News: Updated Ford Ranger unveiled in Geneva

Ford Ranger fq

Unveiled at this weeks Geneva Motor show is an updated version of the Kiwi favourite Ford Ranger. Sales are set to begin in Europe in April, owners will be able to choose from three body styles: the standard single cab, a double cab or the RAP (Rear Access Panel) variant, which features a set of rear-hinged panels just behind the front doors.

Ten colors will be available including five new hues — Copper Red, Desert Bronze, Highland Green, Lagoon Blue and Wining Blue. Power will be provided by either a 2.5- or 3.0-litre Duratorq TDCi turbodiesel. Either oilburner will be available in either 4×2 or 4×4 configurations and mated to a choice of a five-speed automatic or manual gearboxes, and both engines are able to tow 3,000 kg, with the 2.5-litre unit putting out 145 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque, and the 3.0-litre unit delivering 156 hp and 180 280 lb-ft of torque. The interior gets all the usual extras, including air conditioning, power windows and a MP3-compatible stereo. Production will begin in Thailand this March.

Unveiled at this weeks Geneva Motor show is an updated version of ...

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News: Alpina return to motorsport with B6 GT3

Alpina B6 GT3 fq

Renowned BMW tuner Alpina is returning to the motor racing scene for the first time in two decades with its new B6 GT3, just unveiled for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show. Based on the 6 Series, the B6 GT3 features a unique radial supercharger fitted to its 4.4-litre V8 to drive 530 horsepower to the rear wheels in what looks to be a compelling competition package.

Alpina itself will be fielding a pair in the European FIA GT3 series and at selected 24-hour endurance races, but the B6 GT3 will also be offered to private teams. Alpina has fitted adjustable everything to the car and a full array of electronic control systems to ensure that both gentlemen racers and professional drivers will be able to handle it and so that the car will qualify for a wide array of racing series. Very nice indeed.

Renowned BMW tuner Alpina is returning to the motor racing scene f ...

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Road Tests / Car Reviews: Toyota RAV4 Diesel 2009 Review

toyota-rav4-fq

In 1994 the first generation RAV4 (Recreational Activity Vehicle 4WD) was released and rapidly swept into the consciousness of New Zealand’s female population. The RAV4 possessed an uncanny ability to change a women’s perception of a car as just something to go from A to B, to seeing it as a lifestyle accessory. Carrying Toyota’s reputation for reliability and its obvious exterior durability was enough to gain husbands, boyfriends and fathers ticks of approval, and that’s why so many Kiwi men have wives, girlfriends and daughters who at some stage have owned a RAV4. Through the late 90s the RAV4 was rivaled only by the Suzuki Vitara for Kiwi women’s 4WD affections. Where the Vitara had a more traditional 4WD 2-box shape, the RAV4 had more colourful styling with a rounded shape and large-windows for being seen.  Now, the third generation RAV4 has sauntered into the NZ marketplace, but are its moves smooth enough to make it a real hit with the ladies, or has its sex appeal been sacrificed for modern practicalities?

Good looks count and while the RAV4 has kept its curved charm, dimensions have noticeably swelled. Extra length and width have resulted in a vehicle that sits now firmly in the small-medium 4WD segment, and with only a 4-door version on offer those seeking a cute micro 4WD will have to look toward Suzuki or Daihatsu. That said, the RAV4 is well proportioned and sleek carrying a low 0.33 coefficient drag – impressive for an SUV-styled contour. Well-rounded front and back, the RAV4 achieves a sporty look thanks to a raked-back windscreen and large headlights that are reclined into the front guards. The generous windows still feature but are tapered off at the back leaving a wide rear pillar. Ruby-jeweled headlights flank a usefully large tailgate. While the black/grey bumpers were part of the older model’s charm, now colour-coded exterior moldings and spare wheel casing give the RAV4 more formal attire. Exclusive 17-inch alloys finish off the new look. Overall, there is no argument the RAV4 has gained in size but the accompanying makeover is effectively disguising, and the lower, wider stance looks sharp and adds greater stability than its predecessors.

With its clean-cut passable looks, the RAV4 will inspire many to find out what’s on the inside. The larger exterior dimensions pay dividends with a light and spacious cabin, which can seat three adults comfortably in the back.  The rear seat can be slid back and forward to adjust available boot space, and the seat can be folded flat with a quick-pull leaver giving an impressive 1469-litre capacity (586 litres with seats up). The interior quality is markedly improved over that of former RAVs with many soft touch materials used and firm movement to everything that opens and closes. Brushed aluminum look trim mixes with dark plastics on a two-tier dashboard that creates a sense of functional flair. There is an overall feeling of strength to the cabin’s appointments so the RAV4’s reputation for long-term durability should be maintained. The seats are supportive and although the driving position allows for excellent visibility it is very upright and perched making it difficult for taller drivers to get comfortable.

