Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Shanghai motor show: Chery Beta 5

Posted: 16 Apr 2013 04:55 AM PDT

Shanghai motor show: Chery Beta 5 Latest SUV concept from Chery displays new design themes and will go on sale in 2015

Chinese firm Chery has released the first images of its new Beta 5 SUV concept, ahead of its debut at the Shanghai motor show.

Set to make production in 2015, the Beta 5 is underpinned by the same platform as Chery's Tiggo 5 SUV, but with a more luxurious feel. Its styling is more contemporary than previous Chery models and features LED daytime running lights incorporated into a bolder front grille and bumper arrangement.

There are set to be two engine options for the Beta 5, both petrol-powered. A normally-aspirated 2.0-litre with 130bhp will feature alongside a 1.6-litre supercharged unit producing around 150bhp.

Chery is Jaguar Land Rover's proposed joint venture partner in China.

Matt Bird

New VW Golf R scooped

Posted: 16 Apr 2013 02:28 AM PDT

New VW Golf R scooped Range-topping Golf expected to get 286bhp from its 2.0 TSI engine

Volkswagen is stepping up development of its new range-topping 286bhp R version of Volkswagen Golf MkVII, a model that will be the most powerful regular production Golf in history. This prototype was spotted with minimal disguise at the Nürburgring.

The Golf R is expected to be last of the so-far confirmed new Golf models to appear in the showroom. An on-sale date of early 2014 has been mooted after a launch at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

The Golf R will crown the new Golf range, following closely behind the new VW Golf GTI. Closely related to the new Audi S3, the Golf R's 2.0 TSI engine produces 286bhp and 280lb ft, according to well-placed insiders.

When equipped with the six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the Golf R will be able to crack 0-62mph in just 5.0sec and reach a limited top speed of 155mph.

VW has also extensively tuned the sound of the Golf R's exhaust note to be louder and sportier than before.

The Golf R will again be all-wheel drive, using the new Haldex 5 system featured on the new VW Golf 4Motion. VW claims that the system allows for keener handling thanks to a faster transfer of power between the front and rear axles. A pair of electronic differentials also feature on the new car.

The Golf R is also said to make use of lightweight technology in the bodywork and components, including the alloy wheels and brakes, and tips the scales at just 1200kg.

Despite the increased performance over the old 267bhp Golf R, its economy is said to have improved to 40.4mpg and CO2 emissions cut to 163g/km.

Why your car's diesel engine is more efficient than a power station

Posted: 16 Apr 2013 02:15 AM PDT

Why your car's diesel engine is more efficient than a power station A traditional coal-fired power station is less efficient than a decent modern diesel engine. So what does this mean for electric vehicles? Are they really that clean after all?

Conventional wisdom is that if you want to generate enough power for a city, you need a big power station. Cities do not generally rely on banks of internal combustion engines to keep the lights on. The reason? You can throw a lot of technology at a single power source to maximise the economies of scale in a way that is not viable for lots of small engines.

So it may come as a surprise that a modern diesel engine is more efficient than a traditional coal-fired power station. The British government's figures say 38 per cent of the energy put into a coal-fired power station comes out as useful work, whereas a good modern diesel engine is about 40 per cent efficient (at least when running steadily at its optimum speed). The latest Mercedes-Benz 2.2-litre diesel hits 42 per cent. Even the website of the Energy Saving Trust advocates the domestic use of Stirling engines and diesels to generate energy rather than relying on conventional utilities.

That throws new light on the whole electric vehicle debate. Burning coal (as some British power stations still do), turning it into electricity, sending it through the grid and then recharging a battery seems a rather complex solution when burning diesel fuel directly in the car will give almost the same efficiency.

This explains why the CO2 figure for an EV like the Nissan Leaf or Renault Fluence is 75-80g/km, given the overall energy mix of the UK, even though they produce zero tailpipe emissions. That is not so different from a Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi Econetic, which emits 88g/km from the tailpipe or about 100g/km when the CO2 from refining and transporting its fuel is included.

So how can a relatively cheap diesel engine run as efficiently as a multi-million-pound power station? The answer, according to Roelant de Waard, Ford of Europe's marketing sales and service boss, is electronic controls. He says: "The microchip has made it possible to control a car engine as precisely as the most complex power source."

Certainly, the figures support him. In 1980 the typical petrol engine was 23 per cent efficient and a diesel 28 per cent efficient. Now, those figures have improved by approximately half.

At this point the French could well be feeling smug, because most of their electricity comes from nuclear power. This source of power is not automatically more efficient than others, but it is very low in carbon emissions. A Fluence in France is reckoned to produce 12g/km of CO2, which is a worthwhile saving.

Thus, the current concentration on the range and cost of electric cars may be looking at the problem from the wrong end. The fundamental problem is about electricity generation, not about batteries. Until UK power comes from low-carbon sources, there is little overall gain in producing CO2 in a power station rather than from the exhaust pipe of a car.

To compound the problem, the UK may not have enough electricity of any sort. With a lot of old power stations due to be decommissioned in the next few years, energy regulator OFGEM recently warned that the UK could run out of electricity capacity in the winter of 2015-2016.

This may not be the best time to try to add more load to the electricity grid. The irony is that reducing CO2 emissions from cars and developing EVs are far more difficult problems than building new power stations. The first two problems are the responsibility of car companies and are being addressed, but the third issue is in the hands of the government ― and the recent announcement of planning permission for one new nuclear power station to open in 2023 is hardly the solution.

