The month started with a spectacular display of tech and design wizardry in the shape of the BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics concept, star of the Frankfurt motor show. This striking diesel-electric hybrid coupé combined M3 performance with Prius-like economy and emissions.
Unfortunately, the Vision ED coupé wasn’t bound for production – unlike the equally radical T25. Designed by Gordon Murray, the T25 is due to go on sale in 2011 and could revolutionise the city car. Steve Cropley got behind the wheel in an early mule of the three-cylinder microcar, which uses a central driving position to optimise space. Croppers seemed more than impressed: “It’s funny to find a 660cc, 600kg, £6000 car that has the potential to be more satisfying as a driver’s car than many costing four times as much.”
Meanwhile, F1 was once again mired in scandal as Renault admitted that it told Nelson Piquet Jr to crash in the 2008 Singapore GP. A ban on any involvement in any FIA-sanctioned event put an end to team boss Flavio Briatore’s career, and the Renault team got a suspended ban from F1 that will be activated if any similar event occurs in the future.
Turmoil elsewhere in the car industry continued as it was announced that Chinese company Geely was front-runner to buy Volvo, and Jaguar Land Rover announced that it would shut one of its plants.
Happier news came in the form of the new Vauxhall Astra, which we tested in prototype guise. It was still in the process of being signed off, and we gave the news to Vauxhall that it had made an excellent family hatch, if one that was still going to need some tweaks to get it to the top of the class.
Another prototype made it on to our pages in the shape of the new Jaguar XJ. Matt Prior was driven in the new luxury saloon by chassis guru Mike Cross and it became evident that the new XJ was set up to offer a dual character: a car intended to entertain as well as cosset.
Of course, we also drove some finished production cars in September, the new Mercedes SLS being one of the most exciting. At £155,000 and with a 563bhp engine under the Gullwing-inspired body, the SLS proved to be both a usable tourer and thrilling to drive: “A big player in a hard-fought market.”
One company that would have been paying close attention to the launch of the SLS was McLaren. With its joint venture with Mercedes over, the British marque was drawing attention to its own new supercar, the MP4-12C. The mid-engined V8 coupé won’t go on sale until late 2010, 16 years after the McLaren F1 shattered every rule in the supercar book.
We celebrated with a steer in the £2.5m, road-legal McLaren F1 GTR, which made the lucky driver, Steve Sutcliffe, rather emotional. He wrote: “The GTR fired itself at the horizon, and the sense of acceleration was just about all I could take. Coupled with the huge and beautiful noise from the BMW engine and the howl from the exhaust, it really was almost too much.”