Friday, January 11, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

New Mercedes A-class becomes most frugal Merc yet

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 06:35 AM PST

The A180 CDI BlueEfficiency has become the most fuel-efficient Mercedes yet

Mercedes has announced its most fuel-efficient car yet. The Mercedes A180 CDI BlueEfficiency records CO2 emissions of 92g/km and a claimed 78mpg.

These figures, significantly improved over the standard A180 CDI on which it is based, are as a result of a host of aerodynamic changes — including aerodynamically shaped spring link coverings, lower suspension and partial covering of the radiator grille. 

A revised transmission now gives longer gear ratios, and the engine management system has been altered. 

Mercedes has also announced an efficiency-focused petrol version. The A180 BlueEfficiency claims 120g/km and 54mpg.

Mercedes says there are no immediate plans to bring either A-class variants to the UK. The models will go on sale in Europe on 1 February.

Holly Stevenson

2013 Brussels motor show gallery

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 04:51 AM PST

A selection of the best metal on display at the Brussels motor show

The 2013 Brussels motor show is currently underway. Held biannually since 1905, the show is now in its 90th edition. Amongst a raft of motor shows this month, including the events in Detroit and Tokyo, the Brussels motor show is a good opportunity to view all the new metal we have to look forward to in 2013.

While there are no brand new product unveilings, a number of important cars are on display, including the new Jaguar F-Type, which is poised for its showroom debut this summer. More performance machinery is making an appearance in the form of the Audi SQ5, Renaultsport Clio and Nissan Juke Nismo.

The BMW Active Tourer concept is also here. Previewing new wave of front-wheel-drive BMWs, it will eventually be followed by a production Z2 roadster.

Also on display are a number of cars that won't be coming to the UK, such as the Renault Clio estate and Vauxhall Insignia saloon.

The motor shows are coming thick and fast, with the North American International show kicking off on Monday in Detroit and the Tokyo Auto Salon, which opened today. The Autocar team will be there reporting on all the latest product launches and content cars. Check the motor show hubs for updates.

Daljinder Nagra

Tokyo Auto Salon: full picture gallery

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 04:43 AM PST

Madcap Japanese tuning houses rub shoulders with major manufacturers at Japan's most extreme motor show

The Japanese car industry gets to let its hair down at the Tokyo Auto Salon, Japan's equivalent of America's SEMA show, where major manufacturers share space with extreme customising outfits.

Japan's five biggest car companies all turned out for the show, each bringing highly tuned race-oriented versions of standard road cars – highlights include Honda's Mugen tuned N-One city car and Nissan's Nismo Leaf.

The Toyota GT86 was, predictably, the car of the show, with dozens of modified examples from the hardcore (Gazoo Racing's twin charged Sports FR Concept) to the completely restyled (the rebodied 86 x Style Cb). The Sports FR, with the addition of a supercharger and a turbo, makes 326bhp, and was conceived as an homage to the last Toyota Supra - it features Supra-inspired front and rear lights, and a big rear wing.

Toyota also showed a GT86 modified by tuning outft TOMS, with a 400bhp 3.5-litre V6 replacing the standard four-cylinder engine.

Mazda concentrated on diesel power, with a 6 and a CX-5 equipped with its new 2.2-litre four-cylinder. The CX-5 was fitted with carbon panels, while the 6 (shown as a Tourer and a saloon) was modified with a bodykit and 20-inch alloys. Mazda also wheeled out its Le Mans racer for 2013, powered by the same 2.2-litre four.

Nissan used the show to launch the new Juke Nismo in Japan, where it goes on sale in February. It also announced a customisation programme for the Juke and showed a Nismo modified Leaf, with a body kit designed to improve the car's efficiency.

First drive review: Volkswagen Passat Highline estate

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 02:54 AM PST

SE-replacement trim gives the refined Passat more standard kit The Passat is the consummate estate. When Volkswagen signed off the seventh-generation car in 2011, we were happy to give it a worthy four stars and second billing to the Mondeo. The reason the Ford takes top honours for us is that it offers more of a driving experience than the smooth-riding Volkswagen.Little has happened since, apart from VW introducing this Highline spec (for both estates and saloons) in place of SE, which bows out as the Passat's best-selling trim option.

