Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Peugeot, Citroën, Vauxhall to share platforms

Posted: 24 Oct 2012 05:47 AM PDT

PSA and GM will share resources on four joint-programme models, which is expected to save £1.5bn a year

Peugeot, Citroën and Vauxhall will share platforms and multiple models in late 2016, it announced earlier today.

The first of the models will be a 'compact-class' Vauxhall/Opel multi-purpose van and a 'compact-class' Peugeot cross-over. The announcement is likely to form the basis of the next-generation Vauxhall Zafira and a replacement for the Peugeot 4007, the latter previously co-developed with Mitsubishi.

It is understood Peugeot is being lined-up to build these cars for both brands, which fits in with GM's plan to close its Bochum plant in 2014/15.

The second 'common vehicle project' is a 'small-car' multi-purpose vehicle to be shared by Vauxhall/Opel and Citroën, possibly the replacements for the Meriva and C3 Picasso.

The third common project is described as 'an upgraded, low-CO2, small car segment platform to feed Opel/Vauxhall's next-generation of cars in Europe and other regions'. That could be interpreted as the Corsa/208/C3 or possibly the segment below. Although PSA is already in a joint venture for a city car with Toyota.

Finally, the two groups will co-operate on 'a joint program for mid-size cars for Opel/Vauxhall and the Peugeot/Citroën brands', which is widely expected to mean the Insignia and 508/C5; models struggling to sell in big enough numbers as European consumers down-size or switch to cross-overs.

Together with other cost-saving projects, the four common joint-model programmes are expected to save around £1.5bn a year for both companies. "All four projects will be developed combining the best platform architectures and technologies from the Alliance partners," said a joint statement from PSA and GM.

They are also planning to further increase purchasing synergies and 'explore other cooperation opportunities'.

First drive review: Audi R8 V10 Plus S-tronic

Posted: 24 Oct 2012 03:36 AM PDT

New flagship Audi R8 brings extra speed and track focus, and remains a mid-engined handling masterstroke Another new ultimate Audi R8 super sports car: the V10-plus coupé. Strictly speaking, this car slots in between the 518bhp regular V10 and the 552bhp V10 GT coupé – although with the latter's limited production run now finished, this effectively becomes the flagship R8. Its 542bhp bears favourable comparison with most of the likes of the Porsche 911 Turbo S, Bentley Continental GT and Aston DB9, all close rivals on price. However, the R8's spaceframe construction and mid-engined layout remain even more distinguishing selling points for it.Audi has enhanced the standard V10's specification by providing standard carbon-ceramic brakes, revised front-suspension geometry, uprated springs and firmer passive dampers as standard for the 'plus' version. The ceramic brake discs save 4kg in unsprung mass per corner, all on their own.Various carbonfibre-reinforced plastic parts have substituted heavier ones all over the car, and lightweight bucket seats fitted, to bring the kerbweight of a manual 'plus' coupé in at just 1570kg – only 10kg heavier than an equivalent V8.

Ford confirms plan to close Genk factory

Posted: 24 Oct 2012 02:29 AM PDT

The Blue Oval intends to close Belgian production plant in 2014 as part of a major restructuring of its European manufacturing business

Ford has revealed plans to close its production plant in Genk, Belgium, as predicted by Autocar earlier this week. The move will cost about 4300 people their jobs.

The closure, which is subject to a consultation process with trade unions before it can be approved, is part of a proposed restructuring of Ford's European manufacturing operations.

The European revamp has been prompted by manufacturing overcapacity stemming from a slump of more than 20 per cent in demand for new vehicles in Western Europe over the last five years.

Mondeo production has collapsed to under 90,000 units per year from a high of around 300,000 at the turn of the century. With the move towards downsizing and a continued rise in premium brand sales, European Mondeo sales are unlikely to see a turnaround.

Under the plan, vehicle production will cease at Genk by the end of 2014 and production of the next-generation Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy will switch to Ford's Valencia Plant in Spain.

Production of the C-Max and Grand C-Max MPVs, which currently takes place at Valencia, could in turn move to Saarlouis in Germany.

"The proposed restructuring of our European manufacturing operations is a fundamental part of our plan to strengthen Ford's business in Europe and to return to profitable growth," said Ford of Europe boss Stephen Odell.

Ford will present more details of its restructuring plan tomorrow (Thursday). The company says it expects to lose around £620m in Europe this year and industry analysts say that one of the company's main problems is that the firm has under-utilised factories, something Ford admits is one of the factors behind Genk's proposed closure.

One estimate claims Ford's plants are running at an average of just 52 per cent of their potential maximum output.

