Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Quick news: Suzuki Jimny facelifted; Porsche slashes sports car production

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 03:59 AM PST

Suzuki offers first Jimny tweaks in 14 years; Porsche cuts weekend production of two-seat models; Ford B-Max received well in UK

The long-running Suzuki Jimny has received a minor facelift for 2013. On sale now, the updated pocket-sized SUV benefits from a new front grille along with a revised front bumper. Inside, the car boasts new headrests and the addition of Isofix child seat mountings.

Porsche is scaling down production of its two-seat sports cars, reports suggest. The Boxster, Cayman and 911 models will no longer be built on weekends as the manufacturer expects European sales to drop by up to 10 per cent. Popularity of Porsche's larger models, particularly in China and the Middle East, mean that production of the Panamera and Cayenne are unaffected.

Ford's B-Max MPV has generated impressive sales figures in the UK since its recent release. Over 1000 were sold in the first six weeks, with orders totalling over 2500. The mini people carrier's pillarless door system allows for a 1.5m-wide side opening, proving popular with Motability customers, who accounted for 22 per cent of the sales.

Sam Preston

Spied: production-ready Jaguar XFR-S

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 03:08 AM PST

Latest spy shots show almost completely undisguised super-saloon in track testing

These are the latest images of the forthcoming Jaguar XFR-S, which is undergoing final tests at the Nürburgring before its international debut at this month's Los Angeles motor show.

It has been spotted for the first time with a large rear spoiler, similar to that fitted to the XKR-S coupé. It is expected to make its way onto the production car, but may be offered as a delete option.

The XKR-S also wears a more aggressive body kit than the standard XFR, with deeper front grilles and wider sills.

To compete with the new BMW M5 and bi-turbo Mercedes E63 AMG, the XFR-S is expected to use the 542bhp version of Jaguar's 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from the XKR-S.

Daljinder Nagra

Le Français Leyland?

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 02:24 AM PST

In bailing out PSA, the French government has in effect blocked its deal with GM, and its long-term salvation

A couple of weeks ago, a story broke late on a Friday evening that ailing Vauxhall/Opel could end up merging with the even more ailing PSA Peugeot-Citroën.

The two companies had already started talks on platform sharing and a component buying scheme that would have made useful, but in the circumstances, relatively marginal efficiency gains. The leak suggested that GM's European arm would be merged into a joint venture that would be substantially controlled by the French.

Industry analysts suggested that GM was keen to do the deal because its European arm has been losing huge sums for years (it could lose £1bn this year alone) and can probably never get back into profit because it both competes in the cut-throat mass-market segment and makes cars in high-cost western European countries. Vauxhall/Opel is a serious drag on the rest of GM's global operations and GM bosses and shareholders – not least the US government – are not impressed.

The US government has $25bn (£15.7bn) invested in General Motors as a result of the post-crunch bailout – and the GM share price is currently running around $25. It's suggested that GM shares need to double in value if the government is going to get its money back. Getting Vauxhall/Opel off the books would go a long way to pushing up the value of the company.

The plan to fold Vauxhall/Opel into a French-led joint venture would have got the European brands off GM's books and would have given PSA a chance of building a bigger, more efficient mass-market business. So keen was GM to do the deal that industry sources claimed it was willing to hand over a £3.2bn cheque to the French to pay for future factory closures and cover a few years' losses.

Now, it seems, the plan has been brought to a shuddering halt. According to a Reuters report, the JV plan has been put on ice until at least 2014 because PSA has accepted a huge, £14.8bn refinancing deal, backed by the French government. PSA is in such a perilous condition (it is said to be burning £128m a month) that it could not borrow money for its finance arm at competitive rates. And without the ability to offer competitive loans to car buyers, it will sell even fewer cars.

The downside of the bailout, however, is that the French government is now likely to try to stop PSA's planned 10,000 jobs cuts and the closure of a factory. French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg also says he wants to see representatives of both the workers and the government on the PSA board.

Which is why GM's grand merger plan has been shelved for now. Turning Vauxhall/Opel and PSA into a viable mega-company would have required job cuts and factory closures in both Germany and France. With the French government involved, that looks impossible. So the only real long-term solution for PSA's woes has been blocked.

The French government has, of course, stuck its collective tête in the sand. The 2008 auto bailout in the US did prop up GM and Chrysler with big loans, but the government did not prevent the companies from slashing jobs and downsizing their operations. The proof of that enlightened view is shown in the current health of those US car makers.

French president François Hollande's administration needs to careful. In this country, we all know what happened when a government decided to prop up a tottering automotive giant, in the face of all economic common sense. Do they really want to create Le Français Leyland?

First drive review: Audi A8 3.0 TDI SE Executive LWB

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 02:07 AM PST

List-price savings outweigh front-drive A8's sacrificed performance against quattro counterparts, while key limo skills remain An A8, driven by its front wheels only. Until recently, all third-gen A8s used four-wheel drive, but now there are two front-pullers in the range: the £61,500 petrol-electric hybrid and the 3.0 TDI tested here.Starting at £53,685, the standard-wheelbase front-drive diesel becomes the cheapest A8, while the LWB car we drove adds 130mm in rear passenger space (and 50kg) for £3965. In either, foregoing quattro drive saves £3235 and 45kg.But it's not just about how many paws this A8 rakes the road with – the front-drive car's 3.0 TDI engine also gives up 45bhp and 110lb ft of torque versus its Quattro counterpart. For both length variants, the performance discrepancies can be approximated thus: 2.0sec more to 62mph, 10mph less top speed, a 10g/km CO2 drop (one band lower), and a 3mpg economy gain.

