Drop-top uses same 5.2-litre V12 as the coupé, making 600bhp and 516lb ft of torque
The Aston Martin DB11 Volante has been revealed ahead of going on sale in spring 2018.
Described as a “lightly disguised engineering car”, the convertible version of the recently launched DB11 will use the same twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 as the coupé, making 600bhp at 6500rpm and 516lb ft between 1500 and 5000rpm.
The DB11 Volante could also launch with a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 from Mercedes-AMG, which is due to be introduced to the Aston Martin range next year in the successor to the V8 Vantage. Producing between 500 and 550bhp, the engine is currently used in the Mercedes-AMG GT.
The aluminium-bodied DB11 Volante will be slightly heavier than the coupé due to the addition of the roof mechanism and chassis strengthening. With an inherently strong body and chassis, expect only a subtle increase in weight – a spokesman told Autocar the Volante is aiming to match the coupé’s 0-62mph time of 3.9sec.
A sound-deadening multi-layer fabric roof will keep noise down in the cabin, and Aston Martin is likely to make subtle changes to the driving dynamics, including a slightly softer suspension set-up than the hardtop.
With four-seater convertible rivals including the Bentley GT Speed Convertible and Ferrari California T, as well as additions like the S63 AMG Convertible, the DB11 Volante will launch with a price-tag of around £155,000, £10,000 more than the hard-top.
The 2018 DB11 Volante is just one part of Aston Martin’s plan for the next five years, which, in the near future, includes replacements for the V8 Vantage and Vanquish, as well as a new all-electric version of the Rapide, called the RapidE. The Aston Martin AM RB-001 hypercar will go on sale in 2018, while the DBX crossover – the first car to be produced at Aston’s St. Athans, Wales plant – will arrive in 2020.
The new Grand Tour show will launch on November 18; new teaser video shows first footage
Oh my. The Grand Tour – formerly Top Gear – has officially confirmed it will begin screening from November 18.
Accompanying this announcement is a 30-second teaser, part highlights, part scene setter and tension builder. And while you’d rather hope Messrs Clarkson, Hammond and May plus team had managed to rustle together 30 seconds of decent coverage in the past 12 months or so, it looks absolutely sensational.
Yes, it’s as plain as plain can be that nobody has tried to reinvent the wheel – Clarkson shouts, Hammond looks excited, May looks wryly amused, there are flames, slow motion shots of wheels spinning and big cinematic shots of supercars and hypercars.
But there’s also drama, excitement and a lavish quality to it that screams ‘we know what we’re doing, and we’re going to do it bigger and better than ever before’. It’s quite an achievement to make that statement in 30 seconds, but watch it and judge for yourselves.
Personally – and I feel oddly compelled to apologise before I write this, because it’s not fashionable to admit to liking these things – I cannot wait.
No doubt the comments section below will fill up with naysayers, but I’m not among them.
The car industry thrives on exposure, and while The Grand Tour crew have plenty of history for often offending and occasionally cocking it up, having three bona fide, cut-me-and-I’ll-bleed-oil blokes on screen, and a team of people who share the same quality behind the scenes, counts for a lot. They live and breath the subject and they do an astounding job of conveying that fact, which is a pretty good head start over some oppositon.
I’m over-excited of course, and the real challenge lies in making show after show that is just as compelling, visual and exciting as this tiny video. But this clip alone has given me hope that car shows on television really can thrive. My Amazon Prime subscription is bought and paid for, and I can’t wait.
Volkswagen has released a series of teaser shots of its first electric-only model ahead of its full reveal at the Paris motor show
Volkswagen has released images that hint at the styling of its upcoming electric model, which will be revealed at the Paris motor show.
The model, which has been scheduled for release in 2019, will be capable of travelling between 250 and 300 miles on a single charge, according to VW Group CEO Matthias Müller, with charging only taking 15 minutes.
The man in charge of the project, Christian Senger, said a range of 250 miles is adequate for everyday use. The car will also use a conventional mainly steel body. “Construction will be the same as today,” said Senger. “There won’t be any radical body concepts.”
We know that the car will be packed with technology, including a 24-hour internet connection and a continuous link to a Volkswagen app store. A ‘Volkswagen ID’ will be specific to every driver, with their preferences and settings saved and applied to other cars, such as hire cars, that the driver may use.
