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

Mercedes-Benz E-class E400 AMG Sport Plus coupe first drive review
Mercedes-Benz E-class E400 AMG Sport Plus coupe first drive review Luxury rear-drive coupé aims to appeal to keener drivers with a 329bhp twin-turbo petrol V6 and a host of AMG upgrades The E400 AMG Sport Plus is the flagship version of Mercedes-Benz's revamped E-class coupé range.It's designed to appeal to keener drivers, a fact emphasised by it being offered with a solitary choice of engine – a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 that produces 329bhp and 325lb ft.Mercedes has not simply dropped a hotter engine in its staid coupé and left it at that, however. The high-performance powerplant is complemented by the addition of a 'Dynamic Handling Package', which adds electronically adjustable dampers and the option of more responsive throttle and transmission calibration.As the car is based on the Sport model it also features upgraded front brakes, AMG body styling, a twin-exit exhaust system and leather heated seats.Opting for the AMG Sport Plus further extends that specification with a range of other upgrades including 19-inch alloys, a rear spoiler, sports seats and an AMG steering wheel with red stitching.Standard kit is comprehensive, as you'd hope given the Mercedes' £46,265 list price, and includes sat-nav, DAB radio, cruise control, automatic wipers and lights, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity and a Harman Kardon 14-speaker sound system.

Keeping your cool on the track is just as important as winning in the BTCC
Keeping your cool on the track is just as important as winning As the second race weekend of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship passes, it's becoming clear just how competitive this season is going to be

It may be easy for some people to get complacent after a few wins at the start of this new Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season, but the real trick is not to let the wins, or the losses, go to your head.

I'll admit there were elements of this past weekend of racing that have frustrated me, but you can't dwell on it. I'm tied jointly at the moment with Jason Plato and there are 24 races left in the season. We have to maintain momentum.

I know Jason and lots of others are breathing down my neck in the championship standings, but you can't let it bother you. There are so many good drivers out there that I can't see anyone running away with the title just yet. The racing will continue to be close and that's what makes this sport great. As a team we just need to keep scoring points, and we'll take risks when we need to.

When you do make mistakes, and we do make them, you're very angry with yourself. But it's important to use that anger in the correct way and transfer it into a very focused and hard drive back through as I did in Race 3 at Donington; I was so angry at myself at the time but I took my anger out through my driving, and produced a very important drive back through to 5th. Those points may prove crucial later in the year. Moving on, you must learn from the mistakes and not dwell on them; everyone makes them, so it's best to forget about it and crack on.

It's a similar situation when you see the likes of Plato and MG scoring very well and running away with race wins. It could play on your mind, but it doesn't. You push it to the back because you know your time will come. We were dominant at the opening race weekend, and we'll be dominant again somewhere else. Different teams will have favourite tracks where they will score very strongly. As much as I would want to, you can't go to every race meeting expecting to be the fastest. It doesn't work like that in a championship as competitive as this; certain circuits suit certain cars, that’s just the way it is.

At Thruxton, for example, I think we'll be right up there; the car is always very strong around that track. I expect to be right up at the sharp end, even with carrying our ballast. But then again, most people could be thinking the same way. Thruxton is a good old-school circuit, it's fast and flowing, and it's dangerous. I was two corners away from winning there last year when I had a puncture, so I feel I have some unfinished business. I have been on pole the last two years but am yet to win a race there.

If the first few rounds of racing in this new BTCC season are anything to go by, it's shaping up to be a very good, and very close, year for the championship.

BTCC 2014 race report - highlights from Donington Park
The second race weekend of the new Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season sees Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff prove dominant in their MGs, but Gordon Shedden makes history in his Honda Civic Tourer

Gordon Shedden makes Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship history during the second race weekend at Donington Park. Re-live the action with highlights from the track, as the likes of Jason Plato, Sam Tordoff and defending champion Andrew Jordan battle it out.

Daimler launches new China-only electric car with BYD
Daimler launches new China-only electric car with BYD Denza electric car revealed at Beijing motor show, goes on sale in China with 115bhp electric motor

Daimler and Chinese manufacturer BYD have launched a new China-only electric vehicle at the Beijing Motor Show. The car, called the Denza, was developed in a joint venture partnership between the two companies. 

Designed, engineered and produced in China, the car is set to cost around £35,700, or £24,000 after grants from the Chinese government. 

The Denza's electric motor delivers 115bhp and 214lb ft of torque, with a claimed top speed of 93mph and a range of 186 miles. Energy is stored by a 47.5kWh battery pack mounted in the floor of the vehicle.

Daimler and BYD say they have put the Denza through 18 months of rigorous testing, covering nearly 750,000 miles. The car is also the first electric vehicle to be put through new C-NCAP safety tests where it achieved the maximum five star rating. Reports suggest the model sits on the same platform as the previous-generation Mercedes B-class.

Two trim levels will be offered on the model. Lifestyle trim gets leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels and a central infotainment screen, while Executive specification adds an upgraded sound system, adaptive xenon headlights and satellite navigation. Deliveries are expected to begin in China in September.

Mike Vousden 

Quick news: Volvo V60 Hybrid; Jaguar's art concepts; Jensen dealer
Quick news: Volvo reveals R-Design spec for new V60 Hybrid; Jaguar to show F-type coupé sculpture at art show; Jensen appoints classic car dealer

Volvo has introduced an R-Design specification for the V60 Plug-in Hybrid, bringing with it 18-inch wheels, a sporty front bumper and rear diffuser. Inside, sports seats, pedals, mats and headlining feature. Combined power is 276bhp with 472lb ft of torque, but the car still claims 155.2mpg and 48g/km of CO2.

Jaguar will show two art concepts at the Clerkenwell Design Week. One is an illuminated sculpture inspired by the new F-type coupé. The other challenged designers on Jaguar’s social network channels to create a concept demonstrating "fearless design" with the winner chosen at the beginning of next month.

The newly formed Jensen Motors has appointed Slades Buckinghamshire dealership as its first classic car dealer. The firm also confirmed it will take commissions to build "as new" Mk1 Interceptors. Each will be accompanied by 80 bottles of champagne, which can be stored inside the car.

Land Rover has created a bespoke Defender for tailor Cad & the Dandy. Dubbed the ‘Cad Wagon', the model is based on a Defender 110. Custom features include a tailored canvas roof, leather re-trim of the interior and an upgraded stereo.

Mike Vousden

Is the point when your tyres become 'knackered' so clear cut any more?
Is the point when your tyres become Our long-term Range Rover may be an extreme example, but we're finding the point at which you change your tyres depends on what you're driving, rather than when guidelines say you should

Given that a car rolls every mile on rubber tyres, and that I've done a million or so in nearly 50 years of driving, you’d reckon by now I’d have developed a settled view of the above question. Yet I feel less sure than ever that there is a correct answer.

The physical and legal answers are simple. A tyre is mechanically knackered when its case appears through the rubber, and the whole assembly won’t hold air any more. Back home in the Australian bush, this was my dad’s answer. Today, a tyre is legally knackered when there’s less than 1.6mm of tread depth across the central three-quarters of the contact patch. Any thinner and you’ll be nicked, most likely, and certainly fail your MOT.

However, recent experiences of a couple cars - in particular our Range Rover long-termer and a Vauxhall VXR8 I’ve just been driving - remind me that the true threshold of tyre 'knackerdom' needs a much more subjective judgment.

At around 22,000 miles, with an estimated 6000-8000 miles of legal 'meat' left on its tyres, our Range Rover started to feel a mite fidgety. I began to notice a faint rumble through its aluminium structure on coarse surfaces where there hadn’t been any rumble before. 

Nobody seemed much bothered about it, probably because it was something you feel primarily at the steering wheel rim, but I have a fetish about refinement in cars and hate to see it decay. I’m quite sure if I had all the money in the world, or even a tenth of it, I’d junk those tyres now (at £300-plus a corner). Not only that, I’d ring up the engineers and find which of the OE tyres was the quietest, and fit those…

The VXR8 came to us over a weekend, for a bit of sport, on 'seasoned' tyres: sidewalls chamfered, treads well legal but also well used. We’d already road tested another car on perfect rubber and pronounced it better in most key respects than equivalent Merc and BMW saloons, so the pressure was well and truly off. 

Our kind contact at Vauxhall was merely trying to afford me a bit of extra Easter driving pleasure - and I admit I did set out on a couple of occasions to “do” several deserted roundabouts I know. When a car can slide so beautifully and predictably as a VXR8, it seems a crime to keep it straight all the time. 

However, the state of the tyres meant the car didn’t steer as well as the optimal version we’d sampled a few weeks before. Had I owned it, I’d have had to swap the rubber immediately (also at £300 a corner) because this car was no longer doing quite its best work.

So it seems to me that the true answer to the query above is that tyres are knackered when you think they are. At least, that’s true if you want your car to point and track as well as it was originally designed to, which seems to be the point of being the driving enthusiast we all are. 

Which, in a way, limits your choice of car — you need to choose something whose tyres you can afford to swap more often than the law says you must. Which especially validates Toyota’s approach to tyres with its GT-86, a sporty car that drives beautifully on the same hoops used by the fuel-sipping Prius hybrid saloon. Seems Toyota just can’t stop teaching us lessons about efficiency.

Facelifted Audi S6 spotted ahead of Paris motor show debut
Facelifted Audi S6 spotted ahead of Paris motor show debut Minor style upgrades for hot S6 saloon, including new LED headlights; there will also be performance and economy improvements

A facelifted version of the Audi S6 has been spotted performance testing at the Nürburgring.

The most significant difference on this new model comes with Audi’s LED headlights, only previously having been available on the larger A8.

Other updates are predicted to be subtle. Tweaked bumpers and modified side skirts make up bodywork changes, alongside an altered Audi grille. Changes inside should be minor with an upgraded version of Audi’s MMI infotainment system being the only headline alteration, alongside the firm's latest safety and assistance systems.

The same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine remains, but power could see a slight increase from 414bhp to around 429bhp, as well as minor improvements to fuel economy to better the current car's 29.4mpg. The new model should also improve on the existing 0-62mph sprint time of 4.6sec.

Reports suggest the facelifted S6 will make its debut at the Paris Motor Show in October, before going on sale early next year. Prices are not expected to stray far from the £54,505 asked for the current car.

Mike Vousden

Mercedes-Benz MLC spotted - first pictures
Mercedes-Benz MLC spotted - first pictures Exclusive images of the first development mules for the upcoming MLC, Mercedes' answer to the BMW X6 which will go on sale next year

Mercedes-Benz has started development on its upcoming BMW X6 rival, the MLC, as these first spy pictures reveal.

Maintaining the overall shape and bold styling of the Concept Coupé SUV seen at the Beijing motor show earier this month, the MLC is scheduled to go into production during the second half of next year.

Although most styling details are hidden on this test mule, we can see Mercedes has incorporated the larger front grille and the more prominent company badge from the Concept Coupé SUV onto the production car. That means the shape of the MLC will be very different from the more practical M-class, and will likely appeal to the same style-conscious luxury car buyers BMW is targetting with the new X6, due on sale at the end of this year.

The same S-class coupé-inspired rear-end design can also be seen on this test mule, including slim tail lights and a more rounded rear screen and the licence plate incorporated into the lower bumper. The production car appears to mirror the concept's dimensions, which measured 4935mm long by 20144mm wide, with a height of 1739mm. That would make the MLC longer, wider and higher than the current X6.

A range of direct-injection petrol engines are likely to power the MLC, including the same twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol V6 unit seen on the Concept Coupé SUV. With 328bhp and 354lb ft of torque, the MLC should also be more powerful than the equivalent current X6. Drive will be sent through a nine-speed automatic transmission, with a steering column-mounted shift stalk.

Mercedes' 4Matic four-wheel drive system will also feature, alongside brake energy recuperation and automatic stop/start systems. Up to five driving modes are likely to be available, thanks to a new 'Dynamic Select Control' system.

