Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Autocar magazine 27 February preview

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 02:48 AM PST

In this week's Autocar magazine: new McLaren P1; 17-page Porsche 911 celebration; VW's new 313mpg XL1; cheapest Dacia Sandero driven and first impressions of BMW's radical i3 and i8

This week's Autocar is an extra large special issue. With the Geneva motor show just a week away now, new car reveals are coming thick and fast but few can steal the show from the magazine's cover star, the new McLaren P1.

As well as the McLaren P1, which is shown in production guise for the first time and is capable of jaw-dropping performance, the news section stars the one-off Aston Martin Rapide Shooting Brake made by Bertone, the return of the Jeep Cherokee, full details of VW's radical new 314mpg XL1 and the first look at Mercedes' new S-class coupe. Greg Kable also offers the first impressions of the two models in BMW's new i sub-brand, the i3 and i8.

The features section is dedicated to a 17-page celebration of the iconic Porsche 911. The special has been compiled by Autocar editor-at-large Steve Sutcliffe, and includes Steve Cropley's drive of every model, Peter Robinson's thoughts on when he met the car's creator 'Butzi' Porsche, reminisces from Sutcliffe, Cropley, Colin Goodwin and Andrew Frankel on owning 911s and used buying guides to all the key cars.

Britain's cheapest car, the £5995 Dacia Sandero, undergoes its toughest challenge yet, as it is subjected to the full eight-page road test, while we also drive the new Toyota Rav4, the updated Lamborghini Gallardo, and the latest Vauxhall Zafira BiTurbo, Peugeot 508 hybrid, Audi Q5 and Fiat 500L. Meanwhile, our test fleet bids farewell to our Alpina D5 and our Range Rover Evoque undergoes a service.

The TVR Sagaris is the hero of our used car content, this week, emerging as a surprisingly tempting buy if you can track down the right car. Meanwhile James Ruppert ponders a range of used Protons and we pose the question as to whether you'd spend £32k on a new BMW M135i or a used Chevrolet Corvette C6 Z06.

Autocar magazine is available through all good newsagents, and available to download from Zinio and the Apple iTunes store.

Summer's coming, so which convertible would you choose?

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 01:02 AM PST

Do you really need an expensive new drop-top, or will an older convertible deliver the same experience?

I really do feel like moaning about the weather, after all that man made global warming didn't really deliver did it? Instead we have to put up with sub-zero temperatures, or winter, as we traditionally called it. I'm glad that the hole in the ozone layer repaired itself otherwise we wouldn't be able to revel in the joys of open-topped motoring.

Technically it isn't quite spring yet, but I notice that British Car Auctions are getting excited about an upcoming sale of 400 ex-lease convertibles. These will presumably form the bulk of your local used car dealers' seasonal stock. They've got everything from MR2s to A3s and MX-5s, and Merc E350s to name just a few.

So I just wondered whether your thoughts turned to any particular make and model of open-top car to give you a nice warm glow inside. I mean do you really need a pricey cabriolet, or wouldn't some old Fiesta that someone's hacked the roof off give you the same wind in the hair, bore wear smoke in the nostrils experience?

I am very old school. A BMW E30 of course, Triumph Stag and possibly a Corniche. So what used drop-top does it for you? Oh and what was the first convertible you have seen this year in full open-air effect? Mine was a wonderfully yellow BMW E36. I would like to think it was an M3, but at least the occupants didn't even pull on a beanie or trapper hat. Respect.

McLaren P1 - official pictures and details

Posted: 26 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST

New hybrid McLaren P1 to offer 903bhp, 218mph and 0-62mph in under 3sec for £866,000

McLaren's mighty P1 hybrid flagship, poised for its global debut in Geneva next week, looks like becoming the first hypercar ever to deliver properly on the elusive 'F1-for-the-road' promise that manufacturers have been making for their fastest road cars for more than a quarter century.

The McLaren P1 is due to be unveiled by McLaren executive chairman Ron Dennis next Tuesday morning. It has the huge V8-plus-electric power (903bhp) and ultra-high price (£866,000) that you'd expect of the spiritual successor to the illustrious McLaren F1 of 1993, but what really sets the P1 apart is its ground-breaking active aerodynamics package.

While delivering a svelte drag factor of 0.34 in 'clean' form, the P1 can automatically deploy a rear-mounted wing and two flaps ahead of the front wheels, in appropriate driving modes, to deliver such unprecedented levels of downforce for a road car that driving "actually gets easier as the car goes faster". 

