Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Detroit motor show 2013: Ford Atlas concept

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 06:49 AM PST

New, more efficient pick-up looks to the future of America's biggest seller

This concept pick-up previews the new look of America's biggest selling vehicle, the Ford F-150, and points towards a new generation of more efficient pick-up trucks.

Although it looks like the archetypal American pick-up, the Ford Atlas is fitted with active aerodynamic technology and stop-start to improve fuel consumption. It uses shutters to close off the gaps in-between the grille slats and wheel spokes, running boards that fold under the body while the truck is moving and an air dam that drops down at cruising speed.

It's powered by what Ford describes as a "next generation" EcoBoost engine, which has a stop-start system that will not shut off the engine while the Atlas is towing.

The tailgate has a pull-up support for long loads that would otherwise have to sit in the load bed at an angle, resting on the cab. There are also pull out ramps hidden under the load bed, LED work lights at the rear and a 360-degree bird's-eye view camera to help manoeuvre the Atlas where access is restricted.

The new F-150 is expected to go on sale in 2014. It's the biggest selling pick-up in North America, a position it has held for 36 years; last year Ford sold over 645,000 F-Series pick-ups, a 10 per cent increase on 2011. 

Detroit motor show: Lexus IS

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 06:30 AM PST

Sub-100g/km hybrid replaces diesel for next generation Lexus IS

Lexus will not offer the new IS with a diesel engine, replacing it with a petrol-electric hybrid that the firm claims will emit less than 100g/km of CO2. The new car, which has been unveiled at the Detroit motor show, goes on sale in the UK this summer.

The IS will be powered by either a 2.5-litre petrol V6 in the IS 250 or a combination of a 2.5-litre four-cylinder and electric motor in the IS 300h. The hybrid system is used in the Japanese market Toyota Crown – in that car the engine produces 163lb ft and 175bhp, and the motor makes 141bhp and 221lb ft. Combined, the system produces 217bhp and Lexus is aiming for fuel consumption of over 65mpg.

Both the IS 250 and 300h are rear-wheel drive, with the 250 driving the wheels though a six-speed auto, while the hybrid uses a CVT. The front double wishbone suspension is a revised version of the last IS's, while the rear is a multi-link system borrowed from the Lexus GS. The IS also uses the GS's Drive Mode Select software.

F Sport models now get different styling to distinguish them from the standard IS, with a different grille and bumper. Suspension and steering are retuned, and F Sports can be had with optional Adaptive Variable Suspension. Its Drive Mode system gains a fourth setting, too. 

The car is slightly wider, longer and taller than the outgoing model, with a 70mm longer wheelbase. Lexus claims this give the IS more room for rear passengers and class-leading rear knee room, while boot size has increased to 480 litres. The hybrid loses 30 litres of boot space.

The cabin design is closely related to the LF CC concept car's, with its high centre console, analogue clock, wide air vents and touch sensitive controls.

Detroit motor show: Nissan Resonance concept

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 06:26 AM PST

New SUV concept previews the next Murano and elements of the upcoming Qashqai replacement

Nissan is offering a glimpse at its future crossover models at the Detroit motor show with a new concept car called Resonance.

The Nissan Resonance, designed by the firm's Californian design studio, is said by insiders to be 70 per cent representative of the next-generation Murano next year, with some of the more exaggerated details set to be toned down rather than the basic shape to be changed drastically.

The 4840mm-long Resonance also has features, including its front grille and 'boomerang' headlights, that will carryover to the next Qashqai, which is also due in 2014.

Nissan boss Andy Palmer believes Nissan is once again redefining crossovers, as it did with the Qashqai. "We want to maintain our global leadership in crossover sales, and this concept showcases our plans to redefine the sector again.

"We want cars for people with an optimistic outlook and this edgy yet sophisticated design inside and out delivers that. It is confident and expressive, and that defines our crossover philosophy."

Nissan points out the Flare Orange-coloured concept's 'floating roof' as one of its more striking features, a full-length glass roof supported by sharply raked A-pillars and softer D-pillars.

Nissan has turned to space travel for inspiration for the concept's interior, imagining how first-class space travel might look. Light, hand-stitched leathers feature alongside wood and metal trim. The centre console is dominated by a large integrated touchscreen that controls all of the car's major functions.

The all-wheel-drive Resonance is powered by a petrol-electric hybrid system that includes Nissan's next-generation CVT.The drivetrain mates a 2.5-litre petrol engine to an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack.

HMV today, tomorrow your showroom…

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 06:21 AM PST

If HMV can't survive in a world of online shopping, what hope is there for your local car showroom?

