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27th June 2011

Hybrid roadsters to fuel-efficient hatchbacks

The news this week contained exciting announcements from a number of manufacturers about new models, from hybrid roadsters to fuel-efficient hatchbacks.

Audi released news of a Congestion Charge-busting A1, with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km. The new mini Audi has a 1.6-litre direct-injection, common-rail turbo-diesel engine that produces 104bhp and returns 74.3mpg. The low CO2 emissions also mean it is exempt from VED from year two onwards.

Despite its frugality, it is still capable of 0-62mph in around 10 seconds and a top speed of 118mph. Standard equipment includes stop-start, alloy wheels, air-conditioning and Electric Stability Control and prices begin at £14,480 for the base SE model and go up to ВЈ17,865 for the top-of-the-range S Line. The German marque has also released information about its 3.0-litre TDI A8 model, which will produce 201bhp, deliver 47.1mpg and emit just 159g/km CO2 to take on the new four-cylinder diesel S-Class.

The MINI Coupe has also been announced this week, with the promise of the Roadster to come later. The MINI Coupe is based on the Cabriolet and will begin in Cooper guise, with Cooper S, Cooper SD and John Cooper Works models available as well. The Coupe, which is a two-seater only, promises to be the stiffest-bodied MINI available, despite being heavier than the Hatch. The aluminium roof is lower than the Hatch, giving the car a much sleeker appearance.

Strangely for a coupe, the absence of rear seats also means it has more boot capacity than its hatchback sibling. The rear spoiler (additional to the roof spoiler) pops up at 50mph, rather like that of the Porsche Boxster. In terms of power, the 1.6-litre turbo JCW engine kicks out 208bhp and provides performance of 0-62mph in 6.4sec and a top speed of 149mph, whilst returning combined fuel economy of nearly 40mpg. The diesel model of the range, the Cooper SD, provides 141bhp and 225 lb ft of torque and achieves 65.7mpg whilst emitting only 114g/km.

The base prices for the Coupe, arriving in October, will be £16,640 for the Cooper, with the top-spec JCW model coming in at £23,795.

Toyota also gave us some tantalising news that it is considering producing its GRMN hybrid convertible concept car in volume. Power would come from a V6 petrol unit in a mid-mounted layout, coupled to an electric motor straight from the RX450h SUV. Overall power output would be just shy of 270bhp.

The hybrid convertible would join the ranks of the Honda CR-Z as a sports car featuring both engine and battery power.

20th June 2011

Internal combustion engines — are they still the future?

Frugality has once again been the name of the game this week with vehicles of various segments benefiting from lower emissions whilst still using the internal combustion engine.

Mazda, which has somewhat shunned the idea of electric vehicles, has put its first Sky Activ petrol engine into a new model, the Mazda 2, to bring its emissions below 100g/km CO2. The 1.3-litre petrol unit should deliver around 85mpg thanks to a new seven-speed CVT gearbox, very high compression ratio, a dual sequential valve timing system, new six-hole injectors, much reduced internal friction and a new stop-start system. Mazda has also included a system called i-DM, similar to Fiat’s BlueMe setup, which shows how the car is being driven and indicates how it can be driven more economically.

The Mazda 2 isn’t yet set for sale in the UK and other European markets, but demand for such a frugal car should be strong.

Toyota unveiled images of its new Yaris this week, which promises to be more efficient than the outgoing model. The new model will be available with a choice of three engines, with petrol options including 1.0-litre VVT-i and 1.33-litre dual VVT-i units and the diesel choice being the 1.4-litre D-4D motor. Beyond promises of greater efficiency, the new Yaris is said to be even higher quality than the second generation model and will feature a brand new infotainment system with a 6.1-inch screen controlling something called ‘Toyota Touch and Go’.

In slightly older news, Volkswagen launched a new Passat BlueMotion saloon capable of 68.9mpg and emissions of just 109g/km — remarkable for a car of its size. Under the bonnet is the firm’s 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine, producing 104bhp directed through a six-speed manual transmission. The new Bluemotion is also available in estate form, providing 65.7mpg and kicking out only 113g/km CO2. Features include stop-start, aerodynamic tweaks, lower suspension and low rolling-resistance rubber.

The car should reach UK roads in July and will cost £19,875 for the saloon and £21,180 for the estate.

Finally, Land Rover’s Range_e was apparently spied this week, partially disguised and in testing. The hybrid system in the Range_e should drop emissions below 150g/km and make the Range Rover an even more tempting proposition when it hits the market in a couple of years. The car was apparently spotted in the hands of Bosch engineers — a company which already supplies hybrid technology to Porsche and VW for their SUVs.

13th June 2011

Built in the UK

Fantastic news this week for UK plc as vehicle manufacturers seemed to be rushing out news of investment and production in the UK.


First up was Nissan with the announcement that it will design, engineer and produce the Qashqai in Britain, safeguarding 6,000 jobs and nearly £200 million of investment in the UK economy. The car will be penned at Nissan’s design centre in London, developed at the Cranfield technical centre and then built in the Sunderland plant where first-generation models are currently made. The firm’s all-electric Leaf will also be produced in Sunderland from 2013.

