Saturday May 28th, 2011 18:10 Volkswagen Inaugurates New American Plant


Earlier this week, Volkswagen inaugurated its new plant in the United States. The new Volkswagen Group plant, situated in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will see over 2,000 employees produce up to 150,000 vehicles each year, and is the first Volkswagen plant to be opened in the United States since a plant in Pennsylvania was closed in 1988. For now, only the Volkswagen Passat will be built at the Chattanooga plant, although the company has left open the possibility of other models being built there in the future.

At the inauguration, attended by a host of prominent characters from politics, business and media, Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, said: “The Volkswagen Group has finally arrived as a local manufacturer in the United States. We are proud to be part of this great automobile nation as a producer, an employer and as a friend and good neighbour to people in the region.”

Volkswagen is investing nearly $1 billion in the development of the Chattanooga facility. The German car manufacturer say that the facility will be one of the most advanced and environmentally friendly automobile plants in the world. The facility relies entirely on energy-saving LED systems for outdoor lighting, and through the use of collected rainwater, water consumption is also lower than at facilities of a similar size. By adopting a painting process that does not involve any filler, CO2 emissions are reduced by around 20%.

The building of the plant in Chattanooga is part of a long term plan by Volkswagen to boost both its market share and its sales in the United States. Volkswagen hopes to win a market share of six percent at the same time as pushing Group sales in the United States to more than a million vehicles per year by 2018.

By building a new version of the Passat that is tailored especially for the needs of American customers, Volkswagen hope to tempt more Americans away from cars such as the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. The new version of the Passat is both bigger and cheaper than the current model. With a starting price of around $20,000, the new Passat will cost customers around $7,000 less than the Passat that is currently on the market.

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Friday May 27th, 2011 14:17 BMW Unveils 75th Anniversary 328 Hommage


Last week, BMW unveiled its 328 Hommage concept car at the Villa d’Este Concours in Italy. Built to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the BMW 328 race car, the two-seater sports-car is specially crafted to mimic the ultra-lightweight design of the original.

The original 328 weighed only 780 kilograms, and in order to create a modern car just as lightweight, BMW have used carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) to construct much of the BMW 328 Hommage‘s exterior and interior. BMW say that CFRP offers the best ratio between weight and stability, and is both lighter and more stable than aluminium.

Harking back to the era of the original 328, the Hommage features leather bonnet straps and distinctive two-part light alloy wheels. The two-seater sports car also tips its hat to its predecessor by employing a more traditional, vertically positioned kidney grille. With its split windscreen and its doorless nature, the BMW 328 Hommage leaves onlookers with no doubt as to where it takes its influences from.

“With the BMW 328 Hommage, we wish to pay homage to the passion and inventiveness of the fathers of the BMW 328. They created an icon, which is considered a milestone in the history of the automobile.” says Karl Bäumer, CEO of BMW Group Classic.

As of yet, BMW have not revealed any official specifications for the Hommage, although they have stated that it will include a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine.

Although it is unlikely to make production, the BMW 328 Hommage concept car certainly managed to impress judges at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, as it managed to win the title of “best of show” in the Concept Cars and Prototypes category there.

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Sunday May 22nd, 2011 15:06 Aston Martin Unveils the V12 Zagato


Aston Martin’s new V12 Zagato was unveiled yesterday at the Villa D’Este Concours on the shores of Lake Como in Italy. The car was built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic DB4GT Zagato, and takes its inspiration from previous collaborations between Aston Martin and the Zagato design house. Previous collaborations have resulted in cars such as the V8 Vantage Zagato and the DB7 Zagato.

Based on the mechanics of the V12 Vantage, the Zagato’s 6.0-litre V12 engine will produce 510bhp and 570 Nm of torque. It is not yet known how quickly it will go from 0-62mph, or what its top speed is.

As building the car’s shell with the use of machines wasn’t possible, Zagato engineers have hand crafted each aluminium design flourish from sheet metal. To show the lengths to which the design house have went to to create the V12 Zagato, each front wing required the working together of seven distinct pieces of metal, and each roof bubble consists of five pieces.

