Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

VW Golf R cabriolet – more expensive than a Porsche Boxster

Posted: 13 Feb 2013 05:09 AM PST

A Porsche Boxster can be bought for less money than a Golf R cabrio. What other soft-tops can be had for the money?

The new Volkswagen Golf R cabriolet costs from £38,770. That's right, £38,770. And for a car based on the previous Golf VI underpinnings, rather than the shiny new MQB structure of the Golf VII.

That price makes it more expensive than a Porsche Boxster, which starts from £37,589. I'll just say that again: the Volkswagen Golf R cabriolet costs more than a Porsche Boxster, arguably the finest open-top sports car around.

In my opinion, there's no justification for VW's ludicrous pricing policy here; the argument that they appeal to different buyers doesn't really cut it when the main reason for purchase is that you want something fast, sporty and with a fabric roof. Practical considerations are very much secondary.

The Boxster is not the only cabriolet the Golf R outprices. If you fancy something bigger but still with four-wheel drive, then there's the Audi A5 2.0 TFSI Quattro. You can also get change from £36,660 BMW 325i cabriolet and not have to stretch too much further to get a £40,225 330i cabriolet.

Don't fancy the 3-series? You can have a top-of-the-range, all-bells-and-whistles 302bhp BMW 135i Sport Plus Edition for £36,125. Or a BMW Z4 with the same 302bhp 3.0-litre engine will set you back £39,740.

I could go on: a fully loaded Mazda MX-5, any Lotus Elise, a highly equipped Mercedes SLK, an entry-level Mercedes E-class cabriolet and a top-spec Nissan 370Z roadster GT are all well within reach.

VW has priced the Golf R cabriolet up against a whole host of bigger, faster, more luxurious and, going by Greg Kable's initial impressions of the car, better rivals that it looks rather foolish against when compared with directly.

Boxster and more than £1000 of change, or a Golf? For me it is no contest, but what do you think?

Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI first drive review

Posted: 13 Feb 2013 05:04 AM PST

This is Mercedes' most extensive facelift of the E-class saloon. How does it shape up on the road? Six decades and 13 million customers later and the E-class still sits "at the centre of the Mercedes brand" accorging to Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche. It remains one of the company's biggest selling cars, with the sales it has lost to SUVs and crossovers in Europe and America more than compensated for by demand in emerging markets. It's a vital model, which is why this W212-generation E-class has received the most extensive facelift in its history, and why it's also showcasing some technologies that will shortly appear on the new S-class. This 11-strong bundle of features, now collectively labeled 'Intelligent Drive', majors on expanding the capabilities of the firm's active safety systems. A new stereo camera can see obstacles 50 metres away, including pedestrians, while other systems include lane-keeping that can detect and avoid oncoming traffic in an adjacent lane, and braking assist that can detect oncoming traffic from side roads.The rest of the facelift content includes tidier styling that does without the strange swellings in the rear wings of the previous model, new grille designs, more equipment (but a sizeable price increase to go with it) and a simplified range offering a choice of SE or AMG Sport trims and front-end stylings for the six engines on offer in addition the E63 AMG.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2WD 2.2 CRDi first drive review

Posted: 13 Feb 2013 04:03 AM PST

The two-wheel-drive Hyundai Santa Fe is a sensible, lower-priced option for those who don't need four-wheel drive in their lives There is now another reason to consider the already-successful Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, because the Korean manufacturer is offering a two-wheel drive version for the first time.That's permanent two-wheel drive, of course, because on four-wheel-drive versions, power only gets transferred to the rear axle during adverse road conditions, so Santa Fes that spend their days on shopping expeditions rather than Arctic ones are operating predominantly in front-wheel drive anyway.We were very impressed with the Hyundai Santa Fe's all-round abilities when we road tested the four-wheel-drive version late last year. We found it mixed a little bit of quality, desirability and dynamism with the versatility and practicality for which we loved the previous-generation car.The two-wheel-drive version aims to build on those attributes. Available in five or ultra-practical seven-seat configuration but only in the base 'Style' trim level and with a manual six-speed gearbox, this Santa Fe is powered by the range's only engine, a 2.2-litre oil-burner with 194bhp and 311 lb ft.The five-seat Santa Fe offers 585 litres of luggage space with the rear seats up and 1680 litres with them folded. The seven-seater adds a pair of fold-flat seats (which are adequate for children but slightly cramped for adults) and the boot capacities fall to 516 and 1615 litres.Calling the Style trim level 'base' is probably a misnomer, for it is well equipped and includes 18in alloys, heated front seats, air-con, privacy glass, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control as standard. Our five-seat test car adds just one option, metallic paint at £495.

