Monday, November 12, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

First drive review: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC SE

Posted: 12 Nov 2012 07:01 AM PST

Long-awaited diesel motor impresses with its refinement and economy and should broaden the Civic's appeal to European buyers This is the European Civic powered by the Honda's long-awaited 1.6-litre, 94g/km, diesel engine. Both the car and the new engine will be made at Honda's Swindon factory for export to mainland Europe.Work on the new engine started around five years ago and it is a very big investment for the company, because it will sell primarily in Europe (although a lower powered version may also be sent to India), where Honda's sales have collapsed to just 170,000 units per year. For the rest of the world, Honda is investing heavily in petrol-electric hybrids. It's easy to forget, but the rest of the automotive world - especially Japan and the US - don't care for diesel engines.Honda says the engine is the lightest in class and has internal friction levels comparable with the best petrol engine. It gets 1800 bar injection (on the lower side by the latest standards), uses a small single turbo and gets a catalyst and DPF filter.It is built around a new aluminium block which uses an open deck block (where the cylinder is surrounded by a continuous water jacket) and it also gets a radically smaller and lighter crankshaft. Compared to the 15.9kg crankshaft in the 2.2-litre Honda diesel, the unit in the new engine weighs 10.1kg - a 36 per cent reduction. The pistons have shorter skirts and are said to be 10 per cent lighter than other best-in-class pistons, both of which should make the engine quick and smoother revving.Having separate crankshaft bearing caps in the lower block (they are integrated in the 2.2-litre engine) has also massively reduced radiated noise, according to the engineers. They also claim that, at 1500rpm, the engine has 40 per cent lower internal friction than a typical rival diesel engine. Impressively, it does without a balancer shaft. The Civic diesel also gets a new, 7kg lighter, six-speed manual gearbox which sits in a stiffer casing. This, and the 47kg saved over the heavier 2.2-litre engine, takes a noticeable 54kg out of the car's nose.

Honda confirms Juke rival

Posted: 12 Nov 2012 07:01 AM PST

Jazz-based compact crossover to provide a smaller option to the CR-V 4x4

Honda will be building a compact SUV based on the next-generation Jazz supermini, company CEO Takanobu Ito has said. Speaking to Autocar earlier today at Honda's Tochigi R&D centre, he confirmed that the new Jazz — due in 2014 — will include SUV and saloon versions as the model becomes a true global car. Ito would not expand on the likely form of the Jazz SUV but described it as a 'younger brother to the new CR-V'.

Ito said that the Jazz was 'strategically' very important for Honda over the 'next five to ten years' as it seeks to increase sales from this year's 4 million units to 7 million units by 2017. Honda also had no plans to sell the new budget Brio supermini outside its target market of South East Asia and India. Ito said that Honda was not interested in introducing a 'low cost brand' into Europe and would, instead, concentrate on 'increasing the attractiveness' of the Civic.

He also ruled out an 'affordable sport car' rival to the Toyota GT86, saying that Honda would address that market niche with the new Civic Type- R, which will arrive in 2015.

New Civic Type R to ‘break front-drive Nürburgring record’

Posted: 12 Nov 2012 07:01 AM PST

Honda confident that new 260bhp+ hot hatch will take the front-drive crown from Renault

The new Civic Type R will 'break the front-wheel-drive lap record at the Nürburgring', when it is launched in 2015, according to Yoshiharu Yamamoto, CEO of Honda's Research and Development Centre. 

The record is currently held by a 265bhp Renault Mégane RS Trophy driven by company driver Laurent Hurgon, who lapped the Nordschleife in 8 minutes and 7.97 seconds last year.

The new Civic Type R will also break with decades of Honda engineering tradition by adopting a small-capacity turbocharged engine, rather than one of the company's signature high-revving, normally aspirated, units.

Honda sources told Autocar that the new engine would have 'more than 260bhp'. Honda engineering sources said that, at this early stage, 'some consideration' was being given to equipping the Type-R with rear-wheel steering, an old Honda technology that the company is keen to revive in updated form.

The 1.6-litre HR412E turbocharged engine used in the new WTCC Civic race car is said to be providing inspiration for the Type-R engine. A single Civic WTCC car has entered the last three rounds of the 2012 global series, but Honda will compete in the whole of the 2013 series with two cars.

According to Honda sources, the WTCC series matches the development period of the new Civic Type-R, allowing direct race experience to influence the car's engineering. The new Type-R will arrive at the same time as the whole Civic line-up is given a mid-life facelift.

Honda is also experimenting with a new three-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol engine, a prototype of which was shown at the same technology exposition used to announce the new Type R. Although no hard information about the engine was forthcoming, sources say it will be able to fit in both the Jazz and the European Civic and must be a good bet to be an option for the 2015-model Civic facelift.

