Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Toyota GT86 GT4 racer revealed

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 03:39 AM PST

A competition version of the Toyota GT86 has been completed ahead of its entry in the GT4 championship

The first Toyota GT86 GT4 racer is to begin testing ahead of its entry into the European GT4 championship in May.

The car, built by Buckingham-based motor sport specialists GPRM, features a specially developed version of the GT86's 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine, designed and built by Nicholson McLaren. GPRM director Gary Blackham said the engine "will be capable of between 360 and 400bhp".

GPRM's GT86 is described as a "cost-efficient, entry-level endurance car". The firm has already taken one order for the new car and is in talks with another team in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship.

Toyota confirmed the new car is not a works effort, but Toyota GB will provide technical support.

Lawrence Allan


Whatever happened to free speech?

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 03:27 AM PST

A different opinion doesn't mean a wrong opinion, especially where electric cars are concerned

As a journalist you wouldn't be doing your job properly if some people didn't get a little cross and upset with what you wrote.

Over the years I've had a government minister on the phone telling me off for telling readers what cars he drove. I've also been sued for defamation by an ex-TV presenter, although luckily for my bank balance I proved what I said was fair comment. Then there have been a few owners' clubs and special interest groups who haven't shared my sense of humour.

What I have noticed, though, is that it is possible to get into trouble for simply having a different opinion. An opinion, based on facts, that differs from the prevailing norm, can cause, well, outrage.

To cut a long story in half, I could be described as an electric vehicle denier. On the radio the other day I found myself giving the opposing view to a man who makes the charging points for EVs. My point was that a year after installation, many of the charging points hadn't been used or were rarely used. He said it was okay because there is a subsidy to put them up. Obviously I saw a problem with that, and just how much the whole electric car lark actually costs.

The consequence was that a few days after the radio appearance I had become a figure of some online abuse. Luckily my haters couldn't spell my name so they were actually directing their venom at some poor bloke called Rupert.

I'm a thick-skinned idiot, but the really surprising thing was that the radio show told me they struggled to find a car hack prepared to go on the radio and say that they didn't reckon electric cars.

Now I am sure that if I was given a Nissan Leaf for free and a power point plonked in my garage I would find it incredibly useful for the school run and shopping, and that I would find it behaved just like a normal car without the petrol station interludes. As it is, I see electric vehicles as a subsidised, short-term distraction, and one that quick-fix, easy-answer gullible politicians and misguided environmental pressure groups love.

What concerns me is that saying what you think (based on available facts and evidence) on a range of motoring issues is now difficult because there seems to be a concensus, or 'correct' view. So am I right to wonder: whatever happened to free speech?

Marussia MR02 F1 competitor presented

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 02:37 AM PST

F1 newcomer Max Chilton to drive MR02

The Marussia MR02 has been presented at Jerez this morning ahead of its 2013 F1 campaign. However, despite the pre-season testing schedule already being underway, the team are still without a second driver.

After releasing lead driver Timo Glock for financial reasons, Marussia are currently left with Max Chilton as its sole team member. Fellow rookie Luiz Razia is rumoured to be in line to fill the vacant slot, but no contract has been agreed.

As the first product of the team's new technical structure, Marussia has high hopes for the MR02. Marussia split with Wirth research in the middle of the 2011 season and took its design back in-house, with greater reliance on wind tunnel development. Former Benetton and Renault technical chief Pat Symonds was also brought on board as a consultant.

Marussia was beaten to tenth place in the 2012 F1 Constructors' championship by Caterham.

Infiniti Q50 with four-cylinder diesel at Geneva

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 02:31 AM PST

Smaller engines for the new Infiniti Q50 saloon get their world debut

Infiniti will launch two new four-cylinder engines at the Geneva motor show next month, in the new Q50 saloon.

The diesel and the turbocharged petrol are both sourced from Daimler; the petrol will be related to an engine used in the Mercedes-Benz C-class.

The diesel will, to begin with, only be sold in Europe, but Infiniti is considering launching it in the US, too.

Infiniti boss Johan de Nysschen said that the lack of a diesel and a smaller turbocharged petrol has led to the firm missing sales, and that it cannot compete with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW without them.

The Q50, which replaces the G37, will also be available with a 328bhp 3.7-litre V6, and a hybrid using a 3.5-litre V6 and producing 360bhp. It features the world's first fully electric steering system, with no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels.

