News: Audi charges up for electric car

Audi electric fq

Audi has long been rumoured to be developing an electric car and many thought that it would be based on the A1 concept that Audi recently showed off at the Paris Motor Show. Audi board member Peter Schwarzenbauer has said that the electric car is coming, but it will be based on the Volkswagen up! platform that’s destined to carry the Lupo badge when it goes into production.

Audi will need to work quickly if it’s going to catch BMW, its natural rival, which has already begun production of an electric version of the MINI Cooper. For the Audi/VW vehicle, a battery pack will be mounted at the rear of the Lupo’s platform, though there is still no indication of what type of battery will be used. Further details should be revealed soon.

BMW: BMW 123d SE 2008 Review


Launched in 1968, the 2002 is one of BMW’s most famous models. A two-door sedan, it pushed BMW’s reputation in the public’s eye as being a sports car accessible to the masses as opposed to the elitist 503 and 3200 CS. It’s this car that inspired the new BMW 1-Series we’re reviewing today – a small, agile coupe with ample urge from under the bonnet, in a front-engined rear-wheel drive configuration.

Whether the 1 series will become as iconic as the 2002 is debatable. The coupe version looks better in the flesh than it does in photos, and makes the five-door 1 Series look like a frumpy bread van. Where the concave ankle line is reminiscent of a sagging beam in the five-door, in the coupe it reminds you of an athlete’s hamstrings, working in tandem with the quadriceps to deliver rapid forwards motion; at least, from most angles. Walk around the 123d coupe and you’ll occasionally catch a flaccid glimpse, but mostly it’s all tone and taughtness, accentuated by the angular crease of its deltoids, and the headlights smeared towards the pumped wheel arches. These are filled by optional M Sport 18-inch alloys sporting 215/40R18 tyres, that semi-conceal sizable brake discs.

The back of the car is half way there to looking the business. The boot lip extends backwards like it can’t quite keep up with the speed of the car, but how great would the rear look with twin exhausts and a rear venturi? Really great is the answer I heard you say.

Squeeze down into the bucket seats (the wings of which are adjustable), and the immediate sense is one of luxurious sports car, albeit with way too much lumbar support and no way of adjusting it (it’s a $650 option that wasn’t included in the plethora of options attached to this car).

Auckland to Napier is an interminable drive. I usually try to do it at 4am to miss as much traffic as possible, but I left at 4pm, confident that the 123d’s über-torque ratings would slingshot me past dawdling weekenders. Using the six-speed sequential steptronic gearbox is barely necessary as 400Nm is available from just 2000rpm. Mix that up with 150kW and 100kph can be yours in 7.1 seconds, with objects in your rear view mirror disappearing rapidly. The 123d does a great job of changing gears itself, anticipating what you need, or you can do it using the gear lever or the steering wheel-mounted push-pull paddles.

I averaged 5.8l/100km on the trip in this automatic model — that includes hills, bursts of overtaking, and the cruise control set at 105kph (undoubtedly I’d have been more economical at 90kph). Cheaper cars will often deviate significantly from the cruise control speed, so I thought I’d put the BMW to the test. I drove for 40km straight, which included bends and hills and it returned an average of 104.8kph — pretty good considering the Peugeot 308 I tried a few weeks ago was 4(!)kph different to my cruise setting after just half a kilometre of fundamentally flat road.

The Napier-Taupo road is perfect for testing a car’s long distance handling capabilities. A car should not leave you tired after a spirited drive around the twisty bits, and not bore you to snooziness on the straight bits. Fortunately, neither of these occurred. The first 30 or so kilometres out of Taupo presents roads with vanishing points, and it’s speed trap country, but once you get into the hills, there are some steep gradients combined with off-camber corners. In the BMW you don’t bother lifting off unless the corner signs read less than 60kph, and for the hills the twin-turbo two-litre diesel engine’s torque is more than a match for gravity.

Day turned to night and revealed a frustrating design faux pas for the otherwise excellent cruise control: you push the stubby wand forwards to increase or set the speed, and that lever is just below the one for the lights. So, my apologies to the two drivers I accidentally high-beamed.

For a coupe, the boot is a handy size, which comes at the expense of rear legroom. The interior, with its optional Boston leather and walnut highlights had its solid feel reinforced by the steering which pushed back a good deal of road information, but without being unduly nervy or unrelaxing.

I could live with a BMW 123d. Just. After the long trip my back had become used to the lumbar setting, even though it wasn’t quite ideal. I enjoyed the power, the engine’s refinement, and the rewarding handling. While the 1 Series will never be as iconic as the 2002, it had definitely captured part of the essence.

Click through to the next page to read the full specifications of the BMW 123d SE.

