Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spy shots: First test-mules for next-gen 2012 VW Passat

Volkswagen's next generation 2012 Passat, which is expected to debut in late 2011 as a 2012 model, is caught undergoing testing on Germany's famous Nürburgring. It’s the first time spy photographers got the spy shots of a test-mule for the new car.

While the test-mule wears the current Passat body, we can see slight modifications in the form of wider wheel arches and lengthened B-pillars. This clearly indicates that the next generation Passat will be longer and wider than current model. According to CAR magazine, however, the next-gen Passat will feature a host of weight saving technologies such as ultra-thin glass, foam chassis reinforcements and a low-friction 4Motion all-wheel drive system, the car should ensure a lighter kerb weight and improved mileage.

Under the hood, a replacement for the VR6 engine will be in place, putting out close to 300hp (224kW) from a displacement of 3.0L. To improve mileage and maintain power, the new engine will also be using direct injection, while the rest of the powertrain lineup is expected to benefit from some form of forced induction as well. Other models will include a new hybrid as well as a high-performance diesel with AWD.

To give the Passat some much needed panache, VW will be pulling out all the stops to make the next-generation a technological showcase, including an automatic parking system, "airless" Continental tires, an advanced window cleaning system that doesn't use traditional wipers, 360° parking cameras, adaptive cruise control with speed limit monitoring, and possibly even a sci-fi low-voltage magnetic paint which will allow owners to change the car's exterior color by adjusting the current.

In terms of exterior design, the new Passat is expected to ditch the current model's bland styling for a more aggressive appearance which is both luxurious and dynamic.

Volkswagen's next-generation Passat is expected to compete with BMW 3-Series, Mercedes Benz C-Class and Audi A4. Incidentally, One year after the launch of the Passat sedan will be the station wagon. This will be followed closely by a new high-performance model to replace the current R36.

Ford offers SYNC TDI update

Ford is enhancing the capabilities of its vehicles by offering its popular Sync system with the new Sync TDI application (SYNC 3.0 version) , which adds traffic, directions and information in a simple download, now available for download via the Ford SYNC website.

SYNC TDI pairs with drivers' Bluetooth handsets to connect to Ford's Service Delivery Network to bring them turn-by-turn driving directions, real-time traffic information, business searches and new, sports and weather updates. Users can call up these features with voice guidance through their handsets --- at no subscription cost for the first three years of vehicle ownership.

To operate the system, all the driver needs to do is state the voice command “services”. Stating “traffic” will then send a text message to the driver’s phone with information such as location and severity of accidents or new road construction causing areas of heavy congestion. This message is then broadcast over the vehicle’s audio system.

If a user states “directions,” a turn-by-turn route for a desired journey is downloaded and is spoken to the user over the vehicle’s audio system and displayed on the central information display near the radio.

The latest system also enables drivers to personalize and categorize their favorite media topics, such as sports, weather and news using voice commands or through the Sync website.

The automaker's 2010 models equipped with the SYNC entertainment system will ship with the update already installed, though owners of some early-launch 2010 models will need to perform the update themselves.

The SYNC system is available as an option on select Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles for $395, and includes a GPS receiver for the 2010 model year.

Details of 2010 Audi TT RS

Last year, Audi has taken the wraps off several variants of its sporty TT, including TT-S, 2.0L TDI diesel-powered TT and the entry-level 1.8L TFSI model. And at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, we see the performance RS version of the TT, which is simply called Audi TT RS. The TT RS range has two models, they’re TT-RS Coupe and Roadster.

The TT RS range is powered by Audi's new 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine with FSI direct petrol injection. It makes maximum power of 340hp (250kW) and peak torque of 450Nm (332 lb ft) between a wide band of 1,600rpm and 5,300rpm. This power and torque is sent through to all four wheels via Audi's quattro permanent AWD.

Performance, according to Audi, confirms the TT RS as the fastest in its class. The Coupe fires off the line to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds while the Roadster does it in 4.7 seconds. Top speed is limited to 250km/h in both cars but can be increased to 280km/h if requested. The hard top weighs in at 1,450kg (3,197 lbs) while the Roadster is 60kg (132 lbs) dearer because of all the extra equipment needed to operate the canvass roof.

Average fuel consumption is 9.2 litres per 100km (25.57 US mpg) for the Coupe and 9.5 litres per 100km (24.76 US mpg) for the Roadster.

The standard wheel size is 18-inch with 245/40 tyres but customers can specify the bigger 19s or 20s for their baby. A standard sports suspension lowers the car by 10 milimetres while the optional magnetic ride adaptive damping system offers Comfort and Sport characteristics. The rear features a diffuser and a stationary spoiler. There is an optional one that retracts and extends. All models are fitted with a six-speed manual and ventilated disc brakes with black four-piston aluminium callipers and diameters of 370mm at the front and 310mm at the rear button, which alters throttle response and also opens a flap in the left exhaust tailpipe to increase the rumble. The standard electronic stability software has been replaced with a more sporty version that is more forgiving to sideways action and can also be switched off completely for maximum fun.

The interior is laid out in leather and Alcantara. It also features heated sports seats, brushed aluminium inlays and a flat-bottomed multifunction sports steering wheel.

The TT RS Coupe will be priced at €55,800 and the Roadster at €58,650 when they are launched this summer in Europe.

2009 Savage Rivale Roadyacht GTS officially revealed

The Savage Rivale Roadyacht GTS, designed by Dutch students Emile Pop and Justin de Boer, is expected to begin production by 2010. The car is the only 4 door "topless on demand" supercar in the world with a fantastic look.

The designers put in a retractable hard-top which can open or close in just 20 seconds. Built without B-pillars and having a two-tone paint job, the car is meant to have taken inspiration from luxury yachts. Body panels are made from carbon-fiber, and the chassis is built from chrome steel. Inside, the driver is treated to a nice layout of alcantara, aluminum, and carbon-fiber. Meanwhile, the floorboard is made from teak wood, which will look interesting if left unupholstered. Although commonly used on yachts, and thus keeping with the boat motif, a lighter-weight material probably could have been chosen for the floor if some form of carpeting will cover it up.

