Thursday, November 22, 2012

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Autocar Online - News

LA motor show: Jaguar F-type Black Pack

Posted: 22 Nov 2012 04:16 AM PST

Jaguar will launch the F-type in North America with a show car in Black Pack trim

The Jaguar F-Type Black Pack will make its world debut at the LA motor show next week. The event will also mark the first time the car has been seen in America.

Black Pack performance versions feature high gloss black paint. All other external design features are identical to the standard car.

The F-Type Black Pack will make its show debut alongside the Jaguar XFR-S, the fastest and most powerful saloon Jaguar has ever made.

Saab to return 'next year'

Posted: 22 Nov 2012 03:06 AM PST

Production could begin earlier than expected

Saab could relaunch the 9-3 as early as next year, and not as an electric car, as previously reported.

National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), a Chinese/Japanese consortium that took over Saab earlier this year, told Automotive News that it was looking to start production of the 9-3 with a petrol engine "next summer". Previously the firm had said it wanted to develop an electric 9-3 for 2014.

A spokesman for the firm said part of the reason for considering an earlier launch was to increase brand awareness for Saab. NEVS is also looking at a new logo for the Saab brand, although all future models would still be badged as Saab.

Peugeot gets serious about 'growth' markets

Posted: 22 Nov 2012 02:55 AM PST

The budget Peugeot 301 will be used to kick start non-European sales to 60 per cent by 2020

Peugeot this week reveals its new 301, a car built especially for what it calls 'growth markets' in Turkey, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. Eventually it will also be sold and manufactured in China.

According to Peugeot's new 38 year-old brand CEO, Maxime Picat, who until recently was chief of PSA's Chinese operations, Peugeot wants to use this specially targeted "value" model, and others like it, to boost non-European sales proportion to 60 per cent by 2020. 

The Peugeot 301 is a restyled and stretched four-door 308 with a separate, booted shape of its own. It will be built initially in Vigo, Spain. It sits on a stretched 308 wheelbase and wider tracks, is 4.4 metres long and features both the generous rear cabin and capacious separate boot that owners in these markets prefer. 

There are three engines, a 72bhp non-turbo version of the recently launched 1.2 litre PSA triple, plus a 115bhp 1.6 petrol four and a 92bhp bhp normally aspirated version of the familiar 1.6 HDi diesel, which is, according to Peugeot the world's biggest-selling diesel engine. 

PSA has been criticised in France and elsewhere for not being sufficiently "internationalised" but spokesmen say the group is working hard to change things. Two years ago group volume outside Europe was just 30 per cent, last year it was 42 per cent and by 2015 it is tipped to reach 50 per cent, en route to the 60 per cent target by 2020.

Chinese Citroen DS demand tipped to expand range

Posted: 22 Nov 2012 02:48 AM PST

China's "love" of French luxury products will lead Citroen to produce DS models specifically for China

Burgeoning demand from China is likely to add several models to the Citroen DS model line-up, according to PSA's veteran brand chief, Frederic Saint-Geours.

Explaining the group's strategy for escaping from its 'too mainstream' market positioning, Saint-Geours told Automotive News that the Chinese market for premium cars had reached 25 per cent, which made it numerically larger than Europe's premium market.

"We are confident the DS line will have success in China," he said, "because so many Chinese investors are asking us to become DS dealers. The Chinese love French luxury.

"We will develop new DS versions specifically for China: a C-segment sedan, a D-segment sedan and an SUV. We will also sell these models elsewhere in the world. Thus the expansion of the DS line in China might also help us strengthen it in Europe."

Citroen is readying its C-Elysée and the C4 L to launch in Chinese and Russian markets. The C4 L is the first to emerge from the firm's Shanghai style centre.

First drive review: Lexus LS460 Luxury

Posted: 22 Nov 2012 01:57 AM PST

The 2013 Lexus LS is outclassed by all its rivals, but its refinement, equipment, construction quality and V8 powertrain still appeal The LS was the car that launched Lexus back in 1989. But as the firm's range has filled out this high-end limo has become a minority-interest model, finding only 100 buyers last year. The financial crisis hasn't helped, and neither has the LS's age, which is why this facelift has penetrated more deeply than most makeovers to feature 3000 changes, ranging from an exterior restyling to a new dashboard, structural strengthening, a revised climate control system and, intriguingly, the reintroduction of the petrol V8 without hybrid hardware. That may seem odd in these CO2-obsessed times, but Lexus is confident that around 80 per cent of the 300 to 400 LS's it expects to sell next year will be V8s, the rest accounted for by the long-wheelbase LS600h L hybrid.Lexus is confident because it's still in touch with a pool of several thousand LS V8 owners who'd like to renew without the complexity of a hybrid.The other major change is the introduction of a sporting LS F Sport, its arrival mirroring the offer of more dynamic F versions across the rest of the Lexus range. It will take 40 per cent of sales. The LS460 Luxury sampled here will account for another 40 per cent.Among the myriad detail improvements are aerodynamic tweaks to improve high speed stability, an ambient cabin lighting system, upgraded LED exterior lamps and an impressively scaled multimedia screen of somewhat dated graphics. 

