14 DECEMBER 2009


© 2022 Business Travel News Ltd.

Airport forum

BRITISH AIRPORT OPERATORS ASSOCIATION (AOA) were treated to a rare get-together last week when British Airways Chief Executive Willie Walsh, his opposite number at Virgin Atlantic, Steve Ridgway, BAA's Colin Matthews and Birmingham Airport's Paul Kehoe sat together on a panel.  They faced a series of questions dealing with the future of air transport.  The event was boosted by publication of the Committee on Climate Change report that morning which, surprising some, favoured a Heathrow third runway.  The previous day MPs had also called for Heathrow expansion (see last week’s AERBT).  Walsh was emphatic in attacking current Conservative party policy and warned that it will make the "biggest mistake ever" if it blocks a third runway at Heathrow.  Theresa Villiers, the latest Shadow Transport Minister, is particularly vehement in her opposition but has yet to come up with a practical alternative. www.aoa.org.uk

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Boston gains five-star hotel

W HOTELS has opened a new property at Boston (USA), its 35th hotel globally.  Located in the heart of the city, just by Boston Common and virtually on the “Freedom Trail” it features 235 guest rooms and 123 W-branded residences.  There is an underground bar and lounge called Descent.  The opening comes just after the soft introduction of another W Hotel in an equally significant port city, Barcelona (see AERBT 12 October).

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December flight figures

OAG has published flight and passenger seat numbers for December, the figures including all scheduled airlines, whether members of IATA or not.  The OAG database indicates that the world’s airlines will operate 1% more flights in December 2009 as compared to December 2008 and offer 4% more seats.  The number of flights and seat capacity within the Middle East is expected to rise by 19% and 23% respectively.  North America continues to show a decline with 2% drop compared to December 2008 and seats down 3%.  Europe flight operations has reduced by 2% but there is a marginal increase of 1% in the offered seats. www.oag.com

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Flybe goes German

FLYBE is to introduce a three times daily service from Newcastle to Hannover from the start of the summer season 31 March 2010.  Operating with Bombardier Q400 aircraft the route will also link both ways from Exeter, offering for the first time ever a direct through route from Devon's capital to Germany.  The flights will operate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. www.flybe.com

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Northern Ireland airports

BELFAST CITY AIRPORT (formerly called Sydenham and then Harbour, and now George Best) is the subject of intense speculation regarding an extension of the current 1800m runway by a further 500m. This would make it viable for long range and wide bodied aircraft.  It is possible that a public enquiry would not be needed but any expansion could cause serious problems at Belfast International Airport, already suffering from airline relocations.  Surprisingly Mike Rutter, Commercial Director of Flybe, the airport’s largest operator opposes any changes: “We believe the runway extension will change fundamentally the character of the airport which will make it less attractive for people to come and visit Belfast as a place to do business,” a claim which hardly stands up to scrutiny. www.belfastcityairport.com

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Servisair expands ground handling

SERVISAIR has exchanged contracts with Go-Ahead plc to acquire their regional ground handling business at 11 airports in the UK.  The agreement encompasses Aviance operations at Aberdeen, Belfast City, Belfast International, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Luton, Manchester, Southampton and Stansted airports.  The package includes the Aviance lounges at Birmingham, Gatwick and Luton airports.  The Servisair umbrella now covers 24 UK airports.  Dubai's DNATA, a unit of the Emirates Group, is acquiring Plane Handling, also part of Go-Ahead, and its passenger and ramp handling operations at Terminal 3 and 4 at Heathrow. www.servisair.co.uk

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Wright Brothers descendent in London