Jay Nagley

BMW and Brilliance alliance to create Zinoro EV models in China

Posted: 16 Apr 2013 02:07 AM PDT

BMW-Brilliance alliance to create 'Zinoro' EV models in China New brand will debut an EV crossover later this year, with Chinese sales to begin in 2014

BMW will launch a new 'Zinoro' brand later this year as part of its partnership with Chinese firm Brilliance. The Zinoro cars will all be EVs and initially only available in China, owing to the advanced EV infrastructure in place there.

The first Zinoro product will make its debut at the Guangzhou motor show this November and is rumoured to be a crossover based on the BMW X1. It will go on sale early in 2014.

The overall aims for the first Zinoro project are to deliver comfort and practicality, distancing them from more dynamic BMW offerings.

Moreover, all Zinoro cars will be sold through unique distribution channels, with no links to BMW. This is crucial for the German firm since it seeks to bring its i3 EV and i8 hybrid to market, with prices higher than any Zinoro product.

The Zinoro brand will compete with Denza, a tie-up between Mercedes and BYD, and Venucia, Nissan and Dongfeng's collaborative effort. They have all emerged in recent years as overseas manufacturers have sought to gain traction in the Chinese market.

BMW's joint venture with Brilliance already produces models like the 3-series and 5-series as well as the X1 in China. Zinoro-branded cars will also be built at the BMW-Brilliance factory in Shenyang.

Matt Bird

What would you buy (and modify) for £2999?

Posted: 16 Apr 2013 12:39 AM PDT

Say hello to summer with £2999 and a toolkit... With warmer weather seemingly on the way, everyone's searching for a convertible. Here's a few more original takes on the summer car

I think it is fairly safe to say that spring has finally sprung. So with that in mind, I think we can go and shop for some fun cars. They don't even have to be convertibles, just cars that burn as brightly as the midday sun by making a noise and turning heads. I'm going to allocate a thoroughly reasonable £2999 and see what the classified ads throw up. Oh yes, and we have to tease them a bit with some well aimed mods.

Anything with a V8 engine is great for turning heads. You can pick up Rover 3500s in reasonable condition from the mid-1970s. I would be loathe to do anything drastic to one of those, save some lovely period Wolfrace slot mag alloys.

Otherwise, I'd look at a Land Rover Discovery or now quite late-model Range Rover that has not been converted to LPG. You could even cut the top off the Range Rover if you were feeling handy with the toolkit.

Seeing the sky also really appeals to me. So what about a 2004 Daihatsu Copen? It's a teeny, tiny TT with a proper buzzy little engine. I'd put some proper alloys on that. The wheels are at each corner and that's why they should be unmissable. I reckon some quite wide steel rims would beef it up no end.

A 1999 BMW Z3 would be pretty special, and although it still looks pretty ugly, I feel sure I could make it a lot more interesting. I would be inclined to take the windscreen off and make it into something rather more like a speedster. Sure, I'd have to wear headgear, but what a sense of occasion you'd enjoy every time you went for a drive.

So that's my list of bonkers ideas. But I reckon you could do better.

So you've got £2999 and a toolkit; what would you do?

600bhp Jaguar F-type road racer planned

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 10:00 PM PDT

Jaguar plans 600bhp F-type road racer Extreme supercharged V8-engined Jaguar F-type, in the spirit of the XKR-S GT, is under consideration

An ultra-high-performance Jaguar F-type is being considered by the company's specialist engineers, with the range-topping model potentially being powered by a supercharged V8 with as much as 600bhp.

The car is believed to be at the planning stage but would become the most powerful Jaguar on sale, cementing its status at the heart of the brand's sporting values. Although it would probably be powered by the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 found in models such as the recently launched Jaguar XJR and XKR-S, the power output would stretched beyond the 542bhp found in those cars.

Jaguar boss Adrian Hallmark didn't confirm the project. But he conceded that more limited-series vehicles in the spirit of the XKR-S GT, revealed at the New York motor show last month and set to be built in a run of no more than 50 units, were likely to happen because of their marketing value as halo cars. And, more important, Jaguar sees them as test beds for future technology that can used in more mainstream cars.

"Clearly, building a run of 30 to 50 exclusive GTs isn't going to have any impact on the fortunes of the company in sales terms, but the importance of these projects lies in the knowledge they give us," he said.

"Jaguar is already well known for its ability to create sporty, dynamic cars, but the XKR-S GT project has shown us that we can learn more by pushing the envelope. Lessons learned from the dynamics, aero and braking work on that car will enter the mainstream."

Hallmark also confirmed that, during testing for the XKR-S GT, engineers had experimented with higher-output versions of the supercharged V8.

"There's a lot you can do with supercharging," he said, "but the lesson we learned was that driveability must always come before brute force. For most people, 542bhp is enough anyway, and whatever power you have, the trick is in being able to get it down on the road. You can have all the power in the world if you want it, but getting the traction to use it is the key."

The hot F-type is unlikely to reach production until at least 2016, but rumours suggest that a one-off concept could appear as early this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed, where Jaguar has traditionally shown innovative projects ahead of schedule. Last year, for instance, an F-type prototype was driven on the hill by Jaguar chassis guru Mike Cross.

This year's festival celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911, a key sales rival to the F-type, giving added appeal to such a project. Hallmark confirmed only that Jaguar would do something "special" at the event.

Although high-performance models have long been a part of Jaguar's heritage, the company is believed to have firmed up a definitive business case for pushing even further with the new GT brand.

Developing low-volume halo models allows Jaguar to push its credentials as a manufacturer of sporting premium cars harder, and higher price points give the company room to develop its product range.

Jaguar's plans to enter the hypercar field with the C-X75 were abandoned earlier this year, and although it hasn't ruled out returning to that sector, Hallmark describes projects based on existing cars as "much more marketable in the short term".

