News: Fiat to unveil Bugster concept in Brazil

Fiat Bugster concept fq

South America is a vital market for Fiat, and with the Sao Paulo International Auto Show coming up, the Italian automaker’s Brazilian arm has something special planned for the locals. Called the Bugster, it looks like a cross between a KTM X-Bow and a Jeep Wrangler.

Very little is known at this point, except that its green color is radical. Its undisclosed powertrain is good for zero-emission transportation, and the eco-friendly body panels are made out of renewable natural fibers. More details should come to the surface as the Sao Paulo show prepares to open at the end of this month.

Check back for more concepts from the upcoming Sao Paulo show.

Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 2008 — Road Test

mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-x-fq

A lot of newsprint is devoted to horoscopes. You share your star sign with roughly 8.3% of the population and at any one time you’re bound to be going through some kind of relationship issue, some kind of money issue and perhaps a health concern. Maybe even someone from your past might come into your life this week. It’s all generic fodder for the masses, designed for the lowest common denominator.

The sheer sample size should see all measurements tend to some kind of roughly equal spread — you’d expect that a Capricorn or Libran would have the same chance of meeting a tall dark handsome stranger as a Virgo or Aquarian. But this isn’t the case for accidents. UK accident management company Accident Exchange studied 115,000 accidents and found that Gemini drivers (known for their impatience, apparently) made up just under 9% of all claims. Get to the point, Darren, I hear you Geminis say. Well, guess who is a Gemini: yours truly.

So, I thought it would be good idea to see if I could crash Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution X. Only kidding, I wanted to see if the Evo X would keep me safe and fly in the face of statistics (and other blatant lies).

The first sensation you get from driving the Evo X is one of technology harnessing a monster — the intellectual Castor and Pollux rising above the raw animal form; a beast tamed and shackled by pure processing power, sticky 245/40R18 tyres, Bilstein suspension, and reined in by massive four-pot Brembo brakes at the front.

Tickle the throttle pedal and the animal within rears its head until the active stability and traction control cut in. Just like Geminis, this car comes with moods, but three rather than the twins’ two. Normal is fairly benign, disappointing even. The SST dual-clutch automatic is lazy to change down, and the performance comes, eventually. It’s the cruising mode.

Change its mood to Sport by flicking a switch, and the Evo starts to show some irritation. You’ve called its sister a harlet, but not its favourite sister. All hell breaks loose when S-Sport mode is selected. Not only did you trample its mother’s flower beds, but you ran off with its wife. Savage lurches forwards are a toe-flex away; gear changes are as fast as blinking.

Available as a five-speed manual as well, once you’ve driven the six-speed twin-clutch auto you’ll probably come to the conclusion that there’s no point in having to have the inconvenience of a clutch unless you’re going to take it rallying.

The two models have unusually divergent specification. The manual has more torque by a considerable margin (422Nm vs 372Nm), but less power (206kW vs 220kW). The manual lacks the audio controls on the steering wheel, Rockford Fosgate 9-speaker audio system, and Bluetooth telephone integration of the automatic. The automatic is 15mm longer at 4510mm, and 75kg heavier at 1595kg.

With all that power and torque from the two-litre MIVEC engine you’re a shoe in for the traffic lights grand prix, but would you purchase an Evo, or its nemesis the Subaru WRX STI? On the track, the STI has proved to be quicker in many tests with professional racing drivers, but having driven both, you won’t notice this on the road, even with spirited driving, and you might buy the Evo because you prefer the styling over the beauty-challenged Subaru.

The Evo does feel marginally better to drive, even though the cabin is not as good as the Subaru’s. The Recaro seats are remarkably comfortable and keep your body in the right place while experiencing the g-forces, and you can create some significant ones given the right corners. The Evo X is as balanced as Libra. From the driver’s seat there’s nothing particularly spectacular about the dashboard, but the steering wheel, with its integrated audio, cruise control and Bluetooth phone buttons, is a delight to control.

