Friday, March 29, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

100 years, not out for the Morris factory

Posted: 28 Mar 2013 06:40 PM PDT

100 years, not out As BMW celebrated 100 years of production at the site of the Morris factory, the star of the show was an ex-employee

This distinguished individual is Eric Lord, who started work at the Morris plant at Cowley in 1940, only retiring in 1979. He started out organising production and ended up as the Works Manager in 1960s (his "favourite job") trying to keep the production line going despite the presence of what he described as 'a lot of people in the plant trying their best to shut it down.'

Despite the appearance of the Secretary of State for Transport and senior management from BMW, Mr Lord was surely the guest of honour at Thursday's anniversary celebrations of 100 years of production at the old Morris works. Thursday 28th March was also Mr Lord's 93rd birthday.

The audience at the event - which saw the opening of a new exhibition covering the history of the Cowley plant and a gathering of some of the cars made there - was riveted by Mr Lord's short stint on stage. He talked about arriving to work on building Tiger Moth biplane trainer aircraft, a production line which he said was the first moving aeroplane production line in the world. Organising car production lines that were based on manual labour was also a problem. "We had so many men on the line carry out tasks, they would be falling over other".

He then talked about his memories of Alex Issigonis, the legend behind the Morris Minor, Mini and 1100/1300 series. He explained that "you had to know how to handle" the mercurial engineer. "If you told him you had a problem, he would tell it wasn't his problem and to 'sort it out yourself'. However, if you asked for his help with a problem, he would always help you." Lord also said that the Issigonis was very keen on playing dice during the lunch breaks. "We had to wolf down our lunch so we could join in his games".

I managed to catch Eric Lord outside while we were waiting for a flypast by a Tiger Moth. I sidled up to him in that rather sloppy journalistic way and said "excuse me sir, could I ask a question". Lord stood as upright as he could, offered a firm handshake and introduced himself with a brisk formality that demands you do the same.

I asked him about the huge number of combat aircraft repairs carried out at Cowley during WW2. Highly amusingly, in a loud stage whisper, Lord suggested that we "probably shouldn't talk about that time" before doing just that. He told me that damaged aeroplanes would fly into the grass strip by the factory and would be "patched up" if they were full of holes. "Quite often, the same pilot would fly the plane out as soon as we had patched it up.'

He also told me that they thought wartime Cowley had been so well-disguised, it couldn't be bombed. "After the war I saw some [reconnaissance] photos taken by the Germans and they had a red line right around the edge of the factory. They knew exactly where we were."

It's pretty hard to image a career that spanned patching up Spitfires and Hurricanes, and went through the introduction of Minor, Mini endless strikes, two major mergers, financial collapse and then nationalisation. But, somehow, the lines at Cowley never quite stopped permanently.

BMW presented Mr Lord and his wife with a birthday cake in the shape of a Minor. I calculated that there was 73 years between Mr Lord starting work at Cowley and the start of the career of the young, first year, female Mini apprentice who presented the cake.

But forget the cars and the history. Briefly meeting Mr and Mrs Lord was a major highlight. If I needed any confirmation the wartime generation remains an example of elegance, modesty and civility, Mr Lord was it. Indeed, while I was talking to him, Mr Lord had a mild coughing fit. When the Frank Bachmann, boss of the Mini plant, asked Mr Lord if would like some water, he replied that 'he needed a pint'. After four decades of keeping the production lines running, it's the least he deserved. 

Mini Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman first drive review

Posted: 28 Mar 2013 11:09 AM PDT

Mini Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman first drive review Most powerful, all-wheel drive diesel variant of Mini's distinctive new coupé offers more driver thrills than the Countryman on which it is based The Mini Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman is the most powerful all-wheel-drive diesel version of Mini's new coupé, which we've previously experienced in front-wheel-drive 1.6-litre petrol and range-topping John Cooper Works guises.The concept of a three-door version of the Countryman seems to contradict the big Mini's practical traits of extra space and family friendly versatility. However, with the Countryman accounting for one in every three Minis sold here, the BMW-owned brand is keen to capitalise on the growing market segment and turn the heads of prospective buyers of Nissan Jukes and Range Rover Evoques with a sleeker, more sporting take on its largest offering.Mini says it is even targeting buyers of the three-door Volkswagen Golf or the Scirocco. The typical Paceman buyer, it reckons, will be looking for a sporty, distinctive car with more space than the regular Mini Hatch. 

