2020 Volkswagen Polo Review


With the help of its new, modular MQB-A0 platform, Volkswagen has stretched the sixth-generation Polo by 81mm, widened it by 63mm and lowered it just a touch.

The result is a car with a greater visual presence than its predecessor, and a few aesthetic licks have been effected to further toughen up the Polo.

Polo Crash Test



Most conspicuous are poker-faced LED headlights – replacing the xenons of the old model – that merge into a clean-cut radiator grille made shallow by a strip of body-coloured plastic.

There’s also a double swage line that halves the car, top to bottom. Such things are adventurous for Volkswagen although still not enough to give the car the kind of personality that emanates from, say, a Peugeot 208.
That said, the French car, and many other rivals beside, can only dream of possessing shut lines as slender as those found between the German car’s crisp body panels.



Using the MQB platform brings benefits other than the ability to easily build a bigger car. The new Polo is now more rigid (18,000Nm per degree versus 14,000Nm), which theoretically allows for greater body control at the same time as yielding a more supple ride.

To this end, on higher-spec Polos VW has introduced Sport Select running gear, which comprises adaptive dampers complete with auxiliary springs and 15mm drop in ride height. Our test car didn’t have this set-up.

Meanwhile the engine line-up is broad, ranging from a naturally aspirated 1.0-litre MPI petrol with 64bhp to the 197bhp 2.0-litre TSI petrol in the flagship GTI. There are diesel options, too, although you’ll be limited to an SCR-equipped (selective catalytic reduction) 1.6-litre TDI and none tops 100bhp. Is it surprising that VW expects just one in every 20 buyers to opt for diesel? We’d say not, and not necessarily because of the company’s recent misdemeanours.

The standard transmissions are five-speed or six-speed manuals, and there’s the option of a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic.
The styling of the Polo’s cabin is sufficiently reserved to rob it of much in the way of wow factor, but it is unquestionably a very solidly built, well-equipped and pleasant small car in which to spend time.



Interior

Absolutely nothing wobbles, creaks or flexes when you touch it. That Germanic sense of quality is more clearly present than in any other car in the class, save perhaps one or two with a proper premium badge.

In typical supermini fashion, VW uses hard plastics on the door cards and in the lower reaches of the cabin but they’re grained ones and certainly don’t do the interior’s quality aura any harm, while soft-touch plastics on the top of the dashboard improve tactile quality somewhat. The decorative panels on the main fascia can be finished in a number of different colours thanks to a range of optional colour packs, although a reserved Limestone Grey featured in our test car.

Opt for a more vibrant shade, such as the Energetic Orange dash-pad pack, and you’ll give the cabin a considerable visual lift. Continuing the trend of interior personalisation is a selection of upholstery patterns, which vary from trim level to trim level.

2020 Audi A7 Review And Crash Test


Next to the original A7, the new model is a far more muscular and aggressive-looking thing. Audi’s signature hexagonal grille has been enlarged to a point where it dominates the front of the A7 and, in combination with a sleek new headlight design, gives the Audi a face that appears more purposeful than before.

Round the back, meanwhile, is a single light strip, first seen on the latest A8, that stretches the entire width of the A7’s rear flank in a Cylon-esque fashion. Although the A7’s apparent resemblance to the villains of the Battlestar Galactica series is likely to be unintentional, it lends the Audi a more domineering on-road presence than before.

Audi A7 Crash Test



The familiar swooping silhouette remains, although the new A7 is now 5mm shorter than the original car, at 4969mm. Meanwhile, the wheelbase has been extended by 12mm to liberate more cabin space.



As for engines, a 335bhp 3.0-litre petrol V6 is available, although our test car made use of a 3.0-litre V6 50 TDI diesel powerplant. The oil-burner develops 282bhp between 3500rpm and 4000rpm, and torque stands at 457lb ft from 2250rpm to 3000rpm. This is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission and a self-locking centre differential. The petrol V6 makes use of a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

A new 48V primary electrical system endows the Audi with mild-hybrid capabilities too. Between 34mph and 99mph, the engine can shut down while coasting, and regenerative brakes can send up to 12kW of energy back into the lithium ion battery. Audi claims this system reduces fuel consumption by 0.7 litres per 100km (0.15 gallons per 62 miles).



Suspension is composed of a five-link arrangement with an antiroll bar front and rear. Adaptive dampers and air springs are both available as options, although our Sport-specification test car went without. It was equipped with sports suspension, though, which dropped its ride height by 10mm. It’s worth noting this isn’t available as a standalone option in the UK, with only S-line models getting it as standard.

Our A7 rode on standard 19in alloy wheels, although 20in and 21in wheels are available.

2020 Mercedes E-Class Overview


Mercedes-Benz has revealed a mid-cycle update for its E-Class sedan and wagon range. Changes include design tweaks inside and out, new driver-assistance features, and more efficient engines.

Design changes include LED headlights and tail lights, a new grille shape that widens at the bottom, and different front and rear bumpers, and boot lid.

There are also new wheel shapes, and three new extra paint options called 'high-tech silver', 'graphite grey metallic' and 'mojave silver'.
Mercedes-Benz also claims the All-Terrain will look "visually more similar to the SUV models" but has not released images.



The cabin features 'open-pore silver ash wood', 'burr walnut fondant', brushed aluminium' and 'aluminium with a carbon grain' trims. There's also an 'adaptive driver's seat' which moves into a position that corresponds to your height, which you've entered into the display or Mercedes Me app.

