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News and views about cars, bikes and motorsport. Covers new cars and motorcycles, auto industry news, motoring issues and motor racing.

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    Buick’s decision to offer a version of the Vauxhall / Opel Cascada convertible comes as no surprise. After all, the brand has been pursuing the very sensible strategy of adopting products from GM’s European division for a while now.

    Things are being done a little differently this time, though. As part of their journey across the Atlantic, the Verano (née Astra), Regal (Insignia) and Encore (Mokka) gained some styling tweaks, unique powertrains and new nameplates. Not so with the Cascada.

    Buick Cascada (2016) Front Side

    As well as keeping the Cascada designation, the Buick model’s looks are unchanged. Even comparatively simple elements like the grille and bumpers remain unaltered.

    The engine too is carried over, but that’s no drawback. It’s a 1.6 litre, four-cylinder, direct-injection, turbocharged petrol unit which develops 200 bhp (149 kW / 202 PS) with up to 300 Nm (221 lb/ft) of torque on overboost.

    There’s just one transmission available - a six-speed automatic - and the front-wheel drive Cascada is equipped with the torque steer-reducing HiPer Strut front suspension set-up.

    A key piece of specification for any cabriolet is its roof. Standard on this four-seat Buick is an electro-hydraulic power-folding fabric item that can be lowered in 17 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph (50 km/h).

    Sales are due to begin in early 2016.

    Buick Cascada (2016) InteriorBuick Cascada (2016) Rear Side

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    Images © General Motors.

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    This year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit has seen Nissan launch the all-new Titan XD full-size pick-up truck.

    With bold styling that incorporates a huge front grille, it’s going to be available in two different chassis lengths with a choice of standard, crew and king cabs. To further complicate the buying process, the range is set to comprise five trim grades.

    Nissan Titan XD Crew Cab (2016) Front Side

    And then there are the powertrain options. As well as V6 and V8 petrol engines, Nissan intends to offer a Cummins 5.0 litre V8 turbo diesel that delivers 310 bhp (231 kW / 314 PS) and 752 Nm (555 lb-ft) of torque via an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission. Naturally both rear- and four-wheel drive versions have been developed.

    The second-generation Titan, which will be manufactured in Mississippi, boasts an estimated payload capacity of up to 2,000 lbs (907 kg) and a towing capability that Nissan says should exceed 12,000 lbs (5,443 kg).

    By contrast, the maximum a 2015 Ford F-150 can carry is 3,300 lbs (1,496 kg) when equipped with the Heavy Duty Package, while certain variants are able to haul 12,200 lbs (5,533 kg).

    Sales of the Nissan Titan XD are scheduled to begin across North America late this year.

    Nissan Titan XD Crew Cab (2016) DashboardNissan Titan XD Crew Cab (2016) Rear Side

    Nissan Titan XD Crew Cab (2016) SideNissan Titan XD Crew Cab (2016) Interior

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    Ahead of its debut on the Monte Carlo Rally later this month, Volkswagen Motorsport has unveiled the revised Polo R WRC that will compete in the 2015 World Rally Championship.

    Although a refreshed livery and a redesigned rear wing are the most visible signs of an update, engineers also re-evaluated many other components in order to enhance the title-winning car’s performance and reliability.

    Volkswagen Polo R WRC 2015 Front Side 1

    As a result, power from the turbocharged 1.6 litre four-cylinder engine has been increased to 313 bhp (234 kW / 318 PS). Furthermore, the hydraulically-controlled six-speed sequential transmission which delivers that output to all four wheels is now operated via steering wheel-mounted paddles, rather than a gearstick.

    With a minimum weight of 1,200 kg (2,645 lbs), the 2015 Polo R WRC can sprint from rest to 62 mph (100 km/h) in around 3.9 seconds before going on to a top speed of 124 mph (200 km/h).

    The team’s three driver and co-driver crews - Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia, Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila and Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Fløene - remain as they were at the end of last season.

