I.DE.A ERA concept set to dazzle

February 27th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

IDEA ERA concept fq

Last year, a little known engineering and consultancy firm based in Turin, Italy named the I.DE.A Institute threw together a concept car in 30 days to celebrate its 30th anniversary. At the Geneva Motor Show starting in a few days, I.DE.A will show that it was more than just a publicity stunt by showing a much more evolved version of the roadster in the form of the ERA concept.

The topless two-door gains a set of gull-wing doors, re-sculpted sides, a two-tier boot line and a tube-frame chassis in an attempt to show off the firm’s design and engineering prowess. Although the interior scaffolding and puffed up grille surround may be an acquired taste, the ERA is set to make a splash at the Geneva show.

Check back for more news about the upcoming Geneva Motor show.

Rinspeed E2 – two personalities one Fiat 500

February 27th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Rinspeed E2 fq

Those crazy cats at Rinspeed have just created a dual-mode Fiat 500 Abarth that gets you more power and better fuel economy — just not at the same time. Rinspeed started with the 500 Abarth that has a standard 135 horsepower engine, and they’ve given it a new engine management system that has one mode for the city and one for the highway.

In ‘Commuting’ mode the 500 only has the use of up to 60 hp, which is forty fewer horses than the bog standard petrol 500, but you’ll be rewarded with almost 4L/100km. Press a button on the console to go to “Highway” mode and you get 160 hp, which is the same hp number for the 500 Abarth SS, but it costs you a tad of frugality at 7.1L/100km. There aren’t too many ways to make the popular Fiat 500 better, but Rinspeed may have found one.

Tax authorities shut down Saab production

February 27th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Reports circulating yesterday indicate that Swedish tax authorities have effectively shut down Saab until the automaker pays out for unpaid customs duties. Many of the parts that make up today’s Saabs are sourced from suppliers and General Motors plants outside of the European Union, and customs officials have halted the shipment of those parts. Without a supply chain, the Saab has been forced to stop production.

According to Sweedish news sources, Saab production manager Gunnar Brunius, hoped to have the situation resolved by this evening. But the fact the duties haven’t been paid is a sign of the cash flow problems at parent company GM. Customs officials haven’t disclosed how much money is owed other than to say the amount is “considerable.”

Earlier this week, Saab filed for the Swedish equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. If GM is unwilling or unable to front up the cash to pay the bills, Saab will have to find another benefactor. The Swedish government already rejected a bailout last week, so Saab’s future is increasingly unclear.

31,000 Mazda CX-9s to be recalled

February 27th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Nearly 31,000 Mazda CX-9 crossovers are being recalled to repair driver’s seat issue. The models affected were built during the 2007-2009 model years.

According to Mazda North American Operations, improper routing of wires under the driver’s seat cushion can lead to a short-circuit that activates the power-adjustment mechanism. This could lead to an sudden unwanted change in the seating position, height adjustment, or seat back recline while the vehicle is in motion. According to Mazda, dealers will be able to fix the potential problem with cable ties and replacement parts.

Mazda NZ hasn’t released a statement yet, but if you are a late-model CX-9 owner you may want to check if your vehicle is affected by the recall.

Nearly 31,000 Mazda CX-9 crossovers are being recalled to repair driver’s seat issue. The models affected were built during the 2007-2009 model years.

According to Mazda North American Operations, improper routing of wires under the driver’s seat cushion can lead to a short-circuit that activates the power-adjustment mechanism. This could lead to an sudden unwanted change in the seating position, height adjustment, or seat back recline while the vehicle is in motion. According to Mazda, dealers will be able to fix the potential problem with cable ties and replacement parts.

Mazda NZ hasn’t released a statement yet, but if you are a late-model CX-9 owner you may want to check if your vehicle is affected by the recall.

Dodge Journey R/T 2009 Review

February 27th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham


Back in 1935 the first American B-17 bomber prototype crashed nose-first and few people thought much of it with the exception of its makers, Boeing. Ten years later over 12 thousand B-17s had been built dropping more than 640,000 bombs in total and had earned itself a staunch reputation for utility and durability and the name ‘flying fortress’.

Hit the fast-forward button to 2009 and the U.S Air force maintains an unchallenged level of air firepower. But far under the clouds there is a new battleground for flying fortresses — the MPV marketplace. In the current tough economic climate American vehicle manufacturers are deep into survival mode. In a bid for total people-moving superiority the Chrysler group has added a new weapon to its arsenal in the Dodge Journey.At first sighting it may be hard to categorise the Journey, it has the look of a SUV, the stance of a wagon and three rows of seats. To label it a ‘Mini-Van’ would be treason when it’s a mid-size MPV/Crossover.

