News: MINI goes electric

Mini Electric fq

BMW have been making noise about introducing an electric version of its MINI for a while now, and photos of the special vehicle have just been released.

Equipped with a 572-pound lithium ion battery of unknown capacity, the MINI should have a range of 240km after an 8-hour charge. Its electric heart puts out 204-horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, which will be enough to get the MINI going well. The run to 100 should take a little over 8-seconds and the top speed has been limited to 150kph.

The entire car weighs in at 1,450 pounds and regenerative braking is used to extend its range. Body modifications are minimal, with unique badges and paint separating the E from its gas-powered siblings. On the inside, the gagues have been switched up, with a multi-function unit in front of the driver, though the speedometer is still front and center in the middle of the dash. The MINI E will go on show officially next month at the LA Auto Show.

News: HUMMER on verge of extinction

Hummer H3 12

General Motors is moving full steam ahead on its hopeful sale of HUMMER, hoping to make a decision on the SUV marque “as quickly as practical.”

Shortly after appointing Jim Taylor to the head of the brand, the automaker has contacted interested parties with a full sales prospectus. Recent sales of the oversize trucks have been very slow, posting massive declines this year in the states. GM has too many other problems so it comes as little surprise that its anxious to get the former military-spec brand off its books.

Though GM claims it is not necessarily committed to selling the marque, they have few other options. An entire revamp of the HUMMER line would use up precious resources that would surely be better spent on more fuel efficient, forward thinking products like the Chevy Volt. In any case, there should be an announcement soon about the future (if any) of the HUMMER brand.

News: U.S fuel prices experience biggest ever drop

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the States has recorded its largest drop ever as consumer demand decreases and oil prices slide.

The national average price for self-serve, regular unleaded gas fell 35.03 cents to US$3.3079 (NZ$5.60) a gallon (NZ$1.48/litre) on October 10 from US$3.6582 two weeks earlier, according to the nationwide Lundberg Survey. This was the lowest average price since March 21, 2008.

“Plummeting oil prices and caving gasoline demand have combined to bring the biggest retail gasoline price cut in the history of the market,” Trilby Lundberg, who controls the  survey, said in an interview. “We’ve been doing this 58 years. This is truly the biggest price drop.”

On Friday, fears of a global recession helped drive down US crude oil futures prices more than 10 percent to the lowest settlement since September 2007. US crude for November delivery settled on Friday at US$77.70 a barrel, down US$8.89, or 10.27 percent, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

News: Avis exposes road sign misreading

Avis Rent A Car has just published the results of its latest survey, which makes for worrying reading. The car rental company surveyed international motorists to see whether they could correctly identify domestic and foreign road signs and 53% answered incorrectly.

In the UK testing results were frightening “It is well known that foreign roads signs can cause motorists headaches, but we were shocked to see that even the simplest of UK signs had drivers stumped,” says Daniel McCarthy, Commercial Director, Avis UK.

Straightforward UK signs such as ‘No Waiting’, ‘No Cycling’ and ‘No Overtaking’ were misinterpreted by motorists. Most interestingly, over 20% of drivers thought the ‘No Overtaking’ sign indicated two lanes ahead, while 54% of those questioned identified the ‘No Motor Vehicles Allowed’ sign as ‘All Motor Vehicles Permitted’.

Today’s worldwide drivers are typically aged between 40-49 years old, meaning that many motorists have not studied their Road Code for over 23 years.

Avis did not conduct the survey in New Zealand making it difficult to project out possible results. A quick drive around the Auckland suburbs will show that it may not be the misreading of road signs that we struggle with, we just require more specific signs. These could include a don’t text message while driving sign and a don’t double park outside schools sign.

Blogs: Lamborghini vs Labrador

I’m not a massive fan of speed record attempts, I appreciate the engineering that goes into the vehicles, but I always thought they were just a bit dull. That’s until I heard of Luc Costermans breaking the world Blind Speed record at an airstrip in France.