Mark Reichmann, Aston Martin’s Director of Design, says: “The V12 Zagato is an elegant yet brutal design which reflects the great balance between race performance and pure Aston Martin style. The original DB4GT Zagato was a true icon, powerful and graceful; the new design is a true representation of the spirit of DB4GT Zagato. The muscular organic forms define the thoroughbred nature of the car’s racing credentials.”

People looking for a glimpse of the V12 Zagato in action will have to wait until late June, when a racing version of the V12 Zagato will compete in a 24-hour race at the Nürburgring in Germany. It is expected that production of the V12 Zagato will fall well under the 99 units of the DB7 Zagato, but buyers should expect to pay in the region of £200,000 for the latest collaboration between Aston Martin and Zagato.

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Friday May 20th, 2011 16:14 Nissan Launch 370Z GT Edition


It is 40 years since the first performance Z-car appeared in the UK and to mark this anniversary, Nissan has launched the new 370Z GT Edition. The special edition car is also being developed in order to celebrate the Japanese firm’s significant success in global racing.

With distinctive grey GT stripes that run along its flanks, the 370Z GT Edition tips its hat to the original Z-cars of the 1970s. In addition to these stripes, the latest Z-car also features 19-inch RAYS forged alloy wheels.

In order to enable it to adapt to the higher average speeds enjoyed in Europe, changes to the chassis and suspension of the 370Z GT Edition have been made. According to Nissan, dampers have been retuned “to provide the ideal balance between ride comfort and high speed handling.”

The Nissan 370Z GT Edition will also include a rear-view parking camera that appears in the sat-nav screen and a tyre pressure monitoring system. On top of these features, the GT Edition will also have a new ‘snow’ setting for its seven-speed automatic gearbox. This setting has been put in place to prevent the wheels from spinning in slippery conditions, and it does this by controlling the engine revs and allowing the car to start from second gear.

Pierre Loing, vice president of product planning for Nissan says: “The 370Z is an iconic sports car and the GT Edition underlines its appeal to enthusiasts everywhere.”

Available in the UK from June, the Nissan 370Z GT Edition will come in three colours – Pearl White, Kuro Black and Black Rose – with prices starting in the region of £35,000.

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Wednesday May 18th, 2011 19:42 Audi Announce Production of A1 and A3 Green Cars


Audi has announced that from 2013, it will produce the all-electric A1 e-tron, and a gas-powered A3. These models will form the centrepiece of the German car manufacturer’s plans for a new environmentally friendly ‘balanced mobility’ initiative.

For now, Audi plans to build only 1,500 e-gas A3s, and these will all run on synthetic methane gas. Forming part of Audi’s wider green energy plans, this gas will come from purpose built off-shore wind farms. One of the clear advantages of using synthetic gas to power a car is that it removes the extra weight and performance limitations that battery-based electric cars face.

The four-seater A1 e-tron runs exclusively on the power of its electric motor, and draws its energy from a package of lithium-ion batteries. Storing 12 kWh of energy, the battery should be sufficient for around 31 miles of driving. With a peak torque of 240Nm, Audi’s electric car sprints from 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds and has a top speed of greater than 80mph.

The A3 e-gas uses a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine in conjunction with two fuel tanks, one for gas and one for petrol. With gas tanks that store the e-gas at a pressure of 200 bar, the A3 should, in theory, have enough capacity to cope with drives of over 250 miles. In the event that the natural-gas tanks run empty and there is no CNG station nearby, the Audi A3 can run on conventional gas with no drop in performance.

In addition to developing and producing the A1 and A3 models, Audi is building a new synthetic e-gas plant. Audi believes that by taking this approach, well-to-wheel emissions will be reduced by up to 85% over the latest crop of gas-powered vehicles.

With Audi’s A1 and A3 models on the horizon, the next few years should be an exciting time in terms of the continuing development of environmentally friendly green cars.