Inside, the MLC is expected to take on a luxurious feel, and should come equipped with the latest version of Mercedes' Comand infotainment system. Like the new C-class and V-class models, control for that system will come from a touch-sensistive pad mounted on the centre console.

The MLC will be buillt alongside the current C-, GLK-, M- and GL-class models at Mercedes' Alabama plant when production gets underway next year. A high-performance AMG variant of the new SUV is expected further down the line.

Fisker to relaunch Karma sports car in 2015
Revitalised Fisker aims to re-launch Karma sports car in 2015 Revitalised Fisker to bring Karma back to market next year alongside new estate version and an entry-level 'Atlantic' model

The now Chinese-owned Fisker plans to re-launch the Karma supercar in 2015.

Chinese auto parts firm The Wanxiang Corporation saved Fisker from bankruptcy earlier this year in a deal worth around £88 million. Now, the backing of the firm is said to have spurred Fisker to relaunch the Karma mid-way through next year.

A second version of the Karma, based on an estate, could come to market in 2016, as well as a new entry-level model in 2017, dubbed the Atlantic. Originally shown in concept form at the New York motor show in 2012, the Atlantic would be a pure-electric rival to the likes of the BMW 5-series, and would cost around £40,000, significantly less than the £80,000 Karma.

Speaking to an American newspaper, Fisker president Roger Brown said: "Wanxiang is not flashy. They bought this company, they paid cash for it, they don't put any debt on their company and they execute".

However, the new Karma may not be launched under the Fisker title as Brown is unsure whether the company can keep its previous name, but noted that "the cars are the rock stars".

As part of its re-development, Fisker will need to establish a new headquarters before deciding whether the new Karma can be made at its current Delaware plant, as well as establish the 200-strong workforce needed to ensure completion of the new Karma. 

Other changes at Fisker include the appointment of a new boss: "We're looking for a (permanent) CEO in the next 90 days," said Brown. "We are currently looking at a lot of the prior employees. We have a databae of people that have reached out to Fisker over the years looking for employmen. We've been flooded with people that want to come back."

The original Fisker Karma was powered by a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, combining a 256bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine generator with two electric motors. Combined power was placed at 397bhp alongside 959lb ft of torque. The car had an electric-only range of around 50 miles, increased to 300 miles when using the range-extender engine. It could reach 60mph in 6.3 seconds, with a limited top speed of 125mph.

New Mazda 2 spotted ahead of 2015 launch
New Mazda 2 spotted ahead of 2015 launch Mazda's next global car to get Hazumi concept-inspired styling and a frugal range of engines with sub-90g/km CO2 emissions on some models

The next-generation Mazda 2 will stay true to the well-received Hazumi concept car, judging by these first spy pictures.

When revealed at the Geneva show last month, the Hazumi was claimed to show every part of the production 2, due in early 2015, apart from its headlights, wheels, wing mirrors and door handles. These spy pictures reveal the concept’s shape has been retained along with the styling that made it such a hit.  

Underpinning the new 2 is a version of the firm’s SkyActiv platform, which will make the new 2 lighter and more agile than the current model. It's smaller than the version used on the current Mazda 3, and does away with that car's multi-link rear suspension set-up in favour of a cheaper twist-beam rear axle. A new 1.5-litre turbodiesel unit with sub-90g/km CO2 emissions will feature in the engine line-up. 

Destined to become a global model for Mazda, the new 2 will be twinned with and built alongside a new Toyota Yaris in some markets. By doing so, Mazda is able to get the economies of scale it wants to acheive with a global car. European sales will be important for the new model as Mazda continues to recover to pre-crisis levels.

Additional reporting by Darren Moss

Best car deals: Citroen C4, Range Rover Evoque, Audi A1, Mazda 3
Best car deals: Citroen C4, Range Rover Evoque, Audi A1, Mazda 3 The best new car deals and new car leasing deals for this week, including offers on the Citroën C4, Range Rover Evoque, Audi A1, Mazda 3 and VW Tiguan

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

Best new car deals 

For a stylish compact MPV the Citroën C4 is likely to turn heads, and thanks to its generous equipment inside is also fairly practical. UK Car Discount is currently offering the diesel 1.6 e-HDi 115 Airdream in VTR + specification for £16,914. That's a saving of over £3800 from the list price.

Land Rover's Range Rover Evoque is our favourite compact SUV, and with good reason, its great looks are backed up with impressive driving manners. We found a 2.0-litre Si4 Dynamic model equipped with the Luxury Pack going for £44,725 on Car Cost, a saving of almost £2000 from the list price.

Best new car leasing deals

Audi's A1 is a capable and stylish premium compact hatchback, and is also a popular choice for customers wanting to lease a car. An offer we spotted from Blue Chilli Cars has the 1.6-litre TDI Sport model on a four-year contract for £190 per month. There's an initial payment of £1717, and an annual limit of 8000 miles.

We've been impressed with the latest Mazda 3, despite the firm's European market share taking a pounding during the recession. Diamond Contract Hire currently has the 1.5-litre SE model going for £206 per month on a four-year contract. That's with an initial payment of £1236 and with an annual limit of 10,000 miles.

Deal of the week

The Tiguan is one of Volkswagen's best-selling cars and a practical SUV to boot. We spotted an excellent offer from Drive the Deal, which gets you a 2.0-litre TDI Bluemotion Tech Match model, which includes part leather trim and metallic paint, for £24,645. That's a significant saving from the list price of almost £5000, or a reduction of 16.5 per cent.

Can you find a better deal? Let us know in the comments section below.

Your suggestions for Jaguar's next 'Good to be Bad' advert
Your suggestions for Jaguar's next Following a torrent of suggestions for where Jaguar should take its trio of hollywood villains next, we've picked what we think is a clear winner

Our blog yesterday on whether Jaguar's 'Good to be Bad' adverts help or hinder the brand has sparked a torrent of debate. It’s worth remembering that our original point was that the F-type coupé - which we’ve tested extensively - has much more breadth and subtlety than the billboard ads seek to imply 

However, because of the success of the associated TV spots, the whole thing soon broadened into a debate about the pros and cons of using celebrities in high-quality advertising video productions.  

To reprise: this advert was originally made for screening during TV coverage of the American Superbowl, where a 30-second slot costs millions, so no surprise that Jaguar is prepared to invest in the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong to carry its message on camera. The effect has been exactly what Jaguar must have wanted. It went viral after screening, and we're still talking about it more than two months after the Superbowl finished.

Some of you agreed with me that Jaguar’s portrayal of its own car is trite: the company doesn’t even try to portray the full extent of the car’s capabilities. But most of you agreed with my colleague Darren Moss’s assessment that the campaign plays on an ideal that especially suits Jaguar’s current purpose: that being seen as rebellious sweeps away the pipe-and-slippers image Jaguar has been fighting for years. Makes sense, even to me…

One surprising outcome of all this is how many of you have taken the trouble to suggest follow-up adverts to the original. Becoming an advertising “creative” obviously has powerful appeal to Autocar’s website visitors. Here’s a typical offering, presented by an author we sadly can’t credit, which has the budget-boosting virtue of needing the services of only one of Jaguar’s pricey trio of actors…  

Picture an English gentleman (Hiddleston), the sort of bloke men want to be and women want to be with. He's fashionable in an elegant, timeless sort of way but has a slightly dangerous, unpredictable aura. He’s in an underground car park, with three sports cars parked next to one another. He saunters past a Porsche 911, looking straight ahead, then a Mercedes SLK (with a wry look to the camera) before arriving beside an F-type coupé. He presses the key fob to unlock the car, turns to the camera and delivers the production’s only line: "Well, which would you expect me to choose?"

Could you do better? Send us your suggestions for the next "Good to be Bad" advert, and if we think they’re good we’ll write about them.

Additional reporting by Darren Moss

New entry-level Porsche Macan available in UK
New entry-level Porsche Macan revealed in Beijing Beijing reveal for new four-cylinder petrol-powered Porsche Macan, and it's available by special order in the UK

Porsche has provided official details on its new entry-level four-cylinder petrol-powered version of the Macan, which will be available in the UK on special order.

The new Macan, seen at the Beijing motor show, runs parent company Volkswagen’s EA888 engine – as used by a wide range of models from Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat, making it the first Porsche model since the 968 to use four-cylinder power. 

The turbocharged 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder direct injection unit, boasting the same state of tune found on the VW Golf GTI Performance Package, develops 234bhp and 258lb ft of torque between 1500-4500rpm. Porsche claims the new model will return 37.6mpg on a combined cycle.

By comparison, the turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 powered Macan S possesses 335bhp and 339lb ft.

For Asian markets, the Macan’s four-cylinder engine is mated to a standard seven-speed PDK dual clutch gearbox boasting remote steering wheel shift paddles.

Porsche claims an official 0-62mph time for the Macan of 6.9sec, an in-gear 50-75mph split of 5.1sec and a 139mph top speed. The Macan is visually distinguished by standard 18-inch wheels and twin trapezoidal-shaped tail pipes.   

The entry-level Macan is available to order now at a price of £40,276, with only low volumes destined for the UK.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Additional reporting by Darren Moss

Unsettling times ahead for the Formula One calendar
Unsettling times for Formula 1 The gruelling demands of the early-season Formula 1 calendar are beginning to catch up with our roving grand prix reporter

I had a dream a few nights ago. I dreamt that I was walking through a square in Mayfair and suddenly remembered that I had left a Honda test car at that very location at some indeterminate point of time in the last few weeks.

I even knew where to look, but the parking space was empty (it was a dream, after all). I woke up in a state of mild panic. I must do something about it, I thought, Honda will be upset. I had better call them. I reached for my mobile phone. It was not there.

As reality kicked in, I remembered that when I got back home from China after the most recent grand prix, I did not have my mobile phone with me, which is another story entirely but one also related to the fug of confusion prompted by F1-induced jet lag.

I stopped to think about it and realised that, as I live in Paris – and have done for more than 10 years – it was rather unlikely that I had ever had a Honda test car in Mayfair. Added to which I had not been in London since February, which seems a very long time ago now.

The reason I relate this bizarre tale is to give you an insight into the state of mind of the average Formula 1 reporter at the moment. We are all over the place, literally and metaphorically.

In the last six weeks we have been to races in Australia, Malaysia, Bahrain and China. Those with commitments have been home between races when it was possible and so I have covered 56,018 miles (90,123 kilometres) of flying (not allowing for the times when we were stacked up over Dubai) and been in and out of more time zones that I can even consider calculating.

Bernie Ecclestone, the 83-year-old who is responsible for the scheduling of the races (and does not go to all of them) is going to court later this week in Munich to face charges of bribing a public official – and, consequently, to discover whether he will remain in charge of Formula 1 in the years ahead.

Given the F1 schedule in recent weeks, I tend to think that he deserves some jail time for 'crimes' against F1 team personnel, but I cannot help but wonder what will happen if he is removed. Bernie has his faults but he has been the man who has built the sport, with an iron fist, for the last 30-odd years.

F1 is screeching into a major intersection – you can hear the brakes this year – and we are all wondering what will happen next. All empires fail if there is not the right leadership to drive them onwards.

By the way, if you are from Honda UK and you did loan a test car to this particular Formula 1 reporter a while ago, and are wondering what may have happened to it, may I humbly suggest that you try ringing TRACE, London’s towed vehicle tracking service, on 0845 206 8602 – as they will know more about the car than I do.

Quick news: One-off Ferrari F12; New Ford boss; PSA sells HybridAir tech
Quick news: One-off Ferrari F12; New Ford boss imminent; PSA sells HybridAir tec Ferrari's Special Projects division creates one-off F12, Mark Fields favourite to take over from Mulally, Peugeot selling innovative compressed air tech, GM invests in battery factory

Ferrari's Special Projects division has reportedly created a new one-off Targa version of the F12 Berlinetta. Although still disguised, the model has been modified with three new bonnet vents and a restyled front bumper. Reports suggest the car could be named SP America.

