Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Winning the green game by stealth is this, the Vauxhall Ampera

The Ampera is here as an example of technology that’s managing to sneak under the social radar and win the green game by stealth. It combines a load of realistic green technologies to produce a car that’s practical and easy to use (this really could be your only car), at a price – £29k – that’s easy(ish) to swallow. It’s a plug-in – with an EV-range of 50 miles, so it may never need to see a fuel station. But it’s also an ER-EV, or Extended Range Electric Vehicle, so the 1.4-litre petrol engine is never connected to the wheels – it’s there to drive a generator, just like the Fisker on p140, and allow for an all-up range of 310 miles on one tank.

The battery is guaranteed for 150k miles or 10 years. With a full charge, it’ll do the equivalent of 175-odd mpg and 40g/km CO2. So this is exciting new tech in a normal, useful package. An EV without the range anxiety. A green car without the sense of self-righteous anger. The future’s bright. The future’s quite subtle.

Audi unleashes 252bhp A1 Quattro

Posted: December 22, 2011 in News
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Christmas has come early, Internet: meet the turbocharged, all-wheel-drive mega-hatch

This is faster than a JCW Mini. It’s faster than the Corsa VXR Nürburgring. It’s also faster than a Ford Focus ST and nudges the VW Golf R for pace. This is the turbocharged, four-wheel-drive Audi A1 Quattro. Merry Christmas.

Like a mini Walter Rohrl-shaped gift to the world, Audi has announced plans to produce 333 left-hand-drive models of this, the fastest production A1 ever built.

It’s destined for mainland Europe for now, but Audi tells us positive customer reaction to this bonkers little thing could see it reach our potholed shores. And that’s an intriguing prospect, because it packs 252bhp from a turbocharged, 2.0-litre TFSI unit and 258lb ft of torque from between 2,500rpm and 4,500rpm. All the Audi’s horses and torques help propel it from 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds, and on to a top speed of 152mph. That’s really quick.

It’s also the first production A1 to get the Quattro system – a system we tested in a prototype mule way back last year. As in that car, traction comes from an electronically controlled, hydraulically actuated multi-plate clutch rotating in an oil bath.

Which basically means its front wheel drive for normal driving, but sends power to the rear “in just a few milliseconds” if you start to Stiggify it. And there’s an electronic diff that brakes whichever wheel is losing grip, helping to keep you out of the nearest hedge/tree/sofa warehouse.

As we told you last year when we drove the prototype on ice – which was good actually – we feared Quattro on an A1 might have been overkill, had Audi not sufficiently ramped up the power. Consider this a sufficient ramp up in power, then.

The 333 cars are slightly longer than the standard A1, and get the full complement of Audi equipment: S sports seats, quattro badges, dashes of aluminium, Infotainment gubbins, a 465-watt speaker system… you get the picture.

No word on price, but if it does ever reach the UK, expect it to be significantly more expensive than the current range topper, the £21,270 1.4 TFSI S Line.

So, does this turbocharged, four-wheel-drive pocket rocket stroke the parts of your brain responsible for coherent speech patterns, or are you left feeling a bit cold? Speak!

Lexus LF LC concept leaked

Posted: December 21, 2011 in News
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New Lexus concept breaks cover ahead of its Detroit motor show reveal…

This slightly cryptic picture shows Lexus’s new LF-LC concept, due for a full airing at the Detroit show next month. All we know for sure is that it’s been created at the company’s California design studio, the same place where the original SC430 was drawn, presumably by someone holding a pen in their mouth with their eyes clamped shut. Could this be its successor?

Maybe. It’s about the same size and has two doors, but unlike the SC there’s a pair of seats in the back. And going by these pics, it looks like a targa top rather than a coupe-cabrio, with styling riffing the pointy bits of the new GS saloon. But could it be rear wheel drive? The Lexus people haven’t confirmed anything, but we’d bet at least £1.40 that this spaceage bodywork could be wrapped around the Toyota GT 86 platform – provided those rear seats haven’t made it too long – and become a posher version of the rear-drive coupe. Which would make it a sort of junior LF-A. But then again, it’s a Lexus, so it’ll probably be a hybrid.

Lots of questions. Much speculation. Hopefully all of which shall be cleared up in Detroit. We’ll be there with our hands in the air…

This is a Ferrari-beating Jeep

Posted: December 21, 2011 in News
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Hennessey Performance reveals its 800bhp Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

Historian John Dalberg’s oft-quoted dictum that “power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely” can be sprinkled liberally across the automotive spectrum. Anyone familiar with an early Saab 900 Turbo (RIP) will attest to this. Here though, it takes on a grisly significance. This is the Hennessey HPE800 Twin Turbo Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.

That 800 in the moniker stands, naturally, for how many horses have been strapped under the Santa-spec red bonnet. 805bhp, to be precise, that ride shotgun with 823 torques to give a 0-60mph time of 3.1 seconds. That’s fractionally, fractionally faster than a Ferrari 458 Italia. Mr Hennessey tells us it’ll do the standing quarter mile in 10.9 seconds, travelling at 130mph.

That massive 6.4-litre V8 gets rebigulated to 7 litres, treated to two turbos and mated to an upgraded transmission and torque converter. It also gets 20in wheels, much leather and Alcantara, a Brembo brake system, lowered sports suspension and a carbon fibre lip spoiler.

Says Mr Hennessey: “This vehicle is designed for the performance minded driver who live in Aspen or Moscow and wants to be the fastest in all weather conditions.”

Or indeed, the driver who enjoys plastering looks of sheer surprise across supercar owners at the lights. Yikes. Just 24 will be built, with prices starting from £150,000 ($235,000).