Thursday, December 13, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Maserati's masterplan for 50,000 sales per year – can it work?

Posted: 13 Dec 2012 06:55 AM PST

Are Maserati's bosses a) deluded or b) bang on the money with their plans to sell 50,000 cars a year by 2015? Discuss.

As someone who can remember Maserati being all but dead and buried in the early 1990s, I find it quite hard to get my head around the idea of Maserati shifting 50,000 cars a year by 2015. However, if you look at the business case with any conviction, it actually begins to make sense.

Why? Because the targets Maserati is setting itself aren't, in fact, all that ambitious. By 2015 Maserati will have the following models on sale across the globe: the latest Quattroporte, a new BMW 5-series rival called the Ghibli, a Porsche Cayenne rival called the Levante plus, we now firmly believe, a mid-engined Porsche 911 rival based on the forthcoming Alfa 4C, which may or may not be called the GranSport.

Even if the much valued Chinese market begins to flat line before 2015, this means Maserati will have four distinctly separate models to call upon, all of which will be as fresh as newly laid snow in terms of design appeal come 2015, and all of which will have the potential to do fly.

The Quattroporte is virtually guaranteed to succeed in China, which is already Maserati's second biggest market after North America. The Ghibli, on the other hand, is bound to do well in North America to begin with and could even begin to appeal in China, too, if the average Chinese drivers' tastes shift slightly toward cars that aren't always 100 feet long.

But it's the Levante SUV that surely has the most potential to upend the apple cart and deliver the best results for Maserati, not just in the United States but globally and especially in the Middle East. And that's to say nothing of the much mooted mid-engined sports car, which has the potential to pinch sales not just from the lower ranks of the Ferrari 458 Italia arena but from the higher end of the Porsche 911 market as well.

In light of which, Harald J Wester's plan to sell 50,000 Maseratis every 12 months by 2015 doesn't sound like hyperbole at all. "Put it this way," he said to me at the launch of the new Quattroporte last week. "If we don't succeed I'll lose my job. And I have absolutely no intention of doing that."

So what do you think? Is he, are they (the Fiat brass) deluded in their intentions to increase Maserati's output tenfold at a time when, in Europe at least, the beginning of the end feels like it might be just around the next corner?

Or does it make as much sense to you as it does to me, attempting to do something so bold, precisely at this point in time?  

Four-wheel drive for Maserati's Quattroporte

Posted: 13 Dec 2012 06:54 AM PST

Full details of new entry-level V6-powered limo

Maserati has released full technical details of its new Quattroporte, including specifications of the 3.0-litre V6 and the new four-wheel drive model, only available with the smaller engine.

Closely related to the V8 – it shares the same bore and combustion chamber design, valve gear, twin turbos and ignition system – the V6 manages to produce a higher specific torque output than the larger engine. It also delivers its full 407lb ft of torque from 1500rpm, 500rpm lower than the V8. Peak power is 416bhp at 5500rpm

The smaller engine results in a weight saving of 40kg over the 1900kg V8, although the four-wheel drive model adds 70kg. The rear-drive Quattroporte V6 will reach 62mph in 5.1sec, while four-wheel drive knocks 0.2sec off that time. CO2 output for the 4x4 is slightly higher, at 246g/km, than the rear-drive's 244g/km.

All Quattroportes will be available with either 19, 20, or 21-inch rims, with 20-inch wheels as standard. On 19s, the car comes with 245/45 tyres at the front and 275/40 at the rear. 20-inch wheels wear 245/40s at the front and 285/35s at the back, while cars with 21-inch rims lowers the profiles the sizes to 245/35 and 285/30.

While both rear-drive Quattroportes will go on sale in the UK in June, the all-wheel drive V6 will not be built in right hand drive.


