Lister LFT-C revealed as 205mph F-Type convertible

Lister LFT-C 2019 press images - front

Limited-run model set to be the company’s fastest soft-top yet

Lister has announced the LFT-C, a convertible version of its LFT-666 Jaguar F-Type.

Only 10 cars will be produced and it will become the fastest open-top supercar in Lister’s 66-year history when it arrives later this year.

On sale from £139,000 and with “an almost unlimited options list”, the LFT-C builds on the F-Type Convertible with a Lister-tuned, supercharged V8 engine producing 666bhp. Lister claims a 0-62mph time of less than three seconds, and a top speed in excess of 205mph.

The car gets the same bespoke suspension and braking systems as the LFT-666, while the custom exhaust system has been acoustically tuned with open-top driving in mind. Each model will have a solid silver plaque on its engine cover denoting its exclusive 1/10 status.

Inside, the LFT-C is retrimmed in handstitched Nappa leather, with customers able to choose any combination of wheel and paint colours when ordering their car.

“Launching the new LFT-C is a personal triumph,” said Lawrence Whittaker, Lister motor company CEO. “While we are famous for cars like the Knobbly and the Storm, the LFT series heralds a new era for Lister and continues our historical enhancement of Jaguar drivetrains.’

The LFT-C and forthcoming LFP SUV, a fettled version of the Jaguar F-Pace SVR capable of 200mph, will be displayed at the company’s new £6m headquarters in Blackburn alongside the LFT-666 coupé, which is now sold out for 2019. Lister limited total production to 99 cars, with only 2020 deliveries still available to order.

Although not directly affiliated with Jaguar, Lister has been tuning Jaguar cars for its entire history, and currently provides existing F-Type owners with cosmetic upgrade packages as well as its own modified models.

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Source: Autocar Online

Success of Skoda Kodiaq vRS inspiring more sporty models

Skoda Kodiaq VRS UK

Interest in vRS is positive, says boss, with hybrid vRS models inevitable

The success of the Kodiaq vRS has been a “motivating success” for Skoda which encourages the maker to consider other performance models, according to CEO Bernhard Maier.

Currently, Skoda offers the Octavia saloon and Kodiaq SUV with vRS models, but Skoda has been cautious in recent years to make major plans for its sporting sub-brand.

As well as the success of the Kodiaq vRS, which already has a take-rate of a fifth of Kodiaq sales in some countries, Maier flagged last year’s Vision RS concept as “demonstrating how Skoda will develop the RS idea in the future”. While the Vision RS gave clues to design of the now-revealed Scala hatchback, the plug-in hybrid powertrain is expected to be seen in future RS models.

“In this transformation stage from combustion engine to electrification, we have to think of a new idea for vRS which is why we introduced Vision RS at last year’s Geneva [show]. That is an idea of how the development will go further.”

The Vision RS is a plug-in hybrid, combining a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor to offer a total output of 242bhp. While the specifications are likely to change, the powertrain is expected to be similar to that in Skoda’s first production PHEV model, the facelifted Superb due late this year.

A more powerful version of this powertrain could also be used in the upcoming hybrid Octavia vRS as reported by Autocar last year. The hybrid is expected to sit alongside more traditional petrol and diesel variants of the Octavia vRS.

vRS versions of the brand’s newest models, the Scala and Kamiq, are rumoured but not confirmed.

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Source: Autocar Online

Skoda to launch low-cost EV after initial electric car blitz

Skoda e Citigo

Model will follow two MEB-based SUVs based on Vision iV

Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier has confirmed that a low-cost electric model based on the VW Group’s MEB platform is under consideration.

The new model would be a sibling car to the VW ID hatch and recently revealed Seat El-Born, but will arrive after those models.

An electric Citigo city car with 186 miles of range will launch this year as the firm’s first EV, before a production version of the Vision iV concept goes on sale in 2020. That machine will be the first model to launch outside of Volkswagen to use the MEB platform.

