Monday, October 15, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Sporty Toyota Auris considered

Posted: 15 Oct 2012 08:15 AM PDT

Hotter version and estate could make it into the Auris range

A performance version of the new Toyota Auris could be added to the line-up if the standard range's launch proves to be a success.

Toyota's product planning chief, Karl Schlicht, said that a warmed-over Auris was "not a number one priority" but there was "room to experiment" with the car if Toyota's European arm achieves steady and stable growth.

"The key thing for us is to run a good business first, and then start having fun later," said Schlicht.

Toyota hopes the new Auris can boost its share of Europe's C-segment from 4.5 per cent at present to 5.5 per cent. The addition of an estate to the range is seen as important to this and is tipped to take up to a quarter of all Auris sales.

New JLR-Chery sub-brand to make small SUVs in China

Posted: 15 Oct 2012 08:00 AM PDT

£1.2 billion venture between JLR and Chery will see Land Rover Freelander-based SUVs built in China alongside a new Jaguar saloon

The sub-brand that will emerge from Jaguar Land Rover's joint venture with Chery is set to spawn a series of small SUVs spun off the Freelander platform, sources in China have suggested.

The new sub-brand — which legally has to be created when a foreign manufacturer enters into partnership with a Chinese firm — will get its own name, badge and designs independent of any current JLR or Chery products.

It is understood that China's National Development and Reform Commission rubber-stamped the JLR-Chery tie-up late last month, six months after a deal believed to be worth about £1.2 billion was first agreed.

The joint venture also includes the manufacture of JLR models in China. Sources suggest that production of the Freelander and Range Rover Evoque will take place in China, alongside a Jaguar saloon, possibly a new 3-series rival.

All models — including the sub-brand's — will be built at a new plant in Changshu, about 100 miles west of Shanghai, from the first half of 2014.

Ferrari vs Jaguar: which sounds best?

Posted: 15 Oct 2012 07:05 AM PDT

See and hear the Ferrari 458 Spider and Jag XKR-S in action, as Steve Sutcliffe decides which one sounds best

Both the Ferrari 458 Spider and the Jaguar XKR-S Convertible get V8 motors and arguably the most sonorous exhaust notes out there. Steve Sutcliffe gets out the noise-meter and visits a tunnel to decide which sounds best.

Vauxhall Adam won’t kill off the Agila

Posted: 15 Oct 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Vauxhall's Mini rival may spark a new range, but the firm still wants to offer a down-to-earth city car

Vauxhall/Opel will not abandon the traditional city car market even if its new style-led premium Adam is a success.

Marketing chief Volker Brien has confirmed to Autocar that the entry-level Agila will be replaced because the segment still requires cars that meet "basic needs at a good price", but the firm is open to expanding the Adam line-up should it be a hit.

"Everything is possible with the Adam," said Brien. "But we have to look at how it is adopted and its market performance."

Brien said the Adam's trump card in any future expansion could be that "unlike Mini, we don't need to follow a historical direction". He said Opel would instead listen to customers and market demands as to how the Adam evolves.

"The Adam was only in development for three years so it shows how we can respond to market demands, as we did here when we saw the rise of premium city cars," said Brien.

For the Adam to be a success for Vauxhall, it must do more than sell well and make a profit.

"Those are the initial goals," said Brien, "but the Adam also has targets on what it does for the brand, raising our image and brand awareness. Our investment in the Adam is not just in the car, but also in a business opportunity."

Brien also explained the naming strategy for the Adam's trim and colour choices. Traditional S, SE and Sri trims are replaced by Jam, Slam and Glam, while colours all have pop and film references, such as Saturday White Fever and James Blonde.

Brien said there were "open discussions" about going for the names in a segment where 'cool' is everything but, decided to proceed because "in a car as bold as this, you have to be bold with everything".

New Porsche 911 Targa to return to its roots

Posted: 15 Oct 2012 04:00 AM PDT

Next 911 Targa loses sliding glass roof in favour of retro removable hard top

The upcoming Porsche 911 Targa has been spied with its roof off on test in Germany. The pictures reveal that Porsche has returned to a classic, retro-style removable roof for its 991-generation 911 Targa, rather than the sliding glass roof seen on the previous 997 generation.

The pictures also reveal a wraparound effect for the B-pillars over the roof, in a nod to 911 Targas of old. There is also a convex rear screen, which is bespoke to the Targa.

The 911 Targa is expected to be all-wheel-drive only. The launch of the new open-top model has been preceded by the recent unveiling of the 911 Carrera 4 and 4S models at the Paris motor show.

