Tag Archives | SMMT

2013 Mazda6 2.2d diesel manual 175PS Sport Nav Saloon road test review by Oliver Hammond

An all-new Mazda6 saloon isn’t the kind of news that gets everyone excited, but being a saloon lover I for one was really eager to spend a week with one after the very positive reaction it received around its very recent launch. The ‘large family’ and ‘compact executive’ car sectors are rammed full of quite viable choices, so it would be very interesting to see what impression the new ‘6’ made on me. Soon after it arrived, it was clear Sade would approve. Read on to find out what I’m out about and learn how Mazda really is boxing clever at the cutting edge these days.

2013 Mazda6 2-2 diesel Sport Nav 175PS manual saloon road test review by Oliver Hammond Simons Car Spots - photo side Princes

Exterior

I’ve always believed that the best-looking cars are the ones which look like they’re moving, even when they’re stationary. Mazda think the same thing and this is partly what their ‘KODO’ design philosophy is all about. I guess the guy from Mazda is right when he passionately talks about animals (and in particular, racehorses), athletes, body lines which depict ‘leaping’, and strong hip muscles. The new Mazda6 does indeed look dynamic, athletic and sculpted – and I absolutely love it. It looks splendid from all angles but my personal favourites are the coupe-esque side profile with its sloping roofline down to the boot, and the front-three-quarters, with its bulging, purposeful wheel arches and chrome-accented grille, flanked with attractive LED daytime running lights.

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The Mazda6 is classed as a large family car and in my view it therefore has the best styling in its class. Rivals such as the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Skoda Superb and Volkswagen Passat look far less exciting. With striking looks like these, the Mazda6 is capable of poaching a few sales from the executive saloon market and one of the biggest compliments I can pay it is that it Continue Reading →

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Oliver Hammond at SMMT Test Day 2013

Waking up on what would be my second SMMT Test Day down at the iconic and really rather surreal and wonderful Millbrook Proving Ground (the place Fifth Gear and Top Gear often use) in Bedfordshire, I was just as excited as I was the first time around. How could one not be? SMMT Test Day is the main annual opportunity to catch up with and introduce oneself to most car manufacturers, drive some of their splendid vehicles of all shapes and sizes, catch up with fellow blogger friends and journalists and of course to experience SMMT and Newspress’ delightful hospitality.

SMMT Test Day 2013 Millbrook Proving - Oliver Hammond Simons Car Spots MyCarCoach review writeup photos -Yelloy Alpine Course

My First Impressions Writeup Review & Photo Gallery – SMMT 2013

Last year, a quite admirable Peugeot 3008 was our transport down to Millbrook. This year? A brilliant Mazda6. My guest this year? Mrs Vel Satis – or Izzy, as she’s really called! She’s my primary press car photographer, by the way. After a bit of a duff start to the year weather-wise, SMMT and Newspress had once again managed to pull a few strings and bring out glorious sunshine. Nice one, guys. It was excellent to see some lovely classics there today too, including Jensen Interceptor, a Datsun 240Z, Firenza HP ‘Droopsnoot’ and a Vauxhall 30-98. McLaren and Rolls Royce were also there this year, but I didn’t get a chance to sample their delights. Hopefully next time…

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This year, the plan wasn’t to drive as many cars as possible, but to prioritise thanking, catching up with and introducing myself and the SimonsCarSpots website to various manufacturers, and focusing on the handful of cars I had circled on the provided list. It was great to meet new bloggers of all ages for the first time, as well as established bloggers, seasoned journalists and motoring photographers. The constant supply of drinks and cakes, the lovely lunch and the goodies provided by several manufacturers were very much appreciated – not that I actually managed to sample any of SEAT’s sweets, Skoda’s popcorn, Newspress’ chocolate or Citroen’s apparently delicious crepes, as I was too busy yacking, driving and scribbling. Anyway, let’s cut to the chase, as I know you all really want to know what cars we drove today! And we won’t waffle on about their mechanical minutiae as we only got 15 minutes or so behind the wheel of each. So here’s our snappy, realistic ‘first impressions flavour’ overview of all the metal we tested.

S7 4.0 TFSI quattro (420PS) S tronic @ £71,045

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Hands up, yes, I have sometimes referred to recent Audi models as being rather homogenised, it proving tricky at a glance to differentiate an A4, A5 saloon, A6 or A8 from each other. I’ve always yearned after an A7, though, owing to its subtly different styling and exclusivity. After three laps round the yellow Alpine Hill Route and a couple of blasts round the red high speed ‘bowl’, what was our verdict?

