All posts by Macfivenews

Motoring and travel journalist, opinionated gob on a stick

Olly Murs centre stage

X factor star at Warwick Castle

ward-winning X-Factor finalist Olly Murs will be returning to Warwick Castle as one of the venues for his open-air summer 2021 tour.
Guests can enjoy the singer’s cheeky performance style and catchy vocals against the stunning backdrop of the Castle on Tuesday 20 July 2021, and Olly says: “I’m so excited to come and perform at this beautiful location again”. The singer last performed at the Castle in 2011, and this time fans can expect to hear some of his biggest hits including ‘Dear Darlin’, ‘Heart Skips A Beat’, ‘You Don’t Know Love’, and ‘Wrapped Up’ during his set.
Liam Bartlett, Operations Director at Warwick Castle said: “We are thrilled to be able to welcome Olly Murs back to Warwick Castle next summer. This announcement adds another exciting date to the 2021 calendar following our previousl
y announced Michael Bublé concert, demonstrating what a fantastic live events venue Warwick Castle is.
We have lots of other exciting plans ahead to ensure that after a very challenging year, 2021 is a bumper year for great entertainment.” The Castle will also be hosting Michael Buble as part of his rescheduled ‘An Evening with Michael Bublé’ tour on Friday 23 July, making for a month to remember at the Castle following Olly Murs’ performance on Tuesday 20 July.
Well-known as a fantastic live shows and concert venue, Warwick Castle has previously played host to artists such as Jessie J, The Beach Boys and Simply Red.  Since becoming runner-up on The X Factor in 2009, Murs has achieved four number one albums, five platinum LPs, collaborated with Demi Lovato, Snoop Dogg and Flo Rida and scored four UK number one singles.
He’s become one of the most successful alumni from the reality TV competition and has returned to host the series as well as become a coach on rival series The Voice.
Tickets for Olly Murs’ concert at Warwick Castle go on sale on Friday 9 October via For more information on the Castle’s events during 2020 and 2021, head to

BMW’s iconic badge returns

BMW’s iconic badge returns

  • The famed ‘ti’ badge returns to the BMW range. 
  • Designed to deliver exhilarating driving enjoyment. 
  • M Sport specification as standard. 
  • 265hp petrol engine with BMW TwinPower turbo technology. 
  • Torsen limited-slip differential and bespoke M Sport suspension. 
  • Exclusive accents contribute to striking appearance and sporty interior. 
  • November 2020 launch, priced from £32,995 OTR.

The interior of the BMW 128ti features high-class materials, with red accents throughout creating a bold contrast to the black headlining. A large ‘Race Red’ surface adorns the front centre sections of the standard Sensatec/cloth sport seats. A red ‘ti’ is stitched into the centre armrest which – like the door armrests, the door panels, the instrument panel and floor mat edging – also features red contrast stitching. The steering wheel rim and airbag cover of the standard M Sport steering wheel also feature red stitching. Standard equipment also includes the M door sill strips on the front door openings, and M seat belts. Boston backlit trim strips are standard whilst the Berlin trim is available as an alternative.

Perforated Dakota leather and M Sport seats available as options
The M Sport seats are optionally available in perforated Dakota leather – in Black or in Magma Red with grey accents. If the latter is chosen, the contrast stitching and ‘ti’ badge are in grey and the floor mats have stitching in the BMW M colours.

The infotainment features of BMW Operating System 7.0 are accessed via a display screen of up to 10.25 inches with the optional BMW Live Cockpit Professional. Gesture control is also available and a 9.2‑inch BMW Head-Up Display can be specified as options. The load compartment has a capacity of 380 litres, rising to 1,200 litres with the rear seat folded. Electric tailgate operation is also optionally available. Folding Mirrors, Heated Seats and cabin Ambient Lighting are also included as standard.

