Sabtu, 28 Juni 2008

Hot News: Skoda MPVs

Skoda is about to go head-to-head with parent company VW. The Czech brand will expand its range to include a pair of practical new models.
First up is the Mini-Van, which arrives in 2010. It shares its platform with VW’s forthcoming up! city car, but true to Skoda form, will stand out from class rivals with its distinctive design.
There’s a high-set grille and van-like flanks, which will help it take the fight to models such as the new Vauxhall Meriva.
Meanwhile, the larger Skoda Van marks the firm’s debut in the proper MPV market – something which has been a long time coming.
When it arrives in 2010, this model will go up against the likes of the Ford S-MAX and Vauxhall Zafira. And as with its little brother, the Van has flared wheelarches as well as sharp, aggressive headlights to provide a dramatic, purposeful look.
A Skoda insider refused to be drawn on the plans, but told Auto Express: “When we do produce an MPV, it will be different to everything else that’s currently on the market.”

Jumat, 27 Juni 2008

New Car: 2009 Volkswagen Golf Electric

Volkswagen has revealed an all-electric version of the VW Golf. This isn’t a production car, but VW admits its an important step on the way to developing a fully dedicated electric car.
Unveiled by VW CEO Martin Winterkorn and Germany’s environment minister Sigmar Gabriel, the new Volkswagen Golf uses a small internal combustion engine to keep the battery charged; the same principle as GM’s eFlex system. VW is calling it Twin Drive. It can also be recharged from the mains. Powered by electricity alone it has a range of 50km.
The driver can monitor energy usage from the car’s infotainment screen. A red kill switch in the centre console acts as an emergency cut out. The lithium ion battery is located in the boot.
The car is part of a larger project initiated by the German government to explore alternatives to traditional energy sources; the long term aim is “to provide a zero emission platform for the use of renewable energy in future mobility.” (Thanks to Autocar for News and Pictures)

Spied: 2010 Mazda 3

Could 3 really be the magic number for Mazda? If these latest spy shots are anything to go by, the answer is almost certain to be yes.
Behind the disguise of the cars in our pictures is the next instalment of the company’s product renaissance: its Ford Focus-rivalling 3.
The newcomer is far more distinctive than the current car, and follows the precedent set by the recently launched 2 supermini and 6 family model. Good looks are put at the top of the agenda, with large headlamps, angled tail-lights and a sporty profile. Our spy photographers snapped a saloon, but the hatchback version will account for the majority of sales in the UK.
Inside, the 3 is again inspired by its 6 bigger brother with a cabin that’s expected to have a much higher-quality finish. There will be steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo and sat-nav, and possibly a hard drive for storing mp3 music tracks. However, the car will weigh less than it does at the moment for better economy, emissions and handling. As it shares underpinnings with the latest Focus, the 3 should be agile, with 2.0 and 2.5-litre engines and a six-speed box giving plenty of pace. In addition, the current 1.6 diesel will also be carried over to the new model, which is due on sale towards the end of 2009.
Mazda has also revealed an all-new sketch previewing the design direction for a forthcoming SUV, which will be unveiled at the Moscow Motor Show in August. The sleek crossover will debut in concept form before providing the basis for an SUV. It’s set to be called the CX-5, and is on sale in Eastern Europe in 2009.
But the stylish newcomer is also heading west, arriving in showrooms here in 2010, when it will take on the Ford Kuga and Nissan Qashqai.
The CX-5 is the latest model to follow Mazda’s current styling direction. This is called Nagare – Japanese for flow – and is said to capture the firm’s philosophy of expressing movement in car design.

Kamis, 26 Juni 2008

Hot News: Audi A1 Cabriolet

It’s mid-summer, and Audi is celebrating in style with this: the new A1 Cabriolet.

The German supermini first broke cover last October as the Metroproject Quattro – a concept designed to showcase both the A1 and Audi’s clever electric-hybrid powertrain.

Auto Express revealed sketches of the model in Issue 981, and ever since then, the baby Audi has been casting a shadow over the car that’s set to be its main rival: the MINI.

Audi has never been one to hold back its engineers when it comes to new challenges, and it sees the premium supermini class dominated by the baby BMW as a lucrative market.

So, with an eye on the biggest possible slice of the cake, the A1 will aim to steal sales from the popular Mini Convertible. Our exclusive pictures reveal exactly how the drop-top will look when it debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2009, before hitting dealers the following year.

The roof mechanism is more sophisticated than that of the MINI. It’s a powered hood which folds down electrically and is swallowed into the boot, rather than sitting on top of the car behind the rear bulkhead.

Audi bosses have put form over function with the two-seater, although as there is no rear bench the car should offer enough load space to take the weekly shopping.

This approach means it’s vital that the drop-top looks the part – and as you can see, it doesn’t disappoint. It gets a strong family shape, throwing in few surprises but oozing class thanks to clean lines and the trademark Audi grille. A sharp crease which runs from the shoulder line and around the rim of the bonnet emphasises the shape of the nose, while the flared wheelarches are reminiscent of the firm’s TT Cabriolet.

At the rear, twin integrated exhaust pipes straddle a trapezoidal bumper insert, and a strong line splits the tailgate above the lights.

Expect the cabin to be Audi’s usual array of well damped, orderly switchgear, although details such as unique interior colour and trim combinations will distinguish the A1 from the brand’s other small models. The latest Multi Media Interface (MMI) will appear, too.

A heavy quattro four-wheel-drive system was deemed unnecessary, particularly as the cabrio has extra torsional rigidity to make up for losing the roof. Under the bonnet, the cabrio will more than match the Mini, as it will be able to take its pick from the VW Group’s engine line-up. Most intriguing is the inclusion of both 140bhp and 170bhp 1.4 TSI turbo and supercharged units currently found in the Golf GT Sport. These will use a six-speed double-clutch gearbox powering the front wheels.

TSI versions are set to be sales leaders, due to their appealing combination of refinement, performance and economy. A 150bhp 1.8 turbo engine will line up alongside the clever TSI unit, and the range will also include an entry-level 1.6 with 102bhp. Two 2.0-litre TDI oil-burners will feature, rated at 140bhp and 170bhp.

