News: Alpina D3 coupe shows what diesels can do

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Alpina has taken BMW’s state-of-the-art twin turbo diesel engine from the 123d and increased power to 214hp, and in doing so has produced an engine with more horsepower per litre than any other engine in a current BMW or BMW Alpina road car. Welcome to the Alpina D3 coupe.

The new Alpina D3 Coupe best is best compared to its rivals is its Power-To-Weight ratio; an equation commonly applied in motor sport. But, with heavily increased personal taxation designed to encourage energy saving and lowered emissions, the calculation is assuming wider relevance to drivers – especially those in the select niche at which this latest ALPINA is aimed.

As epitomised by the D3 Coupe, gaining extra performance simply by substituting a larger engine is alien to the Alpina philosophy. Instead, the manufacturer, working closely with BMW, maximises the sporting potential of existing units.

‘Added lightness’ makes a significant further contribution to the remarkable figures achieved by the new model.

The extra power, lightness of the engine, plus additional weight saving technology means an overall power-to-weight ratio of 146hp per tonne — virtually matching BMW’s own 330d Coupe.

The car is capable of 250km/h and 0-100km/h in 6.9 secs and yet the official fuel consumption and emission figures tell a very different story: 5.4 L/100km (overall EU) and 143g/km of CO2 emissions. (manual gearbox version).

Plans for New Zealand exports are as yet unknown.

News: Tesla Motors scores big new talent

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Tesla Motors has done well for itself in the last few weeks procuring new talent to try to add value to the company. Hiring Deepak Ahuja, a seasoned auto industry finance executive with 15 years experience at Ford Motor Company, seems like a sound move.

Deepak was previously the controller for Ford’s small cars product development program, a strategic initiative to bring several fuel efficient cars to Ford’s lineup in the United States. Previously, Deepak was CFO for Ford of Southern Africa, a $3 Billion subsidiary where he oversaw the finance, legal and IT functions. Prior to that, Deepak served as CFO for Auto Alliance International, a joint venture between Ford and Mazda with over $4 billion in revenue.

Also joining the rising electric car company is Franz Von Holzhausen the creator of the Mazda Furai and Nagare.

With legal woes still taking its toll on Tesla, let’s hope that this influsion of new talent can move the company along.

Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG 2008 Review

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As a child I was fascinated by dinosaurs. I had plastic models and lots of books. It’s amazing that after 25 years I can still vividly remember specific pictures — the Allosaurus standing over a half-eaten sauropod carcass, and the Ankylosaurus defending itself against a marauding pack of theropods.

What reminded me of this was the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG’s muscular and predatory stance. The bonnet’s two power bulges are like ossicones on the skull of a prehistoric carnivore. It’s a refined, intelligent and lithe meat-eater that will make short work of the lumbering herbivores that cake our roads. In fact, this Merc is so rapid that you could drive through a whole geological era in about 25 minutes.

The pumped-up bodywork differentiates the C63 AMG from lesser models. Starting at the rear, it’s not the prettiest, but it does have quad AMG sports exhausts that sit astride a three-finned diffuser-style rear apron. Move a little around to the side and you begin to get a peek at the flared front wheel arches that terminate the bold, forward-sloping waistline crease. These wheel arches form a neat circumference for the 18-inch AMG wheels, low profile tyres and gigantic 360x36mm cross-drilled brake discs at the front (rears are 330x26mm). Six pistons grip the discs at the front, and four at the rear.

There may be a smattering of 6.3 badges around the car (the front fenders, boot lid, and on the rev counter), but this car’s heart is a 6.2-litre AMG-built 336kW powerhouse featuring a build plate by the engineer that assembled it, and a staggering 600Nm of torque — enough to strap the continents together and reform Pangaea.

As you would expect on a car of this calibre, everything is adjustable electronically, including the steering wheel’s position both telescopically, and up and down. The seats have at least several hundred thousand ways of adjusting them, including two lumbar supports and adjustable lateral support. And you can have the C63 AMG remember up to three seating positions. These AMG buckets held my latissimus dorsii firmly, making me feel more involved and integrated.

Time to press the big silver start button and see what apocalyptic fury erupts from under the power bulges. Roaring into life the AMG mill immediately reminds you why its 6.2 litres of V8 strikes fear into the crankcases of lesser engines. Select your desired gearbox mode from Comfort, Sport or Manual (whereby you’d use the paddles or gear lever to change the seven-speed gearbox), and give chase.

It’s like being hit from behind by a charging Stegosaur, the roar builds until the gearbox almost seamlessly changes up. You’re at the legal speed limit in 4.5 seconds, but you just want to carry on going and test how far around the 320kph speedometer that needle will go.

