Currently reading: Autocar's 2009 review: April
Staff changes; Focus RS vs GT-R; scrappage starts; 599 HGTE; Cayman vs 370Z; XKR vs 911; Hyundai i10

Senior staff changes made headlines in April. General Motors’ chief exec stepped down, PSA fired its chief exec, design boss Chris Bangle left BMW and Ron Dennis moved away from Formula One to concentrate on McLaren’s road car business.

April 2009 in pictures

There was some positive news for the European motor industry when the German scrappage scheme delivered a 40 per cent boost in sales. After a long wait and much speculation, the UK government followed suit and launched its own scheme, offering a £2000 discount on new car sales. In the same month, business secretary Peter Mandelson went to Scotland to try the electric Mini E and promote a £250m incentive scheme due to start in 2011 for buyers of electric cars.

We revealed exclusive details of Porsche’s plans to build a three-door version of the Panamera in the spirit of the 928, with the green light subject to a recovery in the luxury car market. At the same time, Porsche confirmed that is considering using smaller, supercharged engines.

Talking of Porsche: in our group test of seven £7000 runabouts, Steve Sutcliffe concluded that the winner, the Hyundai i10, was “as impressive an achievement as any new Porsche or BMW from the past 10 years”. The new Suzuki Alto came an admirable second, with the Kia Picanto third.

At the other end of the spectrum, Matt Prior went to Italy to drive the fettled Ferrari 599 HGTE and concluded that the £14k it costs to improve an already very good supercar is money well spent. Meanwhile, Richard Bremner was tasked with choosing between the revised, 503bhp 5.0-litre Jaguar XKR and a PDK-equipped 911 Carrera S. By the most marginal of margins, victory went to the Jag.

Another blow for Porsche came in our twin test of the base Cayman and new Nissan 370Z. The Porsche was the better overall car, but not worth the £10,000 premium it costs in the real world (with options, that is).

In one of the strangest head-to-heads we’ve staged, a diesel-powered Audi Q7 lined up against the 500bhp V10 BMW M5. With all-wheel drive and 737lb ft of torque, the V12 Q7 had enough firepower to give the M5 a fright. Don’t bet against this mighty V12 appearing in another VW Group car – perhaps one made in Crewe.

Excitement hit fever pitch in the Autocar office when our new long-term Focus RS turned up sooner than expected. One of its first jobs was to take on the Nissan GT-R in a shootout over bumpy roads in North Yorkshire. Andrew Frankel decided that “out there in the real world, not only can you use more of the Focus’s performance more of the time, but you’ll have more fun doing it”.

Jamie Corstorphine

Autocar's review of 2009: JanuaryAutocar's review of 2009: FebruaryAutocar's review of 2009: MarchAutocar's review of 2009: MayAutocar's review of 2009: JuneAutocar's review of 2009: JulyAutocar's review of 2009: August

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