Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Infiniti Essence Concept still has chances to be produced

The response to Infiniti’s Essence Concept at this year’s Geneva Motor Show has been nothing short of “phenomenal,” according to Infiniti exec Ben Poore who spoke to Motor Trend recently.

The elation wasn’t long-lasting however, since the audience at Geneva was told at the unveiling that the vehicle was only intended to be a concept. Nonetheless, there is a glimmer of hope since Infiniti has said that its stunning design will soon influence future vehicles. Poore had told Motor Trend that the concept, a twin-turbo V6 hybrid coupe capable of a combined 592 brake horsepower, is “only a show piece… for now.” We would be one of those who would be ecstatic to see a production car that will boast a twin-turbo 3.7-liter V6 with a lithium-ion backed disc-shaped electric motor.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The truth about Audi e-Tron’s 3319 lb-ft of torque

There was a time when people can’t seem to contain themselves when talking about Audi’s e-Tron Concept. But now that its claim to have 3319 lb-ft of torque has been explored, the enthusiasm for the concept, which is currently on display at the 2009 L.A. Motor Show, has waned quite a bit.

At the recently held Frankfurt Auto Show, the electric sports car was applauded for its 3319 lb-ft of torque, which is roughly ten times what most other cars have. Now that the e-Tron makes its North American debut in L.A., the excitement has been lessened somewhat due to the discovery that the E-tron’s real torque output is much closer to 300 lb-ft than 3000 lb-ft.

Audi wasn’t exactly lying; it was that it had used a different way of measuring torque. Audi measures the e-Tron’s 3319 lb-ft of torque at the wheels while other firms report peak torque at the output shaft of a motor or engine. The difference between torque at the wheels and at the powerplant is typically about ten-fold due to the torque multiplication effect of transmission and final drive gears. Having said that, Audi hasn’t revealed how much torque the e-Tron actually produces from its four electric motors. The E-tron has 19-inch wheels wrapped in 235/35 rubber.

The car is believed to have a top speed of 125 mph. Assuming that top speed is at the motors’ redline of 14,000 rpm, this would make it similar to the electric motor in the Tesla Roadster. From this, we can compare the rotational speed of the tires to that of the engine and then the gear ratio can be estimated. With a ratio of 13.2:1 for the e-Tron, the result is a total torque output at the motors of 252 lb-ft. This is still very impressive but far from the 3319 lb-ft boasted by the company. If you compare the E-tron to a Tesla Roadster that makes 273 lb-ft of torque with a V-8 R8 that produces 317 lb-ft, it really remains to be an awesome piece of work. An electric sports car that does 0-62 mph in 4.8 seconds is quite an achievement. And it disappoints no one that the e-Tron is headed for production.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Capstone CMT 380

One of the cars that stood out at the LA Auto Show was the Capstone CMT 380, a hybrid supercar with electric power from 96 lithium ion batteries and assistance from a 30 kw bio diesel powered micro turbine. Or what is essentially a jet engine. Designed by video game producer Richard Hilleman, the car is capable of an electronically limited 150mph top speed.

It is capable of accelerating to 60mph in 3.9 seconds. If in purely electric mode, it can go 80 miles but this extends to 500 miles when the turbine is brought into play. No figures are available for emissions but they are described to be “ultra-low.” Capstone is set to raise production next year, with 10 to 15 cars to be sold at £171,000, most likely in kit form. Potential UK customers shouldn’t be dismayed though since company boss Jim Crause considers it a simple process to convert the CMT 380 to a right-hand drive and eventually make it to the UK.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Infiniti FX Millionaire Edition to debut at 2009 Amsterdam RAI

Infiniti announced today that a special limited edition of the FX 37/ FX 50 called Millionaire. This new edition which will be produced in just 100 units, will be revealed on December 14 at the Amsterdam RAI.

Priced at €95.450, the new Infiniti FX 37/ FX 50 Millionaire Edition will feature a dark graphite finish, roof rails, grille and air intakes covered the same color while inside we will find a very elegant Alcantara trim with brown stitching, center console and various panels made of carbon fiber, a Connectiviti + satellite navigation with 10 GB of extra memory for storing music, a new Around View Monitor which allows the drivers to see around the car and a new Bose Sound System.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mercedes-Benz to decide whether to shift some C-Class production to its U.S. factory

To protect itself against currency swings, Daimler AG is considering an option to shift some of its C-Class passenger-car production to its factory in Vance, Ala.. At a media briefing held recently, Daimler AG said that it will announce its decision by January. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said that a decision on expanding production for the new C class would have to be made in the near future.

