Friday, March 1, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Geneva motor show: Bertone Jet 2 Aston Martin Vanquish shooting brake

Posted: 01 Mar 2013 02:09 AM PST

Bertone has updated its Vanquish-based Jet 2 shooting brake for the Geneva motor show

The Aston Rapide-based Bertone Jet 2+2 will be joined at the Geneva motor show by an updated version of the Vanquish-based Jet 2 concept car, first seen in 2004.

The revised Jet 2 is based on the previous-generation Vanquish's mechanicals but has been updated to feature the all-new model's design in a shooting brake body style.

This new version of the Jet 2 is the personal car of Lilli Bertone, the firm's president. As well as the updated design, the Jet has been given a new colour and more luxurious trim.

Unlike the Vanquish on which it is based, the Jet 2 is a true four-seater thanks to the extra cabin space afforded by its 210mm increase in length.

Geneva motor show: Smart Fortwo BoConcept

Posted: 01 Mar 2013 12:44 AM PST

'Creative exchange' between Danish design firm and Smart produces unique concept

Smart and Danish interior design firm BoDesign have collaborated to produce the Smart Fortwo BoConcept Signature Style. The concept aims to combine the "warm personal touch of your own home with the vitality of city life", according to its makers.

Based on a standard Fortwo cabriolet, the BoConcept is painted matt white with its Tridon safety cell, door mirrors and folding hood in contrasting 'matt oriental brown metallic'. The BoConcept also features Brabus Monoblock VII wheels, again painted brown.

The BoConcept's interior is unlike any other Smart cabin, as befits its production brief of creating a mobile living space. The seats, door cards and steering wheel are adorned with tobacco brown-coloured leather, and grey felt can be found on the backrests and the doors.

The steering wheel and seats are piped with 'light lemon' stitching, a theme that is repeated outside with yellow accents on the wheels and mirrors. As a final flourish, the buttons for the gearbox are finished in oak, the first time real wood has featured in a Smart.

There are no plans to put the Fortwo BoConcept Signature Style into production. Instead it will visit cities around the globe as an 'agile brand ambassador' for both Smart and BoDesign.

McLaren boss Antony Sheriff 'on leave'

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 03:59 PM PST

McLaren Automotive's managing director not expected to be on hand to unveil the new McLaren P1

McLaren Automotive's managing director Antony Sheriff is on extended leave from the company and is not expected to be at next week's Geneva motor show to unveil the new McLaren P1.

The reason for Sheriff being placed on gardening leave is still unclear, but he is understood to still be employed as McLaren Automotive's managing director.

McLaren Automotive's chief operating officer Mike Flewitt is undertaking Sheriff's duties while he is on leave. It is not clear if Sheriff will return to work for the company.

US-born Sheriff joined McLaren from Fiat a decade ago to oversee the launch of McLaren's road car division, and was the helm for the launch of the firm's first two models, the MP4-12C and 12C Spider, as well as the presentation of the P1 concept car at the Paris motor show last year.

My Qoros washer bottle and the new name game

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 03:32 PM PST

Qoros took up my idea of tweaking the design of the washer bottle. Now the brand might need some help from you with a naming strategy for its new range.

Regular readers might remember a blog from a month ago, when I related the tale of Qoros engineers acting instantly on my suggestion that the washer bottle in its new car should be marked with its capacity, making it easier to mix up washer fluid.

I had been in a photographic studio in Munich looking at the three Qoros cars that will be publicly unveiled at the Geneva show next week. The bonnet of the saloon had been lifted and, surrounded by Qoros bosses, the thought that had been in the back of my mind came to the front. As soon as I made the suggestion, Daniel Backman, Qoros's director of product strategy, made a call to his engineers asking them to modify the washer bottle design.

This morning I received this grainy camera phone shot of the new part from Qoros's chief designer, Gert Hildebrand. It seems quite extravagantly engineered. There's a new plastic ring around the opening which shows the capacity (a generous 5.2-litres) and an 'ice' symbol which seems to suggest the mix should be 1/3 washer fluid.

The cap is also now a captive part (the lid on the prototype flew off into the engine bay when I flicked it open) and the neck is now also braced against part of the engine bay structure. All in all, Qoros seems to have spent some time and money on upgrading the whole assembly.

