News: Upgraded Nissan GT-R improves lap time at Nurburgring

Nissan GT-R Nurburgring

Last year Nissan stunned the automotive world when it took it’s R35 GT-R around the Nurburgring and posted a super quick initial time of 7:29 (topping Porsche’s best). But it just wasn’t enough and the automaker’s engineers went back to the garage looking for a little extra for 2010. They came back with a slightly updated version, with five extra horsepower and revised dual-clutch transmission with updated launch control, plus a bigger fuel tank, new tyres and a retuned suspension. So what effect did these upgrades have on the GT-R’s ‘Ring run? About a second and a half off the record, which now stands for the Nissan supercar at an awesome 7:27.56.

According to Nissan, the time was posted using a 2010 GT-R with the optional V-Spec wheels and tyres, driven by former F1 tester Toshio Suzuki. The time is super quick but it remains a second short of the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1’s 7:26.4 and more than 5 seconds off the Dodge Viper ACR’s 7:22.1, so Nissan will be back at it shortly. Next time it should be without the dirt and dust which the Japanese team says was coating the track to impede its lap time.

Last year Nissan stunned the automotive world when it took it's R3 ...

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Lexus: Lexus IS250 Limited 2009 Review


In the game of Monopoly you only get $10 for winning a beauty pageant, in real life you can cash in much more. Toyota is aware of this and demonstrates it most through its luxury Lexus brand. Now in its second generation and with a mid-cycle refresh for 2009, the IS250 still has the same raw visual appeal it did when NZ saw the first generation shape 10 years ago. Badged as the Altezza/IS200 back then, its Toyota reliability mixed with smooth modern styling attracted men like a siren’s song. But real beauty lays deeper than steel and glass, and even $10 beauty pageants take account of talent and congeniality. So is the face-lifted IS 250 the complete sports sedan package or will European competitors like the BMW 328i and Mercedes-Benz C-Class leave the Lexus wanting?

At first glance, looks are all that matters and the IS250 has more swimsuit sex appeal than evening wear elegance. A wide-track, coupe-like roofline and raked back windscreen give the Lexus a muscular stage presence. Bespoke light clusters front and back wrap into bold character lines adding to uncluttered clean-cut styling. The face-lift model has received some subtle styling tweaks including new side mirrors housing indicator repeaters, new front and rear bumpers and an updated grille. Optional 18″ wheels packed the flared guards on the tested model and finished off the 2009 update with a dash of bling. Exterior quality is excellent the IS250 feels as solid as it looks, panel join lines are tight and everything that opens closes with a comforting thud.

Slide inside the Lexus and what’s noticed initially is the driving position. The Coupe roofline and raked back windscreen has resulted in a reclined seating position for front seat occupants.The high shoulders and low seating position would make reversing a problem were it not for the optional camera which displays in the dash-mounted screen.

Once the memory seats are adjusted to suit, head and legroom is adequate but a little confined for driver and front passenger. However, in the rear seat space is restricted and while still capable of fitting three adults this is an area where the IS250 drops some points. The leather seats offer a grand level of luxury and firm lateral support. The IS250 cabin has an understated atmosphere that doesn’t feel consistent with the bold exterior design. Hard dark plastics blend in well with a marble-look centre console and chrome touches, but it looks somewhat dated. The instruments are nicely-illuminated and the touch-screen control unit functions well (the interface is tricky to learn), but the basic digital clock and the gear selection display both look like they were lifted from an older model. While the ergonomics and interior fit and finish are excellent, some short cuts were taken with the finer details. That said, cabin ambience and a long equipment list confirm the IS250 as a true luxury vehicle. Standard equipment includes adaptive HID headlights, front memory seats that can be heated and cooled, Smart Key Access, an electric rear sunshade and cruise control that is enabled with a radar pre-crash detection system. The tested model had a premium package upgrade that added Sat Nav, a reversing camera, Bluetooth phone capability and a booming Mark Levison Audio System. Overall, the cabin is comfortable for front occupants and well appointed, but suffers from looking a touch bland and dated.

At a beauty pageant sexy styling is expected, in the automotive world it’s like boasting and does the IS250 have the performance to back up its good looks? Well¦ almost. Packed under the bonnet is a 2.5L quad-cam direct injection V6 powerplant putting out 153kW of go-ahead and 252 Nm of torque. While the engine is refined, quiet and offers smooth linear acceleration it’s no fire-breathing monster. Buyers in this segment may not be looking for massive power but just a touch more would make a lot of difference. Ultimately, the IS250 is a solid performer but remains unable to cash the winner’s cheque its exterior styling has written.