The company would be making its decision based on currency rates and on whether the dollar will remain weak against the euro. The C-Class is the largest-selling Mercedes-Benz vehicle in the US and transferring production to its Alabama plant would shield Daimler from further currency swings.

Reports from Germany say Daimler estimates it will produce 80,000 C-Class cars each year in Alabama. A Daimler AG spokeswoman said that shifting the production to the US would require additional investment for the factory expansion and for new tooling.

The next-generation C class is expected in 2013. The Vance, Ala. factory rolls out the M-, GL- and R-Class models. For 2009, the plant has built 83,461 units so far. In 2008, it built a total of 152,500 units.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Subaru version of FT-86 will receive an AWD system and around 250 hp

The collaboration has yet to issue final plans but here are several details on the powertrain and chassis of the Toyota FT-86 showcar, the joint Toyota-Subaru project that was built by Subaru. Inside Line has discovered a Subaru variant of this car that will arrive in 2011. It will share the Toyota FT-86’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter flat-4, but it’s likely that the output will be raised to about 250 horsepower.

On the other hand, Toyota’s car is speculated to have 200 horsepower. Subaru’s version is equipped with all-wheel drive, which means that it will be heavier and would require more power. Both cars will be outfitted with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Due to a stretched platform, Subaru’s car will be slightly larger than the Toyota. Pricing for the Subaru is expected to start from $30,000, which is about $5,000 higher than the Toyota. That’s because the Subaru is larger, has extra power, and has all-wheel drive.

This leads then to the conclusion that the two coupes are unlikely to directly compete with each other. Encroaching onto the market of the Subaru Impreza WRX also won’t be a problem.

Mercedes-Benz USA and Hughes launch new ‘mbrace’ telematics service

Mercedes-Benz has partnered with Hughes Telematics to launch “mbrace,” a new system that has 18 various services, ranging from a vehicle locator for packed car parks to directions on how to order online. This telematics system is comparable to Ford’s Sync system and GM’s OnStar. Another mbrace feature that has many people thrilled is its ability to link up smart phones like iPhones and BlackBerrys to the car’s electronic interface.

Car owners could then be able to lock or unlock their cars remotely by using their phones. The other services the system offers are certainly as practical. If the car gets stolen or figures in an accident, there is an automatic emergency service notification.

Other services include a vehicle health check function that goes live to the nearest dealership and real-time weather and traffic reports. A concierge service gives the driver 24/7 access to a customer-service rep who will assist in making dinner reservations, book a hotel or order a flight.

All Mercedes-Benz models will offer the mbrace system as standard equipment except for the GLK, C-Class, SLK and the new E-Class Coupe, where it is being offered as an option. The service is free for the first six months, after which an annual subscription will cost $280. For the concierge service, an additional $20 per month is needed.

Opel will not be a global brand, says General Motors

General Motors Co. has its work cut out for it if it wants to get the support of the Germany government for Opel’s restructuring. CEO Fritz Henderson went to Opel’s headquarters last Monday to attempt to mend relations. Apparently, he wasn’t able to give a good answer to demands from German unions and political leaders for greater economy from Detroit’s headquarters.

Henderson was only able to give vague assurances that Detroit would give its European carmaker more freedom. Henderson didn’t show much enthusiasm in marketing Opels outside Europe or of elevating the unit’s status from a limited liability company to an incorporated stock company as proof that the carmaker would gain a greater measure of self-determination.

Instead, he pointed to the strategy for its Chevrolet brand in Brazil, where another GM brand is certainly not needed. At the news briefing, he referred to Opel as a regional brand, which he doesn’t think will be changing anytime soon. While he said that he’s not closing his door to ideas on selling Opel elsewhere, he explained that the measure of the Opel brand’s success will be Europe, ”because if you don’t win here all the discussion of exports will be irrelevant.”

To be able to ensure state aid, Berlin is further demanding that German funds are spent in Europe on Opel. The government also wants GM to provide a water-tight legal separation between it and Opel to avoid any suspicion that German cash is being leaked to Detroit.

Zenvo planning to launch three new supercars after its ST1

Following the ST1, Zenvo Automotive will be launching three new supercars. The first supercar of the Danish supercar manufacturer is the Corvette Z01 based-Zenvo ST1, which has an output of 1104bhp and costs 850,000 euros each. Only 15 units of this supercar will be made. In an interview with Autocar, a Zenvo source said that the company has set its sights on a smaller, cheaper version of the ST1.

