Rupert Suren Articles, News & Updates

Rupert has written a number of car reviews and articles on automotive products for the motoring and sports press – click on links below.


Mercedes AMG C43 Coupé – Bahnstormer

Aufrecht, Melcher and Grossaspach C43 bi-turbo 4Matic would be rather a mouthful to say nothing of the necessity to word wrap the chrome badge around the car. Mercedes wisely decided to go for AMG C43.

The car was delivered by one of Mercedes’ contracted Class 1 police drivers. I wondered if this might make the traffic boys more sympathetic to any excesses that we might be tempted to get up to on the way to the Silverstone Classic test day. With over 360 bhp from the 3 litre V6, twin turbo and four wheel drive I had hopes of reaching our destination in time for the 10.00 am press briefing despite leaving in the middle of the London rush hour.

The front seats comfortably enveloped us while our lovely American intern, Mariel, had to contort herself into the back seat. My guess is that the rear seat space is not as large as the Beemer 3 series coupé. Well no matter, she was glued to her iPhone texting fellow interns who were slogging away in dull city offices and had assured us that she did not get car sick.

Having quietly cruised round the M25 we peeled off onto that sweeping slip road to join the M40. My fellow Zone1Radio raconteur, Jon Mais, had by now decoded what all the various buttons on the centre console were for. Quietly and precisely as if choosing a luxury chocolate Jon selected Sports Mode to stiffen up the suspension, then deftly pressed the loud button for the exhaust which would now crackle and pop at every gear change and at each lift off. The urge to slingshot off the slip onto the motorway meant hitting the downshift paddles five times to get fourth gear to unleash the bahnstormer onto an unsuspecting gaggle of Mars bar reps.
“What is the flashing red triangle in the middle of the speedo?” This was a new one on Jon and with no handbook his first thought was “Go faster and see if it turns off”. We tried that and it did not work. We rang the man who delivered the car who quietly told us that we were travelling too close to the car in front and that at some point when we got really really close the car would automatically slam the brakes on.

Moments later we were on the A43 to Silverstone. Now we could enjoy the car and push a little. This C43 shares its chassis with the more powerful C53 V8. However, it retains the standard nine speed gearbox as opposed to its bigger cousin’s seven speeder. Without the head up display it would be easy to forget which gear you are actually in. There are a lot of downshifts when approaching a roundabout at speed. We could have left it in Comfort mode and let the car drive itself but that is not the point in this car where you want to barrel into a bend or roundabout making full use of the huge brakes and then power out with the foot hard down. The crackling downshifts are brilliant as is the urgent bark when powering away from a slow corner.

There was a muted request from the back for some music. I opened the window a couple of centimetres and suggested to Mariel that she keep a keen ear on the staccato beat from the exhausts.
We made the press briefing on time. The journey had been fast, fun and comfortable. The C43 had done all we expected from her. This car had nearly £10k worth of extras added to the standard £46k price list and they were all essential and made us feel like a million dollars.

With twin turbo chargers and four wheel drive and a lead foot we expected our wallet to take a hammering, but here again we were pleasantly surprised that we achieved low 20s miles per gallon. If it was driven in a more sedate manner and in Comfort mode then we probably could have got close to the claimed 35 mpg, but that is not the point when you have a car that increases your heartbeat just by looking at it.

My only criticisms are that the steering could do with a little more feel, there are just too many gears (a very low first and very high top) and the rear seat space is somewhat limited. Other than that I would be prepared to sell several close relatives and take out a bank loan to have this beauty on my drive.
Model: Mercedes-AMG C 43 4MATIC Coupe
Price: £46,280
Engine: 3.0-litre biturbo V6 petrol
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power: 362bhp
Torque: 520Nm
0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 36.2mpg
CO2: 178g/km
g your update here…


Peugeot RCZ GT 080112It has been a long time since Peugeot has produced an iconic car. The 205 GTI was the original hot hatch that started a European revolution. For years we have had a long line of boring dull offerings with little design flair with the exception of the 306 cabrio.

