Monday, April 15, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Mitsubishi Concept G4 saloon for Shanghai premiere

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 04:40 AM PDT

Mitsubishi Concept G4 saloon for Shanghai premiere Mitsubishi to premiere a new global saloon model at the Shanghai motor show

This is the Mitsubishi Concept G4, shown ahead of its debut at the Shanghai motor show next week. The new compact saloon is planned to be sold globally.

The Concept G4 is based around Mitsubishi's lightweight Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) body. Mitsubishi says the high-tensile body contributes to best-in-class fuel efficiency. It is powered by a 1.2-litre petrol engine mated to a CVT gearbox.

Mitsubishi says its light weight contributes to "agile and pleasing" dynamics and a comfortable ride. 

The Concept G4's styling will influence Mitsubishi's future saloons. Key design concepts include a short nose, new swage lines and a "high-clarity" diamond motif. Large door openings, a high hip point and "generous" rear seat space are claimed.

Michael Schumacher announced as Mercedes brand ambassador

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 01:21 AM PDT

Michael Schumacher announced as brand ambassador for Mercedes F1 legend rejoins Mercedes to assist with the development of its road cars

Mercedes-Benz has announced Michael Schumacher will become its new brand ambassador. The news comes shortly after he left the Mercedes F1 team at the end of last season.

In his new role, Schumacher will be focused on future technologies such as Mercedes' Intelligent Drive. The seven-time F1 world champion has said "the future interests me more than the present or the past".

Described as a long-term deal, it is expected Schumacher will use his extensive race experience to work on the calibration and integration of new technology into Mercedes' road cars.

Last month, reigning F1 champion, Sebastian Vettel was announced as director of performance at Infiniti.

Can Formula E deliver on its promise?

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 01:04 AM PDT

Can Formula E deliver on its promise? With 20 electric cars planned for its grid, Formula E certainly has a USP. But Formula 1's dominance in global motorsport means new championships always face a struggle to be noticed

Dropped in to Silverstone last Friday evening to get an update on Formula E, the new FIA-approved electric racing category that's due to launch next year.

The series will pit up to 20 battery-powered single-seaters against each other on temporary circuits laid out in city centres around the globe. A race in London is on the draft calendar, along with Miami, Los Angeles, Putrajaya, Beijing, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, with more venues to be announced at the end of 2013.

Usually, my default reaction to any new motor sport championship is a cynical one. It all comes down to money; setting up and running a global series requires a huge amount of capital. But Formula 1 hoovers up so much of the sponsorship cash and media interest that most other forms of automotive competition are left in the shadow cast by Bernie's empire, unable to get enough financial nourishment to take root and thrive.

Recent history is littered with the junk of valiant concepts – A1 GP, Superleague Formula, ASCAR – that failed to get the traction to survive for more than a couple of seasons.

There's too much motorsport anyway. In my opinion, racing is already an over-saturated and under-regulated hotchpotch where the keen spirit of skill and technical competition is dulled by a proliferation of soulless single-make championships that are little more than vanity projects for manufacturers.

Having said all that, I'm not dismissing Formula E in the same way (not yet). For a new championship to survive and gain credibility, it needs a truly unique selling point, and in my view the electric single-seater formula certainly has that.

On the technical side, Michelin is on board as tyre supplier, while McLaren and Dallara are both involved too. As for the financial aspect, the organisers have pledged to put their money where their mouths are. They have bought 42 cars and will lease them to competing teams for free during the first season. Teams will be encouraged to run the stock chassis in year one and then develop their own cars for the future.

At Friday's event I chatted to Lord Drayson, former Science Minister turned passionate race team owner and keen supporter of alternatively fuelled propulsion. He was quick to sign up to Formula E, and is now mulling his driver selection. He'd love to get racers with recent Formula 1 experience into his team, both to bring plenty of attention to the category and because he reckons the Formula E single-seater will be a great machine to drive.

The event on Friday was attended by the likes of Bruno Senna and Jaime Alguersuari, and the presence of such drivers on the Formula E grid next season would boost the championship's profile and give EVs a decent PR boost.

But Formula E's most significant impact could be in terms of advanced research and development for electric vehicles. During this preparatory year, Drayson's team is testing Qualcomm wireless charging technology that could be incorporated into Formula E in the future, and might one day become commonplace on our streets. And when the racing gets underway next year, the 20 cars on the grid will provide masses of data about battery life in performance vehicles in high-stress situations.