Even though some of these motors creep close to MINI Cooper S territory, Audi’s trump card will be a hot S1. This gets the same engine as the 261bhp S3 when it arrives in 2011.

Borrowing heavily from construction techniques mastered on the A2 – the car the A1 hatch replaces – the Cabriolet will be produced using steel and aluminium. This method has already been used in the TT, and helps to keep weight down.

Much is being made of the new 1.4-litre TSI unit that debuted in the VW Golf. It’s fitted with a supercharger and turbo, and also features in the Scirocco. But the A1 could get a petrol-electric motor, too – making it the world’s first hybrid cabriolet.

the electrically operated fabric top will be cut from the same cloth as that which features on the A3 and A4 cabrios. There is no chance the car will be a metal-roofed coupé-cabriolet, because the mechanism would be too bulky and heavy to fit beneath the bodywork.

Rabu, 25 Juni 2008

New Car: 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S

Following the recent refresh of the rear-wheel-drive Porsche Carrera and Carrera S, Porsche has announced a refresh for both the coupe and Cabriolet models of the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S, as well.
Most importantly, the refreshed Carrera 4 and 4S lose the old multi-plate, viscous all-wheel-drive system in favor of the electronically controlled system from the 911 Turbo. The old system could send between 5 and 40 percent of engine torque to the front wheels once it had detected wheelspin. The new electronic system can anticipate traction losses and shift up to 100 percent of engine torque fore or aft.
Porsche says the new AWD system reacts faster to traction changes, and doesn’t make the Carrera 4 significantly heavier.
The all-wheel-drive models receive many of the same updates as their rear-drive brethren. For 2009, the base Carrera’s 3.6-liter flat-six engine is tuned to produce 345 horsepower, an increase of 20 horses, and the 3.8-liter unit in the Carrera S jumps from 355 to 385 hp. Both engines are now direct-injection, and either can be coupled to a six-speed manual transmission or Porsche’s PDK seven-speed, double-clutch gearbox.
Like the two-wheel-drive models, the Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S receive abundant visual changes, as well. The cars sport new LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, and a touch-screen infotainment system. Look for the new Carreras at dealerships this October, ranging in price from $81,700 to $102,900.

First Sketch: Pininfarina Hyperion

Pininfarina has released a teaser image of a new special project it will reveal at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance this August.
Called the Hyperion, the car is based on a Rolls-Royce Drophead Coupe and is homage to the great pre-war cars. According to the famed Italian coachbuilder, 'the new car's style, size and overall presence is truly unique in modern day car production, firmly rooted in the history and heritage of the two brands at the core of the project.' It was commissioned by a private client.
Pininfarina will also be unveiling a much anticipated electric car concept at the Paris Motor Show in October.

Selasa, 24 Juni 2008

Hot News: New Land Rover

Autocar has learned that Land Rover will be boosting its range with the addition of a new seven-seat model, coming in 2012.
Insiders at Land Rover know the seven-seater as ‘Project L486’ and the new model is based on the Freelander platform. The car will have unique bodywork, styling and interior to mark it out as being more than a Freelander variant.
The standard Freelander platform will need to be heavily modified, with an extended wheelbase to make room for the seven-seat configuration. The new model is likely to be closer in size to the Discovery than the Freelander.
The seven-seater fits in to Land Rover’s range as a more road-focused car than the Discovery, with a lower kerbweight, sharper chassis, better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions.
It will have the Freelander’s front-biased four-wheel drive system with a centre diff to send torque to the slipping wheels. Other off-road aids will include hill descent control, traction control and stability control, all operated via the Terrain Response switch in the cabin.
Engines and transmission will shared with the Freelander, Land Rover having secured powertrain supply from Ford as part of the deal under which it was sold to Tata. The key engines from a UK perspective are likely to be 2.0-litre and 2.2-litre diesels with a choice of manual, automatic and twin-clutch transmissions. Land Rover is expected to use the same Getrag twin-clutch system that Ford and Volvo are using – a ‘micro-hybrid’ soft-start system will also be available.
The styling, represented in our artist’s impression, is said to be a mix of the Freelander and forthcoming LRX. “But with its own distinct look,” according to a source.
We have drawn it with a distinctive ‘stepped-roof’, a feature that increases head-room for rear-seat passengers.
The company is in the process of choosing a name for the seven-seater with one possibility, among several under consideration, being ‘Ventura’. It’s a name that’s been mooted before at Land Rover for previous new models.
Land Rover plans to build the L486 alongside the LRX at Halewood, current home of the Freelander and X-Type. Both Land Rover hopes to build up to 70,000 of each model a year, which will boost production at the Merseyside plant to 210,000 units year – a much more profitable level than the current 100,000 units. (Thanks to Autocar for News and Pictures)

Jumat, 20 Juni 2008

Hot News: Renault Megane Coupe

Watch out Volkswagen! This is the car that Renault bosses are promising will end the Golf GTI’s dominance of the competitive hot hatch market.

Meet the high-performance Mégane Coupé, which despite the name will have a three-door hatch bodystyle. Insiders have reported is to be badged R28.

Auto Express has already published barely disguised images of the car, but this is the first time our spies have spotted any version of it out on the road.

The successor to the Mégane R26 is likely to be fitted with a 225bhp evolution of that model’s turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.

It sits on the same platform as the current Nissan Qashqai, so the appearance of an all-wheel-drive model is a very real possibility. All previous high-performance Méganes have been front-wheel drive.

The new coupé is expected to hit the road early in 2009, when it’s set to cost from £20,000. And it’s already being heralded as the most driver-oriented car of its type ever built by Renault.

But the story of the new Mégane line-up is not all about pace. Space will be an equally important part of its appeal.

So, as well as the three-door coupé and five-door hatchback, there will be saloon, convertible and estate bodystyles.

A crossover model is under consideration, too. This will offer increased practicality in a body smaller than the next Scenic MPV’s. And the forthcoming people carrier has also been snapped by our spies. The Scenic is due to be unveiled at October’s Paris Motor Show, before appearing on dealer forecourts early next year.

In our picture, it is wearing only the lightest of disguises, so its styling is clear to see. The car takes cues from the next Mégane, and its shape is sharper and more aggressive than that of the current Scenic. But engineers have ensured this doesn’t come at the expense of practicality, and it will continue to be one of the most flexible MPVs around.