The project is currently under extensive development and the supercar will be available within the next three years. Not a lot of details were revealed.

The source would only say that it has cost-saving features, including the removal of more expensive items such as the carbonfiber body panels, while the engine is likely to be detuned.

The source also confirmed that two new supercars, which will also be based on the ST1, are in development.

These models will not be launched before the more affordable ST1, but it is likely that they will be even more powerful and expensive than the ST1.

PSA/Peugeot-Citroen raises its full-year outlook

Because of the improvement in the car market and the success of its models such as the C4 Picasso, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen has raised its full-year outlook. The company is revising its 2009 forecasts “significantly” upwards. In particular, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen now expects recurring operating income for the second half to be at breakeven while full-year free cash flow is anticipated to be positive.

Last July, the group had forecast cash flow to be negative in the second half and saw a full-year operating loss of 1 billion to 2 billion euros ($1.5 billion). PSA had a series of missed expectations the past few years and that had disappointed investors.

This led PSA to become reluctant in providing precise guidance for its results. Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S said that the average expectation for PSA’s full-year operating result is a loss of 1.146 billion euros after it posted a first-half loss of 1.33 billion.

The net loss is seen at 1.37 billion against a reported first-half figure of 962 million. Analyst Adam Jonas at Morgan Stanley observed that PSA had the “most conservative second half guidance of any European (carmaker) this year.”

Vw will build a new front-wheel drive platform to be used by up to 60 models

Volkswagen is nearly done creating a brand new front-wheel drive platform to be used by up to 60 models from Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen by the middle of 2010. This new structure, which is known as MQB (modularen querbaukasten or modular transverse engine mount architecture), will replace the current PQ2, PQ3 and PQ4 platforms.

Wolfsburg insiders say that this move will help save Volkswagen and its various offshoots up to a billion euros per year by streamlining production and creating greater economies of scale. The MQB has these characteristics because it provides for a common distance between the front axle and the pedals regardless of the size of the car it is applied to.

VW’s head of R&D, Ulrich Hackenberg, claims this will help reduce the number of front-wheel drive ‘engine mounting architectures’ used by Volkswagen from 18 to just two. Watch out for this new platform design on the next Audi A3 due in 2011. All in all, this is an excellent move, since it allows for a much greater variance in track width, wheelbase and wheel size than with Volkswagen’s existing transverse engine platforms, while allowing for both front drive and four-wheel drive.

Hackenberg said that the platform makes it possible for them to produce models from different segments and in varying sizes using the same basic front-end architecture. He said that the platform makes it possible to go from a typical hatchback to a saloon, cabriolet and SUV with only detailed changes to the size of the wheel carriers. The platform is slated to be used on every model from the new Lupo all the way through to the next-generation Sharan.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

GM posts $1.2 billion loss

General Motors Co.’s third-quarter financial results revealed a $1.15 billion loss. GM said that due to reduced costs and stabilizing sales, the company would set out to begin repaying $6.7 billion in US loans. In a statement, CEO Fritz Henderson said that the results are evident of the solid foundation being built for the new GM but that there’s more work to be done.

The third quarter report shows a “managerial net loss” for the period from July 10, which is the day GM exited court protection, through Sept. 30. For the same period last year, GM recorded an operating loss of $4.2 billion and a net loss of $2.5 billion.

GM also revealed that revenue for third quarter rose to $28 billion, up $4.9 billion from the second quarter. GM explained that much of this increase was due to a global seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 67.8 million units in the quarter, up from 62.7 million in the second quarter. GM also pointed out that it will burn through additional cash in the fourth quarter.

Included in GM’s plans is a payout of $2.8 billion for Delphi’s bankruptcy settlement while $2 billion is set aside for “payment term adjustments,” $2.5 billion for loan repayment to the U.S., Canadian and German governments and $1 billion in restructuring costs. In addition, cash levels will be “materially lower than third-quarter levels of $42.6 billion.” The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for total U.S. vehicles will be 10.7 million in the last three months of this year.

As influenced by the Cash-for-Clunkers program, GM’s adjusted demand averaged 11. 7 million units in the third quarter. Moreover, GM reported that annual light-vehicle sales are typically 200,000 to 300,000 below total vehicles and that fourth-quarter global demand will drop to a 65.4-million-unit annual rate. In 2010, global sales are expected to reach a total between 62 million and 65 million units. In the US, total-vehicle sales will hit 11 million to 12 million units.