  • Excellent interior which felt extremely solid, with quilted sports seats and plenty of space
  • Just the right amount of buttons, Audi’s MMI was pretty simple to master the basics and the flip-out screen is pretty cool
  • In my view the A7 is the best-looking Audi ‘saloon’ of the moment, although I know it’s really a 4-door coupe Mercedes CLS and BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe rival
  • Nicely aggressive exterior with beautiful curves and a subtly attractive ‘behind’ with sexy light clusters
  • The first car we drove today, but the handling was superb. The chassis felt great, steering was precise and it was fast enough. The official 0-62mph figure of 4.7 seconds is believable and the 7-speed S tronic direct-shift transmission got it there smoothly
  • Surprisingly for an ‘S’ model, there was no Continue Reading →
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Caption Competition – Oliver Hammond & Simon Harris at SMMT 2012

Oliver Hammond - SimonsCarSpots Car Reviews Writer - Renault Vel Satis - 2012 SMMT Test Day Millbrook - Simon Harris Fleet News

Oliver Hammond chatting to Simon Harris at SMMT Millbrook 2012

Thank you to everyone who joined in our caption competition on Twitter this afternoon, suggesting wittier alternatives. Here are the entries we had:

Sue Baker (@carscribe): “Dang it, came here looking for a different kind of horsepower!”

Gavin B-S of PetrolBlog (@majorgav): “Drive your Vel Satis? Sure, as long as I can keep my hat on”

Alistair Preacher (@_iPeach_): “This proving ground ain’t big enough for the 2 of us!”

Chris Auty (@drivingspirit): “When I click my fingers you will wake up, forget the Vel Satis and worship my Interceptor.”

Rob Griggs-Taylor (@robgt2): “And then my hat blew off. Yeah, this hat!”

Matt Biggs (@pawnsacrifice): “How dare you sleep while I’m talking to you! Just look at this bad boy, I could have been in Dallas!”

Lisa Wroe (@carloverlisa): “If you fall asleep on me, I’ll eat my hat. Actually, it might be a bit big for that….”

The winner will be announced soon! And the prize is… err…being the winner!

Update: Simon picked Matt Biggs as the winner – well done, Matt!

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The Huge & Ever-Growing Un-Official SMMT Test Day 2012 Millbrook Photo Gallery

SMMT Logo

Feast your eyes on our veritable banquet of photos from the 2012 SMMT Test Day at Millbrook Proving Ground, taken by Messrs Oliver & David Hammond – the latter enthusiastically assuming photographer duty for the day, as well as co-driving the Peugeot 3008 review car we travelled down from Manchester in. Our photo gallery album is not in any way officially associated with SMMT. It comprises photos of the SLS AMG, Twizy, Maloo, Panamera, Chevrolet Volt, Simon Harris, Keith Jones, Scott Brownlee and countless other cars and names from the motoring industry. You can also see some of the wonderful stands run by manufacturers and their PR teams such as Skoda, Kia and Peugeot, as well as the Hill Route, High Speed Circuit and interesting number plates like ‘1 BMW’ and Vauxhall’s DE51RED. Enjoy!

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Millbrook Awe – Oliver Hammond’s SMMT Test Day Debut

Click here for our ever-expanding (huge) un-official photo gallery

I took a little longer to get to sleep the night before, to say the least. Sure, it had been a sunny and humid day, but the main reason was most likely that the following morning I would be gladly getting up at 5am. You’ll banish any thoughts of me being mad by saying ‘gladly’ when I tell you it’s because I would be spending the day courtesy of SMMT (the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) at the revered Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.

Millbrook is owned by General Motors and is a leading vehicle testing centre in the UK. Vehicles are put through their paces here to assess and subsequently refine their handling, performance and safety.  Engineers assist vehicle manufacturers with their test and development programmes here and the facility has been used many times on TV. Approaching Millbrook, you know you’re headed somewhere special, as it’s shrouded by trees and protected by security fences and guard huts. It’s an amazing place, which is home to three test tracks: Firstly, the Hill Route, which sees vehicles tested around very sharp bends, fast straights and even over a ski-jump. Then there’s the High Speed Circuit, a 2-mile-long, banked, circular circuit with five lanes, each with their own minimum and maximum speed restrictions and amber lights. And lastly, there’s the City Course, lined with pot holes, speed bumps, turning places and plenty of stopping and starting, to provide real-life urban driving conditions.

Oliver Hammond - SimonsCarSpots Car Reviews Writer - Renault Vel Satis - 2012 SMMT Test Day Millbrook - Hill Route

I was absolutely thrilled at Continue Reading →

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