The announcement of Ford COO Mark Fields as the successor to current boss Alan Mulally is understood to be imminent. Mulally is expected to retire from his post at the end of this year, having headed Ford since 2006.

Peugeot is trying to sell its HybridAir technology to competitors. Company boss Maxime Picat said the firm needs "at least 500,000" units to be sold every year in order to make the system viable. The move means other car makers outside of PSA could adopt the technology.

General Motors is to invest £267 million across two of its facilities responsible for producing its battery-powered vehicles. Of that sum, £228 million will go to its Detroit assembly plant and £38m to its battery plant. The facilities currently manufacture the Chevrolet Volt, Vauxhall Ampera and Cadillac ELR. This investment suggests GM is readying replacements for those models.

Additional reporting by Mike Vousden

Audi plans hot new RS3 hatch for Paris motor show
Audi plans hot RS3 hatch for Paris motor show Year-end debut for hot new Audi RS3, which sits on lightweight MQB platform and gets new engine upgrades to outrun Mercedes and BMW rivals

This is our first look at Audi's new RS3, which has been spotted testing ahead of an expected year-end launch. 

Based on the five-door A3 Sportback, Audi has previously confirmed the new RS3 would get more power than the previous model, which ran the same 2.5-litre forced-induction engine as the TT RS. That engine had 335bhp available, a figure which Audi claimed was unmatched in the hot hatchback market at the time. 

This new model is likely to run the same powertrain, although with modifications to improve its output to somewhere near the TT RS Plus' 355bhp. An engine upgrade should allow the new RS3 to improve on the previous car's 0-62mph time of 4.6sec, something also helped by this car sitting on Volkswagen Group's lightweight MQB platform. A fifth-generation Haldex four-wheel drive system should also be fitted, alongside Audi's S-tronic transmission.

This test mule sports traditional RS bodywork, including a more aggressive front bumper with larger air intakes, new alloy wheels with larger performance brakes and RS oval-tipped twin tailpipes at the rear.

A new saloon version of the RS3 will also follow soon after the launch of the hatchback. The new RS3 will take on rivals including the Mercedes A45 AMG and the long-rumoured BMW M2.

Although Audi wouldn't confirm the timescale for launching the new RS3, a debut at the Paris motor show in October appears likely with sales starting towards the end of this year.

Additional reporting by Greg Kable.

Mercedes plans C450 AMG Sport for 2015
Mercedes plans C450 AMG Sport for 2015 New performance-orientated C-class to join range next year, with twin-turbo V6 engine and 367bhp

Mercedes-Benz is planning to extend its new C-class line-up with a performance-orientated C450 AMG Sport.

Planned for introduction in 2015, the new model has been conceived to bridge the gap between the C400 and upcoming C63 AMG. Power hails from a tuned version of Mercedes' M276 petrol engine.

The twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 unit has been revised with added boost pressure and other detail changes, taking its output from a standard 333bhp to 367bhp, according to well placed Mercedes-Benz sources.

Although not an official AMG model, the C450 AMG Sport has been developed with input from Mercedes-Benz’s performance car division and, unlike the rear-wheel-drive C63 AMG, is set to be old in both rear-wheel-drive and optional 4Matic four-wheel-drive guises. 

Land Rover launches LWB Range Rover Hybrid in Beijing
Land Rover launches LWB Range Rover Hybrid in Beijing China's first ever diesel-electric hybrid goes on sale in May in LWB form, with 186mm of extra interior space and CO2 emissions of 169g/km

A long-wheelbase version of the Range Rover Hybrid has made its debut at the Beijing motor show.

Land Rover says the model, which is the first diesel-electric hybrid to go on sale in China, offers "an unprecedented combination of premium luxury, interior space and exceptional fuel and emissions performance".

Power for the Range Rover Hybrid comes from the firm's 3.0-litre SDV6 engine combined with an electric motor, which adds 47bhp and 125lb ft of torque to create overall outputs of 345bhp and 516lb ft. Land Rover says the model is capable of returning 44.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of 169g/km.

Coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission, drivers can select from different driving modes to maximise efficiency or performance. The model can travel in electric-only mode at speeds of up to 30mph for one mile.

This long-wheelbase version comes with an extra 186mm of room inside, something Land Rover expects to go down well with customers in China.

The LWB version will be sold alongside the regular Range Rover Hybrid in China from May. The country is one of JLR's key markets, and the firm says it expects premium hybrid models to sell well in the region. 

Read more Beijing motor show news.

How Peugeot's Exalt will take on the luxury world
How Peugeot's Exalt will take on the luxury world The five-door Exalt concept made big waves at its world debut in Beijing this week; here's how it went from drawing board to reality

Hands whirling out before her, eyes fixed on mine, words quickening, Sophie Gazeau, colour and materials stylist for the Peugeot Exalt concept that you see above, is hitting her stride.

"There is more than one way to do luxury. A top-end leather handbag that has aged is more highly prized than one that has come straight out of the shop. Wooden furniture that has marked through use is said to have character. We hear a lot about authenticity, but what is authentic about a piece of wood that has 1000 layers of lacquer on it, or real leather that is treated so much that it looks like plastic no matter for how many years you use it?"

Her passion runs deep, but so would yours if you’d battled through intense internal design competitions to earn the right to lead the direction of one of Peugeot’s most important concept cars in recent years.

The Exalt is more than an alternative take on the five-door luxury car. It is both a symbol of the rebirth of the brand and a steer on what the firm sees as a gilt-edged opportunity to establish itself in the lucrative luxury car market. And don’t snigger at that last statement; the fact that it’s on display at the Beijing motor show is no coincidence, because Peugeot is well established in China, and Asian car buyers are notoriously ready to embrace new ideas.

That Peugeot bosses sense opportunity should be no surprise. The company entered the Chinese car market as early as 1985, and although that joint venture faltered, a second initiative kicked off in 1992 with Dongfeng, now China’s second-largest car maker and, in a twist of fate, a major shareholder in PSA Peugeot-Citroën following its recent financial struggles.

The benefits of a strident premium brand have already been reaped via Citroën’s DS arm, which is enjoying stratospheric success among Chinese buyers. Now Peugeot wants in on the sales act and, most important, the profit margins that follow. Brilliantly – beautifully – it also has the confidence to realise that it must achieve its goal by offering an alternative to what’s already out there.

Nominally, this 4.7m-long saloon-cum-hatch, with its unusually low roofline of just 1.31m, is meant to grab your attention for far more than its innovative looks. A plug-in hybrid, it has the same 1.6 THP engine that powers the RCZ R, but the four-cylinder petrol engine’s 266bhp is supplemented by a 67bhp electric motor mounted on the multi-link rear axle.

It is also built on a version of the EMP2 platform that underpins the next generation of PSA vehicles, including the Car of the Year winner, the Peugeot 308. All good stories, you would think. But if I tell you that in almost four hours with the car and a succession of interviews with five of its creators, not one of them mentions either its powertrain or platform, you’ll start to get a sense of the priorities.

"We spent 18 months creating this concept, at least six months longer than usual for a concept car," says Gilles Vidal, Peugeot’s style director. "The body shape and proportions are especially complex, and we needed to pitch the balance of the styling just right. This is a car with a story to tell."

To ensure that the Exalt achieved his goals, Vidal pitched 10 exterior design teams against each other to meet his brief, and four interior teams also did battle. Internal competitions to lead design projects are not unusual in car companies – but to pitch quite so many people head to head is.

“The Onyx supercar concept was our guiding force,” says Vidal. “That set the design philosophy, and especially the principle of having an emotional relationship with a car that sets it apart, led by the use of materials. At this end of the market, you are not buying the car because you have to. You are buying it because you want to.

"The Exalt is very distinguishable as a modern Peugeot – look down the side and there are just three lines, as is our DNA – but we also sought to pick up on details that would make the design unique. We have the heritage to build this sort of car with total authenticity. The echoes of the 504 coupé are no accident. We’ve shown that we can do simple lines with depth and animation successfully before.”

From its panel-beaten body, evoking the spirit of 1920s car making, through to the so-called shark skin material that adorns the rear end, cleverly improving its aerodynamic efficiency to allow it to cut through the air, the Exalt wilfully blends contrasts with the goal of redefining luxury for the modern age.

Classic, elegant piano-key-inspired switchgear offsets a digital control panel that rises from the centre console, for instance. Simple, elegant fabrics, carefully created to avoid all but the smallest amount of visible stitching, sit alongside ornate, hand-crafted (and in places knotted and cracked) wood that fills much of the interior, peaking with the striking carved lion and bamboo piece set in the front passenger door, from where it is most visible to the driver. And note how driver orientated this car is.

China’s luxury car market has long been dominated by sales to buyers obsessed with rear legroom but, says Gazeau, that is changing. "Today, China is about conspicuous wealth and travelling in the rear of the car, but we are challenging that," she says. "We wanted a car that would inspire its owner to drive and enjoy it, that offered touch points that were ultra high-tech, but others that were a link to their homeland and history, that would stir their soul."

Vidal is in no doubt that the Onyx and Exalt form part of a journey for Peugeot. After all, a mass-market brand can’t just hope to redefine 
the luxury car sector overnight. But a foothold in China and a changing landscape among post-recession car buyers elsewhere might just provide the opportunity that Peugeot is looking for, both to break free of established conventions and to boost its battered profit lines. And if it can achieve that, who’s to argue that the automotive landscape won’t be richer for it?

We also know the Exalt could spawn a China-only production car soon, so Peugeot's vision of the future could become a reality after all.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Ford launches higher-specification Fiesta ST
Ford launches higher-specification ST New Fiesta ST3 crowns hot hatch range, with new equipment but same performance as the current car

Ford has introduced a new version of the Fiesta ST hot hatchback with a higher-specification level. 

Priced at £19,250, the new flagship Fiesta ST3 gets DAB and sat-nav as standard, keyless entry, cruise control, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dim rear-view mirror, power-fold door mirrors and automatic climate control. Rear parking sensors are also available as a £250 option.

The ST range starts at £17,250, with the current ST2 priced at £18,250. Ford says that, in total, there is around £1400 of extra equipment fitted to the new car.

Ford says the ST2 accounts for 90 per cent of Fiesta ST sales and there is demand for a higher-spec version. The ST3 has the same 180bhp 1.6 turbo engine and performance as 
the ST and ST2, and can reach 62mph in 6.9 seconds with a top speed of 139mph. CO2 emissions are rated at 138g/km, while economy sits at 47.9mpg.

A choice of five exterior colours will be available, mated to two interior colour schemes.

Ford says it has sold 6250 Fiesta STs since the new model was launched a year ago, around 20 per cent more than originally forecast.

Additional reporting by Darren Moss

Peugeot 308 e-THP 130 first drive review
Peugeot 308 e-THP 130 first drive review New three-cylinder petrol performs well in the 308, adding extra appeal to this stylish and upmarket family hatch The Peugeot 308, equipped with one of the French firm's new 'PureTech' petrol engines, a range of three-cylinder turbocharged and naturally aspirated powerplants. They'll eventually appear in models like the 108, 208 and 2008 crossover, but for now are confined to the 308 and its SW estate sibling.Peugeot says its PureTech 1.2-litre engine can give you all the power of a 1.6, handy since it'll go on to replace the current 1.6-litre THP unit in Peugeot's range. It's tested here in e-THP 130 form, meaning there's 129bhp on offer, alongside 170lb ft of torque. The real headline figures here though come with the car's fuel efficiency, with Peugeot tempting buyers with claims of 58.9mpg on a combined cycle and CO2 emissions of just 110g/km. All the while, the 308 must also live up to its Car of the Year credentials in offering a premium and stylish driving experience.

