29 Jan, 2016
Goodbye, Defender!

Today, the last Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line at Solihull, ending the production run that began in 1948. In recent years, JLR still managed to sell about 18,000 Defenders annually, which is respectable for a car so old. However, the company decided to stop updating it as it would not be economically viable to comply with newer safety regulations, such as those demanding airbags (no room to fit unless the car is fully redesigned). Moreover, its old-school, human-intensive production made it difficult to compete with newer SUVs on cost. In total, 2,016,933 units of Defender have been built. Its all-new replacement, hopefully thoroughly modern, is expected to arrive in 2018.

29 Jan, 2016
Industrial News

Toyota to buy rest of Daihatsu

Although Toyota already owns a controlling, 51.2 percent stake in Daihatsu, it has decided to buy the rest, making Daihatsu its fully owned subsidiary. Daihatsu was hit by increasing tax on K-cars last year, suffering a sales slump of 13 percent. By taking over it, Toyota is likely to increase investment into the small car expert, increasing its exposure to the global market.

27 Jan, 2016
Porsche 718 Boxster

356, 911, 914, 924, 928, 944, 959, 968... I always prefer the traditional numeric names of Porsche. Somehow, Porsche broke the mold 20 years ago, branding the 986 as Boxster. Then came Cayenne, Panamera, Cayman and Macan. Now it finally corrects the wrong with the successor of Boxster and Cayman. By calling both 718, and downgrading the "Boxster" and "Cayman" nameplate to represent cabriolet and coupe version respectively, the market positioning is made clearer. This change also means the Boxster will no longer be deliberately detuned compared with Cayman. In fact, the roadster will be priced slightly higher than the hardtop coupe to reflect its added manufacturing cost, just like the rest of the industry.

However, the biggest news is not the name but the engine that powers it. As Porsche revealed long ago, the existing flat-6s are replaced with downsized turbocharged flat-4s in order to reduce emission while boosting performance. On the base model 718 Boxster, it is a 2.0-liter unit that produces 300 horsepower and 280 lbft of torque from 1950-4500 rpm (if it were not a boxer engine, these figures could have led us believe it was taken from Volkswagen Golf R). Compared with the outgoing 2.7-liter flat-6, that's a boost of 35 hp and a massive 74 lbft (and way more torque at lower down the rev, of course). Its fuel consumption is reduced by 13 percent to 40.9 mpg in EU combined cycle. Performance is also greatly enhanced. Now it tops 171 mph, an increase of 7 mph. Moreover, with PDK gearbox and sports chrono pack selected, its 0-60 mph is slashed from the old car's 5.2 seconds to 4.5 seconds. A night and day difference!

Meanwhile, the faster 718 Boxster S gets a 2.5-liter version of the flat-4, accompanied with a pair of quick-responding VTG turbos (like 911 Turbo). Its output is 350 hp and 310 lbft from 1900-4500 rpm. Fuel consumption is reduced by 11 percent to 38.6 mpg. This car can sprint from rest to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, down 0.6s, and flat out at 177 mph. With so much low-down torque, it even accelerates faster than the 3.8-liter Boxster Spyder.

A bit disappointing, the rest of the car is more "facelift" than a full model changeover. The chassis structure and suspensions are clearly carried over with the slightest modifications. The exterior gets a mild restyle, primarily to improve cooling to the hotter turbocharged motor. Up front, you can see the bumper intakes get squarer and larger, just like the latest turbocharged 911 Carrera models. The LED headlights are new, but I'm not sure if they are an improvement on aesthetic. The tail also looks squarer and less sleek than the Porsche tradition. The Porsche name is now relocated to the black stripe under the fixed spoiler. At the sides, the main intakes are enlarged slightly for enhanced cooling.

As before, the entry-level Porsche has 6-speed manual fitted as standard while 7-speed PDK is optional. PASM adaptive damping is also optional to keep the base price relatively affordable. The electrical power steering gets 10 percent quicker in this incarnation.

Inside, the most obvious change is the semi-circular air vents that replace the square ones. The infotainment system is also updated.

