Thursday, April 4, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Video: Audi R8 V10 v Ducati Diavel – 0-150-0mph

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 05:07 AM PDT

We pitch the hottest Audi R8 against a Ducati in a 0-150-0mph challenge

The Ducati Diavel has twice the power-to-weight ratio of the mighty Audi R8 V10 Plus, but which is quicker from zero to 150mph and back again? Steve Sutcliffe finds out.

Audi R8 V10 v Ducati Diavel – 0-150-0mph

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 04:59 AM PDT

Audi R8 V10 v Ducati Diavel – 0-150-0 This is the closest contest we've ever staged between a car and a bike – and the result might not be the one you'd expect…

Car versus bike contests are always dead good fun to conduct because the formbook dictates if there are straights involved, the bike wins. Easily. And if there are corners involved it's the other way round; car munches bike. And the bike fraternity goes into apoplexy, pointing out that there are grossly unfair differences in asking prices, power outputs, torque, traction control and so on.

But this one was different because the discipline itself involved some braking (quite a lot of fairly manic braking actually) plus the need for some genuine top-end performance. And in both cases you'd expect a car like the 197mph Audi R8 V10 Plus to have the edge, even over a bike like the 692bhp/tonne Ducati Diavel.

Watch the video: Audi R8 V10 v Ducati Diavel – 0-150-0mph

Even so, both car and bike rider genuinely expected the Audi to get whipped in a side-by-side 0-150-0mph test. And when Superbike's road test editor, Chris Northover, and I did the first few practice runs – without any test gear in situ – I thought it was game over for the R8.

The Ducati was so much faster off the line, it was ridiculous. So when we put the test gear on them and did some proper timed runs it was no surprise that the Ducati was almost two seconds faster to 100mph. 

But as we carried on past three figures, up through 120mph and 130mph and eventually on towards 150mph, something weird began to happen. At about 115mph I became aware that Chris and the Ducati were no longer pulling away. And by 130-135mph I had begun to reel them back in, rapidly.

So although the Ducati was still physically ahead on the road by the time we reached 150mph, the Audi had actually taken less time to get there (always a bit of a brain bender, that one). And under brakes it was always going to win – because cars stop faster than bikes, no arguments basically.

Which just left the transition period between full acceleration and full braking to separate them. The Audi was always going to require a bit more time to make the transition because it weighs nearly six times more than the Duke, but it did have a fair bit of time in its tank in the first place. Plus, stamping on a brake pedal in a car is much easier to do accurately than nailing the brakes under full acceleration on a bike that's being buffeted by the wind at 150mph.

Watch the video: Audi R8 V10 v Ducati Diavel – 0-150-0mph

In the end it was ridiculously close, but... well you can look at the data yourselves to see just how close it was.

I'm sure the biking boys and girls will go berserk and accuse us of inventing a test in which we knew that the bike would lose, but I can promise you; no such pre-empting took place. Even the eminently amiable Chris from Superbike was surprised at the overall result.

Until he got his BMW HP4 out of the back of the truck, that is, and made the Audi and the Duke look like children's toys, more on which in weeks to come. 

In the meantime I hope you enjoy the video, and here are the stats and those data figures in full to digest.

Ducati Diavel (carbon version)

Price £16,750; Engine 1198cc, 2 cyls 90 degree v-twin, Power 162bhp at 9500rpm; Torque 94lb ft at 8000rpm; Kerb weight 234kg; Power-to-weight 692bhp/tonne; Traction ABS, 8-stage traction control; Gearbox 6-speed manual gearbox; Tyre 240 section rear

Audi R8 V10 plus S-Tronic

Price £127,575; Engine 5204cc, V10; Power 542bhp at 8000rpm; Torque 398lb ft at 6500rpm; Weight 1595kg; Power-to-weight 340bhp/tonne; Traction ABS, traction control, 4WD; Gearbox 7-speed dual clutch gearbox, Tyre 295 section rear

Performance figures

0-30mph – Ducati 1.37sec, Audi 1.69sec

0-60mph – Ducati 3.02sec, Audi 3.56sec

0-100mph – Ducati 6.04sec, Audi 7.64sec

0-150mph – Ducati 18.24sec, Audi 17.46sec

150-0mph – Ducati 7.09sec, Audi 6.88sec

0-150-0mph Ducati 25.70sec, Audi 25.59sec (best overall times recorded by each during three separate runs)

Watch the video: Audi R8 V10 v Ducati Diavel – 0-150-0mph

Compact SUV mega-test

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 04:28 AM PDT

Compact SUV mega-test The Ford Kuga, Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV 4 are recently-launched family 4x4s designed to take on the like of the Land Rover Freelander. Here's how they fare against their toughest rivals.

