News: Caterham releases details of new Superlight R300

Caterham 7 fq

Caterham’s famous ‘Superlight’ family is now complete with the British manufacturer releasing details of a new generation of its Superlight R300.

Following in the rear tyre tracks of the motorsport derived R400 and R500, the latest Seven punches from 0-to-60mph in 4.5 seconds courtesy of a new 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine, tuned by Caterham Powertrain (CPT) to deliver a responsive 175bhp.

Originally launched in 2002 and fitted with a Rover engine, the previous R300 was Caterham’s best-selling Seven thanks to a strong blend of performance and driving pleasure. The new Ford-powered model builds on this platform with increased engine performance and chassis developments, all whilst retaining the R300’s winning personality.

The latest 515kg interpretation of Colin Chapman’s famous ‘lightweight minimalist’ philosophy beautifully balances power and chassis to perfection, delivering an impressive 339bhp-per-tonne.

Among many developments, the new R300 benefits from styling cues and technical evolutions first seen on its ‘big brother’ — the explosive Superlight R500 — with the addition of a similar flush button dash design and keyless ignition system, fitted as standard.

Amongst a wide range of optional extras, hardened enthusiasts will also be able to add Stack data logging instrumentation, a dry sump oil system and, for track-day regulars, a limited slip differential.

Translated through Caterham’s proven 6-speed gearbox, the 2.0-litre powerplant’s 175bhp and 139 lbs-ft of torque is able to spin the R300’s bespoke Avon CR500-shod Superlight aluminium wheels to a top speed of 140mph.

With more power, more torque and more immediacy, the Superlight R300 will be sold in the Uk at £24,995 ($70,282 NZ) in component form and £27,995 ($78,680 NZ) factory built with delivery starting in spring 2009.

Further expanding the range is another new Seven — the Roadsport 175.

Despite being fitted with the hugely capable Series 3 chassis and utilising the same 175bhp, 2.0-litre Caterham Powertrain (CPT) Duratec engine fitted to the R300, the new Roadsport is aimed at drivers largely focused on B-Road blasts and touring.

The Roadsport trades its more track focussed features, such as lashings of carbon fibre and track-biased suspension and brakes, to come fitted with weather equipment and a heater as standard. Other differences to the R300 include a 5-speed gearbox with longer ratios and 14-inch alloy wheels.

The new Roadsport 175 model bolsters the incredibly popular Roadsport range alongside the 1600cc Ford Sigma driven 125 and 150 — numerically reflective of their respective power output.

Prices for the Roadsport 175 start at £21,995 ($61,880 NZ) in component form and £24,995 ($70,282 NZ) for factory built.

News: Sportservice Lorinser reworks the C-Class Mercedes

Lorinser C350 fq

Tuning company Sportservice Lorinser has gone to town on the C-Class Mercedes producing the C 350 Limousine. Labeled as a true drivers vehicle the C350 has special camshafts and a modified engine control unit to create more spark from the popular 3.5-litre V6 powerplant. 305 HP (224 kW) instead of 272 HP (200 kW) is the end result and the go-fast Mercedes will accelerate harder with 380 instead of 350 Nm of torque, even at very low RPM. As a result of the tuning measures, the interval between opening the exhaust valve and closing the intake valve becomes bigger. The result is a overlap, which is the result of the camshaft modification. On the other hand, the Lorinser lowering kit is responsible for the sharper handling in the bends. An additional bonus in the drivers vehicle account.

New exhaust tailpipes are integrated into the Lorinser rear apron and new roof and rear spoilers sit above them. The model RS 8 matt black 19-inch light-alloy wheels will draw attention and provide contrast in combination with the white bodywork.

News: Ferrari to change direction?

Recently Ferrari has had a change of ideology and promised to make its future products lighter and more mindful of the environment, the first representation of this should come with the F430 replacement. This new Ferrari, currently code-named F142, is rumored to arrive towards the end of next year. The vehicle will be lighter than the F430, even lighter the extra lightweight Scuderia model that only tips the scales at 1250 kg. The Italian exotic could share some styling cues with the eco-friendly Mille Chili concept, which utilized lightweight and active aerodynamics to help reduce its CO2 emissions.