Unfortunately there is no way of folding the seats forward, which limits the boot’s usefulness. The boot itself contains the Rockford Fosgate subwoofer, integrated into the side, which is capable of vibrating your trousers.

If you want to buy a car that’s easy to crash (like a Renault 5 or Peugeot 205 GTI), you’d better make sure you’re one of the safer star signs — a Sagittarius or Scorpio — signs that represent only 7.7% of accidents each. The Evo is a triumph for Geminis, especially with the twin-clutch. Any corner signposted 45kph or more is ok to take at 100kph. Braking is epic. There’s the power and grip to get you out of most situations. The Evo X is not a Scorpio — there’s no sting in its tail. It’s a car that, under almost all driving conditions, is virtually impossible to crash.

To read the full specifications of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, click through to the next page.

Price: from $62,990 (manual), $67,990 (twin-clutch auto)

What we like

  • S-Sport mode, especially with the paddle-shift gears
  • Handling is sublime
  • Brakes
  • Seats hold you like King Kong held Fay Wray
  • Steering feel
  • Gearbox changes cogs in an instant

What we don’t like

  • Small boot, and back seats don’t fold forwards
  • Reversing isn’t easy with the car’s high shoulders and race-bred spoiler
  • Fuel economy
  • Occasional unexpected clunky downshift

Specifications – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X (2008)

Engine

Displacement (cc): 1,998
Max power (DIN) kW@rpm: 220 @ 6,500
Max torque (DIN) Nm@rpm: 372 @ 3,500
Bore & stroke (mm): 86.0 x 86.0
Compression ratio: 9.0:1
Fuel type: 98 octane
Fuel tank capacity (litres): 55
Fuel consumption – L/100km: 10.5
CO2 – g/km:
244

Dimensions / weights

Overall length (mm): 4,510
Overall width (mm): 1,810
Overall height (mm): 1,480
Wheelbase (mm): 2,650
Track front & rear (mm): 1,545
Kerb weight (kg): 1,595
Turning circle (m): 11.8

Transmission

Type: 6AMT TC-SST
Gear ratios: 3.655 ~ 0.775
1st 3.655
2nd 2.368
3rd 1.754
4th 1.322
5th 1.008
6th 0.775
Rev 4.011
Final 4.062

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

News: The Lexus IS F touches down in NZ

Lexus IS F fq

The new Lexus IS F has arrived on our shores and is quite the beast, based on the IS model range the new IS F is high-powered, luxurious and means business. Powered by a quad-cam aluminium 5.0 litre V8 high performance engine with 311kW of power and 505Nm of torque, the IF S achieves a 0-100 time of 4.8 seconds and is governed by a maximum track speed of 270 kilometres per hour.

Its D-4S engine (Direct and port injection 4-Stroke gasoline engine) has titanium intake valves, both direct and port fuel injection, dual VVT-i, including electric motor-driven variable intake valve timing (VVT-iE) and a special oil scavenge pump for extended high G cornering.

IS F has a eight speed Sport Direct Shift (SPDS) automatic transmission with paddle shifters that upshifts almost instantly (as quick as 0.1 seconds), a track tuned suspension system and extremely powerful Brembo brakes that feature 360mm cross drilled rotors and six piston callipers up front and 345mm two piston callipers at the rear. A specially tuned stability control system called VDIM features a Sports Mode to support high performance driving.

The lightweight BBS 19 inch forged 10 spoke alloy wheels are both stronger and lighter than equivalent cast wheels, which helps to improve handling by reducing unsprung weight and rotational inertia.

Lexus’ sophisticated Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system incorporates a new Sport mode that ensures the power of the IS F can be enjoyed smoothly and safely even when cornering at high speed. By integrating all the steering, braking, stability and traction control systems together. For drivers who wish to push IS F to the limits on the track, VDIM can be switched off.

The four highly bolstered leather trimmed sports-styled seats have contrasting stitching and feature the Lexus ‘F’ logo. The seats are contoured to provide excellent lateral support and additional comfort. The front seats are heated and fully power adjustable with three memory position settings.