Cars bearing the GT badge will be developed by Jaguar Land Rover's Engineered To Order (ETO) division. ETO is set to take on a bigger role in the company as it expands to develop more bespoke styling and performance projects for Jaguar and Land Rover.

Pete Simkin, director of ETO, told Autocar: "We judge each project on its merits, but we hope the XK GT is just the start. We would definitely look at the business case for an F-type GT. The ETO division is about extending customer choice by offering a bespoke package. That might mean developing low-run option packs or doing one-offs.

"Many customers are demanding more in terms of individuality and exclusivity, and we are well placed to deliver that. Our performance heritage is well known, and we have designers within the division who are there to work on customer-led projects. Our role is to consider anything that stays within the values of the brands we represent."

As well as an F-type GT, Jaguar is expected to develop more moderate (but still hard-edged) versions of the F-type. Insiders have confirmed to Autocar that sporting Jaguars will henceforth be developed under the R, R-S and GT brands. R models will be sporting versions of mainstream cars, R-S versions more extreme performance models and GT cars limited-run, track-focused specials.

Although the higher-performance F-type models are likely to be the most eagerly anticipated, it is not certain that the sports car will be the next model to get the GT treatment. Instead, an XFR-S GT is thought to be likely.

Meanwhile, potential rival Audi is already believed to have noted Jaguar's plans, lodging a complaint at the British firm's early use of 'R-S' in a rectangular badge. As a result, Jaguar's logo has been changed.

Jim Holder/Alistair Weaver

Used car buying guide: Skoda Fabia vRS Mk1 (2003-2007)

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 04:01 PM PDT

The same virtues of pace, value and efficiency that made the Skoda Fabia vRS so appealing new are just as applicable on the used market

Skoda was well ahead of the curve with the Fabia vRS. It wasn't the first small performance diesel, but it was the first diesel-only hot hatch, sold without a petrol equivalent. And as such it soon built up an appreciative following among those looking for speed combined with economy.

The vRS is powered by VW's once ubiquitous 1.9-litre PD130 TDI engine – which was charged with motivating everything up to the Audi A6 – and has no difficulty with the lightweight Fabia. Out of the box, the vRS managed both a 9-second 0-60 time and genuine 50mpg-plus economy – and that was before the tuning that so many owners were tempted into.

No fewer than 12,000 vRSs were registered in the UK during its four year lifespan, and although values have fallen they are still very popular on the used market. "Hot diesels are definitely in at the moment," confirms Mark Bolwell of sports car specialist Evo Motors in Wiltshire, "the Fabia looks like really good value compared to cars like the GT TDI. From a trader's point of view the big problem is finding standard, unmolested ones."

Because for many owners, the vRS's power and torque figures were just where the bidding started, with a high percentage having been chipped to deliver a higher output. The Fabia can be inexpensively boosted to deliver 150-160bhp (the same output Seat managed with the production-spec Ibiza Cupra TDI which used the same engine.) But for the hardcore fans, that wasn't enough, and there are cars out there which have been pushed towards 200bhp – raising some fairly substantial questions about mechanical longevity.

The good news is that standard (and mildly tweaked) Fabias have proved themselves tough and reliable, with proof found in the stellar mileages some have run up. Providing it gets treated to regular oil changes, and has its timing belt swapped on the recommended 60,000-mile or four year interval – the engine is reckoned to be pretty much bombproof.

Later cars, which were tuned to meet Euro IV emissions, can suffer from mid-range hesitancy, but this is inexpensively cured by replacing a gasket in the Exhaust Gas Recirculation valve.

Other than that, the vRS only suffers from the same issues that effect lesser Fabias, with the most common being leaks, normally past the rear door seals, which can result in waterlogged carpets. The high degree of commonality means that any VW specialist can work on the car and running costs are low. Branded tyres cost around £80 a corner - £50 for budgets. and OE quality replacement front brake discs are just £70 a set. 

What to look out for:

Timing belts are the most expensive regular service item. It needs to be changed regularly budget on at least £350 having it done by a specialist

Damp carpets – or a musty smell mean leaks. Normally cured by replacing the rear door seals, but sometimes water gets past the engine bulkhead

To search for a used Skoda Fabia vRS for sale on PistonHeads, click here

Used car buying guide: Toyota Yaris Mk2 (2005-2011)

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 04:01 PM PDT

Significant range variations mean not all versions of the second-generation Toyota Yaris were created equal

Fewer than four per cent of the second-generation Toyota Yaris on the market are offered by private sellers, which tells you a lot about the people who buy them. Less inclined to sing for their supper, most are happy to pay a premium for dealer assurances, then plump for the ease and convenience of trading-in for a newer example later.

"Yaris buyers tend to be loyal," says Nahide Crisp from Hills of Woodford Toyota in Essex. "And since even older, high-mileage cars fetch good money, it makes sense to stay within the trade."

That most can be turned around for resale within a day is testament to the car's durability. The only fly in the ointment is the MMT automated manual gearbox which, on pre-facelift cars in particular, can suffer various failures between the ECU, clutch and shift actuator. Remedial bills are unlikely to be less than £650, including labour, and could accumulate to more than £1000.

However, according to Crisp's colleague Ben Rose, the MMT is a niche choice anyway. "While fuel economy is on a par with manuals, which is impressive for a self-shifter, the MMT doesn't drive like a conventional auto," he says. It's almost mandatory to back off the throttle between upshifts, and owners find the manual more intuitive.

