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SSC Tuatara hits 331mph to set new production car speed record

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American hypercar company SSC North America has set a new production car speed record with its 1750bhp Tuatara.

Piloted by British racing driver Oliver Webb, the Tuatara conducted two runs of a seven-mile stretch of road in Nevada at an average speed of 316.11mph – almost 40mph more than the 277.84mph achieved by the Koenigsegg Agera RS in 2017.

The Tuatara also beat the 304.77mph mark set by the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ last year, although that record was unofficial, because the car travelled in only one direction. Guinness World Record rules state that to set the ‘fastest production vehicle’ record, a car must drive the same route in opposite directions and average the two speeds.

In addition, it must be a production car, achieve the record on public roads, have its speed tracked by a certified GPS measurement system, have two world-record sanctioned witnesses on site for verification and run on street-specification tyres and fuel.

SSC boss Jerod Shelby said: “It has been 10 years since we held this record with our first car, the Ultimate Aero [which clocked 256.14mph to hold the record from 2007-2010], and the Tuatara is leagues ahead. Its performance reflects the dedication and focus with which we pursued this achievement.

“We came pretty close to meeting the theoretical numbers, which is astonishing to do in a real-world setting on a public road. America’s new claim to victory in the ‘land-based space race’ is going to be tough to beat.”

During its record-breaking run, the Tuatara also set the fastest flying mile on a public road (313.12mph) and the highest speed achieved on a public road (331.15mph).

Its bespoke twin-turbocharged 5.9-litre V8 engine – made in collaboration with Nelson Racing Engines – produces 1750bhp while using E85 fuel (1350bhp on 91 Octane) and 1280lb ft of torque. Power is delivered to the rear wheels via a seven-speed manual gearbox.

The Tuatara will be produced at a purpose-built facility in West Richland, Washington, and will cost around $1.3 million (£1 million). Just 100 examples are planned to be made.

READ MORE

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Alfa Romeo Formula 1 drivers test 533bhp Giulia GTA

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Alfa Romeo Formula 1 drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi have been behind the wheel of the new 533bhp Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA at the firm’s historic Balocco test track.

The pair were on hand to provide feedback to engineers regarding the super-saloon’s aerodynamic properties and handling set-up.

A new video (below) shows the car being driven in anger for the first time since it was revealed earlier this year. 

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The Giulia GTA is the most powerful road car Alfa Romeo has built, and – with a starting price of €176,500 (£153,300) for the standard car and €181,500 (£157,700) for the stripped-out GTAm variant – the most expensive, too. The limited-run 8C Competizione supercar, production of which finished in 2010, carried a £112,000 price. 

Alfa Romeo’s Centro Stile design studio has taken inspiration from the original GTA’s best-known motorsport victories for a range of available liveries, including a yellow-and-red paint scheme that harks back to the 1971 European Touring Car Championship-winning car. Standard colours, including Trophy White, Montreal Green and GTA Red, are also available. 

Alfa Romeo will build a total of just 500 GTA and GTAm versions of the Giulia, offering a raft of mechanical and dynamic upgrades over the current Quadrifoglio range-topper.

The historic GTA nameplate – which stands for Gran Turismo Alleggerita, or lightened grand tourer – has been revived to indicate the new car’s lightweight construction and performance potential. Alfa referred to the car’s unveiling as “a momentous comeback”, signifying a return to performance car construction.

The GTA takes its power from the same twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 engine as the Quadrifoglio, but calibration tweaks and the addition of a titanium Akrapovic exhaust help to boost its output from 503bhp to 533bhp. They’re also claimed to give the car a unique soundtrack.

Performance figures have yet to be confirmed, but it’s likely the GTA will eclipse the Quadrifoglio’s 3.9sec 0-62mph time and 191mph top speed.

In addition to the power hike, the GTA benefits from a 100kg weight loss, courtesy of a bonnet, a roof panel, a front bumper, front wheel arches, rear arch inserts and a driveshaft made from carbonfibre. Aluminium and composite materials feature elsewhere on the car in order to further reduce kerb weight.

