Tuesday, November 27, 2012

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LA motor show: Fiesta ST to make US debut

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 04:40 AM PST

Second American ST model hoping to appeal to growing US small car market

The Ford Fiesta ST is to make its US debut tomorrow at the Los Angeles motor show.

The Fiesta is the second ST model to be launched in the US this year, following the Focus ST, which like its smaller stable-mate is now being sold as a 'global car' with the same major specification across all markets.

Unlike in Europe however, the Fiesta ST will be offered in the States in five-door guise only.

It's powered by Ford's 1.6-litre Ecoboost engine, with a six-speed manual the only transmission option. Developing 178bhp and 177lb ft, it will cover the 0-62mph sprint in under seven seconds before reaching a top speed of 136mph.

Chassis modifications over the standard Fiesta include increased roll stiffness and a 15mm drop in ride-height. The electro-mechanical steering has also been quickened to improve responsiveness.

Torque Vectoring Control (to help reduce understeer) and a three-mode electronic stability control program will allow drivers to tailor electronic assistance to their requirements.

Aesthetically, the ST benefits from a subtle body kit, including a trapezoidal grille similar to that on the Focus ST, a new chin and roof spoiler and side skirts. Chrome tipped dual-exhaust pipes and 17-inch alloys complete the makeover.

Inside, Recaro sports seats are fitted as standard, and Ford's 'MyKey' technology can be fitted, allowing performance to be limited for different drivers.

Ford is hoping that the Fiesta will appeal to US buyers looking to downsize. Not only will it return 34mpg on the combined cycle, but its power output compares favourably to its main market competitors, the Mini Cooper S and Chevrolet Sonic RS.

The Ford Fiesta ST is due to go on sale in the UK in the first half of 2013.

Daljinder Nagra

Ford boss rejects proposal for new small coupé

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 04:00 AM PST

Market conditions preclude the introduction of a sub-Mustang performance car

Ford of Europe has been developing a new coupé proposal positioned to sit beneath the Ford Mustang, but the project has been put on hold due to the poor state of the global economy.

Insiders indicate that a design has been developed from one of Ford's existing core global platforms and that the business case has been put to company boss Alan Mulally. But he turned it down, concluding that the market for specialised models like this is currently too parlous for it to be viable.

Although the next Mustang is being developed for global markets, Ford of Europe believes that its sales potential in the EU will be limited due to its size, price and thirst. It's not clear where the coupé proposal sits in terms of size, price and performance.

While coupés are risky models from a profitability perspective — overall volumes are relatively low, and they tend to have short lives — the need for a sexier halo car within a Ford range increasingly populated by MPVs and SUVs is growing.

First drive review: Range Rover TDV6 Vogue

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 03:02 AM PST

On UK roads, the lighter, more agile entry-level Range Rover could just be the pick of the range The £71,000 entry model into the new Range Rover line-up, driven here for the fist time on UK roads. Power comes from a 255bhp twin-turbo V6 diesel, and it's the first time this engine has been offered in a Range Rover. It is equipped with a standard ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox and stop/start.There are three trims – Vogue, Vogue SE and Autobiography. Vogue trim features metallic paint, 20-inch wheels and Oxford leather trim as standard along with 12-way electrically adjustable seats, xenon headlamps and laminated front side windows.2013 Range Rover 3.0 TDV6 Autobiography review2013 Range Rover 4.4 SDV8 Autobiography reviewLand Rover's excellent Terrain Response system, with its five off-road programs, is also standard, although the new Terrain Response 2, which automatically selects programs, isn't. You have to cough up an extra £6500 to jump up to the next trim level, Vogue SE, to get it included.Also standard is a touch-screen sat-nav, DAB radio, digital TV and a 380W Meridian audio system. The more powerful 825W sound system starts on the next trim level up, Vogue SE.

Aston Martin: ploughing on regardless

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 02:48 AM PST

Tractor maker Mahindra and Mahindra is favourite to purchase a 50 per cent stake in Aston Martin, but what would the deal mean for the Gaydon manufacturer?

Reports yesterday evening from Reuters suggest that Indian commercial vehicle and tractor maker Mahindra and Mahindra may win the race to buy a 50 per cent stake in Aston Martin by the end of the week. This potential deal is causing much amusement in financial circles. What would a tractor maker want with a smaller supercar maker?