THE ROYAL AERONAUTICAL SOCIETY (RAeS) was established in 1866 and is still very much around today as a professional body with an international network of 63 branches.  Its prestigious headquarters are in Park Lane, next door to the Intercontinental Hotel.  In 1909 Wilbur & Orville Wright came to London to receive the Society’s first two Gold Medals.  Orville Wright (Wilbur died in 1912) always had an affinity to London, the original Wright Flyer on display at the Science Museum London from 1928 until 1948 after a row with the Washington’s Smithsonian.  To mark this 100th anniversary the Society invited Amanda Wright Lane, family keeper of the Wright name, and great grand niece of the brothers, to this year’s ceremony held last week.  A Gold Medal, this time around, was awarded to Emirates President Tim Clark.  Ms Wright Lane brought with her the original medal which is now on display at the RAeS together with the Silver Medal awarded to Samuel Cody in the same year.  An American by birth Cody was the first man to conduct a powered flight in Britain, on 16 October 1908. www.raes.org.uk

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HAPPY TALK: A coppers tale

An off-duty police officer, familiar with radar guns, drove through a school zone within the legal speed limit when the flash of a camera went off, taking a picture of his licence plate. The officer, thinking the radar was in error, drove by again; even more slowly. Another flash. He did it again for a third time, at an even slower speed. Same result. "This guy must have screwed up the settings," the off-duty officer thought. A few weeks later, when he received the penalties in the mail, he discovered three traffic tickets: Each for not wearing a seat belt!

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COMMENT: Daylight robbery

No doubt you have heard the expression, but did you know that it probably dates back to 1696.  It was an anti-taxation expression, and does have connotations today.

“Daylight robbery” refers to duty introduced in the reign of King William III by which houses with more than ten windows were penalised by an additional tariff.  It was assumed that this only affected rich people who could afford such glorious establishments.  The argument against was that residents were being robbed of daylight and that the tax, for that was what it was, had nothing to do with the building of houses but just another money grabbing scheme by the then government.  In various guises it remained until 1851.  In France the Doors And Windows Tax remained until 1926.

This Government imposed Air Passenger Duty (APD) at £5 for short haul services and £20 for long haul flights in November 2004 under an environmental pretext, a sort of 21st century version of the window charge.  In fact it was nothing more than a simple tax, finally admitted by the current Chancellor, the Transport Minister at the time.

Yes we are all thoroughly bored regarding APD but somehow we have to make this Government, and whoever will be in power later next year, come to its senses regarding yet another massive increase due in less than 12 months’ time. 

For most short haul flights the cost will be £12 in Economy but for really long distance trips, say Australia, the charge will be £85 Economy and £170 in Premium Economy.  Don’t ask for an upgrade!  It will scare off travellers connecting through Heathrow and (by being airside) not even stepping a foot in the United Kingdom.

And forget any ideas that if you travel on British Airways out of London City Airport to New York you will be taxed at the lower rate.  A single class aircraft with a seat pitch of more than 40" is charged at the higher duty rate.

An executive jet passenger pays no tax at all.

Let us consider what happens if you miss your flight for some reason.  The airline does not pay the tax.  Many refuse to reimburse the passenger on the grounds of handling costs (in this internet age).  It should be statutory that APD is returned to whoever paid for the ticket.

One thing for sure, 21st century jet aircraft are far quieter than their predecessors.  The industry has voluntarily made enormous efforts in noise and pollution reduction over the last 60 years since the first Comet passenger jet flew.  And the reward.  More tax.

You may ask the question “what aircraft is the worst offender in terms of din and smoke?”

Steve Ridgway of Virgin Atlantic answered that one at last week’s Airport Operators Association conference.  It is the Royal Air Force VC10 fleet based at RAF Brize Norton.  Steve lives near Oxford, perhaps 25 miles away, very much within earshot of the elderly transports.  They are the flying proof of how aviation has moved on.  The government should be taxing the Air Marshals not civilian travellers.

There is nothing more to add.  APD is daylight robbery.

