News: Autodelta hots up the Alfa Romeo 159

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The Autodelta 159 J4 2.2 C will become the third member of the J-series range, joining the Brera J5 3.2 C and Spider J6 3.2 C in the Autodelta line-up when the high performance sports saloon’s order book opens on July 1st. 18 months of intensive research and development and Autodelta is proud to present this new car. Pushing the dynamic envelope of Alfa Romeo’s to the edge to create sports cars that thrill the driver is our deep seated motivation, and with the J4 2.2 C we believe we have raised the bar even further in every field and created our finest project to date.

Just like the other two now-established members of the J-series range, the integral theme of the Autodelta 159 J4 2.2 C is to continue a long standing tradition of applying forced induction principles to develop nothing less than the very ultimate expression of high performance motoring. The Autodelta 159 J4 2.2 C once again makes strides across the sphere of engineering excellence, and applies the results of an intensive 18 month research and development programme, led by Head of R&D Sergio Truzzi, to Alfa Romeo’s advanced direct injection JTS, making us the only company in the world to develop a forced induction solution for this power unit.

Under the sleek, swaged bonnet of the Autodelta 159 J4 2.2 C beats the muscular heart of this powerhouse: a supercharged version of Alfa Romeo’s impressive 2.2 JTS direct injection petrol engine, the first production application of forced induction to this robust engine. The incorporation of the Rotrex C30-74 supercharger and a specifically-developed bespoke system boosts the 2.2-litre unit’s maximum power from the standard 185bhp up to 245 bhp, an increase of 60 bhp. Meanwhile, peak torque is raised from 230 Nm to 290Nm, giving the vibrant sports saloon an extra 60 Nm of torque.

Supercharging the 2.2 JTS engine and evolving the 159 J4 2.2 C package to perfection has been a long-term project for Autodelta, running alongside the development programmes to realise the J5 and J6. Autodelta’s engineering team was able to build on valuable experience gained when it became the first company in the world to apply forced induction to Alfa Romeo’s 2.0 JTS unit, as used in the 156 and GT models; and although it is an all-new unit in the Alfa 159, many of the important lessons learnt, and technical knowledge gained, were carried forward to the 2.2 JTS project.

News: Land Rover G4 Challenge goes to Mongolia in 2009

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The Finals of Land Rover’s ultimate global adventure, the Land Rover G4 Challenge, will take place during 2009 in the most sparsely populated independent country on the planet – Mongolia.

A blend of terrain offering arid steppes, mountains and the extreme climate of one of the world’s largest deserts, the Gobi, makes Mongolia a natural fit with Land Rover’s G4 Challenge.

The Challenge programme kicked off in September 2007 when the competition was announced at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Since then the recce teams have been exploring the toughest terrain in Asia to find a suitably demanding environment to stage the culmination of the competition in 2009.

The recce team has been working hard to find routes that will push the vehicles and the competitors to their limits.

Mongolia is a spectacular country which will enable Land Rover to create a truly extraordinary Finals event in 2009. There are also investigations into the possibility of extending the Challenge into another area offering different extremes.

The 18 national teams (each comprising of one man and one woman) will be pushed to their limits in a thrilling competition involving off-road driving, and sports such as kayaking, mountain biking and climbing.

The Australian National Selections will take place in October to decide the two men and two women who will get an all expenses paid trip to the UK for the International Selections, and ultimately the Final in Mongolia.

Anyone can sign up for the Challenge, just visit www.landroverG4Challenge.com or call 1800 789 786, for the chance to represent Australia against 17 other countries in the three-week long Challenge Finals.

News: Mazda sets itself targets for increased fuel efficiency

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Mazda Motor Corporation has announced that it is setting its sights on reducing the fuel consumption of Mazda vehicles sold globally by an average 30 percent by 2015. This determined commitment will entail a holistic approach which includes using lightweight technologies, the upgrade of almost all of Mazda’s gasoline engines, introducing a Smart Idle Stop System, a new gasoline rotary engine and new diesel engines worldwide. By 2015, Mazda will have renewed almost its entire powertrain lineup and, from 2011, through steadily developing safe, lightweight, new generation platforms aims to reduce the weight of its new vehicles by 100 kilograms or more.