Power under the hood comes from a powerful V8 that propels the car from 0-300km/h (0-186mph) in under 35 seconds. The supercar is a true celebration of design and the design is achieved from driving excitement. The Savage’s menacing front section demonstrates the cars inherit potency, while the broad beefy rear section exhibits unbreakable integrity. The aggressive cut front shows its primeval powers.

Regardless, with a Corvette ZR1 powertrain, weight is still relatively low at 1,280 kg. Custom-made Tenzo 19-inchers are wrapped in Toyo T1R tires. Braking is provided by DBM, using eight-piston and four-piston monoblocks, gripping 380mm or 355mm discs.

Companies lending their assistance to the project includes Eindhoven, Netherlands, based Motio development, who aided with the 3D modelling. Komplot Mechanics supplied the foam moulds, while Rep-air Composites assisted with the body panels. Steel juggernaut Corus provided materials for the chassis.

Pop and de Boer expect to produce 20 units of the Savage Rivale Roadyacht GTS, at a rate of four annually. They are actively looking for investors, and hope to begin production by 2010.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Volkswagen Eos White Night released

The Volkswagen Eos range is expanded with the latest version of the Eos White Night, which is currently available for orders with price tags beginning at 33,140 Euros.

Specifically, the new Eos White Night comes in a strikingly contrast of black and white. The White Night boasts the exterior painted in "Candy White", a roof colored in "Deep Back Pearlescent" and cherry-red LED taillights. Additionally, the mirror covers, the radiator grille and the trim strips are covered in black as well. 18-inch “Budapest” wheels partially painted black with a polished finish complete the elegant appearance of the Eos White Night.

The white-dark contrast continues inside the car too, with the black nappa leather seats, door and side trim and black steering wheel keeping the same exterior styling cues. Furthermore, the trim strips and radio trim in "Candy White" plus the sill panel strips lettered with "White Night" are also a part of the range.

As with the features offered by the Volkswagen Eos White Night, it comes with a fairly decent equipment lineup, including "Climatronic" climate control system, sports chassis lowered 15 mm and heated front seats, all of them offered as standard.

Incidentally, the Eos White Night can be combined with all engine versions included in the Eos range, excepting the V6.

Exclusive BMW M3 Edition Models

BMW's popular M3, is regarded as powerful, aesthetic design, supreme performance and exclusive style. So it will be difficult to make the new BMW M3 even more appealing. But with the new M3 Edition models, it seems that nothing is impossible.

The M3 Edition Models, available only on the M3 Coupe variant, features cosmetic enhancements on new body design and interior features but also new light-alloy wheels and an even lower chassis. Knowing to leave well enough alone, the powertrain of the M3 is untouched in the Edition Models.

The new models is available in four colours: Alpine White non-metallic, Black non-metallic, Dakar yellow non-metallic, and Monte Carlo Blue metallic - all classic choices for the M3. A chrome package is included standard to accentuate "the truly sophisticated character of the Edition Models." They use a dark, eloxy-plated chrome for the quad tailpipes, kidney grille, and side gills. The color tone perfectly matches the blacked-out 19-inch M-series light alloy rims. Or, if you prefer, you can get the rims in either silver or a contrasting white. We recommend going with the dark rims, because they will also match the black mirror caps.

Inside, the cars get contrasting insert colors, 'Carbon Structure' leather trim with contrasting seams, Black Novillo leather seats, all with unique trim and stitching. Armrests and even door handles also get custom treatment with color-matched contrasting seams on the Dakar Yellow and Monte Carlo blue models. Finally, the door entry bar gets a checkered flag design and the M3 logo.

The suspension drop is the only significant mechanical change, with all of the M3 Edition Models riding 10mm lower than their standard counterparts. Each model also gets a unique 19in alloy wheel with a double-spoke design. Finish can be either standard alloy or black, while on all but the Dakar Yellow model the rims can also be had in a special white color with polished spokes.

Under the hood we have the same impressive V8 engine capable to develop 309 kW/420 hp and to push the car to 100 km/h comes in 4.6 seconds (six-speed manual: 4.8 seconds) while the average fuel consumption in the EU test cycle is 11.9 litres/23.7 mpg imp (six-speed manual: 12.4 litres/22.8 mpg imp)/100 kilometres.

The BMW M3 Edition Models will go on sale in July, 2009, and will only be available for six months. The release of the special editions and the limited time frame tip BMW's hand to the motivation for this unexpected batch of early special editions: pumping up slumping sales.

Gemballa reveals Avalanche GTR 650 EVO-R based on the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabrio

Gemballa, the German Porsche specialists, is introducing its latest masterpiece ---- Avalanche GTR 650 EVO-R based on the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabrio.

Powered by an engine that generates 650hp(485kW), the car reaches a maximum speed of over 205mph via a number of engine and aerodynamic upgrades, sufficient for meeting the highest driving requirements.

With just a casual look, the car strongly emphasizes its link with the highest sports car class. Featuring gull wing doors and headlights taken from the Carrera GT supercar, the car also uses unique steel extensions welded directly onto the body shell in order to widen the car. The car also features a new hood and custom side skirts, a carbon-fiber front skirt, and a new rear skirt to match the customized LED taillights. There’s also a built-in rear diffuser to help improve downforce, as well as a new rear wing.

The engine gets a new race-spec crankshaft, forged pistons and high-flow turbochargers. There are also new camshafts and cylinder heads, and a high-performance exhaust system that helps give the car a much louder growl than the standard model.

The final results of all these modifications are not just a visually stunning car, but also one that can sprint to 62mph in just 3.4 seconds, thanks to the 650hp (485kW) and 700lb-ft (950Nm) of torque that the engine now churns out.