From launch, two versions of the new Scenic will be available: a standard mid-size five-seater and a Grand Scenic, complete with an extended wheelbase and seven seats. Both will focus on maximising interior space, and come with an array of storage cubbyholes, while the rear seats will fold to give an enormous, flat load bay.

Standard equipment will be generous, with keyless start and automatic windscreen wipers and headlamps, while prices are set to start at around £15,000.

Hot News: More Trouble for Ford and GM

Ford has announced that it is further reducing production of large SUVs and pick up trucks at its American plants as demand dwindles in the face of soaring fuel prices.

GM has also admitted that it will be extending the production life of its “full-size” pick-up and SUV platform, and it is also seriously considering the future of the Hummer brand.

Ford will delay the introduction of the revised 2009 F-150 to ensure it doesn’t become overwhelmed by stocks of the unsold current version. Company bosses in the US have also confirmed that more European models will be brought to America, potentially good news for plants and workers on this side of the Atlantic.

America will be getting the next generation Fiesta - and Ford CEO Alan Mulally has confirmed that four- and five-door versions of the current European Ford Focus will be produced in the USA from 2010 with direct injection petrol engines.

Both Ford and GM are struggling to reduce their cost base in the face of sliding sales and collapsing consumer confidence. Ford is planning to produce just 475,000 vehicles in the US in the third quarter this year, 25 per cent less than the same period last year. The company has also said that its 2008 financial results will be worse than 2007’s. GM has also announced today that over 18,500 of its hourly-paid American employees have applied for early retirement.

Kamis, 19 Juni 2008

Next Car: 2010 Ferrari Millechili

What it is: A lightweight two-seater (2200 pounds or even less) loaded with Formula 1 technology. In many ways it will be a successor to the Enzo, but instead of adding power, Ferrari will add lightness. Don’t worry—the Millechili name won’t be making it to production.

Why it’s important: F1 goodies make their way onto a road car. The technology and light weight will make this car spectacularly quick but also fuel efficient.

Platform: A derivative of the F430’s aluminum space frame on a slightly longer, 104.3-inch wheelbase. The mid-engine layout will carry a new V-10 of unknown displacement making upwards of 600 horsepower.

Noteworthy technology: Active aerodynamics will manage airflow over the vehicle, thus reducing drag.

Competition: Not much in sight as the current crop of supercars (Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Murciélago, Mercedes SLR McLaren) are either too heavy or expensive to be considered worthy competitors.

What might go wrong: Not much. The idea of an ultra-lightweight Ferrari sounds plenty good to us.

Estimated arrival and cost: Production is set to begin in 2010. An estimated 300 cars will be built over a couple years. Start saving your Benjamin Franklins as the successor to the Ferrari Enzo will be at least $500,000.

Spied: 2010 BMW 5-Series

New-look 5-series caught out on the town in most revealing costume yet. These exclusive shots captured by our spies in Europe show BMW’s class-leading saloon, carrying out some preliminary tests in the run up to its 2009 release.

Codenamed the “F10”, BMW’s E-Class rival can be seen here with softer lines than the current model and much more conventional-looking headlights with an all-round cleaner front-end design.

New European pedestrian safety standards are expected to drastically alter the design of many European cars for the worse, but BMW have managed to maintain its classic twin-kidney grille and these images begin to reveal the German manufacturers latest interpretation of the popular design.

A typical trait in recent BMW redesigns has been to widen the car between the wheels, this 5-series is no exception, extending the wheelbase by nearly 100mm. The overall length will grow by less than 20mm, while its height will be reduced slightly too. And the luxury saloon will include 17-inch alloys as standard with 18- and 19-inch optional extras.

Under the hood, this 5-series is expected to use variations of existing engines in BMW's line-up. Base power will likely come from a 2.5-litre straight-6 while top-range models will use the current 4.8-litre V8. A wild card could be thrown into the mix if BMW attempts to combine its latest turbo technology with a V8 of slightly smaller displacement. And there’s also a more powerful version of the M5's 5.0-litre V10 in the works.

Spied: 2010 Saab 9-4x

After unsuccessful attempts by its GM masters to repackage vehicles in the form of the 9-7X (upscale Chevy TrailBlazer) and 9-2X (Subaru WRX clone), Saab is attempting to re-focus its brand's cachet by drawing on its core principles of quirky yet attractive styling, highly efficient turbocharged powertrains, and its distinct aerospace heritage.

With the recent introduction of the well-received Turbo X, the coming 9-4X crossover (pictured recently undergoing testing on the Nurburgring) and a badly-needed remake of the 9-5 sedan, along with concepts like the 9-X BioHybrid, the Swedish automaker has serious future plans to reserve itself a seat at the premium-brand table.

This week, Saab USA held a press session outlining the "state of Saab" at one of its revamped dealerships in southern California. While there, we were given some interesting tidbits regarding the latest news from Saab by U.S general manager Steve Shannon and communications manager Jan-Willem Vester.

Unofficial Pictures: 2010 Audi S4

We’ve already spotted prototypes of the next-generation Audi S4 undergoing tests at the Nurburgring, but now first pictures of the finished production model have been snapped by our spies.

This new-generation Audi S4 will make its debut at the Paris motor show in October. Exterior changes seem slight and subtle compared with the standard A4, mostly based around more aggressive front and rear.

Quad exhaust pipes are the biggest giveaway of the S4’s performance potential, but it also gets polished aluminium-effect wing mirrors, plus a deeper S-Line style front bumper and LED lights front and rear. It’s clear that, in design terms, plenty of ‘headroom’ has been left for a more visually forceful RS4.

Thanks to a leaked Audi document we know that the S4 will get a 333bhp, supercharged 3.0-litre V6 under the bonnet in place of the previous generation’s 4.2-litre naturally aspirated V8. The move is part of Audi’s drive to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Insiders tell us that Audi has also reduced the weight of the new S4 to further improve fuel economy and boost performance.