Bespoke, lowered M Sport suspension
The new BMW 128ti is available exclusively with specially tuned, bespoke M Sport suspension. It has the firmer anti-roll bars and anti-roll bar mounts from the range‑topping BMW M135i xDrive, plus stiffer modified springs and shock absorbers – it’s also10mm lower. This, combined with a model-specific steering setup that has been designed to further minimise torque steer, results is even sharper driving dynamics. A weight saving of around 80kg over the all-wheel-drive BMW M135i xDrive contributes to the sporting performance of the BMW 128ti.

Torsen limited-slip differential for improved traction
The BMW 128ti is equipped with the same Torsen limited-slip differential as the BMW M135i xDrive. As well as increasing traction, agility and stability, the limited-slip differential also gives the car excellent cornering ability.

If the inside wheel loses grip while powering through a bend and the driver accelerates at the same time, the limited-slip differential directs more torque to the wheel with greater grip, thereby preventing wheel slip and enhancing traction and agility.

BMW Performance Control and ARB technology
The mechanical limited-slip differential is assisted by several electronic control systems. One system that has been specially modified for the BMW 128ti is BMW Performance Control, whose ‘sharper’ yaw moment distribution boosts rear axle agility. ARB (near-actuator wheel slip limitation) technology is also utilised, as it is on all models in the BMW 1 Series range. This newly developed traction control system, that made its combustion-engine debut on the 1 Series, features a slip controller positioned directly in the engine control unit rather than in the control unit for the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system, enabling ARB to work ten times faster. As a result, not only is operation smoother and more sensitive, the system can also make maximum use of the potential traction offered by different road surfaces. The ARB technology works with DSC to significantly reduce the power understeer that can affect front-wheel-drive cars.

Standard M Sport brakes and sport tyres
As in the BMW M135i xDrive, the BMW 128ti is fitted with M Sport brakes, which provide increased fade resistance and exceptional feel. The front callipers bear the M logo and are painted red (a first for a BMW 1 Series model). The front brakes consist of aluminium four‑piston monoblock fixed callipers and 360mm x 30mm inner-vented discs, while floating callipers with inner-vented brake discs measuring 300mm x 20mm are at the rear.

The 18-inch Y-spoke 553 M bi-colour light-alloy wheels exclusively fitted on the BMW 128ti can be specified with sport tyres (Michelin Pilot Sport 4) in 225/40 R18 format as a no-cost option.

The 19-inch double-spoke 552 M light-alloy wheel with 235/35 R19 tyres is also optionally available.

265hp, 2.0-litre engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology
The engine in the BMW 128ti is a direct offshoot of the BMW Group’s most powerful four-cylinder unit. The 2.0-litre engine was modified with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology and produces 265hp from 4,750-6,500rpm. Peak torque of 400Nm is available from 1,750-4,500rpm. The BMW 128ti can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds and reach a limited top speed of 155mph. Despite this strong performance, the 128ti returns combined fuel consumption of 44.1 – 46.3mpg* and emits only 148-139g/km of CO2*. This enables it to meet the Euro 6d exhaust standard. The standard Active Sound Design (ASD) ensures the driver can enjoy a distinctive engine sound in the cabin without any increase in external noise.

Lightweight M Performance Parts enhance aerodynamics and exterior stylingCustomers can personalise the new BMW 128ti with accessories from the exclusive M Performance Parts range, which has been developed with the expertise of BMW M GmbH .

Various lightweight parts in new carbon-fibre look and High-gloss Black components further enhance the sporting appearance of the BMW 128ti. The M Performance front splitter, the rear diffuser and the roof-edge spoiler with air through-flow and the aero flics in High-gloss Black optimise aerodynamics. These M Performance Parts have been developed specifically for the BMW 1 Series and adapted in the wind tunnel to work together perfectly. The hand-made, high-quality carbon-fibre components that also include M Performance exterior mirror caps are sealed with clear coat and given a high-gloss polished finish. 18-inch forged wheel Y-Spoke 711 M in Ferric Grey and the 19-inch M Performance bi‑colour light-alloy wheel Double-spoke 555 M with polished finish are optionally available.

