News: Volvo S60 ceases production… for now

Volvo S60 production

The best days for Volvo’s S60 are long gone. The once-strong sales have fallen from 100,000 units in the S60’s early years to a bleak 6,200 in 2008. It was a solid performer but  even Volvo knows its played out, and they’re experts at extending the life-span of models. To make room for the new S60, the last of the originals came off the line on March 31st at the Volvo factory in Ghent, Belgium. The last car built a Sapphire Black S60 is headed to Taiwan, and caps a run of nearly 580,000 S60 vehicles in total.

The S60 is a journeyman model for Volvo, and played a crucial role in the automaker’s lineup for many years. Although once competitive in its segment, the S60 has been surpassed by just about everyone else, and the Ghent factory is now busy focusing on launching the 2010 S60.

The best days for Volvo's S60 are long gone. The once-strong sales ...

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News: Coachbuilder Karmann bites the dust

karmann badge

The economy has caught up with Karmann, the independent German coach builder whose name was most famously applied to Volkswagen’s 1950s roadster, forcing it to file for insolvency. Most recently the company’s 3,470 workers were assembling Audi A4 and Mercedes CLK convertibles.

Over its 108-year history the brand has done work for many marques including building Porsche bodies, the Chrysler Crossfire, the roof system for the Pontiac G6 and Nissan Micra, and at one point the European version of the AMC Javelin. Declining car sales, however, have kept Karmann from being able to fulfill its financial obligations and forced it to pack it all in.

The economy has caught up with Karmann, the independent German coa ...

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Blogs: Easter VW and Vintage Car Club meetings – we came back as early as possible

Hastings and Napier put on a perfect combination of clear skies and warm temperatures over Easter, which was fortunate for the entrants of the 2009 VW Nationals, and the Vintage Car Club’s National North Island Rally. Both events were well-attended and received good participation from club members. You’ll see galleries on NZ Classic Car’s website this week.

However, what one does not want to do is hang around and leave Napier late on the way back to Auckland. The Napier-Taupo highways hills can be a challenge even to some more modern machines, let alone a 70-year-old vehicle whose top speed is 60kph on the flat. With potentially 200 cars making their way back over to Taupo today (Monday), we decided to leave early – 8am. We caught up with a lone vintage car struggling up towards the summit cafe, and no Vee-Dubs.

The owners of these classic vehicles should be commended that they dare take their pride and joy on such an arduous journey, but we have to remember that many of these cars would have been conquering the Napier-Taupo highway when it was still gravel, and a good number of kilometres longer than it is now.

Skinny tyres, ineffectual brakes, and lack of power steering would have made many a particpant’s journey somewhat more exciting than cruising the 140km in a modern sedan – let’s hope everyone made it back safely.

Hastings and Napier put on a perfect combination of clear skies and wa ...

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Road Tests / Car Reviews: Subaru Impreza WRX 2009 Review

subaru-impreza-wrx-fq

“It’s gone soft”. It was the one point that motoring journos the world over agreed upon when the new generation Subaru Impreza WRX broke cover last year. All grown up and on the hunt for a new type of buyer, the five-door hatch lacked the raw attitude of its predecessors, widening the gap between it and its balls-to-the-wall Subaru Tecnica International (STI) fettled sibling in the process. I can kind of understand the logic of such a move. The WRX STI has always been measured against its arch nemesis, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, so why not change tack?

It seems, however, that Subaru has listened, acted and now delivered. The company’s ’09-spec car, available in hatch and now four-door sedan guises, has been re-evaluated and tweaked in the all the right places, making it faster and harder edged, all the while maintaining its newfound sophistication.

There are a few external upgrades, namely a new mesh grille, new WRX badges, red brake callipers and a sunroof that’s now factory fare on both the hatch and sedan models. Likewise inside, dark leather trim with red stitching has become standard issue.

But the real beauty of the new models is more than skin deep. The ’09 WRX shares the same EJ25T long block as its predecessor, but some factory tuning of the turbocharger, intercooler and exhaust have given the car a serious performance injection to leave it nipping at the heals of its big STI brother ” and all for no more cash than the ’08 car.