    Volkswagen Polo R WRC 2015 Rear SideVolkswagen Polo R WRC 2015 Front Side 2

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  • 01/17/15--15:41: 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel launched
  • Exclusive styling elements and some extra equipment identify the Rebel, which is a new trim grade for Ram’s 1500 pick-up range.

    The most striking visual changes are at the front. Instead of the traditional ‘crosshairs’ grille, a distinctive (but not especially attractive) black item is fitted. Below it is a powder-coated bumper that incorporates tow hooks and a skid plate.

    Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4x4 (2015) Front

    Sitting beneath extended wheel arches are 17” two-tone one-piece alloy wheels shod with Toyo Open Country A/T all-terrain tyres. To further enhance its off-road ability, this 1500’s air suspension set-up gains a one-inch ride height lift, Bilstein dampers and a more pliant rear anti-roll bar.

    Completing the look is a unique tailgate, numerous badges and a black finish for the lower bodywork.

    Inside, the seats - heated in the front - feature red and black vinyl upholstery with fabric inserts that mimic the tread pattern of those Toyo tyres. A metallic grey centre console, red anodised trim pieces and a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel are also part of the specification.

    Sales of the Ram 1500 Rebel are due to begin during the second half of this year. It’s only going to be available in crew cab guise with a 5’ 7” cargo box, but buyers will get to choose between 3.6 litre Pentastar V6 4x4, 5.7 litre Hemi V8 4x2 or 5.7 litre Hemi V8 4x4 powertrains.

    Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4x4 (2015) DashboardRam 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4x4 (2015) Rear Side

    Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4x4 (2015) Front SideRam 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4x4 (2015) Interior

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    Previously, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 Coupé would’ve been called the Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 AMG Coupé. The change in naming style is meant to better reflect AMG’s sub-brand status, but it still denotes that this newcomer is the high-performance member of the GLE five-door fastback SUV range.

    Oh, and it mustn’t be confused with the GLE 450 AMG Coupé, because that model merely represents the more mainstream ‘AMG Sport’ trim grade.

    Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 Coupé 4Matic (2016) Front Side

    Regardless of what the GLE 63 Coupé is known as, its obvious purpose is to compete against the BMW X6 M. After all, both vehicles feature a turbocharged V8 petrol engine, an automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, upgraded chassis components and very similar looks.

    One major difference is that Mercedes-AMG’s offering will be available in normal and S-Model guises. However why anybody would want the former is a mystery, considering the latter boasts extra power, numerous cosmetic tweaks and 22” alloy wheels instead of the usual 21” items.

    As if to illustrate the pointlessness of such a strategy, it has already been confirmed that only the S-Model is coming to the UK.

    Looking at the customary performance benchmarks, the GLE 63 S Coupé merely matches its BMW rival despite having a slightly higher output figure. In terms of efficiency, the X6 M wins by a narrow margin.

    How the two adversaries compare on price remains to be seen, though.

    Model Mercedes-AMG
    GLE 63 Coupé
    GLE 63 S Coupé
    X6 M
    UK OTR price N/A TBC £93,070
    Engine 5.5 litre V8
    biturbo petrol
    4.4 litre V8
    biturbo petrol
    Transmission 7-speed automatic 8-speed automatic
    Power 549 bhp
    (410 kW / 557 PS)
    576 bhp
    (430 kW / 585 PS)
    567 bhp
    (423 kW / 575 PS)
    Torque 700 Nm
    (516 lb/ft)
    760 Nm
    (560 lb/ft)
    750 Nm
    (553 lb/ft)
    0-62 mph
    (100 km/h)
    4.3 secs 4.2 secs 4.2 secs
    Top speed 155 mph
    (250 km/h)*
    155 mph
    (250 km/h)*
    155 mph
    (250 km/h)*
    Fuel economy** 23.7 mpg
    (11.9 l/100 km)
    25.5 mpg
    (11.1 l/100km)
    CO2 emissions 279 g/km 258 g/km
    * Electronically limited.
    ** NEDC combined.

