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The Motorists Guide

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  1. Halo protects the driver from large flying debris Why will F1 cars have a weird-looking ring above the drivers this season and what exactly is it? We report The styling of the Halo device might not be to everyone’s tastes, but there’s no doubt that it’s strong. Incredibly strong. Support the weight of a double-decker bus strong (or, should you prefer, two elephants strong). It has to be. To pass its structural test, the 7kg titanium device has to withstand 125kN of force (equivalent to 12 tonnes in weight) from above for 5sec. Why so strong? So that it can stop a 20kg Formula 1 wheel, travelling at 140mph, from hitting a driver. Preventing such incidents has been a target of the FIA, motorsport’s governing body, since 2009, when Henry Surtees was killed in a Formula 2 race after being hit by a wheel and F1 star Felipe Massa was seriously injured after a suspension spring struck his helmet. Formula 1 2018 preview: everything you need to know before the Australian GP “We explored a number of different options,” says research engineer Andy Mellor, a consultant to the Global Institute for Motor Sport Safety, the FIA’s safety partner. “The challenge is that the position you need to put such a protective device in is also a position where the driver needs to see. So either you go for a transparent solution, which you can see through and does a structural job, or you go for a structural, non-transparent solution – but which can’t interfere with the driver’s ability to see.” Various solutions, including transparent screens called the Aeroscreen and Shield, have been tested on crash rigs and on track during grand prix practice sessions. But there were ongoing visibility issues and other concerns about such devices, and other benefits of the Halo meant it became the clear choice. Crucially, recreations of various incidents, such as Fernando Alonso’s roll in the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, failed to find any situations in which the Halo significantly reduced safety. “We had to look at how strong the chassis needed to be to support the Halo structure, so that it can do the job it needs to do,” says Mellor. “That load is similar to the loads for the principal roll structure on an F1 car, so the two were integrated, and Halo is now the secondary, forward roll structure on the car, and the test loads on it are higher than for the principal roll structure. So in addition to deflecting debris, the Halo is a very protective part of the car for dealing with incidents such as rollovers. "The level of safety goes significantly beyond what we originally targeted.” By way of comparison, the Halo device is stronger in the event of a rollover or object strike than the closed cockpit of a Le Mans prototype. “The limitation of the Halo is the size of the openings required for forward visibility and egress, so we looked at the risk of debris passing through those holes,” says Mellor. “The engineering of an F1 car helps here, because most parts are made of lightweight materials, so for a part to be heavy enough to cause injuries it tends to be quite large, and thus is more likely to be def lected by the Halo.” That said, research is ongoing: the IndyCar Series in the US is continuing to look into clear windscreen-type solutions and Mellor says some form of transparent top for the Halo could be explored. The Halo could well evolve over time, but the intention for it to be used in a number of championships will limit that. The FIA has named three official Halo manufacturers and the units will be used in F1 and F2 this year, with Formula E following in the 2018/19 season. In F1, teams can fit limited aerodynamic fairings to slightlyvary the looks. That look, of course, has been criticised somewhat. Mellor notes that aesthetic concerns are “well above my pay grade” but he does suggest that, as with other safety steps like high cockpit supports (introduced in 1996), people will likely adjust to its looks over time. Besides, any aesthetic concerns are countered by the Halo’s key goal: saving lives. Mellor says: “Within the risk assessment study we conducted for the Halo across many championships, it was concluded that over the last ten years there are a number of drivers who could well be alive today if the cars had been fitted with this type of device.” When key driver safety features were made compulsory in F1: 1953 - Helmets 1961 - Roll bars on cars 1963 - Fireproof suits 1972 - Six-point seatbelts 1990 - Detachable steering wheels 2003 - Head and neck support (HANS) device View the full article
  2. Super saloon deploys four-wheel drive to improve every facet of its driving experience. Faster and more capable than any, and more exciting than most, of its celebrated predecessors The sixth-generation BMW M5. The car to which, somehow, BMW’s M Division has added the driveshafts and controllers and clutch plates and joints and everything else necessary to so contentiously switch its long-serving super saloon idol from two driven wheels to four-. That has also been made larger in every dimension than the car it’s succeeding; that has a more powerful, torque-laden turbocharged engine, too, and the most sophisticated electronic chassis control system that any of BMW M’s performance saloons and coupes have ever had.All of that is true - and yet this car is also lighter than its simpler, rear-driven immediate predecessor. Admittedly, only by 15kg – but still; it’s lighter. That’s where we are. You can replace a two-wheel drive performance car with a four-wheel driver in 2018, and save weight. My ghast is well and truly flabbered.But will it stay that way? And would yours, after a good, fast cross-country blast on British roads in this 591bhp fast four-door? Has the aforementioned big switch been made with the delicacy and care we’d all hope for?If you’ve been a follower of the M5 for the better part of its remarkable three-decade-long history, you can look forward to a full Autocar road test workout on the new car and a separate group test get-together with a couple of likely adversaries in the coming weeks. By the time both are done and dusted, there will be no room for doubt in any important area.View the full article
  3. Two driver-focused sports cars go head to head; which comes out on top? The Audi R8 is now, for the first time, available in rear wheel drive with the introduction of the RWS model in 2018. Can it compete with Autocar's favourite sports car of 2017, the Porsche 911 GT3? Mauro Calo and Dan Prosser take the two fiercely engined coupés out on the roads around Goodwood. More content: View the full article
  4. Seat previewed its first stand-alone EV with this image Separate to EV model also planned for 2020 launch, the crossover could be powered by a performance plug-in hybrid system A range-topping Cupra version of Seat's new 2020 crossover could be a performance plug-in hybrid with output in excess of 300bhp. The crossover will become Seat and Cupra's flagship model and is separate to the battery EV model also planned for a 2020 launch. Plug-in Seat Leon due in 2019 before launch of first stand-alone EV model Based on the next-generation Leon platform, itself a version of the Volkswagen Group's MQB underpinnings, the car has been designed with a low roofline and "exciting styling". "The crossover was first designed as a Cupra, but we will also sell it as a Seat, because we need the volume to make the project viable," said Seat boss Luca de Meo. Seat technical chief Matthias Rabe said new plug-in hybrid powertrains – the first of which is due in the new Leon in 2019 – would be configured with several 'system' powers (describing the combined output of the internal combustion engine and electric motor). Cooking versions of the plug-in hybrid will have total outputs of around 200bhp, but performance versions will be even more potent. "I don’t want to say exactly, but more than 300bhp maybe,” said de Meo. Such an output would make the range-topping version of the crossover more potent than the recently revealed Cupra Ateca. That car is powered by a 296bhp version of the VW Group’s EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and can reach 62mph in 5.4sec. However, de Meo added that, by the time the Cupra crossover is launched, outright horsepower may not be the main marketing and performance benchmark. "We are looking at badges and names. But you know 0-60mph or acceleration may be a better measure," he pointed out. The Cupra brand was officially launched at the end of January and it introduced its first model, the Ateca, at the start of this month. The stand-alone performance division has also previewed a hot version of the Ibiza in concept form, as well as a concept all-electric racing model based on the Leon called the e-Racer. Read more 'Diesel-saving' technology could make it to market in two years Nissan Leaf 2018 UK review Plug-in Seat Leon due in 2019 before launch of first stand-alone EV model View the full article
