- Ariel developing titanium chassis
- Video: Aston Martin Rapide S review
- Record grids for British Touring Car Championship
- Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid first drive review
- Rumbled at dinner - what's a de Tomaso Guarà?
- Renault Zoe Dynamique Intens first drive review
- Autocar T-shirts available to order now
- McLaren P1 v LaFerrari v Porsche 918
- Latest figures show UK car production remains consistent
Posted: 23 Mar 2013 12:12 AM PDT
Lightweight chassis will reduce Atom's overall weight by almost 8 per cent
Ariel is developing a titanium chassis for its Atom sports car that weighs 40 per cent less than the Atom's tubular steel frame, and is capable of reducing the car's overall weight by almost eight per cent.
Titanium is incredibly strong – it has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal – but it's also extremely difficult to fabricate. If exposed to oxygen during welding, titanium combusts before it melts, hence the necessity for a complicated, argon-filled welding chamber.
The frame and the welding process have been developed alongside Frome-based Caged Laser Engineering, and part-funded for by the Technology Strategy Board's Niche Vehicle Programme fund.
Ariel's Simon Saunders told Autocar that, when development is complete, "We'd like to do a limited edition. It would be a brilliant track car. The alternative would be to offer it as an option on the range."
With a naturally aspirated Honda engine and some other selected light components, the frame could help push a limited-edition Atom's weight below 500kg. "Our magic figure would start with a four," said Saunders, though he concedes that it would be difficult, and that 500kg on the nose would be a more likely target.
When it was launched, the Atom had a very lightweight Rover K-Series engine. However, the current range of Honda engines are heavier, albeit far more reliable.
As well as proving useful on the Atom, however, Ariel thinks the experience it gains in working with titanium will also be useful on its future products, possibly including its forthcoming motorcycle.
Posted: 22 Mar 2013 11:06 AM PDT
We test the new Aston Martin Rapide S
We test the new Aston Martin Rapide S, putting the revised car through its paces and revealing what's changed from the previous generation.
Posted: 22 Mar 2013 10:14 AM PDT
BTCC race series will kick-off with a record number of cars on track
The British Touring Car Championship will have more cars on the grid than ever before, series organisers have announced.
In total 32 cars have been entered in to the Dunlop-backed championship, representing 11 different manufacturers.
The racing will be mixed up by the introduction of a new tyre compound into the race regulations. The new soft compound tyre must be used at least once during each race meeting.
BTCC Series Director Alan Gow said: "We've got a record entry, we've never had this many cars. It's quality and quantity. We've got four champions and a fantastic array of vehicles."
The series will also be shown on ITV up to 2017, Gow revealed. Official viewing figures suggest that an estimated 1.5 million people worldwide tune in to watch each round last year.
The first meeting of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship takes place at Brands Hatch on 30/31 March.
Posted: 22 Mar 2013 08:42 AM PDT
Revisions for production spec have improved the V60 Plug-In, but it remains compromised by a poor ride and huge price The Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid sports a 212bhp 2.4-litre turbodiesel driving the front wheels and a 69bhp electric motor driving the rears. It can travel up to 31 miles in pure electric mode.In Ehybrid mode, the diesel and electric motors combine to deliver the most efficient progress. Or if you're feeling a bit frisky, select Epower mode and the diesel and electric motors deliver everything they've got in the name of performance.In hybrid or even pure electric mode, if your right foot demands more power than the battery can deliver on its own, the diesel fires up. However, if you treat the throttle as though there's a hand grenade trapped under it, you can actually top out at 78mph on electricity alone.
Posted: 22 Mar 2013 08:27 AM PDT
Not knowing about a car that someone owns is one of the more embarrassing things that can happen to a car journo, and it happened to me last week
"So, being a car journalist I presume you'll know all about the de Tomaso Guarà," enquired the eldest son of a reasonably close relation over dinner last week.
"Er, ummm, eee – how do you spell that last bit?" I asked gingerly, feeling like a proper plonker but also wondering – hoping, somehow – that maybe my new friend had got his wires crossed, and that perhaps he was referring to the Mangusta or the Bigua, and not a car that actually existed, hence the reason I couldn't recall its name.
"G U A R A," he said. "And I can't BELIEVE you've never even heard of it."
At that point I knew he wasn't making it up, and that my mind had quite clearly drifted away into that place, the one in which blind panic takes over and eradicates all knowledge you have about anything.
