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+++ A CITROEN C3 VTS could be in the pipeline according to top bosses at the French brand. The new model would continue to focus on comfort and refinement, however, despite offering comparable performance to a Ford Fiesta ST. Speaking from the opening round of the 2017 World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo, PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares told that Citroen was exploring the idea of a hot C3 using the expertise of engineers from across the business. When asked about his ambitions for the brand, including whether WRC could influence a souped-up C3, Tavares told: “There are may be some plans to upgrade the engines and go a little bit further. So, yes – why not for Citroen?”. Product planning chief Xavier Peugeot confirmed this, but insisted any C3 VTS would have to retain Citroen’s trademark comfort, refinement and practicality. “Is it relevant to have Citroen Racing road cars? Definitely”, he said. “But I would like to keep this message of comfort at the same time. This is the challenge”. The new C3 is said to embody values of the reborn French brand, which is rebuilding its line-up over the next few years after splitting from luxury division DS in 2015. Key to this is Citroen Advanced Comfort, which mixes suspension tuning, seat design, refinement and elements like interior light and space. This will translate from the standard C3 models through to the range-topping hot hatchback. “I spent some time in the Citroen Museum and there are lots of beautiful cars”, Mr Peugeot told us. “The Citroen CX GTi Turbo struck me. It was a very fast car and it had hydraulic suspension. To me, this is the right car to demonstrate that you can have very fast cars with lots of power, and at the same time you can continue to develop your message about comfort”. Xavier Peugeot had previously gone on record saying he wanted to “re-engergise the brand” – insisting that a focus on comfort doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning sporty values. “There is no reason for not considering the problem in a more modern way – so to me there is still some space to have a more powerful car. You can have both if you remain loyal to your message about comfort”, he told. This considered, it’s likely a Citroen C3 GTi would take everything buyers love from rivals like the Fiesta ST and Renaultsport Clio RS, adding a softer touch with more comfortable seats, compliant suspension and a more refined cabin. With more than 200 hp from a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, we can expect 0-100 km/h in less than 7 seconds and a top speed of more than 225 km/h. The interior will carry over largely unchanged, meaning the same touchscreen infotainment system, practical load bay and 300-litre boot. Racy touches and flashes of colour are likely to feature, but there’s no word as to whether Citroen’s iconic Airbumps will appear on the outside. Tavares went on to further reinforce his intentions for the PSA Group. With Citroen Racing, Peugeot Sport and DS Performance now sitting under one roof, the company is perfectly primed to explore hot GTis for the first time in over 2 decades. “We have a specific area in our Motorsports division totally dedicated to special versions and low-volume versions of sporty cars,” he told us. “That division is very agile and they can do these sorts of cars in a very short period of time. So that’s where we would start”. +++

+++ The outgoing HONDA Civic Tourer estate will end production this year, with no direct replacement planned for the future. The news comes just as the brand prepares its showrooms for an all-new Civic hatchback; a car widely considered a big improvement over its uninspiring predecessor. Speaking from the launch of the new car in Barcelona, UK managing director Dave Hodgetts told that the decision had been made “not to sell the Tourer in this model cycle”.  With Honda marketing its 10th-generation Civic as a ‘global’ car, the Europe-only Tourer will be the first model to fall victim to the brand’s new international sales strategy. Lack of interest in more practical estate models across the world (especially in the USA and China) will see the Peugeot 308 SW rival consigned to the history books. Hodgetts hinted that in the future, more business decisions would be viewed through a wider-angle lens. Honda’s commitment to diesel engines could be among the first questions, with diesel’s future uncertain beyond the middle of the next decade. While a revised version of the current 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel will arrive in the Honda Civic later this year, the UK boss suggested this could be its last iteration before the company focuses its expertise on electrification and hydrogen fuel cells. Following the announcement regarding Honda’s fuel cell manufacturing tie-up with Opel parent company General Motors, it’s clear that an alternatively-fuelled future is on the radar. The 50:50 partnership will form part of Honda’s wider electrification programme, with a brand spokesperson suggesting that it expects as many as 66 per cent of global car sales to feature some form of plug-in or fuel cell technology by 2030. The first Honda to receive an electric boost will be the new CR-V, which is due to launch later this year. It’ll go on sale with a range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines to begin with, but a PHEV will join the line-up later. The platform, which also underpins the new Civic, has been designed from the outset with electrification in mind. While Honda bosses say there are “no plans” to introduce a plug-in powertrain on the C-segment family hatchback, they do admit that it “could work”. +++

