Sporty Vauxhall GT X concept hints at firm’s design future

Vauxhall GT X

Vauxhall/Opel’s new B-SUV bears a resemblance to the two-door GT coupé concept it succeeds

Electric GT X Experimental SUV sets tone for new Vauxhalls and Opels under PSA stewardship

Vauxhall/Opel has revealed a sporty new B-segment SUV concept at its design centre in Rüsselsheim, Germany. Dubbed the GT X Experimental, it has been produced to provide a clear view of a changing design language for the brand.

The GT X, which is “far more than just a concept car”, according to its maker, has been planned both to mark Vauxhall/Opel’s acquisition by the PSA Group and to demonstrate that much greater design freedom is coming to future new Vauxhall and Opel vehicles.

Although quite different in its proportions, the GT X bears an obvious similarity to Vauxhall’s previous, much-praised concept, the two-door GT coupé, for which a successor was always promised. The GT X (the ‘X’ conveys a crossover function) is much more practical, having a cockpit that features generous seating for four and reasonable boot space, even within a petite 4.06-metre overall length that makes it around 14cm shorter than Vauxhall’s current B-segment SUV, the Mokka.

Q&A: Mark Adams, Director of design, Vauxhall-Opel

The GT X is a front-wheel-drive, pure-electric car, with a 50kWh battery beneath a classic ‘skateboard’ layout. In production, this would give the car range and performance along the lines of the latest Nissan Leaf — something that company bosses say Autocar will eventually be able to verify by driving it — and designers say the underpinnings bear no resemblance to any current Vauxhall/Opel car.

“Don’t think of GT X as a production car,” said the group’s British design director, Mark Adams. “Actually, it’s more important than that. We’re calling it a brand manifesto: a representative of our design vision for the company’s whole portfolio.

“Before we embarked on this exercise, we did a series of concept sketches to be sure its elements could extend to every one of our cars — and we only proceeded with GT X once we were sure of that. You won’t see this car in our showrooms, but you’ll certainly see much of its influence in future, right through the range.”

The GTX offers a more delicate profile than rival SUVs, mostly because others require so much space for the engine and transmission. The GT X rides high but has very short overhangs, and its radically ‘waisted’ body gives the impression of lightness.

The predominant body colour is a light grey, but a very dark blue covers the so-called ‘technical areas’, namely the battery location below the cockpit and the bonnet.

Opinion: Vauxhall begins the rest of its life

Twin yellow flashes run either side of the bonnet and over the sides of the roof, echoing sports-oriented Vauxhalls of the past. They also encompass a large see-through roof panel.

Sit inside and you’ll find the screen pillars are thinner than the production car norm.

The view over the bonnet is panoramic; it is set low enough to allow for a thin air scoop running across the base of the windscreen, feeding air to the GT X’s HVAC system.

The GT X also transfers over a couple of previously used design devices. The first is the wide ‘Visor’ front end treatment, stretching across the front with a near-opaque panel to house the matrix headlights and cover additional features including cameras and a radar for a semi-autonomous driving system.

The second is the ‘Pure Panel’, consisting of a simple screen the size of a normal instrument layout incorporating all major functions, and can be operated by voice, touch and wheel-mounted switches. The seats can be adjusted by eye-tracking, while there’s a head-up display for the driver.

The GT X also offers a neat system for ingress and egress. Each of the ‘clap hands’ doors — which need no centre pillar — is suspended on a single large hinge, allowing occupants’ legs and feet to swing easily into and out of the cabin. The front seats are suspended on rails running along the car’s centre console, bringing better foot room for rear passengers.

There’s even a display on each exterior sill, with LED triangles showing the car’s battery condition and whether it’s charging or not. Other clever features include rear-facing cameras that pop out of the yellow rails on the bonnet to take the place of mirrors and aluminium covers that partially conceal the sidewalls to make them look like low-profile tyres.

Vauxhall/Opel intends to stress the GT X’s significance to its future by putting it on public display in each of its most important markets, starting with Germany and the UK.

