Volkswagen: �??We will improve quality�?�

Volkswagen says it is �??working hard�?� to improving the quality of its vehicles and customer service.

The German brand has been languishing at the lower end of independent automotive quality surveys in recent years, and it has also been the intense focus of online forums brimming with owner complaints.

In March Volkswagen said it was recalling vehicles in China equipped with DSG (dual-clutch auto) gearboxes (pictured in cutaway form below) after Chinese VW owners reported issues such as loss of power and abnormal vibrations.

Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Volkswagen�??s member of the board of management responsible for development (main image), told CarAdvice at the recent VW Golf Mark 7 launch the company has assigned an internal working group to specifically tackle the problem.

�??Quality is very important �?" especially for Volkswagen,�?� said Hackenberg. �??We know that there�??s some potential to become better and we are working hard on that.

�??We have made taskforce in Wolfsburg to improve the quality gain against the customer. [But] quality is not only relying on a component [to work correctly], it�??s also how you manage a problem.

VW DSG double clutches_RS2

�??You can�??t avoid problems, but you have to manage the problems. If the customer is coming with a problem and we can help him immediately then fine, but if the customer has to come maybe twice or three times the problem is bigger.

�??So we have to improve the whole process, we know that. We have to do something and we are working hard.

�??And it�??s very important to find out from country to country the differences because maybe the customer is dealing in a different way with the car, or the traffic is different, or the climate is different. Often we find we have a problem in a specific market and we don�??t see that problem in other markets.

�??So we have to find out together with the organisation that is here in the region, what are the reasons, then we find the right answers to manage it.�?�

John White VW

Volkswagen Australia�??s newly appointed Canadian boss, John White (above), has already pinpointed customer service as a key area for him to address locally.

�??If I may add to [the] the customer treatment part, in terms of my early assessment after a couple of weeks into the job here is something we need to improve,�?� said White. �??It�??s something that�??s on my radar screen in terms of being one of my top 3 priorities.

�??Clearly we need to be better with that. I�??ve seen some data and some examples of where I think we can take some action and I want to take the opportunity to see what we�??ve done in other markets to improve that. We can take our share of [the improvements] here, and with the dealer body. We need to work on that and we will.�?�

In a 2012 JD Power Asia-Pacific study focused on customer service in Australia, Volkswagen was the lowest ranked of 12 car makers.

The Australia Customer Service Index Study also included Honda and Toyota (joint best), Subaru, Mazda and Mitsubishi (all above the industry average), with the below-average manufacturers comprising Kia, Hyundai, Holden, Ford, Nissan, Suzuki and Volkswagen.

Volkswagen has acknowledged improving its quality reputation locally will be important for its ambitions to grow sales significantly in Australia.

The company has also announced this week that it is developing a 10-speed version of the DSG gearbox among other technological developments.

Volvo V40 D4 Review

When the Volvo V40 launched in February 2013, the Swedish carmaker took to pushing its �??safety first�?? barrow harder than ever before �?" after all, their new hatch is equipped with the world�??s very first pedestrian airbag.

But groundbreaking safety technology isn�??t the only exciting thing about a car that could be fairly described as the most important Volvo model in 20 years.

The V40�??s sleek Scandinavian design is one of the standouts in the segment, as is its innovative interior exemplified by the wonderfully clever digital instrument display behind the steering wheel.

Volvo V40 D418

There�??s also the choice of four very capable turbocharged engines in either petrol or diesel that offer a blend of performance, efficiency and general driver appeal.

You can read our overview of the entire Volvo V40 range elsewhere, but here we�??re testing the $41,990 (before on-road costs) V40 D4 Kinetic that stands as the most powerful diesel model in the line-up.

Its 2.0-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel delivers 130kW with a stomping 400Nm of torque to the front wheels.

Volvo V40 D425

That�??s significantly more than the $34,990 entry-level V40 D2 that produces 84kW and 270Nm from its 1.6-litre four-cylinder.

It�??s also appreciably better than its market equivalent diesel-powered German rivals. The $45,300 Audi A3 2.0-litre TDI generates 125kW and 350Nm of torque, while the $46,593 BMW 118d with 2.0-litre engine produces 105kW and 320Nm.

The all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class range includes the $40,960 A200 CDI, but that only puts out 100kW and 300Nm from its smaller 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel.

Volvo V40 D408

While there�??s plenty of truck-like clatter on start up, the V40 D4�??s brawny diesel quickly morphs into an easy-listening, performance-like growl above 2000rpm once you�??re in the turbo zone. Below that, the tall gearing means there isn�??t a lot of urgency off the line.

