Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Autocar magazine 21 November preview

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 05:34 AM PST

Baby BMW M3 revealed; every M car ever built; Caterham Supersport R, MG6 and Honda Jazz ECV driven; BMW 333d Touring full road test

This week's Autocar magazine is led by a four-page exclusive on a new entry level BMW M-car. The scoop on the new 'M1' reveals details of the new baby M3, as well as the internal debates within BMW as to whether it should be front or rear-wheel drive.

Those with an appetite for M-cars have plenty more to savour, too: Steve Sutcliffe drives the three best M3s and looks in to their collective dynamic repertoires to analyse what the next M3 needs to deliver. We also take a look at every M-car ever built. Can you name them all?

The first drive section is kicked off by a review of the Caterham Supersport R. Steve Cropley drives the new MG6 diesel, and reports that it is surprisingly improved and capable package. We also deliver the all-important verdicts on the BMW 7-series ActiveHybrid, Honda Civic diesel, Honda Jazz EV and Audi S3 Sportback.

The eight-page road test is of the BMW 330d Touring.

Our features section features three more cars that could hardly be more disparate: Greg Kable takes a world exclusive ride in the new Mercedes SLS Black Series, Stuart Milne investigates the ambitions of car tuner Eterniti and Steve Cropley puts a few more miles on the clock of a million kilometre Peugeot 504.

This week's used buying guide uncovers the bargains that can be had if you're prepared to take a risk on the Alfa Romeo 147, while James Ruppert admits a hankering for low-cost, high-risk Maseratis.

As ever, the magazine is available from all good newsagents or can be downloaded from Zinio or the Apple iTunes store

GM launches Springo sub-brand

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 05:24 AM PST

The General Motors-Shanghai Automotive joint venture will spawn a new Chinese market sub brand

General Motors is creating a new electric car sub brand for China called Springo.

These pictures show an electric version of the Chevrolet Sail, an Asian market small hatch, minus any Chevrolet badging. The car, which is currently nameless, will make its debut at the Guangzhou motor show later this week.

GM's Chinese partner Shanghai Automotive, which builds the Sail in China, has also restyled the front end of the car to resemble the Chevrolet Volt.

The car's electric motor develops 87bhp and 162lb ft, and the lithium ion battery gives the Springo a range of 93 miles. A full charge takes seven hours.

Dan Stevens


Fiat 500 production reaches one million

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 04:51 AM PST

Fiat's fashionable supermini racks up the sales in over 100 countries

One million Fiat 500s have rolled off the production line, with the milestone car recently emerging from the company's plant in Tychy, Poland.

Produced since 2007, the Fiat 500 is sold in 100 countries across the world, in markets as diverse as Brazil, South Africa, Japan and the Middle East.

The 500 has also been manufactured in Toluca, Mexico since 2011, to satisfy demand in the United States.

The one millionth car was a hatchback in 'Lounge' spec, finished in Funky White paint and fitted with Fiat's 1.2-litre petrol motor.

Despite the number of 500s produced, Fiat claims that due to the sheer number of customisation options available, there is a low probability of coming across two with the same specification.

Currently the 500 is sold in three body styles – hatchback, convertible and long wheelbase 'L' – six trim levels and with a choice of five engines.

Daljinder Nagra

New Nissan Qashqai spied testing

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 03:46 AM PST

Second generation of Nissan's genre-defining crossover to arrive in 2014

The first prototype test vehicles of the forthcoming Nissan Qashqai have been spotted testing in Spain.

While the test mules give little away about the exterior styling – being clothed in the current generation's panels – the slightly wider body and different wheelbase hint that the interior has been repackaged to provide more cabin and load space.

Engine specifications have yet to be confirmed, but a high-efficiency 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine is expected to replace the current 1.6 in the line-up. A 1.6-litre diesel will also be offered.

The new Nissan Qashqai is expected to be unveiled in production guise in 2014, with Nissan aiming to take it more up market, due to increased competition from premium crossovers, such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. In particular, the new car will feature a more luxurious cabin and improved quality all round over the current model.

Daljinder Nagra

Jaguar XFR-S for LA show debut

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 04:01 PM PST

542bhp V8 to redress the balance between Jaguar and its German rivals

Jaguar has confirmed a new range-topping performance version of the XFR super-saloon will be launched at next week's Los Angeles motor show.

The XFR-S, as the new model will be known, is described by the firm as "the fastest and most powerful saloon Jaguar has ever produced". The XFR-S will be the third model in Jaguar's R-S performance line-up, after the XKR-S coupé and cabriolet.

