Monday, February 28, 2011
On the whole, employees of car manufacturers reside in one of two camps: the hardcore petrolheads who’ve spent a lifetime dreaming of creating the ideal driving machine, and the number-crunching bean-counters that spend their days observing and analysing statistics and market trends, optimising sales and crushing the dreams of the first group. This is a successful formula in general terms, encouraging development and evolution within the industry whilst maintaining consistent sales through models that have a broad appeal. For aftermarket tuners and DIY mechanics, it’s a positive joy to tweak the aspects of a car that have been softened for mass consumption; stiffer suspension, lower profile tyres, less restrictive exhaust systems that would run the risk of pleasing a few but offending many if they were fitted in the mainstream.
So, everyone’s happy, yes? The accountants have lovely graphs where all the lines go upwards, Demon Tweeks are doing a roaring trade in spikey cams and carbon-fibre airboxes… but what about the in-house enthusiasts; the designers, developers and engineers? How do these poor souls react to having their vision diluted so callously.
They rebel, that’s how. Look at the original Golf GTI: VW bosses wanted the Golf to be a sort of upmarket take on the Mini, with low weight, diminutive dimensions and maximised interior space. The engineers wanted it to be quick and fun. They built the prototype in their spare time… and management loved it. Absolutely loved it. And you know how successful that was Fast-forward a few decades and the cheeky scamps at Wolfsburg were at it again. OK, the goalposts had shifted somewhat – this wasn't so much an engineer-led project as the latest manifestation of the spiralling and ludicrous power war dominating the German motor industry – and we knew not to get our hopes up too high. They didn't actually build the W12-650 for public consumption.
Imagine if they did, though. Until the launch of the mkV, the Golf GTI had come under enormous criticism for its loss of focus; what began as a pure and playful thoroughbred evolved into something lardy and sluggish. The mkV GTI was a return to form, but some people wanted more. More grunt, more attitude, more thrust. The R32 addressed these issues, with a juicy V6 and a hateful disdain for other hot hatches. VW then wanted to show just how far they could stretch the formula… and it got really rather silly.
This may look like a Golf GTI that’s been tampered with by a backstreet chop-shop, but this is no trailer queen. Strolling past it, you might notice the twin fans in the back. Er, yes, there’s a 6-litre biturbo W12 under there. Which produces 641bhp. And that’s just ridiculous.The W12 isn’t really a W-configuration in the same way that the VR6 isn’t really a V; indeed the W12 is basically two VR6 engines bolted to a common crank. The most common application of this engine in a similar state of tune? That’ll be the Bentley Continental GT. OK, so we have a Volkswagen Golf with a Bentley engine mounted in the middle – a Bentley engine that has been significantly tuned, no less – with 641bhp. Silly enough for you? How about if I mention that it will hit sixty in 3.7 seconds, going on to a v-max of 201mph? The lunatics, if not actually taking over the asylum, had certainly distributed a few propaganda leaflets.
The real bitch was that this was just a mule, a showcase of what VW could achieve when they put their minds to it. (Some might argue that it’s a glimpse of what would happen if the artisans had a freer reign, others that it serves to validate how fearful VW are of alienating their consumers by behaving in too extreme a manner.) By this token, unfortunately, it didn’t really achieve what it should have. Sure, it looked superb, the performance was brutal and genuinely impressive, but there was a lack of finesse that ruined the whole project. While it worked to their credit that journalists were allowed to drive the car – by no means a given with your average one-off prototype – reports of questionable brakes and downright dangerous handling dynamics were rife.Still, who gives a toss about that? It’s a 200mph Golf with a fucking Bentley engine. The world needs more behaviour like this. We need to regain faith that these colossal conglomerates are still based on boundless enthusiasm and a genuine desire to excel. The passion exists, it just needs to be nurtured
Suzuki has announced that its updated-for-2009 Grand Vitara will hit showrooms Australia-wide in September, bringing with more power, better economy and greater safety than the outgoing model, along with a few minor cosmetic upgrades.
