Displaying items by tag: Hybrid
Meet the many-hatted Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered – in one package a stylish fastback, business-class motorway cruiser, zero-tailpipe-emissions planet-pleaser and now, apparently, a powerful sports car.
That's a lot of plates to spin. So it won't surprise you to hear Peugeot's turned to a flexible plug-in hybrid powertrain to achieve it, promising more power than a regular petrol or diesel with the option to run emissions-free for a claimed 26 miles too.
Thing is, the 508 is mostly bought by company-car drivers, who usually only require a posh badge to impress clients, an M Sport bodykit to impress colleagues, and a small diesel engine to impress the fleet manager. Does the PSE model over-complicate things?
Who cares? It's a fast Peugeot!
Well yes, there is that, but consider the £50,000 price tag – for retail customers that puts the 508 PSE in the crosshairs of the BMW M340i and Audi S5 Sportback.
That's not an inherently difficult circle to square, because this is not only a fast Peugeot, but a very fast, very good Peugeot.
508 pse side pan
It's actually the most powerful roadgoing car the French maker has ever sold, in fact, with as much power in its electric motors as the 405 T16 we all so desperately want it to be.
Why doesn't it have a GTi badge?
Peugeot says that's a question only British journalists ask, such is our love of the marque's heritage hot hatchbacks. But the 508 is something entirely different, offering a broader spread of talents than an out-and-out sports saloon.
The Sport Engineered name means it's a 508 first and foremost, with the benefit of being breathed on by Peugeot's go-faster division. It's WandaVision to The Avengers or The Mandalorian to Star Wars.
What's it like to drive?
Fast! But that shouldn't be a surprise, considering the 335bhp and 384lb ft of torque on offer from a 1.6-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, and an all-wheel drive system to help deliver it all cleanly to the tarmac.
It's not as fast as a pure-petrol M340i or S5 with those numbers, because it's heavier than a pure-petrol car. But it's not as heavy as you might imagine – the 1850kg kerbweight is actually pretty good for a PHEV.
The gearbox likes to shuffle up the cogs to save fuel (as is the way these days), but in Sport mode it seems to hang onto them for too long. The best solution is to use the column-mounted manual shift paddles, but these are too short and set too high – more suited to a ten-to-two driver than a quarter-to-three. Plus the left paddle is sandwiched between the left indicator stalk and cruise controls, and this is annoying.
Things are better in the handling department where the 508 PSE is quite neutral in a corner and can be persuaded into a bit of lift-off oversteer as you'd expect in a car fettled by Peugeot Sport. This car is lower and wider than the standard model, and has its own springs, dampers and anti-roll bars.
The suspension is adaptive and offers a broad spread of settings, from comfy to firm, although there's always an edge to the ride that reminds you you're in the sportiest version. Otherwise it's typical Peugeot Sport – more hot hatch than a saloon, with light controls, a little bit of bodyroll, and agility and compliance to the ride, which adds huge fun on UK roads.
Only one thing stands out (and being a plug-in hybrid this won't surprise you): the brake pedal is spongy and hard to get dialled into. The 508 PSE is equipped with Alcon calipers and bi-material discs, which offer plenty of stopping power, but without mechanical pedal feel it can be hard to meter out.
How long does it take to charge?
The 11.5kWh battery takes about three to four hours to fill at the standard 3.7kW rate – a 7.4kW charger is an option, dropping the time to one hour and 45 minutes. Either way you only get a Type 2 cable, with no three-pin unless you pay for it.
You need a full battery to get all 355hp, although with no charge the 508 will run as a sort-of hybrid in town, and on the whole it's pretty smooth and unobtrusive.
Pick up the pace, though, and you'll be greeted by the slightly reedy and over-synthesised tone of the petrol engine, which is alright when you want to cruise around in peace, but not very soul-stirring when you crack on. Still, that's another good reason to keep it charged.
Is it any different inside and out?
It's a pretty subtle change in exterior styling – from a distance – but as you get closer you'll notice all sorts of enhancements.
The most stand-out are the Kryptonite green additions, including the new claw logo, and the aggressive diffuser and aero ducting on the front bumper. Small vertical blades stick up on the edges of both and are probably more useful for tucking the cable into while the car's on charge than actually channelling air, but they're quite cool nonetheless.
Inside, you still get Peugeot's divisive i-Cockpit layout with its tiny steering wheel set below the dials, but with more carbonfibre effect material. Overall it's a nice interior, very futuristic-looking, but the hard plastic used for the door bins and under the armrest stick out on a £50,000 car.
Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered: verdict
The 508 has been twice compromised in becoming this Peugeot Sport Engineered model – firstly by adding batteries and electric motors, and then again by giving it a performance focus.
What makes this car stand out against rival performance PHEVs is the fact it gives away very little in terms of outright practicality. The boot capacity is the same as a non-plug-in Pug at 487 litres, and despite being way more fun and accomplished to drive than the standard 508, it's barely any less comfortable day-to-day.
Yes, an old-school straight-six would be a more evocative powerplant, but the ability to drive emissions-free and the overall improvement in fuel economy in this 508 goes a long way to addressing that balance. It's an odd niche, but one that deserves plugging.
“The Mercedes GLC is an SUV that benefits from a lot of C-Class pedigree, but with a raised ride height and improved practicality”
Mercedes has had a car battling against the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 since 2009, but to UK buyers this may not have been obvious because the old GLK-Class was only sold in left-hand-drive markets. However, since 2015, the GLC, which replaced the GLK, has been sold here and is an SUV version of the popular Mercedes C-Class saloon on which it’s based.
Mercedes gave the GLC a mild facelift in 2019, which involved some tweaks to the exterior design, some new engines and a plethora of technology upgrades inside. The updates were needed given how competitive the SUV market had become, and 2021 ushers in a plug-in hybrid version for the first time too.
Best 4x4s and SUVs
The revised GLC borrows engines and equipment from the C-Class. The similarities between the two models are harder to spot in style terms, however, unlike the Mercedes A-Class and GLA, which have more in common. The GLC is an attractive car in its own right, with the latest design including slimmer headlights and tail lights, and the latest Mercedes grille.
Every GLC comes with Mercedes' 4MATIC four-wheel drive and a smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Versions badged 220 d and 300 d are fitted with the same 2.0-litre diesel, but tuned differently to produce 191 and 242bhp respectively. The 220d returns up to 45.6mpg and has CO2 emissions starting at 175g/km, while you can expect 42.8mpg and 184g/km from the 300 d, which are competitive figures. These are trumped by the GLC 300 e plug-in hybrid model, which can manage 26-31 miles of electric range and 122mpg. What’s more, its low CO2 emissions mean company-car tax is a third of the petrol and diesel engines.
A clear highlight of the GLC is its attractive and well built interior, which also has enough room for front and rear occupants to be comfortable, along with heater controls for people sitting in the back, which is surprisingly rare. There are lots of thoughtful cubbies and the 550-litre boot puts the GLC in the same territory as the X3 and Q5, while the Discovery Sport is more practical and has the option of seven seats.
The introduced the latest Mercedes MBUX infotainment system, but unlike all-new models, there's still a tablet-style central screen perched on the dash, that looks slightly incongruous. The software is a major upgrade, though, and the main screen now responds to touch as well as the central control pad. A regular set of dials are standard, while a large 12.3-inch digital version is available as an option.
On the road, it soon becomes apparent that Mercedes concentrated on comfort when developing the GLC. It’s very smooth on the standard suspension and even more cosseting if the optional air-suspension is fitted. Drivers on the hunt for thrills may feel short-changed, though – while the Volvo XC60 is even softer, the newer BMW X3 is more responsive and poised on a country road.
There are effectively three trim levels, consisting of the core AMG Line trim, plus Premium and Premium Plus versions. The 220 d engine is only available in AMG Line Premium and below; the more powerful 300 d is the AMG Line Premium and up. Desirable items like a powered tailgate, reversing camera and Artico leather upholstery are all included, along with sat nav and LED headlights. AMG Line Premium GLCs gain distinctive body styling and an interior makeover, as well as even bigger 20-inch alloy wheels.
AMG Line is now the most appealing trim for company-car drivers and we'd recommend spending the extra monthly finance cost for private buyers too, to benefit from all the GLC has to offer. The Premium equipment line includes adaptive headlights, running boards, a larger instrument display, ambient lighting, augmented reality navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility and wireless smartphone charging.
