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+++ Volante and AMR variants of the ASTON MARTIN DBS Superleggera are in the works, CEO Andy Palmer has confirmed. Although details are scarce, Palmer confirmed that the template set by the DB11 would be used across all of Aston Martin’s core models. “I’m on record as saying that there will be an AMR version of every car, so you can take that as read, and the Volante is a given. In fact, testing has already begun”, said Palmer. Although he declined to go into specifics, Palmer emphasised the DBS Superleggera’s superior torque to the Ferrari 812 Superfast, suggesting this could be enhanced further on the AMR, but without compromising headline power. “The standard DBS Superleggera is designed to be a car that anyone can drive without feeling intimidated, but the punch it packs from that torque is what sets it apart. It is a sensational characteristic that every driver can enjoy”, said Palmer. “But the engine can be turned up more and it will be on the AMR. As for how much and how, you will have to wait and see”. Palmer also called the Volante a “no-brainer”, adding that as Aston’s customer base grew and awareness of its new model range increased, there was growing demand for a wider variety of vehicles. “In 2016, we had the V12 DB11. It had 50 % of the V12 market, which sounds great but isn’t a very wide base on which to sell from”, said Palmer. “As we rolled out the V8, the Volante and the AMR, we were able to stretch that vehicle’s appeal, to the point that the V12 has now moved from where it was originally pitched, so we have space between all the vehicles and room for a more diverse portfolio across the board. The DBS Superleggera Volante makes a lot of sense. It’s fast and purposeful, but it’s a car designed to be driven rather than be edgy and intimidating”. +++ 

+++ The all-new AUDI RS 7 will be the most powerful model in the company’s history and the first car from Audi Sport to feature plug-in hybrid technology. Engineers are applying the finishing touches to the 5-door supercoupe ahead of its arrival in showrooms later next year. Strong customer demand has encouraged Audi Sport to introduce RS models far earlier in a new model’s lifecycle than before, a precedent set with the new RS 5 in 2017. The latest RS 7 will be given Audi Sport’s trademark makeover. A significantly lowered ride height, stiffened suspension and carbon- ceramic brakes will all make their way on to the RS 7, alongside bigger wheels and those trademark oval tailpipes. As before, Audi will launch 2 versions of the RS 7: a standard model and a Performance-badged variant. The first should make use of the VW Group’s new 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine that’s already found under the bonnet of the Panamera Turbo, Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga. Output in the RS 7 is expected to hit the 600 hp mark, with traction provided by Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system. An S-tronic dual-clutch auto gearbox will be standard. The Audi RS 7 Performance will take advantage of plug-in hybrid technology, partly developed by Porsche. As with the standard model, the Performance will make use of a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, but it will be supplemented by a 140 hp electric motor. The powertrain will be adopted from the Panamera Turbo S E-hybrid, which develops 680 hp and 850 Nm of torque. Those numbers mean the RS 7 will also become one of the quickest Audi Sport models ever, with a potential 0-100 km/h time of around 3.5 seconds. The new RS 7 will be the first in a long line of new models from Audi Sport; by 2020 the German firm has said it will expand its range from 11 products to 16 different cars. It will address its lack of performance SUVs with an influx of new models, with hopes of meeting a growing appetite for hot 4x4s. A new-generation RS Q3 is almost certain, but won’t happen until around 2020 and will follow an all-new RS Q8, which could adopt a similar powertrain strategy to the new RS 7 by also offering plug-in hybrid tech. Following that will be an all-new RS Q5, which will sit above Audi’s existing SQ5 and take on the Porsche Macan Turbo. It will feature the same 450 hp 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 currently used in the RS 5 Coupe. +++

+++ With SUVs dominating more and more buyers’ thoughts these days, the good old sedan has taken something of a back seat. Sales of traditional ‘three-box’ cars have tumbled, with the D-segment that covers everything from the Volkswagen Passat to the BMW 3 Series propped up by sexier 5-door versions like the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series. But the sedan car is about to make a comeback, and not only because of the arrival of an all-new 3 Series, still a crucial big-seller for BMW. A couple of months ago I was at the unveiling of a new challenger to the 3 Series: Volvo’s S60; a great-looking car in anybody’s eyes. While I was there I got some interesting insight into the future of the saloon car from Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson. His view was that there was an increasing buzz around sedans from younger buyers. These were people who’d grown up with their parents buying SUVs. And, as he told me, most young people tend to avoid doing exactly what their parents did. That’s something I can totally understand. It’s a similar story with hatchbacks. Witness the incredible reaction, especially among young people, to Honda’s Urban EV concept at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. It’s a cute, but thoroughly modern, take on the 3-door hatch; reaction was so good it’ll go on sale next year. There are much more than just cyclical fashion trends at play here, though. As my first drive in a prototype 3 Series reveals, the amount of tech on board the new BMW is also likely to sway buyers. That and the fact that it’s still fantastic to drive. What sticks out for me is the combination of a plush ride with sharp handling; the 2 used to be rare bedfellows. The fact you can now get both is great news for car buyers of all ages. +++ 

