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

2014 Porsche Panamera GTS review
2014 Porsche Panamera GTS review Curious mix of raw and cooked doesn’t automatically make the GTS the stand-out car in the Panamera range The Porsche Panamera GTS, which augurs well, because we’re fast becoming accustomed to GTS variants being (GT3 aside, perhaps) the most desirable variant in each of Porsche’s model line-ups. For serious drivers, anyway. And in the Panamera, those letters GTS are particularly notable. Because while the meat of the Panamera range went turbocharged and downsized last year, this version retains a normally aspirated V8 of 4.8-litres. Marvellous.It sends its power via the obligatory seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic gearbox, with drive going to all four wheels, The suspension, though 10mm lowered, features, as standard, air springs.A couple of those points raise an eyebrow. On the original Panamera launch, Porsche execs told me their favourite version was the naturally aspirated ‘S’ model with rear-wheel drive and steel springs. You’re now unable to get such a Panamera. Seems a shame. Still, Porsche knows more about this sort of thing than I do. Presumably nobody would buy one. So the Panamera GTS stays air sprung and with four driven wheels. 

2015 Tesla Model S 60 review
2015 Tesla Model S 60 review Retains all the style and practicality of the more expensive model, with decent handling and an improved ride. Quick enough for most people A new entry point into the recently revised Tesla Model S line-up. It's also perhaps a more affordable, everyday proposition than the barnstorming P85+ version we’ve driven previously and declared to be better than an Aston Martin Rapide.That model was undoubtedly a seminal moment for the electric car – and possibly for automotive development full stop – but priced at £50,280 after the government’s electric vehicle subsidy, this version is firmly within the reach of the type of buyers who normally opt for a plush German exec.The revised range is now made up of the 60kWh version we’ve driving here, the punchier 85kWh model and, from July 2015, the range-topping P85D. This replaces the Performance model, and will have an eye watering 682bhp, thankfully deployed through all four wheels.

Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award 2014 winner revealed
Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award 2014 winner revealed Coventry University graduate Nicole Agba wins the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award with her concept for a biometric steering wheel

Nicole Agba has been named as the winner of the sixth annual Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award.

Designed to help kick-start a career in the motor industry for budding graduates, the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award is sponsored by manufacturers including Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren Automotive, Peugeot, Skoda and Toyota.

Agba impressed our judging panel with her concept for a biometric steering wheel.

The result was announced at the annual Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders dinner, in front of an audience of industry representatives.

Agba outlined how her plan, dubbed 'Steer Right', employs a Smart Fabrics Interactive Textile on the steering wheel, which uses sensors to monitor the driver's heart and respiration rate. The system can be used to detect signals that can indicate fatigue, anger or nervousness.

If put into production, the concept could even be used to detect alcohol in a driver's system, immobilising the vehicle if he or she is over the limit.

Agba's prize includes work experience with JLR, McLaren, Peugeot, Skoda and Toyota, as well as a cash prize of £7500.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Autocar editor-in-chief Steve Cropley said: "Once again we have been bowled over by the calibre of the entries received for this year’s competition, making Nicole an all the more deserved winner. It just goes to show that you do not have to be studying for a degree as a technician to produce a creative idea with real gravitas and commercial appeal."

Runners-up in the Next Generation Award included Freddie Lee and Serge Kaldany, who both entered concepts for apps – one of which could alert drivers to the presence of cyclists and the other which could act as a games console-inspired control system.

Applications for the 2015 Next Generation Award will open early next year. 

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BMW 520d SE Saloon Auto review
BMW 520d SE Saloon Auto review Buying a 5-series was always a no-brainer, and this facelift has cemented its place at the top of the executive class Probably the finest company car that money can buy. The BMW 5-series has been at the top of its game for years, making it an easy target in the continuously shifting race for supremacy in the hard-fought executive saloon class. Audi recently fired a short across the bows with its new range of ‘Ultra’ diesel engines, which were introduced in the A4 and A6 a few months ago. They were smoother, more efficient and – in most cases – cheaper than the equivalent four-pot engines in the 3-series and 5-series models.However, BMW swiftly struck back, slotting two new engines into the big-selling 518d and 520d and cutting the CO2 emissions back to an impressive 109g/km. This is our first chance to try them here in the UK.

Suzuki plans six new models by 2017
Suzuki plans six new models by 2017 Bold new model offensive announced by Japanese manufacturer, as it promises to revise almost its entire model range over the next three years

Suzuki plans to launch six new models – revising almost its entire car range – between now and 2017 to underpin a unique sales charge it began three years ago. 

The company, which recently showed its Celerio city car and is in the throes of launching an all-new Vitara SUV into the fast-expanding B-segment, has already lifted annual UK sales from 20,000 to 37,500 since 2012. 

The company believes it can achieve two per cent of the market, or around 50,000 cars a year, when the new models reach customers.

"We'll launch two new cars a year for the next three years," says Dale Wyatt, Suzuki GB's head of sales and marketing, "and we'll concentrate on the big sales sectors. By 2017 we want to have two A-segment saloons, two B-segment saloons and two small SUVs in our range – all of them new models." 

The plan, says Wyatt, is to have one "very rational" model and one more stylish, youth-image car in each of the three classes.

First of the six to hit showrooms will be the Celerio next February, billed as an 80mpg car with one model capable of delivering a class-leading 84g/km of CO2. 

The new Vitara will be in showrooms from April, as a partner for the highly rational S-Cross. Next year's offerings will be a new B-segment hatchback to join the existing, successful Swift, plus another, cheekier A-segment offering, probably with 4x4 capability.

The Swift itself, then six years old, is likely to be replaced in 2016, and Suzuki is also believed to be planning an extra-hot version – quicker and more powerful than the existing Swift Sport – for the following year.

A renewed Jimny baby 4x4 – which Suzuki has been making since 1970 – is also planned for 2017. The model is likely to ditch its old-school, driver-selected all-wheel drive system in favour of Vitara-style electronics, but it will keep the lightweight, straight sides and compact dimensions that have always been the basis of its success.

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Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake revealed
Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake revealed Swoopy, CLS-like looks and load capacity of up to 1354 litres for new Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake, which will go on sale in the UK in January

The new Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake has been revealed, and is shown here in a series of official pictures for the first time.

The Shooting Brake is the final new body style to be based on the company's front-drive architecture. It is set to go on sale in the UK in January 2015, with first deliveries in March.

The compact estate’s dramatic styling follows closely in the mould of the CLS Shooting Brake and puts greater emphasis on style than outright carrying capacity. 

Despite the dramatic curves of the tailgate and the swooping roofline, the seats-up load capacity of the 4.6m-long Shooting Brake improves on that of the CLA saloon by 25 litres, at 495 litres, rising to 1354 litres with the rear seats folded.

The decision to put this body style into production arguably gives Mercedes a handy advantage over its rivals in the premium compact market, because neither the Audi A3 nor the BMW 1-series offers anything similar. On the downside, however, Mercedes was late to market with a compact SUV model.

The CLA Shooting Brake is very closely aligned with the CLA saloon. Mercedes UK 
says that as well as being identical up to the rear seats, its pricing and specification line-up will be very similar. 

There are four trim levels: Sport, AMG Sport, Engineered by AMG, and AMG. In addition, there is a special-edition model called Orange Art. 

At launch, the engine line-up consists of two diesel options and four petrols. The most efficient option in the launch line-up, the CLA200 CDI, returns up to 72.4mpg, with CO2 emissions of 101g/km. 

A further two diesel engines, the CLA200 CDI 4Matic and CLA220 CDI 4Matic, will arrive in September next year. The four-wheel-drive CLA250 4Matic model will be offered only in Engineered by AMG spec.

The biggest differences in standard specification and available options are that the Shooting Brake gets an electric tailgate as standard and the option of a load compartment package, which includes a lockable boot floor and aluminium load rails.

A new CLA45 AMG Shooting Brake, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine developing 355bhp and 332lb ft, has also been revealed. The engine is described by Mercedes as being the most powerful four-cylinder unit in series production.

The CLA45 AMG Shooting Brake is able to reach 62mph in 4.7sec and has a limited top speed of 155mph. The model will make its debut at the Geneva motor show in March next year, with UK sales due to start at the same time.

Prices are expected to start at around £25,500 and rise to just over £43,000 for the CLA45 AMG version.

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2014 Alpina D4 Biturbo review
2014 Alpina D4 Biturbo review Hot diesel coupé offers the potential of 0-60mph in 4.6sec and 53mpg economy The sleek two-door sibling of the brilliant all-rounder of a car that is the Alpina D3 saloon. That means the Alpina D4 should be sensational, frankly.Beneath its slinkier, coupé body, the D4 has the same 
twin-turbo six-cylinder diesel engine as the D3, the same chassis and suspension design, the same eight-speed automatic gearbox and even the same steering and braking systems. The only areas in which it differs from the D3, in fact, are these: it has two fewer doors, a slightly lower-slung driving position and a price that’s four and a bit grand higher. 

What’s the most British car ever made? Have your say
What’s the most British car ever made? Jaguars, Bentleys, Rovers and even a Bristol. James Ruppert counts down his top British cars

I notice that an MP had to resign from a shadow cabinet post for essentially insulting someone who had the audacity to raise the flag of St George and own a white Transit van. 

At Ruppert Towers, we fly the Jolly Roger along with other flags of convenience, but we also have a couple of typically English motors that could upset a member of Parliament or two. Oh yes, and they are English. Made in England, because it is stamped on the parts. 

So let’s try to find some models that can, as they say, ‘still do a job’, without being a museum piece or routinely broken down by the roadside, and are offensively English. 

Land Rover Series 3/Defender

We must have a Landie – English until Ford bought it all in the late 1980s. Rather than find a 1950s Series 1, we should go for a later Series 3, or the coil-sprung 90/110 which became the Defender. 

These are not some stamped-out mass-production items. These were all hand-built by blokes and blokesses in Birmingham. Best of all, you can unbolt bits that don’t work any more and bolt on replacement bits. That’s why we love DIY in this country.

Caterham

The true essence of sports car is right here in the Seven. You can forget about your Ferraris and Porsches, because this is the real, visceral thing: wind and insects in your teeth and hair, no doors and no nonsense. Conclusive proof that you don’t need a blaring and complicated V12 or four-wheel drive to have anything approaching fun. 

It’s a pity, though, that the Caterham costs so much. That’s why you should look at what’s up next.

Rover 75

Arguably the best car that MG-Rover ever built, with huge thanks to BMW, of course, and now sensational value for money. 

It also looks so very English, because retro is all we have to look forward to these days. Certainly worth buying if you can’t afford to run a Bentley or Jag. The diesel would make sense in the current climate and the top-spec Connoisseur model couldn’t be more comfy. 

Bristol

I was thinking along the lines of the Sherpa van for a while but finally decided that there is nothing more English, despite the huge Chrysler V8 under the bonnet, than Bristol. 

They're hand-built, of course, and if you look at the fit and finish of the leather and aluminium panels, it puts so-called premium brands to shame. But then these have always been ferociously expensive vehicles which only become affordable over several decades. Even then, you need deep pockets to pump in petrol and keep it in the manor to which it is entitled.

Bentley Turbo

Is there anything more English than a blower Bentley? Okay, so it’s a turbo, but the immense size and hand-finished quality of it all is very reassuring. 

No other country does this over-the-top treatment better, and because it's a classic Bentley, you won’t be regarded as some tasteless Premiership footballer. The early to mid-1990s models were actually more reliable than they had ever been and an old-school Continental would be perfect, but still pricey.

Jaguar XJ6 

We couldn’t possibly leave out Jags, could we? There is nothing more English than this marque, although the trouble is that the ones made under home rule were awful. 

So let's stretch the rules and say that the Ford-financed X300 of 1995 is worth a go, as they finally got the big saloon right. It had the classic feline lines again and a straight six that was even supercharged to produce something (in XJR guise) that could frighten the Germans.

So do you have any suggestions for anything more English? Let me know below

What a second Formula 1 world title means for Lewis Hamilton
What a second Formula 1 world title means for Lewis Hamilton With two world championships under his belt, the British driver could now push on to become one of the sport's all-time greats

Despite the farce of double points in the Formula 1 title showdown in Abu Dhabi, it was comforting that the driver who scored significantly more race wins over the course of the season finished the year as champion.

It isn’t always the case; indeed, in 2008 Lewis Hamilton collected one less win than Felipe Massa, then with Ferrari, but edged the title by a solitary point.

There was an element of good fortune about that title win – although conversely you could argue that Hamilton would have been a more deserving champion in 2007, his first year in F1, when McLaren in-fighting between him and Fernando Alonso allowed Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen to steal the crown.

Little surprise, then, that Hamilton said in the post-race interviews in Abu Dhabi that this title feels even more satisfying than his 2008 success.

It could also prove more significant for his long-term future. Mercedes will now be desperately keen to put the contractual handcuffs on its first world champion since Juan-Manuel Fangio in 1955, so the Briton should be in a competitive car for the next few years. 

He’s scored a sizeable psychological blow over team-mate and off-track buddy Nico Rosberg, too. Although Rosberg has outshone Hamilton in qualifying – something of a surprise, given the latter’s reputation for banzai one-off laps – the German has been outraced on most occasions this season. 

On Sundays, when the points are awarded, Hamilton has usually held the edge. Should the other teams catch up and start to mix it with the Mercedes drivers, Rosberg’s qualifying speed might become more vital, because starting at the front could be key.

But for as long as the two Silver Arrows are having a private scrap for race wins and are rarely separated by other cars on the circuit, Hamilton’s race pace is what makes the difference.

This title win might also enhance Hamilton the person, as well as Hamilton the driver. During the interviews I watch on television and online, Hamilton can come across as a little awkward. I sometimes get an impression that he’s second-guessing himself, trying to give the answers that he feels the world wants to hear. 

Of course, he isn’t alone – this is an unfortunate by-product of modern sports stars being micro-managed by a coterie of skilled public relations gurus and career managers. In Hamilton’s case, he’s had such figures taking an interest in his career since the age of 12.

Contrast that with the genuine public love of Jenson Button, who could be on the verge of getting squeezed out of McLaren and F1. I’m not certain at what point the 2009 world champion became an elder statesman of F1 (and he’ll quite rightly hate that phrase), but in my estimation he has grown immensely as a human being over his years in the sport. 

But I remember interviewing Button in Paris back in the winter of 2001 when, due to some complex contractual machinations, he ended up exiting an increasingly competitive Williams-BMW and was about to embark on two disastrous years in a rather naff Benetton-Renault, a move that almost destroyed his career.

That interview with Button, conducted with other British media, was notable only for the complete absence of anything exciting. It was full of bland PR platitudes at a time when the media was searching for a rabble-rousing homegrown hero to take the place of Damon Hill. 

Perhaps he already knew what a shed the car was and what a tough year he was in for, but he was as insipid as the car he drove.

Over time, however, he’s grown up to be witty and engaging, and if he does leave Formula 1, he’ll have shown pure class in the way he conducted himself during the season.

