Monday, February 4, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Still-born Saab 900 five-door hatchback revealed

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 05:45 AM PST

The planned Saab 900 was based on the Phoenix platform and would have been revealed last year if the Swedish company had not run into financial trouble

This is the still-born Saab 900 that was intended to revive the company under private ownership, after General Motors sold the company in 2010 to Spyker Cars.

Codenamed Project 540 and based on the all-new, Saab-engineered, Phoenix platform, this five door hatchback should have been revealed late last year, along with a new version of the classic Saab convertible.

It was designed by US stylist Jason Castriota and, as these pictures show, was intended to be strongly reminiscent of the classic Saab 900. The rear elevation, especially, looks very much like Saab's most successful model. Arguably, there are hints of Audi's A5 in the nose, which is possibly because Saab's own research said that Audi was the brand most 'cross-shopped' by potential buyers.

The 4.5m-long 900 was set to have been powered by a Saab-tweaked version of the Mini's 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which also had stop-start and braking regeneration. The first version of the new 900 was expected to have 200bhp. BMW announced an engine supply deal with Saab in autumn 2010.

This car would have also been available as a hybrid, driven by an electric motor mounted on the rear axle. The set-up was being developed by American Axle and Saab in Sweden and is expected to appear on another brand of vehicle in the near future.

The Phoenix platform was designed to be easily upgradable across future generations of Saab models and was based on a technique of 'common component interfaces' pioneered by truck maker Scania. Scania engineers were involved in advising Saab engineers working on Phoenix. Phoenix was designed to be stretched to underpin an all-new, 5m-long, 9-5 as well as 5.2m long super-saloon for Asia markets.

Sources told Autocar that replacing the 9-5 with a Phoenix-based model was the next priority after the new 900, along with a marketing scheme to retain the owners of the 2010 GM-based 9-5, which was destined to be a short-lived model. Saab also intended to continue to source the GM-based Saab 9-4X, which was being manufactured in Mexico.

Saab folded in December 2010, after production was halted in March and June of that year. A takeover deal with Chinese carmaker Youngman and retailer Pang Da resulted in General Motors stating that it would not allow the use of its technology if Saab became Chinese-owned.

It's thought that the rights to the '60 per cent complete' Phoenix platform are owned by Youngman. Last June, Saab's then-owner Victor Mueller announced plans to revive the Phoenix platform as the basis for an SUV and a series of saloons under a deal with Youngman.

Next Vauxhall Insignia to be twinned with Cadillac XTS

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 04:00 AM PST

Vauxhall confirms Cadillac co-operation as it enters co-development of MPVs with PSA group

Opel-Vauxhall's next-generation Insignia is set to be twinned with a Cadillac rather than the Peugeot 508 and Citroën C5 replacements, Opel interim CEO Thomas Sedran has revealed.

General Motors Europe (Opel-Vauxhall) and PSA Peugeot-Citroën revealed last week that they would be co-developing MPVs, but there was no mention of large saloons.

Instead, the Cadillac XTS replacement will be the Insignia's sister model when the pair are launched in the latter part of the decade. A facelifted version of the current Insignia is in final testing in the Arctic circle before this summer's launch.

"We will draw on developments from within the parent company for the Insignia replacement," said Sedran, who hands over to current VW executive Karl-Thomas Neumann on 1 March.

"This provides us with the advantage of being able to use technology from GM that is also earmarked for Cadillac."

Other Vauxhalls not in the GM-PSA tie-up include the Corsa and Antara. The next Corsa will be revealed at Frankfurt in September before a launch in April next year, but that car's replacement in 2020 will probably use the small-car platform that GM and PSA are co-developing.

The new Antara is due in spring 2015 and will be based on GM's Delta II platform from the Vauxhall Astra.

Sauber's 2013 F1 competitor makes debut

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 03:20 AM PST

C32 features a raft of changes from the 2012 car

Following the Ferrari, Lotus and Force India launches last week, Sauber took the wraps of its 2013 F1 contender over the weekend. The C32 will be driven by Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.

It features significant cosmetic alterations over the 2012 car including a downward-sloping nose section and much slimmer sidepods. Rearranging the radiators over last year's C31 has resulted in a much narrower rear end. Overall weight has also been reduced to allow for better distribution of ballast, while airflow has been improved around the rear tyres. Chief Designer Matt Morris believes Sauber has exceeded its original targets in the design of the C32.

Mechanically, the C32 again features an engine, gearbox and KERS system from Ferrari. Sauber says the energy recuperation system has been optimised in terms of weight and packaging.