The M Performance steering wheel, complete with Alcantara covering, large thumb rests, red marking in the 12 o’clock position and silver-grey hand cross-stitching adds to the race car feel of the BMW 128ti interior. For even more sportiness, there is the M Performance Steering wheel cover in carbon fibre/Alcantara or carbon fibre/leather with M Performance lettering, plus M Performance Shift paddles in carbon fibre to operate the eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission.

Slump in railway journeys

Rail travellers and commuters in Sutton Coldfield say they have noticed a huge drop off in train journeys during the pandemic.

Rail passenger journeys in Great Britain fell to the lowest levels last seen in the mid-nineteenth century, official statistics from the Office of Rail and Road have revealed.

Commuters have noticed the change at stations across the town.

Office worker Dave Johnson, from Four Oaks, who works near Cenentary Square said: “It’s really eerie on the train at times after being packed in like sardines on the rush hour commute. Parking is also a breeze, particularly at Blake Street. It’s a shame this has happened under such tragic circumstances.

Nationally, 35 million journeys are estimated to have been made in the first quarter of 2020-21 (April to June 2020). This is a decrease of more than 400 million compared to the same quarter last year, highlighting the severe effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on passenger numbers.

More journeys were recorded in London and the South East compared to the rest of the country. Govia Thameslink Railway recorded 7.5 million passenger journeys this quarter, the most of any operator.

Recent estimates published by the Department for Transport show that current national rail use was predicted to be 32% of what would be expected on an equivalent day.

Graham Richards, Director of Railway Planning and Performance at the Office of Rail and Road, said:

“This unprecedented fall in passenger numbers, the largest on record to levels last seen in the mid-nineteenth century, has clearly had an impact on both rail usage and also ticketing revenue.

“These figures include the period of lockdown and reassuringly we’re now seeing passenger numbers slowly increase. ORR has worked closely with the industry, and continues to do so, to ensure the necessary health and safety advice and guidance is in place.

“Rail is one of the safest ways to travel and our inspectors continue to monitor the reality on the ground to ensure people have the confidence that they can travel safely.”

Total passenger revenue in Great Britain was £184 million in 2020-21 Q1. This equates to 6.9% of the £2.7 billion in 2019-20 Q1.

Anytime/Peak tickets accounted for 24.1% of all passenger revenue this quarter – the lowest share for such tickets in any quarter since the time series began in 2010-11.