It's not often that manufacturers jump when a journalist shouts. Indeed, in 20 years of doing this job, I can recall two other suggestions making production. One was the chrome badging on the European Chrysler Neon (US cars had squashy plastic lettering) and my complaints last summer about the ride of Skoda Rapid also had a positive effect, I hear.

Anyway, now it's your turn. Qoros has potentially got another, rather more serious, problem. After the company revealed that its new saloon was going to be badged GQ3, Audi got legal in at least three different countries and are trying to stop Qoros using this badging logic. So, I'll throw it open to the Autocar bloggerati.

Qoros are launching a saloon, estate and Crossover hatchback now and an SUV later. All are around the 4.6m long and the '3' in GQ3 is intended to indicate that the cars are around the same size as a 3-series. A larger, Passat-size, car is also possible.

So, I 'd like to hear suggestions for a naming system for Qoros, should Audi succeed in its court battle. Take into account a future hybrid versions of all the models and the possibility of a sporting model. And you can't tread on the nomenclature of existing car makers. Oh, and proper names are nearly impossible because they've all been trademarked. My washer bottle experience shows that Qoros are open to good ideas, so you might even find your idea adopted...

Geneva motor show: Audi to stun with A3 g-tron

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 03:00 PM PST

Gas-powered A3 could pave way to carbon-neutral motoring thanks to Audi's revolutionary e-gas tech

Audi will showcase a gas-powered A3 at the Geneva motor show. The A3 Sportback g-tron has been created in conjunction with Audi's new e-gas plant in Werlte, which produces carbon-neutral gas from renewable electricity.

The g-tron's powertrain comprises two gas tanks and a regular internal combustion engine. The tanks can store e-gas produced by Audi, or regular Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

Stored under the boot floor, the Audi's tanks can hold 7kg of gas each, stored at up to 200bar. Audi claims a fuel consumption on gas for the g-tron of 3.5kg/100 km, giving a gas-only range of 400km (242 miles).

Using gas means that each fuel tank weighs, when full, 27kg less than a conventional petrol or diesel fuel tank. Constructed from a polyamide polymer and reinforced with carbonfibre-reinforced polymer, the tanks are extremely strong and light.

An electronic pressure regulator boosts the efficiency of the A3 g-tron when running on gas. It allows for low-pressure gas to be combusted during low-speed driving, while also allowing it to flow at high pressure when greater performance is required.

The petrol engine in the A3 g-tron is based on the 1.4 TFSI found in the A3 range and produces 108bhp and 147lb ft. Audi says the concept is bivalent, meaning performance is identical regardless of fuel; top speed is 118mph and 0-62mph takes 11 seconds. The range of the engine, running on petrol, is 900km (559 miles).

The A3 g-tron is part of a wider project from Audi involving its e-gas facility in Werlte. It uses renewable electricity to produce gas through the electrolysis of water, making hydrogen and oxygen, and the reaction of the hydrogen with CO2 to produce synthetic methane which Audi calls e-gas. The e-gas is chemically identical to natural gas.

Audi will use the e-gas to power 1500 A3 g-trons, each of which will cover 15000km a year in trials. Even when the emissions for constructing the e-gas plant are accounted for, Audi claims a CO2 figure of less than 30g/km.

Click here for more Geneva motor show 2013 news.

Matt Bird

Video: 50 years of Porsche 911

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 10:28 AM PST

Sutcliffe drives seven generations of Porsche 911

Over seven generations and 50 years, the Porsche 911 has changed with the times and technology without diluting its DNA. Steve Sutcliffe drives all seven back on a snowy, slippery and tight handling circuit at Silverstone.

Toyota FT-86 Open concept revealed

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 09:53 AM PST

The Toyota FT-86 Open is officially a concept, but a relatively straightforward conversion from coupe to cabriolet means it is likely to make production

Toyota is gauging reaction to the idea of an open-top GT86 with the new Toyota FT-86 Open concept car, to displayed at next week's Geneva motor show. However, the production-ready looks of the concept suggest that a fabric-roofed GT86 should soon become a reality.

The firm says "further engineering evaluation" must be undertaken on the FT-86 Open concept - FT standing for Future Toyota - for it to become a production reality. Rigidity, balance, weight and aerodynamics are the areas that require additional work.