For me the RCZ combines the chic of the 306 cabrio with the sporty image of the 205 GTI. This car would look sexy on the Champs-lys-es and cool in the paddock at Paul Ricard. The good news is that design flair and handling are back at Peugeot.

Tom Lee our motoring photographer and I studied the design cues and decided that the RCZ has the nose of Gerard Depardieu, the rear end of Brigitte Bardot and looking at the roof line, the cleavage of Marlene Jobert. The rear three quarter view is probably the most flattering while one has to allow the rather lumpy nose to grow on you.. We love the Zagato inspired double-bubble roof, the powerful haunches that give it a super car stance and the crisp airy interior design.

The standard sculpted leather seats and the flat bottomed wheel give you the idea that there is excitement to come. With 200bhp on tap from this 1.6 litre turbo engine you could expect a few fireworks and this is where some compromises are made. It doesn’t feel or sound like it has that amount of power. The RCZ will whisper along in town and it is only when you really floor the accelerator and get that engine spinning past 4500rpm that a pleasant muted bark comes from the exhausts.

The handling is excellent. One can pitch the RCZ into tight corners and roundabouts with complete confidence that leaves the opposition wide eyed and behind. With fine balance and composure, fast sweeping bends can be taken flat with no drama. I did experiment with the manual activation of the rear spoiler from its 19 degree first position to the full 34 degrees when cornering fast but have to admit to not finding any real noticeable difference. Still, it was fun trying.

Please Peugeot, no lefty green eco version. Give us another 50bhp and maybe that German exhaust system, available from after market supplier Ruffer (

The GT version of the RCZ tested here has 235 x 40R 19 inch tyres on optional Solstice Alloys, a £320 upgrade, the Amber Red metallic for another £440, a JBL Hi-Fi at £420 and Peugeot’s own Media Navigation for £1470.

Ah yes, the media navigation caused me some difficulties coming up with spurious messages about SIM cards and then refusing to navigate anywhere other than the destination that I had input on the first day. As the test car had not been supplied with a handbook I went to the local dealer, Robins & Day in Chiswick. I foolishly decided to ask a member of the sales staff if they could help out, having previously mentioned that this was a Press car. The young lady’s grasp of English was such that she kept asking me why the car was a present. She clearly had zero knowledge of the RCZ being unable to answer neither questions on the media navigation system, even arguing that it could not play DVDs, nor the manual application of the rear wing or anything else. Her male companions in the showroom were equally ignorant of their product and seemed to delight in watching the poor girl squirm in embarrassment. Hopefully not all Peugeot dealers are as unhelpful and ignorant of their products as this lot because the dealers are the first impression that the buying public will get of a fine product.

Peugeot RCZ GT
Retail Price £25,945
Metallic paint £440

Alloy upgrade  £320
JBL Hi-Fi  £1,470
Engine 1598 turbo
Max Power 200bhp @ 5500rpm
Acceleration 0-60 7.6 seconds
Max speed  146 mph

Caterham 7 Roadsport 175

I collected the Caterham 7 Roadsport 175 from their showrooms and service centre. The workshop appears to be staffed by surly mutes who can’t smile, nod or respond to a cheery hello. It was only when I returned the car that I realised that this appearance must be down to jealousy; jealousy that another bloody journo was going to have a fun few days with this amazing pocket rocket.

In stark contrast to my first impression I was pampered by reception and given an informative briefing on the dos and don’ts of driving a Roadsport by the very knowledgeable and lovely Emma.

My first mission for the day was to drive up to visit TEAM LOTUS at their headquarters in Hingham,Norfolk. Tony Fernandes owns the Formula 1 team as well as Air Asia, Caterham Cars, the Tune Group and has recently acquired a major shareholding in QPR.