First drive review: Honda Jazz EV

Posted: 12 Nov 2012 07:01 AM PST

Electric hatchback impresses with its performance and agility, but the purchase price remains high and it's not officially coming to the UK This is the new battery-powered Honda Jazz EV, which has just gone on sale in Japan and the US. Unlike, say, the Nissan Leaf, which is a heavily modified mainstream hatchback or the bespoke Renault Zoe, the Jazz EV is - drivetrain aside - almost identical to the combustion-engined version, save for a few styling tweaks and switchgear changes.The 20kWh Lithium-Ion battery is packaged under the Jazz's floor, a task made easier by the fact that the standard Jazz has its fuel tank under the front seats. Space was also liberated from the extra-deep rear foot wells, which normally accommodate the clever folding seats.Under the bonnet, there's a permanent magnet electric motor driving a single-speed transmission. Interestingly, Honda gives three outputs for the motor, one for each driving mode. In 'Sport' mode the driver gets 123bhp between 3695 and 10,320rpm. In 'Normal' it gets 100bhp and in 'Eco' its gets 63bhp over the same rev range.The onboard charger offers a handy 17 per cent charge in just 30 minutes with a standard UK 240V. A full charge takes just three hours. The Jazz EV also uses an electrically powered brake servo, something on the way for mainstream cars.

Honda teases new NSX tech

Posted: 12 Nov 2012 07:01 AM PST

Trick chassis systems are an impressive preview to Honda's forthcoming supercar

Honda engineers have given a glimpse into the technology that could underpin the next-generation NSX supercar. Two new chassis set-ups were demonstrated this weekend at Honda's Tochigi Research and Development centre, both fitted into new-generation Accord saloons. Autocar was able to sample both prototypes on Honda's handling circuit.

One of the Accords was fitted the prototype Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive hybrid drivetrain. The other was fitted with a new electronic rear-wheel steering system. Both are said to be designed to 'significantly enhance handling and driver pleasure'.

Honda engineers say that the 'Precision All Wheel Steer' technology is the closest to realisation, with the potential for it to appear in production within two years. Work on the SH-AWD hybrid drivetrain is less well advanced, with 2015 the most likely potential production date.

Sources say it is possible that both of these systems could be fitted to the next-generation NSX, also expected in 2015. The mid-engined supercar will use the all-wheel drive system in conjunction with the electric motors housed in its front wheels.

Super-handling all-wheel drive

This Accord prototype uses a new 3.5-litre, direct-injection, V6 engine upfront, driving the front wheels through a new, wide-ratio, seven-speed dual clutch transmission. This 'box also incorporates an electric motor of 'at least' 30kW power. Driving the rear wheels is a pair of 20kW electric motors, powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, which is charged by the electric motor inside the gearbox. Honda claims that this drivetrain also offers the performance of a V8 engine and the fuel efficiency of a four-cylinder engine.

SH-AWD not only offers all-wheel drive, the twin electric motors driving the rear wheels can be manipulated to help the car steer more keenly into bends. On a right hand bend, the motor driving the inside wheel can have its torque output reduced and the motor on the outside wheel has its torque output increased. The effect is to steer the whole car more aggressively into a bend as well as delivering the advantage of all-wheel drive.

On Honda's tightly drawn handling circuit, the SH-AWD was not overly impressive in terms of improving handling. While the torque tweaks may have helped the car enter a corner more fleetly, while rounding the bend the Accord felt like any large, front drive saloon. Prolonged hard cornering left the steering feeling vague and disconnected, with a good quarter of free-turn at the rim. And as the car straightened up out of hard bend, the whole chassis betrayed the sudden unloading of forces with a slight shimmer.

While this new drivetrain is a clever way of providing V8-levels of performance, hybrid assistance and all-wheel drive, it does not particularly enhance the handling of this big, front-drive, Accord. However, fitted into a mid-engined car, with the front wheels driven by the electric motors, it could provide a very intriguing basis for a new NSX.

Precision all-wheel steer

The second Accord prototype was fitted with a much less complex, and rather more familiar, technology. Rear wheel steering was used by Honda in the 1980s, but this new set-up is electronic rather than mechanical and is a lot more sophisticated in its operation.

The Accord's multi-link rear suspension has the toe control links replaced with an electronic actuator. Both hub carriers are mounted in such a way as to allow the rear wheels to be steered in either direction by up to 2deg. The rear actuators use information from the engine, electric power steering and the vehicle stability systems to decide by how much and in what direction the rear wheels should be steered.

Although rear-wheel steering has well-known advantages, such as making high-speed land changes safer, this system can also toe-in the rear wheels during braking, greatly improving stability.

On Honda's handling circuit, the system was a revelation. Even though the Accord is a large front-driver with a V6 engine in the nose, it handled the very long, tight, bends like a rear-driver. As well as allowing the driver to take the corners at high speed, understeer was all-but eliminated.

Even under hard acceleration, the steering remained extremely accurate, making it possible to place the inside front wheel precisely on the inside edge of the track, even following the changes in radius. The Accord also remained remarkably stable coming out of bends as the car's weight shifted.

It's not yet clear whether this rear-steering could be combined with the rear-drive layout of a future NSX, but there's no doubt that this new-generation electronic system is extraordinarily effective. Retro-fitting it onto the 2015 Civic Type R would, however, be an expensive job: Precision All Wheel Steer can only be fitted to multi-link rear suspensions and the Civic family uses a beam axle.

