joi, 30 iunie 2011

Mini Countryman Cooper D All4 (2011)

Build quality is a term beloved of automotive journalists. The problem is it's a broad term, easily applied to everything from the thunk of a German door shutting to the flimsiness of a French front wing. There you go - I've gone and done it again. Fallen into the usual stereotyping of nationalities' automotive products.
Which brings me to my Mini Countryman which, despite the Mini customers' love of Union Jacks, is built in Austria. The German BMW genes show through strongly in the car, which feels decidedly German, or at the very least bordering on it.
For a car that starts at £16,000 the Countryman is a strikingly well designed and bolted together product. If you start poking around the cabin you will find weaker, cheaper bits here and there, but the overall impression and perception is high grade. The seats wouldn't look out of place in a £50k car.
Everything works, nothing squeaks, nothing rattles and nothing gives you cause to doubt that's the way it will remain. Outside it's much the same story. The slabs of wheelarch plastics beloved of Mini designers are always a weak point. My rear wheelarch has already popped slightly out of place and after a few years this material fades, needing liberal applications of Back-to-black to retard the ageing process.
I know this because I've already owned my own Mini Cooper S for a few years. More noticeable on our Countryman are the larger panel gaps around the bonnet and headlights, but these seem to be a necessity of the ambitious design rather than any build fault.

Going back to my initial stereotypes, I have to admit to being rather impressed with the interior materials and finish on similarly sized Peugeots and Renaults recently. But oh those flimsy plastic front wings! The French could still learn a thing or two from the Germans, it seems.

Peugeot 3008 HYbrid4

Peugeot will launch the new 3008 HYbrid4 crossover in autumn 2011 as the world's first diesel-electric hybrid car - and it's the first in a string of hybrid cars coming from Peugeot and Citroen.
The 3008 HYbrid4 will be followed by a brace of 508 hybrids in spring 2011, and engineers have told CAR that any car on the mid-sized PF2 and full-sized PF3 platforms can use the same innovative electric 4wd architecture.
Although pricey at £26,995, Peugeot expects to sell 10,000 of the 3008 HYbrid4 in its first full year and the parent group PSA Peugeot Citroen is targeting 100,000 annual sales of hybrids as soon as 2015.

Peugeot has picked its mid-market crossover the 3008 to premiere its first hybrid engine. PSA's hybrid solution is clever because it's a rear-axle application that can be applied to most products in the Peugeot and Citroen stable from 308 upwards.
The HYbrid4 system bolts on to the rear axle, adding a 37bhp electric motor to drive the rear wheels. This enables full zero-emissions electric driving around town, offering a range of up to three miles and speeds of up to 30mph silently.
But most of the time the electric drivetrain assists the driven front axle's 163bhp 2.0-litre HDI. What's clever is that the HYbrid4 system is tuned to work with the front wheels and bolts on to the existing architecture, rather than requiring a bespoke hybrid drivetrain as with the standalone Toyota Prius or Honda CR-Z.
Pretty damn efficient. The 3008 HYbrid4 is a bulky car already, with five full-sized seats in a crossover package - but the diesel-electric version is capable of a claimed 74.4mpg and 99g/km of CO2 when fitted with the smallest wheels.
The battery charges under regenerative braking, but by 2014 Peugeot Citroen will offer a plug-in hybrid model as a separate option. It will be equipped with lithium ion batteries, not nickel metal hydride cells as in the 2011 3008 HYbrid4 model.

miercuri, 29 iunie 2011

Infiniti G37

Infiniti G37 information: everything you need to know if you own a Infiniti G37, are thinking of buying one or just want to find out more about the G37 coupé, saloon and convertible.

The Infiniti G37 is the cheapest model in Nissan’s upmarket premium car range. Available as a saloon, coupé or convertible – each powered by a 3.7-litre V6 or, in future, a diesel engine.

Infiniti EX

Initi EX information: everything you need to know if you own an Infiniti EX car, are thinking of buying one or just want to find out more about the EX37 and EX30d. 
The Infiniti EX is a mid-sized crossover to challenge the likes of the BMW X3. High standard equipment and a choice of V6 petrol or diesel power.