The weather was blustery but in the hope that it wouldn’t rain I opted for a top down run, though quite frankly you shouldn’t use the hood for anything other than as an overnight cover. I couldn’t wait to get off the M25 and the M11 and head onto the A and B roads that would let this car’s brilliance shine through.
No radio of course, so I was unable to listen to Alan Partridge or pick up the adverts for the A11 road side cafe serving spinal cord in a bap. Who needs a radio when you can listen to that bellowing roar of the 175 bhp Duratec in second and third gears as you take the revs to the limiter. Hit the optional engine start button and click the stumpy gear lever into first. First is short geared, second is where the fun starts. The flickering red light in the rev counter tells you to jettison stage one and ignite the second booster rocket, andthe power rush keeps on coming all the way through to fifth. With nearly 450bhp per ton nothing else on the road gets close. Ferraris, Lamborghinis and 911s look decidedly bloated and slow.
The broader SV chassis, which is still a snug fit, has the wider front suspension of the Superlight. With CAD facilities Caterham has been able to increase chassis stiffness by 12% to cope with the new more powerful engine options. The 2 litre Duratec in both the Roadsport 175 and the R300 is exactly the same. The main difference is that the Roadsport has a five speed box compared to the six speed of the track day car. There’s fist fulls of torque and with a feather light 550 kg to push along, the extra gear is not worth having as an option.
You need to concentrate as the chunky Avon tyres (CR500 195 x 45 R15) will tramline and try to follow white lines like a super model on coke. Give up trying to drive this car; you have to become a part of it. The steering is as sensitive as a single seaters, its sudden darting path as it tracks every contour in the road means that you should flow with the chassis and not fight it or try hanging on grimly to the tiny Motolita wheel.

By the time I turned off the A11 onto the B roads leading to TEAM LOTUS I was part of the car’s DNA. I was straight lining fast series of S bends, overtaking two county ladies with head scarves in a drophead Z3 with the staccato blast from the exhaust ricocheting off the high banks. I could still hear them braying in fright as I turned off for the final run into Hingham.

Sunday was a mixture of bright sunshine and thundery showers here in Twickenham. In the wet, treat with caution and unleash the power only when you are facing in a straight line unless of course you like scaring the pants of your passenger. Just allow a little extra space each side for the tail to wag. There’s no need to put the roof on as the rain will curve over the top of the screen and with a heater capable of melting your socks you’ll feel a warm glow as you blip the throttle to make that dash down the touchline.

FIAT 500 TwinAir Plus

THE LAST TIME I drove a FIAT 500 Topolino was, well, a long time ago as you will see from the picture of me in my mother’s 1950s front-engined model. It was equipped with a 569cc four cylinder side valve bursting with 13 bhp.

The stealth fighter coloured Electroclash Grey TwinAir crouching outside the house one early morning last week is something entirely different. This little grenade is equipped with the world’s cleanest internal combustion engine, a twin cylinder 875cc producing 85bhp and loads of torque from just 1900rpm. My car had standard 16″ black alloy wheels and the optional red leather interior which contrasted beautifully against the sinister grey.

Don’t bother asking for a music system upgrade because this engine provides all the sounds that you’ll want to hear. At idle it’s difficult to know if the engine is on or not and you’ll find yourself checking the rev counter for signs of life. Blip the throttle and engage first and that silence becomes a muted growl which grows in intensity and octaves as the little twin heads towards the rev limiter. First and second gear are short with third and fourth giving the legs to the car and fifth there to settle things down at your chosen optimum speed.

The Fiat 500 TwinAir will reach 62mph in a highly respectable 11 seconds with a top speed of 108mph. On a run from Twickenham to Berkhamstead with Madame, weekend bag and with the rear seats folded flat for a 66kg French Mastiff, I had no problems staying with the Mars bar reps in lane three even if it did mean a drop down to fourth for the occasional hill.

On the dash there’s an “eco” button which changes the engine mapping, moving the torque curve down to help the engine run economically and more efficiently as well as shutting it down when stopped in traffic. Pootling around the suburbs in “eco” mode, stereo on and enjoying the sunshine I got just over 70mpg. However, it was not long before temptation got in the way of moderation and the opportunity to spin up the turbo and blatt around the outside of a 911 on the slip road onto the M25 meant that all thoughts of eco driving went out of the window. This

car is fun. It’s cheeky and it can be driven hard although the consumption figures will take a beating. Turn in fast and deep to a corner or roundabout and it is possible to just lift the inside rear wheel. Broad grin time, even for the old boy in the 911 who gave a cheery wave as he howled past.I expected the ride in such a short wheelbase car to be choppy. Wrong again. The ride is a perfect compromise between comfort and firmness which was only disturbed by the oversize speed bumps put in by the muesli crunching Liberal council. I even saw the supposedly intelligent Bamber Gascoigne bumbling along in a G-Wiz, a ten grand tupperware box, and felt like shouting, You could have bought this for a grand more brillo head.

