Monday, March 4, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Geneva motor show mania starts at the check-in desk

Posted: 04 Mar 2013 07:35 AM PST

You're never too far away from a car fanatic during Geneva motor show week...

Like many of my colleagues I've been en route to the Geneva motor show today, but I didn't expect my first car-related conversation to start quite as early as the self check-in desk of Heathrow Airport 's Terminal Five.

I'm a big fan of those efficient self check-in machines that stand sentry-like in the terminal building. If you're organised and have your passport and flight booking reference number to hand, you can check-in, negotiate security and be on your merry way to WH Smith to shelf-surf for car magazines within minutes.

However, a sub-clause in the law of sod obviously dictates that the bit of paper with your flight booking reference number written on it gets shuffled to the bottom of your holdall (even if you purposefully place it on the top before you leave your house).

This morning, as I fumbled in my bag for said bit of paper, a British Airways assistant offered his help with the check-in procedure. I warned him to expect a swarm of equally disorganised motoring journalists throughout the day, and told him about the Geneva motor show.

His eyes lit up. Turns out he is a dyed-in-the-wool Saab fan, is looking forward to seeing the Renault Captur from the show and is also an occasional letter writer to Autocar, all attributes that place him firmly in the 'crazy about cars' category.

We briefly chatted about Saab's struggls before my new friend – whose name I regretfully didn't get chance to spy on his lapel badge – had to assist another (hopefully more organised) flyer.

Then it was onwards to Switzerland, where tomorrow the show throws open its doors in earnest and we get our first glimpses at a host of cars that have teased, titillated and tantalised us during recent weeks.

I'm looking forward to seeing some of the slightly off-the-wall vehicles.  The Mitsubishi GR-HEV intrigues me: I don't think for one minute that a utilitarian diesel-hybrid pick-up truck will be the answer to all car buyer's prayers, but I'm interested to learn more about the concept. As well as efficiency benefits brought on by the electric motors, the decent torque provided by the electric motors should be well suited to lugging heavy loads around.

The first official images of the Kia Provo appeared on the internet this morning, and I'm hoping that I'll find time to have a good nose around the conceptual Mini rival. The racy B-segment design features some retro throwback styling on the inside but is underpinned by a thoroughly modern hybrid powertrain. It's an interesting time for Kia; having established itself as a major, credible player in the automotive world, it is now starting to flex its muscles and offer some hints about how it plans to carry on broadening its appeal in the years to come.

I'm also going to pay a visit the Subaru Viziv.  Despite having a name that sounds more like a Top Gun-spec Russian fighter jet, the manufacturer promises the crossover concept will show off Subaru's future design and technology directions. Can Subaru capitalise on the momentum it has built up with the fantastic BRZ?

With the show opening tomorrow, Geneva already has a big buzz around it, so it looks like I'll have plenty of car news to tell my new British Airways chum at Heathrow next time I fly out of Terminal Five...


Volkswagen Golf crowned European Car of the Year 2013

Posted: 04 Mar 2013 06:50 AM PST

The Volkswagen Golf has scored a massive win in the 2013 European Car of the Year awards

The Volkswagen Golf has been crowned European Car of the Year 2013.

The seventh-generation Golf took the award by a huge margin, receiving 414 votes. The Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ took the runners-up spot with 202 votes.

The Volvo V40 was placed third, just ahead of the Ford B-Max and Hyundai i30. The Mercedes A-class was ranked fifth, followed by the Renault Clio, Peugeot 208 and Hyundai i30.

The award was accepted by Volkswagen's development boss, Ulrich Hackenberg and design chief Walter de Silva. Judges praised the Golf for its "achievements in safety, fuel efficiency, dynamics and comfort".

Steve Cropley, ECOTY judge and Autocar editor-in-chief said: "The French superminis undoubtedly stole one another's votes. But it was a massive win for the Golf."

Today's announcement, on the eve of the Geneva motor show, marks the second time the Golf has won. The Mk3 Golf took the award in 1992. The Renault Clio is the only other car to take the award twice.

European Car of the Year results:

Volkswagen Golf — 414 votes

Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ — 202 votes

Volvo V40 — 89 votes

Ford B-Max — 148 votes

Mercedes A-class — 138 votes

Renault Clio — 128 votes

Peugeot 208 — 120 votes

Hyundai i30 — 111 votes

Geneva motor show: Pininfarina Sergio concept teased

Posted: 04 Mar 2013 02:11 AM PST

Pininfarina reveals the first full images of the Sergio, a two-seat open sports car

Pininfarina is set to unveil its Sergio concept car at the Geneva motor show.

A tribute to its former chairman, Sergio Pininfarina, the Sergio is a one-off two-seat sports car which is claimed to "renew the spirit of the extraordinary achievements born under Sergio Pininfarina's guide".

Pininfarina was the famous car designer whose success spanned six decades, from the Lancia Aurelia Spider of the 1950s to the Ferrari 458 Italia of 2009.

No other details have yet been revealed about the car.

Click here for more Geneva motor show 2013 news.

Geneva motor show: Toyota i-Road

Posted: 03 Mar 2013 10:00 PM PST

Three-wheeled electric vehicle is made for two-person urban transport and has a range of 30 miles

Toyota has unveiled a new three-wheeled electric vehicle ahead of the Geneva motor show. The Toyota i-Road is just 850mm wide and is designed for easy maneuverability on city streets.