Audi sees the new S4 as a rival for the likes of BMW’s 335i while the next RS4 will take the fight to the M3. (Thanks to Autocar for News and Pictures)

Selasa, 17 Juni 2008

Spied: 2010 Mercedes CLK

This is Mercedes’ brand new CLK, caught preparing for battle against stylish competitors like the Audi A5 and BMW's 3-Series Coupe. It’s only been five years since the current CLK was launched, but in a market as competitive as the premium coupe segment Mercedes can’t afford to rest on its laurels. So, as well as raising the bar for luxury, the new CLK will take styling cues from the attractive new C-Class saloon. However, unlike the 3-Series coupe, the CLK will not be pitched as a two-door version of the saloon, but a completely unique model aimed further upmarket. The new coupe will sit on a modified C-Class chassis, but like the current CLK it will feature a cabin distinct from the saloon in order to distinguish it as the more premium product. A wide range of engines will be available when the car is launched early next year, starting with two diesels – a 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit generating 204bhp and a 252bhp 3.0-litre V6. Petrol power will come courtesy of a trio of V6 engines producing 300bhp, 354bhp and 428bhp, the latter pair featuring twin-turbochargers. Mercedes’ 4Matic four-wheel drive system will be available on higher-powered models, whereas more lowly variants will be front wheel drive. Mercedes’ tuning arm AMG will be let loose on CLK to produce a high-performance flagship too – the 481bhp CLK63 AMG. Insiders suggest AMG will also unveil a Black Series version with a mighty 525bhp powering all four wheels. A convertible version will appear in 2010 featuring a folding cloth top, as well as Mercedes’ ‘Airscarf’ neck-warming system for maximum open-air comfort. Prices for the new Mercedes CLK will start at around £30,000.

Next Car: 2010 Audi R8 Roadster

What it is: Audi will launch two variations of the two-seat supercar. First up is a more powerful 5.2-liter V-10, followed by a roadster R8.

Why it’s important: A powerful V-10 moves the R8 into the stratosphere where the other big mid-engined players, the Lamborghini Gallardo and Ferrari F430, reside. As far as the roadster version goes, most of the R8’s competition already offer an open-air option.

Platform: Lightly modified version of the R8’s aluminum architecture to deal with the extra power and lack of a roof.

Noteworthy technology: Audi’s V-10, although similar in every way to the Gallardo’s 5.2-liter V-10, will not be developed by Lamborghini. The R8’s Audi-engineered V-10 will have fewer horses than the Lambo’s 552 but more torque.

Competition: BMW M6, Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo, Mercedes-Benz SL-class, Porsche 911 Turbo.

Estimated arrival and cost: Production of the V-10–powered R8 begins in March 2009. The R8 roadster will debut that fall at the Frankfurt auto show and will go on sale in the spring of 2010. The V-10 should command $150,000, and the roadster will come in at $130,000.

Spied: 2010 Acura NSX

Our spy photographers have caught a glimpse of what looks to be the next Acura NSX testing near Germany’s Nürburgring.

The spied car bears a striking resemblance to the Acura Advanced Sports Car concept that we’ve seen at several auto shows. But Honda claimed the ASCC was just a design study, and rumor was that its icy reception necessitated a return to the drawing table. This spied car looks ready for production, though, having missed its original 2008 target.

Honda has already confirmed that the new NSX will be a front-engine supercar. The first-generation NSX, sold in the U.S. until 2005, had a mid-mounted 3.2-liter V-6.

Given their visual similarity, we expect the new NSX will use the same powertrain as the ASCC, which would mean a 5.0-liter V-10 engine paired with the automaker’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system. That could put the NSX on par with the likes of the Nissan GT-R.

Although it shares the same basic shape as the concept car, the NSX sports a higher roofline to allow more space in the cockpit, as well as smoother lines over the rear. The tiny headlamp slits from the concept have given way to real, normal-size headlights and there’s an extra center grille to help feed air to the engine.

At the rear, a pronounced trunklid spoiler and rear splitter look set to keep the NSX planted. LED taillights that spanned the entire rear of the concept car have been replaced by more conservative, production-ready LED housings. The concept’s dual stacked exhaust tips remain.

All this adds up to a car that doesn’t appear to be far from production while looking far more aggressive and track-ready than the concept car. We can’t wait to get our hands—and test gear—on one.

New Car: 2009 Subaru Exiga

This is the new Subaru Exiga people carrier, which uses Impreza underpinnings but gets a stretched wheelbase to accomodate seven seats.

The Exiga is Zafira-like contender for Japanese domestic sales, and is aimed at the country's booming minivan market.

Subaru sold a rebadged version of the first-generation Zafira in Japan when it was linked with GM but the exercise was not a commercial success. So now it's decided to do its own version and the Subaru Exiga is the result.

At 4740 mm long and 1775 mm wide, the Subaru Exiga is closer to the size of a Forester than an Impreza. It also gets a stretched 2750 mm wheelbase to match.

Engines are 1994cc flat-fours, either naturally aspirated (146bhp) or turbocharged (222bhp). The 2.0GT Turbo comes with standard symmetrical 4WD and a five-speed auto 'box. Naturally aspirated models have a four-speed auto and either front or four-wheel drive.

Another key feature of the Subaru Exiga - its name is a mix of Exciting and Active - is the long, flat 1660mm roofline with optional panoramic roof. Big sunroofs are very much in vogue in Japan at the moment.

As it stands, the Exiga is not headed for Europe although some local Subaru distributors have apparently expressed interest. If comes here, it would need Subaru's 2.0-litre diesel and the first shipments would be at least 18 months away.

Senin, 16 Juni 2008

Next car: 2010 Acura TL

What it is: The TL remains a very powerful front-drive, Accord-based sports sedan from Acura.

Why it’s important: Acura’s player in 3-series territory offers value, practicality, and front-wheel drive, for those who want it.

Platform: Built off the 2008 Accord architecture.

Powertrain: The 300-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 from the 2009 RL will pulverize the front tires in the Type-S, the base model should get the 3.5-liter V-6.

Competition: BMW 3-series, Cadillac CTS, Dodge Charger, Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti G35, Mercedes-Benz C-class, Pontiac G8.

What might go wrong: Buyers may be turned off by the new styling—particularly the grille—or the idea of 300 horsepower going through the front wheels.

Estimated arrival and cost: When the TL goes on sale this fall, it will start at $35,000.

