Friday, December 21, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Toyota teases new saloon concept

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 04:24 AM PST

Furia due for unveil at Detroit show

Toyota will show a new saloon concept at the Detroit Motor Show in January, although little is know about the intent of the car.

Badged Furia, the car was announced via a short video that shows glimpses and close ups of the bodywork. The car features carbonfibre detailing, including a neat lip spoiler on the bootlid, and a radical new front and rear light design that looks as if it could be intended for production cars.

It is possible that the Furia will showcase a new Corolla, due for replacement in the next two years.

Top 12 cars of 2012: Chevrolet Volt

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

The Chevrolet Volt is the most credible electric car we've seen in this era

There was no better preparation for a year driving the Chevrolet Volt than spending a year in a Nissan Leaf. The biggest downside of the Leaf was its restricted range and prolonged recharging time. Unlike the Leaf, which relies entirely on its battery pack, the electrically driven Volt has the advantage of a back-up, petrol-powered generator. At a stroke, the Volt overcomes the problem of 'range anxiety' and has a potential generator range of 270 miles per (small) tank of fuel.

Although the battery pack is smaller and less powerful than the Leaf's, the Volt should (unless it is the middle of winter) deliver a 35-mile range from the battery pack, enough for a daily round-trip commute. And it you want to take the Volt further afield, it will run happily just on the petrol engine/generator, which is why it is the first really viable car driven primarily by electricity.

Based on a heavily modified and widened version of the GM Delta platform (which is also used under the Astra), the Volt has a five-and-a-half-foot, 198kg, T-shaped battery that runs down the centre tunnel and under the rear seats. Up front, it has a transversely mounted, 1.4-litre petrol engine, good for 85bhp, driving a 72bhp generator, which can supply an electrical charge straight to the electric motor that drives the front wheels.

In terms of down-the-road performance, what really matters is the output of the electric motor. This delivers 149bhp and a very healthy 273lb ft of torque from the moment it starts running. The electric motor's combination of silence, smoothness and fat torque curve is enhanced by the single-ratio transmission. You can't get smoother gearchanges than no changes.

Like the Leaf before it, the Volt's effortless pace and drivetrain refinement in battery mode would shame a serious luxury car, although the Volt doesn't quite have the exceptional urban ride and refinement that marks out the Leaf. And when the Volt is in generator mode, the peace of the cabin is sometimes intruded upon by the engine. Compared with a typical diesel, however, the Volt is almost executive-car silent.

And this is one of the unexpected things about a car that is primarily engineered for its environmental performance: its surprising luxury. The Volt is an exceptionally comfortable place to spend long hours. The driving position is first class. The ride is good in town and very good elsewhere. The boot is big and the fold-flat rear seats make for a substantial load bay.

This is not a car to fling around, but the chassis tuning makes it feel impressively taut and controlled, with very accurate steering and great high-speed stability. Overall, the Volt has a nice, clipped, controlled balance and it is very happy at higher motorway speeds – unlike the Leaf.

It was developed while GM was bankrupt, so it is a minor miracle that the Volt even exists. But by mixing everyday electric commuting with an otherwise unlimited fossil-fuel range, the Volt is the most viable mainstream EV in the 110 years that the concept has been around. Of course, we still have no real answer to the cost and complexity of electric cars and their battery packs. The Volt's fossil fuel economy is still poor compared with similarly priced production hybrids and diesels and it is very expensive when seen solely as a zero-emissions commuter car.

But the Chevrolet Volt is one of the most original, thoughtful and innovative mainstream cars that we've seen for decades, not just over the past 12 months.

Land Rover DC100 edges closer to production

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

Replacement for the iconic Defender will blend aesthetic form with utilitarian function

The new Defender can do to the Land Rover badge and image what the smash-hit Evoque did for the Range Rover. That is the view of Land Rover's design director, Gerry McGovern.

It is now over a year since Land Rover revealed the DC100 concept and began touring it worldwide at shows, getting feedback. "The concept got the thumbs-up," said McGovern, "and 90 per cent of the 250,000 people we spoke to loved it."

McGovern said design work on the Defender replacement had progressed and various different concepts had been looked at internally in addition to the DC100, ahead of a planned introduction in "the middle of the decade".