The exterior styling isn’t as polarising as the Dodge Nitro, but the Journey has a robust presence that will make some allies and intimidate competitors. The signature Dodge grille, with chrome cross hair and ram’s head badging, sits between quad-halogen headlights. A dipping bonnet and a raked-back windscreen add to the muscular appearance. In profile the Journey shows its sculpted wheel arches, and black pillars help give the impression of a bright spacious family-hauler. The rear design is far softer in character. An angled single-panel lift-gate with a built in spoiler matches up with jeweled four-piece taillights. Overall, the Journey has no-nonsense styling that extends a ready-for-duty attitude.

Get onboard and it becomes clear that the Journey shares the B-17’s utilitarian character. The many storage options and various seating configurations are class leading. There are two in-floor waterproof storage bins that sit between the first two rows of seats big enough for a camera, laptop or small arms cache. There is also a refrigerated compartment in the glove box that can keep two cans of drink cold. Further to that there is a large storage bin under the passenger seat cushion and more hidden storage under the rear load area floor. Stadium seating means the second row sits slightly higher than the front row, and the third row back is elevated even more. This increases visibility and makes games of eye-spy much more varied.

It required a 10-man crew to operate the B-17 but pilot alone can easily operate the Journey. The tested model was equipped with the MyGig infotainment system with a 30Gb hard disk that features a DVD player, sat-nav, reversing camera and a 6700 song music capacity. It’s a classy unit that is simple to operate and the LCD screen is mounted in a hooded surrounding above the centre stack, making it easy to read while driving.

Unfortunately the cabin isn’t all victories; the instrument cluster is strangely shallow and dated in its design. There are also tell-tale signs of the Journey’s double-agent status as both a right and left hand drive vehicle, the most obvious is the symmetrical dash layout and the hand brake mounted on the far side of the centre console. Touch surfaces are inconsistent, feeling firm in some areas and flimsy in others. The radio and control buttons are not tactile feeling, seem loose and are mounted distantly from the display screen.

Two-tone leather seats look great and the colours blend well into the door-inserts, wide and comfortable, they offer a commanding driving position. The cabin’s atmosphere overall is very light and pleasant, space is generous even in the third row of seats. There are too many useful subtle interior touches to list for example the second row of seats can be slid forward offering easy access for a driver to tend to children, and the rear doors open a full 90 degrees assisting those seeking the back seats.

Armed with a 136kW, 2.7-litre V6 engine the Journey produces 256Nm of torque. This could be best described as not quite adequate. The Journey isn’t quick on takeoff but cruises well once up to speed and has decent mid-range acceleration. Most buyers in this segment wouldn’t be too interested in straight-line performance, but the Journey’s burly size and weight are definitely noticeable when accelerating. The six-speed auto box is a gem working hard to extract full performance from the motor, quick to shift down and intuitive in its changes.

Propelled by the front wheels solely the Journey has no true off-road credentials, as its styling may suggest. However, the front-wheel-drive configuration makes the Journey easy to drive and predictable in all conditions but there is a little torque-steer under acceleration. The steering is responsive, firmly weighted and reasonably precise. The Journey experiences some body-lean while cornering giving away its high-altitude ride height. However, the ride is very comfortable and the Journey gobbles up potholes and road bumps with hunger. Wind and road noise are minimal in the cabin and a tranquil atmosphere is always sustained. Despite being a vehicle that was translated from left-hand drive, there’s reasonable room in the footwell, something that can’t be said for some of the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep family.

The Journey is equipped with a full payload of safety functions, including an ESP (Electronic Stability Program), three-row side curtain air bags, multi-stage driver and passenger airbags and Anti-lock Brakes.

Like the flying fortresses of old, the Journey’s real firepower lays in its utility and robustness. It’s a well sized seven-seater with a good collection of cabin equipment options. More effort could have gone into the dash layout and interior material choices, but it is easy-to-use and seems very durable. Dodge’s attempts at gaining a foothold in the N.Z market are reflected in the aggressive pricing for the Journey making it good value for money. All up it’s a solid choice for large families who require a dependable lifestyle vehicle with passenger space to load up the kids, fly past schools and activities and drop them off.