    UK deliveries of the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupé are due to begin in June.

    Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 Coupé 4Matic (2016) InteriorMercedes-AMG GLE 63 Coupé 4Matic (2016) Rear Side

    Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 Coupé 4Matic (2016) SideMercedes-AMG GLE 63 Coupé 4Matic (2016) Dashboard

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  • 01/19/15--15:19: 2017 Ford GT unveiled
  • One of the undoubted stars at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit has been the all-new Ford GT.

    Rather than follow the unashamed retro styling themes of its predecessor, the 2017 model is ultra-modern. That dramatic change in design direction is most obvious when viewed from above, as the GT’s lightweight carbon fibre bodywork forms a teardrop shape which is both striking and aerodynamically efficient.

    Ford GT (2017 Rendering) Front Side 1

    Likewise, powertrain thinking has moved on considerably since the 2005 GT was launched with a supercharged 5.4 litre V8 mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. For the updated version, Ford has decided on a mid-mounted twin-turbo 3.5 litre EcoBoost V6 engine. It’ll produce more than 600 horsepower (about 450 kW) and send that output to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

    The 2017 Ford GT is also going to feature innovations such as an active rear spoiler, carbon-ceramic brake discs, a configurable digital instrument display and fixed seats that are integrated into the car’s structure. Production is scheduled to begin late next year.

    Ford GT (2017 Rendering) TopFord GT (2017 Rendering) Rear Side

    Ford GT (2017 Rendering) InteriorFord GT (2017 Rendering) Front Side 2

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    Toyota has revealed the new Tacoma mid-size pick-up for North America, which is going to be manufactured in Texas and Mexico.

    Compared to its predecessor, a more rigid chassis and stronger but lighter steel bodywork are among the key improvements. Refreshed front-end styling sees the appearance of a more assertive grille, while the tailgate gains a stamped ‘Tacoma’ logo.

    Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Access Cab (2016) Front Side

    Buyers will still get to choose between Access Cab and Double Cab models, however a revised trim grade line-up now comprises SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited versions.

    As its name implies, the TRD Off-Road is designed for all-surface use. Accordingly, this particular Tacoma’s standard equipment includes numerous technologies such as Crawl Control, Hill Start Assist Control and the traction-maximising Multi-Terrain Select system.

    A 2.7 litre four-cylinder petrol unit continues as the entry-level engine. Alternatively, Toyota is introducing an innovative 3.5 litre V6 that can operate on the Atkinson combustion cycle for better efficiency.

    Both options are set to come with a six-speed automatic transmission, although a six-speed manual gearbox has also been engineered for the latter.

    Full specification details and prices are yet to be announced.

    Toyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab (2016) DashboardToyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab (2016) Rear

    Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Access Cab (2016) Rear SideToyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab (2016) Front Side

    Toyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab (2016) SideToyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab (2016) Interior

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    Ferruccio Lamborghini wasn’t an advocate of factory-supported motorsport, so the late founder of the firm that bears his name probably wouldn’t approve of the Huracán GT3.

    Developed by Lamborghini Squadra Corse, Grasser Racing Team is due to run two examples of the new racer in the five-round 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series. The cost per car to privateers is €369,000 plus taxes (around £279,000 or US$420,000 at current exchange rates).

    Lamborghini Huracán GT3 2015 Front Side

    Lamborghini Huracán GT3 2015 Rear Side

    Of course there are numerous differences compared to the road-going version. The most obvious are the dramatically widened wheel arches and an adjustable rear spoiler that’s complemented by an imposing diffuser.

    Beneath its skin, the rear-wheel drive Huracán GT3 gains modified front and rear subframes, an enhanced oil cooling system, a six-speed sequential gearbox and various safety devices including a roof hatch. Power comes from a V10 engine, but Lamborghini hasn’t revealed any output or performance figures.