There may never have been a greater need for an Autocar group test than there is right here, right now. Six cars stand before us in a Surrey car park. They are all what the industry calls 'compact SUVs', but to an increasing proportion of the British car-buying public, they simply represent a breed that has become the default choice for all-purpose, all-weather, all-encompassing point-to-point convenience: the family 4x4.

To a road tester, this is an intimidating bunch. In a growing segment as important as this one, the arrival of one model can be enough to trigger a big comparison test. In this case, there are three cars among the band new enough to have beaten the dealer demonstrators to UK roads: the Ford Kuga, Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander.

The Honda CR-V is slightly older, but not much. It has yet to pass its first birthday as a showroom model, and the Hyundai Santa Fe has yet to pass its second. In this company, our sixth inclusion – the bookies' favourite – looks decidedly long in the tooth. It's the Land Rover Freelander, appearing in 2013-model-year form but really tracing its roots back as far as 2006.

Regular readers may have already read full road tests on some of these cars, but remember that all were done week by week, in isolation. There's nothing like lining up six cars like this side by side and systematically sorting the winners from the losers. There will be surprises – plenty of unexpected relative shortcomings mixed in among the predictable strengths. There may even be a revelation or two – a new class champion, perhaps.

We've gone as far as we can to ensure a level playing field. These cars all line up with sticker prices as close to £30,000 as we could achieve, with four-cylinder diesel engines of broadly similar power and torque output, and – with one exception – with manual gearboxes. They will be road tested, performance tested,measured and thoroughly inspected both on the specification sheet and out in the real world. So by the time we reach a verdict, you can be sure that it's the right one.


You don't need us to tell you which of these cars you particularly like the look of, or which of their badges you desire the most. The road tester's job starts where 'styling' and 'brand' ends and tangible, measurable, discernible substance begins. Often, with a tape measure.

Usable space is one of the best reasons to trade up to an SUV. If you have a big family – or an active, paraphernalia-packed life – it might be the only reason you need. Just 190mm separates the shortest car (the Freelander) from the longest here (the Santa Fe). But which car can you get the most gear into?

Manufacturers' claims on boot space are to be treated with a heaped teaspoon of salt. Some measure up to the window line, others up to the roof; some even include space under the boot floor. We measure boot space more simply: load length along the boot floor up to the second-row seatback, boot height from the floor to the roof, and boot width between the narrowest points of the boot opening.

Do that and you'll find that the smallest boot here in volume terms is that of the Kuga. The largest is a less easy guess; it actually belongs to the CR-V, by a gnat's wing. The numbers don't tell the whole story, though. The Santa Fe's load bay is the moral victor, being both the longest and the widest of all six, and it loses out only narrowly to the Honda's on volume because of the loading height eaten up by the Hyundai's third row of seats. The Toyota deserves an honourable mention in this department, but the Land Rover certainly doesn't and languishes second from last.

Where passengers are concerned, the tale of the tape measure makes even more uncomfortable reading for Land Rover. Being the shortest car on test, this would make sense, but it's no less surprising that the Freelander – Autocar's class favourite, remember – offers the least front-row headroom and second-row legroom. Getting into the Land Rover is very easy, thanks to the highest ride height and resultant hip point of the entire group. But once you're in, there's no mistaking it: the Freelander does feel like a slightly smaller car than the rest of the group. And 'small' isn't what customers in this class are looking for.

This time, it's the Toyota that ties with the Hyundai as overall passenger space champion. And lower down the order, credit's due to Ford for offering the most second-row headroom overall.

The over-arching message is plain. Want the most practical 4x4 you can afford? Buy a Hyundai Santa Fe.