When it’s talent section time the Lexus shines bright with an excellent blend of focused handling and direct steering. The 2009 model upgrade has seen updates to the suspension and steering with exceptional results, the IS250 grips hard on turn-in and the rear driving wheels create almost no oversteer even at a hasty pace. On windy roads quick changes of direction seldom unsettle the vehicles serene balance and body roll is near non-existent. Electronic steering is an area that many carmakers get wrong making it too vague, but on the IS250 the steering has strong feedback and enriches the driving experience. The handling is good enough to cancel out engine shortcomings and provide the driver with the confidence to corner quickly making the IS250 a sporty drive.

As expected in a luxury model ride quality is excellent with the updated suspension cancelling out any bumps or dips in the road. Wind and road noise are impressively minimal and engine noise is only present when the driver’s right-foot desires.

Safety features are good enough to impress the judges with Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) all standard. A Pre-Crash System (PCS) is optional which detects a potential accident, tightens the seatbelts, primes the brakes in anticipation and prepares the other safety systems for emergency stopping. Front, side, curtain and knee airbags are ready for driver and front passenger if things turn ugly.

When it’s tears and tiaras time, the IS250 may not take the $10 pageant title but can keep its chin up knowing that it has a fantastic body and handling so well balanced it would never slip on even the most towering of stilettos. Overall the IS250 is an impressive vehicle, high quality materials have been used all round and a top level of comfort and refinement is evident. The dashing exterior styling means the Lexus will always get free parking at Mayfair and once the interior is updated and if the motor is gifted more power the IS250 is a potential class-leader.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications

Price: from $86,990, tested model $96,490 with the Premium Package upgrade.

What we like:

  • Exterior Styling
  • Handling and ride quality
  • Safety features

What we don’t like:

  • Cabin space for rear passengers
  • Underpowered motor
  • Some of the interior is dated

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

Lexus IS250 Limited (2009) – Specifications


Engine type     Petrol
Engine capacity (cc)     2500
Engine description     6cyl/DOHC/4v
Maximum Power     153kW @ 6400rpm
Maximum Torque     252Nm @ 4800rpm
Note: Power and Torque test standards differ. Ensure comparisons use same test standard.
Configuration     V-formation
Valvetrain     DOHC
– Variable valve timing     Intake and Exhaust
Fuel system     EFI
– Fuel type     95 or higher
Fuel economy     ADR 81/01 Test standard
– Combined (L/100km)     9.1
Note: Fuel economy varies with driving conditions/style, vehicle condition, options and accessories.


Driven Wheels     Rear
Transmission description     Six speed automatic sequential shift, electronically controlled with lock-up torque converter


Steering type     Rack and pinion
Steering operation     Power assisted
Turning Circle at Kerb     10.2


Front Brakes     Ventilated discs
Rear Brakes     Discs
Anti-Skid Brakes (ABS)
– Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
– Brake Assist (BA)
Traction Control (TRC)
Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)
Vehicle Dynamic integrated Management (VDiM)


Front Suspension     Independent, double wishbone type, upper A-arm, lower L-arm, coil springs, gas dampers and ball joint mounted anti-roll bar.
Rear Suspension     Independent, multi-link type, with castor locating rod, coil springs, gas dampers and ball joint mounted anti-roll bar.

Tyres & Rims

Front Tyre size     225/40 R18
Rear Tyre size     255/40 R18
Front Rim size     18 x 8J
Rear Rim size     18 x 8.5J
Rim type     Alloy
Space saver spare     STD

Warranty / Service

Vehicle in years     4
Note: Warranties here are in addition to implied warranties under the trade practices act. Conditions apply. See warranty booklet for details.
Paint in years     4
Perforation in years     6

In the game of Monopoly you only get $10 for winning a beauty page ...

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Blogs: I don’t like personalised plates or Tofu

I once bought a car with a personalised plate on it, a VW Mk3 Golf with the plate DUBBEE because it’s a VeeDub I guess. Upon purchase I told the seller that I wasn’t interested in the plate and if he organised a standard replacement he should keep it, he told me he didn’t want it either and I was the owner of a personalised plate. So I endured three weeks of jibes and teasing from mates about the plate until the joke was on them and I flogged it off for $350 on Trade Me. Although my personalised plate was kind of lame, it definately wasn’t obscene.

