Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

New Alpina B3 Biturbo revealed

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 06:13 AM PST

First look at new BMW 3-series-based performance saloon ahead of Geneva motor show

Alpina has revealed its new Alpina B3 Biturbo ahead of the Geneva motor show.

The BMW 3-series-based model will reach the UK in the summer in both saloon and Touring body styles. Pricing is yet to be confirmed.

Power comes from a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine that produces 404bhp and 442lb ft of torque. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the engine helps propel the rear-drive B3 from 0-62mph in 4.2sec and onto a 190mph top speed.

Economy is rated at 37.2mpg and CO2 emissions are 177g/km in the saloon.

A host of familiar Alpina chassis and styling upgrades have also taken place on the B3 over the 3-series. An all-wheel-drive version of the B3 is also planned, but not in right-hand drive.

Chevrolet Captiva facelift set for Geneva motor show reveal

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 02:09 AM PST

Large SUV receives a mid-life refresh comprising cosmetic and equipment upgrades

Chevrolet will launch a revamped version of its Captiva at next week's Geneva motor show. The  SUV features a raft of cosmetic and equipment upgrades to keep it competitive in a crowded market sector.

From the front, the revised Captiva is marked out by restyled foglamps, a lower bumper and new grille. At the rear, chromed tailpipes and LED tail lights feature, alongside a redesigned bumper. The cosmetic makeover is completed by new 18in wheels.

The Captiva's interior features updated trims and fabrics, with leather upholstery and seven seats optional. New equipment on certain specifications includes keyless start, heated rear seats and dual-zone climate control.

This spring also sees the arrival of the Chevrolet Trax in Britain. The Vauxhall Mokka twin will be offered with either front- or four-wheel drive, and three engines. The 128bhp 1.7-litre diesel is expected to be the biggest seller in Britain, with the two petrol engines (a 1.4-litre turbo with 138bhp  and a 114bhp 1.6) claiming the rest.

The Trax will be offered with Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system, which streams smartphone content to a seven-inch touchscreen. It also offers compatibility with the iPhone Siri voice-assistance system.

Increased range for updated Nissan Leaf

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 12:00 AM PST

Leaf receives an array of updates, and new basic trim means entry-level car is only £20k

Nissan has extended the range and cut the price of its Leaf electric car as part of a host of changes for a new British-built version.

All cars for Europe will now be built at Nissan's plant in Sunderland, with deliveries expected in June.

There have been more than 100 changes over the previous Japanese-built model, including an increase in range from 109 miles to 124 miles.

Nissan has also tweaked the styling, improved the luggage capacity, boosted cold weather performance with a new heat pump, retuned the ride and handling and added an optional fast-charger that cuts recharge times from eight hours to four.

A new entry-level Visia trim should bring the price of the Nissan Leaf down closer to £20,000, including a £5000 government grant.


Range Rover Evoque to get nine-speed automatic gearbox

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 04:01 PM PST

Evoque will become first regular production car with advanced nine-speed gearbox

The Range Rover Evoque will be the first regular production car to be fitted with a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

The new ZF-supplied 9HP transmission initially will replace the existing six-speed unit across all-wheel-drive versions of the Evoque, with "significant improvements in fuel economy and a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions" promised.

The closer ratios are said to improve shift quality, refinement and acceleration response, and reduce noise at higher cruising speeds.

The top ratio in the torque converter gearbox is particularly tall to improve fuel economy, while the bottom ratio is much lower than that in the current six-speed unit to improve the Evoque's off-road ability.

A 'skip-shift' function is also included, so gears can be skipped under rapid deceleration or firmer throttle use. The gearbox can also recognise driving styles and detect when more urgent shifts are required or when a relaxed shifting style is desired.

The Range Rover Evoque's new gearbox is 6mm longer but it weighs 7.5kg less than the outgoing six-speed transmission. It will premiere at the Geneva motor show next week.


