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

Infiniti QX80 revealed at New York show
Infiniti QX80 revealed at New York show Nissan Patrol-based luxury SUV sports a 5.6-litre V8 and optional four-wheel drive

The Infiniti QX80 is a large, body-on-frame SUV. It’s based on the Nissan Patrol. The QX80 is only offered in left-hand drive and it’s sold in countries like the USA, Russia, China, and the Middle East. Infiniti launched the revised 2015 QX80 at the New York motor show

Exterior highlights include a new front-end design that’s similar to the Q50 saloon and LED headlights; 20-inch wheels are standard, with a mammoth 22-inch setup available. 

Trickle-down technology from the advanced Q50 includes high beam assist and Infiniti’s Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW). 

Power comes from a 5.6-litre V8 with 400bhp and 413lb ft of torque that’s hitched to a 7-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is optional. 

The new QX80 Limited model adds an additional amount of luxury to the large SUV. The LED headlights receive a dark finish and the running boards gain additional lighting. Dark chrome is also added in various exterior locations. The standard 22-inch wheels feature a dark finish. 

Inside, the QX80 Limited gets brown seats with unique quilting and silver piping. Leather continues onto the speaker grills and grab handles. Matte, open pore ash wood and an Ultrasuede leather headliner are also featured.

All QX80 Limited models come fully loaded and are all four-wheel drive. The only option is the choice of six exterior colors, three exclusive to the Limited model: Imperial Black, Mocha Almond, and Dakar Bronze.

Read more New York motor show news.

Revised Infiniti Q70 shown in New York
Revised Infiniti Q70 shown in New York New Infiniti Q70 receives a makeover just months after being renamed

Infiniti’s recent badge-changing strategy means their mid-size saloon has become the Q70, rather than the M35. A year after the name change, a revised Q70 makes its debut at the 2014 New York motor show.

The new model sports an updated exterior design and a long-wheelbase version will be offered - a natural move for Infinti as lengthened versions of the Mercedes E-class and BMW 5-series are sold in markets like China. The long-wheelbase Q70 gains 150mm, resulting in a claimed best-in-class rear knee room as well as excellent ingress and egress. 

In the USA, the Q70 carries over its two petrol engines, as well the hybrid powertrain. All-wheel drive is offered on all models except the hybrid. The Q70 3.7 utilises a 330bhp V6. The Q70 5.6 gets a 420bhp V8. The hybrid is a combination of a 3.5-litre V6 and an electric motor. All engines feature a seven-speed automatic transmission. 

The petrol V6 and hybrid are likely to be offered in the UK, as well as a 3.0-litre diesel engine, but there is no confirmation on a long-wheelbase being offered. 

Read more New York motor show news.

Mercedes drops Benz for new GT
Mercedes-AMG GT name for SLS successor New Mercedes-AMG sports car will go on sale later this year. SLS successor will not have 'Benz' name in its title, instead bringing the AMG performance off-shoot name to the fore

Mercedes-Benz has controversially eschewed any traditional reference to its founder Karl Benz in the name of its new 500bhp plus twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 powered sports car, which the German car maker has confirmed will be called the Mercedes-AMG GT when sales begin later this year.

Set to make its debut in September, the new two-seater indirectly replaces the SLS AMG, becoming the second stand-alone model to be conceived, engineered and produced by Mercedes-Benz’s AMG performance car off-shoot at its headquarters in Affalterbach on the outskirts of Stuttgart, Germany.

"The new Mercedes-AMG GT shows that we will be positioning AMG more vehemently and aggressively than to date," says AMG boss, Tobias Moers, who describes the new car as “a GT sports car in its purest form”.

The announcement of the official name for the GT at the New York motor show this week coincided with the issuing of two photographs that reveal the stylish interior of the new car, which has previously been referred to by Mercedes-Benz officials under its internal C190 codename.

The GT receives a snug two seat interior featuring high quality materials and trims together with a combination of bespoke controls and switchgear borrowed from other Mercedes-Benz models, most notably the new fourth-generation C-class.

A heavily structured dashboard finished in leather and carbon fibre features a hooded instrument binnacle, multi-function steering wheel with shift paddles, free standing infotainment monitor and six round air vents dominates the cabin, which is described as being roughly the same size as that of the SLS AMG.

As with its predecessor, the new Mercedes-AMG also receives a high set centre console housing all of the major controls. The centre piece is a touchpad controller similar to that introduced on the new C-class. It is mounted ahead of a stubby gear lever for the GT’s standard seven speed dual clutch auto gearbox and is surrounded by four round buttons – two of which boast a rotary function.

A close study of the controls reveals the GT will receive four different driving modes and race start feature, two stage variable dampers, locking differential and a sports exhaust function. The new rear-wheel-drive Porsche 911 rival will also offer a full suite of connectivity options, including a range of new AMG specific apps.

In a move aimed at answering criticism of the lack of oddment space in the SLS, the new car boasts a cupholder unit in the forward section of the centre console and larger door pockets.  

Holding true to the aviation theme featured on the SLS AMG, the new GT also boasts a row of switches within the roof liner separate to those for the lighting. Included are switches for the seat heaters, rear spoiler and warning lights.

Read more New York motor show news.

Minor changes for revised Mini Countryman
Minor changes for revised Mini Countryman Revised Countryman will go on sale in the UK following its debut in New York this week

A revised version of the Mini Countryman has been revealed, complete with a subtle new look and improved fuel economy.

All-wheel-drive versions are the biggest beneficiaries of the styling changes, with flared side sills and revised front and rear bumpers hinting at the car’s more rugged nature. A more prominent hexagonal grille also lends extra presence to the new model.

The Cooper S model gets a small increase in power, from 182bhp to 188bhp, while CO2 emissions are down and economy is improved across the range, with all engines now meeting the latest Euro 6 emissions standards. Elsewhere, new paint choices are also available, alongside new alloy wheel designs and LED fog lights.

The new Countryman range is set to reach the UK this summer after its debut at this week’s New York motor show. The Paceman is also expected to get the same changes.

Mini says the Countryman is "an important pillar of growth" for the brand, with global sales of more than 350,000 units. 

Read more New York motor show news.

Additional reporting by Darren Moss

The challenge of maintaining touring car driving standards
The challenge of maintaining touring car driving standards The all-action Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship prides itself on close racing, but rule makers have to ensure racers don't overstep the mark

With 31 cars due on the grid this season, the circuits that the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship visits are going to be extremely crowded.

During last month’s season-opener at Brands Hatch – the shortest layout the competitors will tackle all season at 1.2 miles – the men at the wheel were all warned by those in charge that there would be ramped up scrutiny on driving standards this season.

With so much at stake and so many competitive drivers, making sure that there is a fair fight is going to be hugely important. But far from being ‘bumper cars’, all contact is heavily scrutinised and there is a solid tariff of censures for drivers who overstep the mark.

As a rule of thumb, a new edict says that if a particular driver causes a rival to be put out of a race through contact – and that driver was solely to blame – then the culprit will be excluded.

It is a no-nonsense approach. Pirtek Racing Honda Civic driver Martin Depper and Quantel BiFold MG 6 man Marc Hynes both fell foul of this new regulation at Brands Hatch.

Similarly, if a driver causes a rival to lose time through a punt, then he will be similarly punished. Aron Smith (Chrome Edition Restart Volkswagen CC) was docked five places on the grid for race two after clumsily elbowing Mat Jackson’s Airwaves Racing Ford Focus out of the way early on in race one.

Jack Clarke (Crabbie’s Racing Ford Focus) was also hit with the same penalty after race three for a collision with Glynn Geddie’s United Autosports Toyota Avensis. That will be carried over until the next three rounds at Donington Park on Easter Sunday.

These penalties aren’t just meted out on the hoof. The BTCC was one of the first racing categories in the world to introduce ‘spy in the cab’ cameras with the sole intent of recording pictures for judicial use. 

There are data traces – which accurately record the car’s steering and throttle movements – that can be scrutinised by the series’ officials, and the BTCC also employs the services of former frontrunner Jeff Allam to give a driver’s eye opinion on any controversies. Any incident will be thoroughly investigated before penalties are handed out.

Nor is this an exact science. In the case of multi-car incidents, it is sometimes more difficult to pick out the exact culprit. But with all of the layers of scrutiny put in place, the system is as robust as it can be and there are appeal processes too if the teams feel that they have been hard done by.

So while the fans love the rubbing that, according to the proverb, is racing, any one who oversteps the mark will feel the full force of the rulebook bearing down on him.

In a category that is as closely fought as this it is a necessity and, most importantly of all, the drivers are left in no doubt as to what is and isn’t acceptable on track.


New Discovery family to use Vision Concept design
New Discovery family to use from Vision concept design Land Rover design boss says each member of the expanded Discovery range will take its styling inspiration from New York's Vision Concept

The new Land Rover Discovery family will all carry over styling cues from the Vision Concept, company design boss Gerry McGovern has revealed to Autocar. 

The headlights and grille, distinctive C-pillar, stepped bonnet and ‘feature line’ that runs from the front air vent to the rear lights will all be included on future Discovery models. McGovern was keen to point out the importance of making Discovery models distinct from the three-strong Range Rover family, with these elements being amongst the key differentiators. 

Land Rover’s design chief also revealed that no member of the new family would be larger than the Vision Concept, which has almost identical proportions to the current Discovery 4. 

It’s believed that there will eventually be four members of the line-up: the Freelander replacement in five and seven seat guise which will arrive first at the end of this year, the direct replacement for the Disco plus a more rugged, less luxurious model aimed at the Toyota Land Cruiser market. It is expected that the Freelander replacement will use the Discovery Sport badge.

Read more New York motor show news.

BMW X3 xDrive20d SE auto first drive review
BMW X3 xDrive20d SE auto first drive review Fine new 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine makes revised X3 sweeter to drive than ever A significant new engine in a significant car. A range of mid-life changes to BMW’s popular X3 SUV brings with it a new 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, a staple powerplant of much of the firm’s line-up, but one that in spite of its impressive performance and economy was falling behind the class best in its refinement. The new all-aluminium unit is part of BMW’s latest engine philosophy designed around a 500cc per cylinder approach. Just two parts are carried over from its trusty predecessor, the new-look common-rail direct-injection unit bringing significant CO2 and economy improvements alongside increased performance.In the X3, which had its best-ever year for sales in the UK last year, this engine can be hooked up to a standard six-speed manual gearbox or optional eight-speed auto’ tested here. All-wheel drive is standard.Elsewhere in the all-diesel X3 line-up is a based rear-drive sDrive18d model, and six-cylinder, all-wheel drive xDrive30d and xDrive35d models.It’s not just the engines that are revised in the X3; there’s a new look on the outside, some new trim inside, and an options list that swells to include new driving assistance and infotainment options. 

Hard-core new LaFerrari planned
Hard-core new LaFerrari planned Company officials say new track-focused version of LaFerrari will feature tuned handling and new electrical systems

Ferrari is working on a hard-core track version of LaFerrari, according to Antonella Coletta, head of the firm’s Sporting Activity Department.

Speaking to the Australian press, Coletta said that he hoped that the new LaFerrai XX would appear in "January or February" next year. The new model follows on from the original FXX, which was based on the Enzo, and the 599XX.

Coletta admitted that it would be “difficult” to extract any more urge than LaFerrari’s current combined 950bhp hybrid output, revealing that the new model would have “more or less” the same power.

The engineering effort will be put into completely re-tuning the handling of the track-focused machine. Coletta said that the suspension system, the aerodynamics and the car’s electrical systems would also be rethought on the new XX. The car will also wear slick tyres. 

The upshot is that the car’s performance maybe improved across certain parameters, according to Coletta, as a consequence of these improvements. Making it faster than its road car sister machine will be “very hard… but that is the challenge” Coletta told Australia website drive.com.au.

Discovery Sport name for Land Rover Freelander replacement
Discovery Sport name for Land Rover Freelander replacement The long-awaited replacement for the Land Rover Freelander will be badged Discovery Sport, and will form part of the expanded new Discovery family

The Land Rover Freelander replacement will be badged Discovery Sport, Autocar understands.

The announcement is expected to be made at the New York motor show on Wednesday, where Land Rover is previewing the design themes for a whole new family of Discovery vehicles with the Discovery Vision concept.

