Thursday, January 17, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

New Corvette convertible images leaked

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 04:27 AM PST

Pictures of what could be the new cabrio surface on the internet

Pictures claimed to be of the next-generation Chevolet Corvette Stingray convertible have appeared days after the coupe premiered at the Detroit motor show.

The unofficial pictures show that, with the hood down, the only visible differences between the bodystyles is that the cabrio loses the full width rear spoiler, and it appears to have smaller wheels.

The flush rear desk suggests the convertible will use a fabric roof, as the current Corvette C6 does, rather than a bulky and heavy folding hard top.

There should be few engineering challenges in transforming the coupe into a drop-top as the car premiered at the Detroit show featured a removeable targa top. Images of the car's chassis show that the roof is not integral to the Corvette's structure, although the bracing around the rear of the roof would need to be removed.

The Corvette cabriolet is expected to go on sale next year, with production beginning next spring.

Record year for UK car manufacturing

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 02:36 AM PST

Rise in car production helped by best-ever export figures

Car manufacturing in the UK last year reached its highest level since 2008, with volumes up by nine per cent compared to 2011. The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders also show that exports of cars built in the UK are at their highest levels since records began.

A total of 1,464,906 cars were built in the UK in 2012, of which 1,212,031 were exported. The home market took 252,875 UK-built vehicles, an increase of 15.4 per cent. Commercial vehicle production was down, however, by 6.8 per cent year on year, along with engine production, which slipped slightly by 0.3 per cent to 2,495,371.

Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, said: "The outlook for 2013 remains positive with demand in many faster growing global markets offsetting the continued weakness in European economies. "The £6 billion of investment committed to UK facilities, new model programmes and R&D signals a bright future and many new opportunities for companies in the supply chain."

Ram's Heavy Duty workhorse

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 02:20 AM PST

The Ram 3500 Heavy Duty has been announced, with some pretty spectacular specs... but is it all a little unnecessary?

America's love affair with the pick-up truck moved up a notch this week. The Detroit motor show saw the unveiling of what will become the replacement for the Ford F-150 – the most popular vehicle in the US.

The Chevrolet Silverado – GM's top truck – and its sibling, the GMC Sierra, were also premiered in their latest guises.

But these three are trifling wimps next to the latest model from Ram Trucks, Chrysler's commercial vehicle division.

The Ram 3500 Heavy Duty presumably has many talents, but it is a combination of massive engine, beefy transmission and an ultra-tough frame that conspires to create the single greatest figure to ever feature on a spec sheet.

Towing capacity: 13,607kg.

Think about that. Here we have something that is available in dealerships, alongside the Alfa Giulietta-based Dodge Dart, that could tow 12 Fiat 500s, a Eurofighter Typhoon or two Mercedes Actros trucks.

I'm fairly confident that, if it was on wheels, it could haul the factory in which it is built.

The Ram's closest competitor has a 10.4-tonne towing capacity. That's rubbish. Frankly, you'd be better off with a G-Wiz…

Under the Ram's vast bonnet sits a 6.7-litre Cummins diesel engine generating 850lb ft. No fuel economy figures have been quoted, but you can guess it's not much.

But here's the thing. I spent time in the US last year and saw hundreds of massive 'duallies' with twin rear axles, and saw nothing more than a lawnmower loaded in the back. Its nice to know that these things are capable of uprooting an entire city, but I can't help thinking it is largely pointless for the majority of their drivers.

But then again, is that so different from someone buying a supercar and spending every day driving around a city?

Screenwash: a great winter rip-off?

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 01:25 AM PST

Winter is the time of year when you're likely to need to buy screenwash. Unhelpfully, retailers appear to be hiking their prices

Earlier this week, I was padding around a well known supermarket when I had a thought: "It's winter. I'll probably need screenwash."

But with a head full of shopping list, I ended up chucking the regular haul of groceries in the trolley. Naturally, Murphy's Law struck the next morning as the low washer fluid lit up on my Volvo V40.

Recalling that the supermarket was punting sensibly priced screenwash for about £3.50 for three or four litres of ready-to-use juice, I went back. Naturally, the shelves were bare, save for half a dozen one-litre bottles of ready mixed – for four quid a pop.

I understand the rules of supply versus demand as much as the next person, but £4 for a litre of own-brand is out of order. Apparently every little doesn't help.

That's almost three times the price of a litre of diesel. And like diesel, it's a distress purchase; you need it when you run out. With temperatures dipping to -10deg C, it's not like you can do without it.

And I don't know how big the average washer bottle is, but it's got to be a couple of litres. So I suspect, faced with spending £8 to fill a bottle, cash-strapped motorists might not bother. And that's extremely dangerous.

What other motoring-related rip-offs can you think of?

