Blogs: Let’s not leave Europe out of the big auto bailout

When you see your competition across the pond getting a nice fat US$25 billion dollar bailout…I mean ‘loan’…it’s perfectly understandable you’d feel aggrieved. Carmakers compete in a global market, so it’s not like the local store is getting help; this is something that impacts on a much larger scale. European carmakers are capitalising on the US government’s timing of the loan to ask the European Commission for a €40 billion ($55.22 billion) loan to speed up the transition to environmentally friendly cars. Is this a good thing? Let’s remove any notion that the carmakers are doing this altruistically, because they’re not. There are tough new regulations coming into force and the big European manufacturers are facing some stiff market conditions in which they’ll have to invest money they don’t want to invest in R&D to meet the demands. If the carmakers have to subsidise it themselves they’re going to a) wear a whole lot of costs to the detriment of their share prices, and/or b) have to raise prices to fund the R&D – they may be able to argue for an extension of the deadlines to meet their environmental obligations. If they receive a loan, they may be able to negotiate much more favourable ‘emergency’ terms. The problem at the moment is the credit crunch. Banks don’t want to lend money to anyone. So, going to a government with an emotive plea is a much easier way of getting funds. It will be interesting to see any terms of the loan, though, such as how long, what interest rate, and so on. And where the money is coming from! The ‘loan’ may prove to be the best option for the environment.

Holden: Holden Calais V Sportswagon 2008 Review

holden-calais-sportwagon-fq

I once went on a blind date, it was a forgettable evening but I can remember well how I felt before the initial meeting. I was a little nervous but also excited by the unknown and the possibilities that may bring. I felt the same way again the day I was to road test the new Holden Calais V Sportswagon. The terms sports and wagon have rarely been connected before and this is what concerned me. Would I be disappointed? Would our encounter become dull and laboured?

My nerves rapidly shifted to admiration when I first saw the Sportswagon in the flesh, it had a little more width in the rear than I’m used to, but I can dig that. The exterior styling has a definite European elegance foreign to previous Commodore wagons. The vehicle lines are fluent from tail to nose and are well accented by an aggressive waiting-to-pounce stance. Handsome 18-inch alloys fill out the guards nicely and match up well with some subtle chrome detailing on the body. Twin exhausts round off the sports look.

At first I was polite and gentle as we took a leisurely drive. Day turned to night but I felt it too forward to go home just yet, so I decided to find out what the Sportswagon’s made of on the inside. The general atmosphere of the interior cannot back up the good looks of the exterior, the plastics feel flimsy and anything that opens doesn’t quite shut as well as it should. That said, the interior is very practical with everything you need within easy reach.

The seats are good soft leather with electronic adjustment and memory settings for the driver. The front seats are wide and long horizontally but lack support during lateral movement. Seating in the rear is comfortable for three adults with Holden even boasting that rear leg room has increased since the previous larger model. Steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo and trip computer are useful.

There is an ingenious roof-mounted DVD player with a drop-down screen for rear passengers, whatever is playing can be repeated on the main screen in the front while the car is stationary. The Sportswagon’s practicality extends to good storage options in the cabin with a large central binnacle under the front armrest, bins in all doors and a glove box big enough for both flowers and chocolates. There are well placed cup holders for front and rear occupants and separate compartments for sunglasses and coins. I found the driver’s control console simple to work and it wasn’t long before I was pushing all the right buttons so it was time for a mad dash back to mine.

The Sportswagon’s 3.6 litre V6 motor puts out a quiet hum at pace rather than the throaty growl that other six-cylinder motors often achieve. With 195kW on tap acceleration is keen but not explosive, which is acceptable when taking into account the vehicle’s near two-tonne curb weight. The five-speed automatic transmission works the gears nicely and in sports shift mode there is even more grunt on hand. If you must go faster you’ll have to get the V8, and if you need faster again you will have to wait for the HSV model, and if you need faster than that you really have no business in a wagon.

How was the ride? Well, the Sportswagon is built for comfort and at motorway cruising speed it provides just that, it’s quiet inside and very sure footed. On windier roads the vehicle does tend to feel a little high and floaty, it can lean when pushed around corners. That said, the steering is honest and precise and it does handle well considering its length and weight. The Sportswagon also has Electronic Stability Control (ESP), side, front and curtain airbags in case things turn sour.