Formula E seems timely and interesting, and will appear in a year when F1 is radically changing its technical rules to ensure it too remains relevant to what's going on in road cars. Can't wait to see how electric racing stacks up.

Alfa 4C key to Alpine sports car success

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 12:58 AM PDT

Boost for 2016 Alpine if Alfa 4C succeeds Renault boss sees a sub-supercar class of driver's cars emerging with the Alpine-Caterham project and Alfa Romeo 4C

Renault is looking to Alfa Romeo's forthcoming 4C to help boost prospects for its forthcoming two-seat Alpine coupé, due to hit the market in 2016 at around £50,000.

Renault boss Carlos Tavares says the Dieppe-manufactured Alpine and the Alfa (plus the car being designed on the same chassis by its 50/50 partner Caterham) will together create a new, big-name, sub-supercar class of driver's cars intended to appeal both to well heeled traditionalists and younger driving enthusiasts.

Styling is "about 70 per cent done", Tavares says. The shape will combine cues from the much-loved A110 (four round headlights, arrowhead nose, low roofline, side scoops, wide rear deck) with proportions and elements that emphasise its modernity. Striking the right balance is one of the major challenges, he says.

Tavares is tight-lipped about the mechanical details of the car, but just before the new Alpine endurance race car took to the track for the first time at Silverstone, he told Autocar that it would be a two-seat coupé weighing about 1000kg, costing around £50,000 and with about 280bhp on tap. Volume would be "a few thousand" per year.

The chassis is understood to be a spaceframe mainly of steel, but with weight-saving aluminium and composite components. French reports say the Alpine coupé has all-independent suspension and locates the engine – a four-cylinder  turbo petrol unit likely to be of 2.0-litre capacity – transversely behind the occupants. Engineers are still deciding whether it will use the six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox recently adopted for the Renault Clio Renaultsport, or a conventional stick shift. Caterham's car will use the same chassis and running gear as the Alpine but is understood to be powered by a Toyota engine.

Renault insiders are already discussing the name – notably with its recently appointed advisory board of former Alpine drivers and experts "who created the Alpine story" – but have not yet reached any conclusions about whether to pursue a sequence of letters and numbers (A110, A310, A610) or come up with a name.

"We have time to discuss and decide," says Tavares. "The production car is about three years away, but about a year before that we will probably show a concept. In the meantime, we will find other ways to feed the brand."

Baby Jaguar saloon 'must be extraordinary' to succeed

Posted: 14 Apr 2013 10:00 PM PDT

Baby Jaguar saloon 'must be extraordinary' to succeed Jaguar is setting the bar high for their BMW 3-series rival; promising innovative technology, the most desirable design and a car that "feels more alive" than rivals

Jaguar's BMW 3-series rival must be "extraordinary" if it is to have any chance of sales success, according to Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth.

Test mules for the junior saloon have already been spied testing and the car is expected to go on sale in 2015. 

"If we do such a car, it is clear that our rivals have incredible design, incredible cars to drive and incredible strength," said Speth. "We must create something that can rival that, which means our product must be extraordinary, but I also want our cars to deliver a human quality that sets them apart. Jaguar's strength is its people, and our products must reflect that."

Jaguar boss Adrian Hallmark added that the key attributes of the 3-series rival must be that it is better to drive, feature more advanced technology and have a more alluring design than any of its rivals.

Although he acknowledged that the likes of the 3-series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-class represent formidable opposition, and that their makers can fall back on larger economies of scale to drive costs down, he denied that the compact executive saloon market was unconquerable.

"The key has been getting the F-type at the heart of our range," said Hallmark. "It stands for everything Jaguar is about and is utterly distinctive. It is the purest expression of what all our cars should be about. Now we must apply that strategy to forthcoming cars, including the baby saloon. The headlines of that car must be innovative technology, the most desirable design and a driving sensation that makes the car feel more alive than anything the opposition has to offer."

The small Jaguar saloon is expected to sit on JLR's highly scalable Premium Lightweight Architecture (PLA) aluminium platform and be built at the firm's Castle Bromwich plant, which would then be able to run at full capacity. By combining the lightweight platform with latest-generation four-cylinder engines, Jaguar hopes to outscore the dynamics and efficiency of its rivals.

