Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Autocar magazine 2 January preview

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 04:04 AM PST

In this week's magazine: Every new car of 2013 revealed; new 202mph Bentley drop-top; new Mercedes C-class: first details; AMG's turbo future; Ford B-Max – full road test

This week's Autocar magazine stars every new car being launched in 2013 – 164 new models in total.

The rundown includes details of all the star cars, plus prospective launch dates and the latest information from every manufacturer.

The news section is led off by a scoop on the next Mercedes-Benz C-class, which is set to get bolder styling and class-leading technology, while there's also the lowdown on the new 202mph drop-top Bentley Continental GTC Speed, Dacia's no discount policy and the end of plans for an electric Audi A2.

Our features include a four-page analysis of every manufacturer's UK sales in 2013, looking at the big winners (Audi, BMW, Hyundai) and losers (Peugeot, Renault, Vauxhall). 

The revised Ariel Atom 3.5 heads up our first drives section, sitting alongside an eclectic mix including the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid, Mercedes CLS63 Shooting Brake, Porsche Cayenne GTS, Toyota Auris Hybrid and Audi RS5 Cabriolet. The full eight-page road test covers the new Ford B-Max, explaining why it is the best of its breed.

Long-term updates include the Audi A6 Allroad, Alpina D5 Biturbo, Caterham Seven, BMW 330d Touring, Fiat Panda, Vauxhall Astra VXR and Subaru XV.

Our used car coverage includes a buying guide for the Volkswagen Passat, James Ruppert on why we should buy the least reliable cars in Britain and an investigation into whether you'd be better spending £25,000 on a new Toyota GT86 or used Aston Martin Vantage.

We also introduce two new columnists. Joe Saward takes the reins of our Formula 1 coverage, while road test editor Matt Prior writes the first of a new series of weekly columns.

First drive review: Mitsubishi ASX 1.8 Diesel 4WD ‘3’

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 04:00 AM PST

Styling and quality updates consolidate ASX's place among the better alternative crossovers The 2012 Mitsubishi ASX: a car that deserves a bigger following than UK customers have given it over the past two years. Frugal, comfortable, practical and well-priced, this real-world crossover's most critical shortcoming seems to be that it's not a Nissan Qashqai.If anything, you could say that a slightly drab cabin lets the Mitsubishi's down. But in acknowledgement, Mitsubishi has updated the interior as part of a 2012 facelift.There's a new steering wheel design, new seat fabrics and a new-look stereo system to admire now. Well, perhaps not admire. If you didn't know they'd been changed, you probably wouldn't think they looked new. But you wouldn't think they looked old, either. The ASX's cabin has a typically Japanese, functional, unembellished appearance. Plastics are still hard and shiny in places, but they're far from offensive. A Qashqai is a slightly more pleasant, stylish, 'premium' environment in which to travel, sure. So's a Kia Sportage or a Peugeot 3008. But there's little wrong with the way the Mitsubishi's cabin works, and fit and finish levels are decent enough.On the outside, in a similar bid to make the ASX more of an urban sophisticate, there are new body-coloured bumpers front and rear, and a slightly different grille design. It's a subtle tweak, and tough to appreciate in pictures of our black test car, but it does make the ASX look less like a niche SUV and more like something from the mainstream, which is a sensible move.Prices survive the update unchanged, as does the ASX's engine range, which consists of a 115bhp 1.6-litre petrol and Mitsubishi's own 1.8-litre 114bhp turbodiesel, on offer with or without four-wheel drive. Our test car was the all-paw diesel, yours for less than £23k at list price. And for those who do want a four-wheel-drive diesel, that price puts it in quite a strong position in the segment.

UK first drive: Bentley Continental GT Speed

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 03:48 AM PST

New GT Speed is the fastest Bentley ever, but it fails to outshine the entry-level V8 The new, second-generation Continental GT Speed is the fastest road car Bentley has produced to date. How relevant is that? To most of us, not very. But to those customers who keep demanding more of everything, the fact that the Speed can do 205mph – thereby topping even the exotic Supersports version of the previous-generation coupé (by 1mph) – no doubt earns them serious bragging rights.Based on the latest W12-engined Continental GT and driven here for the first time on British roads, the £151,100 Speed costs roughly £15,000 more than the regular model, and for that you do indeed get some significant upgrades: more power and torque, more performance, a higher standard specification and greater presence on the road. The only things that haven't grown, happily, are the kerb weight and fuel consumption and CO2 figures, all of which remain identical to the standard GT's.Compared with the standard W12 model, the Speed's twin-turbo 6.0-litre engine gets an extra 49bhp and 74lb ft of torque. The ride height on the air-sprung suspension has been lowered by 10mm, the alloy wheels are a unique 21-inch design, the desirable Mulliner Driving Specification is standard (adding things like quilted leather on the fabulously comfortable seats) and there are subtle external tweaks, including a dark chrome finish to the mesh on the radiator grille and front air intakes.