Jaguar revealed no details of the XFR-S alongside this sole teaser image of the new saloon. It's expected to use a version of the XFR's supercharged 5.0 V8 engine tuned to around 542bhp.

The image does reveal the XFR-S, like the XKR-S, will get a series of aggressive bodywork upgrades over the standard XFR and a special French Racing Blue colour.

Lotus Esprit close to fruition

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 04:00 PM PST

Hethel insiders confirm new flagship supercar is all but ready to be built

The new Lotus Esprit is purportedly almost finished, with just signing off and minor tweaking needed.

The new Lotus flagship is all but complete, but with the on-going management issues at the company it is far from becoming a production reality, a Lotus source has told Autocar.

It will use a 5.0-litre twin-turbo V8 with an F1-style KERS system, mated to a seven-speed paddle-shift transmission.

Despite a power output of around 650bhp, and a carbonfibre/aluminium construction, the Esprit is expected to cost no more than a high-end 911 – around £100,000.

Currently there is no word of when, or indeed if the Lotus Esprit will make it into production. A spokesman declined to comment on the story.

Mini prepares for 2013 Dakar Rally

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 09:33 AM PST

The 2012 champions look to defend their title, while promoting Mini Accessories

Five Mini Countryman cars will compete in the 5000-mile 2013 Dakar rally, with French duo, Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, leading the title defence in their Mini All4 rally car.

Mini won the 2012 cross-continent race and has won three other top 10 finishes with the All4, and will be looking to continue its run of success.

Since the Dakar rally will be seen as a showcase for Mini's technology and brand, the manufacturer is using the event to promote 'Mini Accessories', by kitting out its service cars (also Countryman models), which follow the Mini All4s along the desert route.

The service cars are fitted with the 'off-road design' package, which features silver-coloured add-ons for the front and rear apron and side skirts. The four-piece exterior kit is designed to both protect from stone chips and accentuate the Countryman's ground clearance.

Other items include 18-inch light alloy wheels shod with run-flat tyres, mud flaps, auxiliary headlights and all-weather floor mats.

All accessories can be purchased at any Mini dealership and can be fitted to existing customer cars.

Tom Heron

Sailing By

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 09:27 AM PST

Cars that coast could overtake hybrids in the race for ultimate economy

A couple of weeks ago, I piloted the Mercedes E300 Hybrid most of the way from Brighton to London in the RAC Future Car Challenge. By the time I reached Exhibition Road in central London, the trip computer said that I had averaged 65.7mpg. Which is right on the car's brochure promise of 109g/km. Trouble is, the driving technique needed to extract that kind of fuel economy verged on the extreme.

The route up from Crawley required the fuel-saving entrants to scale a steep bit of the North Downs and as well a section of the fast-flowing M25 and a long stretch of busy urban roads from Putney Hill to Kensington.

All these parts of the route worked against the various electric and hybrid vehicles because climbing, accelerating and shunting along in heavy traffic are the most energy inefficient. Indeed, by the time I had cleared the North Downs the trip computer was indicating just 48mpg. 

I'd had the opportunity to practise with the E300 for a few days on my normal commuting run and discovered that the best way of driving up the economy was just to coast downhill wherever possible. The E300 has the ability to shut off its engine and go into what the Germans call 'sailing mode'. Whether this is true 'sailing mode' (where the transmission also goes into neutral, leaving the car to roll freely) I couldn't find out, but it is amazingly effective. 

When I rolled onto the M25, it was clear enough for me to get away with a 60mph cruise and then it turned into a long, gentle, downhill. So dramatic is the energy saved by coasting that, after less than 15 mins on the M25, I exited with a 55mpg average on the dial.

The A3's 50mph speed limit was ideal for minimal fuel use and I further cheated by slipstreaming a solo Vauxhall Ampera. By the time I exited for Putney, the computer read 67mpg and I was surprised to drop just a couple of mpg by the time I shunted six urban miles to Kensington. But for all Mercedes' complex Hybrid drivetrain, in terms of fuel saving, nothing cames close to coasting at every opportunity.

In the summer I drove a prototype Audi A6 with 'intelligent sailing'. It used a 3D sat-nav system (so it knew when downhill stretches of road were approaching) and combined it with embedded information about its own drag and rolling resistance. This allowed the A6 to calculate when it could shut off its engine and just coast along on kinetic energy. Driven gently, it was surprising just how often the A6's engine would fall silent.

