Fast lane

Audi’s new A8 (above).
Audi’s new A8 (above).PHOTOS: AUDI HYUNDAI, RENAULT, ROLLS-ROYCE, ST FILE, VOLVO

Audi A8 with unique features

Audi's new A8 is a 5.17m limousine in "standard" form, with the A8L endowed with a 13cm longer wheelbase. Engines include a 3-litre turbodiesel and a 3-litre turbo petrol. The diesel develops 286bhp and the petrol version 340bhp. A 4-litre turbodiesel V8 packing 435bhp will be introduced later. There is also a 6-litre W12 variant.

The A8 will have features not found in any other Audi. For instance, a front camera detects bumps in the road early on and predictively adjusts the car's active suspension. This way, the suspension reacts at the right time, virtually completely eliminating any vibrations and jolts. This complex process takes just a few milliseconds, with the camera generating information about the road surface condition 18 times a second. The innovative suspension concept delivers a high level of comfort and yet allows the car to sit close to the road in dynamic driving mode.

Rear-axle steering makes this big car nimble as well, with its turning circle actually smaller than that of an A4's.


Number of young drivers in United Kingdom drops

The number of 17-year-olds taking the driving test in the United Kingdom has fallen by 100,000 over the past decade, with the overall number of under-25s learning to drive dropping by 20 per cent.

East Sussex experiences the most significant fall, with 61 per cent of under-25s ditching their driving aspirations. These findings are from a study carried out by automotive consumer website www.HonestJohn.co.uk.

Besides sky-high insurance costs, an average learner is required to pay £1,529 (S$2,721) to get his licence. Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency records show that the overall number of tests conducted has fallen from 1.8 million to 1.5 million, with young drivers accounting for the majority of the drop.


Beatle John Lennon's Rolls-Royce Phantom V goes back to London

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by bringing back John Lennon's colourful Rolls-Royce Phantom V (above) home to London. Currently owned by the Royal British Columbia Museum in Canada, The John Lennon Phantom V will travel to London to join The Great Eight Phantoms - A Rolls-Royce Exhibition, at Bonhams in New Bond Street, an area visited regularly by Lennon in the late 1960s in this very car.

The car will be on display at Bonhams from July 29 to Aug 2. Lennon had the Phantom V customised in true rock-star style. The rear seat was converted to a double bed; a television, telephone and refrigerator were installed, along with a "floating" record player and a custom sound system (which includes an external loud hailer).

Then, in April 1967, just as the recording of Sgt Pepper's was finishing, Lennon asked Surrey coachbuilders, J.P. Fallon, to give the Phantom a new paint job. The freshly painted Phantom was unveiled days before the worldwide release of Sgt Pepper's on June 1 and it became part of the overall concept of the album.


Rally legend Rosemary Smith drives Formula One car at 79

At 79 years old, Rosemary Smith (above) is proving age is just a number as she fulfils her lifelong dream of driving a Renault Sport Formula One Team car.

Smith initially trained as a seamstress and opened her own dress shop. It unexpectedly became her route into the world of motorsport when one of her clients invited her to navigate in a rally. It was not long before the Dublin-born thrillseeker switched to driving and the silverware soon followed. She has competed in some of the most iconic rallies around the world, taking home many trophies.

After years of competing and winning at the highest level in world rallying, she set up her own driving school using Renault Clios. Despite these achievements, she never got the chance to partake in arguably the greatest motorsport experience - driving a Renault Sport Formula One Team car - until now.


Rebranded London Taxi Company unveils electric taxi

London Taxi Company has relaunched as London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), marking the next stage in the company's transformation.

Underpinned by an investment totalling £325 million (S$579 million), LEVC, a wholly owned subsidiary of China's Geely, aims to be "an urban commercial vehicle provider of choice for cities around the world".

The rebranded company has also revealed the final version of its electric TX London Taxi. Equipped with an electric drivetrain and a petrol range extender, the TX has a range of 640km, with over 100km possible with zero emission.


Hyundai reveals i30 Fastback

Hyundai Motor has unveiled the next member of its i30 range: the i30 Fastback (above). Available across Europe by early next year, the i30 Fastback will feature Hyundai's signature cascading grille, a lowered, elegant sloping roof line ending in a generously arched spoiler line integrated in the body shell and a strong C-pillar.


Latest Takata death occurred in parked car

Another death has been attributed to the explosion of a defective Takata airbag, the New York Times reported. This time, the car was not even on the road. Honda said on Monday that the victim was using a hammer to repair a 2001 Accord parked at a home near Miami in June last year. The company said it did not know what repairs were being attempted, but said the ignition switch was in the "on" position. Eventually, the person activated the airbag inflater, which ruptured as the bag blew up. He died the next day.

The fatality was the 12th in the United States linked to Takata's airbag inflaters, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At least 17 deaths worldwide have been associated with the flaw, which can send metal fragments flying through vehicles as airbags inflate.


Mercedes-Benz ahead of BMW in luxury category

Mercedes-Benz has widened its global luxury car sales lead in the first half of the year, setting back BMW chief executive Harald Krueger's effort to reclaim the segment's top spot.

Mercedes sold 1.14 million cars in the six months through June, 14 per cent more than a year earlier, on soaring demand for its revamped E-class sedan (above) and sport utility vehicles, Bloomberg reported.

BMW lagged behind with a 5.2 per cent gain to 1.04 million vehicles. Even though BMW says it is putting profit before volume, Mr Krueger has vowed to win back the luxury car sales crown with the biggest product offensive in the company's history.

Last year, Mercedes overtook BMW for the first time in more than a decade. Volkswagen Group's Audi nameplate, hit by the growing diesel scandal and a dealer dispute in its biggest market, China, fell farther behind in the first half. It sold 908,950 vehicles in the period, a 4.7 per cent drop.


Polestar's most powerful Volvo

Polestar, the performance brand of Volvo Cars, has introduced the latest-generation powertrain optimisation for the new XC60. With the package, the XC60 T8 (above) delivers 421 horsepower, matching the optimised XC90 T8 as the most powerful Volvo model ever built.

Two key features of the optimisation are improved engine performance and gearbox functionality. The engine is tweaked to provide greater power and torque in the mid range, which is most often used in everyday driving. The gearbox shifts faster, with shift points tailored to the engine's behaviour and a hold function that keeps it in gear through a fast corner so as to preserve stability.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2017, with the headline 'Fast lane'. Print Edition | Subscribe