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Autocar confidential: Seat Cupra sub-brand due in Geneva, Bentley boss on rappers

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Seat Cupra R on on display at Frankfurt Motor Show 2017

Our reporters empty their notebooks to round up this week’s gossip from across the automotive industry

Respect your elders, they say, and so it was that Autocar (founded 1895) was forced to defer to Mercedes-Benz (founded 1883, depending on how you read history) boss Dieter Zetsche (substantially younger than both) when he visited the BMW stand at the end of the Frankfurt motor show press day.

Alas, our interview with BMW R&D boss Klaus Fröhlich was cut short so Zetsche could have a tour of the BMW i Vision Dynamics concept, his thoughts on which remain unrecorded.

How do you make a splash at the Frankfurt motor show when your company doesn’t have a stand? McLaren tried parking a 570S Spider outside the BMW hall, but Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer and his team took unsubtle to new levels when they decided, quite literally, to fly the flag for the UK manufacturer.

“I do not listen to rap music,” Bentley boss Wolfgang Dürheimer proclaimed to a bunch of amused journalists at the show. His son does, though, he explained, and his son recently told him rappers own Bentleys. Dürheimer’s point was that its customer base varies around the world and Bentley cars are aspirational to rappers as much as older clientele.

Seat still hasn’t confirmed Cupra as a sub-brand but boss Luca de Meo dropped the biggest hint yet: “We will be more precise [at the] Geneva [motor show]. Talk to us then.” He said Cupra gives another dimension to the Seat brand and it wanted to develop a whole range of Cupra models.

Related stories: 

Seat Cupra 290 review 

Star cars of Frankfurt Motor Show 

Bentley Continental GT revealed 


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Aston Martin and Red Bull plan more 'incredible products' under new deal

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Aston Martin Red Bull

Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing worked together to develop the Valkyrie

British marque to become title sponsor of leading F1 squad and evaluating an engine programme for 2021

Aston Martin is set to produce more high-performance models in the spirit of the Valkyrie hypercar after strengthening its partnership with Red Bull Racing – and is seriously considering a Formula 1 engine programme for 2021.

The British firm has sponsored Red Bull’s F1 squad since 2016 as part of a tie-up that involved Red Bull designer Adrian Newey penning the Valkyrie. This relationship has now been expanded in a deal that will involve the two firms collaborating on more products and Aston Martin serving as the F1 team’s title sponsor.

No details have been disclosed about what products Aston Martin and Red Bull will collaborate on, but Aston Martin referred to the Valkyrie as the “first in a line of incredible products” resulting from the agreement, suggesting similar limited-run machines could eventually follow.

A new Aston Martin Advanced Performance Centre will open later this year at Red Bull Racing’s Milton Keynes HQ. It will be a base for engineers working on sports cars and a design centre and employ around 110 Aston Martin staff.

Although the F1 team will be known as Aston Martin Red Bull Racing next year, it will still use Renault engines, which are currently branded as TAG Heuer units. However, Aston CEO Andy Palmer has confirmed an interest in entering the sport as an engine manufacturer in 2021, when new technical rules are set to be introduced. Aston Martin has been in talks with other manufacturers and F1’s governing body about the new rules.

Palmer said any Aston entry was dependent on firm cost controls being put in place. He said: “We are not about to enter an engine war with no restrictions in cost or dynamometer hours, but if the FIA can create the right environment, we would be interested in getting involved.”

Opinion: why Aston Martin’s new deal puts pressure on F1 bosses

Strengthening the links with Red Bull would also give Aston Martin an opportunity in F1 supplying engines to one of the top teams on the grid. Red Bull has used Renault engines since 2007, and claimed four drivers’ titles with Sebastian Vettel from 2010-2013. But there has been ongoing tension between the two firms, with Renault feeling it didn’t receive enough credit for its contribution to those titles.

That has led to Red Bull’s Renault units being badged as TAG Heuers through a sponsorship deal. Renault recently secured a deal to supply engines to McLaren from 2018 onwards.