Volkswagen Golf

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 09:48 AM PST

Europe's best selling car enters its seventh generation The new Golf, then. One of the few cars that can simply be itself, and one of the few that defines a genre. It's not 'Hyundai/Ford/BMW/whoever's new Golf rival'; instead, it simply is what it is: the epitome of the small family car and the one by which others are judged.It arrives here in Mk7 form, a new Golf generation on a platform that carries great responsibility for the Volkswagen Group at one of the most challenging times in the industry's history. The immediate forecast for the European economy is gloomy, and while weight and emissions must come down, customer expectations of perceived quality will not be allowed to fall with them.Developing cars is as difficult and expensive as it has ever been, and few car makers are able to dedicate the same resources to it that VW can. The latest Golf, therefore, doesn't arrive like a desperate lunge from the punch-drunk; it is instead the dominator reinforcing its position of power. Thus far our first drives and group tests have suggested as much but, here for the first time in right-hand-drive form and full UK spec, how will it fare in the toughest test in the business?

Porsche 918: latest spy pictures

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 09:47 AM PST

Porsche's hybrid supercar put through its paces in sub-zero Arctic conditions

Porsche's 918 Spyder is undergoing cold weather testing ahead of the car's launch next year. The 918's complex hybrid drivetrain is being pushed hard in the sub zero temperatures as Porsche's engineers fine tune the charging systems.

The white, Martini-liveried 918 appears to be testing a different cooling set up to the darker car, with blanked off intakes in the front bumper. The large rear spoiler, which automatically raises and lowers, is clearly visible on this car. 

The 918's exhaust tailpipes are also directly related to the performance of the car's battery. They exit from the top of the body, directly behind the driver and passenger; this unusual format was designed to improve cooling around the car's battery, crucial to the longevity and storage capacity. Asa a result, Porsche has had to develop special coatings for the paint that are resistant to staining from the exhaust.

Along with the twin electric motors, the 918 uses a 4.6-litre V8 with 527bhp – combined with the motors, the car can produce 784bhp and 569lb ft.

The 918 enters production in September this year, and the first cars will be delivered at the beginning of 2014. It will cost from £625,400, rising to £683,600 for the Weissach model which cuts the car's near 1700kg by 35kg by using magnesium, titanium and ceramic components.

Quick news: Fiat/GAC collaboration; Allard Motors revived

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 09:13 AM PST

Fiat to build Jeeps in China, Rolls-Royce celebrates 10 years of manufacturing at Goodwood, Jaguar launches new recruitment drive, Hyundai plans Nürburgring test centre and Allard Motors to be revived

Fiat has signed a cooperation agreement with Guangzhou Automobile Group to expand the manufacturer and sale of passenger cars in China. The Fiat Viaggio saloon is already built in the People's Republic; the new agreement will allow localised production of the Jeep brand for the Chinese market.

Jaguar Land Rover has announced it is to recruit 150 new apprentices. Open to GCSE and A-level qualified candidates, the apprenticeships will lead to roles at JLR facilities across the Midlands and north west. The closing date for applications is 31 January.

Rolls-Royce has announced a series of limited-edition cars to celebrate 10 years of production at its Goodwood site. Called 'The Home of Rolls-Royce Collection', the special editions are based on both the Phantom and Ghost model lines and feature marquetry, embroidery and hand-painted coach lines to showcase the skills of the company's craftsmen.

Hyundai is to build a new vehicle development centre at the Nürburgring race track in Germany. Representing a £4.5 million investment, the centre will be used to hone ride and handling dynamics of Hyundai vehicles intended for the European market.

Allard Motors, the 1950s British car manufacturer, is to be resurrected after financial backing was secured to create a limited run of continuation vehicles. Intended for both road and track use and built to FIA specifications, the cars will feature Cadillac-sourced engines, hand-built chassis and aluminium coachwork.

Daljinder Nagra

Saab 9-3 to restart production later this year

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 08:36 AM PST

Old 9-3 to be built in China with an electric model coming in 2014

National Electric Vehicles Sweden, the company that owns the Saab brand, is planning to restart production of the Saab 9-3 later this year, with an electric version following in 2014. But the cars will be built in China rather at Saab's Trollhattan factory, in a change to NEVS's original plan.

NEVS has signed a deal with a Chinese investment company to build cars in Qingdao, and the city's government has bought a 22 per cent share in the firm. Reports from China suggest that both electric and conventionally-powered cars will be built as part of the agreement. 

NEVS owns the rights to build the last Saab 9-3, along with the electric ePower version that never made production. It also owns the right to use the Saab name. Originally NEVS said it would only produce Saabs at Trollhattan.

China's government wants to get half a million electric vehicles on the country's roads within two years, so the market potential for electric Saabs is high. However, the 9-3 is elderly and the only model NVS has – it may not be enough to keep the firm afloat.

Despite the government's intentions, China has little infrastructure to support large numbers of electric cars, while new deals between local investors and foreign companies require lengthy and complex state approval that could take up to 18 months. This alone could make it impossible to start production this year.