BMW also had good news this week with the announcement that new a range of new Mini models will be built in Britain and £500 million invested in the firm’s Oxford plant. The new front-wheel drive platform will also underpin a new range of BMWs. The Mini range is growing to eight models, including the new coupe, roadster and city car.

The news was welcomed as there were rumours that the investment might go to Germany instead. Up to 20 individual BMW and Mini models are expected to be built on the new front-wheel drive platform.

Jaguar Land Rover also had a great announcement this week, in that it is set to build a new engine factory in Wolverhampton. Plans for the plant are in the early stages, but it will mean an investment of around £750 million and around 700 new jobs. The engine plant, which is close to the firm’s Birmingham and Solihull sites, will support the significant model range expansion planned for the coming years — with 40 new JLR models hitting the market.

Finally, Aston Martin made headlines with the news that it is relocating the production of its Rapide four-seater from Austria to its base in Gaydon next year. The four-door has been built by Magna Steyr since 2009, but the firm is bringing the car’s production back into the UK. A more flexible plant in Gaydon means that production of the Rapide is now far easier to accommodate.

6th June 2011

Summer sun and soft tops

The sun has been shining this week and

car manufacturers have been tempting

us with their latest soft-tops.

Mercedes-Benz took the wraps off the

roofless version of the SLS AMG,

likely to cost around £180k. Enthusiasts will doubtless be a bit

disappointed that the Roadster loses the coupe’s gullwing doors, instead getting frameless conventional ones. Performance from the 563bhp, 6.2-litre V8 remains largely unchanged, with the car being capable of 0-62mph in 3.8sec and having a top speed just under 200mph. The roof takes just 11 seconds to open and can be opened while the car is moving at speeds of up to 30mph. Audi also took the lid off a convertible this week, after the VW Group

announced how it would differentiate its VW, Audi and

Porsche models using the same platform. Audi’s R4 will hit the roads in a few years and cost around £25k. The mid-engined model will likely have two petrol engines on offer, but these are still to be confirmed.

The range-topper is likely to offer around 350bhp from Audi’s 2.5-litre five-pot turbo unit. However, there is also the possibility of a diesel engine joining the line-up. Skoda, somewhat surprisingly, has also unveiled a new roadster based on its Fabia vRS S2000 rally car.

Whilst it is very unlikely to see production, a Skoda convertible isn’t too unfeasible in the future. Power is supplied by a 2.0-litre twin-turbo petrol engine producing over 200bhp. The car is incredibly striking, sporting the same green paint as the road-going Fabia vRS. It also has new bonnet scoops, flared wheel arches, 18-inch white alloy wheels and a big rear diffuser.

Inside the interior is awash with carbon fibre and passengers in the front enjoy proper bucket seats with four-point racing style harnesses. Finally, Volkswagen also launched a convertible this week in the shape of the R version of its Golf Cabriolet. It uses the

five-cylinder turbo petrol from the Golf R hatchback, which develops 266bhp and provides a 0-60mph time of under six seconds with a top speed of 155mph. Stopping power is equally good thanks to 17-inch ventilated brake discs. The interior is fitted out with leather, carbonfibre and blasted aluminium.

Definitely time to get out and enjoy the summer weather.

1st June 2011

Choose small, Save fuel

Some good news this week for motorists

looking to save money on motoring with a few interesting superminis coming to a showroom near you. First off, journos have been off recently driving the new Chevrolet Aveo, with the 1.2 litre petrol unit seeming to be the key variant.

The Aveo wears Chevrolet’s new corporate face, bringing it into

line with the Spark and Cruze, but with the double headlights

giving it a distinctive edge. The interior is also a step up

from the previous generation, borrowing much of its switchgear from the Vauxhall stable. For a small car, the new Aveo carries a lot of kit, including six airbags, cruise control and iPod connectivity. The 1.2-litre, 85bhp four-pot comes in a few hundred quid below £10,000 and for the economical buyer delivers 51.4mpg. Kia is also offering something for the buyer on a

budget with the latest version of its Picanto. The car will be available with two engines: a 1.0-litre, 68bhp three-cylinder, with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km and fuel economy of 67.3mpg; and a 1.25-litre four-pot unit with 84bhp that kicks out only 109g/km CO2 and delivers 60.2mpg. The latter model is available with an optional stop-start system that brings CO2 emissions to 100g/km and improves fuel economy by 5mpg. Standard kit is impressive and includes ABS with brake assist, ESC and hill assist and daytime running lights.

Options available include alloys, Bluetooth connectivity, LED indicators and rear lights and automatic headlights. The base trim 1.25-litre model starts at just over £10,000, whilst the 1.0-litre is available from just £7,995.

Suzuki is also bringing out a frugal new model in the form of a 1.3-litre diesel addition to its Swift range. The new 74bhp oil-burner emits 109g/km CO2 and achieves a fuel economy figure of 67.3mpg. Top speed is 103mph and the Swift will get to 62mph in 12.7 seconds.

Seven airbags, air conditioning, 16-inch alloys and USB connectivity all come standard in the starting price of £12,890.

18th May 2011

Electrified

Electrifying news this week as battery-powered cars seemed to dominate the headlines somewhat.