16 Jan, 2016
Hyundai Ioniq: Prius fighter or copycat?

Strangely, Toyota Prius has been around for 18 years and achieved unprecedented success yet nobody copied its formula to build an affordable dedicated hybrid family car. Until today. Hyundai Ioniq is that copycat, or in nicer words, the Prius fighter. The Korean giant seems to have studied Prius very hard before designing its own version. Take the exterior styling for example, its monospace shape clearly follows the Prius to enable the same low drag coefficient of 0.24 (fortunately, Mercedes E-class shows more than one way to achieve low drag). Like the Toyota as well, its raised tail needs a glass section to aid rearward visibility. I suspect these visual similarities are made deliberately to promote its hybrid image.

The Ioniq also shares the same 2700 mm wheelbase with its rival. However, the car is slightly shorter, wider and lower, so it looks sportier and less sleek than the latest Prius. The detailed design is more angular, but disappointingly conventional, lacking the Sc-Fi effect of the new Prius. Likewise, the interior design is conventional to the extent that indistinguishable from other production Hyundais. On the plus side, it should be more intuitive to use than the Prius.

The steel monoque body has a high-strength steel content of 53 percent, whereas front and rear crash beams are aluminum. It is dressed with aluminum bonnet and tailgate like the Prius in order to cut weight. Aluminum is also used to cast the suspension wheel carriers and front suspension lower control arms. The suspensions are struts up front and multi-link setup at the rear. The base Ioniq tips the scale at 1380 kg, again the same as Prius.

Like the new Prius, the heavy battery pack is placed underneath the rear seat in front of the fuel tank to lower center of gravity and improve front-to-rear balance. While Toyota offers NiMH pack on the base model, Ioniq has Lithium-ion battery standard across its range.

More differences lie on the powertrain. The Hyundai employs a newly developed 1.6 GDi Atkinson-cycle engine, whose combustion chambers are seriously undersquare (72mm bore x 97mm stroke), said to improve thermal efficiency. The latter is claimed to be 40 percent, matching the new Prius. Despite of its smaller capacity, the Hyundai's high-pressure direct injection allows it to extract higher output (105 hp) than the Toyota (98 hp). Its 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox is also likely to respond faster than Toyota's CVT.

Sandwiching between the engine and DCT is a slim permanent magnet motor, which produces another 43.5 hp. It is significantly less powerful than the Toyota's (72 hp), so I suspect the Ioniq will not be able to run in EV mode as frequently as the Toyota. In Korea, Hyundai claims a combined fuel economy of 63 mpg, much lower than the 94 mpg claimed by Toyota. The Master still has an upper hand.

Below is the comparison between them:

Hyundai Ioniq

Toyota Prius (Mk4)

Steel monocoque, aluminum crash beams.

Steel monocoque, aluminum crash beams.
Mainly steel
Aluminum bonnet & tailgate

Mainly steel
Aluminum bonnet & tailgate
Length / width / height
4470 / 1820 / 1450 mm

4540 / 1760 / 1470 mm
2700 mm

2700 mm
4-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol, DOHC 16V, direct injection.

4-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol, DOHC 16V.
Engine capacity
1580 c.c.

1797 c.c.
Bore x stroke
72 x 97 mm

80.5 x 88.3 mm
Engine output
105 hp / 108.5 lbft

98 hp / 105 lbft
Electric motor
Permanent magnet AC synchronous motor

Permanent magnet AC synchronous motor
Motor output
43.5 hp / 125 lbft

72 hp / 120 lbft

NiMH or Li-ion
6-speed DCT

Planetary CVT
F: MacPherson strut
R: Multi-link

F: MacPherson strut
R: Double-wishbone
195/65R15 or 225/45VR17

195/65R15 or 215/45R17
Kerb weight 1380 kg

1380 kg
Drag coefficient


12 Jan, 2016
Lincoln Continental

Unveiled last March as a concept, Lincoln Continental becomes production car in Detroit auto show. Without the flashy details of the concept, it gets even more conservative. Well, conservative is not necessarily a bad thing considering the car targets at businessmen in the US and China who would normally sit at the back. A Rolls-Royce-style waist line adds a bit classic flavours, but its overall shape remains Lincoln-boxy.

