Monday, November 5, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar RSS Feed

Autocar Online - News

Caterham Sevens to use Renault engines

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 06:36 AM PST

Caterham technical chief says Renault power is a possibility for future Sevens

Future iterations of the lightweight Seven sports car could use Renault engines, Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer at Caterham, has confirmed.

The news comes as Caterham today announced a partnership with the French firm to create a new sports car under the Alpine brand.

Gascoyne has also hinted that future Caterham products could also be produced in close collaboration with Renault, saying: "You don't enter a joint venture without hoping to work together."

The partnership is in part a step towards Caterham owner Tony Fernandes' ambitions to turn the company from a small-scale sports car manufacturer into a more mainstream brand.

The switch to Renault engines is as yet unconfirmed, with Caterham Cars boss Graham Macdonald re-affirming the company's use of the current Ford motors:

"At the moment we're committed to the Sigma and Duratec engines. They have a lifetime in our product plans and they deliver what we want in terms of characteristics and keeping the costs where we want them. But they do have a finite life and who knows after that? If Renault can do that then clearly the relationship is there."

Caterham hints at supercar future

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 05:11 AM PST

Owner Tony Fernandes eyes up high-performance range topper after announcing sports car tie-in with Renault

Caterham boss Tony Fernandes has confirmed that a range-topping supercar is part of his plans for the expansion of the company.

Speaking to Autocar at the announcement of Caterham's joint venture with Renault, Fernandes said: "The ultimate ambition is to do what Porsche has done, and grow beyond being a sports car manufacturer into a mainstream car brand – SUVs, city cars, whatever the market wants."

He added: "There is a long way to go, but we can see a day when we'd like to have a true halo car."

Caterham is technologically well placed to produce a supercar, having both experience in F1, as well as an in-house composites business in Caterham Technologies.

The idea also has the backing of F1 designer Mike Gascoyne, who has joined Caterham's road car division to assist in the development of the newly announced Alpine sports car:

"We have the know-how to do it within the group and it would be something that would definitely appeal personally. But first things first."

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – results and pics

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 02:52 AM PST

Räikkönen fends off both Alonso and Vettel to claim victory in the desert

Kimi Raikkonen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after an action-packed race at the Yas Marina circuit.

The Lotus driver took the lead from pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton, after the Brit was forced to retire with engine problems. It is his first win since the 2009 Belgian GP.

Hamilton had been favourite to take the chequered flag, with a committed drive putting him in a comfortable position, despite an early scare that saw Räikkönen challenging for the lead.

However, a fuel pump issue saw Hamilton's McLaren grind to a halt on lap 20 – yet another problem for the Woking team, which has battled reliability issues throughout the season.

Despite initially holding on to his third place on the grid, lap 20 also saw a slowing of pace from Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, causing him to concede position to both Fernando Alonso and Jensen Button.

Maldonado eventually finished fifth, ahead of Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber.

Alonso pushed hard in the closing stages of the race to keep Raikkonen's lead to under a second, but it wasn't enough to keep the Finn from taking the top podium spot.

Sebastian Vettel delivered one of the highlight drives of the season, fighting from the back of the pack to take third position.

The Red Bull driver had been forced to start the race from the pit lane after being disqualified from Qualifying due to not having enough fuel on-board for officials to take a sample.

Despite two separate collisions, including one with Daniel Ricciardo, which saw him lose his front wing, Vettel quickly climbed up the standings, aided by a safety car period caused by a severe collision in which Nico Rosberg's Mercedes launched over Narain Karthikeyan's HRT.

The United States Grand Prix is next, and with Vettel now leading the championship by just ten points, Alonso will be hoping to close the gap before the season's final race in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Top 10 drivers after 55 laps:

1.    Räikkönen – Lotus 1:45:58.6672.    Alonso – Ferrari + 0.852 sec3.    Vettel – Red Bull + 4.163 sec4.    Button – McLaren + 7.787 sec5.    Maldonado – Williams + 13.007 sec6.    Kobayashi – Sauber + 20.076 sec7.    Massa – Ferrari + 22.896 sec8.    Senna – Williams + 23.542 sec9.    Di Resta – Force India + 24.160 sec10.  Ricciardo – Torro Rosso + 27.463 sec

Daljinder Nagra

New Seat Ibiza Cupra is fastest yet

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 01:07 AM PST

New Seat Ibiza Cupra offers a sub-7sec 0-62mph time and a bold new look

The new Seat Ibiza Cupra will be the fastest yet and most efficient yet, it has been revealed. The new car will take 6.9sec to reach 62mph, compared to 7.2sec for the model it replaces.

Fuel consumption is rated at 47.9mpg on the combined cycle – 4mpg less than its predecessor.

Seen here officially for the first time, the 2013 Seat Ibiza Cupra is powered by the same 1.4-litre twin-charged engine as the old car, which promises a 142mph top speed. As before, a seven-speed DSG gearbox is fitted and a sound actuator is used to emphasise the engine note in the cabin.

The ride height has been lowered compared to the standard car and the Cupra's XDS electronic differential is retained. An AP Performance braking system will be offered optionally and is claimed to  offer "remarkable" stopping power.

