Friday, January 18, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

If Ferris Bueller had the internet...

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 06:50 AM PST

A Norfolk schoolboy finds an alternative to throwing snowballs when his school is closed

Britain is currently displaying its annual inability to cope with snow, with flight, train and bus cancellations, road closures and end-of-the-world hysteria from the 24-hour news channels.

With the advice being not to travel unless absolutely necessary (surely every journey is absolutely necessary?), schools and offices have closed down, because people can't make it in.

So there are a lot of people left with a 'snow day' at home to fill. And how to fill it?

Well, in the case of one 11-year-old Norfolk schoolboy, you don't bother getting cold making snowmen, you start researching what car you fancy owing when the magical age of 17 arrives.

Car nut Freddie Dixon hasn't set his eyes on any old Nissan Micra though; he quite likes the look of the Ferrari California (not an FF, which would work somewhat better in these conditions with four-wheel drive and a roof).

He found a £170,000 example for sale at the Dick Lovett dealership in Swindon and promptly submitted an online enquiry for one, even asking if it was available with a diesel.

The Dick Lovett dealer, professional throughout, heard a faint ringing of alarm bells at this point, but dealt with the enquiry anyway as there are plenty of people out there who want a Ferrari but don't really know what kind or what they're all about.

A message was left on the Dixon household's phone following up the enquiry, which was picked up by Freddie's father, a rather shocked Mark Dixon, when he got back from work.

The dealer took it all in good humour though as it quickly became apparent when Mark called back that Freddie's pocket money wouldn't stretch as far as a California, and he had had a 'Ferris Bueller moment'.

And with Freddie's 12th birthday being next week, they're even going to send him a card and a brochure for him to do the sums about how much pocket money needs to be saved for his California enquiry to turn into an order.

All's well that ends well, then, but chancing your arm at buying a Ferrari sounds a pretty good way to spend a snow day to me.

Does snow like some car brands more than others?

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 04:23 AM PST

Snow is collecting on the cars in Autocar's car park, but one or two vehicles are curiously devoid of the white stuff

As I write, the car park here at Autocar Towers is steadily filling with slushy, light snow.

At the moment it is nothing that's going to significantly trouble our travels to and from the office, although we've heard tales that the road network not far from us has started to choke up.

In any case, I'm fortunate to be running an all-wheel-drive Subaru XV at the moment. Maybe my car's rugged capability is the reason I was the one of the first to reach the office this morning.

When I turned up, I parked my blue XV next to the orange BMW M135i you can see in the first row of vehicles. About 30 minutes later the snow started and has carried on falling consistently since then.

As a bit of light-hearted fun, I've been trying to work out the reason for a strange anomaly that's developed over the past couple of hours.

Curiously, the BMW's bonnet has remained remarkably clear of snow, even though the white stuff has started to coat the surfaces of my diesel crossover and most of the other cars.

I'm sure there's some logical explanation that I'm not clever enough to comprehend. Given that the BMW had been parked up for longer than the XV, it can't be that the engine bay is still warm and has melted any snow that gathered on the bonnet.

Does anyone out there know why it could be? Is it simple chance or positioning? Is BMW using some ultra-gloss paint treatment that repels snow? Is it the colour of the paint? Note from the photograph taken by our intrepid chief photographer, Stan Papior, that the similar-coloured SsangYong on the same row is also virtually snow-free.

Apologies in advance if there's a glaringly simple reason. I'll blame it on brain freeze...

First drive review: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 04:16 AM PST

New diesel Civic isn't just about low emissions, but a sharper drive all-round. Competitive in most important ways, but still a bit of an oddball The latest version of the Honda Civic which, contrary to appearances, isn't just about a new engine. As well as the Japanese firm's new and vitally important low-emissions diesel engine, there are suspension revisions, steering revisions and extra refinement measures thrown into the mix here, all intended to make Swindon's long-time sales also-ran a proper contender for European tastes.

Detroit motor show: top luxury cars

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 04:00 AM PST

With Lincoln aiming to stamp its own vision of luxury motoring on the automotive world, we take a look at the best luxury cars show in Detroit

As the Detroit motor show kicked off, Lincoln marketing boss Jim Farley raised the question of whether the world really needed another luxury car brand, and if so what it needed to stand for.

His answer, inevitably, was that there was room for something new, just like Lincoln, and that the economic crisis and age of austerity had opened up just such an opportunity, as the wealthy increasingly focused on discrete charm rather than overt opulence when it came to choosing their car.

That view seems diametrically opposed to that of the more established luxury brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes, all of which seem to be pouring out edgier, more extrovert and faster nameplates to capture and keep customers.

So which way is the best way? Here are some of the Detroit cars that showcased different ends of the luxury spectrum.

