Monday, November 19, 2012

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First drive review: Caterham Seven Supersport R

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 04:16 AM PST

Just like the Supersport, but a bit more powerful. Only worth the extra if you're a hardcore track driver A faster version of the Caterham Supersport. While it's unlikely that you would step out of the 140bhp, 1.6-litre Sigma-engined Supersport thinking that it was underpowered, some punters have suggested that it would do well to beef up a bit and offer a few more revs to play with for track use.So here we have the Supersport R – a car offering the same adjustable double wishbone suspension up front and De-Dion arrangement at the rear, but with a 180bhp 2.0-litre Duratec engine under the bonnet. Even spec is unchanged, which means a limited-slip diff, harness, composite sports seats, integrated shift lights and bespoke Supersport dampers as standard. Weight is only up by 15kg despite the bigger capacity motor, which translates to a figure of 336bhp per tonne.

Volvo increases production of first diesel hybrid

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 03:54 AM PST

First 1000 examples of V60 hybrid have already been sold

Volvo has already made plans to increase production of its first diesel-electric hybrid, despite the model not being launched until 2013.

The initial 1000-car production run of the V60 hybrid has already found buyers, so the Swedish firm plans to increase output to 4000-6000 cars from 2014.

Although technical highlights of the plug-in hybrid have yet to be announced, Volvo claims a range of up to 32 miles from the 11.2kW lithium ion battery alone, while the diesel engine to which it is mated will undoubtedly be a pre-existing Volvo unit.

Along with the new battery, the V60 hybrid features more than 300 extra parts over the standard V60, including the battery cooling system, high-voltage cables and additional battery drive shaft.

The hybrid, which has been built in co-operation with Swedish electricity supplier Vattenfall, will be assembled on the same production line as the standard V60, V70, XC70, S80 and XC90 models at Volvo's Torslanda plant in Gothenburg.

Tom Heron

200bhp Ford Focus WTCC Limited Edition launched

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 03:27 AM PST

Race team Arena launches WTCC-inspired tuned Focus

World Touring Car Championship team Arena has launched a warmed-over Ford Focus, with a more powerful version of the 1.6-litre turbo Ecoboost engine.

Tweaked by long-time Ford tuner Mountune Performance, the Focus WTCC Limited Edition gets 200bhp, 20bhp more than the most powerful off-the-shelf 1.6 Ecoboost engine, and an extra 37lb ft of torque, increasing output to 236lb ft.

The car also gets a short-throw gear selector, developed by Mountune, a set of replica WTCC 18-inch alloys with 235/40 tyres and a tweaked exhaust.Styling tweaks include WTCC exterior graphics, carbonfibre-effect detailing in the cabin and WTCC-branded trim.

Unusually for a UK-developed limited edition, the Focus WTCC will be sold globally. Despite not being an official Ford product, it will also retain the full three-year manufacturer warranty.

Dan Stevens


United States Grand Prix – results and pics

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 02:46 AM PST

Hamilton's victory keeps championship title fight alive

Lewis Hamilton has won the United States Grand Prix, finishing ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso in a closely fought battle at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

The McLaren driver shadowed pole-sitter Vettel throughout the race, before finally making his move with 14 laps to go.

Alonso managed to secure third place, containing Vettel's championship lead to just 13 points.

To take the drivers' title, Alonso will need to win the final race of the season – in Sao Paulo, Brazil – with Vettel finishing no higher than fifth.

Although it proved a frustrating race for Red Bull, with Vettel being denied victory and Mark Webber retiring on lap 13 due to alternator issues, the outcome did mean the team collected the constructors' title, its third in three seasons.

Felipe Massa held off the McLaren of Jensen Button to eventually take fourth place. The Brazilian had started 11th after Ferrari deliberately gave him a five-place penalty by breaking the seal on his gearbox, to improve team-mate Alonso's starting position.

By starting seventh rather than eighth, Alonso started on the cleaner side of the circuit with more grip. He used this to his advantage, taking fourth place by the first corner.

At one point it looked as though Alonso may have had to contend with the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, but was able to pull away after the Finn was delayed by a slow pit-stop.

Despite using a different tyre strategy from the race leaders that saw him emerge from the pits behind the two Lotuses, Jenson Button managed to pass both cars. He struggled to gain on Massa, however, never getting within less than five seconds of the Ferrari.

Lower down the grid, Nico Hulkenberg managed to hold off Pastor Maldonado, who came in ninth, ahead of Williams team-mate Bruno Senna.

United States GP top 10 drivers:

1. Lewis Hamilton - McLaren 1:35:55.269

2. Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull +0.675

3. Fernando Alonso - Ferrari +39.229

4. Felipe Massa - Ferrari +46.013

5. Jenson Button - McLaren +56.432

6. Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus +1:04.425

7. Romain Grosjean - Lotus +1:10.313

8. Nico Hulkenberg - Force India +1:13.792

9. Pastor Maldonado - Williams +1:14.525

10. Bruno Senna - Williams +1:15.133

Daljinder Nagra

Jaguar Land Rover to open Chinese factory

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 01:38 AM PST

Beijing approves £1bn joint venture

Jaguar Land Rover is to manufacture cars in China for the first time, after the Chinese authorities approved a £1bn joint venture with Chery Automobile.

