Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Next-gen Corvette C7 drawings leaked

Posted: 26 Dec 2012 02:40 AM PST

Sketches of the Corvette C7 have appeared online ahead of the next-generation model's debut

The next-generation Corvette C7 will receive a dramatic new look, revealed in drawings posted on an internet forum.

The illustrations show the C7 will adopt a more technical look at the rear, with a large diffuser-type arrangement in the lower bumper. The iconic quad rear lights will evolve into units evocative of those fitted to the current Camaro.

In profile, the Corvette C7 retains the sweeping glasshouse, but the front end appears to be sleeker. More intricate side vents will be fitted.

The interior retains the Corvette's trademark cockpit feel, with the controls angled towards the driver, and a high level of equipment will be fitted, including electric seats and a telematics system. A Track Overlay function, which will appear in a centre console-mounted screen, will have the ability to display a track outline with the vehicles position. A g-force meter and a steering angle indicator will also be featured.

A TFT screen will replace much of the current car's analogue/LCD display. A button beside the steering wheel will operate the electric hood, confirming a convertible version will be offered alongside the coupe.

New Mercedes C63 AMG to get 4.0 V8

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

Latest downsized AMG powerplant to appear in C-class before the mooted SLC sports car

Mercedes-Benz's AMG performance off-shoot is planning to provide the successor to today's naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 powered Mercedes C63 AMG with an all-new turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 powerplant – the same unit earmarked for the company's upcoming Mercedes SLC sports car.

The new unit has been developed along modular lines and is said to share the same individual cylinder capacity, bore centre spacing and other specific details with the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder earmarked for the Mercedes A45 AMG and Mercedes CLA45 AMG.

Insiders indicate the new unit, which is claimed to deliver over 450bhp in an initial state of tune but is said to be capable of pushing out up to 600bhp, will eventually replace the naturally aspirated 5.5-litre V8 used exclusively by the Mercedes SLK55 AMG, providing a stepping stone to AMG's larger turbocharged 5.5-litre V8.

AMG boss Ola Kallenius stopped short of officially confirming the new engine to Autocar at the Los Angeles motor show at the tail-end of last year, but hinted smaller engines were coming.

"We've already had downsizing to 5.5 and sophisticated direct-injection technology – we'll see more of that in the future," he said. We've already gone down to 5.5 and that's the technological road we're on."

As well as flaunting a new engine, the replacement for the C63 AMG will be the first of the German car maker's performance saloons to offer the choice of rear- and four-wheel drive in right-hand drive versions.

Picture special: 60 years of the Chevrolet Corvette

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

As the iconic Chevrolet Corvette sports car enters its sixth decade, we look back at the history of the model

The Chevrolet Corvette enters its seventh generation with an all-new model next year. Here's our look at the long and varied career of this most American of performance cars.

Corvette C1 1953

The original, but not much use as a sports car. Its 150bhp straight six didn't give the car much in the way of acceleration and the two-speed auto did a good job of reducing the power further. The fibreglass body was used to cut costs, as was the '52 Chevy saloon underpinnings.

A V8 and manual transmissions sorted the performance and after a couple of years of hopeless sales, the Corvette finally became a performance icon. Engine size and outputs steadily increased with the final 1962 fuel-injected cars making 360bhp, but it was still being fed through a live rear axle suspended by leaf springs.

C2 1963

A much more modern, purpose designed car, with a bespoke chassis and suspension, rather than the C1's saloon-derived mechanicals. So at the rear was an unusual independent set up with a transverse leaf spring and a single link on each side, and the chassis was stiffer than the C1's.

But it was the astonishing styling that really set the C2 apart. Entirely modern and very striking, it earned the car the Stingray nickname, which would be associated with the brand for years.

The Z06 (the name is the option code) arrived in '63, with its uprated brakes, fibreglass fuel tank, limited-slip diff and kicked off generations of high spec, performance-oriented Corvettes.

Power and engine size increased with each yearly revision, culminating in the ultra-rare 560bhp L88 option of 1967 – just 20 C2 L88s were made, and they now command prices of around $600,000 (£370,000.) 

