Thursday 24 December 2009

Special-edition Hyundai i10, i20 & i30 launched (UK)

A series of new special-edition Hyundai models will arrive in 2010, bringing upgraded styling and equipment to the i10, i20 and i30 ranges.

Prices for the new models – all called Edition – start at £8,425 for a 1.1 litre i10 and run to £14,700 for the 1.6 CRDi i30.

At the top of the range, the i30 Edition has a sporty look and the choice of petrol or diesel engines, with prices from £13,400. Standard equipment includes alloy wheels, sports pedals, remote central locking and 4 electric windows, while an engine stop-start system is a £200 option.

The i20 Edition comes with the 1.2 litre petrol engine, in both 3 & 5dr bodies, and with a choice of two optional exterior colours. Costing from £10,565, it has half-leather seat trim, air conditioning and remote central locking.

The cheapest of the new Edition models is the i10, which comes with a 1.1 litre petrol engine and alloy wheels, side mouldings and front fog-lights, air-conditioning and electric windows. Thanks to its 119g/km CO2 emissions, its annual road tax will cost just £35.

Next Seat Exeo will be bespoke

SEAT’s next-generation Exeo will be less dependent on VW Group technology and be more of a bespoke SEAT product, according to a company source. The current Exeo is basically a previous-generation Audi A4 and was born out of SEAT’s desire to get a saloon car to market quickly under former president, who used to work for Audi, Erich Schmitt.

But our source confirmed that SEAT would eventually replace the Exeo with a car that was more of a bespoke Seat product.

“The current Exeo was a very good solution to our desire to get a saloon to market very quickly,” said the source. “We needed to be in that segment and the old A4 was the best option, but its replacement will be very much a Seat product, relying less on VW Group technology.”

The source didn’t put a timescale on when the next Exeo would be launched but they did confirm it would be developed at its Martorell facility in Spain. They also said that SEAT had no plans to repeat what it did with the Exeo on other models.

The source compared the next Exeo to the current-generation Skoda Superb. The second-generation Superb was heavily reliant on borrowing from the Volkswagen Passat but the current model is much more of a bespoke Skoda product.

Entry-level Volkswagen Scirocco introduced (UK)

A new entry-level Volkswagen Scirocco will go on sale 4th January priced from £18,860 – £800 less than the current entry-level model.

The new car will be powered by a 121bhp 1.4 litre petrol engine, quite the opposite to the current entry-level model, which has a 158bhp engine. The new model’s 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds is almost two seconds slower than the more powerful car’s but its CO2 emissions of 146g/km make it the cleanest petrol-engined model in the Scirocco range. The 121bhp car also returns 44.1mpg – better than the 158bhp car’s 42.8mpg with the same six-speed manual gearbox.

Standard equipment includes a 6-CD autochanger, air-conditioning, 17” alloy wheels, stability control and 6 airbags. Adaptive Chassis Control, which tailors the car's suspension to suit different road conditions, is a £765 option.

Volkswagen has also announced a new optional styling pack for GT models. The £950 Lugano Black package includes 19" alloys finished in gloss black as well as extra Piano Black inserts in the cabin.

Facelifted Maybach uber-limo confirmed

Mercedeas boss, Dieter Zetsche has admitted that the super-luxury Maybach saloon will be facelifted next year - but he refused to confirm that a next-generation car was being planned, adding to rumours that the brand is being axed. Test mules of the facelifted model were spied eariler on this year.

"The contribution of Maybach is not significant or relevant but there are only two players in this market and we are one of them – referring to Rolls-Royce. But there are no plans in the long run," he said. Zetsche also revealed that he thinks that luxury buyers' tastes are changing towards more "discreet and subtle luxury".

North East to get first Nissan LEAF electric cars in Spring 2011 (UK)

Nissan has signed a contact with development agency, One North East that will help to strengthen the North East of England as the UK’s national centre for developing ultra-low-carbon vehicles. Under the agreement, One North East has agreed to install at least 619 charging points by the start of 2011, with electricity provided free of charge until the end of March 2012 or until an itemised billing service is available.

It has already installed two charging points for public use in the car park at its head office. The agency will also work with other companies in the area to create at least 200 free dedicated public parking spaces by November 2010, as well as introducing preferential access to certain roads and areas.

The agreement also sets commitments on incentives for drivers, as well as education and demonstration initiatives to be introduced over the next two years. At the same time, Nissan has also agreed to supply LEAF cars to the region in early 2011 and to give priority to orders for the car from the North East.

The forthcoming LEAF EV is billed as the world's first affordable, zero-emissions car. Using lithium-ion battery, the LEAF has a range of more than 100 miles (160kms). The LEAF will launch in Japan Winter 2010 with U.S and European launches happening in Spring 2011.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Can a Volvo travel 827 miles on one tank of diesel?

That's the million dollar question in the fuel economy test. Two middle-aged men, Dom Jolly and Rufus Hound made a trip from the Volvo UK HQ in Marlow, Buckinghamshire to Milano, Italy and back again. Why? It's a journey about friendship and fuel economy, primarily the latter.

The car used is a 2009 Volvo V70 DRIVe which is powered by a 1.6 litre turbo-charged diesel engine, producing 109PS. Fuel economy is rated at 57.7mpg combined with a CO2 output of 129g/km. Prices start at £23,245.

The two part video can be viewed here.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Mercedes to be flexible with right-hand drive markets

Mercedes has promised to be 'fully flexible' with its next generation of cars so that anything available in left-hand-drive models can also be fitted for right-hand drive markets like hybrid technology and 4-Matic.

'We know we have maybe not done enough in the past, but in future there will be no restrictions,' said Dr Thomas Weber, the company's head of research and development. The head of Mercedes UK, Wilfried Steffen said with the next generation of cars, you will be able to have everything. We will prepare our vehicles for all markets.'

For many years, British buyers have been without the 4-Matic available on many cars sold in Europe and America because it was never engineered to fit into right-hand-drive models. The GLK compact SUV is not sold here for the same reason. That left Mercedes UK missing a rival for the BMW X3, Land Rover Freelander, Infiniti EX, Cadillac SRX and Audi Q5, as well as a series of cars that could compete with Audi's Quattro range.