BMW prepares to launch all-new Mini

Posted: 28 Mar 2013 09:25 AM PDT

BMW prepares to push button on all-new Mini As Oxford celebrates 100 years of car building, BMW is preparing to start work on the production line of the third-generation Mini

BMW is about to start work on rolling out the all-new Mini 3, Autocar has learnt. Production line training for the workers at Plant Oxford will begin next week, with assembly of very early pre-production Mini 3s – known internally as 'kite-flyers' – beginning shortly afterwards. The unveiling of the new model is not expected before late 2013, however.

BMW has already completed work on a new body-in-white facility for the Mini 3, which is based on BMW's new UKL1 front-drive platform, at Oxford and is now working on the challenging logistical task of building both the new Mini and the current R56-series Mini on the same production line.

Frank Bachmann, boss of Plant Oxford, told Autocar that mixing two entirely different cars - which don't even share an engine - was a very difficult task because of the large number of parts that needed to be brought to the production line at the right time.

Sources say that Oxford will spend the next two years building Mini 2 and Mini 3 models side-by-side, before models based on the R56 platform are completely phased out.

Bachmann also revealed that the Mini 3 production will begin at the Nedcar plant in the Netherlands from 'the second half of 2014'. Bachmann says that Nedcar, which previously built Mitsubishi models, the first Volvo V40 and the Smart ForFour, is needed because the company expects a significant leap in Mini demand when the new model is launched.

The Countryman and Paceman models will continue to be built under contract at Magna in Graz, Austria, until they are phased out in two years' time. Magna is then likely to switch to building another BMW-brand model.

Mini sales rose to a record 328,000 in 2012, a figure that was up eight per cent on 2011. The Oxford plant is currently running for 19.5 hours per day, producing 900 cars, which equates to about one every 68 seconds.

Sébastien Loeb to drive Peugeot 208 T16 at Pikes Peak

Posted: 28 Mar 2013 06:35 AM PDT

Sébastien Loeb to drive Peugeot 208 T16 at Pikes Peak World rally champion, Sébastien Loeb will drive a Peugeot 208 marking the firm's return to Pikes Peak

Peugoet will return to the Pikes Peak hill climb later this year. The firm will campaign a Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, driven by Sébastien Loeb.

The car will run in the event's Unlimited class, and will carry the number 208. The car will be unveiled next month, when its final specifications are announced.

Peugeot has previously won the event twice. Ari Vatanen's 1988 record-breaking win in a 405 T16 was recorded in the film Climb Dance. The following year, Bobby Unser took another 405 to the top of the podium.

The Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak car is the latest in a line of 208 competition cars, which already includes the 208 T16, the 208 R2, the 208 Racing Cup and the 208 GTi Peugeot Sport.

New York motor show: Top 10 gallery

Posted: 28 Mar 2013 05:46 AM PDT

New York motor show: Top 10 gallery See our top ten favourite show cars from the New York motor show 2013, which played host to some spectacular debuts

The New York motor show delivered the sort of buzz befitting of the city that never sleeps. Here are our favourite show cars.

1. Range Rover Sport

What else could it be? Delivered by James Bond on the eve of the show, the car's incongruous reputation for being a dynamic SUV that is bought by chiefly city-dwelling urbanites meant it was in its element in the Big Apple. But take time to read the full technical story, ride story and interview with designer Gerry McGovern and you'll soon understand there's far more to the Range Rover Sport than the show gloss.

2. Jaguar XKR-S GT

A touch controversial this choice, because a limited run, £130k-plus XK is sure to divide opinion. In itself, though, it was a creation of pure aggression. The design team admitted that aerodynamic rather than aesthetic requirements took priority, but the raw end product more than delivered on both fronts. It will also be used as a test bed for future Jaguar tech, which will feed in to more products down the food chain.