Hopefully my editrix has allowed me my rant and I can continue.

The body hugging red leather seats are comfortable even on a long run while the rear seats are adequate for children or two adults on a short trip. Fiat’s brilliant Blue&Me hands free system means you can make phone calls by voice command and listen to an MP3 player. There is provision for an optional TomTom which mounts on the upper dash and communicates with the car’s computer telling you where the nearest petrol station is when the fuel level warning light comes on. On this occasion I was using the latest Jeremy Clarkson GoLive 800 series TomTom (see separate review). Geeks will be glad to know that you can download information from the eco Drive onto a USB stick and have your driving style analysed on line.

TwinAir prices start from £11,100 OTR. The car tested here with optional Electroclash Grey paint (£440) and red leather interior (£775) is £14,910

Price:   from £11,100 OTR
Fuel Urban:  50.4mpg
Fuel Extra-Urban:  68.9mpg
Fuel Combined:  58.9mpg
CO2 Emissions:  95g/km NO ROAD TAX &
NO congestion charge
0-62mph:   11 seconds
Max speed: 108 mph

MINI Cooper S Coup

With its three brands BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce the BMW Group is the world’s most successful premium manufacturer.

The amazing iconic MINI has gone from strength to strength. The latest and fifth addition to the family is the Coup with the S version now equipped with a real BMW engine, a four-cylinder petrol with twin-scroll turbocharger and direct injection. The 184hp 1.6 litre in this pocket rocket means beaming grin fun all the way up to 143 mph. You’ll even squeeze a miserly 48.7 mpg out of it on the combined cycle.

The electric power steering gives the MINI Coup exceptional directional control, soaking up the bumps and potholes of our appalling roads. The power steering is speed dependent which means finger tip manoeuvres at parking speed while firming up at speed to let you really feel the road surface under those chunky tyres on 16″ alloys.

While the overall length and width are almost identical to the dimensions of the MINI Hatch, the Coup is 29 millimetres lower. Visually, this and the stepped rear end give the car a more aggressive, forward-thrusting profile. The lower roofline doesn’t come at the expense of driver and passenger comfort, though. Oval recesses in the headlining (a touch of M Sport design cues) provide extra headroom. The most striking view is the muscly profile, with horizontal layering of the car into three separate tiers the body, the wrap-around glass and the uniquely striking roof design. This car has pecs! The A-pillars and windscreen are sharply raked by 13th compared to the MINI Hatch, resulting in a smaller frontal area while airflow is optimised by both the integrated spoiler at the rear of the roof, and by an active rear spoiler hidden in the boot lid, deploying automatically when the car reaches 50 mph and retracting again at 37mph.

Behind is a generous 280-litre luggage area – 20 litres larger than the MINI Clubman. The large, high-opening tailgate makes for simple loading and the car has clutter free carrying options. The one thing that I have never liked about the face lifted interior is the absurd Mickey Mouse central speedometer. The only way to forgive this taste disaster is to opt for the optional satnav which means that the speedo and rev counter then sit neatly just ahead of the steering wheel. All the other trademark MINI interior features remain including the great toggle switches.

The four Coup models go on sale from the 1st October. For £20,000 you get a fast, comfortable eye catching two-seater, with loads of boot space that will do the local town runs and still blast up Alpine passes and down the autoroute.

Engine: 1.6 litre Four cylinder with twin scroll turbo charger & direct injection
Power: 184hp/135kW at 5,500 rpm
Torque: 192 lb-ft with overboost
Top Speed: 143 mph
Basic Price: £19,775

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