marți, 28 iunie 2011

Salon Prive Ladies day (2011) Part II

Check out the struts on the clamshell! 
The even quieter Rolls-Royce 102EX. I've never sat in such a hushed car - perfect for wafting around Salon Prive in
Don't pour 95 RON in here! You can in fact charge the electric Rolls on an induction plate, without the need for any wires
My view from the passenger seat as we creep silently around Syon Park. That leather floor is worryingly posh - I'm worried my shoes may scuff it...
Look: 0L/100km. That's the sort of fuel consumption that most Rolls-Royce owners can only dream of 
This has to be by far the oddest thing at Salon Prive 2011. A cross between a car and minibus, there is enough floor space for a picnic in the back of this Dymaxion
Train carriage meets garden shed meets VW camper van. Love it
Looks more plane than car. Where's the rudder?
Time for an instrumental
This must be some kind of wind-up...
 Yes, it's a wind-up car. Marvellously pointless
The bravery award goes to the Rolls-Royce that went for a dip. Apparently the Prince of Afghanastan was holidaying by the shores of Lake Leman when he overshot the bend near St Gingolph and plunged 60 feet into the lake, according to a Swiss newspaper in 1939. All survived to tell the tale
Tellingly, this Rolls wasn't let anywhere near the water at Syon Park

luni, 27 iunie 2011

Salon Prive Ladies day (2011) Part I

Just back from Ladies Day at Salon Prive 2011, writes Sarah-Jayne Harrison. Like Ascot, the women get dressed up and there's a parade lap of the concourse for the best dressed ladies of the day, but we somehow didn't qualify. So instead of posing in exotica, we took some snaps of Salon Prive 2011 for this gallery. For the last four years Salon Prive has been held at the Hurlingham Club on the banks of the Thames, but this year it's moved to a new venue: Syon Park near Chiswick. Enjoy the exotic, new and old, weird and wonderful cars in our gallery below.

Lamborghini Aventador
The three musketeers outside Syon House: a trio of Lamborghinis. The burnt orange Aventador has an amazing presence compared with the Superleggera and Gallardo tucked behind. What's the collective noun for Lambos? A crease? 
Lamborghini Aventador
Was breakfast marmalade the inspiration for the Aventador's wonderful paint job? We like
Lamborghini Aventador
The view most drivers will see of the new Lamborghini Aventador. Check out the letterbox exhaust pipe 
Venom Hennessey
Hennessey Venom GT made its debut at Salon Prive. Might worry the Lambo lot: the Venom sprints from 0-62mph in just 2.5 secondsVenom Hennessey
Scaffolding and Venomous motive force aplenty
Venom Hennessey
I thought this was supposed to be Ladies Day at Salon Prive 2011?

Venom Hennessey

Infiniti signs F1 deal with Red Bull Racing

 Infiniti is going racing. Sort of. Nissan's luxury arm has signed a high-profile two-year partnership deal with current F1 champions Red Bull Racing. The move, initiated at the end of 2010, will see Infiniti become a key sponsor of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber's team in what the company calls 'a unique triumvirate' with Red Bull Racing and its Alliance partner Renault.

The liaison will see Infiniti maintain a technology-sharing relationship with RBR and Renault in 2011 and 2012, boosting the company's global profile and visibility. Renault will continue to supply RBR with its engines over the next two years; instead Infiniti will focus heavily on the hybrid technology RBR will be developing over the next 24 months as the F1 grid prepares itself for the downsizing of engines, forced induction and the introduction of electrical assistance systems in the 2013 season.

This paves the way for the introduction of the production version of the petrol-electric Etheria concept car Infiniti will unveil at the Geneva show today, which should also (and rather neatly) arrive in 2013.

The 2011 RBR cars will feature a new Infiniti logo'd livery, as will the driver and team uniforms, and the entire F1 team will be kitted out with Infiniti cars from the current range of EX and FX models.

Reigning F1 champ Sebastian Vettel will be on Infiniti's stand at the Geneva show today when the deal is formally. Click here to see CAR's coverage of the 2011 Geneva motor show.

vineri, 24 iunie 2011

Infiniti G Coupe IPL (2010)

Infiniti has unveiled its first IPL (or Infiniti Performance Line) package, a sports-focussed trim upgrade for the G37 Coupe. Think of the IPL pack as the equivalent of BMW’s M Sport or Audi’s S-line kits, and if it proves popular, there’ll be more kits (and even bespoke cars) to come.

No, not yet – everything is still in the very early stages of development. But rather than follow Lexus’s example (launch a bespoke car, the ISF, followed by F Sport kits later) Infiniti is launching the much cheaper sporting upgrades first. If it proves popular (and if the economy improves too) then we’ll see IPL upgrades available for other Infinitis. And if company bosses can make the numbers work, we’ve heard from Infiniti sources that it would be keen to expand IPL to build sports cars to rival M, S and RS and AMG models.

'IPL was conceived to create a new premium performance envelope, going beyond equipment upgrades to accelerate the very soul of Infiniti’s Inspired Performance,' said Infiniti vice president Ben Poore. 'IPL brings all the elements together, styling harmonized with performance, exhaust note with acceleration feel, ride comfort and confident handling. It’s the perfect formula for unmatched driving exhilaration.'

