight (14 hours) to gain a 297km range (in eco+ mode).That scenario morphed into the second, brighter, future: my planned overnight-charge approach would cover my needs and something further afield – a drive to the midlands, for example, a 30-minute boost at Enfield or Kilbeggan.But I want to be absolutely sure I can do it; certain there are enough quick chargers available to do Wexford and back too. Honestly, that uncertainty is electric’s biggest enemy. A range of 230km (realistically the e-Golf’s practical limit) is okay so long as you can boost your reserves in quick time.And that’s where, despite our current low uptake of EVs, we should be showing real intent; we either push on and lead people to change or we play un-joined-up Luas thinking for decades. I know this sounds like preachy, typical media commentary. It’s not. It’s something I believe would be a good thing for many. We’ve invested in 1,200 or so charging points. Let’s add more, let’s target high-use urban areas especially. Let’s have incentives: no parking fees, no tolls, benefit-in-kind, bus lane access. Either this is worth doing properly or it’s not.My days in the excellent e-Golf showed it can work. Sure, a hybrid gives you double indemnity (petrol/electric) and would be my choice right now for practical purposes. But 230km/250km in an EV is loads for many. I managed it. This electric future needn’t be a disruptive shift at all. It’s up to us.And I did a lot of driving for a few euro (night rate charging – road tax just €120 – but the price is stiff). It’s a routine I settled into. I just wish there were more boost options. That’s the nub. I’m not sure we’ve got our heads around making clusters of chargers available (for those living in apartments for example).I was in Tokyo recently and saw how coordinated it can be; to the point of car batteries feeding into the communal grid in times of real need. Try that here? You must be joking. Yet it is the sort of planning we need.I thoroughly enjoyed my e-Golf, even if boot and rear-seat space weren’t that great. But what a silent, seamless drive it was. The system shone in slow traffic, its recuperative mode (three levels) boosting my range. Ideal around town. And it is such a great car to just drive (I never get out of a Golf without saying that).This one benefits from the revisions of the range’s recent update, most pertinently the new high-density battery pack and electric motor which they claim pushes range from 190km to 300km.The e-Golf may not be a radical EV game-changer, as such, but it is certainly helping to bring the ‘faraway’ much closer.Facts & figuresVolkswagen e-Golf electric 5dr hatch; 134bhp electric motor, 36 amp-hour (Ah) lithium-ion battery. Claimed range 300km; zero emissions; €120 road tax.On-the-road price: €35,665.Standard equipment: 16ins alloys, adaptive cruise control, Front Assist/pedestrian monitoring; 9.2ins nav system, Isofix anchors outer rear seats, ‘C’ shaped LED DLRS, Hill Hold assist, voice control, lumbar support, electric/adjustable/heated mirrors, ‘e-Golf’ badgings, climatronic air con, quick charge socket. Options: Technology upgrade (park distance control, high beam ‘light assist’, Lights & Vision package, folding mirrors, active info display.

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Bringing joy to the soul

As much as I like tootling around with my partner and the dog on our Sundays in the Wicklow Mountains, occasionally it is good to get in a car and take it off for a week by myself and explore a part of the country that’s new to me.I am as happy as Noddy in his little red car as the constraints come off and I can probably drive farther, faster and for longer when left to my own devices.So it was in the middle of last month that I took off for a few days to Ballina in Mayo and just across the county line to Enniscrone in Sligo.The week before I had been at the Frankfurt Motor Show and my colleague from The Irish Times, Michael McAleer, had been singing the praises of Mayo as a place and his hopes for joy at Croke Park, and, like a big salmon in the Moy, I was hooked.As luck would have it, one of the cars I was most looking forward to this year was scheduled for my week off – the new Ford Fiesta. And after the relative disappointment over the company’s ST Line models a few weeks back, the new Fiesta would have to perform.The shackles were off and I would be throwing the car around the country roads as well as needing something to make rapid progress along the motorways to the West to maximise my time there.I needn’t have worried. The all-new Fiesta was a delight and I loved driving it. All the brio that made it, and its bigger brothers, the Focus and Mondeo, one-time class-leaders for their driving finesse, has returned. It was agile, confident and with great grip. If you need them, the brakes are first class. The autonomous emergency braking also works!The model I was driving was a ‘Frozen White’ Fiesta Titanium with the 1.0-litre EcoBoost 100PS petrol engine.There was a very slick six-speed manual which spurred the car to 100kmh in 10.5 seconds and had a maximum of 185kmh, while still keeping CO2 emissions of 97. You can also expect about 50mpg, which I got over my week.If this seventh-generation Fiesta was a driver’s car par excellence, it did suffer from still being very tight and awkward in the back and the test model was overloaded with extras such as heated seats and steering wheel, which are not needed in a small, adaptable little car. The extras pushed the price to €25,270, which is a long way from the €16,550 entry price of the all-new Fiesta and even a massive increase on the already well-specced Titanium model opening price of €20,050. It was too much and I wouldn’t pay it, but fully loaded and at around €21k the car would be good value.It is bigger from the outside than the last model but that only pays off with the front seats, and as I have said I wouldn’t like to be sitting behind someone like me in the driver’s seat. The load area was adequate for me but not for a small family.Yet the car is super safe and has been awarded the maximum 5-star safety rating by independent crash test authority Euro NCAP. It claims to be the most technologically advanced small car on sale in Europe – and delivers sophisticated features designed to help prevent or mitigate the impact of an accident for occupants and pedestrians, including an enhanced version of Ford’s Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection that for the first time can help prevent collisions in the dark. The Fiesta has been around for 40 years now but this is the most refined version and almost has a premium feel.But it isn’t roomy enough and will lose out to the massive range of competitors on that score.However, I had a real blast driving it. That experience, plus a couple of days spent at the seaweed baths in Enniscrone and wandering around some of the wonders of Ballina and Mayo, restored some joy to my soul.I’ll be back.******The lessons from Frankfurt which I mulled on my week off were that the electric and hybrid “revolution” is now so embedded in the car-maker’s psyche that there is not turning back.However the biggest battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the paying public over the next few years will be over the small SUVs. It was impossible to go to any of the big exhibition halls without falling over them.There was the impressive Kia Stonic, which my colleague Martin Brennan described last week, next door was its sister the Hyundai Kona, while the T-Roc from Volkswagen deserved attention.The Kia people particularly impressed me and I think they are getting their act together faster than other marques. While the Stonic is about the size for me, Kia also has a fast coupe-type saloon called the Stinger which people are raving about.Its performance this year is impressive and it is the only top 10 marque to increase over last year in what is becoming a very difficult market with many people eschewing the chance to buy new and go across the Border to buy good quality cars far cheaper.On my return I was delighted to hear that Dyson is entering the electric car market. I have just bought my second Dyson vacuum-cleaner and the service and quality I received could go a long way to ensuring success on the forecourt.

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