Owning a 4x4 is a bit like having a St Bernard. Most people don't actually treat them any differently from any other household pet. But you like to think that, if by some random act of God the need arose, 'Beethoven' could rescue you from flood, field, snow or mountain. It's also quite amusing that he makes the Labradoodle (read M Sport BMW 1-series) over the road look like a Pomeranian (or Isetta bubble car).

'Beethoven' types will naturally be drawn towards two members of our group. The lure of the Land Rover brand is clearly not to be underestimated, but only because it's based on a genuine dual-purpose remit. The Freelander has 15mm more ground clearance than the next best car. Relative to the rest, it looks like you could drive a go-kart between the axles. Its off-road angles are, by an equally generous margin, the highest here. And it's one of only two cars supplied on 'mud and sand' (M+S) tyres. If you really do have anything that even approaches serious off-roading to do, it's the only car to choose.

But you should note that the Land Rover is beaten on towing capacity and outright pulling power by the same car that makes it look like a five-door supermini on interior space: the Santa Fe. The Hyundai will tow 2.5 tonnes on a braked trailer. It's beaten on ground clearance by everything but the CR-V, so it can't be cracked up as the ultimate rugged 4x4 workhorse. But with that exception, the Korean contender seems strong where it matters.

But so does the surprise package in this 'go anywhere, do anything' section: the Kuga. It has the second-heaviest rating for towing. It also has the second-highest ground clearance. Once again, the Ford is punching above its weight.

Before we move on, a quick real-world test of torque and traction– two of the things that matter most in an SUV. We've got a 100-yard, one-in-four-graded test hill at our disposal. It's dry asphalt, so not the most slippery test that a 4x4 might face, but a tough one all the same. How quickly can they go from a standing start to 30mph on that kind of a climb?

With the timing gear in place, the Land Rover Freelander, RAV4 and Outlander all do it in precisely 6.0sec – roughly twice as long as it would have taken on a level surface. The Honda takes only a tenth of a second longer. The Ford is slowest all, taking 6.3sec; with no lockable centre diff, it's subject to a touch of initial wheelspin and then has the least torquey engine of the bunch to haul it onwards.

Biggest disappointment here is the Toyota, which throws up electronic complaints about an overheating four-wheel drive system after its second attempt at the climb. It's a sign that perhaps this car isn't as rough and ready as it wants you to believe.

Fastest of all? It's that Hyundai again: 5.2sec to 30mph up a one-in-four gradient. It's big, it's heavy – but it's got the powertrain to carry that bulk without breaking a sweat.


If it goes well up a steep hill, it'll go well anywhere. But good everyday performance is about much more than pulling power. Flexibility, response and refinement are equally important hallmarks of a class-leading 4x4, which will offer a convincing balance of all four.

The fastest-accelerating car here, according to the claims, should be the automatic Freelander. It isn't. The Land Rover is not under-endowed – far from it – but like everything else gathered, it can't match the sheer grunt of that Hyundai.

When we road tested the Santa Fe in 2011, it hit 60mph in 9.0sec dead – and this one feels every bit as brisk. That puts it closer on performance to a 2.0-litre diesel BMW X3 than the rest of this group. Hyundai's diesel engine is quiet, smooth, attentive to your right foot and so gutsy. If it's got a failing, it's fuel economy. But we'll come to that.

The next most impressive powertrain belongs not to the Land Rover, but to the cheaper, less powerful, manual Honda CR-V. You could let your granny drive this car; it's that easy to get on with. The engine is muted and unimposing, the gearshift short, light and positive of action.

Below that, the Freelander's powertrain just about manages to distinguish itself, being above average for potency and slickness and seemingly well insulated under the bonnet. For their engines, neither the Kuga nor the Outlander has much that merits praise. The Ford feels a little bit short on low and mid-range urge at times and the Mitsubishi hates being revved hard. The RAV4, meanwhile, is the only car whose engine is worthy of serious criticism. Perhaps the pace of improvement in this class has surprised Toyota. Whatever the excuse, its engine is noisy and breathless beyond 3000rpm and isn't particularly hard-working lower in the range.