New Car: 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback

The concept of positive reinforcement—when at first you succeed, do it some more—is not lost on Mitsubishi Motors. Hence, the company is poised to unveil a five-door variant of its handsome and successful entry-level model, the Lancer, to be called the Lancer Sportback, at the 2008 Paris auto show this fall. To help pass the time until September, Mitsubishi has released some advanced information and photos, which we in turn pass on to you.

If this looks familiar, it’s because the very first new-gen Lancer concept car, at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show, was a sexy slantback. And, more recently, at the 2008 Geneva auto show in March, the Sportback was previewed in the form of the Prototype S concept.

The Prototype S also previewed the upcoming Ralliart powertrain, equipped as it was with a zesty, 235-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive. The Ralliart sedan goes on sale in September.

Hot News: Peugeot 608

The Lion king is ready to return... meet the stunning replacement for the Peugeot 607. The range-topping saloon promises to set new standards of style and sophistication for the French brand, and is tipped to be one of the stars of the Paris Motor Show in October. Likely to be called the 608, it aims to establish Peugeot as a major player in the large family car market across Europe – a goal which the outgoing 607 failed to achieve. Our exclusive image reveals some of the ideas the company is currently considering to help ensure the model’s chances of success. And as you can see, the 608’s rakish profile is a huge improvement over that of its dreary predecessor. Peugeot’s recently appointed head of design, Jerome Gallix, can take much of the credit for this, as the newcomer is the first project to be masterminded by him. The trademark Peugeot grille remains, but the lights will have a more aggressive look than those of the 308 or 207. A distinctive rising crease runs along the flanks, from the front wing to the boot, while sculpted sills add further to the visual drama. An upswept C-pillar detail and stylish rear lights complete the look. Gallix has vowed to come up with a unique, instantly identifiable shape for Peugeot cars. Yet this won’t conform with the conventional design seen on prestige models from the likes of Audi and BMW. And it’s no secret Peugeot intends to match the interiors of its German rivals, so expect a feast of top-notch design and hi-tech kit in the cabin. The emphasis will be on providing occupants with a relaxing atmosphere, complemented by excellent build and materials. Standard equipment is likely to be very generous, too, with refined sat-nav systems and intelligent controls. These should give the car the kind of advanced feel to match the Ford Mondeo and forthcoming Vauxhall Insignia. Under the skin, the saloon shares its platform with the latest-generation C5 from PSA sister brand Citroen. That car’s chassis is tuned as much for comfort as it is for handling performance. But the Peugeot promises to take refinement even further, thanks in part to dramatically improved sound insulation. Engines will be shared with the C5, too, and Peugeot is keen to make sure its latest model puts the emphasis on fuel efficiency. The car will be launched with a choice of advanced 2.0 and 2.2-litre four-cylinder HDi diesels, while flagship variants will be available with a 2.7-litre V6 oil-burner. It’s possible there will be no petrol options in the UK market, as the V6-engined version of the 607 proved such a slow seller here. But buyers will get the option of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, both of which send power to the front wheels. Adjustments will be made to all engines to improve their emissions figures, while fuel-saving stop-start technology is also in the pipeline for the newcomer. This will eventually filter through to the rest of the manufacturer’s model line-up. The big Peugeot will arrive in British showrooms in 2009, with prices from £25,500.

Hot News: Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

Continuing its strategy of thwarting spy photographers and providing its own pictures of future vehicles, General Motors offers a good look at the preproduction Chevrolet Camaro convertible.

Pilot vehicles are currently undergoing testing—unclad and therefore unhindered—as the automaker preps them for full production later next year.

As promised by the designer when GM first showed the convertible concept, the car sports a simple cloth top with a glass rear window and small quarter windows.

Like the Camaro coupe, the interior has been made less space age and more practical. And the side mirrors have grown, as expected.

The revised muscle cars ride on a version of GM's Global Rear Drive platform or Zeta, developed by subsidiary Holden in Australia. It will be offered with V-6 and V-8 power, and features a four-link independent rear end which should give the Camaro a handling edge over the live-axle Ford Mustang.

First Sketch: Mazda SUV

Mazda will show a new SUV concept car at August's Moscow International Automobile Salon that shows the potential for a smaller brother to the CX-7.

Smaller than the Mazda Hakaze concept from two years ago, the concept does not directly preview a production car. Instead it shows more of Mazda's Nagare design theme, as seen on the Nagare, Ryuga, Furai, Taiki and Hakaze concepts. It is not a second-generation Hakaze but an entirely new vehicle.

The car was designed specifically for the Russian market because Russia will become the biggest market for new cars in Europe next year, overtaking Germany. SUVs have a 20 per cent market share in Russia.

Minggu, 15 Juni 2008

Spied: 2010 Audi A7

Campers rejoice! Here's the world's first four-wheeled tent!

Or maybe not. These images show the new Audi A7 'four door coupe', set to hit showrooms in 2010 and challenge the Mercedes CLS for sleek-saloon supremacy. BMW will throw its hat into the ring with the 8-Series too, also expected in 2010.

The A7 is the latest of a raft of models set to emerge from Audi, with the A1 supermini and Q5 compact SUV appearing soon, and the Ingolstadt maker has high expectations for this stylish four-door - hoping to sell 40,000 per year.

The big Audi will be powered by a range of V6 and V8 petrol and diesel engines, but will not utilise the maker's smaller four-cylinder units, in keeping with its premium market position. A 5.2-litre V10 will come later, powering the S7 and RS7 performance flagships.

A starting price of around £35,000 is expected for the base V6 versions, though every model will feature a glut of technology, including the revised second-generation of Audi's multimedia interface (MMI).

And based on the comical disguise of the car in these pictures, Audi is clearly intent on keeping its stylish newcomer as hidden as possible. But fear not, because you can see the A7 in all its glory and get exclusive tech and engine details in Auto Express issue 1,018, on sale Wednesday 18th June.

Hot News: Ford Mondeo Coupe

Ford is taking the Mondeo to the max, with an all-new coupé version offering Mercedes CLS looks for half the price.

The forthcoming Vauxhall Insignia is set to raise the style stakes in the class, while the Volkswagen Passat CC has proved there really is demand for four-door coupés. So the time is right for the ultimate evolution of Ford’s family car to take a bow.