The change of heart is particularly important with greater hybridisation of the range on the way. With countries all around the world targeting lower fuel consumption and CO2, none would want to miss out on technology that could help achieve those goals.

Dr Weber says there will be a hybrid version of every Mercedes 'above the C-Class', so that includes the E-Class, GL-Class, GLK, SLK, SL-Class and Viano and the flagship S-Class – at the Frankfurt show last Autumn the company announced it would offer a 90mpg, 74g/km hybrid version of the next-generation model, but that's at least two years away. A S-Class hybrid is already available.

In the meantime, the current car is to get a 4 cylinder diesel engine because of demand from markets where there are CO2-related motoring taxes. This will be badged S300 CDI and will be powered by a high-power version of the company's 2.2 litre turbo-diesel engine. Despite the relatively small capacity, it shouldn't be short of muscle – Dr Weber promises it will deliver 370lb ft of torque.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Price of diesel cars set to soar (UK)

If you think the premium for diesel cars is expensive now, wait until 2015 – when it will run into many thousands of pounds.

That's the prediction of Dr Thomas Weber, head of Group Research and Mercedes-Benz cars development, who says diesel vehicles will need expensive adaptation to meet Euro VI emissions standards being introduced in 2015. The move to Euro V emissions standards has already added costs to the production of diesel cars, with the need for costly fuel injectors and, in many cases, particulate filters.

Weber says: 'Exhaust treatment for Euro VI will add thousands to the cost of diesels in the factory. If, as a manufacturer, you want to be the market leader, you'll need to have a hybrid, too, which will add thousands more.'

The costs that diesel-car production will have to absorb means alternatively fuelled vehicles, such as Mercedes' B-Class F-Cell hydrogen fuel-cell will become more affordable when compared with diesel-powered vehicles.

Although questions remain over the production, transportation and storage of hydrogen, Weber says: 'We are deeply convinced it's an important technology and the right way forward.' While Weber does not rule out other technology, he believes that, in the long term, hydrogen will become cheaper than fossil fuels.

He predicts hydrogen will eventually fall from €8 to stabalise at around €3 (£2.70) a kilo which is enough to travel approximately 60 miles. There are no immediate plans to bring the fuel cell Mercedes to the UK, but 100 customers will soon lease the new Smart Electric Drive in this country.

The Smart is another strand of Weber's future fuel strategy.

2009 BMW X1, which is sold strictly with a diesel engine in the UK

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Mini E trials kick-off (UK)

The Mini E electric car trial kicked off in Oxford yesterday as 40 customers picked up their cars from the factory. The first phase of the project will run for 6 months and is designed to evaluate the psychological, social and technical aspects of living with an electric car.

More than 500 people applied to take part in the trial through Mini's website, and the 40 successful applicants (hailed as 'the pioneers' by Mini) have all had special charging points fitted at their homes.

Every Mini E is fitted with a data-logger, with the information collected over the coming 6 months by Oxford Brookes University, and then shared with governments and other car makers across the globe. The aim is to improve the design and the infrastructure of electric cars.

The Mini E is based on the Mini hatchback, but it has just two seats because the space usually reserved for rear passengers is needed to store batteries.

The 35kWh lithium-ion battery powers a 201bhp electric motor, so performance is impressive. In fact, the 'E' accelerates faster than a petrol-powered Mini Cooper, even though it weighs around 300kg more. If you charge it at home, the overall CO2 impact equates to roughly 68g/km.

That's around half the CO2 emitted by a 1.25 litre Ford Fiesta and will reduce over time as more of the UK's electricity is generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind- and solar power.

BMW charges £550 a month for every Mini E, but thanks to a helping hand from the Government's Technology Strategy Board, each of the 40 UK customers has to find only £330 a month. That's about the same cost as leasing a Volkswagen Golf, and includes all servicing, insurance and maintenance bills.

The only other cost to Mini E drivers is for the electricity and, by charging it overnight at home, that equates to about a penny a mile – that's £1.50 for a full charge from empty. During peak hours, the cost rises to about £4.00.

To sign up for the second stage of the trial – due to start in mid 2010 – log on to

About the Mini E:

Top speed – 95mph (electronically limited)

0-62mph in 8.5 seconds

Maximum range – 155 miles

Charge time – 4.5 hours

Power – 201bhp

Torque – 162lb/ft

Battery – 35kWh, Lithium-ion

Weight – 1,465kg

Ford Focus & C-Max recalled (EU)

Ford is recalling 30,000 of its Focus and C-Max models in the UK because of a safety problem.

The American car maker has warned salt from gritted roads could damage its cooling system and cause the engine to catch fire. The safety recall affects all 1.8 litre and 2.0 litre Ford Focus and C-Max TDCi diesel models built between 20th February 2004 – 31st May 2006.

The problem was first identified in the Summer, but many owners are only now receiving recall letters. The Winter gritting season has also made it more urgent for owners to react. Ford said there was a risk of corrosion build-up in the cooling system from salt and grit put on roads during the Winter months. Recalled vehicles will be fitted with a water shield to prevent the car's fan control module from corrosion.

Owners are being urged to book their car in for a short service free of charge. Up to 65,000 models could be affected in Europe, with 29,451 of them in the UK.

Owners who are unsure whether their car is affected or not can call the Ford customer relationships centre on 0845 841 111.

Bentley Mulsanne pricing announced (UK/U.S)

Bentley's flagship Mulsanne begins production at the Crewe plant next Spring 2010. First deliveries of the Mulsanne will happen in Summer 2010 in the UK, while U.S deliveries will begin in fall. The Mulsanne has a £220,000 price-tag and that’s before you start adding in your options. For the U.S, the MSRP of $285,000 excludes taxes and delivery charges. Over 1,000 potential customers from the Europe and the U.S have been given a live preview of the car.

Said to be the most luxurious Bentley ever built, the Mulsanne puts its occupants in the very cusp of luxury motoring. Buyers will be offered a choice of 114 paint colours or a unique colour of their own making, 21 carpet colours, 24 interior leather hides tanned using a decade-old process and a total of 9 wood veneers. It takes about 9 weeks to complete one Mulsanne from scratch.

