Thursday, December 27, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Renault Alpine here by 2015

Posted: 26 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

Forthcoming Renault/Caterham sports car will have a distinct Gallic flavour; due to arrive within three years

Renault will launch its Alpine sports car, to be built in a joint venture with Caterham, within three years, giving the firm until the end of 2015 to finish the project it started in earnest last year.

Renault marketing boss Stephen Norman confirmed that the car would not take four years to appear, as had been speculated. He also hinted at the sort of character the car would have, describing it as "not soft".

"It won't be more hardcore than a Mazda MX-5," he said. "What we do will not be soft, but not hardcore like a Peugeot 106 Rallye. You can't betray the DNA of Alpine. That's a third of what the car will be."

Norman described that DNA as French and not German. "It must be light and look different, and have a touch of French dash," he said. "It's not a car for dandies, though. We know who the buyer is: he's either French or a Francophile. And the car has technical innovation as part of its DNA."

The new Alpine will be a clean-sheet design and create a rival for the Porsche Boxster and high-performance versions of the Audi TT. It will be priced at less than £50,000 and will use a Renault engine with around 250bhp. 

Renault looked seriously at reviving Alpine in 2007, but the recession meant the project had to be shelved. By the time the market had recovered, the original design was considered too old.

Dan Stevens

Top 12 cars of 2012: Range Rover

Posted: 26 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

The new Range Rover 4 is like a Range Rover, only better

The arrival of a new Range Rover is practically a stop-the-traffic national event. The brand-new 2013 model – a little larger, a lot lighter and due in the hands of earliest buyers in the first months of 2013 – is only the fourth edition since the original arrived in 1970 to revolutionise the look and duty of all future SUVs.

Back then, even Land Rover people didn't know what they had. The model was merely supposed to broaden the capabilities of the classic farmer's Land Rover. Instead, it became a machine so special, so stylish, so luxurious and yet so capable that it instantly became a star. An early model was exhibited in the Louvre.

Things are very different now. Everyone knows about Range Rover excellence. The outgoing model, in production for 11 years, was considered good enough, late last year, to raise concerns over whether a new model could bring big improvements. First drives revealed the truth: the 2013 Range Rover is so much better in so many ways that it seems likely, despite worldwide economic ills and unapologetically high prices, that the model will be in extreme demand for many months, just like the Evoque before it.

The basis of the model is a new aluminium monocoque body-chassis that slashes up to 400kg from the weight of the hefty outgoing model, depending how you count. Three engines are offered: a 255bhp twin-turbo V6 diesel (not previously offered), a 335bhp twin-turbo V8 diesel and a 503bhp supercharged petrol V8. All put their torque through various iterations of ZF's eight-speed paddle-shift automatic gearbox, driving all four wheels via an improved Terrain Response system, now with an automatic function.

The exterior styling is unmistakable but more sophisticated. The interior seems even better than the outgoing model's, although with a simplified switch and control layout.

Rear comfort is a special feature. Land Rover hopes big extra sales will come from Russia and China, where such cars are often chauffeur driven. Thus, the rear compartment is larger, the seats are more cosseting (and there are more design variations) and the rear compartment controls and fittings are even more impressive.

On the road, the Range Rover is instantly recognisable for its grand seating position, its fascia and interior architecture. But it is improved in every way. There's better stability (especially in corners and under braking), the steering is quicker to respond and there's an instant benefit from the weight reduction: the new V6 diesel model is quicker (and more agile) than the outgoing V8. A recent 1300-mile trip in a V8 by our testers returned a real-world 29.7mpg average, at least on the trip computer.

No Range Rover traditionalist will need reassurance about the looks or positioning of this new one. It is instantly recognisable, even more imposing and even faster and easier to drive. To repeat the words of our testers, "It's like a Range Rover – only better."

Hero cars: Jaguar XJ220

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 04:28 AM PST

We drive the iconic Jaguar XJ220

The much-maligned Jaguar XJ220 is 20 years old, and has lost none of its appeal. Andrew Frankel, who road tested the car when it was first launched, takes a look back at one of Jaguar's finest moments.

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