IMSA Murcielago Spyder

September 30th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

IMSA Murcielago Spyder fq

A Murcielago Spyder with 640 hp is certainly not a slow car. It sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 3.4 seconds, and you may count on a peak speed of about 340 km/h. Can this be further improved? Yes!

Horsepower multiplicator IMSA from Brüggen offers an engine conversion kit for the convertible which raises the super-bull’s performance beyond the 700 hp limit by means of several mechanical and electronic modifications.

To be more precise, we are talking about 708 hp.

Therefore, those who know how to use the gears and the accelerator well will be catapulted from 0 to 100 in less than 3.3 seconds and may ruin their hairstyle at a peak speed somewhere beyond 350 km/h. Whatever the condition, the IMSA Murcielago is damned fast – and it won’t be easy to find an equal competitor for acceleration duels. But, this car has more to offer than raw power and pure speed. IMSA has redesigned the interior completely in order to meet highest standards of raciness and luxury: carbon intarsia in the same colour as the car, finest diamond-shape stitched leather design and seams corresponding to the exterior colour.

The exterior has undergone considerable changes as well. To begin with, there are the IMSA Ultimo Wheels in shiny black with a genuine central locking system.

Then, there is the GTR Widebody Kit consisting of a front apron, front lip, broadened wings, side skirts, carbon diffuser, rear spoiler, attachments improving the cooling air supply and ventilation louvres made of the aforementioned black gold at the front bumper – and, finally, there is the sports exhaust system provided with a tailpipe corresponding to the series production design. Of course, if you wish, there are also other designs available for the tailpipe. But, the cherry on top is the sports exhaust system’s flap control which is operated by a remote control from the passenger compartment. The sound range is from “city limit decent”to “racetrack awesome”.

Thus, the IMSA Murcielago Spyder is not only one of the most powerful sports convertibles on our roads, but also one of the most beautiful, luxurious, spectacular and – at the push of a button – one of the most resonant.

New transmission option on S3

September 30th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Audi S3 fq

The Audi S3 has recently become available with five doors, but now it has seven speeds courtesy of the S tronic twin-clutch transmission, which quickens shifts compared to the continuing manual version, but can also slow down fuel consumption.

Equipped with S tronic, the three-door S3 can touch 100kph from rest in 5.5 seconds, 0.2 seconds quicker than the manual version with which it shares its governed top speed of 249kph. The new transmission can boost the S3’s combined fuel economy figure from 33.2mpg to 34mpg. As a result, CO2 output in the S3 S tronic falls from 198g/km to 193g/km.

Advanced electro-hydraulic controls and the alternate use of two clutches enable the S tronic gearbox to deliver fast automatic or manual shifts with virtually no interruption of the engine’s power delivery across its seven ratios, and now gear changes can be made via steering wheel-mounted shift paddles for the first time in the S3’s nine-year history.  The first of the two clutches serves the odd-numbered gears and reverse, and the second the even-numbered gears, so when the S3 is being driven in third gear, for instance, fourth is already pre-selected in anticipation. As soon as the shift command is given, the first clutch is disengaged and the second engaged in just a few hundredths of a second.

Also faster reacting in this latest S3 model is the quattro four-wheel-drive system. Its central hydraulic multi-plate clutch now responds faster when the engine’s 265PS and 350Nm need to be redistributed between the front and rear wheels to maximize stability and traction.

Standard equipment for the S3 includes 18-inch parallel 5-spoke ‘S’ design alloy wheels, ‘S’ body styling and interior detailing and ‘S’ sports suspension. Heated and Silk Nappa leather-upholstered sports seats and Xenon Plus head lamps with LED strip daytime running lights are also part of the package.

Ford shows Kuga’s individuality

September 30th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Ford Kuga fq

European Ford has been given a tough task, to inject a touch of style into some models coming from their American brothers. The latest offering is the now well dressed Ford Kuga. Inspired by the Iosis concept, the Kuga has a new body kit and 20-inch wheels plus a specialised interior for the Kuga Titanium that features Ebony Nappa and Bond leathers with contrasting piping and high-gloss Piano White fixtures.