Though classic in its general approach, the uber-limo will also get very modern features such as Bluetooth connectivity, SIM card reader, iPod connection, 3G MMI system and what Bentley says is the world's most powerful sound system installed in a production car – a 20 channel 2,200w mobile music station.

Power is supplied by a lightweight 6.75 litre twin-turbo V8 producing 500bhp and 1,000Nm (740 lb-ft) of torque. It comes with a cylinder de-activation and variable cam phasing feature to help cut fuel consumption and C02 emissions.

Saturday 12 December 2009

2010 Vauxhall Astra officially launched (UK)

Opel’s UK division, Vauxhall is celebrating the retail launch of the all-new 2010 Astra yesterday as the first customers who placed their orders soon after the model went on sale in September received the keys to their cars.

In the UK, the new Astra hatchback is available with five petrol engines ranging from an 87PS 1.4 litre to a 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol unit producing 180 PS, while diesels span from 110 to 160 PS in either a 1.7 CDTi or 2.0 CDTi engine.

Prices start from £15,675 for the entry-level S model. ESP, 6 airbags, DRL’s (daytime running lights), 16” steel wheels, air conditioning, driver’s seat height adjustment, 60/40 split folding rear seats, electric front windows, electrically/heated door mirrors and high and reach adjustable steering wheel all come as standard.

Exclusiv trim adds cruise control, steering wheel mounted audio controls and ambient lighting which comes in at £16,450, adding £775 over the S model.

Sports orientated SRi trim-level adds Exclusiv equipment, plus electric parking brake, front fog lights, sports front seats, lowered sports suspension, 3 spoke leather steering wheel, darkened headlamps, trip computer and ambient interior lighting. Starting at £17,565, it adds an £1,115 premium.

SE – set to be the biggest seller is priced at £18,850. The £2,400 premium over the Exclusiv trim adds 17” 10 spoke alloy wheels, 3 spoke sports leather steering wheel, electric rear windows, electric parking brake, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front fog lights, automatic windscreen wipers & front headlamps, trip computer, alarm, chrome window surrounds, front armrest, illuminated vanity mirrors and Flex floor luggage compartment.

Elite is the plushest Astra trim-level. Starting at £19,830 (£980 over the SE), Elite features perforated leather seats w/ heat function & part-electric driver’s seat, climate control w/ humidity control, rear armrest and electric folding door mirrors.

Options include xenon headlamps w/ LED DRL’s (AFL – adaptive forward lighting), metallic & pearlescent paints, alloy wheels, parking sensors, climate control, DAB radio, satellite navigation system, Bluetooth, FlexRide, electric folding door mirrors, Infinity premium sound system and tyre pressure monitoring system.

The company said that initially, Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant will build the new Astra for all European markets. The UK will take the biggest market with around 25% of all production headed to British buyers.

If you’re in Australia and you want one of these, think again. The Delta II based Chevrolet Cruze will be available instead, as a Holden.

Friday 11 December 2009

Toyota Hilux pricing announced (UK)

Toyota has upgraded its Toyota Hilux pickup to offer better performance, lower carbon emissions and more equipment.

Its 2.5 litre D-4D diesel engine gets a 20% increase in power and extra torque. Maximum output has been increased from 118 to 142bhp and peak torque – at 2,000rpm, is now 252lb-ft - up by 13lb-ft. Toyota has introduced a high-output turbocharger and new fuel injectors to improving throttle response and performance. To cope with the extra power, the pistons have been upgraded to a new high-strength material.

The new Hilux is due to go on sale in Spring 2010. The Hilux accelerates from 0- 62mph in 12.5 seconds - an improvement of 2.5 seconds - and emissions are now at 217g/km. Increases in Hilux's gross vehicle weights have yielded improvements in payload performance, notably for Double Cab models where capacity has increased by 35kg on the HL2 Double Cab and 25kg on the HL3 Double Cab. The high-power 3.0 litre D-4D diesel engine is now available exclusively in the Invincible Double Cab. This has carbon emissions of 219g/km.

Leather upholstery and satellite navigation with Bluetooth are now options on the Invincible, and two grey upholstery cloths have been introduced. There is also a new two-tone leather option for the Invincible.

Satellite navigation with Bluetooth is offered as an option on the HL3 Double Cab. A Sport Deck and an Urban Pack (front guard, scuff plates and front and rear parking sensors) are available for both the HL3 and Invincible Double Cabs.

Prices start at £17,380.75 for the base HL2 Single Cab, rising to £23,590.75 for the flagship Invincible model with the 3.0 litre D4-D engine.

Click here for more information.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Citroen C3 pricing announced (UK)

Citroen UK has revealed prices on the all-new C3 supermini. Bigger, quirkier and more refined than before, the new C3 supermini will start from £10,790 for the entry-level VT 1.1i petrol model.

All models will have a 5 speed manual as standard, except the 1.6 HDi 110bhp which comes with a 6 speed manual. The 1.6 VTi 120bhp can be specified with a 4 speed automatic. With co-efficient drag of Cd 0.30, fuel economy of 74mpg combined can be achieved. At 3.94m long, the new C3 is 5cm shorter than the Clio.

Aston Martin Rapide pricing announced (UK/U.S)

Aston Martin's Rapide will be launched early next year, with prices starting from £139,950. A 470bhp with 600Nm version of Aston Martin's 6.0 litre V12 engine should allow it to blend supercar performance with its limousine credentials. Top speed is 188mph.

Standard UK equipment includes standard specification including: Bang & Olufsen sound system tailored specifically for Rapide, heated memory seats, dual cast brakes and Adaptive Damping System.

As Aston Martin's first production four-door sports car, the Rapide has been designed to blend extra practicality with the company's trademark sports-car dynamics.

The cars are being built at Aston Martin's Rapide factory in Graz, Austria. Each car will take around 220 hours to create. Orders are being taken now, for deliveries from April.

Across the pond however, the Rapide will start at $199,950 in the United States. The Rapide will take on the Porsche Panamera, although the Turbo variant starts at $132,600.

Monday 7 December 2009

New Car: 2010 BMW 5 Series

BMW has unveiled pictures, prices and specifications for its all-new sixth-generation 5 Series saloon.