Price: from $65,000 (including the 6-speed sequential automatic); price as tested with optional Boston leather interior, multifunction steering wheel, 18-inch wheels, locking wheel bolts, M Sports package, electric sunroof, auto-dimming rear view mirror, sun protection glazing, electric seats, storage compartment package, wood trim, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, lights package (e.g. a courtesy light under the door handle when you unset the alarm, radio upgrade and (deep breath) USB interface, $83,165.01

What we like

  • It’s got the looks¦from most angles
  • Handy sized boot
  • Twin-turbo diesel engine has excellent power and is frugal, too
  • Steering feel is like a sports car

What we don’t like

  • Can look frumpy from some angles
  • Front seat needs lumbar adjustment
  • Rear seat legroom is tight
  • Enormous price difference between the base model and the optioned one we were supplied

Technical Data

Type type / cylinders / valves per cyl. In line / 4 / 4
Effective Displacement (cm3) 1995
Power output (kW) 150
at (rpm) 4400
Max. torque (Nm) 400
at (rpm) 2000
C 02 emission -EU EU4
Exhaust emissions classification (manual) 161 (157)


Length (mm) 4360
Width (mm) 1748
Height (mm) 1423
Luggage capacities (m3) 370
Fuel capacity (litres) 51


Drag coefficient (Cd) 0.31
0-100 km/ h sec (manual) 7.1 (7.0)
Maximum speed in km/h (Manual) 236 (238)

Fuel consumption

EU, in town Litres/100km 1 (Manual) 7.9 (7.4)
EU, out of town 1 Litres/100km,(Manual) 5.1 (5.0)
Fuel consumption / Range (ltr /100km / km) – Automatic transmission 6.1/835

Technical Features

4-cylinder diesel engine, common rail system with direct injection
Diesel Particulate Filter
Variable twin-turbo
Electronic vehicle immobilisation (EWS III)

Safety Features

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Cornering Braking Control (CBC)
Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), and Brake Force Display
Automatic Stability Control & Traction (ASC+T)
Dynamic Stability Control (DSCIII) with ASC+T function integrated
Dynamic Traction Control (DTC)
Driver & front passenger airbags w seat occupant detection sensor
Side airbags for driver and front passenger integrated into backrests (thorax)
Head airbag front and rear, curtain head protection system
Side impact protection
Front belt tensioners
02PA Locking wheel bolts
0302 Alarm System
Runflat tires including runflat indicator

Exterior Features

0321 Colour coded bumpers
Twin electric door mirrors
0346 Chrome line exterior
03AP Windscreen with grey shade band
0420 Sun protection glazing
0507 Park distance control (PDC) rear
0520 Fog lights
Windscreen in laminated safety glass, green tinted

Interior Features

0411 E lectric rear windows
0431 Interior mirror with anti-dazzle function
Height adjustment passenger seat
0481 Sport seats driver & passenger
0470 Child Seat ISOFIX with passenger seat de-activation
0473 Front armrest
0493 Storage compartment package: nets on rear of driver’s and front passenger’s backrests, 12 V socket in the luggage compartment, two lashing eyes, 2 tensioning straps on the luggage-compartment floor.
2 Cupholders in centre console
0534 Automatic air conditioning with Climate Control
0550 On-board Computer

In-Car Entertainment

0663 Radio Professional with single CD player
0694 CD Changer Preparation

Customer Assurance

BMW Service Inclusive – 3 years scheduled service and maintenance programme
2 years BMW Factory Warranty (with un-limited kilometre limitation)
3 years Vehicle Paint Warranty (with un-limited kilometre limitation)
12 years BMW Anti-corrosion Warranty (with un-limited kilometre limitation)
3 years Roadside Assistance Cover (with un-limited kilometre limitation)

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

News: Renault Koleos crossover launched in NZ

Renault Koleos fq

Renault’s first crossover 4WD, the Koleos is being launched in New Zealand this week as a diesel engined, 6 speed automatic 4WD model at $44,990 and a 2WD petrol version for $37,990 targeted at people who like crossover styling, versatility and the higher driving position, but do not need 4WD capability.

The 4WD two litre diesel comes with a six speed automatic gearbox, in which the ratios can also be selected manually coupled to the 4WD transmission which automatically switches from 2WD to 4WD when any loss of traction is detected. The 2.5 litre petrol 2WD model comes with a CVT gearbox, which also has six distinct ratios which can be selected manually.

“The Koleos 4WD diesel is priced competitively against its rivals,” said Wallis Dumper of Motorcorp Distributors, the importer of Renault.

“We’ve got a car with a six speed auto, a five star Euro NCAP safety rating and it’s got great European sporty styling rather than the traditional boxy design of many of our competitors.”