Other modifications include an upgraded interior and high performance wheels and tires. The interior was redesigned and transformed into a cozy compartment which exudes with motor sport sensations. Leather has replaced the original serial lining. Carbon fiber elements adorn the interior with aluminum pedals providing an attractive contrast. The sports steering wheel which is 340mm in diameter is equipped with a full-sized airbag and the sports seats of the Pole Position type provide additional seating firmness. In addition, optimum comfort and control is achieved through a combination of wheels and tires.

While the modifications of the Avalanche GTR 650 EVO-R may be astonishing, the real shocker comes in the enormous price tag - a cool 484,000 on top of the price of a new Porsche 911 Turbo, after which buyers are looking at a grand total of close to $600,000.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Citroen preparing for a new era of premium mass cars with DS Concept

Citroen is preparing for a very exciting new era of premium mass cars with its DS Concept. The DS inside, aimed squarely at cars like the Mini Cooper, features full leather upholstery, sporty bucket seats, and an intricate center console with piano-black trim. The premium theme is further emphasized by the thick carpeting, vinyl roof lining, and special DS badging.

The DS Concept provides the basis for a new line of cars to be named DS3, DS4 and DS5, hinting at bigger and better models to come. The first of these will be the DS3, which has already been spied testing in prototype form.

While DS3 is expected to come into market in 2010 as the first of new DS Line products, the DS4 and DS5 are said to be targeted on a better defined segment. “We can be more adventurous with the bigger models. Our normal models have to operate within a well-defined segment, but with the DS there’s the opportunity for more individuality”, chief designer Mark Lloyd declared. The DS5 is said to be based on the Hypnos concept and will also be the first Citroen to get a diesel hybrid engine. Both the DS4 and DS5 will go on sale by 2011.

Citroen's campaign is intended to help realign the public's perception of the brand to better fit with the near-premium product line it offers. The global effort comes as the French carmaker celebrates its 90th anniversary in the business, making 2009 a time for both tradition and innovation. The new logo that debuted at that time can be found on the new DS3.

A re-ignition of the DS line is just one line of attack for this global re-branding scheme. The DS held the top slot at Citroen for 21 years, starting in 1955 and running through 1976. Despite the ensuing 33-year hiatus, the iconic outline of the DS is still the first thing that comes to mind for many car enthusiasts when the Citroen brand is mentioned. The new DS Inside bears little or no resemblance to that legendary silhouette, however.

Other efforts, in terms of customer service, dealer relations, service and maintenance standards as well as the product initiative, will help Citroen present itself as a more up-scale carmaker.

Mini JCW World Championship 50 Edition

Mini unveiled its latest special edition John Cooper Works (JCW) Mini to mark its 50th anniversary together with the 1959 and 1960 achievements of the John Copper in the F1 World Championships.

The car is dubbed as the ‘World Championship 50’ and it was just one of three special edition models unveiled at the Mini United 2009 event in Silverstone over the weekend. The other cars were the Beatles ‘Magical Mystery Tour' Cooper S and the Mayfair and Camden editions.

The limited-run vehicle will be sold solely in British Racing Green – just like the original race cars - and is based around the same core as the JCW edition currently on sale. Incidentally, it was Sir Jack Brabham that won back-to-back titles at the wheel of the JCW Coopers, taking eleven race wins during these two seasons.

As for the World Championship 50, no performance revisions have been installed, which means that it still houses the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the standard JCW version that generated 208hp (155kW) and 192lb-ft (260Nm) of top torque.

Standard features include a paint scheme called Connaught Green, white racing stripes, black leather trim with red piping, Bluetooth, a stereo system by Harman Kardon, 17 inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, and interior and exterior trim of carbon fiber.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hybrids to make up one in five U.S. car sales by 2020

It’s no strange we see more and more hybrids on the road!

Last year, there were some 480,000 total hybrid vehicles sold around the world, which represents a little less than 1% of global sales. Though, with fuel prices, ever-stricter emissions rules, more favorable incentives and higher fuel economy standards, the hybrid will soon be getting an even push from both consumers and government. It’s predicted that 11.28 million hybrids will be sold annually by 2020, representing over 13-percent of all vehicles sold, according to a recent study conducted by JPMorgan.

Much of that increase in sales will be attributed to the United States, as the report suggests that hybrids will capture nearly 20 percent of the total market share in this country.

In addition, another factor driving the increase sales of hybrid vehicle will be a drastic reduction in the cost of hybrid technology. Right now hybrids cost about $5,667 more than their standard counterparts, but by 2020 that's estimated to plummet to just $1,890.

Of course, more hybrids also mean more business for hybrid component suppliers, which worked in a $3.16 billion market last year. JPMorgan estimates that market will swell to $23.6 billion by the end of the next decade.

What do you think about that number?

Jaguar unwraps Police pursuit XF for the UK

We've all seen the odd supercar in police livery, but it's another thing entirely when the police are actually considering buying fleets of one of the market's highest-rated luxury vehicles. That's exactly what’s happening in the UK as Jaguar has just released a high-performance police pursuit version of its popular XF saloon.

Based on the standard XF diesel S model, which isn't sold in the U.S., the Police pursuit XF gets the usual visual upgrades - lights, paintwork, upgraded electronics - while keeping the standard 3.0L V6 diesel engine rated at 271hp (202kW) and 440lb-ft (595Nm) of torque. "Police forces are looking for vehicles that represent value for money, have good environmental credentials and deliver the power and performance required of a pursuit vehicle," said Geoff Cousins, UK Managing Director for Jaguar Cars.

The Police-spec Jaguar XF manages a thrifty 35mpg (US) and emissions of 179g CO2 per kilometer. But it's also got to be quick, or the baddies will get away, right?

"We hope that with this amount of torque on tap – and a 0-60mph time of 5.9 seconds, we will meet and exceed the exacting standards of any Police Officer driving this car." said Cousins.

Right now there are no confirmed plans of any force to purchase the car, but it is being evaluated all over the UK. Retail pricing in the UK starts at £36,900 ($58,925) for the Jaguar XF Diesel S, but the pricing of the Police model hasn't been anounced.

