Euro auto news

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Ecclestone headed for $100M settlement in F1 bribery trial

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Motorsports, Euro, Government/Legal, Racing

Germany F1 Ecclestone Trial

Formula One bigwig Bernie Ecclestone has opened his wallet to finally put an end to his trial for alleged bribery in Germany. According to Britain's The Telegraph citing the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the controversial racing magnate offered a 60 million pound- ($100 million-) settlement to put the case behind him. Deutsche Welle is reporting that state prosecutors have accepted the deal. Ecclestone had initially proposed $25 million to take care of things and later increased the price further.

It already appeared quite likely that the settlement would be accepted. The German court hearing the case told scheduled witnesses that they didn't need to be there for Tuesday's proceedings. According to Deutsche Welle, Ecclestone's old age was a contributing factor the prosecutors' agreement to the offer.

Ecclestone was accused of paying German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky about $44 million in bribes in 2006 for preferential treatment in buying F1 shares. However, the case was always somewhat complicated. Ecclestone claimed that he paid the banker the money, but it was because he was being blackmailed. If convicted, he could have faced up to 10 years in prison. Gribkowsky received eight-and-a-half years behind bars for his role in the affair. Ecclestone previously stepped down from his position on the F1 board because of the trial in Germany. Although, this settlement could clear him to resume that role.

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TFLcar going from Prague to Pebble in a Tatra [w/videos]

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Time Warp, Sedans/Saloons, Euro, Videos, Luxury, Read This

Tatra 603

Today, the Tatra brand is best known for its heavy-duty trucks that carry goods all over Europe, but their legacy as a carmaker is a bit less celebrated, especially in the US. That's a shame, because the Czech company's legacy includes some of the oddest passenger vehicles to ever hit the roads. Case in point: the Tatra 603. With four lights in its round grille, the sedan has a face only a mother could love, but things get truly odd in the rear where you find an air-cooled, V8 engine.

Coincidentally, the Tatra is getting a special class dedicated to it at this year's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Auto journalist Roman Mica and the rest of the team from The Fast Lane Car decided on a wickedly cool project to coincide with the event. They bought a 1968 Tatra 603 in Liberec, Czech Republic, with the goal of driving it across a continent and a half, all the way to Pebble Beach. The undertaking has a personal touch too because Mica was actually born in the former Czechoslovakia and fled the country as a child in 1968 after the communists invaded.

The site is documenting the whole endeavor, which it calls Prague to Pebble or Bust, on video and is posting them online. If you're a fan of quirky old cars or what it takes to live with them, you really need to check this series out. You can check out the project page here to see all of the videos so far. Scroll down to watch the episodes where the team picks up the car in Europe, its arrival in the US and a brief mechanical look.

Continue reading TFLcar going from Prague to Pebble in a Tatra [w/videos]

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Audi starts production of new TT in Hungary

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Euro, Plants/Manufacturing, Audi

Audi TT production at Gyor

Audi sure made waves when it rolled out the original TT in the late 1990s, putting fashion forward with a stylish coupe that neatly summed up the design direction the company was headed in. But that was a decade and a half ago, and the TT has moved on considerably since then.

The German automaker has since revealed its third-generation TT, replacing the original twice over with ever-more performance-focused but no less stylish successors along the way. But it wasn't until last week that the first new MkIII TT rolled off the assembly line.

That took place, of course, in Gyor at Audi Hungaria Motor Kft. It's the same assembly plant that handles the company's A3 sedan and cabrio, with the facility also handling final assembly of the TT ever since the factory opened in 1997 and the model began rolling off the line in '98. Last November, the plant in Hungary built its 500,000th TT, and now officials are ushering in the era of the new model.

Continue reading Audi starts production of new TT in Hungary

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Next Buick Regal coming in 2017, could be imported from Germany

08/03/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Euro, Plants/Manufacturing, Buick, Rumormill

2014 Buick Regal

The Buick Regal is based on the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, a pair of sedans from General Motors' European and British outfits. In fact, over 46,000 Regals from model years 2010 and 2011 were screwed together on the same lines as the Insignia twins, before GM's Oshawa, Ontario factory took over production fully. Considering this closeness, rumors that claim the next-generation Regal - due for 2017 - could move back to Europe aren't terribly surprising. Here's why, according to Automotive News.

Oshawa is home to three other vehicles, aside from the Regal - the Chevrolet Camaro, Impala rental queen and the Cadillac XTS. We already know next-gen Camaro production is headed to Lansing, MI, and that the fleet-only Impala will (finally!) die in 2016. As for the XTS, as AN explains it, sales are so slow that GM will either kill it or just shuffle its production volume elsewhere.

Taken along with the fact that Unifor, the Canadian labor union repping workers at the Oshawa factory, claim GM hasn't made any guarantees about future production at the nearly 60-year-old factory, it seems fairly clear that the Regal's current factory is going to be put out to pasture.

Meanwhile, according to AN, Opel has already dropped a not-so-subtle indicator that Buick production will be returning to the manufacturer's Russelsheim factory, issuing a statement back in March that read: "The Russelsheim plant has been chosen for the assembly of a future model which will be sold in the US under the Buick brand name in the second half of the decade."

