• Toyota’s UK vote of confidence

    Toyota has announced that it will invest a further £240 million in its plant at Burnaston in Derbyshire.

    Starting this year, the facility will be upgraded with new equipment, technologies and systems so that it can produce future vehicles using the new Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform.

    By 2020, the majority of Toyota’s models will be built using TNGA platforms which already underpin the new Prius and the all-new C-HR crossover, which is built in Turkey.

    “Our investment demonstrates that, as a company, we are doing all we can to raise the competitiveness of our Burnaston plant in Derbyshire,” said Dr Johan van Zyl, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Europe.

    “Continued tariff-and-barrier free market access between the UK and Europe that is predictable and uncomplicated will be vital for future success.”

    Toyota has been making cars in the UK since 1992 and the Burnaston factory employs about 2,500 people.

    The Avensis, Auris and Auris Hybrid are currently produced at the site. In 2015, 239,728 British-built Toyota cars were manufactured at the giant plant.

    The post Toyota’s UK vote of confidence appeared first on Automotive Blog.

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  • What Protects You While You’re Driving?

    Whether you’re working on it, walking on it or driving on it, staying safe on the road is essential. But what are the driving devices and roadway essentials which help to keep everyone safe on UK roads?

    In the Vehicle

    Automobile safety is an integral part of modern car design and a real focus for manufacturers. New innovations and improved systems continue to be developed in line with technological advances, with many safety devices now being incorporated as standard into cars:

    • Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) – this system prevents the wheels from locking during heavy braking, to help drivers to maintain control of vehicle. This helps ensure more effective stopping within average stopping distances and particularly upon skid-likely surfaces, such as wet roads or in icy conditions.
    • Electronic stability control – this system is the next up generation from ABS and includes a system of traction control. This corrects driver error by stablising the vehicle and reducing the risk of the driver losing control of the vehicle, for example in a skid. This system varies between vehicle manufacturers and may also be known as vehicle stability control.
    • Brake assist – this system ensures that maximum pressure is exerted when brakes are applied in an emergency. As manual emergency braking sometimes fails because drivers may depress the brake pedal insufficiently, so the brakes fail to engage on the wheels, brake assist technology assesses how quickly the brake has been applied and identifies if it’s likely to be an emergency. If it judges so, then brakes are fully applied via the hydraulic pressure system.
    • Lane keeping and adaptive steering – this system is a branch of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) which provides benefits such as cruise control. However, lane keeping and adaptive steering systems put greater emphasis on safety rather than comfort, specifically through aiming to maintain a vehicle’s correct position on the road by utilising lane markings at the side of the car. Any deviation from the correct position and the system alerts the driver so that correction can be made manually. Future development of this system proposes that it will work similarly to brake assist, with the system making the correction automatically.

    Many versions of these technologies are already fitted to modern vehicles and continue to be developed as part of a deal to provide better protection for road users, including pedestrians.

    On the road

    Roadways and surfaces themselves also incorporate safety devices for speed control, accident prevention and risk management:

    • Road humps – also known as sleeping policemen to reflecting their more manual speed-prevention origins, road humps aim to deter speeding by preventing vehicles from speeding up along flat roads. Road humps are commonly found in residential areas, but not main bus routes as the hump height causes passenger discomfort. The humps need to be spaced fairly close together to be effective and must be accompanied by relevant signage at each end of the hump run.
    • Rumble strips – this is the name given to a variegated road surface which is generally applied as a layer to the roadway. When reaching this stretch of the road, the driver is immediately alerted to the need to adhere to speed limits, through the in-car feedback from the suspension and driving wheel, which will sound and feel different, specifically with a low rumble. With their specific aim to alert drivers to reduce their speeds, rumble strips can often be found at the edges of vulnerable roadsides, on the approach to junctions and where faster sections of A roads enter residential areas. Rumble strips tend to be used in outlying areas of towns and villages as they literally sound as they are named and the rumble of a steady stream of traffic can cause a noise-nuisance to residents.  This road safety device is also deployed as transverse rumble strips, which run across the whole carriageway rather than just alongside it, whilst an additional version, known as Dragon’s Teeth, is applied along with a visible narrowing of the road, to also support accident prevention.
    • Speed cushions – as an alternative to road humps, speed cushions are a speed control method developed to cause standard vehicles to slow down, but allow emergency vehicle and public transport drivers through safely at normal speeds. Speed cushions offer an optimum size and placement so that smaller vehicles have to slow down to drive over the cushions, but buses and emergency vehicles are able to straddle the cushions and proceed normally. Cushions are generally installed at regular intervals along the roadway where speed reduction is required, such as in the neighbourhood of schools or pedestrian areas.
    • Pedestrian safety – pedestrians are encouraged to cross roads safely using designated zones such as crossings and traffic island refuges, which are highly visible to traffic.

