News: Mazda Kazamai concept revealed in Moscow

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Designed with the Russian compact SUV market in mind, Kazamai gives a glimpse at where Mazda is heading with a possible future compact crossover.

In the first six months of 2008 more new cars were sold in Russia than any other European country making it Europe’s largest car market.

One of the country’s biggest markets is the sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment, representing 16 percent of the total sales volume in 2007. Between 2004 and 2007, the segment became 10 times larger and this growth is expected to continue over the mid-term in Russia. Mazda’s mid-sized sports crossover SUV, the CX-7, has been on the market for less than a year in Russia and has already found over 7,900 customers — easily Mazda’s largest market for the CX-7 in Europe.

Now, the Mazda Kazamai concept car addresses the growing popularity of SUVs in Russia and gives a strong hint at where Mazda might be going with a compact crossover SUV. Small, lightweight with dynamic styling, low-consumption, and a next-generation Mazda powertrain, it is meant to appeal to young, upwardly-mobile Russians with a strong sense of style and urban lifestyle demands.

Mazda Kazamai means ‘swirling crosswinds’ in Japanese, and was chosen to express the powerful yet nimble character of this stylish and compact crossover. Kazamai is dynamic and athletic looking on the outside and displays an evolved Nagare ‘flow’ design. Unlike previous concept cars, Mazda Kazamai’s styling represents powerful natural movements that are emotionally expressed through three-dimensional motifs stretching over the whole body, representing a fusion of design and functionality.

Mazda Kazamai is an impressive combination of packaging requirements and design aesthetics. With a width of 1,930mm and a length of 4,520mm, it is slightly larger than the current Mazda3, with room for SUV comfort and functionality on the inside. Yet, because it is only 1,500mm high, has a flat roofline and very short rear overhangs, it also has a sporty coupe look with the promise of driving fun.

The innovative body design features flared fenders that emphasise SUV-like strength and a cabin befitting a sports car. The wedge-shaped profile was designed to evoke the image of a sleek arrow cutting through a mighty wind. In particular, the body design between the front wheel arches and the roof pillars is intended to express the agility and dynamism of wind gusting along the side of the vehicle. The panel lines on the sides represent swift and elegant crosswinds, further accentuating the dynamic and stylish body design. The bonnet itself is lower in the centre than at the sides, which emphasises the car’s powerful front fenders that accommodate large, 22-inch diameter wheels with 265/45 R22 tyres.

The alloy wheel design continues the crosswinds motif with each spoke carefully twisted and larger at the perimeter than in the centre, providing a strong sense of movement. The five-point Mazda grille is integrated into the body to create a clean and light image which, together with the flared front lower sides, contributes to excellent aerodynamic characteristics. The aerodynamics are further improved by making the air intakes as small as possible. The side sill panels and rear combination light covers also help to control the wind flow and reduce drag even further.

Mazda Kazamai is not only a pure expression of speed and power, it also accommodates up to four passengers with compact SUV comfort and functionality. It was designed to fulfil many driver and vehicle interfaces so as to support the driver in enjoying safe and stress-free driving, with a well considered man/machine relationship, good visibility and an easy to operate cockpit. This is one of Mazda’s important areas of the Sustainable Zoom-Zoom plan.

The ideal powertrain match for the Mazda Kazamai concept would be the next-generation 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine, which Mazda engineers are currently developing. This engine delivers a balance of sporty driving — especially in a compact car like the Kazamai — with good environmental performance. Mazda Kazamai will feature a DISI engine based on the current Mazda CX-7’s engine, with advanced technologies to minimise energy loss and vastly improved thermal efficiency. Mazda’s next generation 2.0-litre DISI petrol engine also has combustion control technology and variable valve control that deliver strong torque throughout the rev-range for excellent engine response as well as superior fuel economy. A next-generation catalyst also ensures superior emissions performance.

This engine is coupled to a lightweight, next-generation compact six-speed automatic transmission that is highly responsive and delivers the direct feel of a manual transmission, and with four-wheel drive for superior traction. In combination with Kazamai’s next-generation aerodynamics and its lightweight body outlined above, this powertrain would deliver an estimated 30 percent improvement in fuel consumption and emissions (versus the current MZR 2.0-litre petrol) — without compromising driving pleasure.