It’s likely that Hamilton will go through the same growing-up process. Winning two titles with two different teams takes him up a level in terms of greatness. Success breeds success, and if Mercedes holds its advantage in 2015, it’s easy to imagine him being more relaxed about the off-track nonsense and cruising to a third drivers' title. 

The references to Hamilton and Rosberg being rivals since karting reminds me of one of their contemporaries who never made it to Formula 1. In 2000 Colin Brown beat both to win the prestigious Formula A world kart title (although Hamilton was in contention when he hit engine trouble).

While both Hamilton and Rosberg were already being supported by Mercedes at that stage of their careers, however, a financially straitened Brown never managed to capitalise. Which just goes to show that this business is about more than winning races and why the new F1 world champion should savour every last minute of his hard-earned success.

 

Audi’s Prologue concept car driven
Audi’s Prologue concept car driven We drive Audi's LA motor show concept car, which is powered by a 4.0-litre V8 engine and will inform the next generation of Ingolstadt's model range

Audi describes its new Prologue concept car as a rolling blueprint for its future model line-up under new design boss Marc Lichte.

He's the man credited with championing the clean and technical styling treatment of many of parent company Volkswagen’s latest models, including the latest Golf and Passat.

Created in a development program that began back in April – shortly after Lichte’s arrival in Ingolstadt – the sleek two-door coupé provides clues to the mechanical layout set to be adopted by the German car maker’s upmarket offerings some two years from now.

Perhaps more important, it also lays down the new styling treatment Audi says will be applied to the next-generation A6, A7 and A8, all of which are currently in development.

But there's even more to it than that. The Prologue also presages the long-mooted A9. Conceived to share its mechanical package with the upcoming fourth-generation A8, alongside which it will be built at Audi’s Neckarsulm factory in Germany, the production version of the big aluminium-bodied flagship is set to rival the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-class coupé at the very top of the Audi line-up when it goes on sale in 2017.

Seconded from the Audi stand at the Los Angeles motor show, where it made its world premiere, the new Audi concept looks magnificent in the midday sun as it sits in the driveway of a Beverly Hills hotel – ready for us to climb aboard and take the wheel.    

Distinguished by its wide single-frame grille, angular headlamps, taut surfacing, low and prominent shoulder line, subtle crease lines, traditional wheel arch flares and finely honed tail-lamp detailing, it is truly eye-catching, with a greater hint of athleticism to its lines that current Audi models. Yet despite the fresh design lineage, it is also unmistakably an Audi at first glance.  

At 5100mm in length, 1950mm in width and 1390mm in height, the Prologue is 40mm shorter, the same width and 70mm lower than the current A8. Audi's research and development director, Ulrich Hackenberg, suggests that those dimensions will be retained for the production version of the A9. 

The custom cast 22-inch wheels, which fill the sizeable wheelhouses with precious little room to spare, are supported by suitably wide tracks, giving the Prologue a terrifically confident stance.

Before I’m able to drive the Prologue, though, I’m asked to pull on a disposable polyethylene overall. Too new, too expensive and frankly too rare, the car’s minders are taking no chances, suggesting the blue dye in my jeans might discolour the leather upholstery.   

The long driver’s door automatically opens at the wave of my hand over a sensor within the upper trailing edge, and inside you find a highly innovative cabin that provides seating for four on individual seats. The cabin makes extensive use of contemporary touch-and-swipe functions on a series of high-resolution display units that replace the fascia to give it a wonderfully clean and orderly look.

The cabin is beautifully finished in a liberal covering of leather, brushed aluminium and fine wood veneer. After a short cockpit drill, I slide into a broad but supportive driver’s seat that includes every-which-way electric adjustment behind a neatly proportioned four-spoke, multi-function steering wheel that also adjusts electrically for rake and reach. The driving position is spot on.

The immaculate dashboard incorporates an instrument panel featuring a full-width OLED panel with three separate displays – something that not only provides it with high-tech appeal but also serves to accentuate its width. Audi’s idea is to enable simple digital interaction between the driver and front-seat passenger via swipe commands.

A fourth display includes a fascinating bending OLED panel, one of just 10 in existence right now, according to Audi. It's mounted at the base of the centre console. At the touch of a button, its trailing edge motors upwards to provide the driver with easy access to infotainment, climate control and a host of other functions – all just a hand’s length ahead of a stubby T-shaped gear selector.  

There is a strong hint of mechanical potency the moment I hit the milled aluminium starter button on the centre console; the engine fires instantly with a deep blast of exhaust before settling down with an alluring rumble at idle.

With my right foot set firmly on the brake, the electrically operated gear selector requires nothing more than a light backwards nudge with my index finger to send the eight-speed automatic into drive – as indicated within the mesmerizing three-dimensional instrument display. Then, we’re off.

Sitting up front underneath the new concept car’s relatively low-set bonnet is Audi’s familiar twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine. In a hint of what’s to come for the next-generation S8 and its more sporting S9 sibling, the 90-degree unit has been tuned to deliver 597bhp and a nominal 516lb ft of torque – or an even more prodigious 553lb ft in overboost mode during short bursts of full-throttle action.

The heady reserves are channelled through a traditional eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox and Audi’s torque-sensing four-wheel drive system with a torque vectoring function at the rear.

As well as featuring a cylinder-on-demand arrangement that shuts off four of the eight cylinders on light throttle loads for added fuel efficiency, the engine showcased in the Prologue also uses a 48-volt electrical system – a development that Audi insiders indicate will be adopted on the next A8 and the A9 as part of a new generation of fuel saving initiatives.

The new 48-volt electrical system employs a belt starter generator, which provides the advanced V8 with mild hybrid capability and an energy recovery output of up to 12kW under braking.

So configured, Audi suggests that the production version of the Prologue will return nearly 33.0mpg on the combined fuel economy cycle to give it average CO2 emissions of under 200g/km.

Initial impressions? Well, the big Audi has all the typical hallmarks of a concept car. A lack of ride height means approaching a driveway at anything more than walking pace would risk ripping off the expensive-looking polished carbonfibre splitter attached to the leading edge of the front bumper. So I gingerly manoeuvre out of the hotel, being careful to angle the nose of the Prologue out on to the road to avoid any cringeworthy scrapes.

An exploratory prod on the accelerator reveals that engine response is a little tardy at low revs, due to excess engine bay heat that, Audi engineers say, has caused the electronic throttle mapping to intermittently retard the ignition.

Once I’ve negotiated my way through an initial dead spot in the delivery, though, the turbochargers spool up and the sharp-looking concept smoothly builds up speed.        

The Prologue rides on a heavily modified platform from the current A8, although such is the extent of the changes that it is virtually a new structure – one that provides solid clues to the underpinnings set to be used by the next-generation A8 and the A9.

As well as reducing the wheelbase by 50mm to 2940mm, Audi has also provided its latest concept car with a thoroughly new five-link rear multi-link suspension sporting adaptive air springs capable of varying the ride height.

In a more significant move, it also receives a four-wheel steering system that allows the rear wheels to turn by up to five degrees for improved manoeuvrability around town and greater agility on the open road. 

For the new Audi’s unveiling, the advanced suspension has been lowered quite significantly in the name of style, robbing the Prologue of any meaningful wheel travel. And those custom 22-inch wheels are shod with purposeful 285/30 Pirelli P Zero tyres offering little in the way of additional compliancy.

Predictably, there is some sharp vertical pitching as we turn right at the traffic lights and set off down Rodeo Drive to the stares of onlookers.

But, wow, there’s encouraging feel and accurate action to the steering. Like many other aspects of the mechanical package used by the Prologue, the electro-mechanical system is taken directly from the S8. It is allied to the new rear steer mechanism that helps to provide the big coupé with an outstanding turning circle of just 8.5 metres – less than that of the significantly smaller A3, or so says Audi.   

The Prologue may be a concept, but there is real substance to its low-speed manoeuvrability. Even at limited speeds, it possesses the makings of a very appealing production car. It steers in a direct manner, changes direction eagerly and corners in a flat and unperturbed way.   

Once I’ve got the Prologue percolating along at a constant speed, the ride also settles and the car's true character begins to shine through.

At 40mph there is sufficient compliancy to call it comfortable, although admittedly the smooth- surfaced roads of our route weren’t exactly taxing the suspension to any great degree.

Encouraged to up the pace, I lean on the throttle, at which point the sleekly styled two-door suddenly feels a lot less like a delicate concept and more of a brutish performance car.

With 3000rpm wound on the engine, the initial hesitancy in the throttle response disappears and the advanced V8 begins to propel the Prologue along with the sort of authority you would expect of a car set to rival the Mercedes-Benz S-class coupé.

Audi suggests the production version of the Prologue will hit the scales at around 1980kg and possess a 0-62mph time of just 3.7sec, which seems entirely believable when you consider the huge shove displayed on a wide open throttle.

The shift action of the gearbox is pretty sweet, too. The ZF-sourced unit engages higher gears smoothly and is quick to downshift when you come off the throttle. The brakes, somewhat over-servoed in a way all Audis used to be, are quite sensitive at the top of the pedal’s travel. But they’re manageable enough at the limited speeds I’m pulling.

Each brief increase in acceleration between the traffic lights is accompanied by a glorious blare of exhaust, and it is not long before our police escort switches on a siren and flashing blue lights to clear traffic, allowing us to cruise uninterrupted through the heart of Beverly Hills in true celebrity style.

That said, there are limits to how much I’m prepared to push. For one, the Prologue has been hand-built and is far from being a true road-going prototype.

It is also the only example in existence, and I don’t want to be the one to tell Hackenberg that his priceless concept car, completed just five days prior to our drive, has gained some unexpected styling modifications.

Still, if Audi is to be believed, we won’t have to wait too long before the production version reaches showrooms. Given the trouble it has gone to, it would seem odd to build up expectations of a new range-topping model in the way it has if it wasn't going to grant it a definitive production green light sometime soon.

But while the pillarless two-door coupé body style of the concept is an intriguing proposition, there are hints that the production version of the A9 will receive a more practical five-door liftback layout similar to that used by the A7.

In a segment of the market known for convention, it would be a daring move. But I’m sure it would win Audi many admirers.

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Ford looks to Vignale brand to boost European sales
Ford looks to Vignale brand to boost European sales Bosses look to new super-luxury sub-brand as sales slump in Europe, with the hope that Vignale could become a brand of its own

Ford of Europe CEO Barb Samardzich has high hopes for the company’s new Vignale luxury brand and would “love that it takes off so much that it becomes a separate brand”.

The Vignale sub-brand, which Ford says builds on the success of the highly specified Titanium X trim level, arrives with the all-new Mondeo early next year.

As well as getting a separate area in Ford dealerships, Vignale customers will also get ‘private account managers’ who will be the buyer’s point of contact with the dealership.

Senior Ford sources have previously ruled out models from Ford’s more upmarket US-based Lincoln brand being sold in the Europe as Vignales.

However, Ford’s struggling European arm is aware of the expansion of premium sales in the moribund EU market and will have been watching PSA’s creation of the stand-alone DS brand with some interest.

Lincoln is the subject of a massive revamp, with Ford set to spend more than £3 billion on a new architecture and several new models. Mark Fields, the company’s new chief executive, recently said it was important for the company to have a “relevant and vibrant luxury brand. You need to make the investment and build the brand”.

The new-generation Lincolns are due in five years’ time, with a big push into the Chinese market under way. However, by the time they are ready to roll, Ford’s European arm will be well placed to make a decision on Vignale becoming a stand-alone marque with bespoke models.

Meanwhile, although Ford of Europe is having great success with the Kuga SUV, with sales said to be up “substantially” over the past five years, and the launch of the mid-size Edge SUV imminent, it is not considering introducing the big Explorer model, which will be manufactured in Russia.

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Comparison: Ford Focus versus Volkswagen Golf
Comparison: Ford Focus versus Volkswagen Golf Ford has revamped the Focus in a bid to reclaim class leadership from the VW Golf. Mark Tisshaw finds out if it succeeds

‘Too close to call’ is a phrase that I’ll keep in the first sentence of this comparison test rather than use as a cop-out verdict at the end.

Splitting these two – reigning everyman hatchback champion the Volkswagen Golf Mk7 and the newly revamped Ford Focus Mk3 –
is going to be tricky, such is their respective excellence. But here goes.

It’s the arrival of the latest Focus on these shores that brings this test together. When we had the chance exactly two years ago to drive an early left-hand-drive version of the latest Golf and put it up against its rivals, the VW saw off all comers, including the Focus – just – and went straight to the top of the class.

So with the opportunity to have an early go in a left-hand-drive Focus this time around, we want to find out if the deep-running changes allow the Ford to usurp the Golf as class leader.

No other rivals are needed here. Although there’s real strength and depth in the class, with the likes of the Audi A3, Mazda 3 and a revised version of the Volvo V40, to name just three, none would trouble the top two here. 

What’s new with the Focus, then? You’ll have already spotted the obvious visual differences, chiefly its exterior reskin. That ‘Aston Martin grille for the people’ finds its way on to the Focus as part of a new front end, and there are detail exterior changes elsewhere.

But visually, the most significant changes come inside, where the switchgear is significantly pared back. The fussy interior was always a big weak point for this generation of the Focus, and we’ll come back to whether or not this rationalisation of the controls, done in conjunction with a leap in quality and extra cubbyholes, works in practice.

Chassis tweaks also feature on the Focus. An overhaul of the suspension system is said to reduce chassis flex and in turn allow the steering to be tuned to reduce the amount of effort needed while maintaining the precision. Which all sounds okay in theory, so long as the changes do indeed maintain and even enhance the Focus’s position as the driver’s car of choice in the class.

Under the bonnet, there’s the usual array of fleet-friendly diesels, now downsized from 1.6 to 1.5 litres in various outputs, plus a range-topping 2.0-litre version.

However, it’s the petrol versions that still intrigue most private buyers, and there’s a new 1.5-litre EcoBoost in place of the previous 1.6, plus that firm favourite, the three-cylinder, 1.0-litre EcoBoost, in various flavours, including the 123bhp version fitted to our test car. Our example is a plush and extremely well equipped £22,295 Titanium X version, with almost another £3000 in options on top, pushing it into premium money at £25,775 all in. 

Read the 2014 Ford Focus first drive

The Golf here is a 120bhp 1.4 TSI petrol-powered mid-range Match model. You won’t be wanting for much equipment, our £21,700 test car (£20,335 base price plus £1365 worth of options) coming with the likes of touchscreen infotainment and adaptive cruise control.

On the spec sheet, this Golf gives away 3bhp to the Focus but has identical peak torque of 148lb ft (the Ford’s maximum figure achieved on overboost). The Focus, on paper, has an economy advantage, though. Its combined figure of 60.1mpg eclipses the Golf’s 53.3mpg, and its CO2 emissions of 108g/km also comfortably beat the Golf’s 123g/km.

I jump in the Golf first, to refamiliarise myself with the class’s benchmark. To get the subjective stuff out the way first, I think that it’s still the classiest-looking car in its sector.