Malcolm Ginsberg
Editor in Chief

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Atlanta introduces sleep rooms

ATLANTA HARTSFIELD, the world’s busiest airport in terms of passenger numbers, is to introduce sleep rooms.  This accommodation, which will be operated by Minute Suites, is a compact 213cm by 244cm and designed for travellers who want to relax, sleep or conduct business between their flights.  The rooms come equipped with a daybed sofa, pillows and fresh blankets.  Specially sound-proofed they have wi-fi, and a desk and phone.  The rooms are located in Concourse B and cost US$30 for the first hour and US$7.50 for each additional 15 minutes. www.atlanta-airport.com 

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British Airways gets closer to Iberia

BRITISH AIRWAYS has announced that Mr  Rafael Sánchez-Lozano Turmo will be joining the board as a Non-Executive Director with immediate effect.  Sánchez-Lozano is Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of Iberia.  BA Chairman, Martin Broughton, said: "Following the signing of the MOU with Iberia, there are many ways that the two airlines will be working closer together.  We are delighted to welcome Sánchez-Lozano on to the British Airways board and look forward to the wealth of experience that he will bring to the airline." www.ba.com

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easyJet changes

EASYJET Chief Executive Andy Harrison is to step down next June and the company will announce a replacement “in due course”.  Mr Harrison, who is leaving “to seek new challenges” will be involved in any appointment.  In recent weeks he has queried the BAA sale of Gatwick and fronted an easyJet press conference dealing with old and noisy aircraft.  He also clashed with easyJet’s founder and largest shareholder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, over the airline’s policy regarding expansion strategy.  Sir Stelios is of the belief that aggressive expansion should be curtailed at the present time.  He had been sceptical of management’s plans to increase capacity, arguing that with the recession the airline should be more conservative in its plans for expansion.  Over the six months the airline has lost Chairman Sir Colin Chandler, Finance Director Jeff Carr and PR Director Toby Nichol. www.easyjet.com

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Hertz connects

HERTZ CONNECTS, which claims to be the only global car sharing club, is to expand its operation to Berlin and Madrid.  Now firmly established in a number of cities across the United States, in Europe only London and Paris have hitherto been represented.  Essentially members pay a yearly (nominal) membership fee.  Users book a vehicle online or through a smartphone application and pay for the car on an hourly or daily rate.  Insurance and fuel costs are included in the price.  Vehicles are parked in garages and members are told where to pick up the car.  Drivers use an electronic card – received at the time of membership – to unlock the vehicle.  You can take the car anywhere, but have to bring it back to where it was picked up. www.hertz.com

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Open Skies

OPEN SKIES, the low profile British Airways operation between both Kennedy and Newark airport's  New York and Paris Orly, is to continue its two-class Boeing 757 services the airline has confirmed to Reuters.  After dumping an Amsterdam – New York service it says it will announce another new route shortly.  BA introduced OpenSkies in June 2008 and subsequently purchased a start-up French carrier, L'Avion for €68m (US$100m) in an expansion move.  It now claims a 74% load factor after industry rumours of very poor summer figures.  "We have no plans to sell OpenSkies or seek third party investment in the airline," BA said in a statement emailed to the news agency. www.flyopenskies.com

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Thames Clipper river services too

LONDON’S underground and overland rail services are to have a single, integrated ticket system for the first time after agreement was reached to extend Oyster smartcard ticketing to most of London’s mainline rail services from 2 January.  Thames Clipper river services will join on the same date.  The only inner-London services excluded from the new deal are the new southeastern high-speed services from Kent into St Pancras and the routes to Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted airports. www.tfl.gov.uk/oyster

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ON TOUR: International Luxury Travel Market

Hanging over the entrance to the 2009 International Luxury Travel Market swayed an enormous banner proclaiming “Definitely Dubai”.  It was just one of the many statements stimulating lively discussion and debate at the annual meeting – this year attended by thousands of luxury travel professionals including over 1,200 suppliers, 214 stand holders, and more than 1,100 international buyers.  The floor was busy.  The mood upbeat.

Dubai particularly epitomises everything about the glitz of what luxury represented in the early nineties.  However, at the opening forum a range of senior figures from the industry questioned the definition of luxury in today’s climate and suggested that the concept has felt a backlash in response to the economic crisis.  Tom Storey, President of Fairmont Hotels, opined that “luxury is in the eye of the beholder.”  What is suitable for one may not be for another.  Andrés Ergas, President of Nomads of the Seas, proposed luxury is “about giving people a new dimension, anyone can have a spa at a hotel, real luxury is being helicoptered onto a glacier and having a superb massage submerged in nature.  These days, it’s all about creating a memory.  There was no doubt that luxury is about exceeding expectations and needs.  However it is essential to know what these needs are and these are deemed to have changed.