Renault produced details on pricing for its unusual Twizy ‘heavy quadricycle’, which will go on sale in 2012. It is going to cost £6,690 for the base Urban model excluding the battery, which will be leased at £40 per month for 36 months or 4,500 miles per year. The higher-spec Technic with alloys, metallic paint and carbonfibre graphics will come in at £7,400 plus the battery cost. Both use the same 17bhp motor and the battery pack will provide a range of up to 62 miles and a top speed of 50mph. Volkswagen also made noise about its plug-in car plans, with the group chairman announcing new volume models arriving as early as 2013 — most likely starting with a plug-in hybrid Golf.

VW’s view is that plug-in hybrids — with an electric range of around 20 miles — will satisfy consumer expectations as the internal combustion engine means they get most of the environmental benefits of a pure electric vehicle, without the range anxiety.

A couple of niche brands also had EV announcements this week, with Bristol Cars — newly acquired by Frazer-Nash Research — not only confirming that it would build cars in Britain, but that its plans involve advanced electric and hybrid drive technologies. Frazer-Nash debuted its 190mph Namir electric supercar at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2010, so they know a bit about electric vehicles.

Finally, emerging niche manufacturer, Delta Motorsport, this week held a ride-and-drive event of its innovative E-4 electric sports car. The vehicle is being dubbed the ‘British Tesla’ and has a range of up to 200 miles, it is claimed. Acceleration from 0-60mph will take less than five seconds and each of the car’s motors produces a staggering 443lb ft torque.

The vehicle makes extensive use of carbon composite material and can achieve a top speed of 150mph.

11th May 2011

A glimpse into the future.

This week seems to have been one of unusual power plants being used in some unexpected vehicles.

It would be impossible to avoid mentioning the huge news today that Jaguar will be putting the C-X75 concept into limited production. The concept stole news headlines everywhere when it was unveiled and the company has joined forces with Williams F1 to turn it into a reality. The car will arrive in 2013 and it is suggested that whilst 200 cars will be powered by a hybridised, high-boost four-cylinder turbo, cars that will arrive later in the production programme should utilise the gas turbine technology seen in the concept car.

Electric motors in the wheels give the car four-wheel drive, with a top speed of around 200mph and an acceleration figure of 0-100mph in under six seconds — humbling many cars’ 0-60mph times. A lithium-ion battery pack in the car will provide it with around 30 miles of all-electric range, giving it a very low emissions figure overall. The predicted retail price could reach a staggering £900,000, rivalling the likes of the Bugatti Veyron, but most importantly, the Jaguar will be designed, engineered and built here in Blighty.

Mercedes-Benz has also been in the news with a rumoured all-electric version of its flagship S-Class luxury saloon. The company is assessing customer demand for such a vehicle and it could sit in a model range next to the firm’s hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. Following similar plans by Jaguar and others, Mercedes-Benz is likely to include a 2.2-litre four-pot turbo-diesel in its engine range for the S-Class, which should prove a hit with fleet drivers.

Another interesting diesel coming to showrooms soon will be the Porsche Panamera. UK dealers should get models by August this year and the company is promising a range of up to 750 miles on one tank, with a combined fuel economy figure of 43.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 172g/km. The Panamera oil-burner will use a version of the VW Group’s 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, which currently produces 247bhp and 406lb ft of torque, available between 1,750 and 2,750rpm.

Despite the rather economical credentials, the diesel model should still be capable of high performance, with 62mph arriving in just 6.8 seconds and the ability to go on to a top speed of 150mph. Prices will start at just over £62,000, which should make it a rival for Jaguar’s 3.0-litre diesel XJ.

22nd April 2011

From East to West

A day earlier than usual due to the Easter break, the Spoiler continues his tour to the New York Auto Show.

The motor industry shifted focus from east to west this week, kicking off with the Shanghai Auto Show overlapp/ped by the start of the New York Auto Show. Amidst the news of big-engined models like the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG coupe, revised Jaguar XK and Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 were announcements of four new four-cylinder models.

The most significant is undoubtedly the revamped Jaguar XF, launching in 2012, which will boast a 2.2-litre four-pot diesel engine adapted from the unit used in Land Rover’s Freelander. The new motor develops 188bhp and 332lb ft of torque at just 2,000rpm and is mated to all-new eight-speed automatic gearbox. Jaguar predicts that the new model will account for getting on for two-thirds of sales of the XF and will steal market share away from the smaller diesel offerings from both Audi and BMW. The engine gets a nifty new start-stop system and more sound-proofing for an even more refined experience.

In terms of the vital statistics, the car will be capable of 0-60mph in 8.0 seconds and a combined fuel economy figure of 52.3mpg, whilst kicking out just 149g/km CO2 — critical for company car drivers.

BMW also unveiled a new four-cylinder model in the shape of a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol Z4, due in showrooms later this year. The Z4sDrive28i motor produces 236bhp and BMW claims it actually offers more torque and better performance over the existing six-cylinder BMW Z4 sDrive30. Unsurprisingly, the new smaller unit also gives greater fuel economy and reduced emissions over the larger six-pot engine, thanks in part to new high-precision fuel injectors and a revised turbocharger design.

Suzuki showed off a four-cylinder car as it took the wraps off the Kizashi EcoCharge concept. The hybrid car uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine combined with a 20bhp electric motor to provide an additional boost of power from energy generated under braking. The new ‘green’ model also uses start-stop and low-rolling resistance tyres.

