Friday, 31 August 2007

Down Under's TRD Aurion: Food for Thought for Toyota Camry' Owners!

Toyota Australia introduced a supercharged Aurion enhanced with TRD performance parts. The original 3.5L V6 engine has been forced-fed via a bolt-on Eaton (Twin Vortices Series, TVS) supercharger. Locally conceptualised and made, TRD Aurion is the most powerful Toyota ever seen in Down Under. It will shoot from 0 to 100km/h in 6.1seconds, while top speed is artificially limited to 250km/h.

Click on images to enlarge

The icing-on the-cake must be the 329hp and 400Nm supercharged engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift. To keep this power civilised and tamed on the tarmac, the souped-up Aurion also wears sports suspension, high perforamance brakes, 19-inch alloy wheels & sport tyres, TRD grille, front and rear bumpers, side skirt and rear spoilers.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Mitsubishi Concept-cX Prototype at Frankfurt 2007

Click on images to enlarge Mitsubishi Concept-cX has already taken shape ahead of the Frankfurt International Motor Show 2007 based on these released images from Mitsubishi Motor Corp. (MMC). Built on the 9th generation Lancer / new Outlander platform, the Concept-cX is equipped with a new 1.8L Clean Diesel engine with a Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT) that churns out 136ps at 4000rpm and 280Nm of torque at 2000rpm.

Mitsubishi’s Twin Clutch SST automated manual transmission is called into service for the Concept-cX. It looks like the robotised twin-clutch gearbox will find duty in many other Mitsu vehicles other than the upcoming Lancer EVO X. Meanwhile, its electronically controlled AWD system is nicked from the new Outlander.
From these images, it appears as if the Concept-cX is near-ready for mass production, especially from cues taken from its metal body stampings. The headlights, alloy wheels & tyres, wing mirrors, dashboard and seats will likely be toned down for the final version. But will it carry the badge of the next generation Mitsubishi Colt Plus (AWD) or a rehashed crossover theme for the all-new Pajero iO?

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Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Chevrolet Aveo Sedan 1.4 SE & SX

A new Chevrolet model called the Aveo Sedan was introduced to the Malaysian market recently, to kick off the formation of the new company called Hicom-Chevrolet Sdn Bhd. A joint venture between DRB-Hicom Bhd (49% holdings) and General Motors Asia Pacific Holdings (GMAPH) LLC (51% holdings), the newco serves to strengthen the Chevy brand in Malaysia. Hicom-Chevrolet will also explore the establishment of a local assembly programme in the near future, and at the same time provide a manufacturing hub for the production of Chevrolet vehicles, parts and accessories for the ASEAN region.

The Aveo sedan is available in two trim levels i.e. 1.4SE and 1.4SX, to be available later. Fully imported from Thailand (CBU) the SE retails at RM69,888. The engine is Daewoo’s 1.4L E-TEC II with 16-valve DOHC, generating 94bhp at 6200rpm and 130Nm maximum torque at 3400rpm. The 4-cylinder chambers are fed via multi-point fuel injection featuring Variable Geometry Intake System (VGIS). Standard for the Aveo Sedan is a four-speed automatic transmission equipped with Fuzzy Logic Control for a more responsive drive.

Equipments are fairly decent for a B-segment sedan like this new Aveo notchback. Among them are a 400litre boot space, 60/40 split reclining backseats, a tilt-adjustable power steering, power windows, central locking, electric side-view mirrors and front seatbelts with pretensioner.

The sub-compact sedan wears MacPherson struts up front, with its rear sprung on a torsion beam set-up. For stopping power, the Aveo Sedan comes equipped with front discs and rear drum brakes. A single, driver’s side airbag is added to the SX variant. There is no mention of ABS available for both SE and/or SX. Five colours are available for the new Aveo Sedan: Sterling Silver, Sparkling Tan, Alpine White, Citrus Green and Black Sapphire.