The Freelander replacement is one of the models that will be launched in the Discovery family, and the Discovery Sport name is understood to have been chosen for it.

The name would follow convention at the company, where the Range Rover Sport sits alongside the larger range-topping Range Rover model.

The Discovery Sport will launch first as a five-seater, and is set to be revealed before the year is out ahead of sales at the turn of the year. There is also going to be a seven-seat Discovery Sport as part of a four-strong range of Discovery models initially planned.

The Discovery itself will be replaced with a plusher and more premium version of its present application, a model closely previewed by the Discovery Vision concept, while sitting between the Discovery Sport seven-seat and the next Discovery will be a more rugged SUV to rival the likes of the Toyota Land Cruiser.

Read more New York motor show news.

Track day diary: Renault Clio RS200 at Spa Francorchamps
Track day diary: Renault Clio RS200 at Spa We join a Renaultsport trip to Spa-Francorchamps to find out why it has a reputation as one of the most challenging racetracks in the world

There's a moment, just as you crest the rise after Spa's iconic Eau Rouge corner, where you can't see the other side.

It's terrifying, because you just have to aim for the exit and hope it's still there. Which in itself is crazy, because it hasn't moved for the last six laps and is guaranteed to be there this time. It doesn't stop you breathing a sigh of relief when you glimpse the red and yellow crash barriers that line the track.

I was driving the circuit for the first time, having tagged along to a Renaultsport track day with our long-term Clio RS200 Turbo. We'd caught the Eurotunnel the previous evening and driven through France and Belgium to reach the circuit in the Ardennes forest. 

Like many others, my only experience of Spa up until now had been either through watching Formula One on television, or lapping it virtually on a computer game. On screen, Eau Rouge looks like a slow rise up into the forest. A challenging corner, sure, but nothing more. The real thing is so vastly different. 

The corner known collectively as Eau Rouge is actually two. The left-hander at the bottom is Eau Rouge itself, but the exit leading up the hill is known as Raidillon. Formula One cars are said to take this flat-out at speeds of up to 186mph, which demands millimetre-perfect driving. Get it wrong, and the tyre walls and grass either side are there to greet you. Type 'Villeneuve' and 'Spa' into Youtube to discover what can happen.

We lapped the track with other Clios and more powerful Renaultsport Méganes. During our down time, we explored the old 8.7-mile circuit, which hosted Formula 1 until the 1970s.

Some of the route is a public highway, which weaves up into the forest. It's an exciting drive, especially on sections with steep descents on one side. Indeed, the Masta kink is still visible on the course, and it's easy to see why Sir Jackie Stewart once described it as "the most difficult corner in the world of motor racing".

Later on, with the action winding down on track, we headed back across Belgium to catch the Eurotunnel. Our day passed without incident, besides a slight juddering from the front left wheel (caused, I suspect, by a slightly warped brake disc).

Our day left me in awe of grand prix drivers. Suffice to say, we didn't trouble Sebastian Vettel's current lap record of 1m 47.263, set in 2009, but at least we can say we've driven around this grand old circuit at a fair lick.

You can, too, if you've got £46 for a return trip on the Eurotunnel and around £83 to take part in a public day at the circuit. Plus, as a bonus, the Nüburgring is only 90 minutes away from Spa. Now there's a thought for next time...

Read Autocar's previous track day diary – Sabre Supersport 1000 at Bedford Autodrome.

Wolfgang Durheimer heads to Bentley
Former Audi technical boss Wolfgang Durheimer heads to Bentley Former Audi technical boss Wolfgang Dürheimer succeeds Dr Wolfgang Schreiber as chairman and CEO of Bentley

The Volkswagen Group's motorsport representative, Wolfgang Dürheimer, will become the chairman and chief executive of Bentley from 1 June 2014.

Dürheimer, who has previously worked at Porsche and Bugatti, succeeds Dr Wolfgang Schreiber – who himself is stated to be due to "take up a leading position within the Volkswagen Group".

Among Dürheimer’s key roles at Porsche was leading the engineering the first and second generations of the Porsche Cayenne. This experience – coupled with Bentley’s decision to add an SUV to its line-up – is said to be the motivating factor behind the move. Volkswagen boss, Martin Winterkorn, took the decision to return Dürheimer to the leading position at Bentley. 

Dürheimer’s primary tasks at Bentley will be to oversee the engineering of a new generation of models, including the company’s recently announced SUV.

The new Bentley SUV is planned to share its platform and key elements with the third-generation Cayenne due out in 2017.

He will manage the introduction of a new generation of drivelines too, including new diesel and petrol-electric hybrid units.

In his new position, Dürheimer will also oversee operations at Bugatti. Additionally, he has also been appointed to an in-house Volkswagen committee responsible for the North American and Chinese markets.

In 1986 Dürheimer joined BMW, holding various management positions until he joined Porsche in 1999. Later, following the creation of new models that revived the Porsche brand, he was appointed CEO of Bentley and Bugatti.

During 2012 he was appointed to the board of Audi as head of technical development but was eventually replaced by the VW brand's head of development, Ulrich Hackenberg. It was reported, at the time, that Dürheimer "couldn't cope with the complexity of the Audi brand".

Bentley expanded considerably in 2013, with deliveries up 19 per cent to 10,120 vehicles and sales up 15.5 per cent to £1.39 billion. The company's profit also improved considerably, by a substantial 66.9 per cent to £138.6 million.

Deliveries have continued to climb in the first quarter of 2014, by 17 per cent, thanks to the introduction of new models, including the Flying Spur and the high-performance S variants of the GT and GTC.

Additional reporting by Greg Kable, 15 April 2014

Autocar magazine preview 16 April
Autocar magazine preview 16 April Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept revealed; Mercedes' GLA takes on its rivals; Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV tested; Alfa 4C vs Giulia Sprint GTA

This week's cover car is the remarkable new Land Rover Vision Concept, which points the way for the designs and technologies that we'll see in the upcoming Discovery range.

Does its softer styling and increased luxury mean the end of the Discovery's typically rugged nature? Not if Land Rover is to believed, as the concept showcases myriad new technologies to bolster its off-road abilities, including a 'see-through bonnet' to enable drivers to view particularly tough terrain.

Other highlights in the magazine this week include the debut of the dramatic Peugeot Exalt concept. Andrew Frankel also compares old and new with a twin test of the rorty Alfa 4C against the old-school Giulia Sprint GTA.

Meanwhile, Autocar's road testers have been pitching the Mercedes-Benz GLA against the Audi Q3 and Nissan Qashqai to find out which is the king of the compact SUVs.

We've first drives on the new Subaru WRX STI, Jeep Cherokee and Porsche Panamera Turbo S, while the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the focus of this week's comprehensive road test.

Long-term updates include a welcome to an all-new Nissan Qasqhai, and this week's used buying guide covers the classic Porsche 928.

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.

New Kia Sedona revealed ahead of NY debut
New Kia Sedona revealed ahead of NY debut Kia MPV offers seating for up to eight passengers, and represents the 'final chapter' in the brand's design transformation

The new Kia Sedona has been revealed ahead of its public debut at the New York motor show this week.

With seating for up to eight, Kia says the new MPV represents the "final chapter" of its brand redesign under design boss Peter Schreyer. As such, the new Sedona gets Kia's larger, more prominent corporate front-end with a "European-inspired" design. 

The new Sedona is 1.6-inches longer than its predecessor, and sits on 19-inch alloy wheels. Kia says it has given the Sedona a muscular design at the front, enhanced by the new roof-mounted spoiler at the rear.

Inside, the Sedona is available in seven or eight-seat guises. Usual MPV storage solutions, including removable slide-forward seats and a centre-console storage space feature, alongside retractable lower leg rests in the second row of seats.

As well as soft-touch furnishings, Kia says it has also given the Sedona new anti-bacterial and anti-static fabrics in the cabin. The top-level SXL trim also features Nappa leather trim

Kia says the new Sedona is the first car to offer its next-generation UVO infotainment and telematics system. As well as applications for navigation and music, the system also handles Siri 'Eyes Free' technology for iPhones.

The new Sedona sits on an all-new chassis, made from 76 per cent high-strength steel, alongside a suspension set-up which Kia says should improve its ride and handling. 

Powering the MPV is a 3.3-litre V6 engine, replacing the current 3.5-litre V6, and the same unit found in the Sorento and Cadenza models. That engine has 272bhp and 248lb ft of torque, and comes mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The new Sedona is scheduled to go on sale in the US by the fourth quarter of this year, with pricing announced closer to its launch date. Kia has confirmed the new model won't be coming to Europe.

Read more New York motor show news.

Land Rover gears up for a new age of Discovery
Land Rover gears up for a new age of Discovery Company chiefs insist the Discovery Vision Concept is just a New York show car, but it's not hard to imagine how it will inform the next production Discovery

The official word from Land Rover, design director Gerry McGovern and anyone else you care to mention is that the Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept is just that. A concept.

But after seeing the show car in New York last night, ahead of its public debut at the show on Wednesday, it’s hard to imagine that it’s not actually the new Discovery, expected next year. Or as close as dammit. 

When I first saw the pics that you can now see in our story I wasn’t sure to be honest. Maybe it’s because I’m such a fan of the existing one and its lovely straight, imposing and architectural lines. But now I’ve seen the show car in the metal – on an aircraft carrier turned museum no less – I’m rather more convinced that it’s a step in the right direction and worthy of the Discovery nameplate.

The interior is a major advancement no question. So too is the clever tech employed in it, which will surely be rolled out across the Land Rover and Range Rover line-up. Most of the major functions are controlled by hand gestures and it's going to be interesting to see if this will work in the real world.

The question is also how well this new look will scale. Don’t forget that, as the company is keen to point out, the Discovery will become a family of vehicles, likely to be four-strong.

This also includes a replacement for the Freelander later this year. Ditching the Freelander name sounds like a suicidal move. But the reality is that it has little resonance outside of the UK. Indeed, here in the US, it’s called the LR2 and this is too lucrative a market to ignore. 

So what do you think? An exciting design for the future or are you less positive?

Why GM shouldn't neglect the mass market too soon
Why GM shouldn't neglect the mass market too soon GM's performance division may be on a roll, but the company shouldn't forget its mainstream brands and their customers

I’m sitting on an airplane heading to NYC for the New York motor show. Early this morning I read the latest news in the USA regarding General Motors’ ignition switch defect issues and the related government inquiries and departures of top executives.  

But on this Big Apple-bound jet plane, I’m not thinking about that mess. I’m thinking about GM’s Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 that I will be driving before the motor show at Monticello Motor Club, a circuit just outside NYC. I’m very excited to finally have a go in the 505bhp, rear-wheel-drive monster. I’m excited to feel the difference that the 136kg weight saving makes, and how it compares to the supercharged Camaro ZL1. I’m excited to see if Chevy really built a 911 GT3 killer for around half the price of the Porsche. 

As I type these words I’m also thinking about the new Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Convertible that will be revealed at the New York show. We saw the rather insane Z06 coupé and Corvette C7.R racecar in Detroit in January. I watched the C7.R take a win in the Tudor United Sportscar Championship race in Long Beach, California this past weekend. The Corvette beat impressive competition, including the Ferrari 458 Italia, BMW Z4 GTE, Porsche 911 RSR, and the SRT Viper GTS-R. 

It’s clear that GM’s US performance division is on a roll. Unfortunately, it seems the company’s political and safety issues in the States, combined with their sales slump in Europe, is dulling its pursuit of brilliance in other areas. Cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST continue to trump the hot hatches from Vauxhall in the market place.

I’d like to see some of GM’s performance DNA in the USA trickle into their European products. No, I don’t want an Americanised, front-wheel-drive muscle car running around Britain but I hope Vauxhall soon offers a greater selection of automobiles that are both fantastic to drive and desirable to own. While they’re at it, how about a few right-hand-drive Camaro and Corvette models in Britain, just for a bit of extra fun.   

Read more New York motor show news.

Wild Rubis-inspired DS 6WR SUV set for Beijing reveal
Wild Rubis-inspired DS 6WR SUV set for Beijing reveal The expansion of PSA's DS premium brand continues with a new mid-sized SUV called the DS 6WR

A premium SUV, inspired by Citroën's Wild Rubis concept and called the DS 6WR, will be unveiled at the Beijing motor show later this week.

