Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Mercedes GLA45 AMG spied

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 06:18 AM PST

First image appears of range-topping GLA45 AMG compact SUV

Speculation that an AMG version of the new Mercedes GLA junior off-roader could be revealed this year has been given added credence by this spy picture. It is the first time that the new performance-orientated 4x4 has been snapped testing on public roads in prototype guise.

Sister car to the upcoming A45 AMG and CLA45 AMG, the GLA45 AMG is expected to run AMG's new turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine in combination with a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive.

Official details are yet to be revealed, but the new engine, which carries the internal codename 'M132', is claimed to deliver 349bhp.

Together with a higher-powered engine, the GLA45 AMG also receives a heavily reworked chassis. If this particular prototype is any indication, the ride height will be reduced by up to 25mm over standard GLA models, lowering the centre of gravity.

The new model is set to square off against the upcoming Audi Q3 RS, which is powered by a 350bhp turbocharged 2.5-litre, five-cylinder petrol engine.

The GLA45 AMG is expected to get an airing at the Frankfurt motor show in September — five months after the standard GLA makes its debut at the Shanghai show.

Smart Fortwo to adopt new look

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 06:07 AM PST

Longer and wider Smart improves on passenger protection and accommodation

The Smart Fortwo is set to dispense with its familiar one-box silhouette in favour of a one-and-a-half-box profile when an all-new model arrives next year, insiders at parent firm Mercedes-Benz have revealed.

The new look is said to be dictated by a longer bonnet and a considerable increase in width.

The aim of the changes is to provide the third-generation city car, due out in 2014, with class-leading levels of front impact protection along with improved interior accommodation.

The overall length is said to have grown by up to 80mm to about 2750mm, and the width is set to increase by over 100mm to 1660mm.

Despite the adoption of a longer bonnet, the Fortwo is set to retain its rear-engined, rear-drive layout — an arrangement that rival car makers have described as being prohibitively expensive.

The mainstay engine will be a 0.9-litre, three-cylinder, direct-injection petrol unit in both naturally aspirated and turbocharged guises. Today's 799cc three-cylinder diesel will be ditched on cost grounds.

In its place will be a pure electric version of the Fortwo, with the latest 87bhp electric motor from Bosch in combination with a lithium ion battery pack from Accumotive — a company partly owned by Mercedes parent Daimler.

Further details remain scarce, but speculation surrounding the new Fortwo suggests that it will offer crashworthiness on a par with that of significantly larger superminis, together with a new two-and-a-half-seat interior layout along the lines of the Toyota iQ.

The new Fortwo will form part of a new range of Smart models that is also set to include a follow-up to the discontinued Forfour, as well as a possible junior off-roader that inherits the ideas first explored on the stillborn Formore, development work on which was halted in 2005.

Detroit motor show: Nissan Murano concept

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 04:58 AM PST

Show car confirms replacement for Nissan Murano

The next generation Nissan Murano will be previewed by a concept at the Detroit motor show, and Nissan is promising a design that will be as surprising as the original car's.

Design chief Shiro Nakamura said Nissan wants the new Murano to be a shock, and it's likely to be influenced by the Terra concept from the 2012 Paris motor show. 

The production Murano won't go on sale until 2014, although we're likely to see the final vehicle later this year. Nissan may also move production of the Murano from Japan to the US in the face of increasing costs in Japan and a stubbornly high yen.

Detroit motor show: Lincoln MKC

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 04:03 AM PST

New small SUV to help Lincoln attract younger, more affluent customers

Ford's global model policy will take another step forward with the unveil of the Lincoln MKC at next week's Detroit motor show. The new car is closely based on the Ford Escape/Kuga and is part of the reinvention of Lincoln.

The marque, which was America's biggest selling luxury car brand at the end of the 90s, needs new and younger buyers with more money. Cars such as the MKC and the forthcoming MKS and MKX, will have to attract customers who will have always considered Lincoln as too old and conservative.

It's expected that the Escape/Kuga will be heavily restyled at the front and rear to create the MKC, and get a more upmarket interior. Expect a wide, split grille in the style of the MKZ saloon (itself a reworked Ford Fusion/Mondeo) and a sleeker cabin that will owe little to the Escape.

Ford also hopes Lincoln will become successful in China, where it will be launched in 2014, in the same way Buick has for General Motors.

Detroit motor show: 2013 Lexus IS

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 03:16 AM PST

Lexus has released a further teaser image of its IS saloon ahead of a full reveal later today

Lexus has issued a final teaser image of the all-new Lexus IS ahead of its official reveal this afternoon.