Sauber will hope to improve on its 2012 F1 performance with the C32. Last year it finished sixth in the Constructors' championship, with 126 points. Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn is optimistic about the team's prospects for 2013. "We have a strong platform in place now, on which we are aiming to build and continue our upward curve," she said.

Red Bull Racing launches 2013 F1 car

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 02:56 AM PST

New RB9 shows off more prominent Infiniti sponsorship

Red Bull has today revealed the RB9, its contender for the 2013 F1 season and the car it hopes can secure another Drivers' and Constructors' championships for the Milton Keynes-based team.

The Renault-powered RB9's most obvious external difference over last year's RB8 is a livery that features more prominent Infiniti sponsorship. It incorporates the Japanese firm's signature purple into the RB9's racing colours, marking a strengthened relationship between the two firms.

Infiniti, the luxury offshoot of Renault's alliance partner Nissan, is now the exclusive vehicle performance partner of the Red Bull team, and the deal has allowed its engineering personnel to work at the Red Bull HQ. Moreover, following the release of the Infiniti FX Vettel Edition last year, expect greater Red Bull involvement with the Infiniti road cars. The upcoming Q50 saloon has already received input in its development from Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Buemi.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner said of the strenghtened relationship: "Our stronger link with Infiniti from 2013 is part of the natural evolution of our team and demonstrates its growth. I firmly believe it will prove to be of enormous benefit on both sides over the coming years."

As yet, no further technical details have been released of the RB9.

New Renault Scenic XMOD revealed

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 02:21 AM PST

Crossover-inspired version of the Scenic replaces the Scenic in Renault's line-up; Grand Scenic remains but gets a facelift

Renault is replacing the Scenic with this new crossover-style version of the car called Scenic XMOD.

Based on the outgoing car it replaces, the Renault Scenic XMOD gets raised ride height, new bumpers, sill guards, new alloy wheels and roof bars to give it the pseudo off-roader looks.

The Scenic XMOD is front-wheel drive, but improved adverse weather performance is claimed to be offered thanks to a new Grip Xtend traction control system.

Grip Xtend is manually controlled using a rotary knob on the centre console. 'Road' mode is the standard setting, working as a traditional traction control system. Loose Ground mode controls engine torque and optimises braking control in low-grip surfaces. In Expert mode, braking control is undertaken by the system, leaving the driver in control of the engine.

Boot capacity of the Scenic XMOD is also increased over the Scenic, up from 522 litres to 555 litres.

The Scenic XMOD also introduces Renault's new design language to the Scenic range. The look, first seen on the new Clio that goes on sale in the UK this month, is also set to appear on the revised Grand Scenic, which otherwise continues unchanged in the Scenic line-up.

Both the Scenic XMOD and Grand Scenic are also set to get Renault's new R-Link infotainment system.

The Scenic XMOD and Grand Scenic facelift are due to get their world debuts at the Geneva motor show in March. The Scenic XMOD is due on sale in the UK in May.

Lamborghini Aventador Roadster first drive review

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 01:48 AM PST

The Lamborghini Aventador Roadster is a well engineered version of one of the world's maddest and baddest supercars. And it can do 217mph – with the roof down. The Lamborghini Aventador Roadster is the most extraordinary car in the company's illustrous 50 year history, or so said the firm's charismatic chairman, Stephan Winkelmann, at the car's launch in Miami last weekend. It's a bold claim, given what's been served up previously by the famous old supercar maker from Sant'Agata  – the Miura SV and pretty much any version of the Countach are surely contenders. Then again, one look at the mighty Aventador Roadster in the flesh tells you that it is indeed right up there with Lamborghini's most outrageous creations. It looks like the sort of car Batman might drive on his day off, maybe when he's on holiday in Miami Beach…Don't for one moment think of the Roadster as some kind of folly, however, or as a car that hasn't somehow been engineered thoroughly for the job. Unlike the Murcielago Roadster, which was something of an afterthought to be honest, the open-top Aventador is a standalone model in its own right. Its styling is unique, considerable care and attention having been employed to ensure it of a separate, more extrovert personality compared with the coupé. And beneath its reptilian-like skin, while it shares its basic carbonfibre tub platform, 6.5-litre V12 engine and seven-speed single-clutch gearbox with the coupé, dynamically it is perhaps more impressive than the fixed head, for reasons we'll come to in a moment.Despite weighing some 50kg more than the coupé, Lamborghini claims the Roadster can set exactly the same time around the number one handling circuit at the Nardo test facility in the hands of all its test drivers. Had the roof simply been removed and various areas of the car not been redesigned to accommodate the one quarter decrease in stiffness, there is no way the Roadster could achieve such basic speed across the ground.

