Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Budget 2013: Fuel duty rise scrapped

Posted: 20 Mar 2013 03:08 AM PDT

What George Osborne's 2013 budget means for motorists

George Osbourne announced today that the 3p per litre rise in fuel duty, scheduled for September, will be scrapped.

The increase in duty would have further pushed up the cost of motoring for many.

Fuel for an average diesel car, travelling 10,000 miles a year and returning 40mpg, would currently cost approximately £1,645 a year.

If the fuel duty rise had come in to play, that figure would have risen to £1,679. Motorists would have consequently had to pay an additional £34 a year.

George Osbourne thanked Harlow MP, Robert Halfon, for campaigning to abolish the fuel duty escalator.

McLaren P1 stars in Goodwood's 2013 plans

Posted: 20 Mar 2013 02:30 AM PDT

New hypercar among the stars of the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed, the first details of which have been confirmed by organisers

The McLaren P1 will be given its world dynamic debut at this year's Goodwood Festival Speed. The P1 will be one of 43 supercars taking part in Goodwood's famed Supercar Run, one of the centerpieces of the Festival that celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Numerous milestones will be celebrated by Goodwood at the 2013 Festival of Speed. Fifty years of the Porsche 911 will provide the core theme of the Central Feature Sculpture, while 90 years of Le Mans 24 Hours, 50 years of McLaren Racing, 50 years of Lamborghini, 40 years of the World Rally Championship and 60 years of the Sports Car World Championship will also be celebrated.

Goodwood has so far confirmed seven Formula One teams: Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari, Lotus, Caterham and Marussia will all attend. More are expected to be announced in the build-up to the Festival, which runs from 12-14 July.

Well known faces from the world of motoring who have so far confirmed their attendance include Sir Stirling Moss, Derek Bell, Sir Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Alain Prost, Emerson Fittipaldi and Richard Attwood. A host of contemporary F1 drivers are also expected to attend.

The Goodwood Moving Motor Show also returns for another year on Thursday 11 July. Skoda, Peugeot and Lexus have already confirmed they will be giving world debuts to new models at the show.

For 2013, the Forest Rally Stage has been redesigned to be more spectator-friendly. The stage "will be considerably longer", according to Goodwood, with a fast Tarmac section running through the paddock among the additions.

Other returning events to the Festival include the Cartier Style et Lux concours, which will celebrate 'The Greatest Car Designs of All Time', the usual oddball creations in the Cathedral Paddock, static displays of Land Speed Record cars on the cricket pitch, and an expanded bike section with star riders including Kenny Roberts and 12-time world champion trials rider Dougie Lampkin.

A special parade will also be taking place to celebrate the 20 years of the Festival of Speed.

Mercedes CLA45 AMG - first pictures

Posted: 19 Mar 2013 05:32 PM PDT

Pictures of hot Mercedes CLA leak out ahead of New York motor show debut

These are reported to be the first pictures of the new Mercedes CLA45 AMG, which will be officially unveiled at next week's New York motor show.

The pictures, which have leaked on to the internet ahead of the car's launch, reveal the full styling of the CLA45 AMG, which will use the same running gear as the Mercedes A45 AMG, which was shown at the Geneva motor show.

Power will come from a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 355bhp and 332lb ft of torque. All four wheels will be driven through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Peugeot 208 GTI development prototype drive

Posted: 19 Mar 2013 05:01 PM PDT

Engineering prototype shows early promise for Peugeot's new hot hatch The new Peugeot 208 GTI, on UK sale next month, and a car given the hefty task of reigniting the flame of the 205 GTI. It is lower and wider than the standard three-door on which it is based, and powered by a turbocharged 197bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine familiar from the more potent RCZ and DS3 models that, Peugeot says, will propel it from 0-62mph in less than 7.0sec.GTI chassis changes over a standard 208 include tracks that are 10mm wider at the front and 20mm wider at the rear. The MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension has also been tuned for "an incisive driving experience". It has sports springs, recalibrated dampers, revised anti-roll bars and enhanced front subframe and rear cross-member rigidity. The steering has been tuned to increase firmness.Other additions include bespoke 17-inch 'Diamond Carbon' alloy wheels that are painted and finished in a matt varnish. The wheels wear 204/45 tyres and cover 302mm ventilated discs at the front and 249mm discs at the rear. The brakes are cooled by 'dynamic air intakes'.The light weight of the standard 208 has enabled a kerb weight of just 1160kg for the GTI. That's 80kg lighter than the Renault Clio 200 and 165kg lighter than the 207 GTI, which was last on sale in the UK three years ago.