The Sportswagon’s great rear end is a feature in itself, unlike its chunkier ancestors, the new model is built on the same wheelbase as the Commodore sedan. This has come at a cost in load capacity but compensation has been made in other areas. The tailgate hinge extends well into the roof, creating a wide opening for throwing gear in, this also means that the hatch hardly swings outwards on opening. The load height of the rear floor is high, making it easier to load items, while there is a clever cargo blind with two height settings. With the back seats folded down there are two metres in length from tailgate to front seats and a 2000 litre capacity, which should be plenty for most applications.

It was fun while it lasted but the Sportswagon really needs a family to fulfil its complete potential, I’m not ready for that just yet. If my circumstances were to change then the Sportswagon would provide an attractive mix of style, practicality and performance.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications

Price: from $62,290

What we like

  • Styling
  • Strong performance for size
  • Highly practical

What we don’t like

  • Interior quality
  • Rear visibility
  • Wing mirrors

Holden Calais V Sportswagon (2008) – Specifications

Engine and transmission

195kW,(#) 3.6 litre High Output Alloytec V6 engine with 5-speed automatic transmission with Active Select
Limited Slip Differential (available only with sports suspension)

Control and handling

Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) incorporating:
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
Electronic Brake Assist (EBA)
Traction Control System (TCS)
Linear Control Suspension
Sports suspension: Sport tuned spring and damper.
Reduced ride height (available only with Limited Slip Differential)

Wheels

18″ x 8″ alloy wheels. 245/45 R18 100V tyres (4)
17″ x 4″ steel spare wheel. T155/80 R17 111M tyre
Full-size spare wheel and tyre

Entertainment

6 disc in-dash CD player. MP3 compatible
7 speakers. Total 150 watts
Speed dependent volume control
Rear seat overhead DVD player

Seating

Leather appointed seats
8-way electric adjustment of front seats
Adjustable driver’s seat lumbar support
Adjustable front passenger’s seat lumbar support
Driver’s seat position memory for up to 3 drivers
Rear seats fold flat

Cabin comfort

Dual zone electronic climate control
6.5″ multifunction colour LCD screen. Displays stereo and climate control information. DVD player and satellite navigation compatible (where fitted)
Front centre armrest with leather trim
Sunglasses holder
Two front reading lamps
Door entry lamps

Storage and cargo

60:40 split fold rear seats
Twin cup holders in centre console
Centre console storage compartment with armrest lid
Auxiliary power socket in console and rear cargo area
Shopping bag hooks in rear cargo area (2)
D-ring tie-down points (4)
Luggage net (adjustable) in rear cargo area to keep small items in place

Exterior

Front fog lamps
Projector headlamps
Dual exhaust outlets
Quad exhaust outlets (V8 only)
Chrome finish body side mouldings

Driver

Steering wheel height and reach adjust
Leather wrap sports profile steering wheel
Multifunction steering wheel, featuring illuminated controls for:
Sound system
Trip computer
Bluetooth® for compatible mobile phones (where fitted)
Satellite navigation; Turn-by-turn (where fitted)
Multifunction driver display, featuring:
Trip computer information
Sound system information
Priority key. Stores settings for:
Climate control (where fitted)
Sound system
Trip computer
Speed alert
Headlamp and interior lighting time delay options
Driver’s seat and exterior mirror positions
(Calais V-Series and Calais with leather option only)
Alloy faced pedals
Leather wrap gear selector
Cruise control
Front and Rear Park Assist
Power exterior mirrors
Heated exterior mirrors with ‘puddle’ lamps and position memory
Passenger side exterior mirror dips when reverse gear selected
Rain sensing wipers
Road speed dependent variable intermittent wipers
Automatic headlamp mode. Switches on at twilight or low light
Trip computer with triple display, including:
Average speed
Odometer/tripmeter/trip time
Distance/time to go
Instantaneous/average fuel consumption
Digital speedometer
Tracks two trips simultaneously (eg. short day trip within long interstate trip)
Fuel used/range
Visual and audible speed warning
Sound system able to accommodate mobile phone kit
Auto mute when phone is in use
Bluetooth® for compatible mobile phones
Satellite navigation. Turn-by-turn
Satellite navigation. Full colour mapping

Occupant safety

Dual-stage front airbags for driver and front passenger, side impact airbags for driver and front passenger and side curtain airbags
Front lap/sash seatbelts with load limiters and pyrotechnic pretensioners
Rear seat child restraint anchor points (3)
Remote control priority key:
Operates central locking
Operates interior lighting. Time delay on entry
Automatic illumination when engine turned off
Operates exterior lamps
Enables/disables alarm system
Unlocks tailgate
Horn sounds if either front door is ajar when remote locking
Sound system operates only in original vehicle

