Monday, December 10, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Dr Alex Moulton: 1920-2012

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 05:36 AM PST

Mini suspension designer and Moulton Bicycle Company founder, Dr Alex Moulton, has died aged 92

Dr Alex Moulton, inventor of two different forms of suspension for Alex Issigonis's legendary Mini, has died at the age of 92.

Moulton, who was a great friend of the Mini pioneer while he was alive, and a staunch defender of his legacy after he died in 1988, designed the revolutionary and ultra-compact rubber cone suspension system with which the Mini was launched. He later devised the Hydrolastic system which connected the front and rear wheel pair on each side of the car and gave the Mini an amazingly soft and level ride for its diminutive proportions.

Away from the car business, Alex Moulton was most famous for inventing the small-wheeled bicycle. Its 50th anniversary was recently celebrated at Moulton's home in Bradford-on-Avon by admirers including Sir Norman Foster and Sir James Dyson. The bicycle, still popular with cycling enthusiasts, remains in production.

Moulton, who was a great grandson of the rubber pioneer Stephen Moulton, was active as an inventor from a very young age, converting his Austin Seven (not very successfully) to steam while still a student. During the war he was involved in engine design at the Bristol Aeroplane Company.

Afterwards he joined the family firm, Avon Rubber Co, rising to technical director before it was sold in the late 1950s. He then founded the research company Moulton Developments, still functioning at his death, where most of his inventions — including the Mini suspensions — were developed.  

Vauxhall-Opel to end production in Bochum

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 04:40 AM PST

GM has confirmed the next-gen Zafira will not be built at the firm's plant in Bochum, Germany. Car production will end there in 2016.

General Motors is to close its factory in Bochum. The announcement comes as company bosses confirmed the replacement for the current Zafira will not be built at the plant in western Germany. The plant will continue to produce the current Zafira until 2016.

GM executives have blamed the shrinking European car market and overcapacities in the industry for the move.

Bosses hope workers will be redeployed to Bochum's warehousing operations, with the aim of no forced redundancies before 2016. A new component production facility in the town is under discussion.

Opel's deputy CEO, Thomas Sedran said: "Germany is our most important market and with about 20,000 employees the backbone and home of our brand. And this will stay this way in the future."

The announcement is part of the firm's "Drive Opel 2012" plan, which targets break-even by mid decade. As part of the strategy, Opel will introduce 23 new models and 13 new engines before 2016.

First drive review: Aston Martin Vantage V12 Roadster

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 04:36 AM PST

Storming V12 engine is a delight, but adds little to a car that is so good in standard V8 form Unusually for an Aston, especially one with a 12-cylinder engine, the V12 Roadster feels like it arrived in the office a little under the wire. Most likely this is because it was revealed in the summer at about the same time as the new Vanquish, and has consequently remained in its shadow.Nevertheless, there's no doubt it deserves at least as much attention as its bigger brother. Combining the Vantage's droptop magnificence with the manufacturer's flagship 510bhp 6.0-litre motor is like putting brandy on the homemade Christmas pudding. And then lighting it with an oxyacetylene torch.As it has already made its debut in the coupĂ©, not too much wrangling is required to squeeze four more cylinders into the Roadster. Aston has redesigned the rear boot lid to reduce lift and rethought the lower front air intake, but otherwise it is much the same as its V8 sibling. In other words, this is an extremely handsome car.Underneath, the chassis does get a tweak to deal with the bigger powerplant. A new rear spring design has been incorporated alongside a modified damper setup in the interests of exploiting the V12 Vantage's fearsome straight-line speed.The other most meaningful addition is to the price tag: the model starts at £150,000. That's a healthy five-figure sum more than the 430bhp S version of the V8.

