New Car: 2011 Audi A7

With many automakers expanding their lineups to satisfy every niche in the market, some previously thin segments have exploded with entries. One of the most notable is the four-door coupe. The Mercedes-Benz CLS-class kicked off the trend, of course, and the segment now includes stuff as varied as the Volkswagen CC and the Aston Martin Rapide. Heck, we wouldn’t call you crazy if you argued that the idea influenced the design of the latest Hyundai Sonata. The idea behind all of them: Combine sultry styling with four-door practicality, and, in some cases, hatchback versatility. The latest from Audi, this sexy A7 Sportback, is one that hits all three notes.

The A7 actually is the second recent Audi to play this tune, but it will be the only one sold in the U.S.; the 2010 A5 Sportback will remain forbidden fruit. But we don’t mind that we had to wait for such a four-ringer, as we feel the swoopy styling looks even more fantastic stretched over the A7’s longer, 114.6-inch wheelbase. You might notice that figure puts the A7 size-wise in between the latest 2011 A8 (117.8-inch wheelbase) and the current A6 (111.9), which could lead to some confusion over this car’s origins. Let’s put that to rest: The A7’s underpinnings are more closely related to the A6’s, specifically those of the next­-generation A6, which is due out for 2012.

Up front, the A7 wears the latest interpretation of Audi’s trapezoidal grille, as well as the brand’s now-signature LED running lights. Two lower intakes mirror the shape of the headlight housings, but they don’t house fog lights; those are integrated into the standard xenon headlights themselves. Eighteen-bulb, full-LED headlamps like those available on the A8 and R8 5.2 are an option on the A7.

The side and rear views are the most memorable to our eyes. What Audi dubs a “tornado line” gently arches from the upper corner of the headlight, flattening out as it moves rearward to the LED-lit taillight. This sharp crease defines the A7’s shoulders, and serves as a nice complement to the graceful roofline. The power-operated hatch’s large rear backlight flows into a hidden, automatically deploying spoiler that rises above 81 mph and retracts below 50. Eighteen-, 19-, or 20-inch wheels sit below subtle flares that contribute to an overall look of understated elegance, an impression further enhanced by the fact that the car is just 55.9 inches high. For reference, the A6 is 57.4 inches tall.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

New Car; 2011 Mercedes CL-Class AMG

Low-flying private jets, tire-liquefying gentlemen’s expresses—whatever you call Mercedes’ CL63 and CL65 AMG models, they’re going to take more names and kick more assumptions to the curb after a 2011 refresh. There are the expected visual tweaks, but the real action is under the surface, where new electronic gadgets join a revised engine lineup.

For 2011, the CL63 drops its naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 in favor of the new twin-turbo, 5.5-liter direct-injected V-8 engine also found in the four-door S63 AMG. The new powerplant makes 536 hp at 5500 rpm—that’s a full 100 hp more than a base Corvette—and a generous 590 lb-ft of torque from as low as 2000 rpm, and is coupled to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Mercedes says 0–60 mph can be accomplished in as little as 4.4 seconds; top speed is governed to a mere 155 mph. We hit 60 in 4.3 seconds with the comparatively wimpy 518-hp 2008 CL63, so either Mercedes is being its usual conservative self or the 2011 CL63’s additional 125 lb-ft of torque is further souring the tractional relationship between the rear tires and the pavement.

But when you’re spending serious six-digit money on a Mercedes, why would you settle for the base version? The optional AMG Performance package uncorks another 27 hp and 74 lb-ft of torque—resulting in very impressive totals of 563 hp and 664 lb-ft—and increases the top-speed limiter to 186 mph.

For what it’s worth, Mercedes claims the new engine will be 27 percent more fuel-efficient than the outgoing 6.2-liter mill; the car even includes a gas-saving engine stop/start feature when in Comfort mode. So that will surely help sales.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

Hot News: Porsche Confirms Electric Car

It’s official, Porsche is going battery powered! The firm has confirmed that it is in the process of building three electric Boxsters which will begin testing in Stuttgart next year.

Not only will the cars provide Porsche with a test bed for its electric powertrain, the Boxsters will be fitted with black box recorders to log every single input made by the driver, giving the firm’s engineers an insight into how an electric Porsche might be used.

The project was confirmed by Porsche CEO Michael Macht, who said “we will definitely be offering an electric sports car in future. But such a concept only makes sense if it offers product qualities typical of a Porsche.”

The all-electric car joins Porsche’s ever-growing lineup of alternatively powered vehicles, which includes the hybrid Cayenne and GT3 R hybrid racer. The firm will introduce a hybrid Panamera next year, and is also expected to officially confirm production of the hybrid 918 Spyder supercar later this year. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Unofficial Picture: 2011 Audi A7

Audi has sprung a leak! These are the first pictures of the firm’s A7 Sportback, which have hit the web in advance of the car’s media debut tonight.

Just four images have been leaked, but they reveal that the newcomer retains many of styling clues from the distinctive A7 Sportback concept which was shown at the Detroit Motor Show in 2009.

Official details will be confirmed at tonight’s unveil which will be held at the Pinakothek der Moderne München, a modern art museum in Munich.For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

New Car: 2011 Ford Explorer

Why retain the name? Ford was more than happy to tell us that 96 percent of American consumers recognize the Explorer nameplate, something the company views as an automatic plus. We have to wonder, though, how many of those folks might have a negative perception of the Explorer name—after all, BP probably has similarly high brand recall, but it certainly wouldn’t qualify as the sort of marketing coup that translates to increased sales.

Speaking of petrochemicals, one of the new Explorer’s big “stories” (as PR folks like to say) is the smaller amount of fuel it’s expected to burn. Like the Taurus and Flex with which it shares its architecture, the Explorer will come standard with a 3.5-liter V-6, this one featuring variable valve timing for both camshafts. Output is higher than in other applications, at 290 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque. Ford expects a minimum 20-percent fuel-mileage improvement from the 3.5-liter compared to the outgoing Explorer’s ancient 4.0-liter V-6, which scores 13 mpg city/19 highway in four-wheel-drive trim. (The 292-hp V-8, which will not return, was slightly more efficient than the 4.0-liter.)

As with all other D-platform offerings, which also include the Lincoln MKS and MKT, the Explorer’s optional engine will be one of Ford’s EcoBoost-branded mills. But it won’t be the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6; instead Ford plans to charge a premium for a turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder. It’s less powerful than the standard six, making 237 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. This one sounds like a tough sell to us, even with its expected fuel-economy boost of 30 percent over the outgoing 4.0-liter. Ford defends the 2.0-liter’s higher price by citing the complexity and cost associated with turbocharged engines. The fact that the engine is built in Spain and then shipped to Ford’s Chicago plant for installation can’t help, either.

Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive will be standard across the board, while all-wheel drive is only available with the 3.5-liter V-6. The all-wheel-drive system includes a knob to control a Range Rover–esque “Terrain Management system,” which allows the driver to tailor throttle response, shift pattern, stability and traction control, and all-wheel-drive torque split for specific situations. Snow mode reduces throttle sensitivity, makes shifts less aggressive, and upshifts sooner to keep the revs low. Choosing Sand mode provides more aggressive shifts at low speed, keeps the transmission in lower gears, and increases throttle sensitivity. The Mud setting disables traction control, has a less aggressive shift schedule than Sand, and raises the yaw threshold of the stability control to allow some sliding without getting bogged down. The everyday Normal setting has the all-wheel-drive system acting primarily through the front wheels, shuttling power to the rear wheels only when traction limits dictate. There’s no low range, but hill-descent control is standard.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

New Car: 2011 Volkswagen Caddy

It’s time to tee up a new Caddy. After being on sale for six years and selling nearly 800,000 units in total, VW has given its trusty van a makeover, which promises to up quality, refinement and economy.

The Caddy adopts the latest VW family look which features on the current Polo and Transporter. A simple two-bar grille dominates the front, while roof rails can be specced for the first time. At the rear, the van gets revised light clusters for a classier look.

On the inside, there are new instruments, steering wheels and sat-nav systems which have plucked from the latest Golf range. For the first time, the second row of seats is completely removable on all models, allowing for a maximum cargo capacity of 3,030-litres on the five-seater Caddy, and up to 3,880-litres on the Caddy Maxi.

Under the bonnet, there are four diesels to choose from. There are two 1.6-litre units, with 74bhp or 101bhp; and two 2.0-litre units, with 108bhp or 138bhp. VW’s seven-speed DSG gearbox and 4MOTION four-wheel drive will be available on some models.

A BlueMotion version which uses the 74bhp 1.6-litre engine, and features stop start, helps return fuel consumption of 57mpg and carbon dioxide emissions of 129 g/km. VW claims this version will manage 735 miles on one tank of fuel.

The newcomer is set to makes its debut at the Hanover Van Show in September, where more details and prices of the UK cars will be released. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Spied: 2012 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

When we first saw these photos, we were pretty sure this Camaro-shaped vehicle was a Chevrolet, but someone managed to deftly tape over the trunklid badge. How could we be sure? Then we noticed the bow tie on the door, and came to the airtight conclusion that this car is indeed a Chevy. But what’s under the hood?

Luckily, in another sticker-related misstep, someone opened the door and revealed one of the most poorly placed communiqués we’ve ever seen: a tag on the dash that confirms that this is a Camaro Z28—a vehicle often rumored but not officially announced. Even better, the sticker reveals that this mule is powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 backed up by a six-speed automatic transmission. Chances are very good that this is the Cadillac CTS-V’s LSA powerplant, which is rated there for 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque, as opposed to the higher-powered LS9 V-8 from the Corvette ZR1. Chances are equally good that the Camaro Z28 also will be offered with the CTS-V’s six-speed manual. So, in a sense, you can think of the Z28 as the bow-tie version of the CTS-V coupe, and the ultimate in attainable Chevy awesome.

The tape and camo is thwarting our ability to discern all of the styling changes, but we do note a few. The rocker panels might be reshaped, and there’s a new rear fascia with quad pipes sticking out. (The current top-dog Camaro, the SS, sports dual exhaust pipes.) And we bet the mosquito netting up front is hiding some mean-looking grillework. The matte-black rims are wrapped in wide, Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, and there’s some seriously big brake hardware on display.

Obvious competition will come from the 550-hp, supercharged Mustang Shelby GT500 and Dodge’s naturally aspirated Challenger SRT8, the latter of which is expected to be bulking up from 6.1 to 6.4 liters in the near future. Then there are the myriad tuned Camaros; we’ve reviewed both a supercharged Camaro SS from Lingenfelter and Hennessey’s LS9-powered HPE700 Camaro.

And while we usually have to make an educated guess as to when prototypes such as this will appear in showrooms, that info also was revealed by the dash sticker. Expect this awesomest of factory Camaros for the 2012 model year. We predict a Detroit auto show reveal in January, and expect sales to commence by the fall of next year.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

Hot News: Skoda City Car is Go

The smallest Skoda is up and running! The company’s first proper city car will be based on VW’s Up! – and will be its most frugal model to date.

Due to launch after the Up! debuts in 2012, the four-seater is expected to be badged Joyster – taking the name of the original Skoda small car concept from 2006. The urban runabout will rival the likes of the Toyota iQ and Peugeot 107, and will be conventional front-wheel drive after VW ditched the original rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive format.

The switch was partly to allow other VW Group brands such as Skoda and SEAT – as well as new partner Suzuki – to build variants for markets around the world, including the UK. Engine details are still to be confirmed, but the Skoda is likely to get a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol and a 1.2 three-cylinder diesel. Performance will be brisk, yet the focus will be on low emissions – with a sub-80g/km output for the diesel and less than 100g/km for the petrol.

The cheapest Skoda is set to start at just under £7,500. And as with the VW, an all-electric version will follow. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Hot News: Citroen Considers to Produce Metropolis & Survolt

Citroen is working on bringing two of its recent concepts to production: the Metropolis upmarket saloon, which could be badged DS9, and the Survolt sports car.

Citroen’s attempt at breaking into the European executive saloon market with the current C6 hasn’t been successful, but PSA design boss Jean-Pierre Ploué told Autocar that Citroën must persevere, and the Metropolis is the model that could do this, coming to European showrooms as a range-topping DS model.

“We cannot afford to let the likes of Audi, Mercedes and BMW forge into Citroën’s heartland supermini territory without fighting back and pushing into theirs,” he said.

He added: “Selling large luxury cars in Europe is not easy at the moment, but I believe Citroën has a great deal more to bring to the market.

“A large, characterful DS flagship model — we could call it a DS9 to reference the original DS19 — could do great things for us.”

Ploué also suggested that developing such a car for the Chinese market, and badging it as a Citroën, would be a sound financial bet.

The Survolt project, meanwhile, has produced a running prototype that gave a demonstration run at the Le Mans Classic race meeting. It has an identical specification to the concept car, giving it 248bhp and 738lb ft of torque.

“It’s still our intention to put the Survolt into low-volume production, and we’re pursuing the idea of a one-make race series,” our source confirmed.

Thanks to: Autocar

Hot News: Lotus Confirms New Supercar

Lotus has officially confirmed that it will show a concept for an upmarket supercar at the Paris motor show in September.

In the latest of a series of cryptic statements, the Malaysian-owned, Norfolk-based sports car company reveals its new show car will be “perhaps even more” than a replacement for the mid-engined Esprit supercar — which it pointedly reminds us was first unveiled as a Giugiaro-designed concept at the Paris show exactly 35 years ago.

Lotus has been working for at least three years on various iterations of an Esprit replacement, but the company’s latest management, led by ex-Ferrari commercial boss Danny Bahar, has signalled a decisive move upmarket for all future products, apparently into Ferrari-Aston territory.

Lotus spokesmen are hazy about future product, but agree that the new concept is an accurate guide to their future intentions for production models.

When sales ended in 2004, volume of the old Esprit — which lasted 18 years through a dozen different models — amounted to 10,700 cars.
Thanks to: Autocar

Hot News: 2013 Mini Canyon to Compete with Range Rover Evoque?

For a brand with such compact origins, MINI sure has grand plans! Auto Express has uncovered details of what insiders have dubbed the Canyon, a striking three-door model based on the Countryman that’s set to go head-to-head with the Range Rover Evoque.