Before it was facelifted, the GLC came 61st out of 100 models in our 2019 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but reliability wasn't a strong point, so owners will be hoping issues have been remedied. Further peace of mind should be provided by the GLC’s five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating.
Mercedes GLC SUV - MPG, running costs & CO2
The Mercedes GLC is pretty economical for an SUV, with its claimed figures rivalling the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Mercedes also offers competitive warranty and servicing plans.
Mercedes GLC MPG & CO2
The 220 d version of the 2.0-litre diesel engine can return up to 45.6mpg, reducing slightly in top trims with optional wheels fitted. CO2 emissions of 175g/km mean it sits in the highest BiK band, which won’t appeal to company-car drivers. The more powerful GLC 300d is a shade less economical, at up to 42.8mpg, with emissions of 184g/km. By comparison, the BMW X3 xDrive 30d offers more pace and returns 46.3mpg with 159g/km.
Petrol engines are offered too. A GLC 300 model promises up to 33.6mpg, while the AMG 43 and 63 models above are even thirstier. They certainly prioritise speed over running costs; you can expect 26 and 22mpg respectively. All petrols are in the top BiK band.
A plug-in hybrid GLC 300 de version is now available, pairing the 2.0-litre diesel engine with a 13.5kWh battery. It offers 27 miles of electric range and up to 156.9mpg if you regularly recharge the battery, while business users will be drawn to its 12-13% BiK rate. It’s also exempt from the London Congestion Charge until October 2021. In 2021 it was joined by the GLC 300 e, with a petrol 2.0-litre engine and an electric range of 26-31 miles. It can officially manage up to 128.4mpg with emissions of 62g/km and it takes around 2.5 hours to charge the battery using a 7kW home wallbox.
After the first year's CO2-based road tax (generally included in the on-the-road price), Mercedes GLCs cost the standard annual rate in VED (tax), or £10 less if it's a hybrid. Every GLC now has a list price (including options) of more than £40,000, making it liable for an additional surcharge in years two to six, elevating the annual bill during that period.
Insurance groups for the facelifted Mercedes GLC are quite high, with diesel versions starting in groups 32 and the GLC 300 de in groups 44-45 out of 50. Oddly, this is just as high as the AMG versions in groups 41-44.
Mercedes provides a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty on all of its new models, which is the same as BMW offers on the X3. Pan-European Mercedes Roadside Assistance is also included, that can last up to 30 years if you keep the car maintained within the dealership network.
Mercedes offers fixed-price servicing plans that cover all scheduled maintenance. You can pay all in one go up front or spread the cost over monthly instalments, which should be about £35 for a diesel GLC.
Mercedes GLC SUV - Engines, drive & performance
Its diesel engines are smooth, but the Mercedes GLC is more of a comfortable cruiser than an exciting driver’s car
Engine choice is reasonably limited in the Mercedes GLC, but the two diesel options are very smooth on the move. All also come with four-wheel drive as standard – a system Mercedes calls 4MATIC. The GLC is almost car-like to drive and as comfortable and sophisticated as a luxury limousine – a happy consequence of sharing a platform with the C-Class saloon.
The GLC is at its best when driven in a relaxed, unfussed manner than on spirited back-road jaunts. Although all models have clever dampers as standard, they seem optimised for soaking up bumps and improving ride comfort rather than providing sharper responses. For a truly rewarding SUV driving experience, the BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace remain the cars to beat, although in the comfort stakes, the Merc trumps the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The Volvo XC60 is even more comfortable still.
The GLC leans a little during hard cornering, but not so much as to feel unsettling and less than the Audi and Volvo. The steering is accurate enough, yet feels rather light and requires quite large inputs, so there’s little to encourage fast driving anyway. It’s far better to ease off the accelerator and cruise, which the Mercedes does very well.
All models use a smooth, responsive nine-speed automatic gearbox, which does a good job of keeping the engine revs low in the interest of fuel economy. The four-wheel-drive system is permanently engaged and uses traction control to ensure a firm grip on the road – any wheel found to be slipping is lightly braked and the engine's power is sent to the wheel on the opposite side to get you moving again.
Mercedes GLC diesel engines
Many people buying an SUV of this size will choose a diesel, and there are two available, badged 220 d and 300 d. Both are different versions of Mercedes' four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine, which is smoother and quieter than the 2.1-litre diesel it replaces, but still slightly more clattery than the best diesel engines found in rivals.
It might not appear like it if you look at the official performance claims, but most drivers will be satisfied with the slower 220 d, and it suits the GLC well. Mercedes claims 0-62mph times of 7.9 for the 200 d and 6.5 seconds for the 300 d, both of which will be more than fast enough for most SUV owners. That means our top pick is the cheaper 220 d, and it's a shame this isn't available with every trim level. Unlike the coarse old engine, the GLC 300 d we sampled was as smooth and quiet as a petrol, but with even more urge in real-world driving.
Talking of petrol, the GLC 300 with 254bhp is available, featuring a new turbocharger, engine design and particulate filter all aimed at reducing emissions. It's also fitted with a mild-hybrid system that can recoup energy as the car slows down, then use it to aid acceleration. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 6.2 seconds, while its top speed is 149mph. AMG models are even faster - the 43 model cracks 0-62mph in under five seconds, and the 63 and 63 S reduce this to four seconds or less. With the speed limiter removed, the GLC 63 S will carry on all the way to 174mph.
Most plug-in hybrids use a petrol engine, but the GLC 300 de has a diesel engine for long-range economy. The combination produces 302bhp, so the PHEV is quick too - 0-62mph takes 6.2 seconds. For 2021 the petrol-based GLC 300 e plug-in has also arrived, and it's even faster, taking just 5.7 seconds to get from 0-62mph.
Its 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and electric motor produce a combined 316bhp, and it does a good job of prioritising electric power when the battery is charged. In this mode it's almost silent, and even when the petrol engine kicks in it's almost imperceptible. There's also a clever regenerative braking system that can be adjusted using the paddles behind the steering wheel or left to work automatically based on the road and traffic.
Mercedes GLC SUV - Interior & comfortThe
Mercedes GLC has a well built interior and even the entry-level model has loads of standard kit
The Mercedes GLC boasts an impressive, high-quality dashboard and interior design that’s more luxurious and up-to-date than what you’ll find in many rivals. All models are well equipped, but you’d expect them to be considering the GLC’s price. We'd recommend choosing an AMG Line Premium trim or above to really experience all the GLC has to offer.
Thanks to a honed suspension setup and using some parts from the Mercedes C-Class saloon, the GLC is very comfortable on the move whether on the standard steel springs of the Sport or the optional AIRMATIC system. Road and wind noise are minimal and a clever crosswind prevention system helps to keep the GLC stable at high speeds. Even the more sportily tuned AMG Line models maintain the comfortable ride of the Sport, although the wider tyres do kick up a little more noise from the road.
Mercedes GLC dashboard
The GLC shines when you sit behind the wheel. The entire design looks like it’s been lifted straight from the C-Class saloon, as there’s loads of solid metal switchgear and clear instruments. The middle of the dashboard is dominated by a single piece of wood or gloss-black veneer that starts from just underneath the infotainment screen and swoops down to connect to the centre console.
The classic air vents look like they’ve been taken straight from a vintage aircraft and the control for the sat nav and infotainment is the only control interruption on the centre console. The steering column-mounted gear selector is a little strange to get used to, though. It's also a shame that the standard analogue gauges and central trip computer look dated compared with the digital instruments fitted in AMG Line Premium trim.
The GLC now comes in AMG Line trim as standard but extra kit can be added by upgrading to Premium and Premium Plus versions. Even the entry-level model has a comprehensive amount of equipment: a reversing camera, Parktronic, a powered tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, leather seats, automatic climate control, sat-nav and DAB radio are all standard.
The AMG Line Premium version throws in a sports bodykit and interior makeover, sports suspension, 20-inch AMG alloy wheels, adaptive headlights, ambient lighting and a 12.3-inch digital instrument display. Premium Plus is even more lavish, thanks to a panoramic sunroof, Burmester stereo system, keyless entry, 360-degree camera view and memory front seats and steering wheel.
The Driving Assistance package is worth considering if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, adding blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and a system that applies the brakes if it thinks you're about to hit the car in front. Air-suspension can also be fitted, further improving the ride quality. If you plan on towing, an official tow bar costs around £750.
