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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News


New Maserati Quattroporte revealed

Posted: 06 Nov 2012 04:08 AM PST

Familiar looks, but all-new chassis, higher-quality interior and lighter body for new luxury saloon ahead of Detroit motor show debut

This is the new Maserati Quattroporte, the first and the flagship of a trio of new models that will kick-start the firm's plans to boost its annual sales to around 50,000 units by 2015, a more than eight-fold increase on its 2011 performance of 6200 units.

The new sixth-generation Quattroporte will be revealed at the Detroit motor show in January and will be followed by a smaller BMW 5-series-rivalling saloon called Ghibli later in the year. A new SUV called Levante will crown the new expanded Maserati line-up, which will include diesel engines for the first time, in early 2014, the year of Maserati's centenary.

Maserati is not divulging any official details on the new Quattroporte ahead of its Detroit unveiling, but Autocar understands the latest model is longer but lighter than the current four-door saloon.

The next-gen Quattroporte is believed to be based on a new steel monocoque chassis. The new underpinnings mean it should grow to around 5200mm in length, up from around 5052mm compared to today's car. Much of the increase is understood to have been in the wheelbase, to legroom for rear passengers, something that's crucial if Maserati is to make the impression it seeks on the Chinese market.

Much of the bodywork for the new Quattroporte is believed to have been crafted from aluminium, meaning the kerb weight of 1990kg of the current car will be reduced by around 50kg to 1940kg in spite of the increase in size.

The launch engine will be a Ferrari-built V8, believed to be a new version of the 453bhp 4.7-litre V8 used in the Granturismo sports car. The new unit is expected to get more power, but also improved fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. It will be mated to a ZF-supplied XF automatic gearbox.

An expanded range of efficient turbocharged and supercharged engines are also under consideration, including a smaller capacity V8 and V6 petrol and diesel engines, although the V6 units could ultimately be reserved for the smaller Ghibli saloon and the Levante SUV.

One first for the Quattroporte will be a four-wheel drive option around a year after launch of the standard rear-drive car.

The new model has been designed at a special Maserati-only department within the Fiat Group Centro Stile design centre, under the guidance of legendary Pininfarina designer Lorenzo Ramaciotti.

The look is evolved from the current car – the front grille, three side vents and distinctive triangular C-pillars all remain – but new features are added to give the car a more muscular stance, including a rising beltline running the length of the car.

The interior has undergone an overhaul from the current model, the result being a much more luxurious look and feel. High-quality woods and leathers are used throughout, and much of the major controls are operated by a large central touchscreen mounted on the centre console.

The new Quattroporte will be built at the old Bertone plant at Bertone, on the outskirts of Turin. The plant has been gutted and refurbished over several years; all but the walls are new. The new Ghibli will also be built at the plant and both models will be exported around the world, including North America.

Prices will start at around £80,000 for the base Quattroporte, rising to beyond £120,000 at the top-end for super-luxury versions.

Autocar magazine 7 November preview

Posted: 06 Nov 2012 02:30 AM PST

This week in Autocar magazine: Land Rover's new product blitz revealed; Mercedes A45 AMG set for Geneva debut; Vauxhall Adam and Mercedes SLS GT driven; full road test for the new Mercedes A-class

This week's issue of Autocar magazine lifts the lid on Land Rover's biggest ever product offensive. We reveal every new model the brand will launch between now and 2020.

We also give the full details on the forthcoming Mercedes A45 AMG, and how Fiat's next hatchback is key to the firm's future. Plus, we tell how Subaru is readying a hotter BRZ coupe.

This week's issue also carries our first drive of the all-new Vauxhall Adam. It is stylish, for sure, but can it rival the very best the city car class has to offer? At the opposite end of the scale, we find out if the Mercedes SLS GT has the poise to make the most of its extra power.

The third-generation Mercedes A-class is the subject of our full road test, where we discover that it might be fun to drive, but it's not so much fun to own. Read the story to find the reasons why.

In our features section we pitch the Mercedes E300 Hybrid against its most frugal executive car rivals and we take the incredible Vauxhall Maloo pick-up hillclimbing.

We also say goodbye to the Lexus CT200h and deliver an update on our two-cylinder Fiat Panda.

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

 

Why Jaguar designed a boat

Posted: 06 Nov 2012 02:20 AM PST

The Concept Speedboat by Jaguar Cars might never get built, but it is an important statement from a firm brimming with confidence

Last week, to coincide with the launch of the new Jaguar XF Sportbrake, Jaguar revealed what it calls the car's ultimate accessory, Concept Speedboat by Jaguar Cars.

Now your first instinct may be that this boat, which has so far never sat in the water and which doesn't even have a working powertrain in it, is a piece of marketing frippery created to grab a few easy headlines. But it's actually worth delving deeper than that.

