Thursday, April 11, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Ford Mondeo gets £2000 price cut

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 07:00 AM PDT

Ford Mondeo gets £2000 price cut Price cut part of wider changes to popular family car, designed to keep it fresh until its delayed replacement is launched in late 2014

Ford has given its Ford Mondeo a significant price cut as part of a final round of changes to the six-year-old car following delays to the all-new model that was supposed to launch in the UK this spring.

A simplified trim line-up, improvements to fuel economy, a reduction in CO2 emissions and enhanced specifications are all among the changes made to the current Mondeo that are designed to keep it fresh until the new model arrives late next year, some 18 months later than planned.

A new entry-level model, the Graphite, is targeted at private buyers and costs from £15,995 – that's more than £2000 less than the previous entry-level model, the £18,100 Edge.

Standard kit on the Graphite includes 17in alloys, LED lights and sports suspension, while a rear spoiler is provided with selected engines. Bluetooth, air-con and leather trim for parts of the interior are also part of the broad specification.

The other new addition to the Mondeo range is the Titanium X Business Edition, which costs from £21,995. This replaces both the Titanium and Titanium X in the Mondeo range and has more equipment than the £1500 more expensive Titanium X.

The other trims in the Mondeo range are Edge, Zetec Business Edition and Titanium X Sport, each of them having been subtly realigned and repriced to fit in the now five-strong Mondeo trim structure. All trims are offered on five-door hatchback and estate bodystyles, although the more potent engines are reserved for the plusher Titanium X models.

Tweaks to the 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel have cut its CO2 emissions to 119g/km in the five-door and 120g/km in the estate in both 138bhp and 161bhp power outputs, a reduction of up to 10g/km. Economy is improved to up to 61.4mpg in this engine.

Ford Britain managing director Mark Ovenden said the changes were necessary to the current car following the much-publicised delays to the new Mondeo.

"We've had some challenges with the new Mondeo and we needed to take some product action to support the current one," he told Autocar. "If all had gone well, we'd be launching the new car now, but the current Mondeo is still very strong and the changes we've made will see it through. It's not a car on its last legs or behind on ride and handling or technology."

Ovenden said the Mondeo sold 22,000 units in the UK last year, enough for a nine per cent segment share. "It's still a very big car for us," said Ovenden, who added that the current Mondeo hadn't been harmed by the firm revealing its successor as long ago as January 2012.

The new Mondeo is now on track for a "quarter four 2014" launch, according to Ovenden. Ford's 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine is likely to be offered in the line-up, he added.

MG CS SUV concept rumoured for Shanghai reveal

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 05:43 AM PDT

MG CS SUV concept rumoured for Shanghai reveal An MG5-based SUV concept is tipped to be revealed at the Shanghai motor show later this month

MG is rumoured to be preparing an SUV for a Shanghai motor show reveal. These shots of the MG CS Concept – which are claimed to be official – surfaced on the internet earlier today.

Last year, MG revealed its Icon SUV concept, a retro-styled take on the Nissan Juke.

China Car Times says the CS concept is a refined version of the Icon concept, but has ditched MGB-inspired styling for a more modern look, falling in line with the rest of MG's range.

Little is known about the CS concept, but should it be an evolution of the Icon, it is likely to be based on the MG5's plaform. Power could come from a SAIC-developed, 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that's understood to develop around 135bhp.

Rumours of an MG SUV have circulated since 2011, when MG's sales and marketing director suggested such a car could follow the introduction of more mainstream models.

Bugatti Veyron is world's fastest roadster

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 05:00 AM PDT

Bugatti Veyron is world's fastest roadster Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse clocks 254.04mph in record run; eight customer examples to be produced

Bugatti can now claim to have created the fastest open-top car in the world. The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse clocked 254.04mph on a run at the Volkswagen Group's Ehra-Lessien proving grounds at the hands of Chinese racing driver Anthony Liu.

The Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, on sale since 2012, has now spawned a special World Record Car (WRC) Edition, which will be limited to eight units. It will be officially unveiled at the Shanghai motor show next week, when order books open for the £2.03 million model.

The WRC is an otherwise standard Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, save for a black and orange paint scheme. Power from its 8.0-litre W16 engine is 1184bhp and torque is rated at 1106lb ft.

Bugatti originally intended for the Vitesse's top speed to be 233mph with the roof off, but thought that 249mph would be possible. It achieved 249mph in practice runs before going even faster in the official timed run. The record was was overseen by TUV, the German organization for Technical Inspection and Certification.

The coupé version of this Vitesse, the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport, set a top speed of 267.86mph, a world record for a production car that was ratified by Guinness.

However, it has since been stripped of this record as some examples of the car available for customers to buy had their top speeds limited to 258mph; this is against Guinness's rules, which state that the record car must be identical to ones customers can buy. Five of the 30 Veyron Super Sports sold were destricted World Record Editions, with the other 25 having the 258mph limiter.