The new DS 6WR, the latest model to be revealed under PSA’s new premium DS brand, promises a combination of “SUV versatility with DS sophistication and refinement”.

Power for the DS brand's first SUV comes from a choice of 1.6-litre four-cylinder engines producing 160 or 200bhp, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The new SUV represents the next step for the fledgling stand-alone premium brand. Earlier this week, PSA boss Carlos Tavares said DS would be positioned apart from both Peugeot and Citroën. DS has enjoyed success in China, although expansion into other markets is likely.

It measures 4550mm long, 1860mm wide and 1610mm tall, making it slightly longer, wider but lower than the Peugeot 5008.

Features include Grip Control, which claims to optimise two-wheel-drive traction without the need for a four-wheel drive set-up.

The SUV is equipped with 19in alloy wheels a range of chrome trims and daytime running lights, which are arranged in a tuning fork layout. DS logos are embossed into the side of each light cluster.

The DS 6WR will be introduced to the Chinese market by the end of the year, and another locally built model is planned to be unveiled in the coming months.

DS launched the DS5 in September, and the DS 5LS in March, and the brand promises an expanding network of dealers in China’s biggest cities.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Land Rover previews new Discovery with Vision Concept
Land Rover previews new Discovery with Vision concept New Vision Concept previews upcoming Discovery family; two Freelander replacements, a rugged SUV and a luxurious flagship model are expected

Land Rover has revealed the future of its expanded Discovery range with a versatile and technology-packed SUV concept ahead of this week’s New York motor show.

The Discovery Vision Concept heralds a range of initially four SUV models that will wear the Discovery badge, taking the 25-year-old nameplate to a whole family of ‘leisure’ vehicles in the same way that Land Rover has with Range Rover and Defender.

The new concept car establishes the design themes, versatile, high-tech interiors and off-road prowess of the Discovery family. It also previews a whole raft of advanced technology that’s set to come from Jaguar Land Rover in the coming years, including the ability to control the car remotely.

“The Discovery concept vehicle represents a vision of our future family of leisure SUVs,” said Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern. “Its modern, relevant and compelling design is a significant shift from Discovery as we know it. Vision puts design at the core, design which resonates on an emotional level.

"It has beautiful proportions, it's poised, it has a strong stance as all Land Rovers do. It's versatile inside and out and can be associated with lots of different lifestyles.

The first Land Rover model to wear the Discovery name in the next generation of vehicles will be a replacement for the current five-seat Freelander. It is due to be seen before the year is out and is based on the Range Rover Evoque platform. There will also be a seven-seat Freelander replacement.

The staple Discovery model and a new addition to the line-up will be a rugged seven-seat off-roader in the mould of Toyota’s Land Cruiser. This will be a sister car to Jaguar’s upcoming SUV and a new Range Rover model that will slot between the Evoque and Range Rover Sport.

Crowning the range will be a direct replacement for the current Discovery, but with an even plusher and more premium execution. It is this model — built on the all-aluminium structure that underpins the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport — that the Discovery Vision Concept most closely previews.

The styling of the concept is a complete departure from the current Discovery 4. The silhouette is sportier and the lines and detailing more curvaceous. The overhangs are also shorter to give a more compact look, and there are flourishes from the Range Rover family in the wraparound lights and the grille pattern.

However, there are still nods to the current Discovery in the concept’s stepped roof and inside, where the Discovery’s famed ‘command’ driving position remains, as do the three rows of seating progressively elevated in a theatre-like style to give all occupants a good forward view. "It recognises its unique Discovery heritage," said McGovern "Inside it is open, and the interior is packed with pioneering futuristic technology. It is immensely versatile."

"It's a compelling vision with ideas that can drive a new range of Discovery models. These ideas will transition to new vehicles."

The body-coloured C-pillars remain from the Discovery 4 but are now more rakish. The split tailgate of the Discovery 4 is ditched for a single tailgate that, when opened, allows a platform to slide out from the base of the load area within the rear bumper to create what Land Rover dubs a ‘social seat’.

Other concept car flourishes include the rear-hinged doors and the absence of B-pillars, the doors opening to reveal a versatile 2+3+2 cabin that can seat seven full-sized adults. Land Rover says passengers are catered for “equally” with lots of legroom and headroom and their own infotainment and storage.

The seats in the second and third rows are all independent and can be folded flat and slide fore and aft to create myriad layouts. These include a four-seat ‘limousine’ mode, in which the outside seats in the second row slide and fold forwards and the middle seat folds down to form a table, making maximum legroom for two people in the third row.

The interior design is more sophisticated and luxurious than the Discovery 4’s. The centre console is dominated by a large central touchscreen to carry out almost all interior functions. This can also be controlled by small touchpads on the steering wheel.

High-quality materials and details feature throughout, including luxurious metals, special leathers that are washable and totally oil and water repellent, and gesture-operated mood lighting. 

An extensive amount of new technology in the Discovery Vision Concept includes laser headlamps that scan the road and can automatically dip certain parts of the beam.

Another feature is ‘Smart Glass’, used for the whole glasshouse, which can display images like a computer screen. This allows for the ‘Transparent Bonnet’ function, an image being projected from the head-up display on to the windscreen in the driver’s field of vision, giving an impression that the bonnet is see-through. This enables the driver to see the terrain immediately below.

The glass also allows the panoramic roof and passenger windows to be infinitely dimmed or fully blacked out. 

Smartphones can be added to the individual infotainment functions for four of the five rear passengers (each getting their own 10-inch touchscreen tablet in the back of the headrest in front), allowing images to be displayed on the glass using the car’s wi-fi. Many controls and functions inside are carried out by gesture control.

The concept also features a host of new driving functions. The most notable is a Remote Control Drive function, which allows the driver to control the car from the outside at low speeds, either by a removable rotary controller or a smartphone app. 

Other features include Laser Terrain Scanning (which maps the terrain ahead using lasers in the foglamps), Laser Referencing (which uses the car’s lasers to project images on to the road such as warning triangles) and a next-generation version of the Terrain Response system.

This system incorporates the ability to scan terrain ahead and prime the drive system accordingly, to see how deep a water obstacle is and advise if it’s passable, and low-speed autonomous driving off road.

Discovery's new tech

Innovative glass

So-called Smart Glass is used for the panoramic roof, front and rear screens and side windows. Swiping or gesturing at the glass allows more or less light to enter the cabin. Images can also be projected on to it through augmented reality technology. Reversing and other manoeuvres are made easier by projecting images from external cameras on to the glass.

Flexible seating

The seats in the second and third rows can fold fore and aft individually or as rows, fitting flush to the seats in front or behind. Any configuration between four and seven seats can be created. Each passenger gets their own infotainment options, charging points and storage, plus features such as pop-out coat hangers and hooks. 

New driving technology

The most innovative new feature on the ‘driving’ front is the ability to control the car remotely on an app in situations like extreme off-roading, coupling to trailers and driving through gates. A next-gen Terrain Response system uses lasers to scan the road ahead and prime the car accordingly. 

Infotainment controls

Most major functions of the interior are carried out on a large central touchscreen and two touchpads on the steering wheel. There are no indicator or light stalks. The turn signals and lighting functions are operated by gesture control. A large, high-definition instrument screen displays key functions.

Read more New York motor show news.

Peugeot-Citroen's plan for the reinvention of its marques
Peugeot Exalt concept By 2022, PSA says it will be sharper, much leaner and making money

This morning Carlos Tavares, Peugeot-Citroen’s new CEO, revealed some unpleasant truths about the state of PSA’s car-making operation.

According to the 36 page ‘Back In The Race’ analyst’s briefing, PSA is making too many models, its research and development budgets are stretched to thinly, wage costs are too high, factories in Europe are underutilized and it needs to reduce the factory cost of its cars. None of which should be a huge surprise.

To my mind, the real killer for the company is the extent to which its products are discounted in the real world. In 2011 Peugeot says its transaction prices were 6.5 percent lower compared to the ‘best-in-class competitor’ – which I assume is VW. Even the DS brand – which PSA wants to see a proper premium competitor – sees transaction prices that are 12 percent adrift of the "European premium benchmark".

So, here’s the plan for the company’s three marques. DS will become an ‘autonomous premium brand’ within PSA. It will get its own "dedicated product and marketing organization" and it will pursue "an aggressive development" in China. The core products will be a saloon and an SUV and six models overall, "targeting the premium profits pools".

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the DS plan is that the brand will target "the 200 wealthiest cities worldwide". It seems clear that global wealth is clearly flowing back into the cities, as anyone with experience of the London property market will attest.  By 2020, 60 percent of DS sales should be outside Europe.

Peugeot is plotted to become a “high-end generalist brand” with much of the emphasis on reducing the discounting of its showroom prices, by "controlling of the sales channels" and a "rigorous sales policy and control of sale channels" which translates as the end of pilling them high and selling ‘em cheap. Tavares and his team think that the new 208, 2008 and 308 will also slow this ‘price erosion’ and assure investors that all new models will be built the same standards of the 308.

In the future, Citroen will be about “modern design, comfort, useful technology” and low running costs. Indeed keeping total running costs down will be big theme for future models and the Cactus’s "pay-as-you-drive and just add petrol" schemes will also be offered on all models.

Citroen’s transformation will see its model-line culled in the longer term, losing one model in 2016 and another seven models between 2018 and 2022, leaving just seven Citroen models in the showrooms.  

Peugeot, however, will loose seven models by as soon as 2016, bringing its line-up down from 25 models in 2014, to just 17 in 2016 and 16 in 2018. By 2022, the Peugeot badge will be on just 13 models.

Underlying the model cull is a massive reduction in engineering effort, reducing today’s seven-platform line-up to just two platforms by 2022. The EMP1 will underpin PSA’s global big and small supermini family and EMP2 will cover Golf-size hatchbacks and SUVs, as well as a Mondeo-size saloon, estate and SUV and a pair of commercial vehicles.

The PSA city car and a planned electric light commercial vehicle will be on shared platforms, but the 2022 plan does suggest that the current platform tie-up with GM will be over by then.

Aside from all that, PSA wants to save £250m a year by reduce the model line-up from 45 to 26 “core models”, save £82m a year by outsourcing 20 percent of its Research and Development and money by selling technology to part-owners Dongfeng.

Add in more than doubling sales in China over the next four years, reduce wages costs to 12.5 percent of revenues and reduce the average factory build cost of a car by £420 and bring in a "more results and profit-orientated company culture".

After all that, PSA might have profit margins by 2 percent in 2018 and be on the way to 5 percent by 2022. Clearly, nobody should ever underestimate the extraordinary pressures on mainstream carmakers. 

Quick news: Mazda builds 1m SkyActiv models; Volvo's blow-up child seat
Quick news: Mazda builts 1m Skyactiv models; Volvo's blow-up child seat The one-millionth SkyActiv Mazda has been built; Volvo develops inflatable child seat; New Smart Fortwo trim launched

Mazda has produced a million SkyActiv models, just two years and four months after the firm launched the technology with the Mazda CX-5. Sales of that model, along with the 3 and 6 passed 1,040,000 in March. Mazda plans to introduce a further five SkyActiv models by 2016.

Volvo has developed a lightweight and inflatable rear-facing child seat concept. It can inflate in 40 seconds and weighs 5kg, around half that of conventional seats. Bluetooth connectivity enables it to be inflated remotely. The seat is constructed from fabric originally designed by the military to develop inflatable aeroplanes.

Smart has launched a new edition of its Fortwo city car. The Fortwo Grandstyle Edition features black alloy wheels, LED running lights, Artico upholstery  and touchscreen navigation. The new £10,300 model is available with zero per cent finance for £99 a month (71bhp versions) or £109 (84bhp) with a £1499 deposit and a £4490 final payment.

Ford Escort premiere confirmed for Beijing show
Production Ford Escort for Beijing reveal Ford Escort nameplate to make production return at this weekend's Beijing motor show

A production version of the Ford Escort is to make its world debut at the Beijing motor show, it has been confirmed. The car is targeted at the Chinese market, and will be built locally.

Although no official information has been revealed, internet rumours suggest the front-drive saloon will use the powertrain from the Chinese-market Focus.

Ford revealed an Escort concept at the Shanghai motor show last year. Of the concept, Ford said it would offer “a fun driving experience, high level of technology, exceptional roominess, uncompromised functionality and sophisticated design".

