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Welcome to the new Jaguar XE

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This evening at a glittering ceremony in London, with the help of a helicopter and some musical theatre, Jaguar officially revealed its BMW 3-Series fighter. People of the Internet, please be upstanding for the brand new ‘XE’, the most important car Jaguar has launched in a very long time.

It’s the company’s new much-vaunted small sports saloon, and will wade into the deep waters against the Beemer, Audi A4 and Mercedes C Class. Serious competition indeed, and much more than just a scaled-down XF.

The basics are thus: you’re looking at five seats, a big boot and a range of engines and trims that’ll spin your head.

It’ll sit on what Jaguar calls an aluminium intensive architecture, with hollow-cast aluminium for the suspension to keep everything light and stiff. The front suspension design is related to the F-Type’s double-wishbone setup, while the rear gets an independent multi-link arrangement.

Engines are all new, dubbed ‘Ingenium’ by JLR, the first of which sees a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel that manages 75mpg and slips under 100g/km of CO2, alongside a 2.0-litre petrol unit. They’re both a whopping 80kg lighter than JLR’s existing four-pots, too.

As we’ve told you before, this four-cylinder engine with its aluminium block is modular, alterable in 500cc increments up or down with the ability to incorporate hybrid elements.

Then there’s the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 pinched from the F-Type, developing 335bhp in the XE ‘S’, with a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph.

There’s fully-electric steering, and ‘All Surface Progress Control’; traction control that maintains your momentum no matter the surface, to ensure unruffled progress.

The interior adds to this ambience too, with a recognisably Jaguar design, but with a new eight-inch high-definition multimedia touchscreen in the centre console, a welcome replacement for the tired system in the current JLR lineup. As expected, it allows all manner of connectivity, from apps, mobile wifi, voice control, and a sync for your smartphone. There’s also an optional head-up display and modern graphics.

And get this: you can even start the XE from your mobile, as well as set air-con and other functions remotely, which is handy for those winter mornings.

The car will be built in two brand new factories in Jaguar’s heartland: one in Solihull to build the car, and one in Wolverhampton to build the engines.

And the starting price for Jaguar’s new entry-level model? £27,000 when it goes on sale after next month’s Paris Motor Show.

Have a scan through the pics: has this new Jag XE got the smarts to beat the Germans?

Luxury carmaker Bentley set for record sales in 2014

Luxury carmaker Bentley has said it is on course for record sales in 2014 after a 23% increase in deliveries in the first half of the year.

Bentley delivered 5,254 cars in the first six months of 2014, up from 4,279 cars in the first half of 2013.

The firm’s new Flying Spur drove up sales by 61% in China, which saw more than a fifth of Bentley’s deliveries.

Bentley’s sales echoed rival Rolls-Royce, which saw a 33% boost in sales in the half year to June.

“There is no question that some markets will remain tough, but we are confident of a good 2014,” said Bentley board member for sales Kevin Rose.

The Americas region, which includes North and South America and the Caribbean, remained as Bentley’s largest market, with 1,388 cars delivered. China followed, then Europe and the Middle East.

A Flying Spur typically sells for around £150,000, while a GT V8 sells for about £130,000.

Bentley is a subsidiary of Volkswagen, which also owns the Porshe and Audi brands.

Gordon Murray and Yamaha reveal new Motiv city car (2016)

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This futuristic Smart For Two lookalike is in fact the Gordon Murray Design Motiv – and no, the latter part of that name isn’t a typo.

Built in conjunction with Yamaha, the Motiv uses elements of F1, motorcycle and extra-automotive technology to try and cut down on the environmental impact building – and running – a car creates.

What’s so revolutionary about the Gordon Murray Motiv?

Mainly, it’s the two-seater’s production process, coined ‘iStream’ by the 240mph McLaren F1’s designer Gordon Murray. In development for 15 years, the idea could cut the size of a regular car production plant by up to 80%, according to manufacturer predictions.

In principle, iStream dispenses with the production line assembly of cars used since Henry Ford’s Model T, instead building cars in a more methodical pre-packaged style. Wiring looms and control units are fixed to pre-painted panels, which are then bonded together in an F1-like sandwich structure, reducing weight but actually enhancing stiffness and safety. It’s also faster than welding together cars with robots, as per the template of mass-production in 2013, and creates less waste material.

It’s car not just a basic shopping trolley though. The Motiv’s all-independent suspension and electric powertrain are claimed to give ‘new levels of ride and handling’ performance, as well as suiting the car’s need to be nippy and eco-friendly, given its urban brief.

What’s the spec of the Motiv?

In electric guise, the rear-drive Motiv develops a peak of 34bhp, and a huge 660lb ft – continuous torque is 485lb ft. The 730kg Motiv hits 62mph in around 15sec, and tops out at over 65mph. The real-world range is claimed to be 100 miles.