The model will be the second of five electric Volkswagen electric vehicles, all developed as the brand looks to move away from fossil fuels following the Dieselgate emissions scandal. The follow-up models to the hatchback will be a crossover, a luxury saloon and a sports car. An MPV will come before the hatchback and will most likely be a production version of the Budd-e concept.
Volkswagen’s target is to be selling one million fully electric vehicles by 2025.
The next-generation Honda Civic has been revealed in full; it’ll make its official debut at the end of the month, at the Paris motor show
The 10th-generation Civic has been created to “fight back”, according to Civic project boss Mitsuru Kiraya, who said at the Civic’s launch that the current car is “too conservative for younger buyers”. He added: “Markets have changed since this generation, while rivals have improved their offerings.”
The five-door hatchback will be followed by a new Civic Tourer estate and Type R hot hatch. However, the saloon and three-door variants, built primarily for the US market, won’t be offered in the UK. The current estate accounts for 20% of Civic sales and the Type R, a halo product for the brand, makes up 4%.
Like its predecessor, the new Civic will be built at Honda’s Swindon plant. The factory is the new global production hub for the Civic, with Honda confirming a £200 million investment in new production technologies and processes.
Previously, Swindon exported the hatch to Europe only. Now it will produce 40% of its Civic output for North America, 40% for Europe and 20% for the UK market.
These new processes include what Honda describes as a “high-efficiency joining technique”, where the entire inner frame is assembled first, followed by the outer frame and then the joints. This defies the conventional method of starting with body frame assembly.
Honda says the method contributes to the overall stiffness of the body. It claims the new Civic has 52% greater torsional stiffness than its predecessor while being 16kg lighter.
This is achieved with the new ‘unibody’ platform that uses front and rear bulkhead rings, which encircle the interior cabin space, as well as cross braces in front of the engine bay and between the bases of the A and B-pillars to create further platform rigidity.
The hatchback is 4497mm long, 1800mm wide and 1421mm tall, with a wheelbase of 2700mm. This makes it 130mm longer, 30mm wider and 20mm lower than the previous generation, with a 30mm longer wheelbase.
Honda is offering two new turbocharged petrol engines: a 1.0-litre triple with 127bhp and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit with 180bhp. Both are available with a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT auto.
The existing 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel option, which currently makes up 50% of UK sales, will be carried over but tuned to improve its power output and CO2 emissions.
No hybrid is planned initially, but Kiraya confirmed to Autocar that the new platform could accommodate such a powertrain. However, an all-electric Civic is not possible with this platform.
Honda has aimed for a simple and sleek cabin design, which incorporates a 7.0in touchscreen display on which you can access its second-generation Connect infotainment and connectivity systems, which integrate with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is also optional Garmin satellite navigation with free map updates for five years and different audio options, including a four-speaker, 160W system, an eight-speaker, 180W unit and a premium system with 11 speakers.
Interior space has improved, thanks to the longer wheelbase. Rear leg room has increased by a claimed 95mm and there’s more shoulder room in the front and rear. Boot space remains the same as before, at 478 litres, which is considerably more than the 360 litres of its Volkswagen Golf rival. Honda has ditched its socalled Magic Seats and instead reverted to a more traditional 60/40 rear seat split.
The Civic will have a host of safety systems fitted to all four trim levels. These include a Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and blindspot information.
Prices have yet to be announced, but expect a small increase over the £18,360 of the current entry-level model.
New Civic: a passenger ride in the car
We had a brief passenger ride in the American-spec Civic at Honda’s test track at its Swindon factory, amid a backdrop of endless new Civics waiting to be transported.
Our car was fitted with the all-new four-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo engine, driven by engineering project boss David McDonald.
While our time was very limited with the car, it set a good precedent for what’s to come, with impressive ride and refinement.
The one tight corner was taken too slowly to gain any real judgement of handling, but the straight to 80mph proved it was more than capable of replacing its 1.8-litre predecessor in the speed stakes. Optioned with the CVT ‘box, it did struggle to change up quickly at the lower end, so we expect to prefer the six-speed manual once we get behind the wheel of the car.
The interior is also greatly improved – with cleaner lines and, notably, a far less antiquated touchscreen than the current generation. It was also the base spec, built primarily for the US market, so we expect UK buyers to fare even better.
Recently revealed by Porsche in the new Panamera, Audi is set to introduce the new turbocharged V6 in four new performance cars, including a new R8 model
The 90deg unit will also be used in the RS4, RS5 and soon-to-be-confirmed RS Q5 models. It has been developed in a joint venture by Audi and Porsche as part of a new modular engine family known under the working title KoVoMo.