Indeed, the new Yaris auto uses a slicker CVT gearbox. If you insist on a Mk2 with MMT, though, go for the improved six-speeder that came with the light visual facelift in 2009 (when all models gained a sixth cog apart from the manual-only 1.0-litre petrol). Rose also recommends the 1.4 D4-D as the MMT's most appropriate drivetrain partner.

Although we found the oil burner noisy and its handling hampered by its weight penalty, it returns the Yaris's best economy figures: low 60s mpg and cheap road tax for five-speed cars, and high 60s with slightly lower tax bills for six-speeders. Band C road tax status is also achieved by the impressively responsive 1.33 petrol engine that replaced the original 1.3 at facelift, adding 14bhp and a smooth-working stop-start system. By then, the underpowered (if charming) 68bhp 1.0 three-pot had lost its efficiency advantage over the larger petrol option, largely limiting its appeal to young drivers seeking cheaper insurance.

In terms of body shape, Crisp says, the five-door is more desirable. "It tends to maintain its premium, while three-door cars compromise on practicality and need more space to open their longer doors."

So the expert's pick is the 1.33 five-door manual. A dark horse in the ranks, however, is the rare 131bhp, 1.8 VVT-i that was sold between 2007 and 2008. Quicker than a Fiesta Zetec S, but lacking the Ford's visual impact, the manual-only 1.8 reached 60mph from rest in 9.0sec, yet its discreet body kit and understated 17in alloys meant it had more bite than bark. Significantly higher insurance costs ― plus steep road tax and official returns of 39mpg ― don't sit well with the rest of the Yaris range, but we commended the 1.8's grip, steering feel, refinement and generous SR spec. Its narrow appeal also means the price ― our initial complaint ― is less of an issue.

TR spec is the recommended equipment choice. Runout bargains were the T Spirit featuring TomTom sat-nav with Bluetooth and USB port, alloys, climate control and rear parking sensors (the only really popular extra), and the final SR with 16in Toyota Motorsport alloys, subtle sports addenda, rear privacy glass, TomTom sat-nav and climate control.

Services are required every 10,000 miles or annually, alternating between minor and major visits. Most Toyota dealers have signed up for fixed-price tariffs, which means independents aren't always cheaper. Ad hoc labour at a main dealer will typically cost around £125 per hour.

What to look out for:

Power loss and/or rough running on diesels probably means the EGR valve is coking up. A clean usually does the job and should involve no more than an hour's labour.

Recall relating to claimed throttle-pedal return lethargy affects examples built between February 2009 and January 2010. Check this, and other recalls and updates, by entering your car's registration number in the online tool at

Erratic gearshifts on pre-facelift MMT cars take their toll on the clutch and could mean the ECU needs replacing at around £500. A new actuator costs at least £1000 to have fitted. Slippage signals clutch decline.

Toyota majors on customer service, which is easier to exploit with a dealer-stamped history in hand. Labour isn't usually covered in goodwill deals, but parts contributions can be sizeable.

Scour the equipment list for goodies because trim spec varied over time. Options such as full leather, Bluetooth, scuff protection trim and rear discs don't usually retain value.

To search for a used Toyota Yaris Mk2 for sale on PistonHeads, click here

Used car buying guide: Smart Roadster, Smart Roadster-Coupe (2003-2006)

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 04:01 PM PDT

Smart's compact sports car makes an interesting, fun and frugal used buy in cash-strapped times

In many ways, the Smart Roadster and Roadster-Coupé are more relevant now than they were in production. Cheap prices, emissions of 121g/km of CO2, combined fuel economy of 55.4mpg, reasonable servicing costs and a compact footprint tick the sensible boxes, while the quirky, sleek looks, fun powerplant and outright rarity provide the endorphin dose.

Indeed, as the market's stars have aligned towards the car, prices for the plusher, perkier and more sonorous 101bhp Brabus variant have actually risen of late. And with no evolutionary change in shape, you can't buy one that looks dated. As Anthony Clutterbuck of Surrey Smart Centre (SSC) says, "The market for Roadsters is good, but for Brabuses, it's very good".

Choose a Roadster and storage is limited to 59 litres in the nose and 103 in the boot, but go for the Roadster-Coupé and the latter almost doubles. Tiny figures, yes, but not tiny enough to render either totally impractical, which is part of the reason Clutterbuck's seen Nissan 350Zs and Porsche Boxsters traded for the sporty little Smart.

Routine maintenance isn't expensive, largely in line with the Smart ForTwo from which the Roadster sprang. But a few weaknesses emerged early on, and were poorly handled, much to Clutterbuck's frustration: "Smart was slow to address known problems, and in some cases, never did".

The major flaw was water ingress due to poor seal design. While improved wing mirrors (identified by the absence of visible interior-side screws) stopped leaks onto the door cards, new seals around the doors and roof were less successful, and the flow of water via the heater box went unattended. The latter leaves the electronic control SAM unit dunked in water like a forgotten Hobnob in your tea, with disastrous effects on the car's circuits. SAMs can't be refurbished, and must be programmed to the exact spec of each car, incurring nearly a grand of expense.

"We treat the seals to reduce the chance of leaks, but it could still happen to any car," says Clutterbuck. The layer of silicon SSC applies to the heater box seals should save the SAM, though, and sodden carpets can simply be removed, dried, and re-fitted.

When it comes to specs, Clutterbuck recommends the Sport pack that includes steering-wheel paddles and 16in wheels, and leather seats, which are usually (but not always) heated. Air-con was standard on all Roadster-Coupés, but optional on Roadsters. He says engine remapping can open a can of worms, especially on Brabus cars, and aftermarket exhausts can permanently illuminate the engine warning light.

