The New Aston Martin DBS Superleggera | A Brute in a Suit

It's here, everyone down tools. The DBS Superleggera has arrived. From the minds of innovative image maker Nick Knight, Aston Martin’s Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman and his team comes the new DBS Superleggera. 

 

What is an innovative image maker? 

When I first read that title I thought 'we're just making it up now aren't we?' I mean long gone are the days when you can tell someone you're a Blacksmith and you both on with your lives

Nowadays, its Content Creator, it's Senior Marketing Data Analytics Executive Secretary etc. Bring back the Sheep Shearers that's what I say. Good old fashioned titles. 

I digress. 

No I don't, I was talking about Innovative Image Makers. You want to know what that entails, just watch the video for the new Aston Martin Superleggera and ask me how it's done. That's what innovative image making brings you. 

Nick Knight is a long-standing Aston Martin owner with a passion for bold forms and striking imagery.

A true pioneer in digital photography and filmmaking, Knight combines his mastery of image-making technology with a unique eye for portraiture, still life, fashion photography and the moving image.

The film depicts shards of warped metallic objects coming together like a Thelonious Monk piano ditty. I know I bet every blogger is making the same comparison right? 

But if you listen to Thelonious play the piano he starts every song by playing the main signature riff, but cluttered with bum notes. Eventually as the song transpires, all the bum notes fall away and the melody blooms. 

It's a stunning short film and I was pleased to see some of the Aston Martin signature moves like driving up the inclines of road banks, reminiscent of the car chase down the Tiber in the James Bond movie Spectre. That Aston Martin DB10 sold for £2.4 million at auction

At the start of the process, Knight sat down with Aston Martin’s Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman and his team for a briefing on the character and qualities of the DBS Superleggera.

‘I asked what the single key attribute of the car was,’ Knight says, ‘and the answer was ‘speed’. The DBS Superleggera is Aston Martin's flagship, a super GT that pushes the boundaries of performance and design. 'It is a brute in a suit, an unpredictable rogue.'

'Torque is such an important feature of the DBS Superleggera, it's the delivery of the power that throws you back into your seat as you accelerate,' says Reichman, 'this power is what defines the DBS Superleggera. This car is about bold, athletic muscularity.'

It certainly boasts muscularity with the 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12, tuned to produce tremendous power and immense torque for breath-taking response and extraordinary in-gear performance. 

'I believe we can look at film in a different way, throw out the linear approach and create a purely emotional way of presenting imagery,' says Knight, 'I think it’s totally appropriate for Aston Martin to trust completely in someone’s creative vision and push the boundaries.'

'Artistic collaborations bring a fresh perspective,' says Aston Martin's Director of Global Marketing and Brand Strategy Gerhard Fourie. 'Nick Knight's work is very arresting, thoroughly modern and above all, it embodies Aston Martin beauty.'

DBS Superleggera (22).jpg

Some Spec on the Aston Martin Superleggera

With 725PS, 900Nm of torque, a top speed of 211mph and blistering acceleration that dispatches 0-62mph in just 3.4 seconds and 0-100mph in 6.4 seconds, DBS Superleggera is a car dedicated to delivering an unforgettable driving experience and class-leading in-gear acceleration, with 50-100mph achieved in fourth gear in a mere 4.2 seconds.

Evolving innovative aerodynamic concepts first seen on the DB11 - such as the curlicue and Aeroblade - and then taking things further with an F1-inspired double-diffuser, DBS Superleggera generates 180kg of downforce at VMAX: the highest figure ever for a series production Aston Martin.

This significant increase comes with no additional drag penalty.

Supple, aromatic leather and Alcantara upholstery comes as standard, as do the Sports Plus performance seats and steering wheel.

Should anyone need a detailed spec sheet on this stunning piece of machinery leave me a comment and I'll email one through. 

Priced from £225,000 in the UK, EUR 274,995 in Germany and $304,995 in the USA, deliveries of DBS Superleggera are scheduled to begin in Q3 2018.

The New Morgan 3 Wheeler: Pod Racer, Fighter Plane, Speeding Bullet or Car?