3. Jaguar XJR

When your stable-mate is shutting down streets in Manhattan and wheeling out the Hollywood A-list, it's no mean feat to cause a few ripples yourself. Jaguar managed a double whammy of success by unveiling the mind-blowingly quick XJR. You'd be brave to buy one over a Maserati Quattroporte – but looking at the on-paper figures we reckon you'd have an awful lot of fun doing it.

4. Mercedes CLA45 AMG

Another day, another show, this is the car that could have stolen all the headlines. Instead, despite its brooding presence, drop-dead good looks and immense powertrain, its arrival was slightly overshadowed. Perhaps it was the muted response to recent first drives of the standard car, or perhaps it was the fact Mercedes unveiled an electric B-class at the same time. Chalk and cheese don't mix.

5. Kia Soul

If you don't understand the hullabaloo surrounding the launch of the new Kia Soul, then you need to get to America, where it's the coolest car that the kids want mum and dad to own. And, looking at the sales figures, mum and dad are often taking the path of least resistance. Has the styling evolved enough to make an impact in Europe? Probably not, but it won't stop them trying.

6. Jeep Cherokee

With a bit of luck, the front end looks will grow on us, because this Jeep Cherokee has the makings of a fun addition to the SUV maker's family. Jeep claims great on and off-road performance, frugal engines and a nine-speed gearbox, plus a host of new in-car tech. Stop for a moment and think of Land Rover's current success, based on its authentic off-road heritage, and then wonder what might happen if Jeep can gather some momentum.

7. Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

The whooping and hollering had to be heard to be believed when the covers came off the fastest production Camaro yet made – here was a homegrown hero that could set the crowds abuzz without the need for a film star to be in tow. Powered by the Corvette ZO6's 7.0-litre V8 and subjected to a weight-saving, aerodynamic and handling programme, it certainly lives up to its billing.

8. BMW Concept Active Tourer

It wasn't new, having been on the motor show circuit for several months now, but its appearance in the USA was significant, because it highlights the hopes and aspirations that BMW has for the front-drive Mercedes B-class rival when it goes on sale in the next 12 months. With cars like this, the image of America being transported in large pick-up trucks is diminishing by the day.

9. Cadillac CTS

The proof, as ever, will be in the pudding, but Cadillac is making some lofty – and really rather feisty – claims about its Europe-bound BMW 5-series rival. Whether it can live up to them remains to be seen, especially as we've heard it all before and been disappointed, but there's no doubting the car's striking design and impressive performance claims. Full marks to them for trying.

10. Subaru WRX

It could have made minor shockwaves in New York, but the unfathomable decision to keep the new Subaru WRX concept under covers until the second day of the show rather took the wind from its sails. Few car manufacturers engender the goodwill that is shown to Subaru, and few models can stoke up that passion like a new WRX. Let's hope they can make a business case for it back in the UK.

650bhp for next Bentley Supersports

Posted: 28 Mar 2013 05:12 AM PDT

650bhp for next Bentley Supersports Bentley is planning a new hardcore two-seat Continental W12 with more power and less weight

Bentley is planning a 650bhp-plus Continental Supersports model for launch around 2014 as a new high-performance flagship coupé.

The lightweight model is expected to feature carbonfibre panels, stiffer suspension and possibly a stripped-out cabin, plus more power from its twin-turbo W12.

A Supersports was launched in autumn 2009 ahead of the run-out of the previous-gen Continental GT, but the new car will become a long-term feature of the line-up.

The Supersports will bridge the gap from today's 616bhp Speed model to the eagerly anticipated, 675bhp-plus, road-going Continental GT3 that Bentley plans to launch in 2015 alongside a race-ready Continental GT3 customer car.

Like Porsche, which often differentiates models with quite small power hikes, the Supersports is likely to feature a relatively modest 30bhp or so increase over the Speed.

"There is a limit to how much power can sensibly be extracted, so the Supersports wouldn't be all about pure power," said a Bentley source.