  5. Ellesmere Port jobs cuts have come as part of PSA's aggressive efficiency-boosting plan An unnamed source has said that more than 100 of the British brand’s 324 retailers could go A third of Vauxhall dealerships in the UK could be closed as part of an aggressive efficiency-boosting strategy laid out by the brand's new parent company, the PSA Group. An anonymous source has told Automotive Management that more than 100 of the company’s 324 UK retailers could go within a year, putting 3800 jobs at risk. “PSA has already implemented savage cuts in its manufacturing operations and it looks like that's set to continue in retail,” the unnamed dealer said. “A third of dealerships will go.” Vauxhall told Autocar that the claims are “pure speculation”. It said in a statement that “The Opel/Vauxhall PACE! plan is improving the efficiency of the business in all areas. “Within the plan, the go-to-market strategy is being carefully reviewed, including the contractual framework with the dealers”. Vauxhall Corsa GSi returns as driver-focused VXR replacement The source said the dealer network was now running with high inefficiencies because it's set up to handle much higher volumes, with sales having peaked at 330,000 in 2007. In 2017, Vauxhall sold 195,137 vehicles. “Last year, I think the network ended up at around 0.35% return-on-sales. You can't sustain that for long. Without the volume, there are just too many sites,” the source told AM. “Whether this is a crisis is a moot point, but either way, many Vauxhall dealers will already be saying ‘enough's enough’.” Since acquiring Vauxhall and its German sister brand Opel late last year, PSA has been particularly vigorous in its attempts to cut costs from the UK-only brand. Vauxhall recently offered 250 members of its Ellesmere Port staff voluntary redundancies in a bid to reduce costs and improve efficiency at the factory. This followed the first wave of cuts in October last year, with the total number of jobs Vauxhall plans to have removed from its Cheshire site by September 2018 amounting to 650. PSA’s strategy aims to return Vauxhall and Opel to profit by 2020. More content: Peugeot confident of SUV and EV push after strong sales results Range Rover Sport SVR 2018 review View the full article
  6. More power and an intoxicating soundtrack have breathed new life into our love affair with the biggest, baddest Range Rover Sport variant Well, the Range Rover Sport SVR certainly isn’t an exercise in restraint, that’s for sure. When this, the biggest, baddest Range Rover Sport money can buy, rocked up on the scene back in 2014, it did so with all of the subtlety of a severely hung-over grizzly bear. Created by the in-house skunkworks that is Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations division, the SVR was equipped with an apocalyptic supercharged V8 engine, a stance that looked steroid-enhanced and a Nürburgring lap record to boot. It was rabid and exciting and gave off the impression that it would punch you in the face just for looking at it the wrong way. In short, we loved it, and subsequently awarded it the full five-star rating when it was put under the microscope that is the Autocar road test.Now, it’s been ever-so-slightly refreshed for 2018, and the good news is that it’s even more of a sporting SUV brute than when it was launched four years ago. The headline change here is that the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 - a powerplant that never felt particularly lacking in the performance department - now produces 567bhp at 6000rpm, and 516lb ft from 3500rpm – improvements of 24bhp and 14lb ft respectively.The chassis has been fettled, too, with Land Rover engineers tweaking the SVR’s active dampers to improve turn-in and grip and better contain body roll. That's no small task when you consider the fact that the SVR tips the scales at 2310kg. A body-coloured carbonfibre bonnet has also been introduced as standard, marginally reducing weight over the front axle. For a not-so-modest £6225, you can opt to leave the carbonfibre exposed, while also adding further carbonfibre panelling around the body. Our test car came equipped as such, and we’ll leave it up to you to decide whether that look is a tasteful one or not. The cabin, meanwhile, gains the latest dual-screen infotainment system first introduced on the smaller Range Rover Velar.View the full article
  7. Bentley is testing its Continental GT C on public roads Porsche-developed underpinnings and new engines will make the next Conti GT C a sharper offering The first UK sighting of a Bentley Continental GT Convertible has suggested that the drop-top model will follow the upcoming coupé and be offered exclusively with a W12 engine initially. Captured at a motorway service station in Cheshire by Autocar reader Nigel Hart, the development car has a 6.0-litre engine that's expected to be identical in spec to its sibling's, so will offer 626bhp and 664lb ft of torque. The unit is shared with the Bentayga but has been fine-tuned for the two-door's use. A 4.0-litre V8 version is due later in both the coupé and soft-top models, but there's no word yet on whether it will be available at the convertible's launch. It was previously suggested that the V8 could be added in time for the soft-top's arrival, thereby providing the car with two engine options from the start, but no V8 test cars have been spotted at this stage. The latest sighting follows several in Scandinavia, where engineers had been analysing the car's cold weather running and fine-tuning its Porsche-developed underpinnings. The soft-top model, which is still sometimes referred to as the GTC as that was the name of the first-generation version, will use the same MSD (modular standard drivetrain) underpinnings as its sibling but swap a metal roof for a folding fabric one. The new structure, which proved to be more agile and responsive than the old car’s Volkswagen Phaeton base in our first drive, is shared with the Panamera but has been developed to accommodate Bentley models from the start. Its local stiffness is considerably higher than the previous model’s base and that should bode well for the convertible, which will lose some rigidity without a roof but likely retain much of the coupé’s composure, thanks to the new Conti GT’s clever suspension technology. Like the coupé, the convertible will use air springs and active anti-roll bars that are powered by the car’s 48V architecture to drastically reduce body roll. The system can effectively counter lean in corners while also enhancing stability. Lister Storm successor is coming, hints British company's chief Bentley’s Conti GT drivetrain features a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox and power is sent to all four wheels, although there’s a rear bias in the new model. This trait has made the coupé more playful than its predecessors, so expect the convertible to become Bentely’s sportiest yet. This, of course, only applies if we discount the original Blower Bentleys of the 1920s from the comparison. Those most focused machines were created to race at Le Mans, but they had no tops at all – not even folding ones – so were proper open-top machines rather than convertibles. As for the arrival time, a company spokesman told Autocar that “the focus for 2018 was on launching the Continental GT”, suggesting the Conti GT Convertible will arrive at the start of next year. The coupé will arrive in showrooms this summer. More content 2019 Bentley Flying Spur: larger and more luxurious saloon spotted Top 10 best sports cars View the full article
  8. Seat's IBE concept showed its electric intentions back in 2010 Spanish firm’s first electrified car will be followed by a stand-alone EV based on the Volkswagen Group's new MEB platform A plug-in hybrid version of the next-generation Leon will kick-start Seat's push for electrification in 2019. The new Leon variant will be followed by the brand's first electric car in 2020. It will be twinned with the 2019 Volkswagen ID hatch, thanks to shared VW Group MEB underpinnings that will also be used by Skoda's first purepose-built electric SUV, which will itself take inspiration from its Vision E concept. “Seat is taking a step forward in boosting electric mobility,” the brand said, "and our first electric vehicle will feature a range of 500km." This range, which equates is to 311 miles, is the same figure quoted by Skoda and VW for their upcoming EVs. The 2020 model (imagined by Autocar below) is predicted to be Seat's first pure EV because an electric version of the Mii, which was expected as a twin to the upcoming Skoda e-Citigo and updated Volkswagen e-Up, is now understood to be less of a priority. Seat R&D boss Matthias Rabe said that model is "less concrete". Seat's first EV will come at the tail end of an aggressive range expansion that will soon see the introduction of the Tarraco SUV, a relation of the Skoda Kodiaq and Volkswagen Tiguan. The current Toledo small hatchback is likely to be axed shortly after this. But Seat will quickly add another all-new model to the range when a pure-electric SUV is launched as a cousin to Skoda's EV SUV. The electrified range will coincide with a new design direction for Seat. It will begin with the fourth-generation Leon next year, according to design boss Alejandro Mesonero. He told Autocar last year that the Leon's design would be “a bigger step” than the company has taken since the relaunch of the brand with the current Leon in 2012. “Sometimes you need to take a bigger step so as not to be obsolete. We’re ready very soon for the next, bolder step in design,” he said. The next Leon will also get what Rabe described as "fantastic technology and fantastic user interface" as part of what insiders suggest will be class-leading infotainment, set to be rolled out across the rest of the range after its introduction. Seat is also keen to stress that it “will remain committed to internal combustion engines” when expanding its plug-in range. It will also offer internal combustion engines fuelled by clean-burning compressed natural gas. Going from strength to strength Seat chairman Luca de Meo revealed the new model offensive at a press conference to announce Seat’s 2017 financial results, headlined by a second year of profitability. Turnover rose 11% to nearly £8.7 billion, while after-tax profit increased 23% to £244 million. “We can be happy with the 2017 results,” stressed de Meo, “but we shouldn’t be satisfied. Now it's time to look to the future with the ambition to grow.” Total deliveries of new cars in 2017 were 468,000 vehicles, the highest since 2001 – the payback for £2.8bn of investment in the past four years. Cashflow – the accountant’s favourite measure of a company’s business strength – also grew substantially by 24% to £825m in 2017. “This is almost three times as much as in 2013 and demonstrates the company’s financial sustainability,” Seat said. Additional reporting by Mark Tisshaw More content: 'Diesel-saving' technology could make it to market in two years Nissan Leaf 2018 UK review View the full article