Vath tuned the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate to V63 RS

Vath released today their latest programme for the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate, dubbed V63RS. Though carbon emissions taxes and fuel efficiency requirements are throwing a bit of a wet blanket on the horsepower wars, especially in Europe, Vath’s programme upgrades the 6.2-liter V8 engine of the vehicle to an impressive 585 hp(436kW) and 690 Nm(510lb-ft) of torque - - up 130hp (97kW) and 90Nm (66lb-ft) over the stock values.
With that power, the V63 RS has now a top speed of 325 km/h which means that the family car can leave a Porsche way behind! But it is barely on par with a stock Audi RS6 Avant, though its 6.2L V8 is a very different beast than the twin-turbo V10 in the RS6.

The V63 RS Estate also adds a small factory's worth of carbon fiber accessories, including hood, rear diffuser and interior trim (sports buckets, an optional roll-cage replacing the rear seats and a TV/DVD unit), ensuring a unique look and improved performance.

Other performance upgrades include 20in alloy wheels fitted with high-performance Michelin tires, 9in wide in the front and 10.5in wide in the rear, to help provide the grip that all that power will need.

Win a Custom 2010 Ford Mustang GT from Chip Foose

It’s not exaggerated to say that Chip Foose's gets in the realm of car design and custom hot rods, each of the vehicles he builds ends up being a work of art. Now Chip Foose builds a Custom 2010 Ford Mustang GT to the winner of a free contest.

The car's build sheet reads like a sponsor dream list, with Magnaflow exhaust, Edelbrock supercharger, Foose wheels, Pirelli tires, Baer brakes, Bilstein shocks, Eibach springs, Royal Purple lubricants and Roush body work. It was actually built by Foost as part of Spike TV's MuscleCar series.

The contest is being run through Spike's PowerblockTV site. Those who wish to be part of the contest can register for free at the site. The contest will run until October 12 this year. So get going!

Porsche takes overall victory at 2009 Nurburgring 24-hour race

Last week, a total of 235,000 spectators witnessed the 2009 Nurburgring 24-hour race, and Porsche has won the race for the fourth successive times, with seven Porsche race cars finished in the top ten. The first place title goes to the Manthey Racing team after its 480hp (358kW) Porsche 911 GT3 RSR managed to rack up 155 laps during the event. Spending time behind the wheel were Timo Bernhard (Germany), Marc Lieb (Germany), Romain Dumas (France), as well as Marcel Tiemann (Monaco), who completed the last laps.

Clocking up 3,933km (2,443mi) the Manthey Racing squad improved on its own distance record from 2006 by a further 101km (62.8mi). Furthermore, Timo Bernhard and Marcel Tiemann are the first drivers to win the long distance classic four times in succession. All in all, Tiemann has climbed to the top of the podium five times, making him the most successful driver of the 24-hour race.

Just one lap behind was Audi’s new R8 LMS race car, but with seven 911 race cars in the top ten there’s no denying that Porsche was easily the most successful manufacturer.

Up against the Porsches were many strong competitors, including the aforementioned Audi R8 LMS, two prototypes of the upcoming Lexus LF-A supercar, six Aston Martins and a GT4 BMW M3.

Overall result for 2009 Nurburgring 24-hour race:
1. Bernhard/Lieb/Dumas/Tiemann, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 155 laps
2. Abt/Hemroulle/Kaffer/Luhr, Audi R8 LMS, 154
3. Collard/Henzler/Lietz/Werner, Porsche GT3 Cup S, 152
4. Alzen/Bert/Arnold/Mies, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 150
5. Basseng/Fässler/Rockenfeller/Stippler, Audi R8 LMS, 149
6. Schmitz/Abbelen/Althoff/Heyer, Porsche 911 GT3, 149
7. Kräling/Gindorf/Scharmach/Holzer, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 149
8. Bermes/Kainz/Schmickler/Bergmeister, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup S, 148
9. Quinn/Quinn/Baird/Denyer, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 146
10. Adams/Ludwig/Meier/Grossmann, BMW Z4 M Coupe, 145

2009 Infiniti EX35 pricing start from $33,800

Infiniti today announced pricing for its 2009 model year Infiniti EX35 luxury SUV, which officially goes on sale nationwide on May 29th through authorized dealerships.

The 2009 Infiniti EX35 comes in either RWD or AWD options. And the cheapest model is available at a price of $33,800 for the RWD version. Additionally, the RWD Journey will be priced at $35,200 while the AWD and AWD Journey will be sold at $36,000 and $37,400 respectively.

All models come standard with a 297hp (222kW) 3.5L V6 engine matched to a 5-speed automatic. There are several standard features, including leather-appointed seating, RearView Monitor, rear HVAC vents and roof rails. The EX35 RWD Journey model adds a standard 6-disc CD player, power tilt/telescoping steering column, coat hanger on the driver’s headrest and dual-zone automatic temperature control.

“Since its introduction, the Infiniti EX has been a showcase of cutting edge technology, including the advanced Around View Monitor, Lane Departure Prevention, Intelligent Cruise Control and Intelligent Brake Assist,” said Ben Poore, vice president, Infiniti Business Unit. “We want to make sure that every EX buyer has a chance to experience the best of Infiniti’s
inspired technology by offering the various packages at great values.”

The new feature packages of Infiniti including an Around View Monitor (AVM) Package, which utilizes four small front, side and rear-mounted cameras to give the driver a ‘top-down view’ of the outside of the vehicle and help reduce blind spots when parking. Also available is a Technology Package, with lane-departure warning systems, active cruise control, brake assist, and forward collision warning. Other packages include a Bose and Navigation system and optional 18in wheels.

2010 Cadillac SRX goes on sale this summer, priced from $34,155

Cadillac’s model lineup is about to expand with the addition of two exciting new models: the 2010 Cadillac SRX crossover and 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon. Now Cadillac announced that the 2010 SRX Crossover is to go on sale next month, price starting from $34,155.

Production of the 2010 SRX crossover will be handled in Mexico at GM's Ramos Arizpe plant. The 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon, meanwhile, will go on sale in late this summer but did not release pricing.

