Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Lotus Evora Sports Racer announced

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 06:21 AM PST

Special edition Evora sports aesthetic tweaks and generous standard specification

The Lotus Evora Sports Racer has been announced. It is available in normally aspirated or supercharged Evora S form.

The Sports Racer features gloss black accents on the roof, front splitter, rear diffuser and side sills. Further black detailing includes the badges, door mirror housings and the gloss black forged wheels. Brake calipers are finished in a choice of black or red.

The Sports Racer is available in four paint finishes: Aspen White, Carbon Grey, Nightfall Blue and Ardent Red.

A 2+2 seating option is fitted as standard. The dashboard is finished in gunmetal grey and the seats are upholstered in black leather with contrasting red stitching and piping. Red leather with black stitching is available as an option.

The Evora Sports Racer comes fitted with many optional extras as standard. The extensive list includes a Sports Pack, which gives a switchable Sports mode with increased throttle response and raised rev limit, as well as a sports diffuser and cross-drilled brake discs.

A Tech Pack is also fitted, which includes an upgraded stereo, DVD player, seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, tyre pressure monitor, cruise control and rear parking sensors. Power fold mirrors and a reversing camera are also included.

The Lotus Evora Sports Racer is available to order now, priced from £57,900 for the naturally aspirated model and from £65,900 for the supercharged Evora S.

Daljinder Nagra

Toyota Aygo falls behind on safety

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 05:16 AM PST

Toyota's city-nipper manages just three stars in Euro NCAP tests, alongside Peugeot 107 and Citroën C1

The Toyota Aygo and its sister cars, the Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1, have performed poorly in the latest round of Euro NCAP crash tests, being awarded just three stars.

Despite the current model being a facelifted version of a car that originally scored four stars upon its release in 2005, Toyota has failed to implement the latest developments in passenger safety.

Worryingly, the Aygo scored three stars only because it was tested with a number of additional items, not currently available, which Toyota has pledged to include on customers cars from July 2013. Without them, the car would have scored significantly worse.

These items include side thorax airbags, side head curtain airbags, electronic stability control, passenger seatbelt reminder and ISOFIX rear outboard seats.

"Our test protocols have evolved significantly over the past few years. We're seeing that some manufacturers continue to offer popular best sellers without making the necessary incremental updates to safety," said Dr Michiel Van Ratingen, Euro NCAP secretary general.

Daljinder Nagra

Please Infiniti, give your cars names

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 03:49 AM PST

'Proper' car names would be preferable to Infiniti's new naming convention

I was underwhelmed to learn recently that Infiniti is in the process of renaming its cars. For the 2014 model year, which is bound to arrive some time in March 2013, all Infinitis will have a 'Q' or 'QX' prefix.

To quote Infiniti directly: "New nomenclature symbolises new brand direction and the commitment to Infiniti under the leadership of Johan de Nysschen The use of Q and QX captures the inspiration within the next generation of Infiniti models, while relating back to Infiniti's roots of the Q45."

That's the usual marketing boat hooks one expects these days from multinational companies. I doubt that anyone really cares about the Q45 and certainly QX only brings to mind those large, reliable, anodyne saloons from the 1990s with Nissan badges on them. Surely Japan, the spiritual home of bonkers (or Bongo Friendee) car names, can do better than this.

Numbers and letters do work – as the German brands have proved – but don't we all miss the great days when TVRs were named after terrifying mythical creatures? Of course, no one wants to cause offence these days, and there has always been the problem of names getting lost in translation. Ford UK was keen to call its new family car the Caprino, until further investigation revealed that it meant 'goat dung' in Italian. Instead, Ford went for 'Cortina', which had been the Italian venue for the 1960 Winter Olympics.

On the whole, though, numbers are boring unless it is '6.2 V12'. If Infiniti is going to make an impression, it needs to use proper words. Red Bull would be a start. Okay, it's a fizzy drink, but it is a start of sorts. So come on, let's help Infiniti out with some eye-catching, brand-building, characterful monikers. I find it helps if I put a car name into this sentence to see how excited I get. So, I've got an Infiniti Dictator. I've got an Infiniti Labradoodle. I've got an Infiniti Unlimited.

What have you got?

Mitsubishi i-MiEV Evolution video review

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 03:31 AM PST

Hillclimb special promises new future for next Evo

Matt Saunders is the first in the world to test the Mitsubishi i-MiEV Evolution Pikes Peak racer. Whether it wins or not, its legacy is likely to be the next Lancer Evo - a car that's tipped to feature a hybrid powertrain.

First Cadillac ELR image released

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 02:59 AM PST

Forthcoming range-extender hybrid teased prior to its Detroit motor show debut

This is the first official image of the Cadillac ELR. The new hybrid model is due to make its international debut at January's Detroit motor show.

The ELR's styling remains faithful to Cadillac's Converj concept car, which was unveiled in 2009.

Mechanical specification is yet to be confirmed, but the ELR is expected to use the same range-extender hybrid technology as the Chevrolet Volt, with a four-cylinder petrol engine used to charge a lithium-ion battery pack, which powers an electric motor.