New Mazda 3 - first pics

Posted: 13 Feb 2013 03:49 AM PST

First spy pictures of Mazda's new Volkswagen Golf rival in testing

The all-new Mazda 3 has been spied for the first time ahead of its official reveal later this year.

The new five-door hatchback looks to have adopted the styling cues from the Mazda 6 and CX-5 models, judging by these spy images of the new model undergoing testing in the US.

Mazda's Volkswagen Golf rival will switch to the firm's modular SkyActiv underpinnings for its third generation. The scalable steel spaceframe technology can be used to underpin anything from a Golf-sized hatchback to a full-sized SUV, and the new Mazda 3 will be the third model to be spun off the platform after the 6 and CX-5.

Sources have previously revealed that the new Mazda 3 will weigh 100kg less than the model it replaces, despite slightly increased dimensions. This is not only down to the lighter chassis, but also the lightweight engines and transmissions also launched under the SkyActiv banner.

The weight loss, in combination with eco tech including an advanced stop-start system, should make the Mazda 3 one of the lightest cars in its class.

The engines currently launched under the SkyActiv banner are a 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre diesel, both available in the 6 and CX-5. These engines are likely to be offered in the 3, too, but expect yet-to-be-confirmed downsized SkyActiv engines, including a 1.6-litre diesel, to make up the bulk of European sales.

A four-door saloon version of the Mazda 3 is also planned for markets, including North America.

The new Mazda 3 had been expected to be revealed at the New York motor show later next month, but it's now been put on hold until later in the year, possibly at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

PSA reveals £4.3bn loss

Posted: 13 Feb 2013 03:34 AM PST

PSA group losses stand at £4.3bn for 2012, with automotive revenue falling by 10.3 per cent

PSA Peugeot Citroën has announced it lost €5bn in 2012, largely due to a €4.7bn write down on assets. The loss compares with a €588m profit in 2011.

Group revenues fell 5.2 per cent to €55.4bn, while the automotive division's revenues finished the year down 10.3 per cent.

Last summer, PSA revealed a programme to cut costs, which included the planned closure of the firm's Aulnay plant, which had been running under capacity for some time.

Despite the Aulnay closure being delayed due to union action, PSA said that it is on-track to exceed its €1.2bn cost-reduction programme. It also plans to dispose of assets worth €2bn and reduce its inventory.

Philippe Varin, PSA managing board chairman said: "The Group's 2012 results reflect the deteriorated environment in the automotive sector in Europe. In this context we have taken the difficult but necessary measures to reorganise our manufacturing base in France."

PSA underlined its commitment to the alliance with GM. Varin said: "The foundations for our rebound have been laid. We are going to build on the strong identity of our brands and differentiate their customer territories. We are going to focus our investments, actively restore our profitability in Europe and reap the benefits from our investments in growing markets."

The group reduced net debt by €211m to €3.1bn, while the automotive division saw debt fall by €712m to €1.25bn.

PSA said its hopes for the coming year have been buoyed by the Peugeot 208 becoming the biggest seller in its class in December and the firm reaching second position in the European hybrid car market.

Vauxhall Adam sales begin strongly

Posted: 13 Feb 2013 02:12 AM PST

More than half of the UK's Vauxhall Adam allocation has been pre-sold, despite deliveries not starting until March

More than 4000 Vauxhall Adams have already been ordered in the UK, despite the first cars only coming down the production line just over a month ago and deliveries not due to begin until next month. That is more than half the allocation expected to be given to the UK to sell this year.

With demand across Europe strong for the Adam, and only the Eisenach factory in Germany equipped to build the highly bespoke car, demand is expected to outstrip supply during its first year on sale.

"The amount of interest is incredibly encouraging," said a Vauxhall spokesman. "The level of individuality people can specify seems to have caught the imagination, and we're more than confident of achieving our sales goals in the UK."

Vauxhall says there are more than four billion different ways of specifying the Adam, made up of 60,000 exterior combinations and 40,000 interior combinations. Among the more unexpected options are a sky-coloured roofliner, or a roofliner fitted with LEDs.

"The focus is on making these cars personal," said the spokesman. "We've worked hard to keep costs sensible and, while there's still a big job to do, we are in there fighting with the Fiat 500 and Mini."