The F430’s 4.3L V8 is also rumored to be shrinking, but it shouldn’t lose much in the way of power. Ferrari may be turning to direct injection and turbocharging to make up for any loss in the new engine’s displacement. The F142 also won’t have a soft-top Spyder option, instead a convertible setup with hard top panels. New Ferrari models don’t typically decrease in price, and with all this added technology the price of the F142 is expected to easily exceed that of the F430. Ferrari wants to reduce emissions by 40% by 2012, and with lighter materials and a smaller engine, the F142 might just achieve that. More to come soon.

News: Mercedes SLR Mclaren 722 S Roadster first photos

Mercedes Mclaren SLR fq

Mercedes has just released photos of what is likely to become the world’s fastest convertible. The SLR 722 S Roadster picks up where the 722 coupe left off dropping the 650-hp supercharged 5.5L V8 into the open top body shell. With a top speed of 220.6 mph, Mercedes had to work hard to devise a convertible that can sustain high speeds. The car will have a fully carbon-fibre body that can provide the structural integrity required at those speeds. The vehicle dynamics are also aided by dropping the suspension by 10 mm at each end of the car and recalibrating the spring and damper rates.

Only 150 examples of the 722 S Roadster will be made available starting Jan. 1 2009.

News: Volkswagen Race Touareg takes shape for 2009 Dakar Rally

VW Touareg Race fq

The ‘Dakar’ Rally 2009 promises to be the most demanding test yet for the Volkswagen Motorsport team, as it prepares to take on some of the harshest and most challenging terrain on the planet with four examples of the Race Touareg 2.

The four factory-fielded Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 models will be piloted by Spaniard Carlos Sainz and his French navigator Michel Perlin; Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) and Dirk von Zitzewith (Germany); Mark Miller (USA) and Ralph Pitchford (South Africa) and Dieter Depping partnered with fellow German Timo Gottschalk. The racers, powered by a 2.5-litre TDI diesel engine producing 280 PS, are currently under construction at Volkswagen Motorsport in Hanover, Germany. From there, working to a tight deadline of November 15, the support and service trucks plus parts and equipment needed to compete in the world’s toughest motorsport event will be transported to Le Havre, France, for scrutineering which takes place on November 26, before being shipped out to South America.

For the first time in the event’s history, the 2009 race takes place across the South American continent. Starting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 3 January 2009 and covering more than 9,000 gruelling kilometres (5,625 miles) over 15 stages, the teams will travel through Argentina and Chile from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts and back again.

The stages include passage through the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world with the highest dune fields, along with two crossings of the Andes encountering altitudes of up to 4,600 metres. In preparation for these extreme conditions, both man and machine have been specially prepared. The drivers have completed altitude training in the Alps, while the 2.5-litre TDI engines have been subjected to thousands of kilometres of extensive durability testing in an environment chamber, designed to simulate extreme altitudes.

The constantly changing landscapes and varying terrain along the route are not only an extremely demanding test for the vehicles, drivers and co-drivers, but they also provide a new set of challenges for the technicians and engineers in terms of vehicle set-up and maintenance.

News: Subaru releases 20th Anniversary Impreza WRX STI

Subaru Impreza 20th Ann fq

Subaru is celebrating 20 years of building low-mounted, boxer-powered, all-wheel-drive fun, with a new limited edition variant. The Subaru Impreza WRX STI 20th Anniversary edition doesn’t get too much in the way of modifications. The only major changes to the STI’s dynamics come from a new set of coilovers with retuned springs and shocks to offer a better ride, along with thicker front and rear anti-roll bars and a set of 18-inch rims to compliment the only available colour (white). Body mods are also kept to a minimum, with only a black lip spoiler and rear wing giving clues to the vehicles special status.

