We kicked off the month by providing the lowdown on the next Range Rover, due to be in showrooms less than two years from now. Using JLR’s unrivalled know-how in making aluminium monocoques, the new Range Rover is set to be up to half a tonne lighter and be capable of fuel consumption approaching 40mpg.
Out on the road, our own Matt Prior was discovering that the SAIC-developed MG6 was far from a dreadful insult to one of our once proudest names. On the contrary, it was really rather good – comparable, indeed, to a Ford Focus.
More surprises were in store for the team when the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet took on the Audi R8 V10 Spyder. Surprise because when any 911 takes on almost any other car, the outcome is usually not hard to guess. But not this time. “What the Turbo lacks is the one thing the R8 has in abundance: drama” were our concluding thoughts on that little showdown.
The following issue was dominated by the Beijing motor show, China now proving a bigger draw than Japan for car manufacturers looking to launch new product. Stealing the show was BMW’s Gran Coupé, another one of those ‘concepts’ that looks so real and so right that you scarcely need to ask whether it’s going to make it into production. If it does, the four-door coupé will rival the Porsche Panamera and new Mercedes CLS when sales start in 2012.
Back home, it was Vauxhall (for once) taking the plaudits in a group test, the source of this salvation being the excellent new Meriva, with its strong dynamics and sliding doors. No, it didn’t have quite enough talent across the board to eclipse the Citroën C3 Picasso, but we’d still call it a draw and place it several streets ahead of the Renault Scenic.
A less conventional group test pitched an Alfa Mito MultiAir against a VW Golf GTD, Honda CR-Z, BMW 320d ED and Mercedes E200 CDI. Huh? These may seem unlikely bedfellows until you consider that all these very different cars are united by a claim to be able to better 50mpg. In the event and under test conditions, only the BMW actually did – no mean feat when you consider that it was the fastest and most accelerative, too.
We also drove the Lotus Elise 1.6, likely to be the last small and affordable Lotus for a while, and, at the other end of the scale, learned how Bentley builds the Mulsanne. Apparently, the steering wheel alone takes 5.5 hours to stitch.
April was also the month in which a new mainstream Alfa finally lived up to is looks. The Giulietta looks like a new dawn for the marque, but time alone will tell.
Another car that was also keeping promises made long ago was the new Audi RS5. Driving a new high-performance Audi is so often a lucky dip – you rarely know what you’re going to get – but in this case it seems Audi has come up with something not so very far short of an R8 that’s got room for your kids.