There is a lovely circularity about the Mahindra deal, as is being pointed out. Aston Martin's post-war owner David Brown (who bought the company in 1948) made his money in designing tractors. Ferruccio Lamborghini started in tractor manufacturing in 1948 and started his supercar company in 1963. Ferdinand Porsche also designed a range of tractors in the 1930s, alongside his work developing the People's Car.

According to the Reuter's source, the Mahindra deal could see as much as £250m being exchanged for a 50 per cent stake in the company. While Aston banked £72m in profits on around 4200 sales last time around, it is clear that it cannot go on forever tweaking the VH platform and elegantly re-cycling the styling theme established with the 2003 DB9, especially with new pollution, emissions and safety laws on the way.

Such a small turnover and comparatively low profits – and ever-increasing legislative barriers – make it impossible to either take a radically new turn or expand the range into a booming segment such as luxury SUVs. Aston really needs the warm embrace of a global carmaker.

Common sense would dictate that Tata sweeps Aston up and merges it into its Jaguar division. The Aston factory and HQ is next door to JLR's Gaydon R&D centre. To have two neighbouring British sports car makers making – in small numbers – aluminium platformed, front-engined, high-performance coupes and to be using different architectures and motors is plain stupid.

But Tata hasn't made a bid. The other reported bid was from Italian investment house Investindustrial, who successfully bought up and sold on Ducati to Audi, tripling its initial investment. Press reports suggested that Investindustrial could have brought Mercedes's semi-independent AMG division onboard. That would have made sense.

What worries me about the Mahindra bid is that it doesn't seem to have any technology partners to bring to the operation. Sure it does own South Korean maker Ssangyong, but the maker of the Korando SUV and bizarre Rodius MPV is unlikely to be able to help Aston much. And vice versa.

The immediate big question will be how much of the rumoured £250m Mahindra bid will go into product development and how much will go back to the investment funds Investment Dar and Adeem Investment. I have no doubt that Mahindra will also need to spend a significant amount of money over the next few years on Aston, but to what end?

An analyst friend first got wind of this deal in September and told me that some bright spark had looked into Aston and figured 4500 annual sales or so was about the global limit for the marque. A sudden expansion and profits explosion is unlikely.

Aston is an odd case. It is known around the world and gets huge publicity with every new Bond film, but it seems to have a natural size as the maker of high-performance road cars. Unless an established big carmaker is involved in this deal to transform Aston's product range, I just can't see the value in it – prestige aside – for a new investor.

New electric Chevrolet on sale next year

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 02:35 AM PST

Electric Spark aims for best in class acceleration

Chevrolet has released more details of its electric Spark ahead of its unveiling at the LA motor show.

The Spark is a relative of the Vauxhall/Opel Agila, sold in North America, South Korea, India and Australia. GM will build the electric drivetrain in the US and retrofit it to the Korean-built Spark.

That drivetrain consists of 130hp motor that develops 400lb ft, and a 20KwH battery, which Chevrolet claims will give it the best acceleration and among the best range in its class. The car will be available with a fast-charge option, which enables the battery to be 80 per cent charged in 20 minutes.

On a 240v system the Spark fully charges in seven hours, although in the US this will require a dedicated charging point. And although Chevrolet is not confirming the Spark's range, it's likely to be around 60 miles.

The car's aerodynamics have been tweaked with a new grille, redesigned sill covers and an active shutter system that closes and opens the lower air intakes to control air flow through the car. The modifications are said to add 2.5 miles to the car's range.

The Spark EV goes on sale in the US next summer, and will be priced at $25,000 (£15,550), after tax reductions and incentives from individual states. However, it's not going on sale throughout North America – currently only California, Oregon and Canada will get the car, along with South Korea.

Autocar magazine 28 November preview

Posted: 27 Nov 2012 02:22 AM PST

Jaguar's model offensive revealed; VW Golf versus rivals; Infiniti Emerg-e electric supercar driven; Vauxhall Mokka full road test

This week's edition of Autocar, available on the newstands and as a download tomorrow, reveals Jaguar's plan to roll out five new models in a bold strategy that aims to treble sales to about 150,000 units per year.

There's plenty of new metal assessed in the mag's first drives section. Ford's revolutionary three-cylinder, 1.0-litre Ecoboost powerplant has been installed in the facelifted Fiesta, and we've driven it. Other cars tested include the Lexus LS460, Citroën C5, Mercedes-Benz A180, Audi A8 and Seat Leon.