American sports car maker Hennessey is now claiming to make the fastest car in the world after its Venom GT clocked 265.7mph in production trim. However, this record has not been ratified by Guinness. 

Could the Monaco F1 track be about to change?

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 04:51 AM PDT

Land – they do still make it Planning for a land reclamation project in Monaco could add a welcome dose of drama to the world's most glamorous Grand Prix

Formula 1 teams tend to focus on the week ahead during the long global grind that is the World Championship. This often results in some fairly insular views within the sport, but it's perhaps worth noting that there will shortly be a major opportunity for Monaco to do something to make its celebrated Grand Prix circuit a little better.

The track is largely unchanged from the one used since the race was created in 1929. There have been nips and tucks here and there, but Monaco's streets are such that little that can be done to make the racing better. With modern F1 cars, overtaking is virtually impossible, even with the overtaking aids that have been introduced in recent years. Each year the track has the fewest passing moves of any F1 race.

The race is still a wonderful spectacle and shows the greatest drivers in their element, but when the best cannot overtake, one has to ask questions.

The interesting news is that the Principality of Monaco has decided to push ahead with a land-reclamation scheme, which is designed to increase the size of Monaco by 14 acres. This is to be achieved by pushing out into the sea behind the Japanese Garden, which is located between Portier and the Grimaldi Forum, in the north of the Principality. This will create a strip of land around 150 metres wide and 400 metres long. It is half the size of a previous project that was abandoned in 2008.

Prince Albert says that this new land will be used for low-rise building only to avoid opposition from some of the Principality's wealthiest residents who live in apartments on the Avenue Princesse Grace, and the project will include not only new housing, but also plenty of green areas to ensure an agreeable living environment. This may not seem very logical, given that the more apartments squeezed in, the more money Monaco can make, but the government has been very clever in the past with its town planning, notably with the old railway line that ran through the town.

Once a new section was dug through the rock, the old railway became a fast road through the area with a strip to host hundreds of new apartments on top. One way to maximize the value of the new land, for example, would be to move municipal buildings there and use the land that becomes free to build high rises.

The most exciting thing for the racing fraternity is that the new land could create the possibility of a new section of track, leading from the downhill corner at Portiers to a new section with wide road and a tight hairpin, creating an overtaking spot. The track could then rejoin the original circuit just before the tunnel, thus cutting the speed at which cars go through, so reducing the dangers of the chicane area.

This would not only make the event more exciting, but it would also increase the area available for grandstands.

Why is there so much drama over the Nissan, Toyota, Mazda and Honda recall?

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 02:53 AM PDT

Recalls – why the drama? Recalls are a way of life. But rather than using them to undermine car makers' reputation for reliability and safety, we should applaud their proactiveness

Today it was revealed that 3.4 million Japanese cars are to be recalled over a potentially defective passenger airbag.

And although four manufacturers are affected, it is once again Toyota in the centre of the media's crosshairs. Yes, more Toyotas are affected (1.73m) than Hondas (1.13m), Nissans (480,000) and Mazdas (45,000), but that's hardly surprising given Toyota is the world's biggest car maker.

This recall represents just 2.5 per cent of Toyota's entire production over the last ten years.

Besides the scale of the recall, Toyota has – unfairly – become synonymous with recalls over the last few years. The Prius braking recall was due to the way the car's stoppers switch from electric to hydraulic pressure, sometimes exhibiting a slight delay in certain situations, such as driving on ice. Toyota recalled the cars, recalibrated the braking, and the perceived problem went away.

At the same time, a number of American buyers reported their mats sliding over the brake pedals. Toyota uses different mats in different markets, and the problem was likely exacerbated by the use of rubber mats on top of the OEM units. And that's entirely out of Toyota's control.

Nevertheless, whenever a car is brought to Toyota for servicing with mats that could cause problems, they are removed, placed in the boot and the owner is informed of the risk.

That's typical of Toyota's transparency in these matters. Toyota has made a virtue of a potential PR disasters, and should be commended.

The fact is that while the headline recall number is huge, the number of cars that could display the specified "abnormality" in passenger airbag deployment is very small. Toyota is able to track down the chassis number of every car that has the offending airbag unit involved, but the potential fault has been traced to a sub part – which is far harder to pin down.

By any measure, this is tackling a tiny number of potential problems in a responsible way. This isn't a situation peculiar to Toyota. Nissan, Mazda and Honda will all behave in precisely the same way.

Around 1m cars are recalled in the UK annually, and there are plenty with far more serious potential faults than this. In fact, many cars leave service centres with advisories listed, which could expose the driver, occupants and other road users to far greater risk than a hypothetical component fault.

