Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

First drive review: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 05:03 AM PDT

The Mercedes SLS AMG GT excites in a way few exotic supercars can manage, but a firm ride compromises all-round appeal A factory tuned Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG boasting a raft of detailed performance-enhancing solutions gained in part from the company's successful customer team support engagement in GT racing. The SLS AMG GT is an attempt to make Stuttgart's traditionally configured front-engined/rear-wheel-drive supercar both a more potent track day tool and a more rewarding back road proposition. Planned to reach the UK next May, the SLS AMG GT will briefly crown the Mercedes-Benz road car line-up. The gullwing coupĂ© is set to carry a price tag of around £180,000 and the forthcoming roadster is tipped to arrive at £188,000 – in each case a £12,000 premium over the standard SLS AMG. But with the even more extreme SLS AMG Black Series nearing the end of its development period, the SLS AMG GT's rein at the top of the German car maker's line-up is likely to be short lived. The SLS AMG GT is outwardly distinguished from the standard SLS AMG by its darkened headlight and tail light lens treatment, the high gloss finish to its grille, exterior mirror housing and bonnet fins, and red brake calipers. Inside, it receives lightly restyled instruments and a more a liberal covering of Alcantara.Among the detailed mechanical changes over the standard SLS AMG is a lightly fettled engine boasting improved breathing properties. The naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 kicks out an added 18bhp, with 581bhp developed at 6800rpm. Torque remains the same, swelling to 469lb ft at 4750rpm. Accompanying the boost in power is a reworked seven-speed gearbox that uses new, in-house-developed software algorithms for an improved shift action. The dual-clutch unit, supplied by Getrag and located within the rear axle assembly, is described as being more direct and spontaneous on up-shifts in manual mode. It has also been programmed to provide a more pronounced blip of the throttle and double-declutching action during downshifts.Most of all, it is the changes brought to the suspension that help define the hardened character of the SLS AMG GT. The double wishbone arrangement with variable damping control retains the same basic geometry and ride height as the SLS AMG, but the elastokinematic properties have been altered to provide the car with a more focused nature. Despite the suspension upgrade, however, the SLS AMG GT rides on the same wheels and tyres as the standard SLS AMG, with 265/35 profile rubber on 19-inch alloys up front and 295/30 on 20-inch rims at the rear.

Fiat suffers in Europe

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 04:49 AM PDT

Sales of new Fiats in Europe are struggling, losing the company £462m in the continent

Fiat Auto is continuing to suffer a sales slump in Europe, while sister company Chrysler sees booming sales and profits, according to the latest financial results released by the carmaker. So far this year, the Fiat Chrysler group has made nearly £1.7bn in the Northern Americas but has lost £462m in Europe.

City estimates say Fiat is now losing £12m each day thanks to the crashing European new car market. Fiat hopes that the new models in its expanding 500 family - such as the 500 and upcoming stretched 500L - will help stabilise the situation.

In the third quarter of 2012, Fiat lost £176m in the Europe, Middle East and Russia (EMEA) market area, with sales in its Italian home market during this period down by 20 per cent, to the lowest recorded level since 1976. Across this huge region, Fiat delivered just 159,000 cars and 44,000 light commercial vehicles, down 36 per cent on the third quarter of 2011. In the first nine months of the year, total vehicle deliveries to EMEA are down 16 per cent.

There was much better news from the Fiat Group's performance in the US, Mexico and Canada (NAFTA). Dominated by the local Chrysler brand, deliveries in the third quarter were up by 23 percent across the region, to 504,000 units. Even allowing for exchange rates variations, profits went up by 47 per cent to £484m.

Chrysler sales were up 21 per cent (driven by the new 300 and 200 models); Dodge by 12 per cent and Jeep by 7 per cent. Fiat also performed strongly in Latin America, with sales up to 271,000 units, though profits slipped back from £320m to £250m.

Ferrari and Maserati also performed well. Sales of Ferrari models increased two per cent to 1603 units and Maserati slipped by two per cent to 1432 units. Maserati is currently making a profit margin of 5.4 per cent - someway behind that achieved by more mainstream premium carmakers. Ferrari made a very healthy 14.6 per cent margin, a 5 per cent rise year-on-year, which was partly attributed to profits made from expensive options and licensing deals.

First drive review: BMW 520d Gran Turismo

Posted: 31 Oct 2012 02:21 AM PDT

The BMW 520d GT represents the new entry point in the Gran Turimso range, slashing £9000 from the list price The new starting point of the BMW 5-series GT range, which undercuts the rest of the range on both price and running costs.Its CO2 emissions of 139g/km better the next cleanest 5GT by 34g/km and improve economy to the tune of 9.8mpg on the combined cycle.However, it is still the most expensive route to the excellent 2.0-litre TwinPower turbo engine by quite a margin, even if equipment levels are comprehensive.BMW says the 5GT has sold well to the chauffeur market, with the interior space and the standard-fit panoramic glass roof proving particularly popular. The split-opening tailgate also means luggage can be loaded without cold drafts entering the cabin.It is safe to say that the consumer market has been decidedly cooler on the 5GT, preferring the looks of the 5-series Touring. But by lowering the lowest price point by almost £9000, its appeal has undeniably been widened.

