Thursday, July 29, 2010

Range Rover

Land Rover revealed the Evoque at an exclusive celebrity-studded event at Kensington Palace in London last week, ahead of the car's official unveiling at the forthcoming Paris motor show. Billed as a Range Rover (and not a Land Rover), the small SUV marks the 40th Anniversary of the original Range Rover and symbolizes the company's move towards developing more lightweight and frugal vehicles.

Virtually identical to the LRX concept revealed at the 2008 Detroit auto show, the Evoque is the first all-new Land Rover product designed under Gerry McGovern's stewardship. "Things that are smaller can take on more of a jewel-like effect, and that's very much been the mindset of this vehicle," McGovern said at the unveiling.

Though the interior of the car has yet to be shown, Land Rover has announced the appointment of Victoria Beckham to guide the direction of its design – the former Spice Girl has been appointed Range Rover's Creative Design Executive. We're not entirely sure what to make of that title – or even of the celebrity's association with the luxury off-road brand. Be sure to stay tuned for a more in-depth analysis...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Renault DeZir

The Renault DeZir concept is the first Renault Design project led by Laurens van den Acker. When it's officially unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in October it will lay a marker down for the brand's future design direction.

The 4225mm long two-seat sports coupe embodies Renault's new vision of 'simple', 'sensuous' and 'warm' designs. Its form language develops the fluid themes seen in previous Renault concepts but with a greater emphasis on surface than line. "My early inspiration stemmed from the liquid sensation, wave-like movement and contrasts in light associated with certain rippled surfaces," says Yann Jarsalle, lead exterior designer.

Perforated surfaces, rather than hard-edged boundaries, define the head lamp graphic and reappear on the rear deck and rear fender air intakes. Its Audi R8-esque metallic side blade is used to illustrate the aluminum-bodied DeZir's low weight of 830kg.

Asymmetric door openings reveal a cloud-like white leather bench seat, which appears to levitate above a similarly trimmed floor. The floating IP flows into the door cards and center arm rest while Renault's 'touch design' philosophy is still in evidence.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Nissan Quest

Nissan has released a series of images of the fourth-generation US market Quest minivan, set to be unveiled at the 2010 LA auto show and due to go on sale in early 2011. Details of the car are scarce, though from what we can see in these images, it appears that the Quest may have grown in all dimensions, particularly in width.

The third generation Quest stood out in the minivan market due to its wave-like shoulder line, and its unorthodox resolution with the base of the A-pillar, hood, and fender. Nissan's images of the new car are darkened in an attempt to give a ‘teaser' feel but from what we can see, the profile of the Quest has retained some of the forward-diving nature of the previous car, but the overall resolution is much calmer. The car also features a striking new DRG. Yet the overall effect appears to have created a much more boxy, typically minivan style vehicle.

Inside, the Quest features some familiar Nissan parts and switchgear, the IP flowing in a double wave from a neat center-console, albeit one that contains a large gear-shifter, which we suspect may obscure some of the infotainment and HVAC controls from the driver's reach.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Peugeot 508

The new Peugeot 508, previewed by the 5byPeugeot Geneva show car earlier this year, is the replacement for the D-segment 407 and the larger E-segment 607.

The 508 retains many of the design themes of the concept: a more restrained grille outline, diving headlamp graphic and embossed lion emblem surface convey a similar DRG. The sedan's three-light DLO is also intact as is the trunk lid's unusually high-set trim highlight, although the taillamps have lost their body color inserts. The wagon variant is 3mm longer than the sedan at 4810mm, its wide, square load aperture appearing to favor practicality over some of its rivals' 'lifestyle' remit. It would also appear the translation from show car to production car has resulted in a loss of surface tension and carefully considered stance, the 508 seeming rather bloated in comparison.

The solitary interior CAD image shows a restrained design, with a wing-like upper dash surface, brushed metallic inserts and dials. The gear selector appears to incorporate an illuminated bevel near its base.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Radical changes are taking place at Lotus. Auto Express has learned that a raft of new models will debut at the Paris Motor Show in October, including a new Esprit (pictured), two new front-engined GT cars and a new roadster. The models will appear in the form of concepts at the French event.

The news comes as the company served all of its European dealerships with notice. The shock move means all of their contracts to sell Lotus cars will come to an end in July 2012, as part of plans to completely overhaul the dealer network.The Norfolk-based company has confirmed that current dealers will be able to apply for new contracts under new terms.

More will be revealed at Paris, where the firm's five-year plan to dramatically increase profitability through its new range of more upmarket models, which will challenge Porsche and Ferrari more closely, will be outlined.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Golf rival revealed

Plans for a hot new Mercedes are hatching out! This is the German firm’s stunning replacement for the A-Class – and it’s taking a big swing at Volkswagen’s Golf.
Auto Express has learned that the three-pointed star is readying a new small car to tackle the Golf, Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series. The vehicle is part of the luxury brand’s bid to steal younger customers from its arch rivals.