  9. McLaren is now using Renault engines The 2018 Formula 1 season starts this weekend in Australia and we enlist F1 racer turned pundit Jolyon Palmer to give the inside line on the year ahead At first glance, and with the very notable exception of the new Halo device, not much appears to have changed in Formula 1 this season. The chassis and engine rules are the same, and the top teams are back with unchanged driver line-ups – including reigning champion Lewis Hamilton bidding for a fourth crown in five seasons with Mercedes to take his overall F1 world title tally to five. But as ever with F1, it’s all about the details. And there are plenty of small changes that will have an impact this year, both on and off the track. We asked ex-Renault F1 racer Jolyon Palmer, who has joined the BBC Radio 5 Live commentary team for 2018, about some of the key storylines of the season ahead. Can anyone stop Mercedes? Mercedes has dominated since the V6 turbo engines were introduced in 2014, claiming a title double again last year despite a challenge from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Pre-season testing suggests Mercedes is again the team to beat, although Palmer reckons that Red Bull could be its closest challenger. “Red Bull ended last year strongly with a couple of wins and can build on that,” says Palmer. “They started last year on the back foot in testing and developed well and they’re in much better shape this year.” McLaren and Honda move on: After three increasingly acrimonious seasons, McLaren and Honda staged avery public divorce at the end of last year. British team McLaren landed a supply of customer Renault engines and Honda salvaged its spot on the grid by agreeing to supply Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s ‘B team’. So far, Honda looks like it’s faring the better: Toro Rosso set the most laps of any team intesting, while McLaren suffered reliability woes. “Toro Rosso was the surprise of the pre-season,” says Palmer. “It’s been incredibly reliable so far.” That said, he warns against writing off McLaren: “They had a lot of reliability problems in testing, but Fernando Alonso did set some good times. They should develop a lot as well. When you change to another engine supplier, it’s like starting a new relationship.” The liberty effect: This will be Liberty Media’s second full season in charge of F1 and the first in which it can really make its impact felt. That has meant a lot of fiddling round the edges: grid girls are gone (sparking a big public debate); grid kids are in; start times have moved; social media and online streaming are being developed; and F1 is even getting its own global theme tune (and, no, it’s not The Chain). “Generally, I like what Liberty are doing,” says Palmer. “I raced for a year under Bernie [Ecclestone] and a year under Liberty, and they’re going in the right way with good intentions. They’re modernising F1 a bit, taking on the views of drivers and other stakeholders.” The biggest switch that might affect fans is the change in start times: races will start at 10 minutes past the hour, with European races shuffled back a full hour to try to boost ratings. Calendar congestion: Although the Malaysian Grand Prix has been axed, the return of the German and French GPs – the latter, being held at Paul Ricard, back for the first time since 2007 – means the calendar spans 21 races. That ties with the all-time high, set in 2016. “Doing 21 races in 2016 was tough. By the end of the season, you’re pretty much shattered,” says Palmer. “But it was manageable. Liberty are pushing to have more races, maybe up to 25. It’s a fine line to diluting it too much.” The 21 races are also crammed into this year’s calendar: the French, Austrian and British GPs will take place on three consecutive weekends in June and July. Although Palmer says that run will be eased by the close distances between the events, he admits it will be tough for drivers. “The challenge will just be keeping your concentration up for three weeks,” he says. Who’s driving where in 2018: Mercedes-AMG - 44 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 77 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Ferrari - 5 Sebastian Vettel (GER) 7 Kimi Räikkönen (FIN) Red Bull-Tag Heuer [Renault] - 3 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 33 Max Verstappen (NED) Sahara Force India-Mercedes - 11 Sergio Pérez (MEX) 31 Esteban Ocon (FRA) Williams-Mercedes - 18 Lance Stroll (CAN) 35 Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) McLaren-Renault - 2 Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) 14 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault - 27 Nico Hülkenberg (GER) 55 Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Haas-Ferrari - 8 Romain Grosjean (FRA) 20 Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Toro Rosso-Honda - 10 Pierre Gasly (FRA) 28 Brendon Hartley (NZL) Sauber-Ferrari - 9 Marcus Ericsson (SWE) 16 Charles Leclerc (MON) View the full article
  10. Professor Graham Hargrave (left) and Jonathan Wilson led the team’s work NOx emissions from diesel engines could be all but eliminated, thanks to tech developed at Loughborough University A simple, affordable and apparently foolproof solution to the problem that has led to the current worldwide ‘demonisation’ of diesel engines — emissions of life-limiting NOx — has been discovered by a team of British automotive research specialists at Loughborough University. The system, called ACCT (ammonia creation and conversion technology), has reached such a promising stage that the creators are being besieged by car manufacturers, component suppliers and even owners of large diesel fleets that have heard about the innovation and are desperate to use it to solve what they see as motoring’s most urgent problem. The team — led by Graham Hargrave, professor of optical diagnostics, and Jonathan Wilson, research associate — has been working on exhaust missions for many years but achieved its breakthrough in the past two. BMW raises CO2 figures for entire range From its current state, ACCT should be fairly easy to engineer, the team believes, and could reach production within two years "with the right support”. In essence, the system converts AdBlue, the universally available urea-based after-treatment, into a special ammonia-rich ‘ACCT fluid’ under accurately controlled conditions in an exhaust-mounted chamber. Like current selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems, it then uses freed ammonia “literally to rip NOx apart”, leaving only nitrogen and water. The crucial difference between the two systems is that ACCT fluid keeps working at high efficiency in low exhaust temperature conditions that challenge current systems. Preliminary tests on a city-based stop-start Skoda taxi indicate that ACCT can capture 98% of exhaust-borne NOx, compared with 60% for the same car running a conventional EU6 system — even before researchers had a chance to ‘tune’ the ACCT system for the best performance. Experts with knowledge of the development are starting to talk in terms of “virtually zero-emission” diesel engines and citing ACCT as being even more important than the arrival of the common-rail diesel. In the past decade, NOx has become an infamous problem. It springs from the fact that diesels become more efficient as they run hotter, but this heat increases their NOx output. The effect has led to rapidly rising awareness of NOx’s detrimental effect on health; current European research suggests it shortens 71,000 lives a year. Since 2014, the practice of injecting diesel exhausts with AdBlue via SCR exhaust catalysts has proved effective in most situations and has dramatically lowered average NOx outputs. But, as the Loughborough researchers point out, gaps in SCR’s effectiveness remain – notably when low exhaust temperatures prevent complete decomposition of AdBlue, such as when a vehicle is idling in traffic, especially in stop-start conditions. NOx outputs rise when SCR doesn’t function well, and that's the root of recent reports that even new-car exhausts sometimes produce multiples of permitted NOx levels. As Hargrave explained, there’s a deep irony in this. While NOx has hit the headlines, CO2 continues to kill the planet. “NOx is serious,” he said, “but it’s really a point-source problem. It only matters in a tiny minority of locations. "Solve it and you can get on with reducing CO2, which is important everywhere.” Because of concerns over NOx, Europe’s diesel market is in near chaos. Sales of oil-burning cars have collapsed by 20%, putting pressure on margins and infrastructure. A swing to more CO2-heavy petrol vehicles means CO2 targets are being missed — at the very moment these targets are about to tighten. For light commercial vehicles, there’s no realistic prospect of reducing diesel use in the short term. Market experts don’t believe buyers will entertain a rapid change to downsized petrol engines or hybrids. For heavy goods vehicles, the situation is much worse. Whereas car engines are ‘dialled back’ on NOx and need only light doses of AdBlue, trucks need much more. In cold-exhaust conditions (winter, for example), the incomplete breakdown of AdBlue leaves damaging and almost immovable exhaust deposits in complex exhaust systems that reduce power and even immobilise trucks completely. Understandably, the market in defeat devices for HGVs is lively. The Loughborough team says it now needs a heavyweight technology partner to take ACCT to production but is wary of ceding valuable intellectual property rights cheaply. Negotiations between the university’s IP specialists and prospective partners are in full swing. “Our sense is that we need a major supplier rather than a single manufacturer,” said Hargrave. Whatever ACCT’s route to market, an increasing number of potential users are desperate to see its progress. It could lead to a whole new lease of life for diesels. How it happened If ACCT changes diesels, as seems likely, it will be because Wilson decided to do a PhD at Loughborough University. Hargrave, his professor, explains: “We’ve known for ages there was an NOx problem with AdBlue and low temperatures. Jonathan had an idea that could solve it but needed the opportunity to develop it, so we went to the university and organised an internal scholarship. He’d worked on a similar topic through his undergraduate years. "That work made it clear that if anyone was going to solve this problem, it’d be Jonathan. So we said here’s the lab and the money. Just go and make it work. And he did…” Read more BMW raises CO2 figures for entire range Analysis: How will car makers meet new CO2 laws? Mercedes-Benz accused of equipping vehicles with emissions manipulation software View the full article