He believes the "new Defender can do for Land Rover what the Evoque did for Range Rover", bringing a new, more style-conscious buyer to the Defender and the Land Rover brand.

Although style is promised, it will not be at the expense of function. "We need a new Defender for a new generation," said McGovern, "so it has to be relevant and desirable to a modern audience, but it has to have the essence of the Defender. James Bond needs to be able to kick the hell out of it and it will still be able to get up for more."

McGovern understands the sensitivity of the new Defender project due to the current car's staunch fan base, but he said it couldn't "be developed through rose-tinted spectacles".

He said: "A like-for-like replacement for the Defender would not be appropriate and wouldn't be legal with safety legislation. We can still capture the essence of the past but in a modern way."

BMW 2-series Coupé spied for the first time

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 08:59 AM PST

Replacement for the BMW 1-series Coupé has been spotted testing in Germany

This is the first outing for the forthcoming BMW 2-series Coupé, the car which will replace the 1-series Coupé in 2014. It will sit within the BMW range in the same manner as the recently announced 4-series, which replaces the 3-series Coupé and cabrio.

The new car is based on the current 1-series, so should benefit from that car's increased interior space, along with wider tracks front and rear, but has a longer rear overhang.  Underneath the disguise the car appears to have adopted styling halfway between that of the 1-series and the 4-series. The double kidney grille and the lights are not as narrow and slender as the 4, but the car's overall proportions give a  lower, sleeker effect than a 1-series' proportions.

There will be a high-performance 2-series that will replace the 1M Coupé, which has been more of a sales success than BMW originally expected - the well-received M135i has influenced the brand's attitude towards more small M cars.

And the car could form the basis of an M2, with the possibility of it being based on the 1-series saloon currently under development. BMW has yet to decide if that car will be front or rear-wheel drive.

Dan Steven

Fiat 500 SUV and baby Jeep get green light

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 08:51 AM PST

£800m investment at Fiat's Melfi plant will see new models arrive in early 2014

The new Fiat 500X SUV and a new baby Jeep SUV will start production in early 2014 as part of a £810m investment at the Melfi factory, the company announced today.

The move marks the first big boost in Fiat's plan to move away from building mass-market cars in Western Europe and towards upmarket models with higher profit margins.

The first model off the line will be the new Jeep. Only available with all-wheel drive, it will be sold worldwide, with Melfi the only production source. After the 500X, a third model will be added in 2015 to replace the ageing Punto, though it will not be a conventional supermini and is intended to command a more premium price. All three models are based on Fiat's new 'Small Wide' platform, which currently underpins the 500L MPV.

The complete re-building of the Melfi facility (which will see 500 new welding robots, a new paint shop, new panel stamping facilities and new assembly area) will eventually allow up to 1600 vehicles to be built on a three-shift pattern. Fiat says that the new production lines will be flexible enough to build four models, so another 500L-based model looks to be on schedule for 2016.

Fiat says that it will introduce 19 'made-in-Italy' models by 2106. Aside from the four compact models at Melfi, there will also be nine new Alfa Romeos and six Maseratis. Fiat's budget models - the Panda and smaller 500 models - will eventually be made outside Western Europe where build costs are lower. The 500L is already made in Serbia, at what was the Zastava plant.

Volkswagen Scirocco GTS confirmed

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 09:52 AM PST

Volkswagen has confirmed the Scirocco GTS will receive a UK launch, priced from £28k

The new Volkswagen Scirocco GTS will offer a range of styling upgrades over the R-Line model on which it is based.

Volkswagen's new addition to the Scirocco range features a pair of stripes running from bonnet to boot, contrasting coloured door mirror cappings, a panoramic sunroof and 18in Thunder alloys specific to the GTS.

It is available in Candy White, Salsa Red, Deep Pearl Black and Indium Grey, each with contrasting trim.

Standard R-Line equipment includes navigation, adaptive chassis control, two-zone climate control and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Scirocco GTS is available with a 175bhp 2.0-litre TDI or a 207bhp 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine, with six-speed manual and DSG gearboxes available with both. Prices range from £27,945 to £29,395 and order books open from January 2. 

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