The Eisenach factory has been kitted out to build each Adam order on a bespoke basis, meaning that building each car shouldn't take longer than standard. "From the first pressings, we know exactly what's destined to go on each car," said the spokesman, "There's no room for error, and we're geared up for supplying exactly what the customer wants."


Mitsubishi to launch new hybrid concepts at Geneva

Posted: 13 Feb 2013 01:59 AM PST

Mitsubishi GR-HEV pick-up and CA-MiEV crossover further advance hybridisation plans for range

Mitsubishi is to continue with its plan of range hybridisation and electrification with two concepts at the Geneva motor show The GR-HEV pick-up and CA-MiEV crossover will be exhibited alongside the recently launched Outlander PHEV range-extender SUV hybrid.

The two Geneva stars follow Mitsubishi's announcement on its range overhaul last summer. It pledged that all its models would be refreshed between then and 2016 with new drivetrains comprising either full-electric or plug-in hybrid technology. The Outlander PHEV was the first step and these concepts look set to advance it further.

The GR-HEV pick-up comprises an ultra-efficient diesel engine with an electric motor, deemed the most appropriate powertrain given the rigorous demands placed on commercial vehicles. The GR-HEV is four-wheel drive and features Mitsubishi's Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) for stability and traction. It has a payload of one tonne and is expected to deliver CO2 emissions of under 149g/km.

Billed as a 'Suburban EV', the CA-MiEV builds on the experience Mitsubishi has gained from global trials of the i-MiEV city car. The concept is Mitsubishi's showcase of various new electric vehicle technologies, since it sees the CA-MiEV as an electric car with a truly usable range. With next generation EV systems, high-density batteries and sleek aerodynamics, a range of 300km (186 miles) is claimed.

Toyota Auris Icon 1.4D4D T+G first drive review

Posted: 13 Feb 2013 01:43 AM PST

The new Toyota Auris is super-rational and likely to be a good ownership proposition, but lacks character and is dynamically behind the class best This is the new Toyota Auris which, according to Toyota's PR blurb, promises a "stronger emotional appeal". The company says it recognises that Toyota has always been a "rational choice" for customers, but promises this car is for "people who want to feel more connected to their car through the way it looks and drives".The Auris's styling is a good deal more modern than that of its predecessor (and quite slippy, with a drag coefficent of 0.277), although you'd be hard pressed to immediately identify the brand behind it. It's based on the same platform as the previous model, with the same 2.6m wheelbase. At a touch under 4.3m long, the Auris is one of the shortest cars in the Focus class.It's decently spacious in the front, so there's a lot to be said for the Auris's compact package, especially in urban areas. Boot space – at 350-litres – is class average, although the false boot floor (which allows a flat loading bay when the rear seats are folded down) makes it harder to exploit. The new front seats have impressively supportive and upright backs and the driving position is sound.The least enticing aspect of the Auris is probably the remarkably upright cliff-face dash, which is surprisingly intrusive and does little for what interior ambience the car possesses. The rest of the cabin – such as the centre console arrangement – is all perfectly logical and tightly screwed together, but the cabin complete lacks any kind of design flair or spark.

Chevrolet Spark EV set for European debut at Geneva

Posted: 13 Feb 2013 01:34 AM PST

All-electric version of Chevy Spark city car to be offered in some European markets

The Chevrolet Spark EV, an all-electric compact car, will be on display at this year's Geneva motor show fresh from its international debut at the LA motor show last November.

Reputedly powered by the most advanced electric motor and battery system General Motors has ever built, the Spark EV is claimed to set the performance benchmark for electric city cars.

The Spark EV's electric motor produces a useful 128bhp and a substantial 400lb ft. This allows the Chevrolet to go from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds. 

Power is sourced from a lithium-ion battery system that features active liquid cooling and heating to optimise its capacity and life.

Chevrolet hasn't disclosed the Spark EV's potential range yet, but a fast-charging system allows the car to be charged to 80 per cent in 20 minutes. 

Susan Docherty, president and managing director of Chevrolet and Cadillac Europe, said: "Just like Volt, this nimble battery-powered vehicle is a proof point for Chevrolet's ingenuity in delivering smart mobility solutions."

Inside the Spark features a pair of seven-inch full colour LCD screens, one which functions as the instrument cluster and the other as the interface for the Spark's media systems and climate control.