The Targa's engine line-up should mirror that of the 911 coupé and cabriolet, meaning 345bhp 3.4-litre and 395bhp 3.8-litre flat six engines.

It is expected to go on sale in the middle of next year after a spring show debut. Next year will also herald the launch of more performance-focused 911s, starting with the GT3.

Vettel wins in Korea

Posted: 15 Oct 2012 03:16 AM PDT

Sebastian Vettel took another race win in Korea, stretching a six-point championship lead in the process

Sebastian Vettel has become the first four-time grand prix winner of the 2012 season, taking the chequered flag in Korea. In a race of numbers, the German Red Bull driver left Korea also having achieved a six-point lead in the championship and his 25th career victory, equal now to Jim Clark and Niki Lauda. 

Mark Webber started on pole, but Vettel got a surging start and passed the Australian by the first corner. By the middle of the first lap, Vettel was already opening an undeniable lead that Webber wouldn't close.

With Alonso finishing third and Massa continuing his late-season good form finishing fourth, Ferrari achieved the best possible result from the Yeongam circuit. Amidst insider claims that Vettel is set to join Ferrari in 2014, Massa was certainly trying hard to impress and was told not to challenge Alonso despite being faster.

Jenson Button qualified 11th and hoped for a long first stint to put him in the points, but was shunted out of the race by Kamui Kobyashi on the opening lap. Lewis Hamilton suffered a rear suspension failure in his first stint, which meant he struggled to manage the car and was left squabbling over the last point. Clearly disappointed Hamilton has since suggested that his hopes of winning the championship this year are over, saying: "in terms of winning, I think that's it for us."

Toro Rosso team principle Franz Tost summed up his team's superb form as "their strongest performance of the year". Jean-Eric Vergne headed Daniel Ricciardo for an 8-9 finish.

Korean GP top ten finishers

1. Sebastian Vettel

2. Mark Webber

3. Fernando Alonso

4. Felipe Massa

5. Kimi Raikkonen

6. Nico Hulkenberg

7. Romain Grosjean

8. Jean-Eric Vergne

9. Daniel Ricciardo

10. Lewis Hamilton

Dan Cogger

Picture special: History of the Golf GTI

Posted: 14 Oct 2012 05:00 AM PDT

Niche market cars are ten-a-penny these days but it's hard to imagine our roads without the staple of practical performance motoring: the hot hatch

The Volkswagen Golf GTI virtually invented the hot hatch market in 1976 and ignited one of the most ruthlessly fought sectors of all. Volkswagen is now preparing the Mk7 and plans to once again have the fabled hot hatch crown.

The first hot Golf was created by an enthusiastic bunch of Volkswagen engineers working after-hours in the early 1970s. They were given the green light from management to unveil their inspired efforts at the 1975 Frankfurt motor show, where the tweaked Giugiaro 'folded paper' styling and red highlighted grille were well received. The GTI was born.

The UK market didn't get GTI Golfs until 1977 and even then, only 34 left-hand-drive examples made it over from Volkswagen's Wolfsburg factory. But its fate was sealed as tales of its sportscar-humbling abilities on the Continent spread quickly.

By the time right-hand-drive cars were delivered to British customers in 1979, many other manufacturers had cottoned on to the successful recipe of a putting a peppy high-revving engine into an agile front-wheel-drive hatchback body. These cars were fun to drive and practical enough to take you and your mates for a blast in the country, while sun worshipers could get their GTI kicks in a cabriolet edition.

The hot-hatch game has moved on a fair bit since then. The Mk1 GTI's 1.6-litre four-cylinder produced 112bhp – just over a third of the hot-hatches sold today – and with only 810kg to haul, it covered the 0-60mph benchmark in 9secs and could top 110mph flat out. It was a hit and proved a tough act to follow for the 1984 Mk2.

The second generation picked up where the original left off, peaking with the 139bhp 1.8-litre 16-valve model. Interesting and sought-after derivatives include the supercharged G60 and the wide-arched Syncro-equipped four-wheel-drive Rallye, which cost nearly twice as much as an ordinary GTI.

After the first two iconic models, the Mk3 and Mk4 GTIs were fairly disappoining. The Mk3 was an underpowered letdown and the Mk4 was too dull and heavy to be called a driver's car. A couple of lovable diamonds did make it out of the wilderness years, keeping the hot Golf legacy ticking: the 2.9-litre V6-engined Mk3 VR6 and the all-wheel-drive 3.2-litre V6 Mk4 R32.