Read more

Opinion: why Aston Martin’s new deal puts pressure on F1 bosses

Aston Martin Valkyrie: exclusive pics and deals

Throwback Thursday: Aston’s first F1 entry in 1959


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671bhp Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo S E-Hybrid launched

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Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo gets range-topping Turbo S E-Hybrid

Quickest Panamera estate yet combines a turbocharged V8 with electric power

Porsche has launched the quickest Panamera Sport Turismo yet produced in the Turbo S E-Hybrid.

Like the regular Panamera, the range-topping Sport Turismo mates a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine that produces 542bhp to a 134bhp electric motor.

Combined, the system outputs a maximum of 671bhp and 627lb ft and enables the all-wheel drive estate to hit 62mph in 3.4sec – 1.4sec quicker than the regular E-Hybrid model.

The car, which produces its maximum torque from just 1400rpm, can also hit 124mph in 11.9sec, which is just one second slower than the 911 GT3 RS can manage. Top speed is 192mph.

The all-wheel drive Turbo S E-Hybrid uses an eight-speed automatic gearbox and offers a claimed 97mpg according to the NEDC test.

It uses a 14.1kWh lithium-ion battery that can be recharged in 2.4 to 6 hours, depending on the power outlet it’s connected to. It can run in full EV mode for up to 31 miles with a top speed of 87mph.

The fitment of the battery into the car’s floor has removed 95 litres of storage space from the boot, but the figure still stands at 425 litres. The rear bench holds space for two adults and a child, and can be folded electronically in a 40:20:40 split.

As standard, the Sport Turismo Turbo S E-Hybrid gets 21in alloy wheels, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control and torque vectoring technology. There’s also a rear limited slip differential and ceramic composite brakes, as well as adaptive three-chamber air suspension with Porsche’s Active Suspension Management system.

The car is on sale now, priced from £140,868, making it the new range-topping variant of Porsche’s Audi RS6 Performance and Mercedes-AMG CLS 63 Shooting Brake rival.

More content:

Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid review


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275bhp Hyundai Veloster N: latest sighting reveals new interior design

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275bhp Hyundai Veloster N: latest sighting reveals interior design

Second product from N performance division will mark entry into the US market

Hyundai’s performance division is preparing a hot version of the Veloster that will mark the N brand’s entry into the US market.

The Veloster N, as it’s expected to be called, has been spotted testing under heavy camouflage at the Nürburgring a month after brand bosses said a second N model was due in 2018.

It will follow the i30N in the N range, but likely won’t sold in the same markets as that car, including the UK, where the Veloster hasn’t been offered since 2014.

As shown by the development car, the Veloster N will get 10-spoke wheels and more aggressive bodywork, which cladding suggests a large rear wing. At the back, a pair of large-bore exhausts hint at the car’s performance. This latest sighting also revealed the car’s interior for the first time, albeit with zebra-patterned covers.

Hyundai has refrained from commenting on the model, but it’s expected to use a more potent version of the i30N’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit, producing around 275bhp.

This would rank it close to the next-generation Ford Focus ST, which is expected to produce the same output from its 1.5-litre engine when it arrives in 2018.

Hyundai’s decision to not sell the i30N in North America has been linked to the impending arrival of the Veloster N, which is predicted to be more suited to that market’s demands.

A Veloster RM16 N has also been seen testing at the Nürburgring. Sources believe it shows that N is experimenting with the idea of a high-performance halo sports car. 


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PROMOTED: Focus RS vs. Mustang – two titans compared

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Ford Focus RS and Ford Mustang GT

The Focus RS and Mustang are two performance icons, but what makes them unique? Andrew Coley took both to Anglesey to find out

The Ford Focus RS and Ford Mustang deliver the thrilling driving experiences you’d expect from a Ford Performance model – but they do so in very different ways.

The Focus RS was inspired by Ford’s successful rally heritage. It blends turbo technology in its 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine with four-wheel-drive, and a rear wing that gives the Focus RS a standout look while retaining the everyday convenience of a five-seater hatchback.

The Mustang offers a choice of a 2.3-litre Ford EcoBoost engine or a V8, combined with rear-wheel drive performance and muscle car looks. Now, Ford Performance engineers have taken the classic Mustang formula and made it a car for the 21st century – refined and poised, without losing any of its raw potential.

