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


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


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


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


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 type — Unleaded (ULP)
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

Blogs: Spend a billion, reduce car usage by 0.5%

Governments are full of ‘great’ ideas about how to get us out of our cars, even though they know that most of them won’t work, and they don’t want a lot of them to work because that would mean less fuel tax. Anyway, that’s my cynical conspiracy theory out in the open. One of these ideas is free or subsidised public transport. Unfortunately for our government the RAC in the UK has done a study showing that a billion pounds (about three billion NZ$) of public transport fare cuts would reduce car travel by less than half a percent.

The research paper, Public Transport Effects on Road Traffic: Potential and Limitations, was published today, and it finds that even with significant increases in investment the scope for switching from private to public transport remains limited because different types of transport serve discrete markets.

The RAC reckons it would need ‘several billion pounds’ to reduce car traffic. The problem over in the UK (apart from the weather and warm beer) is that the rail network is already congested. It gives the example of London to Glasgow (which I’ve experienced part of the way). It estimates that if a new line is built it would reduce car traffic might reduce road traffic by up to 7%, but at a huge cost, and it would more likely replace travel by air.

Lack of park and ride space in cities is a huge problem, and out of cities it doesn’t have as much effect

The report also found that improved local bus services would only stop a limited number of people travelling between towns in the car

Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation says ‘Public transport is important but it will not solve our transport problems. Even if billions of pounds more than the UK is currently spending were available and spent wholly on public transport it would only have a marginal impact on getting people out of their cars.’

‘Motorists already pay in excess of £45 billion per year in motoring taxes. Many will say that the cost of motoring is too low and that it needs to be increased to make public transport attractive. The truth is that public transport will only ever be suitable for certain trips and certain markets, and the private car will remain the dominant form of transport. Rather than pricing people out of the market for car use, we need to develop a whole new system for paying for motoring, which supports the development of public transport, pays attention to vehicle emissions and allows people real choice when making their journeys’.

Let’s hope someone in the transport department of our government reads this report!

News: New assault on world land speed record

Bloodhound SSC fq

Twelve years since Andy Green and the Thrust SSC cut through the sound barrier on their way to the current World Land Speed Record of 763.053 mph, Green and former record-holder, Richard Noble, are preparing to write the latest chapter in the history of World Land Speed Record attempts, with a 1,000mph (1,690kmh) bid.

Labelled as an engineering adventure, the four-year Bloodhound Project, sponsored by fuel additive brand STP, is designed to re-ignite interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics amongst the youth, and raise the numbers entering technology careers.

A combination of jet, rocket and piston-engined power is employed in the 12.8m, 6,400kg Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) in the quest for the goal.  With former Land Speed Record Holder and team boss from 12 years ago Richard Noble again fronting the team, and Andy Green once more in the driving seat, the team has all the credentials to complete the task.

The new Bloodhound SSC will be powered by three engines: a hybrid rocket, Eurojet EJ200 jet engine and 800bhp V12 engine, the latter of which will pull the vehicle around at low speeds and act as a starter motor for the jet engine.

The project is based in Filton, Bristol, UK. Starting with an 800mph bid in 2009, the car will be continuously developed, with a 900mph run in 2010 and the ultimate goal of 1,000mph will be aimed for in 2011. The venue for the record runs is to be confirmed, but Black Rock Desert, Nevada, the scene of Green’s record with Thrust SSC, is one of the considered venues.

To fulfil the aim of generating interest and enthusiasm in technology, the unique project has complete public accessibility. Bloodhound SSC will be developed in the full public gaze at the team HQ in Filton, where visitors will have access to see the car taking shape.  Comprehensive and constantly updated websites, from both the Bloodhound Project and STP, will also act as a resource for full information as the project unfolds.

Check back for futher updates, till then check out the images and the clip below.

News: Pagani busy at work on Zonda R

Pagani Zonda R fq

The Pagani Zonda is facing down retirement, it’s due to be replaced by Pagani’s next masterpiece, currently code-named the C9. To see the current Zonda off, Pagani is working on the Zonda R, limiting production to ten examples. The ‘R’ must stand for really expensive, the vehicle has a price tag of €2,000,000 ($4.3m NZ).

Despite looking very similar to the Zonda F, the R only shares ten percent of the outgoing model’s underpinnings, and instead, gets a brand new shape that’s 47mm longer, providing even greater downforce through the use of a longer splitter, rear defuser and wing.

Pagani won’t be reusing the 750-hp, 7.3-liter Mercedes motor, instead it will go for the 6.0-liter AMG V12 putting out similar hp and torque figures. Five road-going versions are planned, while the remaining five will be limited to circuit action only. The Zonda R should be unveiled next year, most likely at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show.

News: Russian-made Revolt supercar

E-Go Revolt fq

It’s not everyday the Russians try their hand at building supercars, but a new coachbuilding company in Russia called E-Go has come up with a new car built on a Mitsubishi platform. Called Revolt, by E-Go, it’s not in the least bit offensive, although the rear end styling is an acquired taste. Under the bonnet is a 3.0-liter V6 gets two turbos slapped on to run some 550 hp through a six-speed gearbox. It has an active air suspension and rides on 19-inch wheels from Japanese wheel company Work, with 325/30 rubber out back. Stopping power should be gutsy, with six-piston calipers up front and four-pots in back.

The Revolt has some tricks with all electronics being controlled via a touch screen monitor in the steering wheel. The steering wheel must look totally space-age, and you have to wonder what you can enter and view while  the car is driving. Apparently E-Go has already started building cars, but we’ll have to wait and see.