Wheels and Deals

A round-up of all the biggest stories in the motor industry this week

Big impact Volvo XC90

Further details of the excellent new XC90 from Volvo are emerging and the company has just announced details of a model variant it expects to have a big impact here.

Volvo says the XC90 D4 FWD has exceeded all expectations when it comes to the no-compromise equation of power and low fuel consumption, coupled with world class low emissions, all in a seven-seat luxury SUV.

The XC90 D4 FWD delivers 136g/km CO2, 190hp, 400 Nm of torque and fuel consumption of just 5.2 l/100 km.

All engine versions will come with Volvo’s eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard and also benefit from low emissions resulting in annual road tax of just €270.

Prices start from €62,950 for the D4 FWD Momentum version; the engine is also available in conjunction with Inscription and R-Design trim levels.

The XC90 D4 FWD is available to order in Ireland now. First deliveries will be towards the end of the year.

Own a Merc now

Mercedes-Benz has introduced a personal contract purchase (PCP) plan it claims will put the purchase of one of their cars within easier reach of anyone who ever dreamt of owning one.

Said by their sales manager in Ireland, Ciaran Allen, to be “the first of a three-pronged approach” being pursued by Mercedes-Benz aimed at increasing sales, the plan is being introduced in association with Bank of Ireland and is applicable to all models across their range.

Marketed under their Star Finance branding, the plan places Mercedes-Benz in a position to compete for customers attracted to a contract purchase arrangement or those who may wish to switch to a Mercedes-Benz model on terms that match their existing plan. Under PCP, customers are asked to make a down payment – whether by way of a deposit or trade-in – followed by a series of phased payments over a three-year period after which a predetermined future value is guaranteed.

Embodying the ‘one day is now’ concept described by Ciaran Allen whereby “those who dream of one day owning a Mercedes-Benz can do so now within a realisable cost plan,” the Star Finance PCP package gives dealers the weapon to compete on even terms with other manufacturers in the luxury and volume segments.

Other initiatives planned by Mercedes-Benz to drive future sales will see further new models being rolled out with increased levels of standard specifications within an overall lower and more competitive price structure. First to reflect this approach will be the new GLE and revamped A-Class, first versions of which will arrive soon.

GM rules out deal with Fiat

General Motors chief Mary Barra has made it very clear there is no deal to be done with Fiat Chrysler Auto (FCA).

She told a press conference on the eve of the Frankfurt Show there was “no future” in discussions.

“This is not a new topic and we have studied (Fiat boss) Mr Marchionne’s proposals in detail and taken outside advice and decided that a deal is not the right thing for GM shareholders. Our current plans are right for shareholders, we have a strong core and we will continue to invest in the right technologies,” Ms Barra said.

She added that that even if FCA was to make aggressive moves for GM it would lead to a number of legal and North American trust issues that were unlikely to succeed.

Of more concern to her now is the slowdown in China where she said there had been a long period of growth but there was now more volatility.

“But let’s put that in context, the market is 24m units and in the next 20 years is expected to grow to 35m and we are in a good position, with good partners to take advantage of that.

“North America right now is very strong and our three truck strategy has been good. We also have several new car programmes coming up. South America is very difficult and we have work to do to weather the downturn in that market but our sales are still strong. Markets like Brazil can fall very fast but they can also grow very quickly.

“In India we are committed to that market and we are going in with a very good business proposition and plan to introduce 10 products in the next few years with around US$1bn of investment,” she said.

In the meantime, Ms Barra revealed some important news on the European product and model offensive.

“We will speed up the model offensive at Opel/Vauxhall. From 2016 to 2020, we will launch 29 new vehicles including an electric vehicle and a second flagship alongside the Insignia. This all-new SUV will be produced in Rüsselsheim by the end of decade and will give the brand a further technological boost,” she said.

Opel/Vauxhall now has its eyes firmly set on becoming the second largest automaker on the European market by 2022 after securing third place on the European Union passenger car market last year.

Audi goes electric

Audi has unveiled the new Audi S4 and S4 Avant, and a new Audi e-tron concept car, at the Frankfurt Show.

The sporty S4 and S4 Avant models are said to combine powerful engineering, quattro performance, excellence in design and ground-breaking infotainment technology.

They are equipped with a newly developed V6 engine with petrol direct injection and turbocharging. The 3.0 TFSI engine has an output of 354 bhp with a 0 to 100 kph time of just 4.7 seconds, outstripping its predecessor in terms of power and torque. Despite the improved performance, the S4 consumes less than 7.4 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres, with 170 g/km CO2.

With lightweight electromechanical power steering, the S4 and S4 Avant’s newly developed five-link suspension allows high performance on all terrains, with variable speed-dependent dynamic steering as an option.

Audi will be supplying both S4 variants from 2016.

Audi also presented the e-tron quattro concept, a foretaste of the production version of a fully electric SUV scheduled to come to market in early 2018. The car is said to be the company’s statement about the future of electric mobility: It is sporty, efficient and suitable for everyday use.