Mr Dumper said any shifts in the value of our currency could make future pricing a challenge, particularly for the Koleos 2WD. “We will have to re-evaluate things in 2009,” he said.

The Koleos is built by Renault Samsung Motors (an 81 percent owned subsidiary of Renault) at Pusan in Korea for all world markets.

Koleos’ trim level includes 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/60 R17 tyres, cruise control, speed limiter, dual zone climate air conditioning, roof rails, front fog lamps, Renault Hands Free Card and automatic headlights and wipers.

Its design, with short overhangs and good ground clearance assists in driving on uneven surfaces. Uphill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control systems are standard on the 4WD model.

The MacPherson-type front suspension and fully independent multi-link rear suspension combine to deliver directional stability. The rear dampers are mounted at an angle to free up as much space as possible between the wheel arches.

Koleos is the first Renault model to be equipped with four-wheel drive from launch. In normal conditions, torque is delivered to the front wheels only. If a reduction in grip is sensed, torque is instantly diverted to the rear. In extreme conditions up to 50 per cent of torque can be transferred to the back wheels. When pulling away from standstill, the engine delivers torque to all four wheels to ensure prompt and secure performance, regardless of the amount of grip available.

Koleos’ active safety is founded on robust and detail-engineered chassis and large brakes (320mm ventilated front discs, 292mm rear discs) that can bring the car to a halt from 100 km/h in just 42 metres. In emergency braking situations, Koleos has  ABS with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution), EBA (Emergency Brake Assist) and ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) with under steer control.

Standard equipment on all Koleos models includes front airbags that automatically adapt to the build of driver and front passenger, plus side and full-length curtain airbags. The front seatbelts have pretensioners, while front and outer rear seatbelts benefit from load limiters. Isofix child seat anchors are provided on the outer rear seats.

Koleos has a 150,000km/three-year new vehicle warranty, together with a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty and a three-year warranty against paint defects.

News: New engine size for Volkswagen Scirocco

VW Scirocco fq

Volkswagen has announced a new entry-level specification and two additional engines for the Scirocco coupe. This will open the possibility of Scirocco ownership to a wider audience, and the new base model should become available to us here in NZ.

At launch in September, the Scirocco was only available in range-topping GT trim. The new engines are now available in base trim which still benefits from a good list of standard equipment including a six-CD autochanger, rain and dusk sensor, multifunction computer, air conditioning and 17-inch ‘Donington’ alloy wheels. Safety features also, remain a priority, with ABS, ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Programme) and six airbags as standard.

The 1.4-litre TSI 160 PS engine accelerates the Scirocco from 0 to 62 mph in just 8.0 seconds while returning 42.8 mpg (combined) and emitting 154 g/km of CO2. In addition, the new entry-level and GT models are now available with Volkswagen’s popular 2.0-litre TDI 140 PS common rail diesel engine linked to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic DSG gearbox. Both manual and DSG versions reach 62 mph in 9.3 seconds while achieving a combined figure of 55.4 mpg (51.4 for DSG) and 134 g/km of CO2 (145 for DSG).

The Scirocco is the most advanced production coupe that Volkswagen has produced and all models also benefit from Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) which operates via a set of four electrically adjustable dampers to alter the car’s suspension, steering and throttle response set-up, and allows the driver to choose the most appropriate setting for the journey.

News: Fiat launches eco:Drive in Paris

Fiat EcoDrive

Fiat has just launched a new device that could change the way motorists drive their cars. Fiat presented eco:Drive to the international press last week at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. This innovative system gives drivers an accurate insight into how their driving style influences their fuel consumption, and actively helps them to drive more efficiently, saving money and reducing their CO2 emissions.

eco:Drive is a software application that can be downloaded and installed on any computer. eco:Drive works using Fiat’s Blue&Me entertainment and communications system, which was developed in conjunction with Microsoft. Plugging any USB key into the Blue&Me port allows eco:Drive to record detailed information about the vehicle’s efficiency and your driving style during a journey. The information can be ‘read’ by plugging the USB key into your computer when you’ve finished driving.

Users can analyse fuel consumption and emissions for each journey made, and receive advice on how to drive more efficiently, reducing their impact on the environment. eco:Drive will give you a score out of 100 – your eco:Index – to show how efficiently you have driven, based on your acceleration, deceleration, gear changes and speed.  A series of tutorials will help you to improve your score, showing you how to perfect your driving using detailed information from your own journeys.

Drivers who start eco:Driving can expect to improve their driving efficiency by up to 15 per cent. That means a 15 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions and in fuel costs. Fiat has also created ecoVille, an online community populated by all eco:Drivers from around the world. Users will be able to share tips, watch the community grow, and see just how much CO2 they are all saving together.