In turn, the rest of its improvements would focus on cutting the kerb weight, sharpening gearchange speeds, revising the chassis settings and improving braking power.

All the changes would be focused on a keener driving experience with sharper steering and handling, firmer body control and a sportier exhaust note to mark the Supersports as a more focused driver's machine.

To get the weight down, Bentley is understood to be planning carbonfibre body panels, lightweight composite seats and possibly stripping out the rear seats to make a two-seat cabin.

New York motor show: Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 08:57 AM PDT

New York motor show: Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Four-wheel-drive crossover uses a petrol-electric drivetrain to boost economy and performance

Subaru has launched its first hybrid car, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid, at the New York motor show. It claims to offer all the utility of the standard XV with better fuel consumption and none of the drawbacks associated with petrol-electric cars.

The Crosstrek Hybrid is powered by Subaru's 2.0-litre boxer petrol engine, tweaked for reduced internal friction, which produces 148bhp and 145lb ft. The electric motor makes 13.4bhp and 48lb ft of torque and is supplied by a 100v, 13.5kw nickel-metal hydride battery. A Lineartronic CVT transmission is standard, and the XV Hybrid retains Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system found in the standard car.

According to Subaru, the hybrid technology weighs 209lbs (94kg) and contributes to an overall weight gain of 300lbs (136kg) over the standard XV. The chassis has been re-engineered to cope with the additional weight whilst modifications to the suspension and steering aim to improve the Hybrid's handling.

Despite the battery being located in the boot, claimed luggage capacity is only reduced fractionally; with the rear seats folded, capacity is 1421 litres, compared to 1469 litres for the standard car.

The XV Crosstrek Hybrid features regenerative braking and a stop-start system using its own generator to boost efficiency. It can also run solely on electricity, although Subaru has not given an EV-mode range. Overall combined fuel economy is rated at 31mpg using imperial gallons, equivalent to 37mpg in Britain.

The Hybrid can be identified from standard XVs through its unique alloy wheels, hybrid badges and a new interior with revised instrument displays. Subaru has also introduced a Plasma Green Pearl colour specifically for the XV Hybrid.

Following its New York debut, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid will go on sale in America later this year. There are currently no plans for Subaru to launch it in Britain.

Click here for more New York motor show 2013 news.

New York motor show: Subaru WRX Concept

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 05:27 AM PDT

New York motor show: Subaru WRX Concept Dramatic four-door concept previews the next WRX

Subaru has unveiled a new WRX Concept at the New York motor show. It previews the appearance of the next WRX, Subaru's most iconic model.

The design is claimed to emphasise the familiar Subaru characteristics of turbocharged power and all-wheel-drive grip in a more agile and athletic form. It appears to be a direct riposte from Subaru to the criticism of the current WRX's dowdy appearance.

The WRX Concept is a four-door saloon like early Subaru Imprezas, rejecting the hatchback shape of the recent WRX and STi models. Its wide stance, flared wheelarches and muscular bodywork undoubtedly give it a presence missing from the five-door WRX models. According to Subaru, the WRX's 'compact cabin greenhouse draws attention to the power and solidity of the body', and contributes to a much sleeker profile than any previous WRX variants.

The dimensions for the WRX Concept support this impression. At 4521mm long, it's comparable in length to the current WRX STI saloon but is nearly 100mm wider at 1889mm and much lower (1389mm vs 1470mm).

Despite the change in appearance, traditional Subaru elements have not been discarded. The familiar bonnet scoop and large cooling vents remain, for example. The fluorescent yellow accents will be recognisable from old Subarus, as will the blue paint; for the WRX Concept, it has been updated to 'WR Blue Mica III'.

Other notable features of the WRX Concept include a carbonfibre roof to lower both mass and the centre of gravity. The wheels are 20in forged BBS RI-D items shod in 245/40 Dunlop tyres with a bespoke tread pattern. The aero package includes an aggressive front splitter and a prominent rear diffuser. Subaru also claims the moulded bootlid acts as a rear spoiler.

Click here for more New York motor show 2013 news.

Matt Bird

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