News: MINI drops the top on the John Cooper Works

Mini Cooper John Cooper Works cabriolet fq

MINI will unveil the world’s fastest small premium cabriolet at the Geneva International Motor Show on 03 March 2009. The MINI John Cooper Works Convertible will take centre stage at the event and is on sale in the UK from 28 March 2009, priced at £23,470 on the road (approx. NZ$64,000) – there’s no word on when/whether it’ll actually come to New Zealand, but you can read our review of the JCW Mini hard top hatch here.

Featuring the same high performance engineering modifications as the Hatch model carrying the John Cooper Works badge, the Convertible’s 1.6-litre twin scroll-turbocharged engine produces 211 hp and up to 280 Nm peak torque with Overboost deployed.

The newcomer’s petrol power plant is a significantly revised version of the 1.6-litre turbocharged unit found in MINI Cooper S models, and the same as that in the MINI CHALLENGE race car. The engine is lighter, stronger and is supplied with a larger air intake and an exhaust system specifically designed for John Cooper Works cars.

The transmission’s gearing is strengthened to handle the extra available power; power that pushes the car to a remarkable output of 132 hp per litre.

The lengthy standard kit list of every MINI John Cooper Works Convertible includes a bespoke John Cooper Works Alcantara steering wheel, sport seats, John Cooper Works floor mats and glossy piano black interior.

A Sport button is located in front of the gear stick. When pressed it activates a bespoke engine control map producing boost earlier in the rev range and sharpening steering and throttle response. The gear knob featuring a red gearing diagram is unique to the MINI John Cooper Works.

Unique lightweight 17″ alloy wheels in Cross-spoke CHALLENGE design, shod with Run-flat tyres, feature on the exciting new Convertible. A John Cooper Works Aero kit is standard and the tuning brand’s logo is positioned on the boot, grille, brakes and door sills.

Extra-large disc brakes paired with upgraded bright red Brembo performance callipers are supplied. Chassis technologies ensuring a sporty and safe driving experience are also standard features of the MINI John Cooper Works:

* ABS Brakes
* EBD Electronic Brake Force Distribution
* CBC Cornering Brake Control
* EDLC Electronic Differential Lock Control
* DSC Dynamic Stability Control (incorporating Hill Assist)
* DTC Dynamic Traction Control

Unique to MINI John Cooper Works models is EDLC. With DSC fully deactivated, the car’s Electronic Differential Lock Control delivers an even sportier driving experience. EDLC works when the car is accelerating hard out of corners or tight bends. In this situation, it electronically slows the spinning inside wheel to enhance grip and ensure that all available power is transferred to the road through the wheel with greatest traction. In contrast to the way DSC and DTC manage power delivery to the wheels, EDLC does not intervene with the throughput of engine power, meaning the driver is in near total control of the handling of the car.

So, in the JCW Mini cabriolet we’ve got a car with enough flair to be seen in, but enough power to get away from being seen!

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Road Tests / Car Reviews: Skoda Superb 2008 Review

skoda-superb-fq3

The practice of bragging isn’t without its pitfalls, most people will listen politely and nod, but some may challenge the verbal claims. This is when the gap between a bold statement and cold facts can be exposed. In 2001 when Skoda, a manufacturer once infamous for producing vehicles of a dubious quality, named its top-of-range model the Superb scoffs and chuckles could be heard through the motoring world. But Skoda wasn’t joking and with Volkswagen in support it was willing to back up its big claims.

What’s in the name? Well, much like people who are named Herbert or Mabel, Superb is a historic family name. The first Superb was created in 1934 as a luxury model and was produced until the start of World War II. The second generation Superb arrived in 2001, a mere 67 years after the first. The current 2008 model is a full refit using VW Passat underpinnings and Skoda Octavia parts with a totally new platform.

Aesthetically you’ll really need to judge for yourself, because the exterior styling could only be described as opinion polarising. It’s no beauty queen, but does have genuine individuality and a pinch of distinction. The Superb’s bulbous proportions are only really noticeable in profile, where a generosity to rear passenger headroom has left it with a conservative roofline and a neutral stance. The front end looks refined with subtle character lines sweeping down the bonnet to rest on Skoda’s corporate grille. Frowning headlights push back into the guards that make a home for 17-inch alloys. At the rear the Superb stretches out with the roofline running down thick C-pillars into a stumpy looking boot. But it’s here that the Superb keeps its showpiece trick. An innovative ‘Twindoor’ that offers either boot or full hatch access to a capacious 565 litre load bay.

