Babes - Fast Cars

Blog about the car industry and other related car news

Flashback of 1976 Ford Mustang

This achingly beautiful Mustang was the most intriguing car on Ford's SEMA show stand. The profile may look 1967 'Stang, but key panels such as the bonnet and rear end are an all-new design. For this car, called the Flashback, is a hybrid mix of '60s and naughties style, and contemporary mechanicals.

It's a fascinating story. Ford has licensed a company called Dynacorn to manufacture replica bodyshells of the 1967 Mustang indeed, a replica '67 GT sat alongside the Flashback on the stand. Customers can then kit out the body with the latest Mustang mechanicals.

So the Flashback runs the 2007 Shelby Cobra Mustang's supercharged 5.4-litre V8, kicking out 600hp. No '60s Mustang could dream of producing such grunt, or channel it to the rear wheels via a six-speed transmission, or have six piston brake callipers clamping the discs behind 18-inch wheels. Modern air conditioning and electronics complete the package.

Can you buy one? Yes, some 30 are in existence already. But this particular spec will set you back $195,000. Not surprising, because the Flashback is totally bespoke, even down to its LED tail-lamps and $10,000 Sherwin Williams Planet Color Pearl Blue paint. The Flashback was pieced together by a Michigan firm called Classic Design Concepts.
The mastermind behind the project was Dennis Mondrach, Ford's restoration licensing and performance parts manager. He did the deal with Dynacorn to produce the replica bodies, one of which you can see in this picture, dangling above the Fastback. Mondrach also licenses tooling to make parts for vintage Fords, basically any cars dating back beyond the year 2000. He's the man who can help people get parts for legends like the Model T and Model A. And his next project could be to bring the '55 Ford Thunderbird back from the dead, by getting suppliers to recreate some pretty rusty tooling.

We think there's a business in this for Ford,
Mondrach told us.
Why buy a rustbucket from a breaker's yard with more holes than Swiss cheese, when you can get a modern car that has the beauty of the original?
The makers of the TV show Miami Vice, who had Crockett and Tubbs cruising the streets in a Corvette-based Ferrari.

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Baywatch style of XC70 Surf Rescue

Volvo is adding a touch of Baywatch glamorous to the XC70, with this Surf Rescue concept car. The jacked up, yellow and red rescue vehicle was unveiled at the world's biggest after market show – SEMA in Las Vegas.

This show establishes key automotive design trends. Today's must-have big wheels, vibrant paint jobs and amazing graphics and all is spread with SEMA's influence, and all three trends feature big time on the XC70 Surf Rescue.

We took the production car and turned it up to 11,
concept design manager Larry Abele told us. Those red extended wheel arches harbour 20-inch wheels, six-spokers as on all XC Volvos. The body is raised by 125mm, to enable real-life David Hasselhoffs and Pamela Andersons to get to stricken surfers across tough terrain. A 3.2-litre six sending 235hp to all four wheels also helps. And to get chilled surfer dudes quickly out of its way, the designers stripped off the bright work around the production car's driving lamps and rear reflectors, changing them for flashing blue LEDs.
Other visual tweaks include an enlarged skid plate which looks as if the XC70 is sticking out its tongue, while at the back the underbelly protector features twin integrated tailpipes. The designers took the optional side sill, embossed with the phrase Cross Country and embellished it in chrome.
The XC70 is coming into the US market, and we wanted to do something to mark that,
Volvo design boss Steve Mattin told CAR.
A Surf Rescue vehicle has a strong safety message which is very Volvo, but adds some vibrant new colors.
Fluorescent yellow trim and the use of neoprene make for a funky cabin too. Neoprene is used to make wet suits, and the rubbery material adorns the seats. Volvo found a Californian surf shop that specializes in custom diving suits to help with the materials. The trim is joined up by complex crossover stitching used on wet suits because it's water-proof. How's that for attention to detail.

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When money really is no object buy Ferrari FXX Evoluzione

When Ferrari launched the FXX back in summer 2005, it claimed it would use client feedback and ex-works driver Michael Schumacher to develop the 'ultimate' Ferrari. Well, two years on, it's done just that. The result? The FXX Evoluzione, unveiled at the weekend.

