Monday, 24 December 2007

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

Details on the 2008 Lancer Ralliart has been revealed by Mitsubishi in Europe. A Concept of Lancer Sportback (pictured above) is expected to be unveiled at the Geneva Show 2008, and this has been rumoured to be the platform for the new Lancer Ralliart, more so for the European market. That said, we may get to see the booted version of the new Lancer Ralliart for Asian and U.S markets.

Regardless which form the Lancer Ralliart takes – this “budget version” of the venerable Lancer Evolution X will be powered by a detuned version of Evo X’s all-aluminium 2.0L MIVEC Turbo punching out a respectable 240ps, mated to Mitsubishi’s new 6-speed Twin Clutch - SST transmission. Much like the full-blown Evo X, the Lancer Ralliart also comes standard with a full-time 4WD system (a simplified version of S-AWC), plus Active Yaw Control and Active Centre Differential. The 2008 Lancer Ralliart will also feature an aluminium bonnet panel, Recaro bucket seats, Ralliart leather-clad sports steering, bodykit and Ralliart radiator grille with intergrated air-dam (intercooler grille).

Expect pricing of the Lancer Ralliart Turbo to be in the region of the Civic Type-R and the VW Golf GTI in most markets sometime next year.

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Wednesday, 19 December 2007

New BMW X6 goes into production

You are looking at BMW’s Sports Activity Coupe, a seemingly new class of vehicle from the performance-oriented folks at Munich. Acronymed as SAC, supposedly sportier and more coupe-esque than the regular X5 (SAV, Sports Activity Vehicle) – on which it is based, the new X6 will be considerably quicker too. Being a modern BMW (think: 335i), the new X6 comes with a choice of two diesel and two petrol engines, all turbocharged, three of 'em with twin blowers!

Turbodiesel variants starts with the X6 xDrive30d, fitted with BMW’s 3.0L turbocharged straight six diesel engine that punches out a maximum 232hp at 4000 rpm and wrenches a maximum torque of 520Nm, peaking constantly between 2000 and 2750 rpm. This ‘mildest’ form of an X6 sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.0secs, and marches on to a maximum velocity of 210 km/h.

Next, there’s the X6 xDrive35d, which is equipped with a 3.0L twin-turbo in-line six diesel churning out 282hp at 4400 rpm and a maximum torque of 550 Nm maintained between 1750 and 2250 rpm. This oil burner of an X6 accelerates from 0 to100 km/h in 6.9secs, on the way to a top whack of 236 km/h.

Petrol engine options include the highly renowned and award-winning 3.0L twin-turbo IL6 for the X6 xDrive35i, that pushes out 306bhp, available consistently between 5800 and 6250 rpm, with maximum torque of 400 Nm on tap from just 1300rpm, all the way to 5000 rpm. The X6 xDrive35i zips from 0-100 km/h in 6.7seconds with a Vmax of 240 km/h.

The chunky and tall top-of-the-line X6 xDrive50i will be as rapid on the go as the 335i Coupe, doing 5.4 seconds to the century and maxing out to an electronically limited 250km/h. It is propelled by a 4.4L twin-turbo V8 pushing out 407bhp at 5500 - 6400rpm, along with 600Nm of peak torque that stays accessible from 1800 to 4500rpm.

All X6s come with a six-speed automatic gearbox (with steering gear paddles) transferring power to the tarmac via BMW’s xDrive (AWD). The dynamic four-wheel drive system allows variable distribution of torque not just between the front and rear axles, but also between rear wheels.

Combined with BMW's Adaptive Drive - which provides active body roll control and damper adjustment - and a host of other electronic driving aids like DSC/DTC, EDC (blah! blah! blah!), the X6 should drive very much like any high performance coupe or sedans from the blue propeller marque.

However, For Wheels can’t help but ask where does the X6 fit in it all, with the M5, X5 and maybe even the M6. It is rumoured to cost in the region (sometime next year in Malaysia) of RM800k for the top-gun X6 4.4L with twin turbo, so wouldn’t you rather have that full-bodied M5? Or perhaps go for that upcoming Porsche Cayenne GTS?

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Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Colour coded Mazda2 (Demio): Cute and Funky!

Mazda Motor Co. will showcase their dimunitive Demio aka Mazda2 hatchback in colourful array at the 2008 Tokyo Auto Salon next month (January).

Three special editions with bright exterior paints of either metallic pink, blue and green (as pictured below) - with matching highlights on the seats, door trim, leather steering wheel, center console and gear lever surround - are very flattering to the Mazda2's fluid and tidy lines.

