- Quick news: Volvo cleans up its autos; Infiniti's new naming strategy
- Sporty Seat Leon SC joins five-door
- Which is your favourite 911?
- McLaren P1 interior revealed
- Volkswagen Golf R cabriolet first drive review
- Taxman, toll off: why we should resist motorway tolling
- Alfa Romeo 4C set for Geneva show debut
- Autocar magazine 13 February preview
- Next Corsa begins testing on a new platform
- Volkswagen confirms super-budget car for 2015
- Maserati Ghibli guns for BMW M5
- Holden Commodore VF-series revealed
- Peugeot Bipper Tepee first drive review
- Fiat Panda secures Cape Town-London world records
Posted: 12 Feb 2013 06:47 AM PST
Self-shifting Volvos now more efficient, the Infiniti range is being renamed and the cost of ticking options on a Bentley Mulsanne
Volvo has introduced a raft of efficiency-boosting measures for its automatic models. The changes bring the Geartronic-equipped S80 and V70, as well as D3 and D4 variants of the S60 and V60, under 130g/km. The XC60 SUV also benefits from reduced CO2 and better fuel consumption.
The new naming scheme for Infiniti – saloons/coupes becoming Q and SUVs QX – was largely dictated by the future expansion of its range, including the new front-wheel-drive compact model. The EX and FX SUVs will be the QX50 and QX70 respectively, whilst the G-series cars become the Q60.
The average invoice price of a Bentley Mulsanne saloon is £300,000. This means that a typical Mulsanne buyer spends the price of a base Range Rover - £70k – on bespoke trims, wood, leather and luxury add-ons.
Posted: 12 Feb 2013 06:00 AM PST
The second of three Leon models has arrived in the shortened, lowered and sportier guise of theSC
Seat has unveiled a rakish three-door version of the new Seat Leon, the second model of three to join the expanded line-up. The Leon SC (Sports Coupé) is shorter, lower and wider than the five-door model on which it is based, but without losing any of the 380 litres of boot capacity or compromising too much on space for rear passengers.
After its Geneva motor show reveal next month, the Leon SC is expected to find its way into showrooms in July. The Leon range will be completed later this year with the introduction of a new ST estate model, before hot Cupra versions of all three bodystyles are launched next year.
Compared with the standard five-door model, the Leon SC is completely new from the A-pillars back. The wheelbase has been reduced by 35mm to 2600mm and the roofline has been lowered and more sharply raked to give the car its sporty profile, which has been inspired by the Seat IBE concept car from 2010.
In its lightest form, the Leon SC weighs just 1168kg. The suspension set-up is taken from the five-door model, so there are MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear for models with less than 150bhp or a multi-link set-up for models with more than 150bhp.
The engines for the Leon SC are carried over from the five-door model. This means that the 178bhp 1.8 TSI will be the initial range-topping petrol model and a 181bhp 2.0 TDI with CO2 emissions of 112g/km the most potent diesel.
Three trim levels will be offered in the UK: S, SE and FR. The range-topping FR will have bespoke bumpers, lowered suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Posted: 12 Feb 2013 05:11 AM PST
The Porsche 911 is 50 years old this year but which is your favourite model, and why?
Reply to this one soon enough and your vote will count towards a feature that's due to be published on this site and in the magazine at the end of February. But even if you're not interested in taking part in such a survey, I'd still love to know which 911 – if any! – you good people favour, and why?
Until yesterday I was fairly sure that my all-time favourite version was the latest GT3 RS. The Porsche 911 is all about evolution, after all, so it's surely inevitable that the latest version of the greatest model (the RS) is also going to be the best.
And I'm a rev-head at heart, anyway, so I'm always likely to be swayed by the RS version, rather than go for the more pure "I'll have the basic C2 because it contains the least fripperies" type argument.
Except yesterday I drove examples of all seven versions of the Porsche 911 – from a 2.0-litre 1966 Classic to a mid-80s G-Series, a 964 Carrera 4, 993, 996, 997 C2S and a basic 991 C2 – and came away convinced that less very obviously equals more when it comes to the things that matter most in 911s.
