19 January 2022

Most Valuable Mustang

If you want the most valuable Ford Mustang ever, you'll have shell out more than $4 million, that's if the new owner wants to sell, writes Brian Byrne.

A 1965 Ford Shelby GT350 Competition, Shelby American's first Mustang built for racing, was recently sold at auction in Florida for $4,070,000, an enhancement over its last sale in 2020, where it fetched $3.85 million.

And as a by the way, the famous 'Bullitt' Mustang driven on screen by Steve McQueen only sold for $3.4 million at a separate auction in 2020.


Volkswagen led electric car revolution in 2021

Volkswagen's ID.3 and ID.4 electric cars were the best selling all-electric cars in 2021, garnering a combined 31ps of the battery electric vehicle market, writes Brian Byrne.

There will be further additions to the ID range in 2022 with the ID.5 and ID.5 GTX.

With 1,432 registrations, the ID.4 became the most popular BEV vehicle in Ireland, while the ID.3 was the second best-selling BEV model in the country with 1,271 registrations.


Review of Mercedes-Benz S-Class by Brian Byrne, Irish Car

I have noted before in these columns that 2021 was a year of many Mercedes-Benz new cars for review, writes Brian Byrne. Perhaps in 2022 it's going to be another carmaker's turn to dominate the space, but in the meantime it seems fitting that I finish out on the flagship of the range, the S-Class.

The 'S' comes from the original designation in 1972 of Sonderklasse for the top of the line car, meaning 'special class'. At the time it was just that. Today it still is.

Traditionally, in addition to offering the ultimate in luxury, the S-Class has been the model by which Mercedes-Benz has introduced technical and safety innovations. That tradition remains, but the difference now that it takes a much shorter time before these find their way right through the models down the line. So much of the technical side I had already experienced before my time with the S-Class for this review.

To some extent, it has in recent years been difficult to distinguish between the core passenger M-B sedans — S, E and C — in style. What has been common to all three has been a certain restraint, even understatement. The sedans are for those who don't need, or want, to make big statements. The grille and the badge are enough. The elegant, svelte shape and external details are familiar. In this generation, they don't impact on the visual sense as much as the car may have done in the past. To me, that is a positive thing. It means the car will not date quickly, that the sense of satisfaction which every owner surely feels will not be dulled in a relatively few years by comparison with updated versions.

Which is why there wasn't a 'wow' moment when I walked towards the car, key in hand — apart from when the flush doorhandles moved out as I approached. But once inside, it was a moment to say 'wow'. Or exclaim 'wow!' Not just because my review car had a very distinctive colour in its leather trim, but the very high tech ambience does dazzle.

There's a difference from the other sedan models in that the secondary information screen is not an extension of the main instruments, but a large, indeed very large one dominating the centre stack/console area. I was immediately impressed that advantage had been taken of that screen space to provide very large touch switch icons. A variety of styles for the screens are available, including an almost-silvered one which I used most of the time. When using the navigation system, the centre screen also added front-camera real time imagery at city junctions. I don't think I needed that, as why would I want to look at a screen to see what I was already looking at through the windscreen?

The rest of the interior was unsurprisingly as plush as it should be, given the substantial price tag and the target buyers. For those moving from the previous generation, there is more elbow- and head-room than before, as well as claimed extra silence and an even more refined ride.

A suitably wide range of petrol and diesel engines are available and there's a plug-in hybrid coming along. But most customers in Ireland are expected to go for the 3.0 diesel as was in the S 350d of my review car. Though nominally a somewhat relaxed 290hp, the powertrain enabled a swishing 6.4s progress to 100km/h without drama or fuss. And, almost needless to say, without raising any significant extra noise. The 9-speed transmission is seamless. The car should, and does, feel special.

It has always been my experience that the larger the car you are driving, the more easygoing you are. In my quite busy week with the S-Class I never felt the need to push on, nor did I ever get bothered about the impatience of others. This is a car that wafts one from a journey's beginning to its end. Being wafted is addictive. I'll never own one of these, but I could get used to the experience.