The boat's design is the work of Jaguar design director Ian Callum and his team, and has been treated very much as an opportunity to showcase their talents. While it may not have been toiled over in quite the same way as the new Jaguar F-Type – it was finished just two days before being revealed – Callum's passion for project is every bit as evident as it is for his four-wheeled creations.

"It's a statement of what we can do as a design team," says Callum. "A car is just about the most complicated piece of design in everyday life – there are so many forces at work, be they engineering needs, legislation, cost and production variables or whatever. We have to design with all these factors in mind.

"But with the boat we were freed from that, and I wanted us to show the wider design world what we could do if we applied Jaguar design themes of form, fluidity and clean lines elsewhere. The lines express sleek and fast characteristics, just like our cars. The rear wing mimics the D-Type but is made of carbonfibre to keep high-up weight as low as possible; a modern interpretation of a classic look, if you like. I don't mind saying that my design team is better now than it has ever been – we've grown together, and we want to showcase our talents."

It's a serious bit of kit, too. The build process was overseen by Canadian naval architecture consultancy Ivan Erdevicki, and Callum says it was engineered to be powered by a Jaguar V6 diesel capable of a projected 60 knots. While that drivetrain isn't in there now, there's no question that it could be if someone gave the go-ahead. "If we built this boat without engineering it to be able to do what we claimed was possible, it would be like building a concept car around a chassis that didn't exist," says Callum.

So will Concept Speedboat ever see the water? Officially, the answer's a flat no. But you have to wonder as to the point of going to such a lot of effort to create something that will never see active service.

In fact, I'd go so far to say that after making so much effort to build a credible concept, Jaguar has no choice but to give it life, even if it's only to prove a point rather than put it on sale. The boat is a rightful celebration of what the company's design team has achieved now and will do in the future. To my mind, to do anything other than give it a similar level of engineering credibility would risk leaving those with long memories doubting the veracity of similar future ventures.

GM reveals new small-block V8

Posted: 06 Nov 2012 12:30 AM PST

New iteration of the venerable pushrod V8 to debut in the new Chevrolet Corvette

The fifth generation of GM's small-block V8 - the world's longest production-run engine - was unveiled last week ahead of its launch at the Detroit motor show next year in a new Chevrolet Corvette.

Chevrolet says the alloy block design is virtually all new, yet continues with a traditional pushrod layout, matched to direct injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation.

Sticking with pushrod valve actuation, rather than moving to overhead valves, is said to save a couple of inches in engine height, allowing designers to maintain the Corvette's low bonnet line.

So far GM has only shown the 450bhp 6.2-litre version of the engine, dubbed the LT1 and weighing 210kg, for the Corvette. But other capacities and outputs are expected.

In Corvette spec, the LT1 has an 11.5:1 compression ratio, delivering 450lb ft of torque and a 0-60mph time of less than four seconds.

Twizy sells well, but EV sales disappoint Renault

Posted: 06 Nov 2012 12:09 AM PST

Renault's sales director has admitted demand for electric vehicles is below expectations

The minimalist Renault Twizy runabout has emerged as the most popular electric car in Renault's expanding range, outselling the Fluence saloon by four to one in the UK.

Over a five-month period, 252 Twizys have been sold, compared with just 64 Fluence ZEs, although the Kangoo ZE commercial van, which appeals to many city centre delivery operators, is ahead overall on 279.

The picture is repeated across Europe, according to Renault sales and marketing director Stephen Norman. "The Twizy is a big success; it's selling in line with expectations," he said.

However, Norman doesn't pull his punches about the current disappointing performance of Renault's EV range to date. "Overall sales are running well below expectations," he admitted. "The volume coming through is lower than we'd thought."

Norman is now placing his confidence in the Zoe EV hatchback. It will go on sale early next year and ought to suit British buyers better than the Fluence.

"The Zoe has extraordinary roadholding because of its low centre of gravity," he said, "and it has demonic acceleration that's delivered in absolute silence."

More usefully, the Zoe can travel 210km on a single charge, according to official figures, which Norman reckons will allow "an effective 100-mile range".