Emissions and fuel economy are improved over the standard model and the concept uses innovative new materials on the interior that require significantly less energy to produce.

The last of the foursome is Subaru’s new Impreza, the US-spec version of which launched at the New York Auto Show uses a 2.0-litre engine in the company’s trademark flat-four configuration. Power output is 148bhp at 6,200rpm with 145lb ft of torque delivered at 4,200rpm. Of course, four-wheel drive is standard, and the fuel economy improvement over the outgoing Impreza is around 30 percent.

Enjoy your Easter weekend

18th April 2011

Shanghai Surprise

News this week comes from the Shanghai Auto Show as the Spoiler goes east.

MINI confirmed details for its ‘Inspired by Goodwood’ special edition that will appear in Shanghai and seems to be shaping up as possibly the only rival to the Aston Martin Cygnet in the super-luxury supermini segment. It’s basically the manufactured offspring of a Rolls-Royce and a Cooper S and features a bespoke interior with walnut burr veneer trim, high-quality leather and deep-pile lambswool carpets. The roof lining, boot and sun visors even have a soft-touch Rolls-Royce cashmere finish and the instrumentation uses the distinctive Rolls-Royce typeface.

As standard, the car comes in black, but not just any black, it is Rolls-Royce’s unique Diamond Black finish! The company has said 1,000 examples of the ‘Inspired by Goodwood’ edition will be made and it’s likely to cost in the region of £40-50,000.

Also on show in Shanghai will be Audi’s Q3 — a smaller version of the Q5 and more of a direct rival for the likes of the Ford Kuga and the Volkswagen Tiguan, the latter of which we found to be the best performing car for residual value in 2010. Audi SUVs have always done well, with both the Q5 and Q7 selling beyond their initial targets. It’s expected that the Q3 will replicate this success.

Both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models will be available, starting at around £25,000 for the front-drive derivative in 2.0-litre turbo petrol guise with 168bhp. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is available in a higher state of tune — for the four-wheel drive model only — generating 208bhp and capable of 0-62mph in under 7 seconds, with the ability to reach 143mph. A diesel model will also be available from launch in the form of the group’s 175bhp 2.0-litre TDI with four-wheel drive only. An entry-level 138bhp diesel, available with both drive options, should be available from the end of 2011.

A six-speed manual ‘box is standard for the entry-level models, with the more powerful versions getting a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission.

Of course Shanghai wouldn’t be a motor show without some concept cars and two of the ones that have already been announced to be at the show are the Peugeot SxC and the Subaru XV.

The SxC (Shanghai Cross Concept) is a large SUV with ‘…’ rear doors and dramatic 22-inch alloys. It might shock you to hear that for a car that’s bigger than a Porsche Cayenne, there’s only a 1.6-litre, 218bhp engine under the bonnet, but that’s not the whole story. Peugeot has included its Hybrid4 technology, which takes total power output to 313bhp.

Theoretically, the very big SxC should be capable of around 48.7mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 143g/km — if it, or anything like it, ever goes into production.

Subaru’s conceptual contribution comes in the shape of the XV, which will likely incorporate styling from the 2010 Impreza concept with the company’s stalwart boxer engine in an SUV package.

5th April 2011

Fantastic or Foolish?

I don’t know why, but we’ve had a simply outrageous string of stories today.

First off, we had two incredible announcements from BMW. The German brand is introducing a limited edition M3 to celebrate the royal wedding — available in Regal Red, Bridal White and Imperial Blue colours — with a special ‘Will’ emblem in place of the standard ‘M’ badging. Dubbed the M3 Royal Edition, there is no word yet on price or how many will make it into production.

BMW also revealed a whole new derivative of the M3 in the shape of the M3 pick-up. Astonishingly, the drag coefficient is said to be just the same as the M3 coupe and it will max out at around 186mph, making it one seriously fast way of transporting goods around the country!

Next came the announcement from Kia that its dealers in the UK are taking action against pigeons spoiling the cars on their forecourts by enlisting the help of pigeon fanciers to draw the feathered fiends away. Apparently black and red models seemed to be the most attractive targets for the pigeons as those most frequently hit by their unpleasant aerial bombardments!

SEAT is also trying out some highly innovative technology in the form of its new satellite navigation system, the SEAT Media Audio Recognition Technology (SMART), which uses GPS to instruct the driver using the appropriate regional dialect. The aim is to make drivers feel more at home in any area and as if they were asking for directions from local people. The possibility of receiving the instruction ‘Awright geezer, it’s straight on at these lights, innit?’ as you’re driving through East London is very. interesting.

Finally, Land Rover has introduced a new self-levelling tax disc holder, meaning that even when off-roading on extreme cambers, traffic enforcement officers can still see your vehicle is appropriately taxed. The innovation comes after traffic officers complained of neck injuries incurred by reading tax discs displayed at angles of more than 10 degrees from horizontal

28th March 2011

Super is the word

Some interesting announcements this week about some unusual and unexpected cars.

First up was Renault with rumours of a plan to create entirely new models under the Renaultsport brand, possibly starting with a roadster. The Dezir concept showed what such a car might look like and, whilst the French marque still has the Alpine badge in its portfolio, it seems the brand recognition of Renaultsport is strong enough to usurp the historical and evocative name of Alpine. The model line-up would be very limited and produced in very low volumes.