Police scheme saved my life says victim

A woman who says she would have ended up dead or in prison has praised a West Midlands scheme, funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner, for saving her life.
Jacqui (not her real name) from Birmingham was, for years, the victim of violent and controlling behaviour at the hands of her partner. Things escalated to the point that he controlled her mentally, financially, socially and even sexually.
But it was after he stopped giving her enough money to feed her children that she began shoplifting.
Until one day she was caught.
However, ironically, she says it was getting caught that saved her life. Police offered her a route to safety by referring her to a scheme funded by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner called New Chance.
The PCC has now announced that the scheme will be funded until at least April 2021.
The initiative offers hundreds of female offenders in the region the help they need to rebuild their lives and step away from criminality. It recognises that offending often stems from trauma, such as domestic violence, poverty, mental health or addiction.
So far 700 women in our area have been helped by the programme. Jacqui is now in a much better place and is hoping to return to work.
The PCC set up the £270,000 a year New Chance initiative in order to break the cycle of offending amongst women. The aim is to take women away from the Criminal Justice System who have been identified by the police as someone who might benefit from extra support. This help includes practical and emotional help based on a woman’s individual needs. It’s estimated the investment in the New Chance programme has saved several million pounds in costs associated with offending.
The project launched in 2016 to operate across Birmingham and the Black Country. Based on the success of the programme, New Chance has now been rolled out right across the West Midlands area. It is run by a number of organisations including Anawim, Black Country Women’s Aid, Fry Accord Housing and Changing Lives.
A recent evaluation by the University of Birmingham shows that women with mental health issues, enrolled on the New Chance scheme, were up to 37% less likely to reoffend. Whilst reoffending rates amongst women with substance misuse issues dropped by more than half.
The initiative has been so successful that it’s been shortlisted for an award by the Howard League for Penal Reform.
“It is so pleasing to hear a success story like Jacqui’s”, said Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson.  
“I’ve been funding the New Chance scheme for four years because we know it’s making a difference to the lives of hundreds of women, breaks the cycle of crime and saves the taxpayer money.
“Many female offenders are actually victims themselves and have been subject to untold abuse. New Chance works because it tackles those underlying problems.  
“This initiative is helping to reduce crime, our prisons are less full, hundreds of women’s lives have been saved and fewer victims have been created.
“I am delighted the New Chance programme has been nominated for a Howard League Penal Reform award.”
Meanwhile Jacqui, said: “In early adulthood I was a successful, confident young woman with everything to live for.
“I then started a relationship with a man who became very controlling and violent – mentally, physically, sexually and financially.
“With no money and no way of feeding my children, I regret to say I took to stealing food from shops.
“Before long I got caught. But that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I explained to the shop manager and the police officers what was happening at home and before long I was receiving the right kind of help from police and the New Chance programme.
“Without the help of the New Chance programme I would have either ended up in prison or dead.”
Sarah Gallagher is the Service Manager at Anawim, one of the organisations that runs New Chance,  she said: “New Chance has enabled us to work with West Midlands Police to provide early intervention for women who have received a conditional caution.
“It is important to provide the support at the right time before they become entrenched within the criminal justice system.
“The outcomes have been fantastic, from supporting women financially, dealing with childhood trauma, domestic violence and sexual violence to supporting women into employment.”

M8: Electric pace and luxury

BMW is simply dynamite

BMW M8 Competition

By Bill McCarthy

IT may come as some surprise to hear BMW say that its twin new models, the M8 Competition coupe and convertible are its first foray into the luxury performance car market.

Having driven the extremely rapid M850i recently, that left me scratching my head. But when you are talking about power units that deliver supercar performance, small increments make a difference.

Both  models feature a brutally powerful 4.4-litre V8 engine with twin turbos and the now familiar BMW M Steptronic eight-speed transmission, delivering a stonking 635hp and 750Nm of torque. 

This in turn delivers neck-wrenching performance with the car hitting 62mph in just 3.2 and 3.3 seconds respectively. 

For those who care about the incremental performance, the well over half a second to 3.9 seconds difference between that and the M850i may seem to make the latter almost pedestrian by comparison. 

The Competition model also offers a track driving mode, where rear wheel drive can be selected and up to 189 mph can be hit where permitted.

Power is delivered by two turbochargers, cross-bank exhaust manifolds, direct injection with increased pressure, plus cooling and oil supply systems designed for maximum track performance.

All this power need to be transferred to the wheels in an efficient and safe manner and the four wheel with the model specific adaptive suspension and chassis improvements means the big beast is rarely troubled when you turn on the power.

This became apparent with a full day’s drive up and down the twisting roads and passes of the mountains of southern Spain near Malaga. Difficult roads to test the performance and handling of any vehicle were dismissed by this luxury thoroughbred in the most beautiful Andalusian setting.

Choose full auto or switch to the paddles and the car is a delight, clinging limpet like on horseshoe bends with the big slabs of rubber on the 20-inch wheels and blasting away on the rare stretches of straight road. The convertible was driven first and on a sunny day the roof was straight down.

The car does look good, predatory, almost feline in profile in both coupe and convertible guise and features a hexagonal theme with upgraded black kidney grille carbon-fibre and large apron underneath. 

To the rear there is a carbon-fibre spoiler, four exhaust pipes and diffuser for the cabrio. The coupe features a double bubble carbon fibre roof while the convertible offers a fabric top which folds away in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. When not required it can be folded to half its size and stowed in the boot.