Bringing the engine up to task is the STI-spec turbo sucking on 15psi of boost ” 30 per cent more of the compressed stuff than the 11psi seen in the same car this time last year. The top-mount intercooler setup benefits from increased chilling capabilities and the exhaust system has seen a reduction in gas flow restriction to match the new turbo arrangement. It all adds up to an impressive 195kW and 343Nm ” more than enough poke to slingshot the WRX from zero to the legal limit in a manufacturer-recorded 5.3 seconds and feeling every bit that fast. Better still, combined fuel usage has been reduced in the process.

Improvements have also been made to the shift mechanism of the WRX’s 5-speed gearbox. A 6-speed would be nice here, but some things just have to be reserved for the STI. Significant upgrades have been achieved in the suspension department, and according to Subaru the new car provides, “sharper, sportier, more aggressive handling”.

Testing was conducted in Japan and Australia to tune the setup for local driving conditions and it seems to have paid off. The sedan we drove was noticeably firmer and less susceptible to wallow than the hatch we tested last year. This is all thanks to re-tuned dampers and stiffened coil springs, stabiliser bars and top mounts ” just what the doctor ordered. There’s also a bigger footprint on the road, with 225/45R17 tyres replacing the narrow 205/50s that were previously fitted.

All said and done, there’s a lot of car here for the $50,990 price tag. In fact, we’re pretty adamant there’s nothing else out there that comes close in terms of performance and styling for the same money. The new car best buy of ’09? This could well be it.

Click through to the next page for a full list of specifications

Price: from $50,990

What we like:

  • More grunt
  • Tighter ride and fatter bite on road than 2008 car
  • Rear Styling on sedan

What we don’t like:

  • Truck-sized side mirrors

Subaru Impreza WRX (2009) – Specifications

Engine: Subaru EJ25T 2.5-litre DOHC 16V boxer, AVCS, multi-point sequential fuel injector, ETC, STI turbocharger, revised intercooler, revised exhaust

Driveline: 5-speed manual gearbox, viscous limited slip diff, symmetrical all-wheel drive, VDC

Suspension/Brakes: Front — MacPherson struts, coil springs, Rear — Double wishbone, coil springs, ventilated disc front, solid disc rear, ABS, EBD

Exterior: WRX sports body kit, Bi-Xenon headlights, front fog lights

Interior: Leather sports bucket seats, leather-bound steering wheel, alloy pedals, titanium trim

Wheels/Tyres: 17×7-inch alloy wheels, Dunlop SP Sport 225/45R17 tyres

Performance: 195kW @ 6000rpm, 343Nm @ 4000rpm, 0-100kph — 5.3 seconds approx

Price As Tested: $50,990

Words Brad Lord, Photos Dan Wakelin

"It’s gone soft". It was the one point that motoring journos ...

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Blogs: Stick beatings and Italian design

My last blog post focused largely on beating kit set furniture with a 20oz hammer, now in a continuation of this beating stuff with stuff theme we should move on to stick beatings.

My youth didn’t see much in the way of stick beatings, on the receiving end I got a few across the back end with the old wooden spoon, so Mum I know you’re one of the five people who read this blog and you should be ashamed, smacking kids is now illegal which must mean it was always morally incorrect. As for giving stick beatings I have to blame Mum for that too, no Piñatas at birthday parties and no overseas trips to Korean protest marches meant I missed out on beating anything or anyone with a stick.

In fact it wasn’t until I left Mum well behind and bailed to Japan that I got my first taste for stick beatings. My enemy was my futon mattress, the scene was the 12th floor balcony of my apartment building. What you’re meant to do is attach the futon mattress to the balcony rail with a large peg-thing, then beat the crap out of it. This should be done twice a week at least, but to help uphold the dirty foreigner stereotype I would do this about fortnightly. But I took pleasure in beating my futon harder and with greater venom than any of my noodle-armed neighbours, only real problem was dust. So I would tie a tea towel around my nose and mouth and like some domestic bandit beat my futon to the death. One day during a heavy futon beating session my hands got sweaty and the stick flew from my hands and fell 12 floors to the street below where it was collected with a thud by a passing taxi sounding like it hit the Taxi’s front grille rather than the wheels. To uphold the irresponsible foreigner stereotype I quickly dragged my futon back inside and shut up the balcony, knowing that the angry taxi driver could never tell which of the dozens of apartments the stick could have come from. I made a mental note to buy a new futon beater possibly with a gripped handle, but this was unnecessary. When I went out later that day, I was amazed to see my beating stick placed in the foyer of my apartment building returned and still in one piece. But that’s Japan for you.