News: Audi A4 Avant now in New Zealand

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Audi has officially launched the A4 Avant (wagon) version of the A4 series which offers a large cargo space of up to 1,430 litres.

The A4 Avant comes with the same engineering layout as the sedan; its newly developed five-link front suspension has been moved far forward. This provides for an ideal axle load distribution and thus for the highest degree of handling precision and agility.

Audi offers the A4 Avant with five engines options, of which two each are petrol and three are TDI units. While they provide ample power, their fuel consumption, compared to their predecessors, has been reduced by an average of more than ten percent — a convincing testimony for Audi’s efficiency strategy. The wide spectrum of drive train choices and the many sport and comfort technologies employed — inherited from the luxury class — make no secret of the high technical competence of the brand with the four rings.
Compared to its predecessor, the designers tweaked the proportions into a new sporty ratio. The front overhang was shortened, the hood and the wheelbase were extended visibly. The new A4 Avant measures 4.70 metres, nearly 12 centimetres more than its predecessor. It is significantly stiffer and safer than its predecessor, while, at the same time, dropping about 10 percent of its weight thanks to intelligent light-weight steel construction. In its 1.8 TFSI configuration, the new A4 Avant weighs in with a total of just 1,470 kilograms.

With a base size of 490 litres, the new Audi A4 Avant has a larger trunk than any of its immediate competitors. When the rear seat backs are folded down, the cargo space reaches up to 1,430 litres.  The rear backrest is split at a ratio of 40:60, with an optional separate ski bag. Audi provides a number of luxury features, like the optional electro-mechanical tailgate drive and luggage retainer set.

The ambience inside the new A4 Avant is light and spacious. The legroom in the back measures 895 millimetres — the best figure in the premium midsize segment. The same goes for the headroom of 971 millimetres.

The new Audi A4 Avant will be launched with two powerful and smooth-running petrol engines and three TDI units. The 1.8T, 2.0TDI and the 2.7 TDI models come with the 8 speed multitronic transmission.

The 3.0 TDI and 3.2 FSI variants come with the 6 speed tiptronic transmission and have quattro permanent all-wheel drive as standard.  Under normal driving conditions, this distributes the forces at a ratio of 40:60 between the front and rear axle. This emphasis on the rear end perfectly harmonizes with the overall dynamic character of the new A4 Avant. If needed, the self-locking centre differential transfers the majority of the torque to the axle with the better traction.
In the driveline of the new A4 Avant, the differential has moved directly behind the engine. It has switched places with the clutch or the torque converter. It was therefore possible to move the front axle 154 millimetres forward. This solution provides for a longer wheelbase, a shorter front overhang and a balanced distribution of the axle loads, thus improving handling in particular.

The dynamic suspension of the new Audi A4 was redesigned from top to bottom.  The pivot bearings and the five links per wheel making up the front axle are made of aluminum, just like the front crossmember, which gives the front end of the body more rigidity. The steering box is located far to the front and deep down so that the steering impulse can be led directly to the wheels via the tie-rods. The rack-and-pinion steering provides an immediate feel for the road, and its highly efficient servo pump improves fuel consumption by about 0.1 litre/100 km.

For the rear axle, Audi applied the track-controlled trapezoidal link principle of the larger A6 and A8 series. For the most part, the suspension is made of aluminum; the separate layout of the springs and shock absorbers produces subtle responsiveness.

A number of innovative technologies make the driving experience even more dynamic and exciting. The optional ‘Audi drive select’ control system accesses those technology components which affect the driving experience. It influences the engine’s fuel intake, the tiptronic shifting points, and the power steering assistance provided. With the push of a button, the driver decides if these components are to operate in a comfortable, medium, or sporty mode. If the car is equipped with the MMI operating system, a fourth mode is available, which the driver can individually program.

