News: Revised Mazda RX-8 in New Zealand

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Mazda New Zealand has announced the arrival of the 2009 model year RX-8 which features refinements to the drivetrain, chassis and new automatic and manual transmissions.

Mazda engineers strove to enhance the driving enjoyment that’s at the heart of the RX-8 experience by refining the RENESIS engine, whose naturally aspirated, free-revving operation up to 9,000 rpm realises exhilarating performance.

The engine sits low and well back in the engine bay in a configuration Mazda calls, advanced front-midship layout. This means that the new RX-8 maintains the original’s ideal 50:50 weight distribution, placing weight evenly over all four wheels and ensuring exceptional stability.

The chassis itself has been further strengthened to bolster rigidity and give the engine and suspension a tauter platform. This highly rigid body and modified suspension enables sharp and linear vehicle response to steering inputs, and delivers the handling of a genuine sports car as well as the high-grade ride comfort expected of a refined four-seater.

Two new transmissions, a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed electronic activematic have been developed for the RX-8 based off the transmissions available for the MX-5 — another Mazda front-engine, rear-drive sports car. Some internal changes and alterations to the gear ratios were made so that the new transmissions would work cohesively with the high-revving characteristics of the RX-8’s RENESIS rotary engine.

The 6-speed activematic is a new electronically-controlled transmission — which delivers smooth and linear acceleration at all engine speeds.  It also incorporates the newly-developed Direct Mode. This allows the driver, while the car is in “Drive” to instantaneously select the optimal gear for the driving circumstances without first having to switch to manual mode.  The driver can quickly change down a gear via the steering wheel mounted shift switches to decelerate using the engine brake when driving downhill, or they may wish to change gears to accelerate for an overtaking manoeuvre. After this has been accomplished the car will revert back to normal automatic “Drive” mode.

In the current atmosphere of spiralling petrol prices, Mazda’s engineers chose not to increase the RENESIS rotary engine’s peak power figure, but instead focused on improving the low- to mid-range engine response and torque delivery.  The power output for the manual remains unchanged at 170 kW @ 8200 rpm, while the automatic increases to 158 kW @ 7500 rpm (up 17 kW) and torque of 211 Nm @ 5500 rpm for both transmissions. The result is an RX-8 that is more responsive at lower revs, and is equally happy to explore the stratospheric reaches of its 9000 rpm redline.

RX-8 Recommended Retail Pricing:

Recommended Retail Price
(including GST, excluding ORC)

2009 RX-8 COUPE 6MT
$55,395

2009 RX-8 COUPE 6SP.EAT
$55,395

News: BMW hydrogen-powered 7-series goes on a road trip

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The BMW Hydrogen 7 — the first hydrogen-powered luxury sedan — is hitting the road in an unprecedented cross-country journey in the U.S.

The car, which emits water safe enough to drink, will join other hydrogen-powered cars from the world’s leading automakers in the 2008 Hydrogen Road Tour.

From August 11 — 23, the hydrogen powered convoy will travel from the US cities of Portland, Maine to Santa Monica, California with one goal: to call on congressional leaders to support the creation of a nationwide hydrogen fuelling station infrastructure.
The Hydrogen Road Tour is a partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Energy, the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the National Hydrogen Association. In addition to BMW, participants include Daimler, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, Toyota, and VW. Also part of this broad coalition are hydrogen fuel providers Linde, BMW’s hydrogen fuel partner for the Tour, and Air Products.

What is most unusual about the Hydrogen Road Tour is the partnership between the world’s leading automakers, key federal departments, influential non-governmental organisations and hydrogen fuel providers to bring the reality of practical, clean energy to our nation’s legislators and the public. The tour will visit key members of Congress in their home states to allow them the opportunity to see and drive these cars.

BMW Hydrogen 7 is the only car on the tour that stores liquid hydrogen to power an internal combustion engine. Hydrogen is one of the cleanest energy sources available producing zero emissions. Essentially the only tailpipe emission is water vapour.

The tour fleet will include the mono-fuel version of the BMW Hydrogen 7, equipped with a V12 internal combustion engine which has been engineered to run exclusively on hydrogen. It was created to showcase the zero CO2 and low emissions potential and feasibility of a dedicated hydrogen internal combustion engine.