C3 1968

It started out well – the original '68 C3 was a sharply-styled thing, even if build quality was sliding as the 70s approached. But increasing emissions legislation hit power outputs and engine sizes, and a new method of measuring horsepower meant stated outputs looked even lower. GM failed to develop the technology to keep up, the Corvette became something of a shadow of its former self. In 1975 the entry-level car was rated at 165bhp, just 15bhp more than the 1953 original. 

It didn't stop the car from selling well, and it was still competitive in a market where every vehicle suffered from emaciated outputs. For a while. Although GM managed to increase the power and finally reinstated fuel injection in 1982, by that year sales were down to 25,000.

C4 1984

Digital dashboards, a not-quite-powerful enough V8, aluminium suspension and finally, rack and pinion steering made the C4 a mix of much improved and a bit wobbly. Still, it doubled sales from where the C3 left off, the convertible returned in '86 and the car gained some fairly advanced tech – anti-lock brakes, electric variable rate dampers, a six-speed manual 'box.

The mighty ZR-1 turned the Corvette into a supercar, with a sub 5.0sec 0-60mph time.

C5 1997

While the transverse leaf springs stayed (at the front and at the rear), the C5 introduced a transaxle to improve weight distribution and a new 345bhp 5.7-litre V8, although it used pushrods and had just one camshaft.  Like its predecessor, it was curious mix of high and old tech, so it came with a head up display from 1999.

ZO6 returned as the range-topper, and continued to offer supercar performance for real-world money, with a titanium exhaust and 405bhp.

C6 2005

Looks similar to the C5 but in fact was almost entirely new, with a new 400bhp, 400lb ft 6.0-litre V8, new suspension (the rear still used a leaf spring, albeit made from carbonfibre), a much improved interior and plenty of straight-line shove. It was also lighter and smaller than the C5 and combined massive performance with a low price. 

The £123,000 ZR-1 (the most expensive Corvette ever) upped power to an AMG-rivalling 638bhp and it could hit 62mph in 3.9sec.

C7 2013

Due to be launched at the Detroit motor show, the C7 is rumoured to get a twin-turbo V6 (although the V8s stay, too), and it should be lighter than the C6.

Dan Stevens

My top 10 motoring moments of 2012

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

There's been much to shout about in 2012, both on the road and on the racetrack. What are your top motoring moments of the year?

Here are my top 10 car related events of 2012. What are yours?

Driver of the year; Fernando Alonso

Rarely has someone got so much out of a car that was capable of so little, especially at the beginning of the season. He might be a touch impressed by himself on occasions, but Alonso is also one heck of a racing driver. One of the best there's ever been in my view.

Car of the year; Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Black Series

For me the C63 Black has got it all as a road car. It reminds me of a latter day Lotus Carlton in many ways, in that it looks almost impossibly evil yet has the firepower – and the fundamental capability – to more than back it up. If ever there was a future classic to identify, this is it.

Quote of the year; Dr Ulrich Bez

Unfortunately I can't actually repeat what he said about the Volkswagen Automotive Group because I'd get sued if I did, but I'm glad that everything seems to be working out for Dr Bez and his beloved Aston Martin. With some healthier funds in place, Aston still has the potential to produce some fireworks. Watch this space in 2013, it's the 100th anniversary after all...

Ride of the year; Pagani Huayra

I'm a shaky passenger at the best of times, but when the car in question has 720bhp and is rear wheel drive, and the driver in question has just thumbed the traction control button to off, the omens aren't good. Fortunately Pagani's chief nutcase, Davide Testi, quite clearly knows what he's doing behind the wheel – but that still didn't prevent my heart from riding all the way up my throat and nestling in my mouth for the first 10 minutes in the passenger seat of the Huayra. Note to self; next time, just say no.

Potential rule bender of the year; the Tesla Model S

Zero to 60mph in under five seconds, five seats, zero mpg and not a lot in the way of carbon emissions – all sounds like a winning combination if you ask me. It's a pity Tesla has completely ignored our repeated requests to borrow the car for a bit longer so that we can compare it with something conventionally tasty like a BMW M5, but maybe they – Tesla – will be a bit more receptive towards us next year. If so, we'll find out how good the Model S is once and for all.