The GTI mojo was found again in time for the Mk5. It looked right, was powered by a sweet 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine, had a superior air of quality and offered the driving involvement to rekindle the original car's fun-factor. It stood up well to the VXR, ST, Type R and Renaultsport-badged competition and was often called the best all-rounder in an increasingly power hungry market.

Another V6-powered R32 topped the Mk5 range; all-wheel-drive traction and 247bhp gave it spades of cross-country ability, while subtle styling tweaks over the GTI smacked of class and quality. The Mk5 introduced us to the successful pairing of hot Golf and fast-swapping DSG gearbox – creating an even more efficient package.

Volkswagen didn't mess with the recipe for the Mk6, simply giving it a very thorough face-lift. A new 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder produced 207bhp in GTI spec and replaced the thirsty V6 in the all-wheel-drive halo Golf – now called the Golf R and boasting 267bhp. The performance Golf cabriolet made a return too – in both GTI and R trim.

The 2012 Paris motor show witnessed the unveiling of the all-new Mk7 GTI. The latest car is fresh from its tyres up: based on Volkswagen's new MQB platform, with sharper styling, a brand new 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine offered for the first time, with a choice of two states of tune – offering up more performance and fuel economy.

The new Golf GTI will officially be unveiled at the Geneva motor show next March and be battling for hot-hatch supremacy soon after.

Our gallery is a reminder of the hot Golf legacy to date.

Vauxhall-Opel 'to merge with Peugeot-Citroen'

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 05:22 PM PDT

New joint venture company could see mega-merger of four brands

General Motor's European division could be merged with Peugeot-Citroen, according to media reports emerging from France. The reports say that Vauxhall-Opel would be merged into a new joint venture company with Peugeot-Citroen. GM would own a 30 per cent stake in the joint venture and would inject £6.2 billion for future product development.

According to Automotive News Europe, this tentative plan is said to have been one of a number of ideas being considered by the management teams of PSA and GM, including selling Opel outright to PSA or GM buying PSA's automotive division.

A GM statement read: "We don't comment on speculation. We are focused on earning the benefits from our alliance with PSA that we have identified." PSA has yet to officialy comment.

At the moment, the alliance between GM Europe and PSA has centred on a range of future models, including replacements for the Insignia and C5/408, a rival for Renault's budget Dacia line-up, a super-economy supermini and a range of compact SUVs.

Although some are speculating that the French Government might resist the idea of a PSA-GME joint-venture, a 70 per cent controlling stake for the French and the fact that this deal may be the only way of saving PSA from collapsing in the medium term could prove the decisive factors.

Both GM Europe and PSA are losing huge amounts of money in the face of the downturn in the European market, a situation driven by their under-utilised factories and the need to discount showroom prices. GM Europe is expected to lose nearly a £1bn in 2012, a situation which is affecting the health of GM globally. PSA is said to be burning £161 million in cash each month.

Merging the four mass-market brands would, eventually, pay dividends by allowing them to build much larger numbers of cars on each platform, saving significant money on product development costs and by running the JV factories at above 85 per cent capacity.

The downsides are that more than one factory in any PSA-GM alliance would have to close - a concern for the UK's Ellesmere Port plant which recently got the contract to produce the 2015 Astra. Also, the merging of most models onto common platforms would take upwards of five years, time that PSA and GME might not have in the current market conditions.

Dividing up the engineering work between France and Germany could prove controversial, although GM's Russelsheim Engineering HQ could be fully retained by GM because it carries out work on global basis.

At this stage, the merger proposal is still at an outline stage, but if it does clear potential hurdles, it is unlikely to get the green light before the end of the year.

Picture special: Pininfarina’s greatest Ferraris

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 02:16 AM PDT

Luca di Montezemolo, Piero Ferrari and Pininfarina will open an exhibition of Sergio Pininfarina's life later this month

An exhibition celebrating the life of Sergio Pininfarina opens this month. The exhibition at the Museo Ferrari in Maranello looks back at Pininfarina's collaborations with Ferrari.

Le grandi Ferrari di Sergio Pininfarina - Sergio Pininfarina's great Ferraris – is spread over three halls. Hall one displays race cars including the Le Mans-winning 250 LM, the 250 SWB which Stirling Moss steered to win the Touring Trophy and Pininfarina's experimental F1 Sigma.

Hall two focuses on the Ferrari-Pininfarina concepts, with a line-up including the Modulo, P6 and four-door Pinin. The final hall plays host to the iconic road car range, with 11 models including the BB prototype originally shown at the 1971 Turin motor show.

Doors open to the public between 27 October to 7 January. 