But the Coupé’s arrival also coincides with the blue oval’s increased European profitability. The company’s formula of good looks and strong driver appeal has been so successful on cars such as the standard Mondeo and S-MAX people carrier that confidence among bosses is currently at an all-time high.

Upcoming products such as the new Fiesta and Ka – plus the Capri (Issue 1,010) – will continue this philosophy. The Mondeo Coupé’s role is to sit at the very top of the range, as a desirable flagship. And it has some talented machinery in its sights, including the likes of the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class. The foundations have already been laid down by the latest-generation Mondeo, so the Coupé can offer an even more desirable mix of looks, driving dynamics and luxury.

As you can see from these pictures, the newcomer is a leap forward in design terms over the current car. Inspired by the Iosis concept – which previewed the Mondeo back in 2005 – it features a rakish roofline that slopes sharply over the heads of the rear passengers, plus a host of dramatic lines.

Striking details include a larger lower grille with enormous, chrome-ringed triangular air intakes. Bold extended wheelarches and muscular shoulder lines give it an athletic stance.

A full hatchback tailgate ensures practicality is a strength, while inside, the cabin will feature a spacious and luxurious four-seater layout, with twin individual chairs for rear passengers.

Up front, an evolution of the standard Mondeo’s dashboard design is expected, with hi-tech equipment including the latest touchscreen sat-nav package. This comprises programmable driver settings, and will be offered alongside Bluetooth wireless phone technology, a docking station for MP3 players and a keyless go system. Under the skin will be a mildly updated version of the Mondeo’s suspension set-up, with electronically controlled dampers giving the driver the option of Sport and Comfort modes. This will allow the Coupé to combine agile, sporty handling with excellent refinement at cruising speeds.

Engines will be sourced from the top end of the Mondeo line-up, and will include the new 175bhp 2.2-litre diesel from the Titanium X Sport model and a turbocharged 217bhp 2.5-litre petrol five-cylinder.

There is the possibility that the car will get the option of Ford’s new Powershift double-clutch gearbox, in addition to the conventional six-speed manual transmission fitted as standard.

Also, there are rumours that, as with the Insignia, the Coupé will be available with a new four-wheel-drive system, as well as stop-start technology to cut CO2 emissions and boost economy. While Ford has yet to confirm the Mondeo Coupé officially, buyers can expect the car to appear in around 2011, with prices from £25,000.

Kamis, 12 Juni 2008

Hot News: 2011 Renault Alpine

Despite rumours of delay and cancellation, Renault’s plan to launch its first bespoke sports car since the RenaultSport Spider - and to revive the Alpine brand - remains intact.

Company insiders have told Autocar that the new Alpine model will arrive in 2011. Renault product development boss Patrick Pelata said that, contrary to previous information, the car will be affordable, lightweight and rear-wheel driven.

“Since the company’s conception in the 1950s, Alpine cars have been defined by their lightweight constructions and their affordability,” Pelata told Autocar. “Our intention is to revive the brand with a car that has the same virtues.”

Powered by a longitudinally mounted four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, the new Alpine roadster’s closest rival will be the Mazda MX-5 – but the Alpine will trump the Mazda on power, with at least 220bhp to call upon. Expect it to cost slightly more than the Mazda too - Renault’s target price for the car is £20,000.

To ask consumers to pay any more for an Alpine would, according to Pelata, be against what the brand stands for. “That’s why we can’t simply produce a Renault version of the Nissan Z,” he explained; “it would be too heavy, too costly and too expensive to run in the increasingly CO2-conscious European market.”

“Also, the business case for such a car does not add up for Renault,” Pelata went on. “For Nissan, the success of the 350Z depends on American sales, and Renault doesn’t sell in America.”

The origins of the platform that the new Alpine will use remain undefined, although the biggest clue dropped thus far was the Nissan Urge concept – an open, longitudinally-engined two-seat concept shown by Nissan in 2006, based on a shortened version of the 350Z’s underpinnings. “The Urge was a great idea,” Pelata explains. “I like it very much.”

So it’s been suggested that the Alpine is being developed through the Renault-Nissan alliance, on a new rear-drive platform created out of modified 350Z underpinnings - but to make the case watertight there needs to be a business reason for Nissan, as well as Renault: “our partnership is one between independent companies,” Pelata says. “We only co-operate when there are benefits for both sides.”

The payback for Nissan, after volunteering its 350Z platform, could come in one of several ways: a Nissan version of the Alpine is among them, to sit below the 350Z – but Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn’s rule, that Renault and Nissan models should never directly compete with each other, would make that possible only if the Nissan was differently priced and positioned.

That gives us the tantalising possibility that this project might also yield a Nissan-badged replacement for the much-missed 200SX coupe.

Spied: 2011 Chevrolet Compact

Combine the now-signature Chevrolet horizontally split grille with "fierce eye" headlamps and a rakish, coupe-like four-door roofline and you've got the replacement for the Cobalt, coming in two years. Last week, Rick Wagoner dropped all kinds of hints about the car at General Motors' annual meeting, including the likelihood that it won't be called "Cobalt," making that car a one-generation model nameplate.

When Chevy replaced the very old, straight-to-rental Cavalier with the Cobalt for 2005, it was touted as a Honda Civic-killer. It barely matched the retrograde 2001-05 Civic, and was on the trailer a year later when the class-leading '06 Civic debuted. With the '11 Chevy compact, GM may finally be learning that you have to figure out where Honda will be with its next-generation Civic, and not just benchmark the current model. The Chevy compact (heck, why not call it "Chevy II?") will have more equipment, benchmark safety and quality, GM Chairman Wagoner promised at the corporation's shareholders' meeting earlier this week (see the Motor City Blogman post, "Wagoner to Hummer: Go Away"), and most important, "nine miles per gallon more than Chevy's entry in this segment today." (Note again, no mention of "Cobalt.") Add 9 mpg to the current 2.2L five-speed manual Cobalt and you get 33 mpg city and/or 42 mpg highway (Wagoner didn't specify which, or if both). Who needs a Chevy Volt at twice the price? If GM can make this a big-volume car with that engine, it will go a long way to helping the company meet proposed 2011-15, and even 2020, Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

You're likely to see some design sharing between the Volt and the Cobalt replacement, including the grille, although the Volt probably will retain enough design uniqueness to make it stand out like a Toyota Prius. Both the Volt and post-Cobalt will ride on the new global Delta platform, shared with the next Opel/Vauxhall/Saturn Astra and Opel/Vauxhall Zafira MPV.