Cadillac has invested $35m in its Hamtramck plant in Detroit to handle ELR production, where it will be built alongside the Volt and Opel Ampera.

The ELR is due to go into production late in 2013. While Cadillac does have plans to relaunch in the UK, it is unlikely that a right-hand-drive version will be available in the next three years.

Daljinder Nagra

Is it time to bid adieu to the French luxury car?

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 01:59 AM PST

Production of the Citroën C6 stops today, marking the end for the French luxury car as we know it

Today the 250 workers building the Citroën C6 at Peugeot-Citroën's Rennes factory will down tools for good. Production of the big saloon will end, some seven years after it was launched.

By any measure, the C6 was a sales disaster. Total production may have crept across the 20,000 barrier by today, but that is what Citroën was hoping for in a single year. Sales in the UK probably didn't bust four figures, making the right-hand-drive conversation one of the most expensive engineering exercises in automotive history.

The death of the C6 is a major landmark for the French car industry. Its demise marks the end of the big French luxury car, a market once defined by marques such as Delage, Delahaye and Avions Voisins. Of course, despite so many established pre-WW2 luxury makes collapsing by the early 1950s, Citroën did manage to re-invent the idea of the luxury car with the DS.

Wildly innovative in its styling and engineering, the DS was one of the most successful reinventions in auto history. The DS was replaced by the CX (an edgily modern fastback and giant estate) and the XM. Neither stopped Citroën from sliding out of the, potentially highly profitable, large car market. Indeed, there was a five year gap between the XM dying and the C6 going into production, suggesting that getting the project to add up on the corporate spreadsheet was a difficult job.

And now Citroën joins sister brand Peugeot and Renault (who crashed ingloriously out of the large car market when the oddball Vel Satis was killed off in 2009) in not having a proper flagship model. National pride aside, does it matter?

Financially, it's a big hole in the accounts because Mercedes, BMW and Audi make significant margins on their large cars. Then again, the German big-three completely dominate the global large and luxury segments, so the French are in good company. More tellingly, the French makers completely ignored the premium SUV boom, missing out on a very lucrative market that might not have been so badge-sensitive during its formative years.

Perhaps it is this determination to do things their own way that has been responsible for the French big three being slowly expelled from the large car market. Worse still, sister cars the Pug 508 and Citroën C5 could yet be merged in with the next-generation Vauxhall/Opel Insignia because falling sales and a shrinking European market for non-premium large cars is making it hard to even break-even.

Clearly, it is a matter of survival that the French carmakers do not allow themselves to be pushed back into the wafer-thin margins offered by the small and medium mass-market segments. Citroën's first move was to fightback by leveraging the DS name and creating a new sub-brand that will demand higher showroom prices. So far, that's looking good, though the DS4 and 5 have flaws.

As far as the large car segment is concerned, Citroën looks to have abandoned Europe and is pining its luxury hopes on China, a massive market that has an insatiable appetite for French luxury goods. The giant DS9 concept is intended to show what a range-topping DS would look like. Between that and the DS3, there's plenty of room for expansion, including a DS SUV. It might be that the French luxury car has moved east to reinvent itself and escape from past disappointments.

And Citroën just might just pull off carving a profitable space in that huge market. But maybe Renault just won't bother with trying again to crack the luxury segment. After all, if you can turn a four per cent margin on a million Dacias, what's the point of chasing a 10 per cent margin on a 60,000 luxo-barges?

Akio Toyoda named Autocar Man of the Year

Posted: 18 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

Behind every special car or story is at least one special person - and there have been many over the past 12 months - but Akio Toyoda is Autocar's Man of the Year

Times may be tough, but Toyota's charismatic president and chief executive, Akio Toyoda, has had a remarkably successful year. And for this he wins Autocar's premier end-of-year accolade.

Starting from a level somewhat lower than most observers reckoned his company could sink, Toyoda has brought redemption to the company after a succession of damaging safety scares – then launched an extremely impressive 'halo' car, the GT86.

Taking over from a distinctly old-school Japanese president, Akio Toyoda (who looks younger than his 56 years) has won approval from enthusiasts for his irrepressible love of cars. His establishment of the Gazoo Racing organisation (to encourage car-loving employees to create great Toyotas in future) and love of motorsport (he has raced a Lexus LFA at the Nürburgring) are moves that simply wouldn't be possible for someone who didn't love cars. Even those critical of 'boring' Toyota can see how directly Toyoda brings hope for the future.

Toyoda has won worldwide respect for his courage and humility in dealing directly with, and continuing to talk about, Toyota's quality lapses of 2010-2011. Some of the faults have turned out to be far less serious than first thought and many a car boss would be anxious to point out the unfairness of such treatment. Toyoda resists. "I don't know if we were unfairly treated or not," he told us during a visit to this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed, which he loves.

"This year we celebrate Toyota's 75 years and as part of that I want to identify the past three years as a very good period during which we came to better understand what people want Toyota to be."

