vineri, 1 iulie 2011

Audi Q3 2.0 TDI Quattro (2011)

This is the new Audi Q3, Ingolstadt’s rival for the BMW X1 and the forthcoming Range Rover Evoque. It’s the smallest Q-series 4x4 yet from Audi, and (at least initially) is only available with a selection of 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged and direct-injection engines.
Items like an aluminium bonnet and aluminium bootlid are 50% lighter than the conventional steel items, there are big car options like 3D sat-nav complete with Google Earth tech, and let’s not forget the appeal of that four-ringed badge. The Q3 is already guaranteed to be a sales success for Audi, but is it any good? Read on for CAR’s first drive review of the new Audi Q3.
That’ll be the Cross Coupe Quattro, unveiled way back in 2007; despite the huge array of new models that Audi has produced over the past few years, it’s actually taken a surprisingly long time for that small concept car to become a production reality.

In the metal and on the road it looks good, but only if you spec the S-line bodykit, and those LED headlamps and taillights too – and remember there’s a certain baby Range Rover on the way that’s rather stunning.
Good points first. In terms of refinement, the Q3 is very good indeed – at motorway speeds there’s barely any wind noise, and what road roar there is is only apparent because everything else is so hushed.
Cars equipped with the S-tronic transmission (standard on the top-spec petrol and diesel) and the optional Drive Select system get a nifty de-coupling clutch that disengages the engine on the overrun. It works well: the gear indicator between the two dials disappears to indicate what’s going on and the engine’s revs drop to below 1000rpm nearly every time you back off the throttle. The only downside is the lack of engine braking; just as a Cayenne Hybrid in its ‘sailing’ mode can start to freewheel and pick up pace, the same is true of the Q3 so you actually need to keep your foot on the brake.

  • How much? £28,460.
  • Engine: 1968cc 16v turbodiesel four-cylinder, 174bhp @ 4200rpm, 280lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm.
  •  Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, four-wheel drive.
  • Performance: 8.2sec 0-62mph, 132mph, 47.9mpg, 156g/km CO2.

Jaguar XF 2.2 D (2011)

This new, facelifted XF 2.2 D is a very important car for Jaguar. If the Coventry company’s predictions are correct, it’ll nearly double XF sales, from 12k units in 2010 to 20k in 2012 (deliveries don’t start until September 2011). Fleet sales will be boosted as it dips below the crucial 160g/km tax threshold, and 43% of XFs to leave the Castle Bromwich factory over the coming years will be 2.2 Ds.
That’s not all. The new four-pot diesel’s arrival coincides with a mid-life facelift for the entire XF range, ushering in the C-XF concept car's looks and an updated interior. Read on for CAR’s first drive review of the new Jaguar XF 2.2 D.
Right, but we don’t expect the same sort of uproar from Jag fans that came when the company first fitted a for-pot oiler into the X-type in 2003. This is a car the company must build, and the more it sells, the more money that can be put into projects like the XE sports car and C-X75 supercar.

The engine itself is the 2.2-litre, single turbo, four-cylinder diesel that will soon debut in the Range Rover Evoque. Only here it’s been installed in a north-south configuration for the first time, necessitating a whole host of ancillary changes, including new engine mounts, a new oil pan and different sound deadening. On that note, the 2.2 D benefits from a new twin-layer bulkhead to further reduce noise, additional sound deadening moulded around the turbocharger, alternator and starter, and all new diesel XFs feature active engine mounts too.
A few subtle but important changes. There’s a lot less silver plastic, and all the buttons are now rubberized items and all the better for it. The super-simple cruise control remains, but there are now rubberized wheel spokes too, there’s a little more shape to the gearshift surround, but alas we’ve lost the hidden touchpad that opened the glovebox – it’s now just a boring button. The rotating air vents and rising rotary gearshift remain.
Our test car came in top-level Premium Luxury spec, which means everything from sat-nav and leather, to Bluetooth connectivity and heated front seats are standard – essentially, it’s got everything on it you’ll ever need. Traditionally the Premium Luxury trim has accounted for 28% of sales and lesser Luxury trim has taken 29%, but expect a little shift towards the latter with the new 2.2.

It’s nimble and agile in a way that no car this big has any right to be, the steering is quick, light and full of feel, and… and the chassis is so sweet you’ll soon find yourself wanting and wishing for more power. Driven an E-class recently? The XF exists in a different world, but the downside is the same slight problem that afflicts all modern Jags – a firm ride. It’s not 1-series M tough though, and we reckon the trade-off is worth it.

Only on start-up (especially when cold) and when you’re really thrashing it does the engine betray its four-cylinder roots, but for the rest of the time it’s smooth and quiet. Best to twist that gear selector in S if you’re pushing on though; with eight cogs to choose from, the transmission will be forever shifting down and searching for the right ratio if you leave it in D. There are paddles, but they’re still small, plasticky items with a short, unsatisfying throw.

