News: Citroen Hypnos hypnotises

CitroenHypnos fq

Citroen has actually gone crazy this year, it has pumped plenty of money into concept cars and radical designs. The latest to get oohs and aahs from the crowds at the Paris Motor Show is the Hypnos concept car, and hypnotise is exactly what it does.

The exterior looks something like a darker, more versatile version of the GT concept developed by the same company. The interior is something else altogether, and is likely to seem familiar only to those who have spilled 100 different tins of paint all over their garage floor or taken too many drugs.  Power is provided by Citroen’s new HYmotion4 hybrid diesel powertrain, which gives the Hypnos green credentials to go with the psychedelic design themes. This is far more a design study type of concept car than a proper production preview model, but it may still be an indication that Citroen is ready to take some risks and make some moves.

News: Morgan Space concept

Morgan space concept fq

Morgan is naturally proud of its past, so much so that it still builds cars with frames hewn from ash wood. It would seem difficult for Morgan to move forward with new designs while still keeping one hand on its history. Georgian designer Vladimer Kobakhidze has tried to solve this problem for Morgan by creating the Morgan Space concept.

Although it is only a design exercise really, the concept is clearly a Morgan but has a much more modern and aerodynamic look. Morgan itself made attempts at a new look with the Aeromax but never got the recognition it craved, if the Morgan Space concept was developed things may be different. Like current Morgan production vehicles, power would come from a BMW unit, but the craftsmanship and flair would be classically British, with wood and leather covering every interior surface. Unfortunately for now the Space concept is just a pretty picture.

News: Chinese make little impact at Paris show

Xiao Ya fq

One very noticeable feature of the Paris Motor Show this year was the absence, with one or two exceptions, of the Chinese.

Whereas the 2006 Paris Show saw major displays from several manufacturers, notably SUV-makers Great Wall and Landwind, this year saw only two low-key displays from Brilliance and China Automobile France.

It seems the combination of tough European conditions, a focus on serving the fast-growing China market, and difficulties in adequately meeting European emissions and crash-testing standards, have dissuaded the Chinese from making a major play for Europe right now.

And while some of the manufacturers, notably Great Wall, drew praise for some of their designs, they have yet to sign up any distributors in major European markets.

Brilliance is already selling cars in Europe, and is rolling out a range of models in a number of markets, but progress has been slow, and a poor EuroNCAP score has done its image no good.

The same problems — especially a much-publicised independent crash test — has sent Landwind back to the drawing board. The company now plans to wait until it has more suitable models before making a play in Europe.

The other Chinese exhibitor is the French division of China Automobile Deutschland, the controversial German company that caused a major hoo-ha at last year’s Frankfurt Show, when it upset a number of manufacturers by showing cars that were blatant copies of established models, including the BMW X5 and Toyota RAV4.

One of these cars — the X5-lookalike Shuanghuan CEO — was on show, and is about to go on sale with a €25,990 ($55,600 NZ) price tag. But the RAV4-resembling Jonway UFO wasn’t on show — it’s “being restyled”, which will cause some delays to its launch, the company says.

Instead, China Automobile France showed two new original models — a leisure-oriented lightweight 4×4 called the Kiff. This is made by Shanghai Xingyue Power Machinery co, and is powered by a 812cc three-cylinder Chery petrol engine. It’s on sale now, priced around £8,000 ($22,100 NZ).

The other was a cute electric city car called the Chika. This prototype was designed by China’s best-known car stylist Li Shi Guang Ming, who is working on a range of original designs for China Automobile. The designer believes the Chika represents the first steps toward an original Chinese automotive design language — and this could help China Automobile quickly shake off the “bootleg” accusations.

News: Ford’s new technology set to stop teen fun

Ford has recently announced that a new technology named MyKey will be standard on the 2010 Focus Coupe and will be integrated into the rest of their model range soon after. MyKey performs three basic functions: allow parents to limit a vehicle’s top speed to 80 mph and/or the stereo’s volume up to 44% of its max, and set a sustaining chime if the seatbelts aren’t being used.

