The week’s biggest car news: November 27, 2015

The 10 things you need to know about the world of motoring over the last seven days

The most important car reviews and the biggest new car news and motoring issues in brief...

Autumn Statement: how it affects motorists

Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement this week, introducing a range of policies that will touch the lives of all motorists. He announced a ‘National Pothole Fund’ to tackle poor road surfaces and revealed investment described as: “the largest road-building programme since the 1970s”. He also said there would be £250m invested to solve problems created by Operation Stack in Kent – the action taken to queue lorries when cross-channel links are disrupted. Osborne also promised to tackle the ‘compensation culture’ that has sent insurance premiums spiralling in recent years.

VW emissions scandal latest

Another week, another development in VW’s emissions saga. Volkswagen provided details of the work required to rectify the issues that have engulfed the carmaker. In January 2016, a software fix will be available for 2.0-litre TDI engines, while 1.6-litre TDIs will need this upgrade, plus a component called a “flow transformer”. This work will take less than an hour to complete. The work required for the 1.2-litre and 3.0-litre TDI engines has still to be revealed.

Audi R8 V10 Plus driven in UK

We’ve now driven the Audi R8 in the UK for the first time, which means we can deliver the final verdict on how it perform on our poorly maintained British tarmac. In top-of-the-range V10 Plus form as sampled by our man, the R8 feels composed on wet and dry surfaces and very, very fast. It can’t match the feedback delivered to the driver through the steering wheel of a Porsche 911, but there’s no doubting the quality of the R8’s interior and its impressive technology. If you have £135,000 to spend on a supercar, it should be on your list.

Latest turbocharged Porsche 911

Continual evolution over the last five decades means the Porsche 911 is among the most exciting cars available at any price. You’d be hard-pressed to spot the latest changes from the outside, but under the metal it’s a different beast. The biggest upheaval is a range of turbocharged engines, developed to reduce running costs while retaining the car’s earth-shattering acceleration. The latest car, referred to as the 991.2 by aficionados, has Porsche’s adjustable suspension fitted as standard across the range now, as well as a smaller steering wheel and an improved power-steering system for an even more involving drive.

More driver appeal for Porsche Macan range

Porsches carrying a GTS badge are very special indeed. The Porsche Macan GTS is the sportiest version of the best-driving SUV currently on sale. Although it has less power than the Macan Turbo (which costs significantly more), it has revised suspension for a proper sports car experience. If there was ever a car that puts the ‘sport’ into ‘sports utility vehicle’, this is it. There’s also a new seven-inch touchscreen operated by smartphone-style swipes.

Sportiest Skoda Octavia vRS driven

The Skoda Octavia vRS 230 doesn’t quite have the same kudos as the Porsches and Audi above, but it’s still capable of delivering a thrilling drive. Under that sensible and practical skin sits a more powerful engine than you’ll find in the standard vRS. The extra 10bhp doesn’t really make itself known (it’s only a tenth faster from 0-62mph), but the car feel more alert in corners. That’s thanks to a new limited-slip differential (a piece of technology that improves grip, allowing the vRS 230 to haul itself out of corners quicker). The rest of the £2,500 price premium pays for more powerful brakes, touchscreen navigation and some styling tweaks.

Volkswagen Passat GTE driven

If there was ever a car that Volkswagen really needed, it’s the Passat GTE. This plug-in hybrid combines an electric motor capable of powering the car for up to 31 miles and a 1.4-litre petrol engine. Although the Passat feels heavy in EV mode, when the motors and engine work in unison, performance is very impressive. The Passat is a very refined car, but the GTE is even quieter and smoother. Volkswagen claims more than 141mpg and CO2 emissions of less than 45g/km, although as with all plug-in hybrids, running costs will depend enormously on how you drive it and how long your journeys are.

On the road in hybrid Audi Q7

The Audi Q7 e-tron is a similar concept to the Passat GTE, but everything from the batteries to the engine to the price is much bigger. It uses a 3.0-litre TDI diesel, is capable of travelling 35 miles on electricity alone and will cost around £65,000 before the government’s plug-in electric car grant is factored in. Audi claims an extremely impressive 166mpg fuel economy and CO2 emissions of just 46g/km, plus it’ll take only two-and-a-half hours to charge from empty using a fast charger. The fact that it’s both very quiet on the move and very fast is a bonus.

Three stars for new Suzuki Baleno

Here’s yet another small hatchback from Suzuki. The Baleno is a little bigger than the Suzuki Swift, but boasts loads of equipment as standard, plenty of interior space and the biggest boot in its class. It’s also got five doors, is easy to get in and out of and is powered by a new 1.0-litre petrol engine that costs just £20 a year in road tax. So why only three stars? The quality of the interior lags behind rivals with lots of dull, flimsy-feeling plastics, and the firm suspension makes for a slightly uncomfortable drive.

12 Days of Christmas prize giveaway

Stay tuned to Carbuyer over the next couple of weeks for a load of great prizes in our 12 Days of Christmas giveaway. For each of the 12 days, there’s a different competition to win different prizes, ranging from Aston Martin-branded pens to slot-car racing games, a Red Bull watch and a whole library of great car books.

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