“This is no ordinary concept,” says Adams, “it’s a rallying cry. It’s the pride of our brand on wheels. We designed and built it ourselves to demonstrate what we could do. Small but believable concept cars can be hard to do — people expect scale and flamboyance — but we’re really proud of this one.” 

How we helped shape the GTX, by Autocar picture editor Ben Summerell-Youde:

Although the GT X has since evolved, Autocar was involved in the early days of creating Vauxhall’s concept.

Soon after the PSA buyout deal was announced, the former General Motors brands were looking to establish themselves with a reimagined and thoroughly modernised design strategy. A show-stopping concept car was in order and Vauxhall turned to us for help.

Our involvement began with discussions between Adams, to whom we contributed ideas about how the concept could look inside and out.

Our designs focused around a D-segment saloon, but it’s clear that some inspiration and details have been transferred from our initial drawings to the finished concept.

We’re happy to play a part in Vauxhall’s reinvention, however small… 

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Vauxhall-Opel design boss on future look of the brand

Vauxhall GT X Experimental

GT X Experimental’s influence will be felt in future cars, says Adams (right)

British director of design Mark Adams tells us about the GT X Experimental concept

Vauxhall-Opel has unveiled an electric, compact SUV concept called GT X Experimental, which showcases the future design of the marque. We spoke to director of design Mark Adams on the concept and what it means for Vauxhall styling in the coming years.

More details on the GTX

What’s the most important function of the GT X?

“This is our first move, now that the company is under new ownership, at reinventing the face of our forthcoming cars, and showing what the future customer experience will be like inside them.”

Why did you choose a B-segment SUV?

“We decided it was vital to choose a car already popular in the contemporary market, to show Vauxhall’s approachability. GT X is fresh, but it’s also genuine and has a clear connection with our history. We believe it’s ‘us’.”

How soon before we see a car like this in production?

“We’re not suggesting production for this car, but you’ll see plenty of big-picture features on our cars of the future: the Visor, the purity and simplicity of the surfacing, a sense of structure beneath them, and the wing signature lights. That’s for starters.”

Opinion: Vauxhall begins the rest of its life

Will we see GT X’s low-profile wheel cover in production?

“It’s a bit of an experiment, meant to combine the need for a big tyre with the look of a low profile. We’d need to do a lot of additional work with our tyre partner, but the idea’s a good one.”

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Source: Autocar Online

Opinion: Vauxhall takes charge of its own destiny

Vauxhall GTX

The Vauxhall GTX concept leads the charge for a new era at the car maker

The future’s looking optimistic at Vauxhall, led by the bold GT X concept

It’s not just the new Vauxhall GT X Experimental concept that creates the optimism, although it does seem almost good enough and plausible enough for production (were it not for those clap-hands doors, lack of door seals and meagre rear carrying space). 

But the extra ingredient is the excitement of the people who have created the GT X; this makes you instantly aware that the project is different.

Rüsselsheim has made some very decent concepts over the years, but there has always been a feeling that their future — if they had one — would be decided by uninvolved people in some Detroit ivory tower in three or six months’ time.

This is different. Big boss Carlos Tavares has already given the GT X project his blessing. Its objectives are understood by all. Vauxhalls of the future will be exciting and progressive, and this GT X will be one of the major drivers.

Q&A: Mark Adams, Director of design, Vauxhall-Opel

Meanwhile, under the management of a new but hugely experienced CEO, Stephen Norman, Vauxhall is building the retail environment to match its new design freedom and quick decision-making. Norman intends to cut the number of dealers from 330 to 250 to make the business of selling cars more worthwhile to the (doubtless carefully edited) group that remain.

He intends to concentrate on a smaller range of Vauxhall’s most profitable models. He will reduce profit-sapping pre-registration. He plans much better penetration of Vauxhall commercials. He will boost the range with a better but cheaper, Luton-built Vivaro

The whole thing is already being backed by a simple, strident advertising campaign designed to stress the all-round strength of Vauxhall’s products, but to use uts Britishness to add specialness and spice. To judge by Opel/Vauxhall’s latest profit figures, it has already started to work.