Sao Paulo motor show: Real-world heroes

Posted: 24 Oct 2012 02:20 AM PDT

Quirky concepts aside, here are the cars that are important in the real world

With a smattering of concepts and plush luxury and supercars, the Sao Paulo motor show had much to appeal to the enthusiasts. But the real stars were the everyday models. Virtually every part of the market was covered, from the real value for money propositions, right through to practical SUVs and even a hot hatch.

With key European players falling over themselves to grab a slice of Brazil's burgeoning economy, the Sao Paulo show is fast becoming of global importance.

Here are our real-world picks:

Ford EcoSport

It was Brazil that came up with the original Ford EcoSport. Carrying out the project alone, the original EcoSport which Brazil created was based on the old Ford Fusion, so you can probably guess it was pretty dire to look at and equally uninspiring to look at. But the original EcoSport gave Ford executives the idea of the using a Fiesta base to create a pseudo SUV with proper investment as a global car under the One Ford plan, and the new, much more contemporary model on show at Sao Paulo is the result. Should it prove to be as good to drive in the UK as the Fiesta on which it is based, then Ford should have another small car hit on its hands.

Peugeot 208 GTI

If there's one way foreign makers can try and gain favour among proud home show goers it is to pay homage to the host country with its products. And with the Peugeot 208 GTI, Peugeot did that, displaying the Brazilian flag on the lower part of the front grille. It's a trick that's going to be repeated wherever the 208 GTI is sold, including in the UK where the Union Flag will be found at the front.

Hyundai HB20/Hyundai HB20X

The pair of HB20s from Hyundai typified the main theme of the Sao Paulo motor show: small, affordable models designed and built specifically for the local market. The HB20 is a stylish supermini, and the HB20X a crossover version of it. The pair will be joined by a saloon next year. With Hyundai covering all bases in Brazil's largest segment (small cars make up more than 60 per cent of the entire market) the fast-growing Korean firm will be looking to make similar inroads in South America as it has in Europe and North America with its good looking and good value offerings.

Toyota Etios

The Toyota Etios, shown in hatchback and saloon guises at Sao Paulo, follows a similar strategy to the Hyundai HB20, but its execution looks to have fallen short of its Korean rival. While the HB20 looks contemporary and good enough to go on sale in Europe, the Etios looks very much old world in its design. The Etios is the first Toyota to ever be sold in the small car segment in Brazil, but in the face of such strong rivals from Volkswagen, Hyundai and Chevrolet, its design maybe a turn off in Toyota's hopes to strike it first time lucky.

Chevrolet Onix

General Motors' entry into the locally developed small car Brazilian market is the Chevrolet Onix, and it's much more Hyundai HB20 than Toyota Etios in its execution. The Onix's killer feature is just how much equipment can be ordered with it; it's an options list that wouldn't look out of place for a European supermini. Chevy's new MyLink infotainment system and Bluetooth connectivity both feature, so with Brazil's middle class ever expanding and becoming more tech savvy, the Onix has a real chance of success.

Renault Clio Mercosur

High-import taxes on models produced overseas prevents Renault from launching the new Clio 4 in Brazil, but it doesn't want buyers from missing out on the look of the new car. So it has updated the second-generation Clio that is sold there with the look of the new model. Enter the Clio Mercosur. Does it look good? Not really. Nice idea, and it's certainly got presence, but the Clio 2 is a chic enough looker not to have its proportions messed with the graft of a big new nose on it.

End of the road for Volkswagen camper

Posted: 24 Oct 2012 01:38 AM PDT

Safety legislation is to kill the Volkswagen Kombi after 63 years of continuous production

The classic Volkswagen Kombi is set to finally end production next year, ending some 63 years of continuous production.

The Kombi, or VW T2 as it is known in Brazil, the only country where it is still produced, will be forced out of production due to new safety legislation coming into force in South America's largest country.

To comply with the new Brazilian market legislation coming into effect on January 1 2014, each new model built must have ABS and come with both passenger and driver airbags.

VW's product development chief for Brazil, Egon Feichter, told Autocar that to comply with the new legislation, the Kombi would need to become "a new car".

It is likely the last Kombi models will be built on December 31 2013, a full 63 years after the nine-seater first went on sale in 1950.

Feichter confirmed that it was only the new safety laws that prevented the Kombi from still being built, as it conforms to every emission regulation needed for new car markets in South America where it is still sold.

The new safety legislation is only for Brazil, but its position as the largest new car market in South America by some distance means it's not financially feasible to continue with Kombi production.

Some 251 Kombis are still produced everyday at VW's main Anchieta factory for South America in Sao Paulo.

Feichter said that to replace the Kombi with a like for like model would be almost impossible, as "you can get two Kombis for the price of one normal car".