Two new petrol engines join the Grand Vitara range, with a 2.4-litre inline four replacing the old 1.6 and 2-litre units and a new 3.2-litre V6 taking up residence in the Grand Vitara Prestige. Both engines are equipped with variable valve timing (intake cam only on the 2.4-litre and both intake and exhaust on the 3.2) and both are smoother, quieter and more refined than the outgoing motors.
The 2.4-litre engine also features a variable-length intake manifold, which can change the length of the inlet tract to help improve torque production across the rev range and improve efficiency. Combined with the VVT system, the 2.4-litre four is capable of busting out a respectable 122kW while delivering an admirable fuel consumption figure of just 8.8 litres per 100km when equipped with the 5-speed manual gearbox.
With an extra 500cc over the outgoing 2.7-litre V6, the 165kW 3.2-litre donk in the Grand Vitara Prestige still manages to deliver an ADR economy figure of 10.5 litres per 100km, which makes it 9 per cent more frugal than its smaller predecessor. Power is also 22 per cent higher than the old engine and with its variable valve timing, roller rockers and silent drive system for its timing chain, it's easy to see why the 3.2L V6 is the flagship motor for the 2009 Grand Vitara. The 1.9-litre turbodiesel four carries over from the old model, and has been warmed over by Suzuki's engineers for an improved fuel economy figure of 7L/100km.
The 2.4-litre engine is available with either a 5-speed manual or a four-speed automatic, while the V6 comes with a 5-speed slushbox as the only option. All engines come hooked up to Suzuki's excellent 4x4 system, which features a dual-range transfer case and locking centre differential for when the going gets really tough. The Prestige V6 also comes equipped with hill descent control and hill hold control as standard.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Among folks fortunate enough to live outside the Snowbelt, all-wheel drive is usually brought up only in conjunction with pickup trucks and Jeep Wranglers. For those of us who have to deal with snow and freezing conditions for months every year, though, an all-wheel-drive car can be the difference between getting to work and getting stuck at the end of your driveway. Indeed, here in Michigan, just about every luxury ride on the road wears an “x” or “4MATIC” or “Quattro” badge on its rump, signifying four-wheel power, with the BMW 7-series being one of the only cars in its competitive set not to offer all-wheel drive. Until now.
Fitting all-wheel drive to a big rear-drive car, however, can run the risk of upsetting driving dynamics. Take the current BMW 535i xDrive. Like all xDrive systems, its variable torque split defaults to 40 percent front and 60 percent rear, with the ability to shuffle up to 100 percent of the available power to either axle should slippage occur. Yet, it understeers like a baseball player barreling headfirst into home plate because it's primarily focused on achieving maximum traction, rather than improving vehicle agility. Now imagine if the 7-series, which in short-wheelbase form has over seven more inches between the axles and at least 600 pounds on the 535i xDrive, were fitted with the same system. Dynamic disaster. So the engineers at BMW took that previous version of xDrive—currently used in the 3-series as well as the 5-series—and reconfigured it in such a way that the all-wheel-drive 7 handles just as well as, if not better than, its rear-drive sibling.
Big and Agile
Throw even the extended-wheelbase 750Li xDrive into a corner, and you’d think you were driving something the size of a 335i, with nicely weighted steering that gets a bit heavier as you go through a corner and the front wheels pull you through. Gone is the fun-killing understeer that was exhibited in the 535i xDrive, replaced by more neutral behavior.
Among the systems that help the all-wheel-drive 7 dance better than previous xDrive sedans is “performance control,” a torque-vectoring system already featured on the two-wheel-drive 7-series that applies light braking to the inside rear wheel while adding power to the outside rear wheel, correcting for understeer without the driver ever knowing. Additionally, the 7-series is fitted with active front and rear anti-roll bars that adjust to keep the pitch of the big sedan going in its intended direction. Remember the 535i xDrive’s sole focus on traction at the expense of dynamics, and the resulting push? Perhaps the most important characteristic of the new 7-series version of xDrive is that it will variably adjust from the normal 40/60 torque split to, say, 20/80 or 30/70 or whatever when cornering—the car knows when you're trying to push it hard, unlike the 5-series—further accentuating the feel of rear-wheel-drive agility while maintaining the benefits of four driven wheels. Additionally, the system can switch to a 0/100 split when parking (to avoid binding), while also maintaining the ability to send up to 100 percent of available power fore or aft should one set of wheels completely lose traction. The front-to-rear power ratios are not fixed, though, which allows the car’s computer to adjust back to the normal 40/60 torque split as it deems necessary. The result is, as we said, one seriously fine-handling luxo-barge, although it must be noted that only eight-cylinder 7-series customers will be able to opt for xDrive. It will not be offered on the forthcoming 12-cylinder 760i and 760Li.