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Source: Autocar Online

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New Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster spied testing on track

Mercedes-AMG GT R Roadster spies front

Prototypes of Mercedes-AMG’s hottest drop-top have hit the Nürburgring ahead of expected launch next year

Mercedes-AMG is testing its most hardcore drop-top yet at the Nürburgring, the AMG GT R Roadster, ahead of an expected sales debut next year.

The GT C Roadster is currently the flagship convertible in the GT range and Mercedes-AMG was previously undecided on whether to go one further with an R version. That decision looks to have been made, however, since prototypes have been spotted lapping the fearsome German circuit. 

It’s clear that the roadster variant will adopt much of the GT R coupé‘s aerodynamic package, including the active airflow vents behind the grilles. The recognisable rear wing features, too, as does the rear diffuser. 

Expect the GT R Roadster to mirror its coupé sibling in terms of its powertrain, too, with AMG’s 4.0-litre ‘hot V’ eight-cylinder unit tuned to produce 577bhp and 516lb ft of torque. 

The roof mechanism and structural additions are expected to add only around 35kg to the kerb weight, so the roadster model shouldn’t stray too far from the coupé’s 3.6sec 0-62mph time. The worsened aero profile of the roof may reduce the 198mph top speed, however. 

The GT range’s chassis design means that losses in structural stiffness are already kept to a minimum in the GT C Roadster. Nevertheless, it’s possible that engineers may tune the Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet rival’s set-up differently to the standard car to reflect the lack of a roof.

The new car will be the fourth drop-top – and the eighth variant – in the AMG GT line-up when it arrives in 2019. It’s likely that its arrival will coincide with a full range update, bringing along a new cabin design inspired by Mercedes’ latest passenger cars. 

Source: Autocar Online

Subaru axes diesel engines from its model line-up

Subaru Outback rear

Japanese brand has gone petrol-only in the UK as the deadline to register pre-WLTP cars looms

Subaru has removed all of its diesel-engined models from sale in the UK, in a move likely to be caused by the incoming WLTP emissions test regulations.

The Japanese brand’s latest models, the Impreza hatchback and XV SUV, were introduced without the option of a diesel engine. Now, all references to the 2.0-litre boxer diesel unit previously offered in the Forester and Outback have been removed from Subaru’s website. 

The move comes as a surprise, because the oil-burning variants of Subaru’s largest models were the volume sellers in the range. Buyers of the Forester can now only choose a 2.0-litre boxer petrol engine, with or without a turbocharger. The Outback’s sole engine choice is a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol mated to a CVT gearbox.

Subaru’s decision to drop its 2.0-litre diesel engine is almost certainly due to it not meeting the standards of the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure) regulations, which come into force next month.

Many manufacturers are being forced to re-engineer powertrains to ensure published CO2 and fuel economy figures don’t increase dramatically under the new regime.

Dealer stock of diesel Subarus is still available to buy, but no pre-WLTP cars can be registered by manufacturers from 1 September.

Source: Autocar Online

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Renault Zoe R110 2018 UK review

Renault Zoe R110 2018 UK first drive review hero front

New motor boosts electric car’s performance; it’s no every-occasion car, but it has loads of appeal as an urban runabout