The RAV4's handling is equally rough hewn. M+S tyres account for some of the stodgy imprecision, but not all of it. The car's steering is heavy and cumbersome off centre, and levels of grip and body control on the road seem surprisingly low once you bother to plumb their depths. All in all, it's a car that reminds you how SUVs used to feel. And in this class, reminiscence is no recommendation.

The same charge can be levelled at the Outlander. It feels soft and slightly wayward when push comes to shove. Both it and the Toyota are functional, secure, largely inoffensive cars to drive most of the time, but neither has the dynamic sophistication to improve the breed.

By contrast, there's unmistakable polish and class to the way that the CR-V and Santa Fe flow calmly down the road. Neither is athletic or involving; their trick is in mixing compliance with fleet-footedness and effectively disguising their mass. Of the two, the Honda is marginally the better at that trick, but both pull it off. Both are good-handling 4x4s in the modern sense.

And yet Freelander and Kuga still go one better. The Land Rover is a fine-handling 4x4 in spite of its limitations. It has the highest centre of gravity here and, like the Toyota, grips the road via M+S rubber only. But neither fact has prevented Land Rover from dialling in remarkable consistency of weight, clarity of response and general precision to the car's steering system. The Freelander rolls generously when you turn in, but it remains easy to guide towards the apex and balanced even under plenty of power. It doesn't ever seem to pitch or squat on its long-travel springs. Damping is supple but effective. It was, and remains, the traditional high-rise 4x4 perfectly house-trained for the road.

The Kuga is something else entirely. After the Land Rover, it feels like a hot hatchback: hunkered down, agile, ready to engage. Changes of direction come easily and instinctively. There's very little roll steer to contend with and never any temptation to wind on steering angle without altering the path of the car in reliable proportion. The trade-off? The Kuga is a little firmer riding, and a bit more bodily reactive, than the comfort-oriented class norm – but it's far from uncomfortable. It's a different take: a truly sporting drive, in a class where utility still predominates. Here's your revelation, folks.


There is only one car here that qualifies for a £120 tax disc; only one capable of busting through the 50mpg barrier, according to manufacturer claims. It hasn't been achieved by a fluke; the Outlander is also the lightest car here and deserves its moment of recognition. In the cold light of day, it won't deliver an average of 52.3mpg, but as our test is drawing to a close, the 41.3mpg return that its trip computer shows is unbeatable fuel economy for this kind of car.

The Honda's return is closest to it (40.6mpg) and the Ford's isn't too far behind (38.6mpg). Thereafter, the stragglers' returns are much closer to our expectations for this class. The Land Rover's 33.6mpg is poorest – but then it was penalised by that torque-converter automatic 'box.

There isn't a great deal to choose between like-for-like examples of these cars on CO2-derived company car tax. In that respect, the Mitsubishi Outlander and the Toyota are the smart buys. In terms of retained value, the Ford tops the list and the Toyota props it up.

The surprising disparity is between the cheapest and more expensive options on the cost of insurance – something that has always taken SUV owners slightly unawares. Qualifying for group 29E, the RAV4 will cost the average Brit driver £790 a year. The Ford (group 21) will cost the same driver £618 and the Hyundai (group 19) just £580.


At the end of two days of driving, measuring, testing and number crunching, our long, hard look at this increasingly enticing segment of the new car market has thrown up surprises in abundance. It has also made the new class hierarchy abundantly clear.

It's hard to separate the Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV4. Both are practical choices in their own way, and neither passes for much more than 'adequate' when you're actually driving it. With your back against the wall, you'd pick the Outlander if you had to have either, mainly because it would be cheaper to own.

But that's only assuming that you couldn't pick the CR-V. This Honda is the kind of car that'll spend years and years quietly impressing the pants off you – just being easy to use and pleasant to own, with its big boot, clever back seats, economical engine and unimposing drive. Keep your order simple – small wheels, manual 'box, no factory sat-nav – and the results will repay you. It should be cheaper to insure, and it could do with a bit more ground clearance. A bit of styling pizazz wouldn't go amiss, either.

That brings us on to the podium – and to a deposed former class champion. If you want a marker of how much compact SUVs have changed in the past decade, look no further than the current Land Rover Freelander. This car was designed before it became obvious how little genuine off-road ability matters to 4x4 buyers compared with carrying capacity, towing capacity, fuel efficiency and cabin space. It takes a test like this to realise it, but the class has moved beyond this car. And yet the Freelander's finely tuned, premium-brand ride and handling remain appealing enough to earn it a ranking berth.