Aston Martin Rapide S

Posted: 19 Mar 2013 09:59 AM PDT

Gaydon's four-door grand tourer gets more power and panache Aston Martin's mission to bring us the most beautiful four-door in the world has hit second gear.Four years into the life of this intriguing hybrid coupe-cum-saloon, what you might call a mid-cycle refreshed version has arrived. Except that the Aston Martin Rapide S is a much more altered animal than those terms would imply.There's a whole new front-end structure here, a revised engine, a reinforced body, a reappraised chassis, a freshened-up cabin – as well as that thrusting new grille.Here, then, is a chance for Gaydon to hit the reset button; to cast memories of the first Rapide's troubled early years – of outsourced production, slow initial sales and punishing early residual values – to the dustbin of history. This car may not quite be all new, but rest assured, it's much newer than it looks. Perhaps even more important, it's a clean slate.Aston's claims for it are many. This car, they say, pushes the company's four-door model through two specific performance watersheds: it takes less than 5.0sec to hit 60mph, and is capable of 190mph flat out. It has 17 per cent more power than its predecessor, and 10 per cent more torque at 2500rpm. It has a heavily revised chassis too, and offers as big a gain in refinement as it does on speed. Is all that to be believed? You're about to read the only verdict that matters.

Should a Bentley be built in Britain?

Posted: 19 Mar 2013 08:51 AM PDT

Bentley is considering Slovakia as a production home for its new SUV – but would this have a negative effect for the firm?

In London this morning, Bentley boss Wolfgang Schreiber delivered a very positive set of financial results for Bentley in 2012 in his first press conference as chief executive.

In short, sales are up and profits are up. The firm is predicting more of the same in 2013 and an almost doubling of sales by 2018, not least due to a new model that everyone wanted to speak to Schreiber about: "an ultra-luxury Bentley SUV", as he described it.

We were given the first glimpse of a Bentley SUV with the EXP 9 F concept at the Geneva motor show last year. Thankfully, Schreiber officially confirmed what insiders who've worked on the project have been saying for the best part of a year: they've started again with the exterior styling and ditched the Falcon name.

That was met with nods of approval from the assembled hacks. Eyebrows were raised, however, at news of where the model could be built.

Volkswagen Group's plant in Bratislava, Slovakia, has often been touted as the home for the new Bentley SUV, but this was the first formal admission from anyone at Bentley or VW that this could be the case.

Not that there's anything shocking about this in principle; the models on which the Bentley SUV would be based, the Audi Q7, VW Touareg and bodies of the Porsche Cayenne, all call Bratislava home.

So economically, it would seem a no-brainer, as a huge investment in a new bodyshop and production line would be needed at Crewe, although Bentley's assembled bosses were still saying its home was up to the task.

But this appears to be a decision that pulls on the heartstrings and strikes at the very essence of what Bentley stands for. Earlier in the press conference, Bentley sales chief Kevin Rose said the firm was actively looking to "develop and nurture" the fact that it can display a 'Made in Crewe, England' plaque on its models. "It's very important to sale that our cars are made in England," he said.

But when talk turned to the SUV later in the press conference, Rose said Bentley's research had shown that it is "more important for customers where something is designed and conceived" rather than where it is built.

"The single most important thing is the British design. [Should it be built in Bratislava] it is still a British design, all the internal components would be produced in the UK and we would still claim it," said Rose, conceding that the plaque would have to switch to 'Designed in Crewe, England', in the same way Apple products display 'Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.'

Reading between the lines, the decision I suspect they'll take is that the Bentley SUV will be assembled in Bratislava and the interiors shipped over from Britain to be fitted by workers effectively employed and trained by Bentley. Bratislava is open to compromise; the bodies of Porsche Cayennes are assembled there before being sent to Leipzig for final assembly. But Bratislava to Leipzig is easier logistically than Bratislava to Crewe.

Would this solution 'cheapen' the Bentley SUV in the eyes of the enthusiast? Probably. What about to the thousands of American and Chinese buyers Bentley has calculated will be lining up to buy the SUV? Probably not. After all, I suspect Bentley has noticed this approach has hardly done Apple or the Cayenne any harm.

Renault concept to preview next Twingo

Posted: 19 Mar 2013 08:47 AM PDT

Car will be shown in Milan and features styling input from Ross Lovegrove

Renault and industrial designer Ross Lovegrove will reveal a new concept car at the Triennale Design Museum in Milan next month. The design could influence the next Twingo, itself twinned with the next Smart ForFour.

