- Autocar magazine 10 April preview
- New Maserati Ghibli revealed
- Hyundai bolsters world rally squad with new appointments
- Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG first drive review
- New Bugatti Veyron world record car tipped to be revealed
- Land Rover poised to make £18k baby SUV
- Land Rover's baby SUV and the global niche that’s set to boom
- Acura crossover concept to be revealed at Shanghai
- Honda readies MPV concept for Shanghai motor show
- Quick news: Dongfeng-PSA and Hyundai sales increase, Gazelle Next production begins
Posted: 09 Apr 2013 04:16 AM PDT
Jaguar considers extreme 600bhp F-type; full Skoda Octavia road test; Volvo V60 hybrid on ice; 1200 miles across Sicily in a Porsche Cayman
Another earthshaking Jaguar Land Rover exclusive is the headline news in this week's issue of Autocar, which hits the real and virtual news-stands tomorrow morning.
As the world gears up to provide the first driving impressions of the Jaguar F-type (more about that in next week's issue), Autocar lifts the lid on secret plans to build a rip-snorting 600bhp extreme F-type as a halo model for Jaguar's products.
That's just the tip of the iceberg as far as the issue is concerned. Our expert road test team pores over the Skoda Octavia to bring you the most thorough assessment of the Czech marque's Volkswagen Golf rival. The latest Octavia majors on space and practicality, but can it match the dynamic qualities of its competitors?
We also bring you our first impressions of the Ford Fiesta ST on UK roads. We've already been impressed by the car on the Continent's roads, but now we've had the chance to find out how well it suits our slightly more weathered asphalt surfaces. Other cars we've sampled in the past week include the new Vauxhall Mokka 1.7D, Nissan Qashqai 360, Mitsubishi Mirage and Suzuki Swift Sport SZ-R.
The Targa Florio remains one of the most evocative events in motorsport history, even though the perilous race around the public roads and streets of Sicily was cancelled in the 1970s due to safety fears. Now, 40 years on from the Targa's last appearance as a full championship event, Mel Nichols retraces the route in the new Porsche Cayman, and recalls his own visit to the famous race in 1973.
Moving further north, Richard Bremner takes to the snow of Sweden in the latest Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid. Can a car powered by an internal combustion engine and electric motor effectively cope with the most challenging of road conditions? Oh, and we also find out whether it makes an exciting drift machine too...
Also in this week's features section is an illuminating interview with GM Europe's Steve Girsky, the man leading a turnaround in the European fortunes of Opel and Vauxhall.
Our used buying guide provides hints and tips on how to buy a sought-after 153mph Renault Clio V6 hatchback.
Budding stars of the car industry shouldn't miss our special feature on the launching of this year's Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award. The competition offers one lucky entrant the chance to show off their innovative automotive skills and win work experience at Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren Automotive, Peugeot, Skoda and Toyota.
Posted: 09 Apr 2013 01:56 AM PDT
First official pictures and details of Maserati's Shanghai motor show star, a rival to the BMW 5-series
The new Maserati Ghibli, pictured here for the first time ahead of its official unveiling at the Shanghai motor show, is set to be one of the cornerstones of the Italian manufacturer's target of selling 50,000 cars per year by 2015. It has been revealed in full following a leak online earlier today.
The Ghibli, which revives a nameplate last used by Maserati in 1997, is breaking new ground because it marks the first time the Modena-based brand has built a car for the E-segment, where the new four-door executive saloon will rival cars such as the BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-class.
Based on a shortened version of the platform that underpins the new Quattroporte, the Ghibli will be built alongside its sister model in the ex-Bertone plant in Grugliasco, near Turin. The two cars were designed alongside each other under the watch of Lorenzo Ramaciotti, the former head of design at Pininfarina who now has the same role within the Fiat Group, and Maserati's own design chief, Marco Tencone.
The Ghibli is expected to measure just under five-metres in length, slightly longer than its 5-series rival.
No performance figures are available because homologation of the final iteration of the car has not yet been completed, but Maserati says the new car will have a sportier and more aggressive character compared to the larger Quattroporte. The Ghibli will also be offered at a lower price point than any other Maserati on the market.