The Vauxhall Mokka mini-SUV gets an exhaustive going-over from our experts in an eight-page road test.

We expect that many readers will turn straight to our captivating group test, in which the Mk7 Volkswagen Golf is pitched against rivals from Ford, Audi and Volvo. How does the most complete Golf ever stack up against the class standard-bearers? Nic Cackett finds out.

Infiniti's striking Emerg-e electric supercar has turned heads at motor shows throughout the year, and now we've had the chance to get behind the wheel of the prototype. We've also driven another EV icon, in the shape of the last Tesla Roadster ever to roll off the production line.

Our used car section investigates how you can buy an Audi A8 luxo-barge for less than £2000.

Other features in this packed issue include a look at engine problems that afflict certain second-hand Porsche 911s (and what to do to remedy them), plus details of how Seat plans to fight back to profit making.

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

Fiat Panda attempts Africa record run

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 04:01 PM PST

9134-mile non-stop trip from Cape Town to London will attempt to topple a 30-year-old world record

Two adventurers are to attempt to drive non-stop from the Mount Nelson hotel in Cape Town to the Marble Arch in London – a distance of 9134 miles.

Adventurers Philip Young and Paul Brace are aiming to beat the 14 days, 19 hours and 26 minutes taken by British Army Brigadier John Hemsley in 1983.

Where Hemsley used a factory prepared Range Rover, Young and Brace are to tackle the near ten-day non-stop event in a near standard Fiat Panda TwinAir, which has only been lightly modified with an additional fuel tank, sump guards and a repositioned engine air intake.

To beat the record, the pair will have to drive the Panda over 1000 miles a day through Botswana, Ethiopia and war-torn Libya, before catching the ferry to Europe from Tunisia to continue on to London.

The RAC's Motor Sport Association is looking after the official timing and the duo will have their movements tracked to ensure they don't break local speed limits.

The first world record was established in 1938 by journalist Humfrey Simmonds in a Wolseley 18-85, taking 31 days. The event has attracted interest from numerous entrants and manufacturers since.

Daljinder Nagra

LA motor show: Dodge Charger Daytona

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 08:37 AM PST

Muscle car favourite gets a distinctive styling pack

This is the 2013 Dodge Charger Daytona, which is to make its international debut at this week's Los Angeles motor show.

Essentially a styling pack for the current Charger, the Daytona comes with black bonnet stripes, a vinyl roof wrap, unique spoiler and 20-inch polished aluminium alloys with black detailing.

Inside the stereo has been upgraded to a Beats Audio system and the seats are upholstered in Nappa leather and suede. Dark aluminium trim and a Mopar chrome effect pedal kit complete the makeover. The Charger is available in Daytona Blue, Bright White, Billet Silver or Pitch Black.

Mechanical modifications are limited to a revised rear axle ratio, paddleshift actuation for the automatic gearbox and revised steering and suspension parameters.

The 5.7-litre V8 engine is unchanged from the standard Charger, meaning 370bhp and 395lb ft of torque. It's mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.

Only 2,500 Daytonas will be produced, all destined for the US market. Prices start from $32,495.

The Daytona name harks back to the rare bewinged Dodge Charger Daytona from 1969 – the first ever car to top 200mph in Nascar racing.

Daljinder Nagra

Los Angeles motor show 2012 preview

Posted: 26 Nov 2012 02:40 AM PST

Autocar is reporting live from the show on November 28

This year's LA motor show opens its doors on Wednesday 28th November at the Los Angeles Convention Centre. Autocar will be there reporting live from the event and you can follow our coverage of all the launches as they happen from 5pm on Wednesday. Here's our guide to the most important models that will be there.


Audi is continuing its diesel offensive on the US market – notorious for its disinterest in oil-burning cars. 3.0-litre TDI versions of the A6, A7, A8 and Q5 will be launched at the show, under the label CleanDiesel.


The latest addition to BMW's 'i' range of electric cars, the i8 roadster, will make its debut at LA. Featuring a lift-out targa roof fashioned from carbon-fibre, it will use the same all-wheel drive setup as the coupe.

BMW is also lifting the wraps of an X1 concept named K2 Powder Ride. It features a bespoke paint job and upgraded sound system and is the result of a partnership with ski manufacturer K2.


