Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

New MG6 BTCC Edition

Posted: 11 Dec 2012 07:22 AM PST

British Touring Car Champioship-inspired special edition available with VIP race experience

MG Motor has launched a BTCC Edition of the MG6 saloon, to celebrate its return to the race series.

It uses a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine that develops 158bhp – enough to get the MG6 from 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds and on to an electronically limited 120mph top speed.

Externally, the BTCC Edition features a matte-black roof and 18-inch alloy wheels, contrasted with gloss-black sills, door mirror housings, front valance, rear bumper and spoiler. A smattering of BTCC graphics completes the makeover.

The BTTC Edition will be offered in two colours: Arctic White and Union Blue.

Standard equipment includes satellite navigation (with lifetime subscription to Trafficmaster), sports seats, rear parking sensors, cruise control, MP3 connectivity and power-folding door mirrors.

MG is offering customers who buy before December 31 free VIP hospitality tickets to a 2013 BTCC race, including a grid walk and pit-lane experience.

The MG6 BTTC Edition is on sale now, priced from £16,995.

Daljinder Nagra

New Skoda Octavia revealed

Posted: 11 Dec 2012 06:30 AM PST

Skoda's new family hatchback grows in size; On sale in the UK next March; Hot petrol and diesel vRS models due next July; Four-wheel drive and estate variants to follow

This is the new Skoda Octavia, the third generation of the firm's successful family hatchback. It's larger than before and is claimed to provide class-leading interior space. 

Based on the stretched version of the Volkswagen Group's new MQB platform, the Octavia is now 4659mm long, an increase of 90mm over its predecessor. Width is up by 45mm to 1814mm, but the real gain is in the wheelbase, which has grown by 108mm to 2686mm. 

The enlarged size keeps the Octavia in its unusual position of being larger than its perceived rivals (VW Golf, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra) but not as big as a car from the class above. It's 125mm shorter than a Ford Mondeo, for example. 

The new Octavia has what Skoda claims is class-leading interior space, with 1782mm of interior length, and increased head, knee and legroom for front and rear passengers. Boot space is also up, albeit by just five litres to 590. It's still the largest in its class, easily beating the Golf's 380 litres. 

The entry-level engine is a 1.4 TSI with 120bhp and 147lb ft. There is also a more powerful 1.4 with 138bhp and 184lb ft. Initially, the range-topping petrol model will be the 1.8 TSI, with 177bhp and 184lb ft. A few months after launch, the 2.0-litre turbo engine from the Golf GTI will be introduced in a hot new Octavia vRS. 

The diesels kick off with a 103bhp 1.6, and there's a frugal 108bhp Greenline version of the 1.6 that returns a claimed 83mpg and emits 89g/km of CO2. Two 2.0 TDIs are also on offer, with 147bhp and 181bhp.

The vRS will surface next July at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. As with the current Octavia, both petrol and diesel vRS models will be offered.

Six-speed manual and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearboxes will be available, and it's thought that the DSG has been redesigned to take higher torque outputs. 

An estate will join the range next May, and four-wheel-drive models, including a rugged Scout, will arrive in 2014. 

Inside, the new dashboard is much crisper than today's, and the Golf-based architecture is obvious. There's a touchscreen multimedia system, keyless start and entry and plenty of small, clever touches, such as rubbish bins in the doors and a reversible boot floor, with carpet on one side and rubber on the other. Higher equipment levels include a lane departure warning system and a pop-up bonnet to improve pedestrian safety.

The new Octavia will go on sale next March. Prices are set to rise slightly compared with the current range, which starts at about £14,000.

Dan Stevens

Mercedes E-class images leaked

Posted: 11 Dec 2012 06:28 AM PST

Facelifted saloon and estate pictures online prior to official unveiling

Images showing the refreshed Mercedes E-class have leaked online.

Technical specifications are yet to be confirmed, but the images show that the E-class will wear the 'merged' single headlamp units – first seen on prototype test mules – in place of the previous two-piece items.