PRICE: €123,875. WHAT I LIKED: Wafting on the wild Irish roads.


Candidates for 2022 Continental Irish Car of the Year announced

Joint Chairmen of the Irish Car of the Year Committee, Anthony Conlon and Cathal Doyle, studying the form of the candidates for the Continental Tyres Irish Car of the Year awards 2022 and watched over by Tom Dennigan (centre) from awards sponsor Continental Tyres.

The 35 candidates for the 2022 Continental Tyres Irish Car of the Year awards have been announced, and the category and overall winners will be announced in early February, writes Brian Byrne. There were no 2021 awards because of the pandemic.

Half of the contenders are available as electric vehicles, which Tom Dennigan of Continental Tyres Ireland says is a 'stark indication of the revolution that is occurring in motoring today'. The winning cars will be chosen by a panel of Irish motoring journalists.

The categories are Compact Car, Medium Car, Large Car, Luxury Car, Performance Car, Small Crossover/SUV and Medium Crossover/SUV. The competing models are Audi e-tron GT, Audi Q4 e-tron, BMW iX, BMW M3/M4, Citroen C4, Cupra Formentor, Cupra Leon, Dacia Sandero, DS 3, Ford Puma ST, Honda-e, Hyundai Bayon, Hyundai i20, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Hyundai Tucson, Kia EV6, Mazda MX30, Mercedes-Benz EQA, Mercedes-Benz EQV, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, MG ZS, MG5, Nissan Qashqai, Opel Mokka, Peugeot 508 PSE, Renault Arkana, Skoda Enyaq, Subaru Outback, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Yaris Cross, Toyota Yaris GR, Volkswagen ID.4, VW Caddy Passenger, and VW ID.4 GTX.


12 January 2022

Toyota was best-selling car brand in Ireland in 2021

Toyota Ireland closed out 2021 with a 12.44pc share of the new car market, reflected by having four of its models in the Irish top ten sellers, writes Brian Byrne. More than nine in ten of the brand's sales were for its low emission self-charging hybrid electric vehicles.

Toyota sold 13,053 passenger cars in 2021, which represents more than a 30pc year-on-year increase. The second biggest selling brand was Volkswagen with 12.02pc market share, followed by Hyundai (10.24pc, Skoda (8.6pc) and Ford (7.10pc).

The top selling models were Hyundai Tucson, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Yaris, Volkswagen Tiguan, and Toyota C-HR.


VW Ireland employees help Alzheimer Society

Employees at Volkswagen Ireland raised €25,000 for the Alzheimer Society of Ireland during 2021, writes Brian Byrne.

The Society was the Group's charity partner for the year and the funds were raised with a number of activities. Because of the pandemic, the events were held online and included a virtual tea morning and online auctions and raffles. The highlight initiative was September’s We Walk The World challenge which saw Volkswagen Group Ireland staff walk, run and cycle 45,307km around the world in aid of the charity.

Alan Bateson, Board Member responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility, said it was a collective effort by the staff of Volkswagen Group Ireland and Volkswagen Financial Services Ireland. "The fact people threw themselves into this fundraising effort with such dedication is a measure of just how highly the Alzheimer Society of Ireland is perceived by our companies and in Ireland as a whole," he said. "I am extremely proud of everyone’s efforts on behalf of such a brilliant cause.”


Changing your car? Update your easytrip details

Mobility solutions specialist, easytrip is reminding motorists who are planning a purchase or sale of a vehicle during the 221-registration period to update their easytrip account details to avoid receiving any unanticipated toll charges, writes Brian Byrne.

In addition to enabling toll payments, the easytrip tag can be used to pay for parking and car washes, providing a safe and easy payment solution for motorists that reduces card touch points or cash handling.

If a driver buys a new vehicle and transferred the existing tag to it but forgets to update their easytrip account details, there's a potential risk if the driver has travelled through the M50 toll plaza as the new vehicle registration is not connected to their tag account meaning the driver may receive a toll bill (billed at the higher rate) and a penalty charge for the journey. If someone has sold their vehicle and inadvertently left the tag in the car and has not updated their toll tag account, the new owner may continue to use the tag at toll plazas, resulting in a toll journey or multiple journeys being charged to the original owner’s tag account.

