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18th October 2010

With the news of power-crazy luxury and performance cars coming from manufacturers this week, you wouldn't think we've just come out of a recession and are still very much in the early stages of economic recovery.

PhaetonFirst came VW announcing the pricing for its Phaeton luxo-barge, with engines ranging from the relatively modest 3.0-litre V6 diesel to the colossal 6.0-litre W12 petrol developing 444bhp - matching the power you'd find in the new BMW M3 GTS or Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Standard equipment includes 18-way adjustable electric seats, so you find yourself in the car for quite some time without going anywhere!

XenatecGerman car body manufacturer Xenatec was next, with a £586,000 (yes, you read that right) super-coupe based on the Maybach 57S. The car has been sanctioned by Daimler and only 100 will be built. The Maybach was hardly designed as a sports or performance car, so it's slightly strange that the firm has said their creation will allow people to "savour the Maybach experience from the driver's seat", despite them leaving the engine and underpinnings the same...

MaseratiMaserati also released news of a new stallion for its stable in the form of a new four-door model to sit beneath the Quattroporte in its range. It will be squarely aimed at the top AMG derivative of the Mercedes E-Class, BMW M5 and the Jaguar XFR and is an exciting prospect for all petrolheads, since Maserati has arguably been producing some of the prettiest cars of late.

1-Series coupeBMW is also upping its game in the performance stakes after giving us a sneak peek at its 'M'-badged 1-Series coupe. The car is rumoured to have 350bhp - up 50bhp on the 135i M Sport coupe, which already does 0-60mph in just over 5 seconds!

GT-RNissan announced this week that its flagship model, the GT-R, will be getting a power boost up to the magic 500bhp mark. Given that the production car has already lapped the Nurburgring quicker than the Koenigsegg CCX, the idea of even more power may signal Nissan is getting ready to launch another challenge on Porsche's 911 GT2 lap time...

Chevrolet CamaroAnother car that's been out on the Nurburgring this week is the Chevrolet Camaro in high-spec Z28 guise. The Camaro is said to have a 6.2-litre supercharged V8 under the bonnet that will develop around 550bhp, meaning a 0-60mph time of something like 4 seconds. Whilst you'd never get to test that sort of statistic on UK roads, a new muscle car's arrival on our shores from next year is rather enticing!

4th October 2010

Following the media coverage of the Geneva motor show being dominated by the surprise Porsche 918 hybrid, it has been a hybrid supercar that has stolen the limelight in Paris, too. The Jaguar C-X75 concept combines two gas turbines and a battery pack to deliver 780bhp and a 560-mile driving range.

Lotus took the covers off no fewer than six models at the Paris motor show. Whilst there has been sharp criticism from some motor industry commentators that new product strategy goes against Colin Chapman's legacy of a firm obsessed with lightweight performance, the Lotus City Car concept is arguably closer to the company's traditional ideology. It is essentially a prestige rehash of a more mundane supermini (in this case a Proton), in the same vein as the Aston Martin Cygnet, which was based on the Toyota iQ. It remains to be seen as to whether luxury and performance brands downsizing will be welcomed by the market, or whether such vehicles will simply become niche curiosities and rare museum exhibits in years to come.

Two other brands diversifying their product range 'downwards' are Smart and Mini. Whilst both already produce superminis, they have each unveiled their own take on an electric scooter. Smart claims its two-wheeler will cover 62 miles (not bad when you consider the range of the electric Smart ED is 80 miles) and, whilst it's called the 'escooter', I'm guessing it could be changed to the ForOne instead.

Rather than make its S-Class any smaller, Mercedes-Benz has opted to downsize the engine and dropped a four-pot diesel into the latest version of the company's luxury saloon. The car, revealed at the Paris motor show, uses a 2.2-litre diesel with start/stop and two-stage turbocharging. All this means that it has tailpipe emissions of just 149g/km and achieves fuel economy of 48mpg, whilst still providing 201bhp, 369lb/ft of torque, 0-60mph acceleration of 8.2 seconds and a top speed of 149mph.

Finally, Volvo is researching better ways to produce cars that have no tailpipe emissions at all, by looking at ways of essentially using batteries to create car body panels. The firm is working on a material that can store and discharge electrical energy, but is also strong, light and flexible enough to be used for car parts. It is interesting, as much of the residual value discussion around electric vehicles up to this point has assumed that the batteries would be removed at the end of their useful life and that the rest of the vehicle will still hold value. This presumably wouldn't be the case for a car that is made from batteries!

