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Chassis and Design

The DB11 uses a completely new bonded aluminium platform. Lighter and stronger, it allows for wider door apertures and increased occupant space for the rear seats. The car is still a 2+2 and yes, there is more room in the back, but its not much. With a 1770kg dry weight the DB11 is actually only 15kg lighter than the DB9 it replaces.

Changes to the suspension setup are significant. At the front, you’ve got fully independent double wishbones, coil springs and three stage adaptive dampers. The rear is multi-link with adaptive dampers.

Those dampers can be controlled via a single button on the steering wheel and switched between GT, sport and sport+ mode. We spent time with Aston Martin handling setup guru Matt Becker prior to the DB11’s unveiling and he hinted at wanting to create a car with a broad dynamic character.

Aston claims this has been put into practise with the DB11, with the three stage adaptive damping varying significantly between each setting. The steering itself is a 13:1 electric power assisted speed-dependant tack and pinion setup which is 2.4 turns lock to lock.

The DB11 features both front and rear LED lights with the design drawing on that of the Vulcan and One-77 hyper car. Updated daytime running lights also feature, as does a single cut out for each light at the front in the huge single piece clamshell bonnet.

There are two significant new aerodynamic features introduced wit the DB11. The first is the “Curlicue” you see sat directly behind the two front wheels, First introduced on the Vulcan, it takes high pressure turbulent air from the wheel arch and sends it down the side of the vehicle as vortices, smoothing out airflow over the DB11.

Face of the Bentley Bentayga is revealed

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The new Bentley Bentayga will be the world’s fastest SUV with top speed of at least 187mph when it goes on sale later this year, judging from the latest teaser video released ahead of the car’s debut at the forthcoming Frankfurt motor show.

The Bentayga undergoing high-speed testing at a banked circuit, and includes a close-up on the digital speed display showing 301km/h. That would give the car a top speed of at least 187mph – making it comfortably faster than the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and the Range Rover Sport SVR. You can watch the video below.

Bentley is also preparing an even faster version of the Bentayga, judging by the latest spy pictures of a more extreme version of the company’s first SUV.

We’ve already seen lots of spy shots and ‘leaked’ official testing pictures of the Bentayga. But now a new version of the car has been caught on camera. It features a different front bumper incorporating larger air intakes and a lower air splitter, plus a small spoiler mounted at the top of the hatchback and more aggressive side skirts. Our photographers also reported that the car sounded considerably more aggressive than other test mules – a sign that it features a more sporty exhaust set-up.

Bentley has already released an earlier teaser video for the Bentayga, ahead of the car’s public debut.

The footage was shot during high-altitude off-road testing in Spain. It shows the car undergoing low-speed manoeuvres on rocky terrain – although the test mule does not appear to have shed any of the mild disguise that remained in recent spy shots.

Google in talks with OEMs, suppliers to build self-driving cars

Internet giant Google Inc. has started talks with most of the world’s top automakers and assembled a team of global suppliers to speed its push to bring self-driving cars to market, Chris Urmson, the head of the project, said today at the Automotive News World Congress.

The suppliers named by Google included Bosch, which supplies power electronics and long-range radar to Google; ZF Lenksysteme, which supplies a new steering gear; LG Electronics, which supplies the batteries, Continental and Roush.

Urmson confirmed that Roush, the Michigan-based engineering and specialty manufacturing company, built the podlike two-seater that Google plans to start testing on public roads this year. Crain’s Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News, reported that relationship last May.

Google did not ask a large automaker to build this car, Urmson said during a discussion, but intends to do so in the future when it seeks to commercialize its technology.

“At some point, we’re going to be looking to find partners to build complete vehicles, and bring the technology to market,” Urmson said.

Asked when that might be, he replied: “when it’s safe and ready.”

He declined to name the companies or share details of their discussions. Reuters reported earlier that the manufacturers contacted by Google include General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG.

Google plans to deploy a test fleet of Roush-built prototypes in 2015. On closed courses, Urmson said, the cars will be able to operate without a steering wheel, brakes or accelerator — and drive themselves without a human passenger. Due to California regulations, controls will be added and a test driver will be behind the wheel when the car travels on public roads.

Urmson’s expectation that the first fully autonomous vehicles will be production-ready within five years mirrors the view expressed a day earlier by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk.

Musk, who spoke Tuesday at the Automotive News World Congress, said he expects the lack of clear federal regulations covering self-driving cars could delay their introduction until 2022 or 2023.

Google listed its partners during today’s presentation.

Regulatory hurdles?

Urmson, however, said his Google colleagues “don’t see any particular regulatory hurdles.”

Google has been briefing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the chief U.S. auto regulator, “from early on in our program,” Urmson said. “The worst thing we could do is surprise them.”

Urmson said Google is developing and refining self-driving systems and components with such auto parts suppliers as Continental AG, Robert Bosch, ZF and LG Electronics. Google’s prototype cars use microprocessors made by Nvidia Corp, a Silicon Valley chipmaker that also supplies Mercedes-Benz and other automakers.

