Friday, November 16, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

GM reaffirms commitment to Opel/Vauxhall

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 05:13 AM PST

CEO says GM won't "cut and run"

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson has confirmed his commitment to the success of Opel/Vauxhall, speaking to 5000 employees at the brand's headquarters in Russelsheim, Germany.

Ackerson confirmed that GM was neither going to sell the loss-making company nor simply declare it bankrupt.

"Our protracted losses have prompted some analysts to argue that we should sell Opel or simply close up shop and leave car sales in the region to others," he said. "I'm not about to do that."

He also stated that the 23 new models and replacement models that Opel is planning to bring to market by 2016 were proof that GM is committed to the future of its European arm.

Ackerson has been under pressure from shareholders to wind down operations at Opel/Vauxhall, after a forecasted $1.8 billion full-year operating loss in Europe.

The GM boss instead intends to expand the company, citing an intended partnership with PSA Peugeot Citroën, despite reports that the tie-up had been shelved in the wake of a French government bailout of the group's finance division.

Daljinder Nagra

Range Rover: Santander to Marrakech in three minutes

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 03:14 AM PST

Join us on our epic Range Rover test

Matt Prior provides the background to Autocar's mammoth journey to Morocco in the all-new Range Rover

Mercedes CLA to spawn Shooting Brake

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 02:09 AM PST

CLA will debut in Detroit, ahead of a Shooting Brake variant to be shown a few months later

Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that its forthcoming 'baby CLS' will spawn an estate version to be called the CLA Shooting Brake.

The CLA is tipped to appear for the first time in full production guise at the Detroit motor show in January, before going into production in June 2013 for sale in the UK a few months later.

Inspired by the F800 Style concept of 2010, and previewed by the Concept Style Coupé at this year's Auto China show in Beijing, the Mercedes CLA is based on the front-wheel drive platform of the latest A-class.

Like that model, the new CLA will also be offered with the Mercedes-Benz 4Matic four-wheel drive system. Mercedes is citing the BMW 3-series as a dynamic benchmark for the CLA.

Availability of four-wheel drive paves the way for a CLA45 AMG model, which, like the imminent A45 AMG hot hatch, will be powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine. Power output is 349bhp, with 332lb ft of torque on tap.

Sources confirm that the A45 AMG will use a Haldex clutch to distribute torque between the front and rear axles, while the suspension is quite different from that of the regular A-class. It is expected that the CLA45 AMG will follow suit, though it has yet to be confirmed whether a manual gearbox will be offered alongside the dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Shane O'Donoghue

First drive review: BMW ActiveHybrid 7 L SE

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 02:04 AM PST

BMW gives the 7-series an electric boost with the ActiveHybrid 7, but the diesel engines better it in every way This is a petrol-electric BMW 7-series. BMW shifted 1400 7-series models in the UK last year. Tellingly, 91 per cent of those were diesels. Seemingly even those with pockets deep enough to be buying a luxury saloon with a starting price of just under £60,000 are feeling the pinch enough to head for the black pump.The ActiveHybrid 7 fills an uncomfortable niche, then. Its combined 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol engine and 40kW electric motor offer the same 5.7sec 0-62mph time and electronically limited 155mph top speed of the TwinPower 3.0-litre straight six 740i, yet it costs more than its conventionally powered relation. It'll take many thousands of miles to recoup the £5000 difference too, with a 41.5mpg combined fuel consumption figure only 5.7mpg better than that of the 740i.Add the diesels into the equation and the ActiveHybrid 7's case gets even more shaky, with the 730d and 740d able to offer 50mpg consumption and sub-150g/km CO2 emissions. They can't cruise around town for around two to three miles on pure electric power, though, which is something BMW claims the ActiveHybrid 7 can do. You'll need to be an absolute puritan with the accelerator if you're to achieve that, however, as the 3.0-litre six is all too quick to join in to help shift the near-two-tonne Bavarian barge if you more than brush the right pedal. There's no push-button EV mode to help, either, meaning the ActiveHybrid 7's silent party trick is both hard-won and infrequent.

Mercedes Ener-G-Force teases Range Rover rival

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 12:00 AM PST

Mercedes' LA motor show Design Challenge entry points towards future luxury SUV

This new Mercedes-Benz G-class-based concept is the first statement of intent of the firm's plans to launch a direct rival to the Range Rover.