Safety is a priority, with advanced features like a Pre-Crash Safety system (PCS). PCS is an advanced safety system that tightens the seatbelts and primes the brakes in the split seconds before an accident is imminent, so increased braking force is available the moment the driver steps on the brake pedal. The Pre-Crash Safety system helps to minimise injury to the driver and front seat passenger in a frontal collision.

Lexus’ state of the art satellite navigation system features a seven inch electro multi-vision (EMV) colour touch screen display with both visual and voice guidance, covering 99 per cent of New Zealand’s 76,000 kilometres of roads. The touch screen also gives the driver control over the audio, climate control and Bluetooth wireless communication systems.

The 14 speaker Mark Levinson premium features surround sound with an in-dash six disc CD/DVD changer with Bluetooth functions and MP3 compatibility.

For internal comfort, IS F features an electronic climate control air conditioning system with separate driver and passenger temperature controls, automatic recirculation and a clean air filter with a pollen removal mode.

IS F has the convenience of a smart entry system using the smart key and also features push button start.

Six exterior colours are available including the new and unique ultrasonic blue that was designed to represent the colour found in the hottest core of a flame. The interior trim choices are full black leather, black and white leather or black and terra cotta leather. All colour choices are teamed with a metallic fibre composite trim on the centre console and doors.

News: Hamann goes to work on SLR McLaren

Hamman SLR fq

Hamann is expanding its lineup of top end luxurious performance cars, and has turned its attention to the Mercedes SLR McLaren.

A teaser video has been released, showing the explosively named “Volcano” SLR sporting deep-dish rims, a two-tone paint job, massive rear wheel arches, roof scoop, rear diffuser and wing. Details are scarce right now, but we suspect more information will become available at the SEMA show next month. Till then check out the video below.

News: Kia may bring ISG stop-start technology to NZ

Kia cee'd ISG rq

Kia will be among the first to offer fuel saving automatic stop-start technology on a mass-market car when it introduces the new ISG system in the New Year on the European-made cee’d model.

And we may see the system on Kia vehicles coming to New Zealand in the future.

ISG stands for Idle, Stop & Go and is a system designed to sense when the car is sitting idle at traffic lights or in a queue, switching off the engine to conserve fuel. When the clutch is depressed ISG instantly re-starts the engine without any other input from the driver and the car resumes driving as normal.

Kia says the ISG system is likely to make fuel economy savings of around 15%, as well as cutting exhaust emissions.

It will be fitted to the 1.6-litre petrol-powered cee’d manual sold in Europe from the beginning of February next year. Kia says ISG will appear on other models in the future.

No word yet on when the ISG system could be fitted to vehicles aimed at the New Zealand market, although Kia Motors NZ is in discussions with its parent about bringing the cee’d to this country.

“We would be keen to see the ISG technology on Kia models for our market, even if the cee’d doesn’t eventuate — it’s an excellent idea and with the amount of stop-start driving that many city car owners have to endure I am sure it will be a winner when it does arrive,” says Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors NZ.

Kia first showcased the ISG technology on a petrol/electric hybrid concept vehicle last year but decided the system was outstanding enough on its own to introduce to an existing mainstream model.

The innovative ISG system was displayed on the Kia cee’d at the recent Paris Motor Show, alongside Kia’s other eco-friendly developments — a petrol/electric hybrid Kia Soul city car and a zero emission, fuel-cell powered Kia Sportage.

The ISG system incorporates a ‘smart’ starter motor linked to the ECU, which monitors the vehicle’s status at all times. When the car comes to a halt, the ECU uses information from various other control systems around the vehicle to decide if switching off the engine is appropriate — such a calculation is made in milli-seconds. If, for any reason, the car’s battery levels drops below 75% of maximum, or there is insufficient energy available for the next start-up, the system will abort the Stop & Go programme.