If the Superb’s exterior aesthetics threaten to put people off they would only need to look inside to be turned around. The cabin is stylish, ergonomically advanced and can offer a lavish level of comfort that far exceeds the Superb’s $51,990 starting price. Fit and finish is excellent, the tested model had the high-end Elegance trim level with plush leather and thick carpets on our higher specced test model. The Superb boasts a long equipment list including dual-zone climate control, a razor sharp sound system, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and a touch-screen control panel. The touch-screen controls the sat nav, a 30GB hard disk for music storage and T.V tuner. There is a welcoming atmosphere in the cabin and subtle touches that impress like the Catvision diffused illumination that lights the cabin and instruments at night or the umbrella that is kept in the left rear door.

Where the Superb’s interior shifts from very good to class leading is the way it treats rear passengers. No one will be calling ‘shotgun’ with the rear legroom and headroom on offer and the Superb doesn’t stop the full foreign dignitary treatment there. Air inlets in the B-Column increase airflow and an information display and rear seat heating controls are housed in the back of the centre storage box.

The Skoda has an overflowing bag of tricks, but to be truly superb it must have brawn. The tested model was packing the Volkswagen group’s 2.0-litre common-rail turbo diesel motor that puts out 125kW of power. This diesel lump will move the Superb from 0-100kmh in a respectable 8.8 seconds. With 350Nm of torque on tap and peak power reached at 4,200rpm the Superb is strong around town with plenty of mid-range poke. What is most notable about this modern motor is that it is a perfect fit for the vehicle; it’s quiet at idle and smoothly refined in its power delivery. The powertrain suits the car’s calm demeanour and even when pushed refuses to retaliate with any excessive noise or movement. The engine is mated to a dry-clutch DSG transmission that has minimal friction and delivers changes smoothly. Possibly a beat slow on kick down the DSG still works up the gears well and remains unintrusive to the overall driving experience.

The previous model Superb fell short of full bragging rights, the main reason being its soft, soggy handling. Skoda engineers must have taken the criticism to heart and the new model diligently addresses past problems. There is strong grip when cornering and the Superb sits confidently low on turn-in. The vehicle’s bulk can be sensed when changing direction quickly, but with well weighted steering and the ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) watching over, handling is a breeze. The Superb’s ride quality doesn’t match the firmness of its German rivals. However, very few bumps and dips in the road are passed on to passengers by a suspension set up that’s well suited to New Zealand roads. It’s while motorway cruising that the Superb feels most at home with minimal road and engine noise intruding into the luxury cabin.

Safety is one area the Superb has documented proof to back its boasting. It received the highest score of 5 stars during EuroNCAP testing for adult occupant protection. A full cache of seven air bags are ready to pop, including a knee-airbag to protect legs and thighs in a collision.

Overall is the Skoda Superb¦superb? Well, almost, there are many reasons to talk-up the Superb, but many potential purchasers will get caught up on the unorthodox exterior styling and the Skoda badge. If purchasing in the mid-large category buyers should check out the obvious players like the Ford Mondeo and Citroen C5 but not rule out the Superb. If those in the market are willing to be open-minded to the idea of owning a Skoda there are certainly rewards; a muscular and well-suited motor, and high-level comfort with strong attention to detail and a car that feels a little bit special. With a few more vehicles of the Superb’s calibre the bragging won’t just be done by Skoda, but also by Skoda owners.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications

Price: from $51,990, as tested $67,390

What we like:

  • Luxurious, well equipped interior
  • Strong and quiet diesel engine
  • Class-leading rear passenger space
  • Comfortable ride quality

What we don’t like:

  • Unattractive exterior styling
  • DSG Transmission slow to shift down

Words and Photos, Adam Mamo

Skoda Superb (2008) — Specifications

Engine

Engine Type: Diesel
Displacement (cm3): 1,968
Power Output – kW @ rpm: 125 @ 4,200
Torque – Nm @ rpm: 350 @ 1,750
Cylinders: 4
Drive train: Front Wheel
Transmission: Automatic 6-speed DSG

Efficiency

Fuel Economy – EU, In Town (Litres/100km): 7.8
Fuel Economy – EU, Out of Town (Litres/100km): 5.1
Fuel Economy – EU, Combined (Litres/100km): 6.1
CO2 Emissions (g/km): 159
Diesel Particulate Filter: Standard
Emissions Standard: EU4 (meets EU5 req.)