New Acura MDX for Detroit show

Posted: 13 Dec 2012 02:23 AM PST

Next generation of Acura's seven-seater will be previewed as a concept

Honda's US market brand Acura will show a concept previewing its next MDX at the Detroit motor show in January. In the US the MDX, a seven-seat SUV, is a rival for BMW's X5 and Mercedes' M-class.

The current MDX has been one of Acura'a biggest sellers in the US. However, it is now five years old and will be replaced by the all-new car in 2013, which will be longer in an attempt to increase room for the third row passengers.

The mechanical makeup is likely to remain similar to the current model's, with a large-capacity V6, a six speed auto 'box and Honda's Super Handling All Wheel Drive.

Acura is planning to expand its operations into Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates. It already sells in China.

Limited edition Freelander offers more kit for less cash

Posted: 13 Dec 2012 02:01 AM PST

Land Rover Freelander Black & White edition cheapest in range

Land Rover has announced a special edition version of the freshly facelifted Freelander, called Black & White edition.

Limited to 600 examples, the Black & White edition is based on the entry-level S model. It is available exclusively with a 2.2-litre, 148bhp turbodiesel engine, in eD4 two-wheel drive and TD4 all-wheel-drive configurations. TD4 models are available with an optional automatic gearbox.

Styling revisions over the standard S model include the gloss-black front grille, side vents and door handles from the Dynamic model. Also fitted as standard are 17-inch wheels and privacy glass.

As befitting its name, the Freelander will be available in two colours: Santorini Black and Fuji White.

Inside, the cabin features the updated centre console and is finished in black cloth upholstery. Bluetooth connectivity is included on top of the standard S trim specification, which includes DAB digital radio and air conditioning.

The Freelander Black & White edition is on sale now. Prices start at £22,495 for an eD4 model, rising to £24,995 for a TD4 fitted with an automatic gearbox.

Daljinder Nagra

Facelifted Mercedes E-class revealed

Posted: 13 Dec 2012 12:01 AM PST

Mid-sized exec gets the 'most comprehensive makeover' in Mercedes' history

Mercedes-Benz has revealed its significantly updated E-class. The mid-life makeover includes revised styling, updated engines, a higher level of standard equipment, new safety features and high-tech options. The changes are described as the most comprehensive in Mercedes' history and happen in the face of executive opposition that is stiffer than ever.

The heavily revised E-class is set to get its first public outing at the Detroit motor show in January, with the first UK deliveries slated for March. Pricing has yet to be announced but Mercedes suggests that they won't change much. The base E200 CDI is likely to cost close to the £29,125 of today's model.

The major thrust of Mercedes' efforts to lift the appeal of the E-class centres around its styling, which has been altered more significantly than is usual for a mid-life facelift, most notably at the front. The quad headlamp treatment, which had been a key design feature of the E-class since 1995, is gone, to be replaced by a more conventional appearance, with more prominent single-assembly headlights that feature LED daytime running lights as standard.

Further changes have been made to the grille, where there are now two options, one sporty and the other more traditional. The front bumper and bonnet are also revised.

The heavily structured rear wheelarches have been smoothed to give the car a more cohesive appearance. A new crease line runs from the rear door through to the tail lights, which retain the same shape but receive new LED-imbued graphics, whose horizontal emphasis is meant to widen the car visually. There is also a re-profiled rear bumper.

The standard E-class range will be offered with just one petrol engine in two states of tune. The turbocharged 2.0-litre unit is available with 181bhp in the E200 and 208bhp in the E250. A third petrol option will be offered in the yet to be revealed E63 AMG, which is tipped to offer an incremental increase over the 518bhp of the current twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8.

Two carried-over diesels are planned: a 2.1-litre four-cylinder with 134bhp in the E200 CDI, 168bhp in the E220 CDI and 201bhp in the E250 CDI, and a 3.0-litre V6 with 248bhp in the E350.

The economy champion is the E220 CDI. Its claimed 60.1mpg is 2.4mpg better than the outgoing model in seven-speed automatic guise, giving a 4g/km reduction in CO2 emissions at 125g/km. The UK line-up will also include the E300 BlueTec diesel-electric hybrid.

