Monday, April 1, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Seoul motor show 2013: report and picture highlights

Posted: 31 Mar 2013 09:53 AM PDT

Seoul motor show 2013: report and picture highlights Peter Robinson reports from the show floor, telling the story behind the attention grabbing Hyundai and Kia concept cars revealed in Korea

Overshadowed by the simultaneous New York show, Seoul still threw up two significant new concepts from the all-powerful Hyundai and Kia group. Both point to new design directions. Hyundai's striking Venace coupe represents a further move towards a premium sub-brand, while the Kia Cub looks set to join the Geneva show Kia Provo as a potential second line of European 'lifestyle' vehicles aimed at Mini and Citroen DS.

Hyundai's Venace concept, "very close" to next year's production successor to the Genesis coupe in the words of one senior executive, reveals a strong move away from the previous Fluidic style to a cleaner design language.

Designed in Korea by 29-year old, Ukrainian-born, US-educated Mykola Kindratyshn, Venace emphasises its rear drive layout with a long (2860mm) wheelbase, short overhangs and a long bonnet and dash-to-axle ratio, with far simpler body surfaces and volumes, rather than relying on Fluidic's dramatic graphics and exaggerated crease lines.

"We want to use the Venace's exterior elements, the soft volumes without aggressive lines, in the future," admits Kindratyshn.

"The look has a lot of potential for future models," says Peter Schreyer, recently promoted from Kia design boss to oversee the styling of both brands, "it shows we are not stagnating and see the future in a simpler way."

Forget the butterfly doors and the rear drive coupe reveals the look and character of the new Genesis coupe that's confirmed for right hand drive production with both normally-aspirated and 362bhp turbocharged versions of a 3.3-litre V6, driving through Hyundai's own 8-speed automatic.

Cub, Kia's promised coupe turned out to be a five-door hatch with rearward opening suicide doors. Styled in Korea, Kia claims it has no plans for a production variant, though the designers admit it points to a new direction and shares some visual elements with the European Provo. Kia also unveiled the Cross GT, a large SUV concept that exposes the look of the next generation Sorento.

Ssangyong, the Korean arm of India's Mahindra, unveiled LIV 1, a far more contemporary and attractive large SUV that's close to production ready as a successor to the ancient Korando, but Chevrolet's Korean arm effectively ignored the show and included a previous generation Corvette among an unchanged raft of production models.

South Korea's only supercar maker, Oulin Motors (previously Proto Motors), launched the Cregit. The Korean styled mid-engined sports car, powered by an Hyundai 3.8-litre V6 in three forms; normally aspirated, turbo and twin turbo. The 600bhp twin- claims zero to 62mph in 3.45secs and a 199mph top speed. Oulin predicts sales of 10-20 Cregits a year. Strangest of all the models on a stand, that included the long standing Spirra coupe, was the one-off Bengari mid-engined stretched limo, based on the existing Spirra coupe, the suicide rear doors being cleverly interchangeable with the front doors.

Between them, Hyundai (43 per cent) and sister Kia (34 per cent) utterly dominate the 1.4m strong Korean market. Imports took just 10.2 per cent of the market in 2012 with the majority from Germany. Of the top 10 selling imports just two – Toyota Camry and Prius – were Japanese. The best selling imports were BMW's 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-class. The troubled history of Korea and Japan is blamed for Hyundai's pull out of Japan in 2010 and Toyota taking until just four years ago to open its first dealership in Seoul.

Peter Robinson

The men aiming to make the Bentley Continental Flying Spur perfect

Posted: 28 Mar 2013 08:18 AM PDT

The men who make Bentleys perfect Bentley's engineers are going all out to create a top-drawer limousine in the new Flying Spur

There's nothing like a Scandinavian winter for testing prototypes. Icy, empty roads and sub-zero temperatures make the perfect car development laboratory.

That's why Autocar is hitching a ride with a team of Bentley engineers as they fine-tune the new Flying Spur saloon in the final months before production starts in May.

We're riding in a completely undisguised engineering validation car, known as a VFF prototype, which nosed through the gates of Crewe minutes after the first pictures of the luxury four-door were made public a couple of weeks ago.

VFF prototypes are built about nine months from production, and represent the last but one stage before the 'Zero Series', final production-standard cars, ship to customers. So being a way off production, there's still plenty of engineering to perfect.

The Spur is about 80 per cent new and features a fresh upper body and structure aft of the A-pillars, including expensive-to-tool items like the door inners. Only the windscreen and A-pillar angles have been carried over, albeit restyled. And there's a new interior, including front seats borrowed from the Mulsanne.

It may seem surprising that testing continues apace, just three months before the first customer cars are delivered. But the bulk of the Spur's vital functions are computer-controlled and the code can be fine-tuned late in the production cycle.

