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

luni, 27 iunie 2011

Salon Prive Ladies day (2011) Part I

Just back from Ladies Day at Salon Prive 2011, writes Sarah-Jayne Harrison. Like Ascot, the women get dressed up and there's a parade lap of the concourse for the best dressed ladies of the day, but we somehow didn't qualify. So instead of posing in exotica, we took some snaps of Salon Prive 2011 for this gallery. For the last four years Salon Prive has been held at the Hurlingham Club on the banks of the Thames, but this year it's moved to a new venue: Syon Park near Chiswick. Enjoy the exotic, new and old, weird and wonderful cars in our gallery below.

Lamborghini Aventador
The three musketeers outside Syon House: a trio of Lamborghinis. The burnt orange Aventador has an amazing presence compared with the Superleggera and Gallardo tucked behind. What's the collective noun for Lambos? A crease? 
Lamborghini Aventador
Was breakfast marmalade the inspiration for the Aventador's wonderful paint job? We like
Lamborghini Aventador
The view most drivers will see of the new Lamborghini Aventador. Check out the letterbox exhaust pipe 
Venom Hennessey
Hennessey Venom GT made its debut at Salon Prive. Might worry the Lambo lot: the Venom sprints from 0-62mph in just 2.5 secondsVenom Hennessey
Scaffolding and Venomous motive force aplenty
Venom Hennessey
I thought this was supposed to be Ladies Day at Salon Prive 2011?

Venom Hennessey

Infiniti signs F1 deal with Red Bull Racing

 Infiniti is going racing. Sort of. Nissan's luxury arm has signed a high-profile two-year partnership deal with current F1 champions Red Bull Racing. The move, initiated at the end of 2010, will see Infiniti become a key sponsor of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber's team in what the company calls 'a unique triumvirate' with Red Bull Racing and its Alliance partner Renault.

The liaison will see Infiniti maintain a technology-sharing relationship with RBR and Renault in 2011 and 2012, boosting the company's global profile and visibility. Renault will continue to supply RBR with its engines over the next two years; instead Infiniti will focus heavily on the hybrid technology RBR will be developing over the next 24 months as the F1 grid prepares itself for the downsizing of engines, forced induction and the introduction of electrical assistance systems in the 2013 season.

This paves the way for the introduction of the production version of the petrol-electric Etheria concept car Infiniti will unveil at the Geneva show today, which should also (and rather neatly) arrive in 2013.

The 2011 RBR cars will feature a new Infiniti logo'd livery, as will the driver and team uniforms, and the entire F1 team will be kitted out with Infiniti cars from the current range of EX and FX models.

Reigning F1 champ Sebastian Vettel will be on Infiniti's stand at the Geneva show today when the deal is formally. Click here to see CAR's coverage of the 2011 Geneva motor show.

vineri, 24 iunie 2011

Infiniti G Coupe IPL (2010)

Infiniti has unveiled its first IPL (or Infiniti Performance Line) package, a sports-focussed trim upgrade for the G37 Coupe. Think of the IPL pack as the equivalent of BMW’s M Sport or Audi’s S-line kits, and if it proves popular, there’ll be more kits (and even bespoke cars) to come.

No, not yet – everything is still in the very early stages of development. But rather than follow Lexus’s example (launch a bespoke car, the ISF, followed by F Sport kits later) Infiniti is launching the much cheaper sporting upgrades first. If it proves popular (and if the economy improves too) then we’ll see IPL upgrades available for other Infinitis. And if company bosses can make the numbers work, we’ve heard from Infiniti sources that it would be keen to expand IPL to build sports cars to rival M, S and RS and AMG models.

'IPL was conceived to create a new premium performance envelope, going beyond equipment upgrades to accelerate the very soul of Infiniti’s Inspired Performance,' said Infiniti vice president Ben Poore. 'IPL brings all the elements together, styling harmonized with performance, exhaust note with acceleration feel, ride comfort and confident handling. It’s the perfect formula for unmatched driving exhilaration.'

Infiniti has unveiled its first IPL kit for its most sporting car, the G37 Coupe. There are new front and rear bumpers, black surrounds for the fog lights, more sculpted side sills, a little rear spoiler and some chrome-tipped exhausts. Inside there are more supportive front seats.
The IPL kit isn’t just about the visuals though. An ECU tweak has added an extra 18bhp for a total of 343bhp (400rpm further up the rev range, at 7400rpm), along with 276lb ft (up 6lb ft). A new exhaust helps reduce back pressure, adding some extra noise as well, and the IPL G Coupe also features 19-inch alloys and performance-focussed Bridgestone tyres. Finally, the front and rear springs have been stiffened up, the shocks absorbers have been adjusted, the steering is sharper, there are upgraded brakes and a rear ‘diff.