Some 37 years on since the first 5 Series first went on sale, the new car is set to be heralded as a technological tour de force when it launches in Europe on the 20th March. Right hand drive BMW 5 Series’ will arrive a few weeks later. BMW UK is stressing the vitally of the new model since the new E-Class is outselling the current 5 Series.

Top of the technological highlights is stop/start technology on all models and the new 8 speed automatic – a first for BMW. The 5 Series will also boast the highest level of standard specification ever while carrying over some of the key features like double wishbone suspension and a 50:50 weight distribution.

A wide range of engines will be offered with the new model, with four petrols ranging from the 201bhp 523i to the mighty 401bhp 550i. On the diesel side, initially, there will be just three models to choose from: the 182bhp 520d, the 204bhp 525d and the 242bhp 530d.

The biggest seller in the UK is expected to remain the 520d that majors in efficiency. Despite boasting a healthy 182bhp and being able to sprint to 62mph in 8.1 seconds before topping out at 141mph the 2.0 litre diesel can return 56.5mpg while emitting 132g/km of CO2. However, a eco variant of the 2.0 litre diesel engine is expected to bow at the forthcoming Geneva motorshow.

The mid-ranged 525d boasts 204bhp with a 0-62mph time of 7.2 seconds. Top speed is 147mph with combined fuel economy rated at 45.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 162g/km.

Flagship 242bhp 530d is capable of delivering 44.8mpg while emitting 166g/km of CO2. Fitted with either the new 8 speed auto or 6 speed manual, it hits the 62mph benchmark in just 6.3 seconds before topping out at a limited 155mph.

On the petrol front, there's the choice of three V6 engines. The entry-level 201bhp 523i, is the least powerful but can still sprint to 62mph in just 7.9 seconds before topping out at 148mph. At the pumps, the 523i averages 37.2mpg while emitting 177g/km of carbon dioxide.

Until the flagship M5 arrives, the 401bhp 550i petrol will be the fastest 5 Series money can buy. Thanks to its twin-turbo V8, the BMW hits 62mph 5.0 seconds before being electrically limited at 155mph. Despite its performance, the quickest 5-Series can average 27.2mpg while emitting 243g/km of CO2. To put it into context, the Mercedes E500 sedan has 387bhp mated to a 7 speed automatic gearbox. The E500 averages 26.2mpg with a CO2 rating of 265g/km.

For the first time, BMW 5 Series drivers are offered the option of Drive Dynamic Control that allows the option of four differing settings for the levels of steering assistance, throttle response, automatic gear changing ferocity and ESP intervention. All models come standard with leather upholstery and Bluetooth hands-free.

BMW also claims the new 5 Series has the longest wheelbase in its class, with a distance of 2,970mm between the front and rear wheels – which should mean good rear legroom.

New options include Park Assist that steers the BMW automatically into a car park space with the driver operating only the accelerator and brake pedals. Four-wheel Integral Active Steering can also be specified which reduces the car's turning circle by 0.5 metres. Meanwhile, the Surround View system uses cameras in the side mirrors and the front wheel arches in conjunction with Park Distance Control and the optional Reversing Assist camera to provide a 360 degree view on the iDrive display for perfect parking.

The BMW 5 Series is offered with a wealth of optional equipment to enhance safety, style and convenience.

An eight-speed automatic gearbox or an eight-speed Sport automatic transmission with Formula One-style steering wheel-mounted paddles, Variable Damper Control (VDC), adaptive drive package – Drive Dynamic Control (DDC) chassis configurator (allows for fine tuning of the chassis with the choice of Normal, Comfort, Sport and Sport+). Each mode changes the levels of steering assistance, throttle response, gear change characteristics, degree of Dynamic Stability Control interaction and, courtesy of adjustable dampers, the ride and handling characteristics, USB audio interface, ambient lighting, park assist, four-wheel Integral active steering, surround view system, park distance control, reversing assist camera, head-up display, night vision with pedestrian recognition, lane departure warning, lane change warning, speed limit info, two rear entertainment packages, BMW navigation, BMW ConnectedDrive, 19” alloy wheels, sport seats, anthracite headlining, sport leather steering wheel, high-gloss exterior trim, adaptive headlights, xenon headlights, high-beam assist and headlight wash are all optional.

Standard equipment includes auto start/stop, optimum gearshift indicator, brake energy regeneration, low rolling resistance tyres, electric power steering with Servotronic assistance for enhanced driving dynamics and comfort, leather upholstery, BMW Professional radio, Bluetooth telephone preparation and air-conditioning.

Prices for the cheapest 520d SE kicks off at £28,165 - £625 more than the outgoing car. Before you start questioning the price tag, BMW has put in £2k worth of kit that would otherwise be optional on the ’09 5 Series saloon. Prices stretch to £50,520 for the 550i, however, the E500 sedan undercuts the Beemer by £5,010 at £45,510.

Saturday 5 December 2009

Renault causes some serious uproar (FR)

Renault's decision to call it electric supermini Zoe has caused pandemonium in France.

Press report suggested that parents of children named Zoe have flooded the company with complaints and launched online petitions demanding the name be changed.

"Our daughters have a beautiful first name that must not be associated with a car, so let us unite to bring pressure on a multinational which is going to destroy this pretty name for a children," says a petition launched by Sebastien Mortreus, from Auby.

"It's a scandal that they are able to use common first names for products." Zoe is the 17th favourite girls name for newborns in France but Renault is unimpressed by the arguments and is sticking with the moniker.

"It is a name that evokes values of femininity, of youth, a playful spirit and vivacity..". "It is also a reference to the concept of zero emissions."

Originally, the Zoe concept was a concept car with 3 seats that hinted at the current Twingo city-car. The forthcoming Zoe electric car will arrive in 2012.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Volkswagen Polo named 'Car of the Year 2010'

Volkswagen's fifth-generation Polo has won the desirable 'Car of the Year' award for 2010 with 347 points, against 337 for the Toyota iQ which came in second. The new Vauxhall/Opel Astra - a favourite to win and continue GM’s success with the Insignia that won the 2009 title, finished in third place receiving 221 points.