Which leaves two cars: the one with all the space, utility and value for money, not to mention a cracking powertrain, and the winner. You're wondering how a car that has so completely dominated almost every facet of this test isn't getting the credit it has so evidently earned. Hyundai has never come closer to the sharp end of such an important Autocar group test verdict. But the truth is that, great as the Santa Fe undoubtedly is, it's a car that you have to have a need for. It's not a Freelander rival as much as a cut-price Discovery – engineered to tow double-axle caravans and horseboxes, to transport big families, to move student teenagers off to university. And if you don't have needs like that, you might end up wishing you'd plumped not for 'big', but for 'big enough'.

'Big enough' is what the Ford Kuga does brilliantly, and it brings a whole lot else into the equation. This car offers more than you'd expect to get, either for the price or the size – on space, when towing, off road and as an ownership prospect. On top of that, Ford's typically taut, instinctive handling remains the unique selling point – and it really is a supreme one next to this kind of competition.

Ford gets the nod, by the slimmest of margins. But Seoul sticks one to Solihull. It's been a long time coming.

Ford Kuga

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 03:58 AM PDT

Ford Kuga The new, second-generation Ford Kuga sets a new sporting benchmark among 'compact' SUVs Little by little, the Ford Motor Company is becoming the model of a streamlined, right-size international car maker.Having transformed the Fiesta and Focus, the grand 'One Ford' globalisation strategy has provided yet another object for road test assessment: the Ford Kuga SUV.Dead and buried is the quirky Kuga of old. It was highly rated by us but it proved popular on too few continents, and catered for too narrow a spread of tastes, to be worthy of a place among the Mulally model generation. Its replacement has in effect moved up a class. Measuring over 4.5m long, it's now a closer match for a Hyundai Santa Fe than a Nissan Qashqai.The repositioning is a crucial part of Ford of Europe's growth strategy; Ford is aiming to displace the more traditional 'sports utility' brands and lead the 4x4 market.But this Kuga will need to sell every bit as well as many of Ford's more traditional models if that's going to happen. Is it up to the task?

Will the Soul become Kia's legacy model?

Posted: 04 Apr 2013 01:51 AM PDT

Will the Soul become Kia's legacy model? Kia has unveiled its second-generation Soul, but is it merely a passing fad or is it a potential future classic?

What do you think of the Kia Soul? Is it an inspired piece of design, maybe even a potential future classic? Or something that could only appeal to American college students?

The first-generation model certainly split opinion, and the second-generation model unveiled at the New York motor show last week is sure to do the same.

The man behind its design, Tom Kearns, head of Kia's Californian-based design studio, is obviously a fan, but offered an interesting insight into just how bold and memorable he believes the design can be.

"We do harbour ambitions for this to become Kia's answer to the Mini or Beetle," he said. "We're attempting to create a legacy with this car. Maybe 40 years from now, the Kia design team could try and recreate what we've done here, much like the reinvention of the Mini and Beetle."

While this might sound far-fetched, a legacy has to start somewhere. Kia believes it is creating one right now with the Soul, and has stuck very closely to the design principles that made the first model such a success rather than opt for a design shift that ruins any chance of a legacy before it's even started. Think of what Nissan did to the Cube.

While the Soul might not be to European tastes, Americans can't get enough of it, and it was the first 'new age' Kia that really hit the sweet spot with a modern, edgy design. "It was a tough car to follow up as it's been so iconic for us," said Kearns. "Rivals have done cars like this and followed it up with something not as good. It's like a rock band doing a second album."

So, is Kia is on its way to creating a legacy with the Soul, or is the design too faddish to stand the test of time? Answers below, please...

Jaguar Land Rover invests for the big league

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 11:30 PM PDT

Jaguar Land Rover invests for the big league JLR plans major expansion and will invest £11bn over the next four years

Jaguar Land Rover is planning to spend £2.75 billion each year for the next four years on new products and new production capacity around the world. But chief executive Ralf Speth insists that the rapid global expansion will not come at the expense of its interests in the company's British heartland.