The engine has been engineered for what Porsche engineers have called high-power applications from both car makers.
The new turbocharged V6 replaces Audi’s older, naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 petrol engine. Audi’s V8 has been discontinued because of what Ingolstadt officials describe as a combination of the high costs of updating it to meet future emissions standards and concerns in markets such as China, where road tax is linked to engine capacity.
In the latest Panamera 4S, the new engine delivers 434bhp at 5650rpm and 405lb ft of torque between 1750rpm and 5500rpm when running a relatively low 0.4bar of turbocharger boost pressure.
With subtle tweaks, including greater boost, the joint-venture engine is claimed to offer more than 500bhp and up to 500lb ft, although it has yet to be confirmed what output Audi has settled on for its quartet of new performance models.
In the most recent RS4 and RS5, Audi’s naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 kicked out 444bhp and 314lb ft.
Audi officials contacted by Autocar have revealed that the new V6 will be offered in a range of outputs.
The new 2.9-litre engine destined for the RS4, RS5, RS Q5 and R8 differs in capacity from the slightly larger, 3.0-litre version of the joint-venture V6 recently launched by Audi in the new S4.
Further differentiation is found in the induction system, with the S4’s engine using a single twin-scroll turbocharger and the 2.9-litre version getting twin turbochargers.
Powerful plug-in petrol-electric system and a three-pot diesel mild hybrid are in the pipeline
Developing plug-in hybrids alongside electric vehicles makes sense for JLR, because PHEVs will become relatively mainstream sooner than EVs. Their take-up will only be sped up by increasing traffic restrictions in cities such as London and a crackdown on tailpipe pollution.
Although Land Rover has been selling a Range Rover V6 diesel hybrid since 2013, it is working on an all-new plug-in hybrid powertrain that is based around a new 295bhp four-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine.
According to an engineering presentation last year, the company decided to build its own hybrid electric motor. However, the new Electric Drive Module (EDM) had to fit into the structure of the existing Range Rover model line-up and mate up with an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
The battery pack is packaged under the boot floor, although its capacity has not yet been confirmed. To be competitive, future JLR plug-in hybrids will need to have a real-world EV-only range of more than 20 miles and probably nearer 30 miles.
Even though JLR engineers had to fit the new EDM into a space just 162mm long, it still develops 201bhp and 332lb ft of torque. These figures are significantly above the output of the 113bhp electric motor in the current BMW X5 xDrive40e, which would be the hybrid Range Rover’s closest rival.
The BMW has a claimed 0-62mph time of just 6.5sec, which leaves the way open for even more performance from the electrified Range Rover, which will most likely be launched late next year.
JLR’s second hybrid project is classed as a mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) and is based around the transverseengined platform used for the Evoque and Discovery Sport.
This ‘production-intent’ project is technically more complex than the one for the Range Rover because it uses both a new EDM and a prototype three-cylinder Ingenium diesel engine equipped with an electrically powered turbocharger. This prototype also has a 48V electrical system that powers the water pump and air-con.
Using a three-cylinder diesel engine raises refinement problems, so the compact hybrid module (just 168mm deep) incorporates both a dual-mass flywheel and a pendulum absorber to help smooth out the diesel motor’s inherent imbalance.
The EDM is relatively modest, with an output of just 20bhp. However, its role is to fill gaps in the torque curve and help to boost the car’s acceleration. Electric control of the water pump means that it’s easier to adjust the speed of the flow of coolant and allow the engine block to heat up quicker. This, in turn, gets the engine oil up to the correct temperature quicker, reducing friction and improving fuel consumption.
Like the Audi Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid, JLR’s MHEV powertrain will be able to shut down its engine and coast downhill to preserve fuel. Any MHEV Discovery Sport or Evoque will probably not arrive before the end of 2018.
Mad Max doesn’t actually achieve much in Fury Road
Much like the opinion of film critics, the advice of car experts is rarely followed by the average British motorist
The critics have spoken. They – 177 of them – have compiled a list of the 21st century’s greatest films and have decided that the best feature flick is Mulholland Drive.
Fair? I’ve really no idea. I haven’t seen the 2001 neo-noir (whatever that means) flick and, given it only took $20 million at the box office, the chances are that neither have you.
The list, commissioned by BBC Culture, is a line-up of curiously rare grooves – not uncommon for something contributed to by art experts. Watching them all back to back would be like listening to a radio station that only broadcast Radio 4’s Front Row. Oh, I don’t doubt that by the end of it you’d consider your cultural appetites well and truly sated and you’d feel artistically smug to levels way above self-satisfaction. But by gum you’d be bored stiff.