The more Mk7 Golfs that I see on the road, the more I like it. I just can’t see the lines of this generation of Golf aging any time soon. Compare that with the Focus. The original Mk3 design was quite faddish and soon dated. It’s much improved now but still lacks that timeless quality.

The Golf is a car into which you can quickly relax. Like the exterior, the interior oozes timeless class and sophistication and is constructed from materials of a high perceived quality. The controls are laid out clearly and nicely weighted, and a comfortable driving position with good visibility is easily found.

Time hasn’t harmed this Golf’s visual appeal inside and out, then, and as it’s only two years old, it’s no surprise that the Golf remains a very fine car indeed to drive. It simply glides everywhere in a smooth and quiet fashion; the ride quality is unruffled by the worst that an early winter B-road can throw at it and it  steers with a good level of feedback and precision, even if it’s a little light. Body control is also excellent. 
VW has tuned this Golf to excel at comfort, refinement, stability and predictability.

That might read as ‘unexciting’ to some, but the Golf is able to lose its straight, sensible face for a moment. That fine body control also endows the Golf with a sense of poise and nimbleneess, thanks in part to 
the relatively light kerb weight of 1225kg. It’s no GTI, but it grips well and urges can be satisfied. 

The 1.4 TSI engine helps to that end. The old cliché that it feels quicker than its official 0-62mph time (9.3sec) suggests can be wheeled out here. It’s far from express pace, but it has a good spread of torque when you need extra shove and is a smooth, calm companion in its default running mode. Much like the rest of the car, then. 

Read the full Volkswagen Golf review

The high bar that the Golf set two years ago has not got any lower, in other words, so does this Focus climb over it? Although I’ve got reservations about how well the Focus will age, there’s no doubt that its new look brings it closer to the Golf in terms of visual sophistication, perhaps overcoming in part that subconscious badge snobbiness.

The new interior is a huge improvement, too. The design of the switchgear is much simpler, with buttons easier to find and some functions ported over to the touchscreen that runs Ford’s new Sync infotainment system, which is a doddle to use. The perceived quality is also greatly improved, with more soft-touch materials and some handsome brightwork.

The VW still has the edge, though. As improved as the Focus’s interior is, it’s clear that Ford has tried to fix something that was fundamentally flawed, rather than getting it right in the first place. And the Golf’s perceived quality is still a level above. 

On the move, though, the Focus claws back most of the margin lost to the Golf on static appeal. Much of the Ford’s initial driving pleasure comes from the sound of that three-cylinder engine, which oozes enthusiasm 
and urgency and encourages you to work it hard.

Mostly, doing so is optional and a delight, but there are times when you have to because, unlike in the Fiesta, this engine in 
the Focus can occasionally feel like it’s the big turbo pulling you along 
in a bigger, heavier car.

This also partly explains why the Focus returned indicated economy in the low 40s on this test, compared with the mid-40s of the Golf, whose four-cylinder engine never has to work as hard as the zesty Focus’s. 

The Ford’s greater enthusiast appeal extends to the way that it rides and handles. It steers with a touch more feel and precision and is more engaging than the Golf. Its ride is firmer than the Golf’s but no less comfortable for it, the benefit being slightly superior body control.

It has keener turn-in, helped in part by that lightweight three-pot engine over the driven wheels, and it is agile and responsive enough for some mid-corner adjustability. 

In truth, though, every point that one of these cars scores over the other is marginal, and much will come down to personal preference. Which means that it’s time to get off the fence, dust off that tape measure and gauge the width of the cigaratte paper that splits this pair. 

The verdict

The Golf and its superior breadth of ability nudges it. The Focus is closer to it than ever and in certain circumstances – particularly when you want to take the long way home – better to drive. But the Golf is close enough to its rival in the areas where the Focus excels and that bit further ahead in the others, such as refinement and interior quality. Whichever you buy, though, you won’t be disappointed.

Read Autocar's previous comparison - Mercedes A45 AMG versus Renault Megane 275 Trophy-R

Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 122 Match

Price £20,335; 0-62mph 9.3 seconds; Top speed 126mph; Economy 53.3mpg; C02 123g/km; Kerbweight 1225kg; Engine 4 cylinders, 1395cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 120bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 148lb ft at 1800-4000rpm; Gearbox Six-speed manual

Ford Focus 1.0T EcoBoost Titanium X

Price £22,295; 0-62mph 11.0 seconds; Top speed 120mph; Economy 60.1mpg; C02 108g/km; Kerbweight 1270kg; Engine 3 cylinders, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 123bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 125lb ft at 1800rpm; Gearbox Six-speed manual

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Lexus SC to take on Porsche 911 Turbo in 2016
Lexus SC to take on Porsche 911 Turbo in 2016 New sports coupé based on the LF-LC concept is set to replace the LFA as Lexus’s halo supercar

Lexus is poised to join the growing ranks of car makers looking to challenge the £120,000 Porsche 911 Turbo when it launches a production version of the Lexus LF-LC Hybrid Sports Coupé concept before the end of 2016.

The 2+2 sports coupé is likely to revive the SC badge, although it is expected to be a far more focused sports car than the model that previously used the name until production ended in 2010. 

The European boss of Lexus, Alain Uyttenhoven, said: “It is true that we are evaluating this car as a potential halo car, to take on the role of the Lexus LFA supercar in a more affordable way. The LFA was an incredible project; it showed what we could do and it brought all sorts of positives to Lexus. 

“One of our key priorities is to make Lexus a more emotional brand, and the appeal of this kind of car in the range is clear to us.”

The V10-powered, carbonfibre-bodied LFA cost from just under £350,000. A total of 500 were made, including faster, more focused Nürburgring special editions.

The new Lexus SC would be front-engined and rear-wheel drive, powered by a V8 engine and an electric motor. The power target is reported to be at least 480bhp.

The LF-LC concept, first shown in 2012, featured several driver-orientated details that are expected to reach production, including lightweight, race-inspired front seats and a racing-style steering wheel containing integrated controls including a start button.

It also featured a remote touchscreen system that allowed the driver to operate controls without shifting their position or altering their line of sight. Twin 12.3-inch LCD screens provide information and navigation displays.

It is not clear whether the production car will use a shortened version of the next-generation LS or GS’s platform, or whether a new platform would be developed specifically for the car.

Separately, sister firm Toyota is reportedly developing a significantly cheaper hybrid sports car with BMW. It has already been previewed as the two-seat Toyota FT-1, which was designed by the same US-based CALTY design studio as the LF-LC concept.

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Why White Van Man is about to kick up a stink
White Van Man is about to kick up a stink A European legal judgment could force the UK to sweep older diesel-fuelled vehicles off the streets

Yesterday was a bad day for the iconic White Van Man. A wealthy member of the Labour party’s shadow cabinet tweeted a picture which appeared to mock a house festooned in England flags and which had a large Transit van on the drive.

Although the shadow minister resigned within hours of the errant tweet, it did much to reinforce the idea that Middle England’s White Van stereotype was one that could be openly laughed at.

So if WVM is feeling unloved by the metropolitan elite this morning, things might be about to take a turn for the worse. As we report today, a European Court of Justice ruling has dramatically brought forward the likelihood of ‘ultra low emission zones’ being created in Britain’s most densely trafficked urban areas, which would almost certainly sweep nearly all pre-2009 diesel vehicles off the road.

I admit that it seems highly unlikely. Simply outlawing the backbone of Britain’s commercial transport network with a couple of years’ notice is too ridiculous to even entertain.

But it could happen. The UK’s Supreme Court has been ordered by the European Court of Justice to force the Government to rapidly address air pollution, which, in many places in the UK, is well over EU-mandated limits.

While I entirely sympathise with any White Van People who might, by now, be fuming at ‘European’ meddling in the UK’s affairs, I fear this is one of the few times the EU’s attentions have been welcome. There’s no doubt that we have to get a grip on diesel-fired pollution.

There again, this situation is thanks to the European Union’s utterly inexcusable failure to get a grip on the problems of diesel power much earlier.

The US and Japan has long had a distaste for diesel and the associate pollution, which is shown clearly in the graphic (compiled by Bosch) accompanying our news story. In the US Clean Air laws – which covered all types of pollutants – came in with force for cars back in1975.

Europe, by contrast had a happier relationship with diesel, which originally became popular in the 1970s because of the engine’s simplicity and longevity.

But 25 years ago, as fuel prices rose and the climate change lobby began to get real leverage. Although legislation for catalytic convertors had finally seen them becoming standard fit across the EU, Co2 output went to the top of the Euro-agenda.

Diesel seemed like a perfect solution: more performance and much better economy than petrol engines. Everybody was happy. By the 2000s, Co2 had become synonymous with ‘pollution’, even though it is locally harmless.

This Autocar news story from 2006 shows just how much CO2 became the ‘evil gas’ when, ironically, a large-engined petrol vehicle of the type being targeted was probably one of less polluting vehicles in the capital.

Although we did have the highly sensible EU-ratings system for engine pollutants, it seems that the Eurocrats and scientists dropped the ball massively.

While, say EU4, demanded a certain ex-factory performance in terms of pollutants leaving the exhaust pipe, many think these tests are hopelessly inadequate in real-world driving conditions. More seriously, it seems that as a diesel engines wears, it becomes much more polluting.

This is hardly White Van Man’s fault. He has no choice but to drive a diesel van, because clean-burning LPG and CNG fuels were never promoted as encouraged by the authorities, as they should have been.

Now we are in the position of having at least 15million diesel vehicles on the roads, which are polluting now and bound to get worse with time (aside, for example, from engines like Volvo’s Drive-E which have self-adjusting injectors).

And if White Van Man blames the politicians, the Eurocrats and the one-dimensional pressure groups for this mess, he’d be dead right.

Video: new 424bhp Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS driven
This new variant of Porsche's classic sports car is designed to plug the gap between the Carrera S and GT3. But does it work? Steve Sutcliffe finds out

The new Porsche 911 GTS has been built, says the manufacturer, for the kind of customer who quite fancies a GT3 but isn't prepared to put up with the compromises demanded by such a track-orientated car. So it's the car that fills the gap between the regular Carrera S and the GT3. Does that mean it's the answer to a question no one has yet bothered to ask? Steve Sutcliffe finds out when he drives the four-wheel-drive variant.

UK under pressure from European air quality ruling
UK under pressure from European air quality ruling European Court of Justice compels UK courts to ‘force’ government to meet pollution regulations

The British Government is under renewed pressure to meet European air quality regulations – particularly those covering nitrogen oxides (NoX) – after a ruling earlier this week by the European Court of Justice. 

The judgment could lead to Britain’s biggest conurbations having to introduce super-stringent low emissions zones, which could result in older diesel vehicles banned from city and town centres across the UK.

Pressure group ClientEarth brought the case against the Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs. The European Court ruled that Britain’s Supreme Court should now take over enforcement of the EU’s clean air regulations and force the UK government to rapidly accelerate the speed of its compliance. 

ClientEarth said that that the ruling meant UK courts “must order the government to produce a plan which achieves nitrogen dioxide limits as soon as possible. Under current plans the [wider] UK will not meet legal limits for nitrogen dioxide until after 2030.”

On the same day as the ruling, Bosch released an infographic showing just how difficult it will be for the UK and the rest of Europe to reduce particulate and NoX emissions. They come almost entirely from diesel engines, which dominate European roads. 

Although research on the subject is seriously lacking, it does appear that diesel engines become significantly more polluting as they age. Ironically, some engineers think that the extremely high levels of nitrogen dioxide levels on London’s Oxford Street could be caused by the anti-particulate treatment systems fitted to the bus engines.

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LA motor show proves our hydrogen future is coming up fast
LA motor show proves our hydrogen future is coming up fast Volkswagen, Audi and Toyota all showed off their near production-ready hydrogen-powered cars in LA, and now all that's needed is the infrastructure to support them

It was interesting to see how much of a splash hydrogen made at this week's Los Angeles Motor Show

This really seemed like the event where the technology entered the mainstream, with Audi and VW both announcing projects and Toyota revealing the production version and name of its hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai.

I drove a test mule of this car a few weeks ago in Belgium and found it deeply impressive. It's not going to appeal to driving enthusiasts, but the Mirai does feel a step beyond plug-in hybrids and Toyota's own Prius.

It's odd, in fact; because the cabin environment isn't a million miles away from the Prius, you half-expect a petrol motor to kick in as you accelerate. Except that never happens; there's a faint gurgle from somewhere in the system as the fuel cell 'stack' reacts to you prodding the throttle, and then there's just the usual surge of acceleration that you get from an electric vehicle. 

Except (again) the Mirai doesn't suffer from traditional EV range problems; if you need to refuel it you simply pull into a suitably-equipped filling station and fill it up. It should take three minutes, Toyota says - or about the same as a conventionally powered vehicle.

It seems to me, therefore, that this is yet another example of the car industry being just that bit more clever than the legislators. Because while the Mirai proves that a hydrogen FCV can work, the infrastructure does not exist to support it. 

London might have 15 stations next year, if it's lucky, but even though the car could quite happily go from one end of the country to the other, it's unlikely to be able to until the end of the decade at the earliest.

Does this, in turn, mean that hydrogen-fuelled cars like the Mirai are actually no better than electric vehicles? Right now, that's probably true - and just a little unfair.

Guangzhou motor show 2014 report and gallery
Guangzhou motor show 2014 report and gallery New cars from Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Ford and Nissan sit alongside local brands at the second-biggest Chinese motor show

The Guangzhou motor show, which got underway this week and runs until 29 November, is the second-largest show in China after the alternating event that’s shared between Shanghai and Beijing.

Held in the vast halls which also host the annual Canton Trade Fair, Guangzhou has in recent years become far more important on the world stage with a number of international manufacturers choosing to give new models world premieres at the show.

This year is no exception, with Mercedes Benz resurrecting the Maybach name as a sub-brand in the form of the Mercedes-Maybach S600, which enjoyed a simultaneous unveiling in Los Angeles. In China if it is big and German it is bound to sell; Volkswagen even finds a willing market for the Phaeton.

Most motor shows in China are little more than events put on by dealers with cars often being sold right off the show floor. While Guangzhou is more organised than that, information about new models can be seriously scarce for customers wanting to find out more.

One oddity of the Chinese market is that the big multinationals are forced to manufacture in conjunction with local joint-venture partners. Many such as Volkswagen, Honda, and Toyota have two different joint-venture partners with competing products. They have to keep the joint-venture partners happy and so you get overlapping products such as Volkswagen and Honda selling both the European and American versions of the Passat and Accord.

In the case of Toyota at this year's Guangzhou motor show this led to the near-identical Corolla and Levin being displayed side by side. The FAW-produced Corolla is the international version, whereas the Levin produced by Guangqi is similar to the North American version but unique to China and is meant to be more youthful.

Adding to the mix, GAC Group (Guangqi) on home turf decided to take up half a hall duplicating much of what was displayed by their joint-ventures and adding their own brands to the display. 

The international manufacturers

The Guangzhou show is not as important as Beijing/Shanghai, but with China a major market for international manufacturers, it is still important on the world stage.