New Volkswagen Golf GTI revealed

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 03:00 PM PST

Mk7 version of the GTI to be offered with 217bhp or 227bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine

Volkswagen has made its new Golf GTI Mk7 faster and more powerful than ever, ahead of its UK launch in June.

The final specification of the production car has now been confirmed ahead of its Geneva motor show launch next week, and the hot hatch is nearly identical to the 'concept' version shown last autumn.

Two versions of the car will be offered: a 217bhp standard car and a 227bhp Performance Package version, a first for the Golf GTI. A turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with 258lb ft is used in both cars.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard in both cars, with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic available as an option. The standard GTI can crack 0-62mph in 6.5sec and reach a 153mph top speed. 

Both cars share the same 47.1mpg combined economy, 139g/km CO2 emissions and 1276kg kerb weight.

The Performance Package cuts 0.1sec off the 0-62mph time and adds 2mph at the top end.

The GTI gets a lowered sports chassis, twin exhaust tailpipes, 17-inch 'Brooklyn' alloys and a body kit with wider sills and integrated rear diffuser. Cabin features include a sports steering wheel and pedals, plus traditional plaid sports seats.

Standard models get 314mm ventilated front discs and 300mm rear unventilated discs. Performance Package versions feature ventilated disc brakes all round, 342mm at the front and 310mm at the rear.

Prices for the new VW Golf GTI are yet to be confirmed but are expected to start at around £26,000 for the three-door manual version and £27,500 for the DSG-equipped version.

Five-door models will likely command a premium of around £650, while the Performance Package should cost in the region of £1,000.

Volkswagen has also confirmed the specification of a new GTD model, which largely shares its looks with the GTI. Power comes from a 181bhp, 280lb ft 2.0 TDI engine.

Equipped with a standard six-speed manual gearbox, it can crack 0-62mph in 7.5sec on its way to a 137mph top speed. Combined economy is rated at 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions are just 109g/km.

Mini Paceman John Cooper Works first drive review

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 01:35 PM PST

The fastest variant in the Mini Paceman coupé range uses Countryman underpinnings and delivers 215bhp and 206lb ft. For the time being, at least, try not to be too perturbed by the new Mini Paceman John Cooper Works' bizarre styling or its eye-wateringly high price.Because, beneath its monster-truck-like bodywork and £29,535 price tag, it's a decent enough car to drive, one whose four-wheel-drive system and clever electric clutch endow it with more on-road dexterity than the Mini has had at any time in its 54-year history.It's quick(ish), too, thanks to the fitment of the now familiar 1.6-litre, 215bhp turbocharged engine that powers the front wheels in the Mini JCW hatchback, and all four wheels in the Mini Countryman, the car with which the Paceman shares just about all its basic underpinnings. Mini claims a 0-60mph time of 6.9sec and a top speed of 140mph, with close to 40mpg economy in the real world. But what truly distinguishes the Paceman above and beyond its myriad brethren, says Mini, is its go-anywhere ability. This is the direct result of its new four-wheel-drive system, which can aim anything up to 100 per cent of drive at either axle, front or rear, thanks to that brainy electronic clutch.

Volvo: can you tell what it is yet?

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 11:10 AM PST

Volvo is embarking on another global re-launch, but it can't succeed until it really decides on what it stands for

If I was asked to define the biggest hurdle facing Volvo, it's not that the company has an image problem, it's that it has a problem with its image. Volvo, you might argue, has a brand image that it as fixed and unyielding as the Swedish way of doing things.

As General Motors found with its disastrous ownership of Saab, the Swedes are doggedly determined to do things their own way, convinced that everyone will eventually come around to their point of view. While this makes for a smooth-running society, it makes things difficult when you are trying to sell cars to the rest of the world.

To be fair, when Volvo does occasionally do something unexpected, it doesn't always get the deserved reaction. Twenty years ago, when the company wiped the slate clean and re-launched itself with the 850-series, which was front-drive and powered by five-cylinder engines, it also launched the T5 and T5R high-performance estates. In the UK, where Volvo's staid image is hardest to shift, the company even raced 850 estate cars in the British Touring Car Championship.