Cadillac has decided to offer the 2010 SRX with a single engine option, in this case a 3.0L direct-injected V6 with 260hp (193kW) and 221lb-ft (300Nm) of torque on tap. Its makers say fuel economy in the mid-20s on the highway is expected, but testing isn’t complete. A six-speed Hyrdra-Matic 6T70 automatic transmission also gets revised ratios to help cut fuel usage, while a standard AWD system improves handling in both dry and inclement weather.

“The 2010 SRX will deliver excellent, balanced driving dynamics

in all types of weather,” said Bob Reuter, global vehicle chief engineer. “The all-wheel-drive system with electronic limited slip effectively transfers torque not only from front to rear, but also along the rear axle. This system sets a new benchmark for all all-wheel-drive systems, giving the driver control and confidence on any road surface.”

Standard safety equipment includes a range of front, side and curtain airbags plus dual pre-tensioners and load limiters on the front seat belts. A rollover mitigation sensor ties into the traction control system to kelp keep the shiny side up, and trailer stability assist helps keep the cart from getting before the horse.

The midsize luxury crossover segment remains strong in the U.S. despite new vehicle sales reaching 30-year lows. The segment currently accounts for nearly one quarter of all luxury vehicles sold in the U.S. market. The Cadillac believes that the new SRX presents an attractive offer to consumers, while taking on the traditional segment leader aggressively. Key competitors include the Lexus RX, Acura MDX, and BWW X3 and X5 SUVs.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2010 Lexus HS 250h first drive

Toyota’s premium division, Lexus, get us a new 2010 Lexus HS 250h, which is claimed to be not only the world's first hybrid-only luxury sedan, but also the most fuel-friendly luxury vehicle extant. The 2010 Lexus HS 250h is actually Lexus’ fifth foray into the world of fusing gasoline and electricity; the LS 600h, GS 450h and two generations of hybrid RXs have been met with varying degrees of sales success.

During the launch, Lexus was at pains to make sure we did not confuse this car with the Prius. The Lexus is certainly destined to be more expensive and exclusive than Toyota's popular hybrid, but it's also a fundamentally different type of car.

What's under the hood is the start of the divergence: the HS 250h gets its own version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive hybrid system, combining a 147hp, 2.4L four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine with a 40hp electric motor system, together making 187hp. That gives the HS the oomph to get to 60mph in just 8.4 seconds, about 1.5 seconds quicker than the Prius.

That leads to less efficiency, of course. EPA fuel economy ratings are 35mpg city, 34mpg highway - It is not as green as Prius and Insight, but the city number blows away any other compact luxury sedan in the North American market, including the diesel BMW 335d, which is rated at 23 mpg around town and 33 mpg on the highway.

As with most hybrids, however, real-world conditions proved a bit less forgiving than the optimistic EPA ratings. We saw about 30mpg keeping with fast-moving Orange County traffic, then in a separate loop, driving the HS aggressively on a short 12-mile stretch of hilly roads, mileage dropped below 22mpg. In exceptionally gentle, controlled conditions on level roads, the HS eked out 46mpg - about the same you'd expect from the Prius in normal, with-traffic driving.

The root cause of the difference in efficiency between the Prius and HS 250h isn't just under the hood, however. At 3,682lb, the HS weighs a whopping 600lb more than the 2010 Prius and about the same as the bigger Camry Hybrid - which, by the way, can out-accelerate the HS.

All that weight comes from somewhere, and a quick perusal of the spec sheet shows a fair bit of its technology - the kind of tech that drives gadget fiends wild. In addition to LS-like high-tech features such as Intuitive Park Assist, a new heads-up display, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, front and rearview monitors, and Lane-Keep Assist, the HS 250h also adds the very slick haptic joystick control for the multimedia/navigation interface.

In addition, Lexus boasts that the HS 250h’s interior is the first vehicle to use Ecological Plastic for its upholstery. Made from plants, using a photosynthesis process, it can be reclaimed through thermal recycling, which is near-carbon-neutral. It’s just a start, but it amounts to around 30 percent of the interior and luggage trim area.

Overall, 2010 Lexus HS 250h is appealing for its well-built interior and quiet ride, which it owes to details like an acoustic windshield and triple-layer door seals. In addition to its quiet interior, it is silent outside too, so much so that some sort of motor “noise” should be added for safety sake to remind you that the vehicle is running or to let a pedestrian know the car is about to move.

The new HS 250h will no doubt appeal greatly to those who value the hybrid badge and the Lexus label above all else. It’s predicted that more than some buyers would expect in a Lexus HS.

BRUSA Unveils Electric Roadster Concept

BRUSA, a Swiss company that specializes in building efficient power electronics and EV components, has just unveiled its biggest and most ambitious project: the Spyder, a new all-electric roadster. It’s hoped to one day competing against established electric sports cars such as the Tesla Roadster.

The Spyder will be powered by two synchronous electric motors. Each provides 127 horsepower to one of the rear wheels, and that should push the Spyder to upwards of 270 hp. Top speed is pegged at 125mph, with a 0-62mph time of just under 6 seconds. The car’s battery should be enough to take it over an 80-mile range with an average speed of 50mph. It will take 3 hours to charge to 60% capacity, but a sunroof-mounted solar panel can help speed up charging.

The car’s design is heavily influenced by a number of European manufacturers, most notably elements of certain Porsche vehicles can be seen in its profile and front-end. One thing is evident, though. The car’s design is no doubt intended for sporting applications.

No word yet on production but with other small start-ups, such as Swiss rival Protoscar, also working on electric sports cars we should start seeing much more competition for the Tesla Roadster in the near future.

Chevrolet Camaro Convertible officially confirmed for 2011, while Camaro Z28 canceled

GM officially confirmed that the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible will be launched in March 2011.

In an interview with Automotive News, GM spokesman Terry Rhadigan has said that production of the highly anticipated Camaro Convertible is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2011. He went on to concede that this will be a few months later than the originally planned late 2010 launch. "We always thought it would be one year after the coupe," he said. "Instead we are going two."