The West Midlands-based firm is to build a plant near Shanghai, which is due to open in 2015. It is likely that Land Rover's Evoque or Freelander models will be built there.

Manufacturing in China allows JLR to avoid significant import taxes, making its products even more attractive to a country that is now the largest car-buying market in the world. Sales of JLR models in China have risen by 80 per cent this year alone.

The factory would also allow JLR to build cars designed specifically for the Chinese market, where the emphasis is on being driven, rather than driving yourself.

JLR emphasised that cars produced in China would be in addition to existing output from the UK, and that there were no plans to move its manufacturing base out of Britain.

Daljinder Nagra

Why the Ferrari F150 is so special

Posted: 18 Nov 2012 04:00 PM PST

Ferrari's latest hyper-car uses technology too costly even for F1

The key to Ferrari's creation of a vehicle that can truly be considered as close as possible to a road-going F1 car is its use of carbonfibre. To this end, it has employed former F1 designer Rory Byrne, who was responsible for cars that won 11 world championships in motorsport's highest category, to lead its chassis development.

Byrne says that the F150 has the most advanced chassis structure ever conceived for a road car. He has drawn on four different types of carbonfibre material to ensure that it meets the brief of being light, stiff and strong enough to deliver the performance and crash test structures demanded by the project.

At its highest level, the carbonfibre is of a grade now banned in F1 for cost reasons but still used in high-risk businesses such as nuclear reactor construction. As a result of using these materials in key areas of the chassis, it has already been revealed that the F150 has 27 per cent more torsional rigidity and 22 per cent more vertical beam stiffness than the Enzo.

"We can use different forms of carbonfibre according to the loads on areas of the chassis, ensuring strength where we need it but never more than we need," said Byrne. "We have evaluated what the requirements are for each part of the car — weight saving, high stiffness,and so on — and been able to apply different types of carbonfibre accordingly. No other car manufacturer has been able to do this."

Byrne's comments are a direct reference to the McLaren P1, which was unveiled at the Paris show in September and which uses the same carbonfibre structure as the McLaren MP4-12C. The P1 is not considered by Ferrari to use carbonfibre composites as advanced as those it will introduce.

McLaren has so far declined to comment on these suggestions, preferring instead to reinforce its belief that the P1 will be the 'ultimate driver's car' when it is revealed next year in its finalised production form.

Other inspirations for the F150 include the Ferrari FXX programme, which used an Enzo-based chassis to create a track-only car for well heeled customers.

The programme ran from 2005 to 2009. Changes to the base car included a larger 6.3-litre engine, a power output of 789bhp and an F1-derived gearshift section, which lowered shift times to below 100ms.

Since the Enzo-based programme ended, Ferrari has applied the FXX treatment to other cars in its range and employed lessons learned from customer feedback to its other road cars. However, unlike with the F150, FXX customers are only allowed to drive on track and all the cars remain under Ferrari's control.

New Ferrari Enzo: full details

Posted: 18 Nov 2012 04:00 PM PST

Extreme Ferrari F150 hyper-car packs in all of the firm's F1 know-how

Ferrari's new flagship packs more than 800bhp, weighs as little as 1100kg and promises to be as close to a true competition car as any road-legal vehicle yet made, according to company sources. The Enzo replacement — codenamed F150 — is due to make its public debut next spring.

Compared with the upcoming McLaren P1, the F150 is claimed by Ferrari to make more sophisticated use of carbonfibre in its construction. Ferrari also says the whole car — from the radical race-car driving position to the radical active aerodynamics — will take the driving experience even closer the fabled idea of a Formula 1 car for the road. There's no news on the likely price, but it won't be much less than £800,000.

The F150 advances the concept of the 2005 Enzo-based, track-only FXX, but has its roots in the Millechili technical concept of 2007, a 1000kg research programme that was revealed at Ferrari's 60th anniversary celebrations.

The F150 is based around a compact central carbonfibre monocoque weighing just 70kg (20 per cent lighter than an Enzo's). It is powered by a V12 engine and backed up by a small electric motor and lithium ion battery packs.

The V12 is a development of the 731bhp 6.3-litre unit used in the F12. No details have yet leaked, but it is expected that the new engine will be good for more than 750bhp. The electric motor should deliver about 100bhp and as much as 200lb ft of torque.

Although the F150 will not be able to travel solely on electric power, Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa says that the Hy-KERS hybrid system will give the F150 a "performance boost, knocking 10 per cent off the car's 0-125mph sprint time". Overall, the F150's CO2 emissions are claimed to be as much as 40 per cent lower than would have been the case with the new V12 engine on its own. Felisa also said that the electric motor is integral to a new torque-vectoring system.