MyKey can do three basic things: allow parents to limit a vehicle’s top speed to 130 Kph and/or the stereo’s volume up to 44% of its max, and set a sustaining chime if the seatbelts aren’t being used. Clearly targeted towards worrying parents, the MyKey system is to keep teens safe. Ford did some polling and found that 67% of teens thought the idea really sucked, though that number fell to 36% if the MyKey system led to parents letting the kids use the car more.

The MyKey system uses off-the-shelf technology from within Ford, particularly the SecuriLock passive anti-theft system, to identify which keys are in the ignition and therefore which driving mode to enable. Other things the MyKey system can do are permanently enable the traction control system and set chimes for when the car reaches 70, 90 or 110 Kph. This technology could increase sales of the Focus Coupe to parents who see the MyKey as a very useful option.

Blogs: Come on Citroen, make a road-going WRX STI beater

Citroen is totally dominating the rally in a primo C4. Loeb keeps putting himself on the podium courtesy of the C4’s 300hp all-wheel drive competence. Where are the Subarus? Not doing that well with only half the points of Citroen. Ford is doing OK with the Focus, but we’ve got to wait a little while before we get the hot RS version that will do it justice (the XR5 is good, but not ‘rally’ good). Mitsubishi isn’t even in the WRC scene (though the Evos do dominate local rallying).

Maybe now’s not the time to be releasing a car that doesn’t have green, blue, hybrid or eco in its name, but, we all need something to aspire to.

Blogs: Let’s not leave Europe out of the big auto bailout

When you see your competition across the pond getting a nice fat US$25 billion dollar bailout…I mean ‘loan’…it’s perfectly understandable you’d feel aggrieved. Carmakers compete in a global market, so it’s not like the local store is getting help; this is something that impacts on a much larger scale. European carmakers are capitalising on the US government’s timing of the loan to ask the European Commission for a €40 billion ($55.22 billion) loan to speed up the transition to environmentally friendly cars. Is this a good thing? Let’s remove any notion that the carmakers are doing this altruistically, because they’re not. There are tough new regulations coming into force and the big European manufacturers are facing some stiff market conditions in which they’ll have to invest money they don’t want to invest in R&D to meet the demands. If the carmakers have to subsidise it themselves they’re going to a) wear a whole lot of costs to the detriment of their share prices, and/or b) have to raise prices to fund the R&D – they may be able to argue for an extension of the deadlines to meet their environmental obligations. If they receive a loan, they may be able to negotiate much more favourable ‘emergency’ terms. The problem at the moment is the credit crunch. Banks don’t want to lend money to anyone. So, going to a government with an emotive plea is a much easier way of getting funds. It will be interesting to see any terms of the loan, though, such as how long, what interest rate, and so on. And where the money is coming from! The ‘loan’ may prove to be the best option for the environment.

Holden: Holden Calais V Sportswagon 2008 Review

holden-calais-sportwagon-fq

I once went on a blind date, it was a forgettable evening but I can remember well how I felt before the initial meeting. I was a little nervous but also excited by the unknown and the possibilities that may bring. I felt the same way again the day I was to road test the new Holden Calais V Sportswagon. The terms sports and wagon have rarely been connected before and this is what concerned me. Would I be disappointed? Would our encounter become dull and laboured?

My nerves rapidly shifted to admiration when I first saw the Sportswagon in the flesh, it had a little more width in the rear than I’m used to, but I can dig that. The exterior styling has a definite European elegance foreign to previous Commodore wagons. The vehicle lines are fluent from tail to nose and are well accented by an aggressive waiting-to-pounce stance. Handsome 18-inch alloys fill out the guards nicely and match up well with some subtle chrome detailing on the body. Twin exhausts round off the sports look.

At first I was polite and gentle as we took a leisurely drive. Day turned to night but I felt it too forward to go home just yet, so I decided to find out what the Sportswagon’s made of on the inside. The general atmosphere of the interior cannot back up the good looks of the exterior, the plastics feel flimsy and anything that opens doesn’t quite shut as well as it should. That said, the interior is very practical with everything you need within easy reach.

