Friday, March 15, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

Video: Mercedes G63 AMG 6x6 tames the desert

Posted: 15 Mar 2013 06:39 AM PDT

Meet the ultimate in go-anywhere civilian vehicles

Meet the ultimate in go-anywhere civilian vehicles, the incredible Mercedes G63 AMG 6x6. It costs £350,000, weighs 3.7-tonnes and sends its 536bhp to all six wheels. The military-derived G63 6x6 is one of the few cars to make a Hummer H1 look weak.

Has the new Clio Renaultsport lost its mojo?

Posted: 15 Mar 2013 03:04 AM PDT

It's one of the most eagerly anticipated performance cars of the year, so what's the new Clio Renaultsport like to drive?

It's very fast, very capable, surprisingly refined and exceedingly impressive dynamically, yet for some reason I've come away feeling short-changed by the new Clio Renaultsport. Emotionally it's left me... not so much cold, but no longer on fire.

You can read elsewhere on this site about the specific qualities of its new dual-clutch gearbox (which isn't great if I'm honest) and about how – in theory – you can tailor the car's personality on the move to transform it from road-legal racing car to soothing family hatch and so on, but the main news is that, overall, it's gone a little bit soft.

The slightly manic, deliciously crazed driver involvement that has been at the centre of all previous Cliosports has, for very modern reasons, been replaced by a more soothing, much more civilized demeanour. Which is, of course, an entirely common theme to come across nowadays, to a point where it's become something we expect.

But to discover such numbing-up in what was, until now, such a small, simple and pure driving machine is, for me, quite a disappointment. The hot Clio was, after all, one of the last bastions of affordable madness on four wheels. I didn't want it to have the ride of a limousine or the automated gearbox of a supercar, nor the cabin sophistication of an SUV. I wanted it to set my hair on fire when I let rip in it, and it was one of the very few cars available in the real world that did just that – almost literally on one occasion as I recall.

I'm 100 per cent certain the new car will be nicer to live with everyday, and I'm equally certain Renault will shift many more examples globally as a result. But at the same time I think it's a desperate shame that Le Régie has released the Cliosport's USP into the ether, and replaced it with something far more capable, yes, but also less memorable.

Maybe the Peugeot 208 GTI really does stand a chance of redressing the balance, after all.

Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo first drive review

Posted: 15 Mar 2013 02:44 AM PDT

Have turbocharging and a dual-clutch-only transmission paid dividends for Renault in the latest Clio Renaultsport 200? Away from the mega-money, mega-horsepower arena of LaFerrari and the McLaren P1, the all-new Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo is arguably this year's most eagerly awaited car.It is very much of the moment when it comes to delivering a big bang for not that many bucks: it has 197bhp, can hit 62mph in 6.7sec yet costs just £18,995 in basic form, or £19,995 in the Lux trim tested here.Lux adds full climate control in place of the standard air conditioning, and the R-Link multimedia system that's operated via a 7in touchscreen. R-Link includes an intriguing feature that allows you to exchange circuit telemetry for all sorts of racing tracks with Renault and with other users. But it also enables the stereo to play a particularly good party trick. By writing some crafty algorithms into the music system that effectively track what you do with the throttle, gearchange, brakes and so on, the stereo can transform the sounds made by your Clio RS into a range of seminal racing and rally cars from days gone by. So if you want your Clio to replicate the noise of an Alpine A110 rally car at full tilt, all you do is hit the magic button and it delivers. Geeky, yes, but like all good things from planet geek, unquestionably appealing all the same.The Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo makes a genuine attempt not to dent the environment too much in the process, hence the reason it's powered by a smaller, 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that delivers 44.8mpg and just 144g/km compared with the previous hot Clio's dirtier, thirstier, naturally aspirated 2.0-litre powerplant.Where the new RS gets exceedingly contemporary indeed is that it comes with a dual-clutch automatic transmission, and a dual-clutch automatic transmission only. So anyone who's in the "I won't drive cars without a manual gearbox because paddle-shift gearboxes are for sissies" camp won't be driving a new Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo.Which is a fairly bold but also potentially damaging move on Renault's behalf; only time will tell whether the decision not to offer the option of a manual will force us all to make a more clear connection between Renault's fast road cars and its participation in F1 (which is the intention), or simply drive would-be customers in the opposite direction.