There's also a new-look steering wheel; the latest MBUX infotainment system shown on two 10.25-inch screens (two 12.3-inch screens are optional); augmented reality satellite navigation that overlays real-time forward camera footage with directional arrows; and 'Energizing' programs that teach you better posture, play light music/change lighting/blast air to wake you up, or help you nap when charging (in the PHEV model).

Updated active safety features include a new function in the AEB that can halt the car if you're unsafely turning off across the oncoming lane; "capacitive" lane-assist that uses sensor pads to check if you've got your hands on the wheel rather than requiring wheel movements at regular intervals; and a system that can match your speed with map and traffic-sign camera data.



There's also an expanded blind-spot assist system that warns you if a car or bicycle is approaching you before you exit when parked; active cruise control that can pre-emptively slow the car if software warns of a blockage ahead, and also stop-and-go on its own in heavy traffic even if the car has been still for 60 seconds; and an expanded automatic parking function with 360-degree camera.

From the middle of 2020, the Mercedes Me app will be available in some regions with Urban Guard packages that go beyond a regular alarm. Vehicle sensors register when the parked and locked vehicle is bumped or towed, or when someone attempts to break into the vehicle. If the service is active, the driver is informed via the app. It can also pinpoint the location of a stolen vehicle, a la Apple's Find My iPhone program.

Engine details are scarce, but in response to European regulations Mercedes-Benz will offer plug-in hybrid (PHEV) systems with both petrol and diesel engines, as it is doing with the GLE SUV.

Beyond this, the entry M254 four-cylinder petrol engine gets a second-generation 48V electrical system including an energy recovery function and a mechanism to decouple the engine when gliding downhill.

2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC Review


The EQC is, in prospect, a mid-sized SUV that’s actually about 100mm longer than a Mercedes GLC, although still only a five-seater. With slightly different electric motors mounted on each axle, the car has electronically torque-vectored four-wheel drive. The front motor has a less tightly wound stator for better operating efficiency, the rear one a more tightly wound one for greater torque.

Mercedes Benz EQC Crash Test





When cruising, the EQC is driven almost exclusively by the front motor.

Dig deeply into the accelerator, however, and the car’s driving impetus shifts instantly towards the rear axle, with up to a combined 402bhp and 564lb ft on tap. That’s a good portion more peak torque than is offered by either the Jaguar i-Pace or the Audi E-tron, although the former is still quicker-accelerating than the Mercedes according to manufacturer claims.



It’s in direct comparison with those two key rivals that so much about this car will be judged. The EQC splits the difference between them on both overall length and price. With an 80kWh battery, it has the least usable battery capacity of the three – and yet it beats the bigger, heavier Audi on WLTP-test-verified battery range (259 miles plays 249).



On the inside, the car is a lot easier to recognize as a modern Mercedes than from without. The EQC’s cabin has the twin widescreen digital displays and button-crowded steering wheel spokes of so many modern Benzes, but mixes some fresh design details, some new ambient lighting features, some EV-specific display modes and new-groove materials into the cabin mix. 

Our test car had slotted speaker grilles and natty looking stylized air vents, both of which I liked, as well as a particularly soft and attractive synthetic dashboard whose appearance I can only risk underselling by describing as if it had been made out of recycled wetsuits.

Occupant space up front feels pretty typical for a mid-sized SUV; in the rear you’re just a little more aware of being squeezed in between a raised cabin floor (under which the drive battery sits) and a roofline that’s lowish by class standards. With 500 litres of storage space, the boot is biggish but not exceptionally so.



How does the EQC perform on the road?
The car’s driving experience has no shortage of features to distinguish it from a combustion-engined SUV, and, if you've read about or driven EVs before, you won’t need me to itemize most of them. But if there’s one to lift it above that of the E-tron, iPace or Tesla Model X, it’s refinement.
Aren’t all EV supposed to be silent-running? Well, no – it turns out they’re not. I don’t think I’ve ever driven an electric car – or any car, come to think of it – as quiet as the EQC. Attentive aerodynamic body design helps to tune out wind intrusion at speed, or course, but road noise is very well isolated here too, and the car’s ride is very comfortable indeed at both low speeds and high.
Throttle response is typically great, although perhaps not at Tesla’s almost synaptic level; drivability is excellent; and outright performance is very strong, though a Jaguar i-Pace might just feel a touch stronger under big pedal applications. The car’s handling, meanwhile, is neat, secure, contained and predictable, although it doesn’t stand out from the SUV pack for its sense of precision or incisiveness.

Complexity may be the only significant turn-off about the EQC’s motive character: there’s a lot of it, and Mercedes hasn’t really attempted to mask any of it. The car has five driving modes (Comfort, Sport, Eco, Individual and Maximum Range) and five different battery regeneration programs (which you select using what would otherwise be the gearshift paddles).

To give Mercedes due credit, you can get on just fine with the car in its default setting (‘Comfort’, with just enough regen on a trailing throttle to make the car feel intuitive). Depart from this, however, and it may be a while before you’re sure you’ve found the dynamic presets you like best; and you’re quite likely to find a few you really don’t like in the process.

Mercedes’ ‘auto’ regeneration mode, for example, uses the car’s speed limit detection, radar cruise control and navigation systems to blend the regenerative braking of its electric motors up and down automatically. It seems to work well about 80 per cent of the time – but it certainly has moments of inattention.

Combine that regen mode with ‘maximum range’ driving mode, though, and the car goes into a semi-autonomous setting that restricts motor power both directly and indirectly - and most obviously via a haptic accelerator that creates perceptible lumps in the pedal's travel with which to guide your inputs. It does all this in order to eke out battery range, and, operating thusly, the EQC’s electronics must be processing gigabytes of sensor data, minute by minute, in order to effectively be entirely responsible for the car's own speeding up and slowing down.