- New Mercedes-Benz S-class interior revealed
- Toyota Highlander facelift at New York show
- Group Lotus winding-up order dismissed by High Court
- Rolls-Royce to remain exclusive
- Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI first drive review
- XL1 tech set for other VWs
- Mazda 6 2.2D Tourer auto first drive review
Posted: 18 Mar 2013 07:00 AM PDT
Interior of new flagship saloon revealed in series of official photographs
While appearing similar to that of the current model in a number of key areas, it has been comprehensively redesigned in a bid to provide the flagship saloon with added levels of luxury, comfort, accommodation and multimedia functions.
Key among developments is a new dashboard whose horizontal architecture and ambient lighting are used to accentuate visual width. The leather-lined facia features what Mercedes-Benz describes as "metalized" switch gear surfaces and solid aluminum controls together with a selection of wooden trims.
The company's electrical engineers and programmers compiled more than 30 million lines of code in developing new entertainment and information functions for the new S-class. The centerpiece is a new fifth-generation Comand system featuring an Intel Atom processor similar to that used by contemporary laptops, together with all the latest in Google Maps-assisted navigation.
Bucking the trend towards touchscreen operation, the major controls for the Comand system are once again based around a rotary dial positioned between the driver and passenger, as are those for the optional monitors for the rear seats. The system supports various app interfaces, but only with Apple's iOs operating system. Support for Android and Blackberry-based systems is under development but won't available at the time of the S-class's UK introduction later this year.
Two high-resolution monitors with a diagonal width of 307mm perform the functions of the previous instrument binnacle and multimedia system. The left-hand display replaces the old instrument binnacle, while the right-hand display is reserved for multimedia functions.
The new S-class forgoes the Bang & Olufsen sound system of the current model for a new arrangement developed in partnership with Burmester. In top-line form it boasts a 1500-watt output and features 24 speakers and a '3D' sound effect.
Mercedes-Benz is claiming a first for the S-class with a so-called 'active perfuming system'. It uses an ionization function to first cleanse the air before atomisers perfume it in five-minute on/five minute off cycles to subtly alter the smell of the interior. It comes with the choice of four scents or, as Mercedes-Benz prefers, moods: freeside, sports, downtown and nightlife.
Officials from the German car maker have divulged to Autocar that development of the S-class's interior was focused primarily on the long-wheelbase model in light of the decision to shut Mercedes' under-achieving Maybach subsidiary.
Consequently the rear of the S-class now receives features such as rear seats that offer up to 43.5deg of backrest adjustment, a new massage system with 14 separate air cushions in the back rest offering six different programs, a so-called warmth package with heated armrests and door panels and active seat ventilation in which the rotational direction of the fans used to blow cooling air through the seat can be reversed for added comfort.
Mercedes has also redesigned the seats of the new S-class. Those in the rear feature a belt buckle feeder to automatically raise and lower the buckle, an inflatable airbag within the seatbelt strap to reduce ribcage injuries in head-on collisions and, on the optional reclining rear seat, a so-called 'cushionbag' to prevent occupants from sliding under the belt in the event of an accident.
In a move claimed to bring record levels of noise suppression, the new S-class uses 150 individual sound isolation components. The body structure of the new upmarket saloon is also claimed to be 14 per cent stiffer in torsional rigidity, 11 per cent stiffer in lateral bending rigidity and 17 per cent stiffer in vertical bending rigidity.
Posted: 18 Mar 2013 04:28 AM PDT
US market off-roader receives subtle cosmetic tweaks
Toyota will unveil a revised version of its Highlander at the New York motor show. The large SUV will be on show at Jacob Javits Centre in Manhattan from 27 March.
The Highlander will take styling cues from the recently launched RAV4 in an attempt to make it more aesthetically appealing against other family-friendly SUVs.
As yet, Toyota has not released any specific details about the facelift. The current Highlander features two petrol engines in America, a four-cylinder 2.7-litre unit with 185bhp and a 3.5-litre V6 with 266bhp. Expect these to become more efficient as part of the overhaul, with a hybrid option also likely.
Posted: 18 Mar 2013 02:28 AM PDT
Norfolk-based sports car company says winding-up order was based on a contractual dispute that had already been resolved amicably
An application to wind up Group Lotus plc has been dismissed by the High Court today.
As reported by Autocar this morning, the name of Group Lotus – which comprises Lotus Cars, Lotus Motorsport and Lotus Engineering – appeared on the Companies Court Winding Up list to be heard at the High Court.
Such cases are often the result of a creditor or group of creditors seeking to have a company's assets liquidated as a result of failure to pay debts.
However, according to a statement issued by Group Lotus this afternoon, earlier this year the company was in a contractual dispute which was subsequently resolved amicably.