The BMW 3-series rival will feature styling inspired by the handsome Lexus LF-CC concept first shown at the Paris motor show. The cloaked image released by Lexus shows a sweeping, almost coupé-like roofline and a pronounced grille, much like the larger GS executive saloon.

Two models will be offered to British buyers: a petrol-powered 2.5-litre V6 in the IS250 and the IS300h, which combines a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor and battery pack.

The 2013 Lexus IS300h is targeted at the UK fleet market. Engineers have targeted more than 2bhp per gram of CO2, meaning the D4-S unit promises emissions below 100g/km, less than any other petrol or diesel engine of comparable output.

Emissions for the 2012 Lexus IS250 will be significantly reduced over the current car's 194g/km. A diesel engine will not be offered.

Quick news: New special edition hatchbacks

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 02:56 AM PST

Suzuki Swift special editions due for Autosport International reveal, Qoros' UK launch yet to get the green light and Peugeot adds extra kit to special-edition 208

Suzuki has announced a brace special edition Swifts. Based on the 1.2-litre model in SZ3 trim, the SZ-L comes with unique alloy wheels and a roof spoiler, and is limited to 500 examples. The SZ-R is based on the range-topping 1.6-litre Swift Sport and is finished in black with contrasting red roof and door mirrors, and is limited to 100 cars. They are to be unveiled at this month's Autosport International show at the NEC, Birmingham.

No decision has yet been made whether to introduce the Qoros brand to the UK market. The Chinese manufacturer will unveil the Qoros GQ3, a Volkswagen Jetta-rivalling saloon at the Geneva motor show in March.

Technology company Visteon is to unveil its New Vehicle concept at this month's US Consumer Electronics Show. It features e-Bee, the firm's latest innovation, which repackages the heating and ventilation systems to free up large amounts of passenger space.

Peugeot has launched a new special edition 208, called Intuitive. Starting from £14,245 it is available in three and five door guises and comes with a choice of 1.2-litre petrol, and 1.4 or 1.6-litre diesel engines. Standard fit equipment includes sat-nav, Park Assist, panoramic sunroof and dual-zone automatic air-conditioning.

Daljinder Nagra

Electric Dreams turn into a nightmare

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 11:00 AM PST

Sales of electric vehicles are failing to take off as showroom reality trumps marketing hype

The Guardian website has just published the figures for the numbers of new cars registered under the Government's 'Plug-in' Car Grant scheme. The scheme gives buyers 25 percent off (up to a maximum of £5000) the price of a rechargeable electric vehicle such as a Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius plug-in or Renault Fluence.

The scheme is now two years old. According to the Department for Transport figures, 1419 cars were registered under the scheme in the first nine months of the 2012 up from 786 in 2011. So it looks like the whole of 2012 will see around 1900 rechargeable cars bought, out of the two million news cars that left UK showrooms. Interestingly, only a tiny number of vans were registered under the scheme in 2012.

As you might expect, the Guardian has an upbeat quote from Norman Baker, Lib Dem under-secretary of state for Transport. 'I know electric vehicles have a bright future in this country' he says, citing new models due this year, including the relatively inexpensive Renault Zoe and the Sunderland-built Nissan Leaf.

I don't know about you, but I can smell burning. The whole electric car edifice may be on the verge of the going up in smoke. The huge hype that drove car makers into spending hundreds of millions into developing electric cars looks like it has led to a developmental dead end.

Take sales of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf - both first-rate cars - in the important US market. GM says that after 7671 units in 2011, Volt sales have jumped to 23,461 units. That's just more than half of the numbers GM wanted to see, despite low leasing costs. Global sales might hit 30,000 units. And, of course, the Volt has a petrol engine, making it a perfectly viable 'normal' car. Which probably explains why sales of the Nissan Leaf  - a pure battery car - look as if they won't hit five figures in the US.

Last month I drove the gas-powered VW Eco Up in Frankfurt, which made me pretty certain that battery power is not going to fly. VW is betting heavily on gas, and has designed both the Up's NSF platform and the new MQB platform to accommodate twin gas tanks. Gas is very clean burning - with virtually no tailpipe pollution - and is also low on Co2. Indeed, the Eco Up is good for 79g/km, compared to the estimated 75g/km for recharging an electric car on the European mains network.

A gas-powered car, which could conceivably be charged off the mains network, is also much cheaper than an electric car. And, ironically, the Up's 'emergency' petrol tank gives a 120 mile range - more than you'll squeeze out of a battery car.