Mercedes GLC SUV - Practicality & boot space
The Mercedes GLC provides loads of storage areas and its boot is a decent size, if not class-leading
Considering it’s an SUV, the GLC is easy enough to get into, as its doors open nice and wide. The steering wheel and driver’s seat have plenty of adjustment and there’s plenty of room in the back. Boot space is good, if not class-leading, but the plug-in hybrid offers noticeably less due to its batteries taking up some of the luggage room.
Mercedes GLC interior space & storage
The GLC offers a decent amount of leg and headroom in the rear, but the transmission tunnel can eat into space for the middle-seat passenger.
Interior storage is good, thanks to a generous space in the front armrest and a deep cubby in front of the infotainment dial in the centre console. The door bins can all hold bottles and rear-seat occupants get their own air ventilation and an armrest that features a storage cubby and two cup-holders.
Total boot volume is about on par with a lot of the GLC’s rivals. The 550 litres on offer is the same as what you get in the BMW X3 and equal to the Audi Q5’s boot. However, it’s less than what’s available when you fold down the Land Rover Discovery Sport’s third row of seats. The GLC’s rear seats fold in a 40:20:40 configuration with the pull of a lever, offering extra versatility and more room in the boot if needed.
In the boot you’ll find the usual range of neat practical touches like anchor points for smaller items and a cubby either side to store bits and bobs. The boot itself is square and the opening is large, so getting awkwardly shaped items in should be a breeze, especially with the power-operated tailgate.
Compared to the 550 litres you get in petrol and diesel cars, the PHEV’s boot is a bit smaller at 395 litres. That’s only 25 litres more than in the A-Class hatchback but at least the boot floor is flat, unlike the annoying step in the boot of the E-Class plug-in. It also benefits from underfloor storage, so you can keep your charging cables separate from your shopping.
All diesel GLC models can tow 2,500kg – more than most versions of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, and matching the D240. Both the GLC 300 de and 300 e can also tow up to 2,000kg, which is an impressive amount for a plug-in hybrid.
Mercedes GLC SUV - Reliability & safety
There’s an impressive amount of safety technology as standard, but there could be questions about long-term reliability of the Mercedes GLC
The Mercedes GLC has an impressive suite of safety kit, which can be added to with optional equipment like adaptive cruise control. Although owners expressed reliability concerns in our 2019 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
Mercedes GLC reliability
Looking at the 2020 results of our Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, Mercedes as a brand came a disappointing 28th out of 30 manufacturers, with 16.5% of respondents reporting a fault within the first year of ownership.
Things were even worse for the Mercedes GLC in particular, because despite coming a reasonable 61st out of our top 100 cars overall in our 2019 results, it came dead last for reliability. A worrying 44% of owners reported at least one fault in the first 12 months, including engine, electrical and interior trim problems. The GLC didn't appear in our 2020 results. Hopefully Mercedes will have identified these teething problems and recified them as part of the model's facelift.
Along with the standard spread of airbags and traction control, the GLC has an advanced stability program, Mercedes’ crosswind-assistance technology and a collision-prevention system. An optional semi-autonomous driving system is available. This takes adaptive cruise control a step further, maintaining a safe distance from the car in front, steering the car if you drift out of your lane and braking automatically if it detects an imminent collision.
All this led to the Mercedes GLC scoring the full five stars when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP at the end of 2015. It scored an impressive 95% in the adult occupant protection category, as well as 89% in the child occupant protection category.
The collision-prevention technology can get a little over-zealous, as it tends to flash a warning at you even when you’re a safe distance behind the car in front. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to deactivate if you find it to be more of a hindrance than a help when on the move.
New Honda HR-V SUV has a fresh look, updated technology and a 129bhp dual-motor hybrid powertrain
The all-new Honda HR-V was revealed earlier this year and now the firm has confirmed further details of the new car’s 129bhp e:HEV hybrid powertrain.
For the third-generation HR-V, Honda has given it a sleeker exterior design, an all-new interior and updated technology onboard. The new car will only be available as a hybrid and is expected to go on sale later this year with a starting price of around £25,000.
2021 Honda HR-V hybrid: engine and performance
Honda has announced the latest HR-V will be powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine mated to two electric motors and a CVT automatic gearbox. This powertrain is similar to the one used in the current Jazz but features a larger battery mounted under the boot floor. It also produces more power, with a total output of 129bhp.
The way the e:HEV hybrid powertrain operates is unique, with one electric motor powering the car along with the petrol engine. The second motor is connected to the engine but is used as a generator to charge the car’s onboard battery.
This powertrain will be capable of pure-electric running but Honda has not specified any range figures saying “In city driving, most of the time you can, as an accumulated time of driving, drive in pure-electric mode. However, we haven’t actually determined and measured, and also focused our development in terms of maximising the pure-electric range in one go.”
Honda discontinued its 1.6-litre diesel engine in 2020 amid freefalling diesel sales. The new HR-V is part of the brand’s ‘Electric Vision’ strategy, which aims to introduce hybrid or electric power to all of its mainstream models by 2022.
The new HR-V has a rakish design thanks to a coupe-inspired swooping roofline and a longer bonnet. Despite the sporty profile of the roof, which is 20mm lower than the old car, Honda claims the new HR-V can accommodate four adults in comfort thanks to improved packaging of the hybrid powertrain which results in an extra 35mm of rear legroom.
The front features a new integrated grille and slim LED headlights joined together by a narrow piece of chrome trim. The new HR-V also sits 10mm higher than before, with the sides of the car featuring black plastic body cladding around the arches and sills, together with a high indent line along the length of the car and a flush-fitting rear door handle. Large 18-inch five-spoke two-tone alloy wheels also feature.
The rearmost C-pillar is more sharply angled than before, leading to a new tailgate that houses a slim rear tail light cluster that wraps round from the rear quarter panel across the width of the car.
Interior and technology
Inside, the dashboard has been redesigned with a new minimalist look. A nine-inch central infotainment touchscreen is mounted to the top of the dashboard, which appears to be running similar software to the system used in the Honda e, which includes sat nav and smartphone connectivity.
Honda has retained physical rotary dials for the climate controls in a wrap-around centre console with a refreshed gear stick design. The clean dashboard design features an ‘Air Diffusion System’ that replaces the traditional air vents in the centre of the dashboard. This comprises two L-shaped vents mounted by the windscreen pillars, which direct air along the inside the windows to adjust the interior temperature - all without blasting hot or cold air directly at the driver or passenger.
The brand’s versatile Magic Seats storage system also features, offering the option to fold the rear seats flat or to flip up the rear seat bases depending on the storage space required.
Full details of the new car’s interior tech and trim levels are expected to be announced later this year.
The new third-generation HR-V is fitted with Honda’s ‘Sensing’ safety suite adding an array of driver assistance technology. A new front camera is fitted, which has more processing power than before and improves both the car’s emergency braking and steering systems.
The new camera is able to better detect pedestrians detection, and is capable of recognising oncoming vehicles including cyclists and motorcycles, automatically applying the brakes when a hazard is detected.
A new adaptive cruise control system is also included, with new advanced software meaning it can perform overtakes when prompted. The system can work out the acceleration and steering angles required to complete a passing maneuver, all with minimal input from the driver.
The verdict: Volvo’s five years of experience building plug-in-hybrid SUVs seems to be paying off, as the Recharge T8 version of the 2021 XC60 luxury compact SUV is as well rounded in its plug-in aspects as the gas version is in every other way.
Versus the competition: This will soon change, but the XC60 T8 has few direct competitors, though it matches the 2021 Audi Q5 e for electric range and gas mileage, and it trounces the 2021 BMW X3 xDrive30e in the latter category. For both metrics, the model to beat might be the Corsair Grand Touring, coming this spring from a resurgent Lincoln.
Volvo appears to be using the word “Recharge” to represent any vehicle with a plug, be it a pure battery-electric, such as the new XC40 Recharge subcompact SUV, or this plug-in hybrid version of the XC60 compact SUV. Perhaps a better indicator is the “T8” powertrain designation, which we’ve seen only on plug-in hybrids, including the larger XC90 Recharge T8. The original Volvo XC60 is an excellent luxury compact SUV, good enough to win our 2018 comparison test. Not much has changed — either for the XC60 or its competitors — since. Rather than rehash what we like about it, I’ll direct you to our most recent comprehensive review of the regular XC60 and focus here on the plug-in hybrid.
