Auto blogThu, 27 Mar 2014 09:28:00 EST
Racing fans may have been disappointed when Peugeot shut down its Le Mans racing program, but don't think that the Lion marque has hung up its driving gloves for good. It's just refocusing itself. Instead of committing itself and its resources to a major circuit-bound racing series, Peugeot has been tackling one-off, off-road events. It took the record at Pikes Peak with Sebastien Loeb and is targeting the same at Goodwood. It recently released the new 208 T16 for privateer rally teams. And now it's heading back to Dakar.
We say "back" because this won't be Peugeot's first rodeo, so to speak. It won the famously grueling rally four years in a row from 1987 through 1990, first with the 205 and then with the 405. For next year's rally, it appears to be preparing a competition-version of its 2008 crossover, and has brought Total and Red Bull on board as partners to regroup the same parties that teamed up for Loeb's Pikes Peak campaign.
Lest you think Loeb will be driving the Peugeot 2008 DKR, however, the French automaker has instead hired 2010 Dakar winner Carlos Sainz and five-time Dakar motorbike winner Cyril Despres, who is making the jump to four wheels, as its drivers for the start of a multi-year campaign. Scope out the teaser video and the press release below for more details.
Sebastien Loeb and the more motorsport-obsessed elements of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group seem hellbent with breaking records. Together they've accumulated an unprecedented nine World Rally Championship titles, 78 rally wins and the all-time record for climbing Pikes Peak. And this season they'll be taking on the World Touring Car Championship together as well, hoping to apply their winning form to another racing discipline. But before they do, they'll be going for another trophy: the lap record for the famous hill-climb course at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The record currently belongs to Nick Heidfeld, who drove a McLaren MP4/13 - the car that won both the drivers' and constructors' titles in the 1998 Formula One World Championship with Mika Hakkinen behind the wheel - up the hill in a blistering 41.6 seconds back in '99. The accomplishment sets Heidfeld apart after a dozen seasons on the F1 grid but not a single grand prix victory to his name. But that's just what Loeb and Peugeot aim to strip him of when this year's festival kicks off in late June.
Loeb's weapon of choice will be the same Peugeot 208 T16 with which he took the Pikes Peak record. With 875 horsepower on tap, just as many kilos to motivate and bigger wings than an Airbus A380, the T16 is one of the only cars out there capable of beating a modern F1 machine, and Loeb is just the man to drive it. There are plenty more drivers lined up for Goodwood, and you can read about some of them below.
Three weeks ago an analyst increased projections for European car sales this year, expecting them to climb three percent compared to last year instead of 2.7 percent. That number is a postive sign after years of hard times but it turns out February was especially good, overall European sales climbing eight percent on a wave of southern European recovery and discounts - and this comes after five months of gains including January's 7.2-percent jump over the year before.
The only country of Europe's five largest markets to post a decline was France, just as it did in January, Germany, the UK and Italy posting solid double-digit numbers, Spain rocking the charts with an 18-percent increase because of a government program to encourage trade-ins.
The only brand to miss the wave was Volkswagen, dropping 0.8 percent as it watched the double-digit growth at sister brands Audi, Seat and Skoda lift the Volkswagen Group sales up by seven-percent. Peugeot overcame flat sales at Citroën to improve the group by 3.5 percent, BMW and the Mercedes-Benz/Smart combo rose by four percent, the Fiat group jumped 5.8 percent, Ford was up 11 percent, the Renault Group 11.5 percent, General Motors 12 percent and the Toyota clan by 14 percent.
Yesterday, we told you about a pair of World Rally Championship drivers that used a giant bottle of Corona in place of coolant after their radiator developed a leak. We called it an example of the sense of ingenuity that all rally drivers seem to possess. In that same post, we also talked about the "lightning quick reflexes and the ability to turn off one's sense of self-preservation." Now, you get to see that in action.
This is Simon Pagenaud, and while he may best be known as an IndyCar and sports car driver, he's quite comfortable behind the wheel of a rally car, as he proves in this video. What makes this vid special, though, is the first-person view, thanks to the camera Pagenaud fitted to his visor.
The result is, in a word, awesome. If you thought rallying looked fast in flyby shots, it's got nothing on how it looks from the driver's perspective. Scenery passes at an absurd rate as Pagenaud pushes the Peugeot 207 rally car along the tarmac road. And unlike a lot of rally videos, we're sure you'll be happy to know that there's no soundtrack here - just engine noise.
The Peugeot 308 SW may not exactly stand out against the backdrop of tuner specials and concept cars here at the Geneva Motor Show, but with the action winding down we can already say that it is one of the most relevant for European buyers.
Peugeot's 308 was just named European Car of the Year earlier this week, so it appears that the French brand is doing more than a little bit right with the model. The 308 SW, meanwhile, presents a small estate version of the formula, offering the kind of reasonable economy, flexible space and relatively inexpensive price point that Euro buyers seem to find so attractive.