Mazda is driven by its long-term vision to provide all its customers with first-rate environmental and safety features as well as driving pleasure. This means that Mazda owners are assured of driving cars that continue to provide the fun-to-drive feeling that will keep them coming back for more, while still having the peace of mind that their Mazda is environmentally-friendly and safe to drive.

Mazda saw its hydrogen powertrain efforts progress positively forward in June 2008 when the Mazda5 Hydrogen RE Hybrid received the green light from the Japanese government to begin testing on public roads. The Mazda5 Hydrogen RE Hybrid (known as the Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid in Japan) offers 40 percent more power and an extended hydrogen driving range of 200 kilometers. It will be available for commercial lease in Japan during the 2008 fiscal year. And, Mazda is already progressing well with the development of an all-new Hydrogen RE vehicle with dynamic performance equivalent to a 3.0-liter gasoline engine and a hydrogen range of 400 kilometers.

The next technological milestone for Mazda will be the introduction of the mass production version of its proprietary Smart Idle Stop System into one of its cars in 2009.

Mazda’s will be the only idle stop system in the world that restarts the engine from idle by injecting fuel directly into the cylinder and igniting it to force the piston down, enabling a fast and quiet restart as well as an improvement in fuel economy by up to seven-to-eight percent. Demonstrating the extent of Mazda’s flexible R&D capability in developing alternative environmentally-friendly technologies, the system will initially appear in Japan and Europe; however, it will be rolled out worldwide.

Mazda’s future powertrain line-up has much to excite current and future Mazda customers. In 2009, an E85 fuel-compatible flex-fuel engine will be introduced into the Northern European and North American markets. From 2011 onwards, with new gasoline engines will incorporate next generation Direct Injection Spark Ignition and other systems to boost power by 15 to 20 percent and improve fuel economy by approximately 20 percent.

Beginning in 2011, Mazda plans to introduce new diesel engines worldwide that meet the strictest future exhaust gas regulations in each market. These engines will feature next generation direct injection technology, turbocharging systems and NOx reduction technology, which will enhance fuel economy by 20 percent and produce cleaner exhaust gases, while still providing a true Zoom-Zoom experience.

A fundamental part of Mazda’s heritage, the gasoline rotary engine, will be substantially upgraded in the early 2010s. Currently referred to as the 16X, the next rotary engine will offer substantially improved performance and economy through use of Direct Injection Spark Ignition and high-speed combustion technology, enfolded in new rotary dimensions.

Mazda’s environmental efforts are not only focused on its cars. The plants in which they are built have also received a lot of attention to ensure that they contribute to a sustainable future.

In FY2007, the volume of CO2 emissions from production activities in Japan was reduced by 15.4 percent compared to FY1990 levels. Expressed as CO2 emissions volume per unit of revenue, the reduction was 24 percent.

In 2005, Mazda was the first auto manufacturer to introduce a Three Layer Wet Paint System which reduces VOC emissions by 45 percent and CO2 emissions by 15 percent. Mazda now plans to introduce a more advanced version of this unique Paint System in 2009 as it finalizes the development of an innovative water-based paint technology that reduces VOC emissions by a further 57 percent without increasing CO2 emissions. Producing around 25 percent fewer CO2 emissions than common water-based paint, this new technology is intended to make Mazda’s paint shops the cleanest in the world.

Mazda is also making itself known in the area of carbon neutral bioplastics. Developed in collaboration with government, industry and academia, Mazda intends to expand the applications of this new source of eco-friendly material. Already, bioplastics are used in the new Mazda5 Hydrogen RE Hybrid and, in June 2008, Mazda commenced the Mazda Bioplastic Project to develop a bioplastic made from non-food-based cellulosic biomass. The project aims to have the bioplastic ready for use in vehicles by 2013.

Blogs: Smart Fortwo vs six-foot three

I’m picking up a Honda Civic and Smart Fortwo today. You might have seen the diminutive Smart cars – they’re small. Assistant Ed Ben is six-foot three so I kept it a secret from him that he’d have the pleasure of squeezing himself into the Smart for the rest of the week. He’s then heading back to Oz for a couple of weeks and he’s going to miss the FPV F6X, FPV GT, HSV Maloo, Honda Accord Mugen and Chrysler Grand Voyager. That’s over 1600hp of motoring joy. I would rub his nose in it, except that he’s bigger than me.

