News: BMW unveils new X1 concept

BMW X1 fq

BMW have just unveiled its new X1 concept which may be destined to become its premium compact CUV. The Munich-based car maker has released official info and images of the vehicle but no word yet on the many options that will come under the bonnet.

The front end of the vehicle resembles the swollen nose consistant with most of the model range, squared off wheel surrounds and pinched surfacing finishes the look. BMW’s X line of CUVs and SUVs is really packing out with the X5 the X3 being joined by the X6, and soon the production version of the X1 will kick in.  The Concept X1 and current X3 will be very similar in size, and purpose. So why create another X-model? Well, only the good folk at BMW know that. More will be revealed soon.

News: Lotus unleashes latest Exige Cup car

Lotus Exige Cup fq

Lotus has just released its latest Exige Cup 260 Car for the 2009 Lotus Cup race series. The Bristish automaker is continuing the tradition of going ridiculously light and has shed a further 36kg from last years model thanks to excessive use of carbon fibre.  This is teamed up with a 257-horsepower 1.8-liter Toyota-sourced mill force fed through an intercooler by an Eaton M62 supercharger, meaning a sprint from 0 to 100 in less than 4 seconds. Launch control and a 40kg downforce at 160kph make sure the car stays on the road.

There are many race-ready bits like forged wheels wearing Yokohama A048 LTS tires, Eibach springs over one-way adjustable Bilstein dampers and cross-drilled and ventilated discs at all four corners. Plus, a standard roll over hoop, dealer-installed full front roll cage and FIA compliant electronics are there to keep your track days safe.

The new Exige Cup is a serious machine, it’s road-legal within the European Union, but you might want to check if that’s true here in NZ before you order one over.

News: Renault Be Bop to become a reality

Renault Bebop fq

The Renault Be Bop concept was first seen at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show and it hasn’t got any prettier. But these unique little vehicles will soon be available in Europe. The production Be Bop maintains the two-door van layout of the concept vehicle, and the ceiling is now comprised of two tilting glazed glass panels up front, one fixed glass panel in the middle, and an opaque roof panel in the rear that lifts up and forward to create an open air experience for back seat passengers. This special roof creates a van-vertible, a fresh concept for tradesmen and quirky folk. Letting even more light in are expansive side windows, so despite being tiny in dimension, the Be Bop shouldn’t feel confining to its passengers. The rear seats can also be removed to increase cargo capacity, and Renault says that passengers can even enter the vehicle through the open rear gate and slide between the rear seats. There will be three engines available an 85-hp 1.5L dCi and 105-hp dCi, both of which are paired with a six-speed manual, and a gas-powered 105-hp 1.6L four-cylinder. It’s a crazy looking ride, and definitely has a good helping of French flamboyance. At this stage it’s unclear if the Be Bop will prove too exotic to make it down here, we will have to wait and see.

News: Lamborghini lifts lid on new Estoque concept

Lamborghini Estoque fq

Finally Lamborghini has released full details and images of its exciting new creation, the Estoque concept. It’s officially a mid-engined sedan with four doors and four individual sports seats, it’s a designated sports car and a relaxed Gran Turismo, a multi-faceted vehicle for multi-faceted lifestyles. The car sits very low at just 4.43 feet high, but ample interior space is provided for four passengers due to a long wheelbase at over three metres in length.

No decision has been made by Lambroghini yet over production, but there is speculation that the Estoque will become the third model in their line up. Numerous engine possibilities exist including the V10 powerplant from the Gallardo, or a turbocharged V8, a hybrid V8 or even a high performance diesel. The Estoque is suitably named after the sword used by Matadors during a bull fight, so this is one concept that means business. The Estoque will be unveiled at this weeks Paris Motor Show, so stay tuned for further updates.

Blogs: Why don’t we just wear airbag suits when driving?

Toyota reckons it’s created the world’s first rear curtain airbag and it’ll install it on the company’s new iQ – its diminutive city car. Toyota reckons that this innovation will help prevent rear passenger injury in the case of a car hitting them from behind. Bearing in mind the micro dimensions of the iQ, there’s not that much crumple zone at the rear, so any extra protection is much appreciated.