Brake heavily and the C63 downshifts while electronically blipping the throttle to match the revs — it sounds great, and it works. Turn into the corner and it bites hard. The C63 changes direction like a hungry Velociraptor who has set his sights on a nimble morsel that’s hell-bent on escaping.

The steering is a bit sharper than other Mercedes’. I think it could have been even sharper, but it is a good compromise that allows relaxed cruising, or confidence when pressing-on.

If I was to build a C64 AMG, the changes would be minor. Wider wheels at the back would prevent the traction control light from blinking while you’re in third. There would be a glove box that would fit more than just a glove. And, the transmission tunnel wouldn’t get unbearably hot while you have the heater activated.

So, if I had the spare cash, I think I would seriously consider buying one. This is the Mercedes that’s aimed at the younger affluent buyer. You can see the intent in the bulging wheel arches and carefully positioned vents, and it’s all backed up by the performance; the driving feel is engaging, and the interior comfort is exceptional; and the Logic7 surround sound system will challenge the interior plastics of cars parked next to you at the lights.

Externally it’s the perfect C-segment size; internally the driving position is great, but there’s a dearth of interior storage (perhaps the wealthy don’t carry ‘stuff’ around with them).

But that’s a minor quibble. Spotting a C63 AMG will be like hunting for fossils in Utah — you know they’re out there, but it’s not like they’re everywhere, and when you do find one, you might just get that rush of adrenaline. Of course, owning one is like being the T. Rex, hunting the plains and asserting your dominance in the food chain.

Click through to the next page to view the specifications of the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.

Price: from $154,000 (as tested with optional intelligent lights pack $154,900)

What we like

  • Everything about it reminds you of why its 6.2-litre V8 is so phenomenal  (and sounds better than the 4-litre V8 in BMW’s M3)
  • Sensible proportions
  • I would buy one
  • Comand APS sat nav/Bluetooth phone system

What we don’t like

  • Transmission tunnel gets very hot when the heater is on — you can’t rest your leg against it. Mercedes is currently investigating.
  • The wealthy obviously don’t need much interior storage
  • I know I whine on about this (C220 and C320 CDI are the same), but I don’t like the dashboard plastic

Active bi-xenon headlamps

Airbags for the driver and front passenger

Aluminium trim panels on dome, doors and centre console

Anti-theft alarm system with IR interior motion sensor

Acceleration skid control (ASR)

Armrest with roller-top compartment

Electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors

Electric tilting/sliding glass sunroof

Outside temperature display

Brake Assist

ADAPTIVE BRAKE system with hill-start assist

Through-loading facility and armrest with double cup holder, load securing and 1/3:2/3  split-fold rear seat backrest

3-stage ESP®

Intelligent Light System with Hadlamp Assist

Power windows (4)

Belt tensioners and belt force limiters for the front and outer rear seats

Air-conditioned glove compartment

Black roof liner

Steering column electronically adjustable for height and reach

Lighting package

Front fog lamps

Tyre pressure loss warning system

ELCODE locking system with infrared/radio remote control

Sidebags for driver and front passenger

Bag hooks in the boot/luggage compartment

Cruise control with SPEEDTRONIC variable speed limiter

Front seats electrically adjustable for height and backrest angle with memory function

Leather selector lever

Tinted glass

Windowbags

Central locking with crash sensor

Sidebags in rear

Harman Kardon LOGIC7® surround-sound system

THERMOTRONIC comfortable automatic climate control system with three-zone air conditioning

Bluetooth connectivity

COMAND navigation, including 6-disc DVD changer and LINGUATRONIC

PRE-SAFE

KEYLESS-GO

Engine

No. of cylinders/arrangement     V8

Valves per cylinder     4

Displacement (cc)     6208

Performance

Rated output (kW/hp at rpm)[1]     336/6800

Rated torque (Nm at rpm)[1]     600/5000

Top speed (km/h)     250[2]

Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s)     4.5

CO2/Fuel

Fuel tank capacity (l)     66

Fuel consumption (combined cycle)[3]     13.4

CO2 emissions combined (g/km)[3]     319

Dimensions & Weights

Turning circle     11.75

Kerb weight (kg)     1730

Tyre size, front     235/40 R 18

Tyre size, back     255/35 R 18

Words Darren Cottingham, photos Darren Cottingham and Jessica Mills


Blogs: The worst thing about moving house

I moved house this weekend and was fortunate enough to have a Toyota Land Cruiser to take a couple of things that I didn’t want in the back of a removals truck. The only hassle was the 13-point turn to get the beast turned around at the end of the driveway. The driveway’s really narrow so there’s only an inch either side of the Land Cruisers wing mirrors). I thought about backing the LC down the driveway, but with large nikau palms spaced along its length (which are more resilient than Land Cruiser panels) I figured that, despite the LC’s copious reversing sensors and camera, it was much safer to come out forwards, especially seeing as going in forwards elicited a chorus of warning tones reminiscent of a casino’s gaming machines.