Mercedes CLA45 to be unveiled at Frankfurt 2013

Posted: 22 Nov 2012 01:00 AM PST

349bhp Mercedes four-door will arrive in the UK in early 2014 ahead of BMW's junior performance saloon

The key premium-brand rival for BMW's new M135i saloon will be the Mercedes CLA45 AMG. Based on the same flexible platform structure as the latest A-class and B-class, the new style-led four-door Merc will crown the heavily anticipated CLA line-up. It will go on sale in the UK in early 2014 at a price of about £38,000. That's £20,000 less than the similar-sized C63 AMG, which is itself set to be replaced by a bigger all-new model towards the end of 2014.

The CLA45 AMG will be the first Mercedes performance saloon to use a transverse engine layout. It will share its turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder powerplant and four-wheel drive system with the smaller A45 AMG, which will go on sale in the UK next summer.

Mercedes insiders keenly describe the CLA45 AMG as a baby CLS63 AMG. Power peaks at a heady 349bhp, providing the range-topping saloon with a specific output of 175bhp per litre. Torque is said to be 332lb ft.

Drive is sent through an in-house-developed seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, electronic differential and Haldex-style multi-plate clutch to all four wheels.

AMG won't be drawn on official performance claims ahead of the car's unveiling at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show, but insiders suggest that it will get close to 5.0sec for the 0-62mph dash, with top speed limited to 155mph in standard guise and rising to 168mph with an optional performance package.

Fuel-saving technologies, including brake energy recuperation and an automatic stop-start function, contribute to combined fuel consumption of more than 40mpg.

Previewed by the Concept Style Coupé at the Beijing motor show this year, the 4600mm-long CLA draws its heavily structured appearance and coupé-like silhouette from the second-generation CLS.

As with standard versions, the CLA45 AMG will be produced at Mercedes' new manufacturing plant in Tecskemet, Hungary.

First drive review: MG6 SE DTi

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 04:01 PM PST

A new diesel engine makes the Longbridge-built MG6 a serious fleet contender at last. This is the MG6 diesel we were promised. When this first of Chinese-owned MG's all-new range hit the UK market 18 months ago, only optimists reckoned it would make any impact. Why? Because there wasn't a diesel option, and in the Focus-Mondeo market segments the car aimed to straddle, petrol sales account for not much more than ten per cent. It drove nicely, and we were told a diesel was in development, but for now it was barely relevant to the UK market.

Small is beautiful

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 12:03 PM PST

The downsizing of petrol engines will make for better cars

As someone who is usually less than impressed with government legislation, I find it surprising how often new regulations have succeeded in forcing the automotive industry to significantly up its game.

Back in the early 1970s, California's revolutionary 'clean air' act forced car makers, selling into this all-important market, to dramatically reduce the pollution emitted by their engines. The heavy-metal merchants from Detroit chomped on their collective cigars, while declaring the requirements impossible to meet without extensive 'de-smogging' kit and much reduced power. 

Then Honda came along with the CVCC (compound vortex controlled combustion) engine, which could meet the regulations without a catalytic convertor. This made Detroit look pretty stupid and forced the rest of the industry back to the lab, to the benefit of the environment.

Current EU legislation has forced car makers to improve average fuel economy, while the increasingly stringent pollution regulations will make future-generation diesel engines significantly more expensive to build. This has also led to an unexpected - and most welcome - leap forward in petrol engine technology.

Trapped between the demands for better economy and the high-cost of EU6-compliant diesel engines, car makers have finally started to apply some hard thinking to gasoline engineering, after a decade or more of concentrating on oil-burners.

Ford's 1.0-litre turbo three-pot is an absolute jewel and is already on sale. Personally, I suspect that the new Fiesta equipped with this motor will become something of a landmark car. However, I've also had the privilege of driving an as-yet unreleased three-cylinder engine that could become a crucial ingredient in serious driver's cars.

