The Sunday Times Driving Placeholder

New registration special: The best new cars in the showrooms

Gild that lily


2015 Volvo XC90

A NEW numberplate on a new car is one thing, but if you want to gild the lily, put it on a vehicle so new that nearly no one else has it. The next couple of months will see the launch of all-new models from many manufacturers, allowing canny buyers to order their car now and stay ahead of the curve.

We’ve chosen our best buys across a range of categories (we have had advance drives of all vehicles here), confining our choices to cars launching over the next few months or that have just become available to buy.

Sports cars

Mercedes-AMG GT S £110,495

2015 Mercedes-AMG GT S

There can be few better ways to welcome the 2015 plate than by sticking it on a
world-class sports car. And the box-fresh Mercedes-AMG GT S is nothing less than a two-fingered salute to the Porsche 911, which has dominated the sports car segment for more than half a century.

Porsche would be right to fear this new contender — with a 4-litre twin-turbo V8, this storming Teutonic marauder will rip to 62mph in just 3.8 seconds and won’t stop pulling till it hits 193mph. And as it screams up the rev range, you’ll be treated to an exhaust note that sounds like a Nascar V8 racer at full chat. No, strike that — it’s even better.

And it’s more accomplished on a twisting road than the somewhat thuggish SLS AMG GT that preceded it. The engine sits just behind the front axle and the gearbox is mounted at the back to give the GT S near-perfect weight distribution and the agility that comes with that.

If you want to take it a bit easier, switch the mode from Sport to Comfort — the third setting is Sport Plus — and you’ll be rewarded with a relaxing, supple drive. The interior is comfortable too, with supportive bucket seats and intuitively laid-out controls. The GT S truly is a gran turismo.

  • Engine: 3982cc, V8, twin turbo
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph: 3.8sec
  • Fuel: 30.1mpg
  • CO2: 219g/km
  • Release date: April

Browse the used Mercedes SLS AMG GTs for sale on driving.co.uk

ALSO CONSIDER:

Porsche 911 Turbo, £120,598

  • For: One of the great driver’s cars
  • Against: A vehicle that says “midlife crisis”

Browse the used Porsche 911s for sale on driving.co.uk

Aston Martin V12 Vantage, £138,000

  • For: Fantastic looks; great exhaust note
  • Against: Not as well-built as German rivals

Browse the used Aston Martin Vantages on sale at driving.co.uk


Compact SUVs

Suzuki Vitara £13,999

2015 Suzuki Vitara

The all-new Suzuki Vitara small SUV, which hits showrooms in April, is a tough little challenger to the likes of the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul. It looks much more grown-up than the model it replaces too — there’s even a bit of Range Rover Evoque about the styling of its nose. But with a starting price of just £13,999, it won’t give your wallet a battering.

The entry-level Vitara is front-wheel drive, but if you need a bit of all-weather capability, higher-grade trim levels can be had with Suzuki’s four-wheel-drive system. And Suzuki has also responded to the trend towards buyers “personalising” its cars: the Vitara can be specified with a broad range of two-tone colour finishes as well as a wide range of
interior colour schemes.

The equipment levels are really good too, with even base models getting 16in alloy wheels, DAB radio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control with speed limiter, air-conditioning and electric windows all round.

The Vitara features a 1.6-litre diesel or petrol engine, both generating exactly the same 118bhp. Early indications are that the diesel unit is a little clattery and unrefined, so the petrol model may well be the better bet. Either way, the Vitara is a characterful, practical place to put that 2015 plate.

  • Engine: 1586cc, 4 cylinders, petrol
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph: 11sec (est)
  • Fuel: 50.4mpg
  • CO2: 130g/km
  • Release date: April

Browse the used Suzuki Vitaras for sale on driving.co.uk

ALSO CONSIDER:

Nissan Juke, £13,620

  • For: Standout looks
  • Against: Not a very spacious interior; rear-door apertures are tight

Browse the used Nissan Jukes for sale on driving.co.uk

Kia Soul, £12,800

  • For: Practical, with space for five
  • Against: It’s heavy, which hikes fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Browse the used Kia Souls for sale on driving.co.uk

 


 

Executive cars

Mercedes-Maybach S 600 £165,700

2015 Mercedes-Maybach S 600

For those plutocrats for whom a mere S-class is just too common, here is the quite spectacular Mercedes-Maybach S 600 — odes to profligate capitalism just don’t come more strident than this.