But that’s not the biggest hassle about moving. It’s not even the laborious packing/unpacking. No, the worst is going to a new supermarket and not knowing where anything is. I had a mental checklist of exactly where to look in my old supermarket, but now it’s like getting into a car where the accelerator is on the steering wheel, and the brake is the volume knob – you have to take things slowly.

News: Porsche Cayman S Sports on sale in Europe next month

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Porsche is introducing a new model in the Cayman range. The Cayman S Sport, develops over 300 bhp from its tuned 3.4-litre flat-six engine and goes on sale this spring in Europe.

Originally launched in November 2005, the Porsche Cayman S quickly became the benchmark sports car in the coupe segment.

The latest Sport version combines the mid-engined dynamics of the Cayman S with the visual impact of the iconic 911 GT3 RS. In addition to a more powerful engine, the Cayman S Sport offers a high level of sports driving features and a bespoke range of colour combinations.

With its black-painted alloy wheels, exterior mirrors and air intake grilles, the Cayman S Sport proudly displays its sporting credentials, which are underlined by the black interior design package and a unique, circular instrument display without the usual binnacle above. The alcantara finish on the gear shift, the handbrake lever, and the rim of the steering wheel also creates a purposeful ambience.

Over and above the 303 bhp (223 kW) power unit, the sporting character of the Cayman S is further emphasised by offering Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) as standard, which lowers the car by ten millimetres. Five millimetre spacers push outwards the 19-inch SportDesign wheels in the wheel arches, providing further visual appeal and boosting cornering performance.

Bi-Xenon headlights, the Sports Chrono Package and sports seats in leather as standard enhance the appeal of the car, and a sports exhaust system combined with twin tailpipes completes the picture.

These versions of the Cayman S are limited to an exclusive series, each one proudly bearing their edition number on a plaque on the glove box.

The Cayman S Sport goes on sale in the UK and Ireland in September. Production of the Cayman S Sport will be limited to 700 units worldwide. Customers will also be able to explore the potential of their new car on a Porsche Driving Experience course.

News: Audi RS6 by MTM churns out 702hp and is faster than light

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Mad German tuning house MTM has taken the already ballistic Audi RS6 and made it faster than light.

While the world that the people at MTM inhabit must surely be an exciting place (I want to move there!), it is hard to image that a twin-turbo version of Lamborghini’s V10 needs any uprating from its already potent 580bhp. But as stated before Earth bound rules don’t apply to the engineers at MTM, and it shows.

With minimal fettling, namely a re-calibrated ECU and exhaust and air-filter changes, MTM has managed to extract 702bhp from the force-fed engine. Performance is said to be other-worldly with a 0-100km/h time of close to 3.6 secs.

Also on offer from MTM for the RS6 is carbon fibre spolier kits, bigger brakes, higher rated dampers and 21-inch wheels.

Here at Car and SUV we will soon be receiving an Audi RS6 so stand-by for the review.

News: BMW revises the M3 looks: Power to stay the same

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In the model year 2009 the BMW 3 Series Saloon, the four-door BMW M3 will feature divided rear lights with the brand-typical L-shaped contour. The two LED light clusters for the taillights and the indicator lights, which also feature LED technology, have a distinctive and high-quality appearance. The new rear end design is rounded off by modifications to the bumper and rear lid. The list of interior refinements includes a newly conceived fresh air grille located in the centre of the cockpit, a newly designed storage area under the armrest on the centre console and a pearlescent chrome light switch cluster.

The new start/stop button, also in pearlescent chrome, and the rotary controls for the air conditioning sporting the same design are not only featured in the BMW M3, but also in the Coupe and the Convertible. Likewise, from the autumn, all variants of the BMW M3 will be equipped with crash-active headrests that reduce the risk of cervical injury in the event of a rear end collision. The choice of exterior colours available for the BMW M3 will also be widened as from the autumn. The colour space grey metallic is now also available for the BMW M3 Saloon. Le Mans blue metallic is new in the range of colours offered for all body variants.

News: Ford and GM talk about sharing technologies

Amongst the news that General Motors posted a huge Q2 loss and is cutting a futher 5,000 jobs as well as closing four manufacturing plants by 2010, comes rumours from inside Detroit that the unthinkable could be on the cards.

The Detroit News has reported that GM and Ford could be putting thier heads together on engine and powertrain technologies in the near future.

Such a move could help both companies, as developing a new engine costs as much as US$1Billion (NZ$1.37Billion). This news comes along with the forecast by the Center of Automotive Research (CAR) in the U.S that GM is in serious danger of going under if its fortunes don’t change soon.