Archive | Auto Shows

It’s Another Motor Show!

Once upon a time in the distant past of the Twentieth Century there was the Earl’s Court Motor Show. Serious looking chaps with pipes wearing serious looking hats would reveal new cars and that was pretty much it for the year. These days it seems that every city has a show. The good councillors of towns like Truro or Scarborough are clearly missing a trick.

This time it’s the turn of Seoul in South Korea and most of the usual suspects rocked up from the Korean branches of worldwide manufacturers and from the indigenous car makers. We were going to show you a picture of the truly magnificent Lexus LF-LC concept car together with gratuitous posing model, but for this article we are concentrating on concept vehicles from the Korean companies so it’ll be the Kia Cub instead.

In many ways the rising stars of the motor industry are companies like Hyundai, Ssangyong and Kia. In the early days these manufacturers were derided for producing third rate cars. This is no longer so. There has been a spectacular rise in quality, so much so that their cars are a match for most offerings from Europe.

Ssangyong are a case in point. This is not a name that has inspired much confidence in potential buyers but the new Korando, for example, is a smart 4×4 that is well made and competitively priced although the world could still probably do without the dire Rodius. Never mind – they have now shown us the LIV-1, a concept SUV that is designed to look robust, purposeful and sporty. The car features a sizeable body with large bumpers front and rear, yet with slim A and B pillars, a glasshouse silhouette and, intriguingly, a full length glass roof.

Hyundai meanwhile have been busy with the HND9, a luxury sports coupé that hints at their future direction in design. HND9 comes with gull-wing doors and a 3.3L GDi (gasoline direct injection) engine driving the rear wheels. A product of the design centre at Namyang it is another evolution of Hyundai’s so called ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ philosophy.

Finally Kia have popped up with an urban design surprise called the Cub. There are no production plans right now but not to build this one seems like a shame. Like the Mini Paceman it has four individual seats but the rear doors open in a rearward direction and there is a complete absence of B-pillars making access easy. The Cub is small and sleek with a turbo-charged GDi engine of 1.6L driven through a six-speed gearbox. We like this very much.

All in all the Seoul Show deserves to be part of the global motor industry experience and it is good to see some interesting designs emanating from the Korean players.

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New Cars At The New York Show

2013 seems to be producing a bumper crop of new cars, despite all the recessionary woe. At the latest show in New York the trend continued with a selection from Kia, Jaguar, Audi, Volvo and Mercedes.

The Kia Soul is a car that is either loved or hated for its looks despite being practical and roomy with a decent boot. It strives for a trendy image but has been let down by a mediocre ride and economy. The company have now announced the replacement which will arrive on our shore early in 2014. That’s it in the picture. It is probably a coincidence but it looks a bit like the new Fiat 500L; not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Suspension and handling have been improved for a better ride and the whole car has a more premium feel to it. Mini owners won’t be trading in but this new car should attract plenty of new fans.

A surprise addition to the Audi range is a saloon version of their excellent A3. It has to be said that it is hard to understand the purpose of this car but Audi rarely put a foot wrong. The company say that the car is aimed at ‘young professionals’ looking for a ‘sporty but fun car’. So why not choose the brilliant sport back then? Audi see their market for this car to be predominately in Russia and the far East and, to a lesser extent, Europe. Early reports say that it’s a roomy car, slightly longer than the hatchback.

Sweden is represented by Volvo and a new set of R-Design cars based on the recently updated 60 series. All three cars get new faces, a new rear diffuser, sports seats and an R-Design exhaust system. The S60 and V60 models have a sports chassis and lowered suspension whilst the XC60  gets a better handling kit of springs and anti-roll bars.

If all this is a bit tame for you and you feel the need for 355bhp then how about the new Mercedes CLA45 AMG express. This car looks fabulous (especially in white with black) and in the traffic light grand prix will whisk you to 62mph in a ferocious 4.6 seconds. Despite this performance Mercedes are claiming 40mpg and emissions at around 160g/km. If that’s a fact then it is quite an achievement and bodes well for performance cars of the future.

It seems that scarcely a week can go by without there being a new Jaguar – and here it is. This time it’s the super-hot XKR-S GT which the company describe as the ‘ultimate road-going XK’. Presumably until the next one. Only thirty will be built and they are all going to North America. If there’s enough clamour in the UK then a small run of LHD versions could be built but don’t hold your breath.