Toyota hints that the GT86's transition from coupé to convertible should be relatively straightforward, because the coupé was 'package protected' in its design and engineering, through parts such as frameless doors, to be turned into a convertible. "The impact on structural rigidity of conversion to an open-topped bodyshell is not expected to be great," said Toyota. The firm has said it could employ rigidity solutions, such as door lock reinforcements.

The concept gets a multi-layered fabric roof with a glass rear screen that automatically retracts behind the two rear passenger seats, maintaining the 2+2 cabin and having 'minimal' impact on luggage capacity. Toyota has not said how much the retractable roof adds to the GT86 coupé's 1257kg kerb weight.

The concept's trim has been developed in Milan. It mixes a white exterior with a blue fabric roof and bright white and navy blue with yellow trim inside. 

Click here for more Geneva motor show 2013 news.

The GATSO moment

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 09:01 AM PST

Like all the worst things in life, it happens when you're least expecting it. And once it's happened, all you can do is wait, and hope…

Alongside sliding towards a hard object, backwards, and realising that you aren't going to be able to make it around the next corner, the double flash of a GATSO going off in your rear-view mirror is one of the most dreadful experiences you can have on four wheels.

It happened to me earlier this week, at five in the morning, on a section of the M25 on which I must have traveled at least a thousand times in the last 10 years, often at the exact same speed that I was doing this week.

The trouble with GATSOs, somewhat annoyingly, is that you can never tell which ones are switched on and which ones are switched off. Most of them are switched off, but this particular one – mounted on an overhead gantry between junction eight at Reigate and junction nine at Leatherhead going anti-clockwise – has been sat there for years, doing not a lot. 

Which is why, for years, I've driven past it at my regular quiet, empty motorway gait without so much as a dicky-bird by way of a flash.

Same goes for all the cameras on that section of the M25 between the M23 and the A3. For aeons, they've laid dormant unless a speed limit lower than 70mph has been posted due to bad weather or some such, at which point you're a fool not to slow to within an mph or two of the posted limit.

And then earlier this week, boom-boom, it went off, right out of the blue, at the same speed that I've always past it at. Someone, somewhere within the local authorities must simply have decided to turn this particular camera on, and so that's that. Thank you for calling, welcome back sometime soon. 

I reckon I was doing eighty-humthing-ish, maybe a touch less; either way, it was a high enough speed for there to be no arguments, and no question about me receiving a penalty, assuming there was actually a camera up there taking photographs and not merely a light that flashes twice to put the wind up unsuspecting (speeding) motorists.

So all I can do now is wait for the dreaded brown paper envelope to appear in the post, informing me of my punishment. Which, I hope to heck, will be just three points and a fine but it could possibly – because that speed is right on the cusp – be something a little bit naughtier.

Or, of course, I might end up being invited to go on a course to realise the error of my ways, in which case I'll be there like a shot, listening intently with the best of them in the front row. Whatever it takes, basically, to keep my licence clean, just as it has been for the last 15 years.

I'll let you know what happens. In the meantime, are there any more "new" GATSOs out there that you've been caught by recently that we, the collective, ought to know about?

Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6 first drive review

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 02:35 AM PST

Mercedes offers the ultimate in go-anywhere civilian vehicles with the £350,000 Mercedes G63 AMG 6x6 The largest and most extreme road legal SUV to ever hail from Mercedes' road car operations – the lunatic six-wheel Mercedes G63 AMG 6x6.Set to be produced on a limited basis by Mercedes-Benz's Austrian partner Magna Steyr from the third-quarter of 2013, the colossal double-cab pickup started life as an even more rugged military version of the G320 CDI conceived and engineered for the Australian army and in operation since 2011.This plush, leather-lined civilian version of the off-road vehicle has been conceived to appeal to some of Mercedes-Benz's most affluent clientele. It features six driven wheels, low range gearing, five differential locks and a tyre control system for its standard 37-inch wheels. Mercedes says it is "the last word in forward-thrusting power for the beaten track".Pricing hasn't been announced, but the head of Mercedes-Benz G-class development, Axel Harries, suggests the G63 AMG 6x6 will be Mercedes-Benz's second most expensive model behind the new SLS Electric Drive when official sales get underway in October around the £350,000 mark.Unlike the military version of the G320 CDI 6x6, which is fitted with Mercedes-Benz's 3.0-litre V6 diesel and is offered in outputs of up to 220bhp, the G63 AMG 6x6 gets a twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 from AMG with 536bhp. Torque is a 560lb ft – crucial in providing the shove required to haul the big four-seater's considerable 3775kg kerb weight.Mercedes' 7G-tronic seven-speed automatic transmission is fitted in place of the old NAG1 five-speed auto 'box found on the army version. Its transfer case can alter between a 0.87:1 high-range ratio for on-road driving and 2.16:1 low-range ratio for off-road conditions to all six wheels in a nominal 30:40:30 split. Power for the rearmost axle is supplied by an extra shaft. There are five electronic differential locks offering 100 per cent lock up of all six wheels, operated by three switches on the dashboard.Relaying the engine's strong reserves to the ground are massive 37-inch wheels featuring a bead-plate design. They are shod with 12.5in-wide wheels. At 5875mm in length, 2110mm in width and 2210mm in height, the G63 AMG 6x6 is 1106mm longer, 225mm wider and 272mm higher than the G63 AMG. Along with a 300mm increase in the wheelbase through to the middle axle at 3120mm, the front and middle axles have increased in width by 281mm each at 1790mm, requiring widened and lengthened carbonfibre guards to cover the huge wheels.Ground clearance is a whopping 460mm while fording depth is put at 1000mm – some 250mm and 400mm more than the standard car. Approach and departure angles have been increased by 16 degrees and 27 degrees at 52 degrees and 54 degrees respectively, while the breakover angle has increased by 1 degree at 22 degrees. 

Geneva motor show: Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 04:08 AM PST

Standard GranTurismo luxury to be combined with MC Stradale's racer vibe

A four-seat version of the Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale will be unveiled at the Geneva motor show. It follows the original MC Stradale, shorn of the standard GranTurismo's rear seats, which arrived in 2011.

The range flagship, the MC Stradale carries an array of modifications over the standard GranTurismo. The exterior features a carbonfibre bonnet with central air scoop, forged 20-inch alloy wheels and a new rear bumper arrangement. Maserati claims the interior includes "new materials and style".

As with the two-seat version, the new GranTurismo MC Stradale is powered by a 4.7-litre V8 producing 453bhp, which now also features in the GranTurismo Sport. It is paired with an MC Race Shift six-speed automated manual transmission.

The GranTurismo MC Stradale's claimed top speed is 188mph, with 0-60mph expected to take around five seconds. Improvements in efficiency have also been announced, although no figures have been released. Stopping power is provided by Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes.

There is no word yet on pricing for the four-seat MC Stradale, although expect a figure in the region of the two-seater's £110k. Next week's Geneva motor show will also mark the European debut of Maserati's Quattroporte saloon.

Geneva motor show: McLaren P1 - official pictures and details

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST

New hybrid McLaren P1 to offer 903bhp, 218mph and 0-62mph in under 3sec for £866,000

McLaren's mighty P1 hybrid flagship, poised for its global debut in Geneva next week, looks like becoming the first hypercar ever to deliver properly on the elusive 'F1-for-the-road' promise that manufacturers have been making for their fastest road cars for more than a quarter century.

The McLaren P1 is due to be unveiled by McLaren executive chairman Ron Dennis next Tuesday morning. It has the huge V8-plus-electric power (903bhp) and ultra-high price (£866,000) that you'd expect of the spiritual successor to the illustrious McLaren F1 of 1993, but what really sets the P1 apart is its ground-breaking active aerodynamics package.

While delivering a svelte drag factor of 0.34 in 'clean' form, the P1 can automatically deploy a rear-mounted wing and two flaps ahead of the front wheels, in appropriate driving modes, to deliver such unprecedented levels of downforce for a road car that driving "actually gets easier as the car goes faster". 

Even well short of its 218mph top speed, the P1 can generate 600kg of downforce, an amount equal to many Le Mans racers and about five times greater that of the recently launched McLaren MP4-12C. Its advantage over non-McLaren rivals is even greater. 

"The P1 is designed to be driven to a racing circuit with great levels of comfort and refinement," said McLaren Automotive managing director Antony Sheriff, "and then to be used on the racing circuit where it will offer an experience matched only by purpose-built racing cars."