The xDrive system adds 187 pounds over a standard 750i, with the car’s overall heft redistributed in such a way that only one additional percent of the car’s weight sits over the front axle, which assists the 7 in its handling prowess. The xDrive 750 will command a $2300 premium when it goes on sale this October—which is just in time to help us Snowbelters escape our snowy driveways.
On a recent trip to Canada I had the opportunity to drive a 2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet for a few days. Prior to hopping into the car in Toronto, I had gotten myself all pumped up about the fact that I’d soon be luxuriating in the power and beautiful noises courtesy of Audi’s 354-bhp 4.2-liter V-8, just like the one found in the S5 coupe we had at the R&T offices for our Road Test in the November 2007 issue. Imagine my surprise when I sat in the S5 cabrio’s superbly supportive driver’s seat, popped the canvas top, fired up the engine…and didn’t hear a rumbly V-8 exhaust note, but rather a V-6. Somewhere along the line this intrepid journalist missed the memo from Audi that the S5 cabrio would use the same supercharged 3.0 TFSI V-6 as our long-term S4 sedan, while the S5 coupe continues (oddly) to be powered by a normally aspirated V-8 (also of interest, the S5 coupe continues with the choice of either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed Tiptronic automatic, while the S5 cabrio comes only with a 7-speed dual-clutch S tronic gearbox).
No matter, the 3.0 TFSI is one of the best supercharged engines in the world, delivering 333 ultra-smooth horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque, which meant there was always plenty of passing power on hand while traversing Canada’s woodsy two-lane roads.
Personally I prefer the 6-speed manual in our S4 sedan, as that setup allows for you to become much more “one with the car” than the S tronic, which can be a little bit jerky in manual mode in stop-and-go traffic. I also don’t like that the S tronic automatically upshifts for you at redline, but it’s a decent gearbox regardless, with small paddle shifters on the steering wheel and great exhaust reverberations with each upshift.
The handling of the S5 cabrio, aided by standard Quattro all-wheel drive, is excellent. Aim the S5 through a corner and it goes exactly where you point it, with minimal body roll and lots of grip, while returning a more than reasonable ride for those times when you’re not pushing the pace. As to be expected, there is a bit of cowl shake.
The interior is first rate, capable of transporting four adults in comfort, although the rear-seat passengers suffer the usual top-down toussled hair syndrome, which afflicts pretty much all convertibles other than the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. I found the S5 cabrio’s single button to raise or lower all four windows quite handy. Trunk space is semi-reasonable.
In the end, while I had a great time driving the S5 cabrio and very much enjoyed the 3.0 TFSI V-6, I must admit I still prefer the S5 coupe’s thundering V-8. But probably not that car’s thirstier nature—14/22 city/highway mpg for the manual and 16/24 for the automatic, versus the S5 cabrio’s V-6/S tronic combo which returns 17/26 mpg.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
The 2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport ranks 7 out of 10 Luxury Large SUVs. This ranking is based on our analysis of 63 published reviews and test drives of the Land Rover Range Rover Sport, and our analysis of reliability and safety data.
If you want a luxurious SUV that can conquer remote trails, look good around town, and provide a sporty on-road driving experience, the Range Rover Sport might be just what you're looking for.
You'd be forgiving for thinking that the 2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is the Frankenstein of Land Rovers. It shares a platform with the Land Rover LR4, and engines with the Range Rover. It slots between the two in price, as well, but some people may mistake it for the more-expensive Range Rover --especially given the Range Rover Sport's Profile and name.