Even well short of its 218mph top speed, the P1 can generate 600kg of downforce, an amount equal to many Le Mans racers and about five times greater that of the recently launched McLaren MP4-12C. Its advantage over non-McLaren rivals is even greater. 

"The P1 is designed to be driven to a racing circuit with great levels of comfort and refinement," said McLaren Automotive managing director Antony Sheriff, "and then to be used on the racing circuit where it will offer an experience matched only by purpose-built racing cars."

The P1 uses the all-carbon chassis tub recently created as the basis for all new-era McLarens and launched with the MP4-12C. In another direct reference to F1, the new supercar has a special, race-bred 'recipe' for some composite components — claimed to be twice as stiff as steel — that form its core body/chassis. 

This structure has relatively few parts and weighs only 100kg, which, McLaren engineers say, is lighter than any other road car's while delivering F1 levels of rigidity and safety. It also forms the engine airbox, roof snorkel and the roof itself, provides housings for the battery and power electronics, and shapes the aerodynamic side pods that feed air to the engine's cooling system.

The P1 is 300mm longer than the 20-year-old F1 but only a shade wider and longer than the MP4-12C. Against its most recent compatriot, it grows 83mm (three inches) — the extra length aids the aero package — and it is 29mm (an inch) lower and 37mm (1.5 inches) wider. McLaren claims "substantially smaller" frontal area than the MP4-12C and claims that the P1 is also smaller in area than any other production sports car. 

The P1's kerb weight is admirably low for a modern supercar, at 1400kg, (Porsche's 918 Spider is more like 1700kg) but even it can't match the F1, which weighed just 1140kg at the kerb.

The P1 powertrain is a hybrid partnership between a specially configured 727bhp version of McLaren's 3.8-litre twin-turbo petrol V8, and a 176bhp McLaren-built electric motor integrated with it via a specially cast aluminium block. The two power units send their combined 903bhp (with 664lb ft of torque) through a seven-speed twin-clutch Graziano gearbox. 

The V8 carries its own special M838TQ serial number because of its special crankcase and larger turbochargers (plus other unique tweaks), which help it produce 20 per cent more power than a 'regular' 12C V8.

Awesome performance is to be expected, but the P1's margin over both the featherweight F1 and the MP4-12C still comes as a shock. McLaren engineers are still deciding the final figures in fractions of seconds, but we now know that the P1 is about 0.4sec faster than the 12C to 62mph, and at least 2.5sec faster to 124mph (200km/h).

It also shaves seven or eight seconds off the 12C's 0-186mph (300km/h) on its way to a 218mph top speed, which is a little short of the F1's official 231mph. 

"Our aim is not necessarily to be the fastest in absolute top speed," said Sheriff, "but to be the quickest and most rewarding series production road car on a circuit. This is the true test of a supercar's all-round ability and a much more important technical statement."

At the top end of the performance spectrum, the P1 uses the instant thrust of its electric motor to boost throttle response, and the instant application of its negative torque at gearshift points, to help engine revs drop quickly, making for quicker and smoother gearshifts under full power. Off throttle, the electric motor converts to a power generator, providing engine braking and replenishing battery energy. 

At the bottom of the performance envelope, the electric motor gives the car surprisingly spritely performance on its own, giving it a range approaching 20km (about 12 miles) at traffic speeds and making it suitable for the world's growing number of zero-emissions traffic zones.

The P1 has a driver-oriented cockpit layout, under a highly aerodynamic, bubble-shaped canopy that is compared by its creators with that of a jet fighter. Or a Le Mans racer.

Although the electronic instrumentation features all the essentials and the cabin has niceties like climate control, satellite navigation and a classy sound system, equipment and switchgear are kept to a minimum and there is a general no-nonsense air about the driving position, which is individually configurable for every owner.

The doors, whose outer skins are major contributors to the P1's aerodynamic package, use the same 'dihedral' opening system pioneered by the MP4-12C.

But underscoring the serious focus of the P1, the seat and steering column adjustments are manual, the seat backrests are fixed at 28deg (a change to 32deg is possible to increase helmet clearance) and the ultra-thin carbon seat shells have a minimum of padding and weigh just 10.5kg apiece. 

Carbonfibre is extensively used as a trim material (you only get carpet if you ask for it) and the interior carbon surfaces are fitted without a top layer of resin — because it saves 1.5kg. There are just two options: a heavy-duty battery charger and a set of fitted luggage.