The engine automatically re-starts when the clutch is depressed and there is no delay in setting off, because it happens in less time than it takes to select first gear.

News: LA Design Challenge sparks futuristic entries

Mercedes LADesign entrant s

The LA Design Challenge is a chance for the world’s car manufacturers to flex their design muscle, and this year has seen some highly creative entries. The futuristic theme is “Motorsports 2025″, Mitsubishi was first to bring out their entrant: the MM25 Rally Racer, now the others have released their far out concepts. Audi, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen have different creations that include a baja racer with an aerial reconnaissance drone and a Le Mans racer with a robot co-pilot. Then there’s the globe-trotting speed machine that can compete on land, air and water, and a Wipeout style electric race car.

They’re all outstanding ideas and show just how much imagination automotive designers keep stored up between sketching mini-vans and redesigning cupholders.

Blogs: Summer’s coming, time to get out to some car events and talk about politics

It’s the increased number of motorbikes on the road that really signals the arrival of warm weather. After all, if all you had to grip in the corners was two credit card-sized patches of rubber, and no windscreen wipers, you’d shun the chance to be at one with the elements on two wheels when rain is more than likely.

Car clubs are now out in force and the pristine restored classics that are locked up in winter are emerging. I was in Mission Bay on Sunday when a parade of 20 or so Morris Minors spluttered past, spewing toxic fumes into the atmosphere in the name of ‘heritage motoring’. And that’s fun – good on them for getting out and doing something. More of us should belong to car clubs.

Except that I no longer belong to a car club. I used to belong to three at the same time (one was Motorsport NZ affiliated which allowed me to race on tracks, one was a karting club, and the other was for the marque of car I had). The thing is that now I deal with car stuff all day. I love it – I’m right on the cutting edge of everything that’s going on in the auto world. But I don’t want to talk about it on the weekends for fear of burning out. If a car club consisted of a group of people getting together to do an activity (driving somewhere, then doing something), that would be great, but often the conversation is just about the cars, as if nothing else is going on in the world.

Too often it’s a group of guys, standing around, arms folded, looking under the engine bay of one of the member’s cars talking about what spark plugs are in there. Well, I want a bit more than that – I want conversations about last night’s episode of Family Guy, which NZ government candidate would be best for our car clubs, and why garden gnomes are rubbish.

So, it’s over to you to get out there and broaden the conversation amongst car club members. Get out there and decide which is right for you – blue or red (and I’m not talking Ford or Holden).

Nissan: Nissan Navara DX 2008 — Road Test

nissan-navara-dx-fq

Coming out of retirement is usually an activity reserved for poverty-stricken heavyweight boxers, but Nissan has proved that even a ute can return to former glory with its Navara DX. The D22 model Navara was a big seller for Nissan from the late nineties till 2004 when it was replaced by a cocky new model in the Navara ST-X. Utility vehicle sales dropped and Nissan decided to return its old champ to the ring to see if it could still be a crowd favourite. After some reconstructive surgery in face-lift form, the Navara DX is back, but is it still a true contender in the highly competitive pick-up truck division?

The Navara measures up well. Most of the new styling has been done around the front end with new lights, bumper and grille, giving the vehicle an honest-looking face, neither aggressive or soft. Recently utes have become overly concerned with aesthetics, pushing them toward being more car-like in their styling, this cannot be said of the Navara DX. A thick black plastic front bumper and guards show that it is still a working vehicle and the matching black bonnet scoop lets everyone know it’s packing a punch. It is exactly this decision not to have flashy chrome detailing and a more curvaceous shape that may appeal to many buyers in the niche utility vehicle market.