Lotus Evora

Lotus announced today the arrival of the all-new 2010 Evora into the US market during the first quarter of 2010. With a price tag of $73,200, the Lotus Evora will enter the sports car market as the only mid-engine 2+2 in production. As you may know already, the Evora is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 which delivers 276 hp and lb./ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm. With these numbers the car can sprint to 60 mph in under 5 seconds and has a top speed of over 160 mph while delivering 30+ miles per gallon on the highway.

“Inside the Evora simplicity meets sophistication in an exquisite combination of detailing and hand-built craftsmanship. By using only the finest leather from renowned experts Muirhead, the interior is hand-trimmed and twin-stitched to create a beautifully tactile and visually striking environment. Genuine aluminum instrument and center console surfaces contain ergonomically positioned controls providing a purposeful drivers’ cockpit.

The leather wrapped steering wheel is tilt and telescopically adjustable, flat-bottomed to ease entry and exit and made from ultra-lightweight magnesium to provide super-precise feel through the wheel. The adjustable Recaro seats cradle the occupants and, along with the perfectly placed aluminum pedals, complete the optimum connection between driver - Evora - and the road. The rear seat area is cleverly hidden within the exotic, mid-engine profile of the Evora. An Alpine audio system with available touch-screen navigation, iPod™ (and other MP3 player) connectivity, Bluetooth and other amenities make the journey all the more pleasant. The Evora is a pure sports car that you can happily, comfortably enjoy every day.

For peace of mind, the 2010 Lotus Evora has a 3-year/36,000-mile limited vehicle warranty with an 8-year chassis perforation warranty. ”

Arash planning to take on the Bugatti Veyron supercar

According to a report from Autocar, British manufacturer Arash is currently working on a 1200 hp supercar to take on the Bugatti Veyron. The new car will be based on the AF-10, will share the same carbonfibre chassis built by EPM Technology but instead 550 hp engine the new car, which is yet to be named, will the receive an impressive 7.2-litre V8 engine fitted with with twin superchargers, titanium conrods and forged pistons capable to develop 900 to 1000lb ft of torque. The braking system will use carbon ceramic discs delivered by AP Racing but the car will also feature an ABS system as well as traction control systems for better handling. Regarding the design, Arash Farboud (the creator of the Arash supercar) said that the new car will look different to the AF-10 and will come with pop-up air brake and active aerodynamics, just like its target, the Veyron. The top speed achieved is expected to be at least 250 mph (402 km/h).

Honda looking to make hybrid cars more affordable

Honda is set on giving the Australian market an affordable hybrid. The launch of the Insight hybrid in Australia follows Japan, Europe and North America but Honda continues to find ways to make the hybrid more attractive and more affordable for Aussie buyers, company representatives told Drive.

Honda Australia aims to sell the Insight with a price tag of around AU$30,000. Honda Australia boss Lindsey Smalley said that if the Australian dollar is still going strongly this time next year, the company will pass that saving on to the consumer.

A comparison with Prius was pointed out but Honda said that it didn’t want to enter that type of pricing territory and that it shouldn’t even be considered a competitor.

Honda America’s environmental spokesman, Todd Mittleman, said that its key points are that it is affordable and fun to drive. He said that while the original Insight was “the ultimate hyper-miler,” this new Insight balances function with driving fun and low price point.

Vw Golf GTI wins the ‘Automobile of the Year’ award

Volkswagen of America announced today that its sixth generation GTI has been named the 2010 Automobile Magazine Automobile of the Year. This would be the second time in its history when the GTI wins this prestigious award.

For those who don’t know, the Vw Golf GTI was first introduced in the United States back in 1983 and this vehicle drew admiration for its combination of sporty performance and practicality. The 2010 GTI comes with the highly acclaimed 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC turbo-charged four-cylinder engine capable to deliver an impressive 200 hp and 207 lbs.-ft. of torque. This model is offered with an automated manual DSG transmission that utilizes direct shifting but also with a standard six-speed manual transmission. The top speed is electronically limited to 130 mph while the fuel consumption achieved is 32/24 highway/city when equipped with the DSG transmission. The 2010 GTI pricing starts at $23,490!

“At a time when the world’s economy is in shambles and fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are on everyone’s minds, there remains only one car that ticks all the enthusiast boxes without setting off a single wretched-excess alarm. That’s the Volkswagen GTI, and that’s why it is, once again, Automobile Magazine’s Automobile of the Year,” said Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor, Automobile Magazine.