# Maximum figures as per ECE regulations
* Figure quoted using 98 RON (PULP)

Engine

3.6L 60-degree Double Overhead Cam V6 with 4 valves per cylinder. Twin knock control sensors with individual cylinder adaptive control. On-board diagnostics.
Continuously variable camshaft phasing for inlet and exhaust cams. Variable Intake Manifold (VIM)
Capacity: 3564
Compression: 10.2
Power: 195kW@6500rpm
Torque: 340Nm@2600rpm
Exhaust system: Dual exhaust outlets
Gear ratios:
1st 3.42
2nd 2.21
3rd 1.60
4th 1.00
5th 0.75

Words Adam Mamo, photos Darren Cottingham

News: Lexus IS250C makes world debut

Lexus IS 250C fq

The latest offering from Lexus the IS 250C has just made its world debut at the Paris Motor Show. Based on the IS sedan but missing two doors and a permanent roof, the new 250C is not without its charm but has had a mixed reception. Accused of having an ugly rear end and broken lines the IS 250C still has much to offer away from aesthetics. Its aluminum folding roof structure boasts the fastest three-part roof opening time of just 20 seconds. Through the compact packaging of its roof mechanism, the IS 250C has a large boot space, good rear seat access and can fit adults in the back comfortably.

Sharing the IS 250’s 153kW/208hp, 2.5 litre V6 powerplant and 6-speed automatic transmission, the new Lexus convertible has been created to have minimal wind turbulence when driving with the hard top stowed. On the inside, rear passengers have a set of rollover hoops there’s a 12-speaker Mark Levinson sound system and a speed sensitive climate control system that will boost the heat during open air driving. The IS 250C is a smart car, but convertible drivers care about one thing above all others and that’s how they look.

News: Toyota Prius to be more sporty

Toyota Avensis fq

The next-generation Toyota Prius will retain the petrol hybrid concept — but as well as being cleaner than the current model, it’ll be a lot more sporty, says Toyota GM managing director Miguel Fonseca.

Prius has undoubtedly been a massive success for Toyota — but it’s paid a price for that popularity in terms of a rather fuddy-duddy image. But that will change when the next-generation car is unveiled next year.

“It will be cleaner, with CO2 emissions below 100g/km,” Fonseca says. “We could have gone lower, but instead we have chosen to give the Prius better performance.”

Despite rival manufacturers’ moves toward diesel hybrids, Toyota believes the high price of diesel compared to petrol means it makes no sense to switch the fossil fuel. Of course, Prius’ two top markets are America and Japan — and diesel infrastructure is poorly developed in both.

Toyota’s big launch at Paris was the new Avensis — which looks a much more competitive car against sector benchmarks such as the Ford Mondeo and Citroen C5. But the big message from Toyota was the environment — and Toyota Motor Europe chief operating officer Thierry Dombreval stressed the car’s low CO2 footprint, starting at 134g/km.

“We have set ourselves a full-year sales goal of 115,000 cars, believing this is the most appropriate target for the current market conditions,” he says. Both four-door saloon and five-door estate versions were unveiled at Paris, along with the finished production version of the iQ city car, part of Toyota’s plan to launch 18 new models by the end of 2009.

News: Ford Focus RS debuts… again

Ford Focus RS fq

The Paris Motor Show has been the scene for the new Ford Focus RS to make its second European debut. This time covered in an ultra green paint, it was difficult to miss. The new paint job is supposedly a modern interpretation of the 1970’s Ford Le Mans Green. A striking hue, but will it prove popular with buyers, perhaps not.

The new Focus RS will be powered by a turbocharged Duratec 2.5L five-cylinder producing about 300 horsepower and 325 ft-lbs of torque, this is the fastest European Ford ever produced and can hit 100 Kph in under six seconds. Ford has chosen a front-wheel drive system which seems risky, but the ‘RevoKnuckle’ front suspension system along with the Quaife Automatic Torque Biasing limited-slip differential is said to remove all traces of torque steer.

The Focus RS will be in European dealerships sometime in 2009, hopefully a few will filter down to us here in NZ a little later.

News: New level of personalisation for Ferrari 599

Ferrari_599GTB_Interior1

The ultimate Ferrari sports car, the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, is now available with the ultimate personalisation programme, OneToOne, following the successful launch of the programme with the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti.

“The OneToOne programme enables our owners to personalise their new Ferrari 612 and, now, 599 to an unprecedented level,” explains Kevin Wall, General Manager at the New Zealand Ferrari importer, EAI. “The programme has been developed with ‘Atelier’ design experts who have trained New Zealand staff to assist our owners to fully maximise the potential offered by OneToOne to produce a car that fully reflects their unique personality. Alternatively owners may travel to Italy and design their own car interior in the very studio in which OneToOne was developed.”

