News: Lamborghini shows off the Gallardo Spyder

Lamborghini Gallardo Sypder fq

After Lamborghini proudly announced it was bringing a new model to the LA Auto Show many people suspected it would be a convertible, and they were right. The Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder is the drop-top follow up to the Coupe.

The new folding top runs via a hydraulic pump as well as electric motor that can close and raise the top in around 20 seconds. The headlights have been slightly updated with new LEDs and daytime running lights. As with the coupe version, the Spyder features the new 5.2L V10 producing 552 bhp and 398 lb-ft torque, and the suspension and e-gear transmission upgrades carry over as well. With the reduced weight and added power, the Spyder now reaches 100 km/h in four seconds flat and tops out just over 320 kph.

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News: Kia kaha- Kia maintains strong sales figures

kia-

Kia Motors has experienced strong sales growth in 2008, even as some of the world’s biggest motoring names are buffeted by huge losses.

Figures just released show that Kia has increased its global sales for the first ten months of 2008 by 12.7%, to reach a total of 1,172,958 by the end of October. Strong sales in emerging markets like China and also its domestic market in Korea have more than offset dips in crisis-hit US and European countries. Sales in China, where Kia opened its second factory last year, are ahead by 36.8% and at home sales are up 33.9%. In markets outside of the US and Europe the increase is 15.2%.

What’s more, Kia Motors has returned to profitability, moving back into the black this year, following heavy investments in new production facilities around the world recently that had put its finances under pressure.

Kia has ceveloped a range of new models to be introduced onto the international stage soon, including the all-new Soul city car and the new Cerato sedan.

“When you look at what is happening around the world, Kia is in a strong position going forward, which has to be a comforting thought for our customers — even though results are likely to be weaker over the next few months,” says Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand.

Mr McDonald says the success enjoyed by Kia has come at a time of reduced new model activity in 2008, when the company had few new offerings to boost the market. Next year marks the start of a new model blitz.
Currently, Kia’s best selling model in overseas markets to date this year has been the C-segment Cerato with 166,688 units sold. It is followed closely by the B-segment Rio at 133,864 units and the C-segment cee’d at 128,672 units. Kia’s Sportage compact SUV and the A-segment Picanto continue to perform well with 122,330 and 81,136 units sold, respectively. 580,846 passenger cars have been sold so far in 2008, representing a 19.0% year-on-year increase, and representing almost 50% of sales.

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News: Porsche Cayenne goes diesel

Porsche Cayenne diesel fq

From February 2009, Porsche will offer the European market a Cayenne with a diesel engine and thus extend its range of engines for the four door, all-wheel drive car further, once again. This decision was taken in response to changed legal regulations especially in European markets, resulting in tax incentives for vehicles with diesel engines. Furthermore, the Porsche stake in Volkswagen Group, the world’s largest manufacturer of modern diesel engines for passenger cars, has opened up new opportunities to utilise sporty compression-ignition technology.

Porsche will equip the Cayenne with a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel engine with 240 bhp (176 kW) supplied by Audi. The average consumption of the Cayenne Diesel is (9.3 litres/100 km) combined, with emissions of 244 g/km CO2.

In response to customer demand, the new Cayenne model will initially be offered in Europe. Preparations for market introduction in other countries are underway.

There are no visual indicators to distinguish the diesel from the gas-powered base Cayenne. Only under the hood, where the engine cover is emblazoned with “3.0 V6 Turbo Diesel Injection” is the branding different.

Porsche is confident that it will maintain the long term market success of the Cayenne series with the low-consumption V6 turbo diesel. In the last financial year 2007/08, 45,478 units of this series (which currently incorporates five different models) were sold – more than ever before in a financial year.

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News: Nissan drops launch control for GT-R

Nissan GT-R fq

Those about to buy a new Nissan GT-R won’t have to worry about voiding their warranties if they use Launch Control – for the 2010 model year, the car won’t come with the feature. A car news source is quoting a Nissan executive as saying “It’s gone. We just don’t want to deal with the warranty nightmare anymore. It’ll make the 2009 GT-R really special. It’ll be the only R35 with launch control.”

There have been numerous cases where Nissan GT-R owners have brought their cars back to the dealership with transmission trouble only to be told their warranties won’t cover it. It turns out that disabling the car’s VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) too often, in order to use the Launch Control function, meant Nissan wasn’t covering the repairs. The cost to fix/replace the transmission is a whopping $35,000 NZ, so you can imagine owners were seeing red. The GT-R owner’s manual clearly states that damage to the transmission is not covered if it is proven to be the result of using Launch Control with the VDC turned off. In fact, the manual states that the only reason you should turn off VDC is to “rock” the vehicle when stuck in mud or snow.