For those of us who love to browse and buy records in the real world, the imminent passing of HMV was not only sad but also inconvenient; I really don't want to spend any time in M&S looking at undies when there is Scritti Politti CD artwork to be admired. It was also inevitable. That's because the majority of music buyers live online and would rather get it for free or from one of those interweb shops. Things change, which makes me wonder just how long the expensive, outdated, overstaffed local car showroom actually has left.

When I was growing up, our modest high street had a BL showroom and the same company, The Ray Powell Group, rather excitingly had a speedboat showroom too. Those outlets ceased to exist decades before the web came to be, mostly because not enough people bought Montegos, or outboard motors. Certainly car showrooms have mostly moved to large retail parks in out-of-town locations, which makes sense for parking and convenience. Also, because motor dealers like to cluster, it is possible to look at several marques at once.

Now, a car is a big ticket purchase, so we like to stroke and touch before talking part exchanges and contract hire detail. Certainly a return to the high street is not out of the question. Some manufacturers are certainly rich enough to have boutiques for us to browse in, such as Mini. I do, though, question the whole concept of the traditional showroom for the mass market when we already do so much research and comparison online. Surely all we need are regional test drive hubs or self-employed local reps to come to us?

I have all the details in a portfolio that I will sell to the highest bidder. In the meantime, would you miss your local dealer? So is a car showroom like HMV for petrolheads?

Electric tech on small cars “nonsensical”

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 03:22 AM PST

Ex-GM boss Bob Lutz downplays the importance of small electric passenger cars, including the Chevrolet Volt he helped create

Bob Lutz, one of the masterminds behind the Chevrolet Volt, has said that he now considers the ground-breaking range-extender technology to be wasted in a family car-sized vehicle.

While at GM Lutz championed the cause of the Volt, and was instrumental in pushing the technology through. Its creation was also a key part of GM's bargaining package when it asked President Obama's administration for financial aid during the economic crisis, since it allowed GM to pledge investment in environmental technology.

However, Lutz, who is currently involved in a project to bring electric trucks, pick-ups and SUVs to market with a new American firm called Via, now believes that range-extender technology would have been better showcased in larger vehicles first.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, and we shouldn't forget that the Volt and sister car Opel Ampera are the world's best-selling electric car, but the truth is that even then it's not meeting sales expectations, and that's because most customers don't want to pay out a major expense for the technology to make minor savings.

"Frankly, unless that customer is philosophically, religiously or economically affiliated to buying an electric vehicle, then they can't be convinced. The first two types of buyer will buy whatever's built, but the latter is a harder case. The obvious answer is to electrify as big a vehicle as you can, because that's where the fuel and running cost savings make the most sense.

"If I had my time again at GM then I would have started with the Cadillac Escalade for the range-extender technology, and brought the Volt in later. The more gas-guzzling the vehicle, the more economic sense of electrifying it. Car companies need to get their minds on that: electrifying an Opel Corsa that uses virtually no fuel anyway and then lumping a huge premium on it to cover the battery costs is nonsensical. Why bother? It uses virtually no fuel anyway."

The first Via truck is expected to go on sale in mid-2014, using an electric motor coupled to a 402bhp 4.3-litre V6. It will travel 40 miles on electric power alone and is expected to cost twice the price of a conventionally powered equivalent. However Lutz says the running costs mean the price of ownership over the vehicle's lifetime will be substantially less than a standard vehicle.

Honda NSX images leak out

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 03:19 AM PST

Pictures show concept's production ready interior for the first time

Honda will take the covers off the latest NSX concept car at the Detroit show today, but images of the car and its interior have already been leaked.

Essentially a lightly tweaked version of the NSX concept shown at last year's Detroit show, the new car gets a proper interior for the first time. The leaked image shows what appears to be a near production ready cabin, with big carbon fibre struts running from the dash into the centre console.

The NSX is expected to go into production in 2014 and will be built in the US, where most of the car's development will also be carried out. The car will use a V6 coupled to an electric motor to drive the front wheels, and electric motors driving the rear wheels to give four-wheel drive.

What do Skoda, Miss USA 1958 and an Austin Healey 3000 have in common?

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 02:16 AM PST

It's refreshing to find that Skoda's top man not only has a deep understanding of his company, but is a keen car enthusiast too

Anglophiles are everywhere, often where you least expect them. One was uncovered at the Skoda Octavia launch last night, as a gaggle of English motoring hacks joined the Czech manufacturer's big boss, Winfried Vahland, for dinner.

I can't say the subject of what the Skoda chief keeps in his garage had really occupied me much beforehand, although after he'd told us that he runs a brace of Skoda Superbs and has access to most cars from within the Volkswagen Group, he revealed the other motors he owns.

It turns out that Vahland keeps an Austin-Healey 3000 and a Jaguar E-type in his garage, and the classics aren't just for show, either. "I drive them, not collect them," he told us.

It's always reassuring to learn that car companies have genuine motoring enthusiasts at their helms, rather than corporate bean counters.

