News: ASMA Perfectus Mercedes SLR McLaren

ASMA Perfectus Mercedes fq

ASMA Design has released an all carbon fibre body kit for the SLR, modestly called the ASMA Perfectus Mercedes SLR McLaren. ASMA also says it has increased the power output of the car to 700 hp, which in turn, takes the top speed up to 348 km/h. The standard 5.4-litre V8 Mercedes SLR McLaren develops 650hp.

The carbon fibre ASMA Perfectus Mercedes SLR McLaren body kit includes new front and rear spoilers, a rear diffuser and modified side skirts. The kit also includes wider wheel arches which fattens the car’s width to more than 2 meters and 20-inch rims to fill the widened arches.

The vehicle has been fleeced of any Mercedes refinement and is left looking almost beastly, check out the picture gallery to judge for yourself.

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News: Pirelli developing first ‘Cyber Tyre’

Glamour tyre maker Pirelli has sent out its calender for another year, and is now looking toward some newer technology, but equally as useful. Pirelli’s new project is named the Cyber Tyre and will provide real-time tyre performance information via a chip/transponder setup in the tyre tread. Operating temperature and pressures, typology of the road’s surface, and vertical load exerted on the tyre will be among the data collected and monitored. The system will work together with another Pirelli invention, the Cyber Wheel, which will convey wheel information such as hub loads in the same way.

Now that the tyre company has partnered with Brembo and Magnetti Marelli on the Cyber Tyre, the tie-up could mean a system that quickly transfers information from the tyre to the driver, car, and brakes, allowing for more informed and instantaneous performance changes based on driving conditions. At this early stage in the Cyber Tyre’s development it remains unknown if future applications will extend past motorsport and into passenger vehicles.

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News: Mini Cooper JCW Convertible going to Geneva show

mini cooper convertible fq

Mini’s going to be busy over the next few months, with new product debuts already scheduled for Geneva (the Mini One Clubman) and Frankfurt (Mini Crossover). If the rumors prove correct, one more new Mini is to revealed – the John Cooper Works edition of the new convertible looks to join its hardtop brother at the Geneva Motor Show in March. As in the JCW hardtop, the convertible version will be blessed with a more powerful variant of the Cooper S model’s turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, which can send its 211 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. Like the hard-top, an overboost function allows for a torque peak of 207 lb-ft for a short period of time of quick bursts of acceleration.

Chassis improvements include new 17-inch alloys (with optional 18-inchers), an upgraded brake package and standard sport suspension. Of course, no upgrade package would be complete without a few visual modifications, and the JCW delivers with a revised frontal appearence, aero kit and plenty of badging inside and out.

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News: Scientists invent regenerative shock absorbers

regenerative shock

Scientists at Tufts University in the states have just patented a shock absorber that converts compressive energy into electricity, which can then be stored in a hybrid vehicle’s batteries. Suitably named the Power-Generating Shock Absorber (PGSA), actually an electromagnetic linear generator, it uses “magnet arrays, high magnetic permeability spaces, coil winding arrays,” and a linear electric motor to capture the energy of its motion and use it to charge the batteries.

If that makes no sense at all then try this explanation; the movement of a standard shock absorber creates heat, which is neutralized by the oil in the shock. In a PGSA, a linear electric motor converts the magnetic field created by the repetitive motion into electricity.

The technology can be used on any vehicle that uses shocks and batteries, but its greatest application could be on trucks due to their higher mass and electricity-generation potential. Electric Truck, LLC has licensed the shock technology, which is predicted to generate between 2kW and 17kW of energy on an average road. According to the men who created it, “the percentage of recoverable power/energy for a mid/large truck that employs four optimised design regenerative magnetic shock absorbers and whose average speed is 80kph on a typical motorway is likely to be between 20% and 70%.”

Channel that electricty back into the storage batteries and your looking at a much better range, or in a hybrid vehicle awesome fuel economy.

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News: Porsche admits decreasing sales

Porsche’s sales for the first six months of its fiscal year (August 1, 2008 through January 31, 2009) have decreased by 27.3% for a total of 34,000 units sold. The resulting financial effect is a 14.3% drop in revenue, or around three billion euros.

Porsche executives have realised that the automaker isn’t immune to the global economic downturn but have no plans to cut jobs. However, it will reduce the number of days worked at the Zuffenhausen plant in Stuttgart by 19 days this year.

According to Porsche, one of the major factors contributing to the sales slump is a change in its model mix, specifically an increase in 911 variants leaving dealer lots and a decrease in Boxster sales — one of the marque’s largest sellers.