When the tyre dust cleared, Volvo's image as the manufacturer of solid, very safe but unexciting family cars had hardly changed. When the pretty C30 arrived, Volvo's UK dealers found it attracted potential buyers who then couldn't bring themselves to sign on the dotted line. It seemed few wanted to explain to their neighbours why they had bought a non-family Volvo, such is the entrenched view of the brand in the UK.

The XC90 was a different issue all together. It offered seven seats, safety and SUV sex appeal in a package that plenty of people could see themselves owning. Parked outside your house, the XC90 spoke for itself. As did the XC60, currently the company's best-selling model.

Last year I volunteered for a market research programme looking into premium automotive brands and I spent some time waffling into a video camera about Volvo's great opportunity to change its image once and for all. With the success of the various XC models, surely Volvo could sell itself as the sort of car bought by the sort of outdoor enthusiast who spent good money on high-end skis or a range-topping mountain bike? Aim for the people who have a £250 Gore-Tex jacket, I said.

Regardless of my advice, I was amazed to see the 2014-model XC60 last week in Gothenburg. It had been stripped of its cladding and rugged appeal and is now painted all one colour and wears a large chrome strip on its lower doors. 'The new XC60 has an urban twist' said the designer. 'It is city sleek. We have taken it out of the forest.'

Why? Volvo bosses told me that the change was 'demanded by customers' which made no sense to me as it had become the company's best-seller in the guise of a rugged SUV. '95 percent of drivers never go off-road' they said. In reality, perhaps we are seeing the influence of the huge Chinese market, where drivers rarely venture out of their own megacity.

Sadly, Volvo did not get lifted up in the premium brand boom of the last 15 years and currently sells 420,000 cars globally - a stark contrast to Audi's 1.45m or so. Volvo wants to hit 800,000 units shortly after 2020. There's no reason why not because, for my money, Volvos are premium-level vehicles. But until Volvo really decides who and what it is about, progress will continue to be slow.

Nissan expands Nismo operations with new facility

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 08:44 AM PST

New headquarters and development centre in Yokohama for Nissan's performance-orientated Nismo brand

Nissan has unveiled a brand new facility for its performance and motorsports brand Nismo.

It was opened by Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, who was delighted to welcome the new sector of the business: "Whether it's a small car or a sports car, if it's wearing the Nismo badge it offers something special — quality, functionality, and efficiency, with Nismo's distinctive styling, sporty handling and dynamic performance capabilities."

The entirely new facility is based in a former production site, giving Nismo the resources to develop road cars alongside Nissan. It also allows the Nismo team to be located in one building, bringing all the expertise under one roof.

A new larger showroom allows up to eight vehicles to be displayed, with the retail area now being almost twice the size of the previous store in the Omori factory.

It won't just be retail vehicles that are manufactured by Nismo, as various Nissan racing cars will also be handcrafted at the factory.

This new move is hoped to push Nismo into a wider market, so it can compete with special editions of its rivals' cars, like BMW's M cars and Mercedes' AMG derivatives.

"This is a great move for Nismo as we can now shift gears to operate more efficiently and expand the brand globally," explained Nismo President, Shoichi Miyatani.

Currently Nissan offers Nismo versions of its Juke and 370Z. A Nismo version of Nissan's GT-R has just been announced.