Vahland has good reason to feel quite contented right now. His company recorded a global sales increase of almost seven per cent last year, despite the lingering economic gloom, and is rolling out new and revamped models at a pace that few rivals can match.

Those products have never been stronger, and cars such as the outgoing Mk2 Octavia and much-praised Yeti SUV have attracted knowledgeable buyers who recognise the marque's strengths of selling solid, honest, well specced cars at competitive prices.

Vahland is knowledgeable about Skoda's past as well as its present. Later in the evening, one of our number quizzed him about Skoda's absence in the US. He told us that Skoda did sell cars to the States once, back in the late 1950s when the manufacturer's home was Czechoslovakia and still behind the Iron Curtain.

Skoda was one of the few Eastern Bloc manufacturers to attempt to sell cars to the US during the Cold War. It felt that the cabriolet version of the original Skoda Felicia would find favour with sun-blessed Americans.

To generate Stateside publicity for the Felicia, in 1958 Skoda flew Charlotte Sheffield, the reigning Miss USA, to Prague for a promotional photo shoot with the Felicia.

As many as 1500 orders for the Felicia were made in the US, but only 408 examples made it across the Atlantic.

Skoda hasn't forgotten its history; late last year the manufacturer's brand new auto museum was completed, and Miss USA 1958 was invited to join Vahland and Skoda's other chiefs at the official opening ceremony.

As the Octavia launch begins today, Vahland will join us in sampling one of his company's newest cars on the roads of southern Portugal. He comes across as a man who is quietly and reassuringly aware of both Skoda's legacy and its current raison d'etre – and he has exquisite taste in classic cars to boot.

Detroit motor show: Nissan Leaf price cut

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 02:11 AM PST

The US market Nissan Leaf, revealed at the Detroit motor show, is now 18 per cent cheaper

The American specification Nissan Leaf, revealed at the Detroit motor show, will go on sale later this year with an 18 per cent price reduction - meaning a starting price of $28,800 (£18,000) rather than the current model's $35,200 (£22,000).

Nissan says the latest generation Leaf, which will be built in the US in Tennessee, will be sold with a warranty covering battery capacity loss for the first five years of ownership, or 60,000 miles.

A revised European version of the Nissan Leaf, to be built in the UK, is due to be revealed later this year. Although Nissan has said the car will be cheaper, it is not clear if its price will drop as significantly as in America.

No Skoda SUV before 2016

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 02:01 AM PST

Seven-seat SUV planned, but will not form part of Skoda's current new model offensive

Skoda's oft-mooted full-sized SUV is unlikely to appear before 2016 at the earliest, and will be part of the manufacturer's intensive push to take its global sales to 1.5 million cars by 2018.

The new offering – which would be a bigger relation to the Yeti – has yet to be formally signed off, but there is plenty of enthusiasm for the project among the Czech firm's chiefs.

They have noted the success of vehicles such as the Kia Sorento, as well as the appetite among Skoda's own Chinese customers for cars bigger than the Yeti. A long-wheelbase version of the Yeti has been developed specifically for China because customers there felt the European-spec model was too short for their tastes.

Speaking at the launch of the new Skoda Octavia in Portugal, Skoda chief executive Winfried Vahland said: "A big SUV is very important for Skoda on a global scale; maybe more so in Asia than in Europe because Europe tends to prefer smaller SUVs."

Skoda is currently in the middle of a major product offensive during which it is launching a new or facelifted model every sixth months on average. Asked whether a large SUV forms part of that model plan, Wahland said: "It would be part of the plan, yes, but not before 2015. After then I see a window [for the car]."

Autocar understands that the new SUV could spawn five and seven-seat variants, albeit with the same dimensions, and would most likely be based on the underpinnings of the Volkswagen Touareg. It would be a fully independent model to the existing Yeti and not share the existing car's name.

Developing a new SUV would be preferable to a new MPV product because European customers are increasingly favouring sports utility vehicles, and there's little or no market for MPVs in either China or Russia.

Strong sales growth in both territories, as well as continued growth in its European stronghold, is seen as an important part of Skoda's aim to grow its global sales to 1.5 million cars per year by 2018, from last year's total of 939,200.

Detroit motor show: Cadillac ELR

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 09:01 PM PST

Range extender coupé uses Volt drivetrain and will go on sale in Europe next year

Cadillac has finally launched the production version of its Converj range-extender coupé, first seen at the 2009 Detroit show as a concept and now due to go into production at the end of this year.

Now badged Cadillac ELR and revealed at the Detroit motor show, the car uses the Chevrolet Volt/Vauxhall Ampera drivetrain. The body is all new, incorporating specific aerodynamic features to improve the car's efficiency – the underbody is fully sealed and the Cadillac egg crate grille is modified. Despite these changes, the ELR's coefficient of drag (cD) is 0.30, more than a Mercedes E-class Coupé's 0.24.

