Saturday, 29 July 2017

COLUMN – July 2017

Here is another chance to catch my column from the July editions of The Local Herald and The Clitheroe Local. I reviewed two cars, both hot hatches (of sorts). The first is the Fiesta ST200, a limited edition of a car I loved so much I actually bought one. But would the limited model be worth the extra? And then I finish up with the Audi S5 Sportback. Not the usual hot hatch, for sure, but one that promises all the same thrills in a sensible-looking package. Could it really be the hot hatch for suits? Time to find out. As always full write ups can be found via the Reviews page.

I’m going to call this column a “hot hatch special”, and so I will start with one that has, unquestionably, held the crown over the last couple of years: the Ford Fiesta ST. Released in late 2013 it took the world by storm, receiving tremendous compliments from publications and journalists alike. Mrs Woods fell for the charm… and we bought one!

There’s an increasing number on the roads; and by that I mean they’re everywhere. So how can you make yourself stand out more? Well, how about an ST200. It has many unique styling features: Storm Grey exterior paint, matte black machined alloy wheels, ST200 badges, different seats, stitching and even striped seatbelts. And it looks very nice.

But it’s no good just to look better; so what about the interesting stuff? Well the ST200 has, you guessed it, 200PS. And 290Nm of torque. As with the standard car, transient overboost delivers an extra 15PS and 15Nm in bursts of up to 15 seconds. In reality that means the figures are 215PS and 305Nm, but EU regulations don’t allow Ford to quote those figures. Yawn.

Ford altered the final drive for the ST200, from 3.86 to 4.02, resulting in shorter gears. That makes overtaking in the ST200 even easier than the standard car, and makes it feel faster than the standard car. Which it is. Barely: 0-62mph takes 6.7 seconds vs. the standard car’s 6.9 seconds.

Lastly, the price: £23,215. And that brings us to the elephant in the room: the Mountune package available on the standard ST, giving it the same power as the ST200. An ST-3 costs £20,215 and a Mountune package takes that up to, say, £21,000. Which means that essentially you’re paying over £2,000 for exclusive cosmetics. So it comes down to this: exclusive styling, exclusive price.

I swapped the ST200 for an Audi S5 Sportback. It is a 5-door hatchback, and it has a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6. I’d say that’s pretty hot! How does 354PS and 440Nm sound? 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph? Good, then I’ll tell you a bit more about it.

For 90 percent of the time, the S5 is a quiet, comfortable executive car. It has a large boot, plenty of cabin room and enough goodies to make it a great companion day to day. And, I have to say, that running this car in ‘normal’ road it’s reasonably good on fuel: combined consumption is 37.7mpg and the CO2 emissions are 170g/km.

Then, for the remaining 10 percent of the time, you can use Drive Select to choose “Dynamic” mode. And the S5 goes nuts. The engine noise is more prominent in the cabin, and the exhausts get louder. The throttle is more responsive, the steering weightier. The adaptive suspension (£900) alters the damping and the gearbox works to keep the car in the best gear to propel you toward the horizon. The S5 has launch control, and will achieve its quoted 0-62mph time. Every time.

I really like the styling too. It’s has somewhat similar lines to the A7, with a low roofline and sloping rear end. Any car with pillarless doors is cool, it’s just a rule, and the S5 Sportback gets 4 of them. Inside the Audi is just a brilliant place to be. Most prominent are the ‘S’ super sports seats, finished in leather and featuring diamond stitching, they look superb. The optional flat-bottomed steering wheel (£100) and virtual cockpit (£250) are brilliant value for money, must-choose options.

The S5 Sportback starts at £47,875, and it may just be the holy grail: a grown up hot hatch.

Dan

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