Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Charles Morgan stands down as Morgan boss

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 08:32 AM PDT

Steve Morris, operations director, appointed managing director; Charles Morgan to remain "face of Morgan"

Charles Morgan is no longer the managing director of Morgan Motor Company, following a decision by board members and shareholders.

He will be replaced by Steve Morris, who was previously the operations director at Morgan.

"Charles Morgan will concentrate on his vital role as the face of Morgan internationally, promoting the brand and selling the company's products worldwide," a Morgan statement read.

A Morgan spokesperson added, "It gives Charles the time to do what he needs to do on an international level, and it felt like a natural progression for Steve."

Morgan insisted that the change was amicable and not driven by a lack of satisfaction with Charles Morgan's performance, as had been rumoured. 

Nick Baker, sales manager at the Morgan Motor Company, said, "Charles will remain the figurehead of Morgan. His role is now to focus on opening doors and creating the market."

Renault drops Mercedes-based luxury car plans

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 07:58 AM PDT

Upmarket Renault cancelled due to production concerns, but joint project may still happen in the future

Renault has dropped plans for a luxury car based on the Mercedes-Benz E-class platform, company CEO Carlos Tavares has revealed.

He said that Renault "hadn't found a business model that works". However, Tavares added that the project was not dead, but that "a good equation" might still be found with partners Mercedes in the future.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the proposed luxury Renault, which was likely to have been branded 'Initiale Paris' and would have been priced from £40,000, was dropped because the current E-class platform would be close to the end of its production run, just as the new Renault would be scheduled to arrive in the showroom.

Continuing the production of a defunct component-set would be complex and expensive and would rule out the proposed Renault being built on an existing Mercedes production line. Meanwhile, the ageing Espace – currently Renault's flagship model – is expected to be replaced by an upmarket SUV next year.

Renault is still on schedule to launch the Initiale Paris sub-brand next year. This will be used on high-spec versions of Renault's current mainstream models, starting with the new Clio. Renault has been absent from the premium car market since the slow-selling Vel Satis hatchback was dropped in 2009.

Renault-Nissan and Mercedes have a number of co-operative projects in train, including sharing the next-generation, rear-engined Smart platform that is also expected to underpin the all-new Twingo. Mercedes is also supplying the A-class platform to Nissan's Infiniti brand, which will use it as the basis of the British-built Q30.

Henrik Fisker quits Fisker Automotive

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 07:46 AM PDT

The man behind Fisker Automotive has resigned from the company

Henrik Fisker has left the electric car company he founded, Fisker Automotive.

In a statement sent to Autocar, former chairman Fisker said: "Effective as of Wednesday 13 March 2013, Henrik Fisker has resigned from Fisker Automotive as executive chairman, and has left the company.

"The main reasons for his resignation are several major disagreements that Henrik Fisker has with the Fisker Automotive executive management on the business strategy."

Fisker Automotive has been plagued with troubles surrounding the launch of its first model, the Fisker Karma. Funding disputes with the US government, multiple CEO departures and appointments, recalls for the Karma over fire concerns, the loss of several cars in Hurricane Sandy and the forced cancellation of its second model, the Atlantic, are just some of the issues the firm has had to deal with.

Most recently, Fisker has not been able to build a Karma since July after its battery supplier, A123 Systems, went bust.

The resulting stop of production has thrown the financial viability of Fisker into doubt, and the firm last month confirmed that it was in talks with several parties about a takeover, with China's Geely the hotly tipped favourite.

"Given the confidential nature of this matter, at this point in our process we can only confirm that the company has received detailed proposals from multiple parties in different continents which are now being evaluated by the company and its advisors," read the official Fisker statement.

"The company is pleased with the level of interest from potential partners, which underscores the attractiveness and relevance of Fisker's proven EV powertrain technology, design and strategy."

Autocar is awaiting a comment from Fisker Automotive on the resignation of Henrik Fisker.

Video: Range Rover v Porsche Cayenne drag racing off road

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 07:29 AM PDT

Can the Range Rover beat the Porsche Cayenne off road?