Based on a new front-wheeldrive platform, the compact hatchback will take its design cues from the F800 concept, which was revealed at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

Our exclusive illustrations give you the best idea of how the Golf-sized machine will look. And with a prominent grille, neat LED headlights, plus bold creases in its flanks and pert tail, it’s every inch the desirable, upmarket small car. Expect both three and five-door models to be available, along with a range of super-efficient petrol and diesel engines with stop-start.

As well as its stylish shape, the newcomer will boast a better-quality cabin than the Golf, plus increased comfort and safety. Prices will be higher, too, with sales beginning in 2012. The model is likely to wear the A-Class badge, and will be one of four key vehicles to come from Mercedes’ new front-wheel-drive architecture.
“In the next couple of years, we will launch additional cars where we don’t currently have predecessors,” global sales and marketing boss Dr Joachim Schmidt told Auto Express. “Our current A-Class and B-Class will be replaced by a new platform for four totally different cars defining new segments for Mercedes.”

Schmidt confirmed these models would not resemble the current A-Class and B-Class. Their MPV practicality has appealed more to older drivers. The new Golf-rivalling A-Class is due in two years’ time, while a compact high-roofed five-door B-Class with hybrid and electric options is slated for late 2011.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Nissan Leaf

Nissan brought out a preproduction prototype of its coming Leaf electric vehicle and we got to drive it a few miles.

How was it? It was like a real car, only a lot heavier and much quieter.

It was also, surprisingly--how shall we say--substantial. We were expecting some kind of science project with loose, flappy interior panels and rattling, buzzing and whirring noises from all over. But there was none of that. The car had a fully finished interior with all of the sound insulation, padding and trim of a real car. Leaf buyers won't have to make any compromises in comfort. Five tall adults can fit easily with plenty of knee room and headroom, and there's even some space behind the rear seat for luggage.

If it weren't for its near-utter quiet, you might think it was just a regular car. Passersby seemed to think so. No one in Santa Monica, Calif., where we drove the Leaf, really freaked out about it. Perhaps because there's usually so much more to freak out about in Santa Monica. From the outside, it looks like a regular five-door hatchback, if in a somewhat bumpily bland body.

The Leaf has an 80-kilowatt (107-hp) electric motor that gets power from a 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack. That's a fairly good-size battery pack, weighing in at 600 pounds. It's less than a Tesla and more than a Mitsubishi i-MiEV. The fact that the battery pack is mounted amidships in a compartment so strong that it's a stressed member of the chassis--adding 40 percent more torsional rigidity, Nissan says--is reassuring. But as is the case with battery-powered cars, the 3,600-pound curb weight is more than you will find in a similarly sized gasoline-powered car. This won't be news to seasoned EV zealots, but we're guessing many of the new Leaf buyers will be surprised. The somewhat similarly sized, gasoline-powered Versa weighs 1,000 pounds less, for instance.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


BMW has unveiled its second generation X3 SUV. At 4648mm long, 1881mm wide and 1661mm high, it is longer, wider and slightly lower than its predecessor. This model steps back from the more controversial surface and graphical treatments of the previous model, yet the greatest change is a subtle shift in character, away from the traditional tall station wagon body, to one more in the mold of Audi's Q5 – almost a hatchback – note the side profile with faster raked rear screen, rounded DLO and lower, dipping roofline.

The most striking exterior element is the sharp crease in the body side, augmented by two secondary character lines over each wheelarch. Elsewhere, the lower body plastic cladding is better integrated into the overall form, while there are strong references to both X1 and X5 – the rear aspect being reminiscent of the larger car.

Inside, the X3 features higher quality materials including some modern-looking wood veneers. The cabin environment is more driver-orientated, with an angled center console and a novel, sweeping dash top that breaks away from the instrument binnacle, and wraps down the passenger side of the center console.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hulme CanAm

New Zealand-based supercar manufacturer Hulme has opened orders for its new Hulme CanAm, a 200+mph supercar named in honor of New Zealand racing legend and F1 World Champion, Denny Hulme.

First revealed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2006, the Hulme CanAm is an ultra high-performance, mid-engined roadster created for both road and track use. Entirely designed and hand-built by the Hulme Supercars technology team in New Zealand, the road-legal car features an ultra-lightweight carbon composite tub and bodywork and weighs in at less than 1000kg. Powered by a Chevrolet LS7 V8 developing 600bhp, the CanAm measures 4712mm in length, 1958mm wide, 1095mm high, and rides on a 2830mm-long wheelbase.

Twenty customer cars will be coach-built and equipped to order, with delivery commencing in the UK in the autumn of 2011 and into 2012, the 20th anniversary of Denny Hulme's death. All production cars will come with an authentication certificate and be numbered. A 1/8 scale exact replica, finished in the same livery and specification, along with a full photo dossier of the car's build, will also be supplied to the new owner.