+++ AUDI is promising the prospect of ‘oversteer’ potential in its upcoming SQ5. The new Audi SQ5, due next year, is deep into development, and significant attention is being paid to the handling to make it more involving to drive. One senior engineer involved in the project promised the car would be able to oversteer, and would make for a much livelier drive than the standard car on which it is based. As with the current SQ5, there will be V6 petrol and diesel versions developed for sale in different regions around in the world. Europe will get the 3.0-litre V6 diesel, with power increased significantly over the 326 hp of the curent range-topping Q5 V6 diesel thanks to revised turbocharger and new tuning. The SQ5 is likely to get steel springs and passive dampers as standard, with air springs and adaptive dampers optional. The suspension will be overhauled over the standard Q5 for a sportier drive. The steering software will also be tweaked, with a dynamic variable steering system optional. The oversteer potential is set to come from the option of a sports differential on the Quattro all-wheel system’s rear axle. The tuning of this is said to allow for a livelier and more engaging rear end. Development of the SQ5 is set to switch to Arjeplog in Sweden in the next couple of weeks. Here the testing on the slippery ice tracks will allow Audi to decide just how playful it wants the SQ5 to be. Audi is also understood to be experimenting with technology from the larger SQ7 to which the Q5 is closely related, including the larger car’s 48V electric sub-system to power an electric turbo and active anti-roll bars, and a rear-wheel steering system. Cost is likely to prohibit this technology from the smaller model at this stage, however.
Audi also has a plug-in hybrid version of the Q5 in development for launch in 2018. +++

+++ If you want to know what the future holds in the car world, ask a designer; they’re as much futurologists as stylists these days. And this week I had the pleasure of spending some time with one of the best, FORD ’s VP of design Moray Callum. Callum spoke of his excitement at Ford’s commitment to produce a car without a steering wheel by 2021 – a project he’s heavily involved in. However, he’s promised style won’t be forgotten in Ford’s push to be first with autonomous driving. “Some people will always want to be seen in one car rather than another”, Callum told me. “With autonomous cars, people won’t want a Google car – they don’t want to be seen in a science project”. Even existing tech was proving to be a challenge for the modern car designer. “The user interface is part of our designers’ jobs and we’re already pummelling the public with information”, said Callum. “If Henry Ford was alive today, he’d probably think cars are already autonomous!” In-car tech means interior design is becoming more and more important. Callum describes it as being “like a marriage – you fall in love with the exterior, but you have to live with the interior”. And while interiors are taking more of his design team’s time, so is Ford’s burgeoning range of SUVs. “SUVs will become the predominant model in everyone’s range”, he said. “Customers’ desire to have a high H-point will continue and designers need to look at different solutions.” But he says it’s a challenge to make an SUV look great. As for the rest of the Ford range, expect greater differences in future as models are again tailored for different markets. “You’ll see more of a step-change in Ford design post the next Fiesta”, he said. +++

+++ HYUNDAI has further deepened its connections in China with the addition of a new factory, located in Cangzhou. Built on a 1.91 million square meter site, with a floor space of 250,000 square meters and equipped with press, body, paint, assembly lines and an engine plant, the facility has an initial capacity of 200,000 units annually, but from 2018, it will operate at full power – 300,000 units. “Completion of our Cangzhou Plant is the foundation that enables Hyundai to make a new leap forward in China. Together, Hyundai and Kia can now produce up to 2.4 million cars annually in China with plants in operation at 8 strategic Chinese sites”, said the brand’s Chairman, Chung Mong-Koo, during the opening event, reminding that this plant is actually the brand’s fourth one located in the People’s Republic. During the ceremony, the South Korean-based automaker pulled the covers off the Verna Yuena, which is the first model to be produced at the Cangzhou facility. The vehicle has been developed specifically for the Chinese market and is billed as a “smart urban family sedan that competes successfully in this price-sensitive sector”. The car is based on the concept introduced earlier this year, during the Beijing Auto Show, and is said to offer the most spacious interior in the segment. Hyundai will offer the Verna Yuena with Apple CarPlay and Baidu CarLife, heated front seats, band-type smart key, sunroof, tire pressure monitoring and vehicle stability management (VSM). Customers will get to choose between a 120 hp 1.6-liter and a 100 hp 1.4-liter engine. +++

+++ JAGUAR ’s first foray into the Electric Vehicle market will be with the E-Pace, a performance-oriented SUV due to go on sale in 2018. Electric vehicles are a growing market, and more premium marques are launching their own zero-emissions models in a bid to attract eco-conscious customers. Until now, Jaguar has stayed out of this market, but that will change in 2018 when the British company launches its own electric vehicle – the E-Pace SUV. The so-called E-Pace – the name has yet to be officially confirmed by Jaguar – will take on the likes of the Ford Edge, Jeep Cherokee and Volvo XC60 in the booming small SUV market. The E-Pace is due to be revealed in full before the end of the year, and will be the smaller sibling of the F-Pace SUV. It’s expected to offer a lower roofline and even more dramatic styling. It’s understood that while Jaguar will aim to offer the usual benefits of an SUV with the E-Pace – a large, practical interior and go-anywhere driving capability – the car’s emphasis will be on vivd performance and handling and exceptional refinement. With driving dynamics playing such an important role for the E-Pace, the new SUV will get four-wheel drive as standard. Its batteries will be laid along the length of the car, under the floor. Early prototype tests of the E-Pace’s battery pack have delivered a range of up to 480 kilometers in ideal conditions. For reference, the Tesla Model X, which is likely to be the E-Pace’s closest EV competitor, can deliver up to 380 kilometers in standard form. Power for the E-Pace will come from 2 electric motors: one driving the front wheels and another for the rears. Together, they’ll produce a combined 312 hp. The E-Pace will face a wide variety of competiton, both from other midsize SUVs and from established pure electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S and Model X – and also from plug-in hybrid SUVs like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, BMW X5 xDrive40e, Mercedes GLC350e. Like the F-Pace SUV, the E-Pace will be Jaguar’s first entry into an expanding and global market, so it could quickly become a big seller for the company. Jaguar’s sister brand, Land Rover, will be watching closely, too, because the E-Pace’s internal structure and powertrain will eventually be used on an all-electric version of the Range Rover luxury SUV. That car is expected to arrive around 2019. +++