GMC Hummer EV to be revealed tonight

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The new GMC Hummer EV, the first in a line of premium electric SUVs and pick-up trucks to use the revived badge, will be revealed tonight (Tuesday).

American automotive giant General Motors (GM) confirmed earlier this year that it planned to unveil the reinvented Hummer at an event in May, but it delayed the event until now due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Tesla Cybertruck rival will be revealed in an online launch event, along with television adverts that will be screened during coverage of the Baseball World Series and talent show The Voice.

Ahead of the reveal, Hummer has teased the EV’s new ‘crab mode’, which utilises four-wheel steering to allow it to travel in a diagonal direction. Hummer says the function is “tailor-made for off-roading customers”.

The Hummer EV is referred to as “the world’s first super-truck”. With around 1000bhp and 11,500lb ft of torque, it’s claimed to be capable of 0-60mph in 3.0sec and takes its power from GM’s new Ultium battery pack, which is capable of “super-fast charging” and expected to offer a range of up to 400 miles. 

Previous information released confirmed that the truck will feature a so-called infinity roof with removable glass panels to offer a open-air driving experience, while the design of the platform-sharing SUV variant looks to be modelled heavily on the iconic Hummer H2, which went out of production in 2009. 

The EV will also feature an Adrenaline mode, which can be expected to offer similar performance-enhancing functionality to Tesla’s Ludicrous mode. 

GMC vice-president Duncan Aldred said: “GMC builds premium and capable trucks and SUVs. The GMC Hummer EV takes this to new heights.”

The new model will be built at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck factory in Michigan, US.

GM is investing $7.7 billion (£5.9bn) into preparing its US factories for the shift to electrification over the next four years, with the Detroit-Hamtramck facility being upgraded at a cost of $3bn (£2.3bn) to produce electric trucks and vans. 

The large EVs will sit atop a new skateboard-style chassis, similar to that of American start-up company Rivian, which combines motors and batteries for cheaper production costs. Around 80,000 units per year are expected to be produced.

The first model, currently known as Project O, is expected to be followed by a hardcore performance version in 2022. 

New Cupra Formentor: UK prices revealed for upcoming SUV

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Cupra has opened order books for its Formentor crossover, revealing UK prices ahead of the start of customer deliveries.

While the new coupé-SUV will eventually be offered with both petrol and plug-in hybrid powertrains, UK orders are now being accepted for models fitted with the top-rung 306bhp, four-wheel-drive set-up, which begins at £39,930. The first examples are set to arrive in the UK in the last quarter of 2020. 

A base 148bhp 1.5 TSI petrol, from £27,300, will then arrive early next year, as will a 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid with either 201bhp or 242bhp. A 187bhp 2.0 TSI petrol will also become available next month. The firm eventually plans to offer seven different engine options for the Formentor, although availability will vary by market.

The new coupé-SUV is the first stand-alone model from Seat’s premium spin-off brand, and joins reworked versions of the Ateca and Leon in Cupra’s line-up.

The Formentor will be built on line two of Seat’s Martorell factory, with 160 cars per day initially being produced – although the firm says it will account for around 10% of the plant’s output once production reaches full capacity.

Speaking at the start of Formentor production, Cupra boss Wayne Griffiths – who was recently named head of the overall Seat brand – said that the model marked “the biggest step in our brand’s history.

“It’s the first car 100% developed as a Cupra, and has all the DNA of the brand. This will help Cupra not only in terms of sales, but also to attract new customers.”

Griffiths added that the Formentor will play a key role in the target to double Cupra’s sales from around 50,000 next year, with the crossover anticipated to account for more than half of the brand’s volume in 2021. 

As Cupra’s first stand-alone model, the Formentor was shown as a concept at the Geneva motor show last year and the design is largely unchanged in production form. Griffiths said that “at the moment we don’t foresee” a Seat-badged version of the Formentor being offered.

Griffiths said the Formentor “is destined to make Cupra an even more relevant brand in the market”.