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News: Audi releases fresh pics of the new R8

Audi R8 2009

The Audi R8 5.2 FSI quattro is ready to become ‘the’ car for 2009. To make sure we all know about it, Audi has just released some fresh new pics of the beast. To check the original news item on the R8 click here, for a refresher. The latest, greatest R8 packs a 5.2L V10 under its glass engine cover. The powerplant punches out 525 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque. The new V10 motor has been well praised but will it be a good fit in the R8? All should be revealed soon. In the meantime, check out the photos.

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Blogs: Calling a car ‘Superb’, Skoda, is setting yourself up for a fall

I’m thinking back to the pathetic initial crash test results the Brilliance BS6 got. Basically the car’s crumple zone included the driver’s head. Not good (the Youtube clip is at the bottom of this post). So, we know what BS stands for already, but what’s this about calling a car ‘Brilliance’ – surely that’s setting yourself up for the biggest fall. Like the seven-foot-four giant with the surname ‘Small’, Skoda has gone down the same precarious path with a name that is loaded with all the potential irony you can pack into 6 letters: Superb.

Given Skoda’s extremely dodgy line up of pre-VW-ownership cars, some of you will already have formed your opinion. But, a quick straw poll of my age 30-something friends revealed that some of them would be quite happy to own a Skoda. And those of us in the know realise it’s really a VW that you get for a few grand (or more) cheaper.

$60,000-70,000 buys you a lot of car in many classes. You can have a WRX STI – great car, but it’s been beaten with the ugly stick. Twice. You can have some of the BMW 1-series range…but not the good ones. You can have a top of the line Nissan Maxima with spare change (but I nearly fell asleep telling you). You could even have some of the Peugeot 407 range (including the sedan V6, which is quite good, but full of quirky ‘Frenchness’).

But none of them do what the Skoda does Superbly: carry passengers in extreme comfort with all the legroom required for the aforementioned Mr Small. The last car I drove with this much rear legroom had a grille like the Parthenon, wouldn’t fit in my garage, had horrible polished walnut everywhere, and drank fuel like an Englsh soccer player drinks lager.

As well as being Superb for passengers, the Skoda had a Superb (but moderately costly) level of optional extras such as the TV in the dashboard, which pushed the price up towardsthe $70k range. $70,000! That’s nothing. I’m not going to list the car’s finer details here – that’ll be in the review section soon (click Articles in the menu, then Skoda if you’re reading this after March 2009.)

What the Skoda Superb has achieved is the value of a $100,000 car for somewhere around the $70,000 mark. Plenty of grunt from the diesel engine, excellent interior appointments, and even an umbrella stowed in the rear door.

The problem is, when Skoda makes a better car, what can it possibly be called?

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Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback 2009 Review


Fads of celebrity culture are a strange thing. In the nineties Pamela Anderson reached the height of her fame and it felt like breasts had been reinvented. Around the millennium, Jennifer Lopez took up the mantle and suddenly it was bums that took centre-stage. Despite every person on this earth owning one, rear-ends reached a new level of popularity, and suddenly it was ok to have a big one, so long as it was well rounded. Fast-forward to 2009 and J-Lo’s famous derrière is seldom seen on the big-screen, but the concept of the butt as a feature, a source of attraction, remains. Just ask Mitsubishi.

For the eight generation Lancer, Mitsubishi decided some cosmetic surgery was required on the back-end to spice things up. The Lancer sedan survived unscathed with the new enhanced rear only attached to the Lancer Sportback. The Sportback is exactly the type of styling that polarises opinion. Myself, I like the generous curves on the Sportback, but I’m that type of guy. Also, the Lancer Sedan is nose-heavy in its styling, the Sportback negates this and like a beer-gut on a darts player, the hatch brings a useful balance. It seems rude to stare too long at the Sportback’s rear end when the vehicle is flush with other admirable characteristics.

Everything from the back doors forward is identical on the Lancer Sportback as it is the sedan. Pushing forward from the rear the Lancer has a strong clean-cut look; a raked-back windscreen descends onto a subtle character-lined bonnet finishing out front with a large grimaced grille. On the VRX 18-inch rims come as standard and a chrome-tipped exhaust mean the Lancer is always dressed for the red carpet.