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Blogs: I’ll save you Caterham

English sports car maker Caterham announced this week that it is making an entire new model. So what? I hear you say. Well Caterham is a very interesting car company; it only has one vehicle the Caterham 7 a hand-me-down model from Lotus cars. Now, in a marketing gimmick first named ‘Project Splitwheel’, Caterham is opening up its design and development program to the public via the internet using crowd sourcing techniques. This will enable car enthusiasts to give their input into the new model for the big decisions like engine capacity right down to the finer details like the new models name. Now this crowd sourcing idea sounds pretty cool, but it didn’t work out that well for crap Hollywood action movie Snakes on a Plane, did it?. So Caterham is clearly creatively challenged and has sent out a post-modern distress call, one that I shall answer.

I’ll leave the tough mechanical decisions to Caterham and those taking project Splitwheel seriously. My suggestions for the vehicle will be of a more important and functional nature, these shall include:

* Paua shell detailing — all over the dash, inserts in the doors and naturally the ashtray.

* Automated passenger seat restraint straps, for passengers who feel it’s acceptable to change the radio station or turn off traction control (as a joke).

* Cup Holders in 4 different sizes to take Red Bull cans up to Powerade bottles.

* A detachable baseball bat rear spoiler, (that generates beat-downforce) for road-rage or counter road-rage applications.

* Air horns that can play the Dukes of Hazard riff, Mr Whippy tune and can be owner programmed for any future annoying jingles.

* Torturous anti-theft measures that automatically lock the thief inside the vehicle and play Julio Iglesias on the stereo at full whack.

* A shotgun-call sensor, that can hear the call from 50meters away and give a fair verdict on who yelled it first, this will avoid passenger arguments, and maintain a harmonious driving experience

* Model name suggestion: The Caterham iRule, (Sports variant: Caterham iRuleZ)

That’s just a taster, once the execs at Caterham receive my full brief they will probably fly me to the UK, and give me a high-level position on the design team. That will sadly mark the end of this blog, have to wait and see.If you want to help Caterham too, click the link below and visit the Splitwheel website. But don’t steal my ideas.

www.splitwheel.com

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Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI Edition 10 2008 Review

mercedes-benz-ml320-cdi-edition-10-fq

The Mercedes ML320 CDI is an impossible blend of a stay at home mum and an Uzi-carrying, drug-pushing gangster.

It takes a killer mix of style and function to provide for two such different personas and the ML does just that. With a sprinter’s stance, flared fenders and wrap-around side skirts the ML has a sporty elegance that is unisex in appeal. Longer and wider than its predecessor, the ML is slimmed by a raked forward C-pillar and a sloping windscreen that aids efficiency by chopping down drag. The ML shows its bling with a wide silver front grille that hangs like a diamond necklace, with the tri-star badge as its feature stone. Its massive wheel arches remain unfilled even by sparkling 20-inch rims — some 22-inch ones would be a desirable upgrade. The tested model was the ML320 Edition 10 celebrating ten years of SUV production for Mercedes. The Edition 10 is dressed up with special badging, bi-xenon headlights, taillights with blacked out surrounds and a two-tone leather interior.

Gangsters love good booty and the ML delivers with sharp cornered signature taillights and twin rectangular exhausts that hint at wild times ahead. The ML has angular well-sculptured curves that place it aesthetically at the sporty end of the SUV market.

The ML’s interior is as highly styled as its exterior, but function and comfort remain paramount. Soft leathers, wood-finish and high-end plastics swirl together to let your passengers know that they are riding with a true player, or a style-conscious mum. Although, like with all Mercs, the dashboard plastic itself seems over-textured.

Driver visibility is top notch and the seats remain comfortable even on long drives. Instruments and controls are generally well placed but you will mistake the cruise control lever for the indicator arm at least once. There is also the electronic ‘Direct Select’ shift lever on the steering column used for basic Park, Reverse, Drive selection, manual over-ride is available by switches on the back of the steering wheel. The ML’s Direct Select takes some getting used to and is not something we are familiar with here in NZ. It does clear space on the centre console for large sized cup holders capable of 1.25-litre bottles or takeaway cappuccinos.

The ML comes with an arsenal of equipment including an outstanding climate control system and projector-beam headlights that intimidate night into day. The Harman Kardon stereo is easy to master and sounds very sharp playing the Wiggles or Run DMC. The cabin is roomy with a back seat that can fit kids or three henchmen with ease and with a generous rear storage area, pushchairs, golf clubs or ‘people who’ve met with an untimely accident’ can all be accommodated. The ML’s interior really is exemplary; it is easily usable but never up in your face.