Among the new safety systems incorporated on the revised E-class is Collision Prevention Assist, a radar-based collision warning system with the ability to brake the car in order to reduce the severity of an impact.

The range of new and/or improved optional systems includes Distronic Plus with Steering Assist, which helps to keep the car centred in a chosen lane and tracks traffic in tailbacks, and Brake Assist Plus with Junction Assist, which is able to detect cross traffic and pedestrians and can boost the braking power if the brakes are insufficiently applied by the driver to avoid an impact.

Mini Paceman JCW to make its debut at Detroit

Posted: 12 Dec 2012 03:01 PM PST

Range-topping Paceman gets a 215bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine and revised chassis settings

The Mini Paceman coupé has been given a potent 140mph John Cooper Works range-topper. The Paceman JCW promises to be one of the most focused Mini models yet thanks to its all-wheel drive sports chassis and turbocharged 215bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine.

The Paceman JCW uses the same engine as the Countryman JCW on which it is based. The highly-tuned 215bhp 1.6 produces 207lb ft of torque across a wide rev-band from as low as 1900rpm and up to 5800rpm. A further 14lb ft is available for short periods between 2100-4500rpm for short periods using an overboost function.

These are sufficient reserves to propel the Paceman JCW from 0-62mph in 6.9sec (regardless of whichever of the beefed-up six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmissions are fitted) and onto a 140mph top speed for the manual, 139mph for the auto'. The manual-equipped Paceman JCW's top speed matches the Countryman JCW's, but 0.1sec is shaved off the 0-62mph time.

A sports chassis is fitted to the Paceman JCW, making it sit 10mm lower than standard Pacemans. Larger anti-roll bars and optimised spring and damper rates are among the suspension upgrades.

A Sport button features on the centre console of the JCW-fettled cabin. When engaged, this sharpens the throttle response, alters the exhaust note, and stiffens up the steering. On JCWs equipped with the automatic gearbox, shift times are also made quicker.

The all-wheel drive system sends 50 per cent of power to the rear wheels in normal driving conditions through an electromagnetic centre differential, and up to 100 per cent in extreme conditions.

The look of the Paceman has also been overhauled for the JCW version with new 18in alloys (19in alloys are optional) and an aggressively styled aerodynamic bodykit.

The new Paceman JCW will make its debut at the Detroit motor show next month, before reaching UK showrooms in mid-March priced from £29,535.

First drive review: Skoda Octavia 1.8 TSI DSG SE Plus

Posted: 12 Dec 2012 10:36 AM PST

All-new Skoda family hatch promises much as company expects it to become one of the world's 10 best-selling cars. This is the all-new Skoda Octavia, in final production form, although because we are still three months from the car's launch the test car wears a mild disguise. The Mk3 Octavia, like its predecessors, is part of Volkswagen's extended Golf family. This time around it is based on the new MQB platform, which will underpin future VW Group front-drive models from Polo to Passat size. MQB factories are also being built around the world, to allow local market production of its mainstream models. This will be useful for the Octavia 3 because China and Russia are two of its biggest markets. The Octavia is based on the longer wheelbase version of this platform, getting an extra 50mm compared to the Mk7 Golf, all of which is to the benefit of rear passengers. Compared to the outgoing model, the new Octavia is 90mm longer, 45mm wider and has a 108mm longer wheelbase.  The company claims that that this car has interior space comparable to a model from the next class up: the total interior length is 1782mm and it can carry a 240cm flatpack with the rear seat folded; fold the front passenger seat and that goes up to 2.74cm. The boot is even bigger, at a vast 590 litres. The Octavia 3 is also, in this form, around 85kg lighter than the old model. The lower-powered models get a rear beam axle which saves another 16kg.The exterior styling is a sharper and crisper take on the current model with the tail shaped to look more like a saloon than a super-sized hatchback. The clunky chrome grille has been replaced with a chrome-edged aperture, giving the Octavia a more sophisticated face. Sheer body surfaces, prominent wheel arches and the defining shutline that runs off the rear door and down the sill give the impression of tight build quality and technical precision.The finish of the cabin plastics are a notch back from the what you'll get in the new Golf but the whole interior is a festival of restrained good taste, clarity and slick assembly. All the controls are neatly drawn and nicely weighted, but there's no great design flair, either. The only criticism of the Octavia's aesthetics lie in the fact that this new design language is pretty close to that being deployed both on the Golf 7 and the new Seat Leon.With the adoption of the MQB architecture comes more in the way of sophisticated options, including active cruise control, automatic dip beam, keyless entry, traffic sign recognition, a panoramic sunroof and Skoda's new top-end Canton audio system. Traditionally practical touches include a doubled-sided (carpet and rubber) boot floor and a way of storing the parcel shelf when carrying tall loads.

