Saturday, December 22, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Porsche Pajun poised for production

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

Porsche's 'baby Panamera' would be the company's first mainstream model

Porsche is poised to give the green light to a direct rival for the BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-class after more than a year of research and debate, according to company insiders.

If the project is rubber-stamped, Porsche would for the first time be entering a mainstream market segment, albeit a premium sector dominated by the German 'big three'. If the model gets the go-ahead, it will hit showrooms in 2016 at the very earliest, but it is still considered part of Porsche's plan to sell 200,000 units annually by 2018.

Michael Mauer, Porsche's styling chief, was recently quoted as saying that a road car smaller than the Panamera "was a possibility". It's thought that Mauer's design team have recently been able to spend serious time on the 5-series-sized concept, now that the Macan SUV and Panamera facelift are both heading for the showroom.

Most expect that the 'Pajun' (a nickname derived from 'Panamera junior') will be a five-door fastback, like its bigger brother. A Mercedes CLS-style sportwagon version is also pencilled in, with a two-door coupé possible in the next decade. It's also thought that V8 and four-cylinder engines have been ruled out.

Most industry sources expect the Pajun to be built on the VW Group's next-generation MSB platform. Porsche is developing this rear-drive and all-wheel-drive architecture for use under the next-generation Panamera, Nearly all future Bentleys, among other high-end VW Group models, will also use it. 

Porsche could have used Audi's next-generation mixed-materials MLB architecture, which will also underpin its upcoming Macan SUV, as well as all future Audi models from the A4 to A7.

However, the MLB is a natively front-wheel drive platform, so all versions of an MLB-based Pajun would have been all-wheel drive. A front-wheel-drive Porsche is considered unthinkable.

According to figures from IHS and Credit Suisse auto analysts, the global market for premium E-segment cars — which includes the 5-series, E-class and Audi A6 — will this year be about 970,000.

That figure is projected to bounce along at about the same level until 2017, when a growth spike will take it to about 1.3 million units by the end of 2019. So this is fertile new territory for Porsche.

This market segment promises substantial profit margins. It's not as profitable per unit as the market for big, premium SUVs (which Porsche is already exploiting with the Cayenne), but sales volumes are bigger. This is why Maserati is also looking to exploit this market with its new Ghibli.

It's easy to understand why the more exclusive premium brands see the potential to shake up a segment dominated by the 5-series, E-class and A6. These three models account for about 70 per cent of global sales in the sector.

The premium E-segment market is "underperforming" compared with other premium segments, according to Credit Suisse analyst George Galliers.

"We believe this is part of the ongoing trend towards 'other' vehicles [such as SUVs]," said Galliers. "The growth opportunity in this price range/vehicle size is likely to come from comparable products which do not conform to the traditional three-box saloon, in our view. Presumably, this is the opportunity which Porsche also sees.

"We presume that any product which they would offer would most likely have a hatchback configuration as per the Panamera."

First drive review: Mitsubishi Outlander 2.2 DiD GX4 4WD

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

Right-hand-drive Outlander seems well prepared for bad UK roads, but offers little for owners to enthuse about The third generation of Mitsubishi's Outlander, which is now just weeks from its UK-market introduction. A full road test is in the offing, as is a group test – the latter taking into account the avalanche of new models you've got to choose from if you're shopping for a £30k SUV this winter. Whether it's the 2013 Toyota RAV4, the new Ford Kuga, last year's Honda CRV or the Hyundai Santa Fe – or none of the above – you can be certain that we'll crown a new Autocar class champion before long.But ahead of all that came an early chance to sample the Outlander in UK-market specification and right-hand-drive form. Not on UK roads, more's the pity, but at least on surfaces varied enough to tell how this medium-size seven-seater should conduct itself over here.

Top 12 cars of 2012: Ferrari F12 Berlinetta

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

Ferrari's new front-engined V12 Berlinetta mixes McLaren F1-beating performance with family saloon levels of comfort

The day that Ferrari handed us the keys to its new Ferrari F12 may have been the longest Sunday in history. It didn't start particularly early, but – for one frazzled soul, at least – it finished at 3.47am on Monday morning. It didn't really finish at all, come to think of it. I had time for 42 minutes of rest before getting up and leaving Maranello to board the early flight home.

Eleven amazing hours in the car and in front of a video camera were followed by six hours at the keyboard and a brush with a printer's deadline that left absolutely no margin for error. The one thing that made it all possible: a car so monumental that the story all but wrote itself.

The F12 is a landmark – a paradigm shift. It will have an influence far greater than its sales reach might imply. It rewrites the rulebook on conventional 'super-GT' design – the class made up of the grandest of grand touring coupés. Cars with front-mounted V12 engines and 2+2 seating, which Ferrari made its own with the 1968 Daytona. Because the F12 proves that practical, long-legged exotics needn't be so big.

They needn't be so heavy. In fact, they can be as razor-sharp, fast and rewarding as a full-blooded supercar – and still be supremely usable.The F12 is the first 12-cylinder model ever made by Ferrari to be smaller than the car it replaces, regardless of which way you measure it. It's also significantly lighter and stiffer but, at the same time, more spacious than a 599. It's more powerful than a McLaren F1 and, according to official figures, faster to 62mph. It has incredible active aerodynamics; it produces actual downforce from as little as 70mph, but it still has a drag coefficient to rival a family saloon's. Don't ask me how that's possible, but I believe it.

And when you drive the F12, your sense of awe only increases. This car steers with the directness of a single-seater. It's a front-engined V12 that just doesn't know that understeer or body roll exist. Its capacity for grip and high-speed stability in Race mode is almost as spine-tingling as its appetite for slip angle when you turn it all off.

It represents as much of a full-on challenge on a circuit as a stripped-out track special like a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. It's not supremely easy to get on terms with, but you wouldn't want it to be. Because, when you get it right, the F12 can lap a track as quickly as anything in the world. It's quicker around Fiorano, Ferrari's own test track, than an Enzo.

And besides all of that, it can still play the traditional big Ferrari. It can still be docile enough to ease away 500 miles in a sitting, dampers in soft mode, gearbox working away imperceptibly, engine mumbling quietly at a calm cruise – your nerves entirely unjangled. That breadth of ability isn't just rare; it's nothing short of a masterstroke.

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