The Navara’s interior styling is consistent with the exterior, its spartan and purposeful, various plastics cover the entire cabin including footwells making the entire area easy to clean with a wet sponge if not a hose. The dashboard and instruments are one area where the Navara does show some age – the heater controls and two adjacent ashtray set up really required more revision. The steering wheel is thin and poorly suited for big rough farm-workers’ hands.. The velour front seats are comfortable and easy to jump into and out of. In the double cab the rear seat is a tight fit for an adult, but comfort can be found with some leg positioning. The back doors are narrow which makes entry and exit tricky, it is still useful having this extra seating as an option, if not for everyday use. Good cabin storage is provided between the front seats, in the large glove box and two cup holders. Air-conditioning, electric windows and a single CD player come as standard; airbags are optional. The tested Navara had central locking but no keyless entry — useful for rugged conditions where an electronic remote may get wet or damaged easily, but annoying if it’s used for regular stopping, vacating and returning to the vehicle.

The Navara DX packs a tidy punch with a 2.5 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel powerplant that produces 98kW and 304Nm of torque. This unit offers some grunt when worked well through the gears and cruises smoothly at motorway speeds, if noisily. The high level of torque generated makes the Navara DX a true brawler-hauler with an impressive load potential of over 1,000kg for the double cab and 1,300kg for the single. Towing is a breeze too with a pulling capacity of 2,800kg.

Handling? The Navara leaves you in no doubt that it’s a truck, dealing with corners more like a punch drunk has-been than a heavyweight champ. Independent suspension at the front and heavy-duty rear-leaf suspension at the back is set-up for heavy loads so quick cornering with an empty load-bay isn’t advised. Potholes and dips can cause a bouncy ride and driving over judder bars is an easy indication that the Navara is more suited to a rural setting. The grip is generally good, even in the wet the tyres shouldn’t slip if driven sensibly so footwork isn’t the Navara’s weakness. Off road credentials are good with a ground clearance of 230mm, an approach and departure angle of up to 31 degrees and it can cope with a climb of 39 degrees.

The Navara DX has had a big career and Nissan has done well to extract so much from this platform, but it doesn’t have any title fights left. That said, the Navara does score points for being no-nonsense, highly functional and strong in the working duties that utes are expected to perform. The age of the model and its no-frills appearance are reflected in its pricing so it offers good value for money. The ride could be more refined and the interior is dated but the Navara remains a competent journeyman if no longer a king hitter.

For the full specifications of the Nissan Navara DX click through to the next page.

Price: from $32,995

What we like

  • Good load capacity and towing power
  • High clearance
  • Hard-wearing interior
  • Reasonable price

What we don’t like

  • Ride comfort
  • Dated styling
  • Noisy engine

Nissan Navara DX – Specifications


Engine

2.5 Litre Diesel DOHC, 4Cyl In-line Turbo

Capacity cc: 2488
Power kW:
@ rpm 98 @ 3600
Torque Nm: @ rpm 304 @ 2000
Bore and Stroke mm: 89 x100
Compression Ratio:16.5:1
Fuel System:Common-rail Diesel

Fuel

Direct Injection, Common Rail

Fuel Type:

Diesel

Fuel tank capacity litres: 75
Fuel economy L/100km: 9.2
CO2 Emissions g/km: (LTNZ Standard) 239.7
Emission Compliance Standard: Euro 4

Transmission

5 speed Manual
Gear Ratios:
1st

3.580
2nd
2.077
3rd
1.360
4th
1.000
5th
1.760
Reverse
3.636
Transfer Ratio Low
2.02 : 1
Final Drive
4.625

Suspension

Front Suspension: Double wishbone with stabiliser bar

Rear Suspension: Leaf spring with telescopic shock absorbers

Measurements

Overall Length mm: 5090
Overall Width mm: 1825
Overall Height mm: 1715
Wheelbase mm: 2950
Track – Front / Rear mm: 1525/1505
Ground clearance mm: 230
Minimum Turning Circle m: 12

Weights and Capacities

Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) kg: 2860
Kerb Weight kg: 1765
Total Payload kg: 1095
Gross Axle Front kg:1380 Rear kg: 1800
Towing Capacity Brake kg: 2800
Unbraked kg: 750

Words Adam Mamo, photos Darren Cottingham