The RAV4’s equipment list is impressive with a 6-disc CD changer, cruise control, trip computer, climate control, fog lamps and a glove box cooler. An on/off switch for the passenger airbag furthers the vehicle’s family appeal.

Once well acquainted with the RAV4 why not check out under the bonnet. A 2.2 litre 4cyl turbo-diesel sits up front, producing 100kW of power at 3600rpm. With common-rail injection and a healthy 310Nm of torque, the RAV4 offers ample mid-range pulling power. It’s no rocket ship off the line but will reach 100kph in a reasonable 9.3 seconds. The motor is a very useful unit around town but on the open road the RAV4’s porky 1585kg kerb weight is more noticeable and will require the driver to work the gears frequently. Fuel economy is very frugal only sipping away 6.6l/100km combined – one of the RAV4’s greatest strengths.

An automatic transmission is not available on the RAV4 yet, something Toyota will be working overtime on. The manual transmission does have a long throw, but finds the gear easily and partnered up with a light clutch pedal is totally user-friendly.

When it comes to ride and handling the RAV4 has favourable on-road manners, and would be hard to match for true car-like feel within the 4WD segment. The suspension doesn’t feel floaty even with the vehicle unladen and absorbs potholes and bumps well. On twisty roads, body roll is evident but the RAV4 never feels out of its depth changing direction at reasonable speeds. While cruising the RAV4 maintains a decent level of refinement, wind and road noise are minimal and the diesel motor, although audible remains generally unobtrusive.

Most RAV4s will only leave the tarmac to get two wheels on the kerb of a narrow city street, but if you must get dirty with your RAV4 it has legitimate off-road capability. An Active Drive System is standard including Active Torque Control (ATC) that automatically transfers torque between the front and rear wheels whenever necessary for optimum traction. Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Electric Power Steering are also ready to get involved. My only gripe with this system is the electric steering that I found to be over-lightened and vague therefore negating driver input.

Safety credentials are all in check with driver and passenger front airbags, side airbags, front and rear curtain shield airbags and a driver’s knee airbag all standard equipment.

So has the RAV4 still got it? Yes it does, it has much more in terms of equipment, refinement and pulling power now than it did in the past but a price has been paid. It’s not the lady-killing lothario it once was because the RAV4 has matured into a sensible 4WD at the cost of the fun attitude that attracted many to the first generation. Without a 2-door variant on offer its official – the RAV4 has grown up. The increased dimensions and practicality show it no longer desires single women and now requires a family to put it to full use. That said, it remains a very good vehicle and will prove popular for the many buyers looking to hit that sweet spot between car-based station wagons and truck-based 4WDs.

Price: from $38,690

What we like:

  • Strong exterior and interior quality
  • Great fuel economy
  • Favourable on-road manners

What we don’t like:

  • Vague lightweight steering
  • Diesel motor lacks power
  • Lost some character

Words and photos: Adam Mamo

Toyota RAV4 Diesel (2009) – Specifications

Engine

Model Code 2AD-FTV
Type: In-line, 4 Cylinder, 16 Valve, DOHC Chain Drive
Aspiration: Turbo Charged
Capacity: 2231 cc
Engine Size: 2.2 Litre
Bore: 86.0 mm
Stroke: 96.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 16.9 : 1
Number of Cylinders: 4
Number of Valves: 16
Max. Power: 100 kW
Max. Power: Max. 3600 rpm
Max. Torque: 310 Nm
Max. Torque: Min. 2000 rpm
Max. Torque: Max. 2800 rpm
Fuel System: Induction Type Common Rail Direct Injection
Fuel Type: Diesel
Tank Capacity: 60 Litres
CO2 Emissions – EU directive 70/220/EEC (Combined) 173 g/km
Fuel Consumption – EU directive 70/220/EEC (Combined) 6.6 L/100km

Electrical

Battery: 12 volts
Alternator: 130 Amps
Starter: 2.0 kW
Ignition Type: Electronic Direct Ignition System (DIS)

Transmission

Transmission Code: EA64F
Transmission Group: 6MT
Description Active Torque Control 4WD System with 6 Speed Manual Transmission and Lockable Rear Coupling
Drive Type: On-Demand 4WD with Lockable Rear Coupling
Rear Differential: Type Standard with Electronically Controlled Coupling
Clutch Type: Single Dry Plate with Diaphragm Spring