The seats are good soft leather with electronic adjustment and memory settings for the driver. The front seats are wide and long horizontally but lack support during lateral movement. Seating in the rear is comfortable for three adults with Holden even boasting that rear leg room has increased since the previous larger model. Steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo and trip computer are useful.

There is an ingenious roof-mounted DVD player with a drop-down screen for rear passengers, whatever is playing can be repeated on the main screen in the front while the car is stationary. The Sportswagon’s practicality extends to good storage options in the cabin with a large central binnacle under the front armrest, bins in all doors and a glove box big enough for both flowers and chocolates. There are well placed cup holders for front and rear occupants and separate compartments for sunglasses and coins. I found the driver’s control console simple to work and it wasn’t long before I was pushing all the right buttons so it was time for a mad dash back to mine.

The Sportswagon’s 3.6 litre V6 motor puts out a quiet hum at pace rather than the throaty growl that other six-cylinder motors often achieve. With 195kW on tap acceleration is keen but not explosive, which is acceptable when taking into account the vehicle’s near two-tonne curb weight. The five-speed automatic transmission works the gears nicely and in sports shift mode there is even more grunt on hand. If you must go faster you’ll have to get the V8, and if you need faster again you will have to wait for the HSV model, and if you need faster than that you really have no business in a wagon.

How was the ride? Well, the Sportswagon is built for comfort and at motorway cruising speed it provides just that, it’s quiet inside and very sure footed. On windier roads the vehicle does tend to feel a little high and floaty, it can lean when pushed around corners. That said, the steering is honest and precise and it does handle well considering its length and weight. The Sportswagon also has Electronic Stability Control (ESP), side, front and curtain airbags in case things turn sour.

The Sportswagon’s great rear end is a feature in itself, unlike its chunkier ancestors, the new model is built on the same wheelbase as the Commodore sedan. This has come at a cost in load capacity but compensation has been made in other areas. The tailgate hinge extends well into the roof, creating a wide opening for throwing gear in, this also means that the hatch hardly swings outwards on opening. The load height of the rear floor is high, making it easier to load items, while there is a clever cargo blind with two height settings. With the back seats folded down there are two metres in length from tailgate to front seats and a 2000 litre capacity, which should be plenty for most applications.

It was fun while it lasted but the Sportswagon really needs a family to fulfil its complete potential, I’m not ready for that just yet. If my circumstances were to change then the Sportswagon would provide an attractive mix of style, practicality and performance.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications

Price: from $62,290

What we like

  • Styling
  • Strong performance for size
  • Highly practical

What we don’t like

  • Interior quality
  • Rear visibility
  • Wing mirrors

Holden Calais V Sportswagon (2008) – Specifications

Engine and transmission

195kW,(#) 3.6 litre High Output Alloytec V6 engine with 5-speed automatic transmission with Active Select
Limited Slip Differential (available only with sports suspension)

Control and handling

Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) incorporating:
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
Electronic Brake Assist (EBA)
Traction Control System (TCS)
Linear Control Suspension
Sports suspension: Sport tuned spring and damper.
Reduced ride height (available only with Limited Slip Differential)

Wheels

18″ x 8″ alloy wheels. 245/45 R18 100V tyres (4)
17″ x 4″ steel spare wheel. T155/80 R17 111M tyre
Full-size spare wheel and tyre

Entertainment

6 disc in-dash CD player. MP3 compatible
7 speakers. Total 150 watts
Speed dependent volume control
Rear seat overhead DVD player

Seating

Leather appointed seats
8-way electric adjustment of front seats
Adjustable driver’s seat lumbar support
Adjustable front passenger’s seat lumbar support
Driver’s seat position memory for up to 3 drivers
Rear seats fold flat

Cabin comfort

Dual zone electronic climate control
6.5″ multifunction colour LCD screen. Displays stereo and climate control information. DVD player and satellite navigation compatible (where fitted)
Front centre armrest with leather trim
Sunglasses holder
Two front reading lamps
Door entry lamps