The Hydrogen 7’s V12 mono-fuel produces no CO2 and near-zero emissions, while not sacrificing performance. In fact, the tailpipe emissions are so infinitesimal they pushed the limits of current emission testing technology.

Independent authorities, including the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), have confirmed these results. ANL conducted emission tests on BMW Hydrogen 7 mono-fuel vehicles in early March 2008 and found that not only were the emissions infinitesimally small but when running, the vehicle actually cleaned the air.
Recent studies have also confirmed the water emitted by the Hydrogen 7 is, in fact, safe to drink.

Exhaust from the mono-fuel Hydrogen 7 tested by FGL Environmental was found to be well within the limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for safe drinking water standards. The Maximum Contaminant Limit, abbreviated MCL, is the maximum limit set by the EPA for chemicals found in drinking water. Results showed the MCL from mono-fuel H7 emissions to be in compliance with the health safety standards.

For more than a year, the BMW fleet of bi-fuel Hydrogen 7s has been an important milestone on the road to a hydrogen future, with more than 150 people driving nearly 2 million miles so far. The Pioneer Program, as it is called, has provided the flexibility of being able to gather real-world driving experience driving on hydrogen with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you won’t run out of fuel. In addition to the BMW hydrogen pioneers, hundreds of people from academia, students, media, as well as the general public, have had the opportunity to experience the BMW Hydrogen 7.

News: Ferrari to shut down entire European dealer network

Ferrari has announced the launch of a new Europe, Middle East and Africa regional headquarters aimed at further boosting its presence on established and developing markets. Ferrari says that the new organisation will guarantee an efficient distribution of resources between the central and regional offices.

The new organisation involves the setting up of the EMEA (Europe Middle East Africa) regional headquarters in Maranello, Italy to cover four regional areas:

- Europe South/West Region, based in Paris
- Central Europe Region, based in Wiesbaden
- North Europe Region, based in London
- Middle East and Africa Region, based in Dubai

With regard to the European dealerships and assistance network, because current EU law governing relations with dealerships and assistance centres expires on May 31st 2010, Ferrari has decided to withdraw from all existing contracts and draw up new agreements that will ensure the network complies with any future EU regulations introduced.

Blogs: Lowering the blood alcohol limit

The Dominion Post reported today that government agencies have recommended lowering driver blood alcohol limits. It’s looking for ‘real and enduring changes’ to tackle the effects of heavy drinking.

While I think this is a great idea (I personally don’t drink because of an allergy to alcohol), the quoted statistics are for road deaths involving drink or drugs and show an increase in deaths from 109 in 2006 to 128 in 2007. Hang on a minute – a reduction in the tolerance for drugs hasn’t been mentioned at all by the article, only alcohol.

So, perhaps the increase is all to do with drugs and maybe there’s a declining proportion of alcohol-related fatalities. Who knows? Certainly not the readers of the Dominion Post because (once again) failure to clarify a story has resulted in a report that’s not complete.

There are a few questions that haven’t been answered, including:

1) The figures that are quoted assume compliance with the law. How many people who will potentially kill themselves will actually care, and adhere to the law?

2) When you say that an accident was directly related to alcohol consumption, at what point is the cut-off? Is it just for people that are over the limit? In this case, if we reduce the limit, that could potentially increase the number of accidents that are deemed to be as a result of alcohol because there’ll be a larger sample of people who don’t care (who accidentally kill/injure themselves) who will now be counted as an alcohol-related statistic

3) If you take away the extreme cases and recidivist drunk drivers, how many are you left with?

The reporter did say that 2336 injuries were related to alcohol, and this costs the taxpayer $838 million, so any reduction in alcohol intake will be a welcome relief for this. The reporter goes on to say that a quarter of all ACC claims are alcohol-related – is that just motoring-related alcohol claims, or claims that involve falling down stairs and other drunken accidents?

News: Audi launches RS6 sedan

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Following on the heels of the RS 6 Avant, Audi has now released a sedan version with the same 426 kW and 650 Nm of torque from a twin-turbo V10 and quattro permanent all-wheel drive.