Autocar reported last year that there would be two derivatives of that car: a standard SUV and a coupé variant akin to the Kodiaq and China-only Kodiaq Coupe.

Maier confirmed the plan: “We have two MEB cars, one is the basis, one is the derivative.” Both of these models will be launched before the end of 2022 and form part of a strategy to launch 30 new models by that date, including more than 10 electrified cars.

A lower-cost car is likely to launch after this date. Maier said: “We are looking for a lower-specced car as well. Once we have a positive business case we can come up with a clear solution.”

He added: “We are building on the same platform as VW. We want to do a car equivalent to the ID hatch or El-Born, but it has to be one step after another. We have a clear product target.”

He added that such a car could be built at its Kvasiny plant in the Czech Republic, where the plug-in hybrid Superb will start production in the next few months.

Read more

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Source: Autocar Online

BMW teases 2 Series Gran Coupe for November unveiling

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe official teaser

More practical, four-door 2 Series will go on sale in early 2020 with next-generation infotainment technology

BMW has teased the upcoming 2 Series Gran Coupé ahead of an official announcement, revealing a single teaser image of the upcoming liftback.

The four-door coupé will have its world debut at the Los Angeles motor show in November before going on sale in early 2020. A concept version will be revealed at BMW’s annual results press conference by CEO Harold Krüger.

In a press release accompanying the teaser image, BMW confirmed the upcoming car would run on a front-wheel-drive platform and share many of its mechanical underpinnings with the next-generation 1 Series.

The 2 Series Gran Coupé was most recently pictured undergoing winter testing ahead of its planned reveal.

The four-door version of the 2 Series Coupé can be seen in our latest spy shots with camouflaged bodywork. Aside from revealing the shape of its body, with a raised rear roof section and rear doors, they also provide a closer look at the rear lip spoiler and larger brakes that will likely designate M Sport versions of the car. 

These photos closely match the previous spy images of the car seen testing in warmer climates, suggesting that development is reaching the final stages before launch.

The need to accommodate two conventional front-hinged rear doors and sufficient rear seat leg room is said to be behind the decision to give the new car a wheelbase that’s halfway between the 2690mm span of the 2 Series Coupé and the 2810mm of the 3 Series saloon.

Inside, the 2 Series Gran Coupé will sport a new interior layout that’s also set to be adopted by the successors to today’s 2 Series Coupé and 2 Series Convertible, which are due in 2020.

The turbocharged three-cylinder and four-cylinder engines for the 2 Series Gran Coupé will mirror those of the existing pair.

On the petrol side, expect a 134bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit in the 218i, 181bhp and 242bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder units in the 220i and 225i and a 326bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder in the 235i. Among the diesels will be 148bhp, 187bhp and 221bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder units in the 218d, 220d and 225d respectively.

Like its two-door siblings, the 2 Series Gran Coupé will offer a choice of a standard six-speed manual or optional eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, as well as optional xDrive four-wheel drive. However, the latter will be offered in combination with only a limited range of engines.

The highlight of the new line-up, though, will be the M2 Gran Coupé.

This model will use the same 365bhp turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine as its highly lauded two-door sibling. It will be offered with a standard six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

Although it’s still early days, the S55B30-designated engine is expected to provide the M2 Gran Coupé with similar performance to the M2, which has an official 0-62mph time of 4.4sec in manual form and an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.

The 2 Series Gran Coupé will be produced alongside the 2 Series Coupé and 2 Series Convertible at BMW’s plant in Leipzig, Germany.

A plug-in hybrid model is also mooted. This is expected to use BMW’s turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor mounted within the forward section of a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox.

In combination with a lithium ion battery pack positioned within the floor of the boot, this is intended to provide the 225e with an electric-only driving range of up to 31 miles.

