Posted: 16 Mar 2013 11:29 PM PDT
The roomier, more efficient and more capable Octavia entirely justifies its new billing as a contender to the D-segment mainstream The third generation of Octavia: longer, wider, pricier and now here in the UK. The model's almost bashful rise from cheap, three-box Golf clone to a serious Passat-worrier is remarkable really, and it's a measure of Skoda's confidence that it can be expected to graduate up a segment (to make way for the Rapid), shoulder some serious extra cost and still come out swinging against a host of household names.Certainly its established strengths have been played to. Space was always an Octavia advantage but now that it sits on the extended MQB platform, its wheelbase has grown by a knee-pleasing 108mm, while beneath the hefty tailgate is a colossal 590-litre boot. Practicality? Tick.It's also very well equipped. The base price of our range-topping Elegance model may have swelled by as much as £2.5k, but Skoda reckons there's more than £5k of additional kit included. Even at the entry-level S trim a DAB stereo, touchscreen multimedia system and Bluetooth are all standard.Add to that a deft redesign, an (as if by magic) 102kg weight loss over its predecessor and the usual pick of economical VW-sourced engines, and there barely seems room for a right-minded buyer to complain. Having already driven a TSI-powered car in the development stage, we tried to find the cracks in the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI's logic.
Posted: 16 Mar 2013 11:28 AM PDT
Development chief justifies lack of manual and electric steering by promising unmatched excitement
The new Porsche 911 GT3 is not only as fast as an old GT3 RS 4.0, but it is also more exciting, according to Andreas Preuninger, the firm's high-performance car manager. And he gives much of the credit for that to its new dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Preuninger was responding to concerns that the firm's latest race-bred 911 might have been sanitised by a two-pedal system. "I like my 911s pure and hardcore," said Preuninger. "I like to really work for my fun. The gearbox had me convinced within 150 metres – and you will be too."
Porsche has made plenty of detail changes to the stock 991's PDK dual-clutch gearbox for the GT3. It has shorter intermediate ratios, quicker and more aggressive shifts and, unlike other PDKs, it doesn't creep forwards when a gear is engaged.
In the cabin, the manual override controls have even been revised. The gearlever is pushed away to change down and pulled towards you to change up (the opposite logic of a standard PDK), and the column-mounted shift paddles have a shorter, more precise action.
"This decision is not just about performance," Preuninger went on. "We wanted the most emotional car with the most driver involvement we could produce, because nobody needs a GT3. What we've ended up with is a system that feels like a full-on race car sequential transmission. We honestly believe that there's nothing a traditional manual gearbox can give you that this PDK can't."
Preuninger also said steering feedback, as provided by the 991's electromechanical power steering, has been transformed, with as much feel on offer as the 997 GT3 RS 4.0-litre.
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