Chevrolet's Spark EV will also feature GM's MyLink system, allowing drivers to connect smartphones to the car for music playback, internet connectivity and navigation. A rear-view camera is also fitted as standard.

With more conventional looks and improved performance, the Spark EV will likely make an appealing alternative to other small electric cars, such as the Citroën C-Zero and the Mitsubishi i-Miev.

The Spark EV is predicted to cost less than $32,500 (£20,737) in the US before incentives. It will also be sold in selected European countries that have a growing EV market.

Audi S3 Sportback unveiled

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 03:01 PM PST

New version of Audi's performance-orientated A3 revealed ahead of Geneva motor show

Audi has lifted the veil on the second-generation S3 Sportback, revealing the new performance hatchback in a series of official photographs ahead of its planned public debut at the Geneva motor show in early March.

As expected, Ingolstadt's keenly awaited five-door hatchback adopts the same engine and gearbox combination as its three-door sibling revealed last September, endowing it with higher levels of performance and greater overall efficiency. 

With added competition in the form of the BMW M135i hatchback and Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, however, Audi is not going to have it all its own way in the premium performance hatchback market. 

Power hails from the latest evolution of Audi's widely used EA888 engine. The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct injection petrol unit produces 296bhp, providing it with a specific power output of 149bhp per litre. Torque peaks at 280lb ft on a band of revs from 1800 to 5500rpm, representing a 35bhp and 22lb ft increase on the older EA113 engine used by its predecessor. 

The new engine is described as Audi's most advanced four-cylinder production car engine to date. It runs 1.2 bar of turbocharger boost pressure, twin counterbalancing rotation shafts, a two-stage valve lift system with 30deg of camshaft adjustment on the inlet side and 60deg on the exhaust side, a new injection system to deliver fuel to each cylinder depending on throttle load and a 6800rpm redline. It's also claimed to weigh 5kg less than the engine it replaces.

As with its predecessor, the new S3 Sportback receives a standard six-speed manual gearbox and Haldex-style multi-plate clutch four-wheel-drive system. A six-speed dual-clutch automatic S-tronic gearbox with remote steering wheel mounted shift paddles continues to be available as an option.  

Clothed in a body that uses extensive amounts of aluminium, the new Audi is claimed to possess a kerb weight that undercuts the second-generation model by an impressive 70kg, at 1445kg, providing it with a power-to-weight ratio of 136bhp per tonne. 

Audi quotes a 0-62mph time of just 5.0sec with the optional S-tronic gearbox, which includes a launch control system to limit slip under hard acceleration. With the standard six-speed manual, it requires 5.5sec.

These are improvements of 0.6sec and 0.3sec over the first-generation S3 Sportback introduced back in 2008. Top speed in each case is an electronically limited 155mph, or the same as before. 

The added performance is achieved with a reduction in fuel consumption; the new S3 returns an official 41mpg on the European test cycle in six-speed S-tronic guise. In six-speed manual form it is rated at 40.4mpg. 

The new S3 Sportback is the latest model to use the Volkswagen Group's new modular transverse MQB platform. Among its developments is a new front end architecture, with the front axle moved 52mm further forward compared with the previous model and the engine tilted back by 12deg towards the bulkhead for improved weight distribution. 

Up front is a new MacPherson strut suspension. The rear receives a revised version of its predecessor's four-link suspension. The nominal ride height is reduced by 25mm over the A3 Sportback, while the standard wheels are 18-inch in diameter and come shod with 225/40 profile tyres.

Standard equipment includes Audi Drive Select. It enables the driver to alter the characteristics of the throttle, shift points of the optional seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and the steering ratio. Heading the options is magnetic ride control, which uses an electromagnetic system to providing constantly variable damper rates. 

The upgraded performance also sees the fitment of larger brakes, with 340mm discs sited up front. The traditional cable-operated handbrake has been replaced by an electro-mechanical device operated by a button on the centre console, in line with lesser A3 Sportback models. 

As with the previous S3 Sportback, the new model receives a rather cautious appearance that eschews some of the more flamboyant performance car touches of rival hot hatchbacks. Many of the visual changes have already been previewed on the S-line styling package available for the recently introduced second-generation A3 Sportback.

Among them is a beefed-up grille with an aluminium-look finish to the frame and horizontal elements, larger front air ducts with honeycomb-shaped inserts within a reshaped front bumper, aluminium look exterior mirror housings, widened sills, roof rails, a prominent spoiler atop the tailgate, a deeper rear bumper with a prominent diffuser element and a quartet of chromed oval tail pipes. Discreet 'S3' badges also adorn the grille and tailgate.

