Archive | February, 2013

New Cars, Concepts And Rumours

Regardless of what the world thinks of Alfa Romeo there can be no denying that they really know how to style a car. This time they have let twenty ‘Master in Transportation Design’ students loose on the drawing boards. The prototype sports saloon so dramatically pictured is what they have come up with.

It is codenamed ‘Gloria’ although why they would want to name a car after the barmaid down at the Ferret and Trousers Public House is not known. What is known is that it is absolutely gorgeous and that AR should rush it into production, like right now. In the meantime, now that the flawed but beautiful 159 has gone, they will be selling the new Guilia saloon from 2014 into the executive sector.

Staying in Italy it seems clear that Dacia’s assault on the European market with budget priced cars has rather aggravated directors at mighty FIAT. As a consequence, rather than leaving a beef lasagne in the beds of Dacia staff as a warning, they are now considering a rival low-cost new car.

In the knowledge that premium car sales are flatlining and with some manufacturers in trouble the company thinks that dormant build capacity outside of Europe could be used for a suitable vehicle with an eye especially on developing markets. The rumour is the cars could be branded Innocenti, a budget marque that FIAT purchased in 1990.

After the Geneva Show fans of cabriolets will be able to get their hands on the terrific Vauxhall Cascada that Motor Blogger featured a while back but on the concept front they appear to be getting down with the kids with the Adam Rocks. The Adam, Vauxhall’s new small car has been well received so the company is showing the Rocks as a possible advance on the model.

It’s apparently an ‘urban mini-crossover’ that could well herald yet another sector within the industry as car makers strive to boost sales with variants. The Adam Rocks is taller, wider, tougher yet more compact allegedly (How?) than its sibling and offers a cabrio roof. Certainly the Adam is almost infinitely customisable so where are they going to go with this? In addition Vauxhall intend to take the Adam rallying with an R2 version that meets FIA regulations and can be set up for tarmac or gravel conditions. Interesting.

Finally, for now, Peugeot have a strategy for reducing fuel consumption with its Hybrid Air technology that follows on from our recent article about compressed air cars. The 2008 Hybrid Air combines petrol with compressed air in a fully hybrid configuration. This, Peugeot say, moves forward their plan to one day soon achieve 140mpg. The sooner the better as far as Britain’s motorists are concerned.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (0)

Compressed Air Cars

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? There is a fair bit of air about and by and large it is free – for now at least. Owning a car that runs on air would be the dream of every cash-strapped motorist and, in the past, some manufacturers have looked at this as a possible solution but without any meaningful success. The rise of the electric car and the various hybrid options means that other technology has rather gone on the back burner but over at Peugeot Citroen they haven’t given up.

The company have presented a new hybrid that uses compressed air instead of electricity as the secondary means of drive and they are getting pretty puffed up about it. It’s called Hybrid Air and could potentially allow a small hatchback to run with CO² emissions as low as 69g/km.

The set-up consists of a regular petrol engine linked to an epicyclical transmission. Apparently this uses gears that revolve around a central gear in the same manner as planets orbit around the sun. This in turn is assisted by an hydraulic motor running on compressed air. The air tank is slung underneath the car and is recharged by regenerative braking technology.

As with any other hybrid the car can run on petrol or air alone, or as a combination of the two. Air power alone would, of course, mean zero emissions and could be suitable for city driving for over fifty percent of the time.

Inevitably this extra equipment means extra weight but it isn’t as bad as the common petrol/electric versions, adding about one hundred kilos overall. The simplicity of the system coupled with the lack of battery packs means no expensive lithium-ion content and Peugeot Citroen reckon this will help promote the science to the greener motorist. It should also make the cars more affordable. They also believe that Hybrid Air will offer up to 45% improved fuel consumption over a regular car with benefits also in range.

The company will show Hybrid Air cars at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Initially appearing in B and C segment cars using petrol engines between 80 and 110bhp they hope to start production in 2016. The ultimate aim is to be in a position to offer well over 100mpg by 2020. Nothing as yet on pricing but it is very encouraging that Peugeot Citroen are investing in technology that could make a real difference in the long run on the expense of car ownership and the health of the planet.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (4)

Audi A3 Sportback Is Almost Here

The latest member of the new Audi A3, the Sportback is the most sensible in the range. Although this may be believed as a sensible version of the A3 it is available with a sporty diesel engine. Will this Audi A3 Sportback be able to justify its increased size will this go unnoticed?