+++ The top3 best-selling cars in The Netherlands are easy to spot; on every street there’s at least one Polo, Clio or Fiesta. What is the top3 best-selling car in other countries in EUROPE , measured by market analysts Jato Dynamics though? Find out here! Austria: Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Polo and Skoda Octavia, Belgium: Volkswagen Golf, Renault Clio and Hyundai Tucson. Croatia: Renault Clio, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Polo. Czechia: Skoda Octavia, Skoda Fabia and Skoda Rapid. Denmark: Peugeot 208, Nissan Qashqai and Volkswagen Golf. Estonia: Skoda Octavia, Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Avensis. Finland: Skoda Octavia, Nissan Qashqai and Toyota Yaris. France: Renault Clio, Peugeot 208 and Peugeot 3008. Germany: Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Passat and Volkswagen Polo. Greece: Toyota Yaris, Fiat Panda and Peugeot 208. Hungary: Suzuki Vitara, Skoda Octavia and Suzuki SX4 S-Cross. Ireland: Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Golf. Italy: Fiat Panda, Fiat 500X and Fiat 500. Latvia: Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Toyota Auris. Lithuania: Fiat 500, Fiat 500X and Fiat Tipo. Luxembourg: Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Tiguan and Mercedes-Benz GLC. Norway: Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen Golf and BMW i3. Poland: Skoda Octavia, Skoda Fabia and Opel Astra. Portugal: Renault Clio, Peugeot 208 and Renault Captur. Romania: Dacia Logan, Dacia Duster and Dacia Sandero. Slovakia: Skoda Fabia, Skoda Octavia and Skoda Rapid. Slovenia: Renault Clio, Volkswagen Polo and Volkswagen Golf. Spain: Seat Leon, Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo. Sweden: Volvo S90/V90, Volvo S60/V60 and Volvo XC60. Switzerland: Skoda Octavia, Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen Tiguan. United Kingdom: Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf and Nissan Qashqai. +++ 

+++ FORD boss Jim Hackett famously declared he wouldn’t ride an autonomous vehicle because “the trust isn’t real high” and it appears his hesitance towards the technology is shaping the company’s larger autonomous driving efforts. In a 44-page report that outlines the company’s approach to autonomous vehicle development, the automaker embraces the idea of trust and said it’s the “central challenge in the development of self-driving vehicles”. To help build trust, Ford will initially operate autonomous vehicles as part of a mobility service for moving people or delivering goods. The company thinks this will provide a number of benefits as autonomous taxis could be more affordable than taxis driven by humans. Autonomous vehicles are also ideal for transporting goods which are ordered online. Ford says their purpose-built autonomous vehicle will debut in 2021 and has been designed to operate without a steering wheel, gas pedal or brake pedal. Interestingly, Ford says the model won’t be fully autonomous as it will only have Level 4 automation. That sounds a bit dangerous, but the automaker downplayed this by saying the model has been designed to operate in “a specifically-defined area of a city and only when the weather is good enough for the sensors to work properly”. In essence, Ford is billing a vehicle with Level 4 technology as “truly driverless”. That doesn’t seem very trustworthy as the Society of Automotive Engineers says Level 4 vehicles only offer “high” levels of automation. Level 5 vehicles, on the other hand, are fully autonomous. Of course, there are some caveats as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes Level 4 vehicles are “capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions”. That’s why Ford’s vehicle will only be able to operate in a specific area and only in good weather conditions. Putting aside that distinction, Ford says it plans to have a have a fleet of autonomous test vehicles in multiple cities within the next 3 years. The company says safety is a top priority and notes “Throughout the development period, we will be utilizing safety operators in our test vehicles”. The company currently uses 2-person teams and each member undergoes a rigorous training and certification course. Getting back to the company’s purpose-built autonomous vehicle, Ford says it has conducted extensive customer research to “understand our ride-hailing and delivery partners’ needs”. This feedback is helping the automaker design the vehicle so both customers and businesses will be happy with the final product. Ford also said the model will use upgraded components (such as brakes, wheels and body structures) that can withstand “extreme work cycles”. The company went on to suggest the model will have a hybrid powertrain to lower running costs. Ford will provide additional information about the model closer to its debut in 2021. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI is expected to launch an updated version of its Ioniq late next year, with changes to the exterior design and technology upgrades. The Toyota Prius rival has been on sale since 2016, so a mid-life refresh is on the cards for 2019. It’s likely that there will be noticeable changes to Ioniq’s front and rear-end designs in order to keep it fresh in the face of a glut of new hybrid and electric offerings on the way. Expect similar treatment for the interior, with improvements to materials and additional technology on offer. It’s also reasonable to suggest that Hyundai will make use of developments in electric powertrain and battery technology since the car’s launch, improving the electric-only ranges of the plug-in hybrid and electric variants. The regular hybrid version should also remain, meaning the Ioniq continues to be the only car to be offered with hybrid, PHEV and EV drivetrains. When we’ll see the facelifted Ioniq is yet to be revealed, but an unveiling in the second half of 2019 fits in with the timeline. +++ 