After winning our on-road head-to-head test, can the Range Rover's incredible off-road ability slay the supercar-rivalling Porsche Cayenne Turbo? Sutcliffe heads off road to find out.

Next-gen BMW 7-series spotted

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 02:49 AM PDT

Latest spy shots of BMW's 2015 7-series

These are the first spy shots of the next generation BMW 7-series.

Reputedly codenamed G11, the model model has already begun testing despite a recent facelift of the current generation.

The manufacturer's research and development chief, Klaus Draeger, said that the new 7-series will feature a mix of materials, with carbonfibre being used alongside aluminium and steel. The roof, bonnet and boot lid could potentially be made entirely from carbonfibre.

BMW will likely offer both short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase versions of the car, as well as diesel and petrol variants. The xDrive four-wheel-drive system will no doubt feature as well, although only in versions sold in regions that necessitate it.

It's thought that the new 7-series, which will rival the new Mercedes-Benz S-class, will go on sale in late 2015.

Lexus LS600h L first drive review

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 07:59 AM PDT

Despite a mid-life refresh, the Lexus LS still struggles to compete against the best Europe has to offer in the luxury segment It's been three decades since Eiji Toyoda secretly challenged a regiment of technicians to build him a luxury car capable of overhauling the huge lead enjoyed by American and European rivals.The resulting car, the original Lexus LS, took six years and 450 prototypes to perfect, and although it was not everything it might have been, it set new standards in refinement and duly took the United States by storm.Now moving into the facelift phase of its fourth generation, the standard bearer is still not everything Europe equates with luxury, but the brand created to sell Toyota's flagship abroad continues to earnestly fine-tune its own idea of perfection.To that end, the latest styling cues have been absorbed into slightly meatier overhangs and updated headlights, while outlandish new interior features such as a four-zone climate control system that uses an infra-red sensor to monitor face temperature and multi-phase LED lighting appear as standard in this, the £99,495 LS600h L Premier.

Mazda MX-5 Sport Tech Nav first drive review

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 07:38 AM PDT

Mazda's evergreen roadster can still entertain in the right circumstances, but a light cosmetic tweak can't hide the fact it's crying out for replacement Sat in Mazda's latest attempt to spruce up the MX-5, it's virtually impossible not to think what might have been.As well as dangling the prospect of a 200bhp GT version in front of our noses six months ago (before snatching it back again), there was also once the possibility that 2013 might be the year in which the world's best selling roadster was replaced by its oft-mentioned successor.It's a car that, if Mazda's rumour mill is to be believed, will be smaller, lighter and powered by a dinky, all-new turbocharged engine.Unfortunately, the SkyActiv MX-5 has disappeared into the murk of extended development. We don't expect to see it resurface for at least another year or two, and that means the current model – which has been around since 2006 – will have to carry on for a while longer yet.As such, Mazda has rummaged around its collective imagination, and introduced a few features intended to help it limp over the life-cycle finish line.

New Kia models in the pipeline

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 02:53 AM PDT

Production version of either the Kia GT or Provo concepts will get the green light soon

Kia is deciding whether to launch a new rear-wheel-drive sports model or a compact Nissan Juke-rivalling SUV as its next non-core model.

Speaking on the launch of the new Carens and Procee'd, Kia Europe's chief operating officer Michael Cole revealed Kia was weighing up both options as it looks to cement its future as a main player in the European new car industry.

"Everyone now knows our five-year plan to replace our volume models," said Cole. "We now have Peter Schreyer [Kia's design chief] looking at a halo sports car – he's keen on a GT.

"But we're also looking at a B-segment SUV through the Provo concept [seen at the recent Geneva show]; that's the real intense sector of the market and we could do it off the Rio base so that's what I could see in Europe," said Cole.

Cole hinted that it was not a case of 'either/or' as to whether Kia launched a rear-drive big hatchback/saloon inspired by the GT or a smaller compact SUV inspired by the Provo SUV concept.

