News: Hyundai shows off RKSport Genesis

Hyundai Genesis Sedan fq

Three beefed up Hyundai Genesis sedans were unveiled at the SEMA show in Las Vegas this week, including the RKSport model. The RKSport is powered up by a Hyundai-developed screw-type supercharger mated to the 4.6-litre V8.

Running 11 pounds of boost, the RKSport sedan is putting out an estimated 460 horsepower, but with a new cylinder deactivation system, fuel economy is equivalent to that of the V6-equipped Genesis. Hyundai made it clear that it hasn’t made an official decision to offer the supercharger on current models, but expect the cylinder deactivation system to be available in the future.

In addition to the engine mods, the RKSport model receives a custom body kit, composite hood, rear roof spoiler and trunk spoiler, along with Enkei LS-5 wheels, Baer brakes, a K&N air intake, Magnaflow exhaust and lowering springs.

Stay tuned for more updates from the SEMA show.

Blogs: It’s not about safety anymore

For the last few years manufacturers have tried to outdo one another with the number of airbags and electronic nannies they could cram into their new cars. This was great. Now we’re up to ten airbags in some cars – it’s going to feel great to crash. We’re also held on the road by ESP, VDC, ASR, EBD, EBA, ABS and several other acronyms. Even cheap cars come with many of these features.

So, there’s nowhere for the manufacturers to go. Short of fitting an ejector seat (or a guaranteed passage to the afterlife of your choice), how will they differentiate? I’ll tell you: fuel economy and CO2 emissions. Notice how it’s come to the fore in the past year or so. Safety is boring. Fuel economy is the new ‘sensible’ when it comes to motoring because safety is taken for granted, and doesn’t hit you in the pocket like pumping dinosaur juice does. Also, people have a new environmental sensibility – this is fantastic, but it’s still driven by fuel price because when it comes down to it people only care about the environment when it doesn’t cost them.

When this fuel thing has all blown over, though, safety will once again come to fore because ultimately fuel economy is so enormously and hideously dull I will likely fall asleep at the wheel. The next big thing is automatic braking and collision avoidance. Then we’ll be putting panelbeaters out of business.

News: BMW pulls plug on CS concept

BMW CS Concept s

The tough economic climate has taken another automotive victim with the announcement this week that BMW will not be putting its Concept CS into production. The German automaker cites a distinct lack of profitability as the main reason the CS project has been canceled. Last quarter, BMW returned a profit of just 1.3% from its global automotive operations, and that has those in charge worried enough to put a project like the CS on hold. So the brand-new 7 Series will remain at the top of BMW’s model range for now.

This doesn’t mean BMW engineers aren’t hard at work. Efficiency, fuel consumption and vehicle emissions are top priority now and BMW is pushing forward its EfficientDynamics project, which should add technologies such as stop/start and hybrid drivetrains to its mainstream models. After the all-electric Mini E makes its debut at the LA Auto Show, expect BMW to work super hard on its next city car project.

News: Spyker D12 will go into production

Spyker D12 fq

In the current economic climate you may think that developing a exotic super-sport-utility vehicle wouldn’t be a flash idea. But Dutch automaker Spyker is prepared to go against the trend and push on with their D12 Peking-to-Paris SSUV.

The concept initially made its concept debut back at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show, with a pre-production version bowing the following year. Power was initially sourced from a VW Group 500-hp W12 engine, but later reports suggested a switch to American V8 muscle (likely from GM or Ford). Development has benefited from Lotus engineering input. Previous reports also suggested the D12 would hit production sometime next year, and indicated pricing now pegs the sticker at $295,000 ($485,000 NZ).

To maintain a strong presence Spyker will need to take the model to the American market, but the price may be lowered to $200k ($330,000 NZ), still making it the most expensive and most exotic production SUV ever made.

News: Scorpion concept car hides a green sting

Ronn Motor Scorpion fq

Most of us have never heard of the Ronn Motor Company, but that may change very soon. Released this week at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, USA was a menacing looking car aptly named the Scorpion.

Ronn Maxwell and a team of fabricators, engine builders and all-around car guys, wanted to create a supercar that delivered striking good looks, engaging driving dynamics and a bit of green technology to bring the supercar into the 21st century. The result is the 450-hp Scorpion and its hotter, 600-hp sibling, the Scorpion HX.

