High Quality Car Servicing, MOTs and Accident Repair

We are a friendly, professional and family run business based conviently off the A3. We have been servicing the motoring needs of Surbiton near Kingston Upon Thames and surrounding areas for over 30 years.

 

           

Welcome to Maypole Motors Ltd


            We are a friendly, professional and family run business based convien

Family run business

With a team of qualified car mechanics and technicians, you can be assured of a truly personal service with all aspects of repairs to your car. Being a member of 'Checkatrade', we are openly vetted and monitored and we welcome any feedback from our customers.

First registered in 1976 we have expanded from a small recovery and service garage employing three staff to its current all encompassing motor group employing in the region of forty-five people. The combination of the services we provide still holds strong links to our initial well known friendly beginnings.

Expansion over the years has merely enhanced the service we provide to all our customers. Our hand picked staff still have the pleasantries of a small local garage and the benefits of large investment in technology training and equipment.

View our promotional video here : http://bcove.me/gz6dumyp

Comparison - Bentley Continental GT Speed vs. Mercedes S63 AMG coupé
Comparison - Bentley Continental GT Speed vs. Mercedes S63 AMG coupé The new Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG coupé is aimed squarely at the Bentley Continental GT Speed. Can it outmuscle it? We find out after a flat-out day in Wales

Although there is no formal definition, the UK government recognises a mountain to be any peak greater than 2000ft, of which well over 100 exist within the UK.

And given the vastness of the great Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia national parks, you might expect Wales to be home to a fair chunk of them. But it’s not. It has just eight.

The two most famous are the 2907ft Pen y Fan, which lies south-west of Brecon, and the 3560ft Snowdon, the highest in respectively the south and north of the country.

Handily for a hack looking for a hook to a story about two huge, powerful cars, the route between these two huge, powerful peaks takes in some of the best driving roads in this or any other country in our still intact United Kingdom.

The Bentley Continental GT you will know, for it has been a fairly frequent presence on these pages since its launch in 2003, and despite being regularly and at least once comprehensively updated on the way, it remains essentially the same car.

The 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 motor powering this Speed version isn’t that much changed, either. Yes, its power output has been tickled up by another 10bhp to 626bhp, but given that this engine developed 552bhp in basic form upon introduction over a decade ago, that’s not such a leap.

Then again, and for these purposes at least, there’s some benefit to its consistency, for its role here is the provide the benchmark for the other car now pulling into the car park opposite the Storey Arms on the A470, the start point for most hikers on their way up Pen y Fan.

That car is, of course, the Mercedes-Benz S-class coupé, perhaps better known as the replacement for the CL. In S63 AMG guise as tested here, its 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 has a trifling 577bhp but, lacking the Bentley’s four-wheel drive hardware, it weighs a quarter of a tonne less despite being both longer and taller.

The upshot is a fractional power-to-weight advantage to Mercedes that would matter little were it not backed by a monstrous torque-to-weight advantage, too. The Speed is Bentley’s fastest road car yet and it looks likely to be blown to dust by a Mercedes based on a pre-existing saloon with a smaller engine and fewer cylinders. 

The price differential between them makes painful reading, too, for Bentley fans. At £156,700, the Speed costs over £30,000 more than its rival, money that the Merc buyer could spend speccing his car to the nines or just buying a brand-new Lotus Elise for a bit of fun on the side.

Read the Bentley Continental GT Speed first drive

And I can think of no other two-door car, save a Rolls-Royce Wraith, capable of making the Bentley look so small. But it does: the Mercedes coupé might sit on a shorter wheelbase than an S-class saloon but it still logs in at well over five metres in length, longer even than four-door rivals such as the Porsche Panamera and Aston Martin Rapide S. Its lines flow beautifully, but next to it, the Bentley looks taut, compact and purposeful.

Technologically, it is to the Bentley as a super-computer is to an abacus. Were the roads not so winding, a passenger could have happily whiled away the entire journey from south to north trying to figure out the full range of its functionality and still found work to do at journey’s end.

This is a car that uses cameras as eyes to control the suspension, the cruise control and even the steering – on the motorway, it really will drive itself. Tick the right boxes on the options sheet and you can have a seat with a longer list of massages than a five-star Bangkok hotel and a Burmester music system with more controls than an Abbey Road mixing desk.

But we’re not here to fiddle with gadgets, however enticing they may be. We’re here to drive and I make no excuses for falling on the S-class keys first.

The route up past Builth Wells, Llandridnod Wells, Rhayader and towards Betws-y-Coed and Snowdownia is one of the best drives anywhere on the mainland, especially if you keep off the A470 and stick to the often more direct and always less travelled B-roads.

It was always going to be a challenge for such cars. Despite their sleek lines, these are not pure-bred sports cars nor even purpose-built GTs. Both are spun off saloon car architectures (let’s not forget the Bentley’s Volkswagen Phaeton ancestry) and even the lighter Mercedes weighs the wrong side of two tonnes.

But at times, 663lb ft of torque can make even such evident avoirdupois seem irrelevant. Mercedes’ home-grown seven-speed transmission is annoying because it is neither as smooth nor as intuitive as the ZF eight-speeder in the Bentley, but once you’ve learned to lock it in a ratio and let the torque do the work, this is a mightily fast car, and by any conventional standard you like.

The four-wheel-drive versions available in left-hand-drive markets will pop sub-4sec 0-62mph runs all day long. And that engine! I am by both instinct and disposition suspicious of downsized turbocharged engines but this one is magnificent.

Its performance is not characterised by the turbos at all, merely helped along. They blow relatively little boost, allow for a double-digit compression ratio and, as such, offer neither lag nor impedance to the engine’s voice.

Throttle response is electrifying, the noise the very blood and thunder you’d dream of in such a car, and the thrust… well, it is simply majestic.

Sad to say, the Bentley engine struggles by comparison. The issue is not its relative lack of torque or that its extra power is entirely stymied by its additional weight, because this is still a massively fast car. But it can’t do the subjective stuff anything like so well. Its voice is dull and its throttle response slack by comparison.There is no joy in this engine and, to be honest, it has been that way since it was born.

We’re deep into mid-Wales and I’m fiddling with the S63’s chassis set-up, trying to decide if its Pendolino-like ability to lean into corners is an asset or gimmick.

I decide that on give-and-take roads such as these, where it sometimes struggles to distinguish between curves and cambers, that it’s best left alone and settle for Sport mode instead.

I can remember being blown away by how well the S63 AMG saloon handled, but that was by the hardly high standards that you’d expect from a luxury limousine. The bar is far higher here and the coupé is clearing it, but by less than I’d thought.

There’s an artificiality to the steering that makes the car difficult to place on the road, and despite the arsenal of electronic suspension trickery at its disposal, it lacks the iron-fisted body control that I’d expected.

Then again, these are tough roads and if the Merc is finding them hard, how is the Bentley faring? Oddly, every time I look in the mirror, it is still there and showing no apparent signs of struggling to keep up.

The reason why soon becomes clear. In every dynamic area save perhaps braking, it is objectively inferior to the Mercedes. Subjectively, however, it is a rather different matter.

Out here where there is no such thing as a constant radius bend, where the only thing that changes more often than the weather is the camber and surface of the road, it’s not torque or power that’s the chief determinant of your point-to-point pace: it’s confidence.

Read the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG coupé first drive

And this the Bentley supplies. Its old-style hydraulic steering has a feel that you’ll not find in the Mercedes and, despite their passivity and relative technological backwardness, its dampers retain better control of the Bentley’s body.

There’s less pitch and heave, and in the medium-speed turns that characterise this part of the world, I’d call it the more nimble of the two, were ‘nimble’ a word you could ever use to describe a 2.3-tonne four-wheel-drive Bentley with a 6.0-litre 12-cylinder twin-turbo motor. Then again, it is shorter in the wheelbase than the Benz, and substantially so, so perhaps we should not be so surprised.

How concerned should we be about such issues? These are cars more sporting than sports and there are many who’d argue that there are considerations that should take their place ahead of mid-corner adjustability in the priority queue for such devices.

Which is fair enough, but when I turn my attention to less exciting but perhaps more relevant considerations, I find them harder to separate.

I should prefer the Mercedes because, again, if you think about it at all sensibly, it’s just the better car. Its ride is more deft and its interior more spacious in front, back and boot. It’s undoubtedly quieter at a constant cruise and there’s so much to play with in here that years from now you’d likely still be finding new functions that you’d hitherto never known existed.

Nor can you quibble with the cabin design, where Mercedes has been able to tempt traditional materials into entirely harmonious living arrangements with a post-modern dash of thrilling complexity and sophistication.

The Bentley has little to offer in reply and its dashboard, with its simple analogue dials and a navigation screen not unlike that in a Volkswagen Golf, seems antediluvian by comparison.

And yet there’s a sense of occasion in here, a feeling of well being amid those exquisitely judged and matched hides and veneers that speak of another set of priorities, an innate class that not even the Mercedes can match. For the less gadget obsessed, it is a wonderful place in which to pass time time.

The verdict

Despite an entire day on the road, by the time we reach the foothills of Snowdon, a clear victor has still to emerge. Despite all the common ground they share, these are profoundly different cars.

Bentley has excelled itself in imbuing the Speed with a timeless quality that the Mercedes cannot match, but if it is performance, ride, refinement or space that matters most to you, the Merc is just better, as well as £30,000 cheaper.

Even in this relatively price insensitive part of the market, that counts. In hackneyed terms, the head directs you straight to the Benz, while the heart implores you to go for the Bentley. I decide to sleep on it.

Soon after dawn the following day, we finish shooting and I’ve rarely seen this part of the world look more beautiful. But I am tired, there are many long hours of driving ahead and time is short. Bentley or Mercedes?

At last, the decision is clear. I walk straight to the Bentley, take one last, wistful look at that gorgeous interior and then, and only slightly guiltily, settle into the Mercedes and head for home.

Read Autocar's previous comparison - New Vauxhall Corsa versus Ford Fiesta and VW Polo

Bentley Continental GT Speed

Price £156,700; 0-62mph 4.2sec; Top speed 206mph; Economy 19.5mpg; CO2 338g/km; Kerb weight 2320kg; Engine W12, 5998cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 626bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 604lb ft at 1700rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic

Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG coupé

Price £125,595; 0-62mph 4.2sec; Top speed 186mph (with Driver's Pack); Economy 28.0mpg; CO2 237g/km; Kerb weight 2070kg; Engine V8, 5461cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 577bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 663lb ft at 2250rpm; Gearbox 7-speed automatic

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China topples Europe as world's largest car maker
China topples Europe as world's largest car maker A booming Chinese market means the region is now the most prolific manufacturer in the world, with the EU pushed to second place

China’s rocketing passenger car making industry is now the world’s largest by a significant margin. Nearly 18 million cars were made in China last year, well ahead of the EU’s production total of 14.6m.

According to figures just released by the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (ACEA), while EU production remained almost flat between 2012 and 2013, China overtook the EU in 2012 and continued climbing throughout last year. 

Collectively, the so-called BRIC group of countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) now produces 39.6 per cent of the world’s cars, but China is responsible for making 27.6 per cent of them. India (4.8 per cent), Brazil (4.2 per cent) and Russia (2.9 per cent) are minnows by comparison.

In 2002, China’s fledgling car industry built around one million cars, but by 2006 China had matched the United States’ automotive output of just over four million cars.

While nearly every other car making nation saw a drop in production in the wake of the 2008 global credit crunch, China’s car industry enjoyed its most dramatic period of growth, rising up from just under seven million units in 2008 to just over 14m units by the end of 2010. 

ACEA figures from 2012 revealed that 2.2m people across the EU are directly involved in the production of all types of motor vehicles, with a total of 12.7m employed across the entire supply chain. This accounts for 5.8 per cent of all people employed in the EU.

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Lister guns for Pagani and Koenigsegg with new £2m hypercar
Lister guns for Pagani and Koenigsegg with new £2m hypercar Lister boss reveals plans for new 250mph hypercar, which will arrive in three years time and be powered by a 1000bhp V12 engine

Reborn sports car manufacturer Lister has announced plans to take on the likes of Pagani, McLaren and Koenigsegg with its own niche hypercar.

The official design sketch showcases how the new model could look when it goes on sale in around three years time. Lister officials quote a price in the region of £2 million for the planned hypercar.

The firm is seeking investors to buy into the development of the car, which would be powered by a Jaguar-derived supercharged 7.8-litre V12 engine developing around 1000bhp. 

Lister has a history of using and modifying Jaguar V12 engines, primarily from its reworking of the Jaguar XJS during the late Eighties; it also has motorsports experience with its Jaguar V12-engined Lister Storm and the later Storm LMP, which campaigned in Le Mans 2006.

Officials say the new car will use an original Jaguar block, but that the engine's internal components will be significantly modified and that myriad upgrades will be carried out elsewhere – including the additional of dual overhead cam cylinder heads.

Lister boss Lawrence Whittaker told Autocar the new car would be capable of completing the 0-60mph sprint in "under three seconds" and would offer a top speed of "over 250mph."

"We want to take on cars like the Pagani Huayra, we want to build something that is truly a hypercar," he said. "If you drive a car like this it's because they're exquisitely made and because not everyone has one."

Both road-going and racing variants of the new model are planned, but Whittaker warns that production will likely be very limited, perhaps to as few as six cars annually.

Lister returned to the public eye in 2013, launching a limited run of its special 'Knobbly' Jaguar D-type models to celebrate its 60th anniversary, each costing around £300,000.

The 'new' models are powered by the same 3.8-litre Jaguar D-type engine as their forebears, and in racing specification are tuned to produce 330bhp - enough for a claimed 0-60mph sprint time of 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 181mph. 

Lister now says that nine of the 'Knobbly' cars have been sold. With an order book worth an estimated £3 million, the firm now wants to push ahead with its hypercar project.

"Our aspiration has always been to return the Lister brand to the forefront of people's minds," says Whittaker.

"When it launched we didn't know how many we would sell, but we've been really pleased with the orders we have. We've been thrilled with the response that everyone's had to the car."