We gave World Rallycross commentator Andrew Coley both cars and an empty Anglesey circuit, and asked him to define what the two models share – and what makes each of them so unique.


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Hyundai i30 N 2018 review

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Hyundai i30 N

We get behind the wheel of Hyundai’s first crack at a hot hatchback, and the i30 N doesn’t disappoint

The i30 N is the first hot hatch from a marque with a full works entry in the World Rally Championship, and therefore something to be taken very seriously indeed. That Hyundai’s aim has been to cram in as much performance for the least possible cost to buyers should also have your ears pricked up.Why now? Well, the brand is on something of a role, recording an 87 percent increase in European sales in the last five years. To build on that success and translate rally podiums into profit, it’s now launching a new performance arm – N.Enter Albert Biermann, long-time boss of BMW’s performance arm – M. He’s the type of man who expects the ‘ESC off’ button in a car to actually mean ‘off’ (in the i30 N, it does) and yet recognises that in 2017 a five-door hot hatch needs to be useable to be a hit in showrooms. This machine is very much his baby, and the German’s presence is a major reason for optimism about its ability to entertain.The fundamental i30 N package is nothing out of the ordinary – it’s a five-door hatch with a turbocharged DOHC 2.0-litre in-line four driving the front wheels. What is rather unusual is the level of hardware on offer for modest outlay, with the £24,995 base model getting 247bhp, an electronic limited-slip differential and three-way adaptive suspension. An optional Performance Package sees those figures increase to £27,995 and 271bhp.As for pace, the standard car hits 62mph from rest in 6.4 seconds while the Performance model shaves 0.3 seconds from that time. Both will hit 155mph and manage a claimed 39mpg combined.The five-door bodyshell is the same as that used for the standard i30, Hyundai claiming it to be already adequately stiff (the N gets underbody strut braces, nevertheless). Wider wheelarches have been grafted on and the N-car sits up to 8mm lower.Aggressive bumpers with deep intakes at the front, a red pin-stripe on the splitter and a triangular brake light sat within the gloss-black rear spoiler are other identifiers, though perhaps none are as conspicuous as the N’s rather lovely, and unique, signature colour – Performance Blue. There’s also a choice of 18in wheels (shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres) or 19in options (bespoke Pirelli P Zero).Components for the car’s upgraded brakes, fettled engine, toughened-up six-speed gearbox, reinforced clutch and sophisticated suspension are all either built in-house or supplied by Korean firms with whom Hyundai has a close relationship. It might have been developed at the Nürburgring, but the i30 N’s physical form is refreshingly home-grown, and that’s helped it undercut the competition.The car is also highly configurable, with settings for the e-differential, engine map, exhaust, suspension, steering and ESC. All in all, there are 1944 combinations, though by default they’re grouped into Eco, Normal, Sport and a hardcore N mode. There’s also an N Custom mode, with which you can deploy your favourite settings at the touch of a button.  Inside, the i30 N gets either a 5in display atop the dash or an optional 8in unit. You get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as readouts for power, torque, turbo boost pressure, lap times and – sure to go down well with the local constabulary – acceleration. Performance Pack models also get a removable brace that stretches across the boot floor – how about that for intent?


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2017 Tokyo motor show – preview

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2017 Tokyo motor show - preview

The biennial Tokyo motor show opens its doors on 27 October; here are the show stars to look out for

The Tokyo motor show is regarded as one of the most diverse in the industry, encompassing the best of Japan’s native car makers as well as its idiosyncratic car culture, with wild tuning cars, boxy kei cars and more. 

This is the year of the 45th Tokyo motor show, and the closer we get to the show, the more confirmed entries there are. Keep an eye out for new announcements as they hit the press. 

2017 Tokyo motor show – the cars:

Lexus RX

Lexus is tipped to bring seven-seat versions of units RX SUV to Tokyo, named the RX 350L and RX 450hL. The three-row SUV will act as a rival to the Range Rover and upcoming BMW X7, with the same engine range as the standard five-seat RX. 