  • How much? £37,950.
  • Engine: 2179cc 16v 4-cyl turbodiesel, 188bhp @ 3500rpm, 332lb ft @ 2000rpm.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive.
  • Performance: 8.5sec 0-62mph, 140mph (limited), 52.3mpg, 149g/km CO2.

joi, 30 iunie 2011

Mini Countryman Cooper D All4 (2011)

Build quality is a term beloved of automotive journalists. The problem is it's a broad term, easily applied to everything from the thunk of a German door shutting to the flimsiness of a French front wing. There you go - I've gone and done it again. Fallen into the usual stereotyping of nationalities' automotive products.
Which brings me to my Mini Countryman which, despite the Mini customers' love of Union Jacks, is built in Austria. The German BMW genes show through strongly in the car, which feels decidedly German, or at the very least bordering on it.
For a car that starts at £16,000 the Countryman is a strikingly well designed and bolted together product. If you start poking around the cabin you will find weaker, cheaper bits here and there, but the overall impression and perception is high grade. The seats wouldn't look out of place in a £50k car.
Everything works, nothing squeaks, nothing rattles and nothing gives you cause to doubt that's the way it will remain. Outside it's much the same story. The slabs of wheelarch plastics beloved of Mini designers are always a weak point. My rear wheelarch has already popped slightly out of place and after a few years this material fades, needing liberal applications of Back-to-black to retard the ageing process.
I know this because I've already owned my own Mini Cooper S for a few years. More noticeable on our Countryman are the larger panel gaps around the bonnet and headlights, but these seem to be a necessity of the ambitious design rather than any build fault.

Going back to my initial stereotypes, I have to admit to being rather impressed with the interior materials and finish on similarly sized Peugeots and Renaults recently. But oh those flimsy plastic front wings! The French could still learn a thing or two from the Germans, it seems.

Peugeot 3008 HYbrid4

Peugeot will launch the new 3008 HYbrid4 crossover in autumn 2011 as the world's first diesel-electric hybrid car - and it's the first in a string of hybrid cars coming from Peugeot and Citroen.
The 3008 HYbrid4 will be followed by a brace of 508 hybrids in spring 2011, and engineers have told CAR that any car on the mid-sized PF2 and full-sized PF3 platforms can use the same innovative electric 4wd architecture.
Although pricey at £26,995, Peugeot expects to sell 10,000 of the 3008 HYbrid4 in its first full year and the parent group PSA Peugeot Citroen is targeting 100,000 annual sales of hybrids as soon as 2015.

Peugeot has picked its mid-market crossover the 3008 to premiere its first hybrid engine. PSA's hybrid solution is clever because it's a rear-axle application that can be applied to most products in the Peugeot and Citroen stable from 308 upwards.
The HYbrid4 system bolts on to the rear axle, adding a 37bhp electric motor to drive the rear wheels. This enables full zero-emissions electric driving around town, offering a range of up to three miles and speeds of up to 30mph silently.
But most of the time the electric drivetrain assists the driven front axle's 163bhp 2.0-litre HDI. What's clever is that the HYbrid4 system is tuned to work with the front wheels and bolts on to the existing architecture, rather than requiring a bespoke hybrid drivetrain as with the standalone Toyota Prius or Honda CR-Z.
Pretty damn efficient. The 3008 HYbrid4 is a bulky car already, with five full-sized seats in a crossover package - but the diesel-electric version is capable of a claimed 74.4mpg and 99g/km of CO2 when fitted with the smallest wheels.
The battery charges under regenerative braking, but by 2014 Peugeot Citroen will offer a plug-in hybrid model as a separate option. It will be equipped with lithium ion batteries, not nickel metal hydride cells as in the 2011 3008 HYbrid4 model.

miercuri, 29 iunie 2011

Infiniti G37

Infiniti G37 information: everything you need to know if you own a Infiniti G37, are thinking of buying one or just want to find out more about the G37 coupé, saloon and convertible.

The Infiniti G37 is the cheapest model in Nissan’s upmarket premium car range. Available as a saloon, coupé or convertible – each powered by a 3.7-litre V6 or, in future, a diesel engine.

Infiniti EX

Initi EX information: everything you need to know if you own an Infiniti EX car, are thinking of buying one or just want to find out more about the EX37 and EX30d. 
The Infiniti EX is a mid-sized crossover to challenge the likes of the BMW X3. High standard equipment and a choice of V6 petrol or diesel power.

marți, 28 iunie 2011

Salon Prive Ladies day (2011) Part II

Check out the struts on the clamshell! 
The even quieter Rolls-Royce 102EX. I've never sat in such a hushed car - perfect for wafting around Salon Prive in
Don't pour 95 RON in here! You can in fact charge the electric Rolls on an induction plate, without the need for any wires
My view from the passenger seat as we creep silently around Syon Park. That leather floor is worryingly posh - I'm worried my shoes may scuff it...
Look: 0L/100km. That's the sort of fuel consumption that most Rolls-Royce owners can only dream of 
This has to be by far the oddest thing at Salon Prive 2011. A cross between a car and minibus, there is enough floor space for a picnic in the back of this Dymaxion
Train carriage meets garden shed meets VW camper van. Love it
Looks more plane than car. Where's the rudder?
Time for an instrumental
This must be some kind of wind-up...
 Yes, it's a wind-up car. Marvellously pointless
The bravery award goes to the Rolls-Royce that went for a dip. Apparently the Prince of Afghanastan was holidaying by the shores of Lake Leman when he overshot the bend near St Gingolph and plunged 60 feet into the lake, according to a Swiss newspaper in 1939. All survived to tell the tale
Tellingly, this Rolls wasn't let anywhere near the water at Syon Park