The P1 uses the all-carbon chassis tub recently created as the basis for all new-era McLarens and launched with the MP4-12C. In another direct reference to F1, the new supercar has a special, race-bred 'recipe' for some composite components — claimed to be twice as stiff as steel — that form its core body/chassis. 

This structure has relatively few parts and weighs only 100kg, which, McLaren engineers say, is lighter than any other road car's while delivering F1 levels of rigidity and safety. It also forms the engine airbox, roof snorkel and the roof itself, provides housings for the battery and power electronics, and shapes the aerodynamic side pods that feed air to the engine's cooling system.

The P1 is 300mm longer than the 20-year-old F1 but only a shade wider and longer than the MP4-12C. Against its most recent compatriot, it grows 83mm (three inches) — the extra length aids the aero package — and it is 29mm (an inch) lower and 37mm (1.5 inches) wider. McLaren claims "substantially smaller" frontal area than the MP4-12C and claims that the P1 is also smaller in area than any other production sports car. 

The P1's kerb weight is admirably low for a modern supercar, at 1400kg, (Porsche's 918 Spider is more like 1700kg) but even it can't match the F1, which weighed just 1140kg at the kerb.

The P1 powertrain is a hybrid partnership between a specially configured 727bhp version of McLaren's 3.8-litre twin-turbo petrol V8, and a 176bhp McLaren-built electric motor integrated with it via a specially cast aluminium block. The two power units send their combined 903bhp (with 664lb ft of torque) through a seven-speed twin-clutch Graziano gearbox. 

The V8 carries its own special M838TQ serial number because of its special crankcase and larger turbochargers (plus other unique tweaks), which help it produce 20 per cent more power than a 'regular' 12C V8.

Awesome performance is to be expected, but the P1's margin over both the featherweight F1 and the MP4-12C still comes as a shock. McLaren engineers are still deciding the final figures in fractions of seconds, but we now know that the P1 is about 0.4sec faster than the 12C to 62mph, and at least 2.5sec faster to 124mph (200km/h).

It also shaves seven or eight seconds off the 12C's 0-186mph (300km/h) on its way to a 218mph top speed, which is a little short of the F1's official 231mph. 

"Our aim is not necessarily to be the fastest in absolute top speed," said Sheriff, "but to be the quickest and most rewarding series production road car on a circuit. This is the true test of a supercar's all-round ability and a much more important technical statement."

At the top end of the performance spectrum, the P1 uses the instant thrust of its electric motor to boost throttle response, and the instant application of its negative torque at gearshift points, to help engine revs drop quickly, making for quicker and smoother gearshifts under full power. Off throttle, the electric motor converts to a power generator, providing engine braking and replenishing battery energy. 

At the bottom of the performance envelope, the electric motor gives the car surprisingly spritely performance on its own, giving it a range approaching 20km (about 12 miles) at traffic speeds and making it suitable for the world's growing number of zero-emissions traffic zones.

The P1 has a driver-oriented cockpit layout, under a highly aerodynamic, bubble-shaped canopy that is compared by its creators with that of a jet fighter. Or a Le Mans racer.

Although the electronic instrumentation features all the essentials and the cabin has niceties like climate control, satellite navigation and a classy sound system, equipment and switchgear are kept to a minimum and there is a general no-nonsense air about the driving position, which is individually configurable for every owner.

The doors, whose outer skins are major contributors to the P1's aerodynamic package, use the same 'dihedral' opening system pioneered by the MP4-12C.

But underscoring the serious focus of the P1, the seat and steering column adjustments are manual, the seat backrests are fixed at 28deg (a change to 32deg is possible to increase helmet clearance) and the ultra-thin carbon seat shells have a minimum of padding and weigh just 10.5kg apiece. 

Carbonfibre is extensively used as a trim material (you only get carpet if you ask for it) and the interior carbon surfaces are fitted without a top layer of resin — because it saves 1.5kg. There are just two options: a heavy-duty battery charger and a set of fitted luggage.

At first, McLaren intended to build 500 P1s, pricing each one close to £866,000, but representations from potential owners (reportedly more concerned about exclusivity than price or top speed) has persuaded Ron Dennis to build just 375 copies.

The new McLaren P1 will be on sale from March and deliveries will begin before the end of the year. 

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