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2009 New Ford Focus RS

Click on image to enlarge
Ford has released the first teaser photo of the next-generation Ford Focus RS - a more wicked sibling of the Focus ST - which is expected to go on sale in 2009. To be powered by Volvo’s 2.5L turbocharged 5-cylinder petrol engine, the powerplant kicks out about 280hp and spins around 400Nm worth of torque. These will enable the new Focus RS to sprint from 0-100km/h in sub-6 seconds, likely with all-wheel drive.

Due to make its rounds at auto shows next year, the new Ford Focus RS will be inspired heavily by the original Escort RS and RS Cosworth.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Confirmed prices for new Nissan Grand Livina MPV!

Prices for the much-anticipated ASEAN MPV from Nissan are revealed ahead of its official launch, planned for 22nd December 2007.
Confirmed quotations obtained from an Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) showroom (on-the-road with insurance) are:

1.6 ST-L manual: RM82,800
1.6 ST-L auto: RM86,600
1.8 CVTC auto: RM95,300

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Proton Persona: An owner's review

By Peter Lee

Just recently, I drove my company’s brand new Proton Persona for 3 days. This is my personal and very frank views of the car. When PROTON designed the new PERSONA, it was never intended to be a performance car. It is targeted more to the family and therefore my review is focused on the many factors that make a good family car. With those criteria crystal clear, I shall review the car that I bought recently, and not a loaned tester/media unit from some PR company.

The PERSONA is definitely a nice car to drive. It’s comfortable, has very European suspension characteristics/feel, handles well and reasonably accurate to steer. Although I am an owner of the new (E92) 335i, I have no intentions (whatsover!) to compare and contrast the Persona with that BMW. Having said that, the engine is quite refined, with respectable power (for its class) and the automatic gearbox changes smooth enough for daily commute.

I would have given the PERSONA a 9 out of 10 rating if not for the following:

1) The brakes are HOPELESS. There is totally no feeling and the braking effectiveness leaves much to be desired. Are those shiny disc rotors all-around just for show?

2) The reverse sensor beep so softly that you practically have to strain your ears. Isn’t there an internal specification in PROTON for the number of Decibels that the beep has to be before you approve the vendor?

3) Once again, the glove compartment drawer does not sit flush with the rest of dashboard. Just like the good old 'Wira' days? Nevertheless, something is better than nothing (as in the Gen.2)

4) On the 2nd day of ownership, my car developed suspension creaking sound on practically every bump or undulations on the road - bloody irritating!

5) Who was the one who designed the CD/Radio cluster? It’s darn user-UNfriendly and the buttons are all so small, they’re a pain to press and operate. Any after-market audio head-unit would be better, I am sure.

What about these dash buttons? I don’t even know if I have selected rear demister (look at the photos). The illumination is so bad.

The rear view is so poor that I would rate it close to a Lamborghini Gallardo (I once had a ride in one). I found myself always looking at the rear hump of the car. Both rear headrests also blocked out roughly 25% of the driver’s rear view.

Incidentally, I had the opportunity to use the rear demister last night. It was so slow and could not clear the fogging effectively.

The rear seats are totally unsupportive and the backrest so upright for any practical long distance rear passengers comfort. And it looks more like a 2+2, rather than a family 5-seater sedan.

And what is this red paint over the nuts of the alloy wheels? Is this some kind of new automotive trend?

In my few days of owning the new Persona – a saviour Proton model that has chalked up nearly 30,000 units in sales up until now - I can only come to a sad conclusion.
Everyone knows that the suspension of the PERSONA was designed by Lotus Engineering, UK. That is why it’s so darn good in the ride and handling department.

In all honesty, everything else that have been designed in-house by PROTON and/or outsourced to its vendors in Malaysia still sucks…badly! The new Persona’ sore points, shortfalls and bugbears - all seem to be related to local design, sourcing and manufacturing. Pity.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Hyundai's latest Genesis range with RWD

Hyundai recently unveiled its new Genesis luxury sedan for the domestic Korean market, with worldwide premiere slated for Detroit Motor Show in 2008. Looking very much like a cross between a BMW 5-series and the Lexus GS, it has adopted a front engine, rear-wheel drive (FR) layout much like both the Teutonic and Japanese luxury makes as well.

The Genesis luxury sedan range starts with a 3.3L V6 version, followed by a 3.8L V6, while the flagship gets the all-new (Tau series) 4.6L V8 engine with 375hp delivered via a 6-speed auto ‘box. It remains to be seen whether this model will see the light of day in Malaysia, seeing that response has been far from lukewarm for the Hyundai Azera 3.3L locally.