    Roadside safety

    Roadside safety is additionally important as it needs to respond to the needs of road workers, as well as the public and road users. The mainstay of roadside safety is crash barriers, which tend to be deployed with safety and risk reduction, rather than speed reduction in mind.

    • Safety barriers – permanent motorway and roadside barriers aim to minimise risk through containment: keeping an errant vehicle on its own side of the carriageway. This method does include the risk of impact and crash injuries to the driver, but with the effect of preventing the vehicle from advancing to the other side of the barrier where there may be a greater hazard. As such, permanent safety barriers are installed only when it presents less risk for an errant vehicle to strike the barrier than to continue onwards at speed.  Permanent barriers of flexible steel construction have frequently been used to facilitate containment, but many have proven vulnerable over time. As such, there is a current move by the Highways Agency to replace many steel barriers with concrete barriers to increase containment, particularly where installed as a central reservation barrier.
    •  Temporary barriers – one example of a temporary barrier solution is the MASS (Multi-Use Safety System) barrier. MASS barriers are designed to actively absorb the impact of a vehicle and use this to stabilise the barrier, both reducing the vehicle’s speed and deflecting the vehicle along the barrier line. Because MASS barriers offer a stable but non-permanent fixing, they are quick and easy to install and reposition at short notice to keep users on all sides of the barrier safe.

    Finally, as these innovations continue to develop and change, one of the simplest road safety devices which is essential is road safety awareness: being aware of the roadway environment, conditions, restrictions and changes is a key way to make best use of all road safety devices and to help keep all road users safe.

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  • The 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth Now Available

    The 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth is a new and limited edition model in the Sport Heritage range. It teams the Japanese company with a famous name from the car world. Abarth was originally founded in 1949, and has specialised in small sports cars for 60 years, including being featured as the sportier end of the FIAT brand.

    2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth
    The 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth

    Abarth already sponsors the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team and supplies a number of specialist vehicles as part of that relationship. So it seems only right that Yamaha honour them by producing a total of 695 bikes with some exclusive lightweight parts.

    Typically for a factory special, the 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth features the standard 950cc three-cylinder engine with traction control and slipper clutch. But what it does gain is a full lightweight Akrapovic exhaust system with titanium double slip-on silencer. So that will help acceleration a bit, as well as making you sound faster.

    2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth
    Just running in the 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth

    Also helping you feel faster is a sportier riding position, thanks to swallow ‘clip-on’ style handlebars and the single racing seat. It’s finished with a suede cover and red stitching. And the seat cowl is one of the new lighweight carbon parts which feature the Abarth logo, along with the carbon front mudguard.

    Online order registrations opened on January 17th with the first 95 customers getting an invitation to an exclusive Yamaha VIP Abarth Experience, along with their choice of companion. The events will be confirmed when the new owners finish their purchase, and will take place between May 1st and June 16th 2017 at circuits in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria and the UK.

    Each event includes the chance to test drive a range of Abarth vehicles on the circuit, take a drive with a professional racing driver, and also be given the chance to visit Abarth’s Turin headquarters by prior appointment throughout 2017.

    Once the initial 95 models of the 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth have gone, the remain 600 are available to order from your local Yamaha dealer from April 2017. And to be fair, you’ll have as much fun on the road or track on the XSR900 as you would in any car.

    Then again, if you do appreciate small, four-wheeled vehicles, then you might like the fact Abarth have also procuded a concept car to match the bike. The 695 Tributo XSR has the same grey and red livery, an extensive array of carbon fibre, and also gets an Akrapovic exhaust system.

    2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth and Car

    It’s just a shame they haven’t produced a matching motorcycle trailer and made it all available as a set!

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  • SVRA HEACOCK CLASSIC: THE GOLD STANDARD!

    Mike Matune goes trackside at VIR to bring us highlights of the Gold Cup historic races.

    The SVRA wrapped up part of its season at the Heacock Class “Gold Cup historic races at VIRginia International Raceway. Optimum weather and VIR’s lush surroundings welcomed a bevy of seasoned racers. Spectators were treated to the sights and sounds of some great big-bore historic racecars. Olthoff Racing (www.olthoffracing.com) of NC showed up with three Superformance GT40s, top, including those of Harry McPherson (#2) and Jeff McKee.