Underneath is a tweaked version of the Volt's drivetrain – the most notable change is to the battery, which can now supply more of its overall capacity that the Volt's can. Chief Engineer Chris Thomason said that they decided to "exercise the battery a bit more," giving the ELR a range of about 35 miles, similar to the Volt's despite being around 80kg heavier.

Total torque output is 295lb ft, while total power is put at 204bhp. A full charge using a 240v outlet takes around 4.5 hours. It should offer a better drive than the Volt, too, with the HiPer Strut front suspension set up used on Vauxhall's VXR models and wider front and rear tracks. Expect a 0-60mph time of around 8sec, slightly faster than the Volt's 9sec. Standard wheels are 20-inch units.

Inside, the ELR's cabin looks set to become Cadillac's most competent offering yet, with what Cadillac promises are high-quality materials and assembly. It comes with an 8-inch touch screen and an automatic cup holder. It also debuts a new look for Cadillac interiors that will heavily influence the next CTS saloon.

The ELR will come to Europe in 2014 and although right-hand drive production has not been confirmed, the car's Volt underpinnings mean it should be technically possible.

Volvo's struggle for brand definition

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 01:42 PM PST

Swedish firm has a long road ahead to try and define why its cars should be bought over German rivals'

I had a brief, but very interesting, interview this afternoon with Hakan Samuelsson, the new boss of Volvo.

Samuelsson's background is in truck making, spending 20 years at Scania and a decade at MAN. But he arrives at a tricky time for the car-maker, which is in the throws of not only a huge engineering effort (with its new SPA architecture and four-cylinder only future engine range) but is also still trying to 'clarify' its brand image.

Over the last decade, I've heard many Volvo bosses talk about how the company needs to move away from its old, cliched, image of unexciting safety. And it's pretty much 20 years since it launched the 850R, a car that was designed to completely shake-up the world view of Volvo.

"We want to be premium, but not copy the Germans," says Samuelsson. "We want to be premium through being human-centric, through elegant design, functionality and user-friendliness."

Of course, this is all pretty hard to pin down. Being able to sum up your brand image as, say, 'Ultimate driving machine' makes life much easier for designers, engineers and marketing people.

By odd coincidence, I took part in a market research programme last year for a premium car company, which I managed to work out was Volvo, though that was never stated. My view was that Volvo should be aiming at the kind of outdoorsy family person who is quite happy to spend substantial sums on cutting-edge equipment such as mountain bikes or skis.

Well, it seems I wasn't the only one who made that suggestion. Samuelsson revealed that Volvo is finalising a new TV ad which addresses this type of person directly. The opening shot shows a man with a tin of wax, polishing his premium car. The Volvo owner pulls up alongside and gets out a tin of wax, but he uses it to polish the surfboard in the back of his car.

Clever, but it will take years of consistence marketing and product development to finally re-position Volvo as the premium car for people who are on their way to a sporting activity that doesn't involve golf clubs. Once they've finalised the script, Volvo is going to have to stick to it through thick and thin, or be forever that 'boring-but-safe' brand.

Detroit motor show: Mercedes open to Aston partnership

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 01:38 PM PST

Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche has not ruled out working with Aston Martin on future projects

Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche has confirmed he is open the idea of working with Aston Martin on future projects.

A deal to use Mercedes AMG powertrain technology had been mooted to be part of the British firm's recent £150 million deal to sell a 37.5 per cent stake to Italian venture capital company Investindustrial. Mercedes has close links to Investindustrial, dating back to when the Italians forging a link with the German giant when it owned Ducati.

Speaking at the Detroit motor show, Zetsche said no deal had been done, but added: "Aston Martin is a great brand and I must say Dr Ulrich Bez [Aston's CEO] is doing a great job with them.

"If a company that sells a few thousand vehicles wants to talk then we might do that, I am open to it. But it must not distract from our core business."

A senior Mercedes source has previously said on Investindustrial, "We know these guys. They were behind Ducati and we had a very closely knit marketing deal with them. They rang and asked if they won the bid for Aston would we be interested in being a technology partner."

Among the components Aston Martin is rumoured to be seeking from AMG is a new V12 petrol engine to replace the ageing Ford-developed unit it currently uses. However, the proposed collaboration between AMG and Investindustrial appears to encompass a much wider brief.

"There is significant scope," said the source. "It would be more than just drivelines. If you look at Aston products today, it is clear that they need not only new drivelines with increased performance and improved emissions but also electronic architectures."

