Thursday, December 20, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Top 12 cars of 2012: Porsche Boxster

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 05:00 AM PST

It didn't take us long to fall in love with Porsche's entry-level roadster

It only took a warm summer's evening, an unbroken stretch of British B-road and some quality time alone for me to fall in love with the new Porsche Boxster.

I'd already driven the car in the south of France, but that was a PDK-equipped model with the steering wheel on the wrong side and a photographer in it; I'd gathered enough to know that it was very good indeed, but it hadn't worked its way under my skin.

A month or so later and Porsche had the car in the UK, with a manual stick shift and an empty passenger's seat adjacent to it. It was only the standard 2.7-litre model (we'd road test the pokier S) but its brilliant blue paintjob matched the sky overhead and it wasn't lumbered with too much optional extra chicanery. 'Pure' would be one word for it, and that's exactly what it felt like on my two-hour route to the south coast.

We've spent thousands of words since then dissecting the root causes of this vague conviction, but recalling that day, I remember only the gushing, gravelly yowl of the six-pot, the perfection of a fully exploitable 263bhp and the sinewy, scintillating quality of the handling.

Oh, and the expression on my face: a slowly evolving smile that finished, at 6700rpm, as an open-mouthed, gleeful gasp.

The minimum standard for any car capable of putting wind in its driver's wig is invigoration, but on that particular afternoon the Boxster, in a country mostly built from traffic jams and speed limits, reminded me why this, right here, is a 'best job in the world' contender.

Leaked: Renault's Captur adopts Clio design

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 04:48 AM PST

Crossover much more conventional than concept namesake

Renault's forthcoming small crossover will abandon the dramatic styling of its concept car namesake for a more conventional, Clio-based design. The Captur, as it will be badged and seen here in these leaked Renault line drawings, adopts the look of a tall mini-MPV.

However, there is the possibility of a second small crossover, with three doors and coupé styling, and Renault insiders have hinted at the potential for this model to be built. Both cars are part of Renault's solution for its lack of success in the SUV and crossover market - its only recent offering, the Korean-built Koleos, has not been a hit in Europe.

The car in the drawings is based on the Juke, with which it shares Renault Nissan's B platform, so overall length is just over four metres.

The Captur will be unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March, and will go on sale in the summer.

Volkswagen Beetle Fender edition announced

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 04:20 AM PST

A limited edition Volkswagen Beetle Fender will reach showrooms early next month

Volkswagen has announced the limited edition Beetle Fender, which comes equipped with an audio system developed by the eponymous guitar manufacturer.

The Beetle Fender is available in pearlescent black, and is fitted with a rear spoiler, 18in alloy wheels and Fender badging. The dashboard carries a 'sunburst' wood inlay in reference to the iconic finish of Fender's Stratocaster guitars.

Fender's 400-watt audio system features a boot-mounted subwoofer and illuminated front speaker mated to a colour touch screen. Other standard-fit equipment includes two-zone climate control, bi-xenon headlights and part-leather trim.

The limited edition Fender is available exclusively with a 2.0-litre TDI engine producing 138bhp, and the choice of a six-speed manual or DSG gearbox.

The Beetle Fender is priced at £23,015, with DSG models attracting a £1595 premium. Order books open on January 2.

Tesla's electric saloon to cost from £59,000 in Europe

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 03:43 AM PST

UK prices won't be revealed until late next year

Prices for the Tesla Model S will start at €72,600 (£59,000) in Europe, although pricing for UK-bound right-hand drive cars will not be confirmed until late 2013.

The car costs more in Europe than it does in the US – around €18,000 (£13,600) more for the 60KwH model. Tesla says this is due to  additional transport costs and import duties, and the fact that US prices take into account a $7500 tax credit.

The European range will not feature the US market entry-level 40KwH car, starting instead with the 60KwH Model S. An 85KwH model increases the price to €83,150 (£62,800), while the Model S Performance ups the price to €97,750 (£73,900) The limited edition Performance Model S weighs in at €101,400 (£76,600).

Production of right-hand-drive cars begins towards the end of 2013, with final pricing confirmed "four to five months before the start of deliveries." Anyone reserving a car before the end of December gets a £1300 discount on the final price, although you'll need to find a £4000 deposit for the Model S and £30,000 to secure a Performance model.

Infiniti planning "high tech performance flagship"

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 02:39 AM PST

Infiniti's new range topper will be powered by a 550bhp V6

Infiniti is working on a new flagship model that will sit above today's V8-powered M56 as part of what the firm describes as a "massive product offensive."

The new car will be powered by a forced induction V6 producing in excess of 550bhp. The engine could be as small as three litres – Infiniti boss Johan de Nysschen, explaining the firm's recent decision to change the way it badges its cars, said the car would have to be called M30 "following our current naming logic." He described the new model as a "high-tech performance flagship."