Caterham CT03 F1 car for 2013 exhibited at Jerez

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 02:14 AM PST

Pre-season testing already underway for CT03

Caterham has revealed its 2013 F1 car at Jerez this morning. The CT03 will begin pre-season testing today with a new brace of drivers: Charles Pic has moved from Marussia while former Caterham test pilot Giedo van der Garde has been given a permanent drive.

After finishing tenth in the Constructors' championship last season, Caterham will hope to outperform Marussia again. However, this could prove even more of a challenge in 2013 given the loss of experienced drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov. Moreover, the CT03 is an evolution of last season's car, rather than a clean-sheet design.

The first stint of pre-season testing finishes at Jerez on Friday. The teams move to Barcelona on 19th February.


Vauxhall Adam cabriolet tipped for 2014 launch

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST

Vauxhall sources confirm development of a soft-top version of the Adam supermini

A cabriolet version of the Vauxhall Adam is in development, senior Opel-Vauxhall sources have confirmed.

The open-air Adam is conceived as a rival to the Citroën DS3 Cabrio and Fiat 500C and is set to get a pram-style electric folding roof. A tentative on-sale date of late next year has been mooted.

Citroën sources have also confirmed that the DS3 Cabrio line-up is set to expand with a range of spin-off and special-edition models, including a range-topping DS3 Cabriol Racing variant producing around 200bhp.

Autocar magazine 6 February preview

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 10:24 AM PST

In this week's Autocar magazine: 12-page Jaguar F-type special; Mercedes' new E-class driven; Maserati Ghibli scooped; Lamboghini Aventador Roadster driven

This week's Autocar stars a 12-page special inspired by our first ride in the new Jaguar F-Type. As well as Steve Cropley's ride impressions in the V6S and V8 models, Le Mans winner Martin Brundle gives his verdict on the car from behind the wheel (and without towing the company line), while we propose F-type alternatives for used car buyers with every budget.

Our news section is led off by the latest news of Maserati's BMW M5 rival, the Ghibli. Ferrari engined and rear or four-wheel drive, it is expected to go on sale before the end of the year. We also have the latest news on the next BMW X6 and the still-secret VW Passat CC Shooting Brake, plus spy pictures of the new Ferrari Enzo and BMW 3-series GT. In our news analysis spotlight Hilton Holloway investigates the uncrashable car, a development its makers say is closer than you might think.

The first drives section stars the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster, the mind-blowing supercar being joined by the more humble Mercedes-Benz E-class E250 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, Volkswagen Golf 4Motion and Volvo V40 T5 R. Our long-term test fleet updates include the Aston Martin Vantage and BMW 3-series Touring. Our full road test puts the new Vauxhall Adam through its paces, assessing whether it can be a match for the Mini or Fiat 500.

Other features include an interview with the man who rescued the Toyota GT86 project from corporate meddling and a visit to the Brooklands car museum, the first in a series of trips by Steve Cropley.

Our used car section stars a buying guide to the venerable but often overlooked Porsche 964, while James Ruppert makes an entertaining case for buying used Honda Civics and Nic Cackett ponders whether to spend his (fictional) money on a Renault Mégane 265 Cup or Lancia Delta Integrale.

Autocar magazine is available through all good newsagents, and available to download from Zinio and the Apple iTunes store.

Hydrogen power ‘will be mainstream in the UK by 2025’

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 09:20 AM PST

Report from Government and Industry body predicts that mass switch to Hydrogen-powered cars will begin in decade

Hydrogen will become a mainstream fuel in the UK by 2025, according to a new report from UKH2Mobility. Sales of hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles are expect to take off from 2025, with projections of around 10,000 sales from 2020 and 100,000 sales annually from 2025.

UKH2Mobility, a consortium of industry and government including Daimler, Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, BOC and Morrisons, predicts that by 2030, there will be 1.6 million hydrogen-powered vehicles on British roads, with annual sales reaching 300,000 units.

It is predicted that by 2025 hydrogen fuel should cost the same as diesel, while offering zero tailpipe pollution and 'well-to-wheel' Co2 emissions of under 45g/km, compared with 140g/km for diesel.

Speaking this morning in Westminster, Michael Fallon, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, said that the coalition Government was preparing to invest £400m over the next 10-15 years in order to help 'support the market for Ultra Low Emission Vehicles'. Public money is being invested in helping establish a network of hydrogen re-fuelling stations and on supporting research and development into all the areas needed for a move to hydrogen as a mainstream fuel.

Today's presentation, which included representatives from French industrial gases group Air Liquide and energy storage specialists ITM, was an overview of 'Phase 1 of the hydrogen roll-out strategy' for the UK. The 'Phase 2' stage is now underway. This will see UKH2Mobility developing a 'detailed business case and framework for the rollout'.