"Selling cars is competitive, and it's no good expecting to walk in and steal your opposition's lunch," said Hallmark. "But we have a view on how we can differentiate ourselves from them, and we believe that at the end of the scale Jaguar will sell in, which is traditionally the higher price point of the market, we can win customers by being distinctive, by avoiding being aloof and by standing for something that is just a little bit different."

The baby Jaguar is expected to evolve into a full line-up of body styles, including an estate, coupé and convertible. Jaguar is also tipped to be developing a crossover in tandem with the baby saloon, with the styling and capability focused more around on-road dynamics than any serious off-road capability. It is likely to be launched in 2016 or 2017.

Aston Martin Rapide S to race in Nürburgring 24 Hours

Posted: 12 Apr 2013 06:37 AM PDT

Aston Martin Rapide S to race in Nürburgring 24 Hours Twin-turbo Aston Martin Rapide V12 racer will be the first car to compete in an international event using hydrogen

Aston Martin will campaign a hydrogen-powered Rapide S at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, the first time such a powertrain has been used for an international race. The car was created in collaboration with hydrogen experts Alset Global.

The Rapide S is powered by a twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 which is capable of running purely on petrol, purely on hydrogen or a combination of the two.  Aston hopes that using the car in 24-hour endurance event will highlight the reliability of modern hydrogen technology.

The hydrogen system in the Rapide S is comprised of fuel rails, storage tanks and an ECU. The latter is used to manage the combustion process as the car's intake of petrol and hydrogen varies; it can run on pure hydrogen, gasoline or a blend of both, to ensure optimum power, acceleration and CO2 reduction.

Four storage tanks hold a total of 3.5kg of hydrogen, contained at 350bar. The system has been approved by Germany's motorsport governing body the DMSB, as safety is paramount. 

The hybrid hydrogen race car is based on the new 6.0-litre V12 Rapide S, which arrives in showrooms this month. In conventional form the new Rapide S can sprint from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, while its top speed is an impressive 190mph.

Aston Martin's participation in the Nürburgring 24 Hours next month will mark its eighth successive year of competition in the event.

Dr Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin's CEO, said "As we celebrate our centenary and look back on a century of excitement, innovation and style it's also the perfect time to look to the future with this astonishing race car."

Matt Bird

Nissan Friend-ME concept to premiere in Shanghai

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 06:34 AM PDT

Nissan Friend-ME concept to debut at Shanghai Nissan Friend-ME is aimed at China's booming youth market with unprecedented connectivity features

Nissan has released a pair of images hinting at the design of its latest concept car. The Friend-ME is aimed specifically at the youth market and will be unveiled fully at the Shanghai motor show.

The Friend-ME has been designed at Nissan's Chinese design centre in Beijing. China has seen a significant rise in young drivers owning cars and Nissan is keen to capitalise. According to Nissan, the Friend-ME's bespoke centre console design facilitates "four seats, one mind connectivity", suggesting the ability for passengers to individually control the infotainment system.

Nissan has released no further information on the Friend-ME yet. Expect a full announcement when the Shanghai show opens on 20th April.

Matt Bird

LaFerrari spied on the road

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 03:39 AM PDT

LaFerrari spied on the road Hybrid LaFerrari hypercar caught on the streets around Maranello

A disguised LaFerrari has been caught testing on the streets in Maranello. The 950bhp hypercar, recently unveiled at the Geneva motor show, was undergoing the last stages of pre-production testing before it reaches customers in the autumn.

Despite the car's camouflage, many of the LaFerrari's styling features can be seen in the shots taken by Autocar reader, Jordan Griffith. The F1-style rear foglight, for example, can be seen under the numberplate. The huge rear intakes are free from disguise.

The latest Ferrari flagship is powered by a 6.3-litre V12 and a HY-KERS hybrid system. The combustion engine provides 789bhp, with the hybrid assistance contributing the remaining 161bhp to the 950bhp total. Torque is rated at 715lb ft. These figures trump those of its nearest rivals, the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder.

Ferrari will make 499 LaFerraris at €1.3 million (£1.1 million) each, with nearly every car now allocated to customers.

Matt Bird

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