The concept will further advance Renault's latest design strategy, pioneered by Laurens van der Acker in 2010. Using the 'life cycle' as an overall theme, individual concepts have aimed to represent six different stages and experiences of human life.

The DeZir was the first concept created under this ethos and was said to reflect the 'falling in love' stage of our lives. The 'family' and 'work' phases we experience were represented by the subsequent R-Space and Frendzy concepts respectively.

This latest collaboration between Renault and Ross Lovegrove is understood to be the concept for the 'play' stage of the design language. According to Renault's design director for concept and show cars, Axel Breun, the production Twingo will use elements of the play concept to be simple, cute and sporty. The car will also use a rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout, but further details are currently scarce.

The final concept, inspired by 'wisdom', is likely to be a preview for the new Espace.

Of the latest project, Renault has said it intends to reveal "nature's underlying blueprints and transfer them into a new design language".  After being unveiled on 8 April, the Renault/Ross Lovegrove concept will be exhibited in Milan from 9-14 April.

Matt Bird

Autocar magazine 20 March preview

Posted: 19 Mar 2013 08:02 AM PDT

In this week's Autocar magazine: McLaren P13; new compact Jaguar; the public's response to the Dacia Sandero; Australian Grand Prix report; Peugeot 208 GTI prototype driven; Renault Clio RS 200 Turbo vs Toyota GT86

This week's Autocar magazine features a scoop on the McLaren P13, the British manufacturer's answer to the Porsche 911. In addition to all the details on the new car, which is set to go on sale in 2015, we have an exclusive four-page interview with McLaren company boss Ron Dennis.

Other eye-catching news stories include the first pictures of the upcoming baby Jaguar, with the BMW 3-series rival being spied for the first time, and the new Range Rover Sport, which is due to be revealed in all its glory at next week's New York motor show.

Among our columnists, Steve Cropley finds out how other drivers treat the £5995 Dacia Sandero, while Formula 1 reporter Joe Saward also offers his views on last weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

First drive reviews include an exclusive drive of a prototype of the new Peugeot 208 GTI, the BMW 3-series GT, the Kia Procee'd, the Kia Carens and the all-new Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo, which Steve Sutcliffe pits against the mighty Toyota GT86 to answer the question as to which delivers the greatest driver thrills. The subject of the full eight-page road test is currently subject to a secrecy agreement – find out more on Wednesday.

James Ruppert champions the practical Vauxhall Zafira in his used car buying column, while the Porsche 968 and 968 Clubsport take centre stage in our used buying guide. In addition, we ask if buyers with a budget of £85k should choose a new Range Rover or a used Lamborghini LM002.

Our long-term test fleet also takes a budget tone by welcoming the new Dacia Sandero, and we have updates on the BMW M135i and Seat Mii

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

Jaguar to mark XFR-S debut with Goodwood Hill sprint

Posted: 19 Mar 2013 06:04 AM PDT

Le Mans winner Andy Wallace will drive the 186mph super-saloon

The Jaguar XFR-S will make its driving debut at Goodwood tomorrow. It will be driven up the iconic hill by Andy Wallace, winner of the 1988 Le Mans 24-Hour race in a Jaguar XJR-9.

The drive is part of a press day for this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed, which takes place from 11-14 July. Jaguar will also be exhibiting a race-prepared 1962 Mk2 saloon and a 'short-nose' D-type prototype from 1954.

Orders for the £79,995 XFR-S are being taken by Jaguar now. Over the standard XFR, it boasts another 39bhp (up from 503bhp to 542bhp) and 41lb ft of torque, the peak figure increasing from 461lb ft to 502lb ft. The top speed limiter has also been raised from 155 to 186mph.

Matt Bird

Bentley still evaluating Mulsanne range expansion

Posted: 19 Mar 2013 05:23 AM PDT

Convertible is one of three concepts being considered

Bentley is still yet to decide how it will expand the Mulsanne range following the creation of an open-top concept version last year.

The Mulsanne convertible concept was shown in private at the Pebble Beach show last summer, and Bentley chief Wolfgang Schreiber has said the concept met with a favourable reaction by all who saw it.

He said the convertible was "one option for the expansion of the Mulsanne range" and the firm had "two more" concepts it could show.

"In the next few months we will decide where to go with the Mulsanne but we haven't made that decision yet," said Schreiber. "We had very positive feedback from the convertible concept but we need to investigate carefully what we really need for the Mulsanne."