The Canyon was first put forward in 2005 as one of several ideas for future MINI models. However, it was the Beachcomber concept – which recalled the original
Mini Moke – that emerged as the front-runner for future production. It was turned into a concept and spawned the Countryman crossover.

But strong public response to the concept persuaded bosses that the idea of a fun and fashionable crossover spun off the Countryman had a strong chance of success.

The Canyon aims to realise MINI’s performance aspirations and is positioned above the Countryman on which it’s based, much like the forthcoming MINI Coupé is with the regular hatch. That car shares the same underpinnings as the Countryman, but with a dramatic roofline and two-seat interior.

The Canyon is likely to use a shortened version of the Countryman’s chassis, giving it two doors and a striking exterior design which features a sporty coupé-like roofline.

On the inside, four John Cooper Works-inspired seats upholstered in leather and Alcantara add to the upmarket feel. Under the skin, the Canyon will use the ALL4 four-wheel-drive system as standard, and be powered by the 208bhp 1.6-litre turbo engine from the JCW car. A 201bhp 2.0-litre diesel from BMW’s
X1 is also likely to be offered.

By expanding its all-road range, MINI is paving the way to an increasingly likely entry into the World Rally Championship. The series switches to 1.6-litre turbo engines next year, making the Canyon a prime candidate to be turned into a rally car with specialist Prodrive the favourite to run the project.

MINI’s Oxford factory will be running at full capacity once production of the Coupé and Roadster begins next year. So the Canyon would join the Countryman in being built at the Magna Steyr factory in Graz, Austria, but a production car is unlikely until 2012.

The Canyon would also spawn a car inspired by the Beachcomber to launch a year later, with a stripped-out interior and removable roof panels. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Hot News: GM India to Release Electric Vehicle at 2012/2013

General Motors India may launch its first electric car in 2012-13. And that will be a compact car which is currently under development. The global launch of the car is scheduled for next year.

Speaking to Autocar India, Karl Slym, President & MD, GM India said the mini electric car will be suitable for congested traffic condition in our cities, and the introduction could be “within a couple of years”. Earlier this year, GM had showcased a purely electric concept car called Electric Networked Vehicle or EN-V in China. Responding to a query on the possible India launch of GM’s much hyped electric car –Volt, Slym said that he’s “not sure” if there’s a market for the Volt in India. The Volt’s global launch is scheduled for November this year.

Around that time, GM India will launch a LPG version of its Beat, followed by a 1-litre diesel engine powered Beat early in 2011. The company launched a CNG version of its Aveo sedan with a price tag of Rs. 6.31 lakh ex-showroom, Mumbai.

Buoyed by good demand in the market, GM India expects to sell 1.2—1.3 lakh cars during this year, as against 69579 cars in 2009. The company has sold 60227 cars during during the first six months of this year, and will surpass last year’s total sales in August.

Thanks to: Autocar India

Spied: 2013 Mercedes S-Class

This is the latest spy pics of the next Mercedes S-class in testing.

Mercedes is preparing to give its new S-class some curves — although the firm has done its best to disguise it by covering this early test hack with extensive cladding.

Due by the end of 2012, this next-generation S-class — codenamed W222 — is expected to adopt key styling cues from the F700, the swoopy concept car displayed at the Detroit show in 2007.

This mule is clearly based on a current model, although the blacked-out headlamps, dummy front grille, new front bumper and a sizeable disguise over the boot and tail-lights hint at the key areas for the new look.

At the heart of the revised range will be Mercedes’ new V6 and V8 MoVe petrol powerplants, which will trickle out across the firm’s line-up from this autumn.

The V6 has a narrow-angle block, stop-start technology and revised direct injection that improves fuel economy over the old-spec unit’s by as much as 24 per cent.

The V8 engine replaces the old 5.4-litre motor by reducing capacity (to 4.6 litres) but adding twin turbochargers. It has 429bhp, a 12 per cent increase, and 32 per cent more torque, but improved fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

Diesel options are likely to include the smallest oil-burner ever offered in the model. Called S250 CDI, it will have a 204bhp 2.1-litre, four-cylinder motor. The same engine could also be used as the basis for a mild hybrid variant to sit alongside a petrol hybrid that will be based on a direct-injection V6 and new battery technology from LiTec.

The next S-class had been expected to use Mercedes’ radical Diesotto powerplant. Claimed to blend the characteristics of petrol and diesel engines, the unit has been showcased in a current model.

However, sources in Germany say the motor’s development has been knocked back in the schedule to allow Mercedes to fast-track work on hybrid technology. It’s now unlikely to appear in an S-class for at least two generations.

Thanks to: Autocar

New Car: 2011 BMW X3

The second-generation BMW X3 will be among the most economical and efficient mid-sized off-roaders on sale when it reaches the UK in January, the company claims.

The entry-level 181bhp, 2.0-litre manual X3 xDrive20d will offer combined economy of 50.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 149g/km. That trumps the Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 170 by 4.8mpg and 14g/km.

Set to be unveiled at the Paris motor show in October, the new X3 has been thoroughly re-engineered inside and out. But, once again, it is the new off-roader’s styling that’s sure to stir controversy.

The X3’s exterior blends styling elements from the smaller X1 and larger X5 in a five-door body that has a familiar silhouette and, significantly, larger rear door apertures than the outgoing model for easier access.

The new off-roader has grown, but not by as much as was expected after the introduction of the more affordable X1. Length is up by 78mm to 4648mm, width decreases by an incremental 4mm at 1855mm and height rises by 14mm at 1675mm.

The wheelbase has also grown by 15mm to 2810mm, providing the basis for a 70-litre increase in luggage capacity to 550 litres.

Inside, there’s a new dashboard, multi-function steering wheel, revised seats and more elegant trims — all at a quality level on a par with the 3-series. BMW hopes that this will silence critics of the outgoing X3’s dowdy interior. Equipment levels have been improved, although UK pricing has yet to be fixed.

As well as the 181bhp 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel in the xDrive20d, BMW will introduce the new X3 with a 302bhp, 3.0-litre, turbocharged straight six petrol in a more luxurious xDrive35i range-topper.

The diesel will come with the choice of either a standard six-speed manual gearbox or an optional ZF-engineered eight-speed automatic. The xDrive35i will get the auto as standard, allowing it to hit 62mph in 5.7sec and a 152mph top speed. It will also return a claimed 32.1mpg and emit 204g/km of CO2.

Both gearboxes offer a standard stop-start function and operate in combination with a brake energy recuperation system. Further efficiency savings are made through a new electric power steering system.

Further X3 models are planned for the UK, including a 254bhp 3.0-litre xDrive28i petrol and a 201bhp xDrive23d that has a twin-turbocharged, four-cylinder diesel. But they are unlikely to go on sale until at least this time next year.

As with today’s X3, the new model will be available exclusively with four-wheel drive. No rear-wheel-drive version is planned for the UK, although BMW is still considering introducing such a model in North America.

Chassis developments for the new off-roader include new double wishbone front suspension and variable damping that incorporates BMW’s Dynamic Control system, which also influences the throttle, engine, steering and dynamic stability control mapping.

Production of the new X3 will take place at BMW’s Spartanburg facility in North America alongside the X5 and X6. By contrast, the first-generation X3 was produced at Magna in Graz, Austria — the same factory BMW has tapped to turn out the new Mini Countryman.