  11. Thirty per cent of congested urban traffic is due to drivers looking for parking spaces. This tech aims to fight that The UK Autodrive project which kicked-off in 2015 to test autonomous vehicles on UK roads, has stepped up a notch with a demonstration of cars that can seek out spaces and park themselves. The project partners include Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC). The demonstration in Milton Keynes on March 22 nd showcased two V2X parking-related technologies. The first called Collaborative Parking, identifies the location of available parking spaces in a car park and keeps the driver informed. When the car enters a car park it downloads a map from a roadside unit showing the availability of parking slots. As the car drives around the car park, the map is updated in real time by data from other connected cars in the same car park, showing parking spaces filling up and becoming vacant. Project partners demonstrated the technology using a Ford Mondeo Hybrid, a Tata Hexa XTA and a Jaguar F-Pace. The cars connect by means of 5.9GHz WiFi technology dedicated for automotive use. Dennis Witt, a research engineer at Ford says, “technically, the system is already there, it just needs production engineering and integration, but there are no plans to bring it to production yet.” Andrew Harris, chief engineer- software, controls and driver assistance at Tata Motors said the system is not vulnerable to hacking. “It is fully secure and uses the same encryptions as a banking system.” The technology is already in demand, says Brian Matthews, head of transport innovation at Milton Keynes Council. “Each parking slot in Milton Keynes has a land value of between £10,000 and £15,000 and if we can help people find a convenient space quickly, we don’t have to over supply spaces.” There are 25,000 parking spaces available in Milton Keynes but at the busiest times when the popular areas are very full, there will still be 3-4,000 spaces available throughout the town. Matthews also sees the technology reducing congestion and stress by helping people to find them. According to UK Autodrive, 30% of congested urban traffic is due to drivers looking for parking spaces. Jaguar Land Rover showed a more sophisticated technology which enables a prototype autonomous Range Rover Sport to drive to an available parking slot and self-park. The level four autonomous vehicle is equipped with two LIDAR sensors and a long-range radar sensor at the front, a single LIDAR sensor at the rear and two GPS antenna on the roof. Level four is the highest level of autonomy while still retaining a driver. At level five, a car becomes driverless. Work on this level started at Jaguar Land Rover in 2016 and has progressed quickly from level three, which essentially comprises advanced driver assistance systems. Once of the main differences between the two levels, says Jim O’Donoghue, lead research engineer, level four autonomy, is the way in which the car hands back control to the driver. “It’s done in a timely manner rather than quickly like level three. If the driver doesn’t respond, the car will drive to a safe spot and park.” O’Donoghue says the technology could be ready for production in five to 10 years. It is expected that level four autonomous cars will share the roads with conventional cars for years to come. The Autonomous Land Rover has been trialled on public roads before in Coventry, but this is the first time it had tackled roundabouts, which presented a new challenge in working out exit and entry points as well as right of way. Arup’s Tim Armitage, UK Autodrive’s project director, says valet parking systems will allow autonomous vehicles to drop passengers off at their destinations before moving off to park out of town. Doing so will reduce the space needed for parking in city centres which could be put to better use. Two connected car safety features were also trialled on UK public roads for the first time. The first, Emergency Vehicle Warning (EVW) alerts a driver to an approaching emergency vehicle and the direction it is coming from. The second was Electronic Emergency Brake Light (EEBL) which alerts the driver when a similarly connected car further ahead brakes heavily. The system gives drivers crucial extra time to react to unseen problems ahead and avoid collision. This summer, UK Autodrive will also trial a fleet 40 low-speed, self-driving pods in pedestrian areas of Milton Keynes. A final set of demonstrations involving both cars and pods is planned for this autumn, rounding off the three-year UK Autodrive project. The trial will demonstrate how a driver can pre-book a parking space and pod at the destination and be autonomously driven to the slot where the autonomous pod is waiting. The two vehicles check each other’s identity before switching places, the occupants of the autonomous vehicle then transfer to the pod to complete the journey. How does it feel to be driven around town in a self-driving car? Being driven by a self-driving car on a closed track is one thing but doing so on busy public streets is altogether different. We rode in the back seat with a driver and laptop-toting engineer in the front seats. The Range Rover Sport headed off on its pre-selected route to a car park in the centre of town, pretty much as normal except the driver wasn’t touching the steering wheel. It felt weird as the Range Rover Sport pulled up behind buses, manoeuvred into the correct lanes and responded to traffic lights, ‘seeing’ the coloured lights using cameras for eyes. Braking lacked smoothness but otherwise the car performed perfectly. When we arrived at the car park (which remained open to the public), the Range Rover cruised around to its designated spot, before reversing and driving forward into the parking space. The only minor glitch during the whole exercise was failing to spot a traffic cone when reversing. The Collaborative Parking exercise was just as impressive. Driving to the car park in a Ford Mondeo Hybrid, a tablet installed on the dash displayed achequer board of red and green slots showing the availability of spaces. As we parked, the green slot we occupied turned to red as the car used its GPS to update the map. En-route, the EEBL interacted with the Tata Hexa one car ahead. Although it was obscured by the F-Pace immediately in front, a warning flashed up on the screen alerting us when the Hexa driver braked hard. An ambulance used in the trial triggered the EVW several times. It’s position and distance relative to our car showing on the screen. The system easily picked it up 350 metres away, when it couldn’t be seen or heard. Read more Land Rover Range Rover Velar review Land Rover Discovery review Range Rover Evoque Convertible review View the full article
  12. 30% of congested urban traffic is due to drivers looking for parking spaces; this tech aims to fight that The UK Autodrive project which kicked-off in 2015 to test autonomous vehicles on UK roads, has stepped up a notch with a demonstration of cars that can seek out spaces and park themselves. The project partners include Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC). A demonstration in Milton Keynes showcased two parking-related technologies. The first identifies the location of available parking spaces in a car park and keeps the driver informed. When the car enters a car park it gets an updated heat map showing the availability of parking slots. The information is updated in real time by data from other connected cars in the same car park, showing parking spaces filling up and becoming vacant. Jaguar Land Rover showed a more sophisticated technology which enables a prototype autonomous Range Rover Sport to drive to an available parking slot and self-park. In a press release, Joerg Schlinkheider, Jaguar Land Rover chief engineer, automated driving, said, “We're investing heavily in automated technologies to make our customers lives safer and more convenient.” According to UK Autodrive, 30% of congested urban traffic is due to drivers looking for parking spaces. Arup’s Tim Armitage, UK Autodrive’s project director, says valet parking systems will allow autonomous vehicles to drop passengers off at their destinations before moving off to park out of town. Doing so will reduce the space need for parking in city centres which could be put to better use. Two connected car safety features were also trialled on UK public roads for the first time. The first, Emergency Vehicle Warning (EVW) alerts a driver to an approaching emergency vehicle and the direction it is coming from. The second was Electronic Emergency Brake Light (EEBL) which alerts the driver when a similarly connected car further ahead brakes heavily. The system gives drivers crucial extra time to react to unseen problems ahead and avoid collision. This summer, UK Autodrive will also trial a fleet 40 low-speed, self-driving pods in pedestrian areas of Milton Keynes. A final set of demonstrations involving both cars and pods is planned for this autumn, rounding off the three-year UK Autodrive project. Read more Land Rover Range Rover Velar review Land Rover Discovery review Range Rover Evoque Convertible review View the full article