What to look out for:

Grinding from roof mechanism requires a new cable kit at about £80, plus four hours' fitting

Three lines on the info display signal demise of clutch or clutch actuator

Slide a hand under the carpet seam towards the back of the cabin to check for moisture. Upgraded seals kit identified by velour strip along door sill

Haywire electrics indicate SAM unit failure. Unit costs £300 plus essential programming at Mercedes-Benz, swelling cost to £800-£900

To search for a used Smart Roadster for sale on PistonHeads, click here

Used car buying guide: Corvette C6 (2005-2012)

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 04:01 PM PDT

Official imports make the all-American Corvette C6 a viable used buy

The Corvette was once little more than a novelty on British roads, but the stars aligned in 2005 to bring it to our shores on official business. The C6's new-found measure of sophistication, its smaller footprint, the decision to relaunch the Chevrolet brand in Europe and a favourable exchange rate meant that GM treated us to its Kentucky-built V8 legend.

The European connection is still important to the used market, since all C6s are left-hand drive and gained the same certificate of conformity (CoC) on arrival from the US. 

A limited supply of UK cars may tempt buyers to look across the Channel for choice, but installing appropriate headlights is no cheap task at about £3500. Personal imports from the US hold limited appeal for the same reason, plus the cost of shipping, duty, VAT and IVA, and the possibility of a chequered history. 

Most examples on our roads are official imports (for which CoCs are required reading) from 2006 to 2008, when two dollars to the pound wasn't unusual, before the original importer's decline in 2009. Indeed, retail prices for the C6 troughed at just under £40k when the revised model appeared in 2008, introducing the larger 6.2-litre LS3 V8 (30bhp more than the 6.0 LS2, 0.5sec quicker to 60mph), tighter and more feelsome steering, a smoother Tremec T6060 manual gearbox and better cabin materials.

Of all standard C6s, Millett's choice is a coupé of that vintage with a manual gearbox. Four-speed autos were the preserve of 2005 models, and the later six-speed shuffler with rudimentary override paddles is best suited to the softer convertible. Adaptive ride is a rare but worthwhile option, and although the sat-nav is basic, that's almost to be expected.

As Millett sums it up: "The C6 offers 190mph performance at a reasonable price, a unique look, the practicality of good boot space and turn-key reliability." But there are even beefier options in the form of the 505bhp 7.0-litre Z06 (from 2006) and the Nürburgring-munching 638bhp ZR1 that screamed on to the scene in 2009 with its supercharged 6.2 V8 and crushing 604lb ft of torque. A fixed roof, aluminium chassis and suspension and some carbonfibre bodywork unite the two (and make the Z06 33kg lighter than the C6), but the hen's-teeth ZR1 costs at least twice as much as the Z06, adding standard adaptive ride, huge carbon-ceramic brakes, bigger wheels and a bonnet window, among other madcap goodies.

The late-model Grand Sport variant, available in targa-style coupé and convertible body styles, sticks with the LS3 powertrain but gets wider tracks, by 30mm up front and 38mm aft. Firmer dampers, springs and anti-roll bars are similar to the Z06's, and manual examples are equipped with a dry sump, revised ratios, differential cooler and rear-mounted battery that are aimed at track use but bring an uncomfortably firm ride on the road.

Services are due every 10,000 miles, and Bauer Millett charges around £450 for all models, including an oil and filter change, brake check, chassis lubrication and general once-over. You'll need another £90-or-so for a brake fluid change every second visit. Pricey air filters are changed only when an inspection dictates it, which is usually every third or fourth service. 

What to look out for:

Properly maintained clutch fluid should show yellow in the under-bonnet reservoir; black means harmful dust contamination. Slippage is terminal. Reckon on £2000 to fit a new clutch and flywheel to a C6 or Z06.

Grinding or notching from the rear diff when turning at half lock or more means that an oil change is needed at best. Pay particular attention on Z06s.

Vauxhall dealers have the necessary kit for servicing, but a history that has been stamped by one of the few UK specialists is preferable, because only they carry full diagnostic software.

Mind the gap. Anything but a tiny, consistent gap between the nose and front wings usually tells tales. A composite C6 front bumper costs just shy of £1000, and almost the same again paint and fit.

Tappet-like sounds from a Z06 mean rocker arm needles are being shed; they tend to collect on the sump plug. It costs around £750 to fix, including 16 complete rocker arm assemblies.

To search for a used Corvette for sale on PistonHeads, click here

Used car buying guide: Seat Leon Cupra R Mk1 (2002-2005)

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 04:01 PM PDT

The Leon Cupra R was based on a Golf GTI but a much better hot hatch. It's now a favourite with enthusiasts, and attracts affordable prices

Read any online user review of a Seat Leon Cupra R and it'll likely be half about the car, and half about the cars outrun with it. Traffic light grand prix, many with lashings of tyre smoke, feature heavily in the history of many Cupra Rs; it takes legwork to find a nice one.

The ad may say, "Never thrashed, raced or rallied," but, if that's true, why buy the Cupra R in the first place? Why not stick with the regular Cupra, or the lively Leon TDI? Don't be fooled; the Cupra R's raison d'etre is to be in front away from the lights. Prospective buyers should factor this knowledge in to every car they view.

Launched in 2002, the original Leon Cupra R was of the VW Group's main draws for hardcore hatch fans. Well equipped from the word go, the Catalan insurgent came lowered into a bespoke bodykit, and on 18in OZ rims over 4-pot Brembos. Inside was climate control, four airbags and a gearknob that went up to '6'. With 207bhp and 199lb ft of torque on tap for its £16,995 price tag, the Cupra R was cheap as fritas.