Renault’s European battery car sales champion, the Zoe, has just been tweaked and updated again.This time, you rather suspect, the refresh represents Renault in a counter-punching mood, doing what it can to maintain the car’s market-leading position in the face of, among other rivals, a brand-new Nissan Leaf. Still, if it delivers a better car to anyone who takes the electric plunge this year, those new owners won’t be complaining.This isn’t the most wide-ranging of mid-life overhauls. The edited highlights consist of a more powerful electric motor, an update for the touchscreen infotainment system, a new paint colour (Renault calls it Aconite Purple, and it’s the shade of our test car) and a few new pieces of interior trim.So, having had 91bhp and 162lb ft to offer last year, the Zoe now has 107bhp and 166lb ft with which to tempt your toe, although that still leaves it shy of the outputs of the BMW i3 and Leaf by some margin. Handily, the Zoe’s motor upgrade doesn’t affect its energy efficiency or battery autonomy, with range remaining either 250 or 186 miles, depending on which of the EU’s lab test driving cycles you’re testing it on.Renault proudly claims this is the market’s longest-range mainstream electric car, and with some credibility, at least as far as UK consumers are concerned. It’s certainly true that none of the Zoe’s current crop of electric rivals (the Leaf, i3, Volkswagen e-Golf and Hyundai Ioniq Electric) has been rated to go quite as far on a single charge.Had the 2016 Opel Ampera-e (up to 240 miles on the tougher WLTP test) ever made it to the UK as a Vauxhall, mind you, things would have been different, and once the imminent Hyundai Kona Electric (up to 300 miles on WLTP) arrives, they definitely will be.

Source: Autocar Online

Pininfarina PF0 EV hypercar will do 0-62mph in 'less than two seconds'

PF0 concept sketch

Performance details of Automobili Pininfarina’s first production car have been released ahead of private customer showing at Pebble Beach

Ahead of a private showing at next week’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Automobili Pininfarina has released performance specs for its upcoming PF0 hypercar. 

Rumoured to be based on Rimac‘s latest EV platform, the fledgling car maker claims that the PF0 will be capable of getting from standstill to 62mph in “less than two seconds” and go on to crack the 300kph (186mph) barrier. Despite this, the car is said to have “a potential zero-emissions range of up to 500km (310 miles)”. 

A new sketch has also been unveiled, previewing the car’s design from the rear, while a video (below) shows company chairman Paolo Pininfarina describing the car’s long-awaited launch as part of “an American dream”.

The PF0 is the first production car solely branded as Pininfarina from the renowned Italian design house. A maximum of 150 examples will be produced and sold globally after it launches in 2020. It’ll act as a halo product, being the first of several all-electric models in Automobili Pininfarina’s product plan. 

The confirmation of a Pebble Beach debut was released alongside sketches of the PF0’s interior, showing a minimalist and driver-focused layout for the two-seater. Further details have yet to be revealed, but the production car will be priced to compete with the hypercar elite, including the Bugatti Chiron

Anand Mahindra, group chairman of Mahindra, which owns Pininfarina, previously said that the hypercar will draw “upon the pedigree and design vocabulary of the Pininfarina aesthetic heritage” to “develop a rare collector’s item that only a handful of connoisseurs will ever own”.

He said that the PF0 will “be an innovative and pioneering product powered by high technology” and combine “power, beauty and high-end EV technology”.

Details are still thin on the ground, but an Autocar scoop earlier this year revealed that it will use modular underpinnings co-developed by Croatian electric supercar maker Rimac and the Mahindra Racing Formula E team. Autocar understands that the PF0 will have an output to rival the 1479bhp offered by the Chiron.

Rimac’s recently revealed C_Two produces 1887bhp from four electric motors, illustrating the level of performance potential for the top Pininfarina model.

Referred to as Project Montana previously, Automobili Pininfarina will follow its top model (which could take influence from the H2 Speed, pictured below) with three SUVs that are all set to arrive within five years. The biggest, codenamed PF-One, will be a high-performance answer to the Lamborghini Urus. The other two will be rivals to the Porsche Cayenne and Porsche Macan respectively. All will use their own version of the same modular underpinnings.

The fastest SUV will offer around 940bhp from a battery pack of about 140kWh, enabling a 0-62mph time of less than three seconds. Its smaller SUV siblings are likely to use lower-output versions of the same powertrain but their performance will still be at the sharp end of their segments.

A source said that the Pininfarina car brand will be given an initial investment of $100 million (about £71.6m) from Mahindra to fund the creation of its model range.

Automobili Pininfarina’s CEO, Michael Perschke, has more than 25 years of industry experience. He is joined at the helm by chief operating officer Per Svantesson, who has previously worked at Volvo.