It's no secret that BMW has been developing 1.5-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. The B38 and B37 units will be the mainstay engines for the Mk3 Mini and BMW's upcoming family of compact front-drive cars. However, the new alloy-block motor has also been designed to be longitudinally mounted, making a racing certainty for future rear-drive BMWs.

At a technical briefing for the new engine, we were led out onto the disused airfield that is now a BMW Experience Centre, and presented with a 1-series fitted with a prototype version of the petrol three-pot. The first thing that struck me was just how small it looked in an engine bay that can accommodate a straight-six motor.

But the upside is that the three-pot sits right back in the engine bay, offering the kind of weight distribution that few front-engined production cars could hope to match. I had a quick spin around the test track in the 1-series and a few things became crystal clear.

First up, this engine was very punchy and sporty (they wouldn't tell us the output, but I'd guess around 150bhp) and gratifyingly quick to rev. Smaller engines with lightweight, downsized, internal components are a delight.

Second, the balance and cornering prowess of the 1-series was on a different level, as you might expect when the weight in the nose has not only been reduced, but pushed as far back as technically possible. Of course, a lighter nose means the car's steering - even on a prototype - is noticeably lighter and sweeter.

These downsized petrol engines are nothing but good news: more frugal, more fun to drive and a significant contributor to driver enjoyment. Can a three-pot M car be far away?


LA motor show: Volvo S60 Polestar

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 03:17 AM PST

M5-rivalling Volvo S60 Polestar saloon develops 508bhp and will make its North American debut at the LA motor show

The Volvo S60 Polestar concept will make its motor show debut at next week's Los Angeles motor show.

Polestar – Volvo's official performance partner – has comprehensively reworked the standard S60's T6 engine, adding a new cylinder head and inlet manifold. The 3.0-litre straight-six unit now develops 508bhp and 424lb ft; significant improvements over the standard car's 300bhp and 325lb ft

The power gains are enough to get the large S60 saloon from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and on to a top speed of over 186mph.

The Polestar concept also benefits from a widened chassis, uprated brakes, Haldex four-wheel drive system and trick Ohlins dampers. A Ferrita 3.5-inch stainless steel exhaust completes the mechanical upgrades.

Aesthetically, the S60 receives a commendably discrete bodykit, 19-inch alloy wheels and is finished in Polestar's trademark colour, Rebel Blue.

It remains to be seen whether the S60 Polestar will form an unlikely rival to the class-dominating BMW M5, as Volvo is yet to confirm whether it's to ever put it into production.

Daljinder Nagra

LA motor show: Mitsubishi Outlander

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 10:18 AM PST

Mitsubishi will launch its Outlander SUV to the American market in LA next week

The Mitsubishi Outlander will form the first part of the firm's comeback strategy in the North American market, following its US launch at next week's Los Angeles motor show

The SUV, launched in Europe in 2011, will form a crucial part of Mitsubishi's plan to increase sales by an ambitious 45 per cent next year. Mitsubishi is currently on track to sell 55,000 cars in the US, and is aiming for 80,000 by 2014.

The new Outlander is expected to make up 33,000 of those sales – the current model sold just over 5000 units in the first nine months of this year. 

An Outlander plug-in hybrid will follow the petrol powered model in 2014, while the Thai-built Mirage will go on sale in September of next year. 

Dan Stevens

LA motor show: Mini Countryman facelift

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 09:40 AM PST

Interior revisions aim to increase practicality and ease of use

Mini is to unveil a revised version of its Countryman crossover at this month's Los Angeles motor show.

The revisions come two years after the model's initial debut and focus on bringing interior quality up to a higher standard, in the face of competition from the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.

The biggest changes are to the centre console, which gains a new storage cubby hole — thanks to the relocation of the window switches to the door panels. The driver's side door will come equipped with all-around window controls as well as switches for the electric door mirrors.

New door inserts have been fitted and the armrests re-profiled for greater comfort, while the centrally mounted speedometer and four air vents are now ringed in carbon-black, with the option of gloss black or chrome detailing.

The Countryman will now come as standard with a three-seat rear bench, with two individual seats available as a no-cost option.

Exterior revisions are limited to new colour options: Brilliant Copper metallic and Blazing Red metallic.

The engine line-up is unchanged, meaning three diesel and four petrol units with power ranging from 90-218bhp. All except the entry-level diesel model are available with an optional six-speed automatic gearbox in place of the standard six-speed manual item.

Daljinder Nagra

LA motor show: BMW X1 Concept K2 Powder Ride

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 08:00 AM PST

BMW teams up with ski manufacturer K2 to create Concept K2 Powder Ride

This is the BMW Concept K2 Powder Ride, a concept off-roader due to be shown at this month's LA motor show.