New Ford Focus RS expected in 2015

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST

Third generation Ford hot hatch has been confirmed for production

The third-generation Ford Focus RS will go on sale in 2015, high-ranking Ford officials have confirmed for the first time.

The news marks a major shift for Ford, which in recent years has focused on mass-market models to raise sales volumes and cut costs under boss Alan Mulally's 'One Ford' strategy that develops cars for global sale using as many common parts as possible.

However, with its new model roll-out almost complete, the crucial American market in profit, Asian business growing and a rescue strategy in place for its ailing European arm, bosses are now said to have agreed investment in niche models with the potential to add lustre to the brand and raise its profile beyond the struggling mass market.

Barb Samardzich, vice president of product development for Ford Europe, told Autocar: "We've concentrated on developing cars for world markets, and you can see the result of that with the Edge and Mustang scheduled to come to Europe, and the Fiesta and Focus in the US. Our 'One Ford' policy has succeeded in pushing our mainstream products further than ever, and the next step is to provide customers with more exemplary, smaller-volume highlight products. Planning doesn't just have to be about the mainstream now; we can go to the edges again."

Samardzich stopped short of fully confirming a new Focus RS, saying only "watch this space" when probed, but others at Ford have confirmed development work has begun. Autocar understands sign-off for the project is imminent, dependent on final analysis showing a business case for it to sit beside the new, European-bound Mustang, which is confirmed for 2014.

However, Samardzich also revealed to Autocar that recent studies concluded customers for Ford's high-performance vehicles were divided into very different groups. This is believed to have significantly strengthened the case for a Focus RS by abating fears that it would cannibalise Focus ST or Mustang sales.

"There's more room for more performance products across the range in the small, medium and large car segments," said Samardzich. "A whole suite of such cars is what I have in mind. I'm noting there are two different kinds of customers — one for ST products, which are fun but have an everyday usability, and another, more racing-focused customer who wants an RS-type car. Evolving both alongside Mustang is complementary; the customers for one don't necessarily want the other."

The new Focus RS's case is also strengthened considerably because it's expected to use a new, Ford-developed 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder tuned to around 330bhp. The engine, which will also feature in the Mustang, will comfortably exceed the output of the last Focus RS's Volvo-derived 2.5-litre five-pot that generated 301bhp, or 345bhp in the RS500. It will make use of latest turbo and direct-injection technology to greatly increase fuel efficiency.

It will have to be significantly re-engineered for the Focus where, unlike in the Mustang, it will be transversely mounted. Power and torque are also expected to be moderately higher than in the Mustang to ensure it remains the halo performance product in Ford's range, especially in Europe, where the bulk of sales are expected. Initial discussions to use electric motors on the rear wheels to boost performance and cut emissions were reportedly deemed too expensive to develop and a negative distraction for buyers.

As in the current Focus ST, the engine note will be amplified into the cabin using Ford's Sound Symposer, which opens a valve between the engine bay and cabin.

Other upgrades will include a return for Revoknuckle front suspension that was developed for the last RS, but rejected for the current ST because engineers thought Ford's electronic torque-vectoring system sufficient to handle its 247bhp and 265lb ft. The RS's higher outputs are believed to have convinced engineers Revoknuckle is needed to curb torque steer and aid traction.

A limited-slip differential is certain, plus beefed-up brakes and tyres and a sportier cabin. Engineers are said to have appraised using the Kuga's four-wheel drive system, which uses the same platform, but it's reportedly too heavy and tricky to package in a low-slung, sports-orientated car. Like the ST, the RS will come in five-door form only, while an estate is unlikely but possible.

Reports have suggested that Mondeo coupé RS and Fiesta RS models have been evaluated, but plans have stalled while Ford tackles its European crisis. It is said there are concerns over the potential demand for a £20k-plus hot supermini, while a potential Passat CC-rivalling Mondeo coupé is yet to be signed off.

Samardzich has confirmed work on the Euro-spec Mustang is progressing well. She declined to confirm that the car will feature independent rear suspension (it has been spied testing with such an arrangement), but confirmed the car would feature new tech.

"The beauty of One Ford is that every step forward is shared by every market," she said. "All I can confirm is that the Mustang will feature some new, exciting technologies that will benefit customers in every market. We know there is enthusiasm for the car in Europe, and we know the Mustang name resonates globally. We must ensure it delivers on that promise in every market it's sold in.

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