"We're able to hammer out the details and tune what we want pretty much weeks up to production," says project director Ken Scott. A Bentley veteran of 27 years, Scott started as a Crewe apprentice. He's leading today's activities and a team of four engineers and half a dozen back-up staff with infectious enthusiasm.

The team's combined engineering experience adds up to 102 years. Scott has flown into Stockholm to join his team, who have been on tour with the 616bhp, twin-turbo W12-powered prototype. They've been pounding autobahns on high-speed testing, before heading north through Denmark to Sweden for a stint of cold-weather evaluation.

Nor will the pace slacken. The next step takes DK62 FSU back to Munich for a top-level management appraisal before it is air freighted to the US. As you read this, the Spur should be on rural roads in California.

Our time, however, will involve a chilly, 400-mile dash westwards to Oslo in neighbouring Norway, with every engineering component, fit-and-finish item and driveability feature on watch. Scott takes the wheel for our first stint out of Stockholm, and the watching brief for the first 60 miles or so is the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, whose calibration in cold weather is still to be finalised.

This much was evident on the drive north from Germany, the prototype misting the windscreen as the temperature plummeted. So the team has downloaded computer code from a shoebox-sized data logger spliced into the wiring loom and bolted into the boot. "We can grab all the data we need from the car's own system. We don't need extra instrumentation at this stage," says Nick Burns, Scott's second in command and the HVAC expert on this test.

Control code for the air-con has been emailed to Crewe and a revised version sent back overnight and installed for evaluation today. The problem still isn't fixed, though, and the driver's side of the windscreen is continually fogging up. Burns reckons he knows what the problem is: the blower isn't shifting enough warm air to the humidity sensor sited in the base of the rear-view mirror. As a result, the dryer in the air-con is pumping air with too much moisture, which is condensing on the inside of the screen. Another fresh batch of code will be reloaded overnight in a bid to fix it.

Fixing the air-con is a relatively routine task, but it has to be done to satisfy the demands of customers, particularly in China. The whole Flying Spur programme has been centred around Chinese market needs. It's the single biggest market for the Spur and, over the model's life, 60 per cent of production will head there.

Early in the project, in spring 2011, Bentley researched the Spur with dealers in Beijing, who pinpointed three major areas for improvement: more cabin refinement, less exhaust noise and new infotainment for the rear-seat passengers. Bentley then broke new ground, returning to Beijing in autumn 2011 with an early Spur engineering prototype featuring improvements to all three.

"They were speechless," says Scott, "No one had done that before – let them influence the car and then comment on progress in a real prototype."

Inside the cabin, the hush is noticeable, especially the subdued exhaust warble. Bentley's internal benchmark quantifies cabin noise as the ease with which conversation can flow between front and rear occupants. "We've got an eight per cent improvement," says Scott.

Calming the cabin has centred on cutting wind noise with acoustic glass, employed in a Bentley windscreen for the first time. Engine noise has been subdued by muffling the induction and exhaust notes. During our cold-weather test, the main cabin noise comes from the road because of the chunky winter rubber fitted. "Summer tyres are much quieter," says Scott.

There is also unwanted wind noise from the driver's A-pillar, which will be fixed as build standards improve closer to production. "We've designed new, better sealing. This early build is not quite sitting right in the door shut, but it'll be ready for production," says Scott.

European and US demands for the Spur have focused on improving high-speed stability and on-centre steering feel for the driver, which backs up the more muscular styling.

The new, broader-shouldered look pushes the body out by an extra inch or so and the tracks have been widened by 20mm at the front and 35mm at the rear. Longer front stub axles demanded retuned springs and dampers, which opened up the possibility of refocusing the Spur as a 'limousine' with a softer chassis tune in place of its predecessor's firmer 'four-door Continental' theme.

"Now the front air springs are 10 per cent softer and the rears 13 per cent," says chassis manager Andrew Unsworth, "but we've adjusted the damping to be a little stiffer to compensate."

To absorb the initial impact on bumps, Bentley has also slackened off the bushings; some are as much as 38 per cent softer. But the chassis is not all about comfort. The Spur's steering is more purposeful and heavier weighted.

"We've completely retuned the ZF steering rack with a new boost curve aimed at improving feel around the straight-ahead," says Unsworth. He's confident that the final set-up fits the brief of a more stable cruise, yet greater ride comfort.

My guess is that the ride will prove more cosseting and quieter than before on UK roads, but body control might suffer a little. On balance, that probably makes sense for the target audience, although it seems to weaken the link between the Spur and Bentley's sporting heritage.

But as Scott shrewdly identifies: "Once you have the fundamentals right, it's easier to make a stiffer and sportier chassis for markets if they want it, rather than the other way around."