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All-New Audi A4 (B8) in 2008

Set to debut at the Frankfurt International Motor Show 2007, the all-new Audi A4 has a host of improvements to keep it abreast of competition with the BMW 3series (E90) as well as the new Mercedes-Benz (W204) C-Class.

Click on images to enlarge
Having grown up substantially over the current A4, the new B8 has a length of 4,703 mm. To put things in perspective, the current B7 measure in at 4,586mm. In tandem, its wheelbase has extended from the current 2685mm to 2808mm. In short, more cabin space is to be expected along with a capacious boot volume of 480litres.

Audi’s compact four-cylinder 1.8 TFSI, develops 160bhp and a torque of 250Nm between 1500 and 4500rpm, all from a displacement of 1798cc. The manual A4 1.8 TFSI does 8.6 seconds to 100 km/h, and maintains its thrust up to a top speed of 225 km/h. Yet according to the EU test cycle its consumption is only 7.1 l/100 km –1.1 litres per 100 kilometres better than the previous model. What we are likely to see from Euromobil in Malaysia will be the multitronic version - with continously variable transmission.

The 1.8 TFSI is a close relative of the 2.0 TFSI engine chosen three times in succession by a jury of international journalists as “Engine of the Year”. On this smaller version 0f the B8 range, direct petrol injection and turbocharging represent an ideal combination. Injection pressure has been increased to 150 bar and new direct injectors distribute the fuel accurately to the combustion chambers. The turbocharger is exceptionally rapid in its response – at an engine speed of 2000 rpm it accelerates the engine 30 percent faster to a ten percent higher torque than the conventional 1.8T engine that powered the preceeding model. For all its vigour, this four-cylinder unit runs quietly, in a most refined manner.
Audi AG has not released power/torque figures for the 2.0 TFSI engine application in the new A4.

Similar transmissions choices are carried over with the S-Tronic (DSG) still missing form the A4 line-up. As such, a six-speed manual gearbox, the tiptronic automatic transmission, the multitronic continuously variable transmission are paired with either front-wheel drive or quattro permanent all-wheel drive.

The technical features of the steel bodyshell are also evidence of the major steps forward that have been taken on the new Audi A4. The body is extremely light in weight: although almost 12cm longer and over 5cm wider than its predecessor, the bare bodyshell weighs about 10% less – an excellent starting point for a saloon car of low gross weight. The Audi A4 1.8 TFSI, for instance, tips the scales at only 1410kg.

This weight saving is due to specific use of new grades of steel that combine exceptional strength with low weight. Only these ultra-high-strength steel grades give the body the high level of rigidity needed for precise, sporty handling and good ride comfort.

Interchanging the differential and the clutch has enabled the front axle to be moved forward by 154 mm. This change, aided by moving the car’s battery to the boot, helps to achieve ideal weight distribution.

With its wide track –1564 mm at the front, 1551 mm at the rear – the A4 suggests its dynamic power even at a standstill. Audi claims the new A4 will be the sportiest car in the midsize category: agile, effortless to handle and safe at all times.

The new A4 (B8) goes on sale by November 2007 in Europe. Expect to see this in Malaysia only sometime H2 2008.

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Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0 GT Video

Another Facelift for Honda City 2007/08!

Honda Malaysia has executed a 3rd facelift for its top-seller, the City for 2007/08. Notable upgrades include a new honeycomb grille, glass-imprinted antenna, wing mirror turn signals, redesigned rear lights and body-coloured mud guards. Mechanically, both the i-DSI and VTEC are similar to the pre-facelift models.

Available in five colours: Sparkle Grey, Bluish Silver, Alabaster Silver Metallic, Nighthawk Black Pearl and Satellite Silver Metallic, the ‘new’ City is available at all Honda dealers with immediate effect.

Prices are (on-the-road inclusive of insurance) RM85,800 for the VTEC and RM79,800 for the i-DSI.