The 997 RS is an epic machine in which to go berserk, of course it is. But the more time I spent in the Classic, the G-Series, the 964 and the 993 yesterday, the less persuaded I felt towards the more modern versions.
Having said that, the latest 911 is still one heck of a car, even if it is a very different kind of a car from its first four ancestors. Nowadays the Porsche 911 has almost become a luxury GT car first, and a sports car second – whereas with original models up to but not including the 996 (ie the Classic, the G-Series, the 964 and the 993) they each feel like pure sports cars first; small, compact and agile. Like "proper" 911s always have.
So anyway, that's enough 911 rambling for the time being, you can feast on the whole salad of this extraordinary car's 50th anniversary on this site and in the magazine at the end of this month. But in the meantime, which is YOUR favourite 911, and why?
Posted: 12 Feb 2013 05:00 AM PST
The minimalist look of the McLaren P1's interior has been revealed for the first time
This is the stripped-out, carbon-fibre, interior of the new McLaren P1 hypercar. The company says that the 'shrink-wrapped' design theme of the P1's exterior extends to the interior, with a 'minimalist' design that is meant to feel like the 'cockpit of a fighter jet'.
Much of the interior is made from carbon-fibre (which lacks the usual top layer of resin, saving 1.5kg) and McLaren says the 'cockpit' sensation will be delivered by the extensive glazing, which extends from the 'glass canopy' overhead, to a windscreen which is 'deeper than it is wide'.
Although McLaren says the designers have kept the switchgear to a minimum, the P1 has full climate control, sat-nav and a bespoke Meridian sound system.
The P1 also gets a simple digital instrument pack. Sound deadening is absent from the P1's cabin, and special lightweight carpet will be an option.
The seats are built around 'ultra-thin' carbon shells with the 'minimum of foam' padding and weigh just 10.5kg. The seat backs are fixed at 28 degrees from the vertical but 'can be set to 32 degrees to give the track driver more helmet room'.
Seat height will be custom set by McLaren for the individual driver.
Posted: 12 Feb 2013 04:32 AM PST
The Volkswagen Golf R cabriolet offers impressive pace, but appeal is hampered by a mighty price tag The Volkswagen Golf R cabriolet is the fastest and most powerful drop-top Golf ever. At £38,770 – some £1181 more than the entry-level Porsche Boxster – it is clearly the most expensive, too. Following on from the launch of the Golf GTi cabriolet last year, Volkswagen has upped the open-top ante even further with the introduction of the Golf R cabriolet.As its styling suggests, the go-fast soft-top is based around the previous sixth-generation Golf, not the latest seventh-generation model. That's because the third-generation cabriolet, with its traditional fabric hood and four-seat layout, was only launched in 2011, so it is essentially a two-year-old car even if its appearance suggests otherwise. Power comes from Volkswagen's older EA113 engine, not the newer EA888 that both powers the Audi S3 and will also serve the new Golf R later this year. The transversely mounted turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit runs a maximum 1.2bar of turbo boost pressure and delivers 261bhp and 258lb ft – some 55bhp and 52lb ft more than the Golf GTi cabriolet's less heavily tuned version of the EA113 engine. Power is fed through a standard six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox to the front-wheels. The set-up mirrors the Scirocco R, with an electronic differential included to keep wheelspin in check and ensure traction.The Golf R cabriolet also receives stiffened springs and dampers, while the anti-roll bars have gone up in diameter, the ride height lowered by 25mm and 18-inch wheels with 225/40 R18 tyres fitted as standard.Along with its added performance, the primary appeal of the range-topping Golf cabriolet comes with its excellent fabric hood. Developed in partnership with Karmann, the electro-hydraulically operated structure opens at speeds of up to 31mph in just 9.0sec.Standard kit includes bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, a multi-function steering wheel, front sport seats, leather upholstery, climate control and parking sensors. Leading the options is an adaptive chassis control system providing variable damping in three distinct modes: Normal, Comfort and Sport.
Posted: 12 Feb 2013 02:23 AM PST
The topic of motorway tolling isn't going away, and we should fight it before it's too late
When I read The Sunday Times on good old-fashioned paper at the weekend, there was what seemed like an old story reheated, namely poll taxing the motorway.