To bring these numbers into context, Toyota has investigated five reported faults. No injuries have occurred, and there are no reported instances in Europe. 

Recalls should be treated as positive action, and not be used as a stick to beat car makers with.

Next Seat Leon Cupra could get 261bhp 2.0-litre engine

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 01:15 AM PDT

Next Seat Leon Cupra could get 261bhp 2.0-litre engine Spanish hot hatch to go toe-to-toe with high-performance rivals

A Seat engineer has told Autocar that the next generation of Seat Leon Cupra may get a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with as much as 261bhp.

This means that the new Spanish hot hatch will go toe-to-toe with more performance-orientated competitors like the Ford Focus ST, the Vauxhall Astra VXR and the Renault Mégane Renaultsport 265.

It also means that the new Cupra will leapfrog other upcoming MQB-based alternatives like the new Volkswagen Golf GTI, be it either in standard 217bhp or 'Performance Package' 227bhp form.

To appeal to a wider audience, Seat will offer it in both three and five-door body styles. An estate version may follow, offering an alternative to the Focus ST estate.

In order to boost traction, a neccessity when transmitting 261bhp through the front wheels, the new Cupra will benefit from a mechanical limited-slip differential.

The Cupra's new power figure also represents a significant hike in output over the previous generation, which was powered by a 236bhp, 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

With the old model being capable of 0-60mph in 6.2sec, it's reasonable to assume that the next-generation Cupra's additional 25bhp will, in conjunction with other improvements, aid the new car in completing the benchmark sprint in around six seconds flat.

That extra power also means the new Cupra's output will match that of the previous range-topping Cupra R. Besides indicating that the new Cupra may use a development of the R's engine, it also suggests that the next R model will offer even more power.

The new Cupra is expected to be revealed in late 2013 or early 2014, with more details being released closer to the car's launch.

There's no official line on pricing but it's rumoured that the Cupra will cost around as much as the next Golf GTI, so expect a price tag in the region of £26,000 for the three-door version.

Seat's Design Chief, Alejandro Mesonero, said "The new Cupra is already more than a current Cupra R."

New Citroën Wild Rubis concept previews luxury SUV

Posted: 10 Apr 2013 04:01 PM PDT

New Citroën Wild Rubis concept previews luxury SUV High-riding concept hints at a new Chinese-market-only production model that is planned to go on sale in 2014

This new Citroën Wild Rubis concept car shows the French manufacturer's intent to join the luxury SUV ranks with a stylish new offering.

Set to underpin the French car maker's presence at the Shanghai auto show later this month, the high-riding concept closely previews a new Chinese-market-only production model that is planned to crown Citroën's upmarket DS brand when it goes on sale in 2014. The model is likely to take the name DSX7 Hybrid-4 into showrooms.

Details pertaining to the new Citroën are scarce ahead of its world debut in Shanghai on April 21. The car is 4.7m in length, 1.95m in width, 1.59m in height and boasts a 2.9m wheelbase. Autocar sources confirm the Wild Rubis sits on a modified version of the DS5's platform. It is planned to showcase a new petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain to be offered as part of a range of driveline options on the production version that will likely make its premiere at next year's Beijing auto show.

The new drivetrain uses a transversely mounted gasoline engine to power the front wheels and an electric motor to drive the rear wheels to provide it with four-wheel drive capability.

Nothing is official just yet, but indications are the four-cylinder gasoline engine will boast a capacity of 1.6-litres. In combination with the electric motor, the direct-injection unit is expected to provide an overall system output of around 240bhp.

With a length of around 4700mm, the new Citroën SUV is similar in size to the Volkswagen Touareg – just one of a number of established luxury SUV offerings Citroën development Pierre Monferrini counts among the rivals for the production version of the Wild Rubis, which is planned to be produced in co-operation with Citroën's Chinese-based joint-venture partner, Dongfeng.

Plans are to initially offer the production version of the Wild Rubis exclusively in China. However, Citroën suggests it may also be added to its European line-up as part of plans to position the company's DS brand against the likes of Audi, BMW and Volkswagen.

Citroën's focus on the Chinese market was first brought to light with the unveiling of the Metropolis concept car at the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010. In similar fashion to the Wild Rubus, the 5300mm-long saloon was billed as a preview to a future Chinese market only model for the DS line-up. But despite Citroën's assurances that it would be produced as a spiritual successor to the original DS, the petrol-electric hybrid powered Metropolis is yet to see production.

Kia to increase UK sales by 50 per cent by 2020

Posted: 10 Apr 2013 07:24 AM PDT

Kia UK to increase sales by 50 per cent by 2020 Kia's UK chief predicts further sales growth off the back of a record first quarter

Kia UK boss Paul Philpott has targeted sales growth of more than 50 per cent by the end of the decade — putting the Korean manufacturer in the top five sellers in the UK market with more than 100,000 sales a year.