Acceleration from 0-100km/h takes 8.3 seconds with the six-speed automatic (8.6secs for the manual tested), but what�??s more significant �?" and indeed surprising �?" is the overtaking surge available. Just dip your right foot and hold, and this is one Volvo hatch that doesn�??t hang about. It�??s particularly responsive in the mid-range.

However, this engine suffers from an overly boosty power delivery with a stampede of torque arriving between 1750rpm to 2750, after which the turbo surge starts to run out of puff.

Volvo V40 D416

The slick six-speed manual gearchange is mostly a treat, but is marred by an oddly weighted clutch pedal that�??s difficult to get used to and is almost reason enough to consider the automatic version.

On paper, Volvo claims a frugal 5.3L/100km (combined) for the more powerful V40 D4 variant, but we struggled to get fuel consumption below 9.0L/100km during our test period.

Volvo offers three distinct chassis set-ups across the V40 range, with the D4 equipped with the standard spec Dynamic chassis, which sits 10mm higher than both the Sport and Eco set-ups.

Volvo V40 D428

Dynamically, the V40 is good. There�??s loads of grip, the ride is generally comfortable and the steering is quick and precise. But it�??s not perfect.

Its 11.7-metre turning circle is deplorable for a small hatch, in Volvo tradition requiring more than a few normally unwarranted three-point turns.

There�??s also an artificial feel to the electrical power assist steering, especially around the dead-ahead, and it can also feel a little numb. Still, it responds well and weights up nicely, allowing the driver to properly exploit the Volvo�??s sound roadholding attributes.

Volvo V40 D433

Despite being the heaviest (1508kg) variant in the V40 range, the D4 turns in accurately and is largely resistant to understeer and torque steer, making this a mostly satisfying drive on twisty back roads.

The ride is also pretty good on the standard 17-inch alloy wheels so there�??s sufficient compliance in the suspension to deal with undulating surfaces. But damaged roads and expansion joints provide more of a challenge for the V40, which doesn�??t absorb these imperfections quite so well and is prone to fidget as a result.

Inside, there�??s more of that clean Scandinavian minimalism we�??ve come to appreciate from the brand, though with a marginally more upmarket approach to materials than that used in the smaller Volvo C30.

Volvo V40 D434

There are more soft-touch plastics and metallic accents, and the V40 continues with Volvo�??s trademark �??floating�?? centre console, which still looks classy and is aging well a decade after it was first seen.

Our lower-spec D4 Kinetic misses out on a variety of features from its more expensive ($45,990) �??Luxury�?? sibling (including a rear-view camera and leather trim), but it�??s still a nice place to be with cloth seats that are superbly sculptured and cushioned, allowing your posterior to sink in snugly.

The V40 Kinetic is also equipped with a raft of standard kit, such as a quality eight-speaker sound system, Bluetooth phone with music streaming, and a frameless auto-dimming rear view mirror.

Volvo V40 D430

Additional features include LED daytime running lights, heated, electric and retractable side mirrors, power driver�??s seat and climate control.

The pièce de résistance, though, is the fabulous new all-digital instrument display that can be used in three different modes: Elegance, Eco and Performance.

Along with unique colour schemes for each setting, simply push the indicator stalk and the entire graphics change with the standard speed dial replaced with a large rev-counter, not unlike the Lexus LFA supercar.

Volvo V40 D421

There�??s a 5-inch colour screen, which looks too small and out of place for what is a wide receptacle.

We�??re also not so keen on the pseudo keyless start system, either, which still requires the driver to insert the key fob beforehand.

The driving position is excellent and there�??s good vision to the front and sides thanks to the V40�??s low-rising dash and forward-sloping beltline. Rear vision, however, is hampered by the extra-wide C-pillar, making parallel parking a tad more difficult.

Volvo V40 D406

As a fully fledged family chariot, the V40 has a few more deficiencies: rear-seat leg and headroom is only just sufficient, and the rear doors are substantially smaller than the front, making ingress and egress more difficult than that of some rivals.

And don�??t expect class-leading boot space from the V40. Afforded with just 335 litres, the Volvo is smaller than the new-generation Golf (380L) but slightly larger than the Ford Focus hatch (316L).

This weakness certainly isn�??t helped by the fact that the rear seats tumble but don�??t fold flat, though theoretically the load space does swell to 432 litres.

Volvo V40 D414

There�??s a flexible load floor, but don�??t bother with it unless you want to hide a laptop in the 9cm-deep tray that exists under the main deck.

