The Northern Group Drives: August’s Road Test Reviews

Another month has rushed by and once again our members have been busy driving new vehicles up and down the land (and at least one other land), from launches and first drives to manufacturer events and some loaner vehicles.

August has been a mixed bag in terms of the weather, and a little lull between major events in the NGMW’s calendar as our AGM passed in July while our annual Car of the Year driving day and of course SMMT Test Day North will be coming up in September.

In the absence of significant launch events up in our part of the world, we’ve got quite the variety of vehicles in this month’s round-up which contains just a small slice of the several million pounds’ worth of motors the Group drove over August 2023.

Annabelle and Ben Quirk are up first this month, with their review of the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo for PlanetAuto. This range-topping trim of the B-segment hatch attracts Ben’s eye for its “clean minimalist design”, and he seems rather taken by the mix of the 148hp engine and seven-speed DSG gearbox.

Elsewhere in the Volkswagen Group catalogue, Will Kilner was driving the Audi TT in S-Line 40 Roadster specification for the Telegraph & Argus. He concludes that the TT “is as good as ever” as Audi prepares to retire the model.

Ben Harrington of Driving Torque has also been driving an Audi, this time the A4 Avant. Lamenting certain other brands’ choices to cut back on estate cars, Ben is full of praise for this one, particularly the interior which “looks and feels a level above the rest in its class”.

Meanwhile James Fossdyke has been at the other end of the wide Volkswagen Group family, driving the Porsche 718 Spyder RS for the Business Post. This, he concludes, is “an astonishing car that’s capable of astonishing things”, further nothing that it’s “one of the best road-going sports cars ever made”. A potential 2024 Northern Group Car of the Year winner then?

David Thomas took a first drive in the new Honda ZR-V for his Auto Bears channel and came away “very impressed”, though with a caveat about the car’s near-£40k entry price.

It’s been a bit of a pick-up month too, with no fewer than four reviews of open-backed load-luggers. Julie Marshall was one of two members to review the Ford Ranger Raptor, in the Yorkshire Post, remarking that “it proved magnificent” off-road, but was a little more concerning to drive around town. Ben Harrington also remarked on its “go-anywhere-fast ability”. Andrew Walker, for Company Car & Van, was playing with the next model down, the Wildtrack, and described it as “a triumph”.

Of course you’d expect resident off-roader Damian Turner to be testing a pickup, and this month he got his hands on the Toyota Hilux GR Sport for The Mud Life. He felt that the sportier focus of this model made it “a bit harsh” on green lanes but still “exceptionally competent”.

In more serene off-roading, two members were in Range Rover vehicles. Mike Torpey was driving the Sport PHEV for Car Review UK, feeling that it’s “the ideal model in the line-up”. Andy Harris, writing for the Yorkshire Times, was driving the full-sized Range Rover, commenting that it’s “a jack of all trades, and a master of them all”.

Elsewhere both Andrew Walker and Frederic Manby were driving hybrid versions of the DS7, with Andrew commenting that it’s “a serious player” in the sector and Frederic — for the Yorkshire Post — who praised the “mechanical refinement and general niceness”. Frederic was also driving the Subaru Forester this month, noting that “everything fits purpose”, especially the “impeccable all-terrain ability”.

George Loveridge was driving the Suzuki Swift Sport for Travel News Update, praising the car’s balance as “incredible and is extremely confidence inspiring”. Some way up the performance spectrum, Andrew Evans was saying farewell to the McLaren 720S for GTPlanet, remarking that it’s a “superlative performance car that is no harder to deal with on a day-to-day basis than a Mazda MX-5.”