The real-world test program is being extended until 2009, and all FXX models now get a series of handling and performance tweaks that change the car from being merely warp-speed fast to reaching full men-in-white-coats levels of mentality. That Schumacher has obviously got a lot of time on his hands nowadays.

Don't forget, this is no road car and never will be. It's based on the Enzo and every FXX edition is part of Ferrari's ongoing R&D programme - there are only 20 uber-clients who pay a small fortune to be part of it. So far, there have been just 28 track sessions in the FXX.

So how is the FXX quicker? Well the 6.3-litre V12 can now rev 1000rpm higher to liberate more power, presumably sending the dyno into spasms with its 848bhp at a heady 9500rpm. Meanwhile gear changes benefit from the tech on the 430 Scuderia, now taking a scant 60ms - a quarter faster than before.
The car's electronic safety nets are being worked harder than ever, and the traction control system now has a mind-boggling nine different settings. Ferrari says it's so drivers can set the car up perfectly for each corner. But nine settings? We're glad we don't have to grapple with that much choice as we hurtle around Becketts.

The rear diffuser is different and there are new flaps at the back to increase aero efficiency by 25 percent; up front, there is a tweaked active spoiler. You get the impression the work on the latest FXX is closely related to the Mille Chili project, as that car also had myriad aero aids to boost efficiency. It is only a matter of time before developments on these research testbeds transfer to Ferrari's latest road cars.

Little else is new. The 19-inch Bridgestones are designed to last longer, the composite brakes are new and the more pompous owners can specify two extra video cameras in the cabin to record their track play time.

For fans of lap times and stopwatch anorakdom, the new FXX Evoluzione is two seconds quicker around Ferrari's test track at Fiorano. That's 1min 15sec. Not that you'll be able to test that for yourself - only selected, special clients are invited to partake in the FXX program. And if you have to ask the price, no, you can't afford it.

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New Lexus LF-A supercar on the road

Earlier in the year we predicted Lexus would unveil its supercar, the LF-A, in production guise at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. It didn't, preferring to show its silver concept car (inset above) for the umpteenth time. But even as officials in Japan unconvincingly denied all knowledge of the real car, our network of spy photographers have caught prototypes testing again - and they're looking more and more ready for production.

We've spoken to sources in Tokyo to uncover the most up to date information about the LF-A and its screaming V10 engine.

The LF-A was first shown as a concept car in 2005 and was supposed to be launched when the Toyota F1 team started winning races. That winning streak has never materialized and if Toyota waits for victories, the LF-A will surely be wearing a beard by the time it rolls into showrooms.

As the engine rules in F1 have changed, so has the power plant under development for the LF-A. It now has a V10 petrol engine of just under 5.0 liters capacity, said to develop a muscle 500bhp for 200mph performance. And a hybrid petrol-electric version is also in the pipeline, using a similar V8 hybrid system as in the LS600h.

Toyota could use a similar system for its mooted production version of the FT-HS concept car; it too was a hybrid supercar, a Supra reborn for the eco age.
The production car will be a mite longer than the concept car at 4460mm and wider too at 1895mm, but it'll be the same 1220mm height to keep that dramatic silhouette. This scoop photo proves that Lexus is paying a lot of attention to the aero package, and it's working on a pop-up spoiler to keep the LF-A stable at all speeds, as well as a huge diffuser clearly visible at the rear.

When will we see the LF-A in showrooms? The latest news is that it's still a couple of years away from reality, so expect it to arrive in 2009 when it will become the first Lexus to carry a six-figure price tag in the UK. As the technical showcase for Lexus, it is set to cost more than £100,000.

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Raw Power Of New BMW M3

The E92 model is the fourth generation of the M3, a car that first arrived in 1986. Back then it had a four-cylinder engine with around 200bhp. The new car doubles that with a V8 and 414bhp, but the basic ingredients remain the same: rear-wheel drive, a limited slip differential and a motorsport-inspired engine that revs to a whopping 8400rpm.