In addition to the Mercedes-Maybach mentioned above, Ford gave an official launch to its revived Escort. This China-only car is based on the previous-generation Focus combined with the 1.5-litre engine used in the Fiesta in China.

Aimed as a low-cost car for consumers based on proven technology it is surprising how basic the interior is. Most Chinese producers manage to put touchscreen infotainment systems into their cars but Ford have omitted one from the Escort.

On a separate stand with their commercial joint-venture partner Jiangling Ford showed the Australian-designed Everest full-sized SUV. Power comes from a 235bhp 2.0-litre turbo Ecoboost petrol engine or choice of 2.2-litre or 3.2-litre Duratorq turbodiesels delivering 148bhp and 284lb ft and 197bhp and 347lb ft respectively. 

Qoros unveiled the Qoros 3 City SUV, which is actually a crossover version of the hatchback – a true SUV is under development. It rides 57mm higher than the hatchback it is based on and the front seats are also elevated by an additional centimetre.

Bigger tyres, plastic cladding and skid plates are meant to make it appeal to consumers looking for some weekend fun. It is only available with the Qoros 1.6T unit which for the first time has a six speed manual option. Qoros also showed a cut-out concept version of the City SUV. 

Taiwanese manufacturer Luxgen unveiled its new L7 SUV. This has vastly improved quality over the previous model but sticks with the uncompetitive five-speed automatic and 185bhp 2.2-litre turbo powertrain.

Staying with the SUV theme, Nissan’s China-only brand Venucia launched the T70. Starting at a bargain basement price of £9900, it is based on the Qashqai platform and available with a choice of 1.6 or 2.0-litre petrol engines coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox or CVT. 

The home manufacturers

Local manufacturer Guangqi - on home turf at the Guangzhou motor show - should have been expected to put on a strong showing, but it was BAIC that stole the show among the domestic manufacturers. 

Firstly, there was the official launch of the BAIC Senova X65 SUV. It rides on the Matrix platform derived from the old Saab 9-3 and inherits the Saab 2.0-litre engine.

Stealing the thunder from the X65 were the CC concept and D80. The CC is based on the Senova D60 and is a sportier version with a red and black interior, and more aggressive front and rear styling. Power has also been increased, swapping out the old 1.8-litre engine for the 203bhp Saab 2.0-litre unit. 

The impressive looking D80 was also on display, looking production ready. BAIC staff claim it is based on a Saab derived platform but Chinese media say it in fact rides on a lengthened Mercedes E-class platform. 

Inside, it sports a large touch screen infotainment system similar to a Tesla, and as with the CC quality standards have been ramped up considerably over Senova’s first Saab based offering. Power comes from the old Saab 2.3-litre unit but there are rumours of a 3.0-litre V6 option coming soon.

Not to be totally outdone, Guangqi did show off its new Trumpchi GA6. Power comes from either a 174bhp 1.8-litre engine or a new 220bhp 2.0-litre unit with a seven speed dual clutch transmission. 

One of the most controversial unveilings was the Landwind X7 SUV. Most Chinese manufacturers have moved away from their cloning days but this car is an almost dead ringer for the Ranger Rover Evoque, which was having its locally produced version revealed just one hall away. Read our comparison between the two models here.

Haval, now spun off as a separate brand by Great Wall, is showed off its new Haval H9. This is a serious-looking off-roader built in the vein as the Toyota Land Cruiser and has a body on frame structure. 

BYD unveiled its latest dynasty, the Shang, which is the plug-in hybrid (dual mode in BYD talk) version of the M3. This MPV in true BYD style looks very much like the Nissan NV200. A 0-62mph acceleration time of 7.5 seconds is claimed along with fuel economy of 126mpg.

Brilliance showed off its new Huasong 7 large MPV. Curiously, this is powered by a 2.0-litre engine sourced from within its BMW joint venture partner giving it up to 215bhp. 

Finally, MG gave a decent look at the GT, unlike at the Chengdu show where it hid the car in a box. It is however already on sale in China with sales likely to start next year in the UK

The model is already on sale in China, and UK sales are likely to start next year.

Mark Andrews

Mazda Promotion: Simplicity in action - how the all-new Mazda3 proves that less really is more
Simplicity in action - how the all-new Mazda3 proves that less really is more Huge amounts of complex design and ground-breaking materials have gone into making the all-new Mazda3 a model of simplicity

Perennially attributed to modernist architect Mies van der Rohe (rather than the lesser-known abstract expressionist artist from whom he actually nicked it), the phrase ‘Less is More’ neatly encapsulates the former’s minimalist design philosophy. Quite simply, he proved time and again that the more you take away, the better the end result.

Today, it doesn’t take more than a cursory rummage around almost every aspect of the all-new Mazda3’s striking Kodo design and painstaking SKYACTIV engineering to recognise that Mies’ famous tenet is still alive and well in a machine that goes out of its way to prove that giving you less is, in fact, the perfect way to give you so much more.

From an exterior design perspective, for instance, the rear-leaning less cab-forward stance, lower roofline and carefully minimised panel gaps lower aerodynamic drag to give you better fuel economy, greater high-speed stability and a quieter cabin.

On board, a lower driver’s seat hip point and steering wheel position offer better driving ergonomics for greater involvement and driving pleasure. A clean, clutter-free dashboard design promotes less driver strain and distraction through simple, intuitive controls and the ready assimilation of important information, with minimal distraction from the road ahead.

Safety first

In an era when we’re in danger of on-board-information-overload, every system has been designed to keep the driver’s mind on the job, eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

A new rotary Mmultimedia Commander dial offers quick, intuitive control of the all-new Mazda3’s infotainment systems, free of the protracted, bewildered gazing that so often hallmarks such systems. The attendant 7-inch, full-colour centre console touch-screen has been positioned higher for at-a-glance reading. 

And the new Active Driving Display head-up system* positions all key driving information on a clear panel raised above the instrument clusterin mid-air near above the bonnet, where the driver can read it with minimal eye movement or focal adjustment. Even the new integrated navigation system~ has been designed to help drivers reach their destination in less of a lost-in-the-inner-city lather.

Oh, and, occupants may even relish the ultra-low sound distortion of the all-new Mazda3’s peerless Bose 9-speaker audio system*, for greater enjoyment of music on the move.

This comprehensive array of less-is-more cockpit technology is contained within a new SKYACTIV bodyshell comprising 60% high-tensile steel, which pulls off the neat trick of being far more rigid than its predecessor yet considerably lighter.

In fact, all chassis components have endured a strict weight loss regime in the interest of greater agility and more driving enjoyment. The suspension systems shed weight through the increased use of both aluminium and high tensile steel. A new, lighter, smaller, electronic power-steering system has a lower 14:1 gear ratio – which means less wheel movement for lower driver fatigue. And even the brake system features smaller, lighter cylinders and less pedal play for greater control and shorter stopping distances. 

Meanwhile, the lightweight, low-friction engine design at the heart of Mazda’s award-winning SKYACTIV powertrain technology represents the very apogee of the less-is-more engineering philosophy. 

Mazda’s 150ps SKYACTIV-D Diesel engine 2.2 litre turbodiesel is a case in point: combining dynamic performance with low fuel consumption and significantly reduced emissions, it boasts the world’s lowest compression ratio. Low compression equates to less friction, less strain and, hence, a longer life.

Mazda’s i-Stop engine idle and i-ELOOP regenerative braking systems† further contribute to improvedless fuel economyconsumption. Indeed, storing recovered electrical energy to spare the engine the chore of powering the alternator can lower fuel consumption by up to 10% under urban driving conditions.

Last, but by no means least, a comprehensive raft of anti-NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) intrusion measures ensures that the car’s occupants spend a calmer more comfortable time inside one of the quietest cabins in the class.

So there you have it. The all-new Mazda3; less of every automotive annoyance to give us more of everything we enjoy about life behind the wheel. Mies would be pleased.

*Available on all-new Mazda3 Sport Nav models

~ Available on all-new Mazda3 SE Nav, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav models 

† Available on all-new Mazda3 165ps Sport Nav

For more information on the all-new Mazda3, visit http://www.mazda.co.uk/cars/mazda3-hatchback/

See our latest offers here: http://www.mazda.co.uk/offers/mazda3/ 

Retail sales only. Subject to availability at participating dealers only on vehicles registered between 01.10.2014 and 31.12.2014. T&C apply.

0% APR Mazda Personal Contract Purchase available on all all-new Mazda3 models over 24, 30, 36 or 42 months. You will not own the vehicle until all payments are made.  Finance subject to status, 18s or over. Guarantee/indemnity may be required. Mazda Financial Services RH1 1SR. Channel islands excluded. Not available in conjunction with any other offer unless specified.

Vauxhall confirms new flagship SUV in development
Vauxhall confirms new flagship SUV in development General Motors boss Mary Barra reveals new flagship SUV will launch as part of 27-strong model offensive, and is due to appear by 2018

General Motors boss Mary Barra has revealed that a range-topping Vauxhall SUV is in development.

The new model, announced as part of Barra's trip to Vauxhall parent Opel's Rüsselsheim manufacturing plant, will sit alongside the Insignia and act as the firm's second flagship model.

The SUV forms part of Vauxhall's long-term product plan, announced in June of this year, which aims to bring 27 new models to market by 2018. The new Corsa supermini, upcoming Astra and Viva city car are among the more prominent models to be included in the plan.

Up to 17 new engines will also be introduced as part of the strategy.

While the new SUV will act as a premium flagship for the brand, at least two other high-riding models are likely to appear in the immediate future.

Opel boss Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann revealed earlier this summer that his company was eyeing up a compact crossover to rival the Dacia Duster. Such a model could well form the basis of a replacement for the Meriva MPV.

The Zafira MPV is also due to be replaced in the near future, and like the Meriva is expected to ditch its people-carrier looks in favour of more muscular, SUV-esque styling.

GM has already announced it will invest €245 million into Opel's Rüsselsheim plant to help meet "future requirements" - including the production of the new SUV.

Barra today announced an extra €500 million investment in Opel's engine and transmission plants. She also revealed a third shift is being added at Opel's Eisenach plant to cope with increased demand for the Adam and Corsa.

Barra said: "Opel/Vauxhall is of high strategic importance for GM. The product offensive with 27 new models and 17 new engines has enjoyed a very successful start. These additional investments will help the brands shine again and further strengthen our position in Europe. They are a clear sign of GM’s commitment to Opel/Vauxhall, to Germany and to Europe.

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Range Rover Evoque versus LandWind X7 copycat – which is better?
Range Rover Evoque versus LandWind X7 copycat – which is better? Our man at the Guangzhou motor show compares the Chinese-market Evoque with LandWind's cheaper, unauthorised and startlingly similar version

Today at the Guangzhou motor show in China, the controversial LandWind X7, a copycat of the Range Rover Evoque, was unveiled.

Just one hall away Jaguar Land Rover was busy launching a locally made Evoque, the first product of its joint venture with Chinese manufacturer Chery.

If the crowds around the authentic car on the JLR stand can be trusted, the real deal is the clear winner.

Chris Bryant, president of the JLR joint-venture, wouldn't comment on the X7 copycat, stating that he was, “here to speak about our joint-venture Evoque”.

However, senior company figures at the LA motor show have poured scorn on the LandWind, and you can read their comments here.

Bryant pointed out that the only difference between the authentic Evoque made in China and one built in the UK was the badge on the back which has the joint-venture name written in Chinese. “It’s the same quality, same service, same choice,” he said.

With prices starting at around the Chinese equivalent of £14,000 the LandWind X7 doppelganger appears a steal against £40,000-plus for the locally produced Evoque.

A look at the interior of the X7 shows reasonable quality leathers and soft plastics for a Chinese car. However, it should be remembered that LandWind garnered a zero in the Euro NCAP crash test safety ratings for their Isuzu Rodeo-based X6.

And it seems that the X7 inherits exterior build issues. There is evident bubbling of paintwork on corners and the gaps of the rear doors and boot are neither regular nor flush with the sides.

There are differences between the cars: the X7 is larger by more than 5cm including a 1cm longer wheelbase and most notably has a roof rack. It has an underpowered 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine delivering 188bhp coupled to either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic.

That's against 237bhp in the joint-venture Evoque with a nine-speed automatic unit.

External differences are minor and are largely a matter of detailing. This is carried over into the interior which sports a very similar dashboard layout. One of the few areas where the LandWind wins out is that it has a larger infotainment touchscreen than the Evoque.

Mark Andrews

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The return of the Maybach name is about more than just a car
The return of the Maybach name is about more than just a car After a two-year hiatus, the Maybach name is back on the first of a new range of cars. Could Mercedes finally find its super-luxury cloud is tinged with silver?

I really like the idea of Mercedes-Maybach. I don’t mean the car unveiled in LA, but the creation of the brand within the brand. 

I’m no marketing wizard, but it seems to me that calling the car a Mercedes-Maybach rather than a Mercedes-Benz Maybach, it only shortens a long name, but rather more importantly defines far more clearly the kind of product it’s referring to.

Plus, at the same time, it opens up an almost infinite number of directions in which the name – being a brand rather than a model – can go. 

It works just as well with Mercedes-AMG and, indeed, the third Mercedes sub-brand, which is, of course, Mercedes-Benz.

Whom do we have to thank for this? My money is on Land Rover. I know it was far from the minds of those who designed the original Range Rover back in the 1960s, but that is the car that became almost by accident a brand within a brand, not least because ‘Land Rover Range Rover’ was such a mouthful. 

So now it has an, erm, range of Range Rovers, has started on its range of Discovery-badged models and will soon do the same for its Defenders.

As for Maybach itself, time alone will tell whether its decision to exhume the name two years after it was interred for the second time was smart.

On the one hand, not even Benz execs will deny that its attempt to revive the Maybach brand was a happy one, and on the other while few may have cared for the cars enough to spend a quarter of a million on one, no-one doubted the sheer quality of the finished item nor what Mercedes intended the Maybach brand to mean. 

If that means people will now be willing to buy a Mercedes-Maybach for half the price of the old Maybach - and if, in turn, that means Mercedes goes on to develop a whole new range of Maybach-branded luxury cars - then perhaps the dark cloud that hung over the unloved and unlovely last Maybach may yet prove to be tinged with silver.

Best of the LA motor show 2014 - our show stars
Best of the LA motor show 2014 - our show stars Classic concept cars, production-ready models and a hydrogen-filled future. Here are our star cars from the LA motor show 2014

The LA motor show has given us a glimpse of the future - whether it be in the rise of hydrogen fuell cell-powered cars like Toyota's Mirai, through new production models including Mazda's CX-3 or Jaguar's AWD F-type, or further afield with Audi's Prologue.

While the show halls are packed with new metal, here are our expert's picks of the best cars on display at the LA motor show.