Ten years’ experience has revealed the many ways in which a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV, can go astray, so I’ve come to focus my evaluations of them on these factors. Each area undergoes a pass/fail test to determine whether the vehicle as a whole passes muster. Behold the XC60’s Recharge’s results:
This is an important one because early PHEVs had electric ranges that were comically short. One of the first, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, could drive only 6 miles on electric power, as estimated by the EPA.
We’ve come a long way since then. Most PHEVs go roughly 20 miles before their gas engines are needed, and they can even achieve highway speeds gas-free. The Prius Plug-In’s successor has been succeeded by today’s vastly improved Prius Prime, which has a 25-mile electric range. The EPA estimates the XC60 T8 can go 18 miles on a charge. I matched or exceeded that number twice, thanks in part to favorable weather.
This test isn’t about whether the vehicle hits its estimate, though; it’s about the range itself, and anything under 20 miles feels too short. I know 18 miles is technically long enough — and I underscore that a 20-mile trip that uses gasoline for only 2 miles is still great — but the key word here is feels. American shoppers are driven by feeling as much as logic, if not more. (By the same token, 150 miles doesn’t feel like enough range for an all-electric car, even though it’s usually more than enough if you charge it nightly at home.) Also, cold temperatures invariably shorten range. So, bearing in mind that each of these pass/fail tests add up to an overall verdict, I’m going to consider any PHEV range under 20 a failure (or just a fail, as the kids say).
Pass/fail verdict: Fail
In a plug-in hybrid, you want to have enough power to drive in electric-only mode without triggering the gas engine, at least under normal conditions. This is mainly a psychological thing given that it doesn’t hurt if the engine runs for a minute or two. It’s just the principle of it, you know? In its default, hybrid driving mode, the XC60 Recharge will accelerate under electric power at lower speeds, and you can maintain that so long as you keep the virtual needle on the gauge from crossing from the lightning symbol side of the tick mark (electric) to the droplet symbol side (gasoline). Note that while the needle moves with your acceleration, the tick mark and the threshold between electric and gas are also a moving target, depending on load, incline, etc.
The true test of electric acceleration comes by locking a car in electric propulsion, which you do in the XC60 T8 by selecting the Pure driving mode; it’s available so long as there’s enough juice in your battery pack. In Pure mode, you can accelerate as hard as you want and stay in electric mode — so long as you don’t click the switch at the bottom of the accelerator pedal’s travel (it used to be called the kickdown switch). Power in the Volvo is modest because the goal in a PHEV isn’t to have a super-powerful electric motor and a super-powerful gas engine; that would be inefficient. The goal is for the motor and engine to be powerful together. If you’re in a bind and you floor it and click that switch, the gas engine comes to life and you get full acceleration. In normal driving, I found the Volvo’s electric mode to be adequate 95% of the time — but it bears noting that Cars.com is headquartered in the flatlands of Chicago.
I was able to achieve 70-plus mph on the highway, but one time after merging onto an interstate, I encountered a gentle uphill slope that climbed for at least a mile. With the T8 powertrain at the height of its electric abilities, I was below the speed limit and barely tacking on mph — with drivers behind me getting irritated and whipping around me. This was with only me in the car and no cargo weighing it down. Of course, in this instance, I could have easily floored the pedal the rest of the way and used the gas engine. If ever I had to pass, I’d definitely have needed to. If you drive in a hilly region, I suspect you’ll rely on the XC60’s gas engine more often than I did.
In my electric acceleration test, the XC60 T8 was borderline. It was certainly less effective on highways and hills, but because I like how it’s executed and it worked well where I drove it, I’ll give it a pass.
Pass/fail verdict: Pass
Hybrid acceleration is also important, and it has different aspects. First, you don’t want to make sacrifices, and Volvo seems to know that. Its combination of the supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor provides 400 total system horsepower (415 hp in the Polestar Engineered trim level, thanks to different gas-engine tuning). These numbers are well above the most powerful non-hybrid XC60 — the T6’s 316 hp — but the hybrids also weigh considerably more, so it’s best to look at 0-60-mph times. According to Volvo, the T8 powertrain is the quickest to make that run, at 5.0 seconds (4.9 seconds in the Polestar Engineered). The T6 is rated at 5.6 seconds and the all-wheel-drive T5 at 6.4 seconds, so not only are you not losing acceleration by choosing the PHEV, you’re gaining it.
Then there’s how the acceleration feels. Hybrid powertrains have traditionally felt kinda herky-jerky, and that would definitely be a sacrifice in a luxury vehicle. Volvo has done a nice job with this one. It incorporates the same eight-speed automatic transmission as the non-hybrid T5 and T6, so you don’t get the droning and rubber-band effect earlier hybrid adopters suffered. It doesn’t feel 100% conventional, but it’s pretty close. The XC60 T8 passes the hybrid acceleration test.
Pass/fail verdict: Pass
That brings us to braking. Hybrid braking is often nonlinear and mushy-feeling — just generally not what you want. We’ve put up with it for the sake of better mileage, though, and fortunately hybrid braking action has been improving. Again, Volvo’s done a nice job here. I didn’t mistake the XC60 T8’s pedal feel for a conventional braking system, but some people might. It passes.
Pass/fail verdict: Pass
If you don’t think the interior matters, you’ve probably never inspected a plug-in hybrid version of an existing vehicle before. Historically, squeezing a second propulsion system into a vehicle that wasn’t designed for it has meant something had to give. Battery packs in particular tended to diminish interior space, robbing either backseat legroom or cargo volume.
The XC60 T8 passes the cabin test with flying colors. Its seating dimensions are exactly the same as the gas-only versions of the XC60 front and rear.
Pass/fail verdict: Pass
While we’ve seen some PHEVs whose floors are elevated to accommodate a battery pack, that’s not exactly the case here — though there is something weird going on because it isn’t perfectly level, which I don’t recall from the non-hybrid. It’s barely noticeable, though, and the cargo dimensions are once again the same between the regular and the Recharge versions of the XC60. The main sacrifice — visible if you raise the floor — is the lack of a spare tire. Instead, you get a compressor and some sealant goo. Honestly, there are a lot of vehicles nowadays that lack a spare tire with less of an excuse than the XC60 Recharge, so I’m not going to hold this against it.
Pass/fail verdict: Pass
Some hybrids just can’t hack towing, but the Recharge is rated to tow 3,500 pounds just like other XC60s. You can get an SUV that tows a considerably heavier trailer than the XC60, but when it comes to PHEV versus gas-only, the Recharge T8 passes the towing test.
Pass/fail verdict: Pass
Gas mileage is a crucial consideration, even if the vehicle has a long electric range but especially if it doesn’t. For the Volvo, there’s good news here: Once its electric charge is depleted, the XC60 Recharge is rated 26/28/27 mpg city/highway/combined on required premium gas. The XC60 T6 that’s closest to the Recharge’s performance is rated 23 mpg combined. Even the most efficient XC60 T5 with FWD is rated 25 mpg combined — 2 mpg less than the T8. That means you could buy a Recharge and never plug it in and you’d still get better mileage. While that would be a pointless waste, and I hesitate to give anyone bad ideas, any PHEV with better combined mpg than the rest of its range even without plugging in gets an automatic pass in the gas mileage test.
Pass/fail verdict: Pass
Another test inspired by PHEV history, this one is necessary because, while it’s pretty easy to see good electric range figures and mpg ratings, overall range is easily overlooked. When an automaker shrinks the gas tank significantly in order to make room for batteries, for example, the overall range can end up being pathetic. Not to fear: According to EPA estimates, the XC60 T8’s total range is 520 miles, 502 on gasoline. This beats the T5 FWD by 32-50 miles. The T8 passes the overall range test.
Pass/fail verdict: Pass
The price test takes into account all the other tests. If a vehicle fails many of the previous tests, any price premium would be harder to swallow — and, conversely, if a vehicle had leading electric range or some other stand-out attribute, a higher price could be justified.
Because there’s a federal tax credit of over $5,400 for the Recharge, its price ends up being roughly $500 more than a comparable trim level with the T6 powertrain — the most powerful non-hybrid XC60. You can pay several thousand dollars less for a T5, but, as we’ve covered, it will be both less powerful and less efficient. Some $500 seems a small price to pay for a plug-in hybrid of the XC60 T8’s capabilities. At least so long as the tax credit remains available, it passes this test, as well.