Naturally some unique badging is required, so in addition to leather Recaros with red stitching and a matching shift knob, a commemorative plaque on the center console and a new set of door sills let people know that the Impreza is one of the 300 limited edition examples.

Sales are limited to the Japanese domestic market with the Anniversary edition carrying a price tag of 4,126,500 yen ($81,200 NZ).

News: ABT wraps Audis in carbon fibre-look vinyl

Audi R8 ABT fq

Usually it is only Christmas presents and school books that get wrapped up in a protective coating or foil, but now German tuning firm ABT Sportsline is wrapping entire cars in vinyl. Available for some Audi models the new vehicle full-foil is a high-tech synthetic material that provides an additional individual touch and extremely unique look. The complete vehicle bodywork is wrapped with precision right through to the last corner or edge. The result is apparently correct right down to the finish of every single detail, and qualitatively there is no difference to a high-grade finish.

There is a matt Carbon Film on offer for the models AS4, AS7 and the super sports car ABT R8. Of course, the foil is also available for the standard Audi models A4, Q7 and R8. The matt Carbon Film is virtually indistinguishable from real carbon, i.e. the texture of the carbon-fibre synthetic material is exactly reproduced.

“When the vehicle is fully wrapped in Carbon Film, it appears more aggressive and dynamic”, said Hans-Jürgen Abt, Managing Director of ABT Sportsline.

After all, carbon is the extremely stable material that causes weight reduction in professional motor sport. Of course, ABT’s Carbon Film does not have this feature, but the extravagant wrapping is considerably less expensive.

So if you can’t stand the colour of your brand new Audi, or you just want to look flash around town ABT is the place to go

Nissan: Nissan X-Trail Diesel 2008 — Road Test

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In the circus that the international motor industry has become recently, roles have altered and versatility has become a true virtue. The crowd has stopped paying to watch tired elephants from the bleachers and now wants to see dynamic magic shows from a comfortable seat. Nissan, always a solid performer has now stepped up to the main stage and shown that it has a few tricks up its sleeve. The latest X-Trail is a testament to Nissan’s ability to try new moves and listen to its audience whether applauding or jeering.

The concept of a highly versatile, easy to operate, compact 4wd is a true tightrope balancing act. The 2008 X-Trail is the model’s second incarnation, and although the styling is very similar, improvements have been made in many areas over Nissan’s first attempt.

The X-Trail’s styling is square and basic, it’s the type of shape that will always get an even split of critics and admirers. Chrome detailing and sharp 17-inch alloys dress up the basic look of the X-trail. What impresses me about the overall styling of the X-Trail is its ability to still look like a 4wd, with a chunky and sharp-angled appeal. One big advantage of the boxy styling is being able to see exactly where the front ends, and also being able to guess well at the rear. Unfortunately the rear pillar is quite wide and this can create a blind spot, but this is negated to an extent by large and effective wing-mirrors.

The X-Trail’s interior is where the real magic happens. The cabin is spacious and comfortable. The seats could offer more side support but are well padded and finished in soft leather. There is a feeling of quality to the cabin – everything that opens shuts again well and anything that’s touched feels sturdy. The centre control console is easy to use and the buttons are thoughtfully laid out so you seldom need to take your eyes from the road for more than a split-second. Equipment-wise, the X-Trail brings a big bag of tricks including climate control, cruise, power-heated front seats, six-stack CD player, sunroof, alarm and trip computer. The back seat has a 40/20/40 split system where two passengers can sit in the rear while folding down the centre seat for long objects like skis. For the X-Trail’s grand finale there is a false floor in the back with drawers underneath, so expensive items can be hidden away. When this floor is removed and the backseats are folded down the X-trail has a whopping 1773 litres of storage space, so there is little need for a roof rack.