The model is intended to grow Ford’s presence in China’s compact saloon segment, which generates more than five million sales annually. The marque currently sells second- and third-generation Focus models in China. 

There are no plans for the model to be sold outside of China.

Nissan Murano to make NY show debut
Nissan Murano to make NY show debut Third-generation Nissan Murano crossover receives Resonance concept styling and a new upmarket interior

The third-generation Nissan Murano will make its public debut at the New York motor show. The new model, which borrows heavily from the Resonance concept, will go on sale in North America later this year.

Nissan describes the styling of the new Murano as “a concept brought to the showroom” and retains the V-Motion front grille and floating roofline of the Resonance, which was first shown at last year’s Detroit show.

The 2014 Murano is slightly lower, wider and longer than the model it replaces. Details including grille shutters, bumper profiling and a rear spoiler has improved aerodynamic efficiency by 16 per cent over the old car and is rated at 0.31 – the same as a Lexus LFA.

Nissan says the Murano uses premium materials throughout the cabin and the design borrows from the Resonance concept. It employs a “social lounge” interior which is said to create a “comfortable and inviting” space. The number of dashboard switches has been reduced by 60 per cent and the instrument panel is mounted lower to create a more user-friendly environment.

NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats are standard front and back and the rears use a three-cushion design. One of the longest opening moonroofs in the class is optionally available.

At launch, the Murano will be offered with a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine, developing 260bhp and 240lb ft, mated to an X-Tronic CVT transmission. Fuel economy is expected to be improved by around 20 per cent, thanks largely to a 58kg weight reduction.

The new model will be built at Nissan’s plant in Canton, Mississippi and will export to more than 100 markets. A Nissan spokesman said there were no immediate plans to introduce the Murano to the UK, but it would monitor the market to see if an opportunity exists.

Peugeot and Citroen to axe 19 models by 2020
PSA to axe 19 models by 2020 PSA Peugeot Citroën announces plans to streamline its model range in order to regain profitability

PSA Peugeot Citroën will axe more than 40 per cent of its models by the year 2020 as part of its group recovery programme.

Company chief Carlos Tavares said the models will be “gradually streamlined” over the coming years, a move that will allow the firm to focus more profitable segments.

Tavares said that reducing the company's model portfolio from 45 to 26 will allow the firm to improve market coverage and optimise the use of vehicle platforms to allocate research and development spend more efficiently.

Tavares also revealed PSA will further develop DS as a “full-fledged” premium brand. DS, alongside Citroën and Peugeot, will be repositioned to ensure the ranges of the three brands ranges are complementary.

Tavares made the announcement as he outlined the firm’s 'Back in the Race' roadmap. PSA bosses say the plan is an effort to regain a recurring positive cashflow by 2016 and €2bn in group operating free cashflow over the 2016-2018 period. The firm has also targeted a two per cent operating margin in the automotive division by 2018, growing to five per cent between 2019 and 2023.

PSA said it will continue to accelerate expansion in China by tripling volumes with joint-venture partner Dongfeng in 2020 and growing the DS brand. It said it will return its Russian and Latin American operations and will “seek expansion opportunities” in new regions, including Africa and the Mediterranean basin. 

In order to address what Tavares described as "competitiveness challenges”, PSA will accelerate its modernisation of its production plants in an effort to reduce costs.

Nissan GT-R N-Attack to lead Nissan product offensive
Nissan GT-R N-Attack to lead Nissan product offensive 2014 will bring a hotter version of the Nissan GT-R as well as a new Focus rival and a facelift for the Juke

Nissan will crown its range with a new, hotter version of the Nissan GT-R and re-enter the C-segment market as part of a far-reaching product offensive this year.

The N-Attack package sees the GT-R gain a range of new aero parts, four-way Öhlins suspension and a revised braking system. A Nissan insider said performance should be comparable with the firm’s GT-R Nismo GT3 race car.

Nissan’s new C-segment hatchback is also nearing completion. Nissan says the new hatchback, which will be built in Barcelona, will help the firm win larger fleet deals and provides a model for buyers trading up or down from Note or Qashqai models. Nissan says the hatch will feature a range of technology usually reserved for premium models.

Although no name has been confirmed, insiders say it will be familiar from Nissan’s past, suggesting Almera or Sunny could be used. The Sunny name has been used continuously in some Asian markets.

Nissan is also gearing up for the launch of the new X-Trail and is readying a facelift for its Sunderland-built Juke. The B-segment crossover will gain new engines and styling to bring it in line with the recently launched Note and Qashqai.

New Audi R8 supercar nears 2015 launch
New Audi R8 supercar in development Audi returns to the Nürburgring for performance testing on the second-generation Audi R8, which uses tech from the new Lamborghini Huracán

Development on the second-generation Audi R8 has returned to the Nürburgring ahead of the car's launch in 2015. 

These latest spy pictures show the new supercar, the sister model to the new Lamborghini Huracán, performance testing at the famous circuit. 

This test mule wears less heavy camouflage than previous models, meaning the new car's shape can be seen more clearly. While the new R8 keeps the same basic dimensions as its predecessor, visual upgrades include new front air intakes and a smaller front grille can also be seen, as well as new headlight clusters.

At the rear, the profile of the new R8 appears wider than the current car and sports new exhausts plus a large rear diffuser.

While Audi bosses have confirmed the new R8 will follow the "same general layout" as the Huracan, the Audi car includes wider tracks and a longer wheelbase. Tech carried over from the Huracan includes that car's innovative rear firewall, as well as its central tunnel made from a single carbon fibre moulding, which weighs as little as 50kg.

Following the precedent set by the first R8, the majority of the new car's components will be made from aluminium to save weight. The same structure will also be used for the upcoming R8 e-tron.

A range of carried over V8 and V10 engines will power the new R8, with the latter unit closely related to the 5.2-litre engine found in the Huracan. That engine puts out 602bhp in the Huracan, giving the new Lamborghini a 0-62mph time of 3.2 seconds and a top speed of over 200mph.  Like the new Lamborghini, the R8 will be available in all-wheel drive only and will be offered with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox.

Audi's technical boss Ulrich Hackengerg has also hinted at better handling for the second-generation supercar, saying: "The suspension layout and geometry is different so we can tune different characteristics."

However, the new R8 could also get the option of smaller-capacity turbocharged engines later in its life cycle. Hackenberg has admitted the R8 "will need a turbocharged engine" at some point, saying "In some countries, you need to reduce the capacity of engines also and we need to find solutions for those markets. So we're looking at smaller engines, yes".

Revised Volkswagen Jetta set for New York debut
Revised Volkswagen Jetta set for New York debut Mild update for Jetta saloon, including visual upgrades and an interior refresh

Volkswagen has previewed a light refresh of its Jetta saloon ahead of its reveal at the New York motor show in the coming days.

The saloon gets a light nip at the front and rear; the changes are done with a view to improving the Jetta’s aerodynamic efficiency.

At the front there’s a subtly altered front grille, revised air intakes, new LED daytime running lights and a new bumper, while the lines at the rear are tweaked to give the Jetta a more slippery shape.

The interior changes are even more minor, according to VW. There’s a new instrument display and steering wheel design, plus new trim and seat fabric options.

The model on show in New York is the US-spec version, but the looks will be replicated on the European Jetta, order books for which will open in August ahead of November deliveries.

Engines offered will include a 1.4 TSI petrol unit with 148bhp and a 2.0 TDI unit with either 108bhp or 148bhp. The engines have been made EU compliant and are offered with stop-start and a battery energy recuperation system as standard.

Three trim levels will be offered: S, SE and GT. 

Read more New York motor show news.

Updated Chevrolet Cruze gets new connected tech
Updated Chevrolet Cruze gets new connected tech New focus on styling and technology for 2015 Chevrolet Cruze, but officials confirm it won't be coming to the UK

The updated Chevrolet Cruze saloon will make its debut at the New York Motor Show later this week. The focus of the revised model is on exterior styling and technology. 

Outside, the minor changes mimic the American market’s latest Impala and Malibu saloon. LED daytime running lights are fitted to higher-spec Cruze models. A new front fascia, including revised headlights, is also included. 

The biggest Cruze news, however, comes with its connectivity. A seven-inch color touchscreen is standard in the USA, as is voice recognition and a 4G LTE wireless connection with a wi-fi hotspot. Enhanced Bluetooth integration features text message alerts. The newest Cruze also offers Apple’s Siri Eyes Free, for full voice control of a connected iPhone. Chevrolet’s App Store allows owners to download weather, news, travel, and other information. 

Two petrol engines - a 1.8-litre and a turbocharged four-cylinder in-line 1.4-litre unit - as well as a 2.0-litre diesel engine carry over in the US market. There's no confirmation of specific changes to the two 1.7-litre diesel engines presently offered on Cruze models in UK. 

Chevrolet has sold more than 2.5 million Cruze models worldwide since its launch in 2010, making it their best-selling model. The revised 2015 version goes on sale later this year. However, company officials have confirmed the new model will not go on sale in the UK, due to Chevrolet's plans to pull out of Europe by 2015.

Read more New York motor show news.

All-new Volvo XC90 to launch next year
All-new Volvo XC90 to launch next year Roomier seven-seat SUV to kick off Volvo's revitalisation, with new engines and hybrid tech on the way

The all-new Volvo XC90 has entered the final stages of development prior to going on sale in just over a year’s time.

Volvo revealed the first early-build XC90 on the last day of cold-weather testing in Sweden, prior to the start of hot-weather testing. The undisguised cars were shown to a small group of journalists behind closed doors at the firm’s Arctic test facility.

The new seven-seat SUV is the first of a range of all-new
models that the company hopes will propel it into the first division of automotive premium brands.

The new XC90, codenamed V526, sticks closely to the formula set by its predecessor, which was launched in 2002. 

The Mk2 model is 4.9m in length, making it 100mm longer than the outgoing model, as well as being slightly lower and wider. Interior space is said to be significantly improved for second and third-row passengers, while boot space with the third row of seats in place is increased. 

Volvo has also rethought the control layout. The centre of the dash is dominated by a 9.5in, tablet-like screen, through which all of the car’s functions can be controlled. There are only seven conventional switches on the fascia, including a combined volume and on/off switch for the entertainment system. 

The main dials are displayed on a small TFT screen, which expands to a full-width configurable display on high-end models. The XC90 will also be equipped with new levels of passive and active safety systems as part of Volvo’s ‘Vision 2020’ plan, the goal of which is to ensure that no one is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo from 2020.

The SUV is the first car to be based on Volvo’s new Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA), which will eventually underpin all future 40, 60 and 90-series models. Dennis Nobelius, vice-president of ‘Vehicle Line 90’, Volvo’s large model programme, said the SPA was flexible enough to cover all types of vehicle, 
from low-roof cars to SUVs.

“We want to have the best possible proportions [in the front-wheel drive class],” said Nobelius. “We have pushed the front wheels forwards and the A-pillars backwards to get a long bonnet. We have also restricted the platform to accommodating four-cylinder engines, although there will be everything from a mild hybrid to a pure electric version.”

The XC90, like its future sister models, will be powered by a range of Volvo’s own four-cylinder petrol and diesel VEA engines, which will be variously boosted by single and twin turbochargers or a combination of both a turbo and a supercharger. 

One of the most powerful engines will be a 300bhp petrol unit using a turbo and supercharger. Beyond that, the XC90 will also come in hybrid form with an electric motor powering the rear wheels. Further down the line, a version of the XC90 equipped with an energy-harvesting flywheel on the rear axle is likely, while a pure electric version of the large SUV will have its batteries packaged in the centre tunnel and under the rear floor so interior space won’t be compromised.

Volvo’s research and development chief, Peter Mertens, revealed that when Ford first put Volvo up for sale in 2008, bosses sat down and completely rethought the company’s future. “We went through the first analysis and come up with the SPA and VEA concepts,” he said. 

Only when Volvo was bought by Chinese car maker Geely in 2010 did the Swedish firm have access to the funds to bring its vision to reality. Mertens said this is because Volvo is a relatively small car maker and can make decisions quickly.

Development of the XC90 will now concentrate on extreme heat, humidity and high-altitude testing. The showroom-ready car should be revealed publicly before the end of the year.