Kristi Jones, President of Virtuoso argues the hotel industry is lagging behind in using technology to gain greater understanding of client requirements.  Technology used well can personalise the “wahoo” factor.  Use of effective technology within a fully integrated system means you can go that extra mile to ensure future business, “clients expect a seamless experience and technology can fulfil this role,” Jones continued.  The next generation of buyers will review, buy and inform about their travel experiences in a very different way.  Social networking sites, responsible ethics and population growth will ensure travel purchasing will be driven by different practise and those that respond to these drivers will be successful, ignore them at your peril.

Gone are the days of brash ostentation and the future lies with value.  Daniel Levine, trend expert from The Avant Guide Institute argued that travellers are “more value conscious and more conscious in their values”.  Value is no longer just about money, but relates to experiences, memories and even social values.  It is these the clients now seek, and must be matched by those looking to attract buyers.  Personalisation of these values will be key to future success in the market, as Ergas continued “it is more about the software than the hardware.”

Offering special discounts, or products tailored to an individual buyer, is more valuable than the customary champagne on arrival.  Personalisation is also particularly relevant to the changing demographics of the luxury traveller.  What is popular with Western luxury travellers differs immensely to Chinese and Indian visitors who are anticipated to form an extensive part of the future luxury travel population.

This growing demographic will also contribute to an increase in scarcity of destination and as such increases in price.  The future may see a time when sites such as Machu Pichu, or the Antarctic, may require booking years in advance, so creating an elite new set of travellers.  The super rich of course are looking further afield and Tom Storey of Space Adventures commented “we’ve sent more clients into space in the last 12 months than in the last three years – the eldest being 88.” 

Special guest speaker astronaut Dr Buzz Aldrin gave a passionate talk about the potential for space expansion suggesting governments really need to commit to programmes if the world is to be in a position to develop colonies on other planets.  Maybe a step too far in the future of luxury travel in the current climate but it came the same week as Richard Branson unveiled Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise in the Mojave Desert.  Branson predicts that economies of scale will ensure the opening price will drop enabling larger numbers of thrill seekers to take a flight.  The future is perhaps nearer than we think.

Unlike last year where the global depression hung a dark spectre over Cannes, this year’s ILTM was more optimistic.  Jennifer Fox of IHG said “booking rates are back to normal, even if rates aren’t where we’d like them to be” and Guy Crawford of Jumeirah added “we are at the end of the beginning”, an interesting comment from a business with its main stake in the beleaguered Dubai.

Out on the exhibition floor buyers appeared more focused this year with less pre-arranged appointments missed and increased walk-ons to exhibition stands.  Businesses are already showing signs of moving towards personalisation for their clients.  “We met a number of buyers who have responded to clients private jet requests whilst in previous years saw it as fringe to their business,” said Jon Ingi Jonsson, Managing Director of Icejet, the European private jet company who flew an ILTM selection of VIP buyers in and out of Cannes for organisers Reed Exhibitions.  Nigel Hack, Managing Director of luxury travel designers Madrid and Beyond, confirmed this saying “agents had a real sense of purpose about them this year.  We were pleased to see more long haul agents and noticed a rise in attendees from Brazil.”  As a buyer Farzana Dobbs of London-based agent The Travel Gallery commented, “there was a refreshing sense of optimism this year.  ILTM left me with a level of confidence that the industry are determined to work together to grow sales and improve margins in the year ahead.”  Travel Gallery is a prime example of how agents can offer clients more than just value for money.  Their new Sri Lanka programme offers visitors a chance to work within the local community so feeling more involved with the destination.  “Whilst we don’t anticipate strong demand for this type of holiday, there is a niche there to be met and it gives us an opportunity to provide help and advice to poor communities in Sri Lanka.”

