News: Kia brightens up Detroit show with Soul’ster concept

Kia Soulster fq

Kia brought a ray of sunshine to the depressed Detroit Motor Show when it unveiled its new concept car called the Soul’ster. Based on the all-new urban crossover Kia Soul, which will be launched in New Zealand this year, the concept is a fusion of sporty convertible roadster and practical pick-up truck styling.

“It’s brilliant,” says Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand. “The Soul’ster sums up the new Soul range in two words ‘fun’ and ‘funky’. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, coming just ahead of the New Zealand launch of the Soul.”

The Soul’ster provided a bright spot to lighten the serious atmosphere at the 2009 Detroit Motor Show with parts of the industry suffering heavily from the downturn. It’s a prime example of Kia thinking outside the square by taking a simple idea and creating a new statement. Soul’ster contains various elements and styling cues that may be integrated into the company’s future products.

Using the 5-door Soul production vehicle as its base, the Soul’ster has been re-engineered with two doors and the rear passengers appear to be sitting in the pick-up tray. Two large side struts stiffen the body and reinforce the mini-truck look. But unlike any other pick-up, the Soul’ster provides fresh-air motoring with its two-piece top enabling passengers to expose front and back seating areas independently.

The windshield is shortened for a sportier and hunkered down appearance and Soul’ster’s lighting features an amber glow under the headlamps that give it a ‘devilish’ look at night. The side vents, side-mirror turn signals, unique LED headlamps, fog and tail lamps incorporate blue shades.

Inside, the layout echoes some of the fun themes that will be seen in the production Soul, such as the LED lighting around the sound system. Adding to the edgy design scheme, the non-floor-mounted cantilevered seats project the illusion of being suspended in space when viewed from the side allowing for increased rear legroom. Storage compartments below each of the fold-flat rear seats, offer room for cargo. When the rear seats are folded the cargo space resembles that of a pick-up.

According to Tom Kearns, Kia Motors America chief designer: “Soul’ster delivers something new, intriguing and relevant to today’s buyers — a fun, affordable convertible for active people who like to share good times with friends.”

The Soul’ster concept could be powered by any of the three engine options that will be available in the Soul production model — a choice of 1.6-litre and 2.0 petrol engines and a 1.6-litre common rail diesel, mated to either a manual or automatic transmission.

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News: Hurst shows off its 50th Anniversary Viper

Hurst Viper fq

Hurst, known traditionally for its shifters has recently unveiled the car that will mark its 50th year of building specialty performance vehicles under the banner of Hurst Performance. That car is named the 50th Anniversary Hurst/Viper. Since performance modifications to the Viper’s 600-hp 8.4L V10 engine are completely unnecessary, Hurst have focused mostly on the aesthetics. The Hurst/Viper, of which only 50 will be made, comes only in two color combos that commemorate the official colors of the company: gold with black stripes or white with gold stripes. It wouldn’t be a Hurst car without a Hurst shifter, so these special Vipers will be fitted with the company’s new gold anodized pistol grip shifter. Also from Hurst’s aftermarket range are 19- and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires. The interior is finished in Katzkin charcoal leather that’s embroidered with the Hurst logo and touched off with gold stitching and perforated leather inserts.

On the performance side Hurst has added a Corsa exhaust and Moton Club Sport adjustable coil-over suspension. The first of 50 examples will be auctioned off next week at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction in Arizona, USA with all proceeds being donated to a local charity.

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News: Ssangyong enters receivership

It may already be too late for beauty-challenged carmaker Ssangyong. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC) appears to have given up on Ssangyong Motor Co, allowing the company to slip into receivership. SAIC holds a 51% stake in Ssangyong, but gave up management rights in a bid to avoid liquidation and allow Ssangyong some time to get back in the black. The Korean automaker’s Chief Executive Zhang Hai Tao and President Choi Hyung-tak both stepped down after the filing.

Untill recently SAIC said they would help prop up Ssangyong, but that apparently has changed. As vehicle sales have fallen a whopping 50%, cashflow has become too lean. With the global economic crisis, credit was needed to pay workers and new negotiations with the unions weren’t going anywhere fast. The receivership agreement protects Ssangyong from creditors and keeps it from entering bankruptcy, allowing it some time to try and survive. SAIC has said that it “will work with all parties so that Ssangyong can achieve a plan to normalise its operations.”

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News: Car and SUV takes on Lamborghini

Bullfighting: it’s not big, and it’s not clever. But Lamborghini seems to think it is, and we don’t agree. So, we’ve set up a Facebook page to protest against its continued use of bullfighting terminology when naming its cars.

If Aston Martin revealed a car called the Vivisection, there would be outrage. If Kia presented the Seal Clubber at the Geneva Motor Show, the world would be up in arms.

We have nothing against Lamborghini cars – they’re pretty awesome as far as cars go – but we do have an issue with promoting animal cruelty.