The roofless model would be the spiritual successor to the whacky Renault Sport Spider from the 1990s and would likely use a 2.0-litre, 200bhp power plant from the top-spec Renaultsport Clio.

The second possible revival is the successor to the legendary Renault 5. In the wake of the success of the Fiat 500, MINI and Citroen DS3, Renault sees a market for an upmarket supermini based on the 1970s icon. The car is only a rumour at the moment, but if it gets the green light, it could arrive within three years. Fans of the original model will wonder whether a Turbo model might also make production!

Another surprise this week was the news that Porsche has plans to break away from the teardrop 911 shape to put a new mid-engine supercar into production to take on Ferrari’s acclaimed 458 Italia and McLaren’s MP4-12C. Both cars are significantly more expensive than Porsche’s 911 Turbo and the German brand is considering introducing a rival to help grab back some market share. Initial rumours suggest the car would produce around 600bhp to have a hope of stealing customers from its rivals from Woking and Maranello.

In GT2 RS guise, Porsche’s 3.8-litre six-pot can already kick out 620bhp when twin-turbocharged.

Whereas any mid-engined production model will likely be around in the £150,000 to £160,000 price range, Porsche announced this week the price of its extravagant 918 Spyder hypercar that officially goes on sale this week — but you won’t be finding them knocking about your local dealership! The hybrid will cost a staggering £672,000, putting it in the same sort of league as top-end Paganis and even the Bugatti Veyron. No more than 918 cars will be built, although one wonders whether that size of market exists, and buyers will also have the option of spending an additional £126,000 (or £133,000 for the cabriolet) on a special 911 Turbo S Edition 918 Spyder — available only to 918 Spyder owners.

The hypercar is capable of driving up to 16 miles on all-electric power and can reach 62mph in just 3.2 seconds before proceeding on to 199mph. Not bad for a car that will also return 94mpg and kick out just 70g/km CO2!

12th March 2011

When some people fail to make the distinction between the terms four-wheel drive (the mechanics of the driven wheels) and SUV (the body style). So, here are some recent new cars that highlight the differences.

First off, it would be impossible not to mention the new Ferrari FF, the firm’s first foray into four-wheel drive territory. Designed to be a supercar for all seasons, the FF features the 4RM (which stands for ‘Ruote Motrici’ in case you were wondering!) system, which is half the weight of rival systems — weight typically being the enemy of performance in cars with four-wheel drive — and directs torque to the front wheels when the going gets tough, but otherwise defaults to a rear-wheel drive setup and keeps the weight bias towards the rear. The four-seater certainly packs a punch with a stonking 650bhp from the new 6.25-litre V12 channelled through a seven-speed double-clutch gearbox.

Top speed is 208mph and 62mph is reached in just 3.7 seconds from standstill, making the FF a seriously capable machine.

Aston Martin is also set to get its feet wet in the four-wheel drive domain with the news that the much-rumoured plans to revive the Lagonda brand as an SUV model line will go ahead. The rebirth of Lagonda is already being likened to Daimler’s work on reviving Maybach. Aston Martin sees the Lagonda brand as especially important to emerging markets where weather conditions and rougher roads might prohibit full enjoyment of a supercar.

You’ll need very deep pockets to afford one, since the price range is set to start at £100k and go right up to £300k!

At the other end of the spectrum will be the new Mazda CX-5 crossover, which will arrive next year and compete with the likes of VW’s Tiguan and Audi Q5 — although likely beating at least the latter, if not both of these, on price. Greater fuel efficiency should come from the Skyactiv engine, gearbox and lightweight chassis, as Mazda aims to cut fuel consumption by around 30 percent by 2015 versus 2008.

Finally, and very differently, Suzuki has announced that a four-wheel-drive version of the firm’s Swift supermini is being considered for entry into the UK market later in 2011. The company has latched onto the sentiments of the British public about the winter weather and believes there could be a market for around 1,000 of its all-wheel drive superminis. Prices are likely to come in at around £13,000 and the system will be offered on the 1.2-litre petrol model.

SMART ed cabrio – 55kW 74bhp Auto

Have a good day.

19th February 2011

This week proved that hybrid and electric drive trains are likely to be seen in luxury and sports cars just as much as smaller vehicles, particularly given the higher imperative to reduce emissions.

Porsche released details of its electric Boxsters going on trial in Germany. The Boxster E prototypes are being used to gather data on usage, performance and so on. The battery pack is pretty hefty at 29kWh, compared to something like 24kWh in a Nissan Leaf, and will deliver the equivalent of 241bhp.

Performance is on par with the German brand’s Boxster S model, meaning a 0-60mph time of just over 5 seconds and a top speed edging 170mph.

Whilst Porsche has no plans to put the electric Boxster into production, but one model that will see showroom floors is the hybrid version of its four-seat Panamera S. The 374bhp hybrid will emit just 159g/km in CO2 emissions, putting it in the same bracket as many a family saloon. The 3.0-litre V6 works with a 44bhp electric motor, which can power the car on its own up to 37mph, at which point the V6 kicks in and can take it from 0-62mph in 6 seconds and onto a top speed of 168mph. The Panamera S hybrid adds about £3,000 to the list price of a standard 4S at just over £86k.