Cannes itself seemed unaware of the client’s search for social values as the ILTM parties were as extravagant as ever, and the hotels as glamorous as always with many undergoing renovation and reforms to satisfy the ever more demanding client.  Whilst the Majestic, Carlton and Martinez continue to offer sartorial elegance we chose the funky option and stayed at the uber-cool Hotel 3.14.  Yes it had sparkle, from the glitter-balls in the public toilets, yes it had opulence in the fabulous crystals hanging from the ceiling and yes it had style, housed in a fabulous art deco building.  Four colourful canaries were a talking point behind a mirrored bird house in the jade and purple reception reflecting the sparkly stones in the floor.

What it also had was a real sense of fun and humour about it.  If as Glenn Pushelberg of hotel design house Yabu Pushelberg suggested hotels are as much about “the feeling they give you,” then Hotel 3.14 is undoubtedly a master at making you smile.  The special touches such as the turquoise sacred cow in reception, or the “love box” awaiting the passionate in their bedrooms, add a sense of fun.  Each floor is a continent and coloured accordingly.  Yet there is nothing lost in comfort, perfect service and attention for its guests.  In this writer’s opinion in a world gone crazy for opulence, the Hotel 3.14 perfectly enhances the guests feeling of fun, sensuousness and being cared for, all at once.  We’ve already reserved our rooms for next year….

Jane Stanbury & Alison Chambers

www.iltm.net  www.3-14hotel.com

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Airbus flies

AIRBUS A400M turboprop military transport took to the sky last Friday under the command of Cornishman Captain Ed Strongman.  The Airbus A400M features the same proven fly-by-wire controls technology as the highly successful airliner family and an advanced cockpit that has evolved from that of the A380.  Carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) wings and other large structures bring weight and strength advantages and cut the risk of corrosion.  The wings are made at Filton.  A total of 184 aircraft have so far been ordered by Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. www.airbusmilitary.com

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BAA traffic commentary, November 2009

BAA has issued figures that show that traffic at all its UK airports rose 0.8% in November, the first net monthly increase since March 2008.  BAA’s UK airports handled a total of 9.9m passengers in November.  More significantly it marked the first time since March 2008 that BAA’s airports have recorded a collective increase, and follows a six-month run of gradually improving results.  Heathrow’s continued resilience is highlighted by the fourth monthly increase in the last five months, a far better performance than competing continental airports.  Gatwick marked its last full month under BAA ownership with a 4.5% increase, while Edinburgh was again up, 1.3% on last November.  Stansted is still suffering (down 2.7%) and likewise Glasgow with a loss of 4.7% passengers in November. www.baa.com

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Coventry Airport update

COVENTRY AIRPORT flight operations were shut down by the leaseholder West Midlands International Airport Ltd last Tuesday, who themselves were placed into receivership by the High Court the following day.  Ownership now reverts to Coventry City Council, the title-holder of the freehold.  Tenants and users have been seriously inconvenienced some more than others.  West Atlantic Airlines, Europe’s largest regional cargo airline, uses Coventry mainly as an administration and engineering base, its small nightly movements moved to Birmingham Airport.  Air Atlantique has been forced to cancel its pre-Christmas pleasure flights but the popular open day took place yesterday (Sunday 13 December).  Atlantic Flight Training is operating on a temporary basis at Wellesbourne and the other tenants have also relocated aircraft causing expensive logistical problems.  City Council Leader Ken Taylor said it was a "real blow" to Coventry and he believed the city should have its own airport.  He said: "We remain committed to the long-term future of the site as an airport and we will be doing all that we can to support the attempts to secure new ownership and on-going commercial management." www.coventryairport.co.uk

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Europe not out of the woods

ACI EUROPE, the airport trade organisation, has revealed that the overall passenger traffic at European airports decreased by -2.1% in October 2009 compared with October 2008.  This was the 14th month of traffic decline.  The accumulated figure for passenger traffic January to October 2009 decreased by -7.2% compared with the corresponding period 2008.  It is clear that the European airports are not out of the woods yet in financial terms and the year-end figures will be scrutinised very carefully. www.aci-europe.org