But there is some bad news that GM’s plans for a high-performance Camaro Z28 had been canceled. The Z28, GM was planning to add the 550hp (410kW) 6.2L V8 engine from the Cadillac CTS-V to the Camaro’s engine bay in an effort to destroy any chances of the Dodge Challenger SRT8 and Shelby Mustang GT claiming the title of ‘modern-day muscle car king’. Sadly, the Z28’s expected $50 million development price tag, impending 35.5mpg CAFE implications, and niche status meant it was virtually dead from the start.

Opel Insignia OPC Sports Tourer breaks cover

Following last month’s reveal of the 325hp (242kW) Opel Insignia OPC comes the wagon or ‘Opel Insignia OPC Sports Tourer’, which is set to go on sale in Opel and Vauxhall showrooms in UK this coming autumn. The price is not yet announced. In some market, the OPC Sports Tourer is also known as Insignia VXR Sports Tourer.

OPC, which stands for Opel Performance Center, is the name given to models developed by GM’s official in-house tuner in Europe, and in the past has been used for cars like the Astra and compact Corsa hatchbacks. OPC models are rebadged as VXRs when sold under the UK’s Vauxhall brand.

Like its sedan counterpart, the OPC Sports Tourer comes packing the same twin-turbocharged powerplant, sophisticated AWD chassis and a sub-six second 0-60mph time. The only discernable difference between the sedan and Sports Tourer is the extra storage space of the wagon body, which offers 540L of load space with the 40:60 split rear seats up and 1,530L when folded down.

The Insignia OPC is the first model from the performance division to be offered with AWD and is available in sedan, hatch and Sports Tourer wagon bodystyles. Highlights are a ‘HiPerStrut’ (High Performance Strut) front suspension system, an adaptable AWD system with an electronic Limited Slip Differential and a 10mm reduction in ride height over the standard Insignia.

The HiPerStrut system is unique to the OPC model and serves two primary functions: firstly, to reduce torque-steer, but also to maintain negative camber during cornering, thereby improving ultimate grip levels in wet or dry conditions. Drive comes from a 2.8L V6 turbocharged engine rated at 325hp (242kW), which is enough to send the car from 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds and an electronically controlled top speed of 155mph.

Complementing these features are standard 19in alloy wheels (20in lightweight forged alloys are available at an extra cost), revised bushing and damper settings on both axles, and Brembo brakes with color-keyed calipers and vented and cross-drilled discs.

People have six option of exterior colours, any of which should sit quite well with the deep bumpers, the front mesh grille and the dual matt chrome exhausts. Inside there are Recaro front seats, a new steering wheel, gearknob and unique moldings, as well as different instrument graphics and sill plates.

The carmaker is confident that people who had previously only bought cars like the Audi S4 Avant and the BMW 335i M Sport Touring would seriously start considering getting into the Opel Insignia OPC Sports Tourer.

BMW's new weather forecast GPS system

What’s the most terrible thing for you while driving? Traffic jar? Ticket for speeding? I’m sure one of them must be the bad weather. But it’s very considerate that BMW is offering a special GPS system that takes the weather forecast to a new level and help to get people away from rain and hail and towards blue skies and sunshine.

This service with the special GPS system is the BMW's latest ConnectedDrive system, also described as an on-board precipitation radar. Featuring a graphic display, the system is updated every 15 minutes with weather information, showing drivers the geographic distribution of rain, snow and hail. The system shows this information for both the current location and the destination in real-time.

Additionally, BMW said that it will add a menu option called Precipitation Pattern from July 2009 which will provide cloud movement representation in animation from the previous 90 minutes.

The system is on offer in Germany at the moment, and will be compatible with any cars using BMW's ConnectedDrive, meaning it could be fairly easy to incorporate into American vehicles - whether or not BMW will offer this service in North America, however, remains uncertain but there shouldn't be too many hurdles in bringing it over.

Mitsubishi Evolution X FQ-400 coming to the UK in June

The Mitsubishi Evolution X FQ400 has been rumored for months. Now Mitsubishi officially takes the wraps off this Evolution X FQ-400. But unfortunately it will never make it to the United States, the FQ-400 will be exclusively available in the UK.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X FQ-400 is the fastest and most extreme version of Mitsubishi’s motorsport-derived machine. Power comes from a 2.0L turbocharged MIVEC gasoline engine making 403-hp with a maximum torque of 387 lb-ft, the FQ-400 is able to reach 62mph (100km/h) from standstill in an estimated 3.8 seconds before reaching its electronically limited 155mph top speed.

The brutally quick acceleration is aided by the Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) four-wheel-drive system which appropriates power to the wheels that can best use it. Increasing the FQ-400’s cornering ability even further over its FQ relatives is a wider track and lowered suspension featuring Eibach springs and Bilstein Shock Absorbers. Lightweight 18in, nine spoke alloy wheels fitted with Toyo Proxes R1R tires enhance the FQ-400’s grip. The enhanced agility and performance is backed by a revised braking system which uses aerospace grade aluminum alloys and floating sealed discs grabbed by high performance pads.

Getting all that power out of the relatively tiny 2.0L powerplant required major revisions to the base unit. Motorsport specification high-flow fuel injectors are fitted to the aluminum cylinder head and a new hybrid turbocharger is also fitted. The higher specification turbocharger features low-friction bearings, a high temperature turbine and strengthened thrust bearing to increase response and reduce turbo lag. Feeding the turbocharger cooled air, improving its performance and efficiency, is an enhanced intercooler, while the exhaust’s gases flow from the engine via a 3in diameter high flow stainless steel piping and catalytic converter before exiting through a centrally positioned exhaust.

In addition, the Mitsubishi Evolution X FQ-400 is fully loaded with Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, a CD tuner with 30 gig hard drive, a satellite navigation system, automatic lights and wipers, and a host of other tech and comfort features.

Mitsubishi plans on producing just 100 examples of the FQ-400, which will be going on sale from next month in the UK with a price tag starting at £49,999 ($79,641 USD).