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    Like so many manufacturers, Chevrolet has resorted to a ‘black look’ for its latest limited-run model. The Silverado Midnight edition, which is based on the existing 1500 LT Z71 variant, gains a variety of suitably dark cosmetic tweaks.

    A requisite black finish is applied to the pick-up’s front grille, headlight bezels, side mouldings and bumpers. Those components are matched by a set of 18” alloy wheels shod with Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac all-terrain tyres.

    Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT Z71 Midnight Edition Crew Cab (2015) Front Side

    Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT Z71 Midnight Edition Crew Cab (2015) Rear Side

    Also included on the extra specification list are rear parking sensors, a spray-in bedliner and heated power-adjustable door mirrors.

    Chevrolet is planning to restrict Silverado Midnight edition production to 5,000 units. Buyers are going to have a choice of either double-cab or crew-cab versions, and package prices in the United States will range from $1,595 to $1,995. Sales begin next month.

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    Images © General Motors.

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    Nowadays roughly half of all new cars registered in the UK run on diesel. Fleet and private buyers alike have been enticed by the prospect of better fuel economy, lower carbon dioxide emissions and healthier residual values. However, that popularity could be about to wane.

    Ironically, a widespread return to petrol engines or the adoption of electric-based technologies will likely be caused by politicians. That’s the exact same group of people who have supported diesel sales for so long by being obsessed solely with CO2 figures.

    Take London, for instance. Until recently, diesel cars that produce 100 g/km or less of carbon dioxide were eligible for a 100% discount on the city’s Congestion Charge. Now those vehicles are billed the full amount and - in a move that would copy proposals already suggested for Paris - a total ban might be on the horizon for them. A total U-turn, in other words.

    So what’s the problem? Well, policy-makers have seemingly just realised that diesels also belch out other nasty things, including harmful soot and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).

    A diesel particulate filter (DPF) should take care of the former, but these devices have their own foibles. One major issue concerns the automatic self-emptying process known as regeneration, which is meant to burn off any accumulated particles at very high temperatures.

    In a car that’s used predominantly for short journeys or stop-start urban driving the regeneration cycle may never complete successfully, leading eventually to a blocked filter. The upshot is lots of glowing dashboard warning lights and a trip to the dealer for DPF cleaning or replacement. Neither option is going to be cheap.

    Some misguided people advocate permanent removal as the cure for a troublesome DPF, even though following this advice is potentially illegal. Furthermore, such a meddled-with car probably won’t pass its MOT test.

    NOx is a less visible tailpipe pollutant generated by diesels. Scientific research has identified that these unpleasant gases can cause or aggravate numerous respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

    One answer to that particular concern is diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), commonly known as AdBlue in Europe. Simply put, this is a very pure aqueous solution of urea which is injected into the exhaust system. This then reacts with the NOx via a process called selective catalytic reduction (SCR), thereby converting most of it into benign nitrogen and water vapour.

    Many new trucks and buses are already equipped with AdBlue apparatus as standard, and their fitment to passenger cars is becoming increasingly prevalent as manufacturers strive to meet emissions limits.

    DEF is stored in a separate tank and, for cars at least, it should only need topping up at each scheduled service. Nevertheless it’s an extra expense and if the AdBlue runs out then obviously SCR is impossible. Allow that to happen and the engine is apt to either go into a reduced-power mode or refuse to start altogether.

    Particulates and NOx are what economists refer to as externalities, since their effect on public health and air quality is a wider cost for society created by diesel engine users.

    Direct legislative measures are often necessary to force a change in the behaviour of those responsible for externalities. And that’s precisely what’s happening in the case of diesel-powered cars.

    Currently, DPF and SCR systems represent the main financial penalties (and hassles) imposed on buyers so that government pollution targets can be achieved. In the future, threats of usage restrictions and additional fiscal burdens could well be added to the list.

    For some drivers, especially those doing high mileages, having a diesel might still make perfect sense. But anybody who travels a more modest distance should certainly be considering something else.