One of the main areas of interest to 599 owners using the OneToOne Programme will be exterior colours, with not just an enhanced ability to produce unique body colours, but also a new range of wheel rim finishes and colours. The 599 GTB Fiorano’s interior may now also be personalised in Terra Bruciata and Maculato Opaco leather. Nor does the leather have to be only one particular colour, with leather finishes such as ‘maculatura’ (a light ‘leopard skin’ speckling), ‘goffratura’ (a rough embossed-type finish) and ‘sporcatura’ (fine, dark speckling for a ‘distressed’ look) also available.

With regard to onboard equipment and finish, Alcantara is now available for carpets and boot trim (the boot may also be trimmed entirely in leather, if preferred). Since it opened in Maranello four months ago, the Atelier has been involved in the styling of no less than 20 bespoke 612 Scagliettis. Historic and out-of-range colours, such as Grigio Ferro Met and Rosso Monza, have proved particularly popular. The new interior shades have been much sought after too, specifically the speckled matt finishes. Almost all of the clients that have chosen this finish have also requested cream stitching for the Ferrari Prancing Horse on the headrest.

News: The GT by Citroen links the virtual and the real

GT Citroen fq

The GTbyCITROËN is the first ever car to be specifically designed to bring the virtual and real worlds together and it was just given its global premiere at the Paris Motor Show where visitors could actually drive the car in a true to life simulator on the Citroën stand.

GTbyCITROËN, a joint venture between Citroën and the makers of Gran Turismo, was created for the eagerly anticipated fifth game in the Playstation series.

At almost five metres long, GTbyCITROËN packs the latest hi-tech racing equipment into an exaggerated sporty frame. Planted on 21-inch, diamond-effect, aluminium wheels, the car’s gullwing doors, over-sized rear end with mobile spoiler, gaping air intakes and flat underside exude the look of an accomplished racer.

The sleekly muscled racer sports a large wraparound windscreen adding to the impact of the car’s size and dynamic appearance. Penetrating blue LED headlamps and slim-line carbon fibre rear view mirrors add to GTbyCITROËN’s futuristic racing style.

In contrast to its light body work, the cabin features a darker colour scheme with two padded racing seats finished in black leather and fitted with four point harnesses. The dark leather, along with copper and steel touches inside the cabin and a low-slung driving position, create a true racing environment. Important on-board data is displayed via a red LED head-up display, allowing drivers to maintain focus on the track.

In the game, the GTbyCITROËN showcases Citroën’s dedication to the environment with an electric drive train powered by a fuel cell, totally eliminating pollutant emissions.

Kazanori Yamauchi, President of Polyphony Digital Inc and creator of Gran Turismo, commented, “GTbyCITROËN shows how the worlds of virtual and real-life motoring can join together to create a truly innovative partnership. To see the GTbyCITROËN take shape in our game studios and then for real has been a truly unique experience – as our work normally stays in the digital world.”

News: ABT makes mark on upcoming VW Scirocco

ABT Scirocco Front kl

Car tuning company ABT has done its thing with the upcoming Volkswagen Scirocco and the results are all good. The Scirocco is already a handsome looking car but ABT have created a total head-turner.

The ABT front spoiler makes the face of the coupe even more distinctive. This impression is supported by the lines on its sides, where the ABT Side skirts absorb and continue the sleek design.

The indicated air inlets and edges in the doors underline the movement of the bodywork which rises at the back. The view from behind has also been modified: the ABT Rear skirt set, consisting of a rear skirt and a diagonally attached 4-pipe rear muffler, forms a sporty unit  with the ABT Rear wing and the ABT Rear panel. ABT Sportsline has two wheel options available in 18 to 20 inch and of course with fitting tyres and wheel spacers.

ABT has upgraded the springs making the Scirocco up to 30 millimetres lower. The complete upgrade kit consists of the design pack, the 4-pipe rear muffler, the springs and complete wheel sets (19 inch AR alloys, diamond-machined and black, plus tyres and wheel spacers) is available at the launch of the ABT Scirocco in January 2009.

ABT has developed power refinements for the VW engine. The 1.4 TSI now offers 200 hp (147 kW) on the road with ABT Power instead of 160 hp (118 kW), and the turbo diesel with two litre capacity 170 hp / 125 kW (standard: 140 hp / 103kW). Later on in the year the compact sports coupe will also be available with an increased-power 2.0 TSI. With it the car has 240 hp / 177 kW (standard: 200 hp / 147 kW).