Bugatti’s more exclusive Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport enters production

Bugatti Veyron, known for its ultra-high price tag, outstanding automotive solutions, artistic designs and driving dynamics, always attract people’s attention and make surprise for who love it. Now Bugatti is offering an even more exclusive ‘roofless’ version labeled the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport.

First launched at last year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California, Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport is now go into production at the company’s high-tech assembly facility in Molsheim, France. The production will be extremely limited to a total of 150 units over lifetime, and the first 50 will be made available exclusively to existing Bugatti owners. The very first build slot for the car was auctioned off at the Pebble Beach event to a wealthy buyer who paid $2.9 million for the privilege. The other 149 cars are priced at €1.4 million (approximately $2 million).

Despite being labeled a roadster, the Grand Sport actually features a removable targa style roof that must be stored away manually before setting off for a drive. According to Bugatti’s communication chief, Georges Keller, the roofless targa option was the only one available because there was no other solution which could fit with the Veyron’s safety cage. Most low-volume supercars use targa panels because of the low cost of development and to retain the structural integrity of the chassis.

With the roof in place, the Grand Sport will reach speeds of up to 252mph (407km/h) just like the hard-top. Speeds of up to 224mph (360km/h) are possible with the roof stowed away, which will ensure the Grand Sport remains the world’s fastest roadster for some time to come.

The interior comes with moisture-resistant, backstitched leather, a slew of new equipment which includes a reversing camera with 2.7-inch monitor inbuilt in the rear view mirror, and a sound system with digital signal processor from Puccini.

Despite its 1.4 million Euro price tag, 30 of the convertible Veyrons are already spoken for, and the happy owners should take delivery some time around July.

Monday, May 25, 2009

ABT Sportsline adds AS5 package to new A5 Cabrio

ABT Sportsline, a long-time Audi tuner with very close ties to the German carmaker’s motorsport division, launched the ABT AS5 Audi A5 Cabrio upgrade program.

The new AS5 kit has previously been launched for the A5 Coupe but now it is being applied for the full A5 Cabrio range. The AS5 kit includes a new front grille, a 4-pipe exhaust unit, a new front apron and the side sills and 19" or 20" rims. Under the bonnet is a series of power upgrades achieved via tuning of the different engines’ electronic control modules.

Starting with the 2.0L TFSI model, ABT lifts output to 275hp (202kW). With the 2.7L TDI, the standard 190hp (140kW) output becomes a much stronger 230hp (169kW). Next in line is the 3.0L diesel, which is increased in output to 282hp (207kW). Finally, a special ‘Power S’ kit for the 3.0L V6 turbodiesel sees output increased even further to 310hp (228kW).

The tuner also offers for the ABT AS5 Audi A5 Cabrio a new braking system and suspension hardware required by the increased output of the models.

Both 19 and 20-inch wheels are available, in the "cool bold BR alloys" style. Also on offer are the more exclusive ABT wheel sets with high-performance tires for maximum road munching traction.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ultra-rare 1936 Lincoln ‘Aero-Mobile’ modified by Howard Hughes up for sale

It’s not every day that one of the rarest cars in the world comes up for auction, and it’s even rarer still when that vehicle forms part of the legacy of one of the world's most intriguing and famous individuals - Howard Hughes.

Hughes may be best known for his construction of the wooden 'Spruce Goose', which currently claims the record for the largest flying boat ever built, but the industrious American socialite also built several interesting works. As an American aviator, industrialist, and film producer/director, he became one of the richest men in the world - but his wealth never stopped him from building astonishing machines to help him break world records. This is where his work as an aviator meets the automotive world, with his heavily modified limousine.

Beginning with a 1936 Lincoln K Model V12 Limousine, Hughes reportedly took the car and converted it into what he thought a 1936-37 Boat Tail Speedster should really look like. After a lengthy process during which the entire car was redesigned and restructured, the result was an astonishingly aerodynamic vehicle that hence became known as the 'Aero-Mobile'.

Hughes reduced the weight of the car by "thousands of pounds", and coupled with a modified engine and exhaust system it was able to cruise at speeds in excess of 100mph - virtually unheard of in that time for a passenger car, but somehow fitting as a car to match Hughes' nature as an adventurer and aviator.

With its classic good looks at the front and the home-made, bolted-on appearance of a tail on the back, the car will not be winning any beauty contests in the near future, but as a testament to Hughes' ingenuity it is certainly second to none.

The car will be sold at the Leake Collector Car Auctin in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 13th.

Mini unveils Mayfair and Camden 50th Anniversary special editions

To celebration its 50th year of production, BMW’s Mini brand launched a pair of special editions to commemorate the milestone. They are 50 Mayfair and 50 Camden, which are launched at the marque’s 50th birthday party at the United Festival at Silverstone in Great Britain.

The names of the two models were chosen for London boroughs known alternately for exclusivity (50 Mayfair) and trendy urban culture (50 Camden). Their designs reflect those names with fitting accessories and intentions.

Both cars can be had with a choice of two gasoline engines or a diesel. The bigger of the two gasoline units offers 172hp (128kW) and 37.9mpg thanks to a four-pot fitted with a twin-scroll turbo. The second engine generates 118hp (88kW) and gets a very green 43.6mpg combined, while the diesel goes one further, turning out 107hp (80kW) and a very thrifty 60mpg. Both can also be ordered with either six-speed automatics or six-speed manuals.

Each car gets special paintwork, unique alloy rims, special interior materials and surfaces and a range of colors tailored to each car's purpose. A special placard is also affixed to each car, marking them out as limited-run models.

For the Mayfair, Mini decided to go for comfort and extravagance, with Toffy color Lounge leather upholstery and white piping, turquoise-green accents throughout the cabin, and Carbon Black interior finish elements to offset the brown-black dashboard.

Twelve-spoke 17in alloy wheels, a choice of Chocolate Brown, Pepper White or Midnight Black exterior colors, extra headlights inset at the grille, pinstriping and unique Mayfair badging complete the treatment.