Unsurprisingly, the V40 is loaded with the latest active and passive safety kit including Volvo�??s City Safety (to 50km/h), stability and traction control, advanced stability control, anti-lock braking with electronic brake distribution and emergency brake assist.

There�??s also seven airbags (excluding the pedestrian airbag), cruise control, rear parking sensors and auto rain and headlight sensors as part of the standard package.

Volvo V40 D440

Buyers can also upgrade with the Driver Support Pack ($5000), which adds adaptive cruise control with collision warning and full auto brake, blind spot information system and cross traffic alert, driver alert system (includes active high beam), forward collision warning, lane keeping aide, lane departure warning, roadside information system and park assist pilot.

Overall, what punters get from the V40 D4 is an exceptionally dynamic, very well equipped and competitively priced proposition against its closest luxury hatchback rivals �?" especially when you factor in Volvo�??s free scheduled servicing for three years/60,000kms.

Volvo V40 D411

Volvo, however, doesn�??t have the same brand cachet as the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes, and it�??s a more natural competitor to the new Volkswagen Golf Mark 7 that is available as a top-shelf diesel from $34,490 and CarAdvice has rated a maximum five stars.

Toyota 86 Cup Edition: Germany-only model released

The Toyota 86 Cup Edition has been released to mark Toyota�??s involvement in the VLN endurance racing championship series, hosted at Germany�??s famed Nurburgring circuit.

Exclusively built and sold in Germany, and limited to just 86 cars, the Toyota 86 Cup Edition (called the GT86 in Europe) sees owners receive not only a rare vehicle with unique interior and exterior features, but a ticket for two to a VIP customer event at the Nurburgring as well.

Toyota 86 Cup Edition - 4

With a boot lid spoiler, racing stripes and a set of 18-inch OZ Ultraleggera racing alloy wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero Nero GT tyres adding to the Japanese sports car�??s exterior look, Alcantara dominates the interior covering the steering wheel, sections of the doors, seats and dashboard while a brushed aluminium plate next to the leather wrapped handbrake displays the individual car�??s serial number.

Toyota 86 Cup Edition - 7

The Toyota 86 Cup Edition will be available in Germany from April, offered in Dynamic White Pearl, Furious Black Mica and Racing Red, with a �?�2860 ($3500) premium attached to it.

Nurburgring - Snow

Sadly, while Toyota was celebrating its entry into the German racing series with the 86 Cup Edition, the first round of the VLN championship was cancelled due to poor weather conditions at the soon-to-be-sold 20.8km Nordschleife circuit, with snow in many sections of the track forcing organisers to abandon the event.

Click on the Photos tab for more images.

Sebastian Vettel hits planned Russian Formula One circuit

Sebastian Vettel has made an exploratory visit to the new Sochi Olympic Park Circuit in Russia, planned to host a future round of the Formula One World Championship.

Fresh from his win at the weekend�??s Bahrain Grand Prix �?" where his Infiniti Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber finished seventh �?" Vettel drove part of the new Sochi Olympic Park Circuit located in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, in an Infiniti FX Vettel Edition road car joined by ex-Formula 1 driver David Coulthard.

Formula One Triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel becomes first driver to sample new Grand Prix venue in Sochi, Russia

Still under construction, the Russian circuit, which hopes to host an F1 round in 2014 following next year�??s Winter Olympic Games, will be 5.9km long, include 18 turns and will be the third-longest of all current F1 circuits after Belgium�??s Spa-Francorchamps and Great Britain�??s Silverstone.

Vettel said it was a privilege to be the first Formula One driver to visit the new venue and said he was looking forward to coming back for the Grand Prix in 2014.

�??I can already see it will be a fun circuit to drive in a Formula 1 car and the rest of the venue is very impressive.�?�

Sochi Circuit

Reportedly �??on schedule�?�, construction of the Sochi racetrack is part of a post-Olympic heritage program designed to utilise the infrastructure built for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Vettel�??s track visit is the second time the Red Bull driver has been the first person to sample a planned future Grand Prix venue, after steering an Infiniti G Coupe around the intended New Jersey circuit in the US in 2012.

The German racer �?" and three-time F1 World Champion� �?"� was also recently announced as Infiniti�??s director of performance.

Volkswagen: �??We need more emotion�?�

A Volkswagen board member says the company needs more emotional cars.

Volkswagen member of the board of management for development, Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, is continuing his push internally for a production version of the VW BlueSport roadster concept (pictured) shown back in 2009.

The BlueSport was a mid-engined two-seater sports car. Its production hopes were dented in 2012 when Porsche backed away from a plan that would have seen a sub-Boxster model, as well as a compact Audi, built on a shared platform.