Price: from $45,990

What we like:

  • Useful cabin equipment
  • Spacious interior with great storage options
  • Sharp styling
  • Well priced

What we don’t like:

  • Underpowered
  • Body-roll while cornering
  • Interior finish

Words and Photos, Adam Mamo

Dodge Journey R/T (2009) – Specifications


2.7L DOHC 24V V6
” Power kW @ rpm 136 @ 5,500
” Torque Nm @ rpm 256 @ 4,000
” Transmission 6-speed automatic with Autostick®

Fuel Consumption (L/100 km)

” Urban cycle 9.1 15.0
” Extra-urban cycle 5.9 7.6
” Combined cycle 7.0 10.3
” CO2 (g/km) 186 246


” Acceleration ” seconds (0-100 km/h) 11.6
” Maximum speed (km/h)182

Weights kg

” Kerb weight 1,785 R/T
” Gross vehicle weight rating 2,520

Capacities kg

” Max towing capacity Inc. tongue weight
7 Passenger + luggage
6 Passenger + 50kg luggage
1,368 / 68
1,600 / 160
” Oil with new filter L  5.7
” Engine coolant system L  11.4
” Fuel tank capacity L 77.6
” Washer fluid volume L 6

Wheels & Tyres SXT R/T

Standard wheel type 19″ machined cast aluminium
Tyres size 225/55R19
Spare tyre Compact


Type – Firm feel power rack and pinion
Overall ratio 18.6:1
Turns (lock to lock) 3.3
Turning diameter m 11.9


Discs ” Front/Rear 302×28/305×12
Calipers ” Front/Rear 66.0/66.0

Oil Change Intervals

Service A Flexible Oil Change Interval System ” 12,000 km (petrol engines)

Warranty Duration 3 years/100,000 kilometres

Tramontana R – 720hp Mercedes powered beast

February 26th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Tramontana R fq

Niche automaker the Tramontana Group has just unveiled its latest bad-boy the Tramontana R Edition.

The R is an enhanced version of Tramontana’s standard open-wheel two-seater. It’s packing a Mercedes-sourced 5.5-liter V12 available in either naturally aspirated, 550 hp guise or a twin-turbocharged 760 hp version that dolls out an astonishing 811 lb-ft of torque. The Group claims a 0-100 kph time of 3.6 seconds and a 10.15-second run to 200 kph.

The wheelbase has been shortened by 50mm to improve handling and aerodynamics, and weight is down by to just 1,275kg. The weight distribution is a perfect 50:50 left to right and 42:58 front to rear. Tramontana fitted 20-inch carbon fibre and magnesium wheels at each corner, along with high-performance summer rubber sized 245/40 in front and 335/30 in the rear. 380mm, six-piston Brembos handle stopping duties, while a custom Ohlins suspension allows the R’s ride-height to be adjusted between 85 and 135 mm.

The body speaks for itself, as does the exposed carbon fibre interior, which features a chop-top steering wheel, an LCD instrument panel and the controls to the six-speed sequential gearbox. Production will be limited to 12 units per year with a price tag of €385,000 ($962,000 NZ), but it won’t be going to the Geneva show next month — the Tramontana R will make its official debut at the Top Marques Monaco show at the end of March.

Kia No 3 concept MPV ready for show

February 26th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Kia no3 fq

At next week’s Geneva Motor Show Kia will show off a new crossover concept dubbed the No 3 and two new variants of the c’eed. The No 3 is a tall five-door hatch based on the c’eed platform. The five-door features a glass roof and a unique diagonal windshield header which stretches from the A-pillar on the passenger side to the B-pillar on the driver side.

The two new c’eed variants are both aimed at reduced fuel consumption. The c’eed ISG is a new regular production model that adds auto-stop-start to the both 1.4- and 1.6-litre versions of the sub-compact sedan, with a claimed boost in urban fuel mileage of around 15%. Kia is also showing a hybrid version of the c’eed that uses the system developed by Hyundai-Kia with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder. The car is part of a test fleet that will be run in Europe this year and averages 49 mpg (US) and emits just 109 g/km of CO2.

Check back for more details of concept cars at next weeks Geneva Motor Show.

Scorpion Prodigy offers reckless performance

February 26th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Scorpion Prodigy fq

If you have ever wanted the speed of a sport bike with the stability of a car and you have the bottle for sub 3.3-second 0-100kph launches and 1.5 g’s on the bends, we’ve got the rig for you.

Called the Scorpion Prodigy, it’s powered by the buyers choice of one of three Suzuki bike engines. The first is a 600cc beast capable of the figures above. Then there’s the 1000 cc variant which will move the Prodigy even quicker . If that’s still not terrifying enough for you, Scorpion will plop a hefty 1300 cc into the trike. That last set up boasts 185 horsepower with a 2.5 hp/lb power to weight ratio. All for under $50,000 ($98,000 NZ). The 600cc Prodigy starts at $39,900 ($70,200 NZ).

Click here to check out the Scorpion website.

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