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LATEST CAR REVIEWS

Toyota’s new Supra: a matter of how sweet you want your sports car to be

A friend of the family was renowned for his observation that life is like a cup of tea – it’s how you make it. Some like milk in their beverage (I like mine black – does that say something about me?). Some prefer to add the milk; others like it with sugar; and so on.Now I’m venturing to suggest the same goes, with particular relevance, for sports cars. Some people like them to be all growl and grunt; others seek understated athleticism.This week’s review motor, the Toyota Supra 2dr sports coupé, has a few flavours of its own blended in. I use the word ‘blended’ advisedly because there is a genuine mix of heritage here. Believe it or not, a good spoonful of BMW has been added.That’s due to a collaboration between the two companies which spawned the Supra from Toyota and Z4 from BMW. The two cars are even built alongside each other. Their big rival is regarded as the Porsche 718 Cayman.Naturally, the Supra goes its own way on how the suspension has been tuned, how the car feels, drives, handles and responds, how it looks and sounds, how it is equipped and much, much more.Yet there is no getting away from the fact that it is powered by one of the world’s great straight 6cyl petrol engines – yes, from BMW.And that is where I’ll start. It is a wonderful piece of work and I love it in its own right. But in this Supra it was almost too smooth. I wanted more growl and grunt: a matter of taste I suppose. Don’t get me wrong: in ‘Sport’ mode this flew, but I yearned for the accompanying signification of sound and that kick-in-the-back feeling when I snapped the foot down. I got it to a degree but I wanted more.It was hard not to like this car but hard to rave about it too, which is what I should be doing given its lineage and price (from €81,000 or so).With 50/50 weight distribution, the Supra is the epitome of balance. I loved the looks, the long bonnet, the short rear. I even liked the cockpit, though some feel it is far too BMW-ish. If you want to go looking for similarities, fair enough, but I took it as a comfortable ensemble. Getting in and out was awkward for my frame but I didn’t care. All I wanted was to drive it as legally fast and safely as I could – and did so over as many road types as possible.And my abiding memory was not the zip to 100kmh. It was the brilliance at pace over long, looping bends. Every car of this stature has a standout point. I reckon that’s where the Supra’s lies: I enjoyed the sense of grip, direction and velocity. Anything can give you straight-line speed these days. Nearly anything can give you a sharp, sport suspension. Not as many can dish out such power and still maintain equilibrium on long, awkward bends, where a car’s ability and stability are truly tested.I found myself repeating the exercise; all the more enjoyable as I liked the driving position, something not guaranteed in a small car either.I mostly kept it in Sport mode to get as much edge as possible. I think the 8spd automatic gearbox could do with a bit more life. The upshifts were smooth but I wanted greater tangibility. How about a dual-clutch auto? Or a proper manual? All sports cars should have a manual. That’s how you get properly ‘involved’. Yes, there was the token of manual with paddle shifts on the steering column. I used them a lot to hold high revs and low gears but still felt I’d welcome more oomph.There are all sorts of things you can do with the iDrive-based infotainment system which, like the digital instrument binnacle, was clear and easy to read most of the time – bright sunshine at an angle blurred them a little on one drive to the midlands.As with all good cars, the quality of handling and ride impressed the more I drove. This has great underpinnings.And yes I would probably buy it if I had the money. Why? Because it is the sort of car that grows on you as long as you realise it is more grand tourer than snorting hellraiser. For many that is a better proposition for comfortable everyday use on our roads, at our speed limits. I’d buy it all the quicker if it had a manual transmission – which would lower the price too.I recall being on a previous-generation Supra drive with F1 genius Eddie Irvine. He drove me around Mondello at pace, with a nonchalance born of, and blended with, precision (his and the car’s).Funny how that sums up my take on this new Supra: it’s a precisely impressive, rather than flagrantly awesome, drive.Facts & figuresToyota Supra sports car:3-litre (2,998cc) 6cyl petrol, 8spd auto, 340hp, 0-100kmh 4.3 secs. Launch Control, adaptive suspension, 19in alloys, Brembo front brakes.GR Spec (€81,260): black alcantara, 8.8in navigation/Apple CarPlay display, SupraSafety+ adaptive cruise control, pedestrian/rear-end collision alert.GR Premium (€84,335): leather interior, 12 speakers, wireless charger.