The 4,991 cc V10 bundles a number of Audi’s race-winning technologies — FSI direct fuel injection, dry-sump lubrication and two turbochargers. With up to 1.6 bar of boost pressure, these provide smooth, powerful thrust and an incomparable power band: The peak torque of 650 Nm is available from 1,500 to 6,250 rpm and thus nearly over the entire rev range. Peak power of 426 kW (580 hp) is generated between 6,250 rpm and the maximum figure of 6,700 rpm.

With a power-to-weight ratio of 3.4 kilograms per hp, the Audi RS 6 performs like a supercar. It catapults to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds on its way to an electronically-limited top speed of 250 km/h, which can be optionally raised to 280 km/h. The V10 responds immediately and spontaneously to the throttle, and is very smooth while accelerating with a powerful roar.

The engine’s power flows through the six-speed tiptronic, one of a new, dynamic generation of Audi automatic transmissions. Its reaction time has been reduced to one tenth of a second, shift time has been halved compared to units used in other models and transmission ratios are short. The driver can also manually change gears either using the shift lever or the paddles on the steering wheel. The tiptronic transmission transfers the power to an extremely sporty, rear-weighted quattro drive train.

The technology bundled into the suspension of the Audi RS 6 guarantees an amazing performance experience. The front axle features four lightweight aluminum control arms per wheel, whose elastokinematics have been designed for particularly sporty performance. The characteristics of the speed-dependent servotronic power steering were retuned and the steering gear ratio is a direct 12.5:1. The rear suspension kinematics have also been modified.

The development engineers have also deployed an exclusive damping technology: Dynamic Ride Control DRC reduces pitch and roll using purely mechanical means. Hydraulic lines and valves connect diagonally opposed pairs of shock absorbers. When cornering, the flow of fluid to the damper of the compressing outside front wheel increases, providing firmer support and reducing roll. When combined with the sports suspension plus, DRC offers a choice of three selectable damper settings — sport, dynamic and comfort — which can be activated via the MMI.

The electronic stabilization system ESP offers maximum driving fun with uncompromised safety. Its relatively high activation threshold encourages a dynamic driving style. It offers a Sport mode and can also be deactivated entirely.

The new Audi RS 6 rolls on 19-inch alloy wheels shod with 255/40 tires. Up front, six-piston fixed aluminum calipers — painted black and decorated with RS badges — clamp down on 390 millimeter brake disks. The rear brake disks measure 365 millimeters in diameter. The rear axle features single-piston floating brake calipers. The floating steel disks feature large cooling ducts and axial perforations for enhanced performance and less weight.

9.5J x 20-inch wheels are offered as an option. These allow the use of a ceramic brake system. The 420 (front) and 356 (rear) millimeter disks weigh a total of 12.2 kilograms less than the steel disks. The calipers — up front with eight pistons — are painted anthracite and labeled “Audi ceramic.”

The body of the 4.93 meter RS 6 also sports a number of distinctive features that immediately identify it as a dynamic, top-of-the-line model. These include the single-frame grill, the air intakes, the headlights featuring xenon plus, adaptive light and RS 6-specific LED daytime running lights, the flared fenders and deep side skirts, the rear diffuser, the spoiler integrated into the trunk lid and the two large oval exhaust pipes.

Like all Audi RS models developed and built by quattro GmbH in cooperation with AUDI AG, the RS 6 is the embodiment of power, elegance, exclusivity and perfection. The interior is adorned with the finest of materials such as carbon fiber, aluminum, piano lacquer, leather and Alcantara in tried-and-tested Audi quality.

The deeply sculpted sports seats provide optimal support and firm hold. The power-adjustable seats are upholstered in Silk Nappa leather, with leather/Alcantara and Valcona leather available as options. Bucket seats with an even more sporty emphasis are also offered for both driver and front passenger. Standard equipment includes the dual-zone deluxe automatic air conditioning plus, a parking assistant at front and rear, an RS leather multifunction sports steering wheel with flat-bottomed rim and a Bose surround sound system. A boost pressure indicator for the two turbochargers in the driver information system rounds out the instrumentation.

The options are also pure hi-tech: Audi lane assist helps to keep the car in its lane, adaptive cruise control maintains a constant distance to the car ahead and Audi side assist helps the driver change lane safely. The Audi Bluetooth car phone integrates perfectly with the driver’s cell phone to make even using the phone a luxurious experience. It is integrated into the standard MMI operating system, a new generation of which is making its debut in the Audi RS 6.