Lincoln MKC

The second model in the brand's reinvention, with two more to come in the next two years the MKC will be the cornerstone of the brand's so-called 'progressive luxury' approach, appealing to 'discrete not showy' customers who like to travel in comfort without feeling the need to shout about it.

Lexus IS

Word is that Toyota and Lexus boss Akio Toyoda has told his designers to pull their fingers out and create cars that get noticed, and boy does the IS grille deliver on that message. Question is, is the new IS a potential BMW 3-series beater, or a numberplate away from having its tour de force ruined.

Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis

It's a different look, but then when you're trying to crack the luxury market with an up-and-coming brand then you have to dare to be different. Hyundai executives echoed the Lincoln view that less is more in this age of keeping spending down, although whether this concept really represents that is open to debate.

Audi SQ5

Who said less is more? This is one car firmly from the 'if you've got it, flaunt it' camp, with its 3.0 V6 that pumps out 349bhp and 346lb ft of torque, why keep it quiet. Lowered suspension adds to the appeal, if you're the sort of person that needs an SUV that does 0-62mph in 5.3sec.

Mercedes CLA

Many dubbed it the best looking Mercedes in today's line-up, and I'd tend to agree, but others muttered that it was ill-proportioned and akin to your elderly uncle trying to dress in clothes worn by people 40 years younger than him. Mercedes itself, predicts it'll open up a massive market of new, younger buyers.

Tesla Model X

Possibly a third interpretation of what luxury looks like, with its electric four-wheel drive powertrain and far from conventional 'Falcon doors'. The appeal of silent, instant urge is self-evident, although for all that mouse-like appeal, chances are the car will be such a rare sight on the road that you'll always stand out.

Infiniti Q50

Here's one to get your mind working: this article opened by splitting luxury car design between two caps: extrovert and discrete. So where does the Q50 sit? Many would say somewhere between the two camps, which to these eyes at least leaves it looking desirable to neither, either. Proof again that the mid-ground is not a place to be.

Mercedes E-class

Let's be frank and admit that the current car needed something to make it stand out from the crowd. What Mercedes head of design Gordon Wagoner and his team created is one of the most comprehensive facelifts of recent times. Discrete it isn't, but you can't help but feeling it'll get the E-class noticed.

Vauxhall Adam

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 03:33 AM PST

Vauxhall's fashionable Adam supermini skews the balance of form and function too far towards the former, with endless customisation options no compensation for a mediocre driving experience Whether the Vauxhall Adam is going to .e a car that switches you on or or turns you off will depend almost entirely on where you reckon form and function should sit relative to each other, Some, we are sure, are going to love it; others might prefer to take the bus.If ever a car prioritised how it looks over how it performs, this surely is it. Taking its cue from the cute but dynamically underachieving Fiat 500, which proved beyond a doubt that massive sales can result from such an approach, the Adam is all about initial impressions followed by almost limitless opportunities for personal tailoring.With three trim levels (Jam, Glam and Slam), 12 exterior colours, three roof colours, three exterior decal packs and further accessory packs which pick elements from different trim levels, plus 20 wheel designs, the opportunity to make your Adam look like no-one else's are clear. Inside there are a further dozen colours to choose from, various interchangeable dashboard surrounds and a choice of roof linings that includes a chessboard, clouds, leaves or even a night sky depicted by 60 tiny LEDs.So, with cute looks and a tight, affordable price range from £11,225 to £14,295, its showroom appeal is clear. Problem is, a car is no good to anyone parked. It's there to be driven.And here the argument Vauxhall has carefully constructed for the Adam starts to fall apart. The 1.4-litre powertrain, available with either 99 or 86bhp outputs (there is a 69bhp 1.2-litre too) offers pedestrian performance at best in exchange for too much of the wrong kind of noise and a stubborn five-speed gearbox. New turbo 1.0-litre engines with six speeds are in development but are still some distance away.Whichever you buy, fuel consumption is claimed to be better than 50mpg, but many might find the 70mpg offered by a diesel Mini one more reason not to buy an Adam for which diesel power is neither offered nor planned.Dynamically, Vauxhall has been able to improve the Adam's steering for UK roads to produce a far more linear, progressive build up in power assistance, but we'd still stop some distance short of calling the car actively fun to drive in the same way you'd take for granted in the cheapest, slowest Mini. But at least it's no longer actively off-putting.It rides quite firmly and bounces a little over the worst that Britain's roads can throw at it, but given the simplicity of its suspension, the price of the package and the hardly stellar standards set by most if not all class-mates, this can be considered acceptable.Inside the Adam works quite well. There's not much room in the back, but this is unlikely to put off those who have succumbed to the charms of a Mini or Fiat 500 in the past. Its ergonomics are better to look at that actually use, but that is the Adam in a nutshell.Vauxhall's gamble is that customers will ignore its mediocre dynamics and focus entirely on the Adam's undoubtedly imaginative design options. The risk is that it's taking on Fiat and Mini at a game they already play extremely well, and do so backed by massive heritage of which the Adam has precisely none.Our view is that its strong static qualities are simply not enough to offer a knockout alternative to brands established in this field for over half a century: it needs to offer something else; something it currently lacks. Those new engines cannot arrive a moment too soon.