Mercedes CLA to be four-wheel drive

Posted: 12 Dec 2012 10:18 AM PST

Forthcoming Mercedes saloon to get optional 4MATIC all-wheel drive system; AMG version to use 2.0-litre turbo engine

The forthcoming Mercedes CLA saloon will be available with four-wheel drive, when it arrives in UK showrooms next summer.

The new entry-level saloon, which will sit below the C-class in the Mercedes model line-up, will use a new version of Mercedes' 4MATIC four-wheel drive system, which has been developed for use in front-wheel drive cars with a transversely mounted engine.

Aesthetically, Mercedes claims that the CLA will be almost identical to the Concept Style Coupé that was unveiled at the Beijing motor show in April.

Alongside the 4MATIC system, the CLA will feature sports suspension and a range of turbo engines with power up to 208bhp. Mercedes advanced safety features such as Collision Prevention Assist, will also be fitted.

An AMG version, named CLA45, will also use 4MATIC system, and is expected to use the high-power 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine from the A45 AMG, which is due for release early in 2013.

Daljinder Nagra

New BMW M6 GranCoupé revealed

Posted: 12 Dec 2012 07:35 AM PST

New BMW M6 GranCoupé shown in production guise and set for Detroit motor show reveal

The new 552bhp twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 powered BMW M6 GranCoupé has been revealed in a series of official photographs ahead of the sleek four-door saloon's planned public debut at the Detroit motor show in January.

Set to rival the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, Porsche Panamera Turbo and upcoming Audi RS7, the latest M-car sets out to broaden the scope of the existing M6 line-up, providing added levels of practicality and improved comfort through the adoption of two extra doors and greater rear seat accommodation. It will be produced alongside its coupé and convertible siblings at BMW's Dingolfing factory in Germany from early 2013.

Details pertaining to UK sales are yet to be announced but officials point towards an introduction here next April at a price, they hint, will be close to £100,000.

The M6 GranCoupé is distinguished from lesser versions of the 6-series GranCoupé - revealed earlier this year - by a series of traditional exterior styling cues developed under the guise of BMW M division's long time head of design, Uwe Weidehase.

Included is a deeper front bumper with sizeable cooling ducts for the engine bay and front brakes, altered kidney grille with twin horizontal slats and M6 identification, adaptive headlamps, widened front wheel arches, a chromed indicator lamp surround within the front wings, deeper sills underneath the four doors, aerodynamically optimised mirror housings and a carbonfibre-reinforced plastic roof panel.

At the rear, there is further M6 identification on the boot lid and a deep uniquely profiled bumper housing a carbonfibre-reinforced plastic diffuser element shaped to draw hot air away from the rear differential and a quartet of chromed tailpipes. Wheels are 20 inches in diameter – 9.5 inches wide up front, 10.5 inches at the rear. They come shod with standard 265/35 and 295/30 profile tyres.

The M6 GranCoupé is based around a high strength steel platform that boasts the same 2964mm wheelbase as the M5. As is customary for all cars wearing the revered M badge, it also receives tracks that have been widened significantly over the standard 6-series GranCoupé at 1631mm and 1612mm respectively.

The third member of the second-generation M6 line-up runs BMW M division's twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre engine and seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox – a combination first seen in the M5 and more recently brought to the M6 coupe and cabriolet.  Power peaks at 552bhp, with torque swelling to a maximum 502lb ft on a band of revs between 1500 and 5750rpm. 

At 1950kg, the M6 Gran Coupe weighs a mere 5kg more than the M5, endowing it with a power-to-weight ratio of 283bhp/tonne – some 23bhp/tonne less than the 1795kg Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, whose twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 pushes out 549bhp and 589lb ft in combination with an optional performance package.

BMW claims its new super saloon is marginally faster than its keenest four-door performance car rival on the run from 0-62mph, with an official time of 4.2sec versus 4.3sec for the Mercedes-Benz. Top speed is nominally limited to 155mph. However, buyers can increase it to 189mph through an optional driver's package, which also brings high-performance tyres.

Further straight line performance claims include a 50-75mph 4th gear time of 3.6sec and standing 1km time of 21.7sec. With standard fuel-saving functions such as stop/start and brake energy recuperation, the M6 GranCoupé's average fuel consumption is put at 28.5mpg on the European test cycle, giving it a combined CO2 figure of 232g/km.

Russia's supercar breaks cover

Posted: 12 Dec 2012 07:24 AM PST

Marussia B2 seen testing for the first time

This is Russia's only supercar, the Marussia B2, undergoing testing in light disguise.

Essentially a heavily restyled B1, the firm's first model, the B2 uses the same aluminium spaceframe construction. The B2 will be available with a choice of two V6s, built by Cosworth. The 3.5-litre develops 300bhp and 300lb ft, while the turbocharged 2.8-litre can produce up to 420bhp and 442lb ft.

With a claimed kerb weight of 1100kg, the B2 is claimed be capable of 0-62mph in 3.8sec with a top speed of 155mph.

It will be built by Valmet in Finland, initially in kit format from components made by Marussia in Russia. It is thought that eventually Valmet will take over complete manufacture of the cars, and Marussia expects annual production to amount to "a few hundred" B2s.  It has one showroom outside Russia, in Monaco.

My recipe for the perfect BMW M4

Posted: 12 Dec 2012 07:04 AM PST

BMW is changing its naming convention for its 3-series based coupé models, and the forthcoming BMW M4 will be something to get excited about

As a former editor of this esteemed title, I can remember putting a story together some years ago that was entitled 'The M Power Strikes Back'. Unsurprisingly, it was all about the expanding plans of BMW's M division in the face of increasing competition from the likes of Mercedes AMG, Audi's RS department and Jaguar's forthcoming line-up of R and R-S models.

It was a catchy enough title for a story that has since become increasingly familiar: new M6 scooped, next M5's secrets revealed, the possibility of an M1 uncovered and so on. But there was one element of the package that was pure speculation, and it concerned the possibility of an all-new M4, since when, of course, no such car has appeared.

Now, though, it really does seem as if BMW is – finally – going to develop the car out of the latest F30 3-series platform, in much the same way that the 5-series and 6-series models are all but one and the same cars beneath their skins. The regular 4-series coupé will get a separate model designation (F32) from the 3-series, with the convertible being known as the F33 and the Gran Coupé – which won't appear for a while – tipped to be codenamed F35.

The M4, however, will be a stand-alone model and also have its own identification number (either F82 or F32M, depending on whether you're in Europe or the UK). Whether it will be introduced at the same time as or slightly after the next M3 (which will be known as the F80 or F30M, we think) isn't yet clear. But whatever it is known as internally, and whenever it is unleashed upon the world, the M4 – you just know – has the potential to be a little bit special.