Honda reveals Micro Commuter car

Posted: 12 Nov 2012 01:44 AM PST

New short-distance electric vehicle aims to rival the Renault Twizy

This is the production version of the Honda Micro Commuter, which was shown in a rather more extreme concept form at last year's Tokyo motor show.

Officially known as a 'micro size, short distance, EV commuter', Honda says the vehicle - which is intended to be the first of a family - was developed to fit into new micro vehicle categories being considered for licence by the Japanese government. It is also being designed to meet the regulations for the European L7 motorcycle category, a niche that is currently exploited by the Renault Twizy.

Just 2.5m long, 1.25m wide and 1.45m high, Honda has released few details about the Micro Commuter, aside from the fact that is powered by a rear-mounted electric motor and a 15kW lithium-ion battery, has an approximate range of 37 miles and and maximum speed of 50mph.

The car uses a clip-in tablet computer to provide instrumentation and controls, which is intended to be personally owned by the individual drivers.

This Micro Commuter is designed to accommodate a driver and two small children in the rear, a reflection of the common sight of Japanese mothers carrying two children on a bicycle. However, it is based on a 'variable design platform' that should spawn other body styles. Honda expects that this concept will branch out into transport for the elderly, car-sharing schemes, home delivery services and public sector use.

The first prototypes will start running next year in Japan, including in the city of Saitama, where Honda is trailing the Honda Smart Home System. This will see the Micro Commuter used as a back-up battery for the household. It is also possible to charge the car from Honda's existing hybrid production cars.

Autocar was allowed to drive the Micro Commuter prototype for a very short distance around part of Honda's test circuit. It's a bit harder to get inside than the Twizy, thanks to the low roof, and the front seat - even when fully rearwards - is very close to the steering wheel. The steering itself has a very dead feel, partly because it is unassisted. In truth, it feels like a well-appointed golf cart, but for hyper-local use, that's not a serious disadvantage.

It's hard, though, to see this particular model being competitive in Europe. It is more car-like than the Twizy, but less roomy and likely - on very small wheels and tyres - to be upset by poor road surfaces. It makes absolute sense in the myriad Japanese villages and their boulevard streets, but the cut and thrust of busy European roads might prove too much.

New 2013 Lamborghini Aventador Roadster revealed

Posted: 12 Nov 2012 01:00 AM PST

Lamborghini reveals carbonfibre-roofed Aventador LP700-4 Roadster; 0-62mph in 3.0sec and 217mph with the roof down

This is the new Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 Roadster, a 690bhp V12 open-top hypercar that is, the Italian firm claims, "the most exciting Lamborghini ever built".

The Aventador Roadster uses a Targa-style two-piece carbonfibre roof, which weighs just 6kg. It can be removed by hand in "a few seconds" and stored in the front luggage compartment when not in use. The carbonfibre roof is made using Lamborghini's own Forged Composite tech, which creates a material stronger than titanium but less dense.

The use of a hard-top for the Aventador Roadster addresses the main failings of its open-top Murcielago predecessor. With that car's fabric roof raised, its top speed was limited to 99mph. The roof was also tricky to remove and store.

Just like the coupé, the Aventador Roadster uses a normally aspirated 6.5-litre V12 featuring cylinder deactivation technology, stop-start and a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

With the roof off, the new Roadster can hit a claimed 217mph and sprint from zero to 0-62mph in just 3.0sec. Lamborghini claims that the roof is "easy to handle, lightweight and simple to attach", as well as being easy to store in the front.

Two aerodynamics aids have also been added. A powered rear windscreen controls the airflow over the car and the amount of noise from the engine that passengers can hear with the roof down. A removable wind deflector also features and sits on top of the front windscreen to "deliver almost complete calm" in the cabin with the roof off.

The new roof has brought with it some design changes to the Aventador Roadster over the coupé. The rear pillars have been redesigned to give the car greater strength when the roof is removed. They also offer rollover protection and supply extra ventilation to the engine.

The Roadster's engine cover has also changed from the coupe's. It features a 'spinal column' with two lines of hexagonal windows. The two scissor doors also get a chamfered edge for the frameless windows to ensure a flush finish into the new roof.

To further distinguish the Aventador Roadster from the coupé, the bodywork gets a two-tone finish. Gloss black is used for the pillars, roof and rear window area. A new Azzuro Thetis colour, seen here and inspired by the colour of the 1968 Miura Roadster, is also offered on the Roadster.

New 20-inch front and 21-inch rear lightweight alloy wheels, which reduce the kerb weight by 10kg, are another Roadster-only addition.

A UK price for the Aventador Roadster has not been set. Its price in mainland Europe of €300,000 before taxes suggests about £290,000 including VAT, almost £50,000 more than the coupé. It will reach the UK next summer.

Vauxhall Adam video review

Posted: 11 Nov 2012 10:22 AM PST

The new Vauxhall Adam is original, but is it fun?

The Vauxhall Adam is the latest rival to the Mini and Fiat 500. It's a completely original, non-retro design that is creative, well-equipped and cleverly placed in the market, but is it fun?

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