Easytrip customers can update their account details by logging onto www.easytrip.ie or calling 1890 67 67 68.


Facelift C5 Aircross in the spring

A facelift to the C5 Aircross SUV has just been revealed by Citroen which primps up the front and rear and offers more customisation, writes Brian Byrne.

Inside, the driver gets a new 10" infotainment screen, and a redesigned main digital display. The seats have been improved with extra memory foam, there are changes to the seat trim, and there's also soft-touch Alcantara finish on the dashboard of some grades.

Irish pricing and specification for the New C5 Aircross SUV will be announced in March with first vehicles expected to arrive on Irish shores in June.


6 January 2022

Sony again shows car-making ambition

Electronics maker Sony is considering getting into the car business, the latest in a run of non-traditional entry prospects, writes Brian Byrne.

Shown at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Japanese company's Vision-S 02 concept is an electric crossover.

It's not the first time Sony has signalled car-making ambitions ... the latest concept is a follow up to the Vision-S electric sedan concept presented at CES two years ago.


Mercedes-Benz reveals 1,000kms EV Concept

Mercedes-Benz has revealed its Vision EQXX concept car at the CES 2022 Show in Las Vegan, writes Brian Byrne.

The car has a claimed range of more than 1,000kms on a charge, with rooftop solar panels providing 25kms of this.

A new generation battery is said to be small enough to drive a compact car, and energy consumption is in the region less than 10 kWh per 100 kilometres.


New Renault Austral in final development

The upcoming Renault Austral crossover is now in final stages of production and testing, writes Brian Byrne.

A hundred pre-production Australs are about to be driven across France, Spain, Germany and Romania by 900, covering 600,000km of open roads in real-life conditions. A further 1,400,000km will take place on test tracks.

The Austral will be powered only by petrol-hybrid engines, including the latest-generation E-Tech hybrid, a 1.3 TCe unit with a 12V mild hybrid solution and, for the first time in the Renault range, a 1.2 TCe unit with 48V mild hybrid technology.

Further details closer to launch later this year.


5 January 2022

Review of Ford Fiesta MH by Brian Byrne, Irish Car

Though the Ford Fiesta nameplate has been around since 1976, it is by no means the oldest car model name in the world, writes Brian Byrne. That title belongs to the Chevrolet Suburban, a name that goes back to 1934 and is today a large SUV.

But Fiesta is a staple of Ford's European cars portfolio, where it is once again the smallest of the blue oval's current offerings now that the Ka has been discontinued. In its seventh generation since 2018, a total of some 16 million Fiestas have been rolled out of assembly plants, in this part of the world as well as in south and central American countries, China, India, Asia and South Africa. Now, though, it is only produced in Europe.

It had been a while since I drove one until a recent stint in the car which in some ways surprised me how well it is managing in a segment that's arguably the most competitive. A refresh is due in a few months, but in true Ford fashion the essentials including the powertrain will roll on through.

My review car was a 4-door hatch, which is styled both smart and strong, and is unmistakably a current Ford with its family grille and badging. In the ST-Line grade it has sharper shaping to the front, larger alloys, and a rear spoiler and other unique body styling details. Those ST-line details also upgraded the interior in a number of ways, including appropriate red stitching and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. The centre screen incorporates Ford's Sync 3 connectivity and navigation. The main instruments are very traditional but with good extra information management in the panel between them. Ford controls are always straightforward and well-labelled, so Fiesta is immediately a comfortable space for driver and passengers to be.

The car has all the usual driving assistance features, including a rear parking camera as well as active cruise control and speed limiter. A full set of safety systems are standard.

The main reason to get into the Fiesta again was the mild hybrid EcoBoost engine, primarily the multi-award winning 1.0 turbocharged three-pot upgraded with a 48-volt battery system that regains power from braking and gives it back in a boost on acceleration. Ford claim a 5pc improvement in fuel consumption from their MHEV setup.