Still, according to reviewers, though the Range Rover Sport steals much of its DNA from other models, it's completely its own car. The Sport is a ruggedly capable off-road SUV that's also able to provide near-sports-car performance on the road, and features a cabin that wouldn't seem out of place in a much more expensive luxury car.
That's not to say the Sport is perfect. New-for-2010 engines provide ample power for any situation, but some reviewers say that the Sport's underpinnings (sourced from the LR$) have trouble handling the new Supercharged model's engine (sourced from the Range Rover) output. Plus, as a brand, Land Rover doesn't have the best reputation for reliability.
The new Chevrolet Aveo RS concept debuting at the Detroit auto show reveals that GM has something smart and small in the works ready to meet Ford’s much-ballyhooed new Fiesta subcompact.
Larger than the current Aveo and donning what Chevy calls a “European hot-hatch look,” the five-door “Borocay Blue” RS show car is intended to appeal to the youth market—or any market, really. It previews the production version of the next Aveo due as a 2011 or 2012 model. Raise the concept’s chin a tad, tone down the chrome-rimmed outer air inlets, and replace those aluminum-wrapped exposed headlights (circumscribed as they are in blue) with similar halogen units, and you’re staring into the face of the 2011 Aveo. De-flare the RS concept’s fenders and replace the 19-inch wheels with more feasible rollers and you get a good idea of what the rest of the car will look like—we’ve seen the production-ready base model, so we should know. There’s a sedan, too, although it’s more homely than the hatch. Of course, if Chevy ends up putting out an actual Aveo RS model with body mods like those seen here, we’re fine with that.
More hints about the next-gen car can be found in the Aveo RS’s leather-wrapped interior, a more spacious and rather highly designed piece of work. Production elements include the motorcycle-inspired, asymmetrical instrument cluster affixed to the column, as well as the prominent center stack. Blue stitching and other accents that match the exterior are sprinkled throughout the concept’s cabin, portending some probable interior color treatments in the next Aveo. The materials in the show car are quite nice. Indeed, given the popularity of premium hatchbacks in Europe and Japan, we could see a high-spec RS trim such as this going into production for other markets, although the fact that GM is showing it at Detroit indicates that it’s being considered for the U.S., too.
But cash-strapped GM may not be prioritizing super-high-output versions of cars like the Aveo in the near future. The Aveo RS concept is motivated by the 138-hp, 1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec four-cylinder slated to appear soon in the Chevrolet Cruze, in this case mated to a six-speed manual transmission. It’s likely that the base production Aveo will get a less powerful, naturally aspirated four. An actual RS model is probably a ways down the pike.
Late to the Fiesta
Chevy isn’t being specific about exactly when it will start building the next Aveo, which will happen at GM’s plant in Orion Township, Michigan. Retooling for the plant doesn’t start until late this year, so don’t expect Aveos to start hitting dealerships until next calendar year.
Friday, February 25, 2011
It seems like we’ve been waiting for the reveal of the new McLaren for a very long time. But on Monday we discovered the name – the McLaren MP4-12C – and this morning McLaren has revealed loads of detail – and photos – of their new car.
Known for so long by its code name – P11 – this MP4-12C is the first real McLaren since the legendary F1. And on the face of it it certainly looks like it has enough to offer to stand proud as the inheritor of McLaren’s reputation for exceptional road cars.
Not scheduled to go on sale until 2011, the MP4-12C is aimed at the heart of Supercar sales, expected to go on sale at a price a small notch above the latest offering from Ferrari – the 458 Italia – at around £160,ooo.
But the MP4-12C seems to offer more than the Ferrari. Not surprisingly, McLaren has gone the carbon fibre route with the MP4. McLaren has developed a Carbon MonoCell skeleton for the MP4 – a one piece structure which is clothed in aluminium and plastic body panels. The MonoCell weighs just 80kg, and is at the heart of the new McLaren’s light kerb weight, expected to be around 1.3 tonnes.
But what powers this mighty new McLaren? Not, as many expected, a McLaren engine based on a Mercedes block, but an entirely bespoke 3.8 litre, twin turbo V8 producing around 600nhp, which should give the MP4 performance of around 3.0 seconds to 60mph and a top speed of over 200mph. And McLaren reckon this new engine will give the lowest CO2 emissions per bhp of anything on the market – including hybrids – of less than 300h/km.