    Curt Vogt brought his ‘70 Mustang, above. While it is a genuine Boss 302, it has no race history and is prepared to the current vintage rulebook as opposed to period standards. The engine puts out close to 600 horsepower and Vogt used every one of them as he manhandled the beast around VIR, frequently testing the limits of the track’s “friction circle”.

    Michael Lange’s Ford GT was built by Matech in Switzerland for GT3 competition in Europe. It served as an interesting contrast to the 1960s era technology of the Superformance cars. The car has approximately 500 horsepower from a Ford DOHC V8 backed by a Hewland sequential gearbox. Extensive use of carbon fiber keeps overall weight to about 2,300 pounds, allowing “adequate” performance. A surprising feature of the car is air conditioning!

    Tommy Riggins originally built this Falcon for the updated Trans-Am series. It never turned a wheel there and ended up competing in SCCA GT1. It features a fiberglass silhouette body favoring the 1963 Falcon (if you squint) on a modern tubular frame with tubular A-arms up front and a Ford nine-inch rear end suspended with a three-link system. Power comes from a 358-inch Rousch-Yates Ford V-8. Doug Richmond bought the car and freshened it for the vintage racing wars. VIR was its second outing under his ownership.

    It is hard to fault the lines on the Lola T70, Eric Broadley’s early attempt at a Group 7 racecar. Tom Shelton’s example was originally sold by the late Carl Haas, Lola’s U.S. importer to a privateer. It was campaigned in the USRRC and Can-Am with very modest success. As an early Mark I model, it had a narrow body updated to its present wide-body to accommodate hefty racing rubber during its extensive restoration.

    Dave Robert’s ‘56 Corvette could was converted into a racecar by Chicago area Motor Sport Research in the early 1960s. It would live a life over time involving multiple owners and drivers, each attaining some level of success. When technology eventually caught up with it, it became a vintage racer and continued its winning ways. Roberts has recently returned the car to its original configuration to best celebrate its historic significance.

    Ken Mennella is a long time vintage competitor in his “tribute” ‘63 Corvette Grand Sport roadster. Equipped with a 600 horsepower, 400-inch Chevy small-block and TexRacing Super T-10 transmission, the car has been wining in SVRA Groups 5 & 10 for more than ten years. His car is a faithful reproduction of what was envisioned as an American car to beat Shelby’s Cobra and the fastest European racing cars. Its promise was short lived when GM enforced its anti-racing position.

    Externally Robert Gee’s ‘69 Corvette has all the pieces associated with the L88 endurance racing package – fender flares, fixed headlights under clear plastic covers and a vented and bubbled hood. It’s small-block powered and prepared to B/Production vintage standards with original brakes and stamped steel a-arms.

    Bob Lima’s big-block powered Corvette was formerly raced by Dick Kantrud. Like Gee’s car, it features styling cues from the famed Corvette endurance racers of the late-1960s,-early 1970s. Power comes from a big block Chevy with Edelbrock aluminum heads and a plethora of racing hardware. The raised headlights with clear covers reduced weight and complexity by eliminating the retracting mechanism. They also allowed improved airflow.

    Corvette racecars come in all forms from nearly showroom stock to purpose-built racers like Jeff Bernatovich’s entry. Originally built by Irv Hoerr, it combines a tube frame and look-alike fiberglass body panels, sharing precious little with its production counterparts. Some racers like this approach because instead of removing extraneous street components and beefing up cars that were never intended to withstand racetrack punishment, they are starting with a clean slate and incorporating only that what they need for speed and safety.

     

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  • Ford S-Max – Don’t Be ‘Sports Dad’

    Purchasing a new Ford S-Max should be regarded as a textbook example of refusing to stand out from the crowd. While being one of the herd is traditionally frowned upon, actually in the case of the new S-Max it’s highly beneficial. Unless that is, you’re ‘Sports Dad’.

    Ford S-Max Static 03

    ‘Sports Dad’ wants to be the best. He wants to the best so much, that he’ll pick the biggest engine with the highest bhp output on his new car just so everybody knows he is the man. Basically, ‘Sports Dad’ is the guy you avoid like the plague when you go and watch your own kids football team playing because he abuses the referee and generally makes a monumental tit of himself. Fear not reader, I’m here to show you how to get the best S-Max for you, all while getting a better S-Max than ‘Sports Dad’ and saving a bit of money in the process.