A statistic showing that 2 out of every 3 Audi A3’s that are sold are five door it makes sense that the new Sportback should be introduced into the market. The 5 doors over the 3 doors make this car the most practical in the Audi range. The mean looking rear of the car is sacrificed but instead adults sitting in the rear passenger seats can enjoy a comfortable journey where leg room is generous. A lot of space in the boot is expected and can provide enough room for adult’s luggage/shopping. The Audi A3 Sportback’s cabin is packed with technology and a stylish interior that Audi has grown a reputation for.

Engine sizes are available when the launch is expected in March. Two petrol versions sporting a 1.4, 1.8 litre and a 2.0 litre turbo diesel give drivers the option to turn practical A3 Sportback into a sporty hatchback. The 2.0 litre diesel engine provides 181bhp which is expected to be the most popular version of the Sportback engine choices.

Despite the fact that this is a turbo diesel Audi still claims that the 2.0TDI should be able to reach 61.4mpg with CO2 emissions of just 114g/km, reducing the cost of road tax drastically. Both the stiffer suspension and normal manages to offer a lot of grip and still feels light despite the increased weight. Although some critics do say that the BMW 1 Series is more enjoyable and fun to drive, the Audi could be deemed as more family friendly.

Reports of the Audi A3 Sportback are on sale in March and predicted to cost £24,000. The Sportback is ideal for families and a sensible option for many people, this in mind it can still provide an enjoyable driving experience. It is sure to be considered as an option for many people.  Keep up to date with your local Audi dealership to learn more about the Audi A3 Sportbrake.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

Porsche 911 At Fifty

The Porsche 911 has been an object of desire for car enthusiasts from the moment the first one rolled off the production line fifty years ago. It remains so today. There are many desirable sports cars around but few are as useable as this iconic German export. It truly is a supercar that can be used every day.

For five decades the 911 (successor to the glorious 356) has been the heart and soul of the brand. To the layman, the car has hardly changed at all and even to the expert eye the changes have been incrementally subtle and rarely dramatic. Call it a process of refinement through its seven incarnations. The entire modern range of Porsche cars all reference back to the original air-cooled prototype first shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963.

Originally called the 901, it was renamed 911 when the car went on general sale for 1964. The six-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine delivered 128hp and an impressive top speed of 131. Since then over 820,000 have been lovingly built making it the clear winner as the most popular sports car in the world. Its reputation has been enhanced by impressive build quality and bomb proof reliability. None of those Italian fragilities here.

The latest version is a masterpiece of engineering and technology although some say that the new electric steering has lost the ‘feel’ of the earlier cars. Frankly, Porsche have done this because it is cheaper and easier than fitting an hydraulic pump. Purists are outraged but the modern driver probably won’t notice, so don’t tell him.

The current 911 may be the pinnacle so far but it is the model internally designated as the 993 that has a firm grip on the heartstrings of aficionados. It’s the one that has a rear spoiler the size of a table. Built between 1993 and 1998 it was the last of the air-cooled versions. It was the first Porsche to have an aluminium chassis which made the car light and agile and is highly prized today.

Porsche intend to celebrate this fifty year milestone with anniversary events all around the world, starting with the ‘Retro-Classics’ auto show at Stuttgart. An authentic 1967 model will be doing the rounds of exclusive shows in California, China and – it goes without saying – Goodwood, as well as other international fairs and historical rallies.

Fortunately now free of the dreaded ‘yuppie’ reputation the car unfairly gained from the antics of city types in the 1980s, the Porsche 911 continues to enjoy great success. For some ownership is a pleasure that lasts for years for others this car is something enthusiasts aspire to. Supercars come and supercars go but the 911 remains constant.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

New Cars Are Lucky For Some

Superstition is a terrible thing. Walking under a ladder in the company of a black cat whilst accidentally breaking a vanity mirror and then blaming a passing witch-like crone for your troubles is a great way to basically kiss your own, erm, bottom goodbye. Worse still, in the UK at least, the number that you really don’t want on those nasty sport inspired sweatshirts you insist on wearing is the dreaded thirteen.

