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17 Feb, 2012
Peugeot 208 GTi

Ditching the unloved RC badge and reverting to GTi across Europe, the new Peugeot 208 GTi wants to repeat the glory days of 205 GTi. Its performance is guaranteed by a lightweight chassis (as on all 208s) and a 200hp 1.6THP that comes straight from the RCZ coupe. Handling is enhanced by widened tracks (up 36mm both front and rear), 18-inch wheels and larger brakes.

16 Feb, 2012
Ferrari California improved

Ferrari has introduced a small revision to California. Output of its 4.3-liter V8 is lifted by 30 horsepower and 14 lbft to 490 hp and 372 lbft, thanks to a revised exhaust manifold and ECU. Meanwhile, kerb weight is reduced by 30 kilograms due to an improved chassis fabrication technique which can use thinner gauge aluminum without hurting rigidity. 0-60 mph is now quoted at 3.7 seconds, 0.2 sec faster than before.

The suspensions have been modified, too. Its Delphi magnetorheological adaptive dampers have been upgraded to Gen III, reducing internal friction and halving response time. The springs get 15% stiffer. The new steering rack is geared 10 percent quicker.

16 Feb, 2012
New Kia Cee'd

Kia has released more pictures of its second generaiton Cee'd, the C-segment family hatch that competes with Golf, Focus, Astra etc in European market. While the car keeps its already generous wheelbase of 2650 mm, it gets slightly longer, wider and lower. More chrome delivers a more premium feel.

The interior is revealed for the first time. It looks pretty attractive.

We have to wait until next month's Geneva motor show to see its engine lineup and full technical specifications.

15 Feb, 2012
Audi RS4 in Avant form only

You might remember the original Audi RS4 was available exclusively in the form of estate, or in Audi's word, Avant. The second generation RS4 expanded to also sedan. However, it seems that most buyers prefer BMW M3 and Mercedes C63 when it comes to 4-door, so the RS4 Avant has always been outselling its 4-door sibling by a large margin. As a result, Audi simply ditches the 4-door in the third generation RS4.

That decision might be right from business point of view, but aesthetically the new RS4 Avant is less convincing. Its cargo-volume-optimizing shape is no where as sporty as the original car, despite those pronounced fenders.

Mechanically, the car is inseparable from the RS5 coupe. Both cars share the same high-revving 4.2-liter V8 (450 hp, 317 lbft and 8250 rpm redline), the same 7-speed S-tronic gearbox, the same Quattro system (crown-gear self-locking diff, 40:60 torque split default), active Sport differential, DRC adaptive damping system (hydraulically linking diagonal wheels), same monster-size brakes (dual-cast or optional ceramic) and same rubbers as well (265/35ZR19). That should not be a surprise, as A5 is the coupe version of A4. The RS4 Avant should be slightly heavier than the 1725 kg RS5, so its 0-60 mph acceleration is a tenth slower at 4.5 seconds. Top speed is limited to 174 mph.

15 Feb, 2012
Renault Twingo RS facelift

This ugly duck is the facelifted Renault Twingo RS. Power still comes from the existing 133 hp 1.6-liter 16V.

13 Feb, 2012

The new BMW M6 is every bit as we expected - heavier, more powerful yet 30 percent more frugal that its V10-powered predecessor. The new S63B44Tu 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 comes straight from the new M5. It features Bi-Vanos, cross-bank twin-turbocharging, direct injection and Valvetronic to produce 560 horsepower from 6000-7000 rpm and 501 lbft of torque from 1500-5750 rpm. In conjunction with the M5's 7-speed M-DCT twin-clutch gearbox, the big coupe is capable to sprint from rest to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, or a tenth quicker than its saloon sibling. Top speed is regulated at either 155 mph or 190 mph, depending on whether M-Driver option is ticked.

Tipping the scale at 1850 kg, the coupe is a massive 140 kg heavier than its predecessor - hardly surprising as the standard 6-Series is also much heavier than the old car. The Cabriolet version of M6 weighs 1980 kg, heavier than an Aston Martin Rapide. That is obviously overweight for a 2+2. BMW mentioned many lightweight materials used, such as aluminum doors and bonnet, thermoplastic fascia and front fenders and glass-fiber boot lid, but doesn't the lesser 6-Series also get all these? In fact, the only weight saving item exclusive to the M6 is the carbon-fiber roof panel, yet that feature is carried over from the old M6, although it is now molded in double-bubble shape.

There are a number of key enhancement to the chassis. Firstly, the rear suspension subframe is now bolted rigidly (rather than via rubber bushings) to the chassis in order to sharpen response. Some aluminum components of the suspensions are now made by forging. Adaptive damping is retained but active anti-roll bars are not available to the M car. 4-wheel steering is also skipped, as the computer-controlled Active M-differential is more effective to enhance traction and manage understeer / oversteer. Besides, the tracks on the M6 are 30 mm wider than those on lesser 6-Series.