Infiniti has also indicated intentions to step into the luxury hybrid fray with its Etherea concept being unveiled at the Geneva show in a couple of weeks. One of the most ambitious crossovers ever seen, with hints of coupe, saloon, hatchback and SUV, the Etherea will use a hybrid drive system that mates a four-pot engine with an electric motor borrowed from the M35h hybrid saloon. As well as being a concept car, there are rumours that the Etherea could make production in 2014.

Another unveiling at Geneva will be Land Rover’s diesel hybrid plug-in Range Rover Sport. The four-wheel drive Range_e model achieves a ridiculously low 89g/km in CO2 emissions, putting it level with the latest Toyota Prius. The Landy uses a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine coupled to an electric motor to allow it to travel up to 20 miles on electricity alone, before the engine starts up and helps it along.

The top speed is 120mph — hardly earth-shattering, but equally entirely adequate for most drivers’ needs.

7th February 2011 — Who Whoever said the British car industry was …?

Whoever said the British car industry was …? News this week shows it is alive and well and producing some of the most exciting cars on the market. First up was low-volume, Leicestershire-based sports car manufacturer Noble with details of the production model of its M600 supercar.

Weighing in at under 1200kg thanks to somewhat gratuitous use of carbonfibre, the M600 will cost around £200,000, putting it above something like the McLaren MP4-12C. It boasts enviable performance statistics, including power output of 650bhp, meaning it can achieve 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds and an eye-watering top speed of 225mph. Exclusivity is ensured as initial production will be just 12 cars per year, which could rise to 36 units per year if there is greater demand.

Next we had news from Crewe of Bentley’s forthcoming V8 motors. The Conti GT will be available with a V8 for the first time and will come in two variants — a turbocharged 415bhp ‘entry level’ model and a twin-turbo with 555bhp. The company also revealed positive production news that every Mulsanne scheduled for production in 2011 had already been sold.

Jaguar was also making headlines this week with the announcement of its strategy to get stuck into the compact executive market within the next four years. Some seriously tasty smaller models are in the pipeline, including a long-awaited spiritual successor to the E-Type in the form of a Boxster-sized roadster. The company will also re-enter the 3-Series and A4 domain with a compact saloon after having withdrawn its X-Type from the market.

Jaguar promises that the new car will be a very different proposition from the Mondeo-based front-wheel drive model that never really took much market share from its German rivals.

Finally, McLaren told the world that its MP4-12C has now entered production in Woking. The car, which will retail at £168,500, will be produced in numbers of up to 1,000 in 2011. The British supercar delivers staggering performance thanks to the 592bhp on tap.

6th December 2010 — Racing Derivatives

Perhaps it’s just the cold weather, but manufacturers seem to have gone a bit mad creating racing derivatives of some already rather quick cars this week.

Low volume maker Ginetta stepped up with its most powerful GT racer — the G55. Based on the G50, it will compete in the Ginetta GT Supercup and offers GT3-rivalling performance. Underneath lies a 3.7-litre powerplant offering up 370bhp — kept in line with upgraded brakes and a new aero kit.

If you’re dipping your hand into your wallet already, you best be prepared to cough up the £75,000 required. Add the cost of entering the Supercup series and you’re looking at more like £90,000.

If you want to worry your bank manager even more, you might want to look towards the GT4 concept of the Audi TT. The GT4 is an extrapolation of the road-going TT RS, but sports a rollcage, carbonfibre on the bonnet, doors and boot to reduce weight, as well as a reinforced fuel tank. Expect the engine to be the same as that in the TT RS — a 335bhp TFSI five-cylinder unit. The GT4 is likely to set you back just over £100,000.

The sports and supercar press have been alight this week with first drives of the Lancia Stratos recreation, and the excitement will no doubt increase even further, now that the people behind this automotive icon’s rebirth have indicated that they will make a racing version. The car is likely to be made to compete in GT2 racing, although technical details are entirely unknown. The revived Stratos road car makes extensive use of carbonfibre over a shortened 430 Scuderia chassis in order to weigh in at just 1257kg, meaning that, with the power on tap from the 4.3-litre Ferrari V8 under the bonnet, it achieves a rather ridiculous power-to-weight ratio of more than 420bhp per tonne.

Speaking of Ferrari, they have also unveiled their own race car this week, in the form of the 458 Challenge that will compete in a one-make series. Whilst the 458 Challenge uses the same 562bhp powerplant from its sibling, its gearbox has been recalibrated and Ferrari has cut a significant amount of weight from the road car. As you would expect, big racing wheels and big racing brakes obviously feature as well.

Just don’t eat too soon before getting into the car, as Ferrari says it can generate lateral forces of up to 1.6g!

15th November 2010

This week seems to have been filled with a flurry of automotive news from overseas. The British Prime Minister was in China on a goodwill trip that also involved taking a handful of the top UK business people with him to see how they could sell to the Chinese. However, if David Cameron was eyeing up an export in return, I wonder if he took a look at the Emgrand EC8 Limousine.

You’ve probably not heard of Emgrand, but it is a sister company to Geely, which has just bought Volvo, and has the same relationship to it as Lexus has to Toyota. The luxury marque has just made it onto the government’s procurement list, meaning that China’s diplomats can now stretch out in comfort in the limo that now extends to nearly six metres in length.