Two of those partners — Continental and Bosch — have developed their driverless cars as part of their effort to design software and hardware for collision avoidance. Samir Salman, CEO of Continental’s North American unit, told Automotive News that his company will help design the Google fleet’s brakes, tires, body controllers and interior electronics.

“We’ve been working with them for awhile,” Salman said. “Now we’ll concentrate on [helping Google] to build the prototypes. That’s our focus.”

Welcome to the new Jaguar XE

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This evening at a glittering ceremony in London, with the help of a helicopter and some musical theatre, Jaguar officially revealed its BMW 3-Series fighter. People of the Internet, please be upstanding for the brand new ‘XE’, the most important car Jaguar has launched in a very long time.

It’s the company’s new much-vaunted small sports saloon, and will wade into the deep waters against the Beemer, Audi A4 and Mercedes C Class. Serious competition indeed, and much more than just a scaled-down XF.

The basics are thus: you’re looking at five seats, a big boot and a range of engines and trims that’ll spin your head.

It’ll sit on what Jaguar calls an aluminium intensive architecture, with hollow-cast aluminium for the suspension to keep everything light and stiff. The front suspension design is related to the F-Type’s double-wishbone setup, while the rear gets an independent multi-link arrangement.

Engines are all new, dubbed ‘Ingenium’ by JLR, the first of which sees a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel that manages 75mpg and slips under 100g/km of CO2, alongside a 2.0-litre petrol unit. They’re both a whopping 80kg lighter than JLR’s existing four-pots, too.

As we’ve told you before, this four-cylinder engine with its aluminium block is modular, alterable in 500cc increments up or down with the ability to incorporate hybrid elements.

Then there’s the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 pinched from the F-Type, developing 335bhp in the XE ‘S’, with a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph.

There’s fully-electric steering, and ‘All Surface Progress Control’; traction control that maintains your momentum no matter the surface, to ensure unruffled progress.

The interior adds to this ambience too, with a recognisably Jaguar design, but with a new eight-inch high-definition multimedia touchscreen in the centre console, a welcome replacement for the tired system in the current JLR lineup. As expected, it allows all manner of connectivity, from apps, mobile wifi, voice control, and a sync for your smartphone. There’s also an optional head-up display and modern graphics.

And get this: you can even start the XE from your mobile, as well as set air-con and other functions remotely, which is handy for those winter mornings.

The car will be built in two brand new factories in Jaguar’s heartland: one in Solihull to build the car, and one in Wolverhampton to build the engines.

And the starting price for Jaguar’s new entry-level model? £27,000 when it goes on sale after next month’s Paris Motor Show.

Have a scan through the pics: has this new Jag XE got the smarts to beat the Germans?

Luxury carmaker Bentley set for record sales in 2014

Luxury carmaker Bentley has said it is on course for record sales in 2014 after a 23% increase in deliveries in the first half of the year.

Bentley delivered 5,254 cars in the first six months of 2014, up from 4,279 cars in the first half of 2013.

The firm’s new Flying Spur drove up sales by 61% in China, which saw more than a fifth of Bentley’s deliveries.

Bentley’s sales echoed rival Rolls-Royce, which saw a 33% boost in sales in the half year to June.

“There is no question that some markets will remain tough, but we are confident of a good 2014,” said Bentley board member for sales Kevin Rose.

The Americas region, which includes North and South America and the Caribbean, remained as Bentley’s largest market, with 1,388 cars delivered. China followed, then Europe and the Middle East.

A Flying Spur typically sells for around £150,000, while a GT V8 sells for about £130,000.

Bentley is a subsidiary of Volkswagen, which also owns the Porshe and Audi brands.

Gordon Murray and Yamaha reveal new Motiv city car (2016)

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This futuristic Smart For Two lookalike is in fact the Gordon Murray Design Motiv – and no, the latter part of that name isn’t a typo.

Built in conjunction with Yamaha, the Motiv uses elements of F1, motorcycle and extra-automotive technology to try and cut down on the environmental impact building – and running – a car creates.

What’s so revolutionary about the Gordon Murray Motiv?

Mainly, it’s the two-seater’s production process, coined ‘iStream’ by the 240mph McLaren F1’s designer Gordon Murray. In development for 15 years, the idea could cut the size of a regular car production plant by up to 80%, according to manufacturer predictions.

In principle, iStream dispenses with the production line assembly of cars used since Henry Ford’s Model T, instead building cars in a more methodical pre-packaged style. Wiring looms and control units are fixed to pre-painted panels, which are then bonded together in an F1-like sandwich structure, reducing weight but actually enhancing stiffness and safety. It’s also faster than welding together cars with robots, as per the template of mass-production in 2013, and creates less waste material.

It’s car not just a basic shopping trolley though. The Motiv’s all-independent suspension and electric powertrain are claimed to give ‘new levels of ride and handling’ performance, as well as suiting the car’s need to be nippy and eco-friendly, given its urban brief.