In addition, the E-class has undergone a thorough aesthetic reworking, with the bonnet, front grille and bumper and rear light clusters all redesigned.

Full details of the new E-class are expected shortly.

Daljinder Nagra

New Honda baby SUV - first picture

Posted: 11 Dec 2012 04:53 AM PST

Sketch reveals first details of Honda's next SUV

Honda will unveil a concept car at the Detroit motor show that will become a new baby SUV. Seen here in the first official image of the vehicle, the production version of the Urban SUV Concept is expected to go on sale within the next three years.

The new car, which is widely tipped to be based on the Honda Jazz, will rival the Nissan Juke and Vauxhall Mokka. It is likely to be spun off the new Honda Jazz platform, which is due in the next two years, and with which the firm is targeting sales of up to 400,000 units a year in America and Europe.

Unlike with previous generations of the car, Honda is giving its global regions freedom to develop the Jazz to suit local tastes. The European version is expected to be built at the firm's base in Swindon.

The baby SUV is a key part of Honda president Takanobu Ito's ambitious plans to double global sales to six million cars a year by 2017.

Ford Mustang: latest spy shots

Posted: 11 Dec 2012 04:05 AM PST

Next generation Ford muscle car spotted testing for the first time

This is the new Ford Mustang, which has been spotted testing in the US.

These first spy shots show a heavily disguised test mule with revised front end styling. The headlights have been moved sidewards, which allows space for the much wider grille.

Overall, however, the design of the new Mustang is an evolution of the current fastback shape.

Its dimensions are likely to be slightly reduced, however, as the forthcoming model will be the first to be sold in the UK, and will come with a full right-hand-drive conversion.

It will be the first sporty two-door in Ford UK's line-up since the demise of the Cougar in 2002.

The new Mustang is also likely to get fully independent rear suspension in place of the current car's live axle, to make it more competitive against European performance rivals.

Daljinder Nagra

First drive review: VW Eco Up

Posted: 11 Dec 2012 02:03 AM PST

Gas-burning supermini could provide a real alternative to limited-range electric cars This is Volkswagen's Eco Up model, which returns the CO2 performance of an electric vehicle because it is powered by compressed natural gas (CNG).  Rather than being a hasty conversion, which takes up most of the luggage space, when VW engineers were planning the Up's NSF platform they made sure that twin gas tanks could be fitted in the car without reducing the size of the boot. One of the large, cylindrical tanks is fitted under the boot floor, the other is under the rear seat.VW has also managed to squeeze a 10-litre petrol tank alongside the gas tanks. Open the Eco Up's fuel flap and there's both the gas filler and the conventional fuel filler. The car's fuel gauge is also dual-function, showing the amount in the petrol tank for a few seconds on start-up, before switching to indicating CNG levels.All the other changes are out of sight, inside the three-cylinder engine. As well as a set of specific injectors for the CNG and a new engine management system, the compression ratio has been raised from 10.5:1 to 11.5:1, the spark plugs supply a higher ignition voltage and the camshaft profiles and pistons have been modified.New materials were used for the valves and valve guides, and the variable valve-timing settings are different. The Eco Up can also detect the difference between 'High' (98 per cent methane) gas and 'Low' (85 per cent methane) gas that is on sale at Germany's 911 CNG-fuelling stations. It's the changes to the catalytic convertor that show the real environmental differences in burning CNG compared to petrol. Burning CNG releases "around 25 per cent less CO2" says VW, as well as "far less" in the way of pollutants including carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, while fine particulates are not emitted at all. All of which means the materials used inside the convertor are different.Translated from the German showroom prices, the Eco Up costs around £2500 more than the standard petrol car, which is probably understandable considering the extra costs of the super-strong gas tanks and the engineering modifications needed for what will be a relatively low-volume car.

Jaguar Land Rover: international moves for an international business

Posted: 11 Dec 2012 01:33 AM PST

Production plans in Saudi Arabia have caused tension within JLR, but the company should be applauded for its continued commitment to growth through international investment

There is, you sense, a good deal of nervousness at Jaguar Land Rover at the announcement of plans to capitalise on the advanced and abundant aluminium smelting and energy production resources in Saudi Arabia, because they worry it won't be seen as the right move for a fundamentally British firm.