Truth is, the electric car revolution is looking less and less likely. Battery technology is still not advancing far enough and battery prices are still high. And, as one industry source told me, the problems of running electric cars in winter have caught many by surprise and seriously undermined the whole battery car concept. A typical range on a cold winter's day can be just half of what is achieved in the summer.

Audi has cancelled the electric A2, Opel has canned the Adam EV and Fiat is quite open about the loss-making electric Fiat 500. The mighty VW Group is betting on plug-in hybrids, but mainly to placate the demanding Californian market. BMW's i3 is looking more like the past than the future. With fossil fuel cars getting ever more economical and Euro 6 engines set to be effectively pollution-free, I fear that the EV concept is already running on empty.


Detroit motor show: Dodge Dart GT

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 08:40 AM PST

More power and retuned suspension for Dodge's Alfa-based saloon

A warmed-up version of the Dodge Dart will make its debut at the Detroit motor show next week, reviving the Dart GT badge from the 1960s when it was used on the range-topping Dart coupé and convertible.

The modern Dart GT, based on the Alfa Giulietta, comes with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder producing 184bhp and 174lb ft, hooked up to a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto. The car's suspension has been upgraded, with "frequency sensing" dampers and stiffer spring rates, and it comes with 18-inch wheels.

The other changes are cosmetic, with LED taillights, a reworked front grille, dual exhaust pipes and GT badging. It costs $20,995, the equivalent of just over £13,000.

Mercedes MLC: first spy shots

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 08:20 AM PST

Forthcoming Mercedes coupe-SUV spotted benchmarking against BMW M6

These are the first photos of the Mercedes Benz MLC, which has been spied undergoing early development tests in Europe.

Wearing a standard ML body, these chassis testing mules sit on a wider rear axle and wear slightly revised rear wheelarches.

The test cars were also photographed alongside a number of BMW X6s, confirming that Mercedes is using the on-road ability of BMW's coupe-SUV as a benchmark for the MLC.

The production MLC is expected to be more aggressively styled than the ML, with wider wheel-arches, a re-profiled roofline and the use of prominent feature lines along the bodywork to give a chiselled stance.

The engine range is likely to include a range topping twin-turbo 6.0-litre V12 in the form of MLC65 AMG. A V6 hybrid is also expected, with a potential output of 400bhp - enough to rival the twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 BMW X6 50i. A seven-speed automatic is likely to be the only transmission option.

Despite a projected kerbweight of 2000kg, the hybrid system is expected to endow the MLC with 40mg economy, and allow it to get from 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds.

The Mercedes MLC is due to be officially unveiled in 2015.

Daljinder Nagra

Detroit Motor show: Jeep Liberty

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 08:13 AM PST

All-new mid-size Jeep Liberty is to use Fiat platform and will be unveiled in Detroit

The first Jeep to be created under Fiat's ownership of the brand will be revealed at this month's Detroit motor show. The replacement for the Liberty may also revive the Cherokee nameplate, canned when the original Liberty was launched in 2001. 

The new car uses a variation of Fiat's Compact Wide platform, called Compact US Wide. It's been enlarged to be suitable for vehicles such as the new Jeep, and is capable of taking four-wheel drive. It's already used in the Dodge Dart.

Although the new Jeep will use a front-drive biased set-up, it will come with four-wheel drive and should possess an element of off-road ability. In the US, expect a 3.2-litre V6 petrol and a nine-speed automatic gearbox – in Europe, the nine-speed 'box will be available, but coupled to 1.4 and 1.8-litre turbocharged petrols and 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels.

The Jeep will be built in the US, at the Toledo plant that makes the Liberty. Production is due to start early this summer.

Detroit motor show: Jeep Grand Cherokee

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 08:07 AM PST

Facelift for the big Jeep Grand Cherokee includes an eight-speed gearbox and a diesel for the US market

Jeep will unveil a facelifted Grand Cherokee at the Detroit motor show later this month, with a new, higher quality interior, a new transmission and the option of a diesel for the US market.

Exterior changes include a slimmer, more subtle grille, new front and rear bumper designs, while inside the cabin the centre console has been redesigned with new switchgear and, hopefully, better quality materials.

The old five and six-speed autos will be replaced by the eight-speed transmission, as used in the US market petrol-powered Chrysler 300.