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Radical reveals new flagship sports car
Radical reveals new flagship sports car New SR8 RSX to become Radical's performance flagship, with V8 power and Le Mans-inspired design; plus go-faster SR3 launched

Radical has revealed plans to produce a new flagship sports car from next year, and has also launched a new performance version of its SR3 sports car.

The SR8 RSX, revealed in these official renderings, is available to pre-order now with first deliveries expected in Q1 2015. It’s priced at £131,940.

The new model is powered by a 3.0-litre V8 engine, which develops 440bhp at 10,500rpm alongside 280lb ft at 7500rpm. It’s connected to a seven-speed paddle-shift transmission. 

No performance details have been revealed, but with a kerb weight of just 860kg expect some blistering 0-62mph sprint times. The engine is good for 40 hours of racing between rebuilds – the equivalent to a whole racing season.

The RS8 RSX also gets some styling cues from the Radical’s SR9 LMP2 car. The composite modular bodywork is built around a new, FIA-compliant tubular steel spaceframe chassis. 

The SR8 RSX features double wishbone suspension at the front and rear with pushrod activated dampers. Braking force is supplied by 350mm six-pot ventilated discs, which sit inside 17-inch wheels – optional 18-inch units are also available.

Inside, vital information is relayed through a 7-inch screen with integrated data logger. This is also the first Radical model to offer electrically-assisted power steering. 

Radical says the SR8 RSX offers “a specification to beat all rivals,” and provides “an experience closer to LMP competition than ever before.”

The company has also revealed a go-faster version of its SR3, which takes the name SR3 RSX. Powered by a Suzuki-sourced 1.5-litre four-cylinder DOHC engine with 210bhp at 9500rpm and 124lb ft at 8200rpm, the updated track model can reach 60mph in 3.1 seconds, and has a top speed of 155mph.

Changes over the current car include improved emissions from the engine, redesigned bodywork and extended durability, with the engine now running for 45 hours between rebuilds.

The SR3 RSX is on sale now, with prices starting from £80,349.

Honda opens new hydrogen filling station in Swindon
Honda opens new hydrogen filling station in Swindon Japanese manufacturer hopes to kick start the uptake of hydrogen-powered cars in the UK with the opening of its own filling station

A solar-powered hydrogen production and filling station facility capable of producing 20 tonnes of hydrogen a year has been opened at Honda’s Swindon factory. 

The hydrogen it produces can be dispensed directly into fuel cell vehicles such as Honda’s own FCX Clarity

Fuel cell cars are still under development and so far have only been manufactured in small volumes, but Honda fuel cell expert Thomas Brachman says that if made in numbers of 100,000 a year or more, the cost of a Honda hydrogen fuel cell car could already compete on price with a conventional combustion engine-powered car of today.

The hydrogen station is the first to produce commercial quantities of renewable hydrogen at the point of use. It has been developed by a consortium of companies including the British Oxygen Corporation, with funding from the government’s Innovate UK. 

The plant will also supply a small fleet of bi-fuel Ford Transit vans belonging to Swindon Borough Council and two fuel cell-powered fork lift trucks working in the production facility.

Hydrogen is produced at the new plant in a sustainable way though pressurised alkaline electrolysis of water using electricity produced by a solar farm nearby. 

Electrolysis is a process which breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen with no carbon emissions, as long as the electricity used is from renewable sources. A fuel cell converts hydrogen and oxygen into ‘clean’ electricity with only water and heat as by-products. 

Hydrogen is produced by the Honda production plant at 900bar and can be supplied to vehicles with either 350bar or 750bar storage tanks. The firm first established a hydrogen filling facility at Swindon in 2011. 

Until now, the hydrogen it dispensed was shipped to the site, but the addition of the sustainable production facility has significant implications for the potential of hydrogen as a transport fuel. 

One of the challenges manufacturers face in making fuel cell cars a production reality is the distribution of hydrogen to the point of sale. There are arguments in favour of centralised hydrogen production on the grounds of cost, but stand-alone systems don’t rely on a complex hydrogen delivery network and the associated carbon footprint that goes with it.

According to the UK Petroleum Industry Association, the cost of building a conventional high volume filling station capable of dispensing five million litres per year is in the region of £2 million - compared to the cost of the Honda filling station and production plant of just over £1 million. 

Passenger cars make up around 60 per cent of the fuel used in road transport, accounting for around three million litres of the conventional filling station’s capacity. Assuming an average car can achieve 35mpg, that’s enough fuel for around 23.1 million miles of motoring.

The Honda FCX Clarity has a range of 285 miles on 3.9kg of hydrogen, the useable amount in a tank holding 4.2kg. On that basis, the Honda station could provide enough fuel per year to support over 1.4 million miles of fuel cell-powered motoring at an estimated pump price for hydrogen of between £5 and £6 per kilogram. 

On-going running costs would be much lower than a conventional forecourt, with no fuel to buy and no delivery costs. The question of energy security is also removed from the equation altogether. 

The UK government is backing hydrogen as part of a portfolio of low-emission technologies, says Kate Warren from the government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles: “Road transport will need to de-carbonise by some 80 per cent by 2050, so we need to understand what the options are.” 

An £11 million project called ‘UKH2Mobility’ was launched in October with £7.5 million coming from the government and £3.5 million from industry. “The project is trying to understand what it will take for the roll-out of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and refuelling infrastructure and who needs to do what to make it happen,” said Warren.

The funding is destined for both new and existing stations with the aim of establishing 15 publicly accessible hydrogen stations in the UK by the end of 2015. In the longer term, UKH2Mobility is planning to have a network of 65 stations through the UK.

Warren says £400m of government is in play to support low emission technology, with an extra £500 million to come between 2015 and 2020. A further £500 million has been pledged towards the Advanced Propulsion Centre (a shared initiative between the government and industry) and that is matched by £500 million-worth of industry funding. 

In October, Hyundai delivered six ix35 fuel cell cars to fleets in the UK including Transport for London. Toyota has also announced the UK will become one of the first markets for its FCV next year. Honda’s production FCEV, claimed to be the first fuel cell car with the entire fuel cell powertrain packaged in the engine bay, comes to the Europe in 2016.

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Notes from a 10-car motorway pile-up - does emergency braking work?
Notes from a 10-car motorway pile-up Hindsight is a wonderful gift, especially when it comes to car crashes. But my friend's experience recently has left more questions than answers

A friend of mine had an accident recently, being part of a 10-car pile-up on the M1 one Saturday morning. 

Impressively, given that all 10 cars were doing around 70mph when their panic-braking began, everybody walked away. No one was seriously hurt apart from the soreness of whiplash and some mild shock, although there was an awful lot of vehicle damage. 

My friend’s was car number three in the train of destruction, which was triggered by somebody undertaking and surprising the lead car, which my mate reckons may have been slow to react. 

But when its driver did brake it was hard enough to trigger his car’s emergency brake assist, prompting an older supermini without this feature to bury its nose beneath its tail, aided by the impact of my friend’s car hitting it too. My mate was hit by the car behind, and another seven cars followed that. Which was enough to close the motorway. 

Unsurprisingly, there was not much hard-shoulder chat among the victims, but the guy behind my mate reckoned that the combination of the M1’s endless straight stretches, which make it hard to see much further than the car in front – modern motorways often curve gently to provide a clearer view of the traffic ahead – and the fact that my friend’s car had privacy glass may have contributed. 

“You can’t look through it,” he said, “and see what’s ahead.” Which I reckon is an excellent point. Privacy glass is a fashionable and slightly absurd vanity, all the more so when you realise that it’s potentially dangerous. 

And maybe emergency brake assist isn’t so clever either, thinks my friend, the car mindlessly performing an emergency stop regardless of the developing circumstances and with almost no chance of its strategy being over-ridden during the accident’s remaining milliseconds. 

A final observation from this mildly painful and expensive few seconds – my friend’s car was 1200 miles and two months old, and leased from its maker. It was written off, triggering its crushing a few days later, with no parts salvaged. It’s part of their policy to ensure that no damaged secondhand parts – or the deranged car - make it onto the market. Very laudable, although it’s hard not to think of the waste.

Tesla aims to build 500,000 cars a year
Tesla aims for 500,000 models per year New report says electric car maker Tesla's rise in the EV market shows no sign of stopping

Tesla could be building 500,000 EVs a year, according to a report produced by automotive analysts at International Strategy and Investment.

ISI has told investors that Tesla has a major advantage over the competition in that it will not face significant rising costs as global CO2 emissions regulations become ever more onerous. The business case for a premium electric car also seems to be compelling, according to ISI.

While Land Rover and Porsche are realising profit margins of 15-18 per cent – the highest in the mainstream car industry – Tesla could be in line for margins of 25 per cent, rising to a possible 30 per cent by 2020. 

ISI has told investors that it believes Tesla to have a “tangible lead” in both product and technology and that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are likely to be the “optimum solution as original equipment manufacturers pursue tailpipe emission-free cars” rather than cars with hydrogen fuel cells.

ISI said: “[Tesla] has a market-leading product for which there is no obvious competition [and] has already created substantial brand equity through product and innovation. Global legislation, namely emissions regulations, is a tailwind [for Tesla] yet a headwind for the [premium] competition.”

Tesla’s estimations suggest that the cost of batteries should fall by about 30 per cent, with ISI estimating a 13 per cent drop in the factory cost of the Model S by 2020. Mainstream car makers, by contrast, will be faced with rising costs as they switch to hybrid transmissions to meet CO2 regulations. 

Tesla is also poised for greater success in China, ISI has asserted, not only because premium car sales in the country are booming but also because the Chinese authorities are pushing for a much greater uptake of BEVs. 

Estimates quoted by ISI suggest that China wants as many as five million BEVs on its roads by 2020, along with some 4.5m charging points. 

On the open market, ISI said Tesla is attracting buyers from Mercedes, Lexus and BMW as well as pulling in significant numbers of Toyota Prius customers looking for a premium upgrade. 

The nature of Tesla’s increasing competitiveness in the marketplace became clear last week when Daimler sold its four per cent stake in Tesla, raising £487m. Analysts suggest that the move shows how Tesla has now become a serious rival for premium luxury car makers, rather than a technical partner.

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Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi auto first drive review
Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi auto first drive review Kia wants to take on the best of the SUV market with its third-gen Sorento, and a big lift in quality and driving refinement means it's off to a good start This is the third-generation model of Kia’s big Sorento SUV.  It’s heading for UK early next year, with a 2.2-litre diesel engine under the bonnet, all-wheel drive and seven-seats.The Mk3 Sorento is effectively all-new, with a new, stiffer, body shell, updated running gear and transmission and a completely fresh interior. The car is 95mm longer, measuring 4.78m long, 5mm wider and has been reduced height by 15mm. The ride height has been dropped by 20mm and the driver’s hip-point is 38mm lower, making getting in and out much easier for a wider range of drivers.Kia says that even thought the roof is lower, lower seat cushions mean more headroom for all three rows of passengers, and there’s an increase in legroom. With the third row of seats folded, the boot capacity is up from a useful 515-litres to a significant 615-litres.Kia engineers say this new bodyshell is ‘significantly’ stronger. 53 per cent of the structure is made up from ultra-high-strength steels (compared to 24 per cent on the outgoing model). 10 per cent of the structure – mostly in the A- and B-Pillars – is made from ultra-strong hot-stamped high tensile steel. ‘Stronger’ steel has been used around the wheel arches, tailgate and rear wheel surrounds to further stiffen this big body shell. All in all the new Sorento shell is 14 per cent stiffer than the old model.In parallel, there’s been a concerted effort on improving refinement, with tweaks including 30 percent thicker dashboard soundproofing and larger engine and transmission mounts. The 2.2-litre engine (set to be the only one sold in the UK) has seen power edged up from 194bhp to 197bhp and torque is up very slightly. Early figures suggest that fuel economy is marginally down, probably a consequence of the new motors meeting Euro 6 pollution standards.Under the skin, the Sorento rolls on the same MacPherson strut and independent rear suspension. A bigger rear subframe bushes and vertically mounted shock absorbers are designed to improve body control.

2014 Mini Cooper SD auto UK first drive review
2014 Mini Cooper SD auto UK first drive review Potent diesel engine impresses, although this is a Mini model a long way from the sweet spot in the range A range-topping diesel model for BMW’s third-generation Mini three-door hatchback. First seen in the new five-door Mini, this potent 2.0-litre turbodiesel is now offered in the smaller model badged as Cooper SD.And with a badge like that, Mini would have you believe this is a performance diesel hatchback. You get the looks, chassis and a similar kind of performance as the Cooper S, but with better economy. That’s the theory, anyway.

JLR opens a new chapter with its engine manufacturing plant
JLR opens a new chapter with its engine manufacturing plant It's a day that most of us thought might never come - but following a £500 million investment, Jaguar Land Rover is ready to start making its new Ingenium range of engines

Interesting day today. I went to an event that even five years ago would have seemed highly unlikely: the official opening of JLR's new engine plant in Wolverhampton. And the ribbon cutting was carried out by the Queen no less.

Even five years ago, the likes of me were regularly writing stories casting doubt on whether such an investment would ever be made by companies like JLR. 

In fact, if I recall rightly, we were speculating which of the then three manufacturing plants would shut, such was the apparently parlous economic outlook.

So a £500 million investment such as this is massively good news indeed, especially as it will eventually guarantee 1400 jobs in an area that needs them. Thankfully that's also the tone that the likes of the BBC and Fleet Street media have been taking.

The diesel engine that the plant will be producing (the petrol goes on-line in 2016) looks impressive too. Let's hope it feels as world class as the plant in which its produced. We'll find out when we get to sample the new Jaguar XE in a few months.

Jaguar Land Rover opens new £500m engine manufacturing plant
Jaguar Land Rover opens new £500m engine manufacturing plant New engine factory will be used to manufacture efficient Ingenium engine range, which will first see service in the Jaguar XE

Jaguar Land Rover has today opened its new engine manufacturing centre, which will be used to manufacture the firm's efficient range of Ingenium engines.

Those engines will first see action in Jaguar's BMW 3-series rival, the XE, as well as the Land Rover Discovery Sport. It is understood the engines will eventually be used to power a whole range of JLR models.

Speaking at the opening of the new site, which was also attended by the Queen, Jaguar Land Rover boss Dr. Ralf Speth said: "The engine manufacturing centre represents all that is great about British engineering."