    Luckily, car makers already realise that demand could shift away from diesel. The switch isn’t automatically going to mean choosing a hybrid powertrain either, because development of ultra-frugal smaller-capacity petrol motors has been rife across the industry.

    A good example of a model that has benefited from this work is the Volkswagen Polo supermini. Until recently, its eco-friendly BlueMotion variant was only offered with a TDI diesel engine. Now though there’s a TSI petrol alternative, which is due to arrive at UK dealers this coming March.

    Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion TSI 5-Door (2015) Front Side

    Looking at the stats below, the first thing to note is that a TSI version is cheaper by £1,065. It’ll be considerably quicker, too.

    The TDI boasts a clear advantage as far as fuel consumption is concerned, but to what extent does that overcome the much higher initial outlay? Time to do some sums…

    At the moment, petrol can be bought for around £1.03 per litre (£4.68 per gallon), while diesel is more expensive at £1.09 per litre (£4.96 per gallon). So, taking the official combined cycle economy figures as a guide, travelling 100 miles would incur a fuel cost of £6.80 in a BlueMotion TSI or £5.44 in a BlueMotion TDI. A moderate saving of £1.36 for the TDI owner, in other words.

    Apply that £1.36 to the difference in invoice prices, and a TDI would have to be driven about 78,500 miles (126,330 kilometres) more than the TSI before its premium was recouped. Okay, the calculation is somewhat simplistic, as other running costs such as depreciation and insurance have been ignored.

    Even so, it does further reinforce the argument that for a lot of average-mileage new-car customers, opting for a diesel engine is clearly going to be a bad decision.

    Model Polo
    UK OTR price 3-door £14,730 £15,795
    UK OTR price 5-door £15,360 £16,425
    Fuel Petrol Diesel
    Engine 1.0 litre,
    1.4 litre,
    Power 93 bhp
    (70 kW / 95 PS)
    73 bhp
    (55 kW / 75 PS)
    Torque 160 Nm
    (118 lb/ft)
    210 Nm
    (154 lb/ft)
    0-62 mph (100 km/h) 10.5 secs 12.9 secs
    Top speed 119 mph
    (191 km/h)
    110 mph
    (178 km/h)
    Combined cycle
    fuel economy
    68.9 mpg
    (4.1 l/100km)
    91.1 mpg
    (3.1 l/100km)
    CO2 emissions 94 g/km 82 g/km

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    Several months after the reworked Corsa first appeared, Vauxhall and Opel have revealed a similarly-updated Corsavan. Although refreshed styling is the most noticeable change, the new model’s payload has been increased by 21 kg (46 lbs) to 571 kg (1,258 lbs). Its cargo capacity is 920 litres.

    Users will doubtless also appreciate the more supportive seats and improved cabin refinement. Standard equipment is generous enough, as the list includes Bluetooth, a DAB radio, tyre pressure monitoring, six airbags, electric windows and power-adjustable door mirrors.

    Vauxhall Corsavan (2015) Front Side

    For anybody wanting more, the Sportive trim grade gains additional luxuries such as sports seats, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, a heated windscreen and 16” alloy wheels.

    There are numerous cost options, too. Among them is a Technical Pack that comprises forward collision alert, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and following distance indicator systems, as well as a rear-view camera.

    Opel Corsavan (2015) Load SpaceOpel Corsavan (2015) Front Side

    When UK sales commence in February, Vauxhall Corsavan customers are going to have a choice of three engines. They’re being denied a 1.4 litre petrol alternative that’s available with the Opel version, though.

    Model Engine Power UK retail price
    (excluding VAT)
    Corsavan 1.2 litre petrol 69 bhp
    (51 kW / 70 PS)
    Corsavan 1.3 litre CDTi
    Start/Stop diesel
    74 bhp
    (55 kW / 75 PS)
    Corsavan 1.3 litre CDTi
    Start/Stop diesel
    93 bhp
    (70 kW / 95 PS)
    Corsavan Sportive 1.3 litre CDTi
    Start/Stop diesel
    93 bhp
    (70 kW / 95 PS)

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    Images © General Motors.