Anyone with a right mind will surely see the announcement of a letter of intent with Saudi authorities, with the goal of taking leadership in aluminium supply and production, as a good move, for JLR, its workers and British industry as a whole, though. To focus the company in Britain alone would surely be madness, especially when similar resources are not available here.

Instead, we should rejoice at further evidence of the firm's long-term ambitions to grow and the fact that it is doing so off the back of a continuing commitment to invest and expand its operations here. Furthermore, so the theory goes, every three jobs created away from the home base stimulates one more at HQ; with the ambitious Saudi manufacturing plans requiring thousands of locals to be trained, that certainly rings true.

Fact is, JLR is at the forefront of investment in the UK by car manufacturers which is worth an estimated £6bn in recent years, and it is playing a central role in expanding production levels in the UK ever closer to the peak figure of the late 1970s.

Any doubters should take a look at Opel-Vauxhall, Fiat or Peugeot-Citroën for evidence of the dangers of focusing too closely on the home market. A strong international business needs strong international foundations. Today's news is a positive first step in providing that kind of growth and security into what looks like an ever brighter future. And if that future is so successful that it can include a successor to the C-X75 that makes production, we'll have even more reason to remember today's announcements fondly.

All-new Land Rover to be built in Saudi Arabia

Posted: 11 Dec 2012 01:00 AM PST

Land Rover has announced an all-new model will be built in Saudi Arabia after an aluminium pressing plant is established

Jaguar Land Rover is to expand into Saudi Arabia by using an aluminium pressing plant and, eventually, a production line to make an all-new Land Rover model there.

The British car maker has signed a letter of intent with the National Industrial Clusters Development Program in Saudi Arabia to buy aluminium from what is being described as one of the world's largest aluminium smelters. 

It is then expected to produce body panels for future models, and other components, at an all-new, state-of-the-art pressing plant that is being built in the kingdom.

Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, says now that the company is on a "solid footing", it has to expand globally. He says he is confident that this move is the right one for the firm, allowing it to secure the "cheapest aluminium in the world".

A memorandum of understanding is expected to be signed in the middle of 2013, before the production begins in early 2015.

There's no news on which new model will be built in Saudi, but JLR sources have hinted that it could be based on the new Range Rover platform.

The new model (which sources insist was never intended to be made in the UK) will initially be sent to the Saudi line as a 'knocked down' kit to allow the operation to gain experience, before full production switches to the country.

The main driver behind this radical move, says Speth, is to secure a steady, cost-effective supply of aluminium as global demand for the material starts to rise. Global fuel economy regulations are expected to make the use of lightweight materials increasingly important for the car industry.

Saudi Arabia is well positioned for this project because it has both vast bauxite deposits — the rock that is the main source of aluminium — and the cheap power ideal for the energy-intensive process that's needed to create aluminium.

Speth says JLR is committed to a "lightweight future" and its demand for aluminium will rise considerably, with at least four Land Rover company models made from the materials. Most future Jaguars are also expected to be made of aluminium.

Jaguar C-X75 axed

Posted: 11 Dec 2012 01:00 AM PST

Jaguar has axed the C-X75 hybrid hypercar in response to the global economic crisis

The Jaguar C-X75 supercar has been axed. Global brand director Adrian Hallmark confirmed that the decision not to put the radical hybrid into production had been taken due to the current global economic crisis.

Five working prototypes will continue to be developed until next May. Up to three of these will then be sold at auction, while one will go into a future Jaguar museum and the other will be kept by Jaguar for running demonstrations.

"We feel we could make the car work, but looking at the global austerity measures in place now, it seems the wrong time to launch an £800,000 to £1 million supercar," said Hallmark. "This is backed up by other products from us that people are screaming out for." 

The C-X75 was first revealed as a concept at the Paris motor show in 2010. Its hybrid drivetrain included a pair of gas turbines to power the car once charge from the four electric motors, one mounted at each wheel, had expired.

