+++ Prototype versions of AUDI ’s second-generation Q3 have been spied undergoing testing by Ingolstadt engineers less than a year before the new SUV is due to go on sale. Sporting a sharpened appearance, new underpinnings, a roomier interior and contemporary electric architecture supporting many of Audi’s latest driver assistant systems, the new Q3 has been comprehensively re-engineered in a joint Volkswagen Group programme also encompassing the latest Tiguan, new Skoda Kodiaq and Seat Ateca, among other upcoming models. Dimensionally, the new Q3 has grown in an attempt to distance itself from its cheaper sibling, the Q2. Nothing is official yet, although sources suggest its length extends to around 4.450 mm and width beyond 1.860 mm; increases of 60 mm and 30 mm respectively. By comparison, the Q2 measures 4.190 mm in length and 1.790 mm in width, while the recently launched second-generation Q5 runs to 4.660 mm in length and 1.890 mm in width. Based around Volkswagen Group’s widely used MQB platform architecture, the new Q3 is claimed to have shed up to 50 kg over today’s model, which sits on older PQ35 underpinnings dating back to the second-generation A3 launched in 2003. This should bring the planned front-wheel-drive entry-level model, which is set to use a 130 hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, to less than 1.350 kg despite the increase in size. As well as being lighter, the MQB architecture also provides the new Q3 with added structural integrity. Insiders cite a significant improvement in both static and dynamic rigidity as being crucial to enhancements in the isolation of vibrations while contributing to lower overall noise levels; factors that promise to make it a more adept long-distance proposition. As evidenced on the prototype pictured, the new Audi receives more distinctive styling than today’s 6-year-old model, with a prominent 8-corner single-frame grille, thin angular headlamps with LED graphics and a heavily structured bumper assembly dominating its front end. Further back, there are larger wheelhouses, more pronounced wheel arch flaring, door-mounted mirrors and a more defined shoulder line along the flanks. A longer wheelbase, which is said to have grown by 50 mm to 2.650 mm, also sees the adoption of slightly longer doors. At the rear, the new Q3 eschews the clamshell style tailgate for a simpler (and cheaper-to-produce) aperture. Inside, the 2018 Q3 receives a newly designed interior with a dashboard heavily influenced by that already seen in the latest A3. With a longer wheelbase liberating rear seat leg room and added width providing greater shoulder room both front and rear, the new model is described as being significantly more spacious than its predecessor. A slightly longer rear overhang is also claimed to provide the new SUV with an added 20 litres of luggage capacity to reach 440 litres. Among the more upmarket features available for the new Q3 will be Audi’s Vitual Cockpit display with HD graphics, a head-up display unit, a 9.2in touchscreen infotainment system, inductive smartphone charging and a full suite of connectivity functions supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The new Q3 will offer a variety of driveline combinations, including front-wheel and all-wheel drive in combination with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic dual clutch gearbox. The headline engine in the new RSQ3 will be Audi’s recently revamped turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol unit developing up to 400 hp. It will be supported by an SQ3 model running a detuned version of the same engine at around 340 hp. Other petrol engines will include a new turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit. It joins the Q3 line-up as a replacement for the older turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder unit, likely offering two states of tune at 130 hp and 150 hp. Also planned, although not expected to feature in every market, is an updated version of Audi’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine delivering 252 hp. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the future of diesel right now, Audi is sticking to plans to launch the new Q3 with a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder common rail engine in up to three states of tune: 150 hp, 190 hp and 240 hp. All will feature a SCR filter and Adblue injection for Euro 6 emission compatibility. Also under development, though unlikely to be seen at launch, is a plug-in hybrid version. It is set to combine the turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor in an updated version of Volkswagen Group’s modular plug-in hybrid system that is claimed to provide a combined output of more than 200 hp and an electric range of up to 50 kilometers at speed of up to 130 km/u. Ingolstadt sources involved in the engineering of the new Audi also confirm that the German car maker is working on a pure electric version of the second-generation Q3 as part of plans to meet China’s new energy vehicle regulations. The secret front-wheel-drive Q3 e-tron, conceived to compete against BMW and Brilliance’s Zinoro 60H, is likely to run a similar driveline system to the VW e-Golf, with a 136 hp electric motor and 35.8kWh lithium ion battery providing an all-electric range of up to 300 kilometers between recharging. +++