News: Volkswagen Scirocco available to order now in the U.K

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Customers keen to be among the first to drive away a new Scirocco can officially add their names to the waiting list as the car becomes available to order at Volkswagen Retailers across the UK.  Prices for the new car, which goes on sale on 1 September, have also been announced and start at £20,940 (NZD$54,000) on the road for the launch model, the Scirocco GT 2.0-litre TSI with 200 PS.

The original Scirocco was first seen 34 years ago, and over two generations and 19 years a total of 77,460 Sciroccos were sold in the UK.  Now the new model blows in, with equally distinctive coupe styling, a practical hatchback boot, four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive — yet this is the most technically advanced production coupe that Volkswagen has produced.

All UK models benefit from Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) which operates via a set of four electrically adjustable dampers to alter the car’s suspension, steering and throttle response set-up, and allows the driver to choose the most appropriate setting for the journey.  Normal is the default; Sport adds firmer suspension and sharper responses for twisty roads or track driving; while Comfort offers a smooth and controlled ride best suited to motorway trips.

At launch, all Sciroccos will be powered by a 2.0-litre TSI 200 PS engine with either a six-speed manual or automatic DSG gearbox.  Versions with a DSG ’box will command a premium over their manual counterparts.  The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine — already popular in the Golf GTI — produces 280Nm of torque from 1,700 rpm and allows the Scirocco to achieve a 0 to 100kph time of 7.2 seconds before reaching a top speed of 235kph.  The combined economy figure for the vehicle is 7.6 l/100km, with CO2 emissions of 179 g/km.

Early in 2009 a further two engines will join the Scirocco line-up: a 1.4-litre TSI 160 PS petrol and a 2.0-litre TDI common rail diesel unit with 140 PS and a combined economy of around 5.4 l/100km.  Both will come as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.4-litre TSI will also be offered with Volkswagen’s new seven-speed DSG ’box.

Two trim levels will be available — standard Scirocco and Scirocco GT.  The launch engine is only available in combination with GT trim, giving customers a high level of standard specification which includes ABS with ESP, six airbags, touchscreen CD autochanger, climate control, 18-inch ‘Interlagos’ alloy wheels, front foglights and a multifunction steering wheel among a host of other items.  Options are set to include a panoramic tilt sunroof, leather trim and touchscreen satellite navigation.

News: Mazda named ‘Best Carmaker’ in Which? Awards

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Mazda has scooped the coveted honour of ‘Best Carmaker’ at the second annual Which? Awards, which recognise the companies and individuals that best serve the interests of consumers.  In the closely-fought battle for the prestigious Best Carmaker award, Mazda edged out the previous winner, Toyota, as well as other runners-up Audi, BMW, Honda, and Lexus.

Racing legend Sir Stirling Moss OBE presented the Best Carmaker award to Mazda’s delighted managing director Rob Lindley at the Which? Awards ceremony, held yesterday at the British Museum.  Hosted by broadcaster Dermot Murnaghan, the event was attended by leading figures from manufacturing, retail and service industries, along with representatives of the Government, trade bodies and regulators.

In a highly complimentary Awards summation, Which? praised Mazda for its: “¦blend of excellent value for money, reliability and innovation.  A major advantage is that nearly all Mazda offerings are interesting to drive.  There’s something for everyone in the Mazda range.

“The Mazda3 (medium cars) and Mazda MX-5 (sports cars) are comfortable Best Buys — the good‘looking Mazda3 stands out from humdrum medium cars. It still looks fresh and stylish, despite being older than many popular rivals.

“For many, the evergreen Mazda MX-5 is the cheapest way into an entertaining sporty runner.  Introduced in 1990, this motoring gem is the world’s bestselling sports car.  The latest version lives up to its billing, with engaging handling, powerful refined engines, and a folding hard-top roof option.

“It’s been a good year for new launches, too — the all-new Mazda2 supermini and Mazda6 family car have impressed us and are sure to become firm favourites with drivers. Each would be a strong contender on a shortlist.The Mazda2 and Mazda6 do well in our road tests and safety-wise, they represent a major step forward for the Japanese carmaker.The Mazda2 scored five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, and we expect the Mazda6 to do the same.