Representing the polar extremes of US car culture, the Chevrolet Spark EV will be sharing its show stand with the Hot Wheels Camaro. The Spark uses an 85kW electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. The Camaro doesn't, being equipped with a 6.2-litre V8 and Hot Wheels custom paint job.


Fiat is using the LA motor show to unveil two new iterations of its hugely popular 500 supermini. The Fiat 500e is the firms first foray into electric vehicles, and is marketing it at a loss simply to meet California EV regulations. It will be joined by the 500L Trekking, a slightly off-road biased version of the larger bodied 500L.


The Fiesta Ecoboost is to make its US debut at LA next week. This is the smallest car Ford's 1.0-litre wonder-engine has been fitted to and will be the only three-cylinder car currently on sale in the US. It will go on sale early next year.


Jaguar has chosen LA to unveil its most powerful saloon car ever. The XFR-S will feature a re-worked version of the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 from the standard XFR, increasing power to make the car more competitive with its German opposition, the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG.

The new F-Type sports car, unveiled at September's Paris Show, will also be there, sporting a new black styling pack.


Kia's range of increasingly stylish cars gets a new addition next week, with the unveiling of the US and Asian-markets only Forte. Being shown in saloon guise, a two-door coupe model will follow.


"The most exciting Lamborghini ever built," according to the Sant Agata firm, which is unveiling a convertible version of its flagship supercar. Called the Aventador roadster, it will feature a one-piece lift-out carbon-fibre roof – a vast improvement over the previous Mercialago's tent-like arrangement. Happily, the 6.5-litre V12 remains unchanged.


After unveiling the electric SLS E-cell at Paris, Mercedes is following up with the international debut of the hardcore SLS Black Series at LA. Sporting aerodynamic and mechanical tweaks carried over from the SLS GT3 race car, it will serve as a flagship for the AMG brand.

Mercedes' Ener-G-Force design study will also be on the company's show stand. Based on G-Class underpinnings, the study is based on a police vehicle for the future and hints at design aspects of Mercedes' forthcoming range of Land Rover-rivalling SUVs.


A number of new Mini models will be making their US debut this week. The second generation John Cooper Works GP hatchback – a hardcore, pared back version of the Cooper S, will be making its way to the states for the first time, with each US dealership likely to receive just one example.

The new high-riding Paceman crossover-coupe will also be shown in North America for the first time. Featuring two-doors and revised rear end styling over the Countryman on which it's based, it will be available in front and four-wheel drive guises.

The revised Countryman crossover will also be at the show.  It's been given a mild facelift and a number of interior tweaks to improve ergonomics and comfort.


Mitsubishi is hoping to increase its appeal to US customers with the unveiling of the new Outlander SUV at LA. A hybrid version will follow the petrol and diesel models in 2014.


Nissan's constant fettling of its GT-R supercar has resulted in a new model for 2013. No headline stealing performance changes, just a minutely thorough re-working to improve engine responsiveness, body rigidity and wheel control. It will take pride of place on Nissan's LA show stand.


Porsche's long anticipated second generation Cayman will finally make its debut this week. Expected to draw design inspiration from the Carrera GT super car, the Cayman will be sold in newly downsized 2.7-litre and 3.4-litre 'S' form.


Less utilitarian and more up-market is the direction Subaru has taken with its all new Forester SUV. Its subtly sporty styling is backed by a brace of Boxer engine options including a 2.0-litre turbo. Although no official word has been given, expect to see it in the UK at some point in 2013.


Toyota has been particularly cagey with the latest iteration of the Rav4 compact SUV. Little has been revealed, other than that it will go on sale early in 2013, and that it is to be one of the first cars launched at the LA show.


Aimed at giving the Volvo brand a much harder edge, the S60 saloon is the second model to be given a serious performance boost from Polestar. The S60 Polestar concept develops 508bhp from its 3.0-litre straight six, enough for Volvo to go toe-to-toe with the established performance saloon set, the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG. Whether Volvo will actually put it into production remains to be seen.


The Beetle cabriolet, a soft-top version of the iconic hatchback now in its third generation, will be seen for the first time at LA. Drivetrain and chassis configurations are carried over from the hard-top, but the new roof design folds flatter for greater visibility and can open or close fully in just ten seconds.

Daljinder Nagra

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