Renault could expand crossover range

Posted: 15 Mar 2013 02:01 AM PDT

Launch of the Captur could lead to more sporting variants, as well as similar cars in different segments

A three-door coupé version of the Renault Captur is likely to be produced if the launch of the five-door is a success, according to Renault's head of design Laurens van den Acker – and a more focused Renaultsport version of that car is also possible.

The heavily stylised crossover moves Renault into the mainstream crossover market, and insiders admit that it is likely to be joined by larger and smaller crossovers in the near future as sales of such vehicles are booming.

"For the moment we must concentrate on the mainstream – creating the cars that will attract volume sales is the sensible thing," said van den Acker. "But one day I hope to do a three-door version of the Captur. Speaking as a designer and not a product planner, then I can say too that a Renaultsport version of that car would also be special. It is something that I have given a lot of thought to."

In addition, Renault bosses are said to be mulling the future of the next-generation Espace, and in particular whether to switch its practical, load-carrying format to into a large crossover body style.

Renault's product line-up boss Tom Lane said, "It's a discussion. We need to decide what to do with Espace, and if we change direction with it whether to keep the Espace name. I cannot imagine just redoing the current Espace – that market is shrinking rapidly. As yet, though, there's no decision."

Dacia range expansion on hold

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 11:44 PM PDT

New models are due eventually, but current focus is on cementing the marque's reputation

Dacia's next wave of product launches could include a city car and a large saloon, although neither is likely to be launched for at least 18 months.

Dacia's aggressive model plans culminated with the launch of the sub-£8000 Dacia Logan MCV at the Geneva motor show, which marked its seventh new vehicle launch in the past three years. It will now concentrate on reaching into new markets and growing its market share, rather than launching new models.

"We have the product now, the investment is done – it is now time for us to milk the cow and concentrate on growing the business we have created," said Renault boss Carlos Tavares.

However, Renault product planning boss Tom Lane intimated that neither a cheaper, more basic VW Up-style city car nor a Skoda Octavia-sized saloon should be discounted for future launch. "The brand is targeted at the mass market, and neither would be a stretch for us within that remit," he said.

"There is a temptation to expand Dacia, but it is probably not a priority at the moment. We have other things within the group to consider, but Dacia will grow in time."

BMW 320d GT first drive review

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 04:00 PM PDT

The 3 GT is an interesting package, with a hugely practical and attractive interior. The handling remains good, but the diesel engine shows its age A BMW 3-series with added space – especially in the rear seats and the boot.Unless you're familiar with riding on the back bench of some of BMW's biggest machines, you'll be quite unused to legroom on this scale, and if three occupy it, they'll make the surprise discovery that the arrangement will be tolerable for more than half an hour. This is the new 3-series for families, and families that need more room than a 3-series Touring or even a 5-series saloon can offer.Though not as much as the rather odd-looking 5-series GT provides, this 3 GT being its new, smaller brother. The 5 GT offers cavernous room, but within an envelope that's probably BMW's unhappiest aesthetically. By comparison the 3 GT is more harmoniously sculpted, even if its rear end looks over-heavy in the bumper area and the rearmost pillar seems anaemic.So it's not the most handsome BMW, but if you consider it as a rakishly sporty, five-door MPV-coupé, its appeal becomes easier to understand. Especially when you learn that the car was born out of a delve into 3-series customers' desires, these including more room – not so surprising if you've served time in the back of the saloon – and the raised seating of SUVs. Which is why this car is unusual for being a taller sports hatch of a kind that, in the premium segment, has no direct equivalent.Calling it a GT might seem odd, but these letters have been liberally applied – or misapplied – for decades. And there's no question that visually, this smaller BMW GT is a more harmonious and dynamic-looking device than the 5 GT.It's also hugely practical. The boot is larger than a Touring's, at 520 litres, and very large indeed when the rear seats are felled to reveal 1600 litres of stowage. A shame that the backrests merely drop onto their cushions rather than tumbling with the seat base to form a bulkhead and a flat floor, but there's no question that you can get a lot in there. Each portion of the split backrest descends with the tug of a handle, although you must hump it back upright yourself.Versatility is further improved by a backrest that locks into 15 different positions across 19 degrees, potentially allowing it to swallow that pesky chest of drawers without dropping the seats. The boot provides an under-floor well, load-securing rails, hooks and lashing eyes, while the rigid two-piece rear parcel shelf stows below the deck floor – a rare convenience. All GTs have electric tailgates – just as well, because it's a hefty structure – and waggling a foot under the rear bumper sends it rising skywards. Equally obscure, though, is a release button buried near the driver's door that few will spot.The reason for all this extra space is quite simple: the GT is a much bigger car. You also sit at much the same height as an X1 driver. Of course, that also means that this GT 3-series has a higher centre of gravity, besides being heftier than a Touring. So what does that do to the dynamics of this ultimate driving machine?