Under the bonnet, the kuga has a all new 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder Duratec Turbo with 149kw and 236 lb-ft of torque that comes out of the Focus ST. This should breathe new life into the model and add some sportiness to the Kuga’s praticality. This gas engine is 47 kw up on the standard offering, the Duratorq TDCi diesel. Another first for the Kuga, it can be shifted with an optional 3-mode, 5-speed automatic transmission.

The new Individual program and powertrain options will be available from the beginning of 2009, and the first Kuga showcasing what customers will be able to do goes on display at this week’s Paris Motor Show.

Fiat launch environmental range

September 30th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Fiat_500_PurO2 s

Although Fiat can already lay claim to the lowest range-wide average carbon dioxide figure from its total production and that it offers New Zealand buyers one of the most economical cars on the market with the Fiat 500 JTD, Fiat will launch a range of specific low emission cars at this week’s (2 October 2008) Paris International Motor Show to further enhance its green credentials.

The PUR-O2 models within Fiat’s range will offer new technology to cut fuel consumption and reduce emissions, and with their EcoDrive system will attempt to teach their owners to drive more economically. The new technology includes Stop & Start, ‘green’ tyres, low viscosity fluids, improved aerodynamics and gearboxes with ratios chosen to maximize fuel economy and cut emissions. EcoDrive, a development of the Blue & Me system already available in Australia, gathers information about how the car is driven and then, with this data transferred to the home computer, shows how the car may be driven more economically and how to cut emissions.

The new PUR-O2 line shows Fiats atempts for innovative solutions to contain polluting emissions and CO2 levels. JATO — automotive research and consulting group recently announced that, out of the ten biggest selling automobile brands in Europe, Fiat Automobiles is the brand that achieved the lowest average CO2 emissions value for the cars it sold in 2007, i.e 134.6 g/km. And again in 2007, the CO2 emissions of no fewer than 23% of the cars sold by Fiat were lower than 120 g/km and 67% of Fiat cars achieved a level of less than or equal to 140 g/km.

Fiat Automobiles is now aiming to achieve the lowest average adjusted level of CO2 emissions for its cars by 2012. Fiat intends to pursue its goal by introducing a targeted campaign on its engines, transmission and cars and also the structural use of the Start & Stop system.

The Stop & Start system was developed in conjunction with FPT — Fiat Powertrain Technologies — and includes a reinforced starter motor produced by Bosch in addition to a control strategy that analyses engine, gearbox and climate control parameters to reduce fuel consumption and emissions while maintaining the Fiat 500’s handling and reliability standards.

Someone slap these drivers

September 29th, 2008 by darren

I drove to Napier in BMW’s very accomplished 123d for the weekend. It’s a nicely balanced car with an engine that’s more than capable for overtaking at short notice. The handling is how a sporty coupe should be – you can feel the car moving underneath you as you push it through the bends as the chassis feeds back the undulations in the road surface. So this is what made my return trip on the Napier-Taupo highway annoying: two drivers who (at separate times) overtook me while I had the cruise control set to 107kph, then held me up through the bends. People, if you’re going to overtake someone who’s already exceeding the speed limit (but by an acceptable amount), make sure you’ve got the balls to stick with your decision in the corners. So, Mr Grey Cefiro with your skanky-looking girlfriend and her stupid little dog on her lap who let me overtake on the passing lane, then right at the end came by me at around 140kph only to slow down again to less than 100kph, please consider yourself virtually slapped. And Mr Red Civic who overtook me, then slowed down to 80-90 in places, again, but perhaps this time a virtual knee in the groin. Maybe common courtesy is being gradually beaten out of us by the plethora of crap American TV shows where anger and staunchness seem to be the only way to get things done. I might start a website called ‘virtual slap’ where you can upload your stories then people vote how many virtual slaps this person should receive. But that would just be perpetuating the anger. Virtually.