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Source: Autocar Online

Skoda to launch 30 new cars by 2023, following record 2018

Skoda Vision iV

The electric Vision iV concept recently shown at Geneva

Czech car maker is readying for electrification onslaught this year after increasing deliveries by 4.4% last year

Skoda will launch 30 new models by 2023, at least 10 of which will be electrified, the Czech brand has announced at its annual conference.

Its electrification strategy will kick off this year with the launch of the Superb plug-in hybrid and the electric Citigo city car

Its first model on the MEB electric platform, which was developed by parent firm the Volkswagen Group, will arrive in 2020. The MEB-based electric SUV will be a production version of the Vision iV recently shown at Geneva motor show.

Skoda has previously said it would have 10 electrified models by 2025, so this announcement suggests it has accelerated its plans to achieve this goal at least two years earlier. At that time, it was confirmed that six would be plug-in hybrids and four would be electric.

More imminent arrivals in the broader model line-up include the recently revealed Scala hatchback and Kamiq SUV, as well as a heavily updated, not-yet-seen Octavia – Skoda’s biggest selling model – later this year. 

Skoda’s plans for the next three years were outlined at the event following news of another record year for the brand.  The car maker delivered 1,253,700 vehicles last year, an increase of 4.4% over 2017. It has almost doubled sales from a decade ago; in 2009, Skoda sold 684,226 cars from five model lines. Skoda remains the third biggest brand in the VW Group, beaten by VW (6.2m sales) and Audi (1.8m)

Sales revenue also increased by 4.4% to £14.8bn but operating profit fell by 14.6% year-on-year to £1.1bn.

This is largely thanks to major outlays in 2018, including a £428m investment into improving its factories. Skoda said expenditure on research and development increased by 46.8%. Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier said: “The upfront expenditures on the coming years will ensure the long-term future of our company.”

Skoda’s profit margin in 2018 was 8%, a fall from 2017’s 9.7% but still remarkably better than its sibling Volkswagen, which achieved a 3.7% profit margin last year. 

China remains, by far, Skoda’s biggest market with 341,000 deliveries last year, followed by Germany with 176,600. Third place went to its home of the Czech Republic trailed by the UK. Skoda delivered 74,500 vehicles here, slightly down on last year.

Maier commented that 2018 was “a year of considerable challenge for Skoda”. 

“We assumed responsibility for several tasks within the Volkswagen Group: the regional management of India and Russia, the development and production of the Passat family at the Kvasiny site, and the expansion of production capacities at a multi-brand plant. 

He continued: “The transition to the new WLTP cycle and the trade dispute between the US and China created uncertainty and reluctance to buy in some markets. Negative exchange rate effects, as well as increased personnel costs and high upfront expenditure for the future, are also reflected in the result.”

Maier predicted that 2019 would also be a challenging year, but added that despite the difficult global economic conditions, Skoda would still gain momentum.

Skoda’s plans for digitalisation

As well as the launch of its first electrified cars this year, described by Maier as “a very special moment in Skoda’s 124-year history”, the firm is also pursuing its plans to expand into new markets and focus on digitalisation.

Last year, Skoda launched in Singapore, meaning it’s now present in 103 markets, and the firm said it was “pressing ahead with accessing new markets”. South Africa is expected to be next.Skoda said other key areas for progress included e-mobility, autonomous driving, connectivity and digitalisation, and added it “intends to increase its global vehicle sales by effectively implement these topics”.

As part of this intention, Skoda has opened two so-called Digilabs in Prague and Tel Aviv, both of which work with start-ups to develop new solutions for transport in the future. 

The Digilabs are working on a number of vehicle-on-demand projects such as the private peer-to-peer car sharing app Hoppy Go and the student car-sharing platform Uniqway. 

The maker is also currently testing a delivery service, by which parcels are delivered directly to the boot of customers’ cars, similar to what Amazon and Volvo already offer in the States.