In connection with Audi drive select, there are two additional modular components. One of them is an adaptive controller for the shock absorbers that is linked to a sports suspension which lowers the body by about 20 millimetres. The second component is the optional ‘Audi dynamic steering’, which operates using a superposition gear. Depending on the driving speed, it varies the steering ratio continuously. In the limit range, it works with ESP to stabilize the new A4 Avant with small lightning-quick steering interventions. The system is also extremely useful when understeer occurs and when braking when traction is only available on one side. The leading-edge Audi dynamic steering system far surpasses solutions offered by the competition. Audi drive select can be ordered with dynamic steering, damper control or both.

The new A4 Avant has available many new new optional features compared to its predecessor such as panoramic glass sunroof, nagivation, TV reception, Bang & Olufsen sound system, Ipod preparation (standard on quattro models) adaptive lights and rear camera parking aid.

The Audi A4 Avant, already the most successful premium wagon in the midsize class worldwide represents 50% of the A4 range retails. Launched in August this year, the range is priced from $71,900 for the A4 1.8T multitronic. All models are available with the S line package.

News: BMW hydrogen-powered party ends after 6,400km across the U.S

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The BMW Hydrogen 7 – the first hydrogen-powered luxury sedan – has arrived in Los Angeles to finish a more than 6,400km cross-country journey featuring hydrogen-powered cars by the world’s leading automakers in the 2008 Hydrogen Road Tour. The purpose of the tour was to show that leading automakers and energy producers are doing their part to move away from fossil fuels to hydrogen, and showcase the cooperation among forward-thinking lawmakers, NGOs and the industry.

Logging an unprecedented “strictly hydrogen” cruising range of over 320 km, the BMW Hydrogen 7 mono-fuel completed the two-week, 31 city US tour with outstanding reliability, leaving only a trail of potable water vapour in its tracks. The 320km cruising range is equivalent to better than 9.4L/100km. In the BMW Hydrogen 7 bi-fuel vehicle, the cruising range topped 200km. By optimizing the combustion process in the mono-fuel Hydrogen 7, BMW achieved an increase in range of over 60% over the bi-fuel Hydrogen 7.

BMW provided a fleet of four hydrogen-powered cars — two BMW Hydrogen 7 mono-fuel vehicles that use only liquid hydrogen and two BMW Hydrogen 7 bi-fuel vehicles that can switch from hydrogen to gasoline. The four BMW vehicles along with the core BMW CleanEnergy team were on the road for the entire two-week tour.

The Hydrogen Road Tour is a partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Energy, the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the National Hydrogen Association. In addition to BMW, participants included Daimler, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, Toyota, and VW. Providing clean, domestically produced hydrogen fuel for this tour were Linde, BMW’s hydrogen fuel partner for the Tour, and Air Products.

“The miles covered on this tour are a highly valuable contribution to the nearly two million miles already logged by our global fleet of 100 BMW Hydrogen 7s. This tour has shown thousands of people that hydrogen is truly the best alternative transportation fuel, and hydrogen vehicles are approaching commercial availability. An internal combustion engine, powered by hydrogen should play an important role in the future of sustainable mobility,” said Tom Baloga, BMW Vice President of Engineering, US.

What was most noteworthy about the Hydrogen Road Tour was the partnership between the world’s leading automakers, key federal departments, influential non-governmental organizations and hydrogen fuel providers to bring the reality of practical, clean energy to our nation’s legislators and the public. The tour visited key members of Congress in their home states to allow them the opportunity to see and drive these vehicles.

BMW Hydrogen 7 was the only vehicle on the tour that stores liquid hydrogen to power an internal combustion engine. Hydrogen is one of the cleanest energy sources available. Essentially the only tailpipe emission is water vapour.

The tour fleet included the mono-fuel version of the BMW Hydrogen 7, equipped with a V12 internal combustion engine (ICE), which has been engineered to run exclusively on hydrogen. It was created to showcase the zero CO2 and low emissions potential and feasibility of a dedicated hydrogen internal combustion engine (ICE).

The Hydrogen 7’s V12 mono-fuel ICE produces no CO2 and near-zero emissions, while not sacrificing performance. In fact, the tailpipe emissions are so infinitesimal they pushed the limits of current emission testing technology.