The downside to tax credits is you have to pay more up front and won’t get the money back until the IRS sends your tax returns the following calendar year. The XC60 Recharge T8 starts with the Inscription Expression trim level with standard all-wheel drive at $54,595 (all prices exclude the incentive but include destination charges). It also comes in R-Design and Inscription trims before topping out with the Polestar at $70,595. Our test vehicle was an XC60 Recharge T8 Inscription with a base price of $61,000 but a total sticker of $71,340, including many options such as the Climate Package, Advanced Package, 4-Corner Air Suspension, Bowers & Wilkins premium audio and more.
Pass/fail verdict: Pass
Final Test Results
It shouldn’t surprise you that the 2021 Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 passes the overall plug-in hybrid test with flying colors. Honestly, I’d happily trade some of its horsepower and acceleration for more electric range, but it isn’t that simple when you’re combining electric motors with gasoline engines in existing models; automakers typically work with platforms that weren’t designed for hybrid use (though this is slowly changing), and they only have so many engines of their own to choose from. Given how many challenges and trade-offs manufacturers face, and the results we’ve seen in other PHEVs, Volvo has balanced things out quite nicely here. Five years of experience building plug-in hybrid SUVs is evident in the 2021 XC60 Recharge T8.
The verdict: Sky-high fuel efficiency with front- or all-wheel drive remains the main draw for Toyota’s iconic Prius hybrid, even as the aging current generation grows less competitive in other ways.
Versus the competition: When Toyota unveiled this generation of the Prius more than five years ago, we lauded the car’s advancements in handling and interior quality. The intervening years, however, have seen rivals catch up on fuel efficiency and pull ahead in refinement and other technologies — though none yet offer all-wheel drive.
Toyota added the option of AWD to the Prius two model years ago, and it remains one of the most fuel-efficient cars of its type, at least before you look at plug-in vehicles. The AWD Prius comes in LE and XLE trim levels; we evaluated an XLE. The Prius can be had with front-wheel drive in five trims, including a limited-run 2020 Edition that commemorates two decades since the Prius debuted. (Heritage notwithstanding, it’s a baffling move; slapping “2020 Edition” on a 2021 model invites needless confusion, not to mention a constant reminder of a year everyone wants to forget.)
Besides the 2020 Edition, changes for 2021 include some augmented safety features and new Android Auto smartphone connectivity on most trim levels (Apple CarPlay remains standard). Stack up the 2020 and 2021 Prius or compare 2021 trim levels. Note, we separately cover the Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid with an EPA-rated 25 miles of all-electric driving range on a full battery charge before the gas engine kicks in. (Here’s more about the main differences between a hybrid and plug-in hybrid.)
Gas Mileage: The Reason Anyone Buys a Prius
The Prius’ mileage leader is the L Eco, a base trim level that’s good for an EPA-estimated 56 mpg combined. Among plug-free cars, that rating trails only one rival: the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, whose base trim level, Ioniq Blue, gets an EPA-rated 59 mpg combined. That said, the L Eco trim accounts for less than 10% of Prius cars listed in Cars.com’s dealer inventory as of this writing. Most shoppers will end up with other trims of the Prius, which the EPA still rates a very good 52 mpg combined.
The Prius AWD, meanwhile, employs an additional electric motor at the rear axle, which powers the car continuously from a stop, then as-needed up to 43 mph. There’s no mechanical connection to the main powertrain, which pairs two electric motor-generators with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. A power-split device with continuously variable properties doles out power to the wheels.
The whole of it makes for a combined 49 mpg in EPA ratings — short of the front-drive Prius but outstanding for an AWD vehicle that isn’t a plug-in. Our real-world testing returned results consistent with the car’s rating, with 46.6 mpg according to our calculations based on fill-up mileage ( 51.5 mpg on the trip computer) after 215 miles of mixed highway and suburban driving.
What You Give Up to Get There
As with most hybrids, electric operation alone is possible at low speeds under light acceleration, with the engine kicking in for anything beyond that. Under a combination of engine and electric power, the Prius has enough oomph; I needed most of the drivetrain’s reserves to claw my way up to 40 mph with 17 bags of mulch aboard — at least several hundred pounds — but power felt workably adequate.
That’s not to say the drivetrain is all that responsive. Press the accelerator while already in motion, and the Prius hesitates a beat or two before raising rpm to pull noisily ahead. Most modern CVTs implement quicker rpm transitions to mimic a step-gear downshift, but such programming usually trades fuel efficiency for responsiveness, so I seldom observe it with the CVT-style transmissions many hybrids use. The Prius, unsurprisingly, does none of that: Engine revs meander up or down in a slow, old-school fashion.
A few other downsides persist. Toyota’s regenerative brakes — a feature employed in all hybrids — impart a nonlinear pedal feel reminiscent of the technology’s early days. Response is tentative in the first inch or so of pedal travel, then becomes suddenly sharper as you press harder. So-called pedal linearity has improved among many hybrids over the years, even as a few non-hybrids introduce new forms of it.
Ride quality and noise abatement also remain areas that could use improvement. At highway speeds, our test car’s efficiency-oriented Bridgestone Ecopia tires let out quite the howl, with adjacent trucks matching the ambient noise. The suspension sorts out minor bumps well enough, but anything significant sends turbulent aftershocks through the body. The Prius is not especially comfortable or quiet.
Is this the penalty for sky-high mileage at an affordable price? Maybe; the rival Honda Insight is no bank vault, either. Mass-market hybrids aren’t known for sophisticated suspensions or gobs of noise insulation, but some execute those things better than others. A redesigned Prius will probably improve on such aspects, and with the current Prius entering its sixth model year for 2021, time for a new version is nigh.
By contrast, the Prius’ hybridness has little bearing on its other deficiencies. Most trims get a touchscreen measuring just 7 inches diagonally — an inch short of what you’ll find in the base version of many mass-market cars — with modest screen resolution and undersized volume and tuning knobs. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa integration are included with the 7-inch system, but they require a tethered connection as opposed to the wireless integrations that are expanding industrywide. Upgrade to the front-drive Prius Limited and you get the Prius Prime’s 11.6-inch vertically oriented touchscreen, but it confoundingly loses Android Auto connectivity. See our impressions of it otherwise.
Where It Still Shines
An early example of Toyota’s well-executed TNGA platform, which now underpins many other cars, the Prius boasts improbably good handling. The steering has a touch of vagueness on-center, but it communicates lively feedback as you turn the wheel into corners. Body roll is nicely controlled, and the AWD model shows unexpected balance if you slide it around — something the Bridgestones easily allow.
Space efficiency, at least up front, is also among the Prius’ strengths. The low center console leaves good space for your knees and thighs, and all but the tallest drivers should find sufficient headroom, even with the seat elevated all the way. The backseat is a bit low to the floor, so adults may find their knees uncomfortably elevated, but we found sufficient clearance to fit bulky rear-facing child-safety seats behind a 5-foot-6-inch front passenger. (That’s not to say, however, that the Prius passed Cars.com’s Car Seat Check with flying colors; parents with young children should check out our full scoring.)
We measured 13.1 cubic feet behind the Prius’ backseat, a figure comparable to our audits for two other smallish hatchbacks, the Mazda3 (13.1 cubic feet) and Subaru Crosstrek (13.0 cubic feet). (Note that our independent accounting of cargo space differs from manufacturer specs, which we’ve found overrepresent hatch space, underreport trunk volume and are unreliable for comparison.)
The Prius earned top scores in most crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but suboptimal results in the passenger-side small overlap front test kept the vehicle from garnering one of IIHS’ influential, if widespread, Top Safety Pick awards. Still, Toyota’s long list of safety and driver assist features is impressive: Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure steering assist and automatic high-beam headlights are standard, as are adaptive cruise control and hands-on lane centering. Those last two features can both operate from a standstill all the way up to highway speeds. New for 2021 is the latest generation of Toyota Safety Sense, which adds more detection capabilities, and all but the base trim level get a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert. Top trims add curve-adaptive headlights.
Should You Buy a Prius?
The Prius starts around $25,500 for the cheapest front-drive trim. That’s roughly commensurate with Toyota’s immediate competition, and the base Prius doesn’t skimp on multimedia features or safety and driver-assist tech, as some rivals do. Optional AWD adds a modest $1,000-$1,400 to the Prius’ mid-level trims, depending on specifics; the cheapest AWD Prius lands comfortably under $30,000 (all prices include destination charges).
