Friday, December 28, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Jaguar XK to move further upmarket

Posted: 27 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

Jaguar coupé to take on a luxury GT role with the launch of the F-type sports car

The next-generation Jaguar XK is set to grow in size following the introduction of the F-type. Design director Ian Callum said Jaguar was "going through a lot of discussion" about how the XK should evolve.

No final decision has yet been taken, but Callum said there was an opportunity to "allow the car to become a bit more special than a GT".

"It could grow into the luxury market, and grow in size," he said. "Whether it stays the same as a two-plus-two or becomes a two-plus-more-than-two has not been committed to yet."

The F-type's launch removes the need for the XK to act as out-and-out sports coupé and luxury GT. With the F-type becoming Jaguar's dedicated sports car, there's scope for the XK to focus on its luxury GT credentials.

While a shift in strategy for the XK seems likely, the XJ is set to remain as a conventional saloon in its next generation, despite the declining market for such luxury four-doors.

Sales of large luxury SUVs are now dwarfing luxury saloons, but Callum believes it's the state of the global economy rather than a shift in market trends that is to blame for dwindling luxury saloon sales. "I think the market will come back," he said. "We're strong in China and big cars are also always going to be popular in the US."

Callum didn't confirm the existence of a large Jaguar crossover to sit alongside the XJ in its line-up, but said the firm "had to take notice" of the growing popularity of crossovers and SUVs.

Best of clicks and pics

Posted: 27 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

What really fired your interest at in 2012? We reveal the top cars, stories and pictures

The beauty of the web is that the numbers don't lie; every time you click on a news story, blog first drive, road test, or video, the numbers get crunched and the statistics counted. So it is that we can reveal that the Skoda Rapid is more popular than the Ferrari F12, for instance, and that the Range Rover 4 has attracted more attention than the entire Paris motor show garnered.

The beauty of statistics, though, is that they can tell a different story depending on how you look at them. The F12, for instance, recorded massive interest when it was revealed and subsequently driven, whereas the Rapid had early initial bursts on both counts, but kept on attracting interest from would-be buyers. So it is that mainstream can often out-punch exotica on the web.

Our word cloud also shows which marques we've written about the most. A lot depends on which makes are launching the most cars, or are the most talked about, but you also get a very good idea of which brands are attracting the most interest by generating headlines. Here are the year's real movers and shakers.

It's been a record-breaking year for, which was relaunched with dramatic success in May, but rest assured there's plenty more to come from us as well as the car makers next year.

Top 12 cars of 2012: BMW 320d

Posted: 27 Dec 2012 10:00 PM PST

It feels as if BMW spent massive amounts of money on this car, so good and so complete does it feel to drive

Every time we spend time with a BMW 3-series, especially if it's the miracle-working 320d, sooner or later someone falls to wondering out loud whether this isn't the best saloon car in the world. And despite the received wisdom that the best car in the world is much bigger and much, much more expensive, there's usually plenty of support for the idea.

Everyone knows the reasons by heart. This compact, rear-drive four-door saloon – powered by a well made but relatively ordinary 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, driving through a common-or-garden six-speed manual gearbox – has repeatedly been proven to have a breadth of capability that simply eludes even the best rivals.

It offers amazingly high performance (a 146mph top speed and a 0-62mph sprint time of 7.7sec) yet its official combined economy figure of 61.4mpg is supported by our own just-as-spectacular road test touring figure of 56.8mpg. Its terrific high-speed stability and sure on-limit handling are accompanied by a docility at a dawdle that is no less impressive. It has decent cabin accommodation for four. And a big boot. And a big name.

Despite all this, you can buy one of these fine cars – our road test team gave it the elusive five stars when we tested it back in February – for just over £29,000, or for £9000 more if you buy it with the bells and whistles of our test car, which included £540 18-inch alloy wheels, £750 M Sport suspension, a £450 cabin comfort pack, Dakota leather at £1265, 'Professional' sat-nav for £2000, £610 metallic paint, £180 Servotronic power steering and £925 adaptive xenon headlights. BMW has not lost its penchant, on option prices, for charging like the Light Brigade.

But it's the quality of what you buy that makes the car so special. The car is fairly low, and you sit low in it. The steering wheel is relatively high, and you have a clear view of the typically BMW instruments (they hardly ever seem to change) through its top semi-circle from the comfort of your supportive seat. The fascia is a slightly confusing asymmetrical sculpture, with an infotainment screen sprouting from its centre, behind two rectangular dash vents. The steering wheel is the usual thick-rimmed design with a big triangular boss and the familiar blue-and-white roundel level with your chest.

The engine sounds sporting for a diesel and behaves that way, not least because it offers decent shove between 1200rpm and 5000rpm, a wide band for a diesel. The 320d dismisses the 0-60mph sprint in a time worthy of a Volkswagen Golf GTI not many years ago, while using half the fuel. The gearlever moves with what our road testers termed "cushioned accuracy" and the ratios are widely spread so the car can cruise at over 100mph while showing less than 3000 in top (and only three-and-a-bit in fifth).

The chassis is lovely – flat-riding in Comfort mode but supple enough for UK back roads and UK passengers, yet good enough in Sport not to be disgraced on a circuit. The Servotronic steering is lovely to heft, perfectly weighted and accurate, and the brakes have all the energy one needs in a car that wants to be driven. Again and again, you wonder if this paragon of driving pleasure can really be a 2.0-litre diesel.

Better yet is the ownership experience. Against all comers, BMWs are reliable and long lasting and hold their value. So you can buy to move the car on fairly quickly, or run it for a decade. Best of all, as you drive, you repeatedly detect the thoroughness and enthusiasm of the people who engineered this car; they have built, pound for pound, one of the finest cars on the road.

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