Thanks to: Autocar

Hot News: Mercedes Plans to Release Golf Rival?

Plans for a hot new Mercedes are hatching out! This is the German firm’s stunning replacement for the A-Class – and it’s taking a big swing at Volkswagen’s Golf.
Auto Express has learned that the three-pointed star is readying a new small car to tackle the Golf, Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series. The vehicle is part of the luxury brand’s bid to steal younger customers from its arch rivals.

Based on a new front-wheeldrive platform, the compact hatchback will take its design cues from the F800 concept, which was revealed at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

Our exclusive illustrations give you the best idea of how the Golf-sized machine will look. And with a prominent grille, neat LED headlights, plus bold creases in its flanks and pert tail, it’s every inch the desirable, upmarket small car. Expect both three and five-door models to be available, along with a range of super-efficient petrol and diesel engines with stop-start.

As well as its stylish shape, the newcomer will boast a better-quality cabin than the Golf, plus increased comfort and safety. Prices will be higher, too, with sales beginning in 2012. The model is likely to wear the A-Class badge, and will be one of four key vehicles to come from Mercedes’ new front-wheel-drive architecture.
“In the next couple of years, we will launch additional cars where we don’t currently have predecessors,” global sales and marketing boss Dr Joachim Schmidt told Auto Express. “Our current A-Class and B-Class will be replaced by a new platform for four totally different cars defining new segments for Mercedes.”

Schmidt confirmed these models would not resemble the current A-Class and B-Class. Their MPV practicality has appealed more to older drivers. The new Golf-rivalling A-Class is due in two years’ time, while a compact high-roofed five-door B-Class with hybrid and electric options is slated for late 2011.

In 2013, the quartet will be completed by a small 4x4 or 2x4 ‘crossover’ to take on BMW’s X1. Following the Geneva unveiling of the F800 (see panel, opposite), there are also plans for a small four-door coupé, possibly badged BLS, which will aim to replicate the success of the larger CLS.

“If you want young customers, you need to have a brand that is sexy and sporty,” explained Schmidt. “The reason we didn’t get this customer before was, in my opinion, not a brand issue, but a product issue.”

And it doesn’t stop there. Mercedes is planning a further youth-focused model to rival the forthcoming Audi A1 and BMW supermini. But this car is more likely to be badged as a Smart to replace the critically panned and unsuccessful four-door, four-seater ForFour.

It will be built on the same rear-wheel-drive platform as Renault’s groundbreaking Twizy electric model, as part of the recent small vehicle tie-up announced between the two car giants. The new range aims to lower the average age of Mercedes’ customer profile – 45 years old in the US and 55 in Germany – without alienating older customers. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Spied: 2011/2012 Dodge Challenger

Since the production Dodge Challenger first debuted, we've wondered how Dodge will go about updating the retro-styled muscle car without losing its unique flavor. Now we know: with small, almost unnoticeable tweaks to the iconic shape.

These photos recently surfaced on the Internet and purport to show the first update of the modern Challenger, rumored to be a 2011 model. You'll have to look close to see the changes, but they're there. Zoom in on the front fascia and you'll notice that the lower air intake has essentially been flipped upside-down and is now wider at the bottom than the top, the opposite of the current car. Above that, you'll notice that the Ram head Dodge emblem is gone from the nose.

There are a few more changes around the side. The current car's flush-mounted door handles appear to have been replaced with new units that, while not as sleek, look to be a major improvement over the current handles, which are difficult to pull without losing your grip. There also appear to be slightly revised five-spoke wheels to finish the update. Despite appearances, they aren't actually black; they're covered with a protective plastic coating for transport.

Much as we enjoy getting spy shots, these leave us wanting more. We can't see the back of the car or the interior, which is rumored to be getting a much-needed update for 2011 as well. We'd also love to see under the hood, where the Challenger is expected to ditch its old 3.5-liter V-6 for the new 3.7-liter Pentastar with at least 280 horsepower. The model pictured here is actually an R/T with a 5.7-liter V-8 that isn't expected to be updated, but in addition to the new six, we'd also like a peak at the rumored update to the SRT-8's 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 that's said to now offer nearly 500 horsepower.
Thanks to: Motor Trend

Spied Up Date: 2011 Mercedes CLS

Either Mercedes-Benz has a serious leak, or it's trying hard to get our attention. While visiting company headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, a lucky visitor spotted a completely unclothed 2011 CLS sedan, making it the fourth leaked Mercedes we've seen this week.

Like the current CLS, the vehicle pictured features sporty coupe looks wrapped in a sedan body. The sedan's C-pillar flows into the trunk area, while the short window openings continue with the coupe theme. Several new features presented on the new model give it an updated look, but its overall stance is much more muscular than the rounded lines of some recent Mercedes models.

Last February, we took a look at a rendering of the car that seems to have been near spot-on, judging by what we see in this example. The front grille is much more upright than the current generation's, and as with the current CLS, chrome trim surrounds the window openings. An additional band of chrome around the car's lower waist gives it a more refined appearance.

There's no official word on powertrain options, but we wouldn't be surprised to eventually see either of Mercedes' new 4.6 or 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-8s, and possibly a hot AMG model. Stay with us as more details emerge about the revised CLS.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

New Car: 2011 Ferrari 458 Challenge

At Ferrari’s annual dealer meeting in Maranello, the company provided a little surprise when it took the wraps off of its newest track star, the 458 Challenge.

The 458 Challenge, like the 430 Challenge before it, is the prancing stallion’s factory offering for its one-make Challenge race series. And also like the car before it, the 458 Challenge is closely related to its roadgoing sibling, in this case, the 458 Italia. Ferrari says that the Italia's 4.5-liter V-8 engine will remain in production tune, producing 562 hp when wound to a shrieking 9000 rpm. The torque curve, however, will look a bit different; Ferrari has tweaked the gear ratios and calibration of the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to favor torque at lower engine speeds.

As is usually the case with any new Ferrari, whether it's a brand new model or a special edition, the 458 Challenge heaps on the technology. The electronic "E-Diff" differential, already in place on regular 458s, makes its debut in a Ferrari track car. A special race-oriented suspension is installed, wherein ride height is reduced by 1.2 inches, and Ferrari has cut weight by deploying carbon fiber and Lexan throughout the car. The 458 Challenge also adds new-generation Brembo brakes, which debuted on the 599XX, and Ferrari's trick F1-Trac traction-control system that allows drivers to select two specific track-biased settings for dry to wet conditions. According to Ferrari, these enhancements translate into a two-second improvement over the 430 Challenge when lapping its Fiorano test track.

So, who (amongst the obscenely wealthy) will have the opportunity to buy a 458 Challenge? Ferrari describes the car as being available to both professional and "gentlemen" drivers, but it is unavailable for street use, because what fun would it be to explore your new 562-hp mid-engine screamer on the interstate?

Thanks to: Car and Driver

New Car: 2011 Peugeot 308 GT200

Bon Anniversaire Peugeot! To celebrate its 200th birthday the firm has launched a 200bhp version of the 308 hatchback and it comes with a free satellite navigation-enabled smartphone.