Mazda CX-3 

The Mazda CX3 stood out because it will easily be the best looking of the new small SUV pack. Judging by the cabin of the show car, it will feel like the highest quality one too as it takes fit and finish a notch or two above other Mazdas. Let’s hope it drives just as well, and it will be the complete article - Chas Hallett

Mercedes-Maybach

It's the new super-plush Merc for me, simply because I like the idea of a top-spec S-class that admits it's an S-class - unlike the previous Maybach. If people want a chance to pay extra for an optimised version of the world's best luxury saloon, why shouldn't they have it? - Steve Cropley

Audi Prologue

The sleek two door prologue points the way forward for Audi, whose future models are set to share elements of its highly technical styling treatment created under the guise of its design boss, Marc Lichte. It is a terrifically detailed concept with nuances in the surfacing and subtle creases throughout the body, that fully reflect the German car maker’s traditional attention to aesthetic detail - Greg Kable

Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang

A Mustang with over 500bhp? Good. A normally aspirated Mustang with over 500bhp? Very good indeed. But one with a flat plane crankshaft, walk-into-lamp-post looks and designed to be at its best when driven flat out around a race track, too. That could be automotive nirvana right there - Andrew Frankel

Dodge Charger Hellcat 

Clearly the leader in the 700bhp+ family car segment, it’s the $63,995 Dodge Charger Hellcat. Dodge says it’s the most powerful four-door saloon in the world and even Mercedes couldn’t argue. I wonder how many husbands in America will be trying to sneak one of these monsters onto the family fleet by de-badging it and claiming it’s the economy model? The styling’s not brilliant, but you can’t argue with 707bhp - Colin Goodwin

Jaguar F-type manual

How do you make a Jaguar F-type even more beautiful? Just about the only answer was unveiled in LA, with the reveal of a stick shift sat between the front seats. Only the small matter of getting it linked to the V8 to consider now - Jim Holder

Cadillac ATS-V

The ATS-V is the sort of US performance car that would have passed me by in the past - good on paper, but somewhat underwhelming to drive against Europe’s best. Then I drove the quite brilliant new Corvette Stingray, definitely the surprise package of the year. The ATS-V is developed by many of the same folk from General Motors. Could it be 2015’s surprise package? - Mark Tisshaw

Toyota Mirai

The external styling is challenging, but Toyota's Mirai undoubtedly played its part in a big show for fuel cell vehicles. It was our first chance to see the cabin, and it looks better resolved and higher quality than a Prius's - handy, given that the asking price is bound to be a fair whack higher too - John McIlroy

What's been your star of the LA motor show? Let us know in the comments section below, and read more LA motor show news here

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Why Jaguar’s return to top-flight motor racing is inevitable
Why Jaguar’s return to top-flight motor racing is inevitable The British manufacturer needs to prove its sports cars against Porsche and Aston Martin, but it must be wary of repeating its Formula 1 debacle

“If you want to be considered a sports car manufacturer, you have to be engaged in motorsport – and at a high level. It is not about trying to sell cars today, but about investing in your reputation and your heritage. To keep those things alive requires you to compete in motorsport with a clear strategic goal to do just that.”

Just minutes after hearing those words from Porsche’s head of research and development, Wolfgang Hatz, I read about the emerging plans for a Jaguar F-type GT3 racer. Hatz’s words now resonated with even greater clarity – not least the bit about a sports car maker needing to compete in racing to justify its credentials.

Jaguar, of course, has great heritage both as a sports car manufacturer and in racing. But in recent years its racing forays from Formula 1 to American sports car racing have been wretched. Indeed, its only glory has come from historic racing, where it has served only to prove what the firm was once capable of.

Trouble is, Jaguar faces the dual task of first proving it can compete with the F-type in GT3 racing against the likes of Porsche, which is hardly short of match practice, and then trying to move up the competition ladder. The ultimate goal, you would have to assume, is to compete at the very top level of the World Endurance Championship (WEC). With Porsche and Audi slugging it out there, alongside Toyota and soon Nissan, how could they not?

It’s a difficult and expensive road ahead. Spin-off road cars from racing projects may help pay the bills and build recognition, but they are unlikely to cover the cost of becoming a winning force. And be in no doubt, if you are Jaguar you must compete to win; the reticence to get involved to date must be in some part down to a recognition that a second-rate racing foray will do more harm than good, not just to the financial bottom line but also Jaguar’s standing.

But even success will come at a price. Do well, and Jaguar must move rapidly up the racing ladder, which is expensive and increasingly challenging, as even Hatz will admit after a incredibly positive but hard debut season in the WEC which has brought pole positions and race leads but no wins.

When you have the heritage of these brands, only victory will do; but when only one car can win each race, competing head-to-head can soon descend into a spending race.

With that in mind, you can see why projects such as its Bloodhound SSC collaboration are so appealing. The 1000mph land speed record attempt allows Jaguar engineers to work at the absolute cutting edge of technology and take those skills back to the workplace. 

Nor is there any risk of ‘losing’ to the opposition – even if the project doesn’t hit its goals, the people involved will only be seen as having tried to push the boundaries of science. Bloodhound delivers many of the benefits of motorsport without any of the concerns regarding being beaten by the opposition.

So what should Jaguar do about racing? Exactly what it is doing: treading carefully, going one step at a time and only jumping in when it knows what it can achieve and what motorsport can do for the company. 

It also needs to remember to be modest about any projects, although the legacy of a boastful F1 entry should see to that. When a works Jaguar hits the grids again it’ll be a story to savour, but – as Hatz implies – rather than chasing the easy headlines, the legacy of any project must be considered as by far the greater goal.

 

Design boss Marc Lichte is leading Audi in a bold new direction
Design boss Marc Lichte is leading Audi in a bold new direction Audi has thrown away the cookie-cutter and has promised to make its upcoming models more interesting to the eye

A design revolution is underway at Audi – and not before time I say.

For too long, the cars have looked just too similar. Take the badges off and at a first glance can you tell your A7 Sportback from an A6? Or an A5 Sportback from an A4? A Q3 from a Q5? A gold star if you can.

Audi’s new look will be inspired by the Prologue concept, unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show. Up first for the new look will be the new A8 in late 2016. Fortunately for Audi, the show car looks great, but the fact it looks different to what’s gone before is more important to me. 

Audi’s new design chief Marc Lichte agreed that the time is right for a new look, but said there was justifiable logic in keeping the old 'cookie cutter' look for so long.

“It has been the right thing to do to evolve the design in small steps,” he said. “When Walter de Silva introduced the single-frame grille on the 2004 A6, people thought it was too radical.

“But it was the right thing to do, because it gave Audi a face. It was something new so had to be given time. Now after 10 years, people know the face of Audi and it’s time to do something new, but keeping the single-frame grille because it would be a mistake to change our face.”

He also promised those 'cookie cutter' days won’t return now Audi is fully established as a premium brand.

“We need to differentiate more and I promise future cars will be different,” he said. “We designed the A8, A7 and A6 together so made sure they were all different. The design of all three was signed off within only eight months of me arriving [at Audi].

“We’ll differentiate a lot and you’ll be able to tell which model is which. They’ll all be linked through the single-frame grille, but we can still do something really radical.

“We’re doing this with the next-generation A1 for instance. And the Q8 will have the single-frame grille but clearly something radical and very different.” 

Audi has said its range will grow from 50 models to 60 by 2020, which means it faces a big challenge to ensure the cars are all suitably different and recognisable. Still, at least Audi is at last making the right noises about design. 

Audi Quattro could still make production
Audi Quattro could still make production Work on a long-awaited successor to the iconic Quattro has restarted; radical electric car also in the works

The Audi Quattro project is very much alive at the firm, according to new design director Marc Lichte, who also revealed that a pure electric vehicle “completely different” in design to anything else on the market was also in the works. 

Audi has shown two concept versions of a reborn Quattro in recent times, the 2010 Quattro and the 2013 Sport Quattro.

Speaking at the Los Angeles motor show, Lichte said Audi was continuing to work on a reborn Quattro. “We are working on Quattro, it is still alive,” he said.

Lichte believes that a future Qauttro can be even more extreme than the two concepts previously shown.

“The two concepts we did had base potential but we can do something more extreme,” he said. “We have restarted this project and made them more extreme. It’s still a secret though… There will be surprises.”

Lichte also spoke on the new electric car. “The battery electric vehicle will be one of the most important new cars,” he said. “It will be interesting, clever, different. It will be very different to every car on the market.”

He added that the car would break new ground even compared to the Tesla and BMW’s i range. “Tesla did an amazing job, but it looks like a conventional car,” he said. “What will it be like compared to the i3 and i8? It will be different.”

The modular MQB platform or any other existing arctiecture would not be used for the car. “The architecture will be completely new, something completely new,” said Lichte. “Will the batteries be in floor? I didn’t say that…”

The electric car is the project that excites Lichte the most in his new role, which he started on February 1 having moved from Volkswagen. 

“The electric vehicle is the most interesting to design, and leaving my stamp on,” he said. “I don’t want to be radical. It will be different. Not radical. An Audi doesn’t have to be radical. The bonnet height for instance can be different as there is no engine underneath to dictate height. Everyone in the team is excited with this project.”

Lichte wouldn’t be drawn on specifics of the project such as size or bodystyle, but hinted a concept car was likely, and a family of electric Audis was possible.

“We will tease this car in the future with a concept car, I imagine,” he confirmed. “Will it be a family like the BMW i range? We shall see.”

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New Kia KX3 concept aims for China
New Kia KX3 concept aims for China Compact SUV hints at future production car, which is aimed at younger Chinese buyers

Kia has unveiled a new VW Golf-size SUV concept, which will preview a China-only production car. The KX3 has been designed and engineered through Dongfeng Yueda Kia, the Korean brand’s joint venture in China.

Some 4.25m long, the KX3 is described as being designed to appeal to “young Chinese consumers who high-value, high quality cars…in pursuit of an outgoing lifestyle”.  The compact SUV is one of the fastest growing segments in Western car markets, a trend that’s expected to be repeated in China.

The KX3 concept is powered by a 1.6-litre T-GDI direct-injection turbocharged petrol engine hooked up to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission and all-wheel drive. The 2590mm-long wheelbase is said to underpin “plenty of cabin space” and boot space is a useful 400-litres.

Kia also claims that the KX3 concept is capable of achieving a five-star result in the European NCAP crash tests. Inside it gets connectivity systems for use with a smartphone. There’s no news yet on when the production version of the KX3 will be launched.

Unveiled at the Guangzhou Motor Show, the concept is described as an “athletic-looking compact SUV”. The sharply drawn front-end design – which has more than a hint of Porsche Macan about the LED headlamps – is an indication of the Kia’s new corporate design identity. 

Kia calls this look ‘the tiger-nose’ grill and it will also be used on the company’s upcoming stand-alone Hybrid model. Sources suggest that the styling of this baby SUV will also hints strongly at the shape of the next-generation Kia Sportage.

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Jaguar close to decision over F-type R coupe racing car
Jaguar close to decision over F-type R coupe racing car British manufacturer's plans to enter sports car racing with the F-type R coupé are “advanced”, according to a source close to the project

Jaguar could get the green light to build an FIA GT3 race version of its F-type R coupé before Christmas.

The project is sufficiently advanced for Jaguar to have whittled the shortlist of potential development partners down to just three race teams; all that is required is the rubber-stamp of top-level bosses.

Should that be forthcoming, the plan would be to have a car testing by the middle of next year and making its race debut less than a year from now. 

“The fact is that Jaguar is the only one of the premium brands without an active race programme at present,” said a source close to the project, “and that needs correcting, especially given its rich competition heritage”.

The thinking at Jaguar is to largely out-source the project to the successful partner in the same way as Bentley has done with Malcolm Wilson's M Sport operation and, indeed, as Jaguar did with TWR in its halcyon racing days of the late 1980s and 1990s.

Jaguar has also noted the considerable commercial success of Aston Martin's customer GT4 programme and does not rule out going down a similar route with a much more affordable racing F-type should the GT3 project prove successful.

But the ultimate aim of the programme, if instigated, would be to provide Jaguar with the means with which to develop a GT3-specification F-type for the road.

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Mercedes plans to expand Maybach into a range of cars
Mercedes to develop new Maybach sub-brand into a range of cars German manufacturer will give the plush Maybach treatment to other models in its range if the new sub-brand's first offering proves successful

Mercedes-Benz has confirmed it hopes to turn the newly created Mercedes-Maybach brand into an entire range of cars.

“I would not call it an active plan yet,” said Dr Hermann-Joseph Storp, the development director for the S-class, at the Los Angeles motor show. “Because we have to first wait to see how successful the new saloon will be. But if the brand is popular, we could of course make a Maybach version of many different cars.”

Storp went on to say Maybach versions of the E-class and GLS-class would be possible, as well as a Maybach-branded version of the existing S-class coupé.

“Maybach is about quality, refinement, comfort and exclusivity – as long as a car has these characteristics, it could be a Maybach,” he said.

The expansion of the Maybach brand would fit very clearly into the company's new naming strategy. With Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG models being available across a vast range of product from the A-class to the S-class, it would be inconsistent for the Mercedes-Maybach sub-brand to continue to apply to just one car.

Storp said it would take up to two years to adapt an existing product to meet Maybach standards although it would take half that time to put a new engine in the Maybach which is available in Europe with only V8 and V12 petrol power, raising the prospect of a diesel Maybach going sale in Europe within the year.

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BMW M division boss hints at softening stance towards a junior supercar
BMW M division boss hints at revival of junior supercar project German firm could create a carbonfibre plug-in supercar in the future, although for the time being the priority is to grow the hybrid i sub-brand

The product boss of BMW's M performance division, Carsten Pries, has indicated a softening of BMW's stance towards building a junior supercar as a rival to the Audi R8 and the new Mercedes-AMG GT.

Such a car would also act as the spiritual successor to the original M car, the M1, from 1978. M division has a long-held desire to follow the lead of Mercedes-AMG and create a junior supercar, but until now parent company BMW has remained unconvinced of the business case.

However, the arrival of BMW's 'i' sub-brand and the performance potential of the hybrid technology found under the skin of the BMW i8 has raised the prospect of the idea being revisited.

Responding to a question about whether BMW still felt its 'i' and 'M' brands need to be kept entirely distinct despite the obvious suitability of the i8 for the M treatment, Pries said: “We have to let the i brand settle down first. It is still very new to the market and the customer needs to be given some time to understand its proposition. Then, maybe, we can look at doing something.”

Speaking at the Los Angeles motor show, Pries confirmed that any resulting car would not be simply a hotter version of the BMW i8, but an M-car in its own right which merely used i8 technologies such as its carbonfibre construction and revolutionary plug-in powertrain.

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LA motor show 2014 report and gallery
LA motor show 2014 report and gallery Hydrogen rules the day in LA, as major manufacturers show their near production-ready visions of a fuel cell future

It's small. That's what nearly everyone is saying about this year's Los Angeles motor show. If it's just the highlights you want, you can visit them in a couple of hours. 

However, if the West Coast's most important motor expo is small, it is also perfectly formed. Whereas others in the expo game dedicate vast areas of show-stand real estate to widget manufacturers whose wares most show-goers couldn't even identify, much less appreciate, LA concentrates on motors that count, with plenty of variety in size and price.