The new Chevy compact's 1.4L turbo will come from Flint, Michigan, which is scheduled to produce 1.0L to 1.4L fours for all those truck and SUV owners desperate to trade into smaller cars. A new 1.0L is likely slated for the 2011 Chevrolet Aveo replacement (also sold in Canada as the Pontiac Wave).

The Aveo switches to the new global Gamma platform converging GM's small Daewoo architecture with the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa. It also serves as the underpinnings for the next-generation Opel Meriva MPV, a potential candidate for import as an entry-level Saturn. This all sizes up as a big autumn of 2010 for Chevrolet, with the 2011 Volt, Cobalt replacement and Aveo replacement coming. It's a short time away, but can dealers, and consumers paying $4/gallon, wait even that long?

Selasa, 10 Juni 2008

First Sketch: 2010 Kia Forte

Stylish cars are becoming Kia’s forté – and here’s another to prove it! This is the first official image of its next family model, called the Forte.

Following on from the Kue and Kee concepts, the sporty hatch – which is slightly bigger than the Cee’d – is the best example yet of Kia’s future design direction.

It’s on sale in Korea and the US in August, and while there are currently no plans to bring it here, bosses haven’t ruled it out.

Sabtu, 07 Juni 2008

New Car: 2009 Porsche 911

Evolution rather than revolution - that’s always been Porsche’s approach with its legendary 911. And the latest facelifted version of the famous rear-engined sportscar is no different.

These are the first official pictures of the new Carrera and Carrera S and, as you can see, you’ll need to be looking closely to spot the changes.

At the front both models get a subtly reprofiled front bumper and grille, while revised headlamps, indicators and tail lights get LED bulbs.

But the big news is under the skin. For the first time ever, the German firm is offering a rapid-shifting dual clutch gearbox as an option.

Called PDK (Porsche Doppler Kupplings), the seven-speed unit is a development of a system first used 20 years ago in the brand’s Le Mans racers. Using either the gearlever or paddles mounted on the redesigned steering wheel, drivers can now change ratios around 60 percent faster than with the old Tiptronic semi-auto set up.

To make the most of the new transmission, engineers at the company have upped the power on the car’s trademark flat-six motor. A range of tweaks, including the addition of direct injection, mean that the output from the Carrera’s 3.6-litre motor increases by 20bhp to 345bhp, while the 3.8-litre S is boosted to 385bhp, which is a 30bhp rise.

Performance is blistering, the Carrera and higher-powered S hitting 0-62mph in 4.7 and 4.5 seconds respectively.

Best of all, the revisions also mean fuel consumption is reduced by around 12 percent across the range.

Both the coupe and the convertible versions of the Carrera models benefit from the upgrades, while the faster Turbo, GT3 and GT2 remain in the line-up unchanged.

Expect to see the first examples hit UK showrooms later this year, with prices starting at £63,070 and rising to £77,650.

Spied: 2011 Subaru/Toyota Coupe

No, Subaru is not developing a Legacy coupe. (Seriously, how many people would actually buy that?) So what’s really underneath the camouflaging body panels in these photos? A new rear-wheel-drive sports car, that’s what.

Yup, look closely at the short wheelbase and the driver’s low-slung seating position—which we can only describe as pimpin’—and the Legacy camouflage is easy to peel away.

So what are Subaru pieces doing covering a sports-car chassis? And is that even a Subaru beneath that Subaru disguise? Well, we have on relatively good authority that this is a mule for the recently confirmed rear-wheel-drive sports car that is being jointly developed by Subaru and its new best friend Toyota, which we covered in a recent report on the new joint venture between the automakers. The car is said to be equipped with a Subaru-sourced 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine with 220 horsepower or so, to be set rather far back in the chassis for a more front-mid arrangement, which provides more optimal weight distribution. This could be a rather fun little thing, we’re starting to think. Catch our, uh, drift?

The sports car will be one of the first products to come out of the new partnership between the two companies. And it’s a good match for each, as both manufacturers suffer from a lack of credible, image-boosting sports cars in their lineup. Toyota, which at one point offered three sports cars (MR2, Celica, and Supra), now has none. Subaru has the WRX STI, of course, but sporty as it is, it’s no sports car. Both Toyota and Subaru are expected to sell versions in the U.S., but it's unclear whether it will be launched as a coupe only, or if a convertible could be included as well. An all-wheel-drive model that could give the Audi TT a run for its fun is also a very real possibility for the Subaru version.

As for the cost of such a fun little plaything, a base price of around $20,000 wouldn’t surprise us when it goes on sale in 2011.

Rabu, 04 Juni 2008

Spied: 2009 Citroen C3 MPV

The new Citroen supermini-MPV is coming out of the shadows – and here are the pictures to prove it! The people carrier will join the C3 line-up early next year, giving the French firm a rival to the Nissan Note.

With Citroen now the biggest seller of MPVs in Europe, this new model is a vital part of the company’s plans – because as well as the Note, it will aim to steal sales from the Honda Jazz and Renault Modus, plus the next-generation Vauxhall Meriva.

The C3 MPV is targeting customers who want space and flexibility in a compact, eco-friendly package, but designers will also tempt them with style. As with the Meriva (pictured in Issue 1,014), the C3 MPV is certainly a smart-looking machine.

Taking cues from the C-SportLounge concept – unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2005 – the new baby people carrier is sleek, yet chunky.

At the front, the bold nose gets intricate headlamps, neat lower spotlights, large air intakes and a big grille, on which the famous double-chevron badge is mounted. Moving back, the curvy A-pillars are similar to those on the C4 Picasso, but are thinner and have more glass for better side vision.

Flared wheelarches and beefy side rubbing strips help add some muscle to the design, as do the squared-off tail and rails on the roof. We know from previous spy shots that the tailgate features bold, high-mounted lights and is split with a glass section that opens independently to improve access to the boot in tight spaces.