In May 2011 Jaguar confirmed the C-X75, which features the firm's first bonded carbonfibre chassis using Williams F1 expertise, had been signed off for production, albeit without the gas turbines.

The original drivetrain had been replaced with a turbocharged/supercharged 1.6-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, mounted at either end of the car, driving transaxles and powered by a liquid/air-cooled battery pack.

The combined power figure of the hybrid drivetrain was 888bhp and combined torque 590lb ft. The C-X75 could crack 0-60mph in 2.8sec and promised 0-100mph in less than 6.0sec. An all-electric range of 60 miles was quoted.

Hallmark said the undisclosed investment in the C-X75 would not be wasted, and 60 per cent of its technology would filter through to future Jaguars. The hybrid technology, he said, could be used on a three-cylinder engine to give it the power of a six-cylinder engine.

The C-X75's sophisticated aerodynamics should also influence future Jaguars, while the high-pressure supercharger technology could be used on future performance Jaguars with four-cylinder engines.

Hallmark said around 100 expressions of interest had been taken in the C-X75, with the maximum number of cars to be built capped at 250.

The C-X75's carbonfibre chassis was developed with the Williams F1 team. Hallmark said the relationship with Williams would end in May when the project died, but he expected the pair to work again in the future.

New Mercedes S-class spied

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 10:27 AM PST

Latest revealing spy shots show the shape of Mercedes' forthcoming flagship saloon

These are the latest pictures to emerge of the forthcoming Mercedes S-class, which has been spotted testing in Spain.

Without much of its original protective camouflage, the overall shape and much of the detail design of the new car can be seen. In profile the car shares its overall design with the current C-class, with an additional distinctive character line running from the wing mirrors to the rear door, breaking up the visual bulk of this much larger car.

Also clearly on display are the new LED-integrated headlamps and the wider chrome front grille.

The new S-class will be offered not only in standard and long-wheelbase guises, but will also be available in even more luxurious Pullman editions, to fill the gap in the range left by the Maybach.

A cabriolet edition will also eventually make an appearance, as will a two-door version, which will replace the current CL coupé.

Daljinder Nagra

Quick news: Fiat 500L prices; new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 09:57 AM PST

Fiat confirms price and specification details for the 500L, Porsche shows off its latest GT3 Cup car and Rinspeed announces yet another outlandish concept

Fiat has announced prices for its forthcoming 500L mini-MPV. The range starts at £14,990 on the road for a 1.4-litre model in Pop Star trim. Topping the range is the £18,890 1.6-litre MultiJet model in Lounge specification. In total, the Euro NCAP five-star 500L is available with four engines and a selection of unusual options, including a built-in coffee machine.

The new 991 generation 911 GT3 Cup race car has been unveiled by Porsche. Developing 454bhp from a naturally aspirated 3.8-litre flat-six engine, the GT3 Cup will run exclusively in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup in 2013. Pre-tax, it costs £146,000.

Rinspeed has released the first design images of its latest concept car, the MicroMAX. Designed around themes of personal and public transport, the concept is small at just 3.6 metres long and 2.2 metres wide, yet boasts enough space for five occupants and bulky items. Full details of the all-electric car will be unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March.

Daljinder Nagra

New 2013 Skoda Octavia - first pics

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 09:16 AM PST

Skoda has teased a number of images of its 2013 Octavia hatchback

Skoda has released a number of images of its new Octavia ahead of an official unveil expected over the coming days.

The shots give little away as to the design of Skoda's C-segment challenger, but it will carry the same front grille treatment as the Rapid, as well as similar taillights with an exaggerated C-shaped graphic. It will also feature a kick-up line in the side window line for the first time.

It is already known that the 2013 Octavia will be slightly larger than before, to further distance itself from the recently-introduced Rapid. The new car will also be based on the VW Group's MQB platform.

The most revealing image is of the dashboard, which features a range of familiar VW Group components. Skoda has previously said it will introduce more upmarket versions with more luxurious cabins.