Is it really good to be bad? Or is it just bad for Jaguar?
Is it really good to be bad? Or is it just bad? Jaguar's new advert for the F-type coupé is dividing opinions in the Autocar office, with some saying it makes the brand appear cool and others finding it puerile

Here’s an important question: do you think Jaguar’s ‘Good to be Bad’ ads work for the F-type coupé? The billboards of west London are currently poulticed with them, and I’m afraid I’m finding them distinctly puerile. 

Having recently driven various editions of the F-type coupé, I now know it to be an intelligent car, a beautiful car, a subtle car, a car capable of being appreciated at all speeds on all roads by a wide cross-section of drivers. To portray it as some kind of manhood extension strikes me as trite in the extreme.

I guess you’ve got to expect the ‘creatives’ who produce such guff not to understand Jaguar’s tradition for grace with its pace; they’ll be doing mousetraps or Persil tomorrow. The surprise for me is that these ads were signed off by Jaguar’s bosses. I’d have backed them to show more respect for their customers’ intelligence.

There is, I have to admit, a strong contrary opinion to these sentiments in our office. Some people, responding mostly to the star-studded TV movie ad, reckon the campaign portrays Jaguar as deeply cool, which if it becomes a general reaction is a fantastic turn of events for a range of cars that was, until recently, seen as rather “retired bank manager”.

Yet I reckon my point stands. As some will know, I recently sold a fairly pricey car with a view to buying another. In my dreams, the new machine was to be a low-spec F-type: I did genuinely consider making the commitment although in the end the financial stuff just didn’t work.

I’d decided not to proceed well before my eye fell on those banners, although the desire to own an F-type lingers. And I can tell you, it’s not at all enhanced by this ad campaign, which I believe tries to persuade you there’s less to this fine car than meets the eye.

Watch the advert below:

Audi R8 e-tron
Audi R8 e-tron We test the prototype all-electric Audi R8 that's capable of 0-62mph in 4.2sec, with an optimum range of 124 miles and a charging time of less than one hour A lot has changed since we last tested Audi’s all-electric sports car, the e-tron.Back in 2010 it was a four-wheel-drive, four-motor prototype that was destined for 1000-car per year production. It was set to receive distinct styling, its own spaceframe, a unique interior, a 1600kg kerb weight and due to be sold at “above R8” prices.Now it’s a two-motor, rear-wheel-drive, 1780kg coupé prototype that’s based on the facelifted R8. Audi has developed and built 10 cars to a production standard, each valued at over £850,000, in a short space of time to demonstrate the technology and continue trials.Opting for a rear-drive layout, instead of the quattro system found in normal R8s, may seem a somewhat counterintuitive move. Audi says, however, that the e-tron's rear-drive layout offers adequate traction, negating the need for four-wheel drive, and a more engaging driving experience. There would also be considerable packaging, weight and technical challenges to overcome using a quattro configuration.The R8’s high-performance electric motors draw current from a 48.6kWh lithium-ion battery, the bulk of which sits behind the driver. Combined, the motors deliver 375.5bhp and 604.8lb ft. This allows the R8 e-tron to dispatch the 0-62mph sprint in 4.2sec and reach a limited top speed of 124.27mph. Derestricted it could reach over 155mph, at the cost of efficiency.It’s not just the powertrain that’s different. The e-tron makes extensive use of carbonfibre, in order to bring its weight down to reasonable levels, and there are myriad cosmetic and technical changes. The braking system has undergone major revisions, while the motors allow for regenerative braking and an advanced form of torque vectoring.One thing’s for sure: this is not a dull car. Press the start button and a bassy synthetic thrum fills the cabin. Select ‘D’ with the stubby gear lever, release the electronic handbrake and the R8 glides away.Inside it's much like a conventional R8, barring instrumentation that shows power usage, levels and distribution. Snug bucket seats, which adjust only fore and aft, replace the standard items. The e-tron's steering wheel adjusts for rise and reach, however, so finding a comfortable driving position isn't too difficult.What's most notable is the absence of a rear-view mirror. The tall battery pack obscures your view, so Audi has blanked off the rear glass and installed a 6.8-inch AMOLED display and rear-view camera. It feels slightly unnatural at first but you quickly acclimatise to it.Squeeze the e-tron's throttle and, instantaneously, the electric motors spool and propel it forwards at a seemingly relentless rate. The throttle has a natural-feeling and linear response, impressive for an electric vehicle, while the braking system delivers barely perceptible transitions between regenerative and physical braking; there’s a phenomenal amount of stopping power on offer and engine braking can be simulated using the adjustable regeneration controls via the wheel-mounted paddles.There’s a satisfying amount of feedback from the steering, assisted by being able to more easily hear what the tyres are doing, and the R8 corners in a flat fashion. Remarkably, it conceals its bulk well – 577kg of which is the battery – and never feels unwieldy or liable to break away unexpectedly. The ride quality is firm, predictably, but comfortable.Audi’s torque vectoring system makes itself apparent in tighter, faster corners. As you perceive the car’s front end to be reaching the limit of adhesion, you’ll find that the nose tucks in hard and continues to travel in the desired direction. It’s a peculiar sensation but one that’s particularly gratifying, as you can feel the rear wheels being individually braked and accelerated to help maintain the desired line.Because the artificially generated sound rises in pitch and volume with the road speed, and because the throttle operates in an intuitive fashion, it's easy to judge your control inputs. Making swift progress in the R8 e-tron feels delightfully natural as a result, and you very quickly forget that it's lacking an internal combustion engine.As you’d expect, there’s plenty of grip and traction on offer but, with adjustable drive modes and stability control, the e-tron is more than happy to step its tail sideways. It’s thoroughly good fun yet it feels safe, controllable and quick – all while making its own unique noise. As with many high-performance Audis, it’s also effortlessly capable of flattering your own driving.Equally satisfying is the depth of engineering in the R8 e-tron. Take, for example, the flaps in the apertures of the wheels. At speeds over 31mph they are forced closed, reducing the e-tron’s coefficient of drag by 0.02Cd. Drop below that speed and they open again, allowing more air to flow over the carbon-ceramic disc brakes.The true benefit to the Audi R8 e-tron's acceleration and range capabilities is marginal at best, but it demonstrates the lengths that Audi is willing to go to in order to eke every ounce of performance and efficiency out of a car.Despite having a claimed optimum range of 133.6 miles, and an acceptable charging time of less than one hour from a dedicated point, Audi was initially not happy with the limitations of the prototype that were enforced by its batteries.It was an understandable concern. Driven at speed, Audi’s engineers said that the R8 e-tron prototype would deplete its battery in approximately 30 miles. Regardless of how good the car might be, it was a stumbling point that would put off many a customer – and it was one of the primary reasons Audi originally decided against selling the R8 e-tron.Since the original test of the prototype, however, developments in battery technology have more than doubled the R8 e-tron prototype's range to 279 miles. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi's board member for technical development, stated that progress in battery technology and a more space-efficient packaging for the batteries had resulted in the improvements.No launch date for a production version has been announced yet – the car would most likely be built to order if it were to reach series production status – but Audi will continue to use it as a development test bed.So, regardless of how much you might want one, you won't be able to lay your hands on an R8 e-tron for the duration. Nevertheless, it's a phenomenal piece of engineering, finished to an incredible standard, that shows what's possible using electric power.If you want an electric car with supercar-threatening performance right now, then you could consider the Mercedes-Benz SLS Electric Drive. It costs approximately £302,000 plus taxes in left-hand drive markets and is claimed to sprint from 0-62mph in 3.9sec, before reaching a limited top speed of 155mph. Driven normally, it should prove capable of covering 155 miles on a single charge.

Morgan celebrates 100 years of manufacturing with Plus 8 Speedster
Morgan celebrates 100 years with Plus 8 Speedster Limited-edition Morgan gets new styling and better acceleration; goes on sale in June priced from £69,995

Morgan is celebrating 100 years of manufacturing at its factory in Pickersleigh Road, Malvern with a special edition of the Plus 8 sports car.

Dubbed the Speedster, the limited-edition model makes several changes to the traditional Plus 8 design. The car's twin exhausts have moved from the back to the side, similar to Morgan's Aero line of high-performance models. New retro-inspired alloy wheels, a thinner windscreen and roll-over hoops have also been fitted.

The Plus 8 Speedster will go on sale in June at a price of £69,995. A range of options will be available for owners to personalise their cars. 

Power comes from the familiar 4.8-litre V8 engine sourced from BMW, with 367bhp and 370lb ft, but in the more focused Speedster the 0-62mph time is reduced by 0.3sec to 4.2sec. The top speed is 148mph. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or a ZF-sourced six-speed automatic.

Though likely to remain the eccentric choice in a very competitive category, Morgan insists that the Plus 8 Speedster has a power-to-weight ratio to rival any of its competitors. Equally, Morgan claims that the development that has gone into the Plus 8 Speedster’s aluminium chassis will give it better handling to match its looks.

Mike Vousden

Next Vauxhall Corsa prepares for year-end launch
Next Vauxhall Corsa prepares for year-end launch New Corsa to launch at Paris motor show and go on sale early next year, features Adam-like styling and premium interior upgrades

The new Vauxhall Corsa has been spotted here testing for the first time ahead of an expected debut at the Paris motor show in October. It will likely go on sale early next year.

Based on a heavily revised version of the current car's platform, the new Corsa takes on similar looks to the current Vauxhall Adam, including that car's more prominent front grille and larger company logo. A new lower air intake can also be seen at the front alongside revised headlight clusters and an overall softer shape than the current car.

At the rear, a smaller screen sits alongside a new boot aperture and newly designed tail-light clusters. 

Vauxhall is expected to considerably lift the interior of the current car to make it more premium. That means a leap both in terms of fit and finish but also in terms of the materials used and the technology on offer. A larger central infotainment screen than offered on today's car is likely.

Engines powering the new model are likely to include a range of turbocharged petrol options between 1.0 and 1.4-litres in capacity. They'll sit alongside a frugal 1.6-litre diesel.

The firm's design director Mark Adams has already spoken about the importance of the new Corsa. He says the model will make Vauxhall competitive again, and will take the car to "a different level". In an interview late last year Adams said: "In the UK the Corsa has been consistently first or second on the sales lists, we're confident the new car will take it to the next level." He also noted the new car would have better perceived quality, as well as a sophisticated feel.

The Corsa will become the first of two major new product launches for Vauxhall in the coming months. We've recently spotted the first new Astra prototypes testing, with that model due to reach showrooms before the end of next year.

Rumours also continue to circulate regarding Vaxhall's new budget model, which is based on the next-generation Chevrolet Spark and will aim to take on the Dacia Sandero when it goes on sale as early as next year. Sources suggest that model could be priced from as little as £6000, and could be the first in a trio of new models smaller than the Corsa.

Autocar magazine preview 23 April
Autocar magazine preview 23 April Volkswagen Golf R400 revealed; Beijing motor show report; Mitsubishi Evo goodbye; Vauxhall Corsa VXR Clubsport driven; BMW M235i tested; Ford Escort RS Turbo buying guide

Storming onto this week's cover is Volkswagen's Golf R400 concept, which promises to deliver supercar-like performance in a hatchback package.

With 395bhp on tap it's taking direct aim at the likes of the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG and the upcoming second-gen Audi RS3, and initial reports suggest that it might make it into production.

Our news section features the latest on the next Mazda MX-5 and all the latest from the Beijing motor show – including Land Rover's latest Discovery concept and future plans, the new Audi TT offroad concept, and the first model from Citroën's standalone Chinese 'DS' sub-brand.

An eclectic range of cars are on test this week, from the efficient and compact Volkswagen Polo to the rorty yet practical Volvo V60 Polestar, while the hot BMW M235i is the focus of the comprehensive eight-page road test.

We also wave goodbye to the Mercedes SLS, testing the 'Final Edition', and the Mitsubishi Evo – which Matt Prior sends off in style by testing the highly regarded Mitsubishi Evo VI Makinen Edition.