This year's theme is indisputably the rise of hydrogen fuel cell cars. Honda, Toyota, VW and Audi were all there with vehicles that were drivable on LA streets and close to production-ready, and the lingering message from everyone was: we've designed and perfected the cars; now give us the infrastructure. 

VW Group, whose Hymotion Golf, Passat and Audi A7 h-tron Quattro were joined by Toyota's Mirai and Honda's FCV in the fuel cell field, were let loose on LA in hacks' hands not to prove they were special, but that they were normal. 

These were common or garden electric cars, except that their power was generated on-board from hydrogen, their only tailpipe emission was water vapour and their only noise was a faintly-whirring compressor. 

How long before we can buy such a car? Some say they're coming to the UK next year. How long until hydrogen is in easy supply? Quite a lot longer. One reason these cars were made available in LA is because the Californian capital has a lot of fuelling stations by world standard - a princely total of 15.

Audi also went on the front foot, design-wise, with its beautiful Prologue concept, claimed to introduce a whole new design style. There's a wider, lower grille, new lights, a new attitude to "muscles" on the sides of the body, an architectural approach to the body lines that design the shape, and a new interior approach. 

It was well received, which is just as well. Forthcoming A6, A7 and A8 models are already influenced by this concept - compellingly explained by new design chief Marc Lichte, who was installed after group technical guru Dr Ulrich Hackenburg arrived a year ago to "sort out" Audi's forward models.

Mazda gave us hope of a new leader in the B-segment SUV class with its handsome but confusingly labelled CX-3 (what's a CX-2, then?) and Honda also weighed in with a pretty HR-V for the same sector, hopefully not to be dismissed like its faded predecessor as the Hip Replacement Vehicle.

Jaguar Land Rover always plays well in the US these days - which is probably why senior managers like Ralf Speth and Wolfgang Ziebart were prominently on hand instead of at the competing Guangzhou in China. 

They improved their cause with all-wheel drive and manual gearbox versions of the Jaguar F-type sports car, a hugely well-liked car in California, and with the new Land Rover Discovery Sport, also bound to play well with its particularly brilliant styling and five-plus-two seating.

Former Aston design boss Henrik Fisker, who has stepped away from the failed California-based business bearing his name and producing the Karma plug-in hybrid saloon, was on hand with a super-Mustang called Rocket, a 725bhp co-operative project between himself and the world's biggest Ford dealer, inevitably Californian.

The car, hugely muscular, is clad in hand-made carbon fibre panels and tipped to cost around £80,000 in the US. 

Playing for big money was the new Bentley Grand Convertible, which reprises the old Azure's aura by being happily powered by the venerable 6.75-litre pushrod V8, updated again.

It was interesting also to see Mercedes-Benz reprising the Maybach name we all thought had been compromised in the remarkably tasteless and unsuccessful luxury saloon the group produced to do battle with the Rolls Phantom, back when that car was new. It spectacularly lost the battle.

Mercedes-Maybach is to become a luxury line, just as Mercedes-AMG is the sporty line, and judging by the general approval afforded to the V12-engined S600, now clearly an S-class variant, it is going to work.

The American marques mostly disappointed us. There wasn't much to see on their stands (Buick looked like a deserted parking lot) and their offerings were mostly updates - four pipes, hood vents and a splitter for the new Caddy ATS-V coupé, for instance, and it's not even a 2015 model. 

That all seems to prove that the LA Show's fabled tussle for US supremacy with Detroit's show in January is far from won. In fact, if Motown can field a decent number of interesting American creations in two months' time, it might even have been lost.

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Facelifted Mazda 6 on display in LA
Facelifted Mazda 6 on display in LA Updated styling and interior for Mazda's 6, which will go on sale in the UK early next year

Alongside its new CX-3 crossover and the facelifted CX-5, Mazda is using the LA motor show to showcase its updated 6.

Like the firm's updated CX-5 SUV, the main exterior changes to the 6 revolve around its front grille, which takes on a more fluidic shape. New LED headlight designs also feature at the rear alongside a new shark fin radio antenna, while the colour range has also expanded.

Inside is where the 6's updates are most evident. Adopting a more luxurious look, Mazda has redesigned the instrument panel and lower console. New features include an electronic parking brake, a free-standing seven-inch infotainment screen running the firm's MZD connect service, and a rear seat heater.

The 6's engine range, which includes 2.0 and 2.5-litre SkyAtiv-G direct-injection petrol engines as well as a 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D diesel, has been carried over, but the diesel is now available with Mazda's latest all-wheel drive system.

Additions to Mazda's suite of safety technologies include adaptive LED headlights, plus lane keeping and driver attention assistance systems. 

The updated 6 will go on sale in the UK early next year.

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Mazda unveils CX-5 facelift at LA motor show
Mazda unveils CX-5 facelift at LA motor show Styling tweaks and new equipment for Mazda's Nissan Qashqai rival, which is on display in LA and will come to the UK early next year

Mazda has introduced a facelifted version of its CX-5 SUV at the LA motor show.

Chief among the car's styling enhancements is a new front grille, which Mazda says is 'tauter and bolder' than on the outgoing car. It features alongside redesigned LED lights, while new 19-inch alloy wheel designs are also available alongside new paint colours.

Inside, Mazda has upgraded the perceived quality of the cabin, and fitted the latest version of its free-standing MZD Connect infotainment system to the CX-5.

Powertrain options include a 2.0-litre SkyAciv-G direct-injection petrol in 158bhp and 165bhp forms, plus a 2.5-litre version with 189bhp, as well as a 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D diesel in 148bhp and 173bhp guises. The lower-powered diesel is the greenest option in the range, emitting 119g/km of CO2.

Engines can be coupled to six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, while a new generation of Mazda's all-wheel drive system is also offered.

Mazda's suite of safety technologies has also been upgraded, adding new functions including adaptive LED headlights, as well as driver attention and lane assistance systems.

One of our top rated crossovers, the new CX-5 will compete with the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti in the UK. The facelifted CX-5 will arrive in the UK early next year.

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Volkswagen Group unveils hydrogen-powered Golf Estate and Passat
Volkswagen Group unveils new fuel cell tech German car giant showcases its hydrogen fuel cell technology with a brace of concepts at the Los Angeles motor show

The Volkswagen Group has joined a number of car makers showcasing their fuel cell technology at this week’s Los Angeles motor show.

The firm has unveiled a new hydrogen-powered Golf Estate Hymotion along with a related Passat Hymotion, both of which employ similar zero emission low temperature proton exchange membrane (LT PEM) propulsion systems.

Following on from petrol, diesel, natural gas, petrol-electric hybrid and pure electric versions of the Golf, the new Hymotion previews a sixth propulsion system for Europe’s top selling model. 

Such a solution provides Volkswagen with a practical alternative to the likes of the new hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai, which is planned to head into UK showrooms by mid-2015.

The fuel cell stack used by the Golf Estate Hymotion and Passat Hymotion has been developed in-house by the Volkswagen Group.

In the former it is used to create electricity that is used to power the same 134bhp electric motor used by the e-Golf. 

Further electrical power is sourced from a lithium ion battery, which is used to store kinetic energy produced on periods of trailing throttle and under braking and then used during the start up phase and as a booster under acceleration.

While it is yet to confirm the kerb weight of its new fuel cell vehicle, Volkswagen quotes a 0-62mph time of 10.0sec for the front-wheel drive Golf Estate Hymotion.

Hydrogen used to power the fuel cell is stored in specially developed carbonfibre tanks mounted within the floor of the Golf Estate Hymotion’s MQB platform at a pressure of 700bar. 

Volkswagen has not confirmed the capacity of the tanks but says they can be filled in just three minutes to provide a zero emission range of 310 miles – or some 10 miles more than Toyota claims for the Mirai.

The sole emissions created by the Golf Estate Hymotion during its cold combustion process is hydrogen and oxygen – or pure water vapour. Also on display is Audi's own hydrogen-powered A7 h-tron.

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Autocar magazine preview 19 November preview
Autocar magazine preview 19 November preview Mercedes-AMG GT driven; full Vauxhall Corsa road test; Ford Focus versus Volkswagen Golf; Jaguar F-type long-term update; Audi TT used buying guide

The brand spanking new Mercedes-AMG GT is the star of this week's issue of Autocar magazine, dated 19 November 2014 and available to buy now.

The German manufacturer's new twin-turbo V8 GT is the eagerly awaited follow-up to the mighty SLS. Matt Saunders finds out if Mercedes-AMG has truly hit its stride this time around.

Other cars tested in this issue include the Bentley Mulsanne Speed, Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS, Fiat 500X 1.6 MultiJet Popstar, Hyundai i20 and Kia Soul EV, which is finally heading to Britain in limited numbers.

Also in this week's issue, Mercedes confirms the comeback of its storied Maybach brand, which will be attached to very-high-end S-class variants. But can it work this time around?

We compare the Ford Focus hatch with the Volkswagen Golf. Ford has recently revamped the Focus in a bid to reclaim class leadership from its rival. Mark Tisshaw finds out if it succeeds.

Following on from our recap on the latest situation at Lotus earlier this month, we've got an in-depth interview with the man at the top, Jean-Marc Gales. He speaks on many topics, including his own management style, the power of the Lotus brand and the need for a new Esprit model.

The Vauxhall Corsa gets a thorough assessment by our intrepid road test team, who pick over every aspect of GM's big-selling supermini. The significance of a new Corsa shouldn't be understated, but replacing it isn't without inherent risks.

Yes, you can guarantee there's a willing market out there for the new car, but it's a relatively conservative and notoriously fickle one, so the stakes are high for the Luton-based manufacturer.

The miles are piling on our Jaguar F-type R coupé, and there's a long-term update in this week's issue. We're sold on the hot V8 F-type's beguiling mix of hardcore sports cars and capable GT – but our neighbours might disagree…

Now that a new version of the Audi TT has arrived, buying a second-generation car could be a smart choice if you want a low-hassle, stylish coupé. Lewis Kingston guides you through the potential pitfalls of finding a useful example for as little as £7000.

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

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

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

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Hydrogen-powered Audi A7 h-tron concept could make production
Hydrogen-powered Audi A7 h-tron concept could make production Plug-in hybrid is described by Audi as the first performance fuel cell vehicle, and has a combined power output of 228bhp and 398lb ft of torque

Audi is pursuing a production future for the hydrogen-powered four-wheel-drive Audi A7 h-tron, company chiefs have hinted following the car's unveiling at the Los Angeles motor show.

The four-door luxury saloon employs a low-temperature proton exchange membrane (LT PEM) fuel cell stack and carbonfibre hydrogen tanks together with a plug-in lithium-ion battery and a pair of electric motors to achieve an overall zero-emission range of up to 311 miles.

Mounted up front in the space usually taken up by the A7’s more traditional combustion engines, the fuel cell employed by the A7 h-tron comprises over 300 cells, each of which is a polymer membrane separated by a platinum-based catalyst. It operates in a voltage range between 230 and 360 volts.

The fuel stack is supported by a plug-in 8.8kW/h lithium-ion battery mounted within the floor of the boot. It boasts a recharge time of two hours on a regular 240-volt mains and also stores recuperated kinetic energy, helping to extend the overall range up a claimed 31 miles. Refilling the hydrogen supply, meanwhile, takes two minutes.

The new Audi uses two electric electric motors – one mounted up front and one at the rear. They developed nominal 114bhp and 199lb ft each, providing the A7 h-tron with a combined 228bhp and 398lb ft of torque.

With drive sent to all four wheels, Audi claims the 1950kg A7 h-tron accelerates from 0-62mph in 7.8sec and reaches a top speed of 113mph.

Audi's technical chief Ulrich Hackenberg said hydrogen power would form part of an increasing varied drivetrain landscape in the future: "This is the most forward-looking concept from our research and development team. The A7 h-tron is unique in many regards. 

"It is the first performance fuel cell vehicle, but it's important to know that CO2 emissions are zero. This is outperforming the competition. It is a bold statement for the potential of fuel cells and a benchmark innovation."

The A7 h-tron is the German car maker’s third hydrogen-powered prototype, following on from the earlier A2 H2 and Q5 HFC.

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Bloodhound to use Jaguar V8 engine in 1000mph bid
Bloodhound to use Jaguar V8 engine in 1000mph bid Jaguar F-type's supercharged V8 will power rocket fuel pump

Jaguar’s technical partnership with the Bloodhound SSC project will result in the firm’s supercharged V8 engine being used to power the fuel pump for the rocket that will take the car beyond 1000mph if the project is successful.

The news that a Jaguar engine will sit at the heart of the project was announced at the LA motor show, and is part of a wider co-operation between Jaguar and the Bloodhound team that includes technical input, sponsorship and marketing assistance.

Bloodhound will be part-powered by a jet engine from a Eurojet EJ200, which powers the Eurofighter Typhoon. Once up to speed, driver Andy Green will fire up rockets for additional power, creating estimated peak thrust of 77,500bhp. The Jaguar V8 will need to pump rocket fuel at a rate of 40 litres per second, and replaces the Cosworth Formula 1 engine that was originally used on test beds.

Jaguar engineers have already worked on a communication test for the car, using the new Jaguar F-type AWD that has been unveiled at the LA motor show. During the test the F-type was driven flat-out across South Africa’s Hakskeen Pan desert towards a fighter jet travelling at 500mph. The closing speed of close to 700mph allowed the team to test communications equipment.

Bloodhound is expect to begin testing next year, with the goal in late 2015 to eclipse the current record of 763.035mph by passing 800mph. If that is successful, the team will then aim to break the 1000mph barrier in 2016.

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Jaguar adds manual option and AWD for 2016 F-type
Jaguar adds manual option and AWD for 2016 F-type AWD version of Jaguar's F-type sports car is revealed alongside the option of a new manual transmission at the LA motor show

Jaguar has released further details of the new 14-model 2016 F-type line-up, which will include the option of a manual transmission and an all-wheel-drive model for the first time. 

The manual is the first to be fitted to a Jaguar sports car since the E-type, and the new six-speed gearbox is called Quickshift and will be available only in conjunction with the F-type’s supercharged V6 engine. The “short-travel” gearlever is said to have a throw of just 45mm and “closely spaced ratios”.

Jaguar says the gearbox was developed in association with ZF and uses an aluminium casing and “innovative semi-dry sump lubrication system”. The ’box has a rod linkage between the lever and selector forks for “the most direct connection”.

The F-type’s centre console has been reshaped to allow the driver’s arm the maximum amount of free movement.

Jaguar says that rather than “the usual splash lubrication”, the new gearbox gets a compact mechanical pump that is driven off the layshaft and sprays oil on to the gear teeth, bearings and synchroniser rings. This has reduced oil capacity to just 1.2 litres, which, in turn, has allowed a small ’box casing. 

The new manual ’box will be offered with the V6 in both 335bhp and 375bhp forms.

The 2016 F-type will also switch to electrically assisted power steering from hydraulic assistance, a first for a Jaguar. The company says the new system is the first that, its engineers feel, outperforms its existing steering systems. It is also responsible for a CO2 reduction of 4g/km.

Jaguar has also confirmed that it will bring an all-wheel-drive variant of the F-type sports car to market for the first time.