The Octavia's engine line-up will closely follow that of the Golf, Leon and A3, with the core range likely to be a 138bhp 1.4 TSI petrol and a 104bhp 1.6 TDI diesel. A 220bhp vRS version is scheduled for a reveal next summer.

Autocar magazine 12 December preview

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 07:59 AM PST

Full Range Rover road test; BMW 3-series used car buying guide; Vauxhall Mokka vs rivals; Britain's cheapest car driven

This week's issue of Autocar magazine is headed up by the most in-depth test of the all-new Range Rover yet - a special, 10-page road test on and off-road in the UK, including our full test findings and data.

Steve Sutcliffe kicks off the regular columns, discussing how Jaguar is keeping Aston Martin honest, and Richard Bremner puts the Lamborghini Estoque under the spotlight.

In our drives section, Steve Cropley reviews the new Kia Procee'd GT and Matt Saunders checks out the top of the range - but still bargain basement - Dacia Sandero. We also test the Mitsubishi Mirage, Infiniti FX Vettel Edition, Volkswagen Polo R-line and the new, three-cylinder Citroen C3.

Updates on our long-term test fleet include an introduction to the Volkswagen CC GT, plus latest news on our Volvo V40 and bangernomics BMW.

In our features section we pitch the Vauxhall Mokka against the cream of the compact crossover crop, the Yeti, Juke and Countryman. We also take to the road in the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo concept to see if it has talent to back up its A-lister looks. Meanwhile, we reveal how Volvo paid us a visit to understand why the V40 isn't not our favourite hatchback – and subsequently made a few changes to offer it wider appeal.

In our used car buying section James Ruppert takes a look at family-friendly MPVs, while the previous-generation 3-series is the subject of our full buying guide.

As ever, the magazine is available from all good newsagents, or available for download from Zinio or the Apple iTunes store.

Whatever happened to mud flaps?

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 07:48 AM PST

They're exceptionally useful in keeping your paintwork clear of road muck, so why don't we see mudflaps any more?

I looked at the state of my car the other and idly wondered whether a set of mudflaps would have helped to keep the muck off my motor.

I mean, they do work. Lorries still have them and they are on 4x4s; I even have period set of Leyland-liveried ones on my Land Rover. My dad loved them; he ordered mudflaps on every car he bought. In fact, I've still got a few spare sets knocking around the garage.

I assume it's a fashion thing these days. I doubt they are blingy enough, but you could diamante them, surely? Maybe it is all about aerodynamics. I say bring back the mudflaps. Just as everyone, except me, changes their summer tyres for winter ones, couldn't we sometime in October clip the things back on? It is a wonderful advertising opportunity too. I think Autocar should give away a branded set as a present for everyone in the 2 January 2013 issue. Even better, use a real, live copy of Autocar. Indeed, you get a fresh set every month.

Well, I'm off to start a mudflap revival. Who's with me?

First drive review: Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 06:57 AM PST

A lack of load space and a ponderous gearbox aren't enough to take the shine off this madcap AMG estate The range-topping version of Mercedes' new Shooting Brake lineup — the estate version of the slinky CLS. Like its four-door compatriot, it gets AMG's formidable 5.5-litre biturbo V8, which develops 550bhp in UK spec (the Continentals have to make do with a paltry 518bhp as standard).The engine is hooked up to the familiar Speedshift MCT seven-speed automatic transmission, and is capable of returning 28mpg on a combined cycle. More interestingly, it'll also manage to whisk all 1955kg to 62mph in just 4.3 seconds before finding the limiter at 155mph.As before, AMG's adaptive Ride Control offers three damping modes for the standard sports suspension. The front axle is 56mm wider than the conventional car and gets steel springs, while the rear benefits from a self-leveling air-sprung setup.Outside, the Shooting Brake's new silhouette gets the usual AMG embellishments – including radiator grille and bonnet design – while the inside adds sports seats, black piano lacquer trim and a rather wonderful three-spoke steering wheel clad in Nappa leather.

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