+++ An all-new KIA Picanto is on the way very soon, with the city car set to make its debut in early 2017 and go on sale later in the year. The third generation promises to have more space than the current version, but will still offer a sporty look in contrast with its sister car, the Hyundai i10. The five-door model will feature a new wide-eyed face with LED headlamps. The overall proportions will be largely the same as the outgoing car’s, but expect slight increases in length and width. That should mean more passenger and boot space inside, while a redesigned dash and centre console will reduce the button count and keep it looking tidy. The new interior will feature higher-quality materials. More upmarket-looking seats with part-leather construction will be optional. Power is likely to come from the same 67 hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder and 87 hp 1.25-litre four-cylinder engines found in the latest i10, while low emissions and strong fuel economy will give the newcomer a fighting chance in the hard-fought city car class. +++

+++ It has emerged that PROTON will add to its Asia-focused fleet of models with a Suzuki-based SUV in 2017. It could be based around the Vitara. Proton and Suzuki already have an active partnership and the former is hard at work developing a re-badged version of the Suzuki Ertiga MPV. It’s therefore very likely that Proton will make the most of its Suzuki deal for its new SUV as well. If the Proton SUV is indeed based around the Vitara, it can be expected to receive the same range of engines. That means a naturally-aspirated 1.6-liter petrol engine delivering 120 hp and 156 Nm of torque should come standard alongside a 6-speed automatic transmission. Further down the road, there’s a chance Proton could borrow the 1.4-liter turbocharged Vitara S powertrain which offers up 140 hp and 220 Nm. As with all other existing Proton models, the SUV will be sold predominately in the firm’s home market of Malaysia but there’s a chance it could make its way to South America, the United Kingdom and Australia. +++

+++ SEAT ’s first electric vehicle will arrive in 2019, before the arrival of its yet to be confirmed large SUV and after next year’s launch of the Arona small SUV. Product strategy and market research executive Enrique Pastor revealed that the first all-electric Seat would arrive before the large SUV model. This suggests that the car may be a new model entirely, or, alternatively, an all-electric version of the facelifted Ateca or new Leon, both of which will be due around that time. Hybrids and electric vehicles were a hot topic at the Leon launch, with the conspicuous absence of an electrified powertrain in the updated Leon sparking discussion about when Seat’s first such model would come. Another source at Seat revealed that hybrid powertrains are at present too expensive for the brand’s target market but that concrete plans to build EVs from 2019 are in place. Less clear was the firm’s stance on when hybrids would first bear a Seat badge, but Seat dowsed speculations of an upcoming hybrid, saying such a model will not exist “within 2 years”. Pastor also played down talk of fully autonomous Seats any time soon, saying fully autonomous cars were still a few years off and that Seat models will have to reflect the brand DNA in other ways on the advent of autonomous cars. Seat sources, including Pastor, remained tight-lipped on the subject of a large SUV, saying only Seat is “thinking of” such a model at this stage. +++

+++ TOYOTA is now entering the final developing phase of its rally program – a move that could spawn a brand new hot hatch. Now, the Japanese giant isn’t a stranger to these type of automobiles, but most of Toyota’s pocket rockets were Japan exclusive back in the day. But that could change in the near future. Gossips of a possible Yaris-based hot-hatch have hit our ears ever since the company announced its return to the FIA World Rally Championship, and the closer Toyota gets to the debut date, in 2017, the more plausible (and logical) the rumors seem. In a recent interview, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Europe, Johan van Zyl, stated that there has to be something on the market to attest Toyota’s involvement in rallying: “It’s no use doing motor sport if you can’t reflect it in your product. What you’ll see is that we want to totally integrate it into our offering. From the European side we would like to do something – to bring something to market that will reflect our participation in WRC”. Since the WRC cars are made and developed with the help of European third-party companies, Toyota’s Gazoo Racing sub-brand could use their expertise to create a production-model with various aftermarket mods. “I am also a car person so I like to see that the people can really experience the joy of that – especially those who are real enthusiasts. Lots of people like to wear the same Nikes as the athletes, even though they can’t run as fast”, concluded van Zyl. The hot hatch niche is getting crowded, as Hyundai announced its intention to introduce the N-branded i30 very soon. However, Toyota’s model will probably be based on the next-gen Yaris, and it won’t arrive sooner than 2018. +++

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