When it goes on sale in the UK in early September, the M3 will cost £50,625 and will, at first, be available only as a two-door coupe. A convertible and four-door saloon are expected to follow next year, while a Touring wagon is under evalution but less likely to make production. All in all, the broadened range will help break (hopes BMW) the 100,000-unit barrier for the first time. The last M3 – 2000’s six-cylinder E46 – is a tough act to follow, however.

So M3 grows up, gets two more cylinders. Didn’t that end in disaster last time around?
Not disaster, no, but the purists weren’t pleased when the second-generation E36 arrived in 1992. But it was a brave move and something that transformed the M3 from a niche motorsport product to the international icon it is today.

The last car’s 3.2-litre six-cylinder wouldn’t meet forthcoming emissions regulations and rivals – including Audi with the RS4 and Mercedes with the C63 AMG – upped the game with V8s, leaving Munich with little option but to match them. The American market has been a big consideration too, 50 percent of all cars expected to go Stateside.

This, then, is the first time the M3 has changed significantly since 1992.

Just like back in 1992, the E92 will leave the hardcore craving more – there’s definitely room for a hardcore CSL-style edition, more of which later. And the V8 does significantly alter the M3’s character. Where before a creamy straight-six throatiness was followed by the trademark metallic rasp towards peak rpms, now a nice woofly warble under lighter throttle loads precedes a hard-edged – if more muted – charge for the redline. The spine-tingling zinginess of the E46 car is gone, replaced by a more mature, if still exhilarating, progression.
Unsurprisingly, the quest for a high-revving engine has left a hole in the torque low down, so you need to stir that six-speed manual (the only option for now, though SMG will follow) to really get moving. The ’box is carried over from the E46 and obviously shares its characteristics: direct but a little arthritic.

Impressively, the new larger engine is 15kg lighter than the six-pot in the E46 thanks to clever lightweight tech. But, like the rest of the E92 range, turn-in still feels a bit dumbed down and numb. Understeer was never an issue in the last car – it just dived into a corner with razor-sharp precision. The new M3 has a little more roll on turn-in, and you can feel the loads building on the front tyre as forces increase.

Strangely, the suspension might not be entirely to blame; BMW commissioned Michelin to develop tyres specially for the M3 that feature a compound to induce mild understeer in more extreme circumstances. Quite why this is necessary we’re not sure. BMW has already fitted stability control, and the steering wheel-activated M mode allows a little oversteer while still retaining a safety net. We’d be intrigued to drive a car on regular rubber.

Less focused handling does improve the ride quality significantly with the M3 soaking up bumps much better than its predecessor ever did. There are also three (optional) cockpit-adjustable suspension settings, so you can stiffen the dampers and reduce body roll for track work. However, BMW supplied all the test cars on 18in alloys, so we’re unable to report on the lower profile – and doubtless hugely popular – 19in option.

The steering is light and impressively linear but lacks the meaty heft of its big brother, the M5, or the finely detailed feedback of a 911.

Brakes have long been an M3 weakness, but the single caliper items fitted to the test car coped admirably with high-speed runs on the tortuous Spanish mountain roads that formed our road route. They did squeak embarrassingly however, as they did on several test cars. And whether they’ll last on track we’re yet to find out – we were limited to one lap before coming back through the pits to queue for another run, allowing the stoppers to cool.

Once you’re sideways the E92 is an extremely easy, progressive car to hold in a drift (see p1), but it takes a little more determination to get it there in the first place thanks to that softer, woollier front end.

The M differential once again makes an appearance – a key ingredient in making the last car so easy to slide – offering progressive power transfer from a spinning wheel to one with more grip until, under extreme duress, the diff locks completely and both tyres spin with equal ferocity.

You’ll feel it on the road, making tight hairpins a pleasure to exit on the power rather than the one-wheel bonfire that is the BMW 335i. All that extra power – nearly 80bhp up from last time – does mean the traction control intervenes more frequently, but it’s rarely intrusive and keen drivers can reduce its role with a press of the M button.