Prices for the IPL kit have yet to be announced, and currently the package is only available in North America, though availability for other markets is under consideration.

Lotus Evora S (2010)

This is the new Lotus Evora S, and with the help of a supercharger, its 3.5-litre V6 has been boosted from the standard Evora’s 276bhp and 252lb ft, to 345bhp and 295lb ft.

Enough, Lotus hopes, to shake off criticism that the Evora just isn’t quick enough; it’s that car’s only real fault, so has the extra power turned the new Evora S into the perfect performance car? Read on for CAR’s first drive of the new 2010 Lotus Evora S.
That Toyota-sourced, 3.5-litre V6 has been fitted with a supercharger, which changes the character of the car. Power arrives higher up the rev range, while torque swells lower on the tacho. A glance at the torque curve reveals loads more mid-range grunt, the top speed climbs 10 notches to 172mph, but there are downsides too: the kerbweight goes up by 67kg; the fuel consumption figure drops from 33.2 to 28.3mpg; and the CO2 output is bumped up from 199 to 235g/km. Price? Up from £48,550 to £57,550, an increase of £9k.
But the Sports Ratio gearbox, which 90% of Evora customers already plump for, accounts for £1550 of that cost. And the Evora S also comes as standard with the Evora’s £1000 Sport Pack, which adds a Sport button – letting you sharpen the throttle response, raise the rev limit from 6800 to 7200rpm, and dial back the electronic angels – plus that big, black diffuser, cross-drilled and vented brakes, an uprated engine oil cooling system, and a switchable sports exhaust.

Take these extra goodies into account and the power increase only costs £6450, or just under £94 per bhp – not bad when Porsche will charge you nearly £375 per extra pony if you opt for the Carrera S’s Powerkit.
The new Evora S isn’t just a supercharger upgrade with a few extra options slapped on. The S – along with every other Lotus sold in Europe from the start of 2011 – now comes with DPM (Dynamic Performance Management), a suite of electronic aids developed with Bosch, including ABS, EBD, traction control, ESP and an electronic differential lock (there’s no proper locking mechanical rear diff), but you’ll be pleased to hear the last three items can all be deactivated.
Lotus has also increased the stiffness of the suspension bushes (in all locations at the back, but in only two places at the front, to be precise), thickened the rear anti-roll bar by a scant 0.5mm, revised the dampers (but not the springs), tweaked the rear suspension geometry, and fitted new front wishbones to increase the castor angle. The result, Lotus claims, is less roll, better stability, the same excellent ride quality, and, as if it wasn’t good enough already, improved steering feel.

  •  How much? £57,550.
  • Engine: 3456cc 24v supercharged V6, 345bhp @ 7000rpm, 295lb ft @ 4500rpm.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive.
  • Performance: 4.8sec 0-62mph, 172mph, 28.3/27.7mpg, 235/239g/km CO2.

joi, 23 iunie 2011

Lotus Evora (2009)

A couple of reasons. First, a £47,500 price puts it squarely between the two Porsches on price, and secondly, buyers have the option of adding a couple of tiny rear seats for a £2375 premium. The Evora is the world’s only mid-engined 2+2 and certainly much prettier than the last volume effort, Ferrari’s ungainly Mondial (although we’ve got a soft spot for its wedgy Bertone predecessor, the 308 GT4).

Like a 911’s rear chairs, they’re no use for normal-sized adults other than for a quick trip round the corner. But they’re perfect for kids. The Evora’s wheelbase is the same regardless of configuration – if you haven’t got kids and don’t need the seats you save money and get some extra luggage space.
The chassis is all-new. It’s still made from bonded aluminium extrusions but this time it comes in three parts: the central tub, a front frame and a rear frame. Splitting the chassis like this has huge benefits when it comes to repairing crash damage. In fact, when Lotus was conducting crash tests, it ended up not using a couple of the central tubs it had brought along.

After stoving in the front or back end, engineers just unbolted the subframe at the requisite end, fitted a new one to the undamaged tub and moved on to the next impact. No wonder Lotus claims the Evora is 2.5 times stiffer than an Elise.

  • How much? £47,500.
  • Engine: 3456cc 24v V6, 276bhp @ 6400rpm, 252lb ft @ 4700rpm.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive.
  • Performance: 5.1sec 0-62mph, 162mph, 33mpg, 205g/km CO2.