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18th May 2011

Electrified

Electrifying news this week as battery-powered cars seemed to dominate the headlines somewhat...

Renault produced details on pricing for its unusual Twizy 'heavy quadricycle', which will go on sale in 2012. It is going to cost £6,690 for the base Urban model excluding the battery, which will be leased at £40 per month for 36 months or 4,500 miles per year. The higher-spec Technic with alloys, metallic paint and carbonfibre graphics will come in at £7,400 plus the battery cost. Both use the same 17bhp motor and the battery pack will provide a range of up to 62 miles and a top speed of 50mph. Volkswagen also made noise about its plug-in car plans, with the group chairman announcing new volume models arriving as early as 2013 - most likely starting with a plug-in hybrid Golf. VW's view is that plug-in hybrids - with an electric range of around 20 miles - will satisfy consumer expectations as the internal combustion engine means they get most of the environmental benefits of a pure electric vehicle, without the range anxiety.

A couple of niche brands also had EV announcements this week, with Bristol Cars - newly acquired by Frazer-Nash Research - not only confirming that it would build cars in Britain, but that its plans involve advanced electric and hybrid drive technologies. Frazer-Nash debuted its 190mph Namir electric supercar at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2010, so they know a bit about electric vehicles.

Finally, emerging niche manufacturer, Delta Motorsport, this week held a ride-and-drive event of its innovative E-4 electric sports car. The vehicle is being dubbed the 'British Tesla' and has a range of up to 200 miles, it is claimed. Acceleration from 0-60mph will take less than five seconds and each of the car's motors produces a staggering 443lb ft torque. The vehicle makes extensive use of carbon composite material and can achieve a top speed of 150mph.


11th May 2011

A glimpse into the future...

This week seems to have been one of unusual power plants being used in some unexpected vehicles...

It would be impossible to avoid mentioning the huge news today that Jaguar will be putting the C-X75 concept into limited production. The concept stole news headlines everywhere when it was unveiled and the company has joined forces with Williams F1 to turn it into a reality. The car will arrive in 2013 and it is suggested that whilst 200 cars will be powered by a hybridised, high-boost four-cylinder turbo, cars that will arrive later in the production programme should utilise the gas turbine technology seen in the concept car.


Electric motors in the wheels give the car four-wheel drive, with a top speed of around 200mph and an acceleration figure of 0-100mph in under six seconds - humbling many cars' 0-60mph times. A lithium-ion battery pack in the car will provide it with around 30 miles of all-electric range, giving it a very low emissions figure overall. The predicted retail price could reach a staggering £900,000, rivalling the likes of the Bugatti Veyron, but most importantly, the Jaguar will be designed, engineered and built here in Blighty.

Mercedes-Benz has also been in the news with a rumoured all-electric version of its flagship S-Class luxury saloon. The company is assessing customer demand for such a vehicle and it could sit in a model range next to the firm's hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. Following similar plans by Jaguar and others, Mercedes-Benz is likely to include a 2.2-litre four-pot turbo-diesel in its engine range for the S-Class, which should prove a hit with fleet drivers.
Another interesting diesel coming to showrooms soon will be the Porsche Panamera. UK dealers should get models by August this year and the company is promising a range of up to 750 miles on one tank, with a combined fuel economy figure of 43.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 172g/km. The Panamera oil-burner will use a version of the VW Group's 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, which currently produces 247bhp and 406lb ft of torque, available between 1,750 and 2,750rpm. Despite the rather economical credentials, the diesel model should still be capable of high performance, with 62mph arriving in just 6.8 seconds and the ability to go on to a top speed of 150mph. Prices will start at just over £62,000, which should make it a rival for Jaguar's 3.0-litre diesel XJ.

22nd April 2011

From East to West

A day earlier than usual due to the Easter break, the Spoiler continues his tour to the New York Auto Show...
The motor industry shifted focus from east to west this week, kicking off with the Shanghai Auto Show overlapp/ped by the start of the New York Auto Show. Amidst the news of big-engined models like the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG coupe, revised Jaguar XK and Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 were announcements of four new four-cylinder models.

The most significant is undoubtedly the revamped Jaguar XF, launching in 2012, which will boast a 2.2-litre four-pot diesel engine adapted from the unit used in Land Rover's Freelander. The new motor develops 188bhp and 332lb ft of torque at just 2,000rpm and is mated to all-new eight-speed automatic gearbox. Jaguar predicts that the new model will account for getting on for two-thirds of sales of the XF and will steal market share away from the smaller diesel offerings from both Audi and BMW. The engine gets a nifty new start-stop system and more sound-proofing for an even more refined experience. In terms of the vital statistics, the car will be capable of 0-60mph in 8.0 seconds and a combined fuel economy figure of 52.3mpg, whilst kicking out just 149g/km CO2 - critical for company car drivers.

BMW also unveiled a new four-cylinder model in the shape of a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol Z4, due in showrooms later this year. The Z4sDrive28i motor produces 236bhp and BMW claims it actually offers more torque and better performance over the existing six-cylinder BMW Z4 sDrive30. Unsurprisingly, the new smaller unit also gives greater fuel economy and reduced emissions over the larger six-pot engine, thanks in part to new high-precision fuel injectors and a revised turbocharger design.