The three-wheel i-Road seats two people in tandem under a weatherproof cover and body. It can be driven without a crash helmet, and Toyota says the cabin has a 'car-like environment'.

The i-Road is 2350mm long, 1445mm high and has a 1700mm wheelbase. The narrow width means that up to four i-Roads could be parked in a single car parking bay.

The zero-emissions, all-electric powertrain uses a lithium-ion battery to power two 2kW motors mounted in the front wheels.

The driving range is around 30 miles, after which the battery can be fully recharged from a conventional domestic power supply in three hours.

The i-Road uses a lean actuator and gearing mounted above the front suspension member, linked via a yoke to the left and right front tyres, to balance the vehicle during cornering.

Toyota refers to the system as 'Active Lean' technology. An ECU calculates the required degree of lean based on steering angle, vehicle speed and information provided by a gyro-sensor.

The system automatically moves the tyres up and down in opposite directions, applying lean angle to counteract the centrifugal force of cornering.

Toyota hasn't yet said when the i-Road would be likely to reach production or how much it could cost.

Click here for more Geneva motor show 2013 news

Geneva motor show: Kia Provo

Posted: 03 Mar 2013 10:00 PM PST

Kia has unveiled the Provo, a Rio-based concept inspired by road car-based budget competition cars from Fiat, Alfa and Innocenti

This is the Kia Provo, a Mini-rivalling 'urban racer' concept for the Geneva motor show.

Based on a shortened Kia Rio platform, the four-wheel-drive hatchback is just 3.88m long and 1.35m tall and has a strictly 2+2 cabin layout. It was created by Kia's Frankfurt-based design team, led by chief designer Gregory Guillaume, who reports to Hyundai-Kia design supremo Peter Schreyer.

Guillaume describes the Provo as "entirely a car for European tastes and conditions - an emotional and muscular car aimed at delivering pure fun and performance for today's city-based enthusiast driver".

The Provo has frameless doors, a wrap-around windscreen, dramatic bumper inserts and 19-inch milled aluminium wheels.

Kia designers say they were inspired by road car-based budget competition machines such as the Fiat 500 Abarth, Alfa GT Junior and obscurities such as the Innocenti Mini De Tomaso.

The interior dispenses with a conventional centre console to make the enclosed cockpit feel more spacious. A neat aluminium mount holds the transmission selector and starter button, and the driver uses column-mounted paddle shifters. The instruments and climate controls are animated on LCD screens.

Kia's designers have also taken inspiration from 1950s race cars, using a quilted leather covering across the seats and centre tunnel.

Powering the car's front wheels is a 201bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, which drives through a seven-speed DSG 'box. The rear axle is driven by a 44bhp electric motor.

Click here for more Geneva motor show 2013 news.

Ferrari vs McLaren - surely a one (prancing) horse race?

Posted: 03 Mar 2013 12:46 PM PST

This week's Geneva motor show is billed as a showdown between the new Ferrari Enzo and McLaren P1. Given the history of Ferrari and timing of its reveal, there can surely only be one winner?

Browsing through Autocar's extensive list of Geneva motor show coverage already live on our site this evening, I noticed we are approaching our 100th story about a new car at the event – and this more than 36 hours before the show even opens.

Yet come 11am on Tuesday, when the Ferrari press conference ends and the covers are removed from the new Ferrari Enzo, there is only one car that is going to open every conversation. Forum posters below may prove me wrong, but even the most cynical car fan will surely see its arrival as a landmark moment in motoring.

Over the years Ferrari may have become rather too good at posturing and demanding more of car fans and customers than perhaps it should (not least when selling its extensive and expensive array of branded gear) but there's no doubting that it still stands at the top of its particular genre.

With the launch of the McLaren P1, the team from Woking may wish to argue differently, as may the hard-working and successful men and women who made the Bugatti Veyron a production reality, but the truth is that Ferrari has an allure all of its own, and even more so when it comes to hypercars.

That said, what's also abundantly clear is that the likes of Bugatti, and especially McLaren, is driving Ferrari to ever greater heights. It's no coincidence that the Ferrari 458 and Ferrari F12 have been so good; Ferrari is having to work harder than ever to ensure that its products live up to its reputation. Thus far, all credit to it for delivering.

Will the new Ferrari Enzo live up to that? I don't doubt it. From the moment the McLaren P1 was declared by its makers to be 'the best driver's car in the world' rather than 'the fastest' you could only assume that they knew the Ferrari was going to be unveiled with on-paper numbers that dwarf their own.

Hence, come Tuesday at 11am I suspect that Ferrari will be hands-down winners of the publicity battle with McLaren. It could only be that way, given their respective road car history, and if my hunch about those numbers proves correct. Anything else would rightly be seen as a massive failure for Maranello.

Keep in mind, though, that while dreamers and owners alike may be quite content to pin their colours to the car that makes their friends most jealous, real car enthusiasts should be reserving judgment until the driving impressions have been delivered. 

That's one verdict that won't be delivered in Geneva – and the verdict that makes all the battles in the build up irrelevant, as it will ultimately decide who wins this particular war.

Geneva motor show: Audi 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

Geneva motor show: Toyota FT-86 Open concept

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.

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