Ford line-up will only ever feature one RS model

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 01:43 PM PDT

Desire to preserve the badge's allure plus the arrival of the Mustang in Europe will keep Ford's performance flagships unique

Ford is unlikely to have more than one RS product on sale at any time, according to its president of marketing in Europe, Roelant de Waard.

Recent speculation had suggested that, if given the go-ahead, the next-generation Ford Focus RS could launch in 2015 and be joined in an expanded range by other RS products, potentially including a Fiesta RS.

However, Roelant de Waard said, "Our focus now is on the Mustang, but over time there is aways room for RS products. But what is clear is that RS shouldn't be a series, or a car badge that we have in our portfolio all the time. It is an extreme car – something more than ST.

"It is so evocative that I'd be highly surprised if there were not more RS products – plural – in the future, but I would be surprised if there was more than one at the same time."

VW: Crunching the numbers

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 07:36 AM PDT

Though seemingly in rude financial health, it's clear the VW Group relies on continued success from its premium brands

If there's one thing I can take away from this morning's VW Group annual results, it's that successful premium car manufacturing is a good way to make serious money.

It may be a crude measurement, but the Audi brand made £4.7 billion profit from selling 1.5 million vehicles and VW made £3.1bn by selling 5.7m vehicles. An even cruder quick calculation suggests Audi made an average of £3133 profit per car and VW just £543 profit per car.

Admittedly, VW is facing significant costs in rolling out the new MQB platform and new factories to put it to use. Things will improve for VW as it rolls out ever-more MQB-based models (a total of 40 VW Group cars will be based on the new platform), but it just shows that even a mainstream carmaker as healthy as VW is operating on very tight margins. Indeed, VW bosses admitted that over 50 per cent of VW Group profit is made by its premium brands.

The profit star of the VW show was Porsche. Although it only came under the VW umbrella last August, in the final five months of 2012 it made profits of £820m. With 2012 sales hitting around 140,000, my calculation is an average profit of £11,700 per car. That might get even better in 2014, because the new Macan compact SUV – sister car to the Audi Q5 – will be launched at the end of this year, and Porsche can surely add another 50,000 sales with such a timely model.

These figures make you realise why Peugeot-Citroën, Ford and Vauxhall/Opel bled away billions of euros last year. If you have to sell cars – especially those built in high-cost European factories – at any kind of discount on the brochure price, massive losses will surely follow.

Indeed, at the launch of the 2000-model Laguna, then-Renault boss Louis Schweitzer complained that Renault's biggest problem was that VW could achieve an average showroom price for a Golf that was £1500 higher than Renault could achieve for a Mégane. These problems still plague European mass-makers and it shows why the most reliable profits are increasingly being made by budget cars such as the Dacia and by premium brands.

I must admit to having great admiration for manufacturers that make up the global car industry, whether they make money or not. Crunching these figures reminds us of the extraordinary efforts made by the auto industry – investing huge sums, employing huge numbers of people and creating demand that runs from the steel works to the local dealership – all for, in the majority of cases, for the slimmest of profit margins, if not outright losses.

Electric Volkswagen e-Up revealed

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 07:00 AM PDT

New e-Up will debut at Frankfurt and features innovative charging technology

This is the VW e-Up, which has made a brief appearance at today's annual VW press conference ahead of its public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

VW says the e-Up has a range of up to 93 miles and that the battery pack can be recharged to 80 percent of its full capacity in 30 minutes. The e-Up is a relative flyweight as far as battery-powered vehicles are concerned, weighing in at 1185kg, which compares favourably with the Nissan Leaf, which weighs around 1500kg.