Fiat 500 and Grande Punto are the first Fiat Group vehicles to use eco:Drive. In 2009, eco:Drive will be extended to the rest of the Fiat range equipped with Blue&Me.

News: Ford unveils radar-based warning system

Ford Brake Support 1

Just after announcing the new MyKey system, Ford has just come back with another piece of new technology, this time it is more directly safety related and will start appearing on some 2009 models. It’s called Collision Warning with Brake Support, and it uses the radar system that makes Adaptive Cruise Control possible to detect what’s in front of the car. If the system senses impending contact with something ahead, most likely another car, it will sound an in-car alarm and activate a warning light. At the same time it will prepare the brakes and activate a brake-assist function in case the driver needs to slam on the brakes.

Ford is being a little sketchy about the details, but basically this radar system will monitor the distance between your Ford and what’s in front of you, and if a collision is deemed imminent will effectively get the brakes ready for a panic stop. This new technology will start from some 2009 models, along with other radar-based technologies like the Adaptive Cruise Control and a blind spot warning system. Bad news for panel beaters everywhere.

Blogs: If F1 goes bankrupt, will it really matter?

The NZ Herald reported today that Max Mosley (you’ll remember him from such films as “Nazi Bondage Session”) has warned that several more F1 teams may pull out of the F1 championship before next year because of the rising costs of running a team. He says that the teams are financially unsustainable and rely on handouts from billionaires to keep them running. If 2 more teams go by the wayside then a grid of 16 cars doesn’t really make for a credible race, and he proposes drastic cuts in spending to ensure the current teams can survive, and perhaps even new teams can join. I agree to a point, but let’s not forget F1’s waning popularity in its traditional markets. Sure, people who are just getting access to TVs (India, China, etc) are watching in awe, but European countries are over it, and America has Indy. F1’s problem is that it is deathly boring. I would rather sandpaper my eyes than sit through a tedium-filled procession of astronomically priced cars circulate around a track the other side of the world. Don’t get me wrong – I used to watch F1 when Mansell, Senna and Prost would duke it out. There was overtaking, excitement, and some ballsy driving. But now it’s all team orders, safety, and eye-watering dullness, so I prefer watching motorbike racing instead (especially when it’s wet). So, I propose that F1 should go back to how it was in the 1960s (albeit with the modern safety measures). This would mean drivers have to tow their car to a race on a trailer using an old Morris Minor, the pit crew can only consist of 4-5 people, and the administration for the team is done by one of the mechanic’s wives. I’ll wager you’ll once again see a rise to the top of the sport by some ingenious Kiwis, used to bootstrapping their racing on the faint whiff of an oily rag.

News: Ferrari California goes to Sydney

Ferrari California Sydney

Just a week after its world debut in Europe, the all-new Ferrari California will be unveiled at the Australian International Motor Show, making Sydney only the second place in the world that the newest Ferrari has been seen in public.

The Ferrari California joins the Ferrari’s eight-cylinder family which has always been defined by power and performance. It also flanks the flagship 612 Scaglietti in the prestige supercar Grand Tourer segment, complimenting the Ferrari F430 and 599 GTB sporting supercars in the range.

The new Ferrari California will satisfy even the most demanding of owners in terms of its superb vehicle dynamics and driving pleasure. The new model will be available exclusively as a convertible with a folding hard top. Both chassis and bodywork are aluminium, in line with the rest of the current range. The California will be powered by an all-new V8 engine mounted for the first time in the marque’s history in the mid-front position.

In line with Ferrari tradition, the new model also features several innovations. The California’s 4,300 cc V8 engine features direct fuel injection and a “flat” crankshaft. It generates 460 bhp at 7,500 rpm with a torque curve that enhances vehicle dynamics and provides maximum driving pleasure which is typical for Ferrari.

As per the traditional Ferrari transaxle layout, the engine, which allows the Ferrari California to sprint from 0 to 100 kmh in less than 4.0 seconds, will be coupled to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission that boosts the car’s performance while enhancing the driving pleasure, improves ride comfort and reduces fuel consumption and emissions (c.310 g/km CO2).

Comfort is further enhanced by a new multilink rear suspension system. The Ferrari California is also equipped with the exclusive F1-Trac traction control system which made its debut on the 599 GTB Fiorano and has been further honed to suit the typical driving conditions expected for this new GT. Brembo brakes featuring carbon-ceramic material disks as standard guarantee superbly efficient braking.

The Ferrari California is aimed at owners who desire a car which embodies everything the Prancing Horse represents in terms of sporty design and innovation, but also seek a car with greater versatility than ever.

The launch of the California marks the re-birth of a classic Ferrari name used on very sort-after Ferrari models, as witnessed by the sale at auction earlier this year of a 1961 Ferrari California for $5.4 million, an all time record for a Ferrari.