Logistically, this all makes a lot of sense. As AN says, Canada is expensive, Russelsheim has room and GM execs have said that the German brand and Buick are pretty good bedfellows. Of course, we'll need to wait and see how this plays out. All things considered, though, the arrival of a German-built Buick seems like a very real possibility.

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Nissan to pursue FWD Nurburgring lap record with Pulsar Nismo

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Euro, Hatchbacks, Nissan

2015 Nissan Pulsar

Europeans get very serious about their hot hatches. So do the Japanese. In fact there's been a whole back-and-forth lately over who makes the fastest one, and now Nissan looks set to throw its racing hat into the 'Ring.

That would be the Nürburgring, of course, where automakers trade bragging rights like baseball cards - only they don't give them up willingly. Renault set the front-drive lap record in 2008 with the previous Mégane R26.R then set the bar even higher with the Mégane RS 265 Trophy. That was before Seat stole the honors with its Leon Cupra 280, only for Renault to take them back again with the Mégane RS 275 Trophy-R. Seat is rumored to be considering a renewed assault, but it won't be the only one nipping at Renaultsport's heels in the coming years.

Honda, for its part, has made no secret of its ambition to set the record with the upcoming Civic Type R, and now word has it that Nissan is planning an assault of its own. Its weapon of choice would be an upcoming Nismo version of the new Pulsar hatchback which is just hitting the European market now as a rival to the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, et al. There's no word on what its specs would be, but if it's going to challenge these players, it's going to need between 270 and 300 horsepower, a stiff suspension, big brakes and probably some sort of trick differential.

Now if you're thinking that Nissan would only be stealing the record away from its own sister company, consider first of all that, despite their alliance and common CEO, Renault and Nissan operate as two separate companies. If anything, one could end up lending its expertise to the other, much like Audi did with Bentley at Le Mans where the latter interrupted the former's winning streak in 2003. Not that Nissan needs any tips on how to tackle the Nordschleife: with the GT-R it has, after all, been trouncing everything this side of the record-holding Porsche 918 Spyder.

7:54 is the time to beat. Game on.

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New drifting world record set in Toyota GT86

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Sports/GTs, Euro, Videos, Scion, Toyota

The world's longest drift

We have entered a drifting arms race. Last year, BMW smashed the Guinness World Record for the longest drift by hanging the tail out for 51.3 miles around a wet skid pad in an M5 at the BMW Performance Driving School in South Carolina. That beat the previous milestone of nearly seven miles. Now, Bimmer's record is up in smoke as well and is in the possession of a Toyota.

German driver Harald Müller pummeled the old record to drift for 89.55 miles around a 0.15-mile (235.5-meter) course in Samsun, Turkey, in a Toyota GT86 (or Scion FR-S as it's known in the US). According to the Guinness World Records website, it took him 612 laps and 2 hours, 25 minutes and 18 seconds to manage the achievement. Sit back to watch a few minutes of the German's two and a half hours behind the wheel with the tail out.

Continue reading New drifting world record set in Toyota GT86

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Mercedes rolls out versatile new Vito van

07/29/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, Euro, Commercial Trucks, Mercedes Benz

2015 Mercedes-Benz Vito

Mercedes-Benz may be known for its luxury cars on this side of the Atlantic, but it's equally known around the world for making robust workhorses as well: trucks, buses and vans. It has started to turn Americans on to that idea with the successful transplant of the Sprinter van to North America, but it still has a whole range of commercial vehicles it doesn't offer here. It recently rolled out the Renault-built Citan to replace its Vaneo, replaced its Viano with the new V-Class, and it has now introduced a new Vito van as well.

More utilitarian than the V-Class, the Vito is a smaller alternative to the Sprinter and hits showrooms in other global markets in a wide array of configurations. For starters, it will be available in numerous lengths as a panel van, a passenger van or as a crew cab, a configuration that combines a four-door passenger compartment with a cargo bay in the back. It's also intriguingly available in front-, rear- or all-wheel drive, motivated by a pair of four-cylinder turbodiesels displacing 1.6 liters or 2.1 liters with power ranging from 136 horsepower up to 190. Regardless of engine selection, buyers can choose from either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic.

In addition to a wider range of powertrain and bodystyle choices, Mercedes has also redesigned the new Vito to be safer and more comfortable than the model it replaces. It has a more aerodynamic shape for a lower coefficient of drag that pairs with the new engines to help reduce fuel consumption. That's particularly important to the vehicle's competitiveness among fleet buyers, because improved fuel economy leads to reduced running costs. Further, the new Vito can be kept on the road for 25,000 miles over two years in between service intervals.

Despite the suspension that's been redesigned for a more compliant ride, the new Vito doesn't skimp on the utility. In fact, Mercedes claims it's got the highest payload capacity in its class at over 3,000 pounds and a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of over three tons, depending on spec. Read all about it in the press release below and scope out the range in the high-res image gallery above.