Three engine variants will be available in the UK. The entry-level model will be the first Maserati production car in history to be powered by a diesel engine, with a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel. This engine will give the company a rival to high-performance diesel versions of the 5-series and Audi A6 and the car is expected to cost below £50k.
Maserati's petrol turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine will be offered in two states of tune. The range-topping car will boast about 410bhp and the price is expected to be in the low-£60k region. The lower-powered petrol car will have about 330bhp and sit halfway between the others in terms of pricing. A V8 petrol is expected to follow at a later date.
The engines were designed and developed by head of powertrain Paolo Martinelli, who was formerly powertrain guru for the Ferrari F1 team during the Michael Schumacher era.
Each will be mated to a ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters. Although rear- and all-wheel-drive variants will be built for left-hand-drive markets, the UK will only receive rear-drive cars due to the constraints of re-engineering the 'Q4' all-wheel drive system for right-hand drive, a similar situation as exists with the Quattroporte. The all-wheel-drive versions will be paired only with the more powerful petrol engine option.
Inside the Ghibli, leather will be standard across the range and will be supplied by Italian specialist Poltrona Frau, and a Bowers & Wilkins sound system will be offered as an option.
Deliveries of left-hand-drive cars will start in the summer, with right-hand-drive versions scheduled to reach their owners in October. After the Shanghai reveal, the Ghibli will go on a 'world tour', initially as a static exhibit. An appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed has also been mooted.
It is estimated that the Ghibli could eventually account for almost half of Maserati's 50,000 sales target. In the UK, about 1000 sales per year are anticipated for 2014, the first full calendar year that the car will be on sale.
After the launch of the Ghibli, Maserati will turn its attentions to its next new model, the Levante SUV, which is due in the manufacturer's centenary year, 2015.
Posted: 09 Apr 2013 01:23 AM PDT
The Korean manufacturer is ramping up its preparations for entry into top-level motorsport with the Hyundai i20 WRC
Hyundai has ramped up its preparations for a return to the World Rally Championship by appointing a number of key technical staff.
The Korean manufacturer confirmed last year that it will enter a Hyundai i20 WRC in the WRC in 2014 and, since the appointment of team principal Michel Nandan in January, it has been busy building a bespoke facility in Alzenau, Germany, and getting the i20 WRC ready for testing later in the year.
Experienced rally technician Stephane Girard, formerly of Subaru, Citroën and Peugeot, has recently been appointed as engine manager and will work with chief designer Bertrand Vallat on the engineering team. Vallat is another former Peugeot Sport employee and worked on the Peugeot 207 S2000 rally car.
Alain Penasse will start a new role of team manager on 22 April. The 51-year-old Belgian has previously been involved with Toyota and Peugeot, as well as tyre manufacturer Michelin and as an organiser of the Ypres Rally.
Hyundai's workshop will be headed by Ernst Kopp, formerly involved with Toyota's rally, Le Mans and F1 projects. Stefan Henrich has transferred across from Hyundai Motor Europe to become marketing and PR chief.
Team principal Michel Nandan said: "We've been evolving rapidly since the beginning of the year and made great progress in filling all the main roles to establish our core team. We're facing a big and exciting challenge in building a team from scratch, and we have now only nine months to prepare for next year.
"I'm now surrounded by the best people in the business and I'm confident we'll be ready to meet our ambitious goal to be ready at the start of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship. While we have a very busy year ahead of us, I believe that team-work together with shared commitment and passion for motorsport are the keys for success."
The Hyundai i20 WRC has been seen in two development phases, with the most recent appearing at the Geneva motor show last month.
There has been speculation that the team is gearing up for an early competitive debut on Rally GB in November, although team sources say a decision on that will not be made until testing starts in the summer.