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London gets Javelin

LONDON bound passengers originating in Kent will be able to take advantage of the new and frequent 140mph Javelin service from Dover, Folkstone, Ramsgate and Canterbury from today onwards after an official send-off by Transport Minister Lord Adonis.  The trains will also stop at Stratford International and Ebbsfleet near the Bluewater shopping centre.  A normal day return from typically Dover costs £55 although an off-peak is available at £24.  Average journey time is 1hr 10mins to St Pancras, considerably less than the two-hour traditional journey to Charing Cross. www.southeasternrailway.co.uk

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Oz route speeds up

QATAR AIRWAYS has introduced a three times per week service linking Doha non-stop to Melbourne (Australia).  With a total journey time 21hrs 40mins from Heathrow, including a short stopover in Doha, it is claimed to be the shortest ever timing between London and Melbourne.  It is the airline's 85th destination and fourth new route of 2009.  The carrier plans to launch flights to Sydney next year.  From 1 January 2010 the route goes daily when a second three-class Boeing 777LR is delivered. www.qatarairways.com

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United Airlines goes for both

UNITED AIRLINES has committed itself to both the Airbus and Boeing wide-bodied aircraft now under development.  In what is its first contract for new aircraft in ten years, and after emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2006, the airline is in a forward thinking mood.  It recently completed the very successful upgrade of the long haul 767 fleet, and is undertaking the same task for its 777s.  Whilst neither manufacturer has officially confirmed orders, Roll-Royce has said that they will be supplying 25 Trent engine sets for the Airbus 350 XWB and Boeing has issued a press release noting that it is delighted that United Airlines is to continue its 80-year relationship with a 787 order (for 25 aircraft). www.united.com

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MOTORING UPDATE by Ted Wilkinson

Lexus IS-F 5.0 V8

Unassuming but with a Massive Punch

Looks can be deceptive, no more so than those of the Lexus IS-F 5.0 V8.  Here is a car based on what was originally designed as a premium grade ‘junior executive’ saloon alternative to the likes of the BMW 3 Series or the Audi A4.

It has been created by equipping it with Lexus’ most powerful stock engine, a V8 road burner churning out 417 bhp from its 5-litre engine and if ever there was a so-called ‘Q’ car, this is it!

At a glance it looks a conservative sort of car that would probably pass unnoticed in a lot of company car parks though closer scrutiny reveals four large exhaust pipes, a rear spoiler, cosmetic wing vents behind the front wheels, a bigger than standard bonnet housing large twin air intakes and sporting high powered active headlamps.

Climb into the driving seat and there is little evidence that this car is extra special. There are the usual high quality appointments and excellent finish that is the Lexus norm though the clues are the presence of paddle gear shifts on the leather covered steering wheel, white faced instrument dials with blue hands and a goodly supply of aluminium trim, including the twin pedals and foot rest.

The electrically powered driving seat is supportive and reasonably comfortable but not deeply upholstered and the cabin ergonomics and driver vision (aided by a rear view camera when reversing) makes the driver feel welcome to the task of exploiting the car’s performance qualities, providing that a combined fuel consumption figure of 24.8 mpg and an urban figure of 16.8 mpg are acceptable.

Few will probably be able to savour the outright potential of a top speed claimed to be governed to 168 mph though all drivers will appreciate, under safe conditions, the shove in the back acceleration from rest to 62 mph (100 kph) in a claimed 4.8 seconds!

It is this performance potential that has recently encouraged Humberside Police Road Crime team to add examples to their fleet…so watch out when venturing to the North of England!

Fire this car up and it really does fire up with a vigorous exhaust burble and a feel of vibrancy through the car’s body that reminds me of some of the potent racing saloon cars prowling around the pits and paddocks before being unleashed onto the race track.  To a great extent this car also replicates the enjoyable experiences of raw power I recall from driving the Lotus Carlton saloon back in the early 1990s.

Power is dispensed to the rear wheels via a highly responsive 8-speed automatic transmission that is certainly responsive to the throttle in a busy manner that makes me wonder whether all those cogs are necessary to control such a broad spread of power.