+++ KIA ’s desperately needed small crossover SUV to rival cars such as Mazda CX-3 appears to be coming together. Suggestions are that this car might be called the Kia Stonic. The name is not confirmed. I don’t know a whole lot, but I do understand that the Kia B-segment crossover will sit upon a version of the new Cee’ds platform (which obviously has a lot of commonality with Hyundai, itself primed for a belated baby crossover) and use new downsized turbo engines, probably matched to a new 7-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox. Front-wheel drive is obviously a goer, though an all-wheel drive derivative is a possibility. It also would not be a stretch to suggest that the new sub-Sportage Kia SUV will sport a similar cabin as the new Rio with floating tablet screen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. My sources at Kia confirmed that the much-speculated world premiere slated for the Frankfurt motor show in September this year is an accurate guesstimate. Rivals beyond the CX-3 in the hugely popular small SUV segment (a segment where Kia has been losing buyers to rival brands) are the Mitsubishi ASX, Honda HR-V, Nissan Qashqai, soon-to-be-upgraded Subaru XV and the radical Toyota C-HR. The Kia B-segment crossover will not replace the boxy Soul, which will enter a next generation and fill the role of a legacy car for Kia, a la Volkswagen’s Beetle or BMW’s Mini. +++

+++ The new Range Rover Velar coupe-SUV, to rival the BMW X6 and Porsche Macan, has been spotted testing. LAND ROVER is gearing up to launch a coupe SUV called the Range Rover Velar in a bid to take on everything from the Porsche Macan to the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupé. Jaguar Land Rover has identified a gap in its Range Rover line-up between the big-selling Evoque and the ‘full-size’ models, the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. There is significant space in the range between the cheapest Evoque and the four-cylinder diesel Range Rover Sport, although it is also conceivable that Land Rover could offer the coupe as a more style-focused alternative to the second of those models, and with similar pricing. Spy photographs of test mules show that the Velar will have a significantly lower roofline than the Sport – and its driving position is likely to be lower as a result. The new model is thought to be sitting on Land Rover’s aluminium-intensive architecture, which also underpins the similarly sized Jaguar F-Pace. Land Rover sources have refused to comment on the forthcoming launch, which is expected to take place around the Geneva Motor Show next month. But trademark applications from July 2016 show that the company is trying to register Velar: a badge last used on prototypes for the original Range Rover back in 1969 and 1970. Re-using the name on a production model will help it to stand apart from the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, and could also help it to almost become a brand in its own right, as with the Evoque. Number plate checks on prototypes of the Velar have revealed that it will get four-cylinder petrol power – and this means that four-cylinder Ingenium diesels are also extremely likely, alongside six-cylinder diesels and, potentially, an SVR edition with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8. +++

+++ MCLAREN ’s 650S replacement, codenamed P14, will get a new generation of active chassis control system which will give it the “widest breadth of dynamic ability of any McLaren”, according to the manufacturer. Proactive Chassis Control II enables drivers to choose from Comfort, Sport or Track modes and, using sensors around the car including an accelerometer on each wheel hub, analyses inputs from the road to adjust the damping automatically. It also includes ‘Variable Drift Control’ which McLaren says will allow the ESC intensity to be controlled via a finger swipe across a control on the infotainment screen. The car is due to be unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March and will also be twice as aerodynamically efficient as the current 650S, according to the manufacturer. Product development boss Mark Vinnels said several aerodynamic technologies have contributed to the improvement, ensuring “outstanding levels of grip and stability”. An active wing extending across the full width of the second-generation Super Series model moves upwards and increases in angle to optimise aero efficiency. The wing also deploys to its most extreme angle as an air brake in less than half a second. The car’s cooling efficiency has also been improved by 15%, with increased airflow to the radiators through a new design of dihedral door. Adopting technology first seen on the P1, ducts within the door structures force air from the top of the doors down into the radiators and draw air out of the front wheel arches to create increased downforce. The P14’s monocoque, called Monocage II, uses a T-bar-shaped roof structure that allows for the extended dihedral doors, along with a wider entrance and lower sills for better access, similiar to the iconic F1. The P14 will weigh 1.283 kg; almost 200 kg less than rival, the Ferrari 488 GTB, and 18 kg less than its predecessor. That weight reduction is largely due to the monocoque too, which uses carbon fibre to offer “an ultra-lightweight” and “immensely rigid” architecture, according to the supercar brand. McLaren also claims the structure enables a lower centre of gravity “further sharpening the dynamic performance” of the Super Series model. The car will also use a development of the firm’s twin-turbocharged engine. It will remain a V8, but the current 3.8-litre unit’s capacity could change and peak power will grow beyond the 650 hp output of the 650S. McLaren boss Mike Flewitt said: “This is the first time we have replaced a product family. The new Super Series will be a revolutionary leap forward, both for our brand and the supercar segment. Super Series is the core of the McLaren business and personifies the blend of extreme performance, crafted luxury and unparalleled driver involvement that is the McLaren heartland”. McLaren design director Frank Stephenson has previously said the P14 will be “even crazier” than the P1 hypercar. As shown by previous spy shots of a development car, the company’s established hallmarks, such as the distinctive side-mounted air intakes and front bumper design, look to have been ditched for a new design, which makes use of LED headlight technology. The cabin is also expected to be overhauled, with a new and more intuitive control system. The production version of the P14 (the first of McLaren’s vehicles ever to be replaced) will be the first of the 15 new McLaren models due by 2022. +++