He could have asked if I'd ever heard of Elvis Presley, Russia or the Pope at that point, and all I would have done is look back at him blankly and say, very quietly, "I think so but I'm not entirely sure…"
"Okay then I'll tell you," he boomed with pride, as a wide, mildly sadistic looking smile burst out across his face. "It was the last car ever made by Alejandro de Tomaso, who was from Argentina, my birth place." (Oh dear, he DEFINITELY knows what he's talking about.)
"In total he made just 47 examples, and a few years ago I bought number 47," he went on. (Ah, and don't I feel like a complete and utter cheeseburger right now.)
"And so seeing as you've never heard of it, maybe you should come one day to my home and drive it." Wow, thanks, yes please.
"Because even though you are not familiar with it," he continued, rubbing in that we were both, by this point, fully aware that my knowledge on cars is a very long way indeed from being complete here, "I think you would enjoy driving it all the same."
And then he did that thing. He took out his mobile phone and showed me a picture of it, at which point I felt about one quarter of half an inch tall.
But to give this perfectly decent, in fact, this extremely hospitable chap from Argentina his due, all he was doing, really, was behaving like all car nuts do. Talking the torque. And in this case passing on some knowledge about a car that had, until then, somehow eluded my radar – despite having been on sale between 1993-2004 (thank you Wikipedia) and forming the distant basis of an even rarer Maserati – the Barchetta – which was I was lucky enough to drive, albeit briefly, back in the day.
Once I'm over the shame of it all, I intend to take this very kind chap up on his offer – and maybe bring you, dear reader, a road test of one of the world's rarest sports cars in the process. But until then, don't tell anyone about it. I won't if you won't, at any rate.
Posted: 22 Mar 2013 08:19 AM PDT
We test Renault's Zoe, an electric supermini that's designed for everyday use The Renault Zoe is an all-electric city car, designed for everyday use, that can seat five in comfort.The Zoe looks great, with clean, crisp, concept car lines that are futuristic but not outlandish. It features some subtle blue tinting of lights and badges and a calm, sleekly styled cabin with a large 'R-link' display screen. You can pre-heat or pre-cool the cabin while charging, too.On that all-important topic, the official EU test regime credits the Zoe with a 130-mile range on a full charge. Renault itself reckons on a worst-case 60 miles in winter, 90 miles in summer.
Posted: 22 Mar 2013 07:24 AM PDT
New shop offers a range of Autocar branded T-shirts, featuring classic covers and iconic cars
You can now buy Autocar T-shirts which are adorned with classic Autocar covers and illustrations.
Autocar's shop will be regularly updated with new products and designs, so don't forget to stop by from time to time to view the latest items.
To see what's on offer now, visit the Autocar shop.
Posted: 22 Mar 2013 04:42 AM PDT
Here's what's in store from this astonishing trio of high-tech hybrid supercars
When it happens, when these three leviathans of the hypercar world meet, finally, on neutral ground and at a venue that's commensurate with their capabilities – at the Nurburgring, say – it will be the greatest group test of all time. For the time being, though, we can merely dote upon them, speculate about how they might square up to one another technically, and try to establish what the differences in their real world performance envelopes might be.
And in a way that's what hypercars like this are all about for the rest of us; theoretical, sometimes even philosophical comparison. Think of it as the most grown up game of Supertrumps you've ever played, in which the level of detail on display is unprecedented, and the amount of performance they can generate unique.
So here, then, is what we already know about this extraordinary triumvirate of hypercars. Maybe you'd like to sit back and feast on the various numbers we've unearthed, then make your own decision about which one might be the best, and why.
All three feature petrol engines that are aided in their quest to reach the stratosphere by electric motors that boost both power and torque. The Porsche has an atmospheric 4.6-litre V8 that's dry-sumped and revs to 8500rpm. On its own, this produces 580bhp, but when combined with the two hybrid modules that power both the front and rear axles, the 918 Spyder generates 795bhp and 575lb ft of torque.
Which sounds unbeatable until you realise what's on offer in the Ferrari and McLaren. The P1 uses the same basic design of 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 from the 12C (although McLaren claims it is an entirely different engine, with a different block, much bigger turbos and twice as much boost pressure at 2.4 bar). Either way, the P1's petrol engine develops 727bhp and 531lb ft of torque, to which the hybrid KERS system then boosts the outputs to a whopping 903bhp and 664lb ft.
But Ferrari's deliciously named "The Ferrari" trumps them both on the powertrain front, for two key reasons. One, it produces more power and torque than the others – its 6.3-litre V12 developing 790bhp at 9000rpm and 516lb ft of torque, with the Hy-KERS system boosting the overall outputs to 950bhp and 715lb ft.