First drive review: Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2.2 Portfolio

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 09:55 AM PDT

The smaller engined Jaguar XF Sportbrake impresses in all areas apart from its straight-line pace The engine that currently accounts for around 70 per cent of Jaguar XF sales, in the new bodystyle that's tipped to take a third of Jaguar's sales in the executive car sector.The Jaguar XF Sportbrake isn't the first time that Jaguar has built an estate – that privilege belongs to the X-type – but it is the first time the Midlands manufacturer has developed one from the ground up.Jaguar says it benchmarked the XF Sportbrake against the Audi A6 Avant, a car which it virtually matches for luggage capacity, with between 550 and 1675 litres of space. To these eyes, Ian Callum's design team has set a new benchmark for estate car styling in the class. The Sportbrake is new from the B-pillars back. The subtle tapering of the rear has been reduced to increase space in the back and the C-pillars feature a similar gloss black treatment as the XJ flagship.The 2.2-litre unit tested here is already in service in the XF saloon, and has proved a sales success with its significantly reduced running costs while sacrificing little of the muscular, powerful appeal Jaguars are famed for. That powerplant is provided in both 160bhp and 197bhp output, with matching economy figures of 135g/km and 55.4mpg.

Autocar magazine 31 October preview

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 08:34 AM PDT

Pride of place in this week's issue goes to our 2000-mile adventure in the new Range Rover SDV8

Steve Cropley embarks on an epic drive from Gaydon to Marrakesh in the latest iteration Range Rover. Our ten-page First Drive assesses every aspect of the ultimate SUV, before Cropley delivers his long-awaited verdict.

Also, catch up with the latest news stories, including: Bentley gives the Flying Spur a sporty makeover; Mercedes plans a drop-top S-class; Tesla eyes replacement for its electric roadster; Cadillac's new design chief on why he's keen to retain the brand's current design language and how Audi is taking the next TT back to its roots.

This week's issue also features an update on Ford's European restructuring programme and a full report on all the car unveilings at the Sao Paulo motor show in Brazil. Plus the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is given our full Road Test treatment.

In our Our Cars section, we take delivery of a magnificent Aston Martin V8 Vantage, plus progress checks on our Renault Twizy, Seat Mii, Alpina D5 Biturbo, BMW 320d, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru XV.

As ever, the magazine is available from all good newsagents or can be downloaded from Zinio or the Apple iTunes store.

What’s not to like about the Tesla Model S?

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 03:22 AM PDT

I'm already a committed fan of the Tesla Model S, and I haven't even driven it yet. Why's that?

I think it's the numbers that impress me most about the Tesla Model S, although you've got to admit; it also looks pretty tasty, outside and in, like all cars that run away with your heart tend to do.

Apart from its price, which is as yet unknown even if we are aware that it'll cost between £50-90k depending on what spec you go for, just about all the stats that surround the Model S are unusual. In a good way, most of the time.

I love, for instance, the fact that its 0-60mph time is an M5 rivaling 4.4sec whereas the top speed is loosely on a par with the juicier members of the Ford Fiesta line-up. To me, living in the UK and driving most of my miles on 60-70mph roads, I'm genuinely not interested in a 190mph top speed, nor even one that's limited to 155mph. I rarely go much above 90mph anywhere, ever, in this country, not even at a recent track day – so why would I want or need a top speed of more than double that?

But what I do value is the ability to reach that terminal speed as rapidly as possible. Which is why the Tesla's combination of 416bhp, 443lb ft and what's effectively a CVT transmission sounds just about ideal for my needs. The fact that it delivers its thrust in a smooth, even handed way and is not too bad at all when you muscle it through a few bends (according to editor Holder who drove it last week) makes the rest of the Model S seem doubly relevant overall.

The bottom line would appear to be that, unwonderful steering aside, the Model S is a fair bit better to drive than anyone could have possibly expected. Yet in terms of its range (300 miles plus), charging times (65 miles per hour) CO2 output (precisely zero) and fuel consumption (also zero), it blows most of its competition, conventional or otherwise, into next year.

I'm intrigued by this car. Thoroughly. It feels like it could represent the moment at which Things Changed, or at the very least when EVs became more acceptable among the mainstream. In 30 years' time it might even be regarded as a classic, in this game you never quite know.

Strong start for Dacia Duster orders

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 05:58 AM PDT

UK orders for the new Dacia Duster have risen to over 1000

Dacia has announced that orders for the new Duster SUV have breached 1000.

The Renault sub-division has taken the orders in just over the 100 days since pre-ordering opened and show significant demand across the UK, says Dacia.

Starting at £8,995, the Duster SUV is cheaper than most rival companies' superminis, and adds only a £3,000 premium to Dacia's entry-level car in its model range — the Sandero; named Britain's cheapest car.

Dacia commented that a sixth of the orders placed are for the base Access model. The majority of orders that have been made are for the 4x4, Ambiance and LaurĂ©ate versions, costing from £10,995, £11,995 and £12,995 respectively.

Dacia has taken over 20,000 orders for the Duster in India, where the SUV is built, and is offering a refundable £100 deposit for all UK Duster orders.

Dan Cogger

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