As our test route heads towards the Norwegian border and our final destination of Oslo, there's some more give and take and stop-start driving, where driveline refinement is not quite as smooth as it should be. Revised computer code will be loaded into the ECU that controls the ZF eight-speed gearbox to better slur some of the downchanges and refine the drivetrain.

This is also the perfect opportunity to slot into the comfortable rear seats and get to grips with the new rear-seat entertainment package developed to cement the Spur into its new role as a luxury limo. Bentley is the first company in the Volkswagen Group to use a new Bury touchscreen tablet that controls the headrest-mounted infotainment screens.

The palm-sized RST – rear-seat tablet – works effectively and also allows the rear passenger to control the satellite navigation, a useful feature for passengers to set the destination for the chauffeur up front, and adjust the air-con. It even relays the vehicle's speed to the rear cabin.

Whether that was on the wish list of the all-important Chinese customer, I don't know. But it is just one of hundreds of detailed revisions to the new Spur that suggest Bentley's new saloon will be genuinely much improved.

We'll find out for sure in May, when the first test cars become available.

Bentley Flying Spur

Price £141,000 (est); 0-62mph 4.6sec; Top speed 200mph; MPG 19.2mpg (combined, est); CO2 434g/km (est); Weight: 2475kg; Engine W12, 5998cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Engine layout Front, longitudinal, 4WD; Power 616bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 590lb ft at 2000rpm; Power to weight 248bhp per tonne; Specific output 102bhp per litre; Gearbox 8-spd auto; Length 5295mm; Width 2208mm; Height 1488mm; Wheelbase 3065mm; Fuel tank 90 litres; Range 378 miles (est); Boot 475 litres; Front suspension Double wishbones, air springs, anti-roll bar; Rear suspension Multi-link, air springs, anti-roll bar; Brakes 405mm ventilated discs (f), 335mm ventilated discs (r); Wheels 9.5Jx19in; Tyres 275/45 ZR19;

Peugeot rethinks new 308

Posted: 28 Mar 2013 07:34 AM PDT

Peugeot rethinks new 308 Styling inspired by Onyx concept and a new modular platform are set to transform Peugeot hatch

Peugeot's next 308 will be "very different from the current car", with a fresh shape that will pitch it more directly against the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.

Peugeot product boss Laurent Blanchet told Autocar that the new car would look more like a conventional hatchback than the current 308, which he described as being halfway between a saloon and a hatch.

Set to be unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in September, the new model will sport a design influenced by the Onyx concept car, especially at the front. Peugeot design boss Gilles Vidal hinted that the 308 would use a front end derived from the Onyx, but inspired by the classic 504 Coupé, too.

It will also be the first Peugeot to use PSA's new EMP2 platform. Similar in concept to Volkswagen's MQB architecture, it's of a modular design and intended to be used in PSA's C and D-segment cars, which make up more than half of the group's production. It can employ either multi-link or torsion beam rear suspension.

Blanchet said the new platform would give the next 308 a planted, wheel-at-each-corner stance, with shorter overhangs for a more dynamic appearance. Lower engine mounting positions allow for a more aggressive, sharper front-end design with a lower bonnet than seen on the current Peugeot range. The lower stance should also improve the driving position.

A saving of around 70kg over the current car will reduce the entry-level model's weight to around 1300kg.

The name won't change, as part of Peugeot's new strategy to use '8' as the suffix digit in the badges of all of its cars for existing territories and '1' for models built specifically for developing markets.

Dan Stevens

Peugeot 208 XY first drive review

Posted: 28 Mar 2013 06:45 AM PDT

Peugeot 208 XY first drive review The Peugeot 208 XY is a softer take on the full-fat 208 GTI and, surprisingly, it's oddly appealing Peugeot has declared its intention to move its image upmarket, and this, the Peugeot 208 XY is the first attempt at something overtly 'premium'. Already shown as a concept, the XY reaches the showrooms priced from £16,545 (a 118bhp 1.6) to £18,045 (113bhp 1.6 e-HDI). The turbo petrol 1.6 THP tested here, with 154bhp, costs £17,495, which is £1400 less than a 208 GTI.These are big tickets for plush versions of a mainstream supermini, but the rich, dark metallic paints – 'Purple Night' is the signature shade – and the lush interior trim might help justify the cost. It's also available in white.There's also the fact that the XY shares its widened track, 17in wheels, slender wheelarch trims, rear spoiler (THP only, on account of its pace) and lower-body addenda with the 208 GTI, so it has more road presence than a humbler 208. Body style is three-door only and a panoramic glass roof is standard.As for the name, it represents the male and female chromosomes, apparently, to make the point that this car is intended to appeal across the gender divide.

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