Two, like the Porsche it uses no form of turbocharging. Instead its V12 engine has a suitably high 13.5:1 compression ratio, which, you'd have to speculate, will enable it to produce noises and response times that the twin-turbo P1 can only dream about.
As is de rigeur nowadays, all three feature a seven-speed twin-clutch paddle-shift gearbox that can swap cogs faster than you can think. The McLaren's is a development of the Graziano gearbox used in the 12C, featuring 40 per cent more clutch cooling and 30 per cent faster shift times. This is due mainly to the integration of the electric motors from the Hy-KERS system which, by all accounts, allow gears to effectively be pre-selected up or down, according to a senior engineer.
In the 918 there's a Porsche-built PDK with seven forward ratios and five pre-selectable operating modes to suit your mood and location (as in normal, sport, track etc). In normal mode, the 918 is rear wheel-drive but there's also a smaller, separate gearbox that drives the front wheels through an electric motor if required, although this decouples above 146mph, making the 918 fully rear wheel-drive above this speed.
The Ferrari uses a Getrag double-clutch transmission, also with an electric motor attached to it, with a dedicated gear-set that transmits drive directly to the final drive. Maranello claims it's the fastest shifting gearbox that's ever been fitted to one of its cars, and that the shift style/times can be tailored to your needs – as they can in the others, to be fair – in this instance via the familiar five-stage mannetino dial on the steering wheel.
In LaFerrari, however, the mannetino also allows the driver to change certain settings for the Hy-KERS system as well, which, says Maranello, allows even greater fine tuning of the car while on the move.
KERS and kerbweights
Lithium-ion phosphate batteries are used to power various electric motors in all three cars, and in each instance these are mounted behind the driver but in front of the engine and gearbox, as low down within the mid-engined, carbon fibre tub as it is possible to mount them.
The batteries of the P1 weigh 96kg while those of The Ferrari weigh just 62kg. Porsche doesn't say how much the 918's batteries weigh, nor the rest of its hybrid powertrain, but because it's four wheel-drive the 918 is heavy beside the others.
Even with the weight saving "Weissach Package" installed, the 918 murders the scales at 1665kg. Beside the P1 – which weighs 1490kg all up or 1395kg "dry" without fluids – that looks cumbersome. And beside The Ferrari – a mere 1255kg dry so call it around 1345kg all up – it seems downright bloated.
In the P1, energy is harvested via engine braking or by charging the car via a charge point, which takes approximately two hours. McLaren decided not to use the brakes to regenerate energy because, in testing, it wasn't happy with the effects this had on brake pedal feel. In The Ferrari, though, "we use everything to regenerate energy" says the car's technical director, Roberto Fideli.
"From the brakes to the traction control system to the car's electronic differential, we reuse it all to make energy. We had some problems with brake pedal feel to begin with" admits Fideli. "But we got through that and now we're 100 per cent happy with the car's feel."
In its entirety, the Hy-KERS system adds 170kg to the weight of the P1 while in The Ferrari it adds just 140kg. That means the P1 would weigh a mere 1225kg "dry" without its KERS, while The Ferrari would weigh an incredible 1115kg. The 918 would seemingly be close to 1500kg, even without its hybrid, four-wheel drive-systems.
Interestingly, the P1 and 918 both feature so-called "E-modes" in which they can run for short periods without petrol power. The P1 can do 0-62mph in 9.4sec and tops 100mph with a range of 20km in its E-mode. Porsche claims a 150kmh (93mph) top speed and a range of 25km for the 918 when purely electric.
The Ferrari doesn't have an E-mode as such, Maranello instead claiming that the KERS system is there purely to generate extra performance, hence the reason why the 330g/km figure looks way out of kilter with the incredible 70g/km of the 918 and the "under 200g/km" claim by McLaren.
Carbon ceramic discs are used in all three cars, but those of the P1 seem especially trick, even in this context. Supplied by Aakebono – who do the braking systems for Formula One – they were developed for McLaren bespoke and can, says Woking, sustain much higher operating temperatures than conventional carbon ceramic discs.
They also develop a smooth, almost mirrored finish the harder they are used, apparently, which means "cool points" can be earned by owners/drivers at track days for the most mirrored discs.
The Ferrari isn't just the longest (at 4702mm) and widest (at 1992mm), it's also the lowest (at 1116mm), which gives it a natural edge when it comes to fundamental visual appeal. But at the same time it also has the shortest wheelbase at 2650mm, which means it has the longest overhangs. Again, this lends it a more dart-like elegance, before you even begin to appreciate its smoother detailing.
