Monday, January 7, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

New Mastretta sports car for Autosport International reveal

Posted: 07 Jan 2013 05:55 AM PST

Latest iteration of Mexican Mastretta MXT to be previewed at Autosport International show in Birmingham

The Mastretta MXT-R, the latest version of Mexico's sole sports car, the MXT, is to make its public debut at the Autosport International Racing Car Show this month.

Making a special appearance on the Autocar stand for the duration of the show, the MXT-R is a new addition to the model range, designed to sit between the current road car and forthcoming track-only MXR race car.

The MXT-R will use the 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine from the Ford Focus ST, developing around 285bhp, which replaces the current turbocharged 2.0-litre Duratec unit. It will wear the race-car's aerodynamic package, including a front splitter and pronounced rear wing.

It is otherwise unchanged from the current MXT road car, with Mastretta not wanting to compromise on the car's day-to-day liveability.

The car being shown at Autosport International will be a well-used development mule. Currently there is no word on performance figures or prices, but customers can register an interest with Mastretta to be kept informed of updates.

Daljinder Nagra

Autosport International Racing Car Show preview

Posted: 07 Jan 2013 02:39 AM PST

Autosport's celebration of motorsport starts January 10 at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham

Amid the economic gloom, the robust health of Britain's motorsport industry remains one important reason for cheer. According to data compiled by the Motorsport Industry Association, 60 per cent of motorsport companies reported an increase in sales last year, and more than one in 10 said sales had gone up by more than 50 per cent.

So you can expect a buoyant atmosphere at the Autosport International Racing Car Show, which is taking place at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre this week (10-13 January).

Despite the name of the show, there's a whole lot more to see than celebrity drivers and million-pound Formula 1 racing cars. Under the vast roof of the NEC, Autosport International brings together the cream of niche automotive manufacturing, road cars and aftermarket suppliers.

From ARE Dry Sump Systems to ZRP Racing Parts, the show is populated by hundreds of companies that make the motorsport and performance car industries tick.

With the first two days being for the trade, the show opens its doors to the public from 9am on Saturday, and it's not too late to snap up tickets. Adult admission costs £31, with children's tickets priced at £20 (under-fives go free). Paddock passes are available from £41, with VIP tickets £110.

Here are some good reasons to start plotting your route to Birmingham…

See Autocar's star cars

Our display, which forms part of the Performance Car Show, features four of the stand-out cars from the past 12 months. Visitors will be able to get up close to the beautiful Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, the V12-engined, £239,736 supercar that we described as "one of Ferrari's finest achievements to date" when we first sampled it last summer. Joining Maranello's offering is the brilliant Subaru BRZ, one of our favourite sports coupés and exceptional fun for the money, as well as the brutish Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series and outrageous Morgan 3 Wheeler. And making an extra-special appearance is the latest Mastretta MXT. You'll also get the chance to listen as our experts discuss the cars on display and their favourite car-related moments of 2012.

Remember Richard Burns

A seven-car line-up put together by Motorsport News pays tribute to 2001 world rally champion Richard Burns. Headlining the display is a Subaru Impreza WRC that Burns drove in his title-winning season. Another Impreza on show is the car he took to victory on Rally GB in 2000. The Legacy models he used during his successful 1992 Group N and 1993 British championship campaigns are also present, as are the Group N 205 GTI driven to the 1990 and 1991 Peugeot Challenge titles, Group A 309 GTI from 1991 and Burns's works 206 WRC.

Watch live action

For one weekend of the year, one of the NEC's halls becomes the largest indoor race track in the UK. British drift champ Paul 'Smokey' Smith is strutting his stuff, and there are displays from Porsche Boxsters, Supermoto Quads, Autograss Class 8 and BriSCA F1 Stock Cars. Keep an eye open for the Autocar-backed Best of British parade, too.

Walk the F1 racing grid

Every grand prix-winning car from 2012 forms part of a mouth-watering display of modern F1 machinery assembled by our sister magazine, F1 Racing. Heading the line-up is Red Bull Racing's Renault-powered RB8, which secured the drivers' and constructors' championships last year in the hands of Sebastian Vettel. Also taking their places on the grid are the Ferrari F2012, McLaren Mercedes MP4-27, Mercedes F1 W03, Lotus-Renault E20 and Williams-Renault FW34. Completing the line-up are cars from Sahara Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso, Caterham and Marussia.

Salute Sir Jackie Stewart

Key machines from the three-time world champion's racing career are on show in the feature display in Hall 20. The three cars he drove to his F1 world titles — the Tyrrell 006 (1973), Tyrrell 003 (1971) and Matra MS80 (1969) — are joined by the BRM P261 in which he scored his first grand prix victory in 1965 and the Stewart-Ford SF3 that delivered him a win as a team owner in 1998. Four sports cars raced by Stewart are also displayed.