Boo-hoo moment of the year; the death of the Subaru Impreza

Talk about the end of an era...

Actually let's not, let's move on instead and place the rose tinted spectacles back in the drawer where they belong. Truth is, the Impreza has been uncompetitive for years. It was about time Subaru put this once-great car out of its misery.

Surprisingly excellent car from yesteryear; the Ferrari F355

Drove one of these for a day this year and realized just how underrated the F355 has become. It felt quick, strong, usable but still ultra desirable. Just as it always has been in my personal opinion. Seems the trade thinks so too nowadays; prices of F355s are just starting to overtake those of the younger, theoretically superior 360 Modena. Conclusion; a genuinely beautiful Ferrari (i.e. a 355 but not necessarily a 360M) will invariably be worth more in the long run.

Giant slayer of the year; Audi A1 quattro

It beat the Nissan GTR around the MIRA wet handling circuit by over four seconds. No kind of tyre trickery was involved, no stunts were pulled with their TC systems (both turned out to be quicker with these switched off). The Audi just beat the Nissan fair and square, which is proof that massive horsepower and fat tyres aren't always the ultimate ingredients.

Most encouraging moment of the year; driving the GT86

...and realising that all is not yet lost to the world of electronics.

Injustice of the year; Michael Schumacher being booted out of the Mercedes GP team

Then again, he's dished out a fair bit of treatment of his own over the years, and seven world titles isn't a bad way to reflect upon a career.

Happy Christmas folks, and I look forward to reading your own top motoring moments of 2012, however bizarre they may be.

Autocar's biggest car reviews of 2012

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

The most popular reviews of 2012 weren't supercars, track cars or hypercars, but a selection of upmarket, interesting and decidedly real-world models

It might be the big smoky sideways shots that get's readers interested, but when it comes to the crunch, it's the real-world reviews of the most popular cars on sale that get you clicking.

To round off the most important – and busiest – year in the history of Autocar's website, here are the reviews that you've enjoyed reading the most.

BMW 1-series

It's one of our favourite hatchbacks, thanks to a wide and varied range including sporting models that endlessly reward and some exceptionally frugal diesels. The enduring appeal of that blue and white roundel in a reasonably practical package helps too.

Volkswagen Golf

One of this year's most important – and impressive – new car launches was the seventh-generation Golf. We said the new model was a "damnably difficult car to criticise," and that's high praise indeed. Key to the car's huge ability is the new MQB platform, which saves around 100kg, and a range of new or revised engines. It has set new class standards.

Ford Focus

With all the attention lavished on the Golf and its siblings, it could be easy to forget the Focus' talents. An excellent 1.0-litre three-pot engine has helped it grab headlines, but in spite of steering that lacks the involvement of previous models, big-car tech and superb fit and finish means it is still the big-seller in the UK C-segment.

BMW 3-series

Earlier this year, we described the latest F30 generation of the BMW 3-series as the best car in the real world. It retains the huge appeal of its predecessors, but adds more poise, precision and adjustability than ever. Not that that means a stern ride – it feels more grown up, and the 320d offers genuine 50mpg-plus capability.

Volvo V40

Stylish, practical, economical, refined, and beneath it all the V40 still bleeds the blue and yellow of Volvo's idiosyncratic personality. Handsome looks and an elegant interior give the V40 real driveway appeal that means Volvo can realistically compete with the premium German establishment for the first time.

Range Rover Evoque

The Evoque was core to Land Rover's brand extension and growth strategy. Doubters thought it an exercise in style over substance, but in the opinion of our road testers, it has the ability to satisfy in most areas. The Evoque is a landmark moment in Land Rover's history – it's the car that has finally, deliberately, taken the brand out of the field and into the consciousness of the style elite.

Mercedes-Benz A-class

Rarely has a car departed so much from the model it replaces. The tall, boxy, almost MPV-like profile has given way to a more conventional hatchback shape. Its elegant lines offer much visual impact, but it is edged out of excellence in this class by a overly firm ride that means it can't quite soothe away long distance on cross-country British roads, or compete with the likes of the Audi A3 and VW Golf.