The e-Up is powered by an electric motor that produces peak power of 80bhp and a continuous output of 53bhp. 155lb ft of torque is on tap from start-up. The car has a claimed 0-62mph time "within 14 seconds" and a top speed of 84mph. Power comes from an 18.7kWh lithium-ion battery (by contrast, the Nissan Leaf uses a 24kWh battery) which is said to be packaged beneath the Up's floor. The car on display at Wolfsburg was not accessible, but the battery pack does not intrude into the cabin.

The e-Up will also have the option of the new Combined Charging System (CCS), which VW and other car makers have co-developed and supports both AC and DC charging and should be able to cope with all types of charging station.

VW gave no hint on price, but the company will be taking orders for the e-Up shortly after its Frankfurt debut.

New Renaultsport Clio 200 from £18,995

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 05:22 AM PDT

Latest Renaultsport hot hatch will be available in two specifications, with Cup pack available. Deliveries start in June

Renault has announced prices and specifications for its new Clio Renaultsport 200 EDC. The £18,995 entry price matches the similarly powerful Peugeot 208 GTI but makes it £2000 more expensive than the Ford Fiesta ST.

Two models will be available in Britain. The Lux option adds £1000 to the price of the standard car and provides additional equipment including an upgraded Arkamys stereo, climate control, electric rear windows and Renault's R-Link infotainment system.

A Cup chassis pack will also be offered on both models, priced at £450. It comprises a 3mm suspension drop, 15 per cent increase in chassis stiffness, red brake calipers and Dunlop Sport Maxx TT tyres.

Further options for the Renaultsport Clio include the second-generation Renaultsport Monitor telemetry system for £95 (Lux models only), 18-inch alloy wheels at £185 (standard with the Cup Pack) and metallic paint from £495 (with Flame Red at £595 and the iconic Liquid Yellow hue costing £1300).

Orders for the new Clio Renaultsport 200 EDC will be taken from 8 April. It will arrive in UK showrooms in June.

Matt Bird

Quick news: Volvo V40 diesel auto and T2, new car emissions fall, European Mustang

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 04:34 AM PDT

Improved efficiency, new engine and new transmission for Volvo hatch, SMMT emissions figures and why the Mustang is well placed for Europe

Volvo has introduced two new powertrain options to the V40. The D2 diesel is now available with an automatic transmission, which pushes CO2 and economy figures up to 102g/km and 72.4mpg. The V40 T2 has a 1.6-litre turbo with 118bhp and 177lb ft. It emits 124g/km and returns 53.3mpg.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has released figures showing that the average new car in 2012 emitted 133.1g/km of CO2, more than 25 per cent less than in 2000. Sub-100g/km cars doubled their market share, accouting for 8.2 per cent of sales, up from 3.7 per cent.

Ford research has revealed that 'Mustang' is the eighth best-known car name in Europe, despite never having been officially sold here. The research is part of the reason why the next-generation car will be sold in Europe with a 300bhp, 2.3-litre version of the Focus ST's EcoBoost engine.

VW Group's sales and profits soar

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 03:46 AM PDT

Acquisition of new brands further strengthens VW's global position

The Volkswagen Group's before-tax profits leapt by £5.7bn to £25.5bn in 2012 as sales of vehicles from its 12 brands – which include truck makers MAN and Scania – jumped by one million units to 9.3 million. Total VW Group 2012 revenue was £167bn, up 20.9 per cent on 2011.

VW's automotive division now has a 12.8 per cent share of the global car market.

Of these 9.3 million sales, 5.7 million were VW-branded vehicles, up 12.8 percent over 2011. VW made an operating profit of £3.1bn, which was down four per cent on 2011. Company bosses blame this on the significant costs of rolling out the new MQB platform and factory system.

Skoda sales in 2012 were up 6.8 per cent to 939,000 vehicles, but profits slipped to £618m. Seat sales dropped by 8.3 percent to 321,000 units, which VW attributes to the state of the Spanish and wider southern-European economy. Seat's losses were cut by £59.8m, but it remained £135m in the red.