Posted: 09 Apr 2013 01:02 AM PDT
The latest flagship SL demonstrates a great breadth of abilities, but the experience is dominated by that amazing engine It's hope. And it's proof. Proof that there are certain corners of the new car market that can't be modernised, downsized, streamlined or greenwashed out of existence. Proof that, demanding as they may be, European emissions regulations will never snuff out the balls-to-bones enthusiasm at the heart of the car business.Proof that, even as plug-in hybrids and lightweight economy cars bring fleet car emissions to an unprecedented low, there's still room for the odd monster, and for choice to prevail. This is the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG. And it's 12 turbocharged cylinders of utter fabulousness.It's the fastest and most powerful version of the R231-generation SL roadster introduced to the UK market in 2012. Like any AMG-equipped SL, it's part-cruiser, part-performance machine.And the reason that Mercedes can charge a £60k premium, even over a 530bhp SL63? That'll be the twin-turbocharged, 6.0-litre V12 engine, which produces 621bhp and 737lb ft. The latter portion makes Stuttgart's just-launched SLS AMG Black Series (with just 468lb ft) look decidedly under-endowed. It's as much pulling power as the last Bentley Azure had, in a package that weighs a full tonne less.
Posted: 09 Apr 2013 12:57 AM PDT
Shanghai motor show reveal expected; reports suggest car will be a special edition of the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse
Bugatti has confirmed that it is preparing to reveal what it describes as "the latest example of exceptional performance", with reports suggesting the car will be a world record breaking version of the Bugatti Grand Sport Vitesse.
Although Bugatti has only issues a mysterious teaser shot and short statement about its intentions, a set of grainy pictures have leaked on to the internet revealing a car that appears to be called the Bugatti Grand Sport Vitesse World Record Convertible (WRC). The reports suggest the pictures, leaked on Mileson-QC, were revealed by a potential customer for the car.
Adding strength to reports that the car will be revealed at the Shanghai motor show, it is said to have been driven by a Chinese driver at 254.069mph at Volkswagen's Ehra-Lessien test track, making it the world's fastest convertible.
There is a long history of Bugatti Veyron special editions, which tap in to the wealthy owner's desire to own exclusive versions of hypercars.
Posted: 08 Apr 2013 04:01 PM PDT
Baby Land Rover would be sold across the world and make the brand the premium contender in a market niche that is set to rocket in popularity
Land Rover is considering building a baby SUV. It would be sold across the world and make the brand the premium contender in a market niche that is set to rocket in popularity.
Land Rover's global brand director, John Edwards, confirmed recently that such a model is being examined by the firm's product planners.
"I can see a sub-compact SUV working in all markets… and I don't see a reason not to do it in the future," he said. However, Edwards also cautioned that he has yet to see a convincing proposition for the new model.
If it gets the green light, the new Land Rover is expected to be about four metres long (30cm shorter than today's Evoque). Some sources say it would be based on a bespoke platform likely to be shared with Jaguar Land Rover's Indian owner, Tata, and new Chinese partner Chery.
Indian sources say Tata engineers are leading the work on a new generation of diesel and petrol engines sized at 1.4 and 1.6 litres, which could be used in the baby SUV. The 1.6 could also be used by Jaguar.
Pricing for the baby Land Rover is expected to start at £18,000. That will put it at the top end of the segment, making it more expensive than the Mini Countryman and slotting under the next-generation Freelander, which is likely to be priced from £23,000. Entry models are likely to be front-wheel drive.
The baby Land Rover's styling is expected to be a further development of the theme launched by the DC100 concept cars. It will also be influenced by the look of the all-new Defender, which, Autocar understands, has already been signed off for production.
According to figures from analysts at Credit Suisse, global sales of B-segment SUVs from established manufacturers are set to rocket from last year's total of one million units to more than 2.5 million units in 2020. It's a niche that Land Rover cannot ignore.
The new SUV could be the first Land Rover to be built entirely abroad. The company is reported to be "actively" investigating sourcing a model solely from India.
Tata's Del Sehmar has been quoted as saying that JLR has "ambitious" plans to expand production globally.
JLR is investing £1.1 billion in a new Chinese factory with Chery. It has also revealed plans to source aluminium from Saudi Arabia and is working on a project to press panels and eventually build cars there. South America is being eyed up for a production project, too.
"We have a lot of aspirations for India," said Edwards, "but that is all they are at present. Our expansion plans are very clear. We have a joint venture in China, which is approved, so we are working hard with Chery and then looking at three priorities to expand our global footprint: India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
"We continue to look at opportunities for a smaller, cheaper Land Rover but — if we did it — it certainly wouldn't be exclusive to India. It would have to work in other markets."