Detroit motor show: nine new Volvos confirmed

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 01:28 PM PST

New CEO reveals plans to overhaul eight of Volvo's existing nine models within the next 12 months, before launching a new XC90

Eight of Volvo's nine-model range will undergo significant updates within the next 12 months, new company boss Hakan Samuelsson told Autocar at the Detroit motor show.

The updates will be followed by the all-new XC90 replacement, which goes on sale in late 2014. The new XC90 will be the first model built on Volvo's new 'Scaleable Platform Architecture', which will underpin all future models from the S60 upwards.

The current 60- and 70-series cars will get external makeovers this year and new engines will also be fitted into most of Volvo's models.

The product blitz comes in the wake of falling sales in 2012, which saw the Swedish brand shift 421,951 cars, down six per cent on 2011. Samuelsson told Autocar the fall was almost entirely caused by the weakness of the European market, where Volvo kept its share, but in a declining market.

Volvo is also preparing to go it alone in replacing the smaller 40- and 50-series models, Samuelsson revealed. Having looked at trying to find a partner to provide a small platform to replace the current Ford-derived architecture, Volvo is now likely to try and engineer a small platform itself, possibly by sharing components with its Chinese owner Geely. Samuelsson also said that Volvo would not build a car smaller than today's V40. Any new models are unlikely to arrive before the second half of the decade, however.

Volvo is still working on "better defining" its brand values to the car-buying public, admitted Samuelsson, with the SUV now becoming the 'core' Volvo model, rather than the classic estate car. Last year, the XC60 was the company's best-selling model, shifting 106,203 units up from 97,183 in 2011.

Detroit motor show: Toyota Corolla Furia concept

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 11:41 AM PST

Japanese giant offers first look at the next-generation Corolla with its new Furia saloon concept

Toyota has revealed its Toyota Corolla Furia concept car at the Detroit motor show, the firm's first clues as to the future direction of its best-selling saloon.

The Furia is the latest in a string of recent concepts from Toyota with bolder and more distinctive designs, following a personal plea from company chief Akio Toyoda for the firm to become more daring and break free of its conservative image and appeal to younger buyers.

The concept is 4620mm long, 1805mm wide and 1425mm high, with a wheelbase of 2700mm giving it relatively short overhangs. The concept is boldest at its front, with the design a much more striking interpretation of the look found on the new European-market Auris.

A sharply raked windscreen and low roofline ensure a lower sleeker profile than that of Toyota's current Corolla. A usual array of more outlandish concept features make it onto the Furia, including 19in alloys, lashings of carbonfibre trim and a large rear diffuser with integrated exhausts.

"The Corolla Furia Concept is an early indicator of where our compact car design may lead in the future," said Toyota vice president Bill Fay at the concept's unveiling in Detroit. He hoped the design "would surprise a lot of people".

Aston Martin launches centenary models

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 11:14 AM PST

Centenary editions of every current model to celebrate 100 years of Aston Martin

Aston Martin is celebrating its centenary this week with special Centenary Edition versions of its entire model range. One hundred special examples of each of the Cygnet, Vantage, DB9, Vanquish (pictured) and Rapide will be created.

Each individually numbered Centenary Edition gets a bespoke paint finish, special solid silver badging, and a luxurious hand-crafted interior featuring materials previously exclusive to the One-77. The Centenary Editions are available to order now, but prices are only available on application.

Today marks 100 years since Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford formed Bamford & Martin, the company changed its name to Aston Martin a year later.

New BMW X5 image leaked

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 10:55 AM PST

Leaked images hint at the potential styling of BMW's flagship X5 SUV

These images appear to show the forthcoming BMW X5, which is expected to be unveiled this year.

Leaked online from the brochure of a toy model company, the images – if accurate – give the best indication yet of what the third generation X5 will look like.

The front-end styling borrows heavily from the current 3-series, including the narrowed headlamps and prominent kidney grille. The large air vents at each corner of the front bumper are lifted from the recently unveiled 4-series Concept Coupé, while the rear lights are the same units fitted to the current X3.

The interior is not revealed, though is likely to go further upmarket and will be offered with a third-row seating option.

Engines have yet to be confirmed but the lineup is likely to include a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, which will compete against the new four-cylinder Mercedes ML250.

Daljinder Nagra

Detroit motor show: Honda Urban SUV

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 10:50 AM PST

Honda maps out the look of its baby Jazz SUV with a concept unveiled in Detroit

Honda has previewed plans for a new Jazz-based SUV with this Urban SUV Concept at the Detroit motor show.

Honda has already confirmed a production version, which closely follows the sleek style of this concept. It will be introduced in Japan late this year, the US in early 2014 and Europe later in 2014.

Underpinning the 4300mm-long Urban SUV Concept is the next-generation Jazz's platform. A third generation of the standard Jazz supermini will be launched in 2014 with the new underpinnings. A saloon is also planned based on this platform and will be targeted at emerging markets.