Over in the States American mother-of-three Kelley Coffman-Lee requested a seemingly safe combination of letters for a personalised plate, she was promptly turned down.

While Kelley wanted the world to know just how much she loves tofu, the Department of Revenue in Colorado saw it as a profession of love for something else entirely. “I-LV-TOFU” was deemed too risque, the DOR thinking it could be misinterpreted as “I-LV-TO-F-U.”

Turns out Coffman-Lee is a vegan, and as she puts it, “I’m very expressive. I’m anti-fur, anti-rodeo, anti-circus when they come to Denver, and I thought, ‘Here’s a chance to be positive and say I love something.'” She even says that a friend at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal (PETA) liked the idea so much they were willing to pay the $60 plate fee.

Alas, the Colorado Department of Revenue turned her down. While she doesn’t plan to take the matter to court, she does say she’ll continue to speak out about mistreating animals… and the strength of her love for TOFU. Myself, I find the food rather bland but not offensively so.

Tofu number plate

I once bought a car with a personalised plate on it, a VW Mk3 Golf wit ...

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News: Irmscher launches new Turbo 7 track day weapon

Irmscher 7 turbo

German carmaker Irmscher has just unveiled its latest rival to the Caterham and Ariel Atom – the new 7 Turbo. The roadster looks very similar to the Lotus Super Seven, and it shares the Lotus’ focus on lightweight performance meaning it should be a formidable track machine, especially in its most potent variant.

The 7 Turbo comes in four different trim levels, the most powerful being the 7 Turbo Sport. Weighing in at a whippet 725kg, in Turbo Sport guise the vehicle comes packing a 280hp (209kW) wallop, giving it a very impressive power-to-weight ratio of around 390hp per ton higher than most high performance cars can manage.

The 7 Turbo also comes in trim levels without as much power as the Turbo Sport model, including a turbo model with around 210hp (157kW) and a naturally-aspirated model with close to 150hp (112kW). All models come standard with sports tyres and a custom suspension, and surprisingly the car comes with an air-conditioning system and a waterproof soft-top roof. The interior offers specially designed clocks and a push-start button for the engine.

To keep all the power concentrated on the road, independent front and rear differentials ensure that the car gets as much grip as possible, even in wet conditions. For the mid-range 210hp (156kW) model, customers will be looking at a bill of around €55,000, making this is no cheap proposition for gentleman racers.

German carmaker Irmscher has just unveiled its latest rival to the ...

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News: The Saleen SMS 570X – faster than a text message

Saleen SMS 570X rq

Muscle car maestro Steve Saleen has just unveiled his latest monster creation, the SMS 570X. The Dodge Challenger-based vehicle registers a few notches above the 570 that was first viewed in January. Where that car was fitted with a 5.7-litre V8, the 570X utilizes a 6.0-litre engine, reportedly good for 700 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque – plenty of grunt to shred those wide and flat 20-inch tyres.

The engine includes forged parts galore (pistons, crankshaft, con-rods, etc.) sitting beneath new CNC-ported aluminum heads. In addition, the 570X receives a SMST six-speed manual transmission and a high-performance cooling package. The heart of the car is a production version of the SMS 296 supercharger, the firm’s new blower co-developed with Lysholm.

While the supercharger comes as part of the 570X package, it will also work on other Chrysler LX products including the Charger, Magnum, and Chrysler 300C. Saleen also promises that “aftermarket fitments” are in the works for both Ford and GM products.

Visually, the X is nearly identical to the original 570, which is a good thing, because it’s a looker. A side-induction hood work in with vented fenders and a new front fascia. With a lowered stance, it has a GTX-style grille, fender vents, carbon-fibre splitter and side skirts, and a rear spoiler, the 570X is classic Motown muscle.

Muscle car maestro Steve Saleen has just unveiled his latest monst ...

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News: Skoda Produces Seven Millionth Vehicle under VW Ownership

Skoda Yeti

Skoda Auto has produced the seven millionth Skoda vehicle in its modern history since becoming part of the Volkswagen Group in 1991.

The model that triggered off an extensive transformation and convinced Volkswagen Group to invest was the Skoda Favorit that Skoda produced from 1988 till 1994 when the Å koda Felicia was launched. The product portfolio has been extended since then.

A major change came in 1996 with the Skoda Octavia. Seen as a solid value-for-money proposition, the car remains popular and the company keeps producing the original version under the name Octavia Tour.