The other finalists for this year's competition, which brings together a total of 59 motoring journalists from 23 European countries, were the Skoda Yeti with 158 points, the Mercedes E-Class with 155 points, the Peugeot 3008 with 144 points and the Citroen C3 Picasso with 113 points.

Car of the Year 2010:

1. Volkswagen Polo - 347 points

2. Toyota iQ - 337 points

3. Vauxhal/Opell Astra - 221 points

4. Skoda Yeti - 158 points

5. Mercedes E-Class - 155 points

6. Peugeot 3008 - 144 points

7. Citroen C3 Picasso - 113 points

Sunday 29 November 2009

New Car: 2010 Fiat Doblò

This is the all-new Fiat Doblò 7 seater, which will go on sale in the UK Spring 2010.

The car is based on a new, larger platform and Fiat is claiming that it offers more passenger and luggage space than ever, plus reduced emissions thanks to new engines. Since the Doblò is sitting on a 2,755mm wheelbase, luggage capacity is now at 790 litres. For added practicality, the 2nd & 3rd row seats can be folded and tilted.

In Europe, the Doblò will be offered with four different engines: a 95bhp MultiAir petrol, and three Multijet diesel engines with 90bhp, 105bhp and 135bhp. A dual fuel engine (petrol/methane) and a diesel engine mated with a Dualogic robotized gearbox with paddle-shift will be offered. The former will not come to the UK.

Start-stop will be offered as standard to reduce overall CO2 emissions. The lowest powered diesel, 1.3 litre MultiJet 90bhp emits just 129g/km of CO2.

In terms of safety, the Doblò will be fitted with hill-
start assist control, x4 airbags, electronic stability control and ABS with electronic brake force distribution as standard.

Fiat says the Doblò offers automatic climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors, integrated Blue&Me hands-free communication system, and a Blue&Me TomTom navigation system will be offered.

Besides the standard passenger variant, Fiat has also introduced the new Doblò Cargo. Featuring a larger load compartment than the previous model, the Doblò Cargo will be available in seven different body configurations (short/long wheelbase, high top, short/long wheelbase 5 seater combi and short/long drop-framed versions for easy conversion into refrigeration vans and flatbed trucks).

The new Doblò will rival the Renault Kangoo, Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner, Volkswagen Caddy, Vauxhall/Opel Combo, Ford Transit Connect/Tourneo, Nissan NV200 and , is due to be launched from mid-January 2010, but it will be possible to order the vehicles from the end of November in Italy and from December in other European markets. No details of pricing have been released.

U.S sales could start in 2012 where it will where the RAM badge instead.

Press Release:

World premiere New Fiat Doblò: meet the first 'family space'

Meet the new Doblò, the Fiat car that is all about space.

A space to be shared with family and friends: a liveable space for people who travel and love to be in company; for people who choose the Doblò as a partner for leisure or work.

A vehicle designed to meet a need for functionality and comfort that makes the most of interior space and can accommodate up to seven people. An authentic 'family space' that can rely on top-class safety, economy and respect for the environment.

Compared to the previous version that sold approximately one million units, the new model has been completely revamped in terms of style, engines and technical specifications. These aspects make the new Fiat Doblò the "best in class" both in terms of space and in terms of reduced emissions.

All this has been achieved through the use of a new platform, more passenger space (with a wheelbase of 2755 mm, the biggest in its segment), a roomy 790 litre luggage compartment, reduced CO2 emissions (129g/km with the 1.3 Multijet 90bhp engine, the lowest in its category), standard safety features and highly modular interiors with seats that can be folded and tilted.

Style and comfort:

The look is very cutting-edge. With a central shield and side bumpers that are perfectly integrated with the body, the front end blends protection and sophistication while the pronounced wheel arch and sloping shoulder contribute to the vehicle's strong and agile look. The tailgate's essential lines emphasise the accessibility and size of the generous load compartment; clear, sparkling light clusters and expanses of glass give the new Doblò a touch of elegance.

The interiors have also been designed to offer functionality and create attractive, welcoming environments through combination of colours, materials and trims.

Smart solutions for the best use of on-board space, such as a range of storage compartments and flexible interiors, offering up to 7 places, will satisfy the needs of those who make the Doblò a car to be enjoyed with family or friends.

Environment and economy:

The Fiat Doblò will offer 4 power units at its launch: a 95bhp petrol engine and three diesel Multijet engines, 90, 105 and 135bhp, which will later be joined by a Natural Power engine with dual fuel system (petrol and methane) and an additional diesel engine with Dualogic robotized gearbox.

All units are lively and offer smooth torque delivery. They are remarkable for driving satisfaction, excellent performance, low noise levels, low operating costs (fuel consumption and maintenance) and also for their reliability and eco-friendliness.

The range is available with Euro 4 and Euro 5 versions and offers a Start&Stop device as standard, which cuts off the engine temporarily when the car is stopped to guarantee reduced fuel consumption and emissions.


To ensure optimum dynamic behaviour, comfort and active safety in all road surface and load conditions, the vehicle has been equipped with innovative mechanical features including a bi-link rear suspension system available with various component calibrations depending on vehicle application. The Doblò's consistent and predictable road-holding is also guaranteed by the use of state-of-the-art electronic devices for stability control, namely ABS with electronic brake force distribution EBD and, above all, ESP complemented by a hill-holder system that helps the driver during Hill starts and comes as standard on this model.

The vehicle has been designed and built to achieve the highest levels of passive safety, due to a body with crumple zones, front air bags and innovative front side bags. The latter offer protection for both head and chest.

The vehicle also offers technical solutions and equipment that create optimum comfort conditions and help keep attention on the road: these include an automatic climate control system with distribution to rear seats, cruise control, parking sensors, a built-in Blue&Me hands-free system and a “Blue&Me TomTom” navigator.

The Doblò Cargo, also new, is at the top of the professional vehicle category:

The new Fiat Doblò is joined by the new Doblò Cargo which has been designed to take its place at the top of its category in terms of performance and functional characteristics. It offers a more roomy load compartment than the previous model: square, regular, fully exploitable and equipped with sliding side doors and generously-sized rear doors to make light work of loading and unloading operations. Record-breaking statistics (interior length up to 2.2 metres, width between wheel arches of 1.23 metres, volume from 3.4 to 4.2 cubic metres, payload from 750 to 1000kg, combined fuel consumption of 4.8 litres/100 km and range of 1250km with the 1.3 Multijet engine) ensure that the new vehicle can offer substantial benefits in terms of optimisation and reduction of running costs.

