Friday, 17 December 2010

Tested: Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2

Some cars have tendencies to look fast even when standing still. They can also set your pulse racing just by staring at them through your slightly dilated pupils. A result of simply being awed, just like a primary school kid lost in a mega toy store. A Lamborghini is one of those sportscar - especially in the louder shades of orange, yellow or green. Think of the Miura, Countach and Diablo from the yesteryears. Imagine the latest Murcielago and you will get an inkling of the fascinating sportscars heritage of Lamborghini.

Back in 1963, Ferrucio Lamborghini actually established his very own breakaway brand after leaving the folds of Ferrari. Since then, Automobili Lamborghini has taken a more passionate and ever sporting stance, as we were told at the Shanghai International Circuit recently. One of the offspring of the luxury automotive ‘cult’ from Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy that professes fascinating design, technological capability and supreme driving dynamics is the Lamborghini Gallardo.

On that exciting morning, a combination of cold, misty and rainy weather resulted in a wet track. Along with the high-powered V10 driving just the rear axle, we had fun in the Lamborghini Gallardos the way the friendly guys from Automobili Lamborghini intended it to be. The track day event saw some 50 members of the media from nine countries including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Australia get behind the wheel and experience the raging bull that is the LP550-2.

In Lamborghini speak, LP is ‘sexy’ Italian lingo for Longitudinale Posteriore, i.e. mid-mounted engine sitting longitudinally just in front of the rear axle. While the numerical ‘550’ refers to the power output in hp and the suffix ‘2’ means two-wheel drive, in this case both the rear wheels. A look at the cars we have lined up for us to sample beggars the belief that the Gallardo model has been around since 2003, yet still looking sharp, very sporty and refreshingly sleek after some mild bodywork restyling (Reventon-style front air-intakes) in 2008.

Lead by Lamborghini drive instructors, we were allowed three laps to test the car hard and fast around the rather slippery circuit. Prior to this, we were given a demo lap around the track. Although the solo sessions were seemingly brief with the LP550-2, it cannot be denied that this Lamborghini is a very involving super sportscar. On the Shanghai International Circuit, the glorious and sonorous howl of its 5.2-litre V10 rumbled menacingly down the main straight. So much so it sounded intimidating to us as spectators who were waiting for our turn to drive at the paddock section. Getting into the driver’s seat of the LP550-2 offered a different perspective altogether.

After flooring the throttle on the straight, a quick succession of hard braking and downshifts is executed to negotiate the right-handed turn 1. Repeated rituals were obligatory for turn 2 and so forth on the circuit. Getting impatient with the throttle while going out of a bend with an off-cambered gradient, we easily got the rear stepping out.

We learnt that it pays to be especially smooth and easy on the throttle as well as the steering of the LP550-2 in order to gain pace as we made progress around the track.

The e-gear of the Gallardo handled downshifts brilliantly despite being a manu-matic single-clutch set up. We were doing upshifts as well – manually via the steering paddle shifters - without ever lifting off the throttle just like our professional instructor did. In no manner did the transmission protested. Brilliant. The interior looked and felt decidedly upmarket, yet snug and conducive for hard driving. Alas, if only we have more than the 3 laps accorded to be able to connect deeper to this purer rear-wheel drive version of the Gallardo range. It is also heartening to note that the LP550-2 has as standard equipment, a rear axle differential - with a locking effect of up to 45 percent limited slip - that ensures better transition of torque between both rear wheels.

The purity conveyed by its steering – unclouded by engine power driving the front axle - serves to synergise with the chassis balance that is just simply brilliant. Body control was taut mostly with nary a hint of pitching or body roll despite the constant load changes as we gunned the LP550-2 around the circuit. However, it certainly requires a higher level of skill, as well as more commitment to return the driving satisfaction that you may be looking for. But yet there is no tantrums, it is much forgiving with traction control (which can be switched off in CORSA mode), limited slip differential and vehicle stability systems (ESP et al) lurking in the background. In essence, the sports coupe exudes a competence that inspires you to try driving harder – with more speed and finesse. To sum it up, this more ‘basic’ Gallardo presented us with an eye-opening track experience. It demonstrated that less could indeed be more in those looking for undiluted dynamics of having 550 naturally-aspirated horses – and 540 Nm - all to the rear wheels of an undyingly passionate Italian masterpiece.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Mitsubishi Lancer vs Proton Inspira