Mitsubishi Lancer VR 2008 Review

September 29th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham


Japan and Korea aren’t likely to go down to the pub for a few beers together any time soon. Despite the geographic proximity, these two countries have a history of conflict that strains relations to this day. Thankfully the arguments now only manifest themselves in economics; and the occasional dispute over small islands.

However it is the automotive arena that is the new battleground and cars like the Lancer better watch out because the Koreans are coming.

The Mitsubishi Lancer VR is a good car. Much as it pains me to say it, so is the Hyundai Sonata. This comparison wouldn’t have been a viable one a couple of years ago but times have changed and the fact that Mitsubishi has a Korean priced car is both a positive and a negative.

The positive is that you can now have the Lancer for the price of a ‘lesser quality’ Korean car. The negatives are two-fold however as cars like the Sonata and i30 are not the dodgy messes of cheap plastic they used to be and despite sporting new clothes and good driving dynamics, the Lancer’s interior is barely level with the quality of the Sonata’s.

So what does the Lancer have over the competent kimchi-consuming competition? Firstly the interior and boot space is almost unbeatable at this price point as the new Lancer is quite large inside and is pretty much perfect for the family with 2.2 children.

An interesting feature is the CVT automatic transmission which seamlessly offers forward motion in what is essentially one gear. Planting your foot from standstill is an interesting experience as the engine revs to around 5500rpm and stays there to 100km/h providing peak power all the way. While a novel feature there is a ‘tiptronic’ style self-shifting option for those who can get confused by such transmission trickery.

The exhaust note is not as sporty as you’d expect from a cousin to the all-conquering Evolution Lancer range, with an anodyne note that sounds like a petulant teenager whinging about having to do the washing up tonight. Despite the noise the engine itself is sprightly enough and really does like to rev given the chance. Put your foot down and the Lancer hauls with real gusto in an accelerative way that you can feel, which is quite something given that the highest priority manufacturers seem to give their designs these days is to insulate the driver from the driving experience. This is a feature I really liked about the Lancer. It’s an honest car that gives up ‘refinement’ levels for intimacy on the road. Sure it’s got more road noise than other cars in its segment, but the trade off for that is a lower weight and a better feeling of connection between you and the road, unlike the ‘steering through cotton-wool’ experience cars like the Camry/Sonata deliver.

This is a car that wants a driver, not someone only interested in a vehicle as a household appliance.

The styling of the Lancer is a solid ‘wedgy’ (not the bad kind) look that is quite handsome and which Honda used to great effect on the Accord Euro. As well as hints of the Accord there are glimpses of Alfa Romeo in the profile. While not a triumph of automotive styling, the high rear end is distinctive, featuring angular lights and a cool rear spoiler that unfortunately hinders rear vision. The gold colour of our test car didn’t really do any favours to the nice lines of the Lancer, but even in this hue it still managed to attract a few stares from those in the Car and SUV offices as well as those on the street.

Road manners are decent in the Lancer and it makes a good cruiser across town or out on the open road. The seating position is low and the steering wheel complete with audio and cruise controls is decent to hold despite looking like it came from a mid-90s Mitsubishi FTO. The rest of the interior is happily of this century and looks quite good with the dash featuring smooth styling and soft touch plastics.

The keyless entry system is a great feature to use for getting into the car but not as user-friendly when starting it. Instead of a start button there is a plastic switch connected into a conventional ignition barrel which you twist (like a key) to start the engine. A strange system, but Mitsubishi probably has a few ignition barrels lying round that need to be used up.

The Lancer better watch out as the Hyundai Sonata is a similarly priced competitor that has become a decent enough ride to compete with and possibly beat the Mitsubishi.