Eventually the whole of the inside of the car will become a giant inflatable cushion to eliminate injury and death from all but the most severe of crashes, so I am surprised that a car manufacturer hasn’t come up with this before Toyota. I mean, it’s also an obvious step to put airbags in the rear of the front seats for the rear passengers, and in the roof in case a falling anvil drops on top of the car (Loony Tunes cartoons made me acutely aware of this danger.)

But every airbag we install in a car makes the car more disposable in the event of an accident. It’s incredibly expensive to reinstall airbags after a crash, and the liability is huge in the case that they don’t go off in a subsequent accident, so many cars are sent to the scrapheap purely for the economics behind replacing the airbags.

Of course, the ultimate in driver protection would be an airbag suit – an inflatable whole-body cushion that would be like smashing into a tonne of cotton wool and feathers.

News: Volvo developing hot hatch C30

Volvo C30 fq

Rumours of a Volvo hot hatch are circulating the automotive industry, the word is that the Swedish manufacturer is developing a new 300-horsepower C30 for Europe. According to early reports the new model will use the same 2.5-litre inline-five cylinder turbo engine that powers the new Ford Focus RS. But their will be differences between the two vehicles not least that the Volvo will use the Haldex all-wheel drive system, which will make it far more sure footed than the torque steering Ford.

The Volvo will be fitted out with 20-inch rims and a body kit unique to the go-fast model. To maintain exclusivity Volvo could limit production numbers to 4,500 cars worldwide, we have no idea if any will make it down here to NZ, but if it does it will be the most exciting Volvo we have seen for a long time.

Click here to read a road test of the base model C30

News: Toyota announces first rear window airbag

Toyota rear airbag

Toyota announced today that it has developed the world’s first SRS rear window curtain shield airbag to protect rear passengers’ heads in the event of a rear-end collision.

No longer content with a mere 5 star NCAP rating Toyota is pushing on with a new airbag set up. The innovative airbag deploys from the roof lining above the rear window in the form of a curtain-like barrier. Together with the headrests, the airbag minimises impact to the head from a colliding vehicle or parts of the hit vehicle, thus helping to reduce the severity of injuries. Its use in the soon-to-be launched “iQ” ultra-compact four-seater is expected to approximately double the car’s rear passenger head protection performance.

Toyota has continued to actively develop and make available its collision safety technologies — resulting in the market introduction of SRS curtain shield and knee airbags — to enable its vehicles to better respond to a greater range of accidents.

News: Google warns dealers of shifts in car buyer behaviour

Research by online giant Google into the car-buying process has revealed that an increasing number of consumers are now visiting just one dealership before making a purchase, and that the number of test drives taken in the last year has fallen dramatically.  The findings will be announced in full at the forthcoming conference being staged by EurotaxGlass’s on 13 November at the National Motorcycle Museum, Birmingham.

Speaking ahead of the conference, presenter Adrian Joseph, Director — Automotive at Google, said, “We are arguably in the midst of the biggest change in recent times within the automotive industry — a change driven by significant shifts in consumer behaviour enabled by technology and, in particular, the internet.  Understanding these changes, and the opportunities they present, is key to managing business in a tough trading environment.”

Among the many startling findings of Google’s research is the fact that, in the last 12 months, the number of new car buyers visiting just one dealership as part of their decision-making process has doubled to 32 per cent.  Moreover, the number of test drives taken has halved.

“The influence of some traditional media is falling dramatically,” added Joseph.  “In short, the car-buying process is being turned on its head.  This toxic situation has serious implications for dealerships, and understanding the online opportunity to affect consumer choice has never been more critical.”

At the conference Joseph will join representatives from other major industry players, including YouTube and Price Waterhouse Coopers.

“The Google presentation is sure to grab the attention of the audience, and it will be just one of a number of provocative sessions giving dealers essential advice on their strategies for coping with a rapidly-changing market,” said David Burdett, Managing Director at EurotaxGlass’s.