Click on image to enlarge

Meanwhile, also in RWD configuration and destined to be the next generation Hyundai Tiburon/Hyundai Coupe, these images you see below are of the Genesis Coupe Concept. The all-new Hyundai Coupe will be offered with two engine options, a 2.0L turbocharged petrol 4-pot producing 215hp and a 3.8L V6 capable of 300hp. It will be intersting to see how it performs dynamically versus the Toyota Celica which the Hyundai Coupe tried ever so hard to copy in its first and second editions, now that it has that 'rare' rear-drive platform.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

BMW (E92) M3 Coupe for RM688,800 in Malaysia

BMW’s new (E92) M3 Coupe is now officially available from BMW Malaysia – via its dealers - for RM688,800 (sans insurance premium). Surprisingly, there is already a waiting list with ardent M-fan who has placed bookings since early March of this year! Despite a 6-speed manual version being the only option available now, with the twin-clutched DCT expected only by Q3 2008.

As most of you automotive enthusiasts and BMW fans alike would have known by now, the all-new M3 is powered by a manic-revving 4-litre V8 petrol engine punching out a maximum of 420bhp at 8300rpm. This, along with a maximum torque of 400Nm from a low 3000rpm through to 5600rpm, enables the coupe to rocket from 0 to 100km/h in only 4.8secs and marches on to an electronically-limited Vmax of 250 km/h.

By the time you read this, the waiting period for the new M3 – much like the delectable 335i coupe – would have stretched to one year or so in Malaysia.

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BMW Driver Training Malaysia

By Dr Long

Ah! Another safety driving course…this one conducted by the very same people who profess that their automobiles are “Ultimate Driving Machine” and gives “Sheer Driving Pleasure”. While my emotions were kept in check – having attended quite a few others Teutonic driving courses - I was pretty curious how these guys are going to convey all techniques and its associated driving dynamics using a monomorphic fleet of (E90) 325i.

In contrast, the Audi Quattro Driving Experience in 2005 had a mix of A6 and A8 quattros while the Porsche World Roadshow in Jan ‘07 had their 911 (997) variants, Boxsters, Cayman S and Cayennes. Even the recent Mercedes-Benz ASE 2007 had a spectrum of B170, C200K, C230 V6, E200K, E280, S280L and new S300L taken through different driving exercises. That said, the BMW Driver Training felt to-the-point with only 325i being used, driven and of course, abused. Inevitably, they were some product experience therein as well, as expected.

Fearing that I may be mobbed and devoured by BMW owners if they see me arriving in my Mercedes-Benz E200K - much like a wooly lamb entering a lions’ den - I had gone to the BMW Driver’s Training hitching a ride in Dan’s 325i. Sure enough, there were only BMWs clustered together in the Sepang F1 Circuit paddock area parking lot that day. I must commend BMW owners of being a united and passionately outspoken lot when it comes to their favourite ride, so you can imagine how unassuming I was trying to be, quietly blending into the background of their camaderie and bonding.

Without going into the specifics of all driving exercises, the compulsories of such safety driving event which took place were:

Ø Theory briefings on the physics and dynamics of steering, cornering, braking and acceleration. Safety features like ABS and DSC/DCT (BMW’s electronic vehicle stability program and traction control)
Ø Seating position and steering techniques
Ø Double slalom
Ø Brake, Steer and Release
Ø Emergency Lane Change
Ø Understeering
Ø Oversteering
Ø Slalom Competition

At the end of the BMW Driver Training Sunday, I must say that:

1) The whole BMW Driver Training was meticulously organised and had concise intermediate-level syllabus (Apparently, BMW Fahrer-Training standards are the same the world over)
2) The instructors i.e. Wong Kah Keen, Kevin Kung, Hammond Lai and Ivan Khong were excellent. Let’s just say local instructors understood us participants better somehow and were very patient with our varying degrees of skills and daringness.
3) Emergency braking aid like ABS needs a hard kick on the brake pedal to work best.
4) Safety electronics like DSC/DTC worked very well to keep the car from straying from intended driving path and/or spinning in acute driving emergencies i.e. reining in understeer and oversteer.
5) BMW 325i’ steering weight and accuracy, chassis strength and balance are impressive.

Last but not the least, can we have the taxi-ride or flying lap aka BMW 325i Track Fascination around Sepang F1 circuit some other day? (There was some motorcycle racing event which took the track on that ‘fateful’ day)

To all the BMW Driver Training' instructors, especially Hammond, go easy on that BMW’s 50:50 weight balance thingy (don’t have to keep repeating it lah!) and you guys are among the best!

*The writer expresses his sincere gratitude to BMW Malaysia for the BMW Driver Training experience.

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