Late last year there was a brief outbreak of 'Poll Tax on Wheels' headlines as proposals were being floated around as part of an overhaul of the motorway network.
It didn't cause that much of a stink then, what with Christmas and everything, but a slow burn on this story now seems to be filtering through to other papers and outlets. If it wasn't for the fact that our burgers now have added horse power, such a proposal should be nearer the top of the news agenda.
We really need to make a fuss about this: £150 is the figure that has been plucked out of the air, probably on the basis that driver's won't notice it that much. After all, it is not much more than a fill up and a half at the pumps, and not far off the £145 I have to pay to the BBC each year for some reason. Well if I don't, they will arrest, fine and possibly imprison me.
Now I don't need the BBC to survive, but the motorway is quite vital to my way of life and income. In that respect £150 isn't a lot. If I work a little bit harder, charge my customers an extra few quid then perhaps I'll make the money in no time. That is of course just what they want everyone to do. I don't want to pay any more to drive my car on badly maintained roads and neither do you.
The trouble is that if we all ignore this it won't go away. Indeed it will come to bite us very badly indeed, like the urban fox in your suburban garden with keys to the patio doors. Yes, news agendas are there to distract us from what's really going on, whether it is the killer NHS, or ways of squeezing more money out of drivers.
So who's written to their MP, made a banner or mixed the first Molotov?
Posted: 12 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST
The two-seat Alfa Romeo 4C will premiere at the Geneva motor show, two years after its debut in concept form
Fiat is relaunching the iconic Alfa Romeo brand with the new mid-engined, rear-drive Alfa 4C compact sports car. The stunning new lightweight model, seen here officially for the first time ahead of its Geneva motor show reveal next month, will be the first of a range of new Alfas over the next few years, and will spearhead the Italian firm's return to the US market.
The production two-seater 4C coupé, complete with its carbonfibre chassis, returns to the Geneva show two years after a concept of the same name was introduced.
Power for the new sub-1000kg model, which is tipped to cost less than £50,000 when it launches in the UK at the end of the year, comes from an all-aluminium turbocharged 1.7-litre engine. Alfa is keeping exact technical details of the 4C under wraps until Geneva on 5 March, only confirming figure being a power to weight ratio of less than 4kg for every 1bhp.
Information leaked by Alfa dealers in Switzerland suggests the 4C will be offered with 237bhp in its initial launch guise, which would mean the 4C would weigh 950kg, a figure that's likely given the concept weighed 850kg and a production-spec interior is now fitted. A 0-62mph time of around 4.5sec has been mooted, with a top speed limited to 155mph.
The four-cylinder engine known as 1750 TBi is familiar from recent Alfas, including the Giulietta, but the block is now cast aluminium instead of iron, saving around 25kg. The engine gets direct-injection, MultiAir dual continuous variable valve timing and a new scavenging system that "gets rid" of any turbo lag. Bespoke intake and exhaust systems have also been developed for the 4C.
The result of these technologies is an engine with the potential performance of a 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit, but with the fuel economy and CO2 emissions of a smaller four-cylinder engine.
The 1742cc engine powers the rear wheels through Alfa's own twin dry clutch automatic transmission, adapted from its application on the Giulietta and Mito. The transmission has a sequential mode that can be controlled through paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. No manual option will be offered.
Underpinning the 4C is a carbonfibre monocoque chassis, something previously reserved for supercars like the McLaren MP4-12C and only seen on a small number of sports cars at this price.
Tub-mounted aluminium frames carry the 4C's running gear and engine, with the front assembly carrying a double-wishbone, coil-sprung suspension set-up, and MacPherson strut suspension features at the rear.
Alfa's DNA driving mode selector also makes an appearance on the 4C with Dynamic, Natural and All Weather modes now being joined by a new track-focused Race mode.
Production of the 4C will start in the summer at Maserati's Modena plant, with 2500 units set to be the annual output from 2014. Europe and North America will get 1000 units per year each. The remaining 500 being distributed around the rest of Alfa's global markets.