So long, and thanks for all the fumes

Posted: 24 Oct 2012 01:04 AM PDT

Belching 1.8-tonne black cabs are past their sell-by date in London, but Mercedes and Nissan are waiting in the wings

In 2006, the London newspapers carried a story about 'Chelsea Tractors' destroying the elegant Albert Bridge that crosses the Thames between Chelsea and Battersea Park.  

The Victorian bridge had a two-tonne weight limit and Kensington and Chelsea (K&C) council seemingly led the press to believe that a cavalcade of Range Rovers and Porsche Cayennes were undermining the very structure of this landmark.  

Back then, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London were in full cry against the SUV, targeting them as "polluting". Problem is, CO2 is not pollution in the sense that it is locally damaging to health. London's real problem (like many other UK cities) is with pollution such as the particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel engines.   

Even though the EU threatened the UK with mega-fines for breaking EU air quality regulations, the politicians tied themselves in knots trying to demonise the SUV and CO2 emissions while ignoring the belching diesel exhausts causing genuine health problems.  

Anyway, I smelt a large rat when I read the story about Albert Bridge. So I rang the K&C press office. I asked how many of the overweight vehicles crossing Albert Bridge were commercial and how many were private? The press officer didn't know but said he would get back to me. He then said all the traffic engineers were "on holiday" and then sent me a text to say they didn't know the figures.  

That was because the heavy vehicles actually damaging Albert Bridge were the good old London black cabs. Empty, they weigh 1.8 tonnes, which is thanks to the old-school ladder frame chassis. With a tank of fuel, a driver and a passenger, one would easily weigh over two tonnes. And these 25,000 ageing drones aren't just pounding the streets; they are responsible for at least 20 per cent of central London's pollution problems, a situation made worse by these vehicles covering 230 million miles a year.   

And as these warhorses age and run up the miles, the tired engines blow out staggering amounts of pollution. Who hasn't witnesses the clouds of soot as the cabbie puts his boot down?  

This week, with manufacturer Manganese Bronze sliding into administration, it looks like the end of the line for these iconic but very crude vehicles. The likely end of production is a tragedy for the Coventry workers, but these machines are past their sell-by date, undermined by the new Mercedes cab, and would have probably been killed off anyway by the arrival of next year's Nissan black cab.  

When Chinese car maker Geely bought 20 per cent of Manganese Bronze in 2007, the British should have insisted on new investment to update the cab, not least switching to LPG as a fuel, which could have made the cab one of the least polluting vehicles on the streets. It's too late now. More importantly, the capital needs to think long and hard about the best way of hurrying the majority of these ageing hulks off the roads as quickly as possible.

First drive review: Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

Posted: 23 Oct 2012 03:54 PM PDT

Loses only a little of the two-wheel-drive 911's thrills in return for impressive stability and reassurance The ultimate all-season sports car, the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet. As you'd expect, one of the most telling exterior giveaways is its broader rump, which has grown by 22mm at each wheelarch (over the standard two-wheel-drive 911) to accommodate the wider rear track, yet only 50kg of weight has been added as a result of the four-wheel drive system.Both coupé and cabriolet versions have been launched together, and engines remain unchanged. Which means a 345bhp 3.4-litre flat-six in the Carrera 4, and a 394bhp 3.8-litre in the 4S tested here. The seven-speed manual is standard across the range, but here our test car comes with the dual-clutch, seven-speed PDK, plus the optional Sport Chrono pack — which brings launch control and faster shifts, reducing 0-62mph time from 4.5 to 4.3sec.Adaptive dampers are standard in the C4S and come with a 10mm dropped ride height, and we're also testing the optional Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control – an active anti-roll system – which drops the suspension by a further 10mm.  The active four-wheel drive system is as advanced as you'd expect. Essentially an updated version of the system fitted to the 997 911 Turbo, it's able to divert up to 100 per cent of the power to either axle in just 100 milliseconds to maximise traction. The higher-powered 4S also gets the torque vectoring system (an option on the standard Carrera 4), which allows power to be shuffled between either rear wheel, as well as either axle. Cars fitted with PDK get an electronic locking diff, whilst manual cars get a mechanical one, and both will brake an inside wheel to improve cornering ability.

Porsche 918 Spyder technical details uncovered

Posted: 23 Oct 2012 10:14 AM PDT

The 784bhp Porsche 918 Spyder will cost from £625,400, while lightweight Weissach package-equipped cars will sell for a £58,000 premium

The Porsche 918 Spyder will produce more than 784bhp and cost from £625,400, according to internet reports.

A document detailing key technical information was published on the Rennsport forum, but a Porsche GB spokesman was unable to comment on the authenticity of the documents. However, they confirmed some information has already been supplied to customers, which could have been the source of the leak.

The latest document follows a copy of the 918 Spyder's sales brochure, which found its way onto the web last month.