The images below have ended up in my mailbox recently.
Enjoy them in a lighter vein...thanks and regards to fellow blogger Damien!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Peugeot 207 Sedan Extreme Test

Peugeot via Nasim has done a promo footage for its new 207 sedan for the Malaysian market.
You will probably never see it being driven this hard on private and public roads in the near- or enjoy the video clips below!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Hyundai's first full-EV: 'BLUEON'

Hyundai Motor Co. today unveiled the company’s and Korea’s - first Full Speed Electric Vehicle (FSEV) named ‘BlueOn,’ opening a new era in eco-friendly technology. We are proud to introduce the world to BlueOn, which was fully developed in Korea and displays Hyundai’s latest technological advancements,” said Dr. Hyun-Soon Lee, Vice Chairman at Hyundai’s Corporate R&D Center. “Consumers’ interests and demand for eco-friendly cars are rising and securing such advanced technology is critical in becoming an industry leader. Hyundai is dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint and satisfying market needs.” 
Hyundai unveiled the car at the Blue House yesterday, in the presence of Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and Ministers from the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and Ministry of Environment. During the unveiling ceremony, President Lee and Hyundai’s Vice Chairman Lee test-drove one of the new vehicles together on the Blue House premises. 

Test Fleets 

Hyundai invested a total of about 40 billion won over a one-year period to create BlueOn, which is based on Hyundai’s small hatchback, i10. The electric version of i10 was first unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009. 
Beginning with today’s ceremony, Hyundai is planning to provide 30 BlueOn vehicles as test fleets to various government organizations in Korea by October. These vehicles will be mainly used to help develop and test charging infrastructures for about two years, until August 2012. Furthermore, these cars will be used for promotional purposes, starting with the upcoming G20 summit, to boost Korea’s eco-friendly image. 
The name ‘BlueOn’ derives from Hyundai’s Blue Drive strategy, which encompasses the company’s eco-friendly products and technologies. The word ‘On’ symbolizes “switch on.” 

Innovative LiPoly Batteries, Virtual Sound

BlueOn has a compact body with an overall length of 3,585 mm, overall width of 1,595 mm and overall height of 1,540 mm. It is equipped with a highly efficient electric motor powered by an innovative 16.4 kWh LiPoly (lithium-ion polymer) battery technology that offers numerous advantages over other battery types. BlueOn boasts a maximum power of 81ps(61kW) and maximum torque of 21.4kg/m(210Nm).
As pure electric vehicles operate only with the battery and electric motor, the battery’s lifespan and storage capacity determines the vehicle’s performance. Hyundai chose LiPoly batteries because compared with previous nickel-metal hydride batteries (NiMH), LiPoly delivers the same power with 30 percent less weight and 40 percent less volume, boosting efficiency and leaving more interior space for passengers.
Furthermore, the car has been designed to prevent overcharging and collision-related safety issues. Hyundai also conducted hundreds of thousands of kilometers’ worth of endurance testing to secure safety. BlueOn boasts a maximum speed of 130km/h and 0-100 km/h is achieved in 13.1 seconds, better than some gasoline models in the same class.
BlueOn also features a Virtual Engine Sound System (VESS), which creates an artificial sound for the safety of pedestrians, as electric vehicles make little to no sound when driving at low speeds.


BlueOn can travel as much as 140 km on a single charge. It also accommodates dual recharging methods: a 220V household power and a 380V industrial-strength power, which promises quick recharging speeds. Under the household power, the battery will be fully recharged within six hours. Under the quick charge method, the battery can be recharged to about 80 percent of its capacity within 25 minutes. Hyundai will collaborate with the Seoul Metropolitan Government and other government agencies to build recharging facilities.
In addition, the engine-driven components were electrified so that the electric motor-driven power steering, electric water pump and regenerative brake system could be adapted to BlueOn. Furthermore, for the driver’s convenience, an advanced telematics system showing the charge status and location of recharging stations is installed. A 4.2-inch TFT LCD Supervision Cluster that provides voice guidance has also been installed.
Hyundai plans to expand its manufacturing capabilities for BlueOn next year, carrying out test productions and making about 2,500 units by the end of 2012.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

NST-Maybank Car of The Year 2010: COTY 2U CARnival

A COTY 2U CARnival will be one of the highlights of the New Straits Times/Maybank Car of the Year Awards 2010.