New XC90's tech secrets

Despite Volvo’s extensive use of super-high-strength steels, Håkan Ivarsson, technical director of Vehicle Line 90, said the SPA cars will be the “lightest in class”. The only significant use of aluminium in the SPA structure is for the front suspension towers, which are glued and riveted to the steel bulkhead and inner wings.

The SPA structure is engineered in five sections, of which four (the front overhang, cabin, rear luggage space and rear overhang) can vary in size. The only fixed section is the engine bay and bulkhead. This is just 593mm long when measured between the centre of the front axle and the point where the driver’s heel rests on the floorpan.

Although the SPA architecture will only accommodate four-cylinder engines, it is compatible with mechanical all-wheel drive, electric rear-axle hybrid drive, plug-in hybrid and pure electric transmissions.

Apple-flavoured interior

Volvo ’s new screen-based dashboard has already been seen on its recent wave of concept cars. The dashboard of the new XC90 is dominated by the 9.5in, portrait-format touchscreen. It immediately propels Volvo into a lead over its premium rivals, whose button-heavy fascias are in contrast to the XC90’s volume knob and six tiny conventional switches (including the windscreen defrosting and hazard light controls).

The touchscreen has been fitted with a filter to stop it from reflecting in the windscreen. It can also be operated by a gloved hand, something that is not possible with most smartphones.

In normal mode, the screen is divided into four sections: navigation, media, phone and weather. If the screen is swiped to the left, it reveals the vehicle settings, such as the climate control. This allows, for example, the cabin temperature to be adjusted on a slider. Swipe the screen to the right and the applications screen, via Apple’s new CarPlay system, is revealed.

New generation of engines

The Volvo Engine Architecture (VEA) was conceived before Ford sold Volvo. Volvo engineers spent so much money modifying Ford engines that it was deemed more cost-effective to build its own from scratch. The 2010 takeover by Geely provided the funds, and the new engines are already fitted to the V40, XC60 and S/V60.

All VEA engines will have four cylinders. There will be four power outputs each for both petrol and diesel versions using, variously, single and twin turbos and a combination of turbocharging and supercharging. Volvo claims fuel economy improvements of between 15 and 35 per cent over their predecessors. The diesel engines get a ground-breaking i-ART injection system that can meter out fuel to each cylinder with extreme accuracy.

Read Autocar's first ride in the new Volvo XC90 prototype.

Expanded Land Rover Discovery range to feature rugged SUV
Expanded Land Rover Discovery range to feature rugged SUV New rugged seven-seat SUV, the fourth member of Land Rover's new Discovery family, targets the Toyota Land Cruiser

Land Rover is believed to have started work on a fourth member of its future expanded Discovery family, according to Autocar sources.

The new model is a more rugged, conventional SUV targeted at buyers of cars such as Toyota’s Land Cruiser, Autocar understands. It will join a Discovery family that will also include compact five-seat and seven-seat models, which will replace the Freelander, and an upmarket replacement for today’s Discovery 4.

It’s thought that the new Land Cruiser rival will cost between £36,000 and £56,000 in today’s money. It’s expected to be built on an aluminium platform, probably related to the one that underpins the new Jaguar SUV, and will be a seven-seater. However, it isn’t expected to hit the showrooms until 2017.

The new model will put the emphasis on genuine go-anywhere performance and hardcore off-road ability. Land Rover planners have found that the Discovery 4 has gained a great deal of real-world credibility with drivers who make use of its true off-road performance.

The combination of decent reliability, ruggedness and comfort has won back many users to Land Rover who, for many years, had been lost to rival Japanese SUVs. 

The direct replacement for the Discovery 4 will be built on the same all-aluminium platform as the new Range Rover models. It is expected that the Discovery flagship will move markedly upmarket, with the £63,000 list price of the new 25th Anniversary Discovery 4 giving the first clues to position of the new range-topper.

The new Discovery flagship, like the smaller models that will soon replace the Freelander 2, will be aimed at affluent families who aspire to an ‘adventure’ lifestyle.

Land Rover's new family of vehicles will be previewed with the new Discovery Vision concept at the New York motor show later this week.

Read more New York motor show news.

History of Lexus - picture special
History of Lexus - picture special This year, Lexus pops the cork for its 25th anniversary. We turn the clocks back on the premium Japanese car maker and celebrate the brand’s many highlights, including the outrageous LFA V10 supercar

Since its inauguration, Lexus has aimed to take the fight to stronger premium brand names, such as Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Audi and BMW, offering marginally cheaper alternatives to luxury saloons and crossover SUVs, as well as the courageous Lexus LFA supercar during economic turmoil. 

Lexus started life as Toyota’s luxury division, ever since then the marque has built up a reputation over the years as a manufacturer that epitomises high quality, reliability and strong finishes in customer satisfaction surveys. But where did it all begin?

Back in 1983, then-Toyota chairman Eiji Toyoda summoned a highly secret, emergency meeting. Tea and biscuits were put aside when Toyoda quizzed fellow company executives: “Can we create a luxury vehicle to challenge the world’s best?”

What resulted was the F1 project – not to be confused with the pinnacle of motor racing – but ‘Flagship One’, involving painstaking amounts of market research and focus groups on luxury car buyers.

The result spawned the Lexus (a combination of luxury and elegance) LS400 saloon in 1989. Riding a wave of clever television and print advertising, the LS400 made its debut at that year’s North American (Detroit) Auto Show and proved to be an instant hit with punters. 

The LS400 needed to be. An extensive resource of 60 designers, 24 engineering teams, 450 prototypes, 2.7 million kilometres of road testing and more than $1 billion went into developing the flagship saloon, featuring a unique design that shared little in common with previous Toyotas.

When the LS400 finally touched down in Europe in 1990, it was applauded for its high-quality cabin, superb refinement, a lower drag coefficient and better value compared to its rivals. The punchy 4.0-litre V8 motor, developing 256bhp, also gave the LS400 a higher top speed than the BMW 735i, at 160mph. 

Lexus succeeded in shaking up rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz, whose sales took a significant hit following the LS400’s trumpeting market entrance. The Japanese marque shifted over 165,000 units of the LS400 worldwide and the premium saloon car gained a strong reputation for its ability to clock up well over 200,000 miles with proper maintenance. 

In 1993, Lexus launched the GS300 saloon to sit below the LS400 and go head-to-head with the BMW 5-series. Penned by famed designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, the GS300 (standing for Grand Saloon) was introduced with a 3.0-litre inline-six engine, rear-wheel drive and independent double wishbone suspension.

Three years later the car maker unveiled its first SUV, the LX450, based on a revised Toyota Land Cruiser 100 and by 1998 the firm had broken into the increasingly popular crossover market with the release of the RX300.  

Into the millennium and Lexus seized the opportunity to enter the compact executive saloon market and do battle with the Mercedes-Benz C-class and BMW 3-series. The company introduced its range of IS saloons, and while it was seen as an alternative, it failed to sufficiently unsettle its established rivals in the compact executive segment.

Lexus experienced a crucial year in 2005. The firm launched the world’s first production premium hybrid SUV in the form of the RX400h and separated from parent company Toyota, while expanding into its home country for the first time and emerging markets such as China and South America. Sales particularly began to surge in South East Asia, the UK and throughout Australasia.

Not one to shy away from taking gambles, Lexus announced a new F-marque performance division in 2007, with Mercedes-Benz’s AMG and BMW’s M divisions resolutely in its sights. The first Lexus to wear the F nameplate, which pays homage to the Fuji Speedway and stands for Flagship, was the often forgotten Lexus IS-F saloon

Aimed at the BMW M3, Audi RS4 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, the IS-F was powered by a 5.0-litre V8 kicking out 416bhp. However, despite being mated to a ground-breaking eight-speed automatic transmission and covering 0-62mph in 4.8sec, the IS-F failed to make an impression over its superior German rivals. 

Arguably, Lexus’s finest moment came in 2009, when the Japanese marque heroically launched the LFA supercar amid a global financial crisis and economic uncertainty. 

Costing an eye-watering £343,000 the two-seater LFA supercar had a piercing 552bhp 4.8-litre V10 positioned as far back in the frontal engine bay as possible, to achieve a 48 per cent and 52 per cent front-to-rear weight distribution. The carbonfibre monocoque tub kept the kerb weight pegged at 1480kg, which helped the Lexus LFA sprint from 0-62mph in 3.7sec and onto 202mph, all the while possessing an intoxicating 9400rpm redline.

In 2010, Lexus launched an even more exclusive version – the LFA Nürburgring Edition – with only 50 units produced compared to the 500 of the original LFA. It flaunted a power hike up to 563bhp, re-calibrated gearshifts, lightweight alloy wheels and a large fixed rear wing. The car became the fifth-fastest production car at the time to lap the infamous track which bears its name, when it completed the notorious Nordschleife in 7min 14.64sec.

With Lexus sticking to a naturally aspirated V8 motor for its forthcoming RC-F performance coupé, and expanding its range of hybrid vehicles with the updated CT200h and new RC300h models, can the premium Japanese car maker’s “pursuit of perfection” put the brand on level-pegging terms with its European rivals? We can’t wait to find out.

Aaron Smith

Brilliant new McLaren 650S tested at the limit on track
The latest addition to McLaren's line-up may be based on the 12C, but it's a whole new ball game. Steve Sutcliffe puts the McLaren 650S coupe to the test on track

The McLaren 650S is almost as fast as a Bugatti Veyron, but costs less than one fifth of the price. After driving the McLaren 650S Spider last week, Steve Sutcliffe takes to the Ascari circuit in southern Spain to discover if the replacement for the McLaren 12C lives up to the promise of being much faster and more exciting to drive.

Convertible Chevrolet Corvette Z06 ready for New York debut
Convertible Chevrolet Corvette Z06 ready for New York debut Open-top Corvette gets at least 625bhp for its public debut, ahead of limited sales beginning in the UK in 2015

The new Chevrolet Corvette Z06 convertible will make its world debut at the New York motor show later this week. It’s the open-top sibling to the Z06 coupé, which was shown in Detroit earlier this year.

This is the first fully developed convertible version of the modern, hardcore-performance Corvette, but it isn’t the first soft-top Z06. In 1963, the Z06 package was first offered on the Corvette for endurance racing. 199 examples were thus fitted, but only one was a convertible. It’s taken more than 50 years for a follow up. 

There is very little difference between the new Z06 coupé and convertible. The C7 Corvette’s aluminum chassis was already 20 per cent stiffer than the C6 Z06, so no structural changes were needed for the convertible. The weight is nearly identical and the chassis tuning is unchanged. Track-focused Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires as well as carbon-ceramic brakes are available, as are three different aerodynamic packages. 

The supercharged 6.2-litre V8 engine powering the convertible is said to have “at least” 625bhp and, just like the coupe, buyers can choose between a seven-speed manual or eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmissions.

The Z06’s powerered top can be lowered via the key fob at speeds up to 30 mph. It continues the classic Corvette “waterfall” look, with a body-color insert behind the seats carrying the exterior color inside the cabin. Due to the lack of rear quarter panels, the differential and transmission cooler air intakes were moved to underneath the car. 

As with the standard Corvette, the Z06 will only be offered in left-hand drive. The Z06 coupe will go on sale in the US in December, with the convertible following next June. Depending on demand, limited units of the convertible may also be sold in the UK, though it's likely to be some time before any models reach this country.

Read more New York motor show news.

The joys of manufacturer embargoes on car reviews
The joys of the embargo system When car manufacturers launch new cars they set embargoes, some of which get broken, some of which don’t. How and why does the system work, and what happens when it goes wrong?

We work with embargos all the time in the world of journalism, and especially in car journalism. When manufacturer A invites us to drive the new such-and-such, they will set an embargo date that, in theory, will allow all the front-line titles to publish their thoughts pretty much at the same time. 

Hence the reason you’ll see a great wave of “We’ve driven it” type publicity about the new BMW M3 in May of this year, because that’s when BMW has set the embargo for driving impressions of its new uber-saloon.

Except rarely is it as simple as that. Take the new M3 as a case in point. As it stands the UK’s journalists won’t get to drive the car on this occasion until the afternoon of the date itself, which means the only way you’ll be able to read about the new M3 on its embargo date – from a UK title – will be online. 

