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Disco name to spread
Extra models will extend scope of Land Rover | By Andrew Frankel

Land Rover has of late spent so much time, money and energy on the Range Rover and its Evoque and Range Rover Sport derivatives, you’d be forgiven for thinking it had forgotten about the poor old Discovery, down there in the engine room, slogging its guts out to provide adventurous families with honest, high-quality transport rather than a fashion statement on wheels.

If it had forgotten, it’s remembered now. On the 25th anniversary of the Discovery’s birth, Land Rover presented only the third all-new version at the New York motor show. Called the ‘Discovery Vision Concept’, it previews the look not only of the next Discovery, which is unlikely to go on sale until next year at the earliest, but a whole new family of cars designed to make the Discovery a multi-model sub-brand in exactly the same way Range Rover is today. Land Rover will then aim to do the same with a series of rugged Defender-branded cars.

For now, however, the first Discovery model to go on sale will not be the replacement for the existing car but instead the current Freelander, whose name is to be retired. It will be named the Discovery Sport and, like the current Range Rover Sport, will be available with either five or seven seats. Only then will the all-new Discovery be launched.

Key technologies showcased on the Discovery Concept include laser terrain scanning, so the car can adapt itself to whatever obstacles are presented when driven off road, functions like indicators, lighting and wipers being actuated by simple gestures from the driver and, wait for it, remote control of the entire car. Were it to make it into production this would allow the ‘driver’ to manoeuvre the car while standing outside it, enabling it to squeeze through gaps, back up accurately to trailers and be guided safely through extreme off-road conditions.

Bentley SUV glimpsed

Bentley has shown a teaser shot (above) of its new SUV. Most such images are designed to whet the appetite of a hungry public, though being released so far ahead of the car’s 2016 launch it seems fairly clear that the purpose this time is to reassure said public the new car will look nothing like the ghastly EXP9 F previously shown.

From what can be told, the new car will no longer be radical in appearance but will look much like other Bentleys, albeit somewhat farther from the ground. The car is a departure for Bentley in more ways than one and the most radical turn in the company’s 95-year history. Not only is it the marque’s first SUV, it will also be the first Bentley to be offered with diesel engines and hybrid powertrains.

Production has been confirmed for Crewe, where it will be built up around a new platform that will also underpin the next Audi Q7, Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne. Bentley is already sitting on more than 2000 orders for the car two years before anyone can buy one, so it seems likely to increase Bentley sales from last year’s already record high of more than 10,000 units.

In other Bentley news, there have been more boardroom changes, with Wolfgang Durheimer returning to the head of the table after a couple of years as Audi’s engineering boss. This leaves the outgoing chairman, Wolfgang Schreiber, in the unusual position of both replacing and being replaced by the same man. Counting Durheimer twice, this means Bentley has now had four chief executives since 2011 and the departure of the comparatively long-serving Franz-Josef Paefgen.

Porsche’s GT3 woes

Porsche has suspended production and recalled every one of the 785 new 911 GT3s so far delivered, following catastrophic engine fires in two cars. Owners were contacted and told under no circumstances even to drive their cars to the dealer while the problem was sourced. It was traced to a con-rod fastener that failed, prompting Porsche to replace in its entirety every engine on every car built to date. It is believed that this has not only put back production of the highly specialised car (which is designed and developed by the Motorsport department) by six months, but also delayed the launch of the GT3 RS. “We were planning to have it at the Goodwood Festival of Speed,” an insider said, “but now we’ll be lucky to have it before the end of the year”.

The troublesome engine in the GT3 is the first in the 15-year history of the 911 sub-brand not to use the famed ‘Mezger’ race engine, whose claims to fame include Porsche’s most recent Le Mans victory in 1998; instead it employs a version of the far cheaper direct-injection engine used by most other 911s of recent years. When it comes, the new RS will be lighter and have power raised from the current 475bhp to about 500bhp, but will derive the majority of its additional lap time from a radical aerodynamic rethink. “It is a far bigger step forward than the last RS,” said a contact who has driven the car at length, “perhaps the biggest step forward for any RS model.”

Brown’s retro coupé

The name David Brown is returning to the road with a new Jaguar-based coupé looking really rather like a re-interpreted Aston Martin DB5.

The new David Brown is unrelated to the man responsible for Aston Martin after the war and his aim is to produce a car with the look and character of a timeless classic, but the engineering integrity and dynamic abilities of a brand new sports coupé.

Underneath its decidedly retro shape lies the entire superstructure and powertrain of a modern 503bhp Jaguar XKR, not that this is in any way obvious from its appearance. Not only are its exterior panels beaten by hand from sheet aluminium, the interior is unique to the car, too. Brown intends to build a run of 100 cars priced at £495,000 each plus local taxes.

Bertone files for bankruptcy

Legendary Italian styling house Bertone has entered bankruptcy proceedings. The company has faced increasing financial difficulties, with spiralling debts for a number of years.

Bertone was founded in 1912 but really came to prominence under the guidance of Nuccio Bertone in the 1950s. Under his leadership the company was responsible for such landmark designs as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Giulia Sprints, the Lancia Stratos and Lamborghini Countach, Espada and, of course, Miura. The Miura has long been held by many to be the single greatest supercar design of all time and while arguments have raged over who actually styled it (Marcello Gandini, Giorgetto Giugiaro and Bertone himself have all been cited), it is unquestionably the product of Bertone the company, if not the person.

Caterham and Renault split

The Caterham-Renault joint venture, to produce a new generation of affordable supercars by 2016, has hit the rocks. While both manufacturers are believed still to be pursuing their own plans for such a car, it seems certain they’ll no longer be based on the same platform and built side by side in the old Alpine factory in Dieppe. No official reason for the split has been given by either side, but sources have suggested that not only were the ultimate aims of both companies too disparate, but also that the tiny Caterham concern wanted to move the project forward at an entirely different rate to Renault.

Q50 closer to reality

Infiniti’s 550bhp Q50 ‘Eau Rouge’ concept has taken a substantial step towards becoming a production reality, with functioning prototypes being produced in the UK and tested by director of performance Sebastian Vettel.

If the car is given the green light, Infiniti will have the ability to rival the likes of the BMW M3, Audi RS4 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, and the brand will also become far more visible in Europe, where it struggles to make significant headway against the established German companies. The car features the same 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 as the GT-R coupé, but it is likely to drive the rear wheels alone. If the go-ahead is given, production is likely to commence next year.

In brief

McLaren has announced it is axing the 12C supercar. The 625bhp machine led McLaren’s return to road cars in 2011, but was criticised for its conservative appearance. Since the introduction of the 650S with a further 25bhp, enhanced chassis and a nose that apes the P1 hypercar, demand for the 12C has dried up, owners apparently happy to fork out the extra £20,000 to convert their 12C order into a £195,250 650S.

Mazda has shown part of its new MX-5 at the New York show. The backbone chassis retains a traditional front-engined, rear-drive layout but attention to detail means the new car will weigh less than the outgoing model, and possibly even under 1000kg as an entry-level car. Mazda is believed to have looked long and hard at the 1989 original and elected to revert to simplicity of engineering and purity of line in its design.

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