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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News: Bailey Blade project hits the rocks

Bailey Blade fq

We would all love to build our own supercar, but determined American Neal Bailey is making it happen. Bailey has been working on his Bailey Blade project for well over a year now and has recently hit a snag. Like the Detroit three money has become very scarce for Bailey and he is asking for donations to keep the dream alive, and to help with funding he is taking the project in a green direction.

Visitors to the Bailey Blade website can keep help Neal with a little cash while reading about the newest trim levels of the exotic Blade. If all goes as planned, Neal hopes to not only offer the Blade XTR, a 750 hp, 5.4L, Roush-powered supercar, but also the Blade EVR and Blade HDR.

The EVR is an all-electric version of the Blade with dual electric motors feeding off lithium ion phosphate batteries. Neal claims “big block performance but all electric.” The HDR would be a 600 hp Roush supercharged V8 with an on-demand hydrogen system. Theoretically, owners would see a 20% fuel-savings over a gasoline-only engine.

At this stage Bailey should probably keep concentrating on the basic model Blade which stats are as impressive as its looks. Powered by a Roush 353 with 480 hp. Fiberglass over box steel frame with a target weight of 2,200 pounds. Four-wheel independent suspension and six-way adjustable shocks and adjustable coil-overs. The Price? Bailey only says he hopes to make it “affordable”

Donors to the Blade project will get their names posted on the Baily Blade Web site, as well as on displays accompanying the car at shows. They’ll also be added to a newsletter list to get the latest news on the project’s progress.
Click here to visit the Bailey Blade website

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BMW: BMW 135i 2008 Review


If there was ever a car that wasn’t completely upfront about its ability, that car would be the BMW 135i. There’s little about the new coupe’s benign styling that hints at its true nature and a bloodline that flows back to a brutal BMW of the early 1970s, and it’s not until you get up close to the 135i that you can spot the traits of an alter ego. Chunky twin exhaust pipes, 245-wide rear rubber, giant front brakes and a discreet front-mounted intercooler set the car off from its executive-spec siblings. These are the underpinnings of a purebred performance machine, and that’s exactly what the understated but highly rated 135i is all about.

Built on the celebrated 1 Series front engine, rear-wheel-drive chassis, the coupe is a special car designed to capture some of the true essence of the quirky 2002 Series BMWs of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Those cars were all about an unadulterated driving experience ” and none more so than the evil 2002 turbo version born in ’72 that this 135i was modelled upon.

From a design perspective, BMW has seemingly achieved what it set out to do, creating a unique-looking coupe with compact dimensions and strong (albeit somewhat awkward) angular lines. We like it.

But this BMW’s beauty is more than skin deep. For a car with proportions as petite as the 135i’s, you’d expect to find a four-cylinder engine slotted between the uprights ” a fact true of all the other 1 Series variants. But just like it did with the wicked 2002 Turbo of yesteryear, BMW has taken it to the extreme and instead squeezed in something a little more fitting for a performance car ” the 3.0-litre twin turbo from the ruthlessly quick BMW 335i. The straight six DOHC 24V mill is an impressive piece of technology-rich kit that literally blew away the competition in 2007 to win the coveted International Engine of the Year award. That’s thanks to a pair of low-mass turbochargers and a front-mounted air-to-air intercooler providing the grunt, and BMW’s famed High Precision Injection ” which sees fuel injected at just two milligrams per injection through a piezo injector centrally positioned between intake valves ” that keeps fuel usage to a minimum. It also just happens to be one of the best sounding engines ever. And the numbers speak for themselves. In the power stakes the boosted six generates 225kW (305hp) at 5800rpm. Torque arrives from a lowly 1300rpm to deliver a whopping 400Nm right the way through to 5000rpm. It’s this linear delivery that makes the 135i such a stunning thing to drive and able to eclipse the 0-100kph sprint in just 5.3 seconds flat ” less than half a second off a new BMW M3’s pace. Keep your foot right up it and the 135i will wind out to a factory-governed 250kph top speed. In our G-Timer tests the standing, straight line quarter mile was dispatched in around 13.5 seconds, which isn’t bad at all for a fully optioned (and we mean fully optioned) car that tips the scales at a rotund 1500kg.