What’s the spec of the Motiv?

In electric guise, the rear-drive Motiv develops a peak of 34bhp, and a huge 660lb ft – continuous torque is 485lb ft. The 730kg Motiv hits 62mph in around 15sec, and tops out at over 65mph. The real-world range is claimed to be 100 miles.

What’s Yamaha’s role in all this?

The Japanese outfit is the first engineering firm to take the plunge with Murray’s iStream concept and attempt to implement it into a full-scale production reality.

Yamaha has yet to sign off on the cost-effectiveness of rewriting the car design and production rule-book, but if the Motiv gets the green light, electric and conventional petrol-powered versions could be hitting a city street near you as early as 2016. It’s likely to be priced at around £10,000 to compete with Smart’s new For Two and the new rear-drive Renault Twingo.

Nissan celebrates car and van fleet growth in first six months of 2013

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  • Fleets bought 29,487 cars from Jan to June, a rise of 4,102 units on 2012
  • Nissan fleet car market share now at a record 5.4%
  • Nissan LCV fleet market share grows 151% to 4,445 units, a 4.8% market share

Nissan has reported a very strong fleet performance in the first six months of 2013 with combined car and van sales up by 20% to 33,932 compared with the same period in 2012 (28,329).

Fleets bought 29,487 Nissan cars from January to June 2013, a rise of 4,102 year on year, which represents a record 5.4% market share. Nissan became the sixth largest fleet car brand in the UK and sold the equivalent number of cars as Toyota and Honda combined.

The star performer was Juke which rose 49% to 7,469 units (from 5,023 in 2012) while combined Qashqai sales rose to 16,561, a rise of 2,325 over 2012. Both LEAF and NV200 minibus also experienced sales growth.

Nissan’s LCV performance was just as impressive with 4,445 vans bought by fleets in the first six months of 2013, a 51% rise over the same period in 2012 from 2,944.

Nissan’s LCV market share rose from 3.6% to 4.8% helped by strong NV200 sales growth to 2,336 units, a 114% increase over 2012. The Primastar, Cabstar, NV400 and Navara pick up also reported sales growth in this period.

“Our fleet sales growth is a sign of the investment we have been making in all aspects of our business over the past two years,” said Barry Beeston, Nissan GB’s corporate sales director.

“With the current launch of the all-new NOTE into the B-sector and the further investment in our dealer network we hope to see continued fleet growth during the remainder of 2013,” he added.

Car figures in more detail

  • Juke fleet sales grew by 49% in the first six months of 2013 to 7,469 units from 5,023.
  • Qashqai fleet sales rose from 11,289 to 13,152 accounting for a 45% market share of the total sector. Qashqai +2 sales also rose from 2,947 to 3,409.
  • LEAF sales grew to 278 and 346 NV200 minibuses were sold, a rise of 217% or 237units.

Van figures in more detail

  • NV200 sales more than doubled to 2,336, a 53% share of its sector
  • Primastar experienced a resurgence with a 47% increase in sales to 380 units
  • Navara volumes remain consistent at 1,351 sales, a rise of 6% and a 30% share of the sector
  • 221 Cabstars were sold, a 34% year on year rise, while NV400 sales rose 5% to 157 units

Detroit Motor Show 2012: Ford Fusion/Mondeo

Ford takes the wraps off what will become the next generation Mondeo at the Detroit Motor Show.

Hark, is that a phone ringing? That’ll be Uli Bez, Aston Martin’s chief executive, with a complaint about the uncanny resemblance to an Aston evident in the grille design for Ford’s new Mondeo/Fusion, which goes on sale this year in America and April 2013 in the UK and is being shown at the Detroit Motor Show.

“I don’t see it myself,” said Ford designer, Chris Hamilton, in the manner of Richmal Crompton’s William Brown denying knowledge of a missing catapult. “But it’s nice to be compared with a car that costs 10 times as much.”

This is, of course, the apogee of Ford boss, Alan Mulally’s “One Ford” approach, although the sharp eyed will have noticed that while the Fusion is a four-door saloon, the Mondeo, when we see at the Paris Motor Show this autumn will be a five-door hatchback.

This floorpan will underpin a subsequent estate model as well as the replacement for the Galaxy MPV and S-Max.

All-new multi-link rear suspension, electronically powered steering, more cabin space, a much improved ride and better noise insulation are some of the claims made for this new model, which will sell about a million a year round the globe in 10 different guises. Petrol and diesel models in 1.6- and 2.0-litre displacements are promised, with a hybrid model and possibly a 4×4 as well. Ford is even testing its latest 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine in the Mondeo, but that could be a downsizing step too far.

The One Ford strategy appears to be working for Ford, although there is a danger that model development starts to dash for the bottom rather than a climb to the top as engineers compromise Ford’s legendary ride and handling for mushy American ride quality as they did with the first US version of the Focus model. Unsurprisingly, Ford engineers strongly refute this idea.