Located near Wolverhampton, the site will be home to 1400 dedicated staff who will help to build JLR's range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. The firm says an extra 5500 jobs will be created in the wider automotive supply chain.

First announced in 2011, the new centre has cost £500 million to build. A total of 150 machines will work across three production lines to produce the Ingenium engine range.

The investment in its new engine family is significant for JLR. Ingenium engines are claimed to weigh up to 80kg less than the firm's current offerings, while offering improved performance and reducing CO2 emissions. All engines in the range have a fixed cylinder size of 500cc. 

The first engine to go into production at the site will be a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel - which will be offered in both 161bhp/280lb ft and 178bhp/317lb ft outputs in the XE.

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What would a brand new Ford Sierra RS Cosworth feel like today?
What would a brand new Ford Sierra RS Cosworth feel like today? A Sapphire RS 'Cossie' was the first truly fast car that Sutters ever drove – and it had but a mere 204bhp

This will probably make you realise just how sad and middle-aged I actually am, but I can still remember the first time I drove a Ford Sierra Cosworth like it was yesterday.

I’d just started on What Car? magazine as a junior tea maker cum road tester, and for some inexplicable reason they asked me to go on the comparison shoot in the New Forest.

Which meant I got to spend the day larking about with an E30 M3 and a rear-wheel-drive Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth.

I thought all my Christmases had come at once when, at the end of the day, the bloke in charge of the shoot said it would be fine for me to take the Cossie for the weekend “as long as it appears in the office on Monday morning still in one piece.”

I was less than 20 years old at the time, but I can remember almost every single mile I covered in that Cossie, that particular weekend – because basically I didn’t go to sleep.

Instead, me and some mates did nigh-on 1000 miles in the car, and inevitably I drove it everywhere pretty much as fast as I could. Somehow we didn’t crash or get caught for speeding. And sure enough I took the Cossie back to the office on Monday morning, still in one piece, feeling absolutely knackered but on Cloud 9.

What I remember in particular is just how fast it felt in a straight line, yet it had but a mere 204bhp and must have weighed well over 1300kg with a collection of wide-eyed teenagers on board.

And what I’d love to know most is how a brand new 204bhp Sapphire RS Cosworth might feel today, compared with a modern megasaloon.

Would it still feel like the rocket ship it did in 1988? Would it still take my breath away with its ability to stop for and then go round corners as if on rails? Would its 2.0-litre Cosworth turbo engine still sound all hard-edged and menacing up near the red line?

Or would it just feel like a very old car, from a totally different era, that isn’t actually very fast at all nowadays?

If ever they invent the time machine, this is absolutely one of the first things I’d do with it: go back to 1988, stick that brand new Sapphire Cossie into it, and then press the button marked '2014'.

Although I’m pretty sure I already know what the answer would be.

Revised Ford Focus ST on sale for £22,195
Revised Ford Focus ST on sale for £22,195 Facelifted hot Focus goes on sale ahead of first deliveries early next year, with a diesel-powered option available for the first time

The updated Ford Focus ST has gone on sale, with prices starting from £22,195 – £100 less than the outgoing model.

Unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this summer, the facelifted ST features chassis improvements and reduced emissions, and is available in diesel form for the first time.

Engine options include Ford’s 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol, which produces 247bhp and 295lb ft. With this engine the Focus ST can reach a top speed of 154mph, while the 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in 6.5 seconds. The firm claims average fuel economy of 41.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 159g/km.

The new 2.0-litre TDCi diesel produces 182bhp at 3500rpm and 295lb ft. The diesel ST's top speed is stated to be 135mph, its 0-62mph time 8.1 seconds. It returns a claimed 67.3 and emits 110g/km of CO2.

Start-Stop has also been introduced for the first time. All models come with a six-speed manual transmission.

Entry-level ST-1 models feature 18-inch alloy wheels, Ford’s ST body kit, air conditioning, keyless start and Ford’s SYNC infotainment system. Mid-range ST-2 models, which start from £23,695, additionally feature Recaro sports seats, LED DRLs, automatic headlights and wipers and dual-zone climate control.

Range-topping ST-3 versions cost from £25,995, and feature upgraded infotainment software, heated front seats, cruise control and rear parking sensors.

First deliveries of the updated Focus ST, which is available in both five-door hatchback and estate forms, are expected in February 2015.

Cameron Tait

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Porsche Panamera Turbo S Executive Exclusive revealed
Porsche Panamera Turbo S Executive Exclusive revealed Luxurious long wheelbase fastback saloon limited to 100 units; features new two-tone paint finish and myriad trim upgrades

Porsche has revealed a new limited edition long wheelbase version of its 562bhp Panamera Turbo S called the Executive Exclusive, which comes from the company's in-house Exclusive division.

Set to make its public debut at the upcoming Los Angeles motor show, the generously equipped fastback Porsche – which is 150mm longer than the standard Panamera – receives a new graduated two-tone exterior colour scheme in black and chestnut brown metallic.

The paint process is carried out by hand; the front intake grills and 20-inch Sport Classic wheels are also finished in deep black metallic to complement the look.

Inside, the new Porsche features seats covered in hestnut brown leather from Italian company Poltrona Frau, with contrasting black Nappa leather door trims with chestnut brown stitching – a combination reflecting the exterior colour treatment.

A similar treatment is taken with the inlay trims, which transition from walnut burl wood to a black piano lacquer finish throughout the cabin.

Each of the planned 100 specially equipped Panamera Turbo S Executive Exclusives to be offered in selected markets receive Porsche’s new Rear Seat Entertainment System Plus package. Included are two 10.1-inch touch screens with built-in cameras and mobile internet access.

Power for the limited edition long wheelbase Panamera hails from the same twin-turbocharged 4.8-litre V8 direct injection petrol engine used in the standard Panamera Turbo S sold in the UK.

The engine develops 562bhp and 590lb ft of torque, and drives through a standard seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, allowing for 0-62mph acceleration in 3.9sec and a top speed of 193mph.

Porsche has priced the left-hand drive only Panamara Turbo S Executive Exclusive at €249,877 plus taxes in Germany.

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Best car deals: Audi A6, Nissan Leaf, Peugeot RCZ, Mazda 2
Best car deals: Audi A6, Nissan Leaf, Peugeot RCZ, Mazda 2 The best new car deals and new car leasing deals for this week, including offers on the Audi A6, Nissan Leaf, Peugeot RCZ, Mazda 2 and Peugeot 308

If you’re in the market for a new car, or after the best new-car leasing deal, you can save thousands of pounds with a little research. Here are the picks of what our deals experts have found this week.

Best car deals 

We came away impressed from our first drive in the facelifted Audi A6, especially in 2.0-litre TDI Ultra guise. Orange Wheels is offering the pre-facelifted saloon model in SE S Tronic specification for £27,294, saving you a total of £6192 on the list price.

The all-electric Nissan Leaf serves as an emission-free alternative to the regular family hatchback. We found a model in Acenta Flex specifiation on offer at Car Cost for £19,890 - a saving of £3700 from the list price. Plus the government's £5000 EV grant brings the price down even further.

Best new car leasing deals

Peugeot's RCZ is an appealing purchase for those looking for a practical car that’s also fun to drive. Yes Lease has the 1.6-litre THP on offer at £242 per month on a three-year contract. There’s an initial payment of £1454 and a mileage limit of 8,000.

The new Mazda 2 will go on sale early in 2015, meaning dealers are keen to shift much of their current stock. The 1.3-litre Tamura is available at National Vehicle Solutions for £224 per month. That’s on a three-year contract with an initial payment of £674 and a 10,000-mile annual limit.

Deal of the week 

The Peugeot 308 was highly praised by our road testers for its classy interior and economical rance of engines. Buoyed by its European Car of The Year status, the family hatchback is seeing some huge discounts. UK Car Discount has the 2.0-litre BlueHDi Feline model going for for £19,498, a big saving of 5,471 from the list price.

Can you find a better deal? Let us know in the comments section below, and see more deals here

Cameron Tait

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Kia plans new Toyota Prius rival
Kia plans new Toyota Prius rival Korean manufacturer confirms new dedicated hybrid model will arrive before 2017, known internally as "DE"

Kia will launch its own Toyota Prius-rivalling dedicated hybrid model "within the next two years," officials have confirmed.

The new model is know internally as ‘DE’ and is based on a bespoke platform and new-generation hybrid transmission with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor.

No technical details of the upcoming model have yet emerged, but the launch model will be a conventional hybrid with a plug-in version – which gets a larger battery pack – to follow.

The new car is a five-door hatchback just over 4.3m long, making it slightly more compact than a VW Golf and also smaller than Kia’s own Sportage model. DE is styled to look like a crossover version of a compact estate car, giving it a passing resemblance to models such as the Peugeot 2008.

Kia sources say that the new car, which will be sold globally, has two roles. One is to help Kia meet the 95g/km fleet CO2 regulations to come into force in Europe in 2020. The second is take sales off the market-dominating Toyota Prius.

Unlike existing dedicated hybrids such as the Prius and Honda Insight, the DE’s exterior styling is quite mainstream, with the most obvious nods to aerodynamic efficiency seen in the extended, wrap-around, spoiler on the tailgate.

The interior of the DE benefits from Kia’s latest styling shift, which be seen first in the new-generation Optima, likely to be revealed early in 2015.

Taking a line from VW, future Kia interiors are very cleanly styled and nearly all the plastics are finished in matt black, giving the cabin an impressively upmarket, if restrained, appearance.

Kia says its own market research has shown that ‘many’ Prius buyers would like to be able to buy a dedicated hybrid wrapped in ‘less extreme’ styling, even if that meant ‘slightly poorer fuel consumption’. Interestingly, the DE has already been the subject of customer research in the UK where it was given a “good validation” according to senior Kia sources.

The sources also told Autocar that the DE platform would become “very important” for the future of Kia, as it addressed the twin issues of customer downsizing and the need for “alternative drivetrains”. The upshot is that the DE platform will become the basis for a number of future bodystyles.

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High-value cars targeted in new wave of car crime
High-value cars targeted in new wave of car crime Police figures reveal high-end vehicles including the Range Rover Sport and BMW X3 are being targeted by criminals, who are using high-tech tools to 'hack' and steal cars

A new wave of car crime has hit the UK, with owners of high-end cars being told to take additional security measures.

New data from the Metropolitan Police shows that thieves are using re-programmed keys to gain entry to cars from manufacturers such as Land Rover and BMW.

Figures reported by The Guardian newspaper reveal that almost 300 Range Rover Evoques and Range Rover Sports were stolen between January and July of this year, as well as 63 BMW X5 and 3-series models.

Thieves are understood to be targeting these vehicles both because of their popularity in Europe and because of their keyless ignition systems, which can be ‘hacked’ by using a re-programmed key to gain access to the car.

Specialist insurer Alan & Thomas, which deals with high-end vehicles, says the ongoing spate of car crime is being fuelled by demand from eastern Europe.

Head of high net worth insurance at the company Matt Warner said: “There’s a big market out there for high-end vehicles. Generally when we see high-value vehicles going missing they are making their way over to eastern Europe and potentially down into Africa, too.

“We had a case recently where a Range Rover was stolen and picked up on the Hungarian border. That was still in one piece and was likely stolen to order. It’s probably the only occasion where we’ve recovered a vehicle within Europe.”

So why are so few vehicles recovered from Europe once they’re stolen? Warner says it’s down to the car’s tracking systems. “Generally most vehicles will have a tracking system fitted,” he says. “Once the tracking company is notified the police can zero in fairly quickly. However, once a couple of hours have passed thieves have usually located and removed the tracking device. That’s why we usually don’t pick those cars up once they’ve left the UK.”

Making the recovery of stolen vehicles even harder is the fact that most will have been broken up for parts before they’ve even left the UK. “The cars are being taken by organised criminal gangs,” said a spokesman for Thatcham Research. “They’re rapidly shipped out of the country and broken up for parts.” 

The problem is understood to be particularly rife in the UK because buyers here option their cars to a much higher specification than elsewhere. Trim levels such as BMW’s M Sport and Audi’s S-line are coveted in eastern Europe, but the small market for such options there means prices can be high. Such parts can easily be retrofitted to base-spec cars. 

The problem isn’t a new one. In 2012 the flaws of keyless entry systems, and the relative ease of bypassing them, were well known by manufacturers. One example, detailed in this video, shows a BMW 1-series M Coupé being taken from an owner’s driveway within two minutes – and all while the keys to the car were inside the owner’s house.

A spokesman from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said: “This is the latest way to steal cars. Each time manufacturers develop a new way to make cars more secure, criminals will find ways to break it. It’s a constant circle.”

Making keyless entry systems particularly vulnerable is the fact that manufacturers are forced by European law to make their software upgrades, and the tools needed to access their car’s on-board diagnostic systems, available to the wider automotive industry.

The ruling, known as Block Exemption, which is designed to allow the independent automotive aftermarket to compete with main dealers more effectively.

It’s this issue, says the SMMT, that needs addressing. “The issue is that who the information is available to needs to be tightened, and there needs to be better criteria in place to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands,” said an SMMT spokesman. “Plus we need to make sure the punishments for stealing a car are strong enough.” 

In a statement, the SMMT said: “The challenge remains that the equipment being used to steal a vehicle in this way is legitimately used by workshops to carry out routine maintenance.

“As part of the need for open access to technical information to enable a flourishing aftermarket, this equipment is available to independent technicians. However, a minority of individuals are exploiting this to obtain the equipment to access vehicles fraudulently.”

Once thieves have acquired a manufacturer’s security data, keys can be re-programmed using equipment which can be bought on the internet for as little as £42. 

One way to combat the thieves is by issuing security software updates which better protect a car’s internal systems from attack. Other proposed alternatives include fitting a dedicated alarm to a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics port, and encouraging the use of visible deterrents including steering locks.

Land Rover has been quick to reassure customers that its security measures will keep their cars safe. In a statement, the company said: “Our line-up continues to meet the insurance industry requirements as tested and agreed with relevant insurance bodies.

“Nevertheless we are taking this issue very seriously and our engineering teams are actively working in collaboration with insurance bodies and police forces to solve this continuously evolving problem. 