The 308 GT THP 200 uses the 200bhp 1.6-litre THP turbocharged petrol engine from the RCZ coupe, making it by far the most powerful 308 on sale.

Offering a discreet appearance, the GT features a revised front bumper, black rear diffuser and twin chrome exhaust pipes.

The interior benefits from Payerne black half-leather sports seats, a black lacquered fascia panel, leather sports steering wheel and aluminium pedals, footrest and gearknob.

Costing £21,995, the GT achieves CO2 emissions of159g/km. Buyers of the GT in July will also receive a free Nokia 5230 smartphone and mounting kit which effectively doubles up as a satellite navigation with free map updates.

The car comes in six body colours including Bianca White, Nera Black, Aluminium, Shark Grey, Ipanema Blue and Babylon Red. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

New Car: 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee S-Limited

Next year sees the arrival of a new Jeep Grand Cherokee. So the firm has loaded up its existing car with extra kit to clear space in its showrooms. Just 250 Grand Cherokee S-Limited models will be made available, with prices starting from £33,995.

Using the Limited-spec as its base, for an additional £2,000, the S-Limited adds a glut of leather and aluminium extras to improve both interior and exterior appearance.

The exterior features body-coloured sill extensions and grille, HID headlamps, a rear spoiler, and unique 18-inch 'Arrowhead' design alloys, inspired by the high performance SRT version.

Interior enhancements include a leather steering wheel and gearknob, aluminium bezel trim inserts, aluminium-finish pedals, and a leather covered dashboard binnacle, whilst the front and rear seats are now heated and come trimmed in slate grey leather with suede inserts.

The car comes in four colours – Brilliant Black, Bright Silver, Dark Carbon and Modern Blue – but just one engine features, the 3.0-litre diesel which produces 215bhp. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Hot News: Jaguar's 3-Series Rival Gets Green Light

Jaguar’s ambitious expansion plans have been given the go-ahead. Parent firm TATA Motors has green lit the firm’s plans to create a rival for the BMW 3-Series, which replaces the old X-Type, and the long-awaited F-Type small sports car.

The announcement came in an interview with TATA Motors CEO Carl-Peter Forster, who confirmed Auto Express’s previous story of Jaguar’s new model expansion plans.

Before the new models arrive, Jaguar will unveil estate and long-wheelbase versions of the XF. Jaguar claims that 60 per cent of its XF sales are conquests over rival brands, and the estate is designed increase the model’s appeal in Western Europe, while the stretched version is set to further improve sales in China.

It’s been a long time coming, but the two-seater sportscar will then arrive in 2012. Set to be called XE when it launches, the car is likely to be offered as a coupe and a roadster, and built on a new medium-sized lightweight aluminium platform.

The development of this new chassis will absorb much of TATA’s £1bn per year investment in Jaguar Land Rover. Auto Express understands that the platform will be shared with the next XK. But given Jaguar’s need to keep costs in check, it’s likely that the firm’s new underpinnings will be modular, and could be scaled up or down to underpin the new XE and XK, and the replacement for the X-Type and XF, which is currently made from steel.

Despite killing off the old X-Type, the trend towards downsizing has made a replacement even more likely. The firm has already demonstrated that its XF and XJ models can compete with the established contenders from BMW and Mercedes, so a smaller car to take on the top-selling 3-Series is a priority, inspired by the RD6 concept which debuted at Frankfurt seven years ago. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Sneak Peek Up Date: 2011 Ford Explorer

They can be quite maddening, these constant teaser photos. Ford has been content to litter the Web with strategically cropped images intended to flaunt the 2011 Explorer, and the game continues today. This time, it's the driver's side headlight that we take a peek at, along with a semi-exposed view of the passenger side.

Teased on the Ford Explorer's Facebook page, the headlight photo was recently inducted as the profile picture. Elsewhere, a side profile can also be partially seen, the top portion at least. And in case you haven't seen the rest of the teaser set, we have them all lined up for your ocular pleasure.

Due as a 2011 model, the fifth-generation Explorer will be the first to utilize unibody construction. Ford has kept this project under tight wraps and few official details have poked through the cracks, although a 2.0-liter EcoBoost inline-four is expected to provide over 200 horsepower and return 19 city mpg with front-wheel drive, according to preliminary Ford estimates.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

Spied: 2012 Mercedes SLK AMG

Our spy shooters have caught Mercedes-Benz testing what they believe is the next-generation SLK hardtop convertible in AMG form.

With other automakers like BMW downsizing the engines of performance variants like the M5, you might think AMG would follow suit with the SLK, but our spy photographer isn't so sure.

"Some rumors are talking about a twin-turbo V-6 and others about a twin-turbo V-8 for the AMG," he says. "But this one sure sounded like a V-8."

One giveaway that this is, in fact, an AMG-tuned SLK model are the large brakes and huge quad exhaust pipes in the rear. The 2010 SLK55 AMG produces 360 horsepower from its 5.4-liter V-8 at a price in the high $60,000s. Expect the next-generation car to make about 400 horsepower and achieve better EPA figures than the 2010 car's 14/22 mpg city/highway regardless of whether power comes from a V-6 or V-8.

In front, we see the SLK will adopt styling cues from the SLS AMG, from the long grille to the hood sculpting. LED daytime running lights appear to be part of the package, as well. The photos from behind suggest the SLK will have a more pronounced trunk lid than the current model. Inside, don't be surprised to see plenty of SLS AMG influences.
Thanks to: Motor Trend

New Car: 2011 Peugeot 508

Peugeot has unveiled its new design language — and previewed a big-saloon push in the Chinese market — with its new 508, revealed today.

The French manufacturer’s latest saloon is designed to replace both the Mondeo-rivalling 407 and the larger 607.

Its front end is dominated by headlights that run deep into the wings, a large, wide grille, a Peugeot badge integrated into the bonnet creases, and a name badge that sits just beneath the bonnet shutline. There’s also a pronounced shoulder line that runs the length of the flanks.

The 508 is 4.7m long, around 10mm longer than the 407 but 20mm shorter than the 607, production of which ended last month. The estate version is 4.81m long. The car sits on a platform that also underpins the Citroën C5 and outgoing 407.

The increase in size is likely to signify that the 607’s sales did not merit an entirely new generation and reflect the key role large saloons are playing in the emerging Chinese market.

Few technical details have been released, although Peugeot has revealed that all of the car’s diesel engines will offer stop-start using Peugeot-Citroën’s e-HDi system.

A 508 with Hybrid4 tech will also be launched shortly after sales start. It combines a combustion engine driving the front wheels with an electric motor integrated into the rear axle. Peugeot says the Hybrid4 508 will offer four-wheel drive, a combined 200bhp and CO2 emissions of 99g/km.

The 508 will make its public debut at the Paris motor show on 30 September, and sales will begin at the start of 2011. The Chinese-spec models will be built at Peugeot’s own facility there, but European-spec models will be produced in Rennes, France.

Meanwhile, the 407 Coupé is unlikely to be replaced. But a folding hard-top, four-seat convertible 508 — a potential rival for the Volvo C70 — may make production.

Thanks to: Autocar

Spied: 2012 Mercedes M-Class

Mercedes is at it again! Due to go on sale in the second half of 2011 the ML is set to receive a comprehensive makeover from the inside out with both mechanical and styling modifications apparent in the images.