Each of Honda's global regions is being given autonomy to tune it to suit local conditions. Both the exterior and interior styling are also likely to differ slightly between global markets.

Honda CEO Takanobu Ito has previously described the global small car platform as strategically very important to Honda's bid to boost sales from about four million units to seven million annually by 2017. He called the Jazz SUV a "younger brother" to the new CR-V.

Detroit motor show: Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 10:05 AM PST

Shape of hyundai's future luxury saloons revealed in a concept at the Detroit motor show

Hyundai's concept car for the Detroit motor show, the HCD-14 Genesis, gives us a preview of what to expect from its future large cars.

The Californian-designed concept will shape the look of its BMW 5-series-rivalling Genesis and its Mercedes S-class competitor, the Equus.

The rear-drive HCD-14 has a much sleeker, sharper look than the firm's current executive cars, with short overhangs and a coupé-like roofline. The back doors are rear-hinged, with large, brushed aluminium hinges supporting them. The car is powered by a 5.0-litre V8. 

Hyundai's US boss, John Krafick, said he is eager to show the "dynamic driving" of the HCD-14, a recognition of the relatively soft dynamics of the firm's upper-end offerings.

Dan Stevens

Detroit motor show: Audi RS7

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 09:12 AM PST

Audi's £78k liftback has the same power but more torque than its BMW rival; on sale in the UK in July

Audi is set to take the fight to the recently unveiled BMW M6 GranCoupé with a new 552bhp twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8-powered RS7 Sportback.

Pictured here officially for the first time following its unveiling at the Detroit motor show today, the rapid liftback extends Audi's RS line-up to six models.

UK launch details and pricing are yet to be announced, but officials suggest that the RS7 Sportback will reach dealers in July priced close to £78,000. 

Power for the RS7 Sportback comes from the same 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine used by the recently unveiled third-generation RS6 Avant. It produces 552bhp at 5700rpm and 553lb ft of torque between 1750rpm and 5500rpm - some 138bhp and 148lb ft more than the less highly tuned version of the same V8 in the S7 Sportback.

The new M6 GranCoupé's twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 produces the same 552bhp. However, it offers 52lb ft less.

Because Audi's seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is unable to handle the heavy torque loading of the engine, the RS7 Sportback receives a standard eight-speed automatic 'box. It operates in combination with the latest evolution of the Audi's quattro four-wheel drive system, offering the choice between D (drive), S (sport) and M (manual) modes.  

Audi is yet to confirm a kerb weight for its latest RS model but claims it delivers 0-62mph in 3.9sec and a top speed limited to 155mph. Buyers can raise the top speed to 174mph with an optional Dynamic package and to 190mph with a Dynamic Plus package.

Underpinning the RS7 Sportback is a heavily reworked version of the standard A7 Sportback's chassis that features widened tracks and air suspension. Audi will also offer its new performance model with an optional steel-sprung suspension in combination with Dynamic Ride Control as part of a package known as Sport Suspension Plus — a move that is reflected on the new RS6 Avant.

Special edition Skoda adds flair to Citigo

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 08:42 AM PST

Skoda's Citigo Sport adds cosmetic upgrades to Czech firm's baby

Skoda has announced a special edition of the Citigo – the Citigo Sport adds cosmetic upgrades to the city car, and will be available on both engine options.

The Sport comes with black 15-inch wheels, stripes and a body kit that includes a new front bumper and a rear spoiler. Inside the cars is upholstered in contrasting trim and gets a leather trim pack for the wheel, gear lever and handbrake. The key is also colour coded to the body colour.

There are no performance upgrades, and power from the 1.0-litre MPI engine remains at either 59bhp or 74bhp. There's no word yet on whether or not the Sport will be on sale in the UK. 

Detroit motor show: Tesla Model X detailed

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 08:32 AM PST

Big seven-seat SUV might not make it to Europe, as it's thought to be too big for European tastes

The Tesla Model X will have the lowest centre of gravity of any SUV on sale when it goes on sale next year, its makers announced today at the Detroit motor show.

The prototype on display is the current evolution of the Model X, and features its latest dual electric motor set-up to allow the four-wheel drive system to apportion power where there is most traction. Visual changes from the previous model shown are minor, including new wheels and a new paint finish.

The low centre of gravity is made possible by the Model X's floor mounted battery pack, and Tesla says it helps counter the extra weight of the batteries and ensure the car, which can accelerate from 0-60mpb in less than five seconds, retains sporty characteristics.

The seven-seater's unusual 'falcon doors' are also set to make production. Lifting up and away from the car's body, they are designed to give adults enough room to stand while they reach into the car.

The Model X's future in Europe hangs in the balance, as Tesla is debating whether or not its size makes it too big for European tastes. If it does make it to the UK, right-hand-drive conversion means it is unlikely to appear before 2015 — even if this is possible.