Speaking off the back of a record first quarter in 2013, during which Kia sold more than 19,000 cars, 12 per cent up year-on-year, Philpott predicted further gains despite expectations of a relatively static market.

"I expect the UK market to stay between two and 2.2 million units a year, but within that Kia has great potential for growth," said Philpott. "We are a relatively young brand, with low but rising awareness of the quality of our products.

The new Kia Ceed, Kia Picanto and Kia Sportage are currently the firm's best sellers in the UK, with customers increasingly speccing higher grade models, raising Philpott's hopes of greater profitability.

"We've already reacted by introducing a higher kit level for the Sportage, and we are looking at doing the same for the new Carens," said Philpott. "The days of people buying the entry-level Kia are changing."

Following the launch of the latest Kia Carens later this year, the firm's aggressive six-year renewal of its entire range will be complete. Philpott conceded this meant the time is now right for Kia to launch new, more niche sellers that help raise the brand profile.

"Aside from facelifts, the next few years will have space for other product launches. The Provo concept at the Geneva motor show was one example of where we will go - it was extremely well received and everyone expects growth in the small SUV segment."

Opel to receive £3.4bn GM investment

Posted: 10 Apr 2013 07:22 AM PDT

GM to invest €4 billion to safeguard Opel's future Funding will be used to develop new models and engines as part of Drive 2022 plan

GM has cemented its commitment to Vauxhall and Opel by announcing a €4bn (£3.4bn) investment in Germany and Europe.

The decision comes following a meeting in Russelheim between GM and Vauxhall Opel directors on the progress of the firm's Drive 2022 project, which aims to return Opel to profitability by 2016.

The new investment will accelerate continued development of new models, with 23 planned launches by 2016. The Drive 2022 initiative will see the introduction of 13 new powertrains, the first of which are offered in the Vauxhall Cascada.

Commenting on the decision, GM CEO Dan Akerson said: "Opel is key to our success and enjoys its parent company's full support." Opel's supervisory board chairman Steve Girsky added: "The GM board of directors is here to underline its solidarity... this partnership is stronger than it has ever been."

Matt Bird

Seat Leon SC FR 1.8 TSI 180PS DSG first drive review

Posted: 10 Apr 2013 06:03 AM PDT

Seat Leon SC FR 1.8 TSI 180PS DSG first drive review Seat turns up the heat on its new SC range with a high-output 1.8-litre turbocharged FR model This is the final production version of the Seat Leon SC, a new three-door derivative of the recently launched five-door hatch, here in FR sports trim and with a 1.8-litre TSI petrol engine and dual-clutch automatic transmission.Despite its passing resemblance to the conventional five-door model, the SC is claimed by Seat to reflect a true 'Sports Coupé' thanks to an exterior that's redesigned from the A-pillars back.Granting the SC a sleeker appearance is a more steeply raked rear windscreen, a lower roofline and a tweaked tailgate. The rear blisters are also larger than the five-door's, giving the car a slightly lower and wider stance.The changes aren't purely cosmetic. The SC also has a 35mm shorter wheelbase, which gives a more sporting appearance and reputedly improved agility, but despite this interior space isn't compromised excessively — there's room for four adults and the 380-litre boot is the same size as the five-door's.Seat's FR variants are further distinguished from the normal SC models by different front and rear bumpers with FR badging, 17-inch wheels, rear LED lights, rear privacy glass, red interior stitching and a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel.

Video: Lamborghini Gallardo vs ESP

Posted: 10 Apr 2013 04:33 AM PDT

The benefits of ESP laid bare in a Lamborghini

It might sound like fun to reach for the ESP button. But as Steve Sutcliffe finds out, even on a stable, four-wheel drive supercar like the 2013 Lamborghini Gallardo, it's possible for things to go very wrong at moderate speeds.

Nissan Qashqai 360 1.6dCi first drive review

Posted: 10 Apr 2013 01:56 AM PDT

Nissan Qashqai 360 1.6dCi first drive review Kit and technology upgrade adds verve and value to the venerable and popular Nissan Qashqai This Nissan Qashqai 360 replaces the outgoing n-tec+ variant and sits between the mid-spec Acenta and top-level Tekna trims in the popular crossover's range.N-tec+ accounted for about 60 per cent of all Qashqai sales in the UK in 2012, and Nissan expects the Qashqai 360 to continue that, not least because it offers a higher specification for the same price tag.Among the kit included on this mild wash 'n' brush up are 18in alloys, rear privacy glass and a panoramic glass roof. On top of that, the Qashqai 360 gets a host of style-led additions including part-leather trim, a gloss black gearlever surround and door handles and a leather armrest.The exterior gets gloss black roof rails, door mirrors and '360' badging. The car also gets an uprated version of the Nissan Connect multimedia system. 

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