Lexus has been able to take on the established high performance saloons regularly offered by the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi etc. as a result of having a platform that can cope with a lot more power than the original 2.0-litre with which it started life.

This means a fully independent suspension system that has been extensively reworked to add more grip and stability while retaining the impressive responsiveness of the original though at the cost of a very firm ride despite the selectable Sports Dynamics system.

Braking performance through four ventilated discs with all the electronic aids is highly efficient and easy on the leg muscles while the electrically assisted steering is sufficiently responsive to enable a discerning driver to optimise the performance in both an enjoyable and safe fashion while providing an easy driving character under heavy traffic conditions.

As with all Lexus products the lifestyle is to a very high standard, competitive with the opposition, this car not lacking in upmarket equipment and is tastefully rather than elaborately trimmed and designed to protect its occupants with an array of no fewer than ten airbags, including one to protect the driver’s knees.

A very special car for a very special driver, the Lexus IS-F is a memorable experience, prioritising performance over practicality to create a car of outstanding qualities that does not attract too much attention.

OPTIONAL FOR PUBLICATION: Main Rivals: Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG £51,570, Audi S6 £57,755, BMW M3 £50,245, Jaguar XJV8 XJR £59,093.


Performance 9

Handling 9
Transmission 8
Noise 9
Economy 7
Ride and Comfort 8
Accommodation 8
Styling 8
Brakes 9
Finish 9

TOTAL: 84%    From £53,381


AUDI: A Stop-Start economy function is now offered on the Audi A3 automatic transmission models at a cost of £1,420.  The cars already have a kinetic recuperation system to harness energy created during braking.  A3 1.4 TFSI and 1.6TDI are the first models to benefit with prices starting from £18,905 on the road.  First Deliveries are being made.

BMW: Around 4,000 low-carbon emission BMW vehicles will provide support for the 2012 London Olympic Games.  Lord Coe, Chairman of the London Organising Committee, recently announced that BMW would be the Tier One Partner and the exclusive automotive sponsor of the Games.

FORD: A voice control system is now available from as little as £150 on the Ford car range - standard on the top models, optional on the smaller models. The system can operate climate control, audio and satellite navigations systems.  In another marketing move  £99 service is being offered through Ford dealerships. The offer also includes a years free roadside assist.

MICHELIN: The 2010 edition of Michelin’s Eating Out in Pubs guide is now in bookshops, priced at £14.99 (€19.99 in Ireland)

will shake up the mid-sized MPV people carrier this  January when it launches its new 5008 model in the UK.  Taking up about the same road/garage space as an average sized hatch back and offered in five and seven seat forms, the new model is powered by 1.6 and 2.0-litre ultra high efficiency/refinement engines developed in conjunction with BMW that proved impressive performers in pre-announcement test driving.  An impressive vehicle to drive, cleverly designed for practical, comfortable and easy lifestyles, the 5008 builds on the exceptionally high quality standards evident on the current Peugeot car putting the product in direct competition on build quality with established prestige car brands.  With prices starting from £16,895 I would say that the Peugeot 5008 is the ‘sale of the century’.

PORSCHE: A further development of the 911 GT3 R will debut for the 2010 motor sport season.  Designed to meet the FIA GT3 regulations the car is reported to provide easier handling and better driveability.

QATAR has new Rolls-Royce showroom on Pearl Island, the Emirates  most exclusive address.  Qatar, unlike neighbour Dubai,  relies on oil and gas for funds. www.newspress.co.uk/counter/Rolls_Royce/click.php?id=51

SKODA: UK sales for the first three quarters of this year topped a recession-busting 25,000 cars and world-wide sales for the same period were 6.5% above those of the same period in 2008.

TOYOTA: Now on sale is the new generation Toyota Landcruiser, a 5-door model providing 7-seat capacity and using a high efficiency 3.0-litre D-4D turbo diesel engine and a 5-speed automatic gearbox.  Offered in three equipment grades, prices start at £29,795 on the road.

Hard on the heels of the sales launch of the 5-door VW Polo range, comes the announcement of a 3-door version aimed at a wider customer audience with prices starting from £9,435 on the road - a saving of £600.

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