Mazda RX model 

The rumour mill has been spinning again, and it’s churned out a whole new set of rumours surrounding the ever-speculated successor to the RX-8, rotary engine and all. It’s not known if it’ll be a standard rotary, but previous trademarks suggest a rotary hybrid may be on the cards. If the fabled coupé ever makes production, it will rival the upcoming  Toyota Supra

Mitsubishi e-Evolution

Mitsubishi is reviving the Evolution name on an unfamiliar car; instead of a rally-honed sports saloon, the e-Evolution is a low-riding coupé-SUV, with electric four-wheel drive and advanced autonomous systems. It’s not yet confirmed for production, but Mitsubishi says the car would be its flagship should it hit the roads.

Nissan electric SUV

The Nissan Leaf has been the Japanese car maker’s sole electric vehicle since launch, but now the second-generation EV has arrived, Nissan is planning to broaden its electric-powered range with an SUV. Although Nissan revealed the Terra electric SUV concept back in 2012, Nissan says that this is not the car for Tokyo this year. 

Subaru Viziv Performance concept

Subaru’s Tokyo-bound concept is an aggressive, box-arched performance saloon, with the angular face of the Impreza up front and a ducktail spoiler at the rear. Subaru hasn’t yet revealed any details of the car, so look out on show day for full specs. 

Suzuki Jimny

Suzuki’s venerable off-roading titch is finally being replaced, with a new version to be revealed at the Tokyo motor show. We know that it will have a ladder chassis and an even boxier aesthetic than the current Jimny. Can Suzuki fill the Defender’s muddy boots as Land Rover pushes its off-roader upmarket?

Suzuki e-Survivor concept

And now for something completely different. Alongside the new Jimny, Suzuki will also show its e-Survivor concept, designed to be the future of the small off-roader. It has an electric motor for each wheel, huge ground clearance, two seats, an open roof and considerable off-road potential. 


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Hyundai i30N hot hatch on sale in January from £24,995

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Hyundai i30N hot hatch revealed with 271bhp performance pack variant

The car’s test programme included more than 6000 miles of running on the Nürburgring Nordschleife

New rival to Ford Focus ST arrives after lengthy development period

Hyundai will open UK order books for its i30N hot hatch on 4 January, with prices starting from £24,995 for the entry-level car.

The first model to be developed by its new N performance arm will be available in two levels, with the base model producing 247bhp. A faster Performance model has 271bhp and, as such, commands £27,995.

Revealed alongside the i30 Fastback during the summer, the upcoming Ford Focus ST rival has been developed with a hard focus on performance. It has undergone a lengthy testing period, including more than 6000 miles of running on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, under the guidance of Hyundai’s high-performance boss and former BMW M division executive Albert Biermann.

Insight: why Hyundai’s N division is about more than just fast cars

All Hyundai small models to benefit from Nürburgring development

“The i30N has been developed for no other purpose than to deliver maximum driving fun to our customers in an accessible, high-performance package,” said Biermann. “With the high-performance N models, we will enhance our brand’s appeal with emotional products that cater to the needs of people who love to have a smile on their face when they drive their car.”

First drive: Hyundai i30N prototype

The i30N features several design changes to the five-door i30, with a cascading grille and new aerodynamic features at both its front and rear. There are wider intakes and a rear diffuser, with the latter helping to reduce lift at speed. It sits 4mm lower than the regular car and gets twin-exit exhausts at the back, along with 18in or optional 19in alloy wheels, which sit ahead of N-labelled brake calipers to signify the car’s performance.

The base-level i30N comes with a 2.0-litre T-GDI turbocharged four-cylinder unit that drives the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. The car produces 247bhp at 6000rpm and 260lb ft of torque at 1450-4500rpm in standard form, enabling a 0-62mph time of 6.4sec. But an optional performance pack edges maximum power output up to 271bhp, helping to trim the 62mph sprint time to 6.1sec, making the i30N comfortably Hyundai’s quickest model.

It also ensures that the i30N outpunches the Focus ST and the Volkswagen Golf GTI in even in its most basic state of tune, placing the new Korean car at the sharp end of the hot hatch segment. Hyundai has long asserted that its first N car will be capable of withstanding long periods of hard driving on circuit. It uses an electronic stability control system that can be completely switched off and cars with the performance package get electronic limited-slip differential technology.