At performance time the X-Trail is no clown. The tested vehicle had a 4-cylinder diesel motor with a 6-speed automatic transmission putting out 110kW of power and 380Nm of torque. It won’t break land speed records but can move well when required. The diesel motor runs quite loud particularly when cold which was disappointing. Fuel economy is top notch considering the X-Trail’s portly weight, achieving 8.1l/100km combined. The 6-speed box changes gear well but the power delivery from accelerator pedal through to tyres has a moment’s delay, and needs to be worked accordingly.

The X-trail can’t offer sports car handling, and does have the body roll you’d expect from an SUV. However, the steering is very predictable and the despite the X-Trail’s size it’s very manoeuvrable at all speeds. Grip is good thanks to the large wheels and the overall ride is absorbent and comfortable with generally good noise suppression in the cabin while cruising. If the scene changes and you’re heading off road the X-Trail can be changed into 4wd with the flick of a knob. There is also an ‘AUTO’ setting where the driver can relax knowing the vehicle’s clever electronics are dictating how to divide power for optimum traction. Drive can be redirected as much as 100 percent to the front (with 0 percent to rear) or up to 43 percent rear (57 percent front) almost immediately and as required. This makes the X-Trail well capable of sliding round a paddock or climbing a steep gravel path.

When it comes to safety the X-Trail is a total strongman, packing an electronic stability programme (ESP) with hill descent control and hill start assist. Six airbags are loaded and ready to turn on a pyrotechnic show if things turn ugly.

To summarise, the X-Trail is rightly marketed on its versatility but is no one trick pony and has strengths in ride comfort and ease-of-use. It has a solid build quality, works well for carrying various cargo and passengers and offers good value for its admission price. Even with the X-Trail’s generous dimensions you never feel like you’re riding an elephant and it gives the illusion of a smaller car for the driver while retaining all the advantages of a large vehicle. The new X-Trail is undoubtedly one of Nissan’s finest acts.

Click through to the next page for specifications.

Price: from $35,750

What we like

  • Highly functional
  • Off-road capable
  • Spacious
  • Clever interior storage options
  • Good economy for size

What we don’t like

  • Noisy diesel motor
  • Wide rear pillar
  • Front seat support
  • Looks like a circus freak from some angles

Nissan X-Trail Diesel (2008) – Specifications

Engine

2.0 litre, Turbo Diesel
Displacement (cc)  1995
Bore x Stroke (mm) 8 84 x 90
Compression ratio  15.6:1
Max power (kW @ rpm) manual/auto 127@3750/110@4000
Max torque (Nm @ rpm) manual/auto 360@2000/320@2000
Induction — Sequential multi-point fuel injection with detonation sensor
Common-rail — Direct Injection
Emission control — Catalytic converter
Alternator — 12 volt

Transmission

6-speed automatic with M-Mode Opt OptContinuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with M-Mode Opt Opt OptIntelligent
ALL MODE 4×4-i with electronic 4WD selection Including Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) & Traction Control System (TCS).

Ratio 1st automatic  4.199
Ratio 2nd automatic 2.405
Ratio 3rd automatic  1.583
Ratio 4th automatic  1.161
Ratio 5th automatic  0.855
Ratio 6th automatic 0.685
Ratio Reverse automatic  3.457

Dimensions

Overall length (mm) 4630
Overall width (mm)  1785
Overall height (mm)  1685
Wheelbase (mm)  2630
Track front/rear (mm) 1530/1535
Turning circle (m)  10.8
Ground clearance (mm)  200
Tare weight (kg) manual/auto  1643/1673
GVM (kg) manual/auto  2150/2170
Approach Angle (degrees) 26
Departure Angle (degrees) 22

Rated Towing Capacity

Trailer with brakes (kg) manual/auto  2000/1350
Trailer without brakes (kg) 750

Fuel

Fuel type — Unleaded (ULP)
Diesel
Fuel tank capacity (litres)  65
Fuel economy — ADR 81/01 1/100km manual 7.4
Fuel economy — ADR 81/01 1/100km CVT auto 9.3
6-speed auto  8.1

Words Adam Mamo, photography Adam Mamo and Darren Cottingham