Electronic goodies? Yes, there are some, even though McLaren are seeking to make this a car that rewards the driver. There’s Brake-Steer, which uses the inside rear brake to automatically dial-out understeer. There’s also a new gearbox which McLaren has dubbed SSG (Seamless Shift Gearbox). Unlike a DSG ‘box which ‘Guesses’ which gear you are going for next, SSG works on a the same sort of basis as autofocus on a digital camera. A small touch on the box in the direction you want to go next warns the ‘box where you’re heading, and the SSG pre-selects it so the change, when it comes, is instant. Clever stuff.
Visually the MP4-12C sports scissor doors an looks every inch the Supercar. But McLaren hasn’t produced a be-winged ‘Look at Me’ supercar. The MP4-12C is subtle – even if the launch colour isn’t.
You won’t be surprised that McLaren has lots to say on the MP4-12C. Pages and pages of it. So if you want evcery single nut and bolt detail have a look at the McLaren MP4-12C Press Release. We’ll also get the rest of the photo gallery up in the next few hours, and a selection of McLaren MP4-12C wallpapers. We know you want them!
McLaren are back.
President of South Korea (Korea) Lee Myung-Bak will be the first to feel the car bulletproof result of South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai Equus.
As quoted tradingmarkets, car manufacturers from South Korea is also believed South Korean government to make 3 units bulletproof limousine devoted to protect the president’s 68-year-old.
Lee himself was only choose one of three cars are bulletproof limousine version of Equus results Hyundai Motor Co. manufacturers.
The success of Hyundai makes bulletproof car that marks the end use bulletproof cars made in America and Germany for the president.
Hyundai officials said that it deserved the South Korean leader to use domestic-made cars. And he insists if Hyundai was able to make bulletproof cars and is suitable for protecting the president.
“That has been consistent since the status of South Korea as the fifth largest car manufacturer in the world, it’s time for Lee to drive the president produced in the country,” said Hyundai officials.
He also added that only a handful of car manufacturers in the world who can make a bulletproof car. Car manufacturers, among others, BMW, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz.
Parties Hyundai also claims to build a car for the purposes of
presidency, then the vehicle will enhance the country brands when South Korea was appointed to host the G20 next year.
However, until the story was passed down the Hyundai Motor Co. are reluctant to give details of the president’s car, including pictures of the car was not disclosed for security reasons.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
The following is a performance-capsule review of the 2010 BMW M5. It is based on our analysis of 48 published reviews and test drives.
The 2010 BMW M5 flies like a bat out of hell. Test drivers, however, report that its handling dynamics make it more suitable for the track circuit than city streets. According to Left Lane News, "The BMW M5 sedan is the hot ticket for the enthusiast driver who needs a four-door sedan but wants performance on the far side of legal speeds, is comfortable with cutting-edge technology, and doesn't mind low fuel efficiency."
The 2010 BMW M5 is a performance-tuned variant of the 2010 BMW 5-Series -- which is praised for its excellent handling and power delivery, as well as its luxurious cabin and long list of convenience features.
Upping the ante with a 500-horsepower V10 engine and enhanced performance engineering, the 2010 BMW M5 adds a heckuva lot more power to the mix. "If you're into German ultra-performance in an otherwise practical sedan, and BMW is your brand, then this is your ride," writes Kelley Blue Book. "It's exclusive, expensive and seriously fast, and with more high-technology features than just about anything else on the road."
Still, the 2010 BMW M5's performance dynamics aren't universally praised. Many test drivers complain that it lacks typical BMW steering and transmission feel. Others add that it performs better on the track than road. Because road feel is a trait that's open to interpretation, interested shoppers should take the 2010 BMW M5 on a few lengthy test drives before signing on the dotted line.
This year's BMW M5 is a carryover from the 2009 model year. For 2010, the BMW M5 receives a revised version of BMW's iDrive multi-media system -- which should make it easier to use. The 2010 BMW M5 is only available in one trim and body style, a sport sedan.