"It is absolutely critical that we diversify production around the world, but to be absolutely clear, we have an absolute commitment to the UK and will continue to invest there as long as we have free and fair trade," Speth told Autocar. 

"But a global footprint is critical to our UK stability. That is why we already assemble cars in India (the XF and Freelander), which is a low-volume first step there, we are working on our joint venture with Chery in China, and we are investigating possibilities in Saudi Arabia, where we can see a flourishing automotive business thriving one day."

JLR has a number of advantages in its quest to dramatically increase sales and expand its global footprint. It is enjoying booming sales and the SUV market is increasing.

"You have to invest in big amounts of seed in order to reap the harvest, which is what we are doing," said Speth. "We see the cycle as powering growth. The amounts we are investing are very large, but I think we can keep that momentum. It is not a case of investing now and then pausing; as we invest in product and deliver more cars, I expect we can keep going forward at the same rate."

But the company will probably have to borrow to feed the massive investment that's being planned. JLR's profits for 2012-2013 are expected to exceed £1.6 billion. Profit margins in the final three months of 2012 slipped to 14 per cent from 17 per cent, but that's still way ahead of BMW's 10.9 per cent margin in 2012.

Indeed, JLR has used up half a billion pounds that it had in the bank last autumn and has already borrowed money on the markets to feed the massive investment plans. Analysts say JLR is likely to spend all the money that it makes on investment as well as borrowing very significant sums.

Why take the risk? JLR has to make a break for much bigger volumes and build a far wider range of models if it is to prosper over the longer term.

Last year JLR sold 355,000 vehicles. Jaguar shifted about 60,000 cars, and more than a third of Land Rover's output is accounted for by one model: the Range Rover Evoque. Indeed, in the second half of last year the Evoque and Freelander accounted for 52 per cent of all sales. A solid basis for long-term growth requires a wider sales footprint. 

JLR also has too many different platforms and is racing to reduce is reliance on engines bought in from rival companies. That's why the company is spending so much money, so quickly. JLR's new engine plant is in the final stages of construction and it is building a new factory in China. 

In Saudi Arabia, JLR has secured a source of competitively priced aluminium that potentially gives it a technical lead over its German rivals as it moves to all-aluminium cars.

As Autocar revealed last year, it has a 16-model Land Rover range in its sights and a slice of the 20-million-unit-plus global SUV market. And Jaguar hopes to slice away a profitable chunk of the premium market dominated by the BMW 3-series and Audi A4, with a new range of compact cars.

Mitsubishi Outlander

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 09:24 AM PDT

Mitsubishi Outlander A leaner, cleaner Mitsubishi Outlander fights for a place in the crossover ranks Mitsubishi means different things to different people. For one group, it means the competition-bred Lancer Evolution.For another, it stands for utilitarian off-roaders. There was also, until earlier this century, a range of 'Space' cars – Wagon, Star and Runner – offering various levels of above-average interior room.And then there's the Mitsubishi Outlander, in some ways a combination of all and none of the above, all at the same time.Traditionally it has been underpinned by a Lancer's transmission, yet it is capable of towing and features seven seats.It's a compromise car and a jack of all trades, and if any car sums up the whole of what Mitsubishi is about, it is the Outlander.And never more so than now. Mitsubishi is focusing in a big way on environmental responsibility, and there's no car in its range that epitomises that more than this new SUV. In this diesel form it is lower-powered, lighter and cleaner than its predecessor.So how well does all that affect its ability to cope with everything that life is likely to throw at it? Read on to find out.

Bold aims for Tesla Roadster

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 09:16 AM PDT

Bold aims for Tesla Roadster Next electric roadster will improve on 200-mile range and sub-4.0sec 0-60mph time, says Tesla boss

Tesla is promising a new, flagship two-seat Roadster underpinned by cutting-edge EV technology that will "push the envelope beyond what anybody else is doing".

No date has been set yet for the second-generation roadster's launch, but it could be on the market in about five years, after Tesla has established its core three-model range of EVs.

Tesla boss George Blankenship said, "If you fast forward beyond that, we go back to the roadster and do things that people aren't doing and push the envelope. That would be the next-generation roadster."