Whilst Emgrand was taking the wraps off its diplomatic barge, General Motors China was making a huge mass market statement at the Shanghai World Expo as it registered 1.2 million test drive requests. The Expo has been running since 1st May and GM’s colossal stand featured the company’s vision of low-carbon urban transport for 2030, crammed full of electric city vehicles, including the upright and distinctly Segway-ish EN-V. I hope all those test drive requests aren’t going to have to be put into the same spreadsheet.

Coming back around to Europe, word emerged from the Czech Republic that its Transport Minister is now rather ironically lacking a driving licence after receiving a driving ban for having a fake number plate on his Maserati. The minister, Vit Barta, received the ludicrously small fine of 5,000 koruna, which equates to less than £200.

Perhaps the most bizarre story of the week — and frankly a victory for common sense — was that Renault is being allowed to use the name ‘Zoe’ for its new small electric car. The parents of a child with the name Zoe Renault filed a lawsuit against Renault, saying that their child would be the subject of mockery and jokes throughout her life if they went ahead. Unsurprisingly and thankfully, the judge ruled that the evidence that this would happen was pretty thin and threw the case out.

18th October 2010

With the news of power-crazy luxury and performance cars coming from manufacturers this week, you wouldn’t think we’ve just come out of a recession and are still very much in the early stages of economic recovery.

First came VW announcing the pricing for its Phaeton luxo-barge, with engines ranging from the relatively modest 3.0-litre V6 diesel to the colossal 6.0-litre W12 petrol developing 444bhp — matching the power you’d find in the new BMW M3 GTS or Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Standard equipment includes 18-way adjustable electric seats, so you find yourself in the car for quite some time without going anywhere!

German car body manufacturer Xenatec was next, with a £586,000 (yes, you read that right) super-coupe based on the Maybach 57S. The car has been sanctioned by Daimler and only 100 will be built. The Maybach was hardly designed as a sports or performance car, so it’s slightly strange that the firm has said their creation will allow people to savour the Maybach experience from the driver’s seat, despite them leaving the engine and underpinnings the same.

Maserati also released news of a new stallion for its stable in the form of a new four-door model to sit beneath the Quattroporte in its range. It will be squarely aimed at the top AMG derivative of the Mercedes E-Class, BMW M5 and the Jaguar XFR and is an exciting prospect for all petrolheads, since Maserati has arguably been producing some of the prettiest cars of late.

BMW is also upping its game in the performance stakes after giving us a sneak peek at its ‘M’-badged 1-Series coupe. The car is rumoured to have 350bhp — up 50bhp on the 135i M Sport coupe, which already does 0-60mph in just over 5 seconds!

Nissan announced this week that its flagship model, the GT-R, will be getting a power boost up to the magic 500bhp mark. Given that the production car has already lapped the Nurburgring quicker than the Koenigsegg CCX, the idea of even more power may signal Nissan is getting ready to launch another challenge on Porsche’s 911 GT2 lap time.

Another car that’s been out on the Nurburgring this week is the Chevrolet Camaro in high-spec Z28 guise. The Camaro is said to have a 6.2-litre supercharged V8 under the bonnet that will develop around 550bhp, meaning a 0-60mph time of something like 4 seconds. Whilst you’d never get to test that sort of statistic on UK roads, a new muscle car’s arrival on our shores from next year is rather enticing!

4th October 2010

Following the media coverage of the Geneva motor show being dominated by the surprise Porsche 918 hybrid, it has been a hybrid supercar that has stolen the limelight in Paris, too. The Jaguar C-X75 concept combines two gas turbines and a battery pack to deliver 780bhp and a 560-mile driving range.

Lotus took the covers off no fewer than six models at the Paris motor show. Whilst there has been sharp criticism from some motor industry commentators that new product strategy goes against Colin Chapman’s legacy of a firm obsessed with lightweight performance, the Lotus City Car concept is arguably closer to the company’s traditional ideology. It is essentially a prestige rehash of a more mundane supermini (in this case a Proton), in the same vein as the Aston Martin Cygnet, which was based on the Toyota iQ.

It remains to be seen as to whether luxury and performance brands downsizing will be welcomed by the market, or whether such vehicles will simply become niche curiosities and rare museum exhibits in years to come.

Two other brands diversifying their product range ‘downwards’ are Smart and Mini. Whilst both already produce superminis, they have each unveiled their own take on an electric scooter. Smart claims its two-wheeler will cover 62 miles (not bad when you consider the range of the electric Smart ED is 80 miles) and, whilst it’s called the ‘escooter’, I’m guessing it could be changed to the ForOne instead.

Rather than make its S-Class any smaller, Mercedes-Benz has opted to downsize the engine and dropped a four-pot diesel into the latest version of the company’s luxury saloon. The car, revealed at the Paris motor show, uses a 2.2-litre diesel with start/stop and two-stage turbocharging. All this means that it has tailpipe emissions of just 149g/km and achieves fuel economy of 48mpg, whilst still providing 201bhp, 369lb/ft of torque, 0-60mph acceleration of 8.2 seconds and a top speed of 149mph.