Volkswagen Concept BlueSport

Dr Hackenberg says Audi is also understandably concerned about cannibalising TT sales. But while he admits the BlueSport will struggle to justify its business case on VW volume alone, he believes the model would boost Volkswagen�??s brand image.

�??It [the roadster] would be great for a brand like Volkswagen, because what VW needs is some emotion,�?� Dr Hackenberg told CarAdvice at the recent local launch of the new-generation VW Golf.

�??The Golf is a very good car, it�??s very precise�?� but it�??s still a car looking for functionality, and it has to meet all these demands.

�??With a roadster, such as emotional car, we can make a much sharper positioning and we can go full into emotion.

�??We are doing that now with the Polo and WRC. So the reaction coming from media and customers about our engagement in WRC is fantastic. Our customers also want to be proud of the brand and see that the brand makes fantastic things. And that we are winning WRC rallies now, it�??s great for the customers.

Volkswagen Concept BlueSport

�??And it would also be great to show we can build such an emotional roadster.�?�

Dr Hackenberg has previously said VW would need to sell a minimum of 50,000 to 60,000 BlueSports to make investment worthwhile.

The concept was almost four metres long and powered by a 132kW turbo diesel engine delivering a 6.6 second 0-100km/h sprint and a 226km/h top speed.

Volkswagen�??s current open-top offerings are the Golf Cabriolet and folding hardtop Eos, and the Beetle Cabriolet not sold in Australia.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S Review

If nothing succeeds like excess then the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S deserves many an accolade.

The Turbo S arrived in February, succeeding the Turbo as the range-topping Porsche Cayenne model. Both share a 4.8-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V8, but the Turbo S is tuned to deliver 405kW of power at 6000rpm and 750Nm of torque across 2250-4500rpm.

That represents a 37kW and 50Nm hike, while the 0-100km/h sprint drops by 0.2 seconds to 4.5sec. At $259,600 the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S costs $37,500 more than the Turbo, and the extra grunt and reduced performance time absorb most of that surcharge. A Sport Chrono pack, with analog and digital timers, massive 21-inch alloy wheels and active anti-roll bars are also uniquely standard.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S - 5

There�??s no price to pay at the pump for the extra grunt, however, with both turbocharged models claiming 11.5L/100km combined. Grunt is transferred to the ground via an eight-speed torque converter automatic.

Air suspension with variable ride height and adjustable damping, speed-sensitive power steering, and torque vectoring control, which electronically controls torque between the rear wheels and the rear differential, are also standard.

The 2290kg kerb weight is both obvious and well-disguised in the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S - 11

Check the leathery luxury of the interior, the superb quality of the upholstery and dash trimmings, and Alcantara headlining; heady reminders that this SUV fjords well into the six-figure bracket. The controls, dials, touchscreen and even steering wheel are borrowed from the Porsche Boxster, Cayman and 911, just to ram the connection home with the Cayenne�??s sports car siblings.

Space inefficiency, however, highlights the reality that this SUV has still been engineered with plenty of off-road hardware underneath �?"� although we didn�??t get to test this Cayenne off road. Boot space of 670 litres isn�??t hugely impressive considering the Porsche�??s size, and nor is the rear seat the most spacious in the class. A Range Rover or Mercedes-Benz ML-Class feels roomier for rear-seat riders, while the contoured outer seats impact on fifth-passenger comfort.

With seats folded, a full 1780L makes this a truly versatile Porsche, though.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S - 13

Other than extra accoutrements the Cayenne Turbo S interior is much like standard models that cost more than $150,000 less; what separates this large, practical SUV from its V6 petrol and diesel siblings comes purely down to performance and handling.

On the twisty mountain road of our test loop, it�??s here the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S almost completely disguises its girth. Its dynamics impress to such a degree that calling it a Mitsubishi Evolution-on-stilts is no exaggeration.

With the adaptive dampers in Sport mode, and the 295mm-wide Michelin Pilot Sports thwarting the bitumen like Bigfoot, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S quickly� shrugs off the luxury-hauler role associated with this genre.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S - 9

Initially the high grip levels and lack of bodyroll means that when driving only moderately hard the Cayenne Turbo S feels inert and uninvolving. It is one of those cars �?" and pretty much the only SUV �?" that steps up and rewards properly hard hustling through corners.

It resists understeer unbelievably well when pressing on, yet the torque vectoring system helps to permit full throttle staggeringly early on corner exit. On one tight, uphill hairpin, the Cayenne Turbo S almost chirped all four wheels when powering out of the bend with some steering lock still applied.