Performance

0-100 km/ h in seconds: 8.8
Maximum speed in km/h: 220
Drag Coefficient: 0.30

Dimensions

Length (mm): 4,838
Width (mm): 1,817
Height (mm): 1,462
Luggage Capacity (litres): 565 / 1,670
Fuel Capacity (litres): 6060

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Blogs: Reynard Inverter – what’s it like to drive a bike-engined car

A few years ago I went to Sydney, Australia and drove a Radical SR3 around Eastern Creek Raceway. Overtaking a Ferrari around the outside of a corner seemed oh so easy. Keeping my head upright after several laps of fairly intimidating g-forces wasn’t. The market for lightweight track day cars with powerful, high-revving bike engines exploded when Radical revealed its clubsport cars back in the day. The SR3 then became the must-have.

I can only say to describe the Radical’s performance as ‘brutal’ is like describing Mugabe as a caring humanist. Firstly the assault on your ears is extreme – I’m certain that Radical’s owners invest in hearing aid manufacturers. Secondly, you can brake later and harder than you’d ever imagine, threatening to detach your retinas. Thirdly, after braking comes acceleration; the kind that could prolapse a weak rectum. An fourthly comes cornering – cornering so grippy it’s like when your dad used to swing you around by your arms.

That’s why they’re successful. Race drivers love the feeling of discomfort when it’s counterbalanced by speed and exhilaration. Radical has many competitors (Westfield, KTM, etc), and now Reynard, at one time the world’s largest racecar manufacturer, has released the Inverter. Presumably it’s a nod to the aerodynamics and the notion that with the right kind of downforce you could drive it upside down.

Upside down or right way up, we’d still like to have a go.

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News: Reynard Inverter track day weapon

Reynard Inverter f

Track day specials keep the bad dreams away here at Car and SUV, especially if they weigh less than a sumo wrestler and are powered by a high-revving bike engine. Race car manufacturer Reynard has just revealed its contender, ready to do battle against Radical, Westfield, KTM et al.

With ‘extremely efficient performance characteristics’, giving low drag and high downforce, it’s bound to create the type of g-forces that massage your internal organs and threaten to detach your retinas.

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News: Will Kia produce the Soul’ster?

Kia Soulster concept fq

After receiving a great deal of praise at the Detroit Auto Show, Kia is considering putting the Soul’ster 2-door pickup/ute in production. As most people don’t know how to use apostrophes, we’re hoping Kia modifies the name slightly, but not the car. The new Soul looks like it’s got all the credentials to be a success, and if so, that bodes well for the Soul’ster.

After receiving a great deal of praise at the Detroit Auto Show, K ...

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News: Nissan on track for huge loss

Actually, US$2.9 billion doesn’t really sound like much in the current scheme of things but, along with the rest of the automotive industry, it’s shedding jobs in a bid to cut costs and erase the red ink from its books. This will be Nissan’s first loss in nine years, and it comes at the expense of up to 20,000 jobs (around 8.5% of its workforce). As many of these as possible will be early retirement packages and culling contractors, but it seems the majority will be lay-offs.

Despite having a halo product like the GT-R, Nissan has quite a pessimistic attitude about the future economic climate as its cuts, which will leave it with 215,000 employees, will take place right through to March 2010 – it’s not holding out much hope of a quick recovery.

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News: MINI E – not making some people happy

Mini E fqh

In today’s economic climate, you really don’t want to be turning away more than a thousand customers with their cash at the ready, but that’s the undesirable situation that BMW is in. 1800 people in the USA have said they want a MINI E, but there’s only 450 available, leaving 1350 people that will have to drop an E.

To be considered for the program, you can’t live in rural Wyoming…in fact, you can only live near LA, New York or New Jersey, and must only require a range of less than the new MINI can provide. You’ve got to have a lockable garage in which a built-in charger can be installed. Oh, and you need to stump up US$850/month for the lease! That’s an extreme charge! (pun intended)

Adding insult to injury, the first ones won’t arrive until April, which represents a bit of a delay.

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News: Pagani releases details on Zonda R

Pagani Zonda R fq

The Pagani Zonda R has been unveiled and the company has released more technical information and details on the new version.

The Pagani Zonda R is powered by an AMG 6.0 litre V12 engine that outputs a massive 750 hp and 710 Nm of torque. with this engine the Pagani Zonda R manages a 0 to 100kph acceleration time of 2.7 seconds and an incredible top speed of 350 km/h. The Pagani Zonda R comes with rear wheel drive, a self-locking differential and a 6 speed sequential gearbox. To try and keep things safe in the beast, Pagani have given the Zonda R a Bosch Motorsport traction control system and ABS.

A total of 16 Zonda Rs are planned, with 15 being offered to the public (the ‘extra’ model will stay in company hands) at a tidy €1.4M.

The Pagani Zonda R has been unveiled and the company has released ...

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