The Ener-G-Force concept car is an imposing seven-seater that, in kitted-up Highway Patrol Vehicle guise, is also Mercedes' entry into the annual Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge at next week's LA motor show.

Mercedes officials won't be drawn on specifics just yet, but highly placed sources claim the Ener-G-Force is the forerunner to a new three strong line-up of Land Rover-rivalling off-roaders set to join its line-up in coming years, based around existing platforms and driveline combinations, including a long-awaited replacement for the iconic G-class in production since 1979 and a Range Rover rival.

"The Ener-G-Force invokes the genes of the G-class," said Mercedes' design chief Gorden Wagener. "It could also be a clue about a new beginning for the off-road design idiom of Mercedes," he added, in tacit reference to the company's new range of SUVs.

Styled at Mercedes-Benz's advanced design studio in California, the Ener-G-Force updates the functional go-anywhere appearance of the 33-year-old G-class with a bold new look that provides clues to how the company's new SUV line-up, which Autocar understands has been conceived to include compact, mid-size and luxury, may appear if current proposals are approved.

The taut surfacing and lack of fanciful crease lines throughout the body helps to provide the concept with a particularly tough appearance that Autocar has been told forms the basis for the design of the new Land Rover-rivaling range of off-roaders.

As Mercedes-Benz's entry for this year's LA Design Challenge, which centres around a Highway Patrol Vehicle for the year 2025, the Ener-G-Force's proposed driveline consists of four wheel-mounted hydrogen-powered electric motors. Water held in containers on the roof and a so-called Hydro-Tech Converter provide electricity that is stored in batteries within the concept car's broad sills, which also act as tread plates. Mercedes-Benz predicts the car would have a range of up to 497 miles (800km).

Quick news: New Toyota RAV4 set for unveiling; BMW makes DAB radio standard

Posted: 15 Nov 2012 07:30 PM PST

All-new Toyota RAV4 to be shown at Los Angeles Auto Show; BMW sets standards for in-car multimedia; Chevrolet releases Camaro Hot Wheels edition in UK

Toyota's all new RAV4 is set to be revealed at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, held on the 28 November. The unveiling comes before its release to the UK public in early 2013.

BMW is to include DAB radio as standard on all models throughout its range from January 2013. The news secures the marque as market leaders in the preparation for digital broadcasting, ensuring that no customers are left without in-car multimedia when analogue programming ceases. DAB radio provides a larger choice of stations, improved reception and superior sound quality. It has recently been offered by the firm as a retrofit upgrade option for older cars.

Chevrolet will release its Camaro Hot Wheels edition in the UK in early 2013. The model becomes the first full-scale production Hot Wheels car ever sold by a manufacturer. The V8 coupé comes with a choice of manual or automatic transmission, and is finished in Kinetic Blue metallic paint, replete with fender 'flame' graphics and black 20-inch wheels amongst other Hot Wheels styling cues.

Sam Preston

Caterham eyes hypercar

Posted: 15 Nov 2012 04:00 PM PST

British manufacturer plots new sports car using motorsport know-how and targets Asian expansion

Caterham boss Tony Fernandes wants to make his firm "Asia's Porsche" in the long term — and he sees an all-out hypercar as a vital part of the plan, along with more mainstream models.

Talking to Autocar after the announcement of the firm's tie-up with Renault to produce jointly a new sports car for sale by both brands, Fernandes revealed that the co-operation was only the first step in the partnership.

"This is just the start of the line on Caterham products," said Fernandes. "I know it sounds ambitious in the extreme, but Porsche has to be my template.

"Look at what they have achieved, growing beyond a sports car firm with the Cayenne and Panamera. We expect our biggest success with the sports car to come in Asia, and that is a market that likes SUVs and city cars as well. If we can get the brand established there, then we have an opportunity."

Fernandes said that he expects to work with Renault on future projects because of the cost savings that the joint venture offers but he stressed that the agreement did not preclude either party working with other partners, or alone.

To that end, Fernandes also confirmed a desire to build a hypercar when the firm had a range of more affordable cars on sale. Former F1 technical director and now boss of Caterham Technologies Mike Gascoygne confirmed that the project was under evaluation.

"Caterham has the motorsport know-how, the carbonfibre know-how, the dynamics and aerodynamic know-how to make it happen," said Gascoyne. "My job is to essentially commercialise our motorsport involvement. Having a halo car that demonstrates our expertise would be one, very appealing way of doing that."