The Audi e-tron quattro concept uses the power of three electric motors: One electric motor drives the front axle, the two others act on the rear axle.

The car will sprint from a standstill to 100 kph in just 4.6 seconds and quickly reaches the electronically governed top speed of 210 kph.

The car’s large lithium-ion battery is integrated into the floor of the passenger compartment. It gives the e-tron a balanced axle load distribution and a low centre of gravity – prerequisites for dynamic handling. The battery’s capacity of 95kWh enables a range of more than 500 kilometres and the car is equipped with all the technologies that Audi has developed for piloted driving – radar sensors, a video camera, ultrasonic sensors and a laser scanner. These technologies are also nearly ready for use in production vehicles.

In the meantime, the all-new Audi A4 will launch in Ireland in November.

Ford unveils tough Ranger

Another car making its European debut at Frankfurt was Ford’s tough and smart Ranger pick-up.

It boasts a bold new design, cutting-edge technologies and improved fuel efficiency ahead of its sales introduction here later this year.

Ford says the flagship Wildtrak model on display in Frankfurt takes the Ranger to the next level with an exclusive exterior design treatment, unique interior trim, and a striking new signature colour – Pride Orange.

“With the stunning new Wildtrak at the pinnacle of the line-up, the new Ford Ranger provides customers with an unbeatable combination of four-wheel drive capability, stand-out styling and premium features like SYNC 2 connectivity,” said Roelant de Waard, vice president, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford of Europe. “Ranger is ready for any challenge – offering optimised fuel efficiency, towing and payload capacity, and class-leading wading capability.”

The current Ford Ranger has generated rapid sales growth in Europe since first being introduced in late 2011. Total sales of 21,600 vehicles in 2014 in Ford’s 20 traditional European markets were more than double those achieved in 2012, while 16,700 Rangers were sold in the first eight months of 2015 – a further 36 per cent increase year-over-year.

An improved diesel line-up features 130 bhp and 160 bhp variants of Ford’s latest 2.2-litre TDCi engine – delivering increased output compared to the engines in the outgoing model – and the powerful 200 PS five-cylinder 3.2-litre TDCi unit.

Both six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are available, and customers can select four-wheel drive and two-wheel drive variants. Wildtrak models feature four-wheel drive as standard.

We’ll give you Irish prices and spec when we get them.

Gets your heart racing

Driving a powerful car increases the heart rate by almost four times, which is more than when watching a horror film, riding a rollercoaster or even skydiving.

The research comes from Mini and the University of Portsmouth, which put drivers in a Mini John Cooper Works alongside stunt driver Niki Faulkner. Each passenger’s anxiety levels were measured, with some drivers registering a level 370% higher than normal – even higher than when proposing marriage.

During the tests at Goodwood Motor Circuit, the passengers’ heart rates were also measured and found to jump from an average resting rate of 100 beats-per-minute to 181bpm.

Dr Chris Wagstaff of Portsmouth University explained: “In situations of fear and excitement, the body reacts according to a combination of our thoughts and survival instinct – reactions are faster, our heart rate increases.

“This is part of the evolutionary fight or flight response humans developed many hundreds of years ago. However, in the absence of natural predators to trigger such responses, humans occasionally seek out risks or thrills.”

The study also found drivers’ reaction times improved by 6% when driving a powerful car quickly as adrenaline was produced by the body to cope with the increased level of anxiety and excitement.

Peugeot at the Ploughing

The new Peugeot 208 and the launch of a van scrappage scheme will be unveiled at next week’s National Ploughing Championships.

With 16 vehicles across the award-winning range on display, a number of Peugeot brand ambassador will also appear at the show including rally ace Craig Breen, Kilkenny hurling coaching legend Brian Cody, Tipperary and Wexford hurling captains Brendan Maher and Matthew O’Hanlon and two celebrated Limerick senior hurlers, Declan Hannon and Sean Tobin.

The newly-launched Peugeot 208 will take pride of place on the Peugeot stand, beside the best-selling Peugeot 2008 crossover and ultra-modern Peugeot 308 hatchback and SW ranges.

The range also benefits from the latest petrol and diesel engines from Peugeot, including the newly crowned PureTech petrol International Engine of the Year 2015 category winner and a record-breaking BlueHDi diesel engine. Priced from €14,845 plus delivery charges and covered by a five-year extended warranty, a 3.9% PCP low-cost finance offer is available at Peugeot dealers.

Emma Toner, marketing manager at Gowan Distributors Limited, Peugeot Importers, said: “The National Ploughing Championships has become one of the highlights in our annual calendar of events when we get a chance to talk directly with so many of our existing customers from all over Ireland and meet new prospects.

“This year our plot is bigger and better than ever and the range has never been so stylish, so young, so good. We very much look forward to a fun-filled week when visitors get the chance to meet a whole host of sporting heroes and to talk to Peugeot experts from all over the country.”


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