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    Yamaha has revealed the colour scheme that its YZR-M1 MotoGP bikes will be wearing this coming season. With Telefónica retained as title sponsor, the predominantly blue paintjob is very much a gentle evolution of last year’s.

    Once again Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo are the team’s riders. They finished second and third respectively in the 2014 series thanks mainly to a consistent run of podium finishes, but eventual champion Marc Márquez comfortably took the most race victories aboard his Honda.

    Yamaha YZR-M1 2015 #99 (Lorenzo) Front Side

    Commenting on the contest ahead, Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing, said: “Both [Rossi and Lorenzo] want to achieve their goal, to win races and to win the title and I am sure they will be committed to work together as Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team factory riders to make their bikes faster and more competitive to challenge our competitors.

    “From our side I can assure our riders that Yamaha Motor and everybody in the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team is committed and focused to provide them all the support they will need to achieve their and our mutual goals.”

    The first MotoGP round of 2015 is the Grand Prix of Qatar. It takes place at the Losail International Circuit in Doha on the 29th of March.

    Yamaha YZR-M1 2015 #46 (Rossi) Front and RearYamaha YZR-M1 2015 #99 (Lorenzo) Side

    Yamaha YZR-M1 2015 #46 (Rossi) Front SideYamaha YZR-M1 2015 #99 (Lorenzo) Rear Side

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    Following its debut at last year’s Paris Motor Show, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Red Vapor Limited Edition has arrived in the UK.

    Compared to a regular SRT, the Red Vapor version gains several cosmetic changes. On the outside, these include black chrome trim, a set of matching 20” ‘Goliath’ five-spoke wheels and gloss black grille surrounds. Buyers will have a choice of Brilliant Black, Redline Red or Bright White paintwork.

    Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Red Vapor Limited Edition (2015) Front Side

    The upgraded cabin meanwhile features black leather upholstery with red suede inserts, as well as some unique floor mats and chrome-covered pedals.

    There haven’t been any modifications to the powertrain, which still comprises a 461 bhp (344 kW / 467 PS) 6.4 litre V8 Hemi engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. That package delivers a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of just 5.0 seconds and an impressive 160 mph (257 km/h) top speed, but unsurprisingly combined fuel consumption is a wallet-emptying 20.2 mpg (13.6 l/100km).

    A price tag of £64,999 makes the Red Vapor Limited Edition £3,404 more than the standard Grand Cherokee SRT. Whether its extra specification justifies such a premium is perhaps questionable, though.

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    Toyota Motorsport is going to return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2017.

    The team, which is based in Cologne, has already begun developing the Yaris WRC in preparation for its campaign.

    Toyota Yaris WRC Prototype 2017 Front Side

    Toyota Yaris WRC Prototype 2017 Side

    As per the series’ regulations, the car features a four-cylinder 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol engine that develops around 300 horsepower (220 kW) with 420 Nm (310 lb/ft) of torque. Also included in the specification are a six-speed sequential transmission and all-wheel drive.

    Toyota last entered the WRC in 1999, when it won the manufacturers’ title.

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    Installing an automatic gearbox in a Lotus Exige S might seem counterintuitive. However, doing so does yield certain benefits.

    The transmission in question is a six-speed unit that can also be controlled via paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. Up-shifts take 240 milliseconds, while the car’s Sport mode blips the throttle when down-shifting.

    Lotus Exige S Automatic (2015) Front Side

    It’s mated to the usual 345 bhp (258 kW / 350 PS) supercharged 3.5 litre V6 engine and the result is a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of 3.9 seconds. That’s actually 0.1 seconds quicker than a manual Exige S.

    Top speed suffers slightly though, as the coupé’s figure of 162 mph (261 km/h) is down by 8 mph (13 km/h). The Roadster version remains restricted to 145 mph (233 km/h) regardless of which gearbox is chosen.