As we reported last month, the 308 SW drops some 308 pounds (140 kilograms) versus the outgoing version, and can be had with efficient gas- and diesel-powered engines. The 1.2-liter engine is good for about 129 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, while the larger 1.6 brings with it 154 hp and 177 lb-ft. Six-speed manual transmissions are on offer across the board (we don't see any mention of an automatic in Peugeot's rather terse press materials below).
Renault's rear-engine Twingo isn't the only little French city car launching at the Geneva Motor Show. Peugeot has launched its new 108 as a more conventional front-engine, front-wheel-drive competitor.
The 108 is being offered as a three- or five-door hatchback with either a conventional fixed roof or retracting soft-top. A little hatch like this doesn't need a big engine, and Peugeot is giving buyers the choice of 68-horsepower 1.0-liter or 82-hp 1.2-liter three-cylinder engines. They are available with either a five-speed manual or five-speed electronically controlled gearbox.
It might not look it in the pictures, but the 108 is very tiny. At 136.6 inches long and 63.8 inches wide, it is slightly smaller than a Volkswagen Up. The new Peugeot shares its platform with the Toyota Aygo and Citroën C1, but all three cars have their own unique styling. If you were in the market for a European city car, which would you pick?
Each year since 1964, an international jury of European journalists come together to name their Car of the Year. After identifying the candidates, they whittle the list down to the finalists announced in December and finally name the winner at the Geneva Motor Show. And that's just what they've done again this year, selecting the new Peugeot 308 as their 2014 Car of the Year.
The C-segment hatchback from France, which competes with the likes of the Ford Focus (whose predecessor won in 1999) and Volkswagen Golf (last year's winner) on the European market, beat out a daunting array of finalists to win the honors. With 307 points, the 308 beat out the BMW i3 (223 points), the Tesla Model S (216), Citroën C4 Picasso (182), Mazda3 (180), Skoda Octavia (172) and Mercedes-Benz S-Class (170).
The results stand in stark contrast to how you, our loyal readers, voted in our poll: by your account the Tesla should have won, followed by the Benz and the Mazda. The Peugeot came in dead last. But then the European COTY jury has different criteria and a different way of counting the votes.
PSA Peugeot-Citroën may have been saved from the brink of collapse. It has finally completed a deal where Chinese automaker Dongfeng and the French government are each investing about 800-million euros ($1.1 billion USD) to take 14 percent stakes in the automaker, according to the BBC. The deal dilutes the Peugeot family's stake from 25.4 percent to 14 percent. In addition to that, it is raising another 1.4 billion euros ($1.9 billion) from existing PSA investors. The deal still must be approved by shareholders, but is expected to pass.
The deal's announcement comes at the same time that PSA has announced its 2013 financial results. It posted a 2.32-billion euro ($3.2 billion) loss last year, which can be considered a substantial improvement compared to the 5-billion euro ($6.9 billion) loss in 2012. Sales were down 2.4 percent last year.
The Dongfeng deal has been rumored since last year, and the two companies are already linked, as Dongfeng runs a PSA joint-venture factory in China. The French government is promising to use its stake to protect Peugeot workers in France when it becomes a shareholder.
Jacques Villeneuve has raced just about everything. The last Formula One World Champion from North America, this French-Canadian driver has raced in F1, Indy, NASCAR and Le Mans, not to mention the Andros Trophy of ice racing and V8 Supercars down in Australia. In fact, having dominated Indy in 1995, F1 in 1997 and placing second at Le Mans in 2008, he's the closest to a living winner of the elusive (if unofficial) Triple Crown of Motorsport as we're likely to see in our lifetime. And now he's gearing up to take on his next challenge.
That challenge would be the FIA World Rallycross Championship, which has just announced Villeneuve as the latest driver to join its ranks. He'll be driving a 600-horsepower, all-wheel-drive Peugeot 208 rally car prepared by Albatec Racing and fielded by IMG Motorsport. It won't be his first time driving a Peugeot, of course, having driven for the French team in the Le Mans Series.
We'll be watching to see how Villeneuve does in rallycross. While he's certainly earned the proverbial feathers in his cap, it's been years since he's won anything of any significance - the 2008 1000 km of Spa being his sole major-league victory since winning the F1 title in 1997.
It may be Renault that will be garnering the lion's share of attention with its innovative new Twingo at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, but that won't be the only French city car making its debut at the Swiss expo. Peugeot will also be on hand with its new 108 - a diminutive hatchback that may be more conventional than the rear-engined Twingo, but will offer European buyers more choices.
While the new Twingo will be offered (at least initially) in one body style, one specification and only four colors, the 108 arrives with a whole array of choices. It'll be offered with three doors or five, with a fixed or retractable roof panel, with four engine options and a broader array of color choices. At 136.6 inches long and less than 64 inches wide, it's nominally smaller than a Volkswagen Up! and offers a tight turning circle of less than 32 feet.
Slotting in below the 208 and 308 hatchbacks, the new 108 packs in more technology than you'd expect of a budget city car, including a 7-inch touchscreen display that mirrors your smartphone screen. Three-cylinder engine options range from a 1.0-liter unit with 68 horsepower to a 1.2 with 82 hp, mounted (unlike the aforementioned Renault) up front and driving the front wheels through a five-speed gearbox.