Will Land Rover get over its Victoria Beckham hangover?

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 12:35 AM PST

Small-scale celebrity tie-ins with car makers can last far longer than originally planned

When Land Rover announced it was working with Victoria Beckham on a special-edition Range Rover Evoque, there was a collective sigh of disbelief among the motoring world. What, after all, could Posh Spice add to the brand?

Over time, though, there was a general mellowing of opinion; Beckham was carving a career as a respected fashion designer, and her input into the Evoque was to be limited to a special-edition model, with a focus on colour and trim work.

Then, last year in Beijing, the car was unveiled. It was expensive but tastefully enhanced. It sold out. That, we were told, was that; for now at least, the dalliance with the former Spice Girl was over. Job done.

Except, that is, about 300 miles into a drive with the family in a Range Rover that I was lucky enough to be testing over Christmas, my wife piped up: "Didn't Victoria Beckham design the interior on this car?"

Well, no, she didn't. But then the mother-in-law climbed aboard and said the same thing. And then my sister-in-law. None of them is given to wearing floaty couture or reading the gossip magazines, but all of them 'knew' enough to know that at some point Beckham had worked with Land Rover.

So there they were, sitting in the admirably plush (and suitably priced) interior of the new Range Rover and making the mental leap that it was the work of Beckham, as opposed to a talented and hard-working design team based in the Midlands.

There's nothing wrong with that, you might argue; none of them is nearly engaged enough in car culture to be citing Gerry McGovern and his team for name checks, but you do have to wonder where a supposedly small-scale celebrity tie-in has taken Land Rover.

Will every future Land Rover design be credited to Beckham? And who actually got the most from the deal? As I see it, Beckham basked in the glory of the Evoque beyond her actual input to the project and is now sharing in the lustre of the Land Rover and Range Rover success story.

If that translates into selling more cars, perhaps Land Rover as a business won't mind. But I suspect there will be a few talented individuals within the company who will long wish the dalliance had never happened.

Audi A2 axed

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 10:00 PM PST

A production version of the Audi A2 concept has been axed from Audi's future product plan

Audi has canned plans to build a production version of its Audi A2 electric car concept car from 2011, according to highly-placed company sources. Inspired by the original aluminium spaceframe A2, the new model was scheduled to go into production in 2015 as both a conventional plug-in hybrid and as a pure EV.

Audi sources told Autocar that "lessons learnt from the new A2 project" would be included in future Audi models, but that plans for the aluminium-framed production model had been dropped. Had it been launched, the new A2 would have been a direct competitor for BMW's upcoming BMW i3.

The A2 concept used a 'sandwich floor' construction, similar to the original Mercedes A-class, which would have been used to store the lithium-ion battery pack. A 114bhp electric motor drove the front wheels and Audi promised a 125-mile range from the battery pack after a four-hour recharge.

Audi's unexpected move is part of a growing mood in the auto industry that the market for pure electric vehicles is likely to be much smaller than predicted. Vauxhall/Opel recently dropped plans for an EV version of the Adam and sales of the Nissan Leaf in the all-important US market have fallen far short of estimates. Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said he wanted to sell 20,000 Leafs in 2012, up from 9679 in 2011. However, by the end of October, just 6791 Leafs had found homes.

Electric car sales disappoint Renault

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 10:00 PM PST

Renault plans shift in marketing strategy with upcoming Zoe to combat poor electric car sales

Sales of electric cars are causing disappointment inside Renault, and the firm wants to adopt a more successful marketing strategy to combat a lack of interest from buyers.

"We need to communicate the autonomy of the vehicles," said Renault marketing boss Stephen Norman, "and let people know more about what they can do. I think people invent constraints the cars don't have."