The DVLA – clearly believing that we are all a load of wimps – are having none of it. They are proceeding with the new 13 registration next month regardless of our feelings. We warned you about this some time ago. Nevertheless you crazy impetuous people are ordering new cars anyway. Fortunately, Lady Luck is on your side as there are some terrific new motors becoming available to order right now and there isn’t a loser amongst them.

Over the last couple of months we’ve told you about some of them. With the advent of the Mazda CX-5 last year the bar has been raised for the crossover market and Ford aim to meet it with the new Kuga. It’s winning favourable reviews and is a certain improvement on the previous model. For those who prefer their cars with a bit of off-road appeal then the new Mitsubishi Outlander (pictured) should fit the bill nicely.

It is bigger than its predecessor but with much improved looks – at least for some. You will either love it or loath it but for rugged dependability at a competitive price it is hard to beat. There’s only a diesel for now but in the Summer – and this is the thing – this behemoth will be available as the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV – the PHEV. It will have two electric motors driving the axles backed up by a 2.0L four cylinder engine but the big news is that Mitsubishi are claiming an astonishing 143mpg and 49g/km for this car. That’s all but unbeatable by anything on the market today.

For most though a regular car will be fine. The new Clio is the best yet and the evergreen Toyota Verso has had a recent facelift to keep it fresh. SEAT are delivering the new Leon which shares a platform with the MK7 VW Golf and is beginning to encroach on the latter’s reputation for build quality and sheer driveability.

For drivers who appreciate something livelier and who crave something different, Hyundai have produced a turbo version of their slightly bizarre three door Velostar Coupé . The driver gets one big door whilst on the passenger side there are two. Why? Still, this quick version offers 184bhp and has quite a unique look to it.

There’s a terrific choice available if you’re in the market for a new car. The new Mini Paceman, the Vauxhall Adam and the now topless version of Citroen’s terrific DS3 are all available to order now amongst many others. The only problem we can see is that they will be sporting the number 13 on their plates. If you want to take the chance it‘s up to you. We’re saying nothing.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (2)

New Cars At 2013 The Geneva Motor Show

Ah, Geneva! Nestling on the banks of its eponymous lake, snug in the surrounding Alpine scenery. There’s a lot to recommend Switzerland (although from experience the Swiss authorities can be a bit bossy) but one thing is for sure – when they do something, they do it properly. Which is why every year all the manufacturers crowd into the Geneva Motor Show to display their latest new cars and some exciting new concept vehicles. This March is no exception. The auto list is enormous; so just as a bit of a mouth-watering appetiser, here’s a selection of some choice morsels from the menu.

There’s arguably the most awaited car for years, the Alfa Romeo 4C. How long you’ll have to wait for yours is debateable because this will be the car that parent company Fiat will use to re-launch the Alfa brand in the USA. It will be in the vanguard for a range of new Alfa Romeo’s over the next few years.

For those with a slightly larger budget, the closely guarded and mysterious Rolls Royce Wraith will finally be revealed in all its glory. Word is that the car will be a two-door coupé version of the Ghost. According to the CEO of the company, “Expect the boldest design, the most dramatic performance and the most powerful Rolls-Royce that has ever played host to the famous Spirit of Ecstasy figurine.” Wow, you can’t say fairer than that, can you? Let us hope that it lives up to the superlatives.

Having debuted the Chevrolet Spark all-electric car in the USA last year, the company are giving it a major plug at the Geneva show. This city car is reported to have the most advanced electric motor and battery system so far from General Motors.

The power comes from a lithium-ion pack that, in order to extend useful life, features liquid cooling and heating and a fast charging arrangement that will boost the pack to 80% in twenty minutes. Impressively, this little motor punches above its weight with 128bhp and a frankly astonishing 400lb/ft of torque; enough to hustle this little car to 62mph in just 8.5 seconds. Range is yet to be discovered.

VW have decided that the Up! obviously needs to man up a bit because they are introducing the rugged Cross Up!, although its chances of making it to market are only 50/50. Rather than just being a short-tempered car they are aiming to give this city car a bit of stature. It has a body kit and a trim pack and very attractive 16” wheels but no power boost. Big wheels always look good on a car but on an urban vehicle it seems to be a tad pointless.

