Monday, December 3, 2012

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Dacia confirms January launch for UK

Posted: 03 Dec 2012 07:04 AM PST

Model line-up to include Sandero Stepway crossover

Dacia has confirmed it will launch the Sandero supermini and the Duster SUV in the UK market in January 2013. The newly announced Sandero Stepway crossover will join the range in May 2013.

The Duster and Sandero are now available for pre-order with delivery in the new year. Order books for the Stepway opens on 1 January. All three are aiming to be the cheapest cars in their respective market segments.

The Sandero Stepway is a crossover version of the Sandero hatch. It features cosmetic changes such as wider wheel arches, a chrome grille, front and rear scuff plates and roof bars. It also benefits from an increase in ride height of 40mm.

It will be available with the Renault group's  0.9-litre three-cylinder petrol and 1.5-litre diesel motors. The diesel unit emits 105g/km of CO2 and does 70.6mpg while the petrol manages 52.3mpg and 125 g/km.

The Sandero Stepway is available in two trim levels: Ambiance and Lauréate.

Ambiance models get body-coloured bumpers and mirrors, Bluetooth, metallic paint and a radio/CD player.

Lauréate models are further specified with air-conditioning, full electric windows, heated door mirrors, cruise control, rear parking sensors and Dacia's MediaNav system that features sat-nav and Bluetooth audio streaming.

All Sandero and Sandero Stepway models come as standard with ESC, ABS with emergency brake assist, day-time running lights, driver, passenger and front side airbags and a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.

The Sandero Stepway range starts at £7,995, risng to £10,795. Owners have the option of extending the warranty to five-years/60,000 miles or seven-years/100,000 miles for £395 and £850 respectively.

Matthew Burrow

What happens to old road test cars?

Posted: 03 Dec 2012 05:25 AM PST

Once a road test car leaves the press fleet of a manufacturer, what happens next?

I've always wondered what it might be like to buy and actually own one of the cars that we've thrashed to within an inch of its life during a road test. What happens, for instance, if you buy a car via the dealer network in good faith, then click on YouTube and see a video of it basically going sideways for five minutes?

Do you recoil in horror then reach for the phone and demand your money back? Or do you sit back and think; wow, that's my car, then feel a strange sense of wellbeing about owning a mildly famous ex-press demonstrator?

Although I'm not 100 per cent sure I'd like to spend my money on a car that's done the rounds of the various magazines, the truth is that these particular cars are more likely to have been looked after than most. They are inspected and prepared for the next thrashing between each and every road test, and when their time as a press car is over (usually within 10k miles) they are often rebuilt and readied for their first genuine customer like no other cars would ever be.

So although they work hard during their brief but exhaustive lives as press demonstrators, these are not necessarily cars to shy away away from secondhand. Which is why it was nice to get an email from a proud Cornishman recently who just so happens to have bought the BMW 1M in which I did 11,000 miles last year.

He's "66 years young and still enjoys the buzz of driving well, getting the corners right and making progress." And despite watching numerous videos of YH11 GOX going sideways through various corners, on various roads, and on all sorts of different test tracks, he seems to be delighted with his new car. But then that's not surprising considering he's also owned 911s, several Capris, a Lotus Esprit, a Lotus Sunbeam, three Audi quattros, an E36 M3 and numerous rather terrifyingly named motorbikes.

We'll keep in touch to see how life progresses with GOX, but in the meantime, has anyone else ever knowingly bought an ex-press demonstrator? And if so, how did it go?

New Mercedes S-class: a feast for the sensors

Posted: 03 Dec 2012 04:00 AM PST

The next flagship Mercedes pioneers a new level of sensor-controlled safety tech. Here is our guide

The next Mercedes-Benz S-class will observe and react to its surroundings like no car has before, as the luxury saloon breaks new ground in automotive safety.

Each new generation of S-class has heralded new or improved safety features, including crumple zones (1959), disc brakes (1961), ABS (1978), driver's airbag (1981) and electronic stability control (1995).

Today, rival car-makers are working on the latest ground-breaking safety tech, but the S-class has a strong record of introducing life-savers both to the wider market and rival car-makers.

That's why the latest suite of new safety kit, dubbed 'Intelligent Drive' and set to be launched on the next-generation S-class, is deemed so important.

"This is the intelligent interlinking of sensors and systems to create a new dimension of motoring," says Mercedes' development boss Thomas Weber.

A fully specced new S-class will use 25 external sensors, grouped into radar, visible light, infrared and ultrasound detection functions, whose signals are aggregated and interpreted to give the car near-360deg visibility with a range of up to 500m.

The most groundbreaking of the sensors is the stereo camera, mounted by the rear-view mirror, which provides perspective of objects up to 50m in front of the car within a 45deg range.

In-house development of Intelligent Drive systems is aided by Merc's £20 million driving simulator, which is claimed by the firm to be the most dynamic of its kind in the world. Cars are placed inside the simulator's seven-tonne pod, which is then manipulated into motion as computer-generated moving images are projected on to the pod's inner walls. Hundreds of demographically diverse drivers have helped to hone the latest S-class's systems in this way.

The long-term goals are 'accident-free driving' and the 'autonomous car', although Mercedes promises neither. The next S-class's most striking new features, shown in the gallery above, clearly sketch out those endgames.

Technical highlights in full: Lane-keeping assistance

The stereo camera and radar sensors detect oncoming traffic and cars from behind pulling out to overtake. If the threat is serious, the car is diverted back into its lane by gently braking on the safe side only. It is active from 37mph to 124mph. The steering wheel also vibrates if the car wanders into an adjacent lane.

Adaptive cruise control

New Steering Assist keeps the car in lane, even on gentle bends, via stereo vision and radar. Combined with existing Distronic Plus that maintains a set gap from the car ahead via brake, throttle and gearbox control, this creates semi-autonomous following — close to a self-driving car, in other words. However, the driver still has to be in control, and this is measured by super-sensitive steering wheel metrics that detect if the driver removes his hands.

Rib airbag

The 'beltbag' has Velcro seams that are forced apart by compressed gas during frontal impacts, tripling the belt's width. The beltbag spreads forces across the internal organs and reduces the severity of injury.

Drowsiness detection

Attention Assist becomes more sensitive, partly by using new steering wheel sensors with Distronic Plus to help gauge the driver's level of alertness. Active from 37mph to 124mph, the system constantly displays its reading in five stages and triggers a visual and acoustic alarm to wake a dozy driver. It integrates with the sat-nav to display nearby rest areas on request.

Traffic sign recognition

Speed limit signs are detected by a camera mounted inside the front windscreen, then cross-referenced with limit data stored in the sat-nav. Roadside signs take priority. This includes signs on gantries as well as temporary roadworks. The system now has the ability to recognise 'no overtaking' signs and reminds the driver via the sat-nav screen.

Cross-traffic brake assistance

This combines the brake assist system with the stereo camera and radar inputs. These flag up and react to potential risks from lateral traffic, feeding in from either side. Designed to be effective in urban settings at up to 45mph, this tech is said by Mercedes to avoid impact or mitigate injury in 27 per cent of accidents that occur at junctions.

Accident anticipation

Based on stereo camera and radar sensors, it supplements pre-safe autonomous braking with pedestrian detection. Can prevent collisions at up to 31mph; up to 45mph it mitigates the impact. Also prevents rear-end shunts by flashing hazard-warning lights to a car approaching quickly from behind. Prepares brake system and seatbelts for a potential impact.

Adaptive lighting

Using more than 190 LEDs, the next S-class will be the first bulb-free car. LEDs use half the energy of xenons but are just as bright. Tail-light brightness adjusts for the conditions, while headlights maintain their cornering action and gain a fog-friendly mode. The adaptive high-beam is now capable of cutting a silhouette around other vehicles and road signs that dazzle. Improved infrared night-vision highlights pedestrians up to 160 metres away.

Jaguar remains on track for growth

Posted: 03 Dec 2012 02:14 AM PST

F-type marks the start of 'phase three' of Jaguar's growth strategy

Jaguar is now entering the third stage of three in its growth strategy according to global brand director Adrian Hallmark, a phase that includes new models and replacements for its existing line-up.

The first stage – the XK, XF and XJ being such radical replacements for their predecessors and offering something different in the marketplace – was taken under Ford ownership, said Hallmark.

The second step was increasing the appeal of these models with downsized powertrains, all-wheel drive and different bodystyles, a stage that's now complete.

Phase three said Hallmark was to "replace nameplates and to add to them. The F-type is the first not the last". Hallmark would not be drawn on specific future models or bodystyles, but admitted "lower segments are where we've got to go".

"We're in the eye of a positive storm at the moment," he said in reference to recent drivetrain and bodystle additions to the XF and XJ line-ups. "We'll be exiting the eye of the storm over the next six months, and we have to deliver tens of thousands more cars."

Jaguar sales were around 50,000 units last year, and it only covered 25 per cent of the premium market with its line-up. Hallmark said that, with new four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, a new 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with all-wheel drive optional, the XF Sportbrake and the F-type, its market coverage was now up to 48 per cent. A second shift has been added to Castle Bromwich to cope with the added demand.

"This won't quite double sales, but it shows the scale of potential [with its existing models]", he added. "It takes five years minimum for a ground-up new product, so we've looked at what we can do to fill the massive gaps in our existing line-ups.

Interest in Jaguar F-type soars

Posted: 03 Dec 2012 01:59 AM PST

New sports car is fulfilling Jaguar's aim of appealing to a younger audience

Initial expressions of interest in the new Jaguar F-type are at the same level as the Range Rover Evoque at an equivalent stage, global brand director Adrian Hallmark has revealed.

Since its reveal at the Paris motor show in September, the F-type has prompted 75,000 people to contact Jaguar and ask for more information on the car. "That's roughly the same as the Evoque at this stage," said Hallmark, "but we're aiming for less than 10 per cent of the Evoque's volume."

Hallmark said it was "too early to be definitive" in judging the F-type's early success, but "look at the visits to and the amounts of hits on YouTube and you can see it's massive".

He conceded that it was highly unlikely everyone asking for more information on the F-type was a potential buyer. "They might be 13 or 33, but what's important is that 13-year-olds weren't asking for more information on the XJ. "We're getting in the psyche of buyers and potential buyers. The F-type is so important as now as a keystone for the brand."

Video: Nissan GT-R vs Audi A1 quattro

Posted: 03 Dec 2012 01:58 AM PST

Two very different 4WD sportscars. Which is fastest?

Steve Sutcliffe finds out if a dinky Audi A1 quattro can keep pace with the mighty Nissan GT-R

LA motor show: top five production cars

Posted: 03 Dec 2012 01:00 AM PST

Our pick of the best cars appearing soon at a showroom near you

Toyota Rav4

Longer, wider and more spacious than before, the fourth generation Rav4 also brings some much needed visual excitement to the Toyota range. Material quality is up, too, and officials promise an involved driving experience, although the appearance of a Sport mode can often be a mixed blessing.Sales begin next month, with deliveries around February 2013. Despite the Car's growth in size and quality, insiders say price rises won't be too great.

VW Beetle cabriolet

UK sales may not match those in sun-drenched California, but the Beetle cabriolet remains the poster model of this cute, style-led vehicle – so much so, in fact, that chief designer Klaus Bischoff describes it as a halo model.

Those looks are complemented by a typically desirable cabin, generous standard kit and reasonably practical interior space. UK pricing will start from £18,150, and sales begin next February.

Fiat 500L Trekking

The chunky Fiat 500L is expected to go on sale early next year, although there's no word yet on when the 500L Trekking, seen for the first time in LA, will make it across The Pond.

Still, if you like the 500L's looks but want a slightly more rugged vehicle, the Trekking fills the brief, delivering family sized space in a desirable package.

Acura RLX

Why, you might wonder, would a British website place an America-only model so high on its list of most significant production cars at the Los Angeles motor show?

The answer is because the 306bhp 3.5-litre direct-injection V6 engine and Honda's Precision All-wheel Steering system will make it on to the upcoming new Honda NSX, one of the most anticipated new car launches of current times.

Ford Fiesta Ecoboost

Proof, if ever it were needed, that the world is changing rapidly, comes with the arrival on US forecourts of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine in a supermini.Insiders admit that the combination is being put on sale as much to shout Ford's environmental leadership and cutting edge technology as it is to shift stock, but the significance of this launch should not be played down; nor, judging by our first drive review of the Ford Fiesta Ecoboost, should the quality of the product itself.

Audi plots hardcore TT ‘GT3’

Posted: 03 Dec 2012 01:00 AM PST

Trick coupé set to crown next-generation TT range; lighter Q7 and diesel hybrid hypercar planned, too

A lightweight, high-performance Audi TT features among three advanced new models awaiting the green light from company bosses.

The exciting variant of the next-generation TT is seen by insiders as an extreme 'GT3' performance version to sit at the top of the coupé's range.

"The TT is an iconic car for Audi and has a very interesting future," said Wolfgang Dürheimer, Audi's new head of technical development.

The hot model would be a 'multi-material' version of the next TT. It is being designed around a 1000kg kerb weight target, even though it will get a five-cylinder engine, all-wheel drive and a roll cage.

Details of the powertrain remain secret, although the obvious one to use would be the turbocharged five-cylinder unit that will power the next-generation TT RS. In current 2.5-litre capacity, this engine produces 335bhp.

Based on the new, transverse-engined MQB platform, the TT GT3 will save weight with components and body panels made from lightweight steel, aluminium and carbonfibre. Audi could use a new type of injection-moulded carbonfibre capable of forming a component in just two and a half minutes.

Inspiration for the TT GT3, which is thought to be at least three years from the showroom, is understood to have partly come from the 2010 Quattro concept, which used a longitudinal engine layout and part-alloy multi-material chassis construction.

Dürheimer also hinted at other high-tech projects, including a 282mpg, four-seat city car and a Le Mans-inspired diesel-electric hypercar to sit above the R8. Also in the pipeline are a new Q7 that is said to be 350kg lighter than the current car, and at least one more coupé-like SUV to slot between the Q3 and Q5. A sub-Q3 SUV is also possible.

Describing the 282mpg model (known internally as the '1-litre car'), Dürheimer said it will be based on the platform of the current A1 and will be an "affordable" full four-seater that offers "all the creature comforts of a normal car, including climate control".

Details are still sketchy, but it promises to be the most economical family car ever sold. It will also feature electrical assistance, but not the two-cylinder diesel engine seen in the Volkswagen XLR-1 prototype.

Dürheimer says the 1-litre car can use a modified steel platform from the A1, "because weight is not the biggest engineering challenge".

However, the interior and suspension are likely to be radically lighter than normal.

Book-ending the top of the Audi range could be a new V8 diesel hybrid hypercar. Sitting above the R8 and potentially badged R10, it is intended to be a road-going mirror of Audi's Le Mans-winning R18 e-tron quattro.

That car used electricity generated from a flywheel system that powered an electric motor in each front wheel to improve performance when exiting corners at speeds above 75mph.

The 2014 Q7 is expected to benefit from a multi-material version of Audi's MLB platform that mixes steel, aluminium and carbonfibre and uses new bonding techniques to help pare 200kg out of the shell. The next Porsche Cayenne and future Bentley Continental and SUV are likely to benefit, too.

Autocar has also established that a prototype Bentley Flying Spur powered by a V8 diesel has been under assessment at the maker's Crewe HQ.

First drive review: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Posted: 02 Dec 2012 04:05 PM PST

Easygoing Outlander range-extender is refreshingly usable and uncompromised for everyday family use A different kind of plug-in hybrid: this is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which Autocar has been given a world-exclusive first drive in.Why different? We'll let the man from Mitsubishi explain. "If the next generation of battery-powered cars is ever going to become truly mainstream, it's vital that they become ordinary," he said. "The handful of plug-in hybrids that we've seen thus far have been showcase cars; four-wheeled statements of technological advancement for their manufacturers, and of environmental awareness for their drivers, rather than practical, usable family machines for everyone."Ours is different," he insisted, before handing us the keys to a near-finished prototype. Just as we were, you're probably inclined to dismiss all that as marketing waffle, but the car itself does actually live up to the billing.

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