My experience of the prototype A6 and the production Mercedes has made me increasingly sure that the future lies not in complex petrol-electric drivetrains, but downsized normal engines (possibly, like the A6, combined with tiny, electrically-driven, turbochargers), coupled to a true 'sailing' mode transmission.

Of course, for the enthusiastic driver, this points to a bleak future. Cars with enough autonomy and intelligence to decide when to kill the engine and coast, in the pursuit of ultimate economy, suggests the driver will only be along for the ride. 

But while the sheer simplicity and cheapness of active sailing convinces me it's a no-brainer, we'll have to hope that carmakers include an off-switch.

Dacia Sandero the UK’s cheapest car to finance

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 07:54 AM PST

Romanian budget brand's Ford Fiesta rival can be yours from £69 per month

The Dacia Sandero is now the most affordable car to finance in the UK. The budget supermini can now be bought for £69 a month at 9.4 per cent APR, with base prices starting at £5995 – which also makes it the cheapest new car in the UK.

The Renault-owned Romanian car manufacturer is now taking orders for the Sandero, with deliveries arriving in January 2013, at the launch of Dacia in the UK. The range will be sold through Renault's network of UK dealerships.

Also, the Dacia Duster is now the cheapest new SUV in the UK, starting at £8995. Finance packages are available from £99 per month.

Both the Sandero and Duster come with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, with three years' roadside assistance included. Five-year/60,000-mile and seven-year/100,000-mile warranty upgrades are available, costing £395 and £850 respectively.

Tom Heron

New Nissan Note spotted testing

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 07:13 AM PST

Sighting of Euro-spec Note prototype reveals design overhaul

These recent images of the European Nissan Note suggest the new mini-MPV is nearing completion prior to its launch in 2013.

The European version sports a sleeker body shape than the Japanese model, with more distinctive styling cues inspired by the Invitation concept from this year's Geneva motor show. Nissan claims interior space remains unaffected.

Also different for the European spec car will be the interior, which is promised to have a more 'premium' ambience, and chassis settings more in tune with our unique roads.

The full engine line-up has yet to be confirmed, but will include Nissan's DIG-S supercharged three-cylinder petrol. The new Note will also be the first car to feature the firm's new lightweight CVT automatic gearbox.

Alongside the more upmarket interior will be some suitably premium options, including Nissan's Around View Monitor. Originally only an option on high-end Infiniti models, the system uses hidden cameras to give the driver a bird's eye view of the car's perimeter, aiding parking and manoeuvring in tight spaces.

Sam Preston

First drive review: Ford B-Max 1.4 Duratec Studio

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 06:35 AM PST

The 1.4 B-Max makes sense only in basic Studio form, although the three-pot Ecoboost Zetec is the ideal choice Sometimes engine choice can have quite a noticeable effect on a car's behaviour, and in more than the obvious areas of performance and economy. Choosing the B-Max's entry-level 89bhp four-cylinder 1.4-litre petrol engine instead of the 99bhp three-cylinder Ecoboost motor does more than just more than simply lose you 0.6sec in the sprint to 62mph, raise the fuel economy by 8.3mpg combined and add 20g/km of CO2 emissions. The ageing four-cylinder adds weight and noise to the mix, too.The appeal of this engine lies in its price. The £12,995 Ford asks for a basic B-Max 1.4 Studio is a fat £2605 less than you'll pay for the same engine in the much better-kitted Zetec trim. Another £595 on top of that buys you the Zetec-kitted Ecoboost version, whose smoothly effortless, syrupy power delivery adds a layer of deeply pleasing sophistication to this ingenious car.

First drive review: Audi A3 Sportback 1.8 TFSI S-line

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 05:53 AM PST

Hottest A3 Sportback offers a flexible engine, but let down by an uncharacteristically slow auto 'box The liveliest version of the A3 Sportback, at least until the S3 and rumoured RS3 arrive. There will be a slightly more powerful diesel version early next year, too, but that won't offer the high-revving thrills of the TFSI powerplant.It will be available with a four-wheel drive quattro powertrain as an option, but the car we're testing is mated the standard-fit S-tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox with a front-wheel drive configuration.It's worth pointing out that this isn't a cut-price S3, which is something its 7.3sec 0-62mph benchmark will attest to. But the fact that the car isn't available in entry-level SE trim – just Sport and the S-line we're testing here – suggests it sits at the warmer end of the range.Addressing criticisms of the way more sporting Audis ride, each A3 Sportback is available with the softer suspension setup from the model below as a no-cost option. The Sportback is significantly lighter than the secong-generation model it replaces, but still adds around 30kg over the three-door largely thanks to an increased wheelbase.

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