The New Morgan 3 Wheeler has arrived. I know what you're saying, but Carl, I already have a car and it has 4 wheels! Why do I need another with a lower spec? So much about driving nowadays is geared towards functionality. Conveniently placed beverage cup holders, ergonomically designed bucket seats, heated steering wheels etc. But as Tom Hanks said in the movie Big, 'What's so fun about that?' 

The Morgan 3 Wheeler has been updated with 21st Century technology and is designed for one purpose alone, to make driving fun.

A leather padded cockpit complete with aircraft instrumentation adds to the sense of flying on the road. You'll feel more like Biggles than Mr Big, but that's fine. This car will draw all the right attention. I got countless waves and nods from people on the London streets today.

From the design viewpoint, the focus was set on making the car as close to an aeroplane as possible, while retaining handy extra space for driver, passenger and a holdall in the rear. Although don't expect much too much boot space. 

It does that Sunday drive feel and look to it. Or should I say 'race on Sunday'. Although race responsibly folks, in go karts, or on designated disused runways. 

The smooth profile makes the car look sleeker and lower. The pronounced bullet shape and the exposed chassis and aluminium tub are accompanied by the aeroplane profile of the car’s sides.

The shape is of a gentle yet powerful missile at the front leading to a beetle back tail at the rear.

Because it's rear wheel it can be a little lively on the rear axle. But that's to be expected the car is easy to control with compact dimensions offering a perfect view ahead and to the rear.

The gearbox is a lot of fun; I mean a lot fun! The powertrain is a V Twin fuel injected engine mated to a Mazda 5 speed (and reverse) gearbox. It's possibly one of the most exhilarating experiences I've had on the road. And yes I'm including that time when I did a J-Turn out of Waitrose car park.

It handles better than you'd expect for what looks like a couple of bicycle wheels up front. With an economical 1 15 horsepower the motor provides maximum power at minimum revs.

All in all it's a car that is brimming with swashbuckling spirit. I doubt it could be your only car you own. You might not want the white knuckle ride every time you pop down the shops. And I wouldn't expect too much from the car in terms of technology inside the cockpit. You very much feel like it's you, the car, the road and that it. 

The result is a driver’s car with properties that do the sporting appearance full justice.

The time is right for Morgan to relaunch the 3 Wheeler. Price £25,000 before tax Bespoke extras Bespoke leather and paint are available at extra cost as on the classic Morgan.

https://www.londonmorgan.co.uk/
https://www.morgan-motor.co.uk/3-wheeler

50 Years Anniversary for Rolex & Sir Jackie Stewart

2018 is a particularly special year for Rolex and Sir Jackie Stewart, as it marks the 50th anniversary of their partnership. At the minute, aside from Charlie, I'm struggling to find something that will attach itself to me for 50 minutes let alone 50 years. 

 

How did it all begin Rolex and Jackie Stewart? 

Back in the 1930s, trailblazer Sir Malcolm Campbell aka “the king of speed” broke the World Land Speed record with a Rolex on his wrist; a pioneering moment on the long, flat and firm Daytona Beach which would establish motor sport as an integral part of Rolex’s culture.

Did you know that the most expensive watch in the world was a Rolex that Paul Newman wore throughout his racing career? Originally a gift by his wife Joanne Woodward, it sold for $18 million dollars at an auction last year and has the inscription engraved “Drive carefully”. 

DAYT18sc_06497.jpg

In 1992, Rolex formalized its relationship with Daytona as Title Sponsor of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA and following the turn of the twenty-first century the watchmaker was named an Official Partner and the Official Timepiece of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

You may have noticed Rolex's presence in Formula 1 in the last couple of years, in 2013, Rolex became a Global Partner and the Official Timepiece of Formula 1®.

 ©Rolex/James Moy THE START OF THE FORMULA 1 2018 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX

©Rolex/James Moy THE START OF THE FORMULA 1 2018 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX

Reflecting on his career to date, that includes three FIA Formula One Drivers’ World Championships™, Sir Jackie Stewart said: “I am honoured to have been with Rolex for 50 years, it’s a rare commitment and almost unheard of in sport – it has been a fantastic journey together. I am still as impressed and in awe of the brand today as I was back then.