Tesla says it will be priced competitively against other premium SUVs.

Detroit Motor Show: Volkswagen CrossBlue

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 07:55 AM PST

Big six-seat SUV will enter production in 2015, but it's not coming to Europe

Volkswagen will launch a production version of the CrossBlue concept SUV for the US market in 2015 as part of its plans to increase sales and production activities in what remains one of the world's most important and lucrative markets.

Unveiled this afternoon at the Detroit motor show, the Volkswagen CrossBlue will become a seven seat SUV that will provide VW with a rival for the likes of the Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot.

It will replace the elderly and slow-selling Routan MPV, fitting into the range between the Tiguan and the Touareg, a car considered too expensive to successfully compete against more affordable competition.

At 4987mm long, 2015mm wide and 1733mm tall, the CrossBlue is bigger than a Touareg. It uses VW's MQB architecture, and the production car is likely to be closely related to the next Tiguan, with transverse engines. It will be built in the US alongside the US-market Passat.

The show car has a plug-in diesel-electric hybrid powertrain, with a 2.0-litre engine and a pair of motors, one driving each axle – combined they produce 302bhp and a 0-60mph time of 7.2sec. The range on electric power is just 21 miles, but fuel consumption is claimed to be 134mpg.

Volkswagen will price the SUV above some of its competitors, starting at $32,000 (£19,800). That's more than a Jeep Grand Cherokee but less than a Honda Pilot, and $12,000 (£7400) less than the smaller but more complex Touareg, which starts at $43,945 (£27,200) in North America. There are no plans to bring the vehicle to the UK.

Detroit motor show: Ford confirms Lincoln has a future

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 07:39 AM PST

Ford's executive chairman says the Blue Oval will not turn its back on flagging luxury brand Lincoln

Bill Ford, great grandson of Henry Ford, has reiterated the company's commitment to its emerging Lincoln luxury brand at the Detroit motor show.

Speculation has long surrounded the brand's future, particularly with Ford chief Alan Mulally's commitment to developing global mass market vehicles under his One Ford policy and current European losses.

However at the launch of the Lincoln MKC small SUV concept, executive chairman Bill Ford said: "The Ford family is committed to Lincoln — fully committed. Lincoln is part of what we are. We have put in place the right people and right resources and we will stand by it."

Lincoln is expanding beyond America into China over the next two years, through a separate dealership network. Although Ford insiders say they are keeping an eye on further expansion, marketing boss Jim Farley says the focus must be in making the brand a success in the US and China before it considers new markets, including Europe.

What makes a luxury car luxurious?

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 07:08 AM PST

Is it bling or understated craftsmanship that makes a luxury car?

What buyers want from a luxury car is changing, according to new research rolled out by Ford's upmarket Lincoln arm at the Detroit motor show today.

Lincoln's survey says that, as austerity continues to bite, buyers want luxury cars that are less show-off and which feature less technological trinkets. Luxury is now about personal satisfaction and low-key bespoke craftsmanship, rather than shouting to the neighbours that you've made it, the research reveals.

Yet you have to counter that assertion against some of the sales figures emerging from the likes of Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, Audi et al, all of whom seem to be doing very nicely off the back of making cars that are, how shall I put it, increasingly eye-catching, be it for LED displays, chrome detailing, being faster, harder edged or just plain expensive.

Truth is, there's probably two kinds if customer, and Lincoln knows that if it must gatecrash the mainstream luxury market then it needs to offer something different.

But it also raises the question of what you consider to be luxury car qualities. Any thoughts?

Ford casts an envious eye back to JLR

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 07:01 AM PST

Ford exces are kicking themselves at letting JLR go, as it troubles to crack the luxury market with Lincoln

Hopefully there will be a chance to quiz Ford execs at the Cobo Center in Detroit today on their views now that Jaguar Land Rover is firing on all eight cylinders, four years after Tata bought the Brit brands from the Blue Oval.

Anecdotally, I'm told that the question elicits a grimace from Ford high-ups who are also grappling with the challenge of penetrating the global luxury market at the same time as JLR is going from strength to strength.

Just for the record, JLR lifted global sales by 30 per cent last year to 357,000 units. Sales in China were up 71 per cent, Russia 43 per cent, Germany 41 per cent, UK 19 per cent and the US nine per cent.

In contrast, Lincoln, Ford's luxury nameplate, has seen sales slide steadily since a peak in 1990. It is currently on a push with seven new models to reverse this decline, although the drive is focused entirely on North America.

Readers with a long memory might remember a decade ago that Lincoln was twinned with JLR in an effort to turn it into a global luxury brand, but the plan stalled on several counts and was canned by Ford's financial problems.

