Monday, November 26, 2012

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BMW plots new junior M-car

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 04:00 AM PST

Forthcoming 1-series saloon may get 300bhp M range-topper

BMW is hatching plans for a hot entry-level M model based around a new saloon version of the second-generation 1-series.

The compact four-door aims to provide BMW with a direct rival to the upcoming Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG and Audi S3 saloon. The new BMW has already been earmarked to run a highly strung 2.0-litre turbo engine with at least 300bhp.

However, because of the heavy engineering workload facing BMW on existing new model development, the compact M Performance saloon is unlikely to hit the UK until the latter half of 2015 at the earliest.

"We are actively considering it," said a high-ranking BMW insider. "Do we think there is a potential market? Yes, and it is likely to grow rapidly. If we had the capacity, we would already be well down the road [to production] by now."

Internal BMW studies reveal that the market for compact performance saloons is set for high growth in key high-volume markets, such as China and North America. With both the S3 saloon and CLA45 AMG due to arrive before the end of next year, BMW officials are keen to fast-track the new model, possibly with contracted engineering, according to sources within automotive component supplier ranks.

The decision to form plans for a price-leading M Performance saloon stems from the sellout success of the limited-run 1-series M Coupé and the critical acclaim heaped on the 315bhp six-cylinder M135i hatch, road tested in the 14 November issue of Autocar.

"There has been a wholesale shift in the market," said one source. "Our traditional M models — the M3 and M5 — have become a good deal larger, a lot more powerful, better equipped and naturally more expensive over the years. They still sell in solid numbers, but it is time to concentrate on the more affordable end of the performance range."

A thick shroud of secrecy surrounds BMW's junior saloon plans. However, Autocar can reveal that the firm is mulling over two disparate strategies.

The first revolves around the existing rear-wheel-drive 1-series. Already offered in three-door and five-door body styles, it will be bolstered next year by the arrival of second-generation coupé and convertible models, to be sold under a new 2-series nomenclature. Proposals call for the rear-drive underpinnings of the 2-series, which will have a slightly longer rear overhang than that of their hatchback siblings, to be used for the new 1-series saloon and possibly an entry-level Touring model.

The second strategy involves BMW's new front-wheel drive platform revealed at the Paris motor show in September as the basis for the Compact Sports Tourer — a concept of the company's upcoming five-seat MPV rival to the Mercedes B-class.

The steel monocoque 'UKL1' structure, which will underpin future Mini models, is also being eyed as a possible basis for the 1–series saloon to compete against the four-door version of the new Audi A3, revealed as a concept at the 2011 Geneva motor show, and the swoopy new Mercedes CLA, previewed at this year's Beijing motor show as the Compact Sports Coupé. The A3 and CLA are base cars for the S3 and CLA45 AMG.

BMW is already planning an M Performance version of the 2-series coupé, likely to be badged M235i coupé. An open-top version based on the new 2-series convertible is likely to follow. But as with the recently introduced M135i hatch, which is sold in both three-door and five-door body styles, BMW sees potential in offering a more practical M Performance saloon as well.

The shortlisted rear-drive BMW platform supports longitudinal engine mounting, and the front-drive one has been conceived around a transverse engine layout. Although the rear-drive platform is considered to be dynamically superior because of its ability to achieve near-perfect front-to-rear weight distribution, it lacks the interior packaging advantages of the front-drive structure. Both have been engineered to take four-wheel drive.

Cost considerations are also a concern. BMW sources suggest that the added processes involved in producing the rear-drive structure make it up to 15 per cent more expensive than the new front-drive platform. However, they also point out that the rear-drive one currently benefits from greater economies of scale because it shares components with the platform used beneath the 3-series, which is still BMW's best-selling model.

Making it front-wheel drive would allow it to be twinned with a rumoured new Mini saloon that's due in 2015.

Although a question mark hangs over which platform BMW will use, its bosses appear to have already settled on four-cylinder power for its new entry-level performance saloon. Details are scarce, but the new unit is described as a development of today's 2.0-litre turbo engine, the N20 as it is known internally, conceived for both longitudinal and transverse mounting.

With twin-scroll turbocharging, fully variable valve timing, lightweight internals and piezo-guided direct fuel injection, it aims to match the heady levels achieved by the latest version of Audi's turbocharged 296bhp 2.0-litre 'EA888' engine and AMG's similarly configured 349bhp 'M132' powerplant.

In its current highest state of tune, the N20 kicks out 242bhp, as in the 128i. For its new entry-level M model, BMW is looking at extracting more than 300bhp from the unit.

The decision to go with four-cylinder power provides a sufficient gap in the line-up to the sixth-generation M3, which is set to switch from its existing naturally aspirated 4.0-litre V8 to a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six.

Chinese car brand wins injunction against Kia

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 03:21 AM PST

Qoros stops Kia from using Quoris name in Europe

Kia has lost the right to use the name Quoris on its cars in Europe, following a court ruling in favour of Chinese car brand Qoros.

Kia has just launched the Quoris in Korea. At over 5 metres long, the car is the size of a BMW 7-series, has rear-wheel drive and is based on the platform used by the Hyundai Equus.

It's likely that Qoros is adopting a belt-and-braces approach to protecting its brand, which is aimed squarely at the European market, as Kia has no plans to sell the Quoris in Europe. "It's not part of our medium term strategy plans for Europe," said a Kia spokesman.

The ruling comes ahead of Qoros' European debut at next year's Geneva motor show, where the brand plans to launch a C-segment saloon before showing the car in China.

Qoros was formed in 2007 as part of a joint venture between Chery and holding company Israel Corporation. It has hired top European designers, such as ex-Mini design boss Gert Hildebrand, and aims to start selling cars by the end of next year.