Built on the same version of the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform as the Ateca, the Formentor is 4450mm long, 1839mm wide and 1511mm tall, with a wheelbase of 2680mm. It sports more aggressive styling than the Ateca, with a long bonnet, sharp side sculpting and a steeply raked, coupé roofline. It sits on 19in wheels as standard, with 18in brakes.

Autocar confidential: BMW’s Brexit warning, Mercedes’ Covid cash flow and more

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In this week’s round-up of automotive gossip, BMW explains how Brexit could hit European car makers and suppliers, Mercedes shrugs off Covid and more.

Brexit bills 

BMW’s chief financial officer reckons the UK’s decision to leave the EU could cost European car makers and suppliers “€10-11 billion” (£9.1-10bn) – a figure echoed by Europe’s motor industry body, ACEA. “We need tariff-free trade,” BMW’s Nicolas Peter told journalists last Thursday. “And even then, it needs to be seamless. The administrative processing at customs needs to be efficient.” The company has invested tens of millions of euros this year on Brexit preparations, but clarity is still not forthcoming.

Merc’s Covid-proof S-Class

Despite the industry-wide delays to model launches caused by the pandemic, Mercedes boss Ola Källenius said the recent S-Class launch happened exactly when planned. “We had the worst sales quarter since World War II but we were cash-flow positive,” he said. “We have continued to invest in high-tech products. The S-Class launch date was set long before Covid – and we’ve stuck to it. Technologically advanced projects such as the S-Class have not been affected.”

Into the Matrix

Milton Keynes-based Envisics claims its holographic, augmented reality head-up displays will help re-engage people in the process of driving with modern technology. “With these more enhanced semi-autonomous systems, there’s a much greater level of disengagement from the drivers,” said Envisics CEO Jamieson Christmas, claiming its multi-distance perspective head-up displays can mitigate that. The company just secured a £39 million funding round with several automotive tie-ups.

New Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle spotted in production form

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The dramatic new second-generation Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle has been spotted on public roads for the first time, revealing that it will largely retain the concept car’s dramatic styling.

The machine, which is due on sale later this year, was first displayed in concept form at the Tokyo motor show last year, before being shown in near-production form at a brand event in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The Japanese firm promises the new Mirai will offer a major step forward in fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) technology. It claims a 30% increase in range over the current modelwhich manages just over 300 miles, along with improved driving performance.

The new Mirai is built on Toyota’s latest TNGA platform and features a heavily evolved design, including a bold grille and a sweeping, coupé-esque rear. Toyota claims increased body rigidity and a lower centre of gravity than the original Mirai.

In concept form, the new Mirai measured 4935mm long and 1885mm wide, with a wheelbase of 2920mm. It sits on 20in wheels and retains the four-door saloon layout of the original Mirai, which was launched in 2014. Toyota indicated those dimensions will carry over to the production version.

The interior has also been reworked. It features a 12.3in central touchscreen and a digital instrument display, with many of the controls moved to the centre of the dashboard. Notably, the Mirai now has five seats instead of the original’s four, which, Toyota says, has been enabled by a reworking of the hydrogen fuel cell configuration.

Aside from the claimed increase in range, Toyota has not given specific details of development work done on the fuel cell powertrain. But it says the system, including the fuel cell stack, has been entirely redesigned and offers increased hydrogen storage. It also claims the work on the system ensures a smoother, more linear response, along with improved handling.

READ MORE

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James Ruppert: Estates are still king for dog-walking and load-lugging

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You might think that a BMW M4 and a Fiat 500 on the driveway would cover most of a family’s motoring requirements. However, reader Andy believes that for the majority of his journeys, both are impractical. What he really needs is a proper old-fashioned workhorse for dogs and heavily laden journeys around Britain and abroad. He has £10,000 to spare and wants to go down the estate or SUV route. Horses that work, though, need to be reliable and not too complicated. They also don’t need thoroughbred names.

With that in mind, Skoda Superbs can amass colossal mileages and are perfectly suited to those increasingly unfashionable diesel engines. Andy could spend just £7500 of his budget for a 2014 2.0 TDI CR Elegance Estate. It’s a big five-seater and has more than enough room for dogs.