VW Group’s growth in India

Skoda is also ramping up its roll-out in India, where a small SUV will be unveiled next year. Since taking over management of the region for the VW Group in 2018, Skoda has opened a technology centre in Pune, India, which it describes “as the first major step in the implementation of the project”. It will localise 95% of production of the vehicles, which will be both Skoda and Volkswagen models. 

R&D boss Christian Strube said: “By opening the Technology Centre, we are underlining our determination to make the INDIA 2.0 project a success. 

“India has excellent universities and highly qualified staff; this state-of-the-art facility will help us to unlock that huge potential – especially with regard to design and development. Local development is the key to success.”

Read more

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Source: Autocar Online

Toyota and Suzuki agree wide-ranging partnership

Toyota RAV4

Suzuki-branded hybrid cars based on RAV4 and Corolla to launch in Europe as part of ‘wide-ranging collaboration’

Toyota and Suzuki have announced a new wide-ranging collaboration, which will involve Toyota producing Suzuki-badged hybrid vehicles based on the RAV4 and Corolla estate for the European market.

The two Japanese firms signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a partnership in 2007, and have now agreed ‘concrete details’ of the deal. The two firms say the agreement will bring together “Toyota’s strength in electrification technologies and Suzuki’s strength in technologies for compact vehicles”. 

The agreement is also designed to help both firms “grow in new fields”, and will include joint collaboration in production and electrified vehicles. Toyota and Suzuki say they will “continue to fairly and freely compete against each other”.

Both firms have given details on a number of specific projects in which they will collaborate, split into three strands.

Toyota will supply its hybrid powertrain system to Suzuki at a global level, and will supply Suzuki with two new electrified vehicles based on the RAV4 and Corolla wagon for the European market. These two cars will be produced by “OEM supply”, meaning that Toyota will make them for Suzuki.

Toyota will also adopt Suzuki’s newly developed compact vehicle engines in the European market. These engines will be manufactured at Toyota’s facility in Poland.

The two firms will also work to develop hybrid vehicles for the Indian market. Suzuki will supply Toyota with two compact vehicles based on the Ciaz and Ertiga for the Indian market, and four vehicles in the African market. Toyota and Suzuki have also agreed to collaborate on the development of a C-segment SUV for India, with Toyota taking on production of the Suzuki Vitara Brezza for that market.

Toyota boss Akio Toyoda said: “We believe that the expansion of our business partnership with Suzuki – from the mutual supply of vehicles and powertrains to the domains of development and production – will help give us the competitive edge we need to survive this once-in-a-century period of profound transformation.”

Suzuki boss Osamu Suzuki added: “We appreciate the kind offer from Toyota to let us make use of their hybrid technology.”

Read more

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Source: Autocar Online

Icon of icons: Autocar Awards Readers' Champion – Volkswagen Beetle

Volkswagen Beetle

Original Beetle is noisy, basic and thirsty, but surely the most recognisable, durable and enjoyable car on the road

Is the Volkswagen Beetle your favourite automotive icon? Read what we think and cast your vote

 

The Volkswagen Beetle is in the running to be this year’s Autocar Awards Readers’ Champion. Each day a different member of the Autocar team will champion one of the 17 cars, but only one can be the Icon of Icons and it’s up to you to decide – vote here.

This isn’t a defence of the modern Beetle, or an attempt to argue it was misunderstood or under-appreciated. I’m not going to die on that hill, or even stub my toe against it. The Beetle’s second life is just an excuse to sing the praises of the original. 

Nor is it just the first car’s huge production run that brings it here (more than 21.5 million by the time production finally ended in Brazil in 2003), nor its cultish following, nor even the unarguable appeal of Herbie Goes Bananas. Nope, the Beetle has earned its place on top of the list for proving that cheap didn’t have to mean nasty. 