The dear old magazines that still publish on something called paper won’t be able to publish until at least a week later, and that makes it very hard indeed for the likes of Autocar to publish anything meaningful by the following Wednesday. Which means our main magazine coverage of the new M3 will feel at least two weeks out of date when it appears in the magazine.

And that’s entirely thanks to the embargo system. 

But in a weird kind of way, what goes around comes around with embargoes. Sometimes they work in your favour as a title, sometimes they don’t; it all depends on which day of the week the embargo falls upon.

So we all tend to get on with and agree to the embargo system by and large because, if you think about it, there really is no other way of being fair to everyone over, say, a two-year period. Eventually, everyone will get one up during that time. And at some stage they will go one down as well. Que sera sera.

Unless, of course, Ferrari happens to be involved. Allow me to explain.

Soon, I will be driving the new LaFerrari at Fiorano with a strict embargo date of 30 April. And on the face of it this looks very much like a bingo moment for Autocar (the magazine) because 30 April is a Wednesday.

Trouble is, Ferrari has quite understandably set a second embargo date of 12 May, which will apply to all other syndicated words about the car. In other words, if you are a front line invitee, you can publish on April 30. But if you’re not, then you won’t be able to publish words that you’ve bought (or sold) to other titles around the globe until 12 May.

Which is fair enough on Ferrari’s behalf. They want the titles that they have invited personally to be able to publish first, which makes sense.

But as is the way with publishing, we also want to then syndicate those words to other titles around the world in order to keep the wolf at bay financially; and without being able to do so, most publishing houses would go out of business.

Which is why it was somewhat perplexing to be informed by the Scuderia’s press office that, as of late this week, the embargo date for the syndication of words about driving LaFerrari has now gone back by a fortnight – to 26 May. 

Result; editors of the world’s car magazines and websites that haven't been invited to drive the car direct, and who were relying on those who have to provide words and pictures to publish on 12 May, have just gone into a complete flat spin. Hundreds of cover stories that were due to hit the streets globally about the car on or very soon after 12 May have just disappeared into the ether. And I’d imagine the phone lines at Maranello have been reasonably busy ever since.

And so there you have it. The joys of the embargo system explained, sort of. And no, I have no idea how Ferrari will police this particular embargo once the initial wave of publicity has broken on 30 April – although I’d imagine that the threat of a 50,000 euro fine to any front line journalist whose words are published outside their stated titles before 26 May, might just be enough to put most people off. And if you think I’m kidding about the fine, think again.

New Honda concepts for Beijing motor show
New Honda concepts for Beijing motor show A sleek new saloon and a replacement for the Chinese-market Accord will be two new concepts at the Beijing motor show

Honda will show two new concepts at the Beijing motor show later this month.

Little is known about the new reveals, but the model pictured is a sleek and as-yet unnamed concept developed “exclusively for the Chinese market”.

A second concept developed by Dongfeng Honda teases the next-generation Spirior, the Chinese market Accord. Honda will also show a new mid-sized SUV and the next-generation Honda Jazz to a Chinese audience for the first time.

The Acura RLX hybrid concept and NSX Concept will both make their Chinese premieres at the show.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

New Citroen crossover concept leaked
New Citroen crossover concept leaked First reportedly official sketches of the Beijing-bound Citroën concept show is cool new crossover

Sketches of a new Citroën crossover concept car have appeared online, with reports suggesting the model will make its debut at the Beijing motor show next week.

Although Citroën UK declined to comment on the authenticity of the sketches, but the signed name of one of PSA's lead designers, Cristian Gudima, appears in the bottom corner. Gudima has also previously worked for Volkswagen.

Traditional Citroën design hallmarks, including the firm's larger chevron front grille, can be seen on the reportedly official drawings. Plastic body cladding and large alloy wheels can also be seen, as well as a roof-mounted spoiler at the rear.

Reports suggest the crossover concept is a joint design study between Citroën and its Chinese partner Dongfeng. The concept could preview a new compact crossover model for the Chinese market, and could act as a rival to Peugeot's 2008.

We already know Citroën is planning to show another DS-branded car at the Beijing show. That model, likely to be the firm's long-awaited DS SUV, has been previewed with a single image and is said to "marry power and refinement".

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Mercedes-Benz B-class Electric Drive enters production
Mercedes-Benz B-class Electric Drive enters production Mercedes says RHD versions of its first electric car are slated for the UK in 2015. B-class EV will be a rival to BMW's stylish i3

Mercedes-Benz has kicked off production of the new B-class Electric Drive at its plant in Rastatt, Germany – the same site responsible for the production of the German car maker’s more conventional petrol and diesel-powered A-, B- and GLA-class models.

Set for sale in lef-hand-drive guise in selected European markets during the latter half of 2014, the five-seat MPV has been conceived as a rival to the likes of the BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf. Unlike the uniquely styled  electric car competition, however, the new zero emission Mercedes-Benz is based on an existing model – the second-generation B-class.

Full technical details to the new car are yet to be revealed, although Mercedes-Benz quotes a preliminary all-electric range of 124 miles.  

At the heart of the new car is a lithium-ion battery produced by Tesla Motors – a company with which Mercedes-Benz has enjoyed close technical ties ever since its parent company Daimler took a minority ten per cent stake in the California-based electric car maker back in 2009.  

The first B-class Electric Drive to roll off the production line reveals the look the Mercedes brand’s first series production electric vehicle will take into showrooms.

While appearing little changed to existing second-generation B-class models, it receives a newly styled front bumper and body-coloured cladding within the wheelarches – features that are expected to be incorporated on the facelifted B-class when it is launched later this year.

The 1750kg B-class Electric Drive is powered by a front mounted electric motor that produces 177bhp and 250lb ft of torque. Preliminary performance figures point to a 0-62mph time of 7.9sec and a limited 100mph top speed.

Although initially planned to be produced in left-hand drive guise only, Mercedes-Benz confirms right-hand-drive versions of its first series production electric vehicle are under development. “We are looking to launch in right-hand drive during 2015,” a source revealed to Autocar, adding, “exact timing has not been set, although we are aware that the UK is shaping up as an important market”.

Read Autocar's first drive of the Mercedes-Benz B-class Electric Drive prototype.

Quick news: BMW X5 eDrive; EU mulls number plate changes
Quick news: BMW X5 eDrive; Ferrari extends warranty; No axe for UK plates Updated Concept X5 eDrive for New York; UK plates won't be scrapped, says EU; Ferrari's warranty grows to 12 years

BMW will show an updated version of its Concept X5 eDrive, with a series of what the firm says are “detailed refinements”, at the New York motor show next week. The hybrid concept was revealed at the Frankfurt motor show late last year, with BMW claiming an electric range of 19 miles and 0-62mph in under seven seconds.

Reports that new proposals within the European parliament could axe UK number plates are misleading, says the BBC. Initial media reports suggested the proposals could scrap UK number plates and replace them with European alternatives, but EU officials have told the BBC the proposals are still in the very early stages and that the proposal doesn't call for UK plates to be replaced.

Ferrari’s warranty scheme has been extended to 12 years. The firm’s factory-backed warranty acts for the first five years of the car’s life, and is then replaced by an annually renewable warranty up to its 12th year. The firm already offers a seven-year maintenance programme for its new models.

Porsche Panamera Turbo S UK first drive review
Porsche Panamera Turbo S first drive review Better at crushing your windpipe than appealing to your heart, but this Turbo S is nonetheless impressive Having driven the go-faster version of the Porsche Panamera Turbo abroad some time ago, we now get to experience the range-topper in the UK, where it adds £23k the standard model’s six-figure price. Chiefly, what that buys you is bragging rights.Porsche has swapped out the two turbochargers on its V8 engine for those with an even healthy capacity for forcing air through the engine. With the pressure up by 20 bar, the pistons have been made from a new aluminium alloy to compensate.The net result turns up the wick from 512bhp to 562bhp. The peak twist advantage is more slender – from 516lb ft to 553lb ft at 2250rpm – although full-throttle overboost takes it all the way to 590lb ft. Impressively, this hike in potency has apparently not harmed efficiency. Porsche has recorded the same optimistic 27.7mpg for the S as it did for the Turbo. Elsewhere, most of Porsche’s favourite acronyms come fitted as standard. PASM, PDCC, PTV and PDCC (or active air suspension, active anti-roll bars, torque vectoring and ceramic brakes to you and me) are 
all on board, as are 20-inch wheels, sat-nav and a full-leather interior. Using the launch control of the seven-speed PDK, the Turbo S hits 62mph in a claimed 3.8sec – about 0.3sec quicker than the standard Turbo and a shade faster than Audi claims for the manual R8 V10. 

Production-ready Lexus NX revealed
Production-ready Lexus NX revealed Lexus aims to take on Audi and BMW in the compact SUV market with the boldly designed NX, which will make its world debut in Beijing

Lexus’s entry into the booming compact SUV market makes its debut at the Beijing motor show next week. The NX is the firm’s answer to the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, and is set to reach the UK by the end of the year after order books open in May.

The NX production car is a follow-up to the controversial and dramatically styled LF-NX concept from the Frankfurt motor show last week. While the look has been toned down somewhat from the concept, the production car is still a bold, angular design in a class where conservatism typically rules.

Indeed, at the concept’s unveiling, Lexus design project manager Nobuyuki Tomatsu said the firm wanted the NX “to be a very influential car — one to make its rivals look boring”.

Lexus is hoping the new model will bring new customers to the brand, the NX standing as a “hero model”, one that will “set new standards for future Lexus models”.

The exterior design features an enlarged version of Lexus’s now familiar family spindle grille flanked by slim headlights and strips of LED daytime running lights. The flared wheel arches house 17-inch alloys in regular models and 18-inch wheels in F Sport versions.

Other exterior design features include a heavily sculpted bonnet, a sloping roofline, sharply creased lower body sides, and the continuation of the angular theme from the front to the rear of the car.

Lexus says it has taken inspiration from sports cars for the five-seat interior, which also adopts the angular design of the outside. The premium look and feel of the cabin includes a thick-rimmed leather-wrapped steering wheel, a full-leather finish for F Sport models, and a large central screen out of the dashboard for the infotainment display.

Equipment includes a wireless charging function for portable devices, such as smartphones, a touch-pad controller for the infotainment options, a head-up display and a information display that includes a G-force sensor.

Engines offered worldwide include Lexus’s familiar petrol-electric hybrid system in the NX300h, a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (a Lexus first) in the NX200t, and a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol in the NX200. Each will be offered with front- or all-wheel drive. UK engine options will be confirmed next month.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Next Vauxhall Astra spotted - first picture
Next Vauxhall Astra spotted - first pictures All-new Astra will launch in 2016, and promises to offer a more sophisticated design complete with new engines and gearboxes, as the first early engineering mule is spotted testing

This heavily disguised test car is understood to be the first running prototype of the next-generation Vauxhall Astra, which is due to shown within the next 18 months.

The prototype reveals an increase in length over the current Astra, and also some styling flourishes such as its more upright tailgate. Vauxhall is understood to be giving the next-generation Astra a “decisively upmarket” appeal, as General Motors’ loss-making European arm struggles to break even.

General Motors planners is placing an emphasis on the Astra’s exterior quality, fit and finish. It is also timing the launch of the new model to take advantage of the company’s all-new powertrain line-up. 

The Astra should arrive soon after the ‘budget’ Chevrolet brand is dropped next year, emphasising GM’s strategy of trying to climb out of Europe’s middle-market blood bath.

The new Astra should go on sale in 2016, with work on its styling is currently being refined by design boss Mark Adams and his team in Germany. The biggest clue to the look of the new Astra came with the Monza concept, unveiled at the Frankfurt show in September last year.

According to General Motors Europe (GME) sources, the Monza’s grille shape, bluff nose and large bumper air intakes all point to the face of the new Astra, particularly the sporting versions. The more bulbous rear end and rear light clusters are also strong future clues. 

The aluminium strip that runs off the roof and into each tail-light cluster is expected to be a stylistic signature of the 2016 Astra. It reflects the overarching design theme for future Vauxhalls and Opels: making the cars look more sophisticated and more expensively constructed. 

Partly inspired by the success of Audi in building cars that excel in exterior fit and finish, GME wants to capture some of this sheen as it tries to push the Opel and Vauxhall brands upmarket.