    Lotus Exige S Automatic (2015) Interior

    The Exige S Automatic regains the advantage when it comes to efficiency. 29.4mpg (9.6 l/100 km) and CO2 emissions of 222 g/km on the combined cycle compare favourably to the stick-shifter’s 28.0 mpg (10.1 l/100km) and 236 g/km.

    Buyers opting for the automatic transmission will have to pay an extra £1,667 in the UK, or €2,185 across the Eurozone.

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    Although its Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car is set to be one of 2015’s most important new car launches, Toyota hasn’t forgotten about the more traditional petrol-electric hybrid.

    Indeed, the firm has just embarked on a year-long programme that will test the energy efficiency of silicon carbide semiconductors.

    Toyota Camry Hybrid SiC Semiconductor Prototype (2015) Front Side

    These components, which are found in the system’s power control unit, govern the flow of energy from the battery pack to the electric motor and vice versa under regenerative braking. They’re crucial, because currently plain silicon semiconductors account for around a fifth of all electrical losses.

    The new technology has been fitted to a prototype Camry Hybrid. As if to demonstrate that it could be applied to any vehicle with an electric motor, a similarly-equipped hydrogen fuel cell bus is also taking part in the research.

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    For the first time, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class range is gaining a plug-in hybrid version. The appropriately named C 350 Plug-In Hybrid, which joins the existing C 300 BlueTec Hybrid, will be available in both saloon and estate guises.

    Its powertrain comprises a 208 bhp (155 kW / 211 PS) 2.0 litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine plus an electric motor providing a further 80 bhp (60 kW / 81 PS).

    Mercedes-Benz C 350 Plug-In Hybrid Estate (2015) Front Side

    The total system output is rated at 275 bhp (205 kW / 279 PS) with 600 Nm (442 lb/ft) of peak torque. Delivered via a seven-speed automatic transmission, that’s enough to endow the saloon model with a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) of only 5.9 seconds and a 155 mph (250 km/h) top speed. The estate is very slightly slower.

    In terms of efficiency, the saloon achieves an official 134.5 mpg (2.1 l/100km) on the combined cycle and carbon dioxide emissions are just 48 g/km. A 6.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack is sufficient for a modest pure-electric range of up to 19 miles (31 kilometres).

    Mercedes-Benz C 350 Plug-In Hybrid Estate (2015) Rear Side

    Recharge time using a normal 230 V domestic socket is reckoned to be around two hours at best, but that time drops by about 15 minutes when the car is plugged into a dedicated wallbox or public rapid charger.

    The C 350 Plug-In Hybrid’s standard specification is going to include the Pre-Entry Climate Control system, Airmatic air suspension and Attention Assist to guard against driver fatigue. Deliveries are expected to begin in March 2015, but prices have yet to be confirmed.

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    Currently the most expensive car offered by Hyundai in the UK is the seven-seat Santa Fe Premium SE, which costs £36,705. However, that’s set to change this April with the arrival of the £47,995 Genesis.

    Two questions immediately spring to mind: what is the Genesis, and who is going to spend almost £50k on a Hyundai?

    In answer to the first, it’s a large luxury saloon measuring 4,990 mm (16’ 4”) from bumper to bumper. That’s about the same as an Infiniti Q70 and slightly longer than a BMW 5 Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

    Hyundai Genesis (2015) Front Side

    The Genesis will come loaded with standard equipment. As well as being covered in leather, the front and rear seats are heated and ventilated, while above them a suede headlining surrounds a panoramic glass sunroof. There’s even an electric blind for the rear window, although the fake wood trim doesn’t look especially pleasant.

    Also part of the specification are keyless entry, automatic lights and wipers, a fourteen-speaker audio system, satellite navigation, a head-up display and smart cruise control. Safety features include an around-view monitor, a rear parking camera, Smart Park Assist, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning.