Suspension

Front: MacPherson struts with hydraulic shock absorbers and stabiliser bar
Rear: Double Wishbone Trailing Arm type with hydraulic shock absorbers, coil springs & stabiliser bar
Steering: Description Engine speed sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion steering
Ratio Max. 14.4
Min. Turning Circle (Tyre): 10.2 m
Turns Lock to Lock 2.8

Brakes

Brake Type Power assisted with tandem master cylinder & dual diagonal split hydraulic system
Front: Ventilated Disc
Rear: Solid Disc
ABS Standard
Mechanisms Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), and Vehicle Stability Control + (VSC+)
Hand Brake Centre Floor Type Mechanical Parking Brake

Wheels and Tyres

Wheels: 7J x 17″ Alloy Wheels
Tyres: 225/65 R17 Steel Belted Radial Ply Tyres
Spare Tyre: 225/65 R17 Steel Belted Radial Ply Tyres
Tyre Brand: Bridgestone

Dimensions

Overall Length: 4395 mm
Overall Width: 1815 mm
Overall Height: Std. 1685 mm
Wheelbase: 2560 mm
Track – Front 1560 mm
Track – Rear 1560 mm
Overhang – Front 860 mm
Overhang – Rear 975 mm
Min. Ground Clearance: 180 mm
Approach Angle: 28 degrees
Departure Angle: 24 degrees
Interior – Length 1820 mm
Interior – Width 1495 mm
Interior – Height 1240 mm
Loadspace Length: 785 mm
Loadspace Width: 1335 mm
Loadspace Height: 991 mm
Seating Capacity: 5
Luggage Capacity Boot: 450 litres
Gross Vehicle Weight: 2190 kg
Kerb Weight: 1585 kg
Max. Towing Capacity Braked: 2000 kg
Max. Towing Capacity Unbraked: 750 kg

In 1994 the first generation RAV4 (Recreational Activity Vehicle 4 ...

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News: Ford’s next Focus? The Iosis Max

Ford Iosis concept fq

Ford didn’t need a press conference at the Geneva Auto Show, but it did reveal a very important concept car. The Iosis Max is billed as a preview of Ford’s next generation small car, to become the next Focus. In 2011, the Focus is getting a redesign and going global, and the Iosis Max is a clear indication of where Ford is going with its new compact sedan.

It looks likely the shapes of the concept car could carry over to the production Focus. The sliding rear doors and centre tunnel probably won’t make it through to the end product, or will the elaborate headlamps that feature odd gill shapes.

Under the bonnet the Iosis features the same 1.6L EcoBoost, dual-clutch transmission and auto start-stop featured on the Volvo S60 concept at this year’s Detroit Motor Show. When the next Focus arrives in 2011, Ford will be aiming to have the new powertrain to achieve almost 7litres/100km (combined) with decent performance to boot.

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News: The new VW Polo coming to NZ

VW Polo fq

The new VW Polo is set to come to New Zealand later this year, and looks well prepared to extend its popularity in our small car segment.

From the outset, the new Polo was specifically designed to attain the recently established, stricter and more comprehensive, 5-star EuroNCAP rating. The higher structural rigidity of the Polo’s bodyshell contributes to these results. In the footwell area alone, intrusion — related to the car body’s deformation strength in a frontal crash — was lowered by 50 percent! In the case of a side impact, the intrusion value was reduced by 20 percent. In addition, the new Polo is available with ESP electronic stabilisation program with Hill Hold Control, and it has a highly effective network of airbags on board, including combined head-thorax airbags (integrated in the front seatbacks).

Despite significant improvements in all aspects of the car, it was possible to reduce the weight of the Polo’s body structure by 7.5 percent. The introduction of new TDI and TSI engines and the 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DSG), has resulted in considerably reduced fuel consumption and emissions over a wide range of power outputs. These include all three TDI diesel engines. Thanks to the implementation for the first time of common rail technology in the Polo, these engines are both efficient and refined. The potential in the new TDI engines is clearly evident in the example of the Polo 1.6 TDI with 66 kW: when combined with a “BlueMotion package”, its average fuel consumption of 3.8L/100km and 96 g/km CO2 makes it the most fuel efficient and lowest emitting five-seater diesel in the world.