Snap up racing history

Coys' annual car auction is now an established part of Autosport International. Show-goers have the chance on Friday to view the high-performance road cars and racing machinery that will be auctioned on Saturday. Two stand-out cars from rallying's Group B era take centre stage this year: a 1985 Peugeot 205 T16 and 1986 MG Metro 6R4. Other cars for sale include a 1962 Jaguar E-type Series 1 roadster, 1953 Jaguar XK120 roadster, 1953 Austin Healey 100/4, 1967 Triumph TR4 and 1975 Porsche 911 RSR replica.

Visit the Performance Car Show

The Performance Car Show, backed by our sister website PistonHeads, draws together some of the most interesting (and occasionally downright bonkers) offerings from niche manufacturers, modified car specialists and owners' clubs. It also features the head-turning Supercar Paddock, with exotica such as the Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari 458 Spider, Mercedes SLS AMG and Audi R8 V10 Spyder. Cobra Sports Exhausts is showing off its modded Nissan Skyline GT-R, and Shark Performance has a 260bhp Volkswagen Golf on its stand. Ariel, Ginetta, Caterham and Radical are also in attendance.

See a future champion

Make a note of the name 'Jake Dennis', because if you don't recognise him now, there's a strong chance that you will as he continues to rise through the racing ranks. Dennis, the winner of last year's Formula Renault 2.0 NEC title, scooped another major prize in December: the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award. Previous winners include Jenson Button and David Coulthard. On the main Autosport stage, Dennis will be speaking about his career to date.

UK new car sales at four year high

Posted: 07 Jan 2013 02:02 AM PST

Official figures reveal 2,044,609 registrations in 2012 – the highest since 2008

New car registrations have risen to their highest level since 2008, with a total of 2,044,609 vehicles sold – a 5.3 per cent increase on last year, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The growth has been stimulated by strong private consumer demand (up 12.9 per cent) for innovative, fuel-efficient cars.

SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said: "Whereas some people would buy a car every two or three years, people have been holding onto them for five or six. In that time since they last bought a car, running costs have improved significantly so people are seeing the benefits of getting a new car again."

Total sales were still some 14.9 per cent lower than the 2007 pre-recession figure of 2.4 million units.

The rise in demand is good news for manufacturers. Jaguar Land Rover has reported a record year, with nearly 55,000 cars sold in the UK.

Ford, too, has performed well, with the Fiesta retaining its position as the UK's best-selling car for a third year running.

The new year is set to be a challenging year for sales: "We have a cautious view on 2013 due to the continued drag on the eurozone and a subdued economic outlook, but if things go well we should see sales marginally up again," said Mr. Everitt.

Best sellers of 2012:

1.    Ford Fiesta 109,265

2.    Vauxhall Corsa 89,434

3.    Ford Focus 83,115

4.    Vauxhall Astra 63,023

5.    Volkswagen Golf 62,021

6.    Nissan Qashqai 45,675

7.    BMW 3-series 44,521

8.    Volkswagen Polo 41,901

9.    Mercedes C-class 37,261

10.  BMW 1-series 34,488

Daljinder Nagra

New Nissan Qashqai 360 unveiled

Posted: 07 Jan 2013 01:00 AM PST

Nissan phases out n-tec+ trim level of big-selling crossover and replaces it with a new, higher-specification 360 variant

The new Nissan Qashqai 360, unveiled today, will become the UK's best-selling version in the smash-hit crossover's range, according to the Japanese manufacturer.

As the first-generation Nissan Qashqai enters the final stretch of its production cycle before a new version arrives in 2014, the new Qashqai 360 variant replaces the outgoing n-tec+ model and sits between the mid-spec Acenta and top-level Tekna trims.

The n-tec+ trim level accounted for about 60 per cent of all Qashqai sales in the UK last year, and Nissan expects the new variant to carry on that trend, because it offers a higher specification for the same £19,945 starting price.

Like the n-tec+, the Qashqai 360 features Nissan's Connect with 360-degree monitor system, which integrates satnav with Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity along with four cameras to offer a 'helicopter view' when parking. Standard equipment also includes 18in alloys, rear privacy glass and a panoramic roof.

On top of that is a range of style-led additions including part-leather trim, a gloss black gearlever surround, gloss black doorhandles and a leather armrest. The exterior gets gloss black roof rails, door mirrors and '360' badging.

A new pearlescent paint, called Storm White, has been added to the colour range and is available for the same price as metallic paint as a £500 option.

The 360 trim level is available across all engine and transmission variants and can be specified on both the five-seat Qashqai and the seven-seat Qashqai+2.

The Qashqai 360 is on sale now and prices start at £19,945 for the two-wheel-drive, 116bhp 1.6-litre petrol version.