I purchased my first Rolex having qualified well at the Indianapolis 500, before I became a Rolex Testimonee. It was a Rolex Day-Date 18 carat gold with President bracelet and it instantly established my love of and respect for Rolex.

 ©Rolex/Guillaume Mégevand ROLEX TESTIMONEE, SIR JACKIE STEWART BEFORE THE GOODWOOD REVIVAL 1957 BRITISH GRAND PRIX CELEBRATION

©Rolex/Guillaume Mégevand ROLEX TESTIMONEE, SIR JACKIE STEWART BEFORE THE GOODWOOD REVIVAL 1957 BRITISH GRAND PRIX CELEBRATION

The watch that I particularly treasure is my new Daytona. It was presented to me in 2016 by Rolex at the Grand Prix de Monaco to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my first win around the hallowed streets of the principality.

There is a special engraving on the back of the watch, which of course makes it all the more important to me. Rolex has become the most desired watch in the world – the esteem, the prestige, the pride of ownership that Rolex commands is unmatched.”

Wearing his distinctive Royal Stewart tartans, Sir Jackie continues to attend races globally and his ongoing loyalty to motor sport makes him an ultimate Rolex Testimonee – embodying the dedication, excellence, precision and innovation that also underpins Rolex watchmaking.

We only wish Rolex would come back and usurp the Omega boys that are currently running the helm at the James Bond franchise. As well as racing they have a lustrous heritage for appearing in style-driven films such as American Psycho and Get Carter. 

 

LYNK & CO Announces European Launch Plans | Next Generation Cars

Lynk & Co; a name that cultivates a myriad of different images. To me it sounds like one of those boyband hybrids that will no doubt feature H from Steps. It is in fact the brainchild from Geely-Volvo, built by Geely in China, designed and engineered in Europe. I was dispatched to Amsterdam earlier this week to investigate the 3rd instalment from Lynk & Co the crossover SUV called the 02, where it also unveiled plans to open "brand boutiques" across Europe. Following in the tracks of Tesla, Lynk & Co will sell direct to consumers online, ditching traditional third-party dealerships to open its own "Offline Stores", opting for "small, sociable brand boutiques in urban districts".

What's its USP? 

To quote Dr Emmett Brown, "This suckers electrical!" Not in an eco-friendly way but in a connected way. Owners will be able to customise their cars digitally, both by reconfiguring the main touchscreen display in the centre of the dashboard and by downloading apps. Lynk & Co Senior Vice President, Alain Visser, said “Think of it as a smartphone on wheels.” Whilst this is not reinventing the wheel pardon the pun, Lynk & Co claims to be the first that will allow third-party development of apps for its cars.

Apps will potentially work with a standard shareable lock system, through which vehicle owners could give time-limited access to their cars to other people through encrypted digital keys that can be used to unlock the car using a mobile phone. A bit like AirBNB for cars or perhaps a closer comparison is Zip Car, which has mixed reviews. The consensus being the marketing is great but the service delivery is very problematic.

You'll unlock the car with your smartphone, you'll pay on subscription much like you do with your mobile phone, you could get your Amazon packages delivered direct to your car while you're away or have your car serviced from outside your house while you’re still asleep. (Best leave a note-to-self that you arranged that one though, otherwise it's going to be a quick idiosyncratic combination of shock, horror, cursing the heavens, phoning the police, sober-realisation, embarrassment finished with an awesome wave of orgasmic relief). 

Will it work? 

Why not? The prototype attracted 6000 orders in 137 seconds when made it debuted at the Shanghai motor show, a new world record for the fastest-selling car in the world according to the brand. The aforementioned Tesla model seems to be doing ok. Lynk & Co is also considering following Tesla’s lead by paying existing owners for referral sales. They can circumvent the average distribution cost of circa 25% by selling direct to the consumer.

They've also hedged their bets a little by releasing this as a subsidiary, as was highlighted by a reviewer on Backfires 'why invest all that money and time in a completely new brand instead of spending it on strengthening Geely and Volvo?'

Lynk & Co 02 SUV Launch 4.jpg

Who is it for? 

Aimed at the innovative young professional demographic. Obviously business execs that flit between cities for work, hence the announcement of their first new design partnership with Tictail – the online marketplace home to emerging designers. Entitled The City Dweller Series, this first collection will be launched in the summer and will be available as a limited launch series exclusively through Tictail. 