The new Audi S3 Sportback is due to go on sale in September. UK prices are yet to be confirmed but expect the new S3 to cost around £34,200.

Mercedes A45 AMG to be world’s hottest hatch

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 09:31 AM PST

New 355bhp Mercedes A45 AMG will be the world's most powerful production hot hatch, offering 0-62mph in 4.6sec and priced from about £36k

This is the new Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, the firm's first hot hatch and, with 355bhp, the most powerful production hot hatch ever built. It will enable AMG and Mercedes to enter a new market as both firms attempt to attract younger buyers.  

The A45 AMG will provide Mercedes with a rival for the likes of the BMW M135i and the next-gen Audi RS3, a sector in which the firm has never traditionally competed. 

Based on the new A-class, the A45 marks the first time that AMG has produced anything smaller than the C-class, previously always its entry-level model and the vehicle that AMG boss Ola Kallenius describes as the firm's "bread and butter car". 

The A45 will be significantly cheaper than the £58,000 C63. It will be priced at around £36,000, pitching it slightly above the M135i but below the next Audi RS3.

The A45 uses a four-cylinder engine, a first for an AMG-built car. It is a 1991cc turbocharged petrol with the highest specific output of any 2.0-litre engine yet fitted to a production car, developing 355bhp at 6000rpm and 332lb ft from 2750rpm to 5000rpm. Achieving the highest specific output was one of the goals of the A45 AMG project. 

The A45 AMG is very much a bespoke car, unlike previous AMG-badged A-classes, which were essentially just trim and suspension upgrades. The all-aluminium engine, which uses a unique sand-cast block and a large twin-scroll turbo, is a new unit developed by AMG that will also be used in the forthcoming CLA 45. Each engine is handbuilt at AMG's Affalterbach plant by a single technician, in keeping with AMG's "one man, one engine" philosophy. 

The high specific output is made possible by high cylinder pressures and advanced spray direct injection, which also helps to make the engine more efficient. Mercedes claims 34mpg and 161g/km of CO2, helped by the standard stop-start and alternator disconnect. It will reach 62mph in 4.6sec while top speed is limited to 155mph. 

AMG decided early in the car's development that the A45 had to be four-wheel drive. The car uses an AMG-tweaked 4Matic drivetrain, with Mercedes' new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, reworked to handle the power and torque outputs and capable of splitting drive equally between the axles. This is the first time the gearbox has been combined with four-wheel drive. 

The transmission has three modes — Controlled Efficiency, Sport and Manual — and the ESP stability system can be turned off altogether or switched to Sport. 

A new braking system has been fitted, with drilled 350mm by 32mm discs at the front and 330mm by 22mm at the back. The steering has also been retuned, while the suspension components have been heavily upgraded with lower, tauter springs and dampers and firmer bushings. The engine's cooling system uses technology developed for the SLS supercar. 

The car's exterior receives plenty of AMG upgrades. A deep front splitter and an AMG-specific radiator grille come finished in matt grey, while the air intakes and sill skirts are finished in gloss black, as are the door mirrors. 

The A45 rides on grey 18-inch alloy wheels fitted with 235/40 tyres. 

Inside, the standard Mercedes front seats have been replaced by a set of thin-shell AMG seats, which will be standard kit on UK cars, and the instrument cluster has been swapped for AMG's own design. The A-class's 'eyeball' air vents have red bezels and the seatbelts are also red. 

Optional upgrades include a carbonfibre package, which replaces the front splitter, sill inserts and rear bumper trim with carbonfibre items. Red brake calipers and 19-inch wheels are also optional. 

Performance upgrades include a new exhaust system, lower and stiffer springs and dampers, and various aerodynamic extras, including a rear wing and a larger front splitter that, the firm claims, improve downforce. 

According to Kallenius, the A45 AMG is aimed at buyers in their 30s and 40s who are after a car that combines "performance and technology" and are "successful early in their careers". He also said that it could appeal to AMG's more traditional, older customers who were looking for a small, fun car. During its development the A45 was shown to S63 owners, at the opposite end of the AMG ownership scale to potential A45 buyers, to gauge their opinion. Their reaction, Kallenius said, was favourable. 

The A45 AMG will get its first public outing at the Geneva motor show next month and it will go on sale in the UK in July. 

Dan Stevens

Fiat Panda secures Cape Town-London world records

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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