Toyota recalls 75,000 Avensis, Corolla and Prius models

Posted: 13 Nov 2012 10:31 PM PST

UK recall is part of a worldwide announcement affecting 2.7m cars; firm issued recall for 7m cars last month

Toyota has announced it is recalling around 75,000 Avensis, Corolla and Prius models in the UK, as part of a worldwide recall of 2.7m cars. The news follows a recall of 7m Toyotas last month for an unrelated issue.

The latest recall affects certain Avensis and Corolla models registered between July 2001 and March 2009, and certain Prius models registered between July 2003 and April 2009. All models are previous-generation cars, and therefore not on sale new now.

The recall results from a potential fault with a component in the steering system, which can result in a knocking or rattling noise and the possibility of reduced steering response. Toyota says that at all times the affected cars remain safe to drive.

There have been nine reported cases of the fault in Europe, with no accidents arising from the situation, says Toyota. All owners of affected cars will be contacted by Toyota, and the fix should take around an hour.

Additionally, in the Prius there is the risk that the hybrid system water pump may fail. Three cases of this happening in Europe have been reported, says Toyota, with no reports of accidents arising from it. A dealer fix will take about 1.5 hours, it says.




First drive review: Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI SE

Posted: 13 Nov 2012 02:10 PM PST

The Audi A3 Sportback adds some useful practicality to the A3 range, without sacrificing driveability or appeal The latest and biggest addition to the Audi A3 range. It adds an extra two doors to the recently-launched three-door hatchback, and is expected to take two out of three A3 sales.Audi is quick to point out that the Sportback is not simply a five-door A3 – it has added 58mm between the front and rear wheels to create more interior space. That manifests itself as extra room for rear passengers and a larger boot. For that extra interior flexibility, Audi asks an additional £620 over the equivalent three-door.The front axle has been moved forward by 40mm compared with the old car, creating a shorter overhang. The Sportback uses a McPherson suspension arrangement up front, with a four-link rear set-up at the rear. Predictably weight has increased. The car tested here has gained an additional 30kg over the three-door, which has had a marginal impact on its on-paper performance and fuel economy. But you'd have to test them side by side to notice. Even with the weight increase, it is still substantially lighter than the car it replaces.The 2.0-litre TDI engine we're testing here will account for around 40 per cent of this model's sales. It's a comprehensively worked-over version of the engine from the old car, but Audi has done enough to keep it among the class best. The engine will be initially offered with a 148bhp output, but a 181bhp version will arrive next spring.

Gibbs launches new Quadski

Posted: 13 Nov 2012 09:33 AM PST

World's first high-speed amphibian quad begins production

This is the Gibbs Quadski, the world's first amphibian quad-bike.

Developed by the people behind the Gibbs Aquada – the amphibian car used by Richard Branson in his record-breaking Channel crossing – the Quadski will reach 45mph both on land and water, taking around five seconds to adapt to each environment.

The result of 15 years' development, it will be built in a brand new factory in Detroit. Gibbs is expecting to employ around 200 people when full production capacity is achieved next year.

Around 1000 Quadskis will be built in the coming year, with a retail price of $40,000 (£25,169).

Gibbs plans to expand its product line with similar products, and has built its factory to cater for the unusual production processes involved.

"Today we have more than four new sports-amphibian products under development that can be assembled on two lines," said Tina Shaheen, Gibbs's chief operating officer.

Daljinder Nagra

New Range Rover Sport spied testing

Posted: 13 Nov 2012 07:27 AM PST

Latest spy shots show forthcoming Sport testing in Europe

The next generation Range Rover Sport has been spotted testing on track in Southern Europe. Our spy shots show a camouflaged prototype of what appears to be a near-production ready car.

Based on the newly launched Range Rover, the pictures show that the Sport will wear more aggressive headlamps and chunkier bumpers to its sister car. The roofline slopes more aggressively towards a more steeply raked tailgate window, to give the car an athletic stance befitting of its name. The Sport's rear overhang is also much smaller.

Underneath, however, the Sport shares its platform with the Range Rover, meaning it too will weigh approximately 300kg less than the outgoing model.

It is expected to be introduced with Land Rover's new-generation 255bhp V6 turbodiesel, with a 335bhp twin-turbo V8 diesel also being made available. Performance fans will be pleased to hear that a supercharged petrol V8 will also be offered, though with the rival Porsche Cayenne Turbo S now developing 542bhp, Land Rover may increase its current 504bhp output.

A diesel-electric hybrid V6 is also expected to be offered from launch, with CO2 emissions as low as 169g/km.

Inside, the Sport is likely to share the switchgear of the Range Rover, but will have a revised dashboard layout, with a sloped centre console.

Daljinder Nagra

First drive review: Mercedes-Benz A180 BlueEfficiency

Posted: 13 Nov 2012 04:04 AM PST

The bottom rung of the A-class ladder isn't the poor relation you might expect, providing value, desirability and an engaging drive A new Mercedes-Benz – the only new Mercedes-Benz, in fact – that you can buy for less than £20,000. This is the entry-level, bog-basic, bottom-rung version of the new A-class. The A180 BlueEfficiency undercuts the equivalent 1.4-litre Audi A3, and the cheapest five-door BMW 1-series. Truth be told, it undercuts the better part of the Ford Focus range, too. But is mass-market value for money something this new Merc wears well?The A180 is a trim level all on its own. Sitting below 'SE', 'Sport', 'AMG Sport' and 'Engineered by AMG' versions of the car, the A180 does without the usual trappings of premium allure, and then some. It doesn't have alloy wheels or leather seats, and you'll pay extra for metallic paint. But you do get a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 120bhp and a healthy 148lb ft of torque.

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