27th September 2010

This week began with news that Lotus will be taking on established supercar manufacturers with a new hybrid offering badged the 'Elite'. The name has been revived following its first usage on the original Elite from 1958 to 1963 and then on the second generation model between 1974 and 1982. The car, which will be unveiled at the Paris motor show, is expected to sell at around £115,000, putting it firmly in Ferrari and Aston Martin territory. Talking of Aston Martin, the company announced on Tuesday that the engine in its very exclusive One-77 model will gain the official status of being the world's most powerful naturally-aspirated powerplant. The 7.3-litre V12 develops 750bhp, beating the 739bhp provided by the engine in the Pagani Zonda R Clubsport - and more than three times greater than the 245bhp available from Ford's F-Series pickup in the late 1990s.

Another car has been announced with a power increase this week and that is the KTM X-Bow. The new X-Bow R now comes with 300bhp on tap - a pretty scary figure given the X-Bow weighs in at just 700kg. Having said that, the Ariel Atom still seems to dominate the 'stripped-down-sports-car' (or should that be 'four-wheeled-bike') market, with the Ariel Atom 500 - as the name suggests - providing a whopping 500bhp combined with being very lightweight, thanks in part at least to the lack of a windscreen, doors, or many body panels of any sort!

One thing the Atom definitely doesn't have is eyelashes. Yes, you read that right - eyelashes. News emerged this week or a company offering people the opportunity to 'modify' their motor with the additional of stick-on eyelashes that go around the car's headlights. Quite why anyone would buy these, I don't quite understand, but each to their own I suppose!

Another body adornment in the news this week, for slightly more serious reasons, has been the Bentley 'Flying B' bonnet mascot. Concerns have been raised by US authorities that water corrosion may affect the mechanism that automatically retracts the mascot in the event of a front-end collision, which could therefore injure pedestrians. Thankfully there have been no injuries so far and Bentley is recalling the vehicles affected and is replacing the necessary parts free of charge.

Finally, whilst the industry has warned the government of the possible negative impact on the UK motor industry of a migration cap on skilled workers, it is good to see one bastion of UK manufacturing - Jaguar Land Rover - recruiting 1,000 new employees.

 

16th September 2010

The latest car-buying news from Cash in Car.

There has been a lot of chatter about crossover vehicles this week, including the MINI Countryman and the rumoured Fiesta mini-SUV. Whilst the UK's motoring press has been out in force testing MINI's new 4x4 (also available with two-wheel drive), a Fiesta-based mule has been spotted out testing, although there seems to have been surprisingly little reference to Ford's previous efforts in this area - the Fusion.

Manufacturers are anxious to tell the industry that these crossover models offer consumers more choice than the more traditional derivatives of 'hatchback', 'saloon' or 'estate'. However, there is also evidence to suggest that buyers are actually confused by the myriad choices available. Even the SMMT vehicle classification guide isn't crystal clear, with the Ford Kuga placed in the '4x4/SUV' segment with the likes of the Land Rover Freelander, whilst the Nissan Qashqai is in the 'lower medium' bracket together with the Ford Focus and VW Golf.

As well as news of four-wheel crossover models, this week saw the announcement from MINI and Smart that they were looking at two-wheels as well. Both manufacturers are set to reveal two-wheel concepts at the forthcoming Paris Motor Show. There are several companies already selling electric scooters, so it'll be interesting to see how such vehicles are received from established brands. In stark contrast to electric scooters, it appears that McLaren may be joining Lamborghini and Ferrari in developing hybrid supercars. The firm is apparently recruiting for an electrical engineer to work on hybrid technology and whilst the rumour remains unconfirmed, this latest news seems to suggest they are serious about developing hybrid powertrains.

Finally, as the Paris Motor Show approaches, we are being bombarded with obscure teaser images of the concepts that will be on display. Jaguar, Lamborghini, Peugeot and Nissan have all released pictures that show tiny patches of light clusters or bodywork, whilst BMW has employed a nifty bit of reverse psychology by sending out pictures of a development mule with 'don't blog about this' written on the bodywork - thereby guaranteeing that people will!

The Porsche 918 Spyder shown at Geneva was a genuine surprise debut, whereas many new models struggle to remain under wraps until press day. With all the secrecy around the concepts for Paris, I will be watching with interest to see if they remain top secret, or whether any journalists manage to bag an 'exclusive' before the show and reveal all...

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