The first Lynk & Co outlet will open in Amsterdam, followed by Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels and London. There will be an online store, Lynkco.com, where customers can purchase or "subscribe" to a car purely using on the web. The European production base will be in Ghent, Belgium, the manufacturing base for sister company Volvo Cars.

Lynk & Co 02 SUV Launch 9.jpg

What's on Your Bucket List? Rally Driving Experience Review | Virgin Experience Days

In 2012 I jumped on a plane with one plan, to backpack my way through South America passing Guyana to visit the birthplace of my Grandma in George Town. It was without a care, no plan, no agenda, just me, a few tour guide books and a desire to do something different, to do something for me. It was an absolutely incredible trip, one that gave me an insight into the small Caribbean capital that my Nan called home for 17 years before leaving to the UK with two of her siblings for a ‘better’ life. It was during this trip that I decided to create a bucket list, places to visit, adventures to go on, books to read, knowledge to gain the list was seemingly endless. Without boring you with the entire list; one of the experiences was to learn how to drive a rally car.

5 years on and I finally got to fulfill that dream and yet another item ticked off the bucket list. So firstly I would like to thank Virgin Experience Days for the experience as I joined a fellow car enthusiast Emma Walsh on a day’s Rally Driving training. The location was at the Bill Gwynne Rally School at the Turweston Aerodrome in Brackley about an hour and a half from London.

Rally Experience Day.JPG

The day started off with a short introduction, you know the kind of safety video that you have to have before any driving experience. Then it was into the real training, firstly forget what you have learnt from years of driving on tarmac on your daily commute or on the go-kart track as those skills are not going to help you with rally car driving. To drive a rally car you need to be smooth and progressive when building up your speed and confidence. It’s more about turning in to corners much earlier than feels natural whilst controlling your lines through the accelerator pedal and steering. But that’s all you are getting in terms of tips, you’ll have to book it, feel it and fully immerse yourselves in it to know more.

2018 has just started and it was a small win to tick off one of my goals so early, it’s now given me a determination to do more. So why not join me and make this year one to remember, one to focus on to do something different, try new skills and seize the moment with both hands.

If you’re interested in trialing a but of rally driving, here are a couple of the Virgin Experience Day packages:

https://www.virginexperiencedays.co.uk/rally-thrill

 https://www.virginexperiencedays.co.uk/extended-rally-driving

 

This post was created in collaboration with Virgin Experience Days

The New Mercedes-Benz X-Class Pickup | London Launch Event

It's here, the all new Mercedes X-Class was launched in the UK with a exceptional star-studded event at the Printworks located in Canada Water, London. Attending the event were TV Celebrities, Motoring Journalists, Top UK Influencers, Press and of course Tinie Tempah who was the surprise live act on the night. Dotted around the arena were 6 impeccable, awe-inspiring Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickups with one being transformed into a DJ booth and another acting as a practical assistant at the bar with its ice-packed loading area.

After two stunning events in Berlin and Paris the #60MinutesWithX unveiling finally came to London and boy was it a spectacle, Mercedes-Benz certainly know how to host. You don't see many trucks on the roads of London but with Mercedes bringing out the first uniquely versatile pickup with a mid-sized chassis that is going the change in the near future. So like it or not this exceptional pickup from Mercedes is a game-changer.

The X-Class has been developed with the changing requirements of international pickup markets in mind. The X-Class interior and technology comprises of comforts that you would typically find in a luxury saloon car, making them become a much more popular choice for those of us with an urban lifestyle, countryside living or families.

After carefully inspecting every curve and detail of the MB X-Class it was time to join her and party the night away, after all, this event was put on for her; to celebrate her. As the stopwatch ticked down from 60:00 to 59:59 it was time for the legendary Tinie Tempah to take centre stage for a 60 minute set, playing all the old school classics and a couple of his more recent tracks.

Get Instagram, Stories, cameras, Snapchat and Facebook Live at the ready because the intimate 60 minute concert was in full swing with Tinie making full use of the runway stage, giving everyone a chance to get a close up snap of the star. 