The Rolls Royce Wraith also featured as did the new Range Rover Sport that Motor Blogger featured on March 20th. As we said – a bumper year!

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Shelby Mustang Delivers More Muscle

The New York show has revealed some more new cars coming to a dealer near you but for this article we’ll stick with just one of those cars which is so daft as to be highly desirable.

Despite all the trials and tribulations of modern motoring the yearning for a proper American muscle car still beats strongly in the hearts of true petrol heads. There are at least three digital channel TV programmes on right now dedicated to the repair and renovation of historic models; and even today car manufacturers continue to build new vehicles with the muscle car legacy in mind.

Probably the most iconic name in the muscle car history of the USA is Carroll Shelby. Sadly, the great man himself died last year and left behind a name that is synonymous with old school performance cars. Give the man a bog standard Mustang (the greatest of the American ‘pony’ cars) and he would most recently have given you back a Shelby GT500. A good car becomes great.

Shelby may have gone but his name lives on and the company continues to push the boundaries of performance as he would have liked. At last year’s New York show an enhanced GT500 was offered in a limited edition but this time packing 1100bhp! No, that’s not a typing error. The Shelby 1000 delivered over 400 horses more than the base car. This year the Nevada based company have decided to refresh that model and have shown the Shelby 1000 S/C on the basis that what we really want is 1200bhp. That’s quite a lot of grunt.

Power comes from a stripped down 5.8L V8, beefed up by a massive supercharger and many other performance parts. Shelby reckon that this car will out-perform anything on the market. Mindful of the criticism that yank tanks can’t go around corners the company have fitted adjustable suspension and huge brakes. They insist that the car now tracks as it should and corners with grip and a minimum of body roll. This of course depends on what you call a corner.

Lucky buyers of the limited edition one hundred that will be built will get all this power for a measly $154k plus a donor car. That’s incredibly good value in the scheme of things and is probably because in the American tradition the car is simple. No banks of computers or fancy downforce effects here, just raw power. Hopeless in the UK obviously. Can you imagine the sound of your insurance agent’s voice and the size of the premium once he picks himself up of the floor? For most of us cars like this are just a pipedream but isn’t it great that they still exist?

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FIAT 500 Grows Up And Starts A Family

La Dolce Vita. A lifestyle that spawned a car; or maybe it was the other way round. Either way the current FIAT 500 is a reminder of the iconic original that belonged to that carefree epoch and has, as a consequence, become the company’s best selling car.

Because of the popularity of the 500, FIAT have now produced a bigger brother, the 500L. Thankfully, it is not simply a lardier version of the original but rather a modern and very Italian take on the small MPV. This is the start of the branding of the 500. A ‘trekking’ version has already been announced – more of which below – and there’ll be a seven seat version and a mini-SUV to follow in due course.

There are four engine options with the 500L including a diesel and the now ubiquitous Twin-Air two cylinder motor, which seems like the right choice for this car. Reactions to the body shape and high-riding stance are mixed. Some like the quirky approach to styling, others think it is a little ungainly. The company seem to be aiming this car at young families who have outgrown their 500 but it is also likely to appeal to older drivers who like the raised ride height, comfortable cabin and great all-round visibility.

The 500L is designed for practicality with sliding, splitting rear seats and a height adjustable 400 litre boot. Overall it’s a winner and the coming version choice seems to emulate the approach taken by Mini with something for everyone in the family catalogue.

For the more adventurous, FIAT showed the ‘Trekking’ option at the recent Geneva Motor Show. This looks like the one to go for if your family like the outdoor life as the car features FIAT’s innovative Traction+ system. This is not, as the name might suggest, a four wheel drive but rather a clever way of boosting the front wheels’ ability to find traction and thus be able to cope with gnarly or slippery surfaces. This is a great idea that helpfully avoids the additional running costs of a traditional 4×4 whilst giving the driver more confidence on the road.