The Maybach is based on the long-wheelbase S-class, but it’s much more than a bit of badge engineering. The sheet-metal aft of the B-pillar is new and the Maybach is a massive 8in longer than even the long-wheelbase S-class.

Mercedes reckons a very tiny percentage of Maybach customers will actually drive the car, so it has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the experience is all about the people in the back. And what an experience it is — kneeroom has doubled compared with the long-wheelbase
S-class, there’s far more headroom and the company says this is the most
refined saloon it has yet made. In fact, it boasts that this is now the quietest car in the world. And not many vehicles can claim standard-fit silver-plated champagne flutes (the champers is in the built-in fridge).

If you really do insist on taking the wheel, the twin-turbo V12 provides absolutely hilarious performance. Driving the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic, this monstrous engine hurls all 2,335kg of the Maybach to 62mph in just 5 seconds. But steer into some twisting country roads and you begin to feel the weight — with extra sound insulation and body strengthening, it weighs about 150kg more than the regular long-wheelbase S-class. Best just to slum it in the back , then.

  • Engine: 5980cc, V12, twin turbo
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph: 5 sec
  • Fuel: 24.1mpg
  • CO2: 274g/km
  • Release date: On sale now

Browse the used Mercedes S-classes for sale on driving.co.uk

 

ALSO CONSIDER:

Bentley Flying Spur W12, £153,300

  • For: Breathtaking performance; top speed of 200mph
  • Against: Catastrophic fuel consumption

Browse the used Bentley Flying Spurs for sale on driving.co.uk

Rolls-Royce Ghost, £216,864

  • For: All the style and sense of occasion you’d expect
  • Against: Difficult beast to manoeuvre in close quarters

Browse the used Rolls-Royce Ghosts for sale on driving.co.uk

 


 

Hybrid electric

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron £34,950 (before plug-in car grant)

2105 Audi A3 e-tron

With fuel prices on the increase for the first time in months, this could be the golden moment to invest in a plug-in hybrid, and Audi’s is one of the very best. And because all of that clever technology has been deployed in the five-door A3 Sportback, it’s a superbly practical, family-friendly car too.

Audi has teamed up a 148bhp
1.4-litre TFSI turbocharged engine with a 101bhp electric motor for a combined output of 201bhp. But because this is a plug-in hybrid you can travel up to 31 miles — and at speeds up to 80mph — using only the electric motor. That’s what gives this frugal Audi the potential to return 176.6mpg with CO2 emissions of just 37g/km. For the record, a full charge takes about four hours on a conventional domestic plug.

It’s a great drive too. There is simply no better form of propulsion for city driving than pure electric — it’s incredibly refined without the intrusion of gearshifts, and super-responsive, thanks to the electric motor’s instant torque delivery. And even though the e-tron weighs about 300kg more than a non-hybrid 1.4 Sportback, it still manages to handle with neutral agility. Don’t think you’ll be sacrificing performance either: 0-62mph in
7.6 seconds is pretty good going.

  • Engine: 1395cc, 4 cylinders; 101bhp synchronous electric motor
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph: 7.6sec
  • Fuel: 176.6mpg
  • CO2: 37g/km
  • Release date: On sale now

Browse the used Audi A3s for sale on driving.co.uk

ALSO CONSIDER:

BMW i3 Range Extender, £34,130

  • For: Drives like a proper BMW
  • Against: Quirky looks

Browse the used BMW i3s for sale on driving.co.uk

 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, £33,395

  • For: Good electric range around town
  • Against: Too pricy over regular Prius

Browse the used Toyota Priuses for sale on driving.co.uk

 


 

4x4s

Volvo XC90 £45,750

 

2015 Volvo XC90

What a way to ring in the 2015 plate: a full 12 years after the launch of the original, Volvo has finally got around to replacing its much-loved XC90 SUV. And it isn’t just a rehash or facelift — this latest XC90 is new from the ground up.

From the outside the big new Volvo is a riposte to the brutalist styling of rivals such as the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-class. And that theme carries over to the interior, which is Scandinavian minimalist. Volvo has expunged the dashboard of most buttons, leaving control functions to an iPad-like touchscreen that works very well. Otherwise, the spacious cabin — this is a proper seven-seater — is neatly finished in unpolished wood and aluminium.