+++ BMW announces that from November of this year onward it will start replacing gradually the carbon driveshaft in the M3, the M4 and the M4 Convertible with an M specific high-performance driveshaft made of steel. This measure deemed necessary from BMW in order to create “the necessary technical basis for meeting statutory emissions requirements”, which translates into making the M3/M4 compatible with a petrol particulate filter (PPF) that will be required to be installed in major markets at a later point in time. The company says that the newly developed steel driveshaft is designed up to the high standards of the M3/M4 models, leaving their performance and handling qualities unaffected. This pre-enabling process will happen for production-related reasons and needs to be carried out universally for all versions of the M3/M4, sans the limited M4 CS and M4 GTS special editions. +++

+++ LAND ROVER designdirector Gerry McGovern recently downplayed the possibility of a 7-seat Range Rover, but the executive has hinted a handful of other models could be on the horizon. McGovern suggested the company could expand the Discovery lineup. As he explained, “For me, a family is more than 2 and with Discovery we’ve only got 2 vehicles, so there are a lot of opportunities”. Despite his optimism, McGovern conceded the company still needs to “work out what our priorities are and what level of investment is required” before approving any new additions. There’s no word on what form a future Discovery model could take but it’s worth noting the current 2 model lineup pales in comparison to the Range Rover line which consists of four models including the Evoque, Velar, Range Rover Sport, and Range Rover. In a separate interview, McGovern stated: “I think the brand can go even further when it comes to more car-like vehicles”. This could suggest the company is eyeing some less capable and more in line with the Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque. These 2 models are immensely popular partially due to their low price tags. +++

+++ Surprise, surprise. The MCLAREN 720S is already proving to be a huge success for the British manufacturer, selling out into 2018. Since the supercar’s debut 5 months ago at the Geneva Motor Show, over 1,500 orders have been placed forcing many buyers to wait until next year to take delivery. This comes despite the fact that McLaren commenced deliveries back in June, a remarkably fast turnaround from when the car was first shown to the public. A number of buyers are said to be so eager to get their hands on the 720S that they’ve placed orders for 2 cars, one to be delivered as soon as possible and the second to be personalized through McLaren Special Operations. A quick glance at the spec sheet reveals why buyers are so eager to purchase the new supercar. Rather than utilizing a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 like all other modern McLarens before it, the 720S has a 4.0-liter unit that delivers 720 hp and 760 Nm of torque, figures that comfortably upstage the Lamborghini Huracan Performante and Ferrari 488 GTB. +++

+++ MERCEDES-AMG has admitted that it will need to reinvent itself with its future range of electrified models. The company’s director of vehicle development, Drummond Jacoy, said the high-performance division of Mercedes-Benz needs to thoroughly investigate the best way to electrify its range while still retaining some of that classic AMG DNA. “It’s obvious we’re not going to make the world happy with V8s for the next 200 years, and AMG has shown in the past, with the electric SLS years ago, that it has capabilities in all-electric drive. That was a very impressive vehicle for its time and we’ve nurtured that technology and the learning we have from hybrid vehicles”, Jacoy said. According to Jacoy, AMG will start researching what it can do to future all-electric Mercedes-Benz models as soon as its parent company commences work on them, saying that AMG is already considering how to best positions itself into the future. “We’ll have to reinvent ourselves there (with electric cars), obviously, because the sound of a V8 is not going to be there if it’s a pure-electric vehicle. It’s not starting from scratch, but we’re going to have to look at what the AMG story is with an electric vehicle. But we’re working on that”, he confirmed. +++