Dan Stevens

New Koenigsegg model leaked

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 02:32 AM PST

Scanned brochure image hints at new customisation programme

This is the Koenigsegg One:1, a new model from the Swedish supercar manufacturer, which is a potential showcase for the company's customisation programme.

Details are currently scarce but sources speculate that this car is part of a limited run of five cars destined for the Chinese market.

The One:1 name is said to refer to the car's equal bhp and weight in kilogrammes figures, which are both expected to be around 1300 – figures that are likely to see the One:1 vie for the Bugatti Veyron's title as the world's fastest production car.

A production date for the Koenigsegg One:1 has yet to be announced.

Daljinder Nagra

BMW X4 set for Detroit reveal

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 01:00 AM PST

Coupe-SUV will spawn M Performance derivative

BMW is set to preview its upcoming X4 SUV for the first time at the Detroit motor show in early January.

The new SUV was confirmed for production by BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer earlier this year. It is set to make its debut as a near-production-ready concept that will reveal the appearance and dimensions of the Porsche Macan rival that is due to go on sale in the UK in early 2014, according to highly placed BMW officials.

Although the four-wheel-drive X4 is set to share its monocoque steel platform, engines and underpinnings with the second-generation X3, it is earmarked to receive more coupé-like styling in a move intended to give it a more sporting image and enable BMW to position it higher in its line-up for added profitability. Prices are expected to start at around £32,000 in the UK.

A series of design proposals made official by BMW in 2010 suggest that the X4 will differ visually from the X3 in much the same way that the larger X6 is distinguished from the X5, with a bullish front end, plunging coupé-style roofline and heavily angled tailgate.

Alongside standard versions of the new SUV will be a range-topping performance model from BMW's M division. Nothing is official just yet, but the X4 M, due out towards the end of 2014, is planned to run a uniquely tuned version of the twin-turbocharged straight six petrol engine that is set to appear in the upcoming sixth-generation M3.

Also planned is a hot X4 M40d running a detuned version of BMW's triple-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six diesel, launched in the X5 and X6 M50d. It will form part of a fast-expanding range of new BMW M Performance models.

Button wins Brazilian Grand Prix, Vettel wins title

Posted: 25 Nov 2012 11:42 AM PST

Jenson Button wins thrilling Brazilian Grand Prix from Fernando Alonso, but sixth place is enough to earn Sebastian Vettel a third world title

McLaren driver Jenson Button won a pulsating final Formula 1 race of the season, but it was Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel who stole the headlines at the Brazilian Grand Prix by becoming the sport's youngest-ever triple world champion after finishing sixth in Sao Paulo.

The race, which was run in the wet, damp and dry at various times, was full of drama, as Vettel recovered from a first-lap clash that dropped him to last position and climbed back through the field, while title rival Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) made the most of a fast start, great pace and the misfortune of others to finish second.

Out at the front, Button, team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Force India's Nico Hulkenberg all showed superb pace in the damp, with all three taking turns in the lead. By staying on slicks while other runners pitted for intermediates, Button and Hulkenberg pulled out a huge lead, with the German passing the Briton after a long duel, but their advantage was undone by a safety car period.

With the field bunched up, Hulkenberg pulled away, with Hamilton passing Button and giving chase. A mistake from Hulkenberg let Hamilton through, but the Force India driver clung on and made a move at two-thirds distance as they lapped traffic. However, he lost control in the damp conditions under braking and slid in to Hamilton. The Briton, in his final race for McLaren, had to retire, while Hulkenberg got a drive-through penalty.

Heavy rain then threw in another curveball, with Vettel stopping early for tyres only to find his pit crew weren't ready. However, he quickly climbed to sixth, which was enough to earn him the title from Alonso, who had tenaciously climbed up to second position, ahead of his rapid Ferrari team-mate, Felipe Massa.

The race then came to a slightly premature end as Paul di Resta (Force India) crashed heavily on the pit-straight kink and brought out the safety car with a lap to go. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) finished seventh in his final-ever F1 race.

"Inside the car, when you get turned around for no reason, it's not the most comfortable feeling," said Vettel, in reference to his first-lap contact. "I was quite lucky that nobody hit me from that point onwards. I think it was the toughest [race we had], but we kept believing and remained ourselves."

Reflecting on losing the title by three points, Alonso said, "There's been situations during the season that make you think of these three points, but that's the sport. Even though I finished second in the points, I have never had such respect and affection from everybody in the paddock.

"This is the first time that I have got drivers, ex-drivers, teams, fans to say that we have done the best championship. We'll be back as strong in 2013, because it would be harder to be stronger. I have a great feeling after 2012, by far the best year of my career."

Brazilian Grand Prix:

1 Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes) 1h 45m 22.656s2 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) +2.754s3 Felipe Massa (Ferrari) +3.615s4 Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault) +4.936s5 Nico Hulkenberg (Force India-Mercedes) +5.708s6 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) +9.453s7 Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) +11.900s8 Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso-Ferrari) +28.600s9 Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber-Ferrari) +31.200s10 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault) +1lap EtcFastest lap: Hamilton, 1:18.069

World Championship standings

Drivers:1 Vettel 281; 2 Alonso 278; 3 Raikkonen 207; 4 Hamilton 190; 5 Button 188; 6 Webber 179; 7 Massa 122; 8 Grosjean 96; 9 Rosberg 93; 10 Perez 66. Etc.

Constructors: 1 Red Bull-Renault 460; 2 Ferrari 400; 3 McLaren-Mercedes 378; 4 Lotus-Renault 303; 5 Mercedes 142; 6 Sauber-Ferrari 126; 7 Force India-Mercedes 109; 8 Williams-Renault 76; 9 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 26. Etc.

All results unofficial

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