Detroit motor show: GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Silverado

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 08:04 AM PST

GM's long running Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pick-ups get a complete makeover

One of North America's most iconic pick-up trucks, the Chevrolet Silverado, will be replaced by an all–new model at the Detroit motor show. The Silverado's sister vehicle, the GMC Sierra (essentially the same truck with GMC detailing) will also be launched at Detroit.

The Silverado, first launched in 1975, retains the classic full-size American pick-up styling of a wide, upright grille with a very deep front bumper, flared wheel arches and plenty of chrome. Underneath there's a separate chassis, with leaf springs at the rear.

Three new engines include a 4.3-litre V6, a 5.3-litre V8 and a 6.2-litre V8, and all come with cylinder deactivation. There's only one gearbox – a six-speed auto that replaces the old four-speed, and the truck can be had in two or four-wheel drive.

Pick-ups are a crucial part of the US new car market, with over 1.3 million sold last year. Sales of pick-ups are growing, and this growth has made an important contribution to the recovery of new car sales in North America. And because of their use in construction and industry, they are often used as a barometer for the state of the economy.

Detroit motor show: Kia Cadenza

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 07:57 AM PST

The big Kia Cadenza saloon gets a makeover for US market and will premiere in Detroit

A reworked version of the Kia K7 saloon will be unveiled for the North American market at the Detroit motor show, with a revised interior and tweaked styling.

Known as K7 in its home market, where it has been on sale since October, the car is to be rebadged Cadenza for the US. It is a large saloon designed to compete with the likes of the Acura RL and Toyota Avalon – at 4965mm long and 1850mm wide, it's slightly longer and narrower than a BMW 5-series.

The Cadenza uses a front-drive platform, which is also used in the Hyundai Azera. There are currently no plans to bring the Cadenza to Europe.

Detroit motor show: Audi SQ5 TFSI

Posted: 08 Jan 2013 02:41 AM PST

The hottest Audi Q5 SUV gets a supercharged V6 petrol engine - but not for the UK market

An new version of the Audi SQ5 is to be shown at the Detroit motor show, using a more powerful version of the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 from the S5.

Primarily aimed at the North American, Russian and Chinese markets, the new SQ5 delivers 349bhp and 346lb ft, 21bhp and 21lb ft more than the S5's engine. This gives the car a 0-62mph time of 5.3sec and a top speed of 155mph, although that makes it slower than the diesel SQ5. It uses Audi's eight-speed automatic gearbox.

As with the diesel, the car is lowered by 30mm with stiffer suspension, and it comes with 20-inch wheels as standard — 21-inch wheels are an option.

It will go on sale in the US this autumn, but there are no plans to launch the car in Europe, where the diesel SQ5 will remain the range topper.

New cars 2013: performance cars

Posted: 03 Jan 2013 09:27 AM PST

Sports car fans rejoice, 2013 has plenty to offer, from Britain's long-awaited F-type successor to traditional American muscle cars

From the flyweight thrills of the Caterham Supersport R, to the altogether more bruising experience of the supercharged Jaguar XFR-S, 2013 is set to serve up exciting sports cars whatever your personal preference.

New iterations of old favourites are due to return in the form of the Porsche Cayman and GT3, while Alfa Romeo is out to create a stir with its striking 4C. Even Vauxhall is throwing its hat in the performance car ring with the Insignia Supersport. Here is our guide to the best metal coming this year.

Jaguar F-Type, May

Ignore, for a minute, the way it looks, the way it might drive and what it says on the spec sheet. Instead, look at the badge on the back of Jaguar's new sports car: F-type. Those five letters and a hyphen brand this model as the successor to the E-type, however much time and distance Jaguar bosses have tried to place between the two models.

If living up to history wasn't already a tough enough brief for the soft-top F-type, both the V6 and V8 versions also have to contend with a glut of class-leading contemporary rivals, including top-end Porsche Caymans and Boxsters, and Porsche 911s and Aston Martin Vantages respectively.

Ian Callum's design appears to have gone down well, with early interest in the F-type as strong as it was in the Range Rover Evoque at a similar stage, according to Jaguar bosses. And it's hard not to get excited; there's a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 with either 335bhp or 375bhp, and a 488bhp supercharged 5.0-litre V8.

The F-type S, which comes with the 375bhp V6, could well be the range's sweet spot. It's good for 0-60mph in 4.8sec and a 171mph top speed.

But like all cars that truly pique our interest, there are question marks over the F-type. The big one is its price. Even the entry-level 335bhp V6 costs £58,550, while it's possible to spend as much as £79,950 on an F-type V8 S before options.

How the weight impacts on the driving performance is the other question mark. At 1597kg in its lightest form, the XK-based F-type still weighs 207kg more than the lightest (and larger) Porsche 911.