First drive review: 2013 SRT Viper GTS

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 02:45 AM PST

After a two-year absence, Chrysler is back with an all-new version of the Viper, now under the SRT brand and significantly more sophisticated than the old car The original Dodge Viper was rough as sandpaper and had the kick of fresh moonshine. But that's precisely what the folks at Chrysler had in mind when they introduced the car two decades ago. There was nothing refined about it. The original roadster's roof was barely functional and after a long run you were all-but certain to burn your legs on the side-mounted exhaust pipes. ABS, electronic stability control and airbags? Forget about it. What mattered was the massive V-10 engine under the hood and the Viper's uncanny road manners.So there was much sighing when the near-broke Chrysler tried to sell off the Viper 'brand', then decided to put the beast into hibernation when Fiat, the maker's new master, came in post-bankruptcy.  The good news is that the Viper is back, this time under the umbrella of Chrysler's newly created SRT brand.The preview at last spring's New York Auto Show drew a mix of responses. Many expected something entirely different, an all-new design and a platform derived, perhaps, from Fiat's Alfa Romeo. There were even rumors of a Ferrari engine. But what rolled out on stage was a two-seater fire-breather looking much like the previous-generation GTS coupĂ© using a Detroit-derived platform and a familiar, if upgraded, V-10.

First drive review: Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design Polestar

Posted: 10 Dec 2012 12:50 AM PST

A Polestar ECU upgrade increases the desirability of the Volvo S60 saloon – but is it too little too late? The original S60 T6 AWD we drove back in 2010 was a car of two halves. The smooth ride, uncompromising interior quality and comfortable seating gave this saloon a major thumbs up, but the lack of performance and overall metal for the price was a definite sore point.Volvo has at least tried to rectify one of those problems by offering customers a Polestar ECU upgrade. At £660 it's not cheap, but Volvo says tinkering with the car's internal software can increase horsepower from 304hp to 325hp and boost torque to 355lb ft. 

151mph Volkswagen Polo R WRC revealed

Posted: 09 Dec 2012 07:02 AM PST

Limited-edition version of Volkswagen's small hatch is the fastest Polo ever, capable of 151mph and covering 0-62mph in 6.4sec

Volkswagen has revealed the production version of its fastest-ever Polo – the 151mph, 217bhp Volkswagen Polo R WRC.

It has been built to tie-in with Volkswagen's entry into the 2013 World Rally Championship, and the Polo R WRC was officially unveiled at the launch of the rally team in Monte Carlo.

The Volkswagen Polo R WRC was previewed by the Polo WRC Street concept shown at the VW Group-organised GTI Treffen event in Worthersee, Austria, in May.

The high-performance, front-wheel drive hatch has hardly been changed from that concept to production. Based on the fifth-generation Polo platform, under the bonnet is the turbocharged 2.0 TSI four-pot petrol engine found in the Golf GTI. In this hottest-ever Volkswagen Polo, the powerplant produces 217bhp at 4500-6300rpm and 258lb ft of torque between 2500-4400rpm.

The car has a kerb weight of 1324kg (according to EC measurements, that figure includes a driver weighing 68kg, 7kg of luggage and a 90 per cent full fuel tank) although Volkswagen's development boss Ulrich Hackenberg – who has driven the car during hot weather testing in South America – said that the Polo R WRC made use of some rally-inspired lightweight materials.

Stressing the link between the road and rally Polos, Hackenberg also confirmed that the Polo R WRC was built to assist with the homologation of the rally machine. The design of the competition Polo must follow the road car version in key areas.

Equipped with a short-shift six-speed manual gearbox, the Polo R WRC can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.4sec, and hit a top speed of 151mph.

The performance of the Polo R WRC should surpass that of its hot supermini rivals, such as the forthcoming Ford Fiesta ST and the class-leading Renaultsport Clio.

The Polo R WRC also has a rally-inspired lower front spoiler with large air inlets, a spoiler on the rear edge of the roof and a rear diffuser, although there's no word on whether the latter adds a significant aerodynamic benefit.

The three-door-only Polo rides on 18in alloys and 215/35 R 18 rubber, and is fitted with uprated disc brakes. The motorsport-inspired interior features WRC-badge seat covers, an Alcantara steering wheel, black roof liner and racing-style pedals.

The exterior gets 'WRC' badging on the rear and 'R' logos front and rear, while the white and blue/grey livery ties in with the Polo WRC competition car.

Claimed fuel consumption is 38mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions are put at 174g/km.

Just 2500 examples of the Polo R WRC will be built, and the car will only be available in left-hand drive. Advance orders will start on 11 December, with deliveries scheduled to start in September 2013.

The car will cost €33,900. Volkswagen UK hasn't decided whether it will officially import a limited number of cars, although it is assessing potential interest.

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