30 Nov, 2016 (Updated)
Ford Fiesta Mk7

The 7th generation Ford Fiesta has been unveiled, replacing the long-serving Mk6 which has been soldiering for 8 years! Until last month, the Fiesta is still Ford's best selling car in Europe, and the 3rd place in the overall European sales chart (just behind Golf and Polo). That was a great achievement for a car so old. For the new generation, Ford adopts an evolutionary approach. It is derived from the current "Global B-platform", which also underpins B-Max and KA+. No wonder its exterior design is so familiar, retaining the sporty profile of the outgoing model. However, now there are 4 distinct versions on offer: ST-Line (sporty, the red car pictured), Titanium (popular trim, rightmost car above), Vignale (luxury, white car) and Active (high-riding crossover, leftmost car above). Hopefully they will expand the market presence, especially the crossover.

As the chassis is adapted from the existing car's, its wheelbase is lengthened by merely 4 mm, yet that is purely the result of revising rear suspension geometry rather than altering the hard points of the chassis. However, the car's overall length is stretched by 70 mm thanks to the longer nose. Predictably, the updated chassis is constructed out of more high-strength steel. In addition, it uses more laser welding and a stiffer front subframe, resulting in a 15-percent increase of torsional rigidity.

We expect the Fiesta's trademark sharp handling to be retained while ride quality and NVH suppression should be improved. This is attributed to not only the stiffer chassis but also wider tracks (up 30mm at the front axle and 10 mm at the rear), stiffer front anti-roll bar and a new electric power steering whose friction is reduced by 20 percent. Meanwhile, a more slippery shape, which achieves a Cd down to 0.29, should cut wind noise and improve fuel economy.

The ST-Line uses stiffer springs and dampers and has its ride height lowered by 10 mm. On the contrary, the Active crossover is jacked up by 18 mm compared with Titanium and Vignale. All cars feature rear disc brakes, finally.

In the engine bay, there are not many surprises as well. The existing 1.0-liter Ecoboost 3-cylinder direct-injection turbo engines of 100 hp, 125 hp and 140 hp are retained, although the 100 hp version is now available with cylinder cut-off technology, which shuts down one of the cylinders at lighter loads. To counter the resultant vibration, it needs to have the engine strengthened, upgrade its vibration-dampening clutch and counter-balancing flywheel to suit. Fuel consumption can be reduced by 6 percent in European cycle as a result.

Sitting below the 1.0 Ecoboost trios, there is a new 1.1-liter naturally aspirated version of the 3-cylinder, which has DVVT (Ti-VCT) but no direct injection. It produces either 70 hp or 85 hp, the latter is more powerful than both Volkswagen 1.0 (75 hp) and PSA 1.2 Puretech (82 hp). On the diesel side, a 1.5 TDCi four-cylinder turbo produces either 85 or 120 hp.

The 1.0 Ecoboost and diesel engines mate with a 6-speed manual gearbox, while a 5-speeder serves the 1.1-liter petrol. The 100 hp Ecoboost can be opted with a 6-speed twin-clutch transmission.

Inside, the interior is thoroughly redesigned, of course, reducing the number of buttons and introducing a 6.5-inch touchscreen (optional 8-inch unit is shown in the picture). The plastic quality is vastly upgraded, as is the electronic driving aids and safety features. There is also a panoramic glass roof offered for the first time. We don't expect the cabin space to be vastly enlarged, but at least the less cumbersome dashboard frees up a bit more knee room for the front occupants.

23 Nov, 2016
Lotus Exige Sport 380

Shortly following Evora Sport 410, Lotus has turned its attention to Exige, improving it a little bit again. The Exige Sport 380 replaces Sport 350. As suggested by its name, output from the 3.5-liter supercharged V6 has been boosted by 30 horsepower to 380, accompanied with 7 pound-foot of extra torque (now 302 lbft, like Evora). This is achieved easily by increasing the rotational speed, hence boost pressure, of the supercharger, plus revised ECU, fuel pump and an exhaust taken from Evora 400/410.