Storage and cargo

60:40 split fold rear seats
Twin cup holders in centre console
Centre console storage compartment with armrest lid
Auxiliary power socket in console and rear cargo area
Shopping bag hooks in rear cargo area (2)
D-ring tie-down points (4)
Luggage net (adjustable) in rear cargo area to keep small items in place

Exterior

Front fog lamps
Projector headlamps
Dual exhaust outlets
Quad exhaust outlets (V8 only)
Chrome finish body side mouldings

Driver

Steering wheel height and reach adjust
Leather wrap sports profile steering wheel
Multifunction steering wheel, featuring illuminated controls for:
Sound system
Trip computer
Bluetooth® for compatible mobile phones (where fitted)
Satellite navigation; Turn-by-turn (where fitted)
Multifunction driver display, featuring:
Trip computer information
Sound system information
Priority key. Stores settings for:
Climate control (where fitted)
Sound system
Trip computer
Speed alert
Headlamp and interior lighting time delay options
Driver’s seat and exterior mirror positions
(Calais V-Series and Calais with leather option only)
Alloy faced pedals
Leather wrap gear selector
Cruise control
Front and Rear Park Assist
Power exterior mirrors
Heated exterior mirrors with ‘puddle’ lamps and position memory
Passenger side exterior mirror dips when reverse gear selected
Rain sensing wipers
Road speed dependent variable intermittent wipers
Automatic headlamp mode. Switches on at twilight or low light
Trip computer with triple display, including:
Average speed
Odometer/tripmeter/trip time
Distance/time to go
Instantaneous/average fuel consumption
Digital speedometer
Tracks two trips simultaneously (eg. short day trip within long interstate trip)
Fuel used/range
Visual and audible speed warning
Sound system able to accommodate mobile phone kit
Auto mute when phone is in use
Bluetooth® for compatible mobile phones
Satellite navigation. Turn-by-turn
Satellite navigation. Full colour mapping

Occupant safety

Dual-stage front airbags for driver and front passenger, side impact airbags for driver and front passenger and side curtain airbags
Front lap/sash seatbelts with load limiters and pyrotechnic pretensioners
Rear seat child restraint anchor points (3)
Remote control priority key:
Operates central locking
Operates interior lighting. Time delay on entry
Automatic illumination when engine turned off
Operates exterior lamps
Enables/disables alarm system
Unlocks tailgate
Horn sounds if either front door is ajar when remote locking
Sound system operates only in original vehicle

# Maximum figures as per ECE regulations
* Figure quoted using 98 RON (PULP)

Engine

3.6L 60-degree Double Overhead Cam V6 with 4 valves per cylinder. Twin knock control sensors with individual cylinder adaptive control. On-board diagnostics.
Continuously variable camshaft phasing for inlet and exhaust cams. Variable Intake Manifold (VIM)
Capacity: 3564
Compression: 10.2
Power: 195kW@6500rpm
Torque: 340Nm@2600rpm
Exhaust system: Dual exhaust outlets
Gear ratios:
1st 3.42
2nd 2.21
3rd 1.60
4th 1.00
5th 0.75

Words Adam Mamo, photos Darren Cottingham

News: Lexus IS250C makes world debut

Lexus IS 250C fq

The latest offering from Lexus the IS 250C has just made its world debut at the Paris Motor Show. Based on the IS sedan but missing two doors and a permanent roof, the new 250C is not without its charm but has had a mixed reception. Accused of having an ugly rear end and broken lines the IS 250C still has much to offer away from aesthetics. Its aluminum folding roof structure boasts the fastest three-part roof opening time of just 20 seconds. Through the compact packaging of its roof mechanism, the IS 250C has a large boot space, good rear seat access and can fit adults in the back comfortably.

Sharing the IS 250’s 153kW/208hp, 2.5 litre V6 powerplant and 6-speed automatic transmission, the new Lexus convertible has been created to have minimal wind turbulence when driving with the hard top stowed. On the inside, rear passengers have a set of rollover hoops there’s a 12-speaker Mark Levinson sound system and a speed sensitive climate control system that will boost the heat during open air driving. The IS 250C is a smart car, but convertible drivers care about one thing above all others and that’s how they look.