New car sales rise to four-year high

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 03:06 AM PST

In 2012 new car sales recovered to reach a four-year high. We take a look at the trends causing this resurgence during times of continued economic uncertainty

The UK car industry breathed a sigh of relief last week with news that new car registrations breached two million units for the first time since 2008. The final figure of 2,044,609 units was a four-year high.

Discounts played their part as heavily discounted stock was shifted from mainland Europe's declining markets to the UK, but consumer confidence was also required to buy cars in these pre-downturn volumes.

Indeed, overall year-on-year market growth of 5.3 per cent was driven by a 12.9 per cent rise in private sales according to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures.

So what has instilled this consumer confidence? All the classic factors for growth are there, despite the general doom and gloom of austerity across the rest of the economy.

Although salary rises are falling short of inflation, for those with disposable income there are few investment opportunities. House prices are high and unemployment is low, with job security also increasing as the UK exits a double-dip recession. Savings interest rates are low, and there is also little return on stocks, despite recent improvements.

Throw in a dealer discount, running-cost savings and a more diverse selection of vehicles than ever to choose from, and buyers are being tempted back, especially those who before the downturn would buy a new car on a three-year cycle but have since held on to their car for longer.

SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt believes such factors make this an "attractive time to buy", in a market that grew stronger in each quarter.

"There's been a build-up in the market of people who used to buy cars regularly seeing now as the time to go back," he said. "They are looking at a new car as a sound investment again, particularly with the typical 15 to 20 per cent improvements in running costs they can expect compared to their five to six-year-old car."

With so many offers, 2012 was very much a buyer's market — a trend that's set to continue as the eurozone crisis looms. "While volumes are good, margins [for dealers and manufacturers] are not great," concedes Everitt. "But given the choice we'd want the volume — it'll never be a perfect balance. We need people to buy cars."

Should the economy remain stable, Everitt thinks a small increase in new registrations can be expected in 2013, although the heady days of 2003 when almost 2.6m new cars were registered is a figure unlikely to be matched soon.

"We've gone through a very difficult period which has resulted in significant adjustment in the market," said Everitt. "The average has been around 1.9m units, so anything above 2.0m is a good result."

Honda wants younger buyers for its city cars

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 02:50 AM PST

Honda Gear concept aimed at Generation Y drivers

Honda unveiled this surprise concept car at the Montreal motor show, which the firm says is designed to make city cars appeal to younger buyers.

The Gear Concept Study Model is meant to make "sub-compact cars practical but fun, customisable, connected and affordable." Honda describes it as "simple and utilitarian," and says the car was inspired by fixed-gear bicycles.

The Gear uses styling cues reminiscent of the VW Polo and the Citroen DS3, but with a cab forward shape and very short overhangs. It doesn't have an interior.

The Gear is purely a concept and it's unlikely to preview any one future production car. Instead it shows Honda is considering how to make its small cars more youthful than its current offerings.

Rolls-Royce Ghost coupé to be called Wraith

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 02:45 AM PST

Geneva reveal for the new two-door model, which will be the fastest and most powerful Rolls-Royce in history

Rolls-Royce has named its forthcoming coupé version of the Ghost as Rolls-Royce Wraith. The model will be the most powerful in Rolls's history, and is set to be revealed at the Geneva motor show in March.

Speaking at a dealer conference in London this morning, Rolls CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös said the Wraith would "draw superlatives" when it is revealed in Geneva.

"Expect the boldest design, the most dramatic performance and the most powerful Rolls-Royce that has ever played host to the famous Spirit of Ecstasy figurine," he said.

"We will present a model whose starting point is luxury, refinement and exclusivity, traits that have made Rolls-Royce the world's pinnacle luxury good for the last 108 years. This is a car not only defined by a timeless elegance, but one that encapsulates a sense of power, style and drama."

The Wraith name was first used by Rolls in 1938.

Insiders have previously revealed the Wraith will produce as much as 600bhp from its highly tuned twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 engine. Torque will rise by a proportional amount over the engine's state of tune in the Ghost saloon, but insiders insist the famed Rolls refinement will be retained.

The Wraith will have a wheelbase around 180mm shorter than the Ghost's 3295mm, with an overall length of around 5200mm expected. The kerb weight is tipped to be around 2300kg.

Rolls has said it will release a series of teaser images of the Wraith in the build-up to its Geneva launch on 5 March.

Alfa and Mazda confirm co-developed roadster

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 02:02 AM PST

The next-generation Mazda MX-5 will share its platform with a two-seat Alfa Romeo roadster

The Fiat Group and Mazda have signed a final agreement to co-develop a two-seat roadster.