The Lancer is a good car but the interior quality needs to come up half a notch to be able to compete with its Korean rivals before focusing on home town opposition like the Mazda 6 and sublime Honda Accord.

If the slightly dated interior doesn’t faze you then the combination of quality engineering, good looks and low sticker price could make the Lancer a real bargain.

Click through to the next page for full specs on the Mitsubishi Lancer VR

Price: from $28,990. As tested $32,490.

What we like

Decent power

Smooth CVT transmission

Strong styling

Dated steering wheel

Interior and boot space

What we don’t like

Keyless starting ‘key’

Spoiler obscuring rear vision

Whinging exhaust note

Dated (but functional) interior


Engine Displacement (cc) 1,998

Max power (DIN) kW @ rpm 115 @ 6,000

Max torque (DIN) Nm @ rpm 201 @ 4,250

Bore and stroke (mm) 86.0 x 86.0

Compression ratio 10.0:1

Fuel consumption – l/100km 8.2

CO2 g/km (LB model) 191

Fuel tank capacity (litres) 59

Dimensions / Weights

Overall length (mm) 4,570

Overall width (mm) 1,760

Overall height (mm) 1,490

Wheelbase (mm) 2,635

Track front (mm) 1,530

Track rear (mm) 1,530

Turning circle (m) 10.0

Kerb weight (kg) 1,350

GVW (kg) 1,850

Head room – front (mm) 950

Head room – rear (mm) 895

Trunk volume by VDA (litres) 400

Towing capacity with brakes (kg) 1,000

Towing capacity without brakes (kg) 550


6-speed CVT

Gear ratios

1st 2.349

2nd 1.397

3rd 1.074

4th 0.832

5th 0.631

6th 0.518

rev 1.750

final 6.120

Words Ben Dillon, photos Darren Cottingham

Alfa Romeo Brera TI ready to wow Motor Show

September 29th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

alfa berati fq

Alfa Romeo have decided to give its stunning Brera the full Turismo Internazionale treatment for the Paris Motor Show. Named the Brera TI, the car gets a few choice modifications that separate it from the standard coupe, stiffer springs and dampers, 19-inch wheels with 8C-derived rims, red Brembo one-piece front calipers, and TI logos on the front fenders for the outside.

The interior now boasts seats that are made highly bolstered and top-stitched, aluminum console trim or optional carbon fiber, aluminum pedals, perforated leather throughout, and the option of a leather dash. It also offers a long equipment list that includes a dual zone climate control system and VDC stability system with optional extras such as a radio navigation system, xenon headlights, sky window, adjustable door mirrors with memory, luggage retaining net and sensor pack.

The car will go on sale later this year with either the 185-bhp 2.2 JTS engine or 3.2-liter V6. We are unsure if such an exotic beauty will make it to NZ, but fingers crossed.

Katech Corvette Z06 Clubsport

September 29th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Katech ClubSport

Tuning company Katech have come to the party with a lightweight version of the popular Corvette Z06. The Z06 Clubsport incorporates an array of aftermarket products that, in unison, reduce curb weight to 1,322 kg, while improving grip, cornering, braking and downforce.

“The Z06 is already light weight,” commented Jason Harding from Katech Performance. “We knew, however, that we could improve the power-to-weight ratio with several select modifications. Lamborghini has its Gallardo Superleggera, Ferrari its F430 Scuderia and Dodge its Viper ACR. Now the Corvette Z06 has the ClubSport package.”

To keep weight down Katech have made some serious modifications to the basic vehicle. A Brembo brake kit with 14-inch rotors replace standard brakes, 15-spoke alloy rims connect power to tarmac, a performance exhaust system and a complete Moton Clubsport suspension set up take over from the stock offering. Carbon fibre has replaced body parts at the rear and front and a new Exedy twin-disc clutch reduces drivetrain weight.

So what’s the final verdict? A power-to-weight ratio of 2.47kg/horsepower, and one hot looking Vette.
To find out more visit Katech’s website

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