Here's how I hope its spec sheet might read when it appears "some time in 2014". Engine: twin-turbo straight six with 450bhp and 480lb ft, with a level of response to its throttle that will make most of us totally disbelieving that there are turbos. Gearbox: standard-fit seven-speed dual-clutch auto (as per current M3) but with the option of a six-speed manual if desired. This is a distinct possibility for the M4, by all accounts, although maybe not for the M3 as well.

Chassis: rear-wheel drive (naturally) but lighter, leaner and keener than the M3's, so maybe with a kerb weight as low as 1550kg. Steering: electrically assisted, I fear, but recalibrated to make your fingertips fizz with feel, even when compared with the M3's.

Styling: as long as it's low and wide and has a carbonfibre roof, the two-door-only M4 is bound to look tasty – hopefully, in the same way that all of M division's greatest cars have.

Am I excited about the BMW M4? You bet.

BMW 2-series to replace two-door 1-series

Posted: 12 Dec 2012 04:45 AM PST

New model to replace 1-series coupé and cabriolet in 2014

The successor models to the existing first-generation BMW 1-series coupé and cabriolet have been spied testing just over a year before their planned UK showroom debut.

Set to adopt a new 2-series nameplate as part of BMW's plans to provide greater differentiation between its volume-selling saloons and hatchbacks and their coupé and cabriolet siblings, the new two door pairing, codenamed F22 and F23 respectively, have been extensively re-engineered in a move that sees them grow incrementally in size, providing them with increased levels of interior accommodation and luggage capacity together with improved safety credentials.

The heavily disguised prototypes caught here testing in Germany provide few clues as to the look of the 2-series coupé and cabriolet, although BMW sources suggest they will follow the example of the recently unveiled 4-series by adopting a more individual appearance than today's models, albeit with various exterior design elements from the second-generation 1-series hatchback. One obvious design element is the retention of a fabric hood on the cabriolet pictured here.

The 2-series coupé and cabriolet are based around the same mechanical package as the second-generation 1-series hatchback, alongside which they will be produced at BMW's Leipzig factory in Germany. Key among the changes is the adoption of a modified platform. It uses a 30mm longer wheelbase and supports front and rear tracks that have been extended by a significant 55mm and 60mm respectively. It has also been engineered to support both standard rear- and optional four-wheel drive.

Among the engines set to power the new 2-series are turbocharged 1.6- and 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct-injection petrol and 2.0-litre four-cylinder common rail diesels together with a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder, which in range-topping form is expected to provide a 235i M Performance range topper with 320bhp.

Would you ever consider a private number plate?

Posted: 12 Dec 2012 02:34 AM PST

The ultimate automotive accessory or tasteless tat… where do you stand on private number plates?

I am sure you will be as delighted as I am to learn that the registration number PEN 15 is set to be auctioned early in 2013.

Apparently it has been banned from advertisements for being too X-rated. Regtransfers, the largest independent private plate specialist in the UK, believes the phallic-themed registration could be sold for a fee as large as £100,000.

It's a free country, just about, so if you want to look like a KNO 8 you only have to shell out a six-figure sum. I've never understood the whole private plate thing, despite some particularly close members of my family having a large set. Each to their own, but my view is the same as the Triumph Stag-owning hero of the Terry Venables-penned TV series Hazell. Private detective (or dick) James Hazell solved a case by observing that with a private plate everyone could "see you coming". Presumably being the centre of attention is the main reason why many buy them, and I notice that Dragon Theo Paphitis has RYM4N plate on his chrome-wrapped Maybach.

Rather alarmingly, the registration company claims to have BO11 L0X, ORG 45M and 53 XEY on their books.

So come on, I need someone to justify the whole personalised registration thing. Mind you, if anyone has JR 1 for a fiver, I'll consider transferring it off their Proton.

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