Smaller, more-rounded headlamps join a re-profiled front bumper whilst the rear light clusters now spread onto a wider and more practical bootlid.

The rear window is deeper, with a longer bootlid spoiler combining with weight saving changes under the skin to give increased efficiency and fuel economy.

The engine line-up is unlikely to change with the 3.0 and 4.0-litre diesels and 5.5-litre petrol still sitting below the range-topping 6.2-litre V8 AMG model. Prices will start from around £40,000, rising to around £78,000 for the ML 63 AMG. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Spied: 2012 Mercedes GL-Class

Mercedes is racking up the miles! The latest Merc snapped testing is a heavily-disguised GL. The supersized SUV is due to receive a cosmetic makeover that will bring it into line with Mercedes' new design language, introduced on the latest E-Class.

The chiselled face of the old model will make way for a more aerodynamic snout with a wider grille and rounded lights. These will be joined by a reprofiled bumper that's likely to feature Mercedes' new signature LED running lights.

The rear will see refreshed light clusters and a longer spoiler designed to reduce drag and improve fuel consumption figures. Mercedes is keen to improve efficiency in all its models so expect the latest GL to feature some weight savings and aerodynamic aids.

It will continue to share engines with the ML with 3.0-litre BlueEfficiency and 4.0-litre diesels joined by the 5.5-litre petrol range-topper, all putting power through Mercedes' 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox.

The revised GL is set to go on sale in early 2011 with prices starting at around £55,000. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Spied: 2011 Mercedes C-Class Coupe

The C-cret is out. Snapped virtually undisguised for the first time is the Mercedes C-Class Coupe. The newcomer replaces the ageing CLC and is set to join the C-Class range early next year when facelifted versions of the saloon and estate arrive.

The new coupe will retain the front and rear ends from the C-Class saloon whilst featuring just two-doors and a unique roofline and windows. What remains disguised is the rear side window which is expected to feature a distinct design trait unique to Mercedes, in the same vein as BMW’s Hofmeister kink.

Buyers should expect the Coupe to use the smaller units shared with the rest of the C-Class range. The 1.6-litre and 1.8 petrols and 2.1-litre diesel are likely to be offered, as prices for the Coupe are expected to remain slightly lower than the saloon as Mercedes looks to retain customers who would originally have opted for a CLC.

The car continues Mercedes’ new coupe naming policy. The CLK has become the E-Class Coupe, and this new car will become the C-Class Coupe. Only the CLS retains its own, distinct model designation, while the CL-Class is likely to become S-Class Coupe when the next generation S-Class arrives.

A new generation C-Class saloon and estate range is due in 2013. However, the C-Class Coupe will overlap this, remaining on sale with the current car’s look until 2014, when it will be replaced by a baby version of the CLS. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

New Car: 2011 Nissan X-Trail

Nissan have announced that they will be releasing a revised X-Trail for the Japanese market. Since the X-Trail In India also is a direct import from Japan, it will be launched in India in the coming months. The biggest change in the 4X4 will be the inclusion of a 6-speed automatic transmission (with manual shift mode) matted to the 2.0 liter “M9R” Clean Diesel engine.

The MR9 engine is a joint venture development with Renault, which was made to meet Japan’s strict emission regulations. A host of technologies such as Piezo-electric injectors, diesel particulate filter (DPF), and lean NOx-trap catalysts are featured in this engine making it more efficient. The standard engine produces 170hp and 359Nm of torque. This figure is comparable to a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine, available from way down in the rev range.

Cosmetic changes to the car include a slightly revised exterior which include a new front grille, front bumper, new head lights, LED tail lights and a sportier front end. This will sit on redesigned 17-inch aluminium wheels with revised tyre sizes.

Moving on inside, larger dials and a vehicle information display system provide the driver with fuel consumption figures and upcoming maintenance schedules while the glove compartment comes standard with refrigeration and heat retention capabilities. Advanced Hill Descent Control system (with a speed-setting function) will be available for 4 wheel drive models, which enables the driver to set their desired speed while climbing up a steep hill.
Thanks to: Autocar India

Hot News: Talbot to be Resurrected

The Talbot brand could be set for resurrection as PSA Peugeot-Citroen seeks to increase its presence in emerging markets. According to reports in a Spanish newspaper, the French group has undertaken a study of the best way to combat rival Renault’s Dacia brand, and the resurrecting the Talbot brand it owns is the front-runner.

Cars badged as Talbots will differ significantly from the rest of the Peugeot-Citroen ranges, and are due to be built at Citroen’s Vigo plant in Spain from 2012. The cars will replace the Peugeot 206 and first generation Citroen C3, which are currently sold as budget offerings in some countries.

PSA President, Philippe Varin, is keen to differentiate between the range of low cost cars and other vehicles manufactured by the group. He sees the low-cost cars as "not compatible" with the PSA’s current commercial policy.

So Talbot will be resurrected for the Middle East, Asian and Africa markets, while the core Peugeot and Citroens continue to be sold in more mature markets where the more luxurious Citroen DS range and Peugeot 508 about to come on stream. For more details click here.
Thanks to: Auto Express

Hot News: Lotus' Product Blitz

Radical changes are taking place at Lotus. Auto Express has learned that a raft of new models will debut at the Paris Motor Show in October, including a new Esprit (pictured), two new front-engined GT cars and a new roadster. The models will appear in the form of concepts at the French event.

The news comes as the company served all of its European dealerships with notice. The shock move means all of their contracts to sell Lotus cars will come to an end in July 2012, as part of plans to completely overhaul the dealer network.The Norfolk-based company has confirmed that current dealers will be able to apply for new contracts under new terms.

More will be revealed at Paris, where the firm's five-year plan to dramatically increase profitability through its new range of more upmarket models, which will challenge Porsche and Ferrari more closely, will be outlined. For more details click here
Thanks to: Auto Express

Hot News: 2013 McLaren F1

McLaren will launch a follow-up to its iconic F1 hypercar in 2012, more than two years earlier than originally planned.

A successor to the F1 had been expected later in the decade as McLaren instead focused its efforts on setting up a new car company from scratch, developing and marketing the MP4-12C and establishing a dealer network to sell its models through.

McLaren insiders have told Autocar, however, the firm is working flat-out on a new F1, a car described as a “revolutionary” hypercar and one which will be instantly recognisable as such. This is in contrast to the MP4-12C, which has been criticised for its unadventurous styling.

The new F1 is the subject of an intensive development programme said to be among the speediest the industry has yet seen.

The new F1 will be mid-engined and will feature a carbonfibre monocoque similar in concept to the MP4-12C’s. Despite its creators’ radical approach, it will still bear some similarities to the original F1. These, however, are largely coincidental and it is not yet clear whether the car will feature the same central driving seat as its predecessor.

As with the MP4-12C and the original 1992 F1, major emphasis has been placed on saving weight; the new F1 is expected to pioneer many new solutions in this field.

It will also feature novel wheel and lighting designs, both contributing much to its distinctive look. There’s no word yet on the car’s powertrain, but it is expected to break new ground, possibly with some low emission solutions. Standard-setting suspension is also a certainty.