All the expected features are on offer, Bluetooth and the like, and the cabin is well appointed although it is not the same as the smaller car. It’s more like the interior of the Panda, but that’s no bad thing. Road test reports suggest that the 500L isn’t really a drivers car. The comfortable ride mean there is some lean in corners and the steering is light and maybe a little vague. Most buyers won’t be concerned about this as sportiness isn’t the vehicle’s raison d’être. Overall, FIAT have cracked it with the 500L, the only caveat being the price. The Twin-Air model is almost £15k; that’s considerable more expensive than similar competitors, but the 500L is a stylish offering and it is sure to appeal to the modern customer.

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New Range Rover Sport Revealed This Month

What, you might well ask, is the purpose of the new Range Rover Sport which will be officially announced at the end of this month. Well, it sits between the mighty Range Rover flagship and the outstandingly rugged Discovery and does in fact have a purpose all of its own. Essentially, as the name suggests, it is a sportier version of its majestic namesake. Whereas the purpose of the Range Rover is for unashamed luxury coupled with real off-road ability so the Sport is designed with keen drivers in mind.

The Sport is a more involving drive with a firmer ride and a generally more dynamic feel on the road, although its mud-plugging skills are hardly diminished. Think of it, if you like, as a cross between the Range Rover and the Evoque – the best of both worlds. Land Rover believe it is their most responsive and agile vehicle yet.

The car will be revealed to the world at the New York Auto Show on the 26th March. Presumably they are presenting it there because Americans are the biggest market for this particular variant; in fact, it is LR’s biggest seller in the States.

Although the two RR cars seem very similar there are in fact a lot of differences both cosmetic and technical. The Sport has a sloping roofline and a bigger rear spoiler for example. There will be five and seven seat versions, although the extra two seats are likely to be for occasional use only. The interior is obviously Range Rover influenced but instead of the rotary dial the Sport will feature a stubby gear selector instead.

The most significant change is hidden from view. The previous Sport used the Integrated Body Frame chassis from the Discovery but the new version will instead be based on the aluminium chassis of the Range Rover. This will clearly result in a weight saving which should be noticed in both handling and economy.

The Range Rover is the definitive off-road vehicle and it will remain unchallenged in that department. If the Sport is to have improved road and driving manners then its rough terrain performance must be at least slightly compromised. That’s not to say that it won’t be way better than many rivals. It isn’t confirmed at the time of writing but LR may well fit the Terrain Response System from the bigger car. Either way, its prowess on the gnarly stuff is unlikely to be found wanting.

It certainly looks like Land Rover have done it again. The Sport will undoubtedly be in demand in the showrooms, especially as the prices will start from a round a reasonable £55,000. Another winner from Gaydon.

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Geneva Choice

As well as the desirable examples entering the automotive market that we have already featured on Motor Blogger, there are also plenty of other new cars worthy of our attention at this year‘s Geneva show. The selection is diverse and has plenty to offer all price points and sectors.

For example, we have already heard a lot about the budget brand Dacia and the decent value for money cars they offer. Joining the ranks in the UK market now is the Logan. Essentially, this is an estate car version of the Sandero which will be priced from about £7000, which is excellent value for a family sized car that is a similar size to the Volvo V70.

The Logan is offered with the same range of engines as its hatchback siblings, including a 1.5L diesel which busts the 100g/km CO² barrier. For the cost-conscious driver who needs some decent carrying capacity (better than a Focus estate) this car seems like a great choice.

On the Honda stand there is more about their Earth Dreams Technology. No, it’s not some sort of return to a mystical pagan past but rather just a name for their equivalent of BMW’s ‘EfficientDynamics’ or Volkswagen’s ‘Bluemotion’ eco-strategies. It’s centred around Honda’s 1.6L I-DTEC diesel engine, first seen in the new Civic. This time it is in the company’s British built CR-V which will deliver a balance between efficient performance and functionality. It looks good too.

Suzuki are a car maker who perhaps don’t really get the credit they deserve. They have been plugging away on the British forecourts for years without actually setting the market on fire. They have made some good cars and their current Swift is a popular choice in the press. Maybe with the new SX4 Crossover (pictured) they will get a bit more attention from the buying public.

This new model is bigger than its predecessor and has moved into the popular C sector by increasing in size. It combines compact car know-how with the Suzuki technology honed for SUVs. To be built in Hungary the SX4 will be on sale from the Autumn.