Peugeot 208

An underwhelming predecessor, coupled with a long gestation period, means we had expected much from the 208. Sadly, in carrying the 207's underpinnings over to the 208, Peugeot has brought many of that model's failings. It lacks the verve and completeness of the best superminis, but a stylish new look means it still attracts attention.

Mazda CX-5

Rarely is an "all-new" car actually all-new, but you'll struggle to find any old Mazda gear fitted in, on or under the CX-5. It's the first Mazda to employ the firm's SkyActiv fuel-saving tech meaning it offers an unheard of blend of performance and economy in this class. Some may ride better and entertain more, but in a world of rising fuel prices, the CX-5 is a critical model.

Toyota GT86

Rarely has the winner of Autocar's Britain's Best Driver's Car been more relevant. Economic gloom means buyers have less to spend, and demand more from their purchase. The GT86, and its Subaru BRZ sister car, offer more thrills than virtually any other sub-£30k car, served up in accessible fashion. And 40mpg is possible if you tickle the throttle.

Top 12 cars of 2012: Toyota GT86

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

The GT86 lives up to Toyota's billing of it as a pure sports car; a real driver's tool, and one for the history books

Tucked away in the intestines of Autocar's offices, in an utterly anonymous stairwell, there are shelves groaning under the weight of a 100-year archive. They are bound in huge, pulpit-style books, covered in dust and inked in history. They are the independent automotive record of the past century.

All new models are recorded and ranked among the pages, of course, but very few become a reference for the future or worthy of revisiting in subsequent decades. This year, 2012, has produced a handful of such cars at the most. The Toyota GT86 is one of them.

And not just because of the way it drives, although we'll come to that. Not because it received a rare five stars in our road test or earned the coveted Britain's Best Driver's Car title, even though both accolades usually guarantee a lasting prestige. No, it's because the GT86, a car summoned into being on the basis of delighting its driver, was not designed and engineered by Porsche or Lotus or Ferrari; it was coaxed from the benign, dour leviathan that Toyota has become, with the help of the conglomerate backwater that is Subaru.

The senior partner in the deal had shown recent previous, perhaps, with the introduction of the freakish Lexus LFA in 2010, but that was lunacy contained within the padded cell of a £330,000 price. The GT86 is intended as an entry point for the general public – for mass production, the domain of numbers, scale and discipline.

Possibly that is why it took so long to get right. The car, which has just nine per cent commonality with its siblings, seemed to dawdle through several vague stages before Toyota chief engineer Tetsuya Tada and his Subaru counterpart, Toshio Masuda, were apparently convinced.

What we wouldn't give to have been present during its prolonged development. To find out who said what, who stipulated all that purity (rear-wheel drive, no turbocharging, ordinary tyres), who insisted on the precision and weight and focus, and if any of them realised what a revelation the final product would be.

Because that's what we're left with: a car that not only eschews the false idols of outright grip and ever more extreme pace but also stands as an irresistible sermon to the rival possibility of low-speed, high-happiness handling. That combination, as in the original Mazda MX-5 before it, makes the GT86 the quintessential road car solution for a world increasingly disdainful of or terminally unsuited to the thrill of high velocity.

Nevertheless, it is not perfect. Not everyone is a diehard fan and we, too, recognise its shortcomings. But, as we pointed out in our definitive verdict in the summer, the package is so well conceived, and so persuasively delivered, that the threat of diminishing the car in any way shadows any possible alteration.

More power? Perhaps, but it isn't intended to be fast and a turbo would likely ruin the perfectly poised throttle response. A bigger, better, quieter interior? Well, okay, but we wouldn't want to add a single solitary kilogram to Tada's and Masuda's hard-won 1275kg kerb weight. A slightly smaller price? Certainly. Because then we could all afford one.

But, for once, we're content to let Toyota squeeze a profit out of this particular model. The firm has earned it.

Drop-top Bentley Continental GT Speed breaks cover

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 12:09 PM PST

Leaked images claim to show a new convertible version of the Bentley Continental GT Speed

Images of a convertible GTC version of the Bentley Continental GT Speed have leaked onto the internet. The model has been tipped to make its world debut at the Detroit motor show next month.