I like Lost In Translation (21st) and Mad Max: Fury Road (19th), but even I’ll admit that, at the end of them, it’s hard to shake the feeling that precisely nothing of any great consequence has happened. Not once in this apparent top 100 has anyone thrown these motherflippin’ snakes off this motherflippin’ plane, nor has anyone tried to repair to the Winchester until this all blows over.
But more than that, with the odd exception, it’s almost as if the chances of doing well on the critics’ list is inversely proportional to a film making a shedload of money. The weirder, more obscure and less watched the film, the better. Scroll through the top 100 and you’ll not find a hobbit, a pirate, a Mark Wahlberg (with or without teddy bear), nor a lanky, pacifist blue alien construct controlled by a paraplegic US marine among them. Not until 33 on the list do you find a film that is one of the 50 highestgrossing (The Dark Night). I care not for Avatar, but I will shed a tear for how the omission might hurt Ted’s feelings.
Which brings me, belatedly I’ll admit, to cars. Were 177 noteworthy vehicle critics, assuming you could find that many, asked to choose the top 100 cars of the 21st century, clearly we wouldn’t be so completely out of touch with the car-buying public. Or would we?
In the early 1990s, when the terrible Mk4 Ford Escort was Britain’s best-selling car, the motoring press wet itself over the Alpine A610, yet the great British carbuying public took to it in quantities of around half a dozen a year. Deeper into the 1990s, the Honda NSX was still winning ‘car of the year’ competitions back to back. And yet end-of-year sales figures would show that more Jaguar XJ220s were still belatedly being registered than NSXs were finding buyers.
Since then we’ve championed the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ. And once I made an Infiniti G35 beat both a BMW 3-Series coupé and an Audi A5 in a group test. And last saw an example of each… well, never mind.
Lastly, a decade ago I came back a bit puzzled from the launch of a new car that I couldn’t quite see the point of. You might have heard of it. It was called the Nissan Qashqai, now sometimes the second-best-selling car in the country. Finger on the pulse as ever. Maybe it’s time to pop down to Blockbuster Video and rent a copy of Avatar.
The styling of new special-edition models, like the Mii by Cosmopolitan, will be influenced more heavily by prospective buyers
Seat wants to increase the influence prospective buyers have in the design of its new models, as it believes more customer research leads to an increase in new ideas.
Speaking at the launch of the new Seat Mii by Cosmopolitan (pictured), a special-edition model designed in conjunction with the leading fashion publication, Seat’s head of global marketing, Susanne Franz, said the method was good for fulfilling less obvious customer needs.
“The most social thing you can do is invite people in and let them be a part of the decision-making process,” she said. “The market is so fragmented now that research is becoming more and more important.”
Franz said the final design of the Mii by Cosmopolitan was chosen by 30 women, all of whom had been invited via Cosmopolitan magazine. She said those people helped to decide what look, feel and finish the model was given, and the results made for a better-targeted car.
Seat’s director of design, Alejandro Mesonero, added that this method of research is particularly important for designing cars that target women buyers.
“Cars are about men – the basic design of a car is male dominated,” he said. “A car that’s design specifically for a woman doesn’t exist, but it’s true we can give cars a little twist to make them more feminine.”
Both Mesonero and Franz admitted that because of the vast differences in taste, no one car can appeal to all women or all men. But they agreed that intelligently targeting specific groups was an effective tool in drawing in new customers.
“Buyers of the Mii by Cosmopolitan will mostly be new to Seat,” continued Franz. “The way people buy cars now is different, the journey they take from desire to purchase has changed. So we’re changing the way we reach these customers.”
Franz said the Mii by Cosmopolitan’s launch, which took place at a London fashion show, was an example of this. She believed that the traditional route of launching a car at a motoring show was a declining trend.
“Our new Lakeside store is in a shopping centre, and we plan to publicise our cars in new places like pop-up shops and music events,” added Franz. “It’s all about creating desire through the things people do today.”
Seat and Cosmopolitan’s partnership is just one example of targeted marketing. A previous special edition Mii, the Mii by Mango, was another case, and it proved to be highly successful, with overall sales exceeding Seat’s expectations by 50%.
Franz hinted that more partnerships would be on the way and make use of extra buyer research and modernised marketing tools. However, Mesonero said this technique wasn’t appropriate for all models, such as the new Seat Ateca.