Monday, 27 August 2007

2008 All-New Honda Accord Sedan:' First Drive Impression

2008 All-New Honda Jazz/Fit

The well-informed and enthusiastic guys at the 'Temple of VTEC' has these images from a Japanese Honda brochure scanned, revealing the all-new Jazz for 2008 model year, set to be unveiled at the upcoming Tokyo International Motorshow 2007.

Interestingly, the 1.5L motor has gained Honda's improved i-VTEC valve train: variable valve-lift + cam-timing now vs VTEC (variable valve lift only) previously.

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JDM Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X punches out 280PS and 422Nm!

Images from Japanese brochure of the new Lancer Evolution X have leaked some specific details ahead of its appearance at the upcoming Tokyo International Motor Show 2007.

Some interesting published facts are the all-aluminium 2.0L MIVEC Turbo engine spinning a power output of 280ps at 6500rpm and a heady 422Nm of torque at 3500rpm. For the first time ever, the Lancer Evolution series will have Mitsubishi's new 6-speed SST (robotised manual) twin-clutch gearbox, among other technical wizadries of S-AWC (full-time AWD), S-AYC (yaw control) and active centre differential.

Expect to see this high performance sedan being introduced by Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia (MMM) sometime next year, even though they do not expect push off many units as compared to their mainstream Lancer 2.0 GT.

For Hi-Res official Evo X images go here:

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2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Turbo Ralliart Spied

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0GT Road Test: A Summary

By Dr Long

This is upon request from some readers who found the last Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0GT report too lengthy for their busy lifestyles (working life et al).
I shall be attempting an ‘abstract’ version now:

Styling: 5/5
Simply gorgeous from all angles externally, compared the last (8th) generation Lancer. The shark nose plus headlights is ever menacing while sidelines are taut and modern. Evo X-like looks is refreshingly sporty, even upmarket to a certain extent.

Interior: 3/5
Leather seats soft, cosseting and supportive. Dashboard design a little too plain. Plastics on door trim needs a soft-touch wrap on upper border.

Engine: 3/5
Needs more low-end grunt to work better with the INVECS-III CVT. Muffler note at low revs and engine drone towards redline uninspiring.

Ride and Handling: 4/5
Ride quality pleasant despite on 215/45 R18 tyres. Damping and suspension rebound control good for a Japanese sedan. Confident handling into twisties of B- and trunk roads; could be better though on highway blasts.

Brakes: 4/5
All round discs do the job well. ABS equipped. Wouldn’t mind vehicle stability control module/software though (cost is still a factor here).

Equipment: 3/5
No complaints for its RM112k (w/o insurance) asking price.
Steering column mounted large-sized paddle shifters a first-in-class. (Possibly nicked from upcoming Evo X)

Practicality: 4/5
Good enough for bachelors, young couples or even young families. Could use a little more boot space.

Desirability: 4/5
With looks than can ‘kill’ and at a price that’s equally ‘lethal’ to its competitors, waiting list is 4-5 months at time of writing. Need we say more?


Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0 GT

Engine: 4B11 1,998cc DOHC 16V MIVEC (all-aluminium block)
Maximum power: 155ps @ 6000rpm
Peak torque: 199Nm @ 4250rpm
Transmission: INVECS III-CVT with 6-speed manual ‘Sports Mode’
0-100km/h: 10.2secs (as tested)
Top speed: 200km/h (claimed)
Price: RM112,806.10 (OTR w/o insurance)
Verdict: Handsome, freshest value-buy of the season (C-segment). Road holding and ride inspiring.

Full-length test review here:

*For a test-drive and sales consultation (Peninsular Malaysia only) please contact: Dylan Chang at 016-2233771

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Full Road Test: Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0 GT

By Dr Long

Mitsubishi Lancer: a vehicle model that has been synonymous with Malaysia's first national car. The Proton Saga, derived from the Lancer F or Fiore (3rd/4th generation) model of 1983 sold like hot cakes then, given the obvious pricing/tax advantage. Thereafter, the 6th generation Lancer became the ever-popular Proton Wira in 1993.