Elegance trim goes beyond the usual specification boxes, so there’s climate control, electric leather seats with a memory function, powered wing mirrors and Bluetooth.

A look at this Superb’s official efficiency statistics tells us that its engine scores 60mpg overall, but if you’re getting 50mpg fully laden with dogs and gear, that’s great going. This one had done 61,000 miles, and I would say game over at that price.

I haven’t even mentioned the Volkswagen Passat Estate, which does the same job for slightly more.

Still in the estate area, I keep going on about Ford Mondeos, but we will miss them when they’re gone. These are huge old things and just popping along to a car supermarket will unearth a rather marvellous 2017 TDCI 2.0 Econetic Style Estate. You can bag that for just under £9000.

This one had covered a strong 71,000 miles, was ULEZ-compliant and officially topped 67mpg. It may not have been a Titanium, but it still had climate control, cruise control and adjustable lumbar support for its driver. Plus the dogs would love it. Nothing flashy, just purposeful.

When it comes to SUV shapes, there’s a strong market for very specific dog-walking 4x4s that can be bought for buttons. We can shell out a bit more in this case, and I would go for a reliable Kia Sorento. There are seven seats if you need them and a high driving position.

Being a 4×4, it will cost a bit more than an estate. A privately advertised 2011 2.2 CRDi KX-3 at £7500 with 75,000 miles seemed like a solid buy, even though it had four previous owners and cream leather. The reality is that these will struggle to reach 40mpg overall, but that’s a price worth paying for some users.

I will continue to promote the cause of the estate over any SUV, and I think that applies here. The choice, though, is always yours.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Volkswagen Golf, mileage – 73,218: The Ruppert family vehicle that racks up the most miles and the fewest problems continues on its merry way with just a brief pit stop. It had been communicating for some time that it wanted an oil change, so it was booked in. That meant my daughter needed another car for work, and she turned down the opportunity of using my classics in favour of her mother’s 4.5-litre V8 Porsche. Anyway, two days of cover for a 23-year-old worked out at just £25. Meanwhile, the oil and filter change for the Golf came in at £90. That will see it through to its next MOT test in early 2021. If only everything in life were so simple…

2020 Porsche Panamera: new hybrid range-topper packs 690bhp

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A near-700bhp plug-in hybrid is one of three new variants announced for Porsche’s updated-for-2020 Panamera range.

The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid becomes the most powerful combustion engined Porsche model currently on sale, with a peak combined system output of 690bhp from a 563bhp twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine and a 134bhp electric motor. That’s a 20bhp boost over the outgoing version and translates to a 0-62mph time of 3.2sec – 0.2sec faster than before. The top speed is 196mph, a 3mph gain.

There is also a 30% boost in electric range from a battery upped from 14.1kWh to 17.9kWh thanks to optimised cells and tweaked drive modes. Porsche claims a WLTP city EV range of 31 miles, WLTP fuel economy of 94.6-104.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 61-69g/km.

Porsche has also released details of a revised version of the more affordable Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. Sitting below the previously announced 552bhp 4S E-Hybrid, it offers a combined 456bhp from a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor combo. It’s capable of 0-62mph in 4.4sec and a top speed of 174mph. The official all-electric range is up to 35 miles, with CO2 emissions of 47-51g/km – almost a 40% improvement on the old model.

A non-electrified Panamera 4S has also been added. It retains the same 434bhp 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 as before, giving a 0-62mph of 4.1sec and a 183mph top speed.

Every Panamera features a lightly redesigned exterior, with the previously optional Sport Design front end now standard, plus a raft of tech upgrades. The suspension and chassis control systems have been updated to improve dynamics as well.

UK pricing has also been revealed. The cheapest model, the 4 E-Hybrid, is priced from £83,720 and the 4S £92,440. The flagship Turbo S E-Hybrid is £140,130. They join the Turbo S and GTS, first detailed in August, and can also be ordered as a Sport Turismo estate.

READ MORE

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BMW 5 Series Touring 520d 2020 UK review

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If there’s one thing that the BMW 5 Series has become particularly adept at over the course of its nearly 50-year existence, it’s the ability to make the wider car world collectively sit up and pay attention.