The F1 successor will be the second of McLaren’s trio of new models – the third is thought to slot beneath the £150,000 MP4 12C. The planned price of the F1 successor is unknown, but it’s likely to be substantially more than the 12C. But rather than a limited edition, as the F1 was, it is expected be a regular series model.

Thanks to: Autocar

Spied: 2011 Ford Kuga

Ford's Kuga has a fresh new face! Our spies caught this black car out testing, and the concealing tape around the grille and at the rear disguise a range of subtle cosmetic updates for the baby 4x4.

These exterior visual tweaks - including a new, more aggressive grille design, body coloured side skirts, and 19in alloys - are part of a luxurious new range topping 'Individual' spec that conicides with recent mechanical additions to the SUV, and will be available as an additional option pack on Titanium models from August 2nd.

The Interior is also improved, with 'Ebony' leather upholstery, aluminium pedals on manual models, and scuff plates and floor mats with the 'Individual' logo. The cost of all the extra kit will be £4,000 including VAT, on top of the Kuga Titanium's £24,495 starting price.

Launched back in 2008, the Kuga was recently updated with a new version of Ford's 2.0-litre TDCi Duratorq diesel engine, which is six percent more efficient than the 131bhp unit it replaces, and is being offered in either 138bhp or 161bhp guises.

Customers can also now spec four-wheel drive versions of the Kuga with Ford's six-speed Powershift dual-clutch automatic transmission, first seen on the Focus, although the auto 'box isn't as economical as its manual counterparts. For more details click here.

Thanks to: Auto Express

Sneak Peek Up Date: 2012 Nissan Quest

In the wake of the newly released 2011 Toyota Sienna and redesigned Honda Odyssey, Nissan is working on the next iteration of its Quest minivan. Details are still sparse, but we do know that the Quest will debut at the L.A. auto show in November and goes on sale in early 2011.

The Quest’s new nose looks somewhat like that of the 2011 Odyssey, and its broad grille and skinny headlights give it a sharper front-end appearance than the outgoing van. The side glass is lined in chrome, while blacked-out B-, C-, and D-pillars give the razor-straight roof a cantilevered look. The rear glass and liftgate appear nearly vertical, which should maximize usable space in the van’s cargo area. Inside, the switchgear and gauges have been updated, and a redesigned dashboard is more upscale, replacing cheap-looking plastic with large swaths of wood trim. We can also see that Nissan’s latest infotainment system sits in the center stack. We’ll need to see the Quest in person to know for sure, but these teaser images seem to show a minivan that has matured and wears its distinctive features better than the previous generation, which just looked weird.

Indeed, the outgoing Quest was too quirky for many buyers when first introduced in 2004; by 2007, Nissan engineers had redesigned it with a more conventional interior. Even so, the Quest was never a strong seller. It finished fourth out of five entries in our most recent minivan comparo, struggling in part due to its still-awkward interior ergonomics.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

New Car: 2011 Volkswagen Vento

Volkswagen has finally unveiled it’s much awaited mid-sizer Vento. Based on an extended Polo platform (its wheelbase is 96mm longer) the Vento aims directly at the Honda City and Maruti SX4.

The Vento will be powered by 1.6-litre diesel and petrol engines, both producing a max power of 105bhp. The torque figures are likely to be around 26kgm and 16kgm for diesel and petrol respectively. The 1.6-litre petrol motor will get a six-speed automatic option along with the five-speed gearbox. The diesel will only be available with five-speed manual transmission.

The new VW sedan sports impressive interiors with solid build quality and class-leading materials on offer. The boot space is adequate, but the fuel tank and suspension struts intrude into it considerably. The rear seats offer plenty of legroom, but headroom could be an issue for taller passengers. The seat bench itself is flat and the long squab means sitting three abreast for long journeys will be a comfortable affair here. The unique feature for India though is the front passenger seat, which can be adjusted from the rear, a feature not found on even the Russian Vento. The rear passengers also get a rear AC vent.

The car will run on 185/60R15 tyres and will feature automatic climate control as well. Another nice touch is the two-tone dark brown/beige interiors combo. However, steering mounted audio controls are missing.

The Vento will be rolled out from Volkswagen’s Chakan plant and is expected to be launched in India by Diwali this year with a price range of Rs 7-9lakh.

Thanks to: Autocar India

Hot News: Ssangyong Backs on Track

Korean brand SsangYong has announced it is bouncing back from two years in financially imposed hiatus with a new board, new capital and distribution partnerships. The company also has a new compact SUV, the Korando C, set for release in Australia later this year.

In launching its new assault on the local market, it has an important and influential ally in Malaysian-based Sime Darby, one of the world's biggest automotive importers and distributors. In Australia, Sime's main wholesale concern is Peugeot.

Long considered something of an oddball in the local auto market, Korea's oldest auto maker has made barely a ripple in the auto media in recent years. That's because it's been in deep trouble at home. It began as the GFC set in, in 2008. The company's majority shareholder, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), pulled the funding plug, sending the company to the wall in November that year -- just a couple of weeks after Sime signed a deal with the company to distribute its product in Australia.

By January 2009, caught between the irresistible force of labour reform imperatives and the immovable object of an intransigent union movement, the SsangYong board threw in the towel and placed the company in the control of the government and the South Korean Court of Receivership. A new board was appointed, triggering a major brawl with the unions and a 77-day strike that extended to street violence. With government backing, the company held out and eventually won the reforms it needed to survive, but it took until December for the Court to accept the company's rehabilitation strategy and set it on track to find a new partner to replace SAIC. The company will be announcing that partner's identity on July 20. Among the applicants are Indian giant Mahindra and a joint venture between the Nissan Renault Alliance and Samsung.

Despite the terrible timing of the 2008 deal, Sime decided to stick with SsangYong, a decision the distributor's local CEO, Rob Dommerson, put down to a combination of his company's deep pockets and the brand's promising value proposition. "More so with the Korando C. It'll stack up well in its segment -- certainly anything coming out of Korea."

SsangYong has expressed its confidence about the product and short-term future with projections of a fourfold production increase, from a total 60,000 units across its lineup in 2010 to 250,000 in 2011.

Mr Dommerson and sales and marketing manager Steven Thomas put Sime's faith down to a number of factors: a strong and loyal core dealer network, even as times got tough; the resolution of supply issues, particularly with the July announcement; value for money and the marketing possibilities of a 100 pc diesel strategy.

In keeping with the latter, the Korando C will come with a "European sourced" 2.0-litre oiler and put its power to the road through a choice of six-speed manual or an Australian-made DSI six-speed auto. Its people remain coy about the source of the engine, at least until the July 20 announcement, after which every aspect of the deal is locked in. The company doesn't want to repeat its 1990s experience, when it incurred the wrath of Daimler by focusing press and consumer attention on the Mercedes-Benz six under the bonnet of its Musso SUV.

Thanks to: Car Point

Hot News: Alfa Romeo Plans 2 New SUVs

Alfa Romeo will launch a brace of soft-roaders sized to compete with the Audi Q5 and forthcoming Audi Q3.

The Q3 rival is likely to be a platform variant of the new Giulietta.

The underpinnings of the bigger SUV have yet to be decided; however, a joint development with Jeep is a possibility.