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Tuesday May 17th, 2011 00:46 Porsche Launches 911 Carrera 4 GTS Coupe and Cabriolet


In September, Porsche will be launching its highly-anticipated new Porsche 911 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. In order to tide Porsche enthusiasts over until then, the German carmaker will release two new variants of the current 911 in the UK in July.

Joining the two-wheel-drive GTS that went on sale last year will be the four-wheel-drive 911 Carrera 4 GTS Coupe and Cabriolet.

The 911 Carrera 4 GTS is fitted with the same 402bhp, 3.8-litre, flat-six engine as the Carrera S. Porsche have managed to squeeze an additional 23bhp out of it, taking the output to 402bhp. The effect of this on the car’s performance is that at full throttle, with the standard six-speed manual transmission, the Coupe variant can sprint from 0 – 62mph in just 4.6 seconds. In contrast, the Cabriolet manages this sprint in 4.8 seconds. Those who utilise the optional PDK dual-clutch transmission will be able to cut an extra 0.2 seconds from both variants. With regards to torque, this remains at 420Nm.

In terms of its fuel consumption, with a rate of 26.9mpg, the new 911 Carrera 4 GTS is identical to the less powerful Carrera 4S. CO2 emissions come in at 247g/km.

In addition to having the model name indicated on the doors and boot lid, the Carrera 4 GTS variants will have an additional reflective stripe sitting between the taillights. On top of this, the Carrera 4 GTS will have a Sport-Design front apron, with a black painted spoiler lip, and special side skirts. Sports seats come as standard as does a rear limited slip differential and a switchable sports exhaust.

Scheduled for release in the UK in July, Porsche’s 911 Carrera 4 GTS Coupe and Cabriolet will be on sale for £83,145 and £90,024 respectively.

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Friday May 13th, 2011 14:50 Volkswagen Announce 35th Anniversary Special Edition Golf GTI


Earlier this week, Volkswagen announced to the world that it would be releasing the special edition Golf GTI Edition 35. Made to mark the 35th anniversary of the release of the original hot hatch in 1976, the Edition 35 will be the most powerful Golf GTI to date.

Although Volkswagen is keeping details about the special edition car close to its chest at the moment, we do know that the Edition 35′s 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine will have a peak horsepower rate up to 232bhp. This is an improvement of 25bhp over the standard Golf GTI.

There are no figures as of yet on the Edition 35′s top speed or 0-62mph time, but they should improve upon the regular GTI’s top speed of 149mph and 0-62mph time of 6.9 seconds, while being below the more powerful Golf R.

To compliment the anniversary edition car’s increase in power, Volkswagen has given the Edition 35 a number of cosmetic tweaks. In addition to a revised front bumper and lightweight 18-inch alloy wheels, the Edition 35′s front wings, sill plates, head restraints and seats will bear the ’35′ signature. The Edition 35 will also see the return of the golf ball gearknob.

The special edition Golf will be given its world debut at the Wörthersee tuning festival in Austria in early June, before it gets its German release a few weeks later. Expected to cost somewhere in the region of £27,000, the Volkswagen Golf GTI Edition 35 will be available in the UK later this year.


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Monday May 9th, 2011 20:29 Jaguar Announce Production of C-X75 Supercar


On Friday, Jaguar announced that it would be building a limited run of its Project C-X75 electric supercar. Built in conjunction with the Williams F1 team, the four-wheel-drive C-X75 was first revealed at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. Described as “the ultimate expression of Jaguar design and engineering innovation,” it is being built to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Coventry-based manufacturer.

With a chassis made of carbon-fibre, the C-X75′s body will weigh just 1,350kg. That is lighter than a Ford Focus. Jaguar anticipates that the hybrid will produce CO2 emissions of less than 99g/km, making it one of the most efficient supercars in the world. In certain modes, Jaguar claim that the car can emit just 70g/km of CO2. Incorporating a Kinetic Energy Regeneration System (KERS), the C-X75 will be capable of silent electric running with an extensive range in excess of 50km. It will also have a zero emission mode where it can run solely on electric power for around 30 miles.