With high quality plastics and leather, intuitively laid out controls (iDrive will always have its detractors, but for the most part we like it) and sound ergonomics, the new M3 is a good place to be. In fact, it’s simply an organic evolution of the old model, something that will appeal to those turned off by the M5 and M6’s hyper-tech interiors and illuminated gearknobs.
The seats (leather and cloth as standard, or optional full leather) are geared for comfort and, though perfect in most conditions, would benefit from M5-sytle active bolsters to better grip lunatics on a mission. As before, rear legroom is nothing more than adequate so six footers sitting behind six footers will feel cramped.

The M3 has grown up and lost a little of the E46’s edge to the more weight/more power vicious circle. But BMW has no doubt judged the market perfectly. The M3 is now a genuine volume seller and, last time, accounted for 13 percent of all UK 3-series sales. The new car needs to be a brilliant all-round package, capable of pleasing those who like the idea of the badge more than what it first stood for: track-honed thrills. And it is very, very good. This car is fast, practical, well built, comfortable and safe.

But in trying to hit so many targets, the E92 leaves purists wanting. So a CSL – a lightweight, more dynamically focused special edition – is now an absolute must and should form an integral part of the range going forward, filling the niche that the original E30 once satisfied in 1986. The good news is BMW’s top brass dropped some very large hints in the press conference, so the CSL sounds like a dead cert. We’d bet on it arriving in 2010.

If you want a great all-rounder and you don’t drive everywhere at ten tenths, the new M3 won’t disappoint. But if you crave trackday thrills, hold fire for a CSL.

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Katharina Kuhlmann is Miss Tuning

Katharina Kuhlmann is a German television presenter and model, which was elected for miss tuning. You can see her in BMW M3 tuning car edition in this post.

Kuhlmann moderated at ProSieben and the DSF in collaboration with Christina Surer and Lina van de Mars, the broadcast TV tuning. Previously, she worked since 2000, even while ZDF and Sat.1. In addition, she also worked as a model, she prefers working with the Austrian photographer Christian Holzknecht. In September 2007 appeared Katharina Kuhlmann, as her colleague Christina Surer two years earlier, as the title image of the men Playboy magazine.

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Mazda Taiki shown on Tokyo Motor Show

Mazda is about to launch a car with out-riggers and a freaky body. Yes it is Mazda Taiki which we showed before, but now it's shown on Tokyo Motor Show. Mazda has played with its 'Nagare' design concept over the course of 2007, with a steady stream of concept cars inspired by the natural rhythms of nature. Waves, winds, that sort of thing. And the latest, the gracefully swooping Taiki, is indeed named after a Japanese wind.

Senior designers have confirmed to us that a new, small production car will appear with this nagare-inspired look by 2009. So we ask ourself: Will new Mazda 3 be a small hatchback? Or a new, standalone coupe to take up where the MX-3 left off? We're not sure yet, but the news heralds the most important change in Mazda's styling since the arrival of the Mk1 MX-5.

This Taiki looks absolutely outrageous! It's stunning in the metal - a proper old-school concept car, whose graceful length impress and inspire, yet it all makes sense in the context of the Nagare, Ryuga and Hakaze concepts shown earlier this year.
This series of concepts previews a definite movement and Mazda is deadly serious about introducing the look to a showroom near you. Expect the body surfacing, and the adventurous new grille details, to make the journey from motor show stand to high-street dealership.

You'll have to wait a while longer for the Taiki's 1.6-liter rotary engine running on hydrogen, but it's working hard at this technology as well. Trials start in 2008 in Japan.

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Subaru Impreza STi at Tokyo Motor Show

In non-WRX form it is a despicably hideous beast but this is the STi and it looks cooking. Ok so it's no longer a super saloon but a hyper five-door hatch, which means Subaru has jumped straight into the ring with VW (Golf), Audi (S3) and Ford (ST) and many others.

Saying that, Subaru claims the body style with short overhang excels in creating down force and aerodynamics. Is it us or does the rear look suspiciously like a BMW 1-series?

STi hallmarks like the flared and vented front wings, wider rear arches, tailgate spoiler, gaping bonnet nostril and M-Sport style quad shotgun tailpipes. Those swollen arches compensate for the wider track (up by 40mm at the front, 45mm rear) and stop those average looking 18-inch alloys from sticking out.