Finally, Chevrolet are showing a selection that includes the Spark EV and a new upscale Captiva. Sales of the Trax will start this Spring but for petrol- heads the biggest news is of the new Corvette Stingray. This is powered by a 6.2L V8 which shoves out a muscle-bound 450bhp. Totally impractical for Britain’s third world roads of course but we want one anyway. In black, please.

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Turning Over A New Leaf

The Nissan Leaf was launched in 2011 and to date the company have sold over fifty thousand cars worldwide. In many ways it is a very good car but with the drawbacks that afflict all electric cars. Potential owners remain concerned about range as the cars arrived long before the introduction of any meaningful electric infrastructure around the nation. Never mind – the Leaf has a market and is an ideal vehicle for urban lifestyles.

Nissan have been listening to customers and have announced a wide range of improvements to the next generation EV, which will be built, along with its batteries, at the successful Sunderland plant in the North of England. Production begins in the Spring. This seems like an admirably perfect time for a new Leaf.

Crucially, the range has been extended. The original car could manage 109 miles at best. The new maximum is 124 miles. It’s not a lot if we’re honest but that extra bit could just give buyers peace of mind in knowing that 100 miles should be reliably feasible. This is aided by a new heat pump which reduces electrical consumption in cold weather thus boosting range.

In addition to the standard eight hour charging arrangement, customers can now opt for a 6.6kW charger which halves charging time. Additionally, the charger has now been relocated under the bonnet which has freed up additional luggage space at the back. An amount of judicious re-engineering has bought the car up fully to European driving standards which means handling has been improved.

To further enhance performance Nissan have made some styling changes to the car which will improve aero efficiency. In keeping with the green credentials the new Leaf is more recyclable than its predecessor, not that owners are likely to be thinking that far ahead. The company has listened and they say that there are over one hundred improvements and enhancements on the new model.

Battery life is another concern expressed by customers. It would be a hugely expensive fix and nobody really seems to know how long they will last and how much capacity they will lose over time. To counter this Nissan have a new comprehensive warranty plan. There’s a five year / 100,000 mile guarantee for workmanship and defects and, because lithium-ion batteries lose capacity over time, they will be covered by a ‘State of Health’ clause to cover this. Thus, if the batteries wear out earlier than expected they will be repaired or replaced.

The interior has been improved too with new colours, more supportive seats with environmentally friendly fabrics and more equipment including the Around View Monitor. Overall, Nissan have paid attention to the reaction to the original Leaf and acted accordingly. The new Nissan Leaf is an attractive proposition for a large percentage of car users.

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Why are Ferrari’s like buses? Because two come along at once. We’ve just seen the Italian company’s answer to the family four wheel drive, the FF (Motor Blogger 27/2), and now we have the long anticipated successor to the Enzo called, for some reason known only to them, LaFerrari.

Name aside, this car has simply got to be the most desirable offering from the Prancing Horse stable yet. Such is the fickle nature of motor bloggers, we have already allowed our eyes to be drawn from the beauty that is the Wraith to the alluring Mediterranean charms of this fiery Italian temptress.

Not noted for being the most reticent of individuals, the president of Ferrari, Luca di Montezemolo, states “We chose to call this model LaFerrari because it is the maximum expression of what defines our company – excellence. Excellence in terms of technological innovation, performance, visionary styling and the sheer thrill of driving”. He is, of course, absolutely correct.

LaFerrari is a collectors release and will cost something in the region of one million pounds so don’t expect to see one on the roads any time soon. Nevertheless, it is a supreme example of automotive art. It is a chance for Ferrari to experiment with the latest technological offerings. Although we will never own one, we might find that some of the developments that feature on this vehicle will filter down to the cars that we do drive in the fullness of time.

As you might expect, LaFerrari is petrol-electric powered. The hybrid technology used is known as HY-KERS and combines maximum power with lower emissions; down to just 330g/km of CO² . Weight isn’t so much of an issue because the batteries for the twin electric motors only weigh 60 kilos. It doesn’t have electric only drive – that isn’t its purpose – this is a car designed to perform. With an output of an astounding 949bhp this red rocket will hurtle you past the 60mph mark in under three seconds and a scant twelve seconds later you’ll be doing 186 and won’t be able to hear the whimpering noises coming from your passenger.