The agreement will see two differentiated and differently styled sports cars developed based on the next-generation Mazda MX-5 platform. Both the Mazda, and an Alfa Romeo-badged version, will be built by Mazda at its Hiroshima plant from 2015.

Each of the rear-wheel-drive roadsters will be powered by each brand's engines. The new MX-5 could feature a 1.3-litre turbocharged unit featuring the brand's SkyActiv technology, which would allow engineers to slash the current car's 1,100kg kerbweight.

The Alfa Romeo could carry a new version of the Alfa's 1750cc turbocharged engine, which is capable of developing up to 296bhp, although a development of the 168bhp 1.4TB engine from the Giulietta and Mito is possible. 

Although no name has been confirmed for the Alfa-badged roadster, Autocar understands bosses are considering reviving the Spider name.

Mazda says the agreement allows it to enhance development and production efficiencies, while Alfa can offer a modern "interpretation of the classic Alfa Romeo roadster"

First drive review: Ford Fiesta Zetec 1.0-litre EcoBoost

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 02:02 AM PST

Ford's accomplished Fiesta supermini is made even more appealing by a fine makeover and Ford's fantastic three-cylinder Ecoboost engine Our first drive of the facelifted Fiesta - Britain's biggest seller - on home turf. Word is that some 17,000 plucky punters have jumped the gun, and already committed themselves to a 2013 model.Who can blame them? There are detailed alterations in the fine print, but broadly speaking it's an already good-looking supermini made exquisitely pretty, and beneath the finery Ford has now fitted arguably the best engine of last year.Not all of that early volume will be buying a 1.0-litre Ecoboost motor (the venerable 1.25 and 1.6-litre Duratec and two versions of the oil-burning Duratorq are also available) but it's now the headliner, and of its three sub 100g/km CO2 variants – the pricier 123bhp specimen we've already sampled abroad and a turbo-less 79bhp fuel-sipper is still to come – this one, the 99bhp mid-ranger with five doors, is predicted to make up the bulk of sales.Other noteworthy additions reflect the Fiesta's status as an exceptional accumulator of downsizing signatures. Ford won't let you buy an Ecoboost engine in its entry-level Style spec, but a new range-topping Titanium X level is considered just the ticket. Satellite navigation migrates to the supermini for the first time (albeit as a cost option) and better tech, including the innovative, parent-friendly MyKey, help to make it seem younger and better equipped than ever.

Detroit motor show: Our show stars

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 07:04 AM PST

The cars that most impressed our team reporting from Detroit

With 50 world and North American debuts at the Detroit motor show this week, choosing our top cars was no mean feat. Our men on the ground deliver their verdict on their favourite cars from the show.

Honda Urban SUV Concept

The perfect combination of practicality and extrovert looks, the baby Honda has all the ingredients to give the company a much-needed shot in the arm around the world. VW's bosses spent so much time poring over its finer details you couldn't help but conclude that they, with their own smaller SUVs on the way, were impressed. Quite right too

Jim Holder, editor

Lincoln MKC

My show star is the Lincoln MKC concept, which uses the underpinnings of the new Ford Kuga, although you wouldn't easily realise it. The car has an elegance rare in SUVs, especially small ones, and it effortlessly carries the latest grille and graphics in a way that makes it look mature and expensive. They say it's heading for production, and no wonder.

Steve Cropley, editor in chief

Volkswagen CrossBlue

You have to hand it to VW. Once it puts its mind to something, it rarely stumbles. The big CrossBlue is a US-specific, family seven-seater that slots straight into one of the five biggest US market sectors, offering impressive space and utility and crisp styling. It can't miss.

Hilton Holloway, associate editor

Hyundai HCD-14

The Genesis Concept or HCD-14 is once again showing Hyundai's drive to push the brand into the premium market. The HCD-14 showcases the brand's new design language for its larger models. A production version of the 5.0-litre rear-wheel-drive model will be launched during next year's Detroit Show.

Stuart Price, photographer

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

This exciting seventh-gen Corvette promises all it should – brash styling, loud performance and the dream of the open road. At least one rival designer was envious of its incredibly low bonnet line and under the skin is a new alloy frame. Magnificent.

Julian Rendell, industry editor

Mercedes-Benz CLA

It wasn't on public display but Mercedes-Benz previewed its new CLA to the motoring media the night before the show opened its doors. The A-class-based saloon lives up to its baby CLS billing in the metal with eye catching styling that makes every other small saloon suddenly appear very conservative. Like its hatchback sibling, the rear is cramped despite dimensions that see it extend beyond the length of today's C-class. But with a price tag expected to start at around £25,000 in the UK, I can't see it being anything other than a sales hit in the UK.

Greg Kable, European editor

No comments:

Post a Comment