This was announced by New Straits Times Sdn Bhd Group Editor Datuk Syed Nadzri Syed Harun at the media launch of the New Straits Times/Maybank “Car of the Year” (COTY) 2010 held at the Peugeot Blue Box Showroom in Glenmarie recently.

“This inaugural event, to be held from November 20 – 21, is to present to the public the full line-up of all the 60 nominated vehicles for this year’s Car of the Year Awards."

“It is also targeted to bring Malaysian motorists, car models launched in Malaysia for Malaysian roads and car manufacturers together in a celebration of passion for motoring,” said Datuk Syed Nadzri.

“There will also be test drives, a defensive driving course, mini workshops on car safety, In-Car Entertainment (ICE) and Security Rating Awards at this fun-filled family CARnival,” Datuk Syed Nadzri said.

Maybank, Malaysia’s premier banking group and a leading player in automobile financing, is the official title sponsor for the COTY Awards for the fourth consecutive year.

“The Malaysian automotive industry is heading for a record breaking year in sales. With improved confidence of both consumers and businesses, automobile manufacturers are already experiencing greater demand for even better models in the coming year,” said Ashraf Ali Abdul Kadir, Head, Consumer Finance Maybank.

“As an automobile financier, Maybank too benefits from this growth as demand for financing will increase in tandem with the industry. This has already been obvious over the last year, in which we registered automobile loan growth of 12% for the year ended June 2010. This is the fourth consecutive year of double digit growth which incidentally parallels the period we have been title sponsor of the NST-Maybank Car of the Year Awards,” said Ashraf Ali.

Now in its ninth year, COTY is the country’s first motoring award started in 2002 by Cars, Bikes & Trucks, the motoring section of the New Sunday Times, to acknowledge achievements within the motoring industry.

A panel of 9 judges comprising of motoring journalists and other distinguished personalities will be testing over 60 new and substantially facelifted models classified into 13 categories.

New cars launched between November 2009 and October 2010 qualify for COTY.

The evaluation criteria includes styling, value for money, comfort and ergonomics, performance, driving characteristics, safety, emotional appeal and after sales service.

The highest scoring vehicle in each category wins the award for “Best in Class”. The Overall Car of the Year will then be selected from the list of 13 category winners.

The annual award is endorsed and supported by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA).

The COTY Gala Awards Night will be held on November 26 at The Saujana, Kuala Lumpur. More than 150 top automotive figures are expected to grace the event.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Hyundai Tucson Awarded 5-Star EURO NCAP Rating

Euro NCAP, the independent vehicle safety organization, has announced that Hyundai’s new ix35 (also known as Tucson) compact SUV has been awarded the maximum five-star safety rating in its rigorous crash-test assessment program. The result places the ix35 (Tucson) as one of the safest vehicles in its class, and included a segment-best score for the ‘child occupant protection’ category.

The ix35 (Tucson) is the third Hyundai vehicle in a row to achieve a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, following on from the top ratings achieved by i20 supermini and i30 hatchback.

The C-segment SUV received a class-leading score of 88% for child occupants, scoring well in tests with both 18-month-old and three–year-old dummies. The test score for adult occupants was 90%, and the safety assist features earned a score of 71%.

Electronic stability control, which is standard on all models, and a seatbelt reminder system played a key role in the ix35’s (Tucson) score in the safety assist category. Hyundai’s focus on occupant safety was highlighted with high scores in the front and rear impact tests, with a stable compartment providing good protection in the event of a crash.

Allan Rushforth, Vice President of Hyundai Motor Europe said, “Receiving a five star crash test rating is testament to our commitment to providing customers with vehicles of superior quality and top-class safety. European drivers have very high demands, and our design and engineering teams at our European R&D centre have created a car, which matches such expectations.