"We're looking at everything as to what future product holds," said Cole.

Cole also confirmed that the launch of a new Soul was imminent, possibly as soon as the New York motor show later this month.

"There will be a new Soul for Europe in the next 12 months and it will come to Europe," said Cole. "But we could still see the likes of the Provo as a European Soul in the future."

New Range Rover Sport spied ahead of official reveal

Posted: 10 Mar 2013 05:01 PM PDT

The new Range Rover Sport has been spied ahead of its debut in Manhattan

Pictures of the new Range Rover Sport have surfaced online ahead of its reveal at the New York motor show. The car will be officially unveiled on 26 March when it is driven through Manhattan the day before the show opens.

The company had previously released a official teaser shot of the new car and says that the location of the Sport's debut is entirely appropriate, because New York city is the model's single biggest metropolitan market and the Sport is also currently Land Rover's best-selling model in North America.

The unofficial images appear to show the Sport will share its basic design DNA with the Range Rover, but evolves the wing-mounted vents seen on the current car. The car also borrows heavily from the Range Rover Evoque.

John Edwards, who is Land Rover's global brand director, said: "The all-new Range Rover Sport takes the model to another level. It is Land Rover's most dynamic vehicle yet and showcases the best of British design, engineering and technological innovation."

The new Sport is based on the same all-aluminium, bonded and riveted PLA (Premium Lightweight Architecture) platform as the Mk4 Range Rover. It will be built alongside the flagship model at the company's new PLA production line in Solihull, West Midlands.

It is expected to be a good 300kg lighter than the outgoing Sport, which is based on the same heavy-duty T5 platform as the Land Rover Discovery 4. This should mean that the base V6 diesel Sport will weigh in at about 2160kg.

Those who have seen the finished product say that the new car is "more obviously sporting" than the current Sport. It will be visually differentiated from the Range Rover by a more sharply raked roofline, shorter rear overhang, deeper body sides and more aggressive treatment for the nose and tail.

The Sport will also come with the option of seven seats, to help it compete more directly with the Mercedes-Benz M-class and the upcoming, all-new BMW X5. To add to its competitiveness in this segment, sources say that the Sport will get the option of a new 2.0-litre diesel engine.

Land Rover's new Sport will also be offered with a hybrid drivetrain. 

Mini GP

Posted: 08 Mar 2013 09:05 AM PST

Can the Mini GP deliver the sparkle that befits the fastest Mini in production? As it ever was with BMW's Mini, we've been here before. In 2006, just before the final run of first-generation cars shuffled down the Oxford production line, the manufacturer built 2000 Mini GP models.On paper, it smacked a little of run-out frivolity – especially given the dramatic price rise that accompanied the car's plunging ride height – but this was no range death rattle. Thanks to a proper mechanical diff deployed (at last) to better harness an uprated 212bhp of supercharged shunt, the stripped-out GP turned out to be arguably the best Mini yet produced on BMW's watch. Just 459 examples came to the UK, and those that remain roadworthy after seven years have settled into the rock-solid values indicative of cult status.That makes the second album both inevitable and inevitably difficult. Nevertheless, BMW appears to have set about its task with at least as much enthusiasm as last time. The latest GP – also likely to be among the last of its kind – gets properly trick suspension to go with a number of other bespoke modifications.The second-generation model is no less a specialist machine, and one that's built for the Mini enthusiast. Inside you'll see bracing where the rear seats aren't, a deluge of GP stickers and badges, quirky wheel designs - derived from those fitted to Mini Challenge race cars - and an aero kit that actually makes a difference at speed.It looks like a refugee from Oulton Park - and goes like one too. The standard-fit Kumho tyres and adjustable coil-over suspension work extremely well on track, and are on the acceptable side of firm on the road. And its near-£30k price tag buys you performance that's there-or-there-abouts in terms of straight-line performance with its closest rivals.With its pricing placing it at the top of the Mini tree, does it provide the sparkling thrills of the old limited-run special, or feel like a tricked-up Cooper S. Read on to find out.

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