When paying over $100k for a diesel vehicle you wouldn’t expect it to be slow or noisy. The ML is neither – it’s an example of just how far diesel motors have developed. With a 0-100km time of just 8.6 seconds it has some skates and even when cold it refuses to let out a rattle. Powered by a 3.0L turbocharged V6 producing 165kW and a useful 398 lb-ft of torque the ML has enough power for pulling a quick get-away and refinement for cruising to brunch. Economy is also very good considering the ML’s 2-tonne kerb weight – a combined figure of 9.6l/100km is achievable. With a 95-litre fuel tank the ML can traverse great swathes of the country before refuelling is required. The 7-speed automatic transmission works hard when ordered and has brains to match brawn by using an adaptive logic to learn the driver’s style and shift accordingly.

Although bulletproof glass isn’t standard, the ML has solid safety credentials. Passengers are surrounded by a central safety cell with front and rear crumple zones. Brake assist, traction control and a full ESP programme are all prepared for trouble.

The handling is very car-like in nature. A light, rigid chassis and fully independent double wishbone front, multilink rear suspension means it stays true in cornering and refuses to submit to body roll. Off-road the ML utilises its full-time four wheel drive system which splits torque 50/50 in usual operation but sends more to the axel that can best use it when necessary. The ride is very subdued and the diesel motor is seldom heard from the cabin, with road noise almost fully blocked out driving the ML is a serene experience.

For gangsters or housewives the Mercedes ML320 makes an offer that is hard to refuse. At first it appears hard to justify the heavy price tag over other current model SUVs, but the ML just does everything so well. It works equally as well for two opposite lifestyles because it’s the complete package and that’s why the ML320 is a worthy kingpin in the SUV market.

Click through to the next page for a full list of specifications.

Price: from $117,900

What we like:

  • Tasteful style inside and out
  • Compelling diesel performance
  • Attention to detail

What we don’t like:

  • Odd gearshift positioning
  • Oversized wheel arches

Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI – Specifications

No. of cylinders/arrangement 6/V

Bore/stroke in mm 83.0/92.0
Total displacement (cc) 2987
Rated output (kW at rpm)[1] 165/3800
Rated torque (Nm at rpm)[1] 510/1600-2800
Compression ratio 17.7
Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in sec. 8.6
Top speed in km/h, approx. 215
Tyre size, front 235/65 R 17
Tyre size, rear 235/65 R 17
Fuel Diesel
Fuel consumption (l/100 km)
Combined    9.6
CO2 emissions combined (g/km) 254
Tank capacity (l) incl. reserve, approx.    95/13
Turning circle diameter (m) 11.6

Words Adam Mamo, photography Darren Cottingham

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News: Porsche facelifts Boxster and Cayman models

Porsche Cayman fq

Porsche is unveiling its freshened up Boxster and Cayman models at the LA Auto Show this week. A fairly standard facelift, their noses and tails have been redone with a touch of Carrera GT, but each car now has a unique look. Much more importantly, the engines and transmissions have been updated as well, with the 2.9L and 3.4L powerplants getting Porsche’s direct fuel injection for a 10-25 hp increase depending on the model. Along with the extra oomph, owners will get better fuel economy with a 11-16 percent rise. Part of that boosted mileage comes from the direct-injected engines, but the newly available Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, or PDK, double-clutch gearbox lends a hand.

The base Boxster and Cayman will now have 255 hp and 265 hp respectively, and the S versions will be rated at 310hp for the Boxster S and 320hp for the Cayman S. A Cayman S with PDK and Launch Control will also get to to 100kph in just 4.9 seconds. At the other end of the lineup, the Boxster with a six-speed manual will do it in 5.9 seconds. The new models will hit international markets in February 2009.

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News: Honda surprises with FC Sport concept

Honda FC Sport

This week’s LA Auto Show threw up its first surprise yesterday in the form of Honda’s FC Sport fuel cell design study. The designers at Honda’s advanced design studio decided to take advantage of the packaging flexibility afforded by a fuel cell powertrain and mid mounted it driving the rear wheels.

Using the vertical flow fuel stack mounted behind the driver and an electric motor between the rear wheels, the FC Sport is a three-seater in the style of the McLaren F1 where the driver sits in the middle of the car with the two passenger seats on either side and further back. The FC Sport is strictly a styling study right now, so a fully functional version seems unlikely, but this zero-emission technology may pop up again somewhere else in the future.

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