At least once a year, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) organises an event where we get to drive lots of new cars and take a look at others that are just about to be released. The event usually takes place at the Millbrook Proving Ground, a famous set of tracks where cars are tested during development. Last year gave us a sneak peek of the IONIQ 5, Audi Q4 e-tron and e-tron GT, amongst other vehicles. This year’s event was just as exciting as ever, and here are some of the highlights.
Ford Mustang Mach-E GT
When we reviewed the Ford Mustang Mach-E almost exactly a year ago, we found it great fun to drive and quite fast. But we always knew there would be an even quicker one in the future – the GT. This boasts an incredible 487 PS and 860Nm of torque, which are truly supercar figures and slightly ridiculous in an SUV. Top speed is only 124 mph, but the sprint to 62mph takes a mere 3.7 seconds. That’s on par with a Tesla Model Y Performance, which is a direct competitor in size, although not available in the UK yet. It’s also more than a second quicker than the basic AWD Mach-E.
The 98kWh (91kWh usable) battery in the GT is absolutely huge, albeit the same as the Extended Range, but you don’t get as much WLTP range out of it due to the motor power. It still promises 310 miles, which is competitive with the Tesla Model Y Performance. DC charging is supported up to 150kW, giving you 80% capacity in around 45 minutes.
So this is a very usable EV in terms of practical range, but the driving experience is what it’s really all about. As the specifications suggest, the Ford Mach-E GT is a staggeringly quick car, which is even more bonkers considering it’s an SUV weighing over 2.3 tons. It also handles like it shouldn’t for a big, tall, heavy car thanks to the MagneRide active suspension. We took the car for a spin around the Millbrook Alpine Circuit, a very hilly and twisty route, and the high-speed bowl where you can drive as fast as you want. It proved extremely engaging and about as worthy of the Mustang brand as an electric SUV could be. It was not as refined at high speed as some EVs, but certainly felt comfortable at well over 70mph.
The Brembo brakes are also incredibly effective. We found they took some getting used to because they bite as soon as you put your foot on the pedal and stop the car sharply. It’s reassuring that this car can stop when it’s so capable of putting on speed. But a little more progression would be more user friendly.
You get the same 10.2in screen for the dashboard instrumentation and a portrait-orientation 15.5in central media screen. This is the same size as the central screen in a Tesla Model 3 or Y, although that is landscape orientation. There’s a very nice panoramic sunroof that gives rear-seat passengers a strong sense of space, although it’s fixed and not openable. As you’d hope for an SUV, rear seat passengers have plenty of leg and headroom, although the slanted rear roofline means you have to be careful of your head when getting in.
However, the GT is much more expensive than the other Mustang Mach-E models, costing £68,030, nearly £6,550 more than the AWD and £20,500 more than the RWD. It’s also very slightly more than the Tesla Model Y Performance. We drove that in America a couple of years ago and found it to be similarly mind-bogglingly quick, but we will have to see how it handles on UK roads when it arrives here. The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT is expensive, but in typical Ford Mustang fashion, it delivers lots of American muscle compared to premium German alternatives. We really enjoyed driving it.
Mercedes-Benz EQB 7-seater
Mercedes had several new electric vehicles on its stand at the SMMT event, including the EQS, which we will be featuring in a future article and video. One that also caught our attention was the EQB, which is an electrified version of the GLB SUV. The “B” in the name might imply this car sits in between the EQA and EQC. It is quite a bit bigger than the EQA, but while the EQB is a little shorter than the EQC it’s also a little taller, so not much smaller overall. It’s also a rather different beast in market focus. The EQC is a luxury performance SUV, but the EQB is more of a classy family SUV, with a unique option the EQC doesn’t have – seven seats.
All versions of the EQB have 4MATIC all-wheel drive, with the 300 version offering 228hp and the 350 version delivering 292hp. This provides 0-60mph sprints of 7.7 and 6 seconds respectively – not fast, but fast enough for a family SUV. The 66.5kWh battery only provides 257 miles of range, however, which is a little behind the best these days, such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT above. Prices start at £53,610 for the EQB 300 4MATIC AMG Line, up to £58,110 for the 350 AMG Line Premium. Not cheap, but not completely astronomical for a Mercedes electric SUV either, and competitive with BMW offerings in this class such as the iX3.
The most unique feature of the EQB is that seven-seater ability, however. The boot provides a considerable 495 litres of capacity with the first row of rear seats in place, and 1,710 litres if you drop these forwards. Alternatively, you can go the other way and have even less boot space but one or two further seats behind the first rear row. These are very cramped with not much leg or head room – only viable for kids. But that’s probably what you will want to use them for anyway. If you want to carry a big family or your kids and their friends, the Mercedes EQB is currently unique in offering this seven-seat capability in EV form. We will be providing a full review of the EQB in a future article, when we’ve had a chance to spend more time with it.
Relative newcomer to the UK market, Genesis, had several cars on show, and the one that had pride of place was the all-electric GV60. Genesis is the luxury wing of Hyundai and arrived in Britain in May 2021, although it has been around since 2015. The GV60 will be the first electric Genesis to be available in the UK, although the Electrified G80 that we took a first look at recently will be hot on its heels. An electric GV70 mid-sized SUV is also imminent.