The Blind Land Speed record is exactly as it sounds, Luc Costermans is fully blind. His bravery and ability to overcome his disability if only for a few moments, must be comended. But what impresses me most is Costerman’s awesome skills of persuasion, because he achieved the 309kph record in a Lamborghini that was borrowed.
Here in NZ we have so many young men who have their balls busted every time they want to borrow the drab family wagon just to go for a cruise. They can see perfectly and have no chance at exceeding 300kph no matter how hard they might try. So next time any of you young fellas are struggling in your efforts to get some wheels for the night, tell your folks about Mr Costermans and the trusting owner of a Lamborghini supercar.

So how did Costermans avoid steering off the airstrip and destroying his expensive borrowed vehicle, well that’s where the story gets a bit sad. Costerman’s seeing-eye Labrador Millie was harnessed up to run in front of the Lambo, Costermans had a long lead that fed into the car’s cabin. Unfortunately more forward planning was required and Millie could only maintain a speed of 55kph running flat out. Sadly Costermans had to mow her down in his attempt to break the record. Afterwards, despite the tragedy Costermans put on a brave front “I’m very, very happy. It was a team effort.”

Costermans can’t be getting complacent in his triumph. Rival blind speed demon Mike Newman is planning to break Costerman’s new record in a Keating TKR, running an ex-champion greyhound out front.

I don’t know how fast these blind competitors will go, or what exotic cars they will borrow next. However, I do know that speed records have got just a little bit more interesting.

Oh and I was only joking about Millie the seeing-eye dog, Labradors can’t reach 55kph. That’s just stupid.

News: Nissan allows first press access to 370Z

Nissan 370Z s

Although we are not quite sure how, the folks over at an American-based car magazine managed to talk Nissan into letting them drive the all-new 350Z successor, the 370Z. Images of the car have been seen before, but these were merely shots taken on camera phones from motorists who happen to see the new sports coupe out testing on public roads. So, although the new Z is still camouflaged, this is still the best look at the machine thus far.

According to the journos involved, the 370Z is a full five inches shorter in wheel base than its predecessor, and looks to be sporting Nissan’s kick-arse new VQ37VHR 3.7 litre V6 motor, which should be good for around 340hp. Full details will not be known until a complete specification list release from Nissan on the 11th of November. Make sure you check back here for the latest.

News: Kiwis order up big for the new Ferrari California

Ferrari California SydneyMotorShow fq

The 2008 Australian Motor Show was a sales success for Ferrari, with the legendary Italian supercar company now holding nearly 200 orders for the new Ferrari California.

“The 2008 Australian International Motor Show has exceeded all our sales expectations,” says Neville Crichton, from New Zealand Ferrari importer, EAI. “We were already in a strong position prior to the show, but the launch of the new California, combined with a display of the full Ferrari range on our motor show stand, has enabled us to lift our sales beyond our hopes even before the economic crisis.”

Ferrari opened the show with 150 orders for the new California from Australia and New Zealand and after a week of the show, that figure is now approaching 200, from both sales at the show and demand across Australia and New Zealand following its Sydney debut. This equates to an 18 month waiting list for a car which will not have its first Australian/NZ delivery until mid-2009.

News: Honda JDM Odyssey pure minivan excitement

Honda JDM Odyssey fq

Minivans are traditionally unexciting and bland people movers, the design team at Honda don’t believe that for a second. They have already created the Honda JDM Odyssey, which is known as one of the best handling minivans in Japan, and now for 2009 they are going even further. A new sleeker exterior will sit over a reworked chassis sporting double wishbones at all four corners, optional all-wheel-drive and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC powerplant putting out 171 hp in standard form and 203 hp in the range-topping Absolute model.

The interior comes with all manner of high tech tidbits including a sci-fi inspired dash and a new multi-positioned camera system that allows drivers to get a bird’s eye view of the vehicle. The seating is smart and can be arranged in a multitude of layouts including folding flat into a bed. Good times for new Odyssey owners everywhere.