Independent authorities, including the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), have confirmed these results. ANL conducted emission tests on BMW Hydrogen 7 mono-fuel vehicles in early March 2008 and found that not only were the emissions infinitesimally small but when running, the vehicle actually cleaned the air.

Recent studies have also confirmed the water emitted by the Hydrogen 7 is potable, i.e., safe to drink.

News: New Renault Sport Twingo to go on sale soon

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The new Twingo Renault Sport aims to opens up the Renault Sport thrill to a wider range of customers, while putting them in complete control.

The Twingo Renault Sport range is simple and attractive: sporty looks, a 133hp 1.6 litre 16V engine and a choice of two chassis (Sport or Cup). The car can be customized to every driver’s taste: exterior and interior Renault Sport detailing is available, along with a multimedia connection point.

From the car’s launch, Renault Sport Technologies will offer every customer a service that is unique in the hot hatch segment: Renault Sport Experience driving tuition. This driver training course reinforces Renault’s credentials as a socially responsible company and is available in several European countries. It teaches new buyers how to handle their new hot hatch, so they can get maximum enjoyment from Renault Sport’s cars in total safety.

In France, the start of sales will be on September 11th. No news though if Renault New Zealand will be bringing the Twingo here.

News: Kia releases new Forte

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Kia Motors has unveiled its new Forte compact sedan hoping that the fuel-efficient car will help boost sales amid higher fuel prices.

The new model is the latest entrant to Kia’s 1.6-litre vehicle segment and marks the automaker’s newest model after another 1.6-litre version of Cerato was released in November, 2003.

The Forte, equipped with a gasoline or diesel engine, will compete in Korea with the Avante by Hyundai Motor Co. the SM3 by Renault Samsung Motors Co. and the Lacetti by GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co.

The new Kia model generates 124 horsepower, and the company plans to add a 2-litre engine later.

The automaker, an affiliate of Hyundai Motor Co. said it aims to sell 50,000 units domestically and 170,000 units overseas next year. For this year, Kia Motors targets the sale of 30,000 units. Annual sales for the model will rise to 250,000 annually from 2010, it said.

Kia Motors revamped its lineup to boost sales by redesigning its minicar Morning, mid-sized sedan Lotze and new Mohave sport-utility vehicle. It also plans to add a small crossover vehicle, known as Soul, later this year.

Kia Motors last month raised its domestic sales target to 364,000 units this year from 327,000, fueled by strong sales of its Morning mini-car.

News: GM announces employee pricing to try to off-set financial woes

With GM laying-off many workers in order to try and get the company out of debt, an incentive for GM workers to buy the cars they make is becoming popular.

Employee pricing in the US means that an employee can land a new Corvette for up to U.S$10,000 (NZ$14,000) off the stcker price. Given that the Z06 is the best constructed of the Corvette lineage and pumps out 505bhp, the U.S price of just U.S$72,000 (NZ$101,000) seems like a great deal. Factor in the employee discount and that drops the price to U.S$62,600 (NZ$88,400) which just makes us want to cry.

News: ‘Rossi 66′ combines new Corvette base with retro skin

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U.S company Rossi has announced that it will, in the great tradition of coachbuilders world-wide, produce a unique Z06 Corvette based retro replica.

The inspiration for the Rossi 66 are the graceful lines of the 1963 C2 split-window Corvette. The Rossi 66 is basically a newly styled body grafted onto the existing architecture of a Z06 Corvette.

Rossi has made a bit of a blunder however as in its press release it has nominated the ‘1966’ split window Corvette as the inspiration behind the idea and name of the project. This would be fine if the split-window Corvette wasn’t produced only in 1963.

Hmm, maybe they need to rethink the name.

Press release below:

We are pleased to introduce to the Corvette enthusiasts of the world, the new Rossi 66. Taking the most graceful lines of the 1966 C2 split window Corvette, we have crafted an entirely new body designed and engineered specifically for the current C6/Z06/ZR1 platform. We believe the result speaks for itself!