The carbon monocoque has roof-hinged doors like the Enzo and features a radical rethink of the way that the driver is packaged. Like an F1 car, the seat is fixed and will be moulded as a bespoke unit for the buyer. The driver sits upright and his feet will also be raised up, race-car style.

The car's pedal box and steering wheel are adjustable and it's believed that most of the controls are mounted on the steering wheel, F1 style. It's thought that this uncompromising package saves as much as 90kg.

The V12 engine is packaged in the centre of the car, ahead of the rear axle line. It features a new dual-clutch gearbox and a differential design that appears to allow the transmission to be mounted low so that the heavy crankshaft is slightly below the centre of the rear wheels. The batteries are also sited low down, behind the driver.

It's expected that the F150 will feature dramatic styling, driven by the project's F1 influences. The bodywork in-board of the front wheels will be very low, as will the bonnet line. The cabin is also very tightly drawn around the occupants before flaring out dramatically around the radiators and rear wheels.

Spy shots show that the F150 has a very long tail. It may get a signature look where the cabin and rear window tapers almost to a point at the very rear of the car.

First drive review: Audi A1 quattro

Posted: 17 Nov 2012 01:00 AM PST

Audi crowns the A1 range with the hardcore limited-run quattro. The Audi A1 supermini, skunkworked.The most powerful mass-built A1 is the 1.4 TFSI Black Edition, good for 182bhp, but the A1 quattro, hand-built and limited to 333 left-hand-drive examples, adds nearly 40 per cent to that figure, and the same in torque. It uses the faithful EA113 engine seen in the TTS and VW's Scirocco R, in a similar state of tune.It's not a plug-and-play job, though - bodyshell aside, there's little in common between the quattro and common-or-garden A1s. Most significatly, there's permanent quattro drive (apportioned electronically and applied hydraulically by a rear-mounted multi-plate clutch), a revised six-speed manual gearbox, rear anti-roll bar and multi-link suspension also from the TTS, and beefier brakes.Steering is still the standard 14.8:1-ratio, electrohydraulic set-up, though.Performance tooling like a carbonfibre propshaft doesn't come cheap, and the A1 quattro costs almost twice as much as the Black Edition, at just over £41k. The blow is softened by £11k-worth of options, though, including rear parking sensors, a xenon and LED lights pack and bags of media treats such as DAB radio, Bose stereo, nav and web services.All examples are white with a glossy black roof and boot spoiler combo, and striking white 18-inch alloys. Inside there are hard-backed leather sports seats and smaller touches like red stitching.

Updated Mercedes E-class cabriolet spied testing

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 09:05 AM PST

Mid-range E-class soft-top benefits from comprehensive reworking

These are the latest spy shots showing the face-lifted Mercedes E-class cabriolet undergoing testing. The model is due to be launched at next year's Detroit motor show.

The images confirm the marque's decision to replace the current model's distinctive quad headlights with two individual units.

The updated front-end styling provides improved cohesion with Mercedes' current range and is claimed to offer improved aerodynamics while decreasing shutline exposure.

Mid-life exterior updates to the E-class range are comprehensive, including a revised grille and reworked front and rear bumpers, along with newly designed tail-lights.

Inside, the new model will boast improved trim materials, upgraded instrument graphics and a more modern version of Mercedes' Comand multimedia system. Mercedes is also expected to replace the engines for more efficient units.

Sam Preston

BMW M135i

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 03:33 AM PST

Not quite a 1M, but how similar will BMW's halfway solution be? Making the case for this car is hardly difficult. We adored the bespoke savagery of the 1-series M Coupé, but that was an ultra-expensive, low-volume M-car model never intended for mass production. Clearly, what was needed was a similarly outrageous output wrapped in a cheaper to buy hatchback shell, atop a slightly less spiky chassis. Step forward the new M135i.Whereas the 1M was meant as a showy halo product for the hardcore enthusiast, the M135i, in line with BMW's new performance strategy, is intended as a natural range-topper and a genuine prospect for the multitude of buyers attracted to the modern mega-hatch concept.It's hardly alone in that market, but its appearance does seem remarkably well timed. The hideously expensive Audi RS3 has essentially been and gone, the next generation of Volkswagen Golf R and Ford Focus RS aren't going to appear any time soon and we're still waiting for Mercedes' A25 AMG to take a bow.Consequently, BMW's effort has some room to breath. We'll decant it over the next eight pages and discover if the car is worthy of its M badge's vintage.

Gumpert saved from insolvency

Posted: 13 Nov 2012 08:45 AM PST

German supercar maker given stay of execution after receiving more Apollo orders

German car manufacturer Gumpert has been saved from insolvency after receiving more orders for its Apollo supercar.

Gumpert originally filed for insolvency in August, but now plans to build around five cars in the next quarter.

With the Gumpert worldwide dealer network currently operational, further orders are expected from China, Turkey and the Middle East, and Gumpert insolvency director Görge Scheid remains optimisitic about finding an investor and saving all 25 jobs at the firm's Altenburg headquarters.

Daljinder Nagra

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