The Giugiaro-designed Leon was built on Volkswagen's 'A4' platform (otherwise known as PQ34), which also underpinned the Audi A3 and Mk 1 TT, the Mk 4 Golf and others. The Cupra R used the same 1800cc turbocharged 20-valve engine with forged crank, rods and pistons found in all of these cars.

This engine has proved reliable in Formula Palmer Audi and even Formula 2 racing, where uprated builds produce 300- and 400bhp respectively. Impressive numbers for a sub-2.0-litre motor, so the road-going versions will take a decent remap if you're into that sort of thing.

As can be deduced from online research, many owners are definitely into that sort of thing. A dyno-verified 260bhp is not unheard of on a tweaked Cupra Rs, with up to 300bhp available on the later 221bhp examples. All interference carries a price, however: nothing comes free in remap land. Modified cars will deter buyers who prize well-maintained originality above all else, so a breathed-on Leon is not the easiest sell.

Standard cars in top condition appeal to the widest audience, and solid demand means solid residuals. Spice up the manufacturer's recipe at your peril.

Cooking versions of the Leon always drove that little bit more crisply than their Volkswagen relatives, so the Cupra R's involving dynamics will come as no surprise. Brembo brakes impress, and the suspension is not as stiff as those big rims would have you believe. The driving position is sound, with the interior only marred by budget trim issues: a loose glovebox lid here, a rattly door panel there. Such is the nature of a performance bargain, but keen drivers are unlikely to complain once the first traffic light scalp has been claimed.

What to look out for:

Door internals rattle, catches can be flimsy, bits of seat trim drop off and so on. CD changers can raunchy and engine covers rattle too. Don't let it put you off.

Exhaust system has some convoluted pipework; check thoroughly for leaks and blows, or even blocked cats. Blue smoke at cold start, tickover or overrun is oil leaking through the turbo seals. Not a good sign.

Dashboard lights shouldn't remain illuminated once the engine is running, so approach any such cars with caution.

To search for a used Seat Leon Cupra R for sale on PistonHeads, click here

Leyland Motors, Maggie and me

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 10:50 AM PDT

Leyland Motors, Maggie and me Growing up in the middle of the British Leyland horror show, I took advice from Lord Tebbit and Mrs T and "got on my bike"

It was weirdly appropriate that I should have learnt of Mrs Thatcher's demise, while scanning Twitter, sitting in the bath at my parents' house. It was the very same place where I had been plotting the escape from my home town 30 years earlier – a task made immensely easier by Mrs Thatcher's arrival as PM in 1979.

I grew up in a small industrial town in a Lancastrian industrial area that was dominated by what politicians call the '1945 national settlement'. In the 1970s, the local Royal Ordinance Factory, British Aerospace and British Nuclear Fuels were all owned by the government. As, of course, was British Leyland. The giant Leyland truck and bus factory, which gave its name to the great British industrial disaster, was only a few hundred yards away from home and dominated the local economy.

In fact, I now wonder whether I grew up under technical communism, such was the overwhelming reliance on state-owned industry. Even my parents' second house had been built to be affordable on the union-negotiated wages at the Leyland plant. British Leyland affected virtually all of my childhood. Especially when the plant was on strike.

I can remember a famously long-running dispute at the end of the 1970s when BL boss Sir Michael Edwardes threatened to close the plant if the strikers didn't return to work. The whole town came to a standstill waiting for the traditional 'show of hands'. They did back down, but we all wondered what would have happened to Leyland itself if the 'workers' had tried to call Edwardes' bluff.

The plan for people from my background was to try and get an apprenticeship with 'the Motors' or one of the supplier companies. I had other ideas and thought university might be a plan. Even though I was brought up in a small, insular town, I could see the writing on the wall. Leaving school at 16 and heading for the heavy industry and the smoke stacks was not a good bet long term.

Sure, in its heyday of the 1960s, Leyland was the largest commercial vehicle company in the free world, shifting 150,000 units annually. By 1983, the year I left school, it had declined to just 11,000 units. The reasons were numerous, but Leyland trucks had failed to keep up with the motorway age and could not produce the kind of reliable machinery that could pound autobahns year after year. Leyland's home-grown engines left much to be desired.

One of Leyland's big markets by 1983 was west Africa. There were desperate pleas in the House of Commons to keep open satellite Leyland factories in Scotland and Yorkshire, with one Labour MP suggesting the international aid budget should be used to buy Leyland products and then give them to African countries.

If you weren't around in those circumstances, it's hard to imagine the impact Mrs Thatcher had our nationalised economy. Even as a 16-year-old, you got a strong sense that the end of four decades of strikes, government money and failed promised were over and it was time to move on and upwards. I did, sneaking into sixth form and then taking off for six years of art college.

But Mrs Thatcher was surprisingly pragmatic about the BL I turned my back on. She allowed the technical collaboration with Honda and even wrote out a cheque for more than £1 billion in the middle of the 1980s recession to keep BL upright. Lord Tebbitt even convinced her to cough up for the Rover K-series engine development, while the Tories were trying to slowly dismantle and sell off the various loss-making BL brands.

After all, attempts to fix BL started back on 24 April 1975, when PM Harold Wilson stood up parliament and suggested that letting a bankrupt BL go to the wall could cost a total of one million jobs and that it needed at least £13bn of investment in today's money. Too big to fail, indeed.

So here's the irony. The day after Mrs T died, Paccar, owner of the (much shrunken) Leyland Truck plant, announced a new range of DAF trucks, designed and built at Leyland. Paccar's boss admitted that, while it seems unlikely, the Leyland plant is the best of Paccar's global manufacturing network.