  13. Two of the manufacturer's largest sites have been searched by 100 police officials German authorities have raided BMW’s Munich headquarters and its engine plant in Austria to search for evidence of the use of emissions cheat software. A month after the opening of an investigation into the suspected fraud, around 100 law enforcers have raided two of the manufacturer’s largest locations – 4500 employees at the engine plant in Steyr, Austria, build 6000 engines a day. Prosecutors are looking into "erroneously allocated" software in about 11,400 vehicles of the BMW 750d and BMW M550d luxury models. It has confirmed intentions to recall these cars to "correct software”. BMW became the latest manufacturer to attract the attention of regulators when it revealed that an internal investigation showed cars were producing higher emissions in real-world driving. How Volkswagen plans to clean up after Dieselgate In an official statement released in February, BMW said engineers noticed “that correctly programmed software was wrongly used in a few models that were not compatible”. The brand then recalled 11,700 vehicles for software changes, but Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) said that it didn’t consider the software used in affected models to be a ‘defeat device’. The latest raids suggest these findings have since come up against opposing evidence, although it is not yet known what encouraged German authorities to go forward with the operation. BMW said that it doesn’t believe a defeat device has been used in its vehicles, stating that it “continues to assume that the situation was caused by an incorrect allocation of the software and does not represent a deliberate attempt to manipulate exhaust emissions”. “The BMW Group takes the situation very seriously and has a significant interest in the circumstances being fully explained,” BMW said in a new statement. “The company is co-operating fully with the authorities. In addition, the company had already started an internal investigation and will obviously forward all information gathered so far to the authorities.” More content: World's first 3D printed car due on roads in 2019 Aston Martin Vantage prototype first drive View the full article
  14. The new concrete surface for the home of FIA European Dragracing Championship is now complete A just-completed resurfacing of the Santa Pod drag raceway in Northamptonshire has been described as the most extensive upgrade since World War 2. The new concrete dragstrip was opened on Saturday and is said to be as good as the very best in America – the home of drag racing. Beneath the new concrete is a layer of hardcore made from the original asphalt surface, which was first laid for use as a runway at the RAF Podington base. The new layers have been applied precisely with laser technology, making the dragstrip the smoothest yet seen at Santa Pod, which opened as a drag raceway in 1966. How to go drag racing The first cars to run on the new surface, a Mitsubishi Evo VIII and Jaguar F-Type, were driven by the winners of a competition at the year’s first Run What Ya Brung event. Proceeds were donated to two regional air ambulance organisations, The Air Ambulance Service (East Midlands) and Magpas Air Ambulance (East Anglia). Other cars to run at the opening event ranged from a pair of Tesla Model Ss, four Ford Focus RSs and several custom-made drag cars, including a heavily modified Vauxhall Chevette and Mk3 Toyota Supra. The new concrete surface will host the fastest drag racing machines, including jet-powered cars, at the Festival Of Power over Easter. There will be 250 teams competing in the first round of the national competition with 300mph Top Fuel Dragsters scheduled to run in round one of the 2018 FIA European Championship in May. More content: 2018 Mazda 6 starting price confirmed as £23,045 3D printed car due on roads in 2019 View the full article
  15. Almost everything on X Electrical Vehicle’s model is 3D printed; its maker says it's a preview of the future The world’s first 3D printed car looks set to make production next year – and its maker believes it previews an “inevitable” change that’ll affect the whole industry. Produced by Chinese company Polymaker and Italy-based vehicle manufacturer X Electrical Vehicle (XEV), the Smart-sized LSEV is almost entirely made using 3D printing technology, which creates parts from the ground up, layer by layer. Only a few components, such as the chassis, glass windscreen and tyres, are made using conventional methods. This means that, like most 3D printed products, waste material produced from the production of the vehicle is drastically reduced – something that Polymaker boss Xiaofan Luo said will “inspire more [car] companies to adopt 3D printing”. 3D printing has also enabled Polymaker to reduce the number of plastic parts in the car from 2000 (using conventional built methods) to just 57 – a vital improvement that could help to significantly reduce the environmental impact of car production. A prototype for the LSEV demonstrates the performance it can offer. The prototype is claimed to be capable of a 93-mile range and can do 43mph. It weighs 450kg – close to half that of a Smart Fortwo. The LSEV is on display at Shanghai’s China 3D-printing Culture Museum. It will be shown at the Beijing motor show next month. It took three days to build the prototype and XEV expects production to eventually total around 500 units per year on a single production line. When sales open sometime in late 2019, likely to be in China first, prices are estimated to start at about £7100. Luo believes that the LSEV will soon be followed by more 3D printed cars. He said that: “The availability of more functional high-performance materials will enable 3D printing to be used on many more applications.” He described 3D printing production as “an inevitable trend in the [car] industry”. Established manufacturers have recently begun to use 3D printing for component production. Mini offers 3D printed trim that can be completely customised, while Bugatti has developed a 3D printed brake caliper that it claims is 2kg lighter but tougher than the previous part. More content: Aston Martin Vantage 2018 first drive BMW i3 review View the full article
  16. The new Vantage has been developed as a Porsche 911 beater, and our first taste on UK roads suggests it can live up to that bold claim Here we have another chance to experience a prototype version of the Aston Martin Vantage ahead of its launch, but this time on British roads rather than the frozen Lapland lake of our previous encounter.While this isn’t a finished production car, the chance to see how it copes with rural Warwickshire was more than a sufficient excuse to take another turn.The basics have been well detailed in our previous stories on the car. The Vantage is the second Aston to use AMG's 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8, but tuning means it has a fraction more torque than the same motor in the junior DB11.The other significant addition is the arrival of a very clever electronically controlled locking differential, a first for Aston Martin and something that the Vantage’s engineering team reckon is critical to the character of the car.Our drive in a prototype started at Aston’s new engineering base in Wellesbourne and took in many of the local roads – including the Fosse Way – that have been used most heavily during its development.View the full article
  17. European races, such as the Italian Grand Prix, will now start 70 minutes later, at 14.10 UK time The sport's new bosses have made a number of changes for the 2018 season – including what time viewers will need to tune in The 2018 Formula 1 season gets underway in Australia this weekend. And while not much has changed in terms of on-track rules, the sport’s bosses, Liberty Media, have been doing lots of tinkering elsewhere. Now, quite enough has been written about getting rid of grid girls, so let’s not get into that here. Except to note that, in a sport as high-tech as F1, it’s amazing nobody has yet invented a better way to tell drivers where to park on the grid than a numbered wooden pole that needs to be held up manually. F1 2018: new car picture special Other notable but hardly revolutionary changes include a new F1 logo (my reaction: meh), and theme tune (no, it’s not The Chain). The sport even has a new ‘tagline’: Engineered Insanity. No, me neither. Still, shoving two unrelated words together into one largely meaningless phrase is at least evidence of the welcome attempts by Liberty Media to make the sport more accessible in the post-Bernie Ecclestone era – although most of the above equate to little more than redecorating a house you’ve just bought. At some point, Liberty Media will need to do some proper rebuilding work on the foundations. F1: what changes to expect from the sport's new bosses But Liberty has made one change that could actually have a fairly substantial impact on how most people watch F1: it’s moving the start times of