Drive a Beetle today and ‘modern’ is not one of the words you are likely to take away from the experience. There’s huge character, but no doubting the basic-ness of the car itself. The rear-mounted engine ticks like a demented sewing machine at idle, but there is a distinctly Porsche-like character to the soundtrack under harder use. Appropriately enough – the new 911 being the Beetle’s first cousin six times removed.

Harder use is what a Beetle driven on modern roads tends to get – even the last European-market versions made do with 1182cc flat fours producing just 35bhp (Americans got a 1.6-litre version with a heady 59bhp). Driven with binary throttle inputs, a mid-1970s Beetle is quick enough to keep up with modern traffic, but not really up to the task of ever drawing ahead of it. 

But this doesn’t matter, because you are almost certain to be smiling. The Beetle isn’t a sports car – the official 0-60mph time was 36 seconds and the natural cruising pace is around 55mph – but the basics are overwhelmingly good. 

The gearshift is accurate and graunch-free, the clutch progressive and the low-geared steering has nice weight and delivers good responses. Taken to its limit, the swing-axle rear suspension could turn the car snappy, but driven at everyday pace it displays a tightness and positivity in stark contrast to the dynamic slop served up by most of its contemporaries. 

It’s the build quality that really impresses, though. A well-maintained Beetle still feels solid and tight; the doors close better if you lower the window a centimetre first, such is the efficiency of the seals. In an era when cars were often delivered to their first owners with major faults, and many suffered life-threatening corrosion before their fifth birthdays, Volkswagen’s quality came as a revelation. It was also a happy side effect of the fledgling company’s lack of funds when production was restarted after the war – initially at the behest of Ivan Hirst, a British army major – and without the funds to develop new models. The result was a truly evolutionary approach with iterative upgrades rather than generational changes throughout the Beetle’s long life. Spin-offs like the now-venerated Bus and Van used the same suspension and powertrains. 

The Beetle was inexpensive – one of the cheapest cars in the UK right up to its retirement here in 1978 – but its solid construction and dependability won it a middle-class following, one that undoubtedly served as the basis for VW’s modern successes. Icon is an overused expression; the Beetle is one of very few cars to have genuinely earned it. 

Click here for the Volkswagen Beetle to be named our ‘icon of icons’

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Source: Autocar Online

BMW Z4 sDrive20i Sport 2019 review

BMW Z4 sDrive20i 2019 first drive review - hero front

This entry-level roadster charms as an all-rounder, but is it the dynamic showcase BMW says it is?

As an entry-level roadster, the new Z4 sDrive20i should be among the sweetest-handling cars BMW builds, and therefore among the sweetest-handling cars full stop. No pressure, then.But as we’ve already learned, not least from spending time in a development prototype and subsequently during a drive of the top-billing M40i version, BMW has put its back into making the third-generation Z4 much better to drive than its tepid forebear.There are plenty of changes. The suspension has been re-engineered with a higher proportion of aluminium and there’s a new five-link set-up at the rear. The engine sits closer to the car’s centre of gravity, which is itself lower than before, and the front track is 98mm wider – a colossal increase. At the same time, the wheelbase has shortened 26mm in order to stiffen the aluminium-and-steel platform shared with the BMW 5 Series and the new Toyota GR Supra.Arguably of equal importance to all that is the fact BMW has done away with run-flat tyres, the new Z4 instead wearing Michelin’s truly excellent Pilot Super Sports. Too much grip? We’ll come back to that, but this is fundamentally a promising layout: traditionally front-engined and rear-driven, with equal weight distribution and a driving position now closer the car’s mid-point.As it stands and will probably remain, with hybrid and proper M versions looking highly unlikely unless some BMW board member has a change of heart, there are three engine options, all petrol and turbocharged. The sDrive20i model tested here and the sDrive30i each get BMW’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit, respectively tuned to 194bhp and 255bhp for 0-62mph times of 6.6sec and 5.4sec. At the top of the range sits the Porsche 718 Boxster-rivalling M40i M Performance, which takes a 3.0-litre inline-six, mates it to the same ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox and duly drops the sprint time to 4.6sec.All cars are well equipped, but as a quick run-down, here’s what spending a bit extra over the sDrive20i Sport’s £37,000 list price can get you.Both Sport and M Sport cars are fitted with 18in alloy wheels touting an attractive degree of tyre sidewall, although the latter also gets M Sport suspension, an M leather steering wheel, a relatively restrained bodykit and, in the case of the sDrive30i, M Sport brakes. The M Sport Plus Pack – available on the sDrive30i but not the sDrive20i – adds the same adaptive M Suspension you’ll find on the M40i. The other significant option is the Comfort Pack, which includes a heated steering wheel (crucial in our eyes), a useful wind deflector and through-load access from the boot. 