    The guy we all love to hate has already chosen his S-Max, and naturally it’s the one that sits at the very top of the S-Max pyramid – the 2.3 236bhp litre petrol powerhouse. Ford expects only 1% of all S-Max buyers to take this one up, but that’s ok because ‘Sports Dad’ has always thought of himself as being in the top 1% anyway. For us though, let’s think of that 1% as those people who are so keen to distance themselves from the herd, so keen to look special, that they’d go as far as to shoot themselves in the foot in a bid to impress others around them.

    Ford S-Max Driving 01

    Yes, as tempting as it may sound on paper, the ‘sporty’ variant of the new S-Max is certainly not the high point of the range. It’s an engine that just doesn’t feel at home in this car, lacking the torque needed to launch the heavy S-Max, and despite that high-ish power output, in reality it doesn’t feel anywhere near as quick as the spec sheet might have you believe. The 6-speed automatic Ford has attached to it doesn’t help either, a pure cruiser unit that’s clearly not been designed to deliver on the excitement front, and to be fair why would it? ‘Sports Dad’ will tell you all about the flappy paddles, but I’ll tell you that it’s so lacking in shift feel you wonder why they even attached them to the steering wheel in the first place. Ford hasn’t offered a manual option with this engine, but even with that option box open I still think it would be a poor choice. Despite the disappointment with this particular powertrain, this is where the problems with the new S-Max end.

    Ford S-Max Interior 04

     

    Some drivers will naturally prefer some of the more conceptual design flair seen in some of France’s latest offerings, but it can’t be said that the S-Max isn’t a handsome looking beast. The strong, angular lines make this one of the best efforts at putting together an attractive people carrier that I can remember, it looks like a car with real class and that continues inside. From the moment you step in you can see and feel the improvements in the interior, with plenty of quality materials applied to make the cabin a genuinely pleasurable place to spend time. The seating is particularly excellent, providing a hugely comfortable and supportive place to park the posteriors of you and your family. The S-Max now feels more premium than ever before and – through these eyes at least – is a nose ahead of the interior environments found in some of its rivals.

    Ford S-Max Interior 02

    As it’s the modern age, the class and comfort of the interior would be nothing without decent technology to back it up, and there is some very tasty tech to examine. The SYNC2 system is a must have, and while the interface and arrangement of the software is good, the touchscreen it’s wrapped in can occasionally be unresponsive. Other useful features include split view cameras to assist in pulling out of parking spaces and junctions (not something obnoxious yet genetically superior ‘Sports Dads’ will ever feel the need to use), a variable ratio steering setup that Ford has even managed to squeeze the mechanism of inside the steering wheel, and a system to monitor road signs and adapt the speed limiter to match them, theoretically preventing you exceeding the speed limits. For those show offs who always have something new to stick in the garden, boot space starts at 700 litres in 5 seater mode, but the 2 seated van-like layout will bump that up to a cavernous 2000 litres, perfect for that gazebo hauling, faux-brick BBQ buying dad who always calls you ‘mate’.

    Ford S-Max Interior 01

    So, how do you stick it to ‘Sports Dad’? By knowing the following important information; those who love to drive will ultimately gain more pleasure from one of the more powerful diesel manual options than the petrol powered brute discussed earlier. The new S-Max is a brilliant cruiser, being both remarkably quiet and hugely comfortable and when driven as such it’s a joy, even if as the driver you do feel a little detached from what’s happening outside. With one of the more grunty diesel engines, the excellent manual gearbox, and ‘Titanium’ spec, you’ll have a truly excellent car on your hands. This might be about as good as a people carrier gets. Refined, comfortable, practical, and perhaps most crucially it’s actually quite desirable. It’s also cheaper to buy and will depreciate less than the flash git’s top spec model. That means when you lift lazy waves from the steering wheel of your S-Max outside the school gates, you get the satisfaction of knowing you’re in the better car.

    So, who’s winning now ‘mate’?

    2015 Ford Galaxy

    Performance & Economy 2.0 TDCi Titanium X 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium X
    Engine 1,997cc tubocharged diesel 1,999cc turbocharged petrol
    Transmission 6-speed manual, front engine, front-wheel drive 6-speed automatic, front engine, front-wheel drive
    Power (PS / bhp) 180 / 177 240 / 236
    Torque (Nm / lb.ft) 400 / 295 345 / 254
    0 – 62 mph (seconds) 9.5 8.3
    Top Speed (mph) 131 140
    CO2 Emissions (g/km) 129 180
    VED Band D I
    Combined Economy (mpg) 56 35
    Price (OTR) £33,845 £35,205

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