Porsche had previously confirmed the 918 would feature a 4.6-litre V8 engine, but the report suggests it will develop 572bhp at 9000rpm and more than 370lb ft of torque. Combined power is said to be 784bhp, not the 762bhp which had been thought, while torque is rated at 569lb ft between 1000 and 4000rpm. The engine is Euro 5-compliant.

The 918 Spyder will feature two electric motors, producing 241bhp. The rear motor assists the engine and provides 127bhp, while the front motor sends 114bhp to the front wheels. 

Power will be distributed via a seven-speed PDK gearbox, while Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus and Electric Porsche Traction Management and a 'sail mode', which decouples the engine and transmission, will be fitted.

A quick charger will be offered as a £16,500 option which reduces the charging time to 30mins.

The report also gives the first details on the Weissach package, which reduces the standard car by 35kg. It was a car of this specification which lapped the Nürburgring in 7m 14s, two seconds faster than the standard car, last month.

Weissach-equipped cars are said to cost £58,200 more than the standard car. The premium pays for "extended use" of magnesium, titanium and ceramic parts and lighter wheels which save 13.5kg. The car does without wiring for the external quick-charging system, air-conditioning, audio system, leather seats, glovebox and carpets.

When is a platform not a platform? When it’s a philosophy...

Posted: 23 Oct 2012 09:28 AM PDT

Aston Martin's VH engineering philosophy has been much misunderstood over the years, says Aston Martin. True or false?

Spent a quite extraordinary evening with Aston Martin's amiably vociferous boss, Dr Bez, this week, and some of the stuff he came out with can't ever be talked about by anyone, ever again unfortunately. A fair bit of red wine was involved, at one point I think a fist might have made contact with the one-star Michelin rosette dinner table. Even the odd tear may have been shed towards the very end.

But one topic of discussion that CAN be written about was the way in which Aston's VH engineering philosophy has been so heinously misunderstood over the years. And it's largely the fact that us journos have got it wrong and referred to the VH system as a platform - rather than an idea - that's to blame according to Dr Bez.

The key issue, reckons the good doctor, is that by referring to the VH system as a platform, it presents the idea that nothing fundamental has changed at the core of Aston Martin's cars since the introduction of the original DB9 in late 2003. Which, of course, is blatantly not the case.

The new DB9 and Vanquish, for example, are now on the fourth generation of the VH system, the original DB9 having been the first, and to understand what this actually means you need to regard the VH system as an engineering philosophy - NOT a platform - in much the same way that the Porsche 911 being rear-engined is an engineering philosophy.

So, just as the Porsche 911 can be broken down into seven different generations - 911, 930, 964, 993 and so on - each of which is rear-engined but quite different to the next model in its engineering, the same principle applies to Aston's VH system. All the V and H letters refer to are the Vertical and Horizontal aspects of the car (vertical meaning the tub, horizontal meaning the electrical systems, for instance, or hard points and soft points to put it another way).

And the key thing is - and this is the aspect that's been so badly misunderstood, says Dr Bez - the VH idea itself is transient. It can, and has, changed over the years thanks to the introduction of newer, more hi-tech components. Hence the reason why the latest DB9 and Vanquish are now on the fourth generation, and are vastly superior in their engineering to the original first-generation DB9 in every conceivable way.

Had the good doctor and his team ever thought about referring to the different generations of their cars with separate model numbers, just like Porsche does with the 911 (996, 997 etc) and just as BMW does with all its cars (E36 3-series, E46 etc)? It might have made the continuing evolution of the VH philosophy somewhat easier to comprehend from the point of view of the average not-much-for-brains car journo, after all.

It seems not unfortunately. Which is a pity, perhaps, because had they done so the idea behind the methodology of the philosophy of the system… might have been simpler to grasp in the first place.

Ah well, onwards and upwards as they say. It's the 100th anniversary of Aston Martin next year, after all, and that's something surely all car enthusiasts can, and will, want to understand – and celebrate – with or without the VH system to help them do so.

Sao Paulo motor show: Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse Rafale

Posted: 23 Oct 2012 03:32 AM PDT

Bugatti has shown a special edition Grand Sport Vitesse at the Sao Paulo motor show

The latest special edition version of the Bugatti Veyron has been shown at the Sao Paulo motor show in Brazil.

The new Rafale special edition is based on the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, the open-top version of the world's fastest car producing 1184bhp from its mighty quad-turbo W16.

The Rafale is differentiated from standard Vitesse models by its special 'Gris Rafale' paint finish and blue carbonfibre trim. Also new externally is its bespoke alloy wheel design.

The interior of the Rafale has also been given a makeover; it features special blue leather seats with grey stitching and blue carbonfibre trim to match the interior.

The new model is available now for £1.5 million, which is an increase of just over £170,000 on a standard Veyron Vitesse.

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