Source: Autocar Online

Mercedes GLC Coupe gets refreshed looks, new engines for 2019

Mercedes GLC Coupe 2019 press - on the road nose

Tweaked design, new safety systems and uprated interior technology for Mercedes’ more stylish SUV

Mercedes-Benz has given the GLC Coupe crossover SUV a mid-life facelift, adding mild-hybrid engines to the line-up and improving safety with new driver assistance systems.

Expected to arrive later this year, the revised GLC Coupe has recieved design tweaks similar to those used on the recently-refreshed regular GLC. It gets more pronounced A-pillars, a revised rear diffuser and a diamond radiator grille, along with a distinctive swooping roofline and rounded rear window.

It will launch with a range of new 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder petrol and Euro 6d-compliant diesel engines, ahead of the change in legislation due in 2020. The 207bhp GLC200 4Matic and 267bhp GLC300 4Matic include Mercedes’ EQ Boost 48-volt starter-generator, which can assist with power delivery or energy recuperation for improved fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions. The trio of diesels that complete the initial line-up, the 161bhp 200d, 191bhp 220d and 242bhp 300d, are expected to make up the majority of UK sales.

It also receives optional dynamic body control suspension with adaptive dampers. Mercedes has yet to quote any performance claims for the facelifted Coupe.

Inside, the GLC Coupe features Mercedes’ latest MBUX infotainment system, with 12.3in digital instrument display and a choice of 7.0in or 10.3in infotainment screen. A touchpad replaces the rotary dial found on the outgoing car, while voice recognition and gesture control is available for hands-free use.

It also gains a new suite of driver assistance and safety functions, including door exit warnings, active distance and active steer assist adaptive cruise control, active brake assist and traffic jam detection. Trailer manoeuvring assist uses the 360-degree parking camera to help calculate angles when reversing with a trailer hitched.

Pricing and availability have yet to be announced, but the facelifted car is expected to carry a small premium over the outgoing GLC Coupe’s £42,390 starting price.

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Source: Autocar Online

BMW X7 2019 review

BMW X7 2019 first drive review - hero front

Vaster than our road networks need, but undeniably capacious and finely furnished with it. Brisk and defter than most seven-seaters but no sports SUV

This is probably the most regional car BMW has designed.Its big-grilled largeness is aimed at buyers in America, the Middle East, China and other Asian markets, and judging by the enthusiasm with which it was viewed by colleagues from Dubai, it looks as if BMW may have hit the target.These buyers are offered a version with a petrol V8 that we won’t get, its twin exhausting spitting dune-assaulting promise even at idle.European buyers, who will need to think hard about where they might park this seven-seater before committing, can choose between the 335bhp V6 xDrive 40i sampled here, a 192bhp xDrive30d or a 290bhp M50d.The X7 shares the recently renewed X5’s platform, but it’s substantially bigger than that car, occupying a footprint 5.15m long and 2.0m wide less door mirrors. The X5 shares the same width, but come in at 4.92m long and 1.75m high, the taller X7 topping 1.81m, which certainly contributes to the idea that you’re driving a gargantuan beast. So does looking over your shoulder towards the distant tailgate.

Source: Autocar Online

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