In top-end R coupé form, the AWD F-type is capable of reaching 60mph in 3.9sec – an improvement of 0.2sec on the standard rear-wheel-drive car – while keeping the same 186mph top speed. 

The expanded F-type range will include the current standard, S and R-badged models in both coupé and convertible forms. The updates see the convertible get a V8 R version for the first time. It gets the same 3.9sec 0-60mph time as the coupe, despite the increased weight of the folding roof.

The F-type will also get a torque vectoring system as standard. It will improve the car's agility by reducing the power to a wheel in case of a loss of traction.

A new version, powered by a high-performance four-cylinder petrol engine from Jaguar Land Rover's new Ingenium range, is also likely. 

Jaguar officials had previously been coy about the prospect of introducing an AWD version of the F-type, but such versions of the existing XF and XJ models have been a sales success in the US market.

Jaguar vehicle line director Ian Hoban said: "Our target with engineering the all-wheel-drive F-type was to maintain the engaging rear-drive character that’s so important to Jaguar sports cars, yet offer even greater dynamic capability. 

"The result is a controllable, exploitable and blisteringly fast performance car in all weather and road conditions."

Prices for the manual F-type start at £51,250 for the standard V6-powered car in coupé form, while AWD options stars at £66,900 for the V6 S coupé.

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The idea of a Bentley Mulsanne soft-top makes perfect sense
The idea of a Bentley Mulsanne soft-top makes perfect sense Although an SUV might ultimately prove more financial rewarding, Bentley would gain massive kudos for taking the open-top Mulsanne into production

Good to see the Bentley concept at today’s LA motor show. Just in case you haven’t already read the story, it’s called the Bentley Grand Convertible concept and is a Mulsanne soft-top in an all-but name.

So a range-topping open-top harking back to the Continentals from a few years back, and any number of super luxury soft-tops before that.

If memory serves, we were talking about the prospect of this car with Bentley high-ups even before the Mulsanne saloon was officially launched. And if I recall properly one explanation for not doing it was because Bentley had higher priorities, namely the need to do an SUV.

The Mulsanne, you may remember, was the parting shot of ex-chief executive officer Franz-Josef Paefgen, who was also famously anti-SUV. So you may suppose that current boss Wolfgang Dürheimer took a new broom approach to all tinkering with the Mulsanne in order to push his SUV forward.

So it’s good news that Bentley’s dusting off the open-top Mulsanne. Personally I’m no great apologist for the Mulsanne – especially the way it looks – but it’s right and proper that Bentley should be producing ultra-high-end cars as well as planning more ‘popular’ models.

Hitting Rolls-Royce where it hurts – in this case attempting to pull customers away from the Phantom Drophead Coupe – is exactly what Bentley should be aiming for.

Likewise, just as Porsche’s bedrock is extreme sports cars, justifying any other direction it cares to take, so Bentley can be free to sell SUVs and any other future models by continuing to pursue automotive ultimates.

So should Bentley make the Mulsanne Convertible despite the prospect of only tiny numbers? Absolutely. 

Electric versus hydraulic steering assistance – a knockout blow?
Electric versus hydraulic steering assistance – a knockout blow? From next year the Jaguar F-type will come fitted with EPAS electric steering assistance as standard. Is this the end for hydraulic set-ups?

If I were asked to name one car company that places driver focus at its core and then delivers on that promise time and again, I’d have to say Jaguar.

And before the brickbats highlighting a supposed British bias rain in, I’d have to follow that up by saying that there are times when I think that this focus is very much to its detriment.

I once spoke to an ex-F1 driver who was fresh out of a Jaguar F-Type R, and even he was wide-eyed by the level of concentration needed to hang on. As a halo car the V8 F-type is an epic success, but for most people, most of the time, something from lower down the range will do the job just fine.

But for all that, I admire Jaguar’s dedication to the cause; plenty of car companies blow out plenty of hot air claiming to cater for driving enthusiasts, but very few follow it up with the engineering conviction that Jaguar has managed in recent years, not just with F-type but also with a wide variety of R and R-S branded products, plus the widening scope of its burgeoning SVR skunkworks division.

So you’ll understand the short, sharp intake of breath when they announced today that the 2016 model year Jaguar F-type will adopt an electrically assisted EPAS steering system.

For the upcoming Jaguar XE, a car for which emissions priorities outweigh the last word in steering prowess, such a system made sense. But when the F-type was launched two years ago Jaguar had publicly eschewed such technology, arguing that it couldn’t match the feel of a traditional hydraulic set-up.

The reasons for the shift are simple enough: electronic steering technology – and the understanding of how to integrate that technology – has moved so fast in the past two years that Jaguar’s position has changed. Its in-house team has been working in parallel with hydraulic and EPAS set-ups, and now reckons the former to have reached the peak of its potential, and the latter to have surpassed that point and still have more to come.

F-type project manager Russ Varney explains it simply enough: “EPAS systems are now more adaptive, capable and efficient. For instance, we can programme them to adapt to different ambient temperatures, so they are always consistent, and we can tune them to where we want them to be. For the F-type, the priorities are on-centre steering feel and linearity of response. The EPAS system eclipses the hydraulic set-up on both.”

Varney acknowledges that Jaguar is now following a path where some of its rivals have led, but argues that the delay has been justified. “We have constantly evaluated which path was best, and worked in-house to develop our understanding of EPAS possibilities and how best to integrate them,” he says. “For us, the right time to switch is now – before, it would have meant compromises.”

When a company as focused on pleasing driving enthusiasts says the time has come to drop hydraulically assisted steering from its flagship sports car, you simply have to sit up and take notice. The proof will come with our first chance to drive the newly equipped F-type, of course, but the feeling must be that today could mark the death-knell for hydraulic assistance.

Land Rover to complain about Chinese ‘copy’ of the Range Rover Evoque
Chinese Range Rover Evoque revealed LandWind X7 sparks controversy for drawing heavily on Evoque design, and Land Rover chiefs will challenge Chinese officials over the car

Land Rover chief executive officer Dr Ralf Speth has confirmed to Autocar that he will complain to Chinese officials regarding what he considers to be Intellectual Property theft regarding the Range Rover Evoque lookalike LandWind X7 SUV, which was launched at the Guangzhou motor show in China today.

The LandWind X7 bears a striking resemblance to the Range Rover Evoque, a locally produced version of which was also unveiled at the Guangzhou motor show motor show today.

While the authentic local-market Evoque will retail for the equivalent of £40,000, the LandWind X7 is due to go on sale later this month for around £14,000. The X7 is powered by a 188bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 184lb ft of torque. It is offered with a choice of either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox.

"The fact that this kind of copying is ongoing in China is very disappointing," said Speth. "The simple principal is that it is not something that should happen; the Intellectual Property is owned by Jaguar Land Rover and if you break that IP then you are in breach of international regulations that apply around the world.

"As a company we have invested heavily in China with our joint venture partner Chery. That commitment is based on a clear business plan, that allows us to hit our sales targets at clear prices. Anything that damages the potential profitability of our plant damages the integrity of those plans.

"I will talk to our officials and I will talk to our partners at Chery to find a way around this situation. I cannot imagine Chinese officials will be happy at any actions that undermine the credibility of the country. What we have seen today is not correct."

LandWind is a standalone Chinese car maker created as a joint venture between respected Chinese car makers Changan Auto and Jiangling Motors Corporation.

Changan Auto is regarded as one of the top four Chinese car makers, producing two million cars a year and working in other joint ventures with the likes of Ford, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Suzuki.

The firm previously made headlines for selling the LandWind CV9, a car that took clear design inspiration from the Vauxhall Frontera and was briefly sold in Europe, until poor Euro NCAP crash tests forced its withdrawal from sale.

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Mercedes revives Maybach name for super-luxury S-class - exclusive pics
Mercedes revives Maybach name for super-luxury S-class - exclusive pics New Mercedes-Maybach S600 to go on sale in the UK next spring, priced from around £154,000, as Mercedes looks to take on Bentley and Rolls-Royce

Just two years after Maybach was axed because of faltering sales, Mercedes-Benz has resurrected its super-luxury nameplate on a plush S-class.

The new V12-powered, extra-long-wheelbase version of the S-class is called the Mercedes-Maybach S600.

The swish ‘upper luxury-class’ saloon has been exclusively photographed by Autocar, and is on display at the Los Angeles motor show. The car is planned to compete in a segment of the market occupied by the Bentley Flying Spur and 
Rolls-Royce Ghost.

This saloon also heralds the sensational return of Maybach, which was written off by parent company Daimler after a troubled 10-year comeback.

This time, however, Maybach is a sub-brand that will sit within the Mercedes-Benz fold in much the same way as the Mercedes-AMG performance division does.

Company chiefs expect Maybach to exploit the growing customer desire for high-margin luxury vehicles in much the same way that AMG is sprinkling its go-faster stardust on an increasingly broad range of vehicles.

Mercedes sales and marketing chief Ola Källenius, who was boss of AMG between 2010 and 2013, said: “Mercedes-AMG is the blueprint for the extension of our brand. More than 40,000 AMG cars will be sold during 2014 and it is a great ‘co-pilot’ for Mercedes-Benz.

“With Mercedes-Maybach, we are applying the same 
logic as Mercedes-AMG, 
but in the area of prestige 
and exclusivity. It is not 
an equipment line; it is a 
sub-brand that, in future, will deliver Mercedes-Benz vehicles in an even more exclusive form.”

Källenius confirmed that the S600 won’t be the sub-brand’s only offering. “Our deliberations in the area of Mercedes-Maybach are not focused solely on the S-class,” he said, but he wouldn’t be drawn on other future models. 

However, the crucial factor is retaining exclusivity, so 
the new sub-brand will be involved with cars at only the premium end of Mercedes’ vast model range.

There isn’t, for example, business case to produce a Mercedes-Maybach version of the A-class, something that AMG has executed with great aplomb with the A45 AMG 
hot hatchback.

“It’s relatively easy to do a Mercedes-AMG version of the A-class, but we will only do Maybachs when we see the potential in the market and when our customers expect it,” said Källenius.

The Mercedes-Maybach S600 is differentiated from other S-class models by a series of subtle exterior styling details, including a more stately style of grille and lengthened rear doors.

Inside, the new model has a freshly designed interior with individual, electronically adjustable rear seats similar to those used by the earlier Maybach 57 and 62.

Power for the Mercedes-Maybach S600 hails from a revised version of the company’s twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12, produced at AMG. The car will be produced on the same production line as the regular S-class in Sindelfingen, Germany. This will be the only variant destined for the UK and sales start next spring. 

Key markets for the sub-brand’s first products will be China and the US, followed by South Korea, Russia and the Middle East. Two further engine variants will be offered in other markets. The S500 will be powered by a twin-turbo V8. The all-wheel-drive S500 4Matic has a V6 engine and is aimed squarely at the Chinese market. A version using a hybrid powertrain isn’t currently planned, but Källenius didn’t rule it out.

Official prices will be revealed on 18 December, but it is expected that the car will command a premium of about £10,000-£15,000 over the standard Mercedes S600 L, 
putting the price at about £154,000. Källenius said: “I believe customers will be surprised how much vehicle they get for the money.”

The range-topping saloon forms the basis of a larger S600 Pullman model that 
has an even longer wheelbase and seating for up to six. 
The S600 Pullman will be unveiled next year.

Q&A Ola Källenius, executive vice-president, sales and marketing

Are you confident of sufficient demand for this type of vehicle when there wasn’t for Maybach?

It is clear where additional scope for expansion lies at our company: in the areas of exclusivity and individuality. We have received quite clear signals from many customers who have expressed a wish to drive the S-class in a supremely exclusive, individual variant.

What differentiates Mercedes-Maybach models from their standard counterparts?

On a technical level, the first model of the new sub-brand is virtually identical to the Mercedes-Benz S600, [but] vehicles from Mercedes-Maybach feature exclusive equipment and appointments that go beyond the spectrum available from Mercedes-Benz.

Does it send out a strange message to revive the Maybach name so soon after axing the stand-alone brand?

When we launched the current generation of S-class, we said we’d find a haven for Maybach customers. That promise has now been kept with this S600 and new Mercedes-Maybach sub-brand.

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Car connectivity is becoming big business at the LA motor show
Car connectivity is becoming big business at the LA motor show Proximity to Silicon Valley makes the Los Angeles motor show the ideal place for manufacturers to showcase new car technology

This year’s Los Angeles motor show started a day early as many of us trooped to the Convention Center for the Connected Car Expo. It’s a chance for car-makers and suppliers to show off the latest in-car technology.

So we had Audi, Hyundai and Volvo, for instance, all either demonstrating their latest infotainment or showing off safety technology. 

Jaguar Land Rover, meanwhile, used the forum to launch its new justDrive app, which looks aeons better than its current offering.

Of course, many of the companies developing this software and hardware are based on the US’s West Coast anyway, including the outfit responsible for the new JLR system. So the LA show is a happy home to show it off.

Walking round the exhibits was also a reminder, if we needed any more, what a battleground it has become for car makers wanting to demonstrate leadership. And what a differentiator it’s becoming for car buyers who won’t want old tech, however good the rest of the car is. 

We already have specific consumer tech shows, of course, the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January is becoming a go-to event for car companies as well.

But wouldn’t it be interesting if a traditional motor show morphed into an auto tech show where it wasn’t new models being launched to the public but new car tech?

With the world’s leading developers only an hour’s flight away, if one motor show was to make the leap I’d put money on it being the LA show.

Sporty Cadillac ATS-V unveiled
Sporty Cadillac ATS-V unveiled High-performance Cadillac, unleashed at LA motor show, features a turbocharged engine for the first time and will be available as a saloon or coupé

The new Cadillac ATS-V has been revealed at the Los Angeles motor show. The car comes with a twin-turbo, six-cylinder powertrain for the first time in the history of the brand's 'V' performance range.

The ATS-V's 3.6-litre engine produces 455bhp and 445lb ft of torque, putting the car's 0-60mph time at a claimed 3.9sec and its top speed at 185mph.

It won't be offered in right-hand drive form, however, although imports will be made into Europe. The ATS-V's chief engineer Dave Leone told Autocar that the business case was too small for right-hand drive, but it was being looked at for the next-generation of Cadillacs.

Leone said that the ATS-V was the "most performance-focused Cadillac in history". He added: "It's the faster ever, the most agile and the most nimble", and said that the model "brings performance credibility" to Cadillac and the rest of the range.

The car has been benchmarked against the likes of the BMW M4, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, and Audi RS5. "It exceeds these models for ride and handling, is faster, offers better isolation, crisper steering response and braking distances that are the best in the business."

He added: "It is very important to beat them, as entuhsiasts judge the brand on specification and performance. We need third party approval by beating them. We set out to do that, and I can say with prode and confidence that we have."

Leone said the team working on the ATS-V had one of the highest employee satisfication ratings in General Motors, and 75 per cent of them were amateur racers. Many have transferred from working on the Corvette Stingray, a project Leone led for two and a half of the four years of development. 