Thankfully BBS rims will be on the options list. There are seven STI colors to choose from, which make or break this opinion-dividing body style. Go for metallic Grey – it oozes menace.

There's still a thirsty boxer under the lid and it's mounted 22mm lower for better road holding. The Tokyo display cars were Japanese domestic market models, featuring 2.0-liter (1994cc) 16v boxers with a twin scroll turbo and Dual AVCS (Dual Active Valve Control System). The result?Over 300bhp.
According to Scooby UK however, the Brit spec STi cars will arrive with a 2.5-liter boxer that develops more torque lower down but – sadly – slightly less power. Just under 300bhp for us. Mind you, it should sound awesome through quad pipes and be more manic with a conventional turbo.

Subaru has put a lot of thought into its materials and it shows. A swoop dash with (in the STi's case) Alcantara and leather clothed Recaros, STi branding, LED door step lights and a DCCD torque indicator. Result? The most handsome Subaru cockpit to date.

Driver's Control Centre Differential. It's far too complicated to explain in a few words, but basically it lets the driver choose automated or full manual modes for the central differential in the legendary AWD system, depending on the terrain and your bravery. It's one of the gadgets that justifies Subaru's marketing message with the new Impreza - it's coined the phrase Subaglue to advertise the Scooby's sticky roadhandling.

The STi also has a front LSD which offers three enjoyment modes, and you can knock off traction control, or VDC as it's known. The tight-gated throw in the six-cog transmission confirms that this will be an uber-focused driving machine.

Also read our previous scoops about Impreza: Subaru Impreza STI and Subaru Impreza STI Finally Unveiled.

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Lexus LF-Xh shown on Tokyo Motor Show

The next-generation large SUV concept unveiled today at the 2007 Tokyo show features an advanced hybrid system with a V6 petrol engine, an electric motor and all-wheel drive, just like the RX’s, but now it’s wrapped up in a more modern and purposeful exterior skin.

The concept’s exterior dimensions are similar to the RX400h’s, but crucially massaged in all the right ways to alleviate the current model’s slightly ungainly ‘body-disconnected-from-its wheels’ stance.

The LF-Xh is longer and wider (by 50mm), lower (by 70mm) and with a wheelbase stretched by 130mm. The result is an SUV that looks altogether more planted to the road and agile in a sporty coupe-like manner. The slatted razorblade-style front grille adds to the smooth feel.

Lexus insiders on the stand said the exterior is pretty much what you can expect from the RX400h’s second-generation model (although the roof might end up a bit higher). The elegant and simple interior is less finalised though, featuring a dramatic aluminium feature detail that swoops down from the centre dashboard top before twisting into the centre console area.
Anticipation is apparently a keyword for the inside in a similar way to the light that illuminates the ground by the door when you unlock the production GS model before getting in. Trouble is, Lexus is clearly not fully happy with the interior their designers made as it wouldn’t let any journalists see the finished inside first hand.

Lexus showed his super car!

Radio silence. Only the much-travelled LF-A concept was wheeled out again at Tokyo despite some pundits thinking we might finally see this much-delayed car in production form. Maybe for the Detroit show then? It’s anyone’s guess.

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Le Mansory Bentley Continental GT

The Le Mansory Bentley Continental GT is a tribute to the 24 hour Le Mans race and there will be only 24 units to be built. With the new tuned up ECU, the 6-liter Twin-Turbocharged W12 engine, the Le Mansory Bentley Continental GT produces 641 bhp at 6100 rpm and peak torque of 780 Nm. The Le Mansory Bentley Continental GT clocked 4.6 seconds from 0 - 100km/h with a top speed of 330 km/h.

To stop the GT, the braking system has been revised. The Bentley Continental GT is fitted with massive BREMBO 412/38 rotor discs with 6 piston aluminum fixed calipers in front and 405/22 with 4 piston calibers in the rear. It will be fitted with 22-inch alloy wheels wrapped with 265/35/22 high performance profile tires at the front and 305/30/22 tires at the rear.

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Honda CR-Z on Tokyo Motor Show

The CR-Z is only a concept at the moment, but it’s been given the green light to go into production by Honda president and CEO Takeo Fukui, and what you see here is a very close representation of the finished article.

