THREE things that I struggle to get my head around.
The Russian language. Why anyone ever goes fishing. Sporty SUVs.
The first two are obvious, so let’s concentrate on number three. People love SUVs because they sit high up. But then car firms think, “Let’s add a dollop of sportiness,” and the first thing they do is LOWER them again. It makes no sense.
Porsche started it and now it prints money faster than the Bank of England. The Macan outsells the 911 three times over.
But what spicy SUV fills the gap between a sensible £24,000 Qashqai and a hot £46,000 Macan or BMW X3 M Sport?
Er, nothing. Until now. Let me introduce you to the Cupra Ateca, the first car from Seat’s now standalone performance brand. Yes, the badge looks like the lovechild of a Transformer and an Atari space invader. But get over it. I like it.
I have to say I warmed to the car too. It’s not as extreme or as fast or as loud as I’d hoped, but it has enough drama for most people — and you can bet your boots there’ll be a hotter R version later.
Positives. Quick steering. Good balance. Grips like glue. Five drive modes including Comfort, Cupra and Snow. Digital driver’s screen. Top-view 360-degree camera. Nice black interior. And the special Cupra body kit, quad exhausts and copper detailing look the mutt’s nuts.
Note. You have to pay extra for the beefy Brembo brakes and 20in copper wheels. Make sure you do.
Now let’s talk performance. The Cupra Ateca is powered by a 300hp 2-litre turbo petrol with 4WD and seven-speed paddle-shift auto. All transplanted directly from the Seat Leon Cupra. Or the 310hp VW Golf R, albeit with the fun taps turned down slightly.
It can do the 0-62mph sprint in 5.2 seconds.
Sounds pretty rapid, you might say. But not when you consider it’s not even the fastest Cupra out there.
Key facts: Cupra Ateca
- Price: £35,900
- Engine: 2-litre turbo
- Power: 300hp, 400Nm
- 0-62mph: 5.2 secs
- Top speed: 153mph
- Economy: 33mpg
- Co2: 192g/km
- Out: December
The lighter Leon Cupra ST estate is three tenths quicker. And three grand cheaper. Hmmm. And here’s something else to consider. Next year, Audi and VW will join the party with the SQ2 and T-Roc R.
Both will be sub-five-second SUVs using the same oily bits as the Ateca.
Cupra will have seven models by 2021 including a Cupra Leon, an SUV coupe and either a Cupra Arona or a Cupra Ibiza.
I’d put money on a jacked-up-then-lowered Cupra Arona baby SUV, obviously.
Need for speed
This is what the cockpit of a £2million McLaren looks like. Symmetrical, uncluttered and heavenly.
The driver of the 250mph Speedtail sits in the middle with two passengers set back either side.
There are one, two, three, four, FIVE digital screens – the outside two streaming video from pop-out rearview cameras that replace traditional wing mirrors – and all the major controls are positioned in the ROOF.
As well as the red starter button, door release and drive modes, you’ll find a blue Velocity button. Press that to lower the car and go for v-max.
You won’t find old-school sun visors in a Speedtail either. It has electrochromic glass which darkens at the press of a button.
The petrol-electric hybrid powertrain produces 1,050hp and accelerates from 0-186mph in 12.8 seconds. Gulp. That’s 3.7 seconds faster than a McLaren P1. And three-tenths quicker than a Bugatti Chiron.
At full tilt, you’ll do a mile every 15 seconds.
Looking down from above, the slippery 5.1 metre-long Speedtail has the perfect teardrop shape to slice through the air and other trick aero includes fixed front wheel covers and active rear blades that double as an airbrake.
This road-legal rocketship is the successor to the legendary three-seat F1 from the Nineties.
All 106 cars to be let loose in the wild were sold out immediately.
Until now, Ferrari has refused to build an SUV.
It just sat back and watched as Bentley, Lamborghini and Rolls rushed out super-fast glittery tanks.