The range finds expression in 7 different body types: short and long wheelbase van, high top van, short and long wheelbase 5-seater combi; a particularly appealing and brand-new short and long drop-framed version can be easily and cheaply converted for specific trades (refrigeration chambers, fixed and tilting flatbed trucks).

The new models are due to be launched from mid-January 2010, but it will be possible to order the vehicles from the end of November in Italy and from December in other European markets.

Friday 27 November 2009

Lexus GX460/Toyota Land Cruiser pricing announced (U.S/UK)

Lexus has released new pics of its second-generation GX460 SUV, which was launched at the Guangzhou motorshow in China earlier this week. The new model is the Asian and Middle Eastern version of the Toyota Land Cruiser V8 sold in European markets. The Land Cruiser V8 is offered alongside the GX in the U.S.

Featuring a standard 7 seat configuration, Lexus positions the new GX between the brand's LX570 premium luxury utility vehicle and unibody-based RX SUV.

The GX470's replacement is fitted with a new 4.6 litre V8 petrol engine producing 301bhp and 329 lb-ft of peak torque, coupled to a 6 speed automatic transmission with sequential shift.

It comes equipped with standard full-time four-wheel drive using an electronically controlled transfer case and a TORSEN torque-sensing centre differential that distributes power 40:60 under most driving conditions and changes the ratio as needed based on steering input and wheel slip. The new Lexus GX also offers a low gear range for off-road driving while the Japanese automaker claims that it retains the same 6,500-lb. towing capacity as the 263bhp GX470 offered.

An optional Crawl Control system is also offered to help improve off-road performance. It automatically modulates the throttle and brake, allowing the driver to concentrate on the steering. Hill-start Assist Control also features, as does a Downhill Assist Control system.

According to Lexus, the new GX460 returns an EPA-estimated 15mpg town, 20mpg motorway and 17mpg combined.

For the first time, the GX will be offered in two trim levels, with the base carrying an MSRP of $51,970 and the Premium model priced at $56,765. Delivery, processing and handling fee is an extra $875.

Standard features include 10 airbags, power folding flat third row seat, electrically adjustable/heated and cooled front seats w/ memory, 4.2” multi-information display w/ rear-view camera, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and door mirrors, electric sunroof, Bluetooth, 9 speaker audio system w/ iPod connectivity and XM Radio, rain and light sensors, flip-up rear window, active front headrests, 3-zone climate control, leather & wood steering wheel w/ audio controls, HomeLink, front fog lamps, low-profile roof-rails, side-steps, 18” alloy wheels and full-time four-wheel drive. Options include a Pre-Collision System, adaptive xenon headlamps, 17 speaker sound system, heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats.

The new GX will make its first public debut in North America at the Los Angeles motorshow in December with sales starting towards the end of the month.

A Lexus source confirmed there are no plans to bring the GX460 to the UK, due to the Land Cruiser V8’s presence in this market.

The Land Cruiser in the UK meanwhile is offered exclusively as a 5dr model powered by a revised 4-cylinder 3.0 litre D-4D diesel engine that pumps out 173bhp and is linked to a 5 speed automatic transmission. Combined fuel economy is around 35mpg with CO2 emissions rated at 214g/km. The LC slots into VED band K.

Customers can choose from three different equipment levels; LC3, LC4 and LC5, with seven seats being fitted as standard on LC4 & LC5 but on the entry-level model, third row of seats are optional.

The LC3 (£29,795/£30,495 for 7 seats) comes equipped with DAB radio, electric power steering, 4-spoke height & reach adjustable leather steering wheel w/ audio controls, 6 speakers & AUX input, electric mirrors w/ plastic casing, plastic door handles, side-steps, vanity mirrors w/ illumination and cover, trip-computer, velour upholstery, alarm & immobiliser, 7 airbags, 40/20/40 split/slide/fold 2nd row seats with folding 3rd row seats (7 seater only), 17” 6-spoke alloys, roof rails, front & rear fog lamps, 4 electric windows, climate control w/ clean air filter, cruise control, full-time 4WD w/ centre Differential lock, under-body mounted full-size spare wheel, Bluetooth and Smart Entry and Start system as standard.

Pick the LC4 (£40,395) and you also get 3-zone climate control, 6CD/DVD autochanger, body-coloured door handles & mirrors, power-folding door mirrors, laminated privacy glass - rear windows, powered folding 3rd row seats, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable heated front seats, 2nd row reclining seats, rear Differential lock, dusk-sensing xenon headlights w/ pop-up washers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rear parking monitor, Bluetooth, colour-coded front & rear parking sensors, 18” 5-spoke alloy wheels w/ locking wheel nuts, 17 speaker JBL premium audio package and a hard disc drive (HDD) satellite navigation system with a 10GB storage.

The range-topping LC5 (£44,795) adds to equation an Adaptive Variable Suspension with Active Height Control, electric sunroof, 3-spoke leather & wood steering wheel, centre console w/ wood-detail, Crawl Control, Multi-terrain Monitor, Steering Angle Display, Multi-terrain Select and a rear seat entertainment system for DVD playback and gaming.

On-the-road prices for the 2010 Toyota Land Cruiser range from £29,795 to £44,795 with first deliveries set to take place in early December.

Acura ZDX pricing announced (U.S)

The all-new Acura ZDX crossover goes on sale at Acura dealerships across the U.S on the 15th December with a base price of $45,495 plus a destination and handling charge of $810, making a grand total of $46,305.

The ZDX will be offered exclusively with a 3.7 litre VTEC V6 that produces 300bhp and 270 lb-ft of torque, and is mated to a 6 speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, while Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system is also standard. According to Acura, the new ZDX achieves an EPA-rated fuel economy of 16mpg in the town and 23mpg on the motorway. Combined fuel economy will hover around 18mpg.

The 2010 ZDX will be available in three trim packages: the base ZDX, ZDX with Technology Package and the ZDX with Advance Package.