Tesla's latest arrival, the Model S saloon, is due to go on sale in the UK this year. The Model X SUV will follow in 2014-2015 and a 3-series-sized four-door in 2015-2016.

Blankenship believes that EV technology is evolving so rapidly that the new Roadster will improve on the original Roadster's range of 200 miles and 0-60mph in under 4.0sec.

"The original roadster was a proof-of-concept car," he said. "We did an electric car with over a 200-mile range and 0-60mph in under four seconds. Back then, no one believed it was possible. And then we did the Model S saloon, with 0-60mph in 4.4sec and a 300-mile range." 

Blankenship also runs Tesla's dealer network, a task that he plans to build around his experience from his previous job, where he helped the global roll-out of Apple Stores. 

"We have identified a site in central London where we will set up our first UK Tesla store. It's a high-profile location," he said.

American car sales show signs of recovery

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 07:58 AM PDT

American car sales show signs of recovery Figures for March indicate sales are back to 2007 levels for some manufacturers

Car sales in America showed a significant rise in March, providing fresh evidence of a US market resurgence. For some manufacturers, March 2013 was the most successful month for over five years.

Compared to last year, Chrysler saw sales increase by five per cent to a total of 172,000 units. It hasn't sold that many cars in a month since December 2007.

The popularity of the revised Fusion (Mondeo) and Escape (Kuga) saw Ford post its highest monthly sales results since May 2007. Its overall figure of 236,000 cars sold is up six per cent on 2012. General Motors also experienced a six per cent growth in its domestic sales from last March.

Moreover, the success was also enjoyed by overseas manufacturers. Nissan had its best month ever in the US, selling over 137,000 vehicles. Honda saw a gain in sales of 7.1 per cent, which was actually less than predicted.

Matt Bird

Quick news: Pininfarina profits, a Mini sales milestone, iconic Mustang for sale

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 07:27 AM PDT

Quick news 0304 Legendary styling house agrees new loan deal; 500,000 US Minis; Mustang GT500 'Eleanor' to be auctioned

Italian design firm Pininfarina made its first profit for eight years in 2012. It followed the restructuring of a loan that has added three years to the repayment date, now 2018. Pininfarina financial results for 2012 show an €8.2m operating loss and €32.9m net profit.

The 500,000th Mini has been sold in America, 11 years after the brand was introduced there. Sales have grown from 24,590 units in 2002 to 66,123 last year. This March saw 6071 Minis find buyers in America, and the range is now bolstered by the Paceman's addition.

The original 'Eleanor' Ford Mustang GT500 from the film Gone in 60 Seconds is to be auctioned. Built by Cinema Vehicle Solutions, the GT500 is the car used in all close-ups and promotional material for the film. It will be sold at Mecum's Indy auction on 18 May.

Volkswagen has refreshed the Polo range, adding revised trim levels and extra equipment. The most notable new addition is the Polo R-Line Style, which adds the R-Line's bodykit and 16in 'Rivazza' alloys to the Polo S. Available with a pair of 1.2-litre engines, the Polo R-Line Style costs from £11,740.

Smart has bolstered its Fortwo range with the edition21. It's distinguished from the standard car through new alloy wheels and badges. The edition21 is available from £79 a month with zero per cent interest and a year's free insurance for customers over 21. The coupé costs £9,575, the cabriolet £11,075.

Matt Bird

Kia mulls rear-drive coupé

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 01:01 PM PDT

New York motor show: Kia mulls rear-drive coupe Kia would benefit from a small, rear-drive coupé, according to the boss of Kia's California design studio

The head of Kia's California design studio would like the firm to produce a small rear-wheel-drive sports car to rival the Toyota GT86.

Speaking at the New York motor show, Tom Kearns gave a resounding "yes" when asked if he thought Kia needed a sports car to help push the emotional appeal of the brand, and move Kia away from being a rational purchase.

"We'd definitely make one if we had my way," he said, stressing it was a personal opinion, rather than a company one.

"I think we should do a coupé over a convertible. A cabrio would be fun, but an affordable coupé in the US would prove more popular.

"Something like a Scion FR-S (the US version of the Toyota GT86) that's youthful, fun, affordable and rear-wheel drive would be great."

Kearns said he had "drawn one and made a model of one" in his design studio.

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