Long-term updates this week include the departure of the long-running Mazda 6 from the Autocar fleet, while this week's used buying guide features on the oh-so-Eighties Ford Escort RS Turbo.

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.

Best of Beijing: Weird and wonderful cars
Best of Beijing: Weird and wonderful cars The main focus of the 2014 Beijing motor show may have been on production cars, but there were still plenty of concepts and highly modified vehicles to keep an eye on. Here's our round-up of the best of the rest

The 2014 Beijing motor show proved Chinese manufacturers are ready to compete on the world stage with Western brands. While most cars on display at the show preview production cars, some were simply concepts or showed off what Chinese tuners can do. 

Here are our favourite weird and wonderful cars from the show. Let us know yours in the comments section below.

Chery Concept Beta 

This is Jaguar Land Rover's Chinese partner, and Chery's Concept Beta is a radical-looking five-door SUV concept intended to preview a new SUV to be launched in 2016. Distinguishing features include large 22-inch alloy wheels, shielded wheel arches, a short wheelbase, large lights and a prominent grille.

Brilliance V5

Revisions for the V5 are intended to retain buyers' interest for the next few years. Power for the £10,500 SUV comes from a 136bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine or a 120bhp 1.6-litre naturally aspirated unit.

Hawtai Shengdafei

The impressively named Shengdafei is Hawtai's new moniker for its A25. Although a concept, local media says that a production version should be ready soon, with a choice of engines including a 2.0-litre diesel destined primarily for export markets.

Hongqi L5

The L5 is the civilian version of the favoured government staff car. Production versions for public sale will be virtually identical, but will do without the flagpoles. Prices are expected to be the equivalent of around £300,000.

BAIC BJ100

The BJ100 concept previews a big production SUV. Little has been revealed about the concept or the production version that'll arrive later, but BAIC says it will feature a hybrid powertrain without giving any more specifics away.

Peugeot Exalt

The impressive-looking Exalt could yet see the light of day as a Chinese-market saloon car. Its styling follows on from the Onyx concept and features wool-based fabric, leather, bare steel and ebony.

Chery Concept Alpha

Chery’s Concept Alpha has been conceived in the same vein as the VW CC and previews the Arizzo 5 saloon and compared to its Chinese contemporaries, has relatively restrained styling. Power will come from either a 1.5-litre atmospheric or 1.2-litre turbo.

CH Auto Event 

The strangely named Event is CH's latest attempt at an all-electric sports car. Here, 400bhp and 479lb ft is claimed to afford a top speed limited to 124 and a 0-63mph of five seconds. CH bosses say it'll cover up to 124mph between recharges, a process that takes some six hours.

Baojun 730

The Baojun 730 is understood to be aimed at the lower end of the market where local car makers still dominate. The 730 will be priced from around £6,600 and has space for seven passengers.

JAC SC-9

The SC-9 boasts a range of concept car features, including a “gesture motion interaction system”, and is understood to showcase a number of features that'll feature on a forthcoming production model.

Dongfeng E30L EV

Another small electric vehicle at the Beijing show was the Dongfeng E30L EV. This, like the E20, is tiny at just 2,995mm long, which should make it feel at home on China’s cramped roads. The electric motor makes 21.5bhp, tops out at 49.7 mph and has a range of 160km.

Lifan 320 

The predecessor to this car was infamous as being a Chinese facsimile of the Mini hatchback. The updated 320 still shares a handful of visual cues from the British icon but has moved a little further away with a more aggressive front end and more sculpted rear. No word on power yet, but it could carry over the previous models 88bhp 1.3-litre petrol engine with manual or CVT transmissions.

Zotye E20 EV

This tiny city car is one of a new group of Chinese-built electric vehicles on display at Beijing. At just 2765mm long and priced around £9500 the vehicle could be China’s answer to its congested and polluted streets. Power comes from a 12bhp electric motor with 60.5lb ft of torque and the E20 can go 165 miles on a charge.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Additional reporting by Mike Vousden

MQB is Volkswagen's key to success in China
MQB is Volkswagen's key to success in China A tour of the VW Group's secretive production plant in Ningbo, China, reveals how the German firm's modular MQB platform will speed up manufacturing

You’ve been hearing an awful lot about VW’s new MQB platform – which underpins the new Golf and the latest Skoda Octavia among others – over the last couple of years. 

From the car buyer’s point of view, it is notably light and strong. And, ultimately, it means that there will be more model variants offered by the VW Group’s various brands.

In truth, though, MQB is more of a manufacturing marvel, which will allow VW to build more cars more quickly and more accurately using as few unique parts as possible. Moreover, VW will be using the same MQB factories all over the world. 

You could argue that MQB is one of the most industrially ambitious projects ever attempted by a car maker. But there again, it’s ambition lies in its inherent simplicity: using the same basic building blocks – from the basic structural architecture to the infotainment systems – to build cars locally for all the global markets.

Fresh from the Beijing motor show, I’ve just been to see a brand new MQB plant in Ningbo, Zhejiang. It was a two-hour flight from Beijing and another 90 minutes on a bus before we got to the new 300,000-vehicle capacity plant, which only started production last October. The reason for its remoteness became apparent later.

Run by Shanghai-Volkswagen (one of the two VW joint-venture companies in China: the other is FAW-VW), the Ningbo plant is currently producing the new Octavia and the Superb

The Superb is built on a variation of the old Golf Mk5 platform, so is not an MQB-based model. But within a couple of years, the VW Group should be close to building nearly all its VW, Skoda and Seat models on the MQB platform. (Only price-competitive models such as the next-generation Skoda Fabia will differ). When that happens, the full advantages of the MQB production system will really kick-in.

Such was the security at the plant, we were only allowed to take pictures at the entrance before having all photographic equipment confiscated and signing a fearsome non-disclosure agreement on pain of fines. We jumped aboard eight-seat electric golf carts to be quickly run through the pressing plant, component stores and finally the assembly line.

The reason for the secrecy and brevity of the tour was quite simply security. In the hyper-competitive world of Chinese car-making VW doesn’t want any local manufacturers to get clues about its cutting-edge technology. That also might explain the remoteness of the factory site. At the Beijing show, for example, Skoda’s new Chinese-market long wheelbase Yeti was locked up. I was quietly told it was to stop “local” car makers from taking “spy shots of the interior”.

One thing I did glean from visiting Ningbo was the sheer speed of producing body pressings. Watching what appeared to be an Octavia’s inner tailgate pressing being transferred by robots from one stamping action to the next was eye opening. The physical gap between one pressing being lifted out of a tool and one brought in seemed to be just millimetres.

The body pressing and panels and other components are stored so there are enough parts for four days of production, plus a day’s production back up. Components for building up the painted body are delivered to the assembly line by robotic containers, which can make their own way to the lineside, eliminating the need for forklift trucks.

Clearly, in around 18 months’ time, when the Superb is replaced by an MQB-based car, Ningbo will have the potential to not just reduce the build time of a car but also be able to react much more quickly to customer demand for individual models. 

With so much commonality between, say, an Octavia and Mk3 Superb, the main tool changes – which slow the speed of production – will be for stamping the exterior panels. A huge amount of the understructure and underskin components will be the same. And that applies across VW’s brands as its does across individual models.

Multiply this across 50 or more factories across the globe and you can see the potential for VW. No wonder the company is so bullish about boosting its profit margins over the rest of the decade.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

2014 Volkswagen Polo first drive review
2014 Volkswagen Polo first drive review Clever tech makes the Polo more economical, cleaner and safer, while new engines offer greater refinement but no more driving involvement The facelifted Volkswagen Polo, although as far as updates go the Polo's appears to be a very gentle update of a car that sold more than 42,600 units in the UK in 2013, second only to the Golf. Why mess with a good thing at all, then? Well, VW may not have bothered the styling department too much other than for LED headlights and new bumpers, but the engineering shop has been busy under the skin.VW proudly claims that all of the Polo’s engines now comply with Euro 6 emissions regs and it has culled the old 1.4-litre petrol. In its place at launch are two 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrols and two 1.2 TSI turbocharged engines. Two 1.4-litre turbodiesels, in 74bhp and 89bhp forms, are also on offer.There will also be a 1.4-litre TSI turbo petrol that features VW’s ACT cylinder deactivation when the new Polo touches down in showrooms in July. This motor will only be offered in the BlueGT warm hatch model, with six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG transmissions. The manual version is rated at 58.9mpg and 109g/km, and the DSG model at 60.1mpg and 107g/km.If those emissions don’t seem so impressive for a contemporary supermini, VW has an answer in the shape of two BlueMotion Polos, one with a 74bhp 1.4 turbodiesel and the other with a 94bhp 1.0-litre petrol. The diesel returns 91.1mpg and 82g/km, while the petrol offers 68.9mpg and 94g/km, but we’ll have to wait until later in the year for these models to arrive.Regardless of these economy-minded models, VW says that the best-seller in the new Polo line-up will be the entry-level 59bhp 1.0-litre engine. Put this engine in a five-door body in SE trim and you have the Polo that will sell in the biggest numbers, at a price of £13,065.On paper, the figures for the 59bhp 1.0 MPI don’t bode well, with 0-62mph taking a somnolent 15.5sec and the top speed just scraping to 100mph. A slug of 70lb ft of torque spread between 3000rpm and 4300rpm counters this to some extent and the triple is happy to be worked hard in this rev band.

Plans in motion for all-new TVR
Plans in motion for all-new TVR New TVR model will be ready in two or three years' time, and will signal a rebirth of the British sports car brand

The reborn TVR is about to open an R&D centre in the south of England as a prelude to launching a new model in two to three years’ time. 

The sports car company has been revived by a consortium of British car lovers, brought together by computer game millionaire Les Edgar, who last year bought TVR’s rights and assets from former Russian owner Nikolai Smolenski. Edgar’s group spent months negotiating and then establishing its supremacy over rival UK claimants.

Edgar said the main task since has been to line up the engineers, designers and suppliers needed to build “modest quantities” of cars in the UK. British manufacture is vital to the car’s appeal, the partners believe.

“We have detailed concept designs,” said Edgar. “We will soon be ready to commission a static prototype. We’re not yet ready to say what kind of chassis the car will have, although having investigated every likely form, from the tubular backbone chassis to a full carbonfibre tub, we’re close to making a decision.”

No final decision has been made about a base powertrain. Edgar said it is likely to be an outsourced engine but insists it will be configured to be a typical TVR powerplant in terms of sound and throttle response. A comeback for the Speed Six is possible, although not immediately.

For now, the company is working on one model. One pressing job, Edgar said, is to compile a bill of materials that will provide a good guide to the new TVR’s price. The company remains determined to build “a simple but exciting car” in a bid to make the car as affordable as TVRs were.

Read Autocar's Q&A with Les Edgar. 

Facelifted Toyota Yaris revealed
Facelifted Toyota Yaris revealed A single official photograph shows the 2014 Toyota Yaris for the first time

A revised Toyota Yaris, which adopts some of the design themes set out by the new radically styled Aygo, will go on sale this summer.

Toyota promises improved dynamics and says the supermini’s suspension calibration has been modified for improved ride and handling. The current model’s engine line-up of 1.0-, 1.33-litre petrol, 1.4-litre diesel and hybrid powertrains will be unchanged.

The exterior uses a less pronounced iteration of the black cross shown on the nose of the Aygo along with LED rear light units and a diffuser integrated into the rear bumper.

The cabin is said to be improved in three areas: a greater feeling of space, improved perceived quality and more choice of colours and equipment.

Toyota will announce more details, including pricing, closer to the vehicle’s launch.

Best of Beijing 2014: Our show stars
Beijing motor show 2014: Our show stars From wild concepts to the hottest of hot hatchbacks: here are Autocar's stars of the Beijing motor show

Beijing continues to grow in stature as the cream of European manufacturers choose this show to launch ever-more significant models. Here are the stars of Beijing, as voted for by Autocar's team on the ground.