    Hyundai Genesis (2015) Interior

    Power for the rear-wheel drive Genesis is provided by a 3.8 litre V6 GDI petrol engine which is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

    With 311 bhp (232 kW / 315 PS) and 397 Nm (293 lb/ft) of peak torque, it delivers a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of 6.5 seconds and a 150 mph (241 km/h) top speed. However, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions figures of 25.2 mpg (11.2 l/100km) and 261 g/km respectively suggest efficiency isn’t great.

    Hyundai Genesis (2015) Dashboard

    The response to the second question - who is going to spend almost £50k on a Hyundai - is a lot tougher to hypothesise.

    On the plus side, the Genesis is a fairly handsome thing and its comprehensive kit means an options list doesn’t exist. Furthermore, a five-year warranty and five-year service plan are appealing elements of the package.

    Hyundai Genesis (2015) Rear Side

    But the negatives are serious. Most prospective customers in this segment want a prestige badge and either a hybrid or diesel powertrain. Unfortunately the Hyundai has neither and, as a result, depreciation is likely to be severe. In other words, buyers will need to be very brave considering the £48,920 BMW 535d Luxury and £46,600 Infiniti Q70 Hybrid Premium Tech are among its similarly-priced rivals.

    Unsurprisingly, volume aspirations for Hyundai’s new flagship are sensibly modest. When UK deliveries begin, it’ll be sold in limited numbers via just seven specially-selected dealers.

    The Genesis is sure to be a cracking used purchase in a couple of years’ time, though.

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    Nissan’s new GT-R LM Nismo completely ignores conventional race car design norms. Due to compete in the top-flight LMP1 class of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship, its appearance alone bespeaks avant-garde thinking.

    Unlike mid-engine rivals from Toyota, Audi and Porsche, the Nissan features a front-mounted 3.0 litre twin-turbo petrol V6 joined to a five-speed sequential transmission.

    Nissan GT-R LM Nismo LMP1 2015 Front Side 1

    But here’s the really peculiar thing: that powertrain drives the front wheels. As if to visually emphasise the configuration, the front tyres are fourteen inches wide, while those at the rear are a comparatively narrow nine inches.

    Boosting the GT-R’s acceleration is a kinetic energy recovery system which is being engineered to release the maximum permissible eight megajoules around the Le Mans circuit. The downside of such an approach is a much stricter fuel-flow limit for the V6 internal combustion engine, so its efficiency will be crucial.

    Although power and torque figures have yet to be released, Nissan has admitted that getting as close as possible to the minimum 880 kg (1,940 lbs) weight restriction presented the team with a big challenge.

    The maverick GT-R LM Nismo is certainly going to be an intriguing addition to the 2015 WEC, which begins in April with the 6 Hours of Silverstone.

    Nissan GT-R LM Nismo LMP1 2015 FrontNissan GT-R LM Nismo LMP1 2015 Rear Side

    Nissan GT-R LM Nismo LMP1 2015 SideNissan GT-R LM Nismo LMP1 2015 Front Side 2

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    Renault’s new Kadjar is a C-segment crossover. Based on the same CMF architecture that already underpins the second-generation Nissan Qashqai, it’ll be manufactured in Palencia, Spain and Wuhan, China.

    For now specification details are sparse, but Renault has confirmed that the Kadjar is going to be offered with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Doubtless the petrol and diesel engine selection will be very similar to the Qashqai’s.

    Renault Kadjar (2016) Front Side

    Renault describes the styling as fluid and athletic. There are certainly some strong visual resemblances to the smaller Captur crossover, but the Kadjar has a noticeably broader stance. Overall, its design works rather well.

    On the inside, soft-touch materials for the dashboard and double-row upholstery stitching are among the elements intended to convey an upmarket feel. An available large fixed glass sunroof should brighten up the cabin (and keep the air conditioning occupied).

    The Kadjar is due to make its public debut at next month’s Geneva Motor Show. UK sales are then expected to begin in the autumn.

    Renault Kadjar (2016) DashboardRenault Kadjar (2016) Side

    Renault Kadjar (2016) Rear SideRenault Kadjar (2016) Front

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