But Jaguar believes it has spotted a price gap in the market between the Boxster/Cayman and the 911. The mantra here is 'build it and they will come'. And when has chassis guru Mike Cross ever turned out a bad car?

Should early drives and sales emphatically answer these two questions, Jaguar may well have made a car that history will judge as the true successor to the E-type, rather than just its name.

Porsche Cayman, March

The second-generation Cayman is, says Porsche, lighter, faster and better handling than the model it replaces. It's also longer, lower and wider and has a longer wheelbase, resulting in a lower centre of gravity and promising to make the Cayman better to drive than ever. It looks a lot sharper, too, with styling that breaks free from the 911, plus it's more practical than before with more than 300 litres of luggage space in the front and rear compartments.

Whether you go for the 275bhp 2.7-litre Cayman or 325bhp 3.4-litre Cayman S — both flat sixes — you're sure to end up with one of the sweetest-handling mid-engined sports cars around.

Vauxhall Insignia Supersport, February

In just a month's time you will be able to buy a Vauxhall Insignia with a higher top speed than a BMW M5. It's slightly deceiving in that the M5 is limited to 155mph and the Insignia is derestricted to 170mph, but put the two in a drag race and the Vauxhall will run out of road first. The Super Sport gets a 320bhp 2.8-litre V6 engine and a 0-62mph time of 5.6sec. The best bit? The price: £29,995.

Chevrolet Corvette C7, Autumn

Chevrolet is planning to get radical with America's flagship supercar, the Corvette, when it launches as the C7.

We don't have to wait long to see it — next week at the Detroit show, in fact — but the drip feed of information has already started. Spy pictures reveal the classic 'Vette shape will remain (the mid-engined rumours proved untrue), but the engines will be downsized and contemporary. A twin-turbo V6 is expected to be the base engine, joining 5.5 and 6.2-litre V8s.

Alfa Romeo 4C, Autumn

In a few years' time, if Alfa is in profit and global sales are consistently strong, we might look back at the 4C as the car that sparked the recovery. It's the flagship and first model in Alfa's expansion plans, which include new models, a relaunch in the US and global sales of up to half a million units per year.

And some flagship it will be. The mid-engined 4C will weigh less than 1000kg and its turbocharged 1742cc petrol engine will produce as much as 300bhp. A price tag of less than £50,000 has been mooted for the carbonfibre coupé. Also expect a convertible version about a year after launch.

Caterham Seven Supersport R, February

This year will be a big one for Caterham and the Seven. It'll start in February with the launch of the more focused Supersport R version, which gets a 180bhp 2.0-litre Duratec engine and a whole host of dynamic changes.

Then in early summer will come what insiders describe as the most luxurious version of the Seven yet, complete with a hand-tailored finish.

Finally, pencilled in for arrival at the end of the summer is a stripped-back Seven in the spirit of the original, being produced to celebrate Caterham's 40th anniversary.

Porsche 911 GT3, Autumn

We've been given the first hints of the new 911 GT3 by the recently unveiled GT3 racer. Expect around 450bhp from its normally aspirated 3.8-litre flat six, which should mean a 0-60mph time under 4.0sec and a top speed approaching 200mph.

The real headline, though, could come from the transmission. Porsche is said to be set to drop a manual gearbox option and make the GT3 dual-clutch automatic only.

Audi RS6 Avant, July

Audi's latest fire-breathing RS6 estate is capable of a supercar-baiting 190mph and 0-62mph in just 3.9sec. The old V10 engine is out, replaced by a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 with 552bhp and 516lb ft.

There's still enough room in the back to start a small removals company, although the predicted £77,000 price (before expensive dynamic options) is some way above that of a Ford Transit.

Jaguar XFR-S, June

The XFR-S is set to be the fastest and most powerful saloon in Jaguar's history. That's thanks to a 542bhp supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine and a 186mph top speed. You should hit that fairly rapidly, too; 0-62mph is quoted at 4.6sec and 0-100mph is tipped to be less than 9.0sec.

This lairiest of Jaguar four-doors can be yours in time for the summer, priced from £79,995.

One for 2014: Mazda MX-5

Intrigue surrounds the new MX-5 following the revelation last year that it would be co-developed with Alfa Romeo, which in turn would create a new Spider as a sister car. The first reveal of the new MX-5 is pencilled in for November's Tokyo motor show. Tantalisingly, a target weight of just 1000kg has been set for the new Mazda.

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