+++ MERCEDES and parent company Daimer have announced plans of a new tie-up with the ride-hailing app Uber, to provide fleets of self-driving taxis to paying customers around the world. The driverless Mercedes models will eventually be bookable through the Uber mobile app, though the 2 companies have refused to give a timeframe for when the technology might be ready. It could be years before any such network was operable, however. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote: “Auto manufacturers like Daimler are crucial to our strategy, because Uber has no experience making cars. Making cars is really hard. This became very clear after I visited an auto manufacturing plant and saw how much effort goes in to designing, testing and building cars”. It appears therefore that Uber would utilise Daimler’s engineering expertise, offering the car maker significant knowledge when it comes to delivering the technology to ride-hailing consumers; a business model that has taken off in the past 3 years. Big advances in legislation are needed before widespread testing can commence, with the trials requiring state approval across the US. The UK Government is investing millions to make Britain an appealing test bed for this kind of tech, however, with trials of some autonomous vehicles already up and running. No financial terms between Daimler and Uber have been revealed, but it’s suggested that the agreement is non-exclusive, meaning other companies could team with the brands to deliver the final proposal. The race is on among car manufacturers to deliver the first truly driverless car, and Mercedes’ very own E-Class already offers semi-autonomous technology, which can work on motorways by steering, braking and accelerating without driver input. Volvo’s latest models use similar systems and can operate at speeds of up to 130 km/h. +++

+++ The NISSAN Juke is set to get electrified at this year’s Tokyo motor show in September, with the company planning to reveal a concept inspired by the eye-catching 2015 Gripz show car. The Japanese company will debut the Juke e-Power concept in Tokyo later this year, powered by the range-extender hybrid drivetrain already seen in the Note e-Power that was launched in Japan in 2016. The Note e-Power pairs a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with an electric generator and inverter, using solely the engine to generate electricity. Unlike conventional hybrid systems, the Note e-Power’s engine doesn’t actually send power to the wheels, making the set-up akin to the range-extended version of the BMW i3. According to the report, the Juke e-Power concept will preview the styling of the next-generation compact SUV (which is expected to be revealed late this year or early next) with an exterior design modelled after the Gripz crossover concept revealed in 2015. The new Juke is expected to share its Common Module Family B-segment platform (CMF-B) with several models from the Renault-Nissan alliance, including the larger Qashqai and X-Trail, along with the Renault Megane, Scenic and Grand Scenic. +++

+++ The next PORSCHE911 will exclusively use turbocharged 6-cylinder engines when it arrives in 2019, including the GT3, marking the end of naturally aspirated units for the line-up. The GT3 will deliver more than 500 hp, while the standard models are set to get an extra 10-15 hp over today’s Carrera and Carrera S when they arrive in 2019. The current Carrera and Carrera S deliver 370 hp and 420 hp respectively, so the 992-generation 911 will produce from around 380 hp to 435 hp. A hybrid 911 will also be introduced to the range in 2020. It will run the flat six with an electric motor providing limited all-electric and performance-boosting functions. Spotted testing for the first time in the Arctic Circle, the 992 remains the same length as today’s 991 model, but the width of the car is set to increase slightly due to wider tracks. There’s also only a minor growth in wheelbase; Porsche grew the wheelbase dramatically for the current generation to create more interior space for rear seat passengers. The 992 will be based on what is billed as a new modular sports car platform, although in reality it is similar to the current 991 platform. With a modified rear end, it will be used under the next-generation versions of the entry-level Boxster and Cayman models and could also influence the design and engineering of future Audi R8 and Lamborghini Huracán models. The eighth-generation 911 will have vastly improved active aerodynamics with a full-width rear wing. An active front spoiler is also a possibility. While the current facelifted 911 range has benefited from a number of weight savings, the 992 will receive even more, thanks to a greater proportion of high-strength steel and aluminium. However, carbonfibre will not be used in the structure of the standard models and will instead be reserved for high-end models such as the GT2 and GT3. Four-wheel-drive versions will also become more efficient due to new electronic control software. Meanwhile, the interior is expected to closely reflect that found in the second-generation Panamera. +++