Volkswagen is also using the Geneva Motorshow for another world premiere. It is still a concept. Its name: Polo BlueMotion. Fuel consumption: 3.3 liters.CO2 emissions: just 87 g/km! Likelihood of going into production: extremely high! In addition to a brand new 1.2L TDI diesel engine with common rail injection, the Polo BlueMotion concept utilises an automatic start-stop system and regenerative braking. These two technologies alone reduce fuel consumption of the 55kW threecylinder direct-injection diesel by up to 0.2L/100km. But that is not all that is being done. On the Polo BlueMotion concept car, which weighs in at just 1,080 kilograms, Volkswagen is calling upon an entire array of efficiency measures, including an aerodynamic package for the body that is lowered by 10mm (including modified front end), an aerodynamically optimised underbody and low rolling resistance tyres on 15-inch alloy wheels. Altogether, these modifications yield fuel savings totalling 0.8L/100km. This has lowered CO2 emissions by about 20 percent

The Polo has been a successful model for the Volkswagen brand in NZ and the new model looks set to continue that trend. Dean Sheed, Volkswagen General Manager for New Zealand, believes that the new Polo will again set the benchmark in its segment: “The current Polo raised the bar when it was first launched in terms of safety and quality in the light car segment and I don’t see the new model being any different. Modern and efficient engines coupled with our new generation 7 speed DSG transmissions will produce a dynamic driving experience with minimal fuel consumption. We hope to launch the new Polo late this year and we’ll announce local specification and pricing closer to the time.”

The new VW Polo is set to come to New Zealand later this year, and ...

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News: Renault unleashes Megane RS

Renault Meagne RS fq

Renault has earned its place as a major player in the hot hatch game. But with new contenders like the MINI JCW and Alfa GTA going for the throne, Renault knew it would have to show some new moves to stay competitive. Fortunately, it brought out a slick new Megane to replace the out-going version, leaving Renaultsport enthusiasts drooling for a performance variant. Renault finally obliged at the Geneva Motor Show this week with the highly-anticipated new Megane RS.

Packing a 250-horsepower 2.0-litre 16-valve turbo four, it’s the most powerful version yet with a full 20hp more than the last ultimate R26.R. Buyers can choose right off the bat between the Sport and Cup chassis (the Cup has a limited slip differential). Styling cues are borrowed from the Trophy racer concept that debuted at last year’s Paris Motor Show, complete with front grille splitter and center-exit exhaust, all of which makes for one agressive French beast.

Renault has earned its place as a major player in the hot hatch ga ...

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News: Saab may have to merge with Volvo

Saab logo

In a desperate bid for survival Saab may look at a possible merger with Volvo, it isn’t the first time a partnership has been discussed. Back in the 1970s the two Swedish automakers were a hair away from merging 240s and 900s, but instead followed separate paths. Now, with both brands facing difficult sales numbers and uncertain futures, GM’s Bob Lutz thinks a merger sounds good once again. Lutz thinks it’d be a way for Ford and General Motors to both rid themselves of problematic business units. The soon-to-be former Car King from GM offers no insight about how the merged companies might actually start making a profit both automakers have serious financial issues. While Volvo has secured a promise of $546 million from the European Investment Bank, Saab is walking a much tougher path to survival.

Ultimately, a merger between Saab and Volvo would be great for their parent companies, but no one knows yet how exactly it would benefit the Swedish brands as they hold on for dear life.

In a desperate bid for survival Saab may look at a possible merger ...

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Blogs: Car repossessions on the rise

I heard a story a couple of weeks ago that there are expensive lease cars being left at the airport as formerly wealthy owners who took on Aston Martins, Porsches, Lamborghinis and Bentleys before the economic downturn now can’t afford the multi-thousand-dollar-per-month payments. Rather than take a $300,000 hit on an 18-month old DBS, they’re just quitting the country.

And, it’s not just in New Zealand – Dubai is seeing people leave the country because if you fall behind with your payments there, authorities can remove your travel visa, and don’t look on it leniently.

Another side effect is an increase in repossessions. In the US,  violence between repo men and car owners is on the increase. Yahoo! news reported that in Alabama a car owner heard someone trying to steal his car at 2:30am, confronted 3 men with a gun, fired at them, they fired back, and he ended up dead. Now, one of the repo men, a former Marine and part-time preacher is awaiting trial on a murder charge.

Repossessions increased 9% in the USA in 2007 and 12% in 2008. They’re slated to increase by at least 5% this year.

It’s less likely, though, that a shooting will occur in New Zealand over repossessing a car – we don’t have the guns…or sharp-shooting ex-Marines.

I heard a story a couple of weeks ago that there are expensive lease c ...

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