Although the shape doesn't inspire, the details are quite elegant. Most special is the door handle, which becomes an extension of the chromed window bottom frame. Since it is solid, it ultilizes a soft-touch button and electric latch to open and close the door. What's the benefit? Lincoln said getting rid of mechanical latches allow the speakers to be positioned at an ideal position on the doors to improve sound quality.

As predicted last March, the Lincoln flagship saloon is built on the FWD platform of Ford Fusion/Mondeo. However, it is enlarged and considerably modified, pushing the front axle forward to deliver a rear-drive proportion. Three engines are available. The base is an aging 3.7-liter V6. Middle of the ground is a 2.7-liter Ecoboost V6, which is rated at 325 hp and 350 lbft on the just unveiled Fusion V6 Sport. Top model uses a 3.0-liter version of the twin-turbo V6 with 400 hp and 400 lbft output. It is mated exclusively with a torque-vectoring AWD system, which is optional on lesser models.

The interior of Continental is best to described as semi-luxury. The materials, switchgears and equipment are not exactly at the same league of true luxury brands, but the 30-way adjustable, heated, ventilated and massaging seats should be very comfortable. The FWD architecture enables vast of legroom for the rear passengers even when the seats are reclined. A center console provides control to audio and air-con. Meanwhile, seat adjustment is made via intuitive buttons on the doors, Mercedes-style.

12 Jan, 2016
Lexus LC500

It sounds like a dream come true. 3 years ago, Lexus LF-LC won our Concept Car of the Year award. Its design was original, radical yet irresistibly beautiful. In other words, a rare masterpiece of Japanese design. A year and a half later, we were disappointed to see the production version, RC coupe, to lose much of its aethestic. Now we know why. The RC is not the production version of LF-LC, but this car is. Look at these pictures, can you believe this is a production car instead of a concept? No, you are not dreaming.

It is hard to explain why Lexus needs 2 luxury coupes in a shrinking market segment. Yes, the LC500 should be positioned above RC and more a direct rival of BMW 6-Series rather than 4-Series, but its 2+2 layout is no more accommodative than the RC, and its sole engine, 467 hp 5.0-liter V8, is exactly identical to the one powering RC F, as is the 0-60 mph claim of 4.5 seconds. Over time it may be switched to a more powerful twin-turbo V8, but it won't happen any time soon. Toyota's new 10-speed automatic transmission makes debut on this car though. It promises faster shifting than the existing 8-speeder and "nearly matches" dual-clutch gearboxes.

The LC500 is slightly larger than the RC. It measures 4760 mm from nose to tail, 60 mm longer than the RC, but its wheelbase is a massive 2870 mm or 140 mm longer, thanks to shorter front and rear overhangs. Unlike the RC, LC500 is built on the company's new premium rear-wheel-drive luxury platform which will be used by the next generation LS, GS and IS. It is also part of the Toyota global luxury architecture, which will form the basis of Crown and Mark X as well. In this case, the chassis is primarily made of high-strength steel, but aluminum is used for the bumper beams, front tower bar, suspension control arms and many body panels such as bonnet, front fenders and door shells. The inner door structure is made of carbon-fiber, while boot floor is made of composites. The roof panel is carbon-fiber reinforced plastic to drop center of gravity. Speaking of CoG, Lexus said it is the major improvement from the old platform. Another is a better front-to-rear weight distribution, which is 52:48. It is achieved by moving the engine further back. That said, 1/3 of the engine is still located fore of the front axle.

The car rides on eye-catching 21-inch forged aluminum wheels. Front and rear tires are 245/40ZR21 and 275/35ZR21 respectively.

The interior design and finish is also a delight, especially the LFA-style instrument.

12 Jan, 2016
Chevrolet Bolt

Last year at Detroit show GM displays its compact EV Chevrolet Bolt as a concept. Now the production car is launched. It will go on sale at a list price of US$37,500 so that after Federal incentive it will slip under $30,000. It should be a good alternative to Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.

With a wheelbase of 2600 mm, the Bolt is not as roomy as Leaf without doubt. However, unlike the Leaf it is built on a dedicated EV platform which, like Tesla, puts the 435 kg of battery under the floor to save space and lower center of gravity. This explains why the car stands 1595 mm above the ground. Its suspensions are MacPherson struts up front and torsion beam at the rear.