The interior is the last word in luxury, functionality and comfort with powered front seats, featuring with warm air collars in the headrests in the convertible for when it gets chilly. Trim is of the highest quality with Merino leather, anthracite headliner, top quality soft touch finish and a riot of carbon fibre, leather, thick carpets, and the familiar M  branding throughout on seats, sills and doors.

These include red accents on the M leather steering wheel’s M buttons and the start/stop button on the centre console. The newly designed transmission selector lever with Drivelogic switch is leather-surfaced with an embedded M logo and stitching.

The latest  iDrive infotainment system dominates with the so-called Live Cockpit Professional 12.3-inch display which controls, navigation, infotainment and and a raft of connectivity services and apps with at last Android Auto being included from next year in addition to Apple CarPlay.

In addition the BMW Connected Package Professional adds remote services and real time traffic information. There’s also M8-specific dials which can be selected by the driver on the digital display and the couple of drive selector red buttons on the steering wheel.

Driving it is a real experience, floor the throttle and the exhaust acoustics change depending which mode is selected via the M Sound Control button on the centre console. By selecting SPORT PLUS the engine sounds more like a racing car as the roar of the V8 kicks in.

Two variants of this M setup can be stored permanently with the driver’s preferred settings for the engine sound, gearshift characteristics and driving stability control on either of those two red M buttons on the steering wheel. 

On the road the huge amount of torque means power delivery is instantaneous, even allowing for overtaking with comfort on twisting  roads. The 4WD Sport mode  diverts a larger slice of engine power to the rear wheels. Deactivating the Dynamic Stability Control system (DSC) transfers power exclusively to the rear wheels for a more engaging drive.

The handling is peerless with the slip differential, adaptive suspension and active chassis keeping the car firmly planted while the beautifully weighted steering is direct and responsive, especially when you need to instantly avoid a herd of sheep crossing a mountain road.

But it’s not just about the madcap performance. Slowing down through mountain villages, the car settles into a docile mode, but on the other side, feathering the throttle unleashes all the power again.

Is it also a superb motorway cruiser and happy to sit at 70 mph, but here allowed, again a blip of the throttle means that huge torque delivers brilliant overtaking speed.

For safety, the M compound brakes are standard while larger  carbon-ceramic brakes are an option as the car provides a full  complement of safety kit. In addition it features cameras which can record and store the previous 20 seconds on the car’s activity on the hard drive, plus full complement of airbags, stability and traction control and assisted braking.

Rollover protection system is standard on the convertible which also includes a wind deflector, which can be set up in the rear-seat area to prevent unwanted air turbulence when driving with the roof down.

For the record claimed economy is around the 25mpg mark, obviously dependent on how you drive and emissions over the 250 g/km mark ain’t going to save you anything on benefit in kind taxation. But at £123,000-plus for the coupe and £133,000, yes, £133k for the cabrio, it probably does’t matter.

As usual with BMW, even for a car this expensive, options can bump up the price substantially, but that should be no surprise to BMW drivers.

And if the performance is too much there’s always the ‘pedestrian’ M850i.

But this is a true supercar and a delight to drive. BMW have thrown down the gauntlet to its challengers yet again.

BMW M8 Competition Convertible, Brands Hatch Grey

Flying with Bentley luxury

Bentley Flying Spur

By Bill McCarthy

Claiming to be the ultimate driving machine, as a famous German firm has, is quite a boast.

Few could get anywhere near that claim, but the British-built Flying Spur could be in with a shout. 

In fact, the company says it is the ultimate luxury Grand Touring saloon, offering the perfect fusion of performance-orientated agility and exclusive four-door, limousine-style comfort. Well, you would hope so for around £170k, but it does not disappoint.

German owned, by VW, but British designed and built in Crewe, it is close to the ultimate in motoring luxury and cutting edge technology which includes the retractable Flying B mascot, making its debut on the model.  

The third generation is the flagship of the range and is a completely new car from the ground up with extended wheelbase and a host of high-end goodies.