New Renault Scenic to get SUV variant

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 02:37 AM PST

2014 Scenic range will include an SUV with "genuine off-road capability"

Renault has begun testing of its next-generation Scenic ahead of a planned introduction in 2014. The chassis mule gives little away about the styling of the new Scenic, but Renault previewed its intentions for the new family MPV with the R-Space concept at the 2011 Geneva motor show.

The new Scenic is set to be joined by a Nissan Qashqai-sized SUV as a sister car.

Renault marketing chief Steve Norman has previously confirmed that the firm needs something "a bit more sturdy with genuine off-road capability" in the Scenic range to sit between the Mégane and Laguna, in response to changing market trends.

Hyundai names new WRC boss

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 01:19 AM PST

Multiple world rally championship winning technical director Michel Nandan to head up Hyundai's renewed assault on the sport

Hyundai has appointed multiple World Rally Championship winning technical director Michel Nandan to spearhead its assault on the sport.

Most famously, Nandan headed the engineering team at Peugeot from 1999-2005, during which time it won three manufacturers' world championships. Subsequently he headed up Suzuki's ill-fated and brief foray into the highest level of the sport with its SX4-based rally car.

Hyundai will enter the WRC on one event this year, before launching a full assault on the championship in 2014. A version of its Hyundai i20 WRC car has already been developed in Korea and been tested in Europe. Henceforth, however, the team will be based in Germany, and run under a new company subsidiary, Hyundai Motorsport GmbH.

"We are deliberately using an interim version of the i20 to carry out important component testing and to  ensure that we have done our homework before we enter competition," said Nandan. "This will continue throughout 2013."

Nandan said that a decision on drivers for the team would be made during this year.

"Hyundai is back in the WRC not just to compete, but to win," said Tak Uk Im, executive vice president and COO of Hyundai Motor. "Our experience will translate directly into performance and handling improvements in our road-going vehicles."

Hyundai previously competed in the WRC with limited success from 2000-2003, and withdrew from the sport under a cloud when it was fined heavily by its governing body for not completing its final season.












Five new Caterham Sevens due by 2015

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 01:00 AM PST

Forthcoming models include back-to-basics version "priced to excite"

Caterham plans to launch five new Seven-based models before its new coupé arrives in 2015.

The CSR will receive its first major update since its launch in 2005, but the big news this year will be a 40th anniversary Seven that "will take us back to our roots", according to commercial chief David Ridley.

There is a feeling at Caterham that the focus falls currently on big ticket cars like the R500 and not enough on the kind of affordable, basic Sevens that built the car's reputation in the first place. As a result, said Ridley, the stripped-out anniversary model will be "priced to excite".

Ridley didn't rule anything out — not even a return to a live rear axle configuration as used by all Sevens until 1984 — and the model could bring back the Sprint name.

Honda to cut 800 UK jobs

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 12:46 AM PST

The announcement follows what Honda describes as "sustained conditions of low demand in European markets".

Honda has announced it will cut 800 jobs from its UK operations by this spring.

The announcement follows what Honda describes as "sustained conditions of low demand in European markets". It describes the moves as necessary in order to ensure the long-term stability of its future business.

"Honda remains fully committed for the long-term to its UK and European manufacturing operations," said Ken Keir, Executive Vice President, Honda Motor Europe. "However, these conditions of sustained low industry demand require us to take difficult decisions. We are setting the business constitution at the right level to ensure long term stability and security."

Honda's plant in Swindon has capacity to build 250,000 cars a year, but last year built just 166,000.

Honda's UK sales rose 7.18 per cent last year, but its market share fell slightly to 2.61 per cent, despite the full launch of its all-new Honda Civic. UK sales struggles have been reflected throughout Europe.

Autosport International show gallery

Posted: 10 Jan 2013 10:58 AM PST

Autosport International, the biggest racing car show in the UK, got underway at Birmingham's National Exhbibition Centre today and Autocar was there to soak up the atmosphere

The 2013 edition of the Autosport International show is underway in the vast halls of Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre, and Autocar has been treading the show floor to bring you all the highlights from the first trade day.

Despite the lingering economic doom and gloom, there was a distinct air of optimism at the event. Autosport International's subtitle is 'The Racing Car Show', but that monicker barely does justice to the rich and varied fare on offer for keen show goers.

As well as the ubiquitous racing cars, there are supercars, land speed record machines, karts, grass track racers and do-it-yourself kit cars. On top of that, Autosport Engineering plays host to a huge array of the kind of niche manufacturing companies that form the prosperous backbone of the automotive industry in Britain and Europe, and the Performance Car Show put together by our colleagues at Pistonheads offers plenty of interest for those who prefer their high-performance cars to be of the road legal variety.

The main Autosport stage hosted the unveiling of M-Sport's 2013-spec Ford Fiesta WRC, the car that will do battle in the opening round of the World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo next week. Star river Mads Ostberg and team boss Malcolm Wilson were optimistic about the car's prospects in the 2013 WRC, despite the withdrawal of Ford's factory support at the end of last year.

Joining the Fiesta WRC on the main stage were Jason Plato's MG 6 touring car and the monstrous Bentley Continental GT3 sports car, the latter enjoying its official UK debut.

Directly opposite the main stage, Radical drew the crowds as it unveiled its new RXC, designed to be a sports car that's equally at home on the road as it is on the track. It is Radical's most road-biased project yet, and company boss Phil Abbott was bubbling with enthusiasm for the new venture. He told Autocar that three deposits had been taken before the stunning coupé had even been officially unveiled.

Other British marques were out in force. Ariel revealed it's latest Atom 3.5, which Autocar has already snaffled a drive of, while the full production version of the rare Noble M600 Carbon Sports was also shown to the public for the first time.

Autocar's own stand featured a mini-exclusive in the shape of the svelte Mastretta MXT, a sports car that's been in development for a while but should hit our roads near the end of this year. We also showed off some of our favourites from 2012, including the Morgan 3-Wheeler, Subaru BRZ, Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series.

Autosport International hosts a second trade-only day tomorrow, before the NEC's doors are thrown open to the public on Saturday and Sunday. To book your tickets call 0844 338 0338 or visit

Geneva motor show: Renault Captur

Posted: 10 Jan 2013 10:07 AM PST

New small crossover gets Renault Clio styling and engines, and will be aiming for sales success to match the Nissan Juke

Renault has turned to the Clio for styling inspiration for its new compact crossover, the Captur. The Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008 rival will get a Geneva motor show unveil in March and UK launch in late spring.

The Captur takes its name from a radically styled concept car that starred at the 2011 Geneva show. The ethos and name of the concept carry over to production, rather than any radical features such as the concept's scissor doors.

The looks of the Captur are familiar though from the Clio, featuring the new fourth-generation supermini's bold front-end and sculpted side surfaces. However, Renault says the Captur is a model its own right distinct from the Clio, and will be sold and marketed separately from the staple supermini.

Underpinning the front-drive Captur is Renault-Nissan's familiar 'B' platform, which underpins a whole host of models as diverse as the Renault Clio and Nissan Juke.

At 4120mm in length, the Captur is just 15mm shorter than a Juke. Despite the close relationship in size and underpinnings between the pair of small crossovers, they have been engineered apart from each other and are built in separate factories.

But one part of the Juke Renault will be hoping to replicate is the smash hit sales success the Nissan has been in the booming small crossover segment. Renault hopes it will be bringing something unique to the segment by offering a high-level of customisation for both the exterior and interior.

All the now familiar class hallmarks are evident with the Captur: body cladding, raised ground clearance and a raised driving position.

Engines will be borrowed from the Clio, and will include the latest 89bhp 0.9-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol and 89bhp 1.5-litre turbodiesel units CO2 emissions will be as low as 96g/km in the diesel, while fuel economy is claimed to be best in class.

New cars 2013: executive cars

Posted: 10 Jan 2013 09:00 AM PST

2013 will provide everything the well heeled executive could need, from £30k BMWs to £200k Rolls-Royce coupés

While much of the motoring world's favour is switching from saloons and coupés to SUVs and crossovers, there is one area in which the traditional three-box shape is thriving: the executive market.

From new versions of familiar faces, such as the Mercedes S-class and Bentley Continental Flying Spur, to all new players like the BMW 4-series and 3-series GT, its an exciting time to be in the market for a luxury four-seater.

Here is our guide to the best 2013 has to offer.

Rolls-Royce Ghost coupé, Autumn

Cor, that looks good. Assuming, that is, that it looks like this come the Geneva motor show, when Rolls-Royce will pull the covers off the Ghost coupé for the first time.

The company is committed to launching a new model every year, and this will be 2013's. Following its unveiling in March, it should be crunching its way up some lengthy gravel driveways by the autumn.

Expect it to be fast, gentlemanly and understated (relatively speaking, compared with the Phantom coupé). In some respects it'll be the most driver-focused Rolls-Royce yet.

To that end, it doesn't need to be 5.4m long or have a 3.3m wheelbase like the Ghost saloon, but it'll be big enough to seat four in comfort and have a sizeable boot. A Toyota GT86 this is not. Not even a Bentley Continental GT, come to think of it.

To befit the traditional coupé role, the two-door Ghost will have to be faster than the saloon. And given that a four-door Ghost has 563bhp and 575lb ft of torque and can hit 60mph in 4.7sec, the coupé will need to have some pretty phenomenal statistics. Even a 10 per cent increase will put it over 600bhp.

Still, taking the twin-turbocharged 6.6-litre V12 to those levels doesn't sound like it'll overstress the lump. The current power peak is made at 5250rpm — high revs for a big motor, but nothing it can't handle. If the revised unit makes more than 600bhp at the same revs, the laws of engine outputs say it'll make in excess of 600lb ft, too, while the turbos will ensure the peak is at a much lower, wooflier, waftier engine speed. An eight-speed automatic gearbox will, as now, sort out the delivery.

We don't know much about the interior yet but, apart from a decrease in rear volume, don't expect major changes. My money's on details like a thicker wheel rim and more cuddly seats. And although the Phantom coupé is cheaper than the Phantom saloon, that doesn't necessarily follow here. Rolls-Royce is still coy even about the car's existence, let alone its price, but you're unlikely to see much change out of £200,000.

Maserati Quattroporte, June

It may look familiar, but this Quattroporte is all new. It's bigger, for a start,with a more spacious cabin and boot as a result. New Ferrari-built twin-turbo engines feature: a 523bhp 3.8-litre V8 and a 407bhp 3.0-litre V6. All-wheel drive is optional, although not in the UK. A diesel engine is under consideration.

This new £100,000 Quattroporte is an important car for Maserati. It's the first and largest model of three in the works to boost the firm's annual sales to 50,000 units. We'll have to wait until early next year to see the Levante SUV, but a smaller 5-series-rivalling saloon, the Ghibli, is tipped to be launched at Frankfurt in September before going on sale in the UK later in the autumn.

Aston Martin Rapide, Summer

This one hasn't been confirmed, but the test mules that spent the summer pounding around the Nürburgring revealed that changes are afoot for the Rapide saloon.

A more powerful V12 engine is the key development on the facelift spec sheet, but the extra grunt will be accompanied by a shift on the marketing front. Rather than being billed as a four-door performance saloon, the Rapide is instead likely to end up being marketed as a sports car with added practicality.

Lexus IS, Summer

Toyota's luxury arm will have another crack at the likes of the BMW 3-series and Audi A4 with its all-new Lexus IS, which we'll get to see in full later this month at the Detroit motor show.

A sharper new look is promised, but the big news is the engine line-up. Two ISs will be offered in the UK: a V6 petrol for the IS250 and a new diesel-trumping IS300h hybrid model. This mates a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine to an electric motor for a CO2 rating that's promised to come in at a class-leading sub-100g/km.

Mercedes-benz S-class, Winter

The current king of the full-size executive limos will be revealed in its sixth generation in the summer, before going on sale by the end of the year.

The launch of any new S-class is less about the looks and the engine and chassis improvements, and more about the new technology. And, as ever, a feast of new gizmos will be offered. Sensor-controlled safety tech is the biggest innovation this time around, with the S-class in effect having the ability to read and react to the road conditions ahead.

BMW 3-series GT, Spring

The five-door liftback 3-series GT is the first new 3-series body style since the short-lived Compact of 1994. Its wheelbase will be 110mm longer than the 3-series saloon's, with engines taken from the four-door.

The 3GT will offer more luggage space than a 3-series Touring and more rear legroom than a 5-series Touring while retaining the saloon's dynamics. Expect prices to start around £1000 higher than the equivalent 3-series Touring.

Infiniti Q50, Autumn

Bearing a new name with the 'Q' prefix that all Infinitis will use in future, this replacement for the G37 saloon will be previewed at Detroit. The production version will be shown at Geneva in March and will reach the UK in the autumn.

The Q50 will be "much sportier and more dynamic than the current car", according to Infiniti design chief Shiro Nakamura. Also promised are Mercedes-sourced four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. These are much needed in Europe, as the BMW 3-series rival has only ever been offered with a petrol V6.

BMW 4-series, Winter

The long-rumoured 4-series name will finally appear on a BMW towards the end of the year when the 4-series Coupé Concept becomes a reality.

Breaking free from the 3-series name, the new 4-series coupé and cabriolet will get their own, distinct styling, selected engines and more premium positioning. Next year we'll see another first in the BMW range: an M4. M versions of the 4-series coupé and cabrio will share their twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six with the M3.

Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Winter

The overhaul of Bentley's range will be complete at the end of the year when a heavily revised Flying Spur is launched. The car will be more of a clever reskin and re-engineering of the current Flying Spur than an all-new model, but it is by no means insignificant to Bentley.

The sporty four-door remains the firm's biggest seller, particularly in China, where owners like to be chauffeur driven. That means the Flying Spur will not sacrifice cabin space or comfort in the pursuit of sportiness, despite sleeker styling. Many of the updates will centre on the interior, including higher-grade mouldings, instruments, switchgear and materials.

Improving ride quality and refinement is also high on the agenda for Bentley. Engines will include the new 4.0-litre V8 and a refresh of the venerable W12, which will also be offered with a mighty 616bhp in range-topping Speed guise.

One for 2014: Mercedes C-class

The new C-class is pencilled in for launch at next year's Geneva show. It must raise its game to challenge the latest 3-series, so greater visual drama is promised, as are more powerful, more efficient engines and improved dynamics. The C63 AMG will get a new turbo 4.0 V8.

Quick news: Chevron Cars changes hands

Posted: 10 Jan 2013 08:03 AM PST

Chevron Cars under new ownership and Smart announces a special edition Fortwo

Chevron Cars limited, the race-car company responsible for the Chevron GT cars, has been purchased by businessman and GT Cup racer David Witt. The company will relocate to newly equipped workshops in Crewe.

Smart has launched a new special edition of its Fortwo model, called Cityflame. Finished in a choice of bright yellow or black, with a similarly styled interior, it is available in both coupé and cabriolet body styles. Equipped as standard with a panoramic sunroof and automatic gearbox, the Cityflame goes on sale in Europe in April, priced from €14,490 (about £10,900).

Holly Stevenson

What would you do with the millionaire boy racers?

Posted: 10 Jan 2013 06:17 AM PST

Did anyone watch Channel 4's documentary on millionaire boy racers last week? If so, what's the solution?

In case you missed it, C4's documentary was all about what happens in Knightsbridge nowadays during the summer months, when the local residents are "terrorized" by an influx of supercars, most of which are driven by young lads from the Middle East who come to London for a good time.

This involves putting their Aventadors and 458s on aeroplanes and flying them to the UK so that they can treat the streets of Knightsbridge as their own private race track. And despite being filmed endlessly doing burnouts and having drag races along Sloane Street and the like, the local police seem reluctant to do much about it. Which is why the residents are understandably up in arms.

The reason why the "millionaire boy racers" are allowed to get away with their antics, of course, is because they bring tanker loads of cash with them, which they then spend in our shops and our nightclubs – the inference being that because they inject so much capital into the local economy, they can do pretty much what they like on our roads, without much interference from the police.

On the one hand I find this a touch disturbing. It certainly makes me feel like telling the authorities where they can stick it the next time I get pinged by a mobile speed camera for doing 8mph more than I should.

But on the other hand, most of the lads featured in the documentary were fairly harmless. No guns or knives were brandished by any of them, no aggressive references to the Koran were made at any stage. No one got hurt during the filming of the documentary. In truth, there was an awful lot more noise on show than there was pure speed.

And yet the residents of Knightsbridge were quite clearly unchuffed by their boisterous behaviour. The solution? A London Grand Prix.

Mr Ecclestone might not like it (Bernie has stated publicly that he believes the idea of a London GP to be ridiculous), but if it paid for itself, he might think otherwise. And pay for itself it would if the lads from the UAE were charged, say, £5million per lap to show off for an hour or so on race day morning – and in complete safety – just before the GP itself kicked off.

Everyone would go home happy. The residents could retire to Sandbanks for the weekend, happy in the knowledge that when they return, the circus will have gone home. The youth of the UAE would get to display its skills – and its uniquely painted supercars – in front of a welcoming crowd. And the crowd itself would get to see not only Vettel & Co screaming through the streets of London for the afternoon, but also some of the rarest, most desirable road cars on the planet, all gathered in one place for the first and perhaps only time all year.

There's one caveat, though. When the London GP is over, the local police will need to make it crystal clear to our comrades from the UAE that doing 110mph drifts along Sloane street is not an especially clever idea, and that it will book them a seat on the next plane home immediately if they persist.

Treat them like the rest of us, in other words, and everything will be OK. Treat them like royalty, on the other hand, and the mayhem will escalate. And then eventually someone really will get hurt.

Power upgrade for Mercedes CLS63 AMG

Posted: 10 Jan 2013 04:11 AM PST

More power and a range-topping S model for Mercedes' performance exec

The Mercedes CLS63 AMG has been given a mild power upgrade, with peak power lifted from 518bhp to 549bhp.

Despite the extra performance, CO2 emissions and fuel consumption remain unchanged. Mercedes claims the 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged motor is the most efficient series production V8 currently available.

A new range-topping S version has also been introduced, sporting 577bhp and Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel drive system, which is now available as an optional extra across the CLS AMG range.

While limited to a top speed of 155mph, the CLS63 AMG S will cover the 0-62mph sprint in 3.6 seconds, an improvement of 0.6 seconds over the standard car.

S models also come fitted as standard with a rear locking differential, something which was previously only available in conjunction with an optional performance pack.

While the S model has been confirmed for the German market, there is as yet no confirmation as to whether they will be made available in the UK.

Daljinder Nagra

Detroit motor show: Nissan Resonance concept

Posted: 09 Jan 2013 04:58 AM PST

A new show car confirms the replacement for the Nissan Murano SUV

The next generation Nissan Murano will be previewed by this concept, called Resonance, at the Detroit motor show, and Nissan is promising a design that will be as surprising as the original car's.

This image from Nissan hints at a low-roofed SUV with a very pronounced shoulder line and wrap around rear lights. The Resonance will be fitted with a petrol electric hybrid powertrain.

The production Murano won't go on sale until 2014, although we're likely to see the final vehicle later this year. Nissan is moving production of the Murano from Japan to its Canton plant in Mississippi in the face of increasing costs in Japan and a stubbornly high yen.

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