There’s plenty to look forward to. New concepts from Mitsubishi and Ssangyong, an SUV from Bentley and the Citroen C4 Technospace to name but a few. The star of the show however is likely to be Ferrari’s new flagship hypercar, codenamed the F150 (pictured in disguise). With a V12 working in conjunction with a KERS based hybrid system it is sure to be something very special indeed. Watch this space.

Posted in Auto ShowsComments (0)

Infiniti JX -Will it compete with other luxury SUVs?

The new Infiniti JX is due for release in 2013, but what shall we expect with the latest model? The JX is an all-wheel drive luxury SUV that is entering a fierce market already dominated by well-established franchises, will this be able to compete and make its mark or will it fall short of the competition.

First of the all the JX is part of the Infiniti brand, a brand that isn’t a popular choice amongst many but has always excelled in luxury vehicles across the franchise. The JX continues with these standards, the body features a low frame with a supersized front grill and curvatures running along the side profile of the car. The car looks fantastic and rivals the Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Audi Q3 and Porsche Cayman in looks and style.

Two models are available with a standard and an all-wheel drive model, the latter providing better steering. The 3.5 litre V6 engine delivers 265 horsepower, compared to the A3 which delivers 335hp, the Range Rover 300hp and the Porsche Cayman with 355bhp the JX is considerably lacking and doesn’t seem to contend. This does comes from a car that specialises in comfort and interior luxury so speed and power isn’t key.

The Infiniti interior is what sells the car with the plush interior accompanied with high quality integrated wood in the dashboard along with leather seats that remain comfortable after long distance journeys. Technology packs this SUV with a 360-degree exterior camera and Infiniti’s unique back up technology preventing the car from hitting nearby objects halting the car to an immediate stop. Infiniti are renowned for luxury cars and this meets there high expectations and the safety features make sure you and your car stay safe at all times.

If you’re looking for a luxury SUV that not only delivers in high quality interior and an attractive exterior body packed with technology and safety features then this may be suited for you. The gadgets and style compete with the very best in the luxury SUV category. The only downside to this model is that it seems to lack on the performance side compared to its competitors but with 7 seats, this makes it the ideal candidate for a family car. Find out more about the Infiniti car range at your local Infiniti dealer.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

Death On The B-Roads

Sometimes your satnav will go rogue and take you off blindly down narrow country lanes, usually when time is of the essence. Sometimes though, the outcome can be a delight when new vistas open up before you or a discreet country pub is discovered. You just never know. There was a time when a exploratory drive in the country was a Sunday afternoon staple; unfortunately these days you might get more than you bargained for.

As you are all too well aware, a few years ago governments and councils suddenly discovered that they had been spending our money in a profligate manner for decades and had run out of cash. Whilst first making sure they retained their jobs, those in power reacted with indignity – as if someone else had been responsible – and immediately instigated wholesale budget cuts.

One result of this is that deaths on minor roads are rising as councils (who are responsible) ignore them in favour of more eye-catching spending initiatives. Department for Transport figures show that in the twelve months to September last year the number of serious or fatal accidents on minor roads rose by five percent on the previous year. In the same period, accidents on motorways and A-roads fell by nine percent.

In 2010, over one thousand souls perished on our rural roads. The figure for major roads was just shy of four hundred. Road safety charities state that this shows that not enough is being done to protect B-roads users.

With a wearying sense of inevitability The Local Government Association blames government cuts. Apparently, the cash handed down by the Whitehall mandarins has been reduced in real terms by £500m. This may well be so, but someone has finally got to own up. Our road safety minister states that it has been made easier for councils to implement 20mph speed limits but doesn’t say what that has to do with rural roads.

The tragic figures above are fair warning. Proper B-road maintenance is poor to almost non-existent. Surfaces are in bad condition and potholes abound and these things could well be responsible for the rise in accidents, at least in part. It is clear that not enough money is being spent.

In the meantime privatisation of the roads, like a night-time mugger, is creeping closer. In the manner of governments in recent years the answer seems to be to hive off responsibility to private companies instead of doing the job properly themselves. This is turn will herald more road charging as if we don’t pay enough already. If tolls or other charges are instigated on Britain’s primary roads then cash-strapped drivers will head for the B-roads instead. What, do you think, will be the outcome of that?

