Friday, October 12, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Car TV is rubbish

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 02:55 AM PDT

The gulf between a certain BBC2 car show and its rivals is wider than ever. Classic Car Rescue represents the worst of the breed

It was my considerable misfortune last Monday to catch Classic Car Rescue on Channel 5. I mistakenly thought that an hour of prime time telly involving finding, restoring and selling a classic would be truly fascinating.

Now I've actually been involved with cars on telly. I know how it all works and just sometimes how things are exaggerated, fixed and blown out of all proportion for the entertainment of the masses. I lasted one day on a show that seemed to want to insult the average motorists intelligence. I made my excuses and left the production office with a clear conscience. 

Top Gear have turned mucking about with cars into an art form. One that can't be copied. However, that hasn't stopped the makers of Car Crash TV, sorry Classic Car Rescue, trying.

Contrived scenarios that was painful to watch. It was also painful to listen to a big fat bully making a drama out of a manufactured crisis. I refuse to dissect what's wrong with the programme I saw, which involved restoring an MGB for 10p, then getting it valued by a bloke who didn't even put it on a ramp. 

Channel 5 need to think again, but it is unlikely that they will. I watched it with someone who isn't bothered by cars and hated it. Yet will sit and enjoy three middle aged blokes on Top Gear.

Even though I am old, cynical, tired and quite ugly I still get approached for TV programme input. Most recently three production companies and the BBC have discovered via Google that I'm the go to guy for The German Car Industry and the 1980s. They needed a shed load of information for a documentary they are making.

Unfortunately for them I am not a potential intern willing to work for nothing. Yet they admitted they knew nothing about the subject. I think that's how bad TV shows involving cars get made.

Happy viewing.

Infiniti G-series guns for BMW

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 01:13 AM PDT

The latest Infiniti 3-series rival has been spotted testing at the Nürburgring

The development of the model Infiniti hopes will crack Europe's premium compact saloon market — dominated by the BMW 3-series — has shifted to the Nürburgring.

Prototype versions of the new Infiniti G-series, set to be revealed in production form at the Detroit motor show in January, are now out in the open for the first time, revealing a model with a slightly larger footprint than the current four-door saloon.

The heavy disguise hides the styling intricacies, but new Infiniti boss John de Nysschen confirmed at the recent Paris motor show that the acclaimed Emerg_e sports car concept would heavily influence the look inside and out of the new G-series.

And Infiniti's design chief Shiro Nakamura told Autocar earlier this year that the new G-series would be "much sportier and more dynamic than the current car".

Crucially, and unlike the current car, the new G-series will be sold with four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. The Mercedes-supplied units will be offered straight from launch in mid-2013.

Infiniti insiders have also revealed that the dynamics of the new G-series will be much more suited to European tastes than the current car, hence the extensive development at the Nürburgring. Coupé and convertible models will also be part of the line-up, as rivals to the upcoming BMW 4-series range.

First drive review: Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 01:10 AM PDT

Pricier but thoroughly updated Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 packs the power to justify the Shelby tag, but also offers accessibility and a dynamic edge Ford's heavily updated Mustang. Degrees of brutality separate the V8 Mustangs, but recent efforts have markedly improved handling and refinement, too, despite the enduring live rear axle. Last year's Boss 302 set new standards for big-pony agility with 'just' 440bhp, whereas the new, supercharged 653bhp Shelby GT500 (113bhp mightier than the last) is 100kg heavier, and more savage of disposition. 

Range topping Porsche Cayenne Turbo S revealed

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 03:00 PM PDT

Porsche's new £107,460 SUV has 42bhp more than the already potent 500bhp Cayenne Turbo

Porsche has ramped up the performance of its second-generation Cayenne with the introduction of a potent new Turbo S model that is claimed to storm from 0-62mph in just 4.5sec and hit a top speed of 176mph.

Set for UK sale from next January priced from £107,460, the new Cayenne range topper runs lightly modified version of the standard Turbo's blown 4.8-litre V8 engine – the same unit used by the Panamera Turbo S. Changes include a more free flowing inlet manifold for improved breathing, increased turbocharger boost pressure and remapped electronics among other detailed tweaks.

Power climbs by 42bhp over the Turbo to 542bhp, making the new Turbo S the most powerful Cayenne model yet. Torque also increases by 37lb ft to 553lb ft. The added reserves bring a 0.2sec reduction in the 0-62mph time and an added 3mph at the top end without any detriment in combined cycle fuel consumption or average CO2 emission which remain 24.6mpg and 270g/km respectively, according to Porsche's official figures.

The four-wheel drive Cayenne Turbo S adopts the same chassis configuration as the Cayenne Turbo with an air suspension and Porsche's active damping control along with hydraulically operated roll bars to rein in body roll and a torque vectoring system together with an electronically controlled rear differential lock.