Created in conjunction with ski equipment manufacturer K2, the Powder Ride concept is essentially an aesthetically tweaked X1 crossover.

The most obvious addition is the Valencia Orange paint scheme, complete with a fox graphic that runs the length of the cabin – a design that has been lifted straight from one of K2's limited edition skis.

Further exterior alterations include a silver finish to the side skirts and to the bottom edges of the front and rear bumpers, dark tinted windows with matt black surrounds and new grey 19-inch alloy wheels. The Power Ride concept also gets an extra 8mm of suspension travel to aid off-road driving.

Attached to the roof-rack is a 320 watt Harman-Kardon stereo system, complete with a 1100 watt amplifier and AKG microphone. Perhaps not the most sensible kit to be using in avalanche-prone mountain ranges.

The LA motor show opens on November 30.

Daljinder Nagra

LA motor show: Fiesta Ecoboost

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 07:36 AM PST

Ford is readying its three-cylinder Fiesta for a North American launch at next week's LA motor show

Ford hopes to have the most fuel efficient engine on sale in the US when it adds the 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost engine to the Fiesta line up. It will be launched at next week's Los Angeles motor show

Although the car hasn't yet been tested by the US's Environmental Protection Agency, which provides official fuel consumption figures, it should easily achieve over 50mpg. 

It will only be available as the more powerful 123bhp, 143lb ft version that, in the Focus, emits 114g/km of CO2.  

The 1.0-litre Fiesta is set to go on sale in the US next year. No other manufacturer currently offers a three-cylinder engine in the USA.

Dan Stevens

LA motor show: BMW i8 concept roadster

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 07:22 AM PST

Production version of BMW's convertible hybrid sports car due in 2014

The BMW i8 concept roadster – the third model in the company's electric 'i' line-up – will be shown at this month's Los Angeles motor show.

Previously seen earlier this year at the Beijing motor show, the roadster concept uses the same carbonfibre construction as the i8 coupé, which is due to launch in 2013.

Unlike the coupe's 2+2 layout, the roadster is a strict two-seater and has a shallow rear deck in place of the coupé's sloping roof-line.

BMW has not confirmed how the roof mechanism will work, although a lift-out panel – also made from carbonfibre – is the most likely option.

The i8 roadster will use the same drivetrain configuration as the coupé, meaning a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine developing 220bhp and driving the rear wheels, while an electric motor, with the equivalent of around 134bhp driving the fronts.

The configuration allows the i8 to operate in front, rear and all-wheel drive, as well as in combustion, electric and combined modes. The positioning of the motors over each axle, and the battery pack in a central tunnel, also allows BMW to stick to its famous 50/50 weight distribution.

With a total of 354bhp, the i8 roadster will have a 0-60mph time of 4.6 seconds. As with all BMWs, the top speed is limited to 155mph.

Despite the performance on offer, thanks to its efficient petrol engine and battery power, the i8 Roadster will average around 104mpg. The lithium-ion battery pack will also allow for electric-only driving for up to 20 miles, and can be fully charged in just 1hr 45mins using a high-voltage outlet.

A production version of the i8 roadster is due for launch in late 2014, with a projected price tag of around £80,000.

Daljinder Nagra

LA motor show: Audi continues US diesel push

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 07:11 AM PST

Audi will push on with its introduction of diesel models at next week's LA motor show

Audi is to add four new diesel models in its North American range as the firm continues to push sales of oil-burners in the US. 

To be launched at next week's Los Angeles motor show, the A6, A7, A8 and Q5 will all get variations on the 3.0-litre V6 diesel, branded in the US as CleanDiesel.

In the A8, the only car that Audi has released specifications for, the engine develops 240hp and 406lb ft. 

The addition of the four new models increases Audi's diesel range in the States to six – the A3 is availalble with a 2.0-litre TDI, and the Q7 has used the 3.0-litre V6 since September – giving it more diesels than rivals BMW and Mercedes. 

Dan Stevens

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.

LA motor show: Fiat 500e EV

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 08:40 AM PST

First pictures emerge of all-electric Fiat supermini

Fiat has released initial pictures of the 500e – an EV adaptation of its popular 500 supermini – prior to its official unveiling at this month's LA motor show.

Expected to be powered by a 75kW (100bhp) electric motor mated to a lithium ion battery pack, the 500e will go on sale in California in 2013.

The exterior has changed little compared with that of the regular Fiat 500, the main changes being the addition of an aerodynamic chin spoiler and a white front valance. The unique alloy wheels are expected to be shod in low-resistance tyres.