Broad new bumpers and 17in alloy wheels set the Cupra apart from other models in the range. High gloss black door mirrors and Cupra badging are also fitted. A new sports steering wheel carries the Cupra logo and the sports seats are specific to this model.

The Ibiza Cupra is also fitted with the Seat Portable System, first seen in the Mii. The removable unit incorporates navigation, Bluetooth, music and trip computer functions.

The Cupra is planned to arrive in the UK in January next year, priced from £18,825.

Renault, Caterham to produce new Alpine sports car

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 12:37 AM PST

Links forged in F1 have ignited a partnership between Renault and Caterham to build two new sports cars

Two lightweight two-seat sports cars, likely to be on sale in 2015/2016, will be the first output of the joint venture between Renault and Caterham announced today.

Renault will put its Alpine factory in Dieppe and its 300-strong workforce into the 50:50 joint venture and Caterham will inject expertise and investment as the two companies join forces to establish a new range of lightweight two-seaters. A joint engineering department has been created to work on the co-developed projects, and it will be led by Bernard Ollivier, who has been with Renault since 1977 and most recently operated in a vice presidential capacity for the firm.

Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said: "This innovative partnership with Caterham embodies a longstanding ambition: the creation of a sports car with the Alpine DNA. It carries both opportunities for the Dieppe plant and the development of its historic expertise."

The tie-up will cement the link forged between Caterham and Renault in F1, the French firm's engines powering the British chassis, and marks a much deeper co-operation than Renault agreed with Williams when the two were notching up world championships in the 1990s.

The official statement announcing the deal says it will allow the two firms to "combine their skills  to build models in large and small volume, in order to widen their positioning on the sports vehicle market".

The first output from Alpine Caterham - which is officially called Societe des Automobiles Alpine Caterham (SAAC) - will be an alloy-chassis two-seater inspired by the lightweight 1960s Alpine 110, better known as a successful race and rally car that competed in the Monte Carlo and Le Mans 24 Hours.

Renault product boss Carlos Tavares has previously invoked the spirit of the 110 as the inspiration of the new sports car. He has also guided a price of €40-50k, the equivalent of about £35k

That puts it in a very different category to the supercar-inspired Alpine concept shown recently and built around a Mégane Cup racer steel spaceframe and 400bhp engine.

Alpine and Caterham will have distinct versions of the lightweight sports car each with their own body panels, chassis tuning and character, but based on the same rear-drive underpinning.

Renault may concentrate on a coupé bodystyle, like the A110, Caterham an open-top design. 

Bernard Ollivier, CEO of SAAC, said: "I'm very proud of the trust placed in me by both shareholders. The road map for each car is clear and simple: respect the DNA of both Alpine and Caterham Cars. With the passion and expertise of the staff dedicated to this project, we are sure of meeting this aim".

It is not year clear if the cars will be mid- or rear-engined. Renault product boss Carlos Tavares has previously only referred to a 'rear-drive' configuration.

Mystery similarly surrounds the engines, although Tavares has been quoted on a power output around 250bhp. 

The Alpine Caterham will possibly use variants of Renaultsport engines, most likely the new direct-injection turbocharged 1.6 unit, tuned to 200bhp in the Clio RS. Although another possibility is the 265bhp two-litre turbocharged Mégane Cup unit.

Many of the industrial details of the Alpine Caterham still remain secret, such as production levels. 

However, engineering work has been going on in the background. 

Caterham, for example, has recruited a core of engineers from Lotus, including Elise guru Tony Shute. Long-time F1 designer Mike Gascoyne has also joined Caterham's road car division.

Talks are also rumoured to have taken place with British suppliers to Lotus and Aston Martin for alloy and composite parts.

That technology is rivet/bonded, although Renault's engineering back catalogue does include expertise for a welded alloy spaceframe, as used on the minimalist Renaultsport Spider of the mid-90s.

Other industrial hurdles have still to be jumped, though. Workers at the Alpine factory have not yet been transferred to the new joint venture, which unions might object to.

The Dieppe factory however, is used to flexible working. It made the Renaultsport Clio and will make the new one, too. Although both the RS Twingo and RS Mégane are made on the mainstream production lines as cooking models. In the past it also has helped make the composite-bodied Espace MPV and the soft-top Mégane.

On the new tie-up, Caterham owener Tony Fernandes said: "I have not felt as excited about a new venture since I launched AirAsia in 2001 and I want to thank Carlos Ghosn and Carlos Tavares and everyone in our new Renault family for having the belief in Caterham Group to create this partnership.

"Many people doubted us 11 years ago when we launched our airline and I am sure that there will be doubters again this time, but we will not fail your trust. We know the markets we are going into and, particularly in my playground in Asia, there is a huge opportunity to replicate the AirAsia model and give consumers access to exciting, affordable products that marry our interests in F1 and technology and help make their dreams come true."

Fernandes also hinted towards potential market positioning for the new car, as well as allaying fears as to the future of Caterham's cornerstone product, the Seven: "The Caterham Seven is part of our DNA and will always continue to be so. The new sports car we build will be similarly affordable. In F1 only Ferrari and Mclaren produce road cars, and they are exceedingly expensive. The affordability of our car will be key. If we get the quality and the price right it will sell, recession or no recession."