Returning as Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia (MMM) after about 20years of absence, the 8th generation Lancer 1.6 GLX made its official appearance, and was soon followed by the absolutely wicked and manic sibling, the Lancer Evolution IX.

Now into its 9th generation, the all-new Lancer has grown up with a larger – much sleeker - body and a higher engine capacity of 2.0L. With a shape not unlike the Concept X unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show 2005, the tester unit in Red Mica Metallic had this writer awed the moment he encountered it in the metal. With a unique convex-concave (different from the Galant Sigmas) contour, the Lancer' headlamps are menacing with an intense ‘stare’. The A-pillars are less frontal based-pillared, rendering the Lancer GT a more laid-back balanced profile and stance (read: less cab-forward design).

With a large rear spoiler, gorgeous 18” alloys plus a well-made and fitted original bodykit, the new Lancer looked fast even when standing still. In fact, it looked like a junior-Evo X capable of say 7seconds to the century and perhaps a Vmax of 230km/h. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately (as the case may turned out to be) wearing that GT badge hiked up expectations of the motoring community to an even loftier level.

But make no mistake, this is a family sedan above all, with a normally aspirated all-aluminium 2.0L DOHC MIVEC powerplant that pushes out 155ps at 6000rpm and 199Nm of torque at 4250rpm. Decent output figures but hardly matching the sporty demeanour it portrays. I hold no grudge against the Lancer’s standard CVT (F1CJA) –with 6 virtual ‘gear’ ratios in manual mode - for its smooth operation as well as higher transmission efficiency. Having said that, initial take off was still sluggish with the CVT hunger for torque below 3000rpm quite glaring. I am saying this in comparison to my other CVT-driven cars namely, the City i-DSI as well as my wife’s Colt Turbo Ralliart with a similar tech INVECS-III CVT.

Strangely, the 2.0 GT’s CVT felt a bit vague upon initial drive from standstill and this may have been attributed to the high-ish rpm at which real grunt becomes palpable from the 4B11 engine. Heck, even Audi’s ‘multitronic’ is a CVT - so there must be some mismatch between the Lancer’s CVT programming control unit and torque curve of the engine, I reckoned. More often than not, I found myself using those lovely – steering-column mounted – paddle shifters in manual ‘gears’ of 3rd, 2nd or even 1st (going uphill); thereby keeping the 4-pot on the boil above 3500rpm, riding on its torque crest. Maybe a ‘DS’ mode for the CVT would improve the Lancer GT urgency on the move, Mitsubishi Motors?

The other point which may have the Lancer misunderstood as having a buzzy CVT is the somewhat unpleasant hollow groan from its mufflers from around 2000 to about 3250rpm. Sounded a bit like an automatic scooter during my medical school days! This has to be the biggest bugbear to the GT’s Evo X halo it carries and of course, the nameplate. The motor drone at revs above 5000rpm isn’t very inspiring either but it gets the job done of hurtling this Mitsu to high three digits speed, with ease. An average figure of 10.2secs was achieved for 0-100km/h runs, not bad at all. Brakes are adequately powerful to scrub off whatever speed you’re running with enough pedal feel and not too grabby at the rotors either.

High speed stability is good for a car of its class, with the chassis remaining planted mostly, unless you are regularly hitting higher triple digit speed on undulating road surfaces or lumpy tarmac during mid-sweeping-corners on highways. The rear multi-link suspension seems accurate in following the front axle, definitely better than those rear torsion beam arrangement in quite a few other makes. On hilly B-roads, the Lancer resisted understeer very well, with minimal body roll as well. The OE Yokohama Advan Neova (215/45 R18) were very grippy and provided good feedback through the steering. Despite its low profile sidewalls, most ruts, potholes and irregularities were soaked up with much aplomb.