Shifting from Japan to Italy but staying with stick beatings. Italian car design is known for its flowing lines and aesthetic flair, but not all Italian designs hit the mark. For every success there are a couple of duds that slip through the cracks, and if dodgy Italian car design really hacks you off now you can do something about it. The iMotor website crew have developed an online game where you can beat Italian designed cars with an ugly stick. Problem is the game is really crap, so crap that it gives stick-beatings a bad name and is undeserving of a link in this post. If you do want to play some real games check out Drift Legends and Super Lap Legends, no sticks are involved unfortunately, just good fun.

Ugly Stick Game

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News: Nissan 370Z Roadster looks sharp on debut

Nissan 370Z roadster fq

The New York Auto Show has fired up and manufacturers are already showing off their latest wares. Nissan just tore the cloth off its new 370Z Roadster, and it appears that the good looks of the coupe have shifted over to the topless version nicely.

The convertible has been given a retractable soft top roof to keep weight as low as possible and will use the same 3.7-litre V6 as in the base 370Z. That means this Zed will boast around 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, as well as Nissan’s trick new six-speed manual with rev-matching tech.

Check back as we bring you more info on the 370Z Roadster and news from the New York Auto Show

The New York Auto Show has fired up and manufacturers are already ...

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News: 2010 Range Rover Sport released

Range Rover Sport fq

Land Rover have been busy creating it’s new LR4, upgrading the classic Range Rover, and now the Range Rover Sport is also getting plenty of upgrades for the 2010 model year. Like the regular Range Rover, the Sport gets the same 5.0L direct-injection V8 from Jaguar in either naturally aspirated or supercharged form and a new six-speed automatic transmission. The NA version puts out 375 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque while the supercharger variant creates 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque and is good for 5.9-second sprints to 100 kph. The Sport’s exterior has also been tweaked with a new two-bar grille featuring in the updated front end and new rear tail-lamps sitting above a redesigned rear bumper. The interior has also been redone with higher quality materials and a new steering wheel that includes paddle shifters on the supercharged model.

All up the new Range Rover Sport is shaping up to be an even more capable sports SUV than the one it replaces.

Land Rover have been busy creating it's new LR4, upgrading the cla ...

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News: PPI to unveil Razor Audi R8 at Top Marques show

Razor R8 s

German tuning firm PPI Automotive Design GmbH unveiled it’s original ‘Razor’ Audi R8 at the Essen Motor Show last year but it looks like it wasn’t enough. Now, an even more aggressive version of the car has been revealed along with word that the final production version will be unveiled at the Top Marques in Monaco on April 16.

The newer model builds on the success of the original using knowledge PPI engineers have gathered over the past year from racing, wind tunnel development, and extensive track testing. The highlight of the package is a full focus on improving the power-to-weight ratio of the Audi R8, with engineers simultaneously boosting power while reducing weight.

An essential part of the motor upgrade is the incorporation of a specially engineered supercharger. In addition, a sport air filter system and a high performance exhaust system made of stainless steel have been specially designed to work in conjunction with this new forced-induction system.

The final result is a car with 427kW and 600Nm of torque. At the same time, the R8’s 1,580kg kerb weight has been reduced by more than 250kg, enabling the Razor GTR to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in 3.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 332km/h.

In addition to the improved speed performance, the car also has a striking widebody appearance with ultra-modern, wind tunnel tested aerodynamics. All new PPI parts, including the new front bumper, diffuser, side skirts, and hood, are made from carbon-fibre.

New wheels all round are extra-wide 19in forged alloys cloaked in 325mm Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tyres in the rear and 255mm sets up front. Sitting within these is an updated brake package with six-piston calipers all around and 380mm discs up front and 356mm units in the rear. Finishing it all off is a hydraulically adjustable suspension kit developed together with KW Automotive.

German tuning firm PPI Automotive Design GmbH unveiled it's origin ...

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