races. Races – or, if we’re being picky, parade laps – will start at ten minutes past the hour, rather than on the hour. According to F1 bosses, this is because many broadcasters go on air on the hour, so the delay means “television spectators will be brought closer to the teams and the drivers and fully enjoy the spectacle offered just before the red lights go off". I’m not sure that stacks up, since F1 is increasingly aired on pay broadcasters, with more pre-race build-up than ever. Sky, for example, begins its pre-amble 90 minutes before the start. Still, an extra ten minutes to prepare a pre-race coffee isn’t exactly a hardship. More significantly, the start time of the European races has been pushed back a full hour, due to research that “a wider TV audience is reachable later in the afternoon.” For British viewers, that means European races will start at 14.10, rather than 13.00. And the French GP on June 24 has been pushed back to 15.10 BST to avoid clashing with the England vs Panama World Cup match (although it does now clash with the vital Japan vs Senegal encounter). Shuffling the start time of European races back 70 minutes might not seem all that significant – especially since they now make up fewer than half of the 21 rounds on the calendar. But it’s quite a change for long-time F1 fans – such as myself. For more than 20 years, I’ve built entire Sunday routines around being in place for that awkward 13.00 start time. Adjusting that routine is a bit jarring. In fact, as the F1 calendar has spread across the globe and the likes of floodlit night races have grown in popularity, it’s become hard to develop much of a routine around the start times of races. The 21 races on the calendar this year feature nine different start times, which in the UK range from 06.10 (Australia and Japan) to 19.10 (Canada, USA and Mexico). Just three races (Azerbaijan, Singapore and Abu Dhabi) will start in the ‘traditional’ 13.00 (well, 13.10) timeslot. Combine that with the way dates have shuffled to cram in 21 races – the traditional ‘one race every fortnight’ has long gone; this year there will even be three races on consecutive weekends – and F1 is a little bit harder to follow. Which is, at least, good news for websites that trade in ‘what time does the grand prix start?’ SEO-friendly click bait stories. Now, I’m sure Liberty Media’s research is correct that running races later in the afternoon results in a wider audience. And I’ve long insisted that my favourite races to watch on TV are the North American ones that start at around 19.00 on a Sunday evening. But gaining access to a wider audience only works if the audience knows when to tune in – a task made harder by having races start at so many different times of the day. Other sports – notably the American NASCAR stock car championship – have found that moving long-established start times has upset hardcore fans, without winning over many new ones. I’m possibly over-dramatising this. I’m sure I’ll adjust. Maybe I’ll even come to enjoy having an extra hour before a race on a Sunday afternoon. But it will be stubbornly so – and that illustrates the challenge Liberty Media faces. If Liberty wants to attract new fans to the sport then it will need to make changes – the challenges is doing so without alienating the existing fan base. Let’s see how it goes when the Australian GP gets started on Sunday (at 06.10am BST, to save you a Google search…). Read more F1 2018: new car picture special F1: what changes to expect from the sport's new bosses View the full article
  18. Plug-in hybrid Superb will arrive next year The initial electrified line-up is likely to consist of two electric cars and three plug-in hybrids Skoda will launch five electrified vehicles by the end of 2020, CEO Bernhard Maier has confirmed. Previously, Skoda has confirmed 10 electrified models – made up of six electric cars and four plug-in hybrids – would arrive by 2025, but Maier has now said half of these will come in the next two years. Already confirmed is a Superb plug-in hybrid arriving next year, while Skoda's first zero-emissions car will be the Citigo-e, a sister car to the Volkswagen e-Up and Seat e-Mii. Skoda Kamiq confirmed as fourth SUV for China A production version of the Vision E electric SUV, which sits between the Karoq and Kodiaq in size, is also due by 2020. It will be built on the VW Group’s electric MEB platform. There remains two unconfirmed electrified models to arrive in the next two years, both of which are likely to be plug-in hybrids of models based on the same MQB platform as the Superb. Maier has previously hinted that the Kodiaq is the next candidate. A plug-in hybrid Octavia would also be a natural step. The other models will come early in the next decade. Skoda readies 19-model product drive in next two years Skoda has yet to decide on a naming strategy for its stand-alone electric models. While some brands such as VW and Mercedes-Benz are giving specific names to their electric model line-ups (ID and EQ respectively), other makers are not separating electric models from traditionally fuelled models in their naming approach. Sales and marketing boss Alain Favey said: “it’s a very good question. We haven’t yet come to a decision on the naming strategy for electric-only models. We are discussing it.” On the broader topic of electrified powertrains, Maier added that the compressed natural gas hybrid electric powertrain shown in the recent Vision X compact SUV concept was certainly “possible for production”. He said he was “fighting for it” but it was important to “gain synergies” with other VW Group brands, suggesting at least one of its siblings would need to commit to the idea to make it commercially viable. Read more Skoda Kodiaq review Skoda Karoq review Skoda Octavia vRS review View the full article
  19. Skoda sold 100,000 Kodiaqs in 2017 Skoda’s margins are almost double those of its sibling, Volkswagen, so what’s the key to its success? Skoda, the Czech car maker historically not as well considered as many of its rivals, had better profit margins in 2017 than any of its siblings in the Volkswagen Group, other than Porsche. Surprising, huh? Last year, it achieved profit margins of 9.7% – hugely better than Volkswagen’s 4.1% and Audi’s 7.8%, despite both of those brands selling more expensive models. Not only is it showing up its VW Group siblings with profit margins, but it’s also one of the best profit margins in the entire industry. Skoda Kamiq confirmed as fourth SUV for China There’s no doubt that Skoda deserves it success – operating profit was up 34.6% to €1.6bn – with good value yet excellently engineered and increasingly good-looking cars. But there’s more at play here. Skoda has all the excellence of German engineering – thanks to being part of the VW Group since 1991 – but with many of the cheaper costs of being based, first and foremost, in Czech Republic, a traditionally weaker economy where manufacturing and people costs are considerably lower. Skoda readies 19-model product drive in next two years But the country’s economy is growing, and that's a positive – except when it comes to exporting Skoda cars. The stronger Czech Republic gets, the harder it will be for Skoda to continue to achieve those impressive profit margins. At today’s annual press conference, finance boss Klaus-Dieter Schumann pointed to Skoda’s growth in the UK despite the depreciation of the British Pound as an example where it bucked the trend. But he also admitted: “Should there be a sustainable strengthening of Czech currency (the Koruna), of course it will have a negative impact on our capability to be competitive.” For now, the rest of VW Group will be looking on enviously at Skoda’s upward growth and excellent margins. But as the Czech economy grows, Skoda will need to react quickly to hold its own. Read more Skoda Kodiaq review Skoda Karoq review Skoda Octavia vRS review View the full article
  20. This is the BMW X7 BMW's largest SUV will focus on US and Chinese markets but will be sold in the UK from February 2019; there will be a hybrid version A BMW X7 development car has been spotted testing with M package trim, showing how sportier versions of the future Range Rover rival will look. Due for reveal at the Los Angeles motor show in November, the range-topping SUV, which will also go up against the Mercedes-Benz GLS, is heavily inspired by the X7 iPerformance concept at last year's Frankfurt motor show. BMW's upcoming seven-seater will initially feature a naturally aspirated engine, rather than the hybrid powertrain of the X7 iPerformance. However, a hybrid variant will come later. Sitting alongside the 7 Series at the top of BMW's line-up, the car is due on UK roads from February 2019. The first pre-production models rolled off the production line in Spartanburg, in the US state of South Carolina, earlier this year (see pictures). Frankfurt in pictures: new BMW X7 concept The X7 has been spotted testing several times in the past few months, offering glimpses of the future SUV's design and scale. It will be the largest SUV yet by BMW and adopts a typical SUV body shape with a boxy passenger area and, as the new BMW shots confirm, a flat-faced front end that has been toned down from the controversial styling of the X7 iPerformance. The extra large kidney grilles and slim headlight clusters remain, however. The production version's styling will be toned down ahead of its sales debut, but its dimensions are expected to be rough the same. This means a length of 5020mm, 2020mm width and 1800mm in height, as well as a 3010mm wheelbase, will all remain largely the same, while the car will be roughly 113mm longer, 82mm wider and 37mm higher than the existing third-generation X5, with a 76mm longer wheelbase. Beneath the camouflage will be familiar BMW design features, such