Upon its arrival back in early 2017, the seventh-generation, G30 version of Munich’s venerable executive car wasted no time in catapulting itself to the top of the class, with its mixture of driver engagement, luxurious refinement and efficient performance helping it maintain a vice-like grip on that position since.

Now, in a bid to grow its advantage and stave off the heightened threat posed by updated offerings from Audi and Mercedes-Benz, the 5 Series has been facelifted. Cosmetically, it has been sharpened up with new light and grille designs, but the crucial changes here are an expansion of the plug-in hybrid range and the introduction of 48V mild-hybrid technology on all four- and six-cylinder engines.

That said, the bread-and-butter 520d was the one 5 Series variant to benefit from the addition of an integrated starter-generator set-up last year, and here we’re driving it in the UK in newly facelifted, Touring estate guise for the first time.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder B47 diesel engine is effectively the same as it was when the G30 5 Series was launched some three years ago. It continues to make a modest 187bhp and 295lb ft, all of which is delivered to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. However, its 48V architecture now provides an additional 11bhp of electrical assistance, which should aid responsiveness when you need to get your foot down.

Like all mild-hybrid systems, this allows the engine to switch off while coasting and can help to spur the diesel engine along when you’re driving at a relatively consistent rate of knots. All of this, unsurprisingly, has been implemented in the name of marginal efficiency gains, but the big pay-off is that the 520d is now RDE2- compliant, so it isn’t hit by the 4% benefit-in-kind tax diesel surcharge.

Still, to any savvy fleet manager or business buyer, a BIK rating of 32% won’t be quite as tempting as the circa-10% scores the latest generation of plug-in hybrids are able to achieve. But for those private buyers after a big, efficient family estate, there’s very little about the way the 520d drives that’s likely to disappoint.

Inside the industry: The terrible truth about car factories

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Automotive manufacturing doesn’t often get the headlines, but the sheer scale of it, and the economies it drives globally, explains why affected governments tend to place it near the top of any priority list.

According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), there are 298 automotive assembly and engine-production plants in Europe. Of those, 142 make passenger cars, 28 light-commercial vehicles, 58 heavy-duty vehicles, 58 buses and 71 assemble engines, with some plants producing a mixed output. Germany has the most, with 42 factories, while France has 31 and Italy 23. Outside the EU, Russia has 31 plants, the UK 30 and Turkey 17.

Across Europe’s wider automotive manufacturing spectrum an estimated 3.5 million people are employed, with data suggesting that within the EU automotive accounts for 11% of all manufacturing jobs. Add in employment from retail and additional operations and that figure rises to 13.8m employed directly and indirectly, with automotive thereby making up 6.1% of all EU jobs. Big stuff.

This importance is both a blessing and a curse. These factories need to keep running at close to capacity to make economic sense, and that means cars need to keep rolling out of them come what may, even if there aren’t enough customers. The horrible truth is that even in non-Covid times there are too many factories for the number of customers. It’s why there’s always room for a haggle, and why many cars end up being self-registered each month to be sold on at a discount at a later date. Big it may be, but automotive has evolved poorly: supply outstrips demand.

Why not shut some factories? This age-old question is hampered chiefly by the challenges of manufacturers working to their own competitive agendas rather than a collective greater good, and – perhaps even more so these days – the industry’s importance as outlined above. Mooted automotive job cuts quickly come under the spotlights of governments and unions, the former willing to offer incentives to keep them open, the latter holding enough sway in some countries to kibosh any closure plans, no matter the economic logic.

For the foreseeable future many factories are running well below capacity. Social distancing protocols and a reluctance to build unordered cars are front of mind, with the bitter pill of potential losses made easier to swallow by government support schemes. But what happens when that support ends and a global recession means fewer people still are buying cars?

The pressure for closures will be applied again – and this time around the economically stressed governments won’t be in a position to respond, nor the unions able to justify holding their line. Painfully, but perhaps necessarily, the cuts may come.

READ MORE

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