The all new Mercedes X-Class is a powerful adventurer which possesses all the strengths of a classic pickup – tough, functional, strong, and with off-road capability. However the Mercedes-Benz X-Class stylish explorer goes a step further and shows a distinguished comfort for the urban lifestyle. It's a true Mercedes. From the hallmark brand design, comfortable interior, perfectly finished high-quality materials, the infotainment system, the ergonomic seating comfort to the driving dynamics and safety, it's a Mercedes through and through. 

Attending the #60MinutesWithX event with me was the incredible car enthusiast, YouTuber and TV personality Miss Emma Walsh. Join her and be taken around on a tour of the event by watching her video below.

This post was created in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz UK.

The MAZDA CX-5 Review by Car Enthusiast Carl Thompson

That's right, Mazda called again, told the imaginary secretary to put the president on hold, I have Mazda on line two. You might have caught my review of the Mazda MX-5 RF last month, this time around I'm saddling up in the CX-5. The CX-5 2.2d 2WD to be exact, one down from the tip of the spear which is the AWD. 

The CX-5 has a leaner feel to it than its predecessors. It has an artfulness, a very sleek, lean bonnet and exaggerated mesh with an almost basket weave grill. It has a certain menace to it which I like. The undulating bar on the grill blends seamlessly into the headlights, a nice touch along with the other chrome trims which subtly punctuates the cars profile.

Ok Carl, I get it, enough about the trims, tell me about the cup holders! Well the coffee cup holders are plentiful. Two in the front by the centre consul, rubberised at the bottom, and two in the real in the arm rest. Jackpot. Another thing I want to mention about the front centre consul are the 'run throughs'. Meaning I can charge my phone in the USB port provided (4 in the car in total) tuck the cable away and have the cable run through the consul and into my phone that's in the coffee cup holder. God bless you Mazda. 

People have been asking me about the protruding stand-alone screen you see in modern cars these days. The Mazda has a nice stand-alone screen minus the cowl that would otherwise blend into the dashboard. Granted some people prefer that look, I prefer to have better visibility and because the technology has moved on a notch, we no longer need the cowl. We can have a lower dashboard design, which means you can actually get greater visibility. 

The seats are soft, perforated in the middle and has heated seats along with the steering wheel. It also looks tasteful in black, I've seen some cream leather interiors for this model, which I actually prefer cosmetically, but I know these black seats would be more practical to hide any unwanted blemishes. 

The drive itself has a gorgeous fluidity. I'm not talking about the performance, which you'd expect from a Mazda, but the car reacts very reassuringly. I've heard that there is an entire team in Mazda called the 'Jinba Ittai' division. Their sole purpose is to make you feel good behind the wheel. How that is quantifiable I'm not sure, but simply, I ask the question, I like the response. 

The Premium Bose sound system has 10 precisely positioned speakers. The vocal imagery was very central, but not bunched. I enjoyed the range spectrally, (bass, middle and treble) and couldn't detect any buzz, squeaks or rattles when I gave it the Nigel 11 (Spinal Tap gag). If I'm honest I'll probably say the Harman Kardon system impressed me more spatially when I was in another car the other week, but there were 15 speakers and I wasn't driving so perhaps that the pleasure of listening more acutely. 

One tiny other niggle, is the rear of the car. I love the boot space. If you fold down the seats there is an orgy of space, you could do a house move in this car. But the rear lights are a little diminutive for my liking, makes it a little too 'cutesy'. Other than that, I was enamoured with the performance and the style of this car. Another slick delivery from Mazda.

The Morgan Plus 4 Review by Motoring Enthusiast Carl Thompson

I had the mother of all Sunday's recently, cruising the countryside of Kent in a Morgan Plus 4. First of all, it should be said it's the sort of car that strips you of all adolescent delinquency. What I mean is it's a car by grown-ups, for grown-ups. I've never been more attuned to my surroundings than when behind the wheel of this car. 

It's a visceral experience, and the only way to get the true experience with a Morgan is with the top down, no matter the weather. The driver’s seat is perched on the rear axle so you're very engaged with the car. When you enter the cockpit you'll be welcomed by that inimitable leather smell; styled from at least 4 hides.