Another important model was the Skoda Fabia that the Company introduced in 1999. The vehicle came in three versions — a hatchback, a wagon and a sedan. The second-generation Fabia replaced its predecessor in 2007. Two versions are available now — a hatchback and a wagon.

In 2001, Skoda Auto entered the upper medium segment with the Skoda Superb. The Company’s flagship was then modernised in 2008, and the new vehicle offered numerous original solutions including a tailgate system called TwinDoor.

In 2006 Skoda Auto entered the segment of small MPVs with the Skoda Roomster.  Introduced at this year’s Geneva International Motor Show, the fifth product added to the portfolio is the Skoda Yeti with which the Czech-based car manufacturer is entering the SUV segment.

Skoda Auto has produced the seven millionth Skoda vehicle in its m ...

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News: Volkswagen launches MkVI Golf and Scirocco in NZ

The new MkVI Golf and Scirocco were launched yesterday at a special event in Auckland. The latest incarnation of the iconic Golf offers a natural continuation of Volkswagen’s design language and continues its commitment to making low emission economical vehicles.

Two specification levels are available in New Zealand, with either a TSI petrol or TDI diesel engine, matched to a DSG transmission.

The TSI 90kW 7DSG and TDI 77kW 7DSG (available mid year) are equipped as standard with 15″ Wellington alloy wheels, ‘Scout / Merlin’ cloth upholstery, ‘Climatic’ semi-automatic airconditioning, a leather bound steering wheel and RCD 310 stereo system that features a CD player, MP3 compatibility and auxiliary input socket.  Safety features are prominent and standard it is 7 airbags (front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee), whiplash optimised front head restraints and an Electronic Stability Programme that includes ABS brakes, Electronic Traction Control (ETC) and Electronic Diff Lock (EDL).

In addition, the TSI 118kW 7DSG and TDI 103kW 6DSG receives 16″ Atlanta alloy wheels, a ‘Climatronic’ 2-zone automatic airconditioning system, leather multi function steering wheel and a Light and Vision package (rain sensing wipers, auto lights and auto dimming interior mirror).

Pricing for the MkVI Golf starts at $40,590 for the 90kW TSI, $46,590 for the 118kW TSI and $48,790 for the 103kW TDI. The new Golf GTI is scheduled to arrive in the coming months.

The VW Scirocco will be available in New Zealand with two TSI petrol engines. The first is the innovative TSI twincharger engine, utilising both a supercharger and turbocharger to produce 118kW of power and 240Nm of torque. Fuel is consumed at a combined rate of just 6.4L/100km, along with 148g/km of CO2. With this engine, the drive is transmitted through the latest generation ¨7-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox), giving it a 0-100kph time of 8 seconds.

The second is the turbo charged 147kW TSI engine from the Golf GTI. ¨Mated to a 6 speed DSG, it will accelerate the Scirocco to 100kph from rest in just ¨7.1 seconds. Despite this strong performance, the combined fuel consumption is only 7.6L/100km and CO2 emissions of 179g/km.

All four occupants of the new Scirocco have a full size sports seat.  Temperature control is taken care of by the Climatic air conditioning system. Other features include a leather bound sports steering wheel, cruise control, hill hold control and 17″ alloy wheels.

With the 147kW TSI engine, the Scirocco will also feature a multi-function sports steering wheel with DSG gear change paddles, front fog lights and a rear parking aid.

Pricing for the Scirocco is $49,990 for the 118kW TSI engine and $55,990 for the top spec 147kW TSI.

The new MkVI Golf and Scirocco were launched yesterday at a special ev ...

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News: What recession? Lamborghini profits up 27%


Lamborghini has released figures of its pre-tax profits for 2008, and the Italian manufacturer netted a total of 60 million euros last year for a 27% increase over 2007.

Overall sales were only up 2.5%, eclipsing the previous year’s sales record (2,406 vehicles) with 2,430 cars sold worldwide. The increase in sales is attributed to growth in the Chinese and the Middle Eastern markets, while sales in the U.S. fell by over 20% to just 741 vehicles (down from 930 in 2007). Obviously, the additional profits didn’t come from a massive sales increase. Instead, Lamborghini have placed 300 of its 1,000 employees on shorter work days from February through May, netting it additional savings.

For 2009, Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann has admitted that the economic downturn is likely to affect Lamborghini’s sales. However, it remains committed to bringing a new model to market each year, so expect more to come this year.

Lamborghini has released figures of its pre-tax profits for 2008, ...

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