First drive review: Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

Posted: 06 Jan 2013 10:00 PM PST

Clever diesel hybrid combines strong performance with impressive economy Volvo has spent £280 million developing what it reckons to be the world's first series-production plug-in diesel hybrid and, happily for the company, Swedish utility firm Vattenfall has paid half the R&D bill. Why? Because it produces an electricity surplus in Sweden and is keen to see motorists buying volts, amps and ohms instead of oil for their personal propulsion. Volvo has developed this hardware for the V60 estate, although it plans to offer the technology in several models.Even though this V60 delivers a spectacular 155.2mpg combined and CO2 emissions of just 48g/km – excluding grid-supplied go-juice – Volvo is pitching it as a performance car. And not without justification. This twin-engined, four-wheel-drive estate is good for 60mph in 5.8sec, with a 142mph top speed. That's not all. It can be front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, with enough grunt for a battery-powered top speed of 77mph and, say smiling Volvo engineers, the scope for excellent ice-lake drifting fun.

Peugeot 2008 SUV to rival Nissan Juke

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 08:02 AM PST

The Peugeot 2008, a new 208-based SUV aims to muscle in on the growing compact crossover sector

The new Peugeot 2008 marks the French firm's entrance into the booming compact crossover market with a new Nissan Juke rival.

The 208-based supermini-SUV will reach the UK in September after an official unveiling at the Geneva motor show in March. As well as fighting the established Juke and Mini Countryman, the 2008 will do battle with a whole new wave of entries into the segment, including the Vauxhall Mokka, Ford Ecosport and Renault Captur.

Few specific details on the 2008 were revealed alongside these first official pictures, but the French firm has confirmed the length of the car is 4160mm. This makes the 25mm longer than the Juke.

The look of the 2008 leans heavily on the 208, sporting a front grille and front and rear headlight design borrowed from the supermini. The ride height and driving position have been raised, and a rugged bodykit including black bumpers and sills and roof rails. The 2008 pictured here is also equipped with 17in alloys with 'Mud&Snow' tyres.

The 2008 will be front-wheel drive only, but some off-road ability will be offered through a clever 'Grip Control' traction system similar to that used on the larger 3008.

Engines will mostly be borrowed from the 208. The line-up will include a new version of the turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol unit, alongside 1.4 and 1.6 e-HDI diesels. In its most efficient form, the 2008 will produce 99g/km of CO2.

The 2008 is the first Peugeot to be designed and developed across several of its global markets. It will also be produced globally as well, in France, China and Brazil.

Car makers: please make digital radio standard for all now

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 03:52 AM PST

Not enough car manufacturers are taking the digital radio switchover seriously

Will the digital radio switchover ever happen? One thing looks certain: the government's original target date of 2015 for turning off analogue radio transmitters is looking more pie in the sky than ever.

More than 50 per cent of radio listening needs to be done digitally for the switchover to start, and figures revealed last year reveal only one in three people are doing so now.

The 50 per cent figure had expected to be reached this year, but a huge amount of digital radios would need to be purchased in the January sales or cars bought with digital radio as standard for that figure to be reached.

Don't expect the 50 per cent figure to be reached with too much help from the automotive industry. Even in 2013, digital radio is still viewed by too many manufacturers as a luxurious optional extra rather than something that everyone should have access to with a digital switchover – something the government remains committed to, regardless of how slow the uptake is.

Some manufacturers are now beginning to roll out digital radio as standard, market leader Ford being the most prominent. Fellow volume maker Volkswagen is getting involved too, with it being confirmed as standard on all models from the Polo upwards (so everything except the Up) for the 2013 model year. More and more Vauxhalls are coming with digital radios, but you can't get a Citroën with one and Peugeot is only now offering some models with the technology.

However, it is in the luxury segment where the absence of digital radio is both the most disappointing and surprising, with BMW the only one offering it as standard across its line-up. It is still not possible to get a digital radio even when spending more than £70,000 on a Porsche 911, for instance.

My desire for digital radio is specific, but there will be others like me with similar individual needs: as a cricket fan, Radio 4 long wave has always been my port of call for summer tests or morning winter commutes whenever England is playing abroad.

But I can't remember the last time I got into a car with long wave, so the only way to listen to the matches is digitally on 5 Live Sports Extra. Which is great, because you can actually hear what the commentators and pundits are saying without excessive crackle or interference.

Get in a good car with a good stereo and find something nice to listen to on digital radio and it is a soothing experience.

While the estimated 25 million people who will be left with dead air when the switchover does eventually happen will have to pay around £100 to have their radios upgraded to digital, the industry, with full knowledge that the switchover is coming, can stop this cost being spread further to new car buyers by making it standard kit now. I've made it a New Year's resolution for them on their behalf.

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