The first signs of this new design policy can be seen on the facelifted Insignia, with extra exterior brightwork, such as the large chrome flash on the tailgate and large, heavily chromed radiator grille. However, according to Autocar sources, the heavily revamped Corsa, due later this year, will be the first GME model to be fully conceived under the new design regime. 

The supermini’s exterior is expected to benefit from the kind of expansive surfacing, tight shut lines and brightwork flourishes seen on the Monza concept. It will also get a similar grille to the Adam city car’s (which will become Opel-Vauxhall’s corporate look) and a significant interior upgrade.

The new Astra is expected to be based on a refreshed version of today’s well regarded Delta platform. As well as a five-door hatchback, the range will again include a three-door coupé and a long-wheelbase estate. 

The new Astra will benefit greatly from GME’s all-new engine and transmission families — areas in which, company engineers admit, GME has lagged behind rivals.

Three new engine families (which include 13 individual petrol and diesel units) will be on stream by the time the new Astra arrives. 

One of the most interesting options for the Astra will be a new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo petrol engine. Good for 114bhp and 124lb ft of torque from well below 2000rpm, the engine will arrive first in the Adam and new Corsa this year. 

The biggest mainstream engine is likely to be a 1.6, although the range-topping VXR coupé might get 
a powerful 2.0-litre unit.

Just as important to the Astra is a new six-speed manual gearbox. Last year, when GM announced the new 1.6-litre diesel engine, the company admitted that its real weak point was manual gearboxes, partly because the basic design principle dated from the 1970s. The new transmission is said to weigh just 37kg and puts an emphasis on smooth shifts and a short lever action, both issues with today’s gearboxes.

Aside from making the new Astra more attractive than today’s car, it needs to overtake the Ford Focus and look towards annual sales of at least 250,000 units in Europe. 

Vauxhall-Opel must also be able to increase the average transaction price for the 2016 Astra, which is the reason for making the car look more sophisticated and upmarket. Increased margins on the car are probably more crucial for loss-making GME than simply boosting sales figures.

Additional reporting by Mark Tisshaw

New 'super GTI' Volkswagen Golf spotted
New super GTI Volkswagen Golf spotted First pictures of a hot new Volkswagen Golf testing at the Nürburgring spark rumours that VW is trying to break sister brand Seat's lap record

This mystery high-performance Volkswagen Golf may be wearing the logos of an independent company that makes parts for track cars, but it is understood to be a factory project. 

Late last year, sources revealed that VW engineers were developing a front-drive ‘super-GTI’ with an engine delivering about 300bhp. It's also already known that VW is planning to show a concept car, dubbed Golf R Evo, at the Beijing motor show later this month.

The concept, a more extreme version of the Golf R, is expected to use a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine with power boosted from 296bhp to close to 370bhp. Torque should also rise to around 332lb ft.

Reports also suggest the Evo could ditch the standard Golf R's rear seats in favour of a roll cage.

Seat, VW’s sister brand, has just broken the front-wheel-drive record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife in a Leon Cupra hatch, lapping the 12 miles in 7min and 58.44sec. 

Autocar understands that this Golf, with more power and a Haldex clutch acting across the front wheels, aims to break the Leon’s record within the next couple of months.

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Additional reporting by Darren Moss

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Final Edition first drive review
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Final Edition first drive review Mercedes-Benz’s modern-day gullwing goes out in style, and sets a storming precedent for the new GT AMG due later this year The last of the modern-day Mercedes-Benz gullwing models. AMG boss, Tobias Moers, says of the awkwardly named SLS AMG GT Final Edition. “As the first car to be completely developed by AMG, the SLS marked the beginning of a new era for our company. Now we are offering customers one final variant of our sports car.”The SLS swansong is planned to be produced in a run of no more than 350, both in coupé and roadster body styles, through to the end of May, when AMG’s factory on the outskirts of Stuttgart will be refitted to handle production of a smaller and cheaper sports car, the new GT.On the face of it, the SLS AMG GT Final Edition looks to have the potential to become the most rounded of all SLS AMG models launched since its addition to the Mercedes-Benz line-up back in 2009. It combines the upgraded engine and suspension of the SLS AMG GT with the aerodynamic and weight-saving measures used on the track-focused SLS AMG Black Series, creating a car that Moers describes as offering the best possible balance of performance for both public road use and race-track action.The familiar naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8, slung out front underneath the long probing bonnet, receives a range of detailed changes to free up its breathing properties and boost the efficiency of the combustion process. In one of its final configurations, before it is replaced by a new twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, the multi-point injected petrol engine delivers 18bhp more than the engine found in the regular SLS AMG, developing 581bhp. Torque is unchanged at 469lb ft.The rich reserves are channelled to the rear wheels via a lightly revised seven-speed dual clutch transaxle boasting four modes – Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Manual. It receives the same updated software as that brought to the regular SLS AMG GT. The promise is a faster and crisper shift action and a double declutching feature.   Cosmetically, the last SLS AMG model gets a carbonfibre splitter up front and fixed wing at the rear – both taken from the SLS AMG Black Series, which also donates its carbonfibre bonnet with a central air outlet. Together, the exterior changes are claimed to reduce lift forces acting on both the front and axles while improving heat dissipation from the engine bay.Further modifications include a set of forged aluminium wheels – 19in in diametre up front and 20in at the rear. They are shod with new Dunlop Sport Maxx Race tyres, which are described as being developed specifically for the range-topping Mercedes-Benz model.Despite the adoption of these lightweight features, AMG quotes the same 1620kg kerb weight as previous coupé models, endowing this latest variant with a power-to-weight ratio of 359bhp per tonne.   Inside, the SLS AMG GT Final Edition receives quilted leather upholstery, carbonfibre trims and a liberal application of Alcantara – all from Mercedes-Benz’s Designo line of optional equipment. For all this you pay £189,880 in coupé guise as driven here, which seems excessive until you learn that early customers for the SLS AMG GT, without the carbonfibre exterior embellishments, trick wheels and more luxurious interior appointments, were originally quoted a price of  £180,485.

The Olympic legend aiming for Le Mans success
The Olympic legend aiming for Le Mans success Cycling hero Sir Chris Hoy is relishing the prospect of competing in this year's British GT Championship

Sir Chris Hoy is best known for being a cycling hero and Britain’s greatest-ever Olympian, but he’s also a massive motorsport fan. It’s that passion, and his love of competition, that has led to the Scotsman joining the British GT Championship this year.

Hoy’s motorsport passion began when he played on a Scalextric set as a youngster. And that set was his first introduction to the Le Mans 24 Hours. “I had a little car that the lights came on,” he says. “I asked my dad why that one had lights that worked when the others didn’t. He said ‘that’s a Le Mans car. They need to drive at night.’ That logged in my brain.”

When still active in cycling, Hoy bought himself a track day car, taking part in untimed sessions on various British racing circuits during the off-season. Following Hoy’s retirement from the velodrome last year, he contested a full season in the Radical SR1 Cup, an entry-level sportscar championship.

Things have stepped up considerable for this year: Hoy has been picked up by Nissan, and will share a GT-R Nismo GT3 with sportscar expert Alex Buncombe in the championship. The long-term plan is to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours.

British GT is a good place for Hoy to race: the series rules mean that cars have to field one ‘professional’ and one ‘amateur’ driver, so Hoy’s inexperience won’t be as much of an issue as it would be elsewhere.

But don’t think GT racing is all about genteel amateur competition. British GT is one of the strongest racing championships in the country, with a capacity grid, incredibly talented drivers and numerous manufacturer-backed machines. Those machines are performance tested and then balanced out, so the competition is close. The ‘endurance racing’ tag is a misnomer: the racing is as intense and spectacular as you’ll find.  

Thankfully, Hoy can draw on the experience of team-mate Buncombe and the RJN Nissan squad that will run his car. He says: “Everybody has been really welcoming and is trying to simplify things. There’s no pressure either: the pressure comes from myself. I want to go out on track straight away and perform as well as I can, and they’ll say ‘just take it steady, and improve gradually.’”

A big bonus for Hoy is that his competition and racing experience will be a huge asset: if you can cope with the pressure of an Olympic Keirin final, you can cope with anything. “I’m really excited to have a new opportunity, a new ladder that I’m on the bottom rung of,” says Hoy. “With cycling I was at the top of a ladder and to improve I had to find tiny fractions, but in motorsport I’m right down the bottom of the curve with, hopefully, a steep improvement ahead of me.”

The support of Nissan will be crucial. This is the firm that runs the GT Academy competition that has turned PlayStation gamers into Le Mans class winners. Hoy is a far more polished prospect: he already knows how to handle the pressure of a big race. All Nissan has to do is help him refine his driving skills.

Starting with the season-opener at Oulton Park on Easter Monday, Hoy’s mission in British GT this year is to learn. It’s the first step towards his goal of competing at Le Mans. And this is a man who is used to reaching his goals. “The beauty of Le Mans is that it’s a massive challenge, but it’s possible for people who haven’t had a whole life in motorsport to get there,” he says. “Everyone knows about F1, and everybody knows about the Le Mans 24 Hours. It’s the pinnacle of sportscar racing.”

Bugatti to unveil fifth Legends car in Beijing
Bugatti to reveal fifth Legends car in Beijing New Bugatti Legend celebrates Type 18 'Black Bess', one of the firm's most important pre-war cars

The fifth model in the six-part Bugatti Legends series has been revealed ahead of its debut at the Beijing motor show next week.

For this penultimate model, Bugatti has taken inspiration from its Type 18, one of the firm's most important pre-war models. Powered by a 5.0-litre four-cylinder in-line engine with 99bhp and a top speed of 100mph, Bugatti says the Type 18 was one of the fastest road cars around, and was raced at motorsport events by company founder Ettore Bugatti.

One of the Type 18's famous owners was French aviation pioneer Roland Garros, who crossed the Mediterranean by air in 1912. Looking for a car fast enough to match his plane, Garros took delivery of a Type 18 in 1913. He chose to name the car after an English racehorse, dubbing the model 'Black Bess'.

The exterior of this model features painted carbon fibre with gold accents, alongside bespoke alloy wheels. Inside, leather features on most surfaces in different colours, while the car's red steering wheel is similar to the one used in the original Type 18. Red decorative stitching can also be seen on the seat bolsters, while racing motifs are embossed into the doors.

As with previous models in the series, the new Legends car is based on the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse. Powered by an 8.0-litre W16 engine with 1184bhp and peak torque of 1106lb ft, the car is capable of accelerating to 62mph in 2.6 seconds, and on to a top speed of 254mph.

Like other Legends cars, production of the car is expected to be strictly limited to three units, with each costing £1.8 million. Previous models in the Legends series have celebrated Jean Bugatti, Jean-Pierre Wimille, Meo Constantini and Rembrandt Bugatti.

Rumours are still circulating that the final car in the series will honour Czech racer Elisabeth Junek. The wife of privateer racing driver Cenek Junek, Elisabeth was one of the most influential and successful racing drivers in history. She was also the first woman to win a Grand Prix.

Read more Beijng motor show news.

Tron-style design for new Mini art car
Mini to bring fan-art concept to New York motor show New Mini gets Tron-style artwork - only 56 will be made, following its New York motor show debut next week

A bespoke 2014 Mini Cooper hatchback art car concept, created by a competition winner, will get its public debut at the New York motor show next week.

The Mini 'DeLux' has been created by Alex Coyle as part of a competition to design a bespoke Mini. The winning car features a blacklight-influenced skin with Tron-style graphics. Coyle says her submission was inspired by light, and would help the new Mini to stand out in the dark.

Mini's 'Final Test Drives' competition began in November, asking Mini owners to decide what features they'd like to see on the new car. Following more than 800 submissions, ten winners were able to collaborate with designers to produce their final designs. Fans then voted for the design they'd like to see become a production reality.

Mini has confirmed up to 56 examples of the car will go into production, and will be available to order in the US following its debut at the show.

Read more New York motor show news.

Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer 1.6 CDTi first drive review
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer 1.6 CDTi first drive review Frugal 1.6-litre diesel Astra estate has the zest to match its decent chassis and good looks It’s surprising how a better engine can improve the whole of a car’s character.The diesel-engined Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer has always seemed like an inoffensive, workaday sort of machine when powered by the long-serving 1.7 and 2.0-litre diesels, but it was nothing out of the ordinary.However, the arrival of a new aluminium-blocked 1.6-litre unit – which matches the power and torque of some 2.0-litre versions, complies with Euro 6 emissions and slashes fuel consumption by 10 per cent – has given the car a new level of responsiveness and refinement.The engine in our test car, whose punchy 134bhp at 4000rpm is accompanied by a healthy 236lb ft at 2000rpm, is part of a downsizing move that will run across the whole of Vauxhall’s four-cylinder petrol and diesel engine range.The Hungarian-made 1.6 CDTi is the latest piece in Vauxhall’s plan to create three all-new engine families and reveal 23 new models by 2016.

The secrets of Mercedes’ dominant new F1 engine
The secrets of Mercedes-Benz’s dominant new Formula 1 engine The pace of Mercedes-Benz's new-spec Formula 1 powerplant has got rivals worked up, but the manufacturer is simply reaping the benefits of its clever thinking

Word is beginning to leak out about how Mercedes-Benz has managed to produce such a successful Formula 1 car this year.

It is so successful in fact that Red Bull, Ferrari and even the sport’s commercial chief, Bernie Ecclestone, are complaining that the racing is dull, the drivers don’t have enough input, the noise is no good and so on.

The bad news for them is that thanks to Mercedes allowing its driver to race, which Ferrari never did in the Michael Schumacher Era, we have seen a great race in Bahrain, not just at the front but also right down through the field.

So what is the secret? It seems that Mercedes' engineers at Brixworth and Brackley worked closely together to create a unique approach to the new engine formula. A turbocharger uses the energy from exhaust gases to increase the density of the air going into an engine, thus producing more power.

The pressures and temperatures generated by such systems mean that a large intercooler is generally required to cool the engine intake air after it has been compressed by the turbocharger.

It seems that Mercedes' engineers cleverly decided to split the turbocharger in half so that the exhaust turbine at the rear of the engine is a long way from the intake turbine at the front of the engine. The two are linked by a shaft that runs between the two banks of cylinders.

This helps reduce the temperature on the compressor and intake side, meaning that there is less need for an intercooler, and so the unit can be smaller and that in turn means that the team was able to be more aggressive with its aerodynamic packaging. It also reduces the length of the intake pipework, which can result in a faster engine response.

There is further additional advantage in the system in that moving the compressor to the front of the engine meant that the transmission could be moved forward slightly, which means that the car has a better centre of gravity and so will handle better. 

The bad news for Mercedes-Benz's rivals is that the system cannot be copied because the 2014 engine designs are now frozen, according to the F1 regulations, which means that the rival engine companies will do better if they abandon development work on their current designs and concentrate all their efforts on the 2015 engines.

Mercedes is fighting hard to stop any changes to the engine rules as they feel that they have a right to enjoy the benefits of their clever thinking. This is entirely fair, and if the team allows its drivers to fight openly then there is no reason for the show to be affected, except on occasions where one car or the other retires early.

All the complaining has also highlighted the failure of all concerned to take into account just how exciting the new cars are in terms of technology, with the new generation F1 cars doing the same race distance at more or less the same speed, but using 35 per cent less fuel.

This is a spectacular improvement and one which F1 should be shouting about. Sadly the public relations people involved in the sport have completely failed to deliver the message.

The FIA is the organisation that has suffered most in this respect because it created the rules and from what I can see the federation has done next to nothing to promote what is an extraordinary step forward.

2014 Jeep Cherokee first drive review
2014 Jeep Cherokee first drive review Re-conceived Cherokee is more civilised crossover than usual tough-guy Jeep, with a rise in quality which places it firmly alongside the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 This is the all-new, fifth-generation Jeep Cherokee, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the often square-cut and traditional 4x4s that went before it.Instead it mixes Jeep styling motifs (a seven-vertical-slot grille, angular wheelarches) with fashionable design features such as no straight lines, concave surfaces and me-too trapezoidal tail-lights set on a slant.The short bonnet and long front overhang betray the fact that it's derived from a transverse-engine, front-wheel drive platform with distant roots in Alfa Romeo's Giulietta.It looks like a design student's proposal for a properly futuristic Jeep with a fast windscreen rake, a pointed ridge across the front grille and slender DRLs where you'd expect the headlights to be. But you know such a student would have toughened-up the look. As has Jeep, for the top Trailhawk version of which just 20 will arrive in the UK, despite being the visual lodestone of the range.Why so few? Because as well as the full gamut of off-road, big wheel-articulation hardware denied to lesser Cherokees, it has a thirsty 3.2-litre petrol V6 which no-one will want to buy, despites its hunkier cladding, grey detailing and cutaway valances.So the real-world, clean-clothes Cherokees come with Fiat's 2.0-litre Multijet II turbodiesel in 138 or 168bhp guises, matched in our test car to a nine-speed automatic gearbox.You can have front-wheel or four-wheel drive, the latter automatically disconnecting and reconnecting drive to the rear wheels as needed to improve economy, as a Range Rover Evoque now does. Trim levels are Longitude or plusher Limited, and both aspire to a 'premiumness' that would make them rivals to an Audi Q5 or BMW X3 at a lower price.

Range anxiety is still a big problem in electric cars
Range anxiety is still a big problem in electric cars While we're encouraged to embrace the use of electric cars, they remain an impractical solution, even for relatively low-mileage round trips

I had the pleasure of experiencing the Volkswagen e-Up recently, although the enjoyment was brief.

It’s a handsome car the Up, its quietly elegant style suiting its aim of providing affordable transport, a mission it carries off with quiet civility. The e-Up in question was white with a white interior, a clean look that particularly suits its zero-emission ambitions.

But on the move, you’ll spend far more time glancing at the remaining-range gauges than you will its tasteful furnishings; its battery charge diminishing at a depressing rate.

There’s nothing new about this of course, and it applies equally to the Nissan Leaf, for example, if slightly less to the lightweight BMW i3. But trying to make use of this VW for a week rammed home the reason why conventional cars are the success that they have been for the past 100 years-plus, and electric cars, so far at least, are not.

The car is freedom – the freedom to go where you like, when you like with a minimum of inconvenience.  It’s why people usually prefer them to timetabled trains and buses. But in an electric car with an 80-mile range, as offered by this VW in fully charged state, that flexibility simply isn’t there.

I couldn’t use it to go to Heathrow, a 30-odd mile journey from home, because I couldn’t be sure that I’d get back. So the e-Up was used only for (very) local trips. They were a pleasure for the way it went, though always with the nagging background disappointment of the collapsing range.

And this VW costs £19,250 – well over double the £8265 of a basic Take Up, which will go far farther on a single energy replenishment of course. And the e-Up’s £19,250 is after the deduction of the government’s £5000 incentive, too.

Of course, you can recharge it, but that takes hours, and from sources far less plentiful than fuel stations, as we know. So it’s hard to see the e-Up selling many copies, because the most important commodity that a motor car provides – freedom, conveniently served – is so severely curtailed. As it is for virtually all pure electric cars.

Best car deals: Ford Fiesta, Mazda MX-5, Audi A3, Audi A6
Best car deals: Ford Fiesta, Mazda MX-5, Audi A3, Audi A6 The best new car deals and new car leasing offers of the week, including discounts on the Ford Fiesta, Mazda MX-5, Audi A3, Audi A6 and Nissan Qashqai

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

Best new Car Deals 

The 1.0-litre EcoBoost Ford Fiesta offers excellent fuel economy and is a popular choice among UK buyers. The country's best-selling car also comes with impressive handling and a decent interior. GB Car Deals is offering a hot deal on the 1.0 EcoBoost Zetec 3dr, for £11,015, a saving of £2930 from the list price.

The Mazda MX-5 is a firm sports car favourite, offering open-top thrills for a relatively small price. We found the affordable and enjoyable rear-drive convertible in 1.8i SE two door form for £14,832, again over at the GB Car Deals. That’s a huge saving of £3,173 from the list price.

Best new car leasing deals

Audi’s A3 saloon is the firm's first entry into the compact saloon class, and it's a successful debut. We found a deal for £260 per month from Fleet Prices on the Audi A3 Diesel Saloon 2.0 TDI Sport 4dr. That’s on a 24-month contract with a deposit of £1560 and a 10,000 annual mileage limit.

Another Audi again, and this time one of the most popular A6 models. National Vehicle Solutions is offering an Audi A6 2.0 TDI in Ultra SE specification for £280 a month, on a 24-month contract with a deposit of £1,677 and an annual mileage limit of 5,000.

Deal of the Week

The Nissan Qashqai has been a big hit in the UK, known for its excellent build quality, generous levels of equipment and comfort and a smooth ride. Plus, the Acenta Premium model comes with lots of equipment including a panoramic glass roof, a reversing camera, and front and rear parking sensors. UK Car Discount is currently offering a new 1.5dCi model in Acenta Premium trim for £19,701 - a saving of £2,989 from the list price.

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

Liang Hu

Peugeot Exalt concept revealed - plus exclusive studio pictures
Peugeot Exalt concept revealed - plus exclusive studio pictures New five-door luxury saloon concept features bare-metal styling and hybrid powertrain, will make its debut in Beijing next week

The Peugeot Exalt concept has been revealed ahead of its world debut at the Beijing motor show at the end of next week, and is shown here in our exclusive studio pictures.

Described as the French firm's "vision of the saloon", the Exalt follows on from the Onyx concept of 2012. The Exalt uses the same bare materials approach as the Onyx, and features wool-based fabric, leather, bare steel and ebony.  Its exposed steel bodywork is designed to echo historical models, and is hand-beaten into shape.

Parts of the concept are also covered in 'shark skin', a material which Peugeot says improves aerodynamic performance and fuel consumption.

Measuring 4.7-metres long, the five-door luxury saloon has a low roofline of 1.31-metres, with its sleek shape "concealing a cabin that is still spacious". The concept sits on 20-inch wheels, and weighs 1700kg.

Exterior features include a new black light system, which Peugeot says improves visibility during low light conditions, such as at dusk and dawn.

A plug-in hybrid, the Exalt uses the same 1.6-litre THP engine as the RCZ R, but the four-cylinder petrol engine’s 266bhp is supplemented by a 67bhp electric motor mounted on the multi-link rear axle. Peugeot's Hybrid4 system automatically selects which driving mode to use, choosing from pure electric, petrol only or petrol-electric hybrid options.

It is also built on a version of the EMP2 platform that underpins the next generation of PSA vehicles, including the 2013 Car of the Year winner, the Peugeot 308. According to Peugeot, the Exalt features "an intense driving experience dedicated to enjoyment"

Inside, a leather and wood-trimmed steering wheel features alongside a digital instrument cluster and two folding touch screens on the large centre console. The upper screen controls the main infotainment functions, while the lower screen offers climate control as well as access to Peugeot's Pure Blue air-filtration system. 

Piano-key inspired switchgear also features, arranged both to the left and right of the steering wheel. Passengers are seated in special bucket seats made from leather and wool-based fabric, while black ebony wood trim with a special design motif can also be seen.

Helping to mark the rebirth of Peugeot, it's no coincidence the French car maker has chosen to unveil the Exalt in Beijing. Asian buyers are traditionally more receptive to new ideas, and China's second largest manufacturer, Dongfeng, recently took a stake in PSA.

It's believed that Peugeot is planning something of an upmarket relaunch in the Chinese market, carving out new opportunities in the same vein as Citroën's DS line, which is seen as a separate brand in China.

Speaking to Autocar, Sophie Gazeu – colour and materials stylist for the concept – said the Exalt had taken 18 months to create, far longer than a traditional concept: "There is more than one way to do luxury. A top-end leather handbag that has aged is more highly prized than one that has come straight out of the shop. Wooden furniture that has marked through use is said to have character. 

"We hear a lot about authenticity, but what is authentic about a piece of wood that has 1000 layers of lacquer on it, or real leather that is treated so much that it looks like plastic, no matter for how many years you use it?"

Style director Gilles Vidal said: "The Onyx supercar concept was our guiding force.

“That set the design philosophy, and especially the principle of having an emotional relationship with a car that sets it apart, led by the use of materials. At this end of the market, you are not buying the car because you have to. You are buying it because you want to. The Exalt is very distinguishable as a modern Peugeot."

Read more Beijing motor show news.

Additional reporting by Jim Holder

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