A series of subtle exterior styling changes, including a black high gloss treatment for the headlamp housings and exterior mirror housing and uniquely styled 21-inch wheels, help signal the Cayenne Turbo S's added performance potential. Inside, there are standard carbon trims and a new leather upholstery package.

VW plans budget brand to rival Dacia

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 01:09 PM PDT

Latest VW Group brand aimed is aimed squarely at stealing sales from Renault's Dacia marque, and could launch in 2014

The Volkswagen Group is close to announcing the establishment of a new low cost brand to rival the likes of Dacia, according to a report by Germany's Der Speigel magazine.

Citing comments made by Volkswagen spokesman, Eric Felber, Der Speigel says the German car maker harbours firm plans for a future Dacia rivaling brand to compliment those already within the Volkswagen Group portfolio, including volume driven brands such as Volkswagen, Skoda, Seat and Audi.

"The idea of a low cost brand has been on the agenda at Volkswagen for some time," Felber said, adding, "A decision has not yet been made." 

Rumours are the Volkswagen Group could use a new low cost brand to further penetrate potentially lucrative Asian, Indian and Latin American markets as well as expand its sales presence in Eastern Europe, the Baltic region and Africa.

One scenario, according to an insider at Volkswagen's Wolfsburg-based headquarters in Germany contacted by Autocar, is using models developed for the Chinese market, including the soon-to-be-revealed replacement for the long serving Santana, as a basis for the new brand.

The Santana replacement is based around a low cost front-wheel drive platform structure similar to that found beneath the recently introduced Skoda Rapid and Seat Toledo.

Adding to speculation that the Volkswagen Group is close to announcing plans for a new low cost brand are comments by the company's union boss, Bernd Osterloh. In an interview with Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper earlier this month, Osterloh indicated his support for such a move. "We need a cheap model positioned underneath the Up for third-world countries."

Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series in action

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 09:50 AM PDT

We test the Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series on track

An indulgent look at the delights of the fastest Mercedes C-class ever - the Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series. Go to our Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series road test for a full review, and to see high-res pics.

One-off Nissan GT-R built for Usain Bolt charity

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 09:30 AM PDT

Nissan and Usain Bolt have developed a gold GT-R to be auctioned to benefit the sprinter's charity

A one-off Nissan GT-R has been built to raise money for the Usain Bolt Foundation. The GT-R features interior fittings finished in real gold and is embossed with the Olympic champion's signature.

The gold supercar will be auctioned on eBay to raise funds for Bolt's charity, which supports children and young people in Jamaica.

Bolt is brand ambassador and "Director of Excitement" for Nissan. As part of its involvement, Nissan will develop a series of limited-run GT-R models which will be available around the world.

According to Nissan, Bolt has been developing his own "Bolt GT-R" after testing various models at Nissan's proving ground in Oppama, Japan.

Third-generation Skoda Octavia spied testing

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 08:24 AM PDT

Skoda is readying a new Octavia based on VW's MQB platform for next year's Geneva motor show

Skoda's new third-generation Octavia has been spied in testing for the first time ahead of its world debut at the Geneva motor show in March.

The Octavia will be the first Skoda to switch to Volkswagen Group's new modular MQB platform that's also found beneath the new Audi A3, Seat Leon and VW Golf. In differing from those models, the Octavia will get the long-wheelbase version of the MQB structure, meaning the Octavia will grow bigger than ever to around 4.8 metres in length in the process.

The Octavia is being made bigger to give the new £12,900 Rapid (a car the size of the original Octavia) room to breathe in Skoda's expanded line-up.

The increase in size will also mean a small increase in price, although the Octavia will continue to offer considerably more space for similar money than rivals in the Golf class.

While the entry-level price will only increase marginally, sources have confirmed there will be "more upmarket" versions of the Octavia launched with plusher interiors.

The new Octavia will retain its saloon shape but keep its five-door hatchback layout, rather than adopting a conventional boot or a split tailgate system from the larger Superb.

MQB underpinnings should also mean a reduction in weight for the Octavia, despite the increase in size.

Engines will be shared with the VW Golf, with the staple engines likely to be a 138bhp 1.4 TSI petrol and a 104bhp 1.6 TDI diesel.

A vRS version, likely to have around 220bhp from a 2.0 TSI, is set to be revealed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed next summer.

Skoda is also set to launch a seven-seat SUV in the near future, most likely a longer wheelbase version of the Yeti. Skoda boss Winfried Vahland said to Autocar that he believed "an MPV did fit well with the Skoda brand", but "society is changing its preference more towards SUVs than conventional MPVs and a seven-seater SUV could make much more sense".