Third-generation Acura MDX set for New York reveal

Posted: 18 Mar 2013 05:19 AM PDT

Seven-seat SUV gets new equipment, more space and a two-wheel drive option

Honda's luxury US arm Acura will show an updated version of its MDX seven-seat SUV at the New York motor show. It promises improved fuel consumption, aerodynamics and a more versatile interior.

Thanks to a longer wheelbase, Acura claims improved legroom for second-row passengers in the MDX and easier access to the third row. Increasing the space between the axles also serves to boost ride quality.

Just one engine is offered in the facelifted MDX, a 3.5-litre i-VTEC V6 with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM). Four-wheel drive is provided by Honda's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), while front-wheel drive is also an option for the first time.

Acura makes proud claims about the safety equipment available with the third-generation MDX. Along with a Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Blind Spot Information (BSI), a rearview camera is also fitted. This equipment will contribute to the MDX's predicted five-star score from America's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

Matt Bird

Jaguar's BMW 3-series rival – latest pics

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 05:49 AM PDT

Jaguar begins testing its new compact saloon

These are the latest pictures of Jaguar's crucial new compact saloon, undergoing testing in Sweden. The new baby Jaguar, prototypes of which have been seen in both the UK and  Sweden, will be a compact and lightweight rear-drive saloon that will spawn other body styles and spearhead a significant sales expansion for the brand.

However, the new line won't be an obvious rival for established premium cars such as the BMW 3-series and Audi A4, according to senior sources. It will attempt to outpoint the German opposition by emphasising its lightweight aluminium construction and cutting-edge, super-frugal four-cylinder engines.

The junior model range will be based on a new set of components that will be scaleable enough to be used in the next-generation XF and XJ models. This will allow the company eventually to achieve "90 per cent" of all production from one common component set, according to Jaguar's global brand director, Adrian Hallmark.

Jaguar intends that building all three model ranges on the same highly scaleable Premium Lightweight Architecture (PLA) aluminium platform – which made its debut under the Mk4 Range Rover – will allow the company to drive into sustainable profitability by running its Castle Bromwich plant at full capacity.

The model spied in testing might resemble an XF at first glance, but on closer inspection there are several clues that give its identity away as the smaller saloon. The tracks are much narrower than on the XF, the wheels hardly making an impression on the arches. The radiator is also set much further back in the nose, and tell-tale signs of a model not matching its body include ill-fitting door handles and fuel filler cap.

"Trying to find a gap to exploit is a real challenge," said Hallmark last year on the positioning of the new models. "Nobody is waiting for another competitor to enter a segment. For us to enter, we need to have a winning proposition. It has to have a twist, something relevant to the consumer. But the Jaguar brand should define everything."

He also hinted that the new model would expand into a full line-up of body styles: "All makers in that segment have a successful strategy of different versions: coupés, cabrios, estates, engines. You have to be flexible in that segment."

Peugeot-Citroen will diversify to combat falling sales

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 05:01 AM PDT

CEO of the PSA Group admits the brands are too close and new markets need to be targeted

PSA will position Citroen and Peugeot further apart following an admission from CEO Philippe Varin that the manufacturers are too close.

In a bid to attract different customers to the brands, Peugeot will move upmarket by refining its range of traditional cars. However, niche products such as the 208 GTI and 2008 crossover will continue to eke out higher profit margins per sale.

Citroen will use a two-pronged approach to secure sales both above and below where its current range is positioned. Its successful range of DS models will expand and target premium rivals, whilst its C-cars from C1 to C5 will sit nearer the budget end of the market on replacement. Head of PSA brands Frederic Saint-Geours has this market shift will not impact on Citroen's profitability, and was decided on in 2009.

Industry experts have labelled Citroen's approach 'cheap premium', and its approach is previewed in the C-Elysee saloon (intended for emerging markets) and Technospace concept, which will influence the next C4 Picasso.

Varin suggested future Citroen models will be fuel-efficient cars with 'purist design' and easy-to-use technology. Peugeot will produce 'elegant, dynamic designs that stand out from the crowd' whilst also offering an 'innovative driving experience' and improved reliability.

It would appear the biggest threat to PSA Group's plans would be the strength of the competition, as well as the time it may take to implement such a shift in product strategy. Kia and Hyundai have made huge gains as budget brands in recent years, whilst the sales stranglehold of mainstream rivals such as Ford and VW shows little sign of abating.

Matt Bird

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