The spec of the flagship convertible from Crewe is unlikely to differ too greatly from the GT Speed coupe on which it is based. So expect power to come from a 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine, with peak output of 616bhp and 590lb ft of torque. An eight-speed auto' should send drive to all four wheels.

The coupe's 0-60mph time is 4.0sec, so expect the GT Speed convertible to be a couple of tenths off that due to the extra weight of its fabric roof mechanism.

The real headline could come from the top speed; the coupe's is 205mph, so it's possible the convertible could also have a top speed in excess of 200mph.

Bentley stiffened the chassis and uprated some hardware in the air-sprung suspension of the GT Speed coupe and also uprated the steering, so expect the same upgrades for the convertibe over the standard GTC. The ride height should also be lowered, with the wheels fitted being 21inches in diameter.

Styling changes appear to be subtle and focus on new, dark-tinted mesh for the main grille and lower air intake, and a 'rifled' finish for the dual exhaust tailpipes. Bentley also appears to have upgraded the Speed's interior to take the top-level Mulliner Driving specification of leather and trim as standard, as with the coupe.

New Mercedes CLA leaks out

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 11:55 AM PST

Five images reportedly showing the final production version of the Mercedes CLA have leaked onto the internet

These leaked images reportedly show the final production version of the new Mercedes CLA ahead of its likely unveiling at next month's Detroit motor show.

The five images reveal that the exterior of the heavily stylised CLA will stay true to the acclaimed Concept Style Coupé that made its debut at the Beijing motor show in April. The images, the authenticity of which remains unconfirmed, also reveal the cabin will share its basic design with the A-class and B-class models, featuring heavily sculpted airvents and an iPad-like screen.

In contrast to the CSC concept, the CLA adopts less-flamboyant bumpers, altered headlamp graphics (the CSC's headlamps glow red in standby mode), more conventional exterior mirrors, the same pull-out door handles as on the A-class and smaller wheels and tyres than the 21-inch items that adorned the show car.

The CLA will sit below the Mercedes C-class saloon on price and features in the marque's line-up. However, the new entry-level saloon will be 47mm longer, 121mm wider and 47mm lower than the C-class saloon.

These official measurements also make it 345mm longer, the same width and 35mm lower than the new Mercedes A-class – a car with which the CLA shares its platform, chassis and driveline architecture.The CLA will be sold with the choice of standard front-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive. Gearboxes will include a standard six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch unit as an option.

The 208bhp engine showcased in the CSC is set to feature in the CLA250. The junior saloon is also set to offer three turbo four-pot petrol units: a 120bhp 1.6 in the CLA180, a 154bhp 2.0 in the CLA200 and a 208bhp in the CLA250.

Three turbodiesel engines are also planned: two 1.8-litre units with 108bhp in the CLA180 CDI and 134bhp in the CLA200 CDI, and a 168bhp 2.2 in the CLA220 CDI. The highlight of the line-up will be a four-wheel-drive AMG model running an uprated 2.0-litre turbo engine with up to 340bhp.

First drive review: Jaguar XJ-e

Posted: 24 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

Hybrid XJ yields impressive economy, but it's not yet confirmed for production launch We're talking here about the most economical full-size saloon Jaguar has ever built, the luxurious XJ-e hybrid, which I recently sampled on public roads as part of Jaguar's three-car, six-driver entry in the 2012 Future Car Challenge, a 63-mile all-roads economy test between Brighton and London.Our experimental Jag trio, part-financed by the government's busy and productive Technology Strategy Board, proved their potential by topping their class in the Brighton to London test, winning the award for 'Most energy-efficient luxury car — prototype' and a taking a new award for 2012, the 'Technical panel's award of merit'.The XJ-e, officially rated at 87mpg and with a CO2 output of just 75 g/km, is an advanced prototype Jaguar is developing in case the world's luxury car buyers discover a taste for extreme economy. So far they haven't; companies such as Porsche have had limited showroom success with their Cayenne and Panamera hybrids. Seems those who can afford big-price cars can stump up big fuelling costs, too.However, nearly every parameter in motoring has changed over the past decade, so no-one should bet against governments abruptly erecting future tax barriers for conventional models that will make big hybrids either much more financially attractive, or perhaps the only cars permitted in certain inner-city areas.

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