The GV60 is particularly interesting because it uses the same platform as Hyundai’s IONIQ 5 and Kia’s EV6. So it’s a large-ish crossover SUV, but of course with Genesis behind it the GV60 is in a different league of luxury, with a smooth exterior look that exudes class, and an interior that takes comfort to the next level and footballers’ wives might appreciate. The GV60 starts at £47,005 for the RWD Single Motor Premium version, which boasts 226bhp and can hit 60mph in 7.6 seconds. The AWD Dual Motor Sport version costs £53,605. It has a total of 314bhp and can hit 60mph in 5.3 seconds. The range-topping AWD Dual Motor Sport Plus offers a whopping 483bhp and a 60mph sprint of just 3.9 seconds.
All cars have a relatively large 77.4kWh battery pack, which delivers a WLTP range of 321 miles for the Premium, 292 miles for the Sport, and 289 miles for the Sport Plus. These are all decent if not market-leading figures. However, the Hyundai E-GMP platform’s 800V subsystem allows support for ultra-rapid charging, so if you hook up to a 350kW unit you can recharge to 80% in just 18 minutes.
It’s worth noting that the Sport Plus doesn’t deliver its sub-4-second 60mph sprint every time you press the accelerator. Instead, you need to push the Boost button on the steering wheel to receive the extra power needed for a duration of 10 seconds. This tensions the seatbelts, alters the look of the dashboard, and stiffens the whole car up. So this is more of an A-road overtaking feature rather than for continuously rapid driving.
The GV60 wasn’t available to drive at the SMMT event, but we have subsequently been able to spend some time with it so will be bringing you a more comprehensive review shortly. Our overall impression was very positive.
SsangYong Korando E-Motion
SsangYong isn’t a particularly well-known automaker in the UK, although the Korean brand was founded in 1954 and has been trading under the SsangYong name since 1988. It’s now owned by Indian firm Mahindra & Mahindra Limited. The Korando has been around since 1983 in various forms, with the lates “C300” fourth generation arriving in 2019.
Now it’s available in electric form, too. The Korando E-Motion is the first fully electric car from SsangYong. It sports a 61.5kWh battery delivering 211 miles of WLTP range, which is a little mediocre. It can charge on DC rapid units up to 80kW, taking 41 minutes to hit 80%. There are three trim levels available. The ELX costs £30,495, the Venture costs £34,995, and the top Ultimate model is £37,995. SsangYong is officially launching the Korando E-Motion in September but there were apparently Venture models already in stock when we talked to the company.
The Venture spec comes with lane keep assist, lane change assistance, automatic headlights, and automatic rain-sensing wipers. All cars have three levels of regenerative braking. The Ultimate spec adds a heat pump, for better range in cold weather. There are some visual cues to the E-Motion being the electric version, including a chrome Korando badge on the back and blue highlights. The Korando E-Motion has a sizeable 551-litre boot and can also tow 500kg unbraked and 1,500kg braked. It’s not necessarily the most exciting EV release for 2022, but towing ability could give it a niche for the money.
Four-wheeled vehicles weren’t the only ones on show at the SMMT event. There were also two-wheeled ones, including electric options. One of the most interesting was the Maeving RM1 electric motorcycle. It’s aimed at urban travel and can be driven on a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) license like a 125cc petrol motorbike.
The most unique feature of the RM1 is the removable battery system. The bike can accommodate one or two batteries, which can easily be removed and charged separately. One sits in the frame and one where a petrol bike’s fuel tank would be. This battery is optional, allowing you to use this space for storage instead as it’s lockable.
Each battery delivers 40 miles of range, so the maximum total range is 80 miles using both. The Bosch electric motor sits in the rear wheel hub so there’s no chain or transmission to oil or maintain. The bike has a top speed of 45mph, although you can also specify a 28mph version. With a single battery, the RM1 costs £4,995, and with the second battery it’s £5,990.
All these specifications sound great, but the most compelling feature of the RM1 is how it looks. Maeving has taken its cue from classic British café racers of the 1960s. So this motorbike is extremely stylish. There are seven different colour combinations to choose from, but the green one on show at the SMMT event was particularly striking. This is an incredibly cool way to commute in a city, with some great design features.
Another new vehicle harking back in style to an earlier era at the SMMT event was the RBW Roadster. This looks like an original MGB, but it isn’t a classic car EV conversion. It’s a new car using the same body design, with a brand-new British registration and number plate. It uses Golf Mark 7 brakes but has a motor between the rear wheels plus a battery box up front where the petrol engine and gearbox would have been in the MGB. This is a 42kWh unit from Hyperdrive that enables 160 miles of range. There are modern features such as crash sensors and Apple AirPlay support.
RBW has put a lot of effort into the safety of its Roadster, and with a 50:50 weight distribution handling will be better than the original. We took the Roaster around the Millbrook Alpine Track and while it wasn’t that fast – the 94bhp motor can only manage 0-60mph in 8.7 seconds – it’s still tremendous fun. The car sits low and has a lot of the feel of a classic MGB, while actually being a bit quicker and more balanced. The 1960s MGB 1800 took around 13 seconds to reach 60mph, and other variants were even slower. The RBW Roadster is not cheap, though, starting at £90,000 plus VAT.
Kia Niro EV and more
There were many other cars at the SMMT event, and more EVs every time it is held. The new style Kia Niro EV was on show, which we will run through its paces in a future article. We also had the opportunity to drive three electric trucks, in a new lorry section which was featured at the event for the first time. You can see what we thought about them in our separate article.
Perhaps most tellingly, in 2020 the SMMT held a separate event for EVs called Drive Zero, but now most manufacturers have electric models, and they are starting to go mainstream. So they now sit alongside the petrol and diesel cars, and in many cases, take pride of place.