Owners have taken to internet forums to voice their concerns, but Warner says this latest spate of car crime shouldn’t cause premiums on high-end vehicles to rise. “You might find that some insurers recommend adding extra security, and some might revisit their ratings,” he said. “But most insurers agree that at the moment it’s not a big enough problem to cause them to increase their prices.

“We are generally seeing that this is centralised around London and the surrounding areas.”

Direct Line, which insures one in seven cars in the UK, wouldn’t comment on whether the issue might lead to a rise in insurance premiums, but a spokesman said: “Our ongoing risk modelling means that we monitor all makes and models of vehicles for likelihood of theft on a monthly basis.”

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Used car buying guide: Jaguar S-type R (2002-2008)
Used car buying guide: Jaguar S-type R (2002-2007) The hot S-type offers an underrated blend of luxury, performance and affordability

Back in 2002, we pitched the flagship of Jaguar’s S-type range – the new supercharged R version – against the E39 generation of BMW M5. After all, they had a lot in common. Both were rear-wheel-drive, V8-engined saloons that focused on mixing luxury with outright performance.

Predictably, the M5 fought off Jaguar’s upstart and we eventually proclaimed the BMW the “paragon of four-door performance motoring”. It was a close-run thing, though, with the Jaguar proving surprisingly capable. It offered more communicative steering than the M5 and was more refined, but the BMW had the edge on quality, interior space and outright talent.

These days, a decent E39 M5 will set you back £6000, and the potential for quite costly repairs or maintenance is quite high. A clean S-type R, meanwhile, will be only £4000.

“You’re basically getting a supercar for no money, really,” says Gary Robinson, owner of independent specialist Swallows Jaguar (swallowsjaguar.com, 01934 750319). “They’ve got fabulous power, lots of grip — everything, really.”

New, the Jaguar’s supercharged 4.2-litre V8 would have produced 395bhp and 399lb ft, allowing the 1800kg saloon to sprint to 60mph in 5.5sec. The top speed was limited to 155mph and, on average, the S-type R would burn a gallon of fuel every 20 miles.

“Mechanically, the engines and gearboxes are strong and the drivetrain’s very tough,” says Robinson. “One common flaw, though, is a water pipe underneath the supercharger failing.”

The pipe itself costs only £20, but it’s a lot of labour — the supercharger needs to be lifted — and costs can spiral because other minor parts might need to be replaced. “It’s about a day’s job, plus,” says Robinson, “so look carefully for any anti-freeze stains.”

Browse the PistonHeads classifieds for Jaguar S-types

The exhaust gas recirculation valves, which are difficult to get at, can also fail. Symptoms include ‘check engine’ lights, odd smells and exhaust leaks.

The sting in the Jaguar’s otherwise robust tail is corrosion. “The sills rust,” says Robinson. “They have a panel that covers the sill itself. It traps water and rusts the sill away. We once found a car that had nothing under the cover.”

This fault primarily affects the early cars but, in any instance, have a good look and probe around underneath, specifically around the seams and joins, for any sign of damage or loose sill covers.

Inside, the S-type R is relatively free from problems. The valves that control the heating and air-con system can play up, though, as can the electric window regulators. The interiors resist wear well, so any car that has suffered inside could have been clocked or neglected.

When buying an S-type R, the key thing is finding one that has been well maintained. “You need to see good history,” says Robinson. “They need regular oil changes, plugs every 30,000 miles and strong anti-freeze.”

A general service will cost only about £250 with genuine parts and is a good idea if there’s no evidence of one being done recently.

“The rear suspension arm bushes can wear, too,” says Robinson, “but you can buy the bushes on their own now, instead of having to replace the entire arm. They seem to be good for miles, though. We’ve got one with 137,000 on the clock and it’s as tight as you like.”

You’ll find very presentable examples of the S-type R on sale for £4000-£6000. “You’ll get a cracker for that money,” says Robinson. The only notable difference between the model years is that cars from late 2004 onwards got slightly different front-end styling and other minor cosmetic tweaks.

Various upgrades are also available, should you wish to eke a little more out of the Jaguar’s supercharged V8 — including different supercharger pulleys, sports exhausts and remaps.

“They can embarrass a lot of sports cars,” says Robinson, “but your mother-in-law can sit there quite happily and not realise the potential.”

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

DEBADGING It’s not uncommon to find S-type Rs that have had their badges and mesh grilles removed, making them look more like a conventional S-type. Replacing them all could cost £300.

TYRES Watch out for cheap ‘drift’ tyres. Jag specialist Gary Robinson recommends a reputable brand like Continental. Budget around £500 for a set.

HEADLIGHTS Inspect them to make sure that the lenses are clear and free from damage. “We have a lot of problems with plastic lenses that oxidise and go flat, but we are able to recover some of those by polishing them,” says Robinson.

DISC BRAKES They last well, but do check that there’s plenty of meat left on them. A set of four replacement discs and new pads will cost about £300 in parts alone.

GEOMETRY It’s worth getting any R to a specialist for a four-wheel alignment check. If the geometry is wrong, it’ll burn through tyres and not handle as it should. Get the wheels balanced at the same time.

Read more used buying guides

Browse the PistonHeads classifieds for Jaguar S-types

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Electric Range Rover to challenge Tesla
Electric Range Rover to challenge Tesla A new all-electric Range Rover model is in the mix as the company looks to emulate the success of Tesla in the luxury EV sector

Land Rover is considering a new battery-powered Range Rover model to counter the increasing success of Tesla in the luxury car sector, Autocar understands.

The electric Range Rover would probably be more of a low-roofed crossover-style model than a battery-powered version of the current Range Rover.

Jaguar Land Rover group engineering director Wolfgang Ziebart recently hinted at the plans when he spoke to an industry newspaper about JLR’s view on an EV. Ziebart said the market for EVs was split into inner city vehicles and a “second or third car for a wealthy family”.

Zeibart suggested that the latter segment had potential for JLR and that any EV would be the size of a “Jaguar XJ” and aimed at the US and China.

Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern also strongly hinted in the press recently that the company was working on expanding the Range Rover brand with what he described as “incredibly luxurious, low-slung” Range Rovers. Such a model would be more biased to on-road performance but still capable of cross-country driving thanks to height-adjustable air suspension.

It seems that this crossover model could be sold in conventional petrol and diesel-powered forms, as well as a purely battery-powered guise. 

Building a car with a much smaller frontal area would be key to making the battery-powered concept work. Any future electric Range Rover model would have to match the Tesla Model S’s official range of 265 miles to be regarded as competitive, something that would be difficult using a similarly aerodynamically blunt profile to the current car’s.

If the new model gets the go-ahead, it will be based on a version of Range Rover’s aluminium monocoque architecture, modified to accommodate a substantial battery pack. All-wheel drive, delivered by using motors on both the front and rear axles, also seems a certainty. 

It is possible that this proposed crossover could share its basic suspension system with the upcoming Jaguar CX-17 crossover, which is likely to have less extreme travel than that which is used on today’s Range Rover and Range Rover Sport

A more road-biased set-up with air springs would allow the Range Rover EV to run a low ride height at motorway speeds, which would improve aerodynamic performance and stretch the maximum range from a battery pack.

Judging by the pricing for today’s Model S, any Range Rover EV would have to cost as much as £90,000 or more, but it seems that JLR planners are considering offsetting the extra cost over a Tesla by selling such a model with a very high standard specification.

Investing in an electric crossover model could be a significant risk for JLR, but Land Rover bosses clearly have to take the premium EV market seriously, partly as a result of the rise and rise of Tesla.

Financial and market analysts have been suggesting that “greenness” is now seen as an “indivisible part of a premium brand”, especially for customers in the highest income brackets. 

The Model S has already become the best-selling luxury model in some of the US’s most affluent postcodes and the car has recently started to outsell established models, such as the Audi A8 and the BMW 7-series, in Europe. 

China is also expected to become a significant market for battery-powered luxury vehicles over the next few years, as the Chinese government pushes hard for the adoption of EVs to help combat the country’s serious air pollution problems.

Also in JLR's future plans - the new Defender for 2016

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Claire Williams - how we're bringing F1 tech to the road
Claire Williams interviewed - why we're back on track Williams is not just coming back in F1, it’s also now a leading engineering business. We talk to the new boss, Claire Williams, about the turnaround

It’s a surprise in one way, but not in another, that the first person we encounter at Williams F1 – on a mission to meet deputy team principal, Claire Williams and investigate the reasons for the F1 team’s renewed success – is the founder himself, Sir Frank. 

As we wait for the receptionist, he appears behind us in the famous wheelchair, on the way to the lift and his office upstairs.

My colleague Mr Hallett and I have met him before, but nothing prepares you for the piercing eyes, the directness 
of the questioning; the sheer force of this exceptional man’s personality. His face is so famous from the haunted fishtank that it’s quite startling to see it in the flesh. 

He deals with us briskly. In a few seconds, he has satisfied himself on the validity of our errand, made sure that we’re being assisted, politely wished us a successful visit and disappeared into the lift with his ghost-like assistant. 

Without words, he has also answered a question I might later have asked: what is Sir Frank’s role around here, given that he removed himself from the Williams executive board back in 2012?

The answer is now so obvious: he continues to be the setter of Williams’ standards and the keeper of 
its flame. He is an enormous, continuing asset – 
as his daughter will tell us without prompting in 
a few minutes’ time.

We troop upstairs, two hacks and a photographer, and then walk down a long corridor and into a white meeting room with a rectangular table, to await Claire Williams. 

There is no grand entrance. She appears in a minute or two, accompanied by group CEO Mike O’Driscoll, whom we know well from his days running Jaguar and with whom she nowadays works closely to run the whole Williams group – both the F1 team and the new advanced engineering arm.

As we exchange pleasantries, I note a hint of weariness with interviews. After 18 months of daily newspaper inquisitions, it is clear that Claire is probably expecting to be asked, yet again, what it’s like being a woman running an F1 team, the classic unanswerable question. We have already resolved not to ask it.

Hers is nevertheless an extraordinary story: 
the tale of a girl, one of three siblings, brought up by inspirational parents whose lives were dominated both by big-time racing and then by the additional, enormous challenge brought by Sir Frank’s near-fatal car accident in 1986 that confined him to the wheelchair. 

Despite it all, Claire, who was 10 when the accident happened, remembers “a relatively normal” household, an atmosphere created by the “strength and stoicism” of her remarkable mother, Lady Virginia, in the family’s Wiltshire home, near Hungerford.

It was magical, says Claire, to grow up close to the F1 team and work there during school holidays – although she always understood, from childhood, that there would never be a formal role for her in the family business. “I was content with that and never questioned it,” she says. “I wanted to do my own thing anyway.”  

After school (“I was always an average student”) she studied politics at Newcastle because the subject interested her, although she admits that it was one of those courses people choose if they don’t have a vocation.

After graduating in 1999, she began a three-year stint as a Silverstone press officer that ended with redundancy in 2002. After that, she drifted back into jobs at Williams on an informal basis, doing whatever people asked.  

So far, this hardly sounds like the story of a budding success-grabbing F1 team leader, but during Claire’s later 20s, things began happening to greatly sharpen her focus. There was no single moment of inspiration, she insists, although perhaps the waning success that followed Williams F1’s BMW-powered 2003 season (four wins) may have had something to do with it. 

“I don’t think of myself as competitive,” she says, “though in the supermarket, I always want to get to the checkout first. When the team wasn’t doing well, I felt massively frustrated, though I had no responsibility for it at the time. I hated hearing people say we were fading the way Tyrrell had done. It hurt.

"I suppose I’d grown up seeing what it had cost mum and dad to make Williams one of the world’s most successful teams, and I couldn’t bear thinking it wasn’t as good as they’d intended.”

Claire’s own ‘modern era’ began in 2010 with a phone call from the head of marketing, Jim Wright, to say that the team’s head of communications had resigned and would she take the job?

“I asked if he’d spoken to Frank and, of course, he hadn’t. He’ll tell you to bugger off, I said. So Jim phoned Frank, and that’s exactly what happened. But Jim was sure he could make it right with Frank and, after a couple of weeks, he did.” Claire knew the team from top to bottom and took to the role easily.

However, as her career began to take off, the team seemed to get ever closer to the buffers. By 2011, when she gained responsibility for marketing, the team was a lowly ninth in the constructors’ championship.

Then in 2012, when Williams floated on the Frankfurt stock exchange and she replaced Sir Frank as the family’s representative on the board, the team only managed to finish eighth (after an unexpected win for Pastor Maldonado in Spain). 

But it is the failures of the 2013 season, the year when Claire became deputy team principal with responsibility for marketing, communications 
and other commercial functions, that will 
always be most vivid. “It was horrendous,” she says. “In previous years, we’d tried to improve things by bringing individuals into the team. We learned from bitter experience that you’re never going to improve a team of 600-odd people with one appointment. 

“So for 2013, we decided to make wholesale changes across the group. It didn’t happen in one meeting, but by March-April we had laid our plans, which are the ones we’re still working with today.

“The worst thing at that stage was the sinking feeling we had at the start of last season in Australia, knowing the hoped-for improvements to the 2013 car hadn’t worked, that there were still 18 difficult races to go, and we’d be asking our wonderful team of people to leave their families and go racing through the year, without being able to show them the changes we were confident would take effect in 2014.”

The nub of the problem, says Claire, was technical leadership. The team had always had plenty of core talent, most of which was staying on board in the difficult days, but the organisation wasn’t allowing them to work effectively.

“The old set-up with Frank and Patrick [Head] at the top and everyone below them, led by a technical director, was no longer feasible,” she says. “One of the first things we did was to hire Pat Symonds as TD [technical director], but then to install commanders of various departments below 
him, to run things.” 

Another enlightened decision was to change engine supplier from Renault to Mercedes for 
2014. It might look obvious now but it was a 
tough call then, both because Renault had been a long-lived and successful partner for Williams before, and because the decision to change had to be made before Mercedes’ superiority was anywhere near as clear as now, when at the time of writing Mercedes has scored 13 victories to Renault’s three.

Williams is third in the constructors’ championship, and its drivers have been on the podium five more times since Valtteri Bottas’s initial podium in Austria at mid-year. 