“Establishing Automobili Pininfarina as a leading sustainable luxury brand is our strategic vision and will be a dream come true,” said Perschke. “It will combine 88 years of iconic design heritage with leading-edge electric vehicle competence of the Mahindra group and Mahindra Formula E racing. It’s a powerful combination.”

Mahindra intends to invest a total of about £358m into Automobili Pininfarina over five years. The new brand will work independently of its parent’s EV division, Mahindra Electric, with operations based in Europe.

Pininfarina’s new car brand comes after Paolo Pininfarina said at the Geneva motor show that he hoped the dream of his grandfather, company founder Battista Farina, to build cars would “come true in the not-distant future”.

An insider told Autocar: “Pininfarina has always made very special cars, but usually for other people. When we have sold cars ourselves, like the Pininfarina Sergio [of which six were built in 2015 and sold for a reputed $3m each], we have always done very well. It is not difficult to see what the next step should be. The cars will be exclusive and very beautiful.”

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Interview: Pierre Gasly on F1 and Red Bull Racing

Pierre Gasly

Pierre Gasly will move up to Red Bull Racing for 2019

The 22-year-old will replace Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull Racing next year – and says he’s ready for the pressure

French Formula 1 racer Pierre Gasly will move up from Toro Rosso to replace Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull Racing next season.

The 22-year-old was moved into Toro Rosso for five races late last season and has impressed this season with a number of strong performances, including fourth place in Bahrain. 

The Red Bull seat alongside Max Verstappen was the top drive still open on the 2019 grid, and became available after Ricciardo’s surprise switch to Renault. Gasly’s performances so far were enough to earn the 2016 GP2 Series champion the drive for next year, when Red Bull will join Toro Rosso in using Honda engines.

Autocar caught up with Gasly in the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test earlier this month, shortly before Ricciardo’s departure was announced. Here are his views on his F1 career so far, and his hopes for the future.

How do you rate your season so far?

“It’s gone very well, with some real highs. Fourth place in Bahrain was so much higher than our pre-season expectations; in my first full F1 season, I didn’t expect to be there after two races. After that it’s been a bit up and down, and at some tracks we’ve struggled more than others, and other teams have improved more than we have. We need to find some consistency, but it’s been really positive so far.”

How’s your relationship with Honda?

“The story with Honda has been amazing. It started in Super Formula [Japan’s equivalent to F2] last year. When I went there, I didn’t have any idea what to expect, but it was an amazing experience on both the sporting and personal side. We fought for the title until the final race, and it’s great to continue that relationship this year. I learned a lot about the culture, and how to communicate with the team. We’ve been through a lot of emotions together.”

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Are you ready to move up to Red Bull?

“The mentality that got me to F1 is just to focus on myself, and if I show my potential, then it will come one day. If I’m fast, I’ll get my chance, so I just need to make sure I’m fast. It’s only my first full season in F1, I’m 22 years old and I want to fight for championships as soon as possible.”

Red Bull has promoted lots of young drivers but has been quick to drop them if they haven’t performed. Are you afraid what happened to Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne will happen to you?

“No. If I’m fast then things will be easier. You can look at Red Bull and see the drivers that didn’t make it, or you can look at Sebastian [Vettel], Max, Daniel and the other drivers that had successful years in the Red Bull programme. That’s how I approach things.”

How tough is F1, both mentally and physically?

“The Hungarian Grand Prix was the hardest, because it was so hot; I lost three kilos during the race, and it was a challenge to stay focused and push to the limit. Physically, you need to do a lot, but it’s a sport where your mental strength is tested every day, and even more so in Red Bull.”

If you had a Red Bull chassis, could you have won races this year?

“Give me the chassis; I’ll try it and tell you! But if you want to know if Honda will have great races with Red Bull next year, then I’ll tell you yes. I’m pretty sure they’re going to win races.”

What’s your road car at the moment?

“A Honda Civic Type R. It’s good fun. It’s better not to have too much horsepower away from the track.”

This week’s Autocar magazine includes a special look at Honda’s F1 future with Red Bull. It’s out tomorrow (Wednesday 22 August). Click here to subscribe to either the print or digital edition

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