Inside, the 500e sports a white and orange colour scheme, a revised instrument cluster and push buttons in place of the conventional car's gearlever.

There are indications that Fiat could potentially lose up to $10,000 on each 500e, and is only marketing it to meet California's zero-emissions vehicle mandate – which requires car manufacturers to total 1.5 million EV sales by 2025 – and to advance its development of electric vehicles.

Daljinder Nagra

The art of the rally pacenote

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 07:57 AM PST

As complex as it is essential, pacenote mastery is a dark art. Here is our guide

What you're looking at is not a secret code, but a set of pacenotes. Hidden in those letters, numbers and squiggles is all the information double Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Andreas Mikkelsen needs to tackle some of the world's most demanding roads as quickly as possible. In the dark, if needs be. Or on slick tyres in the wet. Or even, on occasion, in fog so thick he can't see the end of his car.

"Our system is the work of years of honing what we do," says Mikkelsen. "Every driver has their own way of making pacenotes, and we've settled on around 30 different sayings that tell me exactly what I need to do. There's enough information in there for me to drive flat out, but not so much that I get overloaded."

Those notes are delivered to Mikkelsen by his co-driver, Ola Fløene, a veteran of WRC, IRC and the Dakar Rally who has been a guiding influence for all of his sidekick's career. Together they have spent the past seven years perfecting the system of calls that have won their two titles.

"We are always looking for ways to improve our performance, and getting the notes right is perhaps the most important," says Fløene. "Even if we are flat out mid-stage and we think there is a chance a note could have been better, I will make a quick mark in pencil to amend it for next time. Sure, we're going fast and there's another call to make, but with experience it's amazing what you can do."

Today, Mikkelsen and Fløene's notes are made up in three different languages: Norwegian, Swedish and English. Why? "Andreas is fluent in them all, so we pick the language that has the shortest way of describing what we want to say," says Fløene. "When you are trying to describe two or three tricky corners in as much detail as possible while you're flat in sixth gear, it really helps to be as brief as possible."

Providing enough detail without delivering so much that it's confusing is tricky, and is relative to the sharpness of the driver's brain. Mikkelsen, for instance, has six different corner descriptions: 'ok', 'maybe plus', 'maybe minus', 'fast', 'fast fast' and 'flat'. For each, he'll fractionally modify his approach to a corner. Then there's the instructions for how much to cut apices; 'no cut' warns to keep all four wheels on the road, 'cut' means he's okay to put one wheel to the inside, 'max' means he can put all four wheels off the road and 'super cut' is a rare shout that means a massive time-saving detour.

The level of detail is astounding, until you appreciate the sort of speeds at which rally crews are driving and the types of roads they are on. "Rallying has many challenges," says Mikkelsen. "Blind corners are normal, and so are crests. If Ola tells me the road afterwards is straight, I will trust him and commit. If you lift a fraction in this championship, or run a fraction wide and go off line, you will not set a fastest time. The competition is that intense. You have to get your pacenotes perfect and then drive to them in exactly the way they describe."

Because Mikkelsen sits so low in the car (to help with the centre of gravity), he often can't see over crests in the road. "The fact is, I am not driving primarily with my eyes but with my ears," he says. "My pacenotes are my instructions, and they build a picture for me of what I need to do."

On each event, Mikkelsen and Fløene get a chance to recce each stage twice in a road car, at road-legal speeds. If they've done the stage before, they are allowed to modify the set of notes they have. If not, they must start from scratch. The world's leading rally drivers are closely monitored to ensure they aren't getting in sneaky extra practice outside the event timetables. The only concession is that they're allowed to video the recce. They usually watch a stage back between two and six times, depending on its complexity, checking their notes. But after that it's on to the rally and trusting every bit of information as they battle over tenths of a second.

"That's part of the reason rally drivers can't just arrive at the top level and expect success," says Mikkelsen. "They must hone their experience of the stages and get the notes spot on. That's hard to do from two slow-speed runs – the first of which is normally done very slowly, so that there's time for me to make a judgement and Ola to write it down. And of course different types of cars need different notes, depending on their capabilities."

So what happens when the fog descends and visibility is near zero? In any form of racing – on a prescribed circuit the competitors can memorise, remember – they'd go home. In rallying, it's a case of driving according to the conditions. "I just make sure I deliver the notes precisely," says Fløene. "If we've got the notes accurate from the recce, Andreas just drives to what I say. On the straights I can help a little more by counting down the distances using the trip meter, but otherwise we just carry on. Of course, the times are a lot slower – but, trust me, it doesn't feel that slow when your driver pulls top gear and you know he can't see where he's going."

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