This power comes from a V12 displacing just over six litres coupled with the electric motor, to generate 715lb/ft of torque. The combination of the two motor sources mean that all this power comes in an even spread throughout the range. The red line is at 9250rpm although the combination of petrol-electric means that high torque levels are available at low revs, which seems to suggest the car should be admirably useable in the course of ordinary motoring. Not that there is anything ordinary about this car.

It goes without saying that the interior is exactly as you would expect from the masters of sports car technology. Ferrari have done it again.

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Volvo Lights The Way

Here’s an interesting new development from the Swedish car maker.  Three of the six new cars that Volvo are showing at the Geneva Motor Show can be optionally fitted with their latest innovation to make driving at night a much safer experience. Volvo, of course, have always been at the forefront of safety and this new lighting system follows that lead.

The Active High Beam Control allows the driver to use high beam all the time because AHBC has an ingenious mechanism that prevents on-coming drivers from being dazzled because a specific area is shaded (see the image). Amazing. This makes redundant the need to switch to low beam when encountering traffic from the opposite direction.

The benefits of this include the ability to ‘see’ into the surrounding traffic area outside of the shaded area revealing hazards that might otherwise be missed on low beam. Unlit parked cars, pedestrians and cyclists will be more visible. This technology is bound to make motoring safer in the dark as the driver isn’t constantly having to flick the beam stalk and can concentrate on what’s really important – good driving.

This is cutting edge auto science. When a car approaches – or when your car catches up with a slower vehicle – the system shades out only as much light as is needed from the beam. AHBC works by utilising the camera located by the driver mirror which is already working with the collision technology and auto-brake system. It is so accurate that the on-comer will be ‘framed’ with only a 1.5° margin.

The control unit instantly relays the information to an ingenious projector module fitted in the Xenon headlamp. This in turns activates a tiny cylinder with metal pieces of differing sizes which deploy to the effect described. It works with two-wheeled vehicles as well, so owners won‘t be blinding motor cyclists. The AHBC will be available on the new Volvo S60, V60 and XC60. The cars will be introduced at Geneva along with three other new cars the V70, XC70 and the S80.

There is an argument which says there is simply too much technology on cars these days but it is hard to argue against a safety feature like this.


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There is an auto design team headed up by a man called Giles Taylor to whom temples will be raised, ballads written and statues erected. We have been waiting since the nineteenth century for a car to come along that is so glorious, so perfect, that mere superlatives pale into insignificance.

Mr Taylor is unknown to us personally. For all we know he will, like the Wizard of Oz, be a bit disappointing in the flesh and the sculptors will have to use a bit of artistic licence to show future generations a representation of this colossus of car design and, no doubt, his team of co-workers. What we do know is that all the beautiful cars that have ever been will just become the ugly sisters to this automotive Cinderella.

It is the two door version of the Ghost and is the most powerful and fastest Rolls Royce yet. It’s V12 engine produces 624bhp and the car has been set up to be more agile and minimise body roll; more of a driver’s car. Despite being a traditional name it carries on board the very latest technology including a new Satellite Aided Transmission system which uses satellite technology to allow the 8 speed gearbox to predict corners and junctions and set itself up accordingly.

There doesn’t seem much point in detailing all the facts and figures of this car. Cows have obviously bathed daily in asses milk to grow the opulent hide for the seats. The Canadel wood panelling effects are made from actual birch wood from trees. On the flowing dashboard there are exquisitely crafted dials and displays and switches all of which are mini-masterpieces in their own right. All the latest technology is there; not in a brash way but in a typically understated fashion that spurns any talk of bling.

The fastback design is revolutionary for this traditional company. Messrs Rolls and Royce will look down benignly upon this vehicle and see that it is good. Strictly speaking it should have been introduced to the world in Trafalgar Square with the Queen driving and Horse Guards as outriders instead of on a stand at the Geneva Motor Show. Never mind – Geneva is an acceptably grand and sophisticated city – just the place for such a momentous unveiling.

This is not a sports car, it is something else – the ultimate gentlemen’s Gran Turismo. It is likely to cost in excess of two hundred thousand pounds but that doesn’t really seem to matter. It is the new Rolls Royce. It is British made. It is The Wraith.

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