+++ MAGNA STEYR , a subsidiary of Canadian giant Magna International, operates a single factory in Graz, Austria where it’s currently contracted to build the BMW 5-Series Touring, Jaguar I-Pace, Jaguar E-Pace and Mercedes-Benz G-Class. The company will soon also handle production of the all-new BMW Z4 and is developing an electric vehicle architecture with China’s BAIC. With production at an all-time high, Magna Steyr believes its Austrian facility will turn out roughly 200,000 vehicles in 2018. But with so many projects, that might not be enough. Magna chief executive Don Walker appeares open to a North American plant: “We get a lot of requests. It’s typically a unique vehicle, or a peak volume. But I think that if we had a plant here we’d be getting a lot of business”. According to Walker, the site in Graz is fast approaching full capacity, but the company would need new customers to justify the cost of a second factory. “We’re over capacity in the next couple of years as we continue to launch new vehicles. If we continue to get business over at Magna Steyr, then we would expand to a second location. It’s a possibility that we continue to look at”. Even if Magna Steyr opted against building a second factory and instead took over an existing one in North America, it would still be very expensive. In fact, Walker said that a new body shop and general assembly line would almost have to be constructed to suit the needs of Steyr. +++

+++ Development of the most driver-focused version of the PORSCHE 718 Boxster is now at an advanced stage, suggesting that the car is due for reveal later this year, before arriving on roads in winter. It will use a naturally aspirated, flat-6 engine in place of the regular Boxster’s 4-cylinder alternatives. The next Boxster Spyder, which will be heavily related to the 718 Cayman GT4, will use a 911 GT3-sourced 4.0-litre engine in place of the current hottest engine in the 718 range, the turbocharged 2.5-litre flat-4, in order to stay more closely aligned with its predecessors, which have all been hailed by enthusiasts as excellent driver’s cars. Porsche Motorsport has stuck to this formula, which has been integrated into Spyders since the special Boxster variant was introduced in 2009, to give the car an even more responsive drivetrain, with the intention of making it the most involving Boxster to be on sale yet. “Natural aspiration is one of our main USPs”, Andreas Preuninger, head of GT car development at Porsche, told earlier this year. “At Motorsport, we think we can achieve throttle response and immediacy a little bit better with an atmospheric high-revving engine than any kind of turbo”. Output for the 4.0-litre unit is rated at 500 hp at 8.250 rpm in the 911 GT3, but the Boxster Spyder’s power may be slightly down on this to leave breathing space for its more expensive and larger sibling. The previous Boxster Spyder used a 3.8-litre flat-6 taken from the 911 Carrera of the time and was good for 380 hp. The recently launched Boxster GTS and related Cayman GTS use highly strung 4-pot engines with 370 hp, so the new Spyder will need to produce more power to cement itself as the top Boxster. An output of around 435 hp seems likely. To signify its driver focus, the car will be offered with a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard, but those after maximum on-track performance will be able to select the option of a 7-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission. The Boxster Spyder will also go on a hefty diet, ditching cabin insulation and even a radio and air conditioning. The Boxster’s electric folding soft top will also go, with a manually removable ‘tent top’ in its place. These weight savings will combine with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber to make the car the sharpest-handling production Boxster yet produced. Much of the design treatment applied the Boxster Spyder will mirror those featured on the Boxster GTS. The Cayman GT4 will likely get the same adjustments, along with a more prominent rear wing to signify its even harder status. +++