Engineering and design work on the Caterham and Alpine sports cars is said to be well underway, with the project having begun long before last week's formal announcement. Although sales are not due to begin until 2014 at the earliest, a concept car could appear within a year, said Gascoyne.

"The Alpine will be styled to invoke the A110, but at Caterham we will have a totally different look. The cars will look completely different."

Porsche 911 GT3 R spotted testing

Posted: 15 Nov 2012 08:17 AM PST

Spy shots of new race car point towards forthcoming GT3 road car

This is the forthcoming 2013 Porsche 911 GT3 R race car, spotted during an evening shakedown test.

While based on the current 991 platform, the pictures show the racer running on a much wider track, with suitably enlarged front and rear wings. The nose has also been completely redesigned from the road car.

The aero package fitted to the car is substantial, with a large rear spoiler, intricate rear diffuser and an air intake built into the front bonnet.

The emergence of the race car is a good indication that a GT3 version of the 911 road car will also be launched next year.

As the name suggests, the car will compete in FIA GT3 class competition. The first customer cars are expected for delivery early in 2013.

Daljinder Nagra

Spied: Mercedes-Benz GLA

Posted: 15 Nov 2012 08:01 AM PST

Latest images of Mercedes' new Evoque rivalling SUV

An insider at Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that a new compact SUV will go on sale in the UK by the end of 2014. It is expected to be called the GLA.

Mercedes has already admitted that it's 'baby CLS' four-door coupé will be called the CLA, though a decision has not yet been made on the off-roader's title. A mid-sized model called the GLK is already on sale in left-hand drive markets.

The new GLA will, like the CLA, be based on the platform of the recently launched A-Class hatchback, which has been engineered to accept the Mercedes 4Matic four-wheel drive system. A raised ride height and various driving modes of operation are expected.

However, most small SUVs sold are two-wheel drive only and it is expected that entry-level versions of the Mercedes GLA will be offered in front-wheel drive guise. It's likely that at least one model will emit less than 120g/km of CO2.

While the GLA will be marketed as a baby brother to the full-size GL-Class, its A-Class derived styling is said to clearly define the new car as a crossover rather than an out-and-out off-roader.

Following on from the new CLA models and the GLA will be an all-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class, tipped to be styled in the same vein as the CLA and possibly pushed further up market.

Rumours suggest that at least one other body style is to come from the new A-Class platform. Likely candidates are a two-seat roadster, a 2+2 coupé or a folding-hardtop coupé-cabriolet that would logically be called the SLA.

Shane O' Donoghue

Should cyclists be subject to a curfew

Posted: 15 Nov 2012 01:41 AM PST

Will imposing a night-time curfew on cyclists make the roads safer?

I'm a cyclist and proud of it. Still got the same Bangernomics bike I bought in 1972. Plenty of life left in it too. Popped up to the builder's merchants the other day to pick up some filler, but it was daylight. And that's why there is still so much life left in me. I now operate a cyclist curfew: when it is dark, I don't go out. It is as simple as that.

Two recent incidents brought the whole debate to life. First, in urban south London with road humps and cars parked on either side, I had to follow a cyclist in the dusk. He had no lights. No reflective jacket. No helmet. But he did have a mobile phone attached to his earhole. I couldn't overtake safely because of oncoming traffic. I had to just bounce along behind this idiot for about a mile. For some reason he was furious with me and I found out just how annoyed he was when I finally overtook when the coast was clear and the road wider. He gesticulated wildly and presumably shouted stuff. Berk.

A week later I am on a country road with no street lamps. It is pitch black except for a flashing apparition in the distance. I have never seen a cyclist with such an abundance of reflection. Or for that matter so much LED illumination this side of an Audi. He knew it was damned dangerous out there and didn't mind as I waited a distance behind because of the bendy nature of the road. He checked where I was once or twice. No abuse, no hand gestures. He still looked a berk, though, in all that gear.

Yes, cyclists can be stupid and sensible, just like drivers, and we can have the clocks backwards and forwards arguments all day and night long. However, because of the danger and vulnerability, shouldn't cyclists have a curfew? Or at least an age limit? If they want to go out in the dark, then wear a reflective vest, put some lights on and pass a proficiency test. Break the curfew and it's prison. With hard labour. Who's with me?

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