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Mitsubishi’s new L200 has the style to pick up more customers

WHEN one vehicle is responsible for a substantial part of its earnings, a carmaker has to mind the model. That is especially the case if it is a pick-up which, in this part of the world anyway, is a marginal segment for most automakers.
It’s not marginal for Mitsubishi, who have been making one-tonne pick-ups since 1978.
The L200, their second-biggest seller globally, is designed for work in some of the toughest environments.
Mining sites in Indonesia and Chile are just two among 150 markets where the L200 operates daily in the harshest of conditions.
So driving on gravel roads into the high mountains of southern Spain recently wasn’t exactly going to have the sixth generation L200 break into the pick-up equivalent of a sweat.
Still, it was a drive where I appreciated having a sure-footed and competent off-road vehicle under me.
And it has just, technically, gone on display for sampling in Ireland.
Dealers have only recently received their demonstration models. Prices start from €35,000 for the entry Business grade.
The best-selling L200 here is expected to be the Intense grade, priced at €37,850 (manual) and at €39,950 for the new six-speed automatic.
A new Instyle grade tops the range. It includes leather seat trim and other extras at €41,935.
With a new engine, a broad array of driver assist technologies and a completely new styling they hope to return the L200 to the top-three position in pick-up sales here.
General spec includes a “bird’s eye” monitor camera system, LED headlights, enhanced ‘Superselect’ AWD and 18-inch alloys.
Changes include new headlamps which are designed for better night visibility.
There are more substantial bumpers, but good approach and departure angles of the fifth generation model are retained.
The new pick-up is 40mm taller and marginally longer than the previous L200.
It is claimed to have the best turning circle in the class as well as the best cabin space.
It is powered by the new 150hp 2.2-litre diesel. The Superselect AWD has four settings for different terrains. An optional electromagnetic rear differential lock is available on all grades.
Increased spring rates and larger shock absorbers on the front suspension make it more comfortable to drive. The leaf-spring rear suspension has been retained to provide better cargo capacity, but now has an extra sixth leaf.
Inside, there’s a more integrated set-up of controls and instruments with more colourful graphics.
There’s extensive use of soft-touch materials while the seats have larger side bolsters.
And there is more storage while four USB sockets are standard.
Overall, the L200 is a big advance on the fifth generation and will put Mitsubishi strongly back in contention for more sales in this highly-competitive segment.

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X-rating a plus for Kia Ceed

It is always fraught recommending cars to family, friends and colleagues. It is even more so when one of the latter’s brilliance and exacting standards are only matched by what can be described politely as challenging moodiness. That he was a great friend and sat next to me complicated the process.Luckily we never fell out during nearly a decade after he bought, with my recommendation, the family hatchback known then as a Kia c’eed and which has now morphed into the more sensibly named Ceed.In that time Kia has become an increasingly bigger player in both the new and second-hand market. The company’s seven-year warranty has been a big factor but that would count for little if the cars themselves – ranging from city vehicles such as the Picanto to its well known SUVs like Stonic, Sorento and Sportage (the country’s 12th best-selling vehicle this year) but all the time pivoting on the Ceed – weren’t really up to the job. Excellent EVs like the Soul and Niro have given the marque a funky modern face.Since the first c’eed was launched in 2006, the Korean marque has more than doubled its sales in Europe, fulfilling its mission statement that it could engineer and design a car that appeals to European drivers. It was created in Frankfurt, tested on roads in the south of Spain and the north of Sweden, and built in an all-new plant in Slovakia. More than 1.4m versions have been built and sold in Europe since its launch 13 years ago. It has also won 10 European design awards.Now Kia is merging its SUV expertise and Ceed family appeal to ride the wave of the urban crossover popularity in the XCeed, a very tasty vehicle with the requisite cladding, raised height, stance and design tweaks but keeping the handling and packaging of a hatchback.It arrives later this month and costs from €26,245 with mainly petrol engines until a plug-in hybrid version arrives in the new year. The company is expecting great things from the XCeed with probably more than 1,100 being sold next year of which 500 might be the PHEV, which will be high spec and have a starting price of the early €30ks.Last week, the XCeed was launched in the French port of Marseille and proved to be a very attractive proposition. Slightly longer and wider it is a lot more imposing than the standard Ceed while not being the height of a Sportage. That is replicated inside, where driver and passengers get a more commanding view of the road. The car is virtually all new with only the front doors inherited from the hatchback. Despite a coupe look to the back of the XCeed, headroom was adequate.The turbocharged engines give good progress and are efficient without being ground-breaking.The launch came days after James Brooks, the likeable long-serving head of Kia Ireland, went on “gardening leave” after being headhunted by the Gowan Group to lead the revitalising of the Opel marque here, of which Gowan has taken control.Aidan Doyle, marketing guru of Kia Ireland, said it addressed the “growing desire for cars which offer more emotion and dynamism than an SUV, both in terms of the way a car looks and drives. Yet these customers don’t want to lose the practicality that a larger car offers them.”It is worth checking the XCeed out. You won’t lose any friendships over it.

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