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

Historic Austin Maxi Set For Auction

Those older readers who remember this car, or the younger ones who study such ancient automotive things, will be completely surprised to see the words ‘historic’ and ‘Maxi’ in the same sentence – yet it is so.

The Austin Maxi was produced by the now thankfully defunct British Leyland company for twelve years from 1969. It was a large angular box known as the ‘land crab’, with an interior roomy enough for group gymnastics. Not quite as bad as the horrors that were the Allegro and Marina, it fulfilled a role as a family hatchback and nearly half a million were built; some of them with a gearbox that didn’t go wrong. It was also interesting because the Maxi had an arrangement whereby the gears and the engine shared the same oil, although the clutch oil seal often suffered leakages.

In 1969, three intrepid ladies (pictured with the car) entered the fearsome 16,000 mile London to Mexico Rally and actually managed at one point to hold 35th place until they succumbed to the glutinous mud of Argentina, despite the drawbacks of the car which was professionally prepared by a BL dealer, Marshalls of Cambridge.

Somehow or other these women took this car across Europe, over the ocean, through parts of South America, crammed into the interior with tools, spares, safety gear, food and clothing. It is just unfortunate that it was nature that let them down – the mud made them miss a time control – as the car battled on throughout and lived to rally again.

It is this very car that will be auctioned by Historics at Brooklands in March. ‘MCE 7G’ has been meticulously restored by the present owner to the original specification that started the rally at Wembley Stadium. Although the standard car came with a 1.5L 4 cylinder engine, this car was uprated to a factory fresh 1.75L unit (which was to appear in later Maxi’s) and even has the original rally equipment. The sale includes a cornucopia of historical documentation and photographs.

The car is in full rally livery and is perfectly useable today. It has a mere 38,000 miles on the clock. It is fully road legal, in good nick and, by all accounts, is a decent drive. There is only one other example of this rally car in existence now and that lives in a museum. Don’t let the same fate happen to this one! Get down to Brooklands with about £25000 and this piece of motoring history could be yours.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (2)

Road Charging Around The Corner

If after reading this you are lost for words and can’t find the right way to express your feelings, the words you are seeking are ‘blatant’ and ‘rip-off’. Add the expletive(s) of your choice.

This time it is road charging. Again. Rather than run the motorways and other main roads in an efficient manner on our behalf, the government believes it would be best for all of us if they were ‘leased’ to private companies. Obviously, these companies would want to be paid for this and we would accordingly be charged to use ‘their’ roads. Tolls, in other words.

This story has been doing the rounds for a while now and the government know they are in for some healthy resistance from motoring organisations, commercial vehicle operators and of course private motorists. As a consequence they are looking at ways to stitch us up differently and just now they are considering an annual one-off charge.

The first thought was to offset this by a partial reduction in vehicle excise duty but even they have realised that to do this would penalise those drivers who have purchased environment-friendly cars and pay little or no road tax. Back to the drawing board then as they try to come up with a formula that is ‘fair’.

The latest wheeze seems to be similar to that used in some other European countries. It is called the Vignette process. Road pricing charges are imposed on vehicles based on a period of time rather than distance or a collected toll. Even as you read this they are working towards a charging structure that is acceptable to companies and private vehicle owners. It may, for example, be based on a levy linked to the CO² output or even the weight of any given vehicle.

The government are going to publish a ‘consultation’ document in the next month or so. The Department for Transport have confirmed that they are undertaking feasibility studies for the private ownership of major routes and the attendant financial issues. They insist that no decision has been reached although, just like a shop-bought beef lasagne, you know there is going to be something in this process that you won’t like.

Motoring organisations are already calling this yet another tax on motorists and it is hard to argue with that assessment. We already pay fuel tax, vehicle excise duty and tolls on some roads and bridges; now it looks as if we are going to pay some more.

Of course, it is probably feasible to drive around Britain using just the quiet B-roads and byways that criss-cross the land but if we all do that then our country lanes will become gridlocked and they are already in a poor condition anyway. It simply beggars belief that ministers can continue to announce this sort of thing and not go red in the face with shame.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)