The standard 19-inch alloy wheels are shod with 265/40ZR19 and 295/35ZR19 tires. The standard brakes consist of 400/396 mm compound discs (steel discs with aluminum hubs) and 6-pot calipers. Optional carbon-ceramic discs measure 410 and 396 mm in diameter, saving 19.4 kg and requiring 20-inch wheels to fit.

All in all, the new M6 brings little surprise. Its main rivals will be Jaguar XKR-S, new generation Mercedes SL63 AMG, Bentley Continental GT V8 and Maserati GranTurismo / GranCabrio.

11 Feb, 2012
Audi TT RS plus

As implied by its name, TT RS plus is the higher performance version of the already fast TT RS. Its 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbo engine gets revised intake manifolds and higher boost pressure to produce an extra 20 hp and 11 lbft of torque, making up 360 hp and 343 lbft. This cuts its 0-60 mph time by 0.3 seconds to 4.0 seconds for DSG or 4.2 seconds for manual gearbox. Top speed is still limited to 174 mph.

Modifications to the chassis are quite modest - stiffer suspensions, larger 19-inch wheels and more aggressive (255/35ZR) tires are the major changes. Disappointingly, the car gets no diet, keeping its kerb weight at 1450 kg, although the door mirrors are now made of carbon-fiber.

11 Feb, 2012
Aston Martin V12 Zagato

We saw this car in concept form last year. Now the production car arrives. The V12 Zagato is a joint development between Aston Martin and the famed Italian coachbuilder. It is based on the existing V12 Vantage, powered by the same 510 hp / 420 lbft 5.9-liter V12 and rides on the same short-wheelbase version of VH platform. The chassis is enclosed with aluminum skins hand-beaten and polished by Zagato's old craftsmen.

Contrary to earlier prediction, the cabin is not striped out, preserving much of the luxury features of the standard car, just with some different trims and new seats. As a result, the car weighs the same as V12 Vantage, i.e. 1680 kg. No wonder it quotes the same performance figures - 190 mph and 0-60 mph in 4.1 sec.

The selling point is neither performance nor handling, but the unique style and exclusivity. Only 150 units will be built, each carries a price tag of £405,000.

11 Feb, 2012
Fiat 500L

Fiat has released two pictures and limited details for its forthcoming 500L. Believed to sit on the platform of next generation Punto, the 500L is better to be seen as the MAV version of Punto instead of an enlarged 500, especially when it has little family resemblance to the latter. It measures 4140 mm in length, 1780 mm in width and 1660 mm in height. Engines will include 85hp 875cc TwinAir turbo, 100hp 1.4 16V and 95hp 1.3 Multijet.

11 Feb, 2012
Smart Fortwo facelift

Just a pure facelift, mainly concentrated at the grille and bumper. Note the badge has been repositioned to the grille. No mechanical revisions.

< the outgoing Smart

11 Feb, 2012
Hyundai Elantra Coupe

This is the 2-door version of Elantra, targetting at the same customers as Honda Civic Coupe, who want a coupe look without sacrificing the sedan's space, comfort and economy. In other words, it is just a sedan in coupe's clothes. Powertrain remains the 148 hp 1.8-liter DVVT, pair with 6-speed manual or auto.

11 Feb, 2012
Acura ILX

As expectd, the production version of ILX, Acura's new entry-level model, is not much different from the concept car shown last month in Detroit. The Civic-based car is just a little bit longer, wider and lower than its platform donor. It is suspended by the same MacPherson struts and multi-link suspensions, too. There are 3 powertrains to choose from:

- 2.0-liter i-VTEC, 150hp / 140 lbft, 5-speed auto;
- 2.4-liter i-VTEC, 201hp / 170 lbft, 6-speed manual;
- IMA hybrid with 1.5-liter engine, electric motor and CVT, 111 hp / 127 lbft.

The exterior styling is good enough it hide its origin...

A pity the interior doesn't look premium enough...

11 Feb, 2012
Industrial News

Mitsubishi to close NedCar plant

The news comes as no shock as we always know Mitsubishi has problems to keep its Dutch NedCar plant running at high capacity. Last year it built just over 50,000 units of Colt and Outlander there, far less than the 200,000 units it could swallow. The continuing loss finally triggered the decision to close the plant at the end of this year.

The NedCar plant was originally built by DAF. Volvo took over it in the 1970s to build its small car 440/460/480. In the 1990s, it became a joint venture of Volvo, Mitsubishi and the Dutch government and was used to produce S40 and Carisma. Volvo withdrew in 2001, leaving Mitsubishi to take full ownership. Following its closure, Netherlands will no longer have passenger car production.

Chrysler returns to profit

Chrysler finally returns to profit. In 2011, it posted a net income of US$183 million. This is even more impressive as it repaid the government $551 million of bailout loan during the year. The group sold 1.85 million cars and trucks worldwide last year, up 22 percent from a year ago.

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