It’s a lightweight two plus two sports car powered by an as-yet unnamed petrol-hybrid IMA motor which should hit dealers globally in 2009. Honda believes that if you’re going to use hybrid technology, it should be in as lightweight a car as possible – opposing Toyota’s view which is to shoehorn hybrids into bigger and bigger Lexus models. Honda thinks that professional young thrusters with little responsibility but lots of environmental awareness, rather than rich middle-aged executives, are the major growth market for hybrids.

The CR-Z is smaller than a three-door Civic and Honda thinks it’s on to a winner here, with the small sports coupe served pretty poorly, with the aging C-class Sport Coupe and forthcoming Volkswagen Scirocco about the only contenders.
The CR-Z certainly looks the part with its sparky ivory paint job, gaping air intake, and icy-blue LED stare. By the time it reaches production the side windows will probably be a little deeper but don’t expect too much normalization – a radical, sexy model like this could propel Honda ahead of Toyota in the stakes to be seen as the number one hybrid constructor on the planet.

While on the outside, once the good-as-useless wing mirrors and expensive LEDs are replaced for something a bit more serviceable, the interior is still on Planet Concept Car with lots of back lit clear blue plastic indented into the cockpit. But there’s more than a hint of the Civic in the deep and watery blue dials, and the effect is very cool indeed.

You can also see our previous scoop and pictures of Honda CR-Z.

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Suzuki Kizashi 2 on Tokyo Motor Show

Suzuki is on a mission to break into the car makers’ top ten, raising production from 2.4 to 3 million, and it needs a decent Mondeo-sized saloon, hatch and estate to help do it. The Kizashi launched at Frankfurt will be the saloon and hatch in 2009; this car - the imaginatively monickered Kizashi 2 - will be the estate a year later.

With production less than two years away, you can bet that the new car’s looks have been locked down, and that it won’t include the shallow glasshouse, huge wheels or ultra-short rear overhang of this concept. But the front and rear-end treatments and some of the other proportions will give you some clues. It's pleasingly slick for a Suzuki.
Nothing radical, although the GM-sourced 3.6-litre V6 and six-speed auto transmission are the most powerful driveline fitted to a ‘factory’ Suzuki, ironic given that the brand’s growth plans are based around increasing demand for the small, efficient cars it specializes in. But this concept is more about style than substance; the vast majority of whatever Suzuki calls its D-segment car will drink from the black diesel pump. The Kizashi 2 was launched to the kind of heavy rock soundtrack.

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VW Space Up concept on Tokyo Motor Show

The Tokyo Motor Show today saw VW unveil a second iteration of their new small family car – a third model will be shown at the LA Auto Show in November 2007.

Called the Space Up!, the rear-engined car is a stretched version of the three-door we saw at the Frankfurt Motor Show earlier in the year. It’s still rear-engined, but now there’s even more space, and Mini Clubman-esque doors.

The 2560mm wheelbase is now only 18mm shorter than the Audi A3's, thanks in part to the 18-inch wheels being pushed out to each corner. Overall the Space Up is 230mm longer, and 40mm higher than the three-door Up. But VW still reckons it’s 150mm shorter than their current smallest model, the Fox.
The Space Up is all about versatility. All the seats bar the drivers can be folded or completely removed, which means up to 1005 liters of space, which is only 75 litres short of the A3. And that is before you put anything under the bonnet. There’s even a door that can be opened in the passenger foot well to allow for long loads.

This is all made possible by the rear-engined layout, and the VW press release teasingly says the car could be petrol, diesel, or electric powered. Expect three-cylinder power for European models, which should start at £4000 for the three-door.

The rear now has a pair of side-hinging doors, just like on a Clubman. But unlike the Clubman, whose doors open around the lights, the doors on the Space Up are translucent panels into which LED tail lights are set.

And thanks to the stretched wheelbase access to the rear is better thanks to two new butterfly doors, or suicide doors, or whatever the marketing speak is these days.

The driver gets a touchscreen to control functions like the air-con and entertainment system. The screen also tells you how much CO2 you’re emitting. Volkswagen are currently developing the Up range to appear in production form before the end of the decade.

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