At first, McLaren intended to build 500 P1s, pricing each one close to £866,000, but representations from potential owners (reportedly more concerned about exclusivity than price or top speed) has persuaded Ron Dennis to build just 375 copies.

The new McLaren P1 will be on sale from March and deliveries will begin before the end of the year. 

Nissan GT-R Nismo confirmed

Posted: 25 Feb 2013 05:30 PM PST

Ultimate version of Nissan's GT-R to be produced by brand's motorsport and road-car tuning division

Nissan has confirmed that its performance division, Nismo, will produce an "ultimate" version of the Nissan GT-R.

Following the opening of its new headquarters and development centre, Nismo is set to develop a line-up of performance-orientated Nissans.

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan, said: "It would be unthinkable for us to develop a range of Nismo road cars without including the GT-R. The standard road car is a global supercar and the GTR's performance on track reflects the passion and talents of the Nismo team. The GT-R Nismo will be special."

Currently the standard GT-R, which is powered by a 542bhp 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6, is capable of sprinting from 0-62mph in three seconds flat.

The new Nissan GT-R Nismo will join existing Nismo models, including the Nissan 370Z Nismo and the Nissan Juke Nismo.

Besides the Nismo badging, these models feature styling, interior and performance tweaks to differentiate them from the standard versions.

Range Rover Sport on test in London

Posted: 25 Feb 2013 10:23 AM PST

Heavily disguised prototype spotted in Range Rover's natural habitat of fashionable Chelsea and Fulham

Although the unveiling of the Range Rover Sport is a matter of months away, Land Rover engineers are still hard at work, putting the final touches to the car. After extensive hot and cold weather testing in some of the most hostile conditions on earth, the Sport is now being put through its paces in the sort of conditions that it will encounter on a daily basis: fashionable west London.

These pictures - snapped early today by Autocar reader Andy Shovel - show a heavily disguised second-generation Sport executing a sharp U-turn around Fulham Broadway's mini roundabout. The test car is also close to Chelsea FC's home ground at Stamford Bridge and is heading back up Fulham Road to Chelsea itself, one of the super-affluent metropolitan areas where Range Rover makes significant sales. Indeed, there is clearly good sense in transmission and cooling shake-down tests in the heavy, traffic-light strewn, stop-start traffic of west London.

Sources who have seen the Sport in showroom guise describe it as 'lower, shorter and obviously sporty than the new Range Rover' but 'much more elegant' than the current model. As well as the option of seven seats, the new Sport will have an number of interesting drivetrain options, including JLR's new supercharged V6 engine and a hybrid and there will also be a 2.0-litre turbodiesel version to compete more directly with Mercedes' M-Class and the upcoming new BMW X5.

Quick news: Alfa Giulietta, Chery designer, Swift Sport special

Posted: 25 Feb 2013 06:45 AM PST

Alfa Giulietta Veloce special, Spanish supercar to get 900bhp, Chery hires former Porsche designer and a new Suzuki Swift Sport special

Alfa Romeo is offering a revised Veloce trim package for the Giulietta hatchback. External changes include titanium-finished alloy wheels and darkened headlight clusters, while the interior features new seats, a leather steering wheel and titanium-effect trim. The Veloce trim is available with various engines from the Giulietta range.

Spanish car maker GTA has released further details of its GTA Spano supercar, ahead of its Geneva motor show debut. Claimed power and torque outputs from the supercharged, 8.3-litre V10 are 900bhp and 737lb ft, with a top speed estimated at over 217mph. Just 99 GTAs will be built by the Spanish firm.

Chinese car company Chery has appointed Hakan Saracoglu as its new design director. The former Porsche designer will oversee all of Chery's upcoming concepts in a bid to make them more appealing against Western competition. Chery recently entered into a joint venture with Jaguar Land Rover.

Suzuki has introduced a limited edition of its Swift Sport warm hatch. Just 100 units of the Sport SZ-R will be made, each in Cosmic Black with contrasting Ablaze Red roof, mirrors and badges. Mechanically identical to the regular Sport, the SZ-R cost £500 more, at £14,249.


Alfa Romeo 4C interior unveiled

Posted: 25 Feb 2013 06:31 AM PST

New photo reveals finished interior of upcoming Alfa Romeo 4C

This is the interior of the production version of the Alfa Romeo 4C sports car, which is set to be revealed at the Geneva motor show.

It differs dramatically from the version seen in the concept, with a more restrained look that's shared with the Mito and Giulietta

Alfa claims that the layout, materials and features are all "designed and built for maximum driving satisfaction".