As the panoramic glass roof on the C4 Picasso has proved such a big hit, the company has included this on the C3 MPV as well – and it makes for a light and airy interior. Inside, expect the dashboard to draw much of its inspiration from the Picasso, with a central digital display and an uncluttered console.

Of course, practicality will be a stand-out feature. The newcomer is underpinned by architecture from the PSA Peugeot-Citroen PF1 platform, which forms the basis of the Peugeot 207 and next-generation C3 – due in around 2010. The MPV will measure four metres in length, making it compact enough for city driving, yet the high roof ensures there is sufficient space for five adults inside.

There will be a sliding rear bench that allows owners to maximise boot or passenger space as required, while a raft of storage boxes – some in the boot, others in the door pockets and roof – helps ensure the car is among the most flexible in its class.

On top of versatility, the C3 MPV promises to score in terms of luxury. Citroen has made big improvements with the material quality of its recent products, such as the C5 family car, and this will continue here.

Under the bonnet, the newcomer will share engines with other models from the PSA stable, such as the 207. Buyers will get the option of a petrol 1.6-litre, as well as 1.4 and 1.6-litre HDi diesels. These will be mated to conventional manual or SensoDrive semi-automatic boxes. The model will also feature stop-start technology, to boost economy and cut emissions.

A production-ready version of the C3 MPV will debut at the Paris Motor Show in October, with UK sales starting in early 2009. The range is set to be priced from around £9,500.

Hot News: Alfa Romeo MiTo Cabriolet

We've lifted the lid on Italy’s hottest secret... Alfa Romeo’s stunning new MiTo supermini is set to be given a sleek soft-top with the development of a cabriolet version, which is due to go on sale in under 18 months.

The car is among the first to be designed by Alfa Romeo’s new in-house styling team at the company’s historic headquarters in Milan. Other Alfas created there include the 8C Competizione supercar and three-door MiTo. Previously, models were designed by outside experts, including the likes of Bertone and Pininfarina.

Details regarding the cabrio’s engineering are still scarce. However, it’s been hinted that the four-seater could debut as early as the Geneva Motor Show next March. First examples are likely to hit the road later in 2009 with right-hand-drive models arriving early in 2010.

The cabrio, as with its tin-top equivalent, aims to deliver class-leading driver satisfaction, so will get a series of chassis revisions aimed at ensuring the handling is first class.

What’s more, Alfa is conducting an exhaustive programme of reliability tests to ensure it lays to rest the spectre of poor build quality associated with the firm’s older cars. The company will also be making full use of its new active suspension system, known as DNA.

The electronically controlled set-up, which uses two springs on each wheel to improve the ride and handling, debuts on the standard MiTo. Insiders claim that it delivers a class-leading blend of grip, comfort and cornering agility.

Our main scoop image shows what the sporty convertible is set to look like, with exterior styling based on elements of the 8C. There’s also a host of familiar Alfa details, such as the long nose and deep grille.

The MiTo drop-top’s combination of performance and good looks will put the MINI Convertible, Audi A3 Cabriolet and forthcoming soft-top VW Golf firmly within its sights.

And while prices are still to be announced, we expect the MiTo convertible to start at about £14,000, with the coupé costing somewhere around £12,000.

Senin, 02 Juni 2008

Spied: 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS

As Porsche prepares to unveil a newly facelifted version of its 911, our spies have caught the next evolution of the hardcore GT3 RS model testing at the Nurburgring.

The new GT3 RS is expected to go on sale next year, while the updated version of the standard 911 will be released within the next few months. Styling around the front and rear bumper has been subtly modified, and this lightweight, track-focused Porsche is now expected to offer around 450bhp; that’s 40bhp more than the current car.

The updated standard 911 - which will have first official pictures of this Friday (6 June) - is expected to use new direct-injection engines. However, it’s not yet clear whether the GT3 RS will follow suit because its engine block has traditionally been based on the unit from the Porsche GT1 racing car.

We do know that the GT3 will get Porsche’s new seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission, officially known as Porsche Doppel Kupplung (PDK). It’s a paddle-shift-only unit and promises seamless, rapid cog-swapping. Other new touches include LED brake lights and Audi R8-style LED driving lights, set within a redesigned front bumper. (Thanks to Autocar for News and Pictures)

New Car: 2009 Citroen C5 Tourer

Big on style, space and equipment, but small on price. That’s the new Citroen C5 Tourer, which has made its debut in the UK.

With the line-up starting from £16,695, the estate undercuts load-lugging rivals such as the Ford Mon­deo and Vauxhall Vectra.

However, even in entry-level form, it comes packed with kit as stan­dard. The specification tally includes hi-tech directional headlamps, plus auto­matic air-conditioning, seven airbags and cruise control.

As with the C5 saloon, the Tourer is available with either conventional steel springs or the marque’s fam­ous hydro-pneumatic self-levelling suspension. Trim choices are carried over from the four-door line-up, so buyers can take their pick from SX, VTR+ and Exclusive variants. Engine options are identical, too, with two petrol and four HDi diesel powerplants. Topping the range is the 2.7 HDi Exclusive model. It features a V6 oil-burning engine that delivers 208bhp, and is fitted with everything from electrically operated seats and part-leather trim to a powered tailgate.

The flagship costs £25,590 – and so is more than £5,000 cheaper than simi­larly sized prestige rivals, such as the Audi A4 Avant. But the big seller is expected to be the 2.0 HDi VTR+, priced at £19,595.

Spied: 2009 Opel Meriva

Vauxhall's new Meriva is gearing up to reinvent the compact MPV sector! Our spies caught the next-generation model, which goes on sale here in 12 months, on test in a black and white disguise. And it’s clear the current model’s slab-sided look is gone, replaced by more striking lines inspired by the Corsa.

The latest spy shot also confirms that the car will keep the innovative rear-hinged back doors of the concept seen at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. The angled headlamps and triangular glass behind the C-pillars are hidden by the disguise.

Likely to cost from £15,000, the Meriva should prove more dynamic to drive, with suspension and engines borrowed from the Corsa. Stop-start technology will be standard across the range, boosting economy in the low-emission 1.3 and 1.7 CDTI diesels. A VXR version could appear late in 2009, featuring a beefed-up bodykit and powered by Vauxhall’s 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine.

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