Inside the team’s Grove headquarters, the smiles are back on people’s faces, although most realise that they’re entering an even more critical phase of improvement. “Last season, it hardly mattered if the team lost two seconds on a pitstop because someone fitted the tyre blankets the wrong way round,” says Claire. “We weren’t in contention anyway. But the situation is very different now.”  

We’ve been talking for half an hour, and it occurs to me that Claire has been describing this momentous team turnaround with a certain matter-of-factness mixed with calm determination, and that would elude many a seasoned team boss. Doesn’t this whole thing daunt you, I ask? Isn’t the big danger with F1 that you can do things fantastically well and still fail?

Her answer, in a way, restates the Williams credo. “The race team always reminds me of an orchestra,” she says. “If you have the right talent, the right leadership and everyone is working well together, you will be successful.”

Pat Symonds on the Williams F1 comeback

For a decade, Williams F1 had a problem with competitiveness. Then it appointed high-achieving technical director Pat Symonds, who has become a very large part of the solution. 

When he started at Grove last summer, the team was ninth in the constructors’ championship. Now it’s third and the momentum is definitely upward. “We’re ahead of where I hoped we’d be at this stage of the season,” says Symonds, “but there’s much more to do. 

“Observing the team from outside, it was clear there were problems but when I came here I realised it certainly wasn’t the facilities. The wind tunnel is 10 years old, but it’s still great. And the core skills here are first class.

"But the IT system was old-fashioned, and so were the ways of working. Engineers were mistaking activity for achievement. They were making a huge number of new parts for the car, then reverting to old ones when they didn’t work.”

Symonds prefers simplification and engineering rigour in developing the car. “We need to know what is good about the car, and why,” he explains. “We took the best car we could to Australia at the beginning of this year, and we only put things on it that have been proven to make it faster, which isn’t the way it was done in the past. But this year, our rate of development is better than anyone else’s. We’re really proud of that.”

Technical directors are rarely willing to be precise about their targets, but not Symonds. “My ambition is to be in a position to challenge for the championship in 2016,” he says. “We want to make 2015 a dress rehearsal for that. We’ll have new cars for both seasons and hope to start picking up wins on the way. 

“Like everyone here, I’m keen to win because I don’t much like the alternative. After 33 years in F1, I can’t precisely remember every race I’ve won, but I definitely remember every one I’ve lost.”

Sellling F1 tech elsewhere

One of the key missions of Williams Advanced Engineering, the new division at Grove tasked with spreading its F1-derived tech into wider areas of the engineering and energy markets, is to make clear that its core business is about much more than motor racing. 

WAE, which employs 150 engineers, occupies premises at Grove initially built for limited production of the Jaguar C-X75 hybrid supercar, but when that project folded, the management saw an opportunity to keep its technical teams together and deploy them on other projects. 

Managing director Craig Wilson – a distinguished engineer with Aston Martin, TWR and HSV connections in his background – has been building the business since starting at Grove in January. He says that his company is already a force in the energy storage market, working on large flywheel-based devices for microgrids, and attracting new clients by word of mouth.

It has other projects, some for the military, most of them secret, that employ its expertise in lightweight structures, composites, aerodynamics and electrification. One project has been to devise an electric propulsion system for a well known brand of folding bicycle.

“We’ve earned good money from day one,” says Wilson. “The business is now expanding strongly. And there’s another kind of return. Our wide-ranging activities mean we’re well placed to pick up industry trends that can help the F1 team.”

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BMW reveals new X5 M and X6 M ahead of LA motor show
BMW reveals new X5 M and X6 M ahead of LA motor show Second-generation performance SUVs will make their world debut in LA next month, and will arrive in the UK in April next year

BMW’s M division has upped the stakes in the performance SUV ranks with the unveiling of its rapid second-generation X5 M and X6 M.

Set to make their public debut at the upcoming LA motor show prior to the start of UK sales in April next year, the new SUV pairing receive the same twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre direct injection petrol engine used by the M5 and M6.

That means both models come with greater power and torque, enhanced straight line accelerative ability, a slightly higher top speed and reduced fuel consumption and emissions.

As in the existing M5 and M6, the 90-degree V8 provides the new X5 M and X6 M with 564bhp at 6000rpm. However, changes to the induction system bring 52lb ft more than in BMW’s M division’s existing performance saloon and coupé duo, with 553lb ft developed between 2200 and 5000rpm.

That's a 17bhp and 52lb ft increase on the similarly configured engine that powered the first generation X5 M and X6 M. It is also 51bhp more and the same torque rating than the twin-turbocharged 4.8-litre V8 direct injection petrol engine used by the recently facelifted Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and 46bhp and 37lb more than the twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 of the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG.

Channeling the prodigious reserves is an eight speed automatic gearbox featuring stop/start and brake energy recuperation functions. It replaces the earlier six-speed unit used by the earlier X5 M and X6 M and is allied to a permanent multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system.

The system is capable of apportioning up to 100 per cent of drive to either the front or rear axle and features electronically controlled torque vectoring as part of a so-called Dynamic Drive package.

Tipping the scales 30kg under their predecessors at 2275kg and 2265kg respectively, the new X5 M and X6 M possess a claimed 0-62mph time that has improved by 0.3sec on the first-generation models, at 4.2sec. The nominal top speed remains limited to 155mph, although owners can choose to have it raised to 174mph.

By comparison, the 2185kg Cayenne Turbo possesses claimed figures of 4.2sec and 174mph, while the 2345kg ML63 AMG has performance claims of 4.8sec and a limited top speed of 155mph.

BMW puts the combined cycle consumption and average CO2 emissions for both of its new M division SUVs at 25.5mpg and 258g/km. This represents a 5.2mpg and 67g/km improvement on the old X5 M and X6 M.  

Distinguishing the new models from less powerful versions of the third-generation X5 and second-generation X6 is a new front bumper with large air intakes for added cooling, painted wheel arch flares, revised front fenders with a stylized air duct to extract air from the front wheel houses, chunkier door sills and a deeper rear bumper with four chromed tailpipes.

Buyers can choose between standard 20-inch wheels – 10 inches wide up front and 11.5 inches wide at the rear, shod with 285/40 and substantial 325/35 tyres - or optional 21-inch rims.

BMW’s M division says it brought significant changes to the standard X5 and X6 suspension systems in the creation of the X5 M and X6 M.

Among them is a modified upper front wishbone allowing increased camber, more controlled camber progression as lateral forces rise and an increased steering pivot axis. Further changes include unique elasto-kinematic properties with firmer springs and dampers that provide a 10mm reduction in ride height over standard models.

The new M-car duo come with standard air suspension featuring a self-levelling rear axle and electronically adjustable dampers in three modes: comfort, sport and sport plus, along with active roll bar stabilisation and an electronic stability control system featuring three different modes.

In testing at the demanding Nürburgring, prototypes of the X5 M and X6 M are claimed to have achieved lateral acceleration values of up to 1.2g during cornering.

Prices for the X5 M and X6 M start at £90,179 and £93,070 respectively. Both cars will also receive their European debuts at the Geneva motor show next March.

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Ferrari to be split from Fiat and listed on the stock market
Ferrari to separate from the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group Supercar manufacturer to become a standalone company; ten per cent to be offered to public investors by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Ferrari is to be split from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in a move that is designed to support the Group's long-term success.

Sergio Marchionne, boss of FCA and more recently Ferrari, said: "Following our acquisition of the minority interest in Chrysler earlier this year, the transformation of Fiat and Chrysler into FCA was completed earlier this month with our debut on the New York Stock Exchange.

"As we move forward to secure the 2014-2018 Business Plan and work toward maximising the value of our businesses to our shareholders, it is proper that we pursue separate paths for FCA and Ferrari."

Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne on why change is needed at Maranello

FCA currently owns 90 per cent of Ferrari, while the other 10 per cent is owned by Piero Ferrari – the only living son of Enzo Ferrari.

A total of 10 per cent of FCA's interest in Ferrari will be offered to public investors. The remainder will be distributed among FCA shareholders.

It's expected that Ferrari shares will be listed in the US, and potentially on a European exchange, in 2015.

Insight - Luca di Montezemolo's final Ferrari press conference

John Elkann, Chairman of FCA, added: "Coupled with the recent listing of FCA shares on the NYSE, the separation of Ferrari will preserve the cherished Italian heritage and unique position of the Ferrari business and allow FCA shareholders to continue to benefit from the substantial value inherent in this business."

The value of FCA's stock jumped over five per cent following the announcement.

Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, chairman of Ferrari since 1991, recently resigned from his position and was replaced by Marchionne. At the time, he said: "Ferrari will have an important role to play within the FCA Group in the upcoming flotation on Wall Street.

"This will open up a new and different phase which I feel should be spearheaded by the CEO of the Group."

There were rumours, however, that Montezemolo and Marchionne had clashed over the future of Ferrari.

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Pininfarina Sergio set for production
Pininfarina Sergio to get limited production run Six examples of Pininfarina's Ferrari 458 Spider-based barchetta to be built

It has been announced that a total of six examples of the Pininfarina Sergio, a dramatic barchetta concept based on the Ferrari 458 Spider, will be built.

A small production run had always been under consideration for the Sergio and, following on from the car's positive reception at its 2013 Geneva motor show reveal, it has been decided that a total of six examples will now be made in collaboration with Ferrari.

Final assembly of the Sergio will take place at Pininfarina's plant in Cambiano, Italy. All have already been accounted for, much like the recently revealed Ferrari F60 America.

Pricing for the Sergio has not been disclosed but a guide price of between £650,000 and £1.3 million was previously discussed by the company.

Sergio Pininfarina: A tribute to a legend

Italian design house Pininfarina originally built the concept to commemorate the death of Sergio Pininfarina, the company's figurehead and former boss, in 2012.

Fabio Filippini, Pininfarina's chief designer, said: "We asked Ferrari before even drawing the car if we could do it and Luca di Montezemolo [boss of Ferrari at the time] said we had all of his support.

"We decided it should be a mid-engined Ferrari because the first Sergio Ferrari was the Dino Berlinetta Speciale, the ancestor of all mid-engined Ferraris."

As well as retaining the core structure of the 458 Spider, the Sergio also utilises all of its interior components. The powertrain, other mechanical components, track and wheelbase remain unchanged too.

That means the Sergio features the same 4.5-litre naturally aspirated V8 as the 458, which produces 562bhp, and the Ferrari's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Official performance figures haven't been released but the car's expected to be capable of 0-62mph in less than 3.4sec.

The Sergio's bodyshell is also claimed to be stiffer than that of the 458 Spider on which it is based, as well as over 100kg lighter – resulting in an estimated kerb weight of around 1280kg.

Geneva motor show 2013: Pininfarina Sergio

Pininfarina's Sergio was first revealed in the UK at a gathering of Pininfarina models at the Hurtwood Park Polo Club in Surrey. Since August 2014 it has been on display at the H.R. Owen Ferrari Atelier showrooms in the Berkeley Hotel, Knightsbridge.

Previous Pininfarina one-offs based on Ferraris include the Ferrari F360 Modena Barchetta and the Testarossa Spider, as well as myriad show cars and concepts.

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Jeep Cherokee Limited 2.0 JTDm-2 170 4x4 UK first drive review
Jeep Cherokee Limited 2.0 JTDm-2 170 4x4 UK first drive review Coarse and unresponsive, poorly engineered and executed. A premium SUV? Pull the other one A second chance for the new Jeep Cherokee. Our full road test on the car was about as bristling with praise for this troubled compact SUV as you’d expect of a two and a half star verdict.Among very few causes for hope was the more powerful diesel version, available exclusively with a nine-speed ZF automatic transmission, which is the car under inspection here.It's a good two seconds quicker to 60mph than the 138bhp manual version and capable of towing half a tonne more on a braked trailer. It's also fitted with no fewer than four overdrive ratios for economical cruising.So the Cherokee JTDm-2 170 automatic certainly appears to present stiffer competition to other premium SUVs. But it isn’t. In fact, it’s got greater failings than the cheaper, slower manual.

The simplest form of motorsport is also one of the best
The simplest form of motorsport is also one of the best I've tried my hand at plenty of different racing disciplines over the years, but none has been as engaging or as accessible as AutoSolo

Did my first ever AutoSolo last weekend. It was on the Goodwood circuit, and it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that this simple event, which took all day and seemed to have my driving partner and I constantly occupied, was the most carefree and enjoyable day’s motorsport I’ve had in 40-odd years.

So what is AutoSolo? it's a bit like an Autotest, except without the need for the practice and memory training that makes such events a specialised discipline.

AutoSolo simply involves turning up in the car you normally drive and following a relatively simple cone-marked course, while requiring no special helmet or licence. 

Other virtues? It’s a stark test that depends at least as much on driver skill as car choice, and you will most definitely discover how your car behaves on the limit (and how good you are at keeping it there).

Marshals – and when you’re not driving you’ll be one of them – set up a course that takes 50-70 seconds to negotiate in an average road car. 

The field, 27 entrants in our case, get three timed runs through it, with points being deducted for cones touched. Then the field attacks it three times from the other direction and you stop for lunch. 

In the afternoon you do the same on a new course – which means that by 4pm you’ve had 12 chances to demonstrate your skill on the limit – at 40 mph.

Our mount was a Renault Clio RS 200 Turbo, a near-ideal car for the job. I drove with my son, Jon, who has often been my driving partner, and we finished second and fourth in class (me fourth). It sounds a lot better than it is: our class contained only seven entrants. In the main field, we were ninth and 19th. 

Jon soon sussed what was involved – a good mix of speed and precision. I learned much more slowly, always driving as quickly as I could, but sometimes missing gates and scattering cones. 

Only at the end did I notice that hitting obstacles was much more sternly punished than driving more slowly – so I’ll know what to do next time. And there will be a next time, for certain. 

The Goodwood Road and Racing Club runs three or four of these events annually, and there are more around the country. We’re hooked – not least because the people you meet seem to be the kind whose company you’ll enjoy

What would we change? The Clio was agile, quick and looked great but I suspect an earlier RS with a non-turbo 2.0-litre engine and a manual gearbox would have done a bit better. 