Che fretta? (What’s the hurry?) Have a coffee, mio amico. Have a cigarette. It even let Alfa Romeo nick its engine.
That was a mistake. Because now Ferrari has finally decided to unleash an “FUV” in 2021, I’d argue the Stelvio Quadrifoglio has all the Ferrari goodness you need. For a fraction of the price.
Clearly, you’d expect it to be bullet-fast. And it is. You can set off late and still be early. It’s 510hp with rear-bias 4WD and uses the same lump as a California T with two cylinders lopped off. The chassis was tuned by the same man who fettled the Ferrari 458 Speciale.
It can nail the 0-62mph sprint in 3.8 seconds and keep on pulling all the way up to 176mph. In race mode, gear shifts take just 150 milliseconds.
But it’s not the speed that impresses most, it’s the NOISE. Oh my days. You are consumed with the need to pin it whenever the road ahead clears because it sounds so bloody glorious.
Key facts: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
- Price: £69, 500
- Engine: 2.9-litre V6 turbo
- Power: 510hp, 600Nm
- 0-62mph: 3.8 secs
- Top speed: 176mph
- Economy: 24mpg
And another thing. The chunky metal paddle-shift controls are mint. You feel like you are driving a machine, not a PlayStation. Other car firms take note.
On the downside, it’s a thirsty beast. You’ll be for ever filling up.
The infotainment system is not as slick as it looks. And the Sparco carbon-shell seats (£3,250 option) have no lumbar support and are best avoided.
But, hey, you’ve got a cut-price Ferrari three years early. You’re golden.
Here’s your chance to WIN A CAR. Not just any car, mind.
We’re talking about a black open-top Sport Racer from Britain’s favourite car firm, Little Tikes. Coooool.
Perfect for drivers aged 3-5. For a chance to win this £110 pedal car, follow me on Instagram @RobGillUK and tag a friend by 6pm on Sunday. Winner chosen at random.
First look: VW T-Cross
The last time I checked, less than 0.00002 per cent of Brits go surfing.
You could probably divide that number by a thousand to find the number of surfers who own a crossover. They’ve all got T5s.
So please, car firms. Enough. Stop using pictures of surfboards to promote the “active lifestyle” none of us have time for.
May I also suggest you’d have to cut that surfboard in half to fit it in the back of the new VW T-Cross?
The T-Cross is a Polo-sized SUV, out early 2019, from £17,000, sitting below the T-Roc, Tiguan and Touareg. It’s high up, safe, easy to park and crammed with all the tech you’d expect. It also looks rather tidy.
By 2025, VW predicts one in two sales will be crossover/SUV.
Today, it’s one in five… and the odd surfer.
Gotta Get Back My Baby
Sting and Shaggy sing in front of an Abarth 124 Spider in the video for Gotta Get Back My Baby.
Their previous single featured a Jeep Wrangler.
Just a hunch, but I reckon they’ve got a Fiat deal.
Nitro Circus – Travis Pastrana’s crazy stunt show calls at Birmingham (Nov 20), Glasgow (Nov 21), Manchester (Nov 22) and London (Nov 23/24).
Seriously, it’s the best night out ever. Tickets at nitrocircus.com.
To save me replying to dozens of messages each day, the third season of The Grand Tour will be streamed on Amazon Prime from January.
Not November. Not December. JANUARY. Unless they bring it forward.
Blimey. An Aston Martin DB11 worth £160,000 is only the SECOND prize in a £25 raffle.
The first prize is a £3million home in Hampshire.
Owner Mark Beresford said: “It’s a genuine offer. The odds are far better than the National Lottery.”
I’ve bought my ticket.
You’re tired. Bored. Average-speed cameras are everywhere and you can feel yourself falling asleep at the wheel.
How do you stay awake? Crack open the window and turn up the radio?
No. Stop, have TWO cups of coffee and a 15-minute nap, the AA Charitable Trust says.