Sources at the conference told Autocar that the industry is now pinning its hopes on hydrogen as the low-Co2 fuel of the future after the the relative failure of electric vehicles. The ability to make and store hydrogen using renewable energy and the ability to re-fuel a typical 300-mile range hydrogen car in three minutes are seen as the crucial advantages over battery-powered vehicles.

Mercedes AMG loses chassis guru to BMW M

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 08:57 AM PST

Arnd Meyer becomes the second highly rated AMG engineer to leave the firm within a month

Mercedes-Benz's AMG performance car off-shoot has lost a second highly rated engineer to a rival car maker within a month, Autocar can confirm.

Arnd Meyer, the man responsible for the chassis engineering of all recent AMG models, including the new SLS AMG Black Series and upcoming SLS Electric Drive, has joined BMW's M division, where he will take charge of chassis, powertrain, electrics and electronics development, according to sources at the German car maker.

BMW is yet to officially confirm when Meyer will begin his new job at its M division, whose engineering headquarters are located in Garching on the outskirts of Munich, although an AMG spokesperson suggests a contractual agreement is in place preventing him from taking up the position immediately.

Meyer's departure at AMG comes hot on the heels of that of Fritz Eichler. AMG's former powertrain boss has joined Volkswagen, where he will take charge of petrol engine development from the middle of the year.

Quick news: New Holden next week; Renault sales slump

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 08:38 AM PST

A new Holden for Oz, big decline for Renault in Europe and Nissan's new hatch for Barcelona plant

Holden will unveil a new Commodore next week, replacing the current VE series model. The Commodore, an Australian icon, will also form the basis of an Australian-built Chevrolet for the US market.

Renault sales in Europe dropped by 18 per cent in 2012, with 1.27m cars sold. Renault Group's sales worldwide were also down by 6.3 per cent, despite growth in Brazil and Russia.

Production of Nissan's new Golf/Focus rivalling hatchback will start next July at the firm's Barcelona plant. The car was originally going to be built at the Sunderland factory but was displaced by a forthcoming Qashqai based Infiniti.


First drive review: Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 08:00 AM PST

More power and greater handling finesse make Mercedes E63 AMG the pick of the four-door performance brigade It only seems like yesterday that Mercedes-Benz launched the latest E63 AMG, and with it a new twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 engine. But, in a sign of just how quickly things move in the automotive world, we're already being served up a facelifted version of the rapid performance saloon and estate pairing.The new model is significant as it is the first AMG model to benefit from a new design lineage we're told will be reflected on all upcoming models from Mercedes-Benz's performance car off-shoot.It's immediately evident when you lay eyes on the new E63 AMG, whose aggressive new front end gives it an even more distinctive look than its predecessor and more clearly separates it visually from the E-class upon which is it based and produced alongside in Germany.The big news, however, concerns the engine. The E63 AMG's twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 has never lacked for reserves, but that hasn't deterred Mercedes-Benz's performance car off-shoot from providing the new model with a touch more as sweetner to tempt prospective buyers.

First drive review: Mercedes-Benz E250

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 08:00 AM PST

Mid-life revisions make the E-class even better at what it does "The biggest facelift ever undertaken by the company," says Mercedes, although the extent of the exterior styling changes is not quite that obvious.The quad headlamps have gone, and not before time it would seem, given the less-than-glowing response to the appearance of the old model.The car also comes with the option of two grilles – a more conservative affair or a slicker sport variant, in the same manner as the C-class. In the UK, Mercedes will only offer the sport grille, as it reckons most buyers would choose it anyway.A new four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine has been introduced offering 181bhp in the E200 and 208bhp in the model driven here, the E250. The rest of the engines are carried over from the current E-class.  The chassis has been tweaked a little, too, to improve the car's already fine ride.Inside, Mercedes says it has improved the quality of the cabin with new trim, higher quality materials and a new monitor for the infotainment system. There are more standard safety systems, too, including Collision Prevention Assist, which brakes the car in order to reduce the severity of an impact.

Fiat considers budget brand to rival Dacia

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 07:51 AM PST

Sergio Marchionne confirms low-cost Fiats are being discussed

Fiat could launch a budget brand in the mould of Dacia as its existing cars move further upmarket. Sergio Marchionne, boss of Fiat, has confirmed that the decision was being debated following the success of the Romanian firm.