Mention the contrast between Jaguar and Land Rover's current fortunes and its troubles during Ford ownership, and JLR's current management team is too professional to gloat — but we know that privately JLR's managers are very happy to be free of Ford. A big test will come in April when the F-type gets its first press evaluations. The F-type is the first car taken from blueprint to production since Tata took over. The Evoque was already well in the planning.

The significance of the F-type means that Jag has nothing new at the Cobo Center, and at Geneva in March it will avoid distracting from the F-type launch with another quiet show.

This year is definitely shaping up to be the year of the F-type for JLR. I wonder what sort of year it'll be for Lincoln and Ford's luxury car ambitions?

Detroit motor show: VL Destino

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 06:52 AM PST

Fisker-bodied coupé, unveiled at today's Detroit motor show, packs a 7.0-litre Corvette V8

This is the VL Destino, a Fisker Karma-based coupé unveiled today at the Detroit motor show.

The Destino uses the four-door body of the Karma, but its kerb weight is reduced by 363kg and its range-extender hybrid drivetrain and battery pack has been replaced with a lighter, conventional V8.

Powered by the same supercharged 7.0-litre motor fitted to the range-topping Corvette ZR1, the VL Destino develops 638bhp and 604lb ft. It can be specified with either a manual or automatic gearbox.

The car is a result of a collaboration by industrialist Gilbert Villereal and former General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, who describes the car as the "revenge of the internal combustion engine".

The Destino is currently undergoing testing, although a limited run of 200 examples are expected to be released in the second half of 2013, sporting a price tag of around $180,000 (£111,545).

Holly Stevenson

Detroit motor show 2013: show report and gallery

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 02:01 PM PST

The first major motor show of 2013 has got underway, and Autocar is there to bring you a review and pictures as the events unfold

As a lover of car shows, I usually have no time for people who complain about them. But in Detroit's Cobo Hall yesterday, home of Motown's annual Auto Show, I was temporarily forced to give ground to the wry Fleet Street type voicing his European-centric view of preview day. "Frankly," he said after a moment's thought, "I'd say there was less to this than meets the eye..."

It was certainly a weird sort of opening day at the Detroit motor show, but don't think the show lacks any significance or importance because of it. There's nothing sinister at foot, though. The US car market has recovered to 15 million units a year, fully 50 per cent ahead of the dark days of 2008. It's just that many models are between cycles - and the Germans and Brits last year chose to show their new stuff at the Paris motor show.

However, all this left the field entirely open for GM's terrific new 2014 Corvette, the 2013 show's undisputed star and a really great piece of work that everyone loved. GM's head of design Ed Welburn (who admits to being inspired to become a car designer as a kid by the cool single guy next door who had a '54 Vette) clearly loved the car so much he spent the whole day standing near it, answering questions. "I've got lots of people to see," he confided, "but I guess they'll to know to look for me here..."

GM's only other significant Monday offing was a revised Silverado pick-up, complete with an even taller and chromier grille, but it's firmly back in the headlines on day two wit the revealing of the Cadillac ELR coupe, a beautiful production machine featuring Volt/Ampera range extender mechanical bits.

GM's bosses have high hopes for this car, which they reckon will appeal to luxury car lovers with a conscience. The company, battling to expand its premium brand against the might of the Germans, was greatly buoyed yesterday morning when it won America's Car of the Year Award with the stylish and capable ATS saloon.

For the first time in living memory Ford (billed as America's favourite car company for not needing a government bail-out like GM and Chrysler) did not open proceedings with lots of new-model razzmatazz in the Cobo Arena, home of the local Red Wings ice hockey team. But through the launch of its new Atlas concept - a preview at the replacement for the F150, America's best-selling car or truck - in the Red Wings arena it that has ensured it stays in the headlines on the second press day.

Still, it felt funny that Lincoln had taken Ford's conference position at Detroit this year. Aston and Lotus weren't even there, and Mercedes confused everyone by revealing their (superb) little CLA saloon at a pre-show event, while not even putting it on display in the halls. Weird, that, especially since they'll start taking orders in a few months' time. Chrysler and Jeep restricted themselves to putting nondescript new noses on some models - though their tills keep ringing.

Ford's premium brand, Lincoln, lately in even worse sales shape than Cadillac, showed a beautiful compact SUV built on Kuga underpinnings, called the MKC Concept. To my eye it is a masterful piece of work, restrained yet elegant and "valuable" at the same time. If future Lincolns can have the charisma of this one then maybe America is indeed be on its way to showing again that it can build premium cars.

For now, there's still plenty to prove, but with the European firms taking a back seat in Detroit, the home-grown car makers are being given a chance to shine again.

Keep checking over the next few days as the covers come off all the show stars in Detroit, where Autocar's team of reporters and photographers will be on hand to make sure you don't miss any of the action.

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