Infiniti has unveiled its first IPL kit for its most sporting car, the G37 Coupe. There are new front and rear bumpers, black surrounds for the fog lights, more sculpted side sills, a little rear spoiler and some chrome-tipped exhausts. Inside there are more supportive front seats.
The IPL kit isn’t just about the visuals though. An ECU tweak has added an extra 18bhp for a total of 343bhp (400rpm further up the rev range, at 7400rpm), along with 276lb ft (up 6lb ft). A new exhaust helps reduce back pressure, adding some extra noise as well, and the IPL G Coupe also features 19-inch alloys and performance-focussed Bridgestone tyres. Finally, the front and rear springs have been stiffened up, the shocks absorbers have been adjusted, the steering is sharper, there are upgraded brakes and a rear ‘diff.

Prices for the IPL kit have yet to be announced, and currently the package is only available in North America, though availability for other markets is under consideration.

Lotus Evora S (2010)

This is the new Lotus Evora S, and with the help of a supercharger, its 3.5-litre V6 has been boosted from the standard Evora’s 276bhp and 252lb ft, to 345bhp and 295lb ft.

Enough, Lotus hopes, to shake off criticism that the Evora just isn’t quick enough; it’s that car’s only real fault, so has the extra power turned the new Evora S into the perfect performance car? Read on for CAR’s first drive of the new 2010 Lotus Evora S.
That Toyota-sourced, 3.5-litre V6 has been fitted with a supercharger, which changes the character of the car. Power arrives higher up the rev range, while torque swells lower on the tacho. A glance at the torque curve reveals loads more mid-range grunt, the top speed climbs 10 notches to 172mph, but there are downsides too: the kerbweight goes up by 67kg; the fuel consumption figure drops from 33.2 to 28.3mpg; and the CO2 output is bumped up from 199 to 235g/km. Price? Up from £48,550 to £57,550, an increase of £9k.
But the Sports Ratio gearbox, which 90% of Evora customers already plump for, accounts for £1550 of that cost. And the Evora S also comes as standard with the Evora’s £1000 Sport Pack, which adds a Sport button – letting you sharpen the throttle response, raise the rev limit from 6800 to 7200rpm, and dial back the electronic angels – plus that big, black diffuser, cross-drilled and vented brakes, an uprated engine oil cooling system, and a switchable sports exhaust.

Take these extra goodies into account and the power increase only costs £6450, or just under £94 per bhp – not bad when Porsche will charge you nearly £375 per extra pony if you opt for the Carrera S’s Powerkit.
The new Evora S isn’t just a supercharger upgrade with a few extra options slapped on. The S – along with every other Lotus sold in Europe from the start of 2011 – now comes with DPM (Dynamic Performance Management), a suite of electronic aids developed with Bosch, including ABS, EBD, traction control, ESP and an electronic differential lock (there’s no proper locking mechanical rear diff), but you’ll be pleased to hear the last three items can all be deactivated.
Lotus has also increased the stiffness of the suspension bushes (in all locations at the back, but in only two places at the front, to be precise), thickened the rear anti-roll bar by a scant 0.5mm, revised the dampers (but not the springs), tweaked the rear suspension geometry, and fitted new front wishbones to increase the castor angle. The result, Lotus claims, is less roll, better stability, the same excellent ride quality, and, as if it wasn’t good enough already, improved steering feel.

  •  How much? £57,550.
  • Engine: 3456cc 24v supercharged V6, 345bhp @ 7000rpm, 295lb ft @ 4500rpm.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive.
  • Performance: 4.8sec 0-62mph, 172mph, 28.3/27.7mpg, 235/239g/km CO2.

joi, 23 iunie 2011

Lotus Evora (2009)

A couple of reasons. First, a £47,500 price puts it squarely between the two Porsches on price, and secondly, buyers have the option of adding a couple of tiny rear seats for a £2375 premium. The Evora is the world’s only mid-engined 2+2 and certainly much prettier than the last volume effort, Ferrari’s ungainly Mondial (although we’ve got a soft spot for its wedgy Bertone predecessor, the 308 GT4).

Like a 911’s rear chairs, they’re no use for normal-sized adults other than for a quick trip round the corner. But they’re perfect for kids. The Evora’s wheelbase is the same regardless of configuration – if you haven’t got kids and don’t need the seats you save money and get some extra luggage space.
The chassis is all-new. It’s still made from bonded aluminium extrusions but this time it comes in three parts: the central tub, a front frame and a rear frame. Splitting the chassis like this has huge benefits when it comes to repairing crash damage. In fact, when Lotus was conducting crash tests, it ended up not using a couple of the central tubs it had brought along.