Priced at $46,305, the base model comes equipped with a panoramic glass roof - described as 'the worlds longest' according to Acura, hand-stitched leather dash, centre console and door panels and 4 electric windows as standard.

The ZDX with Technology Package that is priced at $50,805 (including destination and handling fees) gets a Navigation System with Voice Recognition, VGA display screen, multi-view rear camera, upgraded Acura/ELS Surround 415w audio system with a integrated 15GB media storage system, GPS-linked, solar-sensing dual-zone automatic climate control system and Keyless Access System.

The ZDX with Advance Package ($56,045 including destination and handling fees) adds a blind spot information system (BSI), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Collision Mitigating Braking System (CMBS), Integrated Dynamic System (IDS) active damper system, heated and ventilated front seats with Perforated Milano Premium Leather seats, premium brushed tricot headliner material and a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Next generation Mercedes C-Class to be built Stateside, CLC will be axed

Updated: 16/12/09

Mercedes will move U.S production to Vance, Alabama in 2014. World-wide production will commence at the Bremen plant in Germany.

Mercedes is set to add the fourth generation C-Class saloon to the list of cars already produced at its Tuscaloosa plant in Alabama as part of a program aimed at fighting slumped profitability in its second biggest market.

With the continued strength of the Euro against the U.S dollar eating into margins on models produced in Germany and sold in the U.S, Mercedes insiders say efforts are underway to provide protection from unfavourable currency exchange rates in the form of increased North American production.

“We’ve reached a window of opportunity where we can now consider producing the next C-Class in the U.S,” a source revealed. “We’re mid-cycle on the W204 (the current C-Class) and need to decide if we want to push ahead with its successor at Tuscaloosa.”

Mercedes already produces the M-, R- and GL-Class at Tuscaloosa – a plant that opened in 1997 and expanded in 2005 to meet growing demand. While nothing is official, annual U.S production of the C-Class would likely reach 80,000 units.

During a press conference, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said "It's no secret that a decision for the new C-Class has to be made in the near future".

But with sales of large SUVs down in most markets owing to the miserable state of the economy, the currency balancing effects of U.S production are not as significant as they have been in recent years, leading the German car maker to consider the addition of other models.

The earmarking of the next C-Class saloon, due in 2014, for North American production is significant as it could ultimately pave the way for other mechanical similar models, including the GLK to be built there. However, it would come as major blow to Mercedes-Benz’s worker union which fought hard to ensure production of left-hand drive versions of the current C-Class saloon remained in Germany despite high labour costs.

Additional North American production would unlikely affect the UK as right-hand drive versions of the C-Class saloon are supplied from Mercedes-Benz’s East London plant in South Africa, while the GLK is only available in left-hand drive form owing to difficulties in re-engineering its four-wheel drive system for right-hand drive markets, although Mercedes is still trying to find a way.

An official decision is set to be made in January 2010.

Meanwhile, in related news, Mercedes is preparing to axe the CLC to make way for a new C-Class coupe in 2011. The C-Class coupe will be the second two-door car based upon the existing C-Class but the first to take its name into production.

Set to go on sale in the UK at the same time as facelifted versions of the existing saloon and estate reach showrooms in early 2011, the new C-Class coupe has been conceived to replace the CLK, discontinued earlier this year after 12 years and two model generations.

The introduction of the C-Class coupe spells the end for the CLC, a small sports hatch that was only recently updated. Sources indicated the model will be phased out and will be replaced by the new coupe.

The forthcoming two-door will avoid having a unique bodyshell and individual styling that made the CLK such a success for a comparatively upright look that draws heavily on the silhouette and detailing of its four door siblings.

“We went back and studied what made our coupes so popular in the past. If you look at some of the more successful two door models Mercedes-Benz has produced you can see a direct relationship between them and their four door stable mates,” said an insider describing the new coupe’s appearance. Don’t expect the new Mercedes-Benz to have a very long life, though. With engineering of the fourth-generation C-Class already underway at the German car maker’s R&D centre near Stuttgart, the new two door is planned to be sold for a maximum of four years before it is replaced by a much more curvaceous model that’s likely to follow the example of the CLS in boasting a more practical four door layout.

The upcoming C-Class coupe will be the second two-door model to be based on today’s C-Class. Unlike the E-Class coupe, however, the C-Class version will not be modified and offered in cabriolet guise.

“We did look at an open top version but in the end the costs were too high given the short model life,”

Monday 23 November 2009

News in brief

The U.S spec Chevrolet Cruze will debut at the forthcoming LA motorshow. 10 airbags, XM Satellite Radio & Bluetooth will be standard. Powering the car will be a 1.4 litre turbo petrol 4-cylinder engine delivering upto 40mpg. Sales start Autumn 2010.

A Porsche dealer from the Netherlands decided to drape a brand-new 911 Carrera S in smooth milk chocolate. 3kg of white chocolate was used to cover the headlamps, fog-lamps and tail-lights. 175kg (386lbs) or 1,100 bars of chocolate were melted down and used on the exterior.

The car will be on display untill the end of the year and will be kept at tempretures of under 27°C to prevent melting.

Volkswagen's forthcoming Amarok pick-up truck will be supplied to the 2010 Dakar Rally as an official event vehicle. A total of 35 Amarok units are to be used, with 20 going to the organiser and 15 scheduled for press and shuttle services.

The 2010 Dakar takes place in South America from 1st - 17th January. It starts off in Argentina, goes through parts of Chile and ends up back in Argentina. The race course covers about 9,000km (5,592 miles).

The 2011 Mazda2 supermini will also debut at the LA autoshow on the 2nd December. "Bringing Mazda2 to North America completes the bookends in our line-up," said Jim O'Sullivan, president and CEO of Mazda North America. The newcomer will hit showroom floors late next year with either a 1.3 litre or 1.5 litre petrol engine.

Mercedes-Benz is set to launch a smaller, two-seater, affordable version of the SLS AMG supercar in 2013. "The feedback we've received since showing the car at the Frankfurt motor show has been extremely encouraging. A second model that will project a similarly exclusive image but be more accessible in terms of its pricing is already in planning." - Via Autocar.