“Having our GTI named AUTOMOBILE Magazine’s Automobile of the Year once again is a tremendous honor for our brand,” said Mark Barnes, Chief Operating Officer, Volkswagen of America, Inc. “We’re thrilled that the staff of AUTOMOBILE Magazine acknowledged that today’s sport’s car consumers are looking beyond horsepower and going fast, rather they are looking for vehicles that are practical, fuel efficient, and fast. The GTI truly embodies what the Volkswagen brand is all about–affordable, efficient, and fun-to-drive German Engineering,” Barnes added.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nissan launches revised version of its GT-R sports car

Nissan launched its latest GT-R sports car for Europe, boasting improved handling, ride comfort, and compliance with Euro V rules. All the modifications are internal, except for the double coat of clear paint on the bumpers for a deeper color finish.

While styling has been, for the most part, unchanged, the car’s front spring and damper rates have been adjusted and the stiffness of the suspension radius rod bushings has been increased. The purpose of these changes is to offer improved feel and responsiveness during cornering. The logic in the gearbox has been modified to provide a later downshift from sixth to fifth when being driven in automatic mode. However, a more aggressive downshift is adopted when changing down from fourth to third and from third to second gear.

For additional cooling to the exhaust and gearbox, two additional cooling ducts have been added to the carbonfiber underfloor diffuser. The front transmission mount has also been stiffened, reducing vibration under high-load conditions. For improved stability under dry-weather braking, the brake bias has been shifted rearwards.

Moreover, a modified air deflector increases rear brake cooling. CO2 emissions have dropped 3g/km to 295g/km as a result of these changes. A major achievement is that GT-R’s 3.8-litre V6 engine is now Euro V compliant. For its interior, the only changes are new rear seat insulation for more comfort and the speedometer and rev counter now have gun metallic finish surrounds.

Zenvo ST1: official details and specs

Who doesn’t dream of driving a “trackworthy supercar that would be also suitable for everyday use”? With that exact goal in mind, Zenvo Automotive started development of the prototype version of the Zenvo ST1 in 2004. The Zenvo ST1, a Danish supercar whose V8 engine produces more than 1100bhp, will be built in Denmark starting later this year.

Many of its components will come from local suppliers in Denmark and all R&D and design took place in the country. Based on a Corvette Z06, the ST1 is powered by the 7.0-liter V8 engine from the American muscle car, which is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The supercharged and turbocharged unit has been tuned to produce 1104bhp and 1055lb ft of torque.

The carmaker claims an electronically limited top speed of 233mph and an acceleration time from zero to 62mph of 3.0sec. It weighs only 1376kg due to the use of a lightweight steel spaceframe, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 802bhp per ton. Lightweight carbonfiber panels make up the bodywork.

The ST1 rides on 19-inch wheels at the front and 20-inch wheels at the rear, with specially designed Michelin tires. It has double-wishbone suspension all round, with adjustable anti-roll bars and three-way adjustable hydraulic shock absorbers.

Zenvo has included a range of creature comforts, including climate control, sat-nav, a head-up display and cruise control. Information on fuel economy or CO2 emission figures have yet to be released. No pricing has been confirmed as well. It’s not like it’s up for public consumption anyway since only 15 units will be produced for “specially approved customers.”

Schumacher’s title-winning Benetton Formula One car for sale on eBay

Remember that title-winning Benetton Formula One car driven by Michael Schumacher in 1994? Well, it’s for sale on eBay. To recall, Schumacher drove the Ford Cosworth-powered car to his first of seven world titles. The seller, who is from Toronto, has advertised the car on the German eBay site.

The car is described to be in racing condition and is being sold with several spare parts, including two extra sets of wheels and tires, and its data laptop, to monitor the fluid levels and temperatures.

The bodywork and livery are identical to what they were during the 1994 season. If you’re wondering about the damage Schumacher sustained in the 1994 season finale when it crashed into Damon Hill in Adelaide, worry no more as it has been fixed.

The collision forced Hill to retire and allowed Schumacher to maintain his one-point advantage and clinch his first world championship.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mitsubishi Outlander GT to make its debut at the LA

Mitsubishi will unveil its new 2010 Outlander GT at the 2009 LA Auto Show. Images of the SUV have recently been released however, the technical details are still undisclosed. There are two engine choices including a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine making 167-hp mated to a 5-speed manual or an optional CVT automatic with Sports Mode sequential style shift. Powering the top-of-the-line model is a 3.0L V6 that outputs 226-hp and is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Sports Mode sequential style shift change and INVECS Smart Logic.