Continue reading Mercedes rolls out versatile new Vito van

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Honda Civic Tourer sports forbidden facelift

07/29/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Spy Photos, Wagons/Estates, Euro, Honda

Honda Civic Tourer: Spy Shots

Following up on a sextet of spy photos from June, we now have another batch of images of the facelifted Euro-spec Honda Civic undergoing testing in the United Kingdom. There's a bit more sheetmetal to this particular prototype, though, as our spy photographers have caught the upcoming Tourer model (pronounced "wagon" among us Yanks).

Like the hatchback we showed you last month, the new Tourer benefits from the same set of styling tweaks inspired by the Civic Type R Concept from March's Geneva Motor Show. That means it boasts a revised front fascia, albeit with a more heavily camouflaged version of the grille shown in last month's photos. It's a similar story below, where the intakes on this long-roof model wear more disguise, yet look to be virtually identical to what we've already seen.

While the headlights still look to be a straight lift from last month's car, the more upright nature of the Tourer's tailgate demands a more subdued character. Gone are the thin, curvy LED taillights, and in their place sit significantly more substantial units (with conventional bulbs), although they boast none of the design chutzpah shown on our last round of spy photos. Our spies claim LED taillights will be available, noting that they simply aren't fitted to this particular prototype, a distinction that suggests this is a lower-end model.

Look for the new European Civic family to make their grand entrance in early October, at the 2014 Paris Motor Show.

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European jury names 32 candidates for 2014 Car of the Year [UPDATE]

07/29/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Euro

European Car of the YearUPDATE: Hakan Matson, automotive editor at Sweden's Dagens industri and president of the European Car of the Year jury, tells Autoblog that the list originally published on the website was missing the new Mini Cooper, which has now been added to bring the list up to 32 candidates.

Every year a panel of jurists representing a variety of automotive publications in different languages and from different countries get together and pick their Car of the Year. It's a long and exhaustive process, and it starts right here.

For the 2015 award, the panel has identified 31 candidates: the Audi TT; BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and 2 Series Coupe, i8 and X4; the Citroën C1 and C4 Cactus; Fiat 500X (which hasn't even been unveiled yet); Ford EcoSport and Mondeo; Hyundai i20; Infiniti Q50; Jeep Renegade; Kia Soul; Lexus NX and RC; Mercedes-Benz C-Class, GLA and S-Class Coupe; Nissan Pulsar, Qashqai and X-Trail; Opel Corsa; Peugeot 108; Porsche Macan; Renault Twingo; Skoda Fabia; Smart Fortwo and Forfour; Subaru WRX STI; Suzuki Celerio; Toyota Aygo and Volkswagen Passat.

These 31 contenders will be whittled down to a short-list of seven nominees to be announced on December 15, followed by the announcement of the winner on March 2 at the Geneva Motor Show.

Past winners include the Peugeot 308, Volkswagen Golf, Chevy Volt/Opel Ampera, Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen Polo (going back to 2010). This year ought to present an interesting challenge in that three of the entrants - the Toyota Aygo, Citroën C1 and Peugeot 108 - are all essentially the same car. Last year saw the jury award second place jointly to the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ, which was (as far as we can tell) the first time it had split the award between manufacturers of essentially the same vehicle. The Renegade, 500X, GLA, Qashqai, X-Trail and Macan seem to be at a distinct disadvantage, though, because the jury has never named a sport-ute or crossover into the top three, let alone as the winner, in its 50-year history.

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European jury names 31 candidates for 2014 Car of the Year

07/28/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Euro

European Car of the YearEvery year a panel of jurists representing a variety of automotive publications in different languages and from different countries get together and pick their Car of the Year. It's a long and exhaustive process, and it starts right here.

For the 2015 award, the panel has identified 31 candidates: the Audi TT; BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and 2 Series Coupe, i8 and X4; the Citroën C1 and C4 Cactus; Fiat 500X (which hasn't even been unveiled yet); Ford EcoSport and Mondeo; Hyundai i20; Infiniti Q50; Jeep Renegade; Kia Soul; Lexus NX and RC; Mercedes-Benz C-Class, GLA and S-Class Coupe; Nissan Pulsar, Qashqai and X-Trail; Opel Corsa; Peugeot 108; Porsche Macan; Renault Twingo; Skoda Fabia; Smart Fortwo and Forfour; Subaru WRX STI; Suzuki Celerio; Toyota Aygo and Volkswagen Passat.

These 31 contenders will be whittled down to a short-list of seven nominees to be announced on December 15, followed by the announcement of the winner on March 2 at the Geneva Motor Show.

Past winners include the Peugeot 308, Volkswagen Golf, Chevy Volt/Opel Ampera, Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen Polo (going back to 2010). This year ought to present an interesting challenge in that three of the entrants - the Toyota Aygo, Citroën C1 and Peugeot 108 - are all essentially the same car. Last year saw the jury award second place jointly to the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ, which was (as far as we can tell) the first time it had split the award between manufacturers of essentially the same vehicle. The Renegade, 500X, GLA, Qashqai, X-Trail and Macan seem to be at a distinct disadvantage, though, because the jury has never named a sport-ute or crossover into the top three, let alone as the winner, in its 50-year history.

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