Meanwhile, the car cuts another 25 kg of weight through some extensive diets, such as replacing the glass rear window with a polycarbonate item (saving nearly 1 kg), using lighter forged alloy wheels (-10 kg), carbon-fiber racing buckets (-6 kg) and lithium battery (-10 kg). Most aero kits have been converted to carbon-fiber as well, saving 2.6 kg. An optional titanium exhaust can cut another 10 kg. Part of these reductions is offset by the use of larger (48-liter) fuel tank to extend range.

The new car is quoted to top 178 mph, up from 170 mph, while 0-60 mph is slashed by two-tenths to 3.5 seconds. Lotus hasn't quoted the lap time taken at Hethel track, but it should be quite a lot quicker, not just because of the improved power-to-weight ratio but also a few other enhancements. Thanks to the new aero kits, its downforce has been increased from 88 to 140 kg at top speed without adding drag. Grip is also enhanced by using Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubbers as standard. Moreover, the front tires get 10 mm wider than before.

19 Nov, 2016
Aston Martin Vanquish S

Aston Martin Vanquish has evolved to Vanquish S. Unlike DB11, the flagship model keeps the existing naturally aspirated 6.0-liter V12, but it gets larger intake manifolds for freer breathing. This lifts its output from 576 hp to a full 600 hp. Meanwhile, the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission has been reprogrammed to deliver faster shifts in sportier modes and smoother shifts in comfort mode. The suspension gets uprated springs, anti-roll bars, bushings and its adaptive dampers get stiffer in sportier modes. These changes should make the Vanquish S handles sharper than before.

Outside, the key changes are the reshaped front splitter and rear diffuser, which reduce aerodynamic lift at a slight cost of drag.

19 Nov, 2016
Volkswagen Golf Mk7.5

Golf VII has undergone a mid-life update, too. Outside, the front bumper has been restyled and the headlights become LED for some models. Under the bonnet, the 1.4 TSI ACT engine has been replaced with a new 1.5 TSI ACT engine, which features VTG turbo and Miller-cycle combustion for the first time. Its output remains at 150 hp, but guarantees to return lower fuel consumption. A 130 hp version of the same engine improves economy further, thanks partly to the addition of coasting function. Higher in the range, the GTI and GTI Performance have their output lifted by 10 hp and 15 hp respectively to 230 hp and 245 hp.

19 Nov, 2016
Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid

Cadillac is to add a plug-in hybrid model to its CT6 flagship luxury sedan. The car employs the smallest engine of the regular CT6, i.e. 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo. The automatic transmission is replaced with a planetary CVT which incorporates a pair of electric motors, each capable of 100 hp. Total system output is 335 hp and 432 lbft, good enough to achieve 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds and top 150 mph. In EV mode, the car is capable of up to 78 mph, and the EV range is about 30 miles. Juice comes from a 18.4 kWh lithium battery mounted vertically just behind the rear seats.

19 Nov, 2016
Nissan Sentra Nismo

Nissan has introduced a Nismo version of Sentra. Disappointingly, it keeps the same 190 hp 1.6 turbo engine of the Sentra SR Turbo, so performance should be unremarkable. Instead, the Nismo worked on aero kits, suspension and steering. The suspension gets stiffer springs, new monotube dampers and a 10-mm drop of ride height. The steering has been retuned, but we don't expect it could make miracles.

19 Nov, 2016
Industrial News

Volkswagen to cut 30,000 jobs!

To pay the bills associated with Dieselgate, Volkswagen plans to cut 30,000 jobs, among which 23,000 will come from Germany. This will inevitably kill some new cars and delay the makeover.

Mazda to build new Wankel motor, but not for RX model.

Mazda is to re-introduce Wankel motor, but not on the expected RX-7. It will be used on a new electric version of Mazda 2 as range extender, since the compact size and low weight of rotary engine fulfill this task very well. The car will be launched in 2019.

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