+++ German Chancellor Angela MERKEL on Saturday rejected a proposal made by her Social Democrat rivals to introduce quotas for electric cars in Europe, arguing the implementation of such targets would prove too complicated. Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz, Merkel’s main challenger in the Sept. 24 national election, on Friday called for such a quota, both in Germany and across the European Union, saying it would encourage industry to innovate. “I don’t think that the quota for E-cars, for this technology, has been well thought out”, Merkel told supporters of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the party’s employers’ arm in the western city of Dortmund. “Then we would negotiate for ages in Europe. What would we do if it is not adhered to?” she added of the quota. “Could petrol engine cars no longer be bought?” Instead, Merkel called for a bigger strategy for helping the auto industry make the transition to producing electric cars. “We need to innovate quickly”, she said. “Where companies can’t manage it alone, the government must stand behind them and shove things along”. The auto industry is Germany’s biggest exporter and provides about 800,000 jobs. But politicians fear Germany’s carmakers are failing to invest enough in new technology and infrastructure; concerns that have been mounting since the Volkswagen emissions scandal broke in 2015. Merkel, whose CDU leads rival parties in opinion polls, is campaigning for a fourth term in office on a platform of economic stability. She has repeatedly warned against “demonising” diesel engines. Her conservatives have promised tax cuts worth some 15 billion euros annually as well as increased spending on infrastructure, defence and security. +++

+++ SKODA is gearing up for a double electric onslaught by the start of the next decade, launching a pure-electric hatchback and a coupe-SUV that’s likely to become the most expensive vehicle in the brand’s 122-year history. The Czech manufacturer will launch its electrified vehicle strategy with a Superb plug-in hybrid in 2019. But it will really push ahead with its dedicated EV plans a year later, with the production version of its Vision E concept, which was revealed at this year’s Shanghai Motor Show. It’ll be one of the first cars to appear on the Volkswagen Group’s new MEB chassis architecture, which has been designed to accommodate all-electric powertrains. Volkswagen’s I.D. will be the first MEB car, with an Audi variant following soon after. Skoda’s effort is being given almost the same level of priority in the rollout because of the company’s burgeoning sales in China, seen as a key developing region for EVs, so it’ll appear in 2020. The coupe-SUV will sit between the Karoq and Kodiaq in length, but the clever packaging allowed by MEB should mean that its interior space is at least a match for the latter of those models. The number of batteries required to power its 306 hp electric motors and deliver an expected range of up to 500 km will mean a price tag of around 45,000 euro in The Netherlands. That would make it the most expensive vehicle in Skoda’s line-up, but around half the price of a Tesla Model X. Skoda has yet to confirm a badge for its big coupe, but the company has registered a wide range of names ending in the letter Q; its designation for SUVs. Amiq, Eliaq and Anuq are among the possible names for the new model. It’s likely to be built at the VW Group’s factory in Bratislava, Slovakia, alongside other MEB products. The coupe-SUV will sit on one of the longer MEB wheelbases, but around a year after its arrival on the market, the brand will add a second, smaller EV designed for more modest budgets. This car (which could potentially bring back a famous old Skoda name by carrying the badge Felicia E) will, in effect, be the firm’s version of the I.D. hatchback, complete with that car’s rear-mounted 170 hp electric motor. It will also mirror the Volkswagen’s probable I.D. range structure, which is likely to feature at least 2 grades of model that will allow buyers to prioritise either cost or battery capacity and range. The Felicia E is likely to be about the same size as the Rapid Spaceback, so it will be smaller than an Octavia. But the packaging advantages offered by MEB mean that its cabin space could come close to that of the roomy Superb. Volkswagen has stated that this I.D. hatch will cost roughly the same as a well specced diesel Golf (around 31,500 euro in The Netherlands) and Skoda is likely to undercut that figure slightly, giving the Felicia E a starting price of around 29,000 euro. These 2 models will be joined in the first half of the decade by a smaller pure-electric SUV (a sister car, in effect, to the Karoq) and, in what is seen as a significant move by a practicality-focused brand, an all-electric coupe. This model, which could be a 2-door or a 4-door ‘coupe saloon’, was referenced by Skoda’s head of research and development Christian Strube back in May. When asked if Skoda would build a sports coupé in the spirit of its old 110R, Strube replied: “Yes, but electric”. It’s expected to have a pair of electric motors, more than 300 hp and a range in excess of 500 kilometers. Skoda will feel comfortable with launching this car in China, where there is little ‘brand legacy’, but the company may hesitate before offering it to customers in Western Europe, where Skoda is known for practicality. This uncertainty about being ‘desirable’ continues to hold up the coupe version of the regular Kodiaq. That conventionally powered car is destined to arrive in China before the end of the decade, but it’s still not confirmed outside that region due to marketing concerns and limitations on manufacturing capacity. +++