The 125hp unit is peppy and pleasing, and the 6-speed manual gearbox quite a joy to use, as I have grown to expect from all Fords these days. The ST-Line comes with a sport-firmed suspension, which did feel as it sounds, but didn't overdo the firmness, a blessing on some of the less-well topped roads in my area. Room in the rear was a little tight for anyone behind me, though my grandsons, eight and ten, were quite happy there for the duration of a number of trips. Boot space of 311L is adequate.

Fiesta as a hatchback may not be on trend in this time of crossover preferences — the related Puma does that business for the brand — but it remains an important option for a number of demographics, at both younger and older spaces. As I said earlier, the nameplate is wearing well.

PRICE: Fiesta starts at €19,152, review car €24,805. WHAT I LIKED: The car continues to garner loyal affection, deservedly.


30 December 2021

Review of Mercedes-Benz eVito Tourer by Brian Byrne, Irish Car

The opportunity to review the Mercedes-Benz eVito Tourer over a decent period came at a fortuitous time, when family from the US and Germany came in to celebrate Christmas with us here in Ireland, writes Brian Byrne. It was in fact the first time in ten years that we had all been together at Christmas.

Why fortuitous? Because the eVito Tourer is a 9-seater passenger version of the Mercedes Vito Van. The nine seats were going to be very useful to help shuttle those staying directly with us between airport, home and the homes of their siblings. I suppose that made me an e-chauffeur?

The eVito Tourer in shuttle format is designed for such applications as hotel transfers, conference transport, and similar (there is a higher-level version with one fewer seats and a more upmarket specification which can be used as a luxury limo for touring). The review car came with all the demonstrator decals 'Driving the Electric Future', so it was also going to attract attention in my home area ... as well as it did at my local Circle K e-cars charging station. Other EV owners certainly had questions and curiosities, which helped to pass the time while the kWs were charging in.

From the outset, the eVito Tourer certainly felt much more than the van on which it is based. The interior offered a much more car-like ambience thanks to the instruments and controls that clearly came from the car side of the business ... although not the current MBUX digital affairs now through all the company's true passenger cars. The seats were individual and adjustable, apart from the dual passenger seat in front which had fixed backrests reflecting the situation in the van. My driver's one was fully adjustable and had heating. Access to the middle and rear seat sets was via the sliding side doors, with a tip-over of the end middle seat allowing easy entry to the back row. As the vehicle is on the longer-wheelbase version of the van, roominess for all those passengers in the back was excellent.

There was nothing van-like about the ride and handling, probably in part to the underfloor weight of the 90kWh battery. But that same weight didn't lead to any heaviness of feel in driving the eVito Tourer either. And it was also a very quiet driving experience, showing the road-sound mitigation has been really well managed here. The power unit is NOT the one used in the eVito Van, which has a much shorter range. Instead it has been given the running gear and range of the EQV V-Class, the rather larger and more salubrious electric people carrier. The fact that in most cases during this review period there were at least six of us aboard made it a real-life test. For our unusually large three generation extended family, it was quite the appropriate transport option.

A significant proportion of my driving was on motorways, which is hardest on the range of an EV. But the eVito Tourer proved quite frugal on the kWhs event there, and certainly when on urban and minor roads the regeneration capability of the car — flicking the paddles between coast and Economy+ levels as required — the range achieved was impressive. Officially on WLTP, Mercedes-Benz suggest up to 350km is possible from a full charge. I found over the period it was closer to 300km, reflecting the fairly full load and that afore-mentioned motorway travel. I suspect in its planned guise as a local shuttle, there would be better distance possible. But the 300km range was quite adequate for all that we did over Christmas, and though I have no charge unit at home — therefore having to sometimes jockey for a place at my local motorway services — I can't say I had any any range anxiety for the duration.

I still don't have a price for the eVito Tourer, but it will come along in due course. It won't be cheap, but may well be a viable option for the environmentally conscious establishment that has to move small groups of people around throughout the day. Meantime, it certainly made Christmas transport a very manageable operation for this correspondent's temporarily enlarged family.