A less classic look adorns the Camden, aiming for a more progressive theme. A choice of silver, white or black standard colors, plus Midnight Black or Horizon Blue metallics give the Camden a wider range of choice. Dual-tone matte/polished 17in alloy wheels also play off their unique look and finish.

Fluid Silver trim panels and doors plus leather-surfaced sport seats with green and white seams accent the cabin, and more turquoise green highlights offset the darker interior colors. Camden badging along with a range of smaller tweaks completes the look.

Both cars also come with an exclusive HiFi system with USB support and 'Mission Control' - a system that processes and evaluates a wide range of vehicle, driving and ambient signals, providing the driver with safety notifications and comfort settings.

Both cars will be launched into the market in September 2009, production of the MINI 50 Mayfair and the MINI 50 Camden starting exactly fifty years after the official presentation of the classic Mini and being limited to just one year.

Volkswagen launches new 28mpg Touareg TDI BlueMotion SUV

We know that Volkswagen has been introducing low CO2-emitting variants of several of its mainstream car models under the BlueMotion banner. The latest addition to that lineup is new Touareg TDI BlueMotion SUV, which is just released in Europe and comes with a 225hp (168kW) V6 TDI turbodiesel engine.

This is the same engine found in the regular Touareg TDI clean diesel model that was launched recently in the U.S., but thanks to a number of fuel saving modifications the BlueMotion model is up to 10% more fuel-efficient than the already frugal standard model.

According to its maker, the new Touareg TDI BlueMotion has a fuel economy of just 28mpg (8.3L/100km). What’s more impressive is that this is more fuel-efficient than even the hybrid version due next year, which in prototype form is averaging around 26mpg (9L/100km).

To enhance fuel economy, engineers have installed low rolling resistance tires, installed new engine components to reduce friction, and lowered the vehicle by 25mm to reduce drag.

The Touareg TDI BlueMotion is now available for order. Pricing starts at €50,450 (approximately $70,500) in Europe and no word on a U.S. launch has been given.

2001 BMW Z8

2001 BMW Z8Maximum speed (km / h) - 250Acceleration 0-100 km / h (s) - 4.7Urban consumption (l/100 km) - 21.1Extra consumption (l/100 km) - 10.6Average consumption (l/100 km) - 14.52001 BMW Z8Size, weight, capacityBody Type - ConvertibleNumber of doors - 2Length / width / height (mm) - 4400 / 1830 / 1317Wheelbase / Front track - rear (mm) - 2505 / 1552 - 1568Coefficient Cx - Surface Front (m2) -

Friday, May 22, 2009

MEC Design Unveils New Mercedes Benz S-Class Tuning Package

European tuning experts MEC Design, which specialize in Mercedes-Benz and have an extensive range of extraordinary tuning and styling products, are launching their latest body kit for the Mercedes-Benz S Class.

With one of the most comprehensive customization jobs we've seen in a while, the staff at MEC Design have not left one aspect of the S-Class’ exterior untouched, right down to their custom designed wheel spacers. The customization list begins with unique wheels that range from 18 to 22in and alone cost up to $13,000.

MEC Design hooked up this Mercedes Benz S-Class with chrome three-piece wheels measuring 11×20 in the front and 13×20 in the rear. Hankook tires are the standard for these wheels and measure 285/25 ZR20 in the front and 325/25 ZR20 in the rear. To give the car a clean flush look for the rims, 10mm spacers were installed in the front and 19mm spacers in the back.

Other modifications include a custom front apron, a redesigned rear bumper, a new rear spoiler and side-skirts fitted with LED lights, which altogether will set you back $9,700. With the new bodykit in place the car already sits much lower to the ground than the stock version, but an electronic lowering module gets it another 70mm closer.

To match the new aggressive look, MEC Design also offers upgraded front and rear mufflers with a special 'Loud' option for the S63 AMG model. Customers can also opt to have the 155mph speed limiter removed, as well as uprated brakes and performance tires.

Finally, a smorgasbord of interior adjustments is available, including a rear desk and curtains. Other goodies include custom steering wheels, leather floor mats and unique trim elements across the dash.

Mitsubishi unleashes Evolution X FQ-330 SST

Mitsubishi has added a new model to its already extensive 7-strong model range of Evolution X cars in UK, that’s Mitsubishi Evolution X FQ-330 SST.

Mitsubishi's FQ line of hotted-up rally cars has long been a fan favorite, and for good reason. The latest iteration pumps power to 329hp (242kW) at 6,500rpm and churns torque up to 322lb-ft (437Nm) at a comfortably mid-range 3,500rpm. That's enough to shoot the beastie to 62mph (100km/h) in 4.4 seconds, thanks in part to the super-slick SST twin-clutch transmission.

The FQ-330 SST joins the FQ-300 SST, rated at 295hp (217kW) and 300lb-ft (407Nm) and good for 4.7 seconds to 62mph. Both are electronically capped at 155mph (250km/h) max speed. The FQ-300 starts at £32,999, while bigger brother FQ-330 takes off from £35,999. For FQ-300 SST owners, the car can be upgraded to FQ-330 stats for a fee via a 'power upgrade pack.'

All the extra power in the FQ-330 comes from an improved intake and exhaust and an ECU remap. The intake includes not just the filter element and housing, but a new intercooler piping kit and a racing suction pipe. The exhaust is enhanced from the downpipe through the tailpipe, including new high-flow catalytic converters. Neither the FQ-330 or FQ-300 rival the rumored FQ-400, however.

Other key features of the FQ-330 SST include Mitsubishi's special S-AWC AWD system, 18in Enkei alloys, Brembo brakes, Eibach springs, Bilstein shocks, Recaro seats and an ample array of comfort and convenience features including Bluetooth, iPod/MP3 support and satellite navigation. People can also choose from one of four exterior colour options.

The car is available for order in the UK now. It'll cost you £35,999, which is £3,000 more than an FQ-300 SST, and £1,000 more than and manual FQ-330 GSR, which isn't too bad an outlay for a very effective piece of transmission technology.