There's good cavernous footwells and plenty of places to stash your phone and glasses. There's also room beneath the canopy to stash some crushable bags, maybe a tripod and miscellaneous accoutrements. 

It wants to be a classic, and it wants to be modern. It IS a modern car, with a modern engine and a modern gearbox. You may have seen my previous car review of the Mazda MX-5 RF that the slickness of the gearbox hit levels of notable arousability. Well this Morgan 4 Plus has a Mazda sourced 5-speed gearbox, and it's incredible faithful to how you'd expect a Morgan to feel. Similarly, it has the look of a classic. It's one of those cars that makes you feel a profound sense of achievement, although it's passing, it's perhaps not merited (I didn't build the thing) but it's there. It's undeniably there. 

What's not there? 

It's a modern car, yes, but there's no power steering, no ABS. That said the analogue dials and the cockpit itself remains unspoiled in its absence. In the Morgan’s defence, this a car that was built for people that want to feel the wind rattle in ear lobes. If you feel passionate enough to explore the cars capabilities (top speed 189 KPH) with the top down, a stereo will struggle for utility. 

In summary this car demands nothing more than your divine diligence. Yes, it has an impeccable cruise-ability feel to it. It's smooth, aesthetically it oozes character. But you can't tune out for a second behind the wheel of this Morgan. The levels of assiduity that were required on every corner, every camber, well let’s just when you get out the cockpit - you know you've earned that drive.

Visit London Morgan to view the full Morgan Motor collection.

The Mazda MX-5 RF Review

The other week Mazda called and cordially invited me to take their latest MX-5 RF for a spin around London. Cupping the receiver with my palm, I arced back on my chair and barked an order to my invisible secretary ..  'clear my schedule for the afternoon'. 

With the average speed around London being little under 8MPH, a drive in the city can be a particular doleful commute. However, a perceptibly tactile and agile car such as the MX-5 RF will certainly lend a little brevity to the experience.

Once the mulch of the London traffic subsided I was able to feel the cars true capabilities. The suspension and the steering have been mollified to compensate for the rigidity of the new folding metal hard top roof. The RF stands for retractable fastback and its intellectual armature provides a considerably more dampened sound within the cabin. You can hear what your passenger is saying which in itself, comfortably distances itself from over convertibles in its class, including its predecessor. 

Mazda MX-5 RF.JPG

The interiors are snug, sporty and I'd definitely plump for the manual over the automatic. Many people I've spoken to extol the virtues of the Mazda gearbox and this 6-speed did not disappoint. James Batchelor of CarBuyer cited it as a gearbox that has a 'rifle-bolt action' and I solidly concur. It's slick, sexy - worthy of the laudatory praise and reputation that proceeds it. 

The drive feels dangerously effortless. Everything is in its right place, accessible, the infotainment system is sleek and user-friendly. But let’s get down to brass tacks; what about the coffee cup holders? Anyone that knows me knows I'm a coffee nut and I don't like having my coffee terms dictated to me. Luckily the MX-5 RF comes fully equipped with moveable cup holders that I can switch around the cabin at my leisure. 

It's stronger on comfort and aesthetics than it is on virtuosity and practicality. For example, you'll enjoy the extra sound deadening and clear conversations with your passenger, you'll enjoy being cosseted by the fine sporty interiors, but placed under scrutiny you might wish for larger boot space, perhaps better visibility. That said these aren't faults, nor criticisms per say, just the standard caveats that come with a sports car. 

Overall the Mazda MX-5 RF offers a frictionless, utterly gratifying driving experience. Yet it's really the superior handling ability through its sculptured yet simple look, that ameliorates this from other convertibles. It's considered, it has an exquisite absence of superfluity. It's almost the perfect date car. Available between £18,500 to £24,500 depending on the spec. 

MINI Cooper D Review | A perfect City to Country Drive

It would be a cold-hearted man on the back-nine of his thirties that didn't get warm and fuzzy when the word 'MINI' is mentioned. Not only am I sentimental towards the brand that’s emblematic of iconic 60's culture, but I also have a penchant for a very obvious MINI-related movie that would be far too hackneyed and clichéd for me to mention.