“The new Ateca is a more mainstream model, so it’s not right to specifically design that car for one type of person,” he said. “I can’t imagine it going to larger cars to be honest, people tend to want them in more conventional forms.”
RAC report finds a 31% rise in handheld mobile phone use while driving and calls on the Government to act
The number of drivers using handheld mobile phones behind the wheel is rising, according to a new report.
In its annual Report on Motoring, released today, the RAC found that the number of people admitting to using a phone while driving has risen from 8% in 2014 to 31%. The report also found an increase in texting, emailing and social media use while in the driver’s seat, up from 9% in 2014 to 19% today. A further 14% of those surveyed admitted taking photos or videoing while driving.
The RAC has called on the Government to launch an awareness campaign to highlight the dangers of using a handheld mobile while driving, as well as issuing tougher penalties for those flouting the law. Currently, those caught face a minimum £100 fine and three points on their licence, although this is set to increase to a minimum £150 fine and four penalty points, six for HGV drivers.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said the organisation believes better enforcement is needed, and called for more police on the roads.
“It is alarming to see that some drivers have clearly relaxed their attitudes to the risks associated with this behaviour, but more worrying is the increase in the percentage of motorists who actually admit to using a handheld device when driving.
“With compliance on some traffic laws including the use of handheld mobile phones seemingly getting worse, the RAC calls for an end to cuts to dedicated roads policing and urges the Government and Chief Constables to give greater priority to enforcement of road traffic laws,” he said.
The National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) said the report highlighted the role police forces have in educating drivers and taking action against those who commit such offences. NPCC lead for roads policing, Chief Constable Suzette Davenport said: “We share the RAC’s concerns about the level of mobile phone use by drivers, particularly as phones are becoming ‘smarter’. Our approach is a blend of education and enforcement.
“We run national operations and forces take action locally. We will continue to stress the dangerous consequences, and arrest offenders, but we also need people to take responsibility for their behaviour behind the wheel and exert some social pressure on family and friends who take this risk.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We have some of the safest roads in the world and it is totally unacceptable for motorists to endanger lives by using handheld mobile phones while driving.
“Offenders involved in fatal road accidents while using a mobile phone already face serious offences, such as causing death by dangerous driving, which can carry a substantial prison term. We have also proposed tougher penalties for mobile phone use to act as a deterrent and ensure it is not tolerated in society.”
Volvo’s off-road friendly version of the V90 estate has been officially revealed after a campaign of teasers. It’s likely to be priced from around £43,500
The Volvo V90 Cross Country has been unveiled in Malmö, Sweden some 20 years after the original V70 XC was launched.
The new vehicle is based on the V90 estate and, says the company, has undergone a much more extensive chassis tuning than any of its predecessors.
Ride height of the all-wheel-drive chassis has been raised by an extra 65mm and the new wheel and tyre combination has an overall diameter 42mm bigger than other V90 models. The front track has been widened by 20mm and the rear track by 40mm.
The car’s front and rear departure angles are also notably improved on the previous models for what Volvo claims will be genuine off-road ability.
Vehicle Dynamics chief Stefan Karlsson said that around 200 different chassis set-ups were tried during the development process, many of which were executed in simulation on Volvo’s state-of-the-art driving simulator.
There’ll be four switchable driving modes including Rough Road, as well as Comfort, Eco and Dynamic. Hill Descent Control will also be offered on the car. Air suspension on the rear axle will be an option, but all Cross Country models will get a bespoke Volvo tyre, which has been developed for greater off-road grip and more on-road comfort, as well as being able to deal with uneven surfaces.
Research and Development boss Peter Mertens said: “We were very careful from the very beginning to ensure that the Cross Country concept was not just an exercise in rugged styling.”
Volvo design boss Thomas Ingenlath said the styling of the new Cross Country is deliberately more refined and more polished, moving away from the overtly rugged appearance of the previous V70 XC. “I think we are at the front of trend with this move to something that’s a more exquisite design. Volvo pioneered this niche and we are taking it to the next level.”
Production of the Cross Country begins later this years and the model is expected to appear in UK showrooms in the “second quarter of 2017”. UK-spec cars will have D4 and D5 diesel engines, rather than the T5 and T6 petrol units.
Volvo expects to sell 30,000 standard V90 estates in a full year and some 20,000 V90 Cross Country models. The Volvo XC has proved particularly popular in the US since its launch there in 1997.