Peugeot Exalt - Chas Hallett

There was a clear winner for me. I thought the Peugeot Exalt was a terrific concept made all the more appealing by the confidence that it shows - and the fact that there’s a fighting chance of it becoming a production reality. 

Audi TT offroad - Hilton Holloway

The Audi TTQ - as it will be called in production – is a masterful re-think of the TT's iconic design as a forward-thinking urban SUV. As such, it’s bound to be a smash hit and in my eyes is the most original Audi in years.

Chery Concept Alpha - Mark Tisshaw

Far from an obvious choice, but the Chery Alpha swoopy saloon concept (and the Concept Beta SUV) is significant in showing that Chinese car makers can design good-looking cars off their own backs without Western involvement through a joint venture. If this is what Chery can do before the fruits of its partnership with Jaguar Land Rover are revealed, then what it comes up with in the future could have even greater significane beyond Chinese borders. 

Volkswagen Golf R400 - Greg Kable

The stunning R400 takes the humble Golf to a whole new level of power, performance and sheer desirability. The fact that the concept is production based serves to raise its appeal even further. Can Volkswagen afford not to build it?

Peugeot 2008 DKR - Andrew Frankel

I don’t just love the Gotham-inspired design of this monstrous long-distance dune buggy, I love the reason for its existence: after its success at Pikes Peak, Peugeot is returning to the Dakar Rally in 2015 and the kind of competition it does best. I detect confidence on the rise within the company, a fact reflected of late in its product both on road and, now, off it as well.

What were your show stars from Beijing? Let us know in the comments section below.

Nissan Lannia concept targets younger buyers
Nissan Lannia concept targets younger buyers Bold-looking Lannia concept saloon designed for Chinese market; Nismo models also showcased in Beijing

Nissan has unveiled its Lannia concept saloon, aimed at "Post-80s trendsetters", at the Beijing motor show.

The new concept is the result of collaboration between Nissan Design China and the Nissan Global Design Centre.

Nissan's product boss, Andy Palmer, said: "It joins our growing family of China-focused models."

Myriad design features are shared with previous Nissan concepts and current production models, including the prominent grille.

Its distinctive modern looks are hoped to appeal to younger buyers, the number of which is rapidly growing in China.

Taiji Toyota, head of Nissan Design China, says the Lannia Concept exudes “daqi” – a term that suggests upmarket aspirations.

The Chinese name of the concept, "lan niao yin xiang", is stated to pay tribute to the well-recognised Nissan Bluebird; it reputedly translates as "Bluebird impression".

It was also announced that the Nismo's high-performance variants will be officially offered in China, starting with the GT-R Nismo and the 370Z Nismo.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Why the Beijing motor show is still lost in translation
Why the Beijing motor show is lost in translation The Beijing motor show is rapidly becoming one of the largest in the world, but the language barrier remains a hurdle that's yet to be overcome

Journalists too often forget that motor shows aren’t actually put on for their benefit. We’re the ones who are first into the halls and pay nothing for the privilege, and we’re the ones who are almost entirely oblivious to the paying public who’ll come in their tens of thousands for days and weeks to come.

Many will be seriously considering the one thing that hardly ever crosses a car journalist’s mind: which new car should they buy?

And yet if it doesn’t sound too bigheaded, we do have a role to play. The show-going public may number tens of thousands, between the few thousand of us hacks who show up, but our words reach not tens of thousands but millions around the world.

Yet in Beijing that fact appears not yet to have fully registered. It still has the feel of a local trade show that has yet to realise either how large it has become or how important on the world stage it is now perceived to be.

At the show’s exit, even the most relentlessly cheerful of journos owned up to having had a trying day and it wasn’t the smog they complained about; unlike two years ago it wasn’t so bad that it was actually inside the buildings. Nor was it the traffic, which caused every person I spoke to at the show to abandon their transport to the show and walk the last kilometre. That was inconvenient but not unexpected.

What I had hoped for was a little more understanding from exhibitors of the simple fact that if they provide no information in English nor any spokesmen or women who can speak English, it is almost impossible for us, the journalists, to bring to the public’s attention the often very interesting products that they, the exhibitors, have brought to Beijing. It was terrible two years ago and it’s not improved at all in the interim.

I have some sympathy with domestic manufacturers who only sell cars in China and seem genuinely surprised when you express an interest in them. Less forgivable are global, mainstream manufacturers who can’t be bothered even to translate a press pack into a form almost every non-Chinese journalist would have been able to understand.

Take Honda as an example. I was very interested to find out more about its Concept B coupé but when I arrived on the stand there was no person and no literature I could comprehend that would tell me the first thing about the car.

You might call that poor journalism and that we should stay and sleuth out the facts any way we can, and in principle I’d agree with you. In practice, however, with nine halls to cover containing a triple-digit number of new products and one day in which to try to see as much of it as you can, it’s just not possible.

I make this point not to whinge because if ever there was a fool’s errand it is trying to persuade anyone to feel sorry for the lot of the motoring journalist. We are a lucky bunch and I hope I know it as well as any.

My point is that while we may feel less than well served, that’s as nothing compared to how poorly both the manufacturers and the Beijing show are serving themselves.

No one will ever be able to calculate how many stories didn’t get written, or how many were far shorter or thinner on fact or less accurate than they’d have been had all manufacturers provided information in a form that journalists from all over Europe, the US and most of the rest of the world could understand.

In terms of its sheer, physical size, the Beijing motor show is now probably the second largest in the world after Frankfurt. But if it wishes also to command similar stature – at least in terms of its ability to spread the word of its exhibitors around the world – I can think of nothing more immediately useful than ensuring all information is available not only in the most spoken language in the world, but most widely spoken too.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Best of Beijing 2014: Top Chinese cars
Best of Beijing 2014: Top Chinese cars While Western brands stole the show in Beijing, there were still some Chinese manufacturers with some really stand-out cars for the domestic market

The 2014 Beijing motor show might have featured headline acts from Western brands, but domestic manufacturers have also shown off their latest wares.

While cars from the likes of Fengshen and BYD aren't going to shake Peugeot and Volkswagen from our front pages just yet, there are still a number of models worth keeping an eye on. Here's our round-up of the best domestic or China-only models at the Beijing show.

Bejing Auto Senova D50

Saab has returned to a life of sorts with the reveal of the 9-3 based Beijing Auto Senova D50. Beijing’s parent company BAIC bought the rights to both the 9-3 and 9-5 designs from General Motors in 2009. The D50 is a conventional three box saloon, reclad entirely to reveal nothing of its Swedish/American origins. Power is provided by just one engine at launch, a normally-aspirated 1.5-litre petrol motor made in China by Mitsubishi and boasting a modest 110bhp. A rather perkier turbo version of the same motor with over 150bhp is believed to be in the pipeline. Sales will be restricted to the Chinese market.

BYD Tang

BYD’s (Build Your Dreams) Tang might look like just another chrome-heavy Chinese SUV with too much air in its outsize wheelarches, but in engineering terms the BMW X3-sized off-roader packs a real punch thanks to mating a 201bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine to a 147bhp electric motor to create what is claimed to be a 348bhp package which, with the aid of permanent four-wheel drive will take the Tang from rest to 62mph in fewer than five seconds. With Chinese government green grants, its list price is reduced from around £30,000 to £26,000, which is rather less than you’d pay for any SUV capable of packing that kind of punch in Europe.

Hawtai A25

Interest in the Hawtai A25 small SUV concept (also known as Shengdafei) goes beyond it’s rather startling grille treatment. Behind that striking appearance lies a neatly conceived small off-roader powered in the main by a 135bhp, 1.5-litre turbocharged motor. However and unlike most Chinese domestic products at the show, the A25 can also be chosen with a 150bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel intended not just for export, but the domestic market too. "Diesel is still very small in China," Daniel Zheng, group vice president of strategic operations told Autocar, "but it is growing in popularity from about two per cent of the SUV market and we think the A25 is well placed to take advantage of that growth."

Fengshen AX7

Fengshen is a brand owned by Dongfeng and its new AX7 a rebodied version of the first generation Nissan Qashqai built by the Dongfeng-Nissan joint venture in China. Hitherto referred to by its D29 codename, the AX7 is a cleanly styled, well proportioned compact SUV with none of the attention-grabbing, sometimes unfortunate visual addenda employed, usually in chrome, by other domestic SUV manufacturers to draw attention to their products. Power is provided by a 2.0-litre Nissan petrol engine with 141bhp, though the smart money will likely wait for a newly developed 1.6-litre turbo with around 160bhp scheduled for later in the year.

CH Auto Event

Proving that Chinese manufacturers have more ideas up their sleeve than boxy sedans and chrome-laden SUVs, Beijing-based styling house CH Auto brought a new, supercar to the show with a highly original appearance and an all-electric drive system. Based around an all aluminium space frame and clad in carbon-fibre body panels, the Event is powered by a 300bhp electric motor said to let it hit 62mph in less than five seconds and reach a top speed of 124mph. Its range is said to be 125 miles and it can recharge its lithium-ion battery packs in six hours. Its lightweight construction has allowed the total weight of the two seat car to be restricted to ‘less than 1685kg.’

Zoyte Z500

The Z500 is the latest offering from the fast expanding stables of Zotye Auto, a car company that didn’t even exist ten years ago. And unlike most of its product to date, it’s appears not to be a licenced copy of someone else’s design, but a compact saloon in its own right, slotting in above the Z300 saloon. Power comes courtesy of a 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder engine, reputed to produce 150bhp, with an even more powerful 1.8-litre turbo slated to arrive next year.

Chery concepts

Two new concept cars from Jaguar Land Rover’s Chinese partner Chery made their debuts in Beijing. The Concept Beta is an SUV with radical styling and large 22-inch wheels, and previews a new SUV to be launched in 2016. The firm’s other concept, the Alpha, offers a close preview to the Arizzo 5 saloon, a four-door model with a choice of 1.5 or 1.2-litre engines.

Ford Escort

Although not a domestic manufacturer, Ford is hoping to cash in on the booming Chinese market by bringing back the Escort name. Dropped from European markets in 2002, the new Escort has been specifically designed for China, with the concept shown in Beijing powered by a 1.5-litre Ti-VCT petrol engine.

Kia K4

Kia’s latest concept car has been designed specifically for China, and aims to offer a “simple” and “dignified” design choice for buyers. Measuring 4720mm long, the concept is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged GDI engine. The K4 will go into production later this year.

Hyundai ix25

Although it’s likely to be sold elsewhere in the coming years, Hyundai’s new compact SUV is only confirmed for the Chinese market at the moment. It’s based on the Kia soul, and comes powered by a 2.0-litre ‘Nu’ petrol engine. Its design is based around a smaller ix35, and features a distinctive grille with wraparound lights.

Citroen C-XR

A likely rival to Peugeot’s 2008, the C-XR previews a new car which will become Citroen’s first joint venture SUV with its Chinese partner, Dongfeng. It sits on 17-inch alloys with all-weather tyres, as well as Citroen’s Grip Control system. Reports suggest a production version of the car will be seen early next year.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Additional reporting by Darren Moss

Peugeot reveals 2008-based DKR racer
Peugeot reveals 2008-based Dakar Rally challenger Peugeot returns to the Dakar Rally for the first time in 25 years with 2008-based challenger

Peugeot has revealed its new Dakar Rally challenger at the Beijing motor show. The 2008 DKR marks Peugeot's return to the Dakar Rally for the first time in 25 years.

The car will be fielded in the event next year by Peugeot along with its partners, Total and Red Bull. While still looking similar to the 2008 crossover, signicant motorsport additions give the 2008 DKR a more muscular profile. Peugeot has done away with the rear doors of the crossover, giving the competing car a more coupe-like appearance with shorter overhangs.

Peugeot engineers were given a specific brief on the dimensions of the car, interior fittings, wheel sizes and suspension upgrades. Rather than opting for a 4x4 configuration, Peugeot says it has instead chosen to make the 2008 DKR two-wheel drive only in order to benefit from its ability to 'roll' over sandy terrain.

