Blogs: Holden Colorado – will Obama make this more attractive?

Here’s a contentious issue: George W. Bush. People (in general) on this side of the world have no respect for him, and that often translates into no respect for America as a country. So, Holden commits a possible faux pas in marketing by launching the Colorado (currently sitting in the Car and SUV garage) – named after a state in America.

Colorado doesn’t perhaps have the same connotations as calling something Texas, Los Angeles or New York. It reminds me of South Park and crisp mountain air, and not pointless wars in the Middle East. Perhaps it’s how you position it? In the name of science I asked a few random people one of two questions. In the name of achieving a slightly less statistically irrelevant result half of the people got question 1, and the other half got question 2:

1: Here’s the Holden Colorado – if you were after a ute, do you think you’d consider it?

2: Here’s the Holden Colorado – if you were after a ute, would you consider buying something named after an American state seeing as America is a greed-ridden warmonger?

OK, the questions might have been a tad leading, but my findings were that people weren’t sensitive to the American name unless it was pointed out. Which it probably never will be.

But, now that Obama is on the cusp of power, he will paint the White House black, put some funky coolness back into America and other manufacturers will be cursing Holden’s foresight. We’ll no longer have the Mitsubishi iCar, but the Mitsubishi Iowa. Yee haw.

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News: VW Microcar on the fast-track to production VW Microcar on the fast-track to production

VW Up! concept fq

Microcars have become extremely popular recently and many motor industry insiders are predicting that the microcar category will only pick up more steam. Manufacturers are not blind to this trend with the Smart Car brand leading the way, BMW is working hard on a city-spec Isetta revival, Toyota has responded with its diminutive iQ and VW went small with its Up! concept car. But Volkswagen has got even smaller ideas in the works and is working on a ultra tiny city car to slot in below its already miniture Up! model.

Power for the new city car will come from either a 1.2L four cylinder or even a three cylinder powerplant. The future engine is expected to feature cylinder cut-off technology so it can operate on just half of its allotment of pistons when full power isn’t necessary. All of that adds up to an estimated 1.5l/100km. VW is also looking at an electric drivetrain.

Current rumours indicate that the German automaker has given this new model priority status, working to get the car on roads by 2011. Labelled at this stage as the VW Chico. the mini motor will hopefully get a new name come launch time.

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News: ABT tunes up Audi Q5

ABT audi Q5 fq

When the engineers and designers at ABT Sportsline tune an SUV, you can be sure that the result will go fast and look mean. ABT have worked on the Touareg, AS7 and Tiguan – and that’s now continued with the new ABT Q5.

The ABT Q5 is dressed up with a new front skirt with the integrated under-ride protection finding its equivalent in the rear skirt, which also hides the extendable tow bar. The front grille, the fender extensions and the dynamic door strip attachments form a full replacement unit. The higher rear wing, a 4-pipe-rear muffler and the 20 inch BR wheel round off the new look.

An ABT upgrade always includes more power, especially when all four wheels are powered. The two diesel engines variants both receive treatment with the 2.0 TDI delivering a  potent 190hp (140kW) instead of 170hp (125kW). The 3.0 TDI delivers the most powerful performance for the ABT Q5: with 310hp or 228kW instead of 240hp/177kW. Particularly impressive is its maximum torque of 610Nm.

Suspension and brakes have had a rework too with new suspension springs, lowering of the car’s center of gravity and the ABT Level Control, an electronic lowering for the CDC air suspension (Continous Damping Control). Helping deceleration is the ABT sports brake system with big 380mm brake discs packing in behind the 20 inch rims.

The ABT Q5 is going to be available in Europe from early 2009.

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News: Ford F-150 SVT Raptor proves itself

Ford SVT Raptor s

When Ford developed the F-150 SVT Raptor R, it wanted to be sure that it could offer fantastic off-road performance. So Ford entered a modified version of the truck into the Baja 1000, confident that the race-ready Raptor could hold its own in the endurance competition. The plan was to finish the race and prove the vehicle was a true off-road competitor. The SVT Raptor not only crossed the finish line, but it finished third in the Class 8 division. This is especially impressive considering the Raptor is built for the lower-level Stock Full class in which it couldn’t compete because the production version is not yet for sale.

Considered one of the toughest off-road races in the world, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor R race truck that participated in the Baja 1000 was a collaboration between the Ford Special Vehicle Team (SVT), Ford Racing, and Foutz Motorsports Inc.

“We engineered the F-150 SVT Raptor to be the best high-speed off-road performance truck available right off the showroom floor, and finishing the Baja 1000 proves this,” stated Jamal Hameedi, SVT’s Chief Nameplate Engineer. “Now we need to analyse all the engineering data from the race and apply lessons learned to the production truck, ensuring that the truck delivered to customers exceeds their expectations.”

Prepared for racing in long distance off-road endurance events, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor R uses stock components of F-150 SVT Raptor, including the transmission, brakes and axles. The frame – the part of the truck that will take the most stress – is the same fully boxed frame that delivers strong towing and hauling in the all-new 2009 Ford F-150 that went on sale in October. The Raptor race truck is powered by a specially-calibrated version of the available 6.2-litre V-8 engine, making 500-horsepower.