Whilst a back-to-basics Fiat product had been previoulsy suggested, concerns had arisen around the profitability of such a project. Dacia has now proved low cost needn't mean low-profit, and the future of such a car is being considered much more seriously.

The 500 and Panda ranges would continue as part of the Fiat line-up, but with a more premium billing to differentiate them from cheaper models.

A distinct brand name, like Renault's Dacia and Nissan's Datsun, would also be introduced to the utilitarian Fiat. Names considered thus far include Innocenti, the Italian firm bought by Fiat in 1990 and best known for the Bertone-styled Mini of 1974.

Any Fiat sub-brand cars would be built outside of Europe to ensure a low retail price, Automotive News Europe reported.

Matt Bird

Jerez reveal for 2013 Toro Rosso STR8 F1 racer

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 04:29 AM PST

STR8 aims to improve on last year's performance

Toro Rosso has followed Mercedes-Benz by unveiling its 2013 F1 entry ahead of pre-season testing at Jerez. The Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8 will be piloted by an unchanged driver line-up of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.

New appointments behind the scenes at Toro Rosso include the arrival of former Sauber technical chief James Key. After ending last season a lowly ninth in the Constructors' championship, Toro Rosso is hoping for a sixth-place finish this season with the Ferrari-engined STR8.

Team principal Franz Tost is optimistic about Toro Rosso's prospects for the upcoming campaign. He said he is "convinced" that the drivers can produce some "surprise results" if given a competitive car.



Mercedes W04 2013 F1 car launched at Jerez

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 04:11 AM PST

Mercedes W04 F1 car begins its pre-season testing programme tomorrow

Mercedes-Benz is showcasing its 2013 F1 car today ahead of the imminent start to pre-season testing, which begins tomorrow. The car, called Mercedes W04, will be campaigned by Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Visually, the largest change from the 2012 car is around the front, where Mercedes has introduced a markedly different five-element wing. A second-generation Coanda exhaust is the most significant addition at the back of the W04. Mercedes' team principal Ross Brawn believes the W04 marks "a clear step forward in design and detail sophistication over its predecessor." Brawn is predicting a "step change" in performance over last season.

Speaking to Autocar at the Detroit motor show last month, Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche said the team's results in 2013 we not good enough. Following Rosberg's victory at the Chinese Grand Prix, the team struggled for the rest of the season and failed to score any points in five events towards the end of 2012.

Sauber C32 2013 F1 car makes debut

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 03:20 AM PST

Sauber C32 features a raft of changes from the 2012 car

Following the Ferrari, Lotus and Force India launches last week, Sauber took the wraps of its 2013 F1 contender over the weekend. The Sauber C32 will be driven by Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.

It features significant cosmetic alterations over the 2012 car including a downward-sloping nose section and much slimmer sidepods. Rearranging the radiators over last year's C31 has resulted in a much narrower rear end. Overall weight has also been reduced to allow for better distribution of ballast, while airflow has been improved around the rear tyres. Chief Designer Matt Morris believes Sauber has exceeded its original targets in the design of the C32.

Mechanically, the C32 again features an engine, gearbox and KERS system from Ferrari. Sauber says the energy recuperation system has been optimised in terms of weight and packaging.

Last year Sauber finished sixth in the Constructors' championship, with 126 points. Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn is optimistic about the team's prospects for 2013. "We have a strong platform in place now, on which we are aiming to build and continue our upward curve," she said.

Red Bull Racing launches RB9 for 2013 F1 season

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 02:56 AM PST

New Red Bull RB9 F1 car shows off more prominent Infiniti sponsorship

Red Bull has today revealed the RB9, its contender for the 2013 F1 season and the car it hopes can secure another Drivers' and Constructors' championships for the Milton Keynes-based team.

The Renault-powered RB9's most obvious external difference over last year's RB8 is a livery that features more prominent Infiniti sponsorship. It incorporates the Japanese firm's signature purple into the RB9's racing colours, marking a strengthened relationship between the two firms.

Infiniti, the luxury offshoot of Renault's alliance partner Nissan, is now the exclusive vehicle performance partner of the Red Bull team, and the deal has allowed its engineering personnel to work at the Red Bull HQ. Moreover, following the release of the Infiniti FX Vettel Edition last year, expect greater Red Bull involvement with the Infiniti road cars. The upcoming Infiniti Q50 saloon has already received input in its development from Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Buemi.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner said of the strenghtened relationship: "Our stronger link with Infiniti from 2013 is part of the natural evolution of our team and demonstrates its growth. I firmly believe it will prove to be of enormous benefit on both sides over the coming years."

As yet, no further technical details have been released of the RB9.

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