The High Court process means that the matter still has to be completed before a judge before proceedings can be formally disposed of. Today the claim was dismissed with no order as to costs.
Posted: 18 Mar 2013 12:40 AM PDT
New £215,000 Wraith coupé takes Rolls-Royce in a new direction – but it won't necessarily lead to expansion
Exclusivity is so important to Rolls-Royce customers – and company profits - that the launch of the new Wraith coupé is unlikely to be followed by a burst of new products, according to company boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös.
The Ghost-based Wraith coupé will go on sale this autumn from around £215,000, but Müller-Ötvös said any further expansion of the company's product range would be carefully considered.
"We do want to push the brand in new directions, but we have to act carefully," he said. "We have more than a century of pedigree, so it's a responsibility we have to respect. The fact is that we are not looking to increase production – there is no room to grow the factory – and there is a strong positive attached to the exclusivity of our cars by customers.
"It would be easy to look to build £150,000 cars, but the reason we can sell in the £200,000 price bracket is that our cars are rare. Exclusivity is a principle of our company, and that is why we will not follow every trend."
Müller-Ötvös did concede that new products are likely to be launched every couple of years. However, while he refused to rule out following rival Bentley in to the SUV segment, he played down speculation that booming demand for SUVs in markets such as China, Russia and Brazil made such a car a certainty.
"I wouldn't exclude any segments, but I can't imagine an SUV in our line-up as I stand here today," he said. "Not one customer has come to us asking for one. They tend to have a garage of cars, and pick the best for each segment, be it a Rolls-Royce for refinement, a Range Rover as an SUV or a Ferrari for sporting driving. They want the best for every world."
Posted: 17 Mar 2013 11:31 PM PDT
An eager and efficient turbocharged petrol shows the new A3 at its best This is one version of the Audi A3 that you can't afford to gloss over: the 1.4 TFSI SE Sportback. As long as the treasury's three per cent benefit-in-kind penalty for diesel fleet cars exists – and it's currently due to until 2016 at the earliest – there will be a legitimate case for cars such as this.Whether buying with their own money or the company's, those who would default to a trusty 2.0-litre TDI in the new A3 Sportback may be surprised by the following. Regardless of equipment level, this 1.4-litre petrol is more than £2000 cheaper to buy than that diesel, five groups cheaper to insure, cheaper on benefit-in-kind tax, 105kg lighter, keener handling, more refined, more responsive and so little poorer on outright performance and real-world economy that you could hardly notice the shortfall.
Posted: 17 Mar 2013 10:30 AM PDT
High-tech, 313mpg two-seat XL1 will pave the way for future ultra-frugal Volkswagen Group models
Volkswagen's radical XL1 two-seater will not only enter limited production this year but will also act as a technology demonstrator and test bed for other vehicles across the Volkswagen Group.
The car, which should be the most economical and aerodynamically efficient production car of all time, uses a two-cylinder diesel engine coupled to an electric motor to return 313mpg and emit 21g/km of CO2. And it is the engine that will help to create a new powertrain for plug-in hybrid cars based on VW's MQB architecture, including the Golf and A3 hybrids.
The design and layout of the XL1's powertrain will be scaled up with a four-cylinder engine and a more robust six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to cope with up to 300lb ft, and a 9kWh battery.
The first car to get the powertrain will be the A3 hybrid, due next year, although the first production cars will appear later this year. It should have a range of 30 miles on electric power alone and, according to VW's research and development chief Ulrich Hackenberg, be capable of returning between 177mpg and 188mpg.
The Golf hybrid will appear one month later, badged Twin Drive. It weighs substantially more than a standard car – around 200kg – partially due to the batteries and motor, but also because of a more substantial crash structure to protect the battery. But despite this, Hackenberg quotes a 0-62mph time of 7.5sec for the car.
The way the XL1 dispenses with door mirrors could also change the way cars look and how we drive. It uses cameras and screens instead, one for each mirror, and although such systems are generally not possible to put into production due to issues with German type approval, VW has dispensation to go ahead with using it on a production car. Removing mirrors from a car's exterior also makes a big contribution to cutting drag.
Read our first drive of the Volkswagen XL1 here.
Posted: 15 Mar 2013 01:00 PM PDT
Automatic gearbox pairs well with the Mazda 6 diesel, but is an expensive option that harms economy This is the higher-powered diesel variant of the new Mazda 6, planted in a Tourer version of the car and linked – most crucially for this test – to the company's new automatic gearbox.Readers of our full road test of the new Mazda 6 will already be familiar with all the car's engine and trim combinations, and the warmth with which we have received them, so the chief concern here is the effectiveness of the six-speed automatic and the compromises it introduces.
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