+++ TOYOTA has confirmed that production at its scheduled new plant in Mexico will be pushed back to the first half of 2020 rather than 2019 as initially planned. The automaker originally intended on building the Corolla at the 1 billion dollar Guanajuato plant but last week, announced that the Corolla would instead be built at a new U.S. facility constructed alongside Mazda. Now, the Mexican facility will build the Toyota Tacoma pickup from 2020. In a statement, a Toyota spokeswoman said: “With the production model change to the Tacoma pickup, the start of production will consequently be in the first half of 2020. However, we will make our utmost effort to advance the timing in order to minimize the impact to suppliers and the local community”. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN ’s powerful labor unions have called on the company to create more work for its German plants by increasing investment there and creating a new model for local production. The unions are concerned that a 3.8 percent drop in VW’s vehicle production in Germany in the first half of the year, due to waning demand for the current Golf and Passat models, could lead to further cuts in Volkswagen’s (VW) high-cost production capacity at home. Europe’s largest carmaker last November agreed with its German unions to cut thousands of jobs at the core VW brand through natural attrition over the next 8 years, in exchange for a commitment to avoid compulsory redundancies. The unions and management earlier this year resolved a dispute over how to implement a turnaround plan for the troubled VW brand but the company still has to come up with a multi-billion-euro investment plan by November. “The works council views with great concern that the current budget round at VW is not making any headway”, VW works council chief Bernd Osterloh told, criticizing a failure by management to yet say how it plans to use its German production capacity. “That is completely incomprehensible because a high capacity utilization of German plants is crucial for the success of the company and the jointly agreed future pact”. Osterloh, a member of VW’s supervisory board, called for production of a new model to be assigned to one of its three auto-making German plants, which are in Wolfsburg, Emden and Zwickau. Separately, management should overhaul assembly lines at Wolfsburg, VW’s core plant employing over 60,000 people and grappling with low demand for the ageing Golf, to be able to service demand for an extra 40,000 Tiguan, the carmaker’s most popular model at present, said Osterloh. Wolfsburg has already been chosen to build a new SUV model for VW’s Spanish arm Seat in 2018, using the German group’s cost-saving MQB modular platform on which the Tiguan and Golf are based. “Only by means of a high capacity utilization can we achieve the productivity targets”, Osterloh said. “The issues raised here are relevant and currently under discussion”, a spokesman for the carmaker said, declining to elaborate. VW plans to raise productivity at its German factories by 7.5 percent this year and next, and a further 5 percent in 2019 and 2020, counting on making cuts to fixed costs and fine-tuning its R&D, procurement and production operations. Investors have said a turnaround at the VW brand is key to reviving the group’s fortunes following the costly diesel emissions test-cheating scandal. Osterloh said the carmaker has earmarked another 500 million euros in cost savings on top of the 1.5 billion of efficiency gains already budgeted for this year, without providing details. The savings are sustainable and stem from rationalizing the range of engines and parts it offers, cutting costs on vehicle and component tests and streamlining work processes, a company source said. VW has a goal to cut annual costs at the core brand by 3.7 billion euros by 2020, 3 billion of which would affect German operations. +++

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