The Rossi 66 was entirely designed and engineered digitally and is the culmination of nearly 100 years of combined experience amongst three of the most experienced automotive designer, sculptor, and engineer in the business. Emphasis added…this is NOT a kit car!

The Rossi 66 will be built to order from a new C6, a C6/Z06/ZR1 or a customer supplied C6 donor chassis to be transformed in our own facilities. The initial offering is a three door coupe with a fully functioning convertible to be developed in the near future. Along with those two variants, there will also be various stages of Sport and Competition versions up to and including a GT2 class type for full on-track racing applications.

As we all know, the substantial capabilities of the C6 chassis and the vast respective tuning suppliers will allow infinite possibilities for a broad range of customer tastes. Partnership with these existing C6 tuners may be negotiated in the future. Also offered from Rossi will be custom designed one-piece/multi-piece light weight Rossi forged wheels, Rossi big brake kits, Rossi custom exhaust system, Rossi appointed interior trims and seating along with many other custom accessories designed specifically for this brand.

The parent corporation, Blue Fusion, has been a Tier One surfacing supplier for Ford Motor Company for over 15 years and is both ISO9001 and Ford Q1 certified (higher than ISO rating scale). Production tolerances will be of the highest in the automotive industry. This includes Class-A surfacing and the fit and finish will be competitive with the best of modern production releases.

Our debut target is to introduce a full running production vehicle to be displayed at SEMA 2008 (investment capitol dependent). The design is near completion and tooling is set to begin next month in September. Investment opportunities are available so if this of interest to someone you know, please don’t hesitate to spread the news.

Audi: Audi TT-S quattro 2008 Review

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The first generation Audi TT was a great looking piece of automotive art, there is no questioning that fact. The rounded styling of the J Mays design was a revelation and far more attractive than anything else in the Audi range at the time.

It sold in large numbers to fashion conscious punters around the world who drove it to gallery openings and trendy bars and admired the looks of the TT above every other facet of its being. Sport editions of the TT were released over the near 10-year product life of the first generation but failed to garner the attention of many sporting drivers who stuck to Porsche Boxsters, Nissan 350Zs and other more sporting offerings.

The original was only a mildly sporting car — a soy quarter-shot decaff latte of a sports car, in fact. The new TTS is a full-strength brew that will stir the sporting soul of even the most recalcitrant among the cafe set.

The TTS shape is a little wider in appearance than the pebble-smooth original TT and it has a much more aggressive front end that looks ready to eat up any road put in front of it. It looks just as good as the original but with extra attitude; more masculine but equally at ease at an A-list party as on a twisty mountain road.

The wild ‘look at me’ colour of our test car is not for those who like to go unnoticed. It’s almost identical to the retina-searing orange that Audi-owned Lamborghini uses on the Murcielago and Gallardo, and is a hint to its sporting potential.

The new TTS is the sporty ride that the original TT should have been. It handles like a proper sports car should with great balance, agility and features a gruff sounding turbocharged engine that produces 200kW, enough to hurl the TTS from rest to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds.

Strapping into the supportive sports seat of the TTS you know it means business. All controls are high quality and easy to use. The steering wheel and gear lever are in the right place falling to hand with race car efficiency. Finding the perfect driving position can be a little difficult though and took us several attempts to get it right.

On the move the ride is taut and transmits what is happening at the tyres with great clarity. The quattro all-wheel drive system generates lichen-like grip and allows the TTS to round corners very quickly, even in the wet. We tried it at a rain-soaked Pukekohe Park Raceway, and it was fantastic with perfectly neutral handling through the sweeper and the esses, and the grunt to reach well over 200kph by the end of the back straight.

On slippery roads west of Auckland the Audi was rock solid firing up hills with laughable ease and railing around corners with precision. Hard under brakes coming into a tight left-hand corner saw the bum of the TTS wriggle about a bit but still stay planted. The Porsche-like pop-up spoiler seems to add to the grip offered by the magnetic ride suspension and looks super cool as well.