Quick news: Nissan Micra prices cut; Subaru XV top crash rating

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 07:53 AM PDT

Nissan slashes Micra prices; Subaru XV awarded top American crash test rating; Hertz launches extended test drive programe

Nissan has reduced the price of the Nissan Micra by £1755. The entry-level Visia model is available from £7995, making it more competitive against the Fiat Panda and Volkswagen Up. All models now include Bluetooth and an auxiliary audio input as standard. All other models in the Micra range are significantly cheaper: Acenta models start at £9995, Acenta Connect £10,495, Elle £11,195 and Tekna £11,595.

Hertz has launched an extended test drive/car rental programme. Hertz Rent2Buy allows prospective buyers to take a test drive for up to 10 days, which is provided free-of-charge if the car tested is purchased. If the buyer decides the vehicle is not for them, it is treated as a standard rental Hertz says the cars are "often" priced at less than book price. Its vehicles are fully serviced and have covered between 12,000 to 15,000 miles.

The Subaru XV has received the highest possible rating in the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The "good" rating is the top rank across all of its tests. Earlier this year, it was awards five stars by Euro NCAP, and received a 90 per cent score of child occupant protection. Subaru is the only car maker to with the IIHS' 'Top Safety Pick' awards for its entire range.

Bugatti Galibier delayed until 2015-2016

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 06:30 AM PDT

Bugatti says it needs a luxury four-door, but fulfilling customer expectations has set the project back

The future of the flagship four-door Bugatti is still being decided, suggesting that the car is still several years away from launch.

Asked about progress of the luxury saloon, which is now not expected until 2015-2016, new Bentley/Bugatti boss Wolfgang Schreiber said, "We are still working on the Galibier concept, but I would say it is more difficult to fulfil all the requirements for Bugatti customers than Bentley customers."

Schreiber knows Bugatti well; he is a former technical chief and managing director of the Molsheim-based company. His new job as Bentley chairman now also includes responsibility for Bugatti.

Schreiber says one of the difficulties facing the Bugatti team is satisfying its demanding customer base, hence the slow progress in getting the Galibier to market.

"The Veyron and derivatives of the Veyron are very focused on the needs of the customers," he said. "If you now switch to a different type of car, it is very necessary to evaluate the needs of the customer. The launch date is still not decided yet."

However, Schreiber did say that the luxury four-door saloon was needed to extend the Bugatti range.

"The four-door is absolutely necessary. The hero car, the Veyron, is now alone. I think customers would be very pleased if we had a second car, so I support it very much."

First drive review: 2013 Mercedes G-class G350 BlueTEC

Posted: 11 Oct 2012 12:55 AM PDT

The Mercedes G-class is a remarkably convincing mix of old and new technology, undermined by vague steering. Very pricey but well-engineered This is the latest, 2013-model, incarnation of the Mercedes G-Wagon, which is in its 33rd year of production as a passenger car. Now known as the G-Class, the vehicle was born out of a military vehicle project and its combat sister model is still in service across the globe.The enduring popularity of the military version must be the reason that the G-Class - billed as being almost 'totally handbuilt' at the Graz plant in Austria - is still available in the showrooms. Only around 5500 road-going G-Classes were made last year, and just 100 were sold in the UK.The car's military roots also mean that even this blinged-up urban version is still a serious off-roader. The ladder-frame chassis is made from sheet steel that's as thick as 4mm in places, it rolls on proper live axles, benefits from three electronic differential locks and has the requisite approach and departure angles. It also has a braked towing capability of a massive 3500kg.All of the 2013 models might be very expensive indeed, kicking of with the G350's £82,000 sticker price (indeed, the right-hook G63 is £123,000 and there's a LHD V12 G65 AMG which is current retailing for £198,000) but the G-Class will undoubtedly cut it in both Morocco and Monaco.

Mercedes SLS GT3 "45th anniversary" edition

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 08:44 AM PDT

Mercedes has announced it is to build five SLS AMG GT3 special edition models to celebrate 45 years of Mercedes-AMG

Mercedes has announced a special-edition, limited-run version of the SLS AMG GT3 customer race car in order to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Mercedes-AMG. It will receive its public debut at the LA motor show in November.

Limited to "no more than five models", the SLS AMG 45th Anniversary will be hand built in Affalterbach, while its 6.3-litre V8 engine will be installed into the car with the help of record DTM champion and AMG brand ambassador, Bernd Schneider. 

Separating the 45th anniversary model from its GT3 counterparts are a number of exterior and interior modifications, including a unique 'designo mango graphite white' paint finish, AMG alloy wheels (finished in a matt graphite) and a "45 years of driving performance" logo on the car's gullwing doors. A special "1 of 5" logo can also be found on both the seats and centre console. 