Alfa Romeo CEO Harald Wester is hoping for a fivefold increase in the firm's global sales - from 100,000 to 500,000 annually - and the two SUVs are said to be an important cornerstone of this expansion.

Thanks to: Autocar

Hot News: Toyota Plans Sporty Hybrid

Toyota’s versatile petrol-electric hybrid system will find its way from the Prius into new models as part of the corporation’s plans to have a hybrid in every range by 2020.

Toyota will produce one million hybrid drivetrains this year, to be used in its Prius and Auris HSD models. It is reluctant to develop a new system for future hybrids, given the proven reliability and cost advantages of its 1.8-litre petrol engine/electric motor/nickel-metal hydride batteries system.

Toyota’s powertrain guru, Gerald Killman, confirmed the company would be launching more hybrids and its current hybrid system could lend itself to sporty driving characteristics.

“Our hybrid technology is adaptable,” he claimed. “There is flexibility in the application of our hybrid system; we don’t want to develop a new one when we can give ours more character.”

Toyota has long been rumoured to be developing a sporty hybrid to rival the Honda CR-Z. The FT-CH concept from the Detroit show in January previewed how such a car might look.

Asked whether new hybrids would also take the Prius name to make a family of cars, Killman said, “That’s for the marketing department to decide.”

Thanks to: Autocar

New Concept Car: Mercedes G-Wagon LAPV 6.X

Mercedes-Benz is well known for its large trucks and security vehicles outside of the United States, and its newest concept -- the G-Wagon LAPV 6.X -- continues to raise the bar at the Mercedes armory.

Officially designated a Light Armoured Patrol Vehicle, the G-Wagon LAPV 6.X builds on the preceding LAPV 5.4 with a higher payload capacity, more armor protection, and greater ground clearance for traversing uneven terrain. Whether you're transporting gold bricks or plutonium rods, the LAPV 6.X can transport up to 1.3 metric tons (2866 pounds) at speeds of up to 93 mph, thanks to a common-rail diesel engine. Curb weight wasn't specified but given the 2010 G550 tips the scales at 5622 pounds, we wouldn't be surprised to see this armored variation meet and exceed four tons.

First unveiled at the Eurosatory defense industry convention in Paris last month, the LAPV 6.X is comprised of a high-strength steel monocoque with the standard G-Class wheelbase of 112.2 inches, a modular armor plating system, and an adjustable air suspension that provides up to 17.7 inches of ground clearance. Based on the available images, this G-Wagon utilizes off-road-worthy portal axles while boasting approach and departure angles of increasingly vertical 50 and 45 degrees, respectively. For maximum traction, the smart tire-inflation system can detect ground conditions and will increase or decrease tire pressures as necessary for best grip.

Helping with the LAPV 6.X's electronics package is the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, a Netherlands-based military and defense technology company. Installed gadgetry includes an EADS vehicle data recorder, an EADS integrated communication system, an EADS integrated mobile command, control, and information system, and an EADS jamming system to keep the baddies away.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

New Car: 2011 Smart ForTwo

With sales slipping in virtually every market, it's obvious that Smart's Fortwo needs a rethink -- but until Daimler and partner Renault can craft a third-generation model, the mild changes incorporated into the 2011 Smart Fortwo will have to suffice.

Externally, the revised Fortwo looks virtually identical to that of the outgoing car, which originally debuted in late 2007. The lower front fascia has been slightly refreshed to accommodate the optional LED daytime running lamps, but little else changes. A new matte green exterior color is now available, and the front fascia, side skirts, and rear fascia can now be painted body color in lieu of the standard charcoal finish. Additionally, the front grille surround and side mirrors will be painted white if a buyer opts for a similar finish for the so-called Tridion safety cell -- virtually the only non-polymer portion of the Smart's exterior.

Inside, the Fortwo is treated to a revised interior, which incorporates both a new instrument cluster and dashboard. Gauges now feature a dark background, while a pair of auxiliary gauges -- a clock and a tachometer -- are now standard equipment. The dashboard itself is fully trimmed in cloth, while a locking glovebox door is a new option. Customers can also enhance the mood within the microcar with optional LED interior lighting.

We're more interested in the new audio systems found in the refreshed Fortwo. The basic stereo unit now includes both a USB and auxiliary audio input, while a new optional multimedia system incorporates a 6.5-inch display, which also incorporates navigation and Bluetooth. The multimedia system can also control an iPod, and can be paired with an optional 320-watt, eight-speaker surround-sound system.

Smart has yet to release details of revised U.S.-spec cars, but Daimler has apparently updated the Fortwo's European engine lineup. The base 800-cc, I-3 turbodiesel was reworked earlier this year to crank out 54 horsepower, 96 pound-feet of torque. Both the 60- and 70-horsepower 1.0-liter I-3 engines have also been retuned as well in order to further reduce emissions and improve fuel economy.

The Brabus Fortwo returns once again, but includes new Monoblock VII aluminum wheels, an updated Brabus sport muffler, and a dressed-up interior. Daimler itself is planning its own special edition model, dubbed the Fortwo Lightshine. The special model will reportedly pair a number of premium options (including the navigation, LED running lamps) with unique 15-inch aluminum wheels, body-color headlamp surrounds, and special emblems placed on both the side mirrors and floor mats.

Smart USA won't discuss specifics about its revised 2011 Fortwo, but expect at least a few of these features (but not the Lightshine model) to carry over when the car goes on sale stateside in the fall of 2010.

Will a mild refresh be enough to respark Smart sales in the U.S., or does Daimler need to completely rethink the Fortwo -- or the Smart brand altogether -- to find success? Send your smart thoughts to us in the comments section below.

Thanks to: Motor Trend

New Car: 2011 Aston Martin V8 Vantage N420

Aston Martin has made a habit of competing in the 24-hour race at Germany’s famed Nürburgring, and of peddling special-edition street cars commemorating its doing so. The company’s big news pertaining to the race this year was the participation of a Rapide sedan, which finished second in its class and 38th overall. The special edition to come out of this year’s race is not based on the Rapide, however, but the V-8 Vantage.

Available either as a coupe or a convertible, with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automated-manual transmission, the N420 is powered by an untouched version of the Vantage’s 4.7-liter V-8. It still makes 420 horsepower, but should sound even more stirring doing so, thanks to a modified exhaust system. (Check out our weekly “Name That Exhaust Note” blog feature to hear the standard V-8 Vantage in action.) The only other mechanical upgrade this Vantage has over standard-issue examples is that it will include the otherwise optional Sport package, comprised of revised springs, shocks, and anti-roll bars.

Visually, the N420 likewise will remain close to other Vantages. Wider rockers are complemented by a front splitter, rear diffuser, and fender vents rendered in carbon fiber, and the fenders are filled with unique 10-spoke wheels with black-painted highlights. Greater differentiation comes courtesy of optional Race Collection paint schemes, which offer contrasting colors on the roof rails and—lipstick-style, as on Aston racing cars—around the grille.

The N420 will make its U.S. debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August. Orders may be placed starting this month, with deliveries to begin in the fourth quarter of 2010. Pricing has yet to be announced, but if it’s much more than a $20,000 premium on top of the Vantage’s roughly $124,000 base price, just spring for the $181,345 V-12 Vantage and get something a lot more special.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

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