The launch control and paddle shift of the latest edition are a bit of a hindrance in low-speed agility, and so was the (slight) turbo lag of the new 1.6-litre turbo engine. And for someone built like me, extra support from a firm harness and a racing seat would have helped.

But I’m quibbling. What we both need is more practice at the discipline, to remember to take a better look at the courses when we walk them next time, and to know the rules a bit better. Then we’ll start to do ourselves justice.

New Duster Oroch concept set for Sao Paulo motor show debut
New Duster Oroch concept set for Sao Paulo motor show debut Rugged-looking pick-up concept showcases new production model destined for South American markets

Dacia will unveil its Duster Oroch concept, a five-seat pick-up, at the Sao Paulo motor show.

The concept previews a production model that's destined for South American markets, where over 900,000 pick-ups are sold each year.

Parent company Renault had already announced its intention to enter the South American pick-up market with "at least" two models, in order to capitalise on a body style that accounts for nearly 75 per cent of South America's light commercial vehicle segment.

The Dacia Duster Oroch was styled at Renault's design centre in Sao Paulo, and is reputed to take its inspiration from "the world of kitesurfing".

Design features include front-end styling borrowed from the D-Cross concept of 2012, substantial front and rear bumpers that "convey an impression of power", 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof and integrated roof rails.

The rear load bay also packs a specially designed rack system that allows for the storage of several kitesurfing boards, while two side-mounted cameras can be used to capture "special sporting moments."

Dacia also claims that the Oroch has a large, spacious cabin, substantial ground clearance and a host of features including a dashboard-mounted multimedia system. No other technical details have been confirmed.

Laurens van den Acker, senior vice president of the Renault group, said: “While it takes its inspiration from the Dacia Duster, itself a robust vehicle with an assertive personality, our local design team has delivered a fresh interpretation of the model in the form of this show car.”

There are no plans, however, to bring the Oroch in production form to the UK market.

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Seat plans three-strong SUV range
Seat plans three-strong SUV range As well as its already confirmed Nissan Qashqai rival, which will arrive in 2016, Seat bosses are evaluating plans for a smaller and larger model

Seat could end up with a three-strong SUV range, according to company boss Jürgen Stackmann.

The first, a Nissan Qashqai rival based on the Leon, is confirmed for 2016 but both smaller and larger models are being planned.

“A big SUV is potentially a yes for us but we have to make sure that customers want it” Stackmann told Autocar.

It's understood that a bigger priority for Seat is a smaller SUV to rival the Vauxhall Mokka and Renault Captur. Such a car is likely to be based on the Ibiza supermini and could go on sale in 2017, a year after its bigger brother.

Speaking to Autocar at the recent Paris motor show, Stackmann lightheartedly likened the smaller SUV model to Prince Harry - with the larger, more mature SUV acting as Prince William.

“A small SUV will show where we want to take the brand. This segment is purpose made for Seat as it combines emotion and functionality,” said Stackmann “But it would be two-wheel drive only. A four-wheel drive version only adds infrastructure and complexity and our customers won't pay 2000 euros [extra] for it.”

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Don’t take used car adverts at face value - it could prove costly
Don’t take classified adverts at face value Searching for a used car online can reveal some interesting facts about its past – like whether it's clocked or not, or even if it's actually worth looking at

A little online research can pay dividends if you’re looking at a used car – particularly if it’s something interesting.

As a case in point, a while ago I spotted a Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R, which appeared in the classifieds at a very tempting price. Something about it rang a bell, however, so I had a closer look and realised that – if my memory was serving me correctly – it was a car that I’d seen before.

A few aspects of it didn’t quite tally with what I recalled about it, much to my concern. I’d noticed the car initially on eBay, so I went and did a ‘completed listings’ search, which allows you to view past auctions.

Lo and behold, up came an old advert for the car. The differences were instantly clear. Somehow, in the space of a month or two, the car had mysteriously lost 20,000 miles – and a vast chunk of its previous history. The AA estimates that some 18,000 used cars sold each year are clocked, so it's an aspect that's always worth investigating.

Out of curiosity I put the link for the old and new adverts into Google, which revealed an online discussion about that particular car. Here, too, the mileage discrepancy had been clocked, and one commentator had actually been to view the car. Despite it looking a fine example, it somewhat predictably turned out to be a complete dud.

Besides confirming my suspicions, this 10 or so minutes of investigation meant that I wouldn’t have to waste money and time actually going and looking at it myself – just in case it was worthy of attention.

So, if you’re in the market, it’s worth a cursory search of the web for details about any particular car that you’re interested in. Outside of uncovering any undesirable history, you may also find it priced cheaper elsewhere, or turn up other useful advice – such as the recommended price to pay or used buying guides.

Next Jeep Wrangler to get new body and engines
Next Jeep Wrangler to get new body and engines Jeep boss plans a technical revolution for the company's next-gen rugged SUV

Jeep is exploring a high-tech engineering future for the next Wrangler with an alloy body and downsized turbocharged engines. Such a move would open a significant technical lead over the rival Land Rover Defender.

The plan has been divulged by Sergio Marchionne, chairman of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FAC), which owns Jeep. He cited Ford’s move to a weight-saving aluminium chassis for the F150 pick-up.

“Discussions about moving to alloy from steel for the Wrangler are going on now,” Marchionne said. The plan centres around modern powertrains that, Marchionne said, “require a complete rethink of the architecture”.

Marchionne also said that Jeep wants to “modernise the Wrangler while preserving all its capabilities”. He listed “significant improvements” in the interior and driving manners as targets.

US Wranglers are sold with a 3.6-litre V6. European ones have a 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel rated at up to 34mpg. These could easily be replaced by single or twin-turbo 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines that make more power and torque and offer more performance, better fuel economy and lower emissions thanks to lighter bodywork.

Marchionne didn’t confirm whether the Wrangler would ditch its body-on-frame construction, but it is highly likely because he said that Jeep’s existing Toledo plant would not be able to build the new Wrangler.

Given the switch from steel body-on-frame to alloy unibody, it’s reasonable to estimate that the new Wrangler might save up to 400kg, cutting the kerb weight of a five-door model to about 1800kg.

Such a move would put pressure on Land Rover to do the same with its new Defender, which could be on the market at a similar time to the new Wrangler, around 2016/17.

Just as the Defender defines Land Rover’s brand values, so are Jeep’s embodied by the Wrangler, which established the ‘Trail Rated’ measure.

Any Trail Rated Jeep must pass gruelling off-road tests, particularly the Rubicon trail – 17 miles of boulders, river crossings and acute climbs and descents in the Sierra Nevada desert.

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Ingenie cuts young driver risks with new feedback scheme
Ingenie cuts young driver risks New black box-based insurance company establishes a 'Driver Behaviour Unit' to support younger drivers and reduce the chance of serious accidents

Ingenie, an insurer that specialises in cover for young drivers aged 17 to 25, has devised a new way to cut potential risks posed by its less experienced drivers.

The firm has established a ‘Driver Behaviour Unit’ (DBU), which has reputedly reduced the number of dangerous driving incidents by 21 per cent. It’s staffed by people with psychology backgrounds and is designed to coach younger drivers to take fewer risks.

Each car insured on the scheme receives a telematics unit that monitors the driver’s behaviour. Poor driving triggers warning messages, and good driving grants discounts on insurance premiums.

The DBU monitors feedback from the telematics unit, looking for drivers who receive ‘highly dangerous driving’ warnings. Ingenie says that only one per cent of its drivers receive a ‘black’ message each month, but these drivers are three times more likely to have a crash. The DBU contacts these drivers and offers one-to-one coaching.

“The first thing we do is establish whether the driver is aware they’ve been driving dangerously,” says James Burton, one of the DBU analysts. “Secondly, we help them to recognise their behaviour is a problem – that it could seriously hurt or kill them or someone else, or that they could have their policy cancelled and become uninsurable. In many cases, they haven’t considered the consequences.

“We never lecture. We just help them to identify the motivations behind their behaviour and then encourage them to think how to make positive changes.”

Ingenie claims that in 90 per cent of cases, the drivers make a notable improvement within 30 days.

Richard King, Ingenie CEO, says: “A very small number need that extra bit of support. The DBU shows that it’s possible to save lives by nipping dangerous behaviour in the bud.”

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New Land Rover Defender to launch in 2016
New Land Rover Defender to launch in 2016 Land Rover's Defender replacement will be the 'most capable' yet, and will get four-cylinder engines as well as a V6 option

The new Defender will be the most capable Land Rover ever built, according to Phil Popham, Jaguar Land Rover’s group marketing director.

Speaking at the recent Paris show, Popham said the long-awaited new model would have the biggest “breadth of capability” of any model to wear the Land Rover badge.

The claim emphasises the importance that JLR is putting on replacing the iconic Defender, which has its roots in the 65-year-old original Land Rover model.

JLR has, so far, succeeded in keeping the wraps on the likely styling and the engineering make-up of the new Defender. However, we do know that the styling of the new car has already been signed off. 

The styling theme for the new model is thought to have been given the green light during the summer. This means that the new vehicle is unlikely to appear in production guise until the summer of 2016. 

However, a sneak preview in the form of a concept car is currently being discussed. Potential debuts for a concept are next March at the Geneva show, at the New York show in the spring or at the Frankfurt show next September.

There’s also no news about the structure underpinning the new Defender, but it looks likely to be a version of the company’s aluminium monocoque with the addition of a substantial aluminium superstructure in order to make the architecture as stiff and rugged as possible.

This technique – mixing a monocoque passenger cell and a separate steel chassis – was used under the Discovery to great success but resulted in a vehicle that weighed more than two tonnes. Repeating the exercise in aluminium should provide even greater structural rigidity than the Disco 4, with much reduced all-up weight.

With the new Defender being pitched as “premium durability”, it will come with the new Ingenium four-cylinder turbocharged diesel and petrol engines as well as V6 engines, Autocar understands. They will be connected to eight and nine-speed automatic gearboxes as standard, but there is no definitive news on whether there will be the option of a manual transmission.

JLR is determined that the new Defender will be able to thrive in the world’s harshest conditions, to the extent that it will be able to ‘plug into’ existing component networks by using the same wheel and tyres sizes as Toyota’s Land Cruiser and Hilux. 

Autocar has been unable to substantiate rumours that the new Defender also uses the same bolt circle diameter to make wheel replacement easier in places such as central Africa.

The premium durability theme for the new Defender extends to the interior. Land Rover’s design team is aiming for a cabin that is distinctly more upmarket and better made than that of the Land Cruiser, for example. 

This, combined with the intention of world-class mechanical durability and off-road ability, should give the Defender a decisive difference in this market niche. The extra luxury and comfort should also make it more appealing to affluent urban buyers.

Q&A with Phil Popham, JLR marketing director

What’s behind the recent massive increase in Land Rover sales?

Product has been the driver. Six years ago, when the recession hit, we made the decision to cut costs but keep investing in new products such as the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. We’ve gone from an annual cash outflow of around £1 billion to a similar amount as a cash inflow. 

We’ve also seen a very high proportion of conquest sales with the two new Range Rovers, so we are pulling in customers who are new to the brand. There’s also a four to six-month waiting list for the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, which shows the strength of demand.

In the future, we will have great manufacturing flexibility, with the two Range Rovers and the [next] Discovery being built on the same production line. Product demand drives our manufacturing strategy.

Why are profit margins so high?

We sell a very rich mix of vehicles. Buyers are keen to purchase a lot of the options and accessories on offer. We’ve also invested heavily in developing markets such as Russia and China. JLR sold 6000 vehicles in China in 2008. Last year, we sold 100,000 vehicles.

We are also seeing strong residuals for our models and that’s reflected in monthly payments. Even at the premium end of the market, buyers want to spend less running their vehicles. Total cost of ownership is a big issue.

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Detroit Electric reveals final SP:01 design before 2015 launch
Detroit Electric reveals final SP:01 design New electric sports car will be built in the UK, with first customer deliveries planned for early 2015

Detroit Electric has revealed the final design for its SP:01 electric sports car, production of which will start in the UK later this year.

The two-seat model was first shown in prototype form at the Shanghai motor show in 2013. Originally slated for launch in Europe and Asia late this year, Detroit Electric says it now plans for a global launch in 2015.

Design changes made to this final version include a new underbody diffuser and rear wing to reduce lift, plus minor changes to the front air intakes to improve airflow.

The SP:01's lithium-ion battery packs, which grant the car a range of around 180 miles, have also been clad in a new protective casing which shields the cells from damage in the event of an accident.

The company had previously stated that the SP:01 will be the world's fastest production electric vehicle, with a top speed of 155mph and a 0-60mph sprint time of 3.7sec. Tesla's Model S manages the 0-62mph sprint in 4.2sec, but the recently announced dual-motor version is capable of 0-60mph in just 3.2sec.

Customers can already place orders for the new car, with early pricing information indicating a starting cost of around £100,500. First deliveries are expected in the first quarter of next year.

Earlier this summer the firm announced it would be building the SP:01 at a new facility in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, while also revealing that plans for a new 2+2 model and saloon were also under consideration. Those models would be engineered and assembled in Detroit, and arrive in 2016.

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Nissan showcases new crossover for Brazil with Kicks concept
Nissan showcases new crossover for Brazil with Kicks concept Japanese firm offers a thinly veiled look at its new compact crossover that's destined for South America

Nissan has unveiled its new Kicks concept car ahead of the Sao Paulo motor show in Brazil.

The Kicks offers a thinly veiled look at a new production compact crossover model, which will go on sale in the Brazilian market, and follows on from the Extrem concept that made its debut in 2012

Nissan says the Kicks is targeted towards "today's fast-moving Brazilian professionals," and offers "a design that is both aspirational yet attainable - a vehicle that is rugged enough to handle the reality of Brazilian back roads but that is sporty, sophisticated and business-like with year-round utility."

Designed by Nissan design studios in both North and South America, the Kicks concept features traditional SUV styling traits, including a raised ride height and muscular front and rear bumpers. The model also uses Nissan's V-shaped front-end design, as well as elements taken from the new Murano and the Sport Sedan Concept

The concept sits on 19-inch alloy wheels, and measures 4300mm long by 1800mm wide, with a height of 1600mm. No information about the Kicks' powertrain has been revealed, but the Extrem concept borrowed its mechanicals from the Nissan March (Micra).