BMW changed the narrative of small hatch backs when it relaunched the MINI back in 2001. At the time hatch backs were considered the Ibis Budget of cars. (Not that I have anything against Ibis Budget you understand). However, BMW managed to fuse luxurious interiors with novelty cosmetics (and the headlamps are even more bulbous this time round) and sell it at a premium. And sell it well they did, largely thanks to the introduction of the The Countryman that added 100,000 sales at the year of its inception, elevating it into the top 20 most sold cars of 2013.

It's been said that there is a MINI for every lifestyle, whether you're more at home in an SUV or a 3-door, perhaps serendipitously I was given the MINI Cooper D (5-Door Hatchback) to take from the city to the Cotswolds. It catered perfectly to my needs and proved to be equally adept in the city as it did in the country.

As much as I like to rhapsodise I like to travel light, I normally come with camera gear, a camera man or woman, their gear, and when the occasion permits, my beloved French Bulldog Charlie. The 5-door has an even more spacious rear than its predecessor, making life a lot easier for my passengers. I remember it being a feat of acrobats in the old MINIs having to wrestle yourself free through the tiny gap from behind the front seat and the passenger door.

Upfront the space was remarkable largely on account of how low the seats are set, depending on the spec the paddles behind the wheel will allow you to adjust the position of the steering wheel to fit your needs. The Cooper D has a 1.5-litre engine, is sprightly paced (0-100 KM/H in 9.4 s) and kicks on nicely from the low revs - remarkably smooth for a compact diesel. Needless to say being a diesel, this will save you a couple of quid long term.

So it's cheap to run, it's a fun drive and having heard rumours and reports the Cooper SD has other features to justify its slightly higher cost, the drivability between the two is negligible. Once out of the city everything seemed to coast nicely and it was noticeably quiet for a three-cylinder diesel engine.

Now let’s get to the exteriors. Looks wise it’s had sniffy reviews about the exaggerated styling of the headlights. My personal take on it is this. Lighten up! (Pardon the pun). The world is in dire need of cheering up at this very moment in time and not everything in life should be as dark as a Nolan Batman trilogy. I for one appreciate a little levity.

The optional extras are worth considering, especially if you choose to resell the car at a later date. The Pepper Pack comes with the 16in alloys, climate control, ambient interior lighting which distinguishes the space inside nicely. The MINI 5-Door Hatch Cooper starts at an accessible £17,960 and I'm going to say this third generation MINI has ameliorated itself once more in the family hatchback market. It’s fun without being goofy, its funky without being caricature and it’s practical for a family of 4 (5 if the 5th is a Bulldog).

Aston Martin Hand Built in England | Factory Tour

What does an Aston Martin mean to you? For me it's the ultimate in luxury, an experience, a car that turns heads, a pure reaction to beauty. So when I got the opportunity to visit the Aston Martin factory in the heart of England's racing mainland, just outside of Silverstone; of course I had to visit. The home of Aston Martin is a purpose built complex, where the magnificent cars are hand built, it's where they create the new design concepts for their future masterpieces of engineering and where I was in awe of my dream car the Aston Martin DB11.

No one needs an Aston Martin, it’s something that you reward yourself with.

Aston Martin has a wonderful history of creating luxury sports cars, where design and beauty have always been at the forefront of what they create. As they are all hand built in England, each car is built to a limited number, keeping the exclusivity and rareness of an Aston Martin, however rare they maybe, Aston Martin are not an exclusive brand, they are inclusive and appeal to a wide variety of us.

Aston Martin has a elegance about each and everyone of their cars, unlike some of their major competitors which rely on shock and awe. Aston's have an underlying beauty that has transcended through time with everything in proportion as nature intends. A car designed to be as streamlined through the air as a shark is through water.

Being a hand built car and not mass produced, gives each Aston Martin a unique has a finger print, it may be a slight difference in the stitching or the leather grain but that's what you get for hand made and hand crafted - it's all for the love of beauty and setting standards to which others will admire.

Two of the latest concepts to get designed are the Aston Martin DBX, which is a 4 door sports car and the Aston Martin Valkyrie, which is estimated 1000kg & 1000bhp high performance road car built in partnership with F1's Red Bull Racing. 