After stoving in the front or back end, engineers just unbolted the subframe at the requisite end, fitted a new one to the undamaged tub and moved on to the next impact. No wonder Lotus claims the Evora is 2.5 times stiffer than an Elise.

  • How much? £47,500.
  • Engine: 3456cc 24v V6, 276bhp @ 6400rpm, 252lb ft @ 4700rpm.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive.
  • Performance: 5.1sec 0-62mph, 162mph, 33mpg, 205g/km CO2.

Lotus Evora IPS auto (2011)

The new Lotus Evora IPS has a very simple mission in life. New Lotus management are busy patching up their product range to expand Hethel’s footprint around the world – and much of the world prefers their cars to be automatics.
Buyers in America and Asia, in particular, are likely to pick the two-pedal option, and Lotus predicts the new Evora IPS will account for 60% of all base Evora sales globally. Sound business, then.

Get ready to wince: Intelligent Precision Shift. That’s Lotus speak for the Aisin-supplied U660E six-speed torque converter automatic, borrowed from the Toyota Camry. Lotus has totally rewritten the control systems, however, to give it a more sporting edge.
Although currently only available on the basic 276bhp Evora, insiders admit it could be offered on the supercharged Evora S in future; the slusher can handle up to 400NM, coincidentally exactly the 295lb ft peak torque available in the S.
The Evora IPS spews out 9g/km more of CO2, lifting emissions from 199g/km to 208g/km (should you be tax sensitive). Fuel consumption nibbles a tad higher to 32.1mpg and the kerbweight climbs 50 kilos to 1436kg.
It’s no slouch, though. The sprint to 60mph takes 5.3sec and top speed is capped at 155mph. Expect to pay £1800 more for the IPS.

The Evora is one of our favourite sports coupes and it still looks crisp and fresh three years after launch at 2008’s London motor show. It remains a rare sight on our roads – they’ve only sold 2000 in the two years it’s been on sale. Which suggests it’s being badly marketed or the Evora, which starts at £49,600 and climbs to just over £60k, is too expensive.
Clamber across those wide sills (access is only marginally better than an Elise) and the cabin itself is well packaged. The seat and wheel adjust plenty and it’s actually quite roomy in the front with a good smattering of stowage spaces. Ours is equipped with the +2 option which is frankly ludicrous and I just can’t imagine even the smallest children feeling comfortable back there. Although our test car is well built, there is no getting away from the cheap plasticky window and mirror switches and that rubbish (albeit improved) aftermarket touchscreen sat-nav and entertainment system. Lotus is promising some pretty extensive improvements in the Evora’s perceived quality in the next 24 months.
There’s no stick shift, just a pair of very cool, black anodysed metal paddles attached to the wheel and P, R, N and D buttons on the centre console. The Evora IPS is a full automatic, but in Normal mode paddles over-ride gearchanges for 10 seconds before reverting to auto. Select Sport mode and you’ll be in full manual with no interference even at the redline. It will shift down to first at junctions, however.

  • How much? £51,400.
  • Engine: 3456cc V6, 276bhp @ 6400rpm, 258lb ft @ 4700rpm.
  • Transmission: Six-speed auto, rear-wheel drive.
  • Performance: 155mph, 5.3sec 0-60mph, 32.1mpg, 208g/km.

miercuri, 22 iunie 2011

Mazda MX-5 2.0 (2009)

This is Mazda’s new 2009 MX-5 – and in a world exclusive, CAR has driven the facelifted MX-5 seven months ahead of its UK debut to bring you the first road test of what is still the world’s most popular sports car. The news is all good…
Visually, the roadster’s petite styling has been given a small but useful dose of aggression by that new five-point lower air intake, which aligns the MX-5 with Mazda’s recent 2, 6 and current RX-8. Those rakish front foglamp housings and new bumper also beef up the new MX-5's visage, as do the more prominent side-skirts.

At the rear there’s a new bumper and more prominent taillights. The individual changes may be minor but collectively they effectively update Moray Callum’s original design with an added dash of brio.

Again, it’s a raft of minor tweaks to the cosy two-seater cabin. The dials are new, as are the grippier seats – thank you, Recaro – the climate control dials are now silvered, the shiny black strip running through the dash is now a matt silver, the Bose stereo is now even more powerful and the hugely annoying door-mounted cup holders that dug into your knee no matter what driving position you adopted have been ditched.

Oh, and more effective insulation means the Coupe version – the one with the folding metal roof – is now a little quieter than before.

  • How much? £18,000.
  • Engine: 1999cc 16v 4cyl, 160bhp @ 700rpm, 138lb ft @ 5000rpm.
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive.
  • Performance: 7.9sec 0-62mph, 131mph, 36.7mpg, 183g/km.