While already confirmed as not coming to the UK, Nissan design boss Shiro Nakamura says the firm is "naturally considering if it would meet the needs of urban-dwellers in other countries around the world.

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Autocar magazine 29 October preview
Autocar magazine 29 October preview Next Land Rover Defender scooped; full verdict on Renault's Mk3 Twingo; Claire Williams interviewed; MPG marathon; facelifted Audi A6 tested

This week’s issue of Autocar magazine, dated 29 October, reveals the latest news on the next Land Rover Defender, which is set to arrive in 2016.

According to company sources, the eagerly anticipated new Defender will be the most capable Land Rover ever built, and this issue’s news special reveals that there’s also a radical new Range Rover on the way too.

Elsewhere, Renault is bucking the city car trend with its new Twingo, adopting a rear-wheel-drive set-up and some clever packaging ideas.

The 1992 Twingo was a bold, characterful and utterly distinctive urban runabout of simplicity, compactness, value and abundant flair. The second-generation Twingo should have built on its predecessor’s success but it never hit the sales heights of the Mk1. 

Our experienced road testers assess every facet of the Mk3 model, from ride and handling to interior space and from visibility to fuel economy, to determine how it will fare against it’s city car rivals.

It’s been the better part of two decades since Williams last lifted a Formula 1 world championship, but the Oxfordshire-based team is currently enjoying its most competitive season in ages, lying third in the constructors’ points standings.

Claire Williams, daughter of team founder Sir Frank, is now in charge of the day-to-day operation of the company, which has expanded its scope beyond racing into advanced car engineering. Steve Cropley talks to her about the company’s return to F1 competitiveness and its aims beyond the race track.

Autocar’s in-house light-footed economy expert Tim Dickson recently took part in the MPG Marathon at the wheel of a Honda 1.6 i-DTEC Civic. He recounts his experiences in this week’s issue. 

We also get our first chance to assess the revamped Audi A6. Ingolstadt’s executive challenger has new looks and a more frugal engine. Other key first drives include the new Mercedes-Benz B-class, Porsche Cayenne e-Hybrid and revised Nissan 370Z Nismo.

There’s an update on our long-term test fleet’s Nissan Qashqai, which has now racked up more than 19,000 miles and has recently been pressed into service on two continental trips.

BMW’s ‘E30’ 318iS is an affordable, enjoyable slice of 1980s rear-drive action, and this week’s used buying guide offers hints and tips on sourcing a cared-for example for around £2500.

Autocar magazine is available through all good newsagents, and available for download from Zinio and the Apple iTunes store.

You can also buy one-off copies of Autocar magazine from Newsstand, delivered to your door the morning after.

Alternatively, never miss an issue – subscribe to Autocar magazine today.

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Mazda confirms new CX-3 crossover for LA motor show
Mazda confirms new CX-3 crossover for LA motor show Mazda to take on the Nissan Juke with new compact crossover in 2015; features Kodo design language and SkyActiv technology

Mazda has revealed the first official design sketches of its new compact crossover, the CX-3, ahead of its public debut at the Los Angeles motor show next month.

The CX-3, which is set to take on the likes of the Nissan Juke, will be launched around April next year. Mazda has confirmed the model will go on sale in Europe and the UK.

From this official sketch, we can see the CX-3 features Mazda's "Kodo - Soul of Motion" design language, and sports a large central grille with prominent Mazda badging.

Mazda says the CX-3 will carry "the full range of Skyactiv technology" from its range. Reports suggest the new model will borrow its engine line-up from the new Mazda 2, so expect the firm's new 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine to feature, offering around 104bhp, as well as a Skyactiv-G petrol option with up to 114bhp.

The Japanese marque has also confirmed it will be displaying facelifted versions of the CX-5 and 6 at the LA show, alongside the new MX-5.

Read more LA motor show news

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Rolls-Royce to host new exhibition in London
Rolls-Royce to host new exhibition in London New events to help Rolls-Royce engage with new and existing customers, as well as showcase some of the brand's processes and ideas

Rolls-Royce is putting on a series of free exhibitions, dubbed "Inside Rolls-Royce", with the first event opening in London next month.

The exhibition, which takes place at the Saatchi Gallery between 13-16 November, follows on from the "Inside Rolls-Royce" documentary which aired on Channel 4 earlier this year.

Rolls says the series of exhibitions is its chance to "engage directly with fans old and new," and that the experience will provide "an unexpected multi-sensory journey through the marque's world-renowned engineering, design and craftsmanship."

Each of the nine exhibition areas will take visitors through aspects like paint and material selection, Rolls' appearances in video games, bespoke car creation and the history of the brand's Spirit of Ecstasy emblem.

Rolls boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös said: "It is only right that we give those people who support us free access to this great brand, and that this journey around the world begins in London, this most international of cities and the spiritual home of Rolls-Royce.

Following its London launch, the event will head to other countries in 2015.

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Hot new Peugeot 308 GTI to get 266bhp
Hot new Peugeot 308 GTI to get 266bhp Peugeot plans new range-topping 308 variant to launch next year, as part of its anniversary celebrations for the 205 GTI

Peugeot is planning a 150mph, £25,000 GTI range-topper for its Car of the Year-winning 308 range. The GTI will be powered by the storming 266bhp 1.6-litre THP turbo four from the RCZ-R sports coupé.

The car’s confirmation comes during the 30th anniversary of the famous Peugeot 205 GTI. It is tipped to have a similar relationship to the mildly sporty 202bhp 308 GT, just launched, as the RCZ GT coupé does to the go-faster RCZ-R. 

The GTI won’t hit showrooms until next year but it is believed likely to offer much of the GT’s special equipment — LED lights, sports seats and even sportier settings for its MacPherson strut, torsion beam suspension set-up.

Peugeot has also recently revealed a special 30th anniversary edition of the 208 GTI, which also celebrates the 205 GTI's launch. It's powered by a new 1.6-litre THP petrol engine which produces 205bhp and 221lb ft of torque, and can reach 62mph in 6.5 seconds.

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What’s the worst thing you’ve ever found in a used car?
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever found in a used car? The odds and ends left behind from previous owners can tell you a lot about a car's history

Having bought a few used cars recently, it’s always interesting to see what the previous owner has left behind. 

Recently, I found a whole bunch of random CDs that way. It’s likely to become a more common occurrence too, I think, as people increasingly use their iPods and forget about the small polycarbonate discs scattered in forgotten places in their cars. I got all of Elvis’ no.1 singles that way.

I’ve also turned up some small change in the past. The Rover Sterling I de-cluttered six years ago turned up a staggering amount of minor denomination coinage – plus an immense amount of dirt. 

I also know of someone who found what could only be described as money obtained probably by menace and stashed in a hidey hole behind some trim in an old Audi. He was either very fortunate, or will have to spend the rest of his days looking over his shoulder.

Such cleaning has also turned up a spare key to Shed 7, which is useful and could be a selling point one day.

Among the worst things left in cars I’ve bought was the remains of motorway sandwich, which had been crushed flat under the rear folding seats of a Volvo V70

Plus there are also some good things I’ve kept from cars I’ve scrapped, like the badge of an FSO 125P - which was the only decent part in the vehicle - and the toolkit with Fiat written on it. I also kept the old radio, which I re-homed in a wooden box and altered to run off batteries.

Oh, and the hydraulic bottle jack from the Land Rover Discovery has come in very useful over the years, too.

So I just wondered exactly what you have found in a car you've bought which had proved to be useful, unpleasant or just plain odd. Let me know below.

2014 Audi S6 Avant first drive review
2014 Audi S6 Avant first drive review Outstanding all-season ability and impressive everyday practicality, but lacking for intimacy on challenging roads and beginning to show its age in certain areas A facelifted version of Audi’s S6 Avant, which comes with revised headlights, redesigned wheels and some very minor interior changes. It’s slated to reach UK showrooms next March for £58,0000, a premium of £1255 over the outgoing model. Customers will, however, be able to place orders for the new S6 next month.There are no significant changes to the engine or gearbox; Audi clearly believes its twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol unit and standard seven-speed dual clutch S-tronic automatic don’t require any major fettling to keep the luxury estate in the hunt. Nor has there been any alteration to the mechanically operated Torsen torque sensing four-wheel-drive system.

Ford promises improved ride comfort for European Mustang
Ford promises improved ride comfort for European Mustang Ford bosses say the new Mustang, which goes on sale in the UK next June, will be tuned for more comfort on European roads

Ford is looking at improving the low-speed ride comfort of its new Mustang ahead of its 2015 European launch. 

The car, which Autocar test-drove in Los Angeles, has received praise for its performance and high speed handling, but there have been concerns over its low-speed ride, which lacks the compliance needed for UK roads.

“As soon as we play with the low speed damping we risk harming the car’s handling,” said global engineering chief, Raj Nair. “Even so, we’re about to begin testing and there are some things we can do.”

The new, sixth-generation Mustang goes on sale in the UK next June. Although traditionally a US-biased car, Ford has chosen to make the new Mustang a global model due to its notoriety.

See more pictures of the new Ford Mustang

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New twin-turbo V8 engine destined for more Mercedes models
New twin-turbo V8 engine destined for more Mercedes models AMG boss confirms the new 4.0-litre V8 engine found in the GT will be used in elsewhere in the Mercedes range

AMG boss Tobias Moers has confirmed that his firm's new 4.0-litre V8 engine will in time replace all existing V8 powertrains, including those used by non-AMG products. “The engine will replace our 5.5-litre engine,” said Moers.

Mercedes-Benz will build its own version of the engine on a standard production line. All engines destined for AMG cars will still be built on the ‘one man, one engine’ principle at Affalterbach.

All true AMG cars will also lose Mercedes-Benz badging and be Mercedes-AMG branded like the new GT and C63.

Moers has also completely ruled out the prospect of an AMG hypercar in the foreseeable future, saying: “You’d have to ask Porsche or Ferrari about the business case, but it is important for us not to overestimate your own brand. AMG is not at the level to do that. Not yet at least.”

He also said the company is not working on any Black Series product, but denied the sub-brand had been put on indefinite hold. “We have so much incredible stuff coming through the normal product lines, we can’t think about anything else right now,” he said.

There will also be no diesel-powered AMGs nor any all-wheel drive version of the GT, though from now on every new rear-drive AMG car will receive a limited-slip differential as standard.

Moers also confirmed the company’s long-serving 6.0-litre V12 motor is to be extensively re-engineered and include some element of hybridisation to pass forthcoming emissions targets in China, and dismissed the idea of adding another four cylinders to the new V8. He said the volumes were too small to justify the investment.

As for the current Mercedes-AMG GT, Moers said the car is “pretty much sold out” through 2015-16.

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Kia plans new GT sports car for 2016
Kia plans plus new GT sports car for 2016 High-end GT concept will enter production and be joined by a cheaper sports car

Kia’s 2011 GT concept, a four-door V6 fastback, has got the production go-ahead and is likely to arrive towards the end of 2016.

At the recent Paris motor show, executives confirmed to Autocar that a showroom version of the concept car is definitely in Kia’s plans, as the brand moves to develop a more sporting image.

Kia is also planning a more affordable sports model besides this high-end GT. A production version of the GT4 Stinger concept, a cheaper coupé revealed at the Detroit show this year, is one option. 

Kia UK boss Paul Philpott said that ideally he would like a two-seat sports car to rival the Mazda MX-5 but accepts that the global market is unlikely to be big enough to make it viable.

In concept form, the GT is powered by a 390bhp 3.3-litre V6 turbo petrol engine that drives the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic ’box. Whether the production version will get this engine is unclear, but European buyers will definitely be offered a diesel, possibly a version of the brand’s 2.2-litre four-pot. 

The rear-hinged back doors of the concept are likely to be replaced by conventionally hinged doors for the showroom version. But Kia will be keen to preserve the concept’s fastback silhouette and much of the dramatic detailing.

A high-end and distinctively designed interior is a certainty and, as a showcase model, it’s likely to feature a wide array of electronic systems. 

If Kia goes ahead with the GT4 Stinger, it will be more important for sales because it will be cheaper than the GT.

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New Nissan GT-R planned for 2017
New Nissan GT-R planned for 2017 Nissan’s next-generation sports car won’t launch until 2017 at the earliest, but will feature more aggressive styling than today's model

The next Nissan GT-R won’t make an appearance until at least 2017 and it could be 2018 until the next generation of the firm’s sports car is launched.

Speculative reports have previously claimed that the car will come in 2016 but Nissan’s chief creative officer, Shiro Nakamura, told Autocar that it is three to four years away. 

According to Nakamura, Nissan has yet to start on the car’s design, although chassis and drivetrain development is underway. It will retain the essential characteristics of the current model, with a nominally rear-wheel drive set up, four-wheel drive on demand and a front-engined configuration.

A hybrid powertrain is also on the cards, and it will remain as a stand-alone model with little similarity to other Nissan products

The next GT-R will also retain the current car’s aggressive look, and Nakamura said it could even be more aggressive and distinctive. He is keen to maintain what he described as the GT-R’s “boxy, functional appearance. It shouldn’t be too elegant, and it should be brutal, with a rawness”.

The Vision 2020 concept, revealed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this summer, will influence the car’s look - but don’t expect a production version of that car. “It contributes to the overall feeling,” said Nakamura. A much-improved interior, more in keeping with the GT-R’s performance status, is a crucial part of the new car’s make up.  

Before the new car appears, the current GT-R will go through one more facelift before it comes to the end of its ten-year lifespan. “We’ve been improving it all the time,” said Nakamura, “and there’s still room to improve.” 

Dan Stevens

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Renault design boss plans crucial new concept car
Renault design boss plans crucial new concept car Laurens van den Acker plans to show a new concept car in 2016 which will shape the company's future design direction

Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker is planning a show concept for 2016 that he expects to be as influential on Renault’s future as the 2010 DeZir electric coupé.

The DeZir set the design direction of the company’s two best-sellers of recent years, the Clio and Captur.

Van den Acker said that the type of car can’t yet be revealed but that by the time the wraps come off it, a new Mégane – and, more important, a Mégane-based SUV – will be in the frame.