+++ Despite SELF DRIVING car technology having already claimed lives on the road, certain people within the industry think that it’s not the cars that need reprogramming, but the pedestrians themselves. So what’s the problem, specifically? Apparently, it’s the fact that people can be unpredictable and make decisions that may seem completely illogical to a logic-based system or AI. “What we tell people is, ‘Please be lawful and please be considerate’ ”, stated Andrew Ng, a machine learning researcher working within the industry. In other words, don’t jaywalk. However, the idea that some people consider humans to be at fault for a certain technology’s shortcomings is simply indicative of how much work needs to be done moving forward. “The AI we would really need hasn’t yet arrived”, stated Gary Marcus, a NY University professor of psychology who researches both human as well as artificial intelligence. He claims that people like Ng are “just redefining the goalposts to make the job easier”, and that in order to achieve safe self-driving cars is to “completely segregate them from human drivers and pedestrians”, like we do with trains. Meanwhile, a robotics researcher and professor at MIT, Rodney Brooks is also somewhat critical of Andrew Ng’s take on autonomous cars, saying that “the great promise of self-driving cars has been that they will eliminate traffic deaths. Now Ng is saying that they will eliminate traffic deaths as long as all humans are trained to change their behavior? What just happened?” However, Ng will argue that humans have always modified their behavior in response to new technologies, including modes of transportation. “If you look at the emergence of railroads, for the most part people have learned not to stand in front of a train on the tracks”. He also says that people have already learned that school buses are likely to make frequent stops and when they do, small children could run across the road in front of the bus, which leads to drivers acting more cautiously around these buses. He feels as though it should be no different with self-driving cars. While both sides of the argument make sense, it’s clear that in order for the technology to work as intended, the 2 philosophies will probably have to meet in the middle. “There should be proper education programs to make people familiar with these vehicles, the ways to interact with them and to use them”, added Shuchisnigdha Deb, a researcher into advanced vehicular systems. +++ 

+++ The TOYOTA Avensis and Verso are no longer available for order. Production of the Avensis, which takes place in Toyota’s Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, will cease in the coming weeks as the last orders are fulfilled. After this, the only Avensis models left will be dealer stock. The Burnaston factory has been subject to €270 million in investment last year to upgrade it for production of cars using the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform. The Avensis makes way for the Camry hybrid, with the Camry name returning to Western Europe after a 14-year hiatus. News of the Avensis’s demise follows Toyota’s confirmation that the Verso has been taken off sale. Sales of the Turkish-built MPV have plunged 46 % on 2017 and Toyota confirmed that the significant shift from MPVs to C-segment SUVs was the reason behind the decision to pull the plug on the Verso, as Toyota reviewed its European product lineup. Production stopped in October 2017, but sales continued online until far more recently. The Verso disappeared from Toyota’s website in recent weeks and sales will end all over Europe as the model officially finishes production. Other MPVs discontinued this year include the previously huge-selling Opel Zafira, while other manufacturers have trimmed slower-selling 3-door models from their line-ups. For instance, Seat recently axed the 3-door Mii and Leon SC from its range. Europe’s best-selling MPV is the Renault Scenic, which has shifted 57,559 units in the year so far. The Volkswagen Touran was second place, followed by the Citroën C4 Spacetourer. The 2 models were the last to be offered with diesel engines apart from the Land Cruiser, which is considered by the company as a more specialist product. The RAV4 diesel was cut from the range earlier this year. Toyota confirmed last year that it would not launch any more diesels in Europe, as the industry turns to electrification and demand plummets amid the ongoing diesel debate. Toyota predicts that Avensis and Verso customers will now opt for the new Camry hybrid, the C-HR (particularly for Verso buyers) or the upcoming Auris, which arrives later this year on the much-lauded TNGA architecture. +++ 

+++ Owners of Dieselgate-affected VOLKSWAGEN Group cars in Germany who refuse to have the manufacturer’s emissions fix applied could have their cars deregistered by authorities. The KBA, Germany’s motor vehicle regulator, has already revoked the registrations of several Audi and VW cars without the fix in Hamburg and Munich following repeated warnings to the drivers, because the cars were still emitting more NOx than was originally declared. The fix is mandatory in Germany because the authorities declared it a safety recall, whereas in the UK it was labelled a ‘service action’. The KBA told: “The recall is compulsory. Cars that are not fixed can eventually be taken out of service. Subject to the release date of the updates, the car owner has had about a year and a half. Plenty of time to take part in the recall”. The deregistrations are therefore not completely unexpected. As of June, 95 % of the total 2.46 million affected German cars had had the fix applied. Of the remaining cars, 0.6 % are being referred to their local authorities after several warnings, and this can eventually lead to registrations being revoked. Owners across Europe are sceptical of the fix after claims that the software update can cause cars to become less fuel efficient and lead to faults that trigger ‘limp home’ mode. An investigation carried out on a 1.6-litre diesel Touran found that, despite NOx emissions reducing by almost half after the fix, the car returned poorer fuel economy and emitted 6.5 % more CO2. Volkswagen continues to claim that the fix has no adverse effect on cars’ reliability, emissions or fuel economy, backed up by verification from the KBA. Deregistrations will commence depending on when the owners were issued with the recall notice; this means that some owners’ cars could be deregistered next month. According to a Volkswagen spokesman, the fix is not expected to reach a 100 % rate, due to some affected cars having been written off or being untraceable by the government, but the rate is climbing. +++

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