Although it's market leader in the European electric car market, sales are not high enough globally.  "Our next task is to get up off our backsides and sell them," said Norman, "not talk about what we're going to be doing in 2030. There are so many messages to transmit on the electric car, we need to make the push."

Renault will launch the Renault Zoe next year with a campaign centred on the silence of the drivetrain, a theme it will use for all of its electric cars. While Norman admitted people won't buy them solely because they're silent, it's a quality that suggests engineering excellence and efficiency. "People need to drive it, too" said Norman, referring to the Zoe. "It's ever so quick, and the brakes are very powerful."

Dan Stevens

Mercedes S-class coupe in five-strong line-up

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 10:00 PM PST

The Mercedes CL will be replaced with a new S-class coupé, a direct rival to the Bentley Continental GT

The new five-strong Mercedes S-class line-up will include a new coupé model intended to compete directly with the Bentley Continental GT. The Mercedes CL replacement will get a more muscular appearance along the lines of the Continental GT, with an insider saying the model will get "less of a two-door saloon look".

"The front is a lot more aggressive, there's added structure to the flanks with a prominent drop line, a more rounded turret line and the rear overhang is significantly shorter," said our source.

The likely premier for the S-class coupé will take place at the 2014 Geneva motor show, some six months before a new S-class cabriolet model makes a debut at the Paris motor show the same year. The new drop-top is being targeted at the Bentley Continental GTC.

The fabric roof cabriolet was first hinted at back in 2007 with the Mercedes-Benz Ocean Drive concept.

The new S-class line-up has been expanded to five models in three different bodystyles and wheelbase lengths, following the German car maker's recent decision to axe its Maybach brand after a decade of disappointing sales following its resurrection in 2002.

In addition to the new coupé and cabriolet models in the new line-up, which is being developed under the internal working title W222, is a replacement to today's flagship saloon in three different lengths.

Mercedes-Benz design sources say the new S-class has a more stately stature, and that the new look is in line with customer feedback, which suggests the current model lacks for visual prominence in comparison to its limousine rivals. The new car will come in standard-, long-wheelbase and extra-long-wheelbase forms, with the latter set to carry Pullman identification as part of Mercedes-Benz's plans to compete head-to-head with the likes of the Rolls-Royce Ghost and Bentley Continential Flying Spur.

All three saloons are set to carry the same basic styling, albeit with differing rear door and rear side window lengths in line with their differing wheelbases.

On current planning, the standard- and long-wheelbase versions of the new S-class will make their world debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2013, with the Pullman – which stretches to over 5700mm in length and likely to fill the position vacated by the Maybach 57 – to possibly get an airing at the 2014 Beijing motor show. 

Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible announced

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 04:01 PM PST

New £164,000 GTC Speed packs a massive 616bhp and will be the world's fastest four-seat drop-top

Bentley has created what it claims is the world's fastest four-seat drop-top by slotting the drivetrain from the Continental GT Speed into the Convertible. With a claimed top speed of 202mph, the car is 3mph slower than the GT Speed coupé but 7mph quicker than the old Bentley Speed Convertible.

Powered by the twin turbo 6.0-litre W12, the car has 616bhp and 590lb ft, giving it a 0-60mph time of 4.1sec. All of the torque is available from 2000rpm and continues until 5000rpm, and 100mph comes up in 9.7sec. In the Convertible, the engine returns 19mpg, a 15 per cent improvement over the old car.

As with the Speed GT, the suspension has been lowered by 10mm compared to the regular GT, with stiffer bushes, uprated anti-roll bars and revised air springs and dampers. The steering has been reworked to provide greater feedback.

The increase in top speed over the convertible hasn't required much additional aerodynamic work to increase downforce — Bentley says a gentle lip on the bootlid is enough to keep the car on the road. Other external changes include dark chrome air intakes and radiator grille, 21–inch wheels (only available on the Convertible), and enlarged tailpipes with rifled interiors.

Inside the car is trimmed in Mulliner spec, with its characteristic quilted diamond pattern leather, along with dark aluminium across the dash. Carbonfibre is an option.

It will go on sale next summer, and although Bentley hasn't decided on pricing, expect it to cost around £164,000, around £15,000 more than a regular GT Convertible. It is expected to make its first public outing at the Detroit motor show this month.

Dan Stevens

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