Will be a while before we see the 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor down here in NZ, but now we know it might just be capable of dealing with our tough off-road conditions.

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News: BMW Z4 redesigned for 2009 and due next month

BMW Z4 2009 fq

One vehicle that was rumoured to be launching at the recent LA Auto Show was BMW’s redesigned 2009 Z4 roadster. The Z4 never showed up, but apparently it is ready to be rolled out next month.

Drivetrain choices are to include either a naturally aspirated or twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six, found currently in the 328i and 335i, respectively, with an M version packing the M3’s V8 and a carbon fibre roof. The Z4’s front and rear will be worked over and a lower roofline and ducktail spoiler should finish off the alterations. BMW is expected to employ a range of stylistic differences to separate the Z4 coupe from its folding hardtop sibling. For 2009, BMW is expected to drop the soft-top Z4 and only offer the folding hardtop.

The rumoured Z2 is also currently in the works and could be available in both coupe and cabrio variants, and equipped with some form of BMW’s EfficientDynamics system. Check back for more details on the updated Z4 and mysterious new Z2.

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News: Mazda to launch Mazda3 hatchback at Bologna Motor Show

Mazda3 hatch fq

Mazda will showcase the world premiere of the all-new Mazda3 5-door hatchback at the Bologna Motor Show on December 3, 2008.  The second generation Mazda3 5-door hatchback follows on the heels of the new 4-door sedan version, displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show.  The all-new Mazda3 adopts similar characteristics as its sedan counterpart, offering a popular mix of sporty-style driving and fresh design.

The new engine line-up includes the freshly developed 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine, recently launched in the new Mazda6, in addition to the existing 1.6- and 2.0-litre petrol engines and the 1.6-litre turbo diesel.

The new 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine will be offered in two variants, a high power version with a maximum output of 136 kW, and a standard power version with a maximum output of 110kW.  Both offer clean emission performance and comply with the Euro Stage5 regulations.

Check back as we bring you more on the Mazda3 launch and the Bologna Motor Show

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News: Ferrari California configurator – online time waster

Ferrari Configurator

Just when you thought you had enough Internet-based distractions at work Ferrari has brought out an online configurator to let us toy around with the different color, trim and wheel combinations available on its latest offering, the California.

With 27 exterior colors, 12 different leather hues, three wheel options and five brake caliper choices, no fewer than 4860 distinct combos can be created. I like the Ferrari in darker colours but there is plenty to choose from especially since Ferrari revived some of its classic hues. Actual customers who visit one of Ferrari’s customisation agents, can select from far more options, but this online configurator should keep Ferrari fan’s dreams alive for a while longer.

Click here to visit the Ferrari California configurator website

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News: Honda spruce up Civic for 2009

Honda Civic 2009 fq

Honda has given its 2009 Civic a makeover and some mild performance enhancements. The 2009 Honda Civic builds on the success of the redesigned 8th version, released in 2006.

The exterior makeover includes a new more aggressive and sporty shape, new front grill and bumper and redesigned rear grill and tail lights for all three models (the 1.8S, 2.0S and Hybrid), plus new design 17″ alloy wheels as standard on the 2.OS.

Changes to the gear shift paddles enable the Sports Shift to be live all the time on the 1.8S and 2.0S models, not just when in S mode as it was previously. By activating Sports Shift the driver essentially transforms the vehicle into a manual car, and is able to move through the gears using the steering wheel-mounted paddle switches. Allowing for driver activated engine braking, as well as more aggressive acceleration.

Under the bonnet the 1.8L engine produces power and torque (103kW and 177Nm respectively). Meanwhile the 2.0L engine (derived from the Award winning Accord Euro and tuned for the Civic) produces 114kW power and 188Nm of torque. The 2009 Civic Hybrid retains its Integrated Motor Assist powertrain that produces outputs equivalent to the 1.8L engine.

All three engine feature i-Vtec engine management systems that use valve control systems that provide either variable lift control of vales, variable timing of valve opening or in the case of the hybrid complete cylinder deactivation by valve closure to assist fuel efficiency and/or power delivery.

Safety is ensured with the continued inclusion of front, side and curtain airbags, ABS, EBD, Emergency Brake Assist and Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure that reduces potential vehicle body misalignment in a collision.

The Civic’s instrument panel is designed for comfort and to reduce fatigue. The instruments are split into two areas: less used items are in the traditional position while the critical items are closer to the screen and also in the driver’s peripheral vision when looking at the road so they can read the speed without having to significantly adjust their focal point away from the road.

“The 2009 Honda Civic builds even further on the success of the 2006 model. We expect that the 2009 Honda Civic, which combines everything that was great about the 2006 version with an attractive facelift and the inclusion of even more innovative features, it will continue in its popularity with New Zealand drivers,” says Honda New Zealand Managing Director Graeme Seymour.

The 2009 Honda Civic is available now and priced from $28,900 for the 1.8S, $35,200 for the 2.OS and $37,000 for the Hybrid (plus on-road costs).

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