This production run will include the other models in the 4C's range that the Swiss dealer source revealed. In 2014, a track-only Racing version of the car will be introduced, with a road-going Stradale version of that car set to follow with 266bhp. A convertible will crown the line-up later in 2014.
Posted: 12 Feb 2013 12:25 AM PST
In this week's Autocar magazine: BMW 3-series GT uncovered; Porsche Cayman S first drive; VW Polo GT tested; Mini JCW GP v Mini Hayabusa track test
Manufacturer imposed embargoes mean that we're going to have to keep you guessing on the identity of one of our cover star until Wednesday morning this week, but suffice to say that with the Geneva motor show just a matter of weeks away the wait for the first official pictures and details of some big-name cars is nearly over.
Even then, there's plenty of news to talk about, with the new, controversial BMW 3-series GT revealed, first exclusive details on a mooted new Lamborghini, news and a first look at the exciting new Alfa Romeo 4C, the first details on the VW Cross Up concept, a detailed look at the Citroën concept that hints at the new C4 Picasso and a host of first teaser images from the likes of Subaru and Suzuki.
The new Porsche Cayman dominates our first drive section, earning a rave billing on first acquaintance as the 'best driver's car on sale today'. The verdict, which heaps more pressure on the bigger but more expensive Jaguar F-type to deliver, may not be a surprise, but the extent to which the Cayman has been improved is.
The full eight-page road test pores over every nuance of the VW Polo BlueGT, analysing its broad capabilities of speed and frugality and answering whether such opposed merits really can be delivered by the same car.
Our lead feature pits the new Mini GP – billed by BMW as the fastest-ever Mini – against one we think is faster, the unhinged, race-bred Mini Hayabusa. This entertaining showdown challenges our road testers' bravery as much as it does analytical skills, as they take to the track to enjoy both cars.
We also investigate the technical challenges facing Formula 1 teams in 2014, and explore how the new turbocharged engine regulations have the capacity to turn the technical regulations – and formbook – on their head.
Meanwhile, we have secured the first look at secret pictures of a Saab that could have saved the company – and which was never built, as the company spiralled in to bankruptcy. The pictures show the mooted new 9-3 that was close to production when the company was closed down.
In our long-term test fleet reports Steve Cropley bids farewell to the Hyundai i30, we test our Renault Twizy (complete now with side windows) in the snow and report on life with the Jaguar XKR-S cabriolet, Ford Focus 1.0T and used BMW 728i.
Our used car content is led by a buying guide to the majestic but cheap VW Phaeton, with prices starting from £4000, James Ruppert casts a tempted eye over the VW Lupo city car, now available from £1000, and we ask you to dream (or perhaps not) and spend a £32,000 budget on either a new Nissan 370Z GT or used Lotus Evora.
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 11:00 PM PST
Range of downsized engines to feature in the next-generation Vauxhall Corsa
Early chassis mules of the next-generation Vauxhall Corsa have hit the road ahead of the supermini's expected launch in two years' time.
At first glance, the mule may look little more than an update of the current car, but the platform underneath is understood to be all new. The biggest tell-tale sign is how ill-fitting the rear wheels are within the bodywork.
The fifth-generation Corsa will be built on a General Motors platform rather than the underpinnings co-developed with PSA Peugeot-Citroën as part of the tie-up between the two firms. A development of the platform used for the new Vauxhall Mokka is the most likely choice.
The Astra GTC is expected to be the main inspiration for the styling of the new Corsa, particularly with the more rakish three-door model. Expect highly efficient, turbocharged, small-capacity petrol engines between 1.0 and 1.4 litres from Vauxhall's new Small Gasoline Engine (SGE) range alongside a frugal 1.6-litre diesel from Vauxhall's Mid-Size Diesel (MSD) family.
The Corsa had originally been tipped to be launched at the Frankfurt motor show in the autumn. But Vauxhall's recent onslaught of new models, plus how early in the development these mules indicate the car still is, make an early 2015 launch more likely, possibly after a reveal at next year's Paris show.
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 10:04 AM PST
New sub-£6,000 Volkswagen, designed for the Chinese market, has been confirmed for 2015.
Volkswagen boss, Martin Winterkorn has stated that production of a new super-budget car will start in 2015.