The other brave thing the company has done is to offer only a range of
2-litre four-cylinder engines . But don’t worry that you will be shortchanged on the performance front, because there’s a supercharged and turbocharged version with 316bhp. Volvo also says it will be offering a plug-in hybrid with a combined 394bhp. On the road, the XC90 is a refined cruiser that’s easy to drive, and Volvo claims that as well as being the most luxurious car it has yet made, it is one of the safest.

  • Engine: 1969cc, 4 cylinders, turbodiesel
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph: 7.8sec
  • Fuel: 49.6mpg
  • CO2: 149g/km
  • Release date: On sale now

Browse the used Volvo XC90s for sale on driving.co.uk

 

ALSO CONSIDER:

Land Rover Discovery, £41,595

  • For: Beautifully designed interior
  • Against: Replacement is in the pipeline

Browse the used Land Rover Discovery models for sale on driving.co.uk

BMW X5, £42,020

  • For: Great build-quality
  • Against: Image is pushy rather than utilitarian

Browse the used BMW X5s for sale on driving.co.uk

 


 

Family cars

Ford Mondeo estate £22,045

 

2015 Ford Mondeo

The long-delayed new Mondeo has arrived just in time to make it into the 2015 plate line-up. It’s really been worth the wait, though, and if you’re looking

for a great family cruiser, the estate is the one to go for. With its sleek lines and Aston Martin-ish grille, it’s a handsome thing to behold too.

Climb on board and you’ll be struck by just how large a vehicle the Mondeo is. There’s tons of leg and headroom for everyone, particularly those in the back, and when the rear seats are folded down, the car transforms into a proper workhorse. The quality both of the trim materials and the build has improved on that of previous generations. Even the entry-level Style model is well equipped, with standard-fit dual-zone climate control, electric parking brake, an 8in colour touchscreen and DAB radio.

Turbodiesel engines up to 177bhp are available, and u p to 237bhp is on offer
if you opt for petrol power. For most, though, the sensible financial option will be the 1.6-litre turbodiesel, which is still punchy and smooth enough not to let the Mondeo down.

  • Engine: 1560cc, 4 cylinders, turbodiesel
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph: 12.3sec
  • Fuel: 74.3mpg
  • CO2: 99g/km
  • Release date: On sale now

Browse the used Ford Mondeos for sale on driving.co.uk

 

ALSO CONSIDER:

Vauxhall Insignia estate, £18,884

  • For: One of the best-looking estates
  • Against: Diesel engines are unrefined

Browse the used Vauxhall Insignias for sale on driving.co.uk

BMW 5-series, £33,065

  • For: Engaging to drive, for its class
  • Against: Quite dreary to look at

Browse the used BMW 5-series for sale on driving.co.uk

 


 

Crossovers

Mazda CX-5  £22,295

 

2015 Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 is one of the best crossovers on the market, and just in time for the 2015 plate an even better version is being launched. On the outside, the car gets a tweaked grille and a new headlight and fog-lamp design, as well as funky new wheels. But the biggest changes are inside, where the CX-5 gains a 7in touchscreen and adds DAB radio for the first time. And staying on-trend in our connected world, the Mazda offers smartphone pairing to enable internet connectivity and on-screen web browsing.

The familiar line-up of a 2-litre 163bhp petrol unit and either 148bhp or 173bhp 2.2-litre diesels remains. They all offer solid performance and good fuel economy, particularly the 148bhp diesel, which would be our pick. The Mazda makes a compelling case for itself — it’s great to drive, with a fine ride quality, plus it is practical, economical and
good-looking with it. And now it’s that bit better.

  • Engine: 2191cc, 4 cylinders, turbodiesel
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph: 9.2sec
  • Fuel: 61.4mpg
  • CO2: 119g/km
  • Release date: April

Browse the used Mazda CX-5s for sale on driving.co.uk

 

ALSO CONSIDER:

Kia Sportage, £17,500

  • For: Seven-year/100,000-mile warranty
  • Against: Lacks refinement and handling of rivals

Browse the used Kia Sportages for sale on driving.co.uk

Renault Captur, £14,195

  • For: Characterful interior
  • Against: Three-cylinder version is too slow

Browse the used Renault Capturs for sale on driving.co.uk