Three decades on, my fellow Leylandians have also proved that they can be as good as anyone in the world. But Maggie was right: throwing good money after bad was a dead end and there was no need to accept managed decline. Now, the economy relies on us building on what ex-BL brands such as Jaguar Land Rover and Leyland Trucks have achieved over the past decade.

BMW i range to expand

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 08:03 AM PDT

BMW plans to expand forthcoming i range. Advanced, efficient vehicle line-up could be expanded with production version of i3 Concept Coupé and other new mid-sized models

BMW is already planning to expand its upcoming i model range beyond the initial i3 and i8 models, a source has revealed.

While not confirmed for production yet, it's likely that a more sporting and stylish coupe version of the i3 would follow the five-door version, based on the i3 Concept Coupé. It effectively uses the same underpinnings as the i3 hatchback and is claimed to be "the next logical step" in the range.

The BMW source said there is also the potential for other mid-sized cars in the i range, including a model along the lines of the recently revealed Concept Active Tourer.

"There are a lot of unused numbers in the i line-up", said the source, "and there is the potential for other mid-sized concepts".

It's unlikely that BMW will offer any X3 or X5-styled four-wheel-drive models, however, due to the specific architecture used by the i models.

Elements of the i range's technology may make its way into BMW's conventional line-up though, such as the petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain found in the eDrive-equipped BMW Concept Active Tourer and i8.

BMW intends for the i3 and i8 to serve as bookends for the new i range, with the release of two models at the extreme ends of the scale being used to judge market response as well as demonstrating what's possible with BMW's i brand, drivetrains and production processes.

"With the i3 you have a megacity vehicle that offers zero emissions and a focus on practicality, while the i8 is an all-out sports car that demonstrates the extreme peformance that's possible using this technology," the source revealed.

The i range will consist of so-called "megacity" vehicles that are claimed to offer significantly improved efficiency thanks to the use of electric propulsion, lightweight construction and other advanced design features and technologies.

Initially the line-up will consist of the five-door i3 hatchback, available with pure electric or range extender drivetrains, and the four-wheel drive i8 hybrid sportscar.

Peugeot 208 T16 targets victory at Pikes Peak

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 07:21 AM PDT

Peugeot releases first images of 208 Pikes Peak contender Peugeot returns to the legendary hillclimb with Sebastien Loeb at the wheel of a 208 T16

Peugeot Sport has released the first teaser image of the Peugeot 208 T16 that Sebastien Loeb will drive at this year's Pikes Peak hillclimb. The nine-time WRC champion will race in the 'Unlimited' class at this year's event, which takes place on 30 June.

This year's contender, though familiar in silhouette to the roadgoing 208, is far more extreme to exploit the minimal restrictions of the Unlimited class in which it will compete. According to Michael Trouve, head of silhouette design at Peugeot's Styling Centre, the bodywork alterations give the 208 "an almost beast-like appearance". Within a set of technical constraints, Trove said they worked to produce "an extreme take on the 208".

His sentiment is borne out by the reality of the 208 T16. The huge front and rear wings and wildly flared wheel arches, to house larger wheels and brakes, are all in the pursuit of victory at the iconic event.

This year's Pikes Peak is just the second time the event has been run on a completely paved course, following its completion last year. This allowed a new course record of 9min 46sec to be set by victor Rhys Millen in a Hyundai Genesis, a target Loeb will aim to beat this year over the 156 corners and 1500m altitude rise of the Pikes Peak course.

Peugeot has history with the American event, having won the hillclimb in 1988 and 1989 with a 405 T16. Ari Vatenen's 1988 victory was commemorated in the film 'Climb Dance'. Peugeot had also previously campaigned a 205 T16 at Pikes Peak earlier in the 1980s.

Autocar magazine 17 April preview

Posted: 15 Apr 2013 07:05 AM PDT

Autocar magazine 17 April preview Fast Jaguar special: Every Jaguar F-type driven; F-type vs 911 vs Boxster; £600k Eagle Speedster driven; Secret Jaguar concept revealed; How to buy a V12 Jag for £2k

This week we finally get to deliver the drive verdict on the new Jaguar F-type – and while we can't give anything away just yet, we can reveal our eight-page first drive delivers the all-important verdicts on the V6, V6 S and V8 models.

That's not the end of our Jaguar coverage, either, as this special issue features 27 pages of news and features on fast Jaguars as we celebrate the launch of what promises to be a pivotal car for the brand. Written by Matt Prior, Steve Sutcliffe, Andrew Frankel and Colin Goodwin, it is a must-read magazine for any fans of Jaguar, sports cars in particular and cars in general.

Highlights include a test drive in the £600,000 Eagle Speedster, which recreates the charm of the original E-type in a thoroughly modern way. We also join Jaguar E-type test test legend Norman Dewis as he takes the F-type for a first drive (brilliantly ignoring all instructions from the PR team to drive gently) and Colin Goodwin goes shopping to find out how little you need to spend to get a used Jaguar V12.

We also feature a comparison of the F-type with its chief rivals, the Porsche 911 and Porsche Boxster.

The subject of our exhaustive eight-page road test is the charming Fiat Panda 4x4, while we also first drive the mighty but flawed Audi RS6, heavily revised Nissan Leaf, new Audi S3 and Seat Leon SC.

Ahead of this Saturday's Shanghai motor show, the news section also features many stories that the relevant manufacturers are keeping under wraps at present.

Meanwhile, James Ruppert investigates which used cars are the safest bet for getting through the revised, tougher MOT, and our used buying guide focuses on the thrills and pitfalls of buying a used Vauxhall Monaro.