The car has five drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport N and N Custom – that can be selected via two buttons on the steering wheel. Cycling through the modes adjusts the car’s damping harshness, engine responses and exhaust volume. The N Custom mode enables drivers to opt for opposing settings for each, such as allowing the car to run with the softest ride but harshest drivetrain mode. The car also features a rev-matching system that can blip the throttle when the driver clicks down through the gears, as well as a launch control mode.

Along with its unique performance additions including bolstered sports seats, the i30N also gets Hyundai’s highest-specification cabin technology. This includes a choice of 5.0in or 8.0in touchsreen infotainment system with sat-nav – although the UK is expected to only get the larger of these – and access to Hyundai’s Live online services. Smartphone connectivity can be handled by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while a wireless inductive charging pad can be optioned in.

Driver assist features include autonomous emergency braking, driver attention alert, lane keep assist and high-beam assist technology. The car can also recognise road signs and display them in the car’s TFT instrument display cluster.

Production of the i30N is being handled by Hyundai’s Czech plant in Nošovice.


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Alpina B4 S 2017 UK review

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Alpina B4 S

Our first UK drive in Alpina’s more potent sports coupé emphasises the breadth of ability on offer from this Bavarian alternative

If you’re in the market for a fast, luxurious coupé with more than 400bhp, you’ve likely considered the Mercedes-AMG C63, Audi RS5 and BMW M4. But for a touch of added exclusivity, you might want to consider an Alpina B4 S Biturbo.The B4 S, which supersedes the old B4, is based on the same straight-six-powered platform as the M4, which has then undergone extensive technical and aesthetic adjustments, as per Alpina’s traditions. It means the car is a more potent but less focused alternative to its BMW counterpart.Under its svelte bonnet is a 3.0-litre six based on the N55 block of the M3/M4, but it uses twin turbochargers that are 10% larger, a water-cooling system that’s 20% bigger and an uprated oil cooler of 35% larger capacity. The engine spins a lighter crank that’s made from forged steel, too.Maximum power output for the Alpina-fettled N55 peaks at 434bhp at 5500-6250rpm and torque reaches 487lb ft at 3000rpm. Those figures are 9bhp and 81lb ft more than the M4, although the B4 S, which only comes with an eight-speed automatic, is 90kg heavier than the auto BMW. Still, that added torque helps the Alpina to accelerate from zero to 62mph in 4.2sec, a tenth quicker than the M4.Under the bonnet is where the technical improvements for the B4 S over the B4 end, though: Alpina has stuck with the same suspension settings, meaning it sits on slightly less aggressive springs and dampers than its cousin from BMW’s M division.As before, the B4 S gets BMW Professional infotainment as standard, which adds a widescreen sat-nav and all-round parking sensors. The car’s seats also come wrapped in Dakota leather at no extra cost, although the car you see here features Merino leather, a £1285 option.


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Ken Block's Gymkhana takes to Pikes Peak

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Ken Block's Gymkhana takes to Pikes Peak

‘Climbkhana’ combines the brutal Pikes Peak hillclimb with Block’s drift-based brand of motorsport

Ken Block has released ‘Climbkhana’; the latest instalment in his drift-based ‘Gymkhana’ motorsport series. 

Using an updated version of his ‘Hoonicorn’ Ford Mustang, Block takes to the 156-turn, 12.42-mile hillclimb, performing his signature drifts as he traverses the 14,115-foot climb.

Block’s methanol-fuelled Mustang now produces 1400bhp thanks to twin-turbocharging. It was 845bhp before the modifications. 

The stunt was performed under the supervision of eight-time Pikes Peak champion Jeff Zwart.

Block said: “Even as a kid, I remember dreaming about racing there someday because it looked so epic. Eventually I did, back in 2005, but it was in a Group N rally car which didn’t have much power up in that high and thin air! It was an underwhelming experience because of the horsepower issue, but I loved the road and mountain, and I had always wanted to go back and do it right.

“So, to drive it like I get to drive in my Gymkhana videos – and do it in the Hoonicorn with 1400bhp – well, that truly is a dream come true!”

Read more:

Ken Block releases Gymkhana Nine

Video: How to drift, by Ken Block

Video: Ken Block’s guide to Gymkhana driving and drifting

Ken Block on the Ford Focus RS


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