Piloting the new car will be 2010 Dakar winner Carlos Sainz, alongside new competitor Cyril Despres. Peugeot won the Dakar Rally for four consecutive years between 1987 and 1990, first with the 205 T16 Grand Raid and later with the 405 T16 Grand Raid.

The 2015 Dakar Rally gets under way next January, with the race starting in Argentina.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Volvo S60L plug-in Hybrid gets Beijing debut
Volvo S60L plug-in Hybrid gets Beijing debut Plug-in Volvo S60L will go on sale in China next year, with power coming from the firm's Drive-E engine family and an electric motor

Volvo's new S60L Plug-in Hybrid has been unveiled at the Beijing motor show.

The car will be launched in China in 2015 and will be made at the firm's Chengdu plant. The S60L measures 4715mm long - some 80mm longer than the standard S60 - with width of 1866mm and a height of 1481mm.

Volvo's first ever petrol-electric hybrid is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine from the firm's Drive-E engine family, with 238bhp and 258lb ft of torque. The electric motor provides an extra 68bhp and 148lb ft. Recharging the car's lithium-ion battery takes four hours from a domestic socket.

Drivers can choose to run on electric power only, in a joint hybrid mode, or in 'power' mode. Volvo says the S60L Hybrid offers CO2 emissions of as little as 50g/km, with an average 141mpg. 

Inside, drivers get brown leather trim with contrasting stitching on the seats and steering wheel, as well as extra chrome details.

Volvo's family of Drive-E engines will eventually be offered across the firm's range, putting an end to current four, five, six and eight-cylinder units.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Citroen shows off Peugeot 2008 rival
Citroen shows off Peugeot 2008 rival with new C-XR concept New C-XR concept crossover previews the look of Citroen's first production SUV to be built with its Chinese partner Dongfeng

Citroën has revealed its new C-XR concept at the Beijing motor show.

Previewing the first production SUV to come from the joint venture between Citroën and Dongfeng, the concept is billed as "a contemporary take on the SUV".

The C-XR concept features traditional SUV styling, and includes a wide grille finished in chrome with large Citroën chevrons in the middle. Vertical LED lighting strips feature at either side, alongside a large lower air intake and rugged-looking front guard.

Roof rails run the length of the concept, while double exhaust tips feature at the rear. Body cladding is standard, adding a more rugged edge to the concept.

The car sits on 17-inch wheels with all-weather tyres. Citroën claims the C-XR's wheelbase is the longest in its class, at 2650mm, which should result in substantial interior space.

Citroën says the C-XR comes equipped with its selectable Grip Control technology, while power comes from the firm's THP 160 petrol engine. An automatic gearbox is standard, as is a stop-start system to improve efficiency.

The concept is likely to make production with only minor changes, becoming a rival to Peugeot's 2008. Reports suggest a production version will appear early next year.

Citroën is also showing its new DS 6WR SUV at the Beijing show.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Gordon Shedden makes BTCC history in Honda Civic Tourer
Shedden makes BTCC history in Honda Civic Tourer Scottish charger takes first-ever British Touring Car Championship victory for an estate-bodied car at Donington Park

Honda Civic Tourer driver Gordon Shedden took an estate-bodied car to victory for the first time in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park today.

Shedden won the third race of the day in the still-developing machine, but the pace of the factory MG 6s was the other major talking point of the weekend, with team-mates Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff grabbing a win apiece.

On Saturday Plato obliterated the East Midland circuit’s BTCC lap record on his way to his first pole position of the season. Shedden joined him on the front row in the works Honda Civic Tourer – the first time an estate-bodied car had qualified on the front row in the domestic tin-top series.

Plato made a good start and seized the lead into the first corner, while the fast-starting BMW 125i M Sport of Colin Turkington slotted into second. He didn’t hold that position for long, however, struggling for pace in the cold, damp conditions and ceding positions to the MG of Sam Tordoff and Shedden, who had been slow away.

Turkington began to find front-running pace by mid-distance as he got back by Shedden, but his eBay Motors team-mate Rob Collard was on a charge. From 13th on the grid, Collard moved up to fifth position by lap seven by deposing Shedden and then latched onto the podium battle between Turkington and reigning champion Andrew Jordan.

Honda Civic driver Jordan sliced past Turkington at Redgate for third and Collard also slipped ahead of the Ulsterman shortly after. Shedden retained sixth until the end, while former champions Fabrizio Giovanardi (Airwaves Racing Ford Focus) and Matt Neal came home in seventh and eighth in their Ford Focus and Honda Civic Tourer respectively.

With Plato taking a full 45kgs of success ballast aboard his MG for the second race, Tordoff was able to make a brighter start and moved ahead of the pole man into Redgate on the opening lap. Tordoff, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Saturday, kept cool through several safety car periods to lead home Plato and collect his second BTCC race win.

Behind the dominant MGs, Jordan and Shedden scrapped over the final spot on the podium. The battle went Shedden’s way when Jordan ran wide at the exit of Old Hairpin and lost ground. Neal almost capitalised on Jordan’s mistake, but had to be content with fifth ahead of Turkington.

Drier conditions prevailed for race three, and Turkington started from pole position after the top six positions from race two were reversed for the grid. 

The safety car made an early appearance as a wild moment from champion Jordan at Redgate resulted in several separate incidents at the tail-end of the field. 

As the race resumed Plato pulled a great move into Redgate to slice inside Neal for second place. But Plato was unable to pull clear in his heavily ballasted MG, and had to mount a stout defence from Neal, Mat Jackson, Tordoff and Shedden.

Tordoff slowed as he struggled with excessive wear on the soft tyre compound, and Neal and Shedden broke clear of Jackson in third and fourth. Shedden cut ahead of Plato at the chicane on lap 12, while two laps later Neal and Jackson also demoted the MG man, who was also enduring tyre issues.

Up at the front, Shedden charged after Turkington, chewing huge lumps out of the BMW’s comfortable lead and latching onto his tail at the start of the final lap.

Turkington defended strongly, but Shedden swept to the outside line into the chicane for the final lap. As they tried to outbrake each other, neither man could make the corner on the track, both bumping across the gravel trap with Shedden emerging just ahead and winning the frantic dash to the chequered flag.

The results at Donington Park mean that Jordan and Plato top the standings with 87 points each, with Shedden one point behind, Turkington on 84 points and Neal on 79 points.

The next Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship event takes place at Thruxton on 3-4 May.

Peugeot is planning a mainstream push in China
Peugeot plots a mainstream push in China The French manufacturer's boss insists his brand will remain 'generalist' in China, despite its luxurious Beijing show car

At the Beijing motor show today Peugeot's boss Maxime Picat told us in no uncertain terms that he has no plans to turn his company into a luxury brand. Not even in China.

"We are not BMW or Mercedes," he said. "We want to be first of the generalists."

You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise if you even get the chance to see the Peugeot Exalt concept in the metal. Especially if you contrast it with the BMW luxury saloon concept also on display at today's Chinese motor show.

What is the difference in quality, intent, or desirability I was wondering. By the way, I don't dislike the BMW at all – it shows the next 7-series will look smart. But the point is that they seem similar – in fact, I was more impressed by the Peugeot if anything.

Then again, Picat's level of ambition is entirely correct. But it does prove how the 'mainstream' makers could catch up. And how much harder prestige brands may have to work in the future to keep them at bay.

Aston Martin showcases bespoke Q models in China
Aston Martin launchs bespoke Q range in China Tailor-made 'Q by Aston Martin' displayed in Beijing; V8 Vantage N430 and special 'Carbon' DB9 also on show

Aston Martin has showcased its new 'Q by Aston Martin' bespoke personalisation scheme at the Beijing motor show.

The bespoke service allows customers to tailor their vehicles to their tastes by picking from a range of colours, trim finishes, materials and other cosmetic options.

A new 'Q Lounge Concept' is also being previewed, the aim being to allow customers to better visualise their personal creations. These lounges will later be offered in selected worldwide dealerships.

The Q by Aston Martin scheme even allows customers to commission one-off cars, such as the CC100 Speedster Concept.

General Manager of VIP and Q by Aston Martin Sales, Matthew Bennett, said: "What Q by Aston Martin adds to that already exciting process is the freedom to think beyond spec sheets and options lists.

"It challenges the designers and engineers here at Gaydon to use their talents to produce something truly exceptional, and unique."

A customised Aston Martin Rapide S and a Vanquish were used to show what is possible on the Q scheme, with each featuring special finishes and interior trims.

Other show highlights included the Chinese debut of the Vanquish Volante, a 'Carbon' special edition of the DB9 and the V8 Vantage N430.

The new models and Q scheme should serve to further improve Aston's sales in China, where has seen growing sales since the brand launched in the country in 2008.

Jenny Zheng, Aston Martin’s China Regional Director, said: “A confident expansion of the dealer network is continuing here in China.

"In the last few weeks alone we've had the grand openings of the Aston Martin Xi’an and Aston Martin Qingdao dealerships, and the addition of an impressive new downtown showroom for the important Beijing market.”

Read more Beijing motor show news.

New Peugeot 408 unveiled in Beijing
New Peugeot 408 unveiled in Beijing Saloon version of 308 hatchback gets debut in China ahead of market launch later this year

Peugeot has turned its 308 hatchback into a saloon and created the new Peugeot 408. 

The new 408 is destined for sale in China, and emerging markets including Russia, as a rival to the likes of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Lavida.

Each of China’s 10 best-selling models last month was a compact saloon car, demonstrating the importance of having models like the 408 available to customers.

The 408 shares its styling with the Peugeot 308 at the front and is new from the B-pillars back. 

Peugeot hasn’t confirmed specifics on the new model, but it’s understood to have a slightly longer wheelbase that the 308 on which it is based, in order to increase rear legroom.

The staple powerplant is set to be Peugeot’s 1.6-litre THP petrol unit in various different power outputs in China, with a diesel engine set to be added to the line-up in Russia. 

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton wins Chinese Grand Prix
Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton wins Chinese Grand Prix The British driver seals a hat-trick of victories in 2014 with a cool drive from pole position to chequered flag in Shanghai

Lewis Hamilton has recorded a hat-trick of Formula 1 race wins for the first time in his career after an imperious performance in China today.

The Mercedes driver annexed pole position at the Shanghai International Circuit and after seizing an early lead in the race he simply drove away from the pack in the early stages and was never challenged. He added to his victories in Malaysia and Bahrain.

Hamilton's only scare happened when he ran wide near the end of his first stint on worn tyres, although he quickly recovered.

"The left front was graining quite badly and eventually the tyre was completely dead. Fortunately there was quite a lot of run-off area at that corner," said Hamilton after the race.

The 2008 world champion was also slightly confused by the erroneous appearance of the chequered flag one lap ahead of schedule. Nevertheless, he crossed the line for the 25th victory of his Formula 1 career, to add to the 34th pole position he collected on Saturday.

His Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg battled to second position after a difficult race weekend. He qualified fourth, and was hampered during the race due to a problem with his car's telemetry, meaning he was unable to communicate properly with his pit crew.

The German also came into contact with the Williams of Valterri Bottas at the first turn of the race, but he battled hard to overhaul Fernando Alonso's Ferrari and secure his fourth consecutive podium finish of the season.

Rosberg's fight back to second place in the results ensured he maintains a slender lead over teammate Hamilton in the world championship standings, although the gap is now a slender four points.

Alonso brought some cheer to Ferrari with the Italian team's first podium of the season. It was Maranello's first race with new team chief Marco Mattiacci in charge following the departure of Stefano Domenicali.

Despite heavy contact with former teammate Felipe Massa at the first corner, Alonso was a podium threat throughout the race and although he was unable to hold back to charge of Rosberg, he fended off the looming Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages of the race.