Whereas the concept car revealed at the 2010 Paris Road Show included jet engines, the production version will instead sport a highly-boosted 1.6-litre four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine developed by Williams. Williams will also provide assistance with aerodynamics, carbon composite manufacture and hybrid technologies. Although there has been no official word on the power output of the Jaguar, it is expected to be in excess of 900bhp.

Aided by its lightweight chassis and ceramic brakes, the Jaguar C-X75 will go from 0-60mph in less than 3 seconds and from 0-100 in less than six seconds. Its top speed is expected to be in excess of 200mph.

Expected to go on sale some time in 2013, the Jaguar C-X75 should provide stern competition to any Ferrari or Lamborghini, and is likely to cost somewhere between £700,000 and £900,000.


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Friday May 6th, 2011 17:41 Peugeot’s EX1 Smashes Nurburgring Record

Peugeot EX1


Peugeot’s EX1 concept roadster has just set the record for the fastest lap at the Nurburgring by an electric vehicle. The record previously stood at 9 minutes and 51.45 seconds, and was held by the Mini E Race, a lightweight version of the Mini E two-seat EV. Despite weather conditions being “far from favourable,” the EX1 managed to cut over 50 seconds off the previous record, clocking a lap time of 9 minutes and 1.338 seconds. The electric car managed to do this with an average of speed of 86mph.

Although it is supposedly styled to look like a water droplet, the EX1 has, in terms of its appearance, been likened to the batmobile. Based on the Asphalte and the 20cup concept, it is powered by two electric motors. While one motor is located at the front of the car, the other is located at the back. It has a 30kWh lithium-Ion battery pack, and can be recharged from a standard electric outlet. Alternatively, it can be recharged simply by parking it inside the custom-built garage that Peugeot has built to go with it. According to Peugeot, under normal driving conditions, the EX1 can run for a maximum of 174 miles.

In comparison to other green cars, the Peugeot EX1′s performance statistics are certainly very impressive. Its horsepower stands at 340bhp, nearly 100bhp more than the Tesla Roadster, and its maximum torque stands at 240Nm, 40Nm more than the Roadster. It goes from 0-62mph in just 3.7 seconds and, from a standing start, can reach its maximum speed of 162mph in just 6.6 seconds. That top speed of 162mph is 37mph faster than Tesla’s Roadster.

Built as part of Peugeot’s 200th anniversary, the EX1 has already set 6 new world acceleration records, and looks to be a significant step forward in terms of high performance green cars.


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Tuesday May 3rd, 2011 21:09 MG Unveil New MG5 Concept

MG5 Concept Car

The 2011 Shanghai Motor Show saw the unveiling of MG’s new MG5 Concept car. Expected to be available in the UK from mid-2013, the MG5 will slot into the range beneath the recently released MG6, and will be seen as a more conventional rival to the Ford Focus than the slightly larger MG6.

Designed at MG Birmingham by Tony Williams-Kenny and his team of designers, the five-door hatchback is aimed at a “more mature and sophisticated audience” than the ‘supermini’ MG Zero Concept.

Among its main features, the MG6 includes “LED head cluster lights, a rear spoiler to improve stance and aerodynamics with a sophisticated sporty look and feel.”

The MG5 will initially be powered by the existing NSE petrol engine range of 1.3 and 1.8-litre engines, but is expected to get a new range of downsized petrol engines in 2014. These are currently being developed by General Motors in conjunction with MG’s Chinese owners, SAIC.

Although a decision on whether the MG5 will be produced at Longbridge has not been announced yet, the MG5, in addition to the other models in MG’s expanding range, will certainly help to make the brand a more prominent figure in the UK car market.

The MG5 was just one of a whole host of models unveiled by MG at the Shanghai Motor Show. Seven other models, ranging from the budget supermini MG3 to an electric car and a rear wheel drive sports car, were announced. Due to feasibility studies only just starting, the sports car will not be launched until 2016 at the earliest, though MG say it will “invoke the spirit of the MGB.”

With the unveiling of the MG5 Concept and other models, the next five years promise to be an exciting time for MG enthusiasts everywhere.

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