What’s the gossip on the interior? Well, the story starts with the smart key system, which enables the driver to keep the key in their pocket or handbag for the entire journey. Sit down and the cosseting front-seats support well, but possibly too firm for some tastes. The dashboard is the stage for hard black and silver plastics to mingle together, resulting in a dark understated atmosphere. Driving position and visibility is great while looking frontward but the thick C-pillar and high back compromise rear visibility severely and highlight the absence of rear parking sensors. The tubed instruments sit around a useful LCD screen that displays driver information. Well-located control buttons sit on both sides of the steering wheel. Interior space is good for driver and passenger, however, the rear door opening is narrow. Once seated in the back, legroom is good but headspace is limited for taller passengers. Putting ‘junk in the trunk’ is easy with the Sportback hatch opening wide and providing a 344-litre capacity, which is better than the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3.

The most impressive element of the VRX’s interior is the equipment list. MP3 compatible six-CD tuner with iPod connectivity and optional subwoofer, paddle-shift CVT gearbox, climate control air-conditioning, sports seats, multi-function trip computer, power windows and mirrors, dusk sensing halogen headlamps, alloy pedals, Bluetooth connectivity, auto wipers and keyless remote central locking. A real A-list of kit but is it all for show or is there some menace under the bonnet?

Being gifted an engine upgrade for the 2009 model year the VRX now makes a true performance impression. With a 2.4-litre, four cylinder firing up front the VRX produces 125kW of power and a solid 226Nm of torque. It moves very well and although guilty of being sluggish of the line, once up to pace the VRX is a free-revving spirited drive. It’s a good performer at cruising speed and suffers no stage fright during open road passing.

The CVT automatic transmission is competent at delivering the power to the front wheels and is silky smooth at low speeds or in traffic, but has a tendency to surge at high revs. While the transmission is neither too erratic nor meek, the VRX’s steering wheel paddles offer a more direct connection between car and driver.

The handling is a pleasure with a strut front, multi-link rear that is set up very well meaning the VRX can be pushed on twisty roads or for evading moped-riding paparazzi. Body roll is minimal and the car tracks well around tight bends. Understeer, the enemy of most front-wheel drive cars, will catch out those going too hard. However, the ESP makes short work of minor errors and strong brakes offer comforting stopping power. Steering is reasonable, giving out ample feedback to keep the driver informed and lightening up well for easy manoeuvring at car park speeds.

The only thing keeping the VRX off this year’s Oscars list is its ride quality. Riding on 18-inch rubber, many bumps and dips in the road are passed on to the driver. Worse still is the road noise which is unacceptable and combined with some wind noise negatively affects the overall driving experience. I don’t mind the bumps and noise in a lightweight performance car, but at 1435kg the VRX isn’t that light and isn’t that much of a performer for it to be forgivable.

All safety boxes are checked with ABS, electronic brake force distribution, traction control and a total of seven airbags cover front and rear passengers.

The Sportback is more than just a counter-punch to the styling of the Subaru Impreza, it gives potential buyers another option. Most buyers will be front-focused Pamela Anderson fans and buy the Lancer sedan, but there will be a few that think different and prefer generous J-Lo curves at the rear.  Overall the VRX is a well priced, strong performing and very well equipped vehicle. It is let down in terms of ride-quality and refinement but redeems itself with useful pace and predictable sporty handling. Mitsubishi has created a sophisticated modern hot hatch that is a top act and a competitive choice in its class.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications

Price: $40,990

What we like:

  • Well-equipped interior
  • Good handling
  • Responsive engine
  • Smooth CVT transmission

What we don’t like:

  • Reward vision
  • Ride quality
  • Back seat headroom

Words and photos: Adam Mamo

Mitsubishi Lancer VRX (2009) – Specifications


Displacement (cc): 2,360
Max power (DIN) kW @ rpm: 127 @ 6,000
Max torque (DIN) Nm @ rpm: 230 @ 4,100
Bore and stroke (mm): 88.0 x 97.0
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Fuel consumption – l/100km: 8.9
CO2 g/km: 207
Fuel tank capacity (litres): 59
Fuel type: regular unleaded 91

Dimensions / Weights

Overall length (mm): 4,585
Overall width (mm): 1,760
Overall height (mm): 1,515
Wheelbase (mm): 2,635
Track front (mm): 1,530
Track rear (mm): 1,530
Turning circle (m): 10.0
Kerb weight (kg): 1,445
GVW (kg): 1,900
Head room – front (mm): 920
Head room – rear (mm): 833
Trunk volume – litres (VDA): 288
Trunk volume with floor lowered – litres (VDA): 344
Cargo capacity with rear seat folded – litres (VDA): 575
Cargo capacity with rear seat folded & floor lowered – litres (VDA): 635
Towing capacity with brakes (kg): 1,000
Towing capacity without brakes (kg): 550

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