Aidan Rennie-Jones

Fiat 500L 1.6 MultiJet 105hp Lounge first drive review

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 08:40 AM PST

Fiat applies the 500 treatment to a mini-MPV, with largely successful results This new Fiat 500L mini-MPV marks the start of a Mini-style expansion for the Fiat 500 range. The five-seat 500L, as the name suggests, is essentially an enlarged version of the 500 city car formula, keeping the style and customisation potential but with added space and practicality.The idea goes that Fiat 500 buyers have nowhere to go when they need something bigger due to, say, an expanding family. And Fiat's research suggests that there is nothing on the market to cater for style-savvy mums who want everything you'd expect of a mini-MPV – a big boot, flexible seating etc – but in a more stylish and desirable package.Think you've heard this before? Well, Mini said something similar with the Countryman, but whereas that car is billed as a mini-SUV, the 500L is very much a mini-MPV. Fiat will soon have an answer to the Countryman with a new mini-SUV called 500X, while a seven-seat XL version of the 500L is also in development.The 500L goes on sale in the UK next month with the choice of two petrol and two diesel engines. This is our first steer in the 500L on UK soil, and the first chance we've had to sample the 500L equipped with the range-topping 104bhp 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel engine.

Nissan to return to Le Mans

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 08:07 AM PST

All-electric contender planned for 2014 Le Mans race

Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn has announced that the manufacturer is to return to the Le Mans 24-hour race with a pioneering new car.

The new team will be lead by Nissan's in-house tuning specialists and global motorsport performance arm, Nismo. The car will be all-electric and it is expected to compete in 2014.

Ghosn also said that: "A new approach to innovation and excitement will be at the project's core''. The car will have "all-new" electric technology and will explore innovative new powertrain designs as well.

Carlos Ghosn went on to say: "We will return to Le Mans with a vehicle that will act as a high-speed test bed in the harshest of environments for both our road car and race-car electric-vehicle technology,"

The new project follows the Nissan DeltaWing, an experimental race car, which competed in the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Nissan has also recently revealed that Nismo will develop the "ultimate" version of its GT-R.

Aidan Rennie-Jones

Quick news: New Audi A3 engine, Caterham's relocation, Fiat 500 GQ Edition

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 08:00 AM PST

Entry-level 1.2 TFSI for A3, Caterham moves from its home town, Fiat and GQ magazine collaborate

The Caterham showroom, in the Surrey town the firm is named after, has closed down after the land it occupied was sold. The garage will temporarily relocate to Three Bridges before another permanent facility is built. It will be larger to accommodate Caterham's imminent range expansion.

Audi has added a frugal new petrol engine to the A3 range. The 1.2 TFSI boasts a claimed 57.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 114g/km. Power and torque figures are 104bhp and 129lb ft respectively. Available with a manual or dual-clutch transmission, the A3 1.2 TFSI costs from £17,905.

Fiat will launch a special edition 500 at the Geneva motor show. The GQ edition, created with the men's fashion magazine, will be offered with three petrol and one diesel engine. It comes with two-tone grey and black paint, unique 16in alloy wheels and GQ badging inside and out.

New Formula E series to use all-electric F1 cars

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 07:09 AM PST

Spark Racing Technology teams up with Italian engineering company Dallara to produce electric F1 car chassis

Spark Racing Technology has announced a step up of its involvement in the future technology of FIA Formula E cars for the World Championship.

The company has joined forces with Italian giant Dallara to design a new monocoque chassis for an upcoming electric F1 racing car, expected to debut in 2014. This new E series of Formula racers will be solely powered by electric motors.

Frédéric Vasseur, President of Spark Racing Technology and boss of the ART Grand Prix outfit, said: "Dallara has accompanied me throughout my professional life and it is with great pleasure that Spark Racing Technology will join him and benefit from his expertise and know-how, something that will be essential for this new exciting adventure".

Gian Paolo Dallara, the president of Dallara added: "We have been cooperating with Frédéric Vasseur for more than 20 years and with his passion and competence he brought our cars to victory in many prestigious championships."

The motorsport design and engineering company, Dallara, is well known for its extensive history in this sector of the marke,t since its establishment by Gian Paolo Dallara over 40 years ago.

"We are confident that the combined expertise of Dallara and Spark Racing Technology will be key to achieving the demanding targets in this brand new field of motorsport."

Aidan Rennie-Jones

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