The 4C features a carbon monocoque chassis, which is left on display at various points in the cabin to "enhance the sense of light weight, technology and uniqueness".

Both the dashboard and door panels have an asphalt-look finish. The seats, constructed from composite materials to save weight, are claimed to offer a good driving position without compromising comfort.

Alfa states that the dashboard is simple and clear, with digital instruments and wheel-mounted gearshift paddles. The pedals and footrests are fabricated from aluminium.

The new sub-1000kg model, which is powered by a turbocharged 1.7-litre engine, is expected to cost less than £50,000 when it launches in the UK at the end of the year.

Slightly clearer than mud

Posted: 25 Feb 2013 04:16 AM PST

It's not long until the F1 season starts but it's still not clear which teams or drivers stand to do well

F1 fans are beginning to get excited about the new season that kicks off in the middle of March, and while some of the internet sites seem to think they know who is going to be winning this year, in the pit lane the story is rather different.

"No-one is massively standing out," says Jenson Button. 

In Barcelona we had the odd situation in which Nico Rosberg said that Mercedes can win this year, while his team-mate Lewis Hamilton said on the same day that the team is not ready for success. Figure that out!

What is quite interesting is that in the eight days of testing that have taken place in the course of February, at the Jerez and Barcelona circuits in Spain, there have been eight different drivers who have set the fastest times each day. The only pattern is that the eight have come from four teams: McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes-Benz.

Red Bull Racing, which has won both F1 titles for the last three years, has not been quickest on any single day of testing, and yet the team does not seem to be in any sort of panic. If one looks at the list of drivers who have been second fastest on each of the eight days, one finds Red Bull drivers twice, Force India twice and even Sauber.

Compare this list to the finishing order in the Constructors' Championship of 2012 and you can see that the same teams ranked first to seventh in the Constructors' title: Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus, Mercedes, Sauber and Force India.

It is quite possible that we will find out that nothing much has changed when the F1 circus turns up in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix. It might even be that we have a sequence of races with different winners, as happened at the start of last year.


Formula 1 has always been rather forgiving of circuits in countries that are needed to give the sport its global flavour. The tracks in Canada and Brazil have very poor quality facilities compared to all the fancy venues in Asia and the Middle East, but Bernie Ecclestone has not been able to strong arm the Canadians and the Brazilians into doing a better job - because they know that he needs them as much as they need him.

There was a similar problem for many years with Monaco before finally the Monégasques were bamboozled into spending some money.

With F1 now looking at a growth spurt in the Americas, both Canada and Brazil probably need to buck up their ideas. There is increasing noise from Mexico City about the revival of the F1 track there, now that there are two Mexicans in Grand Prix racing.

There are plans too for a second US race, this one being in New York City (or at least that is how it will look on TV, even if the race track is actually in New Jersey). And there is even mumbling about the Long Beach Grand Prix switching from IndyCar back to Formula 1, if the money can be found.

IndyCar is not the draw it used to be, and while the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach has been trying to bolster crowd numbers by adding the American Le Mans Series, drifting and even the Robby Gordon Stadium Super Trucks off-road series to the programme, there are still questions about whether it might be more successful if the city dug deep and paid for F1. 

The goal of the IndyCar race has long been to fill the city's hotels and restaurants, and to use TV to promote Long Beach as a holiday destination. F1 would cost a lot more money, but it would spread the word far wider than IndyCar can do.

In the meantime the folk of Montreal are scrabbling to figure out how to raise the $40 million that they need to upgrade the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to F1 standards.

Dacia Sandero Ambiance dCi 90 first drive review

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 12:39 AM PST

Opting for a mid-spec diesel Dacia ramps up the price but delivers a more appealing overall package Britain's cheapest new car in an engine/trim combination that adds almost 50 per cent to the cost of a £5995 basic version. Ambiance trim is actually the mid-level trim behind Laureate and above Access, but with a few options boxes ticked like on our test car, the price nudges closer to Ford Fiesta territory.This model comes equipped with the most expensive but also most frugal engine in the Dacia Sandero range, the 1.5-litre turbodiesel familiar from the all-new Renault Clio. Its combined mpg is in the 70s and CO2 emissions dip below the 100g/km, the only Sandero to do so. The engine can only be found in Dacia's Ambiance and Laureate trims.Leave the option boxes alone and the Ambiance dCi 90 will set you back £8395, or go for metallic paint and 15inch alloys as with our test car and the price nudges north of £9000.

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