Finally, Volvo is researching better ways to produce cars that have no tailpipe emissions at all, by looking at ways of essentially using batteries to create car body panels. The firm is working on a material that can store and discharge electrical energy, but is also strong, light and flexible enough to be used for car parts. It is interesting, as much of the residual value discussion around electric vehicles up to this point has assumed that the batteries would be removed at the end of their useful life and that the rest of the vehicle will still hold value.

This presumably wouldn’t be the case for a car that is made from batteries!

27th September 2010

This week began with news that Lotus will be taking on established supercar manufacturers with a new hybrid offering badged the ‘Elite’. The name has been revived following its first usage on the original Elite from 1958 to 1963 and then on the second generation model between 1974 and 1982. The car, which will be unveiled at the Paris motor show, is expected to sell at around £115,000, putting it firmly in Ferrari and Aston Martin territory. Talking of Aston Martin, the company announced on Tuesday that the engine in its very exclusive One-77 model will gain the official status of being the world’s most powerful naturally-aspirated powerplant.

The 7.3-litre V12 develops 750bhp, beating the 739bhp provided by the engine in the Pagani Zonda R Clubsport — and more than three times greater than the 245bhp available from Ford’s F-Series pickup in the late 1990s.

Another car has been announced with a power increase this week and that is the KTM X-Bow. The new X-Bow R now comes with 300bhp on tap — a pretty scary figure given the X-Bow weighs in at just 700kg. Having said that, the Ariel Atom still seems to dominate the ‘stripped-down-sports-car’ (or should that be ‘four-wheeled-bike’) market, with the Ariel Atom 500 — as the name suggests — providing a whopping 500bhp combined with being very lightweight, thanks in part at least to the lack of a windscreen, doors, or many body panels of any sort!

One thing the Atom definitely doesn’t have is eyelashes. Yes, you read that right — eyelashes. News emerged this week or a company offering people the opportunity to ‘modify’ their motor with the additional of stick-on eyelashes that go around the car’s headlights.

Quite why anyone would buy these, I don’t quite understand, but each to their own I suppose!

Another body adornment in the news this week, for slightly more serious reasons, has been the Bentley ‘Flying B’ bonnet mascot. Concerns have been raised by US authorities that water corrosion may affect the mechanism that automatically retracts the mascot in the event of a front-end collision, which could therefore injure pedestrians. Thankfully there have been no injuries so far and Bentley is recalling the vehicles affected and is replacing the necessary parts free of charge.

Finally, whilst the industry has warned the government of the possible negative impact on the UK motor industry of a migration cap on skilled workers, it is good to see one bastion of UK manufacturing — Jaguar Land Rover — recruiting 1,000 new employees.

16th September 2010

The latest car-buying news from Cash in Car.

There has been a lot of chatter about crossover vehicles this week, including the MINI Countryman and the rumoured Fiesta mini-SUV. Whilst the UK’s motoring press has been out in force testing MINI’s new 4×4 (also available with two-wheel drive), a Fiesta-based mule has been spotted out testing, although there seems to have been surprisingly little reference to Ford’s previous efforts in this area — the Fusion.

Manufacturers are anxious to tell the industry that these crossover models offer consumers more choice than the more traditional derivatives of ‘hatchback’, ‘saloon’ or ‘estate’. However, there is also evidence to suggest that buyers are actually confused by the myriad choices available. Even the SMMT vehicle classification guide isn’t crystal clear, with the Ford Kuga placed in the ‘4×4/SUV’ segment with the likes of the Land Rover Freelander, whilst the Nissan Qashqai is in the ‘lower medium’ bracket together with the Ford Focus and VW Golf.

As well as news of four-wheel crossover models, this week saw the announcement from MINI and Smart that they were looking at two-wheels as well. Both manufacturers are set to reveal two-wheel concepts at the forthcoming Paris Motor Show. There are several companies already selling electric scooters, so it’ll be interesting to see how such vehicles are received from established brands. In stark contrast to electric scooters, it appears that McLaren may be joining Lamborghini and Ferrari in developing hybrid supercars.

The firm is apparently recruiting for an electrical engineer to work on hybrid technology and whilst the rumour remains unconfirmed, this latest news seems to suggest they are serious about developing hybrid powertrains.

Finally, as the Paris Motor Show approaches, we are being bombarded with obscure teaser images of the concepts that will be on display. Jaguar, Lamborghini, Peugeot and Nissan have all released pictures that show tiny patches of light clusters or bodywork, whilst BMW has employed a nifty bit of reverse psychology by sending out pictures of a development mule with ‘don’t blog about this’ written on the bodywork — thereby guaranteeing that people will!

The Porsche 918 Spyder shown at Geneva was a genuine surprise debut, whereas many new models struggle to remain under wraps until press day. With all the secrecy around the concepts for Paris, I will be watching with interest to see if they remain top secret, or whether any journalists manage to bag an ‘exclusive’ before the show and reveal all.

SMART ed cabrio – 55kW 74bhp Auto
SMART ed cabrio – 55kW 74bhp Auto
SMART ed cabrio – 55kW 74bhp Auto
SMART ed cabrio – 55kW 74bhp Auto
SMART ed cabrio – 55kW 74bhp Auto
SMART ed cabrio – 55kW 74bhp Auto

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