Ascending trim levels add items like faux-leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power driver’s seat. Oddly enough, you can’t get certain top-of-the-line features on any AWD model, and niceties like a memory driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control and genuine leather are unavailable on any 2021 Prius.
Loaded with factory options, the Prius tops out around $34,500. You should be able to find plenty of examples well below that, given about two-thirds of the new 2021 models listed on Cars.com are priced at or below $30,000. Still, budget-conscious shoppers might find wider affordability on the Insight, with 82% of its new 2021 models priced at or below $30,000 on Cars.com.
That said, the venerable Prius is bound to find plenty of shoppers. The current generation shows its age through its drivability and multimedia tech, but lower trim levels offer a good mix of value and efficiency — especially with AWD, a capability that hybrid shoppers would otherwise need an SUV to get.
"The latest BMW 7 Series sports a brash new grille, improved powertrains and even more tech"
This is the sixth-generation of the BMW 7 Series luxury saloon and arguably the most identifiable, thanks to its bold new face. BMW clearly decided its conservative flagship saloon needed to stand out against the stately Mercedes S-Class and forward-looking Audi A8, increasing the size of its kidney grille by around 40%.
Elsewhere the makeover is far less dramatic, with slim new headlights and a full-width LED rear light-bar representing the most noticeable changes. It also has a smoother overall look and has been tweaked to suit the Chinese market, where more than a third of all 7 Series are sold.
The interior has also been reworked with a light touch, leaving most of its design intact but revisiting the tech on offer. The start of the show is BMW's latest infotainment system, bringing digital instruments and an updated tablet that passengers in the back can use to control the car's interior features.
Depending on its expected use, the 7 Series can be specified with a standard or long wheelbase to boost passenger space, along with either a bench rear seat or two-seat 'lounge' setup. The latter brings the full VIP experience, with individual seats that are heated, cooled and reclining either side of a centre console.
For a car that doesn’t sell in huge numbers, there's a wide range of engines, spanning from a plug-in hybrid model to diesels, and even a flagship V8 petrol. Every 7 Series is quick and supremely comfortable, but the range-topping petrols are also powerful for a large saloon, and the BMW has a sportier edge than the Mercedes S-Class.
BMW 7 Series saloon - MPG, running costs & CO2
The plug-in hybrid and diesel models make the big BMW 7 Series surprisingly efficient
Thanks to the breadth of the BMW 7 Series' engine range, there should be a version to suit every customer and location. We say ‘location’ because the plug-in hybrid 745e will bring real advantages in terms of taxes and charges if the owner drives into cities like London with low-emission zones and tariffs.
For this reason, the 745e plug-in hybrid is popular thanks to its CO2 emissions from 41g/km and fuel economy of up to 156.9mpg. The exact economy you get will depend on how often you can charge its battery pack and make use of its 28 mile electric range, but its fixed emissions figure gives the car free access to city centres with low-emission zones. A low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax will also appeal to business users.
The 7 Series’ standard petrol models are considerably pricier to run. The 740i returns up to 35.8mpg and emits from 180g/km, while the hugely powerful 750i xDrive returns little over 25mpg and sits in the top BiK tax band for business drivers.
Diesel engines are still very popular for the 7 Series, and the 730d will especially suit high-mileage drivers. Fuel economy of up to 51.4mpg is pretty impressive given the BMW's size, but emissions from 144g/km (with the smallest alloy wheels fitted) mean it still sits in a high BiK tax band. The 740d still returns 47mpg despite posting a very quick acceleration time and getting four-wheel drive. It features mild-hybrid technology with a small battery that stores the energy harvested from braking and deceleration, which is then used to give the engine a boost helping to improve fuel economy and emissions.
Insurance groups for the BMW 7 Series saloon are high because of how much it costs, the complex engineering and high performance. Even models lower down the range, such as the 740i are in insurance groups 48 or 49. Every other model, including all long wheel variants and even the 745e hybrid, sit in the top insurance group 50.
All BMW models come with a three-year warranty that's typical amongst the German brands, however it does also have unlimited mileage within this period.
BMW offers servicing packages that can be purchased when the car is new, covering maintenance for a fixed cost for a set period of time, for up to five years, which can also be transferred to subsequent owners.
Servicing packages can also be extended to include consumable items like brake pads, discs and a new clutch for an extra charge.
BMW 7 Series saloon - Engines, drive & performance
While still comfortable, the BMW 7 Series is a bit more involving to drive than most large saloons
Unlike most BMW models, the 7 Series favours a plush ride over sporty handling, but it still feels lighter on its toes than the Audi A8 or Mercedes S-Class. This is partly thanks to use of a carbon fibre 'core' running through its underpinnings, which helps save weight and increase structural stiffness.
In any of its driving modes and any scenario, the 7 Series is incredibly comfortable. We found the normal Comfort mode to be the best all-round setting; Comfort Plus makes the air suspension even softer, but this can make the body feel a little wayward on demanding roads, so is probably best left for the motorway.
BMW 7 Series diesel engines
There are two versions of the same 3.0-litre straight-six diesel, and the BMW 730d has traditionally been the bestseller in Britain. It has 282bhp and manages 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds when equipped with rear-wheel drive, with the xDrive four-wheel drive version taking 5.6 seconds. The more powerful four-wheel drive 740d gets 335bhp, and manages to get from 0-62mph in only five seconds. BMW’s mild-hybrid technology is fitted to both models, which provides an extra 11bhp overboost under full throttle to aid acceleration.
The petrol line-up consists of one relatively normal straight-six, and two much more expensive to run, powerful and exotic engines. With 328bhp, the 740i engine is shared with models including the BMW 3 Series and BMW 5 Series, and still proves spritely in a bigger vehicle, getting the 7 Series from 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds.
BMW 7 Series saloon - rear 3/4 dynamic 17
An all-new 4.4-litre V8 offered in the 750i creates a thunderous 528bhp and gets the car from 0-62mph in four seconds, aided by four-wheel drive traction. Despite its extra size and four extra cylinders, the 577bhp 6.6-litre V12 in the M760Li could only shave 0.2 seconds off the 0-62mph sprint, and has now been discontinued in the UK.
While the 730d has long been the most popular model, a shift away from diesel and heavy taxation means the 745e plug-in hybrid is likely to win favour with business buyers - who make up the bulk of 7 Series customers. It combines a six-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor and battery pack, providing an electric-only driving range of up to 28 miles. Zero-to-62mph takes a fraction over five seconds.
BMW 7 Series saloon - Interior & comfort
Technology has been improved with a better infotainment system and rear seat entertainment
Aside from its grille, the BMW 7 Series and its rivals are known for being conservative, and the interior hasn't changed too much from its predecessor. Of course, technology has been bolstered, so every gadget you can think of is standard or available as an option.
BMW 7 Series dashboard
While it looks pretty similar, there's a new set of digital instruments that can show much more information to the driver. Materials have also been updated to keep the 7 Series near the front of the pack, with every surface covered in leather or wooden trim, including oak and polar.
Perhaps most importantly, the infotainment system runs BMW's Operating System 7.0, bringing the latest connectivity, media and navigation to the driver and passengers via seven-inch removable tablets.
Choose the 730d and so much is included you'd be hard pressed to tell it's officially the entry-level model. A Harman Kardon stereo, adaptive LED headlights, powered boot, wireless phone charging and a key with its own display are all standard.
BMW 7 Series saloon - infotainment 17
In-car technology doesn’t disappoint either, with all models coming as standard with the ‘Connected Package Professional’. This includes Remote Services, which allows you to send destinations, find your vehicle or even keep an eye on your 7 Series’ surroundings via your smartphone. A remote 3D view generates an up-to-date 360-degree image around the car so that you can see it even when you’re not near it, using the BWW Connected App. Other features include Connected Navigations, Concierge Services and Apple CarPlay.
The M Sport trim gives the 7 Series a more athletic look inside and out, capped off by unique alloy wheels, while the M760Li xDrive flagship is essentially its own trim level, with just about every option included.