Where the 135i really excels, however, is through the corners. For a high-power rear-wheel-drive machine it hangs on well ” something to do with a perfect 50/50 weight balance, rigid chassis, M-tuned suspension and its big bite on the road. Punch out of the bends is outstanding, and the brakes ” big six-pot jobs on the front end ” are equally superb. Switch off the DTC and the 135i has the all the aptitude to satisfy the cravings of those with a penchant for opposite lock action ” and it does it in style.

With an $80,000-odd price tag the BMW 135i is not for everyone, myself included, unfortunately. But for the money, you’re getting an immense amount of car, and one that, just like the famed 2002 Turbo, is sure to become a future classic.

BMW 135i (2008) – Specifications

Engine: BMW 3.0-litre DOHC 24V inline six, alloy block, 10.2:1 compression ratio, variable valve timing, 2x low-mass turbochargers, air-to-air intercooler, High Precision Injection, twin exhaust system

Driveline: BMW 6-speed Steptronic auto

Suspension: Front — independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, dual-pivot split lower control arms, stabiliser bar, Rear — independent, multilink, coil springs, stabiliser bar

Brakes: Front — BMW 6-pot callipers, 338mm ventilated discs, Rear — BMW 2-pot callipers, 325mm ventilated discs, ABS, EBD, EBA

Exterior: BMW M front/rear bumpers, M boot spoiler

Interior: Full leather trim, M steering wheel, M sill strips, BMW Professional series CD/iPod audio system

Wheels/Tyres: Front — 18×7.5-inch BMW lightweight alloys, Bridgestone Potenza RE050A 215/40R18 tyres, Rear — 18×8.5-inch BMW lightweight alloys, Bridgestone Potenza RE050A 245/35R18 tyres

Performance: 225kW, 0-100kph — 5.3 seconds, Top Speed — 250kph (limited)

Price As Tested: $81,500 auto ($78,500 6MT)

Words Brad Lord, Photos Dan Wakelin

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News: Lotus takes Evora to the States

Lotus Evora fq

The American version of the Lotus Evora has been recently unveiled at the LA Auto Show, its been made ‘midsize’ for the U.S market. The Evora has a mid-engine 2+2 sports car layout and can fit two adult American males up front and there’s still room in back for a couple of kids. Power comes from a Toyota-sourced 3.5L V6 producing 276 hp, 0-100km time is a rapid 5 seconds.

The Evora will be built on a new assembly line at the rate of 2,000 annually for worldwide consumption. Talk of a supercharged S model is probably true, and Lotus executives have confirmed that a convertible variant with a power-retractable roof is in the works. Production of the standard Evora will begin in October of 2009. Six-speed manual-equipped models will be available in the beginning, with an automatic (with paddle shifters) coming to market in April of 2010.

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News: Mazda wins LA Design Challenge

MAzda Kaan concept fq

Mazda has managed to take the top honors at the LA Design Challenge with its KAAN concept. The design itself is a look into a future where roads are paved with an electro-conductive polymer, which provides juice to the electronic tyres that allow the KAAN to reach speeds of up to 250 mph. Up to 30 KAANs would travel together in formations that would cheat the wind, so Mazda designed the vehicles so that they could fit tightly together.

The theme of the competition was to depict what motorsports would be like in 2025. Chuck Pelly, director of Design Los Angeles, said that the choice was made because Mazda’s entry was “the most innovative and artistic design,” and that the KAAN “ultimately brought unique styling back to motorsports.”

Great concept, a little ambitious for 2025 but it’s all good fun. The other finalists were very unique too.

Click here to see the news item of all the LA Design Challenge finalists

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