The front end feels agile, the steering is consistent and sharp, and the whole car �?" sorry, SUV �?" has such a wonderful feeling of front-to-rear harmony.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S - 25

Although this is the fastest and most powerful production Porsche Cayenne ever, the Turbo S actually feels heavy when accelerating, not cornering.

Once in the engine�??s mid-range, it hammers. Porsche claims 80-120km/h kickdown in 2.9 seconds. Look closely at the power and torque curves, however, and at 1500rpm �?" the point where many modern turbo petrol engines are making peak torque �?" the Porsche twin-turbo V8 is producing �??only�?? 475Nm. Not bad, but feeding in 275Nm between 1500rpm and 2250rpm confirms this Cayenne�??s boosty character trait.

Its not-quite-linear delivery isn�??t helped by an eight-speed automatic that is well off the pace for a sports car or even a sports SUV. It�??s a fairly fluent gearbox, but in normal mode it is too keen to keep the engine revving below �?" you guessed it �?" 2250rpm, making the throttle feel doughy and the performance sluggish around town.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S - 21

Switch to the auto�??s Sport mode, and it keeps revs inappropriately high for around town driving. Yet during on-limit driving it isn�??t quite aggressive enough to match the Cayenne�??s superb dynamics, either.

Swap to the dedicated manual mode, and the transmission is far too slow to respond to a slap of the left paddle to downshift coming into a corner. Equally, it auto-upshifts at redline, creating a less than harmonious performance drivetrain.

It�??s here that the crispness of the dual-clutch automatics found in Boxster, Cayman and 911 is sorely missed. They all get a Sport Plus mode missing from the Cayenne, which is damn-near perfect for hard driving. The gulf in ability between the dual-clutch automatics and this torque converter automatic is huge.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S - 16

The name of the Cayenne�??s suspension �?" Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) �?" is shared with the coupe and roadster models, however. Yet despite the same acronym applied across all Porsche models with adaptive suspension, the results in the Cayenne don�??t find the lofty heights of the brand�??s sports cars. Or some SUV competitors.

In Comfort mode, the suspension feels too floaty yet occasionally more unsettled than in the firmer Normal setting. Considering the 35-aspect 21-inch wheels, the ride in the standard mode is generally excellent, but some intrusions are felt more than others and each is a reminder of the slight ride sacrifice this Porsche makes to handle so well in the bends. Sport mode should be reserved for flat, smooth twisty roads only; on bumpy backroads, it has the Cayenne bucking around way too much.

The three modes in Boxster, Cayman and 911 are three shades of perfection, and although the adaptive suspension in the Cayenne does a sterling job of reigning in up to 1000kg more unsprung weight (than a Boxster, for example), for a Porsche its ride comfort is mildly disappointing. Direct rivals like the Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG deliver more consistent compliance.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S - 8

The Porsche Cayenne Turbo S is in many regards an excellent full-sized SUV.

Its superb dynamics alone cement it as a true product of Stuttgart, transcending a genre not always renowned for outright handling. That enthusiasts can enjoy a car that still offers plenty of space, luxury and versatility is a fine achievement. The $260K price tag of the Cayenne Turbo S, however, serves to magnify the downsides with the gearbox and ride quality. The engine�??s boosty characteristics had us longing for the naturally aspirated V8 Cayenne GTS, which costs a staggering $110K less and is only 1.1 seconds slower.

It�??s a brilliant SUV, the Porsche Cayenne, but the most expensive model isn�??t the pick of the range.

BMW M135i Review: Video

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BMW to launch Zinoro sub-brand in China: reports
BMW appears set to launch a new Chinese sub-brand, according to several reports. Following the� partnership between BMW and Chinese car maker Brilliance that formed in 2003, the German manufacturer looks likely to launch a new Chinese-built sub-brand called Zinoro, planning sales for both domestic and global markets.

BMW i3: production-ready model spied
The BMW i3 has been caught undergoing final-round testing as the German company readies its dedicated �??i�?? showrooms in Europe and the US. Due on sale in those markets late 2013, the small wagon will be available in both all-electric and plug-in hybrid versions, the latter of which is seen here.

Volkswagen wants bigger slice of Australian car market

Volkswagen may have made significant sales progress in Australia in recent years, but one of the company�??s senior board members says the brand should be selling even more vehicles locally.

The German car maker was the eighth most popular brand here in 2012, with 54,835 sales and a five per cent market share.� That�??s double what VW was selling just five years ago, and compares with just 12,357 sales in 2003.

Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, VW�??s member of the board of management responsible for development, said the company should be capable of matching rivals such as Hyundai, which sold more than 91,000 vehicles in 2012.

�??I think Australia maybe we will be more in focus in the future now, because I think Volkswagen has big potential in Australia,�?� said Dr Hackenberg, visiting Australia last week for the local launch of the new-generation Volkswagen Golf. �??Because if I see the competitors they are stronger than us.

Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Mitglied des Markenvorstands Volkswagen, Geschaeftsbereich ?Entwicklung?

�??I don�??t speak about Toyota. Toyota has about four times the volume as Volkswagen. But also Hyundai, for example, has about double. Or others. And there is no reason we should not be able to have the same volume.

�??We are fighting to get this volume, especially with the sales organisation here. And for that it is absolutely necessary that the quality [of our vehicles] fits to the demand of the customers. We have to do everything to realise it.�?�

Volkswagen is aiming to become the world�??s biggest car maker by 2018. Dr Hackenberg said local market leader Toyota was likely to be too difficult to overcome, but that the company needed markets such as Australia to contribute to its global sales ambitions.

�??No.1 in Australia, that would be I think not realistic coming from the actual situation,�?� he said. �??But to improve our current situation that should be possible.

VW Golf 7 rear deep etch

�??VW is No.3 [globally] and very close to No.2. Toyota made a good step in last year so is no.1. But if we look at the countries where VW is strong, and maybe not strong, or not visible�?� A lot of markets where VW has huge potential to grow and Australia is one of the countries where we have stepped in [as official factory], but we can do more.

�??And it is important for our worldwide target to be No.1 by 2018.�?�

Volkswagen sales have increased just three per cent after the first quarter of 2013, though the company will be hoping for great results from the new-generation Golf.

Audi targets 15,000 local sales in 2013; outlines new model roll-out

Audi Australia is forecasting 15,000 sales for 2013, a number it thought it wouldn�??t reach until 2015.

Audi Australia�??s new managing director Andrew Doyle, who joined the local arm on March 1 from a position as Audi MD in Ireland, said that although local sales lifted by only 0.2 per cent last year the German company experienced an 18.2 per cent rise in volume in the first quarter of 2013.

The new target is to surpass BMW and Mercedes-Benz to become the number one selling premium brand by 2020 �?� or earlier.

Audi A3 Sportback

�??We lost a little ground last year,�?� admitted Doyle (below). �??But trust me we have plans for that in the near future.

�??We�??re forecasting well over 15,000 units for 2013.�?�

In 2012, Audi sales reached 14,535 units, which is more than double the volume the company managed five years earlier in 2007. Audi says it represented just 30 per cent of BMW volume in 2005, but now almost matches their volume with a 90 per cent stake.

Audi Andrew Doyle

Audi�??s first quarter 2013 performance of 4064 sales would indicate an annual tally of more than 16,000 units.

While committing to becoming the number one brand by 2020, Doyle added that �??we may not catch our competition in 2014 �?� or maybe even 2015�?�, hinting that the milestone before the end of the decade may be achievable.

Audi Australia says it has a �??premium tactical�?� plan to combat what it describes as an �??always on�?� market environment. While noting that the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is �??certainly a very strong competitor�?�, Doyle expects the launch of the A3 Sportback next month, and the A3 sedan in early 2014, to drive the majority of growth.

Audi A3 Sedan

Although the A3 Sportback will initially launch with two petrol and two diesel drivetrains, added in September will be a 1.8-litre turbo quattro model and a 1.4-litre turbo with cylinder deactivation technology. The S3 Sportback will follow late this year.

Audi will also launch a value-packed limited edition of the A1 in May 2013, followed by a special A4 and A5 in July, and Q7 in September, to maintain sales interest. A much-needed dual-clutch automatic transmission will be added to the front-wheel-drive Q3 103kW TDI model from September, while the RS line will be boosted by the RS5 Cabriolet in August and the RS6 Avant in October.

Following that in March 2014 will be the RSQ3 sports-compact SUV, followed by the A3 and S3 sedan, and the new generation S8 limousine in April.

Audi RSQ3

Audi Australia stresses that �??being number one isn�??t just about volume�?�, calling 2013 a year of securing the brand before a drive for growth next year.

That means strengthening the dealer network; while the current 37 dealers won�??t expand any further, investment is being made upgrading dealership facilities. A total $51.5 million is being spent in 2013, split between a new facility in Melbourne ($25m), Doncaster ($15.5m), Sydney service centre ($6m) and regional dealerships Toowoomba, Queensland ($2m), New England, New South Wales ($1.5m) and Wollongong, New South Wales ($3m).