This is a beautifully designed car with  latest generation cut-crystal effect LED matrix headlamps and new wrap-around rear lamps incorporating ‘B’ motifs and either stylish new 21 and 22-inch wheel designs together with the signature grille. 

It is handcrafted to the finest Mulliner specificaton level and packed with technology, including the new, all-wheel steering system. This acts together with the all wheel drive and and improved suspension to increase stability and handling, with front and rear wheels steering in opposite directions to making parking such a big car much easier and keeping it rock solid at high speeds.

It is also incredibly powerful, capable of 207 mph and hitting 60mph in under four seconds. Quite something for such a big motor, weighing in at nearly three tonnes gross, despite the use of lightweight materials on the chassis.

Performance is toe curling, but not the riotous drive you would expect from an out and out sports saloon. Okay, floor the accelerator and its like jet taking off, but occupants otherwise suffer no discomfort and feel as safe as you can be with such performance. Only muted roar from the mighty 626bhp W12 engine intrudes into the cabin.

The  W12 configuration TSI engine delivers its staggering pace through a seamless eight-speed dual clutch transmission. The 900Nm of torque also delivers massive pulling power.

Floor the accelerator and the twin turbocharged beast is capable of hitting 60mph in a neck-wrenching 3.7 seconds.

 All the power is all well and good, but it needs to be kept in a straight line and that where the four wheel drive kicks in. The vehicle will use rear-wheel drive as much as possible during normal driving, but the system will send drive to the front axle as required. 

For better economy, the Variable Displacement system shuts intake and exhaust valves, fuel injection and ignition with the engine running as a six-cylinder for improved efficiency. This saves fuel obviously allowing the Bentley to reach a better than expected claimed 21mpg.

There are three drive modes where engine, gearbox and other chassis systems will modify to match the selected mode. Alternatively, the driver can personalise his or her own dynamic settings.

Just like its sporty sibling the Continental GT, it is sumptuous inside, a riot of handcrafted wood and leather of choice and chrome, together with jewellery-inspired diamond knurled finish switchgear and classy analogue style clock.

Bentley says design lines flow from the new wing-themed fascia to connect the front and rear passenger areas and create a completely integrated style. There’s no doubting the comfort with fluted leather seats, which feature diamond quilting for the Mulliner Driving Specification, while three-dimensional diamond quilted leather doors inserts are a world first. 

For those who like the bells and whistles, the optional Bentley Rotating Display is a must. Start the engine and a flat, veneered section of the fascia rotates to reveal the choice of 12.3-inch digital touchscreen which operates main functions of the car, including Apple and Android connectivity, sound system and climate control plus sat nav, 60gb hard drive, optional sirius satellite radio and Google street view. Rotate for analogue dials which are compass, temperature gauge and chronograph timer, or back to a plain wood veneer finish.

For those who are passengers, or being chauffeured, to the rear there is a detachable remote touch screen, which operates all the major functions, including the blinds, climate control and rear seat massage functions. It can also control the  mood lighting system

Is it well equipped? Well, it costs just shy of £170,000, so yes. It has just about anything you can think of, or so you thought, from the expensive Bang & Olufsen 16-speaker sound system to the  20-way adjustable seats with (optional) cooling, heating and massage functions. But the list of optional extras is eye watering if you have a spare few grand knocking about to give a total price for this model of over £200k.

But boot space is also surprisingly good, with 420 litres, ample space for those designer suitcases.

Safety is vital with such a powerful car and the  kit, some optional, features huge brake callipers, stability and traction control, a full complement of airbags and features including Active Lane Assist, Traffic Jam Assist and Park Assist with 360 degree all round cameras, infra-red camera, and head-up display.

The ultimate machine, maybe, certainly the last word in luxury.

Facts at a glance

Bentley Flying Spur

Price: £168,300

Mechanical: 626bhp, 5958cc, 12 cylinder petrol engine driving all wheels via 8-speed auto gearbox

Max speed: 207mph

0-60mph: 3.7 seconds

Combined mpg: 23.3

Insurance group: 

CO2 emissions: 298g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles