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  • From the archive: The arrival of the compact disc player
    on January 22, 2020 at 6:00 am

    In 1982, we reported on the advent of the compact disc First in-car radios became possible, then record players (yes, really) and then tape decks. And in 1982, we witnessed the advent of digital music Driving and audio entertainment have been a natural fit since the very beginning, and the in-car radio receiver had become a realistic prospect by the early 1930s. By 1960, there were 445,258 in-car radio licences taken out (at the cost of £1, or about £23 today) in Britain – although the fact that there were six million cars on the road rather suggests that this fee was easy to dodge. Anyway, the ubiquitous mode of listening to music when stationary was a 12-inch long-playing phonograph record – popularly known as the LP, or today ‘a vinyl’. That year, Dutch electronics company Philips revealed at the Earl’s Court motor show its Auto-Mignon, a curious device that played the new seven-inch extended-playing (EP) records. It was suspended under the dashboard on coil springs, and Autocar enthusiastically stated that it was “virtually immune” from road shocks. In reality, your £23 (today £534) paid for plenty of flutter, needle jump and, after a short while, worn-out records. Soon came a viable solution for avoiding whatever rubbish was being played on the BBC Light Programme (nowadays called Radio 2): the eight-track tape, a collaborative invention of Ampex, Ford, General Motors, Motorola, RCA Victor and, erm, the boss of Learjet. It was named so because the magnetic tape reel on which the music was stored was divided into eight literal tracks – not because it had only eight songs on it. The eight-track didn’t last long in the UK, however, its low take-up quickly being overshadowed by the compact cassette after the introduction of that format to cars by Philips in 1968.  Having only limited drawbacks, and with no real alternative to fight, the cassette (or tape) enjoyed a solid run of popularity, even though vinyl records remained the dominant force for home audio. The next big step forward in audio technology (that would receive public uptake, at least) was the compact disc (CD). After more than a decade of joint development by Philips and Sony of Japan, this technology was brought to the European market in March 1983. In August 1982, the month the first commercial CD was produced, Autocar reported on the development.  “It makes both the traditional LP record and the cassette look positively old-fashioned,” we said, “and like so many things today, it would not be possible without computer technology. “With a normal record, the movement of the stylus in the grooves is converted into electrical signals, which emerge from the speakers as noise. On a tape, the magnetic signals are picked up by the playback head, but in both cases there is physical contact with the recording medium. This means that any imperfections, such as scratches or dust, will be heard as clicks or hissing. “In the compact disc – it is 120mm or 4.7in across – the recording is impressed on just one side, digitally, with the ‘grooves’ 1.6 microns apart. And instead of a stylus or pick-up head, the recording is ‘read’ by a laser. With its pinpoint-accurate focusing, the tip of the beam looks through the thin protective transparent coating, ignoring – simply because it is unable to focus on them – almost any surface damage or dirt. The result is as near-perfect an amplifier signal input as it is possible to achieve. “All of this, of course, demands some pretty advanced technology to operate it. For a start, the disc has to be spun at between 500 and 200pm, depending on which part is being played.” For context, a vinyl record is played at 33rpm or 45rpm, according to its diameter. “This is done by incorporating instructions in the digital recording, which are ‘read’ by the laser head. Each CD disc gives up to 60 minutes’ playing, and with the domestic deck demonstrated by Philips, you can programme it to play the tracks in any order, jump those you do not want to hear, or repeat them for as many times as you wish. “A mains-powered, programmable deck will cost in the region of £400 [around £1422 today], while discs will be priced at around £4 [£14]. Thirteen of the world’s major electronics firms have accepted the Philips/Sony CD system as a new standard and will be making equipment for it. “For the record companies, the very high reproduction quality means that demand for CD records will be high – but unlike cassettes, we, the general public, will be unable to re-record onto them.” CDs indeed took off quickly, notably popularised in this country by Dire Straits’ 1985 album, Brothers in Arms. The big three musical formats would co-exist for a while, but global CD sales would eventually overtake those of records in 1988 and cassettes in 1991. Of course, the biggest ever change came with the advent of digital MP3 files, which could be stored on a portable drive and later personal devices such as iPods, and their integration with cars. Streaming via the internet, which recently became available to drivers, has only accelerated the decline of physical formats; CD sales have been plummeting lately, while a resurgence in vinyl record production has led to this format, once thought dead and buried, generating more revenue than CDs for the first time in three decades. READ MORE From the archive: Wireless and the car 60 years of the M1: how we covered the opening of the UK’s first motorway 80 years of the Autocar road test

  • Jannarelly Design-1 2020 review
    on January 22, 2020 at 12:01 am

    Boutique manufacturer Jannarelly brings its Design-1 to the UK with great looks and a promising specification. But can it deliver on that promise where it matters: on the road? According to its creator, Dubai-based Anthony Jannarelly, the Design-1 is a back-to-basics throwback to a time when sports cars were simpler, lighter, more engaging and, therefore, better.Five years in the planning (during which time he has also styled the likes of the Fenyr Supersport and Lykan Hypersport for W-Motors), the £85,000 Design-1 comes to the UK with probably the new Morgan Plus 6 as its closest rival, both in concept and price.And if you’re wondering whether Jannarelly is yet another of these ‘here today, completely forgotten tomorrow’ companies we see so often, with ambition far outstripping the ability to deliver, Jannarelly has already built 20 cars, has orders for 70 more and is putting the finishing touches to a super-GT, to be known, predictably enough, as the Design-2.But back to the Design-1. It has a simple steel spaceframe chassis, a normally aspirated engine behind the driver, powering the rear wheels through an optional limited-slip differential and a six-speed manual gearbox. An automatic ’box be specified, but why you’d want to eludes me. Suspension is by double unequal-length wishbones at each corner, braking by large iron discs. There is no anti-lock braking and no airbags, although traction control is an option.The list price buys you the car with a glassfibre body in convertible form, although it can be turned into a coupé in a matter of minutes by fitting a hard-top with its integral Perspex sidescreens. The top is made from carbonfibre and costs £7600, and if you’d like the rest of the car in carbonfibre (and save 40kg off the already fairly svelte 850kg kerb weight), it will cost an additional £12,700, taking the entire cost of the car into six-figure territory. Those who want to go the other way can detach the windscreen and turn it into a full fly-spitting roadster by fitting a full-width aero screen (£2000).The engine is a Nissan 3.5-litre V6 developing 325bhp and sourced from a large Maxima saloon sold in the US, China and Japan, although it is related to the engine in the long-defunct 350Z sports car. As for creature comforts, the Design-1 is far better equipped than an Ariel Atom or even a Caterham. There is decent luggage space both in the nose and behind the engine, while it has air conditioning, a decent heater, speakers and a USB port into which you can plug your smartphone.

  • Bugatti plots ‘everyday’ second model
    on January 22, 2020 at 12:01 am

    Second Bugatti model must have a “different shape” from a Chiron, and could look similar to our render (pictured) Hypercar maker’s boss makes the case for a more practical Bugatti and rules out hybrid but not pure electric A future electric Bugatti model would move away from the maker’s core business of hypercars and instead offer a more practical vehicle, but still with the performance and ultra-exclusivity for which the brand is famous. “If we speak about a second model as Bugatti,” said Bugatti CEO Stephan Winkelmann, “I am convinced we don’t have to do a car which is only for weekends. This is a car to be used on a daily basis. It has to have a different shape [to the Chiron] and have a different mission. He continued: “If we do something outside of the hyper sports car business, there will be a car that is not in the direction of the W16. In my opinion, electrification would be the right approach.” A second Bugatti model has long been in contention, and is likely to be either an SUV or a four-door GT, but Winkelmann has repeatedly stated that no decision has yet been made by the Volkswagen Group board. “For Bugatti, it is a good opportunity and could be a winner. But I also see that a big group like VW Group has a lot of priorities. It is in the midst of an electrification revolution and it must decide where to spend its money. “A second model would mean doubling the size of the company or more. It’s clear we need 100% commitment from everybody – it’s not enough that I’m convinced!” While group-wide sharing of platforms is commonplace – for example, Audi and Porsche are sharing EV platforms – Bugatti would create its own. WInkelmann commented on the possibility of platform sharing: “This is not the case for a car with the performance of a Bugatti.” He added that repeatable acceleration and top speed would be far more important than range for a Bugatti EV. “I’d rather have some reserve performance than keep range on a high level,” he said. Charging is another major barrier, Winkelmann said, adding that EV charging times would need to be equivalent to filling up a combustion car. He said: “We would sell [electric] cars where the infrastructure is best – the east and west coast of the US, the UK, Asia and so on. “On top of that, our customers have more than one car – to say the least – so they are not depending on one particular car.” Adding a higher-volume model than the Chiron would not affect Bugatti’s exclusivity and – crucially – resale values, believes Winkelmann. “If we’re talking about a car that would be in the low thousands, we’re talking 300 cars in America, 300 cars in Europe, 300 cars in Asia and so on. At the end of the day, there would be close to zero visibility [of these cars] so there would be no impact [on exclusivity]. It’s not going to be a car that is perceived as a commodity or something that is not exclusive enough.” Winkelmann does not believe in hybrid technology for Bugatti models, only wishing to use either internal combustion engines or fully electric powertrains. “It is my belief – you will never have cutting-edge technology [with hybrid]. Today, with the mindset, it’s clear that infrastructure, range and trust in electrification is not where it could or should be, but in five years, when an EV could hypothetically come out…” He added that there is a new generation of customers coming into the business, which are “expecting things that, today, we are not even talking about as a given”. Winkelmann also referenced the previous work of founder Ettore Bugatti. “We have to look back in history because when Ettore Bugatti did the car, he did every possible bodystyle, engine, price segment. He did a lot more than what you see today and I think roots are important. “At the beginning of this century, it was a long time that nothing had happened at Bugatti. It was good to position the brand with the hypercar but if you look at the history of Ettore, he really did a lot. We are at the very beginning but being small, we do things step by step and we always we have to prove that what we are doing is the right thing.” READ MORE Record 304mph Bugatti Chiron makes public debut Bugatti La Voiture Noire revealed as most expensive new car of all time Bugatti unveils £7.4m limited-run Centodieci hypercar Bugatti “ready” for second model, says boss

  • Autocar magazine 22 January – on sale now
    on January 22, 2020 at 12:00 am

    This week: 30+ new Mercedes cars detailed, Alpine A110 S tested, used car bargains for 2020 and much more Will the 2020s belong to Mercedes? The German manufacturer certainly seems to think so as we reveal it has a whopping 32 new models lined up for launch by the end of 2022. Big moves in every class are planned, from EVs, a Smart SUV and even an 800bhp+ PHEV. The firm is also revving the engine of its delayed One hypercar, due to roll into garages in 2021, along with a raft of successor models, making up the three-score-and-two armada. ALSO IN THIS ISSUE Petrol heads rejoice – Porsche has brought back six-cylinder power to the standard 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster, as the GTS 4.0 arrives to supplant the outgoing flat-four version. Elsewhere, Volkswagen is also chasing performance as it reveals plans to upgrade its record-breaking 671bhp ID R, TVR’s south Wales factory stalls and our snappers catch the all-electric Jaguar XJ ahead of its reveal later this year. Toyota reaffirmed its commitment to the city car this week when it confirmed the Aygo will continue to be built in Europe – and announced its Yaris-based SUV would be revealed at the Geneva Show. Elsewhere, we reveal Ford’s plans to launch an all-new Mondeo in 2021, while the Volkswagen ID 4 will get a hot ‘GTX’ model, scheduled to arrive later this year. Finally, we analyse the rise and fall of Carlos Ghosn, the ex-Nissan CEO now international fugitive. Reviews The Bentley Continental GT kicks off this week’s drives with its first venture onto UK roads. The W12 flagship sets a stiff benchmark, but could the lighter V8 measure up? Then, we go for a spin in the latest Peugeot hybrid, the 508 225 GT. We’ve driven the model in prototype form, but this is the official first verdict. Meanwhile, the Alpine A 110 S gets an extra 40bhp and more precise handling, but possibly at the cost of some roundedness, the Ford Puma Titanium trim impresses with cheap-as-chips running costs and pulse-setting agility, and the VW T-Roc R weighs in with a smooth cruise. In the road test, it’s the turn of the Vauxhall Corsa. A sleeker look and refined interior promises good things for the fifth-generation supermini, but is there the performance to match? Features Seeing the northern lights doesn’t mean hopping on a plane and heading to the Arctic Circle – as we discovered with a bit of luck, a few weather apps, and a Rolls Royce Dawn, with an aurora-chasing journey from Edinburgh to the very tip of the country. A lot further south, we get behind the wheel of a 1960s-throwback sports car from the designer responsible for some of the United Arab Emirates’ most outlandish hypercars. The Jannarelly Design 1 promises power and looks to rival Morgan and Lotus – but can it deliver? Attempting to drive across London in rush hour can feel like an exercise in futility, but Transport for London’s state of the art management centre ensures everything keeps moving. We meet the people with an eye on the capital’s 360 miles of roads. We also head to Thermal Raceway, an exclusive members-only race track that offers luxury on-site living for the super-rich, then meet the Renault F1 Esports driver that has swapped a real-world circuit for virtual racing. Finally, we list the twenty best nearly-new and used bargains for 2020, for those looking to save some cash while bagging a car that’s still great to drive. Opinions An extra-curricular visit to the new showroom of one of the UK’s most prestigious classic car dealers topped Steve Cropley’s week, as Adrian Hamilton opened its doors to show off its collection of Gulf-liveried racers from days past. Neighbours are in agreement about the country’s pothole epidemic, and he reveals the car he’ll be taking delivery of for the next few months. Elsewhere, Matt Prior sings the praises of Toyota and Subaru’s decision to make a new GT86/BRZ, even if our country’s appetite for bespoke coupes can’t hope to match that of the hot hatchback. Deals Not every 4×4 can get the job done when the going gets tough, but James Ruppert knows what you should buy if you’re after an off-roader you can depend on. The subject of our used car buying guide isn’t exactly known for its reliability, but the TVR Tuscan’s thunderous straight-six engine and outlandish styling make it desirable all the same. Finally, those seeking a city runaround could do a lot worse than a Volkswagen Up – and with plenty of models to choose from, our nearly-new buying guide shows which ones are better avoided. Where to buy Never miss an issue – subscribe to Autocar magazine today. Autocar magazine is available through all good newsagents. You can also buy one-off copies of Autocar magazine from Newsstand, delivered to your door the morning after. Digital copies can be downloaded from Zinio and the Apple iTunes store

  • First ride: 2020 Mercedes-Benz E-Class facelift
    on January 21, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    We ride shotgun in the comprehensively redesigned E-Class executive saloon to see how it’s shaping up ahead of its launch later this year “It might not look like it, but it’s one of the most comprehensive facelifts we’ve ever undertaken,” says Michael Kelz, laying his hand on the bonnet of a lightly disguised Mercedes-Benz E-Class. We’re standing in a layby not far from the pulsing neon heart of Las Vegas, where the project leader for the facelifted E-Class is taking a break from final validation testing to run through the changes made to the new car ahead of its upcoming Geneva motor show premiere.  This fifth-generation model is a well-known quantity, having first seen UK showrooms in 2017. But behind the mild disguise – hiding subtle styling tweaks that include a wider grille, reprofiled bumpers and a reshaped bootlid – lurks what Kelz describes as literally hundreds of detailed modifications. “We’ve gone through every individual component and asked ourselves if it can be improved in one way or another,” he says. “The biggest individual change is the upgrade to the electrical system. It allows us to add a number of new intelligent driver assistance systems with Level 2 capability and the latest in Car-to-X communications. It’s now more advanced than the S-Class in certain areas.” The new electrical system also provides the basis for an upgrade of the MBUX user interface used by the E-Class, bringing the latest in touch, speech and gesture controls together with a “Hey Mercedes” prompt that allows you to control various functions via conversational-style speech.  As before, buyers get to choose between a pair of standard 10.3in or optional 12.3in digital displays for the instruments and infotainment functions. Further changes brought to the interior of the facelifted E-Class include a new multi-function steering wheel, a new frameless rear-view mirror, revised trim applications and a touchpad infotainment controller – the latter of which comes at the expense of the rotary controller previously sited within the centre console between the front seats. Starting with the 2020 model, Mercedes is introducing a new trim line hierarchy in which Avantgarde now becomes standard, with the more comprehensively equipped Executive and AMG lines as options. The prototype we’ve been riding in over smooth surfaced roads through the desert regions of Nevada is the new four-wheel-drive E450 4Matic. It runs the turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder M256 petrol engine with a 48-volt electrical system and integrated starter motor to provide it with mild hybrid properties.  With 362bhp and 369lb ft of torque plus 21bhp and 132lb ft from an electric motor, it boasts tremendously effective low to mid-range performance and outstanding refinement, promising to make it a very convincing alternative to the likes of the Audi A6 50 TFSI and BMW 540i xDrive. The big news on the engine front for the facelifted E-Class, though, is Mercedes’ decision to replace the previous M274 four-cylinder petrol engine with what Kelz describes as an all-new M254 unit.  The new longitudinally mounted 2.0-litre engine, which will also find its way into a host of other Mercedes models, has been conceived to conform to strict new EU7 emission regulations that are set to come into force by the middle of the decade. As well as being offered in standard form, it will also be offered in both mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid forms. On the diesel front, Kelz promises a “more than 31-mile electric range” from an upgraded version of the E300de, which he says uses a larger lithium ion battery than before.  “We’ve also managed to package the 31.2kWh battery from the GLE350de in the facelifted E-Class to give it an electric range of more than 62 miles,” he says. “However, it will be restricted to the Chinese market, where the E-class comes with a longer wheelbase than models in other markets.” The man responsible for the engineering of the E-Class in all its various forms – saloon, estate, All Terrain, coupé and cabriolet – says the dynamic character of the facelifted model will closely mirror that of its predecessor. “There’s been some work to better tune the suspension to the latest generation of Label A tyres, which help us with overall efficiency in terms of CO2 emissions and the like. However, there are no major changes, either to the steel spring or air-sprung setups.” READ MORE New 2020 Mercedes E-Class estate facelift spotted testing Mercedes downplays 75% AMG range restriction claims Nearly-new buying guide: Mercedes-Benz E-Class