A total of 30 new dealer apprenticeships will be made available in 2013, while at the other end Audi will invest $12,000 in dealer business leaders (invite only) to boost and retain �??talent�?�.

Audi 2

Audi Australia will continue being �??active�?� in �??touchpoints of a customer�??s life�?� by sponsoring golf, sailing, contemporary art, motorsport and theatre.

Globally, Audi likewise wants to beat BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Worldwide sales of 1.455 million in 2012 were up 11.7 per cent on the previous year, eclipsed by BMW by 85,0000 units.

The company�??s biggest markets were China (405,838 cars sold) then Germany (263,163).

BMW 4 Series

The BMW 3 Series Coupe is no more. It’s set to be replaced by the 4 Series Coupe, and this concept shows how it’ll look. The production version of the 4 Series Coupe Concept is expected in showrooms by the end of 2013, with a 4 Series Convertible and more practical four-door Gran Coupe following.

From the look of the car in these pictures, BMW is pulling the same trick it pulled with the concept version of the 6 Series Gran Coupe – so apart from a few minor details, this Coupe is ready for the road.

“In the past the resemblance and the DNA between the 3 Series sedan and coupe was obvious, this time we want to take a much larger step,” Ian Robertson, BMW's sales and marketing director, told us. “It’s more than a 3 Series sedan, it has more presence and it’s more dynamic. It’s time to change to the 4 Series.”

Setting the 4 Series apart from the more sensible 3 Series saloon is a sportier profile featuring a low-slung rear end. The car looks far more dynamic than the current 3 Series Coupe, with a track that’s 45mm wider at the front and 80mm at the rear. The roofline is 16mm lower, too.

The L-shaped kink in the rear window is a theme repeated in details all around the new car, such as the air vents behind the front wheels (BMW calls them Air Breathers), the door handles and the LED signature in the lights.

Apparently, the styling updates aren’t just for show. A gaping lower front bumper with Air Curtains at its edges works with the Air Breathers to improve air flow round the wheels and, in turn, enhance aerodynamics.

BMW has also closed off the new satin silver grille to help the 4 Series cut through the air more easily. At the rear, the shape of the lower front grille is mirrored in the bumper, but early spy shots thought to show the production 4 Series reveal this feature could be ditched.

Inside, the newcomer has the same dash layout as the 3 Series saloon, but what really stands out is how the materials are used. The seats are covered in hand-braided leather trim, which even extends to the cup-holders in the centre console and door panels.

Matt-effect Natural Chestnut wood trim helps to provide the interior with more of a unique, premium feel than the 3 Series. While some of the more opulent touches won’t make it through to production, we can be sure that the 2+2 seating arrangement will feature on the final showroom 4 Series.

BMW hasn’t confirmed any details on the engine line-up, but as the new car is the more performance-orientated brother of the 3 Series, only the most powerful engines from the saloon’s line-up are likely. So expect the range to kick off with a 181bhp 420i model, while the 242bhp 430i and 302bhp 435i will complete the 4 Series petrol line-up.

Diesel options will comprise the 181bhp 420d, the 254bhp 430d and a new 309bhp 435d. As with the 3 Series, buyers will get a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic boxes.

A four-wheel-drive version of the 420i will also be offered, and at the top of the range will be an M4 Coupe and Convertible, to sit alongside the soon-to-be-launched M3 saloon. All three cars will use the same engine, which is reported to be a 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder with around 450bhp.

Every engine in the 4 Series range – including that in the M4 – will focus on increasing efficiency. As the new car is expected to be lighter than the 3 Series, and has a more aerodynamic shape, it could improve on that model’s economy. This means we can expect the 420d to be capable of well over 60mpg, with CO2 emissions under 120g/km.

The 4 Series Coupe will be revealed in production form late next year, and will go head-to-head with the Audi A5 in showrooms. It’ll be priced competitively with the A5, which means it’ll also be more expensive than the 3 Series, which starts from £24,880.

A price tag closer to £28,000 is likely for the 4 Series, and for that buyers will get more equipment than those who go for the 3 Series. There will be a choice of SE, Sport and top-of-the-range M Sport models.

The 4 Series Convertible will appear in showrooms shortly after the Coupe, early in 2014, and the 4 Series Gran Coupe won’t be far behind. The latter will be marked out from the Coupe by an extra set of doors, and a stretched wheelbase to free up more space in the back seats.