Of course, the job is not done. Toyota has continued to take criticism from the wider press over large but essentially minor recalls. And the company still makes characterless models, some launched since Toyoda took over. All the same, there is powerful evidence to suggest that Autocar's Man of the Year has sized up the task and intends to get it done.

Toyoda edged Land Rover's Gerry McGovern and Ford's Alan Mullaly to take the Man of the Year title. For the full list of the men who defined motoring and motorsport in 2012, pick up our christmas double issue of Autocar, on sale now.

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

New Infiniti model to be UK built

Posted: 18 Dec 2012 05:00 PM PST

Mercedes-based Infiniti to be made by Nissan Sunderland

Nissan's Sunderland plant is set to build Infiniti's new compact premium car in a £250m investment that should also create 1000 new jobs across the UK, including 280 direct jobs at the Sunderland plant.

The Infiniti, which was previewed by the 2011 Etherea concept, will be based on the Mercedes front-drive platform that is already used to underpin the new A- and B-class models. Production is scheduled to begin in 2015 and the company is planning for an annual capacity of 60,000 units.

Colin Dodge, Nissan executive vice president, says that Sunderland will be the only plant in the world to build the new Infiniti. Dodge also says that Nissan's Paddington design studios and Cranfield-based European technical centre have been involved in the development of the new model.

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable described the news as 'a strong endorsement of the quality of Britain's car industry, which is creating jobs, taking on apprentices and contributing to building a stronger economy. The auto sector is living up to being one of the great success stories of our industrial strategy and a testimony to government and private sector working together in close partnership.'

There are very few details forthcoming about the new model, but the fact that it shares Mercedes' new front-drive platform means that it will also have the option of Mercedes' 1.6- and 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines and 1.8- and 2.2-litre diesel engines. Four-wheel drive and a plug-in hybrid transmission could also be offered.

The arrival of Infiniti is also the first time a new brand has introduced large-scale production into the UK for 23 years, say Nissan bosses. The arrival of the Infiniti project in the North East means that Nissan's new Golf-rivalling hatchback, which was due to be made at the factory, will now be made elsewhere, with an announcement due later in 2013.

WIN brilliant prizes in our mega Christmas giveaway

Posted: 18 Dec 2012 04:00 PM PST

Autocar has three fantastic motoring packages up for grabs, and to stand a chance of winning you simply have to 'like' us on Facebook

Autocar has teamed up with Silverstone, Goodwood and Car-Skin to offer readers and Facebook followers the chance to win one of three fantastic motoring packages.

Each package includes the following fantastic prizes:

A supercar driving experience at Silverstone

PLUS a pair of tickets to practice for the British Grand Prix

PLUS a pair of tickets to Goodwood Festival of Speed

PLUS a Car-Skin Experience Deluxe Pack

PLUS a copy of the Autocar Yearbook 2013

To enter, all you have to do is click 'Like' to become a follower on our Facebook page, which you can find by following this link, and then fill in your contact details. For terms and conditions see this week's issue of Autocar, dated 19/26 December.

Quick news: New V6 for Mercedes CLS

Posted: 18 Dec 2012 06:38 AM PST

Cadillac invests $35 million into ELR production, BMW needs its i brand to meet CO2 targets; Mercedes CLS gets a new twin-turbo V6

A new 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine will be added to the Mercedes-Benz CLS, CLS Shooting Brake and next-gen S-class ranges in the UK next year. The 328bhp twin-turbo unit will go in models badged CLS400 and S400. It makes its debut in the facelifted E-class, but this model will not reach the UK. Another E-class not for sale here is the all-wheel-drive E63 AMG 4Matic.

The Cadillac ELR range-extended coupé will be built at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck plant alongside the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera. GM is to invest $35m in the plant. The Volt/Ampera-based model will go on sale in late 2013.

It is "not possible" for BMW to hit its CO2 targets without its electric i sub-brand, but BMW Group boss Harold Kruger said he doesn't know what percentage of its sales will be EVs by 2020 because of uncertainty on how the market will react. "We don't have a crystal ball," he said.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV Evolution

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 04:25 AM PST

Mitsubishi's hillclimb special, the i-MiEV Evolution promises a new future for a performance icon Designing a competition car to perform at more than 10,000ft must keep even the smartest boffins in motorsport awake at night. Altitude can do punitive, even catastrophic, things to a vehicle.Thinner air saps power from a combustion engine, puts more strain on cooling systems and requires bigger wings to generate downforce. As you climb, the car underneath you can change drastically.There aren't many places in the world where you can engage in motorsport at that kind of altitude – but you'll have heard of one. The 12.42-mile Pikes Peak hillclimb, Colorado's Race to the Clouds, starts beyond 9000ft and ends up, 156 corners later, at 14,110ft.The finish line for this incredible time trial is three times as high as the summit of Ben Nevis, and to be the quickest to it, you need a very special car indeed.You need a car like the the Mitsubishi i-MiEV Evolution. It was fast enough to finish second in class and eighth overall (out of 128 finishers) in 2012's Pikes Peak. And it's powered not by pistons but innovation, devotion and electricity.

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