Detroit motor show: Shelby Focus ST

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 08:18 AM PST

Ford's first global hot hatchback gets performance upgrades from celebrated Mustang tuner Shelby American

This is the Shelby Focus ST, a re-worked version of the Ford Focus ST, unveiled yesterday at the Detroit motor show by renowned US Ford tuner Shelby American.

Power from the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is unchanged, although the car features new cross-drilled brakes, lowered suspension and a Borla exhaust system with larger circular tips that replace the trapezoidal arrangement of the standard car.

The exterior is garnished in carbonfibre details, including a new roof spoiler and bonnet with functioning air vents.

A performance package with increased power is under development.

Three graphics packages are also being offered including the traditional stripes or the chequered flag and competition stickers fitted to the show car.

The Shelby Focus ST package costs $14,995, not including a donor ST. It will be limited to 500 examples a year.

Also shown by Shelby American at the Detroit show was a new wide-body version of its range-topping Shelby Mustang GT500 Super Snake.

Developing 838bhp from its 5.4-litre supercharged V8 engine, the Super Snake is now optionally available with wider wheels — 13 inches at the rear and 10 inches at the front — to improve traction.

Daljinder Nagra

Detroit motor show video review part 2

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 07:55 AM PST

The second part of our Detroit show report

Our second installment from the Detroit motor show features standout production cars in the shape of the Mini Paceman JCW, Lexus IS and Cadillac ELR alongside the Nissan Resonance and Lincoln MKC concept SUVs.

View part one of our Detroit video review.

Will kitchen appliance-style labelling for tyres work?

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 07:18 AM PST

New tyre labelling regulations are a step in the right direction, if not the complete solution to choosing the right tyre

Dunlop's new 'high-performance' Sport BluResponse tyre comes with a BA rating, apparently. Does that mean anything to you? Quite possibly not. It means that, on a sliding scale from A to G (though D and G grades aren't actually being used), the Sport BluResponse gets a B for fuel efficiency and an A for wet grip. That's pretty good for a mid-range, semi-sporting tyre, I'm guessing.

I have to admit that before last week's launch of the Sport BluResponse in Abu Dhabi, I was only vaguely aware of the fact that, as of last November, labels are mandatory on all new tyres sold in the EU. And it seems I'm not alone.

During the presentation, the Dunlop people showed a set of figures on awareness of the new labelling system. They suggested that it was much lower in the UK than in any other major European market, at around 44 per cent, which was quite concerning. Does that mean the new system hasn't been promoted sufficiently well here, or does it simply mean that we don't care and will continue to buy our tyres based on other criteria, such as brand or price?

Blog: Just how good are winter tyres?

The labels are virtually identical to those found on electrical goods such as fridges and washing machines, with nice coloured bar graphs and illustrations. The difference is that the tyre labels don't focus on energy consumption, but on what have been deemed the three most important categories when choosing a new tyre: rolling resistance (which is the key to fuel efficiency), wet grip (specifically in relation to braking performance) and external rolling noise.

The latter is signified by a figure in decibels and a graphic with a series of 'waves', one being the quietest and three the loudest. The Sport BluResponse, for example, is rated at 68dB – good enough for a single wave.

It's all designed to help you compare products and make a more informed decision about what you next fit to your car. The tyres are self-certified by each manufacturer, but the tests are standardised and strictly controlled, so there should be no cheating.

You could argue that highlighting just three of the many possible testing criteria doesn't necessarily give you the full story of a tyre's overall performance and safety, and you get a sense that there's a certain amount of frustration within the tyre industry about that very fact, but surely it's better than nothing. At least this way there's a chance that more people will fit decent, appropriate tyres to their car in future, rather than just the cheapest ones they can lay their hands on.

As for Dunlop's new tyre, the dual-compound Sport BluResponse makes use of much of the technology that goes into its ultra-high-performance Sport Maxx RT tyre to provide an impressive all-round performance. The firm says the Sport BluResponse provides 30 per cent less rolling resistance than its predecessor (which should mean a significant improvement in your car's fuel economy) and claims it delivers superior grip in the wet compared with all of its direct rivals.

On the handling courses adjoining Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina circuit, the tyre certainly felt terrific when fitted to a Mercedes-Benz C200 BlueEfficiency running 16-inch wheels, especially in the wet. The 205/55 VR16 rubber gripped hard in both opening-radius corners, emergency lane change manoeuvres and under braking, and when they started to run out of grip at either end, they did so in a very benign and progressive manner, inspiring immediate confidence.

Their performance on the road was harder to judge, because we were driving in the midst of a sandstorm and the C-classes were being buffeted too much to allow an accurate assessment.

The Dunlop Sport BluResponse ranges in price from £38 for a 185/60 HR14 to £192.99 for a 225/50 WR17.

Detroit motor show review part 1

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 09:07 AM PST

A look back at the stars of 2013's Detroit show

The Detroit motor show was the first major event of 2013. Stars of the show included the Corvette Stingray, Honda Urban concept SUV and the VW CrossBlue - all very different, but all hugely important models.

View part two of our Detroit motor show review

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