Very lightweight the Scorpion is built on a chrome-moly chassis shrouded in a carbon fiber body. A smooth shape hides its sting, along with 20-inch MOZ wheels and 12-inch Wilwood disc brakes. Honda donates the 3.5-liter DOHC VTEC-equipped V6 and its matched with a close-ratio six-speed manual sending power to the rear wheels through an LSD. The standard Scorpion puts out 450 hp, while the HX uses a twin-turbo set up and a proprietary intercooler to bring output up to 600 hp. Quoted 0-100km times aren’t available yet , but top speed should be in excess of 320 kph.

While coaxing 600 hp out of a twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 isn’t amazing, the H2GO Hydrogen On-Demand system sets the Scorpion apart. The system produces hydrogen through the electrolysis of water while the vehicle is in motion, creating 130-octane hydrogen. A mixture of gasoline and hydrogen is injected into the intake manifold, along with a 30-40 percent mixture of air. That allows the Scorpion to keep emissions at a minimum while returning excellent economy.

Check back for more news on concept cars from the SEMA show

News: Hyundai and Microsoft team up

Hyundai Microsoft fq

Hyundai and software giant Microsoft have just signed a deal on a new infotainment technology partnership. This is Microsoft’s second automotive partnership, having already equipped Ford with its technology.

The first new jointly produced system will provide voice-controlled connectivity between mobile devices for Hyundai and Kia vehicles beginning in 2010. Microsoft will also work with Korea’s Institute for IT Advancement to open an Automotive IT Innovation Centre in Seoul. The Korean auto giant will partner with Microsoft on auto telecommunication, telematics, navigation systems, and improving Human Machine Interface technology.

Infotainment technology like Ford’s SYNC and BMW’s in-car Internet systems are so hot right now. Microsoft appears to be capitalising on the new trend by netting Hyundai as a second automotive partner, while Hyundai gets the new interactive tech that customers are craving. If its cars are anything to go by, Hyundai’s version of the technology will probably cost less and do more.

Blogs: Economic misery means less goodies for us…bah!

Usually you go on a car launch and the manufacturers attempt to ply you with branded torches, helicopter trips, great food and swanky accommodation. Mitsubishi launched the Lancer Ralliart, facelifted Pajero and Lancer Sportback in Wellington last week on a considerably tighter budget due to the global economic situation and the fact that our dollar has dropped precipitously eroding all their profits.

I did manage to get a notebook and pen out of them. They’re not even branded Mitsubishi, though. The accommodation and food were great, though, and the drive route was fantastic (over the Rimutakas through to Eketehuna and its surrounds). But I don’t do it for the goodies – I’ve got enough ‘stuff’ and don’t really need any more. Except maybe an electric can opener.

The Ralliart Lancer sits between the VRX and the Evo X, and it was very good. For the average driver, the Ralliart Lancer would  be better – it’s more tractable, less manic, but still a great drive. The Sportback…well, the styling from the rear is ugly, but it drives very well. The Pajero has some significant engine changes and a new front grille. The fuel economy is now much improved and it’s vastly quieter at speed.

The overwhelming message now is fuel economy, but not for environmental reasons, purely because people are desperate to save money. For the average driver, though, an extra litre per 100km will only save 150 litres a year (about $225). Most drivers could save that just by modifying their driving habits slightly.

News: Hamann releases the Volcano

Hamann Volcano fq

Hamann has finally released full details of its reworked Mercedes McLaren SLR supercar explosively named the Volcano.

With 5.4-liters of supercharged displacement to work with, Hamann turned up the boost with a new pulley, custom exhaust manifolds and tuned ECU to bring output up to a whopping 700 hp and 612 lb.-ft. of torque. To avoid total meltdown, Hamann added an additional water pump, and to make better use of the extra grunt, tweaked the transmission’s control unit. The 0-100km time is only 3.6 seconds.

Lashings of carbon fibre replace the front and rear wings and the side skirts, while a new bonnet, diffuser and front spoiler all do there best to keep things moving nicely under speed. EDITION RACE 21-inch wheels are fitted and wrapped in 255/30 (front) and 345/25 (rear) rubber. In addition to two color choices — aluminum/chrome or white/matte — owners can choose from new aluminum pedals, door sills and headrests emblazoned with Hamann logos, along with carbon fibre and Alcantara trim for the dash, center console, steering wheel and sun visors.

Might be a while before we see one of these expensive bad boys down here in NZ, but dreams still remain free. There are always plenty of real volcanos to check out.