First drive review: Vauxhall Adam 1.4 Slam

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 04:01 PM PST

The cute, small Vauxhall Adam hatchback enters the fashionable supermini fray majoring on style, not heritage Vauxhall has taken a long look at the sales success, profit potential and showroom durability of the current crop of sub-superminis – led by the Mini and Fiat 500 – and decided it badly needs a slice of the action to spruce up its small-car range and boost its bottom line. The result is its chic new Adam, a 3.7-metre-long three-door hatchback that splits the difference between premium and mainstream, takes to the road this week and is expected in UK showrooms next March. Unlike the Mini and 500, however, it has no connection with the past. While working on the idea, Vauxhall rapidly recognised its immediate difficulty was that it lacked an iconic car from a bygone era that could provide the convenient Mini-style heritage to help justify higher prices. Marketing men therefore decided on a three-pronged strategy to compensate. The first was to choose an off-the-wall name that would be easily remembered and would provide 'cut-through' in the market segment. The second was to pitch the car as all-modern, in contrast to its rivals. "Adam bucks the trend for retro-based design," says the new Vauxhall's launch document, "offering a fresh, bold, striking look." Third, it decided to give the Adam new levels of configurability. Within three fairly similar-priced trim levels – £11,255 Jam, £12,650 Glam and £13,150 Slam – the number of d├ęcor and option combinations for the Adam is "almost limitless". For wheels alone, for example, buyers have a choice of 20 sizes and styles. There are also 12 body colours, three different interior treatments and an enormous selection of interior accents, headliners, mirror caps and even Extreme packs – simulated paint blots on mirrors and runs at the bottom of pillars. Throw in an Urban pack (LEDs and chrome bits), a Style pack (coloured roof and shiny alloys) and a Technical Pack (connectivity and rear parking sensors) and you've got as much individuality as most buyers could ever dream of. Some say there are more than a million variables, but no one is counting.

BlueMotion technology for Volkswagen Amarok

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 09:19 AM PST

Fuel saving updates make Volkswagen's pick-up more efficient than ever

Volkswagen has bestowed its BlueMotion technology onto the Amarok pick-up truck, reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The fuel saving features, which include stop-start, regenerative braking and low rolling-resistance tyres, mean the Bluemotion Amarok will now return a combined 37.2mpg and emit 199g/km of CO2, despite being offered in permanent four-wheel-drive configuration only.

Alongside the BlueMotion model, all new Amaroks benefit from a revised 2.0-litre TDI engine, increasing power from 161bhp to 178bhp, and a new eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Other improvements include the availability of Bluetooth connectivity, front and rear parking sensors, heated washer jets, cornering fog lights and 19-inch alloy wheels.

Towing limits for the manual model have also been increased from 2800kg to 3000kg. Automatic models can pull a maximum of 3200kg.

The revised Volkswagen Amarok is available to order now, starting from £18,795. A top of the range automatic model with BlueMotion technology costs £25,105.

Daljinder Nagra

Is Caterham doing a Lotus?

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 07:21 AM PST

Caterham's expansion plans are undoubtedly ambitious, but have been carefully considered.

You might think so, given its unlikely tie-in with Renault to co-produce a new affordable sports car announced today. It's certainly an ambitious project, far away from its core market of selling niche products.

But to suggest it is 'doing a Lotus' and trying to be too ambitious for its own good would be a mistake. Today's announcement wasn't a Bahar-style five car blitz, but the first, considered step in a bid to break Caterham out of its traditional market and expand.

No doubt, both sides benefit from the deal. Caterham gets a manufacturing base and access to key Renault technology that it otherwise wouldn't have. It's end product - as Alpine's - will be better for sharing development costs. Renault also gets to keep its famed Dieppe factory, home to Renaultsport, open — although a helping of French government money, reported to be the first of a larger pot, has also helped there. Wins all round, then, both now and potentially in the long term.

And for all the talk of wanting to build a true halo supercar, and expanding the project in to mainstream models in the future, there's no sense from Caterham boss Tony Fernandes that he's about to force the pace of growth.

In fact, a Caterham sports car is the perfect way to test his brand. Appealing enough so as not to upset established buyers, appealing enough to attract new customers, especially in the Asian region he knows so well, and which is less concerned by historic brand names than many. After that, if it's a success, he can start to grow the company in to his long-term goal of being 'Asia's Porsche'.

Mention Lotus to Fernandes and he inevitably snorts - remember he originally did a deal to call his F1 squad Lotus. He rues the Norfolk firm's plight today, but says he won't be buying them now.

"The romantic in me would like to reunite Lotus and Caterham, but there is probably too much of a cesspit in the middle for it to happen now," He laughs. "That and a lot of debt!"

It's an intriguing proposition to buy an F1 team and work 'backwards' towards turning it in to a mainstream car brand. Personally, I like Fernandes' patient, considered approach. It might not work, but I certainly don't believe it'll blow up on him either.

Renault Gordini brand to return to racing roots

Posted: 05 Nov 2012 07:16 AM PST

Renault to use Gordini name on its most specialist track cars

Renault is to reinvent the Gordini brand as the "ultimate track-focused car", chief operating officer Carlos Tavares has confirmed.

The name will be used on the company's most specialist track-only offerings and will sit alongside Renault's established performance division, Renaultsport.

The announcment comes as Tavares today sought to confirm the continued operation of the Renaultsport brand, after the unveiling of a partnership with Caterham Cars to create a new sports car under the Alpine brand name.

Speaking to Autocar, Tavares said: "Renaultsport models will be sporty and Gordini will be a step beyond – the ultimate track-focused car. A Gordini will only be sold for the road as a derivative of a special track car."

A successful F1 team in the 1950s, Gordini was acquired by Renault in 1969. The Gordini name has most recently been seen on cosmetically upgraded versions of the Clio and Twingo.

Caterham Seven could 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."

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