During an interview in a German magazine, Winterkorn said: "We are developing a budget car for the price range between €6000 and €7000. Some three million cars are sold in this segment each year in China alone."
The development of the new car, according to Winterkorn, won't be carried out entirely by Volkswagen. He told Der Speigel: "We have to adopt new methods. The base development will be carried out in Germany. What will it look like, what engines will it get. It will then be further developed in China with our partner and produced from 2015."
Keeping the cost of the car so low is only possible by building and partly engineering the car in a low-cost country, with both parts and materials also being sourced locally. It's likely existing Volkswagen technology will be used in the new budget car, further helping keep costs down.
Volkswagen's technical chief, Ulrich Hackenberg, has previously confirmed that the car will eventually come in different body styles. The car will be sold under a new brand name that is yet to be confirmed.
Currently Volkswagen is focusing on creating the first example of the super-budget car for China, where it would also be built. Hackenberg told Autocar the car wouldn't look cheap and it wasn't designed to simply fulfill the need for mobility.
"It has to have good styling and the owner should be able to upgrade the specification over time. The owner wants to be proud of the car."
Production of the new car, which is unlikely to come to the UK, is expected to begin in 2015. Initially only available in China, it may also later be offered in India.
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 03:53 AM PST
Quattroporte-based super-saloon slated for Shanghai debut in April
Maserati is poised to reveal its new BMW M5-rivalling saloon which will play a big part in helping increase sales eight-fold to 50,000 units by 2015.
The new saloon has already been named Ghibli and is pencilled-in for a reveal at the Shanghai motor show in April before going on sale at the end of the year, although a September reveal at the Frankfurt show has also been mooted should there be any late snags in development.
The Ghibli will join the new Quattroporte and existing GranTurismo and GranCabrio models in Maserati's line-up, which will swell further next year with the introduction of the Levante SUV, its probable future best-seller, and crowned potentially in 2015 with a new lightweight, high-performance sports car based on the Alfa Romeo 4C.
Maserati hopes these launches will help reach its 50,000-unit sales target, up from the 6288 sold last year, allowing it to become a more significant player with a much broader portfolio in the luxury performance market.
The Ghibli is targeted directly at the likes of the M5, Porsche Panamera and Jaguar XFR. It will be offered with twin-turbo V6 and V8 petrol engines and Maserati's first-ever diesel powerplant. The twin-turbo V6 oil-burner will give the company a rival to high-performance diesel versions of the 5 series, Panamera and Audi A6. Rear-wheel drive will be standard on the Ghibli, but all-wheel drive will be an option.
The car has been developed alongside the new, larger Quattroporte saloon, which was tested by Autocar last month. The pair were designed in-house at Maserati under the watch of highly-regarded design consultant Lorenzo Ramaciotti, who's responsible for a string of acclaimed Ferraris, rather than being outsourced to an external styling house.
The Ghibli, codenamed M157, will be based on a shrunken version of the Quattroporte's new steel platform. It is expected to measure around 4900mm in length ― some 300mm shorter than the new Quattroporte ― to put it on a par with the 5-series.
The two saloons will share components including the subframes and electrically adjustable suspension, but sources have revealed the Ghibli will be tuned to be a "much more aggressive car than the Quattroporte".
One of the biggest reasons for the increase in length of the new Quattroporte over the 5052mm long old model was to increase the legroom for rear passengers. Despite being shorter, rear legroom in the Ghibli is expected to be on a par with the old Quattroporte due to the superior packaging of the new rear-drive platform.
From launch, the base engine is expected to be a version of the Ferrari-designed and built twin-turbocharged direct-injection 3.0-litre V6 found in the Quattroporte. In the larger saloon, the engine produces 416bhp and 407lb ft, but the peak power figure is likely to be capped at 385bhp in the Ghibli.
The other petrol engine choice will be a version of the 3.8-litre V8 found in the Quattroporte. The twin-turbocharged direct-injection V8 is closely related to the V6. It too is designed and manufactured by Ferrari and produces 523bhp and 479lb ft in the Quattroporte. It's expected to be detuned to around 480bhp in the Ghibli.