Suzuki showed off a four-cylinder car as it took the wraps off the Kizashi EcoCharge concept. The hybrid car uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine combined with a 20bhp electric motor to provide an additional boost of power from energy generated under braking. The new 'green' model also uses start-stop and low-rolling resistance tyres. Emissions and fuel economy are improved over the standard model and the concept uses innovative new materials on the interior that require significantly less energy to produce.
The last of the foursome is Subaru's new Impreza, the US-spec version of which launched at the New York Auto Show uses a 2.0-litre engine in the company's trademark flat-four configuration. Power output is 148bhp at 6,200rpm with 145lb ft of torque delivered at 4,200rpm. Of course, four-wheel drive is standard, and the fuel economy improvement over the outgoing Impreza is around 30 percent.

Enjoy your Easter weekend

18th April 2011

Shanghai Surprise

News this week comes from the Shanghai Auto Show as the Spoiler goes east...

MINI confirmed details for its 'Inspired by Goodwood' special edition that will appear in Shanghai and seems to be shaping up as possibly the only rival to the Aston Martin Cygnet in the super-luxury supermini segment. It's basically the manufactured offspring of a Rolls-Royce and a Cooper S and features a bespoke interior with walnut burr veneer trim, high-quality leather and deep-pile lambswool carpets. The roof lining, boot and sun visors even have a soft-touch Rolls-Royce cashmere finish and the instrumentation uses the distinctive Rolls-Royce typeface. As standard, the car comes in black, but not just any black, it is Rolls-Royce's unique Diamond Black finish! The company has said 1,000 examples of the 'Inspired by Goodwood' edition will be made and it's likely to cost in the region of £40-50,000.

Also on show in Shanghai will be Audi's Q3 - a smaller version of the Q5 and more of a direct rival for the likes of the Ford Kuga and the Volkswagen Tiguan, the latter of which we found to be the best performing car for residual value in 2010. Audi SUVs have always done well, with both the Q5 and Q7 selling beyond their initial targets. It's expected that the Q3 will replicate this success. Both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models will be available, starting at around £25,000 for the front-drive derivative in 2.0-litre turbo petrol guise with 168bhp. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is available in a higher state of tune - for the four-wheel drive model only - generating 208bhp and capable of 0-62mph in under 7 seconds, with the ability to reach 143mph. A diesel model will also be available from launch in the form of the group's 175bhp 2.0-litre TDI with four-wheel drive only. An entry-level 138bhp diesel, available with both drive options, should be available from the end of 2011. A six-speed manual 'box is standard for the entry-level models, with the more powerful versions getting a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission.

Of course Shanghai wouldn't be a motor show without some concept cars and two of the ones that have already been announced to be at the show are the Peugeot SxC and the Subaru XV.

The SxC (Shanghai Cross Concept) is a large SUV with 'suicide' rear doors and dramatic 22-inch alloys. It might shock you to hear that for a car that's bigger than a Porsche Cayenne, there's only a 1.6-litre, 218bhp engine under the bonnet, but that's not the whole story. Peugeot has included its Hybrid4 technology, which takes total power output to 313bhp. Theoretically, the very big SxC should be capable of around 48.7mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 143g/km - if it, or anything like it, ever goes into production...
Subaru's conceptual contribution comes in the shape of the XV, which will likely incorporate styling from the 2010 Impreza concept with the company's stalwart boxer engine in an SUV package.

5th April 2011

Fantastic or Foolish?

I don't know why, but we've had a simply outrageous string of stories today...

First off, we had two incredible announcements from BMW. The German brand is introducing a limited edition M3 to celebrate the royal wedding - available in Regal Red, Bridal White and Imperial Blue colours - with a special 'Will' emblem in place of the standard 'M' badging. Dubbed the M3 Royal Edition, there is no word yet on price or how many will make it into production. BMW also revealed a whole new derivative of the M3 in the shape of the M3 pick-up. Astonishingly, the drag coefficient is said to be just the same as the M3 coupe and it will max out at around 186mph, making it one seriously fast way of transporting goods around the country!

Next came the announcement from Kia that its dealers in the UK are taking action against pigeons spoiling the cars on their forecourts by enlisting the help of pigeon fanciers to draw the feathered fiends away. Apparently black and red models seemed to be the most attractive targets for the pigeons as those most frequently hit by their unpleasant aerial bombardments!

SEAT is also trying out some highly innovative technology in the form of its new satellite navigation system, the SEAT Media Audio Recognition Technology (SMART), which uses GPS to instruct the driver using the appropriate regional dialect. The aim is to make drivers feel more at home in any area and as if they were asking for directions from local people. The possibility of receiving the instruction 'Awright geezer, it's straight on at these lights, innit?' as you're driving through East London is very... interesting.

Finally, Land Rover has introduced a new self-levelling tax disc holder, meaning that even when off-roading on extreme cambers, traffic enforcement officers can still see your vehicle is appropriately taxed. The innovation comes after traffic officers complained of neck injuries incurred by reading tax discs displayed at angles of more than 10 degrees from horizontal.

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