While the overall ride quality may lean towards the firm side, the Lancer GT still got stamping approvals from my two young kids and even my wife. With my loved ones seated at the rear on a journey through some winding trunk roads (at sane speed of course), they were fast asleep with nary a motion sickness or vomiting. I had seated at the back on two other occasions and also found the body control good for a comfy and composed ride. Those front semi-bucket seats were great at hugging your flanks around corners while the rear bench was just as cosseting. The soft and upmarket Nappa-leather wrapped items were so fine that it reminded me much of the Audi A4’s (B7). Smells great too!

A lot of criticism has been leveled at the new Lancer’s plastic interiorly in many online automotive forums thus far. Honestly, I don’t really find hard plastic on the dashboard a matter of live-and-death. In this Japanese C-segment class of 1.8L and 2.0L capacities many other automakers are ‘culprits’ as well. Well, maybe we have been spoiled by the Wiras (and Perdanas too) of yesteryears but let’s not forget that it was a class-leader as far as soft touch dash-top is concerned. What is pertinent here is the texturing of the plastic that has motoring enthusiasts drawing their swords over. Looking at how Toyota and even Honda managed with their hard but nicely TEXTURED dashboard surface, there may be a thing or two for MMC to learn here. (Interestingly and ironically, the Colt has better textured dash-top plastic!)

However, the door trim plastic, at least the top border needs a soft-padded paneling, badly. No compromise here if the Lancer is to be taken as a long term contender to the Civic. Meanwhile, the audio headunit control knobs for volume and tuning/audio needs to shake off its toothpaste/water colour-tube cap quality and feel. While the CD player reproduces respectable audio quality the same cannot be said for its radio reception, which is prone to concrete surroundings disturbance and change of travel direction.

Conversely though, the leather wrapped steering is great too see and hold, with on-steering buttons offering great tactile feel to operate. The rack meanwhile, is accurate and well weighted. However, the steering mechanism doesn’t lock-up upon removing the ignition key or even with slight off-centre turn of the wheel which once again, is unlike the Colt. Of course, there is that solid large magnesium-alloy paddle shifters while the generously-sized left foot rest is ergonomically excellent. The lack of auto central-locking of all doors at say, speed of 20-30km/h can be a little less secure for those who have become dependent on such a function. At the centre console, the A/C controls are very cleverly made even though without a digital temp display. What we have are three big dials offering climate control with automatic settings for both blower vents combo and temperature setting. The centre switches of these dials execute with tactility as well as a reassuring beep when you activate the rear demister, A/C on or air-recirculation mode. Nice.

While the external door handles looked flush, neatly up-to-date and solidly placed just above a rising flank crease, tugging on them didn’t exude a solid firmness as anticipated. There were slight ripples of vibration felt in the door metal sheath. In all fairness, this is also experienced in the Lancer’s intended 1.8/2.0 closest competitor. On the other hand, having driven the new Lancer in the rain, the roof passed what I coined as still-quiet-in-the-rain test, beautifully. To be frank, quite a number of ASEAN sourced models (CKD) failed to make the grade here. Then again, this is Japan-CBU stuff and built quality is generally good, albeit some parts have visibly suffered due to cost cutting measures.

Testing the car with my family on a road trip, I had found the boot to be just sufficient at 400L capacity, with the rear wheel arches plus structural supporting arch intrusions very prominent. A slightly more capacious rump would be nicer and better appreciated by most of us, especially those with kids in tow.

Overall fuel consumption over the few days of testing ranged from 7.2 to 8.2 km/l which was pretty high for a 2.0L sub mid-sized sedan. This might be due to a heavy right foot, most of the time stretching the CVT as well as the 2.0L engine’s powerband!

Priced at RM115,980 (on-the-road with insurance) the new Lancer 2.0 GT is a hard to beat value buy despite it being a mixed bag of plus and minuses. (The 4 to 5 months waiting period at the time of writing is a testament to this.) In the end, I still find the new Lancer 2.0 GT a likeable package as a family sedan and more importantly a well priced, fully-imported and absolutely handsome one at that!

p.s. Dear MMM, is there a Lancer Turbo Ralliart coming up next year? :)

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