+++ SEAT is considering whether a new “sports car-like crossover” could become its new flagship model, to launch around 2020. A third, larger SUV is pencilled into Seat’s future plans, but its exact design and positioning is yet to be determined. “A crossover – a Porsche Macan kind of concept – could be the emerging kind of model. A model that’s a mix between a sports car and an SUV – this is one of the segments we see growing”, said Seat boss Luca de Meo. Seat’s design chief, Alejandro Mesonero, also said that a bigger SUV than the Ateca is coming at some point, a model that he described as “something different”. The new model would be at the top of a range of three Seat SUVs. Currently, Seat only has the the Qashqai-sized Ateca; later this year the Juke-sized Arona, which is based on the new Ibiza, will arrive. The new flagship SUV would be additional to the 300 hp Ateca Cupra that Seat is planning. Seat has ruled out a large saloon as a new flagship, because global sales are falling in this segment. “There is no comparison between the potential of the SUV market bodystyle and the saloon”, said de Meo, speaking at the launch of the new Ibiza in Spain. The new SUV could be a five-seater or a five-plus-two, where it would complement Seat’s Alhambra seven-seat MPV. “If you give the option of extra seats to the owners, why not? Even if there are people who don’t use it”, de Meo said. Seat is also planning new battery electric and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models for launch in 2020/21, when the EU’s new 95 gram/km CO2 emissions targets come into force. Seat’s chief engineer, Matthias Rabe, said the brand’s first battery electric would be launched in 2019, followed a year later by a second model – possibly the PHEV. Rabe wouldn’t identify the exact models, but suggested they could be versions of existing electric technology, rather than based on the VW Group’s new MEB electric car platform, which Volkswagen’s ID concept car is built on. A possibility could be the Leon, which is based on the VW Group’s MQB platform; this also underpins the Volkswagen e-Golf and Audi A3 e-tron. Another change to Seat’s long-term product plan is to drop the Toledo from its range. Launched in 2012 as a low-cost family hatchback positioned below the Leon, sales have been slow. The Toledo is based on a stretched version of the old Ibiza’s PQ35 platform and is shared with Skoda Rapid and Rapid Spaceback, both of which are also slow-selling. +++

+++ Guilty. We are likely to hear VOLKSWAGEN utter similar words soon following an agreement with the United States Department regarding the so-called Dieselgate scandal. Matters regarding the Dieselgate scandal recently took an amazing turn after Volkswagen and the DOJ reached an agreement in which the German carmaker will enter a guilty plea to 3 criminal felony counts and pay billions of dollars in penalty. As part of the agreement, Volkswagen will plead guilty to: a conspiracy to defraud the United States and its customers in the country; obstruction of justice for destroying documents related to the Dieselgate scandal; and using false statements about the vehicles’ compliance with emissions limits with the aim of importing them into the US. Aside from pleading guilty, Volkswagen will be placed under probation for 3 years. An independent corporate compliance monitor will also be appointed to supervise Volkswagen for at least 3 years. Volkswagen will also pay a criminal penalty of $2.8 billion. The agreement was an offshoot of the so-called Dieselgate scandal, which is essentially a scheme implemented by Volkswagen to sell around 590,000 diesel-powered vehicles in the US (from model years 2009 to 2016) by making it seem that these units were cleaner than they actually were. Regulators have found out that Volkswagen employed a defeat device that helps these vehicles cheat on emissions tests. On the other hand, 6 Volkswagen executives and employees were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Michigan for their roles as co-conspirators in the Dieselgate scandal. These six people included Heinz-Jakob Neusser who served as head of Development for VW Brand and of Engine Development for Volkswagen. Neusser’s predecessor as head of Engine Development for VW (Jens Hadler) was also indicted, as well as Richard Dorenkamp, team leader of engineers who developed the first of the 2 emissions-cheating diesel engines. Also indicted were Bernd Gottweis, Oliver Schmidt and Jurgen Peter. Peter served as one of the VW liaisons between the regulators and Volkswagen. All of them were charged with conspiracy and for issuing false statements. Dorenkamp, Neusser, Schmidt and Peter were also charged with Clean Air Act violations. Neusser, Gottweis, Schmidt and Peter were likewise indicted for wire fraud counts. According to the Justice Department, the scheme actually commenced in 2006, when Volkswagen engineers started designing a new diesel engine that would comply with stringent US emissions standards while still appealing to customers in the market. When they soon realized that they couldn’t create such engine, they decided to employ software that could cheat standard US emissions tests. If the software detects that the engine is being tested, it would make the vehicle operate in a mode that satisfies Nitrogen Oxide emissions standards in the US. If not being tested, the engine would operate in another mode that results to NOx emissions that are up to 40 times higher than prescribed. Meanwhile, Volkswagen has agreed to pay $1.5 billion in total civil penalties to regulators. The amount includes $1.45 billion to resolve civil penalty claims to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Customs and Border Protection. Volkswagen will pay $50 million in civil penalties for alleged violations of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA). The recent penalties (amounting to $4.3 billion) adds up to a $14.7-billion deal concerning its 2.0-liter diesel-powered vehicles and a $1-billion agreement regarding 3.0-liter diesel cars. +++

 

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