It's hard to believe you'd need to add a Comfort Plus Pack, but do so and it brings massaging and ventilated seats, scented air and laminated glass designed to help regulate the interior temperature and add soundproofing. A Technology Plus Pack adds driving aids, remote control parking and a head-up display, while the Rear Seat Comfort Plus Pack upgrades the back seats for first-class luxury by adding heated seats and two 10-inch screens on the back of the front seats along with a Blu-ray player and TV.
BMW 7 Series saloon - Practicality & boot space
There's plenty of room to stretch out and the boot is a generous size
The BMW 7 Series saloon has been designed to carry adults in ultimate luxury from the outset, and the latest version is 22mm longer than before. Choose the long-wheelbase version and it gains a full 14cm of additional length, providing even more room for rear passengers to stretch out and sleep on the move.
BMW 7 Series interior space & storage
In standard form, the interior of the 7 Series offers a generous amount of room for both front and rear passengers. Travelling in the rear seats though, is more like first-class air travel than squeezing into the back of a hatchback. That's especially the case if you specify the individual executive lounge rear seats rather than the standard three seat rear bench.
Opt for the extended long-wheelbase version of 7 Series and the rear passenger space is extended further still, meaning that while in transit, you can enjoy a film, work or have a nap. This can be complemented by electrified rear and side window sunblinds and the optional BMW Touch Command, which adds a capacitive touch sensor to control the rear interior lighting. Even more space can be afforded by pressing a button to move and tilt the front passenger seat out of the way.
The powered boot lid opens to reveal a large 515-litre boot (10 litres more space than the Audi A8), providing plenty of room for suitcases or golf clubs. Due to the onboard battery in the 745Le plug-in hybrid, boot space is reduced to 429 litres. Those opulent rear seats don't fold down, though, so you can't expand the space.
While you're unlikely to ever see a 7 Series towing a trailer, its 2,300kg capability means it would actually be rather adept at the task.
BMW 7 Series saloon - Reliability & safety
The BMW 7 Series boasts some of the world's most advanced safety technology
The BMW 7 Series is a hugely complex car, but a decent manufacturer's warranty should allay many fears. It's also laden with safety technology.
BMW 7 Series reliability
It can be daunting buying a car with as much technology and equipment as the 7 Series, but it’s covered by an unlimited-mileage warranty for the first three years. Because this model is essentially a thorough facelift of the previous version, a lot of the new model's underpinnings have also been tried and tested.
Its smaller sibling, the 5 Series, came 40th in our top 100 cars rated by owners in the 2020 Driver Power satisfaction survey. It seems that BMW owners aren’t happy with the running costs, which include high insurance premiums and servicing bills. Surprisingly, BMWs are getting worse than average reviews in the ride and handling and acceleration categories.
While it's unlikely to be tested by Euro NCAP because of its status as a luxury car sold in small numbers, we'd be amazed if the 7 Series didn't get a five-star result. After all, it's BMW's flagship saloon and a showcase for the brand’s latest safety technology. That includes myriad systems to help warn you of, and even help avoid accidents.
Onboard safety technology includes BMW’s Parking Assistant Plus which is capable of taking control of the car steering and brakes to park the car automatically in parallel or perpendicular parking spaces. This functionality can also be operated via the BMW Display key, with the driver outside the car. Other safety features include the optional Driving Assistant Professional system, which uses a series of cameras and radar to guide the car as you drive, and includes lane change assistance, and can even stop you if you attempt to drive down a one-way street the wrong way.
The Ford Puma is back - the small, sporty coupe is now a stylish, practical compact SUV that’s good to drive, but lacks cabin space.
We’ve waited a while for Ford to give us a proper compact SUV based on the Fiesta. Until now, the firm’s sole offering in the B-SUV market - the EcoSport - has not been good enough. The new Ford Puma hits the right notes and is precisely what you’d expect of the brand, blending practicality and affordability into a package that’s good to drive.
The Puma’s looks won’t appeal to everyone, but few rivals can better it for boot-space and virtually none can outshine the Puma from behind the wheel - equipment levels are strong too. However, there are more upmarket-feeling and spacious rivals out there for this sort of cash.
About the Ford Puma
Cast your memory back to 1997, and you may remember Ford launched a fun, small, front-wheel-drive coupe based on what was then the fourth-generation Fiesta. It added a bit of richly needed desirability at the smaller end of the brand’s British line-up. It was a hit - the Ford Puma had landed.
Now, the Puma name is back, and it’s an extremely similar story save for one very important detail; the new Ford Puma is not a small coupe, but a small five-door SUV. It’s based on the current, seventh-generation Fiesta supermini, sharing its chassis and its engines, as it enters a market that’s overflowing with choice at the minute.
Chief rivals include the Renault Captur, the Peugeot 2008, Skoda Kamiq and SEAT Arona, while the handsome Mazda CX-3 and spacious Volkswagen T-Cross offer further possibilities for customers considering a small family SUV. Left-field alternatives include cars like the design-led Nissan Juke, chunky Jeep Renegade and the retro Fiat 500 X.
The Puma line-up isn’t quite as expansive as the Fiesta’s, but there are still plenty of models to choose from and even more engine options will be available soon. The trim structure is very straightforward too, with four core versions: Titanium, ST-Line, ST-Line X and luxury ST-Line Vignale. The Puma ST performance model sits at the top of the range.
The Titanium is the entry-level trim for the Puma range, but it’s still well equipped and finished with flair, including 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel, power folding mirrors, navigation via an eight-inch central touchscreen display, cruise control, rear parking sensors and even a wireless charging pad. The other side to this is that the Puma’s starting price is relatively high compared with rivals, many of which start from below £20,000.
ST-Line models add a bit more standard equipment such as a widescreen 12.3-inch digital instrument display and automatic headlamps. But these cars major on sporty touches including a body-kit, different alloy wheels, sports seats and pedals and a sports suspension setup that helps the Puma to shine as one of the best crossovers to drive.
ST-Line X builds on this with luxury features such as partial leather upholstery, privacy glass in the windows and a 10-speaker audio setup from Bang & Olufsen, while the Vignale upgrade brings heated front seats, front parking sensors, keyless entry and Windsor premium leather upholstery.
The Puma is front-wheel-drive only and buyers are offered three engine options. The EcoBoost 125 uses a 123bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine as found in the Fiesta, while a 48-volt mild-hybrid version of this engine is also available. It doesn’t bring any additional power, although there is a slight increase in torque, and it introduces marginal reductions in CO2 emissions and gains in fuel economy, too. The third option is another 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol with the same mild-hybrid system, but power is pushed up to 153bhp.
Mild-hybrid versions of the Puma use a six-speed manual gearbox for now, with a seven-speed automatic available with the 123bhp non-hybrid variant, although Ford has plans to introduce the auto transmission throughout the Puma range.
For the performance enthusiast, the Puma ST is arguably the best-handling compact SUV on sale, powered by the Fiesta ST’s 1.5-litre engine for a total of 197bhp.
Ford Puma review - Engines, performance and drive
The Puma’s proven 1.0-litre EcoBoost units are a known quantity, but the mild-hybrid system isn’t flawless.
Ford’s reputation for fun family cars has been sealed with models like the Focus and Fiesta, while the original Puma - though short lived - is another prime example of the Blue Oval’s proficiency in chassis development.
Much the same can be said of this Puma, thanks in the main to the Fiesta chassis that sits beneath it. It links up with a solid 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine to deliver a family crossover that’s good to drive.
When we pitted the Puma up against the Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008, we hailed the Ford as being “easily the best to drive.” The driving position is fundamentally sound, and once you’re settled in, you’ll quickly see why the Puma has won plaudits.
Get on the move and the steering feels light - even if you put the Puma into the Sport mode using the drive mode selector. But, it’s well resolved for a car like this, accurate, keen to re-centre and with a great steering ratio. There’s a good level of grip too, so immediately the Puma feels like a crossover that you can flick through corners nicely. The six-speed gearbox is lovely, too, while Ford’s engineers have also done a good job with the Puma’s suspension.
Even with the sports suspension on the ST-Line model, the damping is very well set up and it has a decent level of compliance. It all comes together to mean that the Puma has brilliant composure and the ability to offer an engaging drive.
The Puma ST is based on the sublime Fiesta ST hot hatchback, which means a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine under the bonnet, making the same 197bhp and 320Nm of torque.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
All three engines are based on the same 1.0-litre engine block, but there’s quite a difference between them, owing to the Puma’s various drivetrain technologies and power outputs.