Bentley continued its turn-around with sales in 2012 up from 7003 to 8510 units, contributing to an operating profit of £86.7m. Porsche only became a full member of the VW Group in August, but it sold "over 140,000" units in 2012 – a record for the brand. VW said that the company made a profit of £820m between August and December last year.

The Audi brand, as Autocar reported earlier this week, delivered 1.5 million vehicles (up from 1.3 million in 2011), and operating profits grew marginally to £4.7bn. VW Group sold 2.8 million cars in China, up 24.6 per cent year-on-year.

VW Group says that the return on investment at its automotive division was down from 17.7 per cent to 16.6 per cent in 2012, though this is still well above its self-imposed target of 9 per cent. VW Group sold 1.4 million vehicles across January and February this year, up 8.3 per cent year-on-year.

Kia Procee'd first drive review

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 04:21 AM PDT

Kia's three-door version of the Cee'd is sharply styled and well equipped, but lacks the final level of dynamic polish that marks out the best cars in its class Another looker from Kia. This time, it's the three-door version of the second-generation Cee'd, the Procee'd.This sleek new hatchback shares all its dimensions with the five-door save for its height, with the Procee'd coming in 40mm lower. The body is new from the A-pillars back, but underneath the Cee'd and Procee'd are pretty much identical.Kia is positioning the Procee'd higher than the Cee'd, with its own bespoke trim levels (S and SE). Two of the more potent 1.6-litre engines are offered from the Cee'd to reflect the more premium positioning: a 133bhp petrol unit and a 126bhp diesel. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a six-speed dual-clutch auto optional on the petrol.

Seat Toledo

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 04:48 AM PDT

The Seat Toledo makes a good case for itself as a no-nonsense family car, but don't expect any thrills Are you a form-over-function person, or do you incline more towards substance than style? If the former, there is nothing in this test of the new Seat Toledo that could possibly be of interest to you. If the latter, step this way: we have something to share.The new Toledo is sensible to the point of making Hermione Granger seem louche. About as visually interesting as the inside of your eyelids, it is the automotive equivalent of a Bosch dishwasher: well made, utterly functional and entirely devoid of character. It takes the notion of quality white goods for the road and re-invents it on a level shared only by its badge-engineered sister, the Skoda Rapid.A hatchback cleverly concealed behind a conventional three-box design, it's based on an extended VW Polo platform. There are three 1.2-litre petrol specifications, although the least powerful has just three cylinders and musters a mere 74bhp, appearing to exist only to allow Seat a sub-£12,500 entry point to the range. If you want anything approaching respectable performance you'll need the four-pot motor offering power of either 84bhp or 103bhp and a price point north of £14,000. There's a 120bhp 1.4 as well but it can only be specified with a DSG gearbox and top SE specification, at a £17,780 list price.For most, the 1.6-litre diesel is probably the preferable choice, even at its £16,640 starting price. Like the top spec 1.2-litre petrol it has 103bhp, but vastly more torque and, at 72.4mpg combined, truly impressive fuel consumption. Performance is good on paper (0-62mph in 10.4sec) and even better on the road thanks to the wide powerband's ability to mask gaps between the five-speed manual gearbox's ratios.But none of this makes the Toledo fun to drive. Lacking the sophisticated rear suspension of the Leon or VW Golf, body control is merely adequate and ride quality a little disappointing, proving rather too willing to let the presence of every-day lumps and bumps be felt in the cabin. Its chassis is safe but stodgy and lacking in the kind of finesse that will appeal either you as a driver, or your friends and family as passengers.Its static qualities are more impressive, especially if you believe big is beautiful. By extending the Polo wheelbase and attaching what amounts to a big box on the back, Seat has provided the Toledo with a spacious interior and a simply colossal boot. How large? Bigger than that of a Mercedes E-class, Audi A6 or BMW 5-series saloon. That notchback shape does limit things a little when loading truly bulky items, but if it's just the usual shopping and luggage, the Toledo is second to none in the class. Rear legroom is exceptional too.As for the driving environment, the kindest thing to say is that at least it doesn't make any promises about the quality of the drive to come. The dashboard architecture is, like the rest of the car, definitively functional and dull.Some people want no more from their wheels, in which case the affordable and effective Toledo may make a lot of sense. But to those who want and even expect just a little sparkle even from our affordable family transport, they'll be better off looking elsewhere.

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