Managing Director for Mazda UK Rob Lindley was thrilled to collect the Which? Best Carmaker Award:  “Winning this influential accolade is testimony to the achievements of the entire Mazda team — from designers and product developers to dealers and service personnel.

This year’s 12 categories reflect the breadth of Which? magazine’s research, ranging from domestic appliances and financial products, to cars and broadband providers.

News: Jaguar XJ diesel takes award for best towcar in class

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Jaguar has claimed the 2008 Towcar Award for the XJ 2.7 litre Diesel in the 1725-1899kg category.  The award was presented by What Car?, Practical Caravan, and The Camping and Caravanning Club.

The cars were put through their paces for their towing ability and a host of other qualities including driving performance when not towing, practicality, value for money and safety.

The judging panel comprising industry experts, motoring journalists and caravanning enthusiasts were particularly impressed with the way that the XJ performed.  The judges chose the XJ as the winner because: “Stability and ride comfort don’t always go together. Cars with rear suspension that’s firm almost to a fault in normal driving are often the most composed when towing. But the XJ combines unflappable stability with limousine comfort.  The suspension’s alchemy was worth its weight in gold through the lane-change test. The XJ changed direction quickly, gripping hard and holding the intended line. However much the caravan slid behind it, the Jag wouldn’t budge. Data from the ATC shows how much G-force was generated in the van, but the smooth curve of the graph speaks volumes as to how undramatic the Jaguar made this manoeuvre.”

Managing Director of Jaguar in the UK, Geoff Cousins said: “What this award does is demonstrate the breadth of capability of the XJ.  It is already renowned for its all-aluminium body construction, state-of-the-art technologies and outstanding craftsmanship and build quality.  I am delighted we have won this award; it really demonstrates the diverse appeal of the XJ.”

This is the latest in a number of awards for Jaguar’s flagship model.  Most recently, the XJ 2.7 litre Diesel was named Britain’s greenest luxury car in the Environmental Transport Association’s 2008 Car Buyers Guide.  Earlier in the year, the XJ Long Wheelbase was voted ‘Chauffeur Car of the Year’ by Chauffeur Magazine, while What Car?, Auto Trader and Auto Express all voted the XJ ‘Best Luxury Car’ in their various Used Car Awards towards the end of last year.

Since its launch in 2003, the XJ model line-up has been enhanced to include the XJ long wheelbase, the special edition XJR Portfolio, the XJ armoured vehicle and most recently the XJ 08 Model Year, featuring a revised exterior design and significantly upgraded interior.

News: Vauxhall introduces new technology for mid-price cars

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Vauxhall has introduced a dual-function camera that not only reads speed limit and no-overtaking signs and displays them on the instrument panel, but also alerts drivers when they unintentionally veer out of their lane. Known as Traffic Sign Recognition and Lane Departure Warning, the two systems improve driving safety, reduce stress and can even prevent costly speeding tickets.

“These new features follow Vauxhall’s philosophy of enhancing driving excitement by assisting drivers without reducing their level of control,” explains Hans Demant, Managing Director of GME Engineering. “That means the system gives drivers information, but it doesn’t intervene.”

Known as the Front Camera System, the wide-angled, high-resolution camera and processors were jointly developed by Vauxhall/Opel engineers and specialists from supplier Hella. The camera, located between the windscreen and the rear-view mirror, detects road signs and lane markings. It’s not much bigger than a mobile phone, yet can take 30 pictures per second. Two signal processors filter and read the photos.

Depending on light conditions, the Traffic Sign Recognition function begins to repeatedly read signs at 100 metres. It starts by focusing on circular patterns then identifies the numbers inside them via contour comparison. When a match is found in the car’s software, the sign is displayed in the instrument panel; it will even prioritise a no-overtaking sign over a speed limit warning sign.

When the Lane Departure Warning function is turned on, it uses a second signal processor and software to read traffic lanes and record a driver’s normal lane-changing behaviour, taking into account steering input and indicator usage. If any deviation is detected, an audible and visual warning is sent from the instrument panel, preventing hazardous situations, such as a driver falling asleep at the wheel.

The Front Camera System, featuring Traffic Sign Recognition and Lane Departure Warning will be available as an option on the new Insignia, with other Vauxhall models benefiting from the system in future.