I would love to see how you would design and configure your own Aston Martin DB11, mine is below. 

CONFIGURE YOUR OWN ASTON MARTIN DB11

Hyundai Tucson Premium SE 2017 Independent Review | Carl Thompson

I have been a major car fanatic all of my life and growing up near Brands Hatch in Kent only fuelled my petrol loving instincts. So when I was old enough to join my father working at one of the most incredible, historical and technical race tracks in the UK, I jumped at the chance. Although Brands Hatch no longer hosts the Formula 1 it certainly has history as a great race track, just look back at 1976 Lauda V Hunt British Grand Prix which was drama packed and after the race finished had my favourite F1 driver interviews by James Hunt. In fact for those of you who haven't watched that race, here are the highlights below.

Yes chatting about F1 is a strange way to start a review of a compact SUV but for some reason writing this review brought back a lot of different driving memories from the past years. My last car was a Lotus Exige S2, so it was certainly a step up in height jumping into this compact SUV, the Hyundai Tucson Premium SE. The first thing that I did was test out how spacious this compact SUV vehicle is and I would normally expect the back seats to be a little on the crammed side. Well that is rubbish, in fact the front seats are armchair spacious, then with the front seats pushed back as far as a six foot man would have them - I then jumped into the back to see what it would be like on long journeys for the passengers. Unlike an other compact SUV I recently drove, the Hyundai Tucson was much more spacious, I think this is because they have kept things simple in the back as well as the back seats being able to recline, making for a more comfortable ride. 

However this car is far from basic and safe, the designers have jam packed in a medley of techie 'things' and the exterior design is bold, merging sharp edges with illustrious curves which certainly turns heads. 

Under the bonnet the Hyundai Tucson Premium SE (their top spec version) has a 2.0 CRDi 185PS (PS is a term used for power output) engine, 6 speed automatic or manual transmission delivering a 0-62mph result in 9.5 seconds. As a result of this the fuel consumption and emissions are a combined mpg of 43.5, CO2 emissions (g/km) of 170 and a VED band of H. Personally I test drove the automatic transmission which gave power on demand with a very small amount of delay or drag. I was impressed with the low revs when easing the SUV down the rolling hills of the Cotswolds and equally the immediate power given on the steep climbs - I suspect there is some very clever onboard software managing the engine components.

The 2.0 Tucson Premium SE comes with 19" striking alloy wheels, body coloured bumpers, chrome effect radiator grille, rear spoiler with integrated LED brake light and a twin exhaust finisher giving it a mean, angry sports finish. 

The interior is exactly what I like, it's trying hard but not too hard, it concentrate on what matters. A soft leather finish, electrical front seat adjustment, heated front seats (with a convenient button to sync up the drivers with the passengers seat temperatures) as well as lumbar support for the driver...well it is his/her car after all!

The Premium SE edition has some of the advanced, useful technology on offer to help your everyday needs. Including parking assistant which has front, back and side sensors including steering assist if you require a little help parking. The 'Smart Electric Tailgate' allows the boot to open automatically if your hands are full of shopping - just stand in the rear detection area with your smart key for 3 seconds and the boot will open automatically...smart. Heated seats are nothing new, but these also have the added ventilation for cooling air flow.  

Finally and most importantly safety are at the forefront of most choices when picking a new motor vehicle and the Hyundai Tucson has this category absolutely nailed. The Tucson is packed with advanced technologies that are simply passively waiting to help as well as actively monitoring driving conditions. Just to name a few the Tucson Premium SE model has autonomous emergency braking (AED), blind spot detection system (BSD), downhill brake control (DBC), hill-start assist control (HAC) and advanced traction cornering control (ATCC) which directs torque to the wheels with the most grip (torque vectoring), ATCC enhances cornering performance and safety of 4WD models. It also actively applies measured braking to the inside rear wheel.

Prices range from £19,705 | For the Premium SE Model I reviewed here it is £33,715 | Colour of the car in the images is Stargazing Blue | This is a honest review where all views are of Carl Thompson.

The photos in this review where taken during an amazing trip away to the beautiful, picturesque Barnsley House country retreat and spa in the Cotswolds.

 

DRONE FOOTAGE OF MY TEST DRIVE BELOW