Renault's chief operating officer Carlos Tavares added: "Our ambitions of reviving Alpine depended on our ability to find a partner in order to ensure the economic profitability of such an adventure. Right from the start, we wanted to place the Dieppe plant at the heart of the project.

"Today, through our partnership with Caterham Group, we can enter a new phase: the design of a car that will embody the very essence of Alpine, a vehicle that will rekindle sporting passion once more. It could become a reality within the next three or four years.

Mercedes S-class cabriolet in development

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 12:30 AM PST

Luxurious convertible version of the next-generation Mercedes S-class is set to take on Bentley Continental GTC in 2014

The first-ever Mercedes-Benz S-class convertible has broken cover in the form of a test mule prior to its launch in 2014.

Based on the CL-replacing next-generation S-class coupé, the new Mercedes will open up a fresh niche for large luxury 2+2 soft-tops, occupying territory close to the Bentley Continental GTC, where usual rivals BMW and Audi have yet to tread.

The well camouflaged mule fails to disguise the heavily raked windscreen (shared with the S-class coupé) and the large rear quarterlight window, which gives an indication that the rear cabin will be relatively generous for a soft-top.

Compared with the E-class convertible, the S-class will have a roomier, higher-quality cabin, which will be part of its appeal to owners who want the space to carry a pair of adult passengers in open-top luxury.

Although the mule gives away a little of the convertible's details, it does reveal a large, sweeping roofline, with the canvas hood tucked away under a fake hard-top roof. The two-door body style that sources have indicated will feature in production is also obvious in our photographs.

Mercedes has previously floated the idea of a luxury soft-top in the shape of the 2006 Ocean Drive concept, although that experimented with four-door styling.

A key feature of the new S-class is the classy, near-Bentley-quality interior. Scoop pictures of the cabin have previously revealed a fully digital dashboard with a four-dial instrument pack, paired with a widescreen sat-nav/multimedia system set in matching rectangular binnacles.

Extra luxury is added by a swathe of wood trim across the cockpit, punctuated by 'eyeball' air vents fashioned from metal, which look like they've been lifted straight out of a Bentley parts bin.

Under the skin, the S-class convertible will be packed with high-end technology, much of it focused on improving the car's road manners and breaking new ground in safety.

Like the next-generation S-class saloon due next year, the convertible will feature 'Magic Ride' suspension, first revealed on the company's F700 concept. It employs cameras that detect the road surface and adjust the air springs and dampers to suit the prevailing conditions. By working on each wheel individually, the system is said to be able to provide a constant ride height and eradicate cornering lean.

As on every generation of S-class, new safety technology will also be introduced. This is likely to include refinements to Mercedes' convertible rollover system.

A 'Braking Bag' under the front axle, activated during the last moments of an emergency stop, will provide extra retardation. The car is also expected to incorporate a new seatbelt-mounted airbag.

Mazda 'interested' in making premium supermini

Posted: 04 Nov 2012 11:00 PM PST

A potential sub-B segment entrant from Mazda could form a premium rival to the Vauxhall Adam

Mazda hopes to build a premium supermini to rival the Citroën DS3 and BMW Mini, a senior official from the company has revealed.

Ichiro Hirose, vice-president of research and development at Mazda Europe, said the Japanese car maker "was interested in the premium sub-B class, and we could have a car launched within the next two or three years".

Few details of the project are yet known, but the class, which would be new to Mazda, is forever expanding. The Vauxhall Adam is the latest model to be launched in the segment.

Mazda looked at the idea of a more upmarket city car with the 2008 Kiyora concept, aimed at the rising number of global urban dwellers.

However, any production car is likely to look very different from the Kiyora, which was created when Laurens van den Acker was in charge of design. Since then, a new Japanese design chief, Akira Tamatani, has arrived and introduced a new design language, seen on the CX-5 and new Mazda 6.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 02:12 AM PDT

The Jaguar estate returns as the Sportbrake. But does it enhance the XF's appeal? This has been a long time coming. Jaguar introduced the XF in 2008 – and fantastically good it was, and remains. But the range has expanded with all the pace of a blimp filled with a foot pump. It took until the facelift last year for Jaguar to introduce a small four-cylinder diesel engine of the type that is the staple of all of its rivals' ranges.And it has taken until now, a full four and a half years since XF deliveries started, for this, the Sportbrake, to arrive – which comes at the same time as another minor mid-life refresh of the car.Still, now it's here, with a range that mirrors the diesel line-up in the XF saloon. You can have 161bhp or 197bhp variants of the 2.2-litre four-pot diesel, or the 3.0-litre V6 diesel in 237bhp or 271bhp form. All are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission but, reflecting the fleet-oriented market for cars like these, there are no petrol Sportbrake variants around. Not even an XFR.Instead, the major XF Sportbrake action will be at the other end of the performance scale. It starts from £31,940 in its cheapest form. Our test car demands rather more: it is a £51,505 3.0D S Portfolio.

No comments:

Post a Comment