Toyota reveals first ‘kei’ car for Japanese market

September 27th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota will make its first entry into Japan’s popular minicar or “kei” car segment with its new Pixi Space. The diminutive vehicle has been supplied Toyota’s Daihatsu subsidiary under an OEM agreement reached last year.

The Pixi Space will be offered in two trim levels, base model “L” and higher-spec “X” trims, and a sportier variants named the “Custom X”, “Custom G” and “Custom RS”.

The Pixi Space is powered by a 660cc petrol engine which adheres to Japan’s kei car regulations. The Custom RS sports model is offered with a 660cc turbocharged engine. All models use a CVT transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive.

Until now, Toyota was the only large domestic carmaker in the Japanese market to not have a kei car in its ranks. This had previously been left up to Daihatsu.

Under Japanese regulations, to belong in the “kei” car segment, a vehicle be must be powered by an engine with a displacement of less than 660cc and measure up to 3.4 meters long, 1.48 meters wide and 2 meters tall.

The advantages of owning a Kei car include lower taxes and insurance costs and also parking benefits.

New Volkswagen Phaeton on track for 2015

September 27th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The first-generation Volkswagen Phaeton didn’t achieve the sales VW desired but the carmaker is ready to give it another go. In 2015 VW will unveil its second-gen Phaeton flagship and according to reports it will be a substantially different machine.

The new Phaeton will be developed under the VW631 codename and is expected to use Audi’s new MLM Evo platform which should be lighter and offer much improved handling. While the current model is offered in sedan form only, the MLM Evo platform could lend itself to a variety of body styles including an S-Class Coupe rival, a five-door hatch and even a ‘shooting brake’ variant.

Little is known about what powerplant options VW will offer under the bonnet but it’s likely engine offerings will be much smaller than the current V8 and W12 mills. Possible options are four-cylinder units, six-cylinders and plug-in hybrid powertrains. Continue reading “New Volkswagen Phaeton on track for 2015” »

Nissan GT-R engine + Juke Crossover = Super Juke

September 27th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Taking the powertrain from a high-performance vehicle and dropping it into something totally different can be a great idea. But not always, and the latest carmaker to try its hand is Nissan Europe which has confirmed that a special one-off high-powered Juke crossover is being developed.

So which of Nissan’s hard core engines will make it into the Juke? None other than the twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6 mill that powers the current Nissan GT-R. This will turn the Juke into a 390kW machine and has seen the concept dubbed ‘Super Juke’. With the larger engine the Super Juke should accelerate from standing to 100km/h in under four seconds and on to a top speed of dangerous proportions.

Rally-inspired sports styling is also expected with the concept so prepare for enlarged wheel arches, a deep front splitter, bonnet vents, two-story rear wing and stripped-out interior for reduced weight. Continue reading “Nissan GT-R engine + Juke Crossover = Super Juke” »

Mitsubishi to bring back the Diamante

September 26th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Kiwi Mitsubishi owners and enthusiasts will probably remember the Diamante model that was produced until 2004. This luxury sedan still features on NZ roads and was keenly imported until seven years ago. Now, Nissan is set to bring back the Diamante although it may only be for the Japanese domestic market, at least for now.

Mitsubishi won’t be doing the development on the large sedan, instead it will rebadge a version of the Nissan Fuga (pictured). The Fuga isn’t a model well-known in NZ but it’s offered overseas with a choice of V6, V8, hybrid and diesel powertrains. Which engines will be used in the new Diamante is unknown at this stage. Continue reading “Mitsubishi to bring back the Diamante” »

Porsche connects its motorsport and production cars (+video)

September 26th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Porsche is a car company with many successes on the racetrack and plenty of knowledge learned during its motorsport achievements. But how does this influence its passenger vehicles? It’s a good question and one that Porsche has decided to answer through a new online video.

In the clip, Hartmut Kristen, head of Porsche Motorsport discusses the links between successful race cars and street cars. Kristen also takes a look at the future of Porsche’s place in the motorsport arena. This includes a look at some of the technology in the Porsche 918 Spyder concept car (pictured).

Check out the video below. Continue reading “Porsche connects its motorsport and production cars (+video)” »

BMW confirms production of X4

September 26th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Online reports are claiming that BMW has confirmed production plans to build an X4 crossover. The new entry into BMW’s SUV range will slot in between the X3 and X5 models.

The X4 will likely use the same platform as the current X3 and will be positioned like the X6 (pictured) is to the X5. Expect the X4 to have more raked-back sportier styling than the X3 and a coupe like roof line. In terms of powertrains the X4 will use the same four- and six-cylinder turbocharged options as the X3. A higher-output X4 M is also on the cards for future production.  Continue reading “BMW confirms production of X4” »

Mercedes-Benz C250 CDI Avantgarde 2011 Review

September 23rd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class maintains an important position in the German automakers range. Before the A-Class was introduced in 1997 it was the company’s entry-point model and had a tough job offering the same exclusivity and advanced technology as its more expensive siblings. In 2007 the third generation C-Class was released with improved dynamics and bold new design. It went on to become a desirable sales success. Now for 2011 Mercedes has put its compact sedan under the knife for a mid-life facelift. This is no token gesture either; the updates include design and bodywork tweaks, new powertrain technology and safety features. In total there’s been around 2,000 changes to the new C-Class over its predecessor. So, has the facelift made this popular baby-Benz even better? Car and SUV spent a week rolling in the diesel-powered C250 to find out.

There aren’t that many design tweaks but they are highly effective in sharpening up the C-Class sedan aesthetic and visually aligning it with the current E- and S-Class models.  There’s a new aluminum bonnet, which saves 10kg in weight and re-profiled front and rear bumpers. Both the headlights and taillights have been restyled and there’s new LED daytime running lamps dissecting the lower air inlets. The front grille has been changed to a sportier three-bar job with a prominent three-pointed star badge. Along the flanks little has changed but our test subject looked smart with chrome trim bordering the window line. At the rear, there’s more chrome highlights and the tail lamps use LED lighting for a distinctive glow at night. Our tested mid-range C250 CDI is finished with a single chrome exhaust tip and 18-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels. Continue reading “Mercedes-Benz C250 CDI Avantgarde 2011 Review” »

Honda reveals more info on Jazz electric concept

September 23rd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Honda traveled fairly light to the recent 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show and didn’t unveil any ground-breaking performance concept cars. But it did use the event to show off some of its greener prototypes including the EV concept.

The EV concept hasn’t been given a production name yet, but uses a platform very similar to the Honda Jazz and is designed to meet the needs of the daily commuter.

When the production version of Honda’s EV Concept is released sometime next year, it will be powered by a lithium-ion battery and coaxial electric motor. Interestingly, the motor is derived from the unit found in Honda’s FCX Clarity fuel cell car. The unit is efficient and powerful while remaining quiet at motorway speeds. It can go as fast as 145km/h according to Honda.

Estimated driving range for the EV Concept is 160 km, and this can be maximised with the use of a clever three-mode electric drive system adapted from the Honda CR-Z. Continue reading “Honda reveals more info on Jazz electric concept” »

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