To give you a taster of what's in store, click the image above to see some of Sergio Pininfarina's finest creations.


Optional mayhem

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 01:14 AM PDT

How can the likes of Ferrari and McLaren justify their increasingly long, terrifyingly expensive options catalogues? Or is this actually what their customers want nowadays, in order to stand out from the crowd?

While it's hard to feel too much empathy for the kind of punter who orders a 200 grand Ferrari 458 Spider, or its new equivalent from McLaren, and then ends up spending a further £40k, £50k or sometimes £60k on optional extras, you do wonder whether the supercar manufacturers haven't begun to take the you-know-what with their option catalogues nowadays.

I've been lucky enough to drive examples of both such cars in the last two weeks – 458 Spider and MP4-12C Spider – and although the embargo system prevents me from telling you what the McLaren is like to drive, I can say the example I drove was fitted with a vaguely astonishing £49,500 of optional extras. Which is ridiculous.

But that's nothing compared with the Ferrari, whose list price of £198,936 rose to an eye-watering £262,265 thanks to the fitment of carbon fibre this, alcantara that, and heaven knows what else from the Maranello sales brochure.

Looking down the list of exactly what was fitted to the 458 test car, the things that stand out as being especially amusing are; Ferrari iPod connection £580 (how can a tiny piece of metal that allows your phone to speak to the car's stereo cost five hundred and eighty quid?), racing seats with stitched Cavallino on headrests £4961 (maybe I'll have a four year old Honda Civic Type R instead thanks), white rev counter £570 (no comment) and carbon fibre sport package £8277.

You'd think that as part of the £8277 carbon fibre sport package you'd get, perhaps, a bit of carbon fibre to show for it here and there, but apparently not. Because if you want a carbon fibre rear diffuser it'll cost a further £5168, while carbon fibre side sills cost another £5063. And then there are the £2171 worth of carbon fibre front wings and £1138 of carbon fibre exterior sill kick ins, not forgetting the carbon fibre B-pillar trim, yours for an extra £2112. Oh yes, and the carbon fibre wheel centre caps, which appear to be something of a bargain at £352, even though they're no bigger than a five pence piece.

The thing is, though, Ferrari's customers can't get enough of all this stuff. It allows them to customise their cars to their own, shall we say, unique tastes – and meanwhile Maranello's bank balance continues to get fat. And everyone, amazingly, goes home happy.

From the outside looking in on this world of optional mayhem, however, you can't help thinking that the world itself has gone a little bit mad in this instance. To spend the equivalent of an entire BMW M5 adding stuff to a car that already costs £198,936 does, after all, seem a touch previous.

Then again, if you've got it flaunt it, and enjoy the ride while it lasts. But don't get offended when the rest of us have a good giggle at you from time to time, fair enough?

Volkwagen Polo SUV plotted

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 06:39 AM PDT

Supermini-based Nissan Juke rival could be here in 2014; Up-based mini-SUV also set to be unveiled

Volkswagen is poised to enter the booming compact-SUV segment with a new model based on the next-generation Polo.

The Polo SUV will be the first compact Volkswagen to be spun off the VW Group's versatile new MQB platform, underpinnings that will be used across an expanded next-generation Polo range.

The rival for the Mini Countryman and Nissan Juke is expected to be closely related in size to the Audi Q2, a model that was previewed as the Crosslane Coupé at last month's Paris motor show.

VW R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg confirmed to Autocar at the Paris show that an SUV in the 'A0 segment' — VW's code for supermini-sized models — was at the top of the firm's priority list for new model development.

"We have to increase our SUV offerings," he said. "It's important we get in the A0 SUV segment, and we're working on it." Hackenberg didn't confirm an exact launch date for the new model, but hinted at 2014.

Styling inspiration for the new Polo SUV, previewed here in our artist's impression, will come from the VW Cross Coupé concept seen at the 2011 Tokyo motor show.

At the time, design chief Klaus Bischoff said the concept previewed "the future face of all VW SUVs".

Hackenberg said the Polo SUV would be adapted for different markets. A more basic version is likely to offered in emerging markets, while European versions will be more technically sophisticated and premium in both look and feel.

Both two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive will be offered, but the bulk of sales will come from front-drive models. VW sources have hinted that two more SUVs are set to be previewed as concepts over the next three months.

A new Up-based entry-level SUV is tipped to be unveiled at the Sao Paulo motor show at the end of the month, while at the Detroit show in January, VW is set to show an SUV based on the US-market Passat, although this model is unlikely to make it to Europe.

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