as halo daytime running lights and kidney grilles. The light bar seen on the X7 iPerformance is not carried over to the production model. The seven-seat X7 is being developed with the US and Chinese markets in mind, but it was confirmed for the UK by BMW head of sales and marketing Ian Robertson in 2016. Speaking to Autocar at the New York motor show that year, Robertson said: “We will have some versions that are top-end luxury, as well as more mainstream versions. I can’t talk about pricing now, but given that this car will have all the technology and luxury of the 7 Series, it gives you a pretty good idea of the price point we’re talking about.” Previously, it was thought that the X7 would be built on an extended version of the X5’s underpinnings, but Robertson said many parts are actually bespoke. “If you put both cars next to each other, the resemblance is small in terms of wheelbase, etc. We’re not going to just extend the wheelbase; it’s a complete new panel cell.” It is too soon for BMW to confirm which engines will go into the X7, but sources have previously speculated that it will feature a selection of six and eight-cylinder engines, such as the 3.0-litre diesel in 30d, 40d and 50d guises and the twin-turbo 4.4-litre petrol V8 from the X6 xDrive50i. An M Performance model is more likely than a full-blown M version given the car's luxury positioning - it's aimed at the US and Chinese markets - so an equivalent to the M760Li is likely. X7 xDriveM60i badging could be used. Robertson also hinted that the X7 would use engines from a wide range of BMW models, rather than just the X5 and X6. It will offer the choice of traditional petrol and diesel, along with, as showcased by the X7 iPerformance, a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid driveline with a zero-emission range of up to 62 miles. BMW's plug-in car sales have surged in recent months – a trend that's been in place since 2016, when it “sold more hybrids to the UK in the first two months of 2016 than in all of 2015 put together", according to Robertson. The X7 will be built at the company's plant at Spartanburg. It will have three rows of seats, making it a rival for the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator in the US and China. It's around 110mm shorter and a little wider than the Mercedes-Benz GLS and around 30mm longer than the Range Rover. The X7 has been in development since late 2015. The first sightings were of a chassis mule based on a 7 Series. The car, spotted testing in Scandanavia (and shown further back in the gallery), wore weights on its roof to replicate the higher centre of gravity of the future SUV. Read more BMW Concept X7 iPerformance previews range-topping SUV BMW ramps up plans to expand i range with electric SUVs BMW 8 Series sheds more disguise to reveal production headlights View the full article
  21. Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier has confirm a new SUV will be revealed in April With ambitions to double sales in China by 2020, a small, budget SUV will be an important addition Skoda will reveal a new SUV, solely for China, at the Beijing motor show next month, before unveiling a second new SUV, the Kodiaq GT coupé, later this year. The two models will make a four-strong SUV line-up for the Czech car maker in China, adding to the existing Kodiaq and Karoq, as Skoda strives to double its sales to 600,000 in that country by 2020. Skoda boss Bernhard Maier said the two new models showed it was “very serious about doubling business in China”. Skoda readies 19-model product drive in next two years Maier reiterated that he wants to bring the Kodiaq GT to Europe in future, but production capacity means it is not yet possible. “I would love to [introduce it in Europe],” he said. The new small SUV, codenamed Model Q but rumoured to be called the Kamiq, will sit below the Karoq and is described as a crossover. Maier said the introduction of the Kamiq was in reaction to China’s monumental SUV growth. “I think we’ve had the most dynamic development of SUV growth in China - several hundred percent over two years," he added. "Therefore, we’re reinforcing our SUV campaign there.” The Kamiq will be built on the localised PQ platform, on which the Chinese Rapid is also built. Sales and marketing boss Alain Favey said the car would be priced below the Karoq, allowing it to compete with the many Chinese SUV rivals on the market. “Pricing it below Karoq means we can get it to a price range for China that we would not have been able to reach in Europe,” he said. The Kamiq will not be offered with an electrified powertrain, confirmed Maier, no doubt also to keep pricing low for the budget end of the Chinese market. Last year, Skoda sold 325,000 cars in China, achieving a huge lead over its second-biggest market, Germany, which sold 173,300 units in the same period. By 2020, Maier wants to grow Chinese sales to 600,000 units per year, part of Skoda’s bigger plan to sell two million cars globally by 2025. Read more Skoda Kodiaq review Skoda Karoq review Skoda Octavia vRS review View the full article
  22. Mercedes claims its alternative-fuel SUV takes hydrogen fuel cell cars to a new level. We've had an early ride Hydrogen fuel cell cars are becoming a popular option for car makers seeking to overcome the restrictions from the limited range and long charging times of battery-based electric vehicles. However, despite increasing efforts in the development of a global fuelling infrastructure, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles' complex nature and high production costs mean they remain a rare sight on our roads. That hasn’t deterred a growing number of manufacturers from pouring vast amounts of money into the development of fuel cell technology, which can provide a car with the sort of range consummate to conventional petrol engine models while emitting nothing but water in the form of steam. This new Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell is the latest hydrogen-fuelled road car set to make production. What is the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell? The advanced new SUV, based on the regular GLC, is the result of a development project started by Mercedes in 1994. Available on a customer lease scheme in selected countries, it follows the B-Class F-Cell, of which some 200 examples were built. Mercedes claims the GLC F-Cell takes hydrogen fuel cell cars to a whole new level, leapfrogging the likes of the Toyota Mirai. The GLC F-Cell’s secret weapon is a fuel cell stack that is lighter and more compact than the unit in its predecessor, while offering 40% more power and using 90% less platinum. The unit sits on the same engine mounts as more conventional petrol and diesel units in the new Mercedes SUV. It produces electricity from a mix of hydrogen and oxygen that is sent to a battery to power an electric motor mounted within the rear axle, which in turn drives the rear wheels. From the outside, the only signs of the car’s advanced powertrain technology are some blue highlights within the grille and sills, together with bespoke wheels and F-Cell badges at the rear. Along with its newly developed fuel cell stack, the GLC F-Cell accommodates two carbonfibre hydrogen tanks – one within the centre tunnel and the other underneath the rear seat, each pressurised to 700 bar. This permits a refuelling time of less than three minutes, similar to petrol and diesel cars. With 4.4kg of hydrogen on board, Mercedes claims a range of up to 272 miles. Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel call car launched In a clever set-up mirroring that of the GLC 350e plug-in hybrid, Mercedes has combined the fuel cell stack with a 13.8kW/h lithium-ion battery mounted within the floor of the luggage compartment. This enabled the GLC F-Cell to be plugged into mains power via a socket mounted within the rear bumper to increase its range by a claimed 30 miles, giving it a potential range of more than 300 miles in total. The electric motor at the rear is the same as that set to be used by the upcoming EQ C – Mercedes’s first dedicated battery electric vehicle. With 197bhp and 258lb ft of torque, it provides the GLC F-Cell with a 0-62mph time of less than six seconds and a limited 100mph top speed. The GLC F-CELL will be offered exclusively with rear-wheel drive to cut complexity and reduce weight. However, the addition of the lithium-ion battery and associated power electronics means it tips the scales above other GLC models at 2055kg. What is the GLC F-Cell like to drive? The GLC F-Cell offers four driving modes. Hybrid combines the electricity produced by the fuel cell stack with that stored in the lithium-ion battery, while F-Cell and Battery exclusively use the two individual power options. Charge uses some of the electricity produced by the fuel cell stack to charge the battery. While it sounds complex, the GLC F-Cell seems just like any other modern EV to operate. The generous torque from the electric motor provides urgent power as we set off, with swift and silent acceleration. A Mercedes development engineer is behind the steering wheel for our introductory ride, which takes in nearly 30km of country roads around Mercedes’s R&D centre south of Stuttgart, Germany. On the move, the GLC F-Cell is nicely refined, running with whisper-quiet qualities at posted limits. The delivery of power is seamless, even when our driver begins switching through the driving modes. One noticeable absence is any vibration caused by the pump used to feed the fuel cell stack with hydrogen. It has been an annoying feature in previous fuel cell vehicles I have driven, including the Toyota Mirai. The suspension has been tuned to cope with the added weight of the battery. But while it manages to provide acceptable comfort on smooth surfaces at higher speeds, it was a little unsettled when faced with pothole covers and the like at lower speeds. In this respect, it feels much like the GLC 350e plug-in hybrid. Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell revealed A number of subtle changes within the interior signal this is anything but a conventional GLC model, including digital instruments that display the amount of hydrogen in the two tanks and the charge of the lithium-ion battery. An energy flow display within the infotainment monitor also allows you to keep tabs on what power sources you are using. In terms of practicality, the car can’t quite match its petrol and diesel engine siblings. The packaging of the rear hydrogen tank has raised rear seat height by 40mm, reducing head room in the process. The mounting of the lithium-ion battery within the floor of the boot, like that of the GLC 350e, has also reduced luggage capacity. Still, there’s more than enough room for daily use. Packaging compromises aside, the GLC F-Cell is well conceived, combining the zero-emission qualities of a battery electric vehicle with the potential range of a petrol-engined car. It is just a pity that the technology behind its powertrain has advanced at a greater pace than the infrastructure it requires to become a truly viable option. As long as hydrogen fuel stations remain rare, so will its sales potential. Will the Mercedes GLC F-Cell come to Britain? Owing to the almost complete lack of commercial hydrogen fuelling stations in the UK, British customers are initially denied the GLC F-Cell. Mercedes reluctantly confirmed to Autocar that the model has been engineered in right-hand drive for the Japanese market and there are increasing signs that we could see the GLC F-Cell on UK roads some time in the future. Plans are being drawn up by the Fuel Cell Council – an organisation that consists of car makers including General Motors, Great Wall, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes and Toyota – for a more comprehensive fuelling infrastructure. Read more Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel call car launched Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL revealed Toyota Mirai review Toyota Mirai: Autocar's long-term test View the full article
  23. Mazda has confirmed pricing for its refreshed 6 models Updated Volkswagen Passat rival will arrive on British roads during the summer Mazda has confirmed that its refreshed 6 saloon and 6 Tourer models are priced from £23,045 and £23,975 respectively, with first UK deliveries due this summer. Those prices are for cars equipped with a 143bhp 2.0-litre petrol motor, Mazda's naturally aspirated Skyactiv-G unit. At launch, buyers are also offered a Skyactiv-D unit, a 2.2-litre diesel with 148bhp, with prices starting from £25,445. More engine specifications will be offered at a later date (see below). The latest 6, first shown first at the LA motor show in December of last year, is a rival to the Volkswagen Passat. Both bodystyles (pictured below) get new chassis settings that Mazda claims will make them handle better and be more comfortable to drive. Mazda's new 6 gets revised spring rates, adjusted suspension geometry and extra chassis braces to improve its rigidity. Engineers have also equipped the car with a rigid-mounted steering column to enhance its responsiveness. These changes are said to reduce vibrations that make their way into the cabin, decrease harshness when rolling over changing surfaces and give the car a more supple ride. Engineers have also dialled out understeer and given the car a more neutral setup. Inside, a new 7.0in TFT instrument cluster is offered in higher-spec models, while the centre console gets an 8.0in touchscreen. This screen can display a 360-degree view of the car. The design of the interior itself is almost all new. As part of the comfort-improving changes, Mazda also offers the 6 with ventilated seats that feature more supportive foam. Nappa leather is available on top-spec models. Exterior design changes are limited to a new grille with thicker framework, new LED headlights and new wheels, which come in 17in or 19in forms. Mazda has also added Soul Red Crystal paint to the 6’s palette options for the first time. UK buyers can choose from manual or automatic gearboxes. They will soon be offered more engine variants. A 163bhp version of the 2.0-litre petrol will be added, as well as a 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G petrol providing 191bhp. The diesel range will also grow with the addition of a 181bhp version of the 2.2-litre unit. The new pricing for the 6 and 6 Tourer equates to respective increases of £2750 and £200 on the outgoing versions. Autocar is awaiting comment from Mazda to explain the changes, but it is thought that the jump, particularly for the saloon, is attributed to the car's more premium specifications list and enhanced driving dynamics. This trend is expected elsewhere in the range, with the 2019 Mazda 3, which was previewed by the recent and striking Kai concept, predicted to fight with more expensive rivals than the current car. Mazda is also seeking to take the lead with combustion engine efficiency across its range. The company is currently developing new Skyactiv technology that it claims can boost engine efficiency by up to 30%. More content: Mazda to bring back rotary engine as range-extended hybrid UK motorists to save £35 on insurance premiums with whiplash crackdown View the full article
  24. The new model will seat beneath the Renegade in Jeep's range Priced from around £15,000, the new compact model would become the entry point to the Jeep range A new small Jeep model is in the product planning pipeline for a possible launch in the next five years. The compact-sized Jeep would become the entry point into the Jeep range and be priced below the Renegade, suggesting a starting price of around £15,000. “A smaller car than the Renegade is very interesting to us and we are actively looking at the project now,” said Jeep CEO Mike Manley. Jeep could spin the new small model off the Renegade platform, which is also used by the Fiat 500X, but its compact dimensions are likely to demand a new, lighter platform. “We’ve seen the general move in Europe towards smaller SUVs, and there could also be a market in Latin America,” added Manley. The new car is unlikely to be sold in China, however. Manley says demand in China for smaller SUVs is focused on domestic brands, which offer strong value for money. The platform strategy at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) suggests that the small Jeep would share its platform with a Fiat model, with the next-generation Panda city car a possible contender. The obvious route to market is for Jeep to develop its own body and interior on the running gear of the next-generation Panda 4x4. Details are expected to be revealed on 1 June in Jeep’s next five-year plan, for 2018-2023, which will be one of the items in a major FCA business announcement. FCA boss Sergio Marchionne will announce five-year plans for the group and each of its brands: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati and Ram. Another possible announcement on 1 June could be Marchionne’s replacement if he retires at the end of 2018, as he has previously planned. Read more Jeep Renegade review Jeep Cherokee review Jeep Wrangler review View the full article
  25. UK motorists are paying more for their premiums due to fraudulent whiplash claims Reducing the maximum payout following whiplash injuries will trim premiums The Government has announced plans to crack down on expensive whiplash claims, with the potential outcome being a reduction in insurance premiums totalling £1 billion a year. Justice secretary David Gauke has revealed intentions to introduce a civil liability bill through the House of Lords that proposes changes to the way that whiplash claims are valued and paid out. An estimated £1 billion reduction in payouts would equate to saving of around £35 per premium for each UK motorist. Figures released ahead of the bill's proposal suggest a decrease in average payouts following a whiplash injury from £1850 to £425 would enable the saving. The new rules would prevent compensation payouts unless a medical report was provided as proof of injury. Currently, claims can be made without evidence. It's estimated that one whiplash claim is paid out every minute in Britain. “We are putting this right through this important legislation, ensuring whiplash claims are no longer an easy payday," said Gauke. "The bill will seek to set fixed amounts of compensation for whiplash claims and the halt the practice of settling whiplash claims without medical evidence.” Insurers have long called for changes. Former justice secretary Elizabeth Truss said back in 2016 that exploitation and "a rampant compensation culture" was to blame for the surge in whiplash claims, which has contributed to a 50% increase in payouts compared with a decade ago. “Reforms would crack down on minor, exaggerated and fraudulent claims," said Truss. Certain insurers, such as Aviva and LV, have pledged to pass 100% of the proposed savings associated with the changes onto motorists. New figures produced by leading car insurance comparison website Confused.com show that car insurance premiums rose by 8% last year, which, although representing a 1% reduction in growth compared with the year before, illustrates the pace of premium increases suffered by motorists. "Our research shows that the average premium is now at an astonishing £827," said a spokesman for the brand in reference to customers of Confused.com. Figures produced by the Association of British Insurers show that the wider market premium average is now £481, a 9% increase on last year. View the full article
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