The firm is looking at "all opportunities to grow Land Rover", he said. "The SUV segment is the fastest-expanding sector. There's room for crossovers, pick-ups, small sub-compact SUVs. We are definitely looking at opportunities, but we haven't decided yet on small cars.
"The DNA of the brand is a car that can go from A to B in any conditions, so that means every car we plan will be a global one. But a baby Land Rover has got to work for the business as well as the brand, and I'm still waiting to see a business proposition that works. I need to be convinced."
Posted: 08 Apr 2013 04:01 PM PDT
The baby SUV market is set to boom - and Land Rover must be part of it
There isn't much in the car industry that's guaranteed, but a boom in sales of baby SUVs seems to be one thing that is. Figures put together by analysts at Credit Suisse show that sales of this hitherto niche vehicle are set to boom - which explains why Land Rover is evaluating an £18k baby SUV.
In 2000 the B-segment SUV market achieved just 357,000 sales worldwide. It bounced up to 505,000 in 2004 before drifting back to just 287,000 units in the deep recession of 2009. In 2010 it jumped to 546,000 units and then to 874,000 units in 2011.
A significant chunk of 330,000 units gained was accounted for by the Mini Countryman, a car that was an instant hit in the showroom and accounts for nearly a third of all Mini sales.
Credit Suisse analysts think that the global market for baby SUVs will rocket to 2.7 million units worldwide by 2020. And the total global market could be even bigger, because these sales apply to car makers from Europe, Japan, the US and South Korea.
Clearly, Land Rover can't afford to ignore this boom, especially now that Audi has shown its hand with the Crosslane Coupé and BMW is certain to replace the X1 with a smaller model based on its new front-wheel drive platform.
Posted: 08 Apr 2013 07:29 AM PDT
Acura's range of SUVs could be bolstered to three models
Acura is to unveil a new concept at the Shanghai motor show later this month. Initial teaser sketches suggest the car could be a compact crossover.
The latest Acura design shows many bold styling features. An extremely narrow glasshouse and exaggerated wheelarches give the concept a muscular stance, accentuated by large alloy wheels. Bold strikes in the bodywork and a sloping roofline add to the visual drama.
No further details on the Acura are yet available, but another SUV could slot into the range below the current RDX and MDX models. The Shanghai motor show opens on 20 April.
Posted: 08 Apr 2013 07:25 AM PDT
First image suggests another people carrier could join the Odyssey in Honda's range
Along with its Acura premium offshoot, Honda will also launch a concept at the Shanghai motor show. The first image of the new car implies Honda may be plotting another MPV.
It follows the debut of a revised Odyssey at last month's New York motor show. As a concept, however, the styling of the latest car is more dramatic. A bold slash runs along the body from just behind the front wheelarch to the rear lights, dividing the expanse of metal. The lights themselves are very slender and wrap around the bodywork at the back of the car.
Only images of both the Acura and Honda have currently been released, with no information about either. Expect further announcements when the Shanghai show opens on 20 April.
Posted: 08 Apr 2013 04:35 AM PDT
Introduction of new models and facelifts improve sales for two manufacturers, latest Russian commerical vehicle
The Dongfeng Peugeot Citroën Automobile Company reported a 20 per cent rise in year-on-year sales for March. The joint venture company – consisting of Dongfeng Motor Corporation and PSA/Peugeot Citroën – achieved sales totalling 49,009 units. Growth was bolstered by Chinese sales of the Peugeot 3008 and stretched Citroën C4.
Hyundai has posted first quarter sales of 19,986 units, a 12 per cent improvement over 2012. The i10 was its best-selling model with 3,793 units sold in March. The newly refreshed i20 was also successful with 3,594 sold between January and March – a 64.8 per cent increase.
Russian manufacturer Gaz Group has begun production of the Gazelle Next light commercial vehicle today. Initially available as a drop-side truck with standard and long cargo platforms, it will eventually spawn more than 100 variants, including minibuses and vans. The Next is powered by a Cummins diesel engine.
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