One thing the Bolt overwhelms the Leaf is travel range. Its Lithium-ion battery pack has a capacity of an astonishing 60kWh, versus the Nissan's 30kWh. This gives it a range exceeding 200 miles, versus 107 miles. With such a long range you won't need to worry about running out of battery anymore.

The car is also pretty fast. Its electric motor is good for 150 kW / 204 hp and 266 lbft of torque, sufficient to do 0-60 mph sprint in less than 7 seconds, like BMW i3. However, top speed is limited to 145 kph or 91 mph.

12 Jan, 2016
Infiniti Q60

Infiniti Q60 is the coupe version of Q50, just like the relationship between BMW 4-Series and 3-Series. The underpinnings and powertrains are all the same. Yes, the new VR30DETT engine with 300hp and 400hp will be available beside the base 211hp 2.0 turbo.

12 Jan, 2016
Chevrolet Cruze hatchback

In recent years, hatchbacks are selling in increasing numbers in the USA. The last generation Chevrolet Cruze lost market share because it did not offer a hatchback derivative. This time around it won't make the same mistake. The new Cruze hatchback is likely to appeal to younger drivers with its sportier shape and hatchback functionality. It features the same 153 hp 1.4 Turbo engine.

12 Jan, 2016
Industrial News

NACOTY: Honda Civic

Honda Civic Mk10 has been voted this year's North American Car of the Year, beating Chevrolet Malibu and Mazda MX-5. Meanwhile, Volvo XC90 won the title of Truck of the Year.

11 Jan, 2016
Mercedes E-class W213

The new generation Mercedes E-class W213 replaces the 7-year-old W212 as the company's cash cow. No matter styling or technology, it is a predictable evolution from the C-class and S-class. Viewing from the front, it is easy to be confused with the C-class, whereas the tail looks like the S-class. As before, there are 2 kinds of front grille design to please both conservative and younger customers. The former features a traditional radiator grille and a free-standing 3-pointed star logo mounted atop bonnet. Avantgarde and AMG line models feature a sportier grille as shown above.

The new car is 43 mm longer than the old one, and its wheelbase is stretched by 65 mm to 2939 mm. Like its siblings, its body and chassis feature a lot of aluminum to save weight, including the bonnet, front fenders, boot lid and some crash structures. Drag coefficient is lowered further to merely 0.23, matching CLA and beating Toyota Prius.

The passive suspension is available in either soft or stiff settings. Adaptive dampers and adaptive air springs are optional.

All E-class bar the true AMG model now employs 9G-Tronic transmission. The base diesel engine on E200d and E220d gets an all-new 2.0-liter turbo diesel to replace the aging and unrefined 2.2-liter unit. They offer 150 hp and 195 hp respectively. Other engines are more familiar - 258 hp 3.0 V6 turbo diesel (E350d), 184 hp (E200) or 245 hp (E250) 2.0 turbo petrol and 333 hp 3.0 V6 twin-turbo petrol (E400). V8 is dead, except on E63 AMG. In the hybrid side, there is a plug-in hybrid E350e, featuring the 2.0 turbo petrol and a powerful electric motor for a system output of 279 hp and 442 lbft.

Not just the mechanical side, the interior also lacks surprises, because it is almost a carbon copy of the S-class. It features the same dashboard design and the same wide screen comprising of two 12.3-inch TFT screen. It's certainly a very high-quality, luxurious car. I just hope for more character.

11 Jan, 2016
325hp Ford Fusion V6 Sport

We expected Ford to bring a facelifted Fusion to Detroit motor show, so it is a big surprise to see the addition of a high-performance model. It features a 2.7-liter Ecoboost V6 with an estimated output of 325 hp and 350 lbft (to be certified). That's 50 ponies more than the V6 versions of Accord and Camry. Moreover, all-wheel drive is standard to cope with those horsepower. The car also gets a continuous adaptive damping system with pothole detection. Although the chance is slim, I hope Ford would consider bringing it to Europe to revive the Mondeo ST badge.

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