Ford Escort concept with Australian design input revealed

The Ford Escort nameplate is back �?" as a new concept car partly styled by Ford Australia designers and set to become a key model for the US car maker in the world�??s biggest car market.

Ford has unveiled the Escort sedan concept at the 2013 Shanghai motor show, previewing a four-door small car that looks near production ready and a strong contender to be one of the company�??s 15 new vehicles to go on sale in China by 2015.

Ford Escort Concept

The Ford Escort concept revives a once-popular name that hasn�??t been seen in Australia for decades, and one that was killed off by Ford of Europe when it introduced the Focus in 1998.

If confirmed for production, the Ford Escort will join the Focus in the Chinese market to target a slice of the 5.5 million small cars sold there that account for a quarter of the market.

Ford Escort Concept

China has been an exception to Ford�??s One Ford strategy of building a single model per vehicle segment, with the Escort designed to appeal to the different tastes of the world�??s most populous nation.

�??By listening to our customers in China, we have developed the Ford Escort Concept to serve a new class of compact car customers,�?� said Ford�??s executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service. �??These are customers whose needs are not being completely met by existing compact cars. They are discerning, modern families, who want uncompromised functionality, quality and safety for themselves and the ones they care about.�?�

Ford Escort Concept

Ford Australia�??s design and engineering teams continue to kept busy by projects around the world, including China. The company told CarAdvice the Escort concept was �??a global design with input from the company�??s design team in Melbourne�?�.

The styling of the Escort is said to respond to market research that revealed Chinese customers sought �??a vehicle that is stylish �?" but not one that is arrogant or pretentious�?�.

The tautly designed Ford Escort concept still carries plenty of cues �?" including a front end with hexagonal grille �?" that is clearly related to the next-generation Mondeo that showcases the company�??s modern styling DNA.

There are also fancy LED exterior lights and a pillarless side window treatment.

Hyundai Genesis: interior revealed in new spy shots

Our spy photographers have snapped the Hyundai Genesis in its most revealing guise yet undergoing testing at the Nurburgring in Germany.

The images show the large luxury South Korean sedan wearing less camouflage than ever before, and also give us a peek inside the cabin for the first time.


From the front, it�??s clear the second-generation Genesis takes some inspiration from the striking Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis concept that debuted earlier this year in Detroit, boasting an assertive upright grille with horizontal slats and sleeker headlights than the outgoing model.

Significantly shorter front and rear overhangs and a heavily raked windscreen and rear window create a more athletic profile, while high-mounted LED tail-lights and twin exhaust outlets contribute to a muscular yet clean rear end.


The cabin of the new Genesis also benefits from a much-needed makeover. A fresh instrument cluster with twin binnacles and a large central screen sits behind a new multi-function leather/woodgrain steering wheel.

A massive touchscreen is the focal point of the centre console, which also embraces the recent trend of offering an analogue clock. The switchgear in the lower half of the console is laid out simply, and is somewhat reminiscent of current BMW designs.


The new Hyundai Genesis is tipped to offer a diverse drivetrain line-up, potentially including 2.0-litre turbo four, 3.8-litre V6 and 5.0-litre V8 engine options, rear- and all-wheel-drive layouts, and a long-rumoured 10-speed automatic transmission.

The all-new Hyundai Genesis will be unveiled at the 2014 Detroit auto show next January.


For the first time it will be available in right-hand drive, and Hyundai Australia has confirmed it is currently being considered for our market.

If it gets the green light for Australia, Hyundai has indicated the sub-$70,000 Holden Caprice rival would arrive late in 2014, months before the already-confirmed Genesis Coupe is scheduled to reach local showrooms.

Auto Mazda Kiyora


Mazda Kiyora, revealed at the 2008 Paris International Motor Show, is the next generation of urban compact car. "Kiyora" (meaning 'clean and pure' in Japanese) represents the harmony between driving pleasure, environment and safety features and aspires to Mazda's long-term technology development vision, "Sustainable Zoom-Zoom."


The concept of "Kiyora" helped designers imagine a city car cutting cleanly through an urban landscape, with water serving as the design theme of the vehicle. The Mazda Kiyora is equipped with Mazda's next generation 4-cylinder direct-injected engine, while achieving excellent fuel economy and low CO2 emissions. The Mazda Kiyora also features the unique Smart Idle Stop System. The improved aerodynamic performance used in the Nagare (Japanese for "flow") design concept also contributed to the design of the Mazda Kiyora. An all-new platform was designed to maximize weight reduction and provide a high level of safety while pursuing enhanced driving pleasure. The Mazda Kiyora also features interior design and functionality that support a youthful lifestyle.