The acceleration is of the grin-inducing type and pushes you back in the seat hard and makes you wonder why all cars aren’t turbocharged. The engine note is growly and great to hear, especially as new cars have become more detached from the driving experience through extra sound deadening. It seems that Audi really has put effort into the TT-S to make it a proper sports car unlike the first TT which had sporting pretensions but failed to deliver on the road.

The TTS is not a competent-but-dull-experience which is a common criticism of fast Audis; it tells you what is going on at the road and in the engine bay, inviting you be a part of the experience.

Audi really seems to have infused a sporting element into the TTS recipe and it tastes bloody good, combining the great handling quattro package with a feisty turbo four-pot and slick six-speed gearbox.

The Audi TTS is a car that combines aggressive good looks with quality sporting performance. Whether it will be as successful as the original is irrelevant because it appeals to a slightly different audience, but it would be great to see first generation owners to discover the meaning of ‘performance’ in the new TTS.

Click through to the next page for full specifications on the Audi TTS

Price: from $109,500 as tested.

What we like

  • Speed
  • Handling with the quattro 4WD
  • Looks
  • Awesome stereo
  • Colour
  • Good sized boot for a car of this size/type, and it comes with a boot blind (Nissan 350Z, are you listening!)

What we don’t like

  • Nissan 350Z is as engaging on the driving front, and quite a bit cheaper
TTS Specification and Option Sheet Coupe Roadster
Retail Price $109,500 $114,500
Cubic Capacity 1984 1984
KiloWatts / hp @ rpm 200 / 272 @ 6,000 rpm 200 / 272 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (Nm @ rpm) 350 @ 2500 – 5000 rpm 350 @ 2500 – 5000 rpm
Cylinders / Valves Per Cylinder 4/4 4/4
Drive Train quattro quattro
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (secs) 5.2 5.4
Top Speed (km/h) 250 250
Fuel Consumption Combined in l/100 km (CO2 emission) 7.9 (188) 8.0 (190)
Aluminium Space Frame Hybrid Construction Y Y
Audi Cover Assistance – 3 Year Cost Free Motoring Y Y
Safety and Security
ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake Pressure Distribution) Y Y
ESP Y Y
Front Passenger Airbag Key Deactivation Y Y
ISOFIX child seat anchorage front left passenger Y Y
Front Driver & Passenger Airbags Y Y
Front Seat Side & Head Airbags Y Y
Seat Belt Pre-Tensioners For Both Front Seats Y Y
Anti Theft Alarm and Vehicle Immobiliser Y Y
Remote Central Locking Y Y
Exterior
Alloy Wheels 19″ 5 spoke alloys 19″ 5 spoke alloys
Tyres 245/40 245/40
Automatically Operated Hood (Roadster) - Y
Exterior Mirrors – Electric & Heated Aluminium Aluminium
Headlights Halogen Halogen
Magnetic Ride -10mm -10mm
Rear Spoiler With Electric Activation Y Y
Spare Wheel Tyre mobility system Tyre mobility system
S Sports Body Kit Y Y
Interior
Air Conditioning Automatic Automatic
Dash Inlays Brushed Aluminium Brushed Aluminium
Enhanced Aluminium-look Interior Trim Y Y
Anti Glare Interior Mirror Y Y
Audi Stereo System with 6 CD Stacker Symphony Symphony
CD Player Y Y
Cruise Control Y Y
Cupholders 2 2
Door Sill Trim with Aluminium Inlays and TTS Logo Y Y
Electric Front Seats Y Y
Electric Front Windows Y Y
Floor Mats Y Y
Gear Lever Knob with TTS Logo Manual only Manual only
Height And Reach Adjustable Steering Column Y Y
Illuminated Vanity Mirrors Y Y
Interior Trim Silk Nappa Leather Silk Nappa Leather
Enhanced Leather Package Y Y
Light and Rain Sensor Y Y
Multi-Function Trip Computer Y Y
Roll-over bar (Roadster) Y Y
Sports Seats Y Y
S tronic Gear Selector Paddles S tronic only S tronic only
Multi-function Sports Steering Wheel Flat bottom Flat bottom

Standard Y Optional o Not Available –

Words Ben Dillon, photos Darren Cottingham