With all of Infiniti's cars to be badged as Q, and all the SUVs badged as QX, the new car could be badged as a range-topping version of the forthcoming Q70, the replacement for the current M. 

Dan Stevens

First drive review: Caterham R600

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 10:28 AM PST

Race-only Caterham R600 is breathtaking on a circuit. On the road, we just hope one day to find out The Caterham R600 is a racing car for those who think the R300, currently top of the racing Sevens tree, isn't fast enough. It seems a lot of competitors think that of the highly tuned, naturally-aspirated R300. But instead of using the even more highly tuned, road-only R500, the new, race-only R600 (keep up) has a supercharger strapped to its 2.0-litre Ford Duratec so that it makes 275bhp. To say it's fast would be something of an understatement.But that's also true of the R500, which makes an unshabby 263bhp, so why a new model rather than racing with R500s? Because, says Caterham, the speed gains of the R500 are marginal given the blurry revs it needs, while consistently running near 9000rpm brings a reliability compromise. The R600 – whose peak power arrvives at 7500rpm – is less stressed and torquier, with 200lb ft instead of the 500's 177.That means the R600 will pootle at 20mph for car-to-car tracking photos without a care in the world. Most racing cars would be spitting, complaining and grumbling at the nasty, low-revolution chore, but the R600 is a happy bunny. Caterham has not announced plans to make a road version, but its race models usually adopt number plates once they've been track proven. The supercharged Duratec feels flexible enough already.And the rest of the hardware? Well, that's a touch less adaptable for the road. Caterham wanted the R600 to be much quicker than the R300; about four seconds per typical lap is the ambition. So there are Bilstein race dampers, a full roll cage, a Sadev sequential six-speed gearbox (allowing clutchless upshifts), a limited-slip differential and, when the championship starts this spring, it'll use slick Avon tyres. 

Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet for 2013 launch

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 10:20 AM PST

Volkswagen is readying the Golf R Cabriolet, the fastest drop-top Volkswagen to date

A Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet is entering the final stages of development, Autocar understands. The fastest drop-top Golf to date will use the current Mk6 Cabriolet as a basis and will go on sale in Spring 2013.

Unlike the Golf R hatchback, the Cabriolet will be front-wheel drive only. No official performance figures have been revealed, but it is likely to feature the 261bhp 2.0-litre TSI unit from the Scirocco R, endowing it with a 0-62mph time of around six seconds and a 155mph top speed.

A six-speed manual gearbox is tipped to be offered alongside a DSG option.

No pricing information has been announced, but the £6000 premium for the Golf R hatchback over the GTI is likely to be cut to around £4500, due to the Cabriolet's cheaper front-drive configuration. That would see the R Cabriolet priced around £34,000.

Volkswagen first teased a production Golf R Cabrio at the Worthersee tuning show in Austria in 2011. The concept featured sports suspension and the car sat 25mm lower than the standard Cabriolet. Modifications expected to appear on the production model include 18in Talladega alloy wheels and ventilated discs with blue callipers.

Familiar Golf R trinkets, including aluminium sill plates, carbonfibre trim, R badging and sports seats will also be fitted.

Please Infiniti, give your cars names

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 08:00 AM PST

'Proper' car names would be preferable to Infiniti's new naming convention

I was underwhelmed to learn recently that Infiniti is in the process of renaming its cars. For the 2014 model year, which is bound to arrive some time in March 2013, all Infinitis will have a 'Q' or 'QX' prefix.

To quote Infiniti directly: "New nomenclature symbolises new brand direction and the commitment to Infiniti under the leadership of Johan de Nysschen The use of Q and QX captures the inspiration within the next generation of Infiniti models, while relating back to Infiniti's roots of the Q45."

That's the usual marketing boat hooks one expects these days from multinational companies. I doubt that anyone really cares about the Q45 and certainly QX only brings to mind those large, reliable, anodyne saloons from the 1990s with Nissan badges on them. Surely Japan, the spiritual home of bonkers (or Bongo Friendee) car names, can do better than this.

Numbers and letters do work – as the German brands have proved – but don't we all miss the great days when TVRs were named after terrifying mythical creatures? Of course, no one wants to cause offence these days, and there has always been the problem of names getting lost in translation. Ford UK was keen to call its new family car the Caprino, until further investigation revealed that it meant 'goat dung' in Italian. Instead, Ford went for 'Cortina', which had been the Italian venue for the 1960 Winter Olympics.

On the whole, though, numbers are boring unless it is '6.2 V12'. If Infiniti is going to make an impression, it needs to use proper words. Red Bull would be a start. Okay, it's a fizzy drink, but it is a start of sorts. So come on, let's help Infiniti out with some eye-catching, brand-building, characterful monikers. I find it helps if I put a car name into this sentence to see how excited I get. So, I've got an Infiniti Dictator. I've got an Infiniti Labradoodle. I've got an Infiniti Unlimited.

What have you got?

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