With 49 SLS GT3s delivered to customers to date, the gullwing model has already established itself as a hugely successful race car, winning a total of 26 races as a customer car alone.

The 45th Anniversary model is priced at £359,195, an £8000 premium over the standard GT3.

Renault Clio Williams set for a comeback in 2014

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 04:43 AM PDT

Renault is set to resurrect the iconic hot hatch based on the latest Clio RS 200 with a 220bhp 1.6-litre turbo engine

A new Renault Clio Williams is tipped to go on sale in 2014 as part of an ongoing push by Renault to extract maximum benefit from its F1 involvement and underscore the technology transfer between its racing success and road cars.

Renault is yet to officially confirm that a new Clio Williams is under development, but well placed sources have told Autocar that the car will be a faster, more hardcore version of the new Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo.

Sources suggest that the programme could be announced this year, although the car is thought unlikely to go on sale for at least 18 months to prevent it from taking publicity from the initial launch of the new Clio RS 200.

It is unclear if Williams will be involved in the development of the car. It played no part in the design or engineering of the original Clio Williams, but it has been more active in diversifying its business in recent years, including working with Jaguar on hybrid technology for its C-X75 supercar.

As a customer of Renault's F1 division, involvement in such a project is also likely to offer the chance of lowering its lease bills for using the engines.

The original Clio Williams was developed solely by Renaultsport and launched in 1993, off the back of Nigel Mansell's F1 championship-winning season in a Renault-powered Williams, to critical and sales acclaim. Demand was such that the original planned production run of 3800 units was extended to 12,100.

At the launch of the new Clio RS at the recent Paris motor show, much was made of the car's F1-derived technology and look. In particular, Renaultsport highlighted the car's steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles and use of 'Diamond-Like Carbon' cam followers, which results in significantly reduced friction for greater performance and fuel efficiency.

In recent years, Renault's road-going division has promoted its championship-winning form in F1 only via special editions that have been cosmetically different from standard. These have included a Red Bull Racing Twingo, Clio and Mégane, which have been sold in selected European markets only. The opportunities offered by Red Bull's Renault-powered F1 success are complicated by its title sponsorship deal with sister brand Infiniti.

As well as promoting its success in F1, Renault reportedly sees the launch of a Clio Williams as an opportunity to leverage its heritage and reaffirm its hot hatch credentials in the face of the threat from home rival Peugeot, which will launch the 208 GTI next year.

Like the Clio RS 200, the new Clio Williams is expected to be powered by a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-pot — an engine format and size being adopted by F1 in 2014. But its power output is set to climb to about 220bhp from the standard car's 197bhp.

It is possible that this extra performance will be accessible only via an extra control function. The Clio RS 200 already features a Race mode that hardens parameters such as the engine and gearbox mapping, the level of steering assistance and throttle response.

Budget racing the Radical way

Posted: 08 Oct 2012 10:03 AM PDT

Radical's new entry-level track car is a fun route into racing

Radical is on the up. We all know about the marque, and we all know of its aerodynamics-led track car lineup. But in the past couple of years the company has been making all sorts of interesting moves to broaden its appeal. First, with the road-legal SR3 SL, and now with an entrant to the 'budget' racing scene (in relative terms), in the shape of the SR1.

The SR1 series is a bit different to those similarly priced championships in that you have to be a novice by MSA standards – as in, less than six completed races to your name. Nor do you have to be a complete motorsport virgin as you do for the Caterham Academy, the Radical SR1 series' closest equivalent.

The package sets you back £37,500, which buys you the race-ready car, a race suit, your racing licence if you need it, two instruction days and eight competitive races. Which still seems remarkably expensive to most of us for a car that can't be driven on the road, but in motorsport terms it's a bargain.

And the car doesn't disappoint, either. It's an odd experience when you're used to driving fast road cars on track, to get behind the wheel of something that gets so much of its traction from aerodynamic downforce. I discovered this when I drove the SR3 when it came out, and I found it again when I had a go at putting in some decent times in the Suzuki 1340cc bike-engined SR1.

Weighing just 480kg, and putting out 185bhp, it still delivers lung-squeezing, slightly hairy pace if you really want it to. Enough that some novices might find it a little intimidating at first. But it takes very little time to discover that this is a remarkably accessible thing on track, and one that allows plenty of room for error without spitting your nomex-clad behind through the tyre wall.

It's a great thing to learn in, and I imagine will be a fantastic thing to race. It seems to be just the right package, with only four weekends taken up by the racing throughout the year. So nothing too life-consuming. If you have the sort of cash in question, this is a fun way to bag yourself a properly thrilling track car and a fast track route into racing.

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