According to McLaren the P1 generates a vaguely astonishing 600kg of downforce at 161mph, beyond which the car's active aerodynamics automatically trim back the wings to reduce drag – McLaren's thinking being that above 161mph you don't need as much downforce because you won't ever be cornering at such a speed.
But although neither Ferrari nor Porsche make any specific claims (yet) for maximum downforce figures, in both cases there are computer controlled active aerodynamic systems in place that deploy wings front and rear – and in The Ferrari's case move guiding vanes on the underbody and use "active flaps" on the front and rear diffusers as well – to keep them glued to the road in corners.
In the P1's case, the rear wing has three different heights depending which of its various drive modes have been selected (normal, sports, track and race). In race mode the wing rises by 300mm, and in track mode by 120mm. But it also alters in pitch through 29 degrees depending what speed you're doing and which mode is selected.
And for the ultimate "F1 for the road" experience there's also a DRS button in the P1 that, when pressed, instantly reduces the pitch and height of the rear wing, thereby reducing drag, a la F1, to provide a hit of extra straight line acceleration. As soon as cornering loads are detected, however, the P1's rear wing redeploys and stability is maintained, says McLaren, the whole lot being computer controlled to "provide maximum grip but also maximum driver entertainment at all times, and at all speeds" according to McLaren's engineers.
The P1 is unique here in that the ride height of its all round, double wishbone, aluminium suspension varies when on the move, again depending on how fast it's travelling and which mode is selected. In race mode, the ride height drops by as much as 50mm while the hydraulic spring rates increase by a factor of three and the roll stiffness goes up three and a half times (compared with normal mode).
McLaren describes race mode as "a Nurburgring button" which provides the P1 with close to GT3 racing car levels of roll stiffness and downforce, but which can be switched back to a far more comfortable "normal" setting at the press of a button.
But The Ferrari's mannetino system can also be switched between numerous modes to transform the responses of the all round, aluminium, double wishbone suspension to suit different circumstances on the move, as can the 918's double wishbone front, multi-link rear suspension.
All three have highly sophisticated traction control systems (five modes in the P1 and Ferrari and, we believe, just three in the 918). And in each instance it's possible to switch the TC completely off if you are feeling brave enough.
This is the big one, of course. It's what sells cars like these to the people who are lucky enough to be able to afford them, and it's what keeps the rest of us in subject matter during our bar room banter.
And for the time being, at least, The Ferrari would appear to have the edge – simply because it has more power and torque than its rivals but less weight to carry into the bargain. Its power to weight ratio is over 700bhp per tonne (which is way more even than a Bugatti Veyron can muster) while the P1 generates 606bhp/tonne, the 918 around 477bhp/tonne.
Thus, the official claims for the zero to 100kmh (62mph) sprint are; Porsche 3.0sec, McLaren "under 3.0sec", Ferrari "sub 3.0sec." So not much to separate them there.
To reach 200kmh (124mph), however, the claims are; Porsche 9.0sec, McLaren "under 7.0sec" Ferrari "sub 7.0sec." Which means the 918 Spyder's weight is already beginning to tell, it seems, while the two big hitters remain resolutely locked together.
But to hit 300kmh from rest (186mph) there's a massive difference between how quick the Porsche is (27.0sec) besides the rocket-propelled McLaren ("under 17sec"). Having said that, Maranello's claim for The Ferrari of just 15.5sec would appear to place it in a league of one for pure, rabid acceleration. And the good people of Woking won't like that one bit.
Ferrari doesn't even make a claim for LaFerrari's top speed yet "because we simply don't care about top speed." Even so, it's safe to say that it'll be somewhere near or perhaps beyond the P1's 218mph limited top speed, and well in excess of the 918's claimed 202mph.
Both McLaren and Ferrari claim their cars will lap the Nurburgring in under seven minutes. Neither has yet verified this claim, however, the numbers instead having been generated by factory simulators. Porsche, on the other hand, claims a genuine "we've timed it" lap time of 7min 14sec, which was set in testing on September 18 last year (ninth month, 18th day, natch).
The most exclusive of the three, in theory, will be the P1, McLaren choosing to limit the numbers of cars it will produce over the next two years to just 375 – at £866,000 apiece.
Ferrari, by contrast, will make 499 LaFerraris over the next 24 months, with a list price of 1.2m euros each, including taxes. At today's exchange rate that's approximately £1.05m. Deliveries of both will begin sometime "this summer."