Autocar magazine is available through all good newsagents, and available to download from Zinio and the Apple iTunes store.

Shanghai motor show 2013: Ford Mondeo 1.5-litre Ecoboost

Posted: 12 Apr 2013 03:55 AM PDT

Ford to introduce Mondeo 1.5-litre Ecoboost Ford is poised to introduced the fifth engine in the Ecoboost family. The 1.5-litre unit will premiere in the Chinese-market Mondeo at the Shanghai motor show

The next Ford Mondeo will be offered with a new four-cylinder 1.5-litre Ecoboost petrol engine. The powertrain will premiere at the Shanghai motor show later this month.

Although the final powertrain line-up in UK-specification Ford Mondeos is still to be confirmed, a spokesman said the 1.5-litre Ecoboost will be available from launch, alongside the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder Ecoboost unit and a 2.0-litre petrol hybrid.

Ford will introduce the 1.5-litre engine in the Chinese-market Mondeo this month, followed by the American-market Fusion and European  Mondeos.

The new powerplant will be the fifth Ecoboost unit and will ramp Ford's production capacity for the engine series up to 1.6 million annually. The engine will initially be built at Ford's plant in Craiova, Romania, with more locations to be announced.

Like other Ecoboost engines, the 1.5 will feature turbocharging, direct fuel injection and variable valve timing. It will borrow the integrated exhaust manifold from the 1.0 and will be the first Ford engine to use a computer-controlled clutch on the belt-driven water pump, reducing warm-up time. 

Power and torque figures are claimed to be similar to the 148bhp and 177lb ft developed by the 1.6-litre Ecoboost, but with improved fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

Ford says the engine is a strategic choice for global markets offering tax incentives for buyers who choose engines of 1.5 litres or less.

Shanghai motor show 2013: MG CS Concept SUV

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 05:43 AM PDT

MG CS SUV concept poised for Shanghai reveal An MG5-based SUV concept will be revealed at the Shanghai motor show later this month

The MG CS Concept will make its world debut at the Shanghai motor show. The car has been penned by MG design boss, Anthony Williams-Kenny.

MG Motor says the former MG Rover and Mitsubishi designer's concept "oozes British design flair while embracing the sporting DNA of MG, an iconic brand".

The MG CS has headlights which have a "multi-faceted shard structure" that refract light in different colours and shapes from the side, but forms the MG hexagon from the front.

Last year, MG revealed its Icon SUV concept, a retro-styled take on the Nissan Juke. The CS Concept appears to be 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.

Shanghai motor show 2013: Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse

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. 

Quick news: Ford Focus sales record, Smart ForTwo cityflame, VW Golf GTD prices

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 04:23 AM PDT

Quick news: Ford Focus sales record Ford's family hatch is a global best-seller, limited-edition Smart, flagship diesel Golf from £25k

The new Volkswagen Golf GTD costs just £310 more than the Mk 6 GTD it replaces. On sale now from £25,285, the GTD packs 181bhp and 280lb ft from a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine. VW claims 0-62mph in 7.5sec, 109g/km and 67.3mpg. Three- or five-doors are available, and buyers can choose from manual or DSG gearboxes.

Smart has added a new cityflame edition to its ForTwo range. Limited to 200 units, the cityflame comes in pearlescent yellow with a black Tridion safety cell, 'cityflame' logos and a yellow-accented interior. It is offered with the 71bhp Micro Hybrid Drive (MHD) or 84bhp petrol engine, priced from £10,995.

Volkswagen Group has installed Jürgen Stackmann as the new chairman of Seat, replacing James Muir. Brit Muir had installed a five-year turnaround plan – described as "the last attempt for Seat as a brand" – at Seat that the firm is halfway through. Stackmann joins Seat from his role as marketing chief for the VW Group and VW brand. Muir will become a senior manager at the VW Group, reporting directly to the board.

The Ford Focus was the world's best-selling car in 2012, according to Polk. Ford sold 1,020,410 Focuses and 723,130 Fiestas, the latter figure enough to make the Fiesta the most popular sub-compact model. Toyota is contesting Ford's victory with the Focus, claiming 1.16 million Corolla or Corolla-based models were sold.

Shanghai motor show 2013: Citroen Wild Rubis

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 motor 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.

Shanghai motor show 2013: Qoros to make Chinese debut at Shanghai

Posted: 10 Apr 2013 02:19 AM PDT

Qoros to make Chinese debut at Shanghai Latest Chinese manufacturer prepares for its first domestic motor show

Qoros will make its Chinese debut at the Shanghai motor show later this month. It will exhibit the 3 saloon and two other concepts, the 3 Cross Hybrid and 3 estate.

The entire Qoros brand made its global debut at the Geneva motor show, and Shanghai marks the first time a Qoros has been publicly shown in its home country. The Qoros 3 is due on sale in China in the second half of this year, with European sales beginning soon after.

In Britain, the 3 will be aimed at compact saloons such as the VW Jetta. It is based on a modular platform that will allow further additions to the Qoros range to be introduced frequently, with a time frame of between six and 12 months claimed.

An exhaustive testing schedule aims to ensure the 3 is competitive in Europe. Qoros is aiming for a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, and every 3 comes equipped with an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen.

Qoros's pair of concepts appear close to production. The 3 estate is clearly derived from the saloon and will feature similar running gear. Its greater load capacity will make it more popular than the saloon in Britain, where traditional four-door cars have fallen out of favour.

The 3 Cross Hybrid aims to take a share of the lucrative crossover market and features a hybrid 4WD drivetrain.

Matt Bird

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