Car and SUV will bring you a full review of the RS6 Avant soon.

News: 2009 Subaru Legacy and Outback have landed in New Zealand

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Subaru’s 2009 Legacy and Outback models have arrived, headlined by Special Edition 2.5i models which add luxury features.

The Special Edition Legacy sedan and wagon in five-speed manual and four-stage automatic adds full leather upholstery and eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat to the standard 2.5 models for just an extra $1000.

The Outback Special Edition with a choice of either transmission adds full leather upholstery and eight-way power adjustable front seats to the standard 2.5 models for just an extra $1000.

“These special edition models are great value for money,” said Graeme Woodlands, the Managing Director of Subaru of New Zealand. “The package of extras is worth about $3000 at a very modest price increase.”

All 2009 Legacy and Outback models now have tinted rear side windows and rear window, a feature that was previously only available on the top of the range versions.

And the McIntosh 14-speaker sound system that was previously only fitted to the three litre and GT models has been extended to the 2.5-litre Luxury Legacy models.

Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), Subaru’s electronic stability control system has been extended to all Legacy and Outback models, having only been fitted to the automatic gearbox versions up until now.

All Legacy and Outback come with symmetrical All Wheel Drive, six airbags, ABS braking and Electronic Brake-force Distribution, height and telescopic adjustable steering columns, climate control air conditioning, cruise control, trip computer, headlights auto off, alloy wheels, remote central locking and immobiliser security system with DataDots.

All models have an ANCAP 5-star crash test rating

News: One-off Rolls Royce: Hyperion by Pininfarina

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The famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance this year will feature the unveiling of a special one-off Rolls Royce Phantom-based convertible designed by Pininfarina.

The Hyperion was designed by Pininfarina as a one-off for a very wealthy customer who amongst other features has specified the car include a gun-rack making the convertible Hyperion the ultimate open-top hunting car.

Don’t expect to see this car go into production.

News: Lotus working on more efficient ‘Omnivore’ engine

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Lotus Engineering has announced a collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast and Jaguar Cars Ltd to develop an engine which maximises fuel efficiency when running on renewable fuels. The OMNIVORE concept will employ novel engine architecture to achieve a high thermal efficiency when fuelled on any alcohols or gasoline.

The project is sponsored by Defra (Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs) and the DOE NI (Department of the Environment Northern Ireland) through the Renewable Materials LINK Programme. Lotus Engineering is currently undertaking a design study and the build of a single cylinder research engine for completion in January 2009. Vehicle modelling will validate the reduction in vehicle CO2 emissions. Queen’s University of Belfast’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will be adding its world leading expertise in engine simulation, with Jaguar Cars Ltd a consultative partner at all stages of development.

This engine design is expected to significantly increase fuel efficiency for sustainable bio alcohol fuels. The architecture features an innovative variable compression ratio system and uses a two-stroke operating cycle with direct fuel injection. The OMNIVORE engine will be ideally suited to flex-fuel operation with a higher degree of optimisation than is possible with existing architectures.

Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive Officer of Group Lotus Plc said: “The automotive industry is now focusing on its environmental obligations to reduce CO2 emissions and improve efficiencies and we are seeing the high technology capabilities of Lotus Engineering being in strong demand. Not only does our brand value of ‘performance through light weight’ fit perfectly with the necessary direction of the industry to produce lighter, more efficient vehicles, we are also working on all aspects of future fuels, investigating alternative powertrains to accommodate alcohol fuels as they enter the market.”

Kimberley continues: “Alcohols possess superior combustion characteristics to gasoline which allow greater optimisation. Taking full advantage of the benefits of sustainable bio alcohols will ensure a greater percentage of vehicle miles will be travelled using renewable fuels. We are delighted with the investment from DEFRA which will assist this partnership in taking forward research development and the demonstration of this environmentally conscious transport solution.”

The OMNIVORE programme complements the recently unveiled Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel as part of Lotus’ research to understand the complex combustion process involved in running on mixtures of alcohol fuels and gasoline, which will be important for a successful transition from today’s fuels to the sustainable, synthetic fuels of the future.