Australian racer Ricciardo again outshone Red Bull Racing's team leader Sebastian Vettel, out-qualifing the world champion on Saturday and out-racing him on Sunday despite the German's best efforts to keep his young rival at bay. 

Provisional results

Chinese Grand Prix, round 4/19, 20 April 2014

1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

2 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)

3 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)

4 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)

5 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)

6 Nico Hülkenberg (Force India)

7 Valtteri Bottas (Williams)

8 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari)

9 Sergio Perez (Force India)

10 Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)

JLR's Chinese partner Chery launches two new concepts
Chery launches two new concepts Chery shows off a compact SUV and a VW CC-style saloon concept at the Beijing show

Jaguar Land Rover's Chinese partner Chery has launched two new concept cars at the Beijing motor show.

The Concept Beta is a radical-looking, bechromed five-door SUV concept. It is intended to preview a new SUV to be launched in 2016.

Distinguishing features include large 22-inch alloy wheels, shielded wheel arches, a short wheelbase, large lights and a prominent grille.

Chery’s Concept Alpha is a more restrained and realistic looking four-door coupe, in the same vein as the VW CC.

It’s intended as a sneak peek at the forthcoming Arizzo 5 saloon and cones with a dramatically rising waistline, sleek headlights and – by the standards of other Beijing show cars from Chinese brands – a rather restrained grille.

When the production version goes on sale, power will come from a choice of a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine or 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol. As usual for domestic market products, no diesel version is planned.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

New seven-seat Ford Everest concept unveiled in Beijing
New seven-seat Ford Everest concept unveiled in Beijing Mid-size SUV concept previews future production model for China, as Ranger-based Everest makes its Beijing debut

Ford has presented its Everest SUV concept at the Beijing motor show.

Confirmed as previewing a new seven-seat production car for the Chinese market, the Everest is a mid-size SUV with a focus on off-road ability. It will likely be made by Ford's joint venture partner in the country, JMC.

Styled by Ford's design team in Australia, the concept "offers beautiful design, premium refinement and rugged capabilities in equal measure," according to Ford's Chinese boss John Lawler.

"A vehicle like the Ford Everest concept would be a great addition to our growing stable of SUVs," he added.

Ford's corporate front-end styling features, including the firm's large trapezoidal front grille that sits alongside a prominent lower front bumper. The firm describes the Everest as being "a highly capable vehicle that is equally at home in the city or off-road".

The Everest concept is based on the Ford's Ranger pick-up.

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Audi plans TT family expansion
Audi plans TT family expansion New offroader concept could go into production as the TT Q and herald the introduction of a family of TT-based vehicles

The Audi TT offroader concept show car demonstrates that the TT can become a family of models, company boss Rupert Stadler revealed to Autocar.

Speaking at the Beijing motor show, Stadler admitted that the show car could point the way to Audi's sports car turning into a sub brand and hinted heavily that it could make production as the 'TT Q'.

"The TT can be a family," he said. "This concept shows that we can do it and long as the genetic code is kept".

Stadler explained that the 'genetic code' equals the TT's distinctive wheel arches, narrow side glass, rear lights and the distinctive interior – all present on the Chinese show concept car.

However he maintained that extensions to the TT family would not include a saloon or a bigger car. "The TT should be an icon and that icon has to be respected and that means a compact car that's sporty to drive." he said.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Lamborghini SUV on track for 2018 launch
Lamborghini SUV on track for 2018 launch Audi boss confirms new Lamborghini SUV will go on sale by 2018 and will feature Urus concept's styling

Lamborghini’s SUV is on track for a launch by 2018, Audi boss Rupert Stadler has revealed to Autocar. 

"It’s in Lamborghini’s cycle plan and it won’t deviate too much from the Urus concept," he said. 

Stadler admitted that the new SUV is being developed by Audi alongside a new family of group SUVs that also includes the new Bentley SUV, the next-generation Porsche Cayenne and the new Audi Q7. All of them will share architecture and major compenents. 

Asked whether it will be the most extreme of the family, he said: "well it certainly won’t be a softie". This suggests that it’s likely to have the sportiest characteristics, in keeping with the Lamborghini brand.

He wouldn’t, however, be drawn on whether it could be the first Lambo road car to be powered by a diesel engine.

Stadler also revealed that the Audi luxury SUV range could be augmented with a new model sitting above the Q7. Likely to be called Q8, it will be potentially pitched as a full-on Range Rover rival with more luxurious spec than the seven-seat Q7.

The new Q8 won’t clash with the forthcoming Bentley SUV, though: "Bentley can’t fill that gap," he stated. 

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Peugeot Exalt concept could spawn China-only production car
Peugeot Exalt concept could spawn China-only production car Radical Exalt concept features bare-metal bodywork, but Peugeot's 'vision of the saloon' could make production

Peugeot could put the Exalt concept into production for the Chinese market, company boss Maxime Picat has revealed. 

Speaking to Autocar at the Beijing motor show, Picat admitted that there was a need to make a large saloon for the Chinese market, as well as a larger SUV. Consequently a production version of the Exalt was a serious likelihood. 

Product boss Xavier Peugeot confirmed the need to sell those cars in China but isn’t ruling them out for Europe either. "We don’t want to give up on saloons in Europe" he said "and it’s possible to sell the SUV across continents though it can’t be exactly the same product. Chinese customers need a larger boot and more space."

However he denied that he is trying to turn Peugeot into a more upmarket brand for the Chinese market. "We are not a luxury brand and our positioning should be no different in China than it is in Europe." he said. "It is not our first priority, we want to be the best generalist."

Picat also revealed that success for Peugeot in China will influence the direction of European models. "The next generation will be a worldwide influenced car," he said "Chinese customers don’t understand the concept of a crossover, so the next 3008 will have to look more like a traditional SUV in its exterior design."

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Kia K4 concept revealed in Beijing
Kia K4 concept revealed in Beijing Mid-size saloon concept to spawn production car later this year; offers generous interior space with 1.6-litre turbo power

Kia's K4 concept car has made its world debut at the Beijing motor show.

Developed specifically for the Chinese market, the K4 concept has what Kia describes as a "simple, distinctive and dignified" design.

Alongside large, distinctive alloy wheels the saloon features a prominent central grille with substantial front headlight clusters. The concept measures 4.72 metres long and is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged GDI engine coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

With a wheelbase of 2700mm, Kia says the K4 will offer "outstanding" interior space for its passengers. The K4 features keyless start, a rear-view camera and the firm's latest 'UVO' infotainment system.

The Korean manufacturer has already confirmed the K4 will go into production in the second half of 2014, and it will be on sale in China soon after. Kia says it is aiming to appeal to family-oriented customers.

"We are confident that the production version of the mid-size K4 family sedan will set a whole new standard for its class in China," said vice president of the firm's Overseas Marketing Group Soon-Nam Lee.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Beijing motor show 2014 report and gallery
Beijing motor show 2014 report and gallery Autocar brings you all the latest news from the Beijing motor show, with new car reveals from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Peugeot

This was an abnormal Beijing motor show. Abnormal insofar as once you’d abandoned your taxi and walked through the impenetrable traffic to the show halls, and negotiated the feeding frenzy of the crowds, it was really rather normal.

Compared to the same show two years ago, there were far fewer cringing rip offs of extant western brands, and a smaller number of outrageously ostentatious wealth statements from the domestic manufacturers. It was, if you like, a far more considered show, one that no longer felt the need to trumpet its credentials but was happy to relax in the knowledge it took place in the capital city of the largest car market in the world.

It was a show that didn’t need to try too hard because you couldn’t ignore it now even if you wanted to. And it knew it. As a result this Beijing show was a far more real and relevant event, and if that made it commensurately less entertaining too, the Chinese would regard that a price worth paying. These guys aren’t here for the comedy value any more: they are deadly serious.

Even so, it was still the foreign brands that brought the most interesting products to Beijing, albeit most of it still in concept form: the people of this country may buy more cars than any other but manufacturers still prefer to save their big unveils for traditional show venues in Frankfurt, Paris, Geneva and Detroit. 

Perhaps most interesting of all in terms of its significance was Audi’s TT offroad concept. That sounds like a contradiction in terms but isn’t. Like Land Rover has done with Range Rover and is soon to repeat with both Discovery and Defender, this is Audi realizing the TT name has such power in itself, it’s wasted on a single model and could instead be applied to family of cars, launching TT as a sub-brand in its own right. 

Citroen has gone even further and has turned its DS models into a standalone brand, as Lexus is to Toyota. In a hall far away from anything with a chevron on its snout, DS showed it’s a brand ready to flex and stretch, with the DS6 WR SUV that PSA’s currently parlous state alone is keeping from sale in Europe, and a racey 300bhp DS 5LS R concept. As for Citroen itself, it unveiled a smart small crossover SUV called C-XR, the progeny of its tie-up with Dongfeng (which now owns 14 per cent of its PSA parent) which looked so ready for production no-one was being fooled by Citroen’s insistence that it was only a concept. Sadly it looks no more likely to reach these shores than the DS6 WR.

Unlike the Lexus NX, a very real medium sized crossover aimed straight at the likes of the BMW Z3 and Audi Q5, not to mention the Range Rover Evoque. Dramatically styled and designed to draw attention like no other Lexus production car this side of an LFA, it will be on sale in Europe from late summer and is tipped to reach UK shores before the end of the year, though the diesel engine without which sales both on the continent and here will condemn it to niche status, has yet to be confirmed.

Indeed the SUV theme pervaded all nine halls in Beijing. Of the top ten best selling cars in this country, all ten are three box, four door saloons; but no-one is expecting that very traditional status quo for last forever.

I am told that already China sells more SUVs than Germany does all cars put together and at Auto China the burgeoning popularity of the breed was clear to see.

In addition to the aforementioned, Mercedes-Benz unveiled its Concept Coupe SUV in an apparent and almost successful attempt to out-awkwardly style the rival BMW X6. It will be interesting to see if its designers feel the need to unscramble the egg a little before it goes on sale as the MLC, though we expect the fact the X6’s challenging appearance harmed its sales prospects not one bit may prove instructive.

Altogether easier on the eye was the Hyundai ix25, the Kia Soul-based sub-ix35 SUV which can add its name to an elongating list of inherently desirable new product seen in Beijing for which sadly no plans to sell in Europe currently exists.

Was BMW’s Vision Future Luxury Concept more inherently desirable than suggested by it needlessly convoluted name? Probably, though its avant-garde styling split opinion like few others at the show. One thing it cannot be accused of however is being boring and that bodes well for next year’s BMW 7-series that will adopt many of its styling and design cues.

After decades of trying and failing to be as good as a Mercedes S-class, this seems to be BMW riding high on the outstanding reception accorded to the bold as brass i3 and i8 deciding it’s instead just going to be very, very different. And that we salute.

And the same can be said of the pleasingly bonkers VW Golf R400 concept, especially as our inside sources suggest VW’s initial position that it was a one-off with no hope of production may have moderated somewhat of late.

We hope so: 40 years after the Golf first drew breath as the world’s most sensible hatchback, we find the idea of one with 395bhp and capable of breaking the four-second 0-62mph barrier so gloriously nutty it would a huge shame if it were never to be enjoyed by the public. We’d back a visually toned down five door version with a butter wouldn’t melt appearance and supercar-slaying performance. Anyone who recalls the supercharged, 16-valve Golf Limited of 1990 will know exactly what we’re talking about.

As for the Chinese domestic brands, as ever there was no shortage of quantity but still very little sign of the kind of quality that is going to make even customers in China let alone in the rest of the world buy them for reasons other than their uniformly low cost. Do the manufacturers care? Less than you might think in this land of the joint venture, where every major Chinese car company is in bed with at least one major western manufacturer.

The Chinese provide local factories and therefore affordable access to the world’s largest market, and their partners being the technology, expertise and credibility they currently lack. And they are learning all the time. When we return to Beijing in 2016, we expect them to have departed the bargain basement to be found going up in the world, and via the express elevator too.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

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