But it's the 918's price, and it's proposed build numbers, that would appear to pose the biggest question mark. Deliveries of the car begin on September 18 this year (ninth month, 18th day) and Porsche says it will build 918 Spyders in total, charging $845,000 (£682,000) for the basic version and $949,000 (£745,000) for the Weissach Package.
Considering how much less potent and exclusive the 918 will be compared with its nemeses from Ferrari and McLaren, only time will tell whether Porsche has got it right or not with the 918's pricing. And in the meantime all we can do is dote – on three of the most extraordinary motorcars the world has ever seen, all about to hit our streets at exactly the same time.
Price: 1.2m euros; 0-62mph: sub-3.0sec (claimed); Top speed: na; Economy: na; CO2 emissions: 333g/km; Kerb weight: 1255kg (dry), approx 1345kg with fluids; Engine layout: V12, 6262cc, petrol, plus electric motors; Installation: Mid, longitudinal, RWD; Power: 950bhp at 9000rpm; Torque: 715lb ft at 6750rpm; Power to weight: 707bhp per tonne (with fluids); Specific output: 152bhp per litre; Compression ratio: 13.5:1; Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Length: 4702mm; Width: 1992mm; Height: 1116mm; Wheelbase: 2650mm; Fuel tank: na; Range: na; Boot: na; Front suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Rear suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Brakes: Ventilated carbon-ceramic discs; Wheels: 19in (f), 20in (r); Tyres: 265/30 ZR19 (f), 345/30 ZR20 (r) Pirelli P Zero Rosso Corsa;
Price: £866,000; 0-62mph: sub-3.0sec (claimed); Top speed: 218mph (limited); Economy: na; CO2 emissions: "Under 200g/km"; Kerb weight: 1395kg (dry), 1490kg with fluids;Engine layout: V8, 3799cc, twin-turbo, petrol, plus electric motor; Installation: Mid, longitudinal, RWD; Power: 903bhp at 7500rpm; Torque: 664lb ft at 4000rpm; Power to weight: 606bhp per tonne; Specific output: 237bhp per litre; Compression ratio: na; Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Length: 4590mm Width: 1946mm; Height 1170mm; Wheelbase: 2670mm; Fuel tank: na; Range: na; Boot: 120 litres; Front suspension: Double wishbones, hydraulic springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Rear suspension: Double wishbones, hydraulic springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Brakes: Carbon-ceramic discs; Wheels: 19in (f), 20in (r); Tyres: 245/35 ZR19 (f), 315/30 ZR20 (r), Pirelli P Zero Rosso Corsa;
Porsche 918 Spyder
Price: £682,000; 0-62mph: sub-3.0sec (claimed); Top speed: 202mph (limited); Economy: 94.1mpg (NEDC combined); CO2 emissions: 70g/km; Kerb weight: 1665kg with fluids and Weissach Package; Engine layout: V8, 4600cc, petrol, plus electric motors; Installation: Mid, longitudinal, 4WD; Power: 795bhp at 8500rpm; Torque: 575lb ft at 4000rpm; Power to weight: 477bhp per tonne; Specific output: 173bhp per litre; Compression ratio: na; Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Length: 4643mm; Width: 1940mm; Height: 1167mm; Wheelbase: 2730mm; Fuel tank: 70 litres; Range: na; Boot: 110 litres; Front suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Rear suspension: Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar, electronic adaptive dampers; Brakes: Carbon-ceramic discs; Wheels: 20in (f), 21in (r); Tyres: 265/35 ZR20 (f), 325/30 ZR21 (r), Michelin Pilot Cup;
Posted: 22 Mar 2013 03:45 AM PDT
SMMT releases manufacturing data for February; car production and demand remains steady but engine output is falling
Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) indicate UK car production was slightly lower in February 2013 compared to the same month last year. However, production so far this year shows a marginal increase and a much higher demand for cars in Britain.
In February, 137,458 cars were produced in Britain, down 0.7 per cent on 2012's figure of 138,483. Given last year's figure was 26 per cent higher than February 2011, to maintain very similar levels of production is encouraging.
Of those cars produced, 102,207 were exported; a slip of 9.8 per cent on 2012. However, 35,251 of the cars made in Britain in February remained here – that's a 39.7 per cent rise against the same period in 2012.
So far in 2013, output has grown 33.4 per cent, with exports shrinking 6.9 per cent compared to last year. The overall manufacturing total for the year-to-date is 266,507; a small increase on 2012's 266,033.
British engine manufacturing has also been analysed by the SMMT. Compared to 2012, less engines were made both for export and home, with a 5 per cent reduction overall. Of the 220,466 powerplants made, 62 per cent were exported.
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