Groom crashes £233k Lambo (UK)

Any wedding, another supercar, another Lamboghini and another British driver. This time, it's a Murcielago Roadster, not a Gallardo.

A bridegroom's dream drive to his wedding ended in catastrophe when he crashed the £232,990 Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster that his bride had hired for him.

David Gallucci and his best man walked away from the wrecked car with nothing more than bruising after crashing on a roundabout near Bradford. The car suffered more than £160,000 worth of damage and has reportedly been written off. Gallucci's new wife, Abi also lost the £5,000 deposit that she'd paid to cover the insurance excess for hiring the car.

Mr Gallucci opted not to tell his wife-to-be about the damage until after the ceremony, instead saying that the supercar had broken down. When he eventually came clean, his new wife saw the funny side. She said: 'I get in trouble with him if I get the slightest scratch on an alloy. It cost me £8,000 to hire the car for 1 hour but thankfully I paid the excess insurance, otherwise we'd have to sell the house.'

The hire company refused to comment on the incident.

Sunday 22 November 2009

2011 Buick Regal to be offer a 6 speed manual (U.S)

The 2011 Buick Regal will be offered with a manual transmission. How do we know? A major online-car magazine has test-driven a 2011 Regal. In Michigan, the journalist rolled down the window and called Jim Federico, the man behind the Insignia/Regal, over and said something along the lines of "This is a manual. What the hell?"

Federico responded that the 2.0 litre turbo version of the Regal (which will arrive a few months after the car goes on sale in the U.S. in Spring 2010) will eventually be offered with the 6 speed manual gearbox. This engine arrives in Summer 2010.

Apart from the 2.0 litre turbo, a 182bhp 2.4 litre 4cylinder petrol engine will be offered alongside a 220bhp twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0 litre. Both engines are mated to a 6 speed automatic transmission. Early Regal's will be built in Russelsheim, Germany with production shifting in Spring 2011 to Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Prices are expected to start from under $28,000.

No-show for Lamborghini, Bentley, Ferrari & Maserati at LA motorshow (U.S)

If you wanted to see the 4.5 litre V8 570bhp, $225k 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia at next month's LA motorshow, think again. Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley and Lamborghini have all pulled out of the show due to financial considerations.

A source close to the LA autoshow said the decision came months ago, though a report out of Detroit has drawn the Web's attention to it today.

Aston Martin is still attending, although Aston public relations officials recently said the company would have no official presence there – LA-based Aston dealers are still expected to pull together a booth.

Source tells us that show organisers tried to persuade the other exotics to do the same, but Ferrari and Maserati in particular were against that because they wouldn't be able to control the brand message going out to consumers.

The official exhibitor list can be view here.

First Kia rolls off production-line (U.S)

Kia Motors has unveiled its first U.S-built vehicle. The all-new Sorento SUV came off the Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) plant. The 2,200 acre facility has a capacity of 300,000 units per year and employs 2,500 people. These figures represent yet another milestone in Kia Motors America's commitment to the country. Kia's U.S investment currently comes to about $1.3 billion since 2002.

In total the Korean company now has a global production capacity of 2.56 million units from locations in North America, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

"The start of production at our first manufacturing facility in the United States further demonstrates our commitment to growth in North America and we are proud to be adding 2,500 jobs to the local economy," said B.M. Ahn, President and CEO, Kia Motors America (KMA) and KMMG.

The U.S spec Kia Sorento is available with either a 172bhp 2.4 litre 4 cylinder or a 273bhp 3.5 litre V6 petrol engines mated to 6 speed manual or automatic transmissions. The unibody SUV will have a choice of FWD and 4WD drivetrains. Standard equipment will include 7 seats, 17" alloy wheels, ABS, EBD, hill start assist w/ downhill brake control, ESC w/ TCS, 6 airbags, active front headrests, Bluetooth, USB/AUX sockets and SIRIUS satellite radio.

On the options list will be 18" alloy wheels, metallic paint, push-button start/stop ignition, rear parking sensor, satellite navigation system w/ voice control, rear parking camera and a panoramic glass sunroof. Sales start January 2010.

Press Release:
Kia Motors' first U.S-built vehicle, a white all-new Sorento, has rolled off the production line at Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG), officially opening the company's first U.S production plant.
KMMG is expected to produce 300,000 vehicles a year at full capacity and employ 2,500 people, with on-site and nearby suppliers creating 7,500 additional jobs in the region.

"The start of production at our first manufacturing facility in the United States further demonstrates our commitment to growth in North America and we are proud to be adding 2,500 jobs to the local economy," said B.M. Ahn, President and CEO, Kia Motors America (KMA) and KMMG.

Representing an investment of US$1 billion by Kia Motors, KMMG will establish new benchmarks for vehicle quality and productivity by utilizing some of the world's most advanced manufacturing techniques.

KMMG's general assembly area is outfitted with more than a half mile of height-adjustable conveyors to achieve the best installation position for each team member and reduce physical fatigue. The plant is also remarkable in being fitted with wooden flooring in the general assembly area to provide a more comfortable and forgiving work environment for team members.

Built on 2,200 acres, the complex includes a body stamping facility, a transmission shop where the Sorento's six-speed automatic transmission is produced and a two mile test track. The plant's 186-foot-long stamping press delivers 5,400 tons of pressure to stamp steel into 17 different types of vehicle panels for the Sorento, operating at a speed of seven to 15 strokes per minute.

The massive stamping equipment ranges from almost 20 feet below the floor to 39.4 feet above ground. KMMG continues Kia Motors' aggressive investment in the US market. Since 2002, more than $1.3 billion has been invested in various facilities throughout the country, including a dedicated corporate campus and design center in Irvine, California, a state-of-the-art research and development centre in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a custom-built vehicle proving ground in Mojave, California.

Kia now has production facilities in Korea - at Hwasung, Sohari and Kwangju as well as a joint-project facility close to Hwasung - in Slovakia and in China plus CKD operations in a number of Asian and African countries plus Russia. Total global production capacity currently stands at 2.56 million vehicles per year with the opening of Georgia. That figures is comprised of 1.53 million in Korea, 430,000 in China, 300,000 in Slovakia and now 300,000 in the U.S.

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