The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine has been a really strong contender in its various applications over the last few years, and the Puma is another vehicle where this small engine shines. It may no longer be the outright best three-cylinder engine on the market and some engines - such as the TSI units used in the Volkswagen Group cars - may be more refined these days, but you shouldn’t be disappointed.
The 123bhp and 170Nm torque served up by the base model is enough for most family motoring, propelling the Puma to 62mph in 10.0 seconds and on to a top speed of 119mph.
What is a hybrid car? Mild hybrids, full hybrids and plug-in hybrids explained
Pick the mild-hybrid version and the power stays at 123bhp, but torque improves to 210Nm thanks to the small amount of electrical assistance. Top speed is still 119mph, but the 0-62mph time falls a little to 9.8 seconds. The real benefit is lower CO2 emissions from the exhaust pipe and better running costs from improved fuel economy, which we’ll come to on the next page.
The only downside to the mild-hybrid system is that to fill the small battery pack with energy, the Puma features a very minor amount of brake energy regeneration. It’s set at a constant, unchangeable level, that’s just about detectable when you lift off the throttle and feel the car slow more quickly than it otherwise would, and takes a little getting used to.
If you need more power, the 153bhp car has you covered. It also has braking recuperation that cannot be altered in strength, but it takes 8.9 seconds to reach 62mph from standstill and goes on to a top speed of 124mph.
The 197bhp ST performance model dispatches the same sprint in 6.7 seconds, with a 137mph maximum.
Ford Puma review - MPG, CO2 and running costs
Ford uses proven 1.0-litre petrol engines for the Puma, with mild-hybrid technology helping to improve economy and emissions.
Ford’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost unit has received much praise for its versatility and ability to blend decent power with good returns from a tank of fuel. So, it’s probably no great surprise that the engine is at the core of the Puma range.
The flexible 1.0-litre powerplant comes in three guises for Puma customers. The base 123bhp version returns a maximum 46.3mpg, with 138g/km of CO2, while the same unit with 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance is able to improve on these figures a little by delivering a claimed 50.4mpg and CO2 levels of 127g/km.
The 153bhp variant produces the same economy and CO2 figures as its lower-powered sibling, while the 197bhp Puma ST still performs pretty well with 41.5mpg on the combined cycle and 155g/km of CO2.
Most economical SUVs, 4x4s and crossovers 2021
The mild-hybrid system captures kinetic energy naturally lost while driving, particularly during braking, before storing it as electricity in a small battery. This electrical energy is then used to assist the engine during acceleration, reducing the amount of petrol needed to make decent progress.
Drivers can view a display on the digital instrument panel to see exactly when the system is in action. Alongside it, cylinder deactivation means the engine can run on two cylinders where driving conditions allow, to save more fuel.
Insurance premiums for the Puma range should be competitive with those of rivals. The base 123bhp Titanium model comes in at group 11, while the ST-Line Vignale cars with 153bhp occupy group 15. The 197bhp ST variant is in group 22.
Competitors such as the Renault Captur start at group 8 for an entry-level 99bhp version and move through to group 21 for a top-of-the range model with 152bhp.
Our experts predict the Ford Puma will retain a healthy 51% of its original value over 3 years and 36,000 miles, whereas the Renault Captur keeps an average of 43% over the same period.
Ford Puma review - Interior, design and technology
The Ford Puma has a familiar cabin design and good levels of standard kit, but overall quality can’t match rivals.
Ford’s new small SUV is based on the best-selling Fiesta, which is no bad thing. Despite being one of the smaller B-segment models, the Puma has ensured it stands out from competitors with a distinctive design and impressive levels of standard equipment.
In the cabin, the dash and centre console will be familiar to those who’ve peered inside a recent Focus or Fiesta, although the visible plastics aren’t the Puma’s greatest quality. There’s far too much hard black stuff to be found, while other small SUVs are available with nicer interiors, and for similar money.
Ford offers four individual trim levels for the Puma. The entry-level Titanium is still very well equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED rear lights and daytime running lights, body-coloured exterior trim, power-folding heated mirrors, rear parking sensors and selectable drive modes.
ST-Line models include a muscular body-kit, sports suspension, a leather sports steering wheel and alloy pedals, although the ST-Line X car adds stylish 18-inch wheels, partial leather seat trim, privacy glass and carbon-effect interior accents.
The luxury Vignale version ups the luxury count with heated seats, Windsor premium leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, front parking sensors and keyless entry, while the ST car features 19-inch alloy wheels and a body styling kit.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All Puma models come with Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system, including navigation, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. There’s also a wireless charging pad as standard. Bearing in mind the high list prices as you climb the range, the Titanium trim offers a sweet spot in terms of equipment and on-board tech.
ST-Line cars feature a 12.3-inch digital instrument display which, along with the central touchscreen, is sharp and easy to navigate. And, if you feel the need for better quality audio while on the move, the ST-Line X models add a B&O Premium stereo with 10 speakers.
Ford Puma review - Practicality, comfort and boot space
Although smaller than most rivals, the Ford Puma remains practical for family use and offers clever storage solutions.
Ford has worked hard to ensure the compact Puma combines its athletic low stance with plenty of practicality and comfort. From the driver’s seat, the links to the Fiesta’s chassis are clear, with ability to tackle the twisty stuff with vigour as well as being a solid, quiet performer at motorway speeds.
ST-Line cars get sports suspension, and while on the firmer end of the spectrum for SUVs of this size, it’s not overly harsh. The driving position definitely feels sportier while there’s a great level of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, a typical Ford trait.
The Puma is one of the smaller options in the supermini sized SUV class. It measures 4,207mm in length, 1,805mm wide and stands 1,537 tall. By comparison, the Peugeot 2008 and Mazda CX-3 are 93mm and 68mm longer, respectively.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The Puma manages to maintain decent passenger space, despite its sloping roofline. Room up front is very good, while the rear bench is an acceptable size.
Passenger space in the rear is compromised when compared with a Renault Captur. Passengers in the back sit higher up, which brings your legs back towards the seat base, so although there’s enough space overall, the seating position might not be as comfortable.
A boot of 456 litres is on-par with competitors in this class, and there’s virtually no lip to get over, so awkward items shouldn’t be too tricky to load. In comparison, the Peugeot 2008 offers 434 litres of boot space and the Renault Captur 12 litres less than that, although the Captur has an ace up its sleeve in the form of a sliding rear bench seat. When the bench is pushed all the way forward it frees up a 536-litre capacity.
One area where Ford has been rather clever is in the Puma‘s adjustable boot floor with the so-called ‘Megabox’ hidden storage area beneath. This is a 68-litre plastic compartment that you can use to store muddy boots or wet clothes, for example. It also has a drain plug so you can hose it out. Plus, Ford claims that using the MegaBox allows you to stand a golf bag upright in the Puma’s boot.
Ford Puma review - Reliability and safety
Ford has a lot riding on the success of the Puma. It’s previous effort at a small SUV, the EcoSport, was a poor one, so the brand has to get this right. Fortunately, the Puma arrives with proven engines, a chassis based on the best-selling Fiesta and interior tech already in use across other model ranges. We’d expect the Puma to be a car you can rely on, and also one that keeps the driver, passengers and other road users as safe as possible.
All models include cruise control, a lane keeping aid with departure warning, Pre-Collision Assist with Autonomous Emergency Braking, Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection and Post-Collision Braking. Other useful features include auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
Those wishing to upgrade further can opt for the Driver Assistance pack (£900), which adds a blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control and a rear view camera among other features.
The Puma was tested by Euro NCAP in 2019 and achieved a full five-star rating. Adult and child protection was rated at 94% and 84%, respectively, while the car scored 77% for pedestrian safety.
Although Ford finished a disappointing 24th out of 30 manufacturers in our 2020 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, it’ll be looking towards cars like the new Puma to guide it to improved results next time.
Every new Ford car comes with a 3-year/60,000 mile warranty. There’s also the benefit of Ford Assistance for 1 year, providing roadside cover in the UK and throughout Europe.
If you plan on keeping your car for longer than three years or are a high mileage driver, you can extend the standard warranty to either 4 years/80,000 miles or 5 years/100,000 miles.
Ford offers the Ford Protect Service Plan giving you the option of scheduled services and extended Ford Assistance. It covers scheduled servicing including associated parts and labour, and vehicle hire for up to 7 days. The Ford Protect Service Plan can be purchased any time before the first service is due.