The diesel engine's identity is unknown, but it is expected to be a highly tuned version of the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel unit already found in various Fiat Group products including the Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Sources have indicated that the engine and exhaust note will undergo extensive sound tuning to mask the characteristic diesel clatter, with a synthesised sound likely to be played into the cabin, too.
All engines will be hooked-up as standard to a ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters, and will have the option of all-wheel drive. However, with Maserati confirming the larger Quattroporte will not be built with all-wheel drive for right-hand drive markets, it is likely that only rear-drive versions of the Ghibli will be offered for sale in the UK.
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 02:36 AM PST
Holden's new luxury saloon will be sold in America as Chevrolet SS
Holden has revealed the most efficient and advanced iteration of its long-lived Commodore saloon. The VF-series Commodore, which was unveiled over the weekend, will go on sale in Australia this summer. It is also be launched in the United States, where it will be sold as the Chevrolet SS.
Holden hopes to broaden the appeal of the Commodore with the VF-series, which is essentially an extensive facelift of the outgoing VE-series car that has been offered since 2006. The Calais V model shown over the weekend will be the range flagship, offering a more luxurious Commodore range-topper than before.
Fuel efficiency was a priority for the Commodore project, assisted by a $39.8 million Federal Government grant through the Green Car Innovation Fund. To that end, the VE-series Commodore features electric power steering and weight-saving aluminium body panels.
More aerodynamic styling, achieved through extensive wind tunnel development, further boosts the efficiency of the new Commodore.
Holden is also introducing a raft of new safety and convenience measures on the new Commodore. The new car's features include Blind Spot Alert, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and a Head-Up Display. Ease-of-use measures include Auto Park Assist, keyless start and the MyLink multimedia system.
These new technologies dictated an extensive overhaul of the Commodore's interior. New instruments and trim materials feature, as well as chrome accents, ice blue ambient lighting and a revised centre console.
Holden is confident the new Commodore will bring new levels of luxury and refinement to the large-car market. Chairman and Managing Director of Holden Mike Devereux said the VF-series "is a class above" anything offered previously by an Australian firm and that it will "offer levels of quality and sophistication to rival some of the best cars in the world".
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 02:08 AM PST
The Peugeot Bipper Tepee, a people-carrier version of the firm's baby delivery van, impresses for space and economy but not for sophistication or pricing The Peugeot Bipper Teepee qualifies, arguably, as one of Europe's smallest people carriers since it is just under four metres long yet offers enough knee and headroom in the rear to accommodate – and provide easy access for – a couple of large adults, without unduly compromising the front package, and leaving decent space for four people's luggage.It is obviously related to a diminutive delivery van PSA shares with Fiat, but has two rear seats and sliding rear doors to make people the prime cargo. The French manufacturers discovered this van-based 'multispace' model a couple of decades ago and initially made a huge success of it with the Citroën Berlingo/Peugeot Partner. They have since split demand in two by making the latest Berlingo/Partner larger and more luxurious, and bringing the Bipper/Nemo in underneath.
Posted: 11 Feb 2013 12:33 AM PST
Fiat's 875cc city car, driven by two Brits, takes days off previous record times
A pair of British drivers have claimed two Guinness World Records by driving a Fiat Panda TwinAir from Cape Town to London. Philip Young and Paul Brace completed the 10,300 mile journey from South Africa to London yesterday when they arrived at Marble Arch.
Their journey began on 1 February, meaning a gruelling schedule of more than 1,000 miles a day for the duration of the attempt. Their overall journey time of 10 days, 13 hours and 28 minutes gives them two new world records; firstly, for Cape Town to London, which previously stood at 14 days, 19 hours and 26 minutes, and the London to Cape Town (any direction), which was 11 days, 14 hours and 11 minutes.
In their journey across Africa, Young and Brace became the first people to drive across a new land border between Sudan and Egypt and also the 1,000 miles along the top of Libya. These routes were specially opened for the pair; foreigners are currently prohibited as the risk of terrorist attacks is deemed too high.
Of the Panda, Young said it "has been great to drive... the two cylinder engine has run perfectly, it's great at overtaking and weaving through heavy traffic so the average speed can be kept up".
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