Meanwhile, he cited the ultra-low-carbon Eolab hybrid concept, shown at the recent Paris show under a French government-sponsored economy car scheme also embraced by PSA Peugeot-Citroën, as giving clues to a future Clio. 

“You can drive this car,” he said. “It has been created with a large amount of input from engineers and it works already, despite being 100mm narrower in the rear track for aerodynamic reasons. This is a car we could produce for 2018,” he revealed. 

“All of its innovations – the aero, the carbonfibre doors, the magnesium roof and a lot more – could be made now. But we need time to put them all into the industrial process,” he said.

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Video: Porsche 911 GT3 vs Ferrari 458 Speciale vs McLaren 650S
It's a three-way supercar showdown at Castle Combe race circuit as Ferrari squares up against Porsche and McLaren

Ferrari’s brilliant 458 Speciale takes on McLaren’s potent 650S and the well-proven Porsche 911 GT3. Which will come out on top at Castle Combe? Steve Sutcliffe referees.

Toyota sells off part of its Tesla stake
Toyota sells off part of its Tesla stake Japanese manufacturer follows Daimler by offloading a portion of its interest in Elon Musk's electric vehicle company

Toyota has sold part of its interest in Tesla, just days after Daimler cashed-in its shares in the US electric vehicle manufacturer.

The relationship between Toyota and Tesla dates back to 2010 and was originally proposed by Akio Toyoda, president and chief executive of the Japanese car giant.

Toyota and Tesla have collaborated on joint-development of the RAV4 electric SUV, which was only sold in selected urban areas in the United States.

Underpinned by a Tesla-designed battery and electric powertrain, the front-wheel-drive RAV4 EV developed from a pipe dream to a reality in just 22 months. The SUV was first revealed in 2012, and roughly 2600 examples have been produced over three years.

But that project is now winding down, and Toyota is putting more emphasis on fuel cell electric vehicles for the future.

No specifics of the sale have been released by Toyota, which is reported to have held a stake of about 2.4 per cent in Tesla. However, the Japanese company has left the door open for potential new technical collaborations in the future.

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The design, development and applications of MagneRide suspension
The design and benefits of MagneRide suspension How do electronically controlled 'MagneRide' dampers work, and what are the benefits? Jesse Cross investigates

MagneRide is not a name most drivers will be familiar with, but it’s a technology many will use daily. 

It's a semi-active suspension damping system that was first introduced in 2002 on the Cadillac Seville STS. These days it’s fitted to a wide range of cars, from the Lamborghini Huracánto the Audi S3, and the Ferrari F12 to the Vauxhall VXR8 GTS.

Its use is growing in the premium car sector and the system’s manufacturer, BWI Group, says 300,000 cars will be equipped with MagneRide next year. 

Now in its third generation, MagneRide is fiendishly clever but also simple and reliable, adapting the damping effort in response to signals from a control unit which in turn is given commands from the car’s electronic systems.

In a nutshell, MagneRide technology can alter the damping effort on the fly to suit the conditions and the style of driving. It can make the change in a linear fashion from soft to hard or any stage in between and it can do it in a few thousandths of a second.

Dampers, also known as shock absorbers, literally damp the action of the road springs. Without dampers, the springs would do what springs do best and bounce. Like tennis balls, the wheels would bounce on the road and the body would flounder and wallow on the suspension, making the car unstable. It would roll and pitch, too, reducing grip in corners and making the car unstable under braking, not to mention making life uncomfortable for the driver and passengers.

The basics of a conventional damper are fairly straightforward. A piston fitted with tiny valves moves up and down a tube filled with fluid. The fluid just about squeezes through the valves, but it takes a substantial force to push it through the small passageways in the valves.

How much force is required depends on how much damping effort the suspension engineers want, and that will relate to factors like the strength of the springs and whether the car is designed primarily for performance or comfort. 

The design of the valves and viscosity of the fluid determine how much effort it takes to move the dampers. Most dampers are fixed rate but cars with ‘sport’ settings are often equipped with electrically adjustable valves to change them from a harder to a softer setting by increasing the size of the opening that the fluid has to flow through.

The mechanical design of the MagneRide damper is less complicated. There are no valves, just passages to allow the fluid to pass through the piston as it moves. 

What changes to adjust the damper from soft to hard is the fluid. The secret behind MagneRide lies in a technology called magnetorheological (MR) fluid, a kind of synthetic oil containing tiny particles of iron in suspension. 

The latest MagneRide system is equipped with electric coils which, when energised, create an electromagnetic field. When that happens, the iron particles align, effectively increasing the thickness of the fluid by creating rigid structures, making it harder to push the fluid through the channels in the piston when it moves. This increases the damping force.

The stronger the field, the more the particles align and the greater the damping force. When the electrical current is switched off, the magnetic field collapses, the iron particles separate and the MR fluid passes easily through the pistons, reducing the damping force.

Again, the concept sounds simple, but one of the challenges when the fluid was first developed was to come up with a formulation that didn’t allow the iron particles to settle out, especially if the damper was unused for a period of time.  

Olivier Raynauld, BWI technical specialist, says: “MagneRide is a system. The dampers themselves are actuators but they are driven by a complex control system.” 

Like the car’s powertrain, MagneRide has its ECU, which monitors the car’s dynamic state and driver input, usually through existing sensors used for functions like ESP, pre-crash systems and ABS, as well as sensors which monitor the vertical movement of the dampers.

The third-generation MagneRide differs from previous versions by having two coils instead of one for each damper piston. Two coils allow the system to react faster, not when it’s activated, but when it’s de-activated. 

When a single electromagnet is turned off, electrical eddy currents cause the magnetic field to linger, only for a few milliseconds, but enough to prolong the damping force longer than is required.

“We’re only talking tiny increments here but it’s enough,” explains Raynauld. By using two coils wound in opposite directions, eddy currents cancel each other out and the magnetic field collapses almost instantaneously, improving the reaction time of the damper from 25 milliseconds to just 13 milliseconds. 

As the MagneRide control system has the potential to react to the car’s movements and issue a new command every single millisecond, this improvement made a difference. 

“Nobody believed 12 milliseconds was going to be significant until we put it in a car and people were able to experience the difference,” says Raynauld. 

As more sensors are added to cars, freely distributing more data relating to the vehicle dynamics via the car’s on-board diagnostics system in real time, so the system continues to evolve. 

“Because more data is becoming available, we can make the system respond in smaller and more accurate steps. That will improve comfort, isolation from road imperfections, steering feel and provide more consistency over varying road conditions as time goes on,” says Raynauld.

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Porsche to take on Tesla with electric version of all-new model
Porsche to take on Tesla with electric version of all-new model Secret new mid-sized electric car to go up against Californian company's highly rated Model S

Porsche is plotting a surprise entry into the electric car ranks with an all-new mid-sized liftback that aims to compete with the Tesla Model S.

Currently in the formative stages of development at Porsche’s Weissach R&D centre in Germany, the secret five-door is planned to form part of a new dedicated fifth model range set to slot into the German car maker’s line-up beneath the Panamera, according to German media reports citing comments made by Porsche’s outspoken chairman, Matthias Müller.

While conventional combustion engine versions of the new mid-sized Porsche model are set to take on established luxury class rivals such as the BMW 5-series, an advanced battery-powered variant is tasked with challenging the Model S on both performance and range in what has developed into an increasingly important global market for electric cars in recent years.

Details of Porsche’s first-ever series production electric car remain shrouded in secrecy, though Autocar understands it has been conceived around a second-generation version of the MSB platform that currently underpins the Panamera.

Set to employ a greater percentage of lightweight, hot-formed, high-strength steel and aluminium than today’s structure, it will boast a shorter wheelbase than that of the Panamera and aim to provide the new car with a kerb weight under the Model S’s 2190kg.

Power for the new five-seat Porsche is planned to come from a state-of-the-art synchronous electric motor. It is likely to provide a similar output to the unit used by the Model S – which offers 416bhp and 443lb ft in its most powerful guise – in a bid to endow the new Porsche electric car with class-leading performance.

The electric motor will draw energy from a yet-to-be-specified battery. Likely to use a lithium-ion process, it is expected to be developed in partnership with Audi, which is currently in the throes of finalising its first-ever electric car, the R8 e-Tron. It is planned to provide the new car with an all-electric range of more than 250 miles.

Porsche has gained electric car expertise through the development of a number of prototypes in recent years, including the Boxster E – an all-electric version of the second-generation Boxster that used a 121bhp electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack.

The new Porsche model forms part of a two-pronged attack being readied by Volkswagen-owned companies against Tesla, whose solid sales growth in recent years has led many established car makers to fast track plans for their own battery-powered models.

While Porsche is targeting the Model S, Audi is set to challenge the soon-to-be-introduced Model X with an electric variant of its future range-topping Q8 SUV.

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How Caterham F1’s meltdown might benefit other Formula 1 teams
How Caterham F1’s meltdown might benefit other Formula 1 teams As public arguments over who owns what relating to Caterham F1 continue to rage, the team stands to miss out on valuable prize money

The demise of the Caterham F1 team has been taking place in recent days, with a very public slanging match over who owns what.

This occurred after an administrator was appointed for the Caterham Sports Ltd company, which provided various services for the franchise-holder, Malaysia-based 1MRT.

The administrator has since been throwing his weight around, refusing to allow the cars to leave the premises and locking out the staff. It is not clear whether the company in administration actually owns the cars or the factory, but the administrator is acting as though it does.

The bottom line is that Caterham will almost certainly not be seen in Texas next week for the United States Grand Prix. The team’s entry will not be written off immediately, however, as the various agreements that exist in F1 allow a team to miss three races in a single season if it cannot be avoided.

The franchise-holding company is still solvent so there is no reason for the rights and benefits to disappear immediately. However, if the franchise is to have any value at all, someone needs to submit an entry for next year in the next few weeks. It is unlikely that anyone will be a position to do that, or would be willing to pay the entry fees involved without being certain of being able to field a team.

If the team does not go to the last three races it gives up the chance to receive $90 million over the course of the next two seasons, which would be payable if the team could finish tenth in this year’s constructors' championship. To do that, Caterham would need to one tenth-place finish (as long as Sauber did not do the same or better).

A ninth place would move Caterham ahead of Marussia and up to ninth in the constructors' standings. This is not likely to happen, but in a race such as the Brazilian Grand Prix there is often a high attrition rate, so anything is possible.

In order for that to happen, however, it needs to be established who owns 1MRT and who owns the cars. It would then require the cars and a team to run them to be sent to Austin.

The closure of the team is obviously a disaster for the staff at Leafield and for the team’s suppliers, but it could end up being good news for the rest of the F1 world. While it is not good to lose a team, it does mean that only ten teams are left. As only ten teams are paid prize money, under the existing agreements, this means that no-one is going to miss out.

The prize fund is based on the performance of a team, with the amount of money on offer being somewhere between $100 million for the world champions to around $45 million to the tenth-placed team. There are additional bonuses for the three teams that have won the most number of races in the last four years, which are currently Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, but the Maranello team will soon drop out of that clique and be replaced by Mercedes.

If there is no 11th team then there is no longer any need for some of the back markers to try too hard. The money will come whether one finishes a minute behind the winner, or two laps down. While the racers would prefer to be fighting for success, this is a useful thing in the battle to survive.

This will be true in 2015 and 2016 because any new team needs to race for two years to be eligible for the various prize funds, which means that the top ten will continue to the same until the end of the 2017 season.

There might be a need to invest more in 2017 in order to stay in the top ten that year but it still means that the back end of the grid has a chance to breathe and not have to keep up with the F1 spending that has been seen in recent years.

It may not be the racing attitude, but a number of the teams in F1 are barely surviving at the moment and so it will be a pragmatic decision rather than something to be desired.

Why Porsche’s 918 Spyder has earned its five-star rating
Why Porsche’s 918 has earned its five-star rating On paper, Porsche's hypercar doesn't look capable of matching the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari, but on track it proved that it has nothing to fear from its rivals

It was daft to expect too little. But, as the old man still says to me, “expect nothing, son, and you’ll never be disappointed”. Ever the optimist. 

On paper, though, the bald figures suggested that a Porsche 918 Spyder would arrive at the MIRA proving ground for our road test too overfed and under-muscled to get near the sharpest end of these hypercar shenanigans. 

Porsche’s typical nonchalance implied that they wouldn’t be pushing to squeeze every last ounce out of it, either. “Hope you don’t mind,” they said, “because I know we don’t usually; but we thought we’d bring a technician with us, in case anything goes wrong. Is that okay?”

“Of course,” we said, because ‘a technician’, singular, is nothing compared with the army of engineers and advisory racing drivers and tyre pumpers that accompany some extremely fast cars from elsewhere. 

(We don’t mind that, either, I should say; although the rush sometimes flusters the sandwich assembler in the MIRA canteen.)

But the 918 is a Porsche, of course, and Porsche hasn’t won nine out of 26 of our Handling Days, and come achingly close 
to winning several more, without good reason. There’s a reason, too, that, during the past decade or so, the number of former Autocar staffers who’ve gone on to spend their own money on a Porsche is, I think, into double figures.

And during all that time, Porsche has never sent anyone to our tests to change its cars’ tyres, nor even check pressures, or fluid levels; yet still it often emerges totally dominant. 

So it was daft to expect anything different for the 918; and even though Porsche’s technician had some spare tyres in the back of his Macan, he looked quite happy to leave them there. His idea of checking the rubber currently fitted to the car was to have a quick look, place his hand on one to see how hot it was, and shrug his approval. 

In the event, the 918 Spyder completed all of the tests we set it at MIRA on a single set of tyres and, in the process, went faster than anything else we’ve tested around our dry handling circuit – Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, McLaren P1, Radical SR3 SL, a works Vauxhall Vectra BTCC car  included – with considerably less support. In the hands of deputy road test ed Saunders, the 918 was more than a second clear of the next fastest.

It’s also one of only three cars that have made us ponder using more than one decimal place when quoting in-gear figures. The others were the Veyron and P1, unsurprisingly: cars that want less than a second to travel from one speed, to another, 20mph higher.

All that means we've awarded the 918 our coveted five-star rating. I shouldn’t have expected anything less.

Comparison - McLaren P1 versus Porsche 918 Spyder

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