What’s Yamaha’s role in all this?

The Japanese outfit is the first engineering firm to take the plunge with Murray’s iStream concept and attempt to implement it into a full-scale production reality.

Yamaha has yet to sign off on the cost-effectiveness of rewriting the car design and production rule-book, but if the Motiv gets the green light, electric and conventional petrol-powered versions could be hitting a city street near you as early as 2016. It’s likely to be priced at around £10,000 to compete with Smart’s new For Two and the new rear-drive Renault Twingo.

Nissan celebrates car and van fleet growth in first six months of 2013

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  • Fleets bought 29,487 cars from Jan to June, a rise of 4,102 units on 2012
  • Nissan fleet car market share now at a record 5.4%
  • Nissan LCV fleet market share grows 151% to 4,445 units, a 4.8% market share

Nissan has reported a very strong fleet performance in the first six months of 2013 with combined car and van sales up by 20% to 33,932 compared with the same period in 2012 (28,329).

Fleets bought 29,487 Nissan cars from January to June 2013, a rise of 4,102 year on year, which represents a record 5.4% market share. Nissan became the sixth largest fleet car brand in the UK and sold the equivalent number of cars as Toyota and Honda combined.

The star performer was Juke which rose 49% to 7,469 units (from 5,023 in 2012) while combined Qashqai sales rose to 16,561, a rise of 2,325 over 2012. Both LEAF and NV200 minibus also experienced sales growth.

Nissan’s LCV performance was just as impressive with 4,445 vans bought by fleets in the first six months of 2013, a 51% rise over the same period in 2012 from 2,944.

Nissan’s LCV market share rose from 3.6% to 4.8% helped by strong NV200 sales growth to 2,336 units, a 114% increase over 2012. The Primastar, Cabstar, NV400 and Navara pick up also reported sales growth in this period.

“Our fleet sales growth is a sign of the investment we have been making in all aspects of our business over the past two years,” said Barry Beeston, Nissan GB’s corporate sales director.

“With the current launch of the all-new NOTE into the B-sector and the further investment in our dealer network we hope to see continued fleet growth during the remainder of 2013,” he added.

Car figures in more detail

  • Juke fleet sales grew by 49% in the first six months of 2013 to 7,469 units from 5,023.
  • Qashqai fleet sales rose from 11,289 to 13,152 accounting for a 45% market share of the total sector. Qashqai +2 sales also rose from 2,947 to 3,409.
  • LEAF sales grew to 278 and 346 NV200 minibuses were sold, a rise of 217% or 237units.

Van figures in more detail

  • NV200 sales more than doubled to 2,336, a 53% share of its sector
  • Primastar experienced a resurgence with a 47% increase in sales to 380 units
  • Navara volumes remain consistent at 1,351 sales, a rise of 6% and a 30% share of the sector
  • 221 Cabstars were sold, a 34% year on year rise, while NV400 sales rose 5% to 157 units

Detroit Motor Show 2012: Ford Fusion/Mondeo

Ford takes the wraps off what will become the next generation Mondeo at the Detroit Motor Show.

Hark, is that a phone ringing? That’ll be Uli Bez, Aston Martin’s chief executive, with a complaint about the uncanny resemblance to an Aston evident in the grille design for Ford’s new Mondeo/Fusion, which goes on sale this year in America and April 2013 in the UK and is being shown at the Detroit Motor Show.

“I don’t see it myself,” said Ford designer, Chris Hamilton, in the manner of Richmal Crompton’s William Brown denying knowledge of a missing catapult. “But it’s nice to be compared with a car that costs 10 times as much.”

This is, of course, the apogee of Ford boss, Alan Mulally’s “One Ford” approach, although the sharp eyed will have noticed that while the Fusion is a four-door saloon, the Mondeo, when we see at the Paris Motor Show this autumn will be a five-door hatchback.

This floorpan will underpin a subsequent estate model as well as the replacement for the Galaxy MPV and S-Max.

All-new multi-link rear suspension, electronically powered steering, more cabin space, a much improved ride and better noise insulation are some of the claims made for this new model, which will sell about a million a year round the globe in 10 different guises. Petrol and diesel models in 1.6- and 2.0-litre displacements are promised, with a hybrid model and possibly a 4×4 as well. Ford is even testing its latest 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine in the Mondeo, but that could be a downsizing step too far.

The One Ford strategy appears to be working for Ford, although there is a danger that model development starts to dash for the bottom rather than a climb to the top as engineers compromise Ford’s legendary ride and handling for mushy American ride quality as they did with the first US version of the Focus model. Unsurprisingly, Ford engineers strongly refute this idea.