"People want to be associated with this car," he said. "It's not a Corvette, but has the same credibility."

Gearbox options are either six-speed manual – which comes with rev-matching, no-lift shifting – or a paddle-shift eight-speed automatic. Both transmissions also feature launch control. Rear-wheel drive is offered; Leone said all-wheel drive would improve performance but add too much weight, and was therefore not considered for the car. 

The engine also features a high-performance lubrication system designed to maintain optimal oil pressure and ventilation during high-lateral driving manoeuvres typically encountered on a track.

Leone said: "The engine is so responsive due to the use of titanium for some components, which lowers inertia. The eight-speed auto' can also shift as fast as a dual-clutch transmission, and is 12.5kg lighter than the old six-speeder for better economy."

The chassis, suspension and drivetrain have all been reworked. Compared with the standard Cadillac ATS variants, the V-series car has been tuned to deliver greater body motion control for a more agile feel, while maintaining ride quality. It is 25 per cent stiffer than non-V models.

The ATS-V has the same 2775mm wheelbase as other cars in the family, but features wider tracks at the front and rear to enhance grip, improve handling and contribute to more direct-feeling steering.

The Cadillac ATS-V rides on Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres developed specifically for the model, which are made up of three different compounds to try and maximise performance and durability, and improve steering precision. 

The performance model also has revised multi-link MacPherson strut front suspension, tweaked electric power steering, five-link rear suspension, an electronic limited-slip differential as standard, large prop shafts and an uprated Brembo braking system, with 370mm front discs and 339mm rear discs. Leone said the brakes had undergone tens of thousands of miles of track testing without fading. 

The ATS-V also features magneto-rheological dampers. There are five driver-selectable settings, including track-oriented settings for the stability and traction control systems, in addition to more road-biased Touring and Sport settings.

Almost every exterior panel has been reworked compared with the standard ATS. The car gets a lightweight carbonfibre bonnet with an air scoop, aero-optimised front and rear bumpers, a downforce-producing front splitter, wider wings and a rear spoiler. 

The interior of the ATS-V features Recaro sports seats. The car comes with a performance data recorder that allows drivers to record high-definition video, with data overlays, of their driving experiences, and then share on social media. 

The ATS-V will be available in saloon and coupé body styles when production begins in the spring of 2015. Prices have yet to be announced.

More V-series models are planned, said Leone, including a CTS-V. They will all be based on natively rear-wheel drive products.

"V-series cars are the purest form of passion for Cadilac, and at the core of the brand," he said. "It brings performance credibility to us."

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Mazda CX-3 should be a little big hit in Los Angeles
Mazda CX-3, LA auto show Mazda's new baby crossover has been unveiled ahead of the LA show's opening – and first impressions are positive

The Los Angeles motor show how hasn’t even opened its doors yet, but one of its biggest – and smallest – stars has just been unveiled. Audi, Mercedes and Bentley are all showcasing important new models, but Mazda has chosen America's autumn show to reveal its new baby crossover, the CX-3.

The world is hardly short of jacked-up superminis; most mainstream brands have managed to roll out something professing to be a rival for the ultra-popular Nissan Juke, although the VW Group has been curiously slow to react.

Still, based on a quick poke around the car on display at the launch event in LA, Mazda stands as good a chance as any of carving off a bit of the Juke's market for itself.

The CX-3 takes the strongest bits of the styling of the recently launched Mazda2 – with a prominent front grille and crisp surfacing along the sides –and then mixes it with elements from the larger CX-5, including hefty plastic wheelarch cladding.

Mazda's security team were quick to stop anyone from sitting in the CX-3, but from the outside the cabin looks cosy instead of capacious. In that respect, at least, the new arrival falls into line with the other baby crossovers, which offer roughly the same space as a supermini but with a raised seating position.

Still, that in itself means that this is an area of the market fought on image and looks as much as genuine practicality, though – and the CX-3 certainly seems to have the right sort of stance to appeal to Juke and Renault Captur buyers.

Room for another small crossover? Looks like it.

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

Mazda is gunning for the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Vauxhall Mokka with the new CX-3 crossover, revealed at this week's Los Angeles motor show.

The CX-3 draws heavily on the recently launched Mazda 2, retaining many of that car's styling cues, getting a similar cabin and using one of its engines. However, unlike the 2 and almost all of the new baby SUV's obvious rivals, the CX-3 will be offered with a choice of front drive or four-wheel drive.

Visually, Mazda's latest offering looks like a natural mix of the latest generation of 2 and its larger stablemate, the CX-5. It gets the 2's prominent front grille, crisp surfacing along its flanks and slim tail-lights - although the CX-3 is considerably longer (by 21.5cm) and slightly taller (a 5.5cm increase). The wheelbase is the same, though, at 2570mm.

The CX-3 also features blacked-out C-pillard that are designed to make the roof appear like it's floating, as well as prominent plastic wheel arch cladding that's more reminiscent of the CX-5.

The interior design is closer to the 2's, with the same slim fascia architecture and a central screen that is controlled by a dial between the front seats and is able to offer sat-nav and internet-streamed services. The launch images suggest that the CX-3 will be offered with the 2's head-up display, and the new model should also get the same range of safety technology, including a lane departure warning system, blind spot monitoring and city emergency braking.

Mazda has not released specific details on the engines, beyond confirming that the CX-3 will be offered with a 2.0-litre petrol, in two states of tune, and a 1.5-litre diesel. The petrols are likely to be the same high-compression units fitted to the 3, which should mean a choice of 118bhp or 163bhp. The 1.5 diesel should be the same low-compression motor fitted to the 2, with 104bhp.

The standard transmission will be a six-speed manual, but a six-speed automatic will be available with either engine. No performance or efficiency figures have been issued, but with the full range of Mazda's SkyActiv lightweight construction techniques in effect, expect the front-wheel-drive diesel manual CX-3 to dip below 100g/km of CO2 emissions.

The four-wheel drive system gets the same torque vectoring technology that we've already seen on the CX-5. It will be standard on the diesel auto CX-3 and optional on all other models.

The CX-3 is due on sale around April. Expect a premium of at least £2000 over the 2, with prices of front-wheel-drive manual CX-3s starting at around £15,000.

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

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JLR launches advanced justDrive app
JLR ramps up in-car connectivity with advanced justDrive app Jaguar Land Rover to rival BMW, Mercedes and Audi for in-car connected tech as it reveals new justDrive app

Jaguar and Land Rover will offer a new app controlled by “one of the most advanced voice recognition packages in the world” from early 2015 as a result of a new tie-up with Silicon Valley-based technology company Cloud Car.

The deal, announced on the eve of the Los Angeles motor show, comes as the firm bids to accelerate its in-car connectivity technology offering to rival opposition from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

The new app - called justDrive - will be available for use in any Jaguar or Land Rover fitted with the firm’s latest inControl Apps system. It will work with both Apple iOS8 and Android phones.

The firm claims the app allows owners to integrate multiple apps into a single, voice-activated in-car function. Services it can integrate include Spotify, Twitter and Yelp. It will also allow better voice control of the navigation system, or the driver to dictate text messages, for instance.

It is described by its makers as offering “an unprecedented level of connectivity for navigation, media, social interaction, voice search and information services while minimising driver distraction.” Jaguar Land Rover’s inControl Apps system will already allow a driver to control all these functions through the car’s touchscreen.

Jaguar Land Rover’s InControl Apps system will offer 18 apps including Stitcher, IheartRadio and Parkopedia when it launches in January 2015. It will be free to download and will be continuously updated as new technology is launched.

In addition to launching the new app, Jaguar Land Rover has also announced it is opening its first overseas R&D facility. The £2m new initiative will focus solely on future infotainment and connected car technologies and be based in Portland, Oregon. The 30 engineers based at the facility will work with the 240 already employed in the UK to work on connected car technology.

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Ford unleashes extreme Shelby GT350 Mustang
Ford unleashes extreme Shelby GT350 Mustang Track-focused, high-performance variant of Ford's Mustang is powered by a 5.2-litre V8 and boasts in excess of 500bhp and 400lb ft

The Shelby GT350 Mustang, the new high-performance version of the sixth-generation Ford Mustang, features the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 production engine ever built by the Blue Oval. It is on display at the LA motor show.

Ford describes the Shelby GT350 Mustang as “a track car that’s also street legal”. It is powered by a high-revving, naturally aspirated V8 engine that produces “more than 500 horsepower” according to Ford and has “a torque peak above 400lb ft”.

The 5.2-litre powerplant, which is unique to the GT350, is the first-ever production V8 from Ford with a flat-plane crankshaft, an architecture typically found only in racing applications or exotic European sports cars.

Unlike a traditional V8, where the connecting rods are attached to the crankshaft at 90-degree intervals, this design evenly spaces all crank pins at 180-degree intervals.

The 180-degree, flat-plane layout permits a cylinder firing order that alternates between cylinder banks, reducing the overlap of exhaust pressure pulses. 

When combined with cylinder-head and valvetrain advancements, this permits better cylinder breathing, further extending the performance envelope of the V8.

The engine is mated to a lightweight six-speed manual transmission, while a standard Ford-tuned Torsen limited-slip differential optimises cornering grip and straight-line traction.

The front-end stiffness of the GT350's platform has been further improved over the standard Mustang – which itself is the strongest in the history of the brand – with an injection-molded carbonfibre composite grille opening, while further rigidity can be added by an optional front brace.

The front track has been increased while spring rates and bushings have been recalibrated all around and the ride height is reduced compared to the Mustang GT.

The brakes are two-piece cross-drilled iron discs. At the front are 394mm rotors clamped by Brembo six-piston fixed calipers, while there are 380mm rotors and four-piston calipers at the rear.

The GT350 is fitted with 19-inch aluminium alloy wheels that are 10.5 inches wide at the front and 11 inches wide at the rear. They are clad in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres which have a sidewall construction, tread face and compound that are bespoke to the car.

The Shelby GT350 Mustang uses sophisticated MagneRide dampers, the first such application on a Ford production car. 

All bodywork from the windscreen forward is unique to the GT350 model and up to 50mm lower than the Mustang GT. 

Front and rear bodywork elements such as the fascia and diffuser have been optimised to enhance their aerodynamic effectiveness. The new aluminium bonnet has been lowered and sloped, compared to the base Mustang, tightly wrapped around the engine.

The bonnet outlet acts as a heat extractor while also reducing underhood lift at high speed. The aluminium front wings have been recontoured to accommodate the wider front track and wider wheel arches.

The interior of the Shelby GT350 features Recaro sport seats, a flat-bottom steering wheel, upgraded gauges and a reduction in chrome and brightwork, which could reflect the sun and distract the driver during track work.

An all-new driver control system allows selection of five modes that tailor ABS, stability control, traction control, steering effort, throttle mapping, damper tuning and exhaust settings.

Unlike the standard Ford Mustang, however, there are no plans to offer the Shelby GT350 Mustang for sale in the UK in right-hand-drive format.

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Volkswagen reveals hot Golf R estate
Volkswagen reveals hot Golf R estate Hot new Golf R estate will arrive in the UK next spring, and comes with the same 2.0-litre direct injection four-cylinder engine as the hatchback

The fourth-generation Volkswagen Golf R line-up has been extended with the launch of a rapid new estate model.

Revealed at the Los Angeles motor show, the Golf R estate is slated for UK delivery next spring. Power comes from the same turbocharged 2.0-litre direct injection four-cylinder engine as the existing three- and five-door hatchback versions of the Golf R.

With 296bhp and 380lb ft of torque, it drives through a standard six-speed dual shift gearbox and multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system to provide the Golf R estate with an official 0-62mph time of 5.1sec and limited 155mph top speed along with combined fuel consumption of 40.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 163g/km.

Load capacity increases by 262-litres over the five-door Golf R, at 605 litres, extending to 1620 litres when the rear seats are folded away.

The car has been spotted testing at the Nürburgring in various guises this year, with the project reputedly given the green light due to the flexibility of the R badge compared to other VW offerings like the GTI line-up.

See what happened when we pitted the regular Golf R hatchback against the Seat Leon Cupra 280 in the video below.

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Mercedes-Benz autonomous concept car spied
Mercedes-Benz autonomous concept car spied CES reveal in January for a radical Mercedes-Benz concept car, the interior for which has previously been previewed

Mercedes-Benz will reveal its design thinking for a self-driving car at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January 2015.

Photographs of a disguised but pod-like concept have surfaced in Germany. Mercedes-Benz design director Gorden Wagener, who is in charge of the project, insists a self-driving Mercedes will be considerably more "emotional" than the recently publicised Google autonomous car, which he dismisses as "more like a device, a piece of public transport".

Wagener told Autocar: "We have already shown part of our concept's proposed interior, and we will show a vision for the whole exterior soon. There is no doubt it is an exciting opportunity, but at this stage we are simply exploring possibilities, not confirming how it will be. I'm not very keen on process design – finding a separate face for an electric car or a fuel cell car or an autonomous car. A self-driving Mercedes might look different from our normal range, but it certainly doesn't have to."

Wagener believes Mercedes' proportions are unique and that the most important thing about any design is how it reflects brand values. "Our cars' long bonnets, with their cabins sitting back over the rear wheels, are so beautiful that I'm not sure we would want to go away from that concept," he said.

In any case, the change to autonomous cars won't come soon – at least not in the next generation of cars.

"We will see cars making convoys on the autobahn first," says Wagener, "but when we turn off we will want to keep enjoying our cars. I believe as long ahead as we can plan, we will value the pleasure of driving."

The firm has revealed the contemporary new interior design that will grace the autonomous mobility concept car at CES.

Developed at the manufacturer's Sunnyvale research and development centre in California, the interior has been conceived to showcase the design and engineering freedoms made possible by autonomous driving technology and the latest developments in gesture, touch and eye detection control.

The multi-faceted four-seat concept interior provides seating on a quartet of high-backed, lounge-style seats that rotate to allow a face-to-face configuration in what Wagener describes as a “digital living space”.

Mercedes-Benz has designed its new interior to allow occupants to interact with the vehicle by means of hand gestures, touch displays and eye sensor detection. The vehicle's surroundings, whether pedestrians, other road users or the local buildings, are also brought into the interior and portrayed as fluid all-round information on displays.

Mercedes says autonomous driving technology will build on an extensive suite of sensors, including a stereo camera and long and short-range radar.

On the S500 Intelligent Drive concept, information from the camera and the sensor system are superimposed and “fused to provide a picture of static and dynamic objects around the car”. By static objects, Mercedes means infrastructure such as signs and traffic lights, and by dynamic objects it means other road users.

The S500 concept scans its surroundings within a range of as much as 650 feet, 25 times per second, and can not only pinpoint the locations of these objects but also measure the speeds of the ‘dynamic’ objects.

Mercedes said: "Autonomous vehicles will become commonplace and socially accepted in the cities of the future.

"With the new luxury-class interior concept, the car of the future will become a variable and private area of retreat in increasingly dense urban traffic. By virtue of this new form of travel, the occupants of autonomous vehicles will have the freedom to put their time spent travelling to even more varied use.”

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