Visit the Facebook page here and register your support (you’ll need to have a Facebook account). We’ll be contacting Lamborghini when we’ve got some numbers behind us, and will keep you updated.

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News: Jaguar XFR shows its teeth at Detroit Show

Jaguar XFR fq

The new Jaguar XFR has just been shown off for the first time at the Detroit Auto Show and it has some serious claws. Set to go head-to-head with the big dogs in the high-performance luxury sedan segment, the XFR draws its power from a new version of Jaguar’s AJV8 that’s larger at 5.0 litres of displacement and supercharged to produce 510 bhp and 460 lb-ft of torque. This will take the new Jag from 0-100 kph in just 4.7 seconds and to an electronically limited top speed of 250 kph. The XFR is also fitted with new 20-inch Nevis alloy wheels and larger brakes with calipers bearing the “R” logo.

The XFR features a number of exterior tweaks over the standard XF that emphasise its sporting nature, including a new front end with a new bumper design incorporating large, chrome trimmed air inlets on either side, hood vents, new fenders, side sills, a decklid spoiler, and a new rear bumper that houses four exhaust pipes.

The interior is also dressed up with new dark aluminum trim, sports seats bearing the “R” logo and a sport steering wheel. The new range-topping XF can be had in eight colors: Botanical Green, Indigo, Kyanite Blue, Liquid Silver, Lunar Grey, Porcelain and Salsa.

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News: Kia to set up new HQ in NZ

Kia Motors has its sights set on increased growth in New Zealand as it prepares to move to a larger and more impressive headquarters. Ignoring the present economic slump, Korea’s oldest car maker is on track to establish a new base in the East Auckland suburb of Highbrook by the end of April, to provide a springboard for future expansion.

“It is a good time to be making the move because it will allow us to have everything in place once the market starts to pick up,” says Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand.

“2009 will be our busiest year in New Zealand, with several new models to be launched, including the all-new Soul city car. With our larger building, we’ll have new sales and support systems in place to help us make the most of the opportunities that will be provided by the new model activity.”

The new building, currently being fitted out in Highbrook Drive, is more than three times the size of the existing Kia base in Mt Wellington and will enable the company to house all its operations on one site, including parts, which have had to be stored elsewhere due to lack of space.

But the most interesting aspect of the new building is that it will house a retail new car sales showroom, in order to increase the exposure of Kia and serve customers in the East Auckland area.

Mr Mcdonald says the high profile position of the building is ideal for a retail showroom and it will provide Kia with the ability to continue sales and marketing strategies and gain real-time feedback from customers on site, as well as acting as a flagship facility for its dealer network.

“We have been looking to re-establish our sales presence on the eastern flank of Auckland for a while but there haven’t been any opportunities with dealerships in the area, so we decided to open our own showroom within the new premises,” he adds.

However, Mr McDonald stresses there are no plans for Kia Motors to expand into direct sales itself. The showroom itself will be staffed and run by one of Kia’s existing dealers and is seen as a one-off course of action.

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News: Nissan GT-R SpecV has officially arrived

Nissan GT-R SpecV fq

After almost a year of rumours and spy shots, the Nissan GT-R SpecV has finally officially arrived. The limited edition GT-R is a subtle evolution of the super coupe that has had the motoring world in spins since its introduction last year, and Nissan claims the new SpecV offers race car-levels of performance in a street-legal vehicle.

The new body mods consist of a carbon fibre rear spoiler, grille and brake ducts, along with a glossy ‘Ultimate Black Opal’ paint job. On the inside, a set of carbon fibre Recaro buckets are fitted up front, while the rear seats have been removed to save weight. Carbon fibre also features on the centre control stack, instrument panel and replaces the majority of the interior trim.

The only major engine modification is a new high gear boost controller that increases the amount of compressed oxygen entering the twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6 to deliver more torque. A titanium-coated exhaust and a reworked suspension is fitted underneath, and carbon ceramic brakes nest in behind 20-inch NISMO wheels.

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News: Toyota reveals 2010 Prius at Detroit Show

Toyota Prius 2010 fq

Toyota officially revealed the much anticipated third generation 2010 Prius yesterday at the Detroit Motor Show. We already heard many of the mechanical details over the past year or so, but today it was confirmed that the Prius will get a combined EPA rating of 50 mpg. The engine has been up-sized to 1.8L with an output of 98 hp and the total net output of the hybrid drive system is 134 hp.

The basic design is still recognisable as a Prius, but the body has some slick changes. The shape is smoother with drag coefficiency of just 0.25. The peak of the roof has now been moved back 4 inches giving the car a more reclined profile and increasing rear headroom. The optional extras include LED headlights and lane departure prevention, but the most innovative new option is the solar roof. A roof-mounted photo-voltaic panel will power the air recirculation system when the car sits in the sun, reducing the internal temps and the subsequent load on the air conditioning system. The new Prius will go on sale in the states in the middle of the year.

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